Frozen air, frozen silence. The forest was simply dark and silent. Rider of Black, Astolfo, who had been emotionally sobbing just earlier, finally stood up.
He pulled up the fallen homunculus. His stature, which should have been slightly smaller or about the same as Rider’s, had grown considerably. It appeared that, due to taking in Saber of Black’s—Siegfried’s heart, his body had undergone a radical transformation.
Still unable to believe it, the homunculus clenched and unclenched his hands again and again. The dull pain he felt when his heart was ruptured still remained, but it had already been reduced to a level that wouldn’t impede him.
“It seems that Saber’s heart is functioning properly.”
Rider nodded, appearing impressed. The homunculus put his hand against his heart, and indeed felt a strong pulse from it. His blood was so hot that it made him sweat all over his body.
The homunculus felt slightly moved as he spoke without experiencing pain. To think that inhaling and exhaling could be so comfortable!
Somewhat excited, he surveyed his surroundings until his attention was caught by a tree.
The homunculus adjusted his breathing and activated his Magic Circuits. He gently placed his hands on the tree, confirmed the tree’s material properties, and then released his prana to destroy it. The tree easily broke like a twig, but the homunculus’ body magnificently endured the force of operating his Magic Circuits.
Watching him, Rider nodded in a somewhat lonely manner.
“…Yeah. Like this, you’ll probably be okay by yourself from here on. Since Saber died, someone has to go back and explain what happened right away, or things will become complicated.”
Rider was correct. The Masters at the Fortress of Millennia were probably confirming the status of all the Servants one by one. Saber had been sent to chase after Rider and the homunculus, so there was a high chance that a new pursuer would be sent at this rate.
“I have to take back this guy too.”
He lightly tapped the head of Saber’s Master… Gordes Musik Yggdmillennia, who was unconscious after having been struck by Saber. The man’s physique normally wouldn’t make carrying him a feasible feat, but Rider was a Heroic Spirit. Carrying the man on his shoulder was no problem for him.
“Oh, that’s right. We don’t know what you might encounter along the way, so I’ll give you this sword.”
Rider casually handed over the slender sword hanging along his waist. Bewildered, the homunculus accepted it. Though it was slender, the steel blade felt heavy in his hands.
“But, this is yours—”
“Yeah, but I have my lance and book besides my sword. And that’s not even including my Hippogriff as well. Honestly, I don’t use my sword that much.”
Rider gave a full-blown smile and a peace sign with his fingers—unable to see a reason to refuse, the homunculus hung the sword along his waist.
He was a bit worried about his balance due to the added weight on one side of his body, but he would probably get used to it before long.
“…I want you to use it with great care. It seems I misunderstood Saber. Umm, how to put it…? I mistakenly thought he was a sullen, straight-laced and boring guy.”
“I get it. Thank you. You truly saved me.”
“It’s fine, it’s fine. I wasn’t very useful in the end.”
That’s not true, thought the homunculus. Rider alone had answered his cries for help. He had held out his hand to him, saying he would help him. The homunculus had nothing to repay him with, and yet Rider had unhesitatingly done something that would not recompense him in any way… Perhaps it was precisely because he was such a man that his words had convinced Saber to save the homunculus at the last moment.
“By the way, I’ve wanted to ask you before. —What’s your name?”
How difficult, thought the homunculus as he folded his arms. Naturally, if he had been specially made to serve as a maid or to fight, he would have been given a name to discern him from other homunculi, but since he was just a mass-produced industrial product, there had been no need to give him a name.
That’s why he had to think of a name for himself now. There was no way he could live his entire life under the name ‘homunculus’.
Suddenly, he placed his hand upon his heart. This was a blessed gift from a Heroic Spirit. So, at the very least—
“How about ‘Sieg’?”
“…It would be far too brazen for me to completely copy his name. But, it would be regrettable to completely forget it as well. So, I thought ‘Sieg’ would do.”
Rider nodded his head enthusiastically.
“That’s true… Yeah, Sieg is a nice name, isn’t it?”
“Thank you. Then, my name is Sieg.”
“Ahaha. Nice to meet you, Sieg!”
Rider offered his hand, and, with some hesitation, Sieg grabbed it with his own. They both knew that their final farewell was approaching soon.
“Isn’t there something I can do for you?”
Rider made a somewhat painful expression and slowly shook his head.
“—There isn’t. You have been freed from this war. You’re a free man now. And most likely, your life span has been increased to that of an ordinary person, I think? So you should live normally and die normally. If you do that, the one who saved you, Saber, will probably be happy as well.”
With a kind gesture like that of a young maiden, Rider placed his hand on Sieg’s cheek and smiled. Then, as if overcome with emotion, he pulled Sieg’s head close and ruffled his hair.
