Part 348: Gift / Once it's spring / Only choice. Sakura...
Ilya is sitting alone in the living room.
"Yeah. I was outside for a bit. Did anything happen while I was gone?"
"Nothing happened. But you have to stay in your room and rest, Shirou.
Your body is as bad as Sakura's."
"Thanks. But I'm fine as long as the cloth is on."
"Geez, you'll easily faint if you're talking like
Shirou. Did something happen outside?"
"No, not really."
"No way! I don't know what you went to do, but don't talk to me with such empty eyes!"
She scolded me.
I see. I must've looked ridiculous.
It can't be helped if that's the case.
"I'm sorry. I know it does no good to worry, but I had to think."
I shake my head.
Like Ilya says, I can't empty my head.
I can't go see Sakura with a miserable face, so I have to show some spirit!
Music: The End of Reminiscence
Ilya sometimes gets really kind.
This is the second time she's helped me when I'm feeling down.
I can't tell which of us is the older one.
"Okay. Can I ask you something, Ilya?"
"All right, I'll tell you anything. What do you want to know?"
" The Holy Grail. Tell me about the Einzbern's Holy Grail."
" I see, so you found out, huh? There were two things I didn't want you to find out, and that was one of them."
"Ilya. Then "
"Yeah, I'm the Holy Grail. I'm not human. I'm a homunculus made that way."
An alchemical formula to create life without a womb, using sperm and other elements.
They are not born from a proper reproductive system, and therefore have physical defects.
Small bodies. Short lives. Lack of intelligence. Lack of reproductive functions.
They have human shapes and human lives, but they are not human, and therefore are completed with a powerful Magic Circuit.
They are weak as a life form.
But they far exceed human powers when they are made as magino, as Magic Circuits
"Well, so that's it.
The Einzbern family raised me to function as both a Holy Grail and a Master.
The function of the Holy Grail is to collect the souls of defeated heroic spirits. Humans, coffins, stew pot, it doesn't matter what it's made of as long as it has that special function. It just has to be a sufficiently large container of souls."
Ilya sounds like she's not interested.
Butthis is the first time I've heard that the Holy Grail collects Servants.
"Well, it's more like retrieving them than collecting them.
Servants are summoned by the Holy Grail. Then it's natural that they return through the Holy Grail after they're defeated. I'm the only Holy Grail of Einzbern, so I should have collected all of them."
" But it seems there's someone else that's functioning as a Holy Grail.
It took Caster and Lancer when I noticed, and its drawing power was greater.
So it took most of the Servants.
I was able to collect Archer because he disappeared right in front of me."
The other Holy Grail is Sakura.
According to Ilya, Sakura has already taken in Caster and Lancer as well as Saber and Berserker.
"Four Servants' worth of souls. But can you hold such a thing? Isn't it a general rule that the human body can only contain one soul?"
"Yes, all the more so if it's the soul of a heroic spirit.
The magical energy of a Servant that lost its 'shell' called class is enormous. Having one in your body is like creating a typhoon in your body.
But it's the function of the Holy Grail to collect seven in the end.
There's no space for the soul of the container itself."
"That's why all the Holy Grails until now were inorganic substances without souls. The function of the Holy Grail is to collect the souls of all seven Servants, then to unify and manage them.
You don't need extra programs in there. The personality of the Holy Grail will only be erased by the function of the Holy Grail."
"In short, Shirou. The Holy Grail loses its human functions the more complete it gets.
The same goes for me. Once I collect many Servants, I have to cut off my functions as a human being to control the souls."
"I can manage them if I cut off the energy that moves my limbs.
I won't let the souls out if I stop breathing.
I can stabilize the integration of the souls if I use all the power I've used to construct my human form."
"That's the same for Sakura. You can't function as a human once you become a Holy Grail. You don't have the power to spare."
If there is a difference between us, it's that I can switch at will, but Sakura is forced to. Sakura is an incomplete black Holy Grail, so she has no right to refuse."
Ilya shows no emotion as she continues.
She knew it.
She probably knew it since the time she was born, no, even before she was born.
She knew that her life was made for such a stupid reason.
But there's something I can be glad about.
I place my hand on my tense chest and look up at the heavens, as if in thanks.
"What's wrong, Shirou? I said Sakura can't be saved."
I know that, but
"You two are sharing them between you two, right? Then you're still "
"Hm, yeah. Sakura took most of it, so there's no problem in me staying as myself. Rider and Assassin. Even if I collect their souls, I don't need to cut off my functions as a human being."
Yes, that's fortunate.
If I lose Ilya as well, it will mean I can't protect anybody
Before I know it, I'm embracing Ilya.
I can't promise her anything, and it's not like I want something.
Her body is small, so I can't hold her too tightly.
I just touch her, holding her in my arms.
I let my fingers feel the weight of what I must protect.
And I fill my heart with ice.
I don't know what I'll say if I go see Sakura in this condition.
I can't do that.
If Sakura figures out that I'm troubled, she'll just be even more troubled herself.
