DISCLAIMER: I do not take credit from the Fate universe and its characters. The rights and credits go to the original authors.

Read the notes in the first chapter if you haven't done it already.

This is my very first story. I'm confident in my grammar, but if there are any mistakes, then let me know and I'll try to figure out how to fix them as soon as I have time.

Hope you enjoy.

-Arc V-

Chapter 24

Planet: Earth
Date: June 13 2020
Abu Simbel site – Abu Simbel Temples (Aswan/Nubia Governorate - Egypt)


The sun rose behind the dunes, basking the world with its rays and heralding the arrival of a new day.

Shirou and his companions greeted the morning light with solemn looks. Standing above Ozymandias' Flying Temple, they observed as the city complex flew through the sky, headed in direction of a very specific place: an historic site located near the border between Egypt and Sudan: the ancient site of Abu Simbel. It was a complex comprising two massive rock-cut temples in the village of Abu Simbel (situated on the western bank of Lake Nasser) and, apparently, the very same destination that Ozymandias himself had chosen to reach for this special occasion. To witness his presence – or, more accurately – to witness his choice, his decision regarding whether to participate in the Holy Grail War... or not.

Now, however; Shirou, Iskandar and Mordred couldn't help but keep their eyes glued to the ancient temple placed below the flying city. Even from their position above, the site was a real sight to see. The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside in the 13th century BC, during the 19th Dynasty reign of the Pharaoh Ramesses II, with its external rock relief figures of Ozymandias having become iconic; along with those of his wife Nefertari and his children. Inside the Great Temple, moreover, many of them knew that sculptures and paintings in the halls commemorated Ramesses II's heroic leadership at the Battle of Kadesh, and it was widely known that this complex had been built by the Pharaoh himself to celebrate his glory and that of Nefertari, his most beloved wife. In fact, during those distant days, it was known throughout the world as the Temple of Ramesses, beloved by Amun.

In other words: it was a monument of glory and splendor. A monument that had endured to the modern days in spite of the odds, and which represented all the greatness, all the pride (and, of course, all the arrogance) of the Pharaoh Ozymandias in full.

Consequently, then, it was no wonder that the King of Kings had chosen this place as the location that would witness his final decision. Actually, now that they thought about it, Shirou and his friends should have seen it coming, all things considered.

That was why none of them was surprised right now.

"Guys, I'll be honest with you… I was kind of expecting something like this," the God of War muttered, observing the site of Abu Simbel from their position above. Judging by the deadpan on his face, he was feeling both amused and conflicted at the moment.

Next to him, Mordred, Artoria, Gawain and Bedivere were all wearing his exact same expression.

"Indeed," Artoria agreed.

"Yep," Mordred groused.

"Of course," Bedivere sighed.

"Certainly," Gawain nodded.

On his part, however, Iskandar merely raised a brow as he glanced between the complex below and his friends' frowning faces.

"Hm? Why are you all making that face? I see nothing wrong with this," he pointed out, confused. He was openly scratching his beard with a perplexed movement while he shot a glance towards the Ramesseum Tentyris, where Ozymandias and his allies were still debating among themselves before the Pharaoh would reveal his final decision to them all. "We all knew the Sun King is unpredictable to say the least. However, choosing a suitable place for an official declaration is something that every King should do depending on the occasion. Even I did something similar in life, at the end of my quest for Conquest."

'Why am I not surprised by this?' was everyone's unanimous thought as they sweat-dropped at his words.

It was warranted, they supposed. Just as it was expected of Alexander the Great, he was not fazed by Ozymandias' actions; for he himself had been – just like the Pharaoh – a boisterous and overbearing King who loved to be glorified and adored by his people. Therefore, seeking a way to celebrate and extol his glory was something completely natural for him. Almost due, in fact. A King had to be greater than his people, after all; and thus it was only logical for him to take extravagant decisions. It was simply how things were supposed to be, in his opinion, and the Ruler and his allies knew that all too well by now.

Not that it was surprising, though. Ozymandias had literally made his Temple Complex fly all night long, darting through the clouds above desert sands without being seen in order to reach this place. And although Shirou and the others hadn't noticed the journey due to their well-deserved sleep, it hadn't taken them long to realize that they had literally flown all over Egypt in less than ten hours last night… all of that simply because Ozymandias wanted to come here in this place, in order to reveal his decision inside the very same Temple that he had made build in life in order to celebrate his glory and that of his beloved wife.

Kings could be very weird, it seemed.

"For once, I agree with the King of Conquerors," a new voice spoke all of a sudden, grabbing their attention immediately.

Shirou and his companions turned around upon hearing it, and they were greeted by the sight of Luviagelita Edelfelt walking in their direction; followed closely by Antonio Salieri as well.

"The rest of you may disagree, but I, for one, think the Pharaoh's choice is logical," the girl stated as she moved to stand right next to Shirou, moving a strand of her long, golden hair from her shoulder with a haughty movement. "Any important event requires an appropriate location to unfold. Choosing a suitable place to witness a decision of such importance is only natural. Any person descending from nobility knows that," she stated matter-of-factly, as if it were obvious.

Judging by the blank, empty faces she received in answer, the others didn't seem too convinced about that. The girl openly coughed in shame under their combined stares. "D-Don't you agree with me, Berserker?" she asked, turning to the left in search of aid from her fellow nobleman.

Much to her disappointment, Salieri looked completely unimpressed as well. "…Hmph. I find this whole matter nothing more than a farce," was all he said, and then shut his mouth, refusing to elaborate further.

A weary sigh was exhaled, and Shirou and the others smirked in amusement as Luvia's shoulders dropped in defeat and embarrassment. Her entire face had become a mask of shame and annoyance mixed together upon being confronted by the Servants' unamused stares, and none of them failed to see that. It was extremely amusing to tease the girl just for the sake of it. Even Iskandar (confused as he was) was still playing along with a huge grin on his lips – much to the girl's growing annoyance.

But, alas, as much as they would have liked to fool around and enjoy the moment of peace, it was not meant to last.

Because, in that exact moment, something happened.

Ramesseum Tentyris shook all of a sudden, and Shirou, Luvia and the others turned in direction of the golden pyramid with narrowed eyes. There, atop the long staircase made of gleaming marble that lead into the temple, the King of Kings himself made his appearance amid the absolute silence, flanked by his allies as well. He descended the staircase with a solemn step, looking both regal and overbearing at the same time, followed closely by Nitocris, Cleopatra and Caesar. He was dressed in elegant clothes of gold and wrapped in the presence of a King, with his white linen cloak billowing behind him as he moved to exit the gigantic temple.

All the while, each of his steps was accompanied by the tapping of his scepter, and his eyes of gold were fixed on Shirou and his allies for the entire duration of his slow descent, studying the group with an unreadable stare. The God of War and his companions stared back at him without saying anything, while Luvia and the Pharaoh's allies began to tense a bit in silent anticipation.

Luckily for them, however, the silent standoff didn't last long this time. In fact, upon reaching their location and standing face to face with Ruler, the Sun King turned around and closed his eyes.


A single command was all he uttered from his lips. He did not speak further; he did not explain his intentions. All he did was turn his back on the group of Servants, weaving his staff with a solemn movement and slamming its tip on the floor, without the slightest hesitation.

A few moments of absolute quiet passed.

Then, the Flying Temple reacted once more. The wind hissed and the floor trembled. A loud, ear-splitting roar of metal echoed through the air, and more and more wind began to billow around the flying construct upon receiving the Pharaoh's command. Until, not even a second later, the floor, the walls, and the entire temple complex began to shake and tremble all of a sudden, startling Shirou and his companions who immediately tensed and glanced around in every direction as a powerful earthquake shook the world around them.

Thus, the reaction happened. Ramesseum Tentyris obeyed his master's will, and began to move. Like a helicopter moving to land on solid ground, the Temple Complex slowly started to descend from the sky without making a single sound, losing more and more altitude with each passing second and slowly beginning to move closer to the earth. The red-haired Ruler watched in silent amazement as the gigantic flying city began to leave the clouds and the heavens, lowering its flight all of a sudden and starting a slow but steady descent towards the ground; leaving the skies behind and reaching for the earth instead.

"W-What is happening?" Luviagelita exclaimed in confusion, holding on to Shirou in an attempt to keep herself upright as the temple shook during its descent. "Why are you making us land, Pharaoh?"

The only answer she received was silence. The Sun King kept his eyes glued to the horizon, unfazed by the confusion around him. All the while, Mordred, Iskandar and Artoria fixed him with a narrowed stare, while Gawain and Bedivere glanced towards Nitocris and Cleopatra with questioning glances… only to be met with stoic silence as well. The two Pharaohs closed their eyes and remained silent too, and even Caesar openly decided to turn his gaze away under their confused stares. Apparently, they had all decided not to speak a word during this moment, and none of them was willing to change their mind, for some reason.

Shirou, Iskandar and Mordred exchanged a glance amid the unshakable silence. Artoria and her Knights did the same. Even Luvia and Salieri glanced at each other in confusion, but to no avail. No one was aware of the Sun King's intention right now, and it was pointless to question him about it. It was obvious that he would not answer to their questions. Not yet, at least. Not right now.

And thus, the red-haired Ruler watched with a narrowed gaze as the Pharaoh's Flying Temple landed on solid ground for the first time after several hours of uninterrupted flight, making the world shake with a powerful noise for a few moments.

Ramesseum Tentyris landed upon the western bank of Lake Nasser, near the shore; a few kilometers away from the city of Abu Simbel and roughly about a few miles away from the twin temples carved out of the mountainside. Upon making contact with the rocky desert soil, the earth stirred and moaned for a few seconds, but everything went quiet after a while. It had been clear from the beginning for Shirou that Ozymandias wanted to come here for some reason… but he hadn't expected him to make his temple land on solid ground again. Such a move could put him in danger, after all, and even risk of having him discovered by civilians or other Servants.

As such, it was a dangerous move. And he needed to know why.

He wasted no time. "What is the meaning of this, Sun King?" he demanded, turning towards Ozymandias with a narrowed frown. "Why are you―?"

"Worry not, Ruler," Nitocris cut in the discussion suddenly. Everyone turned to the Caster with purple hair, staring at her resolute face in wonder as she broke the silence with a solemn tone. "No one will discover our presence. This is the second time the Pharaoh is visiting this place, and I've already cast a powerful spell on the site last time we were here. I've also erected a Bounded Field around his Temple as well. It will keep our presence hidden, and render our city invisible to civilians' eyes."

Her words made them pause for a moment. However, upon a closer examination, Shirou had to admit that Nitocris was stating the truth. Now that he thought about it, he could clearly feel something odd in the air with his divine abilities. Something unnatural. And unexpected too, like the feeling of having walked through an invisible web, barely perceptible to the senses. But now that he was focusing on it, it was simply impossible to miss the odd sensation pervading the air. It was like having a sudden itch on the neck. Everything was fine, but this unnerving feeling was impossible to miss.

Also, judging by Artoria's furrowed brows, she had detected it too. Very few things could escape the detection skill of her Dragon Core. As expected of the King of Knights.

Seeing their suspicious gaze, Nitocris waved a hand in reassurance. "Do not be alarmed, this Bounded Field is harmless. It only serves to keep civilians away from here, and lead unwanted guests astray. A precautionary procedure, in short," she explained.

Bedivere turned to the purple-haired Caster. "Are you telling us that the site is abandoned? Because your spell prevented anyone from coming here?" he asked, voicing the question that everyone was thinking upon realizing the truth behind the woman's words.

The female Pharaoh shrugged a bit. But it was Cleopatra the one who answered.

"This Temple was built by order of the Sun King to celebrate his glory," the last Queen of Egypt declared, moving a strand of her long hair while she glanced at Ruler and his group. Her expression was solemn and resolute as she spoke. "It was meant to welcome many people from all around the globe, so that they could learn about his story and splendor. Now, however, the people have forsaken him, and thus the Pharaoh has deemed them unworthy to set foot to this place. Only those who are loved by the Sun can be granted access inside his domain," she explained, haughty and resolute.

The Ruler and his companions narrowed their eyes upon hearing that. Ozymandias remained completely unfazed by their stares, even though Caesar, Nitocris and Cleopatra couldn't help but tense a bit in worry upon feeling the air grow dense with distaste.

"Tch. Talk about an egocentric King," Mordred snorted, glaring at the Egyptian Rider with barely veiled disgust.

Oddly enough, the Pharaoh remained unfazed by the comment.

"Be quiet and follow, lightless ones."

Wasting no time and sparing the group one single glance, Ozymandias turned his back on them and started to move all of a sudden. He walked away from his majestic complex without batting an eye, and stepped foot on the dusty terrain of his land with a solemn step. His three allies followed his example, and moved to walk behind his frame with a hurried pace. All the while, Caesar was gesturing to Shirou to follow them quietly, with an unreadable smile splitting his chubby face.

Shirou, Iskandar and Artoria exchanged a glance with Luvia and the Knights. Then, nodding to themselves, they decided to follow the group without lowering their guard.

Thus, immersed in silence and with hearts filled with trepidation, the group of Servants moved behind the Sun King, following him towards the Temple.

They reached the site after several minutes of silent, uninterrupted walk. The Great Temple of Abu Simbel took about twenty years to build, and upon growing closer to it as they began to reach its entrance, the Ruler and his companions realized that it was an absolute wonder to witness. The single entrance was flanked by four colossal statues, each representing Ramesses II seated on a throne and wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, embedded in glory and grandeur. Next to the Pharaoh's legs there were a number of other, smaller statues, none higher than the knees of the Pharaoh, depicting his wife Nefertari; his queen mother Mut-Tuy; his two sons, and his six daughters.

The group walked past the statues without uttering a single word. On his part, however, Iskandar couldn't help but whistle at the sight of such splendor, his eyes shining with amazement all the while. Mordred and Luvia silenced him with a single glare, much to Shirou's amusement. Even Artoria and the Knights were visibly shaking their heads in exasperation. Salieri, on his part, didn't seem to care one bit.

Next, they reached for the entrance. The gigantic doorway was surmounted by bas-relief images of the Sun King worshipping the falcon-headed God Ra, whose statue stood in a large niche placed in the middle. Beyond that, the inner part of the Temple had the same triangular layout that most ancient Egyptian temples followed, with rooms decreasing in size from the entrance to the sanctuary, but the overall area of the structure was still HUGE compared to the standards of the time, which obviously served to amplify the greatness – and the power – of the Pharaoh to the eyes of the visitors.

Inside, the first room they reached was the hypostyle hall (sometimes also called a pronaos). It was at least 18 meters long, and supported by eight huge pillars depicting the deified Ozymandias linked to the God Osiris, the God of fertility, resurrection, life and vegetation; to indicate the "everlasting" nature of the Pharaoh. From there, the group entered inside a second pillared hall, which this time had four pillars decorated with beautiful scenes of offerings to the Gods made by the Sun King and his wife. And all around that display of splendor, the walls of the structure were filled with images and elegant depictions on every single corner of the hall. Countless were the bas-reliefs and the images portrayed inside the Temple, although most of them depicted battle scenes in the military campaigns that Ramesses had waged during his life. The Battle of Kadesh, the wars against the Hittites in Libya and Nubia, the hunting sessions against ferocious beasts… there were too many to count. One of the reliefs even showed the Sun King himself charging into battle on his chariot, shooting arrows against his fleeing enemies who were being taken prisoner by his men. It was a veritable display of greatness; a testament of the Pharaoh's endless ambition and power.

In other words, a gigantic monument of ego.

Shirou studied the images on the walls with a bored face. 'What a farce,' he thought, looking completely unimpressed compared to his companions who were looking around in muted wonder. 'This place is nothing but a testament of selfishness. No wonder he's called the King of Kings: his ego is even worse than Iskandar's.'

On his part, though, Ozymandias seemed to take a great pleasure in witnessing the stupor and amazement inside the eyes of many members of the group. Despite his back being turned to the group, he could still see with the corner of his eyes the way in which Luvia and Salieri looked almost dumbfounded by the sight of his Temple, and he was also completely aware of the fact that Artoria and her Knights, too, had fallen silent upon witnessing the elegance and the high state of conservation of this place. Even his own allies – Caesar, Cleopatra and Nitocris – were staring at the walls and statues with silent admiration next to him, although this was clearly not the first time they had come to this place. Their reactions were simply too obvious for him to miss, and they were filling him with a sense of amusement and satisfaction that was very pleasant to feel.

―even if not completely.

Why, would you ask? Simple: because not everyone amid the group was having those reactions.

Right now, in fact, most of the Pharaoh's interest was not focused on that matter. On the contrary: it was focused on Iskandar and Shirou. His golden eyes were continuously glancing behind his shoulders, in order to watch every single movement coming from those two… and that's what was making him falter. To say that their reactions were odd would be an understatement, after all.

Iskandar was obviously the most surprising one. The King of Conquerors, in fact, was surely looking around the halls with silent fascination, no doubt, taking in every image and every detail about the Temple with his eyes… but, contrary to what Ozymandias and his allies were expecting, he did not seem to be too interested by the sight that surrounded him. His body oozed off curiosity and wonder, yes, but his eyes… they look disinterested. They looked dispassionate, with a cold and unbending gaze inside of them. A gaze that was stern and filled with resolve, just like the one he had shown to the Pharaoh the day before, when he had openly refused to join his ranks during their talk.

And as for the Ruler… it was blatantly obvious that he was not impressed right now. He looked downright bored as he gazed upon the walls, almost as if he did not care one single bit about this Temple and the significance that it held for him. Ozymandias couldn't have missed his reaction even if he tried, given the cold, hard stare that the red-head was keeping glued to his back. And this fact alone – frustrating as it may be – was making him pause. It was making him question everything about that man all over again, for the umpteenth time in the last twenty-four hours.

Not that Shirou and Iskandar cared about any of that, of course. Those two knew that the Sun King was observing them right now, but they just didn't care. They knew what they came here for, and that was all that mattered to them.

Eventually, however, their walk finally came to an end.

Ozymandias led the group inside the deepest hall of the Temple: the Sanctuary.

There, on a black wall made of stone and marble, the God of War looked around and found four rock-cut sculptures of four seated figures. From left to right, according to the inscriptions carved upon them, they depicted: Ptah of Memphis, God of art and craftsmanship; Amun-Ra of Thebes, God of the sun and father of the Egyptian Gods; Ra-Horakhti of Heliopolis, depicted as a falcon with a disc solar; and… of course, the deified Ramesses II himself.

At the time this Temple was built, those three constituted the most important Deities of the Egyptian Pantheon (with the Pharaoh being an exception, of course) since they were the main divinities and their cult centers were located at Heliopolis, Thebes and Memphis respectively.

Shirou stared at the statues with an unreadable face, doing his best to hide the inner boredom. If he had to be honest with himself, he wasn't very impressed by the sight. Not only he had personally met those Gods during his life, but the way in which they were depicted was tad bit ugly, in his opinion. This whole situation felt stupid, from his point of view. Even Mordred, Artoria and the other Servants looked more confused than anything, as they observed the hall.

Apparently, however, that was not the case for Luvia. The girl looked downright tense as she gazed upon each statue with a sweating face. Shirou and the others could not blame her, though. The dim light inside the Sanctuary was making the statues look more grotesque than they actually were, and the absolute silence that filled this empty place was only accentuated by the fact that no one had been here for God-knows how long, thanks to the Bounded Field. Besides, humans often tended to be frightened by the smallest things, given their lack of knowledge about the magical world and the various… stuff that did not belong to the realm of logic. It was only natural for her to feel that way.

"W-What is this place?" she stuttered, trying – and failing – to maintain a modicum of steadiness. "Why did you bring us here, Sun King?"

Ozymandias didn't answer right away. He placed himself in front of his own statue, and then turned to them fully this time, tapping his scepter on the floor with a haughty movement. Next to him, Nitocris and Cleopatra moved to stand on the left side, while Caesar placed himself near the exit on the right, as if to not intrude during this moment.

Hence, amid the confused silence and basked in his own pride, the Greatest Pharaoh of Egypt began his speech.

"Behold this place," he spoke with an authoritative voice. His spread his arms wide, gesturing to the Sanctuary around him. "Gaze upon the Pharaoh's majesty. This place, this Temple, these walls… all of that you see before you now, brimful with majesty and glory… it belongs to me. This Temple, just like the ground beneath your feet, is mine. I myself have designed and ordered its construction, in a time that for mere mortals like you dates back to 3000 years ago."

Mordred, Shirou and Iskandar listened to his words with a bored face. Artoria and her Knights did the same.

Ozymandias didn't seem to mind. "The statue that you see right here, however, just like the Sanctuary we are standing in right now… is different," he revealed, turning towards the statue and staring as his defied depiction with a solemn gaze. "They were not made by my order. I was not the one who made them build. We simply found them here, when my wife and I began the excavation to build the Temple."

Artoria, Iskandar and Salieri narrowed their eyes. Luvia, Mordred and the Knights jolted in surprise.

"What do you mean?" the Ruler asked in all seriousness, confused by the revelation.

Ozymandias glanced back at them, his eyes sharp and filled with an unreadable glint. "When my men started to dig the mountain in order to create a location fit to my Temple, this room was discovered during the excavations," he explained, making everyone frown in stupor at the news. "It had remained intact, stuck inside the soil covered by the mountain, and looking nearly the same as the one you see here today. The only difference? There was only one statue placed in the middle… this very same one."

He pointed his scepter towards the statue of Ramesses – his very own statue – curving his lips into an amused smile.

"When we discovered it, my engineers were as shocked as I was. We could not fathom how such a thing was possible," he admitted, shaking his head in mirth as he continued his speech. "However, with time… after days of research and speculations, we deduced that this chamber must have been part of an ancient Sanctuary; one that was much, much older than we could ever imagine. A Sanctuary that had been lost to us, and which over time had been covered by sand and rocks coming from the desert. That is why it had remained intact, after all that time."

Mordred felt her annoyance grow exponentially as she listened to that talk. This whole speech was just a waste of time in her opinion.

"So what? What is your point, Sun King?" she pressed, feeling her patience grow thin.

Ozymandias glanced at her, narrowing his eyes in a stern expression. "…impulsive as always, I see. You should learn to watch you tongue, Knight of Treachery. Otherwise, you might face the consequences of your disrespect sooner than you think," he warned her, deadly serious.

The female Knight snarled at him, but she stopped herself from doing something brash when Shirou placed a placating hand above her shoulder. The girl lowered her eyes under his unreadable gaze.

The God of War exhaled a sigh. "I apologize for my friend's outburst… but she has a point. We don't have time to waste, Pharaoh. What is the purpose behind this speech?" he pressed, sharing the kid's very own feelings.

Ozymandias turned to him fully, his face assuming a solemn and unreadable expression as he crossed his arms.

"This statue… when we first found it during the excavations, it looked extremely different from how you see it today," he declared, making everyone frown in confusion after that weird statement. "Because it wasn't a statue of me, as you can see it now. It originally depicted another figure. Another God, to be exact… the very same God about whom you – Ruler – warned me yesterday during the banquet with your followers."

The red-haired Ruler widened his eyes upon hearing that, feeling his heartbeat stop for a split-second. Next to him, Mordred and Artoria tensed in worry; while Salieri, Luvia and the Knights gasped in disbelief.

And all the while, Iskandar kept his expression morphed into a frown, showing no reaction even under the gaze of Nitocris, Cleopatra and Caesar combined.

"In other words, as you may have guessed, the statue you all see before you now… it originally was a statue depicting the God of War. The First Hero of Humanity… and its greatest and most ancient calamity," Ozymandias declared, fixing the world and the Servants before him with a solemn stare.

Sheer silence fell inside the ancient Temple. Seconds passed, followed by minutes.

Until, someone couldn't bear it any longer. "W-What is the meaning of this?" Luviagelita stuttered in uneasiness. Her face was growing paler by the second as more and more sweat began to drop from her chin. "Sun King… a-are you telling us that this place was―"

"Correct," he answered, cutting her off mid-speech as his lips curved into an emotionless smile. "The site upon which I had my Temple built, it originally was a Sanctuary dedicated to the God of War. The very same enemy all of you seem to fear so much," he added, seeing the fear inside their very own eyes.

All of them, except for Shirou.

Because it wasn't fear what shone inside his golden-brown eyes.

It was horror.

"Your statue… it depicted the God of War," Iskandar spoke, taking the floor with a serious voice. Everyone turned to stare at him in wonder, and the King of Conquerors crossed his arms with a resolute gesture. "Is that the reason why you chose to modify it?"

The King of Kings closed his eyes, his face morphing into a weary expression upon hearing the question of his fellow monarch. "Indeed. I had this statue modified and modeled after my features because the people could not accept it," he explained.

Antonio Salieri raised a brow. "Couldn't accept it?" he repeated, perplexed.

"They were terrified," Nitocris pointed out, cutting in the discussion as she elaborated what the Pharaoh meant with his words. "The legend of the God of War was still remembered during the Sun King's time. Everyone was deeply scared of him, so much so that even uttering the God's name was forbidden. Especially inside a sacred place like a Temple."

"That's right. Some of them feared that the site might become a place of misfortune and curse after the discovery," Ozymandias added, snorting in disgust at the memory. "My retainers; they begged me for days to abandon this place and choose another location to build the Temple... yet, after a long time of pondering, I ultimately refused that option."

Iskandar watched him with careful attention. "Why is that?"

Much to the King's surprise, the tanned Pharaoh stared at him with a hint of sarcasm. "Because I couldn't let my people be led by fear," he explained, as if it were a foregone conclusion. "I am the greatest and most majestic Pharaoh that Egypt has ever birthed. As such, I couldn't accept that something as dark – something as dangerous – as a long-forgotten God could tamper and shake my people's hearts with fear. This land and its people were once mine to rule, and despite what all of you believe, I spare no expense to protect and shield those who serve under my name."

Shirou and his companions watched the ancient Pharaoh with narrowed eyes.

Ozymandias met each of their gazes with a mask of steel. "Contrary to today, where people have forsaken my name and authority, those who were ruled by me had to live in joy and prosperity, for that was my duty towards them as a ruler. Therefore, I decided not to abandon this place and opted to turn the site into something good. Something better. Something that could erase the accursed God's memory, and replace it with my infinite brilliance."

Realization dawned upon them. Artoria widened her eyes.

"You replaced Tyr's statue with your own, and built this whole Temple to cover the Sanctuary's previous purpose," she deduced, shooting a glance towards Shirou who – much to her growing confusion – had remained uncharacteristically silent throughout all that speech. "Is that why you didn't destroy this room, Sun King?"

Despite his obvious irritation after hearing that name spoken in his presence, Ozymandias decided to relent.

"Hm. Something like that," he admitted.

Cleopatra raised her chin in a gesture of superiority as Ozymandias closed his eyes. "It was the right decision. Nothing in the world is beyond the Pharaoh, and all things rest within the palm of his hand. There was no reason for him to destroy this place. Instead, he chose to eradicate its previous scope, and replace it with his magnificence, just as it was expected from the King of Kings. Isn't that right, Lord Caesar?" she chuckled, sharing an amused glance with her lover.

The Roman Saber nodded with a placid smile, keeping his hands clasped behind his back. "Of course, my dear. It was an excellent move, both from a tactical and political standpoint."

"But of course! I am as radiant as the Sun!" Ozymandias bellowed with a powerful voice, smiling in superiority while his allies continued to praise his name and deeds all around him. Iskandar and the others openly cringed a bit at his umpteenth display of arrogance. "My radiance is a gift that shall bring warmth to those who serve me, and burn to ashes everything that stands against me. Erasing that monster's accursed temple and replacing it with my own was merely the obvious choice. No darkness could ever defy my brilliance!"

"Well said, Pharaoh. You're absolutely right!" Nitocris cooed with her hands clasped together.

Luvia, Mordred, Artoria and the others stared at the scene with a deadpan. The fact that they were already getting used to this kind of thing felt like a blessing at the moment.

However, Shirou heard none of that. Right now, his mind was too busy struggling with his inner demons to actually care about those Pharaohs' antics. Because what he'd heard just now was something that he seriously hadn't anticipated. Something that filled him with a sense of sadness and shame; a sense of anger and powerlessness. A sense of rage and aggravation to which he was (unfortunately) growing more and more sensitive as his mission on the Real Side continued with each passing day.

Because once again, for the umpteenth time, he had found himself drawn – not by choice – to another fragment of his previous life. And now, because of this, he had found himself forced to deal once more with his past. With his curse.

With his sins.

First the historical records; then the theft from the Vatican Archives and the disappearance of the artifacts and the Acheulean Stone; and now this.

There was no way to describe the feelings that were raging inside of him right now.

Even though his appearance was different from the one he had back then, he still felt scared right now. He just couldn't help it, given his past and deeds.

"That is why I've brought here," Ozymandias declared. He resumed his speech with a solemn tone, closing his eyes while Iskandar, Mordred, Artoria and the others kept listening with bathed breath. Next to him, Nitocris and Cleopatra wore a solemn expression as well. "When you told me about this threat yesterday, I knew what I had to do. Our previous talk has brought a lot of news to my attention, and the matter of the possible summoning of that monster is something that even I, despite my powers, cannot ignore easily."

Antonio Salieri crossed his arms. "Are you saying that you've finally made up your mind?" he demanded, going straight to the point.

Despite the bluntness and lack of respect that drenched the Berserker's words, the ancient Pharaoh nodded his head. "Indeed. Yesterday, I said that I would have given you my answer when the sun rose over the dunes to the East. And now, after having discussed with my allies for the whole night, I have reached a decision," he replied, looking as stoic as ever.

"Then let us waste no more time," Shirou Emiya declared, speaking with a cold tone all of a sudden. Ozymandias and his allies – as well as his very own companions – turned to him with a stunned expression upon hearing the lack of emotions inside of his voice. "Tell us what you've decided, Sun King, and let's get this over with. I grow tired of all this wait."

His words where sharp and brusque. His tone was cold and emotionless. Completely different from the calm, poised behavior that Shirou used to show in every occasion. Not that he could fully blame himself, though. Unbeknownst to the others, in fact, right now the Ruler was growing more and more distressed inside of his heart. The current situation was not a pleasant one for him, and he knew that extremely well.

After all, he was sick of this. He was sick and tired of all of this. Dealing with his past, listening to his previous deeds, hearing the others talk about his previous identity… he couldn't stand it. Not again. Not anymore. He knew what he had done, he knew he was a monster. But to actually hear his allies talk about Tyr… to feel the fear and hate inside their voice at the mere mention of his name… dealing with this pattern over and over again was growing harder with each day. It was taking a huge toll on him, despite what he'd previously believed.

Because it was one thing to be addressed as a "Monster" once… but twice? Thrice? Countless other times after that? That was another thing entirely. His endurance was growing thin, especially now that he had other, more pressing matters to deal with.

Even a God had his breaking point, after all.

Nitocris tapped the ground with her staff in a waring gesture, rousing each and every one inside the room out of their previous shock.

"Watch your tone and manners when you speak, Ruler. You're standing before the King of Kings," she warned him, deadly serious.

The only answer she received was a cold glare, making the Caster shiver in silent worry.

Ozymandias stared at the ancient God with a narrowed stare. "…your reaction is peculiar," he spoke, grabbing everyone's attention while he kept his golden orbs glued to Shirou's face. The Ruler stared back at him in silence, without backing down. "You seem annoyed, Ruler. No― distressed. You are distressed, for some reason. That is not the reaction I was expecting from you."

As expected of the Sun King, his intuition was sharp. Shirou had to give him credit for that. They had known each other for a little less than a day, and yet Ozymandias was already able to grasp his emotions with just a single glance. His powers and abilities to read others were unmatched, compared to the Servants he had met so far. It was no wonder why he was considered as the greatest and most powerful Pharaoh of Egypt.

But even despite that, Shirou did not care. He did not care one single bit. He knew he couldn't allow himself to be overwhelmed by his emotions. He knew that by acting so cold and annoyed in front of the Pharaoh he was being disrespectful… but he just didn't care. Not right here. Not right now. Not when this matter and the consequences behind the Sun King's decision were so important to the unfolding of his quest.

He needed to get this over with as soon as possible. He couldn't afford to waste time. Not anymore.

Therefore, he had to stop this pointless discussion and focus back on his duty.

And damned be the consequences.

"We're not here to talk about me," he grunted, trying so very hard to quell the growing irritation.

Yet, as expected, Ozymandias would not relent. "Indeed. But your tone and manners are tempting me to linger on this more," he replied, looking both suspicious and amused by that reaction. His golden eyes were shining with an unreadable glint as they glowed inside the Sanctuary.

Shirou swallowed back a growl. "Please stop spouting nonsense and tell us what you've decided, oh King. I find this whole discussion a gigantic waste of time."

"And I find your lack of patience vexing, Ruler," he spat back in kind, unfazed by his hostile glare. "Every word that comes out of my lips has a purpose, and there's nothing a Pharaoh like me can do that could possibly lack a scope. You'd do well not to forget that."

"Is that so? Then pray tell, what is the purpose of this talk, King Ozymandias?" Shirou demanded all of a sudden, unable to restrain himself any longer. Everyone kept staring at him in surprise as the red-haired Ruler spoke those words with a challenging tone, feeling utterly surprised by the mask of cold, empty resolve that was shown on his face. His eyes were literal steel as they watched the gold-wrapped Servant frown in displeasure. "Did you bring us here just to talk about this useless matter? We already know that the God of War is a threat to the planet. We have no need to hear such a pointless story."

Everyone froze upon hearing his frosty tone. Mordred and Iskandar physically startled as soon as they heard those words coming out of their friend's lips. Along with them, even the Knights and Luvia were staring at him with a stunned expression, looking absolutely flabbergasted by his sudden display of disrespect.

Heck, even the Pharaohs were stunned right now. Nitocris was staring at the Ruler with a mask of shock, while Caesar and Cleopatra looked downright baffled by his reaction. The only one who seemed more intrigued than shocked was Salieri, and that was only due to the madness that raged inside of him because of his status as a Berserker.

But Ozymandias… Ozymandias looked downright furious. And suspicious as well. His golden eyes were growing colder and more narrowed as the silence stretched.

"I sense anxiety in you," the King of Kings spoke, fixing the ancient God with an analytical stare. "And anger. An anger so deep and vicious that it's hardly befitting of a Ruler class Servant. This is quite unexpected. Is talking about the God of War making you nervous, Shirou Emiya? Is this a sore subject for you?" he asked.

The glare Shirou sent to the Pharaoh was absolutely withering.

"It is. Because I grow tired of all this," he spat back without missing a beat, for once not even bothering to hide or mask his anger at the mention of his previous name for the hundredth time. "Everywhere I go, all I hear about is why this God – this Tyr – is a threat to the planet and why we should fear him. But no matter how much I search, I still haven't heard anyone – anyone at all – move on and discuss what to do in order to deal with him."

The Pharaoh narrowed his eyes, his face assuming a hardened expression.

Iskandar and Mordred were growing worried by this outburst. "Ohi Ruler, what are you do―"

"I don't care about your past and this temple, Sun King. I don't give a damn whether this place is related to that accursed 'God' or his legend," the red-head continued, cutting off the female Knight without any ounce of hesitation. "I came here because I want to hear your decision. I need to know if you intend to help us protect the planet or not. That's all I care about, not your temple or your history lesson about that God. Me and my companions have no need for your lectures."

"…I suggest you watch your tone in my presence, Ruler. You're being extremely disrespectful," the Pharaoh warned him with a low tone. A dangerously low tone.

Shirou would have none of it. "You have no authority over me, Ozymandias. I am the Ruler here," he declared, his face showing a blatant display of hostility for the first time in… well, for the first time ever. None of the presents had ever seen Shirou being so disrespectful before. Not even when Ozymandias had reprimanded Mordred the day before. "I've wasted a whole day waiting to hear your verdict. The planet is in danger right now, and I cannot afford to lose more time. This whole farce needs to end."

He ended that last sentence with a growl, glaring at the golden Servant with a mighty rage.

Iskandar and the others were absolutely baffled by his reaction. The King of Conquerors was looking at him with worry. "Boy, what is the matter with you? Why are you so angry?" he asked.

"Yes, this isn't like you, Shero," Luvia exclaimed in utter confusion.

Even Artoria was fixing him with an odd expression. "Shirou… perhaps it's best if―"

"Please be quiet, all of you."

But Shirou paid no mind to their words and worry. On the contrary, he cut them off all of a sudden, without sparing a single glance in their direction (much to their increasing concern). All the while, his narrowed eyes remained fixed on the ancient Pharaoh, and for the first time ever since he had come back to the Real Side of the World, he did not care one single bit about his friends' shock after his words. He didn't even care about their concern right now… because his anger was growing more and more fierce with each passing second, and his patience was starting to break.

He knew he was being brash here, he knew he was being disrespectful… but it didn't matter. It didn't matter one single bit. Shirou didn't give a damn about what Ozymandias, and his allies, or even his own companions would think about his outburst at the moment. Because he was just too tired. He was too fucking tired. Tired of dealing with the same thing again. Tired of being confronted with his past for the umpteenth time. Tired of hearing the same damn thing over and over again.

The evil God of War. Humanity's greatest calamity. The most horrifying creature the world had ever created. The monster that everyone feared.

The most vicious and unstoppable Monster.

He was sick and tired of it.

He knew what he had done. He knew he didn't deserve to be redeemed.

But this was the last straw. He couldn't stand it anymore. Even his patience was not infinite.

The current objective was not dealing with his past. It was not learning about Tyr or hear of his deeds and his goddamned temples. The current objective was keeping Earth safe. It was gathering more allies in order to protect the planet and its people from oppression.

So why? Why? Why?! Why was everyone so focused on Tyr? Why was everything always pointing in his direction? He was Tyr! He was the God of War! He was NOT a threat to the planet, so why the hell was everyone always talking about him and his possible return? That was NOT the main focus here! That was NOT the problem! They should be talking about the War, and the deaths, and the actual mastermind behind this mess! They should be talking about Morgan le Fay and her theft, not HIM!

He was growing tired of this.

"I can't stand it," Shirou hissed, exhaling a frustrated growl with his eyes closed. "I was a fool for deciding to indulge you in your whims, Sun King."

In that moment, before the Pharaoh Ozymandias could reply, someone decided to intervene before things could escalate.

"Shirou," Artoria moved swiftly, placing a hand above his shoulder and grabbing his attention. Her emerald eyes were fixing the Ruler with a concerned stare all the while. "Enough. Please calm down. This isn't like you."

The First Hero of Humanity turned to her fully, his face a mask of ice.

The King of Knights kept looking at him straight into the eyes. "I know you're frustrated right now. Believe me, I do. For I share your sentiment in full," she whispered in his ear, talking with a low tone of voice in order not to be heard by the Pharaoh and his allies. "Dealing with the Sun King is vexing, and I agree with you that listening to his speech is just a waste of time… but we need him. We need to get him on our side. His aid is of paramount importance if we wish to protect the world... surely you know that, right?"

Shirou blinked once. His lips stilled for a moment, and then he blinked twice. His mind grew suddenly empty upon hearing Artoria's words and grasping their meaning. But as soon as her words sunk in completely, despite the anger he was feeling inside, he forced himself to quell his raging emotions and lower his eyes. Because even if he was aware of that, even if he had known all of that since the beginning, the fact that Artoria had been forced to state the obvious to him in order to calm him down was something that he could not overlook. Something he hadn't expected. Something that was making him feel more and more ashamed the more this realization dawned upon him.

Because this wasn't the first time it had happened. Not even close.

Indeed… the way he'd reacted just now, it was exactly the same of when he had killed Narbareck, back in Venice. Back then, as soon as the news about Morgan had made him worried and filled him with panic, he had reacted brashly and killed the woman in a fit of rage, unable to restrain his anger. And now, just over a week later, here he was, doing the exact same thing. Again. He'd let his emotions get the better of him, for the second time, and there was no way for him to go back and try to salvage the situation.

Given these facts, Shirou couldn't deny it anymore. He knew it. He felt it, deep inside his bones and in the depths of his soul. He was growing weak. He was growing tired. He was growing more and more sensitive with each passing day. The fact that he couldn't even deal with his own anger anymore was the very proof of that. Hearing another mention of his past had been enough for him to lose his cool. All it had took was a small provocation from Ozymandias for him to snap completely… and he was finally starting to realize that.

After all these years, after everything he'd been through… he was still falling into his old habits. He was still tripping over nothing, stumbling on his own legs. And for what? For a mere test of patience, and his hopeless inability to deal with his own past.

Perhaps Iskandar had been right, during their talk back in Italy. He was scared. He was growing more and more scared with each passing day.

Because he still wasn't able to overcome his sins, even after all this time.

He was still the same hardheaded fool of the past, it seemed.

The God of War closed his eyes, clenching his hands into trembling fists.

"…my apologies," he muttered, forcing himself to quell his emotions. "My patience was growing thin."

Silence fell after his dejected apology. Everyone stared at him with narrowed eyes.

Mordred fixed him with a sly smirk. "Keh! And here I thought I was the short-tempered one," she snarked, eyeing her friend with a sarcastic expression.

For once, Shirou couldn't retort to her. The kid had a point.

The silence stretched for what seemed like an eternity. Until, sharing a glance with her own allies, Luviagelita stepped forward as soon as Artoria took her hand away from his shoulder.

"Shero, what was that about?" she asked, unable to understand. The girl was looking at him intently, her copper eyes filled with uncertainty and worry. "Is something wrong with you? I've never seen you act like this."

"That's right. You were completely out of line," Nitocris exclaimed in anger, fixing the Ruler with a hardened stare.

Next to the Caster, Cleopatra was crossing her arms in a gesture of disdain. "Hmph. Your body as well as your mind and everything else about you is imprudent, Ruler. Were we in my time, such a preposterous lack of respect would have been punished with death," she groused with absolute certainty.

Shirou did not reply to their words, feeling too ashamed and irritated with himself to be able to find a way to justify his actions. Instead, he simply chose to drop his shoulders, lowering his eyes in shame while everyone – including his own allies – kept staring at him in suspicion all the while.

Caesar stepped in in that moment, amid the uncomfortable silence. "Now, now, I'm sure that Ruler didn't mean any of that. He was just feeling tired. He must have traveled quite a lot before coming to our lands… right?" he chuckled nervously, trying to lighten the mood with his hands raised in a placating gesture.

The fat Saber may have said that, but all the presents knew that this matter could not overlooked so easily. Shirou's outburst had been completely out of line, after all, and while his actions could be justified to an extent – the Sun King's behavior was just too much to handle sometimes, even for his own allies – it was still too brash and uncalled for to be ignored fully. Sure, it was understandable from a certain point of view, but it still felt weird for them. Too weird, to be accepted.

And that was true especially for those who knew Shirou the most; like Iskandar, Mordred and Artoria. They knew that their companion didn't want to waste time, they knew that he was worried about the safety of the world… but reacting like this during the Pharaoh's speech had only made things between the two factions more tense than they already were. There had to be a better way to do what he had done.

And that was precisely what they were failing to understand. Everyone amid their group knew that Shirou was not a fool. They had always known him as a calm and reasonable person, almost too logical sometimes. To see him react that way just because he was losing his patience was… weird. It was unexpected. It felt uncharacteristically odd, especially coming from him.

But no matter what they thought about it, one thing was certain: Shirou wouldn't answer to their questions. For he seemed to have already resigned himself to a stoic silence, with his head hung low and his eyes unfocused as they stared at the floor.

Iskandar and Mordred shared a glance, followed suit by Artoria and the Knights.

Ozymandias too, on his part, stared at the redhead with an unreadable look all the while. His brows were furrowed, his mouth set into a frown, and yet he did not speak a word. He did not reply either. He just kept his golden orbs fixed to the red-haired Ruler, without uttering a sound or reacting in any noticeable way.

For in his mind, he was running through many options and possibilities, and his analytical mind was focused with all its might on the face of the man called Shirou Emiya.

The silence continued for few seconds. Then, after a while, the ancient Pharaoh finally opened his mouth to speak.

"It seems―"

Yet, he couldn't afford to finish that sentence.

Because in that exact same moment, something happened.

And the world was shaken once more.




The air around me is quiet. I cannot feel any emotions coming from the Goddess.

Ishtar is silent as well. She's just glaring at me with her haughty expression. "…you're too stubborn for your own good," she spits out with her waspish voice.

Ah, I see. She's still sulking over my umpteenth rejection to her seductions. Sorry, whimsical Goddess, but I'm not going to fall for that. There's more to being a Goddess of Love than just sex and impulse, after all.

I ignore her comment.

"Are you really going to miss an opportunity like this?" she presses, crossing her legs in a very annoyed way.

Another question, which I ignore once again.

She wrings her hands above her lap. "I can't stand seeing you… like this."

I stand up from the bonfire and leave her behind.




Planet: Earth
Date: June 13 2020
Luxor Temple – East bank of the Nile River (Luxor - Egypt)

Approximatively 500 km from the Abu Simbel site
A few minutes earlier


EMIYA stared at the dying city with empty eyes.

All around him, the wind was growing stronger by the minute. It howled and raged and stirred all over, enveloping the ancient ruins in a mist of dust and sand mixed together. For a normal human, it would have been impossible to see anything in the midst of that sandstorm, but unfortunately for him… he was a Counter Guardian. Such a thing could do little to tamper his abilities, and his body would not suffer any damage even when exposed to its impetuous fury; especially during an occasion such as this, where his powers and skills had been boosted by his "Lord".

Not that such a thing mattered much, given the circumstances.

He exhaled a silent sigh, turning his hooded face towards the North. From a distance, the peculiar Guardian could clearly hear the screams of the inhabitants echoing amid the howls of the wind, coming from the town of Luxor which surrounded the ancient temple completely. The screams and death rattles could be heard with crystal clear easiness, horrifying as it was. And they were only going to increase in number as the seconds continued to pass.

