……I wake from a dreamless sleep.
I wake in this unfamiliar white room.
As I sit up, Yggdra appears.
…She must have been in the room all night as well.
She makes as if to speak, then falls silent and turns away, biting her lip.
“Are you all right?”
She looks at me for a moment as if she doesn’t even know what I’m saying.
“—Well, there’s the issue of your injuries as well, but they should be nearly healed.
“I mean emotionally. Even if it was our only choice if we wanted you to live, what happened yesterday was still asking a great deal of you.”
Yggdra stands and stares blankly at me like a doll.
“…I’ll be all right.
“I understand everything mentally, I just don’t like that my life had to be prioritized.
“—And for it to be like that.”
She sighs and shakes her head, touching at her temples like she has a headache.
I stand up and place my hand lightly on her shoulder.
Whatever else is paining her, I don’t want her to think that my feelings have changed at all because she did something she would never have consented to if there weren’t any other choice.
…I mean, I know.
Even though I wasn’t there, we are connected, and so I know it was very awkward for her.
But Yggdra is silent, staring at the floor with narrowed eyes.
…And I don’t know what to say.
After several minutes spent awkwardly like that, there’s a knock on the door and it is opened from the outside.
Rose is standing there.
“Oh good, you guys are awake.
“Everybody pretty much crashed without being able to do anything last night, so I got a bath running.
“Roswell, it’s your turn to go. I went back and got some of our stuff from your house when the coast was clear, so you’ve got clothes to change into.”
I’m disoriented, but I do need to bathe.
I need to clear my head and think.
I make as if to leave the room, but Rose stops me with a hand on my arm.
She leans in and speaks in a low voice while looking in Yggdra’s direction.
“—Look, I know what she’s going through the best out of everyone in this house.
“I’ve had to do mana transfers when I didn’t really want to before, and it took me a while to learn how to deal with that, so I should be able to help her at least a little.
“I want you to look after Ein when you’re done with the bath though, make him some tea or something. He’s just sitting around being miserable right now.”
I agree and leave, heading down the hall to where Rose directs me.
…I do have to admit that I’m surprised to hear that out of her.
Rose can’t be more than fifteen or sixteen years old, and yet she speaks as if she’s had years of experience.
She’s a professional magus at her age, and I don’t have the right to pry into her personal history, so I won’t ask.
I don’t think she would have told me that way if she were willing to discuss it with me.
…I will just be grateful that she might be able to help Yggdra.
The bath water is warm, and I wash off yesterday’s sweat and clean my hair carefully.
There really are spare sets of clothes, so I’m impressed with Rose for going back into what I’m sure must have been something of a wreck for them.
…I shouldn’t think about that.
Anyway, I make my way downstairs and find Ein sitting at the table.
He’s making a frustrated face at the wood with clenched fists.
…Apparently it will be useless to talk to him right now.
So I let myself into the kitchen.
Hmm, there’s actually still plenty of food left.
How many days has it been since these two moved into my household—?
They brought food with them then, so either they left some here still or Rose also went out to shop before I awakened.
…Even after the incident with Assassin’s Master in the marketplace.
Well, Nessiah’s will to not involve civilians for Berserker’s sake and Hector’s status as a magus mean that they wouldn’t have been likely to target her there, but even so, that girl is fearless.
I don’t think I could return to that place without someone with me and still feel safe, even after this war ends.
I manage to get out materials to make tea with.
…Well, it’s mostly tea bags, but there’s a lot of variety.
I make chamomile and stand in the kitchen to wait while the water heats up.
I had never gone to the supervisor’s church, but that Soala must have sensed it there.
She said that it was a place that stank of blood.
…I worry a little for what happened to the Riders’ Masters after going there.
I don’t know if Hector would have respected his duties as a supervisor and spared them, or if he would have killed them to eliminate the possibility of defeated Masters contracting with new Servants.
But still, I don’t say anything.
With the tea finished, I carry a cup down to Ein and put it on the table in front of him before I retrieve my own and sit next to him.
It’s a low Japanese-style table, so we’re sitting on cushions on the floor.
Ein continues to stare at the table with tired red eyes.
……There’s no helping it.
