Chapter 17: Path
As Kirsche continued to teleport through the city, she saw a pillar of flames go up at its heart. She recognized the owner and sighed. Even while tempted to let him be, she was also curious. Maybe she could finally get her answers.
When she arrived to the scene, she found a destroyed street, no surprise there, along with the Hellhound and his Servant fighting the same gladiator they almost defeated three days ago. She saw how Berserker smashed him into the floor and dashed at Saber, just to be stopped by crimson chains. She understood that part of his power: he used projection and reinforcement to give form to his flames. When she saw the chains begin to burn the skin of the gladiator, she was impressed, as he managed to keep the fire attribute after giving them shape.
Saber used the delay to slash the gladiator while running past him and grabbing her master, who was on his knees. Berserker broke the chains and prepare to run at them once again only for a bolt of pure power to strike him in the chest and sending him flying.
Edward and Nero were both breathing heavily. They had been fighting the giant for a while and just like last time nothing they did appeared to affect him enough. The fact that Nero was tired from her fight with Arturia didn't help. In moments like these she cursed the fact that the use of her Noble Phantasm was limited to just one per day, as it drained a great amount of her prana.
"Do you need a hand, Hellhound? Edward turned and saw Kirsche leaning against a nearby wall with her arms crossed.
He wanted to say many things, but he knew he didn't have the time.
"Free of charge? Coming from you, I didn't believe that was possible," he said with a weak grin.
"Who said anything about being free? It will be considered an expensive favor, so I think I can demand whatever I deem fair."
Edward laughed at her statement and Saber glared at her. It was obvious she didn't trust Kirsche.
"I really prefer the Sakura of my world, she was cuter," he said as he took a deep breath and saw the giant about to break out from the rubble Kirsche had buried him in. "Keep him still for ten seconds and I will show you two very interesting things."
Kirsche raised an eyebrow and looked at him for a moment before smiling.
"You manage to catch my interest, Hellhound. I shall give you ten seconds, but be warned that if what you show me isn't worth it, I shall demand something else."
"Whatever you say… Sakura."
Kirsche sighed and raised a finger before pointing it at Berserker, bombarding him with glowing bolts of pure power. It was keeping him back, but it was clear that Kirsche was merely toying with him from the bored expression on her face.
Edward smiled at this and decided to pay his part of the bargain. His arm began to glow, and Saber stared at him, concerned.
"I will be fine, don't worry."
"You better be. If you die, I will kill you."
He just smiled at her words.
"Never forget you were born of flames
Forsaken by heaven, cursed by hell
Yet I shall never regret my path
As I stand in Limbo, let my sins burn
Let this hell be my kingdom
Let my flames judge them all
Rise, my sanctuary of flames: Crimson Purgatory!"
Silver, black, and crimson circles of flame appeared around him. The three rings began to expand until they engulfed both Kirsche and Berserker as well.
"Impossible… a Reality Marble...?" she asked as she looked at the Hellhound.
"No, this place isn't my inner world. It's just the product of being unable to forget."
"I see…" She recovered from her surprise. "…So you are a survivor."
Kirsche had to admit, it was fitting for him. Instead of a world made of swords like Emiya, it was a world created from fire, a world that could only exist for the hound which watched over hell itself.
She looked around and realized the space was divided between the three flames. She was standing with Edward and Saber on the crimson part. To the left, there were destroyed houses and she could see the shadows of people burning, all the while calling for help that never came, as the black flames swallowed them whole. She looked to the right and saw houses that were intact but still engulfed by silver flames. It was like the underworld, heaven, hell and purgatory, and she couldn't help being impressed by the sight, a very interesting thing to see.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a mad roar, and she turned to see Spartacus coming at them with his sword in hand. Edward looked at him as silver and black flames appeared in order to stop the giant.
"Then this is the second interesting thing I will show you, Kirsche," he said, looking at her. "Be grateful. Usually I'm the only one allowed to see her like that."
Kirsche did not quite understand his words, but Edward continued.
"By my Command Seal I order you, Saber, to unleash your power: Imperial Privilege!"
Saber smiled at his command.
"Alright Praetor, in response to you showing me your beautiful flames, I shall show you all my power."
Her dress disappeared and was replaced by golden Roman armor with a red mantle over the shoulder. This was the final weapon she had at her disposal, her true form as a Saber. According to legend, her mother had poisoned her since childhood. After her mother died, she took the antidote with her to the grave, so since that day she was afflicted with headaches. Those headaches didn't let her live up to her full potential, so this ability was born.
It was in exchange for a Command Seal and only after using Aestus Domus Aurea that this ability could be unleashed.
Saber stood alongside her Master and pointed her blade at Spartacus, who had just finished breaking through the wall of flames.
