Several hours had already passed since Shirou had dived into the Greater Grail. He would probably require an even more considerable amount of time to complete his task. The Greater Grail was a work of art on the level of the divine, and Shirou was trying to modify it from its very foundation. There was no way he would finish quickly.
For the time being, Caster had returned to his study and resumed writing. It was then that he received a telepathic message from Assassin of Red.
“Caster, has Master already dived in?”
“Yes. Have there been any changes to his prana?”
“No. There’ve been no changes to the prana being supplied to us and the prana accumulating in the Hanging Gardens from him. I suppose this means that, even if the interior of the Greater Grail is another world entirely, the Line connecting Master and Servant can’t be severed so easily.”
Shirou had been most concerned about the moment he dived into the Greater Grail.
If his link to the rest of the world was cut off, everything would immediately fall apart.
“In that case, I shall continue with my writing.”
“Wait, Caster… There’s one thing I want to ask you. Is the end that you wish for my Master glory, or failure?”
Caster just barely managed to stop himself from doing a spit take at those words.
“Glory, of course.”
“I know, but I’m making sure just in case. If things go wrong and this plan is setback because of you, I’ll have you take responsibility—quite painfully so.”
“O Empress, have no fear. Our Master took precautions against that just earlier with a Command Spell. To my bitter disappointment… Ah, no, I of course didn’t have any intention of writing a tragedy from the start, though!”
“…Hmph. As if I could trust the words of a clown like you. Listen well, Caster. Your value as a writer lies only in the books you write. And the moment I judge that your books are not beneficial to us, I will lose any reason to keep you alive.”
Caster felt as if he’d been captured by a viscous carnivorous plant—though of course he kept that thought to himself.
If he said the wrong answer, he would be melted and digested in an instant. Assassin of Red was most likely the most skilled Servant in terms of cruelty in the Great Holy Grail War.
From what Caster saw, Assassin of Red was likely always evaluating whether to stealthily kill anyone and everyone in this world, including even her own Master. Even if someone had no killing intent and only the slightest ill will towards her—if she judged from their every word and attitude that they would cause harm to her, she would unhesitantly move to assassinate them.
This was the greatest reason why Rider and Archer kept their distance from Assassin. Of course, the fact that she was a figure of authority with the position of empress was part of it, but more importantly, she was always planning to kill them from the start. Telling them to get along with her was the height of difficulty.
That’s why the two of them detested her. The neutral Lancer should have noticed the empress’ nature as well. However, he merely thought ‘That’s just how she is’ and accepted it without reproach.
And to Caster, it was only natural that she be that way.
She was an empress who reigned far above others. She definitely wasn’t a weakling, but she was better described as a person of undisputable and absolute authority than a strong warrior. And as a woman who had tricked and deceived everyone throughout her life, it was only self-evident that she wouldn’t let her guard down even the slightest bit in the presence of others.
“I’d like to fervently advocate my existential worth as a court jester. I assure you that, while my books and writings are always imperfect, that is precisely what makes them beautiful stories.”
“Imperfect? Not perfect?”
“That is only natural, O Empress of Assyria. A perfect existence, a perfect human being, and a perfect story constructed through only order and logic—are completely shitty and boring! [My salad days, when I was greenin judgement, cold in blood!] My stories are imperfect and therefore beautiful, are imperfect and therefore genuinely entertaining. Failures means death? I don’t mind! There’s a chance of failure, and we will have to pay the price if that happens! And that’s precisely why I can rouse myself to excitement and write a masterpiece.”
“Enough! Even through telepathy, your voice is loud and grating! I’ll repeat myself one more time: failure is not allowed. Make sure to write Shirou’s—Amakusa Shirou Tokisada’s story right until the end.”
Caster coolly smiled at those words, and chose that moment to pose a question he’d wanted to ask for a while now.
After all, their Master wasn’t present right now. This was his best chance to hear her true feelings.
“Then allow me to ask you in return. O Empress, which do you want? Would you rather our Master’s dearest wish be realized, or would you enjoy trampling over his wish more?”
—For a brief instant, Assassin’s breathing stopped as she was caught completely off guard by the question.
“The realization of his wish, obviously. A Servant serves their Master, after all.”
Though silent, Assassin was clearly dissatisfied by Caster’s response.
He was definitely the weakest of the remaining Servants that currently survived, and yet he feared no one.
