Part 24: Alter ego
Music: Surrounded by Smiling Faces
"Hey Tohsaka, are you planning to walk to the neighboring town?"
"Yeah. The buses and trains have stopped running. A walk at night is good once in a while, right?"
"I see, then if I may ask, do you know how long it takes to get there?"
"Well, it should take about an hour walking. If it gets late, we can always take a taxi."
"I won't waste that kind of money. And besides, what I mean is, it might be dangerous for girls to walk around at a time like this. You know it's dangerous, right? I won't be responsible if something happens."
"Don't worry, nobody's going to mess with us. You may be forgetting, but Saber is really strong."
"Oh yeah. Superhuman girl with sword."
Whoever it is, if someone attacks her, they will be counterattacked viciously.
"Rin. What was Shirou saying? I did not quite understand."
"Huh? Well, he was just making a big misunderstanding or being plain stupid. He's saying he'll help us if some pervert appears."
"What? Shirou is my Master. I should be protecting him instead."
"I don't think he's thinking about that sort of thing. He seems unconcerned about magi and Servants and all. I kind of wonder what's going on in his head."
You're not missing much.
Tohsaka and Saber now know each other well enough to talk to each other.
Saber has been silent ever since I stopped her from going out dressed like she was.
She said she wouldn't take off her armor, so I made her wear a raincoat, and she's been quiet ever since.
Now, she follows me and only speaks to Tohsaka.
"We need to get to the bridge, right? Then this will be a shortcut."
I don't want to walk alongside them, so I quickly make my way to the small side-road.
They follow me without objection.
"Wow, I didn't know about this road. I see, since you can get to the bridge from the park, all you have to do is head for the park."
Tohsaka looks up at the bridge, talking happily.
Maybe it's just because it's nighttime.
Tohsaka's face, looking up at the bridge, seems even more beautiful than at school I'm troubled.
"Let's go. We didn't come here to play around."
I hurry Tohsaka, who is standing still in the park, and make my way up the stairs.
Once we reach the road alongside the bridge, Shinto will be straight ahead of us.
That's because it's so long and it carries a fear that it might collapse on you.
That must be why this place isn't used for dates, even though it's perfect location-wise.
" That's stupid. What am I thinking?"
Saber is following me silently and Tohsaka is walking right beside me.
Trying to ignore them, I hurry across the bridge.
The suburbs are the most extreme of those.
There are hilly roads and a high ground overlooking the sea.
As you go farther up the hill, there are fewer buildings and the foreigners' cemetery built on the slope of the hill can be seen.
"The church is up here. You must have been there at least once, right?"
"No. I know it used to be an orphanage though."
"I see. Then it'll be your first time today. You should prepare yourself. The priest there is a difficult man to deal with."
Tohsaka starts up the hill.
Looking up, I can see a building at the top of the hill.
A church atop the hill.
I never thought I'd visit God's house for the first time for a reason like this.
"Shirou, I will remain here."
"Huh? Why? I can't just leave you when we've come up here together."
"I did not come for the church. I followed to protect you. If your destination is the church, you should not go any farther, so I shall wait here for your return."
Saber says clearly.
It doesn't seem like she'll budge an inch, so I decide to respect her decision.
"All right. Then I'll be going."
"Yes. Please do not let your guard down whomever you are facing, Master."
Music: Church on the Hill
"Tohsaka, what kind of a person is the priest here?"
"It's kind of hard to explain. I've known him for ten years, but I still can't grasp his character."
"You've known him for ten years ? That's a pretty long relationship. Is he a relative of yours or something?"
"He's not my relative, but he is my guardian. On top of that, he is my senior as an apprentice, and my second teacher."
"Huh senior as an apprentice, you mean apprentice as a magus!?"
"That's right, but why are you so surprised?"
"Because he's a priest! Aren't priests forbidden to use magic!?"
By their nature, a magus and the church cannot be in harmony.
The organization that magi belong to is called the Magic Association,
And the other side of religion, the side you wouldn't see while living a normal life, is called the Holy Church.
The two are barely similar. They cooperate in name, but they're always trying to kill each other when given the chance.
The church in Type-Moon games would kill pretty much everyone if given the chance.
The church hates heretics.
They totally eliminate the inhuman, and they count magic-using humans among their targets.
For the church, miracles are only given to the chosen holy saints. Any miracles handled by other people are heresies.
" No, first of all, is the priest here on our side?"
