Together with House-Husband, Part 2, Chapter 47 – Enemy.
Archer rushed towards Emiya Kiritsugu like a bolt of lightning. The gray figure before him could not completely control the recoil, even with sorcery, and he gasped from the powerful kick of the weapon. It lasted a moment- but for a battle between magicians, it was all that was necessary.
Power was based on action and reaction. The greater the power employed, the greater the recoil. This was basic science.
Innate Time Control captured the first move with its absolute speed, and slew the enemy with overwhelming power. That power would smash any shield, and therefore there was no avoiding the skill of the operator. In short, it was an arrow of certain death impossible to defend against or predict completely- a form of sorcery that surpassed human ability and approached the realm of the divine.
But that was why. In a human body, releasing power not meant for the human body to channel meant creating… A large break.
For a user of small arms wherein firing a second arrow was impossible, it was a fatal weak point. For a human body, mustering the overwhelming energy to destroy something on the level of a Ghost Liner* was impossible.
Archer and Kiritsugu were essentially one and the same. Their battle had always been based on strategy and tactics, and to win they could not expose their own bodies to the enemy. Something that used an arrow fought at the range of an arrow; it was natural. As both had chosen the bow to battle, regardless of the what weapons or offensive ability they possessed, in a close-range battle certain victory was impossible.
The Knight in Red had understood his opponent’s abilities and wagered everything to meet and surpass them. He bet it all on his sword, all to kill the ashen man he had confronted. That way was-
The light and darkness between the two diverged.
Blood gushed from both of Kiritsugu’s arms. The treasure sword Kanshou’s aim was true, and cut through both of the magician’s arms with a single stroke.
However, Archer himself having disable the enemy was all but dead as well. He had avoided a direct hit to his heart, but serious damaged tormented his spiritual body. The moment he hit the ground his stance collapsed, and his knees buckled and hit the ground.
“Ah, gah… Hah… Ah…”
The bullet fired with Innate Time Control had blown away a section of his lungs, and with every breath he took lumps of blood rose up his respiratory tract. The effect of the bullets, or the effect of the gun itself. The convergence of magical power was obstructed, and he was unable to heal the destroyed sections of his body. A direct hit would have meant the destruction of his very being, and just the bullets remaining inside him would have torn apart his body’s structure through spiritual damage. He had crossed a treacherous bridge.
Archer turned his head and looked at Kiritsugu. Perhaps because of the intense pain, he was striking his knees and emitting a low groan. He appeared to be stopping the flow of blood by using some kind of magic, but it wasn’t as if his arms would grow back. For a Emiya Kiritsugu, a user of small arms, the loss of both arms was one and the same as losing his ability to fight. No matter what spiritual healing he possessed, he was out of the Holy Grail War until its end.
Governing his staggering gait, Archer turned to investigate the arms that had been lopped off. A feeble hand gripping the pistol. He removed the weapon from the hand, took off the glove, and examined the back of the hand.
“Haa… Ahh… Here it is.”
On the back of Kiritsugu’s right hand was a stigmata he recognized. Saber’s command seal. With this, Saber would be rendered powerless as well. Archer took Kiritsugu’s arm, and made for the deck.
At his back, a low voice was squeezed out. More than hatred or agony, the emotion his tone of voice contained was that of an incomprehensible doubt towards his opponent. But for Archer, covered in wounds, even that dear voice would not stop him.
“…Answer me… Why didn’t you kill me? Even if I lose my command seal, and my arms… I will… Challenge you again.”
“…I have no intention of… Giving up on the Holy Grail…”
At those words, Archer stopped and turned his head. He stared motionlessly into the face of the adoptive father he had loved.
Deeply carved wrinkles in his brow. Sunken eye sockets full of weariness. A thin face, perhaps due to excessive stress. And… ashen eyes. Ashen gray eyes that held no hope.
Simply gazing upon his ashen figure, his very existence… caused Archer’s heart to ache with grief.
Words were useless. His feelings would never reach the ashen man. It was an answer he had no choice but to recognize.
But, even so-
“…An enemy, huh?”
Archer gathered the threads of his words.
“…From the very beginning… There’ve been no enemies here.”
He pressed his hand to his chest and closed his eyes. In his heart, a light glowed gently.
“The only one who should fight is me. I won’t hand over this wish to anyone. …That is my answer, Emiya Kiritsugu.”
He stared into those gray eyes. The gray of ash and the red of tempered steel exchanged glances in silence.
Two souls who had pursued the same dream. At the end of a desire to protect the smiles of others, they had finally arrived at the answer: The Holy Grail War.
If the result of that dream meant having to kill “something” in battle, then-
Should the enemy be killed? Should lives be taken? Just what should they oppose?
“…An enemy, huh. If that’s what it is… It’s a ruthless thing. The system you obtained, the system you tried to obtain a miracle with, is exactly what…”
A ceremony to open a “hole” to Akasha with the spirits of heroes, the Holy Grail War. To gather the magicians that would anchor the Heroic Spirits, a battle was held with the chalice of desire, the Holy Grail, as bait. Captivated by the allure, magicians assembled. They met, they struggled, they fought… and they killed.
He finally realized that day. That day when he had discovered the history of the Holy Grail War in a room of the Tohsaka mansion. The system of the Holy Grail War was inscribed in tomes within that room. A system of competition that consumed wishes, and lives.
That was why he fought.
Yes, that was-
A silent curtain fell between the two. The questions between them had been meaningless. Words that struck a mirror would merely bounce back.
Archer turned on his heel and moved towards the deck. There were no more words that needed to be said between them now. And then, the moment he took his second step forward.
A powerful chill ran up his back.
Fuyuki Bridge approached. Her back to the light leaking out the open door, the figure of the transcendent beauty stood.
It was the guardian of the ashen man, the King of Knights, Saber.
Together With House Husband, Part 2, Chapter 47.
Just who is the enemy?
Someone who blocks the path one has chosen… If you call that obstacle an enemy, for those who protect the smiles of others, just what is it they should confront?
*Small note after the jump.