A Different Path

Night of Fate: The Strongest Enemy

Under the moonlight, the titan stood. Bulging muscles served as armor, his lead body needing no protection. The only thing it donned was a plate skirt, more for the sake of modesty than defense. Dark hair- no, a dark mane fell behind him, reinforcing the titan's bestial presence.

Shirou took a step back. Fear coursed through his veins as he looked upon the one in front of him.

Fierce. Deadly. The titan was more beast than man, more monster than beast. An abomination that was both lethal and unstoppable. The apex predator that would not be denied its prey, whoever or whatever it may be. That was the mighty foe before them. In its hand was a weapon. Stone. More axe than sword, more club than blade. But it didn't matter. Even a stick would have been lethal in the titan's hands.

Not a man, not a beast. A machine, designed to defeat all foes. To withstand any attack and punish the attacker. It was—

"Berserker..."

—the strongest enemy.

"Good evening Onii-chan, Rin, Saber."

Shirou found his eyes drawn towards the source of the voice. His breath stopped as he saw her.

A fairy. A porcelain doll to the dread sentinel. She was a young girl with pale skin, soft strands of hair as white as freshly dropped snow and red eyes, shining with innocent malice. A sweet smile graced her face as she met Shirou's eyes. She curtsied, lifting her violet dress. "It's my second time seeing Onii-chan, but the first seeing you two. It's nice to meet you Rin, Saber. I am Ilya. Ilyasviel von Einzbern."

Shirou heard Rin repeat the name. He ignored it, his mind spurring to comprehend the sight in front of him. She was only a girl. Young and innocent. She shouldn't be here, and yet she was. He couldn't understand it. Why was an innocent girl like her standing in their way?

"Yes Rin, Einzbern. And this is my Berserker." Ilya patted the titan's arm. "Say hello Berserker."

"▂▂▃▃▄▄▅▅!"

An incomprehensible sound. Almost human, but strangled. Almost beast, but not quite. An abomination. Eldritch. And with the unknown came terror.

Shirou's limbs locked. He couldn't move. The entire situation was mad. The monster in front of him, the girl who was her master. Insane. His life, along with Rin's and Kirito's, were held in that girl's hands and she was amused. Shirou could see that. The girl enjoyed watching them squirm.

"I'm surprised. Berserker... he has more power than Saber." Rin spoke with a calm tone. It was pleasant almost, like someone stating the weather. Yet her body was tense. Her eyes flitted about and catalogued the terrain. She was scared. Shirou could see that. But even so, she didn't let that rule her.

Shirou took a deep breath, relaxing his body. That was right. Fear shouldn't stop him. Even if death was assured, a magus walked along with death every day. So he shouldn't be scared. He should be ready. Be set to act.

He craned his head to the side. "Hey Kirito–"

His words stopped in his throat as he saw the black swordsman step forward, striding confidently towards Ilya. The swordsman hadn't even drawn his blades.

Kirito bowed, extending his hand with a small flourish. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Ilya-chan."

SMACK.

Shirou turned at the sudden noise. Rin had smacked her hand on her forehead, the area already beginning to redden from the blow.

"Rin?"

The magus shook her head, muttering under her breath. It wasn't clear, but Shirou was sure he heard idiot and suicidal repeated a few times, along with his name.

"Er... never mind." Shirou turned back towards his Servant.

The black swordsman straightened and looked up at Ilya. "Now, why is a princess like you out here so late? Shouldn't you be at home right now? It's not safe you know."

He glanced back at Rin and then spoke in a stage whisper. "There are scary people like that red devil over there wandering the streets."

Shirou sighed as Rin's muttering increased at those words. He prayed that she wouldn't turn her attention on him. It was one thing to be beaten up by Taiga. He was sure it'd be something else entirely, and infinitely worse, if Rin decided she needed to punish him.

Ilya giggled. "Heehee! I like you Saber!" She was ecstatic, like a child excited about a new toy or gift. It was exactly that. Ilya was just a child and Kirito's words had made her happy.

Surreal. Shirou didn't know how else to describe it. It was such an ordinary scene. Kirito was acting like an older brother would, cheering up Ilya with the littlest of words or actions. And yet, the looming titan displaced that image with the unmentioned threat of imminent death.

