Fate / Zero – 23

Before their epic duel, Rider and Archer have a drink together and exchange words of respect. Waver quips that they’re friends, and Rider doesn’t argue with the label: how can he be unfriendly with the one who could be the last person he’ll ever see?

Rider doesn’t mess around with anything other than the best he’s got, and whips out Ionian Hetairoi. Archer looks pleased to be facing such a strong and worthy foe, but he also doesn’t look worried in the least.

While the ancient kings’ battle takes place on the vast expanse of sand, Saber ends up fighting Berserker in a relatively cramped underground parking lot. Berserker seems to feed off of Kariya’s suffering and regret, as Sakura shows up in his head, and while reassuring her they’ll all be together again, Sakura inadvertently reminds Kariya that “they” no longer includes her mom.

Berserker’s penchant for ‘turning’ weapons for his use continues when he makes use of some automatic weapons; Saber can barely get near him, and when she does, her sword bounces off his armor, or the blade merely caught in mid-strike by Berserker’s palms.

Once he does that, Saber gets into her head that he reminds her of some knight she once knew, and on cue Berserker’s Pigpen-like cloud of miasma dissipates and he removes his helm to reveal he IS someone she knew…or rather he WAS. That someone is none other than Sir Lancelot, the greatest of the Knights of the Round Table.

That Saber has no idea it was him until now, and has no idea how he came to be this way after they parted ways, gets to the heart of that seed of doubt planted by Rider about her reckless self-destructive path to kingship, which he didn’t see as kingship at all. Lance would seem to be proof of that, and I can’t imagine Saber wants to fight him, except perhaps to put him out of his misery.

Back in the desert, Gilgamesh reveals the reason he’s so calm with a massive legendary army descending on him: his own, thus-far-unused Noble Phantasm, Ea. As soon as he unlocks and activates Enuma Elish (an extremely strange and cool sequence, as befits Gilgamesh), the dunes begin to collapse, the legions plummet to their demise, and the very sky shatters along with the Reality Marble.

His trump card utterly defeated, Rider has no course but to charge Archer on his own. Even after his horse goes down, he runs at him on foot, getting impaled several times, before being restrained by great chains, his blade inches from Gil’s face. Before he fades away, Iskandar wonders if the lapping waves of Oceanus, the Ocean at the End of the World, was actually merely the dancing of his own heart.

It’s a legendary ending for a truly legendary Servant with whom there was never a dull moment. He was simply outmatched here. And to his credit, Archer is not cruel in his treatment of Waver. On the contrary, when he asks if as his sworn retainer, Waver should not avenge his fallen king, and Waver replies that he was ordered to survive, Gilgamesh salutes his “splendid loyalty” and spares his life, urging him to never let that loyalty tarnish.

Time for Waver to go home; he got far further in the Holy Grail War than most would expect a mage from a “lesser” family to get. While this fight is over and Rider is gone, the stage is set—literally, Iri’s body is on a stage—for the duel between Kiritsugu and Kirei. Will their fight be as bold and flashy as Archer and Rider’s, or Saber and Berserker’s below them? Perhaps not, but it should still be…theatrical.

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Author: braverade

Hannah Brave is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

2 thoughts on “Fate / Zero – 23”

  1. Waver watched his departure as the golden Heroic Spirit turned on his heels and calmly walked away. Before long, the figure was gone from his sight, and a cold wind blowing across the river completely scattered the air of battle that had been stretched out the entire time; afterward, the lone boy realized that he had been left behind in the night, and finally understood that everything had ended.

    His knees shook again at the miracle that was his survival.

    Right before Archer changed his mind, he had truly had the intent to kill Waver. The killing intent he released as naturally as breathing had wordlessly announced that. Had Waver averted his eyes, or collapsed with fear, or choked in his reply, that would have truly happened.

    If one was to sneer at how he had only begged for his life, then one simply did not know of the remorselessness of the King of Heroes. Simply being alive after resisting his terror was a conflict, and a victory. It was the first time Waver Velvet had gained a victory in a challenge by himself.

    It was an unsightly and very small battle. It was far from brave, or spectacular. No one yielded to him, and he obtained no plunder. The only thing he did was survive and escape from a dilemma.

    Even so, Waver was happy. He was proud. Only Waver himself could understand how priceless it was for him to arrive at that impossible conclusion under those circumstances. That honor was in him only. Even if it appeared unsightly to an onlooker, there was no reason to feel ashamed.

    He complied with the order of the King. He saw everything through to the end, and lived on.

    He wanted to be praised. By that massive, heavy palm. By his rough, unreserved, and thick voice. This time, he wouldn’t need to hide his embarrassment. He could have thrown out his chest unreservedly and boasted about his accomplishments to the man.

    Yet – in this night sunken in silence, Waver was helplessly alone. No one was beside him. Like the him from eleven days ago, Waver was alone, left behind in a heartless and apathetic corner of the world.

    The battle was only for him. No one had noticed what he had surpassed by himself in his loneliness. No one was praising him.

    But if one were to call it a cruel treatment – then no, it wasn’t.

    He had been rewarded with more than enough words of praise just now. The grandest King in the world had recognized and assigned him. He was told that he would be added into the ranks of the servants.

    The order of events was simply reversed.

    He had now been praised for the far future as well; the only thing to do now was to devote all that remained of his life to accumulate enough accomplishments to match that eulogy.

    Yes. Simply because of those words at that point in time – he was not alone.

    The moment he understood this, his days as a boy was over.

    And then he knew it for the first time; sometimes, tears flowed free from humiliation or regret.

    Now, on the empty bridge, looking down on the black surface of the flowing river, Waver Velvet wet his cheeks without any regrets.

    They were the warm and crisp tears of a man.

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