…For the next two days after that, everything was peaceful. Staying inside the hideout would let them avoid unnecessary trouble, so Sieg wanted to spend time there idly—and ponder a vague thought he still couldn’t quite put into words.
But his Servant wouldn’t allow that.
“Come on, let’s go out and play!”
“Wait, what are you saying—!?”
And the holy maiden’s attempt at restraint was meaningless in the face of Rider. Rider of Black pulled them both along with him to his heart’s content.
They marched through the town and ate, went around the many famous tourist sites, and talked and laughed without minding the suspicious gazes of those they passed. Whenever they occasionally encountered trouble, Rider and Ruler dealt with it. Irritated people would smile wryly when the flawlessly cute Rider talked to them, and those who with ill intentions would run away hanging their heads after hearing Ruler’s reprimanding tone and words.
Sieg felt as if he was walking with a typhoon and an angel. It felt extremely safe, but also extremely tiring.
But he was only tired. And that weariness itself was extremely comforting.
“—Are you having fun?”
Rider asked him that, taking Sieg by surprise. For some reason, Ruler also stared intently at Sieg as if waiting for his answer.
“Of course I’m having fun.”
It was true that he felt a slight amount of smoldering impatience inside. He was anxious about the future, and dark clouds hanged over their destination. Naturally, he hadn’t forgotten about any of that. He hadn’t, but—
The sunlight was dazzling, the sky was clear and blue, and the people passing by were overflowing with energy and liveliness, for good or ill.
Just walking through such a place made his heart pound with excitement.
Sieg smiled, and Rider and Ruler nodded in satisfaction.
He didn’t know the reason for their reaction. Even when he asked why, the other two merely traded looks and giggled… It’s surely something good, Sieg thought.
—When it became nighttime, Sieg thought.
He wracked his brain over difficult questions over things he didn’t have an answer for, like human goodness, human evil and human instinct. He read books and sought the guidance of the other two people with him, but even with that, he still wracked his brains over the answers he couldn’t find.
And he also thought about Amakusa Shirou Tokisada.
“…Why is he trying to save humanity?”
Sieg suddenly murmured that while reading a book on a sofa in the living room.
“Hmm? Isn’t that because humans are sinful beings to him?”
Rider answered as if it were extremely obvious.
It was a simple answer, but Sieg also thought it was correct. Humans were sinful beings by nature, and that was precisely the reason Shirou was trying to save humanity. Though Sieg didn’t know how he intended to use the Greater Grail to bring it about—in any case, Shirou was filled with the sense of duty that he must save the sinful humanity.
“Then does Amakusa Shirou hate humans?”
“I don’t think so, though?”
While lying down on another sofa, Rider pointed at the book on Amakusa Shirou that Sieg had been absorbed in reading. It was a book he had brought from the Fortress of Millennia, thinking it might be useful somehow. Though Sieg had been bestowed knowledge about the other Servants, he wouldn’t be able to understand what kind of person the enemy’s leader was unless he tried to learn about him.
…If it was just a matter of fighting, there might not be a problem with not knowing. If he changed into the great hero Siegfried, he could probably defeat Amakusa Shirou Tokisada, who, in the end, was merely a saint from the Far East, in one blow.
But Sieg somehow felt that was wrong. Regardless of which side defeated the other, Sieg wanted to at least know about his opponent. Even if he could understand or agree with them, he should be aware of their existence and objectively know about their life.
Pulling the trigger to kill the enemy without knowing anything about them or their goal—Sieg felt that that alone was something he shouldn’t do.
Therefore, thought it was only vague details, he had learned about Amakusa Shirou Tokisada. And the more he learned, the less he understood.
If he was summoned as a normal Servant, then Sieg could understand. Even when he was summoned as Ruler, there probably hadn’t been any problems when it had been in the Far East.
According to the research of the Yggdmillennia magi, the Third Holy Grail War had apparently been extremely gruesome.
The armies of supposedly allied countries each moved secretly amidst the war along with the many participating magi—and by the time anyone realized it, it had developed into a massacre that no one could control.
