What was a hero? No, perhaps the better question is what makes a hero? Are they individuals who hold power over others, or simply people that have the capability to help others and choose to?
A hero to Olga was just a renowned figure of history that had accomplished a feat thought impossible in the current era, hence a miracle. The greater the miracle, the stronger the hero. In basic terms, the renown of a hero's legend determines their parameters as a Heroic Spirit. Ancient and acclaimed heroes such as Herakles and Achilles from Greece for example were considered as two of the strongest known Servants. This was all dictated by the passage of time and the documents left behind to sing songs of past glory to future generations.
It was here that Olga came to a realization. Time.
Past or present, the Throne of Heroes which housed and immortalized the souls of heroes was outside the bounds of time. It contained the feats and achievements of the past, present, and future.
Shirou Emiya was a future hero. This fact was clear just from looking at the enemy Servant he was facing. The two were identical in appearance with only minor differences in height, skin, and hair tone.
The mystery of Shirou Emiya came to Olga's mind once again. He was a puzzle that she felt like she was finally starting to understand. Disregarding his past history and the inconsistencies in timelines, she speculated that it all had something to do with the state of Sheba and the near-future observation device.
Past, present, and future may be in the process of being blurred such that inconsistencies and divergences from proper human history were occurring.
Olga was a magus, the heiress of the Animusphere family, and she was privy to knowledge unprovided to most of Chaldea's staff. To begin with, the Fuyuki Holy Grail War of 2004 was fought by her father and a Caster-Class Servant who certainly wasn't Cu Chulainn. The present Grail War itself is nothing like how her father documented it in the Animusphere family records, as if it had been replaced by a different Grail War entirely. Moreover, why couldn't she accurately remember the details of her father's Servant? Of all times to forget information, why now?
Olga shrieked in alarm as a stray piece of shrapnel nearly grazed her cheek. Forget contemplation, she had to get to safety! She hurriedly retreated behind a tall formation of rocks and casted a barrier spell out of caution.
She watched in stunned silence as Shirou Emiya mirrored the enemy Servant's movements blow for blow. It was like looking at a reflection. Both of their eyes were so focused on each other that she felt as if she was being entirely ignored…at least for the most part.
"R-Right!" She answered automatically before suddenly feeling miffed at herself. What was she, some kind of battery? Well, in this case, it was hard to deny as she channeled more magical power into her family crest and transferred it over to Shirou.
As much as Olga felt like she should be helping more, she was now firmly convinced that Shirou and the enemy Servant were monsters even among Servants. She was more likely to get herself killed by getting involved than actively helping.
"Trace. On. Continuous fire." Two voices called as one.
Her breath hitched at the sight before her, as she felt a dip in her magical reserves that Shirou drew from.
Numerous swords formed in the air, many of which shone with potent magical energy that warped and distorted their surroundings in a manner that Olga had seen once before. They inspired just as much awe and dread as Gae Bolg. These swords, these weapons, they were crystalized legends.
All at once, they rocketed forward at the beck and call of two madmen capable of creating them on a whim. Moreover, some of them shattered and broke to release attacks beyond their standard capabilities.
For a Noble Phantasm, there was a concept known as a Broken Phantasm. If a Noble Phantasm is packed with more magical energy than it can contain, it breaks and releases a level of power beyond its normal capabilities. One could say that it's the fallout of shattering a crystallized myth and destroying the illusion of its grandeur for a fleeting spike in power that can only be used once. But this spike in power was not to be underestimated for it represented the full might of a legend. This was true for all Noble Phantasms, and was a last resort for all Heroic Spirits, but this was different.
Shirou and his future self were bypassing the flaw of one-time-use by creating multiple copies of the same Noble Phantasm as if they were just cheap throw-a-ways.
"My core is twisted in madness."
Their voices echoed as Olga watched Shirou and Archer leap away from each other and arm themselves with twisted swords notched onto their black bows.
The sword of the rainbow from Irish myth; sword of Fergus Mac Roich who used it to shatter apart Ireland's rolling hills.
