Meat and wine adorn the table. Rows of brilliant and shining candlesticks.
In the Midcuart large banquet hall, the Erin nobles have gathered, and now is the climax.
However, the ruffians' boasting of their strengths and their drinking contest are strictly forbidden on this day.
These uncultured warriors are just drunk with the fragrance of the graceful flower this evening.
Right, this is a feast to love the flower.
Gráinne, the daughter of the High King of Ireland, Cormac mac Airt, is finally going to be betrothed.
The person to whom she would be betrothed is Cumhaill's son, Fionn mac Cumhaill. Receiving intelligence from the oil of the salmon of knowledge, the great warrior who controls the healing water. Unparalleled under the heavens, he is the head of a Fianna, a group of knights. The warrior's strength and fame could even rival those of the High King. There should not be any other marriage engagement which is as joyful as this anywhere else.
Accompanying the old warrior is his son, Oisín, who is also a poet; and also his grandchild, the warrior Oscar. And then, the almighty group of knights.
The talented Caílte mac Rónáin. Druid Diorruing. “Horror of the Battlefield” Goll mac Morna. Conan of the Gray Lashes. And finally, the one which surpasses even the strongest honor, Diarmuid Ua Dubhine of the love spot.
Each one of them is a great and no less inferior warrior. Amongst them, everyone adores and swear unwavering loyalty to Fionn. Revering the great hero as their leader, entrusting their swords, weapons and lives to that one life. This is a knight's honor. The true worth of warriors which is expressed by bards and handed down.
Yearning for that path.
Going through that path.
Someday when they perish proudly in the battlefield, they would still believe without a doubt.
Until the banquet on that fated night, when he happens to encounter that flower.
“In exchange for my love, accept the geis. My dear, no matter how, annul this abominable marriage. Please take me away......to the ends of the earth!”
Appealing to him in tears, the eyes of the maiden were flaring with earnest love.
That was something which would turn into the purgatory flames which would burn him to ashes......During that time, the hero was able to understand.
And yet, he still did not refuse.
The weight of a geis which would test his honor, and the path of a loyal subject which he followed- as he thought, which one was more precious? No matter how many times he asked or struggled with himself, he did not arrive at an answer.
That's why the thing which spurred him had to be a reason without any relation whatsoever with his pride.
The hero and the princess grasped hands, and together, turned away from the splendor of their futures.
Thus, before long, he became someone in the Celtic legends which were passed down, and the curtains of the story of a tragic love were lifted up.
Passing through that weird dream world, Kayneth woke up from his sleep.
An ancient, distant scene which he had neither seen nor experienced. However, it was not something mysterious. Masters who signed a contract with their Servants, are said to be able to occasionally catch a glimpse of the memory of a heroic spirit in the form of a dream.
For Kayneth, of course he would be familiar with the legends associated with the heroic spirit he summoned. Although he had never thought that he could experience the spectacle to such an extent......the dream just now was unmistakably one of the scenes of “The Legend of Diarmuid and Gráinne”.
“But......why am I here?”
Not fully awake yet, Kayneth looked around his surrounding.
He was lying at an empty room. The air which had a touch of but the dust in ruins, was dominated by the cold air of a winter night.
Signs of human activity and previous visits to that place could not be found; a cold room with only machineries.
It was not a place he did not recognize. After the collapse of Fuyuki Hyatt Hotel, this place had been Kayneth's temporary hiding place, the abandoned factory outside the city.
He tried to recollect his cloudy memory.
He was on the pursuit of Caster's tracks, and had struggled until the Einzbern forest. And then, with the battle of the Servants behind him, on his own, he tried to confront Saber's master for a duel......He tried to recollect the details, and simultaneously, humiliation and anger surged forth like a broken dam.
At his uncontrollably violent fury, he tried to grasp his fist, and he finally realized. In spite of the fact that he had awakened from his sleep, the truth was that he had no senses in his hands and legs at all.
Driven by bewilderment and fear, Kayneth writhed in agony. But, his body did not move at all. From the top of a simple bed, he was facing upwards. His chest and back were tightly bound by a belt.
If it was only that he could not get up, he understood. Yet, what did it mean by his unresponsive hands and legs?
The part of him which was tied down was only his torso. There weren't any binds at his limbs. But still...they could not move. It was as if his arms and legs did not exist.
“...Looks like you have regained your consciousness huh.”
From somewhere beyond his field of vision, his beloved fiancee's voice could be heard. Looks like Kayneth finally started finding fault with that sound.
“Sola!? This, what on earth......Wh-why I am here?”
“Lancer carried you back. He rescued you from your predicament. What's the matter? You can't recall it at all?”
Shot. In the Einzbern castle, just as he was about to kill the make-believe ends and odds magus who pulled cheap tricks......
Yet, he should have been shielded from his enemy's bullets by Volumen Hydrargyrum. He could clearly feel that moment when he was certain of his victory.
However, his memory was interrupted there. Some unknown, excruciating pain had struck him- apparently, something had happened. When he came to, he was lying down on his back. He was not even sure how much time had passed.
In the manner of a palpating doctor, she placed her fingers on Kayneth's arm. However, Kayneth's body senses were completely absent.
“There is evidence that the Magic Circuit in your whole body went berserk. Your internal organs were almost destroyed. Everywhere throughout your body, your muscles and nerves were damaged. It was a miracle that you did not die instantly.”
“For the time being, I had only managed to restore your internal organs. There's nothing I can do about your nerves. At this rate, even if you heal as time passed, don't wish for recovery to the extent that you can stand and run. Besides that-”
Listening disinterestedly to his fiancee's diagnosis, Kayneth was gradually tormented by despair.
Self-injury because of the rampage of his prana. For a magus, an end which is the nearest to himself, and more fatal than anything else.
Just because Kayneth felt that he was completely not associated with the making of such an elementary mistake, there was no reason for him not to know what that end meant.
“Besides that- Kayneth, your Magic Circuit was completely destroyed. You cannot use magecraft again.”
Tears welled in the eyes of the man who was once reputed to be the prodigy Lord El-Melloi.
Why did he receive such an ill treatment? He did not understand at all. The world was supposed to be blessing Kayneth. Unlimited future and splendor were supposed to be guaranteed for that genius.
The principles of the world in which Kayneth trusted collapsed noisily, leaving no trace whatsoever.
At this excessively cruel truth, at such incomprehensible unreasonableness, he simply became frightened and broke down in tears. The Kayneth right now was similar to an infant who had understood what fear is for the first time.
“Don't cry, Kayneth. It is still too early to give up.”
Whilst whispering in a comforting voice, Sola caressed his face. In times when he needed it, it is common for her display of affection towards her fiance to be slightly late.
“The Holy Grail war is still going on. Kayneth, the fruits of your plans! As long as I, the source of prana, am here, the contract with lancer can still continue. We have not lost yet.”
“If the Holy Grail is an omnipotent wish granter, a complete recovery for your body should be entirely possible, right? It'll be great if you win. If you remain in the war and obtain the Holy Grail, everything will be back to normal.”
Sora-Ui's words should cheer Kayneth up and give him hope. The encouragement of her as his partner and supporting fiancee ought to, above all else, give him courage.
And yet- why did an indescribable uneasiness blow through Kayneth's heart like a draught?
Whether or not it was because of her knowledge of his doubts, displaying the smile of an affectionate mother, she held Kayneth's right arm. At the back of his hand which was made impotent, there were still two Command Spells remaining, creeping on his fingers.
“That's why, Kayneth......Please hand these Command Spells to me. I will take over Lancer as a Master. To bring you the Holy Grail.”
His immediate response was probably because of his brute instinct. Having lost everything, these two Command Spells were the last mementoes he had- I must not let it go, Kayneth's spirit was screaming that.
Facing Kayneth who became afraid for no reason, in a way as if soothing a resentful child, Sola continued her words.
“Don't you trust me? Although I don't have a magic crest, I am still a magus from the Sophia-Ri family. I who am going to marry to the Archibalds; for me to carry out Lord El-Melloi's duty, is there anything strange with it?”
Its logic was resounding within him.
Certainly, it was now hard for him to go to the battleground and watch over Lancer's battles. Now that things had come to such a pass, he could not even protect himself. Just like what the Einzberns would do, if they were to set an assassin or something like that towards the Master at the side of the battle between the Servants, he might really lose his life this time.
Sola's rank as a magus is severely inferior to Kayneth. However, Waver who summoned Alexander, and the bloodthirsty murderer who formed a contract with Caster; those whose participations as Masters were completely out of the question, were still in this Holy Grail war. As for battle tactics, even for Sola, it is not entirely impossible for her to win through the battles.
And then, when it comes to using a Servant, Command Spells which make them submit to the Master are indispensable. But still...
Kayneth remembered. The hot look Sola had whilst gazing at Lancer at the hotel late at night after his first battle ended. An intoxicated glance as if she was dreaming, something not shown to him, her fiance, before.
If she was merely fascinated by a handsome man, then that is still excusable. It is just a small, problematic indisposition a woman has. Her admiration towards man to that extent was something which he, as her husband, could not help with.
Yet, Lancer was said to be a case of “not just an ordinary handsome guy”.
“......Sola. Do you think that Lancer would turn away from me and swear allegiance to you?”
Towards Kayneth who had killed his reluctance and asked, without any hesitation, Sola nodded.
“He is still but someone who responded to the invitation of the Holy Grail. His heart which seeks the Holy Grail is together with us. Even if his Master is substituted, for the sake of his goal, he would endure and accept it.”
Kayneth said within his heart. Sola may or may not know, but Diarmuid Ua Dubhine, the heroic spirit, is not such a commendable person.
Certainly, heroic spirits who are called by the Holy Grail as Servants, would form any contract in order to participate in the Holy Grail War. As heroic spirits or not, they are expected to have a reason for seeking the Holy Grail. Because they have wishes they have charged to the Holy Grail, they submit to their own Masters, and dash forward together to receive the blessings of the Holy Grail.
Because of that, a Servant's Master would face the summoned heroic spirit and start by asking his wish. What he wished for to seek the Holy Grail, why he had responded to his summon and appeared. As long as those reasons were not cleared up, their relationship would not work out. This is because, by any chance, if their respective wishes are totally contradictory, he may go through a painful betrayal once they acquire the Holy Grail.
Naturally, Kayneth had already asked Diarmuid about his wishes earlier on. Along with or not whether he had wanted to do anything in the event that they managed to procure the Holy Grail.
Nevertheless, the heroic spirit did not answer.
No, that is not correct. Diarmuid did not refuse to reply. Just that he denied the question itself.
In other words, “he was not seeking the Holy Grail”.
Repayments are not necessary. To merely devote his loyalty to his summoner who is his Master in this life, to fulfil his honor as a knight. That is his only wish.
He could not understand. For a person who was renowned enough to be a heroic spirit to abandon his pride and be the familiar of a human being, it doesn't add up if he did not have a great reason as well. It did not turn out to be “free service” or other jokes.
Yet, no matter how skillfully he tried to question him, stubbornly, Lancer did not take back his previous answer.
“If I can fulfill my honor as a knight, that would be good enough. I will cede the wishing machine, the Holy Grail to Master alone.”
All the time, with that persistence, Lancer continued to refuse the Holy Grail.
...If he were to reflect on it, it is possible that since that time, he started to feel distrust towards the Servant he contracted with.
It is impossible for a Servant not to seek the Holy Grail.
If that's the case, Lancer's answer was definitely an obvious lie. His true intentions were definitely hidden.
That's fine as well, he thought. On Kayneth hands are the Command Spells. As long as he has this absolute commanding authority, Diarmuid's betrayal is impossible. Servants are after all, just tools, no different from any ordinary machines. It is not a problem for something like a tool to have anything bad hidden within its heart. If it can carry out its functions perfectly, then that is good enough. That was Kayneth's decision until yesterday night.
Nevertheless, in front of Sola who did not doubt Lancer at all, Kayneth could not be as tolerating as before.
If that guy abides by Sola...if he believes that guy's words...then unmistakably, he is driven by a wish different from the Holy Grail.
He is a heroic spirit which must not be trusted. To begin with, that was the case in the stories of his lifetime. Wasn't him the treacherous subordinate who stole his lord's fiance and fled......?
“The Command Spells......I'm not handing them over.”
Plainly, Kayneth declared.
“Command Spells and Magic Circuits are different systems of magecraft. Now, I can still exercise it. I......right now, I am still Lancer's Master!”
Huhh... Sola sighed deeply.
Along with that long sigh, the gentle smile on her face vanished.
“Kayneth, you don't understand huh......Whatever the case, we must win.”
Kruck, The dry sound of a twig being stepped on could be heard.
From Kayneth's right hand which she had been treating gently until now, Sola casually twisted his little finger off.
As usual, there was no pain. However, that numbness caused Kayneth's fear to multiple. Just like that, without encountering any resistance, she could have easily twist off the remaining four fingers one by one.
“Hey, Kayneth. For my standard of spiritual healing techniques, it is impossible for me to forcibly extract your Command Spell. Only when there is consent from the owner himself, I can remove THIS without any resistance.”
Saying that without any expression, only her gentle voice was like just now, unchanged. As if trying to persuade a dull-witted child, she continued to the end, calmly.
“If you don't consent no matter what......I cannot do anything else but to cut down this right arm. How about it?”
At the rear entrance of the abandoned factory, in the darkness, the thicket which had reverted back to its quietness, grew luxuriantly.
Exposing herself to the cold night air, after waiting for the heat of her excitement to cool down, Sola called out to the shapeless sentry.
“Lancer, please come forth. I have something to say.”
Complying to her call, the heroic spirit, Diarmuid immediately materialized beside her.
Under the eyes which were facing down humbly, there was this love spot which further emphasized his existence bewitchingly. Prioritizing his ease of movements, his lightweight armor emphasizes more strongly the fearlessness of his body, which is tense like the birds of prey.
No matter how many times she had seen him, she still let out a sigh. The core of her body heated up.
“Are there anything abnormal outside?”
“Right now, this place is safe. Occasionally, there is this presence which felt like the loitering demons which came from Caster. But they do not seem to have sniffed this place out and come to attack us. The boundary field Lord Kayneth set has not fallen apart yet.”
Nodding, Sola felt relieved inside her heart. If Lancer had been on the lookout so seriously, he should not have noticed the incident which had occurred inside the building.
“Right, Sola-sama. How is Lord Kayneth's condition?”
“Not good. I have applied the usual treatment, but......although his arms are recovering slowly, his legs are probably over.”
With a gloomy expression, Sola lowered her head. Looks like this scrupulous heroic spirit was still feeling responsible for Kayneth's injury.
“If I had discerned the situation more carefully......my master would not have forced to the point of death right under my nose......”
“You were not aware of it. Kayneth reaps what he sows. He probably wanted to win this Holy Grail war too much.”
Towards the hesitating Lancer, Sola hardened her resolve, and let out the words within her heart.
“He is not appropriate to be your Master, Diarmuid.”
Lancer was silent, and stared fixedly at Sola's face. Pinning down her heart which was entranced by merely this straight look, she lifted up the back of her right hand and showed it to Lancer.
Distinctly etched onto it was two Command Spells which were supposed to still be on Kayneth's hand until just a while ago.
“Kayneth has renounced his fighting, and hand over his authority as a Master to me. From tonight onwards, Lancer- you are my Lancer.”
After being silent and looked down for a short while, as if already employed, he shook his head.
“I have sworn loyalty to Lord Kayneth as a knight. Sola-sama......I cannot consent to that request.”
At that reaction which betrayed her expectations, the one who was rather confused was Sola.
“From the start, it is because of my prana that you are still a Servant in this present world right? And now, I even have as far as the Command Spells. This time, I alone should be your genuine contractor!”
“Receiving your prana, being bound by the Command Spells; these words are not related at all.”
Casting down his eyes apologetically, Lancer continued quietly.
“Above being a Lancer, I was a knight before this. There can only be a master to whom I would devote my loyalty. Sola-sama, please forgive me.”
“......Am I not fit to be a Master? Diarmuid.”
“This and that are different-”
“Look into my eyes and speak!”
At her reprimand, reluctantly, Lancer lifted his face up, and faced her directly. Those eyes which were brimming with tears was way beyond what Lancer had expected...moreover, it was accompanied by the most unpleasant déjà vu.
