Loop 44

Day 1

Caren II/(Angra Mainyu)

I start walking toward the church.
Of course, I don't really have any business here. I got all the information I needed last time.
It's obvious that this woman is still hiding something from me, but I don't think she'll tell me anything more than she did last time.

Her help isn't needed to resolve this incident.

"...Really, I have no business here."

I place my hand on the door while grumbling.
There are both good premonitions and bad ones.
Without a doubt, this sudden urge to come here isn't going to be a good one for "me".

The hymn continues.
I take a seat and wait for the end of a long reminiscence.

**The closed garden. The overlapping fingers. The discordant noise.

Old, Bitter dreams and weak malice.**

...It's a story from not long ago.
The priest that was here half a year ago would rend open the hearts of people with his words and actions.
His methods were indirect, and coercive.
He would seize an opening to trample upon their deep wounds.

That woman is the same as the priest.
Her methods differ, but this music deprives people of their affections as well.

It's somehow unsettling.
This is most likely an incredible performance, but I can't bring myself to embrace it.

**Alone in untrodden land. Counting the breeze.

This place is far away. Deeper than everything. An empty sky.**

It says, "Rest your mind," and "Let yourself stop moving forward."
It says, "Take a break."
"If you are tired, you should rest your wings here."

...That kind of talk is irresponsible.
Telling someone to rest when they don't have the power to stand in the first place is like telling them to end it all together.

You must not stop.
You must not seek rest.
Once you've started, you must fill the cup to the brim.

**Abundantly decorated.

Continuing on in circles to fill up every day.

The abyss of slumber before the end, the built temple.

"-------, ah..."

Her performance was over before I knew it.
I breathe a sigh of relief once I no longer have to listen to that unbearable piece.

Before I knew it, that woman was standing right in front of me.

"Hey. Nicely done. It was a good piece."

I lift my head and without standing, begin to applaud.

"Why, thank you. ---------You... have an interest in music?"
"Yeah, I got into it recently.
If you investigated me you probably know this already, but I actually don't have a lot of hobbies. I only really started listening to organ music after I met you.
Um, how do I put this? I guess, it just goes to show how well you play."


Apparently my blatant flattery paid off as Caren nods, satisfied...

"-----------------Though you weren't even listening."

...and brazenly complains under her breath.

"Geh, you noticed?"
Judging by her reaction, she must find it meaningless to even answer.
Well then. This silence is a bit awkward.

Somehow, time goes by.
I didn't care about talking with her in the first place, so I'm completely okay even with this unpleasant silence.
I settle into my seat and squint toward the sunrays beaming through the skylights.

"......Just to confirm...
Didn't you say you had no further business with me?"
"Yeah, I did, but this is a church after all. Are you saying I can't come here unless I have business with you?"
I immediately respond to her unspirited question

"That's right. I cannot refuse those who have lost their way.
Then again, you are not exactly a lost lamb."

"That's harsh. Can't really argue with it, though.
Yeah, I've got nothing I want to confess, so I guess I really have no business with you."
"...Then we have nothing in common, do we."

Our conversation ends on that note.
The church fills with silence again.
She ought to understand my stance here, and yet Caren stands unmoving in front of me.
We haven't got any business with each other, so she could just leave me alone and go back to her room.

"Don't you have something else to talk about?"
"Like I already said, no."

...This is annoying. If we don't talk about something, she'll be standing here like this forever.
"Alright. You talk, then."

"Don't give me that.
If I've got nothing to talk about, then you just have to fill that gap, right?
I've got nothing to talk about, but if you talk, I'll listen."

"I see. That is quite right.
But what should I talk about?"

"Anything's fine.
When there's nothing else, things like your background or hobbies make for good topics. Sharing about yourself with others is the foundation of communication."

"...That's... true.
But are you alright with something like that?"
"Sure. If you talk, I'll listen."

I'm not really interested, but if this woman wants to talk, I can't stop her.
Besides, no matter what kind of talk it is, it'll probably be entertaining as long as it's something I don't already know.

I feel this is unnecessary for you to hear, but there might be something meaningful even in this."

After that, Caren goes silent for a short while.
Probably because she isn't used to talking about her own history.
She seems to enter a deep meditation while trying to recall her past in silence.

In the end, it was a predictably tedious tale.

She was born in a country in Sothern Europe and lost her parents soon after.
Her father was unknown to begin with.
Her mother had a weak constitution and died one year after her birth.
Official records state she was killed by a robber, but in reality she seemed to have taken her own life.

The church treats suicide as a transgression of the Lord's teaching.
It's not a mortal sin, but those who have taken their own lives will never pass through the gates of heaven and will suffer eternal torment in purgatory.
---------It's actually a good story.
Her mother was a devout believer that, in the final moments of a painful life, found a purpose great enough to rebel against the Lord.
...However, that purpose her mother found was meaningless to a small child.
No matter how wonderful the meaning she found was for her, it didn't change the fact that she turned against the teachings of the Lord and left her child behind.

Nobody was left to care for the child.
Her mother had no relatives and her father didn't come forward.
The prevailing opinion among the people was that her terminally ill mother had birthed a child from an unknown man, like a harlot.

With no relatives, the child was entrusted to the priest of a small church.
Her mother was a believer that took her own life. Her child was placed in the hands of an exemplary, devout priest, who looked with contempt upon the woman who had premarital sex with a passing stranger.
The child was entrusted to the house of God without a single piece of luggage. However, she did have one belonging.

Her mother had left her nothing but a name.
The priest did not give her his family name, instead leaving it the same as the mother who committed suicide.
That name was Ortensia.
It's the name of a certain flower that blooms on rainy days.

The girl lived with the priest for about eight years.
The priest was filled with love towards the Lord, but shared no love for the child he had taken in.
He was provided funds for her upbringing, yet made her work as a servant of the church instead of sending her to school.

Just by being born, the girl had sinned.
She was not baptized at the time of her birth, and until baptized to welcome her into childhood, she would be given nothing of the Lord's love.
The priest declared that until then, the human known as Caren could not be recognized as a child of God.

However, it was questionable if this unusually strict priest would be generous enough to baptize an orphan at all.

There were two reasons why the priest did not grant her a proper education.
In order to reduce unnecessary expenses, and to prevent her from gaining knowledge.
Knowledge must not be given to the child of a beast.
That is the first step toward wickedness and more than anything else, it would be inconvenient in various ways if she gained the capacity to think for herself.
After all, defiance and exclaiming harmful truths to the masses would affect the dignity of the house of God.

