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Thread: Fate/strange fake (Free-Range Spoilers)

  1. #10481
    Wings of the Sunlit Sky Hermitfold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Comun View Post
    Not now that he's established as a goon under Van-Fem.
    Excuse you, I think the proper term is "made man".

  2. #10482
    Honestly I wonder if Flat or his family is going to be mention on the list or side materials since his whole TA thing and vampires he's bumped into.

  3. #10483
    言っちゃった
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    not being able to find a epub version of the first volume for archival purposes is triggering my ocd

    also this is truly one of the best Fate series right now.

  4. #10484
    OK, here's a bit over 5k more words to finish off chapter 20, bringing us through page 353. (I also made a couple minor edits to word choice in earlier parts of the chapter.) There are now about 50 pages left in the book.
    There's an illustration of Richard holding up his sword right before the end of the chapter.

    FSF 6, Chapter 20: Fantasy Becomes Reality
    Chapter 20
    Fantasy Becomes Reality


    Francesca Prelati first became involved with the Holy Grail War after an American organization commissioned her to analyze it in the midst of the Second World War.
    A member of the Dioland family, who had already embedded themselves in the Clock Tower, entered the war, and although he was defeated, the resulting report concluded that the Holy Grail War was far too unique to be merely a local ritual in the Far East. There was a plan underway to build a city on a plot of land that had been requisitioned for the nation’s mystical development. After the report on the third Holy Grail War, that plan shifted into an attempt to recreate the ritual there.
    In order to carry out concrete investigations for the sake of that plan, a group of mages who were both skilled and had no ties to the Clock Tower was assembled, and Francesca ended up working with them due to a recommendation from a person she could never seem to cut ties with.

    “You bombed Fuyuki from the air for your investigation. Talk about overdoing it. You’re really going to go that far?” Francesca had griped at first. She had not been enthusiastic. Once she—he at the time—actually observed the Holy Grail War in Fuyuki, however, her attitude had changed completely.
    The fourth Holy Grail War.
    An event with a dubious history which saw the brutal murder of a Lord of the Clock Tower and the loss of several assets unrelated to the world of magecraft, such as fighter jets. The Holy Church had a hell of a time covering it up.
    Francesca’s “hobby” was observing places where interesting things seemed likely to happen through her far-reaching information network and then hurling that information into events unfolding in other places to cause chaos. Even among the data that she (or he, depending on the body) had spent many years accumulating, that Far-Eastern ritual was exceptionally out of the ordinary.
    One Ghost-Liner after another was observed.
    There were schemes that involved mages, magecraft-users, and even the Holy Church.
    And there were two beings with “familiar” faces.
    One was the figure of the king said to have been guided by her teachers’ teacher, the incubus-man who the spirits who had taught her magecraft had taken an interest in. Francesca had never had anything to do with her, but she had seen her in her teachers’ water-viewing whispers.
    That one, however, had been of no particular interest to Francesca.
    She had been surprised that the ritual could even summon the wielder of the Holy Sword of the Planet. Given that the being would vanish when the ritual ended, she had not been able to confirm whether her personality had really been reproduced as well.
    When she spotted her other acquainted—Gilles de Rais, the “noble knight of Bretagne”—through her far-seeing spell, however, Francesca was bowled over and set out on a trip from Antarctica to Japan with only the clothes on her back.
    She dropped all her other projects to rush to the scene . . . but paid for her lack of preparation. The Grail was apparently destroyed before she had a chance to intervene. In the end, Francesca never got a chance to meet her sworn friend face-to-face.
    The fact that she had underestimated the power of the head of the Makiri family and the insects he commanded might also be to blame.
    Her familiars had probably been deliberately overlooked. Numerous insects had been stationed along her route, and Francesca had ultimately been forced to discard her body at the time after being intercepted by a fiend in the form of an old man.
    “Illusions don’t work too well on bugs.”
    “If only I’d had more time to prepare, I could have fooled the whole region and slipped in that way. . . .”
    “Oh, Gilles, Gilles, I hope you managed to enjoy the War.”
    She had been spotted grumbling by Faldeus before he made his way to the Clock Tower.

    She was determined to interfere in the fifth War, but a number of factors coincided to prevent her.
    First, Matō Zōgen, who had obstructed her during the fourth War, had strengthened his wards against outsiders, meaning that she could not observe the War at all.
    Second, the priest from the Holy Church was extraordinarily skilled at handling external threats.
    Third, when she had tried to investigate Fuyuki during the preparatory period, she had sensed the uncanny presence of at least seven Mystic Eyes focused on the same line and could not afford to approach the city carelessly.
    The last straw was that she had been in the middle of having her bodies repeatedly murdered by a Grand mage named Aozaki Tōko.
    As a result, Francesca did not know how the fifth Holy Grail War ended.
    Word of the result had leaked out, but she had been unable to learn what sort of “war” had taken place in Fuyuki, or what factions had met with what fates.
    But that had been enough.
    Francesca had patiently observed the workings of the Grail, brought together a variety of components, such a fragment of the Greater Grail’s magical energy that she had barely managed to obtain before the start of the fifth War, or the “mud” she had unearthed from the ruins of the “Fuyuki disaster” that had occurred during the fourth, and constructed a fake Holy Grail in Snowfield.
    But a fake was still a fake.
    Without the complete, intact Magic Circuits of Justeaze, the founder of the Holy Grail War, as a component, perfectly recreating the Greater Holy Grail was impossible. No matter how close she came, it would never be more than a fake.
    And yet . . . Heroic Spirits, Servants, Ghost-Liners.
    By some miracle or caprice, the land on which the fake Holy Grail War was built had reached the point of manifesting several of those “forces” know by many names.
    In which case, Francesca thought, the rest would be simple trial and error, relying on pure chance.
    If she repeated it thousands, tens of thousands of times until the human race went extinct, she might eventually achieve the results her employers hoped for in addition to her own wish—the elimination of Magic through the advancement of human technology.
    It could be said that Francesca Prelati was more of a demon than a mage, with no thought to spare for logic.
    That was why she had the idea.
    Since she was going to summon Heroic Spirits, she had better have as much fun with them as she could.

    And right now, she was thrilled.
    She had heard that for some reason, the legendary wielder of the Holy Sword had manifested in the Fuyuki Holy Grail War several times.
    In this fake Holy Grail War, a king who idolized that hero had appeared in her place.
    Francesca Prelati was therefore dying to taint his adoration.
    When she stole the light from someone radiant, what exactly would be left?
    Just to find that out, the Prelatis continued to fall in a dream.
    However ugly, pitiful, or wretched the result turned out to be . . . they at least were determined to love it as a form of humanity.

    X X

    The Past, 1189, Western France

    “Oh, you’re one of those. You really like King Arthur, right?” The man in the out-of-place outfit asked as he tinkered noisily with the bizarre horseless carriage under which he was lying.
    Richard responded with a boyish grin.
    “You’re wrong, Saint Germain! I don’t just like King Arthur; I also like the Knights of the Round Table, and I love the legends of Charlemagne! King Beowulf slaying Grendel thrills me to my core, and I’ve wanted to go train in the Land of Shadows more than a few times!”
    “Don’t forget Alexander the Great. I bet he’d fight you to the death on the battlefield with a smile on his face.”
    “Truly?! That would be an honor! . . . Still, it’s true that if I pledged myself to any legend, it would be to the songs of King Arthur, the first king of my heart.”
    “Even though he gets betrayed by his kin and overthrown in the end?” The man—Saint Germain—asked sarcastically, poking his head out from under his carriage.
    “Of course,” Richard answered nonchalantly. “I love Sir Mordred too, you know? He’s a great knight who slew the great King Arthur. He who ends a legend deserves to be a legend in his own right.”
    “Oh, I see. I suppose you’re right,” Saint Germain surveyed their surroundings and agreed with a wry grin.
    Amid the well-ordered rows of knights and foot soldiers, the con man, whose position was akin to that of a court mage, muttered too softly for Richard to hear:
    “And it’s because you’re like this . . . that you’re on your way to slay your own father.”

    The life of Richard I “the Lionheart” was spent in adoration of King Arthur.
    The episodes demonstrating his attachment to legends were too numerous to mention, and his wild disposition aside, it would be no exaggeration to say that the standard called “chivalry” was fostered among those numerous legends.
    He often set out in person to collect relics of bygone heroes. There is no way of knowing whether the Excalibur he is supposed to have discovered at Glastonbury or a mirage that his obsession with legends showed him.
    Whatever the blade inside was, however . . . he did at least find the genuine scabbard. Or so someone told the royals and aristocrats of the French court several centuries later.
    According to them, Richard had paid his respects to that great scabbard which had kept the holy sword safe from the world’s corrosion by placing the greatest of seals upon it and restoring it to a site associated with King Arthur with his own hands.

    That story went out into the world as just another rumor, and several more centuries passed. . . .

    X X

    The Present, A Closed-off World, Central Intersection

    “Hey . . . They’ve got a new look in their eyes,” one of the officers said, cold sweat running down their back.
    “Calm down. That doesn’t change the plan. We’re going to look for an opening while shoring up our defenses.”
    Vera was the one holding them together. Her face was calm, but even she realized how dire their situation was.
    “An opening? That’s easy to say . . .”
    Another officer put Vera’s anxieties into words for her.
    “But is there anywhere to run?”
    Every part of the city they could see had already been corroded by the black mist. Swarms of rats scurried over the ground while black-winged crows blotted out the sky.
    And the Kerberoses, which had been on the defensive up to that point, went on the attack.
    The fact that the police officers were still intact in the face of the ferocious onslaught was probably due to the fact that John was still able to use the “power” that Caster had given him to fend them off bare-handed, and to the fact that the Kerberoses and other demonic beasts took little notice of them.
    The demonic beasts’ attacks seemed to be focused on the Heroic Spirit Saber. Up to that point, their attacks had been robotic, but some were now charged with obvious hostility.
    “Something must have happened! I hope that the girl is unharmed!”
    Saber fended off the grotesque creatures attacking him from all sides with the Kerberos’s claw.
    The gigantic beasts’ jaws closed in, looking for an opening.
    Jaws far larger than his whole body snapped shut with incredible speed, but Saber dodged them by a hair’s breadth.
    But Kerberos had three heads.
    A series of three deadly guillotines.
    Saber kicked a log-thick fang to avoid the second, and then changed direction in midair to slip past the third set of jaws.
    Another Kerberos, however, seized the chance to approach from behind and sent Saber’s body flying with a swipe of its claws.
    “. . .!”
    Saber’s body slammed into a building shrouded in black mist. Chunks of glass and concrete flew in all directions.

