Chapter 16: Knights
In the underground battle between the two killers, Assassin of White had taken the lead. No matter how many horrors Caster of Zero created, he just smashed through them, not showing any sign of fatigue.
"This is boring," Assassin said. "Such weak opponents will only serve to dull my fist. I guess this is all a man who fell into depravity is capable of."
Without hearing an answer, the assassin rushed at him and prepare to smash his skull with his Noble Phantasm, "No Second Strike."
Black blades came from the ground, aiming to kill the enemy and protect their master. Assassin dodged them easily and positioned himself in front of the spellcaster.
Gilles de Rais was completely caught off guard by the ability of the Chinese man and, guided by what remained of the instincts he had developed as a soldier, used his book as a shield to protect himself.
The timing was perfect. Even the assassin couldn't change the trajectory of his fist in time, and it only managed to collide with the tome.
But that was the worst possible outcome. "No Second Strike" wasn't a normal attack, rather, a blow that destroyed anything it hit, disrupting the very flow of life coursing through it. In the case of humans, the circulation of blood and other processes; for Servants, mana. Normally when it touched an object, the object would be destroyed and that would be end of it, but as this tome was a Noble Phantasm, something different happened.
Caster of Zero was sent flying to one of the walls of the sewers.
"Tch. I missed," Assassin said, angry.
Caster stood up and looked at his tome and saw the big mark Assassin's fist left behind. In that moment, the tome began to emit a dark glow. Assassin's fist had broken the flow of mana inside the tome and made it go into overdrive. Tentacles sprouted from the tome, surprising both Servants, and began to overwhelm the spellcaster.
Assassin jumped back to his Master and both watched in shock how the other pair was devoured by the tentacles before becoming a monster they couldn't describe as anything more than a horror.
Antares watched along with Kaus and Pleiades from the sky how a monster emerged below, seeming ready to destroy everything. The crimson knight knew that if this continued, the city would be demolished, and without a proper arena the War would be boring.
As he continued to think, Situla appeared behind him, seeming a little tired.
"Hey Antares, I just finished evacuating the city."
Kaus and Pleiades were surprised at the statement. There were a great amount of people and to take them somewhere else could be dangerous for the war.
"How did you even do that?" Pleiades asked.
"I have my ways," Situla answered and then turned to Antares. "What do we do now?"
"Let the participants take care of this," he said as he descended to one of the buildings to watch how this would unfold. The others followed.
Pleiades had bandages all over her body and her right arm was still burnt from the slash she had received from the Hellhound. She wanted to kill him and Kousuke so badly for humiliating her, but she couldn't. Antares had warned her that if she tried anything funny again he would personally reduce her to dust. But there were other means of killing them.
There were two reasons behind his decision, the first being the oath. Before anything they were Counter Guardians and the order of Alaya came before all else. The second was that the two Masters along with Gilgamesh and many others had caught his attention. He would use this war to determine who was the strongest and the one he would face when the war was over. For that, he didn't want any intervention.
The two Masters of the Sabers looked at the monster. Arturia recognized the horror as the Caster she had fought in the Fourth War. But in a way she was mistaken, in her time the monster had a conscience, controlled by the desire of the spellcaster to murder and revolt against God, but this time it was a mindless creature that wanted to destroy everything.
Arturia looked back at the young man with crimson eyes and got ready to attack him until Shirou stopped her.
"It's over Saber, we won. There are more important things to do," he said as the two began to walk away.
Arturia stopped and turned to see her red counterpart on the roof where they had been fighting.
"How?!" She couldn't understand.
Nero took a small bow.
"Such an artist like me can feign her own death."
Arturia's eyes grew wider at her words as she remembered what happened inside the theater.
The two Sabers had been evenly matched. This was a surprise for Arturia, as when they first clashed she could feel she was stronger.
It wasn't strength alone, either. Speed, endurance, all were amplified, and Nero had begun to push her back.
"Ready to repent for calling my Praetor evil?" Nero asked with a smirk.
"He may not be evil, but I can recognize a cursed man when I see one."
Arturia expected another outburst of rage, but instead Nero just laughed.
"So?" she said with a smile, surprising Arturia. "So what if he is cursed? So what if this world rejects him? I have proclaimed as the emperor I am that I shall remain at his side 'til the very end, and if he is truly cursed then the two of us can burn in hell together."
Arturia couldn't say anything in response, though she felt some admiration for the relation the two shared.