There’s no helping it, as he lost his Servant, and Lancer was not just a tool to him.
I move to the side so that we are almost touching, and Ein sighs and leans so that his forehead is touching my shoulder.
…I keep still.
Out of respect for the first time this pure boy has experienced such loss and frustration, I stay silent and wait.
And the day passes slowly.
When Yggdra and Rose appear, Yggdra seems to be doing better, so Rose was probably able to help her somehow.
It’s a very helpless feeling when you can’t do anything for the person you love.
“—So we’re out.”
Rose says so bluntly as we all sit listlessly around the table.
“Roswell, you guys are more than welcome to stay here until the end of the war, since it’s safer than your own place.
“And Ein and I are more than happy to help you with planning.
“But neither of us are strong enough to fight Hector, so the rest of the war is up to you two.
“On top of that, you shouldn’t go out again until tonight. Saber’s wounds are still healing, so if you go out and force her to heal all at once you’ll only be draining her energy.”
Both of us sigh.
Rose is right, of course.
“We’re in your debt.”
The only question is what we’re going to do now.
“There are only three Servants left.
“That Caster is very powerful, so it’s going to take a lot to be able to defeat her as we are now, even if I do hate to admit it.”
…In the case of a battle with her, it would be most appropriate to go after her Master and cut her off from support first.
And then through the battle, we would merely have to make sure that she exhausts her energy through fighting fiercely.
Yggdra bites at her nails.
“—I know what our best option is, but I don’t like it.”
She complains futilely, and I nod my head in agreement as I stare at the table.
Our best possible chance would be to contact Nessiah and Berserker and work with them.
…Or at least to call a cease-fire with them until Caster is dealt with.
I don’t know if Yggdra and Berserker could actually stand to work together for very long, and they certainly wouldn’t be happy about it.
But survival is the most important thing.
…And if those two were to do battle as they did in the past, then that battle would probably end with Yggdra’s victory.
Still, the problem with this plan, beyond getting Yggdra and Berserker to cooperate, is finding those two.
…Whenever we ran across them it was by chance.
Even if their hideout is somewhere here in Miyama, that would take a great deal of searching, and those two might even be out searching for us and Caster instead, meaning we would wind up missing each other.
I wish there was some way to actually contact them.
…Well, somehow I doubt that it would be as easy as just trying to look someone up in a phone directory, as much as I wish it could be settled like that.
Ein punches at the floor idly.
“—I just wish that we could actually do something to be of use.”
“You are of use.
“Saber and I have a set way of thinking, and you can provide us with alternate ideas to keep our tactics from becoming stale.
“And more than anything else, you’re giving us a safe place to stay. That can’t be downplayed for any reason.”
“Beyond that, you can tell us about the enemy.
“—It won’t be an easy fight no matter what, but the better informed we are, the better our chances.”
Yggdra, who is still unhappy with the prospect of having to team up with a man she hates, points out while turning in Ein’s direction.
Ein doesn’t respond.
…Well, there’s not much help for it.
Ein and Rose are both combat mages, but all of Ein’s skills depend on projection, and Rose would only be of use in a battle against Nessiah without Berserker getting in the way, as her magecraft is used either in imprecise destructive magic or close-range combat.
Without Lancer’s protection, there is no longer anything they can do but support us, and they really are “out of the race” as it were.
As they’re still supporting Yggdra and myself, I suppose you could still call it the support of the neutral party that wants only for the Holy Grail to stay out of the hands of evil.
That aspect at least is not a disheartening thing.
Still, Yggdra bites at her nails as if she wants to protest our inaction.
…There is no helping it.
Her body is in the middle of recovering and she cannot fight until her wound is completely healed, so we cannot go out until sunset.
She has not even bothered to put on the clothes that Rose got for her.
She sits in her white gown rigidly, as if she is unwilling to return to her usual self until this has come to an end.
…And time passes like that.
Yggdra remains tense, phasing in and out of physical form as if to make her injury heal even faster.
I’m not really hungry, but even so Rose quotes at us that we must eat before battle or be eaten by battle, and cooks us a light meal.