    “Saber!” Ayaka yelled.
    This is wrong.
    Saber is moving slower than usual!
    I knew it! He’s still hurt from last night!
    Ayaka cursed her own carelessness.
    She knew that Saber had been able to keep dodging the Noble Phantasms that the golden Heroic Spirit had fired like a machinegun, but his movements were obviously stiffer than they had been then.
    He said that he had been healed using magecraft, but he must not have been able to fully recover from nearly fatal wounds.
    Ayaka was unfamiliar with magecraft. She had not really understood, but she had assumed that it had healed him completely.
    Now that she thought about it, Saber had not sounded quite like himself earlier when he had offered to do the dirty work if it came to that. Was that because he knew that he did not have much time left?
    Ayaka linked one negative thought to another as she started running through the swirling dust toward the building that Saber had been flung into.
    But the next thing that the Kerberoses—or that “world”—focused on after Saber was his source of magical energy. In other words, Ayaka.
    “What . . .?”
    One of the titanic beasts closed in on Ayaka.
    Its jaws, however, were stopped by police officers who cut in between the beast and Ayaka with shield and halberd Noble Phantasms.
    “Don’t stop! Keep moving!”
    “Why . . .?”
    Truce or not, she was still supposed to be their enemy. Why would they save her?
    “This sort of thing is our real job,” one of the officers answered the question in Ayaka’s eyes.
    “. . . Thank you!”
    Ayaka forced out a reply at the last second and kept running into the building.
    She shot a brief glance behind her . . . and saw the officers being mowed down by the monsters.
    Some of the had sustained serious injuries, while others were lying collapsed on the ground.
    In the few seconds that Saber had been gone, the balance had collapsed.
    John and Vera were putting up a fight, but at the rate things were going, they would all be dead within a few minutes.
    Having seen that, Ayaka raced up the stairs into the dark interior of the building with tears in her eyes and made for the floor that she thought Saber had been flung into.
    Why me . . .?
    I can’t do anything.
    I’m not even one of those “Masters,” or whatever they’re called.
    I could never be a . . .
    No. No, no, no.
    It’s not that I couldn’t be one. I chose not to.
    I ran away again.
    But there’s nowhere left for me to go!
    Infuriated by her own cowardice, Ayaka just kept running, ignoring the protests of her leg muscles.
    Ayaka knew that she was just a weakling compared to Heroic Spirits or mages.
    She also knew that she was weak even compared to other humans, and she knew why.
    Sex and age had nothing to do with it.
    Ayaka understood that differences like those were irrelevant to what strength meant here.
    The reason she was weak was simple.
    I never tried to become strong. . . . I never wanted to be strong. . . .
    It was so, so much easier to run away.
    Then . . . just as Ayaka was about to reach the floor she thought Saber must be on, she caught sight of a red figure on the stairs.
    Ayaka gasped.
    This was an ordinary building.
    Of course, it had an elevator.
    Every inch of Ayaka’s body trembled in the face of “Little Red Riding Hood.” Was she a hallucination? Was she a ghost? Ayaka did not know.
    I’m scared.
    Scared, scared, scared, scared, scared, scared. No, no, no, no, no.
    Her bones creaked. Her insides twisted like they were burning. Nausea rose from the back of her throat.
    But . . .

    She still did not stop.

    “. . . Move.”
    Ayaka’s legs were at their limit, but she forced them up one stair at a time as her joints and muscle fibers groaned.
    She shed tears as she glared upward at “Little Red Riding Hood.”
    “You can kill me or curse me if you want. I’m sure you have the right to.”
    This world within a ward had filled to bursting with every kind of death in an instant.
    As a result, it’s excessive atmosphere of death may have numbed the fear that had driven Ayaka to keep running.
    “I’m afraid of you, but . . .”
    “—”
    The one bit of face barely visible under the shadow of the hood—Little Red Riding Hood’s mouth—opened tried to say something to Ayaka.
    Ayaka, however, kept advancing in spite of that and tried to pass right by Little Red Riding Hood.
    “Right now, I’m more afraid of running away from Saber.”
    The next instant . . .
    Little Red Riding Hood’s mouth moved and whispered in a voice that only Ayaka could here.
    “. . . _____.”
    “What . . .?”
    Ayaka turned to look in spite of herself, but Little Red Riding Hood was no longer there.
    After a moment’s hesitation, Ayaka clapped both hands to her face and directed her steps toward a shattered wall in search of Saber.

    “Oh . . . What, you came all the way here, Ayaka?”
    Saber was there.
    He was standing majestically, like he had when she first met him at the opera house.
    Unlike then, however, he was covered with blood.
    He had not fallen on his face like he had in the church, but part of his armor was split, probably torn by Kerberos claws, and fresh blood was dripping from the gash.
    “Saber . . .!”
    “Please, don’t look at me like that. This is only a scratch. . . .”
    “We’ve had this talk three or four times already. I’ve made up my mind, so shut up and listen!”
    “Certainly.”
    The sight of Ayaka’s ghastly appearance made Saber forget his own injuries and nod in spite of himself.
    “Saber . . . you’re hesitating to use my magical energy and holding back, aren’t you?”
    “. . .”
    “I won’t run from you or the Holy Grail War anymore. I’ve made up my mind to fight with you! I only made up my mind just now, though! Sorry about that!”
    “Oh, yes. . . . Certainly.”
    Ayaka somehow managed the trick of angrily delivering a sincere apology, and Saber responded with another instinctive nod.
    Ayaka had been thinking it over for the past few days, but now she understood.
    She understood what running in fear from everything would lead her to.
    That question was meaningless in the situation she found herself in. This was the place she had run away to.
    If she were going to find anything at the end of her flight, she would have to find it here.
    “I won’t even mind if you’re going to suck up all my magical energy and kill me! I mean, I would mind, but it’d be way better than dying with you in a place like this without even knowing what’s going on! So, I’m going to do what I can!”
    Ayaka seized Saber’s hand and pressed it to one of the Command-Spell-like marks on her body as she listened to the sounds of the battle outside.
    “If you’re willing to give me something in exchange for my magical energy . . . I want you to teach me how to fight. I don’t care if it’s just how to throw rocks. If you think I’ll get in your way, it can even be how to make more magical energy or how to use it!”
    Saber lowered his eyes from Ayaka’s earnest expression for an instant, then answered with an earnest look of his own.
    “I appreciate the sentiment, and you’re strong. However . . . right now, it’s me who can’t respond to you.”
    “?”
    “You’ve resolved to fight for me, but I still haven’t found a reason to seek the Grail if it means risking my life and my chivalry and trampling the wishes of others. Therefore, this life of mine isn’t for winning this war. I should use it to keep you safe. Until yesterday, I thought that I could balance that with my own curiosity . . . but that gaudy fellow taught me better.”
    I knew it, Ayaka thought, Saber did get hurt. Not just physically, either. His fight with that golden Heroic Spirit drove a wedge into his heart.
    Saber was not afraid of others. Defeat certainly had not made him afraid that that golden hero would kill him.
    Even Ayaka could understand that, and she doubted it had changed.
    But even if he were not afraid, without a wish for the Grail, he had no reason to turn his lion’s heart to the Holy Grail War.
    He must not be able to fight with all his passion as a result.
    Ayaka had only known Saber a few days, but she had been forced to learn more than she would have liked about his temperament.
    “Therefore, I don’t care if I vanish. I got you involved, and your survival is my prime objective. Although ideally, once I’ve ensured your safety, I’d like a chance to challenge that golden king again with whatever magical energy I have left.”
    “It doesn’t matter what your wish is! I wouldn’t care if you wanted to sell the Grail for cash! Didn’t you say you were going to take music back with you to heaven or “the Throne” or wherever? A childish whim like that is good enough!”
    Saber lowered his eyes again and flashed a wry smile.
    “. . . The Throne is one thing, but you won’t find me in heaven.”
    “?”
    “I’m a Heroic Spirit—just a shadow burned into the world—so I don’t know the truth, but if there’s a heaven, then my soul must be . . . burning in purgatory until the day the human race comes to an end.”
    “. . .?”
    She was about to ask what he meant when more of the wall of the building collapsed.
    “!”
    The pair turned to see a row of three massive, bestial mouths.
    Kereberos had grown again while they were not looking. Its appearance recalled a three-headed beast out of a giant monster movie.
    Poisonous plants sprouted wherever droplets of its drool hit the floor.

    “Sleep. (Die.)”

    All three heads spoke in unison. They seemed about to bite off the whole room with Saber and Ayaka inside it. Before either had a chance to move, however, a tiny fragment tumbled between them and the beast.
    “?”
    Ayaka was puzzled.
    All three of Kerberos’ heads had suddenly frozen in place.
    All six of the monster’s eyes were fixed on the little lump that had tumbled to the floor.
    When Ayaka realized what the thing was, she could not hold back an exclamation. It was just so out of place with the life-threatening situation.
    “. . . A cookie . . .?”
    It was a single cookie, sweetly redolent of honey, that might be found for sale in any supermarket.
    Everything fell silent, Kerberos included.
    “Taking in Kerberos was neat, but it was a bad move.”
    Cheerful voices rang out. They were definitely out of place.
    “I mean, it’s weakness is just so famous!”
    The boy and girl sounded like they were having the time of their lives, like an audience watching Ayaka and the others’ predicament as a scene in a slasher movie.
    When they actually appeared, they were indeed munching on store-bought cookies and chocolates like popcorn.
    A gaping hole opened in the ceiling, and through it two figures descended with an open umbrella like characters out of a movie.
    “Hi there. Should I say nice to meet you? Mr. Lionheart and . . . I don’t know who you are, but you’ve got some impressive magical energy!”
    The girl in a gothic-Lolita dress flashed a smile as she twirled her umbrella.
    Beside the spinning, open umbrella, a boy with similar features made a polite bow.
    “. . . I have a lot of questions,” Saber asked the pair as if he spoke for the bewildered Ayaka, “but tell me, what are you holding up an umbrella indoors for?”
    “Is that really important?” Ayaka frowned when the question failed completely to speak for her.
    The girl twirling the umbrella, however, puffed up with pride, her eyes gleaming.
    “I’m glad you asked! I knew you were a real find! I love people who give me reactions like that!”
    “The answer is simple,” the boy continued for her, spreading his arms wide.

    “It’s about to rain here!”

