“Why didn’t they just shoot Voldemort?” is a question that comes up time and again in meta headscratching over any story where magic exists in our modern world. Magic is generally treated as an ancient and worldshaking power and those who wield it as something special and “above” mundane existence as we know, and that’s all very well, but it rarely exists in a way that attempts to interact with modern technology. And often, unfortunately for magic, modern technology does not care, and all your spells might be wonderfully powerful in their own context, but are going to be a bit useless in the face of cold, hard, non-magical force. Bombs, for instance. This is an idea Kiritsugu is apparently quite fond of.
Before we get to that, though, first we have to follow Iri and Saber as they drive home from the battle (Iri apparently learnt to drive from playing a lot of Grant Theft Auto) and run into our friend Caster. Luckily, he’s feeling less murderous than usual, in fact, he seems quite smitten with Saber. Before you ask is there anyone in this stupid franchise who isn’t? do consider that it’s because Caster has mistaken her for his adored Jeanne d’Arc, and in doing so, gladly reveals himself as heretic and serial killer Gilles de Rais.
Saber is not even slightly close to being impressed by this, and tells him sword and all that she’s had a long evening, she’s very tired, someone insulted her kingship and someone else stabbed her in the hand, and could this googly-eyed fellow take his declarations of holy love and sod off. By some miracle, he obliges.
Meanwhile, we revisit our balding Brit and his now-gloomy Celtic Servant, who is kneeling in the corner of their hotel room like a puppy who put teeth marks in the newspaper when he brought it inside. Kayneth is irate with Diarmuid’s inability to murder Saber even when physically compelled to, and not at all impressed by his declarations of loyalty. Someone who is impressed, though, is another new player: Sola-ui, Kayneth’s fiancée, who strides into the room delicately taking apart all of his bravado and looking like some sort of poisonous flower of paradise.
As delightful as it is to see a young lady throw shade at pompous Kayneth, it’s even more interesting to see how she reacts when Diarmuid cuts in and asks her to stop berating his lord in his presence. Sola gets very apologetic very fast, and Kayneth can’t help but glance at the mythical Love Spot on Diarmuid’s cheek. Oh dear, could its magnetism be having an effect on another man’s betrothed again? If history serves, this cannot be good. The plot thickens.
Interrupting Kayneth’s fretting over whether or not Sola’s checking the Lancer out, a fire alarm goes off—and Kayneth sees it as what it is, an attack from a rival Master, and haughtily shrugs the entire thing off. The three of them are safe in their suite: there are countless layers of magical wards, spirits prowling on guard, and enchanted traps to make the skin crawl. No mage would dare approach them where they are.
Except Kiritsugu, of course, who finds a rather handy way to bypass all of the much-boasted protection: he just sets off a tonne of explosives that knocks out the hotel building.
This, I admit, was the moment I decided that I liked this guy. We’ve talked about his scorched-earth tactics and moral ambiguity before, but now we finally get to see it, and there’s something beautiful about that blatantly practical attitude pulling the floor right out from under Kayneth seconds after he snootily declares how invincible he is. It’s a moment of brutal hilarity. Kiritsugu doesn’t bat an eyelid at the destruction, but we do see him glancing over at a pair of evacuees who look suspiciously like recoloured models of Ilya and Iri. Thinking of home, are you? How does that play into this ruthless persona?
There’s little time to think about it though, because Maiya has run into a situation from her vantage point—Kirei, of all people, has appeared, apparently looking for Kiritsugu and quite annoyed that he’s not there. There’s a quick and dirty fight-and-dodge between the two, interrupted by a thrown gas bomb that gives Maiya the chance to dart away. Kirei is left in the parting clouds with his weapons, an intriguing set of apparently retractable long knives held Wolverine style, and a disgruntled expression.
If he wanted some respite to think over the skirmish when he got home, however, he’s out of luck, since Gilgamesh has spread himself on Kirei’s couch. He’s also traded his flashy armour for a comfy shirt and pants made of what appears to be snakeskin (well, that’s what you get for stealing the fountain of youth) and seems to have slurped happily through several bottles of wine. It’s much tastier than Tokiomi’s collection, apparently. And Kirei proves much more interesting than his finely-bearded companion.
What Gilgamesh is chiefly interested in is what Kirei is doing, exactly. Why risk your life for a device that grants you whatever you want if you don’t want anything, after all? Gilgamesh suggests, in the absence of a material desire, Kirei simply wishes for pleasure, which Kirei balks at immediately. To seek pleasure is to seek sin, he declares, to which Gilgamesh wryly rebuts that that’s only the case if what you find pleasurable is sinful. The desire for enjoyment is human nature, and that in itself is only a bad thing if you consider that people wanting things is bad. The conversation borders on religious philosophy, but is essentially Gilgamesh putting his newly-appointed drinking buddy on the spot and delicately demanding to know why exactly he’s got such a pole up his ass.
The discussion raises an interesting point, though: wanting to be fulfilled and happy is a basic human thing that is generally what propels us through life, yet seeking satisfaction is also commonly pinned as a selfish or decadent thing quickly associated with greed and villainous ambition. It’s all a matter of perspective of course, but it does show where Kirei’s been looking at the whole concept from. Is he so selfless because he’s trodden down on his own wants because wanting is considered sinful to him? Or does he associate sin with wanting because, as Gilgamesh said, what he wants would be considered bad by reasonable people?
It’s a finely tuned little peek into his thought process, which it seems the golden king is quite interested in pursuing. You have to wonder what exactly his game is, having a seemingly innocent philosophical conversation on the sofa of another Master in the war, but he dissolves into glitter before he can give any solid indication, and leaves Kirei staring into his wine caught in a spiral of self-reflection.
Perhaps, he concludes, if he can get to that fascinating character Emiya Kiritsugu, he can begin to answer some of these questions. Given what happened earlier in the evening, that doesn’t sound like it bodes too well for Team Saber, but we’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?