A Different Path

By HallowedWizard

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Realta Nua: All the Good In the World 1

Rule Breaker. It was a Noble Phantasm that could shatter even the greatest of spells cast by the gods, a dagger that was almost an Authority in itself, able to nullify every kind of magecraft in the world.

It was with that in mind that both Caster's Noble Phantasm and Archer's Traced copy struck Sakura, the intent to sever Mystery that bound her to the Grail.

But it had a second usage, a true purpose that was forgotten by everyone present... save for the corrupted presence in the Grail.

It was a key, marked by the shape of its blade. A physical manifestation of a symbol to unlock rituals from the Age of Gods that bypassed every Authority on this planet.

That symbol?

Zeta, the ancestor of the Zed, the end.

Rule Breaker activated once and dispelled the connection between Angra Mainyu and its Master, Matou Sakura.

Rule Breaker activated again and completed the synthesis ritual being performed within the Cardinal System buried within the greater system of Heaven's Feel.

Angra Mainyu was free... and a Ruler was born.


A heavy pressure. The instant that Rule Breaker was activated, Shirou felt like his body was being put under an incredible burden, strained like he was holding up an incredible weight. In addition, he felt something pulling at him, trying to drain... something from his body, his soul.

He let out a strangled breath and forced it away. He couldn't lose focus now. Not when everything was on the line like this.

Sword. He let the image of that sword in his mind draw closer and drew strength from its steel, to sharpen his own focus and resolve.

There was a sound of crackling static and broken glass in Shirou's head, but then the pressure was gone. He could still feel it, a slight sensation in his head, like something trying to push its way in and force him to the ground, but he could ignore it.

The same couldn't be said for everyone else.

Kirito was fighting the pressure, a determined look on his face as he tried to stand up, but it looked like he wouldn't win that battle. Ayako, on the otherhand, had completely collapsed, and looked to be unconscious.

A brief sensation of panic, but it was suppressed under the all-encompassing steel mind. More. Shirou needed more information.

The Other Kirito knelt on the ground, overwhelmed by this strange force at play. Despite that, he seemed unfazed, though that could be because his gaze was kept on Kirito.

Caster was on the ground as well, pressed onto her knees. She struggled against the pressure as well, but unlike the determination Kirito had, her expression was one of... fear? And not blind fear, but the sort that was borne from a complete understanding of the horror that awaits and being powerless to stop it.

"No," she said. "It can't be... that's not possible."

Shirou followed her gaze, and what he saw brought his mind to a crashing halt.

Sakura had fallen to the ground, slumped against it like a ragdoll. That alone forced Emiya Shirou's thoughts to a stop, but it was the impossible sight standing in front of her that sent his world to a screeching pause.

Because there was no way. That... just didn't make sense.

...It was a young man with auburn hair that looked more like blood the longer that Shirou stared. Japanese, but with features that were out of place for someone of that nationality.

He brushed off his clothes, what seemed to be a black and red pin-stripe suit with matching pants, and swept golden eyes across the surroundings, a wicked grin emerging when he saw the downed Servants before him.

Crack.

It wasn't right.

Crack.

That person shouldn't be there. Wrong. Everything about that man was WRONG.

He looked to Shirou, the only one still standing other than him, and the grin turned into a smirk like Archer usually held. "Emiya Shirou," he said. "We finally meet."

Crack.

Shirou could see it. The very air around that person was distorted, splintered. It was like with every breath he took, every second he existed, the world was being torn apart and corroded. Like existence itself was coming to an end.

"I have much to thank you for." The man continued without waiting for a reply, not even casting a second glance towards those around them. "My form, my Authority... even my very existence is due to your efforts."

It shattered. The desperate attempt of Shirou's to separate himself from the one before him failed, and he knew, he knew with a startling clarity everything that the man was.

A Ruler with a False Authority of Creation. One cast away from existence to bear the brunt of humanity's sin, and the embodiment of humanity's wish to turn their eyes from their own darkness.

Unbidden, his name spilled from Shirou's lips. "Angra... Mainyu. All the Evil in the World."

The cursed presence in the grail that had corrupted the once colorless force. The source of the hellish flames in Fuyuki City ten years ago. And now-

"Kill him!" Caster had turned around towards Shirou and looked at him with frantic eyes. "You're the only one that can! Before he usurps the World's Authority, you have to-!"

