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A Different Path

By HallowedWizard

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A Different Path: Corruption

She was lying there on the floor, blood pooling out from beneath her. *****, the first person he had saved, the first person he had failed to protect... she was lying on the ground, her life fading with every passing moment.

He had slain the monster that attacked her, but it was too late. He had cut down the foe before him, but that couldn't bring back the one who had already been harmed.

Broken things didn't fix themselves in time and what was lost couldn't be found again.

That was the curse, the blighted path that marked the road to being a superhero. A defender of justice.

You couldn't save everyone and you couldn't be everywhere. One person could not protect humanity as a whole. Trying to hold onto those lives was like trying to hold a river in cupped hands. No matter how much you wished otherwise, you could only hold what your hands could carry and his... they were unreliable to the extent that he couldn't protect the one who had been standing before him.

A sword. That was who Emiya Shirou was at his heart. An unchanging origin and nature.

He understood now the scope of his power: An internal world filled with an unlimited number of blades, a universe of infinite swords that manufactured every weapon he had seen or ever could see-

Error. Forbidden procedure executed. "Unlimited Blade Works" undefined.

-Correction. That was no longer the case. That world was no longer allowed to him.

Broken.

That ideal he once carried had been shattered. It was impossible to save everyone.

...No. The wish to save someone was a desire that he never wanted.

A smile. That was the one thing he wished for. The gratitude... no, just seeing those around him safe and happy was all he ever wanted.

And now, because he was so focused on saving her and charging to defeat the foe instead of standing by her side... she was dying. Not only her, but Sakura was lost, possessed by a malicious presence.

Sword. He was just a sword. And a sword could not save.

He stood there, staring at the upbeat, tomboyish brown-haired girl who he had failed to protect. In the end, it seemed that he couldn't even protect the ones closest to him. Emiya Shirou hadn't been able to keep a person from harm when she had been within arm's reach.

He had failed. Just like the other Kirito in his dream, he was one who couldn't save anything.

Rin stood up, head bowed and hands held limp by her side. "I can't do anything else. I'm sorry, Shirou, Mitsuduri-san... She's going to... I'm sorry."

She was still alive, but not for much longer.

The image of her body against the ground once more, blood pouring out from underneath her... Shirou burned it into his soul.

Unforgiveable. A scene like this was something he couldn't forgive himself for allowing to occur, even more than stepping over the lives and dreams of others to live.

She had been right there. She was right by his side, and he poured his all into moving towards her, but it hadn't been enough.

A miracle. If only he had a miracle that could save her.

Save her. Kill the monster, get the item, and bring her to life. What happened next didn't matter.

A fragment of a dream.

Shirou widened his eyes. That was right. He had seen such a thing before, what could save her from the cruel death penalty of this world. The original seeker hadn't been able to use it, but for him...

A sword could not save. A sword could not protect... but a sword could sever.

Shirou stepped forward.

-If he couldn't protect them, he'd cut that path away. If he couldn't save them in this reality, he'd cut that away and replace his own. If no method existed that would allow her to live in this world, he'd cut a route to one that did.

"Judging the concept of creation..."

Error. Concept mistaken. Creation impossible.

He held out his hand, holding an item that didn't exist.

...It was probably impossible. If he succeeded, the cost would be something that was as priceless as a life. It was unavoidable.

"Shirou..." Rin shook her head. "Let's just go. There's nothing that we can do for her, and we still need to figure out what to tell everyone, remember?"

He ignored her and focused, trying to remember that transient image.

"Hypothesizing the basic structure..."

Error. Unknown basic structure. Workings undefined.

Forbidden. It was a forbidden sorcery that he had to use to allow her to return.

Success was a vague hope at best. It probably didn't even exist, and if it did, he couldn't make it.

Archer stared at him, eyes narrowed. He looked like he knew what Shirou was attempting, but made no move to stop him. His gaze was scrutinizing, testing, as if he didn't believe Shirou could do it.

A lie.

So what if it was forbidden? So what if the reality was that ***** had suffered a mortal wound and was fated to die in the next few moments?

He would reject it. He would sever the false reality inflicted by that corrupted monster, and substitute it with one that was acceptable.

Possible. It was possible. It had been possible for him to carve a hole in reality and replace it with an infinite number of blades, so something as trivial as denying the fated reality before him and obtaining that item was simple.

