It was stirring. The Persian God of Darkness, the source of All Evil in the World began to form.
Faceless. It was a creation that could not perceive itself, existing as one who was expelled from all creation.
Shaped by the wish of mankind to be 'All Evil', upon his death in the Third Grail War, that wish was granted. Slowly taking shape, it only needed to wait until it was ready, which would be when the Grail was completed.
At least, that's what would have happened had there not been an Aberration.
An Authority that could shape 'Reality', summoned by the Grail along with all of her powers. A System apart from the World, a Creation within Creation, operating parallel to the Reality that was 'True'.
They were compatible.
A girl with fragments of the corrupted Grail from the last war. She was the cradle.
A connection between Master and Servant. That was the path he found to usurp the Authority.
A reflection of the Authority's champion, summoned in the same manner as the Black Swordsman. That was his vanguard.
And the man who obtained power equal to God. That was his equal and who he would pattern himself as.
She saw this. Though her soul was fading, being slowly rewritten as the Evil brought in more 'data' of creation to make himself, Sakura could still think, act, see.
The world would end. If 'he' was born, all of reality would burn in the cursed black flames of Evil.
And she would die.
No. She didn't want that. She didn't want to fade away. She didn't want to leave Senpai.
The darkness came, and her thoughts were silenced.
"Are you sure that will work, Onii-chan?"
After a day of thinking about how to fix the situation in town while sitting in Einzbern Castle, he and Ilya were heading to Fuyuki Park. At the moment, he was carrying Ilya in his arms with the white-haired girl holding on to him like a bride while Archer dashed through the misty forest towards their destination.
A nostalgic feeling. Holding her in his arms like this reminded Archer of a time when he had done the same in the past, a time that seemed an eternity ago.
But that was a different time. Now he had to focus on the present.
"Ilya," he said. "I thought we agreed that you would call me 'Archer' while we execute the plan?"
The white-haired young girl smirked. "Onii-chan is onii-chan, even if you're a hero now. Besides, you killed Berserker so you have to put up with me." She stuck her tongue out at Archer.
He sighed again, though he couldn't help the small smile that crossed his face. "Such an insufferable little sister you are."
"Yep!" Ilya nodded, but then her face became serious. "But Archer, will Rule Breaker really break her connection to the Grail?"
Archer frowned in thought, though he kept his body moving.
Rule Breaker. The Noble Phantasm of the Witch of Betrayal that could shatter all contracts and send all magecraft to the state before it was enacted. The ultimate anti-magic Noble Phantasm. While he wasn't Medea, Unlimited Blade Works could replicate the dagger for his use.
It was the crux of their plan.
Archer knew that Medea's dagger could sever contracts, having Saber taken away from him with it in one timeline. He also knew that it was enough to break even Angra Mainyu's hold, as one Shirou that led to him had done to save Sakura.
While the appearance of Kirito and monsters from Sword Art Online indicated that there was another factor at play, the Noble Phantasm should still free her from the evil god's hold.
Success was probable. While not a hundred percent, the odds were enough that Archer was willing to use it as Plan A.
He nodded. "I'm sure. But if it doesn't…"
He was out of options. There would only be one shot at freeing Sakura from Angra Mainyu before the evil god became wise to their intentions. And it was likely that he would bind the girl even tighter to himself should Archer fail. In that case...
Archer shook his head slightly.
He cared for Sakura. He truly did, especially as he could still recall the time he spent as her hero. It was the same way for Rin and his Saber. He held feelings for all three of the girls, but in the end there were two things that Archer would value above even them.
One was his ideal, the path he had traveled and inevitably returned to in each of the times that led to him being EMIYA, to being who he was right now.
The other was the girl in his arms, the one who he always failed to save, but who had believed in his decision to become a Defender of Justice like Emiya Kiritsugu.
His first love, and the one who held as much sway over him as his ideal.
Ilya's soft voice asked, "You'll kill her?"
"Yeah." Archer nodded, a determined expression on his face. "I'll kill her."
He could do it. Without his usual restrictions, there were plenty of ways for Archer to end her and Angra Mainyu. Even if the evil god had done something ridiculous like make himself or Sakura immortal and untouchable, there were ways to get around it while Gaia's restrictions were removed and he was allowed to access his Counter Guardian abilities.
