I in no way shape or form own Fate/Stay Night or Overlord ( オーバーロード). They belong to their respective owner. Fate/Stay night is property of Type-Moon, and Overlord ( オーバーロード) belongs to Kugane Maruyama. And I in no shape or form make a profit of writing and publishing this.

I'm starting to remember why I stopped giving out estimations or dates for my chapters. I say I can have it written and out by a certain date or time, and then life happens, and it's delayed for one reason or another.

I really wanted to get it out by New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, if only to celebrate the beginning of a new year with a new chapter to kick it off. Oh well, better late than never.

With that said, thank you, everyone, for all the support, pms, comments, and reviews (both the good and rightfully critical). I know I'm repeating myself, but I am grateful for everything.

I don't have much else to say, other than we're finally here...

As usual, please enjoy the chapter!

Beta'd: Dante Evans

Word Count: 21,028

Chapter 15: The 9th World Champion Tournament V

"Ladies and gentlemen, it is finally time…" Sam's voice echoed through the stadium, capturing the attention of the audience. A sense of anticipation hung in the air as he paused for dramatic effect.

"Welcome to the final match of the 9th World Champion Tournament!"

The audience's cheers and screams roared through the air.

"After a long day of intensive, nail-biting matches, we have finally reached the end. In the beginning, there were one hundred and twenty-eight Players. And now, that number has whittled down until only two remain."


"In one corner, we have a most controversial figure! Love him or hate him, none can deny his strength or his skill. Like his arrows, he has flown straight and true, having flown past all the other contenders. He is set on hitting a bullseye, but will he make this shot? Especially against who he'll be up against?"


"There's only onE WAY TO FIND OUT!" The voices of Sam and Bob overlapped as the cacophony from the stadium reached new heights.

"The enigmatic weapon savant. A jack of all trades and master of all. Welcome your finalist for the 9th World Champion Tournament, The Player Killer; Emiya!"


They entered the arena in perfect sync, greeted by a deafening roar from the frenzied crowd.

For the final match, the organizers were going all out on their special effects.

An array of dazzling spotlights, each one emitting a different hue, illuminated the entire stadium in a mesmerizing display. Amidst the dazzling lights, Shirou and Warrior Takemikazuchi emerged, their every step accentuated by bursts of vibrant fireworks, painting the night sky with a kaleidoscope of colors and sounds.

As the two Players made their way toward the center arena, numerous holographic screens filled the air and accompanied their walk. Each showed different clips and highlights of their various matches throughout the tournament, proudly displaying their strength, skills, and spectacle.

Above the arena, the full tournament bracket began to shrink from the sides as Shirou and Warrior Takemikazuchi's names traveled through the bracket. Starting from the very beginning to the various rounds to the round of sixteen, to the quarter-finals and the semi-finals before stopping at the final bracket as the two stepped foot onto the arena.

Standing on opposite ends, the two guild members faced off against one another as the roar of the crowd surrounded them.

Shirou and Warrior Takemikazuchi, after a rigorous competition, had emerged as the finalists of the highly anticipated 9th World Champion Tournament. All eyes were on them, waiting with bated breath for the highly anticipated showdown that was about to unfold.

Amidst the excitement, all of Ainz Ooal Gown sat comfortably in their seats. Excited chatter spread amongst the guild members as they discussed and placed bets on which of them would emerge victorious.

Momonga slumped in his seat, an audible sigh of relief leaving his skeletal lips.

He'd been a bundle of nerves throughout the tournament. But now, with both members of Ainz Ooal Gown as the tournament's finalists, he could afford to relax.

It didn't matter to him who took home the title of World Champion; in the end, the prize would be theirs.

It would finally be his…

Momonga exhaled softly under his breath. He rested his head on his hand, his index and middle fingers gently massaging his temple.

Even after all their years together, his best friend's fixation regarding the Class Card, the Saber Class Card especially, eluded him. He understood Shirou had a history with them and they undoubtedly held sentimental value beyond their covetous status as a World Item. Yet there was more to it that he wasn't seeing.

Whatever its purpose or significance, he hoped that it would finally relieve his longtime friend of his burden and put it to rest.

But then comes the matter of what comes next…

'After all, where do you go from there once you've finally gotten that which you've been chasing for so long…?'

He felt something lean comfortably against his shoulder. Destana's hand rested on his, interlocking and pulling him back from his musing.

"Everything's alright, sweetie?" Destana asked, gently squeezing his hand.

"I'm fine, dear." Momonga assured. "I'm just thinking."

"Well, don't think too much. We both know how much you like to overthink things." She joked, cracking a small smile. "Everything's fine, so let's stop worrying and enjoy it for what it's worth."

'She's right.' He thought, shaking his head, shaking away the doom and gloom.

Like a switch being flipped, the negative thought disappeared and his mind was abuzz with ideas and planning. Whether it was Shirou or Warrior Takemikazuchi who emerged victorious in the end, he knew that it would be a momentous occasion for Ainz Ooal Gown - a moment that deserved to be celebrated in style. After all, it had been far too long since the guild had been whole again, and he was determined to make the most of it. And nothing, not even his doubts, will ruin it.

Momonga discreetly sent a DM to both Tabula and Punitto Moe to ask for their help in planning the afterparty. He intends to make it worthy of welcoming the new World Champion into their ranks.

At the same time, he made a mental note to gather the inner circle once more once it was all over to chat with Shirou. Less of an intervention and more of a casual check-up between friends. Just to make sure everything was alright.

But until then, he had a greater priority, and that was cheering on the two of them with the others for the exciting match to come.

The Overlord would admit that he wasn't too sure who he'd like to see win and didn't wish to play favorites. In the end, he, like everyone else, would just have to wait and see who would emerge victorious.


"It's a good thing we didn't make an actual bet; otherwise, ol' Touch Me-san would've gone home with the whole pot." Duskindal quipped, earning some amusement from the others.

He stood at the guard rails, leaning and looking down through the glass from above. The other World Champions, minus Luciferno, were up and about, stretching their legs before settling back in for the final match.

"So, who'd you think gonna take home the crown?" LichtKing wondered aloud, looking to the others for their opinion.

As the World Champions eagerly awaited the start of the final match, they were split in their allegiances. LichtKing, Wishful Mercí, and Belladonna were in favor of Shirou winning, while others, such as ShikiHime, Duskindal and Elementum V, had placed their bets on Warrior Takemikazuchi. Luciferno didn't say anything and remained isolated in his little corner; no surprise there. However, the one everyone was most curious to hear from was the Hero of Justice himself, whose silence and neutrality were a source of great curiosity and speculation among the assembled champions.

"Not going to weigh in, Touch Me-san?" Asked Wishful Mercí.

"I don't know." He answered.

"Come on, no need to be shy. Everyone has favorites. Don't worry, we won't kiss and tell." Shikihime playfully elbowed him.

Touch Me chuckled.

"I genuinely do mean it when I say I don't know. When it comes to those two, it's always a coin toss. In the end, it'll be settled with their blades. Like always."

They spared a glance at him. He stood there, exuding an air of confidence mixed with pride. The debate over who would win was rather trivial to him. So long as they had fun and gave it their all, that was all that mattered.

"Still, for a guild to possess two World Champions in their ranks... That's practically unheard of. Quite the fortune for Ainz Ooal Gown." Wishful Mercí commented.

"Indeed. Almost too convenient…" Belladonna muttered.

While she did favor the magus, Belladonna was among those who felt that the match-up was a bit convenient. After all, both the contenders hailed from the same guild. It didn't matter who won; Ainz Ooal Gown would benefit regardless.

Of course, this was merely her personal opinion and feeling, as while many others were disgruntled with the results, the truth spoke for itself.

The two earned their spots, and no amount of gripes and complaints would change that fact.

"That only means that whoever wishes to incur our wrath better be prepared." Touch Me said.

"If any poor sap is stupid enough to go against the 6th most powerful guild in the entire game, then they deserve it." Duskindal remarked.

Touch Me chuckled playfully along.

"While the prospect of becoming a World Champion is no doubt tantalizing, no doubt Takemikazuchi-san's quite happy for the opportunity to settle the score." Said the paladin, catching the attention of the others.

"Score?" Elementum V typed/asked, looking at the paladin with a question mark emoticon.

"Both Emiya-san and Takemikazuchi-san practice and duel each other often. They're always trying to improve, Takemikazuchi-san especially. They developed quite the rivalry, and that translated to matches and duels where they're always trying to one-up one another."

"Really, what's the score then?" LichtKing asked, getting back to his seat.

"Tied, 386 to 386. And that's not counting all the other random matches where it ended in a draw or something else." Touch Me revealed. "However, Takemikazuchi-san won their last two bouts in a row, tying up the score."

"Huh, so this'll be the tiebreaker." ShikiHime commented.

"And what a tiebreaker it'll be." Elementum V typed and added, followed by an emoticon with a wide smile and two hands rubbing together to show that he was excited for the match-up to play out.


Both guild members stood in the arena a far distance apart from one another, silent, even as the world roared around them.

Even amongst the sea of voices, Shirou believed he could hear the voices of his friends clearly amongst them all. They were cheering them on equally, urging them to do their best.

Warrior Takemikazuchi has been oddly silent since he arrived in the arena, standing there almost as still as a statue.

He expected the Bujin to open up with a starter or engage in some playful banter and trash talk. Instead, he kept to himself, and it seemed as if he was keeping it that way.

A worried frown came to Shirou's lips. Not too long ago, he remained boisterous as ever as his semi-final match wrapped up and they moved on to the finals.

Just as he opened his mouth to speak up, the unmoving samurai spoke up.

"You know, I was wondering when I would get the chance to show it off." Warrior Takemikazuchi said suddenly, drawing the attention of all.

"But I cannot think of a more suitable time and place to unveil it at last…"

Many, including Shirou, were curious as to what his words meant and what he intended to do next.

He drew his Takemikazuchi MK 7 and held it aloft, his other hand gently running across the katana's polished surface with tender care and reverence.

"You have served me long and well, but it is time." He spoke clearly for all to hear, his voice filled with solemnity and pride.

Suddenly, and to the surprise of everyone, he threw his prized sword into the air. Shirou tracked it as Takemikazuchi MK 7 rose and then fell.

At the same time, his hand shot out, reaching into a small, black void, and he pulled out a long, sheathed sword.

Grasping the handle, and with a flourish, he unsheathed the sword and held it with both hands as Takemikazuchi MK 7 fell in front of him.

With a single, swift downward swing, his mighty Divine class sword shattered into countless shards and polygons.

He pointed the blade at Shirou, the air crackling and thrumming with arcs of electricity. A brilliant shine ran down the blade's excellent edge.

"Behold, my latest and greatest work, and the instrument of your defeat! I present to you my Takemikazuchi MK 8!" Warrior Takemikazuchi declared, at the same time the name echoed in his mind, Unlimited Blade Works grasping and categorizing the weapon the moment his heterochromatic eyes fell upon it.

Unlike all of his previous iterations for his mainstay series of weapons, the Takemikazuchi, which were all katanas, the Mark 8 was fashioned as an ōdachi with a long handle and an impressively longer blade. The weapon was wreathed in a constant surge of electricity and golden sparks.

Thanks to Unlimited Blade Works, its history was displayed to the magus. Unlike all those that came before it, where Warrior Takemikazuchi created them to contend and beat Touch Me, Takemikazuchi MK 8 was designed entirely around the magus. Every aspect of its creation, from its conception to its strength, was tailored specifically to accomplish a single objective: to defeat him.

For months, with unwavering focus and unbridled passion, he toiled away, devoting himself to crafting the perfect weapon. He sought help from the likes of Amanomahitotsu and Nishikienrai, swearing them to secrecy to prevent even so much as a whisper of it reaching his ear. It was finished only recently, and Warrior Takemikazuchi was waiting for the perfect opportunity to show it off.

And what better opportunity was there than the final match of the World Champion Tournament for all of the world to bear witness to? He had waited patiently and eagerly, using his one substitution to bring out Takemikazuchi MK 8.

Shirou could instantly tell that the weapon was peerless. Its splendor and strength could almost rival those of some of his Noble Phantasms stored within Unlimited Blade Works. An incredible accomplishment considering it was a weapon forged by mortal hands and lacked any extraordinary achievements or valorous history to boast of.

The only other weapon that came to mind that could rival it would be the God Slaying Emperor Blade, which was a joint project between himself, Warrior Takemikazuchi, and Amanomahitotsu.

For a few seconds, Shirou didn't know what to say, unable to take his eyes off the ōdachi.

"I'm honored." He said. "Although, I can't help but feel concerned."

"Oh? And why's that?" The Heteromorph planted Takemikazuchi MK 8 against the ground, both his hands resting on the pommel.

"Don't you know, Takemikazuchi-san, that it's a sign of bad luck to have a newly crafted weapon be destroyed in its first engagement?" He said. "And what a shame it'll be, especially for everyone to see." The magus ruefully shook his head, as if mournful for what he was about to do.

The Bujin chuckled.

"Is that so?"

A hand rose, stroking his chin idly as he nodded his head as if imparted with some great knowledge.

"I'd like to see you try." Warrior Takemikazuchi answered with a sharp smirk.

"It'd be my pleasure." Shirou returned his own grin.

"It seems that both Players are ready."


Light bloomed from the stage once more, transporting the finalists to the battlefield that awaited them.


In a blink and a flash, they arrived.

The first thing Shirou felt was the present, gentle breeze.

The two stood on a flat platform on opposite sides near the ledges, the distance separating them being only several meters. The ground beneath them was firm, with patches of grass sprouting here and there, their tips swaying gently in the breeze. The design and pattern of the floor seemed to be a remnant of a once-grand walkway, now a mere fragment that had floated off to become its own little island.

Across the horizon, the backdrop of a warm, radiant sun shines brilliantly across the expansive sky. Fluffy white clouds scattered across the sky, creating a canvas of ever-changing shapes and shades.

As far as the eye could see, the panoramic view was dotted with numerous and seemingly identical floating island-platforms that stretched out in every direction - above, below, and all around. They varied in length and size but remained large enough to accommodate a fight. While some of these platforms carried the remnants of ancient ruins and broken architecture, others seemed to be completely untouched by the passage of time. It was almost as if they were all once part of a greater whole, before being shattered and raised high into the skies above.

Shirou sneaked a glance down from the edge of the ledge, finding only more floating island platforms, and a thick blanket of cloud that stretched out way below them made it impossible to see anything past it.

One could only hazard a guess at just how high up they were, and all it would take was one misplaced fall to send them plummeting to their deaths.

This would be their final destination.

A duel timer appeared and counted down from ten.


Warrior Takemikazuchi wielded his Takemikazuchi MK 8 in the stance of the Ko-gasumi No Kamae.


Kanshou and Bakuya appeared in Shirou's hands, raising the married blades in his stance.


Everyone, from the audience watching in the stadium to those watching the broadcast, made themselves comfortable, their eyes glued to the screen for what was to come.


