Fate/Zero:Act 3 Part 3
The broad bridge straddling the widening Mion River spans majestically over 665 meters, arching with a diameter of over three roads.
The top of the arch is over 50 meters high. Anyone standing so high and receiving the full force of the sea wind would miss a step and fall to his end into the river below, unable to go back up without great skills and a lifeline.
Atop that cold steel frame, Waver Velvet had nothing like a lifeline, clinging with only both arms and legs; thus of course he was giving up the dignity and composure he usually always had.
Right next to him, his Servant Rider is sitting cross-legged with his odious dignity.
"Ri, de, r, quick... Let's go down... Now!"
With his teeth continuously clicking from the cold and terror, Waver's complaining voice was like the blowing wind to the giant Servant.
"This place is perfect for a look-out. Well, this isn't the time for fancy sight-seeing in a high place."
With a wine bottle in his hand, sipping from time to time, he rambled while looking down at the west bank of the bridge, toward the wide seaside park hidden from the estuary. Waver can't see it, but what Rider was looking at― were the marks a Servant has been leaving around for 4 hours.
Rider had been wandering in the streets looking for a contact with the enemy, but he noticed that Servant only late in the afternoon.
While thinking whether he should rush down on him immediately, Rider has kept observing him from a distance without moving onward. When Waver asked about it, Rider answered with a snort.
"He's clearly luring us out. For him to not pick up on us, that's strange. And it's not just me anymore, other Servants must be studying his aspect.
An impatient Master would just get tired of waiting at some point, or something. That's what we should be looking forward to."
Rider's plan had no opening that Waver could see. Rather, it was unexpected. This broad-minded giant Servant could actually set up sly tactics.
Indeed, as Rider said, only a helpless fool would take the bait and accept the challenge. Those falling for it would only be eating each other and decrease the count. However self-confident a so provocative Servant is, anyone other than Rider going for a brawl would be good riddance. Whoever gets defeated, Rider can smash the winner. There is definitely a profit in the fight of others.
So, after it is decided so, it becomes a matter of endurance. Remaining at a fixed distance from the traces of the Servant wandering aimlessly in the city, Waver and Rider followed and were still surveying.
Nonetheless― there are obvious reasons behind taking a high point of view, but there are limits. Never mind Servants, Waver with his flesh and blood body would definitely die if he falls. It shouldn't be possible to ignore that, so how come this giant cares so little about Waver's safety?
"Co, come down! No, get the hell down! I, I've, I've had it!"
"Ah, just wait. You're a restless guy. Sitting and waiting is also part of the battle."
Sipping in his wine bottle, Rider didn't even look at Waver's half crying face when answering so gratuitously. "High places are dangerous", such common sense hasn't been acknowledged for yet between the two.
"If you're bored, read the book I entrusted to you. It's a good book."
Hearing that, Waver remembered about the stupid weight in the knapsack hanging on his shoulder. In this situation where they shouldn't afford even one unnecessary gram, the poetry anthology with its thick hard cover really is a dead weight.
That was the one book Rider looted from the library he raided right when he arrived in the present world. The 'Iliad' written by the poet Homer in ancient Greece― the epic poem describing the Trojan war, in which fought gods and humans jumbled together.
The atlas can be okay. Exaggerating about world conquest, Rider takes interest in the geography of the modern world, even if it sounds foolish.
But what's with a poetry anthology? Rider set up a library at home even though he was preparing for war, and yet he still insisted in bringing the Iliad with him. Naturally, if he wants to bring anything that isn't his regular equipment, he would need to remain materialized; if he needs to dematerialize to hide from the other people, then after all, it's Waver who ends up having to carry the luggage.
Certainly, Rider insisted that the book was "preparation for war". But how on Earth can a book that isn't even about war strategy be helpful on the battlefield?
"Rider... Why, did you, bring this book?"
At Waver's bitter question, the Heroic Spirit answered with a grave expression.
"The Iliad is very profound. At the height of battle, I would suddenly get the urge to read a verse of poetry. At a time like that, I feel bad when I can't reread something immediately."
