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

  1. #10021

    More health check up

  2. #10022
    We Want to Protect that Head OverMaster's Avatar
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    Jesus, Narita, if you're so sick just pass your notes to someone who actually can write the damn thing. I'm sure Nasu's not heartless and will pay you anyway.

  3. #10023
    They copied the third holy grail war so it depends exactly by which point they copied before or after angra is defeated and corrupted the grail. Narita can do either. So it maybe or may not be corrupted

  4. #10024
    リビングデッド Living Dead
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    Quote Originally Posted by mewarmo990 View Post
    As for the question of how long the telephone had been there, there shouldn’t have been anything in that space until several minutes prior. But, the telephone was wonderfully integrated with the harmony of the room, as if it had always existed there.
    Indeed, addressing the phone had confirmed the fact of its existence, as if the history of the room had been rewritten.
    Concentrate on "as if the history of the room had been rewritten".
    It was said the Second Magic included the rewriting of record, I think we can extrapolate at least a little bit of how it works from these few sentences.
    By the way, it is from the extra 2 of Volume 1.
    Last edited by Mementore; September 20th, 2020 at 11:06 AM.

  5. #10025
    Here's the full chapter 18, with a little over another 4k words to bring us up through page 184 (and over 31k words of the book so far). Next up is a short interlude and then chapter 19, which is about 45 pages.

    FSF 6, Chapter 18: As Dream and Reality are Both Illusion I
    Chapter 18

    As Dream and Reality are Both Illusion I


    A Closed-off Town, Main Street

    “What . . .?”
    The first person to react to Saber’s question was not one of the police officers; it was Ayaka, who had been listening half-disinterestedly.

    “But if that little girl is the cause, will you be able to kill her?”

    She understood what Saber meant.
    If the girl turned out to be the reason they had been pulled into this deserted world, there was a good chance that “dealing with” her would enable them to return to their original world.
    The instant that thought took shape in her head . . . something pulsed.

    Ayaka blinked slowly, steadying her breathing.
    When she quietly opened her heavy eyelids . . . she was there.
    Far across Main Street, visible through a gap in the officers.
    She was too far away to make out her face, but Ayaka recognized her instantly.
    A little girl with her face covered by something like a red, red—simply red—hood.
    She looked like she might be three years old and seemed liked she might be about six, and Ayaka had a feeling that she was much older.
    Ayaka could not be sure of her height or age.
    Only the perception of the color red passed through Ayaka’s eyes and rampaged through her brain.
    How could . . .?
    An instant later . . . Red Riding Hood had drawn nearer.
    She had not run over—before Ayaka knew what was happening, she was right behind the group of officers.
    She had only been distantly visible before, but now Ayaka could see her clearly.
    “Red Riding Hood”—the object of Ayaka’s ongoing terror and one of the reasons she had come to the United States.
    There’s no elevator, so why . . .?
    Red Riding Hood was only supposed to appear inside elevators. Ayaka was not even sure if she was real or a hallucination.
    Since her arrival in Snowfield, however, the rules had begun to shift.
    It seemed to Ayaka that she could feel Red Riding Hood’s presence closer to her every time she was on the verge of remembering something in this city.
    Her whole body broke out in a cold sweat, but she could not look away.
    She could see Red Riding Hood’s hood move as she slowly turned her head to face her.
    Oh no. No.
    I don’t know why, but I’ll end. If I see the face under that hood, I’ll be finished.
    Even if she wanted to scream, her lungs were taut, and she could hardly breathe.
    She was so paralyzed by fear that she could not even shut her eyes, let alone look away. Red Riding Hood lifted her hood even more. When it reached the point that Ayaka could see her sneering lips, Red Riding Hood vanished from her sight.
    Blotted out by Saber, who had leaned over to look at her face.
    “What’s wrong, Ayaka? You’re pale as a ghost.”
    At the same time, Ayaka’s body was freed from its paralysis.
    She hurriedly moved to look behind Saber, but there was no longer anything there.
    “. . . Oh, nothing. Just a bad daydream.”
    “You do get like that sometimes. Are you under a curse? I might be able to dispel it if you are.”
    “. . . Thanks, but it’s nothing like that . . . I think.”
    Ayaka declined Saber’s offer and then took another look at his face . . . and decided to pursue the discomfort that had probably caused her to see “Red Riding Hood.”
    The discomfort and unease that had suddenly grown within her reflexively made her vocal cords squirm.
    “. . . More importantly, Saber, the, umm . . . girl you were just talking about is the one in the coma, right?”
    “Yes, but it’s apparently confirmed that she somehow became a Master, so . . .”
    “No. . . . That’s not what I mean. . . .” Ayaka asked somewhat uneasily, reeling in the source of the discomfort that had sprouted within her.
    “Why did you ask, ‘will you be able to’ . . . and not ‘will you’?”
    “. . .”
    “Well . . . I don’t know how to put it, but . . . it sounded like you weren’t asking whether they’d kill her or not. . . . Sorry if I’m wrong . . . but it sounded more like you were saying, ‘If you can’t kill her, I will.’ . . .” Ayaka asked, choosing her words carefully.
    Saber fell silent for a moment . . . then answered with a troubled smile.
    “Honestly, Ayaka, you can be quite perceptive sometimes.”
    “Saber?!”
    “Wait, hang on. Don’t worry. I’m not trying to say that killing the girl is the right choice, and I don’t want to kill her if I can avoid it. I want to save her as much as you do.”
    “I-I see . . .”
    Ayaka was somehow relieved, but as she steadily calmed herself, she asked:
    “Then why did you ask . . .”
    Ayaka had difficulty framing her question, but Saber intuited her intent and answered, choosing his words carefully.
    “Of course I want to save the girl, and I have no intention of giving up. But if they try to kill her to save someone else, even if I try to stop them . . . in the end, I won’t be able to hold them back. Not unless I overcome them by force.”
    He looked like a different person than the Saber who had spoken light-heartedly even about matters of his own life and death.
    Saber continued to speak not as a knight nor as a Saber, but as the embodiment of something else that Ayaka did not recognize.
    “So . . . if by some twist of fate, we’re put in a position where someone has to kill her . . . when the time comes, I’ll do it.”
    “Why?!” Ayaka shouted in spite of herself.
    She understood his reasoning.
    If a “sacrifice” became absolutely necessary, someone would have to do it.
    Even when it came to herself, she was not sure what she would do if she were told that she could save the girl but would be left behind in this deserted city as a result.
    No, I . . . I’d probably . . . sacrifice that little girl . . . who I’ve never even met.

    No, I’m sure I would.
    Stained red.
    After all . . .
    Stained red.
    I even let . . .
    Stained red.
    . . . a girl I knew die.
    Stained bright, crimson red.

    The color of “Red Riding Hood’s” hood was indelibly seared into the insides of her eyelids.
    She wanted to scream but was unable to.
    If she collapsed here, she would no longer be able to talk with Saber.
    She would no longer be able to stop him.
    At that thought, she wrung words from deep in her throat even as the world seemed to spin around her.
    “Why . . .? You don’t have to do that. . . . You don’t . . . so why would you?”
    Her words came out brokenly, barely forming her question.
    “Yes. . . .”
    Saber, however, did his best to grasp Ayaka’s intent and answer.
    “I suppose it means that, in the end, I wasn’t able to become like the knights I admired.”
    Saber then turned back to face the police officers, who were more than a little confused, although not as confused as Ayaka, and proudly declared:
    “But you are different. You are splendid knights.”
    “What do you . . .?”
    Cutting Vera short, Saber, who had been a king in life, praised the officers as if extolling the virtues of his own followers.
    “You fought honorably against that fearful bowman and survived! All to save a girl who is no relation of yours and who you have never even seen! Thus, you should continue to be defenders of the innocent! No, you must! You should never harm them, even to shield the rest of the people or society itself.”
    Saber lowered his eyes and after a momentary silence, as if he were looking at somewhere else, continued.
    “Once you’ve done that once, you lose control. . . . I should be the one to bear that responsibility.”
    “Saber!” Ayaka shouted again. “No! That’s not right! You’re not like that. . . . You always smile, and you never abandon anyone!”
    Ayaka could not understand why she was shouting so emotionally.
    But it was not rational.
    She had a feeling that if she did not shout now, Saber—the Heroic Spirit who had been able to laugh with her until a moment before—would vanish before her eyes.
    She did not know the first thing about the Holy Grail War, and she thought that what she had to say was probably just the whining of a sheltered naf . . . but she still forced out the words that welled up from deep in her chest.
    “. . . You think too highly of me, Ayaka. . . .”
    “It’s not because I’m your substitute Master. I’m sure you’d save even a passing kid on the street. I can at least tell that much! You’re not like me! You’re not! I won’t tell you to never kill anyone—it’d be selfish, and I don’t have the right—but . . .”
    At that point, Ayaka was briefly lost for words but gritted her teeth and spit out her shout, her raw emotion, along with the reservations that had lodged themselves in the back of her throat.
    “It doesn’t matter if you get your hands dirty in the end. It won’t erase the fact that you saved me! But . . . at least don’t talk like you should be the bad guy . . .”
    Finally, she concluded her display of passion with a declaration that crossed a line.
    “So . . . if someone has to be the bad guy . . . I’ll do it.”

    “. . .”
    Saber listened to Ayaka, who sounded as if she were condemning herself and not him, and looked at her sorrowful face . . . and found himself seeing his subordinates from when he was alive in her.

    “Why, Your Majesty?! Richard?!”
    “You didn’t need to bear those sins! Why didn’t you leave it to us?!”
    “You should have become a hero! Why didn’t you have us do it and pretend not to know?!”
    “Oh, oh, Your Majesty . . . your lion’s heart has grown to great. You are too fearless!”

    The words of the man who had followed him as his court mage came back to him, interrupting his reflections.

    “Good grief. I knew it would come to this, of course.
    “Still, I did try to stop you. And this is the result.
    “Then again, if it hadn’t turned out this way, it’d probably be a case for pruning.
    “That said, even I, Saint-Germain, am a bit appalled. Even the mahatma is shocked.
    “Yes, that’s right! Exactly! You are wonderfully daring! Lion-hearted!
    “That’s precisely why you had no fear! No fear of anything at all!
    “Not ten thousand foes, not generals who outrank you, not mystical retaliation, not superhuman fiends . . .

    “Not even staining your own hands . . . with the blood of countless innocents.”

    Finally . . . like a curse cast out of the distant past, he recalled the words of his younger brother by blood.

    “Oh, what are you worried about, brother?
    “No matter how much blood you have on your hands, the people of this land are in your thrall.
    “For some reason, it seems as though it’s my job to take on your disgrace and have stones thrown at me.
    “What do you think? Aren’t I quite the clown? Go ahead and laugh, brother!
    “. . . Laugh. You’re lucky. You’re a national hero, aren’t you?
    “If you’re a hero . . . then laugh.”

    “I see. . . .”
    Saber lowered his eyes and fell silent for a moment.
    When he opened them again, the resignation-tinged gleam, like dim fire, had left them, and they were his usual eyes again.
    “You notice the smallest things, as usual, Ayaka . . . or so I’d like to say, but that’s not quite right, is it?”
    “Of course not. Meeting you isn’t small to me anymore.”
    “. . . All right, I’ll withdraw this time. But be warned—I won’t lose next time.”
    “Huh?! . . . Was this a competition?”
    Saber affectedly ignored the confused and wide-eyed Ayaka and announced with his usual manner:
    “I can hardly force Ayaka to do the dirty work, and she won’t allow me to do it . . . so I’ll just have to save the girl, even if it costs me my life! Then, we’ll all leave this place safely!”
    “Saber . . .?”
    Saber beamed at Ayaka, who was confused by his sudden return to his usual attitude.
    “It won’t be a problem. The church was our starting point in this ward-world. What do you say we shelter the girl who’s dropped out instead of the priest and steal the overseer’s thunder?”
    “. . . Good idea. I’ll help.”
    Ayaka flashed a relieved grin . . . when a sudden vague apprehension brought a look of confusion to her face.
    “. . . Church . . . Shelter . . .”
    “What’s wrong?” Vera, who had kept silent up to that point, asked the troubled Ayaka, realizing that the pair’s conversation had finished for the moment.
    “I think,” Ayaka said haltingly, deep in thought, “I’ve met that guy in the gold armor . . .”
    “What?”
    “But . . . where . . .?”

    Ayaka was trying to remember something.
    She could not help feeling that she recognized that golden Heroic Spirit who had tried to kill Richard from his vantage point on the roof of the church.
    And the keywords “church” and “sheltering a child” began to violently shake her brain, which had been locked with a timeworn key.
    But at each jolt she could vividly sense “Little Red Riding Hood’s” presence, and the fear that she “must not remember any more” kept the doors of her memory shut.
    I know I have to remember . . .
    So, why . . .?
    Ayaka struggled desperately to reach her own memories.
    She had a feeling that “Little Red Riding Hood” was right behind her.
    She had a feeling that she was trying to tell her something.
    She had a feeling that she could hear Red Riding Hood’s voice.
    Ayaka tried to endure the terror and still keep thinking . . . until she saw Saber and the police officers being looking around and realized that her brain was not the only thing shaking.
    “? . . . What?” She muttered suspiciously just as the soles of her feet began to clearly feel the earth pulse.
    “A-An earthquake?!”
    No, not an earthquake.
    Something’s coming toward us . . .

    Then . . . as the vibrations grew steadily stronger, “it” emerged from behind a building.

    An enormous, pitch-black dog, easily over fifteen meters tall.
    Its entire body gave off a miasma-like smoke, and black flames, the same color as its coat, perpetually dripped from its jaws—the jaws of the three-headed monster blessed by Hades.

    X X

    Several Years Earlier, Somewhere in Europe

    “So, you’ll accept the offer? I plan to refrain, myself.”
    The mage, whose way of speaking gave an impression of cunning, had the outward appearance of a young girl.
    While the elegant clothes she wore suggested a sheltered young lady from a good family, the crow perched on her shoulder seemed strangely at home, giving rise to a sense that she was something out of the ordinary.
    She was a mage who, despite belonging to the Clock Tower, kept her distance from it out of dislike for its power struggles.
    Her somewhat elderly way of speaking in contrast to her sweet voice was said to be because she was actually over eighty years old, or a result of inheriting her Magic Circuits complete with the knowledge of their previous owners, but the truth was kept a mystery.
    That mage with an air of experience was speaking to a girl magecraft-user whose youthful air matched her appearance.
    “. . . Is that because you want to protect mage society?”
    “Ha ha! If a single ritual was enough to destroy our society, it would be long gone by now. . . . Or so I’d like to say . . . but lately rumor has it that a ritual in the far east stepped into fairly dangerous territory. I thought it was odd that this ‘Holy Grail War’ didn’t attract much attention despite a Lord dying in one ten years ago, but it looks like someone’s been finessing the flow of information.”
    The Holy Grail War.
    It had been known as a minor ritual in the far east, but it had not attracted serious notice until a few months previously, when the “fifth ritual” had been performed.
    They had not managed to learn the details of what had been done or achieved in it.
    Still, plausible rumors had it that if things had gone badly, it could have become one of the “ends” that the hermits of the Atlas Institute spoke of.
    “No respectable mage would accept a proposal as absurd as recreating that Holy Grail War in America, especially not without the backing of the Mages’ Association. They reached out to you because of your grudge against the Association despite the quality of your bloodline . . . or so I’d guess. I have a healthy respect for your talents, but when it comes to that monster—Francesca—individual ability is secondary at best.”
    “. . . That doesn’t bother me.”
    The girl who stood before the mage with the crow on her shoulder was not yet even fifteen years old.
    Despite that, her gaze was filled with resignation toward the entire world, and the faint gleam deep in her eyes came from the dark flames of hate.
    At least, the crow-tamer mage was convinced that it was so.
    “. . . Just between us, once, when I was participating in an auction on the Rail Zeppelin, I caught a glimpse of a Ghost Liner . . . one of these ‘Heroic Spirits.’ It wasn’t on the level of a familiar—it was a shadow of the human order engraved into the Earth itself. Don’t think that you can use one for a personal vendetta and come out unscathed.”
    “. . .”
    “If you want to destroy something big, you need to pay the price,” the mage with the crow continued to the girl, who lightly clenched her fists and dropped her gaze. “Destroying the Mages’ Association is tantamount to making an enemy of mage society itself. There are any number of people prepared to be destroyed in the end themselves, but don’t forget—your grandfather who gave up his humanity was one of them . . . and the order is backwards. The bigger the thing you want to destroy is, the sooner you’ll be destroyed first. Call it ‘advance payment.’
    “Just look at mages,” the crafty lady mage with the youthful appearance continued to the girl magecraft-user whose legal guardian she had become. “They strive to break the laws of nature and reach the Root, and isn’t every last one of them broken?”
    After a slightly self-deprecating smile, the mage’s face became expressionless, and she asked the girl who had become her ward:
    “Haruri Borzak, will you break as a person, or as a mage?”
    “Neither, ma’am,” the girl called Haruri plainly answered the mage who far outranked her.
    “I was already broken a long time ago. Broken by those people from the Clock Tower . . .”
    “. . .”
    “Father and mother were both ordinary mages. . . but they were branded heretics and had everything taken from them, all so the Clock Tower could get its hands on the research results they inherited from my grandfather, who abandoned his humanity!”
    “. . . Your life wasn’t taken, was it? It was the Borzaks quick perception that allowed them to pass on their Crest—albeit only partially—to you and let you escape. If you conspire with that thing—with Francesca—that will all have been for nothing.”
    She made her tone slightly graver as she spoke, but there was no change in Haruri’s expression.
    When the mage who was Haruri’s guardian saw that, she let out a faint sigh and shook her head.
    “If you were a mage, you would resign yourself to usurpation by the Clock Tower as a ‘matter of course’ . . . but the instant you wished for revenge for your parents instead of restoration as a mage, you were no mage. You aren’t broken yet. You could still start over. You could stay hidden while using magecraft to make your life a little easier.”
    She said that, but she made no further effort to stop Haruri.
    Haruri was only her ward, not her apprentice, and their relationship was not enforced by magecraft. She must have decided that it was not her path to get more deeply involved.
    She had a duty to a descendant of her acquaintances, the Borzaks, but that duty would not easily change to compassion.
    She might distance herself from the Clock Tower, but she was still that much of a mage.
    “I believe that the Lord I caught a glimpse of on the Rail Zeppelin—El-Melloi II, I believe—would be willing to accept even someone at odds with mage society like you at his school, but I suppose it would be rude to detain you further.”
    The crow’s eyes flashed eerily as the mage walked off into the darkness.
    She walked like a girl of her apparent age who had lost her way at night, but the gaze of the crow on her shoulder was almost frighteningly sharp and remained fixed on the girl called Haruri.
    “. . . Never forget, Haruri.”
    Did the voice that rang out an instant before they melted into the darkness come from the girl’s mouth or the crow’s plumage?
    The girl whose eardrums and spine shivered was no longer able to tell.
    “No matter how prepared you are to break . . .”
    Those last words, however, became a lingering echo in the mind of Haruri the magecraft-user.

    “Preparation won’t mean a thing in the face of someone who was broken from the start.”