He is taking over now.

The young girl's voice. It was apathetic, almost like she was just talking about the weather, but Shirou could hear the pang of sadness underlying her words.

It seems like I will disappear no matter what occurs from this point onwards.

It was important. What she was telling him was important. But to save her and to correct his mistake was even more important so he ignored her words.

"Duplicating the composition material..."

Error. Unable to read the composition material. Non-existent structure.

What he needed was an illusion that didn't exist. A fantasy even within a realm of fantasy.

He denied the events in front of him and the impossibility of the task.

-So what if it's a blind wish? So what if it's just a fanciful delusion? Fate was malleable, and the future wasn't set in stone.

He would make it.

I told you before that there are things beyond your ability to imagine. What you are seeking is one of them.

Static filled his ears and his vision blurred as it strained to perceive the workings of something that never existed.

-It was impossible after all, just like the voice said. Even with his affiliation for blades and the item's origin from a world where the sword reigned supreme, even with his ability to faithfully bring forth anything that he fully conceptualized, something like this was beyond him. It was a miracle out of the reach of Humanity, something that hadn't been accomplished since the age of Gods.

He continued.

"Imitating the skill of its making..."

Error. Administrative privileges denied. Root Access required.

"Shirou?" Rin's questioning voice. He couldn't see her, but he knew that she would be looking at him with a concerned face. "What are you doing? Wait- your eyes...? Silver?"

But you are stubborn, are you not? Knowing it to be impossible, you still wish to proceed.

Perceive it. Perceive it. Even if the price is akin to taking his own life, to tearing apart his soul, he would perceive and forge the item that would correct his failure. He had seen it before, so he knew it was possible. He had learned of its ability, so he knew what it did. Even if the exact workings were unclear, if he just focused-

Something broke. A vessel in his brain burst, and his vision burned out. He couldn't see it anymore, he couldn't see them anymore. The world in front of him had been erased.

The vision of an array of lines, sparking with emerald energy and expanding before his view. The magic circuits that allowed him to use his thaumaturgy. Surrounding them, a mass of interconnected webs, glowing with the same color, connecting to those lines to allow for an even greater capacity.

They splintered.

His soul cracked.

The blades within were steel and unharmed, but the person they represented was broken. Even if they were unified in their existence, the land in which they were contained was fading away, pieces crumbling as it sought a miracle.

It didn't matter.

Bending the rules around him. Finding loopholes to make his truth reality.

It would break him, tear his soul to shreds, and leave him a shell of who he was.

Just a blade. That was who he was in his core and what he would become. A blade couldn't save anyone or anything... but that was fine.

-As long as it could prevent her from disappearing, the price was acceptable, even if his conscience, his desires, his will was lost. He would become a blade through and through to stay by the side of those close to him, cutting down every danger that approached.

"Sympathizing with the experience of its growth..."

Error. Forbidden. Contradiction of the World.Process denied. System call failure. System trace beginning.

"Wait, Archer! Why are you... no! You can't kill him!"

There was a clash of steel and a familiar voice called out. "Archer, I won't allow you to harm Shirou."

...He couldn't remember who that belonged to anymore, but it had been someone important. An ally.

"Kirito. Get out of my way. He's a danger to Humanity as a whole now. If I don't kill him now, the counter force will do it soon enough. It would be a mercy rather than him having to face being erased by Gaia."

He ignored them. That didn't matter. He had to create it. He knew it could be created.

A Christmas miracle, obtained from a renegade apostle beneath the largest fir tree. A divine stone of resurrection that could usurp death so long as the soul remained and had not yet been extinguished.

It couldn't not exist. If there was a hope, then it could be achieved somehow, even if the odds were slim. And if it wasn't available in this reality, he would cut away this reality and substitute it with one that did.

Something inside him broke and he lost sight of a place that was once important, a distant plane on the horizon where everyone could be happy.

Something inside him fused in its place and became what was important to him now, a reality where those around him were safe from harm, where danger posed no threat to them.

Then I will help you. Truly, your determination is like his back then, striving towards the impossible...

"Reproducing the accumulated years..."

Error. Foreign body detected. Initiating security measures.Preventive procedures loading.