"I see. Then out of respect, I shall eliminate you with my strongest attack."
Her blade began to glow and a golden whirlwind appeared around her.
Nero raised her hands and whispered a few words Arturia didn't manage to catch because of the wind. The next moment, flames surrounded her.
Crimson flames and a golden beam clashed in the middle of the theater, and Arturia's attack apparently managed to consume the flames and the Servant clad in red, but only apparently.
Before Arturia could demand any answers at present, the Masters interrupted her.
"Calm down you two. We have bigger problems," Shirou said.
They two swordswomen glared at each other, one with a frown and the other a smirk. It was obvious those two wouldn't get along. One was an example of nobility and honor while the other was an example of excess and pride.
"Alright Shirou, let's call a truce until that monster is…" Edward didn't finish as they felt another presence coming. "Little brother, I'm entrusting this to you."
"You're a hero of justice, right? Prove to me you are by protecting the people of the city!"
Shirou just nodded and the pair began to run toward the monster.
"Shirou, next time we meet, I shall burn that ideal of yours. No matter what, I can't forgive that you forget."
Shirou stopped for a second and looked back at him before continuing as Saber grabbed him and jumped through the buildings. Once they were far away, Nero looked at her master and all the cuts he had on his body.
"You sure went easy on him, Praetor."
Edward answered with a smile as flames came from the cuts and sealed them.
"Well, he is family. Even if he is an idiot." He then put a hand over her head. "Don't worry me like that ever again."
Before she could reply, a gladiator appeared in front of them, ready to cut down the oppressor once and for all.
"How come this guy appears every time we have a moment?" Saber complained.
"I guess he must really hate kings in general." He turned to Berserker of Red. "We can't let him get Shirou. We need Arturia's Noble Phantasm to beat that… that thing."
Edward's hair turned crimson and the head of the hound appeared on his left arm.
"This time I will send you back to hell, Spartacus!"
Kousuke and his Caster arrived to the place where the being that used to be Caster of Zero emerged. They landed on a nearby building and looked with disgust at the monster, also noticing the great power coming from it.
"Tamamo, is that a Servant?"
"No." She carefully observed the beast in front of them. "But it used to be one. Now it's just a monster devoid of any reason. I can't believe such a monster interrupted our date!"
"It wasn't a date. We were destroying golems," Kousuke said with a sigh.
"Goshujin-sama, you didn't have to say it like that," she answered, pouting.
"Sorry. Tell you what, after we're done with this guy, I will take you somewhere nice," he said with a smile. "So can you beat him?"
Caster's eyes beamed with excitement.
"I will destroy anyone who dares stand between me and my beloved master!"
Before they could do anything, a black swordswoman appeared out of nowhere and swung her blade at Kousuke. It was so fast that the young magus couldn't react in time. Still, Caster put up her mirror between the two, and she glared at the Saber of Zero.
"You foul woman, you intend to hurt my master?!" she yelled as the shield pushed her back.
Kousuke was about to help her when his instincts screamed at him to turn. He did so while drawing his sword, just in time to block the attack of a priest's Black Keys aiming at him. Kousuke recognized the priest as the supervisor of the War in his world.
"Kirei Kotomine," he said with disdain, not particularly fond of the man.
He pushed him back and pointed his index finger at him.
The sound of a gun being fired prevented him from finishing. Kousuke turned and saw the barrage of bullets coming at him, shot by the Magus Killer.
The reason behind the actions of the two Masters was simple. Caster's monstrous form was a threat, no doubt about it, but it was also an asset. The being was uncontrollable but also powerful. They could use its rampage to take out all the remaining Masters or at least weaken them enough to kill them. In the worst case scenario, Kiritsugu could use his Saber's Noble Phantasm to destroy the monster. It was a fact that it would destroy the city, and he really hated to be the cause of death for so many innocent people.
Not to be misunderstood, though he hated the fact he needed to resort to such methods, this had been his path throughout his entire life: to kill one to save ten, ten to save a hundred, and so on. If a city had to be sacrificed in order to save the rest of the world, in order to stop all wars and for everyone to be happy, then so be it.
Kirei didn't share such sentiments and couldn't help but feel happy seeing all the destruction the monster that used to be a Heroic Spirit created. His reason for intervening was so no one could stop it. He wanted to see the despair in the faces of the other contestants as they realized they were doomed. In other words, he wanted to see them lose hope.
