A Different Path

By HallowedWizard

Action

Changing Fate: Running

Archer glared at the center of the rising dust cloud, waiting to confirm the death of that fake hero.

Kirito. That was what he called himself. What he believed himself to be in his very soul, according to those blades Archer had seen him wield.

A hero. Despite being an ordinary boy in life, his soul was that of a hero's, a result of doing heroic deeds in a plane close enough to reality to cause that shift.

Unacceptable.

For Archer, the one who sacrificed everything to become a hero, who pursued his ideal, sold his soul to fulfill it, and was forced to act against it for an eternity after his death, the fact that all it took for that boy to become a hero was to play a 'game', no matter how close to reality it was, went against his very core.

He didn't deserve it. No matter what small hardships that boy went through, he didn't deserve that title.

A fake hero, even more than Archer himself, wielding fake blades that were nothing more than dreams. He didn't deserve to hold the title of Saber.

...Archer remembered. In a cruel twist of fate, an event with a probability so close to zero it could be counted as that, he could remember the Fifth Holy Grail war in its entirety. He could recall the beginnings of the path that led him to becoming EMIYA.

He remembered the brilliant golden woman that had served as his blade. He remembered the prickly magus that was now his Master and the frantic struggles they had to survive in the war. He remembered affirming his oath to pursue his ideal, running without looking back, and how he lost everything to foolishly become a beast of Alaya.

He remembered facing the self he was now, and rejecting him with all his might.

A bitter smile crossed Archer's face, one that soon turned into a scowl.

Annoying. The boy that his past self had summoned didn't deserve HER title. There should have only been one person Emiya Shirou could summon, and that was King Arthur. Avalon should have acted as the catalyst, locking it in. That another Servant would be summoned actually had a probability of zero.

So why? Why was this fake hero that had never bled, that had only suffered fake pain in a fake world standing in for the greatest Saber?

It ticked him off.

Archer knew that attacking in broad daylight was risky. There was a high possibility of being seen by pedestrians. It was fortunate then, that the fake Saber had chosen to wander in the center of the one place where no one would interfere, even under the morning sun.

Archer knew that when Rin found out what he did, she would be angry. It seemed that, in this timeline at least, she had already began to fall in love with his past self, even if she refused to acknowledge her feelings. Archer's independent actions would be treated as a betrayal of the highest order, if she found out.

Archer also knew that doing this was far from the most intelligent course of action. There were hundreds of other ways to eliminate the fake Saber without being detected that Archer could have chosen. Rule breaker would have transferred control of Kirito to Archer if he used it, and the boy's lack of magic resistance would make the fake Saber unable to resist an order to kill himself. A rain of swords the moment Archer arrived would have felled the fake Saber where he stood, unable to do anything else. And then he could have used Kanshou and Bakuya's effects, the attraction between the blades a tactic that couldn't be seen through as unarmed as the boy was.

But he couldn't do that. As logical as those actions were, as much as he had been forced to perform them during and after his life, something inside of him forbid Archer from considering those easy kills.

It was a simple reason.

Just as he wanted to kill the one who would become EMIYA with his own hands, he wanted the boy who had usurped Arturia to die knowing his killer.

So Archer waited, a dozen blueprints already waiting in his mind to be executed the moment he saw the boy still lived. He doubted it, but he didn't become a counter guardian by doing things in half-measures.

Gae Bolg appeared in his hands, modified to become a cursed arrow that would be a sure kill.

No matter the previous outcome, this would be the end.

And then he would be free to kill his foolish past self that ran down the road of a borrowed dream without looking back.


"That was close..."

Blood dripped down Kirito's arm. It was painful, but not to the extent that it hindered him. The golden sword he now wielded had allowed him to cut the weapon before it could detonate, but the sheer speed behind the attack had still caused considerable damage, the tiny steel shrapnel cutting into the limb that created them.

The black swordsman straightened. The Holy Sword Excaliber was in his right hand, the one obtained with his comrades in that land of Fairies from the maze of ice beneath Yggdrasil. The strongest sword had shattered the Hound of the Red Plains, but only just. The cut hadn't been clean, and damage to Kirito was unavoidable.

He was bleeding all over from the shrapnel of that shattered blade. Cuts, scrapes, and gouges in his skin bled beneath his torn black clothing. But it was irrelevant.

A cloud of dust shrouded him from view, but it would settle in the next few seconds, and that crimson Servant would be aiming for Kirito's life again.

The swordsman had no doubt that Archer would have another, more lethal shot prepared.