The hooded Servant remained unfazed, staring at the storm with an emotionless gaze. He knew this was a death sentence for these people. The sandstorm would spare no one in its path, and its power was growing so strong that taking refuge inside the buildings would become useless in the long run. Servants would suffer little from such a futile calamity, but for these people? Wrong place and wrong time.

Besides, the fact that he was responsible for said sandstorm mattered little, at the moment. Their sacrifice was necessary to empower the Avenger.

Behind him, the sound of light footsteps roused him out of his musing. He eyed the incoming Servant sideways.

"Did you find them?" was his short and immediate demand.

As expected, Berserker didn't take it well. He didn't even need to turn around to hear the witch's annoyed scoff. The furrowing of her eyebrows was also a clear sign that indicated offense.

"You wound me, Assassin. To think that you would consider me so incompetent... I've killed many men for much less than this," she groused, deadly serious.

She meant it. It was both a warning and a declaration, as far as he could tell. The Counter Guardian did not care one single bit.

She stepped next to him, staring at the sandstorm with a bored gaze.

"Hm. It seems the Avenger is enjoying himself," she spat, a hint of sarcasm and disgust clearly present in her tone.

Assassin paid it no mind. "Where are they?" he demanded instead.

Going straight to the point, huh? The woman was fine with that. "The Bounded Field I've erected around Egypt is reacting to their presence. The distance between us is substantial, but I can still follow their tracks from afar. As of now… they're located far from here, in the South-East direction," she explained, looking as bored and disinterested as ever as she tilted her head towards that specific direction.

The Counter Guardian mused over the info for a little while. It didn't take him long to connect the dots.

"…the Abu Simbel site," he realized, narrowing his eyes.

The smile blossoming on the woman's pale lips was as predatory as it could ever be. "Indeed. To think that the Pharaoh would lead them to such a place… it's pretty ironic, isn't it? This must be Fate or something."

If the armored man agreed with her, he didn't show it on his face.

Instead, he crossed his arms and moved to plan his next move. The fact that their current objective was so far from here could become a liability given the circumstances, but such a thing mattered little when they had the Avenger on their side. Leave it to the mad beast to take care of things for them. All they needed to do was gather the remaining pieces after the work was done. Also, this was their only chance. They had already lost a lot of time, due to his previous failure in retrieving the Spear and the damage his body had suffered… so they had no choice. It was now or never. As such, he could not afford to hesitate.

Even if the attempt ended in failure, it had to be done. For the greater good. For the Age of Nature.

And, more importantly, because the Will of Humanity declared as such.

Counter Guardian EMIYA turned to the witch abruptly, his dark eyes boring holes on her beautiful face.

"Your spell. Are you certain that it'll work?" he asked her, one last time.

Morgan le Fay narrowed her eyes, her face clearly showing the irritation that was growing inside. "Please. Do you really have so little faith in me? How impudent. You are the one who came back empty-handed last night, not me. I've gathered all the necessary pieces so far, so you'd do well not to underestimate my abilities," she brushed him off; her long, white hair billowing in the wind as she stepped away from him. The woman crossed her arms under his unfazed expression. "I can perform the spell, but the result of the battle will depend entirely on the beast. This is as far as I can go, at least from here."

The man nodded with his hooded head. He was already aware of the risks, after all.

"Do it," was all he said.

Berserker smirked, wide and confident. She stretched a hand forward, and with a snap of her fingers a weapon appeared to life in a flash of mana, landing on her waiting palm: a staff similar to a full-fledged spear, with an elegant, black-bladed sword serving as its tip. The woman did not waste time upon grasping the new spear, and then moved with a solemn step towards the center of the sandstorm.

Assassin watched, with an unreadable expression, as the witch twirled the staff with her two hands, slamming its base on the ground amid that chaos made of wind, and sand, and screams. The air stilled and moaned around her frame, and even the raging fury of the sandstorm seemed to falter for a moment; as if the world itself had paused for some reason, awaiting with bathed breath for the Berserker's next move.

The witch who had destroyed Camelot raised her weapon to the sky, while the wind billowed her hair and clothes.

"Do not avert your eyes, dog of Alaya. This is all in the name of furthering our reign."

She slammed her staff on the ground, and the world was blinded by light.

Then, the Magic Circle appeared, and the spell was released with a powerful earthquake.

EMIYA smiled an emotionless smile.




Damn it, I'm going crazy. Master was right. I do need a break.

I check the map he gave me. Brunestud's cursive writing spills out.

"Golden City of Uruk ― The greatest pinnacle of Mankind's ingenuity," I read aloud.

South of Mesopotamia, huh?

I fold the map with my definite destination in mind.




Planet: Earth
Date: June 13 2020
Abu Simbel site – Abu Simbel Temples (Aswan/Nubia Governorate - Egypt)


The ground shook, and the world cried out in pain.

Ozymandias furrowed his brows. "What is―"

A powerful and ear-splitting earthquake shook the world, cutting the Pharaoh off and making the ground tremble with a cataclysmic strength.

Inside the abandoned Temple, Shirou and his companions startled with wide eyes as everything around them began to shake with a powerful movement. The ground, the walls, the ceiling… all the things that surrounded them began to quiver and agitate with a disarming might; while a dull, rumbling noise began to echo in a distant direction. Ruler watched with growing apprehension as the walls of the Sanctuary began to crack and shatter, a few debris of stone falling from the ceiling.

"Ohi! What the hell is happening?" Mordred cried out, widening her eyes.

"W-What's going on?" Luviagelita exclaimed, frantically glancing around in fear as she held herself steady thanks to Salieri's hold on her. "An earthquake?"

No one answered her question, but every Servant inside the room knew that was not the case. The phenomenon happening right now was not a simple earthquake. Shirou and his companions knew it. They could feel it, for something inside of them was making them grow restless. A Servant's surviving instinct was extremely different – and way more developed – from that of a human being, and there were only a few things that could deceive their abilities. Humans were fragile and naïve, easily swayed by emotions and beliefs. Servants, on the other hand, were different. They were more similar to wraiths than humans, and for that reason alone, their connection to Magic made them much more aware and sharp compared to a human being, in every way.

"It seems something is occurring," Caesar noted, looking around in wariness as the Pharaoh and his allies began to move closer to each other in alert. Cleopatra had visibly started to reach towards him, grasping his arm in a concerned gesture. The Roman Saber's gaze instantly hardened, despite his chubby face remained as poised as ever. "This is most unexpected."

The King of Conquerors Iskandar nodded with a solemn face. "Indeed. This is no mere earthquake," he commented, sharing a glance with Shirou and Artoria.

"So you guys can feel it too?" Mordred questioned.

"Yes. Something's happening right now. Something wrong," Artoria stressed, her emerald eyes glancing in every direction while the Knights began to shift uncomfortably around her.

Shirou's mind began to race amid the tension. His eyes flickered towards Ozymandias out of instinct, and the red-haired Ruler wasn't happy to discover that the Sun King's face had assumed a solemn expression as well, just like everyone else. Nitocris and the others looked as baffled as ever, too. Which meant that they were caught unawares, apparently. Therefore, it was safe to guess that the current phenomenon was not related to them. This couldn't be good. This whole thing couldn't mean anything good.

Another earthquake shook the world, stronger than the previous one, making the floor and walls of the Sanctuary tremble in agony. The cracks on the ceiling increased all the more. In the distance, something close to an explosion could be heard amid the noise.

Shirou's eyes narrowed in worry. "Everyone, out of the temple! NOW!" he ordered.

They wasted no time. Grabbing Luvia within his arms, Ruler dashed away in a swift movement, starting to head towards the exit with a heightened speed. Iskandar, Mordred and Artoria followed suit, while the Knights and Salieri did the same soon after them. Ozymandias and his allies reacted as well, faster than they might have seemed capable of. All around them, the Temple and its walls continued to shake with an increasing rhythm, making the world tremble completely. Stone and debris continued to rain down from the damaged ceiling, and the walls of the ancient Temple were getting more and more damaged by the second.

Luvia cried out in fear as Shirou dashed away at maximum speed, running through the halls and corridors of the Temple. Before him, a few meters ahead, a large piece of rubble suddenly broke away from the ceiling, threatening to crush them. Ruler and the others widened their eyes.

Nitocris reacted swiftly. "Watch out!" she cried, waving her scepter and summoning a column of light in but a few seconds. The attack crashed against the stone with a blast of prana, shattering it in full and clearing the way once again. The Ruler and his companions continued their race undeterred.

Less than a minute, and they were already out of the building.

Shirou leaped out of the Temple's exit with a powerful jump, followed closely by his allies and the Pharaoh's group. They landed right in front of the staircase, while the young heiress of the Edelfelt family continued to whimper in fear for her life within the God's arms. All around them, the earthquakes did not seem willing to stop, plaguing the world with their destructive shakings. The very same dunes and stones of the soil continued to tremble with cataclysmic fury.

Never before had Shirou seen an earthquake as powerful as this one. And he didn't even need to ask to know the others would have agreed with him.

The ground kept trembling, making them falter in their steps. Ruler and his companions shared a glance, unable to understand.

"What is the meaning of this?" Ozymandias bellowed, his angered voice thundering above the rumble of the earthquakes. "Who could be foolish enough to interrupt the Pharaoh during his speech?"

For once, due to the gravity of the situation, no one paid mind to his egocentric antics. Not only because they were already used to them, but because they didn't even know how to answer to that. All they could do was glance around in every direction, trying to understand what the problem was, and locate the source of the calamity.

Until, someone finally reacted.

"There!" Salieri exclaimed, his red-blood eyes narrowed in tension as he pointed a finger towards a specific direction: North. "I see something!"

Everyone turned towards the point indicated by Berserker.

"What is that?" Mordred asked, holding a hand to her eyes to shade them from the sun. Salieri was still pointing to the North.

Shirou, Iskandar and Artoria narrowed their eyes as they looked at a wall of brown towering in the distance. Ozymandias, Caesar and Nitocris did the same with a solemn expression.

Cleopatra, too, stared at the horizon with a perplexed frown. "It certainly is loud out there. Has the Nile flooded or something?" she asked in an annoyed tone, trying to veil her concern through a sarcastic remark.

But the sight that greeted them was way different from the flooding of a river.

A sandstorm. There was no other way to describe it. Ahead, they could see a wall of sand and wind that towered above the world for thousands of feet into the sky. It was gigantic, cataclysmic, imposing… but certainly not the cause of the tremors. A sandstorm – powerful as it could be – could not create earthquakes with its fury, for it was simply impossible. The two events could not be related. Besides, this was Egypt. A sandstorm brewing in the desert was not an uncommon occurrence. Certainly nothing that would ever create a quake as strong as this and warrant Servants to intervene.

But when the storm grew and raged in the North, Shirou and his companions knew it was no mere action of nature. Their suspicions were confirmed when they saw and – more importantly – felt something with their enhanced abilities: a sighting of a massive shadow lurking in the storm.

This could not be a natural phenomenon.

Cleopatra swallowed in tension. The Assassin's complexion paled upon seeing that scenery. "...let me correct my statement. The Nile flooding would definitely be better," she muttered in the end, lowering her voice in disbelief.

Ozymandias glared at the mysterious event. "That is no mere sandstorm… something is hiding within that storm," he deduced, fixing the column of sand and wind from afar with a narrowed stare. He crossed his arms in a royal gesture, while Nitocris, Caesar and Cleopatra began to visibly sweat in tension. "Or someone," he added, lowering his voice to a hardened tone as soon as his suspicion began to solidify itself inside his head.

He didn't want to admit it, but this time Shirou agreed with him in full. Every Servant amid the group did, in fact. There was simply no way for them to miss the feeling of death and Mana coming from that sandstorm. Every single grain of sand and even the very same air that circulated around that column of wind was pulsing with a dark, twisted Magical Energy that couldn't possibly be natural. It was clear as day for them.

But still, it was hard to tell. They couldn't fully discern what was happening without getting close first. And the flow of Mana encircling the sandstorm was also different from anything they had ever felt before this day. Whatever – or whoever – was hiding inside that storm, it couldn't be seen or detected from this distance; especially because of the 'Magic Veil' that was tampering their detection abilities. If they wanted to find out who was behind this mess, they had to lure them out of hiding.

The God of War banished his emotions, lowering Luviagelita on the ground as soon as the earthquakes began to lose their intensity. They still did not stop, for some unknown reason.

"W-What does that mean? Is this a Servant's doing?" the young Magus questioned with a hesitant tone, trying to calm her nerves despite the tense situation. Shirou did not fault her one bit.

He glanced towards the Pharaoh. "Most likely. Sun King…"

"I am well aware."

With but a tap of his scepter, the King of Kings gave a mental command. In the distance, towering above the western bank of Lake Nasser, his Temple Complex began to move once more. It rose towards the sky, faster than its mass should have been capable of, and started to levitate towards their direction. In but a few moments, Ramesseum Tentyris was already flying above the group's heads, soaring the skies and ready to collect them if needed.

Shirou turned towards the whole group. "Get Miss Luvia to safety. I will get closer to the anomaly," he ordered, deadly serious.

"We're coming with you," Artoria declared, speaking for Iskandar, Mordred and the Knights as well.

Honestly, Shirou wanted to protest, but in the end he decided to relent. He knew how stubborn the members of his group were, and even if he ordered them to stay back, they still wouldn't listen to him. Besides, it didn't make sense to divide their fighting force at the moment. The current priority was to figure out exactly what they were dealing with, and that was it. Everything else could wait, at least for now.

Shirou, Iskandar and Mordred share a resolute nod.

Antonio Salieri stepped forward, placing a hand above Luvia's shoulder. "I will bring the lady back to the Temple," he spoke, glancing at Ozymandias to see his reaction. Seeing how the Pharaoh just gave a nod of permission, he focused back on the Ruler. "I'll keep her safe in case anything happens, and we'll regroup with you once the danger is over."

Iskandar nodded in approval. "Good. What about you, then? What will you guys do?" he demanded, turning his eyes to Ozymandias and his allies. Given the situation, it was a given that he wanted to hear how the fellow King and his retainers would decide to act in order to face the current threat. It was an important matter, after all, especially considering everything they had been through during the previous day.

On their part, however, Nitocris, Cleopatra and Caesar didn't answer right away. They just remained silent, shooting a glance towards Ozymandias – who was still busy glaring at the sandstorm raging in the distance – and waiting for his orders.

Eventually, the greatest Pharaoh of Egypt took his decision.

"We will not stand by while someone is damaging my soil," he stated, deadly serious. His golden eyes flashed with visible disdain as he glared at the storm towering towards the sky. "I have yet to decide whether to involve myself in the Holy Grail War or not; but this… a fool who dares to defy the land in the Pharaoh's presence? This I cannot tolerate."

Shirou and Artoria sighed in relief. Mordred and Iskandar grinned in approval.

And Nitocris, Caesar and Cleopatra shared a victorious smirk as soon as the Pharaoh voiced his will.

"Heed my words, my fellow Pharaohs. Today, I shall demonstrate the valor of a King! I shall burn this threat to ash with the radiance of the sun, and allow yourselves to follow me as I tame this nuisance at once!"

Needless to say, the reactions were full of elation.

"Yes, Sun King! We will protect the land of Egypt, and restore your name to its former glory!" Nitocris cheered with a please face.

Cleopatra nodded in agreement. "But of course. That is how a true Pharaoh should act. Isn't that right, Lord Caesar?"

"Indeed, my dear. We know what we must do; all that's left now is to conquer!"

Shirou and his companions shared a smile. It seemed that those Pharaohs had finally taken the right decision. About damn time.

Nodding in satisfaction upon hearing his allies' approval, Ozymandias turned towards Shirou once again. He fixed the God with a solemn stare. "Me and my retainers will go back to the Temple as well. We'll circle the storm with my city, and make sure nothing comes out of it. You guys get closer by foot, and do the same at your own pace," he ordered, like a boss who was dealing with his employees. "Cleopatra told me that you can fight with a bow. If you notice something, shoot an arrow towards the sky and give us a signal. I will fire from above, and crush whoever is hiding in there with my Temple."

Shirou mulled over his words for a few moments, stunned by the fact that he – the Sun King Ozymandias, of all people – was willing to cooperate with him… especially after his previous outburst. But no matter. It was better to seize this chance as long as he could.

Besides, the Pharaoh's plan wasn't so bad. It was worth to try.

"Very well. I don't like to be bossed around, but I'll do as you say just this once, Ozymandias. This outcome is acceptable," he relented, choosing to get over his pride in order to seize the opportunity. Better strike the iron while it was hot, after all.

Ozymandias scoffed in dismissal. "Your lack of respect is punishable, but I will permit it for now. But remember this," he declared all of a sudden, staring at him straight into the eyes. The red-haired Ruler stared back at him with a narrowed gaze. "Our discussion is far from over. I will NOT forget what happened before, and you SHALL be punished for your actions. Are we clear?"

The God of War stared at the ancient Pharaoh. In the end, he nodded with a resolute expression.

Thus, amid the tension and the earthquakes, the decision was made.

The Sun King wasted no time. He his allies moved to the right, while Shirou and his companions moved to the left. With a mental command, Ozymandias glanced at his flying Temple, and the city above obeyed to his will. In a dull movement, a long and elegant staircase made of marble and gold descended from the flying pyramid, ready to welcome the Pharaoh and his allies aboard and begin the assault.

Instead, Iskandar, Mordred, Shirou, and Artoria stepped away from the others, followed by Bedivere and Gawain. On the other side, Salieri took Luvia in his arms and placed himself next to Caesar, Cleopatra and Nitocris, joining them and Ozymandias in their assault from the Temple. A few seconds of silence passed, broken only by the incessant tremors and the roar of the storm in the distance.

"Are we all in agreement?" Shirou asked. His allies and the Pharaohs nodded solemnly. "Good. Let's move at once, then," he spoke, turning around with a resolute movement.

"Good luck," Luviagelita bid to them all, prompting each and every one of them to nod in appreciation.

Iskandar summoned his chariot, and soared through the sky towards the raging sandstorm.

Then, Shirou dashed forward, and his companions broke into a sprint.

In but a few moments, he was already close to the anomaly. The storm was raging in the eastern part of the Abu Simbel site, in a wide, vast expanse of land devoid of life, at East of Lake Nasser. Rocks, dunes and the desert soil stretched as far as the eye could see in the midst of that chaos, but the closer he got to the sandstorm, the more Shirou realized that the anomaly was moving. It was approaching their location, growing closer and closer with each passing second. At this rate, the entire archaeological site – along with the nearby city of Abu Simbel – was going to be hit. He couldn't allow that.

It took him a few minutes to reach the storm's location, but the dash had been a simple jog for a powerful entity like him. Mordred and the others were still a few paces behind when the winds began to assault him, but Shirou could see Iskandar flying above on his Gordius Wheel, encircling the storm with his chariot. A few miles behind, Ozymandias' Temple was growing closer as well, moving through the air at a slower pace.

Still, despite the tense situation, he couldn't help but feel slightly thrilled about this. It was a good day for a battle. The sky was clear, and the wind, for once, was not howling. However, Shirou imagined that would change in a matter of seconds. As soon as he entered the storm, in fact, things would become very different.

And different they were.

The first thing he noticed was the wind. As he entered the sandstorm, the sand flooded all over him like tide, making it very hard for him to see. He narrowed his eyes, squinting with a hiss in order to glimpse something, but there was nothing to see amid that chaos of dust, and sand, and air. Inside, at the center of the storm, he could hear the wind howling with unnatural fury. The low grating sound of sand eating at stone rumbled in his ears. Had he and his companions not been Servants (or a God, as in his case), he was sure they would have died as soon as they stepped foot inside the storm. It would have been a quick death, but a painful one. A storm as powerful as this one could erode rock and concrete like nothing, and there was no way a simple human could survive inside this hell, Magus or not. In the end, there would be nothing left of them, not even bones. Just dust.

He looked around, struggling to regain his sight. With his trained senses, he could barely feel Artoria stepping next to him, followed by Mordred, Bedivere and Gawain. Just like him, they were starting to have trouble moving in the midst of the storm. The King and her Knights were visibly wincing as the sand hit their faces relentlessly, while Mordred feared batter than them, thanks to her helmet. Their vision was completely obscured, however.

Still, if he focused hard enough, Shirou could glimpse something inside the storm. A shadow looming in the distance. It was nothing more than an indistinct blur of black amongst the red-brown sand, barely visible to the eyes. The wind around it was roaring all the more.

"Artoria!" he cried, yelling so loudly that his throat began to burn. "Can you do something to stop this storm?"

The King of Knights barely managed to hear his words amid that roaring chaos, but she nodded her head all the same. "Leave it to me!" she yelled back.

The Ruler and the Knights stepped back, shielding their faces from the biting wind. Artoria stepped forward instead, summoning her invisible sword with a mental command.

"Wind, enrage!" she cried, raising her weapon with a hiss of effort. "Strike Air!"

Just like that, the Invisible Air reacted with a roar. The sheath of wind that covered Excalibur was released, and the Sword of Promised Victory was surrounded by a gust of spinning air. A veritable vortex of wind was created around the blade all of a sudden, releasing the compressed air surrounding the sword. Acting like a hammer made out of wind, it created a gale made out of super high pressure condensed air, raging all around like a vortex. It was powerful enough to easily crush any enemy, and Shirou was sure that it could even blow entire armies away with ease, if needed.

But now, the King of Knights' aim was to quell the raging sandstorm. The wind created by the vortex roared and raged all around, clashing against the storm and sweeping away all the sand and all the wind that were raging inside. They fought and struggled against each other, fighting for dominance amid that sea of delirium. The deafening howl of the furious air echoed across the desert for miles and miles away, making everyone – including Shirou – shiver for a moment. Until, suddenly and without a warning... everything stopped, and the world fell quiet once more.

The storm was blown away. The wind was dying down. All the raging air was dissipated, and the sand dissolved into clouds of dust, falling to the ground like a rain of brown color.

Shirou relaxed his shoulders. The low grating sound that had reverberated in his ears was being silenced, at last; and that meant that the storm was dying. Even Mordred and the Knights exhaled a sigh of relief. All the while, seeing that her attack had been successful, the King of Knights lowered her weapon with a smile, satisfied with this outcome. The Ruler and the others shared a grateful nod in her direction.

However, it was way too soon to celebrate.

"Don't lower your guards yet!" Iskandar's voice echoed all of a sudden. Shirou and the others raised their heads, only to find the King of Conquerors flying above the sky with his chariot. He was pointing a finger towards a specific direction as he guided the bulls with his reins. "Something's happening over there! Look!" he bellowed.

The Ruler and his friend complied in an instant. They snapped their heads to the North, towards the center of the dying sandstorm… and they felt their heart stop for a split-second.

Something was wrong over there. They could feel it.

A horrendous feeling washed over the Servants' skin, making every single one of them shiver in fear.

Shirou did not like it one bit.

"Stay here," he ordered to the others. "I'll go take a look."

Without waiting for their response, the God of War ran. He dashed towards the direction of that sickening feeling, feeling his mind growing tense with each step. He leaped in the air as he climbed down a dune, only to be faced with another, larger one. Renewing his efforts, he sprinted up the dune, and reached the center of the anomaly.

And then, he gaped.

For the sight that greeted his vision was something he had never – EVER – seen in the entirety of his existence.



A gigantic pool of mana, coagulating in a pitch-black mud.


He had never seen anything like this.

'...what… the hell…?' he gawked inside his mind, trying to understand what his eyes were seeing. 'What is that?'

Yet, in spite of the impossible sight, his eyes were not playing tricks on him. Amid the scorching desert land, in fact, shadowed by the height of a lonely dune that stood in the place that had been the center of the previous sandstorm… a gigantic pool of black, coagulating liquid similar to oil was flooding the soil. A small lake of pitch-black mud, which had appeared out of nowhere and was drenching the desert land completely. Shimmering tendrils of purple, similar to fibrous filaments, poked out of the puddle and spread out across the sand like a distorted spider web. Nearby rocks and dunes hung frozen in time, lifeless and covered in mud. Also, the air was full of dark Mana, imbued with a nauseating smell.

Shirou did not understand what he was seeing.

'I… I-I don't understand,' he inwardly fumbled. His amber eyes were widened out of human proportions as he stared at the black pool of mud boiling before him 'What is that thing? Was this the cause of the sandstorm? Where did it come from?'

No answer would come amid that deafening silence. And the silence was interrupted only by the incessant bubbling of that disgusting liquid. Above that visage of rot and ruin, moreover, the air was growing thick with Mana, while the sand and rocks that were touched by the mud began to crack and evaporate as if they had been wet by acid.

No matter how long he stared, the God of War could not comprehend that sight. Which was a first, to be honest. He had never experienced anything like this before, not even during his lifetime as Tyr.

However, before he could snap out of his stupor, something happened.

Shirou blinked, stunned and disbelieving.

Because the desert had started to move.

That's right, that was the term. The desert was moving.

Like a snake, the dunes were slithering forward, drenched in that pitch-black mud. Shirou blinked a second time. He thought it was a trick of the eyes. The desert heat muddling his mind. But no. He knew that somehow, something was here, inside of that liquid. If he couldn't see it with the eyes on his body, he could still sense it with the eyes of his mind. And when he did, after a few moments of incredulous tension, the God of War who had single-handedly defeated the Gods and banished them away from humanity almost blanched in surprise.

Because there were no words to describe it.

It was as if the very desert had been given life. There was no border where the desert ended and the Mana began. Shirou stilled as he peered at the sand under his boots and found it pulsating with a Mana so foul, so powerful, that it made his heart flutter in his chest in attempt to escape up his throat.

He had seen many different forms of Mana during his life. He had felt, seen and touched a lot of different energies in his quest for power and his lifetime as Tyr. But never would he have thought any of them so filthy, so ugly. Mana, in itself, was pure and good; the energy of the body and the spirit working together in harmony. It was beautiful, even, in a way. A bewitching shade of blue and white that captured the eye.

But this Mana… this was anything but beautiful. It was a disgusting mix of black, purple, and red. It gave off a feeling so keen that Shirou could easily identify it: hate. It was dense, too, and it added to the complexity of the energy itself. Predominantly hateful, with undertones of anger, disgust, and envy. It clung to each and every grain of sand, like a disease, plaguing the desert and making it sick. For as far as the eye could see, Shirou saw no plants— no cacti, no stubborn weeds, no balls of tumbleweed — and no living creature either, animal or human. The desert, for once, was utterly and truly devoid of life wherever this black mud touched.

It only solidified his resolve to keep his distance from it.

Then, out of nowhere, the desert winds stilled. Goosebumps erupted across his skin, and Shirou shivered.

The black mud trembled. Beneath it, a sand dune exploded with a mighty roar of fury as something – a creature that Shirou could not identify – emerged from it. Tall, towering above the dunes; it was larger than any creature the Ruler had had ever seen. Obese, with rolls of mud and liquid instead of muscle. It was also strangely humanoid in its physiology: possessing two arms and a faceless head, along with a broad chest made of slosh. Its body alone was twice the length of a full-fledged pyramid, and his arms thicker than any column of steel. It roared, again, throwing its head in every which way.

Then, its "eyes" – it didn't really have eyes, since its face was completely blank and featureless – settled on Shirou, and the red-head felt a chill crawl up his spine as he stared in incredulous horror. Two beady yellow holes full of malice and hatred appeared by the dark, black colored sand covered by the mud, offering the humanoid creature an appearance that was even more grotesque. Even more disturbing. A maw of vicious, curved fangs made of sand parted from the jaw of the faceless creature, releasing a howl filled with indescribable fury.

Shirou couldn't understand what it was, but every single fiber of his being was screaming "DANGER" as he looked upon that horrendous creature. His mind was literally screaming at him to run away and hide, and his skin was shivering just by looking at that mass of mud that was roaring towards him. He didn't understand. He couldn't understand. The thing he was witnessing right now was something that eluded his compression entirely.

He had never experienced anything like this, not even once, in the entirety of his 5000 years-old lifespan.

However, Shirou was no fool. He knew that something was wrong – extremely wrong – with that creature. That repulsive cluster of mud was no natural being, and that much was clear. There was no way something as dark (something as evil) as that thing could ever be born through natural laws. Whatever it was, the mud and the creature living inside of it felt wrong. They seemed wrong, they felt wrong, they were wrong.

Something as hideous as that couldn't be allowed to exist.

Hence, Shirou wasted no time. He turned on his back and ran, heading to the West.

Behind him, he heard a roar so loud that the sand beneath his feet vibrated. Once more, just like before the storm had been quelled, the earthquakes returned. The Ruler was up and over the sand dune he had climbed in an instant, when his instinct screamed at him to turn around. The sight that greeted his vision nearly took all the breath away from his lungs.

It wasn't just the desert… the entire pool of mud was moving. It was flowing and churning like a wild beast, flooding everything in its path and crossing the desert land with ease, like a river overflowing its banks. At the same time, the "creature" that had emerged from the mud disappeared, riding the sand dunes in great waves as it charged forward. It was moving faster than he could run.

The red-haired Ruler swore. He summoned his black bow and hurled a few arrows at the approaching, vague form of the creature hiding in the mud. The red darts exploded upon making contact with the black liquid, creating an explosion of energy that shook the world even more. Mud and purple goo rained down in every direction, staining the desert soil.

Another roar of pure fury, and the flood of mud was even faster. Gathering more prana inside his legs, Shirou darted away at maximum speed, trying to outpace the creature. It was a game of cat and mouse with the highest stakes. However, this time the game was being played opposite of how nature intended it: the mouse was being chased by the cat, in order to lure it to its death.

Suddenly, his instinct screamed at him.

His eyes widened. Shirou, in a burst of speed, leapt to the right. A wave of wind howled forward out of the blue, parting the sand and leaving a gash in the desert. The force of the wave sent him flying uncontrollably for several meters. When he recovered, a veritable avalanche of mud was looming over him, horrible and foul-smelling, as it moved and flooded to crash down on him.

Ruler disappeared in a blur of static as he used his true speed. He barely had time to watch as the flood of mud crashed upon the soil in an all-consuming wave of sand and slush. He took aim with his bow, shooting another volley of arrows. These ones he put more Mana into. When they struck the reforming mound of liquid, it gouged a dune's worth of mud out of its "body". The black ichor fell so thick it was like rain, and the creature hidden within howled to the sky in rage.

He resumed his dash, and was joined by the others.

"Ruler!" Mordred's voice was both angry and shocked as she caught up with him in a sprint. Artoria, Bedivere and Gawain were following them close, looking no less stunned than the younger girl. "What the fuck is that thing?!"

"You tell me, kid!" he shouted right back at her.

Gawain grabbed their attention. "Watch out!" he yelled.

They glanced behind their shoulders, and nearly gasped in disbelief. Out of nowhere, the flood of mud had nearly reached them with an outstanding speed, trashing and flooding above the dunes of this empty land and catching up with them no matter how fast they ran.

The King of Knights widened her eyes. "Dodge!"

A wave of wind howled forward, similar to the previous one, severing the sand with a powerful hurricane. Shirou, Mordred, Artoria and the Knights leaped to the side in attempt to evade it, but they could do nothing against the wind. They were brutally thrown in the air, hit by the wall of wind which slammed against them and sent them flying for dozens and dozens of meters, unable to defend themselves. A few meters behind, a wide gash had been created in the desert, dissolving the sand and revealing the rock hidden beneath it.

Shirou and the others crashed against a dune. As they rolled on the warm sand, they felt their mind growing cold with worry. They had no idea what they were dealing with, and their instinct was screaming to run away and hide just by looking in direction of that… thing.

Something was wrong. Something was definitely wrong with that thing.

"I… I don't understand," Artoria hissed, raising herself from the sand with a hasty movement. "I've never seen anything like this."

Bedivere looked just as concerned as she was. "My liege, what can you feel when you gaze upon it?"

The female King shook her head, making Shirou and the others grow worried all the more. "I… I can't. I can't feel anything coming from that mud," she revealed. Her emerald eyes were as wide as they could be as she stared at the black horror trashing in the distance. Sweat was openly dripping from her paling cheeks. "It's―It's like staring at a lifeless being. There's no life coming from that mud."

Mordred could not believe it. "What? That's impossible! That thing is alive, Father! I can feel it!" she exclaimed, dusting the sand off her armor in a frustrated gesture.

Artoria nodded. "I know, but my Core cannot detect any form of life from it. Whatever it is, that thing is dangerous. It's an existence that goes against every single law of nature."

"I agree. Just looking at that thing is making me shiver," Gawain concurred, sweating profusely due to the tension that was growing inside of his mind.

Shirou swallowed a curse, doing his very best to quell the feeling of restlessness in his heart. Hearing his friends' words had only reinforced his previous conviction about that mud. All of them were failing to understand its nature. All of them couldn't understand what it was. No matter how long and hard they tried to grasp the truth, Shirou and the others were unable to discern the being standing before them now.

However, there was one thing they still managed to understand: whatever that mud was, it was wrong. It was something that shouldn't exist. It shouldn't even be allowed to exist, for it didn't feel right no matter how hard they searched. They all knew, deep inside, that the thing they were looking at was an anomaly – no, a mistake, even – for each and every one of them could feel it. Shirou, Mordred, Artoria… even the Knights could tell right away. They were sure of it. That thing was wrong, and all of them knew that. Just looking in its direction was making them shiver and sweat, after all; and staring at that mud was filling them with a sense of disgust that could not be described with words.

Furthermore, if even Artoria with her Dragon Core was failing to understand the nature of the entity they were facing, that could only mean one thing: the mud and the creature that dwelled inside of it weren't natural. They did not belong to world of logic. In all likelihood, the entity they were facing right now could even belong to a completely different reality, since none of them could manage to understand its nature with their mind and powers.

However, Shirou wasn't sure of that. Because unlike his friends, he was not a Servant. He was a God. As such, there was one thing he did manage to understand about that creature thanks to his abilities.

Its one and only emotion.


Whatever that creature was, it was a being made entirely of hatred. An agglomeration of madness and rage, fueled by the evil feeling of hate. A hate so deep and visceral that it could hardly be described with words. An emotion so thick and intense that could almost be felt on the skin, just by staring in the mud's direction. It was a being made solely and entirely of hatred, rendering that emotion its only consistency. A consistency it could not deny, for that was all it was. Not even the Gods' anger or the Phantasmal Beasts' fury that Shirou had faced during his past had been filled with so much hatred. A hatred that was overflowing just by looking at that thing.

As such, Shirou had no doubts. That thing was something that shouldn't exist. It shouldn't exist at all, for it did not belong to the world of Man.

He had to destroy it no matter what.

"…we must destroy it," he muttered. Mordred, Artoria and the Knights turned to him with wide eyes as he voiced his decision out loud. The Ruler's voice was serious and tense as it could ever be while he stared at the flood of mud that was slithering towards them even now. "I-I don't know what it is, but that thing is wrong. It shouldn't belong to this world. We need to destroy it."

The King and her Knights shared a glance. "I agree. I have a very bad feeling about that mud," Artoria relented in the end, fixing the creature that was trashing in the distance with a narrowed stare.

Gawain and Bedivere nodded as well. Mordred's brows furrowed behind her horned helmet.

"Good. As long as we're all in agreement," she declared, summoning her broadsword Clarent with a twitch of the hand. A few bolts of red lightning darted around her armor. "Let's get this party started."

She charged at the enemy as soon as she finished that sentence.

Faster than it should have been capable of, the black mud moved as well. The Knight of Treachery startled with a jolt as that horrendous cluster of mud trashed and slithered all of a sudden, flooding through all the dunes that were standing in its way and heading towards them like an avalanche. Shirou and the others reacted accordingly, leaping away from there with a powerful jump and dashing in the opposite direction as soon as they landed on the scorching sand.

Unfortunately, that wasn't enough. Like a beast chasing its preys, the wave of mud crashed against the desert land with an earthquake, and then promptly turned towards the Servants once more, chasing them even still. Although it looked like a mere puddle of nauseating liquid, it was moving and attacking like a sentient being, changing its direction no matter how many times the group tried to escape from it… and that sight alone was making them shiver with horror, for some reason. Maybe the creature hidden inside of it was capable of thinking, Shirou deduced. That, or the mud was instinctively drawn to living beings for some reason.

Whatever the case, it didn't bode well, in his opinion. Shirou was ready to bet on it.

However, this game of cat and mouse couldn't last forever. The Ruler shot a look over his shoulder as they kept fleeing from the chasing avalanche of mud, and his eyes widened in tension and worry.

Darting across the sky like a bolt of lightning, in fact, Iskandar was making his move. "Go, Children of Zeus! Deliver the wrath of Heavens!" the King of Conquerors roared with a bellowing scream.

The bulls bellowed, their horns engulfed in electric, lightning flashes. Then, as Gordius Wheel soared in the air, a literal beam of lightning was fired from their horns, aimed towards the slithering enemy. The attack landed straight to the center of that pool of mud, generating a loud explosion of goo and Mana. Sand, dust and slime rained down on the desert when the cloud of smoke was cleared after a few moments, but despite its horrifying screams, the creature continued its chase, looking completely unharmed from the previous attack.

Shirou widened his eyes. "Rider, watch out!"

It happened faster than a man could blink. Without a warning, a veritable column of tendrils and black filaments splashed out from the bubbling liquid out of nowhere, like snakes roused to life by the mud. They shot up towards the sky, similar to tentacles capable of thinking, aimed towards Iskandar and his flying chariot with a frightening pace.

But the muscular Rider reacted promptly. With a thunderous roar, he swung his blade through the air, summoning a powerful thunder with a mental command. The attack crashed against the tendrils with an ear-splitting roar, shaking both heaven and earth with its might. The desert was filled with prana, and the smell of ozone mixed with the nauseating smell of that mud permeated the air for dozens and dozens of meters. Shirou and the others watched the scene with wide eyes, while the black filaments collapsed to the ground like roasted snakes, only to be replaced by others in less than a second.

Iskandar clicked his tongue in a frustrated gesture. He gave a tug of the reins, prompting the bulls to move with lightning speed and dash through the air. The chariot avoided the second attack with a swift evasion, but the fibrous filaments of black continued to chase him all the more.

"Boy! Saber!" he cried, guiding the chariot downwards and catching up to the group as they kept running above the dunes to escape the enemy chasing after them. "What is that mud? I feel sick just by looking at it," he demanded, deadly serious.

The God of War shook his head. "We don't know. None of us has ever seen anything like this," he replied, glancing towards the mud that continued to chase after them like a flooding avalanche.

Rider opened his mouth to speak, but they had no time to chat further.

Shirou widened his eyes, and with a shout he ordered everyone to leap away from there. As soon as the group did so, a swarm of crystal tendrils crashed against the spot where they had been standing not even a second before, all of them coming from the mud following from behind. The impact against the ground was enough to shatter rock and stone, loosening a deafening shockwave that ripped the air from the Servants' lungs. With their furious attack, the tendrils kept spreading their poison, and the mud advanced relentlessly. As it advanced, the nauseating smell in the air became more and more intense.

Mordred roared in fury. Twisting her body with a swift movement, she gathered Mana inside her sword until its blade was clad in a cloak of red-hissing electricity, and then she shot the electric blast towards the enemy with a full-body swing. The jet of red lighting flew across the air, striking the tide of mud with a bellowing crash. It was immediately followed by a wave of light, shot by Bedivere who had done the same thing next to her, gathering prana in his prosthetic arm.

The explosion that followed made the desert moan in pain. The sand trembled as if shook by death throes, and the earthquake nearly made the group of Servants falter as they stopped their dash. Even Iskandar halted his chariot, staring at the cloud of smoke in order to see if the previous offensive had been successful or not.

Sadly, it hadn't. A second swarm of filaments popped out from the dust, darting towards the group.

Again, Shirou wasted no time. With an annoyed grunt, he summoned his bow again and shot another volley of arrows at the incoming attack. From behind, he glimpsed Artoria and Gawain placing themselves next to him, raising their weapons above their heads and releasing a burst of Mana with a battle roar. From the glowing weapons, they fired a burst of holy light along with his arrows, aimed at the swarm of tendrils that were following them.

The attacks landed true, generating a long series of white-red explosions. The fibrous filaments shook and recoiled like wounded animals, hissing and fuming as the smoke cleared amid the wind. An eerie, dull moan echoed in the distance. Then, they charged again, faster and more horrifying than before.

Shirou cursed inside of his head. He pushed Gawain out of the way just a moment before one of the black tendrils could pierce his chest, and then rolled to the side while the rest of the group leaped away from there. The mud flooded and slithered closer, shooting a dozen tentacles from its pitch-black liquid, with a speed that was terribly disturbing to see. The pace of the attacks was increasing by the second, as was their intensity. The more time passed, the faster the mud and those disgusting threads became. At this rate, Shirou and his companions wouldn't be able to defend themselves for much longer.

"It's useless," Artoria noted, helping Gawain to get back on his feet. For once, her stoic tone was tinged by a distinctive note of frustration as she spoke those words, and even her face had lost her usual mask of indifference. "Our attacks aren't working."

Mordred parried a black tendril with a swing of her sword. "Shit! What are we gonna do now, Ruler?" she demanded, growing more and more tense by the second.

He was about to answer, but failed to do so. "Look!" Bedivere cried.

With one finger pointed towards the horizon, the faithful Knight of the Round Table roused everyone out of their tension. Heads snapped to the right, and eyes widened with a silent gasp.

Another sandstorm had begun to appear. A vicious sandstorm, darker than any the lands have seen, had come out of nowhere around that horrifying mud. Like an avalanche, it quickly engulfed all of the desert with its smothering cloak as it surrounded the mud, the desert, and shunned the sun. Wrapping the Servants within its embrace, the winds forged a dome of sand that blocked everything and everyone, leaving Shirou and his companions in nothing but darkness.

Every single member of the group felt their anxiety grow exponentially.

"…this isn't good," the King of Conquerors grunted. His red eyes were narrowed in visible tension as he held strong the reins to calm down the bulls. Even the divine animals bound to his chariot were growing agitated as the sandstorm began to rage and thrash all around them. "That mud has summoned another storm. I've never faced anything like this during my life."

He was right, and everyone knew that. Never before had Shirou and his companions faced such an enemy. A twisted, malevolent entity composed entirely of hatred, hidden within a horrid pool of mud and Mana. An entity whose nature eluded everyone – including Shirou – and who absorbed every attack without taking damage no matter how hard they tried to harm it. This was unprecedented for all of them, in the literal sense of the world. They had never seen anything like this.

But they couldn't hesitate now. Whatever that thing was, they needed to stop it, no matter what.

"Leave it to me," Artoria stated with utmost decision. She readied her weapon with a fighting stance, the invisible blade cloaked with raging wind once more. "I'll use my Strike Air again."

"No time for that," Shirou stopped her, placing a hand on her shoulder. "You would only waste your energies, and even if you succeeded, that thing could summon another storm again. We need to destroy it at once."

Iskandar turned to him. "How do you suggest we do that, boy?"

The ancient God didn't answer. Instead, he steeled himself with a deep breath. He glanced to the South, where Ozymandias' flying Temple was still floating above the sky. The sandstorm was blocking his vision, but he could still glimpse the pyramid's shadow looming near the veil of sand, soaring above the desert. He had to take advantage of that before things could escalate badly.

If he had to be honest, had these been normal circumstances, he would have preferred to avoid this option, but given the lack of progress in their previous offensive, he knew there was no other way now. Their attacks seemed to have no effect against that thing, and the mud seemed to somehow absorb all forms of ranged attacks without taking any damage. Moreover, if they didn't do something fast, the storm could grow even more dangerous than it already was. Getting close to that liquid was not an option either – since every single fiber of their being was screaming at them not to get close to the mud – so… there was only one chance left.

They had no choice.

Sharing a nod with Iskandar and Artoria, Shirou took his decision.

He aimed his bow to the sky, and shot a single arrow towards the clouds. The red dart soared to the heights, past beyond the sandstorm, and then it shattered in an explosion of crimson mana. The air shook with a powerful hiss, and a rain of sparkling red dust began to fall towards the mud.

And then, the group dashed away, trying to distance themselves from the mud and get as far away as possible from there.

The signal had been launched.




It's in the city of Uruk where I meet Astraea for the first time.

She's unimposing in appearance: a rounded face, soft nose, and softer eyes. In fact, her lengthy, blonde hair is the only thing that stands out about her. That gentleness about her is belying. Curious, I follow her gaze to a platform. She and the rest of the crowd are staring at the stage. Somebody is giving a speech at the podium. I resist the urge to snort, because most of the material is utter crap. The Gods' benevolence towards the human race, really?

The person giving the speech – a one-eyed man in a florid cloak, probably a priest – compares humans to slaves and livestock and the Deities to their merciful shepherds.

"Bullshit," I mutter.

Astraea notices me. Her golden irises flick to the hood covering my face, then to my left hand, where my sword is being held. A few other humans, who are standing next to me, scowl at the priest's words.

"You…" the Goddess says slowly. "You're not one of them, are you?"

I turn towards her with a slow movement. My eyes narrow beneath the hood.

"So what if I'm not?" I ask back at her, as she nearly jumps at my frosty tone. "What will you do? Do you wish to start something in here?"

Astraea merely blinks. Then, she smiles at me.

"Not really. I just thought it's unusual for a God to come to this place," she says, defensively.

I am not impressed. "I'm not a God," I mutter with distaste. Her eyes go wide upon hearing my reply.

"Oh," she mutters, as if she's realized something. "Then, judging by your looks… you must be the red-clad warrior who killed Brunestud. I heard the news just a few days ago. I was very impressed by it."

