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

  1. #11421
    Knight of Joestar SirGauoftheSquareTable's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CO9p5JMGv!p9 View Post
    Don't forget that Gugalanna caused a 7 year drought. It probably would've just dried up the Chaos Tide (for a while) like Quetz.



    Sumerian gods are deified natural phenomena so they're pretty close to the planet to begin with.



    Enkidu is called pretty similar to an elemental in vol 6 tho.
    I don't think it's all leading to forging a fake Excalibur. Richard doesn't really need more cred since he's a hero already while we have True Lancer (fake) waiting right there behind the curtain.
    Oh yeah, didn't think about the drought. Still, it might have sucked even harder if Tiamat eventually assimilated Gugalanna.

    Isn't Dumuzi a space sheep, though, so clearly not all of them are deified natural phenomena?
    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

  2. #11422
    While Richard may not be able to use the makeshift excalibur to its fullest strength (assuming it is as strong as that holy sword, he should be able to replicate the light that can erase anything that comes in contact with it. Ishtar should be using her all to defend humanity, but she has been doing the opposite. ROugh times

  3. #11423
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors OnesFleetingGlory's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SirGauoftheSquareTable View Post
    Isn't Dumuzi a space sheep, though, so clearly not all of them are deified natural phenomena?
    Uh... no? Other than shepherds and milk, he's also associated with fertility and vegetation, referred as a plant-growing deity.

    Speaking of, I wonder if Ishtar will ever mention him considering he's her consort. Though the chance is small since FGO heavily promotes his dynamic with Eresh instead.


  4. #11424
    Knight of Joestar SirGauoftheSquareTable's Avatar
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    I mean, I thought in FGO that Dumuzi was literally portrayed as a sheep UFO or something really weird?
    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

  5. #11425
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors OnesFleetingGlory's Avatar
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    I don't remember that, but in his Christmas event some concepts for Santa Altera do make use of some silly puns on account of her being an alien, so she must have a space sheep. So maybe you mean that?


  6. #11426
    世はまさにパンテオン Comun's Avatar
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    Interlude: Audition (part 3)
    "Kehe... I wasted two bullets on this... Goodbye for now, beautiful Assassin, my beloved."

    A few minutes later.

    Jester could be found within Snowfield's urban area, wandering the back alleys, concealed.

    (The sand or the shades of the forest trees are no places to hide from my dearest Assassin. It has to be among a human crowd. Her treacly sweetheart couldn't exterminate humans to weed me out.)

    That was the thought process behind Jester's choice to make it back downtown.

    His current appearance was the one he fought Hansa Cervantes at the police station with.

    He offered the werewolf's heart as a tribute for the self-destruction spell, which he activated point-blank using the golem figure as a shield for his escape.

    He took a huge gamble, not knowing if that was enough to shake Assassin off, but since she already had an offensive Noble Phantasm active, he managed to run away in the time it took her to switch Noble Phantasms.

    If the Noble Phantasm she had active at the time was the search one, she would have immediately given pursuit no matter how thoroughly Jester hid.

    (Shaking her off was easier than I expected, though... Maybe my dearly beloved is more damaged than I imagined. Ah, that's worrying. Someone might kill her before I do...)

    For all Jester was concerned about Assassin's health, his male vampire form was doing worse.

    His wounds from Hansa's consecrated howitzer shells weren't healed and his face had a burn mark.

    "What's my next move? Thanks to that brat's spell, the Cylinder is almost unusable."

    Jester walked dragging a leg.

    He took one more step into the deep darkness.

    The uniformly concrete-colored back alley walls started to mix with an aged stone wall.

    Something was wrong but Jester didn't notice it.

    One more step.

    Eerie vines started creeping on the wall, but Jester didn't notice them.

    One more step.

    A pumpkin-colored cartoon spider started building a heart-shaped web above his head, but Jester didn't notice it.

    One more step.

    The asphalt street was suddenly replaced by a gravel road.

    That's when Jester noticed the discrepancies and raised his head.

    "What...?", he reflexively voiced his shock.

    He thought the back alley he went into would still continue for long, but that wasn't the case, as the whole alley disappeared and in its stead, a completely different scenery was unveiled before him.

    In the distance, his eyes saw the birth of an aged European castle atop a hill.

    He could recognize the castle.

    He never went there, but he knew a lot about it, as by following his Ancestor's example, he developed the hobby of studying humanity's culture and history.

    The castle where the noblewoman nicknamed The Vampire Countess committed her atrocities. Csejte.

    Not even its ruins.

    The colors in the castle sitting atop the hill far above Jester were as vibrant as they were the day the castle was built.

    Furthermore, no normal civilian could be found on the streets, only several plushie animals roaming around the castle with movements resembling stop-motion animation.

    Many plushies carried ukeleles and trumpets to play indescribably annoying music, and at the center of this parade, there was a starfish plushie dressed up as a clown juggling skulls and eyeballs.

    "What's this? How... No, don't tell me..."

    Jester immediately figured out the truth of his current situation.

    Previously, an abnormal weather phenomenon occurred in Tsubaki's dream. The pastry rain.

    This level of illusion is easy for someone with enough skill to cause that rain.

    Meaning he was trapped in an illusion world created by someone else.

    (If I were unhurt, I could have instantly rejected and escaped this pathetic illusion...!), Jester grit his teeth.

    A light flashed on the castle's rooftop and a voice only he could hear reverberated in the center of the world to mock him.

    "Sup! Are you ready for some obnoxious nonsense? The festival is about to begin! Countdown: 9, 8, 7, 6, 1, 0, DON!"

    "AH, AH! Mic check, mic check! It's time to have a blast on the most fun pirate radio station in Snowfield, All Days Blackbeard & All Nights Bluebeard! From the Caribbean seas all the way to Orleans, we deliver heartbreak from dusk to DON! (Dawn.) Kehe! Great fun, great times! ... Hey, are you sure this is how you do radio? For real? Is this script really okay to go on record? Also, who is Blackbeard?"

    First, a female voice blasted into Jester's right ear, followed by a corresponding male voice on his left.

    The sudden event left Jester dizzy despite him being a vampire.

    The voice on Jester's left ear addressed him with remarkable cheer.

    "We finally caught you! Welcome to our jolly parade! May I see your ticket? Oh, you got the free pass, which means you can go on any ride and eat all you want with no restrictions! The only catch is that you can never leave! What a deal, huh, Jester?"

    (!!)

    Jester reacted with dread to the fact he was addressed by name. Nonetheless, the male voice continued its overblown speech.

    "Oh boy, do you have any idea how much work it takes to trap a high-rank hematophage in an illusion? I thought it would take my Noble Phantasm at full power to catch you, but weakened as you are now, I can easily get the job done with just my base power! Funny how many hoops I have to jump through for something that would have been effortless if I had Mystic Eyes of Roses. Thank you, whoever weakened him! As a symbol of my gratitude, you can pick either one of us as your lover!"

    "Sounds more like a punishment than a reward."

    "Oh, how can you know? Some people enjoy having their lives worn down by trickery little by little... Oh, but I'm more devoted than you'd think, so if you seriously want to ruin your life, I'll be with you to the very end, got it? That'd be because I'll be the cause of your death, but pay no mind to this detail! Though in Gilles's case I was more of a friend than a lover."

    The nonsensical dialogue filling his left ear made Jester want to scream, but he gritted his teeth, letting out only a quiet groan.

    "What do you pests want? Why are you making me see this castle?"

    The girl responded with a visibly puzzled voice.

    "Huh? Uh, you didn't like it? Hmmm, it took me forever to decide what was the best Romanian castle to use here, but then I remembered, ah, you're actually Dorothea, the one who was in Van-Fem's place a long time ago, no? And that settled it, Elizabeth Bathory's castle was the best pick for you. Oh, before you ask, no, this choice is not a gender thing. I just thought blood baths were more your thing than the impaler stakes!"

    Dorothea.

    Hearing this name made Jester creak his teeth even harder, but the male voice completely ignored his reaction, talking instead to the female voice.

    "Yeah, I was also not feeling it either. The castle decoration is pretty low-effort. I also feel like it's lacking something really important... We need to stack another castle on top of it... Maybe the Teutonic Castle of Malbork..."

    "...? What the hell are you talking about, François? Was I doing alright back then?"

    "...??? Oh, sorry, I don't know either. What the hell I was talking about indeed? I just get this weird feeling that the picture would look perfect if you stacked the other castle on top of Csejte, and then stacked the Lighthouse of Alexandria on top of the other castle..."

    "Does becoming a Heroic Spirit gives you some extra loose screws...? If so, I'm looking forward to being one!"

    Jester screamed after exhausting his patience with the voices' stream of non sequitur.

    "Pick a better audience for your jokes, you insect husks staining the planet! You, the two are nothing more than Earth's waste-"

    "... look, it's the Assassin girl."

    "!"

    The girl's words soothed Jester's anger.

    Any conversation about his dearest Assassin is not one he can bring himself to listen to with turmoil in his heart.

    "Wow. The way this immediately restores your temper is immensely creepy. But that's exactly why I ship it! Don't worry, my bloodsucking monster friend. She and I support you in your love endeavors."

    "Ignore the popcorn in my hand! He and I are on your side, gotcha?"

    (With what proof do you expect me to believe this bull...?)

    Before Jester could say this thought out loud, he realized it.

    (When exactly was I caught in the illusion world?), he asked himself.

    "Oh, you realized it? You finally figured it out?"

    "Yup, we hid you in the illusion world... during the explosion."

    "In other words, we helped you get away from Assassin! Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to fish for gratitude by spelling it out! That came out bad, let me rephrase it.", said the female voice before lowering her tone for the next part. "You still... haven't moved a single step from the place where you blew up your heart, you know?"

    "...!!"

    (I underestimated them! Could the origin of this illusion be old enough to approach the Age of Gods...?!)

    Raising his caution several levels up, Jester studied his opponents' attitude.

    It's possible that once they undo the illusion, Assassin is still right in front of him in the real world.

    Meaning the voices weren't there to force a debt of gratitude on him, they were there to threaten him.

    "Don't be so on edge. Did you forget what we told you? We are rooting for you on your one-sided crush. We only have one thing we want you to do for us in exchange!", she told him in the laxest tone possible. "See, there's this nasty workshop in the west forest... No, that goes beyond a workshop. Some scaaaaaary god is trying to mess with the laws of the world to make a temple and its sacred grounds!"

    The insides of the plushies squirming around Jester and Csejte burst out all at once, spilling large amounts of flesh and blood instead of cotton.

    The flesh and the blood were phosphorescent pink rather than red, and after they were done gushing out, they converged at the center of the parade.

    Then they gathered around the skulls and eyeballs that the starfish was juggling and formed a humanoid blob of oversized slime mold engulfing the props.

    The next thing Jester saw was the bright pink recoloring itself into bluish-white to manifest a beautiful young woman where the blob was.

    "We made this Grail War for the humans, you know? So when we get you gods and Dead Apostles messing with it, it's kinda ruining the point. Our first plan was to get Saber to do the job, but that was not the best idea. Having the human slay the gods and the monsters all the time gets boring and predictable, right?", said the girl with a curtsy and an umbrella twirl.

    With a hedonistic smile, she—Francesca Prelati—asked Jester a favor.

    "So, to shake things up... can you go bust the god and her temple a bit?"

    " ... What are you saying...?"

    Her unexpected claim made Jester squint.

    He's been devising plans to escape this mess, but the magical composition of his surroundings transformed faster than his head could keep up with.

    In reality, it wasn't changing at all but the illusion was making him think it was changing.

    Not that it makes a difference for an illusion of this high level.

    There were only two things he was sure of.

    First: he had not a shred of trust in the girl's claim about supporting his love life.

    And second: he couldn't ignore any talk about his beautiful Assassin, no matter how unfounded.

    The girl cackled at Jester's teeth-gritting.

    "The timing here is super important. Ideally, we'd want to you lay low for a day and go wreck the temple the day after tomorrow."

    "...?"