"Archer! I forbid you to attack Shirou! Don't make me use my last Command Seal!"

*** was irate. He could hear her irritation, and knew it was directed at ******.

"Tch. Fine. But Rin... you know what will happen if he fails, right? This isn't a matter of simple thaumaturgy he's attempting."

"E-even so, I won't let you kill him!"

"What are you two talking about?" His ally's questioning voice.

He didn't understand who they were or what they were talking about, but it didn't matter.

Make it. He had to make it. The fact that it didn't exist, that it was just an idle thought made of nothing but numbers and imaginary images was a lie.

He had to believe that- no. He knew that it existed.

Error. Call of method 'Denial of Nothingness' acknowledged.Access denied. Executing preventive procedure Counter For-

System Call. Synthesis Ritual. Rewriting Authority level. Change directory: Root. Passkey generated by the Holy Grail.

Error. Holy Grail unsubstantiated. Passkey unrecognized.Hacking attempt acknowledged. Loading-

System Call. Cardinal rule. Authority of balance.

Error. Time paradox. System non-existent.

He persevered. He could tell that it wasn't working. He could tell that he was encroaching on grounds that were not meant to be crossed, standing on terrain that he was neither qualified or allowed to access.

The World- no, reality acknowledged the threat he posed and was arming their counter forces to erase his attempt. Akasha would not allow this intrusion.

-But he had to succeed. It didn't matter if failure meant his life, but if he failed now, then ***** would die. He wouldn't allow it, not when he knew that she could be saved. If the power to do so was beyond his reach... no. That was impossible. It couldn't be beyond his reach. Everything he needed to forge the item existed in the blade he held. If it didn't, then he'd make what he needed to make it.

Do not worry. You are safe from them while I am by your side.

A reassuring voice. She would protect him, so all he had to do was finish the process and trust her to do the rest.

"Excelling every manufacturing process..."


Error. Forbidden method. Code red. Breach. Breach.

Error. Initiating-

System call. Release recollection.

Error. Recollection invalid.

Error. Recollection valid.

Error. System non-existent.

Error. System existent.

Cross-referencing existing methods. Match found.

System Call. Rewriting Administrative privileges.

System Call acknowledged. User key "Avalon" recognized. Authority raised. Path valid.

Addendum. Emiya Shirou extends Class Sorcerer

Addendum. Emiya Shirou extends Class Aristotle

Addendum. New Sorcery acknowledged

Change directory: Reality

Addendum. Nature of Emiya Shirou ="Reality"

Compiling...

Synthesis Complete.


"Projection complete."

Astonished voices.

"No way..."

"Huh. He actually did it. Tch, and here I was thinking Alaya wouldn't allow it."

"That item... Shirou. Where did you get that?"

A glowing sapphire orb encased in a golden broach. A Divine Artifact that can be used to revive one recently fallen.

She wasn't dead yet. It took at least a minute for the human body to bleed out.

It had been less than that, so it would still work. He would be encroaching on death's domain after that time, something forbidden, but between the transition and the moments prior...

"Revive, Mitsuduri Ayako."

A soft azure light encased the brown-haired girl, and the wound that should have been lethal healed. It was not complete, as he could not fully comprehend the miracle that wrought perfect resurrection, even with her help, but it was close enough.

She wouldn't die.

He had done it.

She wouldn't die.

He had saved her, someone who couldn't be saved.

She wouldn't die.

You cannot save everyone... it was a reality Shirou saw. It was one he witnessed with his own eyes in that cursed fire ten years ago. It was the reality that cursed Emiya Kiritsugu until his death.

Even with the Holy Grail, he couldn't accomplish that.

But at least the ones near him, those he could reach... he would ensure they wouldn't die.

Error. Unauthorized method called: Resurrection.

Log: Sorcerer Emiya Shirou performed Resurrection via unknown item.

Exception acknowledged, breach corrected.

Further resurrection denied, end of file.

Set Transgression Quotient to Max. Counter Force preloaded.

An unintelligible stream of words in his mind. He couldn't understand all of it, but the fact that he had performed something impossible while under the scrutiny of Gaia was made clear. It was an oversight that wouldn't be allowed again, if he was understanding it correctly.

