There was no town as unique as Sighișoara in Romania or even all of Europe. This was referring to its ‘unchanging’ nature. It was a small town with a population of thirty thousand, but the people who came to sightsee felt as if they had slipped back in time to the Middle Ages just by walking through the town’s historical district, which was labelled a World Heritage Site.
If you walked through the extremely rough, stone-paved hill road, you would find private houses that looked exactly the same as they had in the sixteenth century lining the streets and even public squares where witch trials were once held.
Other sightseeing spots included the home in which Vlad III was born (it was now a restaurant), the town’s landmark clock tower, and a church at the top of the mountain in the old city district. At any rate, the town was the most suitable sightseeing area for foreigners to experience the ‘Europe of the past’.
And presently, Sighișoara was gripped by fear due to a serial killer. It was a ghastly situation where visiting tourists had been murdered one after another and all their corpses had their hearts gouged out.
There was no evidence besides the corpses left behind, and no link could be found between the victims at all. But only a select few people knew the truth. The victims were all magi—in other words, something extraordinarily ‘abnormal’ was occurring in Sighișoara.
Shishigou and Saber of Red had been walking for an hour now through the streets, lit faintly by sodium-vapor lamps, on edge all the while. Saber’s armor clinked noisily, but fortunately there was no one around who questioned them. A drunken homeless man carrying a wine bottle in one hand gazed at Shishigou and Saber with an open-mouthed expression. Not even bothering to use suggestion magecraft, Shishigou waved his hand at him, and the man banged his head and started drinking again.
Although they encountered policemen several times, they were immediately driven away using Shishigou’s suggestion magecraft. Even the policemen probably didn’t want the duty of remaining on watch for a crazy killer. Shishigou was able to drive them away without even forcing them that much.
But more importantly, Saber was more serious now. Not long ago, she’d been complaining with “This is boring”, “So dull”, and “Are they here yet?” over and over again, but now she had gone silent.
“What’s wrong, Saber?”
“…Sorry, please let me concentrate. I have a bad feeling here.”
Shishigou’s face tensed at her words. If she was taking such a vigilant attitude, then there was definitely a Servant nearby.
At some point, their pace slowed down and became cautious. They surveyed their surroundings—the dim glow of the streets lamps seemed to conversely make their vision fuzzier. A freezing gust passed through that seemed to lick at the nape of Shishigou’s neck.
“…A mist is forming.”
Just as Saber said, before they knew it, a mist broke out around the two of them. This would obstruct their vision more and more————no, wait.
Even though the air was clear just moments ago, could a mist so thick it obstructed their vision just suddenly appear? …Impossible.
Shishigou and Saber stopped walking at nearly the same time. Saber already had her sword out, and Shishigou had his hands on the holster of his favorite shotgun.
“This mist is…”
The instant that Shishigou tried to mutter something, the inside of his nose was struck by pain like scattering sparks. He reflexively coughed and covered his mouth.
“It’s poison! Don’t breathe, Saber!”
Shishigou crouched down as he covered his mouth and nose. Even just breathing a little caused the inside of his nose to explode in pain and his vision started to falter.
“Hey, hang on, Master!”
Making an instant decision, Shishigou took off his jacket and used it to cover his mouth and nose. The jacket, made from the skin of a magical beast, was able to cancel most Single-Action spells. When he breathed through the jacket, the pain was mitigated slightly. It appeared that the mist really was created out of prana.
“…Damn it. For now, let’s get out of this mist.”
“Yeah, if you’re able to run, that is! I’ll pull you along, follow me!”
Saber held her sword in her right hand and tightly grasped Shishigou’s hand in her left as she began to run. Fortunately, perhaps because her Magic Resistance rank was high, Saber seemed to receive nearly no damage from the mist and didn’t appear to mind the worsening visibility at all. Her sharp [Instinct] made the mist no obstruction at all for her.
But Saber and Shishigou were both certain. Since this wasn’t an ordinary mist, naturally something would come ‘next’. The issue was just when it would happen… Even as she ran and tried to escape from the mist, Saber prudently estimated the timing when it would occur.
Perhaps because she’d been able to precisely choose their escape route, the mist gradually started to fade away.
—People always wish for relief. When they fell into a dangerous situation, no matter how much they calmly dealt with the situation, their minds would relax immediately after they escaped from it.
—For just a moment right after they escaped from the jaws of death that lay in wait for them, no matter what kind of person they were, there was an opening when they stopped to take a breather.
