Fate/Apocrypha 3 – Chapter 2 (Part 2)

Despite the softness of Chiron’s voice, his words hit Caules with explosive force.

“What…?”

Caules’s mind spun into chaos at the impossibility of what Chiron just said. Of all people, did the sage just voice doubts of his Master’s competence?

“H-Hold on, Archer. Just now, what did you…?”

Flustered, Caules looked at the shut door to Fiore’s room. Chiron spoke again, as though to calm him.

“There is no need to worry… my Master is fast asleep. If you do not feel at ease, shall we perhaps move elsewhere?”

“You know, I’m pretty tired too…”

He had also had a rough day – letting his own Servant perish, and getting caught in Spartacus’ fierce strike. However, Chiron smiled.

“My eyes do tell me that you are full of vigor yet. Might I trouble you with a brief talk?”

Despite his tone, it was clearly not a request in this case. Caules scratched his head and sighed. In truth, Chiron was correct; he still had some strength left.

“All right, fine… come on, Archer. Let’s go up to the watch-tower. We can talk about whatever we want there. It’s almost light, anyway. Geez… why do we have to do this now…”

Despite grumbling all the way, Caules did not show any sign of fatigue as he and Chiron strode down the hall together.

* * *

The tottering piles of books stood like a mountain of information material. He had hardly taken a step out of his study, his pen racing across paper as he worked. That was one thing that authors like himself would agree on; the convenience of becoming a Heroic Spirit was that you no longer needed to deal with food or drink or bowel movements. It was quite fortunate to be summoned like this once in a while – even though it was also quite rare for an author to be involved in such an interesting situation.

He stood up, taking a short break from his writing. His Master, Shirou, should be soon finished speaking with the others. Of course, there was the possibility that the other Servants would rebel against him, but that was not likely to occur. As expected, when he went out to the garden, he saw the three of them doing nothing in particular and simply watched the scenery pass by.

“Greetings to all!”

Shakespeare called out to them cheerily, causing Achilles and Atalanta to frown, while Karna merely nodded without any change in expression.

“Did you know about this…?”

Achilles said, disgruntled. Shakespeare threw his arms wide open and declared loudly.

“Oh, we are such stuff as dreams made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep… so yes, I knew.”

“Is he sane?”

“I wonder. Sanity and madness, are they not but passing frivolities? You beheld the answer reached by Amakusa Shirou Tokisada, at the ends of agony and despair. Why, I can only do all in my power to see his desire granted.”

“Aware as I am of your unsound mind, Caster, I dare to ask regardless… why did you choose to ally yourself with Shirou?”

Shakespeare shouted, practically foaming at the mouth as he answered Atalanta’s question.

“But is he not just so very interesting?! His is not the mean aspiration of reaching to one or few, but the salvation of any and all… the six billion souls upon this earth! And yet he is no saint, unlike those humdrum dullards with their deeds and good-doings and prayers. He warred, he fell, and everything was taken from him! Oh, how he must despise them… those men who stood for order as they unleashed carnage upon his folk, and them who had only watched from the wayside and lent no aid! Ah, and yet he does not… for they too shall receive his ultimate deliverance! Yes, he understands full well, that is the meaning of his goal. What suffocating pain, what mental anguish, what tragedy! Aye, our Master is terribly interesting… so you see, it stood to reason that I would rid myself of my stale former Master. For William Shakespeare serves no lord, only the story!”

Atalanta and Achilles had no words to respond. The man’s mania for the story itself far surpassed any of them. Shakespeare was indisputably speaking the truth in his mind. In other words, he had abandoned his older Master simply due to boredom, and served now only out of interest. The two might find the act unforgivable – but on the point of betraying Masters, Achilles and Atalanta were hardly different.