    "Yeah, with him already this close, I think this will work.", said François watching the western sky.

    "Right, if he gets too close, the Grail's foundation is not making out in one piece..."

    The owner of the male voice had appeared while Jester wasn't looking. He whispered his comment from Csejte's rooftop as he watched the distance.

    Jester could also faintly feel what was coming.

    A giant mass of magical energy assumedly not directly associated with the Grail War slowly approached from the west. Whatever this was, it's so grand that its presence still could be felt even within this world made of illusion.

    The boy and the girl—the two Prelatis—shifted their attention away from Jester and into the mighty energy cluster approaching from the distant west. With malefic yet enchanting smiles, the two say the same phrase.

    I wanna mix that into the Grail... I wanna mix that into the Grail...

    But there's one thing the masterminds still don't know.

    The collateral damage from the battle occurring in the stratosphere roughly at the same time as this conversation started spreading chaos into the world. Whatever is approaching from the west has grown even more powerful because of that, but that's a fact they'll only come to learn a few minutes later.


    - - - Updated - - -

    Compiled version:

    Interlude: Audition
    The past, in a certain country

    "Sigma, have you ever thought about living a different life?"

    When Sigma was asked this question by a girl in the same class of the same training facility where he was being raised to become a spellcaster spy—a girl assigned the name Tau—he couldn't come up with anything.

    He had the will to give her a response, but couldn't think of any.

    No matter how seriously he tackled the topic of a different life, he didn't have a reference pool to pull any ideas from.

    His head contained only what he had seen with his own eyes. He lacked the bare minimum knowledge and experience necessary to imagine the world unknown.

    While waiting for Sigma's answer, Tau continued.

    "See, the teachers made a promise to me. If I'm the number 1 in this drilling grounds, they'll give me a dad and a mom. People very important to the country will take me as their daughter!"

    "Important people?"

    "They said they're 'seniorstaffs' on the factory that makes our food. People who make food must be the second most important in the country, only behind the sovereign!"

    "Are they? ...yeah, sounds right."

    Tau and Sigma were children who didn't even know the meaning of "senior staff" at the time.

    It was before his 10th birthday.

    They spent their days training to forcibly run their Magic Circuits and learning how to use basic Mystic Codes, handle weapons such as knives and firearms, and survive in harsh environments.

    The children were thoroughly drilled with the knowledge and experience necessary to be a spellcaster, aside from being sometimes forced to take practical lessons on how to kill a living being.

    Although the instructors' way of talking was always kind, the training was always brutal.

    A large number of children, Sigma included, learned to read their situation like machines, but sometimes they had someone like Tau, who still had a sparkle in their eyes.

    "They say that when you have a dad and a mom, you can sleep tighter. They sing you this thing called a lullaby, make you good food, and take you to parades to celebrate the sovereign!"

    "What's a lullaby?"

    "When you hear it, you sleep tighter. Can you believe it? It makes mom and dad guard you during your sleep!"

    "Now I'm a little jealous."

    Sigma finally found an emotion he could verbalize.

    Sleep was the greatest pleasure in the boy's life. He was indifferent even to the flavor of food, but to him, the moment he fell asleep, the sensation of falling into the giant night's embrace was not only his one hobby but also the one source of hope that kept him going.

    "Oh, Sigma, you really only think about sleep. Your magical energy path switch is the only one different from everyone else."

    "Is it?"

    Most mages use the mental image of an on/off switch to open and close their Magic Circuit paths to circulate magical energy. Almost every child in this drilling facility forces theirs open with this mental image as instructed. Sigma, however, is the only one that uses the moment he falls asleep as his mental image.

    "I bet you want to believe that the world is a dream. Both when you're using magecraft and when you aren't."

    "..."

    Sigma couldn't answer.

    Because he didn't know if what she said was right or not, but beyond that, because he didn't think finding the answer would amount to anything.

    He thought only about how Tau sounded so much more mature than him despite being a year younger.

    He was sure she would become the best student in the facility and accomplish her dream.

    Confident things would go well, Sigma felt a hint of envy over how she would get to hear a lullaby.

    He didn't take long to forget this minor emotional instability.

    Eventually, Tau was gone.

    She was seriously injured during training, damaging what little Magic Circuits she had.

    He didn't know what happened to children who had to leave the facility.

    The only concern in his mind was whether not she was able to sleep well after leaving.

    It didn't take long before she was replaced by a new Tau... and so the life-threatening training uneventfully resumed.



    This past didn't hold any greater meaning to Sigma.

    Tau's name and face sunk always deeper into his pile of accumulated memories.

    The process was identical to how the memories of a dream fade away after one wakes up.

    X X

    The present, in a Snowfield back alley

    While a Servant was fighting a mysterious demon in the skies far above the city

    Sigma, still unaware of what was happening, suddenly remembered a past conversation.

    The babyfaced mercenary thought further about the memory, an attitude he considered unlike himself.

    He was now enough of an adult to understand it.

    Senior staff in a food factory was far from the position of social authority she thought it was, and the whole story about her adoption was a trick the instructors were employing to evolve her further.

    Regardless, the timing of the memory resurfacing might be tied to how much Tau resembled Kuruoka Tsubaki.

    ーI'm going... to destroy this system, the Holy Grail War.

    Minutes ago, he made his decision in the Kuruoka residence and announced it to the Shadows serving Watcher. Remembering that, he thought about his words as he checked his surroundings.

    (No... I think the one that looked like Tsubaki was the new Tau that came after her...)

    His memories were no longer clear.

    Nonetheless, the significant refrain repeated in his brain.

    (Having parents doesn't make a difference, Tau. Is there anything we people born as mages can do...? Yeah. I admit. My goal in destroying the Holy Grail isn't saving Kuruoka Tsubaki. That's the means, not the end. Is it because the red-clad Elemental entrusted me with Tsubaki? No, that's another secondary reason. Can saving Tsubaki even free her from her fate? Would changing the world for Tsubaki make any difference if she's trapped in her fate to sleep forever? And most importantly, will I be satisfied with this in the end? I don't think I can change the whole world. I'm not important enough for that. I only want to know if I can change my and Tsubaki's subjective worlds. Yeah, I just want an answer. It's for that selfish reason that I started my Holy Grail War.)

    Sigma's thoughts were interrupted by a voice coming from the osteophonic transceiver in his ear.

    --Cattle calling Famine.--

    "..."

    --Cattle calling Famine. Famine, do you copy?--

    In this back alley unlit by the sunset, Sigma heard the voice of his superior on the transceiver.

    Faldeus Dioland.

    Only a temporary superior, but still one of the masterminds of the Holy Grail War. A dangerous man with heavily armed forces under his command in addition to his skills as a mage.

    Yet Sigma wasn't responding to the transceiver.

    Since the transceiver was magically converted into a Mystic Code, he didn't need to worry about being wiretapped.

    But long-range telepathy is obviously beyond what it can handle, so Sigma thought Faldeus wouldn't know his circumstances as long as he ignored the call.



    He came all the way from the Kuruoka residence to this back alley by using the Shadows' information to choose the paths unobserved by any cameras.

    But the timing of this call was still worrisome.

    (Did he notice I escaped the isolated world? No, actually, did Faldeus even know I was dragged inside it?)

    Regardless, the question now was whether or not to take the call.

    His idea of destroying the Holy Grail War ritual was something Francesca might like since she enjoyed unpredictable developments, but Faldeus was guaranteed to oppose it.

    Feigning obedience to gain Faldeus's trust is a valid strategy, but if Faldeus knew how Sigma neutralized the Kuruoka couple, Sigma could be jumping into a trap.

    Sigma was a mere spellcaster with no real ancestry. He had no Magic Crest capable of resurrecting him from a fatal wound.

    (I'm laughably powerless in comparison to Faldeus.)

    This thought naturally crossed Sigma's mind despite his awareness that he never had an honest laugh in his life.

    What he meant to say is that someone else would laugh about it.

    But his path was already chosen.

    He wasn't following anyone's orders. If anything, his client for this job was himself.

    He lived thus far completing life-threatening missions because his life had no meaning.

    It took him long enough to start his first reckless fight.

    (But...)

    The faces that crossed his mind were Kuruoka Tsubaki, who sacrificed herself to stop Rider's rampage, and the nameless Assassin, who reacted to that fact with genuine rage.

    (Now it's my turn to choose to be reckless. I don't want any regrets after this fight.)

    Now, more than ever before, any missed move would seal his death.

    But Sigma has grown devoid of impatience.

    He was immersed in his own world with more calm and depth than ever, slowing down time to search for the best move.

    (Faldeus. Should I take the call and probe his intentions?)

    While Sigma thought, a considerably emotionally charged voice reverbed from his transceiver.

    --Famine, do you copy? Answer me, Sigma--

    (?)

    The radio transmitted his standard designation instead of the codename chosen for this operation.

    Sigma was puzzled by Faldeus's uncharacteristically fretful delivery.

    In reaction to his doubt, a Shadow appeared behind his back. A man wearing an old-fashioned captain outfit let out a jolly giggle before addressing Sigma.

    "I won't tell you whether or not you should pick up this call, but I'll give you a hint."

    "...?"

    "If you play your cards right, this is your chance can fake your death to that Faldeus fellow. Ever thought about that, lad?"

    "What do you mean?"

    Sigma asked him to explain his logic upon confirmation that he didn't press the pick-up button. Another silhouette took the captain's place to answer this question—a knight with the appearance of a child.

    "It means the board changed. You can't afford a shred of carelessness moving forward."

    Faldeus's cold voice echoed in the transceiver, as background noise for the boy knight's words.

    --...from this moment onward, this line is frozen. We are cutting our support to you. Over.--

    "!"

    After a short static cut, Sigma's transceiver went fully silent.

    (Did I confirm my betrayal to him?)

    The boy knight shrugged as he denied Sigma's thought.

    "Not really... He concluded you were eliminated by the monster."

    "You mean the Cerberus in the dream world?"

    In reaction to Sigma's question, a boy with a snake staff manifested and answered pointing at the sky.

    "Wrong... A completely different kind of monster. Although I'm struggling to describe it in words because it's a kind Watcher is not used to detecting."

    This indecisive silence was rare for the Watcher's silhouettes.

    After sorting out his thoughts, he eventually nodded and slowly delivered his carefully chosen words.

    "He... or it... is probably the scar resulting from an ancient mage's struggle to sink their claws into the world. At the same time, he's something with the potential to be new prime species... born too late into a planet that can break down at any moment."

    "Wait a second. Who is this 'he or it'?"

    His question caused the boy with the caduceus to disappear, and a woman with an aviator suit to appear above the alley, sitting on an emergency exit handrail.

    "You were lucky, Master. If you were in the main avenue, you would have been collateral damage."

    "What avenue?"

    Presumably the central street in front of Crystal Hill.

    Sigma felt a chill down his spine, considering how close he was to whatever was it.

    Most of the time with the Shadows, they only warned Sigma of danger of their own initiative when he was one step away from death. Sigma still hasn't pieced together what Heroic Spirit Watcher was, but he had a great deal of trust in the information provided by her silhouettes.

    But even then, the next piece of information he received made him doubt his ears.

    "Your coworkers were exterminated. All 38 members of the 3rd squad... By what once was Flat Escardos.

    "... That's that Heroic Spirit's power... Jack the Ripper?"

    "No, the Heroic Spirit didn't do anything here. He tried, though."

    "..."

    It was getting hard to believe.

    He never interacted with these so-called coworkers, but he knew they were a team of very individually capable combatants under the leadership of Faldeus, a strategist far more clever than Sigma.

    He could understand if they were taken down by a Heroic Spirit.

    He had no doubts after witnessing the extraordinary abilities of Assassin and Tsubaki's "Mr. Black". But here she said they were taken out by Flat Escardos, the young Master instead of the Heroic Spirit.

    (Flat?)

    Hearing that name, Sigma reviewed his information about the young man involved in the battle in front of the church. One of the jokers in the El-Melloi Classroom deck, although that deck has more than a dozen jokers shuffled into it. Epithet: The Unwanted Blessing.

