Part 289: Gap between the two / Madness
Music: Wandering Shadow
My body is hot.
My nausea isn't fading, my head is shaking, and I can't even stand up by myself.
She slaps my cheeks.
" I can tell. Only Tohsaka would slap someone at a time like this."
"Good. I guess you're all right if you can talk back like that."
That was just my honest opinion right now.
"You idiot, why are you smiling? I'm not going to thank you, okay? Don't ever do that again. I can't return the favor if you die trying to save me."
She glares at me.
But Tohsaka is still rubbing my back with one hand and holding my hand in the other to check my temperature.
" Tohsaka. What happened to that weird thing?"
"It disappeared. It vanished when you stepped onto the shadow and fainted. I think it came from over that way."
Tohsaka looks southwest and grits her teeth.
" I see. But I think I was entangled in it for a while."
" Really? It hasn't even been ten seconds since you pushed me. Here's the proof, see."
Saber supports me and pulls me away from Tohsaka.
"What? I'm your enemy as well?"
"Of course. You are a Master, and Archer is with you.
I do not know why Shirou protected you, but I cannot let you near my Master before my eyes."
Saber glares at Tohsaka.
Crap, I guess I never told Saber about our current truce.
" No, you're wrong, Saber. We're at peace right now, so until we defeat Caster"
"Shirou!? Please get yourself together !"
" I'm saying Tohsaka isn't our enemy. I promised her."
I endure the nausea and the chill that tries to get me unconscious.
I have to get home before I faint.
I have to stay conscious until then.
"So you survived, huh? Well, you didn't touch the main body, so the most that it can do is make you ill."
Archer is expressionless even though Zouken got away, and he is the only calm one here.
" Archer. Do you know what that shadow is?"
"Who knows? But one thing is clear. That shadow is what's been draining the life from the townspeople ever since Caster's death."
He answers as if he's not interested.
Then Archer looks down at me, lying on the ground.
"It seems this is no time to pursue personal grudges. Isn't that right, Emiya Shirou?"
"As for what that shadow was, your intuition is correct.
Humph. I am summoned as a Servant, but I'm to fight it after all."
"Archer ? Who are you?"
"I see. You are not a guardian yet. Then you must not have fought something like that before. Man, it seems I'll be doing the same thing no matter where I go."
The knight in red beckons Tohsaka to go.
But right before they leave
" No, it's not that hopeless.
It has not occurred yet. I might be able to finish it beforehand, or I might end up cleaning after the event. I have a chance of stopping it this time."
He looks up at the sky and murmurs these words.
Is it because someone told me this is like a disease?
It feels like plagued maggots are filling my whole body.
I can't tell dream and reality apart.
I feel like I'm already asleep and trying to go back to my room.
"Sakura ? Were you not asleep?"
"Please move aside. You'll hurt Senpai if you hold him like that."
Sakura got scary.
"No, this is my duty.
And if this is a disease, you might get infected as well."
" I'm not talking about that.
Saber-san. I don't know what you two are doing. I knew you wouldn't answer me even if I asked, so I never did."
"But Senpai has seemed troubled ever since you came here.
I could still bear that, but tonight you've brought him home injured."
"Sakura, that is "
If you can'tplease at least resolve your problems without involving Senpai."
A voice is whispering in my ear, but I can't make out the words.
Did it apologize, it's my fault?
Did it apologize, I'm sorry?
Whatever the words are, they're the last thing I hear.
My consciousness fades as soon as I lie down.
The scene keeps squirming like insects until the very end.
"HmmI guess there are days like this."
She heads home, still slightly drunk.
It doesn't matter if there's no taxi, or if the last train is out.
Her apartment is close by.
Her friends live three stations away, so she always walks home by herself after seeing them off.
The rotary is quiet even though it's still before midnight, and she starts home like always.
Music: Wandering Shadow
The desolate town.
The pitch-black back alleys.
The chill emanating from the dark shadows.
Formless unease assails her.
"Hey. Is someone there?"
She turns around. The only thing following her is her cold and silent silhouette.
When did the quick trot turn into an all-out dash?
She understands that it's silly to be scared of something she cannot see, but she is unable to stop herself.