To begin with, Shakespeare was a highly renegade type of Heroic Spirit – he was an author. This aberration had gathered faith and belief for himself by weaving tales on his desk, utterly unlike those heroes who made their names echo in history with their courage, might, and cunning. He was weak, and practically powerless as a Caster; a Master with any sense for combat would likely best him in battle. In spite of that, he desired to enforce his will. His actions were neither lofty nor commendable; if anything, they were the byproducts a fevered obsession. However, it had carried him this far, and they respected it even if they could not praise it.

“At any rate, the Servants of Red are again bound as one. Berserker has fallen, but none can ask for a more fulfilling performance. Our issue now is with Saber…”

Mordred, the traitorous Knight of the Round Table – Shirou’s skill as a Servant finally revealed her identity when she had suddenly intruded upon them and saved Ruler.

“I presume she will take the side of the Black camp. And we may ignore the Assassin of Black who had yet to appear… that leaves a Ruler, an Archer, a Rider, and a Saber. It is a match of five against five.”

“Did you miss me in your count, Archer?”

“Yes. Would you prefer to be added?”

“Oh, no. It is most comforting, in fact. I am simply too meager as a Servant, after all!”

Shakespeare declared with pride. ‘That is not something to be proud of,’ Atalanta sighed. However, it was then that the silent Karna decided to speak.

“We each measure glory in our own ways. For this Caster, to bear no arms and wield no powers is his pride… in their stead employing a tongue of silver, brandishing a pen of lightning.”

“Your appraisal does me the highest of honors, great Karna.”

Shakespeare bowed deeply in reverence in gentlemanly response – the effect somewhat ruined by the gleeful grin he wore on his face as he did so.

* * *

Climbing a ladder, they reached the watch-tower of the castle. They were surrounded by stone walls, with slits here and there to shoot arrows through. In a regular siege, a bowman would be able to fire upon the enemy soldiers gathered at the gate. Unfortunately, their current opponents were Servants – although in all honesty, Caules had not expected the Berserker of Red to be such a terrible foe.

He faced Chiron with some hostility in his eyes – and great doubt in his mind. The Servants and Masters currently residing in this castle all respected the great sage. Yet he had dissented in regards to the abilities of Darnic’s successor, Fiore. Of course she was fitting, Caules thought. Who could be a better choice as the next leader? Holding back the impulse to protest, he asked coolly.

“So what were you saying about her, Archer?”

“It would seem that my words have been misunderstood… I fully accept Fiore as my Master. If she were to order me to take my own life, I would do so gladly.”

Chiron said with a wry smile. It seemed despite his best attempts, Caules could not completely hide the negative reception to what Chiron had said.

“What were you trying to say, then? I can’t think of anyone other than my sister who has the power to follow in Darnic’s footsteps.”

It might come as a surprise that the next in line following Fiore would be Gordes. Celenike and Roche had also been mentioned as candidates, but their crafts were simply too lacking in fame – not that it mattered any longer considered both were gone. And Caules himself was, of course, out of question. Even discounting the fact that Fiore was the older sibling, she also possessed both superior ability and character. The Yggdmillennias might have lost Darnic, but it would not wither away just yet.

“Indeed, she is perfect on the physical front. I ask, however, of her mental side.”

“Are you saying that she dislikes being a magus? I don’t think so… I mean, I’ve never asked her directly, but she doesn’t hate thaumaturgy, at least.”

“No, not on that matter. I am asking… do you believe my Master is prepared to take another life?”

At that moment, Caules’ words caught in his throat. Chiron’s face was darkened slightly by sadness.

“What do you mean…? Of course she is. She’s already fought with Shishigou Kairi once!”

“Yes, she did. And while I did not witness the entire ordeal, I believe she did well against a seasoned Magus. However… could she have maintained her composure had she won?”

“She…”

Caules could not think of an answer. What if Fiore had won? Would she have been able to endure killing someone, even if they were an enemy?

“Her heart as a Magus, and her own heart; I believe that my Master has kept them apart all this time. When the time comes, Caules, I believe you will be able to judge accordingly, and understand that it is the fate of Magi to fight, and to kill. However…”

“…you think that she wouldn’t be able to?”

