In 2006, the very first anime adaptation of the Fate/Stay Night visual novel introduced the Masters and their Servants to anime fans. The Holy Grail War has since turned the Fate series into one of the most successful anime franchises, with the characters being favored by many in the community. On that note, the topic of Shirou Emiya’s relationship with Saber may just be one of the most talked about affairs when it comes to Stay Night.
Shirou and Saber did not end up together at the end of Fate/Stay Night anime adaptation. After the two went through a number of challenges together and finally confessed their feelings for each other, they won the fight against Gilgamesh and Kotomine in the final showdown for the Holy Grail and ultimately destroyed it upon their victory. With the Grail being the sole thing that could allow Saber to stay in Shirou’s world, she disappeared moments after she confessed her love for him.
However, knowing that the visual novel, which is the series’ source material, has a far more complex narrative, their story did, in fact, continue. Before we dive into the spoilers hiding in the novel’s various endings, let us recap the Stay Night anime ending!
Stay Night: What happened between Shirou and Saber?
Fast forwarding to episode twenty, Shirou’s feelings for Saber have been stated unequivocally. Knowing about her dreams and the sacrifices she had made, Shirou’s internal struggle lies between his desire to fight for her sake before anything else and the ideal of protecting others. In his own words, Shirou wants Saber more than he wants the Grail. Hence, he began to wonder and question what he has been fighting for.
Meanwhile, Saber has been upholding her honor as a knight and a King worthy of the powerful Excalibur. Her resolve and dedication to her cause never wavered, which is reflected in her words and actions as a Servant. As she puts it, a Servant exists solely for fighting. Saber emphasized this matter while pointing out that behavior befitting a date is essentially denying her existence as a Servant. She determinately stated that she would fight for the Grail during her conversation with Shirou after their date.
Here, the two have a brief argument, during which Shirou makes his intentions and thoughts clear regarding Saber and her future. He strongly believes that Saber should have never become a Servant in the first place, and his emotional outpour makes him lose control. He faced Saber head-on and insulted her pride by stating how her statements were contradictory. For all her speeches about battles and fighting, she only engaged in battle as the last resort to keep the number of casualties to a minimum. The events from the previous Holy Grail War haunted her and her past.
Saber’s reaction surely indicated personal involvement, as she began to lose her dignified composure once it was clear that Shirou would not budge. She fired back by stating that Shirou’s perspective, where he prioritized others over himself, is a dead man’s way of thinking and called him a fool who does not even realize the importance of his own life. The heated argument seemed to have ended in the two parting ways, but once Rin inquired about Saber’s whereabouts since she never came home, Shirou rushed to her side.
The two faced the King of Heroes soon after they were reunited. Determined that he would not lose Saber, Shirou fought for his love even when none other than Gilgamesh stood in his way. Confronting such a mighty opponent, both sustained serious injuries, which prompted Shirou to use projection magic. He recalled Archer’s words – what you should always be visualizing is yourself at your most powerful.
In the very next moment, Excalibur’s scabbard appeared before him, and he and Saber withstood the mighty attack. This event hints at many connections, but one certainty is that their love is even stronger. As Saber stated, Shirou was her scabbard. A subtle metaphor for two who make a whole and perfectly complete each other.
In the final showdown, they once again faced the mighty foes together and unlocked the power of Avalon – the utopia the King is said to have entered after his death, something that keeps even the five true magics at bay, acting as the ultimate protection. The legendary power of the mighty Excalibur was finally unveiled, and Saber’s true noble phantasm overpowered the last remaining Servant.
In the rumbles and ashes of war, Saber asked Shirou to command the Grail to be destroyed. Even though he wanted her more than anything and that her drinking from the Grail was the only thing that could grant him a lifetime with her, Shirou ordered Saber to end the Holy Grail War. If he loved her, keeping her in this world would be wrong. After all, the Saber kept fighting even after being wounded, and he fell in love with them. He cannot allow himself to stain her pride and stand in the way of her resolve and her oaths.
In the brief moment they had together once the Grail was no more, Saber confessed her love and disappeared. We see her next as she wakes up in her own world and tells one of her knights about her dream, wondering if she could dream of it once again. She then orders her knight to toss her sword into the lake and closes her eyes soon after the knight reports back. However, this time, it was for a much longer slumber. Meanwhile, Shirou reminisces and holds onto his feelings, stating how he shall never forget that he loved Saber and it is enough that the two share the same sky.
Is there more to Shirou and Saber’s story?
For further explanations, we must turn to the original material, the visual novel. Mainly, the novel has three routes to the one and the same Holy Grail War. The Fate route, also known as the ‘Saber route,’ is adapted in Fate/Stay Night anime. This also happens to be the very first playable route, and one that must be completed before Unlimited Blade Works and Heaven’s Feel routes can be accessed.
The anime, however, entails certain fragments from the other two routes as well, but we will need to include more spoilers to find the answer to our question. Mainly, in UBW, it is revealed that Rin’s Archer is, in fact, a Shirou (from a different timeline). This was hinted at briefly in Stay Night when Shirou told Rin that Saber should never have become a Servant, to which Rin responded that Archer said the exact same thing. Moreover, Shirou recalling Archer’s words in a dire situation where his love’s life was in danger and ultimately saving her could be considered another important clue for this thesis.
Similarly to most visual novels with multiple endings, these three routes have a total of five ‘good’ endings. The Fate route has one, and the remaining two routes each have two (often referred to as ‘proper’ and ‘good’ endings). In each route, Shirou’s love interest changes, and certain events are also altered. However, once a player has unlocked all five endings, a ‘True Ending’ is unlocked – an epilogue of a sort, so to say. This epilogue, called Realta Nua, is a continuation of the Fate route, and it shows Saber and Shirou meeting in Avalon for their happily ever after. After a lifetime of protecting others, he reached Avalon, where he met the love he had lost, who waited for him and welcomed him with a smile.