She never got to finish.

In an instant where the world itself seemed to stall, Angra Mainyu appeared in front of Caster with a-

SwordCopyAvestaFalseCreationKEYGEN

-and cut her in half.

"Sorry about that." He turned back towards Shirou with a crooked smile on his face. "Being interrupted gets pretty annoying. Now, where was I?"

Kill him. Caster was right. This person... this thing in front of him was something that shouldn't exist. It was an abomination against everything on this planet- no, against creation itself. If Shirou didn't stop it here, then reality itself would come to an end.

He could feel it. But that weapon that Angra Mainyu had used. It made Shirou wary.

Even though his Reality Marble no longer specialized in recreating swords, he could still gain an understanding of blades he came across. In all actuality, he probably had a better understanding of blades now than before, since he could wield them to the best of their potentials with all the skills that the blade had experienced.

And that was what worried him.

The sword...blade...thing that Angra Mainyu had was broken. It was a blade in the same way his Magic was a blade: commands to alter reality formed into the shape of a sword. Something that was meant to distort all existence around it, to corrode until it was completely eradicated.

"Oh, I see the witch placed an idea in your head." Angra Mainyu shook his head. "And here I was thinking we could be civil."

Shirou took a deep breath. Now or never. He'd probably only get one shot at this.

The image of the Sword representing his Magic was-

Loaded: Origin. System Call acknowledged. Awaiting input...

Static. Rushing water. The sensation of being adrift, a thousand voices, a million. And silence that lasted an eternity.

...What was he doing? His Magic? Why did he want to use it?

Shirou blinked. There was someone standing in front of him who looked a lot like him. Why was that?

A world burned in flames until only the sky was left. Swords waiting its wielder, the fragmented soul of ***** ******.

Critical error: Invalid Data Type. Reloading...

Static.

Shirou blinked. Ah. That was right. Kill him. Shirou had to kill him. If he didn't, Sakura, Ayako, Rin, and everyone he cared about would be erased. So he had to end it right now, before the man had a chance to.

"So that's how it is." The man that looked like Shirou shook his head. "It seems like there was an unfortunate side-effect in my decision to pattern my existence with your own. A pity."

He stepped forward.

Kill him. That's all Shirou needed to do. A normal blade wouldn't work, which is why he wanted to use his Magic to do it.

...Hold on. Why did he need to use his Magic to kill the person in front of him?

Static. A flood of images. Sin. Pain. Crimes. Humanity's torment, cycling for eternity. A person to bear the cross, expelled from creation. A wish for all Evil.

A girl with violet hair tormented by its presence. Possessed by the Grail. Possessing the Grail...? Malevolence. Freeing her. Rule Breaker.

Sakura.

Shirou blinked. A foothold.

The man took another step. "I suppose this works too. I had wanted to test myself against the original but..."

An energetic girl with brown hair. Someone he failed to protect. Who he did protect.

Ayako.

Shirou blinked. Another foothold.

The man took one last step and raised his blade, a cruel smile on his face. "Again, I have to thank you for all that you've done for me, Emiya Shirou."

"Geez, you're really hopeless, aren't you, Shirou?"

Rin.

Shirou blinked. The reason... his place. It was here. And that was because...

The man swung his blade. "Farewell."

"Shirou! Snap out of it!"

Kirito's voice. The one who protected him and who had inspired him to-

Protect them.

With that last piece, Shirou's world snapped back into focus. A sword was in his hand- no. Sword was too mundane a word for it. What he held was more than just a blade. More than a simple tool. It was the embodiment of the Authority to tear apart Reality itself and create it anew.

Input accepted. Generating Key-111... Kigen. Origin.

Error: insufficient memory. Usage restricted to bare minimum.

A voice, monotone and calm echoed through Shirou's mind, but he ignored it.

Angra Mainyu's dark blade was met by one of pure light, and the Void clashed with a fragment of the Origin.

A ripple. The two were never meant to clash, could not clash. Because if there is a void, there can be no beginning, and if there is a beginning there can be no void-

A sound like shattering glass, and the World screamed.

Shirou was sent flying back, as was Angra Mainyu.

Something had intervened, stepped in before two beings wielding powers that trampled over every Authority on this planet eradicated all of existence itself.