    Sigma saw him as a person that demanded special caution, although not as much as the Red Evil or the World's Most Elegant Hyena.

    Most Clock Tower mages studying in the El-Melloi Classroom are famously remarkable, countless of them serving as subjects of horror to a mere spellcaster like Sigma.

    One Japanese Bajiquan fighter formed a pirate organization of allegedly tremendous magical and military power in the Singaporean coasts, and in response to it, a noble lady created a private military company of rivaling magical strength and remarkable capital strength. Those two risk figures are known by the two monikers above.

    And one rank below them on the scale of absurdity, there were Flat Escardos and the equally dangerous "Beastclad" Svin Glascheit.

    It's common knowledge among spellcasters that they must never fight Flat with magecraft, they have to hit him physically. And for Svin it's the opposite, they must never fight Svin physically, they have to kill him with a trap. So the standard tactic for when Flat and Svin are together is retreating immediately.

    (Actually, many spellcasters go beyond and say "attacking Clock Tower people is not always a bad idea, but never lay a finger on someone from the El-Melloi Classroom".)

    After a few seconds of running the compressed information in his head, Sigma asked a question to reconfirm something with the silhouette.



    "Are you sure Flat Escardos did it? He wasn't using the Heroic Spirit's power?"

    Sigma's question was like double-checking a map. He didn't doubt it was the case but needed to make himself sure.

    At that point in time, Sigma no longer held any suspicion for the Shadows. He trusted them as a reliable combat tool he'd be dumb not to use.

    But naturally, even the most regularly maintained gun can still jam.

    Sigma already saw discrepancies with reality coming from the most accurate informant, and betrayal coming from a spellcaster who grew up eating from the same pot as him. To him, it never hurt to be cautious.

    A mage's battlefield is a crossfire of illusions and Charm magecraft. Not even his own eyes and ears are trustworthy there.

    But even then, entrusting his life to them had more value than trusting the magecraft he can do with the little magical energy he has or the conveniently selected information he received from Faldeus.

    Sure enough, he already stepped into the battlefield at this point, so it was already too late to think about trading the cards in his hand.

    Those circumstances led to Sigma's semi-rhetorical question, but...

    The old captain silhouette returned with an answer he wasn't expecting.

    "No. Pay more attention to what you hear, don't miss the keywords. This kind of mistake can be fatal sometimes, got it?"

    "?"

    "She said 'what once was Flat Escardos, did you forget? Flat is dead. This a completely separate individual."

    X X

    Coalsman Special Corrections Center

    "Should I consider Sigma also out of combat? ...No, he's Francesca's pawn first and foremost. I can't discount the possibility he cut communications with me on her orders."

    Sigma's provisory boss Faldeus theorized about his loss of contact with him.

    But he never reached the idea that Sigma could have rebelled of his own volition, and ultimately held off his final judgment until he was able to get in touch with Francesca.

    "The central surveillance system was physically destroyed... and in all other sectors, the cameras were magically hacked and had their spells destroyed... Who would have thought processing the surveillance cameras with magecraft would have backfired like this...?"

    Faldeus was impressed with how calmly he read the surveillance system's damage report.

    Perhaps a major factor behind his composure is the presence of Assassin—Hassan-i-Sabbah. Assassin could perfectly hide his presence if he so chose, so if he was intentionally letting Faldeus feel it, there was a reason behind it.

    (He's watching to see if I won't misspeak... That's what he's trying to say, maybe.)

    The murder of Galvarosso Scladio, boss of the Scladio Family. When Faldeus passed this order, he was reminded of a question. ー"Have you the resolve to see that faith through, even if it means ending another's life?"

    Faldeus considered it a hypocritical question but never made light of it.

    No matter what nuance the words concealed, it was an agreement with his Servant. Even unofficial pacts could potentially rebound as a form of curse if broken.

    And questioned or not, his faith was unshakeable.

    He can still confidently say eliminating Galvarosso wasn't a mistake.

    It caused political and financial damage to America, but it prevented the greater future damage that would be caused by the Scladio Family's schemes.

    But he needed to be careful in how he utilized Assassin.

    After all, he couldn't verify what skills and Noble Phantasms he had. He could force him to tell with a Command Spell but he couldn't carelessly use that, as it was possible he would be inviting a betrayal on himself with that act.

    But the results confirmed Assassin was wonderfully skilled.

    Being asked about his faith might have subconsciously strengthened Faldeus's mental state. Otherwise, he would be humiliating himself in this sudden situation.

    "The first order of business is to get the surveillance system back online. Please call Head Officer Orlando for it. Request him to forward us the footage from the normal, non-magical city cameras. We'll have three systems up: the repaired form of the one we've been using, one for digital images, and a network of surveillance familiars for magical images."

    Faldeus gives order after order, restoring a semblance of order to the situation.

    "...? Francesca's workshop was damaged? She's doing... an emergency landing on the south desert? Was this also Flat Escardos...?"

    For convenience's sake, he gave his orders on the assumption that the one who attacked the snipers was Flat Escardos.

    He always thought of Flat as someone with the potential to be as dangerous as the Heroic Spirits depending on the circumstances, but he had no idea how right he was.

    The magical energy splashes from his battle with Lancer in the skies were tangible from where he was. Faldeus's instincts screamed that Flat was without a doubt a greater threat than a low-tier Heroic Spirit.

    In fact, he had caused more damage than any Servant.

    "I demanded the general sent a replacement squad immediately but I don't think they'll make it still today."

    Washington was apparently facing its own set of problems, so Faldeus was unable to get in touch with the general he answered to.

    Considering the timing, Faldeus found it hard to believe the two cases were unrelated, and this thought further strengthened his wariness of Flat Escardos or whatever was possessing his body.

    "We'll receive a decision about this from the outside before we come up with our own... Though I wish the control was in my hands until it's all over... With how ridiculous this got, I can't make fun of my predecessor in Fuyuki's 3rd..."

    As Faldeus grumbled these almost complaints, Aludra returned from another room and handed him a document.

    "The analysis team's report, sir."

    "Thank you. I was waiting for it."

    He took the file with a shrug and skimmed it.

    The data was so good it could be considered unfair for the Holy Grail War.

    It contained the result of a system analysis for spells set in advance all over the city, displaying all signals of magical energy from Heroic Spirits, the individuals linked to them, and their general location.

    A mage specialized in magical energy detection could somewhat locate enemy Masters, but having that as an information network large enough to link with the city's surveillance system was a feat only possible with the cheat that was building the city for the sole purpose of the Grail War.

    A Master with a fortified workshop wouldn't mind their location being detected, but some Masters prefer the strategy of lurking in the city and not letting the opponents know where they are.

    If, for example, an Archer team receives this data, they could potentially snipe a Master from a distance too long for their magical energy to be detected.

    This is not even hypothetical. Bazdilot's Archer shot at the Master of the other Archer, Gilgamesh, from outside the city.

    Under normal circumstances, this priceless information would be enough for him to go for the win with his Assassin, having all he needs to plan how to assassinate all Masters.

    But one piece of data made Faldeus squint.

    "I see. Looking back at the older data, I assumed that was the case."

    As Faldeus confirmed his correct guess, Aludra, who had previously read the documents, raised an indifferent question.

    "The number of Masters doesn't fit the number of Servants... What could this mean?"

    The data listed all beings with high enough energy levels to be assumed to be Heroic Spirits, as well as all linked individuals with magical energy, but the numbers didn't match.

    The majority of these individuals entered the city by unknown means, and the surveillance cameras couldn't identify them.

    Someone could be hiding their face with illusions but the idea that it was a single person disguising themself as multiple individuals couldn't answer every question the report raised.

    "One possibility is that a stray Servant cycled through multiple Masters after losing their original one..."

    Reading the next page, Faldeus's mouth twisted into a pained smile.

    It contained the Class list of Servants who switched Masters.

    The first was Fake Assassin.

    The Servant who attacked the police station. She was receiving her energy supply from a different Master from the one she initially connected to.

    The surprise was that her new Master was the outside mage assumed to be contracted to Saber.

    Faldeus found himself weirdly intrigued by the girl when he first saw her through the cameras, though even now he still fails to get an idea of what she could truly be.

    "She's... contracted to multiple Servants with no external support? And not any two Heroic Spirits... those two Noble Phantasm spammers? I can't say that's unprecedented, but if she has this much magical energy, then..."

    Faldeus's system could detect magical energy put into action, but it couldn't estimate the amount inside one's body.

    "She might have the same qualities as Lord Trambelio... an abnormally high Od recovery quotient. We'll need to raise her place in the threat ranking. Please redirect any surviving squads to her surveillance."

    After passing his order, Faldeus turned his eyes to the next concerning file.

    "And the other Heroic Spirit trading Masters multiple times is... oh."

    After reading the whole file, Faldeus whispered with a serious expression.

    "Doris Lusendra... Could she have lost when I wasn't looking?"

    The Heroic Spirit listed there was the Rider manifested by the true summon.

    If his information is correct, this Servant claimed her name as Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons.

    Countless mages were gathered in the city.

    It wouldn't be farfetched to assume some among them are trying to steal Master rights from others.

    "I don't believe there was any fight involving Heroic Spirits, but it is possible her new Master killed the old one in a magecraft battle while Rider was away."

    "It's possible. In fact, her magical energy became untraceable by our sensors the day before yesterday."

    "To be able to defeat her, the new Master must be another heir candidate of the Lusendra family or some powerful figure in town... That reminds me, Flueger has been spotted in Snowfield. Someone with his level of power could do the job, though only if teamed up with a fellow conspirator."

    "Will you dispatch a surveillance squad to locations where Hippolyte's signal was detected?"

    Faldeus paused to think about Aludra's words.

    It was obviously a good idea.

    But now he found himself in a sudden shortage of pawns. He shouldn't spread his forces until the backup squad arrived to refill his numbers.

    With that in mind, Faldeus sighed and ordered Aludra.

    "One more thing to mention when calling Orlando. We're leaving her surveillance in Clan Calatin's hands."

    "Will they accept this?"

    "They don't like elements of uncertainty either."

    Confident that Chief Orlando Reeve would accept his request, Faldeus skimmed the rest of the information.

    "Someone moved Kuruoka Tsubaki away from the hospital... I'm curious as to what happened to her Heroic Spirit. Let's stay vigilant on her case."

    Lastly, he sighed as he saw the image on a figure in front of the hospital: the pawn that had just refused to report.

    "Sigma... All the way from the moment of his summon, there were no clear signs whatsoever of the magical energy from the Heroic Spirit he was connected to."

    And then Faldeus remembered that the Servant contracted to Sigma was the comedian Charlie Chaplin.

    "That explains the barely noticeable magical energy trace..."

    Faldeus was assuming this was some kind of misunderstanding on Sigma's part, but now his mind was dominated by the idea that maybe Sigma did indeed summon the Comedy King. As this thought took root, Faldeus expressed his unattached condolences to his lost subordinate.

    "Well, without a doubt, he wouldn't last one second against Flat Escardos. Regardless of his skill as a spellcaster, he clearly wasn't cut out for the Master role."

    X X

    Back alley

    "...is what he said. Oi, lad, we ain't getting any respect in here."

    The captain's silhouette repeated Faldeus's words in real-time.

    It was the most convenient ability imaginable, but Sigma didn't know how to deal with it being used to convey someone's badmouthing of him.

    "Don't look so down on yourself, mister. He valued you enough to hire your mercenary services, did you forget?", said a muscular warrior shadow to bring some positivity into the conversation. "This your big chance, get it? You're seriously got the chap thinking you're dead."

    The shadow said "thinking" instead of "convinced" because Watcher can't read minds to be sure Faldeus believes it.

    Sigma agreed.

    Faldeus was not the kind of man who would call something confirmed just because it was highly likely.

    His creed was there is no kill like overkill when it comes to eliminating a target.

    But the more important piece of information to Sigma was what the Watcher shadows told him about the fight between "what once was Flat Escardos" and Lancer Enkidu.

