He was wracked by intense pain every time he breathed. An ugly scar was spread across his blood-stained chest, a mark from the shots that had hit him. Three bullets had gouged through his chest muscles and reached his heart. If they had been shot at his forehead, he would have certainly died.
But that didn’t mean that he had escaped from death’s door—in fact, there was a gun pointed at Sieg right now.
It would be over for him if he was shot in the head. And the mother in front of him was replacing the gun’s bullets with a single smooth hand motion. Her movements were extremely calm, showing no signs of panic. She’s used to killing… Sieg surmised.
In only a few seconds, this woman was going to shoot him in the head.
I won’t let her. Activate Magic Circuits—concentrate prana in palm—acquire information on lodged bullets—leave thinking about whether or not it’s possible to swing my arm at the same velocity as the bullet and crush it in the instant they touch for later—chant the spell—!
The gun fired.
Two bullets were fired, and he repelled each one.
His right arm grated… Abnormalities had definitely formed within the bones. Enduring it, he gritted his teeth and glared.
The mother who sought help. The mother who laughed along with her daughter. Who are you?
A Master, or perhaps someone else? Either way, she wasn’t an innocent person who could be left alone. But, in complete opposite to Sieg’s determination to fight, the woman didn’t pull the trigger any further, and instead suddenly dropped her coat and began running away.
Caught by surprise by her attempt to escape, Sieg frantically chased after her. But then a terrible clanging sound cut in between them. Immediately after, two figures leapt out before him.
One was Ruler, and the other was a slender young girl wearing a leather bondage suit. Ruler was running fiercely enough to crush the pavement beneath her and held a human girl in one arm. The other girl climbed up and clung to the wall of a building with clearly inhuman speed.
The girl looked at Sieg’s face and slightly widened her eyes, leaking out a gasp of surprise.
Ruler immediately swung her flag—and the high-pitched clang of steel rang out. A crushed scalpel was knocked to the ground.
It appeared the girl had thrown a scalpel at Sieg and Ruler had knocked it away.
“…You aren’t dead. What a shock.”
“Assassin… you seem to have a score to settle with him, but I’m your opponent right now.”
Apparently, that girl was Assassin of Black—in other words, Jack the Ripper.
“What a bad joke.”
In response to Sieg’s murmur, Ruler sighed in agreement. She still held the unconscious little girl in her arms.
“She’s—the daughter of that mother, if I remember right.”
“Yes. More importantly, Sieg-kun, did you find her mother?”
Ruler questioned him while holding her flag ready and cautiously watching Assassin. Assassin was still clinging to the wall, unmoving as she held two scalpels ready. Like a spider, Sieg thought.
“…It appears the mother is Assassin’s Master.”
“Eh? How do you know?”
Sieg silently placed a hand on his chest to display the blood clinging to him.
“She shot me.”
“I see, she shot you… A-A-A-Are you all right, Sieg-kun!?”
In actual fact, bullets had been shot into his heart, so he was far from all right—but he currently felt no significant pain or hindrance to his movements.
“I’m fine. More importantly, Ruler. I’ll chase after the Master, in order to bring down Assassin of Black here as well.”
“…No. It might be better if you let her go.”
As she said that, Ruler instantly swung her flag—and before Sieg could ask why, a jarring metallic sound rang through the area. And then, the shards of a broken scalpel were scattered on the ground near Sieg.
“I won’t let you lay a hand on Mother.”
There was clear killing intent within Assassin’s otherwise exceptionally impassive expression. I see. Sieg immediately understood. If he moved away from Ruler, Assassin would definitely attack him.
Naturally, Ruler would act to defend him, but Assassin rivaled proper Heroic Spirits like the Knight classes or the Rider class when it came to swiftness. In the worst case, if she managed to circumvent Ruler, Assassin would easily kill Sieg.
“Sorry. It seems I’ve become a burden.”
“It’s fine… It’s all right, Sieg-kun. There’s no need for you to transform. If we wait just a little longer, reinforcements will arrive.”
…I see. Sieg decided to maintain a wait-and-see stance. Sieg had resolved to transform into Saber should it come to a fight earlier, but he decided to call it off. If he transformed, Ruler’s good will would be brought to naught. Preventing that was very important to Sieg.