    X X

    The Present, Snowfield, a Luxury Residential District

    “Hmm . . .”
    A woman’s voice rang out in the real Snowfield. There was a somehow unreal beauty to it.
    “I was sure he’d come rushing to track me down right away . . . but Utu is high in the sky and there’s still no sign of him. He’s surprisingly cautious, considering his best friend just got crushed.”
    A luxury residential area in the Snowerk district.
    Its largest mansion belonged to the owner of the casino building in the city center.
    Publicly, at least.
    The owner was a proxy put in place during the city’s construction—a businessman who had died from illness at a young age and was merely made to appear alive.
    The casino building was actually managed by one of the mages “on the inside,” who used magecraft to disguise himself as the late businessman to fool the eyes of the public when it was absolutely necessary for the owner to put in an appearance.
    As a result, this elegant mansion, which looked like it might belong to a minor Hollywood star, had no real owner—its only visitors were servicepeople who performed the bare minimum of maintenance necessary to keep up appearances.
    And yet . . .
    A group was currently using the mansion as if it belonged to them.
    A woman lounged on a pure white sofa so luxurious that it probably cost as much as a small house on its own. She was just sitting casually, but she gave the impression that she would make a perfect picture no matter who looked at her or from what angle, as if she were the very definition of beauty.
    “Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I want to let Gugalanna do the honors of wiping out that piece of junk, anyway.”
    The person stuck having that impression seared directly into her eyes was a girl still in her late teens.
    Haruri Borzak, the girl who was watching that goddess from a corner of the enormous room, was staring at Filia, the woman on the sofa, with a somewhat gloomy look in her eyes.
    “What’s got you looking so down?”
    Haruri answered Filia’s question in a tone of mingled caution and fear.
    “. . . Would you please tell me your name?”
    “Oh, you’re still hung up on that? Didn’t I tell you—if you’ve realized how charming I am, you don’t need to know anything else.”
    “Right now . . . it isn’t just charm. I feel afraid, too. I know I said that all I cared about was that you’d saved me . . . but since we’re going to fight together, I’d at least like to know your name.”
    Haruri was terrified, but she still looked Filia in the eye as she spoke.
    “Oh?” Filia answered with a faintly bewitching smile. “I see you’ve gotten awfully assertive.”
    “You told Bazdilot and his Servant that you were a goddess. As a mage, it’s hard to believe . . . but at the very least, you’re not a mage. You’re something much ‘higher’ . . . aren’t you?”
    “That’s such an obvious question I don’t even know how to answer it. I mean, all I can say is ‘of course,’ and that’s boring.”
    Filia shrugged, taking a sip from her glass. Even that gesture seemed so beautiful that it almost convinced Haruri that she was looking at the ideal form of relaxation.
    “Still, I suppose you have a point. Now that I’ve practically finished off Gilgamesh, there’s no real point hiding my name . . . is there? And I was the one who told you to get away from the hospital because you’d probably get dragged in and die.”
    After a brief pause for thought, Filia rose leisurely from the sofa and continued speaking to Haruri.
    “What I told that Avenger and his Master wasn’t a figure of speech. I’m not a human who was called a goddess, either. I’m a genuine goddess.”
    “What?”
    “I’m a goddess of beauty who governs abundant harvests, bestows fortune, glory, and ruin on warriors with the radiance of Venus, and protects people . . . That’s enough to give a mage like you at least an idea, right?”
    “. . .!”
    Haruri gasped at the declaration that “goddess” was meant literally.
    Still, she had half expected it and did not fall into doubt or confusion.
    She would have liked to be wrong, but she had already put her life in Filia’s hands, and it was too late to refuse.
    And the numerous fragmentary hints Filia had dropped lead her to a name.
    “A goddess of Venus . . . Aphrodite . . . Venus . . . Astarte. No . . . Closer to the source . . . Inanna?”
    “That’s ‘me’ too, but I prefer my Sumerian name. Although that depends on my mood when I manifest.”
    “The goddess . . . Ishtar.”
    “You got it. Good thing you didn’t get it wrong, huh?”
    Filia left her glass, which was still partly full, on a marble table. Walking casually, she picked up the TV remote and pressed the on button.
    She flicked through several channels before a jeweler’s segment on a shopping channel caught her eye, and she began to mutter with great interest.
    “The cuts are gorgeous. Magecraft has declined, but if this is the result of specializing in technology, that may not be such a bad thing. In terms of taste, the artisans of Uruk suit me better, but . . . Oh well. I’ll respect this era’s sensibilities when it comes to that, at least,” she said, toying with the jewelry she had found around the house and smiling happily.
    “After all, in the end, all techniques and tastes come down to whether or not they suit me.”
    They had probably been prepared either as camouflage or as mystical catalysts for the mansion’s real owner, but any of them might still have cost over fifty thousand dollars in an ordinary jewelry shop.
    Still, Haruri could not shake the feeling that price had nothing to do with it.
    Even if they had been cheap gems, or even glasswork or marbles, the mere act of her holding them seemed enough to make them standards of beauty and enhance their inherent value.
    “A goddess of beauty . . .”
    It was true that she was so beautiful that it seemed disrespectful to even look at her directly.
    At the same time, that frightened Haruri.
    Genuinely perfect beauty could become great magecraft—nearly Magic—in and of itself.
    For instance, Haruri had heard rumors of the “Gold and Silver Princesses” of the Iselma family, powerful mages of Valu, the School of Creation, at the Clock Tower. Those twins were ultimate beauty, the arbitrary product of generations of magecraft research. They were supposed to project a “beauty” so perfect that it blotted out the consciousness of anyone nearby just by existing. Haruri had never seen their faces, but she surmised that the goddess of beauty in front of her was something else entirely.
    If the Iselma princesses were the result of generations of mages studying to approach the Root from the perspective of “beauty” and achieving a height at which their forms seemed to reflect the universe itself, then what this goddess had ought to be described as a completely different category that just happened to also use the word “beauty.”
    The goal of the Iselma family’s “beauty” was ultimately a method to reach the Root. If they ever did reach it, it would be a domain worthy of the name “otherworldly beauty.”
    Ironically, what the goddess possessed was the opposite—otherworldly “beauty” befitting of the heavens applied to earthly forms. You could call it the end goal of “beauty” as it is meant near the human sphere. The kind of “finished product” that fell from an unreachable height and painted over its surroundings with itself.
    The self-proclaimed goddess before her eyes was like if the golden ratio defined everything it wore as fashionable and fixed that conception on its surroundings. Her way of being broke the rules.
    If the human sense of beauty is a type of crisis avoidance or pleasure mechanism developed for survival, then her beauty was the opposite. Her beauty was something that gave to humans.
    The goddess was aware that she possessed perfect beauty and that she was the standard of beauty. As a result, she must regard beauty as something that inevitably belonged with her and the act of studying herself as totally alien.
    Haruri could not help surmising as much, even though the goddess was just standing in front of her. That was why Haruri admired her freedom and also why she feared that she would be eliminated if she deviated even slightly from the aesthetic sense of this entity beyond human understanding.
    A feeling worthy of the name “awe” welled up within Haruri. She fought the urge to fall to her knees as she expressed a doubt that had suddenly occurred to her.
    “I thought it wasn’t possible to summon a divinity in a Holy Grail War . . .”
    “No, it isn’t. It’s normally impossible for a Holy Grail. There are a handful of nearly heretical ways to do it, but it would be impossible to summon a divinity of my caliber with a localized ritual like this, and especially not with a fake Holy Grail that’s lost its proper function. Oh, but . . . if you used the Holy Grail as a wish-granter at the end of the ritual, for example, you could probably at least get me to listen to you.”
    “Then, how . . .”
    Haruri persisted in her question.
    “I only manifested here,” the goddess within Filia answered carelessly, “because power I’d left in this world from the start activated.”
    “Power?”
    “That’s right. A blessing I bestowed on this world.”
    “. . .?”
    Her existence here was the result of a blessing to the world.
    Haruri’s face made it plain that she did not understand what the goddess meant. Filia shrugged and continued.
    “Of course, it would probably be a curse to those blasphemers.”
    “You mean . . . the goddess Ishtar’s power resides in that ‘vessel’?”
    “Not just my power; my personality too. Although they’re basically the same thing to beings like us. . . . This body just had a program in it, you know. It was easy to overwrite. I think she’s a sacrificial priestess prepared as a final terminal to receive the Grail’s power, or something like that.”
    The goddess seemed uninterested in her vessel’s origins. She returned the topic to herself as she stared happily at jewelry.
    “There was a time when we could manifest in our proper forms, but if this were back then, the humans in this town would have burst and died a long time ago.”
    “Modern human bodies can’t withstand the magical energy of the Age of Gods. . . .”
    Haruri had heard something like that before.
    The age when gods and humans had coexisted was over, and magical energy was vanishing from the world. Humanity had adapted to that environment, and their bodies could no longer withstand their original one.
    Haruri did not know if it were evolution or regression, but just as humans could not survive in too high an oxygen density, they had already begun to part ways with the world of magecraft. And not at the societal level—with the exception of mages and magecraft-users who actually continued to use magical energy.
    “Well, the environmental changes and my inability to manifest are for different reasons. Even if you recreated the same environment and tried to summon me . . . I suppose it would be noble if I thought of it as a sacrifice, but there’s really no point if there aren’t any humans to praise me in exchange for protection.”
    “Then why go to the trouble of manifesting in an era like—”
    “I told you, I bestowed a blessing on the world. It just activated successfully.”
    At that point, the goddess narrowed her eyes and flashed a bewitching smile.
    “I can hardly believe that something like this could really happen. . . . I’d like to applaud the me back then.”
    “?”
    “You see, when I was insulted by a blasphemous king and that piece of junk threw my divine beast’s entrails at me, I seared a blessing into the world. I kept going until I dissolved into the human order and vanished.”
    Fear is beauty, and beauty is primordial fear.
    That was how it seemed to Haruri when she looked into Filia’s eyes.
    Her keen features made Haruri’s blood run cold. They were just too beautiful—if she had been the object of their hatred, Haruri felt sure that not only would she be unable to resist, she would actually feel grateful.
    The perfected rage and hatred of a goddess of beauty.
    To be precise, a “vestige” of the passions of the deities who once ruled this planet were reigniting an ancient wrath within the vessel called Filia.
    “If those two ever returned to this planet and reunited . . .”
    Faced with a miracle she had arrived at amid an infinite expanse of possibilities, the being who called herself a goddess wore a smile so beautiful that it would freeze the heart of anyone who saw it.
    “I would devote my divinity and soul . . . to protecting humans.”
    Then, as if in answer to those words, a grating sound came from the mansion’ courtyard.
    Haruri did not turn to look.
    She knew that she would see nothing if she did.
    Haruri’s Servant, rendered invisible by magecraft, had stationed itself in the courtyard.
    Because it had absorbed rubble from Bazdilot’s workshop, which it had destroyed, it actually put more strain on it to dematerialize, so they were getting by with invisibility magecraft and magical-energy concealment.
    The woman who called herself Ishtar seemed to still be able to perceive the Servant clearly, because she looked up into the courtyard through a glass wall and said:
    “Don’t you think so too?”
    In response, a sound like the grating of a massive ship’s propeller rang out from the courtyard.
    “Oh, honestly. It sounds like she thinks those tall stone towers are the cedar forests of Lebanon,” the goddess said with a shrug and a wry smile, as if to a pet dog.
    “All right, I’ll take you to a real forest later. That piece of junk is probably there . . .

    “But now that Gilgamesh is out of the picture and he’s gained reason, he won’t pose a threat.”

    X X

    The Distant Past, in a Forest of Gigantic Trees

    You need to learn.
    To learn about humans.
    Utu created a “complete human” in the forest of Enlil.
    Behold her, tell of her, and mold yourself in her image.
    Ninurta will then share his power with you.
    Before we loose you into the forests of Uruk, you must spend time with the “human” Utu has raised.
    Complete yourself and become humanoid.

    For you are a lump of clay that imitates all life.

    The will of the gods.
    When the lump of clay that had had that “duty” carved into it as an irresistible, comfortable slumber awakened in this world . . .

    “—_____—___—_—__—________—__—___”

    The world was engulfed in a scream that rent heaven and earth.
    It had no meaning as words.
    It was just a whirling vortex of pure, undirected emotion.

    The first thing that the “tool” called Enkidu observed in this world was an everlasting series of screams.
    The chain of sounds alone destroyed nearby objects and soon reduced everything to dust.
    In the “process” of being created by the gods, he/she was discarded into the heart of that vortex of shrieks.
    However . . . “discarded” was merely an objective description.
    In reality, it would be fair to say that the gods were pouring all their efforts into making that weapon supreme.
    He/she was a divine homunculus—a tool, a weapon, and an independent processing mechanism—that the gods of Mesopotamia had created to rebind a child who had degenerated into a human to the gods.
    That was why, as a necessary step, Enkidu has been placed in the midst of the calamitous voice.
    He/she had been dropped there with something akin to love, like an infant into its first bath, as a final precaution.
    Enkidu recognized the series of thunderous roars as a “human voice” after eighty days in the noise.
    The processor had been dropped into the world in a state of innocence, input only with the role the gods had bestowed on him/her and a bare minimum of information. He/she had to begin building up everything by choosing what would be necessary and what types of knowledge to accumulate.
    And intellectually, Enkidu had already been given the answer, defined by the gods, to what the source of the screams was.
    It was a being called a “human.”
    It was, the gods claimed, the apotheosis and perfection of the human species that Enkidu must go on to confront.
    In his/her initial state, Enkidu did not yet know what words were. From his/her perspective, the mighty words of the gods were imprinted as “sensations.”
    Even so, Enkidu continued to face that “perfect human” and to expose him/herself to its cries.
    As a result, in order to answer the voice, Enkidu was transforming into something like a gargantuan clay doll.
    If that automaton had been completely suffused in the “screams” then . . . he/she would not have been able to achieve mutual understanding with the sacred prostitute Shamhat.
    Enkidu might not even have been able to recognize Shamhat as “human.”
    That was how greatly the “perfect human” that he/she had encountered through the gods’ guidance differed from the humans who walked on two legs in Babylonia.
    The thing that would link Enkidu to human society at the last possible moment . . . was a young girl’s voice that rose amid the endless screams like bubbles from seaweed.

    “Who is it?”
    “Is someone there?”

    Before Enkidu was aware of it, little flowers were blooming around him/her.
    The gods’ processor would learn.
    The storm of screams calmed as if it had never been, and a series of delicate sounds that seemed to mean something rang out, but only for the brief time that those flowers continued to bloom.
    After a long time, Enkidu realized what those sounds meant—what “words” were.
    And the independent processor learned.

    Enkidu learned that while it was true that the cries like ceaseless thunder had no meaning as words . . . they were continuing to carve the emotion called “resentment” into the world in the form of a curse.
    They never ended. They never reached a destination. The “humans” just continued to scream.
    To scream a curse that would never conclude in a place that was, to Enkidu, the beginning of the world.

    When Enkidu realized that, however, he/she was unfazed.
    If these were the beings called “humans” that the gods spoke of, then this must be how humans were. Enkidu dispassionately recorded the fact as a basis for calculations.
    Caught between the endless screams and the gentle girl’s voice that occasionally surfaced, the processor—who could not even distinguish “gentleness”—accumulated knowledge about humans with complete detachment.
    Only the mission that the gods had given him/her continued to echo within Enkidu’s hollow soul.

    Converse with humans.
    Pierce them and stitch them fast.

    A calculating lump of clay that was not yet even a doll.
    Enkidu simply judged that it was necessary for his/her mission and attempted further communication with the “perfect human.”
    At that point, Enkidu had merely memorized “her” whispered words and grasped the situation.
    He/she had not yet reached the level of conversation.
    Groping for a way to fulfill the role that he/she had been given, Enkidu attempted various forms of communication with the “perfect human.”
    In the process, one day . . . Enkidu made flowers broom.
    Enkidu retained no record of memory of why he/she thought to do that. It may have been a coincidence, or some factor that the then-incomplete Enkidu could not identify may have been involved.
    But the result, at least, was burned into Enkidu’s circuits.
    The cries of resentment calmed for just an instant, and “she” brought her body to the surface.
    “Thank you.
    “Pretty . . . aren’t they?”
    Enkidu did not notice the slight tremor in his/her system at the sound of that voice.
    Later, however, the weapon understood.
    That had been the first moment that he/she had succeeded in a mutual exchange of “wills.”

    Time, and words, flowed on.
    Enkidu remembered the precise number of days, but he/she saw no meaning in it.
    To the weapon, it did not matter how much time had passed, only how it had come to understand “humans.”

    “Hey.”
    “Hey.”
    “We’re your friends, Enkidu.”
    “But soon, we won’t be friends anymore.”
    “Because we can’t go anywhere anymore.”
    “We won’t be able to see the same things as you anymore.”
    “We’re sure to forget about you.”
    “To us, you were like a flower, Enkidu.”
    “You saved us from being lonely.”
    “We hope that you’ll meet someone like a flower one day too, Enkidu.”
    “Someone who will bloom again, even if they wither and die.”
    “Someone like a flower . . . that blooms anywhere before you know it.”

    Before Enkidu knew it, “she” had begun to form a tiny individual body when she rose from the swarm of resentful voices.
    The sound-emitting apparatus and visual and auditory sensors packed into that “little body” caught Enkidu’s attention.
    Cranium, face, head.
    Enkidu matched the images that the gods had given him/her with the words that he/she had learned from “her.”
    The top of that head that seemed as if Enkidu could crush it with the slightest exertion was decorated with a flower that he/she had made bloom a few days before.
    Then . . . she picked up a different flower in her hand.
    It was one of the tiny flowers that “she” had made bloom when she first surfaced—on the day that Enkidu had first encountered her.
    When “she” used that flower to decorate Enkidu’s head, which was just a massive lump of clay, she twisted the visuals sensors and speech emitter on her head into odd shapes.
    It was much later that Enkidu learned that it was called a “smile.”

    And so, at the time, Enkidu was more concerned with the things that floated around her.

    They were seven little rings of light that shone like rainbows just after the rain and seemed to guard “her.”
    Enkidu judged that those rings of light were “perfect things” and etched their radiance into his/her soul.
    The gargantuan lump of clay, which was massive enough to take all the cries of resentment that “they” let out when the girl’s form was submerged and had tuned his/her mental makeup for that purpose, allowed something like what humans call “hope” to well up in his/her soul for the first time.
    Even when he/she obeyed the gods’ commands and left the forest.
    Even if he/she destroyed humans for the sake of his/her duty . . . he/she had to see that perfect, beautiful radiance again.
    Enkidu etched that wish into his/her system without even analyzing the reason why.

    The weapon would get his/her wish a long time later.

    But
    the next time Enkidu saw “her”
    that radiance . . .

    X X

    The Present, Snowfield, Crystal Hill, Upper Floors

    The flowers that bloomed the first time he met “her.”
    What color had they been?

    The upper floors of Crystal Hill.
    The direct elevator to the top-floor suite was currently only usable by a select group of people, the official reason being damaged glass due to high winds.
    Enkidu suddenly found himself reflecting on events from his life as he walked the red-carpeted hallway one floor below that led to the suite.
    Reflecting on the flowers that had grown thickly deep in the forest where he had spent time with the being called Huwawa.
    He remembered the color of the flowers that he had made bloom later.
    He had made clusters of pale blue flowers bloom for “her.”
    Enkidu would never recreate them on his own because there was no need, but if someone asked to see them, he could do so easily.
    In the end, however, he could not remember the color of the flowers that had been with “her”—the personality that called itself Huwawa.
    Why did Enkidu try to think of those flowers, which existed in a realm that was neither a record for his ‘completion’ nor a memory?
    Enkidu self-analyzed the reason, immediately arrived at two answers, and lowered his gaze with a faint smile.
    It was less a smile of self-derision than of pure nostalgia.
    One reason was that he had learned that his former sibling—Huwawa—was manifesting in the world.
    The other . . .
    “It’s not about personality or the color of their souls. . . . Their transience might be a little similar.”
    Enkidu continued to advance, sensing the presence of a girl in the inner recesses of the top floor.