In that case...

"System Call. Excaliber, the sword which cut all of steel and tree. "

He couldn't fall here. Shirou still needed him. If Archer thought he was going to stop him then-

"Enhance Armament!"

-he would cut that false belief in half.


It was lunchtime, and Shirou made his way to the rooftop to meet Rin.

It was troublesome, but he knew that if he didn't show up then that twin-tailed devil would only make his life more troublesome.

Probably by appearing in his classroom and waiting like a girl making a confession.

...No. Bad thoughts!

Shirou shook his head, clearing it from those distractions. Kirito was really starting to be a bad influence on him if his thoughts started straying like that.

The red-head reached the door to the rooftop. He took a breath and ran through his plan to deal with Rin once more.

For one, his goal was to determine her plans for the war. As much as she had helped him in the beginning, she had made it clear that they would be enemies. And as a magus, there was also the inherent danger she presented to Ayako if she got the slightest inkling she knew something about the events at hand.

It was uncertain whether Rin would just erase her memories or if she would make the brown-haired girl disappear, despite being in the same year group. It was unlikely, but considering the fact that Lancer had tried to kill him despite Shirou's knowledge of magecraft, it was a possibility he wasn't willing to rule out just in the hope that Rin was understanding.

His other goal he had was to find out the extent she would be willing to go through to win the war.

Rin seemed like a nice person, helping a clueless person like himself get on his feet in the war. She was also in love with Shirou, according to Kirito.

That... Shirou didn't really know what to think about it, but even if that was the case, he knew all too well about the ruthlessness that magi could go through to fulfill their goals. And he already had one person, someone he once called a friend, prove to be a 'bad guy'. He hardly knew Rin, save for the fact that she wore a persona in public, was an accomplished magus, and another Master in this war.

He couldn't risk it. He had almost lost Ayako to his naivety, and had caused Sakura harm for his actions to save Ayako. If Rin was a possible threat, he would have to confirm it as soon as possible to prevent any more casualties.

And if that meant eliminating her-

Shirou shook his head. He really hoped it didn't come to that. While he understood the role of a defender of justice, and the deeds he must perform to protect the many... the thought of killing Rin left a bad taste in his mouth. But if she would hurt people like Ayako, Sakura, or other innocents for the sake of the grail-

The red-head sighed and reached for the door and turned the handle.

It would be dangerous confronting her. Too many unknown variables were at play, and Kirito would probably scold him for... actually, that guy would likely laugh at him for even considering Rin's betrayal or role as a villain, too convinced with her infatuation.

Well, if that was true, then the extra bread and tea Shirou bought would definitely come in handy.

He stepped onto the roof and confronted the first Master he had met in this death game.


Archer frowned as a golden light disrupted the cloud of dust. It turned to a scowl when he saw that Kirito was unharmed save for shallow scratches along his body.

A gleaming golden sword of exceptional make was in his right hand, and his obsidian sword was in his left.

The sharp pang of anger, of fury, welled in Archer as he saw that golden blade.

It was a mockery. Excaliber, the Holy Sword Cutting All of Steel and Tree. Not the blade of King Arthur, but an imitation based off the portion of its legend entailing the blade's ability to sever swords of lesser make and combining portions of the tale with that of Gram, the sword of Sigurd.

A fake, worse than the blades that Archer wielded.

But the blasphemy didn't end there. Somehow, whether through the whim of the Holy Grail or some other intervention, the fake blade was raised to the same level as the Sword of Promised Victory that his Saber had wielded.

If he stopped to think about it, Archer would have noted that it was strange. The sword that Kirito wielded was not a Noble Phantasm, but the nature of it was similar. A bound illusion, a phantasm created of images that didn't exist in reality, yet shared the accumulated memories that was inherent of a Noble Phantasm. It was similar to the manner in which he created his own blades, but different in its execution.

But the crimson Servant didn't hesitate. The moment that Kirito appeared, he activated the trump card that would end the battle and seal the fake Saber's death.

"Fly, barbed spear that pierces with death! Gae Bolg!"

The lance turned arrow flew an impossible path, appearing before Kirito in an instant to pierce the black swordsman's heart.

Checkmate.

It was an attack on destiny itself. A thrust that was only a step away from the Authority of gods, ensuring the death of the target by piercing the heart the moment its name was called. The result of piercing the heart is created earlier than the cause, which is generated later.

It couldn't be dodged. It couldn't be stopped. It couldn't be deflected.

Kirito knew that the moment he heard Archer say its name.

