"—my whole life was, 'Unlimited Blade Works'!"
I cast the true name and in that moment, everything broke and everything reformed. Fire runs and the world is turned upside down; inside out. The internal becomes the external as the world egg theory is enacted.
We both have to close our eyes at the bursting light, but no heat touches my skin even as the flames lick me.
That's right. Back then, it hadn't been hot. It had been so hot that I had been freezing from the flames. So as my insides turned into fire, the outside can no longer burn me.
A thousand swords. Ten thousand. Countless treasures. They stretch as far as the eye can see, into the distant horizon where dawn is just about to break. The burning sky above with the passing stormy clouds which will never rain down on the barren earth beneath.
I wonder, what must he think of this. Of my internal world brought forth in this manner.
"…That's right. I don't create swords. I create a world that contains infinite swords. This is the only magic allowed for Emiya Shirou."
A desolate land. A graveyard of swords, devoid of life. Every sword exists in this world, as swords are reproduced just at a glance. This is Emiya Shirou's world.
A Reality Marble. It is the greatest forbidden magic that embodies the caster's internal world. This is heroic spirit Emiya's Noble Phantasm and the only weapon I possess. Everything is here, and nothing is here. That is why this is called Unlimited Blade Works.
This is the only definite answer obtained by the one who lived as a sword all his life.
"A Reality Marble? Is that it? And what do you intend to do with this wretched landscape?"
I step forward, reaching out and feeling everything responding to my gesture. It will all obey, as if I were wielding them with my own hands.
"There's no need to be surprised. These are all imitations. As you say, these are all trifling swords."
I reach out my arms. The swords come out as if to accept me as their user.
"But there is no rule that an imitation cannot defeat the original. If you say you are the original, I shall surpass every one of your weapons and destroy your existence."
Gilgamesh's face darkens, his eyes turning cloudy for but an instant as he stares at me. Good. I need him angry. Off-balance. Unstable and thoughtless. He is arrogant, though hardly without good reason, but that is still his greatest weakness. Use it, I can almost hear that bastard whispering into my ears as I use his technique, his breathing, his walking and his methods.
But that's alright. Emiya Shirou won't lose to himself.
A dozen portals open up behind him, his anger made manifest. But it is not enough. I need more.
"Here I come, King of Heroes—do you have enough weapons in stock?"
"You forget your place, mongrel."
That's one. I smirk, feeling the adrenaline coursing through my veins as my vision sharpens. I know these blades; I know them well. They respond to my will and pull them in.
A mere thought—and a considerable expenditure of magical energy—and I negate them all with themselves. Three dozen swords crash and clatter in mid-air, displaced and thrown aside by their mirrored counterparts.
He blinks. This hadn't been within his expectations. That's fine; the first move is mine. I explode into motion, like a rocket firing off or an arrow loosed.
I have to make it into melee; I cannot contend with him at range. He has more experience with such combat and time is on his side; if I play the long game Tohsaka will run dry and be hurt. I can't allow that.
His eyes widen and another dozen portals open up once more; he begins to fire but I am a step ahead of him. My swords knock into his before they are even launched, rendering them harmless in an instant before they are loosed.
At the same time, three swords aim at the King of Heroes, moving at supersonic speeds.
Close-quarters combat against a Servant is suicide for a human being, that is an obvious truth. If my fight against Heroic Spirit Emiya, who was at death's door at the time, did not teach me that then nothing will. I can't match an ultimate warrior.
Gilgamesh jumps back, drawing a blade from his Gate of Babylon and smacking aside a single loosed blade as two others miss him. He grinds his teeth, his eyes blazing as he has been forced to step back to evade a mongrel's blow.
That realization makes the King of Heroes' mind turn white with anger. That's two.
"Once I am done with you, there won't be a shred of your counterfeiting skull left, you—" He roars, a hundred portals opening behind him. The horizon before me turns into a golden lake that stretches up into the heavens, as a hundred treasures come forth in a hundred rippling fissures. "—FAKER!"
Gilgamesh roars and the heavens obey; thunders is loosed and death approaches. Emiya Shirou cannot survive an attack of this magnitude. Only the greatest of heroes could ever hope to survive such an onslaught.
But that is alright, after all... In this world and this world alone, the tables are turned.
I reach out and they obey; a hundred swords are reeled in and for a moment I can see the shock in his eyes as he sees the volley; the dark cloud the swarms to shadow the sun at my back. I wonder, has anyone ever met his full might head on like this before? Well, it's a first for everything!
And then the two storms of swords meet; the sound is out of this world as the air itself shakes upon the impacts. I can feel each and every single explosion, as swords crash and shatter between us in a curtain of silver steel and golden bronze.
I did not even slow down for an instant as I continue to advance at full speed, running as fast as I can toward him. I need to get closer. Passing the hail of shattered swords, falling in what seems like slow motion, I grab a pair of swords out of the air. One of mine and one of his.
Our eyes meet. I have matched his attack head on. That's three. His body language does not lie; I doubt this man has ever experienced anger of this scale. But it's not enough. I need him even angrier.
"Haaaaa—" I jump, throwing his own sword at him and he slaps it aside contemptuously as I raise my sword for a strike at him.
He does not fear me. After all, it is suicide for a human to challenge a Servant head on. Even now, with my body Reinforced to handle the maximal output Emiya Shirou is capable of outputting, it is nothing to him. A single blow will be enough to slay me; everything he has seen of me so far proves it true.
But that's where he made his mistake. I am not fighting him as a swordsman. I am not fighting him as an archer. I am not fighting him even as a magus.
I am fighting him as a Faker.