Her answer nearly baffles me. She doesn't seem angry or disappointed by my deed. She doesn't seem mocking or scornful after learning my role in Master's death. Her face is morphed into an expression of calm. It's as if she couldn't care less whether I'm a Demi-God or just a human with enormous powers. Her reaction is deeply concerning.

"What's your name?" I ask, turning to her warily.

The Goddess just smiles at me, staring into my eyes with an earnest expression.

"My name is Astraea. It's very nice to meet you, Tyr."




Planet: Earth
Date: June 13 2020
Ramesseum Tentyris – Ozymandias' Flying City (Sky - Egypt)


From a watchful scrying orb summoned by his Caster, Ozymandias surveyed the situation. It was like a giant globe before them, made possible by the surrounding sands and his shared Mana. With it, they could view anywhere they pleased, and used it to follow Shirou and his group as they fought on the surface. It gave him warning as he watched the Ruler's efforts to take down that odd-looking mud, to no avail. Then, the signal was finally released, and he watched with narrowed eyes as a red arrow exploded in the air, aimed in direction of that mysterious enemy.

"Nitocris. Handle the attack."

Without a word of confirmation, the purple-haired Caster planted her staff in front of her within the throne room. She slowly levitated as a swirl of dark prana circled her, mixing deep purples with stark red. The energy shot towards the ceiling as she chanted under her breath. Ozymandias simply watched with a confident smirk. From the other side, Caesar and Cleopatra smiled in trepidation; while Salieri and Luvia stared at the scene in tense silence.

The energy raced through the top of the Temple to cascade harmlessly through the tip. It formed a giant portal atop the golden cap of the massive pyramid. Slowly, broad golden edges formed around the portal to encase it. As the portal's swirls solidified into a darkened mirror, the holy light came down upon it. The mirror took the entire force of the attack, soaking its energy like a sponge as it diffused its attempts with ease. As the light faded, the large mirror began to dissolve into itself, but the cap grew brighter with building illumination.

"Dendera Electric Bulb," Ozymandias' voice boomed out of his Temple. Then, using the "artillery" situated at the main pyramid, the cap fired a retaliatory beam that soared across the desert to penetrate the sandstorm, darting with unimaginable speed towards the pool of black liquid that flooded the desert soil. It crashed against the mud with an ear-splitting blast, blinding everything and everyone with its brilliance. Its light was blinding beyond words, and its intensity so concentrated that was almost impossible to survive upon being hit by it. The Pharaoh knew it as a fact, as a foregone conclusion. The attack of his Noble Phantasm was as powerful a solar flare, and he was sure that it could even destroy an entire city in one shot or vaporize any enemy effortlessly…

…which was why, upon seeing that the smoke had been cleared, he almost choked on his own spittle.

Because, contrary to what he was expecting, the sight that greeted his vision was not the one he had envisioned.


It was still there.

The mud hadn't disappeared.


Ozymandias narrowed his eyes, fixing the horrendous liquid with a piercing stare.

"W-What!?" Cleopatra's incredulous voice echoed inside the room while the others gasped in disbelief. "How can this be?"

Yet, impossible as it was, reality could not be denied. The mud was still there, unharmed as before, boiling and flooding the desert with its foul-smelling liquid. It had remained exactly the same, with its pitch-black liquid bubbling as it continued to trash and slither above the dunes like a living snake, almost as if the previous attack and the beam shot by the pyramid had had no effect on it. The sandstorm was still there as well.

And none of the presents could fathom how such a thing was possible.

Caesar was openly sweating with a worried expression. "Oh dear… this isn't good," he commented.

"Impossible! T-To be able to withstand the Pharaoh's Noble Phantasm… there's no way!" Nitocris exclaimed as well, unable to believe her eyes.

Luvia was openly blanching as the tension in the room began to escalate to inhuman level. "W-What is that thing?" she stuttered, unable to understand how such a thing was possible. Her sweating face turned towards Ozymandias with an incredulous expression. "The mud… it's still there. Why is it still there, Sun King?" she demanded, unable to deal with her growing concern.

With a scoff from his throne, the Pharaoh felt his mood drop upon seeing that impossible sight. He wanted to smash the sight orb in anger, but he knew better.

"…I knew it. That is no simple mud," he mused, fixing the bubbling liquid with a calculating stare.

Antonio Salieri turned to him, his red eyes narrowed in suspicion. "What do you mean, Pharaoh?"

No answer came from the King of Kings. He stared at the observation orb for a while. Finally, the gold-wrapped Rider shot a glance in Nitocris' direction, his face and expression unreadable.

"It appears we cannot destroy the enemy with the Dendara Light," he mused with a frown. His allies looked at him in concern. "With the sudden might that thing has shown, even Ruler and the others will not be able to harm it with their powers. And I doubt they would be daring enough to attempt to release all their Noble Phantasms inside that storm. It would be a reckless move, as well as a waste of energy and Mana."

"Then what shall we do, Pharaoh? We can't allow such a dangerous enemy to roam free in your land."

Ozymandias turned to the Caster and stared. She shrunk a few inches under his gaze, and silently muttered an apology as she bowed. He simply dismissed her, staring at the observation orb in silence while the storm continued to rage below, enveloping the desert and the Abu Simbel site in darkness.

"I did not think it would come to this, but we have no choice. At this crucial moment, the stars have aligned to deliver the fate of humanity into my hands… and as a Pharaoh and the most powerful King of the planet, I shall answer in kind!" he declared with a boisterous voice.

Nitocris and Cleopatra bowed to his will. Caesar smiled with uncertainty. Luvia and Salieri widened their eyes.

"What are you―"

"My name is Ozymandias, the King of Kings!" the Sun King bellowed, powerful and commanding like never before. He stood up from his throne, and pointed his scepter towards the observation orb. "Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"


A powerful and ear-splitting sound echoed all of a sudden, similar to the shattering of stone.

Ozymandias widened his eyes, while the entire Temple Complex began to shake abruptly. His allies and his guest gasped in shock while they struggled to keep their balance, feeling something dark and twisted and scornful washing over their skin out of the blue.

Then, something unexpected happened, and the Sun King felt his mind grow colder all the more.




My question is both scornful and hopeful as it leaves my lips.

"Do you really think Gods and humans can understand each other?"

Astraea and I stand at opposite sides of the street, as the darkened wind screams at us. The Goddess looks exactly the same: familiar golden hair and perpetually bright eyes. She even has that signature glint in her gaze, filled with curiosity and calm even despite knowing who I am and what I'm planning to do. Behind us, the House of Heaven looms over our smaller frame, with its with marble stones depicting the Goddess Inanna. The temple has been built recently in the northern part of the city of Uruk, a place designed by the Goddess herself as symbol of self-affirmation.

"Gods have a bond with the human race. A bond that's special," Astraea explains firmly. "We are the embodiment of a natural concept. A concept that exists solely thanks to the humans' mind. We are connected with each other. That's why we are bound to be together in spite of our differences."

Affirming her words, she nods with a smile.

My expression is sadder than usual. She truly is a good person, despite being a Deity.

"If Gods can't even understand other Gods," I insist. "How can they understand the complexity that is a human being? The truth is that they see us as nothing but slaves and livestock. Humans are different from each other, but every God thinks of us the same. From that, conflict and ignorance arises."

I turn my eyes away, staring at the temple and the slaves working inside of it. "And the cycle of abuse continues."

The Goddess of Justice lowers her head. She, too, seems sadder than before. "That's true," she admits. "I do not agree with the way my kind is treating the human race. I believe we should all live peacefully with each other, for we still share the same world and dreams."

"So you have a different answer?" I ask, unconvinced.

"Yes. Humans and Gods aren't different, because everyone shares a common core," she stands her ground. "Everybody has some ounce of decency and compassion in them, even us Deities. That ounce is how we understand each other. Through common empathy and sympathy."

She lowers her voice. "It's how I understand you. How I've grown not to hate you despite what you've done."

"You truly are idealistic," I reply, with a tinge of pity.

She merely laughs at my words, and for a moment I am baffled by her beauty.

"You know what?" she responds. "Call me what you want, but I believe in those foolish ideals. I'll stand by them, even if it means I have to throw everything away and fight alongside you."

And at that moment, I finally experience love for the first time after thirty years.




Planet: Earth
Date: June 13 2020
Libyan Desert – A few kilometers from Lake Nasser (Aswan/Nubia Governorate - Egypt)


Shirou and his friends could not believe their eyes.

They had watched with their very own eyes as a blinding beam of energy slammed into the desert, fired by Ozymandias' Ramesseum Tentyris. They had seen with crystal clear clarity as the beam of light pierced the sandstorm, slamming against the mud that trashed over the desert with a powerful blast. The force of the explosion had shaken the soil like a vicious earthquake, making every dune and rock tremble with a mind-blowing force. The attack had been so powerful that words could barely describe it. All they had seen was a cascade of energy raining down on the enemy. Then, everyone had been forced to shield their eyes as the beam of prana slammed into the mud. It held firm as the massive pool of dark Mana thrashed against it, shaking the ground and sending wind howling in every direction.

Yet, it hadn't been enough.

The mud was still there, unharmed as before, continuing to exist in spite of the attack.

none of them could make sense of this.

"…I don't believe it," Shirou muttered, still struggling to accept the reality.

He wasn't the only one who seemed incredulous, however. Even Iskandar, Mordred and Artoria were filled with astonishment, and Bedivere and Gawain were openly sweating in horror as they all realized how things stood. The truth was always a hard pill to digest, but this time it felt more like a nightmare.

That thing was still alive, no matter how impossible it should have been.

Artoria was shaking her head in disbelief. "How can this be?" she whispered.

The mud, the tendrils, the Mana… they were all there. Still boiling and bubbling like before. Nothing had changed at all, almost as if the previous attack had never been fired. The only sign that showed the aftermath of the blast was the immense crater that had been created in the middle of the desert, inside which that disgusting and foul-smelling liquid continued to boil without stop, exactly like before. Its shimmering tentacles of purple poked out of the puddle even now, spreading across the ground and soaking the soil with that horrible Mana.

Shirou and his companions paled with horror. "Damn it," Mordred hissed. "Shit! That thing is still alive! How is it possible?"

None of them knew how to answer that question. For how could they? They had never seen Ozymandias' Noble Phantasm before this day, but they all knew that an attack of that kind could have easily killed them all with one hit. The blast fired by the pyramid had been so powerful and devastating that the very same landscape had been scarred on a deep level. Heck, an entire portion of the desert had disappeared completely after that attack. There was no way for a normal entity – Servant, human or Beast alike – to survive from such a devastating Noble Phantasm.

However, they had no time to speculate.

Because, all of a sudden, something happened.

The air stilled and everything around them went quiet. Eerily quiet.

Until, the fibrous filaments that poked out from the mud roused to life in less than a second, pointing their horrendous tip towards the above. Towards the flying Temple.

And thus, with a speed that was faster than lightning, they shot forward like poisonous snakes.

Iskandar, Mordred, Artoria and Shirou stared with incredulous eyes…

…while that swarm of endless tendrils soared across the sky, crashing against Ramesseum Tentyris and piercing the flying pyramid with an ear-splitting explosion.


The scene was unreal. It was too shocking to be described.

From that small puddle of mud, the crystal tendrils stretched out towards the sky for hundreds and hundreds of meters, reaching the Temple Complex and piercing it like nothing. They pierced and crashed and trashed against the structure with a sickening hiss, like snakes with an endless body attacking their fleeing prey. They enveloped the entire pyramid within a tight grip that made the flying complex crack, while the air itself moaned with a dull metallic sound. Inside the cracks and the point where it had been pierced by the tentacles, a smoke of dark prana began to exhale from the Temple; while enormous fractures began to form along the pyramid's walls, similar to dark spider webs.

And then, as if that entire sight wasn't surreal enough, the tendrils hissed and stilled all the more… before they started to pull.

Exactly: they started to pull. They pulled and pulled and pulled; tightening their grip around the pyramid and pulling it towards the ground with an incredible force. Shirou and his companions stared with mouths agape as an infinite swarm of tentacles shot out from the mud all of a sudden, joining the others in their attack and pulling the Temple Complex further down below.

They tried to snap out of the stupor, they tried to regain focus and do something… but it was useless. All their mental faculties had been disturbed by that impossible sight, rendering them unable to move even when an ominous sound echoed in the air as the earth below rumbled. It wasn't an earthquake, but the trembling ground was caused by the soundwaves of the approaching object. The very air seemed to reverberate with an ominous roar as a chill ran down their spine, reminiscent of a fog horn as it approached.

Finally, a threatening shadow formed high on the sandstorm dome like a reaper about to step through the void. Seconds passed as the tendrils continued to pull the structure downwards. The tremors amplified. The deafening noise even started to drown out thoughts. The Ruler and his companions continued to stare in disbelief, even as they watched the Sun King's flying Temple descend towards the ground, being pulled from the heavens by a mere puddle of mud.

The golden cap of the massive pyramid, the Sun King's very Temple, penetrated the windy veil, groaning in earthly labor as it descended towards the ground. Its fall was uncontrolled, and the sand fell from it to form streams of dusty rain. Time seemed to slow as the pyramid approached the desert as it descended like a meteor. The light grew brighter with an overwhelming surge of energy coming from the temple, anticipating the impact. Then, with a loud crack, the pyramid crashed against the desert, and for a moment everything went quiet.

Ripples of rainbow energy surged from the point of impact as the pyramid was pushed and pulled against the ground. They soon resembled waves as the mighty city of Ozymandias shook violently. The pyramid grew brighter as it broke apart. Meter by meter crumbled against the desert, cratering the very soil. It flickered in brightness, and its tone fluctuated with the groans of the breaking structure.

…and then, the pyramid exploded.

Shirou shielded his eyes as a shockwave of sheer energy hit him and his companions like a wave crashing over a rock. The earth creaked and quaked as the soil of the desert threatened to tear itself apart from the power of the impact. The adjacent Abu Simbel site suffered from the same storm surge while the pyramid vanished in a fiery supernova. A quasar of energy shot out from its detonation point, incinerating everything that stood in its proximity. The other end pierced the sandstorm dome as the vortex of prana ripped into the air.

With the sound of shattering rock, Shirou's mind collapsed with the final explosive shockwave from the detonating vortex. He fell to the ground, along with the others, unable to withstand the powerful shockwave that slammed over him due to the impact. An entire portion of the desert disappeared as the whirlwind of energy enveloped everything with the explosion. The prana-forged winds died down, ending their torment against the group of Servants who were still shielding their eyes. Residual dust drifted down as a giant hole was torn into the sky of the sandstorm dome, allowing the sun to finally shine once more and banishing the storm which had made the desert fall into an unnatural night.

And then, silence. All things went quiet, followed by the dull, constant hiss of the wind's breeze.

Shirou raised himself on shaky legs as the sandstorm died down, staring in complete astonishment at that impossible sight.

"N-No," he whispered, unable to believe his eyes. "No! It can't be!"

For once, the others shared his sentiment in full. "What happened to the others? What happened to Miss Luvia and Berserker?" Bedivere exclaimed, sweating profusely with a pale complexion.

Mordred clenched her fist in an enraged gesture. Her whole armor was trembling in a combination of anger, fear, and anxiety mixed together. "Shit!" she swore. "Shit, shit, shit, shit, SHIT! Don't tell me they are―"

"Calm down, Saber. Let's not jump to conclusion yet," Iskandar cut her off, grabbing her shoulder in attempt to calm down her nerves. His face, however, remained fixed towards the crashing site with a concerned expression. "By the gods… this is awful. This is absolutely awful. I never thought I'd see a pyramid fall from the sky and crash to the ground... what a gigantic mess, truly."

Gawain snapped his head in his direction. "Y-You think the others are…?" he stuttered, unable to finish that sentence.

"We're still in no position to know for sure," Shirou cut in the discussion before panic could escalate. Unlike the others who were staring at the site of the crash with a desperate gaze, his amber eyes were sill fixed on the hideous pool of mud that gurgled and boiled in the distance. Just looking in that direction was making his skin shudder in anxiety. "But don't give up on hope, guys. Unless you see a body, assume no one is ever dead. And sometimes, not even then," he intoned. He saw the way the group flinched at the mention of the undead familiars they had fought back in Venice.

Artoria was still skeptical. "I-I hate to admit it, but the power of that explosion was formidable. How could anyone survive from that?" she asked, unable to believe that option.

Shirou just narrowed his eyes. "Let's just see for ourselves. Let's go," he decided.

Despite the tension in their hearts, everyone decided to follow his suggestion. The Servants got up on Iskandar's chariot, and with a tug of the reins, Gordius Wheel soared to the sky once more. They headed in direction of the crash, fast as lightning, staring with a horrified gaze at that sight made of ruin. No matter how much they tried to quell it, they couldn't fully shake off the feeling of defeat from blossoming inside of their mind. This outcome was absolutely not what they had expected to witness today.

All the while, Shirou kept glancing in direction of the mud. Oddly enough, the pool of pitch-black liquid seemed to remain still and immovable, for the time being. Perhaps it needed a moment to recover from the previous attack, he surmised.

Still, it was best to seize this chance while they could. Shooting another long-ranged attack was not going to resolve things, given their previous (failed) attempts, so they knew that this one was the only chance they had. They had to search for their allies now that the mud wasn't attacking, and that much was clear for all of them. If they wanted to win, they had to regroup with the others and decide what to do, instead of attempting another reckless offensive that could end up in failure. It was the best tactical option.

That is… if their allies were still alive, of course.

When they landed on the crash site, their hopes didn't rejoice one bit. All they could see around them was death. The desert had been completely ruined, devastated to its very core on a deep level. Most of the sand dunes which had previously filled the landscape had disappeared completely, replaced by mounds of molten sand and scattered craters of small dimensions. One large, gigantic crater had been created by the impact with the pyramid at the center of the crash site. It was at least two hundred meters deep; filled to the brim with debris, rocks, fragments of the destroyed Temple and sand. All around its borders, small tongues of magical fire burned above the molten rock, melting the sand and turning it to glowing glass. Smoke and dust filled the air as well, making it hard to breath and see.

Of their allies, however, there was no trace no matter how hard they looked.

The more he searched for his allies, the more the red-haired Ruler felt his mind growing colder with tension. The sight which stood before him now was truly depressing to see. To think that Ramesseum Tentyris – Ozymandias' very own Temple – had been destroyed completely by that mud… it was something he was still struggling to accept. The Pharaoh's flying city had been overflowing with splendor, and its previous attack could have easily erased a whole city if needed. To think that all of that had been destroyed in one move thanks to an odd-looking pool of mud was… well, it wasn't an easy pill to digest, for sure. His worries were only increasing in number the more he kept thinking about it.

However, that wasn't his only concern right now. They still had to find their allies, after all. But no matter how long they walked amid the debris and no matter how deeply they searched in the middle of that chaos, there was no trace of them. And Shirou could no longer delude himself. Trying to be optimistic was good, but it was hard to see the positive side of things when something like this happened. Reality could be extremely cruel, most of the times― and that went especially for him.

Most of the group was about to lose hope too… when finally, amid that chaos of ruin and fire, something appeared out of the blue.

"Guys, look!" Artoria suddenly exclaimed, pointing a finger towards the above. "Over there!"

They did, and their eyes widened in sheer disbelief not even a moment later. From the sky finally freed from the incessant storm, amid the clouds and wind and dust, a shadow darted through the air without making a single sound. It was hard to see what it was amid the smoke covering the crash site, but when the mist cleared a bit thanks to the wind, Shirou and the others realized what it was… and their minds were flooded with relief.

A boat.

A wide, gigantic boat made of wood and Mana, soaring throughout the sky as if it were sailing the waters of the Nile. It was enormous: at least a hundred feet in length and thirty feet in width; with a large, white sail flapping at the center of it, placed above a very large mast. Judging by the looks of it, it was similar to one of the typical boats used in Egypt during the ancient times – a felucca – but Shirou and his companions could also see a row of magical oars flapping along its sides; making it similar to a rowing boat as well. Moreover, the Ruler could also see one thing: the symbol of the Pharaoh was depicted on the mainsail. And that could only mean one thing.

Yes, there was no doubt about it: that boat belonged to the Sun King. Shirou was ready to bet on it.

It was an unexpected surprise, but not an unwelcomed one.

"They're alive!" Bedivere realized, feeling his shoulders drop as tension began to leave his body. "That boat must belong to the Sun King!"

Shirou's face shone with visible relief. Next to him, the others began to relax as well. Iskandar and Mordred grinned in visible excitement, while Artoria and the Knights sighed in relief. And as the flying ship soared amid the storm and grew closer to their location, they could feel the energy signatures of their allies coming from that boat, along with the unmistakable Mana of the Sun King. This fact alone did wonders to appease their concern, at least for now.

Mordred stared at the flying ship with an incredulous smirk. "Keh! I guess his class isn't Rider for nothing," she snarked, trying to contain the sarcasm.

After less than a minute of waiting, the boat descended towards their position. The Ruler and his companions watched with silent amazement as the magical ship landed on the ground, silent like the night and swift like a full-fledged car. They didn't even have the time to grasp the situation in full before the others began to descend from the boat, staring at the group with visible amusement.

"What's this?" Ozymandias demanded. He stepped out of his "vehicle" with a solemn step, fixing Shirou and the others with a raised brow while everyone stared at him in obvious astonishment. "Why are you all making that face?"

"That's right. You look perplexed," Caesar noted with a confused face, stepping out of the boat along with his wife Cleopatra, the purple-haired Nitocris and the two remaining members of Shirou's group: Salieri and Luvia.

The latter who looked… jaded. More jaded than she had ever been, in fact.

Cleopatra stared at their stunned faces with a smirk. "They must be paralyzed in awe at the sight of your ship, Sun King. Can't blame them for that; everything that you possess must be stunning in the eyes of commoners," she snickered, placing a hand above her lips to cover her haughty laugh.

The Pharaoh just smiled with his eyes closed, taking great pleasure in hearing those words. "Of course… I shall grant you the glory of beholding my brilliance, then. You may bask your eyes in this splendor!"

Everyone sweat-dropped at the Sun King's antic. …there he goes again.

Mordred forced back an annoyed growl. She was about to spit out an insult, but the Sun King beat her to the punch.

"Behold my glorious ship!" Ozymandias bellowed, spreading his arms wide as he gestured to the flying boat standing behind him. "Mesektet, the Solar Ship of the Dark Night! The very same ship that belonged to the God Ra, who bestowed it upon me along with his countless blessings! Do not shield your eyes in front of its beauty. I grant you the honor of witnessing to its might!"


None of the Servants cared one single bit about that boat, at this point.

Instead, Shirou focused his attention back to Luvia. The poor girl's face was a blank mixture of weariness and shock as she stumbled forward on shaky legs with Berserker's support. She looked extremely fatigued, as if she had been through a hard experience in that short amount of time. The Ruler and the others stared at her with concern as she fell on her knees, trembling all the while.

"Are you ok, Miss Luvia?" Shirou asked, dismissing the Pharaoh's twitching eyebrow for being ignored.

The blonde girl nodded, raising a hand in a reassuring gesture. She exhaled a weary breath. "That… was the most reckless… the most scary… the most unbelievable thing I've ever been through in my life," the heiress of the Edelfelt family stuttered, trying to calm her nerves as she slumped on the sand with shallow breaths.

Artoria helped her up on her feet. "What do you mean? What happened?" he asked.

"She's talking about the explosion," Salieri answered in her stead. He still looked as clam and bored as ever, despite his Mad Enhancement due to the Berserker class. "When that thing attacked us, the Temple was about to collapse. The Pharaoh managed to summon the ship just a few seconds before the explosion occurred. It was a very intensive experience for the little miss. We've barely managed to escape thanks to luck," he stated, as if he were talking about the weather.

Hearing those words, Ozymandias scoffed with a sneer on his lips. "It was no luck, Berserker. The Pharaoh is absolute, and as such, there is nothing that can best me. The previous assault had simply surprised me a bit due to the circumstances, but there was no way the great Ozymandias could ever be caught unawares by an enemy. Just thinking about such a thing could be considered a deadly affront," he declared, crossing his arms with a disdainful expression.

If Salieri felt intimidated by his glare, he didn't show it at all.

"Indeed! You are absolutely right, Pharaoh!" Cleopatra readily agreed with a cheeky laugh, trying to lighten the mood.

Shirou and the others just stared at the whole scene in annoyance, completely unamused by the lack of humility those Pharaohs possessed. Not that they actually cared, for what it mattered.

Nitocris tried to calm down the waters with a placid smile. "Now, now… I'm sure they're all aware of how great you are, Pharaoh. They must simply be shocked by your greatness."

"Humph. I am always radiant, no matter the place. Very well, I permit this! Make me shine even brighter with your shock!" he declared.

Luckily for everyone, Artoria decide to cut that discussion short.

"We don't have time for this," she stated, deadly serious. She dismissed the previous chat in a heartbeat, grabbing everyone's attention as she pointed her blade towards a certain direction: the mud. "The enemy is not dead yet. We need to find a way to deal with it."

Everyone returned to focus in a heartbeat. They all turned to face the mud that was boiling in the distance.

It was still there, exactly like before. Immobile. Bubbling.


Ozymandias narrowed his eyes with a frown. "…yes," he agreed, lowering his voice as he kept staring to the odd-looking liquid that had destroyed his Temple. "Whatever that thing is, it has committed a grave sin. Only a fool would dare to defy a Pharaoh and destroy his Temple; and it matters not whether said fool is human or monster."

Golden eyes filled with royalty glared at the pitch-black liquid with barely contained outrage.

"It WILL die, today!" he declared.

For once, everyone agreed with the King of Kings. Not because of his actions, of course, but because they all knew that thing was dangerous. Too dangerous to be allowed to exist. Its previous display of power against the Ramesseum Tentyris had been the very proof of that. If that mud alone had been capable of destroying the Sun King's flying city in but a few seconds, while also absorbing every kind of offensive the group had launched against it… it was undeniable that it represented a threat. A HUGE threat. For Shirou, for every Servant, and for the entire world.

A being powerful like this… it shouldn't exist in the current age. This was an anomaly, even compared to the Age of Gods.

They needed to take it down, as soon as possible.

Luvia stared at the mud with great apprehension. "T-Then what should we do?" she questioned, uncertain. "Shero, that mud is weird. I've never seen or heard of anything even remotely close to that… thing. It's making my skin crawl even now," she muttered, moving closer to the Ruler like a child seeking refuge behind a parent.

The God of War narrowed his eyes. "…I agree. That mud is dangerous. No doubt about it."

"You guys can feel it too, right?" Mordred said as well, leveling Clarent on her shoulder as if it were lighter than a feather. "Looking at that thing is making my back shiver. This can't just be a freaking coincidence."

"Indeed. We're all feeling the same thing," Iskandar concurred, crossing his arms.

"J-Just looking in its direction is making me wish to stay away from it," Nitocris added, sweating a bit in nervousness.

Shirou and Ozymandias shared a silent glance. There was no doubt about it: Mordred was right. This couldn't be a simple coincidence. Right now, something felt odd. Too odd, to be ignored. All of them were feeling the exact same thing. All of them were feeling repulsed by the black mud. They were all disgusted by the sight of it, so much so that just looking at the liquid directly was killing every desire to get close to it. This couldn't be a simple coincidence. There had to be some reason behind this matter, absurd as it was.

Whatever it was, however, it couldn't be good. It couldn't be good at all.

Artoria placed herself next to Shirou, hesitant. "…it's not moving," she noted, tense and wary like never before. Her emerald eyes were staring with unnerving focus at the black liquid as it bubbled and remained still, unmovable. "Why did it stop?"

"Perhaps it has exhausted its energies," Gawain reasoned.

"We don't know that," Mordred countered. "We don't even know what that thing is."

"It matters not what it is," the Sun King spoke with a commanding tone. Everyone turned to him as he took a few steps forward on the sand, placing a hand on his hip and glaring at the mud that was still bubbling in the distance, immovable. "Today, with your assistance, I shall burn it to ash with the radiance of the Sun."

Iskandar raised a brow at the fellow King. "Are you saying that we should join forces to defeat that thing?" he questioned, shooting a serious glance towards the ancient Pharaoh. "Fight together on the front as allies? Including me and Saber, who are rulers by birth, just like you?"

Ozymandias cared not for the wariness and distrust inside his tone. "A mere King cannot compare to an absolute Pharaoh. However, I do not mind leading Kings in battle once in a while," he stated with utmost decision, as if his word was law. "All are equal subjects to be ruled by the Pharaoh. None are of any worth, before my brilliance."

The Macedonian Emperor scoffed. "And you guys call me egocentric," he snorted, shaking his head under Shirou and Mordred's unamused stare.

However, before anyone could speak further, something happened all of a sudden.

The black mud finally began to react again, starting to thrash for the first time since it had concluded its previous attack.

Shirou and the others tensed immediately. They watched, with wide eyes, while that horrendous mound of pitch-black liquid began to boil even more strongly than before, making the sand tremble and thickening the air with a foul-smelling Mana. Luvia began to visibly tremble at the sight.

Everything stilled. A few moments of quiet passed. The Servants startled.

Then, it began again. The mud literally exploded with a liquid hiss, like a dormant volcano that suddenly erupted. Mud, slime and goo splashed in every direction, while a second foul-smelling liquid poured out from the bowels of the earth. It had a strange color, and was decidedly different from the previous mud. Unlike the pitch-black mud, in fact, this one possessed a bright, glowing color: a mix between purple and crimson-red fused together. It was also hot, and thick, and steaming like lava. It gushed out from the depths of the soil, flooding everything with its advance: the ground, the sand, the dunes… nothing was spared from the flood. Not even the black mud, which was covered by the new liquid and consequently replaced bit by bit.

Hence, the flood began. Like a storm carried by the waves, the new liquid began to flood the desert. It trashed and withered against the dunes, like a snake recoiling on itself, before trashing forward again with renewed effort. It rode the sand dunes in great waves of purple and red, as it advanced towards the group. It was moving faster than what was humanly possible.

Ozymandias widened his eyes. "Move!" he ordered.

Everyone turned and ran. Shirou picked up Luvia in his arms, darting away at maximum speed. Next to him, he saw the Sun King wave his scepter, and with a mental command the magic boat began to react accordingly. It flew right back to its owner, and everyone jumped on the flying vessel as if their very own lives depended on it. Less than a blink of an eye, and Mesektet was already darting towards the above.

But not for long. The ship was barely ten meters from the ground when it suddenly halted out of the blue. The God of War and his companions snapped their heads back in panicked worry, only to discover that the black filaments had returned once more. They had appeared out of nowhere from the mud of crimson-purple liquid, wrapping themselves on the rear of the flying ship and holding it still in a death grip; preventing its takeoff like chains anchoring the ship.

The Sun King slammed his staff on the floor. "Not this time!" he roared.

It happened faster than a heartbeat. From the prow of the boat, a Magic Circle appeared in the air out of the blue, glowing with a golden color. It fired several beams of light against the tendrils, creating an explosion of light and mana. The fibrous filaments recoiled like wounded snakes, freeing the boat from their grasp. Mesektet soared away from them, only to be immediately grabbed by another swarm of tentacles not even two seconds later. They pierced the sail and sides of the ship, digging deep into the magical wood.

At this rate, they were going to crash a second time. "It's useless, Sun King!" Shirou shouted to the ancient Pharaoh. "Those things are too fast for the ship to break free! We're not gonna lose them!"

Another beam of light was shot by the Magic Circle. It struck true, destroying a few tendrils, but the they were swiftly replaced by another swarm.

Not even Ozymandias could deny the facts, at this point. His jaw set with gritted teeth as he inwardly seethed in rage. The whole ship was trembling and moaning in pain, held in place by those filaments of Mana coming from the mud. It was shaking so much that even the Servants were struggling to keep their balance on its deck. The poor Luvia had already fallen on her knees with a yelp of terror.

"Curse these chains!" Salieri raged with growing anger, summoning his demonic armor. "They just keep coming!"

Shirou widened his eyes. Trained instinct compelled him to move. "Get off the ship! NOW!" he cried.

Everyone did as he had ordered. Relying purely on their instinct, every Servant aboard the ship reacted swiftly and leaped away from the flying vessel, without wasting a single moment. The Pharaohs, the Knights and the Kings; including Berserker who did the same while grabbing Luvia within his arms. They all jumped away from the Pharaoh's boat, reacting just in time. Not even a moment later, in fact, something unexpected happened.

The vessel was shattered. The tendrils and the filaments pierced it in full, destroying the flying vessel completely with an explosion of mana. The elegant Noble Phantasm cracked and moaned, and a moment later, exploded without control, similarly to what had happened to the flying Temple as well.

The concussive blast of wind knocked Shirou and the others flat. They fell to the ground, rolling on the dunes with a grunt of pain, and for a few moments their world became white. Shirou staggered to his feet when his mind began to regain focus again, shooting frantic glances all around in order to see where the enemy was.

"Preposterous!" Ozymandias' bellowing voice thundered throughout the desert. The King of Kings was glaring at the mud with an expression of pure hatred. "You dare to destroy the Pharaoh's Temple and his ship? Revolting filth, there shall be nothing left of you after today!" he swore.

Shirou braced himself. As soon as he saw the Pharaoh raise his golden scepter, he summoned his bow again, shooting a volley of darts at the mass of foul Mana in the center of the chaotic cloud of mud, sand, fire, and death. All of this in attempt to stall the enemy and give the Sun King time to prepare his counteroffensive.

He wasn't the only one, though. Following his example, Mordred, Salieri and Nitocris did the same. The Knight of Treachery swung her sword and fired an electric blast, while the Egyptian Caster summoned a swarm of spirits – ghosts, to be accurate – similar to mummies, hurling them towards the incoming liquid. Salieri summoned forth a firing squad of grey figures instead, using them to shoot the enemy from afar.

Shirou waited with bathed breath. It was a powerful barrage of attacks. A combination of which he hoped would weaken that thing enough to allow them to hurt it.

But unfortunately, just like all their previous attempts, the offensive did no damage. The blast, the arrows, the ghosts and the bullets collided with the flooding swamp of mud in an ear-splitting explosion... to no avail. Upon making contact with the crimson-purple liquid, they shattered like glass and returned to nothingness in a dust of prana, leaving the mud unscathed.

Anger and frustration began to increase to inhuman levels. Shirou was starting to lose patience.

"Don't waste time trying to attack and run!" Iskandar bellowed from behind. He grabbed Mordred from the arm as she attempted to attack once more, and pulled Shirou from the shoulder. "Hurry! If that thing catches up to us it's over!"

It was not meant to be. The God and his companions saw the foul liquid rear its ugly mud as it reformed. The flooding avalanche roared, dissipating the smoke and sending gusts of wind outwards that threatened to pick them up and fling them across the desert. Shirou projected a katana and anchored himself to a boulder with its blade. He saw his companions do the same with their own weapons.

The damage hadn't been enough. "Plan B!" he shouted.

They broke into action. Ozymandias emerged, and with a flick of his scepter, unfurled a single papyrus scroll from thin air. From it, ten sphinxes burst forth in a cloud of mana, each of them tall and powerful with wings of golden color. Another flick of his hand and they came to life, darting forward with bestial howls. Next to the Pharaoh, Caesar held both hands outward, summoning long, golden broadsword and firing a light blast from it. Cleopatra emerged from behind a boulder, riding a Serpent that was as tall as her and twice as wide. She hurled it skyward with a burst of preternatural strength. It unfurled as it flew, and she snapped her fingers. A waterfall of mana erupted from the Magical Beast, firing a concussive rain of beams towards the flooding liquid and its tentacles. It soaked the sand and exploded upon contact, weighing the mud down and slowing its recovery.

After them, Artoria came to stand next to Shirou, her sword held high with a royal elegance. Shirou raised his projected blade as well, sharing a nod with the King of Knights. Together, they unleashed their attacks. A pair of prana blasts that detonated violently, puncturing the already weakened, wet sand thick with mud. The flash of light came next, cutting deep into the liquid's core. Great waves of sand poured off the mud as Ozymandias' ten sphinxes charged forward, spewing gouts of flames so hot from their maws that they evaporated the liquid and turned the fallen sand to glass in the same instant.

Yet – again – it wasn't enough.

Luvia's eyes widened in horror. "It's not working!"

A wave of purple liquid rushed forward from deeper in the desert, accompanied by a howl. It was as tall as the gates of Ozymandias' Temple — at least one hundred feet, if not more. A tidal wave of sand and mud. It met the sphinxes first, covering them in mud and turning them into embers of meat and prana. Then, the wave came for them.

Shirou kneeled, cupping his hands. Caesar put one giant boot in his palms, and with the help of his divine powers augmenting his strength, Shirou hurled him skyward. Cleopatra was next, right behind her husband. Nitocris evaded the wave by using some kind of threads of Mana to throw herself skyward with Ozymandias. Salieri and Luvia had already soared to the sky using Iskandar's chariot. Artoria, Mordred and the Knights were running away at maximum speed.

Good. Everyone was reacting accordingly.

Seeing that his allies were safe, Shirou disappeared in a burst of speed, channeling prana in the circuits of his legs and using his true speed once more. He outran the wave of mud with an impossible speed, leaving footprints of molten glass in his wake. He turned around as the wave died out, sprinting back towards the battlefield. As he did, those vicious tendrils of black and purple color erupted in his path. He was going so fast compared to an average Servant that the fact that they could catch up to him was impressive (not to say horrifying, to be honest).

But now it was not the moment to hesitate or grow worried. The Ruler lowered his shoulders, increasing the flow of prana in his legs and using his countless centuries of experience to his advantage. He swung his blade, cutting in half the first tendril with his katana, then the second, and then the third.

Then, he realized that the filaments were growing thicker and taller. They weren't tendrils; they were pillars. Pillars of mud and Mana being thrust skyward from the pool of black liquid beneath the sand on a scale that Shirou couldn't imagine. He started dodging, then. Leaping right and left, bypassing the pillars of mud as he made his way forward and cut the incoming tentacles threatening to impale him.

As he kept running and dodging the assault, however, he couldn't help but feel a twinge of worry inside his soul. The current situation was worrying – extremely worrying – for him. In the literal sense of the world. Whatever it was, the situation he was facing right now was something he had never experienced in his long lifetime. The mud and the creature dwelling in it were beings capable of changing the very landscape with no effort. He hadn't fought against an enemy as powerful as this in a very, very long time. Almost since the end of the Age of Gods, actually. He couldn't help but feel worried, because of this.

When he finally reached their location, Shirou found his companions attempting to dodge waves of crimson mud as they cut down the swarms of tendrils that threatened to hem them in or spear them. He considered using a Broken Phantasm, seeing that sight. The blast would easily clear a path for his friends, he thought, but the risk was too great: either he would injure himself or his companions, and he could only use it twice, maybe three times – if pushed – before being drained of Mana. His body was no longer the one of his youth, and his current strength had limits, loathe as he was to admit it. He could handle a battle between Servants easily, but this? An unknown being capable of withstanding any attack? It was too risky to try.

No, he would save that option until it was absolutely necessary.

Ozymandias was summoning more sphinxes from more scrolls. This time, they shot arcs of electricity from their clawed paws. Each bolt struck down a single tentacle, sometimes two. Iskandar was adding his own efforts to the mix by summoning thunders with his spatha, helping the fellow King clear a path.

But alas, the mud was still looming over them. It was coagulating and flailing madly in the middle of the desert, like a living, sentient creature made of goo, and its size was growing visibly by the second. The red-haired Ruler couldn't understand. It was as if the liquid that made up that being was increasing with each and every moment, gushing from the very bowels of the earth and overflowing into the world no matter how many times they tried to contain it. This couldn't be natural. The phenomenon happening before them now was something that even his knowledge was failing to understand.

What was that mud? What was lurking inside of it? Was it being controlled? Was this the work of an enemy Servant?

He didn't know. He couldn't tell. And his years and centuries of experience were not offering him insight either.

However, as he regrouped with his friends and kept musing over that question, something happened all of a sudden.

Everything went quiet. Shirou and his companions shivered in silent worry.

"W-What's happening?" Luvia stammered, glancing in every direction with her copper eyes filled with worry. Next to the girl, Artoria raised an arm to shield her from a possible assault, taking a step back along with her Knights.

No Servant offered an answer to the young Magus' worried question. They just moved to shield her with their bodies, waiting for something amid the sudden moment of respite; while Shirou, Iskandar and Ozymandias led the group a few steps ahead, weapons already in hand.

Seconds passed, followed by silence.

The mud had suddenly stopped. The crimson-purple liquid had stopped its trashing, out of nowhere, calming down its waves and stilling like a cascade of water finding shape inside an empty glass. It went still and motionless, out of the blue, and the tendrils that poked out of it disappeared as well, retreating inside the coagulating liquid. The earth shook and trembled for just a single moment, causing the sand to rise in a fine mist of dust that shrouded the air thick with dark Mana. And then, silence returned.

Until, out of nowhere, they saw it.

As if born from the shadows of the dunes, a lonely silhouette poked out from the mud. It appeared out of nowhere, raising itself from the purple liquid and making everyone turn in its direction with a sinking feeling growing inside their stomach.

And as soon as they saw it, every single member of the group, Servant and human indiscriminately, fell into an incredulous silence.

Iskandar jumped in surprise. Artoria tensed in wariness.
Mordred gaped in disbelief. Salieri clenched his armored fists.
Bedivere shuddered in uneasiness. Gawain paled with horror.
Nitocris gasped in shock. Ozymandias stared in cold disbelief.
Caesar blanched in panic. Cleopatra shivered with dread.
And Luvia trembled in fear.

But Shirou… Shirou widened his eyes, staring with an incredulous expression at the thing which now stood in front of the group, fixing each and every one of them with a gaze made of darkness and black.

A Shadow.


And unknown thing that seemed like a cluster of curses.

A shapeless, almost alien-like form Shadow made of darkness and Mana.


Nobody was able to move.


Luvia's trembling, incredulous voice echoed inside the Ruler's ears like a thunder.

"What… is that thing?" the girl with golden hair stuttered, staring at the shapeless Shadow with a fearful expression.

Even the others were sharing her exact, same face. Mordred and Nitocris were visibly gaping. The Knights and Caesar where frowning in worry. Cleopatra was sweating with a stunned expression. Heck, even the cold and unfazed Salieri was visibly shaking in attempt to quell his emotions right now. The sight that now stood before them had rendered everyone speechless in but a few seconds; so much so that even Iskandar, Artoria and Ozymandias had fallen silent as well, fixing that thing risen from the mud with eyes that were as wide as they could possibly be.

But on his part, Shirou heard none of it. He did not register Luvia's frightened words, nor he took notice of his allies' stunned expression. His golden-brown eyes remained glued to the Shadow standing before him now, taking in every single detail he could in attempt to understand or even only glimpse a fragment of what he was seeing right now. But no matter how long he stared, no matter how hard he pondered, there was nothing for him to understand, apart from his only certainty.

That being: the Shadow that now stood before the group was something that eluded their comprehension completely. It didn't matter whether they were humans like Luvia, Servants like Artoria, or gods like Shirou. For the first time ever since they had been summoned back to this world, every single one of them had found themselves in front of a being capable of rendering them lost; completely. Not Luvia, not Artoria, not Ozymandias, and not even the God of War himself could even begin to fathom the nature of the being standing before their very own eyes.

A fact that, on its own, already spoke volumes about that Shadow… and the threat that it posed for the world.

It wasn't only him who felt it. Everybody did. Iskandar and Mordred. Artoria and the Knights. Salieri and Luvia. Ozymandias and his allies. Even Shirou, the First Hero of Humanity, had to suppress the instinct to tremble and shiver at its appearance.

―—suddenly, darkness covered the sand.

The hot, scorching air of the desert froze in an instant. Everyone shivered in horror.

They had never seen anything like this.

It was insubstantial, as if a shadow had suddenly stood up. It had no shape, no form, no figure to be distinguished. Its existence was so light that it looked like it could be easily blown away by the wind.

And yet, its presence dominated this place.

This fact alone was filling them with nervousness. Its mere sight was making them tremble in fear. As such, there was no doubt in everyone's mind. That Shadow was bad news. No, it was worse than bad. It was dangerously bad. Shirou and the others understood that immediately, with just a single glance. Their bodies understood that fact instinctively. Yet, they refused to move in spite of that knowledge.

It was meaningless to run away. Every single one of them knew that they couldn't escape. Their previous attempts had all but proved it.

That was all they were able to grasp, while the Shadow stood there like a mirage.

Nobody was able to move, or talk.

Shirou, Iskandar and Mordred stood still, transfixed by fear. Even Artoria and Ozymandias seemed entranced. Every single member of the group had been rendered unable to think and move, just by the sight of that Shadow that stood still a few hundreds of meters away, in the middle of the mud. The only thing that continued to shift was the wind, blowing steadily throughout the desert while the air became filled with fear and Mana.

Then, suddenly and without a warning, the Shadow moved.

Like a deep sea monster, it swayed in the silent world where everything stood still.

And then, it showed something like a will for the first time.

Shirou, Ozymandias and the others tensed in overwhelming fear while the Shadow flickered all of a sudden. It lacked eyes, limbs, or a body. Yet, it still casted a shadow at its base. Outlined by the sunlight piercing through the clouds, the Shadow began to stretch and elongate.

Like a snake that had found its prey, it pointed at the group of Servants―

―and disappeared.

Shirou widened his eyes. Space was distorted. He wanted to believe it was just his imagination, a product of the disordered sense of balance caused by extreme tension. However, every fiber of his being – every single fiber of his body and mind – was crying out in alarm. His heartbeat increased, his mind blanked, his skin sweated. Survival instinct compelled him to move, making his trembling body jolt and prompting his numb neck to snap to the right. His lips parted in a desperate shout.


Too late.

