Relchronos de la Torre could not be considered to be conscious, in the form he had degraded to.
He was guided by pure instinct and through flashes of what could be called memory, but were not. After all, the being known as Relchronos de la Torre was human and this current existence was something that was decidedly not.
But even through this haze of non-sapience, there remained sparks of true intelligence. Of understanding.
So when the misshapen hand-that-was-not-a-hand grasped the shaft by its third and sixteenth vertebrae-limbs, the words came out naturally. As if the pipe-like organs all along its body had been designed to utter this one sound, to match the burning of the Crest which had been embedded directly into the creature's heart.
SDRAWKCAB DENRUT DLROW EHT
He spasmed as he returned. For a moment he stood utterly still and then he fell to his knees as his limbs lost all strength.
Relchronos vomited and vomited, he spat and puked until his entire stomach was empty and only acid came up and still he continued to dry-heave.
The memories that had reincarnated into him were things that should not have been, yet were. His entire sense of self was perilously on the edge of being collapsing completely beneath the corruption of his previous existence and by the experiences that he had accumulated.
To call that previous timeline a failure would be an understatement for the ages.
He wiped away the spittle and sickness from his chin and tried to get back up, but failed and fell into his own vomit. His body would not obey him. Or rather, he did not understand his own body any longer.
Where are my trcieleperols? My wings? My spinal whistle-horns? Why do I only have two vertebrae-limbs—hands, he corrected himself. His entire body seemed alien and unfathomable and Relchronos distantly realized he was having a panic attack.
It took him a length of time to gather himself, but he managed somehow.
He continued breathing, slowly and rhythmically, until he could say that he understood himself once more.
As long as he had the lance, he had all the time in the world. He could afford to spend a day, a week or even a year simply recuperating from that ordeal. Yes, he told himself. He would take every experience he had gained from that timeline and use it to foolproof his designs. He would find that Emiya and kill him. He would make sure that he would never again have to experience that.
First, he had to make sure to eliminate anyone who could pose a risk before they could get inside his bounded field. He had been shown his own weakness. He could not simply freeze everything, if he wished to interrogate them. Or could he? His panic had taken the better of him. But longer; he could take everything and everyone on without fear.
Yes. As long as he had the lance. The lance which pulsed with arcane power, glowing and crackling before his very eyes.
And then it exploded, shattering into motes of light as it dissolved into nothingness. The impact caused Relchronos to fall over backwards, but the explosion was not powerful enough to truly harm him. Indeed, the Mystery had already deteriorated so much that it was barely more than morning dew the moment it had disappeared.
It wasn't there.
It wasn't there.
IT WASN'T THERE.
IT WASN'T THERE.
He replayed his memories. He looked back and tried to recall. He tore at his temples until blood flowed freely and his face was completely wet.
There was only one answer. But he could not accept it, because that meant that it was the end.
"Broken phantasm..." Relchronos uttered and as the words finally passed his lips, tears began to flow. He could not understand how it was possible, but somehow that man had managed to break the holy lance. Break it, just like he had broken that holy sword.
His heart stilled.
For it to be possible to break such an item, it did not make any sense. Unless— Unless— Impossible. How could he have misunderstood the lance's true identity this badly?
Relchronos despaired. Relchronos raged. Relchronos accepted. Relchronos surrendered.
The lance which had been his trump card, had been nothing more than vapor and smoke in his hands. He should have known; there was no way it would have been deteriorating so quickly had it been the real thing. He told himself it was nothing and it turned out to be everything.
He had nothing left, he could sense; a few hundred horrors and two dozen bounded fields in place. But without the lance, those were all useless. To see and reach out, to gather more creatures he needed the lance. The lance which he no longer had.
If it hadn't been for that Emiya... Damn it!
Relchronos raised his hand, the words of power on his lips.
If he could not have his dream, the to hell with everyone and everything.
He unleashed all of his horrors at once, enacting the last measure he had devised in case he had no recourse but to take everyone with him.
Shirou jerked at the sound; the loud siren wail that echoed so queerly and unsettlingly, as if it had been designed for the sole purpose of unnerving people.
"What is that?" Adrian asked and Shirou could only shrug to show that he did not know.
They had just arrived in town once more, having managed to follow Rin and Luvia's tracks through the forest. Aside from the horrors they had rounded up back at the camp, they hadn't run into any trouble, but upon arriving in the town they had been stymied as to how they should continue.
That was when the siren had gone off.
"It does not matter, let's keep going—Hey, what are you doing?" Adrian spoke, only to notice that Shirou had used his elbow to shatter a car's window.
Opening the door, Shirou opened the glove compartment and rummaged through. Finding nothing he glanced around the car and frowned. He had a nagging feeling that he couldn't ignore. He walked to the next car and repeated his actions, much to the Enforcer's annoyance.