Formerly, he had also faced a lady before who had pleaded with him with tears in such a manner.
“......Lancer, fight with me. Protect me, support me, capture the Holy Grail with me.”
“I cannot do that. If Lord Kayneth had renounced fighting, I cannot wish for the Holy Grail as well.”
Greatly agitated, Sola almost blurted the words which she could not hold back. Barely restraining herself, after waiting for her throbbing heart to calm down, she continued in a stiff voice.
“If you are still persisting on being Kayneth's knight, Lancer, then you have to strive hard to win the Holy Grail all the more. I have already told you his condition just now. For that body to heal, the help of a miracle is absolutely necessary. Only the Holy Grail fits it, right?”
Lancer felt silent again. However, this time his silence was affirming and acquiescent.
“If you feel responsible for his injury, if you think of regaining Lord El-Melloi's dignity, if you do not proffer the Holy Grail to your Master...”
“......Sola-sama, as Lord Kayneth's partner, you seek the Holy Grail only for Lord Kayneth. Is that right?”
“Th-that's, of course.”
At Lancer's quiet gaze, Sola gulped and replied.
“Can you please swear it? That you have no ulterior motives.”
She had wanted to burst into tears if she could. Screaming in an unladylike manner, whilst clinging onto this lovely man, expressing what's in her heart.
Still, if she were to do so, this haughty heroic spirit would probably refuse her point blank this time. She could not express her heart. At least not now.
“-I swear. As Kayneth El-Melloi's wife, I will offer the Holy Grail to my husband.”
After taking that oath in a firm voice, Lancer finally relaxed his expression, and nodded quietly.
That was something which was probably too faint to be called a smile. Nevertheless, Sola was over the moon. This is because at last, his expression which showed signs of a smile was directed towards her.
That's right, it didn't matter even if it was a lie—Sola thought about her hidden heart again.
If she could preserve her ties with this man now, no matter in what way, it didn't matter. For this sake, no matter how despicable the lie was, she would say it. She would not let anyone rebuke her for that. That's right, never- she would never allow anyone to hinder her.
He is not a human, but a spiritual being temporarily visiting from another world. A transient miracle brought forth by the Holy Grail. Yet, Sola's feelings did not change.
If she were to think back, ever since she had reached the age of reasoning, her heart had frozen. For Sola who was given birth to a family of magecraft who already had a legitimate child, she was not brought up with the feelings of a woman.
The magecraft's blood which was refined repeatedly throughout generations. A lady whose worth was nothing but that.
In other words, ever since the time the cry of the baby was heard, she had no other USAGE other than for the arranged marriage.
She did not feel regretful. She did not even harbor questions. There was no leeway for her to choose. She obeyed the arranged marriage her parents agreed upon quite willingly. Her frozen soul did not feel any lament towards having to call the man she was utterly uninterested in, husband, for the rest of her life.
However, it is different now.
Before this, has she ever heatedly felt her heart throbbing so rapidly before?
Sola-Ui Nuada-Re Sophia-Ri's heart was no longer frozen. That is because she knew the warmth of her heart which was madly in love.
Even after Sola returned to her bedroom, Lancer was still remaining outside alone, standing guard. For Servants, sleep is not necessary. As long as they have enough supply of prana from their Masters, weariness is unrelated to their body.
Consequently, he had no way to forget his troubles by sleeping,
Recalling Sola's words again and again, Lancer let out a sigh.
That look which abandoned everything and pleaded with him wholeheartedly and pitifully, was too similar to the look of his “wife” in the past.
Imposing the geis of betrayal on him, the perpetrator who caused him to fall from the position of a glorious hero to that of a refugee. However, Diarmuid never resented her.
Without any other reason, even if it were a passion which was solely due to captivation from the Mystic Face of the hero, her choice of running away from the seat of Micuart's banquet for this sake was a decision that, as far as the lady is concerned, was at the risk of her life.
The ties with her relatives, the pride of the princess, and also the promised glory of the future......Turning her back to everything, Gráinne chose the pathway of love with Diarmuid. If that beginning was because of the mystical force of his charm, the day when she would doubt her love would probably come. Nevertheless, without any fear towards such a future, Gráinne continued her way of life with love.
Diarmuid was dragged into this disaster; this is the view of others. Still, the person himself, Diarmuid, did not have such perception. Above his own suffering, he was the man who constantly felt more heartache at that of his partner.
At the weight of the geis which tested his pride, he did not even yield to it. There was reluctance. There were struggles as well. That was why he felt distressed at his perversion towards the ruler, Fionn mac. In the end, he grew attached to the courage of Gráinne, this woman, who believed in her feelings until the end; and loved her to the end.
Naturally, their pathway of love was full of hardships.
Driven by jealousy and resentment, Fionn mac Cumhaill mobilized everyone of his subordinates to pursue the two of them who had taken flight, and hunted them down like a wild beast. Whilst protecting the princess, Diarmuid resolved not to cross weapons with the knights under Fionn, with whom he was friends. However, towards the foreign pursuers who were assembled because of Fionn's pact with them, he did nothing but bare his fangs.
His fight with the giant Searban, his fights with the nine Garbs, his fight with Fionn's nanny, “Witch of the Millstone”......The consequence was, Diarmuid's getting stuck at using his valor which surpassed the previous achievements established in the knight troupe, again and again; to formulate the flight with Princess Gráinne. As for him who was known by others as the most noble subject, that was too ironic an epic.
Whilst cutting up the enemies with both his lances, his heart was torn apart again. Though being tormented by the dilemma of his contradicting loyalty and geis, his refined, twin lances pierced through the previous enemies, meaninglessly bringing about deaths.
A lady and two men- Because of merely the sentiments and obstinacy, much blood was spilled.
At the end of the day, the one who was heartbroken after the futility of these sacrifice, was still Fionn. The old master recognized to Diarmuid and Gráinne's marriage, bestowed a proper title and territory, and welcomed him as a subject again.
The reconciliation Diarmuid wanted unceasingly. Yet, that ending was just the harbinger of the conclusive catastrophe.
One day, Diarmuid who was hunting together with Fionn, received a deep wound from a wild boar's fangs. That was a mortal wound, but since Fionn was beside him, he was not afraid. That's because, with the records of countless miracles as a hero attached to him, Fionn could transform spring water scooped with his hands into a miracle drug.
Yet, in front of a subject on the verge of death, the thing which went to and fro in the old master's mind, was the bitter jealousy of the dispute for one woman.
The well from which spring water flowed out, was only nine steps away from the collapsed Diarmuid.
In order for Fionn to cure the knight's wound, he only had to walk nine steps and bring back the water. That alone would suffice. Nevertheless, in spite of such a short distance, water spilled from his hands twice.
And then at the third time he scooped the water, Diarmuid, the hero's breathing stopped.
-Now, being invited to the present world again as a Servant, looking back at his end during those bygone days, Diarmuid had no sense of regret at all. He did not have any intention of cursing anyone. He wanted to reply to his wife's love. He could understand Fionn's anger as well. It was just that the twist of fate was way too cruel.
It was not just a life full of suffering and anguish only. The glass by which he drank with the king, and the whispers-containing lovers' talks as well, were left within him as irreplaceable memories. Although the end was tragic, Diarmuid did not consider being dissatisfied with God's will. This is because he and the others around him had earnestly lived their lives to the fullest.
He did not deny the one life which had passed by him.
Still, suppose that...
He becomes a knight again, picks up his spears, and lives a second life......
This supposedly impossible miracle was borne within heroic spirit Diarmuid's heart.
His crushed former honor. His pride which could not be fulfilled. A chance to pick it up again. That was everything Diarmuid wished for.
A path of life with his long-cherished wishes, which did not come true in his previous life.
This time, surely, his path of faithfulness...
Together with a loyalty without any shadow of doubt, the honor of lifting up the victory to his master...
In short, there was absolutely no wish Lancer charged towards the Holy Grail. Receiving a master for a second time, during the times when he stood at the battlefield called “Fuyuki”, his wish was already half achieved.
And the other half would be accomplished when he attain victory. Bringing the Holy Grail back to his Master, the moment the fruits of his loyalty take shape, his everything would be fulfilled.
That was supposed to be only it. He was never supposed to have a wish beyond that.
However, Diarmuid's path right now, was beginning to be shrouded with ominous dark clouds. In between his new ruler's time, the Mystic Face which he was burdened with, was trying to drive the wedge in again.
If Sola could come to the realization that she was only foolishly entranced by the Mystic Face, the worst case scenario could be avoided.
Yet, if she were to become the second Gráinne and cling onto him tightly, during that time, would he be able to shake off the woman's feelings?
This was supposed to be a battle to compensate for his tragic fate. If that happens, he would never want to repeat the tragic fate.
But still, how should he do it?
In the midst of the darkness of the still night, having no way to even discover the answer, Lancer just looked up to the moon in agony, doing nothing else.
The roar of waves lapping against the shore.
At the beach, perhaps the break of dawn was not far away, for the ashen ray of light which illuminated the river bank was overshadowing the light mist with whiteness.
The sandy beach continued endlessly towards both left and right. The sea surface was enveloped in a white frost, and its frontier could not be seen. The masked landscape, was it a land opposite the shore? A faraway horizon? Or, was there nothing at that side?
Besides the restless roar of the waves, there was absolute silence.
With no clouds on the sky and no winds at the land, even if there were any kind of human activities, they would be far away from this shore.
Going forward continuously, going forward continuously only towards the east, leaving every single thing in this world behind at the west; and with that, reaching the desolate, empty coast.
That is why surely, at the other side of the mist, there was absolutely nothing.
Above that, the world did not exist earlier, and moreover, an expedition was impossible. This place was- the sea of the extremity of this world.
By just closing one's eyes, he could hear the roar of the waves.
That was permitted to no one but the one who went to the extreme end of the world. The melody of the roaring sea became distant-
He had seemingly dozed off lying on the desk.
With his shoulders stiffened due to his unreasonable posture, despite moaning with the pain as if he was numbed, Waver lifted his face.
He had a feeling that he was seeing a somewhat strange dream. A dream which he could see clearly, despite having no sense of himself; a dream as if he was peeping into someone else's memory.
The day had already darkened. Looks like he had accidentally wasted his time by dozing off for a very long time. He clicked his tongue at his own carelessness. Right now, there was seemingly nothing more valuable than time.
Every Master was scrambling to get Caster's head on the platter. The supplement of a Command Seal as a reparation to whoever managed to accomplish it the fastest......He did not even expect any hands to let this off. Especially for Waver, the runaway who has Alexander as his Servant, the injunction authority of the Command Seals could also be called as the “last resort”. He would not hand it over, whatever the circumstances.
No matter who the heroic spirit is, if it is of the class Caster, it is not wrong to say that he is a Servant who is someone full of tricks up his sleeves. The one who can challenge him head on without any plans, is someone like Saber's class which boasts of strong magic resistance skill. As for Rider, a class separate from the three knights; generally, he would have no choice but to face him with some strange strategy in hand. In reality, he judged that Alexander's magic resistance is about D level......he had no choice but to do with that consoling amount of defense.
Because of that, the best way thing to do when he faces Caster, is to skillfully tempt Saber towards Caster, as if he was going to fight Saber; and to wait for their drop out. However, the supplementary Command Seal he was striving for at great lengths, would elude him. Proposing an alliance with Saber to collaborate with them to hunt Caster down would be a poor plan. If he were to think of fighting forward in the Holy Grail war advantageously, not outwitting the others here would be meaningless.
A whole day and night after the announcement at Fuyuki church. For the time being, he had directed Rider to investigate about it, an idea which had struck him. Intending to work out a strategy, Waver had stayed back at his house, but......distressed, he finally fell asleep; because of which, that arrogant Servant would say something sarcastic to him.
No, it would be great if he finished off with just ordinary sarcasm- Recalling the pain due to the innumerable times of pokes at his forehead, Waver grasped his forehead reflexively. He hated that already. Sooner or later, won't it cause a crack at his skull?
Whilst thinking about that, Waver heard brisk footsteps coming up the staircase from the downstairs, and froze. Come to think of it, it was about time the old woman finished the dinner preparations and came up to call Waver. Right now, the things which were suspicious-looking were- for the time being, not there.
After a humble knock, the voice of the old woman could be heard, but its message was completely different from what Waver expected.
“Waver-chan, Alex-san has arrived.”
Who? As he was about to ask back, an extremely disturbing hunch struck Waver's mind.
How could this be? Just as he thought that, gahaha!, a hearty laughter in a loud voice arose from the living room downstairs.
“......WAIT a minuteeeeeeeee!?”
His expression changing, Waver bolted out of his room, and without so much as a glance at the dumbstruck old woman, he ran down the stairs as if he was half-tumbling down, and leaped into the dining kitchen at which dinner preparation was starting.
The television was on every night's variety. Glenn, the old man who enjoys having beer to go along with the starter. In the usual dinner view, there was about one extra foreign object within it.
Balancing his big frame dangerously, sitting on the guest chair, “Yo!” that Servant lifted his hand relaxedly, after which, “Gulp gulp,” drained the cup into which beer had been poured.
“Wow, what a pleasant drink!”
Holding a bottle in his hand and advancing onto the next one, Glen-shi who had acquired this drinking partner, was completely delighted.
“Our Waver as well. After coming back from England, I had hoped that he would feel alcohol at least once, but he still can't do it. I have been so bored until now!”
“Hahaha, that's because he doesn't know how to enjoy himself. 'People who enjoyed life will win,' I had always been trying to tell him that.”
A friendly chat between the old man and the King of Conquerors. At this spectacle which appeared to not just be a bad joke, Waver could not even say a word.
Returning to the kitchen after that, with a troubled look on her face, the woman tapped Waver's shoulder.
“You can't be like that. If a guest is coming, you have to tell me earlier. If I had known about that, I would have prepared a better feast. Geez.”
Smiling at Waver who was somewhere else, Rider shook his head.
“No no madam, please don't trouble yourself. That's because a simple home-like style is the best hospitality.”
“Hmm. You are quite good at compliments.”
Ohoho, the laughing wife was completely caught up in Rider's cheerful pace. Looks like Waver was the only one who had become “unreadably” still in this atmosphere.
“As you have known, our Waver is that sort of temperamental person, right? I can't help but to worry if he is getting along fine in the school in England. If he has such a dependable person like you, sir, as a good friend, looks like I have worried too much for nothing!”
“No no. He is the one who has been of help to me. Even these trousers, he had chosen and bought it for me. Looks great on me, doesn't it!”
At the time when he was entrusted with external businesses, Waver got stuck with buying stuff for him, and bought an XL-size washed-jeans for Rider, which he proudly showed off. It was still a mystery as to how on earth the conversation between the two worked out, but at any rate, Waver was at last, beginning to understand what type of person “Alex-san” to the Mackenzie couple is.
As for the old couple who were cast suggestion upon using magecraft, Waver is their grandson, furthering his studies abroad in England. But for Rider, he is passed off as a friend Waver met during his voyage, and has boldly paid the Mackenzie residence a visit, thus settling down at a seat at the dinner table- this is seemingly the chain of events.
He thought about how the old couple could believe Rider so easily- probably it was because of Rider's huge size which forced them to do so.
“Alex-san, until when do you plan to be in Japan?”
“Er, well, until I settle some minor business, that's about, close to a week.”
“If it's okay, hey, how about staying at our house? Unfortunately, we don't have a small room to be used as a guest room, but if a futon is spread out on Waver's room, one more person should be able to sleep there, right? Hey, Waver?”
“FUTON? Ooh, this country's bedding! I really want to enjoy it to the fullest!”
“HAHAHA. Sleeping on the floor instead of a bed; it would feel strange during the times when you are still not used to it. Although we have been here for a long time, we were really surprised by it at the beginning!”
“That thing is the appeal of this foreign country huh. I like the surprises of unknown things. No matter what age it is, I would always enjoy Asia!”
Although he had unintentionally betrayed himself by using the first person pronoun, without even the slightest hint of recognition, old man Glen nodded with a smile on his face.
“Come now, it's about time the meal was ready. Waver-chan, please take your seat as well.”
