Archer of Red shot down Assassin of Black’s Master. Even if she had left them alone, it wouldn’t have been a problem. Rather, it would have been better for Archer’s side if Assassin and her Master fostered further chaos that way. The only ones bothered by the fact that they were murderers and deviating from the rules of the Great Holy Grail War were magi. It had nothing to do with Archer of Red.
But—Assassin of Black had involved children.
At that instant, Assassin and her Master became enemies to Archer of Red. The Master was especially unforgivable. Assassin was a child, but her Master was an adult—and she had allowed her Servant to involve children.
Archer had nocked an arrow and intended to end both Assassin and her Master together. But surprisingly, Assassin’s Master, perhaps because she was trying to protect the Servant in her arms, had turned in Archer’s direction.
Coincidentally, theirs gazes met.
She did not have the appearance of a crafty magus, but rather wore modern clothing—she was clearly an ordinary woman.
The woman had worn a fleeting look of sorrow, and then, without resisting at all, simply waited for the arrow to be shot. No, that wasn’t right. It appeared the woman was trying to protect Assassin.
—Even thought it was a meaningless act.
Archer of Red didn’t waver. If her target was letting herself be shot, Archer wouldn’t pass the opportunity up. Neutrally, emptying herself of all sentiment, she shot the arrow.
The shot was more than enough to kill a single person. The arrow pierced the Master’s chest, and Archer of Red could sense from the feedback that it had killed Assassin’s Master.
“Mother…! Mother, Mother, Mother…!”
Assassin’s Master placed her hand on the cheek of the young girl that was desperately calling out to her, and murmured something to her before finally dying.
A feeling similar to guilt gouged Archer’s chest, but it didn’t move her heart. Even if she was a child, Assassin was a Servant. Servants were beings summoned in order to win the Holy Grail War.
Even if she took the form of a child, that was simply the form of her heyday in life.
…Though it was irregular, there were such cases among Heroic Spirits.
Assassin of Black merely stared at the corpse of her Master in a daze. She would disappear eventually at this rate even if Archer let her go, but even if it was a one-in-a-million chance, another Master might appear to make a contract with her.
I’ll get rid of her here and now, Archer decided, nocking another arrow and immediately shooting it. Assassin didn’t move an inch from her kneeling position beside the corpse. Perhaps she didn’t even understand that an arrow had been shot at her.
It’s better that way, thought Archer. It would be better if she just let it all go like this. All of Assassin’s regrets, hopes and despair would be irrelevant if she disappeared.
Assassin merely convulsed for an instant when the arrow pierced her heart, not even letting out a scream.
Puzzled, Archer of Red approached her. The arrow definitely should have destroyed Assassin’s spiritual core. But she didn’t display any response to it.
There was no sign of pain, or of her body fading away and vanishing. It was an abnormal sight. Assassin was merely looking up at the sky. Her blank face made it clear that she was no longer capable of fighting.
And yet, Archer of Red felt a chill go down her back and started to feel fear towards something she couldn’t place.
Heroic Spirits were those who had become figures of bravery by conquering fear in all forms. Naturally, as a Heroic Sprit herself, Atalanta understood that well.
She didn’t fear the darkness of the forest deep in the night. She hadn’t feared the giant boar that a god had released on the earth.
She could even laugh and overcome battlefields where a single instant’s decision could lead to death. That shouldn’t have changed in the Great Holy Grail War either.
There was no room for her to feel fear in this situation. She had shot down the enemy, and even if she hadn’t, Assassin was on the verge of death. This was enemy territory, but she was confident that she could make her escape on her swift feet. Even if everything proceeded in the worst possible way and she perished on this battlefield, she would have regrets, but she would accept it.
That was the karma of battle. Any Heroic Spirit had at least that much resolve.
Archer of Red took a step back. No, the thing that conflicted her right now was something decisively different from that kind of fear.
It was the feeling that, just by remaining here, something would end.
What was there to fear? Assassin of Black no longer had any means of counterattack.
Just what kind of threat could a Servant, who’s Master was dead and who couldn’t use her Noble Phantasms, pose?
There was no threat. There shouldn’t have been, and yet—
Assassin of Black’s head spun around her neck like that of a doll’s, and turned to face Archer of Red. Archer couldn’t help but think that her blank eyes were beautiful like blue crystals.
Assassin of Black opened her mouth.
After Assassin spoke that single word, a stream of black mud-like mass spewed out from her mouth.
Archer of Red frantically jumped away, but her reaction was fatally too slow.
Summoned as Assassin, Jack the Ripper was an amalgamation of vengeful spirits. The unborn children who had been abandoned in the Whitechapel district had merely temporarily materialized by taking the form of a young girl.
Archer of Red’s arrow just now had released all of them from the focal point known as [Jack the Ripper].
Looking like a thick fog, the vengeful spirits attacked the nearest living being, Archer—and completely engulfed her.
—In that instant, Archer of Red saw hell.
Question: What is hell?
Answer: Eternally continuing torture.
Answer: Eternally repeated slaughter.
Answer: Eternally unending despair.
Indeed, each and every one of these can be called hell.
However, there are actually a great variety of hells in this world.
The city of fog, London, the Whitechapel district—to certain people, that place was definitely hell. Just living was difficult, and it was impossible to have a life you could take pride in.
How could there be pride in a world where nine-year-old girls sold their bodies on the street? The stench of the tanning factories and meat processing plants always filled the air, and rats and cockroaches rejoiced in this society. There was no such thing as the ‘strong’ there; everyone who lived there were miserable weaklings, pitiful victims and cruel assailants.
Yes, it was hell.
Hell, this is truly hell. Children, there are children, so many children.
Their eyes are dead. They understand that there is no love in this world. No, that’s wrong, there is love. There definitely is. And yet, I can’t call out to them. I want to help, I want to save you all, and yet my body won’t move.
All the children turned their eyes towards her.
I’ll save you! I’ll save you! I was abandoned just like you all in the past. I was saved from that fate! The joy of that, the happiness of that, I’ll bestow it to you all—
She had lost the ability to speak, but even so, Archer of Red tried to appeal to them in her heart. The children merely approached her silently.
There was no joy, sorrow or hatred in them. Their cold and inhuman eyes were similar to those of sharks.
Archer of Red unconsciously tried to step back in chilling revulsion, but one of the children grabbed her arm.
The children opened all their mouths at once.
Smoothly, the child entered inside her skin. Another one grabbed her legs—and penetrated her blood vessels. Others penetrated her nerves, bones, organs, muscles, brain…
Archer of Red screamed.
Her heart was tormented not by fear, but by the despair of the children and herself—