    The next instant, a downpour of cookie and candy packages began inside the building, painting over the gray floor in a deluge of pop coloring.
    It was an unbelievable scene out of a fairy tale or comic book.
    Ayaka found herself at a loss for words amid scenery that was divorced from reality in a completely different sense than the pervading atmosphere of death a moment before had been.
    The candy packages falling in place of raindrops began to grow larger. Mountains of sweets was piling up toward the room’s high ceiling like piles of scrapped cars in a junkyard.
    And the most surprising thing of all was that the immobile Kerberos sniffed loudly and then immediately began to wolf down the now-gigantic sweets packaging and all.
    “Who are you . . .?” Ayaka asked the boy and girl from her position beside Saber, unable to process the situation.
    “You know, we’d like to ask you the same thing,” the girl answered while deflecting the rain of sweets with her umbrella. “We’ve been wondering where Filia managed to dig up someone like you.”
    “! You know her?! Where is she now?!”
    The white woman who had led her to this city against her will.
    Ayaka grew warier at the revelation that the pair had something to do with her. They, however, answered her question with a statement she could make no sense of.
    “Ah ha ha! I don’t think she’s anywhere anymore. Her body’s still around, though! You’d better be careful you don’t talk to her by mistake. She might turn you into a gemstone for being insolent or shabby or something!”
    “?”
    “Don’t worry about it. I’m Francesca. This is Francois. In this Holy Grail War, we’re the True Caster faction, the masterminds, the bookies, and the troublemakers all rolled into one. . . . Is that enough for you to go on? It is, right?”
    “???”
    Ayaka was more confused than ever, but Saber nodded.
    “I see. I don’t understand at all, but thank you for rescuing us. I had heard that Kerberos is fond of honey cakes, but I had none to hand.”
    “Crazy, isn’t it? People have kept on telling stories about a guard dog who lets criminals go for sweets all this time,” Francesca guffawed and looked outside.
    Ayaka gave a start and turned to look at what was happening while keeping a cautious eye on the Kerberos gobbling sweets.
    Outside, the same rain of sweets was falling, and every Kerberos was glued to a mountain of cookies.
    “Oh, I almost forgot. No need to thank us.”
    “After all, we’re here to defile you.”
    The mysterious pair announced with cheerful smiles.
    “What?”
    Ayaka frowned, watching to see what they were up to.
    “Oh?” Francesca said, watching Ayaka right back. “You’ve gotten a whole lot tougher since Cashura almost killed you on the first day.”
    “. . . Cashura . . . Are you friends of that guy at the opera house?!”
    “You got it. Back then, you had a look on your face like you couldn’t even be bothered with living. Did getting dragged around by a hero like Mr. Lionheart here toughen you up? Or are you a little vixen who got full of herself once she cozied up to someone strong? Which is it?”
    “Wha—”
    Ayaka stammered at the sudden change of subject. She could not be certain that she was not the latter.
    Saber, however, voiced his honest, unvarnished opinion in her place.
    “What do you mean? Ayaka has been strong since the beginning, and it’s natural to get a big head when you’re close to someone you can trust, no matter how strong or weak you are. Also, while Ayaka does have imposing eyes like a fox, she doesn’t disturb gardens or farms, nor does she deceive people by pretending to be a cat.”
    “You can say that from the heart? Great! I knew you were a real find!”
    “I see, I see. He’s a fine king indeed! He acts entirely on his own principles in the moment!”
    Francesca’s sarcasm had missed its mark, but for some reason the pair sounded satisfied.
    They turned their attention back to Ayaka and said, with twirling, dance-like movements:
    “Lucky you. I’m jealous. Ayaka, right?”
    “You managed to bump into a good king! No wonder you’re toughening up! No wonder you can trust him!”
    “That’s why we’re going to apologize while we have the chance. Sorry!”
    “Well, not that we mind if you hold it against us. Let’s be friends if you don’t, though! Oh, we’re not going to hurt your bodies, so don’t worry about that. Yay!”
    Ayaka could not help being irritated after that string of provocations and started to say something to the pair.
    “Hey, what the hell are you talking a—”
    An instant later, however . . .
    “We’re just going to trample on His Majesty’s adoration a bit.”
    Francesca brandished her umbrella, and the world turned inside out.

    It was a beautiful castle.
    It was not policed like a tourist attraction, but the nearby doors and the gardens visible within showed signs of being well maintained. Its time-worn stone walls lent it an air of solemn grandeur and harmonized fantastically with its location in the deep forest.
    “. . . Wh-What?”
    The cry that escaped Ayaka’s mouth were high pitched and quavering.
    She knew that they had been inside a building until a few seconds earlier.
    Now, however, the cold concrete, the glass shards, and most of all the mountains of sweets and the monsters feasting on them had vanished without a trace.
    It was as if none of those things had ever existed in the first place.
    But Ayaka’s voice was not shrill because the scenery around her had been replaced.
    She had only just seen the world turn inside out, after all.
    Why was her pulse skyrocketing and her whole body breaking out in sweat?
    Because she recognized this scenery.
    “Now way. This is . . . the castle in Fuyuki. . . .”
    “Where?”
    Ayaka startled at the voice from beside her and turned to look.
    She found Saber standing in exactly the same position he had been until a moment before.
    “! . . . Thank goodness! Are you all right?!”
    “Yes, but I am surprised. This is . . . even more incredible than the ‘projection mapping’ that rascal Saint Germain showed me. It’s an illusion. It’s perfectly fooling our perception—not just what we can see, but even the smell of the breeze and the temperature of the soil.”
    “Illusion . . .? Not teleportation, or anything like that?”
    “No, I doubt we’ve gone anywhere physically. The police aren’t here, so they must be deceiving our senses, not the space itself. My mage companion knows a lot about this sort of thing.”
    “Oh really? I’m interested in this mage friend of yours.”
    Ayaka heard the voice of the boy who introduced himself as Francois and looked around.
    But while she could hear his voice, he was nowhere to be seen. Next came a jibe from Francesca.
    “Rats. I wanted to make you think it was teleportation and have a little fun. What a letdown.”
    “Oh, it’s quite a feat. I certainly never saw an illusion of this caliber while I was alive. I’m impressed. How would you like to be my court mage? It’s supposed to be Saint Germain’s job, but I called him, and he wouldn’t answer, so I could appoint you as his replacement.”
    “. . . Hey, I thought my ears were playing tricks on me, but I keep hearing a name I don’t like.”
    “So do I. You know, this king does seem like just the type that no-good, deviant con man would visit.”
    Francesca and Francois sounded obviously less delighted than they had moments before.
    “Oh, I wouldn’t go that far,” Saber continued matter-of-factly. “At worst, he’s the oddest of layabout petty aristocrats.”
    “Isn’t that worse?”
    Ayaka, who had seen “Saint Germain” in her dreams, did not press the point further, but it relieved her nervousness just enough to think calmly.
    “I see. . . . What are you showing me a hallucination of my hometown for?”
    “Huh? Oh, so you’re from Fuyuki.”
    “Huh?”
    Since they seemed to know Filia, Ayaka had assumed the illusion was targeted at her, but apparently not.
    In which case, why Fuyuki?
    As Ayaka wondered, a change occurred behind her.
    No sooner did she hear the sounds of something massive approaching than “it” passed by Ayaka and Saber, trampling through the forest with a peal of thunder.
    The thing speeding straight toward the large doors that led into the castle was a cart pulled by large oxen.
    “Cart” was the only way Ayaka could describe it, but Richard recognized what it was at a glance.
    “Was that . . . a chariot? Oxen surrounded by lightning . . . Could those be the divine oxen?! Then, that must be King Gordias. No . . .”
    Saber, who had a fondness for numerous hero tales, instantly realized what that chariot was and who must be driving it.
    Two men were riding in that chariot which had raced across ancient battlefields.
    “I don’t believe it. . . . Saint Germain told me that he was far larger than his legends say, but I assumed he was exaggerating. . . .”
    “You recognize him?”
    “Yes. . . . If I’m right . . . that’s the conqueror who began in Macedonia and went on to dominate the continent—Alexander the Great . . .!
    Alexander the Great? I think I’ve heard of him. . . .
    Ayaka did not know much about legendary heroes. She was only aware of Alexander, like Richard the Lionheart, as a name she’d heard of before. The sight of Saber beaming with childish delight, however, told her that he was a historical figure and a hero who had lived even longer ago than Saber.
    Then, is he a Servant too . . .?
    Ayaka had sensed an extraordinary presence from the red-haired man, but the memory of the shrieking young man beside him made her feel a little relieved.
    That may have been sympathy, because she sensed that the black-haired, baby-faced young man was, like her, “un-mage-like.”

    X X

    A Closed-off Town, Crystal Hill, Top Floor

    “Did you say it’s raining packages of sweets . . .?”
    El-Melloi II’s confused voice echoed from the cell phone speaker.
    He had heard about what was happening from Flat, but he quickly grasped the situation and voiced an opinion.
    “I see. . . . Kerberos is a foreign element in that faceless underworld. They must have taken advantage of its characteristics. . . . Still, whatever school of magecraft they employed, it would take quite a high level of mage to cause such a ridiculous phenomenon over such a large area. . . . There’s a strong possibility that we’re dealing with a Servant.”

    In contrast to El-Melloi II’s calm analysis, Jester’s grimacing double was shouting angrily.
    “Illusionists?! Damn them! This is none of their business!”
    That divine beast ought to get closer to its original strength if it takes in multiple dead people, Jester mused to himself. It depends on the magical energy resources available in this ritual site, but if I’m lucky, it’s combat abilities could be a match for a powerful Servant. . . .
    The corners of his mouth crept upward again.
    “After all this effort to set the table, I suppose I’ll lend a hand. Just a little.”

    “What are you plotting, fiend?!” Assassin bellowed as she cut through the grotesqueries that had come through the windows.
    “Nothing fancy. For starters, I’ll just murder all the cops at the intersection down there, then stuff them into Kerberos’ belly instead of all that candy.”
    “I won’t let you . . . Ngh . . .”
    Assassin rushed at Jester, but the countless smoky, black grotesqueries blocked her path.
    “Oh, it looks like these things—this whole world, really—are going after Servants first. Be careful, now. And the same goes for the renowned murderer over there,” Jester added, looking at Flat’s wristwatch. There was a hint of something like respect and affection in his voice, but Jack himself was the only one to notice it.
    “. . . I appreciate the warning.”
    What’s our next move, Flat? Can you do it? Jack called out telepathically to Flat, mentally clicking his tongue over having been discovered.
    Hmm. I’ve almost got it.

    Jester, who had no idea what Berserker and his Master were saying to each other telepathically, continued to taunt Assassin with a look of ecstasy on his face.
    “Hee hee. Would it bother you if I killed those cops? Didn’t you fight them yourself, at the police station? So, why try to stop me from having a little fun with their lives? It doesn’t look like your problem is with me giving Kerberos a power-up.”
    “. . . I won’t let you have your way. That’s all.”
    “No, I don’t think so! You found out that those cops are trying to protect Kuruoka Tsubaki, and now you show them some respect, even if they are your enemies. Am I wrong? Yes, I know. I know everything about you. You, however, don’t understand mages yet.”
    “Silence!”
    She threw a concealed dagger, but it just passed through Jester’s body like it had before, serving only to reconfirm that Jester’s main body was not there.
    “Mages are the ultimate pragmatists. In the end, they’ll choose to kill Kuruoka Tsubaki. But that’s the right choice, Assassin. This ward-world is out of control, and before long it will spread outside the ward . . . into the real Snowfield! Any hero that sides with humanity ought to choose the option with the fewest sacrifices, and quickly! Sacrificing just one girl could save 800,000 people—maybe even the whole human race!
    “Yes,” Jester’s double continued gleefully, “that mercenary you had your eye on might kill little Tsubaki before anyone else gets the chance! That has its charms! I’d love to see you bound for anger and despair, betrayed by the man you trusted!”
    “. . .”
    She was already showing him anger, Assassin’s murderous glare seemed to say as she hurled the last of the grotesqueries clinging to her out a broken window.
    The wrathful, silent Assassin and the gleeful, loquacious hematophage faced each other. The two of them were almost in their own world.
    Hansa, however, disregarded the mood and broke his silence.
    “Hey, corpse.”
    “. . . What, executor? Stay out of this. It’s just getting good.”
    “Back at the police station, you said you’d deny the human order,” Hansa continued in spite of Jester’s obvious irritation. “That Dead Apostles exist to defile human history.”
    “? And? Something that obvious should be common knowledge to an executor like you.”
    “That Assassin’s part of human history. Aren’t you going to deny her? You are defiling her, but that contempt doesn’t come from denial. You’re trying to defile her with that twisted lust of yours because you were charmed by her, because you couldn’t deny her. You’re trying to corrupt her. Am I wrong?”
    “. . . What’s your point?”
    Jester erased all trace of expression from his face. Hansa ignored his question and coolly changed the subject.
    “By the way, I told you before that bringing down you high-level Dead Apostles takes consecrated weapons, a singularity-user, or a high-level mage. . . . Remember that?”
    “So what? What are you buying time for? You’re the ones who are short on—”
    A Black Key sailed through Jester’s double.
    Just as it embedded itself in the wall behind him, Hansa said:
    “My consecrated weapons can’t reach your main body when it’s not here . . .”
    “?”