A bang resounded as a molten ball of searing flame abruptly illuminated the night. Olga's mouth dried, her pupils dilating, as she heard a ringing in her ears. The shockwave that preceded the explosion shattered the barrier Olga had put up and caused her to tumble over the dirt and stain herself in mud and foliage.
What sort of bullshit is this?!
She huddled in on herself and made herself as small as possible in order to avoid getting caught in the crossfire again. In fact, she didn't dare peak her head out to watch the fight anymore in fears of getting decapitated by a stray blade or magical blast.
The ground trembled beneath her feet, as the surrounding trees around Ryuudou Temple flattened from the impact of another explosion. She herself was not unaffected, as she lost her balance and landed hard enough on her butt that she was sure that it would bruise. She hugged her knees to her chest. Twigs and pieces of grime were tangled in her hair, and her resolve was almost surely beginning to waver.
No tears Olga. No tears. You've been through worse hardship in your life.
She was the sole daughter of the Animusphere family who'd taken up the position of heiress at an early age. She'd still yet to prove herself worthy of her title so she couldn't lose her grip on reality here to errant men who could create Noble Phantasms on a whim.
She had to hold strong. Her hands balled up into fists as she regathered her conviction. There was surely nothing else that Shirou or the enemy Servant could do that would surprise her anymore.
"I am the Bone of my Sword."
Unfathomable magic power suddenly welled up in the air, seemingly imposing upon the laws of the world itself. Olga noticed spatial ripples forming, considered the implications, and then promptly started laughing in a detached sense.
Her expression carefully shifted into monotone, a lone tear trickling down her left cheek.
Why does nothing ever go right for her?!What was going to happen now?! Regardless, as the director of Chaldea, she had a duty to aid her employees, and Shirou Emiya was certainly one of them. Assuring herself multiple times that she would be fine, and that Shirou wouldn't let her die after already saving her, she decided to stop hiding.
Picking herself up onto her feet, she straightened her back, puffed up her chest, but failed to hide the wobbling of her knees. Even still, for the sake of proving her worth, she could endure anything even without Lev by her side.
She shivered as wind beat over her skin, the coldness of it causing her to grit her teeth as she pictured what other trials the future had in store for her. Regardless, the heiress of house Animusphere and the director of Chaldea will not cower. She was Olga Marie Animusphere, and she'd do as her father once said to her before his untimely death.
"If you can't understand something, then study it until you do," she mumbled under her breath, her gaze locking onto Shirou and Archer's forms from a rock she hid behind. "Get a grasp for it, and then determine it's best use. In wisdom comes victory."
She could be surprised, taken aback, or even discouraged by comparison, but she could never lose faith in herself. Shirou Emiya may prove to be a monster who could contend against Servants, but he would be her monster for the sake of human history as a Master Candidate of Chaldea.
Shirou was her employee, so it was only natural that he'd protect his boss. The fact that he was a future hero was only a bonus. Trust was a difficult concept for magi since most magi were known to stab you in the back for their own interests. However, from the beginning, Olga's intuition was telling her that Shirou Emiya wasn't quite like the average magus. Right here, right now, Olga had decided to place her faith for the first time in someone that wasn't Lev.
It had nothing to do with the fact that the image of Shirou shielding her from the explosion of the Master Coffins was seared into her mind.
For better or for worse.
Whether or not he was being unreasonable, Shirou had a goal he had to accomplish. The cost to himself did not matter to him as much as the promise he'd made to Rin. It may not have been the Rin that he was familiar with, but she was Rin all the same. Watching her die while he was unable to do anything felt as if someone had just torn a hole through his chest. A part of him was hollow, almost empty, like he'd lost something he cherished, and there was nothing he could do about it. He'd never even had the chance, but one person surely did.
A shower of sparks illuminated the dark as a pair of mirrored blades locked together in a bid for dominance. Eyes that shared similar pain stared unflinchingly at each other, both fighting for something that they wished to protect or see through till the end.
Veins popped over Archer's forehead as he put more power into his arms and leaned in closer to speak. "You wouldn't understand," was all Archer said as he sneered derisively and forced Shirou into a retreat with a kick bellow the belt. "You should have just stayed dead."