To "pray" was all the priest permitted her to do.
He instructed her to give herself to God.

This continued for eight years.
Maybe she became used to suffering, or maybe her emotions were broken from birth, like her father's.
The girl didn't think of her life as difficult.
She learned of the Lord and of man by watching the priest.
She perfected her innocent prayers over those eight years.

And then came the year when the girl was of age to receive baptism.
Stigmata appeared on her body and the priest accepted his defeat.
He could no longer control her.
He opened the gates of the church that imprisoned her and handed her over to a much larger world.

The fortress-like structure of the monastery was built deep in the forest.
She cut her connections to the outside world and earnestly continued abiding by the teachings of the Lord, in a larger prison.

It was a separate world.
For the men who lived there, it embodied the very virtues of poverty, purity, and meekness that they strode for.
The monastery was a self-sufficient community consisting of devout followers and all the necessities for living were made within the monastery.
The followers made their own food and clothing, and as a modest pleasure, a small amount of wine and cheese.
Detailed rules for each monastery are different, but the principles are the same.
There was only labor for living and prayer for the Lord.

Inside the high walls, there was a world of peace and harmony.
To achieve a union with God, they renounced the ways of the world and formed a closed society of the "chosen" faithful.
...Naturally, that lifestyle requires more discipline than at a local church in every aspect.
The girl was accepted by the Cisternian Order.
Among the monasteries, that place had a particularly long history and strict discipline where love of the Lord rivaled even the worth of a person's life.

To eat, to work, to worship, to choose.
Even those universal rights were not extended to those not loved by the Lord.

By that standard, the girl did not even have basic human rights.
No, her very existence was unforgiveable.
It was unthinkable that the venerable Cisternian Order would take an orphaned child into its ranks.

The girl was accepted into the monastery solely because of the stigmata that dwelled within her body.
To spontaneously be wounded, to bleed, and to be healed.
Knowledge of this ordeal is passed down by the faithful--------From the perspective of those believers who live on the other side, it was clear that the girl possessed an unusual power.

When it was recognized that she was an advanced spirit medium--------that she could sense nearby drifting spirit matter, act as an intermediary and materialize it into this world through her own flesh, the girl's value skyrocketed.

That unusual ability is not something that can be cultivated with training
An ability held from birth, it is a genetic predisposition unrelated to the will of the individual.
Such a rarity having a high value is only natural.

"Caren Ortensia's rare talent will achieve unprecedented results in a particular ritual---------"

In light of this report, the Holy Church entrusted the young girl to the Cistercian monastery.
But then again...
No matter how valuable she became, the Church never bestowed the Lord's love to her.

The girl was given a room, an education, and trained as an instrument of the Lord.
She was taught to conduct herself as a perfect believer so that she would not bring shame upon the Church's name whenever she went outside.
As a general rule, a person who entered the monastery could not live outside of it.
They may move to other monasteries, but being outside of a monastery altogether was not permitted.

However, she was not invited to be a Cistercian Nun.
An agent.
She was delivered only as an armament of the Church for assistance in demon exorcisms.

A weapon is intended to be guided by the hands of man.
She was permitted to leave the monastery only when her unusual talents were required to make known the Lord's might.

The might of the Lord was not meant to be turned toward humanity.
It should be directed toward the wild ones who do not fear the Lord, the demons that threaten humanity.
To manifest evil, a demon has to take over a human's body.
To cleanse this person and reveal God's love to humanity was the task given to the woman, no, to the agent using the woman.

She was employed by an exorcist.
A special priest, one allowed to act as a "representative" from the bishops of the diocese.
They answer calls for aid, visiting the towns of the possessed to exorcise demons.

It was closer to fighting than praying.

Her master frequently said to himself that the work was like washing the bottom of hell's cauldron.

Exorcisms vary in severity, and the ones her master faced were the particularly intense ones.
They did not concern themselves with imposters who blamed their own mental breakdowns on demons, or with monster outbreaks.
Their opponents were only those who had completely "turned" into demons.

The tragedy caused by a True Demon isn't something that can be endured by the human mind.
All towns visited by the exorcist had deviated from the world of humans.
The damage inflected by a demon isn't limited to the possessed, but also spreads to the people around them.
---------More than the possessed person, their spirits rather than their bodies, are twisted into deformed monstrosities.

As her master would say, it wasn't far from a tour of hell.

In an exorcism, the weak point that most easily succumbs to death is none other than one's human reason.
The body's ability to survive is not that important.
In the first place, the extent of a human's power cannot compete with the likes of one who has "turned" into a demon.

The physical body is protected by a holy relic embodying the miracle of the Lord.
However, the spirit must be defended by one's own will.
What is required in an exorcism is ironclad faith.
In that respect, too, the woman was suited for exorcism.
It is probably for the best that her emotions shifted so little.
It is said that the exorcism of a True Demon is something that cannot be endured twice, but she continued to perform them indifferently.

The woman was valued highly.
She had the life of a nun and the role as an agent of the church.
The workload assigned to her was nothing short of backbreaking.
It probably would have overcome any normal person within a month's time.

Although, as far as she was concerned, it was not much different from the daily work she used to do.
For her, who couldn't really understand things like fun, torture had become indivisible from "work."

            ᴼʳᵃ    ᵉᵗ   ᴸᵃᵇᵒʳᵃ  

---------Pray and work.

...It's ironic.
Those words which symbolize the monastery had come to symbolize her own life as well.

In short, the church handed you off to a monastery, and you found your true calling?"

Yes, it wouldn't be wrong to put it that way."

Caren seems to pout a little as she nods.
Whoops. Was she offended that I summed it all up a bit too much?

"Ah... What is it? Did that touch a nerve?"
"Yes, that surprised me. It would have been better if I explained it that way from the beginning. May I use that summarized version of yours from now on?"

Her admiration and proposal are both sincere.
Whatever, I honestly don't get this girl at all.

"That's fine, you're the copyright holder. If you want to use it, then by all means go ahead."
"Thank you. What you have succinctly stated is very true."

I'm not sure how to react seeing her act that pleased right after telling such a depressing story.
...Well, somehow I just felt that way.
This woman is actually pleased with having that kind of life up to now.

