Heaven's Feel is the third story arc in the visual novel. By this time I was of course exaustivly familiar with the grail war (or so I thought) and I started to wonder how much I could really get out of the story at this point. As it turns out, Heaven's Feel is a great take on the same theme and many elements take a very unisual twist.
The cast for Heaven's Feel is mostly the same, but at the same time the characters brought to the fore were hardly discussed before. Sakura in particular has much more depth than I expected. Rin plays a role that is very different than in Unlimited Blade Works. Servant wise things get mixed up quite a bit. A new assassin is introduced and takes the place of the first. In a shocking twist, Saber is taken out of the picture as Shiro's servant early on. Most servants don't even play much of a role in this arc.
FSN: PS2 Heaven's Feel Opening
In the first story, Shiro realizes his ideal. In the second he must decide how deep his convictions are. And for that matter he has to decide if he'll continue on that path no matter how twisted they become or how much suffering it will cause for him later on. Going on for many hours on this theme of having ideals in becoming a hero, it's a surprise that the third story arc has Shiro abandon them. In fact his thinking becomes counter to much of what the first two stories built up.
The question becomes not about being a hero, but about why someone would become a hero. Every human aspiration is the result of a motivation, so to become a hero there needs to be a reason to do so. Shiro had wanted to save people from a catastrophe such as the one that had happened in his childhood. But as Heaven's Feel progresses, Shiro finds that Sakura has come to mean more to him than anything. This however will have consequences, because as things play out, protecting her will lead to the death of others.
Shiro talks more with Kirei and learns that Kiritsugu was in the service of the Enzbern family during the last war, betraying them at the end and destroying the grail. Even so, Shiro has a hard time accepting a little girl like Illya as his enemy. While Rin and Shiro decide to join forces, they mainly do so by patrolling for other masters separatly. The first one Shiro encounters is Shinji Matou and his servant Rider. The two are easily defeated, but the contest is interrupted by an old man named Zouken Matou. He's supsicous and has a disgusting air of decay about him, but it doesn't seem like he means anyone any harm - for the moment. During a brief discussion he reveals that Shinji is the master representing the Matou family even though their ability to use magic had died out. They only hand down magical knowlege to one successor, meaning Sakura isn't involved. Soon after everyone parts ways, but it gives Shiro a lot to think about.
The next day Shiro notices a bruise on Sakura's cheek and becomes concerned as he knows Shinji's violent behavior. This could be even worse if he becomes more fustrated during the grail war. After talking it over with Rin, they decide it would be best if Shiro take Sakura under his protection for a while. As good friends, it didn't require too much convincing. With one less thing to worry about, Shiro and Saber set out to patrol again, this time at Ryuudouji Temple where rumors of strange happenings are starting to spread. When they arrive they find a hysterical Caster standing over the body of her former master. She snaps out of her daze long enough to attack Saber, but is quickly defeated. So far the grail war hasn't been going that bad for Shiro. However his problems aren't simply with fighting masters and servants.
That night he experiences an erotic dream so vivid and intense that it felt real. The next morning Shiro finds he can hardly stand, and ends up staying home from school. Sakura decides to stay at home as well and take care of him. He notes how she's always helping out with cooking and cleaning, and appreciates her more and more. Towards the afternoon Shiro feels well enough to head out and get some groceries, and encounters Illya again. This is their second meeting in the park and the two are getting along better and better. They talk about trivial things and leave on a cheerful note. That turns sour when Shiro finds Shinji at his house, bent on having his sister returned. Shinji eventually leaves, but the stress takes its toll on Sakura who faints. Shiro deferrs the night's patrol to take care of her instead.