    “But luckily . . . I’ve got a high-level mage to help with that, Dorothea.”

    “—”
    For an instant, time stopped for Jester.
    Flat slipped into that momentary blank and activated his magecraft.
    “Begin interference!”
    The next moment, magical energy raced through the room in all directions, reflected off the Mystic Codes of the nuns hiding in scattered positions, and created a simplified current of magical energy.
    It finished by concentrating into the Black Key that Hansa had thrown, and the spell activated.
    “Gah?! . . . Wha . . . Gwaaah!”
    In an instant, Jester shuddered from head to toe. He was supposedly just a double, but he groaned with a look of agony on his face.
    “?!”
    Assassin was the one confused.
    Not by the spell itself, and not by its ability to actually damage Jester.
    The moment the priest called Jester “Dorothea,” the hematophage had taken his attention off her completely with a look of obvious shock.
    Jester fell to his knees and glared at Hansa with bloodshot eyes.
    “Damn you. . . . What did you . . .?”
    “Oh . . . Flat, give us the rundown.”
    “Right! You’re a double, so I just followed the currents of magical energy and attacked the real you!”
    “Impossible,” Jester spat at the nonchalant Flat, his face still contorted in pain. “My doubles are no ordinary . . .”
    “Oh yes, I know that! You prepare a soul, or maybe I should say a core, for each one and transform by wearing them on your real body like Mystic Codes, right? So, you also make each double think and act independently, right? Then, you switch between them in a complicated way while basically running jamming—or you do something like jamming to confuse us, and . . . Man, I had a hard time spotting the pattern! It took a while, but it was really fun!”
    “You . . . saw through it? In this short a time . . .?”
    Consternation trumped pain on Jester’s face.
    “Who the hell are you? No mage should be able to . . . Damn it. First that mercenary knew about my transformations, now this. . . . I guess I shouldn’t expect a Holy Grail war to be easy. . . .”
    If the double’s in as much pain as he looks, Hansa decided, the real one might be immobilized by now.
    He was curious about what kind of spell Flat had sent the main body, but it was not the time for questions. He held his peace and observed.
    As he did so, Jester shifted his attention to him.
    “But that’s not important. . . . What matters now is you, priest.”
    “What did I do? It’s an honor to get such a shocked reaction just for calling your name. Oh, you don’t have to hide it anymore: You were getting just a little full of yourself, weren’t you?”
    “Don’t play dumb!” Jester roared in a voice deeply tinged with hatred and agitation. “You bastard. . . . How did you know . . .?!”
    “So, that info was legit,” Hansa answered with a sigh. “Will I have to give official thanks for this? . . . That wouldn’t look good if it got out, considering my position.”
    “. . .?”
    Jester looked confused. A moment later, however, a different voice filled the room.

    “We have no need of your gratitude, bitter foe of ours.”

    The voice came from the pocket of Hansa’s cassock.
    He reached into it and pulled out a cell phone.
    It was not the phone connected to a Lord of the Clock Tower; it was Hansa’s own.
    It must have been taking a call on speakerphone the entire time, and the caller whose voice issued from it must have remained silent throughout.
    The owner of the voice, which was elegant but gave an impression of incredible depth, stated their reasons for working with Hansa.
    “I merely invested in a descendent of an old friend, not in you.”
    “That voice . . .”
    A dizzying array of expressions flashed across Jester’s face.
    Confusion, agitation, anger . . . and then despair.
    “As compensation, I request the disposal of waste. That’s all there is to it. You have no cause to thank me.”

    Mentally breaking out into a cold sweat at the “voice” that paid him no attention whatsoever, Jester could not help muttering:
    “Why . . .?”
    “Let me introduce you,” Hansa coolly explained by way of pouring salt in his wounds. “This is the ‘high-level mage’ who agreed to lend me a hand.”
    “I don’t believe it. . . . Why would you do this . . .?!”
    Jester groaned at the agony coursing through every inch of his body, his face a mask of confusion.
    “Oh, that’s simple!” Flat answered without a hint of tension on his face.
    “What . . .?”
    “I figured a hematophage as strong as you must be pretty famous among other hematophage people, so I figured I’d ask one I know!”
    “. . . Huh?”
    Jester let out a dumbfounded exclamation. Flat’s tone was carefree that he even forgot the pain he was in.
    “And there was only one hematophage I know that I’d exchanged phone numbers with.”
    Flat gave a thumbs up, delighted that his prediction had been correct, and announced the name of the person on the other end of the phone call.

    “And . . . bingo! I just knew Mr. Van-Fem would know about you!”

    X X

    The Same Time, Fuyuki (Illusion)

    “? . . . What could that be? I had a feeling I just sensed something nasty.”
    “Sure it’s not just your imagination?” Prelati chimed in from beside the confused Francesca as he stuffed his face with sweets.
    They had activated two illusions inside Kuruoka Tsubaki’s ward-world using the Noble Phantasm Grand Illusion.
    First, they had tricked the ward-world itself in order to trap Saber and Ayaka in an isolated space.
    Second, they had cast an illusion to trick Saber and Ayaka’s five senses.
    Saber and Ayaka were currently seeing a vision of Fuyuki. It was as if they were decked out in VR gear from head to toe.
    The Prelatis chatted happily as they watched Saber and Ayaka in Fuyuki through a mirror.
    “Come on! What do you like to eat while you watch movies, popcorn or churros? Whichever it is, you’d better get it ready now! Donuts and hotdogs are good choices too! Don’t you think so too, me (Francois)?”
    “Now you’re just showing off, me (Francesca). You know we didn’t have any of those back when I died.”
    “I hear popcorn’s been around way longer than we have. On this continent, anyway.”
    “You’re kidding! Couldn’t that have been the Age of Gods? Popcorn’s incredible! Divine, even!”

    “This ‘popcorn’ sounds impressive. . . . I’d like to try any dish with such a history.”
    Saber swallowed to keep his mouth from watering as he healed his wounded belly with his “companion’s” healing magecraft.
    “I’ll treat you to as much as you want if we ever make it out of here.”
    Ayaka had given up on playing the straight man to Saber and was surveying their surroundings.
    The large, red-headed man and the black-haired youth who seemed to be his Master who had charged into the castle still showed no sign of emerging from the door they had smashed.
    Given that even the nearby flowers had stopped swaying, Francesca and Francois must have paused their illusion.
    “Oh well,” a voice came from overhead again. “You might be better off skipping the snacks so you can focus! I mean, you’d never get a chance to see a show this good while you were alive!”
    “Oh? I can hardly wait! Are you going to have me fight Alexander the Great in this illusion of yours?”
    “That would be fun too, but it loses a lot of the impact when you realize it’s an illusion. Of course, I can guarantee you an even more entertaining performance. I mean, the whole point is to show you something you’ve never seen before.”
    As Francesca’s voice spoke, the scenery began to move again.
    After a short wait, the towering, red-haired man emerged from the large, broken door with a big barrel on his shoulder.
    After him came the young man, who did indeed look nervous. Other figures followed.
    “Is that . . . Filia?!” Ayaka could not help exclaiming. “No, she looks a little different. . . .”
    One was a beautiful woman with the same swaying, snow-white hair as Filia.
    Beside her was a smaller woman a stern expression dressed in silver plate mail over a blue dress.
    “? Who’s she? . . . She looks like a Heroic Spirit, but . . . a lady knight . . . Jeanne d’Arc, maybe?” Ayaka turned and asked Saber, suggesting a name she dredged up from somewhere in her memory.
    “What . . .?”
    She gasped in spite of herself.
    Saber’s usual, nonchalant grin was gone from his face. It was suffused with pure awe that precluded any other emotion, like he had just witnessed the beginning of the end of the world.
    “. . . Is this . . . a dream?”
    “No, it’s an illusion. You said . . . Huh? Do you . . . know her?”
    Don’t tell me she’s his wife, or sister, or daughter, or something. . . .
    Ayaka worried that she might be someone close to him. Saber gave a little shake of his head without ever taking his eyes off the woman.
    “No, I’ve never seen her before.”
    “? What do you mean?”
    “Wait,” the dumbfounded Saber managed to answer the confused Ayaka. “I’m checking with my companions. . . . Oh . . . I can’t believe it. Oh . . .”
    Saber stood rooted to the spot, his fists clenched.
    “There are only two reasons I’m still on my feet and not on my knees right now,” he told Ayaka.
    “What would you kneel for . . .?”
    “First, for all my faults, I’m still a king myself. It wouldn’t be fair to the people who acclaimed me if I bent the knee so easily.”
    Ayaka could not tell if Saber was speaking calmly or not. The next instant, however, she settled on “not.”
    “Second . . . I don’t want to take my eyes off the legend I’ve spent my whole life chasing, even for a second.”
    He did not even want to lower his gaze for the time it would take to kneel.
    Saber’s attitude told Ayaka who the girl in blue and silver was.
    It told her, but she had trouble accepting it.
    As far as she could remember, that hero, who even she had heard of, was supposed to be a man.
    But Ayaka failed to think of any other solution and said the name aloud.

    “Don’t tell me . . . that’s King Arthur . . .?”

