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Thread: [Quest] Lostbelt Raising Project

  1. #201
    celestial prayer 34's Avatar
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  2. #202
    死徒 Dead Apostle zikari8's Avatar
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    Year: 2018

    Location: Royal Quarters, Pinyang City

    “Alright, everyone, meeting dismissed.”

    Having more or less settled what everyone was to do for the near future, we disbanded the strategy meeting on a high note, and everyone scattered. There were still many things left unsettled, but we’ll have to deal with those as they come. For now, all we can do is focus on the troubles right ahead of us.

    With that in mind, after the meeting, I gathered my resolve and went to visit Alisha in her room.

    “Hey, you there?” I ask as I knock on the door.

    “Hm? Ah, it’s unlocked. Come on in.” She calls out from behind the door. Her tone seemed rather casual, so I suppose she’s not too busy at the moment.

    Having gained permission, I slide the door open and enter the royal quarter’s side room—

    “Woah, what happened in here?” I can’t help but remark as I enter the side-room.

    What awaited my eyes was a complete makeover of the bedroom I had become familiar with in the recent past. The traditional Chinese aesthetic had been replaced with a more modern, western look and a generous helping of white and pink. When I look closer, I realize the bed, desk, curtains, and tea-table are actually the same as before, just with their shapes somewhat modified and their colored palate changed. At first glance, though, you’d think the room had been entirely swapped out.

    Alisha's Room

    “H-how did you redecorate it this much? Or rather, why?” I ask as I gawk at the new furnishings.

    It’s true I haven’t actually looked into the room since Alisha took it over, but that was only a few days ago. Does she have some sort of magic carpentry spell?

    “Oh, yeah. I worked hard.” She states proudly, while seated at the desk. “I liked the Chinese style, but I couldn’t feel comfortable unless it resembled my old room, ya know? So, I used some transmutation here and there and made it more homely.”

    “Wow. Magecraft really is incredible…” I comment in wonder.

    As I thought, magecraft really is useful. Sure, they say that science is just as, if not more, effective overall, but the things magi can do are still amazing. That’s why I…

    “So? What did you need?” She asks, after I just stand there slack-jawed for a few seconds.

    “Oh, right. Well… it’s about what I said I was planning to do during the meeting.” I reply with a little hesitation.

    “Hm? What about it? You said you were gonna continue training your magecraft, right?” She asks.

    “Well, about that…” I take a breath and gather up my courage. “I was wondering if you’d be willing to give me a few pointers here and there.”

    To be honest, it’s a little shameful to ask her for help. Doing so is kind of the same as admitting how much better she is than I am, so I wasn’t too keen on it earlier. But, having gained a little bit of confidence in the forest, I feel a bit more comfortable in doing so now. That said, I don’t expect her to agree, since it’s probably a waste of her time, but I should ask for the sake of it.

    “Oh, sure. I’ll teach you.”

    “Eh?”

    I’m a little astonished by her instant reply.

    “A-are you sure? You don’t think it’d be a waste of time?” I can’t help but ask. No matter how I think about it, I’m sure my request is just a bother to her.

    Alisha, however, just tilts her head.

    “Huh? Of course, it’s a waste of time. With your level, no matter how hard you train, you’ll never amount to anything.” She states plainly.

    Oi, that’s what you think of me? You sure have a lot of guts to insult me so plainly.

    “But well… if it’s something you still want to do, then I won’t tell you not to. I know that makes you angry.” She says, a little solemnly. “So, yeah. I don’t mind wasting a little time with you, if you want.”

    Hm? Could it be… is Alisha actually showing consideration for once? How surprising.

    “I-I see… then, I’ll be in your care.” I thank her and bow earnestly.

    “Hm, w-well, there’s no need to be that formal.” She responds with a little fluster. “But listen carefully. This means that you’re my apprentice from now on. In the world of magi, the relationship between mentor and apprentice is a special one, so you’ll need to treat me with the appropriate respect. When it comes to your tutelage, I expect no backtalk or complaints. Also, you’ll be working as my assistant and run any errands I tell you to.”

    “Got it.” I agree obediently.

    I don’t really know how apprenticeships work for magi, since my only teacher was my father, so I’ll have to take her word for it. Plus, if it’s just being her chore boy, that’s a small price to pay for her tutoring.

    “A-also, whenever I do a good job, you have to praise me and pat my head…”

    “Huh? What was that last part?” I ask. It seems she mumbled something under her breath, but I couldn’t hear it.

    “N-nothing. Forget it.” She quickly responds by waving her hands wildly. “Let’s not waste anytime and begin. First, I’d like test exactly what level you’re at now.”

    “O-oh, alright. Just tell me what to do.” I nod.

    It seems that I’ll have to prove my abilities to her first. Just watch! I’ll surprise her with how good I actually am!




    “Yup, as I thought, you’re absolute trash.”

    Several hours later, I’ve been reduced to nothing more than a worthless pile of pitiable self-loathing.

    Over the whole day, Alisha’s been putting me through a series of tests to check my abilities. Stuff like consecration, testing my magic circuit activation, ability to resist enemy magecraft, incantation speed, knowledge of basic principles, and of course using my only spell on her. The results were a heaping of facepalms and deep-cutting insults.

    “I’m sorry for being useless…” I can only apologize in shame.

    “Well, I already knew it, but I’m still amazed but just how bad you are. You really only know a single spell, huh?” She sighs, her disappointment palpable. “Let’s see… your style seems to be an unstable, self-taught combination of a bunch of other foundations, primarily Thelema, Theosophy, and Kaballah. I suppose it’d be considered Modern Magecraft. Other than that, your elemental alignment is Ether, your circuits are vastly below average, and you lack all the basic techniques that any apprentice with even two years of training would have. Yup, you’re hopeless.”

    “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. Please have mercy.” I repeat as I kneel before her, having lost any confidence remaining.

    I already knew beforehand how garbage I was, but having it all laid out for me really drove it in. I guess I shouldn’t have tried to put on airs when I really do only know a single spell and can’t even do the most basics of defense or analysis.

    “Well, I guess I can’t be helped. That’s what happens when you don’t have a proper education. It’d be like… trying to learn calculus without textbooks, when the only thing your parents taught you was addition.” Alisha shrugs. “Let’s not dwell on the past too much and focus on what to do from hereon. What kind of magecraft do you want to learn?”

    “Hm? What do you mean?” I lift my head to question her. “Isn’t there only one thing I’m good at?”

    After a lot of trial and error, I’ve learnt over the years that I only have talent for one type of magecraft: mental interference. No matter how hard I tried, I absolutely failed at other basic stuff such as reinforcement or projection. That’s also why the only spell I know is suggestion magecraft.

    “Well, it’s true that you probably are only talented at one thing. But… I don’t think that means you should absolutely only pursue that thing alone.” Alisha proclaims. “Only doing the things you’re good at won’t necessarily grant you success or happiness. More than that, I think you should pick a magecraft that you like, rather than something you’re good at. As a first-gen, you have that luxury to choose your own path.”

    “Huh. I see…” I nod along.

    What she says makes sense, I suppose. A magecraft that I like, huh? I never thought about that. All this time, I suppose I only pursued what I was good at or what I thought would be useful, but…

    “Well, while I say that you can choose whatever you want, I suppose there are some limitations. If it’s something that you’re particularly not talented in, you’ll probably not make any progress. Also, if it’s a specialty I’m not familiar with, there might not be a lot I can teach you. So those are things to keep in mind when you choose.”

    Ah, right. That’s something to consider as well.

    “You don’t have to choose now. I know this is important, so take a day and sleep on it.” Alisha suggests.

    “Right. Thank you for your guidance today.” I honestly thank her and take my leave for the day.

    Magecraft I like huh… I wonder what that would be?






    Year: 2018
    Location: Royal Quarters, Pinyang City

    “Oh, Master.”

    “Huh? Ah, Berserker.”

    After leaving Alisha’s room, I’m surprisingly greeted by the gaudy-looking mad man under the Berserker class.

    “Spending time with your girlfriend? Ah, how youthful~” He sings pleasantly. It seems like he’s misunderstanding something.