"Yes. He is the one supervising the Holy Grail War after all. He is a real Agent. Well, I don't know if he has divine protection, though."
Tohsaka's footsteps echo as she approaches the altar.
It's bad manners to do that when the priest isn't here, but it's so late at night.
He won't be in the chapel, so if he's anywhere, it will be the private room in the back.
" Hmm. So who is this priest? You said a name like Kotomine before "
"His name is Kotomine Kirei. He's a student of my father, and we've had an inseparable relationship for ten years now. Well, I wish I'd never met him, though."
"I feel the same way. I did not want an apprentice who did not respect her teacher."
He must have noticed our entry as he slowly appears from the other side of the altar.
Music: Church on the Hill
He's way too fucking tall. It makes it almost impossible to get a good screenshot. Plus, his portraits all cut off awkwardly.
"You didn't answer my repeated calls, and now you bring a strange guest. Hmm, so he is the seventh one, Rin?"
"Right. He's a magus, but he's pretty much a beginner, so I just couldn't let him be.
I believe it was the rules to report here when one becomes a Master, right? It's a rule you invented, but I'll follow it this time."
"Very well. Then I must thank this young man."
The priest called Kotomine slowly turns to me.
Without realizing, I step back.
He's not scary at all.
I don't feel any hostility from him.
But this priest still has a presence that makes the air around him feel heavy.
"I am Kotomine Kirei, the one entrusted with this church.
What is your name, seventh Master?"
"Emiya Shirou. But I haven't agreed to this 'Master' thing yet."
I glare back at the priest, trying not to lose against his presence.
The weight on my back turns into a chill.
The priest slowly smiles as if he's met someone pleasant.
It makes me
"I thank you, Emiya. You have brought Rin here. If it were not for you, she would not have come."
The priest makes his way toward the altar.
Tohsaka moves away from the altar and stands beside me.
"Then let us start. Emiya Shirou, you are Saber's Master, correct?"
"That's wrong. I certainly made a contract with her, but I don't understand this whole Master and Holy Grail War thing.
If a Master should be a proper magus, then you should go and choose a more suitable person."
" I see. This is serious. Does he really know nothing, Rin?"
"I told you he's a beginner. Train him from the very first steps, will you? You're really good at that, right?"
Tohsaka urges the priest.
"Oh, I see, I see. That's how it is, huh?
I understand. This is the first time you have ever depended on me.
Emiya Shirou, I can never thank you enough."
Father Kotomine laughs.
Their conversation makes me feel uneasy.
"First, let us correct your misunderstandings.
Listen, Emiya Shirou. Master is not a role you can give to someone else nor is it something you can stop being once you are chosen.
Those who have those Command Spells carved on them cannot resign from being a Master. You must accept that fact."
"Why can't I quit?"
"The Command Spell is a holy mark. Becoming a Master is a trial placed upon you. You cannot escape it just because it is inconvenient.
You cannot be released from that pain until you obtain the Holy Grail.
If you wish to retire from being a Master, all you can do is obtain the Holy Grail and wish for it. If you do that, everything will be as you desire, Emiya Shirou.
Your wishes, even cleaning out all the mud inside of you, is possibleYes, it is even possible to start everything over again.
Therefore, you should desire it.
If the time comes, you will appreciate being chosen as a Master. If you wish to erase those burns that cannot be seen, all you have to do is to accept that holy mark."
I feel dizzy.
The priest's words don't make any sense.
They just confuse me more and more as I listen.
But still, his words soak into my brain and clot like blood.
This is another of those sort of name puns. The first kanji in 'Kotomine' means 'word'. His first name, 'Kirei,' means pretty... because he's a pretty, pretty princess.
Actually, the kanji are different, but I like to pretend.
"Kirei, don't go off topic. I asked you to tell him the rules. I didn't ask you to open up his old wounds."
A voice cuts in.
That clears up my dizzy head.
"I see. It is pointless to say anything to these kinds of people, so I was trying to take away his morality while he still misunderstood.
Heh, I guess it's true that compassion is not good for others. And I rather enjoyed it too."
"What? Does it do you good to help him?"
"Of course. Helping people means saving yourself in the end. Well, it won't do any good to preach to you now.
So, let us return to the main topic, Emiya Shirou.
The battle you have been dragged into is called the 'Holy Grail War'.
Have you learned from Rin that this is an all out war between seven Masters, using seven Servants?"
" I did. It's some ridiculous thing where seven Masters kill each other, right?"