As soon as we’re done, Yggdra presents herself to me impatiently, waiting for my acknowledgement that she has healed enough to go out.
…As if I could stop her even if she was that little bit underprepared.
Night has fallen.
We go to the door, and Ein and Rose follow us to see us off.
“—Be really careful.”
Ein looks at us seriously and says so.
“It’s that Hector, so you know you’re going to be in trouble unless you take care not to confront him head-on.”
“—Roswell, we have to go.”
Yggdra urges me on insistently, and looking out at the town, I can wait no longer.
…It’s not just that Yggdra is like this.
I can sense it too.
…Something brooding and ominous in the air.
This is the twelfth day of the Holy Grail War.
In two days, the Holy Grail will appear in the Tohsaka workshop.
The air in Fuyuki City has already begun to change.
…But in this war, the one poised to steal away the prize cannot have good intentions for it.
Even if at great cost, we must stop him, or everything that’s happened up until now will have been for nothing—
We walk the empty streets, side by side.
…I don’t like it.
This crawling sense of power underneath our feet.
While it’s certainly a wonderful power and nothing like an evil mud or clinging mist, it still feels as though a giant boundary field has been set up to cut us off from ordinary humans.
And the boundary field truly is immense.
In this great town, I cannot sense where exactly the two enemy Masters are.
“—I’m relying on you.”
I say that to Yggdra, who is invisible at my side.
…If anyone is going to be of help tracking the enemy, it’s her.
She’ll sense Caster before I can as a fellow Servant, and she will sense Berserker because of their shared past.
“Roswell, I really don’t like this.
She says that as though whispering in my ear.
…Well, I’ll trust her.
“All right. Then I’ll follow you, let’s hurry.”
A sense like she’s nodding, and I cloak myself in shadow.
She’ll direct me to where we need to go—
The two of them walk down the empty streets.
Side by side, they walk easily with their paces matched as if by long years of familiarity.
It is a patrol.
…It is getting toward the end, but there are still two enemies remaining, and they cannot rest until those enemies have been defeated.
……But all the same, the Servant in red armor continues to stare at the small form of his Master in worry.
His Master’s steps occasionally weave.
There is a tremor like a faint palsy in the delicate limbs.
The breath is ragged, and his Master’s chest rises sharply and stutters underneath the unfamiliar clothing of this age.
“—Shouldn’t we at least wait, after all? At least until the effects have worn off…”
But to his Servant’s soft query, the Master dressed in white simply shakes his head.
“It’s no use. It’s not going to get any easier, Gulcasa, not from here on out. I feel crowded, as if there’s no room for me in my own body, but—from here on it will simply get worse.
“I will bear it. I have known greater torment.”
Even so, that Master’s hands that reach up to push his hair out of his face idly also wipe away sweat.
Berserker teeters on the edge of reprimanding him.
…It is like he told the girl, days ago.
His priorities in this battle are different from before.
—If they wait, the Holy Grail will inevitably be theirs.
He must protect his Master until that time.
And with his Master’s health failing, it is inevitable that Berserker should be anxious.
He is a man best suited to charging forth and conquering.
…Defensive battles are not his forte.
There is a great deal riding on this battle, and no matter what his Master says, he knows that the frail magus cannot withstand it for much longer.
They must survive for two days more.
“—It’s a pity.
“You almost would have made it.”
It isn’t the presence of the enemy magus that makes him freeze.
…It is his Master’s reaction to that presence.
The footsteps beside him stop with a sound of stumbling, the pale limbs go rigid, and the green eyes widen and lose their light.
…Berserker knows that look.
It’s the look that young animals unexposed to humans wear when they have become game.
He puts himself between his Master and the threat.
The enemy Servant, Caster, stands with an impassive expression beside the enemy magus in dark robes.
…Berserker does not like the look on the enemy’s face.
In the dreams that he has shared with his Master, that sneer always seems to hover at the edges of the worst memories.
So he puts himself between his Master and the enemy.
He does not fear her.
…If it’s a matter of Noble Phantasms, then he will never lose.
He is simply the strongest, and that is what he always has to rely on.
…There is always Mad Enhancement as an option, as well.
—His Master is still frozen behind him.