I swing at him and he parries, seeking to strike me aside so that he can lop off my arm. He wants to make this last. But the impossible happens, he realizes with shock. The strikes are equal and he is forced to put his weight into the parry as I push back against his raised sword with my own.
The moment of realization that he cannot simply dismiss me as harmless flashes past him. Four.
My feet find purchase, the sword in my hand flashing around and Gilgamesh is forced to parry again. A human being cannot match a Servant, but a Servant can. The sword in my hand is Caliburn and it knows how to handle an opponent like this. The sword moves on its own in my hand, but I know this and move to match it.
If I were any less in synchronization with the sword, the backlash from being jostled about as we exchange strikes and ripostes, would be immense to say the least. A Servant possesses enormous speed and strength, enough to rip my arms out of their sockets and to shatter my everyone bone with ease.
But it's fine. I smirk as we lock blades; he is stronger so I move around and turn to lead with the pommel as at the same time I lock him out from striking at me.
Gilgamesh has never needed to know how to wield a sword and this truth is apparent to both of us in this moment. He grinds his teeth, barely dodging the pommel and using his superior strength to push me away with his shoulder.
I roll with the force, turning on my heel as I lash out with a backhand strike. He is forced to parry again and a crack appears on his sword.
Between an original and the fake, there exists an unbridgeable gap in ability. But only when all other things are equal. As I strike at him, I have been aiming at a single spot, whereas his blows have been spread out evenly on mine. And not just any spot; a spot I know to be the weakest on the entire blade.
Though he may be wielding the original of Caliburn; Merodach, he will still lose at this rate. And he knows it as the sword cracks again under a blow. He grinds his teeth. If only he could pull back for a second to use its true ability. Then he could easily overwhelm me as Caliburn cannot match that. So I don't let him.
"You were never a warrior. You're just a one-trick pony. Like me."
"You..." He grinds his teeth, perhaps unable to deny those words.
"I have to wonder, what it's like. Being a big fish in a small pond? You brag about how you're so much better, how all others fall short in comparison to you... How no man is your equal.
"But, you're not a man at all, are you? Two-thirds god, king from birth. Everything you are; everything you have, has been given to you. You haven't earned a single thing, haven't won a single struggle in your entire life. No wonder even someone like me can push you back."
I smirk at him, and something snaps inside Gilgamesh as he roars.
Of course, most of what I just said is completely wrong. I can tell; this God-king of Man reigned in a time I could not even imagine. He fought battles so far beyond my understanding that it's ridiculous for me to even try to fight against him. But he doesn't know that I know that. And explaining something like that is much too difficult, especially when your mind has gone white with anger.
"PERISH AND LEAVE NOTHING BEHIND YOU WORTHLESS—" He roars, exploding forward with sword in hand.
I swing at his sword, aiming for the precise location. The blades meet and suddenly snag. We both recover, but he is an instant late. The chip on his sword; I had aimed for it perfectly and sunk my blade deep into his.
With this, disarming him is a piece of cake!
I pull with both my hands and with my Reality Marble. Both swords are sent flying as his eyes shoot wide open in shock.
Time slows down to a crawl as we stare at each other. Two users, unarmed and unable to make use of the opening the other presents. Too far to make use of his usual sword-rain tactics, but just close enough for his close-combat tricks. And they're not even cheap tricks all things considered.
There is a reason this man never needed to learn how to wield a sword, after all.
"Die, mongrel!" The gate open and he pulls out a sword. I wait until I see the blade before I confirm my own actions; the sword is one I possess and reel in instantly to counter with.
Unlimited Blade Works is faster than his Gate of Babylon, but if I react to him I am in the after and he is in the before, therefore I can only match his speed like that. The result will be neutral; neither will have an inherent advantage. But that is fine, since the objective is to defeat this man and the only way to do that is to overwhelm him in close combat.
But for that, I must first strip him of his favored blades. I saw two back against Berserker; treasure tools of the highest order and rich with his victories. They are strong and if I do not fight each of them as a single battle, concentrating solely on beating that sword, I will definitely lose.
The sword in my hand matches the sword in his and we swing at each other in the same instant. And as I am pulling on his own experience and strength from the sword I have replicated, we are matched perfectly. Our attacks are almost perfectly mirrored and stop at the perfect center between us.
His eyes shoot wide as his blade fails him. This sword, forged to always bring out a peerless strike upon the first attack has actually failed him! Technically his was stronger, but I simply adjusted the strike to compensate. If he knew that I was striking higher, he could have countered the slight opening that left.
But he does not spot it. Not in the instant that flashes by. Not with his mind so muddled with rage and anger.
Gilgamesh grinds his teeth, casting aside and bringing out the second sword. A wise decision; both of our versions are cracked all the way down to the hilt from meeting themselves. A peerless strike matched by a peerless strike can only end in destruction of the sword, after all.
The second sword is revealed and I reel in the exact same sword; the invisible blade that changes length!
Crack! Matching him again with his own sword and his own strength, the swords shatter on impact.
The third sword! A scythe that reaches around and strikes from three locations!
Crack! Matched, blow for blow, the scythe can only shatter and cease.
"How am I losing to a mongrel's sword...!?"
"Heh, isn't obvious? I already told you. We're both just users. You never mastered a single blade in your life, taking it to the extremes. Matching strikes with a half-assed amateur like you is child's play!"
This is all true. His method is to bring out rapidly swords with unknown properties and abilities. To overwhelm his opponent with Noble Phantasm and to completely dominate them until they are left with but a desperate defense. And its a highly effective one. People cannot fight what they do not know. Even against a strong warrior, this kind of rapid fire roulette of Noble Phantasms would be deadly.
But something like that won't work against me. Perhaps ironically, with these eyes that know swords better than anyone else, in this world where all of my swords are instantly at my beck and call...
