Part 342: Memory lost / Shadow swallowing the town
"I-I'm sorry, I'm okay !"
Sakura's voice comes from the kitchen.
Tohsaka must be tired of scolding her, because she just sits there quietly.
It's before six.
Sakura is making dinner, as she requested.
Tohsaka and I were kicked out of the kitchen, so we're waiting for dinner without doing anything.
The sound of a dropped plate.
In just half a day, I've grown used to hearing the sound of Sakura's mistakes.
I'm sure Sakura could've made lunch.
But I can't push her when she has a fever.
At around two o'clock, Tohsaka and I managed to persuade her to take a nap.
And at the time, we promised her
"Then I can cook if my fever goes down?"
Sakura goes back to work, full of spirit.
But I can instantly tell she's just bluffing.
'You must be tired, so go ahead and rest.'
Sakura doesn't back down, even when I tell her Tohsaka and I will do the cooking instead.
"Geez. Please don't be so overprotective. I'm a Master too. This is nothing compared to fighting."
Maybe she's being obstinate, as Sakura does not back down.
On top of that, she wouldn't even accept any help from Tohsaka or me.
"B-But Nee-san is training Senpai, so I can't be the only one doing nothing.
I want to be of use, like Nee-san.
And this is a role I've had for a long time. I want to keep doing it."
This must be one thing Sakura can't give up.
It'll only make you uneasy if you can't do something that's been part of your routine for a long time.
'All right. I'll leave you in charge of dinner.'
Tohsaka started to criticize me.
"Okay! I'll do my best, Senpai!"
It was nothing compared to Sakura's joy.
Music: Gentle Everyday
A cheerful voice echoes through the room.
Sakura starts putting the dishes onto the table.
"Oh, seasoned rice. That's a complicated meal you made, Sakura."
"Yes. You bought some good clams and shrimps, so I went with seafood tonight.
The rice is cooked along with clams, the shrimps are steamed with minced meat, the squids are ethnic-styled, and I made some hamburger steak for Ilya-chan."
I need to start updating after breakfast and not before.
She's filled with confidence.
Everything looks delicious, like she put all her heart into it.
I'm pretty sure the secret ingredient is her high spirits.
*Clap* *Clap* *Clap*
The three of us at the table clap.
"I didn't know how it'd turn out, but it seems this'll be worth the wait. Thanks for the meal."
"I'm not going to hold back either. Can you pass me a fork, Shirou?"
"Here you go. Then I'm going to have some as well."
"Okay. There's more, so please eat up."
I bow and reach out for the steamed shrimp wrap.
It's bite-sized, looking more like steamed dumplings.
It looks pretty, with the topping of green onion, ginger, and radish sprout.
I was worried about letting Sakura cook for all four of us, but this is more than
All three of us make a sour face for an instant.
No, we can only continue eating.
None of the food on the table is good.
It's not that they're terrible.
But everything seems to lack something, and the taste is out of balance.
The apocalypse is nigh. We are officially fucked.
An awkward silence.
We don't make eye contact, but wordlessly continue eating.
But it should be impossible to keep deceiving Sakura.
She's the one who made it.
She'll notice right away once she starts eating.
Our silence is only delaying the problem.
I look at Sakura.
She must have realized it by now.
Sakura should be shocked, but
She hasn't even taken a bite yet.
I keep looking at her.
What's going on?
Sakura is looking down at her bowl and chopsticks with a troubled face.
After a moment's hesitation, she reaches out.
The chopsticks fall.
She quickly grabs them, and reaches out for the bowl.
Sakura keeps repeating the same action.
She reaches out for the food with clumsy hands.
But she drops her chopsticks every time, and picks them up in a hurry.
It doesn't seem like her fingers are merely numb.
It looks so clumsy that it seems like she's forgetting how to use the chopsticks every time she picks them up.
Sakura should know how obvious it is to us, but she doesn't notice.
As if telling us she's all right, she keeps going through the same motions.
She awkwardly picks up the food, quickly brings it to her mouth, puts it in with some difficulty, and then tries to remember how to use the chopsticks again.
She's trying so hard that there's no way I can ask if she's all right.
Tohsaka doesn't notice.
Or rather, she keeps eating as if she doesn't notice.
I do the same.
We pretend not to notice Sakura's abnormality and finish dinner silently.
"Just go back to your room, warm yourself up, and go to sleep. A little rest took care of your fever from before, right? Then"
Your fingers will work again if you sleep and rest.
I unnaturally stop myself.
Sakura bites her lip and looks down.
"Sakura. It's not like you'll be like that forever. It'll just take longer to get better if you push yourself when you're sick.
None of this is your fault, so you should rely on us a bit."
My fever's gone, I can remember what happened yesterday, and I know who you are ! There's nothing for you to be worried about. So please don't worry"
" You'll be fine, even if we don't worry about you? Don't be stupid. I'll be direct if you're going to push yourself."
"You took two hours to make dinner. You dropped a plate seven times, and you seasoned the food all wrong.
You screwed up the salt and used too much pepper. It didn't even seem like your cooking. Enthusiasm is fine, but it's counterproductive if you can't get results."
"Do you get it? You think you're well, but you're still sick. That's the only thing that'd make you mess up.
I'm angry, okay? Starting tomorrow, you're barred from the kitchen. I'm not going to let you push yourself until your fever breaks."
Music: Ever-present Feeling
" That was fast. How's Sakura?"
"I made her go to sleep. I'm sure she was tired. She fell asleep soon after she laid down."
"I see. Then we'll leave the rest to Ilya and Rider. We can't see Rider, but I'm sure she's guarding Sakura from somewhere in this house."
Rider is protecting Sakura, just like she says.
