While walking through the streets, Saber of Red thought back on the earlier question.
“What kind of king—huh?”
Saber of Red had answered ‘a good king’. That wasn’t a lie. At the very least, she had no intention of being a bad king that would be struck down by another hero.
But, in the first place, what should she do to become a good king? She should probably rule not tyrannically, but benevolently. As long as the confrontational relationship with neighboring countries wasn’t resolved, she should train and strengthen her nation’s soldiers—No, that wasn’t it.
It wasn’t something so obvious. Rider of Black seemed to have been asking a much more fundamental question.
—What kind of king do you want to become?
Saber of Red thought it over. Right now, she was fighting in order to become king. If she challenged the Sword of Selection that bestowed the qualifications of a king, she was sure that she would pull it out.
She wanted to become the ideal king. She wanted to become a king that could protect everyone that she should protect, a king that everyone wished for.
Then, should she become the ideal king of the masses like her father?
Or should she become a greedy king who would drag down everyone for the sake of granting her own dream?
An ideal king would surely feel suffocating. A greedy king would surely be despised by the people.
Saber of Red absentmindedly watched the people walking down the streets. According to the knowledge the Holy Grail had given her, this country of Romania still had fresh scars from when it was ruled by a tyrant.
He had ruled tyrannically under twisted delusions and had possessed a gorgeous palace constructed meaninglessly. In the end, the tyrant was struck down by a rebellion.
I won’t become that kind of king, thought Saber of Red.
Then, should he become a perfect king that sacrificed herself for her ideals like her father? Even though even her father had been forced to bend down in defeat halfway down that path?
Rider had pointed out the very thing she had averted her eyes from.
She had merely yearned to ‘become king’—while never looking at what lay beyond that goal at all.
Had other kings seen it? Tyrants, wise rulers and even foolish rulers who had left their names in history—had they seen what lay beyond the establishment of their rule?
What had her father, Arthur Pendragon, tried to see in the future of the country she ruled?
“…What future? It was all destroyed by me.”
Saber of Red gave a self-deprecating smile. King Arthur’s rule had gone well. She had certainly guided Britain into peace. The one who spoiled all that was none other than Saber of Red herself.
What was so bad about it—? After all, she hadn’t regretted it even once.
Many people had lost their lives in that rebellion, including her and even her father who as a knight had tried to be the sword and shield of the people.
But, if she hadn’t rebelled, the soul of the knight known as Mordred would have died.
Not acknowledged by anyone, gaining no interest from anyone, not loved by anyone or loving anyone. A peaceful world was a wonderful thing. The people who wagered their lives for its sake were also wonderful.
But why had the one who had given up everything for the sake of that wonderful dream not received even a little bit of affection?
She didn’t even think of asking to be loved. If at least… if at least some interest had been shown towards her, if she had been at least looked at, that alone would have been enough.
What a foolish thing to say. You would never have been satisfied. You would have endlessly sought love, sought compassion and finally sought the right to the throne, until you spoiled that peaceful rule in the end—
A whisper came from deep inside her. Though she felt irritated at it, she also agreed with it.
That might be true, Saber of Red thought, reflecting on herself. After all, she didn’t even know what affection was. Was it sweet, bitter, sour or bland?
…But all people in this world sought it. It was surely a habitual thing, like a narcotic.
Until evening came, Saber of Red sat on a bench in a small park and stared up at the sky with her head in the clouds. She couldn’t laugh at that homunculus. He was struggling and worrying over how to view human beings, but Saber of Red was struggling over what it meant to be king.
From the perspective of others, either worry was probably something people would laugh at as a stupid joke. But if they didn’t obsess over these things, neither she nor that boy would be able to live—
She passed the time like that for a little while, but in the end, no one appeared to try and talk to her.
When she returned to the hotel, Shishigou appeared to have finished his work and was wiping his sweat off with a towel.
“Welcome back. Did anything happen?”
Thinking that there was no particular reason to report what happened at lunch, Saber merely replied, “Nope, nothing.” Then, just as her Master was heartily drinking some mineral water, Saber made up her mind and asked him.
“Hey, Master. Have you ever loved someone?”
Naturally, Shishigou choked badly in response. After desperately coughing, he looked at his Servant reproachfully.
“What’s with this all of a sudden? That’s a very odd question—”
“It doesn’t matter why. Have you, Master?”
Surmising that she wasn’t teasing him, but asking it seriously, Shishigou started to think it over while rubbing his beard.
“…In what sense do you mean? Like love for one’s family, or love for a lover?”
“Is there a difference? Then either one is fine. Have you ever loved?”
Saber of Red leaned forward and stared at Shishigou. She didn’t seem like she would retreat a single step until she heard his answer.
“Like I thought, that’s how magi are.”
“Hey, that’s prejudice. No, that view of magi isn’t exactly mistaken—but a magus can also love someone in their own way.”
Though, that love was probably a little different from the kind of love that Saber of Red was asking about. To be a magus and to attain greatness as a magus was their happiness, so their love was often far from normal love, taking a twisted form. They had their own way of expressing love, in other words.
“In my case, I’ve been divorced from my wife since a long time ago. I wasn’t able to produce any children, and you already know what happened to my adopted child. My father disowned me the moment I decided to be a bounty hunter.”
His wife had been a woman who thought the prosperity of her family was everything, as proper for a magus. She divorced him before love or even the appearance of love could form between them. He could only vaguely remember her face at this point.
His father had tried to do whatever it took to make a successor without giving up. But Shishigou Kairi had declared that one sacrifice was enough and left home. His father had been completely opposed to his decision back then. Magi hired by his father had attacked him several times in order to take back his Crest as well.