    “?”
    He turned a corner and found several men and women in black eyeing him with confusion and alarm.
    “Hey, who are you? Stop right there!”
    “This area is off limits to . . . Wait. Bare feet . . .”
    “Can this be real . . .? He’s not a mage. His magical energy is like . . . the Earth itself . . .”
    “A Servant . . .? Don’t tell me that’s Lancer!”
    Only a select few members of the organization occupying the suite were familiar with Enkidu’s appearance.
    Only the ones who had used their familiars to watch his battle with Gilgamesh on the first day.
    They had been told his distinguishing features, but none of them had expected him to just walk up to them in the hallway in broad daylight.
    The magical energy that coursed through the Heroic Spirit’s body was both of the same type as the magical energy that flowed through the earth’s leylines and as peaceful as a calm sea. Many magecraft-users and mages would not be able to detect it, even at close quarters.
    That was why, now that they had detected it, they understood.
    It was like they had caught a whiff of seawater by the shore and suddenly realized that there was a massive whale in front of them.
    It was too late to launch an attack. They doubted that anything they tried would have worked, even if they had struck first.
    There was almost nothing that they, who had not made contracts with Heroic Spirits, could do. Their superiors had even given them strict orders never to engage a Heroic Spirit if one appeared.
    They remained keenly aware of their holstered guns and offensive Mystic Codes, but not one of them reached for one.
    The Heroic Spirit saw that and spoke with a smile.
    The voice could be taken for male or female, but the Heroic Spirit’s sex didn’t matter to the black-suited guards.
    Not only his physical beauty, but everything, including the magical energy they sensed from within him and the way he moved as he walked toward them, told them that this was a “perfect body.”
    In the face of that fact, age and sex were trivialities. Types of curse or magecraft that varied according to sex would be meaningless before this mighty being regardless.
    “I’m going through.”
    The Heroic Spirit calmly said that short sentence.
    “. . .”
    The black-suited group, every inch of their skins breaking out in cold sweat, were powerless to do anything. They stood petrified.
    As the Heroic Spirit passed by them, he lowered his gaze slightly as if in thought, paused, and said:
    “You can relax. I haven’t come to fight. In fact, if you had chosen to fight, the thing you ought to be protecting might have ended up as collateral damage.”
    “. . .?”
    The looks on the guards’ sweat-drenched faces said that they did not understand what Enkidu was trying to say. He, still smiling, dispassionately stated the facts to them without a hint of irony or approbation.
    “I mean that you didn’t make the wrong decision. So, you don’t need to feel responsible. . . . I hope that you will continue to make correct choices.”
    Correct choices for whom?
    They wanted to ask, but they could not get the words out.
    They felt that the Heroic Spirit, who had done nothing but walk past them, had grasped their entire beings, and it terrified them—and then that Heroic Spirit glanced back at them and said:
    “It’s all right, Master. I’ve disarmed all of the security systems in this hallway. . . . That means it’s safe.”
    “. . .?!”
    Master.
    At that word, the guards’ tension reached its limit.
    They were shocked to discover that the Heroic Spirit had disarmed all of their defensive magecraft without appearing to do anything, but the reason he had done so was even more troubling.
    The fact that it was not just a Servant—a Master had marched in on them as well.
    The leader they were supposed to be guarding had currently as good as lost her Servant.
    If this Master had come to propose an alliance, would they just eliminate her once they realized the situation?
    The worried group shifted its attention to the corner of the hallway.
    A moment later . . . with slow, cautious steps, sniffing as it went, a sleek, silver-coated wolf rounded the bend.

    X X

    Crystal Hill, Top Floor Suite

    “. . . Have you come to slay His Majesty?” The girl—Tine Chelk—quietly asked Enkidu when he opened the door.
    There were more than ten of her black-clad subordinates in the room.
    Like the group in the hallway, however, they were unable to make any careless moves when suddenly confronted with a Servant.
    At nervous thrill ran through the room at Tine’s question.
    The tension, however, was relieved by a few mild words from Enkidu, who stepped into the room with the silver wolf.
    “That’s a correct inference for a Master in a Holy Grail War, but it doesn’t match the facts.”
    “Then . . . have you come to execute me? I’ve disgraced His Majesty, your best friend.”
    “That’s not right either,” Enkidu shook his head, still smiling but somehow dispassionate.
    Tine’s attention was focused on Enkidu, but she was not looking at him.
    She was in the middle of what was, in a sense, a sumptuous “mage’s workshop” furnished with the King of Heroes’ personal possessions, continuously channeling vast quantities of magical energy into the being who lay supine at its center.
    “Your Magic Circuits . . . no, you yourself are linked to this land, aren’t you?” Enkidu sounded impressed.
    “. . . I see. No wonder you have a similar aura. . . . Your people tried the same thing as the old gods.”
    “. . .?”
    Tine looked slightly confused by Enkidu’s strange remarks, but it seemed that she could not spare the time to pursue the question because she continued to direct magical energy into the center of the room without giving him so much as a glance.
    “Do you know about me?”
    “His Majesty calls you his friend.”
    Tine still did not look at Enkidu. Every inch of her body was drenched in sweat as she manipulated extraordinary quantities of magical energy.
    Nevertheless, she responded in a firm voice, apparently determined not to show weakness.
    “I can only think of one Heroic Spirit that His Majesty would call a friend and who could also compete with him in raw power.”
    “I wonder. That was probably true while I was alive,” Enkidu answered evasively.
    The black-suited subordinates near Tine gradually began to move again.
    “. . . If you don’t intend to fight, what are you doing here?” An elderly man warily asked Enkidu.
    The suspicion in the man’s voice was faintly tinged with hope.
    Enkidu guessed his meaning and shook his head apologetically.
    “If you believe I have come to save King Gilgamesh, I’m afraid you will be disappointed.”
    “. . .!”
    Most of the room’s occupants looked discouraged by the Heroic Spirit’s words, and Tine’s shoulders trembled slightly.
    The thing in the center of the room—the thing Enkidu was staring at—was indeed the King of Heroes’ “corpse.”
    The Einzbern homunculus who Gilgamesh had called “Ishtar.”
    Thanks to her interference, Gilgamesh had been pierced by Alkeides’ arrows, and then impaled by the gargantuan “something” that had appeared immediately afterward.
    It was undeniably a fatal blow.
    Worse, his body was being eaten away by some force, and his wounds continued to rot even while he was alive.
    The only reason that his physical body still existed was that Tine was drawing massive quantities of magical energy from the leylines to hold his Spirit Origin in its human shape and keep it from disintegrating by brute force.
    Surveying Gilgamesh in that state, retaining only the form of a Servant, Enkidu dispassionately stated his opinion.
    “There are two venoms eating away at Gil’s body. If it were just the hydra venom, I could force open Gil’s treasury and probably find an antidote. He used to say that he was going to hunt the vipers at the world’s end one day, after all. His treasury might even yield a cooking utensil or two made just for them in addition to corpses and antidotes.”
    Enkidu continued to speak casually, as if he were telling everyday jokes.
    Tine gritted her teeth and responded with a tinge of anger, still not looking at him.
    “Aren’t you . . . His Majesty’s friend . . .? How can you speak so calmly when . . .?!”
    Her shout was too dignified to be the temper of a girl who was in some ways still a child.
    Enkidu accepted it at her side. He stopped smiling, but his expression remained composed as he replied.
    “It’s because I’m his friend.”
    “What . . .?”
    “Gil and I spent irreplaceable days together. We’ve already finished our eternal parting and the grief that came with it. The ‘current’ us are shadows burned into the Human Order. We may rejoice at our reunion, but we don’t need to grieve at parting again. I don’t believe that Gil would shed a tear if I were the one lying here on the verge of death, and I wouldn’t ask him to.”
    “. . .”
    Confusion suffused Tine’s profile.
    She glanced at Enkidu just once, but her experience of life was too short to judge the truth of the Heroic Spirit’s words by his expression.
    “I believe it will be difficult for you to understand, and I can guess your reason for directing your anger at me. So, if it will make you feel better, feel free to curse at me as much as you like.”
    “. . .”
    When she heard that, Tine turned her face fully toward Enkidu for the first time. Her eyes showed a range of emotions—anger, sadness, fear. Then, after a momentary look that might have been begging for help, she lowered her head and said frustratedly:
    “No . . . it wouldn’t. . . . I’m sorry. . . . I’m . . . truly sorry. . . .”
    A clear apology to Enkidu spilled from the lips of the mage, who was in some ways still a child.
    “You aren’t the one I hate. . . .”
    Massive quantities of magical energy coursed through Tine’s Magic Circuits. Every nerve in her body was beginning to groan in protest.
    As she spoke, however, her face was twisted not with pain but with regret.
    “I . . . couldn’t do anything. . . . I didn’t do anything. . . .”
    Tine fell silent.
    “You used two Command Spells, didn’t you?” Enkidu asked calmly, neither comforting nor blaming.
    “. . .!”
    Enkidu was looking at the back of Tine’s left hand.
    The majority of her Command Spells, the mark of a Master, were faded. Just one remained.
    “One to summon him back here, and another to attempt to heal him. . . . That was a good decision for a Master. Without it, there would have been no chance that Gilgamesh could maintain the form of his Spirit Origin.”
    “You said that . . . there are two types of venom?” Tine asked without slackening her efforts to maintain Gilgamesh’s Spirit Origin. She seemed to be grasping Enkidu’s personality, because the side of her that had been built up as a mage began to show on her face.
    “Yes. The other is closer to a curse than a toxin.”
    Enkidu narrowed his eyes as he surveyed the wound gouged in Gilgamesh’s torso.
    “. . . I suppose this is what they call ‘irony.’”
    “?”
    “I don’t suppose it was a rainbow-colored light that impaled King Gilgamesh’s body?”
    “. . .! Do you know what that was?”
    The scene of Gilgamesh being struck down replayed in Tine’s mind.
    The seven-colored halo, distinct from the titanic mechanical “something.”
    The way it had twisted into a shape like the tip of a rock drill and impaled Gilgamesh through the belly.
    “That was the protection of the gods. It’s also a curse to the human race. . . . The light that was poured into Gil was one of them, a curse descended from Pestilence.”
    “Pestilence . . .?”
    “We should probably be grateful for the hydra venom. It and the pestilence are competing with and consuming each other. . . . That’s why the plague hasn’t spread from Gil’s body. If not for that, there’s a high probability that all of you, and probably me, would also be trapped in the abyss of death by now.”
    Tine and her subordinates gasped at Enkidu’s casual statement.
    “Oh, there’s no need to change his treatment. In my estimation, both the venom and the curse will disappear along with the Spirit Origin of the body called Gilgamesh. It’s not ‘his’ Spirit Origin anymore. The only thing here now is the corpse of an ancient human.”
    “What was that thing . . . that metal giant? What do you know about . . .?”
    “Let me see. Where should I start . . .?”
    Enkidu lowered his gaze as if lost in thought, and then began to tell his reason for coming there little by little.
    “I came here because I wanted to know a little more about all of you.”
    “About us?”
    “I mean, you tried to use Gil, and he spared your lives. I was curious what you were like. Gil was also curious about my Master, but . . .”
    Enkidu smiled at Tine and continued without stating what his own judgment had been.
    “Nothing would please me more than if we could work together. I also want to do all that I can . . . to remove that wicked deity from this stage.”
    “. . . What deity? Do you mean that steel monster that stabbed His Majesty?”
    “No, I mean—. . .?”
    The next instant, Enkidu raised his head as if he had noticed something.
    “There’s . . . someone here.”
    “What?”
    Enkidu slowly surveyed the surrounding space without answering Tine’s question.
    “Is this . . . a human? No . . . it’s like a human, but . . .”
    “Do you mean that someone is hiding in this room?”
    Tine probed the nearby magical energy in confusion, but she could sense nothing of the kind.
    Enkidu, however, seemed certain of its presence and wiped the emotion from his face as he said:
    “No . . . they aren’t hiding. . . . It’s probably the opposite.”
    “?”

    “It seems . . . that something is trying to probe this place from the reverse side of the world.”

    X X

    A Closed-off Town, Crystal Hill, Top Floor Suite

    “I knew it. This room looks like it has the ‘thinnest walls.’”

    The Snowfield recreated inside the mysterious ward.
    In the top floor suite of its Crystal Hill were Flat Escardos, Berserker Jack the Ripper, and the Holy Church personnel led by Hansa Cervantes.
    “I see. . . . But what is this place? It’s the top floor of a hotel, but it doesn’t look like guest accommodations. It reminds me of a mage’s workshop, but the furnishings are too needlessly extravagant for that.”
    Flat responded to Jack’s question by looking around the room in growing excitement.
    “Don’t you think it’s kind of like a museum?! There’s pretty jewels and gold dishes and all kinds of amazing things!”
    The space, which ought to have been the hotel’s most luxurious room, was decorated with countless sparkling treasures that looked brand new despite their antique style. The assortment really could plausibly be some kind of exhibit.
    “I’ve seen these in the professor’s lectures. I’m pretty sure they’re treasures from somewhere around Mesopotamia, but . . . hmm . . . The way they’re made, they should have some magical energy stored inside, but I don’t sense any. . . . They don’t seem like fakes, but it’s like they’re empty shells. It’s weird,” flat commented as he stared intently at the furnishings.
    “But if the walls are thinnest here,” Hansa cut in from behind him, “does that mean that altitude is the key?”
    “No, I don’t think that’s it. . . . I’ve got a feeling that this place is uniquely in harmony with the world outside the barrier. Like both sides are connected, or . . .”
    At that point, Flat shifted his focus to a point at the center of the suite.
    To the middle of the largest room.
    What looked like a magic circle of a system unfamiliar at the Clock Tower was drawn on the floor there, but the target of that magecraft was missing from its center.
    “What’s this? I think it’s a circle for stabilizing something . . . but there’s nothing here.”
    “From the looks of things, this must be some faction’s workshop after all.”
    “I’m technically neutral. I can guess who it belongs to, but I decline to comment.”
    Hansa went out of his way to explain something he could have easily left unsaid with a shrug.
    Jack maintained the bare minimum of cautious attention on Hansa and the nuns who were inspecting the room as he continued.
    “Could the circle be empty simply because they haven’t begun their ritual yet?”
    “No. . . . It’s strange. I’ve got a feeling that something is already happening here, but . . . This circle really isn’t active . . . but this is definitely the place.”
    Flat waved his hand over the center of the empty circle with a look of confusion.

    “The reason this place has the strongest connection to the world ‘outside’ the ward—to the real city—is . . .”

    X X

    Snowfield, Crystal Hill, Top Floor

    Enkidu’s voice rang out outside the ward, on the top floor of the “real” Crystal Hill.
    “Yes, something is definitely here, but I can only sense its presence.”
    When Tine’s subordinates heard that, each of them seized a weapon or Mystic Code and frantically looked around the room.
    There faces, however, showed confusion. It seemed that they could not find even traces of magical energy.
    Enkidu’s high Detect Presence Skill, however, was certainly detecting the “fluctuation.”
    And when he found its center, he looked with faint surprise at the face of his half-corpse friend.
    “This . . . wasn’t accounted for, I suspect.”
    There’s was something human about the grin that quietly spread over his face, in contrast to his usual nearly expressionless smile . . . but no one in the room saw it.
    “Still . . . you really haven’t changed, Gil.”
    Guessing what had befallen the venom- and curse-ridden Gilgamesh, Enkidu quietly accepted its “course.”
    All the while allowing a light of hope, unbecoming of an arithmetic logic unit, to flicker in his heart of hearts.
    “I’m amazed that you still pull the fate of the world to yourself even after your functions have been halted.”
    Countless gleaming, golden chains sprouted from the hem of his robe and instantly spread to all sides of the room.
    “! What are you—”
    Tine cried out, and her black-suited guards tensed.
    Enkidu, however, reassuringly spread his arms in a gesture of defenselessness and said:
    “Please don’t be concerned; this isn’t an attack against you, although I’m sorry to say that it isn’t to protect you, either.”
    Enkidu winked like a mischievous child while erecting several layers of defensive measures only around the silver wolf sprawled at his feet—his Master—and wistfully recalled his “adventuring days” as he continued.
    “I’m just going to become someone’s tool, as always.”

    “In this case . . . I suppose that in your terms, I’ll be a ‘booster.’”

    X X

    A Closed-off Town, Crystal Hill, Top Floor

    “Huh?!”
    Flat let out a cry of surprise, and the others turned to stare at him.
    “What is it? Something wrong?”
    “No, not exactly a problem,” Flat answered Hansa with a look of confusion. “Maybe more like a problem got solved . . .”
    Flat manipulated magical energy with the fingertips of both hands and began overwriting the magic circle inscribed on the floor.
    “What do you intend to do?”
    Flat continued to work while he answered Jack.
    “Since asphalt that was torn up in the real world is fine here . . . I think it can probably ignore major damage and decide not to copy-paste it. But an enemy faction’s magic circle still being here means that the range of ‘things it would be inconvenient to copy’ must be pretty narrow.”
    “Recreating the real city inside a ward is copy and pasting? I see young Clock Tower mages are even up-to-date in their expressions.”
    Hansa shrugged and watched Flat work with interest.
    “Thank you very much! I may not look it, but I’m in the School of Modern Magecraft! It’s all thanks to the professor that I’m up-to-date!”
    Flat, meanwhile, shot back a slightly off-base answer and continued to survey the surroundings.
    “I knew it. The closest thing to this place is probably a Reality Marble. . . . But still . . . No, I doubt anyone but the professor could put it into words well. And I only saw it before; it’s not like we covered it in class.”
    “Saw what?”
    “I’ve seen something like this once before, in Wales. That was in a cemetery . . . but if that was ‘a ward-world that recreates the past,’ this must be ‘a ward-world that recreates the present.’”
    “. . . In Wales? Don’t tell me you mean the Blackmore Cemetery, founded by a clan with strong ties to Dead Apostles? A priest I know and a nun I never got along with nearly died in some trouble over there . . . but I never figured you’d be mixed up with that place too.”
    Hansa sounded surprised. For some reason, Flat’s eyes shone with delight.
    “Oh, you know about that! Yes, this world inside the ward is like a massive stage set made to be a whole fake city. . . . You see that as a setting in games sometimes. I think there was a Jim Carrey movie like that too.”
    “I’m pretty sure that was a city set built from the ground up, not a reproduction. . . . That last scene was great, though. It was a good movie.”
    “Wasn’t it?! I want to teach my liquid mercury Mystic Code friend the greeting from it next time I see her!”
    “Save that talk for later. You won’t be able to see that Mystic Code again if we don’t get out of this world first.”
    “Ah. S-Sorry. . . .”
    Snapped back to reality by Jack, Flat dejectedly returned to the subject at hand.
    “Since the cars are all stopped and the slot machines don’t work, I think it might not be continuously mirroring the real city but regularly singling out and copying ‘worlds’ one moment at a time. There are parked cars here too, so I’d guess objects whose position data is changing drastically in the ‘isolated moment’ aren’t reflected.”
    “I see. . . . In that case, something is being done in the real-world suite that this magic circle corresponds to. Or could they be trying to open a way into this place?”
    “Hmm. It didn’t look like it from the way the magical energy was distorting until just now . . . but that just changed. How should I put it? It’s like my phone suddenly got three bars even though we’re in a subway tunnel, or . . . That’s it! My phone!”
    Flat hurriedly pulled out his cell phone and placed it on a nearby marble table and began to rummage through the nearby objects.
    “Let’s see. I’ll just borrow this . . . and this and this . . .”
    He was selecting several of the historical artifacts of apparently Mesopotamian origin with which the room was decorated and filling them with his own magical energy, restoring their power as ritual tools.
    “What do you intend to do?”
    “Well, some of the decorations looked like they’d be useful as Mystic Codes, so I thought I’d set up a simple altar with them. Then, how should I put it? It’s like knocking on a wall to get a response. If I’m lucky, I might be able to get my phone to connect to the ‘outside.’”
    “I see. . . . No, wait, I said I see, but is that really possible?”
    “Don’t worry; I’ve done similar things plenty of times. My classmate Caules and I used to convert between magical energy and radio waves all the time, so I think it’ll work out.”
    Flat was moving ahead with a carefree attitude.
    Jack was uneasy after his rough explanation, but he considered that Flat had accomplished several advanced feats of magecraft with the same approach and decided to wait and see.
    When my thoughts blended with Master’s due to that Caster’s power . . . I somehow grasped the nature of his magecraft.
    It’s similar to Eastern ideas. He doesn’t limit his magecraft to a single system by defining the boundaries of his self. . . . Or rather, he can’t.
    He constructs and performs most of his magecraft on the spot by sense alone. Even if you told him to construct the same magecraft again, Flat could probably only make a rough approximation.
    He isn’t mold-breaking so much as he never had a mold to begin with. I’m astonished that that mage, El-Melloi II, could raise an enfant terrible like him.
    As he watched Flat work, Jack thought that, given such an apprentice, a typical mage would either break in some way, or else try to break Flat.
    He possessed a basic knowledge of magecraft thanks to traditions that Jack the Ripper was a mage, but even from that perspective, and even from the perspective of a unique Servant who had been partially mixed with his Master by Caster, Flat was an anomaly.
    I know it’s an odd question to ask when I don’t even know who I am myself . . . but just who is my erratic-yet-dependable Master?