All of Ainz Ooal Gown was excited.

Bets were placed, sides were taken, and cheers were heard. Win or lose, they knew that the two guild members would give a fight worth remembering.


The World Champions sat attentively in their seats, curious and eager for the fight to come and awaiting to see who would emerge victorious to be welcomed in as their new brethren.


"May the best man win." Touch Me muttered, wishing the both of them luck.


"I, Shirou Emiya, issue my challenge." The magus announced.

Each of their official duels would begin like this, with the loser of the previous match being the one to issue the challenge next time.

It was nothing too serious that it would warrant being called a requirement, and it was more of a playful formality that persisted between them.


"I, Warrior Takemikazuchi, happily accept." Said the Bujin.


"Let our blades determine who is truly the strongest!" The two said in unison.


The timer hit zero, and with a loud buzz, the final match of the 9th World Champion Tournament began!

Shirou dashed forward with great speed. Warrior Takemikazuchi stood his ground.

As the two met, they swung.

The sound of shattering steel reverberated among the clouds.

Kanshou and Takemikazuchi MK 8 clashed, but only the latter remained.

Shirou's speed allowed him to outpace Warrior Takemikazuchi's continuing swing. The sword's sharp blade sliced through the air, creating a haunting melody that sang throughout the battlefield.

Behind him, the magus swung around with Bakuya.

The Nephilim samurai did the same, twisting his body and bringing around his ōdachi.

Another clash and Takemikazuchi MK 8 emerged victorious yet again.

Shirou's eyes fell onto the shattered married blades.

Only two clashes, but it was abundantly clear which was superior.

When pitted against Takemikazuchi MK 7, Kanshou and Bukuya were able to withstand two to three blows with the help of [Reinforcement]. Yet, Takemikazuchi MK 8 shattered them with almost effortless grace.

He jumped back to dodge Warrior Takemikazuchi's follow-up, a fresh pair replacing his previous.

A brief stillness followed the first exchange, both swordsmen eying the other before the sound of clashing steel resumed.

With the audience, many were excited to see how the final matchup played out. But as the fight progressed, something quickly became apparent. Specifically, they were not employing any skills, showcasing only their swordsmanship.

Much of the excitement dipped as the crowd clamored to see some real action.


"Both Players have shown remarkable skill, but it's a deadlock. Emiya cannot seem to bypass Warrior Takemikazuchi's defense and stance, while Warrior Takemikazuchi is unable to reach Emiya thanks to his speed and endless supply of swords." Came the analysis from Sam.


Instead of his usual modus operandi of forcing an engagement and keeping on the offensive, Warrior Takemikazuchi stood and waited. He had barely moved from his spot at all, meeting each of Shirou's rushes head-on and winning every clash.

With his stance and guard, Warrior Takemikazuchi was like an iron wall. One that the magus found no opening to exploit.

Already, he had gone through over a dozen pairs of Kanshou and Bakuya. While they were easy and inexpensive to trace, Shirou knew he couldn't afford to waste his prana continuously.

He needed to break the stalemate, and he had just the idea.

'What are you up to this time?' Warrior Takemikazuchi thought, catching Shirou's expression.

The magus jumped back several paces, putting distance between them.

Shirou threw Kanshou and Bakuya, dashing forward immediately with a powerful kick, as a new pair replaced them.

Warrior Takemikazuchi didn't react.

For a second, it seemed as if they would reach him, only to land half a meter in front of him, stabbing the ground.

The married blades exploded, kicking up a cloud of smoke and dust.

Again, he didn't react.

After all, he'd seen this maneuver before.

From his left and right side, something emerged from the haze, shrouded in the smoky veil.

He swung, catching both of them with a single horizontal swing. The smoke parted, revealing the shattered forms of Kanshou and Bakuya.

Immediately after, two more trails appeared from the smoke, one from above and one from below.

In an instant, Warrior Takemikazuchi swung again, bringing down Takemikazuchi MK 8 and destroying another pair of the married blades with one swing.

Warrior Takemikazuchi remembered the first time he faced off against this. In its original showcase, the pair of Noble Phantasms Shirou threw detonated to form a smokescreen. The samurai was instantly on guard, deducing that he'd used it as cover. From one of his sides, something emerged and he preemptively struck it. What he had attacked was one-half of the married blade. Shirou has used it as a feint, slipping in from the other side to strike at the samurai's unprotected side.

Over the years, he'd seen Shirou use the same maneuver a handful of times, each time with some variations added.

And that was why he knew with confidence exactly where he was coming from next.

'The sides, and then above and below... That leaves behind…' He thought as another pair flew in from the rear.

He swung around, catching the third pair like the others.


His swing continued, following through as he swung to his side at seemingly nothing. Only for Shirou to appear, directly in the blade's path.

'That's what you'd want me to think!'

Shirou ran around the outskirts of the smoke, using the smokescreen alongside the three thrown pairs as multilayered feints to misdirect his focus and allow him to attack the side of Takemikazuchi's open flank. A decision his guildmate saw right through, having parsed his opponent's intentions.

Shirou swung with both Kanshou and Bakuya, and again, they fell to Takemikazuchi MK 8's strength.

Warrior Takemikazuchi's leg shot out, stomping on one of Shirou's feet, preventing him from backing away.

"Got'cha!" He crowed, bringing his blade down.

With such proximity, it would be impossible for the magus to defend or recover against the swing.

However, what happened next surprised even him.

Just as the blade reached Shirou, both his hands shot out and clasped the blade from both sides, halting it between his palms.

His face was strained with the effort of holding back the lethal strike.

'A Shinken Shirahadori!' Warrior Takemikazuchi recognized, surprised but also amazed.

The fact that he was able to catch his slash was impressive. However, with Warrior Takemikazuchi's larger frame and superior strength, Shirou wouldn't be able to hold him back for long.

But then again, he knew that from the very beginning.

Warrior Takemikazuchi pressed on, practically making Shirou bend backward as he struggled to hold him back.

'Just a bit more...!'

Just then, his ears twitched, catching a familiar sound. From his periphery, something flew from the fading cloud of smoke, arcing past his vision.

The Bujin's focus was instantly split between finishing his swing or defending against the incoming threat.

He had only a split second to decide as they closed in.

In the end, Warrior Takemikazuchi pulled back his blade and kicked Shirou back, prioritizing the new, immediate threat.

He quickly swung around, destroying all three of the incoming swords.

'Wait… three…?' His eyes widened.

They always came in pairs, this he knew.

That meant…

The lone remaining Kanshou appeared, spinning through the air well after the others. It flew past him, curving behind him within his unprotected blind spot. Exactly where Shirou was waiting, flying right into his awaiting hand.

Warrior Takemikazuchi hastily pivoted, his body twisting as he brought Takemikazuchi MK 8 around.

They swung, Warrior Takemikazuchi with a diagonal downward slash and Shirou with a diagonal upward slash.

Due to his haste and Shirou angling his body at the last second, Warrior Takemikazuchi's slash missed him by a hair's breadth. Unfortunately for the samurai, he wasn't as lucky.

The two immediately jumped back.

Warrior Takemikazuchi glanced down, a hand coming up to his chest over the shallow cut that stretched diagonally across his chest plate.

First blood went to Shirou.

"Damn…" He muttered. "`Thought I finally had ya' there for a second."

"I won't lie, it was close." Shirou hummed. "That blade of yours is truly something." He said, eyeing Takemikazuchi MK 8 appraisingly.

Warrior Takemikazuchi laughed boisterously.

"We worked on this baby for months! It'd better be, or else I'll be having some words with them."

The two friends shared a brief laugh.

The relaxed mood would not last.

"Well, what'd you say we get this show on the road?" Warrior Takemikazuchi's grip tightened, raising his blade in a stance.

Shirou's smile remained, but it was tight, his eyes narrowing with a competitive glint.

Warrior Takemikazuchi dashed forward.

Shirou stomped the ground, prana flowing from his leg into the ground as large blades sprouted from below.


Warrior Takemikazuchi swung, slicing through them with impeccable ease. Shirou immediately jumped back, dodging the samurai's slashes.

"[Trace Bullet]!"

"[Violent Flash]!"

Lighting danced along the ōdachi's blade. Like with everything else, he sliced through Shirou's projection effortlessly. However, that wasn't all, as instead of detonating, they dissipated into motes of light. No different from if they were to break or be dismissed by the magus.

'Takemikazuchi-san wasn't kidding.' His eyes narrowed.

Credit where credit was due, they'd outdone themselves in creating Takemikazuchi MK 8, making it more than just stronger or sharper than its predecessor. However, its true specialty lies in its ability to 'sever'.

Shirou's [Trace Bullet] were simple projections, swords typically, which had been filled with prana to the point of 'cracking'. Their explosive power comes from the 'reaction' of the prana going off.

What made Takemikazuchi MK 8 truly dangerous wasn't simply its strength and incredible sharpness but rather the ability to 'sever' the volatile prana of the Broken Noble Phantasm, in a manner of speaking, preventing the 'reaction' from going off. It was kitted solely around dealing with the magus's Noble Phantasms.

If one were to categorize it in terms of a Noble Phantasm, then Takemikazuchi MK 8 would be considered an Anti-Shirou Noble Phantasm.

A direct confrontation with Warrior Takemikazuchi would only play in his favor.

In that case…

Kanshou and Bakuya Alternative appeared in his hands. He began firing while running backward, retreating to put some measure of distance between them.

Warrior Takemikazuchi gave chase, ignoring the bullets as they pinged and bounced against his heavy armor.

Reaching the end, Shirou jumped off and disappeared over the ledge.

Seeing this, Warrior Takemikazuchi ran to the edge and peered over. The open skies and floating island-platforms filled his view, but there was no sign of his foe.

'Where'd he go?'

He caught a sound — a line being reeled in. It was coming from below him, and then, from behind?

Warrior Takemikazuchi whipped around as Shirou appeared from the other side of the ledge, swinging upward.

When he jumped off, he traced his hookshot gauntlet and hooked onto the rocky bottom of the platform. Using his fall, he swung around to the other side with his shot ready.

Firing a charged shot from Kanshou Alternative, the armored Heteromorph staggered back from the clean headshot.

"Ahh! S-shi–shit!" He cursed, his body tilting and flailing.

His left leg stepped back onto nothing, forcing him to balance himself precariously with his right leg as his arms spun and wobbled about trying to maintain his fragile balance. For a second, it looked like he was going to fall over.

"Safe!" He exclaimed in relief, regaining his footing at the last second.

A victory that lasted for but half a second before Shirou's boot smacked him right in the face, punting him off the edge.

Warrior Takemikazuchi fell and landed on his back on another island-platform, nearly rolling off the side before catching himself.

He shook his head, looking back up to see Shirou with Kanshou and Bakuya Alternative in their bow form and several arrows notched.

He loosed them, their forms turning Gandr-like shots that flew toward the samurai.

Warrior Takemikazuchi immediately readied his swing to intercept, only for the arrows to strike around him rather than at him. They exploded, with cracks spreading across the platform.

The ground beneath him tumbled and gave way.

"[Flash Step]!"

Using the fragmented ground he was still standing on as a springboard, he kicked off of it, blinking forward thanks to his skill. He landed safely on another platform.

Warrior Takemikazuchi was instantly on the move as more arrows fell upon him. It didn't stop there, as Shirou's projection filled the air, flying in tandem with his arrows. He destroyed the floating islands both around and ahead of him, reducing his path little by little.

'He's trying to make me fall to my death.' He quickly realized Shirou's aim.

It was cheap, but clever.

"Ya' know, if I didn't know any better, I'd think you're afraid to take me on mano-e-mano!" Warrior Takemikazuchi shouted.

His taunt didn't so much as earn a twitch from Shirou's stone-faced expression, who continued firing upon him.

Warrior Takemikazuchi skidded to a stop as a wide gap lay in front of him, courtesy of Shirou destroying all the island-platforms ahead of him. His head swiveled around, looking for any alternative paths. Unfortunately, any nearby island-platforms were either destroyed or too far away from him to reach.

A surge of prana flowed as Caladbolg II appeared in his hand.

With nowhere left to run, Shirou readied Caladbolg II as Warrior Takemikazuchi turned around to face him.

'Alright then. Two can play at that game!'

Shirou watched, his eyes narrowing. It looked as if Warrior Takemikazuchi was planning on facing Caladbolg II head-on.

Given who he was going up against, that didn't surprise him. However, not even his Takemikazuchi MK 8 could take on the false spiral sword in a direct match.

"[Kamikaze: Divine Wind]!"

Warrior Takemikazuchi swung his blade, unleashing a fast and wide air slash that cut through the air. It sliced through everything in its path, which included the island-platform that the magus stood on.

Shirou clicked his tongue, jumping off and landing on a lower, adjacent platform to avoid plummeting.

He quickly recovered, notching Caladbolg II back once more and taking aim. Even if Caladbolg II wasn't fully charged, the spiral Noble Phantasm was more than enough to send the samurai to his imminent demise.

There was only one problem with that: Warrior Takemikazuchi was no longer there.

Shirou's eyes widened.

He searched, finding Warrior Takemikazuchi standing on another island-platform within a cluster of them on the other side much closer to him.

'How?' Was the question that rang inside his head. How did he reposition himself over there and so quickly at that?

Unfortunately, he wouldn't have time to wonder as he readjusted his aim, more slashes flew in his direction as the samurai copied his friend's strategy.

Shirou ran, jumping from one stage to another, with Warrior Takemikazuchi following suit. They ran practically parallel to one another, both launching ranged attacks to gain an advantage over the other.

Notching back Caladbolg II, he attempted to aim as he ran.

Seeing this, Warrior Takemikazuchi swiftly reacted.

"[Swift Gale], [Supiasurīarō: Spear Three Arrow]!"

Warrior Takemikazuchi swung, sending a fast vacuum blade that sliced apart the platforms in front of Shirou, forcing him to halt. At the same time, his spectral arrows targeted the islands above him, raining down debris.

Shirou jumped to the side, avoiding the falling rubble and cloud of dust.

He looked back, notching Caladbolg II once more, to find Warrior Takemikazuchi had disappeared yet again.

'Where is he now?' Shirou searched for him, but he was nowhere in his line of sight.

Suddenly, he felt a rush of wind behind him and the ground beneath him lurch before the island-platform split apart and fell, having been cut in half.


Standing far below him was Warrior Takemikazuchi.

However, even while falling upside down, it did little to hinder the archer as he took aim and drew back his bowstring.

"My core is..." He incanted, streaks of prana flowing forth from the helical arrow.

"[Flowing Spirit], [Mountain Leap]!" Warrior Takemikazuchi bent his legs as his body glowed from the activation of his skills.

With a powerful jump, he leaped towards the magus.

However, it wouldn't be enough to reach him.


"[Wings of Icarus]!"

Suddenly, great wings sprouted from his back, propelling Warrior Takemikazuchi toward Shirou at greater speed.

