Part 226: Gift
"I see it. We're almost there !"
Tohsaka pushes her way through the branches and runs up the hill.
I keep watch on our surroundings as I follow behind Tohsaka.
"It" greets us the instant we make our way from the hill onto level ground.
Music: Whirlpool of Fate
How big is that thing?
Already as big as an island, the pile of flesh is slowly expanding.
The clear water is now dirty and sticky like coal tar.
"No wayis that the Holy Grail?"
I avert my gaze, unable to stare directly at it.
The air on this mountain is that thing's breath.
The infinitely flowing magical energy is making that lump of meat explode, and the black blood is polluting the lake.
The blood isn't just colorless energy.
The black thing is a visible curse.
Stop such a thing?
The distance is about thirty meters.
The lake is shallow, and it'd be easy to walk in it.
Butit's suicidal to go into that mud.
Just looking at the curse is almost enough to knock one unconscious.
I'll weaken and sink into the mud if I walk a meter into it.
"That thing is about to explode.
I don't know if it was shaped like that from the start, but I bet the original vessel was too small. It can't contain the thing in it and it's about to break the vessel."
"'Break the vessel' You mean "
"If Shinji's the Holy Grail, it would mean he would be destroyed. Can you see it? There's something that's shaped like a human in it, right? I think you'll be able to see it."
I fail to see any problems with this.
I look where Tohsaka is looking.
Within the expanding pile of flesh
I certainly see something shaped like a human.
He must be stuck to the flesh.
His clothes have been torn off, leaving him naked. Visible against his skin, the blood vessels writhe like centipedes, connecting him to the meat.
It looks bizarre, as if grapevines took a human form.
I can't tell.
He's not dead. But I'm not optimistic enough to say that he's alive in that condition.
" He's breathing. His body is "
I can't even say that he has human limbs in a way.
"I thought so. The Holy Grail this time is in human form. So it means it's operated using a person, right?
I guess Shinji turned out that way because he's incompatible, but the Holy Grail won't function unless the host is alive."
"But that thing is about to explode. It's going to destroy Shinji, right?"
"That's because it can't be helped. The Holy Grail will not exist anymore if that happens. That strange thing will flow out from a gate the Holy Grail opens."
The Holy Grail has been activated, but it's not in its true form, nor is it broken.
That goldie just wants to open the gate.
His objective is to activate the Holy Grail and to destroy the vessel. If he does that"
"That mysterious mud will flow out infinitely"
There's no time to think.
We have to pull Shinji out of that thing and stop the Holy Grail !
"Tohsaka. Can you do something about that mud? It looks like we can walk on it if we freeze it."
"That's impossible. I can do it if it's just water, but that thing is a curse made up of magical energy. Even a magus specialized in freezing would have a hard time freezing a magical energy that took physical form."
"I see. Then "
I guess I'll just have to pray and run through it.
I'll cross the lake before I get cursed and bring back Shinji.
"You never know unless you try. We don't have time. Saber should be fighting right now. We can't hesitate here!?"
I quickly turn, moving to protect Tohsaka.
"Gilgamesh!? No way! Then who is Saber fighting !?"
It seems Saber is fighting someone from what Tohsaka is saying.
But I can't tell who she's fighting, nor how she's faring.
Nothis isn't the time to be thinking about such things.
The one before us is the worst possible enemy.
He's the strongest Servant, the one the three of us had planned to beat together.
But only Tohsaka and I face him now.
"Oh, Saber is not here? How dull. In that case, I guess I will settle for killing just the two of you."
Coldness emanates from the sea of mud, and the man before me gives off a murderous intent.
He already has the Noble Phantasms ready behind him.
I'll be skewered the instant I carelessly take a step forward.
"Hmno, that will be too boring.
I normally do not allow such a thing, but I shall make an exception for the two of you, just this once. You two are special guests. I shall give you two a brief grace period."
" Grace period?"
I clench my fist as I glare at the enemy.
My Magic Circuit is open.
I manage to form 14 blueprints in my head.
I'll reproduce his swords once he clicks his fingers.
I should be able to let Tohsaka escape
I am telling you two to stand there until the cocoon hatches. It would be too lonesome if I were the only one to witness it.
Seeing this through will give meaning to your lives."
I can't listen to him.
Our goal is to stop the Holy Grail.
If we can still make it, we have to get Shinji back!
"I see. I'm sorry, but"
"I won't do as you say. I'm going to go there and stop your Holy Grail right away."
Tohsaka glares at Gilgamesh from behind me.
He smiles like that when he decides to kill the one in front of him.
"H-Hold on, Tohsaka. That's!"
"Can you stop him here, Shirou?
I know it's unreasonable, but please hold on until Saber makes it here. I'm going to go pull Shinji out."
"Whatpull Shinji out?"
"I know. He's still Sakura's brother, and I can't just let him die in front of me. And you believe in saving anyone that can be saved, right?"
Tohsaka runs to the black lake.
Is she going to go into that mud!?
How ridiculous! Are you trying to make me die of laughter!?"
He laughs, as if to look down at Tohsaka's determination.
"What's so funny !?"
"Oh, is it not comical for you, lowlife?
Go through that curse? Do you think that a mere human can go through what even a Servant cannot bear!?"
"Heh, don't take me too lightly. I'm not so weak as to be tainted by this curse.
And I'm not a half-spirit like you guys. I'm fully human, so I won't let that curse drown me !"
It's an obvious bluff, but I'm sure that Tohsaka will make it across.
As she says, Tohsaka Rin isn't so weak as to lose to that curse.
But I will not allow such a thing."
A sword shoots forward.
The sword flies through the air to pierce Tohsaka's defenseless back
I breathe hard.
I made iteven though I was prepared, this is the fastest projection I have ever done.
It's probably thanks to Tohsaka's magical energy.
With this, I might be able to
Murderous rage fills his red eyes.
The projection made him serious.
The Noble Phantasms behind his back increase in number.
I hear Tohsaka's worried voice.
I don't turn around, but stare at my enemy with Kanshou in hand.
"Tohsaka. I'm leaving Shinji up to you."
That's all I say.
"All right. I'll bring him back right away!"
I hear a splashing sound.
Tohsaka goes into that mud without any hesitation.
Then I'll protect her.
I won't allow a single Noble Phantasm to get past me.
"I'm your opponent. Beat me if you want to attack Tohsaka."
I take a step forward.
That must have gotten on his nerves.
The golden Servant takes his eyes off Tohsaka and looks at me.
"Ha, that girl will die anyway.
It was out of compassion that I tried to kill her"
The Noble Phantasms point at me.
He lets out a sharp murderous intent.
"But it seems I need to teach you a lesson before that.
You miserable fraud.
I shall teach you the difference between the fake and the real!"
He releases his treasures unsparingly.