A terror that he has never before seen on that beloved face.
It’s an expression he could have lived without seeing Nessiah make.
And he won’t forgive the one who put it there.
The enemy Master laughs.
“—It’s good that you’re so pleased to see me.
“This will not take long unless you struggle.”
There’s a reaction behind him.
The muscles that locked up in terror jerk, and Nessiah staggers.
He is breathing quickly, but even if he is responding sluggishly, he is still responding.
“Get it together.”
…He says so very quietly as he sizes up the woman, his opponent.
He has little experience with her ilk, but his blood tells him that she is his natural enemy.
Knowing that, he stands his ground and waits for his Master to recover the presence of mind to do battle.
There is also the path of retreat, but at a time like this retreating would be counterintuitive.
…No, against enemies such as these there is no retreat at all to begin with.
They will surely be followed and this battle will only be postponed.
It is best to confront them now, while they are both ready.
That’s right, there’s nothing left to fear.
He senses his Master taking a deep breath behind him.
And the enemy magus raises his hand and begins to incant a spell.
In that moment, Berserker lunges.
If the enemy is a magus, all he has to do is cut off that magus’ head.
Even if it nearly kills him, he has magical energy to spare.
Caster steps in the way, blocking him heavily with her staff.
He must get past her and at that man.
…But even if his opponent is Caster, she is still physically quite powerful.
No matter what kind of blow he strikes, she parries it impassively.
She does not make to attack, but simply forms a defensive wall for her Master.
If he could get her to attack in response, and if the circumstances were different, this might have been a battle he could enjoy.
But that is not the case.
Berserker steps back in frustration and prepares to use the Noble Phantasm of his scythe.
If simple attacks will not work, then he will waste no time in blowing them away in the flames of Prominence.
As he does, the enemy walks calmly around them towards his Master.
Berserker turns to strike at the man.
But Caster swings her staff hard enough that the air rings and Berserker staggers backward.
She is truly first-rate as a defense mechanism.
…That is what granted her the name of “Guardian Angel”.
That is enough.
In the distance, his Master is reacting slowly to the approaching threat and weaving destructive spells to protect himself.
…But Berserker knows his Master, and so he is not going to be able to rest until he puts himself between the two of them.
Caster is just in the way.
Berserker tries again and again to circumvent her.
…She is between him and his Master now.
He cannot use Prominence unless he is certain that his Master is out of the way, but of course he cannot simply call out for Nessiah to flee.
…A retreating back is an easy target, and that would simply serve to warn the enemy of what kind of attack is coming for him.
He draws back once again.
He does not care if he is injured in the process.
He will use “that” trump card.
But as he lowers his scythe and evens out his stance, a shrill cry interrupts his thoughts.
His reason vanishes into steam like boiled water when he hears his Master’s voice rise in something like a scream.
That magus has simply walked up while the spell was being prepared and gripped his Master’s arms.
There is a struggle, if one could call it that.
…Nessiah is thrown violently to the ground and the enemy stomps his heel into the unprotected back.
All the while, he is smiling viciously.
A wet choking sound.
But still, Nessiah flings magic upwards, using the narrow amount of time in which the enemy nullifies the attack to regain his feet.
It is not a battle.
Nessiah is in bad physical condition to start with, and the enemy who knew that went out of his way to strike further blows and take away his ability to balance.
The long-ingrained fear robs Nessiah of the reason needed to connect his Magic Circuits and do combat.
……The enemy who knows this continues to advance on him, brushing away the easily-blocked spells and striking out with feet and fists.
Nessiah is thrown to the ground numerous times.
He is pushed against walls and only gets away by tearing himself back.
His composure is ruined and his body covered in bruises in only a few minutes’ time.
Where he was shaking a little bit before, his entire body trembles now.
His body sways like he’s drunk, and his ragged breathing is broken by wet coughing.
Berserker’s mind boils up and his reason disappears, even without the activation of Mad Enhancement.
…It is as though the wall of Caster does not even exist.
…He simply weaves around her range and runs without a single rational thought to destroy the one making his Master suffer.
There’s a sound like a thud, and his legs collapse.
…He does not at first realize why.
But when he tries to move, Berserker cannot.