Emiya Shirou can match this Heroic Spirit. That's what I believe.
I shoot forward, pressing him this time and he brings out a divine shield. But that's fine; he has never fought with a shield in hand. He has only sought its protection for a short surcease, only to abandon it as soon as he wishes to continue his offense. He can't press me with it.
For those who rely on defense alone there exist no path to victory.
I call the greatsword and shot it into the ground beneath his feet, calling upon the herculean strength of its wielder to flip aside the shield and soil beneath it with ease.
Gilgamesh is ready and waiting, with two swords in hand. A mistake; he hesitated to simply carpet bomb this spot with his sword rain because he could not see. It's working. The more doubts I pile on, the more mistake he will make, causing him to have further doubts again, causing it all to snowball. Six!
He charges forward, roaring as if to dispel his own hesitation but my swords match him on demand. We dance and weave, him relying on the physical boosts provided by a bonded pair of swords and I simply fighting the swords as I bide my time.
He is stronger, doubly so now with these sword in hand. A superb pair that complement each other perfectly and enhance their wielder beyond the pale. But that's fine.
One strike, two strikes, four strikes and finally at sixteen the wife sword he had been relying on shatters, removing the great physical enhancement he had sought to overwhelm me with as the pair is broken.
But that's not enough, I know. He had more than enough time to prepare a second trump card behind that shield, though less than a second had only passed when he was out of my sight.
Seven swords appear around his hands, hilts first. I call upon them all; this is his final trick!
He draws the first, calling upon its powers to kill me where I stand.
The first sword; ice engulfs! The second sword; fire erupts! The third sword; lightning strikes!
A left-right-left combination of pulling Noble Phantasms and calling upon their ability. A great wall of ice seeks to encase me; the fire will cause it to explode and the lighting will ravage anything still left alive inside.
But he's made a mistake. This quickly, he can't call upon their full power, but only a fraction. A fraction which I can match!
The fourth sword; a cursed blade of reparation that will pay back any damage inflicted on it in equal measure! The fifth sword; a giant hammer that will swing itself to smash anything and everything before Gilgamesh!
"Impossible!" He shouts, his disbelief overriding his anger.
The sixth sword; a six dimensional attack that calls upon the Multi-dimensional refraction phenomena, six blows all coming in from right angles to slay me! The seventh sword; a sword of retrograde that will strike me down before I even counter the first of his attacks!
The air around me explodes as the myriad of magical effects cancel each other out. Time is moving as slowly as molasses as I concentrate on the instant to guise it as an eternity. I can't match him physically, so I have to exceed him in my mind. To always be five steps ahead and to have one more trick up my sleeve.
The fourteen swords fall to the ground, shattered and vanquished as my last and technically first swing is completed.
Seven. I have permanently destroyed some of your most treasured possessions. Has this man ever had to withstand such an insult in his life? I can't let this moment slip; this instant is all I have. Gilgamesh opens his mouth to let out a wordless scream of rage, but I am within his range before he can even begin.
The sword flashes forward and he has barely time to match it. Both offense and defense shatter, leaving us unarmed again.
Victory is in sight. I pull in a sword before I see his; I must overwhelm him now, before he can gather his wits! If he gets a single step forward and manages to calm down, all will be lost!
I reel in another sword, blindly smashing it into his sword with all my strength and with a loud clatter and shatter of steel. And another sword. And another. And another. I desperately control my breathing to regulate my stamina. Right now I can't afford to burn out by over-exerting. I have to just and just match as I take every inch I can get.
This can only end in one way. Unlimited Blade Works is faster, though he can still keep up if he pushes himself to his limit and only seeks to defend against each blow.
But with that, I can freely break both, leaving us again unarmed. Thus we are forced to re-arm ourselves and I win another inch of an advantage. With every exchange, the time advantage I posses only grows. With every sword, I win a fraction of a second of a lead. With this, I have won!
"Gilgamesh!" With one last shout, I shatter his sword and reel in Kanshou and Bakuya to strike him down!
He jumps back for his life, unarmed and completely open. He knows it just as well as I do! I cut into his collarbone, grazing it and leaving a bleeding wound as he backpedals desperately, gritting his teeth.
"You—" He curses, but I don't let him finish.
"I won't let you—" The sword closes in and I have him dead to rights. I have won. "—get away!"
"Eh...?" We both blink at the moment as the world fails to meet our expectations.
Gilgamesh is lying on the ground, sitting up and staring at me with wide eyes.
The King of Heroes' eyes widen and in that instant, his wits return. I try to close in, throwing Bakuya at him as I lead with Kanshou to lop off his head! I can't let him get up or else—
But Gilgamesh raises an arm to take the blow from the thrown sword, sacrificing the limb as he calls out but one word. The name of the one who never failed or betrayed him in all his life:
I freeze. I blink.
I realize I can't move as my entire body has been stopped. I stand an inch away from Gilgamesh's neck with my sword extended, the man panting as he tries to recover his breath.
Strangely, despite the growing horror at my failure, I wonder how it must feel for him to have been pushed this far because of someone like myself? A half-baked failure of a magus who only has a dead world inside of him to fall back on when everything else fails.
"Ha—ah... ha—ah... I will admit... In this world, you are strong." He grinds the words out as if they are poison.
Our eyes meet, but it is not respect or admiration I see in them. Only burning anger. But no longer a raging fire out of control, it is simply there and under control.
"To that end,"
The golden armor materializes in an instant as he has a moment to concentrate, encasing him unbreakable gold and weaving him inside countless protections.
I can't move, these chains that bind me will not yield or break; chains of heaven, which once bound Humbaba. There is nothing Emiya Shirou can do to break such chains.