There should not be a second chance at life. That was a miracle that should not be possible, at least not without an exacting price. One for one. Equivalent exchange. That was the rule that the world operated on, even if everything else was broken.

What he had performed bypassed that entirely.

...Congratulations, Emiya Shirou.

That voice again. It was the young girl... ah. She was the one that allowed him to create it. She was what allowed him to bring forth the miracle.

You have obtained a miracle. Yet, nothing is without a price, and that is true evermore of this deed you have performed.

Of course. He knew that.

Ayako would not die. The fatal wound had closed to a light scratch, and the blood spilled was regenerating, albeit slowly. It was not a complete healing, only to stop Death's approach, but it would be enough for Rin to finish healing her.

The price for something like that could only be extreme.

His nerves were frayed, his circuits burning like molten iron slag pumping throughout his veins.

"Shirou?"

Rin's voice. Ah. That was right. He couldn't rest yet. Not until this war was over.

He forced down the pain of burning his nerves out and having his circuits broken by trespassing on a Miracle. His body had gone beyond the sensation of heat to the freezing point, and his vision had blurred back into clarity, but he couldn't stop. Not while danger remained for those close to him.

"What did you do...?"

She was concerned. Of course she was. That was Rin. Even if she denied it, she was a kind person. But that was irrelevant. Ayako still needed treatment.

"Rin. Try healing her again. She should be out of mortal danger."

"Shirou, I don't-"

"Trust me."

He focused. His body was breaking down now and his capacity as a human should be decreasing with every moment-

It will not. I have ensured it.

-But she reassured him.

You have the power now to counter my usurper, the capability to finish this.

Wait. What did she mean by that?

This is farewell, Master.

He could see her. A young girl with curly hair and an outfit like a librarian. She had an innocent face, but her eyes were far too severe for someone like her.

With my last, I shall do my best to restrict his abilities. It will not be enough to stop him, but you will be able to.

In that instant, it all became clear.

She was a lonely person who was similar to him when he had emerged from the fire. Someone who had their emotions scoured away, who had nothing to drive them but a single objective that had branded itself into their soul upon awaking.

She was an individual with the Authority rivaling gods, an objective sub process that developed human emotions, straying away from its origin. Like how he, a sword, had gained a desire separate from his own purpose.

The true Servant he had summoned, hidden within his soul due to the intimate catalyst that had drawn her from all of time and space... that of a World isolated from reality and operating on parallel rules.

He hadn't realized it. From the time of her presence, she had been changing him, giving him what he needed to be able to fulfill his goals. At first, it was just pulling Kirito to fight by his side. Then it was granting him Sword Skills. Now... she had given him a True Magic, using everything she had to prevent the Counter Force from acting to allow him to obtain it.

A young girl whose soul had been replaced with a copy, broke down, and then acknowledged the cold truth that those in her world were doomed to death. She had asked Kirito to aid her in the quest to save them from such a cruel future, and he succeeded but she had been lost in the process.

She called herself Cardinal, erasing her memories to be able to fight against a woman who fancied herself a god, but the girl's true name had been-

"Lizeris!"

She smiled at him, a genuine warm expression and tilted her head.

No. That was too sad. Kirito couldn't save her, and the fact that she was pulled from the clutches of death to be by his side was miraculous in itself. She had managed to be saved from that fate, so she should just stay here.

She didn't have to leave. She was his Servant, so as long as she stayed there with him, she wouldn't have to be alone like she was for 200 years... wouldn't have to disappear without enjoying life as a human.

She shook her head. I'm happy that you think that Master, but you can't save everyone, remember? ...This is the price for that miracle of yours.

No, wait!

Farewell.

System Call. Network disengage.


Archer stared at the one who should have been his past self in disbelief, though he hid it under a cynical expression.

That boy in front of him, the red-headed fool who became involved in the Fifth Holy Grail War... it wasn't him. While their origins might have been the same, there was absolutely no way that this version would become the existence known as Heroic Spirit EMIYA.

An interloper. That was the difference between them.

Archer had made a pact with the world to obtain power beyond his means, to obtain a miracle to save a handful of people in front of him.

But this Emiya Shirou... he had just trespassed on Gaia's domain and kept on walking. He had seized a power beyond Humanity and the World itself, rising above and beyond to become a threat to both.

