A woman and a child were walking in the newer area of Fuyuki city towards the church on the hill. It was a relatively normal sight for the locals, as worshippers and those in need of guidance usually headed towards Father Kotomine's church to get advice.
But seeing these two individuals together was anything but normal.
The woman was Barthomeloi Lorelei, the 'Queen' of the Clock Tower and head of the Barthomeloi family. Brown hair kept in a severe yet practical pony-tail with side-swept bangs, and eyes that seemed to always be judging her surroundings to be unworthy. A serious individual that carried an elegance of lethal prowess, and who hunted vampires between her various duties.
The child was Merem Solomon, also known as Crown, the fifth member of the Burial Agency and the twentieth member of the Dead Apostle Ancestors. Raven hair, azure eyes and a calm smile on a youthful face.
In the first place, seeing one or the other indicated that the situation was serious.
The Queen couldn't be bothered to deal with trifling matters, and those who dared to cross her tended to end up being wiped out of existence or meeting a fate worse than death.
Crown usually sent his representative out in his steed, as the world tended to not take what appeared to be a child very seriously.
And yet here they were, despite the natural animosity that existed between the two, at the Kotomine Church.
Barthomeloi was dressed in her combat gear,
Merem looked around the area in front of the church with wide-eyes. "How interesting. Even here, the power of imagination is prevalent."
A slight tensing in Barthomeloi's body. "I did not ask for your opinion, vampire."
The Dead Apostle shook his head, mirth clear on his face. "My apologies 'Queen'. But it truly is unbelievable, is it not?"
Barthomeloi scoffed. "If you call your ordained supervisor of the war letting this city descend into chaos 'unbelievable', then yes, it is. And now we have to cleanse this entire city."
Merem frowned. "That-"
"Well, well. It seems that even in death the priest amuses me."
A regal voice, brimming with confidence that bordered on arrogance.
Barthomeloi sent a spell towards the speaker without thinking, the natural reflex for someone disrespecting her.
A crater appeared in front of the church, as well as a cloud of dust.
Merem sighed. "Must you act so violently, Barthomeloi?"
"Hmph." The Queen brushed the dust off her white silk coat and flexed her mithril glove. "Be grateful that I haven't done the same to you, vam-"
A pair of swords were launched at high speeds towards the Queen and Crown.
Barthomeloi easily knocked it aside with a gust of wind.
Merem didn't need to move, the sword batted away by a towering mechanoid girl appearing in front of him.
Both of them stared at the man with blonde hair stepping out of the dust cloud.
Gilgamesh smiled, brushing dust off his clothes like the queen just did. "That 'Absolute' sorcery trait of yours is impressive... as well as that demon of yours, vampire. But I'm afraid that it won't be enough."
Barthomeloi straightened and adjusted her mithril gauntlet. "Noble Phantasm... so you are one of the Servants in this war."
Merem sighed. "That does seem to be the case, doesn't it? And I was hoping we could minimize the collateral damage..."
"Oho?" Gilgamesh smirked. "You intend to fight me?"
A snap of his fingers, and the Gate of Babylon opened, revealing the countless blades within.
"I suppose I can play for a while. It is the least that I as the king can do for the 'Queen' and 'Crown'."
The Queen and Crown faced the King, prepared for the fight of their lives.
Gilgamesh grinned and raised his hand, calling forth his golden swords and armor.
"Now let us fight like men, women, and ladies who dress like men!"
An explosion sounded off in the distance. It was large enough that it could be heard throughout Fuyuki City. And if one were to look at the source, they would see looming shadows above Kotomine Church, as well as incredible displays of fire, wind, and ice.
A few seconds later, the entire city was covered in a bounded field and buildings began collapsing to the ground, bombarded by spells.
Archer suppressed the urge to curse. Time was up. One way or another, Fuyuki City wouldn't be standing in the next few hours.
But that was for later. Right now, he had to focus on the person in front of him, the woman he had loved and admired in numerous lifetimes.