    The central hero of the legends of the Round Table who Richard’s mother had told him so many stories about in Ayaka’s dream, and who Saber had called “the first king of my heart.”
    It was not easy for Ayaka to believe, but she could sense the woman’s majestic bearing, and she exuded a quality that was not overshadowed by the massive Alexander the Great walking ahead of her.
    “Huh? But she’s a girl. . . . Why?”
    “Artoria Pendragon,” a voice that only Ayaka and Saber could hear rang out from the sky, as if in answer to her question. “That’s King Arthur’s real name, you know. Make sure you never write it on a history test, though; you won’t get credit for it.”
    “Could this be . . .?”
    “Yup. Part of the Holy Grail War that happened in Fuyuki. It was about 15 years ago, though. Man, you wouldn’t believe how lucky I am! You see, that lightning chariot just happened to break the castle’s wards back then. I got a look at three kings all together!”
    “Three?”
    Did that mean yet another king would be coming?
    Ayaka only had a moment to wonder before that final king appeared before King Arthur and Alexander the Great with an air of displeasure.
    “. . .!”
    It was the golden hero who had beaten Saber in the church.
    “Ah ha ha! Don’t be afraid!” Francesca laughed at Ayaka’s caution. “I’m just recreating scenes my familiars saw!”
    “What for? . . . Why are you doing this?!”
    Ayaka glared angrily at the sky, and the boy and girl’s voices answered.
    “We just want to show you.”
    “Yeah! And then we want to see how His Majesty reacts! It’s what you call fifty-fifty! A win-win relationship!”
    “We’ll fill you in as a show of respect for the Lionheart who was so popular with the masses. You’ll get to know what the great ‘King Arthur,’ more famous than the Lionheart and above all his mental support and the foundation of his chivalry, is really like.”
    For an instant, noise ran through the world.
    The scenery blurred in a way that made Ayaka imagine she could hear the buzz of static, and the world was instantly repainted.
    No.
    It continued to be repainted.
    There was a view of the large bridge in Fuyuki.
    There was a view of King Arthur fighting a spearman at the harbor.
    There was a view of Heroic Spirits battling a giant monster in the river and a bizarre knight fused with a fighter jet.
    There was a view of a mage mowing down a man in a wheelchair with a gun.
    There was a view of a collapsing hotel.
    Fantastic scenes set amid scenery that Ayaka recognized were flashing by in few-second increments.
    But none of the humans or Heroic Spirits noticed Ayaka or Richard. Some of the figures even passed right through them.
    They probably really were just “spectators”—unable to interfere or to be interfered with.
    The dizzying, shifting scenery simply unnerved Ayaka.
    The scenes included views of the Kurokizaka area, which she did not want to see.
    She caught a glimpse of the Semina Apartments out of the corner of her eye for just an instant. That glimpse was enough to make Ayaka hallucinate that her heart was being crushed, and her breathing spontaneously grew ragged.
    Just as she instinctively looked down, Francesca’s voice rang out.
    “That was just the preview! Don’t you just love previews?! OK, time to show you our feature presentation! It’s a fragmentary record of the fourth War . . . but we’ve edited it into a nice documentary for you to enjoy! Well, spoilers, but it doesn’t have a happy ending!”
    The footage shifted again, and this time it lasted more than a few seconds.
    The woman who looked so much like Filia was getting off a plane at the airport, accompanied by a black-suited King Arthur.
    It was like the opening scene of a movie. Letters floated in the air so that Ayaka could see them.
    It was a charming logo that read, “Editor: Francesca Prelati,” in both Japanese and English.
    The poor taste made Ayaka’s cheek twitch, but a glance to her side revealed that Saber was still expressionless and still intently watching the scene unfold.
    Saber . . .
    Is that girl really the King Arthur you look up to so much . . .?
    Saber’s tense attitude was infectious, and Ayaka decided against looking away from the illusory world.
    “I hope you enjoy seeing your dear King Arthur’s true colors,” Francoise announced maliciously, perhaps realizing that his audience was hooked, as he played the unnatural sound of an intermission bell in the illusion.

    “And the moment her Master betrayed her and trampled on her wish.”

    X X

    A Closed-off World, Crystal Hill, Top Floor

    “That was a fascinating listening experience, Flat.”
    Flat responded to the voice from Hansa’s cell phone speaker with a sigh of relief.
    “Thank goodness! You never said anything even though you were on speakerphone, so I thought you might be bored. . . .”
    “I even got to hear a lecture from a Lord of the Clock Tower while I was it. It was a deal with no downsides.”
    “Wait, Flat,” the Lord in question’s voice came from the cell phone on the altar. “Whose voice was that? Unless my ears are playing tricks on me, I heard a name that came up a lot in connection to your hometown. . . . Did you call him even before you called me?!”
    “S-Sorry, sir! I took turns calling both of you, but the connection to Monaco stabilized before the one to London, and . . .”
    “It was an excellent lecture, my Lord. It seems my fate is entwined with your students’.”
    “. . . My apologies for that occasion.”
    That was all El-Melloi II managed to say before he fell silent. The man on the other end of Hansa’s phone, meanwhile, addressed Flat in a rich, deep voice, as if reminiscing about the past.
    “Still . . . this reminded me of the first time I heard an audio drama on the radio, about 80 years ago. I believe it was Le Comte de Monte-Cristo. Of course, today’s villain was terribly stale in comparison.”
    “. . .!”
    The voice was all Jester needed to realize that the last words were aimed at him.
    That much was clear from the meaning of the words, but Jester had felt the speaker’s gaze on an even more basic level.
    He might not actually be watching, but he could probably grasp Jester’s every move. Jester knew that he was dealing with a being on that level.
    That being made a single request, as casually as he might order a morning coffee at a hotel.
    “Flat. This is a good opportunity, so dispose of it for me while you’re at it.”
    “. . .!”
    Jester’s nerves froze.
    He could immediately tell what the “it” he could hear from the phone referred to.
    That realization melted the shock and awe gripping his heart, and he finally spoke to the man on the other end of the call.
    “Are you . . . Are you really going to get in my way, Lord Vandelstam?!”
    “. . .”

    Jack was inwardly a little taken aback by the conversation.
    I see.
    It’s not as though I doubted Flat’s word . . . but he really does seem to be a hematophage of consequence.
    He speaks like an amiable old gentleman, but behind that is the intimidating air of a powerful king.
    Valery Fernand Vandelstam.
    Alias, “Van-Fem.”
    He was the “hematophage acquaintance” that Flat occasionally mentioned to Berserker, but it seemed he was a far more important figure in the underworld than Jack had imagined.
    According to Hansa, he had been designated as one of just under thirty special, superior Dead Apostles and also possessed a “human face” as the head of one of the world’s leading corporations.
    He was a unique creature who had built up powerful connections to human society not through hematophage or Dead Apostle abilities, but through economic power and influence—a terrifying hematophage who was powerful both as a human and as a Dead Apostle.
    Of course, as far as Flat was concerned, he was just “a super-rich, super-strong hematophage who runs a casino on a fancy cruise ship back home.”

    That Dead Apostle, who had earned the nickname “The Devil,” fell silent for a moment. When his voice came from the speaker, it sounded as if he were talking to himself more than answering Jester.
    Dead Apostles are those who deny human history. . . . Is that it?”
    He may have already decided that Jester was not worth talking to.
    “I see. That’s quite right,” he continued dispassionately, as if for Flat and Hansa’s benefit. “That’s precisely why you’re repulsive. You say that you deny the human world, and all the while you’re in love with a Ghost Liner—a Heroic Spirit—arguably the apotheosis of human history. It’s what they call a double-standard.”
    “. . .!”
    “I don’t mind you having your fill of humans in bad faith. Conversely, you might fall for a fanatic with beautiful convictions, and it’s only natural that you would treat individuals differently. But changing your stance as a Dead Apostle—your way of being—based on who you’re dealing with? That’s an unnecessary bug in the world.”

    Hansa was certain.
    If Jester had defiled Assassin purely out of warped desire without making any claims to “deny human history,” this Dead Apostle called Van-Fem would not have done much, if anything.
    He had no idea what Van-Fem would have done if Jester had claimed to seal away his nature as a Dead Apostle for the sake of love, but for the moment, at least, that was purely hypothetical. Hansa decided to shelve the question.
    When Flat had told Van-Fem about Jester before he made contact with Lord El-Melloi II, Van-Fem had initially spoken warmly of him and called him a fellow affirmer of humanity. He might be decadent and inclined to destructive doctrines, but he was a Dead Apostle who at least saw humanity as worthy enough to plan a murder-suicide with.
    But as soon as Hansa described the events at the police station—how Jester had used his power to deny human history while claiming to love Assassin—Van-Fem’s demeanor had abruptly cooled.
    That was when he had said Jester’s true name, Dorothea.
    It seemed clear that this powerful Dead Apostle governed himself according to strict rules and that Jester had broken them.
    If Jester hadn’t done that, I guess Van-Fem might have sided against us. This is why I hate dealing with Dead Apostles.

    Van-Fem was the kind of big name that the Burial Agency, the organization that Hansa held in such high regard, would take on.
    Hansa remained on his guard, not knowing when Van-Fem might intervene, but the Dead Apostle seemed to see right through him.
    “Hansa, I believe you said your name is? Have no fear. Like the Lord of the Clock Tower, I’m merely a spectator speaking on the front lines from a safe place. You have nothing to worry about.”
    “Much obliged. Speaking for the Church, I eagerly await a contribution from you.”
    “Do you take checks?” The champion of finance replied calmly, unmoved by Hansa’s jibe. “I’ve grown ecologically conscious lately. I’d rather not consume any more energy with this long phone call.”
    Van-Fem said a brief goodbye and ended the call before Hansa was even sure if he were joking.
    He had never conversed with Jester directly, and that more than anything showed that Van-Fem had severed ties with him.

    “. . .”
    “Uh, umm . . . Mr. Fem seemed really angry. Are you OK? If you’re going to make up, I think you’d better start with an email. Even if he won’t take your calls, I’m pretty sure his secretary checks all his emails.”
    Flat landed a critical follow-up hit on Jester, who was still on his knees and motionless.
    Hansa concluded that this double was no longer a threat and directed the nuns with a gesture.
    “It’s too bad, but if you’ve got the time to write emails, write the Church a confession. We’re about to go hunt down your main body.”

    That was one of the fiends’ leaders.
    I could tell just from his voice. He’s a dreadful enemy . . . but I’ll worry about him later.
    Assassin briefly hesitated about her course of action, then apparently decided that she did not have the time to fight a double and made to leave out a broken window—toward where Kuruoka Tsubaki was.
    But a massive form covered the broken window, standing in her way.
    It was neither a smoke-like demonic beast nor a Kerberos; it was an even more pure symbol of death: a complete skeleton scorched and carbonized by jet-black flames.
    One other notable feature was its height, which rivaled the building’s.
    “Whoa! A giant’s ghost?!”
    Flat was startled like an elementary schooler. Jester, meanwhile, slowly rose from his knees.
    “Whoa! A vampire’s ghost?!”
    Flat was even more startled.
    “The spell should still be effective,” Jack chimed in, still in wristwatch form.
    Jester might be a double, but that did not necessarily mean that he could not attack them.
    The people around the room tensed while Jester remained downcast and silent. Then . . .
    “. . . Hee hee.”
    A soft chuckle escaped him.
    “I see. . . . So, I’ve been scrapped as a Dead Apostle.”
    Jester’s face was still ghostly pale as he broke into a grin with more than a hint of madness in it.
    “Then we’re a perfect match now, my dear Assassin.”
    “What do you mean?”
    Assassin furrowed her brows, sensing something ominous.
    “You were abandoned by your chiefs despite holding the strongest faith of anyone, and I was abandoned by the mainstream of the pro-humanity faction because I turned toward a stronger love than anyone. Yes, I see! So, this is the view you saw! Now I understand it in my soul! We truly were destined to be drawn to each other!”
    “Stop. You sound like a stalker who lost his job after the he got the cops called on him.”
    Hansa looked disgusted, but he did not have time to listen.
    He turned his attention to the giant skeleton and considered whether he ought to destroy it or make his escape.
    Then, a loud shock shook the building.
    “?!”
    It was obvious what had happened.
    The giant skeleton had raised its arms and begun to punch the building.
    “Oh! This is beyond my wildest expectations! That’s a world built on dreams and death for you; it’s as if there’s no end to its nightmares!”
    Jester became even more excited as he continued to smile through the pain wracking his body.
    “Have it your way, Lord Vandelstam! I’ll prove it to you! I’ll seize the Grail with my beloved Assassin, and we’ll use its power to wake up the spider and wipe out the human race! I’ll go back to affirming humanity when Assassin is the last remnant of the human order! When that time comes, I’ll have you throw a party to bless us, Lord Vandelstam!”
    “Is it me, or has this guy stopped making sense?! Maybe I made the spell too strong. . . .”
    “Don’t worry,” Hansa answered Flat’s shout. “He was always like this.”
    Assassin, who also knew how Jester had been broken all along, planned her counterattack on the skeleton without hesitation.
    Suddenly, the flames that spilled from the giant skeleton’s mouth leapt toward Assassin.
    “. . .!”
    She deflected them with one of her Noble Phantasms, Capricious Fleeting Shadow: Zabaniya.
    She held it at bay with writhing blades of hair, but then realized that another, equally gigantic skeleton had appeared on the opposite side of the building and her escape routes were almost totally cut off.
    “Ha ha ha! Well now! It’s on course to bring the whole building down! Oh, don’t worry; no matter how much of the city it destroys, one wish from the master of this dream, and it will all go back to normal! Of course, that only goes for the buildings. . . . Oh, what a shame. This poor priest and nuns and mage are all going to die just because you came here!”
    “Damn you . . .!” Assassin snarled. Jester basked in her animosity and contentedly screwed up his eyes.
    “Oh, not good, not good! The altar!”
    “Hey, Flat?! What’s—”
    Lord El-Melloi II’s voice cut off. At the same time, the building let out a loud creak.