"—I will finish you of with my full powers, faker. Die knowing that."
But there was one who could break these chains, wasn't there. A man who sought to protect someone but was denied even his revenge. The mad beast of that little girl. The chains creak as I struggle, making Gilgamesh hesitate and furrow his brows for an instant.
My breath comes out in a cloud of steam and my eyes meet his. He blinks in surprise as utter madness greets him.
The great axesword lands in my hand, severing all chains in an instant as my mind clouds with rage. But behind the veil of madness, I tightly grasp my mind's reins and steer myself forward.
Gilgamesh jumped back in just that instant, realizing his error in hesitation. A thousand portals open behind him as he sneers at me and countless swords begin to appear.
"I see. You would even steal that man's glory, debasing it with your forgeries." The golden man laughs derisively. "But it matters not. Even the original could not reach me, what hope do you think you have of doing so?"
I don't care about any of that. I simply have to hit him, that's all.
I explode into motion with power wholly alien to my body. Bones break and muscle tears, but that's fine, _ will replace the function and reinforce the self, Emiya Shirou can/should/will focus solely on killing this man.
A sea of sword approaches, but that's fine. The tsunami of blades will be broken by _.
Heracles failed to reach this man because he had someone he needed to protect. Even though I may be inferior and this may only be a borrowed forgery, as long as I am following in another's footsteps I can without fail realize that which I envision in my mind!
"NINE LIVES BLADEWORKS!"
I don't know who roars, but the sword in my hand ceases to exist in one location and in that instant...
My mind blanks; all sensation is lost.
"Impossible!" I hear someone utter, far away, but that's none of my business.
I simply know that the ocean of steel was repelled by something and the coast before me is clear. Shattered steel rains from the sky in a curtain of silver and gold. I have a straight path to Gilgamesh with this. But my axesword is gone and there is over thirty meters between us.
He will kill me fifteen times in the instant I try to bridge this distance.
Then I need to deny his projectiles. I step forward, a red blur shooting forward like a hound; a sprinter betting his life on his legs as he explodes forwards like a bolt of lighting.
The portals open once more and the second wall of death approaches.
But the red sprinter catches up to me as I run forward with one hand reaching behind me. Like a relay runner accepting the baton pass, my hand closes around the shaft. I can almost feel that guy's presence in the weapon; he must have gone through many things and trials for his self to imprint so strongly into it.
Well, consider it repayment for almost killing me. Twice. Seriously, what a rude jerk that guy was. Wish I'd had a drink with him before he went and died— no wait, where did that come from— ah, his remnants are coloring my thought patterns. Strange.
Damn, it almost feels like I'm having fun here, now.
Three swords come to skewer Emiya Shirou, but the red lance of Cu Chulainn responds to deny any such notions. Gae Bolg twirls in the air and I have to perform a backflip to accommodate its motions, lest I break my arm.
Seriously, what a ridiculous guy.
The red lance shoots out, left right, up down, back and forward, in constant motion as it pierces through the wall of steel that comes at me in waves. One wave; a second wave; and a third are all pierced through with contemptible ease as Lancer's divine skill with the spear denies any and all projectiles from finding their mark.
I leap, twirling in the air as I add all of my momentum into my limbs, curling up to grasp the spear with one of my legs by the fork of my toes and then cast the spear forward by kicking with all my might. It explodes forward, completely shattering the sound barrier before even reaching the half-way mark of its acceleration in shooting forward. Weird Celts. Who throws a spear with their foot? Sheesh.
Gilgamesh's eyes widen as he calls forward a shield to protect himself. He takes the blow, but at the same time blinds himself as I land and straighten out, the next sword already in my hand.
My presence thins out and I move like a ghost through his peripheral vision as he recovers. My feet move as if made out of wind and I dance on clouds as my movements become almost impossible to decipher.
Gilgamesh casts aside his shield, scanning left and right to find me, but I'm already behind him. Monohoshizao flashes, seeking his head and I am only happy to oblige as my murderous intent sharpens. Still, a strange calm is over my mind and I note that despite all the suffering Gilgamesh has dispensed and plans to spread henceforth, it really is nothing personal.
The katana seeks his neck, only to be repelled by a golden light. Ah, damn. Automatic protection from attacks from behind. Pity, the arch his blood would have made when his head flew off at this angle would have looked like a crescent moon in winter.
It would have been quite beautiful.
Gilgamesh reels, drawing a sword and lashing out with a backhanded blow but I ward it to the side gently and riposte to his neck again from the front. He raises his wounded arm and the gauntlet takes the blow without fail.
"Hmm, well then. Tsubame—" I sidle into a loose stance, showing him my back as I raise the hilt up high to my face.
"Tch!" Gilgamesh raises his sword, intending to attack. That's perfectly good and all, as he will die to the second and third cut— ah, his earrings are charmed against Multi-dimensional Refraction Phenomena. This demonic sword technique will not even activate against him. And with his armor, this frail blade will not be able to find purchase. Oh well, if I can't cut him then I can't cut him.
"—G-otcha." I preen, changing gears on the fly as the chained nail wraps around his legs with the other end securely in my left hand.
"Wha—" Gilgamesh has time to utter, before I swing out the chain and send him flying. I wonder how he will look if I swing him around for a few minutes and then leave him up to hang—
But those sadistic thoughts fail me, as in the middle of his flight Gilgamesh lashes out with a sword and severs the chain around his leg. I curse, realizing I had been letting the spiritual contamination from the weapons affect me too much.
"ENOUGH OF THIS!" Gilgamesh shouts, a great golden pool opening beneath his feet and bringing forth a golden ship. "I tire of your mimicry, even as I am forced to query the limit of your mockeries. To think I would have to rely on Sha Naqba Imuru against a mongrel like you...!"