After doing that for a while, Rider finally released him.
“All right, get going now. I’ll manage somehow or other on my side.”
Nodding at Rider’s words that seemed to thrust him away slightly, Sieg drew back first one, then two steps. It was slow, but he was certainly increasing the distance between them. Rider waved his hand reluctantly as they parted, but eventually he nodded as if severing himself from something, and then he suddenly hoisted up Gordes over his shoulder and turned his back to Sieg.
“Rider! What should I do?”
Sieg called out to his back as he began to leave. Rider turned his head around and shouted back to him with a full-blown smile on his face.
“Anything is fine! You’re able to do anything now! Go to a town, meet people, come to like and dislike others, and live a happy life!”
I see. Indeed, that is probably happiness, agreed Sieg mentally… Somewhere in his heart, he felt a sense of unease like a thin, clinging membrane, but he did his best to avert his eyes from that.
Rider breathed a sigh of satisfaction.
Yeah, that homunculus was no longer someone that needed to be protected. With his strong body and first-rate Magic Circuits, it shouldn’t be impossible for him to quietly slip into the world and keep on living.
Of course, Yggdmillennia’s reparations were considerably large. Losing Saber, the self-proclaimed strongest swordsman in the Great Holy Grail War, was especially fatal.
The Black Faction had also managed to defeat Berserker of Red, Spartacus, and had placed him under their control as a pawn. But the respective value of Saber and Berserker was not comparable by any means.
“…Well, it’s fine. What will be, will be.”
With that, Rider stopped thinking about the course of the Great Holy Grail War. For the time being, he would simply dance through the skies and fight. Of course, he had to wrack his brains over how to explain the matter of Saber—but he was bad at lying, and he didn’t think he’d done anything wrong either.
True, Saber of Black, Siegfried, had given his heart to the homunculus and died as a result. This might have been a fatal act for them in the Great Holy Grail War. But so what? In the end, Saber, who had been given a second life, did what he wanted to do. It was definitely not something he’d been forced to do, but rather an act of selflessness—of justice.
He would honestly and frankly confess with pride in his chest that Saber had done the right thing.
That was what Rider decided.
Thus, Sieg slowly began walking. His legs stepped forward strongly and made light footprints on the frozen ground. But, even so, his progress was slow. With each step he took, he would turn around and watch Rider’s increasingly distant figure.
Rider still hadn’t killed the living Gordes. He was a Master and had Command Spells remaining, so it was possible for him to make a contract with a new Servant.
The problem was that Rider might be punished. He didn’t know anything besides the knowledge that he had possessed from birth regarding the Great Holy Grail War. But he knew enough to understand that the Saber class was famed for being the strongest among all Servant classes.
That Saber had died. Moreover, it had been due to giving his heart to Sieg. This was an act that could rightfully be called equivalent to suicide. That was an unmistakeable truth even for Servants. Even though he had been given a second life like this, why had he done such a thing?
…Sieg didn’t know what Saber had wished for. Sieg was neither his comrade, nor his friend. They weren’t even acquaintances. Though, in a sense, they might share the common feature of possessing lives that were meant to be consumed like wood chips.
Even so, Sieg had been saved by him. Overflowing with feelings of endless gratitude, he did not know how to repay this debt.
Now then. For the time being, he would head to a town just like Rider said. That being said, though, there was no way he could slip into Trifas. That town was Yggdmillennia’s territory. So he would walk straight through this place and go to a nearby village.
…He had to go, but.
Quite strangely, in spite of the fact that Rider had already disappeared from sight, his progress was slow as his feet still tended to stop.
“Hmm, I wonder why?”
For some reason, he whispered to himself—and his throat didn’t hurt from doing so, which made him a little happy. As a homunculus, there was nothing he didn’t know about himself. At the very least, he should know about any errors1 in his body.
It wasn’t that he was injured. His physical condition was at its highest within his short life. There was heat in his body and his heartbeat was strong. There were no errors in his feet at all. His brain—no errors. His nerves—no damage. Illness due to a virus—none.
Everything was normal. And his objective was to first [go to a town] because he had to secure a base besides that of Trifas. He estimated the possibility of his success to be a bit more than 80%. If he was unlucky, he might get caught by Yggdmillennia by coincidence and then would probably return to a tragic fate.
He had an objective and his physical condition was normal, so there was no reason for his feet not to move. And yet, they wouldn’t move.
“I should have asked Rider for a method to make my feet move…”
And suddenly, at this late hour.
The homunculus realized he was alone once more. And that he would never again meet Rider.
It hurts, he thought as he felt his chest tighten a little. Trying to ignore it as much as possible, he somehow managed to continue walking.
(1) Here, it says English word “errors” in furigana, while the kanji beneath it says “abnormalities”.