Fade to Black
Chapter 13 Fade to Black
He had never expected to see such a scene in front of him ever again. Even though the scale was smaller, it didn't matter. After the sixth faction left the scene, Shirou and Saber arrived to it, and the former could barely withstand all the bad memories which flooded back after witnessing that hell.
It really resembled that day ten years ago, buildings and people being consumed by flames, flames that, as he fell to his knees, began to die away. They had finished their work, reducing everything in the area to ashes.
Shirou felt heartbroken. He wanted to avoid something like this happening and yet it occurred right in front of him. As a hero of justice he couldn't help but believe he had failed.
Since then, three days had passed. He was in the kitchen—his faction didn't have anyone to take care of the housework. Even when Antares offered to put someone in charge of it like with the other factions, Shirou declined. He did it in order to avoid having innocent people in his house that could be taken as hostages, just like what had happened with Taiga in the battle against Caster. So he, along with Sakura and, surprisingly, Caster, had begun to take care of the chores.
He turned to see a worried Saber.
She had realized that he was badly bothered by that scene three days ago and didn't want him to do anything too reckless.
"Don't worry, Saber, I won't do anything stupid. I can't change the past," he said as he looked at the ceiling. "But I will stop the person who did that. Someone like him can't be allowed to run around freely."
Saber nodded at his words, agreeing that whoever did it needed to pay for their actions, but both she and Shirou were wrong about something. They assumed that the one who had set the place on fire was also responsible for the deaths.
The Hero of Justice and the Hellhound were now destined to clash with each other no matter what.
Three knights were in a white room, each of them seated on a black chair. Between Situla and Kaus there were two empty chairs, one belonging to Aldebaran, who had died, and the other to Pleiades, who had been wounded to a great degree and decided to not attend the meeting for recovery.
"I can't believe that two of us have been attacked and we're just here talking crap!"
Antares spoke. "Kaus, I told you to not raise your voice. Aldebaran broke our oath when he engaged himself against the King of Heroes and so did Pleiades the moment she attacked the participants."
At this, Kaus stood and summoned his scythe and swung it at Antares. He stopped it with his bare hand, without looking at him.
"Don't fuck with me Antares, are you going to let those humans make fun of us?!"
"I mourn Aldebaran's death, but we have made an oath, we won't interfere in the war," he said as he tightened the grip on the scythe and lifted it along with Kaus, throwing both against one of the walls. "Your thoughts, Situla?"
"I agree that the death of Aldebaran was a very unfortunate event, and that we can't break our oath. The fact that mere humans were able to overcome Pleiades is also something that intrigues me."
Kaus stood and glared at Situla with eyes full of hate. He was about to yell at him when Antares spoke once again.
"Kaus, calm down. I don't mean that we won't get revenge. But to fulfill our oath, we need to keep supervising the factions. Be patient. Eventually the factions will disappear and then we can do as we please."
Situla grinned at his words.
"You found someone you want to fight, Antares?"
"Yes. Actually, there are many candidates. It's been a while since I have gotten serious."
"Still, there is the matter of the King of Heroes. We can't just let him have his way."
"I will give him a warning," Antares concluded as he disappeared in a torrent of flames.
Kaus looked at this and made his scythe disappear.
"I can't believe that guy."
"I don't get why this thing about Aldebaran bothers you so much, Kaus. We are all Counter Guardians, but the relationship between us is nothing more than acquaintances. Well, maybe it's different towards Antares, since he's the leader."
"I don't care about his death, I just can't stand they said humans didn't need the gods," he said, looking at the tanned man. "We have seen this cycle many times over the centuries. Humanity doesn't change. No matter how many times those who disturbed peace and order were defeated, nothing changed!"
"Tell me, Situla! Do we have any meaning besides being servants of the world?!" Kaus could tell Situla was speechless. "We don't! Humanity will never change, and if it comes down to me I'd rather destroy it myself than see everything repeat again!"
He disappeared into a black portal, leaving Situla sitting alone.
"Kaus, humanity is changing. It took them a while, but they are beginning to. Otherwise, those humans who fought Pleiades wouldn't have stood up again and again, no matter how many times they were defeated."
In the castle of the Faction of Zero, Kiritsugu couldn't help but curse Kayneth. His foolishness had caused him to lose both his arms and his Command Seals with them. He didn't know how long Lancer would be able to sustain himself. Because of his stupid pride as a knight, he wouldn't attack innocents and eat their souls. He had remained still for the last three days, that was the reason he was barely able to keep existing, but eventually he would fade away.
As a solution, Tokiomi inspected the lines of the city in order to find another source of mana for Lancer, to at least buy time.