In his first life, Amakusa Shirou Tokisada had witnessed the massacre of thirty-seven thousand people, and in his second life, he saw the hideous conflict between magi and armies.
“Shouldn’t it be impossible for him to like humans after that—?”
“…I don’t think so.”
Ruler suddenly spoke up from her own sofa where she sat. Rider and Sieg looked at her. Ruler murmured as if she were speaking to herself instead of them.
“If you live as a hero or a saint, you will naturally see both the ugly and beautiful sides of humans. Human evil, human goodness, or perhaps something that transcends either of them. No matter how much of the ugliness he saw, he wants to believe in the beautiful things. It’s precisely because he wants to continue liking humans that he wants to save them—that might be how he thinks.”
That’s a reasonable conclusion, Sieg thought. But Rider objected while wriggling his feet on the sofa.
“But would he reach the conclusion of ‘saving humanity’ in that case? Hmm… like, wouldn’t he wish something like erasing bad humans and leaving only good humans?”
“That isn’t salvation, but selection. No saint or hero has the right to choose who should and shouldn’t be saved.”
Sieg titled his head curiously at Ruler’s words.
“But you yourself fought in the past, didn’t you? In order to protect your homeland and defeat the enemy. Isn’t that selecting the people who should be saved?”
“…Yes, that’s true. I don’t think that was mistaken. But even if it wasn’t mistaken, my actions were a ‘sin’. I didn’t think of myself as a saint; I’m merely a commonplace woman who heard God’s laments.”
Therefore, that wasn’t selection, but a choice. She had decided to save these people and destroy those people. That was the nature of how humans saved other humans.
One must never classify those who should be saved and those who shouldn’t from high above.
“Shirou Kotomine—Amakusa Shirou Tokisada should also understand that. He obtained the Greater Grail not for the sake of saving only those who should be saved, but to save all humans. However, that is a mistake. That’s precisely why I’m here.”
“A mistake… huh? Then, if it wasn’t a mistake, you would also choose that salvation of his?”
Ruler stiffened at Sieg’s question. The coffee cup in her hand trembled slightly.
Hearing Sieg’s curious voice, Ruler frantically shook her head.
“N-No. It’s nothing… Yes, I think I would consider it if that salvation was perfect. But there is no such thing.”
“Right? It’s impossible! If there were such a thing, some much wiser guys in the past would have already done it! Living beings can’t live just being saved by others!”
“…Then does that apply to me who was saved by you?”
Rider glared at Sieg after he spoke.
“Geez! That’s not it! You weren’t saved. You simply saved yourself! I just helped a little! To reverse the question, would you have thought of escaping by yourself if you had known that you would eventually be saved?”
Sieg became at a loss for words.
…If he had known he would be saved for a fact, would he really have fought so desperately?
If he had known that someone would save him if he just waited—
“—That’s right. It’s certainly true that you were saved by Rider of Black, Sieg-kun. But when you consider the process until he did so, you were the one who saved yourself first. You shouldn’t disregard that.”
Sieg felt an emotion that was really hard to describe after hearing Ruler’s words. It wasn’t an unpleasant feeling, but some odd emotion that mixed happiness and shame and tickled his heart somehow. Though he understood it was ‘embarrassment’, Sieg still took a little while to respond.
“…Is that so?”
“It is, it is.”
While saying that, Rider picked up some Yakigashi1.
“Oh, strawberry. What luck!”
“Muu. Rider, haven’t you been eating nothing but the strawberry-flavored ones since earlier?”
Ruler glared at him. The sweets that she had bought along with coffee so they could enjoy it together were drastically decreasing in the strawberry-flavored ones due to Rider’s very specific eating preferences.
“I’m just randomly grabbing from the pile… Oh, another strawberry.”
“A-Aren’t they all gone now!? Rider, you! Gluttony is a grave sin!”
“I-It’s fine! The chocolate ones are also tasty! I’m going to bed, good night!”
Perhaps sensing his disadvantage here, Rider suddenly went into spiritual form and ran away.
