Part 316: To the forest / The two's secret / Mysterious explosionMusic: Surrounded by Smiling Faces
"That is a proper approach. But how will you defeat that magus? Do you have any thoughts?"
If you can't tell, it's Rider talking.
I hesitate to answer if she asks me like that.
There are several possibilities, but I haven't put any thought into them.
The choice will likely determine our fate.
There are many choices.
Of them all, the most realistic and reliable method would be
"I think I should cooperate with another Master.
She may not become our ally, but she may help us defeat Zouken if we tell her about the current situation."
"Another Master Do you mean Tohsaka-Senpai?"
"Eh? No, it's not Tohsaka. I know Berserker's Master. Her name's Ilya, and I know she'll listen to me if I go to her and talk."
That face: "No, he can't be if he turns out to be a pedo, I will murder him with his own genitals."
Leaving Tohsaka aside, I don't know what Zouken will do.
He's the kind of guy that would implant a worm in Sakura and force her to fight.
Ilya and Berserker should be many times stronger than Zouken in combat, but we're talking about that monster. I'm sure he will use any means possible precisely because he can't beat them in combat.
So even those two should be careful.
"Berserker You believe that mad warrior will become our ally?"
"They may not become our ally, but they should at least overlook us for a while. And even if we can't cooperate, I want to warn them at the very least."
The girl that came to this town alone.
Ilya was raised as a Master and crowned with the name Einzbern, so she's not a total stranger to me.
"Yeah, she showed me once before. I remember the way. It's a big forest, so I don't think it'll go exactly as planned, but I should make it in half a day."
"Half a day That means you're going to set out now?"
"Yeah. They say to strike while the iron's hot, and if I head out now, I should be back by nightfall."
I was pressed to make a decision, but this is good.
Ilya helped me yesterday, so I want to thank her for that.
It might prove fatal for her if I don't tell her about Matou Zouken and that mysterious shadow.
"I'm gonna get going. I'll come back as quickly as possible, so you rest in your room."
"Okay, Senpai. Then please, at least take Rider with you. She can protect you from anything that might happen."
"Oh, yeah. That's safer for me."
But I can't agree to that.
Sakura is also in danger.
No, she's in greater danger because she can't oppose Zouken if she meets him.
"No, you protect Sakura, Rider.
If Zouken comes, try to avoid battle since that uses your magical energy. Instead, carry Sakura and run away. I'm sure they can't catch up to you."
Rider nods obediently, apparently thinking the same thing.
"See, Rider's saying the same thing. You'll be staying home for today."
" But it's dangerous for you too. That forest right now is "
"Don't worry. I'll run away if I think it's dangerous. And Ilya isn't interested in anyone that's not a Master. It's not dangerous for me since I'm not a Master anymore."
Music: Surrounded by Smiling Faces
" It's before ten. An hour on the taxi, and four hours on foot "
I hope that's all the time it'll take.
I'll ask the taxi driver to go slow and find the entrance to the forest.
I'll get off the taxi when I find the entrance, and continue on foot from there.
I'll make it to Ilya's castle before sunset if I take the shortest route.
I'll figure out what to do next once I've met Ilya.
I hear a familiar voice from behind me.
It sounds practical, and cold depending on how you hear it.
But my name is said politely, with as much intimacy as she can show.
I almost say the name, voicing my impossible wish.
"Wait. I must speak with you before you leave."
Music: Surrounded by Smiling Faces
I turn around and accept reality.
Rider is in front of me.
The girl who used to call me with that tone is no longer in this world.
"Fine, but what is it? I'm in a hurry, so please make it short."
"I only have one question. You said you will protect Sakura. But I have not heard your reasons for doing so, Emiya Shirou."
"Are you saying you can't trust me?"
"Correct. I do not know you as well as Sakura does."
That's a natural question.
Rider protects Sakura, not me.
As a potential ally, she just wants to know my intentions.
" Phew. I'll only say this once, so don't ask me about this again. It's not that I'm putting undue importance on it. It's just not something to go around telling people."
"Look. I like Sakura. Not only that.
I had sex with her last night."
" It seems so. Sakura's magical energy was stable this morning. Sakura would have been sick again if she did not get outside provision.
What of it?"
"That's all. I like Sakura, and I made love to her. That's the only reason I'm protecting her. It's natural for a man to protect his woman, right?"
" Then you are fighting for Sakura? Your goal is to save Sakura. You have no intention of letting her obtain the Holy Grail for your benefit?"
"Well, I am planning to use it. I don't know what the Holy Grail is, but if it can bring Sakura happiness, I'm going to make full use of it."
"Bring Sakura happiness?"
"Yeah. I've made Sakura suffer until now. So I want to compensate for that by making her happy."
Rider just stands there without saying anything.
It seems she understands why I'm embarrassed to tell people about this.
"All right. I answered your question, so it's my turn. I have a request to ask of you."
"O-Okay, I shall answer it to the best of my ability."
Video: Shirou (mirror)
"It's easy. Can you not say my name with that accent you just used? Can you pronounce it properly? It's Shirou. Don't drop the 'u' and pronounce it clearly."
" ? I-I understand. Shirou is fine?"
