Chapter 15: Different Paths
Gene couldn't know this would be wrong. He didn't want to understand how he and the priest reacted so differently to the same thing. He was there, sending tornados out at the golems that had broken into the church. Karna was swinging his black spear and destroying all the ones which entered through the door while Shirou remained calm and with his Black Keys continued to cut down the monsters. The fact he could keep so calm make Gene felt uneasy.
Archer was on top of the church using her skills to shoot down any flying golems coming at them. Rider fought outside, laughing and laughing. No one was surprised—he had made it perfectly clear he liked fighting. His true identity was Achilles, the man who fought and died in a war only to gain glory, immortal glory. While crushing the golems with his spear, he couldn't help but remember those bygone times and how each swing of his blade ended the life of many good men.
This war wasn't any different. There were Masters and warriors, and this city was their battlefield. He didn't care about victims. In any war there were casualties, simple as that. Then, once he smashed the last golem in front of him, he waited for the next wave, a smirk on his face.
Yet it never come. Roots came up from underground, trapping the golems and seconds later destroyed them.
"It seems I finished in time."
He turned and saw Assassin standing along with her Master.
"No matter what, you never cease to amaze me, Assassin," Shirou said with a smile.
"I do what I can."
Shirou noticed Rider glaring at him, certain he was angry he couldn't continue the brawl. He decided to ignore him and looked at the destruction the remaining golems were causing. There were still hundreds running amok around the city. As the Red Faction continued to stare at the carnage, they heard footsteps coming at them.
Shirou Kotomine was no doubt an evil and manipulative man. He would kill all the Masters and use the Servants he stole from them to achieve his ambition without any feelings of guilt or remorse. The fact his wish seemed to be good didn't make him any better. But, while seeing the people being slaughtered, he couldn't help but feel the need to do something. After all, he used to be a hero.
"Rider, as you want to keep fighting, feel free to exterminate the golems."
Rider's eyes widened in surprise before he smiled. He didn't answer him back, instead running at a nearby group of golems.
"Archer, support him. Assassin, come with me." He turned to Karna and his Master. "Gene, you are free to do as you please."
"It's not like I have many choices," the blue-haired man complained.
Shirou was about to answer when Karna spoke.
"We will stay."
He looked at him, not really understanding what he meant, but decided to leave him be. The moment they were alone, Karna sighed.
"You can come out," Karna said as he pointed his spears towards a tree.
Saber of Black appeared in front of them, sword in hand, and without words he dashed at Karna. The two black blades clash with each other. The fact that the spearman was able to stop his attack made Saber of Black smile.
In the middle of the city, Atosaki and Lance watched in horror as the golems began to attack innocents. The Servant changed into his armor and began to protect the panicking people while being supported by his Master.
The blue spearman continued to destroy each of the golems at great speed, but they were still too many of them.
"Sowilo!" Atosaki called out while drawing the letter S with her index finger and shooting a ball of fire toward one of the golems.
The rock being was reduced to ashes, but at that very moment, another appeared behind her and prepared to smash her into the ground. Lance wouldn't make it over in time. Before the rock fist touched her, a mace destroyed the golem and Atosaki saw a girl with pink hair wearing a wedding dress. She recognized her as the Berserker who had fought against Leo, Breno and Kage.
At her side was a kid wearing glasses. She was actually relieved by seeing he was fine after Kage shot him in the chest. Lance ran to her side, ready to fight if needed, but Caules didn't seem to pay him any attention.
"It seems Darnic's plan failed. At this rate the city will be destroyed," he said with a sigh as Berserker looked at him, expecting his order. "Be careful, Berserker."
He gave her a small smile, making the bride blush as she ran at the golems.
"You sure are a lady-killer." Rider of Black appeared behind him.
"It's not like that, Rider," He turned to Atosaki. "Let's cooperate to destroy these golems. Don't worry, I don't have any intention of fighting with you."
Atosaki knew he was supposed to be an enemy, but he just helped her, and she knew that if he had wanted to kill her he could have, as there were two Servants on his side.
"Alright, let's work together. For the sake of these people."
"My name is Caules."
She showed a careful, tentative smile. "Hi, I'm Atosaki. Atosaki Kurokawa."