Just as in the past, Shirou was finding himself hopelessly disadvantaged. He didn't know what the Archer of this world had been through or how this Holy Grail War had went, but he could sort that out later. If Archer would stop him from seeing his promise to Rin through, then that was more than enough reason to fight beyond the resentment he felt.
You were always stronger than me, better than me.
Blurred images of the war Archer had been through filtered into Shirou's mind with each clash of his blades against Archer's own. The annoyance, the desperation, the guilt of failure, he could feel it all as if he himself was there and more. Yet at the end of it all, he chose a different path than Archer based on a difference of ideals.
"I am not you!"
Shirou hurled Kanshou and Bakuya forward. They were Noble Phantasms of the Spring and Autumn period made by Gan Jiang of Wu. Lore depicted them as the married blades knowing neither vanity or purpose, made only for the sake of crafting.
For someone like Shirou and Archer, the two blades were perfect for them who had never mastered their proficiency with a single sword. Better yet, the love shown by the blacksmith's wife granted the blades the ability to always seek each other out. Hence, they were also known as the married blades.
Thrown through the air, one sword attracted the other and converged on Archer's location at the center. It was a move replicated by Archer which resulted in mutual destruction as the traced versions of Kanshou and Bakuya clashed together.
"Tch," Shirou clicked his tongue and stared across at Archer who stood unmoving across from him.
"Last chance," Archer said solemnly. "Leave before you regret your decision."
As if I'd leave. Shirou narrowed his eyes and maintained silence. Too much was at stake here beyond just his promise. More than anything, to lose to Archer was something he'd never allow himself to do.
"A fool's choice," Archer wasted no time gathering magical energy in a white hued storm around him. "You never did know when to quit."
"Better than giving up," Shirou inwardly thanked Olga for supplying him enough magical energy because he had a good feeling that he knew what Archer was up to. The initial confrontation had only been to test the waters, and now came the real challenge.
-The one Noble Phantasm that could ever be possessed by Heroic Spirit Emiya was coming just as Shirou remembered it. However, he wasn't the same ignorant Master as he'd been before.
You chose your path, and I chose mine.
If Archer believed him to just be the same Shirou who died in this current timeline, then Archer would be wrong. He knew the words; he knew himself; and he knew his convictions. What more did he need?
Shirou or Archer, it didn't matter. Fundamentally, their magecraft was identical and tied to the nature of their souls. As one, a sentence was spoken.
"I am the Bone of my Sword."
It was the beginning of an aria, a composition of who they were as people to manifest the inner reality of one's person. In response, the world stilled, a gasp escaping from where Olga looked on in disbelief.
Archer grimaced in acknowledgment, but the glare he was sending was enough to chill anyone's heart, but not Shirou's. Simultaneously, the two began walking towards each other in tandem, attention never straying from the other.
"Steel is my body and fire is my blood."
The words continued, filled with a magic that worked to push away the laws of the world and replace it with a new order. Ethereal fire began to burn, azure blue around Archer, and fiery orange around Shirou. They signified a path of shared origin and hardship.
"I have created over a thousand blades."
And suddenly the paths diverge like a river into two streams, two parallels of the same source driven to separation through a difference in choice. One continues to look upon the brightness of the stars, and the other wishes for nothing more than to snuff them away.
"Unknown to Death,"/ "Unaware of loss."
"Nor known to Life."/ "Nor aware of gain."
The small differences and nuances shift to become glaring dividers that sharply contrast the ideals abandoned or maintained. One fought for those he wished to protect, and the other fought in the memory of those he'd failed knowing that he'd already lost everything.
"Have withstood pain to create many weapons."/ "Withstood pain to create weapons, waiting for one's arrival."
Shirou and Archer met a foot away from each other, each carrying their own burdens and unwilling to back down in the face of the other. For their existence themselves were mirror opposites. That which was left behind, and that which chooses to persist.
"Yet, those hands will never hold anything."/ "I have no regrets. This is the only path."
I can lose to anyone, but I could never allow myself to lose to you.