    "Tell me your honest opinion. Do I have any chance against either of those two?"

    "Right now, none. Trying would be dumber than flying to the sun.", spoke the young man with mechanical wings.

    Hearing his self-derisive laugh, Sigma started thinking.

    "I guess my only hope of winning the Grail War really is targeting the Masters. But my goal is to destroy the ritual. I'm better off avoiding all enemies while I destroy the base foundation of the Holy Grail."

    "Ah, but the foundation is deep underground. As Watcher is now, you could get a bit of static if you go down a step too deep, so watch out. Though you could improve our signal quality by making some progress on your evolution."

    Heeding the returned captain's words, Sigma lightly shook his head.

    "I can't make a plan with uncertain elements. I guess really need more secret alliances."

    "And what's more uncertain than an alliance? Most other Masters want the Holy Grail. I don't think they'll agree to the ritual's destruction."

    Sigma asked a question about what the boy knight silhouette said.

    "Most? What teams aren't after the Grail?"

    "First there's Francesca Prelati, Faldeus, and the police. They're more intent on analyzing the ritual than on getting the Grail, so if they get it, that's just a lucky bonus."

    "Rejected. You didn't even need to list them as candidates."

    "Saber and Ayaka apparently found their will for it in the dream world. It's still possible to persuade them, but it's highly likely they'll ultimately oppose you."

    "I won't discard them as a possibility just yet. What are my other options, though?"

    He was surprised by the sudden change in their situation but didn't let the shock show on his face.

    The boy knight continued, despite noticing his internal state.

    "This one goes without saying, but Assassin. Her goal always has been destroying the ritual."

    "Yeah, she's worth to keep cooperating with. I was planning to wait for the night and regroup with her where the cameras can't see us."

    Hearing his own decisiveness, Sigma was surprised by how much he trusted Assassin.

    He knew this was a dangerous omen for a spellcaster mercenary.

    "Also... Hippolyte's team was a possibility until a few moments ago... Things changed for them. They'll probably change directions and go after the Grail."

    "Ok."

    He never had any points of contact with Hippolyte's team, so the low hopes of allying with them were no big deal.

    That said, "things changing for them" was a curious tidbit he kept in mind to ask about after he was done sorting out alliance candidates.

    (Tine Chelc's team and Bazdilot's team are out of the question... Who is left? Haruri?)

    Haruri Borzak.

    He had no direct points of contact with her, but her mentor, the mage with the moniker "Yatagarasu" was a recurring employer of his.

    "I would not recommend Haruri. The girl herself is not a problem but if you do anything that displeases the person with her, you're dead. Although I won't say it's impossible, and besides we are mere silhouettes. We have no right to stop if you still want to try."

    "Got it, I'll stay away for the time being."

    "However, if your only goal is to destroy the ritual, supporting her team from the shadows is a valid option. Though said option has a high chance of incurring major changes on the city."

    "Thanks for the completely hopeless information."

    Sigma's words cause the boy with the caduceus to appear next.

    "Oh, good to see you learned sarcasm."

    "Me...? Sarcasm?"

    "I can't say if it's a positive change or not, but if sarcasm is what doesn't let the despair get to you, then it's good. Your mental health affects your physical health. Ah, it's such a shame that I'm summoned as a shadow. If I contracted with you in my prime Servant form, I could thoroughly heal both your body and mind. Oh, what a real shame. After a good diagnosis, I could even combine Age of Gods and present age techniques to operate on you if necessary."

    "I'll... pass."

    Uncomfortable with the silhouette's heated rant, Sigma politely refused the offer.

    (They're just shadows, but their unique personalities are quite faithfully reproduced.)

    It once again hit Sigma how little he knew about Watcher's abilities. Fluctuating between trust and caution, the thought about his next move.

    "First of all, I need a safe base. Do you know anywhere that isn't surveilled?"

    "A building in this area has an underground performance stage. The security system ain't finding you there. The main avenue is locked down thanks to the scuffles in the past few days, so you won't find a soul in the place."

    Sigma nodded to the old captain and stood up from the road bump.

    "Yeah, now that the cameras are broken is the best time to move."

    Seeing Sigma's attitude, how much he changed in the past few days, the old captain shadow appealed to his Master with a short laugh.

    "You're behind the curtains, waiting for your chance to take the stage. Don't you forget to learn how to use the thing on your back before the time comes."

    The captain pointed to the ancient arcane crossbow resting on Sigma's back.

    He brought it with him from the Kuruoka house but since then, whatever was assumedly possessing this crossbow never appeared again. When he asked Watcher about it, her only response was "This was here before we manifested, so we can surmise what it is, but can't say for sure".

    "You place a lot of importance on something you don't know what is."

    "If Watcher's guessing right, that's a bona fide trump card you got. Though only if you can see your growth through."

    "Ok."

    Seeing how Sigma was intending to act in pure cold rationality, the captain made use of stirring words to fire up his Master, trying him with a daring smile.

    "This is an audition. I can't tell if your play will end as a tragedy or a comedy, but... You gotta be careful as you'll choose the actors who will share the stage with you, got it?"

    He sounded like a theater director trying to determine Sigma's right to take the stage. Said Sigma's only reaction was scanning the main avenue to see if it was safe to leave the back alley.
    


    "This is another one of Watcher's trials."

    X X

    At the same time, in a deserted building outside Snowfield City's perimeter

    An old hotel built outside Snowfield's urban perimeter.

    The building is currently abandoned, as far as the public knows. In reality, the place was made to be used as a provisory base for Faldeus's subordinates during operations.

    It's boundaries constantly drive people away, and on top of that, the entrance is locked shut to prevent youngsters from coming in as a test of courage.

    However, the lock was currently broken, and two figures stood in a room where the sun wouldn't reach.



    "Yikes, you’re persistent. Look, I totally get the thrill of chasing the subject of your passions, but give me a break. Love needs some time to breathe. Can you hold your urges for just a moment?", spoke a large werewolf covered in fur red like the sunset. "I promise it won't take long. You know how long it takes for a person's body to collapse after their lopped off head hits the floor? How long a body takes to understand it's over for them? If you close your eyes for just that long, I promise I can make both of us happy."

    He was one of Jester Karture's multiple "faces". The one specialized mainly in speed and rushdown combat.

    But he was far from his top speed after being weakened by Flat Escardos's attack. He had no chances of winning against the Servant in front of him—the Assassin girl.

    "..."

    Meanwhile, the Assassin in front of him was no longer hearing his words.

    Because by this point, she already knows his words are nothing but poison to her, not to mention the possibility of a spell or curse being mixed in them.

    All she sees is an impurity she must exorcize.

    She polished her mind to specialize itself in this one purpose and deployed her Noble Phantasm to crush her debilitated prey's Spiritual Core.

    Delusional Heartbeat
    Zabaniya

    A red hand covered in magical energy sprouted from Assassin's back, approaching Jester to imprint doom onto him.

    As this same Noble Phantasm already crushed one of Jester's Existence Cores before, he predicted he might need to sacrifice multiple other Existence Cores to escape this situation.

    Another option was to use one of his remaining Command Spells like he did when he transported her far away from the police station, but he couldn't immediately commit to that idea because he didn't know if that would still work now that her magical energy path was connected to someone else instead of him.

    His Existence Cores or a Command Spell?

    Without the time to make a more well-considerate decision, he went with throwing away his Existence Cores.



    Before Assassin's eyes, the red-haired werewolf's claws pierced his chest... and then gouged his heart out.

    "!?"

    This forced a choice on Assassin, as her aim was locked on the werewolf's heart.

    Should she make her Noble Phantasm's curse eradicate the gouged-out heart or should she consider this a discarded Spiritual Core and aim for the next one that appears?

    Assassin already knew the unique properties of the vampire Jester but she moved through instinct rather than through calculations.

    And her instinct chose the path of further extermination: to chop the heart away with her right hand and save the Noble Phantasm for the next body.

    But Jester saw her rush-in move coming.

    As such, the dying werewolf figure smiled.

    The cylinder-shaped emblem in his chest spun and Jester started morphing into his next form, all with a peal of eerie laughter mixing attachment and lust.

    It was a humanoid mass of steel. Not human... not even organic.

    Perhaps some form of golem.

    The only things the current form shared with the previous one were the smile on its mouth-like hole and the cylinder-shaped emblem on its chest.


    
    The next thing Assassin saw was some kind of magical symbol appearing in the werewolf's heart.

    (...! He's offering a tribute...)

    It was already too late by the time she realized it.

    As the spell was already active the moment Jester gouged his heart out, Jester's victory was determined more by his own resolve and less by Assassin's misjudgment.
    


    One second later:

    a giant explosion flashed in the abandoned hotel, engulfing part of the building in its blinding light.


    X X
    "Kehe... I wasted two bullets on this... Goodbye for now, beautiful Assassin, my beloved."

    A few minutes later.

    Jester could be found within Snowfield's urban area, wandering the back alleys, concealed.

    (The sand or the shades of the forest trees are no places to hide from my dearest Assassin. It has to be among a human crowd. Her treacly sweetheart couldn't exterminate humans to weed me out.)

    That was the thought process behind Jester's choice to make it back downtown.

    His current appearance was the one he fought Hansa Cervantes at the police station with.

    He offered the werewolf's heart as a tribute for the self-destruction spell, which he activated point-blank using the golem figure as a shield for his escape.

    He took a huge gamble, not knowing if that was enough to shake Assassin off, but since she already had an offensive Noble Phantasm active, he managed to run away in the time it took her to switch Noble Phantasms.

    If the Noble Phantasm she had active at the time was the search one, she would have immediately given pursuit no matter how thoroughly Jester hid.

    (Shaking her off was easier than I expected, though... Maybe my dearly beloved is more damaged than I imagined. Ah, that's worrying. Someone might kill her before I do...)

    For all Jester was concerned about Assassin's health, his male vampire form was doing worse.

    His wounds from Hansa's consecrated howitzer shells weren't healed and his face had a burn mark.

    "What's my next move? Thanks to that brat's spell, the Cylinder is almost unusable."

    Jester walked dragging a leg.

    He took one more step into the deep darkness.

    The uniformly concrete-colored back alley walls started to mix with an aged stone wall.

    Something was wrong but Jester didn't notice it.

    One more step.

    Eerie vines started creeping on the wall, but Jester didn't notice them.

    One more step.

    A pumpkin-colored cartoon spider started building a heart-shaped web above his head, but Jester didn't notice it.

    One more step.

    The asphalt street was suddenly replaced by a gravel road.

    That's when Jester noticed the discrepancies and raised his head.

    "What...?", he reflexively voiced his shock.

    He thought the back alley he went into would still continue for long, but that wasn't the case, as the whole alley disappeared and in its stead, a completely different scenery was unveiled before him.

    In the distance, his eyes saw the birth of an aged European castle atop a hill.

    He could recognize the castle.

    He never went there, but he knew a lot about it, as by following his Ancestor's example, he developed the hobby of studying humanity's culture and history.

    The castle where the noblewoman nicknamed The Vampire Countess committed her atrocities. Csejte.

    Not even its ruins.

    The colors in the castle sitting atop the hill far above Jester were as vibrant as they were the day the castle was built.

    Furthermore, no normal civilian could be found on the streets, only several plushie animals roaming around the castle with movements resembling stop-motion animation.

    Many plushies carried ukeleles and trumpets to play indescribably annoying music, and at the center of this parade, there was a starfish plushie dressed up as a clown juggling skulls and eyeballs.

    "What's this? How... No, don't tell me..."

    Jester immediately figured out the truth of his current situation.

    Previously, an abnormal weather phenomenon occurred in Tsubaki's dream. The pastry rain.

    This level of illusion is easy for someone with enough skill to cause that rain.

    Meaning he was trapped in an illusion world created by someone else.

    (If I were unhurt, I could have instantly rejected and escaped this pathetic illusion...!), Jester grit his teeth.