    “N-no, that’s not it. The two of us aren’t like that.” I quickly deny and correct him. “I guess you wouldn’t know since you just got here, but the truth is… I’m actually married.”

    It takes a little hesitation and courage to say those last few words. It still feels weird to think of myself as a spouse, to be honest.

    “Ooooh, I had no idea. How marvelous, youthful love! Well, who’s the lucky girl?” He clamors with energy.

    “Um, well… her name’s Yingying. I don’t know if you’ve seen her, but she has a black ponytail.” I find my answering in the face of his vigorous pressure.

    “Oooh, that girl. Yes, I saw her for a bit, earlier; she was truly beautiful. As expected of my mistress’s Master, your taste for women is also spectacular.” He praises me bombastically.

    “Oh, uh, thanks…” I’m not sure how to respond.

    To be honest, hearing this guy of all people call Yingying pretty makes me… a little worried.

    Now that I think about it, I guess this pervert will be staying with us from now on. That only makes sense, and it’d be good to have another Servant around but… knowing this guy will be under the same roof as Yingying doesn’t make me feel comfortable.

    “U-um, Berserker… about Yingying…” I decide to confront him about this. “I don’t really want you… getting to close to her.”

    “Oh?” He whistles lightly. For some reason, he seems excited by my words. “What if I don’t comply? What will you do if I were to pursue her, hmm?”

    “Eh? Uh, well, I’ll… um… I’ll have to…” I try to find the words to respond. For Yingying’s sake, I need to be firm here and properly tell him off.

    “Mm-hm, mm-hm. Say it, just say it.” Berserker nods along happily.

    “I’ll be forced to… kick your…”

    “C’mon, c’mon, you can do it. I believe in you.”

    “I’ll beat… I’ll beat your butt!” I cry out at last, pouring all the intimidation I can muster into my roar.

    “… well, that was a good effort, I guess.” Berserker sighs with clear disappointment.

    For some reason, even though I was threatening him, he seems upset that I didn’t do a better job.

    “Listen, Master. I don’t want to lecture you, but I think you need to learn how to exude presence. Stand up for yourself and all that, you know.” He scolds me for some reason. “You were able to do it when you were arguing with the blonde girl, right? What’s wrong now?”

    Having him talk to me like that makes me feel bad for some reason, like I actually did something wrong.

    “W-well… I was really angry back then, so I just let my emotions do the talking. But usually, I don’t really like being mean…” I try to explain my typical passivity.

    “I see… but still, I highly suggest you work on it. It’s important to know how to be firm, both as a leader and as a husband. If you’re a man, be manly and don’t let anyone walk over you.” He urges me with pumped fist.

    He’s saying some rather bold stuff, but… I can’t take him seriously.

    “… says the guy who likes getting stepped on.” I snidely remark. No matter what words they are, having them come from this pervert immediately dissolves any ethos.

    “Tsk, tsk, you don’t get it, Master. When I speak of manliness, I don’t mean that you have to always dominate those around you or never show weakness.” He proudly declares. “When I beg a woman to sit on me, I do so with conviction! I know exactly how much I want a beautiful woman to squish my face with her thick rump and I pursue that dream whole-heartedly. That’s what manliness is: the conviction to chase what you truly want no matter what. That’s what you need!”

    “I see… I’ll try to keep that in mind.”

    Even though what he’s saying is ridiculous, I suppose there’s some truth to be derived from it. I guess this guy wasn’t King of China for nothing.

    “Anyways, that’s how it is. I happen to be an expert in these matters, so feel free to ask me for advice whenever you want to. I’m sure, as a newly-wed, you have plenty of things you’re worried about.” Berserker states confidently.

    “Uuuh… no offense, but I don’t know if I’d be comfortable asking you for advice.” I respond with trepidation. “I feel like you’d mess with me and tell me to commit adultery or something.”

    Though I don’t mean to insult him, I tell him exactly how uneasy his proposal makes me. This guy was apparently a man whose passions led to the fall of a Dynasty after all; love advice from him seems inevitably ruinous.

    Despite that, though, Berserker scoffs at my lack of confidence.

    “Ridiculous. I would never do such a thing.” He declares seriously. “You may not know this, but I happen to be the Chinese God of Marriage. I have been invested by the heavens with the responsibility to manage the marital affairs of humanity. Thus, if a human were to come to me with honest troubles regarding their marriage, then I have no choice but to respond in kind.”

    … I’m a little shocked. For a moment, he was actually completely serious, showing no sign of his perverted self. I suppose he, at the very least, takes his duty as a god seriously.

    “I see… then, I guess I’ll be counting on you.”

    “Yes, leave it to me, Master.” He resolutely responds.

    I suppose I have another person I can ask about stuff from now on.

    Hmm, marriage advice, huh? Is there any such thing I need consultation for?

    Choice!
    Berserker has offered to advise you on anything regarding marital affairs. Is there anything you want to ask him?

    1. Consult him about your relationship with Yingying
    2. Consult him about finding a husband for Rider
    3. Ask his opinion on the Empire’s marriage system
    4. Nothing to ask at the moment.
    5. Write-In
    Progression Choice!
    What magecraft path would you like to pursue?

    Advanced Suggestion:
    Continue pursuing your current specialty: suggestion magecraft. At a higher level, you’ll be able to cast stronger and more complicated suggestions, potentially reaching full-on hypnosis. [Talent Bonus]

    Mind Reading:
    Telepathy magic. It is magecraft that allows you to read a person’s mind and thoughts. Its utility does not need to be mentioned. The better you get at it, the clearer the person’s thought become. [Talent Bonus]

    Witch Doctor:
    Healing magic. It is magecraft that treats ailments and injuries through traditional witchcraft. The greater the user’s skill, the greater injuries they are able to deal with. While Alisha has some knowledge of this, she isn’t an expert.

    Hero’s Vessel:
    Invocation magic. It is magecraft that allows you to call upon Heroic Spirits of old and channel their abilities. The better you are at it, the closer you become to the original Heroic Spirit. It is one of Alisha’s personal specialties. [Teacher Bonus]

    Item Construction:
    Creation magic. Rather than studying a specific magecraft school, pursuing this style will make one specialized in creating magical items, such as mystic codes. Related magecrafts would include transmutation, transformation and reinforcement. It seems that this kind of magic is Bianca’s specialty.

    Write In:
    You may suggest another magecraft path to pursue, but it can only be voted for if it is approved. Things that will be considered are possibility, feasibility, and simplicity of magecrafts suggested. Write-In answers may also apply for Talent or Teacher Bonuses.

    Notes:
    Each path may progress at different rates. Those with bonuses are easier to pursue and will progress much faster, leading to overall greater skill.

    Talent Bonus = Magic that aligns with the player’s own talents. Specifically speaking, mental interference magecraft.

    Teacher Bonus = Magic Alisha specializes in and would be able to offer better advice for. Specifically speaking, spiritual evocation and invocation.

    Also, these choices do not need to be voted on immediately, so you are free to vote for the first choice now and deliberate on these magecrafts for a bit longer.
    Last edited by zikari8; April 23rd, 2020 at 04:14 AM.


  3. #203

  4. #204
    リビングデッド Living Dead
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    5. All of the above 2.

    Mind Reading is tempting, as is Hero Vessel. Then again healing would be nice to have, so maybe Witch Doctor. Eh, going to give it a bit.

  5. #205
    So Many Ideas, So Little Time SleepMode's Avatar
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    Mind Reading
    The Act of dozing off in the afternoon is a luxury indeed.
    Coffee would be nice, though.

    [Collection of my Servant Sheets]
    Now Revamped!

  6. #206
    リビングデッド Living Dead Wyvern's Avatar
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    2. We gotta keep our promise to Rider. The more time we don't hold to our part of the deal, the worst our relationship with her will be.

    As for the magecraft, I'm gonna go with Item Creation.