It was jarring.

Ilya tilted her head to the side, as if listening to something in the distance. "Ah. But playtime's over... Sella and Leysritt are starting to worry."

She sighed. "Sorry Saber, but you have to die now."

And like that, the dream-like scene became a nightmare.

"▂▂▃▃▄▄▅▅!"

Berserker roared, a primal sound that shook the very earth beneath them. He leapt from the top of the hill, falling down on them like a gray meteor.

Before Shirou could react, Kirito was there, swords drawn to intercept the crashing titan. "Negotiations failed! Stay back!"

There was a flash of white light as enchanted stone struck unyielding blades. Berserker crashed against Kirito's blades, the force of the impact splintering the ground and sending debris through the air. Shirou's vision was obscured as the dust from the debris covered the area.

"Kirito!" Shirou dashed forward. Kirito had protected him again, but Berserker wasn't like Lancer. That steel Servant wasn't human. It would be impossible for Kirito to win. Shirou knew that, and Kirito should have known that as well. But even then, the swordsman rushed to meet Berserker.

If that caused Kirito's death, Shirou would never forgive himself.

He took a step, but before he could take anymore, Shirou felt himself pulled back. He turned around and saw Rin looking at him with a furious expression.

"Eh? Tohsaka?"

Rin wrenched the front of Shirou's shirt. "What are you thinking, Emiya?! If you charge in like that you'll die!"

Shirou frowned and shook his head. "I know that! But if Kirito–"

"▂▂▃▃▄▄▅▅!"

The ground trembled as the titan's war cry bellowed. The dust clouding the area vanished, scattered by the force of the cry. As it cleared, the two Servants that had clashed could be seen. On one end, Berserker stood, muscles bulging as he pressed down with his stone blade. In front of him, Kirito stood unscathed. Although his swords strained from the incredible force being placed upon them, somehow, he was holding off Berserker's monstrous strength.

"Impossible." Rin muttered from beside Shirou. "Kirito shouldn't be standing. His strength couldn't match Berserker's... it's not high enough."

Shirou could only nod in reply. In terms of pure strength, there was no way Kirito could match Berserker. A single strike from the steel Servant should have been enough to send the slim black swordsman flying. Something was off. Shirou didn't know what, but something was giving Kirito the ability to lock blades with Berserker.

Ilya clapped her hands. "Wow! That's amazing Saber! Heehee, I knew you wouldn't die so easily."

Kirito gave a forced laugh. "I'm glad you think so highly of me Ilya-chan."

Ilya smiled. "Go mad Berserker. I want to see how strong Saber is."

"▂▂▃▃▄▄▅▅!" The titan bellowed his challenge and drew his blade back. In the next instant, it was swung at a blinding speed towards Kirito's head.

Kirito's blades rose to meet it, white light flashing again when they did.

Berserker was a mighty glacier. Each blow from his stone blade carried the strength of a mountain and every strike was thrown with enough force to turn the black swordsman facing the titan into a red smear on the pavement. Yet, Shirou felt that Berserker's size would counter that advantage. A foe as large as he would not be able to move fast enough to utilize its advantage effectively. That was what Shirou thought.

The stone blade ripped through the air as it sought its target. It was gray lightning, launched at a blinding speed and followed by a deafening boom.

"No way..."

A mountain Berserker might have been, yet slow he was not. The looming titan moved at an impossible speed for his bulk. His every attack was a gray blur and his movements were as agile as any skilled warrior's should be.

Impossible. Yet, if Berserker's speed was impossible, then Kirito's response was even moreso. Each of Berserker's blows were turned aside with a brilliant splash of white light. The crystal and obsidian swords met the stone blade without fail, preventing it from ever striking its target.

Berserker roared again, whether in frustration or fury Shirou couldn't tell, and continued his assault. A heavy overhead smash thundered towards Kirito's skull.

The black swordsman swung his obsidian blade. It diverted the axesword with a flash and Kirito swung his crystal blade towards Berserker's extended arm. It bounced off, cracking slightly from the impact.

Ilya called out from her perch on the hill. "You're going to have to try better than that to hurt Berserker, Saber. Nothing less than an A-ranked attack will even scratch him!"