    Before long, Crystal Hill tilted, and the skyscraper, a symbol of the city, loudly collapsed.

    And Flat and the others on the top floor were . . .

    X X


    Fuyuki (Illusion)

    The collapse of the Fuyuki Hyatt hotel was lavishly depicted within the illusion.

    The event had taken place in the early stages of the fourth Holy Grail War, but thanks to Prelati’s editing, it was overlapped with visuals of its climax, the “Great Fuyuki Fire,” to close out the illusion with a more disastrous presentation.

    “. . .”

    The illusion came to an end, and the visible world reverted to the Fuyuki forest.
    No one else appeared, and there was no sign of anyone in the castle.
    As a cold wind blew, Ayaka felt that she had to say something, but she could not even turn to face Saber.
    The “illusion” that the boy and girl had shown them had been a series of comically staged scenes, prankish in the extreme, but even she could understand that the presentation had been calculated to grate on the viewer’s nerves.
    She did not know about King Arthur the person.
    But when she looked at Richard, whose upbringing had been founded not on King Arthur but on stories of him, she could sense how noble, brave, and majestic a figure he must have been in those legends.
    Ayaka had only heard Richard speak about his admiration over the past few days and did not actually know the legend of King Arthur, but even she had begun to develop a mental image of him as someone who “must be pretty incredible,” even if she did not really know why.
    But that was precisely why . . .
    Ayaka had not been able to bring herself to check the look on Richard’s face when he saw King Arthur in that illusion.

    All in all, you could say that it had not been made to idly slander “King Arthur.”
    It had not depicted King Arthur as a vicious murderer or a cowardly weakling. Even Ayaka had been able to grasp that she really must be noble.
    But what they had ultimately been shown was the reality that even with her nobility and aspirations to justice, some things were still beyond her.
    The other kings had refuted her principles, and she had major disagreements with the Master in whose hands she placed her fate.
    Ultimately, she had destroyed the Grail using her own holy sword in a betrayal by her Master.
    As a result, the city of Fuyuki had suffered an unprecedented disaster.
    Ayaka had been unable to bear the final scene of the illusion, which placed them standing in the center of a mountain of charred corpses, and had no choice but to keep looking down.
    Ayaka thought about one scene that the illusion had rubbed in their faces.
    The words that each of the three kings had said when they drank together.

    The golden King of Heroes said:
    “A king’s principles ought to be the laws that he himself laid down.”
    The red-haired King of Conquerors said:
    “A king is someone who conquers and overruns all riches and all reason, starting from his own body.”
    And the blue and silver King of Knights said:
    “A king should be someone who sacrifices himself to the path that leads to righteous ideals in order to grant his people salvation.”
    The King of Knights went on to declare her own wish for the Grail.
    “I will turn time back to the ritual of the sword of selection, and if there is a more fitting king than me, I will start British history over again by entrusting it to them.”
    She had heard about that ritual at the beginning of Richard’s mother’s bedtime story. It had supposedly decided that Arthur would be king.
    It seemed like the King of Knights had thought that since she had ultimately destroyed her kingdom, if there were anyone better than her, that person should rule it.
    But when they heard her declaration, the King of Conquerors grew quietly angry, and the golden king laughed at it.
    The King of Knights said that she would “answer her people’s prayers for salvation.” The King of Conquerors had angrily disagreed, saying, “A selfless king can’t lead his people. The people will never admire a slave to righteousness.”

    “Sacrificing everything you are on the altar of righteousness is no way for a human to live.”

    “King of Conquerors, how can you be so certain that a reign that abandons humanity is worse than a human one?”

    “Hehe. King of Knights, someday that attitude will uplift you from humanity to divinity.”

    “Why do you laugh, King of Heroes? If that were humanly possible, why hesitate?”

    “You think so? The goddesses I know were unreasonableness personified, always forcing their own ideas of righteousness onto the people.”

    “Listen, King of Knights, I know I’m one to talk, seeing as legend has it I’m a descendant of Zeus . . . but chasing godlike righteousness is a path that ends in culling your people.”

    The debate had continued for a little longer, and then assailants had appeared, signaling an end to the discussion before the King of Knights had a chance to make a final retort.
    The argument had actually gone on longer, but Ayaka did not remember all of it.
    She had been beside herself, overwhelmed by pressure from the red-haired king and a strange terror of the golden king.
    If there had not been an attack, maybe the King of Knights would have made an effective retort.
    Ayaka and Saber had not been able to see her face from their position.
    They could only imagine what her expression had been.
    They had no way of knowing if Francesca and Francois had deliberately hidden it from them, or if they had not been able to see the King of Knights’ face either.
    Had she been bowled over by the King of Conqueror’s angry speech like Ayaka?
    Or had she been unperturbed, convinced that there was no flaw in her kingship?
    The golden king had said, sadistically, that he “enjoyed the King of Knights’ look of agony,” but had she really looked distressed? And if so, what had she been distressed about?
    Ayaka did not know.
    Would Saber know?
    As she wondered, the scenery changed. In the end, Ayaka would never be able to learn if the King of Knights could have said something to the other kings in her own defense.
    But Saber’s words about living for the people had seemed right to Ayaka, so she had been more than a little shocked to hear the other kings meet them with anger and scorn.
    It felt like a rejection of the Lionheart, who had saved her, although she was not one of his people.

    The scenes conjured up in the illusion really were recreations of events observed by familiars.
    They also included reproductions of information obtained from a master of Mystic Eyes that could see the past, who had been hired at great expense.
    Nevertheless, the Fuyuki Holy Grail War was overseen by the Makiri, and the ward created by their insects was powerful. Francesca had not been able to see everything.
    Of course, she could not see what each participant felt about it in their own minds.

    On the other hand, there were many parts that she had known about but deliberately kept from the Lionheart.
    Francesca knew that Fuyuki’s Grail had been contaminated by “mud.”
    She had not been able to observe events immediately before or after its destruction, so she did not know what had been going through the mind of Saber’s Master.
    She could, however, guess that destroying the grail had, in a sense, been the correct decision.
    And the illusion she had edited together gave no hint of that.
    The Lionheart and Ayaka had only seen a film.
    The flash at the moment the Grail was destroyed, seen from the perspective of a familiar far outside the city, and the vision of hell that had overflowed into Fuyuki as a result.
    The detail that Command Spells had been used for the destruction of the Grail was only narration, inserted as speculation.
    But given that it was hard to imagine King Arthur choosing to destroy the Grail voluntarily, there was no reason not to accept it.
    And Ayaka’s honest impression was that the “path” King Arthur had just walked was a frighteningly raw vision of “war,” a far cry from the “tales of chivalry” that Richard’s mother had told him.
    She had seen fierce sneak attacks.
    She had seen the king rejected by her Master.
    She had seen the king’s allies take a woman hostage and gun down unresisting opponents.
    And . . . she had seen the king lop off the heads of those half-dead mages.
    You could say that that was normal in war and leave it at that.
    But even so, it had been far from Ayaka’s mental image of a “battle of heroes” and rubbed her nose in just what kind of fight she was currently caught up in. It was all she could do to resist the urge to vomit out of fear.
    Are you telling me that someone about my age fought through that kind of horrible treatment . . .?
    What expression had King Arthur worn as she raced across that battlefield?
    Her face had not been shown in any of her difficulties, and Ayaka could not tell if she had been shocked or totally unfazed.
    But . . . she thought that either one might distance her from the hero tales that Richard had admired.
    Wavering in the face of a cruel fate would be one thing, but if she were calmly accepting a cruel fate . . . then, as the other kings had said, that would not be human; it would be a mechanical “system.”
    And even though she had gone that far, in the end she had been betrayed by her Master and failed to gain anything.
    “All this happened in Fuyuki . . .? I’ve heard about the great fire, but . . .”
    It was certainly a tragic sight on its own, but what concerned Ayaka was that it had been edited to look as if King Arthur were a pitiful loser.
    That was why, even as she fought her growing urge to vomit, Ayaka glared at the direction the Prelatis’ voices had come from even before she tried to say anything to Saber.
    “Yeah, OK. For starters, I’ve learned that you two are the worst.”
    “Ah ha ha ha! Hold back on the praise; you’re embarrassing me.”
    “. . . Don’t let them get to you, Saber. It’s an illusion, right? I bet they made it all up! That argument between the kings is all lies for sure!”
    “Oh? Are you sure?” Francesca teased. “If it’s all lies, then everything the King of Knights had to say for herself is made up too.”
    Ayaka was at a loss for words.
    “W-Well . . .”
    “Well? How about it? What do you think? They say people only believe what they want to . . . but you never even had an image of King Arthur you wanted to believe in to begin with, did you? If you had to say, I guess it’d be a perfect, cool, irrefutable King of Knights that wouldn’t disappoint your bodyguard Lionheart. Am I wrong?”
    “That’s not . . . Anyway, that ending makes no sense. Her Master had no reason to destroy the Grail! Maybe the King of Knights did get the Grail! And such a great king would never wish to redo history and make someone else king in the first—”
    “Oh, that’s good! I love that reaction! That’s the kind of opinion you can only get from a complete outsider who doesn’t know the first thing about the Holy Grail War! Talk about exciting! But that’s true. . . . I’d love to find out what would’ve happened if Artie had gotten her hands on that Grail! Worst case scenario, the mud would time slip and . . . No, that could never . . .”
    Francesca started mumbling incomprehensibly. Ayaka was irritated but fell silent for a little while.
    Then, she looked Saber, who had kept silent up to that point, in the face.
    Just then, Francesca and Francois started jeering tauntingly at Saber.
    “So, what’d you think, little Lionheart?! The heroic king you idolized all that time wanted a redo of her legend going all the way back to the start of her kingdom. . . . How’d it feel to find that out? How’d it feel to see that she was a tyrant who would’ve tried to scrap your history if she’d gotten the Grail?”
    “What’s your impression of the pitiful story of how your precious, legendary King Arthur kept fighting and winning but still couldn’t get anything in the end?! How did you feel seeing the other kings completely deny her?!”
    “Shut up! You set it all up! You can’t fool Saber with . . .”
    Ayaka was frightened.
    Frightened because Saber, who was always so talkative, had not said a word since the appearance of that king in blue.
    No cries of admiration or surprise. She could not even tell that Saber was right next to her.
    He had been shown a king who failed to gain anything, who had been treated as a mage’s tool, had slaughtered helpless people on the verge of death, and ended up having even the wish she had gone that far for betrayed.
    When Ayaka thought about the state his heart must be in, she felt like she had to say something to him, but she had never managed to find the right words.
    But while she worried, Saber broke his silence.
    “Francesca Prelati.”
    Ayaka instinctively looked over at Saber’s face and found it completely expressionless. But was it her imagination, or was there a gleam in his eyes?
    Or maybe, Ayaka began to think, he was so shocked that he had been crying in despair . . .
    But it was actually the opposite.
    Without moving from his spot, Saber honored the illusory world with his finest bow.
    “If you are the compiler of this illusion . . . then you must know how much it means for one who calls himself a king to bow to another.”
    “Saber . . .?”
    While Ayaka stared at him in bewilderment, Saber delivered a ringing speech straight from his soul.
    “But I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for telling me . . . a new tale of the great King of Knights’ heroism . . .!”
    When they realized what emotion that growing flow of words was charged with, not only Ayaka, but even Francesca and Francois showed signs of confusion.