In the castle of the White Faction, Rider was laughing like crazy as she summoned cannons around her and blew the golems away. Archer supported her with his arrows, but the greatest force against the golems were the two berserkers crushing them without mercy.
The two Alices looked at how a crimson giant destroyed everything in his path. They smiled innocently as they viewed the bizarre spectacle in front of them.
"Keep up the game, Jabberwock!" the black Alice yelled, raising her fist.
The other Berserker moved along with a tanned girl with long gray hair wearing glasses and a white lab coat over a purple Indian dress.
He was a big man with red hair and armor with the face of a dragon on its chest. He wielded a halberd with such strength that one swing was enough to reduce the ten golems in front of him to dust.
Dan saw the fight from the bed of his room. The wound Kage had inflicted on him hadn't healed and he couldn't move yet. One more hit could mean death. He wondered where their so-called leader was, his brother too.
Unknown to him, Leo was jumping across the buildings with Gawain. Truth to tell, Leo was following his Servant. They had been fighting the golems when Gawain saw a bright red flare of light, and immediately he knew the identity of the person who had unleashed such power.
He'd knelt in front of Leo and implored him, "My king, please let me go to face an old foe I need to defeat."
Leo looked at him for a few seconds, forgetting about the fight in front of him.
"Alright, but I will go with you."
"As you command."
Mordred had felt the presence of a fellow knight and told her Master to wait. She knew who was coming and how strong he was. She had always wanted to fight him during the day. Many said that while sun was at its zenith, he was unbeatable.
"Hey Master, what time is it?" she asked.
Kairi looked at his wristwatch, a little confused by her question.
"Two in the afternoon."
This only made her smile. She decided not to put her helmet back on, as there was no point in hiding her identity. He would recognize her anyway.
In the next second, she saw a silver figure coming along with a blond boy. In the next three seconds, he was almost in front of her.
"Mordred!" he yelled, full of rage.
"Good to see you Gawain," she said as an excited smile appeared on her face.
The moment the holy swords met, the roof of the building shattered. Both Masters could only remain on its edges and observe the battle between knights unfold.
The clash ended in a draw, but instead of continuing, Gawain turned back and grabbed Leo and jumped to a nearby building.
"My king, please, for your own safety, remain here."
Mordred landed at his side along with her Master, who raised an objection.
"I thought you said you wouldn't carry me ever again!"
"Yeah, but I want to fight him without any interruptions," she said as both Servants glared at each other and jumped back to the previous building.
Leo watched this, thinking it was a shame he couldn't see such a fight up-close. Then he turned to the necromancer.
"So sir, what should we do while waiting for them?" he asked with a smile, putting on his gloves.
"You really are a cheeky brat, aren't you?" he returned as he loaded his shotgun. "Don't ask a question when you know the answer already."
On the other building, the two knights didn't notice that their Masters had begun to fight and continue to exchange blows at a breakneck speed.
They hacked at each other, but neither of them would back down. It wasn't just a matter of pride, either. They hated each other more than anything else. Mordred hated him because she believed him to be a mere dog that would follow her father without complaints, a man without ambition blinded by the illusion of a perfect ruler. On the other hand, Gawain hated her for two reasons, the first that she was the reason for the fall of his former king. She had led the revolution which destroyed Britain. The second was more banal. Her face and voice resembled Arturia's so much that it made his blood boil. Her very existence destroyed the image he had of her.
"That all you got, Gawain?"
"With that face! With that voice! Don't you dare speak in front of me!"
Gawain managed to push Mordred back, but only for a second. She dashed at him once again, and the two knights entered into a burst of crimson and silver light which destroyed everything them.
In another part of the city, flames and steel continued to clash. The two Sabers fought, careful not to intervene with their Masters' business. Arturia was surprised. Nero was able to fight on par with her, and she didn't seem to have been forced to serve her Master. She didn't feel she was a bad person. Maybe she didn't have honor, but she wasn't the type of Servant to do evil.
"Why do you serve such an evil master?" Arturia asked as the golden and crimson blades collided.
Nero tightened the grip on her sword and looked at Arturia with eyes full of hate. She remembered what her Master had told her back in their world.