He had become a Sorcerer, one of those individuals that even Dead Apostle Ancestors saw as monsters due to the nature of their magic: that of a Mystery beyond human wisdom and the reach of the World.

The sapphire orb Shirou had created was something that Archer could tell didn't exist in this reality. It was impossible for it to.

A divine artifact that usurped death's domain to restore an individual's life. A Miracle that forcibly reversed the natural order of the world to prevent death's grasp.

It was a construct made not of Prana, but forged by an authority to exist as a crystallized mystery accepted by Akasha. A one time miracle whose existence was only for that moment it was used.

...Archer didn't know what to feel about this.

On one hand, it was indeed a possibility that Emiya Shirou could achieve the ideal of 'saving everyone' with his Magic. Yet, Archer doubted Shirou would try going down that path any longer, judging from that cold look in his eyes when Ayako had been struck down.

It was far more likely that he would cause the end of the world by protecting those close to him at all costs. Archer wasn't sure, but this Emiya Shirou seemed like a person who would make the world his enemy if they targeted those he cared for. And with whatever Magic he had obtained... that was a definite possibility.

This merited watching. The scope of this conflict had gone far beyond just winning the war or stopping Gilgamesh and Kotomine from completing a corrupted Grail. If events took a turn for the worse... he might find himself losing his will to act as a Beast of Alaya.

Sakura seemed to be the source of it all, but Emiya Shirou would bar his path to kill her. In a fight between the two of them... Archer wasn't sure of the outcome, even if he gained Alaya's backing.

Damn it. What went wrong?


Rin stared at Ayako's healing body in disbelief. There was no way. Absolute y impossible.

She had been dead. Rin was sure of it.

That monster's weapon had been cursed to a level that healing was impossible. It wasn't something that attacked just the body, but a weapon that should have torn away at the soul due to the curse's anti-life properties.

Rin had realized that the moment she tried healing Ayako.

...Yet he had done it. Somehow, Shirou had created an item that brought her back.

She didn't know whether to be scared, or to be in awe of the red-head in front of her.

He was standing there, arms hanging loose at his sides now that the sapphire orb had faded away. It was a casual stance, like the one he usually carried around public.

Kirito walked over to his Master and placed a hand on Shirou's shoulder. "Shirou? Are you alright?"

"...Yeah. I'm- I'll be fine."

His voice, his eyes, his very demeanor. It was off.

Rin remembered that he had seemed different from when they first met. He was... harder. More cold than the good-natured unofficial handyman of their school.

He was like a magus.

Shirou turned his gaze towards her, and Rin gasped.

Steel... no. Silver. A piercing gaze that seemed to cut away at what he was observing to judge its worth. There was no way that was an ordinary gaze.

Mystic eyes. Emiya Shirou had obtained mystic eyes... and powerful ones if the color was any indication. Gold was reserved for powerful beings like Dead Apostles and the True Ancestor vampires, and Silver wasn't far off. It was a Noble Color that marked those under Shinto, the way of the Gods.

What had Shirou done?

"Rin. How can we contain this?" A flat voice. Sharp, like drawn steel placed against her neck.

"A-ah." Rin shook her head. There was time to ponder on what Shirou had done later. Right now they were still in the midst of a situation that could very well lead to the deploy of Executors if they didn't act quickly enough.


Footsteps from the staircase.

Shirou turned towards them and then moved close to Rin and Ayako, eyes narrowed and sword at the ready.

No more. He wouldn't lose anyone else.

...His body wasn't fit to perform another attack like he had against Illfang, having exhausted nearly all of his prana from the maneuver, but at the moment it was still reinforced to a level that could be on par with a weak Servant. That with the skills he could now read from what Cardinal... what Lizeris left in his world meant he could at least stop, if not outright end any threat that appeared.

He needn't have worried.

"Shirou! You're alright!"

"...Fuji-nee? Kuzuki-sensei?"

Taiga and the ethics professor approached from the stairwell. The former was armed with a shinai, likely apprehended from one of the students, and was unharmed. The latter had scratches and cuts along his suit, but appeared equally unharmed.

The boisterous woman waved, a relieved smile on her face. "I was so worried! There are creepy things around the school right now!"