There is a hideous pain in his chest and his right lung feels as though it is flooding with heavy water.
Such a thing wouldn’t kill one with “battle continuation” such as his.
…He is not human.
His body is superior to that of a human Heroic Spirit, even as his body was superior to those of humans when he was alive.
He can endure greater hardships and survive “fatal” things for longer.
It is partly his demon’s blood, and it is partly his own training and determination.
…So being pierced through the lung is painful, but it should not keep him from protecting the Master that he loves.
But that is not all.
……The “thing” that pierced him is still holding him there.
The wound would close if the “weapon” were not in the wound.
It would close almost immediately.
But the healing that would normally activate cannot, and so his lung is filling up with the blood that is not pooling on the ground beneath him.
…The magical energy is also leaking away.
Then the most obvious course would be to remove the “weapon”.
But when Berserker tries to get up on hands and knees to remove it, there is a sudden blow to the small of his back that sends him sliding back down the “pole” embedded in his chest.
……Caster, who speared him through the chest with the butt of her staff, needs expend no more force than this.
She knows that if he is held like this he will eventually die.
If not from the injury itself, then from the loss of his Master, once her own stops playing with his prey.
Berserker attempts again to get up.
And again he is shoved hard to the asphalt beneath him.
…But he does not stop trying.
If he were to be asked why…
…it is because his Master’s cries of pain have increased in urgency and are louder.
Something is very wrong.
He can barely lift his body, cannot lift his head, but he knows that he must go to Nessiah and protect him—
When he tries painfully to breathe and coughs up even more blood that burns his face—
As if through a haze.
He sees something that will be burned into his mind forever.
The one he was born into this world to love and protect—
……has been pinned down by the enemy on all fours.
His face and chest are pressed painfully against the ground with his arm twisted up behind his back.
His clothes are torn.
…His breathing is very painful.
And crouched over him—
His body is racked with fever and is shutting down, losing its ability to function.
……The beating that he took further limits his range of movement, and he is pinned so that he cannot fight back.
…Even so, he struggles.
He fights to shake off the greater weight and strength of the enemy who holds him to the ground and thrusts into him until he bleeds.
He is pale with the fear and the pain, and there are bitter tears on his face.
The reason in Berserker’s mind again boils up.
He is in too much pain to attempt to shift his body into spirit form, but he surges up with all his strength—
—and he is crushed and held to the ground by Caster’s foot on his back.
It is only when he realizes that his throat hurts that he realizes he has been screaming.
…It is only when he realizes that his vision is blurry that he recognizes the tears of rage and shame burning his cheeks.
Caster has pinned him like a stuffed bird, and he cannot move.
His blood is draining away along with his power.
He strains forward with everything he has.
……After ten minutes, Nessiah has ceased resisting.
He lies still as a doll, dead-eyed and soundless.
The only sound other than Berserker’s own cries—
—are the faint noises of pleasure and exertion that the enemy makes.
……Raping the one he loves in front of him and acting like it’s masturbation.
Berserker knows…, that this is a calculated action to hurt them both.
His body is already shutting down.
The Servant connected to him can sense it.
Berserker summons up the very last of his strength.
This is all of him.
This is his own self.
To use “this” with his wounds and his magical energy gradually leaking away will probably be the death of him.
And that does not matter.
The only thing that has ever mattered and ever will—
—He closes his eyes against the fake supervisor rolling his hips violently into the unresponsive body of his Master.
He closes his eyes, dives into his own heart, and finds the fire there.
And he prays.
With barely enough breath to speak the words—he prays.
Caster senses it a moment too late.
Berserker pushes himself up, draws a deep breath and fights the reflex to choke—
“—become my blood!”
The surprised voice comes from Caster.
…Well, there’s no helping that she’s surprised.
Her Noble Phantasms, the staff and her armor, have both been completely and perfectly dispelled.
And the world is warped.
The empty street they were fighting on—
…has become a barren wasteland.
Smoke chokes the sky and flame runs along the naked ground.
And Berserker is standing.
…Covered in his own blood, the knight with a solid hole through his chest stands and walks in heavy steps.
His Master is about six meters away.