    A light flashed on the castle's rooftop and a voice only he could hear reverberated in the center of the world to mock him.

    "Sup! Are you ready for some obnoxious nonsense? The festival is about to begin! Countdown: 9, 8, 7, 6, 1, 0, DON!"

    "AH, AH! Mic check, mic check! It's time to have a blast on the most fun pirate radio station in Snowfield, All Days Blackbeard & All Nights Bluebeard! From the Caribbean seas all the way to Orleans, we deliver heartbreak from dusk to DON! (Dawn.) Kehe! Great fun, great times! ... Hey, are you sure this is how you do radio? For real? Is this script really okay to go on record? Also, who is Blackbeard?"

    First, a female voice blasted into Jester's right ear, followed by a corresponding male voice on his left.

    The sudden event left Jester dizzy despite him being a vampire.

    The voice on Jester's left ear addressed him with remarkable cheer.

    "We finally caught you! Welcome to our jolly parade! May I see your ticket? Oh, you got the free pass, which means you can go on any ride and eat all you want with no restrictions! The only catch is that you can never leave! What a deal, huh, Jester?"

    (!!)

    Jester reacted with dread to the fact he was addressed by name. Nonetheless, the male voice continued its overblown speech.

    "Oh boy, do you have any idea how much work it takes to trap a high-rank hematophage in an illusion? I thought it would take my Noble Phantasm at full power to catch you, but weakened as you are now, I can easily get the job done with just my base power! Funny how many hoops I have to jump through for something that would have been effortless if I had Mystic Eyes of Roses. Thank you, whoever weakened him! As a symbol of my gratitude, you can pick either one of us as your lover!"

    "Sounds more like a punishment than a reward."

    "Oh, how can you know? Some people enjoy having their lives worn down by trickery little by little... Oh, but I'm more devoted than you'd think, so if you seriously want to ruin your life, I'll be with you to the very end, got it? That'd be because I'll be the cause of your death, but pay no mind to this detail! Though in Gilles's case I was more of a friend than a lover."

    The nonsensical dialogue filling his left ear made Jester want to scream, but he gritted his teeth, letting out only a quiet groan.

    "What do you pests want? Why are you making me see this castle?"

    The girl responded with a visibly puzzled voice.

    "Huh? Uh, you didn't like it? Hmmm, it took me forever to decide what was the best Romanian castle to use here, but then I remembered, ah, you're actually Dorothea, the one who was in Van-Fem's place a long time ago, no? And that settled it, Elizabeth Bathory's castle was the best pick for you. Oh, before you ask, no, this choice is not a gender thing. I just thought blood baths were more your thing than the impaler stakes!"

    Dorothea.

    Hearing this name made Jester creak his teeth even harder, but the male voice completely ignored his reaction, talking instead to the female voice.

    "Yeah, I was also not feeling it either. The castle decoration is pretty low-effort. I also feel like it's lacking something really important... We need to stack another castle on top of it... Maybe the Teutonic Castle of Malbork..."

    "...? What the hell are you talking about, François? Was I doing alright back then?"

    "...??? Oh, sorry, I don't know either. What the hell I was talking about indeed? I just get this weird feeling that the picture would look perfect if you stacked the other castle on top of Csejte, and then stacked the Lighthouse of Alexandria on top of the other castle..."

    "Does becoming a Heroic Spirit gives you some extra loose screws...? If so, I'm looking forward to being one!"

    Jester screamed after exhausting his patience with the voices' stream of non sequitur.

    "Pick a better audience for your jokes, you insect husks staining the planet! You, the two are nothing more than Earth's waste-"

    "... look, it's the Assassin girl."

    "!"

    The girl's words soothed Jester's anger.

    Any conversation about his dearest Assassin is not one he can bring himself to listen to with turmoil in his heart.

    "Wow. The way this immediately restores your temper is immensely creepy. But that's exactly why I ship it! Don't worry, my bloodsucking monster friend. She and I support you in your love endeavors."

    "Ignore the popcorn in my hand! He and I are on your side, gotcha?"

    (With what proof do you expect me to believe this bull...?)

    Before Jester could say this thought out loud, he realized it.

    (When exactly was I caught in the illusion world?), he asked himself.

    "Oh, you realized it? You finally figured it out?"

    "Yup, we hid you in the illusion world... during the explosion."

    "In other words, we helped you get away from Assassin! Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to fish for gratitude by spelling it out! That came out bad, let me rephrase it.", said the female voice before lowering her tone for the next part. "You still... haven't moved a single step from the place where you blew up your heart, you know?"

    "...!!"

    (I underestimated them! Could the origin of this illusion be old enough to approach the Age of Gods...?!)

    Raising his caution several levels up, Jester studied his opponents' attitude.

    It's possible that once they undo the illusion, Assassin is still right in front of him in the real world.

    Meaning the voices weren't there to force a debt of gratitude on him, they were there to threaten him.

    "Don't be so on edge. Did you forget what we told you? We are rooting for you on your one-sided crush. We only have one thing we want you to do for us in exchange!", she told him in the laxest tone possible. "See, there's this nasty workshop in the west forest... No, that goes beyond a workshop. Some scaaaaaary god is trying to mess with the laws of the world to make a temple and its sacred grounds!"

    The insides of the plushies squirming around Jester and Csejte burst out all at once, spilling large amounts of flesh and blood instead of cotton.

    The flesh and the blood were phosphorescent pink rather than red, and after they were done gushing out, they converged at the center of the parade.

    Then they gathered around the skulls and eyeballs that the starfish was juggling and formed a humanoid blob of oversized slime mold engulfing the props.

    The next thing Jester saw was the bright pink recoloring itself into bluish-white to manifest a beautiful young woman where the blob was.

    "We made this Grail War for the humans, you know? So when we get you gods and Dead Apostles messing with it, it's kinda ruining the point. Our first plan was to get Saber to do the job, but that was not the best idea. Having the human slay the gods and the monsters all the time gets boring and predictable, right?", said the girl with a curtsy and an umbrella twirl.

    With a hedonistic smile, she—Francesca Prelati—asked Jester a favor.

    "So, to shake things up... can you go bust the god and her temple a bit?"

    " ... What are you saying...?"

    Her unexpected claim made Jester squint.

    He's been devising plans to escape this mess, but the magical composition of his surroundings transformed faster than his head could keep up with.

    In reality, it wasn't changing at all but the illusion was making him think it was changing.

    Not that it makes a difference for an illusion of this high level.

    There were only two things he was sure of.

    First: he had not a shred of trust in the girl's claim about supporting his love life.

    And second: he couldn't ignore any talk about his beautiful Assassin, no matter how unfounded.

    The girl cackled at Jester's teeth-gritting.

    "The timing here is super important. Ideally, we'd want to you lay low for a day and go wreck the temple the day after tomorrow."

    "...?"

    "Yeah, with him already this close, I think this will work.", said François watching the western sky.

    "Right, if he gets too close, the Grail's foundation is not making out in one piece..."

    The owner of the male voice had appeared while Jester wasn't looking. He whispered his comment from Csejte's rooftop as he watched the distance.

    Jester could also faintly feel what was coming.

    A giant mass of magical energy assumedly not directly associated with the Grail War slowly approached from the west. Whatever this was, it's so grand that its presence still could be felt even within this world made of illusion.

    The boy and the girl—the two Prelatis—shifted their attention away from Jester and into the mighty energy cluster approaching from the distant west. With malefic yet enchanting smiles, the two say the same phrase.

    I wanna mix that into the Grail... I wanna mix that into the Grail...

    But there's one thing the masterminds still don't know.

    The collateral damage from the battle occurring in the stratosphere roughly at the same time as this conversation started spreading chaos into the world. Whatever is approaching from the west has grown even more powerful because of that, but that's a fact they'll only come to learn a few minutes later.
    Last edited by Comun; December 24th, 2022 at 07:12 PM.

  7. #11427
    The Long-Forgotten Sight Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    Heh, FGO references. Heh, TsukiRe reference. HELL YEAH, INDEX REFERENCE.

    I see that the Prelatis are fellow shippers of culture.
    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  8. #11428
    世はまさにパンテオン Comun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rafflesiac View Post
    HELL YEAH, INDEX REFERENCE.
    Where's the reference that I apparently conveyed right by complete accident?

  9. #11429
    The Long-Forgotten Sight Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    Narita writing about pirate radio for Fate/Strange Fake is clearly a reference to Narita writing about pirate radio for A Certain Scientific Railgun.
    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  10. #11430
    Wings of the Sunlit Sky Hermitfold's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rafflesiac View Post
    Narita writing about pirate radio for Fate/Strange Fake is clearly a reference to Narita writing about pirate radio for A Certain Scientific Railgun.
    As a fellow Index fan, I wholeheartedly salute you for recognizing this.

  11. #11431
    Cats are awesome RCM9698's Avatar
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    Thanks for the translation, Comun!

    Gilgamesh just coming back to make a sword would be extremely lame, not to mention he could just use Ea what would probably be more effective. I think he's going to come back like in Babylonia, at the end to assist in taking down the final opponent. Who at the rate this is going might be some amalgamation of every threat that could mix into the grail.

  12. #11432
    The Prelatis do a bit of trolling, I see.
    Make way for the Huwawa's Curse-Grail Mud-Holy Grail (Fake)-Gugalanna nightmare kaiju!

  13. #11433
    世はまさにパンテオン Comun's Avatar
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    Chapter 22: The first and last breather day (part 1)


    The following day

    The next morning in Snowfield was so calm you could doubt that yesterday's tumult really happened.

    Though that's only on a surface level.

    New tumults ensued in the world outside the city.

    X X

    West United States, news broadcast

    --Our special coverage continues today. The government stated the following interpretation regarding the river explosion in Washington D.C.: "Undetected asteroids collided, and the falling scraps carried discarded satellites with them as they dropped."--

    --This is footage from the Arctic Circle, where the largest flying object has fallen. Take a close look. The object, believed to have been launched from the south, iced as it crossed the frontier between Alaska and Russia before landing on water. It traveled from the Chukchi Sea to the North Pole, opening a large crater on the sea ice! It's estimated that 500 thousand square kilometers of ice were lost. That's a block of ice the size of Spain, evaporated in minutes. Further examination...--

    --If the one from the North Pole had fallen in an urban area... No, this problem would not have humanity's alone. If that thing had fallen anywhere other than the North Pole, it would have had an irreversible effect on Earth's rotation, causing...--

    --Defective sensors misidentified the object fallen on the city's outskirts as man-made, temporarily raising tension between nations. The American and Russian governments will announce their projects to resolve the situation later at...--

    --Next, a weather report. The large whirlwind designated as Hurricane Inanna advanced straight northeast, with multiple accounts of serious damage caused by its offshoot tornados. Inanna's temporary acceleration seems to have settled down for now, but it continues to intensify at alarming rates. Unbelievably enough, numerous giant sequoias grown about 70 meters tall in the Sequoia National Park were taken away by the winds. The experts are still analyzing what caused the hurricane to increase so much in scale in a matter of minutes. Many theories circulating online peg this as a consequence of the asteroid clash minutes before it, but the speculation surrounding it remains completely unsubstantiated. Beware of unreliable sources. Next, the government's statement: --

    X X

    4th morning, west Snowfield, forest area

    The forest wriggled.

    The winds were getting stronger due to the giant hurricane approaching Snowfield but the trees in the forest systematically warped their foliage to resist those winds.

    The trees wriggled more and more systematically, forming a giant spiral spinning in the opposite direction to the wind when seen from above.

    In the center of the forest, there was someone who simultaneously matched and mismatched the abundant nature.

    While her appearance was an aggregate of Mother Nature's beauty, it was covered in high-brand fashion produced by modern society.

    Next to her, there were a girl wearing an outfit too urban for forest camping and a restlessly squirming building-sized mechanical doll.

    The dozens of meters tall puppet was surrounded by a floating circle of uniformly cut rocks and clay bisque-fired by her power, and the ground flattened by her steps was covered in stone paving as if manipulated by presumably her magical energy.