"--------Well, that's fine. Since we've gone this far, I might as well hear the whole story.
What do you do during an exorcism?"

Well, no, it's not fine.
It's not, but I want to clarify this part first.

"I do not do anything.
I have not been granted the rites nor sacraments to exorcise a demon. I simply accompany my master."

"Huh? You mean you just follow him, that's all?"
What the hell?
Is this guy she's calling "master" a coward?
Don't tell me he was just afraid to go to the towns where the possessed were by himself.

"I will not ask the reason for your sudden indignation, but the conclusion you must have carelessly reached is mistaken.
Those who become exorcists do not fear demons.
The only thing to fear is the shattering of one's own mind."

"...Hmm. That's very impressive, but in that case, he'd be perfectly fine all by himself, right? Wasn't there no need for him to bring you along?
What about that "masochistic pneumatic automatism" thing you have? If you get close to demons, you'd get the same symptoms as someone who's possessed, right?
In that case, you'd be a nuisance rather than an assistant. It's like jumping into a fire while covered in gasoline."

"That is my role. To take spiritual damage. That is the shortest path to identifying the demons.
Demons are not visible to the human eye, it isn't known that someone is possessed until they transform.
Or rather, it's that True Demons are clever, so they conceal themselves within the possessed. So as to not attract the attention of enemies until reaching maturity, they try to suppress the symptoms as much as possible."

"...Unfortunately, the Church as no way to exorcise a demon once fully matured. The only thing exorcists can do is find them before they are grown and exorcise them.
Once they have become a demon, we have no choice but to incinerate them. The only ones able to do this are agents that specialize in heretic inquisition."

"Ah----------So that's your purpose."

A sudden emotion destabilizes me.
I feel a bit disgusted.

Demons can't be seen by humans. Only the host knows he is possessed.
The first and most difficult step in an exorcism is finding the demon that conceals its true identity.
Even for a skilled exorcist, identifying a demon is like walking on a tightrope at all times.

This is where she is useful.
She has an idiosyncrasy that responds lustfully to the surrounding demons and evil spirits, and causes the effects of the possession on its own.
From the Church's perspective, it's an extraordinary "heresy."
Although it would normally be a useless genetic trait that would normally be harmful to even let exist, there is one specific purpose for which its radical effectiveness is demonstrated.

In short...

The girl is a living detector that sheds blood to inform others of demons.

It makes a tearing noise.

It breaks her arms, crushes her legs, and rips her womb from the inside.

Even if the form returns, the function does not.

The sight from those dull golden eyes was lost long ago.

This bell-like voice may not even resound in reality.

...These are her true colors.

She is a messenger of God, who saves others by mutilating herself until death.

"------So that's why, I see."

Her "true calling" was well said.

"No wonder you were even chosen by the Holy Shroud of Magdala."

It takes some kind of reason to endure such unreasonable pain.
She gives unimaginable pain to herself.
Even if she doesn't want it, injuring herself is still a masochistic act.

...You cannot injure yourself out of hatred.
Her deeds are not something that can be done without love, or faith.

"...Just asking, but can you refuse?
You can't, right? You would have refused if you could."

"That is also incorrect.
The Church is strict, but it is not inhumane. One has the right to refuse participation in an exorcism."
"------So why do you bother helping with the exorcisms?"

"Because there is meaning in it.
Besides, neither outside nor inside are any different to me."

Going outside to perform exorcisms and being inside the monastery are no different.
...Ah, so that's it.
I had thought before that she was riddled with bandages and reeked of disinfectant, but it's no wonder.
A demon stings at the very heart of a human.
No matter where she goes, she can't avoid getting hurt.

"That's total bullshit. That's no good reason to take part in exorcisms.
Don't you have even one complaint?"

"I understand that I have a handicap compared to others, but that's what I was born with.
There is no point feeling bitter about it. If I was born this way, I just have to abide by my fate."
"What? Haven't you thought about curing it? If it's something like a disease, at least do something to improve your health."

"No cure has been found for it, nor do I wish for one. It is enough just to be able to pity myself over my misfortune.
---------Besides, although I certainly do become injured, those are not my wounds, but rather those of someone else.
It is pity I have, rather than resentment."

-Holy shit.
-The hell is she talking about?

"You're saying you're fine like this?"
"Yes. Since I came into this world like this, it is simply the destiny I follow."

She said she'll take everything as it is.
I can't speak for how someone else might take it.
But this kind of thing doesn't sit well with "me".

"Hey, what do you want out of your life?"
"Is a meaning in life necessary?"

"No, I wouldn't worry about something like that.
But it's like you're living to do nothing. Things like that just piss me off, you know."

Someone had complained about something like this at some point or other.
It was---------

I don't like it when people aren't rewarded for their hard work.

When were those words said?

I wouldn't call it saintly.
After all, those imposters known as saints don't try to award results, Because it doesn't fit the equality they preach, they'd never speak of being rewarded in the end.
That's why these are nothing but thoughtless words.
It's not even hypocrisy, but a questionable, naive wish.

"...The atmosphere has changed again, hasn't it? Only a moment ago you were frustrated, but now it's clear that you are angry."

Apparently she can read my expression even with her eyes closed.
But unfortunately, that's not quite right.
It's not that I got angry just now, but that I'm always in a bad mood when I'm here.

"Well, whatever. I guess since that's your policy, there was no need to speak out over every little thing.
I don't like it, but have it your way."

"-------I see. You, Emiya Shirou, are someone who cannot be patient."

She pushes back with a blunt tone.
Is it her turn to be angry now, or did she just return to her usual self?
She looks at me with conceited eyes appropriate for this church.

"Um----------------What was that?"
"Nothing, really. I know someone very similar to you, so I just compared you with him. Although, he is someone who can be patient.
Although you would not agree on anything, you do have some interesting points in common."

She grins broadly.
I don't think it's appropriate for a substitute priest to flaunt her malicious intent.

"I don't understand what you're saying.
There's nothing I'd have in common with this guy you know, right?"

"Everyone knows except the person themselves, isn't that how it goes?
Emiya Shirou is a good man who kills his own desire and cannot forgive the irrationality of the world.
Whereas the other man is a villain who embraces his own desire and ignores the injustice of the world.
Even though you are polar opposites, you have far too much in common.
...Hehe. Just like a demon appearing through opposing mirrors."