  7. #207
    死徒 Dead Apostle zikari8's Avatar
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    Year: 2018

    Location: Royal Quarters, Pinyang City

    “And that’s how it is…”

    I decide to fill Berserker in on the deal with Rider and consult him for advice. It is rather personal, but I figure it’s better to have as many hands on deck as possible. If he’s able to provide any sage counsel, I figure it’ll be worth it.

    “I see… well, why don’t you take a seat, Master?” Berserker suggests after hearing me out entirely.

    “Huh? Um, sure, I guess.” I agree and sit down in the living room chair, though I don’t understand why. I suppose he just wants me to be comfortable while he lectures me?

    Once I get settled in, Berserker also takes a seat next to me. Right now, Alisha’s holed up in her room and Yingying and Assassin are out, so it’s really just the two of us in the house. With no one to overhear us, Berserker takes a deep breath, leans in a bit, and begins to talk.

    “First of all, let me confirm. Your goal is to find someone for Rider to fall in love with and to marry. With this man, whoever he is, she’ll be able to have the happy-go-lucky family life that she always wanted. That’s the kind of happy ending you’re looking for, right?” Berserker asks.

    “Y-yeah, that’s exactly it. I know it’s a bit of a difficult task, but it’s really important. I don’t know if match-making is under your expertise, but any advice you have would be useful.” I confirm avidly.

    “I see…”

    With his question answered, Berserker seems to take a moment to compose himself. He closes his eyes for a moment and takes a deep breath, before finally addressing me.

    “Listen, Master. I’m going to be frank. What you’re asking for is impossible.”

    “Huh?”

    The answer Berserker gives me is one I didn’t expect. Impossible… what is he talking about?

    “W-wait, hold on, Berserker. You lost me. What do you mean by it being impossible? I mean, I know it’s pretty difficult to find the perfect guy, but surely if we work hard, then it’ll work out, right?” I quickly question his response.

    “No, that’s not it, Master. It’s not the matchmaking that’s the problem; in fact, it’d be rather easy to just find a man. The problem is what comes after. Simply put, the happiness she seeks is one that Rider can never obtain.” Berserker declares coldly.

    Hearing such frigid words come from his mouth immediately sets me off.

    “What are you talking about? Don’t say that about Rider. You don’t even know her! Of course, she can be happy. She has to be!” I shout at him.

    “Calm down, Master. And think about this properly.” Berserker responds calmly, raising his hand to keep me in check as he continues to speak. “Listen, I’m not trying to belittle Rider; I’m merely stating the facts. Perhaps you’ve forgotten, but… Rider isn’t human.”

    “Ah.”

    The realization hits me like a truck. Once he mentions that, I immediately understand what he means.

    “That’s right. Rider is a Servant like me and the others. Which means she can’t do things that humans can. She can’t ever grow old nor can she get pregnant. That means that, even if she were to be married in name, she won’t be able to experience the happiness you’ve described to me. She’ll never be able to have children and start a proper family; the joy of watching her own children grow is forever sealed to her. She’ll never be able to age with her partner and grow through each other; while he withers and dies, all she'll be able to do is watch within her eternally fixed body. That’s not even to mention the fact that, as a Servant, she requires an anchor to even exist. Without even a Master, it’s entirely possible she may just one day fade and vanish like thin air. Well? Does that future sound like a happily ever after to you?”

    “…”

    I can’t respond. There’s nothing I can say.

    “Well... it’d be a different case if the goal was just falling in love. Love can take any form after all and it can be as ephemeral as the seafoam. But marriage is… different. Though it varies from culture and era, marriage in its purest form – the one you speak of – is an oath that binds till death. It is something long-lasting and special, a vow that cannot be promised when even your tomorrow is uncertain. It is an ideal that many never achieve... and Rider never will either.” Berserker states absolutely.

    “B-but…” I try to argue – to deny such a cruel fate – yet the words won’t come.

    “… I know this is hard to accept, but that’s just how it is, Master. Fundamentally speaking, Servants are beings of the past. Our story has already ended. That’s why we don’t have futures. That's why we don’t get another ending. We can enjoy what we have now, but we can’t look forward to what will come later. That’s… reality.” Berserker concludes with a solemn look.

    There’s no need for me to reply; it’s already clear what’s right and wrong.

    In a sense, I more or less already knew it. I just ignored it, because I didn’t want to face the truth. More than anything, I wanted Rider to be happy, so I willfully shunned the knowledge that she never could be.

    Thinking about it made me angry. Not at Berserker who was only trying to help or even the world for its frigid reality, but at myself for how irresponsible I was.

    I told Rider I would make her happy. I gave her hope when she had already given up. And in doing so, I promised her something that she could never actually get.

    How could I have been so stupid? How could I have been so cruel?

    My fists curl up and fill rapidly with the desire to strangle myself.

    Dammit! This just isn’t fair! She’s working so hard, she’s wishing so much, so why can’t she just be granted what she deserves? Why can’t she receive the life she never got to have?

    If I was given a second chance, why can’t she!?

    … I can’t accept this. I won’t allow myself to give up. Screw what Berserker says, I’m going to keep looking for a husband for her after all. Even though it’s useless, I have to try. After all, I already promised her. It’s my responsibility– no, that’s not it. It’s not because of any obligations… I just genuinely want it from the bottom of my right.

    More than anything, I just want to make Rider happy!!!

    But… what can I possibly do?

    How can I grant her wish?


  8. #208
    死徒 Dead Apostle zikari8's Avatar
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    Interlude:
    An Adult Conversation


    It was a quiet night.

    Though the streets below were as abuzz with cramped crowds as ever, it was quiet where she was, sitting atop the roof of a tall building. Several hours had passed since the strategy meeting, they had was dismissed, and after dealing with a few things on her end, she now found herself wasting the rest of the day alone. By her side was a large bottle of fine liquor and two nice cups. It seemed like she was content with drowning the hours in nothing but wine.

    “The moon is beautiful tonight… as if.”

    She laughed a little at her own joke, looking up at the black, empty void above her. Though she had seen it the last time she had visited Level 1, she didn’t really have the chance to take it in back then. Now, she was properly absorbing the abnormal view as close to the heavens as she could. No sun, no stars, and certainly no moon, she alone sat in the sky.

    “It’s rare for you to be alone. Where are all your friends?”

    A voice interrupted her serenity. Rider, however, was unfazed by its arrival and responds immediately.

    “Yes, well, a lady enjoys a bit of solitude every now and again. I can’t say I’m quite pleased with you interrupting it either~”

    Though she rebuked the intruder, her tone was quite playful.

    “If you really thought that, you wouldn’t have prepared two cups.”

    “Oh~ how keen of you. Yes, that was just a lady’s discretion.”

    “Is that what you call blatantly lying?”

    “No, no. Consider it an act of affection. In our old world, I believe it was called… ‘tsundere’? At times, a lie can be sweeter than the truth.”

    “A useless distinction. Deceit has little merit.”

    “Hm~ You’re as boorish as ever~”

    As if amused by the back and forth, Rider drained her cup merrily and immediately began pouring herself another.

    “Y’know, it’s tiring talking to a shadow. Why don’t you stop skulking around and take a seat…”

    She turned around to confront the man on the roof.

    “Lancer.”



    “…”

    The beast-like man did not respond. Instead, he silently emerged from shadows and slowly took a seat next to her.

    He was the Servant Demonic Lancer, whose true name was known as Lin Chong. He was a man whose ferocity sent chills down the backs of any who dared stand in his way, yet Rider seemed to greet him with an amicable familiarity.

    “Well~ Shall I pour you a drink?” Rider merrily suggested with a giggle.

    “Unnecessary.” He replied curtly.

    “Oh, boo. It’s discourteous to reject a lady’s offer, you know.” She frowned.

    “I don’t care.” He responded.

    Knowing full well she couldn’t sway his mind, Rider took to her own drink and the two sat in silence for a moment. Lancer seemed to be laser-focused on glaring at the cityscape around them, while Rider entertained herself by silently examining his expression.

    After a while, he finally breaks the silence with a low growl.

    “… why haven’t you told them about me?” He asked her solemnly.

    “Hm~ Tell who what?” She questioned casually, her focus still on her drink.