"Maybe they are right, maybe I am a monster, maybe I'm evil." He then turned toward her with a smile. "But if that's the price to pay so I won't lose anyone ever again, the price to protect them, then it's not that bad."
She pushed Arturia back with a strength she hadn't felt before.
"Don't you ever dare call my Praetor evil, you poor excuse for a king. He has withstood at least ten times more suffering than you."
Arturia was frozen by her words, the resolution of which almost making her wonder if they were fighting the right person. But only for a second. She had recognized his flames as the ones she saw along with Shirou three days ago.
Nero swung her blade three times. Arturia dodged each of the slashes and closed the distance between them, ready to slice into her. The moment she got close enough, her adversary raised her arms into the sky.
"Aestus Domus Aurea!"
Both Servants were engulfed by crimson light.
Edward saw the light as he blocked another one of Shirou's attacks.
"I told her to calm down." He looked at his opponent. "Arturia must have pissed her off."
Shirou's eyes widened in surprise.
"You… You know Saber?" he asked in disbelief.
"Kind of. We fought against her, but she was a Berserker then." He smiled at the memory. "And my Saber beat her."
Shirou was speechless. The mysteries surrounding the guy in front of him just kept multiplying.
"Well, you never answered me. Who are you?"
Shirou thought for a second before replying.
Edward's eyes widened.
"Emiya…?" He was really surprised. "Your father is Kiritsugu Emiya?"
This time it was Shirou's turn to be surprised.
"I will take that as a yes. So tell me, little bro, why do you want to fight me so badly?"
Shirou ignore the "little bro" part and answered him.
"You killed innocent people!"
He ran at Edward, who sighed knowing he couldn't keep fighting for too long, not yet recovered from all the damage Pleiades had inflicted upon him. He wondered why he was being accused of killing innocent people. Sure he wasn't a saint, but he wasn't a murderer either.
"I haven't killed anyone."
"I saw the hell you created!"
"Why do you even care?"
"Who gave you the right to kill those people?!"
Edward pushed him back. He couldn't help but think that the boy in front of him was too naïve and remembered the ideal of his dad to become a hero of justice—an ideal he had rejected. But what made him angry was Shirou talking like that when he didn't know anything at all. He'd really wanted to help those people, he didn't wish for their deaths, and he regretted not being able to kill Pleiades.
"Shut up! Where were you when those people were in trouble?!" He grabbed Shirou's black sword with his crimson claw and broke it. "Don't seek revenge for those you failed to save!"
He punched him in the face with his right hand.
Shirou fell to the ground. The next second he stood, breathing heavy.
"Guided by experience…"
Edward got a bad feeling and readied himself.
"Production complete. Complete Trace… Standby!"
Thirty Noble Phantasms appeared at his side, ready to fire.
"Complete Trace, Continuous Fire!"
The moment the blazing shield clashed against the swords it almost shattered. It could withstand the first ten, but the others cut through the flames and through his skin.
"Never forget you were born from flames!" he shouted as he pushed what remained of the shield out like a wall and used it to deflect the rest of the blades coming at him.
It wasn't enough. The blades destroyed the wall and broke through. He waited with his crimson blades in his hands.
Shirou jumped to one side, barely dodging the slash of flames, but even so they managed to burn his left side.
The two fighters looked at each other.
"You talk too much for a sinner, Shirou."
"What are you talking about?"
"Both of us traded the lives of those people for ours in that fire ten years ago. We ran and abandoned others crying for help. What can we be besides sinners?"
Shirou didn't know how he knew about the fire, and he didn't really care.
"Shut up! It's true that I'm a sinner, but that's why I decided to save people, to save others in order to make up for those I couldn't save back there!"
"Wrong. You are just being selfish, unable to bear the guilt. If you want to make it up to them so badly, live a fulfilling life for those who aren't able to live their own. Smile, hate, love, live because of those who can't!"
"You're talking as if helping others is a mistake!" Shirou answered, rushing at him with his twin blades.
"It is if you forget the ones close to you to protect them!" Edward yelled back as they began to exchange blows with one another.
"I'm not forgetting anyone! I just want to help others!"
"Kiritsugu wanted the same, but the cruel reality is that we can't help everyone. So at least I will protect those important to me!"
"And you're calling me selfish? You're just afraid of being alone."