The Shadow flickered back into existence.

Like a mirage unable to be grasped with the mind, it appeared once again out of nowhere. Without showing any sign, it abruptly covered tens of meters and lashed out, stretching itself towards them. Towards a certain member of the group, silent like the moon and faster than every single one of them – including Shirou – could ever hope to be capable of.

Its first victim did not understand what had happened. He didn't even have time to blink. All he managed to see what the Shadow flicker out of existence out of the blue, before every other thing disappeared completely as the world fell quiet.

Shirou stumbled in disbelief. His allies gasped in shock.


Caesar just blinked with silent astonishment. He stared at his fellow companions with a perplexed expression, utterly confused by the stunned, desperate looks of horror that they were sending to him.

Then, he felt something hot and thick dripping on his belly, and the Roman Saber lowered his trembling eyes towards his body. Towards his chest…

…where a black, crystal tendril of darkness had stabbed him in the chest, piercing the heart from somewhere behind.

Everyone widened their eyes. Caesar gaped in confusion.

Cleopatra looked up at her beloved without comprehension.

"L-Lord… Caesar…?"

The Roman Saber did not answer to his wife. He had no time to answer. He had no time to utter a single word at all. One moment he was staring at his pierced chest with an incredulous expression, and the next one it was already too late for him. The Shadow had appeared behind the fat Servant out of the blue, silent like the very same darkness it represented, piercing his heart from behind with one of its endless tendrils. The poor Saber had never really stood a chance. The Shadow's movement had been too fast – way too fast for the humans' comprehension – for him to be able to detect it and evade.

Cleopatra, however, cared not for any of it. She just stared at him blankly with eyes as wide as plates, her complexion paling more and more by the second as she gazed upon his husband's wound and realized how things stood. Shirou and the others tried to call out to her, Nitocris grabbed her shoulder and attempted to rouse her from her shock, but it was no use. She remained still and quiet, like a puppet whose strings had been cut all of a sudden.

In all honesty, Shirou understood the gravity of the situation. He had already realized it as soon as he saw the fat Saber's pierced chest.

It was the end for Caesar. He was still breathing, and his chest wasn't bleeding too much. Even if the wound was fatal, it should even be possible for Shirou to heal him thanks to his powers and the others' assistance.

…but somehow, the red-haired Ruler realized that the Roman Saber couldn't fight anymore.

The moment he had seen him pierced by the Shadow, that thought had struck him inside his core like a sudden realization.

It was too late for him.

As if to prove that point, Caesar did not utter one single word upon being hit by the Shadow. All the dying man could do was shoot one, last glance towards his distraught wife… before the tendril that had pierced him in the chest lifted his body with disarming ease, throwing him forcefully into the foul-smelling mud. The others watched in horror and disbelief as the Roman Saber crashed inside the purple liquid, disappearing without a trace. Forever.

Cleopatra shook as if physically struck, shedding tears from her wide, blood-shot eyes.


A heart-wrenching shriek shook the desert, coming from the distraught Assassin who had just lost her beloved one.

Her desperate cry roused everyone out of their horror. The others reacted swiftly as soon as their minds snapped out of shock.

"Get away!" Artoria shouted, snapping her head towards the Shadow that stood still just a few meters away from the group. "Everyone, get clear from here!"

Everyone leaped away. Quickly, hastily, without hesitation. Shirou, Mordred and Iskandar. Bedivere and Gawain. Salieri with Luvia in his arms. Even Ozymandias and Nitocris. No one would dare to go against the female King's words at this moment. Not when the danger was so horribly close. Not when their very own lives depended on it. Raw instinct coupled with fear compelled them to move, despite the pain and anger blossoming inside their hearts.

No one could deny it at this point. In but a few instants, all of them had already realized the dangerous situation they were currently in. They had just lost one of their allies in less than a second. There was imply no way for them to remain unfazed by this, Servant or not. They had to get away from here. They had to get away from that thing as soon as possible!

Yet, one of them would have none of it.

"Miss Cleopatra!" Nitocris shrieked, snapping her head back towards the Assassin. The heartbroken girl hadn't moved one inch from her previous position. "NO! COME BACK!"

"Don't you just stand there, you fool!" Iskandar bellowed with a thunderous voice. "Run!"

Cleopatra did not listen to them. Instead, she did the exact opposite. Shirou openly widened his eyes in horror when he saw the distraught Assassin break into a desperate dash in the opposite direction, headed towards the mud. Towards the place where her beloved had disappeared.

Towards her own death.

"No!" he cried. "No! Stop it! Come back!"

Even Ozymandias looked utterly distraught at the sight. His golden eyes widened out of human proportions for a moment. "Cleopatra! Stop it, you fool! Your Pharaoh commands you!" he bellowed, trying to call back the Queen from her suicidal attempt.

But she did not listen. For the first time ever since she had been summoned back to the world, the last Queen of Egypt did not answer to her Pharaoh's command, nor to the others' desperate cries. She ignored the black Shadow completely, throwing herself inside the mud in one last, desperate attempt to reach her beloved and bring him back.

"No! Nononono! Lord Caesar! LORD CAESAR!" she cried, bawling and shouting like a desperate child.

Shirou cursed every single God in existence. He stopped his dash abruptly, swearing all the while as he headed back towards the Assassin at maximum speed. He had to save her. He had to bring her back. He couldn't let his allies die. Not like this. Not for this. They had already lost Saber; he couldn't allow the others to die as well. He would never forgive himself if he did.

The God of War increased his speed as he watched the distraught Assassin trying to look for her husband amid that disgusting liquid. A few meters behind him, Mordred snarled like a feral beast. Her whole body began to shake in anger and panic as she saw the Ruler turn back towards the woman. "Damn it!" she spat, halting her sprint as well and turning towards her friend. "DAMN IT ALL!"

Clarent shook with an electric hiss. Red bolts of lightning coursed around the blade. Then, the Knight of Treachery released a powerful blast with a horizontal slash, aiming the attack towards the Shadow while Shirou reached for Cleopatra near the mud.

The attack crashed against the shapeless being, but it did no damage. Upon making contact with the black Shadow, in fact, the blast and the red electric bolts of lightning simply… disappeared. That's right. They just disappeared. Vanished. Faded away. They dissolved into nothingness as soon as they reached that Shadow and touched its "body". They vanished without a trace, without a sound, almost as if they'd never existed in the first place. And when she realized that, the Knight of Rebellion who had brought down Camelot felt her heart skip a beat in horror and panic.

However, the distraction seemed to work. Shirou was already there, near the shores of the crimson-purple liquid. He reached Cleopatra's location, watching with wide, frantic eyes filled with panic as the long-haired Assassin kept crawling inside the mud, her hands searching through that horrible liquid with visceral desperation.

"Caesar! LORD CAESAR!" she was calling on and on, like a desperate mantra, her broken voice quivering with sobs and pain.

The Ruler felt his heart clench with unbearable agony. "Assassin! Come back―"

Too late.

Goosebumps crawled upon his skin, making his back shiver in fear. The ancient God startled in terror.

Cleopatra had no time to see what was coming. Perhaps she didn't even notice, distraught as she was. But Shirou watched with eyes filled with horror as another swarm of tentacles shot out from the crimson-purple mud, entangling the woman into a tight, deathly grip. It all happened in less than two seconds.


Arms, neck, legs and torso. The fibrous filaments guided by the Shadow curled around the Assassin's body in less than an instant, blocking her movements with disarming speed and rendering her unable to react and move. The poor woman didn't even have time to talk. She barely managed to emit a painful hiss of pain from her trembling lips, before being promptly dragged into the bottom of the mud, vanishing into the pitch-black depths of that nauseating liquid; just like her beloved did before her.

Thus, another one fell, right before Shirou's very own eyes.

The God of War felt the air leave his lungs all of a sudden.

'No,' he thought, unable to believe it. 'No, this isn't happening. It's not possible. It's not fair.'

How was this happening? Why was this happening?
What was that Shadow? Who was it?
Why was it attacking them? What was its objective?

Why was it attacking his allies and taking them inside―

It ate them.

Realization dawned upon him.

Just one realization. Just one discovery.

One, single epiphany struck the Ruler upon witnessing to that scene a second time. It darted through his mind like an arrow, piercing his thoughts and striking his heart with crystal clear clarity. Because now that he had seen it, now that he had witnessed it this up close… he realized it. He finally realized it once and for all, without a shred of doubt.

That thing, the Shadow, the mud… it fed on Servants and Mana.

It fed on human lives.

Golden-brown eyes widened out of human proportions upon facing that discovery. There was no doubt about it. Whatever that thing was, it purpose was to kill and feed itself with Servants. No matter how strong a Heroic Spirit was, one could not beat that black Shadow as long as they were summoned as Servants. He knew it. He realized it. He could vaguely comprehend this fact for some reason.

Because he had witnessed it. He had witnessed it TWICE. First with Caesar, and now with Cleopatra. Those two had been absorbed by the mud. They had disappeared without a trace upon making contact with it. Shirou couldn't detect their Mana signatures anymore, no matter how close he was to the mud or how hard he tried to search for them with his powers.

And the reason for this was... because they had been eaten. They had been absorbed. The mud and the Shadow were feeding themselves on Servants, killing every source of Mana in their way.

As soon as he realized that, Shirou felt his concern escalate beyond words.

Not for himself, but for his allies. Because even if he wasn't a Servant, even if he wasn't a simple human at all… all of his comrades were.

Which meant

If he failed to protect them now, he was going to lose them all. Today.

Anger was replaced with fear. Discovery was accompanied by horror.

Then, a shiver run down his spine, and the red-haired Ruler felt his body startle in alarm. His fear-struck heart began hammering in his chest while Shirou turned to the right.

The black Shadow had appeared next to him.

Shirou stared at it with wide eyes.

And he saw himself.

Golden-brown eyes widened in horror.


Apparently, luck was on his side for now. Shirou could barely register the events unfolding before him. All he saw was the Shadow – himself – standing next to him, flickering like a screen stuttering for the lack of signal. Then, a beam of light came. It crashed against the Shadow, polluting the air with a blast of white energy. When the smoke dissolved, the red-haired Ruler turned to the right, just a moment before a long, powerful arm made of muscles grabbed him by the waist, dragging his body away at heightened speed.

He snapped out of shock with a loud gasp, only to find himself above Gordius Wheel out of nowhere. Iskandar and Mordred were holding him tight as the chariot soared through the air, trying to put as much distance as possible from the mud and the black Shadow. Artoria was there too, fretting over him in worry.

"Damn it, Ruler! What's gotten into you?" Mordred's helmet snapped open, revealing her panicked face snarling with outraged fury. "You could've died just now!"

He just blinked in astonishment, feeling his head grow empty for some unknown reason.

"I-I-I saw… I don't…!"

Just a stutter was all he was able to form in response. Shirou's mouth opened and closed, horror and confusion and disbelief written all over his features as he blinked owlishly at his friends. He was still struggling to understand what was happening, his eyes glancing frantically between his companions and the scene happening behind them.

On the left, a mile away from the chariot, Ozymandias' flying ship had returned. It was flying across the sands, firing a concussive beam of light against the Shadow that lurked in the distance. The Pharaoh was standing on its deck with his staff glowing with a golden light, along with Nitocris, Bedivere and Gawain.

Shirou gaped in disbelief. "M-Mesektet!" he realized. "How? I thought it was destroyed!"

"You fool!" the voice of the Sun King echoed throughout the desert, coming from the flying vessel. "You though the Pharaoh could lose his Noble Phantasm to a mere pool of mud? Naïve!"

Gordius Wheel darted in the air at maximum speed, followed by the Pharaoh's boat. All the while, the magical boat continued to shoot beams of light in direction of the enemy, firing a powerful barrage of Mana against the mud and its creature. Then, the beams became a laser. And the laser did nothing.

The Shadow was still there, immovable. Every blast of energy coming at the shapeless being simply exploded upon coming close to it, without making any damage. The Shadow remained still and unscathed as before, almost as if it was immune to everything that tried to touch it. All around it, the desert and the soil shattered and exploded with a powerful blast, but the Shadow remained unfazed. The more the ground was shattered, the more that crimson-purple mud began to leak out of it.

For the first time in a very, very long time, the God of War felt a twinge of fear blossoming in his human soul.

"Help us! Ruler, help us!"

A familiar voice roused him out of his shock. Shirou and the others snapped their heads to the right, and they immediately widened their eyes.

Luvia and Salieri were still on the ground. The Italian Berserker was dashing at full speed along the sandy dunes, keeping the young girl in his arms as he ran and ran and ran at maximum speed. His odd-looking armor seemed to glow under the sun as he kept chasing after the chariot, trying to reach his allies' location. The young heiress of the Edelfelt line was screaming all the while as he moved with inhuman speed.

Everyone gasped in worry. No time to lose.

"Rider!" Shirou barked.

But Iskandar was already working on that. With a brusque tug on the reins, the Macedonia Emperor halted the bulls' gallop and guided them in the opposite direction, heading back towards those two. The bulls bellowed and trashed furiously as they ran through the air, each of their steps accompanied by an electric hiss of prana.

Faster than it was humanly possible, and they were already close to them.

Gordius Wheel soared through the air with an impossible speed. Less than a blink of an eye, and it had already reached Salieri's location. Shirou and Artoria leaned forward, stretching their hands in attempt to grab their allies and rescue them. Berserker stretched his hand forward as well, ready to leap into the chariot while Luvia stared at the scene with teary eyes filled with panic.

But alas… it was not meant to be. The chariot was about a few meters away from the two when something unexpected happened.

―the Shadow flickered back into existence, reappearing right between Berserker and the flying chariot.

Everyone widened their eyes. Sheer horror blossomed in the Servants' hearts.

The bulls neighed in fear. They halted their gallop with a terrified screech, rearing up on their hind legs with a sudden, abrupt movement that almost made everyone on the chariot lose their balance. Then, regardless of their master's wish, they diverted to the side in renewed vigor, trying to distance themselves from that hideous being because of their instinct, heedless of Iskandar's orders or the two allies they were supposed to rescue.

Salieri and Luvia widened their eyes. Shirou and the others stared in horror. "No!" they yelled.

In one, last moment of mental clarity, Antonio Salieri reacted on instinct.

Gathering all his energies, the armored Berserker steeled himself and tossed Miss Luvia on the air at the last split-second, throwing her towards the chariot that had deviated in the opposite direction in attempt to at least save the girl from a helpless situation or even worse, from a certain death. Just as soon as he managed to do so, however, the black Shadow lashed out towards him with frightening speed, and the mad Servant didn't even have time to blink.

Luvia screamed in fear, flailing in the air while her body was tossed with a powerful strength. Shirou managed to grab her just in time, holding her hand and placing her on the chariot with a strained grunt. "I got you!" he reassured her.

But no one had got Salieri. Artoria's voice cried out in frustration. "Berserker!"

Too late.

The mad Servant could do nothing to defend himself. He tried to shield himself as best as he could, summoning his odd-looking longsword to slash against the incoming assault. But even though he managed to cut down the first tendril, he was still too slow compared to that shapeless thing. The second and third filaments pierced his chest completely, stabbing the Italian musician right through the shoulder and the chest. His demonic armor did nothing.

"Kuh!" Shirou and his companions stared in slow-motion as Salieri doubled over in pain, blood and sweat dripping down from his demonic helmet. The black tendrils poked out of his back with a sickening motion while the sword fell from his hands. "I see… this is the end for me," he gasped, coughing blood from his lips.

Shirou's eyes were filled with horror and frustration in equal measure. "Berserker!" Luvia shouted, crying all the while.

The demonic helmet shattered. Crimson eyes filled with pain glanced at the fleeing chariot.

"My performance… ends here."

Shirou refused to give up. He projected a sword with his conjuring abilities, and then hurled it towards the black tentacles that had pierced Salieri with a precise movement, in a desperate attempt to break him free from the Shadow's hold… but to no avail. As soon as the sword severed the two tendrils, another swarm replaced the lost ones, chaining Berserker down and piercing his heart.

Then, it was over. The Shadow wasted no time.

Using its tendrils like limbs, it tossed Salieri away as if he were lighter than a feather, throwing him inside the mud which followed the Shadow everywhere it went. The group could do nothing but stare in desperation while yet another one of their allies disappeared inside the horrid liquid, defeated by the enemy in less than two seconds.

Thus, another one fell. Losses increased to three.

Mordred began to lose it at that point. Her anger and frustration could not be contained any longer.

Placing herself on the front part of the chariot, right in front of the King of Conquerors, the Saber brandished her sword with a roar of rage. Then, as if it had anticipated her intentions, the Shadow hurled at them another volley of tendrils, which the female Knight deflected with a scream of anger. Had she been even a second slower, those black filaments would have impaled them.

Shirou, Artoria and Iskandar helped her as well, deflecting a couple of tentacles with their own weapons and urging the two bulls to run faster across the sky. The chariot became a bolt of lightning and prana as it flew through the air, avoiding the enemy's filaments that kept coming and coming towards them. Behind the King of Conquerors, Luvia was cowing herself in fear.

Still, the assault didn't end. The Shadow was still there, a hundred meters away, standing on the desert soil of this land like a statue, staring at them in utmost calm. More purple mud was gathering at its feet, leaking from the very soil of Egypt, from which it was hurling yet another swarm of tendrils at them with frightening accuracy and precision.

Mordred swerved them all with a snarl. "Fuck! That disgusting filth is still firing at us!"

"They just keep coming!" Artoria hissed, her face showing a very noticeable display of tension compared to her usual mask of cold impassiveness. She batted away another filament, cutting it in half while Shirou and Iskandar shielded the trembling Luvia. "Our attacks have no effect on that thing! At this rate we're going to be overwhelmed!"

Shirou knew she was right. It was time to face reality. He had had enough.

"Sun King!" he barked, snapping his head towards the Pharaoh's ship that was flying a short distance from them. Just like his friends, Ozymandias, Nitocris and the Knights were defending themselves from the tendrils above the flying vessel, while the ship continued to fire – without success – its laser beams at the mud and the Shadow. "We're getting out of here! NOW!" he commanded.

Ozymandias nodded in his direction, golden eyes flashing with resolve. "I'll create an opening," he declared with a powerful voice, gathering an enormous amount of energy inside his scepter. "Be ready!"

He wasted no time. Hence, sharing a nod with Nitocris to his right, the King of Kings began his incantation, rotating his scepter between his fingers and then slamming it on the floor of his magical vessel. All around, Bedivere and Gawain were doing their best to cut and stop the incoming tendrils trying to stop the ship, giving the Pharaoh enough time to release his Noble Phantasm.

"It is time," the Sun King intoned. "Boat of the Gods, which soars above the universe… the Sun descends here in our infinite brilliance!"

Mana began to gather; winds began to stir. The magic circle beneath the ship grew beyond imagination, glowing with a magical starry nimbus. The entire vessel shook, glowing with a dazzling golden color. Nitocris and the others stared in wonder.

And then, the Pharaoh released his attack, slamming his scepter on the floor of the ship.

"Release your light, oh Solar Ship of the Gods!" he roared with a powerful tone. "MESEKTET!"

A few seconds of quiet.

Then, the attack was released.

Blinding, untold power flooded the desert. Everyone present squeezed their eyes shut.

A column of light was fired from the Magic Circle beneath the ship. It was enormous, gigantic, overwhelming in might. As soon as it was fired, the entire world shook, and everything disappeared. The air rippled, everything flooded with light, and all things in existence began to burn under the scorching brilliance of the attack. Pulsing, ebbing, the light of the sun itself descended on the mortal plane, washing over the world in waves as it flooded the desert, the Abu Simbel site, and the Temple towering in the distance.

It was like staring at the sun. It was impossible to see what was happening when the Noble Phantasm was released, let alone describe it with words. Even through blurry, squinted eyes Shirou could barely glimpse that column of light descending over the world. Next to him, he could feel his companions moaning in pain, blinded by the light coming from the Pharaoh's ship. Mana drowned his lungs, and with the eyes of his mind he saw an enormous blast of light and fire crashing down on the mud, burning it completely.

Winds slammed against the chariot. Pressure began to build. The desert sand was set on fire, the ground beneath peeled away. A concussive blast of air and Mana slammed on the group of Servants, and amid that chaos of energy and light, Shirou barely managed to hear Luvia's scream of fright, unable to do anything to protect her. The entire world shook for what seemed to be an eternity, rendering every feeling and every sense numb for an indefinite amount of time.

Until, silence returned. The light began to dissolve, and things regained their colors once more.

Shirou and his companions opened their eyes, and stared at the scene with mouths agape.

The desert was no more. It was all gone. Vanished and disappeared without a trace. Instead, in its place stood an immense crater of gigantic proportions. It was at least two kilometers in size – or perhaps even bigger than that, it was hard to tell from their position above – and three times larger than the one caused by the pyramid's collision from before. The ground was burned and scarred, with liquid fire raging inside the crater and clouds of smoke exhaling from the cracked soil. Everything had been burned and dissolved by the light of the sun, rendering the desert (and the site which stood not far from it) a gigantic hole devoid of life.

Only the Temple remained. Maybe it had been luck, but the Great Temple of Ramesses had managed to avoid the radius of the blast, standing as the only survivor in front of the crater of flames and death and destruction. Everything else had just disappeared, vanished without a trace.

Including the mud and the Shadow.

Shirou could not believe his eyes. "I-Is it over?" Luviagelita asked, still trembling with all her body.

"I… I think so," Artoria managed to stutter, her eyes as wide as they could be.

Mordred gulped with a sweating face. "D-Damn, that was crazy. How can that Pharaoh possess so much power?" she asked.

"Indeed. Such a destructive capacity… it could only belong to an Anti-Army Noble Phantasm," Iskandar commented in a serious tone, staring at the aftermath of the attack with narrowed eyes.

Shirou agreed in full. There was no way that previous blast could be anything less powerful than that. A Noble Phantasm capable of bringing such an enormous amount of damage and death could not be placed below the Anti-Army rank. Not even the sword Excalibur possessed such a raw destructive power. The Ruler had never seen such a powerful attack before. Or, at least, not when said attack was released by Servant. This was the first time he had met a Heroic Spirit capable of releasing such a destructive Noble Phantasm.

Now he understood why Ozymandias was so self-centered and egoistical all the time. The Pharaoh's ego was infinite, but he had the power to back it up. Everything made sense now.

As if on cue, in that moment, the Sun King's boat appeared all of a sudden. It flew across the sky with affable swiftness, reaching the chariot and placing itself on its right.

"Guys, over here!" Bedivere called from the deck of the vessel, waving at them along with Gawain. Next to the Knights, Ozymandias was standing with his arms crossed and a serious frown on his face, flanked by Nitocris who was still gazing at the crater as if in search of something.

Shirou and the others shared a nod. They wasted no time.

Bringing the chariot close to the ship, the group of Servants (plus Luvia) leaped out of Gordius Wheel upon reaching the boat from above, landing on the deck of the flying vessel with a soft thud. Snapping his fingers, Iskandar dismissed the chariot with a mental command, allowing it to dissolve into ether now that it wasn't needed anymore.

Gawain approached the group as soon as they landed. "My King, are you hurt?" he asked, concerned for her well-being.

She shook her head, offering a sad smile to her faithful friend while she helped Luvia back on her feet.

At the same time, Ozymandias glanced at the whole group with an unreadable expression. "I presume everyone is alright, then?" he demanded, more direct and straightforward than usual. It was a statement more than a question.

Shirou nodded with a weary face. "We're fine… but we've lost Salieri. There was nothing we could do," he hissed, lowering his head in rage as he clenched his fists.

He immediately noticed the way everyone tensed in sadness at the reminder. It wasn't only Mordred, Iskandar and Artoria who looked sad. Even the Sun King's face grew more solemn at the thought of their lost comrades. Luvia was almost on the verge of crying too. He supposed it was to be expected. No one amid the group had yet come to terms with the fact that they had lost three of their companions, not even Shirou. There was simply no way to accept such a thing immediately, for anyone.

"M-Miss Cleopatra… Lord Caesar…" Nitocris whispered with a regretful voice, her Anubis ears lowered in loss and sadness as she tightened her grip on the elegant scepter. "Pharaoh, how could this happen?"

For once, Ozymandias offered no answer to his faithful Servant. His golden eyes remained glued to the crater below, shining with an unreadable glint.

Artoria exhaled a sigh. "We should move. The enemy could still―"

She had no time to finish that sentence.

Because before one of them could even begin to relax, something happened all of a sudden.

The air froze. A chill descended upon their spine. The feeling of death and darkness washed over every one of them. They turned in its direction and―

―that thing had returned.


The black Shadow was here.

It had appeared out of nowhere, flickering back into existence right in front of them.


The red-haired Ruler snapped to attention. A glimpse of dark-red mana. A flash of purple light.

Then, pain.

Everything and everyone disappeared all of a sudden. The last thing Shirou managed to hear was Ozymandias and his allies screaming in shock, before a loud explosion deafened his eardrums. His ears began to ring, and the world was painted in black.

Until, at last, he could feel the world no more.




It takes only one stray shot. One stray shot from the God of Depravity for the deed to be done.

I start running. Dust clings to the air, obscuring my sight, and the horrible stench of burning meat permeates. I nearly throw up when I realize that the dust is probably the remnants of charred flesh.

The city is under attack. Somehow, Kama has found my location again, and he's killing thousands of people to lure me out of hiding. He wants to destroy these people – all these lives, as if they're nothing but cattle – just to make me suffer. I cannot accept it.

When I reach the poor child hit by the blast, my hands are shaking too much to even hold his head. The damage is terrible: his left arm has been ripped out completely, and a gash in the flank leaks rivulets of blood. Those teary eyes are hooded with pain. It takes only another minute for those eyes to close.

I stagger backwards, tripping over a stump that was a few feet away from the body. When I look down, I fall to my knees. My sight blurs with vertigo, as I reach out and clasp that severed arm. The black flesh is still smoldering slightly, and my hand burns a little. I only let go when Astraea dashes towards me and tries to pull me off the burning child. Screaming, I push her away. I want to punch that bastard. I want to kill him. I want to destroy him completely.

But my body won't listen. Sobs racket me in little, choked gasps. The world spins around.

"S-Shirou! I… I'm sorry," the Goddess is crying, too. "It's not! I didn't think it would come to this! T-This is not what I wanted!"

She tries to approach me again, but this time I manage to push her away. Astraea lets my arms land the blow, pushing her with a scream of rage; and there is a cracking noise when her head hits the wall.

"Stay away, get the fuck away from me!"

My words are grabbled and rushed, as I start wheezing.

Astraea seems frightened. Fumbling, she picks up her sword, which had fallen on the ground. Behind her, the tiles of the wall are marred with a thick, brown liquid. She trembles and lowers her head, avoiding my eyes in shame, and sadness, and hurt.

All the while, Kama keeps laughing at me from the sky; taking a great, twisted pleasure in killing and slaughtering so many lives. The God of Depravity mocks me with a grin, taunting my foolishness for trusting a God.

He is right. This is my fault. The result of my own weakness, because I couldn't protect. The result of my own stupidity, for not listening to my instinct, for trusting Astraea. For thinking that she was right, and that Gods and humans could really understand each other.

This has to end, and end now. I glare at Kama and Astraea. As hatred burns my eyes, I grip my sword Caledfwlch.

At last, I start to cry.




Planet: Earth
Date: June 13 2020
: Libyan Desert – A few kilometers from Lake Nasser and the Abu Simbel site (Aswan/Nubia Governorate - Egypt)


Shirou's vision went black.

When he could see again, he was lying face down in the sand. Something heavy dug into his back. Instinct, primal and raw, sent him into action. He flailed, pulling himself up so he could breathe. He slowly moved the weight off his back. Cursory glance: Luvia's body. The poor girl was alive, but unconscious; her face morphed into an expression of pain as he gently took her body in his arms. The red-haired Ruler shot a glance in every direction, feeling his numb mind growing tense with worry.

He was in middle of nowhere. Desert land and sandy dunes surrounded him as far as the eyes could see. Broken pieces of woods and a few small debris of metal were scattered all around him. They resembled parts of the Pharaoh's flying ship. A little further to the side, he could see his allies collapsed on the sand. Fear and worry flashed in his eyes for a split-second, but they soon disappeared upon seeing that there was no need. Luckily for him, in fact, they were all alive and well, and it was clear with just a single glance. They were groggy and covered in dust, but pretty much unharmed, much to his relief.

Iskandar and Mordred were the first his eyes glanced to. His first companions were lying at the base of a dune, covered in sand and sweat. They were crammed together awkwardly, as if they had tried to reach out to each other. Artoria and the Knights were lying a little bit further to the left, side by side, next to Ozymandias and Nitocris who were groggily raising themselves from the hot sand, swaying a little to the side due to the fatigue. The God of War could see a dark wound on the Pharaoh's right limb, like an angry burn that ran the length of his right arm to his shoulder and neck.

Memories returned to him in a flash. His eyes widened in realization. The Shadow. The explosion. The crash. His mind grew colder as his body shook at the reminder.

That's right, they had been attacked. The Shadow had appeared out of nowhere, catching the group unawares and making them crash somehow. It had literally appeared upon the flying ship out of the blue – faster than any other living being Shirou had ever seen – making the vessel explode and crash to the ground. Shirou must have shielded Luvia in the meantime. He must have grabbed her during the fall, trying to protect her. He couldn't recall how, exactly. All he remembered was seeing the Shadow appear, and then everything had gone black, somehow. All he could recall right now were flashes and a few blurred images, and nothing more.

In that moment, Shirou realized how things stood. He must have lost consciousness, briefly. Even the others seemed to have been through the same thing.

This was unbelievable. Utterly and absolutely unbelievable.

The red-haired Ruler forced himself back on his feet with a grunt. "Is everyone alright?" he asked, noticing that everyone had started to stir and raise themselves from the ground while he was still lost in thoughts.

Low grunts of pain and moans of fatigue was all he received in answer.

"Ow… we live," Nitocris replied with a pained voice, raising herself groggily from the sand. Artoria and the Knights did the same a few meters behind, while Iskandar nodded in a weary gesture while he shook Mordred's shoulders to wake her up. Seeing the expression of fatigue on their faces, Shirou realized that whatever had happened before must have had a huge toll on them too.

Mordred hissed as she winced in pain. "Damn it, what the hell happened to us?" she spat, clenching and unclenching a fist in attempt to stir her numb muscles.

"The Shadow. That's what happened," Ozymandias replied in a serious voice, dusting himself off with a scoff of anger. Judging by his face and tone, he was extremely pissed right now. Probably due to the angry wound on his right limb, Shirou deduced.

Nitocris widened her eyes upon seeing it. "Pharaoh! You're wounded!" she exclaimed in shock, concern written all over her features.

He waved off her concern with a shake of the head. "Worry not about me, Nitocris. This is barely a scratch," he dismissed her, brusque and straightforward like never before. Yep, he was definitely not in a good mood right now. Shirou couldn't blame him, despite the dislike he felt towards that man.

Luvia began to stir in the Ruler's arms. The ancient God placed her on the ground, gently, helping her sit up straight as she coughed from the dust that drenched the air. The whole group began to gather around the two as Shirou exhaled a weary breath.

"Sun King… how did it happen?" Iskandar demanded, glancing at the Pharaoh's wounded arm with a solemn expression.

Ozymandias gritted his teeth, inwardly seething in rage at the recalling of the previous events. Regardless, he decided to answer due to the gravity of the situation. "…that filth tried to attack me during the fall. I shielded myself at the last split-second, using my scepter to burn its tendrils before they could reach me. It worked, but one of them managed to wrap itself around my arm in spite of my efforts. I yanked it off… but this was the result," he explained, looking absolutely livid because of what he had been through.

His explanation was met with dead silence. Everyone tensed in anxiety and concern. Except for the Pharaoh, the others didn't seem injured, but the fall had taken a huge toll on them. If the enemy decided to attack now… they would surely have a really bad time.

Artoria limped a bit, approaching the Ruler amid the absolute silence. "Shirou… do you know what that Shadow was?" she asked, searching for his opinion.

The red-head just shook his head, trying hard – so very hard – not to think about what, exactly, he had seen when that thing had appeared next to him. Despite his best efforts, he couldn't quite stop himself from shivering a bit. He clenched his fists in attempt not to let his worries slip away.

Sweat began to drip from his trembling chin.

"...I… don't know," he whispered in the end, trying to dismiss the confusion and fear that were plaguing his mind. "However, one thing is clear. Whatever it is, that Shadow is strong. Too strong, for us to handle it. I don't consider myself invincible despite my status as a Ruler, but not even I could see its movements fully when it attacked. So... I'm afraid to admit it, but I'm currently at loss right now."

Iskandar's face grew solemn at his words. That wasn't good news. That wasn't good news at all.

"That means we can't lower our guard yet," he stated, sharing a glance with Mordred and the others.

Artoria nodded in agreement. She turned to the Pharaoh with a mask of utmost seriousness. "Sun King, what happened to the Shadow?"

Again, Ozymandias scoffed at the question. "It disappeared. It vanished when I broke my arm free from its grasp and fainted. If it didn't kill us all during that time, then it must have left for some reason."

He answered as if he wasn't interested, but everyone knew that it was just an attempt to quell his inner anger. It was blatantly obvious that the Pharaoh was pissed right now. Being wounded by that Shadow must have severely hurt his pride, considering his ego and his infinite confidence. That, and he had also lost two allies because of that thing. There was simply no way for him to forgive such an immeasurable affront. Regardless of what the group was going to decide, Shirou was sure that from this day on, Ozymandias would not rest until that Shadow was dead. He was ready to bet on it.

Then, the Sun King looked down at Shirou, kneeled next to Luvia.

"It seems this is no time to pursue personal grudges anymore. Isn't that right, Shirou Emiya?"

The Ruler narrowed his eyes. He knew what Ozymandias was referring to with those words. That being: his outburst and the disrespect he had shown to him during their previous talk. The Sun King had never kept his disappointment hidden after those events, after all. It was only logical that he would still hold a grudge against him, as of now.

Golden-brown eyes stared at the Pharaoh's frowning face. Then, they closed with a weary sigh. "I suppose not," he agreed.

Ozymandias nodded. But he couldn't quite hold himself back from sneering a bit. "Indeed. But be warned: I'm just postponing your punishment to a later date. I have not forgotten your words, Ruler, and I never shall," he promised, absolutely serious about that statement.

His only reaction to those words was a flat stare filled with disinterest.

Mordred scoffed in annoyance. "Zip it, Sun King. For fuck's sake, I'm gonna have a headache after today, I just know it."

Nitocris rounded on the female Knight with a displeased frown. "Watch your tone and manners, Sir Mo―"

Then, she froze.

A sudden chill crawled up everyone's spine.

The temperature dropped several degrees. Silence returned. Everyone stilled out of the blue.

Nitocris and Luvia blanched in fear. Bedivere and Gawain gasped in shock. Iskandar and Mordred startled with fright. Ozymandias and Artoria snapped their heads to the right.

And Shirou… Shirou felt goosebumps upon every single pore of his skin; his mind turning white with horror and anxiety. All around him, he could see and feel the others growing tense as well, detecting the exact same thing as him while the feeling of something dark and vicious washed over them all of a sudden.

He turned to the right as well. His golden-brown eyes widened out of human proportions.


It was here. Again.

The black Shadow.


Behind Mordred.

Shirou's body reacted on instinct.


Mordred looked confused. She had no idea of what was happening.

Behind her, that thing appeared; as if born from her very own shadow.

"Huh? What the…?"

She glanced behind. At the same time, the Shadow reacted. It extended one of its tendrils, and―—

A flash of light. A blur of black.

And then, blood. Much, much blood.


Everyone widened their eyes, parting their lips into a horrified gasp.


Shirou had moved at supersonic speed. Right as he pushed Mordred aside, a crystal tendril of black snapped out from the Shadow. It pierced through his projected blade, shattering it completely, and impaled the Ruler right through the chest.

His shattered blade disappeared into dust. The sand at his feet was stained with crimson.

Mordred, Iskandar, Artoria and everyone else stared at their friend with horrified eyes.

He had been pierced in full.

"SHIROU!" they cried.

Too late.

The First Hero of Humanity spat blood from his lips, feeling an immeasurable amount of pain explode inside his chest. With a strained grunt, he stared with a blurred sight at the wound on his body. A black, crystal tendril of Mana had stabbed him in the chest, right through his ribcage and lungs. Behind, the black Shadow watched in silence, while his friends and allies were screaming in horror.

Pain blossomed again. A powerful tug pulled at his chest, making him gasp for air. More blood leaked out of his lips, and he coughed it out with a pathetic hiss.

He felt sick.

The pain. The pain was excruciating. There were no words to describe it.
'I feel sick. It's wrong. I feel sick, it's wrong. I-I-I-I-I feel sick, it's wrong. I feel sick, i-i-i-it's wrong, I fEEl SICK, It'S wRoNg. I FEel sIcK, It'S WrOnG. I FeEL SIcK, iT'S wROnG. I feEl siCk…!'
Nausea and pain flooded his system.

Time seemed to blur at that point. He could not understand what was happening anymore.

Still, the Shadow reacted swiftly. It raised its vicious tentacle like an arm, and tossed him away with a powerful tug, as if he were nothing more than a fly.

The only thing he could hear as he flew into the air was Artoria screaming his name in fear. Everything else was just pain.

Honestly, Shirou had no idea how much time passed after that moment. His mind was white, his heart was pain, his instinct was dead. Every single fiber of his being was screaming in anguish and soreness. Eventually, however, he felt something. He crashed on something wet. It was hot, and thick, and it smelled absolutely disgusting. The stench of death, and sickness, and churned corpses mixed together. As his sight slowly returned after an indefinite amount of time, he realized that the liquid surrounding him was of crimson-purple color. It didn't take him long to understand what it was. He had tried to stay away from it for the entirety of the previous battle, after all.

The mud.

He tore his head away from the thick liquid with a gasp, coughing blood and Mana all the while. The soupy mud was coating every inch of his body. His arms and legs where sinking in attempt to hold him in place.

He glanced around, trying to understand where he was. He immediately realized the harsh truth: he was in the middle of a lake. In the middle of Lake Nasser, to be precise. However, somehow, for some reason he couldn't even begin to fathom, the water of the lake had been entirely replaced by that horrid and foul-smelling mud, thus creating a vast expanse of purple that extended as far as the eye could see. And he was standing right in the middle of it.

It was undeniable: he was in deep shit right now.

The pain. The pain was unrelenting.
He felt sick. He felt dizzy. Nausea and vertigo shook his body. His head was throbbing with pain.
He felt sick, he felt sick, he felt sick, HE FELT SICK!


One glance to the right. His vision was blurred. Still, he could see his allies getting close. They were running in his direction, frantic, desperately dashing above the dunes and trying to reach his location before it could be too late. Mordred and Iskandar were leading the charge. They looked both scared and horrified as they ran with a maddened pace. Artoria was right next to them, her expression a mask of despair that she had rarely ever worn on her face. The others were following suit as well, with various degrees of horror written inside their eyes and features.

He did not understand. He could not understand.
Why were they coming for him? Could they not understand that it was already too late? Had they always been so foolish?
Not that he was one to talk, though. He would have done the same in their place.


Artoria's cry snapped him back from his thoughts, his mind blurred by pain and agony as he struggled to force back a scream. Fuck, the pain... it was unbearable. It felt like someone was ripping his heart from his chest. Worse, it was like a frayed rope. Each fiber of the rope fraying into more fibers, and those fibers fraying into more fibers. And it hurt.

'Make it stop.'
It hurt, it hurt, it hurt, it hurt―someone was fucking stabbing him in the heart―hurt, hurt, hurt, hurt, hurt.
'Someone, please… make it STOP!'

The nausea passed, his head throbbed in pain. His companions were already there. They reached the shores of the lake of mud, preparing themselves to leap in and rescue him as soon as possible.

No way. No way in hell. He couldn't allow that. It was too dangerous. It was a lost cause.

"No! Don't come any closer!" he shouted at the top of his lungs. He yelled so loud that his throat nearly began to bleed. Mordred and the others halted abruptly upon hearing his hoarse cry. They had never seen him so scared, so desperate, before this moment. Not even once. "Hurry up and get out of here, fools!"

"SHUT UP!" Mordred replied just as loudly. Her ferocious cry echoed amid the lake, the sheer panic in her voice so strong that it was almost impossible to miss. "WE'RE NOT GONNA LOSE YOU!"

He gritted his teeth, distress and agony and sorrow throbbing within his chest. The dark Mana flowing in his body was so strong and vicious that he couldn't even speak anymore, blinding his vision with unmeasurable pain. He tried to look at his friends through squinted eyes, trying to dismiss the pain and―fuck. It hurt. It hurt so much. Why couldn't it stop? Why couldn't it fucking stop?

Wait… were those tears in Mordred's eyes?

Damn it. It was worse than he thought.

Another tug in his chest, and with it, yet more excruciating pain. Shirou screamed, unable to contain the agony, and felt all the energies in his body disappear for some reason. In a last, desperate attempt to free himself from the enemy, he tore the black tendril away from his chest with a yanking movement, hissing in pain all the while. On the shore, his friends were about to step inside the mud. He couldn't allow that. He tried to open his mouth and warn them…

…when the black Shadow reappeared.

Shirou widened his eyes. Gaping.


In front of him. It was there.
Still. Immovable. Staring at him.

It lacked intelligence or reason.
It probably wasn't even 'alive'.
But it was staring at him, gazing inside his very own soul.

Shirou felt physically sick. Silence returned all around him. No one dared to break it for some reason. Mordred, Iskandar and the others stopped abruptly. Instead, the black Shadow remained still above that crimson-purple liquid, standing right in front of the God of War, in the middle of the lake. It was staring at him with a gaze devoid of eyes and devoid of feels.

Then, it started to throb.

It throbbed and throbbed and throbbed, gathering all the energy and sucking all the Mana it could find from its surroundings. The water, the shrubs, the desert… everything that stood in the lake's proximity began to lose its energy, streaming it towards the Shadow. Invisible flows of prana began to fluctuate around the desert, all of them flowing towards that shapeless being. The more energy it absorbed, the more that hideous thing grew in size and height. And as he stared with wide eyes at the scene happening in front of him, Shirou realized the cold, horrible truth with crystal clear clarity in spite of the pain.

The lake was dying. Those few life forms hidden inside the water, whether plant or animal, died in but an instant.

All the Magical energy was being sucked by that Shadow.

It throbbed and pulsed and twitched, swelling more and more as it continued to absorb Mana from its surroundings. For some stupid reason, despite the dangerous situation he was in, it reminded Shirou of a water balloon. It was like putting more water into an already-full balloon.

It was expanding beyond capacity, distorting its shape into unbelievable heights.

The more it expanded, the more Shirou got the bad image of it explo―――

oh no.

Realization dawned upon him. They were going to get sucked up.

If they remained here, all of them were going to be engulfed for sure.

Apparently, he wasn't the only one who reached that conclusion. "It's gathering Magical energy!" the voice of Nitocris' echoed from the shore. The purple-haired Caster was staring at the Shadow with a terrified gaze, her face a mask of horror as she grabbed Mordred from the arm to stop her from stepping inside the mud. "At this rate, it's going to overflow and explode! We need to get out of here!"


Mordred's voice snapped him out of his shock. Shirou gritted his teeth as soon as his mind resumed to focus, swallowing back a yowl of pain in attempt to move and do something. He tried to raise himself back on his legs, but the pain was too much. He stumbled backwards, wheezing like an animal as the mud covered him no matter how much he struggled to break free, making him sink all the more.

From the depths of the crimson-purple liquid, an endless volley of crystal tendrils erupted once more. Shirou widened his eyes, stunned by the rapidity of the sudden attack. In an instinctive reaction, he called forth Kanshou and Bakuya, deflecting the first tendril of Mana with a grunt of effort. Then, he swung the twin blades again, cutting down a second vine of black color.

Unfortunately, though, it wasn't enough. Not even a moment later, an endless volley of black tendrils erupted from the lake of mud, soaring in the air at a speed that was impossible – even for him – to match. The God of War could only widen his eyes in shock before the inevitable happened.


Mordred and Artoria screamed in anguish. Iskandar and Luvia gasped in shock. The others stared in horror.

While the married blades were batted aside with inhuman strength, leaving Shirou defenseless against the incoming vines. Not even a second passed, and it was already too late. Two other tendrils made of darkness and Mana impaled him in full, soaring in the air at supersonic speed and piercing the Ruler's stomach and his right shoulder at the same time.

Kanshou and Bakuya disappeared in a cloud of dust. Shirou wheezed in pain, spitting more blood from his red-stained lips. "K-Kuh…guah…!"

But it wasn't over. Another volley of tendrils erupted from the mud. They wrapped themselves around the Ruler's legs and arms, binding him even more. Iskandar and Artoria gasped as Shirou fell to his knees.

"Boy/Shirou!" they cried in concern.

Next to them, Luvia was openly crying in horror. "N-No… no, no, no; it can't be! Shero!" she sobbed, tears flowing down her cheeks endlessly, like rivers unable to stop.

Mordred's eyes were crying as well. The panicked girl was still struggling to break free from Caster's hold. "Let me go, damn it! LET ME GO!" she raged, trashing and shaking in both anger and fear.

"Stop it, you reckless idiot! You're gonna die if you go in there!" Ozymandias bellowed, joining Nitocris and helping the Caster in keeping her still.

Despite the pain and agony, Shirou could hear his companion's words even from afar. However, despite his sorry state, his eyes remained glued to the Shadow in front of him. It was growing more and more by the second, reaching an impossible height. Moreover, the more he stared at it, the more the pain in his wounds was growing in intensity. There was nothing he could to do to break himself free from this hold. Not anymore.

