Lancer of Red was in the room where the five former Masters—Rottweil Berzinsky, Gene Rum, the Pentel Brothers and Feend vor Sembren were relaxing.
The five of them sat equal distances apart around a circular table. They weren’t actually confined here, but they talked while looking up at the ceiling with idiotic expressions.
“Speaking of which, according to what I hear, there’s been a political change within the Atlas Academy—”
“Look at the minute detail of the ritual recorded on this scroll. It’s expensive, but it’s worth it—”
“Yes, quite right. Yes, yeah, exactly—”
“Ah, I’m looking forward to the auction so much. Just how long does the airplane intend to make me wait—”
“It’s almost time to gradually begin the inheritance of our family’s Crest, but my son is no good. He lacks the ambition to be a magus.”
There was already no coherence in their discussion. They were trapped between sanity and madness. They were completely sane, and if they were truly in the same situation they thought they were, they would certainly react and speak the same as they did now.
However, this was the room that had been given to them by Shirou Kotomine and his Servant. Before they had summoned their own Servants, they had drunk poison prepared by Assassin of Red, and were lured into the world of madness while still remaining sane.
Their mastered mental defenses were mere paper-thin armor against Assassin of Red. They hadn’t been killed—but they had no freedom either. They simply continued to exist in this room.
“—So you came here again.”
Assassin of Red idly emerged from out of the shadows. Lancer’s eyes couldn’t be deceived. She simply spoke her thoughts to Lancer. The Assassin standing here was merely an illusion as well.
“Shirou Kotomine’s orders were to guard these Hanging Gardens. There are currently no signs of any attacks. The enemy will most likely arrive tomorrow night. Until then, I will remain here unless my former Master instructs otherwise.”
The empress’ face scowled in displeasure at Lancer of Red’s words.
Lancer of Red was the only one among the other three Servants who hadn’t acknowledged Shirou as his Master. Both Rider and Archer had abandoned their former Masters in this state of affairs, but Lancer alone still guarded them for the simple reason that one of them had summoned him.
Assassin of Red didn’t particularly care about that. Either way, in the end, Lancer of Red, like the others, was a pawn under their control.
But the problem was the five former Masters. They had drunk poison, causing their minds to roam through another world—but they were sane. In order to convince them to give up their Command Spells without their Servants noticing any abnormality, Semiramis had to avoid directly harming them.
Though she was Semiramis, the world’s oldest poisoner, she was unable to bring about satisfactory results under such unfavorable conditions. In other words, she didn’t know when they might wake up from their dream worlds.
Rider and Archer wouldn’t side with them at this point. But what about Lancer?
Even though he hadn’t exchanged a single word with his Master and the Master rights had been transferred to Shirou, he still continued to be a loyal Servant.
It was only natural that Assassin of Red’s mistrust would rise. If his Master awoke and gave an order, Lancer would undoubtedly betray them. Regardless of what the situation was.
Therefore, after a certain point, Assassin of Red had planned to kill these five, whom no one was interested in anymore. It was something trivial, amounting to the act of clearing away scattered garbage at best.
But Lancer had stood in her way.
“You all may think of these five however you wish. But as long as my Master is here, I won’t let you have your way with them.”
He had dispassionately declared that he would protect the five of them. Since then, he had continued obstructing Assassin of Red’s plot even while doing the extremely boring job of guarding the Hanging Gardens.
Of course, forcefully breaking through would be simple. Within these Hanging Gardens, Assassin of Red’s power and authority was truly absolute. She could restrain Lancer of Red and kill the five of them with just a single hand. However, that wasn’t a secret assassination, but an act of battle.
…In other words, there was the danger that the deed could be exposed to her Master and the other Servants. So the issue wasn’t in the means, but rather that it wasn’t something that should be displayed openly for others to see. Therefore, Assassin of Red had reluctantly withdrawn every time she found Lancer in her way.
Even so, after repeating this so many times, she was becoming irritated. Assassin of Red spoke up.
“Just give up already, Lancer. They won’t awaken in time for the coming battle, and you have no obligation to listen to their orders.”
There were unconcealed thorns in her voice. Rider and Archer were easy to understand in comparison; they were both stereotypical heroes. Foolish heroes, who intolerably prided themselves in their strength and skill, carried a great sense of honor and pride, and ran across battlefields.
But—Lancer of Red, Karna, was somehow different from them. Though he should have been a perfect hero in terms of his bloodline, history and everything else about him, he was distinctly unlike the many other heroes Semiramis knew.
“The relationship between a Master and Servant has nothing to do with obligation. It’s a contract and a bond. Assassin, even you are not cooperating with Shirou Kotomine out of mere obligation.”
“Of course not. He and I are joined together by the contract between Master and Servant. However, Lancer. Your Master is Shirou, not that man there.”
Assassin said that and pointed at the man who Lancer of Red should have respected as his Master.
She provoked him with a scorn-filled laugh that no normal hero would be able to endure without flaring up. But Lancer didn’t show any signs of anger at her smile and nodded with an attitude that, rather than solemn, was simply too serious and honest.