It was necessary. Angra Mainyu could not be allowed to be born.
He had a chance this time. An opportunity that he knew could never occur again.
Heroic Spirit EMIYA should not have been able to regain his memories as Emiya Shirou, since the person with that name still existed in this time period. Not only that, but he should not have recalled all of the times that led to his existence. Only a single set of memories should have been transferred, even if there were many that could lead to Heroic Spirit EMIYA.
Instead, he possessed four sets, as well as the perspectives of both his past and current selves in variations of the Fifth Grail War.
He also should not have been able to utilize the power he had as a Counter Guardian, since he was summoned as a Servant and not by Alaya to end a disaster.
An exception. Whether it was something that Akasha itself had determined or just a simple manner of enough distortions rippling throughout the multiverse to create a unique situation, this was Archer's one and only chance to fix his greatest regret.
It was his chance to be Ilya's hero, his chance to save her.
But first, he had to get rid of this chaos.
In the face of Archer's determination, Ilya was quiet, though she seemed troubled.
A horde of monstrous creatures.
Skeletons, armed with rusted armor and blades. Lizardmen, wielding curved swords and bucklers. Oversized plants that pulled, slithered, and dragged their unnatural bodies across the ground.
Those and many more creatures shattered into clouds of light particles as a 'Party' of heroes made their way towards Fuyuki Park.
Skeleton warriors. Lizardmen. Rotting animated plant-creatures. Fish-man hybrids. Those and many more monsters were scattered into clouds of light particles as the 'Party' of heroes made their way through Fuyuki City.
It was surreal.
An observer would have taken a second look and gaped at how ridiculous it looked. It was a scene that just could not occur in real life, typical to an RPG than reality.
A group of four.
In the lead, charging ahead of the group, was a Black Swordsman. He was armed with two swords, one a dark wooden blade and the other an azure sword of ice and rose. With dazzling skill and an almost casual air, he carved swaths through the horde of monsters before him, causing limbs, tentacles, and swords to shatter in his advance.
A few paces back was a Silver Hero. With the peerless Durandal in his right hand, the man with a heroic visage and silver hair chased after the Swordsman. While his pace was slower, monsters fell the same before his blade and skill, which was slightly greater than that of the black-haired young man in front of him.
By the Hero's side was a female Martial Artist, wielding a naginata crafted by the Hero to clash against even Divine Instruments. Though not as capable as the Hero and Swordsman, she held her own against those that advanced, long enough for the Hero to take care of any stragglers.
And behind them all, hovering in the air like a Magical Girl with a ruby magic wand, a twin-tailed Witch covered their flanks with a rain of pure Mana, laughing manically the entire time.
"Mwahaha! No wonder Medea likes doing this! It's soooo broken!"
Shirou sighed. It looked like he wasn't the only one who had been affected by Kirito's constant references to popular media and gaming. Life's never going to be the same again, is it?
A Lizardman leapt from a side alley, sword glowing orange with a Sword Skill.
Shirou sighed again and swung Durandal. The peerless sword, combined with Shirou's enhanced strength, cleaved apart the monster with ease. With that done, he continued on his way, shaking his head in exasperation.
The monster situation in the town had grown to absurd levels. It was like they really were in an RPG, with monsters jumping out left and right without even the slightest shred of self-preservation in random encounters. What should have been a fast trek from Miyami City to Fuyuki Park had become an irritating slow march filled with constant conflict.
Thankfully, the monsters weren't hard to kill. Sure, they might have had Sword Skills and been above the ability of an ordinary human to beat, but Shirou and his comrades were far from ordinary.
Still, after the grueling battle on the bridge against Krakens and Sea Serpents of all sorts, Shirou was happy that they were finally approaching the park.
Although, something still bugged him.
Rin's voice, channeled directly beside through liberal use of the Second Magic, said, "Yeah?"
A Fallen Elf Warrior in leather armor lunged at him, wielding a pitted and rusting long sword.
Ayako knocked the blow wide with her naginata and Shirou ran the risen elf through with Durandal, neither breaking their strides as they continued.
"Why do we have to stay on the ground again?"
It would have been much faster to just take to the rooftops and rush towards the park. Of course, Shirou had never done so before, but it couldn't be that hard, right?
"Well," Rin said. "It would- hold on, another dragon's here."