    
    "But wow... The accomplishments with lightning showed up really prominently on you, girl.", said the woman in the high-brand outfit -Ishtar possessing Filia's body- looking at the mechanical doll-like Berserker. "Does she always get like this when she's summoned to this present era, I wonder? Or did you use anything weird as a catalyst to summon her, Haruri?"

    "I d-did! Uh... I was planning on summoning Berserker Edison... so my catalyst was a Mazda lamp..."

    "Hmm? Mazda as in Ahuramazda? Was that why...? No way, the system can't be that arbitrary. If it were..."

    Ishtar/Filia gently touched Berserker's hand.

    Just touching the surge of magical energy coming from her hand was enough to make Berserker's Master, Haruri, feel her mind being devoured.

    (No, maybe this sensation is truer than I thought. Maybe it will really corrode and burn off my Magic Circuits when I'm not paying attention.)

    The magical energy whirling inside the body of the Einzbern homunculus was dense enough to genuinely do so. Such is the overwhelming power of the ether from the Age of Gods.

    Ishtar used her power for a simple search and returned from it with a most satisfied smile.

    "Yeah, it was just what I thought. Your melammu got adjusted to this era. Now that humanity learned to control electricity and gunpowder and whatnot, their own civilization became a new form of calamity... if I'm understanding this right."

    "Adjusted...?"

    "She's a compilation of everything humans consider to be calamities. Well, she obviously can't reproduce everything since she's limited by the Servant container, but... once I reach my definitive form, I can take her off those awful shackles."

    Shackles.

    With a daring smile, Ishtar referred to the Berserker-classed Saint Graph currently manifesting the Heroic Spirit as nothing more than shackles.

    "When my temple is complete, that will raise the level of the Divine Core in this body... When that happens, I'll be able to freely redesign this planet's removable floorboards. Oh, can you feel the dream coming true? I get to watch over humanity for as long as I want, and humanity gets to have me watching over them until the day they go extinct. A perfect win-win situation! This modern era came up with some really useful expressions! Loved this one!", Ishtar self-importantly nodded after speaking a term from either Filia's knowledge or knowledge drawn from the world itself.

    "..."

    But then she swiftly wiped that smile off her face and glared at the city with displeased eyes.

    "I can feel the piece of junk looking in our direction... I wanna grind it until it becomes laterite dust and sprinkle it on the ocean, but I'm patient. I'll grant it some more time to live."

    And then the goddess vestige inside Filia turned to the giant puppet laying the groundwork for her temple's construction.

    "Though it's not looking at me, it's looking at you, its childhood friend.", she whispered.

    "?"

    Ignoring Haruri's doubts, Ishtar talked to Berserker in an attempt to get over her frustration.

    "Are you still sentient? Is your consciousness completely gone... or is it just hidden? Well, either way, the piece of junk will never cease its fruitless struggles."

    X X

    Crystal Hill, top floor
    "Are you still there... Huwawa?"
    
    Tine Chelc clearly heard Enkidu's whisper.

    Not too long ago, the enemy Lancer returned to her hotel room.

    Tine had felt their presence climb higher to the sky in their violent battle against whatever appeared last afternoon.

    She didn't directly visualize the events since she was busy constantly using up magical energy to hold off the collapse of Gilgamesh's Saint Graph, but she knew from her followers' reactions that a series of extraordinary events occurred the previous day.

    But even then, she didn't take a step away from Gilgamesh.

    Even if the end of the world was visible from her window, nothing could free her from the feeling that she needed to stay in the room using magecraft on Gilgamesh.

    Tine was almost at her limit when Lancer returned, but they extended her life by tying a magical energy connection between her and their Master, the silver wolf.

    Their help brought her gratitude, humiliation, and most of all, shame of her powerlessness. Those were the emotions she was processing when she heard the whisper.

    (Huwawa... The name of a monster King Gilgamesh defeated... !! That steel beast...?)

    The dots start to connect in Tine's head.

    The demonic beast pierced Gilgamesh's body with the rainbow-colored halo it wore.

    Considering it was not one halo shining in seven colors but seven halos overlaid on each other, the candidate list for its identity was very limited.

    All pieces would connect if it really is that beast.

    Gilgamesh.

    Blinded by the radiance of the Hero King, Tine forgot something.

    There was a beast the king feared.

    Huwawa.

    The guardian of the cedar forest. Alternatively spelled Humbaba.

    A monster that Gilgamesh and Enkidu only managed to defeat with god Shamash's assistance in the Epic.

    "..."

    Tine kept pouring magical energy into her recumbent Servant's Saint Graph. As she continues to send her energy into the humanoid husk of Gilgamesh, she reflected on her heedlessness.

    (If I knew everything in advance... I could have readily provided a way to defeat that steel beast. How could I forget that King Gilgamesh didn't win every battle in the Epic alone?)

    "Awoo."

    The chimera sat next to Tine, sensing the shade in her heart. Enkidu's silver wolf Master abruptly raised its head and let out a concerned whine.

    "Thank you... You saved my life."

    Seeing the silver wolf's genuine concern for a weaker animal, Tine thought:

    (That's right. I can't afford to let the misery get the better of me now. For as long as I'm alive, I'll fulfill my duties as the descendant of the keepers of the land. And also my duties as King Gilgamesh's follower...)

    If said Gilgamesh was in a good state hearing this, he could have mocked the arrogance in the idea that she could handle his necessities as a side job. Perhaps he could even judge this insolence as a capital offense.

    But strangely enough, Tine didn't fear that.

    If the king sentenced her to death, she would have been at peace with her preordained fate.

    (However...)

    Tine knew she couldn't stay the way she was.

    What Gilgamesh told her in this hotel's casino resurfaced in the young girl's head.

    ーI do not mind you showing me deference. It is only natural. But do not put faith in me blindly. If your eyes can shine, use them to see your way. No, not only me. Be it ‘God,’ or this ‘Nature’s blessing’ you speak of, or the cherished wish of generations of ancestors, it makes no difference. Abandoning thought to revere or depend on something means letting your soul fall into decay.

    These words repeated themselves in Tine's head time and time again, always stimulating her soul.

    (Think. Continue to think. Never let your thoughts come to a halt.)

    All she could do was send magical energy to Gilgamesh's Saint Graph at the cost of her life, and she could not allow herself to feel satisfied with only this.

    She could not allow herself positive thoughts about her situation.

    The time she could use for poor excuses such as "I did everything I could" is time that would be better spent continuously thinking about what a Master can do, what a mage can do, and what Tine Chelc can do.

    Tine's nerves sharpened in their attempt to break out of their shells. Her Magic Circuits are progressively assimilated into the land.

    The people of her tribe are absorbed by the land when they die.

    Tine herself is also synchronized with the dragonvein for her whole life and is fated to eventually become part of it.

    That's why she can tell.

    Tine the keeper of the land can clearly sense it being majorly altered.

    Her very land is being repainted a different color.

    (It's not necessarily a malignant change. I can tell the land is... restoring an ancient time. But... should I accept it? What must I do?)


    
    She was supposed to be furious, recognizing this in the same vein she does the invasion of her land by the foreign mages.

    But indecision bred inside her.

    Tine Chelc's hesitation came for one reason: she could feel the new power of the land, only ever slightly, flowing into Gilgamesh.

    But it showed no signs of accumulating in Gilgamesh's Saint Graph.

    Mysteriously enough, the power seemed to use Gilgamesh's corpse as a gate to some other dimension.

    Or perhaps it dropped through him into a bottomless hollow pit.
    X X

    In a dream

    Kuruoka Tsubaki was alone in the deep, deep darkness, hugging her knees in shadowy slumber.

    She no longer dreams.

    She no longer desires anything.

    That's because she learned the price of her dreams coming true.

    She would have felt better if everything was fake. If she could simply wake up at the end to learn it was all a dream.

    But reality was cruel.

    Unbeknown to her, many were sacrificed for her dream.

    The young girl doesn't have a concrete understanding of everything that happened.

    But there's one thing she's sure of.

    She made many suffer.

    She thought she became friends with the older men and women in black clothes, but then she learned she was inconveniencing them.

    (I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.)

    The longer she repeated those words, the less clear it was what she was apologizing for, until the apologies became just a meaningless deposit of self-rejection for the girl drifting in the void.

    Under any other circumstances, she would have been immediately absorbed by the void, leaving no trace of her empty apologies or the shape of her soul. Nonetheless, Kuruoka Tsubaki's consciousness retains its form due to her heavily debilitated Servant. Because Pale Rider made a membrane out of its own Saint Graph to envelop and defend the girl.

    However, the foundation of this Servant's existence is no other than this girl's soul.

    If her mind continues to blend with the hollow world, she will be completely and irreparably gone. If that comes to pass, the Servant will lose the magical energy connection coming from the Command Spells and will be completely erased.

    Rider didn't fear its own erasure.

    It never had this kind of ego.

    But due to either the Servant role granted to it by the Grail or influence from continuedly constructing of the world of Tsubaki's dreams, its Master protection program was still visibly active when nothing else was.

    The protective membrane created by the Servant form of death itself looked like an egg, a symbol of life.
    


    Tsubaki and her Servant were both bound to remain drifting in the hollow sea until they both vanished in a few days.

    Except that didn't happen.

    A minor phenomenon began to take shape around the girl and the Heroic Spirit.

    Land appeared on the hollow sea that had no heaven or earth.

    It started shapeless like mud or flowing sand.

    When it eventually became firm soil, the Pale Rider egg containing Tsubaki slowly landed. The main difference between this place and the world of Tsubaki's creation was that here she was not the center of the world.

    There was no light.

    Tsubaki and Pale Rider were both yet to notice the change.

    Pale Rider perhaps did notice the situation, but its ego is not developed enough for it to care.
    


    And from there, time passed.

    A blue lantern began to flicker in a place distant from the two.
    


    The quiet light wandered the dark ground, eventually reaching Tsubaki and Pale Rider's egg.

    That was when Pale Rider first reacted.

    It stretched into a humanoid form blocking the blue light's path to protect Tsubaki.

    But after confronting this blue lantern, Pale Rider seemingly decided it was not an enemy, returned to its previous Tsubaki-encasing form, and stopped moving.

    Flickering with what seemed to be hesitation, the lantern slowly intensified its light and formed an elongated cage around the egg. At first glance, it might seem made to incarcerate a sinner.

    But without any signs of malice or hostility, the lantern continued to shine its warm light on Tsubaki.


    
    The 'cage' gently surrounding Kuruoka Tsubaki was like a cradle tending to her scars.

  14. #11434
    Cats are awesome RCM9698's Avatar
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    Thanks for the translation, Comun!

    Tine is a good master for Gilgamesh, their relationship is sweet. I hope to see more of it. And Ishtar remains a good antagonist, interested to see what see she and her team do next.

  15. #11435
    死者 Corpse XoJIJIoY's Avatar
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    Thanks , Comun!
    Great job as always.
    The story is getting more interesting with each chapter .

  16. #11436
    夜魔 Nightmare
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    https://dengekibunko.jp/product/newrelease-bunko.html

    Volume 8 February. Maybe cover reveal at new year?

  17. #11437
    世はまさにパンテオン Comun's Avatar
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    Just a warning, if you haven't had your lunch or dinner yet, do that before opening this section. I really don't recommend reading this one on an empty stomach.

    Chapter 22: The first and last breather day (part 2)

    Snowfield's underground facility, Dumas's workshop

    Under the police station, there is a web of underground tunnels connecting to several downtown facilities.

    Further within it, 20 meters below the ground, there is the workshop of the Caster of the police force, Alexandre Dumas Pere.

    Dumas was in the back of the room working on some project. The others beside him were Orlando Reeve, his Master and the Chief of the Snowfield Police, and his subordinate Vera Levitt, both in the center of the room.

    Dumas's cheerful voice contrasted with Orlando's sullen face.

    "Crystal Hill had some fine restaurants, I gotta tell ya. I had no idea a good bouillon's supernate could work as a frying oil. The inside of the meat was left in a prime state."