While watching all this, Sieg grabbed one of the chocolate-flavored sweets. Putting his dulled sense of taste to work, he managed to taste the chocolate.
“I think it’s plenty tasty.”
He threw one of the sweets to her as she acted downhearted. When she ate it, Ruler’s cheeks loosened into a happy smile.
“Ah, it’s like I’m falling into decadence…”
“…I think you’ve already plenty falling into decadence when it comes to eating, though. No, sorry. That was a slip of the tongue.”
When Sieg reflexively pointed that out, Ruler pouted.
“This is a unique form of summoning for me, so it can’t be helped. Besides, my calorie consumption is quite fierce, so she doesn’t have to worry about getting fat either.”
“She? …Ah, you mean Laeticia.”
Ruler—Jeanne d’Arc—had been summoned using the girl known as Laeticia as a core.
“Yes. She’s a very good girl.”
The instant the topic turned to Laeticia, Ruler’s expression relaxed.
“I would think so. Even if she isn’t fighting, she has the necessary character to follow you into this situation.”
“Yes. Though she seems to have become interested in something else—”
Ruler smiled in amusement. Something else… Certainly, amidst the unbelievable fantasies of the Great Holy Grail War, magecraft and most of all Servants, an ordinary person could easily become interested in any of them.
“Ah, I know. You’re surely misunderstanding, Sieg-kun.”
“…Did you read my mind?”
Sieg tilted his head in confusion, making Ruler smile all the more.
“Yes. After all, what she’s become charmed by is—!?”
Before she could say any more, Ruler covered her mouth with her own hands.
“N-No. It’s nothing. More importantly, Sieg-kun, would you like to talk with Laeticia? We’re not in a pressing situation right now, after all.”
Sieg tilted his head curiously at Ruler’s question. Even if she asked if he would like to talk, it would actually be his first time meeting her.
“I felt like she kept her distance when I first met you, but is it all right to talk with her?”
He didn’t mind being hated, but he wouldn’t force someone who hated him to talk—so Sieg tried to be considerate of Laeticia.
—Ruler suddenly stood up and shouted loudly. Sieg stared at her in puzzlement, and Ruler covered her mouth with a shocked expression.
Silence. After a while, Ruler sat back down on the sofa.
“…Could it be that you’re Laeticia?”
When Sieg asked that, she tried to feebly shake her head—but then nodded.
Her expression was somehow helpless, unable to calm down. The way she anxiously clenched her hands was certainly like that of an ordinary girl that could be found anywhere.
“Umm, yes. That’s right, I’m… Laeticia.”
“Nice to meet you, sort of, I guess.”
Laeticia smiled and nodded at Sieg’s words. Her smile seemed a bit sad to Sieg.
“Yes, nice to meet you, Sieg-san. I’m truly glad to have gotten the chance to properly meet you. I’ve only watched you up until now, after all.”
“I see. Umm… are you all right with me? Sorry, that was vague. Err…”
Laeticia giggled and nodded at Sieg’s ambiguous question.
“No, it’s not a problem. It’s just that, how to put it… I was nervous before. It’s fine now. I’ve been watching Sieg-san for a while.”
She displayed a soft smile that was slightly different from that of Ruler—even though their facial features were exactly the same, the atmosphere they gave off was clearly different from each other.
“Then that’s good… But you’ve really gotten dragged into something serious.”
Someone who lived a normal life had suddenly been possessed by a saint one day. Moreover, she got involved in a war over the Holy Grail and witnessed cruelty that one normally wouldn’t be able to endure seeing.
Even if she could simply put her mind to sleep inside, there were probably times when she saw things she didn’t want to see.
“The holy maiden Jeanne-sama treats me very preciously. Besides, truth be told, my heart is dancing with excitement a little as well.”
“You heart is… dancing?”
Sieg tilted his head curiously, and Laeticia nodded.
“Umm, I realize it’s imprudent of me—but, I was someone who didn’t know about magecraft or anything really until now. If Jeanne-sama hadn’t descended upon me, I probably would have lived my entire life without knowing any of it.”