“Such a perfunctory answer! Assassin, I’m asking if you want to see his destruction or not. Now, answer me!”
Pierced by the Caster’s words, Assassin realized that this was actually a serious question for a clown like him.
In that case, she also had to answer sincerely as an empress. If she spoke falsely, that would make her an even worse fool than a clown.
There were no retainers of hers present, so she had no choice but to reveal her true feelings. But, strangely enough, that seemed like an act of tremendous courage to her. But she had no one to rely on. Caster wouldn’t overlook her answer if she tried fawning upon him.
Focusing her nerves like never before, Assassin stripped away her many layers of falsehood—and spoke the truth.
“—I won’t deny that part of me wants to see him fail. I’m a woman who has no interest in virtue and generosity and enjoys the destruction and despair of others, after all. I’ve seen kings proud of their power fall into unsightliness and brave generals despair and run away in fear. But I’ve yet to see the despair of a saint. So I will admit that I want to see it.”
Assassin chuckled. Caster urged her to continue by remaining silent. A clown sometimes had to be patient and listen to a king’s words.
“But there’s something else I want to see. The scene that that man wishes to witness from the bottom of his heart. The salvation of humanity. A possibility that no one seriously considers, and that even heroes and saints have given up on. The same goes for me too. As someone who stands above others, I have witnessed various things, like untimely death, dazzling beauty, ugliness, pure integrity—but that is the one thing I have never seen. It might be boring. It’s possible that it might be a dull and dreary ending. But—I’ll never know unless I see it first.”
“I see. In other words, you mean to say that you want to see that ending not out of loyalty to your Master, but out of pure curiosity.”
“Exactly. Of course, I also have my own wish to ‘rule’. But, more than anything else—right now, I’m looking forwarding to seeing how far that man will go.”
Just like a child playing with a toy—Caster just barely stopped himself from saying that out loud. Most likely, he’d be killed if he did.
“It seems you were about to say something insolent, but you did well to hold back for a man like you. As a reward for your silence, I’ll forgive you.”
Suddenly, Caster felt like a line was cut in his mind as Assassin closed the telepathic communication. But it was then that Caster remembered that he’d forgotten to ask one last question.
“What a blunder. I should have asked her if I could add in the love story of an empress. Now then, what to do—well, I’ll just write it anyway. This will be well-received by readers, for sure.”
Shakespeare took out a paper from his breast pocket and scribbled a note on it.
The empress fell in love.
And thus, he went to resume writing the main plot.
Since he was linked to Amakusa Shirou Tokisada as a Servant, he was able to record what happened around Shirou and Shirou’s own mental state in great detail with his Master’s permission.
This meant that his Master’s thoughts and feelings were all laid bare to him, something a normal Master would never allow.
—And of course, Shirou Kotomine was far from ordinary.
Shakespeare was indisputably the most famous playwright in the world. Anyone who made him their Servant would be forced to make the ultimate choice.
Would they allow him to write down their story, encompassing their thoughts, habits and entire life, or not?
If they allowed it, Shakespeare would recount and extol their extraordinary life as far as his voice could carry.
And that story would sublimate into a Noble Phantasm. Shakespeare’s pen could affect even events and phenomena, no matter how absurd or preposterous it may be. The only thing he couldn’t write were uninteresting events. If he believed something was interesting as a writer, fate itself would be overturned to make it happen.
He wrote, wrote, and wrote.
Amakusa Shirou Tokisada was encountering various hardships and trials within the Greater Grail.
His dead father, his dead mother, and the comrades who had sworn to stand by his side.
All of them were appealing to him.
Take up a sword in your hand and use it. We have that right. You have the responsibility to avenge us—
Even while beset by anguish, he continued onward.
Then, if his comrades failed, what about his enemies?
The ones who had violated, trampled and thoroughly disgraced his comrades while laughing, manifestations of this world’s malignant cancer. They were more than enough to make someone give up and despair at humans.
In the face of them, Amakusa Shirou—
Caster stopped his pen at the sudden tremor that rocked the gardens. The time was midnight. For a sudden tremor to occur in this situation—there could only be one reason.
“So you’ve come, holy maiden!”
Heartily laughing, Caster stood up and ran out of his study.
“It’s a battle against time now. But our Master is ignoring sleep and hurrying to speed up time as much as possible. Even if they make it in time, we’re protected by invincible swords and indomitable shields, and are encased in fortress as hard as a diamond. Now, what shall happen next!?”