"Indeed. But we are not committing these inhuman acts because we want to.
Everything is a ritual to determine who is the most suitable to receive the Holy Grail.
Because of its greatness, we require trials to determine its owner."
I'll bet this priest doesn't think of this Holy Grail War thing as a "trial".
"Hold on. You keep saying 'Holy Grail War', but what is it? You can't possibly mean the actual Holy Grail, right?"
The most common rumor about it is that the one who obtains the Holy Grail will obtain the world.
But that's just an invention. After all, the Holy Grail itself is almost something that "exists, but doesn't exist".
That's almost something that "makes sense, but doesn't make sense."
"A Holy Grail that makes wishes comes true" certainly appears in many folklores and legends around the world .
But that's it.
A fictional power that doesn't exist and isn't possible. That is the Holy Grail.
"So answer, Kotomine Kirei. Is the Holy Grail you're talking about really the Holy Grail?"
"Of course. The Holy Grail that appears in this town is real. As a proof, the great miracle of the Servants has occurred.
Summoning and controlling past heroes. No, a miracle close to resurrecting the dead is almost a sorcery.
A Holy Grail with this much power shall grant its owner unlimited power. The object's unreality is worthless in front of that truth."
" All right. Let's assume there really is a Holy Grail. Then why is it required to do something like the Holy Grail War? We shouldn't be killing each other if the Holy Grail exists. If the Holy Grail is so great, we can all share its power."
"That is a fair argument, but we do not have such freedom.
Only one person can obtain the Holy Grail.
That is not something we chose, but what the Holy Grail has decided."
"The Holy Grail decides the seven Masters and summons the seven Servants.
I told you that this is a ritual. The Holy Grail chooses the people suitable to obtain it, and selects its appropriate owner by making them fight for it.
That is the Holy Grail Warthe ritual where those chosen by the Holy Grail kill each other to obtain it."
The priest speaks plainly.
I have no rebuttal, and I look down at my left hand.
There is the mark they call the Command Spell.
It must mean that as long as I have this mark, I cannot quit being a Master.
" I'm not convinced. Even though only one person can be chosen, I don't like the idea that all we can do is to kill the other Masters."
"Huh? Hold on. You're misunderstanding if you think that you have to kill them. There's no need to kill the Masters."
"Huh? But you said we have to kill each other. Kotomine said so too."
"You will kill each other."
"You be quiet, Kirei. Now, the Holy Grail in this town is in spirit form. It's not something with form, so it's something we have to call forth by a special ritualmeaning we have to materialize it.
We can call for it as magi, but since it is in spirit form, we cannot reach it. Do you understand what that means?"
"Yeah. Only spirits can touch spirits, right?
Oh, that's why you need the Servants !"
"Exactly. To put it simply, the goal of the Holy Grail War is to eliminate all the Servants except your own. So there's no rule that you have to kill the Masters."
"I see. I guess that is one way to think.
Then let me ask you, Emiya Shirou. Do you think you can beat your own Servant?"
"Then let me ask you one more thing. It is a boring question, but do you think you are superior to your Servant?"
What's he saying?"
I can't beat Saber, so there's no way I'm superior to her.
For this question, my answer will always be that I am weaker than my Servant, so
"That's right. Servants are hard to defeat even with a Servant. So what should you do?
See, it's such a simple solution. Servants can only exist with a Master. No matter how powerful the Servant is, the Servant will disappear if the Master dies. So "
That's right, it's a natural solution.
No one would choose to take the hard way.
If you want to win, the most effective way to kill the Servants would be to kill their Masters instead.
" Okay. I understand that killing the Master is an effective way to eliminate other Servants.
But then, if their Servant gets killed, does that make someone not a Master anymore? Only Servants can touch the Holy Grail, right? Then there is no point to a Master that doesn't have a Servant."
"No, the right to be a Master still remains as long as you have the Command Spell. A Master is a magus that can form a contract with Servants. As long as you have the Command Spell, you can form a contract with Servants.
The Servants whose Masters are killed do not disappear right away. They can stay in this world until their magical energy runs out. If such 'abandoned Servants' exist, a Master with no Servant can form a contract with them. That will allow them to rejoin the war.
That is why Masters kill other Masters. Because if you allow them to live, there is a risk that they will impede you in the future.
" So what if you use up your Command Spell? Then you won't be able to form a contract with other Servants, and the freed Servant will go off with someone else too."
"Yes, you're right. If you use up your Command Spell, you will be liberated from your duty as a Master.