Being urged by the old wife, Waver sat down on his chair, dispirited. The seat on which he was already supposed to get used to sitting, no matter what he did tonight, was still uncomfortable.
Although dinner had suddenly changed from the everyday one, displaying a grandeur similar to a semi-feast, eventually, Waver was silent from the start till the end. Sitting beside Rider who was laughing heartily and unreservedly, he did not even feel the taste of the food he put into his mouth.
“―So, what the heck are you doing??”
After finishing dinner, Rider went back to the room again, holding a futon set borrowed from the landlord under his armpit. And then, Waver started off by questioning the Servant.
“What......If I were to enter the main door normally, an excuse is absolutely necessary right?”
“When you come in and out, TURN INTO SPIRITUAL FORM! I HAVE TOLD YOU SO MANY TIMES!!”
Confronting Waver, who threw a tantrum and was half-crying, Rider became disappointed instead.
“But I can't bring this in if I turn into spiritual form...”
Saying that, the object the giant showed was a small sports bag brought into the room under the pretext of being a travelling hand luggage.
“I dunno what it is, but bringing this thing back is my duty for the day isn't it? For this sake, you had even openly given me these trousers. In the first place, the one who ordered me was you, wasn't it?”
“That's why I said......If you would just place that thing in front of the house secretly, I can just go and get it afterwards. That's all!!”
“If that's the case, isn't it the same if I enter the main entrance openly and think of an excuse? ―Or should I say, in the first place, what the heck is this!?”
With a rather unsatisfied expression, Waver took the bag Rider held out, and inspected the contents.
There were altogether twenty-four test tubes being plugged by stoppers. As for those containers which were differentiated from their handwritten alphabetical labels, all of them were sealed with colourless and transparent liquids.
“Finally, I can wear trousers. I had wanted to take a stroll down some lightened up areas―But for me, the King of Conquerors, why did you want me to go to a country-like riverside to draw water?”
“That's much more meaningful than munching rice crackers and watching the television, that's why.”
Waver swiftly cleared the table, and removed the whole set of experiment tools, one of the few valuable items he brought from his school dormitory in London. He then prepared the operation.
Vials into which ores and reagents were filled, spirit lamp mortar, droppers......At those apparatus which were lined up on the desk one by one, the King of Conquerors frowned.
“What is this? So you plan to start off with some make-believe alchemy?”
“It's the real thing, not make-believe. Idiot.”
While replying disappointedly, Waver set up the test tubes Rider brought back in the tube rack according to the labels. And then he selected the complementary reagents, and mixed them together. This was just something which was repeated many times in the Clock Tower as the basic subject. As for the amount, even with his eyes closed, he would not go wrong.
“Just to be sure, but you're sure that you did not make any mistake with the places drawn on the map?”
“Are you looking down on me, boy? What could possibly go wrong with something of such standard?”
Grumbling, Rider tossed the folded up map to Waver. Fuyuki city's complete map. Besides that, with a roughly fixed interval, alphabets filled the map alongside the Mion River from the river mouth upstream.
The inscriptions on the map were marked with labels from the test tubes Rider brought back. The liquid content was the water of the Mion River retrieved from designated spots along the river. As for Rider who wanted to go out in the materialized form no matter what, with his buying clothes for Rider as a condition, Waver ordered him to collect the river water. As expected, leaving whether Rider would be of use or not aside, it seems that it was a more useful task than ordering him out for something like a useless walk.
“......What am I doing?”
Silently, he made progress on the preparation of the reagents, and as if going back to the elementary department at Clock Tower, Waver was quite unhappy. He who should be participating glamorously in the Holy Grail war as a Servant's Master, why is he repeating such plain and boring work again?
Whilst letting out a melancholic sigh, he plugged the reagents which were fully mixed with a stopper. With that done, first of all, he unplugged the stopper of the test tube labelled “A”, and dropped a drop of reagent into the center.
Exceeding his expectation, the reaction was instantaneous. The water which was supposed to be colorless and transparent, suddenly turned into rust red color.
“-t on earth is this?”
He thought that Rider would surely start with the sequel of the video, but Rider was watching the experiment over Waver's shoulder with an engrossed expression. Although explaining was troublesome, because a barrage of questions would intrude upon his work even more, Waver did not ignore him and answered.
“Traces of the remains of the procedure. The remains of the magecraft in the water.”
Label A, namely the position where the river mouth is the closest to the sea. At that location, such a reaction was evidently abnormal.
“The upstream of the river―but still at a position considerably close to the river mouth. Who performed magecraft there? If we go upstream from here, we could probably grasp the location.”
“......Boy, since the start, did you realize that the water of that river is mixed with such a thing?”
“No way! But it is a land with water flowing through the heart of the city. It is natural to start investigating from the water.”
To find out the whereabouts of the magi, the easiest way is the “Water” element. As an absolute principle, water is something which “flows from a higher place to a lower place”. Compared to the effort needed to calculate the wind's direction and read the earth's pulse, finding the lowest flow of the water pulse is the least laborious. And this is further the case for a land with rivers.
In the case where there are other ways of investigation, he thought as far as starting off with the easiest one first, but......it seems like Waver had already drawn the “winner”. For now, it could be said that luck was with him.
B, C, D......Following the order, he deftly dropped the reagent into the river water in the test tubes. As it heads toward upstream, the reaction becomes increasingly stronger. At this joke-like conspicuousness, Waver's emotions surpassed wonder, into utter shock. This could be nothing but due to someone setting up a workshop right in the middle of the river, and discarding the waste directly without any precaution whatsoever. Such a magus who is worse than third-rate magi, and is but a mere fool, does not ex―no, exists. That very newbie. The incident Waver heard from the supervising Father at the church, to which he was summoned this morning.
“But still, confirming it with such a way......I don't feel proud at all.”
Exhausting his ingenuity to outsmart the enemy, competing their wonders with each other―That is the “Magecraft Contest” which Waver imagined. What he was doing now- making progress by carrying out underground investigations like a police forensic- was something people with no talent whatsoever do. Though he had already grasped the positive results in his hands, what was left in Waver's heart was the bad aftertaste of humiliation.
The reaction of Label P, was now in the state of a black ink. If it becomes any murkier than this, such a simple method like this could no longer be used for the analysis.
With the expectation of what would happen, he dropped the reagent into test tube Q.
The water remained transparent. No matter how vigorously he shook it, there was no response.
Waver opened up the map again, and pointed at the P and Q scribblings.
“Rider, here, and here, what's in between them? Draining trench? Mouth of an irrigation channel?”
“Oh? There was something remarkably big there...”
“That's it! If we track back this thing, Caster's workshop is probably there.”
For some reason, with a solemn face, Rider gazed at Waver closely.
“Oi, boy. Could it be that you are some great excellent magus?”
At those utterly unexpected words, Waver could not help but to take it as something cynical. Snorting, he turned away.
“This is not something great magi would do. The method is the worst among the worst. YOU, you're making fun of me huh.”
“What are you talking about? If you achieve good results using a poor method, isn't that a much greater achievement than starting from better methods? You should be proud of yourself! As a Servant, I am proud as well.”
Laughing boldly, Rider clapped the master of a small build. Increasingly upset, Waver tried to retort, but realizing that it was completely useless to preach the mysteries of magecraft to this Servant, he held his silence and shrugged off the matter.
“All right! After grasping the location, it is now my turn! Hey boy, do you plan to strike at once?”
“Hey wait! The enemy is Caster. Attacking immediately may be a little stupid.”
For a magus, the layout of his workshop can be said to be the compilation of the sorcery he mastered within him. Consequently, capturing the workshop means possessing the equivalent power, skills, and everything of the resources, and to challenge head-on.
Especially the one who is called the hero of sorcery, Servant Caster. The ability of the class' attribute, “Territory Creation”, is amplified. As long as he possesses the skill which enabled him to create within the shortest time, the workshop which demonstrates the very best result whatever the terrain and requirements are, in this battle, Caster is the one who can boast of being the strongest among the seven Servants. Because of that, in going against that workshop, reckless actions like attempting a head-on bulldozing action, even if it were Caster's natural enemy, Saber; would be equivalent to suicide.
Such a standard of reasoning should be understood even by Rider, but apparently, this Servant did not even have the slightest consideration for that. Before one noticed, Rider had already materialized the “Sword of Cypriot”, sheathed it, and in that manner, tapped Waver's shoulder whilst grinning broadly.
“Look. In a war, the camp's position changes every now and then. If you have grasped the position and don't strike with immediately; if you let them slip, it would be too late then to even regret.”
“......You, why are you so fired up again today?”
“Of course! My Master has finally shown some achievement which is likely to get us some results. If that's the case, bringing back the head of the enemy and repay my master, that is my spirit as a Servant.”
At such a ticklish manner of saying things, Waver was also at a loss of the best words to answer back.
As if taking that silence as consent, whilst laughing wholeheartedly, Rider hit his Master's slender shoulder and nodded.
“Don't give up at such a beginning. For the time being, we just try to strike them, isn't it? Maybe we can unexpectedly pull this off?”
The former soldiers under the King of Conquerors, were they dragged about in this way until the extreme east end of Asia as well? Thinking that, Waver could not suppress his sympathy towards the ancient warriors.
―Eventually, they somehow did it.
The interior of the sewer Waver discovered, was indeed the haunts of non-humans. Possessing countless tentacles, the innumerable aquatic monsters stayed there as if crowding together in the narrow tunnel, lying in wait to strangle any pitiful trespasser to death.
Naturally, although he was shown such a disgusting scene, for Alexander, the King of Conquerors, there was no other remedy apart from one.
The trampling rampage of Gordius Wheel • Wheel of Heaven's Authority in the sewer was just like a lightning-clad excavator. The body fluids and pieces of flesh of the monsters which was ran down, trampled and scorched, thickly filled the inside of the tunnel like a fog. Together on the carriage, it was as if Waver could not see his surroundings.
Riding alongside Rider at the coachman's box, if the protection field were not covering them, he would surely become not able to breathe, and would probably suffocate due to the splashing of blood from overflowing demons. In spite of that, the more he protected his breathing organs with magecraft shields, the more he had to block his sense of smell. If not, he would probably faint from the excessively heavy stench of intestines.
He thought they would be welcomed with some intricate and mysterious defense...but this time, the nest Caster established had nothing but an enormous number of familiars positioned there; besides that, magecraft disguises or traps were completely absent. Compared with the standard of magi, this was neither a workshop nor anything else. It was just an ordinary “siege” used to position their army, to strengthen their defence.
Defence like this which only relied on the number of the small fries, was not a suitable prey for Servants furnished with Anti-Army Noble Phantasms. Therefore, for Rider, this was but a resistance-less turn of events, an anticlimax.
“Hey boy, you said “attacking the magus' workshop”, but it's just this childish thing?”
“......No, this is weird. This time, the Caster is probably not a proper magus.”
“Aah? What d'ya mean by that?”
“For example, in the legends during his lifetime, be it summoning demons, or possessing grimoires or that sort, with just that anecdote being passed down, and that person himself is not really a magus, contrary to what he is famous for, even if he were to be appear as Caster, won't that ability be something limited?”
After being made to shun his body senses for about a few minutes due to the shrieks of the creatures which were being ran down, Waver now raised his voice undauntedly against the sounds of the clamorous massacre, as he related at great length that carefree analysis, to the extent of his nerves getting numb.
“Generally, if this is the real workshop, such a defenseless discharging of thrash would be strange. If he were a decent magus, such a blunder is impossible.”
“Huuuh, so that's it? ......Hmm? Are we about to reach the end?”
The wall of flesh of the pulverized creatures which were trying in vain to block their path, had thinned down before they realized. Before long, there was no more tentacle left; and the chariot was released from the blood spray, springing into a wide space. Just like before, the surrounding was in pitch darkness, without even a ray of light. There was no flow of air as well, but they could no longer feel the oppressive feeling like when they were in that narrow, confined space.
“―Fuuun, unfortunately, Caster's not around...”
Probably, there was no problem for a Servant's eyesight even within this complete darkness. Rider coughed absent-mindedly. He had said that in a strangely low tone, probably because of his disappointment at letting the enemy escape, but at this time, Waver did not realize as well.
“A water tank? Or what is it? Here......”
He had wanted a hand light, but if by any chance they would end up in a place where there were troops lying in ambush within this darkness, it would be something which informs them their direct position. It would be great if he could enhance his vision with his magecraft skills and see through the darkness.
“......Aah, boy. I think it's better for you not to look.”
It was rare for Rider to be this frank. At his excuse which was as if there was something stuck in between his teeth, obviously Waver would become astonished.
“What are you talking about!? If Caster is not here, we have to at least find out some clue as to where he is!!”
“That's probably true but, oh well. Boy, that guy is too much for you.”
Becoming serious of the turn of events which were meant to be, Waver jumped down from the driver's seat of the chariot and stood on the floor, and activated his night vision skill. Instantly, his field of vision opened up like a fog clearing up, and the spectacle ahead of him which was masked by the darkness earlier, opened up as well.
Until the moment he tried to understand the situation around him, he had forgotten how he blocked the odor which had been hanging in the air of the sewer, even until here. He had been thinking all this while that the splashing sound of the water when he jumped onto the floor, was merely because of the sewage water.
Waver Velvet is a magus. He prepared his heart for the every type of mystery whose reasoning were outside his ethics.
He knew that the ritual he was participating in now was one with unparalleled brutal murders, and thus, did not spare any sweet feeling towards them. If he had not conceptualize himself seeing dead bodies piling up, he would not have any tinge of hope of staying in this fight.
Because of that, Waver resolved to never be shaken, whatever the “death” which might spring out surprisingly into his sight. Because this Fuyuki is the battleground, it is natural to see dead bodies.
Even if their numbers were enormous, even if they were to be mutilated till losing their entire human appearance―in the end, corpses are still but corpses. He would frown at such goriness and atrocity, but there was nothing he could not tolerate.
He had been thinking about this. Until this very instant.
The limits of Waver's imagination were that corpses were but remains of human bodies in the end; nothing but the result of their destruction. However, the scene before his very eyes now, surpassed his previous thought completely.
As an illustration, that place was just like a variety shop.
There were furniture. There were clothes as well. Musical instruments; cutlery. Various items uses of which were not understood at all; they probably were just pictures or artworks. The enthusiasm of the creator devoting himself completely into designing them diligently, and his profligate sense of fun could be perceived.
Unmistakably, the craftsman who made these ceaselessly loved his raw materials, and the manufacturing process itself.
They understood that there was someone who violently discovered pleasures. That might be the person who committed those murders. But the things in this blood-stained space were not corpses.
There wasn't a single “destroyed remains” here. Everything was a new creation; an art. Their lives as “human beings”, their carcass as “human beings” were completely discarded meaninglessly during the process of the art―that was the entirety of the slaughter at that place.
Murders which were done creatively to amuse himself; this behavior which created art by means of death, had far exceeded the maximum level Waver's mind could possibly take. Above simple emotions like horror and disgust, at such a graphically realistic and alarming shock, Waver could not even stand straight. Before he realized, he was already on the bloodstained floor on both his hands and knees, regurgitating all the contents of his stomach.
Rider descended from his chariot. Standing beside Waver, he sighed deeply.
“That's why, eh...I've asked you to stop, but...”
At the gigantic Servant's coughing murmur―within his demoralized heart, the last bit of self-dignity was scattered into fire sparks.
His intense outburst of fury had no reason or logic whatsoever. Kneeling here, his weakness was detestable. Of all times, for this weakness to be revealed in front of his Servant was an utterly mortifying humiliation.
“Son of a bitch! Treating me as an idiot! Dammit!!”
“Now's not the time to get into temper. Idiot.”
Rider spat that out with a sigh, and yet, for some reason, he was not amazed, nor did he reproach Waver. Instead, his voice could be heard in a quiet, admonishing tone.
“It's okay, that's all for now. If there is someone who would not twitch and eyebrow even after being shown such a thing, I'll go and bash him.
Rather, I praise your decision, boy. The plan of bringing Caster and his Master down first is true indeed. Now I see, every second such people exist is disgusting.”