Just as Shirou was about to release his arrow, the Heteromorph intercepted and tackled him mid-air. The two spun as they struggled and grappled with each other.

'The [Wings of Icarus]!' Shirou recognized. The ability belonged to a ring that allowed the users to conjure wings, granting them increased mobility and brief flight. That was how he was able to relocate so far and quickly, by using it in combination with his movement skills.

'He must've swapped out one of his usual rings for it before the tournament.' The magus reckoned, having not seen it being used once throughout the entire tournament. 'He kept it hidden entirely for our match…'

The two Players crashed onto another island-stage, tumbling. Amid their roll, Warrior Takemikazuchi managed to gain the upper hand, swiftly grabbing onto the magus's arm in a vice grip. Recovering first, he swung Shirou around, using his momentum to throw him against a broken wall.

Shirou slammed into the wall. He coughed, spittle spitting from his mouth.

Shirou hastily rolled the side, dodging Warrior Takemikazuchi's downward swing as he split the wall.

He backed up, trying to put some distance between them to recover.

"Oh no, you don't. [Thrust]!"

Warrior Takemikazuchi lunged.

Shirou dodged, but thanks to Takemikazuchi MK 8's long reach, it wounded him in the shoulder. Golden electricity flowed from the ōdachi, numbing his entire right arm.

Shirou faltered for a split second, allowing Warrior Takemikazuchi to press the advantage.

The magus was forced to use Caladbolg II to defend, all the good that did as he fell onto his back, lightning shocking and numbing his body.

He quickly rolled to the side and off it to avoid Warrior Takemikazuchi's downward slash, which threatened to decapitate him.

He fell, hitting a lower platform with a less-than-graceful landing. Rolling, he quickly ran.

Standing at the ledge from above, Warrior Takemikazuchi tossed his blade up slightly, catching it in a reverse grip.

"Hey!" He called out, rearing his arm back. "Catch!"

He hurled Takemikazuchi MK 8 at Shirou.

Shirou skidded to a sudden stop. The Divine class blade landed ahead of him, stabbing the ground. Had he not halted in time, the blade would have surely impaled him.

A shout ripped through the air as Warrior Takemikazuchi jumped, falling towards him with his fist clenched and ready.

Shirou brought up both his arms to defend, [Reinforcement] streaking across his limbs.

His arms shook as he defended, his body skidding backward from the heavy blow.


Warrior Takemikazuchi thrusts his arms forward. The Dispenser of Heavenly Nectar, Gundari Myo-O, released a serpent from his hand. It slithered through the air, coiling around the magus and constricting him.

He rushed in, grabbing his Takemikazuchi MK 8 while his opponent was held in place.

"[Trace Bullet]!"


He readied his skill against Shirou's volley.

Just before they reached him, the projections detonated prematurely, well before he had a chance to swing his blade. While the damage was far weaker than it was normally, he was still caught in the blast of the explosions.

Warrior Takemikazuchi's HP dropped, but that wouldn't be enough to deter him or halt his charge.

He swung, his sword slicing through the veil of smoke.

A metallic shriek pierced the air.

The smoke parted, revealing a thick, towering shield colored in a vibrant shade of hot pink. Tall enough that it obstructed even the wielder from the samurai's sight.

Despite the deep scar that stretched across the shield's surface, it remained steadfast and unyielding.

'Bukubukuchagama-san's [Stalwart Argus].' He instantly recognized the pink Elder Slime's signature shield.


Empowered by the skill, he swung Takemikazuchi MK 8 at lightning speed, slicing through the sturdy tower shield like a hot knife through butter. The upper half flew off.

Warrior Takemikazuchi saw no sign of Shirou behind it, deducing that he must've broken free of his constraint and ran to gain some distance.

Just then, Shirou popped around from behind the lower half of the shield, having used it as an impromptu cover to launch his surprise attack.

The samurai swung Takemikazuchi MK 8 down out of instinct.

A click was heard, and then a resounding bang, followed swiftly by the screech of clashing lightning.

For the first time in the match, Warrior Takemikazuchi was forced back, something he had not anticipated. Steam hissed from the slash mark that ran down his side, his HP dropping a fraction.

In Shirou's hand were a familiar trigger sheath and crimson katana.

'Deus Machina-san's HF blade!' He thought. 'He used the explosive quick-draw to beat my swing…'

He grinned.

"That's more like it!"

They met, and their blades danced.


Momonga sat at the edge of his seat, his crimson orbs glued to the holographic screens. The intense battle between the two finalists had everyone in Ainz Ooal Gown captivated, cheering them on with endless enthusiasm. It was a fun conundrum — rooting for one while exclaiming and watching out for the other. The support for either of them flipped back and forth with every second as the two finalists duked it out.

While many of them remained neutral, Momonga included, others, such as the likes of Peroroncino, Bukubukuchagama, and Bellriver, were actively rooting for Shirou to triumph, while the likes of Ulbert, Nishikienrai, and Amanomahitotsu were shouting their encouragement for Warrior Takemikazuchi to take home the prize.

Out of the corner of his eyes, Momonga noticed something. Destana was oddly quiet, a contrast to the normally rambunctious excitement that she'd shown throughout the tournament. Although her avatar's expression remained unchanging, he could easily tell that his girlfriend was pensive.

"Is something wrong?" Momonga gently nudged her with his elbow, jolting her from her thoughts.

"Huh? No, not really…" She muttered. "Just a bit surprised, is all."

"About what?"

Destana didn't say anything immediately, a finger scratching at her cheek almost sheepishly.

"It's just, kind of... Well, I guess I'm surprised that Warrior Takemikazuchi-san is able to keep up with Emiya-san." She admitted. "Since, well, he can do a bunch of 'swish' or 'shing!' and 'kaboom!' and 'pew!' Y'know?"

Momonga was confused by her statement, but found her hand gesture to mimic the weapons or action, alongside the onomatopoeia of the sounds to be cute.

It took him a moment before he realized what she exactly meant.

Momonga glanced back at the holographic screen. Shirou had just projected Bukubukchagama's shield, crouching low in wait for his opponent, his hand resting on the handle of the HF katana and a finger on the trigger.

The two Players clashed, and from there, the two dueled.

Though she was part of the guild, that didn't necessarily mean she had a complete understanding of the history of the two guild members, especially concerning the Fake Player. From an outsider's perspective, Shirou's multifaceted build seemed unbelievable and unstoppable. Moreover, his abilities had accumulated quite a notoriety over the years, making it a challenge to distinguish between fact and fiction. The tournament was a testament to some of the exaggerated rumors regarding the magus's abilities, which were proven true.

If one were to go off on the rumors and hearsay, coupled with the faker's versatile playstyle and unique Noble Phantasms showcased throughout the tournament, which contrasted with Warrior Takemikazuchi's straightforward, but audacious and adventurous plays, the assumption that Shirou would hold the advantage handily was far from unreasonable. A bias that he didn't fault her on.

"Is that sword of his really giving Emiya-san that much trouble?" Destana wondered aloud.

Back when Warrior Takemikazuchi first revealed Takemikazuchi MK 8 and made his bold declaration, she first thought of it as nothing more than a cheeky, prideful boast between friends. Yet, seeing it in action, it was clear that it was living up to his promise.

A soft, amused chuckle left Momonga's skinless lips.

"That's certainly a factor, but that's not all." He said. "Would it surprise you to learn that between Takemikazuchi-san and Emiya-san, the former has a higher win percentage over the latter?"

"Really?" She sat up straighter in her seat, her attention divided between the match and her boyfriend.

"Indeed." He nodded.

Touch Me, Warrior Takemikazuchi, and Shirou — it went without saying that those three were the greatest warrior-type Players within all of Ainz Ooal Gown. Nishikienrai was a close contender, but his specialties lie in stealth and assassination rather than physical combat.

Touch Me was renowned for his staunch defense, combined with unparalleled skill and strength that befitted his title as a World Champion. His mastery of counter-combat allowed him to withstand even the most powerful attacks while dishing out equally devastating blows. This harmonious fusion of offense and defense made him a force to be reckoned with.

Where Touch Me's style had a distinct focus on defense while maintaining an offensive front, Warrior Takemikazuchi was the complete opposite. His style of fighting focuses solely on overwhelming force.

The Heteromorphic samurai was well-reputed for blitzing down his opponents, even at a reckless pace. This method of combat was characterized by its aggressive pace, overpowering his opponents with sheer force and skill, leaving no room for his foes to mount a defense or launch a counterattack against his relentless onslaught. His proficiency with the blade rivaled that of Touch Me's and even surpassed the World Champion when it comes to DPS in a few areas.

Lastly, there was Shirou. Where the other two had their own defined form of fighting, the magus favored adaptability above the rest. The sword-spamming Player was the most diverse and dynamic, allowing him to change and adapt his strategies depending on the situation. This fluidity gave him an unparalleled level of unpredictability that made him a terror on the battlefield, as he wasn't limited to just one play style.

"You can almost think of it like a rock paper scissor scenario." He drew a comparison after giving a brief rundown on each of the Players.

Touch Me was the rock; Shirou was the paper; and Warrior Takemikazuchi was the scissors.

It was a vast simplification, in Momonga's opinion, but the analogy was apropos in his mind.

Objectively, all three were relatively equal, with each possessing unique and differing specs and advantages in different areas in comparison to one another.

But when it came to the Fake Player and the Bujin, it was less of a matter of statistics or percentages and more of a coin toss.

The two guildmates have fought together and against one another throughout the years, and they've traded tips and insight far more than either of them could recount. The two were intimately familiar with each other's strengths and weaknesses, and they knew exactly how to exploit or counter them.

And it was this familiarity that allowed the samurai to find the subtle chink in the armor that was the magus's formless fighting style.

The magus was unparalleled in versatility, that was undoubtedly true, but that very strength was a weakness in itself. The gap that existed between his mind grasping the appropriate weapon for a situation among countless, consciously bringing it into reality, and then adapting himself to better utilize the new armament was not an instantaneous process.

In that break in the flow, in that infinitesimal interval, he was compromised, his stance void to preemptively adapt into one more suited for his next weapon.

This was where the Bujin's hyper-aggressive play style excelled, by disrupting that infinitesimal interim to create an opening and capitalize on it. By preventing the set-up, he stops the virtual magus from following through with his moves.

After all, no attack was a threat to him if it wasn't allowed time or was stopped from being one.

'Takemikazuchi-san practically has all his bases covered...' Momonga quickly realized.

With Takemikazuchi MK 8, the samurai had an efficient counter against the magus's usual tactic of firing [Trace Bullet] or detonating his projections to deal massive damage. Even if Shirou were to try and trace his heavy hitters, Warrior Takemikazuchi would immediately rush to neutralize them before he could use them, putting Shirou in a more precarious position than if he hadn't. And as shown with Caladbolg II, he was well aware and vigilant of them, and no doubt had countermeasures in place. This effectively locked Shirou down and made him rely on quicker, but simpler Noble Phantasms to bridge the gap, of which, the Divine class ōdachi would make short work of them.

Furthermore, the locale of the battlefield favored Warrior Takemikazuchi more than it did Shirou, as the close-quarter nature of the floating stages allowed the samurai's specialty to shine.

It was evident that Warrior Takemikazuchi had been planning this for a long time. Every aspect, from his Takemikazuchi MK 8, the finely-tuned strategy, and his fully committed blitz, had been all for this moment - this match. And like the first blooms of a long-awaited harvest, it was time for the Nephilim to reap the fruits of his labor.

'But he's only able to do that by committing to a sustained rush.' Momonga mused.

Warrior Takemikazuchi favored high burst-DPS rush over sustain-DPS, and for him to commit to the latter so heavily spoke of the effort and perseverance needed for him to keep up the pressure on the magus.

The samurai couldn't afford to give Shirou even a chance to recover.

All of Ainz Ooal Gown and Warrior Takemikazuchi, especially, have seen the Fake Player's incredible ability to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat with a single decisive move countless times. That was all it took - a single instant - to turn the tide. Therefore, the only way to prevent him from reaching that moment was to ensure that Shirou was not allowed a chance to do so.

"So how can Emiya-san turn it around?" Destana wondered.

As Momonga opened his mouth, the crowd around him rustled. Gasps and other noises filled the stadium, particularly those from the members of Ainz Ooal Gown, capturing the Guildmaster's attention.

The couples snapped their heads back to the front, returning to the fight and action as their eyes widened at the sudden development.


Lightning crackled as two lightning-charged blades clashed.

The magus's dichromatic eyes fell onto the HF blade, noting the chipped edge and surface riddled with tiny cracks. [Reinforcement] and [Alteration] helped to fix it, but it was merely a stopgap, as he'd been doing so numerous times throughout their exchange. It was made abundantly clear again which weapon was superior.

Rather than keeping up the pressure, Shirou allowed Warrior Takemikazuchi to win the struggle, backstepping back while pulling back the crimson katana.

Locking in his stance, he quickly sheathed the blade, his finger already on the trigger.

"[Trigger Draw: Jetstream]!"

"[Relentless Spirit], [Indomitable], [Raikiri: Lightning Cutter]!"

With a loud bang, Shirou channeled the powerful, explosive quick-draw into his swing.

Simultaneously, Warrior Takemikazuchi's body glowed and a brilliant aura of purple lightning enveloped Takemikazuchi MK 8's blade, imbuing it with power.

However, instead of retaliating with a counter-attack to match his opponent's slash, Warrior Takemikazuchi gripped his ōdachi tightly with both hands and held it in waiting.

Shirou's HF blade collided with Takemikazuchi MK 8, sending a shower of sparks flying in all directions.

Warrior Takemikazuchi, in a surprising move, held his ground, using his skills defensively to guard against the attack. The samurai skidded backward, weathering the quick-draw slash.

The Humanoid Player attempted to back up, but the Nephilim samurai was quicker to react.

Warrior Takemikazuchi swung Takemikazuchi MK 8 horizontally and slashed against the ground at an angle, firing a scattering of rubble at the retreating magus.

Shirou swung, slicing as much as he could. Reinforcement glowed brightly as he knew that he wouldn't be able to destroy all the incoming debris.

Shirou winced at some of the larger pieces.

One in particular flew past his guard, hitting him in the head right over his right eyebrow.

He hissed, reeling as his vision faltered for a split second.

Warrior Takemikazuchi rushed in, putting him on the back foot.

The Bujin's sword swung wide and heavy, making each slash a powerful blow that left the virtual magus staggering with every swing. Cracks spread across the crimson katana with every hit as he defended and fought to keep up with the relentless attacks.

Shirou swung for an attack but was parried.


Warrior Takemikazuchi's blade flashed downward, its lightning-infused strike faster than ever. Too strong to block and too quick to deflect, it barreled into Shirou's shoulder, digging deep into his shoulder blade and flesh.

Wild electricity ran rampant, shocking his insides, and, as his HP plummeted into yellow, his throat spasmed, forcing a guttural roar of pain that he'd tried to quiet.