His chest was burning. His mind was screaming. His head was throbbing with excruciating pain. The wounds on his chest pulsed like never before. Instead of blood, a jet of black liquid came out from the holes, making every single fiber of his being shudder in agony. The black tendrils of darkness continued to bind him, rendering him unable to move his body and flee. From the wounds on his torso, a dark and repulsing energy started to leak, covering his chest in a dark web of Mana. His arms and legs spasmed as he was corrupted from within.

His mind was turning white.
Pain and darkness loomed all over him.
Each breath felt like fire coursing inside his lungs.

In all honesty, Shirou couldn't delude himself. Not anymore.

This was the end for him.

He knew that. He already knew that. If Caesar, Cleopatra and Salieri hadn't been able to survive from this, his chances of survival were decidedly slim too. Freeing himself from the current position was an impossible action. The mud below him wasn't the only thing binding him, as the black Shadow was coiling all around his body even now. He couldn't move forward. He couldn't take a step. He couldn't heal himself. Hell, he couldn't even feel his legs anymore. He was being utterly restrained by the mud and its vines, bound against his will by a horrifying being made of madness and hatred. Not even his friends could rescue him this time. All of them were tired and injured from the fall, and their attacks had had no effect on that thing. Moreover, if they stepped inside the mud, they were bound to end up exactly like him. It was a hopeless situation.

There was no way to break free.

The Shadow continued to throb. It grew and grew and grew, reaching an inhuman size and inflating like a balloon about to burst.

Artoria could stand it no longer. Her whole body began to tremble in fear and anxiety. "M-My sword!" she stuttered, her voice quivering with so many emotions that it was honestly frightening to witness. "I… I'll use my sword! I'll blast that Shadow away with Excalibur, and Shirou will be freed from those chains―"

"My King, you can't!" Bedivere grabbed her arm, stopping the woman before she could raise her blade to the sky. The King of Knights snapped to him like a woman possessed. "Our attacks won't work on that thing. And even if your Noble Phantasm managed to hurt it, the Shadow could explode upon impact! The blast will kill us all, including Ruler as well!"

Bedivere was right, and Shirou knew it too. There was no way Excalibur could hurt the Shadow in this situation, for it had already survived every attack and blast the group had fired at it during the battle. No arrow, no holy light, and not even the heat of the sun could hurt the being they were facing right now. If that thing had managed to survive a blast coming from Ozymandias' Noble Phantasms, there was no way for Excalibur to be effective against it. It was simply a matter of logic. And even if that sword was able to wound it in some mysterious way, the explosion caused by the impact would have engulfed them all, resulting in their ultimate death.

Therefore, there was no hope for him right now. His companions had no way to rescue him from that thing. And he knew that Artoria knew it as well.

There was only one way for them to survive.


Glancing in her direction, Shirou could see all the fear, all the helplessness, all the desperation flashing inside the female King's eyes. The blonde woman was shaking her head in denial, looking both scared and resigned as she stared at his bloodied face. She was lost. All of them, actually, were lost. Mordred and Iskandar. Bedivere and Gawain. Artoria and Luvia. All of them didn't know what to do anymore. It was a helpless situation. There was no way for them to rescue him without dying. It was simply impossible.

Shirou knew that his companions had already realized that. He saw it in their eyes. The horror.

so be it.

He steeled himself. With a strained grunt, he forced himself to react. Fighting back the pain, ignoring his throbbing mind, he turned his head towards the shore. His pained eyes glanced to the King of Conquerors while more and more tendrils began to wrap themselves around his body. "R-Rider… go. G-get them out of here," he said, wheezing in pain. His voice was hoarse, weary, broken… but filled with steeled decision nonetheless. It didn't even waver upon seeing a flash of pain flickering inside the muscular Rider's eyes. "Run. You know… t-this is the only way."

Iskandar remained still, sweating and trembling with a hesitant expression. "Boy… we can't…" he tried to say, but Shirou wouldn't allow him to finish that sentence.

"Please… do it. F-For me."

He was lost. Shirou could already see that. Iskandar was at loss for words. For the first time in his whole life, the great Alexander the Great didn't know what to do. And that realization did little to assuage the guilt he was feeling inside.

Mordred would have none of it. She was as stubborn as ever, it seemed. "No! NO! SHUT UP! WE'RE NOT GONNA LEAVE YOU, SO STOP SAYING THOSE THINGS!" she cried, unwilling to give up. The tears flowing from her eyes simply would not stop, even as she kept trashing within Ozymandias and Nitocris' combined hold. Next to them, Artoria and the Knights were just as floored as Iskandar, while Luvia had openly started to weep at this point.

Despite the pain flowing in his body and mind, Shirou smiled at his favorite Saber.

"…kid, l-listen to me―"

The female Knight stared at him with wide eyes, her lips parted into a trembling snarl as tears continued to cascade down her pale cheeks.

Shirou attempted to talk, but it was too late. There was no time for words anymore.

Another throb echoed in the wind. Magical energy drenched the air.

The Shadow was growing impatient.

It was about to explode.

Shirou narrowed his eyes, feeling his terror escalate to inhuman levels amid the pain, the soreness, and the resignation.

"We need to go!" Ozymandias bellowed, seeing that scene. Amid the distressed group, he was the only one who was keeping it together at the moment. "That filth is about release its Magical energy! If we stay here, we're all gonna die!"

No one listened to his command. Torn between desperation and grief, the group of Servants and Luvia remained unfazed by the Pharaoh's frantic order. Even in the current predicament, Shirou realized that they would not be able to make it. They would not be able to leave, no matter what Ozymandias could do or say to them. They were just too distressed – too lost – to be able to recollect themselves from the shock. At this rate, each and every one of them was going to die in attempt to find a solution, unable to cope with the decision of leaving him behind.

Upon realizing that, Shirou couldn't help but smile with a rueful expression. Heh, foolish overly-sized kids. They really were loyal to him, weren't they?

'Good grief… you guys really like to make things harder for me, huh?' he thought with a shake of his head.

…very well, then. If things had come to this, then so be it.

He steeled himself, taking his final decision. He couldn't let them die here. Even if this was the end for him, even if there was no hope for him, his friends and companions had to survive. He couldn't allow Mordred, Artoria and Iskandar to die along with him. Such a thing was unacceptable. Absolutely and completely unacceptable. He had to protect them from the incoming blast at any cost.

No matter what, he couldn't afford to lose them here.

Shirou Emiya took a deep breath, trying to ignore the agony flowing through every fiber of his being.

Pain washed over him. Blood dripped from his face and chest. Mana waves and winds of fire began raging around the Shadow, blowing themselves forward and slamming against his battered body. If it weren't for the black tendrils holding him in place, Shirou would have been blown away by their immeasurable force. Still, he struggled with a heavy hiss to maintain his balance, stretching a trembling hand towards the Shadow.

A moment of silence, followed by fear and tension.

Then, amid that chaos, amid that wind, amid the oppressing feeling of death; Iskandar, Artoria, Mordred, Ozymandias, Luvia and the others stared at the scene with wide eyes.

While the God of War Tyr raised his trembling, bloodied hand; pointing its palm towards the growing Shadow.

Thus, for the first time after five thousand years, he began his only incantation.

"I am… the bone… of my sword."

Silence stretched for an eternity. Mana and wind howled around his frame. His companions observed the scene from the shore of the lake, staring as the red-haired Ruler spoke his chant with a pained hiss, taking in every detail of his face and expression with a worried gaze.

"Steel is my body… and fire… is my blood."

The sky went black. Darkness covered the world.

An earthquake shook the lake. The water and the mud began to stir with growing fury. Shirou's hand shook amid the wind and chaos, struggling to hold it in place. At the same time, Mana surged inside his body, gathering all his remaining energies, making them flow through his Circuits.

"I have created… over a thousand blades."

A second of silence. The winds paused for a moment. The entire world stilled. Artoria, Mordred and Iskandar watched with mouths agape. Bedivere and Gawain trembled in tension and worry. Ozymandias, Nitocris and Luvia stared with wide eyes.

And finally, Shirou released the incantation, his broken voice carrying both pain and resolve as he summoned his strongest defensive Phantasm.

The shield inherited by Aias the Great, sublimated into a Conceptual Weapon.

"Rho... Aias!"

What happened next, it struck all the witnesses to the very core.

Mordred, Iskandar and Artoria would remember this moment until the end of days. The shape of a flower reflected in each of their pupils.

Then, a shimmering ring of flower petals appeared to life.

From the hand stretched towards the Shadow, Shirou summoned forth his most powerful defense in its greatest form: the projection of shield of Aias, also known as the Shield of Seven Rings that covers the Burning Heavens. It took the form of a seven layered Bounded Field in the shape of an iridescent flower, with seven petals representing the seven layers of oxhide of the original shield. Each flower petal layer had the defensive power of a fortress wall, capable of withstanding almost every kind of attack, and it was one of the strongest weapons ever created by Shirou during his lifetime as Tyr, who used it to defend himself during his battle against the Gods in more than one occasion.

And today, for the first time after countless years, he had been forced to use it again. Although in this different form.

Regardless, his decision was proved to be the right choice. As soon as he released the shield, in fact, the world was covered by a flash of pink, just a moment before everything collapsed completely.

Darkness returned to reign, and the world was painted in black.

The Shadow released its attack. It exploded all of a sudden, releasing all the Magical energy it had gathered in a powerful blast, aiming the attack on the bloodied God in front of it. The descending blast of Mana slammed into and around the Ruler's shield, each impact loosening a deafening shockwave that ripped the air from everyone's lungs. Behind the Ruler, Iskandar, Mordred and the others recoiled as the wind slammed against them, stunned, watching from the shore with wide eyes as the first petal of the shield shattered under the oppressive wave of energy, and then rebuilt itself in less than an instant.

For what seemed to be an eternity, all the group could see was that powerful clash of titans. The two forces of nature battled and clashed against each other, lighting up the world with flashes of pink and black. The dark flow of Mana kept trashing against the Aias, and the shield of the God of War kept struggling to deflect the Shadow's power. All the while, shockwaves of wind and prana kept loosening against the world, stirring the mud and blinding everyone's sight.

"G-Gugh… argh…!"

Behind the shield, Shirou grunted in pain and fatigue. He gritted his teeth in spite of the pain, ignoring his throbbing headache and focusing all his efforts in attempt to keep his Mana flowing inside the flower. The second layer of energy began to crack against the black prana, shattering itself and being replaced by the third one in less than a second.

Then, the Ruler fell on his knees, his body shaking with spasms of pain. He could hear Artoria screaming at him in worry from behind, but he couldn't afford to turn around and watch. Right now, a single moment of distraction would result in a colossal defeat, and since he could not afford to lose his friends to that thing, he had to keep struggling and keep the shield to work. His left arm remained pointed towards the enemy, desperately trying to infuse all the energy he had inside the Aias, fighting and struggling in spite of the pain.

Unfortunately, however, the struggle couldn't last much longer. Shirou was already wounded, most of his Mana was gone due to the tendrils that pierced his body, and the Aias was exerting a huge toll on him with each passing second. In order to keep it active, in fact, it was necessary for the user to provide constant Magical Energy… and unfortunately for the Ruler, that was something he couldn't afford to do for too long. Especially in these critical conditions.

And so, as the struggle dragged out, the outcome became inevitable. In the end he could bear the oppressive pressure no longer.

Thus, when the last remnants of his strength began to fade, Shirou gave in with a scream. Rho Aias was shattered in a rain of broken glass, and a powerful explosion shook the world once more. The last thing he managed to see amid the pain and the chaos was the black Mana of the Shadow overflowing in every direction, before all things became a blur and his body was blown away by the explosion.

Everything shook, and the world screamed in pain.

All sounds ceased, all visions disappeared. For what seemed to be an eternity, only quietness and dark existed. Darkness prevailed, and every light expired. Then, amid that deafening and absolute silence, something began to stir all of a sudden. Shirou's mind began to regain consciousness, and he could slowly begin to feel his body. It took him a full minute, perhaps more, to fully regain sensibility from his lethargic state… but when he did, he was immediately assaulted by wave of agony, making him gasp with a whimper of pain.

Golden-brown eyes snapped open, and the red-haired Ruler coughed. He spat a gush of blood from his cracked lips.

The agony was exquisite. So perfect in its purpose that his mind almost went white. Pain was the greatest destroyer, after all. There was nothing that could exist upon its wake inside the body. No thoughts. No emotions. No sensations. Only pain. It was something he was deeply accustomed to due to his past, unfortunately.

Quickly, however, the agony passed. Shirou gasped with a loud rattle, wheezing and gulping air from his mouth like a fish out of water. Eventually, when the pain subsided, he steeled himself to sit up straight... but he realized that it was harder than he thought. He had taken his ability to do that for granted. There was something wrong with his abdominal muscles. They weren't attached right. They were severed, even. Probably due to the tendrils that had pierced him previously, most likely. He was forced to use his arms to hoist himself out of the sand, grunting in effort all the while.

As soon as he managed to sit up straight, a coughing fit shook his body. Blood and spittle dripped from his chin. Horrendous pain swelled in his chest with each cough and breath. He tried to heal his wounds with his abilities, but no matter how much he tried to focus, he was unable to do so. The wounds simply would not disappear, for some reason.

Shirou cared not. He'd suffered worse.

When the agony subsided, he suppressed his urge to vomit. Instead, he looked around, inwardly recalling all the previous events in attempt to bring order back to his blurred mind. Flashes of the previous battle soared inside his head like poisonous whispers. Finally, he realized where he was: on the shore of the lake of mud. The explosion had created yet another crater in the middle of the lake, lowering the water level by at least ten meters. Crimson-purple mud flowed towards the crater, creating a vortex of mana and death visible from the shore of the scarred lake. It was smaller compared to before, and even the mud seemed diminished for some reason. Flames of blue color licked the ground all around the shores.

Memories returned to him. Heavy eyelids widened as he remembered the previous events. The explosion, he recalled. The explosion must have thrown him away. It had batted his body away from the mud, freeing him from the Shadow and its tendrils during the all-consuming blast. The three wounds on his chest still remained, however; covered by blood and a foul-looking Mana that kept spreading in his body like a twisted spider web. The skin touched by the web pulsed and hurt as if it had been burnt by liquid fire.

A throb of pain coursed through his chest. The red-haired Ruler swallowed back a hiss.

'T-The others!' he realized, snapping his head in every direction in order to find his companions. Right now, his body's condition was not the main issue for him. 'Where are the others?'

Luckily for him, he didn't have to search for long. His anxiety lasted only for a few moments.

Just a few meters behind, he found them. They were all there. Mordred and Iskandar. Artoria and her Knights. Luvia and the Pharaohs. All of them were lying on the ruined sand near the shore, with their bodies battered but – overall – looking right and whole in spite of everything. Shirou exhaled a sigh of relief, almost passing out in solace at the sight. It had worked. His last, desperate attempt to shield his friends from the blast had been successful. If it hadn't been for the Aias, he was sure that all of them would have been destroyed by the explosion. There was no doubt about it.

In that moment, his friends began to stir. Groggily, they opened their eyes, and started to raise themselves from the ground, coughing and wheezing all the while.


Artoria turned to him with wide eyes, being the first one to rouse herself out of the dizziness. Her emerald orbs were staring at him with a mixture of worry and relief as she saw him standing (well, he was still laying down of the ground, but whatever) a few meters from them. Emotions and color flooded her face as she crawled towards him, desperate and worried.

Shirou coughed a bit. "Yeah… I'm still here," he whispered with a weak voice, offering her a smile filled with resignation as she kept crawling closer and closer.

The King of Knights crawled closer. "I-It's ok," she said, trying to reassure him as she kept dragging herself towards him. Her voice was filled with sadness, relief and desperation mixed together. "You're ok. I'm here. We're all here."

The God of War widened his eyes, feeling his mind shut for a moment upon digesting her words in full. The fact that the mighty King of Knights was this worried for him surprised him in spite of himself. Good grief, this was quite the sight. It was unexpected. It was honestly amusing to see. If he weren't mortally wounded right now, he would have laughed at this whole scene for sure.

However, he didn't laugh… but instead, his face darkened with sheer disbelief.

Because for the umpteenth time in less than an hour, his instinct screamed at him to run away and hide, making his whole body shiver and tremble with an overwhelming fear.

In the exact, same moment, Artoria stopped abruptly. Her emerald eyes were widened too, fear and horror and disbelief flashing in her face one by one with each passing moment. Behind her, the others were no different either. Iskandar and Nitocris were gritting their teeth. Mordred and Gawain were snarling in anger. Bedivere and Luvia were trembling in fear. Even Ozymandias was seething in rage, raising himself from the sand with a frantic, panicked movement while his golden eyes flashed in anger.

And as soon as he realized that, the First Hero of Humanity did the only thing he could.

'as expected,' he thought, inwardly sighing a little due to the irony of the current situation. 'It's already here.'

Once more, he turned to the right...

…where the enemy had appeared out of nowhere, standing next to him without making a single noise.

The Shadow loomed over his bloodied frame – again – fixing the red-haired Ruler with an eyeless gaze. It was walking with a distorted step, coming after him and staining the ground black with its disgusting mud.


It was here again.

Ready to lash out and kill once more.



The cries of his friends and allies did not register inside his hears. Shirou didn't even turn to them, this time. He just steeled himself with a solemn breath, staring at the shapeless Shadow with a narrowed stare.

However, much to his surprise, the Shadow did not kill him on the spot like it had done with the others.

Instead, it did something unexpected. Something that Shirou wasn't expecting. Something he would never have imagined, not even in his wildest dreams. Something he would have thought impossible, even after all he had been through and all the things he had seen during in his countless years of life.

It spoke.

"―you defended them. That is not what I was expecting."

Shirou and the others widened their eyes in absolute shock. Their mouths hung open despite their better judgment.

The black Shadow kept staring at the Ruler, gazing at his stunned face with an empty frame.

"I don't understand. Why did you do that?" it asked, sounding confused.

Shirou blinked in astonishment, watching the shapeless figure with a wary face. "…w-what?" he hissed.

"You defended them," the Shadow repeated, fixing him with an unseeing gaze that could not be described with words. Its voice was light, more human than what the group would have expected, and it carried a familiar ring to it that Shirou found… disturbing, for some reason. Its voice felt familiar. Extremely familiar, even. Shirou didn't know how to explain it. "You protected the others with your shield… defending them. You shouldn't have done that."

Shirou did not understand. He could not understand. He didn't reply to that thing's words. For what would he say even if he could?

After all, this… thing in front of him was speaking. No, not just capable of speech: it was intelligent. It was questioning him, fixing him with a gaze that implied reasoning, and intelligence. It was capable of thoughts and speaking, and the more he gazed upon that dark, shapeless frame, the more he was realizing this no matter how absurd it was. The Shadow was able to talk. It was not a mindless being like he had believed, but a creature capable of speech and thoughts… as absurd and impossible it sounded.

'What the hell is going on here?!'

That was everyone's unanimous thought, at the moment.

While everyone was too busy dealing with their shock, however, the world around them began to react.

The sky was tinted with red. The air became a mist, moistening their skin; and Shirou and every single member of the group began to sweat in fear and shock as the realization dawned upon them more and more with each passing second.

Danger was not over yet.

Still, the air dropped several degrees as the Shadow kept looming and speaking towards the stunned God of War. "I don't understand… why would you do that?" it asked again, sounding genuinely confused – confused – about that whole matter. "Why would you defend other people? It doesn't make sense."

Shirou gulped in absolute tension. He tasted blood on his tongue, but kept his face focused nonetheless. For a few moments, he didn't know what to say, nor how to process this whole situation.

Eventually, however, he forced himself out of his silence. "…and what, precisely, would you know about me?" he asked right back at the Shadow, unable to form any other coherent sentence.

A few moments of silence passed. Artoria, Iskandar, Mordred and the others watched with mouths agape while Shirou glared at the black Shadow.

Said black Shadow who, as absurd as it was, had started to chuckle all of a sudden.

It chuckled.

Shirou and the others stared with wide eyes.

"Oh, I know a lot about you, trust me," the shapeless figure spoke with a weird voice. Its light and casual tone didn't match his horrendous frame one single bit; and it was growing more and more familiar for some indefinite reason. "After all… we're connected, you and I."

"What…? What do you mean?" Shirou hissed in wariness, stumbling on trembling legs to get back on his feet.

The black Shadow did not react. It allowed the Ruler to raise himself from the ground, and the others did the same soon after him. It just chuckled again, seemingly amused by the current situation. Then, out of nowhere, it flickered out of existence, stuttering like an image displayed on a screen devoid of signal. It twitched and trashed and buzzed with rage, distorting itself into impossible forms and making every single one of the presents shiver in horror at the sight.

Until, that which was shapeless before assumed a shape for the first time ever.

The God of War widened his eyes, feeling the air disappear from his lungs. Behind his stunned frame, his allies and companions did the same with a loud gasp.

For the black Shadow disappeared, replaced by a frame that all of them knew very well.


Everyone gaped in shock. The air tensed and quieted. Silence stretched for an eternity.

Yet, as impossible as it was, there was no way to deny the reality which now stood in front of their eyes.

The creature that emerged from the Shadow's previous frame… was none other than Shirou himself.

Well, not entirely. It was a being who looked exactly like him, albeit a bit different. The face, the expression, the eyes… they were entirely Shirou's. Even the body, the stature and the musculature on the chest, arms and legs were the same. It was almost an exact copy of him – a clone – who shared with him the same face and body. What truly differed from the Ruler, however, was the way in which the body was presented. This… this copy, this alter ego of Shirou, he looked exactly like him, but possessed darker skin, black hair instead of copper-red, and ancient glyphs of black color tattooed all over his body. His clothing was different too: it consisted of a tattered red waist cloth, a bandana of same color, and black bandages on his forearms and shins.

But the rest? It was exactly the same. His face, his eyes, his features… even the shape of the body and its musculature. There was no way they could be mistaken about this.

It was a copy of Shirou's body, and none of the presents knew how to process that fact.

The 'second' Shirou stared at the God with a piercing stare, his teeth bared into a mocking grin. "That's right. As you can see, we are connected, you and I," he repeated, taunting and sarcastic. Something dark and vicious shone inside his golden-brown eyes, making that face assume a twisted expression that Shirou had never worn on his face. "That's why I know everything about you, and why I feel confused. I know what you are, and you're definitely not the type who would protect and connect with other people. That just isn't like you… Hero."

The God of War just stared in disbelief, his mind too stunned and shocked to be able to react.

He wasn't the only one, though.

"W-What… the fuck…?" Mordred's low, incredulous voice echoed in the deafening silence like a horrified whisper. She almost fell on her knees in shock as she stared at the 'second' Shirou with a dumbfounded expression. "What is… happening right now?"

None paid attention to her rude words and actions, for once. They were all too stunned and astonished to even register the words, to be honest.

"…what is the meaning of this?" Ozymandias spat soon after her, clearly alarmed by the scene unfolding before his very own eyes. He looked torn between being outraged, suspicious and disgusted as he stared at the creature emerged from the Shadow. "Ruler, who is this being? What's going on here?"

No answer came from the red-haired Ruler. Everyone glanced at his blanching face.

"Shero… w-why does he… look like… you?" Luvia asked to him as well, unable to understand.

Even Artoria and the Knights were absolutely floored, just like Iskandar and Mordred. And how could they not be? This outcome was unexpected. Too unexpected, in fact. This was something that none of them would have ever imagined, not even in their wildest dreams. As such, it was no wonder they were all feeling lost right now. Witnessing the current events felt like staring at a lucid dream. No, even worse: to a lucid nightmare. There was no way any of them could ever understand what was happening right now. It was just too absurd to believe.

Consequently, then, tension skyrocketed beyond human levels.

Artoria glanced to the Ruler. "S-Shirou?" she whispered, unable to say anything else. Even the stoic and emotionless King of Britain had been rendered speechless, for once. She almost took a step back in worry as she stared at the scene.

Silence and shock reigned for what seemed to be an eternity.

Iskandar glanced at Shirou with worry. The horror inside the Ruler's eyes bothered him. "…boy?"

It bothered him a lot.

No answer came from the red-haired Ruler.

Because on his part, unbeknownst to all of his companions, the ancient God who had freed humanity from the Gods' clutches was just as lost as everyone else.

Finally, however, he managed to snap out of his silence with a heavy gulp.

"Y-You…!" Shirou stuttered, unable to believe his eyes. The fact that this… this thing had just assumed his own features was creeping him out on a very deep level. It was disturbing, even more so for him compared to the others. "Your… face! H-How―?" he stammered, unable to finish that sentence.

On his part, his copy merely smirked at his stunned expression. "I am the consequence of your actions. The piece of darkness born from the mark you have left on this world… so, why shouldn't you and I look exactly the same?" he replied easily, carefree and unbothered, as if it were a foregone conclusion.

His answer only seemed to increase the horror and confusion inside the poor man's mind. "The consequence… of my actions?" Shirou repeated, feeling his blood turning to ice inside his veins. For some reason he could not even fathom, his body was starting to shiver all of a sudden. "W-What do you mean? Who are you?!" he demanded, stuttering a little in tension and fear.

Shirou's clone just laughed at his paralyzed expression, crossing his arm into a familiar – extremely familiar – position. And the more he listened to him, the more Shirou realized that even their voices were exactly the same. That was why it had felt so familiar before.

The grin on the creature's face was as wide and confident as it could ever be.

"I am Angra Mainyu," he spoke, smiling at him and the others with his teeth bared into a feral grin. Seeing that expression on a face with the same features as Shirou's… it was greatly unnerving. For all of them. "But you can call me… Avenger, if you want," he added, sarcastic and confident.

His only reaction was dead silence, while the God's widened eyes narrowed in tension and worry.

Angra Mainyu…? Avenger…?

Angra Mainyu. Angra Mainyu. Angra Mainyu.

That name echoed inside Shirou's mind like a poisonous whisper. It resonated with the deepest parts of his soul, like a feeling of something unfathomable looming inside his mind. As soon as he heard it, as soon as he registered it completely, the Ruler felt his whole body become cold all of a sudden, as if every single drop of blood left inside his veins had turned to ice somehow. However, much to his growing confusion, no matter how much he thought about it, that name didn't ring a bell to him. It didn't sound familiar. It didn't feel familiar at all, to be honest. He had never heard of it before – of that he was pretty sure in spite of the tension – nor he had ever heard of a Servant class called Avenger before. There was no doubt about it.

This didn't make sense. It didn't make any sense to him. At least for now.

Just like Shirou, all his companions looked puzzled and paralyzed as well. It was as clear as day that none of them had ever heard of such a bizarre creature before either. Not Iskandar, not Artoria, and not even Ozymandias – who was the oldest Servant of the group, except for Shirou – had ever been aware of a being called 'Angra Mainyu' during their life. This was the first time they were hearing that name.

As such, this knowledge was filling them with tension, confusion and wariness all together.

Once more, silence stretched amid the waiting desert. For a few moments, no one knew how to react.

Until, someone managed to break the tension with a suspicious voice. "Why… Why do you look like Shirou?" Artoria demanded as soon as she snapped out of her shock, pointing her trembling sword against that… odd-looking clone.

"Because he defines me," said clone answered with a light tone. His grin was wide, sarcastic, almost childish in his confidence; while at the same time something cold and cruel was hidden behind his golden-brown eyes. Staring at his face felt like staring at a living contradiction. "The two of us are one and the same. Two sides of the same coin, two birds of a feather, two souls bound into one. We are the inevitable outcome of each other. In other words, you could say that we are brothers who, together, make a greater whole."

"Brothers?" Ozymandias repeated in suspicion, his gaze glued to Shirou's paling face.

The poor Ruler shook his head in tension. "I-I don't… I don't understand," Shirou denied, feeling his voice crack in distress. "I have no brother, nor any other relative. I've never met you before, and I don't know who you are!"

"Oh, you wound me, Tyr," his alter ego cooed with a fake-hurt tone, placing a hand above his heart in a theatrical gesture. The Ruler watched him with a sweating face, paling more and more by the second. "How could you say such a thing to me, your own flesh and blood? Do you really hate me so much? The very same life that you, yourself, have brought into the world? Damn… I'm hurt!"

Everyone froze. Everyone froze like a living statue after hearing those words. Every Servant, every human, every single soul amid the group flinched and tensed out of the blue, as if paralyzed all of a sudden. Widened eyes snapped even wider, and a sudden child descended in the air as soon as that thing – the Avenger, Angra Mainyu – spoke those words filled with sarcasm and derision.

All of that, because of one word spoken during that speech. Because of one name whispered to the wind.

Ozymandias stilled like never before, his golden eyes narrowed in what seemed to be an incredulous expression. On the other side, Shirou flinched as well, widening his eyes out of human proportions.

"You… what did you just say?" the Sun King hissed.

Angra Mainyu turned to him, fixing the Pharaoh with a sarcastic smirk.

The King of Kings was paling more and more by the second. Even the others looked at him with a baffled expression. "What did you just call him?" he asked again, more strongly, his wounded arm starting to tremble with overwhelming emotions. He looked stunned, almost paralyzed by shock as he glanced frantically between the Avenger and the red-haired Ruler with an incredulous expression.

The Avenger looked at him as well, glancing between the Pharaoh's nervous face and his allies' confused expression. Then, he widened his eyes.

"…ooooh, I see," Angra Mainyu mused, as if suddenly enlightened by a glorious epiphany. A Cheshire Cat grin spread his lips. "You guys don't know. You haven't a clue. That's why I can't feel any fear coming from you lots."

Mordred, Iskandar, Ozymandias and the others looked absolutely lost and tense, taken aback by that statement. They were all unable to understand what was happening. Seeing those reactions, Avenger turned to Shirou again, his smirk growing wider upon seeing the scared – horrified – expression blossoming on his face.

"You didn't tell them, did you?" he asked, already knowing the answer. "You haven't told them your story… not even your true name, it seems. Oh my, oh my! That's a twist! That's very twisty! Do you really have that little trust in your comrades? Or maybe you're just too ashamed to reveal the truth in front of others? Let me say, this is NOT what I was expecting from you, Hero. I guess you really know how to surprise me, kehehehe!" he snickered, glaring at the Ruler with a mocking grin.

Shirou's face began to sweat, his eyes widened out of human proportions. He looked so scared and fragile that his body nearly began to tremble, for some reason.

The others glanced between him and Angra Mainyu with a lost gaze, frantic.

"Shirou… w-what is he talking about?" Artoria asked, feeling her tension grow with each passing second.

"Yeah! What's the deal with this creep?" Mordred spat at the Avenger, taking a step forward and summoning Clarent with the few remaining energies she had left. "Why are you calling him Tyr?! That's not his name, you fiend!"

Iskandar, Luvia, Ozymandias and the others stared at him in silence as well.

Yet, much to their surprise, Shirou's expression crumbled more and more with each of their spoken words. He did not answer to their questions. He did not reply in any way. He didn't even turn in their direction while Mordred tried to defend him, actually. He just shook his head with a slow movement, denial and horror written all over his features.

"N-No… it can't be…" he whispered, distressed. "I don't―"

Something cold and twisted flashed inside Angra Mainyu's eyes.

"Well, worry not! I, the one and only Avenger, will take this burden off your shoulders and reveal the truth once and for all!" the clone cut him off, light and confident. He spread his arms wide in a theatrical movement, taking a step forward while everyone stared at him with a feeling of tension. "The world shall know the truth, so you won't have to worry about that anymore! What do you say?"

Golden-brown eyes glared at another pair of golden-brown eyes. Shirou attempted to step forward, stumbling a bit due to the wounds and pain. "N-No! Don't!" he cried.

Too late.

"Well, here it goes!" heexclaimed, taking a great pleasure in seeing the desperation flashing across Ruler's face. "The man that you know as Shirou Emiya is none other thaaaaaaan… Tyr!"

His declaration was met with dead silence. Iskandar, Mordred and Artoria widened their eyes. Ozymandias and the Knights gasped in shock. Nitocris and Luvia gaped in disbelief.

And Shirou… Shirou stilled out of nowhere, lowering his head with a distraught movement.

Seeing those incredulous reactions, Angra Mainyu smirked all the more. "That's right! You heard me well! Shirou Emiya is none other than Tyr! The God of War who freed mankind from the Gods' rule. The First Hero of Humanity who put an end to the Age of Gods. Aaaand… the greatest living calamity that the world has ever seen! SURPRISE!" Avenger revealed, making that announcement with a solemn voice mixed with a bit of mischief and sadistic pleasure.

Then, he fell quiet, waiting for their reactions with a wide, childish grin. Everyone remained in a stunned silence as those words echoed inside their ears, fading into the desert wind like the echo of a terrible truth.

And thus, the world fell into silence once more.

No one dared to speak for what seemed to be an eternity. One could hear a pin drop.

Angra Mainyu smirked with glee, scratching his neck in front of Shirou's devastated face. "See? That wasn't too hard, right?"

Shirou's body trembled on its own. His blood flow stilled and turned to ice. Even his expression crumbled and died in that instant, as the God of War – whose real identity had now been revealed to the others – lowered his head with a slow and desolate movement. He dared not to turn and face his comrades, at this point; feeling too scared – too ashamed – to even face them directly after the truth had been revealed so soon and unexpectedly.

Until, that is, someone broke the silence before he could speak.


Peace and quiet were broken again. Angra Mainyu and the others turned to the one who had spoken.

The Knight of Treachery, Mordred Pendragon.

"Bullshit! This is absolute bullshit!" the blonde girl spat. She was snarling and shaking in rage as she pointed her broadsword towards the grinning Avenger, glaring at him with a righteous fury for comparing his friend to a monster like Tyr. "There's no way I'm gonna believe a freak like you! Tyr was a monster! A beast! A living calamity turned into flesh! Ruler's nothing like that! He's a friend, a good guy! I'm not gonna fall for such a ridiculous trick!"

Each and every one of her words cut a wound deep inside the red-haired man's heart.

"…a friend?" Avenger repeated after a few moments of pondering. He mulled over that word as if it was an inconceivable thing for him.

Then, he turned to Shirou. His blank, lowered face made his eyes narrow in stunned disbelief.

"The God of War… having friends?" Avenger spat, blank and emotionless as he never had been before. Then, out of the blue, he started to laugh again. He laughed and laughed and laughed, uncontrollably, holding his hips with his hands while Mordred, and Iskandar, and all the others glanced between him and Shirou with a fearful expression. "Kehehehehehehehahahahah! That was good! That was a good one! As if such a thing could ever happen, ahahaahah!"

Everyone stared at him with apprehension while he continued to laugh, feeling their hearts growing heavy with horror.

"I-It cannot be!" Luvia commented, her voice trembling for the shock.

"R-Ruler is… the God of War?" Nitocris whispered, unable to understand. She tried to look at his inevitable reaction, but much to her – and everyone's – shock, Shirou just kept still like a puppet without strings, keeping his head low and his back turned to them with clenched fists.

Bedivere could not understand it either. "This is ridiculous! How can Ruler be the God of War?"

"That's right! It doesn't make any sense!" Gawain agreed, glancing around with wide, frantic eyes.

"My, oh my… you sure are helpless at discerning the truth," Avenger mocked them, grinning like a madman all the while.

Mordred would have none of it. "Silence, you fiend! You're lying! Shirou could never be Tyr, he is not a monster! He's a friend!" she defended him again.

On his part, however, the Avenger merely smiled. Again.

"Oh? You think I'm lying, huh? Well, why don't you take a look at your dear friend, then?" he asked right back at her, not losing his confidence for even a split-second.

Mordred snorted in derision. She turned to Shirou with a dismissive expression… and her mind blanked completely.

Emerald eyes widened in shock, and the Knight of Rebellion lowered her arms.

In that moment, a realization struck the paralyzed girl all of a sudden. The group was quiet. Eerily quiet, compared to before. It was so silent that one could hear a pin drop. Ever since the Avenger had made his announcement, in fact, a few certain members of the group had remained completely still, without uttering a single word amid the tension and anxiety. And the more she realized this, the more Mordred understood that something was wrong. Something was extremely wrong in the current situation.

Guided by instinct, the female Knight glanced at her comrades all around, noticing for the first time amid the anger that had blinded her until now, that all of them – literally all of them – looked more tense and scared than ever before. Iskandar was quiet. Ozymandias was quiet. Artoria, her Father, was quieter than ever too, at the moment. Even the others had fallen into an incredulous silence after their previous statements, making the girl snap her eyes wide in shock and disbelief.

But it was only when her eyes landed on Shirou that everything snapped into place, and horror began to tamper her resolute heart.

Because the look on her first, true friend's face… was a mask of sadness, and anger, and regret that she had never seen before on those delicate features.

Mordred stared in shock, exhaling a loud gasp with a shake of her head.

Shirou remained silent as well, feeling a few drops of sweat drip from his pale, resigned face.

Everyone dropped their weapons, staring at the red-haired Ruler with a mask of surprise.

"It's… it's not true, right?" Mordred's trembling voice was the only thing that seemed willing to break the icy silence filling the desert. Nobody else dared to utter a word at the moment. "O-Ohi, Ruler…t-there's no way that can be t-true, right?"

Shirou offered no answer. He kept his head lowered, eyes shadowed by crimson bangs. Finally, he turned to her; and when his eyes met her face for the first time, they were cold, and teary, and resigned as never before.

Mordred's world shattered like a glass pierced by stones.


Denial and delusion flooded her mind amid the horror and disbelief.

Ozymandias summoned his scepter, taking a step forward amid the stunned, paralyzed group. "It's true, isn't it?" he demanded, having apparently regained control of his emotions after that wild, mind-blowing revelation. "Ruler, are you really the God of War? Is your name… really the one you introduced yourself with?"

Once again, Shirou remained silent, clenching his hands so hard that his first began to bleed.

Artoria shook her head. Tears and horror were flashing inside her emerald orbs. "I-I… I don't believe it," she muttered. "S-Shirou…! After all this time, you were―!"

"…I guess it makes sense now," Iskandar whispered with a deep voice, grabbing their attention. Everyone turned to the King of Conquerors with a stunned expression, feeling their confusion, and panic, and fear escalate by the second. They just couldn't help it, for his words had made everyone tense again. That, coupled with Shirou's crumbling expression, was making every single member of the group pause and startle with a gasp.

But as the others turned to him in shock, Iskandar's mind was steeped in memories of previous events. Events that he had witnessed and faced with his companions during the past few weeks. The discovery of Tyr's threat in Italy. Shirou's reaction in the Vatican during their talk with Caren Hortensia. His sudden change of mood at the mention of this quest. Their private discussion at the bar. His brash reaction in killing Narbareck. His obvious distress while talking about Tyr this morning. His fears, his uncertainties, his expressions… everything. He went through every moment he could recall, trying to connect the dots and reach a solid conclusion.

And in the end, he could only find one solution to that dilemma. Now, for the first time ever since he had laid his eyes on the red-haired Ruler, all the doubts and questions Iskandar had always had about Shirou and his peculiar nature had finally been answered. It all made sense now.

His behavior, his powers, his strength. His unusual reactions, his ever-growing fears, his increasing lack of patience. Even his confidence and his ability to use other people's weapons, like he had done with Rhongomyniad and Gae Bolg. All those things were finally making sense for the first time after a whole month. Every clue was snapping into place in his head with a crystal clear clarity, like puzzle pieces finally finding their place in the bigger picture. It all made sense now. It was all according to his doubts.

…good grief, he should have really seen this coming.

Iskandar raised his gaze, fixing the man who had been his trusted companion with a solemn, analytical look. "I see now… everything makes sense. I knew my doubts about you were well-founded, boy," he spoke, his red eyes looking distant and unreadable as he kept staring at his hidden face.

Shirou did not reply, not even amid the stunned silence. He just lowered his head further, with his eyes covered by crimson bangs.

The question that Iskandar had posed to him days prior in Rome soared inside his head like a sudden arrow.

"Tell me the truth, boy. Are you… related to him in any way? To the God of War Tyr?"

Shirou smiled a bitter smile. He was almost tempted to laugh at the irony of all of this.

In fact, he did laugh. He couldn't stop himself. A dull, joyless chuckle escaped his lips amid the hisses of pain and frustration, even in spite of the fear and sadness that were filling him from within.

For once, Iskandar cared not about his inner turmoil. In fact, he kept facing the Ruler with a hard stare, followed by Ozymandias who looked even more suspicious and distrustful than him. Next to the two Kings, the others were having mixed reactions too. Nitocris was taking a step closer to her Pharaoh, her face a mask of uncertainty. Luvia was sweating in fear next to her. Bedivere and Gawain were shifting on their legs, their hands moving closer to the hilt of their swords. Next to them, Artoria was keeping her sad eyes glued to the Ruler's face with a broken expression, unable to react.

And Mordred… Mordred just looked incredulous. She just kept staring blankly at her trusted friend, with wide eyes and mouth agape, unable to react in any other way. Utterly unable to cope and deal with the realization that had struck her core, while her mind was racing to connect the dots similarly to Iskandar due to the experiences she had shared with Shirou.

It didn't take her long to reach his same conclusion, sad as it was. The female Knight was not stupid, despite her young age and reasoning.

Second passed, followed by dead silence. The wind above the desert was starting to grow.

And all the while, Angra Mainyu kept staring at the whole scene with a huge grin, like a mischievous child enjoying the fruits of his mischief.

"Oh my, what a drama!" Avenger cooed, looking and sounding oddly innocent amid that tense silence filled with anxiety. "I guess I shouldn't have said that, then. Oops!"

No one paid mind to him, for once. Despite his otherworldly powers and the clear danger that he represented, no one amid the group moved to look or even just to glance in the Avenger's direction. All their eyes were focused on Shirou and Shirou alone, while a gigantic amount of feelings began to flood the group of Servants.

Feelings of disbelief, as for Mordred. Feeling of sadness, as for Artoria. Feelings of fear, as for Nitocris and Luviagelita. Feelings of uncertainty, as for Bedivere and Gawain. And more importantly, feelings of distrust, as for Ozymandias and – oddly enough – Iskandar.

Faced with such overwhelming emotions, Shirou gritted his teeth, desperately trying to ignore the dark feelings oozing off from his friends.

A feat that, unfortunately for him, he was failing miserably.

He could see it in their eyes, after all.

The Fear. The Horror. The Disgust.

Poisonous feelings he had faced in his previous lifetime too. Memories of tragic screams, desperate cries, and overwhelming betrayals that still haunted him even now.

Echoes of an old life, in an age that went beyond time and space.

Those feelings, those emotions, those fearful looks he was receiving… they were the same. The exact, same of those he had received back then. There was absolutely no difference. No difference at all.

Yet another silent reminder of the truth from which he had desperately tried to shy away for years, failing each and every time in his attempts. Just like now. Exactly like now.

This was his inevitable outcome.
This was the consequence of his actions.
This was the result of his bloodied Vengeance.

And all of this was happening because of his never-ending curse.

The curse of the Monster: Tyr.

Shirou Emiya was a monster. Always had been, and always will be.

And monsters did not belong with humans.

He was hopeless to stop this curse.

Shirou Emiya raised his head, meeting the faces of his friends – no, of his former friends, at this point – with a smile devoid of life. The emptiness inside his gaze stunned the others beyond what words could ever describe.

"…yes," he whispered, unable to deny the facts at this point. "My real name is Tyr."

He made his declaration with an emotionless smirk. His voice came out a low, low mutter.

And the world fell quiet once more, while the rest of his companions gasped and recoiled as if physically struck. Words could not describe the shock that drenched the air in that moment.

Seconds passed, followed by minutes. No one dared to speak. No one dared to take their eyes off from Shirou.

Until, someone did. The Avenger. The same entity who was watching the scene unfold with a sadistic grin.

"Unbelievable… I can't believe you've kept the truth hidden until this moment. My, this is a shock indeed!" Angra Mainyu spoke again, mocking Shirou with a (fake) surprised voice. His face – that face that looked almost exactly the same as the Ruler's – was looking at him with a crazy smile filled with madness. "Tell me, do you enjoy to fool others, Tyr? Or perhaps you just have a twisted personality? Go on, tell me honestly. I won't judge, you know."

Shirou – Tyr – lowered his head again after hearing that taunt. Even without looking at them, he could still feel his companion's gaze glued to him. He could feel all their disbelief, all their shock, all their feelings of betrayal, as clear as day. He could feel and detect their emotions even with his eyes closed, for there was simply no way they could mask them during such a mind-blowing revelation.

After all, who could ever hide their feelings after discovering that a friend – a trusted, loyal friend who had shared many joys and hardships with them – was actually an imposter and a liar?

That he was actually a vicious monster?

Indeed, their reaction was justified. Feeling stunned and betrayed was a normal reaction. Even feeling scared was something he could understand. Shirou knew that. He already knew that. Perhaps he had even expected it, at this point. Which was why, even though it hurt like hell, even though he felt like his heart was about to burst from pain and agony, he decided to crush all his emotions and ignore his friends at this crucial moment.

Yes, indeed. He ignored his friends. He ignored their shock and their betrayed expressions. He ignored their stunned and paralyzed eyes. He even ignored the way they all took one, solid step back out of instinct; banishing his emotions and trying to hide them in the deepest, darkest recess of his soul. Instead, unable to deal with those feelings, he turned to stare at his doppelganger with a paling complexion.

He opened his mouth to reply… but the Avenger didn't give him time to speak.

"Well, no matter. I'd like to keep chatting more, but this is getting us nowhere. I don't have all day, unfortunately," the dark-looking Shirou spoke, exhaling a weary sigh and shaking his head.

Out of nowhere, then, something weird happened. Angra Mainyu started to flicker all of a sudden, making everyone flinch in anticipation. His body began to buzz and twitch like a distorted shadow, making Shirou and the others grow very, very nervous. All Servants froze and tensed on instinct at that gruesome sight, while the air shifted imperceptibly for some reason.