Her own Master has retreated, knowing better than to continue taking his pleasure of the defeated enemy in this place.
When Caster attempts to connect her Magic Circuit for the instant incantation of her own great magic—
There is no response.
She stares dumbly at the man who ignores her completely for the sake of his Master.
…With just that, he has reduced her and himself to nothing.
And the burning field dissipates like a mirage.
…That was beyond him.
But that does not matter to him.
…As his armor threatens to melt away from his body, he carefully lifts his Master’s trampled body into his arms.
The body that was already ceasing to function is a ruin.
Most of the bones are broken or cracked, and there is blood at Nessiah’s nose and lips, at the corners of his eyes.
……His breathing is faint and his heartbeat is thready.
With injuries like this and the condition he was already in, he doesn’t have much time.
…He should at least have a moment of peace.
Berserker is more than strong enough to grant him at least that.
The white eyelashes flutter.
“Yeah. I’m here.”
…Pitifully, Nessiah smiles.
“You—came for me…, just like always.”
“You can rest now.”
Nessiah’s eyes close.
…But that smile does not disappear.
His breath stops.
…Berserker, kneeling still and unable to stand, continues to support his Master.
Until the very end, he must hold his form for Nessiah’s sake.
That is all that he can accomplish now.
The enemy Master—, Hector.
……That man’s footsteps echo on the asphalt.
Berserker looks up.
That man is standing there with a satisfied-looking sneer.
He bends down—
And with a terrible sound of snapping, he rips something like a lump of meat from inside Nessiah’s chest.
(14-1 interlude out.)
…Following Yggdra’s instincts, we came to this place with the high wall framing the road.
And under the streetlights—,
—is a spectacle like something out of a nightmare.
Great amounts of blood are splattered across the ground and wall like it’s the scene of a massacre.
In the center of it all, the great Servant in red and gold armor is kneeling.
—His breastplate is broken as though it was stabbed or pierced through, and a great amount of blood stains his body and face.
The quantity and the wounds he has means that it must be his own blood.
In his arms is the body of his Master.
Like the Servant, this body too has been “opened” at the chest.
It is covered in bruises and many of the limbs are twisted at slightly unnatural angles.
The clothes are ripped and bloody, and there are stains of what looks like semen along the inside of his thighs.
…Following Yggdra’s instincts, we came here in time to see Berserker reach his fallen Master, and to see Hector approach the defenseless pair and rip out Nessiah’s heart.
Even when Hector and Caster disappeared moments after.
…I feel as though my legs are frozen, and my eyes cannot really comprehend what I’m seeing in front of me.
…But Yggdra walks forward in slow steps.
She approaches the dead Master and dying Servant and I trail along behind her as if pulled magnetically.
I think that the only thing holding that man’s body together must be pride.
…The fighting form that was magnificent in Yggdra’s memories and in our battles has been reduced to tatters and badly crumpled steel.
……With the trailing edge of the torn cloak beginning to evaporate, Berserker stubbornly remains in this world.
Yggdra stops a few paces away from them.
…Her white shoes have stepped in the pooling blood and carry dainty splatters of red.
She does not speak, and her expression shows that she is suppressing her horror with all her might.
Berserker looks up at us slowly.
His gaze settles heavily on Yggdra as his breath rattles.
The golden eyes are very dim, and heavy marks like bruises beneath them further mar the pallid, bloodstained face.
Still, he looks at her.
…In desperation, in despair, he will not let go of his pride.
His voice is very hoarse.
…We heard him when we were two blocks away, after all.
Still, he says so with strength.
…It is his last plea, made to the enemy who came to understand him too late on the battlefield.
“I swear to you that I shall.”
Her voice is clear and does not shake.
I watch from the outside of the circle.
…There are tears on Berserker’s bloody face that were not there before.
As if relieved,
…the demon emperor of the long-lost country lets his head bow and closes his eyes.
Yggdra stands motionless and watches.
Berserker’s body dissolves slowly into dust.
…Shimmering…, white and red sand like volcanic ash.
It is late and the date has not yet changed.
…But we simply stand in the street as Berserker’s form dissipates, leaving his Master’s violated body behind.