But-

...that was only in the case of the true weapon.

The black swordsman had realized the nature of Archer's blades the moment he shattered the first. An intuitive understanding only from continued exposure to weapons of all shapes and designs, and through clashing against them enough to know in an instant their weak spots.

He had faced that crimson spear before and acknowledged its presence as well as its danger. The one Archer held was a fake, an entire tier below the one he faced. It wasn't on par with a 'divine instrument', the greatest of the great like Lancer's had been.

It was still exceptional, of a quality that no blade crafted by man could reach, and possessed the same ability, form, and design, but it wouldn't reach the original it was modeled after.

Destiny was inverted as the traced Gae Bolg flew to end Kirito's life.

Reflexes and a determination strong enough to defy the Authority of a world's god fired, and the enhanced Excaliber clashed with the traced Gae Bolg.

A contradiction.

The spear was to pierce the heart first, in all cases, and the method the spear did so would follow that result.

But if the method was an impossible outcome in the first case, then the result could not resolve.

Excaliber would shatter the replicated Gae Bolg without fail in every scenario, as Kirito's knowledge of weapon weaknesses allowed him to do so and the reflexes he had would ensure that the outcome would end up as 'Gae Bolg was broken before it could strike'.

Yet, the concept of 'the heart of the opponent has been pierced' was created before the method, so it should resolve in his death even in that scenario if Gae Bolg was used. Against Lancer, that outcome was absolute, even if the weapon was broken as the slightest remnant would still be capable of piercing the heart.

It was fortunate then that the current wielder was a fake.

Kirito felt the world jerk, similar to when Heathcliff had used the System Over assist back in Aincrad to avoid his strike. It was like the world had frozen, and he was unable to move, with the crimson lance rushing towards him the only free element in this timeless reality.

Yet, Excaliber carved through the air, intercepting the lance that would without a doubt pierce his heart.

His vision filled with red as an infinite number of scenarios played out, cycling through the methods that would lead to the result.

It resolved by the crimson spear shattering in a splash of light, similar to the effects of broken weapons Kirito was used to.

For a fraction of a second, Archer was stunned, unable to believe the impossible attack had been thwarted.

Too long.

Kirito closed the remaining ten meters, leaping up to slash at Archer with his blades.

"Hah!"


Archer dropped to the ground, narrowly avoiding Kirito's attack.

He didn't understand how the fake Saber had managed to prevent Gae Bolg, but Archer knew his initiative was lost.

Fine.

He was used to fighting foes stronger and faster than himself, and this was no exception. Tracing Kanshou and Bakuya, he prepared to put an end to the fake hero in front of him.

Analyzing the fake Saber's fighting style, his tendencies, attack patterns, a counter plan for the next dozen moves were set as he opened his stance.


"Tohsaka."

Shirou greeted the twin-tailed magus standing at the fence overlooking the edge of the school roof.

"Oh, Emiya-kun."

A polite response by the perfect idol.

Of course, that attitude was a fake.

He closed the door behind him and approached Rin, though he remained on guard for any deceptions or signs of aggression.

Rin laughed. "My, my. All I want to do is talk, Emiya-kun. You don't need to act so tense around me."

"Of course I do. You're a Master, and swore to be my enemy."

Shirou set down his food, waiting for Rin to make the next move.

Her gaze sharpened, scrutinizing Shirou. "...I see."

But, in the next instant, it was gone, replaced by a smile. "And here I was thinking that you were hopeless. Maybe you might survive the war after all."

Without waiting for Shirou to respond, she walked over to the water tower.

It was an isolated area, and no one could see them there.

For a second, Shirou considered leaving since Rin was the better magus and surely had dozens of ways to incapacitate him without a struggle.

Rin sat down and began setting up her food. "Oh? What are you waiting for, Emiya-kun?"

"...Nothing."

Shirou followed, his food in his hands.

Even Rin wouldn't consider attacking him in broad daylight. That was a silly thought.

The two Masters sat down across from each other and began eating.

Rin noticed the extra food Shirou brought and tilted her head. "Emiya-kun, are you that hungry? I understand that men eat a lot, but with that much food even someone like you will gain weight."

"Wha-"

It was a ridiculous line of thinking, enough that it shook Shirou out of his caution.

"Geez. Men these days... well, I'll help myself to some since you don't need it."

And before realizing it, Shirou found himself falling into Rin's pace.

The extra bread and tea he brought fulfilled their purpose... but wasn't the order supposed to be the other way around here with him giving her permission before she took them?