He feels like his interlocutor just gave him a bullshit answer, but fear stops him from arguing back.
"At a time like that, you mean... In battle?"
Rider nods nonchalantly as if his reply was perfectly normal.
"... But how?"
"With my left hand, when I hold my sword in my right hand. If I need to hold the bridle with my left hand, I get a page to read it aloud."
Waver felt at loss for words at the unimaginable answer.
"It isn't that surprising. The warriors of my era all lived a life of battle. Battling while drinking and eating, embracing women while battling, battling even while sleeping. Anyone can do that."
Just ask him and he won't stop. This man does seem like he could do all that, but...
"You're kidding, right?"
"Of course. You fool."
He sniggered and gave an exploding flinch on Waver's forehead.
He didn't have the time to worry, let alone dodge. At any rate, there he was, clinging on the steel frame with all his might with both arms and legs. Waver couldn't even rub his pained forehead, as he could only howl with an unbecoming shriek.
"Hey, kid, anyone would laugh at a joke like that. When your face turns blue like that, it's because you have no guts."
Ignoring Rider's frank laugh, the magus strongly regretted choosing this Heroic Spirit as he shed tears from the pain on his forehead.
"I wanna go back... Go back to England..."
"I told you not to rush like that. Here, things are moving up at last."
Rider points at the seaside park with a stern chin.
"Even I, the King of Conquerors, noticed only just now, but― yes, it seems there was one more Servant in this park. This guy isn't hiding anything either. On the contrary, he's nearing the other one who arrived after us."
"The two seem to be going toward the port. That's a provocation. That's it― We'll study their fight."
Before one knows, his eyes start to hold the sharp gleam of a beast as he gave a threatening laugh. He was yet only a spectator, but the soul of the Heroic Spirit Alexander was already on the battlefield.
In Waver's heart, unable to move on the steel frame, Waver's misery was winning over the sense of reliability he should have from Rider. ―Moreover, he was mostly thinking that nothing mattered if he were to fall down anyway.
The west bank of the seaside park is prolonged by a row of boring storehouses. The block, which contains harbor facilities, also plays the role of a wall that separates the eastern industrial area from Shinto. At night, the pedestrian traffic ceases, and the street lights shine uselessly on the asphalt, but it makes the scenery even more empty. Unmanned derrick cranes were turned toward the dark sea, like an eerie flock of huge fossilized dinosaurs.
Indeed, this is a suitable place for Servants who must confront hidden from public view.
Saber and Irisviel walked up, magnificent as duellists going to the place of agreement, on the four lane road for the large vehicles that are meant to drive on it. The enemy as well was already showing himself, without running or hiding. The tall shadow standing in the middle of the empty street emits an extraordinary amount of prana even more outrageous than his odd outfit, clearly showing that he was much more than human.
The two Servants stop, facing each other from about 10 meters apart.
Finally, they met the first Servant. Saber carefully observed the enemy she will be battling to death with.
He was a handsome man, with quirky long hair combed roughly backward. He charmed the eyes pretty well on the first glance. His main pole, over two meters and taller than himself, is obviously his weapon. Amongst the seven classes, he is one of the three “knight” classes― Saber, Archer, and with them, the Heroic Spirit of the lance. Undoubtedly, he is the Servant Lancer.
The strange thing is that he does not have just that one long spear.
Along with the spear Lancer was holding loose in his right hand, the head resting on his shoulder, he was also carrying in his left hand a shorter spear that was one third the length of the right one.
To handle a spear with ease, the obvious stance is of course to hold one with both hands. Whatever you can do with swords, one can't imagine that holding two spears is common.
The two spears are tightly wrapped from the handle to the tip with a cloth that looks like an amulet, hiding the shaft. This is probably a counter-measure to avoid revealing the true name of the Noble Phantasm.
"How nice of you to come. All of those who were parading around today in the town have only cowered away. ... You are the only one of valor who answered my invitation."
With a humble, cheerful praising voice, the man― the Heroic Spirit Lancer asked Saber carelessly, without standing on guard.