"Saber, I can only maintain this place for ten minutes, so let's finish this quickly."
Saber nodded, and so the two Servants clashed. Kirsche teleported to one of buildings on the silver side to watch the spectacle.
On the buildings near the monster, the sound of clashing steel could be heard. Kousuke could barely keep with Kirei's speed and strength. He jumped back, trying to avoid another slash coming at him. When he landed, he saw three cuts on his chest over his kimono.
"All you got, Master of Caster?" Kirei asked with a smirk.
Kousuke sighed. It couldn't be helped. His eyes turned bright red, with three black mitsudomoe encircling the pupils. Kirei was about to dash again, but the next moment Kousuke, who was in front of him, disappeared. Kirei moved on reflex and turned with his Black Keys raised, barely able to block Kousuke's sword.
"Kyoka no magan," Kousuke said in a whisper.
Before Kirei could counterattack, Kousuke disappeared once again. After activating his eyes, he was now ten times stronger and faster. He moved around unleashing a series of high speed attacks on the priest, who couldn't block them and received cuts all over his body. He was still avoiding fatal blows, only by a narrow margin.
On the other hand, Kage and Kiritsugu were pretty much even. The two were very similar, to the point neither could anticipate the movements of the other. Both ran at each other while shooting everything they had and dodging the barrage of bullets coming at them.
While doing this, they finally passed each other. The moment they realized it, both turned and pointed their Calicos at the face of the opponent. The one who manage to pull the trigger first would win and the other would die, simple as that. When they did, no bullets came out. Both discarded their semi-automatics and said the name of the spell only the two of them could use.
"Time Alter!" Hearing the young man recite the same spell surprised Kiritsugu. "Double Accel."
Kage didn't seem terribly astonished. He knew this magic wasn't his own since it had been given to him by the Association. He didn't know the owner of the crest that was implanted in him nor did he care. Just like Kiritsugu, he only saw magic as a tool for his jobs. Their eyes met as they began a high-speed fight, Kage wielding his wrist knives while Kiritsugu took out his knife and readied his Contender.
Kousuke stopped for a second to catch his breath. He still hadn't recovered from all the damage he received earlier and the stress of using Crimson Red Vermillion. He prepared to continue, but when he looked for the priest, he was directly in front of him.
Kirei had discarded Black Keys, and his strategy was simple. If he couldn't catch the enemy, he just wouldn't give him any chance to move. Kousuke could stand his ground thanks to his eyes, but the speed at which the priest moved was insane. He managed to find a space between his attacks and decided to thrust his katana in order to stop the priest's movements.
This was all a diversion. The moment Kousuke put his sword out, Kirei stopped it with his bare hands a few inches before it pierced his chest. Kousuke was surprised, and before he could react, he felt a foot over his chin, and the kick sent him flying as he let go of his sword.
"Goshujin-sama!" Caster yelled in concern.
Before she could go to his aid, a black blade came straight at her neck. She knew very well that even a graze from such a sword could kill her. She stopped it once again with her mirror and stared the black Saber in the eye.
"And I thought that useless Saber was annoying!" she said, trying to push her away, but it was futile. Saber of Zero was stronger and her magic resistance didn't help matters either. "I don't have time to waste with you!"
A whirlwind appeared around Caster, knocking Saber back. As soon as she landed she was ready to go once again, but hesitated upon seeing the great amount of prana coming from her opponent. She was now surrounded by a purple light with her nine tails behind her, her mirror continuing to levitate.
Both Caster of Blue and Ginevra, who were exterminating the horrors, had to stop after feeling such magical power, which they recognized as the power of a goddess. No, that would be a mistake, it was very close: the closest a Servant could be to a god.
Caster knew it very well, the ancient goddess of the sun that ruled over Japan during the Age of the Gods. She couldn't believe it.
Kirei was sent flying by the whirlwind created by Caster's power. The priest took a hard fall, and then he saw the Servant at her Master's side handing him his sword. That power was something Kirei hadn't seen before. It was Tamamo-no-Mae's Noble Phantasm, Eightfold Blessings of Amaterasu: Yata no Kagami. It increased her magical power alone beyond the usual limits, passing Rank Ex by far. Now Saber's magical resistance had been rendered useless, and the two could know fight on level ground. Still, such power only lasted ten minutes, and then she wouldn't be able to use it for another three days.
"Now, ready for round two, Saber?" she said with a smile.
Kage's Assassin stopped shooting at Assassin of Zero for a while after feeling such power as he landed on a nearby building.
"Damn, it's as if that man can't miss no matter what," one of the many Assassins said while standing there.