    In the background of that back and forth between Master and Servant, Hansa was surveying the city from the top floor.
    “It just looks like an ordinary city from up here. . . . Still, it looks like there’s no question we really are in a closed-off world.”
    When he stared into the distance from the top floor of the skyscraper, he could see something like a dense mist rising a considerable distance outside the city.
    He doubted that the world continued beyond that mist. Recreating the entire world had to be beyond the realm of simple magecraft.
    “At that point, it’d be less a recreation of the world than transportation to a parallel one. . . . Not that this situation isn’t crazy enough already.”
    Hansa shrugged as he surveyed the quiet cityscape. One of the nuns approached him at a brisk walk.
    “Hansa.”
    “What?”
    “There’s something strange over there.”
    Once Hansa turned to look in the direction that the nun unemotionally indicated, the other three nuns gathered to look down on the city from windows on the same side of the building.
    “Has something happened?”
    “ . . . Father Hansa, there’s been activity. Over there.”
    Hansa looked where the polite nun with the eyepatch indicated and saw what looked like a rising cloud of dust.
    “That’s . . .”
    Lights and burst of flame occasionally flashed inside the dust cloud.
    It looked a lot like the battle in front of the hospital that they had been able to see from the church the night before.
    Soon there was a particularly intense burst of light . . . and a gigantic form reared into view.
    “. . . Kerberos. We saw it yesterday . . . but was it always that big?”
    The three-headed monster was larger than the average house.
    The sight of it made Hansa suspicious even before it put him on his guard.
    “Is the Archer wearing a cloth who used that thing here too? No, if that were it . . . If he could make it that big, I’m guessing he would’ve done it last night. . . .”
    A number of theories raced through Hansa’s head.
    I’m sure that demonic beast’s body was left lying on the road.
    So, was it just pulled in like the rest of us?
    Did the Servant who created this world give it strength . . .?
    At the very least, the Servant’s probable Master, Kuruoka Tsubaki, would not know that kind of magecraft.
    That narrowed down the possibilities.
    It was either a Servant, one of the people trying to exploit the situation in the city, or a dangerous being that just wanted to rampage regardless of the circumstances.

    “What’s the plan, Hansa? If we’re going, I’m going to change my clothes.”
    The blonde nun’s question caused Hansa to reflect for a moment.
    Then, after a look at Flat and Jack behind him, he removed his own eyepatch and said:
    “No, this is our chance. We can observe the widest area from here.”
    From beneath the eyepatch appeared an artificial eye Mystic Code packed with variety of Mystic Codes—biological, mechanical, and even electronic—inside mystically treated crystal.
    The lens inside the crystal rearranged themselves with a whirring sound like a robot in a sci-fi movie.
    Then, with vision enhanced to dozens of times that of a normal human, Hansa began to observe not the battle but the buildings around it.
    “If a Servant is using that thing, they may be nearby watching the fight. If I can at least find traces of magical energy . . .”
    At that point, Hansa stopped speaking.
    He had spotted a small human figure standing atop a building a short distance away from the uproar.
    “Is that . . .?”
    That figure . . . was familiar.
    Hansa immediately fished where he had seen it before out of the sea of his memories.
    In the hallway of the hotel he had leapt into in pursuit of a hematophage after the incident at the police station.
    That’s where “he” had been.
    It was the boy who was supposed to have been attacked in passing by that monster—the hematophage Jester Karture.
    “. . . He got me.”
    The corners of Hansa’s mouth curled upward even as he followed the figure with an angry glare.
    If he had been using the type of farseeing magecraft that operated directly on its target’s space, the figure would have noticed that he was watching.
    At present, however, Hansa was only using his artificial eye to directly enhance his vision.
    In a sense, it was like he was just looking through binoculars . . . as he observed the boy-shaped thing happily watching the conflict in the city.
    He could not tell whether it was controlling the giant beast.
    But he was certain at least that the hematophage was involved in the current situation.
    “A transformation ability . . .? It must be pretty impressive to turn even his presence completely human.”
    Not only Hansa but most Executors could see through transformations and disguises that relied on ordinary magecraft or hematophage peculiarities.
    But the sight of that transformation, which was almost like the creature had swapped out its very soul, reconfirmed for Hansa that Jester was an “enemy” he could not afford to underestimate.
    “Change gear. We’re going to slay that hematophage while we’re in here.”
    “That child is the hematophage from before?”
    “Couldn’t he just be under his control?”
    The nuns sounded skeptical about their orders, but Hansa gave a little shake of the head.
    All the while glaring at the look on the distant boy’s face.
    “He may be able to change the color of his soul . . . but he can’t change that twisted smile.”

    Just then, a cheerful voice rang out from behind them.
    “I got through!”
    Hansa and the others turned to find Flat grinning from ear to ear and dancing for joy in front of the bizarre altar he had constructed with his phone in one hand.
    The signal from Flat’s cell phone and the magical energy he had used to transmit it had just connected to “the outside world”—the real Snowfield.
    In other words, a hole had been made in the walls of the ward for that magical energy and signal to pass through, even if it were a small one.
    For Flat and the others, it was only a steppingstone on their way to “the outside” . . .

    But the small change caused big changes in the world of Snowfield.
    It was a single ant tunnel in a massive dam.

    In a sense, you could say that this minor change was the trigger that ended the deadlock between the factions vying for control of Snowfield . . . although no one knew it yet at the time.

    But whether anyone knew it or not, the city’s fate began inexorably to change.
    As if to show that one cracks had begun to spread, they would eventually bring everything crumbling down.

    X X

    In the Sky Above Snowfield, Airborne Workshop

    “Found it.”

    High above the real city.
    Inside a massive airship floating so far above the earth that it was not even reproduced inside the ward, Francesca grinned ecstatically as she whispered:
    “Yay! There’s finally a ‘hole.’ I don’t know who did it, but I want to give them a Nobel Prize or something! The Nobel Me Prize!”
    “The what?”
    Francesca flapped her legs on the bed as she cheerfully answered her shadow, Caster.
    “I give the money from a Nobel Prize to whoever helped me out! I’m sure they’ll be happy to get it, and I’ll be happy since I won’t have to pay out of pocket. The people at the Nobel Foundation will lose out, but there are two sides that benefit, so in terms of pluses and minuses it works out to a positive! That’s how the world becomes a nicer place!”
    “No, I was wondering what a Nobel Prize is.”
    “Huh? Didn’t you get that kind of knowledge from the ‘Grail’?”
    “Well, it sounds like it’s clearly unrelated to the Grail War. Of course, it’s case-by-case, so I don’t know how it would work in a proper Holy Grail War.”
    Francesca turned to look with interest at the boy Prelati, who was stuffing his face with expensive chocolate truffles.
    “Hmm. That does make you wonder, huh? How much do you think the people in Fuyuki knew? They were active in Japan, so I’m guessing they at least got its political system and laws in their heads. Hey, do you know who the current U.S. president is?”
    “Nope. But I do kind of know what the presidency is. I know how TV works, too, and I can use a cell phone no problem. I don’t know the names of any phone brands, though.”
    “I see. Hmm. I wonder if the Other Heroic Spirits are the same way. You’re me, so you might have connected to my knowledge when we made a contract and established a magical energy connection.”
    “Does that really matter? Whatever I started out knowing, I can just pick up any cards I need later, and betting the farm on my current hand and going down in flames would be pretty fun too. Don’t you think?”
    Prelati slumped against Francesca’s back and softly brushed her lips with a fingertip covered in melted chocolate.
    Francesca grinned, ran her tongue coquettishly over the finger . . . then flashed a malicious smile and leaned her head against Prelati’s cheek.
    “Yes, yes. It’s no use trying to corrupt yourself, you know? I’m already corrupted.”
    “Are you sure you’re not the one trying to tempt me? Am I right in thinking that this qualifies as narcissism?”
    “I wonder. I’d love to summon Narcissus and ask him. Not that I have a catalyst that eccentric, of course.”
    Francesca tried to change the subject with a few offhand remarks about the Greek boy who lent his name to narcissism, but Prelati—her own shadow—was undeterred and turned the conversation back to its original subject.
    “But you are working to make the world a more fun place, right?”
    “Well, only by leaving things to others and cutting as many corners as I can.”
    “I can’t wait. How much do you think we’ll be able to lay the world bare once we let the Grail take care of that ‘great labyrinth’—it’s risky to even look for the entrance—and get our hands on the ‘microcosm of the world’ in its depths?”
    “Well first thing’s first; the door to this city’s ‘little labyrinth’—a weird world made by a weird Servant—just turned up!”
    Giggling, Francesca traced lines in the air with her fingers and caused several floating mirrors to rise.
    “Out of the group trapped inside, I’m most interested in . . . The Lionheart, I guess. Although it really is a mystery why that fanboy turned up instead of little Artoria.”
    Francesca, who like the police force was already certain of Saber’s identity, stared at his image in one of the mirrors, which showed him delivering his speech from atop the police car, as she licked her lips.
    “Yes, he’s wonderful. A real kingly king who’s lit by legend of the past and magnifies their light to shine several times as bright.”
    “Are your guts aching?”
    Prelati leered, and Francesca smiled innocently back.
    “Of course! That Saber’s been giving me butterflies this whole time! I couldn’t help becoming a fan! Not quite as strong as with Jeanne or Gilles, but really close. Does that make sense to you? Of course it does!”
    Francesca gestured animatedly as she spoke, like a low-teen girl talking about her favorite pop star.
    Prelati watched her and continued calmly.
    “Yes, it does. You’re me, after all. That’s why I know just what you want to do to that oh-so-wonderful king you’ve become a fan of.”
    “Will you come with me? I can’t cast illusions as well as you can right now.”
    “Sure I will. Should we do it inside the ward?”
    “Yeah. Faldeus will never shut up about it if we do it here!”
    The boy and girl chatted conspiratorially.
    Outwardly they appeared to be young humans, but writhing within those vessels were indides so utterly dark that they could only be called monsters.

    Reflected in the mirrors that hovered around them were records of the past.
    Vestiges as images, which were factual but did not reflect the truth.
    While she wondered what truth she should add to them to thrust on The Lionheart, Francesca gazed absentmindedly at an image of more than ten years earlier.
    An image of a holy-sword-wielder clad in blue cloth and silver armor . . . who had once overcome everything and yet lost everything.

    X X

    In a Dream

    The city was kind of noisy.
    The wind was kind of humid.

    Kuruoka Tsubaki was still too young to be able to put her apprehension into words.
    By all rights, she should not even have been able to sense the change . . . but thanks to her Magic Circuits and the influence of Pale Rider linked to the magical energy they generated, changes in the “world” around her and the Heroic Spirit who was its ruler echoed vividly within her.
    The girl sensed it in the midst of an afternoon nap. She lay on the family sofa in a dream within a dream—a troubled sleep that was hers alone.

    I’m scared, daddy.
    I’m scared, mommy.
    I don’t really understand, but I think something scary is coming.

    “Girl.”

    Where did Mr. Black go?
    Jester hasn’t come to play today either.
    Is everyone going to go away again?

    “Girl.”

    Will I be alone again?
    Because I couldn’t do it right.
    Is everyone going to be mad at me again?

    “Can you hear me?”

    How can I do a good job?
    Daddy and mommy are smiling at me.

    “Can’t you hear me?
    “Zheng noticed immediately . . .
    “But perhaps humans change in two thousand years.”

    What can I do so they’ll keep smiling forever and ever?
    Will they stay with me?

    “Perhaps you don’t understand my language?”

    I’m scared.
    I’m scared.

    “Hello, girl.
    “Zaoshanghao, nhai.
    “Ohayō? Musume-san?
    “Bonjour?
    “Cho buổi sng.”

    . . .?

    “Are. You. OK?
    “. . . What is ‘OK’?
    “I’m a fool.
    “There’s a limit to the languages I can learn from the documents in this room.
    “. . . This is my only chance, now that ‘he’s’ distracted, but . . .”

    . . . Who’s there?
    . . . Mr. Black?

    !
    “You noticed me!
    “Thank you, young lady!”

    “. . .?”
    The girl awoke from her nap.
    Having woken up into the dream world, she stared around her from the fake sofa in the fake house, but there was no one to be seen.
    She could see her mother and father talking in the garden, but there was no sign of anyone else, and she could not see “Mr. Black” anywhere.
    Despite her youth, the girl felt that she must have been dreaming and was about to go running to her parents to relieve her unease, when . . .

    . . . Hello, girl who wanders in dreams.
    “?”
    A clearly audible voice brought Tsubaki to a halt.
    Have no fear; I will not harm you, nor will I be angry with you.
    The voice of someone she could not see.
    An ordinary girl in her situation might easily wailed in terror, but Tsubaki was strangely unafraid of the voice.
    Just like when she had first met “Mr. Black” . . . she was strangely certain that the voice was on her side.
    With “Mr. Black”—Pale Rider—her dormant mage instincts had told her that the Heroic Spirit was “a connected part of her.”
    This time, something like warmth that she sensed from the voice itself caused Tsubaki’s human instincts to accept its owner as “something she could be safe with.”
    “Who are you? I’m Kuruoka Tsubaki,” Tsubaki asked, just as she had when she first met Pale Rider, and the “being” with the beautiful, androgynous voice quietly explained itself.
    Thank you, girl. I have no name. I had one long ago, but I lost it.
    “?”
    Tsubaki looked confused, not understanding what the words meant. The “owner of the voice” calmly told her about itself.
    I am . . . what was once called a “deity” in a certain place.

    Now, however, I am merely a remnant. . . . A, umm, “leftover,” if you will.
    Last edited by OtherSideofSky; September 21st, 2020 at 11:49 PM. Reason: typo

  6. #10026
    死徒 Dead Apostle jennajayfeather's Avatar
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    Thank you for the update Otherside!!

  7. #10027
    Beats By Matthew ft. Dr. Para Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    Thanks for the translation, things are starting to swirl. Lol at the Truman Show reference. And I have to wonder if Haruri will meet Sigma.
    Supports:


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

  8. #10028
    Cats are awesome RCM9698's Avatar
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    Thanks for the translation as always, OSoS!

    I wonder what Enkidu and (nearly?) dead Gilgamesh are doing.

  9. #10029
    Thank you for the translations.

    “A goddess of Venus . . . Aphrodite . . . Venus . . . Astarte. No . . . Closer to the source . . . Inanna?”
    “That’s ‘me’ too, but I prefer my Sumerian name. Although that depends on my mood when I manifest.”
    “The goddess . . . Ishtar.”
    Isn't it the other way around? Inanna is her Sumerian name.

    “I’m amazed that you still pull the fate of the world to yourself even after your functions have been halted.”
    based true hero having Fate™ itself revolve around him

    “Wasn’t it?! I want to teach my liquid mercury Mystic Code friend the greeting from it next time I see her!”
    "In case I don't see ya... Good afternoon, good evening and good night."

    In a sense, you could say that this minor change was the trigger that ended the deadlock between the factions vying for control of Snowfield . . . although no one knew it yet at the time.

    But whether anyone knew it or not, the city’s fate began inexorably to change.
    As if to show that one cracks had begun to spread, they would eventually bring everything crumbling down.
    How ominous. Wonder what it could mean.

    “Well first thing’s first; the door to this city’s ‘little labyrinth’—a weird would made by a weird Servant—just turned up!”
    Typo?

    “Are your guts aching?”
    Prelati leered, and Francesca smiled innocently back.
    “Of course! That Saber’s been giving me butterflies this whole time!
    I'm wondering if I should take this literally or figuratively. She does have a tooth-zipper on her stomach after all.
    Prelati x Prelati is a good ship though.

    I am . . . what was once called a “deity” in a certain place.

    Now, however, I am merely a remnant. . . . A, umm, “leftover,” if you will.
    This was Watcher, right? Because this remnant stuff sure sounds a lot like Ishtar's "curse"/"blessing". With the weapon in Watcher-whale's mouth, the pattern on Watcher-whale and now this... Ereshkigal? The weapon does look a bit like her soul-spear, the patterns are reminiscent of what appeared on monster-Enkidu (thus Mesopotamian), the "remnant" might be something Ereshkigal left to counter Ishtar's "remnant". Or could be another Mesopotamian entity.
    It doesn't fully fit though and seems way too convoluted just to counter Ishtar. Why all the hubris allusions, what's the connection with the spirit who gave Sigma the crossbow, etc
    Last edited by CO9p5JMGv!p9; September 20th, 2020 at 08:23 PM.

  10. #10030
    Quote Originally Posted by CO9p5JMGv!p9 View Post
    Isn't it the other way around? Inanna is her Sumerian name.
    Yes. I suspect this slipped past editing, since "Ishtar" is Asyrian, iirc.

    Quote Originally Posted by CO9p5JMGv!p9 View Post
    Typo?
    Yes, fixed now.

    Quote Originally Posted by CO9p5JMGv!p9 View Post
    I'm wondering if I should take this literally or figuratively. She does have a tooth-zipper on her stomach after all.
    Prelati x Prelati is a good ship though.
    There's definitely a theme of guts/internal organs running through the Prelatis' dialogue. I kept the reference to them having "black guts" later in that scene as-is instead of shifting it to "black hearts" or something (which I would normally do as the nearest English equivalent to the Japanese expression that sentence is playing on) because I didn't want to break the pattern.

