Part 371: To the underground cave / The strongest Servant
" I feel a power from atop the stairs. It seems something is being created in the pond behind the compound."
"No, we don't have any business there. The gate above must be the ostensible gate for the Masters that want the Holy Grail. If we want the Great Holy Grail, we have to go down instead of up."
Tohsaka walks away from the stairs into the forest.
" Are you all right, Rider? There's a boundary field around the Ryudou Temple, right? I heard Servants can only go in from the front gate."
" I feel some strain, but this is tolerable.
This area contains the most suitable ley line in the land. Once we get inside, I can recover by drawing mana from the air."
"I see. It must be tough, but please bear with us for a bit."
"Hmit should be around here, according to Ilya Do you see anything like an entrance, Shirou?"
"What do you mean, 'like'?"
"Like a crack in a rock that we can slip through, or a suspicious-looking shrine. It's an entrance, so I don't think it'd just be a pit."
" Don't be ridiculous. The stars are out, but I can't see anything in a forest at night"
Oh, I can.
We must be behind the temple, because I see many dead trees.
There's no sign of human influence. There's nothing here but dead trees and a small stream.
" Small stream?"
That means the water's coming from somewhere.
" Rider. There's a bunch of rocks above the stream, right?
It's too dark for me to see, but is that a cave?"
"Please do not turn around, Shirou."
I hear a small metallic sound.
Rider must've taken off her restraint.
" Yes. It's a natural cave, but you should just be able to fit through. It looks like the path ends about a meter in, but I sense a magical camouflage."
"I see, thanks. Tohsaka. I guess there is something like it."
We pick our way down to the stream.
It's more like a spring flowing out from the rocks.
The stones are piled atop one another where it starts. There's a crack big enough for one person to fit through.
It's like a snow hut made from rocks.
You can see that a huge boulder is blocking the entrance, so nobody would even try to go in it.
"This is it. You can pass through the rock."
Tohsaka walks into the darkness without turning around.
"Please go ahead. I shall protect your back."
I nod and enter the darkness.
The weight of the darkness is stifling.
Unless I keep my back to the ground as I move, I might fall into the endless dark.
I lay flat on my back as I slowly descend.
It's dark, and I can't tell how far down this path goes.
My breathing echoes in my ears.
"Shirou. I'm going to ask you now."
Tohsaka, the one leading the way, suddenly speaks up.
"The gem sword. Why did you make it for me?"
She sounds blunt, as if she's just asking to kill time while we're descending.
"I've told you I'm planning to kill Sakura.
Can you really give me a weapon, knowing that?"
I nod in agreement.
Well, Tohsaka certainly has a point.
"I'm not okay with that. But I can't save Sakura without you. It's better to have two people instead of one.
And projecting the sword was a promise.
I couldn't keep one of my promises with you, so I wanted to keep the other."
It happened a long time ago.
I asked for Tohsaka's help after I lost Saber.
Tohsaka responded to my call for help, and I made a promise with her.
To let her win.
I promised to make her the victor.
"I see. You're pretty faithful."
"Yeah, but not as much as you."
Silence returns to the darkness.
The conversation ends.
We continue our descent without looking at each other.
A long path that seems to lead to hell.
The path spirals downward, and just as I'm thinking we're over a hundred meters underground
The dark cave changes completely, welcoming us.
It makes me want to vomit.
The warmth of life should be dazzling, but instead it's something rotten, making me want to look away.
I have no words to say to her.
This is a land of death.
Talking to each other to soften the tension would only cost us our lives.
"Let's go. From now on, look out for your own safety first."
Tohsaka heads down the path, to the source of the black air.
Rider and I follow after her, concentrating on our surroundings.
I see something red on the ground.
It's a trace of blood.
It leads to the back.
Did someone come here before us?
And someone wounded badly enough to leave behind a trail of blood?
" Sorry. I'll be right there."
I shake off that train of thought and head on.
I can't be worrying about others.