Shirou let out a sigh.

"Tohsaka. If you think that I'll gain weight by eating it, what do you think will happen to you? You brought lunch too."

She froze in the middle of taking a bite from the bread, as if the thought hadn't crossed her mind.

"I thought so." Shirou shook his head and started eating.

A stray thought crossed his mind, and a bit of Kirito's influence caused him to continue with, "Though I bought them for you, so if you want them that bad, go ahead."

"W-what?!" Rin flushed, and looked from the bread to Shirou to her lunchbox. "T-then you wanted to... but I..."

...That didn't go as planned. He was expecting Rin to boldly deny it or make fun of him. The flustered act was something he hadn't thought of. Well, he thought it might happen, but it was a secret hope he held that it wouldn't, since if she did it meant Rin-

No. No. It couldn't be like that. Sure, he indirectly saved her life by supplying Kirito with the means to overpower Berserker, but it couldn't be that she fell in love with him because of it. Nope. Never in a million years could something that outrageous occur.

A trick. Yep. It has to be a trick. So because it's a trick, he should take advantage of her obliviousness to his understanding of her plan to set his own pace.

"So Tohsaka, what do you plan to do for the rest of the war?"

He spoke in an off-hand manner, like someone discussing the weather, but the words were enough to snap Rin back to reality.

"Oh. So that's what this is about then."

For some reason, Shirou felt that he had just failed a stat check of sort... nah. That was silly. Life wasn't a video game, and he wasn't the protagonist of a visual novel, despite Kirito's pointed references to the similarities in his life to one.

Rin fixed Shirou with a smile, but this one didn't reach her eyes. "Isn't it obvious, Emiya? I'm going to win the war."

The words were confident and determined. As he would expect from a magus like Rin.

"What, did you expect me to tell you all my plans, Emiya?" Rin shook her head. "Really, you should have known better."

"No, I expected as much of you, Tohsaka."

Rin's expression faltered a bit at his words, and she seemed hurt, though Shirou couldn't understand why.

She had declared herself an enemy, so his reaction should have been expected.

"Of course you did. Really, what was I thinking, asking you up here like this if you had already decided...?"

"Tohsaka?"

She shook her head. "It's nothing, Emiya. Thank you for the food." Her tone of voice was polite again, like the mask she had worn in public.

Shirou was silent and ate his food. The conversation had taken a turn he didn't expect, but Rin was the one who asked him to come, so he'd let her speak first.

After a few minutes, she did.

"So, Emiya. What happened to 'I don't intend to fight you'? Weren't you the one who didn't want to kill the other Masters?"

There it was, the crux of the issue.

It must have been disconcerting, for her to see Shirou act like that. At least that's what he thought.

But he had to be sure that she wasn't an enemy. He had to know it for a fact before including her as someone to protect, someone to save.

"...Tell me, Tohsaka. What would you do if there was a witness to the war? Not another magus like me, but someone completely unrelated."

The magus brushed her hair to the side. "Isn't it obvious? I'd silence them. Why, has there been one?"

Shirou was silent, and then said, "...I see. Then another question before I leave."

"Eh? But lunch isn't even over, Emiya." She looked genuinely confused by his actions, and hurt at how clipped he was being.

That was promising. Maybe he wouldn't have to fight her after all.

"How far would you go to obtain the grail? Would you sacrifice people, or harm innocents to get it?"

"I don't see how-"

"Answer me, Tohsaka. I need to know."

Steel. He hadn't expected it, but his last words were sharp, emotionless.

She actually flinched at that, and Shirou felt a twinge of regret for his attitudes.

But he had to be sure. He had to. Seeing anyone else he knew hurt because he didn't consider every possibility was a scenario he couldn't allow.

A small part of him noted that he was hurting Rin for acting like this, but he suppressed it.

He had to be sure.

"Of... course. It's natural for a magus to do whatever it takes if it helps the reach Akasha. Since the grail's the best way to do it, I'd... even do that."

He smiled. Her perfect and polite voice had faltered, so she didn't really mean what she said.

"I'm glad. So you're a good person after all."

"Wha-" Rin flushed, though this time it was in anger. "You... you...! You have the nerve to-"

Whatever she was going to say was cut off as she winced in pain. "...Archer, what are you doing?"

"Tohsaka? What's wrong?"

She frowned, considering Shirou for a moment, then said, "Archer just drained a lot of prana from me and I don't know why. He's not letting me see what he's doing."

"You don't think that he's fighting-"

System Call.