Warrior Takemikazuchi's body stilled, a renewed swing halting midway, stalled by the unexpected sound that made his heart hurt and his body tremble. Sadly, he wasn't allowed to focus much more on said feelings, as a barrage of [Trace Bullet] found its way into his chest, knocking him away from his wounded friend.

Years of practice had him roll with the attack, his tumble turning into a roll and finally a kneeling stance, his sword at his side, ready for further action, but when nothing else came his way, he allowed himself some words.

"H-hey, you alright, man?" He was surprised by the tremble in his words, but he ignored it in favor of his friend's pain.

Much like himself, his opponent was also kneeling, but while he was voluntary, he didn't think Shirou was in the same boat. Not with the shaking his eyes caught, likely the result of the residue electric attack, if the sparks that occasionally seemingly spawn from nowhere were anything to go by.

"I'll... live..." The words came out gruffer than expected, but it was the best that he could do, even as he staggered into a standing position to match Warrior Takemikazuchi's own rising frame.

A momentary reprieve settled over the battle. A tense quietness permeated the air, punctuated only by the soft rustle of clouds drifting overhead and the gentle caress of the breeze on their skin.

"Why'd you let up and drop your guard, Takemikazuchi-san?" Shirou asked. "You're not one to make amateurish mistakes like that." He said, trying to rouse a response from his friend.

Warrior Takemikazuchi said nothing, eying the wounded shoulder.

Shirou glanced at it.

The detail displayed was both grisly and fascinating. The cut was clean and deep, parting a portion of his shoulder and exposing flesh and muscle. Blood poured from the laceration, running down his hand and pooling on the ground. Had Warrior Takemikazuchi pushed on, he could've severed the magus's arm completely at the shoulder.

"I've survived worse, and you know it." The magus grunted, clutching the shoulder and fighting back the painful wince.

He was no stranger to pain; one could even call them old friends. And in a morbid way, he was appreciative of it. It kept him grounded. A constant reminder - a source of stability. To everyone else, YGGDRASIL was a game, but to him, it was his reality.

He knew it, and so did his friends, those of his inner circle, even if it took a while for them to accept it. It was nothing new.

But of course, on occasion, that fact of his reality rears its ugly head, especially when they least expect it.

Using their respective rings, they restored their HP to full.

Shirou's deep wound knitted together, and just like that, his shoulder was as good as new.

The silence stretched on as the two warriors faced one another.

Warrior Takemikazuchi didn't say anything. His character model's wide grin remained, but a closer inspection revealed a subtle strain in his facial expression. His body language also betrayed a slight hunch, and his grip on Takemikazuchi MK 8 loosened ever so slightly.

These subtle cues, though easily missed by an untrained eye, spoke volumes to Shirou about the turmoil brewing within his guildmate's mind.

"Don't you dare think about taking it easy on me." Shirou said sharply.

Call it misguided pride, call it obtuse fairness, or whatever else, but if he was giving it his all, then it was expected that Warrior Takemikazuchi would show the same courtesy.

Win or lose, he would not have it said that either of them was given the victory instead of earning it rightfully. And the same applied to Warrior Takemikazuchi as well.

Warrior Takemikazuchi stared into Shirou's heterochromatic eyes. No words were spoken, but his resolute gaze told him all that he needed to know.

An unspoken understanding passed between them.

The Heteromorph dipped his head slightly, acknowledging his opponent's and friend's resolve.

"Alright." Warrior Takemikazuchi said after a moment. "But remember, you asked for it. So don't blame me when I give you plenty of ouchies for you to chew on." He quipped, raising his blade.

"I wouldn't have it any other way." The magus gave a small smirk.

He swung his arm with a weeping flourish, his magic circuits glowed brightly as prana filled and flowed from them. The streams of shimmering prana converged and a ring of swords formed, revolving in perfect unison around his body. A halo of swords followed, hovering behind him and turning ceaselessly. The longsword he held in his hands gleamed magnificently, its splendor and strength shining with a dazzling glow.

'Durandal!' Warrior Takemikazuchi recognized the peerless sword.

Aloud, he commented. "Oh? Now that's new." Intrigue colored his words.

Warrior Takemikazuchi's eyes flickered from the holy sword to the hovering swords, observing them.

The sword of Roland, while formidable, was a known factor. Its indestructibility was a solid counter to his Takemikazuchi MK 8, while its "miracles" were something he needed to be watchful of. However, what he was weary of was the mystery and potential threat behind the hovering swords.

He had a fair few ideas on what their purposes may be, but he knew better than to assume. When it came to fighting the virtual magus, one could never truly ascertain his methods until the last possible second.

But that only made it all the more exciting to see what he had planned in mind. Plus, he was eager to test his Takemikazuchi MK 8 against the peerless Durandal.

Shirou made the first move, dashing forward as four swords from the rotating halo fired forth. New swords instantly took their place.

Warrior Takemikazuchi dashed forward as well. His eyes tracked the incoming swords. They spread and arced, coming at him from different angles.

He swung, destroying the first two, and followed it up with the other two. They dissipated into motes of light, surprising him. He expected Shirou to detonate them prematurely, like before. They weren't even a part of [Trace Bullet], only simple projections.

Meeting in the middle, the two swung.


A metallic shriek echoed.

Warrior Takemikazuchi tried to power through with his skill, but Shirou held his ground, their blade locked in a tight embrace.

From the halo, five more swords fired out, curving around him to attack from behind.

"[Five-Fold Slasher]!"

Warrior Takemikazuchi pushed, letting go of the stalemate. He swung around, destroying four of the swords with ease. However, the fifth sword detonated before he could get rid of it, catching him in the blast and leaving him stunned, rather than expressly dealing damage.

Taking advantage of the opening, Durandal found purchase on the Heteromorphs' side and landed a substantial attack.

"[Kashira Blow]!"

Warrior Takemikazuchi whirled back around, aiming at his forehead and striking with the pommel.

Shirou reeled, with Warrior Takemikazuchi swinging at his unguarded side.

The swords that circled the magus quickly came together, layering over one another to form an improvised shield.

Takemikazuchi MK 8 sliced through the first three with little effort. The fourth, fifth, sixth, and all the following swords met the same fate. Reaching the eighth and final sword, a bastard sword with a wide flat blade, it was finally halted, leaving a deep gash and cracks along the sword's surface but not breaking through.

As Warrior Takemikazuchi pulled back for another swing, Shirou seized the opportunity to score another blow on him. Like with the halo, new swords replaced the ones previously destroyed.

"[Violent Flash]!"

Warrior Takemikazuchi retaliated with a lightning-fast attack, golden lighting coursing forth from the slash.

Shirou raised Durandal to block the attack, but was only able to deflect it partially. The powerful skill grazed his sides.

Warrior Takemikazuchi rained down slashes, but Durandal held, it's peerless form holding up against Takemikazuchi MK 8's unparalleled sharpness.

Again, the two locked blades.

"Ol' sword, bless thy miracle…" Shirou chanted.

Warrior Takemikazuchi's eyes widened as Durandal glowed. Simultaneously, swords fired out from the halo, aimed at him from all directions - above, the sides, and behind.

"[Acala's Sword]!"

He swung his sword in a wide arc, using the AoE physical attack skill to knock Shirou back, who defended with Durandal again, while also destroying the incoming swords.

Despite his effort, one survived. With his other hand, he swung, attempting to bat the final sword away. Right as his hand made contact, the projection detonated, catching him in the full blast.

The samurai staggered.

Shirou swung, landing an upward diagonal slash across his chest.

"Argh!" The two roared in unison, forging onward as the warriors duked it out.


'I've seen Emiya-san pull some interesting maneuvers, but this?' Touch Me pondered. 'This is definitely a first.'

It was less of a graceful and tactful duel and more like a slugfest. Only instead of fists, it was with swords.

'A sword-fest.' His mind playfully conjured.

Having seemingly abandoned keeping his distance and playing to his strength, Shirou fought Warrior Takemikazuchi head-on at his own game.

The World Champion couldn't help but be impressed by the remarkable display of versatility and ingenuity demonstrated by the magus's projections.

The ring of swords that circled him functioned as a defensive measure that could come together to serve as either a cushion or barrier to slow Warrior Takemikazuchi's ferocious swings. The hovering swords created a constant presence, while the halo of swords remained a looming threat that would keep up the pressure. But it didn't end there as he could switch them up at any second, making each of them a credible threat if left unattended.

Shirou was able to do this by tracing simple, inexpensive swords that were easily replaceable once one was used up. This kept him stocked up, allowing him to devote his entire focus and energy to combatting the Bujin.

And there was still Durandal to worry about.

'It's practically impossible to determine which is an actual attack, a feint, or a set-up for another move…' Momonga thought, analyzing the fight.

His floating swords could serve either as deceptive feints to allow him to get his swings in with Durandal, shift counters, or as distractions to mask his next move. Furthermore, the magus was adept in the art of alternating between offensive and defensive tactics with Durandal. In the latter case, his projections would serve as the damage dealer as he used the holy sword's invincibility against Takemikazuchi MK 8. To add another layer of complexity to his attack pattern, his invocation of Durandal's miracles served as bait to force his opponents to redirect his focus, leaving the Heteromorphic Player vulnerable to his next move. And by constantly switching it up, the unpredictable tempo made it all the more challenging for the samurai to discern a pattern between his moves as any of them could be real or false.

And that was only with what he'd seen showcased so far in the fight.

The Overlord watched as Shirou expertly wielded Durandal to deflect an attack, allowing him to slip into Warrior Takemikazuchi's guard. While the ōdachi gave him a longer striking range and reach, the tradeoff meant that at a certain range, it was cumbersome to wield properly due to the weapon's length and the Heteromorph's large frame. Something that the Humanoid Player was fully exploiting, keeping up close and personal with his opponent.

The faker's skillful combination of various factors enabled him to string together his moves and attacks, allowing him to attack at a reckless pace that was almost uncharacteristic of the magus. However, this daring approach was not without its flaws, as the formidable Warrior Takemikazuchi was equally skilled at unleashing a flurry of attacks. Nonetheless, the faker's boldness paid off as he was able to keep up with Warrior Takemikazuchi's pace and even push him back, much to everyone's initial surprise.

Following a clash, the two Players separated.

The sound of their heavy breathing echoed, filling the air with each winded exhale.

The samurai's heavy armor was riddled with dozens of cuts and marred with blast burns, while the virtual magus bore numerous slits across his body, blood seeping from the wounds.

The two were taking damage but also dealing it in equal amounts.

Despite it all, the two shared a smile.

Warrior Takemikazuchi chuckled.

To think he would be bested in a match-up of aggression, he never thought he'd seen the day.

Shirou's gaze flickered towards Takemikazuchi MK 8. Even after all the clashes, even from the likes of the HF blade, it remained impeccable as it was when it was first revealed.

However, his keen eyes caught something: a tiny, hairline fracture along the surface of the blade.

This didn't go unnoticed by Warrior Takemikazuchi.

"[Repair Weapon]."

His ring, the [Ring of Nibelung], glowed as he gently ran his hand down along the ōdachi's blade. It glowed, and just like that, the minuscule imperfection was no more.

"You didn't think it'd be that easy, did you?" He asked rhetorically, casually resting the ōdachi on his shoulder.

"No." Shirou admitted freely. "But a man could always hope, Takemikazuchi-san."

"Well, I guess you'd just have to keep on hoping, old friend." Warrior Takemikazuchi quipped good-naturedly.

A moment of levy passed between the two friends, and just as it quickly as it came, it left.

"[Kōtei bureidosutōmu: Emperor Bladestorm]!"

In an instant, his sword blurred as he swung. The air itself whistled sharply as if severed, leaving behind a distortion that seemed to ripple through the atmosphere.

Shirou's reflexes kicked in and he instinctively ducked, and the ultra-high-speed slash sailed over him. His halo of swords was annihilated, shattering into pieces. The attack traveled, slicing through the various island-platforms in its path as if they were mere paper.

"[Flash Step]!"

Warrior Takemikazuchi closed the distance, using his skill to blink forward with a fast swing.

"[Seven-Fold Striker], [Dancing Blade], [Swift Strike]!"

The magus was instantly on the back foot, swaying backward as he defended and fought back against Warrior Takemikazuchi's relentless slashes.

With each clash of their blades, the air around them hummed with the sound of steel meeting steel. A song of steel played out as the metal of their blades rang, their steel dazzling as they made contact with one another. Their movements were a blur, their forms almost impossible to follow as they engaged in a deadly dance, captivating the audience.


Shirou brought up Durandal to defend.

The skill clashed against the Noble Phantasm and the two locked swords.

"[Shoulder Bash]!"

Warrior Takemikazuchi used his skill to land a fast body blow, staggering the magus.

At the same time, Shirou swung his sword, attempting to counterattack.

Switching to one-handed, Warrior Takemikazuchi parried the attack.

"[Lotus Fang]!"

With a flick of his wrist, the samurai tossed Takemikazuchi MK 8 and caught it in his left hand. The quick switch enabled him to swing once again, capitalizing on the opening he had created.

Shirou's eyes widened as Takemikazuchi MK 8's ascending slash sliced through his right hand which held the holy sword with ease, separating some of his fingers and a portion of his hand in one swift, clean stroke.

While Durandal was invincible, its wielder was far from it.

As the peerless sword fell, the Bujin swung at it with his blade. He knocked it away, the Noble Phantasm bouncing against the ground, before rolling over the edge of the stage, lost to sight.

At the same time, Warrior Takemikazuchi's right elbow descended, landing a powerful elbow strike that connected with Shirou's head with a heavy sound.

He hit the ground, his head bouncing. Sharp pain flared as his vision blurred and swayed.

Despite his disoriented state, he managed to roll to the side as Warrior Takemikazuchi's fist came down, smashing the ground where his head was. Cracks webbed out from the impact spot.

He twisted his body, his leg reaching up and wrapping around the limb. It almost looked like he was going for a grapple.

Warrior Takemikazuchi swung his arm, tossing Shirou away.

He rolled, recovering to his knees in a crouch.

Blood poured from the wound, trickling down from his forehead and staining his right eye and vision. Throbbing pain assaulted his head while a sharp, stinging pain spread from his maimed hand.

"Trying to crack my head open or something, Takemikazuchi-san?" Shirou quipped. 'Then again, I did tell him not to hold back…'

His tongue peeked out, taking a lick of the flowing blood. The bitter, iron taste helped to dull the splitting headache as his vision refocused.

His left sight was fine, but his right sight was hindered slightly by the blood, with parts of Warrior Takemikazuchi's body being covered in his vision.

He dared not blink, but try as he might; not even he could completely control his body's bodily functions and the accumulating pain.

His body reacted and his right eye blinked, and the samurai moved in that instant.

Shirou's remaining swords gathered, overlapping to defend like before.

Before Warrior Takemikazuchi could destroy all of them, they detonated, catching both of them in the blast.

Shirou flew back, over the ledge, and landed harshly on his side on another island-platform.

Warrior Takemikazuchi pushed on, jumping down with a crash as Shirou came to his knee.