Both glanced up sharply as two rings of fire vied for supremacy.
"So, as I pray,"/ "My whole life was,"
Two voices blended into one.
"Unlimited Blade Works!"
The forest around Ryuudou Temple suddenly grew quiet. There was not a sound to be heard, but the frantic scampering of animals through the underbrush, and the occasional snapping sound of falling trees. Compared to moments earlier when numerous explosions and the clanging of steel resounded indefinitely, the abrupt stillness of off putting.
Cu who was clearing through a group of skeletons with his spear frowned as Ritsuka and Mash followed behind him. He looked up and noticed a flock of birds circling in the sky, and clicked his tongue. A memory of defeat had surfaced in his mind, and it put him in a foul mood.
A warrior's role is to secure victory in battle. On the other hand, a warrior's pride was their own honour. Cu had no desire for the Holy Grail. His sole reason for participating in the war had been to fight against capable opponents, but had now shifted to putting an end to everything. It was unfortunate, but Cu was grudgingly going to have to lose out on his rematch with the Archer-Class Servant.
Winning the Grail War mattered more in order to stop the atrocities that could befall the rest of the world. To this end, he hadn't been fighting in the ways of a warrior, but as a druid before he'd met the people of Chaldea.
Now though, now he had his spear. This one fact changes everything.
No longer would he fight in the way of a druid, but in the way of a warrior, as his teacher had taught him. Still, he couldn't just overcome the limitations of his class so easily. He had an abundance of mana, but his physical capabilities were lacking compared to Knight Classes. A single strike from Saber may be enough to kill him. This was where Mash would come in to act as support with her shield. It was the whole reason he'd opted to train her. A competent ally was worth more than any average weapon or armour.
Still, for the most part, Cu intended to face Saber on his own. The anticipation of a good fight nearly outweighed his priority to win the grail. You couldn't blame him though. He was just like his master when it came to facing off against skilled warriors. He couldn't help but always give it his all.
In any case, Cu reminded himself that he wasn't going into battle alone. Mash and Ritsuka had to be prepared lest Saber decide to deal with them first should they prove an annoyance. Cu wasn't one to doubt Saber's honour, but this wasn't a duel, but a war.
When facing off against two opponents, the weakest link would always be targeted, and Saber had become ruthless ever since her blackening. The cave where Saber guarded the Holy Grail was already within view. Any moment after entering the cave and Saber would surely detect them. The two members of Chaldea had to understand what sort of danger they were quickly walking into.
As it was, Cu was unpleased when he looked at them and noticed their gazes wandering elsewhere. Mash's lips were pursed and she constantly kept glancing in Shirou and Olga's direction, while Ritsuka was no different. He just did better to hide it behind a pensive grimace.
"Listen," Cu raised his voice and leveled Mash and Ritsuka with a flat look. "If there's one thing that you don't do before getting into a fight, it's distract yourself with other thoughts. Concentration is key if you don't want to die."
Mash had the decency to nod her head and blush at being called out, but she still maintained a worried expression. Ritsuka by comparison was frowning. One look was all it took for Cu to realize that the current set up wasn't going to work if he couldn't alleviate whatever concerns the two had.
"The both of you are unfocused." Cu got straight to the point. He stopped his march forward, cleared the area of skeletons, then crossed his arms while Mash and Ritsuka flinched at his unamused glower. "If you both have something you want to say, then say it now."
Realizing that time was of the essence, Ritsuka quickly spoke up. "Are you sure we shouldn't go back to help them?" He and Mash didn't say it, but Olga had looked terrified when she'd left with Shirou. Add in the fact that neither Shirou or Olga had a Servant to fight with them, and there was no way not to grow concerned. Cu must have understood this, as he should have also noticed Olga's unease prior to the group's parting.
Contrary to expectations, Cu didn't budge on the issue.
"Leave em be kid," Cu smirked in what could only have had been confidence. "There are some battles that have to be fought alone, and this one is Shirou's battle."
Mash demurely raised her hand, prompting Cu to give her a dirty look. This was a time of urgency, not politeness. If you had something to say, then just spit it out.