In fact, Caules had begun to sense it somewhat as well. It was not so much that Fiore was soft or kind. She was persistent in pursuing the path of the Magus, to the point that she was able to ignore the cries coming from deep within her own heart. After all, to recognize the pain would be able to admit that she was not fitting. She suppressed it so as to act as a Magus ought to. In the end, however, such an approach was only the logic of a Magus – the option chosen by the program installed in her brain.

“Truly, it is due to her superiority as a Magus that none has yet to realize it… that my Master holds incredibly human views.”

Yes – she was humane, and unable to accept bloodshed or forgive deception.

Of course, Magi only fell back to killing as a last resort. On the other hand, that demonstrated that murder was an obvious solution to consider once they were pushed. Even the lowliest of Magi understood that reaching such a situation meant that ordinary laws and logics no longer applied. Even Caules possessed this mental preparation; at the very least, by the time he joined this war, he had already accepted all illegal acts, be they murder or otherwise.

Naturally, he did not want to be killed. It might be seen as selfishness, but he wanted to avoid dying if at all possible. After all, no one had to right to fault him for following his base mentality as a living creature.

“This is merely my own view, but am I correct in presuming that my Master had learned a wide vocabulary at a young age?”

“Well, I did hear from my parents that she started reading earlier than most.”

“As I suspected. She lives in this world as one will reading of it from stories. Such a view of life would be enough even for an exemplar Magus. However, if she were to take up the mantle… I fear the distortions within her heart would begin to surface.”

As head of the Yggdmillennia clan, occasions would arrive where she had to take stances and make decisions stripped of emotions. For example, the time might come when they had to forsake someone within the clan. At first, it would appear to be of little concern; Fiore was not one who believed in her own absolute truth, and would listen to and consider the opinions of the other elders. She would be able to judge on situations based on solid considerations.

Eventually however, the friction would begin. What if a Magus utilized an innocent human baby as material to develop a thaumaturgical theory that received widespread acclaim, with his only ‘crime’ being his failure to kill a commoner who had witnessed the act? The contradictions of being both Magus and human would only bring her pain.

When Caules tried to argue back, a memory came to him unbidden. It was a loathsome episode that he had always tried very hard not to recall, perhaps due to the suffering it had brought his sister.

“What is the matter?”

After some hesitation, Caules decided to reveal the truth to Chiron. He was their guide and shepherd; telling him would only help Fiore.

“We used to own a dog, way back.”

It took place far, far into the past. Their great manor, which would have been cared after by maids three generations ago, was now being cleaned by low-level spirits summoned by their mother. However, this could not protect the house itself from decay. It had begun to collapse in places, a shell of its former glory. That was where Caules and Fiore were born and raised – and where the incident occurred, a fleeting moment of their childhood.

“It was a docile stray that my dad had picked up somewhere. He was planning to have us learn more about evocation with it. But then he had to go on some urgent business, and we were left to take care of it.”

Chiron did not say a word and simply nodded, apparently already aware of how the story would end.

“It was a dumb dog, always playing around. I didn’t expect how dedicated my sister would get, though. Even with those legs of hers, she would still wash it and comb its fur using her favorite brush. Her own brush, you know? She even bought a book and tried feeding it all the different kinds of food. I asked her one day, ‘why do you bother?’ And she just gave me a weird look.”

‘Pets are supposed to be loved, no?’

Taking a breath, Caules continued.

“Even I knew what was going to happen… but she didn’t. Well, not that I said anything about it either. Heh, I just let it go by, a problem for another day. That only made it worse. Could I be any stupider?”

“It was killed, then. And for some sort of thaumaturgical experiment…”

Caules nodded and lightly kicked the stone wall in irritation.

“Our dad came back after about a week, all smiles and apologies. Then he dragged the dog in front of us and demonstrated what a failed evocation looked like. Her face just froze completely when she saw that dog with all its skin peeling off, screaming. She was gripping on her wheelchair so tightly, her hands were white.”