His mother—was someone who he didn’t care whether she was there or not. She hadn’t been involved in raising him at all; she was simply the woman who gave birth to him.
“What, so you haven’t known love either, Master?”
“I do know about it. I just never had any luck with it.”
And most of all, he had no interest in it. The world of decent and respectable people extolled it loudly. Love is everything, love is life, love is a great thing that conquers all—
Shishigou, who lived in the unrespectable world, knew. Love was simply a tense state of mind, and it didn’t have any useful impact on the use of magecraft and weapons. Rather, it increased the chances of failure instead of success.
To magi, love was unnecessary—even if they understood that it was something precious for humans.
“…Tch. Like I thought, magi are no good.”
Saber clicked her tongue annoyingly—and Shishigou smiled wryly.
“Magi are pretty much failures as human beings, Saber.”
“Master. I will pull out the Sword of Selection. I must pull it out. And I will become king.”
Shishigou nodded silently. And then, Saber spoke frustratingly.
“But that’s as far as I can imagine. What should I do in order to become a king that surpasses the King of Knights—I don’t know what to do at all.”
Her worry was earnest and poignant.
“And that made you think of loving someone?”
“…I don’t understand it. I don’t understand it, so I thought I should become a king different from my father.”
Mordred’s father—the legendary king whose fame extended across the world, Arthur Pendragon. The great and unequaled hero who had struggled through many wars and succeeded in uniting Britain.
“My father’s reign was absolutely perfect. Perfectly impartial and upright. He understood that ten couldn’t be maintained, so he took nine and cast away one. There was neither hesitation nor confusion in his actions. All except in regard to me.”
As she spoke of her father, Saber of Red’s eyes shined blazingly. Saber held both fanatic faith and freezing hatred towards her father.
Both of them were correct feelings and correct views.
‘What should I do?’ was the question she couldn’t bring herself to ask. She understood enough to know that this wasn’t a question Shishigou could answer for her.
Shishigou blew out smoke form the cigar he had lit without her noticing and spoke to his Servant.
“…Well, I do understand one thing.”
“You have to face your father.”
“Face my father—”
“I understand you hate him. I also understand how much you admire him as well. But those feelings come from chasing after him. If you’re going to surpass him, then analyze. Your father, other people and yourself. Observe, analyze, sort everything out, and reach a conclusion.”
“…I don’t particularly admire him.”
Saber of Red turned the other way annoyingly. Shishigou would only be stirring up a hornet’s nest if he retorted the wrong way, so he merely murmured, “Is that so?”
“Well, it served as a good reference. Thanks, Master.”
“You’re welcome. Now then, we’ll remain on stand by for a little while until the Yggdmillennia guys move… My gut is telling me that the next fight is going to be the last battle. Once it’s over, I’ll get my reward for this job and you’ll grant your wish with the Holy Grail and challenge the Sword of Selection. I’d like to see it happen as thanks for our partnership until now, but I suppose that’s impossible.”
It was unclear how she would challenge the Sword of Selection. But if her wish was granted properly by the Holy Grail, it would undoubtedly require jumping beyond the concept of time and space.
He didn’t think a mere magus like himself could cross over it to watch.
Even so, he still wished to see the moment she became king. Did he feel that way out of loneliness, or was it simply a selfish whim on his part—?
“Don’t worry about it. You’ll also grant your wish at that moment, Master. As if either of us would have the time to think about the other then—”
Just as she finished saying that, Saber burst into laughter. Shishigou frowned at her sudden mirth.
“Hey, what is it?”
“No… I just remembered your wish. To have descendants, right?”
“It’s not something to laugh at. I’m serious here.”
Saber waved her arms while laughing as if to hold him back.
“No, that’s not it. If your wish is granted, that means you’ll have children, right? Shishigou Junior…”
After having managed to say that much, she was unable to hold back and started laughing again. Most likely, she was imagining in her head a baby wearing sunglasses and smoking a cigar.
“Master’s child… kukuku… No good, it’s too hilarious to imagine!”
“Don’t go off and imagine someone else’s child and then laugh. Unbelievable—”
Even as he was astounded by her behavior, Shishigou’s lips curved into a smile.
Saber of Red’s worries were likely so serious it would affect her continued existence. It wasn’t something that Shishigou could speak on any further.
Because he and she weren’t partners walking the same path, but merely cooperators joined out of mutual interest. Her path and his path would eventually diverge from each other.
—Suddenly, something like a passing demon seized Shishigou’s heart.
He opened his mouth, but stopped himself just before he put it into words. Even if he was a magus, Shishigou was the type to worry over omens and jinxes.
Naturally, speaking or even thinking of an impossible future was an ill omen.
“Now then, Master. What do we do next?”
Saber of Red leaned forward readily.
“Yeah. You’ve finished your preparations, right? What do we do now?”
“Ah, that’s what you mean. Next—we wait.”
“I see, we wait, huh… Until when?”
“Who knows? I said so earlier, but we can’t do anything until the others start moving.”
“…Could it be that there’s nothing to do?”
“Of course there is. I have calls to make, reports to write and my mind to sharpen. There’s a ton of stuff to do.”
“Anything for me to do!?”
“None—if I said that, would you get angry? Yeah, you’d get angry.”
“I won’t get angry! But I’ll go on a rampage!”
Saber growled like a mad dog. Shishigou sighed and handed over a DVD he had purchased while she was out in town.
The image of a fighter plane scattering flames and flying through the air was on the package cover. It wasn’t an actual photo, but rather seemed to be an extremely realistic drawing.
“Go watch it. This is what you need to do right now.”
Shishigou said that while puffing out his chest proudly.
Even as she grumbled, she put the DVD in the video player prepared in their hotel room. After three minutes of the movie playing, Saber began to get engrossed in watching it.