Kirei had been trying to heal Kayneth's arms but it was futile. They had been burned to the muscle. The priest was actually rather enjoying the face full of anguish and despair of the proud magus. He had been the first to fall and moreover to an opponent he had considered inferior.
Kiritsugu continued to check the city. There hadn't been any movement for the last few days and it was starting to look suspicious. He could expect that from the faction of that guy who fought Kayneth, as according to his familiars he wasn't the only one wounded. In that night, they had three Masters with severe wounds, two others with minor.
The Master who summoned that tree had also suffered defeat, so maybe their faction was waiting for him to recover so they could use it again.
That left three factions who had decided against moving for the last three days.
"Just what are they doing?" he wondered aloud.
Of course, the Magus Killer couldn't know that both Archer and Saber of Blue had used too much power in their last fights, and another one could mean death, so they stopped all action for the moment.
But he was right, both the Red and Black factions had been the ones with the least damage, but still they didn't make a move.
For the Red Faction, the reason was that Shirou Kotomine was waiting for Assassin's Noble Phantasm to be completed. She had told him three days, but the priest told her to take her time, so she decided to spend five days on the construction.
But the reason of the Black faction lay somewhere else.
Darnic walked to the lower levels of his castle with Lancer at his side. He didn't like going down there, but the Caster of his faction had taken a liking to that place, where he could work to his heart's content. Now that he thought about it, there had been a strange phenomenon which occurred around that Servant. His Master, Roche Frain Yggdmillennia, a child with messy orange hair who usually wore a dressy white shirt with black shorts, had been with them in that original room. But the moment they were transported to the mansion, he found the boy was missing. He ordered Caules to search for him, and after thirty minutes he was found in the basement.
Later that night, after his Lancer defeated his other self, he went to the basement, wondering how the kid had disappeared like that in a flash.
When he got there, he found him working with a man wearing a featureless golden mask and a blue-and-black striped full body suit. He was an intelligent man, so he could deduce the man wearing the golden mask was Roche's Servant, but what he found shocking was the number of golems that were there.
It was a good thing the castle was big enough. He had begun to put them around the perimeters as protection. The last time he asked Caster of Black about their numbers, he was told there were around a thousand.
That fact itself was the phenomenon. According to Roche, they had been working for two months, but he and the others had just arrived there.
The only explanation was that the moment they disappeared from that room, they were transported to the same place, but at a different time. Still, how something like that could be achieved was beyond him.
Darnic opened the door of the basement and found Caster working on new designs for his golems.
"Good evening, Caster," he said politely.
Lancer had told him to treat all the Servants with respect, especially Caster and Saber, the latter being the strongest Servant they had and the former a great resource, as the golems provided them with an incredible army.
Darnic couldn't deny his words. After looking at the golems, he concluded that it would take the members of his family one year to create a single one, while Caster could make them in a couple of hours.
"It's good to see you, Lord Darnic and Lancer," he said, standing up. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Lancer of Black stepped in with a grin.
"Caster, I think it's time to release our army," he said, putting an arm over his shoulder. "The enemy is weak and they don't know we know their locations."
That was true. His familiars had been watching the Masters during their fights and followed them home when they were over. They had their defenses, but none were prepared for a large-scale assault in the middle of the day.
They wouldn't expect it, and as each of the bases were rather isolated from other houses and buildings, he didn't have to worry about collateral damage.
"They will be ready in a few hours. How many should I send to each base?" the magician wondered.
"A hundred to each base."
"As you order." Caster turned to his young Master. "Alright my student, we have little time. Let's get to work."
"Alright, master," Roche said with excitement.
Atosaki walked into the kitchen and saw both Edward and Kousuke talking at the kitchen table. She hadn't seen them in days and couldn't be happier to have them back.
"You two, you're alright!" she exclaimed while hugging the two of them.
"Atosaki-san…." Edward began.
"We… can't breathe." Kousuke continued.
She immediately let them go and her smile faded the moment she glimpsed their state in full. Kousuke had bandages all over his body. Edward, on the hand, had only his left arm heavily dressed.
"Can you move it now, Edward-san?" she asked.
After the last line disappeared, his arm had been virtually paralyzed. She and Leo were surprised, but he reassured them it was just a side effect of his power.
"Yep, that's the only reason Saber let me leave the room."
"I understand the feeling," said Kousuke. "Caster didn't want me to move 'til all my wounds were healed."
"Whipped," they heard Leo say as he entered the room.
"You just say that because you don't have a female Servant," Kousuke answered back.
"I had one back in my world." He then looked at Edward. "She resembled yours, but she was more conservative."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"It means what I said."
"Want to fight? Even without the use of an arm, I can take you." he said with a smile.
"Come at me bro," Leo replied, grinning.
They stared each other down for a while before laughing.