“Your words are certainly correct, Assassin. The only ones who are truly joined together as Master and Servant within our camp are you and your Master. Your Master uses you and you use your Master. But there is service and trust in that relationship. You can’t betray him; it’s probably the best you can do to simply imagine doing so.”
Assassin became speechless at Lancer’s words. Just now, hadn’t this Heroic Spirit pointed out [something] deep inside her far too smoothly?
After a short silence, Assassin of Red slowly opened her mouth.
“…What, did you, just say?”
“Nothing really. You can’t betray your Master and he trusts you as well, so I was merely complimenting you for being the ideal Master and Servant pair.”
Assassin of Red glared at Lancer. “How unexpected,” Lancer said as he tilted his head in puzzlement. He had certainly been praising her. He had intended to praise her. However…
“What… ridiculous nonsense are you saying?”
“It’s not ridiculous. You two are ideal as Master and Servant. Your Master won’t betray you either. Not because you will repay betrayal with the greatest punishment, but because he understands that it’s important not to betray each other as the best possible means.”
—He wouldn’t betray her.
She couldn’t help but feel that those words were something very precious.
Ignoring Assassin’s turmoil, Lancer spoke further.
“I won’t tell you to agree, but at least understand, Assassin. Survival of the fittest is the providence of this world—however, we are not beasts. There should be some kind of humanity which covers our instincts. And that humanity takes the form of various different ethics… My ethics demand that I not betray my Master. That is who I am.”
Lancer said that while knowing full well about Assassin of Red’s seemingly useless paranoia and Archer of Red’s overly cold logic.
“I will protect them here. That’s all I have to say.”
The illusion of Assassin staggered, showing how deeply shocked her true self sitting on the throne was.
“…I, see. Fine, do as you wish.”
“Thank you, Assassin.”
Just before her illusionary phantom disappeared, she turned back to Lancer and asked a question.
“—Hey, do you really think I won’t betray my Master?”
“…That’s a foolish question. Assassin, are you such a paranoid monomaniac that you would want to kill the person you adore?”
At those words, the illusionary Assassin lost her composure and became greatly flustered just before vanishing from the room.
Lancer of Red gave a murmur of relief. Assassin probably wouldn’t aim to kill these five after this.
“—It seems my duty is finished. Master, I was unable to exchange a single word with you, but I wish you good fortune.”
“You listening? The trick to making good coffee is…”
Nodding to his former Master who was staring at empty air and talking to an imaginary person, Lancer went into spiritual form and vanished from the room.
Meanwhile, Assassin was dumfounded as she sat alone on her throne.
—You can’t betray him; it’s probably the best you can do to simply imagine doing so.
What thoughtless words. Finally, an emotion like anger began boiling up within her.
She seethed so much that her blood was boiling.
“I can’t betray him? Me, Semiramis—?”
Ridiculous. The reason she didn’t betray him was only because their objectives aligned. He would save humanity, and she would become the one who controlled humanity after they were granted salvation.
The one to assume the throne would be her alone. The rest were all her “livestock”. It wasn’t like she would oppress them; she would merely control and rule them. That would be easily granted once she obtained a physical body, and as long as the Greater Grail was within these Hanging Gardens, there was no need to worry about running out of prana either.
All that was left was to simply settle things with the Black camp. Once everything was over, it would be more than possible for her to betray her Master.
Don’t make me laugh, Lancer. I can betray him. I merely have no need to betray him.
In fact, she could betray him even right now. It would be simple for her to erase his will, steal his rights as a Master and make him her puppet.
That’s right. There’s no need for me to follow along with that boy’s whims. I can steal everything from him. Just like always, just like I’ve done countless times, I’ll make everything of his mine using my words, fingertips and sweet poison—
She imagined it. His face when he was betrayed. After turning shocked like an idiot and gradually understanding the truth, his face would twist hideously in anger. And then, he would cry and scream in sorrow—
“…No, that’s wrong. He wouldn’t show sorrow like that.”
Most likely, he would just widen his eyes slightly in surprise. And then, her Master—would surely smile.
It didn’t work out. My sixty years of effort came to nothing.
And yet, he wouldn’t lament. Because Shirou Kotomine had already abandoned any regrets four hundred years ago. From the moment he forgave everything and swore to save everyone, he threw away everything he had.
He wouldn’t become angry at her betrayal. He would simply deal with it and take appropriate measures.
That was a sad way of life. Just as scorn was unavoidable with betrayal, he was scorned each time he was betrayed and had the things he built trampled down. But, no matter how many times it repeated, he would simply rebuild again from the beginning.
When he was betrayed, he wouldn’t seem like the betrayed one at all. Having already discarded all despair, he would simply leave behind the betrayer and move forward.
Assassin, who stabbed others from behind, could never catch up with him.
She could only watch his back as he left.
She felt no emotions like sadness or frustration—but rather a vague loneliness like a wispy cloud.
CHAPTER 1 END