I'm sure she's remaining in spirit form to ease the burden on Sakura.
'She probably will not last a few more days.'
I recall the priest's words.
The crest worm in her body will take her magical energy as long as the Holy Grail War continues.
It's dangerous to put form to her Servant in her condition, and she should save her energy for emergencies.
That's why Rider is in spirit form.
"You look gloomy. Do you want to say something?"
Something I want to say ?
How stupid. Of course I want to say something.
"Tohsaka. Can we beat Zouken tonight?"
We have no time to waste.
Sakura is weakening day by day.
If I'm to believe the priest's words, she might die tomorrow
I understand your rush, but you have to be patient if you want to save Sakura. We can't help her if we die."
"We won't fight yet. Okay, I understand that. Then "
"You want to say there's no point in patrolling? Shirou. Is beating Zouken all we want to do? No, right? You don't want any innocent people getting involved and dying, right?"
I know. I know.
The patrol has a meaning. Even if we just run away if we find them, we have to do everything we can so that there won't be victims like yesterday.
What did I swear to protect more than that oath?
"Oh, I just felt a bit dizzy. I'm sorry, Tohsaka. I wasn't thinking."
"You don't have to apologize. Sakura's in danger, but you must be tired as well.
I was actually going to have you acquire projection in three days, but you worked hard and succeeded it today. I understand that you want to fight now."
I'm able to use projection after just today's training ?
"What? Did I say something weird?"
"No. Um, the training was so hard that it took everything I had to get through it, so it doesn't seem real."
"Yeah, you were absorbed in it. But you were able to project a dagger on your last try, thanks to that.
Well, your success rate is below ten percent, so you need to keep practicing."
Well, I guess that's how it was if I was that into it.
That's probably why it was late afternoon when I noticed.
Music: Footsteps of Destruction
Tohsaka must notice as well, because she shuts her mouth and concentrates on the surroundings.
The scene's the same as always.
It's past ten o'clock, and the town is dark and quiet.
There's no one out on the streets, and there is no sound.
It's become familiar since the Holy Grail War started. A quiet, nighttime atmosphere.
Tohsaka murmurs beside me.
It's quiet here.
The town has been quiet at night these past few days.
It's the deepest silence, the deepest sleep.
The silence tonight is quieter even than that.
" Hey. Was it like that over there yesterday? It's not unusual for the houses to be dark, but even the streetlamps are off."
Tohsaka is looking down the road that leads to the Ryudou Temple.
The opposite direction from Shinto, right into the suburbs.
There's no light there, and it looks like a black wall.
I step into the dark town.
Tohsaka is silent.
This is something we don't even need to think about.
We both know what happened.
We know we'll have to admit the truth if we go, but we start walking, hoping that we'll be proven wrong.
There's no sign of broken doors.
There's no sign of broken windows.
And of course, there are no cranes to remove the roof and take everything out of these houses.
And at the same time
The presence of the hundreds of people who should live in this area is gone.
"Emiya-kun. Let's go in that house."
She puts on gloves and goes into a nearby house.
She goes by the gate.
She opens the front door.
She walks through the hallway.
She goes up the stairs, looks through the second floor, confirms that it's empty, and goes back outside.
"The people in the blacked-out houses are "
Tohsaka says they're gone.
The town is like always.
The buildings haven't even been scratched, and there are no corpses.
It's so clean that nobody would notice the abnormality even in the morning.
This area looks more barren than that time.
We look through a few more houses, but it yields the same results.
The buildings have no damage, but the people in them are gone.
All that's there are traces of magical energy.
Every building, road, and ground.
The black afterimage is stuck everywhere.
I know that thing caused this disaster.
But it's not unrelated.
It can't be unrelated if it comes to mind.
You know this. You know this presence, this smell.
It happened back then too.
What did you imagine when you saw it for the first time?
'Don't realize it.'
It's the same.
No, something heavier engulfed this area.
That time too.
Why did you
Imagine such a thing?
I have no positive proof.
I have no reason.
I have no motive.
I have no evidence.
'Who is this similar to?'
That can't be.
I can't admit it.
But the more I think
'If I become a bad person '
I have no proof, so I'm made to believe that my intuition is right.
Yes. Because the sensation is
'Stop. Don't think about stupid things.'
I shake my head to dispel the dizziness.
It seems the traces of the shadow are getting to me.
"Really? That's bad. So its lingering presence affects you, even with your increased magical resistance.
Well, I guess that's to be expected with the amount of magical energy. You can't engulf a town unless that's the case."
"Ohit's not like I'm out of energy. I just felt sick, so it didn't take anything from me."
More importantly, we have to find out what happened here.
" So. What happened there?"
"Well It's eating, just like all the other incidents. It's just that the scale is much greater.
Guessing from the traces, it didn't go to each house individually. It probably engulfed the area like a tidal wave and melted into the ground. It must've been hungry. It wanted to finish the food in one mouthful."
"But it seems it doesn't like inorganic stuff. It went past anything that wasn't alive, only digesting what was.
If there's any comfort, it's that they disappeared right away. There was no time to feel any fear or pain."
A boundary field of dissolution.
Tohsaka explains that it's like the boundary field Rider set up at school, but much stronger and instantaneous.
"The problem is that I couldn't detect the magic, even though it's so powerful.
If that shadow did this, it means this is not its magic, but just an ordinary action. In short, the dissolution in this area is like tossing around in its sleep for that shadow."
But it's over.
The shadow is satisfied with the food and disappeared. There's no way or reason for us to follow it.
There's no reason to keep patrolling.
The damage has already been done, and we can't do anything without a way to sense the shadow.
We thought we could save people if we rushed to the scene when the shadow or Zouken was attacking them.
But it's meaningless now.