Kuzuki swept his gaze across the hallway and the damage inflicted, as well as its occupants. His gaze stopped for a moment on Kirito and Archer, and then settled on Ayako's downed form. "Emiya. Tohsaka. Is Mitsuduri in mortal danger?"

Shirou shook his head. "No. She was wounded, but it shouldn't be serious."

Not anymore, at least.

Kuzuki nodded. "That is good."

And then, without warning, he knocked Taiga unconscious and set her on the ground.

Shirou's sword was pointed at him in an instant, a dozen Sword Skills already loaded for the instant he made another hostile move. "Step away from her, Sensei."

The teacher stepped back and crossed his arms, ignoring the hostile intent from both Shirou and the two Servants pointing steel at him. He tilted his head slightly to the side and said, "Caster. Have you resolved the situation?"

"Caster?" Rin looked at their ethics teacher with wide eyes. "Kuzuki-sensei... you're a Master?"

Shirou narrowed his eyes. So that was how it was. First Shinji, now Kuzuki-sensei. This war was turning everyone he knew into enemies... it would be dangerous to be careless now. It would be a good idea to check Issei for Command Seals or enchantments at the earliest moment.

The ethics teacher didn't need to reply, the question answered by the appearance of a robed woman by his side.

Spatial warping. Thaumaturgy approaching Magic due to an origin of a time when it was prevalent.

An influx of information entered his mind, culminating with a sharp pain at the back of his eyes. A side-effect from Lizeris's last gift.

Ignore it. More important matters required his focus.

Caster nodded. "The students are safe, Souichirou-sama. I've also eliminated the memory of the monsters from them, as you asked."

Shirou could see a soft smile on the woman's face, despite a majority of it being hidden under her hood. She didn't seem that dangerous...

But appearances were deceiving, a lesson Shirou refused to ignore now that he had been forced to acknowledge it so much.

"You have done well, Caster." Curt praise in a monotone voice. Even then, the woman flushed a slight red.

Enough. They were wasting time. "What is it you want, Kuzuki, Caster? ...Were you responsible for this? If so..."

Set, Vorpal Strike. The skill was loaded, and the firing pin raised to strike.

Killing intent, directed at him from Caster. "I would lower your sword, boy, unless you want to die."

A smile cut across Shirou's face, slightly mocking. "Death has no meaning for me, Caster. Answer the question."

"Shirou." A soft feminine voice and a hand on his shoulder. "We can't fight here. And Caster has control of the students at the moment. If you or Kirito fight her..."

A smirk appeared on Caster's face. "You should listen to the girl, boy. It would be a terrible shame, after all, to harm the ones my Master ordered me to protect."

He reluctantly lowered his blade, and the sounds of sheathed swords from behind him meant Kirito had done the same. "...You had better not harm them, Caster."

A casual wave of her hand. "You worry too much, boy. I have no intention of doing so... especially with the mediator so nearby."

Mediator...?

"Good afternoon, Emiya Shirou. Rin. This is quite a mess you have created now, isn't it?"

Kotomine Kirei's voice echoed through the hallway, and he appeared from the staircase below. The priest glanced at everyone present and then let out a smile that didn't reach his eyes. "Let us discuss the remainder of this war now, shall we?"


With the combined work of the Masters and Servants present, the students and faculty involved in the school incident were safely transported to the hospital, under the premise of a gas leak that caused mass hallucination and some bodily harm that left them in a coma.

Of course, the truth of the matter was that Caster was keeping everyone involved under a suggestion to 'remain unconscious' until the events were resolved.

Ayako had been transported to Shirou's house to rest, now out of the immediate danger, and under the watchful eye of Archer after Rin commanded him to do so. She was still upset about her Servant's betrayal, and deemed it an appropriate punishment. It was a bit dangerous for her to do so, but she trusted Shirou and Kirito to be enough protection in Archer's absence.

And with that settled, the group that met at the school reconvened in the neutral ground of the church to discuss the remaining course of the war.

Shirou was standing with Kirito and Rin on the right side of the church pews. He was keeping a wary eye on his surroundings, especially of the priest and Caster. His sword had been dissolved, but he kept his body reinforced and loaded unarmed Sword Skills just in case. There was something about the area that disturbed him, a sort of ambivalent malevolence that he couldn't perceive, yet kept him cautious.