The next day Rin and Shiro discuss the grail war and note that something strange is happening. People are still having their energy drained, which would suggest that caster is still around. Rin arranges a metting between Shiro and Kirei at a small cafe. Kirei admits to being a master, but also tells Shiro that his servant has been defeated, probably by Assassin. That night's patrol get's into the thick of things fast on as Shiro encounters Archer and Rin in a standoff with Zouken. Zouken thinking he's cornered summons Caster. Or at least it looks like Caster. Upon close inspection, this avatar looks like her but has no soul or will of her own. The fight then proceeds, favoring Archer until a new player enters the scene, but this one is unlike anything else they've yet encountered. This entity known as the Shadow has an air of terror hanging about it. As it makes it's way towards Rin, Shiro pushes her out of the way but is swallowed up by the shadow. He survives but barely. As Saber and Shiro arrive back home they recive a scolding from Sakura who disapproves of their dangerous activities - even if she doesn't know exactly what they're doing each night.
The next night Shiro and Saber return to Ryuudouji Temple but find themselves in a trap. The two are separated by Shiro being trapped in a room while Saber is left to a duel with Assassin, however this assassin is dressed in black and hides behind a white mask. Saber is more than a match for him, but unexpectidly gets caught in the grip of the Shadow. As she is enveloped by darkness, she asks for Shiro's forgivness. Shiro is left to a fight with Zouken, someone he has no hope of winning against. Realizing this, Shiro uses the command spell to summon Saber to him. But nothing happens. There is a sudden pain and then all of his command spells fade. Saber is gone.
With no other choice Shiro rushes Zouken, but is repelled by his servant Assassin. Just as Assassin'ss daggers fly at Shiro, they're deflected... by Rider! While her intentions are not clear, she is certainly there to protect Shiro. Whatever power Rider had before, it is definitely unmatched by her strength and power now. Assassin's daggers fall like rain but are unable to touch her. Rider's pike finally connects with Assassin and she mercilessly flings him from her chains like a rag doll in the teeth of a wolf. Assassin and Zouken withdraw.
Shiro is dazed, but he suddenly feels the pain of losing Saber. He parts ways with Rider and goes home. He again encounters Sakura who had been waiting for him. When she inquires about where Saber is, Shiro informs her that she won't be returning. While this doesn't make Sakura happy, it does give her a sense of relief that Shiro wouldn't be continuing his dangerous activities at night, however Shiro becomes even more determined. Sakura continues to feel faint, but doesn't seem to be aware of how weak she's become.
Shiro and Rin decide to keep working together, despite Shiro's lack of usefulness in the situation. When they return to his house they find that Sakura has been kidnapped by Shinji and taken to the school. He want's to face Shiro - alone. Shiro arrives at the school to find Shinji holding a dagger to Sakura, and threatens to kill her if he doesn't fight Rider. Even though she's returned to her weaker state he faced in the park, her attacks would normally kill easily. She seems to be holding back. Shiro manages to hold out long enough to lunge at Shinji and knock his dagger away. Sakura screams at them to stop and Shinji's command spell book bursts into flames. As it turns out, the command spell had been transferred from Sakura, and the third spell can't be removed from the true master. Shinji is a master no more. Frustrated by his situation, Shinji invokes a spell which causes Sakura to scream in agony as she drains everyone's health. Shiro manages to stop Sakura before everyone is killed. She screams and passes out.
Shiro regains consciousness at the church. Sakura is still unconscious and not doing very well, but Kerei is treating her. As they wait, Rin explains that the Matou family no longer have the ability to wield magic. Therefore they adopted a girl with magical talent from the Tohsaka family. Rin and Sakura are sisters. Kirei appraises them of Sakura's condition. Even though she'll live, she had a parasite embedded in her by the Matou family years ago and it feeds off her magical energy. He can remove much of it, but enough will remain that she won't live long before it consumes her. Worse still, it allows Zouken to control her, and acts as a device of punishment if she does not continue to try to obtain the holy grail. He also reveals some of the abuses that Sakura had to endure at the Matou household. Shiro leaves the church to clear his head
He has to come to terms with the fact that if Sakura lives, many people will die. He sits alone at a bench on the park with the guilt nearly overwhelming him. Then Illya hugs him from behind with a playful attitude. Shiro, feeling such pent up frustration pushes her away and rejects her affection. But instead of becoming upset, Illya tenderly pats his head. She tells him it's natural to protect the ones you love, and that she will always be his ally. At that moment things become clear to Shiro. He knows that to continue on the path of a hero and sacrifice the few for the many, he will lose that which truly matters more to him than anything else. Shiro parts with Illya and returns to the church.