Kirei smiled as he saw the bullets about to hit Kousuke, but that smile faded when shadows sprung from the floor and blocked all of them. At that very moment, the Magus Killer jumped to one side and dodged a separate rain of bullets and turned to see the shooter. His eyes widened upon seeing a young man who resembled him.
"I found my target," Kage said as he reload his Calico.
He, on the other hand, didn't seem surprised at all. He only saw his enemies, targets to be killed. Just like the Magus Killer, he was like a machine. As Kiritsugu stood up, Kage looked around and saw the remaining forces of Kirei's Assassins appear around them.
"Assassin, eliminate the opposition," he said, emotionless, to his own Servant as he prepared to fight against the Magus Killer.
With Kage's support, Kousuke could focus on defeating the enemy in front of him fast, and then they could take care of Caster. A katana and a pair of Black Keys began to clash in harmony with the sound of guns being fired, bullets deflecting each other.
Karna and Saber of Black continued to exchange blows at an amazing speed, neither caring if they got hit. Each had an ability that made them unable to sustain damage unless in great amounts. Gene looked at this and decided to not intervene, as he'd probably just end up dying.
Even now, Karna couldn't feel anything from Saber's sword: there was no will or soul. His strikes were strong, but he knew there was something wrong with the knight he was fighting. No knight would hide like that, and all of them possessed great drive.
He managed to push back.
"You are a boring man, silver knight," Karna said with disdain as his left eye began to glow.
A crimson beam came from it, a beam of pure power with its only purpose being to destroy the enemy in front of him.
"Brahmastra!" Karna yelled.
The swordsman's smile had faded just after the first clash and he fought like a robot. He didn't like it, but he obeyed the orders he received. His real identity was Siegfried, the great hero of Germany, an invincible knight whose legend was as famous as King Arthur's. He was a very loyal person who would obey the order of his master whether he liked it or not. He had been ordered to gauge the power of the Lancer of the Red Faction, though he didn't know the reason behind it. Still, as his aim was only to test the waters, he wasn't allowed to fight seriously. It was a shame that a knight of his caliber had such a cowardly master.
Really, it was a shame he belonged to the Black Faction in the first place, as his real wish was to be an ally of justice, an ally of the people. He didn't care about the Grail, he didn't want to fight for his lord or for himself; he wanted to fight for the justice he believed in.
In such a group that wanted to win for their means, it wasn't possible, but it wasn't to say that the Black Faction was evil. They just aimed for victory like any other being would do in their position. It was human nature. But that very nature went against his wish, so he remained silent and only hoped that at the end he could achieve his dream.
As the beam continued to come closer, he raised his sword.
"O sword, let thee be filled," he said in a whisper as the weapon began to emit a twilight aura.
The light swelled around the sword, ready to unleash its power.
"Balmung!" he yelled.
He shouldn't have used his Noble Phantasm, but as a sign of respect for such a pathetic fight he decided to do so.
He swung his blade and released a wave of dusky energy in a semicircle around him, cutting the crimson beam in half.
The light hit Karna and his Master before the former could even react, destroying the church as well.
Saber of Black looked at the destruction he had just created, not expecting his opponent to get back up, but then from the rubble that used to be the church, Karna stood with his Master on his back. Some cracks had formed in his armor and blood streamed from his forehead.
"To make me believe you weren't fighting serious so you could later set me up, really a despicable man. Still, I must admit, it's a good strategy." Karna summoned his spear and pointed at Saber. "Come make this fight worth it."
Gilgamesh didn't seem to care about the monster, just like the golems it was something that didn't deserve his attention, after all the God of Thunder had proven to be more interesting prey. Thor didn't share his thoughts. The moment the monster appeared the King of Heroes turned into a secondary target, for as always he wanted to protect humanity.
"Well done, Thunder God, no wonder you were considered the strongest of the Aesir," Gilgamesh stated.
It wasn't a mistake. Many legends told that Ragnarök, the end of the world for the Norse gods, happened because he had decided to leave Asgard and abandon his kind. Without their champion they couldn't stop the invasion of the giants, Ragnarök began.
Thor dashed at Gilgamesh at lightning-fast speed, dodging and blocking every weapon coming at him until he stood ready to strike and end the battle. Before he could finish it, he was confined by Enkidu, the heavenly chains, the most trusted weapon of Gilgamesh.
"You were close, mongrel, but don't feel bad. It is the destiny of all beings on this earth to fall against me," Gilgamesh said with satisfaction.