She clasped her hands together as if in prayer and continued to speak.
“But I was able to learn through this experience. I’ve met heroes who are only told of in myths and legends face to face. Whether they be enemies or allies, it’s all been a precious experience for someone ordinary like me. And I also, umm, got to meet… you too, Sieg-san.”
“…It’s true that homunculi are a rare sight.”
After some thought, Sieg nodded in understanding—and Laeticia’s became downcast at those words.
“It’s not because you’re a homunculus. It’s because you’re Sieg-san.”
Sieg tilted his head. His reaction, which could only be described as naivety itself, showed how he just didn’t understand.
This person dispassionately assessed his ‘personal’ value to a frightening degree. He was a Master, the Servant Saber of Black, and a homunculus that could use magecraft. And he probably thought he was nothing else besides those things.
He treated his kindness towards others, his bravery which didn’t lose to that of heroes and everything else about him—as non-existent. He thought it was natural for anyone to have those qualities.
Laeticia found that unbearably sad.
“…Umm, Ruler… No, Laeticia.”
Laeticia raised her face. Sieg stared at Laeticia with a serious gaze. He straightened his back and looked straight at her.
“Did I say something rude to you?”
“Huh? Umm, why do you think that—?”
“No, it’s just that you were looking at me sadly. Ruler would probably correct me or get angry if I did something rude. But right now you’re Laeticia. I thought you might get sad instead in such a case, but is that wrong?”
So it’s like that, Laeticia thought. She became saddened again, but immediately understood.
In the end, this was something that had to be conveyed with words. Because Sieg couldn’t see that which anyone could naturally understand or boast of in the depths of their hearts.
This might be her best chance.
Be brave, she reprimanded herself.
If she didn’t say it here, she might never get to say it—Laeticia hated the thought of that.
“No, that’s not it. I… That’s right, I simply don’t want you to make light of yourself, Sieg-san. Umm, I’ll only say it once, okay?”
Laeticia sucked in a deep breath, leaned forward and spoke to Sieg.
“Sieg-san, even without being a Master, Servant or magus, you are a truly wonderful person just for being yourself.”
Those words left Sieg with a dumbfounded expression for a little while. Laeticia nodded in satisfaction and then quietly closed her eyes—
“—I also think so, Sieg-kun. And I pray that you’ll eventually think of yourself that way as well.”
Ruler lightly patted his hand. Completely dumbfounded, Sieg nodded vaguely. Ruler hoped that Laeticia’s words would act as some kind of impetus and help him understand little by little.
Sieg couldn’t continue his sentence.
He questioned the world, he questioned humans and he questioned good and evil. But he still hadn’t questioned himself. If he continued questioning the world while remaining empty inside—he would probably one day conclude that he was a worthless being.
The value of his life wasn’t something to be decided by others; he had to decide it for himself. And when he acknowledged his own value, it would help form the path Sieg would walk.
Ruler wanted to believe that. She wanted to protect him. Even if they wouldn’t walk alongside each other, if she could at least help him find his path—
She was hit by a headache similar to vertigo. You have no right to speak of dreams, a voice growled inside her mind.
You brought him here—you led this homunculus to the battlefield as if it were completely natural. By the Lord’s will.
“Ruler, what’s wrong?”
Sieg asked her worriedly, and Ruler frantically shook her head.
“It’s nothing,” she answered, and Sieg then fell into deep thought once again. Watching that, Ruler thought once more.
—I certainly brought him here.
She didn’t know what would happen next. But she had a responsibility. Ruler bore responsibility for not having made him run away.
As such, she would continue to protect him… even if she had to wager her own life to do so.
As she swore that within her heart, Ruler felt relieved. She could wager her life for him. She felt relieved at that part of herself.
There was one thing that she didn’t notice… These feelings that seemed to burn her body from the inside out consisted of not just guilt.
Laeticia found that sad. Even if she pointed it out to her with words, the holy maiden probably wouldn’t acknowledge it. And by the time she did acknowledge it, it likely would be far too late.