Saber was as regal as he remembered her- no, even moreso. There was a veritable aura of power around her, unlike when she was his Servant. But the reason for that...
"Heh... so you got the grail after all, Saber."
Archer let out a wry smile.
She didn't react to his words, her face still set in that stoic expression he remembered. It was nostalgic, almost, reminding him of those earlier days long ago.
But this wasn't the time for reminiscing.
Saber held out her hand, and wind spilled forth, revealing the Sword of Promised Victory.
"You have broken your contract, Heroic Spirit EMIYA. For that, and turning your back on your duty yet again, we have decided to eliminate you."
"I see..." Archer shook his head. "You aren't even conscious, are you, Saber? Or rather... Counter Guardian Pendragon?"
Saber ignored his words and raised Excalibur in front of her.
It seemed that the time for words were over.
To be honest, it was strange enough that she decided to speak at all. Alaya must have been really pissed off at him, especially choosing Saber out of every Beast she had at her disposal.
Archer took a step back, hands held loose at his sides.
Saber was already someone he couldn't hope to defeat, and that was even more true as a Counter Guardian. With the Counter Force empowering her, she had unlimited Prana at her disposal. That, coupled with Prana Burst, which let her amplify her strength and speed by releasing a burst of prana all at once, and Archer was sorely outmatched.
But he couldn't lose.
This was the one chance he had to change everything. For once, he could save her, save Ilya.
Rin, Sakura, and everyone else... they were safe with this time's Emiya Shirou. But Ilya only had him.
He understood now. The reason why he had access to all his powers, his abilities. Like Saber said, Alaya planned to eliminate him. That was probably why the 'other' Counter Guardian EMIYA was summoned instead.
But to do that, they had to pull out his soul from outside of time and space.
That was why he had all his abilities, why he could use his reinforcement to bring his body to the levels of when he was a Counter Guardian.
He was not Counter Guardian EMIYA, who watched and made the world burn countless times as Alaya's Beast.
He was EMIYA, the ideal that Emiya Shirou sought and achieved after countless losses, both during his life and after his death.
Saber stepped forward, body and sword glowing with her prana. "Ex-"
It seemed she intended to take the initiative and end this with one decisive strike.
"Trace, on. "
-He couldn't save everyone. That answer was obtained in his life and after his death countless times.
That was a beautiful ideal, and one he still held close, but one that he knew was flawed.
...But at the least, he could save those close to him, the ones who needed him the most. And right now, that was Ilya.
Heh. Guess the influence worked the other way around this time, Emiya Shirou.
Kanshou and Bakuya appeared in his hands-
-and the Sword of Promised Victory was swung.
A trigger in his head, and time ground to a halt.
Emiya Shirou, and in turn, EMIYA, could never match Saber in a contest of swords. Even with as many tricks as he possessed with the countless Noble Phantasms in his Reality Marble, there wasn't one that could counter Saber when she had the initiative.
Saber had unlimited prana at her disposal, as well as reinforcement by the Counter Force. She wouldn't toy around, and would be aiming to eliminate him at the earliest chance possible before moving on to either Angra Mainyu or this time's Shirou, if Archer judged the situation correctly.
Two objectives. First: block Excalibur. Second: defeat Saber.
Excalibur was the greatest sword he knew of, and a copy of it would fail against the original. Acting as a Counter Guardian, she wouldn't restrain its capabilities either. The light approaching him would be the entire force Excalibur could emit, enough power to level the city.
Rho Aius would hold it off for a few seconds, but it would shatter before Saber ran out of energy to fuel Excalibur.
He could defeat Saber if he could avoid being killed by Excalibur's light. Gae Bolg, a rain of swords... he had countless tactics that could be used if he could just get the drop on her.
His concentration slipped and the golden destructive light inched forward.
When he regained his focus, the distance between it and him was already halved.
No time. Think!
He needed an ultimate attack for an ultimate attack... could that work?
Excalibur's attack was 'Dislocation', displacing the space in front of it with the energy sent by its wielder and amplified by the sword.
What if it met another 'Dislocation', that carved apart the space in front of it with infinite blades?