"At least it's better than living for a dream!"
The King of Heroes couldn't deny he was impressed. Even without his sanity, the instincts and power of the thunder god were first class.
He continued to shoot Noble Phantasms at him while seated on his throne of his ark, the Vimana, as Thor flew at lighting speed, reflecting them with ease using his hammer.
Kirsche thought it an impressive battle, as there were few heroes able to fight on par with Gilgamesh. Still, she couldn't help feeling ignored by both Servants as they began to fight. But, for one, it wasn't time for her to use all her power. After all, there had to be some use of it for her so-called teammates.
As the Servants continue to clash a blast of flame came at her but she noticed and recognized them almost immediately. She glanced at the magus and chuckled at the irony of the situation.
"Impressive," he said. "It's an honor to fight such a powerful magus."
"A surprise attack…? That is surprising considering what I remember of you. Or perhaps not…"
Tokiomi didn't seem affected by her words, but the very moment he saw her face, his expression clearly changed.
Kirsche chuckled his side, Tokiomi didn't understand how a future version of his daughter could be before him, but after learning that there was also a future Rin, he only assumed it was a miracle produced by Gaea.
"…that name lost its meaning long ago father. I am Kirsche von Einzbern now."
Tokiomi felt the power coming from her and couldn't help but smile out of pride.
"It seems that giving you away to develop your talents was the right choice after all." Tokiomi said while observing how his daughter had developed. Still, something was off. He had given her to the Matous but according to her name, she was part of the Einzbern family.
"I shall test you, Sakura." A red circle appeared in front of him. "Intensive Einäscherung!"
A torrent of flames came at Kirsche who danced to the side before rolling her eyes. Her shadow extended behind her in a wide field, and Tokiomi's eyes widened as white uniformed figures with gleaming halberds emerged from it and stood at attention behind him.
"Father…" she said icily. "…I am First among Equals within the Association. You wouldn't stand a chance against me. But if you want to fight, then I shall indulge your taste for violence. These battle homunculi should be sufficient."
Back in the city, the two Masters of the Sabers continued to cut and burn each other, both facing each other barely able to stand. Edward had deep gashes all over while Shirou had heat blisters covering him.
"This is all you can accomplish following that dream?" Edward demanded to know.
Shirou glared at him. His words made him angry, maybe because he sounded like Archer, saying his ideal was nothing but a dream. And he already knew that, but that was the very reason he continued to believe in it.
"I know it's nothing but a dream, but that's what makes it so beautiful!" Shirou yelled as they ran at each other.
"Beautiful words can't save anyone!"
They clashed, unable to make the other fall back.
"No matter what, to lose someone important to you is never worth it!"
Their blades broke, and instead of creating new ones Shirou punched Edward in the face with a reinforced fist.
"I know that! That's why I will protect everyone. I will sacrifice this life to make sure everybody can be happy!"
Edward stood his ground and answered with a knee to Shirou's stomach.
"Then what about the people who love you?!" He saw Shirou fall to his knees. "Do you think your sacrifice will bring them happiness? Little bro, it's easy to die for something, but what's hard to do is live."
Edward knew from experience. He remembered all the times he had made Nero cry. Many times, no matter how much he wanted her to smile, he continued to make her worry by being reckless, and no matter the result, it didn't make up for seeing her saddened.
Shirou could understand his words. By sacrificing his life he would leave the people sad. The people who wanted him to live. He remembered Rin crying while holding him by the shirt, worried about him and afraid that he would end up dead following that path.
Both had very valid opinions, and neither was going to back down. At this point, Shirou had forgotten the reason the fight had begun. Now, he just wanted to defeat the man in front of him and prove he wasn't wrong.
Shirou stood up and looked at the young man with the crimson eyes. He knew about the fire. He had been a survivor, both wanted to protect others, both were twisted beings. They were very similar, but each had made a different choice about life. One decided to live for the sake of others while the other wanted to protect those close to him to avoid being alone. One wanted to protect everyone and the other wanted to protect a few. Their ideals clashed with each other. While focusing on the few one could not protect many, and while protecting many one would be unable to protect just a select few.
The steel and the flame that were supposed to be in harmony wanted to destroy each other. But even then they harbored no hatred.