    "I give up on complaining about your unauthorized excursions... Binding you here with a Command Spell would only make your work even slower."

    "Hoh, I'm glad you're getting a better hang of how I roll, brother. C'mon, you look like you're about to roast me. Don't be like that. It's a miracle that the cop squad escaped that situation with no casualties at all. There was a mass murder going on around them, not to mention whatever was up with the dream world."

    "..."

    The chief silently thought about Dumas's words.

    (Whatever appeared after Flat Escardos's death didn't attack the police. Does that confirm that that creature is Flat Escardos and that our truce is still in effect...? In that case, is it possible to stay in touch with him?), he examined his group's next course of action, careful not to get his hopes up too much.

    "Kuruoka Tsubaki's biolevels are a stage lower, from what I can tell. The situation's looking highly unpredictable...", said Vera.

    From the corner of his eyes, he could see her pair of eyes clouded by impatience as she spoke, which was unusual for someone who always carried herself like a cold blade.

    "We received no further updates. My sister will be with her night and day, but she's unsure if the girl will last 3 more days."

    "I see. If it comes to that, her Servant won't be able to maintain its Saint Graph after the Master's death. I'm sorry for your sister, but that thing can lock an immense amount of people and Heroic Spirits within its Reality Marble. After seeing that much power, I cannot approve of the idea of saving someone who endangers the city and its people."

    "... Yes, sir."

    "The most dangerous outcome here is that the Heroic Spirit forms a new contract with someone else... but a hero this powerful should disappear the instant its power supply is cut. Although we shouldn't lower our guards until we have confirmation."

    Vera didn't argue against the chief practically telling her to abandon Tsubaki.

    She was among the ones who personally experienced her Heroic Spirit's power.

    Without Saber's help, she would have lost many allies, if not the whole squad.

    To still want to save her knowing that meant abandoning everyone else in the whole city.

    Nonetheless, thinking about how her sister clueless about the world of magecraft would risk her life to save this girl inevitably left her dreary.

    This was not how a mage should think, but the chief taught her not to think like a mage, and she knew many others in the police force would think the same way.

    In a sense, most of them were where they were precisely due to their inability to abandon normal human morals and philosophies as a mage ought to.

    That aside, as someone who has been with Orlando for a long time, Vera knows this decision frustrates the chief more than it frustrates any officer.

    Considering his logical mage mind and his position as the chief, the ideal answer for him would be not to abandon Tsubaki, but to actively eliminate her.

    Or to promptly conclude the Holy Grail War to see if her health would improve by being released from the Command Spells.

    (What am I even trying to get at here...?)

    Pained by the naivete of the convenient delusions she was investing her hopes in, Vera tried to reorganize her thoughts discarding the emotional aspect completely.



    Her attempt was interrupted by a soothing yet striking smell stimulating her heart by tickling her nasal cavities.

    "...?"

    When she lifted her head, she saw Dumas coming from the back of the room carrying a large tray.

    The appetizing smell came from it. The chief next to her looked at Dumas with a raised eyebrow.

    "Yo, it's done."

    Ignoring the eyes in his direction, Duman placed the tray on the meeting table.

    Strangely enough, the cheap work desk had its color and shape overwritten, turning into a luxurious dining table that could only be found in a noble castle or a very traditional restaurant.

    The tablecloth fluttered with the breeze and the scene was softly illuminated by all the candlestands that appeared out of nowhere.

    The contents of the tray were so finely decorated that Vera felt satisfied just looking at it.

    The meat dish formed a model of a royal court garden with its pie crust, sauce, vegetables cut into specific shapes, and mousse. Even the thin slices of truffle served as a side dish contributed to the "landscape" constructed atop the plate.

    Even disregarding the decorative vegetables, this was a product of technique polished by devoted study, far beyond the level that could be achieved by a gourmand who only consumed without creating.

    It was practically a complete sculpture, but its rich aroma made the will to eat it as soon as possible overwhelm the feeling it would be a waste to eat this piece of art. The most vivid color in this piece was the color of flavor that stimulated the tongue and the stomach.

    "What's this...?"

    "Huh? It's the same thing I did to your weapons. Just embellished the table's history a tiny bit. You know Projection magecraft? It's sorta like a variant of that. Your stuff will be back to normal once you finish your dish.", Dumas responded to Orlando's grumble.

    "No, that's not what I meant... Did you prepare this meal?"

    "Oh, yeah, there were some leftover weapons and some trinkets no one was using, so I rewrote them all into cooking utensils. No worries though, I wouldn't turn a venom dagger into a kitchen knife."

    The Servant spoke without a shred of guilt, but the chief was more overcome by surprise than by anger or annoyance. He knew Dumas was so meticulous of a gourmand that he would personally hunt the meat he cooked, but his level of skill was several stages beyond his imagination.

    "Did you use your magecraft for this meal?"

    "Nope. My amateur magecraft ain't no reliable tool for someone trying to create flavor."

    "I see... You view your cuisine above your Noble Phantasm's productions, and so you... No, I won't complete this sentence. I was wondering what you were doing back there, but I'd never have guessed you were cooking. Were you concealing the smell?"

    "Wouldn't want you two stopping me halfway through. I found a good pheasant in town, so I couldn't let this chance slide."

    Dumas remained always unrepentant.

    Seeing the chief's exasperated sigh, Dumas opened a speech, turning the other way to ensure his saliva wouldn't fall into the dishes.

    "At first, I was going to make galantine fond accompanying a Lucullus-based remix of something in Tete Noire's menu, but I didn't have the ingredients I wanted. I also wanted to try this era's pie crust while I'm still here, so I tried my hand at fowl breast with pie borders. Pheasant is by far the best-smelling bird to me, so I held back on the aromatic legumes for the sauce. But if pheasant is not your thing, I can give the recipe a quick fix, brother and miss. Not something I normally do, but I wanna serve you the very best on this special occasion."

    Vera looked at the plate with even more surprise in reaction to Dumas's most fluent commentary yet.

    "What a surprise. Your first order after your summon was hamburgers, so I didn't see you as the kind to cook this kind of food."

    "Heheh. Is that something someone who read my novels, plays, or biographies would say, miss Vera? If you really wanna know me, you gotta read my writing about food. The Three Musketeers and La Comtesse de Salisbury are not the only places to find my essence. If anything, my cookbooks are where I'm at my most Dumas."

    After this cheerful remark, Dumas returned to the back of the room and came back with three plates.

    "Since the day of my summon, I've been eating everything, from those hard general store jellies and dollar hamburgers to high-class meals that practically took our whole war funds. I tried adapting myself to this era's table manners, and well, it's been a great time. Can't say I got no complaints, but that might be just me being antiquated, so I gave everything a fair shot."

    Encouraging the two to sit down, Dumas cut the meal in three and took each slice to each plate.

    Contrary to usual rusticness, Dumas's gestures on the dinner table were completely refined.

    Vera and the chief looked at each other confused by this random development, but neither could bring themselves to say it was not the time for this.

    There was a hidden meaning to Dumas's behavior.

    His past attitude shows he was the kind to throw these kinds of hints, but much more importantly, the gastronomic charm of the dish was enough to fill even the straight-laced Orlando and Vera with hunger.

    Long story short, this dinner was unquestionably the absolute best Orlando and Vera have ever experienced.



    After the meal, Dumas brought his full wine glass to his mouth with a burst of stifled laughter.

    "Man, nothing beats the progress of history research. I got to learn that what I wrote back in the day about Chef Taillevent being Charles VII's cook is now seen as bullshit. It'd be fine if I said that in a novel or play because him working for Charles VII makes for a more interesting story, but of all things to get my facts wrong, I did it in a cookbook. Though the next advancement in that research might prove I was actually right, who knows?"

    Dumas showed no signs of caring about his supposed mistake.

    "But man, I feel blessed to learn culinary research is still making its breakthroughs. Can't fucking believe we already learned how to eat ox kidney in the present day. I can say with absolute confidence that cooking is one of the energy sources fueling humanity's evolution. Like, I know eating's one of our three major physical needs, but I really think this one is the most fundamental of them all."

    Dumas's eyes were half-closed, but his eyelids couldn't hide the passionate glimmer in his pupils as he continued.

    "We want to evolve today's dinner beyond yesterday's dinner. Evolve in what direction? Make it tastier? More digestible? Cheaper? Lighter? Healthier? Doesn't matter. As long as there's at least one man trying to take cooking to the next step, this culture will never see stagnation."

    At this point, he quickly shrugged. The next part felt more like a self-reminder than something said to others.

    "But don't get me wrong, dude. I'm no believer that newest is always best when it comes to food. The best sheep roast I ate in my life still beats anything you can with the latest big city stove. When I was visiting a ruin in Djem-Djem and got treated to a whole wood-roasted sheep. Real desert cuisine."

    "Wood-roasted? Not what I would expect to be best."

    "Just 'cause something is roasted under ash and dirt, it doesn't make it rustic or messy. The pre-cooking process is very meticulous and based on ages of history and experience. Even now I look back to it as better than any mutton I found in any European restaurant. Well, I don't know how things are looking now, though... Ah, now I wanna eat that again. Book us a ticket to Tunis, brother."

    "Don't be ridiculous, we still haven't settled the matter preventing people from leaving the city."

    The phenomenon presumed to have been caused by Kuruoka Tsubaki's Servant still hadn't fully stabilized.

    They presumed the Servant only spread a "disease" of unusual qualities, without actively manipulating the infected.

    The patients in the hospital already regained their sanities and were presumably freed from the dream world, yet they still feel pressured into not wanting to leave the city, and half of the people who did leave soon returned after experiencing bouts of terror and anxiety.

    "By now, the mental domination should be considerably weaker, no? Pretty sure any mage with a half-decent Mystic Code should be able to escape the city."

    "Wait, Caster... What do you know?"

    Offput by Caster's wording, the chief switched mental channels, immediately eliminating the dinner's aftertaste.

    "C'mon, you figured this was coming. Those meteorites or satellites or whatever that fell all over the world yesterday... Anyone can tell this city is ground zero, yet your mastermind buddies didn't even call to say hi. You came here 'cause you want answers. More exactly, you wanna go to a floor below here, to check if that sham Greater Grail of yours was taken somewhere else."

    "...Exactly."

    "I got you, brother. After that much of an effect on the world, it's obvious you'd wanna know what your 'bosses' decided. Your goal is to regulate the ambient surrounding the Holy Grail War... the human society here. Screw up and everyone's dead. RIP. You don't want that, do you, brother?"

    "Be concise. What do you know?"

    For the longest time, Caster could gain information through a network that not even Orlando could identify.

    Judging by his subordinates' accounts and general conjecture on Dumas's abilities, Dumas most likely modified stories about his computer, radio, and internet, elevating them into pseudo-Mystic Codes, objects with parameters lower than his usual Noble Phantasms.

    The chief was certain of his speculation and thought today was the day to put it to the test, but just when the time was right for the big reveal, he came across a more important question he needed to ask first. What does Caster know?

    The chief's question was more serious than ever. After averting his eyes for a moment, Dumas answered choosing his words carefully.

    "The dudes said... Code 983 [Aurora fall]. You know what that means?"

    "...! When will it be executed? How long do we still have left?"

    "Oh, you ain't doubting me?"

    "I don't know what that dinner was supposed to represent, but I can't imagine it being a build-up for a poor joke. No man is as faithful to cuisine as you are. Having tasted your cooking, I can tell!"

    The chief's declaration erased all emotion from Dumas's face for an instant before refilling it with a delighted smile accompanied by a shrug.

    "Man, you're a real square. That's fine. The order was issued at 16:23 if we're going by our timezone. To be executed 48 hours later. Miss Francesca and Faldeus should've already gotten the news."

    "15 minutes ago...? Caster, you started cooking because you predicted this development?"

    "My bad, that was just your typical Heroic Spirit self-indulgence. I had this prediction I was hoping would be off the mark, but I didn't tell you about it before the dinner 'cause I knew you wouldn't take your time to savor it if I did. 'sides, brother, I wasn't thinking your 'bosses' really were this messed up in the head."