Shirou looked up in time to see a large crystal dragon get blasted apart by a barrage of rainbow light.
"Rin's really enjoying herself up there, isn't she?" Ayako asked.
"Yeah." Shirou sighed. "A bit too much, I think."
"Anyway," Rin continued. "If we don't do this, we leave the monsters free to roam the city. And since it would take someone with superhuman ability to kill one, let alone a horde..."
Shirou sighed again.
Right. Gotta protect the town. Even if it was annoying cutting down hundreds of monsters. Still gotta protect the town. Even if everyone should be asleep or know better due to the Priest's announcement of terrorist sects releasing lethal nerve gas throughout the city that caused hallucinations.
He shook his head and asked, "How's Kirito? He hasn't been hurt, right?"
"Pft, that guy?"
Shirou couldn't see her expression from down there, but he was sure Rin was giving him a patronizing look. "Like he needs any help. He's cutting down dozens of monsters left and- HAH! Think you can take me on, creepy flying skeleton thing? In your dreams!"
There was another explosion of rainbow light and mana in the air above as what Shirou would describe as a floating lich flew towards Rin.
Shirou shook his head at the twin-tailed magus's antics. Maybe she had taken Kirito's comment about her being a Magical Girl too seriously... or maybe using the Second Magic had driven her a bit insane.
Huh. That was a thought. Then again, he was the one with a direct connection to the swirl of all existence, so maybe he shouldn't judge.
Either way, Kirito was a bad influence. This was definitely all his fault. Not the monsters of course (though Shirou was starting to wonder whether or not they appeared because Kirito had been summoned), but the insanity in the previously red-headed young man's social life could definitely be attributed to the Black Swordsman.
And then they had arrived at the park.
Kirito was standing at the edge, waiting for them to arrive. He had an amused smile on, one that turned to a grin as he saw Shirou's haggard expression. "Had fun, you two?"
Ayako nodded, a wide smile on her face. "Yeah!" She spun her naginata, and hefted it against her shoulder. "This reinforcement thing Rin did is really awesome. I never even thought it was possible for something to move that fast!"
He laughed. "Yeah, the first time moving like that's pretty amazing, isn't it?"
Shirou frowned. It was good that Ayako was taking this lightly and not being intimidated by the fearsome opponents, and that Kirito was being so carefree but...
"Shouldn't you be more serious about this, Kirito?" He turned to Ayako. "And you should be careful, Ayako. It's dangerous being overconfident."
"Well, I'm with you, aren't I? You can protect me, Shirou." She gave a swift peck on his cheek. "Right?"
"HEY! I saw that, Ayako!" Rin stomped towards them. It seemed that she had landed some time between when they were talking.
She glared at the brown-haired girl and then grabbed Shirou's hand. "That's not fair! I-I should be the one who gets to be by his side." She looked up at Shirou with her blue eyes. "Right, Shirou?"
Shirou sighed. There was a time and place for Harem Antics, and this wasn't it. "Let's just go and save Sakura now. Hopefully the other Masters and Servants-"
An earth-shaking roar echoed throughout the park.
Shirou snapped his head towards the source in time to see an enormous six-armed titan cut down by Caster, with her Master keeping smaller monsters at bay with a strange style of martial arts.
Snake. Refined technique to assassinate a target. Utilizing odd angles, treating the arms and elbows like fulcrums to attack in an unpredictable manner.
A minor headache emerged as Shirou dissected the workings of the man's skill, one he forced away as he focused on the situation at hand.
Strangely enough, there weren't many monsters in the area. A few roamed here and there, but it seemed as if either Caster or her Master had taken care of the majority.
A worrying thought, since it meant that they would arrive at Sakura sooner rather than later.
And he could see her. Suspended in the center of the park, shrouded in pulsating shadows, was Sakura. And guarding her was the Other Kirito, sword drawn to fight.
The distance was negligible. It would take less than a minute to reach her.
It would take Caster less.
Shirou narrowed his eyes, refining his focus to a razor sharp edge.
There were no more words to be said.
He advanced, every skill he knew prepared.
In the corner of his eyes, he saw Rin break off in one direction and Kirito in another, rushing towards their own foes. Ayako remained by his side, following his strides.
The battle had begun.