When Shiro returns he and Rin argue about what to do with Sakura. Rin is determined that Sakura should die since she'll lose control of her mind, or be consumed by the parasite within her - possibly both. Overhearing this, Sakura runs out of the church and disappears. Shiro chaises after her and finds her in the park. Sakura tells him to leave her alone The guilt of what she's done, what she'll become, along with her secrets revealed to Shiro have ruined the simple happiness she had with him. The stains upon her cannot be erased. She is however the one Shiro wants to protect, the person most important to him and the one he can't lose. She's also the girl he loves and vows to protect her. He will become a hero for her. While Sakura is overcome with regret and guilt, thinking she's not worthy of him, it was a wish she had coveted all along: to be with Shiro and be loved by him.
Once they return home, Rin confronts them and is convinced that Sakura will eventually lose control and should be dealt with now. While not persuaded, Rin eventually backs down but warns Shiro that by taking her in, he is now her enemy and that he'll be responsible for the things that Sakura may eventually do by protecting her. The next day Shiro decides to find Illya to ask for her help. Even if they're not allies, the Shadow is the biggest threat in the grail war right now. On the way he bumps into Rin and the two agree to find her together. They arrive just in time to see Berzerker consumed by the shadow. They grab Illya and run but are only saved at the last second by Archer who is impaled. During the fight Shiro also loses his arm.
Shiro has a vision: things he does not know are pouring into his mind. He wakes up at the church with a burning pain at his shoulder. Where an arm should be attached, there is an arm, but it isn't his, it's Archer's. While normally not possible to do such a transplant, Shiro and Archer share a compatibility that made it work. Shiro isn't able to use it yet, but he'll eventually get its function back. Currently it's bound in a magical wrapping that binds it's power, but that's only temporary. While the arm gives him the power of a servant, to use it surely means death. It's power will also continue to flood his mind and cause him other problems if he doesn't mange to master it; possibly losing his mind.
Everyone decides to cooperate (mostly), with Illya and Rin both staying at Shiro's house. Shiro has a tough time dealing with his arm as the magic flow into his body is hard to control. Sakura is also feeling more and more feint, but also having problems holding dishes and doing simple things. Even worse, each morning there are grim new tales of people slain in horrific ways the night before. If that weren't enough tension, many in the house aren't getting along well at all. In particular Rin and Sakura are very cold towards each other. Shiro notices that Sakura still calls Rin Tosaka-sempai (Japanese: older classmate) but when they're not together refers to her as Nee-san (sis). Shiro pushes Sakura to address her more casually and it manages to thaw the cold barrier between the two. Rin blushes but stubbornly states that it's only for convenience since Sakura also refers to Shiro as "sempai". Other signs also point to the two becoming closer. While Rin scolds Sakura for pushing herself too hard by stating ridiculous things like "If you collapse, we'll have to kill you", Sakura is at the same time happy because it means Rin is concerned about her. Sakura also admits to Shiro that having Rin around is a bit troubling because she thinks of Rin as her ideal, and it's hard to be around someone you compare yourself too like that.
Things continue on this path. At night Rin and Shiro patrol, but do not find anything. The Shadow continues to feed off people. Sakura continues to weaken, but also has nightmares. Her turmoil continues to consume her. She is happy that Shiro is still safe and doesn't want him to come to harm, but at the same time her subconscious delights in the pain he endures for her sake. Things continue to worsen for Shiro. While his arm regains its movement, he now finds that he can't remember things. Time often has large gaps and he has no recollection of what happened. Still, control of the arm is critical and becomes the focus of Rin's plan to defeat their enemies.