A single projection was traced and fired straight upwards, hitting the bottom of an island-platform above them. A chunk of rubble fell right onto the stage and directly into Warrior Takemikazuchi's path.

"[Ganyu Strike]!"

He slashed at the rubble, kicking up a cloud of dust.

From his periphery, he saw something whipping forward from the side towards him.

He tilted his head and shifted his weight to the side, allowing what he saw as a long, black shaft to sail over him. He backrolled as the smoke cleared up.

'That's one long-ass spear…' He first thought, seeing the new projection in the Fake Player's hand.

Indeed. In Shirou's hand was a spear with an obsidian-black shaft and an elegant, ornate engraving etched into the surface of its sharp blade.

The spear's length was the most notable feature. It was long, almost to the point of being absurd, doubling his height. It looked cumbersome to wield and balance, yet the faker had no such trouble even with a impaired hand.

Warrior Takemikazuchi was unfamiliar with this apparent new Noble Phantasm, hence his slight caution.

[Tonbokiri: The Spear that Split the Dragonfly – Divine Tier Spear]

Tonbokiri, one of the three legendary spears of Japan, was wielded by the great general and daimyō, Honda Tadakatsu. The spear was forged by none other than Fujiwara Masazane, a disciple of the great blacksmith Sengo Muramasa. The weapon's legend was derived from the story of how a dragonfly landed on the blade and was sliced cleanly in two. The weapon would serve Honda well, earning him countless victories and cementing the weapon's name in Japanese history as an unrivaled weapon.

Warrior Takemikazuchi scrutinized the spear, trying to parse out its ability. Appearance can be deceiving, and he knew that his friend and fellow weapon connoisseur enjoyed giving his Noble Phantasms esoteric usage that typically defies the weapon's functions.

Shirou's grip tightened, his grasp on the spear shifting ever slightly.

That was the indication that Warrior Takemikazuchi had to react before Shirou swung. Moving faster than it should've been possible, the Tonbokiri blurred as he swung the spear horizontally in a spinning strike.

Anticipating the attack, Warrior Takemikazuchi readied his Takemikazuchi MK 8, but at the last moment, he switched his stance to block the incoming attack with a swift guard.

He resisted but was caught off guard by the sheer speed and weight of the spinning slash. He was swept off his feet and thrown back off the ledge into freefall by the sheer force behind the blow.

[Tonbokiri]'s super-sonic slash expanded, destroying the surrounding island-platforms paralleling theirs.

The Noble Phantasm shattered in his hand, its purpose fulfilled.

Shirou ran and jumped off after Warrior Takemikazuchi.

"[Trace Bullet]!"

Falling, his projections surrounded him, but rather than firing at the samurai, they fired backward.

The various floating platforms above and behind him exploded, reducing them to chunks of rubble.

"Trace on!"

Prana surged forth, forming numerous chains. They fired outward, the nail-spike at the end of each chain stabbing pieces of rubble he made. With a mighty tug, he pulled, redirecting them towards Warrior Takemikazuchi.

"HAHAHA! You always know how to keep it interesting, Emiya-san!" Warrior Takemikazuchi shouted, laughing.

A bombardment of stones descended upon the samurai as he fell.

"[Sever], [Flowing Edge], [Rendering Blade]!"

He swung his ōdachi, each swing of the Divine class blade cleaving through the hunks of stone like they were nothing.

Warrior Takemikazuchi landed with a heavy crash, leaving a deep indentation from where his legs landed. The floating stage he landed on trembled precariously and nearly crumbled under the force.

He did not stop swinging his sword even as he fell, slicing through the rubble with tremendous ferocity that rained down upon him.

Slicing through a particularly large chuck, the two halves separated to reveal Shirou. In his hand was a great obsidian single-edged axe equipped with thrusters along the back.

Shirou dropped from above and swung his axe with all his might, and the thrusters ignited, augmenting the force of his strike.

Warrior Takemikazuchi braced himself, his grip tightening as he swung back.

The two Players roared as their weapons clashed.

The ground shook dangerously once more.

A piercing, grating sound rang out as their weapons fiercely vied for dominance.

"Break!" Shirou shouted.

Warrior Takemikazuchi was forced to one knee, struggling to contend with Shirou's attack thanks to him getting the initial drop on the Heteromorph.

"[Tenshō: Piercing Heaven]!" A surge of moonlight energy cloaked Takemikazuchi MK 8.

With his teeth gritted and his willpower unbroken, Takemikazuchi pushed himself back up on his feet.

The clash between their weapons intensified.

'Just a bit… more…!' Warrior Takemikazuchi thought, watching the cracks along the axe increase and spread.

However, what gave way first wasn't Shirou's projection but rather the stage.

Both their eyes widened, and they shared a look as the ground lurched and fell apart, revealing the vast open sky beneath their feet.

There were no more island-platforms below them; they would fall to their deaths.

Separating, the two focused everything on surviving.

"[Flight Foot], [Quick Dash], [Flash Step]!"

Warrior Takemikazuchi ran precariously on what was left of the stage, kicking off the edge as the platform fell into the open, cloudy abyss below.

What he was aiming for was an island-platform that floated in the far off distance.

With his skills, he jumped, gaining some distance. But it wouldn't be enough.

"[Wings of Icarus]!"

Thankfully, he still had one more option available to him.

Long, ethereal wings manifested, and with a mighty flap, the Heteromorph soared forward.

Unfortunately, he was just the tiniest bit out of reach. His hand outstretched and his fingers stretching, brushing against the ledge but unable to grab on.

'Let's hope this works!'

With one last desperate attempt, he flipped his grip on his ōdachi, holding it in a reverse grip.

While he was just out of reach of the platform, his Takemikazuchi MK 8 could make it.

He swung, the long blade stabbing into and finding purchase on the stage. That didn't mean he was completely in the clear, however, as he continued sliding downward as his blade cut into the rocky underbelly of the platform.

For half a heartbeat, it looked like that would be it.

Warrior Takemikazuchi came to a stop at last, dangling precariously from the very bottom of the stage.

He remained there for a few short seconds, although it felt like hours to him, unable to tear his gaze away from the incredible but also terrifying view below him.

Eventually, his other hand grabbed on and gripped the rocky underside of the platform, and together, he managed to heave himself up and over.

Warrior Takemikazuchi rolled onto his back and lay there. His hands wouldn't stop shaking, and the loudness of his labored breaths filled the air.

"F-fuck…!" He gasped, holding a hand to his chest. "That was way too close…"

It took a few seconds before his breathing evened out.

'Guess Emiya-san made it out as well.' He idly thought.

Considering that the match didn't end, it was reasonable to assume such.

Indeed. Shirou made it to safety by using his sword-flying technique to clear the distance and by snagging onto another island-platform with his hookshot gauntlet.

The Heteromorph came to his feet, and something quickly became apparent to him.

It was quiet and peaceful.

Too quiet and peaceful...

The Heteromorph half expected the faker to bombard him while he was getting his bearings. Instead, as he looked around, all he saw was a tranquil view.

"[Soaring Razor]!"

He swung his blade, launching high-speed slashes that sliced through the island-platforms around him. They crumbled and fell, revealing nothing.

Again, only the sound of silence followed.

"[Warrior's Instinct], [Premonition]."

Using his skills, he briefly closed his eyes to the world. A soft chime rang out, expanding as the world opened up around him in monochrome. But much like with his eyes, all he saw was the world around him, with no sign or presence of his opponent whatsoever.

"I can't detect him at all…" He muttered, his eyes scanning the surroundings.

While he knew his guildmate could be stealthy, it was typically attributed to auxiliary items or equipment more than any active skills or abilities. However, the rules of the tournament prohibited the use of inventory items, and the Heteromorph knew for a fact that the magus had not selected any stealth items for the tournament. That left only one culpable source available.


[Carnwennan: White Hilt of Shrouds – Divine Tier Dagger]

Carnwennan, the dagger of King Arthur. It was said that the weapon was gifted to the King of Britannia by God, alongside the legendary Excalibur and Rhongomyniad. Welsh legend has it that Carnwennan was bestowed the magical ability to shroud the user in shadow so that no foe may seek to strike down the great king in deceit and deception. It possessed a modest history and legend, often overshadowed when compared to the iconic Excalibur or the majesty of Rhongomyniad.

The YGGDRASIL-made Noble Phantasm possessed no actual blade, consisting of only a beautiful engraved white hilt and intricate black handle. In that regard, Carnwennan was considered more of an item than an actual weapon.

It was originally Nishikienrai who proposed to Shirou to create a weapon or item for the purpose of stealth. Warrior Takemikazuchi played a small helping hand, with the virtual magus being the one to choose and finalize the design and name. It was a recent addition to magus's arsenal.

'He must've 'traced' it when we separated and made it to safety.' The Heteromorph figured.

The ability of [Carnwennan] was simple but no less dangerous. When drawn, it would render the wielder completely invisible and undetectable, comparable to that of [Perfect Unknowable].

It was a powerful tool in his arsenal, and he often used it in combination with the likes of Caladbolg II and others to deliver powerful sneak attacks that left enemies and entire PK parties dead before they'd even know what hit them.

A fact that left Warrior Takemikazuchi stumped as to why he hadn't tried and done so already.

Instead of fretting over the what-ifs, he focused on the facts of the matter.

Shirou chose to remain concealed, despite the apparent advantage.

In that case, there was only one thing left to do.

Using the [Ring of Nibelung], he used the remaining MP to heal himself. He then planted Takemikazuchi MK 8 on the ground, resting both his palms on the pommel of the ōdachi.

And so he stood vigil and waited.

"Your move, Shirou."


With Shirou, he had traced Carnwennan and relocated to an island-platform just outside of Warrior Takemikazuchi's range, but still within clear view for the magus. He used [Draupnir] to heal himself and restore his hand.

He was crouched, leaning against a small, broken stone wall.

'Well, that was a bust…'

He peaked over the side, observing Warrior Takemikazuchi, who remained as he was. His gaze lowered, resting on his weapon.

He considered tracing Takemikazuchi MK 8 throughout the fight but dismissed it. While that might put them on equal footing weapon-wise, their skills will be the determining factor. And against someone like Warrior Takemikazuchi...

A warrior dedicated to the single art of the sword to its utmost limit.

A flicker of a smile came to his face as he thought this. He briefly wondered how a match between him and Saber would play out.

A spectacle, without a doubt.

The faker shook his head, reigning in his wandering thoughts.

'Focus!' He still had to contend with Warrior Takemikazuchi.

Shirou blew out a soft sigh.

'Caladbolg II or firing [Trace Bullet] to get him to fall to his death is an obvious choice, and one Takemikazuchi-san already has a plan and counter for. Balmung and Clarent are readily available options, as are Gáe Bolg and Gungnir. Assuming that I can use them before he uses his gap closers to stop me. Όριο would help to restrict him, but it'll hold him for a second or two before Takemikazuchi MK 8 slices through them. But that might just be enough. Nine Lives Blade Works would be the best option, but not even he would be reckless enough to get in range if I pulled that out. Durindana Pilum would be a better alternative as well…'

His mind was a storm of thoughts. He considered each Noble Phantasm one by one, determining their usability.

He thought and thought, his thoughts racing.

There was a solution he wasn't seeing — a path to winning…

He just needed to find it—!

"But I think, above all else, you shouldn't focus entirely on winning and try to have some fun with the tournament."

Shirou blinked.

Momonga's heartfelt words echoed, silencing the storm of thoughts and bringing with it a clarity that stilled the body and mind.


Fun wasn't a word typically associated with the magus.

He couldn't care less about the World Champion title or being recognized as the strongest or best. From the beginning, he had his eyes set on the prize: the Saber Class Card.

And now, standing right at the finish line, his best friend's words came to him and he mused back on his previous matches throughout the tournament.

Did he have fun?

The answer, he found, surprisingly, was yes.

Despite his hyper-fixation of winning his matches and performing at his very best each time, he wouldn't deny that he felt a timbre of excitement from each one of them. From the first to the very last: The Mountain, Volcánica, everyone before and after them, and now, Warrior Takemikazuchi.

It was truly a tournament of champions, and each and every one of his opponents challenged him in different ways.

A rush of exhilaration.

A surge of alarm or swell of determination.

And lastly, a sense of excitement with each hard-fought fight and victory.

Winning felt great. Winning was good.


Shirou observed Warrior Takemikazuchi. The Nephilim samurai could've continued attacking to force the magus to reveal himself, or actively hunt him down.

Yet, he didn't.

He simply stood there, patiently.

While the prestige that came with the title of World Champion and the opportunity to fight against highly skilled Players was undoubtedly enticing, Shirou knew that his guildmate entered the tournament for his sake more than his own. Because he knew just how important the Class Card meant to his friend.

Warrior Takemikazuchi had given it his all in each of his matches, but he'd also had fun with it, enjoying himself every step of the way.

And if Warrior Takemikazuchi could do it, what was stopping him from doing the same?

...What was the point of trying your hardest to win if you don't enjoy it?

In that brief moment, something happened.

A subtle shift occurred - imperceptible to the naked eye yet palpable in its effect.

A previously taut tension within him gradually loosened. His shoulders slackened and his muscles eased. His body relaxed as if a weight had been lifted off his chest.

He rose, his eyes drawn to the vast expanse before him. A backdrop of endless blue and roaming white clouds extended to the horizon, and he couldn't help but take in every detail of his surroundings.

When they had first been teleported to their battlefield in the skies, he had scanned the area with a tactical eye, noting every feature that could aid him in his match.

He committed the location to his memory, but never once did he take a step back to take it all in.

Now, standing there, he came to appreciate the peaceful and tranquil beauty of the world above the clouds.

He took a deep breath, relishing in the crispness of the air, and exhaled slowly.

Win or lose, the Saber Class Card will go to him regardless.

In that case, why not enjoy himself, if only to indulge for just this one moment?


Warrior Takemikazuchi remained as he was, with his eyes closed as he waited. Such an action would court certain death, but the Heteromorph wasn't bothered or concerned.

He knew that if Shirou wanted to launch a ranged or sneak attack, he would've done so already.

And so he waited until his friend/opponent was ready to meet him once more.

He wasn't too sure how long he stood there before he heard a soft landing and the pattering of footsteps.

Opening his eyes, he found Shirou walking towards him.

"Yo~" He greeted casually. "Enjoy your nap break?"

Shirou smiled. A soft, gentle smile.

A smile that quietly surprised the samurai, one that was completely at ease.

He felt as if there was something different about the Humanoid Player, yet he couldn't put his finger on it.

For lack of a better word, he looked better, more mellowed out than before

"I did, thank you."

Warrior Takemikazuchi shrugged.

"No problem. After all, it only seems fair after the ass-kicking I've been handing out throughout the match." He grinned teasingly.

Shirou chuckled.

"I challenge you! One attack to end it all."

Again, the Nephilim was caught by surprise.

What the magus was proposing was a final clash, one attack each to determine who would win and who would lose.