A long shot, but if it worked...
Time resumed and the ultimate killing technique surged forward to end Archer.
-But, the moment before it reached him, Archer swung his blades.
Saber paid no heed to the action. She must have thought it was just a desperate gamble, an action taken without meaning.
Good. That was exactly what he needed.
Faker. Even though he wasn't the same as this time's Shirou, he could fake it. That technique spontaneously created by him utilizing countless blades and divine attacks was a skill that Archer could emulate as one created by 'Emiya Shirou'.
Excalibur's light met an infinite number of slashes.
There was the sound of screeching steel and shattering blades.
Saber actually looked surprised at Archer's attack. "You-"
Counter Guardians only obtained enough force to neutralize the threat. That meant that Saber would be as strong as he was, and just as fast. Whatever Archer planned to do would be instantly countered when the world acknowledged it.
But- Here, where Angra Mainyu had been born, and the aberration in the grail took place, there was a delay.
Saber had enough backing to fight Archer and his abilities, that was it.
So to beat her, he had to reach beyond himself towards something 'he' hadn't experienced but could use...!
Kanshou and Bakuya were sent flying at the end of his swing.
Saber recovered from her shock and knocked them aside with Excalibur, shattering them. "That will not work, Archer!"
I am the bone of my sword.
The beginning of the words to connect Emiya Shirou. Taken to its literal extreme, like this time's Emiya Shirou had demonstrated, it meant that Archer could-
-become his blades.
Archer disappeared without a trace and reappeared where the shattered remnants of his blades fell.
Saber had her back to him. At this range, he couldn't miss. Any attack would do, but he didn't have any time to waste.
Using 'Infinity Moment' and that teleporting trick back to back took more prana out of him than he expected. Even with Ilya as his Master, he still felt drained from the action.
While he would have used his 'borrowed' technique one more time to ensure victory, he settled for Gae Dearg, the Crimson Rose of Exorcism.
Saber turned, but it was too late.
Archer lunged, piercing Saber's defenses with ease.
...Or so he thought.
Instead, his projection shattered as it struck a golden shield, one all too familiar to the former Counter Guardian.
Of course. He should have expected it. If the Rin he fought was one from the path where Saber remained, Emiya Shirou would have eventually found out about Avalon, and he would have returned it.
He beat a hasty retreat, launching a volley of low cost projections to keep Saber occupied.
At least, he tried.
But the King of Knights had nothing to fear. Archer's first attack was probably a surprise, and his second was unexpected, but now he was out of trumps, and Saber knew it.
She charged forward with blinding speed, Excalibur lowered for a vertical slash.
Archer couldn't dodge in time, and he had no energy left for a projection that could clash with Excalibur.
"Tch. Looks like I'll need to borrow even more techniques from his book..."
A simple sword, unadorned and mundane, appeared in his right hand. It was unimaginative and mundane. Something that would definitely shatter against a Noble Phantasm.
That was fine. It wasn't the blade Archer wanted, but the ability of the one that had used it. Even if he couldn't use it like its original wielder, if even a fragment of those skills remained...
Archer stamped his foot to the ground, following the commands etched in the blade, and lowered his sword.
Saber swung her blade.
Archer declared the name of the technique, and azure light cloaked his blade.
-Avalon. It was the embodiment of the utopia King Arthur sought, and was said to have gone to after her death. Going beyond defending or reflecting, it completely isolates the user in another world separate from this one.
Nothing on this earth could touch Saber when she was using it. Even Ea, the Sword of Rupture that tore apart heaven and earth could not pierce the protection granted by that hallowed sheath.
-But the owner of Archer's current weapon went beyond this Earth, trespassed over Gaia herself and reached the Root to obtain his powers. That, coupled with the 'Sword Skills' from a virtual world that was a part of, but also separate from Gaia and...
Excalibur was parried by Archer's blade.
Saber narrowed her eyes and raised it for another slash-
Only for a horizontal slash to cut across her lower torso.