Sieg weaved prana and then took out the slender sword from the scabbard that now hung from his waist. It was the sword that Rider of Black had given him before. It was the weapon of a Servant, a spiritual being, so normally, only Rider could materialize it by weaving it out of prana.
But, most likely because it had been loaned to him by Rider’s own will and Sieg himself had become something exceedingly close to a Servant, he was able to materialize it in the physical world using the same trick he used to activate his Magic Circuits.
“We wouldn’t do that if we were you, you know?”
Giving a small smile, Assassin of Black whistled. The sound of pitter-pattering footsteps resounded around them—and then Ruler’s face turned pale.
“Assassin, you wouldn’t…!”
Hearing Ruler’s tense voice, Sieg also became on guard and observed their surroundings. From within the fog, the faint forms of countless children holding scalpels in their hands appeared. Some of them were slightly familiar—among them, there were also children who he had seen playing earlier during the day.
They wore open-mouthed and empty expressions, their entire bodies convulsing in spasms, and their arms holding the scalpels were turning black… Assassin of Black was an aggregation of vengeful spirits. Those spirits appeared to have possessed these children. The separated vengeful spirits were weak enough on their own that a saint like Ruler could easily dissipate them by reciting holy scripture, but Assassin wasn’t using them as soldiers, but rather as mobile hostages. Since Ruler was a saint, she had to protect the children… or so Assassin had judged.
“Hmm, then Ruler, and also the, umm… Master over there? Try protecting every single one of them.”
No need to even ask, Sieg thought as he moved. He repelled the thrown scalpels and at the same time knocked down the children who rushed at him. The children weren’t attacking by their own will, but rather that of the vengeful spirits that possessed them. They were unconscious from the start, so making them faint was useless, and he could only buy time by knocking them down.
But as he desperately pinned down each child, Assassin’s scalpels came flying. Moreover, they were aimed mercilessly and incessantly at the children.
A thrown scalpel stabbed into Sieg’s left arm. Defending against scalpels without knowing when they would come flying while also dealing with the attacking children was, as expected, beyond Sieg’s capabilities.
Though Ruler was able to dispose of the scalpels, she was forced to take a step back for every one she took forward, preventing her from getting near Assassin. If Ruler carelessly approached, Assassin would easily rain scalpels down on the children.
For an instant, Ruler thought about using a Command Spell, but the female Master who had run away was a problem. Based on Assassin’s behavior, her relationship with her Master was closer to that of a mother and daughter rather than Master and Servant, and as such they probably wouldn’t be stingy about using a Command Spell depending on the situation. It was likely that any order that Ruler gave for Assassin to commit suicide or hinder her would be immediately canceled out by her Master’s Command Spells.
The situation was in a complete stalemate, but Sieg’s exhaustion was steadily increasing. It was a battle of time. Either Rider would plunge into the fog, find them and join the battle first, or Assassin would kill Sieg before then.
Even if defeating Ruler was impossible, Assassin determined that killing Sieg would be easy. A surprise attack was already impossible in this situation, but even so, she could easily strike at his openings.
Assassin threw down a rain of scalpels and began driving Ruler and Sieg apart, though the pivot of her plan merely required that she drive Sieg far enough away that Ruler couldn’t reach him in a single jump.
She controlled the children with her vengeful spirits and gradually separated Ruler and Sieg. Even as she threw her scalpels, Assassin moved to a location from which she could kill Sieg with a single strike.
Ruler purified the vengeful spirits possessing the children one by one.
But the children were many, and most of all, their value as hostages remained even with the vengeful spirits dissipated. It made protecting them easier, but that was all.
In the midst of that, Ruler realized.
“Sieg-kun! Get back over here!”
Hearing Ruler’s shout, Sieg also finally noticed it. He and Ruler had become completely separated by the attacking children between them.
Even if Ruler tried to protect Sieg from Assassin’s attack, with over a dozen children acting as a wall and blocking her way, she would be unable to protect Sieg for the span of an instant.