What gave Warrior Takemikazuchi a quiet pause was the look in his friend's gold and silver eyes.

It wasn't the reckless abandon of a desperate gamble that he saw there, nor the unyielding determination of a stubborn warrior.

No, the only word that came to the Heteromorph's mind was a curious confidence.

In the face of his friend's challenge, there was only one answer he could give.

"I accept!"

Picking up Takemikazuchi MK 8, Warrior Takemikazuchi took a stance.

"Trace… on!"

Prana flowed from his hand, forming his final weapon.


That was the first word that popped into Warrior Takemikazuchi's head as he laid eyes on the newly projected weapon. Simple but elegant.

The sword possessed a long and graceful blade that shone with a seamless sheen. Its handle was light, yet violent, and featured a tassel at the end that swayed gently in the breeze. His keen eyes estimated it to be a monohoshizao - a weapon that surpassed the length of his powerful ōdachi by a fractional margin. Like with Tonbokiri, Shirou held the long blade with comfortable poise.

The samurai's lips pursed, racking his mind to try and discern the weapon's identity.

Where the Heteromorph's creations were given robust names, born from his mind, he knew his friend drew his inspiration from real-life history, legends, and myths. With many of his powerful Noble Phantasms, as he called them, bearing the names of old.

The weapon in his hand was oriental in origin, so he narrowed it down to legendary or mythical swords from Japan. He first thought of Murasame, the famed demon sword of the legendary blacksmith, Muramasa, but dismissed it as some hard consideration. The Honjo Masamune was considered next but rejected as well. Another one that came to mind was the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, but that idea fell flat.

Several more names were tallied off before Warrior Takemikazuchi gave up.

In the end, it didn't matter.

'Because there's nothing my Takemikazuchi MK 8 can't slice!'

The two held their stance as they edged forward, their measured steps echoing through the open expanse.

The brilliant sun shone in the background, providing a splendid backdrop for their final clash. The audience watched with bated breath as the final match reached its conclusion.

Warrior Takemikazuchi was the first to act, bursting forward with his attack.

Shirou waited, meeting this friend for one final time.

The two attacked in unison.

"[Raikiri: Lightning Cutter]!" "[Traced Tsubame Gaeshi: Swallow Reversal (False)]!"

Warrior Takemikazuchi swung his Takemikazuchi MK 8 with a fierce determination that echoed through the very air itself, a maelstrom of sound and fury. Shirou's monohoshizao sliced through the air with graceful yet deadly precision, emanating a harmonious melody that beautifully contrasted with the cacophony of Warrior Takemikazuchi's swing.

Warrior Takemikazuchi watched as their blades closed in.

And just before they met, he saw it happen…

Another man appeared as if superimposing over Shirou.

A long ponytail-haired man garbed in purple faced him.

The world faded around him.

Complete darkness clouded his vision.

A descent of steel.

A flash of purple split the darkness

A single slash.

A deep reverb screeched as if space was expanding and time distorted.

One became three, which fell as one.

…In a single instant.

The two swordsman slide past one another, their blades leaving distortions in the air.

A sharp gasp left Warrior Takemikazuchi's lips, his mind replaying the intensity of what he'd just seen.

Meanwhile, a pained groan escaped Shirou's lips as he fell to one knee. A deep wound stretched diagonally down his body, blood pouring out and dripping onto the ground. Cracks spread across the monohoshizao, shattering into fragile motes of light.

Warrior Takemikazuchi blinks. He glanced down. He was unhurt; he wasn't hit by Shirou's final attack. A peek at his HP bar reinforced this fact, showing that he had taken no damage at all.

Takemikazuchi couldn't help but taunt Shirou with a hint of disbelief, "What's the matter? Don't tell me you missed."

In response, Shirou let out a noise that was both a grunt and a chuckle as he stood back up.

"Who said I was aiming for you, Takemikazuchi-san?" He retorted.


Warrior Takemikazuchi's head tilted as he stared at his friend.

If that attack wasn't meant for him, then what…?

Something fell and clinked against the ground.

He looked at the ground. There, a piece of Takemikazuchi MK 8's blade lay.


That word echoed through his head — an incomprehensible thought.

His eyes fell to his hand, still holding onto the handle and what remained of the broken blade.

He stared dumbly, his gaze flickering between the two in absolute silence.

Warrior Takemikazuchi slowly, and with great effort, tore his gaze away from his broken masterpiece and back to Shirou, who watched on with a small but cheeky grin.

Tsubame Gaeshi. Swallow Reversal.

Three strikes as one.

It was neither a Noble Phantasm that could be recreated nor was it an ability that could be simply copied.

An impossible slash, born from no great hero or warrior but a simple man. A technique that steps into the realm of True Magic, created from perseverance and dedication to the blade.

Shirou could spend decades training and practicing, and he would have no hope of replicating the attack.

And if, by some miracle, he succeeded in mimicking Sasaki Kojiro's technique, it would be nowhere as refined as the original.

Thus, a workaround was needed. In essence, Shirou cheated, so to speak.

While Unlimited Blade Works possessed the memory of the skill and the history and concepts of the weapon and technique of Assassin, he lacked the means to properly replicate.

Which was where YGGDRASIL came into play.

It was common in video games to have special attacks or flashy moves, such as an unavoidable attack, a multi-slash attack, and so forth. Multi-attack skills were far from what anyone would consider extraordinary. And it was this facet of the game that the magus leveraged to his advantage.

The process involved imbuing the essence of Tsubame Gaeshi, which he gained from the knowledge and history of Unlimited Blade Works, and supplementing it with the game's mechanics to replicate the divine technique.

An endeavor that bore many of failures and dead ends until he'd finally done it:

[Traced Tsubame Gaeshi: Swallow Reversal (False)].

Though he had succeeded in producing a Tsubame Gaeshi, it was far from perfect. A shallow imitation at best and a mockery at worst. Yet he succeeded.

As he once declared to the King of Heroes, "There is no rule that says a fake cannot defeat the original."

In that regard, "There is no rules that says an imitation cannot match the original."

The battlefield quieted - a minute seeped in silence as the two finalists locked eyes.

And then it was broken.

Warrior Takemikazuchi threw back his head and laughed. A hearty laugh filled with incredulousness and mirth, of pride and acceptance, all rolled into one.

"I concede."

He raised his hand, his fingers letting go of the tsuka. The other half of Takemikazuchi MK 8 fell, clattering against the ground as he laid his broken weapon down in defeat.

"You win, old friend." Warrior Takemikazuchi said as both he and the open skies cracked. "This time.."

"But I'll be back. Count on it."

Shirou met his smile.

"I'll be waiting."

Warrior Takemikazuchi shattered into polygons and the world shattered around him.

Flashing lights and roaring sounds welcomed Shirou back to the realm of Midgard.

Above the arena, the tournament bracket proudly displayed Shirou's name and image under the title of [World Champion].

While the roars of the crowd were jubilant, they were also filled with an unmistakable layer of confusion and even anger among them, as they struggled to come to terms with the unexpected outcome of the championship.

Warrior Takemikazuchi's decision to concede the match left many watching unsatisfied. There was no reason for him to quit just like that when he still had the advantage over his opponent, even with a broken weapon.

Those invested in the match, and eagerly awaited the culminating finale of the grand tournament, were left feeling disappointed and underwhelmed by the outcome. Instead of a high-stakes, intense fight between fierce rivals, it felt more like a semi-serious duel between friends. While the fight had plenty of spectacle, the lackluster ending failed to live up to the thrilling, heart-pumping finales of past World Champion Tournaments.

Yet, those who knew Warrior Takemikazuchi well recognized how fitting of an end it was.

If there was one thing that the Bujin held utmost, alongside his friendship with Ainz Ooal Gown and his dedication as a Player and warrior, it was his pride in his weapons.

The Takemikazuchi MK series was his pride and joy.

And to see his latest and arguably his greatest work, which endured and dominated throughout the match until the very end, be shattered like that...

Yet he didn't feel any disappointment or anger. Quite the opposite.

He was rather stoked!

Defeat wasn't the end, but rather a lesson.

Shirou showed him that there was still much he could accomplish, areas where he could learn and refine his skills. Heights he could still reach.

And he will...

'Emiya-san's a man of his word.' Warrior Takemikazuchi mentally chuckled, thinking back to Shirou's words before their fight and how they came true in the end.

When the match ended and he was teleported away, what he didn't expect was to be teleported into the stadium, where Ainz Ooal Gown sat. Then again, he wasn't complaining.

His sudden appearance surprised his guildmates, but it quickly faded as they happily welcomed him back.

His friends immediately crowded around him as much as they could, patting him on the back, giving him words of encouragement, or even just complimenting him for a spectacular fight.

"Really, you had to surrender, Takemikazuchi-san?" Ulbert bemoaned from his seat. "Now we have to deal with two World Champion wannabe heroes in our group. Fantastic…"

"Suck it, goat head! You're just mad that you lost the bet!" Peroroncino crowed, holding up his head smugly.

The World Disaster responded by flipping the bird at the golden archer.

The back and forth banter between the two drew plenty of amusement and chuckles from the rest of the guild.

"Darn, I really thought you had it in the bag." Said Nishikienrai, who was seated next to him. "Who'd thought that Emiya-san would have something like that in his back pocket? There's always next time."

"Indeed." Warrior Takemikazuchi nodded.

Already, his mind was planning his newest project, Takemikazuchi MK 9. His thoughts raced with the possibilities. Perhaps he'll even enlist the help of a certain Paladin of Justice this time around.

The samurai chuckled to himself. It looks like there were now two World Champions on his list to contend with.

For the moment, he put aside the thought. He didn't want to miss the crowning ceremony.

"In the beginning, there were one hundred and twenty-eight warriors. Now, only one remains. He, who has fought and won, victorious amongst them all! Let us now welcome this champion of champions with open arms, as he stands tall and proud in his triumph!"

Shirou stood in the middle of the arena as the colorful array of lights and special effects went off all around him.

Eight pillars of light shot forth into the air, dispersed evenly across the outer edge of the arena, surrounding him.

"The shadow that stalks the dark, an assassin silencing all who trespass his domain and challenge his skill! Fear him, run from him, but you're already dead; the World Champion of Helheim: Duskindal!"

From one of the pillars of light, a great shadow expanded forth from the ground, shooting up into the air. The shroud of darkness writhed and whirled, unfurrowing to reveal a presence.

Duskindal landed, his feathered cloak spreading like great wings and accompanied by a scattering of jet-black feathers. Standing tall, he offered a theatrical bow, a soft chime echoing out.


Two spears fell from above, one holy and one cursed. A mass of feathers descended and expanded; a wash of light and beautiful grey feathers filled the air. Retrieving his weapons, Wishful Mercí graced the world with a gentle smile.

"Only those who can defend the weak have any right to call themselves the strongest! For the hearts of man and monster are not divided by good or evil, but by prejudice! The heroic Paladin of the Heteromorph; The World Champion of Álfheim: Touch Me!"

From the pillar, Touch Me appeared, landing and striking his iconic pose. His shield was raised, and at the ready, his sword was poised for action, his cape billowing majestically. Behind him, the kanji for 'Justice has Arrived!' was proudly displayed.

The two friends shared a nod. Though Touch Me's face was obscured by his helm, the magus could feel his proud smile.


The clacking of her heels announced her presence as she stepped forward from the pillar of light. Approaching, her arms fell to her sabres, unsheathing and juggling them. In one fluid motion, she caught and slashed at the air with all four swords, creating a dazzling display, and sheathed them.

"Divine is his claim to all that is pure. Holy is his right to subject all that is corrupt. With the kindness of saints, he saves all; with the pride of knights he smites thy foes; The World Champion of Vanaheim: LichtKing!"

The holy knight appeared, jumping forth from the pillar of light. He landed, his arrival marked by the resounding clang of his heavy armor. He planted his heavy shield firmly in front of him as he struck a valiant pose. His fierce lion's helm, staring out with unyielding determination, seemed to challenge all who dared to defy him.


Unlike the others, there was no flashy introduction or showcase as Luciferno made his appearance. He simply walked forward and took his place, his arms crossed over his chest as he leveled a weighty gaze upon the magus. A look of utter contempt that practically rivaled that of a certain chunni-World Disaster.

"The flight of the valkyries rides high above mortals all. Though her heart was of steel, her soul was righteous beyond flesh. The maiden of steel who rebelled against the heavens with beauty and arrogance alike; The World Champion of Niðavellir: ShikiHime!"

A large mechanical axe fell, splitting the ground. A rush of dazzling white and blue hard light feathers plunged from above, declaring her presence. Touching down, she seized her trusty weapon and brandished it in an impressive show, before resting it casually on her shoulder. The Hime ran her fingers through her brightly colored hair, flicking it back with a playful yet haughty air.


Elementum V strode forward, his arms and legs showing off a few martial katas. His floating orbs dazzled in a display of the elements with each move. Taking his place, his katas ended with his hands in the palm-hold fist salute as he offered the magus a respectful bow.

The noise from the audience grew, reaching near-unparalleled heights. At last, all nine World Champions were gathered.

"Congratulations, Emiya-san." Said Touch Me, walking forward. "It was a splendid match."

Before Shirou could reply, he felt a hand rest against his shoulder.

"Nice work out there!"

He turned, finding Duskindal by his side, casually leaning into him.

"I knew you'd win this whole shindig! I never doubted you for a second! And if anyone says otherwise, they're lying!"

This earned scoffs and eye rolls from the others.

"Oi! If you're free after this, hit me up. I want a piece of ya'." ShikiHime stepped up and declared bluntly, sporting a challenging grin.

"Well, would you look at that? Hime-chan's staking her claim already." LichtKing teased, lightly elbowing Touch Me, who chuckled.

The metal maiden whirled around. Although it was impossible to tell, all could imagine the hint of a slight blush spreading across her cheek.

"Not like that, you idiot!" She yelped. "Get your mind out of the gutters!"

"I don't know…" Duskindal said, removing himself from Shirou and stroking his chin contemplatively. "You were pretty focused on him come the semi-finals and afterward."

"Poor Warrior Takemikazuchi-san." LichtKing tsked, shaking his head ruefully alongside Duskindal. "Hime-chan abandoned him for the next best thing, just like that."

ShikiHime huffed, pouting as her feet stomped on the ground in anger.

"Calm yourself, ShikiHime-san." Belladonna said, coming to her fellow female World Champion side. "You'll only be giving these petulant fools the reactions they crave." She scoffed, turning her nose to the insufferable assassin and knight.

"Now, now. None of that. Let's not fight, especially on such a momentous occasion." Wishful Mercí intermediated. "After all, we wouldn't want to give our new friend here the wrong first impression."

The grey Aerosphere offered the magus a condolent nod.

Elementum V said nothing, displaying a screen with emoticons on it and offering the magus a handshake, which he took.

Shirou's gaze fell on each of the World Champions. He'll fully admit that he wasn't quite sure what to expect, but they were pleasant and welcoming enough. Banter and compliments flowed easily from them, along with other platitudes, as they welcomed him into their ranks.