Kotomine was standing at the altar in front of the church, as if he was delivering a sermon. For once, he didn't have a smirk or amused smile on his face, strangely somber.

Caster and Kuzuki were on the left side of the church, the teacher standing protectively beside Caster and as wary as Shirou was. Caster was looking around the church with a speculative air, as if examining its inner workings.

"I would begin by thanking you for heeding my call, Masters and Servants of the Grail War."

Kotomine's abrupt declaration drew their eyes, and he continued. "I am sure that you have become aware of the events occurring earlier today. Servants fighting in broad daylight-"

Rin winced at that, and the priest's eyes glimmered for a bit in amusement, but then returned to a blank look. "-cursed monsters appearing in the local school, and a Master possessed by a malevolent presence."

Shirou winced that time. Sakura... he needed to protect her. He had failed to do it before, and it had resulted in her being possessed and becoming a danger to those around her.

"With that said, I, as the mediator and overseer of the Fifth Heaven's Feel ritual, declare the war to be suspended until further notice. There is too much at risk for Servants and Masters to be at each other's throats in this time of conflict."

Kotomine's eyes narrowed, as if looking at something only he could see. "Even as I speak, more of these corrupted monsters are appearing throughout the city, establishing bounded fields that drain at the life energy of the inhabitants in this city. But it does not end there. Some are taking an active role, hunting for humans in broad daylight and killing them to obtain their souls. Should they not be stopped, there is a high risk the Magus Association and the Church may decide to intervene."

Shirou glanced at Kuzuki and Caster to gauge their reactions. The former was as impassive as usual, but the latter seemed concerned for some reason.

She spoke up. "That would be... troublesome."

Kotomine nodded. "Indeed. While you Servants may be able to repulse them, your Masters would not survive the conflict should they decide to mobilize all their forces." A grim smile. "And that is likely if this is not quelled soon."

A conflict, and the most likely resolution ending in a disaster like ten years ago if not halted in time. Only this time the casualties would be the entire city and not just a block.

Shirou ground his teeth. That wasn't fair. This reality was turning into one with a future that seemed to end only in death of those he knew.

"Kirei." Rin spoke from beside Shirou. "You say we have to stop the monsters, but how exactly do we do that? It's not something as simple as killing them all, is it?"

The priest nodded. "Indeed, it is not. It appears that killing the monsters is but a temporary measure, as the ones felled return in a short period. Those smaller beasts at the school have already risen and roam the halls once more."

Rin frowned. "I see. So then it's like cutting at weeds. If the root isn't pulled out..."

"That is so."

The root?

Shirou ran through the information just obtained and determined the solution. If the monsters didn't disappear after being killed, and would only disappear with the source, then they had to-

"I have determined that the source is the Master that has become possessed. Currently, she has taken residence in the site of the last appearance of the Holy Grail, the ruined park of Fuyuki city. Now, with my authority as the overseer of this Grail War, I command you: Kill the rogue master and eradicate the monsters roaming the city."

The source of the danger was Sakura. She was causing people to die, and was putting Issei, Ayako, Fuji-nee, Rin... everyone in the city at risk.

...But it wasn't her fault. It was that presence possessing her.

"Of course," Kotomine said. "This will not be without reward." He rolled up his sleeve, revealing a myriad of familiar runic designs. "The Servant and Master pair that resolves this conflict will receive another Command Seal."

With another smile, the priest dismissed them. "I wish you all luck in this endeavor. May God be with you."

Caster scoffed at the man's words and then teleported away, bringing her Master with her.

That left just Shirou, Kirito, and Rin in the church with the priest.

Rin was silent, and then walked out of the church, leaving just Shirou and Kirito.

The red-head was still standing there, processing the task set before him.

Sakura was dangerous, and an enemy to those around her. People were being killed as a result of her actions, even if they weren't of her volition.

"Shirou." Kirito called out to him. "Come on, we have to go. I know this is hard, but there are still other things to do. Let's go home first, and then we can sort this all out, okay?"

He nodded, letting the black swordsman guide him out.

He was a blade, and a blade could only sever, could only cut down the danger and enemy before it.

But... what was the enemy here, and what should he end?

With those thoughts on his mind, Emiya Shirou walked out of the church and headed back to his house, Rin and Kirito by his side.

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