Kirito didn't respond. He didn't have the time. Berserker had recovered from his counter in an instant and already launched another attack.

Shirou looked on at the battle in disbelief. Berserker was a vicious storm of gray. Strikes that surpassed the speed of lightning. Strength that was enough to tear even mountains apart. And now a defense that could withstand all but the most powerful of blows?

"Kirito..." How would he win?

"He won't win. He can't." Rin spoke with a resigned tone, answering Shirou's unvoiced question. "I don't know how he's stopping Berserker's attacks, but whatever he's doing won't last long."

Shirou didn't want to believe it. Kirito was strong. Skilled enough to repel even Lancer. And now he was facing off against Berserker, matching every blow. Yet, Shirou knew that wouldn't last. He knew it, but he wouldn't believe it.

"...What do you mean Tohsaka? He's blocking Berserker's–"

"Stop deluding yourself Emiya." Rin clenched her left hand. "I know you can see it."

Shirou was silent. He looked on as Kirito continued his fight.

The swordsman's face was one of intense concentration, of deadly sharp focus. His blades unerringly deflected Berserker's blows, but only just. The margin of error was less than a fraction of a fraction of a second. Too fast and he would miss entirely, the stone axesword tearing him apart where he stood. Too slow and the result would be the same. The swordsman couldn't yield. He couldn't give ground, so all he could do was parry every blow. Failing to do so would give Berserker the chance to attack them.

"Run Emiya. This battle was over from the start." Rin stepped forward and raised her left hand, the crimson Command Spells gleaming on the back. "I'll try to give Kirito back up. If he and Archer work together, maybe we can leave with our lives."

"Tohsaka–"

Silver streaks shot towards Berserker, each with the force of a tank shell. He was distracted for a moment. Short, but enough for Kirito to open the space between them. The black swordsman leapt backwards, returning to Shirou's side. "That was... unexpected." He turned towards Shirou and gave him a wry smile. "Sorry about that Shirou, but this fight might drag on a while. That guy's no ordinary enemy."

A giggle. An innocent sound that was even more ominous because of it. "My Berserker's the strongest isn't he Onii-chan? See? Even Saber can't match him!" Ilya giggled again. "But who could hope to match up to the greatest Greek hero, Herakles?"

Rin took a step back. "No way... Archer! If you have anything planned, hurry up!"

More silver streaks crashed against the Greek Hero's lead skin. Again, each carried incredible force, but the only effects were to unbalance the titan.

Herakles, the legendary and greatest Greek hero. A master with almost every weapon, possessing strength and speed greater than any human when he was alive. If what Ilya said was true, then Kirito had no chance against him. Even without his sanity, Herakles was an impossible foe.

And yet, Kirito looked on without a shred of fear. He swung his crystal blade to and fro, examining it. He frowned at the numerous cracks he saw in the blade, but turned back towards Berserker. "Ah... this will be a troublesome fight. The twelve labors are going to be a pain to get past."

Kirito readied his blades again. "Don't worry Shirou. I said it, didn't I? I'll make sure you win."

Confidence and an absolute assurance of victory. Again, Kirito's determination shone through, especially in a desperate battle like this. The feeling that he could succeed, even if the odds were almost zero. The feeling that he could succeed even if the odds were zero, circumventing fate itself to win.

Shirou knew this. He could see it in Kirito's eyes, his stance, his swords.

He was conflicted.

Shirou felt that Kirito would win. The swordsman had that type of aura around him. But he was tired. Despite his bravado, the fatigue Kirito had could be clearly seen.

Of course. Fighting against a monster like Berserker was mentally and physically taxing. Yet, for Shirou, Kirito continued to fight. Because Shirou was his ally, Kirito would never give up. As long as he could still move, could still fight, he would stand stalwart against any foe before them.

Shirou felt that he should do something. He shouldn't need to be saved, shouldn't need to be protected. He should be the one protecting, or at least fighting by Kirito's side. But he wasn't a proper magus. He had no great Thaumaturgy to cast, no powerful Mystic Codes to use, no ancient family Crests to support Kirito. All he could do was 'Structural Grasping' and 'Reinforcement', and those were useless in this situation.

"I can't just stand here..." Shirou muttered.