If she covered her ears, she would be reprimanded. Even if she cried, she would be reprimanded. Knowing this, she simply watched on.

“It took about a minute for it to die. Our dad had summoned a low-level revenant and let it rampage through its body. ‘This is what happens when you’re not careful,’ he said. And then my sister just smiled and answered, ‘we understand.’ She’s great, you know. She knew the best answer for the situation and managed it perfectly. That just pisses me off more.”

Caules spat out.

“And what happened afterwards?”

“She’s a model Magus, after all. She didn’t cry or throw up or any of that in front of our dad. But when we went to dug a grave and finally buried it, she cried her eyes out, saying ‘I’m sorry’ over and over again.”

After that, Fiore never mentioned it again, and got rid of everything related to it. Perhaps it was a blessing that that the first and last thing their father had killed in front of them. However, neither of their parents had noticed the change in her. Most likely, they were too blinded by her aptitude as a Magus. They had not realized that for a while after, she would vomit at the sight of meat, or that she could only sleep at night when Caules was there to hold her hands tightly. In the end, they only praised the fact that she had learned her lesson well.

Fiore never failed at evocation, because she feared failure from the bottom of her heart. However, what frightened her was not meeting the same fate as the dog, but what she had witnessed occurring again should she fail.

Like most traumas experienced by most people in their lives, this episode did not greatly affect Fiore’s life. She was not driven by madness or distress into harming herself. She simply continued to live and learn as a normal Magus. She found that she could eat meat again, and sleep by herself. Caules had also forgotten the incident, himself preferring not to recall it if possible.

However, if – just if – what had occurred that day still weighed down on Fiore’s mind… if what they had seen was still in her heart…

“…I’m not so sure that she can take it.”

“That is my fear as well, once I have left this world. Of course, it is not something I can speak of to simply anybody… but once we begin the pursuit of the Hanging Gardens, I will not have the time to express this.”

As Chiron said, it would be after the war when they had to deal with the matter of whether Fiore should become the head of the Yggdmillennias. In truth, it was not something that would concern the Servant, who would be returning to the Throne once the fighting had settled.

“Why did you bring this up to me?”

“Why would I not? For we who teach, it is our task to provide a guiding hand to those who are lost. I do not intend to neglect that duty even as a Heroic Spirit.”

“I see…”

As one would expect from the man – Centaur, rather – who had been a mentor for so many heroes. Speaking of which – it was told that among the savage Centaurs, Chiron was the exception, being both prudent and reasonable.

“You reckon that’s why you were summoned?”

Perhaps it had been judged fitting that the warm girl who lived her life as a human being amongst the Magi should be matched with the Centaur who once guided men in a world of violence.

“Caules… once I am gone, you are the only one whom my Master can depend upon.”

“I know that… I’ll talk with her about this. It’s fine even if she wants to quit being a Magus. But if she still wants to go ahead and lead the Yggmillennias… I can help out a bit too.”

Hearing his words, Chiron placed a hand upon his own chest in relief.

“Thank you, Caules…. I regret not having the leisure to guide you, as well.”

Caules shrugged. Archer was not his Servant to begin with; it would not be right for him to expect so much.

“I figured it out a long time ago… that a younger brother’s place is right behind his sister.”

“Is that how it is?”

Caules could not help chuckling at Chiron’s apparent surprise.

“That’s how it is.”

The Archer nodded several more times, seemingly impressed. Caules had not heard of Chiron having any sisters, so perhaps that was something new to him.

“I see… that is a wonderful thing to know. Truly, this world is full of wonders. There is much left for me to learn yet. Now, if you would excuse me… if you have need of me, I will be back where we came.”

“All right. Thanks.”

Caules waved his hand. As for him, he felt like staying here for a while longer.

“One last thing. I believe that you were a good Master for Berserker… and I suspect that she did as well.”

Flustered, Caules spun around – but Archer had already faded away into Spirit Form.