"That pure fighting spirit... Am I correct in thinking you are Saber?"
"You are. Surely you must be Lancer?"
"Indeed. ―Hm, it is unusual to exchange names with the opponent in a deadly fight. That was a pleasure that is not obligatory."
In agreement, Saber loosens her feigned impudence a little.
"Certainly it isn't. Our battle isn't one for honor to begin with. You yourself are raising your spear for your master of this era, are you not?"
With a strange expression, Lancer answered in a cool, bitter tone, not reminding of someone who wished a deadly exchange. Looking more closely, he is a remarkably handsome and beautiful man.
His intrepid features are a high bridge of the nose and a valiant eyebrow. Despite his hard cut mouth denoting a stoic air, his eyes seemed to hide a quiet grief, yet a strong, manly scent rises from him. Below his left eye, he has a beauty spot like a grain of tear. That gives his gaze an even more impressive brilliance.
Truly, his features were those that could sweep a woman's heart at a glance. ―No, actually, does his elegant air of beauty only come from his features?
Holding back behind Saber, Irisviel shortened her breathing a little as she frowned.
"... A charm magecraft. It is impolite to use on a married woman, spearman."
Clearly, Lancer was emitting a spiritual power that could marvel a woman. As Irisviel's body is a homunculus, it is specialized in the usage of magecraft, and her magic resistance is higher than normal, but an average woman would be enslaved by this man at a glance.
Lancer shrugged with a bitter smile at Irisviel's remark.
"Sorry, that's some sort of a curse I've had since I was born. This is all you will get. Blame my birth, or your womanhood."
An example of a charm curse is a "Mystic Eye", but the only one Lancer has been looking straight at since the beginning is Saber, he hasn't looked at Irisviel behind her. The charm probably activated as soon as Irisviel looked at his face. That would make it a "Mystic Face" instead of a Mystic Eye.
Chuckling, Saber observed Lancer.
"You were not expecting my sword to grow dull with that fine look, were you, spear user?"
"That would be such a kill-joy, but indeed, the anti-magic ability of the Saber class is not vain. ... Excellent. It wouldn't suit my reputation to murder a woman weakened by my only face. I am glad my first opponent has such backbone."
"Hoh, you were wishing for a fair fight. It is my honor to face such a proud Heroic Spirit."
Exaggerating, Saber replied with a quiet smile. It was a smile that is only for those who wish for a perfectly straightforward life-and-death exchange.
Picking up the long spear on his right shoulder by spinning it once, Lancer raised the tip of the short spear in his left hand. His stance, spreading both spears like wings, really was an unreadable style.
Saber's fighting spirit boiled as well, and exploded. The prana surge enveloped the girl's slender dark suit in a swirl like a tornado― and the next instant, her body was wrapped in a silver and azure armor. The armor and gauntlets created as by magic was the true form of the beautiful King of Knights, as a Heroic Spirit.
Swallowing nervously, Irisviel called from behind. She could feel the fighting spirit released by both Servants, as well as the atmosphere strained by that tension. ―There was no room to disrupt this battle.
And yet, she couldn't just stand and watch. She was only a substitute Master for Saber.
"... Take care. I can support you with healing magecraft, but no more..."
Without a word, Saber nodded.
"Leave Lancer to me. But it worries me that the enemy Master is nowhere to be seen."
As Saber said, just remaining invisible, Lancer's Master was a danger. Usually, a Master would stand by the Servant and instruct him as the battle develops, as well as providing magical support. As long as Lancer's Master doesn't have full faith in him, he has to be lurking nearby to watch over Lancer's battle.
"He might be preparing an odd trick. Please be cautious. ―Irisviel, I entrust you to watch my back."
Her jade eyes spoke calmly. Fearlessly.
Trust the Heroic Spirit of the sword.
As the one this Heroic Spirit recognized as her master, trust yourself likewise, Irisviel. —Said her eyes.
"... Understood. Saber, bring me victory."
"Yes. I will."
Nodding resolutely, Saber takes a step forward.
Toward the space of the long spear, where Lancer was standing on guard...
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