"Tch." Lancer stepped to the side and lashed out with Gae Bolg at the white comet that passed by. The crimson lance drank divine blood as the attack connected, but he had missed his target. He sighed and continued his dash towards the center of the park. "Stupid Priest. It's still too damn early for this."
It was almost eight in the morning. While Lancer enjoyed a good fight as much as the next guy, and adhered to the rule of exercise to get the blood pumping in the morning, he had been up since the ungodly hours of the morning patrolling the city and cleaning up the monsters while the priest made 'house calls' to the locals and put up bounded fields to keep them asleep throughout the day.
And then that damned priest had the nerve to tell him to go 'take care of' the possessed girl in the park without so much as a 'thank you' or even time to rest.
"Dammit Bazett. Why'd you have to be so trusting?"
He sighed. Stupid Rank E luck.
Rider came back around for another pass. She had summoned a Pegasus, and was doing her best to turn Lancer to a red smear on the ashy ground with her blinding charges.
Not that he would let her. Lancer was faster, after all, in short sprints. All he had to do was wait until just before she dove, and then he could dodge.
And there it was.
Rider and her Pegasus flew down at a blinding pace, appearing nothing more as a white streak.
Lancer leapt to the right and swung Gae Bolg, the spear again drawing blood, though not from his intended target.
This was getting irritating. Lancer and Rider had been fighting like this for the past ten minutes now, and nothing had changed. While he could use Gae Bolg to kill her, in the time it took for him to activate, she would have moved out of range. That was his first mistake when they started.
Believing her to be of the same speed as before, Lancer had activated his trump right away, wanting to finish the job as soon as possible. He had set it up and everything, but she had moved out of range before he could finish, and it had tipped his hand.
In return, she had used her Noble Phantasm, Bellerophon, to try and kill him, but he had dodged it.
Now both Servants knew the identity of the other, and the fight had reached a stalemate.
Rider couldn't use Bellerophon again without Lancer dodging and countering with Gae Bolg.
Lancer couldn't use Gae Bolg against Rider, since Bellerophon added Divine Protection during the charge, and he would die afterward. While it wouldn't be immediate, he had no doubt that Rider would be able to finish the job.
Though he did wonder why Rider wasn't using her eyes. Even as skilled as he was under Scathach's tutelage in Runes, Medusa's Mystic Eyes of Protection would have stopped him stone cold.
A feral bear appeared, laced with crimson veins throughout its pitch black body.
"Right. That's why."
Lancer cut the corrupted monster down and continued on his way.
Even if Rider was trying to kill him, her Master must have received the message about the town's situation being a top priority. He didn't know if it was still that obnoxious blue-haired fop Lancer had seen the last time they met, but whoever it was probably didn't care so much about killing other Servants as they did about ending the chaos.
It would certainly explain the half-hearted charges from Rider.
Lancer shook his head. Whether or not she was trying to kill him, Lancer still had a job to do. He could see his target now, floating in the center of the park. He was almost in range, just another few paces and he could pierce her heart with Gae Bolg-
A wave of shadows and a curse stronger than Gae Bolg.
Battle-honed instincts fired and Lancer leapt back just before they struck.
"Hmph. As I thought, it would not be that easy to bind a Heroic Spirit."
A man stepped out from the shadows and stared at Lancer with narrowed eyes. He had flowing blue hair and a severe-looking face. As for attire, he wore a simple black robe, striped with pulsing crimson streaks. "No matter. With a copy of her Sorcery Trait and a fragment of Angra Mainyu, I only need one opportunity."
Lancer tensed. Binding a Heroic Spirit? Who the hell was this guy?
"Rider. Use your Mystic Eyes. We have no more time to waste."
And then he could do no more but watch as shadows enveloped him.
Archer noticed Lancer get attacked by Rider and someone who looked like an older Shinji from his corner of the park. After seeing the guy get enveloped by shadows and disappear, the Counter Guardian couldn't help but feel a bit of pity for the guy.
Lancer never gets a break does he?
He shook his head and focused on the rest of the battlefield.
He and Ilya had just arrived moments after Caster felled the six-armed titan. Seeing as she and Kuzuki were making short work of the monsters, Archer had decided to sit and wait. The less enemies there were for them, the higher his chances of success, after all.
Ilya tugged on his shirt. "Archer!"