"Shirou, I didn't kill those people. I was attacked along with a teammate by a Counter Guardian. Apparently she wasn't supposed to, but still did it. In order to cover the attack, she destroyed all the nearby houses. After the fight, I burned the dead bodies to make sure she couldn't do anything else to them."
Shirou's eyes widened. He searched for any hint of deceit but couldn't find any. His instincts were telling him that the person in front of him was telling the truth.
Now, there was something on Edward's mind he wanted to confirm.
"You remember them?"
"You remember your previous life? Your real parents, your friends, anything?"
Shirou remained silent, unable to answer.
"So you forgot… "
In that moment, a pillar light appeared off to the side and Arturia emerged, tired after using Excalibur, and Nero was nowhere to be seen.
Seeing this, Edward's eyes went round.
"Saber…" he whispered.
Leo Wells was having trouble with Bazett. The Enforcer was so fast that Leo could barely dodge her attacks. That wasn't all, she was really strong, almost to the point Leo wondered if she was human.
"Well, I'm not one to talk," he said as he dodged another kick.
Odysseus wasn't doing any better. It was a shame he didn't have any other weapon besides his bow, as he could only block with it, and against a Servant specialized in close combat it was the worst.
"Curse my luck," he muttered as he jumped and shot another volt of energy.
"Come, don't be like that. You are pretty good for a bowman!" Lancer answered with a smirk.
The volt of energy turned into an axe, one that Lancer blocked. Odysseus smiled because he never expected him to get hit; it was all part of his scheme. Lancer jumped after him and swung his spear. The bowman managed to block in time but was sent crashing into the floor.
Lancer got ready for the kill, but as he came closer, an axe was swung at him. He barely dodged and saw Odysseus stand with two axes in his hands.
"The battlefield is ready," he said with a smile.
Telemachus, the bow he received from his friend Heracles, bore the name of his son. It was the very bow he had used to slay the suitors of his wife when he returned home. He could fire fifteen bolts of energy that turned into axes on the moment of impact. Fifteen axes for the fifteen suitors he had killed, but in this case, he had missed those fifteen shots. Now the axes were lying on the street and were ready for him to use to fight in close combat.
Lancer hadn't notice the scheme. He, like many in the past, had fallen for the tricks of the Greek.
"Interesting. This shall be fun!"
On the other end, Leo had managed to punch Bazett, but the blow didn't hurt her much. She readily countered with her own fist, making Leo crash into one of the light posts. Still, she didn't notice at the moment of the impact, Leo had twisted her arm ninety degrees.
Bazett was about to run at him once again when her entire body began to vibrate. Her vision become blurry and she begun to feel nauseous. Leo used the opening to throw an uppercut at her.
"Resonance Punch," he said in a whisper as he threw a second strike to her abdomen and made her fall to the ground.
That was an attack which, after the punch, created vibrations in the target that would stop only when they hit the floor.
He used a lot of strength, expecting to do some damage, but the Enforcer just stood and spat some blood and got ready to continue.
"Okay, you have to be kidding me! That last blow should have at least broken a few ribs!"
Bazett looked at him for a few seconds and answered, "It did, but I have gone through worse."
"And I thought the priest was tough."
A crimson knight and a silver knight continued to duel, each strike meant to kill. This was no longer a battle between true knights. There was no honor, no respect. It was just a fight full of violence.
Mordred was pretty beat up while Gawain, if nothing else, was tired. The protection of the sun didn't let him get hurt, but he could get physically worn down. Mordred was fuming with rage. She had expected him to be strong, but this was ridiculous.
The only reason she was still breathing was that Gawain's blind hatred made his movements sloppy. Still, another part of her couldn't shake the excitement she felt fighting against such an opponent.
She needed to finish this. Her sword began to glow just like moments ago.
Gawain saw this and got ready to counter with his own sword.
Two columns of light, one red and the other silver, appeared in the sky, each representing the ultimate attack of both knights.
A golden sun and a scarlet beam clashed in the middle of the building, reducing it to nothing but rubble as the clash sent the two knights flying off to different sides. The explosion clouded the area, but the two figures exited the smoke and landed atop different buildings.
They glared at each other. The battle was far from over, but as they were about to proceed, they felt a tremor in the ground and they saw something emerge that made them stop their fight.