Kirito leapt back into the fray, skillfully manipulating his swords in his unique dual blades style. He had accounted for Berserker's speed and was able to match it to an extent. Strength was even between the two, Kirito somehow matching Berserker's blows in brilliant displays of white light. But Berserker was fast and Kirito was tired. Rin and Archer's assistance helped compensate for his weakness, but it wouldn't last. If it seemed that victory was impossible, they would leave, of that Shirou was sure. No matter how much she cared for him, Rin was a magus first and foremost. She would leave if it served her to do so.

So he should do something. Before the time limit's up, he should do something. Even if it was miniscule, even if the effort would only slightly shift the odds.

"Hurry up Berserker! Leysritt and Sella will be mad if we aren't home soon!" Ilya's voice was childish, pouting.

"▂▂▃▃▄▄▅▅!" The titan bellowed his response and attacked with a ferocity even greater than before.

Shirou saw all this, but disregarded it. He focused, eliminating the outside stimuli. That battle couldn't be his. As it was, he would be killed the second he stepped forward to act. So he had to fight another battle, the only one he could.

"Trace... on."

He looked inside himself, towards the circuit that he used for his magecraft. He had to recreate that circuit, had to do something.

Ilya would show no mercy. Berserker would kill them. Kirito was injured. Rin and Archer could leave at any moment. But could he do anything? No, he mustn't doubt himself. If he couldn't fight a battle with Kirito, he must fight a battle with himself. He had to find something, anything, that could help Kirito.

He was Kirito's partner. He was Kirito's ally. He–

He survived through countless battles

–would save him.


Rin was worried. Kirito had taken a serious hit and wouldn't be able to fight to the best of his ability. The swordsman was doing fine for the moment, but it wouldn't last. Meanwhile, Emiya had drawn himself into a trance of some sort. That idiot! Shouldn't he realize that he should run?

A barrage of steel, silver streaks with the force of a cannon, shot towards Berserker. No matter who Berserker was, it should have been enough to kill him, if not severely wound him. Yet, there the Servant stood, unharmed.

"▂▂▃▃▄▄▅▅!"

"Your Servant will have to do better than that Rin!" Ilya laughed, excited at their fruitless struggle.

"Ilya-chan, don't you think it's time for bed?" Kirito parried another blow from Berserker in a flash of light. "Just call off Berserker and we can play some other time!"

"Sorry Saber, but I can't just let Onii-chan go. Besides, Berserker hasn't had anything to do all day. If we leave now he might not settle down until he's destroyed a few buildings or killed a few people."

Rin fought the urge to place her hand on her face. "Geez, Emiya had to summon a Servant as idiotic as he was..." She glanced back at Shirou. "Damn it, why won't the block head just run already..?!"

"Rin, why aren't we leaving? It's clear the idiot doesn't want to live. Saber doesn't look like he'll make it either. If we go now, it will be safe and we'll be alive to fight another day."

The magus glared at her Command Spells. She would have preferred to glare at Archer, but the Servant was hundreds of meters away at the moment. "I can't just leave Emiya! I... I owe him!"

She could hear an exasperated sigh from her Servant. "You owe him nothing. You've shown him to Kirei and explained the basics of the war. That is more than enough. Again, it would be best to leave them now and pursue our own plans. A Master and Servant that are eliminated are two less enemies we must face later on."

"I know that! I just–"

"Just what? ...You aren't seriously THAT foolish, are you? To be in–"

"Shut up Archer! Just... keep backing Kirito up!"

"...Fine. Man, what a troublesome Master I have..."

Rin focused on the fight again. Kirito was still holding Berserker off, barely. It was unbelievable that he could, unthinkable really. The Servant was almost dead on his feet with fatigue, yet fought masterfully still. Each of Berserker's blows were perfectly parried, despite the force behind them. He had to avoid a few attacks, but it was done in tandem to readying for the next defense. Like each move was perfectly linked, already predetermined...

"Eye of the mind?" Rin muttered. "Not false, but true...?"

"Rin! Focus!"

"O-of course I was Archer! Shut up! It was just... flab. Useless flab alright?! It won't happen again!"

She palmed a few more gems and readied them, waiting for her chance. "Alright, if I can't beat Berserker then..."


