Sieg and Rider of Black had left Trifas to head to Bucharest. Fiore had furnished a safe house in the city and had asked them to head there first.
…Apparently, she was conducting a ritual that couldn’t be shown to outsiders. Leaving aside Rider of Black who was a Servant, the homunculus would possibly live past the Great Holy Grail War, and so Fiore had requested that he go to a location as far away from the castle as possible.
Sieg didn’t know what kind of ritual it was, but it couldn’t be helped if his presence would be in the way, so he agreed. Fiore also offered to provide him with other homunculi to attend him, but Sieg politely declined.
“I’ll catch up with you soon.”
Ruler said that while clasping her hands together. Her eyes were very serious as she gazed at Sieg. Ruler had to take care of two tasks that Sieg and Fiore had respectively requested of her, so she was staying at the Fortress of Millennia a little while longer. In other words, their group’s greatest safety net would be gone from their side.
“Listen, okay? Please don’t let Rider cause any trouble. This is not just my request, it’s the request of Archer of Black and all of Yggdmillennia as well.”
The homunculi behind her nodded in unison.
“…Understood. I’ll somehow keep Rider in check.”
Sieg clenched his fist as if to show his determination.
“Heeeey, you guys, I am right here, you know? No, you do know, don’t you? You’re doing it while aware that I’m here. Damn it, are you all trying to pick a fight with me!?”
And Rider of Black, who was watching all this from Sieg’s side, lost his temper. But their unease wasn’t unwarranted. After all, he was Astolfo, who was famed for his reason evaporating in his legend. He had caused lots of trouble both big and small while here in Trifas as well.
“Now, now, please do calm down. I have faith in you, Rider.”
Archer of Black spoke gently and patted Rider’s shoulder.
“Archer… *sniff*, you’re the only one who believes in me.”
Rider’s eyes grew moist. Caules spoke up while watching the scene with scornful eyes.
“You were quite troubled over whether you should go to watch Rider, though, Archer.”
Rider of Black repeatedly struck his hands against Archer’s chest. Sieg came forward to calm him down. While watching the two of them with a gentle gaze, Fiore spoke to Sieg.
“Once we rejoin you, we’ll immediately head out towards the Hanging Gardens. Perhaps you should say goodbye to the other homunculi here while you have the chance?”
Sieg stiffened at that word as if taken by surprise. What Fiore said was natural, but it was only now that he truly realized that he would have to part with his fellow homunculi.
“All right. Rider, please wait a bit.”
“Sure. Say all your farewells until you’re satisfied.”
“Sieg-kun, partings are a sad thing. Please make sure to engrave them in your memories.”
Sieg nodded at Ruler’s words and then went to bid farewell to the other homunculi.
Most of the homunculi nodded lightly at his words of farewell and replied by tapping his shoulder or patting his head.
Goodbye, do your best, be well, we’ll miss you, don’t die, don’t lose, good luck, take care of your body—All of their words were ordinary, yet precious.
Taking in each of their words one after another, Sieg lastly headed to see the homunculus who basically served as their leader, Tool.
Due to having received great damage during the previous fog incident, she still couldn’t get out of bed. Her consciousness was clear, but she didn’t seem to have yet regained the strength to get up and work. According to Gordes’ diagnosis, she would return to normal in another three days, but—
“Yeah. Whether I win or lose, I probably won’t come back here.”
If he lost, he would probably die. Even if he won or managed to just survive, he wouldn’t return to Trifas.
…He didn’t know what he would do then. Would he distance himself from the evil of humans, or believe in the goodness of humans?
“I see. That’s fine… Go, then. You have a future, after all.”
Tool lightly grasped Sieg’s hand and softly struck it. Sieg nodded with a humble expression.
“Truly, thank you very much.”
“…Hmm? I think I’m the one who should be saying thanks, though.”
Tool tilted her head in confusion at Sieg’s words. Sieg sighed—how should he explain it? He was simply glad that she and the others were alive. That was all.
As he was perplexed over how to express it in words, Tool giggled.
“Well, saying farewell like that really is like you… You can live and survive anywhere. You’re our hope, after all. You’ll surely do something amazing. All the homunculi here believe that.”
Something amazing, huh?
Even now, he was aware that he was an “amazing” existence. Even so, that was only a transient miracle. Once the Great Holy Grail War ended, he would probably live an ordinary life like anyone else—
“No. You’ll surely do something amazing.”
Tool giggled from the bottom of her heart. It soon changed into a spasm-like cough, so he hurriedly gave her water and decided to leave the room.
Even if he gave the same farewell to everyone, there were slight differences among their reactions. Some were sad, some were happy, some were lonely at the prospect of his departure, and some held expectations for his future—
The differences were slight, but that was a result of their individuality, as slight as it might be. Even if they were reared the same way, even if others paid no heed to them, Sieg thought that was something precious.
…He felt reluctant to part with them. But that feeling of reluctance and regret was probably something previous as well.
After bidding farewell to everyone, he joined back up with Rider of Black at the castle gates.
“You finished your farewells?”
“I see. Then let’s go and do our best!”