Although he was commended by Rider, Waver could not be honestly glad at all. The reason he set Caster as his target was to get the supplementary Command Spell shown by the supervisor as a reward. Obviously, he did not tell Rider that. That's because there would be no reason for a Servant to rejoice in the unnecessary increase of the Command Spells which bind them.
Among those words Rider said to Waver, none of them bear malice. And yet, Waver strongly loathed that towering Servant.
He did not show even the respectful attitude Servants normally have towards their Masters. On the contrary, he kept having this behavior of treating Waver as an idiot. If that was all, then it's still all right. But, the thing which is most unforgivable was that- despite his rare attempts to praise Waver, at such moments, he had such irrelevant misunderstanding towards him.
“What are you hitting me for!? Idiot! Aren't you standing there unconcerned!? Am I not the only one who's ashamed!?”
Even though he was vomiting heavily until tears came out, with a furious voice, he snapped at Rider with all his might. At that, in an extremely troubled manner, Rider's mouth formed a “へ” shape.
“For me, now's not the time to brace your emotions. That's because my Master's about to be killed.”
Not even having the free time to doubt what he heard, Rider's next move was executed with lightning speed.
He threw the Sword of Cypriot he removed from the sheath at his waist overhead, which gave off bright sparks in the empty space.
After that, riding on ahead with a bird-of-prey-like agility despite his big size, with the sword which returned to him, he took a swift slash.
The sound of meat being ripped apart and getting wet. A scream of agony and splatter of crimson red blood.
With utter disbelief, Waver was staring at the black-clothed corpse which had fallen over.
When on earth did that attacker steal up behind Waver? And then, since when did Rider sense that presence? As for the thing Rider's sword knocked off just now, it was something the shadow clothed in black aimed and threw at him- a Dark dagger. With the throw of that dagger, Rider was able to finally ascertain the exact position of the enemy. Within the instant he did not expect, this bloodstained water tank had already become a battlefield.
However, above everything else, the thing which stared bewilderedly at Waver was a white skull mask of the dark shadow which fell due to Rider's decapitation.
“Assassin......It can't be...”
It was an impossible mystery. That's because Waver had seen the defeat and annihilation of Assassin himself through the eyes of his familiar.
“Now's not the time to be shocked, boy.”
With his sword in readied, Rider quietly warned him. As if confronting the guy who was shielding Waver, in the darkness, two more white skull masks appeared.
“Wh-Wh-Wh-Why!? ......Why are there four Assassins!?”
“No matter what it is, it's not the issue now.”
Facing such an obviously abnormal situation, Rider's attitude was still very composed.
No matter how fishy the course of events was, to him, the situation right now was his only concern.
“There is one thing which can definitely be said of this- Those who thought that THESE GUYS had died, have been deceived...”
Anyhow, Rider who was protecting Waver now, was not shaken at all. Perceiving that situation, the two Assassins clicked their tongues within their hearts regretfully.
In reality, to them, this turn of events was a completely inexcusable fiasco.
Apart from the two which were dispatched out, among the Assassins which were deployed to observe Caster and his master, Ryuunosuke, there were still three left outside the workshop, watching them all the time- these three people.
If possible, they had wanted to take the opportunity of Caster's absence to steal into the workshop to investigate the place. But since they did not know what was inside Caster's base, they had no choice but to be cautious. However, witnessing how Rider and his master who had appeared, foolishly attacking it head on from the front, the three of them decided that it was a great chance. Secretly pursuing them from the opening Rider made, they planned to find out the status of the defense of the workshop, if the situation permitted it.
Even so, Rider managed to reach the interior of the workshop without any trouble. So unexpectedly, the Assassins managed to penetrate Caster's base too. One of the Assassins who was satisfied with this unexpected turn of events became greedily obsessed. With the extremely defenseless Rider's Master ahead of them, he could not resist straying from their duty.
Obviously, it was a clear deviation from their Master, Kirei's instructions. Despite that, if they could successfully eliminate Rider here, they would probably not be reprimanded. To the Assassins, the situation was that attractive.
Eventually, the three agreed upon an extreme gamble. In the end, it was a superb failure.
Although the remaining two Assassins prudently discerned Rider's next move, they cast an asking glance at each other. Should they continue their two-on-one battle against Rider here......
Without much contemplation, both of them had only one answer. Ever since the moment they lost their surprise attack, their chance of victory was already lost. Visually measuring the difference in strength between them and Rider, they had absolutely no chance of winning. They resented it, but retreating here and facing Kirei's wrath would be many times better than being slain here.
As soon as they mutually understood each other, both Assassins turned into spiritual form swiftly, and their figures disappeared from Rider's sight.
“No,” Rider admonished Waver who had started to feel relieved.
“Although two had died, there are still two left. If this trend continues, we don't know how many more Assassins would come forth. This is a bad place. A terrain those guys like. We have to retreat immediately.”
Still not sheathing the sword, Rider hit Waver's chin, and pointed towards the chariot.
“Boy, get back to my chariot! Once we start off, the enemy won't have any chance to strike.”
“This place......should we leave it as it is?”
Pointing at the workshop which he was still timid to directly look at until now, Waver asked that in a gloomy voice.
“Although we might know something if we investigate further......give it up! For the time being, we'll just wreck this place whatever we can. Who knows if it might end up frustrating Caster's plans?”
With his attitude changing suddenly from just now when he trampled on the opposing demons outside the workshop, Rider was now more cautious. Although some part of him still wanted to advance on the grotesque-looking demonic beasts recklessly, the assassins' shadows which had drew near them without them noticing, had probably made him felt quite seriously threatened.
“Are there any survivors...”
Waver said that in a dim voice. After surveying the surrounding deliberately with a glance which penetrated the darkness, Rider shook his head with a bitter face.
“There are some of them who are still breathing, but......in that condition, it would be more merciful to kill them off.”
Waver did not feel brave enough to ask what Rider had seen within the dark.
Both of them boarded the driver's seat of the chariot again. Rider took up the reins, and the raging bulls bellowed angrily, sending lightning in the darkness.
“Sorry for the cramped space, but there's something I really count on you, Children of Zeus. Burn this place down to ashes!!”
Together with Rider's yell, the heavenly oxen stomped their hoofs, savagely going around the workshop which was stained with blood as if depicting a “円” (Yen) character. Once being trampled on by the hoofs which scorched even the air, the only thing left was utter destruction. The nightmarish handicrafts Caster and Ryuunosuke treasured so much were swept cleanly without any trace in the blink of an eye. Moreover, the chariot went about like this for two or three times, and nothing was left in the interior of the spacious water tank apart from the heavy stench of burned fat.
Surveying the aftermath of the sheer destruction, Waver's expression was still gloomy. Something like this would not bring about any solution at all. Having this miserable thought, the apprentice magus' heart squirmed.
With his big hand, Rider grimly gave Waver a gentle rub at his head.
“Wrecking his base like this, even if Caster escapes, he can't hide anywhere at all. After this, he might come out staggering, confused. Singing requiem for that guy doesn't sound too far-fetched, does it?”
“Wa- Got it! -Stop that!”
At that humiliating treatment which intentionally emphasized on his short stature, Waver cast away his sad look and became exasperated. While laughing boldly, Rider pulled at his bridle, and they sped back to the sewer.
Dashing out of that narrow tunnel into the river surface of the Mion river under the night sky took only a little time. Savouring the clean, chilly air outside as if it had been a long time, the relieved feeling finally calmed Waver's nerves down.
“Oh my, what a stinky place that was. Tonight, I want to have a grand booze to get these feelings off my chest!”
“......Let me get this straight first. I won't accompany you in drinking.”
Or rather, he couldn't drink. Every time, even by merely sitting beside Rider watching him drink sake, Waver would feel sick at the strong odor of alcohol.
“Hmph, I'm not even expecting this chick-like you to accompany me! Aaaahhh~ Boring! Isn't there any river bank where I can get happily drunk? ......Oooh, that's it!”
Pomp!! Rider clapped his hands together knowingly.
Waver had absolutely no idea what that meant, but he had a really bad feeling about it.
Tōsaka Rin was prepared.
Since she was the inheritor of a family of magi, she was bound to walk a path different from that of ordinary girls.
There was a very good example beside her: the greatest, most handsome, and most gentle adult she ever knew.
In her eyes, her father Tokiomi was nearly a perfect human. Although many girls her age also admire their fathers, Rin believed no other daughter would love her father as deeply as she did.
To become a singer when she grows up, to become a beautiful bride when she grows up – girls Rin’s age perhaps all harbor such wishes, but Rin’s wish was different.
Things like occupation are second-only on her list; her biggest wish was to become someone as great as her father.
That is to say, choosing the road her father was walking, choosing to accept the destiny that her father accepted. In other words – to inherit and continue the Tōsaka’s blood of magecraft.
But that was only a wish, not something that would come true just by hoping so. Firstly, she has to get the permission of her teacher, her father. She was rather anxious about the fact that her father hadn’t yet expressed the wish of entrusting the family to Rin in the future. Maybe her father hadn’t acknowledged she has the aptitude to become a magus.
But even so, her wish had never changed, so she felt proud of the preparedness she had made.
Of course, Rin knew far more about what was currently happening in Fuyuki city than her classmates. Although she still couldn’t comprehend it as profoundly as her parents, she knew more truths than most ordinary people on the street.
Seven magi, her father included, were undertaking a war.
Fatal and unearthly threats lurked in the night streets.
Because she knew some truths, Rin’s heart felt a particular sense of responsibility.
Her friend Kotone didn’t come to school yesterday or today.
The homeroom teacher said she was sick at home, but the rumor spreading in the class was different.
Even when Rin called her house, her parents didn’t want to deal with Rin.
Nowadays abductions of children were occurring repeatedly in Fuyuki and they can’t be solved with simple investigations alone. Even if people report it to the police, it is very unlikely the children will come back. The teachers at school and Kotone’s family and friends certainly didn’t not realize this, except Rin.
Kotone had always trusted Rin very much. Rin would always stand up for Kotone, be it when she was bullied by boys in their class or when the librarian forced work onto her. Rin was proud of being so trusted and respected by her classmate. “Always maintain your elegance” – it was a good opportunity for Rin to put the family creed into action whenever she helped Kotone.
Right now, Kotone must also be waiting for Rin to go and save her.
In fact, she could have asked her magus father for help, but her father was one of the participants of the “war” and didn’t call back since he moved to the house in Miyama last month. Also, her mother strictly ordered her not to disturb her father.
With a tone that was like saying “never go out at night”.
Rin had always obeyed her parents’ words, but she couldn’t leave a friend who was in a dangerous situation.
And then - no matter what, she only had to go through one sleepless night.
Actually, back then Rin only knew parts of the truth, and her mind was not yet mature.
Unknown to her, whether due to her sense of duty or the so-called conscience’s call, she was brought into an area that she should never had stepped in, while she herself didn’t realize it at all at that time.
Compared to the Tōsaka house, tightly surrounded with bounded fields, it was all too easily escaping from her room in the Zenjō house.
Climb out of the bedroom window, slide down the balcony pillar into the garden, then get outside the fence through the back door.
She took barely five minutes to come out, but she can’t use the same route when she comes back. It’s easy to slide down the balcony pillar but far too hard to climb back up.
When she thought it would be impossible to hide the fact that she sneaked out tonight and her parents are bound to scold her harshly, Rin told herself it wasn’t for something shameful that she sneaked out but she had to do this because she is someone of the Tōsaka family. She would definitely bring Kotone back with her when she returns. Then, no matter how bad her parents might scold her, she would feel proud about herself in her own heart.
She was armed with three things.
The most trustworthy was the magecraft compass her father gave to her on her birthday. It looked like an ordinary compass from its shape and structure, but it wouldn’t point towards the north and point towards the direction where strong amounts of prana emanate out instead. Rin had experimented with it, and neither wind nor water could change the detection of small movements of prana. If something abnormal happens, this would undoubtedly be the most useful.
The rest were two piece of crystal that Rin specially crafted while she practiced jewel magecraft. She picked the two best works from her completed ones. If all the prana stored in them were to be released at once – although she’s never tried something so dangerous – it would probably cause a small explosion. It can be a weapon of self-defense in the face of danger.
With these equipments, and together with her own strength, Rin believed she would definitely find Kotone and bring her back.
If someone was to ask her, will everything be alright? She would definitely nod her head.
If someone was to ask, will everything really be alright? Then she might nod rather hesitantly.
And if someone was to ask, can she really really be certain that not a single mistake will be made – then even she herself would probably not dare to reply.
Actually, this question doesn’t hold much meaning for Rin. If someone was really going to ask anything then they should firstly ask would Kotone be alright, and would Rin manage if Kotone never come to school again? If she was posed with such questions, she would definitely reply immediately and without a doubt.
Gathering her courage and pride, Rin told herself she’s not like those fearful normal children. She chased away the cowardice in her heart and started to walk towards the closest cable car station. Fuyuki Shinto is only one station away, and the change she had were just enough for the ticket.
She did miss the Fuyuki night air. The icy cold scent of winter was just the right thing to cool down her burning hot skin.
Rin naively thought it would be great if she can find Kotone before the final cable car of the night. But that would leave her with only two hours, and that wouldn’t be enough time at all.
Firstly, she’ll investigate Shinto. If she went to Miyama the magecraft compass would just point straight towards the Tōsaka house, and if she went there it’s very possible her father would discover her.
Judging by adult standards, it was not yet midnight, but the amount of people on the street was pitifully small. Normally when she was going home office workers would be rushing about, and even at night lively groups of people still throbbed on the street.
Rin was dumbfolded by the reaction of the compass needle after she opened the lid of the magecraft compass.
“… What’s this?”
The needle, which normally wavered just a little, was rapidly spinning in circles. It was the first time she saw this kind of phenomenon. This reaction, as if of a confused little animal, made a shadow pass across Rin’s heart.
But it wouldn’t be the best idea to just stand here. The few adults who just walked by already gave questioning looks to Rin, who was standing alone. Let’s just start walking first.
The further she walked, the more sparse people became. Is this really the Fuyuki city she’s so used to? Rin felt a faint chill creeping up her entire body.
Actually, Fuyuki city had already imposed a curfew. Strange murders and abductions have been happening recently and last night even a series of explosions, made for terrorism purposes, occurred at Shinto and the harbor district. The police was urging citizens to go out less often at night, and the smart ones have all obeyed this command.
But even if there were no curfews, there shouldn’t be many citizens who still liked to wonder at night. Nowadays something unwholesome was lurking in the Shinto night; human instincts would have already detected this.
“– Aaa, as I thought.”
The red police light lit up further down the street and Rin hid in the shadow of a building in fright. The patrolling police car was driving slowly, searching for any citizen who was walking alone at night. There was no way the police would leave her alone if they see her, and if that happens she wouldn’t be able to go save Kotone.
Rin finally relaxed as she watched the light move slowly away –
– Rin swallowed the scream she almost yelled out.
That sound just then came from the depth of the alleyway by the house she was hiding next to, and it’s probably a stray cat sifting through the rubbish and knocked over some cans. But it’s hard to determine if someone was there.
Rin drew a sharp breath when she looked down on the magecraft compass in her hands.
Unmoving, as if frozen in place, the needle pointed straight towards the direction of the sound.
Something was there; something that emanated unnatural prana was there.
Isn’t this the result you're waiting anxiously for?
You've already gotten some response from your investigation. Isn't that a sign of a good start?
Rin planned to go through all suspicious spots in Shinto and check Kotone’s presence one by one. Here, the first place she checked, already has something.
Come now, let's step into the inside of the alley and check what's there.
Maybe there are some clues about Kotone right there. Or maybe, Kotone herself is there.
There's no reason to hesitate. If not, there would be no meaning coming this far. You are not a coward. You would not do things such as abandoning your friend as well. That's because you are one of the Tōsaka with a long and distinguished history. So you have to prove that you're brave and can become your great father's successor.
“No no no absolutely not no no no no noooooo…!”
A wet sound could be heard. Splash, splash, Something lurking at the deep inside the alley was breathing, as if sneering her, creeping towards her.
Rin finally realized that this journey of exploration, aimed to recover her best friend, was definitely not as easy to complete as she thought.
Kotone’s figure wasn’t in the depth of the darkness.
Even if she was in there, she wouldn’t be the same Kotone as before.