"That still sounds weird. You don't have to put any unusual accents on it."
"Um, S-Shirou. Shirou. Shirou. Shirou, no, Shirou."
Rider struggles as she practices pronouncing my name.
She has a sharp image because of her blindfold and her black clothing, but Rider is actually sociable.
I'm just guessing, but I think Rider is a klutz in her private life.
"Yeah, it's perfect. I'm sorry I asked you a selfish request."
"Selfish ? You did not like to be called with the accent I used, right? Then I believe it is right for you to correct me."
"You're wrong. I did like the way you called me."
I liked it, so I don't want anyone else saying it the same way.
I know it's a stupid thing to care about, but she was the only one I wanted to hear call me like that.
"I'm sorry. It's really just something selfish. It's not that you're at fault."
"I understand. I shall not inquire about it if you say so."
"Okay, then I'm going. I'm leaving Sakura to you, Rider!"
"He has headed to the forest. Do you regret it, Sakura?"
The servant asks her master.
The girl does not nod, but narrows her eyes and shakes her head once.
" I can't regret it, Rider. There's no point now."
"You are correct. That was certainly a meaningless question."
"Yes. But it's not all painful. I know it's wrong to say this, but I'm happy. I'm happy that Senpai's doing something for me."
But her face is filled with agony.
The mouth that says she's happy is heavy as if bound by a feeling of guilt.
"But that's wrong. Grandfather will show no mercy. As long as Senpai keeps fighting, there's a chance that he'll die.
And most of all"
It's troubling for her if he stays in the war any longer.
It will bring a bad fate down upon them both.
That's why she wants him to simply return to his normal life.
She will not last long.
That being the case, she wants him to live.
At the same time, she clings to hope.
For as long as he fights, she can be with him.
No, it delights her that the person she loves is fighting and getting hurt for her sake.
She doesn't want him to fight.
But having him fight makes her happy.
The two contradictory wishes compete for control within her.
" What a lie. It's not competing at all."
With a pained murmur, she acknowledges the darkness within her.
She wants him to fight. She wants him to save her. She wants him to answer her to make up for all the times he did not.
For that reasonhe can get hurt.
And she thinks about something she shouldn't.
Wriggle, wriggle, wriggle.
The squirming in her body makes her ears ring.
It melts into her blood, causing a chill to run through her body.
The feeling stimulates her, and she thinks her body is lewd and evil.
The worm that melted into her blood becomes aphrodisiac, heating up her body.
The waves threaten to wash her consciousness away.
She always thinks with her heated head.
" It's fine. I'm still all right. More importantly, Rider. Please go with Senpai."
" I shall obey if that is an order. But Sakura. You do not have long to live either. To use me is to shorten your remaining life. Is that fine with you?"
She says it as if it's nothing.
She has accepted death.
She's fighting the ugliness of clinging to hope, and she has ordered her to protect him.
"Understood. I shall obey my master and guard Emiya Shirou."
"Thank you. I'm sorry, Rider. If I'm no good anymore, then go make a contract with someone else. I don't want Senpai but maybe it's okay if it's with you."
She forces a smile.
The Servant in black nods and turns her back to her master.
" An ill wind blows. I will be using my Noble Phantasm. Is that permissible?"
"Yes. Please bring Senpai back if things turn out to be dangerous."
"I know. But Sakura.
I believe we should be on guard against that priest over the old man."
Rider speaks without looking back.
That's a surprise for her.
This Servant does not state her opinions. She silently does as she is told.
She has never shown concern for her the way she does now.
" Whoa. Am I really going to be fine?"
I can't believe how reckless I'm being.
I didn't get lost back then because I was watching it through Ilya, but this isn't something I can manage by memory alone.
"No, I can whine later. I'm desperate, so I just have to go tackle this."
I put spirit in myself as I put the bag over my shoulder.
It's past noon.
It takes about four hours to reach Ilya's castle from here, according to what I saw.
All I can rely on now are my physical strength, memory, and recollection skills
Music: Midnight Interval
The smell of sap is a bit suffocating.
The unpaved path is tiring to walk on.
It's been two hours, and I think I'm following the route Ilya showed me.
But it's worrying that there's no sign to confirm that I'm on track.
I can keep walking all day because of my training, but mental fatigue is chipping away at my energy.
If memory serves, I still have two hours to go.
I can easily imagine what'll happen if I don't end up at the castle in that time.
My physical limit is far, but I'll make trivial mistakes with a disturbed mind.
Rehydration and monitoring your condition are your highest priorities during mountain climbing, and you have to worry about which foot you step with and the depth of the bare rock you're scaling.
Even though the forest isn't as dangerous as a mountain, this place has a different kind of danger.
Losing your sense of direction, not knowing where you are
There's the danger of getting lost, and who knows what beasts you might encounter.
The beasts living in this vast forest are likely to have their territories.
When people stray into those territories, they're usually attacked.
Walking aimlessly is like asking to be attacked, and even a straight animal trail needs to be avoided from time to time.
Fortunately, snakes don't seem to exist in this forest.
All I see are traces of wild dogs, and that's rare too.