She runs like a dog.
Her throat is dry, but strangely, she isn't sweating.
The town at night.
The series of accidents with unknown causes.
Desperately, she tells herself that it's not the work of a serial killer.
There's no one around.
Tonight, of all nights, the place is empty.
Is that why this seems like it's happening to somebody else?
The familiar town is like an imitation in a mirror that will never find her.
Video: Attack (mirror)
And she arrives at the final destination.
"That's strange, why "
Did she come to this place?
" Aha. What am I doing?"
Something is very funny.
"Haha. Ahahaha. Ahahahaha."
Something's funny, so sounds of laughter come from her throat as if from someone else.
She is merely running.
Her usual route home seemed too dangerous.
So she ran along the roads that felt safer to her, and
"Hah. Ahahaha, hahahahahahahahaha!"
That fucking laugh gives me chills every time I hear it.
She realizes that there is no place to run.
Music: Whirlpool of Fate 2
Just don't blame me if you click this.
Since that's impossible, she tries to move her toes, only to find that she can't feel them.
In its place, many new things enter her body from the cut heel.
She tries to see what they are with her remaining left eye.
She cannot see what they are anymore.
Indescribable horrors swarm over her body.
"Aha, it's eating."
Her mind somehow does not see what they are eating.
The worms dive in.
When she was small, she once saw maggots swarming on a sponge.
This is just like that.
Although inchworms chewing through an apple might be a more apt comparison.
"Hiiaha, but it's not weird."
But the realistic image and the scene before her do not seem related.
Because such things cannot be.
Such things cannot be happening to her.
It's almost midnight.
She has to hurry home, ready the bath, ouch, laugh off all the fatigue, that hurts, let her hair dry, it hurts, watch some videos, return to her room room room room it hurts she wants to return to her room return return return return please, please stop,
stay up till three o'clock, it really hurts, anything, please stop, please stop it hurts it hurts it hurts
Video: Gruesome Meal (mirror)
The lying body stands up.
The female body has turned into an old man's body.
"Guhmm. I can never get used to this."
A hoarse voice echoes through the park.
The worms have disappeared.
They have finished their meal and have returned to their nest, the old man's body.
In other wordsthey replaced the woman's body, the one they fed on.
Someone else is watching the spectacle.
Between the crisscrossing tree branches
Music: Footsteps of Destruction
A white mask is floating.
The mask made from human skull is smiling like a buffoon.
The owner of the mask does not even need to be mentioned.
It is the seventh Servantthe one born from within the fake Servant. He is the heroic spirit who defeated Lancer, Assassin.
"Impressive. So your previous body was not your own, either?"
" Oh? Were you watching, Assassin? Yes, my body has perished a long time ago. I am just an old fool who has to leech off of a whole body. My body cannot handle walking under the sun like everyone else's."
Aha, so the bug people from Grobulax V must be weak against solar radiation!
The laughing figure is indeed Matou Zouken.
It took him a few minutes to attack and take over a woman's body.
The speed is incredible, even for a master magus.
" I see. So you did not care who it was. All you require is a full body, no matter whose it may be. You merely mold the body to the shape you want.
What's inside your body are worms in any case. The worms will function as your organs It is indeed a mimicry."
"Oh my. In only one day, you have grown quite talkative. Do you remember your wish now?"
"Of course. I can only be summoned by people who share my desire. Your craving for eternal life has summoned me here. What I wish for is eternity.
The black shadow wavers.
The emotionless skull stares at the aged magus.
"This raises a question. You are already immortal. You have lived for over five centuries. Then, is your wish not already granted?"
The old magus lets out a cry.
Who would know that the cry is not a laugh, but a cry of anger?
He will live as long as there are bodies to infest and his soul remains alive.
Butthere is only pain.
Matou Zouken does not wear his current form by choice.
It's just that the last time he went around in bug queen form, it got kinda messy.
Turning his body into something inhuman and mimicking human form.
There is a limit to this magic.
It is like a machine. A machine can run forever in theory, but its parts rust over time.
Parts rust. Cogwheels slide out of place. Programs become obsolete.
"No, no. I am not immortal, Assassin.