The Avenger closed his eyes, flashing a toothy grin to the group of Servants.

"Mind if I borrow him a bit?" he asked, pointing a finger at Shirou with a carefree expression.

The only answer he received was silence, followed by the sound a gust of wind.

In that moment, amid that silence filled with shock and tension in equal measure, something happened.

Shirou's instinct screamed at him, and he felt a shiver run down his spine.

He widened his eyes. 'Wait, what is he?!'

Before he could even finish that thought, it was already too late.

Something hard slammed on his face, and the God of War could feel the world no more.

What happened next, for Shirou, it was only a blur. His instinct began to run wildly all of a sudden, but he had no time to react. He could only – barely – glimpse Angra Mainyu blurring out of sight for a split-second, and then his world became pain once more. Something hard and solid slammed against his chin, blinding his vision completely and filling his mind with an overwhelming sensation of agony. Then, his body fell numb, and all his senses were tampered out of the blue.

However, he could still faintly hear the screams of his companions, right before his body was forcefully thrown in the air for some reason. The strength behind the blow had been so powerful that his mind blanked completely.

Hence, vis vision went black. Wind roared and raged all around him. The world disappeared completely, and for what seemed to be an eternity, everything that surrounded him was nothing but black.

Until, he regained consciousness again, and he blinked away the pain as his sight began to regain its function.

――――he was flying.

He blinked again. Yep, he was definitely flying.

Pain coursed through his system, making him snap out of his dizziness. When he finally regained all his senses, he almost gasped in disbelief. He was literally flying through the air, like an arrow shot by its bow, soaring helplessly into the air without a clear goal, while his body throbbed and writhed in pain all the while. The experience had been so sudden and unexpected that he couldn't even move for a few moments, barely taking in what was happening while his mind was still blurred with pain and confusion altogether.

Then, the enemy decided to surprise him even more. Angra Mainyu blurred out of existence again, reappearing in a flash of energy right in front of Shirou's flying body. He grabbed his neck with both hands as the two of them kept soaring through the air at an unbelievable speed; and stared at his victim's horrified gaze with a predatory smirk while the two of them darted in the sky like a pair of arrows, flying over the ruined desert and the craters caused by the previous explosions during the battle.

"WOOHOH! FINALLY, HERE WE GO!" the Avenger exclaimed, fixing Shirou with a crazed expression as the poor man could barely understand what was happening. He kept choking him with a deathly grip wrapped around his neck, however. "Juts the two of us now, baby. I've been waiting for this!"

Shirou gritted his teeth, feeling every pore of his body scream out in pain and alarm. Out of instinct, he threw a punch in the enemy's face to break free from his hold, and his fist connected with the Avenger's cheek with a loud cracking sound. However, much to his growing horror, it did no damage. No damage at all. The dark-looking doppelganger didn't even look fazed as he got hit.

Mainyu's feral expression morphed in a twisted grin. "You still have some fire left in you… let's get this party started, then!" he declared.

Shirou widened his eyes, grunting in disbelief.

Obviously, the Avenger gave him no time to react. He released his neck all of a sudden, grinning like a madman who was about to do the craziest thing ever. Then, he grabbed Shirou's arm with a powerful hold, and with a wide, jerking motion of his limbs he tossed the Ruler away as if he was a living boomerang, laughing like a frenzied beast all the while.

The poor man could do nothing to defend himself. He had no time to react at all. He was brutally thrown away with his whole body, crashing with a loud explosion on something cold, hard, and dusty not even two seconds later. Spitting blood from his lips, the red-haired Ruler realized with a growing sense of horror what he had just crashed against: the rock-cut front of the Great Temple of Abu Simbel. He pierced through the walls of stone with an ear-splitting explosion, destroying the entrance of the Temple and crashing inside the hypostyle hall with a loud groan of pain.

Rocks, debris and rubbles fell down on his battered body. Shirou just barely managed to blink before the debris of the shattered Temple began to bury him alive. He grunted in pain and effort, trying with all the strength he had left to toss away the rubble that had buried him in full, clearing a path and freeing himself from the debris. Near the entrance, the gigantic statue of Ramesses and that of his wife collapsed on themselves, breaking the stairs and blocking the entrance from the outside.

He fell on the ruined floor, wheezing and coughing in suffocation as a thick dust began to drench the air. Hot, crimson liquid kept gushing out of his nose, while the wounds on his chest began throbbing again with an indescribable fury. It was so excruciating and sudden that Shirou's eyes almost rolled back in his head from the pain.

Sadly, however, it wasn't over. With yet another blur and a shift of the air, Agra Mainyu appeared before him once more. Shirou snapped his eyes open amid the pain and agony, staring with a stunned face while the Avenger loomed over his lying frame like a shadow, with his arms crossed and that mad grin splitting his lips.

"Heh, I should've told you to watch the landing. My bad, buddy," he apologized, not sounding apologetic at all.

Shirou struggled to get back on his feet in spite of his wounds and pain. He managed to do so solely thanks to sheer willpower. "Y-You," he panted, swaying a little to the side due to the pain flowing through his body. "W-Who the hell… are you?"

Avenger tilted his head. "I told you: I'm the consequence of your actions. You can call me Angra Mainyu," he stated, adamant and pedantic like a teacher dealing with a child.

"Enough with the bullshit!" Shirou hissed. He sent his evil clone a withering glare, summoning a katana into his bloodied, trembling hands. "Why are you doing this? Why did you bring me here?"

"Isn't that obvious? I was looking for you... Tyr."

Faster than a man could blink, the Avenger reacted. Shirou widened his eyes, feeling his trained instinct cry out in alarm, and reacted accordingly. He swung his sword right in front of him, crashing its blade against the Avenger's clenched fist. The punch slammed against the sharp blade of the projected sword, shattering it completely. The ancient God could only widen his eyes before the punch landed on his face, blinding his eyes with immeasurable pain.

He fell on his back, hissing all the while. He barely had time to open his eyes when Angra Mainyu suddenly kicked him in the chest, sending him flying even further into the Temple. Shirou screamed in agony as his back crashed against the wall of the Sanctuary, cracking the stone and making the whole structure tremble once again.

Avenger stepped inside the room, keeping his hands together behind his back.

"You know, this is the first time we're meeting each other… but I can't help but feel disappointed," he stated, his voice sounding clearly unamused about this whole situation for some reason. He fixed the wounded God with a bored gaze while his waist cloth billowed a bit amid the smoke and dust. "I thought you would be more impressive, but you've barely done anything so far. Did you really use all of your Mana to withstand that explosion from earlier? That was barely even a test, you know."

With a strained grunt, Shirou detached his body from the fractured wall, glaring at the enemy who wore his own face with a might fury. "…what… do you want… with me?" he demanded, his voice filled with so much pain and tiredness due to his battered condition.

Angra Mainyu tilted his head to the side, perplexed. "You don't get it? I want to fight you," he answered, as if it were a foregone conclusion. "Why else did you think I brought you here? Now that we're alone, without distractions, I want a fair match with you. I have waited a very long time for this, after all."

Sheer silence was followed by his declaration. The only sound that could be heard was the cracking of the damaged Temple. A few debris of rock fell down from the ceiling.

"…I don't understand," Shirou replied after a while. The blood simply wouldn't stop dripping from his wounds. "Why are you doing this? Why do you want to fight me?" he asked, unable to understand.

The other shrugged with a carefree attitude. "Because you and I are connected. I am the consequence of your actions, after all."

"I don't know you!" Shirou stressed.

The Avenger merely smiled, wide and sarcastic. "You will, buddy."

Amber eyes widened out of the blue. Shirou startled with his whole body.

The God's instinct reacted before his mind could fully process the movement, twisting his body ahead of sighting. Not even a second later, a vicious tendril of black crystal appeared out of nowhere from the ground beneath the Avenger's feet, launching itself towards the Ruler with the intent of piercing his already wounded chest. However, Shirou reacted accordingly this time. With a twist of the hand, he rolled out of the way as the vine crashed against the fractured wall, summoning his katana and severing the tendril with a vertical slash. As he did so, the Avenger dashed forward as well, forcing the Ruler to block another fist with a swing of the sword.

Metal clashed against Angra Mainyu's bare hand, creating a shower of sparks. Black, hateful Mana dripped from the hand of the creature instead of blood, and Shirou stared with wide eyes as the Avenger grinned even wider at his baffled expression. No matter how sharp his weapon was, it didn't damage the clone at all.

Not even a moment later, the enemy took action again. A second punch was thrown at his head, prompting Shirou to gasp in worry. A second katana appeared as well, darting through the air and aiming a slash at the Avenger's right arm while Shirou's body twisted to barely avoid the overwhelming punch, which slammed against the stone and rubble of the wall with an explosion of dust. The sword clashed against the enemy' arm in full, but instead of cutting it in half, it just shattered once more, as if it had clashed against a rock. Thus, unable to defend himself accordingly, the God of War cursed as a third vine slashed his right limb, opening a small wound on the forearm.

However, that did not stop him from immediately kicking the enemy away. As soon as he saw him lunge forward, Shirou slammed a foot against Angra Mainyu's side, sending him away with a powerful burst of wind. The Avenger merely laughed as he was forcefully sent flying on the other side of the hall, crashing against the opposite wall while Shirou forced himself on his feet with a grunt of effort. When the smoke cleared amid the Sanctuary, the two opponents stared down at each other with narrowed eyes. Shirou did not react to the Avenger's mad expression, keeping a safe distance from him and gripping his katana with both hands.

If he had to be honest, the Ruler couldn't fool himself. He knew he was in a dangerous situation right now. He was already wounded, tired beyond words, and the previous explosion and the use of his shield had almost drained him of all his Mana. He had already resigned to an inevitable death back then, but now… now, things had become even worse than before. And this fact was making him worry all the more.

Besides, despite the pain he was currently in, Shirou's mind couldn't help but race in spite of the odds. In fact, it was racing more and more as he kept staring at the Avenger with narrowed eyes, desperately trying to understand the entity he was facing and the reason behind his actions. And judging by his strength and powers, the red-head didn't like what he was starting to think. He didn't like it one single bit. Because the truth was simply undeniable, loathe as he was to admit it.

Whoever this Angra Mainyu was, he was definitely stronger than him. Shirou could not deny it even if he wanted to. It was an indisputable fact, fueled by everything that had happened so far. And that much was obvious for him.

In the end, however, Shirou couldn't stop himself from asking the one question that was plaguing his mind.

"…are you the one behind this?" he demanded, trying so hard to dismiss the pain – and the fear – raging inside his body. The blood simply wouldn't stop dripping from his wounds. "The one who started it all? The one behind the Holy Grail War?"

"Nope," the other answered. His swift and resolute reply made Shirou almost flinch in tension. "I'm just the guy who got tasked with the heavy jobs. Not that I care too much, mind you. My actions are my own, and the intent behind this War matches with my personal goal. I'm just the instrument unleashed to speed up the process."

Each and every one of his words made the Ruler's skin crawl with concern and worry. If a creature as powerful as this so-called Agra Mainyu was not the one behind this War, then surely it could only mean… shit. This wasn't good. This wasn't good at all. Things were even worse than what he had imagined. This scenario was the worst one he could possibly imagine.

If he wasn't the one moving the strings of the conflict… then who was the real enemy?

"Then who's behind this mess? What's the purpose behind the War? Who is it that you are serving?" Shirou demanded, trying to sound as resolute and imposing as he could. "Tell me!" he ordered.

Due to the sorry state of his body, though, he was failing miserably. "Uuuh, you do realize that you're not very convincing right now, yeah?" Angra Mainyu replied, confused. "You have NOTHING to threaten me with. Actually, I'm pretty sure that I am the one in charge right now, Hero."

Shirou gritted his teeth. He knew that he was right, of course, but he just couldn't help it. He needed information. He needed to understand what was happening. This War, this mess, this so-called Avenger… every single one of these things were matters that still plagued his mind in spite of everything. Ever since he had discovered of Tyr's quest, the questions and doubts inside his mind had only continued to grow. He had too many questions, and too many of those questions were still unanswered despite the fact that he had been active on the Real Side for almost an entire month. He couldn't keep going like this. He couldn't remain in the dark forever.

He had to know. He just had to. This matter was just too important to dismiss.

"…I don't care," he grunted, summoning yet another katana with a twitch of his hand. "You will tell me everything you know, Angra Mainyu," he said. He spat that name as if it were a disgusting curse.

Avenger tilted his head to the side, looking at Shirou's bloodied face with a mocking grin. "No, I don't think I will."

Shirou clenched his fists. His golden-brown eyes flashed with resolve.

Then, he charged at the enemy, unable to stand this situation any longer.

The air became a blur, as the two opponents clashed with each other. The Ruler roared a battle cry as he rushed towards the enemy who shared his own face, his projected katana scraping along the edges of the wall as the Avenger swiftly dodged with a half turn. Then, the enemy retaliated with an unimaginable speed, throwing a kick loaded with so much strength that it would have crushed even a whole column of metal upon landing the attack. Shirou's trained instinct barely allowed him to dodge the lethal blow as he leapt back to gain some distance, his shattered blade disappearing as his black bow replaced it with a flash of red glowing prana.

However, Angra Mainyu was not about to let him gain an advantage. Hence, in a blur of motion, he closed the distance between the two of them with a dash, aiming a full-blown swing at the Ruler's uncovered chest. Not having any time to aim, Shirou instead brought his bow up to deflect the punch heading for his heart, causing every single pore of his skin to shiver in horror. The God of War simply gritted his teeth in frustration as his bow broke from the force of blow, and he was forced to bring out his katana once more. The projected blade appeared in his hand at the last second to redirect the Avenger's next attack at his inevitable opening, barely avoiding a fatal blow to the neck.

Angra Mainyu smirked at him. "Hoho! So you CAN fight despite your condition! Now we're talking!" he exclaimed with a snarky grin.

Shirou did not answer to the taunt, opting to focus all his remaining energies to finish this fight. He swung a horizontal slash to the seemingly disarmed opponent, only for said opponent to bat the blade away with his bare hand, as if his flesh could not be wounded by the metal. Golden-brown eyes widened in stupor and fear, and the red-haired Ruler snapped out of his shock as another tendril of black whizzed past his face, scoring a shallow graze along his forehead. The skin touched by the black vine throbbed and scorched as if burned by the sun.

Gripping his projected blade with both hands, Shirou reacted on instinct. He cut down the tendril of crystal energy and then faked another opening, this time countering perfectly as the Avenger once again took the bait, leaving his bare neck exposed just for a spilt-second of unawareness. Giving a loud roar, he slashed down with his faithful katana with an invisible speed, hoping to take this monster out in one hit, only to see him vanish in a blur of motion before he could even land the hit.

Again, Angra Mainyu reappeared behind him, mocking him and laughing with a taunting, mad grin. Growling in frustration, Shirou rounded on the enemy with a hiss of effort, parrying a sudden kick with the hilt of his blade. The force behind the blow was so powerful that it sent him flying for a few meters, prompting him to land on the other side of the hall.

Silence and tension drenched the air, while the two warriors observed each other amid the inner Sanctuary of Ozymandias' Temple.

"What's wrong? This wait-and-see approach isn't like you," the Avenger commented with a sarcastic tone, flashing an amused grin to the God who shared his exact same face. "Aren't you supposed to be a God of War? What happened to the man who killed Sefar and banished all the Gods to the Reverse Side of the world? You're supposed to be stronger than this."

Ruler's face dripped with sweat, his lips panting slightly due to the sorry state of his battered body. The fact that this disgusting creature was aware of his past and sins was only making him even more worried. "That man is dead. I am no longer the monster of the past," he spat.

Angra Mainyu frowned a bit, as if displeased with the answer he had received. "Shame. I guess I'll have to bring that monster out of you, then. If you're not willing to comply, I can just end you here and now."

Faster than a heartbeat, the fight resumed once again.

Shirou widened his eyes, feeling his wounds throb with soreness and anticipation. Ignoring the soaring pain in his body, he threw his blade forward into a horizontal slash, meeting yet another volley of black tendrils with a powerful clash. Angra Mainyu had summoned them once more, using those horrid tentacles to force him into a defensive stance. When the God successfully managed to deflect those vines, however, the Avenger resumed his attack.

He sprinted forward like a madman – moving like a beast more than a human being – landing a solid punch on the Ruler's bloodied face. Shirou was hurled backwards by the force of the blow, slamming his back against one of the four statues that stood inside the inner Sanctuary. The statue of Amun Ra cracked under the impact, and it was consequently shattered when Angra Mainyu pierced it with his clenched fist, attempting to punch the wounded God again before he rolled out of the way with a grunt.

"You really are hopeless, aren't you, Tyr?" Avenger mocked him with a bellowing laughter. He sprinted forward again, crashing against Shirou with an explosion of Mana. The red-haired Ruler met his charge head-on this time, blocking his assailant with his katana scraping against the enemy's bare hands. The two of them kept pushing and pushing and pushing amid the ruined Temple, trying to make pressure on each other and force one of the two to give in and leap away. The floor of stone and rock visibly began to crack under their feet. "You deny your own past, clinging to a false belief of redemption... all of this because you're unable to come to terms with your sins. How unbearably NAÏVE!"

A sudden throb of pain coursed through his chest as the Avenger spat those words with a roar. Shirou widened his eyes, stunned by the sudden throb shaking inside his chest, feeling his body twitch with excruciating pain.

"Ow, guh―!?"

Ruler fell to a knee, and his cheek was hit by another punch.

His chest was burning. His mind was screaming. The wounds on his chest throbbed with indescribable pain.

A second punch landed on the right side of his face. He fell to the ground under its oppressive force; his vision becoming blurred as his head slammed against the cold, hard floor of the Temple.

"You think you can come back to the Real Side, become a good guy, get a clean slate? That's not how it works!" Avenger mocked him, punching Shirou in the face over, and over, and over again. His fists were dripping with blood as he kept punching him relentlessly, laughing like a maniac while he assaulted him without a moment of respite. "No, you are a monster; LIKE ME!"

Shirou yelled in fury, reacting purely on instinct as his body was flooded with pain, anger and bitterness all together. He kicked the assailant away, forcing the Avenger to put some distance from him as he roared in pain and fury. Then, he forced himself on his feet, panting and wheezing in pain as blood began to drip from his swollen and aching face.

Angra Mainyu openly laughed at his wounded expression. "Keheheheh! Not so tough now, huh? How shameful. You're no longer the God you used to be, Tyr."

"Don't… call me… that!" Shirou spat between coughs, wheezing in fatigue as he struggled to keep standing on his legs. A pool of crimson blood was beginning to form beneath his feet. "I… am not… a God… anymore! I am… NOT… Tyr!" he stressed.

The Avenger grinned even wider. "Well, I suppose it's true," he conceded in the end. He straightened himself with a slow movement, fixing the red-haired man in front of him with a smug, accusatory stare. "You cast away your Divine nature at the end of your life. You chose to throw away your powers, your abilities, your skills, and even all the weapons you forged instead of embracing your role as the God of War. That was an incredible display of resolve, I must say. Too bad it has left you so weak, though. Now you're just a shadow of your previous self."

Seeing his pathetic state, Angra Mainyu snorted. "No, I take that back. If you can't even damage my current form, then you're even worse than that. You're just a human being barely stronger than average, just like those Servants… and because of that foolish choice, now you're completely helpless against me."

The Ruler glared at him with a pained gaze, trying to keep his balance in spite of his trembling legs and attempting to move and attack again. He failed, however, falling on a knee and wheezing in pain. The floor beneath his feet became stained with red.

Like an evil demon, Agra Mainyu stepped closer to his struggling victim. He seemed deeply amused by the sight of his pained face, and he even began to laugh at his pathetic state. "You know, this is kinda ironic," he spoke again, staring at the God's bloodied, wounded body with a grin of pleasure. "You're supposed to be the strongest warrior in existence. The First Hero of Humanity. Yet, all I see before me now is just a sad, helpless, pathetic little man… a human, just like the rest of them."

With a strained grunt, Shirou got back on his feet again. He almost swayed a little to the side due to the pain that kept assaulting him relentlessly, coming from inside of his own body. The wounds on his chest and shoulder continued to throb without rest, as if something dark and foreign was flowing in his system through them, corrupting him from the inside.

"What… did you do to me?" he demanded, glowering at the evil-looking clone with an enraged expression. The agony he was experiencing was so exquisite that his thoughts nearly began to fade under that relentless assault. Dark, vicious threads of Mana similar to a spider web began to appear again on his skin, especially near the wounds; and with them came even more pain.

"Oh, that's just a natural reaction," the Avenger explained to him with a casual tone, pedantic. "My curse is flowing inside your body right now. From the moment my Shadow managed to touch you, it was already over for you. You cannot stop this process, even with the aid of your Divine powers. It's too late, buddy."

A deep sense of repulsion flowed through the man's mind as he realized the meaning behind those words. 'I see; it's not just the dark prana that's filled with hatred, it's a full-fledged curse. That's why I'm not able to heal my wounds,' Shirou mused with a hiss of pain, struggling to keep his balance amid the painful throbs. He stared at his battered body with a nervous gaze, observing through narrowed eyes as the black curse caused by the enemy's Mana kept spreading under his skin. The more it grew, the more the pain was increasing as well. It was so intense that he had to struggle hard in order to maintain his consciousness. An average human would have already passed out at this point. Or worse, he would have gone crazy. 'Damn it. This kind of corruption… it must be a curse of defilement of some sort.'

Eventually, even in spite of the pain, a realization dawned upon him. Shirou widened his eyes as he realized how things stood. If the Avenger was a being capable of cursing and corrupting other Servants with a mere touch of his Mana – as well as absorbing them completely, as he had done previously with Caesar, Cleopatra and Salieri – then this could only mean one thing.

That is: whoever he was, Angra Mainyu was NOT a proper Heroic Spirit. He was NOT an average Servant like Mordred, Iskandar and the others. On the contrary, he was probably a distorted being. A defiled creature that shouldn't be considered canonic amid the human history, but who still managed to become a Heroic Spirit in spite of his twisted nature. His ability to become a shapeless Shadow capable of corrupting other Servants and the fact that he was so powerful were already a strong evidence about this fact.

In other words, he was a dangerous monster. A Servant who shouldn't exist, because he wasn't canonical in the proper human history. And as such, he was a distorted being, more similar to a Counter Guardian or even to one of the Beasts rather than a proper, canonic Heroic Spirit like the others.

Upon reaching that conclusion, the red-haired Ruler swallowed in tension, fixing the enemy wearing his own features with a sweating face. "…who… are you, really?" he demanded at that point, unable to resist his curiosity. He summoned Kanshou and Bakuya this ime, assuming a defensive stance even in spite of the pain and the curse flowing inside his body. "A Servant capable of corrupting other Heroes… there's no way you could ever be a proper Heroic Spirit."

Avenger smirked in spite of the jab, seemingly amused by his words and speculation. "You're not wrong there, Tyr. I am not a real Hero worshipped by humanity," Angra Mainyu admitted with a light tone, impressed. "Actually, I was created because of your actions. It's your fault that I became what I am."

His words made him jolt completely, as if he had been physically slapped. Shirou took a step back, his arms shaking in pain as he struggled to keep the married blades pointed at him. "W-What… are you talking… about…?" he stuttered, nervous and confused.

The Avenger sighed at his question, deeply disappointed by the clear lack of knowledge that Shirou was displaying. "You really haven't a clue, huh? How upsetting. Locking yourself on the Other Side for five thousand years has made you quite ignorant, as well as pathetically weak," he insulted him, his tone growing more and more blank under the Ruler's questioning stare. "Guess I'll give you a little clue, then. It's not funny to do this if you're unable to understand what's happening."

Again, Shirou watched him with narrowed eyes, sweating in pain and fatigue as he tried to stand on his legs while the pain continued to flow inside of him.

His evil-looking clone exhaled a sigh, fixing his other half with a narrowed glare.

"Thousands of years ago, shortly after the time you committed 'suicide'…. the world was left in disarray," Avenger spoke with a cold tone of voice, spreading his arms in a theatrical movement as he began to gesticulate. "Without the Gods to dictate their lives, humanity had finally gained its freedom; but it had also been left wounded beyond repair. The scars left by your war against the Gods were still fresh for them, and once the conflict disappeared, all of humanity began to evolve. Naturally, they started to celebrate at first, and for a while… there was peace. Narcissistic, self-congratulatory peace. They cheered at the death of the Gods, claiming that all of creation was now solely under their rule."

Then, the mad Servant started to laugh, shaking his head in a sarcastic gesture. "But with time, things started to grow restless. Because once people had gained their freedom, they also started to experience conflicts and hardships that were unknown to them before. With his – YOURS – actions, Tyr had inspired humanity to rebel against their masters. He had taught them to struggle and fight for their survival. However, in doing so, he had also lead them towards a path filled with conflict and self-destructive actions. A path which was marked with blood."

"Because even though Tyr was on humanity's side… he was still a God of War. And what else is War, but rage, death and destruction?"

Shirou winced in shame after hearing his words, feeling every fiber of his being tense up in silent anticipation. His mouth opened and closed like a fish forced out of water, and sweat began to openly drop on the floor in front of him. No matter how he loathed to admit it, the words spoken by Angra Mainyu were resonating with his soul on a very deep level.

Another silent, unspoken reminder of his accursed nature due to his birth.

The Avenger remained unfazed by his expression, however, turning his back to the stunned God and staring at the statue of the Pharaoh Ramesses instead. "Consequently, when things began to escalate, the result was inevitable. Humanity's hatred was growing with each passing day, and without the Gods and Tyr upon which address that hatred, humans began to pour it against themselves. They started to wage war against each other, all in the name of petty reasons such as fame, power, conquest, etcetera." The mad Servant turned to Shirou at that point, flashing a grin at his sweating expression. "But you already know that, don't you?" he asked, sarcasm clearly present in his tone

Clenching his fists around the blades' hilt, Shirou didn't answer. But even if he kept silent, Angra Mainyu knew that he was aware of all of that already. After all, it was impossible for him not to know. Tyr had brought the concept of War in the hearts of humanity, and with his existence, he had inspired them to follow in his footsteps. As such, Shirou was intimately aware of the consequence of his actions, and he always had been. There was simply no way for him to deny those fact, no matter how he wished this was not the case.

After all, it was simply impossible to deny the events that had happened after his suicide. War had led mankind towards its freedom, but it had also brought a lot of pain, and death, and suffering as a direct consequence. That much was undeniable, and Shirou knew that completely. Freedom had a price, after all.

"You foolishly believed that by killing yourself and offering free will to all of mankind, humanity would have been freed from hatred. Without you, without the Gods, you thought that there was nothing left for them to hate. However, people still found ways to let their hatred flourish even in spite of that. When they couldn't turn their hate towards their previous masters, they turned it inwards instead, upon themselves and others; for petty reasons like skin color, power and riches, or different origins. And as a consequence, all the Evils of the world returned to flourish once more."

Trembling eyes widened slowly as Shirou began to put two and two together. His brows rose in silent astonishment. "S-So you're saying―?" he stuttered, realizing the meaning behind those words with a sense of shock.

Angra Mainyu nodded at his face, grinning, apparently reading his thoughts as if he were an open book. "Correct. Calamities and disasters began to add to their tribulations, and when their hatred became too much to handle, humanity realized their mistake. But when they did, it was too late. The damage had already been done," he revealed, taking a great pleasure in seeing the Ruler's pained, sweating face. "Eventually, then, they began to react. They felt the need to find a scapegoat. Someone to blame for their 'unjustified' suffering; and upon whom charge all the Evils and all the atrocities of the world in order to maintain a sense of self."

Shirou's face became a mask of horror as realization dawned upon him. The sheer hatred glowing inside the Avenger's eyes troubled him.

"And as you've correctly began to guess, that scapegoat was none other than… ME!" he revealed, grinning at his stunned face like a madman and bending his chest into a theatrical bow.

It troubled him greatly.

The God of War and First Hero of Humanity stared with wide eyes.

As the embodiment of All the World's Evil glared at him with a mocking grin, his face a mask of hatred and madness that he had never – ever – seen before this day.

"They stripped me of my name, abused and sacrificed me during countless rituals, and they continued to torture me until I became insane. They carved every word that cursed mankind onto my body, forcing every sin imaginable upon me… until there was nothing left of me. Nothing but an empty vessel, within which every Evil and every Curse of this world was collected during the years. And thus, the being standing before you was born: Angra Mainyu," Avenger finished, placing his hands on his hips with a solemn movement.

Faced by his stunned expression, the evil Servant grinned sheepishly. "So… here I am, I guess," he chuckled with a light tone, scratching his neck in what appeared to be a (fake) display of embarrassment. "Hope it was clear enough for you, Tyr."

Silence fell inside the ruined Sanctuary. Seconds passed, followed by minutes.

Yet, the red-haired Ruler could not react.

Shirou just stared with a horrified face, gulping in fear and tension as he finally began to understand how things stood. And as he did so, the shock and disgust he was feeling inside became so overwhelming that he momentarily forgot about the pain throbbing inside his chest for a second. After all, there was no way. There was simply no way for him to remain unfazed by this. What he had just learned about the Avenger… it was a lot. It was a lot to take in. Definitely more than what he had expected. Not even a God and a powerful entity like him could remain unfazed after learning of such a mind-blowing revelation. It was simply impossible to dismiss.

Which was why he couldn't say anything in front of the other's expectant face, mumbling a few words without any meaning or coherent sense.

"I-I… see," was all he managed to whisper, in the end. "You… you're saying that you are… this is… I-I don't…"

It was useless. It was completely and utterly useless. No matter how long he tried to struggle for words, he didn't manage to find them. There were no words for him to find. He had been rendered speechless, because the shock and the horror that were raging inside of him were now haunting his mind with an unbearable force. And the more the silence stretched inside the Sanctuary of Ramesses' Temple, the more the God of War was finding himself unable to cope with them properly.

He felt lost. He felt scared, for the first time ever since he'd learned of Tyr's quest. He had absolutely no idea of what to do.

Avenger didn't seem to mind his shock, however; fixing his face with a sarcastic grin. "What's wrong? Have you nothing to say?" he asked, ironic and mocking as ever.

Shirou gulped with a hiss, feeling the sweat drop from his swollen and bloodied face. "…and now what?" he eventually managed to ask, taking a deep breath once he found the strength to talk and move once more. "Now that you've told me all of this… what is it that you want? What do you want with me?"

Angra Mainyu merely stared with an unreadable face, blinking in confusion at his tense and worried question.

Until, he blurred out of sight, and Shirou's world became pain and agony once again.

No warning came to him this time. It all happened faster than what was humanly possible. The Ruler crashed against the statue of Ramesses all of a sudden, slamming his back against the stone-made depiction of the Pharaoh with a loud cracking sound. In front of him, the Avenger had appeared out of nowhere, grabbing the Ruler with both hands and choking his neck with a powerful grip.

Shirou widened his eyes, feeling the air leave his lungs all of a sudden.

Angra Mainyu's face was a mask of madness and hatred as he strangled him. "Is that what you should be asking me now? Really?" he spat, baring his teeth into a snarl. "You disappoint me, Tyr. I thought you were better than this!"

A mighty and pissed-off punch slammed against his face. Shirou groaned in pain as the fist landed with his cheek, pushing his head further back against the statue and slamming it on the stone. The entire depiction of the Pharaoh Ozymandias cracked under the force of the impact, and was consequently destroyed with an explosion after that sudden collision. Debris and shattered pieces of the statue fell on the Ruler like a cascade of stone, cutting and wounding his already battered body.

Wheezing, Shirou dusted himself off, raising his blades amid the pain and rubble and using Kanshou and Bakuya to slash the assailant away. The Avenger leaped away just a second before the white blade could cut through his chest, freeing Shirou as he put some distance between them.

However, he gave no time for him to recover. Instead, Angra Mainyu charged again, swinging a kick towards the red-head's legs in attempt to crush his bones and destroy his already fragile balance. Shirou blocked it with the crossed guards of the twin swords, and pushed him back with a roar of effort. The two opponents glowered scornfully at each other.

"To think that you'd actually say something like this to my face… you're a real piece of work, aren'tcha, Hero?" he spat, colder and angrier than before.

"So what did you expect? An apology on my part?" Shirou countered as he tried to keep his distance from him in order not to waste more precious energies. He took a step back in front of Mainyu's twisted grin, coughing blood from his lips as he struggled to banish the pain away.

Angra Mainyu just laughed at the sarcastic question. "I don't want your apologies. I want to BREAK you!" he roared.

Raw, primordial instinct compelled him to move. Shirou widened his eyes, feeling his mind scream out in danger all of a sudden, and barely managed to avoid a punch aimed at his face by side-stepping to the left. The enemy had reappeared in front of him in a blur of air, faster than light itself, forcing him to slash a horizontal lunge of Kanshou, aiming for the neck. Unfortunately, however, the Avenger blocked the black shortsword effortlessly with his own bare hand, twisting his body with an unmatchable speed and grabbing its blade with his fingers. Then, he pushed Shirou back with an incredible force, and the two opponents struggled into a pressure challenge, trying to overcome each other as they pushed and pushed and pushed with all their might.

"E-Even… if you defeat me… it won't change anything!" Shirou hissed through gritted teeth, trying to use all the strength he had left to push the enemy away. "What happened to you won't change. You suffering was not my fault!"

"Not your fault?!" Angra Mainyu repeated, outraged. He increased his pressure against the Ruler, pushing the married blades with a strength that shouldn't be allowed to exist. "YOU are the one who freed humanity! Your actions MADE me like this!" he raged.

"I did no such thing!" the God yelled, resolute in spite of his weakened state. "I admit that my actions may have led to your suffering in some way… but I am not the one at fault! What happened to you was disgusting and unjustified, but I had nothing to do with it! You can't blame me for other people's actions!"

A sudden kick slammed on his chest, creating a few meters of distance between the two. Shirou openly panted as he stared at the Avenger in worry.

Angra Mainyu scoffed at him. "Don't act all high and mighty, Tyr. You talk as if you're one of those useless humans now, BUT YOU'RE NOT!" he roared, fixing him with a powerful glare. "You're NOT one of them. Even if you'd like to be!"

Shirou flinched at the reminder, feeling his heart clench with immeasurable pain.

The Avenger didn't seem to even if he did, he didn't care. "You don't get to play innocent after what you did to the Gods. You've murdered thousands of them. You exiled and banished an entire race from earth, all because they hurt your feelings! Because your mommy didn't love you enough!"

Shirou's eyes turned murderous at the jab. His whole body began to shake and tremble in rage. "That was different! The Gods were enslaving all of humanity! They killed my mother, my friends, my family; and hurt countless other people with their unjustified actions!" he cried, outraged and furious.

"Is that so? Does all of that justify your actions, then? Does it justify the pain and torments I was forced to endure for my whole life? Because of what YOU did?" the other demanded, mocking.

The God of War narrowed his eyes. He lowered his blades in front of the Avenger's growing fury, fixing his face with a mask of resignation and resolve mixed together. "…I will never regret my choice, Avenger," he spoke with a serious tone. Angra Mainyu halted and stilled for a moment after those words, as if he had been caught unawares by his sudden display of resolve. "I will never regret my decision to side with humanity. Fighting for my people and struggling for their future is something I will never regret. Ever."

When those words were spoken, silence followed. The two enemies wearing the same face glared at each other with unreadable eyes.

Shirou exhaled a sigh before continuing. "I understand your resentment against me, Avenger. Trust me, I really do. What you've been through was unjust and reprehensible, and I will not deny that my actions were – in part – a key factor that lead you towards that fate. But even in spite of that, I cannot approve your actions. I cannot stand your deeds. What you're doing is wrong, and nothing will ever change that no matter what!"

Mainyu smiled a sarcastic smile. "So you're allowed to get your revenge… but I'm forbidden from taking mine?" he asked, ironic and taunting just like before.

"You are killing innocent people!" Shirou bellowed. "I never took vengeance on those who had nothing to do with me! You, on the other hand… you're endangering this Country and the world with your actions! You're raging, and destroying, and killing people and Servants without distinction! My past and your actions are two entirely different things! This is not revenge, it's mass murder!"

"I'm just repaying the world in kind," the other defended himself, uncaring.

"You killed innocent Servants!" Shirou countered, outraged, recalling the death of his companions happened not even an hour ago. "You're raging and involving innocent people in this quest! Your actions will destroy the world!"

"The world has destroyed me first!" Avenger replied, bellowing in madness. He blurred out of sight again, and when he reappeared, it was already too late. He punched Shirou in the face with an invisible fist, making him fall to the ground with a sickening squelch. "Humans made me into this! They tortured me, beat me, raped me, and cursed me with all the Evils of the world! Now, I'm just here to repay the favor!"

The beaten Ruler crawled on the ground with a moan of pain, trying so very hard to raise himself up again. Kanshou and Bakuya disappeared in a dust of prana next to him, his body finally starting to feel the weight of all the pain and fatigue Shirou had accumulated during this morning. Thick, crimson-red liquid dripped from his broken nose, flowing on his face like a river, and the metallic taste of blood hurt his tongue like a knife.

Behind him, Angra Mainyu loomed over his frame like a shadow. He took a step forward with a haunted face. "I thought you could relate to me. I thought you could UNDERSTAND me!" the Avenger screamed, delivering yet another kick on Shirou's chest. The poor man crashed against the statue of Ptah, panting and wheezing like a dying animal as he destroyed it with the impact. "But I was wrong. Even though you were betrayed too during your life, in the end you choose to side with humans anyway. Because you're too WEAK to accept a world without their love!"

Shirou groaned in pain, raising himself from the floor with trembling arms.

"Ugh… if you want to kill me… then just do it quickly," he spat, glowering at him even in his current sorry state.

Much to his own surprise, however, Angra Mainyu burst into a crazy laugh after hearing his words. "Bwahahaha! Kill you?! Are you crazy? I don't wanna kill you!" he countered, catching him by surprise with that unexpected statement. Somehow, he looked deeply amused by his words. He almost choked on his own laughter at that point, fixing the man before him with a crazy, haunted face. "What would I do without you? Go back to be a faceless, shapeless being? As if!"

Then, he shook his head, returning serious in an instant. The expression on his face twisted with frightening madness, prompting Shirou to stare at him with narrowed eyes. "Oh no. No, no, no, no, no. I cannot kill you, because you… you complete me!" he said.

"You're a freak!" Shirou spat at him, wincing in both pain and disgust as the Avenger stepped closer to him, unrelenting. "You disgust me, Avenger."

"Hey now… even to a guy like me that's cold, you know."

To prove that point, he dashed forward and threw another punch in the poor man's chest, making him double over in pain. Shirou's vision almost disappeared as the pain inside his mind grew beyond what a human body should ever be able to endure, forcing him to fall on his knees as he fought against his urge to vomit. Yet, even in spite of this obvious moment of weakness on Shirou's part, the evil-looking twin did not assault him, merely opting to keep talking instead.

"Tell me, why would you go that far? Just for the human race?" Avenger asked, unable to understand. "Humans made me into a monster, and you… you're just a freak to them. Like ME!"

Shirou glowered at him in anger. "You know nothing―!"

"They might need you right now, but when they won't… they'll cast you out. AGAIN," he continued, undeterred. Shirou openly flinched at those words, unable to deny them completely. "Stop fooling yourself, Hero. You know it is true."


Loathe as he was to admit it, Shirou knew that there was a modicum of truth inside those words. Angra Mainyu was a monster – no doubt about that – but Shirou couldn't deny that the facts he was stating about him were true, to a certain extent.

Shirou was not a human being. He was not a simple mortal. No matter how much he would have liked to be normal, no matter how much he despised his origins and his previous role, this fact would always remain unchanged. Consequently, there was no way for him to deny that truth, both now and during the past. It was simply the way things were, and he knew that. He already knew that. Perhaps he had always known, ever since he had first been betrayed at the end of his previous life. It was simply a matter of logic.

Since Tyr was not entirely human, the humans could not accept him in full. It was for this very same reason that mankind had grown so scared of him in the past. It was for this very same reason – along with his quest for vengeance – that no one had decided to trust him completely at the end of his bloodied life. Because they were different. Because they couldn't accept him. Because they couldn't understand him.

Humans feared what they could not understand. Especially when the unknown factor was a powerful being who had slaughtered many Gods and obtained an incredible power. That's why Shirou knew that the fear and hatred he had received back then were completely justified, to an extent. It was logic. It was simply the inevitable end for him, and he had always been aware of that. So much so that he couldn't even have any form of resentment towards those who had betrayed him, because of this fact. It was simply how things were meant to be.

Yet, even in spite all of that… hearing those words hurt. It hurt him more than what words could ever express.

His golden-brown eyes lowered, and his mind was flooded with memories of his companions. Memories of Iskandar, Artoria, and Mordred. Memories of all the travels and adventures they had faced together. Of all the fights and events they had been through. Of all the talks and discussions they had shared during this past, frenetic month. Of all the moments, good and bad, that they had shared and experienced together.

And, of course, of all the horror and fear displayed on their faces when the truth had finally been revealed.

Shirou clenched his fists, gritting his teeth with a pained expression.

Apparently, Angra Mainyu managed to read his thoughts with just a mere glance. It was simply impossible for Shirou to hide the hurt from his face, after all. "Yes… that's right. You DO know that is true," he snickered, his voice sounding like a poisonous whisper as he took another step forward. "Even your 'friends' showed it to you. Even with them it was the same. The moment they realized the truth, the moment they learned who you truly are… and it was over. Everything came crushing down on you again, and the humans betrayed you once more. You cannot deny those facts any longer, Hero."

The red-haired Ruler shook with pain and fatigue, steading himself by placing a hand on the wall of the ruined Sanctuary in order to keep himself steady.

"Things will never change for us," the Avenger kept talking, cruel and twisted and vicious as ever. "I told you: you and I are connected. Two sides of the same coin. Two monsters cursed to be feared for no reason, bound to a curse that was not of our choosing. We are the same… Tyr."

Silence was the only answer that greeted the Avenger's words. Seconds passed, followed by minutes.

Until, Shirou broke the silence once more.

"…I see," he whispered, unable to accept it. "I guess I have no choice, then. I never thought things would escalate like this, but now that we've come to this, there is no need for me to hold back anymore."

Angra Mainyu blinked at his words, his face suddenly looking confused by that unexpected statement. "Hold back?" he repeated.

The Ruler nodded his head, keeping his head low all the while. "I've spent… all my life trying to deal with my sins. For all this time I've tried to hide my true identity from the others and enjoy their company despite being different. But now, just like in the past, my sins are coming back to haunt me once more… and there is no reason for me to keep pretending any longer," Shirou revealed, steeling his mind as best as he could. "You told the truth about me to my comrades, to my friends. Therefore, this outcome is inevitable for me. I guess I should have expected it, all things considered."

Avenger stared at him curiously. "What are you trying to sa?"

"You said that we're the same," Shirou cut him off, abruptly. "But I disagree. You and I are nothing alike. We may be both monsters. We may have been both betrayed. But our actions and motives are completely different. I want to defend humanity, while you wish to destroy it completely. That much is undeniable, and it will always remain true."

The God of War and the embodiment of All the World's Evil glared at each other in a silent standoff.

"And for that reason… for the sake of the planet and its people… I will destroy you here and now, no matter what the cost for doing so could be."

A raised eyebrow was the only reaction the other showed after his speech. "Are you sure about that? You're almost on the verge of death, you know," the evil-looking Shirou countered, perplexed.

The red-haired Ruler smiled a bitter smile, feeling the resignation flow in his steeled mind.

"It doesn't matter. I knew from the moment you touched me that I wouldn't be able to survive this battle."

That much was true, and there wasn't a single lie in his words. Shirou knew he was outmatched right now. He knew that his energies were almost completely depleted. He knew that the wounds and the curse inside his body were still bound to take him to the grave. Therefore, he was absolutely and fully aware of how bad things were for him right now. However, despite knowing all of that, it didn't matter. It didn't matter one single bit.

Even if he knew it was too late, even if he knew that this day would be his final day… that didn't mean that he would go down without a fight. He still had a bit of strength left – as well as a hidden trump card – and now that the two of them were here, alone and far from his friends, it was time for Shirou to start playing his cards right. It was finally time for him to use all the strength he had left.

Because if Shirou couldn't survive this day, then he would make sure that the enemy could not survive it as well.

That was his mission, after all. And he could not, could never, back down from it no matter what.

Yes, there was no doubt about it. Shirou had already taken his decision. This day would be the day of his death. Both figuratively, and literally. His final day, after more than five millennia of life and struggles. Today was the day. The day in which he was going to die; as man, as a God, and as a Servant. The day he would finally let go of his burdens – after more than five thousand years and one failed attempt at suicide – and reach his destined death once and for all.

But if he was going to die here, he was going to do it in his own way.

He had nothing left to lose. Not anymore.
There was no reason to restrain himself any longer.
He could finally release his restraints for the first time ever since he had come here.

He wasted no time. Talking with this monster was pointless, after all.

With a snap of his fingers, Shirou took his decision. A small cube appeared in his hand, an object of blue, yellow and grey color, waiting to be released. The artificial Mystic Code named Add, the one he had obtained back in Britain, immersed into a deep, deep slumber. Shirou looked at it with a resolute gaze, grasping the small cube with a trembling grip.

Now, it was finally time to use his trump card.

The Avenger stared at his resolute expression, his lips parting into a grin that was as wide and confident as it could ever be.

"…attaboy. Now we're talking," the evil-looking twin hissed, grinning in trepidation.

The God of War turned to him, fixing that so-called Avenger with an enraged stare. Right now, despite the pain, despite the fatigue, and despite the suffering he was feeling inside due to the wounds on his body and the curse... only one thing remained in his mind. One single truth, one single awareness.