This time, Shirou found a road map in the glove compartment. He opened it and spread it on the car and began to pore over it. The sound was coming from the east, which meant...
"Shit. Sizewell B." Shirou hit the side of the car with his fist. Finding Hermit, finding Relchronos would have to wait.
"What? What does that mean?" Adrian blinked, not understanding any of this.
Shirou turned to the other with a frown as he tried to think through everything. "It means... It means that we have to get out of here. If we call with the radio, maybe they can evacuate quickly enough..."
Shirou sighed and pointed to the distance. It wasn't as if they could see the origin of the wailing siren, but Shirou knew it was the only thing of note in that direction. "That is the meltdown warning siren, coming from the nuclear power plant Sizewell B."
The Enforcer blinked, not understanding a word Shirou said. Slowly, the realization settled in. Even magi, luddites that they were, had some understanding of the scale of seriousness involved in such an event.
Shirou ignored him and picked up the radio instead. He would have to tell them to evacuate if at all possible and then...
And then Emiya Shirou would do everything in his power to stop it before it was too late.
Ciel kicked down the door.
There was anger, there was exasperation and there was a touch of worry in her as she strode in. The heretic had been cautious, focused. There hadn't been any leads or trails for her to follow. Up until now.
That man had done something. It boggled her mind. Hundreds of horrors had appeared from nowhere, but unlike before there had been a very easily traceable path to it. Almost as if he didn't care about being found.
It had to be a trap.
"Emiya... Damn you Emiya... Damn you, Emiya..." A quiet voice whispered in the darkness. The lance was nowhere to be seen, almost as if it had disappeared into the ether. Well, no matter, she would find it.
What she did see was the heretic. Just as the description spoke, yet completely different. Not the venerable and proud magus one would expect.
It boggled her mind to see this magus reduced to a shivering wreck in the corner of a the dark room. Relchronos de la Torre hadn't even reacted to her entering bounded field. She had simply brought to bear her considerable potential and tapped into some of the esoteric knowledge she possessed—loathe though she did to rely on that man—and broke in before he should have been able to react.
And he hadn't. Did she feel disappointed?
She walked forward and grabbed the huddled form which flinched at her touch. His eyes widened and she grinned at him, showing all her teeth as she knew she had received the prize she had wanted. Anything for the chance to get her hands on the man who had managed to somehow simulate the Serpent's reincarnation.
"Hello. Now, where is the spear?" The glint in the nun's eyes managed to bring back Relchronos from the precipices of madness where he had been dangling by a thread.
And in the last moments of his life, he knew fear and agony.
Shirou panted as he leaned against the wall for support, in his hand the golden sword shone as if telling him that he could still keep going, that he was not finished yet. It was true enough, Shirou supposed as he pushed off and continued to walk. Blood flowed down his limbs and his boots left bloody prints on the floor as he continued to advance.
Without vehicles, without immense manpower and resources which they did not possess, evacuating the townspeople was impossible. That meant that the only recourse left to Shirou was to stop the core from overheating himself.
There had been dozens of horrors on the way to the power plant and hundreds more inside the facility itself. There were dozens more corpses, except for one man who had locked himself inside the central control room.
Shirou had broken inside and had tried to talk the man down, but it had been obvious there was no negotiating with the puppet. He hadn't been acting of his own free will, after all. That much was obvious once the horror-familiar that had burrowing itself into his body became apparent. It had been moving the man like a puppet; using his knowledge and skills as it brought about a total disaster, seeking to maximize the damage the nuclear meltdown would cause.
The realization that Hermit had planned this far ahead filled Shirou with a cold fear. He was already almost dead trying to minimize the damage from the magus' distractions. How was Shirou supposed to find and stop him when he was too busy here?
It didn't matter. Shirou continued to walk.
Ciel let go of the already dead man, the black keys slick with his life's blood as they slid out of him. It hadn't been everything she had hoped for, but it had been something. It was a beginning.
She reached behind her into her pouch and touched the shroud there. Now, all that remained for her to do was find that Emiya. He was sure to know something, given that the magus insisted that it was due to the freelancer that the lance wasn't there.
Still, she hesitated. How could he have been there? She did not understand, but she would. She knew what he looked like; finding him would be a matter of course.
Shirou panted as he fell forward. His hand grabbed the railing and he stared at the pool of dark blue. His head lolled forward and came to rest on his arm as he supported himself on the railing. He could see the lethal blue water before him; the core mere meters away. So close, yet so far away.
He had nothing more in him; blood flowed freely and his energy was spent.
The core was in meltdown and none of the safety measures would work; the man had worked here long enough to know the ins and outs of the system. Even with his technical knack, Shirou could not match decades of technical expertise.