My body rots. It will rot no matter how many times I get a new body. It will rot no matter what I do.
This new body has begun to rot already.
Can you begin to understand the discomfort and disgrace of rotting alivethe despair upon learning that your body is not human?"
"Why does it rot? Are the worms not able to make a proper body?"
"Haha, that is not true. The worms are lively. They have no problem as a body. From the start, I became a parasite in grief over my aging body. They serve perfectly as a body.
I chose this method to prolong my life forever while retaining my humility."
" I am even more confused. Is that all you can manage, even with the power to perfectly preserve your body? First of all, why are you taking the form of an old man?
If you are able to shape the flesh into any form, you should be able to take any appearance."
"That is a good question. Then let me ask you. Let's say something that lost its original body tries to reproduce its body with its powers.
In that casewhat do you think restores the body to its original form?"
"The body records itself. Even after it is burned or cut, the body is able to restore its original appearance, because there is an internal blueprint."
"Yes. A body's composition is recorded in its genes. But it is different in my case. I lost my body, the place where my composition was recorded. I can no longer use that blueprint to recreate my body.
In that casewhat do you think records my body and gives it form?"
A gamma frequency particle emitter based on Grobulax V?
"I see. You keep your soul alive, while taking the bodies of other creatures as your ownso that is the trick behind your immortality.
That must be why you cannot turn yourself into anything else. What you are keeping alive is your soul, not your body.
So that is why you cannot take any other form but that of Matou Zouken?"
"Of course. I am not taking form as an old man because I want to.
Look, this is the only form I can create. And it is a poor creation that rots away unless I exchange it periodically. I used to be able to last fifty years before I had to exchange my body, but I have to exchange it every few months now.
Who can understand the pain I feel as I rot away? Do not misunderstand, Assassin of this generation. Do not call such a thing immortality"
Irritation can be heard in the voice of the old magus.
It has been three days since Assassin's summoning.
He finally sees the true nature of his summoner.
" I understand now. So what is rotting is not your body, but "
" Yes, my soul is rotting.
Time even affects ethereal bodies. Therefore, my physical body will rot. It is natural for my body to rot if my soul, the blueprint of my body, is rotten."
"Hmso that is why you seek the Holy Grail.
No wonder you are angry. Such eternity must be more painful to you than those who have no idea of eternity."
My body rots. I need to be freed from this pain, from this poison violating deep into my bones !
The Holy Grail exists for that purpose. I have persisted for that purpose."
" Right. I do not want to die. I want to live. It is dreadful to think that I will disappear from this world !
To escape this fate, I have lived for hundreds of years, devouring the flesh of thouands ! Do you understand, master of the mountain? I hate myself for turning myself into worms. I hate being the only one who rots away. I hate all humans for being given bodies as a matter of course!"
The white mask looks down at the rotting old man.
How can he say he hates humans that live peacefully?
It was his spell, used to escape that peaceful life, that gave him this pain.
The undending torment of this magus, the decay that melts his bones and flesh, is the result of his own action.
But the pain overrides such trivial matters as blame.
It must not matter who is evil or what the cause is.
Becausethis is just a speculation, but Matou Zouken must be insane already.
The pain and fear of experiencing one's own decomposition must be unbearable for normal human beings.
Nobody should be able to endure it, no matter how strong their mind may be.
Because one will die.
The body dies if it rots for over an hour.
But two hundred years!
Only this old magus would understand how rotten the mind is of someone who has his body rotting away.
Matou Zouken has gone insane.
No matter his mental state, if there is nobody in the world who can identify with him, he will be labeled insane.
"A centuries-old obsession, eh? I cannot understand, but"
The old man's monologue can be summarized in one sentence.
It is merely that a wish anyone would have became clear for this man.
He sacrificed many people, clinging to the simple yet foolish wish.
He prepared many things and sacrificed people to obtain the Holy Grail.
This old magus's very existence is made possible by those sacrifices.
That is reason enough for the masked assassin to pledge his loyalty.
Very well. Let us both aim for eternity, as we are both beings who were not treated as human."
The skull waits.
The Servant in a black coat bows to the rotting old magus.