Vimana—a chariot of the gods from the ancient world, a vessel completely and utterly beyond my capacity to replicate. And what was that word, He who saw the Deep—ugh, since when did I speak ancient Sumerian? I shake my head, trying to dispel the strange thoughts trying to worm their way in.
Was this why Emiya never used other swords, preferring the empty Kanshou and Bakuya?
Nevertheless, it was awesome and horrifying to realize that this man still had such depths to his power. No wonder he considers everyone else so beneath him. With this much power and with that sword from before, he really is fit to be called the King of Heroes. Maybe if I had some more magical energy, I could match him. As long as he doesn't pull out that one sword, I can somehow make do. But if I continue like this, I will be hurting Tohsaka.
That's unacceptable. I have to somehow finish this—
"Whoa..." I stumble as a sudden wave of alien power pushes through from within myself. "Whoa... What the..."
"Hey, Shirou? Shirou, you blockhead. Are you there? Hurry up already, we're all done here."
"Who else? You're really falling behind, Emiya-kun. I'm almost disappointed, to be honest." She is teasing me, somehow sensing the lull in battle and wanting to help me calm down.
I want to complain that I was facing off against one of the greatest Heroes that mankind had ever seen, but given that she had chosen to fight with All the Evils of the World and had apparently already finished way ahead of me... I didn't really have any room to complain.
"Sorry, I'm working on it, but he's pretty tough."
"Tch. Oh well, I figured. What would you do without me, Emiya-kun? You're so helpless. So, I figured I'd be thoughtful and help you out a little."
"By 'help out a little', do you mean this immense source of magical energy that I can feel?" If I had to put a number to how much magical energy I could feel behind that bond... Well. I couldn't. It was somewhere in the excess of trillions. At the very least.
"Yup! That Rule Breaker you gave me came in really handy. Mwahahaha, the Tohsaka claim the grail this time, suckers!"
I sighed, completely at a loss for words. As expected of her, really.
"So feel free to go crazy. Or ,oh, do you want me to send in Archer for help?"
"Arch—What?! He's aliv—No! You tell that jackass to jump off a mountain and go die as he should have already! And what was that about 'you defeat him', huh? Great advice, there, moron! Tell him that!"
"Your Archer impersonation is so spot on!" she notes laughing lightly, calling me childish between breaths as she apparently relays the message to Archer. And the answer apparently only made her laugh even harder. I could feel a vein throbbing on my forehead.
"I'll be done in five minutes, alright!" I shout, cutting off the connection with a sliver of mental effort and a grunt.
I look up at Gilgamesh, who for whatever reason had deemed to give me all the time I needed for my little talk.
"...Err, sorry about that. Thanks for waiting...?" I'm not sure if I should bow to him in deference to his politeness.
"I have acknowledged you, faker. I categorically refuse to defeat you at anything less than your best as of right now. Your existence is a stain on the World that I cannot abide. To rid myself of you, I will erase you and everything you can throw at me with your worthless forging hands. Only then will I be satisfied at your death. Know that!" Gilgamesh sneered down from high above.
"...Well, thank you nonetheless. Oh, and Archer sends his regards." I shrugged, noting that Gilgamesh must have used some kind of healing items as his condition looked quite a bit better already.
"Archer? Tall guy with bad hair and a preference for red mantles and throwing swords at people while being a cryptic jerk. Kind of reminds me of you, actually." I mused, turning thoughtful. Had that guy actually copied Gilgamesh knowingly? The hair, the red shroud worn at his waist, the overbearing attitude?
Huh, another reason to hate future me. Bad rolemodels.
"He survived? That cockroach!" Gilgamesh cursed, slamming a golden gauntlet into his throne's armrest.
"...I actually agree with you there, strange as it is. And what was that he said about 'the loser having to leave the stage', when he just comes waltzing back in to steal all the good spots? What a jackass."
"...It annoys me, but we are in full agreement there. And stop with the Batman voice, you sound ridiculous." Gilgamesh allowed, grinding his teeth.
Well if I die now, at least Archer is going down, too. As is well and proper. And wait, Batman? What? What exactly did Gilgamesh spend the last ten years doing?
"But now it is time for you to die, faker. Perish with your worthless wretched mental landscape and be reborn as something less disgusting in a thousand years!"
The sky burst open in gold; ten thousand portals opening to herald Gilgamesh's divine judgment. Each and every single weapon he was bringing forth had sufficient power to punch through a mountain, I could tell.
Well, it was a good thing that I had more than enough magical energy to keep up now.
I raised a hand, snapping my fingers as I did, in a deliberate opposite mirror of his usual gesture when using Gate of Babylon. All of my swords answered. Most were too far, but I only needed a portion to deflect this onslaught right now. The swords in my immediate vicinity would do.
The heaven's cracked open as golden judgment descended to destroy all below.
The earth rose in revolt as countless weathered and worn swords ascended to deny them.
The air shattered, the noise and pressure from the indescribable impact shaking the very foundations of my world. The sound was so powerful and loud that my vision turned white at the impact and knocked me off my feet. I rolled with the impact, swallowing the pain and getting to my feet.
I raise my eyes to the heavens above, where Gilgamesh on his flying golden throne stares down at me. That's no good. As long as he has the mobility advantage I can't put pressure on him. I need to fly.
With a single thought, an unusual blade answered my call. Of ridiculous proportions, it weighed as much as a schoolbus and had similar proportions of width and length as well. All things considered, a pretty useless sword in most cases.