Rider firmly grasped his hand. That strength of his was reliable and made Sieg happy. And at the same time, he had a thought.
Perhaps someday… no, not ‘perhaps’, I will definitely have to say farewell to Rider as well.
At that time, will I cry or laugh? Or will I not feel anything at all? If possible, I hope I feel something.
After getting on a bus going out of Trifas, Sieg and Rider at last arrived in Bucharest at some point in the evening. They walked through the city following the map they had been given. Along the way, they ended up being surrounded by several men of large build, but fortunately neither of them was injured. They seemed to give up after Rider, using his strength which had once dragged around a giant, bent a nearby light post with his bare hands.
“Then, let’s get going.”
Rider had walked away with a calm face… Since the situation would have turned out much worse if Rider hadn’t displayed his strength like that, Sieg concluded it wasn’t a problem.
The building that had been prepared as their safe house was made of brickwork and was closed off from the outside, the perfect example of a ‘building for insulating prana within its confines’.
Sieg used the password and key he had been given to unlock the safe house’s magically sealed door. It was almost night time. Bucharest was dangerous at night… Though it wasn’t really dangerous for Sieg and Rider themselves, it would be a different matter for anyone who tried to pick a fight with them. It would be fine if it merely ended with a few hits, but in the worst case scenarios, Rider might forget to hold back his strength and break their necks, causing corpses to pile up.
They entered the safe house. The first floor consisted of a living room and kitchen. On the second floor there were bedrooms, with a total of four beds prepared including those for guests. As expected of an Yggdmillennia safe house, the furnishings were quite lavish. There were high-quality leather sofas, Persian rugs and a tulip-shaped crystal chandelier—and when the energetic Rider immediately broke part of the chandelier upon their arrival, Sieg decided to pretend he didn’t see anything.
There was nothing here to serve as a magus’ workshop, like a basement or attic room. However, when he paid careful attention to the interior walls, he could tell that there were several alarm spells prepared. It appeared to be a spell that would link with the beds and forcefully wake them up the moment the walls were destroyed or some act of magecraft was detected in the surrounding area.
There was food in the refrigerator, so they decided to not go out of the house any further today. As usual, Rider passed the time merrily without going into spiritual form.
Fortunately, the damage that Rider caused concluded with merely the chandelier he partially bent by swinging from it, a guest bed he completely broke by jumping up and down on it three times, and three broken plates and two cups he smashed when he tried to help with washing the dishes. As long as it wasn’t anything outside the safe house, the Yggdmillennia magi surely wouldn’t get angry at destruction of the house’s furnishings.
Night time came. After taking a quick shower, Rider immediately fell asleep in bed. On the other hand, Sieg gazed at the softly twinkling stars outside the window and recalled Archer and Ruler’s words.
Think, and act.
The words were quite simple, but they were in fact quite hard to put into action. After all, even Ruler and Archer, who were respected and revered by the masses, sometimes became troubled and worried. If it was simply about continuing to survive in this world, the answer was simple—breath, eat, excrete and sleep. Repeating that cyclical process could be called ‘living’.
In that regard, Sieg was also living.
But when other people were added into the mix, it became quite complex. How should he regard and interact with others? Were they evil or good…? And was he himself good or evil?
He didn’t think that the city where evil was constantly produced that Assassin showed him was just… But perhaps the men and woman who lived in that city had thought it was.
Then what should he do?
How could the problem be resolved? How could everyone become happy without making any victims and with no one being evil?
“…I don’t know.”
Most likely, even sages like Archer of Black, innocent heroes like Rider of Black and saints like Ruler can’t resolve this problem, Sieg thought.
Sieg’s thoughts were correct.
If there was something evil, then heroes were the ones who fought and destroyed that evil with all their might.
But no concrete evil had existed within that city in the first place. What that place needed were salvation from poverty, the restraint of crime and, most of all, happiness for all who lived there.
It wasn’t possible to achieve that. Then was it right to leave it alone? No, it wasn’t. Then should he choose to save only the people who caught his attention—? But that was impossible for him.
“The salvation… of humanity, huh?”
…Speaking of which, the other side’s Ruler, Amakusa Shirou Tokisada, had declared he would save humanity.
Sieg honestly thought that was a wonderful thing. Sieg had also done his own research on Amakusa Shirou Tokisada. Though he was never officially recognized as a saint, he had risked his life to accomplish something that anyone could truly call [good].
He had stood up against the tyrannical rule of his time. He had given the pride of being human back to those who weren’t treated as humans. That—was a splendid thing that Sieg himself could never do.
Even if he was the enemy and his method was likely mistaken… if the salvation of humanity could truly be accomplished, it would be a wonderful thing. And if his method wasn’t mistaken, everyone could forget their grudges and work together to help him—
Sieg tilted his head in puzzlement. He felt something slightly out of place in his thoughts just now.
But no matter how much he thought it over, he couldn’t find the source of that out of place feeling. Since the night was growing late, Sieg decided to give up and go to sleep.
The next day, Sieg (reluctantly) went out to eat with Rider, but the chances of them getting dragged into trouble doubled as a result. Rider’s excitement had risen further after basking in the sunlight. Having to deal with criminals or mere hoodlums like last night was still better than what happened when they went out.