I have to freeze my emotions so that I don't reveal anything.
This will the last time.
This will be the last time we will be together to just casually see each other's faces.
I want our precious time together to end in laughter.
Sakura is getting better.
She can sit up on her own, and she even ate the rice porridge without assistance.
Lunch ends and we talk about meaningless things.
Apparently sleepy after eating, Sakura continues to talk while lying in bed.
That's all we can do right now.
Sakura seems well.
She's breathing normally, and her cheeks are red and healthy-looking.
I can believe that she won't last even a few more days.
"But I've rarely caught colds.
I have a healthy body, and I've never had to stay in bed with a fever."
We started with how she dislikes cold medicine, and she's now telling me how healthy she was.
It seems she's never been seriously ill, and I hear she cured any cold symptoms with her spirit.
"Spirit? You mean you warmed yourself up and rested?
No, that's not what spirit means. How can you have spirit during a cold?"
"Oh, um it's an embarrassing story, so it's a secret."
Sakura laughs in embarrassment.
Hm. It seems Sakura was an energetic child in her own way.
"So it's not that I dislike cold medicine, but it's that I can't trust it. Don't you get nervous because you can't tell the effect of the medicine?"
"Oh, I guess it was like that when I was a kid. I didn't get well even after I drank this bitter medicine, so I blamed the pain and the fever on it."
Sakura happily agrees.
Seeing her smile makes me imagine that she's getting better and that she'll be up and well tomorrow.
Sakura won't get well.
I can't postpone my decision, believing that everything will turn out fine once she gets better.
"Eh ? What I want to do ?"
"Yeah. Something that's fun for you. Anything's fine. I'm just asking, so don't worry about if it's possible or not."
"Ehhmm, hold on."
Sakura looks around, troubled.
After some pondering
"I guess I don't have anything.
I'm fine how things are right now, and just being with you is good enough."
I have to keep my feelings frozen.
Damn old bastard! It's not that she hasn't done anything !
She just doesn't know how.
She doesn't know what she wants because she's never known a normal life.
She's never known normal happiness, so she values such trivial things
" Senpai? Um, is something wrong ?"
"Huh? Oh, I was just thinking to myself."
She hasn't done anything yet.
Sakura doesn't know what she should have, what she should obtain.
Sakura doesn't smile outside.
Sakura doesn't make friends.
A closed world, consisting of my house and the Matou's.
But if I can change it, I'll pay any price
"S-Senpai ? Um, you're acting strange.
Does your left hand hurt?"
"No, it's not that.
Sakura. Let's go somewhere far away once this is all over.
We've never gone anywhere for fun, right? It's good to go off and enjoy ourselves once in a while."
Sakura blankly stares at me.
It looks like she's surprised, like she thinks it's all a dream.
"It's decided. Where do you want to go, Sakura?"
"Ehum, where? Um"
She thinks in confusion.
She doesn't answer for a while.
But she must have found a wish she wants with all her heart.
" Um. It can be anything, right?"
Sakura timidly looks up at me.
"Yeah. There's nowhere you can't go if you put your mind to it."
I'm serious, but it seems she took it as a joke.
Sakura smiles with relief.
"Then I want to go cherry blossom viewing."
And she makes a trivial wish.
"Cherry blossom viewing? You mean that cherry blossom viewing?"
"Yes. We can do it here, but there are only plum trees here. I want to go cherry blossom viewing in a big field on a sunny day."
"I see. That certainly "
Sounds really fun.
It'll be great to watch cherry blossoms under a clear blue sky at the park by the bridge.
There are many fun things.
Starting out with cherry blossom viewing suits Sakura.
How great will it be if we can really do that?
I imagine my own happiness that I've never imagined since the fire ten years ago.
I dream of a warm fantasy with a frozen mind.
We won't be patrolling the town anymore.
Tohsaka spent the whole day making the gem sword and is now resting, completely exhausted.
The same goes for Ilya.
The three of us ate dinner silently and went back to our own rooms.
It's ten o'clock.
The shadow should go into action soon.
I get up soundlessly.
I grab the knife I got from the kitchen and leave my room.
That's all I can tell.
I can't tell if she's getting better or worse.
I suppress my dizziness and trembling.
That shadow might be attacking people while I hesitate.
If there's no way to directly kill it, I have to Sakura here.
Even if it's not Sakura's fault, people are harmed.
There will be victims.
There will be people who could not prevent the harm.
And Sakura will commit crimes she does not want to commit.
I raise the knife.
My mouth is dry.
It feels like my tongue's turned into a piece of cardboard.
The inorganic knife sends a chill up my spine.
My eyes become numb as I think about sticking this thin scrap of metal, whose only reason of existence is its sharpness, into a living human's throat, Sakura's soft flesh.
It's like stumbling and falling eye-first onto a flathead screwdriver.
The blinding pain of numbness peels the cerebral membrane like an orange peel.
There's something wrong with my senses.
The fingers holding the knife look as if they're all bending in the wrong way.
It looks like psychic powers in movies.
I ignore it and tighten my grip.