Together with House-Husband, Part 2, Chapter 23 – Springing the Trap.
“I am the bone of my sword.”
Assassin led on, treading on grass and pounding the earth as he headed towards the mountain cloaked in the darkness of night. Archer gave chase, his body covered in injuries. None were fatal, but his condition was such that the extent of his ability to battle using weapons was in doubt.
His feet that were kicking the ground tread upon a hard tree root. The density of the trees living inside of the forest was growing. Even the light of the moon faintly illuminating the black shroud of night was hidden by the treetops of the overgrown autumnal foliage, and it failed to reach the ground.
“Steel is my body, and fire is my blood.”
In order to avoid catching his foot on a root, Archer lowered his natural center of gravity. However, Assassin was not one to let such a chance slip right by. He weaved between the crowed trees and threw three black blades, all aimed at Archer.
*Chink! Ping! Shunk!*
Archer turned aside one aimed at his head with Kanshou, and repelled another with Bakuya. But that was it. Perhaps because he had lost too much blood, his arm failed to keep up with the cleverly staggered timing of the throws, and the last of the blades perforated his abdomen.
He ground his teeth together and withstood the pain. The length of the daggers was roughly twenty-five centimeters, enormous by normal standards. With a magically strengthened guard, Archer endured a blow that would have simply torn off the side of a normal human’s stomach with naught but a wall of tempered muscle, and once again gave chase.
“I have created over a thousand blades.”
Noticing that Archer had fully withstood the attack and perhaps judging that killing him “here” would be impossible, Assassin hastened his pace towards “that place”.
Yes… Faster… Draw ever closer to your death.
Controlling his reeling body, Archer ran through the corridor of trees.
“Unknown to death.”
And then, the corridor opened, revealing a basin. It was a hollowed-out range roughly fifteen meters in each direction. The ground within was completely visible… a cellar that suggested a barren wasteland. Beyond the deathly stillness inside, the stench of death was rank in the air.
However, in factoring in this location, that was not what was important.
As he stepped into the hollow, Archer felt a shock run through his body, just like static electricity. Simultaneously, a compulsion that he could not get back out sprouted in Archer’s consciousness.
“Nor known to life.”
In a moment, he forcibly recalled his distant sense awareness and landed in the basin. He rallied his staggering battle stance and searched his surroundings for a presence.
Nothing. Assassin’s presence had completely disappeared.
Archer had landed at almost the exact center of the hollow.
“I won’t be able to evade an attack here, no matter where I run. Guess that’s it.”
“Have withstood pain to create many weapons.”
This place was death… an infernal cauldron where one Heroic Spirit had been condemmed to the darkness of oblivion.
Taking the dense tree surrounding the depression as a base, a bounded field of binding that seized one’s senses had been erected. The bounded field had been set up with dreadful precision, molding a dimensional “binding” that a young magician of ten or twenty years could never hope to escape. Analyzing the situation, even while Archer mistook the strength of the technique, he vaguely realized he could not leave this place.
It was a point of no return. A fifteen-meter cage made just for an Assassin.
“Yet, those hands will never hold anything.”
For Assassin, this place was a completely ideal hunting ground. His master possessed a formidably shrewd mind. He had made light of the taste of homunculi, but this was an act of cunning skill. He would have to change his assessment.
In front of the prey unable to escape the cauldron, Assassin suppressed his presence, and watched for an opportunity to make a sure kill. The prey’s Noble Phantasm was foul play, an irregularity, such that if he was struck by it during a moment’s pause, it would all be over for him. Consequently, in order to not let the timing for final blow to slip away, he used this place. He had hounded, exhausted, and lured him here.
If one had numerous lives, they may well have been able to defeat the setup. But as far as Archer knew, there was but one such irregular Heroic Spirit. Reaching this point for a normal Heroic Spirit would mean they were done for.
And considering the extent of the injuries covering Archer’s body, the hunt would take place, irregardless of taking the time to wait.
Daggers came flying from deep within the dense foliage. Archer, already unable to adequately defend himself, leapt back as a matter of course.
As if to corner him, three sets of daggers fired lengthwise drove Archer towards the edge of the bounded field.
He felt his back collide with the edge of the field. So this was his reach.
A shadow emerged from the trees, darker than the black of night. A crimson wing fluttered through the twilight as Assassin leapt into the air. The Noble Phantasm… “Zabaniya”.
It was the arm of Shayṭān, an evil demonic spirit.
Through the use of a mass of ether, a double existence is brought into being. Then, from the reaction evoked in a resonating mirror image, the real thing would suffer the same effects.
It was a technique that used Assassin’s arm to replicate the heart of enemies “within range” from outside the range of their own defenses, and then crush it. A horrifying Noble Phantasm that would almost certainly kill an enemy within its range.
“So, as I pray… Unlimited Blade Works!”
They engulfed Assassin, in flight through the air, and rewrote the appearance and laws of the world.
A hill of swords formed, centered on Archer. It was a barren, desolate hill, with countless swords planted in it. The grass, tree, the basin… all that had existed until that very moment were consumed by the Reality Marble, and replaced with the world as Archer defined it.
By the hill…
Confirming that the “wall” his back had been up against had disappeared, Archer sprang back. The devil arm that had just narrowly been in range missed its target, gouging out a hole the ground.
Even Noble Phantasms have rules. No matter how absurd an affect an artifact may hold, you cannot exceed the boundaries laid down by the world, no exceptions.
Assassin stared at that “world” in mute amazement. A world where only the scent of iron drifted about in the blank landscape before him. A forbidden art to realize the practitioner’s inner world: a Reality Marble.
Just why was it considered forbidden?
Reality Marbles rewrote the rules of the world, bending and twisting them. They forced them to conform to the laws of existence as the practitioner defined them, if only for a moment. It was the closest sorcery to “magic”.
It was sorcery beyond humanity’s comprehension. Here, Assassin’s reason did not apply.
What utter madness!
Together With House Husband, Part 2, Chapter 23
The Trap Is Sprung.