If she was thinking of finding Kotone in the darkness of Shinto, from the start, Rin should have aimed to find Kotone's ▉▉▉▉ ▉▉▉▉ instead.
In fact, Tōsaka Rin possessed excellent aptitude to be a magus.
She had never seen a demon, nor had she been touched by one, but from mere instinct she could tell she was in a very dangerous situation right now.
To study magecraft, the first thing one need to do is to learn to accept and know death – this is the first lesson of every apprentice magus.
That inescapable, incomprehensible, purely despairing feel of ‘death’.
On that day, little Rin felt the essence of magecraft from that experience.
She couldn’t move; she couldn’t even yell. A terror unbearable to ordinary humans was more than enough to crush such a young girl.
Strange buzzing sounds started by her ears, and Rin thought it was triggered by the icy cold despair pressing down on her heart.
Her thoughts were probably starting to destroy her five senses’ perception.
A humming started, monotonous yet maniacal, as if a swamp of giant wasps were raiding towards her…
The buzzing became steadily louder. It was approaching her.
In the blink of an eye, the stuff on top of Rin’s head rushed inward like a cover of black fog.
That thing quickly passed above Rin like a turbid current, striking the depth of the darkness in a split second.
And then those bloodcurdling screams sounded without end, screams that sounded like boiling a cat alive in a pot of hot water – but it was definitely not the sound of a cat.
This was already the limit of Rin’s endurance.
Her sight dimmed, and her footsteps faltered. The moment before she was about to fall, someone took her in his hands.
In front of her eyes was a monster with only the left side of his face visible.
That face, ugly beyond description, was embedded with a dim and lightless eyeball.
But his right eye eluded a deep loneliness and melancholy.
I think I have seen this expression somewhere before...
Rin thought so before she lost consciousness.
An hour later, Tōsaka Aoi finally discovered her daughter had disappeared.
Probably afraid of her mother’s scolding, the child put a note beside her bed, and wrote she was going to find her lost classmate Kotone.
Aoi was immediately overwhelmed with regret. Rin mentioned Kotone during dinner, and questioned Aoi about Fuyuki’s current situation.
Back then, Aoi thought she shouldn’t hide anything about it, so she said bluntly – "Forget this friend already."
Tokiomi should be informed – but this thought was immediately damped down by her conscience.
Aoi didn’t know magecraft but she was, after all, a magus’s wife. She knew very well her husband didn’t have time to worry about his daughter. Her husband was still at the battlefield, and he had already placed his life and all his stamina on the battle.
The only one who could protect Rin now was Aoi herself.
Aoi ran out of the Zenjō house wearing only her household clothes, and galloped on the night state highway with her car.
Since she didn’t know exactly where Rin went, then she could only guess her range of movement and check the places she might go to one by one.
If starting at her house and take the cable car, the first stop would be the Fuyuki city stop in Shinto, then walk for thirty minutes with a child’s speed, the approximate distance would be…
The first place Aoi thought of was the public park beside the river.
The silent park easily reminded her of a graveyard.
On the plaza barren of people, the dim light of the street lamps enriched the darkness and quietness with a sinister sheen.
Fuyuki city’s night air was markedly corrupted. Living with a magus and having gotten used to many odd events, Aoi immediately discovered this.
At once, Aoi looked towards the bench she used to sit at when she brought Rin here to play. It was probably an instinctive feeling out of the blue.
However, the little figure clad in a red coat that she was looking for was right there.
Aoi lost her composure and rushed up with a yell. Rin was unconscious and lay unmoving on the bench.
Aoi took her up and felt her even breathing and warm body temperature. There appeared to be no external wounds and she looked like she was just sleeping. Aoi finally cried in reassurance.
“Thank goodness… truly…”
Who should she thank? Aoi, full with joy, finally calmed down. Suddenly she realized someone was looking at her. Turning her head, she noticed someone was looking at the pair of mother and daughter from the bushes behind the bench.
Aoi yelled with a stiff tone. Contrary to what she expected, the figure moved to stand beneath the light of the streetlamps without hesitation.
It was a man wearing a large winter coat and had a scarf wrapped around his face. His left leg seemed to be wounded and scuffed as he walked.
“I thought I would definitely see you if I wait here.”
The mysterious man finally opened his mouth and gasped. He seemed to be a terminal lung cancer patient who felt painful even with breathing, and heaved heavy huffs. However, his tone was surprisingly elegant and soft.
Although his throat was already ruined, Aoi felt this voice was familiar.
The figure stopped. After a temporary hesitation, he finally took off the scarf and showed his true face.
Lifeless white hair as if it was withering, the left side of his face frozen and expressionless; it was a very terrifying face.
Although Aoi wanted to restrain her cowardly wails, she failed. Kariya laughed deplorably with the remaining right side of his face.
“This is the magecraft of the Matōs. It needs me to offer my flesh, corrode my life… a thaumaturgy that can only be achieved by using this as the price.”
“What? What’s going on? How come you are here?”
Slightly confused, Aoi asked the childhood sweetheart in front of her continuously. But Kariya didn’t answer any questions, and just continued on the previous topic with a gentle tone.
“But, Sakura-chan is fine. Before she becomes like this as well… I must save her and take her out.”
This was the forbidden word that the Tōsaka family never mentioned in one year. The uncontrollable pain of separation was suddenly flooding Aoi’s heart.
Sakura – the Tōsaka daughter sent to the Matō family.
Speaking of it, wasn’t it exactly a year ago when Kariya saw Aoi last?
“All Zōken wants is the Holy Grail. He promised me he’d release Sakura-chan as long as I help him get the Holy Grail.”
The “Holy Grail” Kariya spoke of made Aoi feel an evil chill from nowhere.
Aoi prayed that she heard it wrong, but Kariya stretched out his right hand as if betraying Aoi’s heart. On the back of his hand, three engraved Command Seals could clearly be seen.
“Therefore, I’ll definitely do so… don’t worry, my Servant is the strongest; he won’t lose to anyone.”
“Ah – why –”
Terror, sadness, and a large amount of confusion made Aoi at a loss for words.
Kariya returned to the Matō family, and led his Servant to participate in the Heaven’s Feel.
This means her husband and her childhood sweetheart were about to unleash an extraordinary gruesome slaughter between each other.
“… Oh God…”
Kariya ignored Aoi’s lament; he took the meaning of the tears seeping out of her eyes the wrong way.
“Right now, Sakura-chan doesn’t even want to have hope. So… you must take that child’s place. Aoi, you need to believe instead, pray instead of her. Pray for my victory and Sakura’s future.”
The left eye, hollow as the dead, glared at Aoi as if cursing her.
The right eye, belonging to the gentle old friend, gazed at Aoi as if begging her.
“Kariya-kun, do you…”
Want to die?
Want to kill Tokiomi and die?
Aoi couldn’t ask that. Despair rooted deeply in her heart.
Aoi lowered her head and held Rin tightly to her chest. It was the only thing she could do right now to escape this cruel reality.
Aoi’s eyes were clutched tightly shut. Kariya’s gentle and agonized voice sounded beside her ears.
“One day, we’d come here to play like before. Rin-chan and Sakura-chan would return to being a pair of good sisters like before… so, Aoi, don’t cry anymore.”
“Kariya-kun, wait –”
But Kariya had no answer to this final call; he walked slowly away, dragging his destroyed left leg. Aoi didn’t have the courage to follow him. Right now, she could only cry alone with her daughter in her arms.
Her motherly tears dropped on Rin’s sweetly sleeping face.
In the darkness, a few Assassins traversed in silence, moving to report everything they’ve gathered to Kirei.
“Is it appropriate to just leave Tōsaka Tokiomi’s daughter like this?”
“– No problem, just go tail Berserker’s Master.”
Although they took on this job, none of the Assassins could figure out what good this kind of surveillance would do for the War of the Holy Grail.
From yesterday onwards, more strange requirements appeared in Master Kirei’s commands. He asked the Assassins who spied on the five enemy Masters to carefully observe the Masters’ private lives, interests, and appearances and report them. The density of the Assassins’ surveillance scattered around Fuyuki would also be raised. Right now, in the darkness of the night, there must be Hassans hiding everywhere obeying their Master’s command.
Anyways, since it’s a command then they should obey. Although it’s a bother to carry out, it’s not too difficult so there’s nothing much to complain about.
The Assassins galloped in the thickness of night, continuing to follow Matō Kariya.
Night once again descended on the Einzbern forest.
The night was still pitch dark and serene, but the signs of battle scattered all around was still evidently visible.
The castle that was specially tidied by the maids she brought over from her own country was also severely damaged in the battle between Emiya Kiritsugu and Lord El-Melloi. Even if she wanted to fix it, the maids in charge of chores had returned to their country. Irisviel sighed as she traversed the corridors, doing her best to ignore this ruinous scene.
Luckily, a few bedrooms were spared, and currently Hisau Maiya was resting in one of them. Although Irisviel had already performed healing magecraft on her, the Einzbern healing magecraft is an extremely large burden to the wounded after all. This is because it is adopted from alchemy and does not cause the injured body to regenerate, but use magecraft to create new tissue and use that for grafting.
That was the only thing she could do for now. It wouldn’t matter if the patient is a homunculus, but since she was healing humans it would count as a major operation similar to an organ transplant in modern medicine.
Exhausted, Maiya was deep asleep. It would take a very long recovery time for her to regain consciousness and move her body.
When Irisviel thought that Saber was protecting her she felt worse for Maiya, who was heavily wounded. However, considering her importance in the Heaven’s Feel, then undoubtedly Irisviel would be protected with priority. That’s an undeniable fact. Feeling painful for her wounded friend would have to be her naive sentimentality.
Meanwhile, Kiritsugu left immediately after he sent the injured Maiya back and still hadn’t returned. He didn’t even tell Irisviel and Saber his destination – perhaps he went to chase Kayneth El-Melloi, who had escaped. Irisviel had already detected that the enemy magus wasn’t successfully killed because of Saber. However, Kiritsugu didn’t get angry with nor blame Saber, but left coldly and without her. It’s hard to tell if he did it due to a reluctance to wound her pride, but the gulf between these two were getting bigger and bigger and it was already becoming very hard to reconcile them.
Troubled with the relationship between her husband and the King of Knights, Irisviel sighed deeply. Suddenly, a thunderous roar sounded beside her ears. Not only so, but this roar that tore apart the night created a gigantic burden for her Magic Circuits; the dizziness almost made Irisviel faint in the colonnade.
The roar came from a nearby thunder, and the prana impact that followed it meant the bounded field in the forest outside the castle was already under attack. Although a bounded field isn’t something that can be easily destroyed, her magecraft had already been damaged. “What’s going on… a frontal charge?”
A pair of strong arms held up Irisviel’s shoulders; they were Saber’s arms, who immediately appeared beside her when this strange change occurred.
“Are you alright, Irisviel?”
“Yeah, just scared. I didn’t think such a rude guest would visit.”
“I’ll go out to greet him, you stay beside me.”
Irisviel nodded upon hearing this. Staying beside Saber, who was going out to take in the attack, meant she herself must also face the enemy. However, the battlefield is the safest place for Irisviel, because the strongest Servant is right beside her.
Quickening her steps, Irisviel followed behind Saber. The two of them galloped through the tragically ruined castle; their destination was the terrace outside of the door. Since the opponent was attacking from the front, they should be able to meet him there.
“The thunder just then, and this senseless tactic… the opponent should be Rider.”
“I think so too.”
Irisviel remembered the overwhelming power of the Noble Phantasm ‘Gordius Wheel’ she witnessed a few days ago at the warehouse street. The chariot entwined with thunder and pulled by divine bulls – if that type of anti-army Noble Phantasm were to release all of its power, it could easily destroy the magecraft focal points placed in the forest. It wouldn’t matter too much if the bounded field was whole to begin with, but it had yet to recover from Caster and Kayneth’s attacks a few days ago.
“Oi, King of Knights! I especially came to meet you, come out, aye?”
This sound came from the main hall; it looks like the other party had already entered the door. Without a doubt, the enemy was the King of Conquerors, Alexander. Judging by his powerful and reverberating call, his tone was not like a warrior about to fight.
But Saber didn’t dare to be slack; she materialized her silver armor as she ran.
Irisviel and Saber finally went past the corridors and came to the terrace… but when the two of them saw, by the moonlight shining through the skylight, the enemy Servant standing in the hall with his chest puffed out, they didn’t know what to say.
“Yo, Saber. I wanted to have a look after I heard about the castle here – what happened to it, aye?”
Not apologetic at all, Rider smiled, baring his teeth; then he flexed his neck, pretending to be serious.
“It’s difficult to get in and out of the house if you have too many trees in the garden. I almost got lost before I arrived at the door, so I cut some down for you. Thanks to me, the view is much better.”
Saber said severely. But faced with this enemy who always made his opponent to be at a loss, she didn’t know what to say next. It was Rider who furrowed his brows in surprise and said:
“Oi King of Knights, aren’t you gonna wear something modern tonight? Don’t just always wear that old-fashioned armor.”
If Saber’s armor-clad form was to be regarded as old-fashioned, then how would Rider’s attire of jeans and T-shirt be judged? If this armor is considered to be Saber’s pride, but the cracks on the thick breastplate was as if hinting upon its weaknesses. Perhaps, the only thing we could say here is ‘the ignorant is indefeasible’.
Waver was half hiding behind Rider’s giant torso and looking up towards Irisviel, and it was hard to tell if his expression was one of enmity or terror. Undoubtedly, his face plainly showed he wanted to go home, and quickly too.
Once upon a time, King Alexander took the lead in wearing Asiatic clothing due to his interest in the cultures of his conquered land, and caused his followers to avert him like the plague. Irisviel had heard of this story, but she would never have known that the reason Rider changed into modern attire was because of Saber and the suit she wore.
What made them more confused was the thing in Rider’s hand; it wasn’t a weapon or anything else used in battle.
It was a casket.
No matter how they look at it, it still appears to be a red wooden wine casket. Rider, who easily carried the casket under his arm, looked just like a wine shop owner coming to deliver his stock.
Saber, once again at a loss for words, took a deep breath and said calmly.
“Rider, what are you doing here?”
“You can’t tell by looks? I’m gonna drink with you – oi, stop standing there like a stick and lead the way. Is there a courtyard here fitting for a banquet? We can’t do with this castle, way too dusty inside.”
Saber sighed helplessly, and the anger piled up in her chest also disappeared. Faced with this opponent who appears to have no ill-intent whatsoever, she found it impossible to keep up her fighting spirit.
“Irisviel, what do we do?”
Irisviel was similarly befuddled.
She was angry at the destruction of the forest’s bounded field, but there’s no way she’d manage to continue to hate him once she saw his grinning face.
“He’s not the kind of person who’d set a trap; could it be he really wants to drink?”
Rider once said he would obey the contract sealed by the Heroic Spirits’ pride and honor and pronounce his challenge after Saber and Lancer had decided the victor among them. Therefore, his sudden appearance tonight was truly incomprehensible.
“Could that man be trying to placate Saber?”
“No, this is a challenge.”
Saber, who should have lost her will to fight, suddenly became solemn for no reason.
“Yes… I am a king, and he is also a king. If we are to find the victor on the drinking table, then that is a ‘battle’ without bloodshed.”
Hearing Saber’s words, the King of Conquerors nodded with a smile.
“Hohoho, it’s good that you understand. Since we can’t oppose each other with swords, then let’s battle with wine. King of Knights, I won’t go easy on you tonight. Be prepared.”
“Interesting. I accept.”
Saber, replying resolutely, emanated the sharp battle vigor as if she was facing a battlefield. Only then did Irisviel realize this was not a joke, but a true ‘battle’.
The place of the banquet was chosen to be the parterre in the castle’s central courtyard. The battle last night didn’t affect this place, and it wasn’t frugal to welcome a guest here. By now, no one paid attention to the coldness of the outside air.
Rider brought the casket to the central courtyard, and the two Servants sat opposite each other with ease. Irisviel and Waver sat aside, next to each other. As they tried to guess the progression of events they realized they were in a temporary truce, and all they needed to do was stay aside and watch.
Rider shattered the lid of the casket with his fist; the musky fragrance of rice wine immediately filled the air of the courtyard.