    Quote Originally Posted by CO9p5JMGv!p9 View Post
    This was Watcher, right? Because this remnant stuff sure sounds a lot like Ishtar's "curse"/"blessing". With the weapon in Watcher-whale's mouth, the pattern on Watcher-whale and now this... Ereshkigal? The weapon does look a bit like her soul-spear, the patterns are reminiscent of what appeared on monster-Enkidu (thus Mesopotamian), the "remnant" might be something Ereshkigal left to counter Ishtar's "remnant". Or could be another Mesopotamian entity.
    It doesn't fully fit though and seems way too convoluted just to counter Ishtar. Why all the hubris allusions, what's the connection with the spirit who gave Sigma the crossbow, etc
    Given that the voice refers to "Zheng" (i.e. probably Qin Shihuangdi), it's the same as the entity that appeared in the Kuruokas' workshop earlier in the book.

  11. #10031
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors Comun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CO9p5JMGv!p9 View Post
    How ominous. Wonder what it could mean.
    It's saying Flat connecting this phone signal to the real world is the start of chain of events with big consequences.

    Spoiler:
    Flat connects his phone to real world and calls Vam-Fem. -> Vam-Fem endorses the hunt on Jester. -> Jester gets desperate and rushes to show Tsubaki what Pale Rider is doing. -> Tsubaki sees what's happening and gets rid of Pale Rider. -> Flat returns to real world in range of Faldeus' sniper. -> ????????????


    Quote Originally Posted by CO9p5JMGv!p9 View Post
    This was Watcher, right? Because this remnant stuff sure sounds a lot like Ishtar's "curse"/"blessing". With the weapon in Watcher-whale's mouth, the pattern on Watcher-whale and now this... Ereshkigal? The weapon does look a bit like her soul-spear, the patterns are reminiscent of what appeared on monster-Enkidu (thus Mesopotamian), the "remnant" might be something Ereshkigal left to counter Ishtar's "remnant". Or could be another Mesopotamian entity.
    It doesn't fully fit though and seems way too convoluted just to counter Ishtar. Why all the hubris allusions, what's the connection with the spirit who gave Sigma the crossbow, etc.
    Watcher is outside the dream world. And I think at this point, the theory that she's Moby Dick is too solid for me to believe any other option. As for what the deity's leftover is

    Spoiler:
    That's Jiao, the sea god who was blocking the eastern sea routes, preventing Xu Fu from crossing to Japan. After Xu Fu explained the problem, Shi Huang killed the god with a bow in his dream, causing a huge shark to appear dead in real life and suddenly the sea routes were ok to travel.
    Last edited by Comun; September 20th, 2020 at 10:55 PM.

  12. #10032
    リビングデッド Living Dead
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    Thanks for the Translation OSoS!


    cant wait for kirito to unlock his jesus powers, wait hold up
    Last edited by Cylascream; September 21st, 2020 at 02:50 AM.

  13. #10033
    Ah, guess it isn't Watcher then. I was fooled by the whole "reading the environment" thing.

  14. #10034
    Quote Originally Posted by OtherSideofSky View Post
    Here's the full chapter 18, with a little over another 4k words to bring us up through page 184 (and over 31k words of the book so far). Next up is a short interlude and then chapter 19, which is about 45 pages.

    FSF 6, Chapter 18: As Dream and Reality are Both Illusion I
    Chapter 18

    As Dream and Reality are Both Illusion I


    A Closed-off Town, Main Street

    “What . . .?”
    The first person to react to Saber’s question was not one of the police officers; it was Ayaka, who had been listening half-disinterestedly.

    “But if that little girl is the cause, will you be able to kill her?”

    She understood what Saber meant.
    If the girl turned out to be the reason they had been pulled into this deserted world, there was a good chance that “dealing with” her would enable them to return to their original world.
    The instant that thought took shape in her head . . . something pulsed.

    Ayaka blinked slowly, steadying her breathing.
    When she quietly opened her heavy eyelids . . . she was there.
    Far across Main Street, visible through a gap in the officers.
    She was too far away to make out her face, but Ayaka recognized her instantly.
    A little girl with her face covered by something like a red, red—simply red—hood.
    She looked like she might be three years old and seemed liked she might be about six, and Ayaka had a feeling that she was much older.
    Ayaka could not be sure of her height or age.
    Only the perception of the color red passed through Ayaka’s eyes and rampaged through her brain.
    How could . . .?
    An instant later . . . Red Riding Hood had drawn nearer.
    She had not run over—before Ayaka knew what was happening, she was right behind the group of officers.
    She had only been distantly visible before, but now Ayaka could see her clearly.
    “Red Riding Hood”—the object of Ayaka’s ongoing terror and one of the reasons she had come to the United States.
    There’s no elevator, so why . . .?
    Red Riding Hood was only supposed to appear inside elevators. Ayaka was not even sure if she was real or a hallucination.
    Since her arrival in Snowfield, however, the rules had begun to shift.
    It seemed to Ayaka that she could feel Red Riding Hood’s presence closer to her every time she was on the verge of remembering something in this city.
    Her whole body broke out in a cold sweat, but she could not look away.
    She could see Red Riding Hood’s hood move as she slowly turned her head to face her.
    Oh no. No.
    I don’t know why, but I’ll end. If I see the face under that hood, I’ll be finished.
    Even if she wanted to scream, her lungs were taut, and she could hardly breathe.
    She was so paralyzed by fear that she could not even shut her eyes, let alone look away. Red Riding Hood lifted her hood even more. When it reached the point that Ayaka could see her sneering lips, Red Riding Hood vanished from her sight.
    Blotted out by Saber, who had leaned over to look at her face.
    “What’s wrong, Ayaka? You’re pale as a ghost.”
    At the same time, Ayaka’s body was freed from its paralysis.
    She hurriedly moved to look behind Saber, but there was no longer anything there.
    “. . . Oh, nothing. Just a bad daydream.”
    “You do get like that sometimes. Are you under a curse? I might be able to dispel it if you are.”
    “. . . Thanks, but it’s nothing like that . . . I think.”
    Ayaka declined Saber’s offer and then took another look at his face . . . and decided to pursue the discomfort that had probably caused her to see “Red Riding Hood.”
    The discomfort and unease that had suddenly grown within her reflexively made her vocal cords squirm.
    “. . . More importantly, Saber, the, umm . . . girl you were just talking about is the one in the coma, right?”
    “Yes, but it’s apparently confirmed that she somehow became a Master, so . . .”
    “No. . . . That’s not what I mean. . . .” Ayaka asked somewhat uneasily, reeling in the source of the discomfort that had sprouted within her.
    “Why did you ask, ‘will you be able to’ . . . and not ‘will you’?”
    “. . .”
    “Well . . . I don’t know how to put it, but . . . it sounded like you weren’t asking whether they’d kill her or not. . . . Sorry if I’m wrong . . . but it sounded more like you were saying, ‘If you can’t kill her, I will.’ . . .” Ayaka asked, choosing her words carefully.
    Saber fell silent for a moment . . . then answered with a troubled smile.
    “Honestly, Ayaka, you can be quite perceptive sometimes.”
    “Saber?!”
    “Wait, hang on. Don’t worry. I’m not trying to say that killing the girl is the right choice, and I don’t want to kill her if I can avoid it. I want to save her as much as you do.”
    “I-I see . . .”
    Ayaka was somehow relieved, but as she steadily calmed herself, she asked:
    “Then why did you ask . . .”
    Ayaka had difficulty framing her question, but Saber intuited her intent and answered, choosing his words carefully.
    “Of course I want to save the girl, and I have no intention of giving up. But if they try to kill her to save someone else, even if I try to stop them . . . in the end, I won’t be able to hold them back. Not unless I overcome them by force.”
    He looked like a different person than the Saber who had spoken light-heartedly even about matters of his own life and death.
    Saber continued to speak not as a knight nor as a Saber, but as the embodiment of something else that Ayaka did not recognize.
    “So . . . if by some twist of fate, we’re put in a position where someone has to kill her . . . when the time comes, I’ll do it.”
    “Why?!” Ayaka shouted in spite of herself.
    She understood his reasoning.
    If a “sacrifice” became absolutely necessary, someone would have to do it.
    Even when it came to herself, she was not sure what she would do if she were told that she could save the girl but would be left behind in this deserted city as a result.
    No, I . . . I’d probably . . . sacrifice that little girl . . . who I’ve never even met.

    No, I’m sure I would.
    Stained red.
    After all . . .
    Stained red.
    I even let . . .
    Stained red.
    . . . a girl I knew die.
    Stained bright, crimson red.

    The color of “Red Riding Hood’s” hood was indelibly seared into the insides of her eyelids.
    She wanted to scream but was unable to.
    If she collapsed here, she would no longer be able to talk with Saber.
    She would no longer be able to stop him.
    At that thought, she wrung words from deep in her throat even as the world seemed to spin around her.
    “Why . . .? You don’t have to do that. . . . You don’t . . . so why would you?”
    Her words came out brokenly, barely forming her question.
    “Yes. . . .”
    Saber, however, did his best to grasp Ayaka’s intent and answer.
    “I suppose it means that, in the end, I wasn’t able to become like the knights I admired.”
    Saber then turned back to face the police officers, who were more than a little confused, although not as confused as Ayaka, and proudly declared:
    “But you are different. You are splendid knights.”
    “What do you . . .?”
    Cutting Vera short, Saber, who had been a king in life, praised the officers as if extolling the virtues of his own followers.
    “You fought honorably against that fearful bowman and survived! All to save a girl who is no relation of yours and who you have never even seen! Thus, you should continue to be defenders of the innocent! No, you must! You should never harm them, even to shield the rest of the people or society itself.”
    Saber lowered his eyes and after a momentary silence, as if he were looking at somewhere else, continued.
    “Once you’ve done that once, you lose control. . . . I should be the one to bear that responsibility.”
    “Saber!” Ayaka shouted again. “No! That’s not right! You’re not like that. . . . You always smile, and you never abandon anyone!”
    Ayaka could not understand why she was shouting so emotionally.
    But it was not rational.
    She had a feeling that if she did not shout now, Saber—the Heroic Spirit who had been able to laugh with her until a moment before—would vanish before her eyes.
    She did not know the first thing about the Holy Grail War, and she thought that what she had to say was probably just the whining of a sheltered naf . . . but she still forced out the words that welled up from deep in her chest.
    “. . . You think too highly of me, Ayaka. . . .”
    “It’s not because I’m your substitute Master. I’m sure you’d save even a passing kid on the street. I can at least tell that much! You’re not like me! You’re not! I won’t tell you to never kill anyone—it’d be selfish, and I don’t have the right—but . . .”
    At that point, Ayaka was briefly lost for words but gritted her teeth and spit out her shout, her raw emotion, along with the reservations that had lodged themselves in the back of her throat.
    “It doesn’t matter if you get your hands dirty in the end. It won’t erase the fact that you saved me! But . . . at least don’t talk like you should be the bad guy . . .”
    Finally, she concluded her display of passion with a declaration that crossed a line.
    “So . . . if someone has to be the bad guy . . . I’ll do it.”

    “. . .”
    Saber listened to Ayaka, who sounded as if she were condemning herself and not him, and looked at her sorrowful face . . . and found himself seeing his subordinates from when he was alive in her.

    “Why, Your Majesty?! Richard?!”
    “You didn’t need to bear those sins! Why didn’t you leave it to us?!”
    “You should have become a hero! Why didn’t you have us do it and pretend not to know?!”
    “Oh, oh, Your Majesty . . . your lion’s heart has grown to great. You are too fearless!”

    The words of the man who had followed him as his court mage came back to him, interrupting his reflections.

    “Good grief. I knew it would come to this, of course.
    “Still, I did try to stop you. And this is the result.
    “Then again, if it hadn’t turned out this way, it’d probably be a case for pruning.
    “That said, even I, Saint-Germain, am a bit appalled. Even the mahatma is shocked.
    “Yes, that’s right! Exactly! You are wonderfully daring! Lion-hearted!
    “That’s precisely why you had no fear! No fear of anything at all!
    “Not ten thousand foes, not generals who outrank you, not mystical retaliation, not superhuman fiends . . .

    “Not even staining your own hands . . . with the blood of countless innocents.”

    Finally . . . like a curse cast out of the distant past, he recalled the words of his younger brother by blood.

    “Oh, what are you worried about, brother?
    “No matter how much blood you have on your hands, the people of this land are in your thrall.
    “For some reason, it seems as though it’s my job to take on your disgrace and have stones thrown at me.
    “What do you think? Aren’t I quite the clown? Go ahead and laugh, brother!
    “. . . Laugh. You’re lucky. You’re a national hero, aren’t you?
    “If you’re a hero . . . then laugh.”

    “I see. . . .”
    Saber lowered his eyes and fell silent for a moment.
    When he opened them again, the resignation-tinged gleam, like dim fire, had left them, and they were his usual eyes again.
    “You notice the smallest things, as usual, Ayaka . . . or so I’d like to say, but that’s not quite right, is it?”
    “Of course not. Meeting you isn’t small to me anymore.”
    “. . . All right, I’ll withdraw this time. But be warned—I won’t lose next time.”
    “Huh?! . . . Was this a competition?”
    Saber affectedly ignored the confused and wide-eyed Ayaka and announced with his usual manner:
    “I can hardly force Ayaka to do the dirty work, and she won’t allow me to do it . . . so I’ll just have to save the girl, even if it costs me my life! Then, we’ll all leave this place safely!”
    “Saber . . .?”
    Saber beamed at Ayaka, who was confused by his sudden return to his usual attitude.
    “It won’t be a problem. The church was our starting point in this ward-world. What do you say we shelter the girl who’s dropped out instead of the priest and steal the overseer’s thunder?”
    “. . . Good idea. I’ll help.”
    Ayaka flashed a relieved grin . . . when a sudden vague apprehension brought a look of confusion to her face.
    “. . . Church . . . Shelter . . .”
    “What’s wrong?” Vera, who had kept silent up to that point, asked the troubled Ayaka, realizing that the pair’s conversation had finished for the moment.
    “I think,” Ayaka said haltingly, deep in thought, “I’ve met that guy in the gold armor . . .”
    “What?”
    “But . . . where . . .?”

    Ayaka was trying to remember something.
    She could not help feeling that she recognized that golden Heroic Spirit who had tried to kill Richard from his vantage point on the roof of the church.
    And the keywords “church” and “sheltering a child” began to violently shake her brain, which had been locked with a timeworn key.
    But at each jolt she could vividly sense “Little Red Riding Hood’s” presence, and the fear that she “must not remember any more” kept the doors of her memory shut.
    I know I have to remember . . .
    So, why . . .?
    Ayaka struggled desperately to reach her own memories.
    She had a feeling that “Little Red Riding Hood” was right behind her.
    She had a feeling that she was trying to tell her something.
    She had a feeling that she could hear Red Riding Hood’s voice.
    Ayaka tried to endure the terror and still keep thinking . . . until she saw Saber and the police officers being looking around and realized that her brain was not the only thing shaking.
    “? . . . What?” She muttered suspiciously just as the soles of her feet began to clearly feel the earth pulse.
    “A-An earthquake?!”
    No, not an earthquake.
    Something’s coming toward us . . .

    Then . . . as the vibrations grew steadily stronger, “it” emerged from behind a building.

    An enormous, pitch-black dog, easily over fifteen meters tall.
    Its entire body gave off a miasma-like smoke, and black flames, the same color as its coat, perpetually dripped from its jaws—the jaws of the three-headed monster blessed by Hades.

    X X

    Several Years Earlier, Somewhere in Europe

    “So, you’ll accept the offer? I plan to refrain, myself.”
    The mage, whose way of speaking gave an impression of cunning, had the outward appearance of a young girl.
    While the elegant clothes she wore suggested a sheltered young lady from a good family, the crow perched on her shoulder seemed strangely at home, giving rise to a sense that she was something out of the ordinary.
    She was a mage who, despite belonging to the Clock Tower, kept her distance from it out of dislike for its power struggles.
    Her somewhat elderly way of speaking in contrast to her sweet voice was said to be because she was actually over eighty years old, or a result of inheriting her Magic Circuits complete with the knowledge of their previous owners, but the truth was kept a mystery.
    That mage with an air of experience was speaking to a girl magecraft-user whose youthful air matched her appearance.
    “. . . Is that because you want to protect mage society?”
    “Ha ha! If a single ritual was enough to destroy our society, it would be long gone by now. . . . Or so I’d like to say . . . but lately rumor has it that a ritual in the far east stepped into fairly dangerous territory. I thought it was odd that this ‘Holy Grail War’ didn’t attract much attention despite a Lord dying in one ten years ago, but it looks like someone’s been finessing the flow of information.”
    The Holy Grail War.
    It had been known as a minor ritual in the far east, but it had not attracted serious notice until a few months previously, when the “fifth ritual” had been performed.
    They had not managed to learn the details of what had been done or achieved in it.
    Still, plausible rumors had it that if things had gone badly, it could have become one of the “ends” that the hermits of the Atlas Institute spoke of.
    “No respectable mage would accept a proposal as absurd as recreating that Holy Grail War in America, especially not without the backing of the Mages’ Association. They reached out to you because of your grudge against the Association despite the quality of your bloodline . . . or so I’d guess. I have a healthy respect for your talents, but when it comes to that monster—Francesca—individual ability is secondary at best.”
    “. . . That doesn’t bother me.”
    The girl who stood before the mage with the crow on her shoulder was not yet even fifteen years old.
    Despite that, her gaze was filled with resignation toward the entire world, and the faint gleam deep in her eyes came from the dark flames of hate.
    At least, the crow-tamer mage was convinced that it was so.
    “. . . Just between us, once, when I was participating in an auction on the Rail Zeppelin, I caught a glimpse of a Ghost Liner . . . one of these ‘Heroic Spirits.’ It wasn’t on the level of a familiar—it was a shadow of the human order engraved into the Earth itself. Don’t think that you can use one for a personal vendetta and come out unscathed.”
    “. . .”
    “If you want to destroy something big, you need to pay the price,” the mage with the crow continued to the girl, who lightly clenched her fists and dropped her gaze. “Destroying the Mages’ Association is tantamount to making an enemy of mage society itself. There are any number of people prepared to be destroyed in the end themselves, but don’t forget—your grandfather who gave up his humanity was one of them . . . and the order is backwards. The bigger the thing you want to destroy is, the sooner you’ll be destroyed first. Call it ‘advance payment.’
    “Just look at mages,” the crafty lady mage with the youthful appearance continued to the girl magecraft-user whose legal guardian she had become. “They strive to break the laws of nature and reach the Root, and isn’t every last one of them broken?”
    After a slightly self-deprecating smile, the mage’s face became expressionless, and she asked the girl who had become her ward:
    “Haruri Borzak, will you break as a person, or as a mage?”
    “Neither, ma’am,” the girl called Haruri plainly answered the mage who far outranked her.
    “I was already broken a long time ago. Broken by those people from the Clock Tower . . .”
    “. . .”
    “Father and mother were both ordinary mages. . . but they were branded heretics and had everything taken from them, all so the Clock Tower could get its hands on the research results they inherited from my grandfather, who abandoned his humanity!”
    “. . . Your life wasn’t taken, was it? It was the Borzaks quick perception that allowed them to pass on their Crest—albeit only partially—to you and let you escape. If you conspire with that thing—with Francesca—that will all have been for nothing.”
    She made her tone slightly graver as she spoke, but there was no change in Haruri’s expression.
    When the mage who was Haruri’s guardian saw that, she let out a faint sigh and shook her head.
    “If you were a mage, you would resign yourself to usurpation by the Clock Tower as a ‘matter of course’ . . . but the instant you wished for revenge for your parents instead of restoration as a mage, you were no mage. You aren’t broken yet. You could still start over. You could stay hidden while using magecraft to make your life a little easier.”
    She said that, but she made no further effort to stop Haruri.
    Haruri was only her ward, not her apprentice, and their relationship was not enforced by magecraft. She must have decided that it was not her path to get more deeply involved.
    She had a duty to a descendant of her acquaintances, the Borzaks, but that duty would not easily change to compassion.
    She might distance herself from the Clock Tower, but she was still that much of a mage.
    “I believe that the Lord I caught a glimpse of on the Rail Zeppelin—El-Melloi II, I believe—would be willing to accept even someone at odds with mage society like you at his school, but I suppose it would be rude to detain you further.”
    The crow’s eyes flashed eerily as the mage walked off into the darkness.
    She walked like a girl of her apparent age who had lost her way at night, but the gaze of the crow on her shoulder was almost frighteningly sharp and remained fixed on the girl called Haruri.
    “. . . Never forget, Haruri.”
    Did the voice that rang out an instant before they melted into the darkness come from the girl’s mouth or the crow’s plumage?
    The girl whose eardrums and spine shivered was no longer able to tell.
    “No matter how prepared you are to break . . .”
    Those last words, however, became a lingering echo in the mind of Haruri the magecraft-user.