    It was overwhelming delight.

    If the gleam in his eyes had been tears, they must have been tears of gratitude and joy.
    “Saber . . . what are you . . .?”
    “Ayaka . . . did you see that King of Knights . . . and think that she was not a hero?”
    “Huh . . .?”
    “As far as I’m concerned, Ayaka . . . I know all about the king being betrayed, or unreasonable, or ending up battered and losing everything in the legends of the Round Table. But I adore it all, including that.”
    Richard slowly began to explain to the confused-looking Ayaka like a little boy talking about his favorite baseball team.
    “And . . . in that argument at that drinking party, the other two didn’t reject the King of Knights.”
    “Huh? But . . . the way they shouted and . . .”
    “Think about it. Alexander the Great just shouted. I’m certain he doesn’t reject the King of Knight’s kingship. He called her a figurehead, said that she was tied down by an idol of a king, and more besides, but he never actually rejected the idol. He was just saying, ‘I recognize what you accomplished, but I don’t like it.’”
    “Really?” Ayaka said, surprised that Saber, far from losing his cool, was speaking more calmly than usual.
    “I’m just parroting my mother, but ‘a king doesn’t walk a noble path; his people call the path he’s walked noble.’ It’s easy for right and wrong to shift depending on time and place and the moods of subjects and vassals. So, that argument never had a right answer, and the three arguing must have known that better than anyone. They were trying to gauge sense, not righteousness.
    “But you know, our King of Knights did lag behind the other kings in one thing!” Richard, still standing proud, joked to Ayaka. “Her voice just wasn’t as loud! I agree with all the kings, and I disagree with them too! It’s only natural for kings who lived in different times and different places from me to each have their own ideas about kingship! But people who loudly declare that they’re the one who’s right in the end are strong. Phillip was like that on crusade.”
    “Oh, you’re taking it that way?” There was a hint of confusion in the Prelatis’ voices. “I was sure you’d either lose it and trash-talk the other two kings or lose hope in Artie and have to drop the happy-go-lucky act.”
    “. . . Hang on, is he even surprised that King Arthur was a girl?”
    The pair dropped the emotion from their tones and asked:
    “. . . I knew it. You know, don’t you?”
    “Somehow or other, you found your way to the real legend of King Arthur—I mean Artoria Pendragon—involved with magecraft. . . . Am I wrong?”
    Richard ignored the Prelatis’ questions and did a big stretch in place.
    “I thought so. So, that’s what you were really after. You wanted to find out how deep I penetrated into the King of Knights’ history, didn’t you? Well, I’m sorry to say that I never managed to find the tower Merlin was imprisoned in.”
    Then, he made his expression blank and lost himself deep in thought, staring up at the sky.
    “Oh . . . but they truly were magnificent. . . . Alexander the Great, and that gaudy one, and our first king were all ‘kings’ beyond anything I imagined.”
    “Saber?” Ayaka called to him, concerned that he was talking to himself and worried that he might be in shock after all.
    At that, Saber slowly lowered his face and said, with downcast eyes:
    “Ayaka.”
    “Wh-What?”
    Ayaka looked confused.
    “I’ve decided . . . to accept the resolve you showed earlier after all.”
    “Huh?”
    Ayaka stared blankly at Saber, who spread his arms wide in front of her, making no attempt to hide his damaged armor.
    “Please . . . allow me to try meeting you one more time.”
    Richard made a theatrical bow and smoothly took Ayaka’s right hand.

    “I ask you:”

    The king and girl harmonized beautifully with the magnificent castle in the forest behind them and blended into the scenery.
    It was just like a scene out of a tale of heroism recounted in numerous legends.

    “Are you my Master?”

    X X

    A Closed-off Town, Central Intersection

    “Hang in there! The Kerberoses aren’t moving! Push through!”
    Now that the Kerberoses were pinned down by the rain of sweets, John and the other police officers were making a desperate effort to regroup, but their situation was dire.
    The smaller grotesqueries kept coming from somewhere in the city no matter how many they took down.
    Some of the officers were trying to cast healing spells on their seriously injured comrades, but rats swarmed the open wounds, hindering their efforts.
    And as if to add insult to injury, a sound like the earth shaking engulfed the area.
    “! What the . . .”
    Vera looked up and spotted them.
    Giant skeletons as tall as Crystal Hill had pushed the building over, collapsing it with sheer brute force.
    Fragments of the building rained down. The officers who could still move did their best to fend them off, but it seemed that they could not keep that up forever, and one by one they collapsed to the asphalt.
    “Shit. . . . Is this it for us . . .?”
    “Not yet! Don’t throw in the towel while you can still move!” John answered another officer with a shake of his head.
    It was true that that world had been undergoing one metamorphosis after another for some time.
    If they could hold out a little longer, something might change again.
    Although up to that point, everything but the rain of sweets had been a change for the worse. . . .
    A shadow fell on John and the other officers. It was cast by the foot of one of the giant skeletons that had just toppled the building.
    “. . .”
    So, this is it.
    John and the other officers glared disappointedly up at the jet-black skeleton shrouded in black flames.
    Above their heads, the skeletons gargantuan foot stamped down . . . when a band of light shot out from somewhere and blasted the bony foot to smithereens.
    “?!”
    The band of light fired through the gaps in the buildings a second and then a third time.
    Just a few seconds later, the skyscraper-sized skeleton had been reduced to black bone dust on the wind.
    And some of the officers recognized those bands of light.
    They came from the Noble Phantasm that Saber had used in his battle with Gilgamesh on the church roof.

    “. . . Sorry, I took a little nap.”
    With that, Saber appeared from behind a building.
    At the sight of him, John cracked a wry smile and said:
    “You sure look like you’re in a good mood. Pleasant dreams?”
    “Yes, and I’m sure they’ll come true,” Saber replied with a shrug, then called to Ayaka, who was walking behind him.
    “Isn’t that right, Master?”
    “’Ayaka’ is fine,” Ayaka said with a shrug. “So, what is it?”
    “I’m truly sorry,” Saber explained. “I’m about to make a childish demand.”
    “Selfish how?”
    The pair looked up at the sky as they talked.
    Their eyes were locked on the towering, jet-black skeletons that had appeared to replace the Kerberoses busy gorging themselves on sweets.
    More skeletons than the city had skyscrapers, all every bit as gigantic as the one Saber had just blown away, had appeared and were closing in on them.
    But Saber was beaming, and even Ayaka, although visibly nervous, showed no sign of running away and stared down that swarm of monsters head-on.
    “I want to use the Holy Grail for something incredibly selfish.”
    “Go ahead. Is it bringing songs back with you to that ‘Throne’ place?”
    “No, not quite.”
    Saber shook his head, and then announced in a clear voice:
    “There’s a place that I want to use the Grail’s power . . . to fill with song.”
    John and the other officers, who were watching Saber from behind during the conversation, widened their eyes in surprise.
    Before they knew it, there were five figures following behind Saber and Ayaka.
    Two of them were the lance-wielding knight and the archer that they had seen earlier.
    Another was a man dressed like a hunter hiding his face with a hood who must have been hiding in the shadows at that time.
    There was also a strangely dressed knight carrying countless swords on his back and a sphere of water floating close beside him.
    “Who are they . . .?”
    They were slowly walking toward the grotesque swarm, ignoring the police officers’ questions.
    “Sorry, I used up the Kerberos fang just now. . . . Would you lend me a sword?”
    At Saber’s request, the knight with countless swords on his back gave a listless shrug and tossed him a decorative sword that was beautiful that but seemed well-worn, sheathe and all.
    “Thank you.”
    Saber caught the sword, and as he drew it, said:
    “We’re probably up against the Grim Reaper, and this whole world is his forces.”
    Saber grinned broadly and broke into an energetic run.
    “It will be a worthy opponent!”
    As if in answer, the knights and archers behind him fanned out, and the hooded man vanished before anyone knew what was happening.
    The sphere of water floated lightly around Ayaka, looking as if it were guarding her.
    And then . . . their “war” began.

    X X

    “Wow! It’s getting crazy down there! Do you think those are all Heroic Spirits?!”
    “Pipe down. You’ll defeat the purpose of the concealment spell.”
    Watching Saber’s group fight from the air were Flat and Jack, who had supposedly been left behind on the top floor of Crystal Hill.
    Flat was wearing something like a bizarre parachute and falling at a much slower rate than a normal parachute would allow.
    Beside him, Hansa and the nuns were descending on identical parachutes. If not for Flat’s concealment spell, it would have looked like a midair show.
    “Still, Hansa, it’s a good think we searched the room in advance.”
    “Yeah,” Hansa answered one of the nuns, “I can’t believe there were so many parachutes in there. And these aren’t ordinary commercial models; they’re practically Mystic Codes with special magecraft built in. They needed charging with magical energy, though. . . . Did the faction using that workshop plan for the whole building getting take down?”
    The parachutes were copies of objects in the real-world suite.
    The King of Heroes, who had once said, “I shall at least lend you a parachute,” had put his words into practice and had outfitted the suite with enough for Tine and her subordinates in addition to his furnishings and decorations, but of course Flat and the others had no way of knowing that.
    Then, surveying the battle between Saber and the swarm of “death” unfolding below them, Hansa calmly stated:
    “. . . We’d better land a good distance from them so we won’t get caught in that.”
    Noting that the cityscape he could see from the air was being steadily overrun with darkness, he added:
    “Of course, it doesn’t look like anywhere in this city is ‘out’ of that anymore. . . .”