Words that echoed in his very core called out, halting any thoughts he had.

Excaliber, the Sword which cut all of steel and tree.

"Kirito...?"

Shirou had a sinking feeling in his stomach. He didn't understand it, but he knew Kirito was causing the source of those words. And it couldn't be a coincidence that this was occurring moments after Rin was drained of prana.

It looked like Rin had come to the same conclusion, judging from the look on her face. "That idiot! I told him to let me talk with you first before doing anything stupid!"

"Tohsaka. You...?"

So she had intended to fight after all?

"Gragh! Nevermind that! Come on Shirou, we have to go NOW before any other Master thinks its a good idea to start fights in the day time!"

She grabbed his hand and started dragging him away before he could protest.

As they moved, Shirou just knew that something big was going to happen. Something that would change the course of the war for the worse.


Kirito deflected a counter from Archer's white falchion and responded with one of his own.

"What's the meaning of this, Archer?"

Elucidator was blocked by Archer's black Falchion and the crimson Servant stepped forward with a heavy slash from the other blade.

"Shut up! A fake hero like you has no right to be complaining! Just disappear!"

Excaliber lashed out and shattered the approaching white sword, but Archer stepped back and a copy was in his hands before Kirito could take advantage of its disappearance.

Strange. This entire fight was strange.

Kirito had known Archer held enmity towards him and Shirou the moment they met. It was hard to miss the killing intent and venom in his gaze, but Kirito thought it was just due to practicality and his Master's refusal to eliminate what he believed to be easy targets. Yet, the man's ferocity and determination in the fight implied otherwise.

For some reason, this was personal for him.

The black swordsman didn't have anymore time to think. Archer had thrown his blades to the side and rushed with a new pair.

Despite the fact that Archer was trying to kill him, Kirito couldn't help but have a grudging respect for the man. He wasn't fighting like Lancer, using insane skill to be dangerous. The man before him was like a machine, coolly analyzing the next dozen moves and tactically trying to maneuver the pace of the battle to one that he could control.

In the beginning, he had left tempting lethal openings that Kirito almost fell for, and was sure that another fighter would have taken.

But that wasn't the way he fought.

Analyzing the opponent's attack patterns. Predicting their next dozen moves, changing the flow to allow for a lethal strike. Leaving openings to manipulate the foe to attacking in a way that could be taken advantage of.

Kirito knew that methodology too well, having used it himself numerous times.

It was not a clash of skill that the Servants had, but one of tactics and calm analysis. A high-paced game of chess where the pieces constantly shifted roles as both players tried to not outwit each other, but out-cheat the other, making the rules into ones they were comfortable with.

It was like the game 'Mao', except the rules were constantly shifting.

Archer had played his trump cards, but those failed when Kirito played his own and broke the launched projectiles.

The advantage was Kirito's for that moment, as Archer was set back one move by not knowing Kirito's weapon break ability.

But the count was reset.

Kirito might have been faster and stronger than Archer, but when it came down to it, the difference was minimal due to the crimson Servant's ability to accurately predict the black swordsman's next attack.

He hadn't expected Archer to be an accomplished close-range fighter as well as long-range, so the rules were changed again as the two Servants matched blades.

Now Archer had played another card, but Kirito didn't know what it was.

He blocked the attacking blades, though didn't manage to break them due to Archer moving with the force of the blows to prevent such a scenario. But that left him open, and Kirito took advantage of the delay to lash out at Archer's neck.

A twitch, just the slightest on the corner of Archer's mouth. A flash of white and black in the man's steely eyes.

Kirito leapt back, lashing out with his blades to break the pair of Kanshou and Bakuya that swerved back to cut into him.

So that was his next card, Kirito thought.

Archer scowled and dissolved the extra pair of swords, acknowledging that another trump was lost.

Kirito looked at his arm. It was drenched in blood now, and he couldn't keep this up any longer before his fighting ability began to dull from loss of blood.

In that case... Kirito straightened, settling into a familiar sword stance, with the blades held loosely by his sides. I'll just end it with everything I've got.

Excaliber and Elucidator glowed with azure light as the stance for the strongest dual blade skill 'Eclipse' was prepared.

And then another player arrived on the field.

"Yo, Saber, Archer. Mind if I join in?"

Lancer stood on the edge of the park with a feral grin, leaning casually against Gae Bolg. "Of course, since you two broke the rules, I'm not going to hold back this time."

"Tch." Archer strained for a moment, as if he would continue, but then leapt back, turning into astral form before either Kirito or Lancer could do anything about it, ending the conflict as swiftly as it began.