An unpleasant smile appears on her face.
...I figured out something.
Caren has even less individuality than I do, but she gets excited at the idea of rubbing someone's weak spot the moment she discovers it.
The troubling part is how effective her nose for this stuff is.
This woman uses her unmatched senses to sniff out the scars of others.

"......So, who's this "polar opposite" of mine?"
"He is a figure from an old tale.
In a certain land, there was a sinner that shouldered the sins of everyone in the land and received punishment for them until his death.
He was a very virtuous young man, but he was chosen to be the sinner simply by chance. It was an act carried out by the will of man, but because he people did not directly choose, it might be said to be the will of heaven."

"...The will of heaven, huh? He was imprisoned and abused because of something like that? There's no doubt he'd hold a grudge against the world."

"No. The grudge he held only lasted for a few years. In the end he forgave all of mankind.
He watched the world change over a long time--------Undoubtedly, he forgave them all."

"--------So, his hatred didn't last long?
Come on. That's just what his assailants would like to think, right?"

"That's likely right. The hatred that has taken root in him can already be called eternal.
Hating humans is as natural to him as breathing is to us.
That is the kind of entity he's become. That hatred is no longer an emotion, but a way of life."

"Like that, he affirmed everything.
"The world deserves to be hated." "There are an endless variety of humans, so whatever happens can't be irrational."
"Do as you like, since I will offset the irrationality with my hatred."
He forgave many events and the evil desires of the masses, saying, "Even that is fine.""

"............That's really amazing.
That's not just a good guy, that's a saint."

"Not quite. Sometimes affirming everything becomes the greatest evil.
Do you not understand?
Forgiving everything is to simplify it all by reasoning that the strong are strong, and the weak are weak."

"...Moreover, he praises an individual's desires.
He says, "Do what you think is good for yourself." Having no concept of good and evil, he simply affirms all things as they are."

"What a troublesome person," Caren adds.
...That certainly is troublesome.
A mindset like that would end up endorsing crime.

"Isn't that guy bad? You're a representative of God, so go haul him in before it's too late. Come on, you can use something like that red cloth. Capture was its specialty."

"Rest assured, there is no need to capture him.
He is indeed a dreadful being, but even leaving him be is probably fine.
He is, fundamentally, incompetent and harmless."

"......Didn't you just say something really cruel?"
"I have simply stated the truth.
At any rate, because of his passive nature he is quite lazy. He doesn't have the initiative to carry out evil acts."

"Well, that's alright then.
...So, where are this guy and I alike?"

"You don't understand? Really?
Despite simply being a matter of "hating the world despite loving it" or "loving the world despite hating it"?
You don't see that you two, despite being so fundamentally different, merely have the order reversed?"

"I'm asking because I don't understand!" Or so I was about to say, but it seemed like a waste of time.
I didn't come to talk about this sort of thing to begin with.
I just came here on a whim, listening to her talk as she pleased.

I have no obligation to rack my brains over some uncomfortable doubt like this.

"Question. Why did we start talking about this?"

It's obvious now that Caren's switch has been flipped.
This contrived shift in behavior is something I've seen often with Tohsaka Rin.

"I'm surprised. You don't understand this either?
You are really quite thickheaded, aren't you?"
"If you mean I'm bad at picking up on others' feelings, I agree.
So? What's your reason for pissing me off?"

"....Unbelievable. Very well, I will answer this one.
That just now was payback for selfishly examining me."

I haven't even tried imaging what's underneath that unfashionable robe of hers, but...

It's like you're living to do nothing.

Well, I might have offended her by saying something that was a bit too on the nose.

In any case, I think staying here any longer would be even more uncomfortable.
"I'm going home. Go catch some random guy in the park if you want to talk so much."
A simple matter of going Whooosh! with that red cloth of hers.

"...As I said, I cannot go outside very often.
You don't have any spare time?"
"I did until I met you, but now I don't have time to mess around. You've given me an objective for the time being."

"Ah," Caren responds in comprehension.
That's right. I've figured out my path from here on.
I socialized with her because she's a valuable source of information, but I should hurry back if there are no more leads.

"See you. If I come by again, try to at least be a little more helpful."

"-------I promise.
If you have lost your way the next time you come, I will guide you to the correct path.
...In exchange, please tell me one more time.
Why do you wish to resolve this anomaly?"

"Uh---------That's, well-------"

......Then, why is it exactly?
Why am I obsessed with the resolution of this anomaly?
Even though after the fourth day it will be as though nothing ever happened anyway.

"--------------------No, that..."
"...It was a foolish question, wasn't it.
I was the one who said you were an impatient person.
For Emiya Shirou, it was only natural to extend a hand to someone in need."

With a poof, all doubt vanishes.
Now that she mentions it, she's right.
Because it was something I didn't need to think twice about, it probably wasn't even a reason at all.

...I can't believe it...
But those are the kinds of thoughts that fill this head of mine.

I stand up to leave.
She looks at me as though she still has something to say.

"...Do you dislike this place so much?
Or perhaps city life is more stimulating?"
"--------That's half right.
I hate this place, but compared to wandering around town, well, at least it has some new flavor."

They say you'll get tired of even a feast if you don't try different foods every now and then.
It's simply enough to have my everyday normal life to go back to.
Things like excitement and passion can come later, when I've forgotten about them.

"That's just how it is, I can't stomach either you or this place, but I'll come again if I feel like it. See ya."
I start walking towards my daily life.

"Is your everyday life fun, Emiya Shirou?"
"-------Who knows?
It's not so intensely fun that I need to give special thanks for it."

I have to confess...
Rather than calling it fun, it's all so dazzling it's sometimes a little painful.

I leave that foul church behind.
With the organ's venom fading, I can finally think straight again.
Caren said it's only natural for Emiya Shirou to save someone.


But still...
Just who am I trying to save...?

Emiya Residence・Start of Night Things to do

Day 2

Emiya Residence・Day 1 Reopening

I gaze at the pleasant blue sky.

Taking a break after a meal to enjoy some tea out on the veranda is a particularly special reward.

It is the very ordinary nature that makes such everyday happiness the best.

“―――So I've looked it up, and there were, in fact, a Master and a Servant that matched.

On the fourth day of the Heaven's Feel, the ones to drop out were the Einzberns'―――”

“Hey, pay attention!

After all the trouble I went to checking on this, you'd better be listening to me!”

“Huh? No, what? Tohsaka?”