"Then you know how hard it is."
"Yep, Lily was sometimes a pain."
In another room of the house, the two female Servants found themselves sitting with each other. No matter what they did, no matter how many times their Masters told them it was alright, they couldn't forget the events of that night.
They could feel the sadness of their Masters. They knew them too well, and the fact that they couldn't help and the two were forced to use those powers made it even worse. They only felt like they had failed them.
At that moment, Odysseus appeared with a carefree grin.
"Two lovely ladies, alone and with sad faces." He looked at them and saw they weren't listening. "Only the worst man could do something like that."
"Shut up!" the two girls yelled in unison.
At their words, the hero's smile faded and he put his hands on their heads.
"Weep," he said, solemn. "Reflect on your mistakes and grow. Failure is part of life. I myself have failed to protect many people I found precious. But those two remain at your side. Become stronger, Servant of the spell, Servant of the blade. If not, the only thing waiting for you is despair."
Odysseus' words were right. Their Masters were weaker at the moment. They needed them more than ever, and they didn't have the luxury of having doubts. They had to protect them.
The hero smiled and disappeared. He wasn't the strongest of heroes, and he knew he had told the two girls something they already knew. But he had seen the dead many times and he understood failure more than anyone else. He remembered all his friends who followed him only to die at the hands of the monsters at sea.
He was remembered as the hero who developed the scheme to finally win the Trojan War. But how many of his generals, his friends, died before he could pull it off? People sometimes forgot the sacrifices made after learning the final result. All the glory didn't mean anything to him. He just wanted to fulfill his promise to the king and return to his family. He regretted that he couldn't have managed to think of a way for him and the others to win without losing so much.
Gilgamesh felt a presence he recognized very well. He materialized in the living room and found a crimson knight standing there looking at some paintings on the wall.
"Another dog dares to show himself in front of me?!" He glowered at Antares, who didn't seem to care.
"King of Heroes, I just came to inform you that Aldebaran was at fault. He wasn't allowed to fight with you and should have departed before things escalated," he said in monotone.
"Running and dying are the only thing you dogs are capable of doing," he said as he prepared to unleash Gate of Babylon on him. "Your presence offends me, mongrel"
He was about to shoot when he realized Antares was no longer standing in front of him.
"You really are an arrogant king."
Gilgamesh heard his voice behind him and his eyes went round in surprise.
Antares put a hand on his shoulder.
"I wasn't finished talking. You are also at fault. But I can't fight with you, so can we leave it until the end of the war? Then I shall accept your challenge."
The only answer he received was a golden sword to the face. He dodged it with ease but did not let go of him.
"I really hate when I need to do this."
He grabbed Gilgamesh by the neck and smashed him into the wall of the other side of the room. Gilgamesh looked at Antares' eyes, crimson eyes devoid of any emotion. He could only see a killing machine.
"Listen, King of Heroes, you are free to come and try to kill us, but wait until the end of the war before you do. If you try anything funny again, I will deal with you swiftly and mercilessly. This is your only warning."
He jumped back, dodging the many weapons coming at him.
"Not bad, no wonder Aldebaran was defeated."
"You bastard! You dare to lay a hand on the King!"
He shot more weapons, but as they got close to making impact, they suddenly disappeared. Rather, they turned to dust. Gilgamesh couldn't hide his surprise when a scorpion stinger appeared at the knight's side.
"Well, I gave you a warning. See you later, Gil-san," Antares said as he disappeared.
"Damn mongrel!" Gilgamesh said as he slammed a fist into the floor.
There was only one thought in the mind of the king: get revenge for the humiliation he had suffered at the hands of Antares.
In the afternoon at the base of the sixth faction, Leo was looking for Archer when he saw Atosaki leaving the house.
"Hey!" he called to her.
She stopped and turned to see him.
"You going out?" he asked.
"Yep, with Lance," she said happily.
In that moment, he noticed the blue-haired man wearing an unbuttoned, stoplight-colored Hawaiian shirt, a white V-neck shirt underneath and black leather pants. Instead of his visor, he wore bandages over his eyes. To Leo it seemed weird, but at least it was less conspicuous than that black, intricately carved eyeshade.
"Have fun on your date," he said as he went to take a nap in his room.
He didn't seem to notice Atosaki blushing furiously. Then something occurred to him.
"What about the kids?"
"I left them with Edward-san. He said I needed a break," she said as Lance took her hand and the pair left the mansion.
The two children they rescued that night had been living in the house, Atosaki taking care of them along with the maids. The boy named Alex was beginning to open up to them, at least to Atosaki, maybe because of her cheerful disposition, but the girl, Clare, seeming to be younger than him, refused to let anyone in. Atosaki didn't want to leave them alone, but she believed that Edward could look after them for a couple of hours.