Well, almost everyone.

From the corner of his eyes, he spied Luciferno, sullen and silent on the side. Standing there, he radiated an aura of thinly veiled contempt and impatience.

Then again, from what Touch Me shared and what he'd heard of the World Champion, he didn't consider his lack of acquaintance a tragedy.


"A moment, please." A voice said, loud and clear over the noise, cutting off Bob's screaming announcement.

The crowd stirred. Many voices rose, and he could see the audience pointing and gasping at something.

Looking up, he found none other than Zelretch.

He floated in the air of the arena, looking down on Shirou and the other World Champions.

"I ask of you, what is a World Champion?"

Zelretch's sudden question left many wondering.

"Huh, was this on the itinerary or something?" Shirou heard Duskindal whisper aloud.

"I don't think any of this is planned…" Replied LichtKing. "Then again, you never know when it comes to the shitty devs."

Noises of agreement came up from the other World Champions.

Touch Me and Shirou shared a look, with the former being a questioning glance, while the latter shook his head.

"In the beginning, the World Tree, Yggdrasil, possessed countless magnificent leaves. Each was a tapestry of wonder and power. And then it came. Out of the great void beyond the boundaries of the realms, a beast emerged, a gnawing hunger that knew no bounds. The Scourge of Yggdrasil. The Devourer of Worlds. The Great Devourer shook the World Tree to its core. It plundered Yggdrasil, consuming the leaves of the World Tree one by one, snuffing out its wonder. Once, there were many, and now only nine remain." Zelretch monologues.

It took Shirou a moment to recognize why it sounded familiar.

He was describing the lore of YGGDRASIL. The fragmented remnants of the leaves became the World Items in the game, while the remaining nine whole leaves became the nine playable realms.

"Asgard, Álfheim, Vanaheim, Niðavellir, Jötunheim, Niflheim, Helheim, Múspellsheim, and finally, Midgard. Nine realms. Nine warriors. Nine Players… At last, all nine chosen Champions have gathered at last."

The CEO of Kaleidoscope Industry gazed down at the nine Players.

"The cunning and the prideful."

His eyes fell on Duskindal and Belladonna, with the Demi-Human assassin crossing his arms coolly while the Elven duelist held her head regally.

"The stalwart and the silent."

Next were LichtKing and Elementum. The golden knight puffed out his chest, while the elementalist martial artist simply nodded.

"The boastful and the skilled."

Up next were ShikiHime and Wishful Mercí. The metal maiden huffed, a finger twirling one of her colorful twin-tails, while the grey angel smiled placidly.

"The righteous and the arrogant."

After them were Touch Me and Luciferno. The heroic paladin stood tall and proud, while the demon of disaster glared up at the CEO, defiant.

"And especially the stubborn."

Zelretch's crimson gaze fell onto Shirou and the two locked eyes.

"Through trials and tribulations, you nine stand here now. And now, for one final trial."

Though he was speaking to the whole group, it felt as though he was speaking solely to Shirou.

His hand flourished out, brandishing a weapon. It was a sword unlike any other, featuring a blade made of a crystallized shard. Lights bounced off the crystalline blade, reflecting rays of gleaming rainbow light.

Shirou's eyes widened, his shoulders jolting as his body locked up.

"Emiya-san?" Touch Me called out, catching his friend's reaction.

The Jeweled Sword glowed, captivating all.

With a simple swing, a radiant wave of luminosity traveled and dispersed across the ring, illuminating the entire arena in a spectacular array of kaleidoscopic hues.

Collectively, nine pairs of eyes widened, and before any of them could react, they disappeared in a blinding flash of light that consumed the entire stadium.

"Ahh! Frick, that stings!" Sigfrida moaned, rubbing her eyes with her hands.

Like many others in the stadium, she was caught off guard by the sudden, blinding flash of light. It was like a flashbang had gone off right in their faces.

"You alright, babe?" Peroroncino hugged her side, his hand rubbing her back with gentle ministrations.

"Yea, give me a few secs." She said, blinking away the white spots.

"I... this is... um... Well, folks, it seems that there's more to the show! A moment please while we confirm the next event!" The voice of Sam assured, though he too was equally bewildered as everyone else.

It seems that the commentators too were stumped and surprised by Zelretch's action, which left many wondering what was to come next.

"Well, I can safely say I did not see that coming." Tabula remarked.

"I don't think anyone did. Including the tournament organizers." Herohero snorted. "He really is the king of the shitty devs."

"Still, to pull something like this. Talk about random." Wish III said.

"I mean, now's the best time if ever. When's the next time you're going to see all nine World Champions together?" Bukubukuchagama put out there.

"It would make sense that they would try something innovative or interesting." Added Tabula.

"The question is, just what exactly does the shitty bastard have in mind that would involve all nine World Champions." Ulbert wondered with a grunt, crossing his arms.

Everyone in the stadium, including Ainz Ooal Gown, speculated amongst themselves regarding the spontaneous turn of events.

Amidst all the confusion, there was one who had a different reaction.

"Momon-kun, are you alright?"

Destana noticed how Momonga sat there, stock still. He said nothing, sitting there in foreboding silence.

The others took notice of their Guildmaster's quietness and the worry emanating from his girlfriend.

"I don't know..." He whispered, and the voices of his guildmates ceased as their attention focused solely on the Overlord.

"I have a bad feeling about this..."

Zelretch, with a wave of his hand, called upon a throne-like chair. He sat down on it comfortably, seemingly unperturbed by the confusion unfolding around him in the stadium. With another wave of his hand, numerous holographic screens materialized in the air, displaying footage of where the nine World Champions had been transported.


One second, they were in the stadium; the next, all nine of them appeared elsewhere.

They appeared to be in the woods, standing amidst a dense thicket of trees. The warm sun was lazily shining overhead, casting intermittent beams of light through the leaves of the forest, illuminating the surroundings with a soft glow.

"What the hell is going on?" Luciferno growled, speaking up for the first time.

A question that was shared by the rest as they looked around, taking in their new surroundings.

"Oh, great! Absolutely fan-fucking-tastic!" ShikiHime shouted, making her displeasure clear.

"Language, young lady." Wishful Mercí suitably admonished.

"No offense, Mercí-san, but there's a time and place for everything. Right now, I think I'm well within my rights to be pissed! Leave it to the shitty devs to pull shit like this." ShikiHime clicked her tongue, with the likes of Duskindal and LichtKing nodding and echoing the sentiment.

"Should we be surprised by this point?" Elementum V said/typed, showing a deadpanned emoticon with a string of other emoticons.

"I am more concerned regarding whatever 'trial' that he spoke of." Remarked Belladonna. Her hands fell to her blades, her sharp gaze scanning the surroundings for any signs of trouble.

While everyone was coming to grips with the situation, there was one who had a vastly different reaction.

"Emiya-san?" Touch Me called out to his guildmate once more.

Shirou had his back turned to the Heteromorphic Player, his body rigid and still since the arena.

As his eyes took in the surroundings, he was gripped with familiarity, spurring his feet into action as the paladin reached out to him.

"E-emiya-san?!" Touch Me's surprised voice drew the attention of the others as they watched Shirou take off.

The World Champion of Álfheim quickly gave chase.

"Tha' hell?" LichtKing muttered. "Oi, Touch Me-san, Emiya-san! Where're you guys going?!"

No response.

The remaining World Champions shared a look, and as one, they followed after the two with varying degrees of haste.

Shirou ran and ran, and despite the activity being far from laborious, he was panting, his heart beating rapidly against his chest.

The trees slowly parted as the edge of the forest approached. Ahead of him, a veil of blinding light concealed what was on the other side. Reaching the end, he stepped out of the woods and was treated to a sight he never once thought he would see again.

His legs slowed, coming to a stop as he stood there, transfixed.


A few seconds later, Touch Me arrived.

"What has gotten into you?" His hand clasped his guildmate's shoulder.

Shirou slowly turned around.

Touch Me was taken aback by the look on his friend's face. So many flickering emotions passed that it was difficult to tell what exactly he was feeling, and yet, at the same time, he understood.

The other World Champions caught up, with Luciferno being the last, walking at his casual, uninterested pace.

"Woah." Duskindal whistled. "Now that's quite the view."

A sentiment shared by the others as they took in the view. A picturesque town lay sprawled out before their eyes, its charming streets and buildings interwoven with the breathtaking coastal view of the ocean. The town was surrounded by lush greenery and natural beauty, punctuated with urban and suburban landscapes that added to its distinctive charm.

"I wonder where we might be." Wishful Mercí wondered aloud. A rhetorical question, but one that was answered nonetheless.

"Fuyuki City…"

Everyone turned to look at Shirou.

Even after all these years, he remembered it as clearly as yesterday.

He even knew where exactly they were.

They were on the outskirts of the city, at the edge of the Einzbern Forest, which granted a clear and full view over Fuyuki City in all its beauty.

To his left, he spotted the towering Mount Enzo and its surroundings. Despite the distance, he could see the mountain and the temple perched atop it. His eyes then wandered to the quaint and suburban area of Miyama Town, which sprawled out in different districts. He could even make out the lush greenery of Fuyuki Park and Homurahara Academy. The sight of them brought a rush of memories and a wave of emotional nostalgia, both the good times and the sad times that he had experienced.

Even from where he was, the Mion River that divided Fuyuki City into two halves sparkled. The clear blue water flowed seamlessly, connecting the river to the port and vast ocean. He then fixed his gaze on the Great Fukuyi Bridge that linked the two wayward sections of the city. Even from such a distance, the bridge remained as magnificent as he always remembered it to be.

As he looked to his right, he could see a breathtaking view of the vast Shinto Town district of Fuyuki City, with its towering skyscrapers and countless buildings that seemed to stretch on forever. Despite the distance, he could still make out the intricate details of the modern architecture that symbolized the city's progress and development. If he narrowed his eyes, he could even discern the solemnity of the cemetery and that of the church that stood on the other side.

His eyes grew wet and he blinked away the tears.

Shirou never thought he would see his beautiful hometown again, except for fleeting glimpses in his dreams or dredges from memories.

"Emiya-san..." Touch Me came to his side. "Are you, okay?"

Shirou opened his mouth, but before he could respond, Elementum V's text screen appeared, grabbing everyone's attention.

"Guys, we got company." It read.

The World Champion of Asgard raised his fists and took a marital stance, his hooded head staring back into the thick forest.

Seeing this, the others followed suit, brandishing their weapons and taking their stances in preparation.

Luciferno remained off to the side, his arms crossed over his chest, unconcerned and standoffish.

At first, there was nothing. But gradually, their ears twitched, catching a sound that grew louder. The heavy clanking of footsteps, and it coming their way.

Slowly, the vague form of a figure could be made out from the murky depths of the woods.

As the silhouette sharpened and took on a clearer shape, an inexplicable sensation pressed against the barriers of the magus's mind.

His eyes narrowed, his brows furrowed and his face scrunched up.

And as the figure drew closer, it grew all the more recognizable.

Shirou's heterochromatic eyes slowly widened in realization as the mysterious individual stepped out of the veil of trees and into the light.

His breath hitched, and his body trembled minutely.

In a breathless whisper, he uttered her name, "Saber..."

Shirou would recognize her armor and shape anywhere, even if an eternity had passed. Even if it had been blackened and twisted into something else.

The sleek armored dress was once a majestic set of grace and beauty that evoked the image of a king, with its vibrant and proud colors of elegant silver and brilliant blue. It was a symbol of honor, valor, and nobility, fit for the Once and Future King.

But no more. In its place was something else.




The armor stood in contrast to everything it once was. Saber was clad in a mass of heavy blackened steel that seemed to absorb all light, leaving it as dark a starless night. Ominous streaks of deep scarlet pulsate across the armor's surface, akin to tattoos embossed upon it. The armor possessed sharp angles, with taloned gauntlets and clawed boots that gave off an aggressive appearance. The chest plate especially was designed to accommodate her modest chest. A majestic stygian mantle flowed from the wearer's shoulders, creating an impression of a great shadow worthy of a king. The draconic helm concealed the wearer's face. It was sharp and angular, with two golden orbs peering from the visor.

The sounds of a click and clink echoed, and the helm split and parted to reveal the identity of the black knight.

Shirou's vision blurred.

"I am Saber, your Servant… I ask you… Are you my Master?"

A memory of a life long ago took over, and just as quickly as it flashed by, it faded away.

In its wake, a hauntingly beautiful face emerged, staring intently back at them - at him - so familiar and yet so different.

Her eternally youthful remained but bore the weight of an indescribable heaviness that made her look older than her years. Gone were her familiar blonde locks, replaced by pale hair that shimmered like moonlight, fashioned in her signature braid and bun. Her complexion, once fair, had been transformed into a porcelain-like snow-white, much like that of his half-sister, Illya. Scarlet streaks, no different from the ones on her armor, spread across the tapestry of her pale skin, pulsating like veins.

However, it was her eyes that gripped him.

Her eyes, which once sparkled with a radiant emerald glow of honor and stoicism, were gone. Empty, golden-pale eyes stared back as if peering into his soul.

Her gaze was a cold, dead stare, with barely any light reaching into her. Her face was devoid of any emotion, only detached indifference.

Shirou felt something within him shudder at the soulless expression.

The sensation that pressed against his mind grew stronger, and his gaze grew heavy, drawn downward.

In her hand, she held the sword of legend, the symbol of her kingship — the beautiful and physical actualization of her ideals. The Divine Construct, the sword that amplifies: The Sword of Promised Victory.


An excruciating sensation that could only be described as a screwdriver being jammed straight into his eye and stabbing his brain overwhelmed him.