    X X

    As he raced through the city full of “death” made manifest, Saber’s heart was filled with delight.
    I knew that King Arthur would be just as the legends said.
    If he relaxed at all, his trembling heart would bring tears of joy to his eyes.
    Her conduct is praiseworthy. Whether she was entrusted the thread by another or spun it herself, she would spin it over again as many times as it takes to raise a flag that will never fall over her land.
    His body moved instinctively, cutting down a second skeletal grotesquery and then a third.
    It’s true that I might have taken a different path, and that I might not choose to start over.
    His movements picked up speed with each one he dispatched. By the time his body count passed ten, he had already reached his top speed from his battle with the golden Heroic Spirit.
    But what does that matter? Those are trifles. We just have different values.
    Matching pace with Saber’s struggle, his retinue of knights and archers were bringing down the surrounding monstrosities one after another.
    “When you praise conviction, it doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong!”
    Before he knew it, he was shouting.
    Unable to contain his overflowing emotions, he gave voice to his joy as he raced up buildings at high speeds.
    “That’s why I praise her! No matter how the King of Conquerors shows his anger! No matter how the oldest King of Heroes scoffs!”
    To be frank, Richard did understand why the King of Conquerors had been angry.
    He had a good impression of Alexander as well, but that did not mean he objected to King Arthur’s intentions.
    After all, the Lionheart had walked a completely different path of kingship from all three.
    That was why he celebrated.
    Celebrated the King of Knights’ ideals and convictions that had shaped his own chivalry.
    “I approve her chivalry, her drive to realize her own ideals even if it meant undoing what her subjects accomplished! That tyranny is just another proof of kingship!”
    Richard declared that the King of Knights’ desire to sacrifice herself for an ideal was “tyranny” and that he approved of it for that very reason.
    The police officers who heard him looked confused. Ayaka heaved a big sigh and grinned that it was “just like him.”

    “. . . But great King Arthur, you’re caught in one misconception,” Saber said, his face clouding slightly with anxiety.
    Then, he expressed his feelings as if advising someone who was not there.
    “First king of our chivalry! You can’t see! The country built by the Round Table and destroyed by the Round Table doesn’t need a fresh start!”

    “King Arthur really did lead us to Avalon!”

    X X

    “Ugh. Just listen to him rattle on. Artie has it rough with people piling expectations on her even after she’s dead. What would our teachers think?”
    Prelati poked his head out of a building whose sides had partially collapsed and stared at Saber in exasperation.
    “Darn. Still, I figured he’d show us something uglier, but it’s hopeless; he’s incurable,” the girl who popped up beside him said cheerfully, twirling her umbrella. “He’s the type that’s seriously convinced he’s living in an epic. If he were set on one goal, he might end up like dear little Jeanne.
    “But what’s the problem? I get a kick out of that king! I bet he’ll keep stirring up all kinds of trouble! It’d be no fun if he got crushed by gods or whatever and this turned into a one-sided slaughter! As promoters-slash-spectators, we’ve got to keep things entertaining and provide a top-notch bloodbath!”
    “I never said I don’t like him. That’s why I wanted to see his face crumple up as he bawled his eyes out.”
    “Oh, I’m with you there!”
    Francesca narrowed her eyes and stared raptly with a devilish grin.
    “Besides . . .”
    Stared not at Saber, but at Ayaka Sajou, who had accepted her position as his Master.
    “I bet it’d be fun to switch things up and go after that girl next time . . . right?✩”

    Prelati looked at Francesca, shrugged, and then looked up at the sky with a grin of his own.
    “So, what now? The hematophage’s presence is weaker now; want to go finish him off?”
    “Good point. Either way, no matter how many big skeletons they beat up, it won’t get them out of this . . .” Francesca began to say, looking out over the dark-stained world, when she spotted a change and trailed off in mid-sentence.
    “Hmm? What’s that?

    “No way! Oh wow! I know it’s just one city . . . but don’t tell me Lionheart’s gonna overwhelm a ‘world’?”

    X X

    Having raced up to the roof of the tallest building in the city after Crystal Hill, Saber paused to catch his breath.
    “Great first king of ours! I will prove it!”
    An especially large, jet-black skeleton stood blocking his path.
    It was the product of multiple skeletons fused together, and countless bones sprouted wildly from its back like a thousand-armed Kannon.
    Faced with that grotesque monster, Saber continued carve his panegyric to King Arthur into the world without the least fear.
    “The path of kingship you walked was no mistake!”
    Then, Saber kicked the roof and soared high into the air.
    “The kingship and pride that the Round Table left behind gave birth to us! Tragedy and ruin polished our souls! I will show you and the Round Table that the splendor of humanity—of chivalry—will never fail!”
    Slipping past the jet-black flames that closed in on him, Saber unleashed a shining slash with all his might.
    “It was you we saw something to admire in! And we’ll go on seeing it, Arthur, our first king!”
    All the while singing out the wish he held up at the top of his lungs.
    “I’ve already lost the right . . .”
    Then, after smiling in self-mockery for just a moment, he set a radiance that sent hope to some unknown person in his eyes and in his voice as he shouted:
    “But someday, someone else will reach you in paradise! I know they will! The planet’s history that you wove will send a wind of peace to you! I have only to play notes to bless it!

    “With the power of the Holy Grail . . . I will sing a song of human triumph to the farthest reaches of distant Avalon!”

    So, does it still count as one-bound-jackery when the suspense only lasts about 10 pages?
    Last edited by OtherSideofSky; May 3rd, 2021 at 11:53 PM. Reason: typo

  5. #10485
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six Comun's Avatar
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    My boy Richard is so ready to use that omnipotent wish-granting device as a karaoke machine and I fully support his endeavors.

  6. #10486
    Now we know who played the song we hear when saber met shirou.

  7. #10487
    鬼 Ogre-like You's Avatar
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    this illusion (ft. Richard)
    Though abandoned, forgotten, and scorned as out-of-date dolls, they continue to carry out their mission, unchanged from the time they were designed.
    Machines do not lose their worth when a newer model appears.
    Their worth (life) ends when humans can no longer bear that purity.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ticeexcenny
    In my opinion you are not right. I am assured. Let's discuss it. Write to me in PM, we will talk.

  8. #10488
    Rounds of Lionheart is such a fun NP. Much prefer it to "summon an army" NPs.

  9. #10489
    Vanity Pursuer Tmato's Avatar
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    Wow, translations so fast recently!

    I was worried this scene would feel unnaturally forced for the purpose of lorereferences, but i think it hit a nice spot by focusing on Artoria's rejection of the things she had created. Richard's reaction to it all is classic Narita.
    I hope in the anime adaptation 10 years from now that they emphasise the Prelatis' over the top editing.

  10. #10490
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six Comun's Avatar
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    We need Studio Grand Illusion's movie adaptation of Fate/Zero on the exact same level of quality as DEEN's UBW.

  11. #10491
    Taste the Rainbow Skittles's Avatar
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    but if were calmly accepting a cruel fate
    He called a figurehead and said that she was tied down by an idol of a king and more beside
    I never managed to fine the tower Merlin
    making no attempt to his damaged armor
    It’d be no fun if he crushed by gods
    thanks for all the translations as always

  12. #10492
    The Long-Forgotten Sight Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    “Hehe. King of Knights, someday that attitude will uplift you from humanity to divinity.”
    wow is that a motherfucking fate/grand order reference

    Richard's taste in music:

    Supports:


    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  13. #10493
    Knight of Joestar SirGauoftheSquareTable's Avatar
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    Thank you so much OSoS! The translation was great as usual, and once again, I find myself in awe of Narita's ability to write in TM's setting and his sheer love of the verse. It humbles me. First of all, Richard, my man...first, I love how his response to the illusions the Prelatis showed was essentially a riposte to the entire Zero fandom and the debate over the Banquet of Kings. As Richard said, Iskandar may have shouted down Saber, but he never really rejected her way of kingship, even if he didn't like it. All of the kings are products of their times and peoples, so no one was universally right, but they all had the confidence to do so anyway. Then, we have Richard's fighting elegy to King Arthur and his wish for the Grail. I think if Saber could have heard it, she might have cried, though the fact that this follows School Life canon does put a damper on that idea. Without a doubt, he is truly the second biggest Saber fan, only slightly edged out by Last Episode Shirou, and I like how Narita was actually more subtle than usual with his Last Episode references. Finally, I like how Ayaka and Richard both decided to commit themselves wholeheartedly to the war and truly established their pact right as shit was going down.
    Quote Originally Posted by Deathhappens View Post
    Really, all 3 of the romances in F/SN are 'for want of a nail' kind of situations.
    Quote Originally Posted by forumghost View Post
    You mean because Shirou winds up falling for the first of the three that he Nailed?
    Quote Originally Posted by Tobias View Post
    I speak for the majority of important people* *a category comprised entirely of myself

  14. #10494
    Quote Originally Posted by Skittles View Post
    thanks for all the translations as always
    Thanks for catching those typos. They should be fixed now.

  15. #10495
    Cats are awesome RCM9698's Avatar
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    Thanks for all your work on the translation, OSoS!

    Nice to see Ayaka and Saber make their pact official, even if I don't sympathize with Saber's new goal.

  16. #10496
    Mesopotamia's King Gilgamesh_maximaster's Avatar
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    I want to know about the other HS that Saber have beside him. We have Lockley, and Pierre Basile (the one who killed him) we know he has amage with him too but we don't know his identity. and who a hell is that man with "countless swords in his back" to many mysteries

  17. #10497
    Wyrd oft nereð unfǽgne eorl, þonne his ellen déah... Skull's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gilgamesh_maximaster View Post
    I want to know about the other HS that Saber have beside him. We have Lockley, and Pierre Basile (the one who killed him) we know he has amage with him too but we don't know his identity. and who a hell is that man with "countless swords in his back" to many mysteries
    There's also Rider who is William Marshal.
    "Here's a bangin lil' tune about takin' on The Man!"


  18. #10498
    Unfortunately it reduces the chances of William Marshal becoming a servant on his own by a lot. Maybe there's still a chance for Bertrand du Guesclin, but he might end up as a Jeanne orbiter instead which is a bad fate too. Godfrey of Bouillon might be my last hope for a western equivalent to a sword saint, no fairies or magical bullshit required, just pure skill.

  19. #10499
    Wyrd oft nereð unfǽgne eorl, þonne his ellen déah... Skull's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gilgamesh_maximaster View Post
    and who a hell is that man with "countless swords in his back" to many mysteries
    Forgot to mention this, but the most common theory I've seen is Mercadier.

    Quote Originally Posted by CO9p5JMGv!p9 View Post
    Unfortunately it reduces the chances of William Marshal becoming a servant on his own by a lot.
    While I don't necessarily agree, that would be a shame if it turned out to be so. Marshal is such an awesome figure and genuinely deserves to be made a Heroic Spirit in his own right.
    "Here's a bangin lil' tune about takin' on The Man!"


  20. #10500
    Knight of Joestar SirGauoftheSquareTable's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CO9p5JMGv!p9 View Post
    Unfortunately it reduces the chances of William Marshal becoming a servant on his own by a lot. Maybe there's still a chance for Bertrand du Guesclin, but he might end up as a Jeanne orbiter instead which is a bad fate too. Godfrey of Bouillon might be my last hope for a western equivalent to a sword saint, no fairies or magical bullshit required, just pure skill.
    Why would Bertrand be a Jeanne orbiter when he lived a good 80 years before Jeanne showed up? Au contraire, I think she'd admire HIM on some level.
    Quote Originally Posted by Deathhappens View Post
    Really, all 3 of the romances in F/SN are 'for want of a nail' kind of situations.
    Quote Originally Posted by forumghost View Post
    You mean because Shirou winds up falling for the first of the three that he Nailed?
    Quote Originally Posted by Tobias View Post
    I speak for the majority of important people* *a category comprised entirely of myself

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