"A Gorgon and a Pegasus…" Ginevra muttered as she flew through the air and dodged a second wave of Broken Phantasms, returning fire with lightning bolts this time as opposed to beams. "…This just isn't my day."
Sighing, she landed on a nearby building and walked several steps to give space for the Pegasus to land. A moment later, Archer jumped onto the building and sped towards her with dual falchions at the ready, only to cry out as Ginevra blasted him and held him back with lightning. Rider threw one of her stakes at Ginevra, forcing the Sixth Faction Supervisor to cease fire to dodge. The other stake was hurled at Archer, who was prevented from resuming his attack.
"Rider…!" he shouted. "What are you…?"
"That's enough, the two of you." Rider said quietly but forcefully. "There's no need for us to fight." She faced Ginevra. "You wish to talk, don't you?"
"A Counter Guardian who is of the Archer class and a Gorgon," Ginevra replied with a shrug. "I may be on par with a Caster-class, but I know when I'm outmatched. I'd have settled down immediately if Archer there didn't keep on attacking."
"Considering how much collateral damage and the lives you've taken…" Archer began, only for Ginevra to break out laughing.
"Oh that's funny," Ginevra finally said after her laughter subsided. "A Counter Guardian lecturing me on killing people… Archer, you don't have the right to do that."
"Who are you?"
"The Supervisor of the Sixth Faction: Ginevra du Lac."
"I call bullshit."
"Call it bullshit if you want, but it's still the truth," Ginevra said with another shrug. "I have many names, all of which are true, but just like clothes they are each used whenever appropriate. Isn't that right, EMIYA?"
"Bastard…!" Archer hissed, hefting his falchions and causing Rider to tense as she dismounted.
"Must you be so abrasive, Supervisor?" Rider asked as she approached and gave a warning look to Archer.
Ginevra snorted. "The hypocrisy of the Counter Guardians is well-known to me. I find this particular Counter Guardian particularly distasteful."
"I see," Rider said and then she sighed. "You've changed a lot, and not necessarily for the better. You are less like the girl I know, or her sister, and more like our Caster instead."
"Oh…" Ginevra said with evident curiosity. "…that sounds interesting. Does your Caster happen to look like me, sans the eyes and pointed ears?"
"And if I said yes, what would you say?" Archer replied, and Ginevra laughed again.
"Oh that's right, now I remember: despite being a good-for-nothing dog and a faker, you also did have something of a sense of humor. As for that question, I would respond with one of my own: did those girls you mention happen to be estranged sisters?"
"They are," Rider answered. "What of you and your sister?"
"We keep in touch," Ginevra said, completely unaffected by the question. "She plays peacemaker between me and that idiot she loves. That idiot… he's going to break her heart eventually. I don't even have to lift a finger to make it happen, it is…inevitable."
Archer's eyes widened in shock and then narrowed. "He's an idiot is he?"
"Yes he is," Ginevra replied while looking off into the distance. "Someone who always tries to play the hero…"
"Supervisor du Lac…" Rider began hesitantly. "…no, Supervisor Sakura. what happened to you?"
"I'm guessing you're the Servant of one of my counterparts, aren't you?" Ginevra noted clinically, and Rider nodded. "Easy enough to answer; according to Zelretch's data, I became the youngest Master to ever fight in any Holy Grail War at the age of six, and in doing so avoided the fate that awaited my other selves."
"Your Servant was that witch, wasn't she?" Archer asked, and Ginevra raised an eyebrow.
"That witch also happens to be my mother," she replied coldly. "Watch your language Dog of Alaya, or I'll rip your head off and present it to His Majesty."
"Humph," Archer sneered. "You can try."
The atmosphere tensed, and then a terrible presence shook the air.
"…What the hell?" Archer said.
Their eyes widened as something that should not be came to be.
"Oh hell," Ginevra said with an eye twitching. "…we… are in serious trouble."
"Way to go with the understatement, Sakura," Archer commented, also sweating at the sight of it.
"We'll just have to finish this conversation later," Rider said, and this time both Archer and Ginevra snorted.
"Assuming there's a later," Archer said darkly.
"Hear, hear," Ginevra concurred.