“Although this is shaped oddly, it’s the goblet unique to this country.”
Rider happily scooped up some wine with the long bamboo ladle. Unfortunately, no one present pointed out the error in his common sense.
Rider firstly drained the wine in the ladle with one gulp, then spoke:
“I heard that only those who are worthy are able to obtain the Holy Grail.”
The solemn tone made the atmosphere quietened down. Something must be up if this man is speaking in this tone of voice.
“And the ceremony of choosing the worthy one is this battle conducted at Fuyuki – however, if we’re only onlookers, there’ll be no need of bloodshed. As Heroic Spirits, if we can mutually acknowledge each other’s strength… I don’t need to say anymore after this, do I?”
Without hesitation, Saber took the long ladle Rider passed to her, and also scooped up a full measure of wine.
Saber’s slender body made others worry if she could really drink liquor. However, her forthrightness with the drink wasn’t in any ways lacking compared to the giant Rider. Seeing this, Rider happily praised her.
“So, firstly you are going to compete with me to see who’s stronger, Rider?”
“Exactly. Going through a true competition in the name of kingship. But we can’t call this ‘the War of the Holy Grail’, better if we call it ‘Quiz of the Holy Grail’… At the end, between the King of Knights and the King of Conquerors, who would become ‘the King of the Holy Grail’? It’s best fit to ask the wine goblet such a question.”
Rider did a u-turn from his previously solemn tone, laughing as if pulling a prank. Then he started speaking as if to himself.
“Ah, speaking of, there is another guy here who calls himself ‘king’.”
“ – The joke stops here, mongrel.”
As if responding to Rider’s vague words, a blinding golden light flashed into being in front of those present.
That sound and light made Saber and Irisviel tense up.
“Archer, why are you here…”
Saber demanded angrily, but the one replying was the impassive Rider.
“Ah, when I saw him on the streets I asked him to drink together – but you’re still late, Goldy. However he’s different from me; he walked here, so it’s not all his fault.”
Archer, in full armor, glared haughtily at Rider with burning ruby-like pair of eyes.
“Trust you to choose this cruddy place to conduct a banquet; this is probably as tasteful as you can get. How are you going to repay your sins of getting me to come all the way here?”
“Don’t say that. Come, have a drink first.”
Laughing heartily, Rider passed the wine-filled ladle to Archer.
People thought he would be angered by Rider’s attitude, but surprisingly he outright took the ladle and downed all the wine in one gulp.
Irisviel remembered the ‘challenge’ Saber spoke of before.
Archer. Since this anonymous golden Heroic Spirit calls himself ‘king’, then he couldn’t refuse the wine Rider passed to him.
“ – What kind of cheap wine is this? How can you use this kind of wine to conduct a fight between heroes?”
Archer said with repulsion written all over his face.
“Really? I bought it from the market here; it’s pretty fine wine.”
“You only think so because you don’t know anything about wine, you mongrel.”
Beside Archer, who dismissed the wine derisively, ripples appeared in the empty air. That was the harbinger of the strange event that can summon Noble Phantasms; Waver and Irisviel felt a chill running down their spines.
– But what appeared beside Archer tonight weren’t weapons; instead it was a set of wine bottles inset with sparkling gems. Colorless lucid liquid filled bottles made of heavy gold.
“Behold, this is what ‘the king's wine’ should be.”
“Oh, many thanks.”
Rider didn’t mind Archer’s tone at all and happily poured the new wine into three cups.
Saber was still on her guard against Archer, whose identity she still didn't know. She looked at the wine in the golden bottle hesitantly, but still took the cup passed to her.
Rider took a small sip, and immediately complimented it with wide open eyes. This time, even Saber’s curiosity was raised. This wasn’t originally a contest of manner, but a competition undertaken with wine.
When the wine flowed down her throat, all Saber felt was a strong swelling sensation in her head. It was indeed a good wine that she’s never tasted before. Fiery and clear, mellow and invigorating, the pungent fragrance filled her nose, and her entire body felt like it was floating.
“Fabulous. This is definitely not wine brewed by humans; is this the drink of gods?”
Looking at Rider, who lavished praises, Archer displayed a leisurely smile. He was already sitting down, twirling the cup in his hand satisfactorily.
“Of course. Whether wines or swords, only the best is stored in my treasury – With this, seems like my grade as a king has already been decided.”
“Stop the jokes, Archer.”
Saber roared. The silence was broken by a tense and intimidating atmosphere.
“I’m sick of listening to you bragging about your wine collection. You’re not like a king, but rather, a clown.”
Archer sneered as he looked at Saber, who was all worked up.
“How unmannerly; someone who doesn’t even know wine isn’t fit to be king at all.”
“Enough. You two are so tiresome.”
Rider smiled helplessly and signaled at Saber, who still wanted to say something, to be quiet; then he turned and continued with the previous topic.
“Archer, this greatest of wines you have does indeed deserve to be only contained in the most prized of all cups – but unfortunately, the Holy Grail isn’t made to contain wine. Now we’re going to have a quiz of the Holy Grail to determine if one among us is indeed worthy of having the Holy Grail. Firstly, you need to tell use why you want the Grail. Archer, as a king, try to convince us you and no one else are the person worthy of gaining the Grail.”
“You’re so irritating. Firstly, we’re going to ‘compete’ for the Holy Grail. I’m afraid your question is too far removed from this premise.”
Seeing Rider lifting his brows confusedly and with surprise, Archer sighed resignedly.
“It is something that should be in my possession to start with. All the treasures in the world originate from my collection. However, because much time passed, it disappeared from my treasury. But I am still its owner.”
“So you’re saying you once had the Holy Grail? You know what it is?”
Archer evenly negated Rider’s question.
“It’s not something you can understand. The total amount of my wealth even exceeded my knowing, but as long as it’s a ‘treasure’ then it’d obviously belong to me. You should have more sense then trying to rob my treasure away.”
Now it was Saber who was speechless.
“Your speech isn’t too different from Caster’s; looks like he’s not the only demented Servant here.”
“Oi, what’s up with those words of yours?”
Different from Saber, Rider mumbled as if supporting the situation. Unknown to others, he had already picked up the bottle again and poured into his cup without care.
“Speaking of which, I think I know your true name now. There should only be one person who’s even haughtier than Alexander.”
Irisviel and Waver immediately focused on his words, but Rider changed the topic.
“Then Archer, you’re saying that we can obtain the Holy Grail if you agree to it?”
“Of course, but I have no reason to reward rats such as you.”
“Could it be that you can’t afford it?”
“Of course not. I only reward my subjects and my people.”
Archer smiled mockingly towards Rider.
“Rider, if you would like to become my subject, then I wouldn’t mind giving you a cup or two.”
“… Ah, now that’s actually impossible.”
Rider scratched his jaw, and seems to feel that the opponent’s conditions are truly too unreachable, and decisively turned his head.
“But Archer, you actually don’t care if you have the Grail or not, right? It’s not like you’re competing for the Grail because you’re trying to fulfil some wish.”
“Of course. But I can’t let go of the guy who robs away my treasure; this is a matter of principles.”
“That’s to say –”
Rider drained the wine in his cup.
“That is to say what? Could there be some cause and reason?”
“It’s the law.”
Archer replied immediately.
“The law I set down as the king.”
Rider seemed to have understood his words, and took a deep sigh.
“Such a perfect king, able to stick to the laws he set down himself. However, I still want the Holy Grail very much. My way is that if I want something, I’ll get it by force; that’s because I, Alexander, am the King of Conquerors.”
“Not necessarily. If you invade, I’ll punish; there’s no room for negotiations.”
“Then we can only meet on the battlefield.”
With a solemn face, Archer nodded at the same time with Rider.
“– But Archer, let’s drink first and leave the business of battle till later.”
“Sure, unless you don’t think much of the wine I brought at all.”
“Nonsense, how can I bear to not drink such delicious liquor?”
At this moment, Saber could no longer tell if Archer and Rider were friends or foe; she merely sat aside, looking at the two. After a short while, she finally opened her mouth towards Rider.
“King of Conquerors, since you’ve already admitted that the Holy Grail is owned by someone else, you’re still going to take it by force?”
“ – Huh? Obviously. My belief is ‘conquest’… which is ‘taking’ and ‘invade’.”
Suppressing the anger in her heart, Saber continued to ask:
“Then why do you want the Holy Grail?”
Unexpectedly, Rider smiled rather shyly. He replied after taking a sip of wine:
“I want to be human.”
It was such an unexpected answer. Even Waver yelled out, and then screamed almost hysterically.
“Owww, you! Could it be you still want to conquer this world – waaaa!”
After forcing his Master to quiet down with a finger flick, Rider shrugged his shoulders.
“Idiot, how can I conquer the world in one lifetime? Conquest is my dream, and I can only bequest this first step to the Holy Grail.”
“Mongrel… you’re challenging me with such a silly wish?”
Even Archer was helpless with this, but Rider became more serious and continued:
“Say, even when we appear in the current era due to prana, we are still Servants at the end. We originally do not exist in this world – although it feels a bit ridiculous, but are you really satisfied with just that?”
“I’m not satisfied. I want to be reincarnated into this world, and live on as a human.”
Thinking back – Waver originally thought Rider’s stubbornness in refusing to exist in spiritual form, and insist in physical form, is an odd habit of his. Indeed, although Servants can talk, dress, and eat like humans, their true essences aren’t too far from ghosts.
“Why… do you want a body so much?”
“Because that is the cornerstone of ‘conquest’.”
Alexander muttered as he stared at his own tightly clutched fist.
“Possessing a body, marching out towards the ends of the earth, carrying out my conquest – that is truly my way of kingship. But right now I don’t have a body; that won’t do. Without a body nothing can start anew. I’m not afraid of anything much; I just feel that I must have a body of flesh and bone.”
As if diligently listening to Rider’s words, Archer just silently sipped his wine throughout this. Upon close inspection, one could discover he had a strange expression on his face at this moment, an expression different from his usual ones. It may be far-fetched to describe it as a smile, but compared to his usual sneer, this smile now encompassed a particularly sinister sheen.
“I’ve decided – Rider, I’ll kill you with my own hands.”
“Hahaha, saying those things even now. You’d better be prepared early as well. Leaving the Grail aside, I’m also planning to plunder your treasury too. Letting the King of Conquerors taste such delicious wine is really thoughtless of you.”
Rider roared into brutal laughter. But there was still one person here who was attending this banquet and hadn’t shown a sliver of a smile yet.
Saber, attending this banquet, didn’t find a place to join in Archer and Rider’s conversation throughout it. The way of kingship these two talked about is far removed from that she believed, so she and them don’t have any common topics at all.
Only according to your own will –
This isn’t a thought that the king should have. For Saber, who believed in incorruptness, Archer and Rider were just tyrants.
No matter how mighty the opponent might be, the unwavering battle vigor will continue to burn inside Saber’s heart.
Only these two are enemies she must not lose to. She must never let the Grail fall into their hands. Archer’s words were senseless, and Rider’s wish can only be regarded as the wish of a fighter. Moreover, it was just the beginning of all the desires of men. Compared to their wishes, the wish Saber harbors has got to be nobler.
“ – Oi, say, Saber, talk about your wish too.”
Rider finally turned to Saber. No matter when it was, the wish in her heart never wavered at all.
“My way of kingship is my pride.”. Still having her head up, the King of Knights said while looking straight at the other two Heroic Spirits.
“I want to save my homeland. I will change England’s fate of destruction.”
“How can they drink together…”
Tōsaka Tokiomi, sitting alone in his underground workshop, once again sighed for Rider’s odd behavior.
“Is it really alright to leave Archer alone?”
The magecraft communicator brought Kotomine Kirei’s rather stiff words. Tokiomi laughed bitterly.
“It can’t be helped.”
“Since it’s a meeting between kings, how can he ignore those questions directed at himself?”
It’d be fine as long as they don’t figure out the King of Heroes, Gilgamesh’s, true power. Luckily, tonight all they did was a fight on the drinking table. As long as they don’t draw swords, Archer won’t easily show ‘Gate of Babylon’.
For Tokiomi to know the occurrences at the distant Einzbern headquarters so clearly while in his own workshop is naturally thanks to the reports of the Assassin hiding there, who passed it on via Kirei. After Rider destroyed the bounded field in the forest, Assassin also successfully infiltrated the castle while maintaining his presence concealment.
The Heaven’s Feel was already in its fourth night, and Tokiomi still hadn’t taken one step out of his house in Miyama. For days, he’s stayed inside his own house, while gathering information about the current situation of the Heaven’s Feel. He had also investigated pretty much all he needed to know about the few Masters who were currently in hiding.
At this moment, the people he’s concerned about were Rider, the King of Conquerors, Alexander, and his Master, Waver Velvet.
These two had yet to fight other Servants. Tokiomi knew preciously little about them. What’s worse, due to Assassin’s mistake, the fact that Kotomine Kirei and Assassin were still alive was exposed to them.
Therefore, Kirei specifically warned Assassin to not go near Rider unless necessary. However, even with presence concealment, its power still has its limits. Disregarding Rider’s careless demeanor, the truth is that his perception is sharper than other Servants. This time, while listening in to the conversation held between these three, Kirei again told Assassin to be careful not to be discovered by Rider.
“Right, Kirei. The difference in battle strength between Rider and Archer… what do you think of it?”
“I think the key is whether Rider has a trump card even more powerful than ‘Gordius Wheel’.”
That was the problem. Compared to the four remaining Servants, only Rider makes Tokiomi and Kirei the most restless.
The Master controlling Berserker already spent a huge amount of energy, while Caster was surrounded on all sides and even had his workshop destroyed. For these two groups, their lives would die out on their own.
Gilgamesh won’t lose to a wounded Saber. Although Lancer remains unscathed, his original Master had already quited the War due to his severe injuries. A Lancer controlled by an inferior magus is no threat at all.
That’s to say, apart from Rider, the four remaining groups of people no longer needed to be spied upon by Assassin.
“… Right now, we have the need to try that plan.”
“I see. I understand.”
Without the need to speak it out, Kirei, at the other end of the communicator, already understood Tokiomi’s intentions.
To obtain precious information, they can send Assassin to test it out.
Right now, while Rider and his Master were defenselessly having a banquet, it’s a great opportunity for a surprise assault. At this time, victory doesn’t matter; the important thing is the difference in battle strength between the enemy and their side. Of course it’d be best if Rider can be smoothly disposed of; if not, then if they can force him into a desperate situation and get him to use his most powerful ultimate weapon, that would be enough as well.
“It’d take about ten minutes to gather all the Assassins together.”
“Good, give the command. Although this is a big gamble, the silver lining is we won’t be losing much even if we fail.”
For Tokiomi, Assassin was just a method to obtain the Holy Grail, a prop that can be thrown away after it’s been used. This understanding was also fully reflected on his pupil Kotomine Kirei.
When he finished speaking, Tokiomi changed his sitting pose and poured some more tea into his cup. He sniffed at the fragrance of the red tea delightfully, and waited for the result of the plan he commanded.
As Saber dramatically finished her sentence, everyone lapsed into silence.
The one who was most confused was Saber herself.
An awkward silence filled the room. This made no sense. Even though she spoke with emphasis, no one in the room was easily cowed by talk.
It was plain and clear, without any room for doubt. That was her kingship. There was nothing surprising about it. What was surprising was that no one voiced dissent or agreement – when it was obvious that those words should have been immediately said.
“Hey King of Knights, I might have heard you wrong but...?”
Rider finally broke the silence, his face was plainly confused.
“Did you say "you want to change fate"? Which means you want to reverse history?”
“Correct. Even if the wish is something cannot be granted through a miracle, if the Holy Grail is truly omnipotent, surely...”
Saber answered haughtily. Now she understood why the atmosphere between the two kings was so special – immediately, the situation cooled down.
“Errr, Saber? I’d like to confirm this...... The destruction of that Britain was in your time, right? During your reign?”
“Yes! That is why I cannot forgive myself.”
Saber answered, her tone becoming firmer.
“That's why I can't let things be that way. The destruction of my country was my fault, and thus I want to reverse it.”
Suddenly, someone laughed out loud. The laughter was a base, incomprehensible laugh. And the laugh was coming out of the mouth of that shining golden Archer.