However, I do not think a magus exists that would waste a Command Spell that allows them to use such powerful magic.
If there exists such a magus, he isn't even an amateur, but just a chicken."
The priest laughs, as he knows what I'm thinking about.
That priest is making fun of me. I think he's trying to provoke me.
"You must understand now. So we will finish the explanation of the rules.
Well then, let us return to the beginning, Emiya Shirou.
You said you have no intention of being a Master. Do you still feel that way?"
"If you want to abandon your responsibility as a Master, that is fine too.
As you have realized, you may use up your Command Spell to end your contract with Saber. In that case, I will guarantee your safety until the Holy Grail War ends."
" ? Hold on. Why do you have to guarantee my safety? I can protect myself."
"I do not have enough free time to care for you either, but this is one of the rules.
I have been dispatched to supervise the repeating Holy Grail War.
That is why I must minimize the victims of the war.
Protection of magi who lost their claims to being a Master is one of my biggest responsibilities as the supervisor."
"Repeating Holy Grail War ?"
Repeating does he mean that this kind of battle has happened many times before ?
"What do you mean? The Holy Grail War didn't just start now?"
"Of course not. Do you think a supervisor would have been dispatched if it were so?
This church bears a duty to recover the holy relics, as we are the lowest of the special agencies. Originally, it was our goal to research and recover the holy cross, but here, we have a duty to investigate the Holy Grail.
We have to investigate the 726th Holy Grail that has appeared in this far eastern land. We must recover it if it is real, and dispute it if it is not."
"726th that many Holy Grails?"
"Who knows? It just means that there have been at least that many things that seemed like one.
"Hey, Bill, the attention-starved hobo down the street is claiming he found the holy grail again. Check it out, would you?"
And one of those is the Holy Grail from the Holy Grail War observed in this town.
According to records, it is said that the first battle occurred about 200 years ago.
Since then, the battles between Masters have been repeating in a cycle of about 60 years.
This is the fifth Holy Grail War. Since the last one was ten years ago, this will be the shortest cycle yet."
"Whaare you guys insane? You guys have repeated this thing four times already !?"
"I feel the same way. As you said, people have repeated this event many times.
In the past, the Holy Grail Wars were terrible. Masters were driven by their desires, forgot their teachings as magi, and just killed each other indiscriminately.
I think you already know, but it is the highest crime for a magus to use his magic in public. A magus cannot allow his identity to be revealed to the public.
But Masters in the past have violated that.
The Magic Association dispatched a supervisor to caution them, but they only made it in time for the third Holy Grail War. The one dispatched then was my father. Do you understand now, boy?"
" Yeah, I understand we need a supervisor.
But from what you said, isn't this Holy Grail War fundamentally bad?"
"Oh? How is it bad?"
"Because the past magi were people who would break the rules of the magi, right?
Then let's say this Holy Grail thing really exists. What will you do if the one who remains is someone who uses the Holy Grail selfishly? It's bad if such a thing is obtained by someone who has no problem killing others.
If it is the job of the Association to look after magi, then shouldn't you guys be punishing those kinds of people?"
I question, with a little hope.
But as I expected, Kotomine Kirei laughs.
"Of course not. There are no magi who will act outside their own interests. We only supervise the rules of the Holy Grail War. We do not care about what happens afterwards. The Association is not concerned about the kind of person that obtains the Holy Grail."
"That's ridiculous ! What if the Master that obtains the Holy Grail is the worst guy possible!?"
"It would be problematic, but we can do nothing. It is the Holy Grail that chooses its owner. And we do not have the power to stop a Master who has been chosen by the Holy Grail.
It is a grail that makes wishes come true, after all. The one who obtains it will be able to do as he pleases.
But if you do not want that, then all you have to do is win it yourself. That is the most reliable way, isn't it?"
Kotomine is trying to hold back his laughter.
It's like he's enjoying my clumsy inability to accept the facts.
You can't really blame him. It's a constant source of amusement.
"What's wrong, boy? I think that was a good idea, so will you not accept it?"
" That's none of your business. Anyway, I don't have any reason to fight. I'm not interested in the Holy Grail, and I don't feel like a Master even if you tell me I am."
"Oh. So you are not concerned about what the winner of the Holy Grail would do, even if it leads to disaster?"
I can't answer that question.
Crap, his words are violent.
They force the truth onto me, whether I want it or not.
"That is fine, if you have no reason to fight. So you are not troubled by what happened ten years ago?"