"Uhm, I've been meaning to ask, but how do you know Emiya Senpai to believe that he can defeat a Servant?"
Cu went silent for a moment before he clicked his tongue. If speaking would help Mash and Ritsuka focus, then so be it. "It's because I fought him myself," he said absently.
Mash and Ritsuka looked taken aback and confused at the admission, but they didn't have to understand. They just needed to listen.
"Look here," Cu placed one hand each on Mash and Ritsuka's shoulders and gripped moderately. "It took more effort than I thought to kill him the first time, and the lucky bastard survives. A week later after this Grail War went to shit, I see him get killed a second time and wrote him off as dead. Guess what? He survived again and gave me this spear."
Cu patted Mash and Ritsuka roughly on the back and grinned roguishly. "Put a little more faith in the guy. Not only have I seen him face a Servant before, but he's harder to kill than a cockroach."
Mash and Ritsuka still looked uncertain, but Cu said a single truth that had them setting their priorities straight.
"The sooner we win the Grail War, the less danger your friends will be in."
Ritsuka nodded his head while Mash gripped tightly onto her shield in determination. They looked at each other in mutual agreement. "Let's go!"
"That's what I'm talking about," Cu brandished his spear and resumed the march forward. "Keep up or try not to fall too far behind. On a side note, If we can't defeat Saber, and I end up kicking the bucket, there's still one method that would surely provide an opportunity for victory. So, listen well."
Cu explained the backup plan to Mash and Ritsuka, but neither of them could understand the relevance behind screaming "Shirou's alive!" at Saber's face other than painting themselves as a target for drawing her attention.
Cu grimaced at the cheap shot such an action would bring, but Shirou himself was the last resort.
As a warrior, he hoped that it wouldn't have to come to that, but war knows no honour. Defeat wasn't an option.
When did everything start to go wrong? Archer did not know. All that he did know was that by the time he tried to make things right and forsake his goal of killing his past self to free him of his own misery, everything was too late.
Everyone who shouldn't have died, ended up dying, and all those that were left were just shadows of their former selves. Even he had not escaped the fate of blackening, but it didn't mean that he'd lost sight of what mattered. Those that he cared for had perished, but there was still one that he could protect. This was the whole point of his continued existence. So long as he could protect just one, it would be enough for him.
So why? Why was he losing this battle?!
Archer gnashed his teeth and stood upon the hill of his own Reality Marble, the manifestation of one's inner world. Swords lay erect around him upon a wasteland bereft of life and surrounded by monolithic gears that hung in the horizon. He was older and jaded, the ideals that he'd used to depend on no longer there to aid him.
Across from him was another world entirely opposite to his own. Where a wasteland existed, grass was growing; where monolithic gears hung in the air, a clear horizon was all that could be seen on the other side. The only thing in common between both worlds were swords. Swords everywhere, and Olga Marie staring blankly at everything in the middle as if she'd suddenly start foaming at the mouth.
Neither Archer or Shirou paid Olga any attention. Instead, they called upon the strength of their armouries and began a war between worlds. Numerous swords and weapons from both sides formed stream-like torrents of steel that clashed together at the interstice of their inner realities.
A deafening roar of groaning metal and magical energy echoed throughout. Thousands upon thousands of swords shattering into shrapnel at the epicenter, mottling the ground with numerous holes.
Only one reality would exist in the end. At their core, both Archer and Shirou were the same person. Their magecraft was identical, their fighting styles unable to be differentiated.
A battle between the both of them was never just a battle of strength or skill, but of conviction, and this time, Archer found himself on the losing end.
Damn it. Archer groaned while keeping his right arm extended forward to channel his magical energy. He knew that he was fully capable of slaughtering Shirou Emiya right here and right now. All that it would take was a little more effort on his part to lunge in and stab his adversary through the heart. However, it felt as if a pair of invisible shackles were chaining his body to the ground. He couldn't move until he could convince himself that winning was the best course of action.