I'm momentarily confused.

I look down to find Tohsaka sitting beside me.

“It's me, all right... You don't mean to say that you didn't hear a word I just said, do you?”

A sarcasm-free, direct-to-the-point question that is very uncharacteristic of Tohsaka.

The Tohsaka heir is infuriated to the point of forgetting her own family's "always elegant" motto.

“―――Sorry, but I didn't.

Actually―――what are you doing here, Tohsaka?”

I'm worried that she might have just teleported here or something.

I truly don't have any memory of Tohsaka coming out here and sitting down next to me.

“......Wait. Are you saying that you didn't even realize that I'd come home?”

“O-Of course not, I'm not that out of it. Give me some credit here.

I probably just didn't notice that you'd come out here to relax, and didn't realize that you were talking to me until now.”

“Sounds like you were pretty out of it to me.

...Oh, forget it. Either you were having some weird dream, or else you're just tired from the torment over these "four days," I'd guess. I'm willing to let this go as you being tired this time.”

“Ahh... again, I'm sorry. I'm a bit scared now myself. And also, umm... it's not like I'm half asleep or anything, so could you stop peering at me like that?”

“Ah. Y-Yeah, you're right, I'm a little too close, aren't I?”

Tohsaka leaps to her feet.

Until a moment ago, she was incredibly close to simply pushing me down.

“...Alright, I'll go over it one more time.

Let's start by dealing with these "four days" of yours. For now, let's proceed with the assumption that the cause is someone's wish to the Holy Grail.

I believe that the clue to understanding who this "someone" is lies in the nature of this four-day boundary.”

“At first, I thought that the Grail's power might have a limitation that allows no more than four days to be reproduced, but if that's the case, I don't see why they wouldn't repeat one day forever instead. I don't think their intention was to try and conserve the Grail's power.”

“You're right about that. The holder of the Grail―――the summoner would have their wish granted, and that would be it. There's no way they'd go, "I'd better try to save some magical energy for later."”

“Right. So there must be some other reason they're saving the four days like this.

For some reason, the one contracted to the Grail can only reproduce the first four days of the Heavens' Feel.

So there you have it. The point here is that what's happening is not a new start or a restart, but a reproduction. Do you know what this means, Emiya-kun?”

“...Yeah, more or less.

Whoever this is, they've experienced the Heaven's Feel, and are now reproducing it.”

“Good job. It's a self-evident truth once you realize it.

The fact that only four days are being repeated isn't because there isn't enough power from the Holy Grail.

This person had experienced just those four days of the Heaven's Feel to begin with.

Having dropped out on the fourth day, they simply do not know what happened afterwards.”

“...So "this person" is a Master who was eliminated on the fourth day?

But there wasn't one.”

“Not in our Heaven's Feel, that is.

So, I looked over the records of the previous Heavens' Feels for Masters who were sent off during the fourth day...”

“?? But the previous war has nothing to do with this. It's the fifth one, the one we were involved in, which is being repeated.”

“You think so?

It might be a little different than that. Speaking figuratively, the "four days" is a blank script, and we are the actors.

Since the script is blank, the actors can improvise freely, but there is a set performance time of four days―――”

Tohsaka jumps backwards.


“―――The barrier is responding to something. Shirou, come with me. It seems we have an unwelcome guest outside.”

“...You're right, it's very soft, but I can hear the alarm going off. Wow, you noticed it before the actual alarm...”

She's likely set up a similar barrier around herself as well.

Ever since leaving for London, Tohsaka's power has been steadily rising. What an ominous prospect.

Right on Tohsaka's heels, I head outside.


Without turning to face me, Tohsaka gestures behind her back for me to stay on the alert and cover her.

I reply with a nod and ready myself for a battle.

Facing Tohsaka now is...

a woman I've never seen before. In the flesh, that is.

“Hello. What business brings you here on such a fine day, Miss Magus from the Association?”

“I could ask you much the same question. I believe this is the residence of Mr. Emiya Kiritsugu, which hardly explains what you might be doing here.

...I recall hearing that he had an adopted child, but―――”

“Do you want something with Emiya-kun? He shouldn't have any ties to the Association yet. If you have a message for him, I would be happy to hear it as an intermediary and pass it on to him.”

Tohsaka's grinning, but there's a firm rejection written all over her face. In reply,

“...I do not wish to fight you right now.

I have no choice but to respond when faced with pointless vigilance, however. We are in a public place―――quiet the Magic Crest of yours at once.”

The woman casually pushed back.

It seems like Tohsaka had activated the crest on her left arm.

Having potential insurance against a surprise attack seen through so quickly makes her grow even more agitated.

...But Tohsaka should have already realized how meaningless it is.

The woman standing before of us isn't looking for a fight, nor does it seem like she's planning on a surprise attack.

That's because her power as a magus is easily three times the level of Tohsaka's.

If this woman made up her mind to fight us, she wouldn't even need a surprise attack to overpower us completely.

“...Understood. Would that mean that you have only come here today to observe?”

“Correct. I have not come here to fight as a Master. ―――However, I must say that I am unimpressed by your carelessness. To think that you would fail to keep Saber close by simply because it is daytime...”

“Keep Saber close by...?”

Tohsaka's voice sounds a touch perplexed.

“...I see. Both of you are still alive, and you have yet to meet each other, I take it... meaning that this talk is best finished quickly.”

I can't make heads or tails of this monologue of hers.

The woman's gaze is fixed on Tohsaka.

...Their conversation doesn't match up.

The date, Servants, and the woman knowing Tohsaka's name.

Neither Tohsaka nor the woman seem to notice the chasm that will make itself known the moment one of them misses a step.

A balancing act precarious enough to send shivers down my spine.

This is a miracle on the level of walking across a bottomless pit on a tightrope.

I look on wordlessly.

I don't know how many times now Tohsaka's told me not to interfere should a magus from the Association come.

As I survey the woman standing before me, I feel dazed, or more accurately, astonished.

The one who wasn't there, who shouldn't have existed at all, the Eighth Master.

“...What a strange conversation this is turning out to be. Have you come to hand down some judgment concerning the legacy of Emiya Kiritsugu now, after so much time as passed? He was a freelance magus; I don't recall his ever being affiliated with the Association.”

“I have no jurisdiction over the legacy of Mr. Emiya. I am simply interested in him as the victor of the previous Heaven's Feel.