"Hmph. Coward."

Lancer shrugged and turned towards Kirito. "Well, Saber. Guess it's just you and me."

Kirito straightened, and the blue light faded from his swords. "Lancer. What are you doing here?"

The blue-haired man scowled and crossed his arms. "I was sent by the mediator when he realized that Archer was making his move. What were you two thinking, fighting in broad daylight like that?"

Since it seemed that Lancer wasn't here to fight, Kirito relaxed. "I don't know. I was just examining this area when Archer attacked."

Lancer sighed. "Of course. That guy would do such a cowardly thing."

He looked around the park. "Well, it doesn't look like there are any witnesses this time. Pretty lucky, I would say."

"...It's strange though."

Normally, there would be people around, even in an unpleasant place like this. Since it was close to noon, there should be people on the streets out and about. Yet, even with the loud explosion Archer caused, there hadn't been a single person arriving to investigate.

"Well, Saber. As much as I'd like to finish our fight here and now, my Master's telling me to head back."

Something wasn't right with this situation. Kirito could feel it. Lancer's arrival was too perfect, and his lack of hostility too convenient. But he wasn't one to start a fight when there wasn't a need for one, so he nodded. "Thanks, Lancer."

The blue-haired man waved off the thanks. "Just give me a good fight next time, Saber. That's all I'm asking."

Lancer turned to leave, but then paused, in an instant tensed to enter pitched battle.

"...Who's there?"

Kirito was confused at Lancer's actions, but then he felt it.

The air was darkening around them, the hostility in the land intensifying. The feeling of being cursed, despised by the world, began to settle into his core.

"...Looks like my fight with Archer drew more than just you and your Master, Lancer."

Excaliber and Elucidator were raised again as the dark presence drew closer.

"Ki...ri...to. You..."


Rin rushed down the stairs with Shirou close behind. It was still lunch time, so there was a brief period before any other students would appear.

"O-oi, Tohsaka. Don't you think this is a bit extreme?"

Shirou pulled out of her grasp as they reached the second floor landing between the stairs.

The magus spun around, a finger raised to lecture him. "Shirou. Combat is meant to be limited to night time so that the witnesses are kept to a minimum, right?"

He nodded, but didn't understand the point of the question. "Yeah. The Mage Association wouldn't want anyone learning of the war since it would breach the secrecy of magecraft."

"Yes, but do you think they could do to stop a Master and his Servant if they decided to not follow that?"

Shirou froze.

That... was a good point. Even if they wanted to do something about it, the Association had nothing to match someone like Berserker, or Archer, even. Or if they did, it would be too slow in arriving to prevent the damage from occurring.

"Well... what about that priest? He's the mediator of the war, isn't he?"

It was a slim hope at best, but maybe-

"Hah! Don't you remember what he said? The Church and Association have no power to stop someone who would wish for an apocalypse, or in this case disobey the rules." Rin frowned. "The only reason that they're followed is a tacit agreement between the Masters, but if it's seen to be broken by not just one, but two..."

He understood without it being said. Chaos. It would be a disaster just like he wanted to prevent, with Fuyuki embroiled in a conflict once more like the fire ten years ago.

A part of him acknowledged that this was the opportunity he was waiting for. If the city was in danger, he could be the one to stop it.

The rest of him, however, denied that. He needed to prevent the situation from occurring in the first place, before lives could be lost.

The only way to do that would be to... ah.

"Rin. The command spells."

She opened her mouth ready to denounce Shirou's idea, but then closed it and frowned in thought. "That's... right. I forgot about that."

He grinned. "You, the prodigy, forgot about the command spells, one of the most important parts of the war? Really Tohsaka, I thought you were better than that."

"Oh shut up, Emiya."

Rin raised her hand and closed her eyes, the command spells on her left hand glowing in preparations with her intent to use them. "By the power of this command seal..."

The air began to distort as the absolute order began to take place.

But something was wrong. Something inside Shirou called for him to stop her before she could finish the order, an instinctive warning that the moment she did would enable a situation beginning the end.

"Wait, Rin-!"

"Stop fighting and return to me, Archer!"

The command spell did as it was designed and tapped into the Greater Grail to obtain a channel for the prana needed to execute the order.

In doing so, it showed the way for the presence in the Grail to reach out to the Masters and the Servants they had summoned.

The air distorted as the command etched its mystery on the world.

In the same instant, reality cracked, as Angra Mainyu finally found a path to the Cardinal System.


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