That being: he had to kill Angra Mainyu.

He needed to kill him. No, he had to. Right here, right now, he had to defeat the Avenger. Whoever he was – and whatever he was – Angra Mainyu had to disappear once and for all. He had killed three of his comrades, after all. He had destroyed his reputation. He had revealed his darkest secret right in front of his companions. He had even stolen his face and features, somehow. There was no way Shirou could let him go without making him pay for those crimes after doing all of that.

And, more importantly, he had endangered this land. He had put these people, this Country, and those few people who Shirou had considered friends until a moment ago, in danger. That was not something he could overlook. That was not something he could forgive, not even in another thousand years.

Therefore, the decision was taken. The Avenger had to die. He had to disappear no matter the cost. There was no room for discussion anymore. His death had been decided in but a few seconds. He was a threat and a monster that could not be left to roam free in the world, and the God of War was absolutely certain about that.

If Shirou was going to die here, he was going to die while bringing this monster to hell with him.

No matter what, that was his final decision.

Regardless of his mission, regardless of Gaia's whish… this was going to be his last contribution in stopping the War.

Even if he had to use the most powerful attack he could unleash in his current condition.

The God of War grasped the cube, using all his remaining energies to deliver his final performance.

Then, he started the chant.

"Sacred Spear… removing restraints."

The cube reacted accordingly. It opened its eyes and broke itself apart, taking the form of a sphere of golden-white energy. All around the globe, a whirlpool of Mana and wind began to gather and grow, making the air, the floor and the walls of the Temple tremble and shake like in pain.

All the while, Shirou kept glaring at the Avenger with a mighty rage, steeling himself as best as he could in order to reach his final achievement. It was inevitable for him to feel distressed, at the moment. After all, what he was about to do now was extremely different from what he had done back in France. This wasn't the chant he had used during the Spear's previous activation. In fact, back then during the battle in Marseille, he had only tried to release the Spear for a short amount of time during his brief clash against the Counter Guardian.

But now? Now things were different. Extremely different.

The Holy Lance Rhongomyniad had been enclosed within Add at the end of King Arthur's life. Therefore, thanks to the Mystic Code created by Morgan, it now possessed thirteen restrictions that served as seals to restrict its overwhelming power and preserve the Spear's mysteries. Consequently, in order to activate the Lance fully, those seals had to be temporarily rescinded through an incantation.

However, at this moment, Shirou wasn't reciting that specific incantation. He was not reciting the words he should have said for that purpose, like he had done back in France. On the contrary, he was reciting another incantation. A different one. An incantation that he hadn't used in years. Thousands of years, to be exact.

Because now that it had come to this, he wasn't trying to rescind the seals.

He was trying to destroy them.

"Light, may you be released from the ends of the world."

Blinding light of golden color exploded from the sphere. An ear-splitting roar of prana echoed in the air. As the holy light coming from the spear flooded inside the Temple, Angra Mainyu covered his face, watching through squinted eyes as Shirou steadied himself on shaky legs, bloodied and wounded just like before, channeling all his remaining energies in attempt to remove the seals, destroy the Mystic Cube, and free the Holy Lance completely for the first time after five thousand years.

However, much to Shirou's chagrin, the Avenger's face remained morphed into a feral grin even now, watching him as he crossed his arms with a confident expression.

The God of War narrowed his eyes, feeling something hot and furious explode within his chest.

"Split the heavens and tether the earth, anchor of the storm."

He freed the Spear with a strong, resolute cry of war; shattering the Mystic Cube completely and grasping the hilt of the Lance for the second time after five thousand years. The very same weapon he had created in a time long past, during the Age of Gods. A weapon that symbolized the tower that fastened the outer layer of the World onto the planet, and that represented an anchor of storm that kept the planet, its nature and its reality together.

The "Spear of the end" returned to life with a roar of joy, elated to be finally reunited with its owner once more. The fragment of Shirou's soul enclosed within the weapon resonated with its owner upon touch, and consequently, the light of destruction coming down from the heavens was finally released. Therefore, with a power strong enough to rival the Holy Sword itself, the weapon glowed with a dazzling bright energy that blinded every single thing.

A Spear of pure white landed on his hand, spiraling on itself with tendrils of candid energy.

Then, as soon as he grasped his weapon, Shirou lowered his arms, pointing the Holy Lance at his evil and overconfident enemy.

And then, chaos ensued.

Upon being freed after more than five millennia of slumber, the Holy Lance Rhongomyniad released a powerful gust of wind similar to a hurricane, overwhelming everything around it and generating a shockwave of monstrous power. The shockwave trashed in every direction, slamming against the floor, the walls and the ceiling of the Great Temple with a bellowing roar, fracturing every stone and making the whole structure shake in agony. The statue of Ra-Horakhty – the only statue that had remained intact inside the Sanctuary – shattered and exploded on itself as soon as the pressure of the wind began flooding the room, generating a small earthquake that shook the Temple completely.

Instead, the Avenger remained poised and still even amid the sudden windstorm, as if the Lance and the power coming from it could not faze him at all.

"Hmm, impressive. But… I was kinda hoping for more, to be honest," he admitted, scratching his neck with a disappointed expression.

Shirou glared at him with empty eyes, feeling his energies being absorbed by the Spear. "…even now you remain unfazed," he mused, unable to believe what he was seeing. Worry and concern flashed inside his orbs for a spilt-second, but he banished them with a shake of the head. It was too late to back down now, after all. "I haven't faced a foe like you since the Age of Gods. Good grief, you really are something else, Avenger."

"Aww. Flattery won't get you anywhere with me, Hero," the evil, dark-looking twin chucked with an amused tone.

"...yeah. This is going to end now. For both of us," Shirou promised, absolutely serious about his intent.

In a way, Shirou was certain of it. The Holy Lance Rhongomyniad was a weapon that consumed a great amount of Magical Energy, after all. Especially now that the seals had been destroyed and the Spear had resurfaced completely from the Mystic Code. Even if the Mana consumption was nowhere comparable to the one of the Holy Sword Excalibur – which would always leave Artoria exhausted after usage and, thus, could not be fired consecutively – the Spear's usage would still put a gigantic toll on his body. Back in France, Shirou had been rendered exhausted right after using it one single time, after all. That, coupled with the current state of his battered body and his nearly depleted Mana reserves… was not good combination. If Shirou seriously decided to launch an attack with the Lance under these conditions, the result of that action would be one and one only.

Death. That was the inevitable result. That was the only outcome of that decision.

But despite knowing that, he had taken his decision. He would not hold back, arrived at this point. Escaping was not an option, and if he really wanted to defeat Angra Mainyu – who had previously proved to be able to absorb every kind of Magical attack, even the Pharaoh's Anti-Army Noble Phantasm – then he had no choice but to unleash the Spear's full power, which was said to be uncontainable. Even if he would end up dead after releasing the attack, he had to do it no matter what. He would not be able to kill that creature otherwise. There was no other choice. It was the only chance he had to hurt the enemy, at the moment.

Shirou emptied his mind, sending one, last thought to his companions and friends, before steeling his mind once more.

On the other side of the room, Angra Mainyu just cracked his bones, tilting his head with a feral expression. "Go on, then. Give it your best shot, Tyr," he taunted him, gesturing to Shirou with his hand to come at him.

The Ruler parted his lip into an enraged snarl, pointing his Spear against the enemy's face.

And then, tossing every hesitation and doubt aside, he released the Spear and launched the most powerful attack he could unleash in his current state.


A few moments of quiet. Then, everything turned into chaos.

Light erupted from the Temple.

A loud, ear-splitting explosion shook the world, as a veritable column of light descended from the heavens, crashing against the Great Temple of Abu Simbel with an overwhelming might. As the blow landed and the pillar of energy rained from the sky, the world exploded into rainbow lights, the ground was torn up with a powerful earthquake, and everything else just disappeared, engulfed by a pillar of gold summoned by the Holy Lance that could split the planet. Spiraling and raging, the column of light shot across the desert, blinding the Egyptian land with an unbearable glow of brilliance. It trashed and roared as its size increased by the second, engulfing more and more land within its dazzling bright glow.

Until, after what seemed like an eternity, the column of light began to fade into the aether. What remained of it darted towards the sky, vanishing from the planet as it disappeared amid the clouds, like a meteor of gold that flashed in the sky for but a few moments. Once it was gone, the aftermath of the previous attack was revealed to the silent and awaiting world, and every soul and every sound that were roaming amid the desert fell tense and quiet in front of that horrific spectacle.

The Great Temple of Abu Simbel was gone. It had vanished, evaporated, disappeared in its entirety. In its place, only a small pile of smoking debris stood amid the wide cloud of dust, while an entire portion of the mountainside where the site had been carved out was now replaced by a circular hole, as if the Temple and the whole section of the mountain near its structure had suddenly vanished without a trace. A crater of at least 400 meters in diameter was created in the place where the Temple had previously stood, cutting the mountainside off as if it had been sliced by a blade, and displaying a huge pile of smoking rubble in its place.

Once more, silence returned to reign supreme upon the desert. For a few moments that stretched into eternity, nothing and no one moved amid that desolate sight.

Until, after an indefinite amount of time, Shirou exited the rubble of debris with a loud gasp.

He crawled out of the wreckage with a frantic breath, wheezing and panting in pain all the while. His body was trembling as if shaken by death throes, while blood, sweat and tears kept dripping from his face morphed into an empty expression. His eyes were hollow as he made his way out of the debris. They were empty, dull, devoid of light and life; and his complexion had paled in a very, very horrible way. He looked more like a corpse than a living man.

Still, despite his horrible state, he miraculously managed to crawl his way out of the debris and roll on his back with a strained grunt, coughing and wheezing in pain with a weak – extremely weak – breath. The black curse spreading inside his body had halted all of a sudden, but the blood and sweat leaking from his wounds continued to flow relentlessly, paling his skin even more with each passing second. Another pool of blood began to form on the sand under his chest, staining his arms and back with its thick, crimson liquid.

Yet, no matter how much time passed, the red-haired Ruler did not utter a single word.

Hollow eyes of golden-brown color stared at the sky with an unseeing gaze. Despite his current state, the man who had once been humanity's strongest Hero knew that this result was inevitable. Shirou's mind was too blurred and fatigued to form any coherent thought, but the awareness of his incoming end could not be halted by such a trivial thing. Next to him, the Holy Lance Rhongomyniad fell on the sand with a muffled thud, lying there – forgotten – amid the pool of blood that was growing and growing with each passing moment. If it hadn't been for his abnormal resistance due to his status as the God of War, he would have been dead already.

Only one thought kept lingering inside his clouded mind. One single thought, one single realization.

He was dying. Finally, after all this time, he was dying for good. He was about to die once and for all. He could even faintly hear his heartbeat slowing down inside his wounded chest, ready to stop and give up on life completely. And now, for the second time ever since his previous suicide attempt at the end of the Age of Gods… Shirou discovered that he didn't mind dying too much.

Quite the contrary: he felt like he deserved it. He had lived too much. Experienced too much. Suffered too much. For far, far too long he had longed for this, to reach peace and silence after his troubled and bloodied life. Now, it was time for him to leave this world behind. He had played his role, after all. He had freed humanity from the Gods' rule and stopped the Avenger before he could spread more damage to the world. He had saved this Country and avenged his fallen comrades. Thus, now… now he could finally rest. He could close his eyes at last, and abandon every regret and pain once and for all.

He could finally reunite with Irisviel

"Hmmm… I must say, that was quite disappointing, to be honest."

A sudden, familiar tone of voice stated the obvious to him.

Shirou's eyes widened imperceptibly, but he had no strength to turn his head in its direction. From the corner of his eyes, through a blurred and inconsistent sight, he could faintly glimpse the shape of a figure stepping closer to him, looming over his lying frame with a dark, shapeless shadow. And despite his death's approaching, there was no way for him to mistake that shape no matter how close to dying he was.

The Avenger, Angra Mainyu, was still alive; standing above him with a mocking smile.

No words could ever hope to describe the immeasurable amount of horror that flooded Shirou's empty mind at that moment.

Angra Mainyu just shook his head dejectedly. "Gotta say, that last attack was pathetic. A mere fraction of the strength you used to possess back when you were still in your true form," he muttered, something akin to delusion and distaste flickering inside his voice. "How boring. You even went as far as killing yourself with that attack, when I openly said that I don't want to kill you. Without you, this will be no fun. What am I supposed to do now, huh?" he spat in a disappointed tone, staring at his lying frame with a dispirited frown.

Shirou did not answer, completely unable to do so due to his fatigued and crumbling mind. He was struggling enough just to remain conscious, right now.

The Avenger sighed again, shrugging his shoulders with a dull expression. "Well… what's done is done, I guess. I suppose I must take this with me, then," he spoke, glancing at the weapon lying on the sand next to Shirou with an empty gaze.

Just like that, bending over his battered body, Angra Mainyu grabbed the Holy Lance with his hand, grasping its hilt with a swift movement and taking it with him for some reason. Had he had the strength, Shirou would have tried to stop him with all his strength.

Now, however, he had no strength left. He had no strength at all. He had used every single drop of energy to fuel the previous attack, infusing all of his being to release the Holy Spear completely and deliver one final blow to the enemy. By doing so, he had hoped and prayed to be able to defeat that monstrosity in one blow… but to no avail. The Avenger was still here, alive and unscathed, as if the blast of the fully-released Rhongomyniad could not even scratch him in spite of the odds. Which meant, of course, that all his previous struggles and even his own sacrifice had been for nothing. Shirou had never really had a chance to win this battle from the start. This outcome had been decided from the beginning, loathe as he was to admit it.

Perhaps he should have foreseen this, he mused. Angra Mainyu had never tried to defend himself from the first moment the two of them had started to fight, after all. He had always allowed Shirou to attack in every moment, and he hadn't even tried to stop him when he was about to release the Lance. He hadn't tried to stop him or attack him, not even once, during his previous charge. All he had done was talk and mock him, as if he was actually waiting for Shirou's next move for some reason, fueled by the knowledge that nothing the God could try to pull could ever actually harm him no matter what. He had been toying with him the whole time, basically. And due to his battered state and the despair he had felt throughout the battle, Shirou had failed to notice this even in spite of himself.

Consequently, now… he was paying the price of that. And there was nothing he could do to turn back in time and try to remedy his mistake.

Angra Mainyu stared at his dying frame, his golden-brown eyes flickering with madness. "But don't worry too much, brother," he hissed with a feral grin, kneeling on the sand even more as he fixed him with a twisted grin. "I won't let you die here. Oh, no… absolutely not. Letting you die wouldn't be fun, after all."

Shirou widened his eyes, feeling the horror grow at the Avenger's unexpected words.

The glare his evil-looking twin sent him was absolutely appalling. "I told you, didn't I? I don't want to kill you… I want to BREAK you!" he spat.

Before he could elaborate further, however, something unexpected happened.

Angra Mainyu arched a brow, turning around with a lightning-fast speed. "Huh?"


It happened faster than a man could blink.

Before the Avenger could even open his mouth to talk, a powerful cry echoed all of a sudden, right before his body was struck by a fast – extremely fast – laser of light. Then, out of nowhere, the dark-looking clone of Shirou was thrown backwards for several meters by the force of the impact, while an explosion of Mana, light and dust detonated right in front of him.

An earth-shaking explosion occurred out of the blue, blinding everything and everyone with a powerful blast. Shirou wheezed and gasped as the shockwave of air slammed on him suddenly, but his body was too weak and drained to allow him to move. He could barely even move his eyes due to the fatigue and pain that were reigning in his body. All he could do was close his heavy eyelids and hope for the best, while a small earthquake began to shake everything all around him. Then, he realized what had happened just now.

From the clouds hovering on the sky above, his companions had finally returned.

Ozymandias' flying boat, Mesektet, had appeared once again. The vessel soared across the sky with an incredible speed, flying above the desert and reaching the ruined wreckage of the Abu Simbel site in less than ten seconds of flight. Below it, everything shook and trembled with a powerful noise, making the very same air vibrate as the blast created by the laser covered a great portion of the site.

Then, from the deck of the ship, his companions made their appearance.

"Target hit," Nitocris exclaimed from her position above the prow. Her scepter was glowing with a magical starry nimbus as she turned towards her King. "The path is clear for now, Pharaoh."

"Quickly, then, before that monster comes back!"

Hearing the Sun King's words, everyone leaped from the ship and placed themselves on the ground, landing a few dozens of meters away from Shirou's motionless body. The red-haired Ruler remained inwardly surprised by their presence, even though he could barely see anything due to his blurred vision and crumbling mind. The strength that was lingering in his body thanks to his Divine nature was fading away, and at this rate it wasn't long before he would lose consciousness. Forever.

"Over there," the voice of Luviagelita faintly reached his ringing ears, filled with worry, shock and concern in equal measure. She sounded distraught, for some reason. "He's still alive…"

Next, the voices of his closest companions followed in a heartbeat. Shirou could recognize them anywhere.




Mordred, Artoria and Iskandar were screaming at the top of their lungs, running towards him like at maximum speed. Shirou didn't even need to look in their direction to know that they were worried sick about him. Heck, Mordred was probably crying right now, for the emotions behind her shout were simply too strong to be missed.

"He's… He's dying!" the voice of Artoria echoed with a desperate ring. The wounded and battered God could barely even glimpse her blurred figure running towards him amid the darkness enveloping his vision. "His energy is almost entirely gone! At this rate he's going to die!"

"Damn it, boy, resist! Don't close your eyes! You can't give up now!"

Even Iskandar's tone was filled with tension and worry as it reached his ears, but for the dying Ruler, that bellowing and powerful voice sounded muffled and distant, unfortunately. Now that it had come to this, there was nothing he could do to resist the sweet, sweet call of death. His body and mind were simply too weak, too beaten and defeated, to be able to fight back. It was no use. It was a lost cause.

Not that it mattered much, arrived at this point. This had been his decision, after all.

Therefore, unable to do anything else, Shirou closed his eyes, allowing the darkness to take hold of his being completely.

However, just as the group was about to reach his position, the evil and horrendous enemy wearing Shirou's face blurred right in front of them once more, blocking their path with his tattooed body.

Everyone stopped in their tracks, staring at the Avenger with a sweating face.

"Hey guys!" Angra Mainyu greeted them with a light tone. In spite of his cheerful tone, his eyes were still cruel and sadistic like the most dangerous demon. "I wasn't expecting to see you again. You should have run away when you had the chance, you know. Coming back here was a foolish move on your part."

The group narrowed their eyes, without bothering to reply to the words of that twisted Servant. All that mattered to them right now was taking Shirou back and flee from there at maximum speed. Instead, they turned their focus back on the Avenger's body… and as soon as they did that, everyone realized that the enemy was holding a spear in his right hand. A long, elegant spear made of metal and steel… one that every Knight of the Round Table knew extremely well.

The Holy Lance Rhongomyniad.

The King and her Knights gawked at the sight of that familiar and elegant weapon. They hadn't seen it since their previous battle in France, after all.

"Y-You!" Gawain exclaimed, stunned and concerned. "What are you going to do with―"

"That is none of your business," Angra Mainyu cut them off, unfazed. Instead, he tilted his head to the side, seemingly confused by their unexpected return. "Actually, I'm curious about something. Why did you come back here, anyway? Why didn't you run away despite having that chance?" he asked, unable to understand the reason behind their actions.

Iskandar, Mordred, Artoria, Ozymandias and the others remained silent, unwilling to retort, staring at the evil-looking Shirou with narrowed eyes. As expected, their previous attack had had no effect either, despite being loaded with a huge amount of Mana. Damn it. This guy truly was a monster, all in all.

Amber eyes widened in fake shock as the group began to sweat in tension and fear. "Wait… don't tell me you've seriously come back to rescue him?!" Avenger exclaimed, shooting a mocking glance at Shirou's motionless body. The poor man at his feet was lying completely still on the bloodied sand, as if he were no longer in the world of the living. "Why would you do that? I told you: he's the God of War! The enemy y'all been looking for! He has been lying and deceiving you all this time, so why would you ever do something like this?"

"Shut up!" Mordred's voice cut him off with an enraged tone. "Shut your fucking mouth, you monster! We're not gonna leave him, so give him back!"

Iskandar nodded next to the girl, for once completely in agreement with her. Even if he was still plagued by distrustful emotions, there was simply no way he could let Shirou die here. No matter who – and what – he was in truth, the boy had been a comrade for him. A trusted and loyal ally in several occasions. Therefore, even if he lied to them, he was still a companion for him and the others… and the King of Conquerors would never turn his back on his companions.

"I don't know who you are, but if you think we're going to leave our companion to you, then you're deeply mistaken," he declared, his deep and powerful voice filled with decision.

"…companion?" Avenger repeated, incredulous. "Are you serious? Do you seriously believe this guy is your companion?"

The withering glare he received in answer spoke more than words ever could.

"We do. Shirou is not a monster," Artoria stated with utmost certainty. Her golden sword appeared to life with a flash of blinding light, covering the desert with its brilliance for only a split-second. "If you intend to take him away, then we'll fight you. And we'll defeat you," she stated, looking and sounding completely sure about her words.

"But… he's Tyr, you know? TYR! He's the one you should fear the most," he insisted, perplexed.

Everyone shared a glance after hearing those words. Doubt, worry and concern drenched the air like a fog, and despite their steeled resolve, the Servants couldn't deny that those emotions were still lingering inside of them even now, after all of this.

Not that anyone could blame, though. The shock of the previous revelation was still haunting the group's troubled minds even in this very same moment, after all; rendering them unable to think and act in a logical way. The discovery of Shirou's real identity had been a huge shock for them, especially after everything they had been through together with him. Therefore, it was only natural for them to feel lost and confused. It was natural that a part of them would still feel betrayed; even now that things had become like this.

…Yet, even in spite of that, they wouldn't back down. Even in spite of the concern still lingering in their eyes, they wouldn't give up. On the contrary, every single one of them shared a nod of agreement and resolve after that statement, glowering at the Avenger with a powerful glare.

Until, Artoria broke the silence with a cold, resolute voice. "We don't care. Even if he lied to us, even if he kept this secret from us, we refuse to believe in your words. He is not a monster to us," the King of Knights stated, speaking for herself and also for all of them.

Even the others seemed to agree with her statement. "That's right! Shero has saved my life! There's no way he could truly be evil!" Luviagelita exclaimed on her part, hiding herself behind Iskandar's imposing frame.

Bedivere nodded his head. "Yes. Unlike a certain someone who has killed three of our comrades, Ruler has always been loyal to us. He's always tried to defend us, no matter what kind of foe we were facing. That is not what a monster would do."

Avenger watched with wide eyes while the group declared their decision in a unanimous voice. Amid the stunned silence, even the King of Kings took a step forward with a resolute face.

"Instead of worrying about Ruler, you should worry about yourself," Ozymandias declared with a powerful voice. His golden eyes were glaring daggers at the dark-looking Avenger, fixing his face with an enormous – no, a gigantic – amount of anger. The resentment and hatred in his eyes were so vicious that it was honestly surprising to see them in the face of the King of Kings. "You are the one who destroyed my Temple. You are the one who killed my retainers. You are the one who wounded me and attacked my group. You have done all of that, right in front of my face. That is something I will never forgive. Only a fool and a beast could ever be mad enough to hurt the Pharaoh and his followers."

Angra Mainyu blinked at his words, keeping his face unreadable under the Sun King's enraged glare.

"The matter regarding Ruler and his identity as the God of War will be dealt with in due time, but first… you are the one who shall perish today," Ozymandias decided with utmost decision. "You dared to wound me, the Pharaoh, and kill my retainers. For this affront, I will let you die in despair, and toss your foul body into the depths of hell!" he promised, deadly serious.

Sheer silence greeted that statement. For a few moments filled with tension, nobody was able to move and react.

Until, Angra Mainyu burst into a mad fit of laughter.

"Bwahahaha! Did you hear that, Tyr? Did you hear THAT? Oh man… these guys are too much!" he laughed, shaking his head with an incredulous expression. The others watched his reaction with a narrowed gaze. "To think that there's someone foolish enough to side with you despite knowing the truth! Oh man, oh boy… this is AMAZING!"

Shirou remained motionless. Artoria, Mordred and the others gritted their teeth.

The Avenger laughed some more, and then did something unexpected. He bent towards the ground and grabbed Shirou by the throat – much to everyone's shock and concern – lifting him up as he were nothing more than a sack of potatoes. Luvia and the others openly gasped in fear and worry that the sight. "I'm impressed! You actually made some friends! That is NOT what I was expecting!" he spoke amid the chuckles, glaring at Shirou with a powerful hatred. "You've really exceeded my expectations for once. I'm… I'm shocked, truly."

Yet, again, Shirou remained motionless, without moving at all.

"Y-You bastard… LET HIM GO!" Mordred roared in overwhelming anger, summoning her weapon as if she were ready to pounce.

"Ah-Ah-Ah!" Angra Mainyu exclaimed in a pedantic tone, showing the Ruler's limp body held firmly in his grasp. He tapped his chest with the tip of Rhongomyniad, making Artoria and the others widen their eyes in silent concern. "I wouldn't do that, if I were you. I can easily snap his neck with a twitch of my fingers, or even pierce his heart at the first sign of trouble. If you want him to live, then I suggest you relax."

That statementmade everyone pause, including Mordred. The female Knight and the others lowered their weapons with a reluctant movement, seething in rage as the Avenger mocked them while he kept holding the God hostage with a sarcastic grin. Iskandar placed a hand above the young Knight's shoulder, gritting his teeth while the girl was visibly trembling in worry.

The evil-looking Shirou returned to stare at his victim. He fixed the God with an amused stare. "Aw, he's passed out," he realized, watching the Ruler's unconscious face with a mocking expression as he twitched a little in his grasp. "Too bad he couldn't hear your heartfelt speech just now. At this rate, he's going to die without knowing that there's someone out there who is actually willing to side with him. That's too bad, really."

Everyone widened their eyes after hearing those words. Panic and horror exploded in their hearts.

Shirou was dying?!

No. No way.
That couldn't be true. They couldn't accept it. They simply couldn't!

He couldn't die on them!

"N-No… NO!" Mordred exclaimed, gritting her teeth in indescribable fury. Her body had visibly started to shake in rage at this point. "Release him at once, you fiend! We need him! I will not let him die by your hand!"

"Relax, feisty pants. I'm not gonna kill him," the other retorted, his lips parted into a smug grin.

Iskandar, Artoria and Ozymandias tensed in worry. The Knights, Nitocris and Mordred jolted in surprise. Luvia stared at the scene with concern and fear.

"Y-You won't?" Nitocris repeated, unable to understand.

Angra Mainyu just nodded, looking both cheerful and carefree as he glanced at the Ruler. "Of course not. Unless you decide to attack me, that is."

Seeing their outraged expression, he stifled a cruel laugh with a shake of the head.

"You know… I'm sure it's going to sound absurd to you, but I'm going to say it anyway: I am a being that only cares about killing and destroying,"he revealed, stunning them a bit with that unexpected revelation. "Hatred is the only emotion I can feel, as well as a natural function for me. Therefore, I cannot help but continue to hate everything even without a real reason, for hatred and anger is all that I am. That's why I kill and destroy everything I touch, no matter where I go. It's nothing personal, really. It's just the way I am."

Ozymandias, Iskandar and the rest of the group listened to him with a disgusted expression.

"However, there is only one person in the entirety of the world's history that I do not wish to kill," Angra Mainyu continued, catching them by surprise with those words. "And that person… is him," he revealed, tapping the Ruler's unconscious face with the tip of the Holy Lance Rhongomyniad.

Everyone narrowed their eyes as a chill descended upon their back. Hearing those words spoken from the Avenger's lips was making them uncomfortable for some reason.

"…and why is that?" the Sun King demanded.

Avenger simply hummed for a moment. "Dunno. Perhaps it's because we're connected. He and I are two sides of the same coin, as I've said, and if it weren't for him… I probably wouldn't even exist in the first place. Sooo, I guess it's like a twisted form of love. A sick and depraved lingering feeling that I can only feel towards my creator. Who knows?" he shrugged, poking Shirou's pale cheek as he remained unconscious while he continued to lift him up.

His answer only served to make their disgust and apprehension grow. Luvia and Nitocris were visibly shivering after that answer. Mordred and the Knights were no better.

Not even Artoria could restrain herself from frowning in distaste. "…you're disgusting, Avenger."

Angra Mainyu simply shrugged, again, shaking it off with a twisted laugh. "Well, I suppose that's the whole point, right?" he spat back at her, ironic and sarcastic.

"So what is it that you're planning to do?" Iskandar was growing tired of this madness. He couldn't afford to waste time here, otherwise Shirou would die from blood loss due to his wounds and lack of prana. "You said that you don't want to kill him… what are you going to do with him, then?"

The crazy Avenger laughed. "Let's just say that Tyr is still necessary for our plan. Without him, things would get more complicated. And let's be honest: killing him would be no fun," he admitted again, with a feral grin aimed the unconscious twin he was holding by the neck.

Ozymandias narrowed his eyes. "Our plan?" he repeated, suspicious. "What do you mean? Answer me now, disgusting fool."

Angra Mainyu smirked, wide and proud. "Just watch!" he winked.

Then, suddenly and without a warning, the evil-looking Shirou raised his head towards the sky, and with a bellowing voice filled with madness, he screamed something at the top of his lungs.


Everyone watched with a stunned gaze.

Ozymandias and Nitocris narrowed their eyes. Iskandar and Mordred blinked in confusion. Artoria and Bedivere stared in complete loss. Luvia and Gawain glanced around in wariness. None of them had any idea of what was happening right now. The didn't know why the Avenger had just started to yell those things out of nowhere, but after a few moments of tense silence… they realized that nothing happened. Nothing was happening right now. The silence and the wind continued to echo all around them, while Angra Mainyu continued to scream at the heavens with a twisted smile filled with sick feelings, as if he were actually talking to someone from a long, long distance.

They exchanged a glance, sweating and vigilant as ever. Ten seconds of absolute quiet passed, and yet… nothing happened.

The wind and dust blowing in the desert were the only answer the Avenger received.

Luvia swallowed with a nervous face. Amid the stunned silence, she was the only one who was looking more confused than worried. "Um… was something supposed to happen?" she asked, unable to understand the situation.

Angra Mainyu merely sighed at the question, shaking his head with an annoyed face. "Give her a moment… that crazy bitch can be a real spoilsport, sometimes," he muttered with a weary breath.

Another moment of silence, which stretched itself for what seemed to be an eternity.

Until, Ozymandias had enough. He was growing impatient. The Pharaoh was about to lash out at the Avenger and launch an attack with his scepter, when suddenly and without a warning… his instinct screamed at him, making the Pharaoh startle in surprise. Next to him, Iskandar, Artoria, Mordred and even the others seemed to have his exact same reaction, feeling something unfathomable approaching their minds with the aid of their inner nature as Servants.

Then, after a few seconds of confusion and wariness, something finally happened out of the blue.

Everyone tensed in shock, as something unnatural occurred.


―a voice began speaking inside of their heads.

A woman's voice.

"To all the Heroes and all the Spirits summoned into the world… heed my words, you who seek the Grail."

Everyone widened their eyes, feeling something foreign and distant touching their mind out of the blue.

A long, twisted series of images, memories, and words filled their heads all of a sudden, making Ozymandias, Iskandar, Artoria and every other Servant of the group gasp in surprise.

Mordred widened her eyes, glancing around with a frantic expression. "W-What? What's happening―?"

"I am the one who started this. The one who summoned you all, bringing each and every one of you back from the dead. The one who's behind the conflict and the Holy Grail Ritual."

The words were spoken clearly and slowly. The voice was solemn and unfathomable. Artoria and the others recognized it as the very same voice that had spoken to them back when they were first summoned. The exact same voice that had spoken to them when they had found themselves back in the world of the living, almost a month ago at this point.

"T-This is…" Nitocris exclaimed, shock and apprehension written all over her features. "This is the same voice that…"

"As you may know, a whole month has passed since the beginning of the Holy Grail War. Now that we have arrived at this point, I'm using the power of the Grail to address all the Servants who are scattered throughout the world, reaching out to each and every one of you who has managed to survive so far."

It was speaking directly through their minds, inside their heads; as if every Hero and every Servant who could hear it was somehow connected to it. Bound to the being that was stating those words in some dark and mysterious way.

"Oi… do you all hear what I'm hearing right now?" Iskandar demanded, turning his head towards the rest of his companions.

Much to his growing shock, everyone nodded with the exact same expression.

An expression of surprise, fear and confusion mixed together.

"T-There's no mistaking it!" Artoria confirmed, her emerald eyes glancing between Mordred, Iskandar and her faithful Knights. "This is the woman I heard back when I was summoned in England! It's the exact same voice!"

"Yes! I heard it too!" Bedivere acknowledged.

"Me as well!" Gawain exclaimed.

Luvia, on her part, glanced around the group with a nervous face, fixing each and every one of the Servants with a confused expression. "Huh? What are you talking about? What voice? Who's talking?" she asked, unable to understand what was happening to them. Since she was not a Servant but just a simple human, she wasn't able to hear anything, it seemed. "I hear nothing! What's gotten into you all of a sudden?"

No answer came from the distressed Heroes. They were far too busy listening to the voice that was speaking directly into their heads to notice her turmoil.

"I grow sick and tired of the pace in which this War is now unfolding. A whole month has passed since the beginning of the conflict… yet, the number of Servants who are actively fighting to reach the end of the Ritual is growing less and less conspicuous the more the time passes. Too many Servants have withdrawn from the conflict, hiding themselves behind their accursed cowardice, while those who are fighting grow wearier and fewer with each passing day."

Ozymandias clenched his fists, glaring at the world with a mighty and endless fury.

"This isn't possible," he hissed through gritted teeth. "Don't tell me…!"

Nitocris turned to him, looking both scared and astonished as she reached a hand towards him. "Pharaoh, what is happening right now?"

For once, the Sun King and the others had no answer to offer her.

"The current situation… I can no longer stand it. I refuse to let the Ritual be tampered by the foolishness of some cowards. Those who are too scared or selfish to actively join the conflict are an embarrassment to real Heroes; to all of you who are fighting, and struggling, and killing your foes to reach the Grail. This I cannot stand. I can no longer watch and do nothing while so many sacrifices are going to waste. It is absolutely appalling to me."

"What is she talking about?" Mordred exclaimed. She had no idea of what this woman was implying, but the words she was hearing in her head were filled with cruelty, and frustration, and apathy… there was a lingering sensation of anger behind them that it was almost impossible to miss. "Why is she saying these things?"

She had a bad feeling about his. A very, very bad feeling.

And she wasn't the only one. "I-I don't like where this is going," Bedivere commented.

Iskandar, Artoria and Ozymandias kept listening in silence with narrowed eyes.

"That is why, from this moment forward, I will change the rules of the Holy Grail War. I will add a new quest to the Ritual. A quest aimed to all of you Heroes who desire to reach the Grail. A quest that will bring you closer to the end, so that your wish may come true."

At that moment, suddenly and without a warning, something happened once again.

Artoria, Iskandar and Mordred gasped. Ozymandias and Nitocris widened their eyes. Bedivere and Gawain tensed and jolted.

Luvia watched their unexpected reactions with wide eyes filled with worry.

And all the while, Angra Mainyu released a bellowing laugh from the other side of the clearing, fixing the group of Servants with a twisted grin filled with malice.

No matter how impossible it seemed, no matter how absurd it was… each and every one of them was seeing the exact same thing.

An image.
An image flashing inside their minds.
An image that was not created by their imagination... but that the woman who was speaking to them was clearly showing to each and every Servant in some mysterious way.

The image of the red-haired Ruler.


Shock and horror exploded within their hearts.

Yet, the voice kept speaking with a cold and emotionless tone, unaware – or indifferent – to their inner turmoil.

"This man is called Shirou Emiya. He is an extremely powerful warrior who lived long, long ago during the Age of Gods. He is capable of defeating many Servants at the same time, and he's a warrior who was not summoned by me, but who was called forth into the world by a twisted and horrifying creature who lives in the Other Side of the World. As such, he is not a participant of the Holy Grail War, but an outsider and intruder who has forced himself inside the Ritual."

"…no," Artoria whispered, as realization dawned upon her. She shook her head with a distressed expression, hoping so very hard that her intuition was wrong, for once. "No, it can't be. Don't tell me she is going to―"

"During the entirety of the past month, he has traveled all around the world in order to observe this conflict. He has fought many Servants, and defeated quite a lot of them. His goal is to convince as many Heroes as possible to give up on the Grail and stop the current fight… but do not be fooled by his words. Do not be fooled by his peaceful smile. His intentions are far from good. His true goal is to seize the Grail for himself, in order to obtain it and use it to fulfill his personal wish: return to his original form, and recover the power he has lost during his life."

"Shit!" Mordred cursed out loud throughout all that twisted and false speech. The expression on her face was very, very scared and distressed right now. Sweat and tears of rage were openly dripping from her cheeks as she listened to all that nonsense about her friend. "Shit, shit, shit, SHIT! This isn't happening! This isn't fucking happening!" she cried.

Yet, no matter how much she loathed it, there was no way to deny that reality. The things she was hearing were really happening despite her concern.

Those words were being spoken with crystal clear clarity, whispered in the mind of every Hero, every Servant, and every Heroic Spirit scattered throughout the world.

A world-wide global announcement, happening in some mysterious way.

Iskandar clenched his fists, reaching the same conclusion with a blank, paling face. His hands were trembling so much that a bit of blood began to drip from his shaking palms.

"…by the Gods. No way," he whispered.

"Of course, there is a reason behind his goal; and that goal… is linked to his identity. As such, in order for you to understand the truth, let me tell you about his true identity. His true name is not Shirou Emiya…"

And just like that, the world began crumbling down on the group of Servants with a powerful and mighty fury. Artoria gritted her teeth. Mordred snarled in rage. Iskandar exhaled in resignation. And all the other Servants listened with a stunned expression… while the voice speaking inside their heads began to reveal Shirou's darkest secret to every Servant and every Heroic Spirit scattered throughout the world.

And all the while, Angra Mainyu kept staring at the group with a relaxed face, keeping his hold on Shirou's neck with a strong and powerful grip.

"…his true name is Tyr."

The smirk on his cruel face was anything but reassuring.

. . . . . . . .

Date: June 13 2020
Woolworth Building (New York - U.S.A.)


"How…? How can this be?"

Arjuna's words echoed amid the tense and absolute silence. The control room of Woolworth Building was completely quiet as he stared at the world with eyes devoid of life, feeling all his emotions crumble and whiter upon receiving such a mind-blowing revelation.

Yet, the voice continued to speak, revealing the truth with a cold and emotionless tone.

"Many Heroes may be familiar with this name, but for those of you who know nothing about him… allow me to tell you a story. Tyr was a Demi-God. A cruel and twisted God of War, and an entity who lived thousands of years ago. Some of you may have heard of him as the "First Hero of Humanity", for he was the very first Hero who was born among the living. He was raised and loved by the humans at the end of the Age of Gods, and he was directly responsible for the defeat of all the Deities who ruled over humanity during those ancient times."

Next to the Indian Archer, Thomas Edison was shaking his lion head furiously. "No… No, it's impossible. It's impossible!" he roared, baring his fangs into a ferocious snarl.

Even Geronimo was blanching in horror as he listened to the voice speaking inside of his head.

"This is madness. Oh, merciful spirit… how is it possible?" he whispered, uttering a silent prayer to the spirit of the world.

"As the days and years passed, Tyr grew stronger and crueler. He had always had a superiority complex, a trait typical of the beings born from two mixed races, and his dream was to conquer and rule above anyone who dared to stand in his way. One day, when he was barely even a man yet, he realized that only he was worthy of the title of "Perfect Being". He decided that only he could stand above them all, dominating all the races that inhabited the planet and placing himself above everyone else. And for this very same reason, he decided to declare war to the Gods in attempt to quell his insatiable thirst for power, undertaking a long and bloody conflict that went on for years. Decades, even."

The door was slammed open all of a sudden. Olga Marie Animusphere stepped inside the control room with a sweating face, glancing between the three Servants with a frantic movement. "What's wrong?" she demanded. "I heard a scream. What's going on here?"

But her question was in vain, for the Servants didn't answer. Not yet, at least.

Not even under her stunned and suspicious gaze.

Date: June 13 2020
Clock Tower (London - England)


Cu Chulainn grasped his head with a trembling hand, keeping himself steady by leaning on the wall of his room. Copious droplets of sweat were furiously dripping from his face and chin as the Blue Lancer kept listening to the voice, feeling every single fiber of his being shiver and protest under the news he was receiving by that mysterious entity.

'Oi, oi, oi…' he thought, growing more and more incredulous as he forced back an enraged snarl from his lips. 'What the hell is the meaning of this? What, even, is this?'

No matter how incredulous and shocked he was, however, the voice kept talking to him on and on, relentlessly.

"Tyr rebelled against the Gods, slaughtering thousands of them. The more he killed, the more his madness grew; until he became nothing but a merciless and bloodthirsty monster, unable to do nothing but kill in search for more power. His strength and powers grew to the point that no one among the living could ever hope to defeat him, and thus he was universally recognized as the most powerful warrior that has ever existed."

Fuck, fuck, fuck! Shit, shit, shit!

How was this possible? How was it true? Wait, was it even true in the first place? And if so, how? How could this be?

It was too much. Way too much to believe.

The Hound of Culann snapped his head to the right, feeling his mind growing colder with each passing second. He couldn't stay here. He needed confirmation. He needed to see the others, asap.

He exited his room with a heightened speed. As he dashed through the corridor, he met the Archer halfway through. His eyebrows widened in horror as he saw the emotions inside the French Emperor's eyes. The horror. The shock. The disbelief. It felt like staring into a twisted mirror.

Damn it.

"Lancer!" Napoleon cried, his face sweating exactly like Cu's own. "Y-You! You can hear it, right? Please tell me you can hear it too!"

Panic took place of fear. He swallowed a silent curse, clenching his fists so hard that the arms began to shake.

Fuck. Shit. Damn it.

"…yeah. I hear it too," he said.

The Archer's expression fell. Fear flooded inside his brown eyes. "S-Sacrebleu… how is this possible?" he whispered, grabbing his head with a horrified face.

"The acts of cruelty committed by Tyr grew with each passing day, until they became too much to bear. He hunted the Gods for decades. He killed them, slaughtered them, and forced them to flee and cover in fear. He even banished the ones remaining far away from humanity. He literally destroyed the Gods' kingdom and effectively put an end to their role in history for good… replacing their rule with his own, and becoming the only ruler of the planet for many years."

Lancer bit back a growl. Archer shook his head in denial.

In the end, Ireland's Child of Light cursed with a hushed breath, forcing himself to snap out of it and make the right decision according to the situation.

"Let's go to the Lord's chamber," he decided. "We need to warn him right now."

Date: June 13 2020
Underground Catacombs (Paris - France)


"Oh my God! This can't be!"

Jeanne's trembling voice echoed inside the underground chapel of the catacombs with a horrified tone. Her amethyst-colored eyes were trembling and filled with unshed tears as she fell on her knees to the floor, listening with a growing sense of fright to those words filled with scorn and hatred that continued to echo inside her mind.

"As the years passed and Tyr continued to rule over humanity, mankind eventually managed to realize the truth. The God of War who had freed them from slavery was not a liberator… but a ruthless and cruel beast, driven to fight solely by his thirst for blood. A monster who had massacred and slaughtered countless lives just for the sake of his quest for power, without restraint or repentance. And as they began to understand his true nature, slowly, humans started to grow weary of Tyr. They started to rebel against him, hoping to be freed once and for all from the grasp of such a twisted entity."

"R-R-Ruler… S-Shirou is… this cannot be…!" she sobbed, crying softly in disbelief as the tears began to flow steadily from her face.

Next to her, Amakusa Shirou was deadly quiet, keeping his head low as his white bangs covered his eyes.

The sound of Jeanne's sobbing echoed inside the chapel for what seemed to be an eternity.

"It's not true," she wept. The Maid of Orleans raised her head towards the heavens, fixing the Christian cross tied to the wall of the chapel with a teary, trembling stare. "Please, Lord! Tell me it's not true!" she begged.

The only answer she received was silence. God did not answer to her cries. Again.

Someone else did.

"Consequently, unable to endure such a monstrosity as their ruler, mankind rebelled against Tyr. They abandoned all the faith they had previously placed in him, and chased him away like a beast. As such, even though he had gathered a gigantic amount of power, Tyr realized that no matter what he did, he would never be accepted by the humans once again. His thirst for power had turned him into a cruel beast, and once he realized that, he understood that there was no place for him in the world of men anymore. He was alone, and with time… this knowledge ended up driving him crazy."

"No… no… no…"

Like a mantra, Jeanne kept sobbing and crying, denying that story with every fiber of her being. But no matter how much she wished this wasn't true, something deep inside of her was making her think the opposite. It was making her think that it was true, and that somehow, in some way she couldn't understand yet, Shirou Emiya was really the God of War… and the very same threat that loomed over the world.

Amakusa kneeled next to her, enveloping the sobbing girl into a sad, desolate hug.

"I'm sorry, Jeanne," he spoke with a dull tone of voice. "I trusted him too."

The Fair Maiden closed her eyes, crying her heart out under her God's silent but watchful eye.

Date: June 13 2020
Location: Vatican City (Rome - Italy)


"…listen, you two. Can you please stop acting like a pair of retarded children and explain to me what the hell is happening?"