Are we not the same in this respect? After all, it is in order to obtain the Holy Grail slumbering in this town that you have come to the Emiya residence like this.”


Tohsaka's doubt turns into confidence.

The misaligned gears have shifted back into place, and this disjointed conversation has finally started to make sense.

“......Wait a minute. What's this misunderstanding the Association has about the Grail?

The Heaven's Feel is over. The ritual was a complete failure, and the cornerstone used in summoning was itself destroyed.

The fifth Heaven's Feel of Fuyuki was also the last.”

A magnificent sense of balance.

And yet she's slipped up.

Of course. Tightrope walking cannot continue on forever.

It's an obvious fact, and yet this woman still came all the way here. Why?

“―――Let me confirm something.

Did you just say that the fifth Heaven's Feel is already over?”

―――I feel a chill.

If she were to nod, a fist fight would occur the very next instant.

And yet, despite tremendous bloodlust emanating from the woman, Tohsaka goes ahead and nods right in front of her.

“That's correct. It is no longer possible to summon a miracle in this city.

Due to the illegal actions of the supervisor, Kotomine Kirei, dispatched by the Church to oversee the Fifth Heaven's Feel, the ritual was shut down.

Not only the Association, but also the Church were forced to remove their influence from this land due to his death.”


Something falls.

The Heaven's Feel is over. As if using her strength to push away those very words away from her,

with that single sentence,

she lets the mask of steel fall away.

“Kotomine... is dead...?”

“That's right. He's been dead for half a year now. He was defeated by Emiya Shirou, the victor of the fifth Heavens' Feel.”

Tohsaka's eyes shift towards me.

“Emiya Shirou―――I have... never heard of a Master by that name. No, for a winner of the fifth Heaven's Feel to exist already, there's no way―――”

There's no way...

"There is no way I will recognize one," says the burning hatred in the woman's eyes.

Several seconds pass.

Tohsaka takes a step to forward, protecting me,

“Hey. Something kept bothering me all this time. I wonder if you'd mind me asking about it now.

―――What happened to that arm of yours?”

She asks a very odd question.


Two surprised voices make themselves heard.

As though suddenly remembering something, the woman reaches out her left hand to touch her own right arm―――and everything comes falling down.


I had no time to call out to her.

The woman flees at full speed, running as though she'd just seen a ghost.

Although if you'd asked me, I'd say it was Tohsaka and I who were visited by one.

“...It seems as though the Mage's Association is short on capable members at the moment, too. I wonder if their rank-and-file management isn't quite up to speed.”

Either she has no desire to chase after the woman, or she doesn't dare try.

After saying a line that sounds like she read it from a script, Tohsaka turns around to face me.

“...Well, it looks like she won't be back any time soon.

She wasn't the most mentally stable person I've ever met, but her powers were the real thing. She could have beaten the both of us with one hand tied behind her back, so it's lucky for us that she decided to leave of her own will.”

“So, Emiya-kun, do you know her? I've never seen her before.”

“No, neither have I.”

“Is that so. You sure did get completely disregarded.

She's real sharp as a magus, and yet it seems like she completely failed to notice that you are a magus, too, Emiya-kun.”

“That's not it. Rather than ignoring me, it seemed more like she never noticed I was there at all.”

So she's one of those types who thinks that the vast difference in our level of ability makes me unworthy of her consideration. Suddenly, my training feels very inadequate.

“If so, that would be bad. I'm pretty sure she's the enemy you're looking for.

If you're planning on doing something about her, you'd better make sure you do it with Saber by your side.”

―――And so.

Tohsaka directs a backward glance at me, her brightness of a moment ago vanishing.

“I'm not sure what it is you're trying to say.

...But if it turns into a fight, I should make sure Saber is part of it, is that it?”

“Right. If she's still too much for you even then, go ask Lancer about it. He should know what we're dealing with when it comes to her.”

This encounter.

A conversation spanning only a few minutes was enough for Tohsaka to grasp the workings of the whole situation.

But that is all.

She isn't about to suggest a way out of it.

“I'm going back inside.

...I'm not going to get involved any further in this. If you're going to try and resolve it, you'll have to do it on your own.”

Saying so coldly over her shoulder, Tohsaka heads back indoors.

“...What a woman...”

Those words just slipped out of me for some reason.

This doesn't mean that Tohsaka's abandoning me.

Just the opposite; it feels like she's done all she can to give me a chance―――

Streets・Day 2 Caren

Humming to myself, I make my way towards the park.

My early afternoon patrol failed to turn up anything, but I can't say I'm dissatisfied with that.

With weather as good as this, I can't help but be in a pleasant mood.

It's such a nice day that people are lounging about instead of hurrying to wherever they're going.

“Mmmm, nothing's happening, but this in itself is a rather...”

...happy state of affairs, however cheaply bought.
 A day like this is best spent in leisure, basking in one's good fortune in the company of strangers.

sigh I feel like nothing could disturb me from the embrace of such a gentle afternoon. What could possibly go wrong? Even if a duo like these two should come along, for example...

And god save me if these two should show up―――

―――Hang on. What was that just now?

As I tremble at the sight of my terribly accurate amateur prophecy, I feel something coil around my leg.

“..................No. Just no. No no no.”

I fervently cross myself, pleading for salvation from imminent reality.

In an instant,

Emiya Shirou was reeled in like a common fish while the general public went about its own business.


I'm unceremoniously dragged across the tiled floor.

As the catch (my body) rolls to a stop,

the red cloth disappears without a trace (evidence destroyed),

and the prime suspect saunters up as if everything were perfectly normal. Yet why do I feel like the huntress is about to skin her prey?

“Good day, Emiya Shirou. What a coincidence.”


I brush the dust off my body as I stand up.

Of course, I give her my meanest evil eye. My glare does its best to convey, "What the hell was that!? You'd better have a damned good reason for doing that or else you're in for a beat down!!!"

“? Are you unwell? You don't seem to be hurt.”

Gah, her composure is ironclad.

My glare is too low level to even deal a single hit point of damage.

“...Right, I'm dealing with someone who has no concept of remorse.”

That is, there's no problem since she got exactly what she wanted.

She would only ever admit to a personal failure.

Meaning that she probably sees nothing wrong with premeditated assault and kidnapping.

“Hey. So this is the kind of person you are?”

“I normally don't do such things, but it was at your request this time.