Thus, the only recourse left to him was to enter the core directly and use his Reinforcement to force the core cooling mechanism to work again. That meant diving into that radiated, boiling water and getting into spitting distance of highly radioactive material.
Piece of cake, if only he had enough magical energy to keep going.
He tried to put power into his legs to get back up; to step back so he could leap into that water; to do the one thing he had ever sought to do.
But there was nothing left in him. The taste of defeat was bitter as always.
The darkness of the room, the blue glow on the red walls and floors created a dissonance of despair. But suddenly, there was an expansion in the room. Shirou almost choked as he barely had the strength to look up.
Words failed him.
It reached out to him and Shirou accepted it.
"If doing that means no one will cry, then..."
Power entered his body and he rose up. He grabbed the railing and without a second thought dived into that radioactive pool of coolant. He was sure to suffer and pay for his choice sometime in the future, but it would not stop him.
After all, he was a Hero of Justice.
Author's note and parting thoughts:
Well. That was something. And I managed to finish it, too! Amazing, me! Good job, me!
The epilogue is left intentionally a bit short since this was a story about Emiya Shirou in loop 6. The Shirou here is arguably someone completely different, that Shirou-6 gave another chance.
Leave scathing reviews and critique; I started this explicitly because I wanted to write something and was told to accept that my first piece would be garbage. So 6 months from now, I'm going to be coming back to look at this so that I can go "What the fuck was I smoking?" as I read this. Some thoughts I had, but was unable to work through during writing:
The name. Originally I thought it clever and wanted to end the fic with a quote about "character being what your are in the dark" but that sounded too cheesy and now I already dislike the name I chose. Still, it works. Shirou is being kept in the dark about everything by everyone, Rel is hiding in a the dark and Shirou is put into positions where he is alone and in the dark as per the quote I based this idea on. So, I hate it but it still works.
I liked writing Shirou, Rin & Luvia and Shirou's action scenes the most. This fic is a little weak on character interactions, as for the most part its about Shirou trekking alone and getting into scraps.
Oh, and the chaotic bit at the beginning of this chapter? It was way better in my openoffice; completely erased all my cool ass formatting ;_;
Arcuied had very little presence beyond being an airhead and punching dragons. Oh well.
Merem(or his familiar anyhow) died 5 minutes after his introduction ;_;7 poor man deserves some pizza for playing his part like a champ. Oh well, he'll revive eventually I guess.
Right at end, I had hesitations about my ending. Thinking, what if Shirou instead merely dons the shroud to hide from the deterrent force while wielding the holy lance as a badass wanderer who has to run from guardians every once in a while? But no, I had an idea I started this fic with and I decided to end it that way.
Still the scene where stands bloodied, wearing the red shroud and pointing at the heaven's with the lance is like something straight out of TTGL. Very cool, I think.
A lot of plot points I felt remained untapped into, like Shirou picking up the gun again, Ciel's memories(I just had this brainfart about reincarnation and the Serpent of Akasha, it really was only added in like the last two chapters, so I realize it might create some plotholes, but well...) and stuff. Incidentally, I removed this because it added nothing. It was a hasty idea that I hadn't thought really through.
Hell, now that I think about it, I could have had Shirou shoot Rel in the back with it. A sort of callback to Kiritsugu and Norikata. Then again, I was going with the running timer to get the reader into that "Oh fuck yeah, random numbers! This is going to get fucking awesome!" kind of mood and wanted to set up Shirou's broken phantasm ability before the climax.
Also, someone gave me the advice to cut down on the fluff, which might be worth more than a cursory look into for me. I have as a writer the need to keep everything consistent on some level, thus I will try to justify everything I write. Which does admittedly make for some veeery long and dry parts.
Relchronos and Adrian were my Original Characters, in case it somehow escaped someone's notice. If it did, FUCK YEAH. If they annoyed you, well, sorry. I'm fairly satisfied with Rel, but Adrian was just too incompetent now that I think about it. The scene with stealing the lance was to be his chance to shine, a kind of FUCK YEAH ADRIAN! But it kinda fell flat for him when he died a minute later. That's just kinda how it went. Sorry man.
Also, everyone in the Clocktower camp, sorry for making you all so incompetent.
But hey, everyone survived due to Ron Ex Machina, so yaay! Oh wait, Gray didn't.
Well, no one cares about Gray right now. She's got like, what, one and a half novels translated where she is barely a character beyond "shy country girl with holy lance". I don't think anyone notices her at this point beyond going, "Oh, another Saberface. Wonderful." Still, sorry Gray. Once you get a proper characterization, I'll try to give you a better role in the future. Maybe.
And Rin, well, she got a lot of slack. Perhaps not all unduly, but still. I'll definitely make it up to her in another fic.
And this AN is almost as long as the epilogue. Fuck.
Anyhow, if you made it this far, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it at least a little.