“Tch… always has to impart some wisdom, doesn’t he?”

Chiron’s words did not provide him any refuge. No matter what the Servant said, the fact that Caules had let her die a meaningless death weighed heavily on him. Besides, it was only Chiron’s speculation; not even a great sage such as him could not have known how she had truly felt.

And yet – Chiron felt that he could not leave him without saying it.

“Well, it’s fine.”

Despite the baselessness of the Servant’s words, Caules found that his heart was somewhat comforted by them. The display of strength he had put on since her death began to crumble.

“Damn… I’m tired…”

As he leaned against the stone wall, he found his strength slipping from him as he slid down to the ground – and finally, he began to feel sleep overcoming him. As his consciousness drifted, he remembered that he was in the watch-tower. However, his exhausted mind refused to move his body further.

* * *

Fiore and the others left the chamber once the discussion ended. However, Shishigou Kairi and Mordred would be returning to their den instead of staying in the castle.

“Well, we’ll be seeing you all later… but first things first, Ruler. You’ll keep your promise, right?”

“You remembered…”

Jeanne sighed at the satisfied grins on both the Saber of Red and her Master. It occurred to her then that perhaps pets really did resemble their owners.

“Very well. I hereby transfer one Command Spell to the Master Shishigou Kairi. Do you agree?”

“Damn right, I do. Give me your best shot.”

Shishigou thrust out his left hand and Jeanne grasped it lightly, murmuring a few lines of scriptures. One of the Command Spells on her arm was transferred over to him.

“Was that it? How utterly boring.”

Mordred, who had been peering into the exchange in great interest, seemed disappointed.

“What sort of spectacle were you expecting, exactly?”

“I expect we will be receiving that last one from you soon enough. We’ll be off!”

Mordred said before leaving together with her Master. With the departure of the tempestuous Saber, the chamber was left seeming strangely forlorn, deprived of the unusual air she radiated. Only Jeanne, Sieg, and Astolfo remained.

“Sigh… oh, yes. Can I have a moment with you, Sieg?”

After he nodded, Jeanne approached him and deftly caught his left arm to confirm the Command Spells on it. Her face clouded somewhat at what she saw – that the Command Spells had yet to disappear.

“Besides the first time, you also transformed once more to defeat the giant. Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“The Command Spells are crystallizations of prana originally devised by the Makiris…. by their nature, they ought to fade away once the energy is lost.”

“But these ones haven’t. Not completely.”

“Yes… it worries me. However, the fact that only one Command Spell remains is a greater concern. I shall transfer two of mine to you as well.”

“Are those the ones for Siegfried?”

“Correct. As I mentioned before, I possess two Command Spells for each Servant. As both the Saber of Black and a Master, you should have no problem receiving them.”

Jeanne began the process once more and true to her words, there were again three Command Spells on his left hand, their former brilliance returned. However, it did not remove the blackness on his skin – and more likely than not, that was the same case for the spots on his chest and back, something which he still had not revealed to the two of them.

“Should you be doing this, Ruler?”

“In truth, I do not know. By this point, the world has played host to over one hundred subsidiary Holy Grail Wars… but amongst them all, there has never been a Servant or Master such as yourself. I have no memories of ever seeing black Command Spells such as these appear, but…”

Jeanne trailed off and avoided voicing her thoughts, although it was something that Sieg himself had begun to faintly realize. These black Command Spells could not possibly be a good omen; there was something twisted and distorted about them. At the same time, however, these were what let Sieg wrap around himself the shell of Siegfried, allowing him to fight.

“Thank you. I’ll be sure to put these remaining three to good use.”

“These remaining two… you must not use the last one, Sieg. Do you understand?”

Jeanne wore an unexpectedly grim expression as she said this.

“Why?”

“Because it feels like a terrible idea! It is not possible for Command Spells to remain behind like stigmata. Do you understand just how miraculous your state is? And I believe that miracle comes at a cost. These Command Spells are taking something from you, Sieg… something important.”