Kirito strained under the ferocity of Berserker's blows. It was difficult keeping up with the monster, but he was managing. Barely.

"I should've known better than to underestimate my enemies by now." He pushed his body to dodge yet another strike and parry the follow up from Berserker. "If I ever see Kayaba again, I need to thank him for that Parry skill..."

There was another burst of white light as Parry activated and Kirito deflected Berserker's weapon. At the same time, another hairline fracture formed in Dark Repulser as it met the stone axesword.

Kirito glanced at the blade. "Tch. I can't keep this up." He parried another blow from Berserker and swung his blade to counter. It was useless, as were the dozens of counters he had done before. That Servant was just too skilled. "It's like trying to solo a Boss. If I could just use 'Dual Blades'..." He ducked under another one of Berserker's thunderous blows and sent the blade awry with his parry. It wouldn't last, but it granted him a fraction of a second to think. He surveyed Berserker, looking for any openings, weaknesses he could exploit. As expected, there weren't any.

A whistle from behind him caused Kirito to dodge left, just as a half dozen silver streaks rammed into Berserker. "The fact that Archer's trying to kill me along with Berserker doesn't make this any easier."

Berserker roared and continued with his onslaught. At this point, the 'support' from Archer didn't even faze him. The stone sword flew once again towards Kirito's head. The swordsman gritted his teeth and brought up his blades once more.

CRACK.

A fracture, one greater than the hairline cracks that were there before. Dark Repulser was damaged. The durability was too low, and another solid hit would shatter the blade, leaving Kirito with only one sword to defend against Berserker's impossible onslaught. That would be... difficult. Next to impossible to deal with, armed as he was. He had to decide the battle in the next few moves.

Kirito swung Elucidator, his obsidian blade, and struck Berserker's stone sword. There was another loud crack, but this one made Kirito grin. His blade wasn't the only one in bad shape. Berserker's weapon was nothing more than stone. Sturdy and ancient, but stone nevertheless. It didn't have that 'presence' Lancer's lance had.

That meant he could break it.

Putting all his cards into the next strike, Kirito deflected Berserker's return strike with Dark Repulser and lashed out with Elucidator. The obsidian blade connected with the stone blade and then, in a kaleidoscope of light, the axesword shattered.


Rin saw her chance. As soon as Kirito broke Berserker's blade, she dashed towards Ilya, her gems charged with prana.

"Rin, you-!" Archer began to speak, but Rin disregarded her Servant's voice. This was her, and probably their, only chance at living, and she would not let it pass.

"Take this Einzbern!" With that cry, she incanted her spell and tossed her gems towards the white-haired girl.

The ability to enact mysteries by merely channeling their od, or inner energy, into gems that they had charged. That was the style of magecraft the Tohsaka family practiced, Rin's heritage. While she wouldn't normally use it, as gems were naturally expensive to come across, this situation called for it.

The gems enforced their mysteries on the world, fueled by the energy already contained within, and launched beams of light towards Ilya. She was defenseless. At that moment, Kirito had Berserker occupied. A brief second that was hers to exploit. So this attack would end it. It should have, but then-

"▂▂▃▃▄▄▅▅!"

–the lead Servant was just a hair faster than she was. The mysteries that were meant to tear the white-haired master apart crashed against her Servant's godly steel skin instead, causing no damage.

Rin stepped back, her empty hands falling to her side. "Well... crap."

A deathly chill spread through the air. Killing intent so thick it was smothering. The white-haired homunculus glared at Rin with her red eyes and frowned. "I was going to let you live, Rin."

Rin shivered at the malice in those words. She had made a mistake. Of that there was no doubt. It was a mistake to think that she could ever catch Ilya defenseless with Berserker there. Even if another Servant was battling Berserker, it would be no trouble at all for the lead titan to return to its master's aid, as he had just proved.

Ilya smiled, disturbingly sweet. "I've changed my mind. Berserker, kill her first."

The strongest enemy Servant charged forwards, the remainder of its stone weapon clutched in its closed fist.

"Rin!"

The magus in red closed her eyes as Berserker approached. Ah, she thought. So this is how it ends. Sorry Emiya, but you're on your own now...


Shirou closed his eyes. "Trace... on."