He glanced towards her. It seemed that his older sister(or would it be younger sister now?) wasn't satisfied by the current order of events. The girl had her lips pursed and eyes narrowed. "Why aren't you attacking?"
Archer shook his head. "Not yet. We need to wait, remember?"
Ilya pouted. "I still don't see why we can't just charge. You're strong enough to beat all of the Servants!"
"Well, that's true..."
With his empowered state, and lack of restriction on Projecting, Archer probably could beat the other Servants quite handily. Even Gilgamesh, if push came to-
Archer narrowed his eyes. "Speak of the devil and he shall appear, huh?"
The golden King of Heroes was on the opposite side of the park. For a moment, Archer thought he would have to test his theory when the original hero fixed a malevolent gaze on him, but then that Kirito had charged in to combat with Gilgamesh and Archer was forgotten.
It seemed like the last members of the party had arrived. As expected, Shirou was charging towards Sakura with a fierce determination, cutting down every monster in his path. Slightly unexpected was the sight of Ayako at his side, as fast and powerful as a weak Servant, wielding a naginata that was apparently created by Shirou.
"Looks like Rin's been keeping busy if she managed something like Medea's Reinforcement on Kuzuki."
"Oho?" Ilya giggled. "Looks like you're going to have to take responsibility sooner than I thought, Onii-chan."
He flicked his eyes up to see Rin flying towards him, Kaleidostick in hand. And from the huge prana buildup and lack of magical girl attire, he would guess that she had somehow mastered the Second Magic and fixed Ruby.
Stupid Rank E luck.
"Stand back, Ilya."
Archer summoned Kanshou and Bakuya, taking care to heavily Reinforce their magic resistance traits. "Looks like I'm going to have to deal with my old Master."
Kirito came to a halt in front of Gilgamesh, swords drawn. They were a different pair then the ones he had used on the way there. Rather than the wooden and azure blades, he now wielded Excaliber and Elucidator, the two swords he trusted the most out of his entire arsenal.
He would need them.
"We meet again, Kirito."
The most dangerous opponent stood before him. Kirito had to make sure he didn't interfere. Shirou should be able to take care of Caster on his own, and Rin would be there for backup soon enough. Now all he had to do was stall-
"A pity that I have no time today to test your worth."
Kirito blinked. "...What?"
Gilgamesh smiled. It was slightly mocking, but Kirito didn't sense any malice in the expression. "Is it not obvious? Should this problem not be taken care of, testing you will be meaningless as humanity will burn under the cursed flames."
Kirito blinked again.
Is he really... wow. Looks like beating people really does turn them to your side. Though I didn't really beat him last time...
He didn't have anymore time to think as a familiar large bony creature with scythes for arms appeared beside them in a flash of violet light.
Kirito stepped back, shifting into a ready position. He noted that Gilgamesh did the same, drawing those pair of golden swords he wielded last time.
"Interesting," Gilgamesh said. "A construct of images bound into an illusion accepted by Gaia and blackened by the Grail's blight." He tilted his head towards Kirito, a smirk on his face. "Will you be able to keep up, boy?"
And then [The Skull Reaper] charged and there was no more time for words.
Kotomine Kirei. The mediator of the war. He was sitting in the back room of the church as he usually did on Tuesday mornings, enjoying a cup of black coffee as dark as his soul. Looking through the eyes of Lancer, he saw the chaos that was unfolding at the sight of the last war's final battle and grinned.
"Excellent. Everything is going as planned."
The pieces had all gathered. Caster, Rider, Saber, Archer, Lancer, and Assassin were all there in a melee to the death. Not only that, but Emiya Shirou, Tohsaka Rin, and even the girl he had healed was there, doing their best to survive. It seemed like they were trying to save the black grail still. A lost cause, but one that made their struggles even more amusing.
His plans had been laid, and victory was inevitable. Success or not, the world would burn. He himself had become nothing more than a pawn on this endgame, but the empty man was satisfied.
He had just received word from the Clock Tower and the Burial Agency. The Queen herself, and Merem Solomon had deigned it necessary to grace Fuyuki with their presence.
"And with that, my role is finished."
A small smile, one that didn't reach his eyes but showed his content nevertheless.
"Indeed," a raspy voice said. "It has."
A shot rang throughout the church, and then Kotomine Kirei departed from the world, his soul shattered by a gun of absolute death.