    “Preparation won’t mean a thing in the face of someone who was broken from the start.”

    X X

    The Present, Snowfield, a Luxury Residential District

    “Hmm . . .”
    A woman’s voice rang out in the real Snowfield. There was a somehow unreal beauty to it.
    “I was sure he’d come rushing to track me down right away . . . but Utu is high in the sky and there’s still no sign of him. He’s surprisingly cautious, considering his best friend just got crushed.”
    A luxury residential area in the Snowerk district.
    Its largest mansion belonged to the owner of the casino building in the city center.
    Publicly, at least.
    The owner was a proxy put in place during the city’s construction—a businessman who had died from illness at a young age and was merely made to appear alive.
    The casino building was actually managed by one of the mages “on the inside,” who used magecraft to disguise himself as the late businessman to fool the eyes of the public when it was absolutely necessary for the owner to put in an appearance.
    As a result, this elegant mansion, which looked like it might belong to a minor Hollywood star, had no real owner—its only visitors were servicepeople who performed the bare minimum of maintenance necessary to keep up appearances.
    And yet . . .
    A group was currently using the mansion as if it belonged to them.
    A woman lounged on a pure white sofa so luxurious that it probably cost as much as a small house on its own. She was just sitting casually, but she gave the impression that she would make a perfect picture no matter who looked at her or from what angle, as if she were the very definition of beauty.
    “Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I want to let Gugalanna do the honors of wiping out that piece of junk, anyway.”
    The person stuck having that impression seared directly into her eyes was a girl still in her late teens.
    Haruri Borzak, the girl who was watching that goddess from a corner of the enormous room, was staring at Filia, the woman on the sofa, with a somewhat gloomy look in her eyes.
    “What’s got you looking so down?”
    Haruri answered Filia’s question in a tone of mingled caution and fear.
    “. . . Would you please tell me your name?”
    “Oh, you’re still hung up on that? Didn’t I tell you—if you’ve realized how charming I am, you don’t need to know anything else.”
    “Right now . . . it isn’t just charm. I feel afraid, too. I know I said that all I cared about was that you’d saved me . . . but since we’re going to fight together, I’d at least like to know your name.”
    Haruri was terrified, but she still looked Filia in the eye as she spoke.
    “Oh?” Filia answered with a faintly bewitching smile. “I see you’ve gotten awfully assertive.”
    “You told Bazdilot and his Servant that you were a goddess. As a mage, it’s hard to believe . . . but at the very least, you’re not a mage. You’re something much ‘higher’ . . . aren’t you?”
    “That’s such an obvious question I don’t even know how to answer it. I mean, all I can say is ‘of course,’ and that’s boring.”
    Filia shrugged, taking a sip from her glass. Even that gesture seemed so beautiful that it almost convinced Haruri that she was looking at the ideal form of relaxation.
    “Still, I suppose you have a point. Now that I’ve practically finished off Gilgamesh, there’s no real point hiding my name . . . is there? And I was the one who told you to get away from the hospital because you’d probably get dragged in and die.”
    After a brief pause for thought, Filia rose leisurely from the sofa and continued speaking to Haruri.
    “What I told that Avenger and his Master wasn’t a figure of speech. I’m not a human who was called a goddess, either. I’m a genuine goddess.”
    “What?”
    “I’m a goddess of beauty who governs abundant harvests, bestows fortune, glory, and ruin on warriors with the radiance of Venus, and protects people . . . That’s enough to give a mage like you at least an idea, right?”
    “. . .!”
    Haruri gasped at the declaration that “goddess” was meant literally.
    Still, she had half expected it and did not fall into doubt or confusion.
    She would have liked to be wrong, but she had already put her life in Filia’s hands, and it was too late to refuse.
    And the numerous fragmentary hints Filia had dropped lead her to a name.
    “A goddess of Venus . . . Aphrodite . . . Venus . . . Astarte. No . . . Closer to the source . . . Inanna?”
    “That’s ‘me’ too, but I prefer my Sumerian name. Although that depends on my mood when I manifest.”
    “The goddess . . . Ishtar.”
    “You got it. Good thing you didn’t get it wrong, huh?”
    Filia left her glass, which was still partly full, on a marble table. Walking casually, she picked up the TV remote and pressed the on button.
    She flicked through several channels before a jeweler’s segment on a shopping channel caught her eye, and she began to mutter with great interest.
    “The cuts are gorgeous. Magecraft has declined, but if this is the result of specializing in technology, that may not be such a bad thing. In terms of taste, the artisans of Uruk suit me better, but . . . Oh well. I’ll respect this era’s sensibilities when it comes to that, at least,” she said, toying with the jewelry she had found around the house and smiling happily.
    “After all, in the end, all techniques and tastes come down to whether or not they suit me.”
    They had probably been prepared either as camouflage or as mystical catalysts for the mansion’s real owner, but any of them might still have cost over fifty thousand dollars in an ordinary jewelry shop.
    Still, Haruri could not shake the feeling that price had nothing to do with it.
    Even if they had been cheap gems, or even glasswork or marbles, the mere act of her holding them seemed enough to make them standards of beauty and enhance their inherent value.
    “A goddess of beauty . . .”
    It was true that she was so beautiful that it seemed disrespectful to even look at her directly.
    At the same time, that frightened Haruri.
    Genuinely perfect beauty could become great magecraft—nearly Magic—in and of itself.
    For instance, Haruri had heard rumors of the “Gold and Silver Princesses” of the Iselma family, powerful mages of Valu, the School of Creation, at the Clock Tower. Those twins were ultimate beauty, the arbitrary product of generations of magecraft research. They were supposed to project a “beauty” so perfect that it blotted out the consciousness of anyone nearby just by existing. Haruri had never seen their faces, but she surmised that the goddess of beauty in front of her was something else entirely.
    If the Iselma princesses were the result of generations of mages studying to approach the Root from the perspective of “beauty” and achieving a height at which their forms seemed to reflect the universe itself, then what this goddess had ought to be described as a completely different category that just happened to also use the word “beauty.”
    The goal of the Iselma family’s “beauty” was ultimately a method to reach the Root. If they ever did reach it, it would be a domain worthy of the name “otherworldly beauty.”
    Ironically, what the goddess possessed was the opposite—otherworldly “beauty” befitting of the heavens applied to earthly forms. You could call it the end goal of “beauty” as it is meant near the human sphere. The kind of “finished product” that fell from an unreachable height and painted over its surroundings with itself.
    The self-proclaimed goddess before her eyes was like if the golden ratio defined everything it wore as fashionable and fixed that conception on its surroundings. Her way of being broke the rules.
    If the human sense of beauty is a type of crisis avoidance or pleasure mechanism developed for survival, then her beauty was the opposite. Her beauty was something that gave to humans.
    The goddess was aware that she possessed perfect beauty and that she was the standard of beauty. As a result, she must regard beauty as something that inevitably belonged with her and the act of studying herself as totally alien.
    Haruri could not help surmising as much, even though the goddess was just standing in front of her. That was why Haruri admired her freedom and also why she feared that she would be eliminated if she deviated even slightly from the aesthetic sense of this entity beyond human understanding.
    A feeling worthy of the name “awe” welled up within Haruri. She fought the urge to fall to her knees as she expressed a doubt that had suddenly occurred to her.
    “I thought it wasn’t possible to summon a divinity in a Holy Grail War . . .”
    “No, it isn’t. It’s normally impossible for a Holy Grail. There are a handful of nearly heretical ways to do it, but it would be impossible to summon a divinity of my caliber with a localized ritual like this, and especially not with a fake Holy Grail that’s lost its proper function. Oh, but . . . if you used the Holy Grail as a wish-granter at the end of the ritual, for example, you could probably at least get me to listen to you.”
    “Then, how . . .”
    Haruri persisted in her question.
    “I only manifested here,” the goddess within Filia answered carelessly, “because power I’d left in this world from the start activated.”
    “Power?”
    “That’s right. A blessing I bestowed on this world.”
    “. . .?”
    Her existence here was the result of a blessing to the world.
    Haruri’s face made it plain that she did not understand what the goddess meant. Filia shrugged and continued.
    “Of course, it would probably be a curse to those blasphemers.”
    “You mean . . . the goddess Ishtar’s power resides in that ‘vessel’?”
    “Not just my power; my personality too. Although they’re basically the same thing to beings like us. . . . This body just had a program in it, you know. It was easy to overwrite. I think she’s a sacrificial priestess prepared as a final terminal to receive the Grail’s power, or something like that.”
    The goddess seemed uninterested in her vessel’s origins. She returned the topic to herself as she stared happily at jewelry.
    “There was a time when we could manifest in our proper forms, but if this were back then, the humans in this town would have burst and died a long time ago.”
    “Modern human bodies can’t withstand the magical energy of the Age of Gods. . . .”
    Haruri had heard something like that before.
    The age when gods and humans had coexisted was over, and magical energy was vanishing from the world. Humanity had adapted to that environment, and their bodies could no longer withstand their original one.
    Haruri did not know if it were evolution or regression, but just as humans could not survive in too high an oxygen density, they had already begun to part ways with the world of magecraft. And not at the societal level—with the exception of mages and magecraft-users who actually continued to use magical energy.
    “Well, the environmental changes and my inability to manifest are for different reasons. Even if you recreated the same environment and tried to summon me . . . I suppose it would be noble if I thought of it as a sacrifice, but there’s really no point if there aren’t any humans to praise me in exchange for protection.”
    “Then why go to the trouble of manifesting in an era like—”
    “I told you, I bestowed a blessing on the world. It just activated successfully.”
    At that point, the goddess narrowed her eyes and flashed a bewitching smile.
    “I can hardly believe that something like this could really happen. . . . I’d like to applaud the me back then.”
    “?”
    “You see, when I was insulted by a blasphemous king and that piece of junk threw my divine beast’s entrails at me, I seared a blessing into the world. I kept going until I dissolved into the human order and vanished.”
    Fear is beauty, and beauty is primordial fear.
    That was how it seemed to Haruri when she looked into Filia’s eyes.
    Her keen features made Haruri’s blood run cold. They were just too beautiful—if she had been the object of their hatred, Haruri felt sure that not only would she be unable to resist, she would actually feel grateful.
    The perfected rage and hatred of a goddess of beauty.
    To be precise, a “vestige” of the passions of the deities who once ruled this planet were reigniting an ancient wrath within the vessel called Filia.
    “If those two ever returned to this planet and reunited . . .”
    Faced with a miracle she had arrived at amid an infinite expanse of possibilities, the being who called herself a goddess wore a smile so beautiful that it would freeze the heart of anyone who saw it.
    “I would devote my divinity and soul . . . to protecting humans.”
    Then, as if in answer to those words, a grating sound came from the mansion’ courtyard.
    Haruri did not turn to look.
    She knew that she would see nothing if she did.
    Haruri’s Servant, rendered invisible by magecraft, had stationed itself in the courtyard.
    Because it had absorbed rubble from Bazdilot’s workshop, which it had destroyed, it actually put more strain on it to dematerialize, so they were getting by with invisibility magecraft and magical-energy concealment.
    The woman who called herself Ishtar seemed to still be able to perceive the Servant clearly, because she looked up into the courtyard through a glass wall and said:
    “Don’t you think so too?”
    In response, a sound like the grating of a massive ship’s propeller rang out from the courtyard.
    “Oh, honestly. It sounds like she thinks those tall stone towers are the cedar forests of Lebanon,” the goddess said with a shrug and a wry smile, as if to a pet dog.
    “All right, I’ll take you to a real forest later. That piece of junk is probably there . . .

    “But now that Gilgamesh is out of the picture and he’s gained reason, he won’t pose a threat.”

    X X

    The Distant Past, in a Forest of Gigantic Trees

    You need to learn.
    To learn about humans.
    Utu created a “complete human” in the forest of Enlil.
    Behold her, tell of her, and mold yourself in her image.
    Ninurta will then share his power with you.
    Before we loose you into the forests of Uruk, you must spend time with the “human” Utu has raised.
    Complete yourself and become humanoid.

    For you are a lump of clay that imitates all life.

    The will of the gods.
    When the lump of clay that had had that “duty” carved into it as an irresistible, comfortable slumber awakened in this world . . .

    “—_____—___—_—__—________—__—___”

    The world was engulfed in a scream that rent heaven and earth.
    It had no meaning as words.
    It was just a whirling vortex of pure, undirected emotion.

    The first thing that the “tool” called Enkidu observed in this world was an everlasting series of screams.
    The chain of sounds alone destroyed nearby objects and soon reduced everything to dust.
    In the “process” of being created by the gods, he/she was discarded into the heart of that vortex of shrieks.
    However . . . “discarded” was merely an objective description.
    In reality, it would be fair to say that the gods were pouring all their efforts into making that weapon supreme.
    He/she was a divine homunculus—a tool, a weapon, and an independent processing mechanism—that the gods of Mesopotamia had created to rebind a child who had degenerated into a human to the gods.
    That was why, as a necessary step, Enkidu has been placed in the midst of the calamitous voice.
    He/she had been dropped there with something akin to love, like an infant into its first bath, as a final precaution.
    Enkidu recognized the series of thunderous roars as a “human voice” after eighty days in the noise.
    The processor had been dropped into the world in a state of innocence, input only with the role the gods had bestowed on him/her and a bare minimum of information. He/she had to begin building up everything by choosing what would be necessary and what types of knowledge to accumulate.
    And intellectually, Enkidu had already been given the answer, defined by the gods, to what the source of the screams was.
    It was a being called a “human.”
    It was, the gods claimed, the apotheosis and perfection of the human species that Enkidu must go on to confront.
    In his/her initial state, Enkidu did not yet know what words were. From his/her perspective, the mighty words of the gods were imprinted as “sensations.”
    Even so, Enkidu continued to face that “perfect human” and to expose him/herself to its cries.
    As a result, in order to answer the voice, Enkidu was transforming into something like a gargantuan clay doll.
    If that automaton had been completely suffused in the “screams” then . . . he/she would not have been able to achieve mutual understanding with the sacred prostitute Shamhat.
    Enkidu might not even have been able to recognize Shamhat as “human.”
    That was how greatly the “perfect human” that he/she had encountered through the gods’ guidance differed from the humans who walked on two legs in Babylonia.
    The thing that would link Enkidu to human society at the last possible moment . . . was a young girl’s voice that rose amid the endless screams like bubbles from seaweed.

    “Who is it?”
    “Is someone there?”

    Before Enkidu was aware of it, little flowers were blooming around him/her.
    The gods’ processor would learn.
    The storm of screams calmed as if it had never been, and a series of delicate sounds that seemed to mean something rang out, but only for the brief time that those flowers continued to bloom.
    After a long time, Enkidu realized what those sounds meant—what “words” were.
    And the independent processor learned.

    Enkidu learned that while it was true that the cries like ceaseless thunder had no meaning as words . . . they were continuing to carve the emotion called “resentment” into the world in the form of a curse.
    They never ended. They never reached a destination. The “humans” just continued to scream.
    To scream a curse that would never conclude in a place that was, to Enkidu, the beginning of the world.

    When Enkidu realized that, however, he/she was unfazed.
    If these were the beings called “humans” that the gods spoke of, then this must be how humans were. Enkidu dispassionately recorded the fact as a basis for calculations.
    Caught between the endless screams and the gentle girl’s voice that occasionally surfaced, the processor—who could not even distinguish “gentleness”—accumulated knowledge about humans with complete detachment.
    Only the mission that the gods had given him/her continued to echo within Enkidu’s hollow soul.

    Converse with humans.
    Pierce them and stitch them fast.

    A calculating lump of clay that was not yet even a doll.
    Enkidu simply judged that it was necessary for his/her mission and attempted further communication with the “perfect human.”
    At that point, Enkidu had merely memorized “her” whispered words and grasped the situation.
    He/she had not yet reached the level of conversation.
    Groping for a way to fulfill the role that he/she had been given, Enkidu attempted various forms of communication with the “perfect human.”
    In the process, one day . . . Enkidu made flowers broom.
    Enkidu retained no record of memory of why he/she thought to do that. It may have been a coincidence, or some factor that the then-incomplete Enkidu could not identify may have been involved.
    But the result, at least, was burned into Enkidu’s circuits.
    The cries of resentment calmed for just an instant, and “she” brought her body to the surface.
    “Thank you.
    “Pretty . . . aren’t they?”
    Enkidu did not notice the slight tremor in his/her system at the sound of that voice.
    Later, however, the weapon understood.
    That had been the first moment that he/she had succeeded in a mutual exchange of “wills.”

    Time, and words, flowed on.
    Enkidu remembered the precise number of days, but he/she saw no meaning in it.
    To the weapon, it did not matter how much time had passed, only how it had come to understand “humans.”

    “Hey.”
    “Hey.”
    “We’re your friends, Enkidu.”
    “But soon, we won’t be friends anymore.”
    “Because we can’t go anywhere anymore.”
    “We won’t be able to see the same things as you anymore.”
    “We’re sure to forget about you.”
    “To us, you were like a flower, Enkidu.”
    “You saved us from being lonely.”
    “We hope that you’ll meet someone like a flower one day too, Enkidu.”
    “Someone who will bloom again, even if they wither and die.”
    “Someone like a flower . . . that blooms anywhere before you know it.”

    Before Enkidu knew it, “she” had begun to form a tiny individual body when she rose from the swarm of resentful voices.
    The sound-emitting apparatus and visual and auditory sensors packed into that “little body” caught Enkidu’s attention.
    Cranium, face, head.
    Enkidu matched the images that the gods had given him/her with the words that he/she had learned from “her.”
    The top of that head that seemed as if Enkidu could crush it with the slightest exertion was decorated with a flower that he/she had made bloom a few days before.
    Then . . . she picked up a different flower in her hand.
    It was one of the tiny flowers that “she” had made bloom when she first surfaced—on the day that Enkidu had first encountered her.
    When “she” used that flower to decorate Enkidu’s head, which was just a massive lump of clay, she twisted the visuals sensors and speech emitter on her head into odd shapes.
    It was much later that Enkidu learned that it was called a “smile.”