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̴̷̸̫̲̤͍͗͑̾͊͐̅̉̕b̶̷̵͉̙̄̈̀͌͗̇Ȍ̷̷̷̼͔̙͕̃͂̕r̷̷̸̡͓̯̘̞̼̿͐̂͊͠ķ̸̷̵̙͈̗̌͋̉͘E̸̷̸̥̰̙͇͓̜͑́̉̾̄N̵̷̸̠̘̘̖̍̄ ̴̷̷̭̞̠̲̻̆̎́̍̃̃͑̚P̴̷̷̡̙̭̘͍̙̾͊͌̾͌ͅr̶̷̷̠͎̫̠̪̊̇̐͐̇ò̶̷̴̱̻̺̰͕͎̞̈͋͜M̷̷̵̛͍͚̱̪͍͉̻͔͆̚̚Ḯ̵̷̵̮̰͓͉͗̐̔̽͊͑̕s̸̷̸̨͎̪̮̺̤͕͚̅̉̀̀Ę̵̷̶̛̛̳̦͚̲̜͑̇̌͠


̷̴̪͈̎̀"̷̷̴̱͔͚̼̲̦̙͈̈́̅̀̐͒̂̀̐̈́Y̶̷̴̨̤̱͇͙̰̝͈̖͔͆̇̃̔̑̔̔̅̽̃̿͗͘͜͠͠͝Ǫ̶̷̸͈͔̬͚̙̩̳͔̊̏͊̄̄̑̏͋̂̂͗͘͜͝ų̵̷̴̢̧̨̛͕̟͍͚̯̦̼̬̲̼̭͂͂̄͌̊͆͂͘.̴̷̷̡̳͖͇̜̱̩̯̺͖̹̺̥͈͎̄͋̎̇͌͒̒̃̄̀́̑͆͠.̵̷̴̺̫̳͇̻̥̤͎̣͙̮̞̞͑̈́̀̔́̑̀͋̑͗͐̒.̷̷̶̡̛̹̘͖͔͉̙̗̞̼̲̻͉̯̲̺͑̆͑̓̄͒͂̕ ̶̷̴̢̡̻̺̪̖̗̮̝͕̬̜͗̏̋̾͆̒̋͐͝ć̸̷̷̨̯̭̬̯̯͕͇̂͋̀̍̊̋̓͘͜͠͝o̶̷̶̳̲͖̙͖̫̫̐̀̾̋͆̿́̀͆͘̚̕͜ú̵̷̷̫̠͔͎̖̏̒̈́̏̽̒̽͊͜L̸̷̶̨̢̹̦̫̏̽̎͆̊̽ͅD̵̷̷̢̙̻͖̜̬͙͚̙̮̱͒͒͂̓̽́͒̅̇̀͊̈́͘ň̶̷̷̨̛̩͍̹̭̭̞̯̦͓͇̥͉̽̓̃̋̃̄́̐̀̐̓̓̾ͅ'̸̷̶̡̢̧̥̹̗̻̠̲͖̳̩̹̋͐͐̌̽͐̚ţ̶̷̶̧̢̢͖͍̫̝̥̝͂̿̍̈̿͋̓̈́͆̇̚͘͝.̵̷̸̡̩̳̝̦̳̼̲̭̍̋̇̃͗̄.̸̷̸̨̥̮͔̊̀͂́̍͊̂͝.̸̷̷̨̡̩̠̯̭̻̮̈́̏̎̎͂̀̿̇̉͘͠͝ ̶̷̶̨̧̗͈̪̮̮̹͎̖͎̞̫̝̻͌̋̂̀̅̓̄̽̐̾̓̊̓̚͜͠s̴̷̵̰̠͔̲̖̜̲͉̳͚̬͔͗̓͊͗͐̅̔͌̇͛͘Ã̷̷̸͇̤̝̬͓̱̏̑̆͠V̴̷̸̱̰̻͇̳͕̭͕͗̏̾̾̃̂e̷̷̴̖̱͖̣͈̝̖͈̾̏̎̀̆̈́͌͑̋͘͜͝͠ͅ ̷̷̴̢̘̩̘̣̺̠̼̘̹͇͔͚͈͗̓̓̈́̈́̑̌̿͘̚͘͠ṁ̷̷̸̢̟̣̦͈̟̙̟̭̥̳͂͋̈́͑͜Ȩ̶̷̷̨̨͙͉͉̝͙̜͖͍̦̉̑̌͂̂̀̐̏̅̚͘͘͜͜͠ͅ.̸̷̶̢̠̦̪̻͓̥͚͎͕̜̦̐͆͐͂̎̐̆͆͊̌͠.̶̷̵̰͖̺̻̟̺̣̤̤̯̰̙͕̺̾̄̐͊̓̋̐̅͒̓̊͠ͅ.̴̷̶̨̨̲̙̞͔̜̟̦͎͙̥̿͗̈̃̅͝"̴̷̴̡̧̢̛̩̗̮̰̺̳̗̬͇̋̎̀̈́̀̐́̊̒̐͘͜


S҉̶҉̇҉̋҉̣҉̱҉͕҉͕҉̗҉O҉̷҉̐҉̑҉̑҉̈́҉̊҉͑҉̦҉̪҉̝҉̗҉̦҉͇҉͔҉͚҉̘҉̳҉͜҉m҉̵҉̎҉̓҉̔҉́҉̬҉͈҉̬҉͕҉̺҉̪҉̖҉E҉̶҉̚҉̏҉̂҉͠҉͖҉ͅ҉̣҉ͅ҉̬҉͙҉̖҉͍҉̰҉o҉̶҉̛҉̔҉͐҉͑҉̈́҉̆҉́҉̐҉̾҉̽҉̀҉̘҉͓҉͎҉̱҉̯҉̭҉̰҉̙҉̢҉̤҉N҉̸҉͆҉͗҉͔҉̰҉̨҉̫҉̥҉E҉̴҉̾҉̆҉̓҉͝҉̾҉̀҉̎҉͝҉̊҉͠҉̈́҉̡҉͈҉͍҉̤҉̨҉͎҉.҉̷҉̇҉͖҉͍҉̯҉͖҉̙҉͔҉.҉̶҉͆҉̑҉̾҉̽҉̠҉̥҉̭҉̤҉̺҉̠҉ͅ҉̦҉͕҉̢҉̥҉.҉̴҉͆҉̽҉̛҉͖҉̧҉̻҉ ҉̸҉͘҉̃҉̚҉̂҉͙҉̝҉ͅ҉͉҉̙҉̞҉͙҉̣҉̙҉ ҉̶҉͐҉̕҉̒҉̍҉̑҉̫҉̯҉

P҉̷҉̿҉̍҉͕҉͜҉͕҉͓҉̣҉L҉̶҉̔҉̈́҉̈҉̛҉̾҉͆҉̊҉̕҉̂҉͘҉̡҉̜҉̻҉͜҉̗҉̝҉e҉̵҉̌҉̄҉̫҉͕҉̻҉̩҉͙҉̫҉̳҉̯҉̻҉̪҉̝҉A҉̷҉́҉͝҉̈́҉̚҉̈҉͝҉͊҉̈҉̀҉̈҉͕҉̦҉S҉̷҉͂҉͜҉̳҉̧҉̠҉̺҉̱҉̼҉ͅ҉e҉̴҉̾҉͂҉́҉́҉̈́҉̝҉̳҉̭҉̩҉̫҉̠҉̜҉͍҉̥҉.҉̴҉̍҉͌҉̇҉͝҉͑҉̕҉͋҉ͅ҉̟҉̳҉̙҉̹҉͈҉ͅ҉͙҉̨҉.҉̶҉͘҉̿҉̢҉.҉̴҉͌҉͑҉̿҉̊҉͈҉ ҉̴҉̏҉͑҉̈́҉͠҉̎҉̍҉͒҉̒҉͝҉̕҉̈҉̹҉͚҉͍҉͇҉̲҉̳҉̭҉ ҉̸҉͑҉̛҉̍҉̂҉͊҉́҉́҉̈҉̀҉͕҉̳҉͔҉͍҉



"EMIYA-SAN!" A voice pierced through the haze.

Shirou's eyes fluttered, his vision hazy and indistinct, slowly regaining focus. His head was pounding with a sensation that felt like hundreds of tiny needles were stabbing into his brain. His ears rang with a blinding, numbing white noise that made it impossible for him to hear himself think.

"Shirou! Snap out of it!" Touch Me's worried voice cried out. The paladin's hand on his shoulder was a gentle comfort, an anchor to ground him back to reality as his friend shook him, urging him to come back.

"T-touch… Me?" Shirou said, his voice incredibly raspy.

It took his mind a moment to realize that he was crouching on one knee, his right hand clutching his face tightly.

He looked at his friend, seeing his reflection reflect off of Touch Me's helm.

Blood dripped down the corner of his right eye, as well as his nose, forming a small puddle under him. His right pupil dilated and contracted erratically, while his left pupil bounced around, refusing to remain focused.

Though disoriented, he caught a glimpse of something retreating across his sclera - a slithering blackness that quickly disappeared.

'Ww-what was that…?'

His mind struggled to comprehend, and yet his soul knew, even if he did not.

"Hey! Now's ain't the time to be spazzing the fuck out." ShikiHime called out. "Get your shit together, man!" She hurried.

"Now, now, Hime-chan, no need to lose your cool." Said Duskindal. "The fact that the boss hasn't attacked yet means it's a Passive Boss, which gives some time and breathing room." Despite his casual words, his eyes never left the Servant, his body tensed, and his hands gripped his swords tightly.

The other World Champions were in a similar state, with their weapons drawn and their defenses alert. All but Luciferno, who remained aloof to it all.

Shirou slowly and shakingly stood up, with help from his guildmate.

'Focus!' His mind screamed, regaining enough of his mental facility to look back at the Servant.

The magus fought back a wince as the buzzing white noise flared in his head, but it was more manageable this time. He avoided looking at Excalibur M̶̷̸̗͎̻̞͓̖̏̚͜ǒ̷̷̷̜͇̦̟͎̠̬͛r̴̷̷̢̺̩̰̩̮̓̑̈́͑̅̚͜g̵̷̵̲...

Saber Alter – Lvl: 375 — [The Tainted Tyrant of Camelot]

She possessed a higher level than Berserker, who was an End Boss at level 250, but just below that of the level-breaking World Enemies at level 500.

His eyes narrowed as he steeled himself for the battle to come.

He had no idea what Zelretch's plans were or his intentions for bringing this… dark reflection of the King of Knights, but it didn't matter.

No matter the similarities or differences, this would be no different from the other Servant Bosses he'd fought until now.

And like the Servants that came before, he would overcome the challenge.

However, before he or any of the other World Champions could spring into action, Saber Alter acted first.

She spoke!

"Tell me." She began, her empty gaze focused solely on him.

"By your appearance, do you still go by Shirou Emiya, or have you abandoned your name and dignity to become Alaya's dog as EMIYA?"

Her head tilted ever so slightly, a simple nuisance, but it was all the more uncanny coming from the dark doppelganger.

Shirou was too stunned to speak, staring at the blackened Servant in a daze as he felt his heart stutter.

This wasn't some scripted NPC dialogue like with his Servant NPC, nor was it simply a Boss quote. Her words flowed with intelligence and purpose. She spoke of her cognizance and will, and the way she addressed him said it all.

"I suppose it doesn't matter, does it?"

Her grip on Excalibur Morgan tightened, and an explosion of intense black-red mana burst forth. The mana clung to the sword, pulsing with an otherworldly power, and the surroundings darkened around her.


With a stomp, the ground cracked and the air trembled, and Saber Alter dashed forward.

The true final match of the 9th World Champion Tournament begins!

Omake: Alternative Summoning IV (He's Emiya, he's Emiya, I'm Emiya! Is there any more Emiya I should know about?!)

"Servant, Archer. Are you my mast–" Archer's introduction died in his mouth as he stared, and a face similar to his own stared back?

"Of course, it would be you." The dichromatic-eyed look-alike sighed, causing one of Archer's eyes to twitch in familiarity.

He instantly knew that it was the naive, idealistic vision of himself, even if he looked completely different.

The surprise didn't stop there as the Counter Guardian turned his head to find three other Servants standing around.

There was Assassin who bore his - theirs? - adoptive father's face, Kiritsugu. There was a shaved and dark-skinned man, and like with Shirou, Archer immediately knew that it was another version of himself. Lastly, there was a copy of Shirou Emiya but in his youth, with a strip of white in his autumn hair and dressed identically like him but with his right arm sleeveless and a crimson headband wrapped around his head.

The four Servants and Master stared at one another awkwardly.

"Umm, Emiya-san." Momonga said.

"Yes?" Five heads turned towards the necromancer.

"No, I meant Shirou Emiya." Momonga clarified, all the good that did as while Kiritsugu stepped back, that still left four remaining.

"Oh, you've got to be kidding me!" Ulbert exclaimed, looking ready to tear his hair out.

"He's Emiya." He pointed at Shirou.

"He's Emiya." He then pointed at Archer, who scowled.

"They're Emiya." Emiya-Assassin and EMIYA-Alter simply watched on with a detached look while Miyu-verse Shirou Emiya sported a small frown.

"Is there any more Emiya we should know about?!" The World Disaster shouted.

"Is now a bad time?"

Everyone turned to find the splitting image of Shirou as an adult standing there, with his lush autumn hair and amber eyes. He was dressed similarly to Miyu-verse Shirou but was more oriental in style, with part of his chest bare.

"Who the fuck are you?!" Ulbert exclaimed.

"Servant Saber, but you can call me Sengo Muramasa." The blacksmith bowed.

"Bullshit!" The demon immediately denied. "You're basically the spitting image of this asshole in his youth!" He pointed to main-Shirou and Miyu-verse Shirou.

"I'm technically a Demi-Servant. I'm simply inhabiting the body of Shirou Emiya as it's the most compatible host." Muramasa explained, shrugging.

"With that said…"

The Saber Servant cast his gaze towards Shirou.

"I do feel a connection with you. I do believe you might even be a descendant of my bloodline."

"So, by technicality and association, you're an Emiya."

"If you want to be super technical about it, yes." Muramasa shrugged again, nonplussed by the whole issue.

Ulbert stared at the scene with a deadpan glare.

He then walked away without saying a word.

"Ulbert-san, where are you going?" Tabula called out.

"Fuck this shit I'm out!" He said without turning around.

He slammed the massive double doors of the Throne Room on his way out, the room rumbling slightly from his exit.


"Sis! Keep it together!" Peroroncino exclaimed, kneeling on the ground next to a literal puddle of pink goo.

Unfortunately, Bukubukuchagama was happily in her own little world, giggling sporadically as she lay there.

Author's Note:

A piece of criticism, and a fair one at that, is regarding the various matches of the tournament and how they've been playing out. As mentioned before, I will fully admit that much of the fights do stretch the feasibility and focus more on the fun and spectacle of it all. That blame falls solely on me and my shortcomings.

As for the fight between Shirou and Warrior Takemikazuchi, I would hope it is a bit more understandable. I'll certainly admit that it is far from my best work and lacking in comparison to the ones that came before it. Unlike the previous matches, I wanted to convey the feel of a casual spar between friends but also an exciting enough match that shows off both their skills and repertoire. It was difficult to get down right, and I feel it falls short of it in a few areas, but I think it worked well enough, or as much as I can make it - a decent enough match, but far from the most exciting and that's a bit on purpose.

For the true final match and spectacle is reserved for what's to come next.

Now, regarding the ending... I will admit that I feel a bit of trepidation about it all. On one hand, it's finally here and I can't wait to write about Saber Alter and what's to come next. It's been in the works and in my mind for years, and now I'm stoked to finally dive into it. But on the other hand, that means that the World Champion Arc is persisting and I understand the fatigue that comes with it. From the beginning, I knew that this would be my longest arc yet, but even I was not exactly sure how long it would be. Yet, this is something I refuse to budge on and something I want to see to the end, even if it may drag a bit.

With all that said, thank you for reading. I hope you all stick around for the upcoming chapters and what's to come next in the story. We're at the final act and I'm very excited to show what comes next and the culmination of Shirou's progression throughout the story.

Next Chapter: The 9th World Champion Tournament VI