Assassin smiled, his real identity being Balthasar Gerard, the assassin who killed William the Silent following the orders of King Philip II. His ability with the musket was such that in a range of twenty-five meters, he would always hit the target.
The Assassins began to surround him, ready to use their numbers to bring him down. Balthasar has only managed to kill two of them and he had run of ammo. He had cuts on his arms and face as a result of their daggers. It was a good thing he was the kind of man who always had a plan.
"King Killer: Death of the Future Monarch," he said as a fountain of shadows appeared around him and turned into spiked blades, attacking his enemies.
This was his true Noble Phantasm, the manifestation of all his planning and skill as an assassin, all the preparations he made in order to kill his target.
Back with the knights, even working together they couldn't reach the monster. No matter what, more and more of its demons kept standing in the way. The situation only got worse from there. Immediately after the gathering of the knights, the monster began its rampage.
"At this rate, it will destroy the entire city before we can take care of it," Gawain said as he slew another demon.
As those words left his mouth, a silver comet and many projectiles appeared and assailed the monster. Arturia and Shirou recognized them and couldn't help but smile at the backup.
And they weren't alone either. Two chariots rose into the sky, one ridden by a pharaoh, the other by Waver and his Rider, standing against a monster beyond the circles of the world.
"Knights of the Round Table…! We'll buy you time, so use it to finish this!" Iskandar thundered from his bull-drawn chariot.
"King of Conquerors…" Arturia said as she and the other three knights continued their fight to reach the True Demon.
Ginevra saw all this from the sky, and she knew that those holy swords were the only ones capable of destroying such a demon. But she was no fool, she knew all the knights besides Lancelot were exhausted, and at this rate they would use all their reserves before reaching the target.
"It seems we are the only ones free, Supervisor."
She heard a familiar voice and turned to look at its source.
Breno was standing on air, having created barriers under his feet and releasing his flames to suspend himself in the sky.
She sighed as she wondered what the others could be doing. Medea flew to join her, having realized the danger of the situation.
"Judging from all this, it looks like that thing will kill the knights and everything will be lost, wouldn't you agree?" Medea asked Ginevra.
"That is the most likely outcome," she concurred with her mother's counterpart. "Assistance in controlling the lightning storm would be most appreciated."
"Using an area-of-effect spell over which you don't have complete control…?" Medea said with amusement. "A tad reckless, I would say."
"Technically this spell was originally designed as static defense for the Etemenanki," Ginevra replied defensively. "I can hardly be blamed if an untested battlefield modification is a bit… unreliable."
Medea laughed. "The Etemenanki…? How ambitious… I approve. Your mother should be proud."
"You have no idea," she said softly as she raised her staff and lightning flickered across the clouds above.
Medea also raised her staff, and energy cascades erupted across the sky.
"When Souichirou-sama and I have children of our own," she returned," I shall speak of you to them."
Breno didn't fully understand their plan, but dove regardless and unleashed his flames against the horrors that opposed the gathered knights.
The four knights were completely surprised by the sudden help, but before any of them could say anything, the two magicians of the Age of the Gods unleashed their power. Heaven and Earth were made one as blinding bolts of lightning fell like rain across the city, annihilating demons by the hundreds and leaving the ground and the surrounding ruins smoking and black.
In the next moment, explosions went off in front of them, a product of the cannons of a female pirate and the fists of a Chinese man.
"I came to pick you up and I found you almost killed us all," Rider of White said with a frown.
Assassin laughed humorlessly. "Can't be helped, it's just my luck."
Slowly but surely a path began to open. The rest of the Servants of the Blue Faction began to arrive.
On the other side of the city, Leo Wells and Odysseus could only describe their situation as a bad joke.
"I really need to change my Servant," Leo said, annoyed.
"Hey, it's not my fault! I never expected him to be here."
They landed on the street after dodging another attack from the man who had intercepted them after they stopped their fight with Bazett and Lancer when that monster appeared.
"Well, if it isn't my old friend Odysseus. I haven't seen you since the Trojan War."
"Achilles," Odysseus said with a grin as he looked at the green-haired Servant. "I would really love to speak about old times, but I have a very important date."
Achilles just grinned back at him.
"Come on, we haven't met in a long time and since this war began I haven't fought a decent opponent since that crimson Saber and her Master."
"I will kill that Hellhound when I see him later," Leo said with a sigh, realizing who the person he fought before was. "It seems we can't avoid this, Archer."
Achilles looked at the pair. They seemed a little worn out; Leo had lost his jacket and had blood dripping from his mouth and forehead.
In the next moment, Leo dashed at him and threw a punch, which Achilles blocked with his spear.
"I must admit, this fight will be fun. But I expected your Servant and not you, boy."
Odysseus jumped and shot two axes at him. The enemy Servant smiled at this and leapt back to block the projectiles.