    And so, at the time, Enkidu was more concerned with the things that floated around her.

    They were seven little rings of light that shone like rainbows just after the rain and seemed to guard “her.”
    Enkidu judged that those rings of light were “perfect things” and etched their radiance into his/her soul.
    The gargantuan lump of clay, which was massive enough to take all the cries of resentment that “they” let out when the girl’s form was submerged and had tuned his/her mental makeup for that purpose, allowed something like what humans call “hope” to well up in his/her soul for the first time.
    Even when he/she obeyed the gods’ commands and left the forest.
    Even if he/she destroyed humans for the sake of his/her duty . . . he/she had to see that perfect, beautiful radiance again.
    Enkidu etched that wish into his/her system without even analyzing the reason why.

    The weapon would get his/her wish a long time later.

    But
    the next time Enkidu saw “her”
    that radiance . . .

    X X

    The Present, Snowfield, Crystal Hill, Upper Floors

    The flowers that bloomed the first time he met “her.”
    What color had they been?

    The upper floors of Crystal Hill.
    The direct elevator to the top-floor suite was currently only usable by a select group of people, the official reason being damaged glass due to high winds.
    Enkidu suddenly found himself reflecting on events from his life as he walked the red-carpeted hallway one floor below that led to the suite.
    Reflecting on the flowers that had grown thickly deep in the forest where he had spent time with the being called Huwawa.
    He remembered the color of the flowers that he had made bloom later.
    He had made clusters of pale blue flowers bloom for “her.”
    Enkidu would never recreate them on his own because there was no need, but if someone asked to see them, he could do so easily.
    In the end, however, he could not remember the color of the flowers that had been with “her”—the personality that called itself Huwawa.
    Why did Enkidu try to think of those flowers, which existed in a realm that was neither a record for his ‘completion’ nor a memory?
    Enkidu self-analyzed the reason, immediately arrived at two answers, and lowered his gaze with a faint smile.
    It was less a smile of self-derision than of pure nostalgia.
    One reason was that he had learned that his former sibling—Huwawa—was manifesting in the world.
    The other . . .
    “It’s not about personality or the color of their souls. . . . Their transience might be a little similar.”
    Enkidu continued to advance, sensing the presence of a girl in the inner recesses of the top floor.

    “?”
    He turned a corner and found several men and women in black eyeing him with confusion and alarm.
    “Hey, who are you? Stop right there!”
    “This area is off limits to . . . Wait. Bare feet . . .”
    “Can this be real . . .? He’s not a mage. His magical energy is like . . . the Earth itself . . .”
    “A Servant . . .? Don’t tell me that’s Lancer!”
    Only a select few members of the organization occupying the suite were familiar with Enkidu’s appearance.
    Only the ones who had used their familiars to watch his battle with Gilgamesh on the first day.
    They had been told his distinguishing features, but none of them had expected him to just walk up to them in the hallway in broad daylight.
    The magical energy that coursed through the Heroic Spirit’s body was both of the same type as the magical energy that flowed through the earth’s leylines and as peaceful as a calm sea. Many magecraft-users and mages would not be able to detect it, even at close quarters.
    That was why, now that they had detected it, they understood.
    It was like they had caught a whiff of seawater by the shore and suddenly realized that there was a massive whale in front of them.
    It was too late to launch an attack. They doubted that anything they tried would have worked, even if they had struck first.
    There was almost nothing that they, who had not made contracts with Heroic Spirits, could do. Their superiors had even given them strict orders never to engage a Heroic Spirit if one appeared.
    They remained keenly aware of their holstered guns and offensive Mystic Codes, but not one of them reached for one.
    The Heroic Spirit saw that and spoke with a smile.
    The voice could be taken for male or female, but the Heroic Spirit’s sex didn’t matter to the black-suited guards.
    Not only his physical beauty, but everything, including the magical energy they sensed from within him and the way he moved as he walked toward them, told them that this was a “perfect body.”
    In the face of that fact, age and sex were trivialities. Types of curse or magecraft that varied according to sex would be meaningless before this mighty being regardless.
    “I’m going through.”
    The Heroic Spirit calmly said that short sentence.
    “. . .”
    The black-suited group, every inch of their skins breaking out in cold sweat, were powerless to do anything. They stood petrified.
    As the Heroic Spirit passed by them, he lowered his gaze slightly as if in thought, paused, and said:
    “You can relax. I haven’t come to fight. In fact, if you had chosen to fight, the thing you ought to be protecting might have ended up as collateral damage.”
    “. . .?”
    The looks on the guards’ sweat-drenched faces said that they did not understand what Enkidu was trying to say. He, still smiling, dispassionately stated the facts to them without a hint of irony or approbation.
    “I mean that you didn’t make the wrong decision. So, you don’t need to feel responsible. . . . I hope that you will continue to make correct choices.”
    Correct choices for whom?
    They wanted to ask, but they could not get the words out.
    They felt that the Heroic Spirit, who had done nothing but walk past them, had grasped their entire beings, and it terrified them—and then that Heroic Spirit glanced back at them and said:
    “It’s all right, Master. I’ve disarmed all of the security systems in this hallway. . . . That means it’s safe.”
    “. . .?!”
    Master.
    At that word, the guards’ tension reached its limit.
    They were shocked to discover that the Heroic Spirit had disarmed all of their defensive magecraft without appearing to do anything, but the reason he had done so was even more troubling.
    The fact that it was not just a Servant—a Master had marched in on them as well.
    The leader they were supposed to be guarding had currently as good as lost her Servant.
    If this Master had come to propose an alliance, would they just eliminate her once they realized the situation?
    The worried group shifted its attention to the corner of the hallway.
    A moment later . . . with slow, cautious steps, sniffing as it went, a sleek, silver-coated wolf rounded the bend.

    X X

    Crystal Hill, Top Floor Suite

    “. . . Have you come to slay His Majesty?” The girl—Tine Chelk—quietly asked Enkidu when he opened the door.
    There were more than ten of her black-clad subordinates in the room.
    Like the group in the hallway, however, they were unable to make any careless moves when suddenly confronted with a Servant.
    At nervous thrill ran through the room at Tine’s question.
    The tension, however, was relieved by a few mild words from Enkidu, who stepped into the room with the silver wolf.
    “That’s a correct inference for a Master in a Holy Grail War, but it doesn’t match the facts.”
    “Then . . . have you come to execute me? I’ve disgraced His Majesty, your best friend.”
    “That’s not right either,” Enkidu shook his head, still smiling but somehow dispassionate.
    Tine’s attention was focused on Enkidu, but she was not looking at him.
    She was in the middle of what was, in a sense, a sumptuous “mage’s workshop” furnished with the King of Heroes’ personal possessions, continuously channeling vast quantities of magical energy into the being who lay supine at its center.
    “Your Magic Circuits . . . no, you yourself are linked to this land, aren’t you?” Enkidu sounded impressed.
    “. . . I see. No wonder you have a similar aura. . . . Your people tried the same thing as the old gods.”
    “. . .?”
    Tine looked slightly confused by Enkidu’s strange remarks, but it seemed that she could not spare the time to pursue the question because she continued to direct magical energy into the center of the room without giving him so much as a glance.
    “Do you know about me?”
    “His Majesty calls you his friend.”
    Tine still did not look at Enkidu. Every inch of her body was drenched in sweat as she manipulated extraordinary quantities of magical energy.
    Nevertheless, she responded in a firm voice, apparently determined not to show weakness.
    “I can only think of one Heroic Spirit that His Majesty would call a friend and who could also compete with him in raw power.”
    “I wonder. That was probably true while I was alive,” Enkidu answered evasively.
    The black-suited subordinates near Tine gradually began to move again.
    “. . . If you don’t intend to fight, what are you doing here?” An elderly man warily asked Enkidu.
    The suspicion in the man’s voice was faintly tinged with hope.
    Enkidu guessed his meaning and shook his head apologetically.
    “If you believe I have come to save King Gilgamesh, I’m afraid you will be disappointed.”
    “. . .!”
    Most of the room’s occupants looked discouraged by the Heroic Spirit’s words, and Tine’s shoulders trembled slightly.
    The thing in the center of the room—the thing Enkidu was staring at—was indeed the King of Heroes’ “corpse.”
    The Einzbern homunculus who Gilgamesh had called “Ishtar.”
    Thanks to her interference, Gilgamesh had been pierced by Alkeides’ arrows, and then impaled by the gargantuan “something” that had appeared immediately afterward.
    It was undeniably a fatal blow.
    Worse, his body was being eaten away by some force, and his wounds continued to rot even while he was alive.
    The only reason that his physical body still existed was that Tine was drawing massive quantities of magical energy from the leylines to hold his Spirit Origin in its human shape and keep it from disintegrating by brute force.
    Surveying Gilgamesh in that state, retaining only the form of a Servant, Enkidu dispassionately stated his opinion.
    “There are two venoms eating away at Gil’s body. If it were just the hydra venom, I could force open Gil’s treasury and probably find an antidote. He used to say that he was going to hunt the vipers at the world’s end one day, after all. His treasury might even yield a cooking utensil or two made just for them in addition to corpses and antidotes.”
    Enkidu continued to speak casually, as if he were telling everyday jokes.
    Tine gritted her teeth and responded with a tinge of anger, still not looking at him.
    “Aren’t you . . . His Majesty’s friend . . .? How can you speak so calmly when . . .?!”
    Her shout was too dignified to be the temper of a girl who was in some ways still a child.
    Enkidu accepted it at her side. He stopped smiling, but his expression remained composed as he replied.
    “It’s because I’m his friend.”
    “What . . .?”
    “Gil and I spent irreplaceable days together. We’ve already finished our eternal parting and the grief that came with it. The ‘current’ us are shadows burned into the Human Order. We may rejoice at our reunion, but we don’t need to grieve at parting again. I don’t believe that Gil would shed a tear if I were the one lying here on the verge of death, and I wouldn’t ask him to.”
    “. . .”
    Confusion suffused Tine’s profile.
    She glanced at Enkidu just once, but her experience of life was too short to judge the truth of the Heroic Spirit’s words by his expression.
    “I believe it will be difficult for you to understand, and I can guess your reason for directing your anger at me. So, if it will make you feel better, feel free to curse at me as much as you like.”
    “. . .”
    When she heard that, Tine turned her face fully toward Enkidu for the first time. Her eyes showed a range of emotions—anger, sadness, fear. Then, after a momentary look that might have been begging for help, she lowered her head and said frustratedly:
    “No . . . it wouldn’t. . . . I’m sorry. . . . I’m . . . truly sorry. . . .”
    A clear apology to Enkidu spilled from the lips of the mage, who was in some ways still a child.
    “You aren’t the one I hate. . . .”
    Massive quantities of magical energy coursed through Tine’s Magic Circuits. Every nerve in her body was beginning to groan in protest.
    As she spoke, however, her face was twisted not with pain but with regret.
    “I . . . couldn’t do anything. . . . I didn’t do anything. . . .”
    Tine fell silent.
    “You used two Command Spells, didn’t you?” Enkidu asked calmly, neither comforting nor blaming.
    “. . .!”
    Enkidu was looking at the back of Tine’s left hand.
    The majority of her Command Spells, the mark of a Master, were faded. Just one remained.
    “One to summon him back here, and another to attempt to heal him. . . . That was a good decision for a Master. Without it, there would have been no chance that Gilgamesh could maintain the form of his Spirit Origin.”
    “You said that . . . there are two types of venom?” Tine asked without slackening her efforts to maintain Gilgamesh’s Spirit Origin. She seemed to be grasping Enkidu’s personality, because the side of her that had been built up as a mage began to show on her face.
    “Yes. The other is closer to a curse than a toxin.”
    Enkidu narrowed his eyes as he surveyed the wound gouged in Gilgamesh’s torso.
    “. . . I suppose this is what they call ‘irony.’”
    “?”
    “I don’t suppose it was a rainbow-colored light that impaled King Gilgamesh’s body?”
    “. . .! Do you know what that was?”
    The scene of Gilgamesh being struck down replayed in Tine’s mind.
    The seven-colored halo, distinct from the titanic mechanical “something.”
    The way it had twisted into a shape like the tip of a rock drill and impaled Gilgamesh through the belly.
    “That was the protection of the gods. It’s also a curse to the human race. . . . The light that was poured into Gil was one of them, a curse descended from Pestilence.”
    “Pestilence . . .?”
    “We should probably be grateful for the hydra venom. It and the pestilence are competing with and consuming each other. . . . That’s why the plague hasn’t spread from Gil’s body. If not for that, there’s a high probability that all of you, and probably me, would also be trapped in the abyss of death by now.”
    Tine and her subordinates gasped at Enkidu’s casual statement.
    “Oh, there’s no need to change his treatment. In my estimation, both the venom and the curse will disappear along with the Spirit Origin of the body called Gilgamesh. It’s not ‘his’ Spirit Origin anymore. The only thing here now is the corpse of an ancient human.”
    “What was that thing . . . that metal giant? What do you know about . . .?”
    “Let me see. Where should I start . . .?”
    Enkidu lowered his gaze as if lost in thought, and then began to tell his reason for coming there little by little.
    “I came here because I wanted to know a little more about all of you.”
    “About us?”
    “I mean, you tried to use Gil, and he spared your lives. I was curious what you were like. Gil was also curious about my Master, but . . .”
    Enkidu smiled at Tine and continued without stating what his own judgment had been.
    “Nothing would please me more than if we could work together. I also want to do all that I can . . . to remove that wicked deity from this stage.”
    “. . . What deity? Do you mean that steel monster that stabbed His Majesty?”
    “No, I mean—. . .?”
    The next instant, Enkidu raised his head as if he had noticed something.
    “There’s . . . someone here.”
    “What?”
    Enkidu slowly surveyed the surrounding space without answering Tine’s question.
    “Is this . . . a human? No . . . it’s like a human, but . . .”
    “Do you mean that someone is hiding in this room?”
    Tine probed the nearby magical energy in confusion, but she could sense nothing of the kind.
    Enkidu, however, seemed certain of its presence and wiped the emotion from his face as he said:
    “No . . . they aren’t hiding. . . . It’s probably the opposite.”
    “?”

    “It seems . . . that something is trying to probe this place from the reverse side of the world.”

    X X

    A Closed-off Town, Crystal Hill, Top Floor Suite

    “I knew it. This room looks like it has the ‘thinnest walls.’”

    The Snowfield recreated inside the mysterious ward.
    In the top floor suite of its Crystal Hill were Flat Escardos, Berserker Jack the Ripper, and the Holy Church personnel led by Hansa Cervantes.
    “I see. . . . But what is this place? It’s the top floor of a hotel, but it doesn’t look like guest accommodations. It reminds me of a mage’s workshop, but the furnishings are too needlessly extravagant for that.”
    Flat responded to Jack’s question by looking around the room in growing excitement.
    “Don’t you think it’s kind of like a museum?! There’s pretty jewels and gold dishes and all kinds of amazing things!”
    The space, which ought to have been the hotel’s most luxurious room, was decorated with countless sparkling treasures that looked brand new despite their antique style. The assortment really could plausibly be some kind of exhibit.
    “I’ve seen these in the professor’s lectures. I’m pretty sure they’re treasures from somewhere around Mesopotamia, but . . . hmm . . . The way they’re made, they should have some magical energy stored inside, but I don’t sense any. . . . They don’t seem like fakes, but it’s like they’re empty shells. It’s weird,” flat commented as he stared intently at the furnishings.
    “But if the walls are thinnest here,” Hansa cut in from behind him, “does that mean that altitude is the key?”
    “No, I don’t think that’s it. . . . I’ve got a feeling that this place is uniquely in harmony with the world outside the barrier. Like both sides are connected, or . . .”
    At that point, Flat shifted his focus to a point at the center of the suite.
    To the middle of the largest room.
    What looked like a magic circle of a system unfamiliar at the Clock Tower was drawn on the floor there, but the target of that magecraft was missing from its center.
    “What’s this? I think it’s a circle for stabilizing something . . . but there’s nothing here.”
    “From the looks of things, this must be some faction’s workshop after all.”
    “I’m technically neutral. I can guess who it belongs to, but I decline to comment.”
    Hansa went out of his way to explain something he could have easily left unsaid with a shrug.
    Jack maintained the bare minimum of cautious attention on Hansa and the nuns who were inspecting the room as he continued.
    “Could the circle be empty simply because they haven’t begun their ritual yet?”
    “No. . . . It’s strange. I’ve got a feeling that something is already happening here, but . . . This circle really isn’t active . . . but this is definitely the place.”
    Flat waved his hand over the center of the empty circle with a look of confusion.

    “The reason this place has the strongest connection to the world ‘outside’ the ward—to the real city—is . . .”

    X X

    Snowfield, Crystal Hill, Top Floor

    Enkidu’s voice rang out outside the ward, on the top floor of the “real” Crystal Hill.
    “Yes, something is definitely here, but I can only sense its presence.”
    When Tine’s subordinates heard that, each of them seized a weapon or Mystic Code and frantically looked around the room.
    There faces, however, showed confusion. It seemed that they could not find even traces of magical energy.
    Enkidu’s high Detect Presence Skill, however, was certainly detecting the “fluctuation.”
    And when he found its center, he looked with faint surprise at the face of his half-corpse friend.
    “This . . . wasn’t accounted for, I suspect.”
    There’s was something human about the grin that quietly spread over his face, in contrast to his usual nearly expressionless smile . . . but no one in the room saw it.
    “Still . . . you really haven’t changed, Gil.”
    Guessing what had befallen the venom- and curse-ridden Gilgamesh, Enkidu quietly accepted its “course.”
    All the while allowing a light of hope, unbecoming of an arithmetic logic unit, to flicker in his heart of hearts.
    “I’m amazed that you still pull the fate of the world to yourself even after your functions have been halted.”
    Countless gleaming, golden chains sprouted from the hem of his robe and instantly spread to all sides of the room.
    “! What are you—”
    Tine cried out, and her black-suited guards tensed.
    Enkidu, however, reassuringly spread his arms in a gesture of defenselessness and said:
    “Please don’t be concerned; this isn’t an attack against you, although I’m sorry to say that it isn’t to protect you, either.”
    Enkidu winked like a mischievous child while erecting several layers of defensive measures only around the silver wolf sprawled at his feet—his Master—and wistfully recalled his “adventuring days” as he continued.
    “I’m just going to become someone’s tool, as always.”

    “In this case . . . I suppose that in your terms, I’ll be a ‘booster.’”