For a moment, she ignored it and continued with her attack. But the brief instance before it connected, Saber's eyes widened and she took a huge step back.
The Sword Skill granted by an Authority governing entire realities bypassed Avalon.
Blood splattered to the ground.
Archer was surprised it worked. It was a shot in the dark, but it seemed that his luck was turning around for once.
The Sword Skill continued, but this time Saber was prepared.
Instincts bordering on precognition easily allowed her to dodge the telegraphed attacks.
Still, she was hesitant. Archer's attack that bypassed the ultimate protection caused her to leap back, opening the space between the two for the first time since the beginning of the battle.
Archer straightened and took a glance at the blade in his hand.
A mundane sword, with the ability to bypass worlds due to the simple fact of being wielded by this time's Emiya Shirou.
"...No wonder they want to eliminate you, Shirou. If just a small fragment of that Authority allows this..."
He shook his head and looked at Saber, feigning a nonchalant smile. "Do you want to continue, Counter Guardian? Or do I have to end you here?"
"...Very well, Heroic Spirit EMIYA."
She lowered her sword and... smiled? That... wasn't what he was expecting.
"You've done well to become this strong. With that, maybe you can truly become a 'Defender of Justice'."
Wait. Those aren't the words of a mindless Beast of Alaya. Could it be...
"Saber? Is that actually...?"
The blonde woman's smile turned somber as another series of explosions from the city. "There is little time left, Shirou. We were sent first as emissaries, but it won't be long now before the true Beasts of Alaya appear due to the distortion threatening existence. Before then, you must end it."
Archer frowned. "Emissaries? Alaya actually sent you and the other Shirou as emissaries? But why-?"
She shook her head. "That matters not. Listen, Shirou. Destroying the Grail is no longer enough. To prevent Fuyuki from being destroyed, three objectives must be met: killing Angra Mainyu, dismantling the Greater Grail, and eliminating the fragment of the Cardinal program in the Grail System."
There were questions that Archer wanted to ask, but Saber's stern expression kept him silent.
"All the Evil can only be vanquished by the Origin. The Grail will be taken by the founders. And the Cardinal will fall to the Black Swordsman. Remember this."
It was similar to the objectives given to him as a Counter Guardian.
How ironic. It seemed like he would be taking up his duties, the technicalities of him actually being a Counter Guardian at his state questionable or not.
"Then this is farewell, Shirou. I pray we do not meet like this again."
And before Archer could protest, Saber had turned and walked away.
Then she was gone, vanishing without a trace but the devastation of their encounter, like Counter Guardians were prone to do.
Archer stared at the area she disappeared for a few moments longer, then sighed. "Damn. I have to work with him after all, don't I? That idiot and the fake hero of his..."
He shook his head and leaned against a tree.
"They better hurry up..."
A demonic roar sounded from the distance, and when Archer looked towards it he saw Merem Solomon's left leg hovering above Kotomine church. And there was his right arm, shooting artillery into the air.
A golden ship streaked between them, shooting... lasers?
"...I don't think Fuyuki will last much longer if Gilgamesh, Crown, and the Queen keep fighting."
The crossroads in the center of Fuyuki. At this time, the Enforcers and Executors had already begun their purge, taking the sight of the Queen's thaumaturgy and Crown's demons as the signal to begin.
While scattered, they remained in squads of six, three from each organization.
The total number had been 600, leaving a hundred squads to systematically eradicate Fuyuki, as well as deal with any Master/Servant pair they encountered.
Of that original number, less than half remained.
Angra Mainyu smiled at the latest collection of souls before him. Such high quality fluctlights to obtain... what a wonderful coincidence for the Clock Tower and Church to decide to act.
Conceptual weapons and a few unearthed Noble Phantasms given to the elite squads were prepared.
Shadows cloaked the surroundings. To their credit, neither the Executors nor Enforcers panicked, even when all their weapons failed against the dark menace before them.
Angra Mainyu grinned as he felt the fluctlights drifting away and into his blade. Just a few more and he could activate the Grail without the other Servants.
Just a few more, and all of existence would know True Evil.