“I don’t have much for them to take away… nothing worth a miracle like this.”

“In any case…! Sigh… Rider, could you please keep a close eye on him, as well?”

When he heard this, Astolfo – who had been trying for some time now to enter the conversation – nodded eagerly, his eyes alight. Throwing up a V-sign with his right hand, he said loudly.

“Got it! Leave him to me! I’ll keep both eyes on him! I’ll keep him… um, what’s the term… locked down?”

“Just watch out for him, please! That should be the first thing on your mind.”

“Maybe my last Master did affect me a little bit…”

“You too, Sieg… you are a Master. You need to keep a tight leash on Rider.”

“I know…”

…but he doubted whether holding such a thing would help him control the Servant at all. He would have brought this up as such as well, had it not been apparent that doing so would earn him the ire of both Servants standing before him. He elected to keep silent.

“Now… what will you do? I intend to return to the city for a moment. After all, I have yet to repay my debts after troubling the church here…”

As she spoke, Jeanne dispelled the armor from herself, and her grit disappeared along with it in an instant. An air of pureness and incorruptibility remained around her, but she seemed strangely embarrassed and averted her gaze.

“I… well, I suppose I should stay here, after all. I’ll borrow one of the rooms.”

To be frank, the castle was not a place of pleasant memories for him, but he could not deny it as his birthplace. It also provided ample protection even in its ruined state and they were not likely to be attacked. Besides, where could he go even if he were to leave?

“I see. If you need anything, please call for me. You must let me know if anything strange happens to your body. Have you had anything to eat yet? If not, you should settle that first. You are very much a living being now, after all. You must not starve yourself, understand? I am speaking from experience. Also…”

“Just hold it!”

Just as Sieg began to feel overwhelmed by Jeanne’s avalanche of advice, Astolfo pushed her away with both hands.

“Wait, Rider, I still have things to say…”

“Leave it for tomorrow, okay? Shoo, shoo! We’re tired enough as it is!”

Astolfo continued shoving her back with his Monstrous Strength.

“Y-You don’t have to be so rough… please, Sieg, be sure to get a good night’s rest! I will check with you again once you are awake! Good…”

‘…night!’ she was prevented from finishing by the door shutting in her face.

“Geez… who does she think she is, your mother?”

“Don’t ask me… but is she going to be all right?”

Sieg felt some slight concern as he thought back to the last time he saw Jeanne leave. She wouldn’t collapse again from an empty stomach again, would she?

“What do you mean?”

“Never mind…”

Now that he thought about it again, it felt too critical a piece of information to let slip about Jeanne. He suppressed his anxiety, reminding himself that she should (hopefully) be able to make it all the way to her lodgings before collapsing.

“Anyway, Rider, I should sleep soon.”

“Okay! Let’s go get a room, then. How about mine?”

“I… was thinking another room. By myself.”

Seeing as there was no danger here, they did not need to remain together in the same space. Rather than remain mindful of one another, they could both let themselves relax separately. Not to mention that it was Astolfo – but the Rider stubbornly insisted on staying in the same room.

“Well, all right. Thank you.”

“Ha ha, it’s no problem! Come on, go-go-go!”

Just like Jeanne, he was being pushed onward by Astolfo before he could open his mouth. Once they reached Celenike’s private room, Astolfo released the physical form of his armor, put his hands around Sieg, and pushed them both onto the bed. Sieg could feel the springs as the bed softly swallowed their weight – and instantly, his entire body was overtaken by exhaustion. All the while, Astolfo was lying next to him and chuckling.

“Ah… we’re alive…”

The Servant placed a hand on his own chest, and then on Sieg’s chest.

“We’re alive… we’re alive! Ahahahaha!”

Astolfo laughed, sounding joyous from the bottom of his heart. In time, Sieg reached the same realization as well. He had escaped from this place, and came back, and fought, and now he was here – but most importantly, he was still alive.