You asked me to engage you thus the next time I was available.”


At that, I tilt my head in confusion.

“What? I asked you to do that?”

“Indeed you did. You said, and I quote, "Use that fancy holy shroud of yours to tie me up good."”


...Hmmm. I don't remember saying that, but the way she puts it, I sound like I'm just reaping what I sow.

“...Fine. I can't remember but that's my own fault. From now on just approach me normally.”

“Very well. I too had my reservations about our ability to converse in such a manner.”

That's a shame.

She has the right of things, for once.

But I wish she would take a lesson from this moment and apply that common sense to her future decisions.

“...Sigh. Anyway, hello, Caren. I don't usually see you out here.”

“I also did not expect to be speaking with you at this time.”

“That's true, now that I think of it. You're never outside the church in the daytime, are you?

Is it okay for you to leave now?”

“Exceptions can be made. If circumstances demand it, I can enter the town for a short time.”

“I see. Then would you like to come over to my house sometime?”

“That sounds... trying. Besides, I don't think I would get along with any of those girls.”

“You think so...? Hmmm, I don't know about that.”

Honestly, I think she's kind of like Tohsaka.

Though I don't have a real explanation for that opinion.

“Well, if you change your mind, feel free to drop in. I'll make some tea for you.

So. That was a hell of a way to get my attention, Caren, but do you mind telling me what we're doing here?”

Did that part surprise her?

“What's wrong...? Does leaving the church actually hurt you, after all?”

“No, that's not it... you seem more gentlemanly than usual. I am merely surprised.”

I'm pretty sure we haven't spoken enough for her to say that.

Ah, well―――maybe, I've already heard her performance many times―――

“Sorry, you said this was your first time talking like this...?”

“Yes. This is the first time I've spoken to you here.

We are somewhat acquainted, so we've met several times before.

...Please, there is no need to worry for my health.”

“......I get it. You're feeling fine, then.

So, what did you need me for?”

“It is not that I had a need for you. I shouldn't have said anything, but even as I intended to pass by, I noticed that you seem... happy, and...”


...What was that?

I just felt a seriously cold chill run down my spine.

“I-I seemed happy, and what?”

How did it make her feel...?

“Unexpectedly, it excited my sadistic heart.

And, as it was a look of unadulterated joy, I felt I had to let you know something.

That life is not a happy thing, and that people are constantly crushed by the pain and anguish of their self-destruction. That I could destroy all your complacence with but a single breath.”


So, you couldn't stomach the sight of me?”

“No. I harbor no animosity towards you. It is merely the sight of happy people that makes me want to flay them alive.

...I suppose that's it. There were already signs of it before, but since coming to this town, it's become much more regular... Perhaps this is a new hobby of mine?”


Even listening to this is disturbing.

It's confusing to hear, but her intentions seem perfectly clear to me.

“I see―――Well, that sucks.”

“I agree. Honestly, I sound just like a certain someone.”

We nod in unison.

It's the kind of sympathy that can only come from having a common enemy.

“I'd still like you to overlook my little bit of happiness, at least for a short while. Can't you just let me live in peace?”

“......I suppose I cannot impose on you after such a plea.

But it appears to me that your joy will soon end. I don't even need to extinguish it myself.”

Caren abruptly turns away with displeasure.

How should I put it - she looks like a child that's had her favorite toy taken away.

“―――Ah, there was one thing I forgot to ask.

Have you seen a suspicious pair in this neighborhood? One of them is large, the other small. Their appearance is very noticeable, so there's no need for a full description.”

“A suspicious pair...? No, I haven't seen anyone like that.”

“I see. I thought I sensed them around here, but they may have already moved.

How dare those wretched familiars run from me.”

The nun lets out an oddly warm chuckle.

Uhh, Sister, if there's anyone suspicious around, it's YOU.

“Goodbye, Emiya Shirou. If it is fated to be, let us meet again at the church.”

I watch her leave, her footsteps fading into the distance.

The girl, robed in her religious habit, left the park behind. Not as a phantom, but as a real human being.

Emiya Residence・Start of Night Things to do

Day 4 Streets・Day 4 Gossip between the two

It's unusual for the riverside to show no signs of life.

The townspeople's favorite place to relax has only two people...

And it's one ridiculously conspicuous and unusual pair to boot.

“.....................This sure is rare.”

No, it's not the combination itself that's rare.

By all rights, they should be at each other's throats. Heck, if it wasn't for the fact that they have one Master, they'd be killing each other outright. But no, they're just chatting and eating ice cream...!

“Ah, I'll have you know that's my treat.”

Another shocking fact is revealed.

“Ha, ha, ha. When it comes to ice cream, the very-berry-strong is best, after all!”

Together with completely pointless commentary.

Incidentally, Lancer's eating strawberry-flavored gelato.

“Ah, Onii-san's shocked.

Is it that weird for the two of us to be together?”

“Nah, it's gotta be the talking part. Ain't no wonder the lad froze up.”

“You looking cute and innocent ain't right to begin with.

It's like a different person. Way too much of a mystery, that growth process thing. All blank after the monkey stage.”

“Oh dear. I'm not well-liked, am I? I'd sure like to get along with my comrades under the same Master, though.

Though, well, now that I think about it, I've certainly done a lot of things that could lead to misunderstandings. Can't be helped, I guess.”

“Ain't no misunderstanding. You were a full-on tyrant, no mistake. No matter how ya put it, can't just sit and watch. Gotta kick yer butt once and fix that at the root, ain't no other remedy.”

“That's right. Why did I have to turn into such a person? But the future can't be changed. Aah, who'd have thought that knowing the future could be so depressing.”

The blond boy drops his shoulders dejectedly.

“I get it. I know that feeling, just a little.”

“Really? That's great, then I can be good friends with you, Onii-san.

I'm so happy, I finally met a person who would be friends with me even after I become an adult!”

“Ah. Sorry, that's impossible. I can't get along with the grown-up you. Fundamentally incompatible with my tastes, you could say.”

“Is that so... What a shock, even Onii-san says that he prefers the little me with a serious face... The grown-up me isn't up to his taste, what a biased guy.”

“...Mmph. Hey kid, were ya one of those folks...? I see, so that's how it is. Ha, of all the Heroic Spirits of the sword, to think ya pulled that one cute kid out...”

“T-That's not it at all-----!!