In the face of such grave insults, Saber’s face was full of anger. The thing most precious to her was ridiculed by Archer.
“…Archer. What’s so funny?
Ignoring Saber’s wrath, the golden Heroic Spirit replied brokenly as he guffawed.
“Calling yourself a king – praised by all – a person like you could have 'regrets?' Ha! Of course it was funny. Saber! You’re the world’s best clown!”
Beside Archer, who was laughing uncontrollably, Rider creased his brow as he stared at Saber with worry in his eyes.
“Hold on. You, hold on, King of Knights, you want to deny the history in which you’ve created?”
Saber never had any doubts to her own ideals, and of course, would not be stopped by Rider’s question.
“Correct. Why you suspect me? Why are you laughing? The country to which I sacrificed my life as a king had perished. Is there something wrong with me grieving?”
The thing answering her was again, a burst of laughter from Archer.
“Oi, oi, did you hear that, Rider! This young girl who calls herself the King of Knights – is saying something about sacrificing for her country!”
In response to Archer was Rider’s deepening silence and increasing gloomy expression. To Saber, it was just as humiliating as being laughed at.
“I don’t understand what is there to be laughing about. As kings, we should naturally sacrifice ourselves, and strive to create a better country!”
“No, you’re wrong.”
In a firm, rock-like voice, Rider objected.
“It’s not the king sacrificing for the nation. It’s the nation and the people sacrificing their lives for the king. You got it backwards.”
Saber could no longer suppress her own anger. She shouted loudly.
“──Isn't that a tyrant's rule?──Rider, Archer, you bastards are nowhere near a king! Heretics!"
“True. We are tyrants, therefore we are heroes.”
Rider answered without so much as a change in his facial expression.
“We take full responsibility for our nations. Therefore, Saber. Listen to me. If a king is not content with his own kingdom, he is a weak ruler. A weak ruler is a worse king to have than a tyrant!”
Unlike Archer, who had ridiculed her for all this time, Rider had rejected her from the basis of her ideals. Saber’s brows narrows as she retorted sharply.
“Alexander, you…Your own empire. It became four separate warring factions that quickly disappeared into the sands of history. At that ending, you don't have any regrets? If you can redo it, you'd want to save your motherland...aren't you thinking about that?”
Raising himself to his full height, the King of Conquerors met Saber’s furious gaze with his own.
“No, I do not. If the actions of me and my generals lead to the eventual demise of my own nation, then I will accept it for what it is! Yes, I will grieve. Yes, I will shed tears. But I will not have a single regret!”
“Don’t you even dare suggesting something as stupid as an attempt to rewrite history! Such an idiotic action, is an insult to all of humanity who lived during my time!”
In response to Rider’s haughty declaration, Saber shook her head.
“What you’re saying is only the glory of a simple fighter. The people won’t wish for such things. Salvation would be their prayer."
“You’re saying they want the king’s salvation?”
Rider shrugged as he laughed.
“I don’t get it! What’s the point of such a useless thing?”
“That is the true worth of a king!”
This time, it was Saber’s turn to answer arrogantly.
“A correct governance, a lawful society, all subjects would probably be wishing for them.”
“Are you a slave to this “correctness,” then?”
“You could say that. The only one fit to rule is someone who would willingly give themselves up for an ideal.”
Without any hint of hesitation, the young King of Knights nodded.
“Through the king, the people could understand law and order. The king should not express something that would disappear upon the king’s death, but rather something more precious.”
At Saber who had proclaimed that firmly, while displaying a feeling as if he pitied her somewhere, Rider let out a deep sigh.
“That is not a path taken by a human being.”
“Correct. As king, we cannot hope for a normal life.”
To become the perfect ruler, to become the embodiment of the ideals, she was willing to give up her body and throw away her emotions. The life of that young woman whose name was Artoria was changed completely the moment she pulled that sword out of the stone. From then on, she became a legend of victory, a synonym of praises and dreams.
There was pain, there was disappointment, but within it was the radiance of victory. An unchangeable ideal which still supported her sword arm.
“King of Conquerors! A king like you could never understand my own beliefs! You’re nothing but a bully who was blinded by his own desires!”
Saber shouted sternly. Rider’s eyes immediately widened as he answered in response.
“A desireless king is no better than a flower vase!"
Rider’s loud roar, plus his gigantic body, made him appear more fearsome.
“Saber, you just said that you needed to 'sacrifice for your ideals.' Indeed. You’re some saint – so holy that no one could ever hope to come near you. But who would be willing to die for their empty beliefs? And who would be thinking about this so-called saint day and night? You could only comfort the people, but not lead the people. The only way to bring country and people upon the right path is to present those desires, and the glory that could be found only in legends.”
Draining his cup, the King of Conquerors corrected.
“As king, you must have stronger desires than anyone else. You must be more magnificent, more easily angered than everyone else! He should be both pure and chaotic, a man who was more real than any other man. Only through this, could your subjects be impressed by the king, and only this, would the message of 'if only I was king, that would be wondrous' would be imprinted upon the people’s heart”
“Such a way of kingship… where on earth is the justice?”
“It doesn’t exist. Justice is unnecessary in the principles of a king. That's exactly why there is no remorse.”
He was too adamant in his opinions, and Saber was already uncontrollably angry.
Though the basis was for their people, the two’s ideals were too far apart.
One side prayed for peace.
The other dreamed about prosperity.
The king who suppressed the chaos of war and the king who stirred up the chaos of war, there was no way their ideals could have been the same.
Rider smiled as he continued bluntly.
“King of Knights. Your justice and ideals might have saved your people and country for a time, and thus, your name is praised until today, mm? Although, the people’s lives whom you saved, and their end, you did know what happened at the end, right?”
“What…did you say?”
The bloodstained sunset hill.
That sight was once again reignited in Saber’s brain.
“You wanted solely to 'save' your subjects, yet you’ve never 'guided' them. They don’t know “the king’s wishes.” You ignored the lost subjects, yet you yourself pretended to be saintly, drunk in your own narrow views.
Thus, you’re not a good king. You’re only someone who wanted to become someone who took care of the people. You’re just a little girl who spun a cocoon around yourself in order to become that idealized view.”
There were many things she wanted to say in retort. Yet, every time she opened her mouth, she could only see the site she witnessed at Camlann.
Bodies everywhere. The blood ran like a river. There lied her subjects, friends, and loved ones.
As she pulled out that sword in the stone she knew about the prophecy. She knew that she was destined to fail, and she already understood.
As she witnessed the sight personally, she felt surprised. She could do nothing else but pray.
Once a magus prophesied it was nearly impossible to go against fate. Yet, she still wondered, if she could have a miracle.
A dangerous thought occupied Saber’s thoughts.
If she wasn’t England’s savior, but rather a tyrant who ravished England…
The chaotic world would only become more chaotic. First, that was not her way of kingship. And no matter what perspective, she would never make that choice as Artoria.
But, if she really did that…in comparison to Camlann, which one was more tragic?
Suddenly, she felt a chill on her spine. The chill brought her back to reality.
It was Archer’s look.
The golden servant had left them alone since Saber had started arguing with Rider. He himself sat by a corner and drank quietly. His deep-red pupils started studying her, but she didn’t know when.
He said nothing, and only judging from his eyesight, one could not read his intent. But there was something lascivious in his gaze. It was as if a snake crawling up her body, bringing her humiliation and unease.
“…Archer, why are you looking at me?”
“Ah, I am merely studying your annoyed expression.”
Archer’s smile was surprisingly gentle, but at the same time, fearsome.
"It is like a virgin on which flowers are being scattered, lying on the bed. I like it."
For Saber, this was a mockery hard to be forgiven. Without any tinge of hesitation, she threw down her cup, and a sound could be heard from the sheath of the invisible sword.
But at the next moment, the thing that made the other two change their expressions was not her threatening attitude.
Moments later, Irisviel and Waver also felt something different in the surrounding air. Though it was unseen, through their skin they could feel extremely heavy murderous intent.
Strange white creatures emerged in the center of the moonlit court. One after the other, their pale white visages were like blooming flowers as they appeared. The paleness was the color of cold, dry bone.
Skull masks and black cloaks. The previously empty center court slowly became surrounded by this strange group.
Not only Rider and Waver knew that they were still alive, but Saber and Irisviel also learned of the detail from their conversation with Kiritsugu on warehouse street.
Assassin was not limited to the one slain near the Tōsaka residence. The reality was, there were many Assassins – an unnaturally numerous number of Assassins that participated in this Heaven’s feel. They all wore masks and were clad in black robes, and their body sizes differed as well. Some were giant, some were slim, some where short like children while some were women.
“…This is your doing? Archer.”
Archer shrugged rather innocently.
“Who knows, I have no need to understand the thoughts of mongrels"
Since this many Assassins are gathered here, their command cannot have originated from just Kirei. Perhaps it is the plans of his mentor, Tōsaka?
Because Tōsaka has declared fealty to the King of Heroes, Archer grudgingly recognized the Master. However, what Tōsaka did now was extremely displeasing.
Though Rider was the host of the banquet, Archer was the one who provided the wine. What on earth is the meaning of this? This is an action which would indirectly dirty the reputation of the King of Heroes. Shouldn't Tokiomi be able to understand that?
“Mm…so much confusion!”
Waver sighed rather desperately as he watched the opponents approach. Incomprehensible!
This event has far exceeded the regulation and limits of the Heaven’s Feel.
“What's the meaning of this?! Assassin appearing one after the other…There was supposed to be only one Servant of each class!”
Watching the awkward expressions of their prey, Assassins laughed evilly.
“You’re correct. We are all acting as one Servant, and each individual is only a shadow of the whole.
Waver and Irisviel could not understand that Kirei Kotomine’s Assassin existed in such a strange manner.
“The Old Man of the Mountain” – among the people who succeeded the name of Hassan-i Sabbāh, only one had the power to switch bodies.
Differing from other Hassans, he did not need to modify his body in any way. Or, it could be said that there was no purpose in doing so, though he was typical in terms of strength, his mind was able to change his body freely.
He could use impressive planning and tactics, understand languages of other countries, identify poisons or set traps. All in all, he was a master assassin – able to do everything, and switching in different abilities based on the requirements of his assignments. It was said that on occasions he is able to utilize strange strength and agility to use illusionary fighting styles that had been long forgotten.
He could disguise as man or woman, youth or elder – anything! He could stand quite naturally next to you. Sometimes, he could even change personality based on situation so no one can guess at his real identity.
Nobody knew the truth. Hassan may have had a unique body, but he had many different souls.
The knowledge at the time could not think of multiple personality disorder as an illness.
With said definition in modern medical sciences, it was a source of arcane “power” to Hassan the assassin. He could use the multiple personalities within him to use all kinds of different skills and draw upon their knowledge, confusing their opponents or weaving a web of defense, and kill their opponents with unexpected methods that no one could predict.
This is the assassin that Kirei had summoned – "The Hundred-Faced Hassan".
He is a Servant that had one physical body, but at the same time possessed a thousand different souls. Analyzing from this basis, “they” were initially different souls in the first place, and since they are now no longer limited by the physical body, “they” can now all materialize simultaneously into different shapes.
Of course, their strength was also limited to being just one person, and after their split the Assassins cannot hope to match the other Heroic Spirits. But because they possess the unique skills of the Assassin class, they were unparalleled in terms of spying and gathering recon.
“You mean…we’ve always been watched by these things until today?”
Irisviel murmured painfully as Saber also shivered unconsciously.
Though the opposition was not powerful, they were numerous and were able to sneak up on the group. Though she was the most powerful Servant, they were still a huge threat.
In addition, the Assassins that normally followed them like shadows had now abandoned their ability of presence concealment and fearlessly showing their figures, this meant…
“They meant business.”
Saber gritted her teeth as she realized that they had fallen into an unexpected trap.
A group of rabble that relied on their numerical strength – if confronting in a frontal assault, there was no way Saber could lose. However, that scenario was limited to the situation only – if there was only Saber to fight the battle.
Right now, Saber must protect Irisviel. No matter how weak Assassins were, they were exceptionally dangerous to humans. Even to Irisviel, a homunculus who could use magecraft flawlessly. However, magecraft alone could not stop Assassin – there was no way she could be depended to defend herself.
Thus, if she wanted to protect her companion and fight at the same time, the pressing question at hand was the numerical superiority of their enemies.
With one strike of her sword, how many Assassins could Saber stop? No, the question is no longer how many she could stop. If she missed but one person, that one might cause massive damage to Irisviel.
Right now, the question is not “Could she stop them?” but is "With one blow, could she stop all of them at once?" And then with the number of Assassins surrounding them now, it was incredibly hopeless.
However, from the Assassin's perspective, this strategy was their final resort.
Even though they fought in a group, this group was still limited in numbers. Sacrificing the most, exchanging for small amounts of survivors – this method of victory is equivalent to a suicidal charge, which is why it is only reserved for final battles.
Assassin, as a Servant, wanted the Holy Grail as well. They should not be able to stand the fact that they were merely a chess piece in Tōsaka and Archer’s game – but, they were unable to resist the Command Seal.
For tonight’s operation, Kotomine Kirei used a Command Seal. The order was “Victory no matter what sort of losses.” The Command Seal was an absolute order to Servants, and thus, they could only follow it.
Though it made them feel happy that Saber was disturbed and fearful, in reality she was not their target. Their target was Rider’s Master. Even though Rider had a powerful Noble Phantasm, its destructive powers are unidirectional. If Assassin attacked from all sides, they should... no, they must be able to strike at the wimpy short Master.
Yes, for the King of Conquerors Alexander, it was a precarious moment.
But…why is the large Servant still drinking happily, as if nothing had happened?
“…Ri –Rider, Oi, OI….”
Despite Waver’s shouting in discomfort, Rider still didn’t act. He scanned the Assassins around him, his expression still quite even.
“Hey, kid, don't panic. It’s just a few new guests to the banquet.”
“How in the world do they look like guests?!"
Rider laughed wryly and sighed, he then greeted the Assassins that surrounded him with an idiotically calm expression.
“Fellows, could you relax a little and cut down the creepiness? As you can see, you are scaring our friends.”
Saber thought she heard him wrong. This time, even Archer’s brows creased.
“King of Conquerors. Are you trying to invite them as well?”
“Of course, the king’s words should be heard by everyone, so if someone showed up to hear, it doesn’t matter if they’re friend or foe.”
Rider said calmly as he scooped a spoonful of the red sake in the barrel and handed it to the Assassins.
“Here, don’t be shy – if you want to drink with me there are cups over there. This wine is as your blood.”
Hyunn, the sound of something flying through the empty space answered Rider's invitation.
Only the handle of the ladle remained in Rider’s hand; the spoon part has already fallen onto the ground. This was the work of one of the Assassins. The wine in the ladle fell scattered onto the grounds of the center courtyard.
Rider lowered his head and stared at the wine scattered on the ground wordlessly. The skull masks laughed in derision.
“Did you hear what I said wrongly?”
Rider’s words were calm, but clearly, the intent and tone changed. The only ones able to detect this change were the two that drank with him before.
“I said, “this wine is as your blood,” right? Since you dare to spill it onto the ground, then inevitably…”
At that moment, a whirlwind roared to life.
The wind was scorching hot and dry, as if it wanted to consume everything. The wind didn’t feel like it should come from the evening forest, or the castle’s court – the way it was roaring, it seemed that it came from the desert.
Waver spat as he tasted sand in his mouth. Sand! It was really sand that the strange wind brought. Truly the hot sand was not supposed to exist.
“Saber, and Archer, the last question of the banquet – is the king lonesome?”
Rider shouted as he stood in the center of the raging desert wind. His cape danced atop his shoulders. Somehow, he had already changed back into the proper garb of the King of Conquerors.
Archer's mouth moved, and he sniggered. There was no need to answer. He replied with his silence instead.
Saber did not hesitate either. If her own beliefs were shaken, it would be a flat denial of her days spent as king.
“A king...has no choice to be lonesome!”
Rider laughed. As if responding to the laugh, the whirlwind grew stronger.
“Wrong, wrong!! That answer is almost as good as having no answers! Let me teach you two today what it means to be a true king!”
The unknown hot wind inverted, and eroded the reality.