    “Those allies of yours. It’s clear that you haven’t told them yet that I followed you back to this city. If they knew, I’m sure they would be in much more of a frenzy.”

    “Oh, why not. I see no reason in telling them everything. A lady has to have her secrets, you know~”

    And so it was. During the meeting earlier, Rider had completely hidden the fact that she knew Lancer was not only on Level 1 but was in the city entirely. That fact and her entire relationship with the enemy Servant was completely unknown to the Master from another world.

    It had begun all the way back to a month ago. During the battle on Level 4, while the Master fought Saber, she and Lancer had engaged each other one-on-one. After that, during the fierce campaign on Level 5, they had met again, this time as allies. With a common enemy, they ended up meeting on the battlefield several times, saving each other and fighting back-to-back. Through these situations, a mutual respect was born and from there a familiarity was formed, all while the boy had been unconscious. When it came time for her to leave the battlefield, she had shared with him the dangers of fighting too hard on the lower levels and so he had decided to secretly follow her back to Level 1. Now they were at a point where they could peacefully pass the time together and talk freely just like this.

    “Isn’t that boy supposed to be your ally? I don’t see why you haven’t told him, then.” Lancer remarked pensively.

    “Hah~ what gave you that idea? At the very least, I’ve never thought of him as such. We’re merely business partners. That is all that our relationship is. And business is all about deception.” She proclaimed with a smug smirk. It was clear that she meant it, that she had no qualms about hiding things or lying to those she was working with.

    “… how deplorable. Such shallow camaraderie you share.” Lancer sighed.

    “Oh~ You’re one to talk. Are you not upset that your friend betrayed you and joined the boy?” She keenly pointed out. She was, of course, referring to Demonic Saber who had suddenly switched sides and had now become the boy’s personal Servant.

    “Hmm… no, I have no hard feelings.” Lancer responded after some thought. “I hold no hard feelings against Saber. She had originally been an enemy to the Liangshan Outlaws to begin with and then joined us without any qualms. Thus, I can’t blame her if she were to switch sides once more. That is her choice to make.”

    “Oho~ How generous. Then… what about the boy? Do you despise him for stealing your partner away?” Rider asked, continuing to tease the other hero.

    “You sure enjoy penetrating questions, hah…”

    Though he responded with a sigh, Lancer still pondered the question seriously anyways and answered solemnly.

    “… no, I wouldn’t say that I hate him either.”

    Rider was surprised. She had thought that the boy’s spite was reciprocated, but it seems that the hostility wasn’t mutual after all.

    “Hm~ But you seemed quite angry back then.” Rider remarked, remembering the heated debate the two shared on Level 4.

    “Did I? Well, it’s true that he is an enemy I must defeat. I cannot approve of his motives nor can I allow him to succeed. I must stop him. But…”

    Deep in thought, Lancer leaned forward a little and gazed out further into the cityscape. In the distance, he could see the Royal Quarters where that Master lived.

    “… I can tell he’s not entirely a villainous person. At first, I thought he was only doing this for his benefit, but the words he spoke and the points he raised were not those of a self-centered crook. They belong to a man who truly does believe in a fair and righteous world. Though he hides it beneath his own doubts, that boy already possesses the heart of a hero.”

    It was likely something that the person in question wouldn’t agree with, the idea that there might be something noble about him, but Lancer discerned such anyways.

    Might makes right. Such was the obvious law of the world. Even toddlers could understand that. Yet, he still dared to challenge it and demand better. He refused to turn his eye and accept the innate unfairness of reality and sought out a better world.

    Just because it’s correct, doesn’t mean it’s right. By saying those words, he proved his potential to be a Hero of Justice.

    “However, heart alone does not make one a hero. As he is now, he is still just a meaningless evil.” Lancer concludes.

    “Oh~ Then what is it you think he lacks?” Rider asks, curiously.

    “… Reason. Above all, he lacks a strong reason to fight – something concrete to grasp onto. Right now, all he has are a vague sense of ethics to guide him. He knows that things are wrong, but he doesn’t know how to make them right. He abhors violence but doesn’t know how to bring about peace. That kind of wishy-washy attitude can’t save anyone. Worse, it’ll only bring danger to those around him. The further along his path he goes, the more his doubts will haunt him, and he’ll have become the very evil he despises. Without a doubt.” He states definitely.

    It was clear from his tone that it isn’t an insult. Lancer’s words were an honest assessment of the man he once faced in the past, and a grave warning of what he predicted was to come.

    Despite that, though, for some reason, Rider smirked.

    “Hm~ You sure seem to have thought about this a lot. Could it be that you’re worried for him?” She remarked smugly.

    “Mm… No, not at all. I was just stating the obvious; I don’t care about that boy one bit.” Lancer quickly denied.

    That slight hesitation he had wasn’t lost on Rider though.

    “Oh~ is that so? You spoke so surely, it seemed like it was from experience. Could it be that the boy reminds you of someone? Hmmmmm~?” She asked while leaning in with a cat-like smile.

    “Tch, no comment.” He swiftly replied and turns away, not looking her in the face.

    “Ahahaha, what’s with that reaction. Your stubborn side is not cute at all, you know~” She laughed merrily and poked him a bit on the cheek.

    Though she said otherwise, throughout the month the two had spent together on Level 5, she had found great amusement in teasing the seemingly iron-willed warrior. It was wonderful to have men worship her and obey her every word, but this kind of thing was fun too.

    After teasing him a bit more, she finally let up and continued with her merry tone.

    “Well~ You’re not wrong. The boy is definitely a certified idiot who’s too dense to even understand the obvious.” She chuckled. “I mean, even though he knows what kind of person I am, he actually trusts me. He thinks I’m his friend or something; what a buffoon, right?”

    “…”

    Lancer didn’t respond, merely watching her cheerful laughter with sharp eyes. As he watched, her giggles slowly calmed down and instead shifted into an almost tired sigh.

    “Honestly, he’s such an idiot that I have nothing but complaints. His every action is insensible. I tell him to hide and stay safe, but instead he throws himself into the battlefield with no plan. He wastes precious time and resources, detouring an entire journey just to make a single person a little happier. Even when I was holding a gun at his face, he was more concerned with trying to understand his assailant than his imminent death. Even though he had only met me, he thought he could understand me. Even though he knows what kind of person I am, he still wanted to make me happy…”

    At those lingering words, her voice drifted off. She looked back down into her cup and saw in it her reflection: the image of a cold-blooded killer.

    She already knew. More than anyone, she understood that she would never actually get her happy ending. She was just a Servant after all; unlike the boy, she didn’t actually get a second chance at life. She was merely here to aid the present, not to enjoy it. That was the fate she had already come to terms with.

    And yet, he denied it. Though it held no basis, he still whispered false hopes into her ear.

    “You can be happy!”

    That’s what he promised her. Even though it was impossible, even though she didn’t even deserve it, he told her she could be happy. Her hands were soaked in blood – a stain that could never be removed – yet he still thought she had a second chance. The thing she had already given up on a long, long time ago… he still encouraged her to pursue it.

    That alone already made her really happy.

    That’s why she really had no choice but to stand by his side.

    “Yeah, he’s one hell of an idiot, but… I’ve grown rather fond of him…” She concluded with a satisfied smile.

    “…”

    Once again, Lancer didn’t respond. Instead, after seeing her smile, he simply stretched out his hand.

    “Hm?” Rider blinked in confusion at the arm suddenly placed in front of her.

    “… pass me that cup.” He curtly commanded.

    “Huh?” Rider gasped, actually surprised for once.

    “I changed my mind. It’d be too much of a shame to let you drink alone tonight.” He stated firmly.

    For a moment, Rider was too surprised to react. Only after a while, did her expression become one of joy. A big smile plastered on her face as she handed him the spare cup.

    “Oya? So, you do have a sweet side to you, after all.” She giggled as she poured him some.

    “Hm…” He mumbled something inaudible, before taking a sip. As expected, he showed no reaction to whether or not it was good.

    With both of their drinks filled, Rider sneakily scooted next to him and leaned on his shoulder.