"Ten years ago ?"
"That's right. At the end of the last Holy Grail War, an unsuitable Master touched the Holy Grail. I do not know what that Master wished for. All we know is the results of the disaster that came afterwards."
"Hold on. That can't be "
"It is. It is an event that everybody in this town knows about, Emiya Shirou.
Five hundred killed or wounded. A hundred and thirty four buildings burned down. That inferno, still unexplained, is the remains of the Holy Grail War."
My vision blurs.
I lose concentration and I can't focus my eyes.
My body stumbles.
Music: Church on the Hill
But I hold myself firm.
I hold onto consciousness by clenching my teeth.
I hold back my nausea with the anger boiling up in me.
"Emiya-kun? What's wrong? You're pale white. I know it's not a comfortable story, but if you want, we can take a rest for a while."
I must have looked terrible.
I think it's very rare for Tohsaka to be worried like that.
"Don't worry. I feel better after seeing your weird face."
" Hey, just what is that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, I have no hidden intentions. I meant it literally, so don't worry about it."
The school's number one honor student, Tohsaka Rin, smacks me in the head.
That does it.
With that, the nausea and anger go away.
" Thanks. You really did help, so don't bully me too much. I have a few more things to ask about."
She looks like she hasn't hit me enough, but she still lets me continue.
"Oh, you still have questions? All right, let out everything you want to say."
He should know what I want to ask, yet he asks me to go on.
Emiya Shirou won't lose to you.
"Then I'll ask. You said this is the fifth Holy Grail War. Then, has anyone ever obtained the Holy Grail?"
"Of course. A sad event like that annihilation doesn't happen every time."
"Do not be hasty. It is easy just to obtain it. After all, the Holy Grail is managed in this church. If you speak of just touching it, I touch it every day."
T-The Holy Grail is at this church ?
"Of course, it is only the vessel. It is empty. Rin said it earlier that the Holy Grail is in spirit form.
What we maintain is a well-made replica of the Holy Grail. We use this as the catalyst to draw down the real Holy Grail and transform it into a Grail that grants wishes. It's like the relationship between Servants and Masters. Yes, there was indeed a man who obtained the real Holy Grail temporarily, using that method."
"Then, was that Holy Grail real? No, what happened to the guy who obtained it?"
"Nothing. The Holy Grail was imperfectly completed. It was the result of a foolish man, affected by sentiment."
With the previous pressure gone, the priest narrows his eyes as if in regret.
" What do you mean? Didn't the Holy Grail appear?"
"It is easy to just make the Holy Grail appear. Once the seven Servants are present, the Holy Grail will appear in time. As Rin said, there is no need to kill other Masters.
But that does not complete the Holy Grail. That thing decides its own appropriate master. And for that reason, it could not be obtained by a man who avoided battles."
"Heh, so that just means it's useless to obtain the Holy Grail without settling matches with the other Masters.
The Master who obtained the Holy Grail first in the last war was just a chicken. He just ran away from the Holy Grail, saying that he didn't want to fight other Masters."
So saying, Tohsaka looks away from Kotomine.
Does that mean Kotomine was one of the Masters in the last war, and that he retired because he refused to fight in spite of obtaining the Holy Grail !?
" Kotomine. You didn't fight?"
"I did until halfway. But I made a bad decision. As a result, I only obtained an empty Holy Grail.
Well, I guess that was my limit anyway. Because the other Masters were all monstrous. I lost my Servant first and was taken under my father's protection.
Come to think of it, it was inappropriate for a son of the supervisor to be chosen as a Master.
Father died at that time. Since then, I have succeeded the role of the supervisor, and I protect the Holy Grail at this church."
Saying that, the priest called Kotomine Kirei turns around.
Before him stands the symbol of worship.
"That is the end of our conversation.
The only ones qualified to obtain the Holy Grail are those who have Servants. When there is only one of you left, the Holy Grail should naturally appear in front of you.
Tell me your decision as to if you want to join this battle, the Holy Grail War, now."
The priest requests my final decision.
"Are you still undecided?
Look, a Master is not something you can be just because you want to. Rin has been training long as a magus, but it was not determined that she would be a Master.
All that could be decided beforehand was whether to prepare for it or not.
Only magi are to be chosen as Masters. If you are a magus, you should have been ready already.
I guess it cannot be helped if you say you are not.
You and your teacher were failures in that case. It is merely annoying for such a magus to be fighting, so get rid of your Command Spell now."