Inside this world, as long as I had magical energy I could manipulate swords with my mind. Therefore, as long as I could just stay on top of this thing it should be fine. I jumped up on the sword, landing on the flat of the strong, near the crossguard.
I frowned, looking down at my feet. This wouldn't work; the polished surface was far too slippery. Wait, I could...
I called four other sword and they arrived instantly. Punching through the massive floating sword with ease due to the inferior material it was made out of in comparison, I pushed it all the way down next to my foot until the crossguard of the smaller sword was pushing down on my foot.
"Huh, this could work. The other three swords joined the first in stapling down my feet and I used some Reinforcement to bend the blades sticking out underneath on the other side, so that they were flat down against the flat of the huge sword. It was almost like putting on skis. Not that I had ever gone skiing. And if you only had one, huge ski that floated in the air.
It really wasn't anything like skiing, was it?
I floated in place for a few seconds, judging the magical energy expenditure.
"Yeah, this could really work." I noted, looking up. It was pretty expensive, but it couldn't be helped.
Gilgamesh was staring at me, one elbow on the throne's armrest so he could prop his chin against his knuckles as he stared down at me. He seemed more disgusted than anything.
"Faker, truly? Nail yourself to a sword? Is that all your mind goes to when you need a solution for something? Swords?"
"Ugh..." Gilgamesh shook his head, seeming even more disgusted if that was possible.
"Well, no matter." I angled the tip of the sword towards him, up above.
"Hah, do you really think that you can keep up with my Vima—"
"Ride..." I activated the sword's innate function as a mystic code. I wasn't sure about the magus who had made this sword, but hey if it worked, it worked. The aria for activation was a bit long, however.
"—na!?" Gilgamesh barely had time to dodge to the side as a the sword shot forward like a thunderbolt and crossed the distance faster than he could blink. The sudden and great acceleration almost tore my torso off my feet but I held on desperately, as I reinforced my internal structure with swords.
The feeling of swords moving and settling inside of my body was somewhat disquieting, but I pushed it down.
The side of his ship was grazed by the blade and he almost lost a wing to the crossguard that came barreling in like a clothesline. Still, I missed and was now above him. I turned around, calling swords to my person and setting them to rain down on him.
Gilgamesh turned and dropped, using the acceleration gravity gave him to swoop out and get some distance as at the same time he opened up Gate of Babylon to hail me with swords to return fire. Some of the swords met in mid-air, exploding into shards of steel in a hail of sparks.
I barely had time to dodge the first few before I finally got the sword back under control beneath my feet. Arcs of lighting danced all over the edges of the sword and one almost struck my face. For a moment I had to wonder about whether I should try to incorporate a Faraday cage of swords, just in case.
But then I was back in the moment, turning the sword to drop down and follow Gilgamesh's vessel. The bottom of the sword; the other flat, clinked and vibrated as flying swords glanced past and ricocheted off of it, but I ignored that as I sighted Gilgamesh again.
I couldn't hear him at this distance, when he wasn't using whatever he had before to enhance the sound of his voice. But I could read his lips.
"What... Kind... of... Clown... Would... Eh, I can't understand the rest." I wondered whether he was talking about who would ride something like this or whether he meant who would build something like this.
"RIDE THE LIGHTING!"
I shot forward again like a bolt of lighting on the back of the sword, sailing through the air as if it was completely normal. Well, with the amount of magical energy I was burning every second, I was sure there were half a dozen other methods of flight. At least.
With the longer distance, I actually had enough time to notice what was going on and I had to marvel at the ball of lighting I was encased inside, shooting forward at insane speeds.
Gilgamesh pulled a barrel roll to avoid my strafing fire, peppering me with swords and I returned in kind after I slowed down, swaying with the blows to avoid getting my sword punched through by one of his projectiles.
We flew back and forth; Gilgamesh in a perfectly controlled manner, like a leaf on the wind and myself, a thunderbolt shooting back and forth in the sky. We shot swords, hundreds and thousands of them at each other but with the mobility and distances involved we were getting nowhere.
He had ridiculous control and agility. Impeccable armor. Divine shields and weapons that could home in and fly independently to follow me.
I had absurd speed.
And that's about it, really. But it was enough.
In terms of ammunition he had the edge in quality; axes that kept on flying and homing in; great bolts of lighting; spears that would fly through dimensions until they found my body and pierced me. But I could always counter such with broken phantasms at the last second and whenever I got into a pinch, I could pull Rho Aias for a second to burst away again with ridiculous speed.
Well, I had thought that until he pulled out a mountain of a sword—Ig-Alima— and a great shining scythe of a blade—Sul-Sagana—that would have pulverized my shield and swords in an instant had they hit.
Then again, Gilgamesh had only called them forth to try and drop them on me, as he had no means of controlling them accurately enough to actually hit me. He seemed to be following the flyswatter school of thought there for a second, but seeing no results he abandoned it. I thought about projecting them for a moment, just to see his face.
But then I dismissed the idea.
Those things were just straight up useless, really. I think Gilgamesh agreed with me actually, given his expression of when I dodged them. As if he simply shrugged and went 'yeah, I didn't expect anything more out of those things, either'.
In terms quantity, I should have had the edge given that I technically had everything he had and more. But in practice that only meant swords I had seen and he had but revealed a fraction of it before. Thus I had to keep updating mine while inside of my Reality Marble, which proved ridiculously expensive on top of everything else.
It was good thing I had twenty seven circuits. Were I not rotating between them in three shifts and letting them cool down, I would have burned them out long into this fight already.
And it wasn't helping that the World's external pressure on my Reality Marble only kept increasing. It wasn't too much to handle, what with the literal holy grail hooked to me. But eventually it would surpass a threshold where it would encroach on things I needed to keep fighting Gilgamesh.