    “Well~ Now that we’ve shared a drink, how about sharing a bed tonight? I won’t let you get any sleep.” She suggested with a cat-like grin.

    “Don’t push it.” He replied.

    “Ahahaha, I’m just kidding. I’ll settle with this for tonight.” She laughed, before holding out her own cup. “Cheers?”

    “Mn.”

    Not against the idea, he nodded and gently tapped his against hers. Though soft, the sound of the cups connecting seemed to echo through the city.

    “To a better tomorrow.”

    “Yes. To a better tomorrow…”

    And so, the two drank the night away.

    Alone beneath the moonless sky, the pirate and the bandit shared their blessings and their company for the night. Though they were enemies in title, at least right then, they were as close as their banging cups.

    Who could tell what kind of future awaited them?



    Wise-up! Servant Sheet acquired:
    Demonic Lancer - Lin Chong


  9. #209
    死徒 Dead Apostle zikari8's Avatar
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    Year: 2018

    Location: Royal Quarters, Pinyang City

    “Uggghhh…”

    With a groan, I find myself waking up from the floor I’ve grown accustomed to. The moment I regain consciousness from the void, I pick myself up and immediately greet the morning sunless sky.

    Hm? That’s weird. Now that I think about it, it’s rare for me to wake up on my own. Usually Yingying gets me up in the morning…

    Oh, right. Today’s my day off from training, so she let me sleep in a bit. Makes sense, makes sense.

    “Grrr… my shoulders hurt…” I complain to no one in particular as I get to my feet.

    It’s been about two weeks since the battle with Berserker and life has progressed peacefully since then. Well, I say peaceful, but it’s been rather hectic for me. During the past two weeks, my schedule has been packed to the brim.

    In the morning, I have physical training with Yingying. Since our first session, my cute wife’s been waking me up every day with an invigorating marathon, adamant about whipping my slouch of a body into one that can run more than 100 paces before crumbling. During the day, I’ve been completing all my Crypter duties with Assassin’s help. Writing reports, doing research, monitoring the progress of the Lostbelt, all the usual stuff has piled up during the time I was unconscious and become a nice big stack of paperwork to go through. Of course, Alisha has neglected her share entirely and pushed her duties onto me. Speaking of which, evening is when I practice my magecraft with Alisha as my tutor. Things have been going smoothly on that part, but no real results yet.

    Anyways, as one can tell, it’s been a packed ride that hasn’t given me a moment of rest, so I should appreciate this one day where I can sleep in for once.

    “Mm… I should wash my face…” I think as I head for the bathroom to freshen up.

    Though I’ve gotten used to it, sleeping on the floor is still a little rough on the body. I should probably look into installing some sort of futon to soften my nest. Though if I really want a better sleeping situation, I probably should find another bed entirely…

    With such useless thoughts in mind, I drag my drowsy body to the bathroom and open the door—

    “Huh?”

    “Ah.”

    —and of course, I find Alisha in it, freshly out of the bath.



    “…”

    “…”

    A tense silence forms as we stare at each other; I’m unable to move within the stiff air. It’s not that I’m captivated by her scrawny body or anything, but rather I’m frozen by fear of her inevitable reaction. We are like two gunmen in the wild west, waiting for the other to make the first move.

    “W-wha-you…”

    At last, the silence breaks as Alisha reaches her limit and begins to explode with fury.

    Not good! I have to something or else the typical pattern will ensue. But I’m no fool who allows the same result to happen over and over. If I put my mind to it, I can think of away to avoid the cliché!

    “Wait, Alisha. Before you do anything, hear me out.” I hastily yell to calm her. It seems to work as she pauses for a brief moment.

    Now’s my chance. Think! Think above thinking. I need to come up with a way to avoid the bad end.

    The core of the problem is that Alisha’s about to blast me with unjust violence due to her heightened reaction of being seen in a compromising situation. So then, the source of her fury must come from embarrassment of being seen naked. In other words, if I can somehow convince her that there’s no need to be embarrassed, she won’t attack me.

    Alright, I can do this!

    “Listen, Alisha. There’s no need to be ashamed. After all, I’ve already seen everything back in the Reality Marble. Every part of your body has already been permanently imprinted into my mind forever. It takes only an instant for me to recall every curve and surface of your frame. Therefore, there is no need to hide anything from me.” I explain to her as convincingly as I can and flash her a thumbs up.

    Perfect. My logic is impeccable. There’s nothing he could possibly disagree with. Therefore, I’m safe.

    “DIE A THOUSAND TIMES, PERVERT!!!”

    “Ehhhh? Why!?!?”

    For some reason, Alisha still continues to unleash a giant lightning blast. Man, I just don’t understand women after all.

    To think I would reach such a classic bad end like this…




    “And so, because of a certain someone, the bath was destroyed…”

    Later that day, I briefly bear the bad news to the rest of the team regarding the bathroom that had been reduced to cinders.

    “Oi, what’s with that? You make it sound like it’s all my fault. I’m a victim here!” Alisha quickly complains.

    “I’m not the one who didn’t think through the consequences of launching a lightning bolt indoors.” I retort while rubbing the burnt parts of my skin.

    “Hmph, I’m not the one who doesn’t know how to knock.” She pouts angrily.

    “I admit some blame for that, but that doesn’t mean artillery is the natural response.” I shoot back.

    As always, the two of us are arguing plentifully. Even now that we’ve reconciled, such things are common for us.

    “Hehe, you two get along so well.” Assassin giggles at our typical routine.

    ““We do not!!!”” We yell back in our anger.

    “Um, anyways, the bath’s destroyed so we won’t be able to use it for a while, until it’s fixed.” Yingying interjects to bring the topic back on track. “I asked around a bit and got us permission to use the big bath near the palace as long as it’s within a certain timeframe.”

    “Right, so that’s how it is.” I add while in the middle of pulling on Alisha’s cheek. “So for the next few days, we’ll be using the baths in the palace. Everyone, thank Yingying for her hard work in reserving it for us.”

    ““““Thank you.””””

    With a resounding chorus, we give our thanks and head off to the baths.






    Year: 2018
    Location: Palace Baths, Pinyang City

    “Well then, it looks it’s the three of us now.”

    Berserker cheers merrily as we enter the large bath area.

    As I somewhat imagined, the so-called Palace Bath resembled a large heated pool with enough space for many people to cleanse themselves at once. According to Yingying, these baths are actually used by the in-house workers of the palace, a big place for them all to clean themselves before or after work. In this world, showers don’t exist, so cleaning is primarily done through baths and these large public baths are simply more efficient than having a bunch of personal ones. The fact that our place had a private bath is proof of how luxurious it was compared to the rest of the empire.

    After arriving, our group naturally split into two to enter the male and female sides respectively. Thanks to Yingying we managed to reserve the whole place for about an hour, so we had it to ourselves. Naturally, that meant the only people in the male side of the bath were now Berserker, Starkad, and I.

    Thinking about it, this is a rather rare combination, so it feels weird for it to just be the three of us. And, to be honest, I’m not exactly completely comfortable about bathing with others, but I suppose I can’t really complain in this situation; it’s already a blessing that we were given the opportunity to use this place to begin with.

    “Did you know, Master? In Chinese history, bathing became an important part of the culture during the Shang Dynasty, my era that is. Back then, bathing was somewhat ritualistic, being not only for hygiene but as a form of civil conduct. Over time, though, public, commercial bathhouses became incredibly popular and could be found everywhere in China. They offered not only baths but also peripheral services such as massages or refreshments to go along with one’s cleaning. Most of all, though, public bathing was a bit of a social event, a place for friends to meet and hang out in warm waters on cold nights.” Berserker suddenly lectures.

    “Oh, I see… I didn’t know that. Huh…” I comment. I wasn’t really curious, but it’s interesting to learn about these kinds of things.

    For some reason, however, Berserker suddenly grins.

    “In other words, what I’m saying is that we should use this chance to strengthen our bonds as brothers in arms. Come fellow gentlemen, let us bare our hearts as we have bared our skin.” He declares jubilantly, throwing his hands into the air.