—Serial killers never overlooked that moment of relaxation. They would hold their blades, which had sipped the blood of countless people, and quietly creep up behind them.
“All right, we’re out…!”
Saber and Shishigou succeeded in getting out of the mist. In that instant, the only thought in Shishigou’s head was to breathe fresh air. Having escaped from the fear of death, his mind relaxed just slightly. From behind him, an assassin crept up to slit his throat—
But Saber, who was standing in front of Shishigou, swung down the sword in her right hand just as she spun around, and sent Shishigou rolling on the ground due to lightly brushing his feet.
There was a flash.
A shrill sound resounded on the stone-paved ground. Saber’s slash had struck away the knife grasped in Assassin’s hand.
“—Sorry, but that guy’s my Master. The one you’ll be fighting is me.”
When Shishigou turned around, there was someone standing still almost right behind him. He hadn’t noticed—in spite of getting this close to him, he hadn’t noticed at all.
And he was struck with amazement by one more thing.
The person standing behind Shishigou was a young girl. She looked two or three years younger than his own Servant, Saber of Red. She had short and messy silver hair and ice-blue eyes, which were widened slightly in surprise. She had several knife scabbards hanging along her waist, but she didn’t have the vital skirt to cover her lower body. Together with the leather clothes on her upper body, she had a sensuous atmosphere like a prostitute despite her very young appearance.
“You slashed at us. How horrible.”
Muttering that, she looked straight at Saber’s face.
“—What do you mean, ‘horrible’? A lowlife like you who devours souls despite being a Servant has no right to say that!”
Not bothering to hide her displeasure, Saber thrusted her sword before her in preparation. Assassin, not seeming to fear the sword, tilted her head and replied with an extremely innocent expression.
“There’s nothing wrong with that… right?”
The next instant, Saber repelled a knife thrown at her face with her gauntlet. Assassin had thrown a knife with an extremely natural movement while speaking without the slightest visible quiver of her wrist.
The reason Saber was able to respond to the sudden surprise attack was due to her instincts and skill. But an opening was created the instant she blocked the knife with her gauntlet and Assassin jumped behind her. The mist was still wafting strongly in the air there and immediately masked her from sight.
“Wait here, Master!”
After saying that, Saber once more leapt into the mist. Breathing in the mist made her body feel somewhat heavier, but Saber judged that it wouldn’t impede her at this level.
She strained her ears for the faintest sound and swung her sword according to her instincts. The same sound as earlier resounded—she had struck down a thrown scalpel.
“Wow. You’re really good.”
Saber clicked her tongue at the girl’s voice. The voice could be heard from all directions and she couldn’t pinpoint its origin at all.
“Spare me your prattle. What good are the words of a ‘cleaner’ like Assassin who isn’t even a Heroic Spirit? No, you’re not even a cleaner. You’re just a killer, just a murderer!”
“Oh? How did you know?”
Saber’s mind was frozen with shock for an instant.
“Our name is Jack the Ripper. Hey, hey, hey, hey, won’t you tell us your name too?”
The voice whispered right in her ear. Saber immediately swung her sword in that direction, but she felt no resistance against her blade as she merely cut through mist. But right now, the fact that she had learned the enemy’s true name was more important.
—It was an incident from a hundred and twenty years ago. The people of London in Great Britain had trembled in terror. The people he targeted were all prostitutes from the East End. The number of people he murdered was in fact only five. In spite of that, he was the world’s first serial killer, who left behind many legends and mysteries before he disappeared.
Based from a signature written in a letter posted in the newspapers, people called him Jack the Ripper.
It was only a hundred and twenty years ago. From the viewpoint of other mysteries with firm concepts that were far more ancient, this Servant was probably the most fragile in this regard in this Great Holy Grail War.
King Arthur had gone out on many campaigns and earned many magnificent achievements. Mordred herself had etched her name into history as the Knight of Treachery. Other Servants were also generally the same. Though their eras and societies differed, they should have overcome many legendary battles and left their names behind in the memories of the people.
But—Saber adjusted her grip on the handle of her sword and focused her mind.
Why had someone like a murderer been elevated to a level where she could be summoned as a Servant?
…The only possible explanation was that it was because the murderer’s career had been shrouded in too much mystery and filled the people with too much terror. People might cheer as they watched a hero fight. They might be filled with courage and vie with one another as they hoisted up their fists. But this girl was different.
She etched her name into the world with arbitrary, thorough and despairing slaughter. If there were those who believed in her, they were surely other murderers just like her.