Thus, the final night would end with everyone passing their time peacefully.
—The night wore on.
Archer of Black clenched a fist and raised it towards the starry sky above.
He wasn’t thinking of his coming opponent as his former student. The enemy was a great and matchless hero, the strongest warrior Achilles, who ran across the battlefield over the course of the Trojan War—
His heart cheered. And at the same time, he resolved himself. There was no proof he could win even if he fought Achilles in perfect form. When he considered it coolly, Archer was at a 7:3 disadvantage. Achilles’ spear was certainly swift. Even if Archer completely grasped his abilities and habits in battle, the possibility that he couldn’t process the data fast enough in real time was extremely likely.
Moreover, that was based on the assumption of first annulling the disadvantage of his foothold and his opponent not using his chariot.
To bring about such a convenient development, considerable luck and planning was necessary.
But that was precisely why Archer engraved the fact that he had to win in his heart. Because victory was the final lesson he could teach to his Master.
How strange, he thought with a smile. He would never have thought he would pass the final night feeling so calm. Only one pair could win in a normal Holy Grail War.
In such a situation where it would be natural for him to die amidst regret, he was lucky to have fortuitously met so many comrades—unbelievably so.
We’ll definitely win.
With his heart full of overflowing feelings, Archer of Black reflected upon that simple conclusion.
—The night wore on.
Rider of Black slept. He slept regardless of the fact that he was a Servant. He fell asleep despite not needing to. And he saw a dream.
Naturally, it was a dream of his Master.
…However, Sieg’s life was so short and condensed it was only a fleeting twinkle. The first person he met soon after being born was none other than Rider of Black himself.
And so, Rider met himself as he watched Sieg’s past.
He felt Sieg’s feelings and thoughts as he watched. He experienced just how happy Sieg had felt when Rider appeared—and said he would save him.
Ah, I’ll protect you, I’ll protect you, I’ll protect you, I want you to become happy!
Rider’s heart danced. Rider had forgotten that they would part soon… or rather, he blocked it off from his thoughts. He understood. It would surely be painful and sad.
If Rider could physically incarnate, he would be able to stay by Sieg’s side, but that was quite difficult. Whether or not they managed to get back the Greater Grail, there was no telling whether it would be able to grant a wish at that point.
But, he could vaguely tell—it was already too late for that. His instincts were quite reliable at times like these.
So, for now, let’s only think of fun things. I’ll do my best as a Servant. Rider thus swore.
His chest was hot and his head swirled with formless thoughts, and that was why he could understand as he became unbearably excited.
He would fight with his life on the line for his Master. He couldn’t help but feel happy about that.
As he surrendered himself to sleep, Rider of Black’s lips slackened into a slight smile.
—The night wore on.
It was late at night. Unable to sleep, Caules absentmindedly gazed at the courtyard outside from his window. His human eyes could only faintly make out the contour of things in the darkness at best. But he managed to make out the silhouette of the rubble that hadn’t yet been cleaned up outside.
Caules had often watched his Servant from here. She had usually followed him everywhere from behind, but the only independent action she took was flower picking in the courtyard.
Though it was only a few days ago, it felt nostalgic to him, and he hated himself for feeling that way.
At the same time, he was surprised at how clearly he recalled that scene. Within their scarce conversations, Caules had only once asked Berserker of Black a certain question.
“I thought you would have hated flowers?”
She had tilted her head, as if not comprehending what he had said. Caules had smiled bitterly—perhaps that was only natural. The episode about her throwing flowers into a lake was only a fictional production from a movie.
When he apologized and told her to forget about it, Berserker had nodded and began engrossing herself in flower fortune-telling once more. Holding the peeled petals in her hands, she then stood up and threw them up towards the sky.
The flower petals had danced downwards on a gentle breeze.
It only lasted an instant—but that scene was vividly engraved in his mind. She had seemed unbearably ephemeral as she stood there amidst the falling petals.