Rin's plan is to have Shiro create a gem sword that was a heirloom of the Tohsaka family, normally impossible but with Archer's arm it may be doable... if Shiro can master it. While Shiro was somewhat successful in the first steps, in using Archer's power he finds that he loses track of time easily and sometimes his mind simply blanks out. Sakura is also concerned for Shiro, and unhappy with what Rin is making him do. While Sakura backs down from Rin, she starts to feel that Rin is taking him away from her.
One morning they find Sakura collapsed outside the house. The news in the morning is bad. Forty households were found empty with no trace of the people who lived in them. Shiro visits Sakura in her room with the foreboding feeling that it will be the last time they see each other as they always have. As they talk it occurs to Shiro that Sakura has never actually done something just for fun. So Shiro asks her where she wants to go after it's all over. After thinking for a time, Sakura says she wants to go cherry blossom viewing in the spring. And so Shiro accepts it as a promise, that they'll go cherry blossom viwing when winter ends.
Sakura spends the day in bed while Shiro thinks about his situation. Can he really protect the source of so many deaths around the town? That night he goes to Sakura's room with a knife and stands over her as she sleeps. Yet... his path was already set when he held her close in the rain that night. But killing the one he loves is also a betrayal of himself. He decides to protect the one life instead of the many. As Shiro turns away to leave, Sakura asks why he won't kill her. While she doesn't want to die, she can't accept what she'll become either. So to die by his hand may be for the best. But all Shiro can do is hold her close and promise to protect her. After Shiro leaves, Sakura uses her last command spell to order Rider to protect Shiro no matter what.
The next day Sakura slips out to look for Zouken at her house, but instead encounters Shinji. As he starts to abuse her again, she resists and the shadow part of her kills him. Driven mad by what she's just done, Sakura embraces her dark half and merges with the Shadow. With her new found power she returns to Shiro's house and decides to take Illya in order to complete the holy grail. During the fight Rin is hurt badly and Shiro takes her to the church for treatment by Kirei. While he's not sure how he'll pull it off, Shiro decides to save Illya. Strangely enough, Kirei offers to help. In fact Kirei is pretty skilled when it comes to fighting and even manages to take out Assassin. Shiro does manage to make off with Illya, but Sakura releases a servant she's consumed: Berzerker.
The two end up cornered by the giant and Shiro has no choice but to unleash the power of Archer's arm. Although this wasn't enough in itself, seeing Illya distracts Berzerker for the needed opening to win. On their way home Shiro notices that there are major gaps in his memory. He recalls exiting the forest, but now how they got home. These sorts of gaps become worse and worse, but Shiro finds he can focus hard enough to hold him if he concentrates. To help him with this he takes the pendant he found on the first day he was saved at the school and grasps it tightly enough to hurt when he wants to clear his mind.
The next day Rin returns and Illya explains a bit more about the enemy they face. It's the eighth class Avenger: a servant that should never have ever been summoned. It's the incarnation of evil and it has tainted the grail. The gravity hasn't changed their situation much however, and Rin is convinced that the Tohsaka gem sword is the best chance of success in destroying the grail. She is also determined to kill Sakura to finally put an end to this. While Shiro isn't sure what his path will be, he knows she needs to be separated from her servant not just for her sake, but for the sake of countless people that will be consumed by it once it fully awakens into this world.
Shiro manages to project the gem sword utilizing Archer's arm but it's taking it's toll. Shiro loses track of time more often and can't recall how he gets to places or why he's there. Rider confronts him due to his intent to fight Sakura, but Shiro manages to convince her that their intent is to help her, not kill her. His body starting to fail, and his mind crumbling. Shiro sets out with Rin to the cavern underneath Ryuudouji Temple.
As they enter the cave they find a servant which had been swallowed up by the shadow and is now onder Sakura's control: Saber. Rin is allowed father into the cave to face Sakura, but Shiro will have to face the girl who once swore to fight with him.