    “Ah, so that’s what you were leading up to.” I sigh.

    Really now, it’s impossible to ever take what this guy says seriously.

    “So? What do you mean by strengthening our bonds?” I ask him cynically.

    “Hehe, of course, I am referring to getting to know each other through the traditional question over which masculine spirits are bonded…” Berserker chuckles and then, with a tone of utmost seriousness, asks. “… what is your type?”

    “When did you turn into a middle-school girl?” I retort immediately.

    “No, no, it’s a legitimate question. What better way is there to get to know each other understanding each other’s tastes? None, there are none. There is nothing that instills more camaraderie than knowing if your bro is a breast guy or an ass man!” He proclaims while splashing about in the bath.

    Gosh, even in his serious mode, he can be quite the child sometimes. I wonder if one could blame his Madness skill for it.

    “Come on, you get what I’m talking about, right Starkad? Tell us what you’re into, big guy. I bet it’s some pretty advanced stuff, huh?” Berserker quickly swims over to pressure Starkad.

    In response, the giant slowly faces him and, for the first time since we got here, speaks up.

    “In life, I was cursed by the almighty god, Thor, to never know the blessings of love or family. Thus, I am unable to answer your question sufficiently.” He states without emotion.

    “O-oh, I see…” Berserker is only able to nod in response.

    It seems that, in the face of Starkad’s dry answer, even that perverted mad man can’t just trample forward. Even I’m a little chilled by the coldness of Starkad’s response. So, he was cursed to never start a family…? That’s… rather pitiful.

    Before I can reflect any further on Starkad’s cursed fate, Berserker swims towards me at top-speed.

    “Master, you’re my last hope. Come, unveil your secrets to me.” He pleads while torpedo-ing towards me.

    “Oi, stop. Don’t jump at me, you’re gross!” I yell back as I dodge out of the way.

    “Come on, don’t try to talk your way out of this. You’re surrounded by such beautiful flowers every day, surely you have come to recognize your own sense of smell? Well, what is it? What kind of lady do you fancy?” He interrogates me with the ferocity that only a Berserker could have.

    Tch, this guy’s being really persistent. I don’t want to answer him, but he probably won’t give up until I say something.

    How shall I respond?

    Choice!
    You have been asked what your ‘type’ is. It seems that Berserker is curious as to your taste in women. How shall you respond? What is your type?

    1. A warm person who you feel comfortable with
    2. An earnest person who supports you whole-heartedly
    3. A friendly person who can get along with anyone
    4. Say someone in particular [Write-In Name]
    5. What type of person they are doesn’t matter as long as they’re hot
    6. This is stupid. Don’t answer.


  10. #210
    So Many Ideas, So Little Time SleepMode's Avatar
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    The Act of dozing off in the afternoon is a luxury indeed.
    Coffee would be nice, though.

    [Collection of my Servant Sheets]
    Now Revamped!

  11. #211
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six Bird of Hermes's Avatar
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    4 - “My wife, who else?”

  12. #212
    リビングデッド Living Dead
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    And maybe, Hero's Vessel. Might change, Mind Reading remains tempting.

    Mind Reading it is.
    Last edited by Cain12; April 27th, 2020 at 04:04 PM.

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  14. #214
    リビングデッド Living Dead Wyvern's Avatar
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  15. #215
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors
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    H-hm....

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    吸血鬼 Vampire Faux's Avatar
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    False face must hide what the false heart doth know.

  17. #217
    Evil of Humanity Half-Blood Master's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Faux, July 20th 2019
    We gave HBM, of all people, access to a morals loosening field
    Quote Originally Posted by Faux, December 25th 2019
    Senta deserves the right to a life where she gets to choose if she's actually a Nazi
    True Rider
    A wise and beautiful woman who exudes an aura of grace. She is a sly, cunning, manipulative person who always gets what she wants, whether through trickery or ruthlessness. Her own fighting abilities are low, but she should not be trifled with. What does she ride? Men, of course!

  18. #218
    吸血鬼 Vampire Ayr's Avatar
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    Mind Reading
    Last edited by Ayr; April 27th, 2020 at 01:56 PM.

  19. #219
    The Great and Powerful Wizard's Avatar
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  20. #220
    死徒 Dead Apostle zikari8's Avatar
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    Year: 2018

    Location: Palace Baths, Pinyang City

    “Come on, come on, you can be honest to me.”

    Like a persistent pest, Berserker continues to bug me about my answer. It’ll be a pain to brush him off, so I suppose I should answer him, at least somewhat.

    Let’s see… what’s my type?

    Well, if it’s talking about what kind of person I prefer, then… A certain person immediately comes to mind.

    “W-well… I guess, if I had to say, it would be… someone who’s really warm and gentle. Like someone who I can just relax and be comfortable around…” I answer him quietly. As expected, saying this kind of stuff out loud is embarrassing.

    “Oooooh, I see.” Berserker nods along energetically. “I get it. I totally get it. Nice, nice.”

    He seems delighted that I answered him, and pats me a bit on the back before pressing further in.

    “Well? Who is it? Who is the apple of your eye? You can tell me.” He asks with a smirk.

    “Eh? N-no one. I was just answering in general. There’s no one…” I try to rebut.

    “Bullshit. I saw that look in your eyes when you were thinking. I can tell there’s someone you fancy.” He proclaims confidently. “There’s no need to feel ashamed for there is no greater feeling in the world than being in love. Come, be brave and announce your feelings to the world!”

    “D-don’t be stupid. You’re just being delusional.” I reject him as curtly as I can.

    What’s he even on about? Someone I fancy? There’s no way that could be true.

    I mean, it’s true that I did think of someone in particular but… no, that’s not it. Sure, she’s someone I really like, but not in that way… I think…

    Wise-up! ???'s Status
    Affection Up
    You have become more aware of your feelings towards her.

    “Fine, then. Be that way. But then you won’t mind if I ask how you think about the girls, right?” Berserker suddenly brings up. “For example, what do you think of my mistress? Surely, you too can appreciate her beauty.”

    For some reason, Berserker’s emitting some sort of smug aura. I don’t know what he’s planning, but I suppose there’s no harm just talking about how I think of others. It’s not like I’m gonna bad mouth them behind their backs or anything.

    “Assassin? Well… she’s my Servant, you know. She’s helped me a lot and has given a lot of good advice, so I owe her a lot. I don’t want her to die, so I have to do my best to stay alive.” I answer him honestly, making clear what I resolved myself for a while back.

    “… eh? That’s it?”

    “Hm? What? Did I say something wrong?”

    For some reason, Berserker seems taken aback by my answer. He looks surprised and a little uneasy. Was he not expecting me to answer honestly?

    “No, but… um, let’s move on. What about your wife? How do you think about her?” Berserker continues asking, strangely seeming anxious.

    “Yingying? Well… she’s a really nice person. I feel bad that she ended up having to marry someone like me, so I’d like to make up for it however I can. There’s also the test so… I want to do what I can do be the best husband for her! And, if I can, I guess I’d like to get a bit closer to her too…”

    “Hmm… how about Rider?”

    “Rider is… well, right now we’re business partners, I suppose. She’s been a huge help, so I need to fulfill my end of our contract too. I want to make her happy… I have to make her happy. That’s my responsibility.”

    “… Saber?”

    “That’s… um, well, it’s a bit complicated but… I don’t really know. For a lot of reasons, I feel like I have to do something for her… but I’m not sure what, right now.”

    I answer each and every question Berserker gives me as best as I can, though I’m a little uncomfortable about them. Strangely enough, however, each answer seems to elicit more and more uneasiness in Berserker; by the end, he’s almost straight-up frowning.

    I also notice, in the corner of my eye, Starkad watching and listening to us intently, without saying anything himself.

    “Um, is something the matter? If I said something weird, you can say so…” I ask them directly.

    “Well, that’s… how should I put this…” Berserker ponders out loud with a pensive look. “I suppose this is the kind of thing that would be best to let you figure out on your own. I’ll refrain from lecturing for now.”