And top of all that, he still hadn't bothered to use his automatic 'I Win' button, which I knew he had. I mean, he had casually almost killed me with the thing earlier, so it was quite difficult to forget.
My swords kept shattering as we mindlessly threw them against each other. Without my skill balancing it out like I could in close-quarters combat, his swords would always come ahead against mine. So I had to keep replacing them and as he began to go deeper and deeper into his esoteric vaults, I had to keep updating my collection to keep up.
This was now an endurance match, and I knew I couldn't keep it up for too much longer. Besides, I had told Tohsaka I would be done in another two minutes. I would never live it down if I didn't keep my word to her. Then again, he might be feeling it just as much as I was. I was pretty sure I almost lost my head to the original nerf sword a minute back, but I couldn't be sure.
It was time to finish this, and I wouldn't be able to do it by simply aping after what he did. I would have to do something he wouldn't expect.
I smirked as a plan settled in my mind, projecting my most familiar swords. The swords I had first learned to rely on, when I began to copy that guy. But even so, these were mine. I could use them. Trust them.
They grew into wings; black and white, husband and wife, adorned with feathers of steel. I cast them into the wind as I rode the lighting again.
,all processes completed—
,all processes recurring—"
I rode the lighting again to move, avoiding a hail of swords by an inch as I tossed yet another pair. Gilgamesh opted for wide area of effect Noble Phantasm that tore open the sky with blinding light and sound. But I ignored it as I tossed yet another pair of wings into the air.
Again and again. This body became a smithy for swords. No, a factory that only existed to churn out one work of art. One perfect pair of swords that I cherished above all others. And each I tossed into the wind, letting them spin into the sky freely.
See, they had a strange property.
Kanshou and Bakuya were by no means a really original work when it came to swords. There were a lot of them that did the same, either in design of ability or even history. But the concept of creation and ideology behind them was beautiful, above all else. Gan Jiang and Mo Ye had not had easy lives, yet they sought to create something of true beauty. Even at the cost of their own lives, they put their all into that pair of swords.
And I could respect that. But I doubt that Gilgamesh would.
He only saw the aspect that enhanced the wearer's power; he owned a very similar pair of swords himself. Or had, anyhow. And those had vastly outperformed in mine in most every regard. Except one, teeny, tiny facet.
What I admired in those swords was the love between the two smiths, that continued to attract those swords to each other after thousands of years. And not only each other. Every iteration of each other.
The sky was chock full of them now, all attracted to each other in complete chaos as they spun in the wind. He eyed them disdainfully, seeing no point to their existence as he dodged the perpetually flying and spinning buzzsaws. Perhaps he thought that I simply controlled each of them individually somehow.
That was the problem with sword-rain tactics; they were wide area of effect. Performing minor adjustments to aim was all but impossible and aiming for accuracy was ironically enough a wasted effort. That was why he could keep doing it and I couldn't; he could simply keep throwing swords at someone until something stuck. I would get tired before that happened.
Therefore, I thought that this might just work. Kanshou and Bakuya Overedge were no joke.
One hit from those could have ruined his Vimana, we both knew. But that was only if they could hit him head on. And given his control and skill with that thing, it was essentially impossible. But still, I tried. I made traps and manipulated the swords, but he avoided them with ease as he returned fire at me with volume that dwarfed mine.
I finished my preparations, facing head on with Gilgamesh as I slowed again. He seemed to tire of waiting for me as I continued to simply avoid him. That was fine; I was running up against my limit soon. If this failed, I would not be able to support my Reality Marble any longer.
Therefore, I reasoned. I should abandon my Reality Marble. Well, the only snag with that idea was that the moment I dismissed Unlimited Blade Works, I would instantly die against this Heroic Spirit.
"—trigger off," I exhaled, my breath steaming and scalding my lips. My body was running hot and I could see from my reflection on the huge sword that my skin was beginning to tan and a fringe of white hair had appeared on my brow.
Annoying, but it couldn't be helped.
A crack spread on the sword, running through the reflection of my face. I had to chuckle; that really represented quite well what I was doing to myself. Still, it had to be done.
The final pair of Overedge wings rested in my hands as I stood straight.
"Let's finish this, Gilgamesh!" I shouted.
"Let's." He agreed with a smile as a thousand portals opened behind him.
I smiled, slightly despairing at his vigor. Gate of Babylon's efficiency was out of this world, really. There was no way I could match him as I was right now.
But that was fine.
I aimed upwards, high above him instead of straight at him.
"RIDE THE LIGHTING!"
If Gilgamesh felt worried about me positioning myself directly above him, high in the heavens, he did not show it. I stood at the top of the sky; higher than I had ever before. Even inside my own world, the air here was thin and I felt faint. Or maybe it was the view; the world seemed so small and so far away, up here.
I angled the sword down, directly at Gilgamesh, leaving me standing as if against a wall and defying gravity. He responded by angling all of his portals to face me. He seemed to enjoy an ending like this. I would crash and burn into him and the fall down from the heavens. He would ascend beyond me, in all ways possible in his victory.
Hell, he had been baiting me to ride into him for a while now, after the first near miss. Now that he knew what to expect, he would no doubt pull out his strongest shields and nullify the impact and then strike me down with ease.
But that was fine. This huge sword was done for, anyway. Its blade and hilt were riddled with black and white swords, cracks running through it and the edge was chipped almost the whole way from near misses. It almost looked like a sawblade, given how dinged the edge was. The crossguards was bent and the pommel was nearly gone, too.
Thanks for holding up so long, I offered the sword a thanks.
Time to finish this.
"RIIIIDE—!" I shouted at the top of my lungs, feeling the burn of my magic circuits as I charged the sword with all of my magical energy.