My tastes are perfectly decent! Don't put me together with that pervert blond-----!!!”

“That's rude. You're the last person I want to hear that from, Onii-san.

The one time you were blushing to the figure of Illya-san in a swimsuit is a serious crime.”

“Guh, how does the King of Heroes (child) know that...!!!?

Ah, no, however. That has nothing to do with this. And Saber isn't very childlike to begin with.”


“Oh yeah? Sure looks like a child to me. Especially when ya put 'er against the likes of Rider, it ain't "woman" but "ba■y" that comes to mind.”

“Shh, don't, Lancer-san. If you keep going like that, you'll make Rider-san our enemy too.”

“I agree entirely. Could you please refrain from saying something so dreadful? Keep it up, and you may just find a rocket sent your way, you know?”

“Rocket? From where?”

“From there. Well, might as well be a Command Spell.”

“Don't say it! Ain't a rocket but a missile, that!”

“Ahaha. With a nuclear warhead, at that.”

“Yeah. One dangerous lass, she is. Not an ounce of mercy for her enemies.”

The blond boy laughs merrily and the guy in an aloha shirt just shrugs his shoulders.


I know we're in a park on a weekend and all that, but doesn't this pair look just a little too charming?

“So. What are you two doing here, anyway?”

The aloha shirt guy doesn't even try to hide his displeasure.

The blond boy casts his eyes down with sadness.

“It sure isn't like you. I bet there aren't that many things you actually hate.

...Ah, could it be something to do with the Heaven's Feel?”

“Ha, don't be stupid. No way in hell I'd be bothered by some fight. Got a different headache this time. Heaven's Feel's but a stroll in a park next to this one.”

“...Mmm, it's the opposite with me. Compared to participating in the Heaven's Feel, well, I can certainly handle it, but...”

“Really? Ain't head-on fighting better than some backstage intrigue? Yer the type that likes a show of strength, right? Even more so than me, the type that'd make it clear who's the boss.”

“A competition of pure strength is not smart. If at all possible, I would like to win without fighting... well, leaving the question of strategy and tactics aside.

As far as showing who's the boss, she sure did that already, Lancer-san. There's no room for doubt in her plan.”

“Depends on the plan itself. Working people as hard as she does without a second thought, gotta wonder who's still human here?”

“I don't know about "human," but isn't she just fine for a boss?”

“Well, it's true that I can never get along with that kind of personality.

Being king means you've got to always have the same point of view as everyone, in addition to your own.”

“Heh, that's splendid.

......Hey, lad. Got nothing to do with it, but I know this one total prick of a king.

Looks down on everyone but himself, calls them "mongrels," claims that everyone in the world gotta serve him, and hates the guts of those that actually do like he says. Sound familiar?”

“Sure does. Doesn't listen to what others tell him, thinks he can get anything with money, and totally forgets the crap he did in one day flat.

Has terrible manners with women, gets rejected every other day, yet keeps coming back without ever learning anything. It's not "Do you like me?" with him, it's more like "I have chosen you, and that is all that matters!" Stuff like that.”

“Yeah, yeah. Got no clue about repaying favors, either.

It ain't like he defaults on his debts, it's more like he chalks it up to a tribute he's entitled to. And what's more...”

“He won't lift a finger for someone else's sake. A king of NEETs. Collects from those who work hard, and then just puts his feet up.”

“That's right. A real pain.

Well. Got nothing to do with anything, but what do ya think of that guy?”

Doesn't really matter.

And then the blond boy says, from the bottom of his heart,

“Wow, what a terrible person. Do such people really exist!?”

Yep, and it's you.

“Oho. Sure got the feel now, kid.”

“Yeah. Were there anyone else here, I'm sure they'd relate just as well.”

We both nod.

The child king stares at us in wonder.

“So. What are you really doing here? You keep dodging the question, and I still have no idea what you're talking about.”

“Hm? We just don't want to go back, see?”

“That's right. Our Master is such a tyrant.”


Their Master... Kotomine? No, can't be.

He's been dead since half a year ago. There must be someone else who formed a contract and keeps these two in this world.

What kind of person?

I have a feeling I sort of know, but maybe not yet.

“Huh. So what are they like?”

“Wish I knew myself. All I know is that they're no less rough on their Servants as the last one.

How 'bout you? Yer getting a better treatment, I bet?”

“I don't know the details, either.

All I got was stuff like, "It was handed down to the monastery from the church and I was called upon to fulfill this role."

It's a bit troubling to hear an odd bit of personal history told with such pride, too.”


Well then, I couldn't entirely understand their story, but one thing is clear.

These two share a natural enemy, and it brought out a sense of camaraderie never seen before.

“...In short, you two are running away from your Master?”

“No way we'd run. Just dragging feet, before we get saddled with another stupid order.”

“Lancer-san has it easy, his Command Spell bond is pretty weak. I'm tied like crazy. I only give you one hint, Onii-san, and get a big scolding afterwards.”

“No way. Sounds rough. Gotta really watch it when she's near and keep yer mouth shut all day.

Betcha Rider might like that, but for us, ain't nothing but torture.”

The two of them are looking quite depressed.

So it's not that they fear her prowess as a magus, it's just that they dislike her as a person.

“Ah... I just remembered.

Not too long ago, I got caught by some red cloth thing as I was walking here. The owner was asking whether I happened to see an odd pair around―――”

“See ya, kid. I just remembered some urgent business to take care of.

Should ya see her again, tell her ya don't know about the blue guy, but the blond one comes to play in the park a lot.”

“I'm afraid I cannot stay here anymore, either.

Should you see her again, please tell her you don't know about the blond guy, but the blue one is at the harbor, fishing.”

"Hmph," the two of them exchange equally nihilistic looks.

As expected of war-hardened veterans that survived many a battle.

No matter how friendly they may look, they're always ready to kick each other below the belt!

“See ya later! Ya watch out, too, kid!”

Lancer's running away at full speed in the direction of the harbor.

“See you next time.

Should you feel like it, please keep her company for a little while!”

Not to be outdone by Lancer, the blond kid is rapidly escaping towards the Miyama streets.

...Alright then.

The carefree Servants that play around and their Master, who forces manual labor on them.

I do wonder which side has the worse luck. As an unrelated outsider, I still can't decide―――

“Things sure look lively though.”

That new kind of a love triangle not the least among them.

Emiya Residence・Start of Night Things to do