    Hm, I’m not sure what he means. Let me figure it out on my own? Is there something I’m not understanding here? I was just talking about what I think of the others, right? What obligations I have to fulfil for them? I don’t think there’s anything strange in what I said.

    “Oh, right, there’s one more. What do you think about the blonde girl?” Berserker quickly adds on.

    “Alisha? Oh, she’s the worst. I hate her.” I reply immediately.

    “… hm, I’m not sure if that one’s better or worse…” Berserker, once again, makes a cryptic statement as he tilts his head.

    “Okay, what’s going on? I don’t know what you’re troubled about, but you might as well come out and tell me.” I confront him directly. He’s clearly beating around the bush of something, and I’ve lost my patience with it.

    “Hmm, if I had to say it… I think it’d be good if you relaxed a bit more.” Berserker tells me in a gentle tone.

    “Huh? Relax?” I repeat his words with confusion. What’s he on about?

    “What I’m saying is that it’s okay to have fun, ya know?” He explains with a sunny grin. “Don’t be so uptight about everything. You’re still a young man, so you should act your age once in a while.”

    “Huh?”

    “I mean… it’s okay to do dumb shit based on your desires. It’s okay to just do fun things and to spend time hanging out with friends. It’s okay to fall in love and spend hours thinking about the girl you like and daydream about her body and sneak into her cupboard and lick her recorder and plan out your first night together… those things that might seem unnecessary to you aren’t necessarily a waste. There’s nothing wrong with such things. There’s no point in life if you don’t enjoy it.” He declares in a profound tone.

    “No, no, half of those things you’ve mentioned are clearly degenerate. There’s a lot wrong with them.” I quickly retort. “Besides, what are you trying to get me to do? I don’t have room to fool around you know; we’re pretty busy as it is. I don’t feel like advice from a guy who destroyed his own kingdom through over-indulgence is exactly the best…”

    Thinking about it, I guess I shouldn’t have expected any good advice from the guy who drove his own kingdom to shit. I’m trying to save a nation as well; if I follow his path, I’ll definitely screw up in the end.

    For some reason, though, Berserker laughs at my accusation.

    “Hah, you’re right about that. It’s true that my actions led to the collapse of my country. I’m just a foolish king who fooled around too much.” He bellows merrily. “But you know… I don’t regret it one bit. I lived my life the way I wanted to and I died with no regrets. That’s the conviction I held when I decided to sell my kingdom for a single woman!”

    His declaration is loud and proud, showing no sense of shame or hesitation. As he proclaimed, there was no regret clouding his soul.

    “But what about you, Master? If you were to die right now… could you truly say that you’ll have no regrets? That you did everything you wanted to in life?” He asks me with sharp eyes.

    “T-that’s…” I stutter, flabbergasted at the sudden turn of tables.

    “Exactly! So, don’t be afraid of relaxing. It’s not just about what you should do… try thinking about what you want to do too. That’s your homework for now. I’ll leave it for here today.” He concludes with a proud smile.

    … I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to think about his suggestion. For a moment, I just freeze and try to process everything. Having fun… falling in love… that’s…

    “Now then, why don’t we put things to practice and have some youthful fun.” Berserker suddenly suggests.

    “Eh? Are we doing something?” I wonder while nursing a bad feeling.

    “Hehehe, of course, if we’re in a public bath, it has to be peeping! It is the duty of all men to peep on the other side of the wall, when given such an opportunity!” He proclaims.

    “Ehhhhhh!? No, no, no, you can’t be serious.” I exclaim in disbelief, but Berserker’s already getting out of the bath.

    “Muahaha, come, Master! Let us enjoy our lives in a truly manly fashion!” The mad man laughs as he heads towards the wall between the two sides. In his hand, he manifests a drill with his Noble Phantasm, making clear his intentions.

    Shit, shit, shit, this idiot’s actually going for it. Is he a complete dunce? Doesn’t he know what will clearly happen if he even tries? No, even before the topic of consequence, morally speaking this is way too wrong. I have to stop him. But he’s too fast and—

    “Stop.”

    “Eh?”

    Out of nowhere, a giant hand blocks Berserker’s way. Like an impenetrable wall, it prevents him from advancing towards his Valhalla; instead, all he can do is look up at the imposing mountain in front of him. It need not be said that the hand belonged to none other than Starkad, who I had totally forgotten about for a moment.

    “U-umm…” Berserker mumbles as he faces the giant in his path. It is clear how outmatched he is in this battle as sweat begins pouring down his back. “C-come on, buddy. I was just trying to teach Master how to have fun. It’s for the greater good, you know, so… hahaha…”

    “…”

    Starkad doesn’t respond to the excuse. Instead, he merely makes his attack.

    With overwhelming force, he grabs Berserker by the head and then slams it full force into the bath. Though it’s still just water, the speed at which Berserker is chucked made it as hard as rock. It was an instant K.O. move.

    “…”

    Without another word, Starkad once more sinks his giant body into the bath, leaving the unconscious Berserker to now float.

    All I can do is give the idiot my condolences. That’s what he gets for trying to do something stupid in front of a certain over-protective Servant. It seems like anything that might threaten Alisha is immediately purged by her invincible Servant.

    By the way, is Berserker gonna be okay? He won’t drown or anything will he? Can Servants even drown? I wonder…

    With peace returned to the bath, Starkad and I just pass the time in silence, which I use to organize my thoughts and think about what Berserker told me. The more I think about it, though, the more ridiculous I realize it is.

    I’m trying to save a world here; I don’t have time to fool around. Sure, I can understand the value of making friends and connections, but everything else is ridiculous. Indulging myself in desires will only weaken my efforts. There’s so much I need to do, so many obligations I need to fulfill, that I have no time to fool around. Just thinking about how much is on my plate makes me anxious.

    Besides… how could someone like me fall in love? To do such a thing… is unthinkable. It’d be an insult to the very concept of love. It’d be a burden to the person who I force my affections onto. It’d be a danger to the entire world. I can’t do that. I can’t ever do that. I must never do that.

    After all, someone like me doesn’t deserve to enjoy life…
    In the end, the rest of the day’s bath ended peacefully. We woke up Berserker eventually and exited the area to get changed without any trouble. Now that I think about it, I was so distracted thinking that I didn’t get to talk much with Starkad. Well, I’ll try to get to know him a bit more tomorrow, since we’ll have to use these baths for a while.

    As we get out of the changing room and leave the area to wait for the girls, we notice something strange.

    “Hm? Is something wrong?” I ask as we step outside.

    For some reason, there seems to be quite the ruckus just outside. Palace servants are all running through the halls with worried looks on their faces. Did something happen?

    “Oi, you. What’s going on? Why is everyone running?” Berserker calls out to one man in the crowd.

    The person in question stops dead in his tracks and looks at us with wide eyes. His entire complexion is pale as if he had seen a ghost. With a grave tone and great urgency, he reports to us solemnly.

    “The Emperor was assassinated.”

    “… huh?”






    Year: 2018
    Location: Throne Room, Imperial Palace

    “Ah, hello there, everyone. I’m glad to see you again.”

    “Oi, give me back my concern. How the hell are you alive!?”

    After the report we got in front of the baths, we regrouped with the girls’ group and rushed to the throne room as quickly as we could. What greeted us as we arrived, however, was the image of the Emperor completely unscathed and waving at us.

    “Hm, this one’s a rather troublesome situation. To think there would be someone who’s actually capable of assassinating me. If anyone else had been the target, they would have been an instant goner.” The Emperor muses as he examines the crime scene.

    There, near the throne, one could see a giant splatter of blood smeared across the floor. Several other government officials are crowding it, giving it a good look like a scene out of a detective show. According to what I heard, it seems like the Emperor had been decapitated. Fortunately, he’s still immortal so he just had to pop his head back on afterwards, so there was no actual damage done. Dammit, I was an idiot to even be worried.

    “Phew, I’m glad you’re okay, Father. Not that I doubted you or anything; I know nothing in the world could possibly harm you, Father.” Yingying expresses her genuine relief. The look on her face when she heard what happened earlier had been horrid.