The worst case was when Rider meddled in a quarrel between spouses.
“You guys should fight it out and clear away all your pent-up feelings!”
That was Rider’s advice when he tried to mediate between the two, the worst possible conclusion. In the end, it turned into a fist fight while splashing around within a water fountain, and the wife had obtained victory with a right hook to the jaw.
…True, the couple had thanked Rider and gone home while smiling with their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders. But there had been too many sacrifices to reach that point—a coffee shop’s window was broken, their clothes became soaked from the water fountain, a table was toppled over and smashed, the plate of food that had been sitting on top of it had struck Sieg right in the face, and the sauce of the uneaten pasta on the plate had made Sieg’s face sticky and oily.
And, for some reason, the reimbursement for the damages was pushed onto Sieg and Rider, and they ended up being billed more than half of the money that they had received as a budget from Yggdmillennia.
It couldn’t be helped, since Rider ended up forcefully dragging Sieg along each time he stopped to look at something. And Rider frequently stopped as they walked. He stopped to watch street performers, he stopped to watch a charming young couple, and he unhesitantly went to help an old man who was taking a long time to cross the street.
“You really do like trouble, don’t you?”
“Uh-huh! After all, trouble is fun, and I like people too!”
When Rider said that with a beaming smile, Sieg wasn’t able to do anything. It was true that Rider liked people. He smiled joyfully just by walking around and watching ordinary people.
“Why do you like people?”
“Hmm, I don’t know. Then let me ask you right back; why should I hate them?”
When asked that, Sieg became troubled. What Rider watched with a smile were humans who were neither just nor evil, but merely ordinary.
There was neither good nor ill will there. It was just a piece of ordinary backdrop scenery—Sieg didn’t like that wording, but that was all it was to him.
“That’s right. It’s like a piece of backdrop scenery. Those people are surely living lives completely unrelated to us. They probably do both bad things and good things. Which one depends on their choices, but—if I step in and influence them, maybe something will change. That’s what makes it fun!”
Rider said that while smiling and laughing. He waved his arms and shouted excitedly.
“The hoodlums we met last night might think of returning to being upright citizens after having been beat up by me! The quarreling spouses earlier might have a child, and that child might discover something amazing! Or perhaps nothing will change at all! Yeah. That’s why I like humans, and why I love ‘what if’ stories!”
Rider spun around and danced in the middle of the street. The people passing by avoided the lively Rider half out of annoyance and half out of amusement.
“I see… Yeah, somehow… I can understand that.”
Sieg thought as he watched Rider. Whether or not Rider saw that scene of hell, or even if he had seen a worse hell himself in the past, he would surely come to a clear solution by easily saying ‘That is that, this is this’.
As long as there were humans, he would continue to interact with them, while hoping that something fun will happen—
“Ah, hey you! You can’t steal my wallet like that! Hey, hey, it’s dangerous to swing around a knife—fine then! *Bang*!”
Sieg sighed and stepped forward to end this latest round of trouble quietly.
“I understand that you like people, but please at least avoid making greater trouble.”
Even Rider couldn’t help but hang his head dejectedly when Sieg rebuked him.
“Anyway, it’s already past noon. Let’s eat and hurry home—”
As Sieg said that, Rider’s face suddenly sharpened. Sieg thought for a moment that he was going to make more trouble, but Rider’s expression was too grim for that.
Ignoring Sieg’s questioning, Rider abruptly began running.
“This presence… There’s a Servant nearby…!”
Sieg frantically ran after Rider. They went off the main street into a back alley. The surrounding people made way for them in confusion. People might get dragged into something again—thought Sieg for an instant, but it was a needless fear.
As he ran at full speed, Rider was overflowing with the dignity of a gallant knight that he only ever showed at night. Half-hearted people hesitated to even call out to him.
Sieg ran—but Rider’s feet were swift. He gave up on catching up, and the best he could do was to follow the trail of Rider’s prana in order not to lose sight of him. Sieg could only think that the reason for Rider’s confusing and disordered route was because he was chasing after another Servant.
“I’ve almost caught up…!”
On his way, Rider jumped over a child playing on the street, ran over a fence to avoid a cat, and even barged into an apartment room and then jumped out its window on the other side.
Sieg’s body tensed as he heard Rider’s shout ahead of him. It was true that a Servant was quite close by. Even Sieg could sense it, since he contained Saber of Black in his body. Most likely, the other Servant had already notice their presence as well.
It was thus that Rider turned the corner of a back alley and Sieg followed after him from a little further behind.
In the back alley that was strangely dark even though it was midday, ‘she’ stood there with her back to them.
“Ah——!?” shouted Rider in surprise.
She turned around while letting out a brutal growl—
There was no way either Rider or Sieg could forget her face.
There was no way they couldn’t recognize her prana signature.
Despite the fact that they were in the middle of town, she was the only one who seemed as if she was on the battlefield even now.
“Y-You! What are you doing here!?”
Saber of Red replied while glaring at the two of them with suspicious eyes.
“…That’s my line.”