It's times like this I realize I will never grow up.
At its end, the path opens into a cavern.
It's about as big as the schoolground.
It's too dark to make out the ceiling, but it must be about ten meters high.
I don't detect any signs of life.
An unforgettable underground space that looks like the moonscape that I read about a long time ago.
Waits Saber, filled with absolute hostility.
She's the only one here.
I don't see Sakura, Zouken, or Assassin.
The only one blocking the way here is the girl who has turned black.
Music: Footsteps of Destruction
There's no reply.
Saber's duty is to eliminate any intruders.
She's the gatekeeper and the executioner.
Saber's the strongest Servant Sakura has, so she can fight us by herself.
Tohsaka lowers her stance and reaches for the gem sword she's hiding behind her back.
She must intend to fight head-on.
I don't know what kind of ability the sword has, but she's going to fight Saber.
But that's not a good idea.
We still have a countermeasure, since we know Saber's powers. We can't use our only secret weapon when Zouken and Assassin are still waiting for us
"Wait, Tohsaka ! Saber's"
"Rin. I have no reason to fight you. Please do not attack me. I will go against Sakura's orders if I kill you here."
Speaking in the same quiet tones as before, Saber stops Tohsaka in her tracks.
We comprehend what she means right away.
"Yes. I am to eliminate anyone that passes by here.
That is Sakura's order. But"
"I'm an exception, and Sakura wants to see me?"
" I see. She must be serious."
After taking a deep breath, Tohsaka walks over to Saber.
Tohsaka walks on without hesitation and passes by Saber.
And right before she disappears
"Shirou. I don't know what'll happen to you, but I believe in you. So you'd better live up to my expectations."
I can't understand if you complain to me without telling me what I should be doing.
"I-I'm saying it'll just be a pain if you come complaining after everything's over! Um, make sure you're not too late if you want to save Sakura."
Tohsaka disappears, her hair fluttering behind her.
That gave me strength.
In short, she told me to come help her while she keeps Sakura at bay.
Her hostility expands.
Tohsaka left, and Rider and I are the only ones here.
So she doesn't have to hold back anymore, huh?
"I cannot overlook what you just said. You only kill those that pass through. If he merely stays here, you should not harm him."
"I will not attack if he does not move.
But he will advance, no matter what. He knows he cannot defeat me, but all he can do is move forward.
Am I wrong, Rider?"
"I see. You served him before me, after all.
It's natural that you know his personality."
Saber narrows her eyes.
The black holy sword is in her hands.
Rider or I.
If either one of us takes a step forward, Saber will use all her power to kill us.
" Saber. There's nothing that'll make you back down?"
"Stop asking me that. I said this is my role."
I grab the Shroud.
Saber shows no sign of hesitation.
We're already enemies.
I realized that back in the forest.
"I see. Then I'll eliminate you here."
I have to accept it.
"I'm going to save Sakura. You're in my way."
Saber's not my only enemy.
There's still Assassin and Zouken.
I can't be wasting my time here.
"Please stay back, Shirou. I shall fight Saber just as you instructed me."
Removing the restraint on her mystic eyes, Rider motions me back with one hand.
Saber raises her sword.
The hostility is already aimed at Rider
"Don't be stupid. I said we're both going to fight her. You "
"I may not be able to defeat her, but I can keep her occupied. Fortunately, Saber does not have the ability to repel mystic eyes.
I cannot petrify her as she has more magical energy, but I can pressure her. I can match her for two minutes if I use all my strength."
Rider's eyes capture Saber.
The mystic eyes, which petrify anyone in her sight, temporarily lower Saber's ability.
"I will create the situation. Please stay there and concentrate so you do not miss our chance."
"I will be going. I shall entrust you with my life, Shirou."
The black cavalryman dashes at the swordsman with light speed.
But Saber repels it like nothing.
A heavy pressure fills the cavern.
A cruel smile on her face, the black swordsman starts to move.