"See you later, Leo-san."
Caules couldn't believe what he was doing. Both Rider and Berserker were walking in front of him in civilian clothes. He really didn't know how the paladin had managed to make her change her outfit, but he thought it would be better to not think about it. For some reason the paladin had taken a liking to him. While being in bed, he came to visit Caules every day. Even Berserker was beginning to accept him. It was not hard to get along with him, but for some reason Berserker had decided to remain at his side at all times.
He had to admit that during the time he couldn't leave the bed, the two had become closer. She never left his side and without realizing it, he had begun to tell her everything about him. Still, he didn't understand why whenever he mentioned his sister a scowl formed on her face.
It wasn't surprising to him that his sister didn't come to visit. He knew that the others didn't like her associating with him, so he only thought it couldn't be helped.
He remembered that, before leaving, she had been waiting for him outside his room.
"Hi Caules," she said with a weak smile.
"Good afternoon, sis." He was happy to see her after so many days.
But the moment he said those words he saw her face fall.
"Caules, you can't call me your sister anymore," she said, lowering her head.
His eyes widened.
"W…Why?" He didn't understand. He knew there was a lot of pressure on her, but he never expected it to come down to this.
"I will become the next head of the family. I have to cut my ties with my real relatives," she said.
This was all a lie. Fiore didn't need to do anything like that, but she felt she did. She had decided to choose her legs over her brother, so she pushed him away. Perhaps then he could search for a wish on his own. Perhaps he would despise her and make it easy to choose her legs over him.
She expected yells or even a slap from him, but nothing came. She looked at him and she felt her heart break when she saw all the pain she had caused him. She wanted to take back everything she just said, but it was too late.
"Understood, Lady Fiore," he said as he began to walk away.
Fiore's eyes widened. His words contained neither hatred nor anger, only sadness. It made sense—even after all that, he couldn't bring himself to hate her.
Berserker had watched the scene and wanted to break Fiore's neck when her Master called her.
"Berserker, let's go," he said with no emotion, and she followed him.
Fiore was left speechless. This had been her choice. It wasn't supposed to hurt so much, she'd done this so everything could be easier. Yet that was the first time hearing her name caused pain like that.
After that, they met with Rider of Black and he offered to show them the city. His mind returned to the present when he received a good thump on his back from the paladin.
"Don't think too much about anything," he said, grinning. "Cheer up! You're here with two lovely ladies."
"But you're a guy."
"Doesn't matter, to the others I look like a girl. Someone I met before made that perfectly clear."
Caules wondered who that person could be, but decided to relax for a while.
Edward and Saber were going to the room where the two children were sleeping when they found Kirsche standing in their way.
"Hi Kirsche." he greeted. "I never expected you would want to look after the kids."
"Please, Hellhound. I would never do something like that."
"Alright, then why are you here?"
"I want answers, Hellhound," she said in all seriousness.
"No way out of this, right?" He really hoped she would drop the subject.
But after looking at her eyes, he knew that it wasn't a choice.
"Why do you have that arm? Why did you mention Avenger?"
"This arm… is the answer to a foolish dream. I wished to regain what I had lost, but that was impossible. What had been lost can't be regained, only replaced."
Kirsche understood his words and couldn't help but agree. After all, she hadn't really regained what the Matou had taken from her. The Einzbern had helped her, but in reality she knew she had changed.
Edward unwound the bandages and showed her his arm. While he used his glove to conceal its appearance, in reality his arm was completely black, like a piece of charcoal with red lines running over and through it.
She realized how his arm worked after looking closer; she wasn't a magus from the Einzberns for naught.
"A fragment of the Grail…" She knew because Zouken had put something like that to augment his vessel back during the war.
Saber looked at her Master, understanding it was something he really didn't like to talk about.
"About Avenger, as he had corrupted the Grail, a piece of him was also in this arm," he said coldly. "But he is gone now. Those black flames were his parting gift."
And then he smiled, adding: "He is the second head of the Hellhound."
"Then who is the third?" she asked him.
"That's a secret. Sorry, Kirsche, but I don't trust you that much."
He began to walk away.
"Wait! You didn't answer all my questions."
"As I said, I don't trust you that much."
He continued to move along, Saber glaring at her as she followed him, and Kirsche began to understand why her counterpart Ginevra had developed such interest in him and Yagami.
In the middle of the city, on top of the tallest building, Caster of Black looked out at the place where the greatest battle would occur. From there, he could see the other five bases, and he ordered his creations to attack them. Five hundred golems appeared out of nowhere and descended upon all the faction bases, but he made sure to keep the collateral damage to a minimum.
"Go my creations, destroy our enemies," the Servant said as a fight in each of the bases began.