He supposed that he started losing the very moment that his thoughts changed from 'protecting' Saber to 'saving,' Saber. If it was his younger self, then a chance may exist. He couldn't help but believe in this outcome. Naïve, foolish, and misguided as his younger self was, his earnest dedication and recklessness often landed him results contrary to expectation. Archer could not deny this fact. He'd seen how Shirou Emiya had won this Grail War only to be caught unprepared and killed by a bastard named Lev.
Archer was perhaps the only one who could tell that the Shirou he was facing wasn't quite the Shirou he'd seen die. But it was precisely because of this that he felt that this Shirou had a chance to turn everything around. The situation had already changed. Rather than just act as a watch dog protecting someone he cared for, wasn't saving her the better option?
That's what an Ally of Justice would do. This is what Shirou Emiya would always do. Just this once, their goals aligned, so what was the purpose in fighting any longer?
Archer's concentration abruptly slipped.
Archer grunted as he watched Shirou's rain of swords begin to push back fiercely against his own. The ground acting as the divider between their inner worlds was quickly tipping in the favour of Shirou. Each step Shirou took transformed the barren ground of Archer's reality marble into a lush green.
The old ideals Archer had thought he'd buried away once again began to surface and whittle away at his resolve for victory. Slowly, surely Shirou's Reality Marble encroached on his own.
Archer smiled bitterly. A part of him couldn't help but envy the clear skies of Shirou Emiya's Reality Marble, and this was the final turning point. In Shirou, Archer saw the possibility of a limitless future different from his own. Perhaps what he'd been unable to do, Shirou could do in his stead? This all led to a final conclusion.
There was no point in victory.
Archer stared up at the veritable wall of steel that loomed over him and decided that he'd had enough with regrets. His whole life was nothing but hardship and struggle.
Always, always, losing sight of what truly matters. Not anymore.
The swords came crashing down as the last of Archer's resistance dwindled into nothing. His vision immediately blackened as everything came crashing down. Yet not once did his gaze leave Shirou's.
What you will find at the end of this path…is only despair.
She who protected you when you were most vulnerable; she who watched in anguish as you died and black mud tainted her core; this time she is there at the heart of this tragedy.
But if it's you, then surely you can still save her.
"Don't you dare let her down."
She had always been the one who was hurting the most.
The fact that Archer found himself still alive with several swords skewered through his chest must have been some sort of miracle. His body may have been battered and broken, but his mind was already quickly processing what it meant for him to still be alive.
Presently, he was sprawled over the ground. Archer didn't know how much time had passed, but Shirou must have already left as Archer couldn't sense anyone else around him. He was alone, injured, and was probably better off dead than able to feel all his wounds.
Archer was honestly getting exhausted from all this shit, but there was still one promise he'd yet to fulfill. In a single motion, he gradually brought up his right arm and Traced one more Noble Phantasm.
Rule Breaker. It was the jagged ritual dagger of the Witch of Betrayal able to sever all magical contracts. When used against a Servant, it had the ability to nullify the connection between Master and Servant. In this case, he wished to cut apart a different sort of connection. He was done being a dog on a leash.
He stabbed himself, and felt the line of magical energy supporting his existence abruptly stop.
He would be bound by the corrupted Grail no longer.
His Independent Action skill would allow him to maintain his existence for a duration of time. It was all that he would need as he couldn't allow himself to dissipate just yet. Fumbling with his hands, he placed them beneath his chest and began to strain his muscles.
He forced up his punctured body from the ground, and shakily stood up on his feet. Pools of blood formed beneath him and left a bloody trail as he began to hobble off one step at a time.
He had a score to settle.
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Next update: Holy man of the Church Creek
P a treon. com (slash) Parcasious
Fiction Press: Survivor's Log: Reflections
Book link: Fatedlegacydark. ca
Summary of book:
Death. Grief. Ruin. Nothing was left unchanged after an unexplained tragedy led to the loss of millions across the world in key locations. Cities were reduced to wastelands of steel and concrete, and many were forced into migration. When events leading to the prior tragedy occur once more, Kevin Black was going to have to learn that sometimes mysteries were better left unsolved. Trapped with his friends in the world of a ruined city filled with monsters, the journey out would be far more perilous than the journey in.