Shirou ducked into a roll and got back to his feet. He noticed Kirito standing by his side with Ayako in his arms and... Sakura lying on the ground next to him?

"...When did you have the time to get to Sakura, Kirito?"

The swordsman shrugged, then carefully set Ayako on the ground next to her.

"Someone had to do it. Especially with the super powered evil copy of you standing over there with an obviously evil cursed blade. Oh, and did I mention evil?"

Shirou blinked. Was Kirito being- of course. Who was he kidding? Even in a situation like this, he could leave it to Kirito to be sarcastic and deadpan about it.

But that could be addressed later.

Shirou focused and turned back towards Angra Mainyu.

The... copy, for lack of a better word, of him brushed off his shoulders and then grinned. "Well. That was unexpected. I would have thought Alaya or Gaia would have-"

Static- no. This feeling wasn't like the static before. That had been Shirou's mind being flooded with information, being overloaded. It was the closest interpretation, and the only reason why he heard static.

This was different. Instead of his mind being filled to the brim until only white noise was left, this time...

"I am the bone of my sword."

His mind was clear, and the world was being erased.

"Er... Shirou?" Kirito said. "Is that you?"

Words. Familiar ones that resounded across the park.

"Steel is my body and fire is my blood."

Shirou shook his head. "No... it isn't."

The voice, however, was his own. The exact same tone, albeit slightly deeper.

"I have created over a thousand blades... unaware of loss, nor aware of gain."

Angra Mainyu paused. He had apparently realized that it was not Shirou saying the words. But after a few more moments of silence, the copy let out a loud laugh. "It looks like you have your own fight to deal with, Emiya Shirou."

The copy of Shirou shook his head and then turned towards the Other Kirito. "Come on, Kirito. There's a Grail to claim and a wish for you to make, as promised."

The Other Kirito stared at the real Kirito and Shirou for a few moments, then nodded and turned towards Angra Mainyu. "...Fine."

"Wait!"

Shirou couldn't let them leave. Alone, the Other Kirito was a serious threat. With the copy of Shirou, who had that Sword that could tear away at the World...

"Withstood pain to create weapons, waiting for one's arrival."

The voice that was so much like Shirou's continued with his speech, paying no attention to Shirou or the others.

Angra Mainyu waved at Shirou. "I'll see you at the Grail, Emiya Shirou... if you make it there. Try to stay alive."

Before Shirou could even run towards them, Angra Mainyu and the Other Kirito vanished in a swirl of shadows and violet sparks, leaving only Shirou, Kirito, and the unconscious girls in the center of the park.

Wait. That wasn't quite right. There had been someone else, hadn't there? At the beginning, just when Caster used Rule Breaker-

"I have no regrets. My whole life was Unlimited Blade Works."

A ring of fire, cutting off all routes of escape. And at the center, a young man with white hair, black armor, and a blood-stained cloak.

He looked up and met Shirou's silver eyes with a pair of steel gray.

Kirito cursed. "Just how many evil clones of you are running around, Shirou?!"

Shirou opened his mouth to answer, but then the flames rose and they appeared in a world of rubble and steel.


There was one word that Archer would use to describe the scene after the activation of two Rule Breakers on a Lesser Grail corrupted by Angra Mainyu and possibly a rabid computer program meant to maintain virtual realities:

FUBAR.

Shadows surged from Sakura the moment the daggers struck her, black masses sparking with violet arcs of electricity. They didn't lash out, but Archer wasn't taking any chances.

He dissolved his bow and leapt back towards the tree he left Ilya.

Well, that was what he tried to do.

Immense pressure, like that of a Command Spell, kept him from following through on that course of action. He could still move, but only just.

And so it was that he found himself pressed tightly against a tree, spying on this time's Emiya Shirou and... another Emiya Shirou?

When he saw that Angra Mainyu had taken on the appearance of Shirou, all Archer could do was sigh. SNAFU, as usual.

He wanted to blame Zelretch. He really did, but he doubted that even the pranking Magician could pull something like this off. No, this was all because the 'Black Swordsman' of all people was summoned as Shirou's Servant.