The guy going to face Berserker is afraid of dogs.
I bet there aren't many living things here because of the magic of Einzbern on this forest.
But there are a few wild dogs, and there may be far worse things.
I go around the thicket that an animal may be lurking in and make my way according to my memory.
Discretion is the better part of valor.
It's a rule of thumb to simply avoid dangerous places rather than waiting until the danger confronts you and then running away.
" But still This forest seems different from the one Ilya showed me."
The air around me feels different.
An ominous chill runs down my back with every step.
Don't go any further.
Get out of this forest now.
Nobody will return alive from this forest today.
I feel like the swaying trees are warning me.
"Come to think of it, this smell is "
I thought it was sap, but that's not quite right.
The sweet smell is nothing like the forest.
Quick! Project some rolaids!
Music: Premonition of a Storm
I take out a wooden sword from my bag.
I stop, concentrate, and strengthen it within a few minutes.
I hear footsteps from the other side of the thicket.
I hear sounds among the swaying branches.
It comes out and heads straight for me!
I raise my wooden sword.
Tensing my arms, I grip the sword and stand ready.
"That's it, don't move!"
"All right, don't move!"
We both freeze.
How should I handle this situation?
Music: Gentle Everyday
I follow her example.
I guess I'd better ask, but you're not just scouting sites for a picnic, are you?"
"Of course not. What about you? You're not the type to take walks in a forest. What are you planning?"
"How rude, I do too take walks in the forest. Well, my business today is different."
The surprising part here is that she's not denying that she's planning something.
"Tohsaka. Are you planning to fight Ilya?"
I get right to the point.
" What if I am? You're not a Master anymore. So you don't have the right or the duty to meddle with our battles."
"I don't. But I'll stop you if you're going to fight Ilya."
"Why? Are you planning to have Ilya join forces with Sakura?"
"That's part of the reason. But you won't come out unwounded if you fight Ilya. One of you will end up hurt if you two fight. I don't like that. First of all, I "
"You decided to fight to stop the battles, right? I see you haven't changed your mind."
Her sharp tone gone, Tohsaka shrugs in resignation.
That's Tohsaka's real face that she had on before that thing happened to Sakura.
"W-What? I can't change it so easily because it's something I decided on."
"I figured as much. Geez, I've suspected this for a while now, but "
I don't know why.
But Tohsaka gives an exaggerated sigh
"You're really stupid, aren't you, Emiya-kun?"
And gives a smile that surprises even me.
"But this is good. You never learn your lesson, but that's what I expect from you. You should do your best as a clumsy person."
"W-What's with that triumphant expression!? You piss me off!"
"Now, now. So I guess you have business with Ilya too. You're really planning to talk with her?"
I'm angry, but Tohsaka just stares at me with a smile.
I don't know why, but I can never deal with Tohsaka in these situations. I feel like I'll back myself further into a corner no matter what I say.
" Heh. Yeah, you're exactly right. I'm going to see Ilya, so don't bother me. I'll chase you away if you come following me."
"Huh? Oh, you know where Ilyasviel lives?"
Me and my big mouth.
I know the general location, but I only have a really old map, and I can't really trust it. It's great if you know where it is."
"Hey now. I told you not to follow me."
"Oh. Can you let me be when you're going to go talk to Ilyasviel? If I find her first, she'll be too busy to talk with you."
" ! A-Are you threatening me!?
First of all, you're going to fight her even if we go together, right!?"
"I won't. It's best if we can cooperate with her. Our priority is to kill Zouken, right? I came here to warn her."
"! Warn her about what?"
"Matou Zouken is planning something, so I'm going to warn her not to let her guard down. You remember what happened to Caster, right? It'll be to our disadvantage if the same thing happens to Berserker.
But I was ready to fight her even though I only came to warn her. Considering us, we can't just talk.
I thought it can't be helped if we ended up fighting after I warned her. I have to beat her eventually, so this is just a matter of time, right?"
"But you seem to have expectations. Then I don't need to take risks, and things can end peacefully depending on your efforts."
"Hey, don't make a difficult expression! I'll go back without doing anything if you can persuade Ilyasviel.
But if you fail, we can beat her together or I'll help so that we can both escape. How about it? It's not a bad deal, right?"
" Deal or not, you're going to follow me anyway, right?"
"Of course not, that's a false accusation. We just happen to be heading in the same direction."
She's a devil.
But she'll listen to me, so long as I'm guiding her.
Tohsaka will go fight Ilya if I leave her be, but she'll stay quiet if I take her with me.
"I'm not too sure about the way either, okay?
Don't complain if we get lost."
"You don't need to worry. You're heading exactly the way my map says. We won't get lost with your guide and my map."
I sigh loudly, making sure Tohsaka can hear it.
"All right, I give up. Let's go to the castle together. You won't fight Ilya, right?"
"Right, I won't interfere while you're talking with her. She's troublesome if she's your enemy, but she's reliable if she's"
"Tohsaka, this is !"
"Berserker. I guess we were a bit too late."
"Wha Then Berserker's the one raging around!?"
"Yes. We're here, so there's only one person Berserker would be fighting against. What will you do? I'm going, but will you stay?"