The outcome was decided. No god could escape from those chains. He couldn't move. Still, Thor smiled at the King of Heroes and the latter felt danger, but it was too late. Gilgamesh had made a huge mistake. He didn't notice that Thor had his hammer up when he wrapped the chains around him.
"Alfheim!" Thor yelled as lighting came from the skies and struck the golden Servant.
The chains left Thor's body as Gilgamesh fell into the roof of one of the nearby buildings along with the Vimana. He remained there for a second before standing with a face full of rage.
"You dare to look down on me!"
In that moment, he pulled out a weapon that resembled a blade, but it couldn't be labeled like that either. Even with a grip, a hand guard and a length of a long sword, rather than having a blade it was composed of a cylindrical, drill-shaped pillar divided into three sections. It was the king's greatest treasure, the sword that separated heaven and earth and turned chaos into order.
"Wake up, Ea. There is a fool who needs your judgment."
Thor could feel the power coming from it and decided to counter using a weapon with power proportional to it. Another clap of thunder came from behind him as the two Servants looked at each other. Ea's three segments began to rotate, forming a crimson whirlwind around Gilgamesh, while Thor's hammer was wrapped in lighting.
"Mjolnir!" Thor yelled as he threw his hammer towards the oncoming beam.
Thunder and the scarlet beam capable of destroying the world clashed in the sky.
This was a clash of power and will between two Servants who, at the core, were very similar. Both had rejected their gods and decided to stand with humanity because of faith.
Yet such a spectacle had only one witness.
Kirsche looking impressed at the display of power from the Servants. The sound of a person being forced to the ground caught her attention and she turned to see her battered father being forced to his knees with her homunculi's blades at his throat and back.
Kirsche smiled and looked around at the smoking bodies of five homunculi: fully half a squad.
"Well done father…" she said while clapping her hands. "…you have fought well, but not enough to defeat an entire squad. As a reward I shall reveal a secret to you."
At this Kirsche walked closer and leaned down to his level. "I have touched the face of God." She whispered into his ear, and Tokiomi's eyes widened.
"That…you…you reached the Root."
Sakura chuckled and gestured for her homunculi to let him go. "I am First among Equals. Who or what would be allowed to stand alongside the Barthomeloi?" she asked.
Shadows flared around her and her homunculi as she teleported away, and leaving the awed, proud and yet humbled Tokiomi alone to get back to his feet.
It wasn't an act of kindness, he deserved to suffer more and there were more pressing matters at hand. In other words, he wasn't worthy of her time. She had already bested him, so she could kill him whenever she wanted.
Kairi was really beginning to wonder if the brat in front of him was human or not, he was faster than any other he had seen but he couldn't feel any magic coming from him.
He fired off his shotgun once again. He didn't use actual bullets, though. As a necromancer, he used fingers, mixing with them the concepts of a curse, the strength of a firearm and his powers. Such a deadly combination ended up shooting subsonic projectiles. Still the young Master managed to dodge them, even though barely.
Leo used this short opportunity to close the distance between the two. Kairi answered by reloading his shotgun, but he wouldn't finish in time. Instead of attacking him, he passed by Kairi's side and punched the golem that appeared behind him. Kairi was surprised, and after he finished reloading, he shot at another golem in front of him.
"It seems we have some visitors, my good sir."
Kairi was a practical man. It wasn't worth it to fight Leo and the golems at the same time. Helping each other out increased their chances of surviving.
"Yeah brat, let's finish with them first."
As they prepared themselves, they saw their Servants land nearby.
"Hey master, I will go fight with that monster over there. You don't mind, do you?" Mordred said with a grin, leaving before Kairi could answer.
"I don't get why she didn't wait. I wouldn't go even if she paid me."
Gawain was silent but Leo understood what he wanted to do.
"You are free to go Gawain, I will be fine."
"Thank you, my lord." Gawain bowed and followed Mordred.
The two knights jumped across the buildings. Neither liked the other and in any other situation they would just ignore the monster and continue their fight, but they could see its power was great and Gawain couldn't let it roam free to threaten his king. Mordred knew he wouldn't fight seriously, so she gave up for the moment. They could always continue later.
They moved through the city destroying whatever golems there were along the way until they arrived in front of the being that used to be a Servant. But in between them hundreds of terrible, twisted creatures appeared, blocking their path.