In the strange phenomenon occurring tonight, distance and position had lost its meaning. The raging sandstorm changed all it touched.
“How-How could this..."
Waver and Irisviel gasped in surprise…only ones who understood magecraft could understand the phenomenon.
The earth-scorching sun; the cloudless, clear skies; stretching to the blurry end of the sandy horizon, there was nothing that obscured vision.
To think that the Einzbern castle could be changed suddenly meant that it was undoubtedly the illusion of something that eroded away the reality. It can be said that this is the uppermost limits of the miracles of magecraft.
“How could this be….you could materialize the environment inside your mind…You aren’t a – magus?!”
“Of course I’m not. This is not something I can do alone.”
Alexander laughed proudly as he majestically stood in the center of wide, everstretching field.
“This land is the land in which my army once crossed. It is imprinted upon the hearts of every single one of my warriors who shared in my joys and sorrows.”
As the world changed, the positions of the five who were initially surrounded also changed.
The Assassins, originally surrounding the group have been moved aside to one side. Rider stood in the center. In the other side stood Saber, Archer, and the two Masters. This is to say that Rider stood before the Assassins by himself.
– but, could it be said that Rider fought alone?
The eyes of everyone widened as they noticed the mirage-like images that appeared around him. One, two, four….there were more and more images, ever increasing. The colors become clearer and more solid.
“The reason why this world can exist again... is because it is printed upon all of our hearts.”
Under their expressions of total shock, heavily armed cavalry materialized beside Alexander. Though their faces and equipments differed, their muscular bodies and mighty chargers displayed a fierceness that could only be found in a true army.
Only one person present understood what this situation meant.
“All of these beings…are servants!”
He was the only Master here, and so he understood. Servant Alexander's trump card, his true noble phantasm, was now appearing before his eyes.
“BEHOLD, MY PEERLESS ARMY!”
The King of Conquerors stood before the lines of cavalry and raised both of his arms to the skies, shouting with immeasurable pride.
“Their bodies may return to ash, but their spirits still hear my call! These men are my legendary heroes – my loyal followers! They’re my true friends - breaking the rules of space and time to fight once more at my side!”
“They are my treasure within treasures; they are my right to rule! They make up Alexander's mightiest Noble Phantasm – !!”
EX rank anti-army Noble Phantasm; the consecutive summon of multiple independent Servants.
The Lord of war, the Maharaorajah, and the founders of many dynasties – the peerless array of heroic spirits gathered here were only heard reverently in legends. All of the famed warriors standing here – all of them once fought beside Alexander the Great.
A riderless horse galloped towards Rider. It was a powerful and sleek steed. If it was human, it is probably just as impressive as any one of the Heroic Spirits standing before the king.
“Long time no see, pal.”
Rider smiled childishly as he hugged the neck of his horse. “She” was the legendary charger Bucephalus. Even the horse of the King of Conquerors became an Heroic Spirit.
Apart from shock and admiration, everyone was speechless. Even Archer, who also possessed a rank EX Noble Phantasm, was utterly silent after seeing such a radiant army.
These heroes rode alongside their king on the battlefield; their wager, like the king’s, was the king’s dream.
Not even death could stop their ending loyalty. The King of Conquerors turned it into a fitting Noble Phantasm.
Saber was shaken to her core. It wasn’t the strength of the Noble Phantasm that she was afraid of, it was the fact that such a Noble Phantasm had de-stabilized her beliefs. It shook the beliefs that she held in pride.
This flawless cooperation…
This bond with subjects that became a Noble Phantasm...
It was something that the idealistic King of Knights pursued for her whole life, yet even to the end, it was something she could not obtain.
“The King - lives to the fullest!! He needs to live more fully than anyone else! He is a figure of admiration to his people!!”
Rider’s voice boomed as he sat atop his beloved steed. The Heroic Spirits began smashing their weapons against their shields, shouting in unison.
“He gathered the will of every courageous being! He marched toward that dream and began his long conquest! That is our king! Thus-”
“The King is never lonesome! For his wishes are our wishes!”
"Indeed! Indeed! Indeed!"
The majestic cries of the Heroic Spirits pierced the heavens and flew among the stars. No matter what they faced – enemy or fortress, it was powerless before the King of Conquerors and his loyal friends. Such was their spirit they could cross the earth. With this spirit, they could split the very oceans.
And thus, the Assassins standing before them was as insignificant as clouds.
“Alright, Assassin. Let us begin.”
Rider's smiling eyes were full of ruthlessness and cruelty. To someone who ignored the king’s words and declined the king’s gift, he no longer cared to hold back.
“As you can see, my preferred battlefield is the plains. Sorry, but if it's about winning by numbers, I believe I have the advantage?"
The hundred faces among the Hassans had forgotten about the Holy Grail at this moment. Forgetting victory and the mission of the Command Seal, they had already lost sense of themselves as a Servant.
Some ran away, while some screamed fruitlessly. Some others stood dumbly on their spots. The panicked mob of skull masks were indeed just a group of rabble.
Rider commanded without hesitation.
The collective roar of the Ionian Hetairoi echoed in response. The peerless army that once swept across continents once again thundered across the battlefield.
This was no longer a battle. It was a massacre.
The results of using a mill to grind a sesame seed would yield more response.
Wherever the rode, there was not a trace of Assassins remaining. Only a faint, faint smell of blood and some dust that was swept away remained in the air.
With a cheer of victory, the warriors gave dedications and praise to the king. Soon, with their mission completed, they returned to spirit form and disappeared into the distance.
And as such, the bounded field generated by these heroes also disappeared. Everyone vanished as if a bubble had been popped. The scene returned to the night air. The people present once again stood in the courtyard of the Einzbern castle.
The white, clear moonlight was silent. There was nothing in the night air.
The three Servants and two magi returned to their previous seats, raising their cups once more. The ladle – sliced to bits by the dirk – stood as a testimony to all that happened.
As if nothing had happened, Rider quietly murmured to himself as he finished the wine in his cup. Saber said nothing, and Archer smirked with the slightest hint of an unsatisfied expression.
“Indeed, no matter how weak the mongrels, it must have been quite the effort for you, the king, to take down this many, mm? Rider, you’re really a thorn in my eyes.”
“Of course, let’s get this straight, no matter what, we shall have a match to see which one of us is better.”
Not offended in the least, Rider smiled as he stood up.
“Anyways, we’ve said all we wanted to say, right? Let us stop here for today.”
But Saber was still dwelling on Rider’s words, and she didn’t want to let him off the hook so easily.
“Hold on, Rider, I’m not finished –“
“You, shut up.”
Tensely, Rider stopped Saber’s comment.
“Tonight was a banquet among kings. However, Saber! I do not recognize your kingship anymore!”
“Do you still plan to mock me, Rider?"
Saber’s tone already held a great amount of irritation, but Alexander only looked at her with pity. Pulling out his sword, he waved it in the air. Suddenly, in a thunderous roar, a chariot drawn by divine bulls appeared alongside the roar. Though it was not nearly as impressive as the Ionian Hetairoi, it was still wonderous to behold.
“Hurry up, kid. Climb on.”
Ever after he personally witnessed Assassin’s effortless defeat, Waver’s heart was strangely covered by some shadow. Though it was the first time he had ever seen such an irregular, out of the norm Noble Phantasm, so his reaction was natural. Besides, it was his own Servant’s true strength – it was the first time he had seen it.
Unsteadily, Waver crawled onto the chariot. Alexander gave Saber one last glance as he began to speak with sincerity.
“Know what, little girl? It would be better for you to wake quickly from that painful dream of yours. Or else, there’s going to come a day where you’ll lose even the self-respect of a hero – the kingship you spoke of, that’s just a spell you put upon yourself. That is all.”
“No, I –“
Ignoring Saber’s final retort, the chariot with flashing lightning flew into the skies. In the end, the only thing left was the sound of thunder as the chariot disappeared in the eastern skies.
To Saber, because Rider refused to listen to her speak to the last, she naturally felt wronged. Yet now, what Saber could not drop no matter what was a unreasonable sense of worry.
No mercy, no ideals, a king whose rule was based on violence in order to fulfill his own desires. Yet, even so, there was a group of such loyal followers, who was willing to swear an unbreakable fealty to him.
This was anathema to the King of Knight’s ideals. She could not accept such beliefs.
Yet, Saber could not simply treat Alexander’s words as a joke, either. There would come a time, where she would force him to take these words back – such words bothered Saber like a thorn in her side.
“Ignore him, Saber. All you have to do is follow in your own beliefs.”
This time, the person who interjected was Archer, who had been mocking him for all this time. Hearing such strange words of encouragement, Saber answered icily.
“You were mocking me moments ago, yet you want to flatter me now, Archer?”
“Of course! Your way of kingship is the only way, without a fraction of an error. Of course, to your frail body, it must be such a great burden.
Such bitterness… such tangled webs… I couldn’t help but to sincerely wish to comfort you.”
Proper outer appearance, a serious voice, yet there was still an unlimited amount of lust and maliciousness hidden within his expression and tone.
As long as this golden Servant existed before her eyes, Saber would never have a single moment of confusion. Unlike Rider, who was someone she could communicate in words with, Archer was only an unforgivable enemy to her.
“Continue on your path of righteousness, Saber, and clown along the way. I like it. Saber, make me happy, and maybe I’ll reward you with the Holy Grail?”
The white jade goblet shattered in Archer’s hands.
“Rider has already left, the banquet is long over – Archer, leave now, or draw your sword.”
Though it was invisible, Saber’s waving sword nonetheless unleashed a powerful pressure. Archer, with broken goblet in hand, had no discernible change in expression. Either he was exceptionally brave or exceptionally stupid. Only one of the aforementioned possibilities.
“Oy, oy. Did you know, countless nations have been destroyed because of this cup? Ah, whatever, punishing you is pointless either way – punishing a clown like you is not fitting behavior for a king.”
“Quiet. I’ll warn you only once. Next time, I’ll cut through you mercilessly!”
Ignoring Saber’s warning, Archer smiled as he stood up.
“Try harder, O King of Knights. Sometimes, I think you’re still pretty cute.”
As his last words faded, Archer vanished as he turned to spirit form. As if awaking from a dream, the courtyard, without the golden light shining upon it, contained only emptiness.
And, as such, the curtains fell on a battle.
Though it was different from battle by a normal definition, but, it was indeed a conflict. In order to fulfill the belief of kingship, the Heroic Spirits also had many reasons that they must wager their lives on.
As all her opponents disappeared Saber stood silently, alone, in the courtyard. Irisviel couldn’t help but to feel that the scenario was familiar – wasn't such a lonely shadow the same as in yesterday's skirmish in the warehouse street?
Yet today, there was not a single shred of satisfaction upon her face even after she had defeated powerful opponents. The thoughtful, yet depressing expression made Irisviel feel uncomfortable.
“When I was shouting at Rider, if he were willing to stop and listen to me, what would I have said?”
It was unclear who the question was addressing. Saber turned around as she smiled dryly, perhaps laughing at herself.
“I remember – ‘King Arthur could not understand the heart of others.’ Once, a knight who had left me told me that.”
“Perhaps it was – among the Knights of the Round Table, the thoughts of a particular knight.”
Irisviel shook her head as she spoke to Saber:
“Saber, you’re the king of ideals. Your Noble Phantasm is proof of this.”
Just like Rider’s “” Saber also possessed “” If the King of Conqueror’s Noble Phantasm was his commanding abilities, then the King of Knight’s Noble Phantasm was the physical actualization of her ideals. The proud aura in which it exhibited was undeniable by anyone.
“Of course, I wanted to become an ideal. In order to make no mistakes, in order to be blameless, I had no emotions and never expressed my feelings.”
Giving up herself for the duty of the king.
In comparison to the limitless desire of the King of Conquerors, the road was far more distant.
“As long as the battle could be won, and the administration just, then I was a perfect king. Therefore, I wanted no understanding. Even if people thought I was arrogant and lonesome, I suppose that’s also the rightful expression of the king.
But why – why am I unable to be proud of my own beliefs like Rider?”
Now, Irisviel finally understood Saber’s confusion.
The tragic ending of King Arthur was one in which everyone forsook her. Because she was unable to gain her follower’s sincere admiration, the honor of the King of Knights was tarnished.
“—Saber, even if fate cannot be avoided, no one said it’s set in stone.”
After a moment of silence, Irisviel finally spoke.
“What do you mean?”
“Fate is not something that’s predestined. The turn of the world, luck, and many unexpected events are the things that determine the final shape of destiny.
Thus, your destruction was not destined just because you were the King of Knights. Thus, you should strive for the Holy Grail.”
“…Yes, you’re right.”
Once, the king’s magician told her, if she pulled out the Sword of Destiny, then she was walking towards an unavoidable destruction. Even so, she had no regrets.
Even though she understood, she never really understood its meaning. Even if she couldn’t believe in hope, she still wanted her hope to be true.
Thus, even as she personally witnessed the predicted end in the prophecy, that was when she could no longer accept the reality.
There was only prayers, only despairing hope.
She wondered if she made a mistake along the way somewhere.
The way she had selected – there should have been a more appropriate ending…
The thought turned her into a Heroic Spirit and guided her to the Holy Grail of Fuyuki.
“Thank you, Irisviel. I almost lost the thing that was most precious to me.”
Saber nodded, her eyes were as peaceful and clear as before, shining with a confident radiance.
“My deeds as king, I cannot get any answers now. I should be asking the Holy Grail. Thus, that’s why I’m here.”
“Yes, you’re precisely right.”
Irisviel sighed in relief. The proud King of Knights doesn't suit the thoughtfully reminiscing, sad expression on her face. Following her own beliefs – that was what she should look like. That shining sword, also promised her victory.
At Miyama, the underground basement of the Tōsaka manor was currently surrounded by a bitterly stifling silence.
“That Noble Phantasm of Rider’s…what is its power level?”
Heavily speaking into the communicator, Tokiomi asked Kirei.
“The same rank as Gilgamesh’s Gate of Babylon. In other words, Rank EX.”
A sigh followed.
Just as he had anticipated. Assassin’s sacrifice was not meaningless – at least, he was able to figure out Rider’s trump card. If he had no knowledge against Rider as he fought him, Tōsaka probably couldn’t do a thing against that super Noble Phantasm.
The only thing that exceed their expectations, was the rank of the Noble Phantasm – even if he knew about it ahead of time, could he find a way to defeat it?
As before, he had always thought his own Servant, Archer’s Noble Phantasm was the strongest. However, unexpectedly, a Servant appeared with the same level as Archer’s own. This far exceeded his expectations.
Now, a rare sense of regret slowly floated into the foremost thoughts of Tokiomi.
Perhaps throwing away the playing piece of Assassin was a deadly mistake. Against such a dangerous opponent like Rider, it may have been better for him to send a scout to gather information instead of risking a frontal assault. If he could run into a case where Rider and his Master moved separately, he might have even been able to use an assassination…
Tokiomi shook his head. It was his own fault. This wasn’t a strategy – it was only his random thoughts.
Yet, the situation was not desperate. There were many things that could still cheer him up. For example, Alexander's Master was only a third-rate magus. If the person who summoned him was Lord El-Melloi, the situation would have been much worse. The ability parameters of the Servant was also heavily dependent on the ability of the Master. Did he not also use the result of Kayneth’s dispute with his student? Looks like all the luck in this fourth Heaven’s Feel was on his side.
Looks like it was time for business. Tokiomi took his wooden staff as he calmly yet firmly stroked it. His life’s work was found in the gigantic gem that was framed near the handle, sealing a lifetime’s worth of prana.
“Since Assassin is no more, Kirei, you should not be saving your own strength any more.”
Across the other side came Kirei Kotomine’s quiet yet deep voice. This first-rate student and Executor, even though he had lost his Servant, still possessed a large degree of combat ability. Now, because he could no longer command Assassin, he had no need to disguise himself – it was time for him to unleash his own abilities.
As predicted, the second part have begun. Based on the information gathered by Assassin, he shall mobilize Gilgamesh and begin his assault. As for the solution against Rider, he’ll slowly find an answer to that.
Finally, it was time to step out of his territory and step into the battlefield.
Silently enduring the pains of the Magic Crests, Tokiomi stood from his chair.
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