Indeed, she was appropriate as Assassin. Without any sound or sign of her presence, she simply killed her target. There was no one else who specialized in killing Masters as much as her.
To Saber, this mist wasn’t much of an obstruction. However, due to Assassin’s class skill [Presence Concealment], she couldn’t grasp her presence at all. Since Assassin’s voice was resounding around Saber, she should definitely be nearby, but—
“Ah, just like we thought! You’re a woman, aren’t you?”
Saber involuntarily ground her teeth slightly at those words.
“In that case—”
“Yeah. In that case—”
“Let’s do it.”
—It sounded as if she were conversing with someone. An eerie slug-like feeling that Saber hadn’t experienced in a long while slightly passed through her chest.
This was fear. An unknown assassin lurking in the darkness. She never fought head on, always using surprised attacks, always taking the initiative. If Saber mistakenly predicted her next move, it would instantly lead to her own death.
So—what should she do?
“…Hah. Don’t underestimate me, you shitty brat!!”
An instant reply. Saber stored her helm into her armor as if tearing off the skin upon which the fear clung to her. At the same time as she exposed her noble-looking face, she raised the sword in her hand and shouted.
If there was an eerie darkness, than she just needed to blow it away with her own light. She poured all her prana into her sword, making it spew crimson lightning around her.
The mist literally vanished—and Assassin looked at Saber with an open-mouthed expression.
“It’s over, Assassin. If you’re going to scream out to your heart’s content, now’s your chance. Once I behead you, you won’t be able to scream anymore.”
“We don’t wanna. Our tummy is still empty.”
Speaking like a child, she held a butcher knife in each of her hand.
“You should give up and run away,” said Saber with a fearless smile while she timed the moment to activate [Prana Burst].
Since the mist had vanished, her body was no longer weighed down. So there should have been no way for Saber, a Servant of the strongest class, to fall behind the likes of a murderer that couldn’t hide in the darkness.
Watching their fight from afar, Shishigou had the utmost faith regarding that point. However, there was just one factor that made him uneasy. After getting out of the mist, he had taken out a piece of equipment from his jacket pocket.
It was the wrist of a magical monkey cast in adipocere wax. In situations where he wasn’t able to move from where he was, he used this wrist to quickly construct a Bounded Field that warded people away. It wasn’t a half-hearted piece of magecraft either. The wrist crawled around independently like a mouse, and as it did so it created a completely locked-out area as if cutting off that space from everything else.
He hadn’t tried it out yet, but even if he were in an intersection in the streets of New York at night or of Shibuya in Tokyo, he was confident that he could completely clear people out of the area. Though there existed eyes besides those of people, such as cameras, in such downtown districts, so it wouldn’t be effective in the first place.
—The source of his unease was…
…the fact that they were in the unfavorable emergency situation, as someone had managed to break into this space where everyone besides him and the two female Servants in front of him had cleared away.
His palm hurt as if it were being stabbed by needles. That was how Shishigou sensed that an intruder had penetrated his Bounded Field.
His words exploded into the air as the critical situation continued to unfold. Saber of Red and Assassin of Black were both charging at each other.
Saber was aiming to swing her sword down from above and cut Assassin in half in a single stroke with the force of a surging wave. On the other hand, Assassin was challenging her to close-combat again with movements so smooth they were terribly eerie. Her target was the nape of Saber’s neck, a vital point. If Saber’s strike was a superhuman attack that transcended the domain of humans, then Assassin had abandoned humanity so thoroughly that she had reached the domain of inhuman beasts.
The instant she leapt forward, Saber was certain of that. She had no doubt that her strike would deliver a fatal wound to Assassin. The timing, speed, power; everything was in perfect sync.
At the same time, Saber’s mind was bothered by Shishigou’s shout. There was definitely a reason for the shout just now. If not, he wouldn’t have called out her name. When she had thought that far, she realized it with a chill.
She didn’t know where. But she was definitely being aimed at.
A throw or shot from long distance. The enemy was probably Lancer or Archer. Either way, at this rate she would be killed…!
Her body moved before her logical thought caught up. She just slightly put the brakes on her intense forward charge and forcefully screwed her body around. This was all she could do now. Slanting her body, she looked at the clock tower that was one of this city’s landmarks.
She gazed at it in amazement. Two figures stood at the pinnacle of the clock tower. Illuminated by the faint moonlight, the person she saw pointing a bow and arrow at her there was definitely a Servant—!
The next instant, a shock wave and a thunderous roar hit Saber’s entire body.