Caren Hortensia stated her annoyed question for the umpteenth time, her voice tinged with a tiny, barely even noticeable note of frustration. At this point, her right eyebrow was visibly twitching in exasperation as she stared at the scene, and her golden eyes were cold – way colder than usual – as she kept her gaze pointedly glued to the Servants who were supposed to serve as her bodyguards for the day.

Said bodyguards who, for at least three minutes now, had started screaming and shouting in surprise out of nowhere, their expressions morphed in shock and their bodies bouncing around like little children unable to stay still.

"Unbelievable!" Nero was staring at her hands, her fingers trembling slightly as her face assumed a very pale, very stunned expression of shock and horror that not even Caren was able to fully decipher. "Absolutely unbelievable! T-This is madness! I refuse to believe such an absurd thing!"

Even the tall and muscular Romulus was paling and sweating with a perplexed face. "This… This is not… Rome?" he muttered, astonished.

Caren donned a hand over her face. 'Good grief. I'm surrounded by idiots,' she inwardly sighed.

Unbeknownst to her, however, Romulus and Nero were having a revelation. A very sudden and very shocking one, at that. A revelation that would have left her baffled too, if only she had been a Servant.

"In the end, Tyr ended up alone. Alone, inside the world he himself had freed only to then enslave it a second time. And thus, without support from either the Gods or men, when he realized that there was nowhere he could belong anymore, he decided to put an end to his life. Guided by his madness or maybe by his overwhelming guilt, he decided to put an end to his miserable life… and he committed suicide. He died by his own hand during a night of lunar eclipse, leaving the world of mortals and thus freeing mankind from the yoke of slavery once and for all."

Nero was shaking her head, shedding tears from her face with a devastated expression. "P-Praetor is… Praetor is… I-I can't believe it!" she sniffled, unable to hold inside her emotions anymore. She exploded into a sobbing fit, crying and wailing like a child who had been hurt and betrayed by the closest person to her.

"By Rome… how can this be?" Romulus muttered as well, taking a seat on the floor and crossing his arms with a weary face.

No matter how long they tried to ponder about this, no matter how hard they tried to find a reasonable explanation, there was nothing the two Roman Servants could come up with to deny that shocking revelation.

And the voice kept speaking and talking inside the two Heroes' head, filling them with a sense of dread and helplessness that they had never experienced before this day.

"But his suicide ended in failure. Even though he tried to kill himself, in the end Tyr failed in his attempt. Due to his nature and the gigantic amount of power he had obtained throughout the years, he didn't die after his final Ritual of death, as he had hoped to do. Instead, he was simply brought to the Other Side of the World, finding himself on the opposite plane of reality. He had been banished away from the Real Side of the World, just like the Gods he himself had exiled before, and in doing so he lost all the powers and all the strength he had gained during his life. As such, he found himself forced to live without powers, banished because all of humanity couldn't accept him anymore."

Romulus donned a hand on his face. Nero wailed with immeasurable pain.

Meanwhile, Caren Hortensia observed her Servants with an analytical face. And in seeing the pain inside the two Heroes' gaze, her eyes shone with a small twinge of worry for the first time ever since she had met them a month ago.

Date: June 13 2020
: Ruins of Luxor Temple – East bank of the Nile River (Luxor - Egypt)


The sandstorm had finally stopped. The city had been destroyed completely.

Silence and death echoed amid the ruined city, while the rumble of the all-devouring wind continued to echo around the empty streets. Not even one person could be found within that desolation. Not even a single soul could be seen in the middle of the devastated city. Nothing and no one had managed to survive, not even the bodies. The sandstorm fueled by the Avenger had swept away everything, killing every inhabitant and emptying the city of Luxor completely.

Still, none of that mattered to the Assassin and the Berserker, who kept staring at that sight of ruin with two pairs of emotionless eyes.

"Of course, as a result, he grew resentful. Tyr grew more and more resentful towards the humans with each passing day; and with time… his anger and hate became too strong to withhold. He began to thirst for vengeance, and he swore to execute revenge against the humanity that had turned its back on him."

Morgan le Fay hummed with a cold tone. A clear flicker of amusement crossed her face as she listened to the voice speaking inside her head.

"Well… it seems everything went according to plan," she commented, placing an elegant hand on her hip. A satisfied expression made its way on her beautiful face as she glanced at the Counter Guardian sideways. "If our 'dear leader' is finally making her move, then the Avenger must have fulfilled his role, for once. How surprising."

The hooded Assassin glanced back at her, unamused by her words. "You had doubts?"

She merely snorted in response.

"And now, after all this time, he has finally made his move again. Without me knowing, he took advantage of the Ritual I have created, and forced his way into the summoning system. As a result, he has managed to return to the Real Side, manifesting himself as a Ruler class Servant. Now, at this very same moment, he's actively pursuing the Grail in order to exact his revenge… and that is something I cannot accept. I cannot allow such an evil and treacherous creature to ruin the Ritual, nor to put his hands on the Grail. I'm sure you can all understand what would happen if he were to obtain its powers and fulfill his wish."

"Still, I have to admit that I'm a bit surprised," Berserker mused again, crossing her arms with a veiled smile. She moved a strand of white hair with a haughty movement, turning her eyes to stare at the devastation surrounding them both. "This is the longest I've ever heard her speak so far. That woman should really learn to loosen up a bit… don't you agree, Assassin?"

Counter Guardian EMIYA didn't answer to her sarcastic question, keeping his narrowed eyes glued to the destroyed city of Luxor.

. . . . . . . .


Artoria gritted her teeth, feeling her panic grow exponentially with each passing second. The more the voice continued to speak inside of her head, the more this restless feeling was growing inside. And she wasn't the only one. The King of Knights didn't even need to look at them to know that Mordred, her Knights, and even the King of Conquerors were sharing her exact same emotions right now. The fear and concern oozing off from their frame was simply too great to be ignored.

Fear and horror drenched the air like a fog. One could cut the tension with a knife.

"However, in order to stop him, things must take a change at once. I alone don't stand a chance against Tyr, even now that he's disguised himself as Shirou Emiya. That is why I've decided to change things a bit, and I need your help to see this through. I need your help to stop his quest before it's too late."

"Bullshit! That's absolute bullshit!" Mordred spat, snapping her head back towards the Avenger. The evil-looking twin of Shirou was looking at her – at them – with an amused expression. "Who is she? Why is she saying all this crap? Answer me!" she raged.

Unfortunately, the only answer she received was a mad, uncontrollable laughter. "Keheheh… who knows? That is for you to guess, if you can," he replied, sarcastic and amused like never before. The way he shrugged without a care under the group's unanimous glare was very, very unnerving to see.

Within his unrelenting grasp, Shirou's face twitched a bit, and he spat a bit of blood from his lips despite his unconscious state. The cruel Avenger tapped him in the chest with the tip of Rhongomyniad.

Artoria felt her concern grew at the sight. She pointed Excalibur at the enemy with trembling arms. "Why are you doing this?" she asked, her voice trembling and filled with tension. "Shirou is already beaten! You defeated him! There is no need to go this far!" she yelled.

Her question was legit. After all, she wasn't stupid. No one amid their group was. They had all realized what was happening right now. They had all understood why that voice was telling them all of this. And the truth behind the current situation, the real truth behind all that speech... it was not a positive one.

Because it wasn't true. That speech, the reveal of Tyr's past, the words spoken by the mysterious woman… all of it and all of that, it was not true. It was just an illusion. A scheme. A cruel, elaborate trick aimed to strike down Shirou and destroy his reputation on a global scale. Artoria and the others realized it immediately, despite knowing little to nothing about the Ruler and his past as the God of War. They just knew it as a fact, as a foregone conclusion.

After all, there was just no way it could be true. The Shirou they knew was a kind and gentle soul. A strong and reliable man who had never hesitated to help others in spite of the odds, even if by doing so he had to put himself in danger. As such, there was no way he could ever be such a cruel and horrible monster, as the voice was obviously implying. There was no way in hell. Even if there was a bit of truth inside that story – and that was a very, very big IF – some parts of that tale just HAD to be distorted in some way. It was simply impossible to believe for them.

Therefore, the current situation was extremely clear for Artoria. She had started to have some suspicions from quite a long while now. And the truth behind this situation was now starting to become clearer the more she listened to the voice.

"So heed my words, you who seek the Grail. From this day on, anyone who will encounter Tyr or someone affiliated with him, will be entrusted with a significant quest. A quest that will change the course of this conflict, and that could bring you all closer to the victory. A new task of paramount importance, which if completed, it will surely allow you to make your dream come true at last."

Yes, there was no doubt about it. The King of Knights was extremely sure of it.

Whoever this woman was, she was doing this for a reason. She was saying all those things for a very specific purpose.

To take down Shirou in every possible way, and render him powerless no matter where he went.

There was no doubt about it. Artoria was ready to bet on this.

The goal of this speech was to make Shirou an enemy of the world, destroying his reputation on a global scale.

Just as expected, Iskandar and Ozymandias realized this fact as quickly as she had done. The two Kings frowned in tension as they glared the evil-looking Avenger, fixing his face so similar to Shirou's with a very hard stare.

"I see… I understand now," the Sun King mused with a serious voice. His sharp, royal eyes of gold narrowed into a suspicious frown as he glowered at the Avenger with newfound realization. "So that's how it is. This was your plan all along."

As if to confirm his suspicions, the mysterious voice spoke once more.

"From this day on, anyone who will manage to defeat the God of War will immediately be recognized as the victor of the Holy Grail War."

The woman declared those words as if it were the law of God himself, deadly serious. Her sudden and resolute statement made many among the group gasp in surprise, while the two Kings and the Pharaoh just gritted their teeth as their suspicions were proved to be true in the end.

"…what?" Mordred breathed, unable to believe what she was hearing.

"Brave Heroes, whichever of you will be able to defeat Tyr and take his life, they will be appointed as the true winner of the conflict. As such, they will be granted the honor of reaching the Holy Grail before anyone else, and make a wish upon making contact with it."

That sudden declaration was met with horror on the group's side. Artoria and the others were visibly seething in rage.

"Why are you doing this?" the King of Conquerors demanded. "The boy is already beaten. There is no need to go through this farce."

Angra Mainyu just smirked bemusedly at the muscular Rider's question. "No need? Quite the contrary, in fact. This is extremely necessary," he countered, deadly serious. Mordred, Iskandar and the others widened their eyes under his cruel and twisted smirk. "As I've said, Tyr is needed for our plan. And in order for said plan to work, we need to create a suitable scenario. That's all there is to it."

Then, he turned to the Ruler again, bringing his face closer to his with a twisted and crazed expression. "I told you, brother. My one and only wish is to see you BREAK!" he hissed to him, completely uncaring of the fact that he could not hear him.

Luviagelita was growing more scared and confused than ever, at this point. "H-Hey, can someone please explain to me what is happening? What's going on with you guys?" she asked, unable to understand.

"…my apologies, Miss Luvia. We will answer to your questions, but later. This is no time to talk," Gawain replied to her, suddenly looking very determined for some reason.

Mordred snarled with a furious expression. "Yeah… we don't have time to waste," she spat, her emerald eyes glowing with an enormous amount of hatred as she took a step forward, pointing her sword Clarent to the enemy. "We need to bring Ruler back before it's too late. At this rate… he will―"

Before she could even finish, however, the voice inside their head spoke again with an emotionless tone.

"That is the quest I shall entrust upon your shoulders, you who seek the Grail. Tyr is a formidable enemy, even under his guise as Shirou Emiya, but I am confident that you brave Heroes will not disappoint me. He still hasn't recovered his previous powers, after all, and his current strength is far from the one he originally had in life. Therefore, if we wish to stop him before it's too late, this is the right moment to strike. Complete this quest for me, and I will reward you accordingly."

Mordred and Iskandar clenched their fists. Artoria and the Knights growled in rage.

Ozymandias and Nitocris exchanged a glance. Luviagelita gulped in tension.

"Defeat the God of War, and your most important wish will come true at last. The Grail will grant your inner desire."

The voice paused momentarily, giving to them and to all the Heroes who were listening to her, a moment to absorb those words.

"Good luck to you all, brave Heroes who seek the Grail."

Then, as silently as it had appeared, the voice vanished without a trace. And silence returned to reign inside their minds once more.

With that statement having been said, the voice and the mysterious woman's presence disappeared out of the blue, as if they had never existed in the first place. Everyone snapped back to reality once those words were gone from their heads, staring at the world with a sweating complexion.

Silence returned to reign, with no one willing to break it.

No one, except for the Avenger.

"Sooo…? How was it?" Angra Mainyu demanded, fixing each and every member of the group with a cheerful grin. "What do you think? The future is looking interesting to say the least. Pretty exciting, isn't it?"

The only answer he received was dead silence, along with stunned looks filled with shock and anger in equal measure.

However, seeing their paralyzed expressions, the evil-looking Shirou wasted no time, making his move before any of them could even recollect themselves from the shock.

With a snap of his fingers, Angra Mainyu did something unexpected. Something that none of them was expecting at all, not even amid their shock or in their wildest dreams.

He summoned a portal.

A black, blurred portal of dark energy appeared out of nowhere. A veritable 'door' made of darkness and prana, leading into the unknown and similar in both shape and color to the Shadow that the Avenger had previously revealed himself with. Everyone tensed and widened their eyes upon seeing that impossible sight, and their hearts began to burst with anxiety when they saw the dark-skinned Servant taking a step towards that door, dragging the Ruler's body with him all the while.

And then, faster than a man could blink, he tossed Shirou inside the portal with a fast, resolute movement; making him disappear amid that cloud of pure darkness. Then, not even a moment later, the 'door' disappeared as well, snapping out of existence without making a single sound.

Everyone gasped in fear, while horror and dread began shaking their core on a very deep level. From that day forward, after witnessing to that scene, the sight of Shirou's bloodied frame disappearing inside the portal would forever remain glued inside the stunned Servants' minds, rendering them unable to forget that scene.

Their eyes widened out of human proportions. Their hearts clenched in horror and fear.

And then, just as expected, someone reacted with an ear-splitting cry.


Artoria's shout echoed throughout the desert. As soon as the Ruler disappeared, the King of Knights snarled in outrage, taking a step forward with an expression of absolute fury. She was about to launch herself against that accursed Avenger – similarly to Mordred, who was already following her in that reckless assault – but she was suddenly stopped when Gawain grabbed her shoulder with a powerful grip, keeping her still with a worried face. Next to her, Bedivere did the same with Mordred, stopping the two Sabers before they could do something brash.

Father and son widened their eyes, staring at the scene with a growing sense of dread.

Silence and anxiety flooded the air. The tension was so thick they could cut it with a knife.

Angra Mainyu turned to them, fixing the group with a bored expression. "Relax, will you? I didn't kill him," he said with an exasperated sigh, placing Rhongomyniad on his shoulder as if it were a baseball bat. His expression turned amused under all of their combined glares. "But this was necessary in order to save him, you know. He was pretty much on the verge of death, and since I'm a being of darkness, I don't possess the power to heal anyone, unfortunately. He wouldn't have survived if I had kept him here."

That explanation did nothing to assuage their worry. "You bastard! Where did you take him?!" Mordred roared, furious and mad like a frenzied beast.

The doppelganger shrugged. "Again with more questions... you guys just never learn, do you?" he sighed with disappointment, shaking his own head. He decided to relent seeing their desperate expressions. "Let's just say I brought him to safety, for now. He needs treatment, and there's only one person I know who's able to cheat death and save someone from a certain demise... so I've sent him to him. I'm sure that fake priest will be able to patch him up, somehow."

Doubts, worry and concern drenched the air like a fog. Iskandar, Mordred and the others were literally shaking due to the tension and worry.

"What are you talking about? Who did you send him to? Who is this fake priest?!" Mordred demanded in a frantic voice, unable to calm down.

"Hey now, I can't give you all the answers. That wouldn't be fun," Angra Mainyu retorted, sarcastic. His eyes flashed with malice as he smirked mischievously at them. "I think I'll enjoy watching your struggles from now on. Besides, I think it's time for me to take my leave. I've already got what I wanted, and I don't have all day, unfortunately. My job here is over."

"You got what you wanted…?" Luvia repeated, confused.

The evil Avenger just smirked at them, patting the Hole Lance Rhongomyniad with a gentle movement of his left hand.

Artoria shuddered, ignoring the sinking feeling that was growing at the pitch of her stomach. She swallowed her fears under the mad Servant's smirk, fixing that face so similar to Shirou's with a nervous gaze. "M-My Spear," she stuttered, feeling something dark and horrifying flashing inside her mind. Whatever he was planning to do with that weapon, it couldn't be good. It couldn't be good at all. "What will you do with my Spear?"

She didn't like this. She didn't like this one bit.

On his part, Angra Mainyu just ignored her completely, keeping his mad, twisted eyes glued to the Holy Lance's shaft.

"ANSWER US, YOU FREAK!" Ozymandias bellowed soon after the King of Knights. Nitocris was visibly sweating in fear next to the Pharaoh, readying her scepter in case that mad monster decided to attack. "What will you do with that weapon?" he demanded.

Again, he didn't answer. The Avenger offered no reply to their doubts and questions, not even in front of the Pharaoh's outrage. Instead, he did something unexpected. He placed the Lance above his left shoulder, and with a snap of his fingers, he opened a second portal made of energy and darkness.

Everyone gasped and held their breaths. Iskandar, Mordred and Artoria stared with wide eyes…

…as the Servant who embodied All the World's Evil tossed Rhongomyniad inside the portal, making the Spear – just like the Ruler before it – vanish in less than a single second.

Then, the portal disappeared, snapping out of existence without making a single sound.

This time, however, the reaction was immediate.

"You fool!"

Ozymandias wasted no time. With a swing of his scepter, the flying boat Mesektet roused to life once more, taking action now that the Avenger had been rendered weaponless and without a hostage. Under the Pharaoh's mental command, it fired a ray of laser against the dark-looking Avenger, who avoided it swiftly by side-stepping to the right. But that was what he had foreseen, unbeknownst to Angra Mainyu. The previous attack had been just a distraction.

In fact, just as the laser passed him through, Artoria, Mordred and the Knights dashed forward at the same time, leaping at the enemy with an incredible speed and raising their swords into a horizontal slash; ready to cut him down with that combined attack.

Yet, once more, Angra Mainyu just laughed at their attempt.

With a cruel and mocking grin, the Avenger blurred out of sight, disappearing completely right in front of their own eyes. Clarent, Excalibur, Galatine and the Airgetlám slammed against the sand, slashing nothing but air as the target blurred out of sight before any of those attacks could even have a chance to reach him.

Artoria and the Knights widened their eyes, rounding to the left with an expression filled with frustration.

Angra Mainyu reappeared on the other side of the clearing, fixing the group with a cruel, twisted smile.

"Well, this was fun," he waved them off with a sarcastic tone. "But I gotta go now. Do your best from now on. I'm counting on you guys."

Everyone widened their eyes. Artoria stretched one hand forwards.


Too late.

"See ya, folks!"

Having said his parting words, Avenger disappeared once again, blurring out of sight without making a single noise.

Seconds passed, followed by silence. When the Avenger disappeared, everyone fell into a tense silence, and the world remained quiet and still as if it were waiting for something. The air grew thick with helplessness and frustration, while Luvia and many others remained paralyzed in shock. The wind blowing through the destroyed site reigned supreme, becoming the only sound amid that vision of ruin.

Defeat, helplessness and tension drenched the air. Fear, uneasiness and sadness assaulted their hearts.

Mordred fell on her knees, slamming a punch on the sand with a bellowing cry of anger.

Artoria watched her in defeat, feeling both ashamed and worried as her rebel son began to break into a sobbing fit.

Ozymandias closed his eyes, dismissing his anger with a weary breath. Not even someone as prideful and arrogant as he could help but feel deeply defeated after that pathetic display. Next to him, the others fared no better. Iskandar had lowered his gaze with a scowl, clenching his fists in overwhelming frustration. The Knights of the Round Table were visibly saddened by the sad outcome of this situation, and even Nitocris was sighing in defeat, trying to offer some comfort to Luvia who was trembling even still. Words and sentences could not fully describe the feeling of defeat they were experiencing right now. There were simply no words that could ever hope to explain the emotions raging and trashing inside their shaken core.

Because today had been a very horrible day. It had been a tragic, and horrifying, and sad experience for all of them, and for a lot of different reasons.

First of all: Shirou had been defeated. He had been taken away by the Avenger, disappearing without a trace. He had been kidnapped by the enemy, right after the reveal of his identity as Tyr.

Secondly: Rhongomyniad had been stolen as well, disappearing inside a portal towards an unknown destination. And now, because of that, the whole group had been left without both Add and the Holy Spear altogether.

Third: the Avenger had managed to escape. He had successfully managed to flee, killing three of their allies in the meantime and then vanishing into thin air without leaving a single trace behind. And despite the group's joined force, all of them had been defeated by him with overwhelming ease, rendering them unable to do anything.

And then, lastly: a mysterious voice had spoken to them all, revealing Shirou's secret to the world and making him a target to every Servant and every Heroic Spirit that was still roaming free around the earth.

So, to summarize… it was a difficult situation. Heck, let's face it: they were in deep shit right now.

And none of them had the slightest clue of what to do and how to react to such an overwhelming defeat.

Artoria lowered her gaze, feeling her emerald eyes begin to sting due to the sadness and frustration inside. The anxiety and worry she was experiencing right now could never be described with words alone, rendering the female King even more quiet than she usually was. All around her, her friends and companions were feeling no better, and the King of Knights listened to Mordred's angry sobs with a heavy heart and a deep sense of defeat inside her soul.

Because all of them had been defeated today. They had been defeated for a long number of reasons.

They had lost Caesar, Cleopatra and Salieri. They had lost their precious leader. They had lost their strongest member and role model, as well as their faith in him and his goal. And despite what she would usually think after a defeat, Artoria Pendragon was not sure that she and the others would be able to regain what they had lost after such an overwhelming defeat.

Everyone lowered their heads, while the full weight of the current situation finally began to grow heavy on their shoulders. And so… now, alone and defeated, Artoria and the others remained still and motionless amid that absolute silence, listening to the wind blowing around the destroyed site of Abu Simbel with loss in their hearts and sadness in their minds.

Today, the group of Servants who had traveled around the world and defeated many enemies had finally experienced their first loss.

Today was the day the group would remember as their first, real defeat.

Today was the day where the hunter became the hunted.




Ishtar isn't watching me. She's too busy playing with a lock of her raven hair, as though she's in a trance. While a glassy look glazes over her eyes, she chews on her bottom lip. Even that isn't enough, and she starts drumming her fingers on the empty table. Spacing out, again.

Sighing, I set down my glass. "You dragged me to Babylon to talk to me," I say, feeling exasperated. "Suddenly, you're not doing that anymore."

Ishtar blinks. "Oh, was I doing spacing again? Sorry."

"What were you thinking about," I ask. "That distracted you so much?"


I nearly slip out of my chair. Repressing my emotions, I try to put on a smile. It's a pale imitation, like how a shadow is only the outline and not the object itself.

"I was wondering. You said that she left you after… well, you know."

"Yes," I reply in a prickly voice. "She flew away to the horizon when the battle had finished."

"Do you think she'll ever come back?" she asks, with a tiny little voice that doesn't match her usual haughtiness.

I cross my arms with an unreadable expression. "Maybe. It's her choice. I don't think so, though."

"Why?" she asks.

"We finished our agreement," I answer. "And we don't believe in the same things anymore."

The Goddess of Love gives me a meaningful look. She shakes her head, before facing me. The wind is ruffling her hair as it blows steadily around us, and I feel my own white bangs billow under the breeze.

"Once you're a Hero of Justice, you'll always be a Hero of Justice," she says. "No matter what you claim."

She touches my hand; I whip it away from her.

"I-I think, someday, you'll see Astraea again."




Planet: Earth
Date: June 13 2020
Location: Clock Tower (London - England)


Lord El-Melloi II could not believe it, no matter how many times the others were trying to explain it to him.

No matter how absurd it was, and no matter how implausible such a thing sounded… every single fiber of his being was making him think the opposite. His cold and rational mind – as well as the detective skills he had developed in the recent years – was making him ponder every eventuality, every theory, every hypothesis; forcing him to take in consideration all the things that the two Servants standing before him now had been trying to tell him during the past ten minutes.

As expected, no matter how long he thought about it, it was still too absurd to believe.

"…how is this possible?" he sighed, donning a hand over his face in frustration. If he had to be honest with himself, he could already feel a migraine coming after receiving such a news. It was simply bound to happen, unfortunately for him.

On the other side of the room, separated by the desk placed in the middle of his office, Cu Chulainn sighed for the umpteenth time. He looked visibly tired and weary, similarly to Napoleon who was sitting next to him.

"We told you: we got no clue either," he pressed, spreading his arms behind the back of the leather chair. "The voice spoke to us through our minds, and both me and Archer heard the exact same thing. This can't just be a simple coincidence."

"Oui. Shocking as it is, this was not the first time we heard such a thing. That voice spoke to us back when we were first summoned too, as you know," the French Archer added, deadly serious.

Waver mulled over the info inside his head, again. The longer he thought about it, the more his headache was gradually increasing.

Ruler… was the God of War…?

He was actually Tyr acting behind a disguise?

How could such a thing ever be possible?

"This… This is unbelievable," he muttered, massaging his temples with a weary gesture. He unconsciously reached for a cigar inside his pocket out of habit, but he stopped himself mid-movement. "It's simply too weird. How can Ruler be the God of War? That's just… it doesn't make any sense. It's absurd!"

Lancer eyed him sideways. "What about the documents that girl from the Atlas Institute sent you? Did you read their contents?" he questioned him, arching an eyebrow.

He did. That was why he was feeling conflicted right now. Lord El-Melloi II was a teacher and a researcher of Magecraft. Therefore, as such, he considered himself a man of logic, a man who always preferred to have a clear picture of the situation before reaching a conclusion. For him, every accusation and every inquiry had to be validated by solid and concrete evidence in his mind, and without those things every theory was just a sum of words devoid of proof. That's how he always reasoned during his work and during the occasional 'cases' he had to solve in the past.

But the mail Olga Maria had sent him previously could be considered a valid proof, in this case. The fact that there was no blood record about the Ruler, along with the fact that his Alignment had been recorded as Chaotic Evil by Edison's machine… those things couldn't just mean nothing. They couldn't be a mere coincidence. Those matters were too important to be dismissed and labeled as nonsense… especially after what Lancer and Archer had told him today. There had to be a reasonable explanation for all of this.

In other words, there had to be a connection between those clues. These events had to be correlated, somehow, and he was ready to bet on this.

The black-haired Magus exhaled a breath. "Damn it. This is a huge mess," he muttered, shaking his head in helpless frustration.

Napoleon eyed him with pity. "Did you try to contact them?" he asked, seeing his frustration. The expression on the poor Lord's face answered him immediately. "I see. Still no answer, huh?"

"I tried to reach out to Ruler through my phone, but the signal went off every time. It's been almost two days now. Something must have happened to him," he reasoned.

Cu Chulainn narrowed his eyes. "What about the others, then?" he suddenly realized. "Does that mean they're in danger?"

Sadly, Waver had no answer to that. Every time he had attempted to reach out to Shirou and his companions through their shared earphones during the last two days, the connection just broke out of nowhere. Every time. That could mean that the group was in a place that had no signal, or that there was something interfering with their connection. This umpteenth hindrance could not be just a simple coincidence, either. There had to be something fishy behind this matter too.

Amid the tense silence, Napoleon crossed his arms. "Ok, fine. Let's say it's true. Let's say the voice was telling the truth. What should we do about Ruler now?" he demanded, looking at both Lancer and Waver straight in the eyes.

The only answer he received was dead silence, followed by a sigh on Lancer's part.

That… was a valid question. An inevitable one at that, too.

If the voce that had spoken to both Archer and Lancer – whoever it belonged to – was right, then it meant that the situation was a grim one. A very, very grim one indeed. If Shirou was really Tyr in disguise, if he really was the God of War and the entity threatening the world… then that meant that he had been fooling them for all this time. He had been lying to them since the very beginning, hiding his identity in order to extrapolate information out of them and learn of their plans. It was definitely not a good prospect, as well as a terrible thing too. Shirou was aware of their plans now, after all, and because of that he could try to sabotage them in some way or another.

However, on the other hand… if he was innocent, then that meant that the voice was lying. It meant that someone was targeting the Ruler for some unknown reason, and that they were trying to ruin his reputation on a global scale. Whatever the truth was, there had to be an explanation behind this fact. Lord El-Melloi II felt it inside his bones.

Unable to reach a solid conclusion, the Lord of the Clock Tower exhaled another breath. "I… don't know yet," he admitted, trying so very hard to keep his panic from escalating. The sweat running down his face was making this challenge even harder than what it was supposed to be, however. "First, we need to call Olga Marie. If you two heard that voice, then the Servants allied with Atlas must have heard it too. I want to confront Marie first before I can reach a concrete decision. This matter is of utmost importance, after all, and I cannot jump to conclusions without definite proof."

Napoleon just snorted at his words. "What more proof do you need? We already knew Ruler was shady from the start. The fact that his Alignment is Chaotic Evil is proof enough for me," he declared.

Lancer eyed him warily. "We still can't say that for sure. Ruler is – or was – an ally. He fought alongside with us several times, and he even aided the Lord's group in both France and Italy. I even recall him defending the city of Paris during an assault organized by a certain someone, too…" he interjected swiftly, staring pointedly at the Archer with a narrowed gaze. The French Emperor had the decency to lower his eyes at the not-so-subtle jab. There was nothing he could come up with to deny his mistakes. "If he's really Tyr beneath it all, then why the hell is he putting himself in danger to stop the War? Why is he defending humanity instead of taking vengeance on them?"

Waver Velvet looked at the Blue Lancer seriously. "Are you saying that this whole matter is a trick? A twisted attempt to target Ruler for some reason? Is that what you're implying?" he demanded, suspicious.

Cu just shrugged at the questioning. "I ain't got a clue about that. But it would be foolish of us not to take every hypothesis into consideration. Better be safe than sorry, after all," he replied, unfazed by the tension hovering inside the office.

For once, Lord El-Melloi II couldn't help but agree with him on that regard. Once more, his mind went back to the documents Olga Marie had sent to him a few days prior, and the Lord of Clock Tower felt all his doubts and all his uncertainties grow in spite of his rational mind. It was simply natural for him to feel this way. Learning that a trusted ally – an ally who also was a Ruler, the strongest Servant sent to oversee the Holy Grail War – could be a potential liar and (more importantly) a threat to the whole planet was certainly a hard pill to digest. No one could remain unfazed by this.

Because this matter was making him question all the things he knew about Shirou Emiya and his previous experiences with him. What about their talk in Vatican City, then? What about his role in stopping the Burial Church? If Shirou was the God of War, then what was the reason behind all those events? Why was he openly aiding them in such a weird way? Was this just a trick? A cruel, twisted attempt to gain their trust in order to stab them in the back at a later time?

Besides, what about his peculiar reaction during the talk with Caren Hortensia, then? Was his odd behavior really related to these facts? To him being none other than Tyr? Was that something he had to consider too? And then, apart from this, what was the reason that led the Ruler to join King Arthur and the others? What was the goal behind his quest to stop the Holy Grail War?

What was the reason behind all of this?

It was too much. Way too much for him to comprehend. Too many questions remained unanswered after being confronted with this truth; and sadly for them all, Waver had no answer to all those questions.

He exhaled a long, weary breath. This whole matter was making him restless. More restless than what he would have liked to admit.

However, in that exact same moment, something happened.

Before Lord El-Melloi II could open his mouth to speak again, the door of his office was slammed open all of a sudden, making Waver and the Servants turn towards it with wide eyes.

Gray stepped inside the room. Her face was pale, her hands were trembling, and her eyes were filled with unshed tears for some reason. The black-haired Lord noticed it immediately, making his heartbeat increase in worry. As soon as he saw her, his mind blanked and became empty for some reason.

The young girl's following words managed to shake him to the core with a very bad feeling.

"T-Teacher!" the hooded girl cried. Her voice was trembling, filled with worry and fear mixed together. "I-It's Rin! Something's wrong with Rin! The doctors are calling us; they want you to check on her condition!"

Waver widened his eyes, feeling the air disappear from his lungs.

What happened next, it happened in a blur for him. The Lord of the Clock Tower wasted no time upon hearing Rin's name and realizing something was wrong with his student. He left the office with a hurried pace and a troubled expression, followed closely by Gray, Lancer and Archer all the while. Together, the four of them sprinted through the corridors of the Clock Tower, running at maximum speed, ignoring everything and everyone and heading straight in direction of the Infirmary with a frantic and hasty pace.

Then, once they were there, they burst inside the room where Rin was currently being hospitalized, pushing through every doctor and every nurse who tried to stop them.

And once they were inside, their eyes widened out of human proportions.

The sight that greeted their vision would forever be engraved inside the Lord's stunned mind.

Waver Velvet widened his eyes. Gray and Lancer gasped in disbelief.

Napoleon gaped with an incredulous expression. "Mon Dieu… how is this possible?" he whispered.

Because, much to their shock and disbelief, Rin Tohsaka was awake and alive―

―and she was literally floating in the air right in front of their eyes.

Everyone gawked in stunned disbelief.

"Hmm… so this is how it feels to possess a human body," Rin mused with a chill tone, fixing her body with an analytical look. Her legs dangled in the air as she floated like a balloon. "Honestly, it's way less exciting than how I thought it would be."

Waver, Gray and the Servants could not believe their eyes. "R-R-RIN?!" the poor Lord stuttered, unable to form any coherent sentence.

The girl with raven hair turned to the group, fixing the four of them with a cold, unreadable stare. And when her face turned to face them fully, Lord El-Melloi and the others realized something. Her eyes looked different. They were different, in fact. They were no longer blue, like the girl used to possess them before.

Instead, they were red, like the color of the blood.

"Rin… you say?" she mused, mulling over that name as if it felt foreign to her. Something warm and bright flashed inside her crimson orbs. "I see. That must be the name of this vessel," the young girl who was floating in the air exclaimed in excitement. Her crimson-blood gaze seemed to glow as she stared at them in what seemed to be a look of superiority. "How amusing. This is going to be interesting indeed."

Again, the others did not understand. They could not understand, given the circumstances.

"W-Who are you?" Cu Chulainn demanded, having detected that something was wrong.

The girl with raven hair just smirked amusedly. "Listen well, mortals of the Real Side. My name is Ishtar, the Goddess of Venus!" she declared, introducing herself with a haughty posture. Her voice was waspish and pedantic, exactly like the one Rin used to show all the time during her introductions. "I have come to this place and possessed this girl's body, for I have a very important task to complete. And I shall need your help to see this through."

Everyone stared with wide eyes, unable to believe to what they were witnessing.

"…w-what?!" Lord El-Melloi whispered.

The Goddess of Venus smirked mischievously, fixing the world with a challenging stare.

"I need your help to find a man called Shirou. I'm sure you're aware of who I'm talking about."

-Arc V-




Taken from the notes of Alaya

Subject: Tyr [-Shirou Emiya-], #1 among the Ancestral Heroes

Alias: God of War, Humanity's Liberator, Grand Hero, God-Slayer, First Hero of Humanity


There is one more thing about the Avenger that must be addressed before returning to focus on Shirou. After all, just like his creator, the King of Daemons is an extremely complex being, and it's almost impossible to describe and catalog every detail about his nature within these notes. Even for a being like me, who has transcended beyond life and death due to my role as the "Will of Humanity", gathering data about the Avenger has proved to be a challenge to overcome. The aid of the [COUNTER FORCE] did little to ease my work.

As I've already stated in the previous note, Angra Mainyu possesses no personality and no appearance of his own. It is only by possessing others that he is able to acquire a real physical form. But taking aside his odd resemblance to Shirou in both appearance and mindset when he is not possessing a host - which is due to the correlation between the two, as I've thoroughly explained before - his shapeless condition has rendered him ambiguous. More specifically: it has made him elusive, in a very twisted and distorted way.

Since he is nothingness itself and does not possess a "true" appearance, he is a being that cannot possess any strength of his own. Despite being worshipped as a God of Darkness in life and considered to be the embodiment of All the Evils of the World, he did not gain any unique abilities as a Hero other than becoming free from the laws of the natural order due to having his name stricken from the [ERROR – DATA CORRUPTED]. However, the quality of his original being is not enough to be able to truly make him a Heroic Spirit. In fact, if he were to be summoned as a Servant, I fully believe that he would be powerless. He does not possess any strength of his own, nor any Noble Phantasms despite being the Second Hero of Humanity. In life, he was just a regular human, and after his death his soul has become a cluster of Curses and Evils… but that is not enough to render him a "true" Heroic Spirit.

The only reason he was able to become a Heroic Spirit in the first place was because others wanted him to become one. He fulfilled the wishes piled upon him by the humans, and in doing so he truly became All the World's Evils. Yet, even in spite of that, he remained extremely weak. He does not possess any strength or power, nor a Noble Phantasm of his own, for he is just a man who was turned into a Hero because of humanity's wish. Consequently, it is safe to assume that he is the weakest and most useless Heroic Spirit ever recorded inside the Throne; and if he truly were to be summoned as a Servant, he would be considered garbage at most. He does not possess the strength and skills to face other Heroes in battle, and he would probably be defeated with ease no matter what kind of foe he ends up to face.

In a way… I find this ironic, somehow. Shirou was considered the strongest Hero that has ever existed during his lifetime as Tyr, so it is only natural for his counter-part, the Anti-Hero Angra Mainyu, to become the weakest one instead. The two of them are connected, after all. And even though I wasn't able to fully unfold the bond tying them together, it is undeniable that both the Avenger and Tyr share some kind of analogy with each other. If they were to meet each other in real life - which is absolutely impossible, in my personal opinion; since such a meeting would surely escalate to a catastrophic event - they would probably realize this themselves. Unfortunately, however, there is no way to know for sure. It is just a speculation, after all.

Still, sometimes I find myself wondering. What would actually happen if the God of War and the King of Daemons were to meet each other for real? How would that meeting unfold? Surely, Shirou would find the Avenger's existence an affront to his work. Another cruel, silent reminder of all the mistakes he had done during his life. Angra Mainyu is the consequence of his actions, for humanity was never the same once the concept of War had been engraved within their hearts and souls. Despite that, however, I'm sure that the Grand Hero would have no trouble in dealing with him. There is no way for the weakest Heroic Spirit to match the strength of the First Hero of Humanity.

Of that, I am absolutely sure.


Hi guys. I hope you're all good and healthy. You thought I was dead? Well, not yet, luckily for me XD.

First of all, allow me to apologize for the long period of pause. I am well aware of the fact that this story (and Fate: Break Dawn as well) hasn't been updated in a very long time; and I apologize for that. As of now, I can honestly reveal to you all that this year has been the worst year I have ever experienced in my life by far – for a long number of reasons – and as a consequence of this, in the past months it has been really difficult for me to find some peace of mind and concentrate on writing. I won't go in too much details, but I can say that during these months I've been through some personal loss, I had to completely modify my job schedule, I had to deal with some health issues regarding my family (which are yet to be resolved completely, unfortunately), and I had to face a lot of tough decisions in general. So… yeah, this year has been very hard, and it has taken a huge toll on me. I certainly hope to never go through anything similar to that again.

So, please, I ask of you to forgive me for the forced hiatus period. I had no choice, and real life matters take priority over fanfics and stories. Now, having said that, let's dig in into some needed clarifications.


1) - Since it's been a while since this story was updated, if you're interested, I suggest you guys go refresh some things that you might have forgotten by re-reading the previous chapters. All the information you need to know about Angra Mainyu and his nature in my fic are explained in the various Codex of the last four chapters (basically, the whole V arc), so I suggest you go read them if you have questions about the Avenger. Many things are already explained and/or hinted there. And yes, in case you were wondering, Shirou had absolutely no idea of his existence. This was also explained in the last Interlude, during the talk between Alaya and Ado Edem.

2) - This chapter is the longest one I've ever wrote. In my original plans, the events unfolding here were supposed to be divided in 2 separate chapters, but after this long period of pause, I felt like you guys deserved something more consistent to repay you for your wait and patience. I probably – if not surely – won't write something this long ever again, but it has been a pretty fun challenge, despite the fatigue. Actually, from now on, I will probably reduce the length of the next chapters, because writing long chapters has become extremely tiring for me, and I don't want to make you guys wait too much. Therefore, from now on, I will probably make the chapters shorter than usual, even if this means that I'll have to prolong the future Arcs. I think it's a fair compromise, arrived at this point XD.

3) - As you guys may have noticed; in this Codex it is stated that the Avenger is supposed to be the weakest Hero of the Throne. Yet, for some unknown reason, in this chapter he basically wipes the floor and defeats Shirou (and the others) with extreme ease and almost no effort at all. How is this possible? What is the meaning of this?

Well, there's obviously an explanation behind this matter, and it will be revealed in the future. However, I can tell you that the answer to this question is already hinted in the various chapters of the 5th Arc, so you should be able to guess the truth if you were careful enough during the read. I cannot spoil it directly, but rest assured that there's a reason, and it's already been showed a bit in this Arc.

4) - At last, we've finally reached the event that many readers were waiting for: the reveal of Shirou's real identity to Mordred, Iskandar and the rest of their group. At long last, it has been done. I can honestly say to you all that the events of this chapter have been planned for a very long time. I had this whole chapter in my head for almost a whole, freaking year, guys… and I am SO GLAD that I was finally able to publish it at last. I had this scene buzzing in my head for a very long time, and I'm happy that the reveal has finally been showed once and for all. I did say many times in the past that I had a very specific event planned for this scene… so, here we go. I bet you guys didn't expect the reveal to be a world-wide announcement, huh? Shirou is in for a very tough ride from now on… and that was the plan all along. I DID tell you guys during the course of this story that I wanted him to struggle more as the plot progressed, so… here we go. I hope I was able to make that scene engaging to you.

Also, a small question to you all: the voice… who do you think it belongs to? Who's the entity who spoke to our Servants? It's pretty important for the plot, but like everything else, it will be revealed in due time.

5) - Ishtar finally made her appearance. At long last. She's going to be extremely important for the story, and I have a lot of fun things planned for her character. The whimsical Goddess is gonna change things quite a bit, let me tell you. It's simply impossible for her to sit still when something big is happening, so I hope you'll look forward to it. I really hope I'll be able to intrigue you with what I have in mind.

6) - Another thing: the past romance about Astraea and Shirou. As I've already explained in a previous note, the relationship between those two was hinted and foreshadowed ever since the Codex of Chapter 13 – Arc III. But rest assured: while this matter will eventually have some consequences in the plot, it's not going to be a major story point, EVER. I am not planning to create some useless drama or complicate things between Artoria and Shirou just because the latter had a relationship in the past. His experience with Astraea will have some consequences, no doubt – just like Artoria's fake marriage with Guinevere had some consequences on her too – but it won't be anything too major. The Shirou/Artoria pairing will remain the same no matter what, so you can rest easy on this.

7) - Ozymandias' flying boat, Mesektet, is the real reason why the Pharaoh is a Rider class Servant, according to the wiki. Despite that, it has never been showed in any canon work so far, so I took the liberty to create my own version of it. I did try to remain faithful to the info I was able to gather, but since there is no official reveal of the boat in any canonical work, there's really no way to tell what could actually be canon or not. That's why, since it's not a real boat but a magical vessel, I made it so that it cannot be destroyed in my fic. A magic ship is not a real object or a concrete physical Phantasm like Excalibur or the Flying Temple… therefore, it can be summoned countless times even after being destroyed. That's how I see it, at least. I just wanted to point this out to be completely honest with you.

8) - Oh, one last thing: in case you were wondering… yes, there is a reason why the Avenger was immune to every attack in this chapter. There's a reason why the Noble Phantasms didn't work on him, absurd as it was. The matter behind this mystery has already been hinted in the story as well, but it will be thoroughly explained better in the future, obviously. So rest assured: we will get our answers, even if some of them are already hinted in the previous chapters.

Welp, that's pretty much all I wanted to say. A lot of things happened in this update, and just as I promised in the previous notes, things were pretty hectic for everyone. Now, Shirou's group has been divided for the very first time ever since its foundation, and this will have consequences in the plot, both for Shirou and his companions. Just like Tyr's reveal to the world, of course. Man, Shirou's not gonna like that. I hope you'll look forward to it :)

Next Arc: Japan. Things are going to be harder for our heroes from now on, and we'll meet some pretty interesting characters too, in the future. I am certainly looking forward to show a certain "fake priest" to you all… so I'll do my best to make the plot interesting. Let's just hope the group won't have to disband for the time being XD.

In case I've missed some, as always, please forgive me for any eventual misspellings and grammar mistakes. If you point them out to me, I will correct them as soon as I can.

See you next time.

Just a small extra that I couldn't get out of my head while writing this chapter.
This is canon to me, by the way.


Shirou widened his eyes, feeling the horror grow at the Avenger's unexpected words.

The glare his evil-looking twin sent him was absolutely appalling. "I told you, didn't I? I don't want to kill you… I want to BREAK you!" he spat.

Before he could elaborate further, however, something unexpected happened.

Angra Mainyu arched a brow, turning around with a lightning-fast speed. "Huh?"


It happened faster than a man could blink.

Before the Avenger could even open his mouth to talk, a powerful cry echoed all of a sudden, right before his body was struck by a fast, extremely fast... road roller? What the hell?

Anyway, the truck crashed on him with a bellowing blast of energy, making the Avenger scream in horror and pain.

Shirou raised his head from the sand, staring at the scene with an incredulous gaze.

"Well… I guess the Pharaoh… really is… a Rider class Servant," he muttered as he passed out.

Ozymandias just laughed at his face, mocking the stunned Avenger with a huge, toothy grin.