Those were the words that marked the start of Emiya Shirou's magecraft. He created his circuit in record time, grafting that burning iron rod into his spine. With the desperate need he had, Shirou easily set the artificial circuit, loaded like a gun's barrel. But that was irrelevant. It wasn't the circuit he needed, but what it could do.

Reinforcement.

Structural Grasp.

Gradient Air.

These were the only thaumaturgy he possessed, but they would do nothing against Berserker. No use at all. Any reinforcement he could perform was useless against Berserker's strength. Any projection he made would shatter in a single blow. So the only thing left was to search. To find something that he could do to help. It wasn't outside, so he had to look within himself. To find something, anything that could aid in the fight.

He heard the battle escalate in front of him, but ignored it. That would only distract him, and he needed to focus if he wanted to help. He had to. If he didn't, they would die. He couldn't let that happen. Even if his life was forfeit, as long as they were saved...

"Begin synchronization."

So he would search. He couldn't just stand there useless. He was saved, so he had to save in turn. And to save the people in front of him right now, he needed it. Something that would protect.

The sounds of something shooting through the air, the feeling of energy crackling in the air. Ignore it. Ignore it and keep searching.

"Analyzing base core."

He would be a hero. That was his dream. Kirito was his ally. Rin had helped him. The girl in front of them shouldn't be involved in all of this. He couldn't allow that. Wouldn't allow that.

...So search. Find that thing inside of you that can put an end to the conflict in front of your eyes.

Shirou delved deep inside himself, searching for something, anything he could use. Ah.

A connection. A faint thread that was frayed, connecting him to a familiar presence. What was it...? No. Irrelevant. At the moment, it didn't matter what it was, as long as it could help.

A light in the dark, something radiating assurance of victory.

"Reinforcing composite materials..."

It was damaged, but Shirou could fix it. Although it was foreign, the nature of the connection, its origin was all to similar to his own: a blade, ready to be drawn. All he had to do was apply some pressure and draw forth that strength. He trusted his self in that string of fate, that sole thread and reinforced it.

"...All processes complete."

He opened his eyes in time to see Berserker charge towards a resigned Rin. The titan was fast. It would take less than a fraction of a second to cross the meters between it and Rin. She would be dead before he could so much as blink.

But even then, he had to try. His circuit was still hot, so he could do it. He could reinforce himself and push her out of the way. The distance between him and Rin was even shorter than Berserker. A matter of a meter rather than meters. So he did. He pumped prana into his legs, ready for a one time surge in speed, enough to move her.

Berserker moved in that same instant, a gray blur rushing to end Rin's life.

Shirou was fast. He would reach Rin in a hundredth of a second... But Berserker was just a step faster. The titan swung his arm.

He was too slow.

If Berserker was a gray blur, surpassing the speed of sound, then Kirito was black lightning, appearing in front of him in an instant. The swordsman's blades were wreathed in blue light that emanated authority, strength, and divine skill. For a moment, even Berserker appeared to have been surprised, hesitating just the slightest.

"Star burst... stream." Words, echoing with power. A statement of an assured phenomenon. Those were what Kirito stated as he began his attack.

The obsidian blade in his right cut across Berserker's body, grazing it. The blow wasn't deep, but it was enough to send the titan reeling back a step. A stab with the crystal blade in his left, cracking the lead skin that Berserker had.

"Impossible..." The girl standing above them all muttered that in a soft voice.

A trio of rapid slashes with both swords, cutting left to right, diagonally, then right to left. Kirito continued his combo, accelerating with each blow.

"▂▂▃▃▄▄▅▅!" Berserker could sense the danger of Kirito's assault and moved to stop it. The shattered stone blade rushed forward towards the black swordsman.

It was knocked aside, an irrelevant distraction in this phenomenon that was erased.

Piercing thrusts tore through the remaining protection Berserker had as Kirito's blades sped even faster. Crosses, arcs, crescents. Both blades swung in every direction, a frenzied offense as every bit as chaotic as Berserker's previous attacks had been. But this time, the receiver couldn't parry. Every single blow Kirito dealt cut along Berserker's body. While individually they did little damage, the continued assault broke through what protection Berserker had and continued past that.