    X X

    A Closed-off Town, Crystal Hill, Top Floor

    “Huh?!”
    Flat let out a cry of surprise, and the others turned to stare at him.
    “What is it? Something wrong?”
    “No, not exactly a problem,” Flat answered Hansa with a look of confusion. “Maybe more like a problem got solved . . .”
    Flat manipulated magical energy with the fingertips of both hands and began overwriting the magic circle inscribed on the floor.
    “What do you intend to do?”
    Flat continued to work while he answered Jack.
    “Since asphalt that was torn up in the real world is fine here . . . I think it can probably ignore major damage and decide not to copy-paste it. But an enemy faction’s magic circle still being here means that the range of ‘things it would be inconvenient to copy’ must be pretty narrow.”
    “Recreating the real city inside a ward is copy and pasting? I see young Clock Tower mages are even up-to-date in their expressions.”
    Hansa shrugged and watched Flat work with interest.
    “Thank you very much! I may not look it, but I’m in the School of Modern Magecraft! It’s all thanks to the professor that I’m up-to-date!”
    Flat, meanwhile, shot back a slightly off-base answer and continued to survey the surroundings.
    “I knew it. The closest thing to this place is probably a Reality Marble. . . . But still . . . No, I doubt anyone but the professor could put it into words well. And I only saw it before; it’s not like we covered it in class.”
    “Saw what?”
    “I’ve seen something like this once before, in Wales. That was in a cemetery . . . but if that was ‘a ward-world that recreates the past,’ this must be ‘a ward-world that recreates the present.’”
    “. . . In Wales? Don’t tell me you mean the Blackmore Cemetery, founded by a clan with strong ties to Dead Apostles? A priest I know and a nun I never got along with nearly died in some trouble over there . . . but I never figured you’d be mixed up with that place too.”
    Hansa sounded surprised. For some reason, Flat’s eyes shone with delight.
    “Oh, you know about that! Yes, this world inside the ward is like a massive stage set made to be a whole fake city. . . . You see that as a setting in games sometimes. I think there was a Jim Carrey movie like that too.”
    “I’m pretty sure that was a city set built from the ground up, not a reproduction. . . . That last scene was great, though. It was a good movie.”
    “Wasn’t it?! I want to teach my liquid mercury Mystic Code friend the greeting from it next time I see her!”
    “Save that talk for later. You won’t be able to see that Mystic Code again if we don’t get out of this world first.”
    “Ah. S-Sorry. . . .”
    Snapped back to reality by Jack, Flat dejectedly returned to the subject at hand.
    “Since the cars are all stopped and the slot machines don’t work, I think it might not be continuously mirroring the real city but regularly singling out and copying ‘worlds’ one moment at a time. There are parked cars here too, so I’d guess objects whose position data is changing drastically in the ‘isolated moment’ aren’t reflected.”
    “I see. . . . In that case, something is being done in the real-world suite that this magic circle corresponds to. Or could they be trying to open a way into this place?”
    “Hmm. It didn’t look like it from the way the magical energy was distorting until just now . . . but that just changed. How should I put it? It’s like my phone suddenly got three bars even though we’re in a subway tunnel, or . . . That’s it! My phone!”
    Flat hurriedly pulled out his cell phone and placed it on a nearby marble table and began to rummage through the nearby objects.
    “Let’s see. I’ll just borrow this . . . and this and this . . .”
    He was selecting several of the historical artifacts of apparently Mesopotamian origin with which the room was decorated and filling them with his own magical energy, restoring their power as ritual tools.
    “What do you intend to do?”
    “Well, some of the decorations looked like they’d be useful as Mystic Codes, so I thought I’d set up a simple altar with them. Then, how should I put it? It’s like knocking on a wall to get a response. If I’m lucky, I might be able to get my phone to connect to the ‘outside.’”
    “I see. . . . No, wait, I said I see, but is that really possible?”
    “Don’t worry; I’ve done similar things plenty of times. My classmate Cawles and I used to convert between magical energy and radio waves all the time, so I think it’ll work out.”
    Flat was moving ahead with a carefree attitude.
    Jack was uneasy after his rough explanation, but he considered that Flat had accomplished several advanced feats of magecraft with the same approach and decided to wait and see.
    When my thoughts blended with Master’s due to that Caster’s power . . . I somehow grasped the nature of his magecraft.
    It’s similar to Eastern ideas. He doesn’t limit his magecraft to a single system by defining the boundaries of his self. . . . Or rather, he can’t.
    He constructs and performs most of his magecraft on the spot by sense alone. Even if you told him to construct the same magecraft again, Flat could probably only make a rough approximation.
    He isn’t mold-breaking so much as he never had a mold to begin with. I’m astonished that that mage, El-Melloi II, could raise an enfant terrible like him.
    As he watched Flat work, Jack thought that, given such an apprentice, a typical mage would either break in some way, or else try to break Flat.
    He possessed a basic knowledge of magecraft thanks to traditions that Jack the Ripper was a mage, but even from that perspective, and even from the perspective of a unique Servant who had been partially mixed with his Master by Caster, Flat was an anomaly.
    I know it’s an odd question to ask when I don’t even know who I am myself . . . but just who is my erratic-yet-dependable Master?


    In the background of that back and forth between Master and Servant, Hansa was surveying the city from the top floor.
    “It just looks like an ordinary city from up here. . . . Still, it looks like there’s no question we really are in a closed-off world.”
    When he stared into the distance from the top floor of the skyscraper, he could see something like a dense mist rising a considerable distance outside the city.
    He doubted that the world continued beyond that mist. Recreating the entire world had to be beyond the realm of simple magecraft.
    “At that point, it’d be less a recreation of the world than transportation to a parallel one. . . . Not that this situation isn’t crazy enough already.”
    Hansa shrugged as he surveyed the quiet cityscape. One of the nuns approached him at a brisk walk.
    “Hansa.”
    “What?”
    “There’s something strange over there.”
    Once Hansa turned to look in the direction that the nun unemotionally indicated, the other three nuns gathered to look down on the city from windows on the same side of the building.
    “Has something happened?”
    “ . . . Father Hansa, there’s been activity. Over there.”
    Hansa looked where the polite nun with the eyepatch indicated and saw what looked like a rising cloud of dust.
    “That’s . . .”
    Lights and burst of flame occasionally flashed inside the dust cloud.
    It looked a lot like the battle in front of the hospital that they had been able to see from the church the night before.
    Soon there was a particularly intense burst of light . . . and a gigantic form reared into view.
    “. . . Kerberos. We saw it yesterday . . . but was it always that big?”
    The three-headed monster was larger than the average house.
    The sight of it made Hansa suspicious even before it put him on his guard.
    “Is the Archer wearing a cloth who used that thing here too? No, if that were it . . . If he could make it that big, I’m guessing he would’ve done it last night. . . .”
    A number of theories raced through Hansa’s head.
    I’m sure that demonic beast’s body was left lying on the road.
    So, was it just pulled in like the rest of us?
    Did the Servant who created this world give it strength . . .?
    At the very least, the Servant’s probable Master, Kuruoka Tsubaki, would not know that kind of magecraft.
    That narrowed down the possibilities.
    It was either a Servant, one of the people trying to exploit the situation in the city, or a dangerous being that just wanted to rampage regardless of the circumstances.

    “What’s the plan, Hansa? If we’re going, I’m going to change my clothes.”
    The blonde nun’s question caused Hansa to reflect for a moment.
    Then, after a look at Flat and Jack behind him, he removed his own eyepatch and said:
    “No, this is our chance. We can observe the widest area from here.”
    From beneath the eyepatch appeared an artificial eye Mystic Code packed with variety of Mystic Codes—biological, mechanical, and even electronic—inside mystically treated crystal.
    The lens inside the crystal rearranged themselves with a whirring sound like a robot in a sci-fi movie.
    Then, with vision enhanced to dozens of times that of a normal human, Hansa began to observe not the battle but the buildings around it.
    “If a Servant is using that thing, they may be nearby watching the fight. If I can at least find traces of magical energy . . .”
    At that point, Hansa stopped speaking.
    He had spotted a small human figure standing atop a building a short distance away from the uproar.
    “Is that . . .?”
    That figure . . . was familiar.
    Hansa immediately fished where he had seen it before out of the sea of his memories.
    In the hallway of the hotel he had leapt into in pursuit of a hematophage after the incident at the police station.
    That’s where “he” had been.
    It was the boy who was supposed to have been attacked in passing by that monster—the hematophage Jester Karture.
    “. . . He got me.”
    The corners of Hansa’s mouth curled upward even as he followed the figure with an angry glare.
    If he had been using the type of farseeing magecraft that operated directly on its target’s space, the figure would have noticed that he was watching.
    At present, however, Hansa was only using his artificial eye to directly enhance his vision.
    In a sense, it was like he was just looking through binoculars . . . as he observed the boy-shaped thing happily watching the conflict in the city.
    He could not tell whether it was controlling the giant beast.
    But he was certain at least that the hematophage was involved in the current situation.
    “A transformation ability . . .? It must be pretty impressive to turn even his presence completely human.”
    Not only Hansa but most Executors could see through transformations and disguises that relied on ordinary magecraft or hematophage peculiarities.
    But the sight of that transformation, which was almost like the creature had swapped out its very soul, reconfirmed for Hansa that Jester was an “enemy” he could not afford to underestimate.
    “Change gear. We’re going to slay that hematophage while we’re in here.”
    “That child is the hematophage from before?”
    “Couldn’t he just be under his control?”
    The nuns sounded skeptical about their orders, but Hansa gave a little shake of the head.
    All the while glaring at the look on the distant boy’s face.
    “He may be able to change the color of his soul . . . but he can’t change that twisted smile.”

    Just then, a cheerful voice rang out from behind them.
    “I got through!”
    Hansa and the others turned to find Flat grinning from ear to ear and dancing for joy in front of the bizarre altar he had constructed with his phone in one hand.
    The signal from Flat’s cell phone and the magical energy he had used to transmit it had just connected to “the outside world”—the real Snowfield.
    In other words, a hole had been made in the walls of the ward for that magical energy and signal to pass through, even if it were a small one.
    For Flat and the others, it was only a steppingstone on their way to “the outside” . . .

    But the small change caused big changes in the world of Snowfield.
    It was a single ant tunnel in a massive dam.

    In a sense, you could say that this minor change was the trigger that ended the deadlock between the factions vying for control of Snowfield . . . although no one knew it yet at the time.

    But whether anyone knew it or not, the city’s fate began inexorably to change.
    As if to show that one cracks had begun to spread, they would eventually bring everything crumbling down.

    X X

    In the Sky Above Snowfield, Airborne Workshop

    “Found it.”

    High above the real city.
    Inside a massive airship floating so far above the earth that it was not even reproduced inside the ward, Francesca grinned ecstatically as she whispered:
    “Yay! There’s finally a ‘hole.’ I don’t know who did it, but I want to give them a Nobel Prize or something! The Nobel Me Prize!”
    “The what?”
    Francesca flapped her legs on the bed as she cheerfully answered her shadow, Caster.
    “I give the money from a Nobel Prize to whoever helped me out! I’m sure they’ll be happy to get it, and I’ll be happy since I won’t have to pay out of pocket. The people at the Nobel Foundation will lose out, but there are two sides that benefit, so in terms of pluses and minuses it works out to a positive! That’s how the world becomes a nicer place!”
    “No, I was wondering what a Nobel Prize is.”
    “Huh? Didn’t you get that kind of knowledge from the ‘Grail’?”
    “Well, it sounds like it’s clearly unrelated to the Grail War. Of course, it’s case-by-case, so I don’t know how it would work in a proper Holy Grail War.”
    Francesca turned to look with interest at the boy Prelati, who was stuffing his face with expensive chocolate truffles.
    “Hmm. That does make you wonder, huh? How much do you think the people in Fuyuki knew? They were active in Japan, so I’m guessing they at least got its political system and laws in their heads. Hey, do you know who the current U.S. president is?”
    “Nope. But I do kind of know what the presidency is. I know how TV works, too, and I can use a cell phone no problem. I don’t know the names of any phone brands, though.”
    “I see. Hmm. I wonder if the Other Heroic Spirits are the same way. You’re me, so you might have connected to my knowledge when we made a contract and established a magical energy connection.”
    “Does that really matter? Whatever I started out knowing, I can just pick up any cards I need later, and betting the farm on my current hand and going down in flames would be pretty fun too. Don’t you think?”
    Prelati slumped against Francesca’s back and softly brushed her lips with a fingertip covered in melted chocolate.
    Francesca grinned, ran her tongue coquettishly over the finger . . . then flashed a malicious smile and leaned her head against Prelati’s cheek.
    “Yes, yes. It’s no use trying to corrupt yourself, you know? I’m already corrupted.”
    “Are you sure you’re not the one trying to tempt me? Am I right in thinking that this qualifies as narcissism?”
    “I wonder. I’d love to summon Narcissus and ask him. Not that I have a catalyst that eccentric, of course.”
    Francesca tried to change the subject with a few offhand remarks about the Greek boy who lent his name to narcissism, but Prelati—her own shadow—was undeterred and turned the conversation back to its original subject.
    “But you are working to make the world a more fun place, right?”
    “Well, only by leaving things to others and cutting as many corners as I can.”
    “I can’t wait. How much do you think we’ll be able to lay the world bare once we let the Grail take care of that ‘great labyrinth’—it’s risky to even look for the entrance—and get our hands on the ‘microcosm of the world’ in its depths?”
    “Well first thing’s first; the door to this city’s ‘little labyrinth’—a weird world made by a weird Servant—just turned up!”
    Giggling, Francesca traced lines in the air with her fingers and caused several floating mirrors to rise.
    “Out of the group trapped inside, I’m most interested in . . . The Lionheart, I guess. Although it really is a mystery why that fanboy turned up instead of little Artoria.”
    Francesca, who like the police force was already certain of Saber’s identity, stared at his image in one of the mirrors, which showed him delivering his speech from atop the police car, as she licked her lips.
    “Yes, he’s wonderful. A real kingly king who’s lit by legend of the past and magnifies their light to shine several times as bright.”
    “Are your guts aching?”
    Prelati leered, and Francesca smiled innocently back.
    “Of course! That Saber’s been giving me butterflies this whole time! I couldn’t help becoming a fan! Not quite as strong as with Jeanne or Gilles, but really close. Does that make sense to you? Of course it does!”
    Francesca gestured animatedly as she spoke, like a low-teen girl talking about her favorite pop star.
    Prelati watched her and continued calmly.
    “Yes, it does. You’re me, after all. That’s why I know just what you want to do to that oh-so-wonderful king you’ve become a fan of.”
    “Will you come with me? I can’t cast illusions as well as you can right now.”
    “Sure I will. Should we do it inside the ward?”
    “Yeah. Faldeus will never shut up about it if we do it here!”
    The boy and girl chatted conspiratorially.
    Outwardly they appeared to be young humans, but writhing within those vessels were indides so utterly dark that they could only be called monsters.

    Reflected in the mirrors that hovered around them were records of the past.
    Vestiges as images, which were factual but did not reflect the truth.
    While she wondered what truth she should add to them to thrust on The Lionheart, Francesca gazed absentmindedly at an image of more than ten years earlier.
    An image of a holy-sword-wielder clad in blue cloth and silver armor . . . who had once overcome everything and yet lost everything.

    X X

    In a Dream

    The city was kind of noisy.
    The wind was kind of humid.

    Kuruoka Tsubaki was still too young to be able to put her apprehension into words.
    By all rights, she should not even have been able to sense the change . . . but thanks to her Magic Circuits and the influence of Pale Rider linked to the magical energy they generated, changes in the “world” around her and the Heroic Spirit who was its ruler echoed vividly within her.
    The girl sensed it in the midst of an afternoon nap. She lay on the family sofa in a dream within a dream—a troubled sleep that was hers alone.

    I’m scared, daddy.
    I’m scared, mommy.
    I don’t really understand, but I think something scary is coming.

    “Girl.”

    Where did Mr. Black go?
    Jester hasn’t come to play today either.
    Is everyone going to go away again?

    “Girl.”

    Will I be alone again?
    Because I couldn’t do it right.
    Is everyone going to be mad at me again?

    “Can you hear me?”

    How can I do a good job?
    Daddy and mommy are smiling at me.

    “Can’t you hear me?
    “Zheng noticed immediately . . .
    “But perhaps humans change in two thousand years.”

    What can I do so they’ll keep smiling forever and ever?
    Will they stay with me?

    “Perhaps you don’t understand my language?”

    I’m scared.
    I’m scared.

    “Hello, girl.
    “Zaoshanghao, nhai.
    “Ohayō? Musume-san?
    “Bonjour?
    “Cho buổi sng.”

    . . .?

    “Are. You. OK?
    “. . . What is ‘OK’?
    “I’m a fool.
    “There’s a limit to the languages I can learn from the documents in this room.
    “. . . This is my only chance, now that ‘he’s’ distracted, but . . .”

    . . . Who’s there?
    . . . Mr. Black?

    !
    “You noticed me!
    “Thank you, young lady!”

    “. . .?”
    The girl awoke from her nap.
    Having woken up into the dream world, she stared around her from the fake sofa in the fake house, but there was no one to be seen.
    She could see her mother and father talking in the garden, but there was no sign of anyone else, and she could not see “Mr. Black” anywhere.
    Despite her youth, the girl felt that she must have been dreaming and was about to go running to her parents to relieve her unease, when . . .

    . . . Hello, girl who wanders in dreams.
    “?”
    A clearly audible voice brought Tsubaki to a halt.
    Have no fear; I will not harm you, nor will I be angry with you.
    The voice of someone she could not see.
    An ordinary girl in her situation might easily wailed in terror, but Tsubaki was strangely unafraid of the voice.
    Just like when she had first met “Mr. Black” . . . she was strangely certain that the voice was on her side.
    With “Mr. Black”—Pale Rider—her dormant mage instincts had told her that the Heroic Spirit was “a connected part of her.”
    This time, something like warmth that she sensed from the voice itself caused Tsubaki’s human instincts to accept its owner as “something she could be safe with.”
    “Who are you? I’m Kuruoka Tsubaki,” Tsubaki asked, just as she had when she first met Pale Rider, and the “being” with the beautiful, androgynous voice quietly explained itself.
    Thank you, girl. I have no name. I had one long ago, but I lost it.
    “?”
    Tsubaki looked confused, not understanding what the words meant. The “owner of the voice” calmly told her about itself.
    I am . . . what was once called a “deity” in a certain place.

    Now, however, I am merely a remnant. . . . A, umm, “leftover,” if you will.
    Thanks friend, thousands of people follow your translation from South America. We are very grateful to you.

  15. #10035
    Knight of Joestar SirGauoftheSquareTable's Avatar
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    Blackmore Cemetery? Is this where Gray is from? I thought she was trained by an old mage named Blackmore.

    Also, it's "Caules", not "Cawles".
    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

  16. #10036
    The Wolf King Lobo's Avatar
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    Thanks for another translation OSoS!
    Quote Originally Posted by SirGauoftheSquareTable View Post
    Blackmore Cemetery? Is this where Gray is from? I thought she was trained by an old mage named Blackmore.
    Yes to both, Gray's village was built around Blackmore Cemetery and the gravekeeper, Bersac Blackmore (a descendant of the Blackmore family), trained her

  17. #10037
    Knight of Joestar SirGauoftheSquareTable's Avatar
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    Ah, thanks.
    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

  18. #10038
    吸血鬼 Vampire All fictions's Avatar
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    So the village is not called Blackmore Cemetery?
    Quote Originally Posted by Rafflesiac View Post
    Punching out some nerd doesn't make you a better magus.

  19. #10039
    Wyrd oft nere unfǽgne eorl, onne his ellen dah... Skull's Avatar
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    Presumably not, I certainly wouldn't want to live in a village that has "Cemetery" in its name.
    "Here's a bangin lil' tune about takin' on The Man!"


  20. #10040
    鬼 Ogre-like You's Avatar
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    It's like the people who just call Anaheim, Disneyland
    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.

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