"Well, my aim is second to none, and my Master is a very selfish person, so there's no way to stop him."
Leo then grabbed the two axes which had landed in front of him and launched them at Achilles. The Servant answered by swinging his spear to block the axes, but in doing so left himself with a small opening. A normal human wouldn't notice, but Leo wasn't what one would call normal.
He closed the distance between the two of them and kicked the Servant in the face with such strength that it sent him crashing into the wall of a nearby house.
Achilles was completely surprised. He had really underestimated the blond boy with the scar and never expected him to have so much power. Completely unfazed, he stood and looked at the pair with excitement.
"You're definitely not disappointing me!"
They got ready for him.
Back in the main battle, Arturia and her fellow knights had managed to reach firing range against the True Demon, even as their cover began to slacken. She couldn't deny that she expected it; so long as the True Demon remained manifest within the world, the flood of its brood was virtually infinite.
"Excalibur…" Gawain yelled as his blade began to glow. "…Galatine!"
He didn't listen to her, and his blade glowed like an orange sun before engulfing the True Demon and creating a gigantic explosion.
When everything died down, they saw that while the True Demon had been seriously injured, it only began to heal with impossible speed.
"What a tough bastard," Mordred said, looking slightly annoyed. "Tell me you have a plan, Arturia."
"Only the four of us combined can take it out. None of us have the strength alone to kill that thing."
The four knights raised their blades together and each began to glow with power: silver for Galatine, crimson for Clarent, gold for Excalibur, and black for Arondight.
At that very moment, the monster noticed their presence and the danger it presented and moved to attack, only for the lightning storm to rake its body with elemental fury.
"Hurry it up!" both sorceresses shouted.
At their words, one of the monster's tentacles lashed out at them, shattering their shields and sending the two flying. Kuzuki managed to catch Caster while Breno caught Ginevra.
The tentacle reared up along with several others and loomed over the knights.
"Rho Aias!" they heard a pair of voices shout, Shirou and Archer projecting their shield in order to protect the knights.
"How much longer…?" Archer yelled.
"Fifteen seconds!" Arturia called back.
Archer kind of expected such an answer, but they needed to hold it back no matter what, as their normal attacks would be utterly meaningless against such a monster. Their shield wouldn't last for long, but before the last petal of the shield broke, a gigantic black spear hurled the monster back.
"Kazikli Bey..." Lancer of Black said in a whisper while watching the ordeal from a nearby building. His attack gave the knights enough time to finish charging their weapons.
The four stood as one.
Shirou and Archer moved out of the way and all present could not deny the power and grandeur of the four holy swords united behind one purpose.
The four swords unleashed beams of energy of their corresponding colors that converged upon the being that used to be Gilles de Rais, banishing the True Demon back into the void.
On the other side of the city, Atosaki and Caules had managed to protect the people and eliminate the golems of the area.
The three Servants were tired, each having destroyed at least fifty golems each.
Caules walked up to Berserker and patted her on the head.
"Good job, Berserker," he said with a smile.
Berserker couldn't say it, but she really loved her Master's smile, just as much as she hated his sister. In her eyes, she was nothing but a source of suffering. She had suffered rejection during her life, but her Master didn't seem to mind at all. But that girl had decided to reject him, not even worrying about his feelings.
In the small time they had spent together, she came to know her Master as a kind and simple boy. He didn't seem to care much about her legend, he never treated her like a monster, so in her eyes he didn't deserve to suffer, and she wouldn't forgive anyone who dared to hurt him. It was a shame she couldn't express this to him.
Atosaki stood with Lance, a little worried because he seemed exhausted and had wounds all over his body from protecting her and others.
"Please be careful. You don't need to push yourself so hard," she said, looking at him fretfully.
His response was something she didn't expect. He hugged her in a way that reassured her he was alright. She really wanted to enjoy this moment, but it was cut short by a cough coming from Rider of Black, making her realize they weren't alone.
The two separated and while Lance didn't seem to understand, Atosaki was blushing from embarrassment. The paladin just laughed and walked up to her.
"It was a pleasure to fight alongside such a fine lady," he said with a small bow. "As we said before, we won't attack you, Mademoiselle Atosaki."
The paladin's smile made Atosaki blush even more. She could hardly believe he was actually male, but Caules told her he was. On the other hand, the paladin's words made Lance feel uneasy and slightly agitated.
Atosaki was about to reply when she felt a sharp pain in her stomach. Caules and Berserker turned to bid farewell to Atosaki, but Caules' eyes widened in horror the moment he saw what had happened.
"Rider! What are you doing?!"
In that moment, the paladin realized it. He raised his head and saw blood coming from his blade, having just stabbed into Atosaki.