    "..."

    Dumas reacted to the chief's silence by wiping his smile and asking a question.

    "Brother, weren't you half-sure this was going to happen yourself?"

    "Yes, I won't deny. That's why I assumed Francesca would be here hiding the Greater Grail... or is she planning to do it later?"

    After hearing the two talk, Vera asked her chief a question with a raised eyebrow.

    "Chief, pardon the intrusive question, but what is Code 983... [Aurora fall]?"

    "It's the codename of an operation to erase everything in this city, including the land's magecraft foundation... by launching a special warhead of the highest degree."

    "...!"

    "This 48 hours countdown is to give them time to prepare this event's concealment. It will have to go in history as a major calamity on a global scale... I believe the public news will say that a part of a planetoid fell directly on the city."

    Vera was shocked from hearing the specifics.

    She was warned this could happen.

    She was ready for the worst if it came to it.

    But hearing concrete confirmation that it would happen, Vera's heart grew tenser than ever before.

    All in her mind were images of her fellow officers, the city's landscape, and her sister fighting day after day unaware of what was happening behind the scenes.

    Vera's face remained expressionless but her body was drenched in sweat. Her chief made a dispassionate comment.

    "If our internal treatment was ever deemed incapable of processing the situation, the city could be obliterated on Faldeus's command. That was Code 982... [Abyss rise]. This one is a program to overcharge the Grail and the dragonveins, triggering abnormal activities on the magma deposits to make the city's erasure look like an eruption. [Aurora fall], on the other hand, comes from outside... In other words, it's a device set in case our superiors deem the Holy Grail War to be unmanageable. To be used before a destructive seam is torn in the world."

    "Can we request the operation to be canceled?"

    "If we forcibly destroyed the Grail, Heroic Spirit activity will become almost impossible. The remaining Heroic Spirits' rampage is something we have a high chance of managing to keep under control. However..."

    For this last part, the chief tried his best to keep a neutral face, but his voice betrayed his frustration.

    "The problem is that new variables besides the Heroic Spirits have been added."

    "You mean Flat Escardos and... the Einzbern homunculus?"

    "Both were initially included in the Holy Grail War system. Flat Escardos was one of the multiple mages chosen for the unspecified Master slots... and the Einzbern homunculus was lured here by Francesca to serve as the Lesser Grail's vessel.

    But now both of them had turned into something else entirely.

    According to Francesca's and Faldeus's reports from the last few days, the Einzbern homunculus was possessed by something completely extraneous to her original personality. And whatever is possessing her (Francesca showed strong hints that she knows what it is) is stronger than a lower-grade Heroic Spirit.

    "In a normal Holy Grail War, the energies of the Heroic Spirit who leave the competition are accumulated in the Lesser Grail... Does this mean whatever is inside the Lesser Grail homunculus will benefit from this power?"

    Even with a fake Greater Grail that can't hope to reproduce Third Magic, the total amount of magical energy accumulated is enough for it to function as a wish-granting device without a hitch.

    (When the Grail War reaches its last stages, the Lesser Grail shifts from human to vessel... Is this what's happening with her?)

    If the power of the Grail accumulates in someone with free will and this someone leaves the city unrestrained, whatever she does will be extremely difficult to conceal.

    Whatever used to be Flat Escardos demonstrated better than anyone why Orlando was worried about power being directed outside of the city.

    Nations with shallower knowledge of magecraft are either buying the idea that asteroid fragments and space debris fell down or suspecting it was some other country's missiles exploding or an intentional destructive act.

    But magecraft organizations, chiefly the Clock Tower, and the greater nations connected with those organizations already figured out the truth.

    That destruction was caused by the power of an individual.

    They could conceal the desert crater from the beginning of the Grail War by sacrificing a gas company, but there's nothing they can do beyond that.

    (Things could have been so different if we had the Holy Church's full cooperation...)

    The police chief recalled the face of the eyepatched priest.

    In the past, his hometown was turned into hell overnight by high-grade vampires. A group of monsters of incalculable power: an Ancestor accompanied by superior Dead Apostles.

    Every time something like this happens, the Holy Church manages to successfully cover it up with its connections and arcane knowledge. Despite its continued successful streak, they have been excluded from the Holy Grail War in Snowfield, being complete outsiders to the ritual.

    That Hansa Cervantes was using the precedent of the Fuyuki's overseers to forcibly butt in, meaning it was hard to tell how willing to cooperate he was.

    (That said, the arcane concealment is as major of a principle for them as it is for us. Shameless as it may sound, it might be worth it to invite him to fight alongside us. Although considering the Church's policies, his answer might be "48 hours is too long, explode the city in 3 hours"... That would be a huge gamble.)

    "Hah... Nice eyes, brother. They show you haven't thrown the towel. You don't want to make my treat your last supper.", happily said Dumas.

    "Of course not. If Faldeus is cutting us off from his group, then I won't care about him either. As a chief of police loyal to the United States of America, I'll act taking the safety of the citizens as my utmost priority.", replied Orlando.

    "Are you sure? You might be getting other cities trampled by the monsters coming out of this one, y'know? Ain't that why the bigwigs are trying to quash them?"

    "I won't allow that either. Not to mention that I don't believe that destroying the city and the Grail in it will disperse that mutated Flat Escardos or... as much as I hate to admit, that dangerous hurricane that's blatantly running in our direction."

    "So knowing everything coming your way, you still plan to fight to the very end? Nice! You're a real brother! If you chose to quit and drown your sorrows, I'd have rewritten your whole life."

    Dumas rose from his chair, grinning.

    "Clan Calatin is about to get busy. But when it's their lunchtime, bring them to me. One by one if you need to. I wanna treat the whole team to the same dinner you just had."

    "Does this act have any magecraft significance?"

    "Nope. None. It's just that since you want the whole team to survive, I should give them something to remember me by."

    Vera and Orlando were dumbfounded at this nonchalant confession.

    "Remember you?"

    "I told ya, it's just self-indulgence. The novels I wrote are now something anyone can have, and writing a new one just for them doesn't feel like enough of a gesture of gratitude. So I just thought I should hit the bunch with my cooking and one day get them to look back and say 'Ah, that food Dumas treated me to that day was the best I've ever had. No, I must prepare greater delicacies with my own hands! Run, to the peaks of flavor!'... That's my way of providing material support.", Dumas joked. But the next part of his line was far more genuine. "Did you know? The pheasant is a species that was introduced to Europe when Captain Jason's Argonauts brought them from Colchis to Greece. Doesn't that make it a great shot of energy for someone trying to be a hero? I could tell you more about it, but we're on a time limit. Go do your thing. If you have any Noble Phantasm you need, I can help you choose the right thing while the bouillon is boiling."

    "Caster."

    "What?"

    The serious Orlando bowed to the humming Dumas to thank him.

    "As a mage and a police officer, I'm under no obligation to humor your illogical sentimentality... but as a chief, I'm grateful for your appreciation of my subordinates."

    Dumas saw his Master's face looking surly as ever, but this time he felt a tinge of honest optimism in it.

    "I'll have less time to eat and sleep in the next two days, but I can't afford to collapse on the job. Please, make me something nourishing."



    With these final words, Vera and the chief left. After watching them on the way out, Dumas monologued with a stifled burst of laughter.

    "Shit man, today might be the last breather day with no clashes among Heroic Spirits, and here I am this busy. Well, we are walking the tightrope to see whether or not the city will be dead in 2 days... Depending on how things go, that might have actually been my last supper."

    (I really wonder if we aren't biting more than we can chew. I don't have many cards left in my hand. I'm definitely getting to watch the interesting real story I initially wanted, but it sucks that those guys are so willing to sacrifice themselves in a blaze of glory.)

    A deep sigh.

    "I got a bit too attached to brother's team to stay purely a spectator... Am I losing my edge?", self-derisively spoke Dumas.

    After cleaning up the dishes, Dumas felt like checking the collection of books lined up on a shelf in the corner of the workshop.

    They took notice of the English version of his own The Three Musketeers which he bought in the local bookstore.

    The shelf contained many books by other authors of his era, not only his own.

    He took one of those.

    An illustrated edition of a fairytale written by an author he was friends with in life.

    "Can't believe kids these days still read his books. The Tallow Candle. Ain't that one he chose not to put on sale? He made excuses that he was too immature back when he wrote this one, but it was honestly my favorite..."

    He made comments to himself as he flipped the pages, but then his eyes stopped at an illustration of a girl lighting a match.

    "Her memories are drawn inside the match's flames. I don't think that's what he envisioned, but this arrangement kinda resembles the way we Heroic Spirits work..."

    With those self-derisive words, Dumas flipped the next page and...

    "Hm?"

    Noticing something wrong, he reread the page.

    "Ah?"

    The page he had open showed the final scene of the fairytale about the girl who sold matches.

    He immediately realized what was wrong.

    The ending was completely different from the original version of the fairytale he was familiar with.

    The end where the girl freezes to death immersed in her beautiful memories was replaced by an ending where she was saved by a wealthy family and lived a happy life.

    "Hey hey hey... Wait, wait, wait, is this shit for real?"

    This picture book was one of the regionally published versions that rewrite the tragic endings into happy endings.

    "You... Godamnit..."

    He rechecked the author's name in disbelief, and after doing so, his hand started trembling.

    "Hahahaha...! Good Lord! How is this even allowed?"

    He burst out in laughter.

    "I thought the guy who genderbent Aramis in his version of my The Three Musketeers was onto something, but this is on a whole other level... They completely changed the core fundamentals of a masterpiece by the man with the most unremovable stick up his ass! They completely changed his very life!"

    With stars in both eyes, he raised his fairytale anthology up high and continued yelling.

    "No freaking way! One of my main jobs was adapting stuff into theater scripts, but I sure as hell never flipped an established narrative back on its head like this! Old Mr. Ducis's Shakespeare localizations got nothing on this! They just wanted to put that ending there, coherence be damned! I always thought things would turn out very different if were to write a story on the same themes... But then you just change the end and sell the thing keeping the original title and author's name! Unbelievable! Well played, modern publishers! This is hilarious! I'm dying to see the face he would make! What would I do to say 'But y'know dude, this happy ending surely took some people out of their dark places, and they'll be thanking you for it' right to his sullen face!"

    It's hard to judge if he was on good or bad terms with the original from this long-winded cackling speech.

    That is, until his smile turned considerably softer.

    "Well, with this much provocation... he'll probably just insist this is the one story he'll never talk about... Of all potential new endings to include, they put one about being saved by a rich family. It's how the quote goes... Life is a series of ironies. Every man to take foot in this world is hideous, yet nonetheless beautiful are their fates!"

    He closed the book with nostalgic eyes, reminiscing about his lifetime.

    "And that's why you gotta read the books you buy instead of just letting the pile grow!"

    Dumas closed his eyes. Not a hint of a previous melancholy. The moment of his summon was the only other time he ever felt this alive.

    "Ok, now that he got me motivated, let's put this brain to work."

    The phone behind him rang.

    He figured it was the police chief calling to inform him how many officers would come for dinner.

    He headed to the phone, still devising the secret spices of his recipe, but while also redirecting part of his thoughts into plotting a new script.

    "Time to devise a way to deck the faces of the dudes ignoring us before we freeze to death."
    Last edited by Comun; December 18th, 2022 at 09:53 PM.

  18. #11438
    You are great friend, the Spanish-speaking community of Type Moon thanks you from the bottom of my heart. May Akasha bless you.

  19. #11439
    The Long-Forgotten Sight Rafflesiac's Avatar
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    I misread that warning and thought we were about to get a gore scene or a Chainsaw Man kiss. Andersen would definitely be in shambles over that variant. I like Dumas, thanks for the TL.
    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    canon finish apo vol 3

  20. #11440
    Cats are awesome RCM9698's Avatar
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    Thanks for the translation, Comun!

    Vol 8 in february is in line with what was expected. Excited to see what happens.

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