Assassin jumped off the wall and charged at Sieg. She held a butcher’s knife in each hand, and moved to cleave off Sieg’s head with them.
Her absolute confidence in victory.
The despairing sound of his defeat.
But there was something even swifter than Sieg’s decision to transform or Assassin’s motion to cut off Sieg’s head.
An arrow shot by the god-tier bowman—Archer of Black—tore through the fog enwrapping the town like a ferocious shark.
It was too late by the time Assassin noticed it. The arrow, filled with prana, exploded like a cannon shot. It was strong enough for the aftershock to blow away Sieg too and send him tumbling across the ground. Assassin, who was directly hit by it, had part of her body blown off.
Howling in anguish, Assassin still managed to jump away. She leapt from building to building and tried to escape somewhere safe.
“—You’re not getting away!”
Ruler dashed towards her with the speed of a shooting star.
Because Assassin was concentrating on running away, the movements of the possessed children became dull, and having noticed that, Ruler dashed across the surface of a building’s wall and brandished her holy flag at Assassin of Black.
Assassin tried to directly block the attack with the butcher’s knives in her hands, but the holy flag didn’t have a sharp edge like a blade. It was a weapon that blocked attacks and knocked down the enemy with its steel pole.
Furthermore, Jeanne d’Arc’s flag was a holy treasure that had always accompanied her on the battlefield and was treated as a symbol even now.
Jack the Ripper’s knives were symbols of fear—but still, there was no way they could win against a holy flag that had won great fame on the battlefield.
Assassin of Black fell. With a strike strong enough to make a crater in stone pavement, she was rendered pretty much incapable of any further fighting.
The sorrow of the Assassin class was that she didn’t have the endurance to trade direct blows with those of the three Knight classes or the Ruler class.
“Guh… uu, uuu, uuuuuuugh…!”
Even so, Assassin of Black continued moving and tried to escape. Ruler glanced at Sieg. The possessed children were all falling to the ground as if their souls had come out.
Ruler guessed that Assassin of Black’s injuries were probably the cause. There was no error in her conclusion. Assassin of Black had weakened to the point that she had to call back and gather together the vengeful spirits possessing the children.
Even the fog created by her Noble Phantasm was gradually clearing away.
“Mo… ther… Mother, Mother…!”
While fallen to her hands and knees and trying to run away using only her arms, Assassin of Black called for her mother. Ruler couldn’t help but feel pity for her.
If someone asked whether Assassin was a perpetrator or victim, she was unmistakably a perpetrator. But most likely, her origins had begun from being a victim.
Looking at her form and hearing her voice, Ruler came to such a conclusion.
And—even so, she was evil. If left alone, the phenomenon known as Jack the Ripper would probably swell and grow until it could no longer be crammed into the frame of a Servant.
She was a unique, abnormal monster that existed outside conventional boundaries.
Ruler cut in front of the crawling Assassin of Black and placed a hand on her face in order to sublimate her with a Baptism Rite.
“The Lord forgives all injustice and forgives all calamities. And he frees your life from the grave, feeling love and compassion—”
Perhaps sensing something, Assassin’s ice-blue eyes widened in fear.
Without responding to Assassin’s words, Ruler commenced chanting.
“No… no… no, no, no…! Stop it! Stop, stop, stop! Mother…! Save me, Mother…!”
Ruler gritted her teeth and continued the chant, but suddenly sensed a massive outpouring of prana.
“This is—a Command Spell!?”
Instantly, Assassin of Black disappeared. The Master had mostly likely sensed that her Servant was in danger and used a Command Spell. Just as Ruler thought, she appeared to be watching Assassin’s condition from somewhere. Her lack of effort to hide their murders might have disqualified her as a magus, but it seemed she firmly understood the system under which the Holy Grail War functioned.
Ruler faintly sensed traces of Assassin of Black’s presence. She was mostly likely still somewhere in this town. Now that the fog had cleared away, searching for her would be easy. They couldn’t allow her to slip away here.
“Let’s chase after her, Sieg-kun!”
Sieg nodded and began running after Ruler’s wake.
(1) Unlike how she usually says it, Assassin says “Mother” without overlapping it with “Master”.