The two knights were ready, but a rain of blades came out of nowhere, killing a great amount of the horrors. They turned and saw Arturia along with Shirou.
The three knights didn't know how to react, but before any of them could speak they heard a roar, and a black-armored knight covered by mist appeared with his Master, Kariya.
"So you also came, Lancelot…" Arturia said with a sad smile
The crimson and silver knights were surprised at her statement.
"There is no time for explanations. But it seems we have a common goal."
Mordred laughed dryly.
"You better not get any funny ideas, 'Father.'" She spat at the word.
Gawain remained silent, but he knew Mordred was right. The trust between all of them was broken, the friendship that used to bond them replaced by hate.
"We used to be the Knights of the Round Table. All of us vowed to fight for the people," Arturia began. "I ask you all, not as a king but as a fellow knight, to fight together one last time."
Berserker looked at Arturia, about to attack her.
"By my Command Spell," said Kariya, "I order you Berserker to support your fellow knights and destroy that monster."
Berserker stopped and the mist disappeared and even as the helmet remained, Berserker revealed the mighty holy blade he had used in life.
Arturia put her sword in front of them as if she were waiting for their answer.
Berserker joined her with his black blade, Arondight.
Gawain was next and put in his Galatine.
"Don't misunderstand, Arturia, all this is to protect my king."
Mordred glared at them. She really didn't belong to that group, but she couldn't deny that she was happy being a knight.
"I guess there are too many distractions here to fight any of you," she said with a sigh as she placed her Clarent along with the other three holy swords.
For the first time in many centuries the strongest knights had reunited once again. They would ignore the hate they felt for each other, and the four swords separated by fate came together in order to fulfill an ancient oath: to protect the innocent and slay all evil.
"Get ready, Caster! Can your madness withstand the blades of the Knights of the Round Table?!" Arturia yelled as the four pointed their swords at the monster.
What are those idiots doing?" Ginevra said darkly as she used her viewing sphere to watch as the battle continued between Kage, Kiritsugu, and everyone else. "There's a True Demon on the loose, and they're still playing around? Idiots…!"
She summoned her staff and gestured to the monster summoned by Caster of Zero. "True Demons are supposed to be undefeatable by Humans…" she muttered before smiling. "…but I'm not completely Human. Let's give it a shot."
Once more the sky lit up behind her, the magic circles that generated her beams slightly angled to allow the beams to converge into a single, ravening lance of power. "Fire…" she whispered, and multiple beams seared out and focused into one struck the monster…and Ginevra's eyes widened in shock.
The beam carved into its target, but the monster managed to adapt and disperse the beam energy before it could penetrate too deeply. Waves of energy rippled outwards from the wound, scorching and burning the monster's flesh, but as the afterglow faded, Ginevra could see the wound and the burns beginning to heal. "…impossible…" she whispered in disbelief. "…that was A-rank High Thaumaturgy with a conceptual weight over three thousand years old…"
As if provoked by the attack, reality rippled around the monster, and its brood began to swarm outwards into the city. Ginevra ground her teeth in anger. "…don't get above yourself, monster!" she spat, and she hurled her staff down to the ground at a point where the ley-lines were the closest to the surface.
The bladed tip punched deep into the ground, and a moment later Ginevra landed hard on the ground beside it. The earlier battle with the Servants had drained her prana reserves considerably, and while it wasn't dangerous – yet – she would need some more to fight a True Demon and its spawn.
Snarling out a command, the ground shuddered before the ley-lines flashed brightly for an instant as the magus drained its mana dry without care for the long-term effect it would have on the land's spiritual welfare. Ginevra grabbed her staff and pulled it out of the ground, but turned as she felt someone approach from behind her: a purple-haired and purple-eyes girl dressed modestly in modern casual attire, looking at her with surprise and a little fear. "You look familiar…" Ginevra said distractedly, her mind focused on fighting the demonic army. "…we can talk later…if there's a later that is."
With those parting words, Ginevra soared back up into the sky as storm clouds began to gather and thunder rumbled. Sakura stared after her, feeling a strange sense of curiosity, familiarity, and strangely-enough, envy. In the shadows Zouken and Assassin also did likewise, while on the rooftop Caster looked up at the gathering storm with a perplexed expression. "That girl wasn't a Servant…" she said offhandedly to Kuzuki. "…but this storm…if it wasn't a Noble Phantasm, then she must have used Divine Words to summon it. But…that's not possible for modern magi…isn't it?"