    In response, the Emperor merely gives her a single nod. It seems that he doesn’t feel the need to reassure her with any words; is that the strength of their familial bond?

    “Oh dear. Excuse me, your majesty, but do you know who might have done this to you?” Assassin asks directly, straight to business.

    “Hm, yes, as you might expect, this is most definitely the work of a Servant.” The Emperor confirms our fears quickly. “For now, let me fill you in on what happened…”

    About an hour ago, the Emperor had been busy with his usual governance matters in the throne room when, out of nowhere, he was suddenly attacked from behind. According to the officials in the room, it appeared as if a shadow emerged from thin air and struck the Emperor in the blink of an eye. Before anyone could react, the Emperor’s head had been decapitated and his body fell to the ground. The very next instant, the shadow continuously stabbed the body in vital areas numerous times and then disappeared once more, leaving everyone in the room bewildered and startled at the Emperor’s sudden defeat.

    Naturally, with his immortal body, the Emperor was ultimately unharmed and just popped his head back onto his body after a few seconds, but the assailant was gone before he could regenerate.

    “Judging from the skill exhibited, I think it’s safe to say that the culprit has to be a Servant. I can’t imagine any of my citizens being able to pull such a stunt.” The Emperor concludes with a rational deduction.

    “Certainly, that seems about right. We’re most likely dealing with an Assassin-class Servant too…” Alisha remarks, her brain seeming to be running at 100%. When it comes to combat, she’s actually serious for once.

    “But why would they attack the Emperor, though? It ultimately accomplished nothing. It’s a stupid thing to do.” I bring up while scratching my head.

    “That’s not necessarily true, Master. The Emperor is after all the most important figure in this world, so it only makes sense to target him. It is possible that the culprit was not aware of his immortality or believed they would be able to somehow kill him regardless. They, of course, failed to accomplish their mission and so fled before he could get back up.” Saber explains to me.

    Ah, I guess she has a point. Though people in the country say that he’s immortal, who knows to what extents that is. Even I wasn’t sure just how tough he was before this incident. I suppose the only way to find out would be to try to kill him.

    “The problem is that this assassin managed to get away and we don’t know where they are. For all we know, they could’ve already fled across town or… they could even be hiding somewhere in this palace right now.” Berserker points out keenly.

    “Tch, how troublesome…” I click my tongue.

    A phantom enemy that could be anywhere and could attack at any time? What a pain. I forgot about it since a certain Servant I know is completely harmless in battle, but the Assassin class sure is a pain to fight against.

    “Hm… what do you think, your majesty?” I decide to defer to the big man in the room.

    “… well, it is clear to me that we are dealing with a superlative enemy. Not only are they a master at stealth, but they also possess enough martial skill to even injure me, as off guard as I was.” The Emperor announces after some thought. His voice is booming with authority, such that I can’t help but drop everything to listen. “Our foe’s motives are clear: to assassinate their enemy. Thus, we must take measures to defend against them. First of all, we need to determine their next target, which would be…”

    “… us, right? After the Emperor, the biggest threat to an enemy Servant would be other Servants – or rather, their vulnerable Masters.” Alisha adds on smoothly. It seems that she and the Emperor are on the same train of thought.

    “Eh? So that means that they’re gonna go after us, next? Isn’t that bad?” I remark, barely hiding the fear in my voice.

    The image of what happened to the Emperor being done to me… it replays in my head and makes me a little sick.

    “W-what should we do, your majesty? How do we stop the enemy Assassin? Please help us defeat them.” I ask the man with the plan.

    Considering what just occurred, it’s clear that the Emperor is extremely overpowered. If we get him on our side, we could probably defeat anyone. So, if we have any chance of survival, it’ll be with his aid.

    He, however, shakes his head.

    “No, after some thought, I’ve decided to leave this matter in your hands.” He responds firmly.

    “Eh?” I gasp.

    He’s not going to help us? He’s going to abandon us?

    “Listen. The enemy’s already failed to kill me once; they know they are no match for me. Thus, they will avoid me at all costs. With their stealth and speed, it will be impossible for me or anyone I’m with to engage them. Thus, if there’s any chance of facing this opponent, it must be done without my help.” He explains clearly.

    Ahhh… when he puts it like that, I can’t argue. Certainly, there’s nothing the Emperor can really do for us against this opponent, huh?

    “If you would like my advice, though, I highly suggest taking protective precautions against potential attacks. A single moment of carelessness can lead to death. It is only because I am immune that I allowed my guard to drop; you, however, have no such luxury.” The Emperor gives us a final hint. Then, he bids us farewell as he moves to address his panicky subordinates. From hereon, it’s up to us, huh?

    So then, taking everything in at once, the situation is thus: there is an enemy Assassin Servant who is most likely planning to attack me or Alisha soon. The Emperor can’t help us, so we have to deal with this situation on our own. The biggest danger, though, is that an Assassin is capable of attacking us out of nowhere at any moment, so letting our guard down for an instant can be fatal.

    “Master. May I make suggestions?” Saber suddenly speaks up.

    “Huh? O-of course. You’re always free to speak.” I reply. In terms of sheer intelligence, Saber is probably the smartest one in this room, so anything she has to offer is most likely vital.

    “The way I see it, we have two options: be offensive or defensive. We can either try to find and take out the enemy first or focus entirely on protecting ourselves.” She declares as robotically as ever.

    I see… so it’s a matter of attack or protect, huh? Certainly, that seems like the only way to handle this. Either defeat the enemy or make sure they aren’t a threat to us.

    “Hold on, how would we even find them? Assassins aren’t exactly known for being easy-to-spot, you know?” Alisha rebuts.

    Ah, she has a point. Assassins have the presence concealment skill, making them basically undetectable. Ignoring the one who makes everyone stare at her cleavage the moment she enters the room, a regular Assassin won’t even be noticed as long as they focus on stealth. If only there was some sort of radar for Servants…

    “Hold on. Wait a second, I just remembered. Didn’t you guys have some sort of tracking technique on Level 4, Saber? Couldn’t we use that?” I ask her, remembering how she and Lancer confronted us back then.

    “… unfortunately, no. The one who found you was not me, but Lancer. It is his ability, not mine.” Saber answers.

    Dammit, so that’s a lost cause, huh? If only we had Lancer, for some reason, but that guy’s our enemy, not to mention the fact that he’s still on Level 5.

    “How about a trap? If we lure them out, we can attack the moment they show themselves.” Berserker suggests next.

    “Uhhh… that’s a bit risky. The only bait that would work would be Alisha or I; if we fail, we’ll just end up dead.” I respond with deep consideration.

    Thinking about it, though, that may be our only chance of engaging the enemy. It’s risky, but if it works, we should be able to win in a straight-up fight.

    Before we decide, we should consider the other option: defense. Would it be possible to keep ourselves safe somehow from the enemy attack? The enemy has enough stealth to infiltrate the tightly secure palace and even enter the throne room full of people at the time. With that ability, they could be anywhere and attack at any time. How can we even defend against that?

    “… wait. Don’t you have some sort of anti-Servant boundary field, Alisha?” I ask my fellow magus.

    If I think back, didn’t she set up some sort of barrier around her room after our first fight and apparently Assassin wasn’t even able to phase through the wall to get in.

    “Hm? Yeah, I do have one. I used it during my Holy Grail Wars against the enemy Assassin. The range is small, but if I set it up at full strength, it should be theoretically impenetrable. The only way in would be to break it with sheer force but doing so would alert me to their presence.” She confirms.

    Woah, how useful! As expected of a Holy Grail War champion, she already knows how to deal with every class of Servant.

    Hmm… this means that if we were to choose defense, we’d most likely be completely safe. However, that means letting the enemy go free, able to do whatever they want. Not only that, but we’ll have to live in fear of a potential attack at all times…

    It’s a tricky choice. Do we risk chasing after the enemy or take the safe choice of turtling up?

    What should I pick?

    Choice!
    An enemy Servant has attacked. They are most likely an Assassin with supreme stealth. How will you deal with this problem?

    1. Try to catch them with a trap
    2. Search the city for them
    3. Focus on defense
    4. Write-In


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