A broken phantasm was the Emiya calling card, right? Might as well make it a good last one.
Or that was what I wanted him to think. I really needed Gilgamesh to only block this attack and to cover his sight, while keeping the sword relatively intact. If it shattered or exploded, then all those swords embedded in it would get scattered around, after all. And that would be no good.
Lightning crackled, the target was locked and the sword was no longer possible to stop. Gilgamesh smirked, crossing his arms as he looked upwards at me. At this point, our fates were sealed.
But that was where he made his mistake. He called forth his shields, blocking his sight. He had to; reacting to it otherwise, especially with the heavy shields, would be incredibly difficult. He could dodge again, but he wanted this. He wanted me to throw myself against him and to fail as he remained unmoved.
This sword could not punch through his strongest defenses, I knew this even though I had not tested it. Even though they weren't swords, I could tell at just a glance how powerful those things beneath me right now were.
But that was fine. I dispelled the swords holding my feet in place, leaving me in the air supported by nothing for a moment.
The giant ball of lighting shot down like a meteorite, leaving me behind. I was sure that I could even destroy a nuclear bunker with this kind of impact if I turned it into a broken phantasm, given that that thing was essentially a bunker buster of massive proportions. It was a sharp and relatively functional sword, despite being completely ridiculous.
I hung in the air for but an instant, before I began to fall.
Impact; the great sword crashed into the layered shields with a force that caused the air itself to wave outwards in a shockwave.
Turning my body so that I was falling headfirst, I spread my wings and began to angle myself towards Gilgamesh. By turning the swords ever so slightly, I began to spin through the air like a drill. I needed all the momentum I could get.
The sound of the impact almost knocked me unconscious and I was glad that I hadn't decided to try and ride it down. At the point of impact I would have probably exploded into pink mist.
Gilgamesh dispelled his shields and I dispelled the giant sword. After all, it had delivered its payload just fine. Three dozen pairs of Kanshou and Bakuya had been nailed through it and they had all been scattered over his ship now.
He laughed, upon realizing that I wasn't dead yet and that I had jumped off before. That he could still continue to repel all my efforts and that I had not died so ignobly in a suicide attack. His portals corrected themselves towards me. He was going to enjoy watching me fall. Maybe he would deliberately avoid my vitals while keeping me in so much pain that I would simply fall to my death?
Or maybe he would simply run me through and make my blood rain on this dead world.
I was two seconds away from death and we both knew it as our eyes met. He smirked. I smirked. He blinked, slightly confused. It was then he realized what I had done, judging by his eyes shooting wide open as he looked around himself.
At the hundreds of Kanshou and Bakuya closing in on him from all directions in a great spiral. They had been staying in the air, drawing elevation and speed from each other and every new pair I threw into the air, but they had been a chaotic mess they flew everywhere as they spun around without focus.
But that changed as I created a focus; a nexus for them all to home in on. A location where the attraction the swords possessed was at its strongest. It was in the center of them all already before, I had set it up roughly. But now, they were locking on him and Vimana.
Gilgamesh stood in the center of a true storm of blades; a tornado of swords!
I shouted into the wind, knowing no one and nothing could hear me as I readied my swords. After all, he only had one option to survive.
He knew it and I knew it. His armor could perhaps tank one or two of the swords coming in from all directions thrown as they were, but they were honed to a perfect edge. As a consequence they were incredibly brittle and frail, but that was fine for a weapon used only for finishing maneuvers like this. One good strike was all they needed.
Thus, if he tried to weather all of these sword, he would die. Vimana could not resist these swords either and there was nowhere to go. Even if he got rid off all the sword on deck right now, it would not be enough to change all of the incoming swords direction anymore
He could not pull out shields in time; his death stood two seconds away. He only had one option; the flip the table and reset the world. He still had enough time to do it; a simple activation would be enough to shred everything around him and it would extend from there to wipe everything else as well.
The only option I had was to throw away my Reality Marble. So I did.
Gilgamesh, understanding that he had no options, did exactly as I had hoped.
The truth was revealed and my world shattered like a cardboard construct; like all of my glasswork swords did in the real world. My dream was nothing but an illusion, I knew that. But I wouldn't give up on it.
The sword of rupture tore apart all the illusions around it; the barren earth; the burning sky; the restless clouds and the countless swords homing in on him at that moment. Even a hurricane of steel was useless before the sword that parted heaven and earth.
But I wasn't done. I held onto one pair of swords; refusing the world as I clutched onto them even as the truth would have utterly denied them. And they held, because my dream is unbreakable as long as I never lost to myself. The great swirling winds of that sword hid all from sight as the world itself crashed.
Everything broken and everything was remade.
It was only then Gilgamesh, still holding onto that sword, remembered me and looked up.
But it was already too late and he was completely off guard, standing there with Ea in hand.
I slashed at him, imparting all the speed and rotation I had acquired in that instant into those swords. Our eyes might have met for an instant, but then it was gone as I went past him like a shooting star descending from the heavens.
The swords cut through him and his armor as a matter of course, cleaving Vimana in twain as well, I barely noted as I passed by and was sent further tumbling by the explosions that followed. The golden flying vessel of the gods lighting up the sky in a green ball of fire the size of a mountain, high above me.
All I could think as I desperately used my last efforts in projecting a parachute was how ridiculous that was. "Damn Indian nuclear-powered airships. This better not be a health hazard."
Well, at least we were out at sea it seemed like and not above Fuyuki. In fact, I couldn't see Fuyuki anywhere in sight despite still being so far up in the sky. I leisurely scanned the horizon as I floated down before I sighed.
"Damn it, I'm going to have to swim home, aren't I?"