He should have talked with her a bit more. Anything would have been fine, about the things they each liked, the things they each hated; he should have talked with her about anything without reserve. Even if she couldn’t exchange words, she should have been able to convey something in her own way.
But she was no longer here. Caules had let her die in an manner that was the same as if he had killed her with his own hands.
The piece of rubble that was stabbed into the ground of the flowerbed couldn’t help but look like some kind of gravestone to him. And then his thoughts began to turn into an even worse direction.
“Idiot, stop it.”
He knocked his head. He didn’t have the time to be soaking in sentimentality. Everything would end tomorrow night. He didn’t even know whether he would be alive then.
But—he still had a responsibility as a Master. Even if his Command Spells were gone and his Servant had vanished, Caules had participated in the Great Holy Grail War by his own will and fought by his own will.
So he would ascertain the outcome right to the very end, as far as he could go. Those were the shackles Caules had placed on himself.
Caules decided to try sleeping even if he had to force himself. Naturally, he had stimulant-type herbs and spells at hand, but those were only for use in emergencies or when his research was making progress. If he managed to fall asleep, then that was fine. Still, he’d had the Magic Crest transplanted into him not long ago. His body was hot and in pain, so he wouldn’t be able to sleep well anyway.
Additionally, there were also spells and herbs for preventing nightmares. Should I use one?—Caules wavered over it a little, but decided not to in the end.
He accepted the nightmares about the past and the near future without running away. He knew it was terribly self-righteous of him, but he believed he should face at least this much.
Caules fell asleep, while praying that he and, most of all, his sister would manage to get through tomorrow safely.
—The night wore on.
Unlike her brother, Fiore decided not to sleep. Part of it was that she had trouble falling asleep, but she was also scared of seeing dreams. Her resolve was like soft pudding—it would collapse with the slightest shake.
Unlike usual, Archer was still in materialized form at this hour.
“There’s something I want to think about while maintaining this physical body for a while.”
It wasn’t that large of a burden on her, so Fiore had gladly allowed it. Most likely, he was thinking on a castle lookout not far from here right now.
Fiore thought about Archer. Even though tomorrow would be their final farewell, she felt strangely calm.
Only, she felt an indescribable sense of transience, feeling that something precious was gradually getting further away. Was it because she would give up magecraft after tomorrow, because of her coming parting with Archer, or was it perhaps both? She thought about it absentmindedly.
Before she had transplanted the Magic Crest, she had thought it would be fine this way.
Immediately after the transplant, she felt regret and worry over the fact that she might have done something terrible.
And now, her feelings wavered little by little like a pendulum.
She had thought about discussing it with Archer. About how she might be regretting her choice. But she stopped herself from doing so. This wasn’t something she should speak of in this situation. Most of all, her Servant seemed like he would give advice without changing expression at all right now.
—She would do her best on her own.
It was quite disheartening, but also something precious. A person’s life was a path chosen even amidst a repetition of regrets. Those regrets would also probably melt away little by little every day.
But even so, she would continuously make new regrets one after another. She would forget them, cover them up, and live while always glossing them over—Ah, how human of her that was.
There were only three things in her life that she had decided to never regret.
The first was how she had loved that dog. Its irritated expression when she washed it in the shower and cleaned off the dirt. Its softened expression when it dried in the hot wind. The way it wagged its tail when she patted its head—its final days were precious memories to her no matter how tragic it was.
The second was her summoning and meeting Chiron as Archer of Black. It was one of the few events she could proudly call a success in all regards in her life.
The third was having learned magecraft… She had enjoyed it. It wasn’t depressing or completely pointless. The joy she felt when she successfully used spells burned in her chest even now.
She would be able to live proudly with just the memory of that alone.
Even if she lamented what she lost, she still felt pride over having once had something more precious to her than anything else.
“Ah, but I might die tomorrow.”
She murmured that aloud to herself, and then giggled. Naturally, she would feel regret if she died—but she felt like she would be able to take pride in it even if she only managed to make a single step forward.
Without sleeping, Fiore quietly waited for tomorrow.
(1) Yakigashi: Japanese baked sweets.