Yet, at the same time, a coldness began to assault his entire being – a sense of revulsion and nausea like slugs crawling and slipping through his innards. Sieg knew this sensation; it was fear. All the terror which he had not felt upon the battlefield now came back to him in force. His cold hands wrapped themselves around his body.

Why am I alive…?

The question was not philosophical but literal. He should have died today. How could he have survived? Facings down Servants to the death, fighting that giant – he lost count of how many times he had failed to step off the precipice of death. He could not stop the shaking.

“Oh, there we go. It’s okay! You’re all right. See? You’re still breathing. I’m still breathing. And that’s enough! That’s all that matters right now!”

Propping himself off the bed, Astolfo laughed and said loudly as he gripped Sieg’s hand. His voice managed to put on a hold on Sieg’s thoughts as the bed absorbed his cold sweat. Some warmth began to return to the homunculus’ freezing body.

“Sorry… I’m all right now.”

“Are you sure? I felt that once too, you know, back when I was alive! It was after I took back my reason and then had to return to battle. It was really scary when I finally realized that I couldn’t have done any of the things I did, if I were sane. I was sitting in my tent with a blanket over my head, just shaking the whole time!”

Chuckling, Astolfo began to speak of his past memories at length. It was certainly not a tale of his bravado; if anything, a normal knight would keep silent about such a shameful incident. However, it would seem Astolfo was not so vain.

“I tried to sleep, but it was just so scary that I would wake up and find myself throwing up. Really disgusting! It was so salty in my mouth and stuck to my lips… hmm, I think the night before, I was eating…”

“…stop. You don’t have to tell me what you threw up.”

“Haha, my bad… anyway, my point is that anyone would feel what you felt just now. So don’t worry! I’m here for you. You’re my Master, and I’m your Servant… heh, and to think the day would come when I got to say that with so much pride. I guess it was worth it to be summoned, after all! Sorry to my last Master, though!”

Astolfo confessed his feelings, expressing his joy with his entire being, and flopped back down onto the bed again. Sieg laughed.

“I agree… I’m really glad that you are my Servant.”

“Heh! It’s too early to be saying that, Master. I’ll show you… at the end of all this, you’ll be saying that again, and mean it… that you’re glad I’m your Servant!”

However, as soon as he said that, Astolfo’s face turned gloomy.

“Well, I mean… if you say that I’m weak instead, then I guess I can’t really deny that. But I’ll try my best.”

Why is he worrying about this now? Sieg thought. Strong or weak, fast or slow, tough or soft – these were not at all the things he needed from the Servant. Even if he were just a normal human being…

“…you are strong, Rider. At the very least, I will put my faith in that.”

Perhaps the lack of hesitation the Servant had shown in saving him – the kindness in picking up something which could have been left on the ground – was not a quality necessary to a Heroic Spirit. Perhaps a true hero was someone who would not let small things by the wayside distract from the greater picture, and had the courage to cast something aside when it became necessary.

Yes, that would be correct. If nothing else, there was not any merit to Astolfo helping him back then. That was all the more reason why Sieg held the uttermost respect for the Servant who had laughed off any such concerns and saved him regardless.

Astolfo chuckled and began pulling incessantly at his own locks. He seemed to be blushing.

“Nyahaha… thank you, Master. So, shall we sleep? It’ll be morning soon. If we don’t get some rest now, it’ll be night again when we wake up.”

Sieg agreed. He closed his eyes – and found that his fear of the darkness had disappeared. Perhaps it was due to the first rays of dawn shining into the room. Astolfo did not disappear but remained as he was; thankfully, Sieg appeared to be more suitable a Master than even the Magi here, as he had no difficulty letting Rider maintain his physical form this way. Now that he thought about it – the situation was much the same as before as well. Of course, the smallness of the bed presented a much greater ordeal back then, whereas this one was very large. There should be no worry of falling off.

What is she doing now…?

That was the last thought to cross his mind before his consciousness faded.

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