Because Kirito, a hero in a 'virtual' world was summoned, the Grail System was introduced to one that governed worlds, albeit electronic in nature and heavily restricted. And because the Grail System controlling the war was already corrupted by Angra Mainyu, when it was introduced to the system that governed the world Kirito was from, things got even more crazy, if the monsters roaming around the cities were any indication.

Oh, and then there was the True Magic that this time's Shirou had managed to obtain.

Archer grimaced when he took a look at the black and white swords clashing in the hands of the other Emiya Shirous. Those... weren't swords. Sure, they looked like swords, cut like swords, and were held like swords, but they weren't swords. The material making the blades were... Authority? Yeah, they were. As ridiculous as that was, the blades were embodiments of pure Authority.

As to what those Authorities were, Archer didn't know.

What he did know was that Alaya and Gaia would probably want him acting as a Counter Guardian anytime now. In fact, they'd probably start him off using his Reality Marble to isolate the threat to the world, judging from how the very fabric of time and space seemed to be bending around the two swords.

"I am the bone of my sword."

Yep. There it was.

Archer felt his body lighten, as was the usual when his Counter Guardian duties began. He had already been cheating a bit and using his memories as a Counter Guardian in this distorted area to fight, so it wasn't as much of a boost as it usually was, but he could still feel it.

"Steel is my body and fire is my blood."

The second verse. Archer straightened. He hoped that Ilya remembered the contingency plan they had gone over for the slight chance that this exact situation occurred. Though in hindsight, it wasn't as slight as he had thought it was, considering it was happening.

"I have created over a thousand blades... unaware of loss, nor aware of gain."

...Wait. That wasn't his aria. And... he could still think. That never happened before. And his body, he could still move it.

Something was wrong here. It wasn't him being used as Alaya's beast, yet there was undoubtedly an Emiya Shirou operating here, judging from the Aria. And it wasn't this time's either, considering how different it was from the aria that guy had used back at the school.

"Withstood pain to create weapons, waiting for one's arrival."

But... if he wasn't the one speaking, and Archer wasn't the one speaking...

And then it clicked. The reason why Rin had summoned that alternate. The reason he could use his Counter Guardian abilities and keep his memories, even though he was a Servant and the World should prevent it.

He had thought it was a stroke of luck. Pure chance that occurred from a chaotic situation. But that was wrong. He should know better by now. Everything happened for a reason, especially when your soul belongs to an Authority far beyond your own reckoning. The few chances he got at killing himself in the past were lessons of inevitability, especially considering how often the paths his past selves took converged into his.

No, not luck. It was by design, and the only reason why Heroic Spirit EMIYA could have memories from multiple timelines and access to his full powers was if-

It was unlikely, but there was a scenario he had played with a few times as a way to escape his contract.

Emiya Shirou signed his soul away in exchange for a Miracle. Because of that, he was bound to serve all eternity as a Counter Guardian.

But- what if another person had made a contract, with the condition being that 'Emiya Shirou' was released from being a Counter Guardian?

Of course, the odds of that happening were nil, and it was just an idle fantasy. But... hadn't he just met someone who said that 'he' was the reason they were a Counter Guardian?

It was stupid, even more so than his own reasons, but there was a high chance, especially if she had realized who Archer was in the war and his past self had that duel that he remembered, that Rin might do just that. To save him from his own idiocy, Rin would sacrifice herself.

...And for another Miracle-

"I have no regrets. My whole life was Unlimited Blade Works."

Emiya Shirou would give that life up again in an instant, binding himself even tighter to the world.

Archer watched as he saw a younger version of himself in front of this time's Shirou before they both vanished into Unlimited Blade Works, and then sighed and rubbed his forehead. "I kinda regret not finishing law school before running off to become a defender of justice... that would have solved all these issues."

He looked around. Ilya, if she used the sword that Archer made for her to focus that Wish-Granting trait of the Einzberns, would be safe and sound back at Tohsaka Manor, where Archer had left even more protection that Rin didn't know about before he broke his contract.

A quick mental check on the swords left their affirmed their presence, and then Archer started to leave the park in earnest-

"Heroic Spirit EMIYA."

Only to come face to face with someone he definitely did not expect to meet in this war.

A petite form, and fair blonde hair. Royal green eyes that were usually cold, but held hidden emotions. It was a young woman, and the best swordsman Emiya Shirou met in any timeline that led to Archer.

"Sa...ber?"

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