It was inhuman. The attacks Kirito were performing were not something physically possible. His feet barely touched the ground as he attacked, the swordsman opting to spin in midair instead to deal his slashes. It was almost like he was possessed, driven by an unseen authority to finish that offense no matter what.

"Haaaaaah!" Letting out that cry, Kirito thrust his crystal blade forward, piercing all the way through Berserker's body.

One, two, three... sixteen consecutive hits flawlessly executed that left no counter. Or rather, sixteen hits that would strike no matter what.

Kirito took a step back, his attack finished, and pulled his crystal blade out from Berserker's body. The sword shattered, unable to withstand the forces it had been put through any longer. Kirito cast it a brief, sorrowful glance but turned his attention back towards the girl on the hill, who was looking at him with disbelief. "It's my win, Ilya."

At that moment, the spark of life returned to Berserker's dead eyes.

Shirou saw it and ran forward. "Kirito!"

The titan rose... but then stood still, giving Kirito a surveying glance.

A soft voice called out then, from above. "Three lives. Using those average Noble Phantasms, you managed to break through Berserker's God Hand and take three lives." Ilya paused, and then turned around. "Come on Berserker, let's go home. We've kept Sella and Leysritt waiting long enough."

The lead titan... Herakles, vanished into the night air and his master continued along her way. Before she completely disappeared, she turned around one last time to look at Rin. "You're lucky, Tohsaka. Be thankful Saber is that strong... otherwise you'd be dead." With that said, the homunculus left, her white hair trailing behind her.

Rin continued to stare in that direction for a few moments and then sighed. "Archer."

The red knight appeared beside his master in an instant, materializing from the air. "...Rin."

She grabbed his arm and leaned against him. "...Take me home. I'm tired."

Archer looked somewhat surprised by the request, but smiled. "Such a troublesome master... fine, I'll do as you say."

Rin turned towards Shirou and Kirito. "Emiya. Kirito. We're not done yet... but we can go over this some other time. Right now, I've had just a bit too much for tonight." She sighed. "I'll see you at school..."

Archer took that as his cue and lifted up his master, who had fallen asleep after her last words. The red knight sent a glare at the other Servant and Master pair, venom clear in his gaze, and then leapt away into the night.

That left the black swordsman and the fake magus.

"...I think they have the right idea," Kirito said. "It's been a long night, Shirou. Let's head back."

Shirou blinked, the reality of the situation settling in, and nodded. "Er, yeah. Let's go."

He let go of the energy he had channeled in his legs and started walking back, Kirito close behind him.

"So," Shirou said as they walked down the hill. "How did you do that?"

Kirito tilted his head. "Do what?"

Shirou frowned. "You know, that whole sword spinning thing. Was that your Noble Phantasm?"

"Hm..." Kirito scratched his head. "Not really... more of a technique I have. I would have used it earlier, if I could, but something was stopping me until just before I used it."

The red-head nodded in response, still a bit absent-minded from the rapid battle and his magecraft.

The two walked in silence. Before either had noticed it, they had crossed the bridge to Fuyuki city and were on their way back to the Emiya residence.

"Kirito. Thanks for saving Rin."

Kirito stumbled a bit. "Eh? What do you mean Shirou?"

The red-head smiled. "I know that this is a war, and I know that people will die. But even then, I'm glad that you could save her."

The swordsman scratched his head. "Er, you're welcome? I'm not sure why you're thanking me, but if that makes you feel happy Shirou..."

Shirou unlocked the front gate. "I know it's a small thing Kirito, but it means a lot to me. If she had died... no, if either of you had died, I don't know what I would have done. You're a Servant, I get that. But even then, when that fight first started and I couldn't do anything..." He frowned.

The black swordsman grinned and clapped Shirou on the shoulder. "Don't worry about that Shirou! I told you, I won't let my ally die in front of me." His grin settled into a smaller smile, more content than energetic. "And that means that I can't either. As long as you need me, I'll protect you and whatever other allies we have, Shirou."

"Allies... alright Kirito. I'll trust you." Shirou flicked on the lights. "Ah, I almost forgot. There's a guest room down the hall. You can sleep there." He yawned and headed down towards his room. "I'll see you tomorrow Kirito."

The swordsman nodded and left towards his designated room.

Thus ended the first Night of Fate.

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