Such a sense of familiarity. That was the sensation Saber felt as he made his way through Homurahara Academy to fight the Servant that had taken up residence there. This familiarity was not for his own high school, however; if that was to be the case, he would have to be visiting one of the more modern schools situated in the Shinto district. Rather, Homurahara reminded Saber of another place he frequented in life—particularly during the years that made him who he was now—which was a school and yet wasn’t.
At this time, Homurahara was also a school, and yet also wasn’t. A powerful boundary field permeated every nook and cranny of the grounds, warding away mere humans and inviting magi and their Servants to come and play. Though, given the outcome of his last encounter, “playing” was not something Saber intended to do here. The seemingly endless waves of familiars were dispatched with a single swing of his anti-mystery weapon. At his rear, his Master did the same, also with a swing of his weapon—a duplicate.
In short order, Saber and his Master, the beautiful blonde, arrived at the origin of the bounded field: a classroom on the top floor. Saber’s Master could tell that something was amiss. They were dealing with a Caster, so what lay beyond the door might be more dangerous than just another Servant. Saber nodded in acknowledgement and pulled a further two duplicates of his sword out of his body, handing one to his Master. Both now held two swords each, all of equal strength. Such was the power of his Noble Phantasm.
Their preparations made, Saber’s Master slid open the door. Together, the pair stepped over the threshold. At first glance it appeared that nothing had happened. Saber found that this place was exactly what one would expect when stepping into an ordinary classroom at an ordinary high school. That was disturbing to him. There was supposed to be some kind of alteration—a trap—a labyrinth—on the other side of that doorway, if not Caster herself. But there was nothing. As Saber pondered the situation, though, some differences began to stand out.
Even though it was late evening when they arrived, with the sun still visible on the horizon, it now seemed to be the dead of night. A massive full moon hung overhead, giving the place an ethereal glow. When he looked out the window, Saber was somewhat relieved to see Caster’s familiars; they were proof that he was still in the right place. But at the same time the sight was also disturbing to him: while earlier the familiars were man-sized and had come at him in hordes, now they stood dozens of metres tall and seemed to be demolishing everything in sight.
Saber baulked. What a disaster. Such flagrant disregard for the secrecy of magic! Such flagrant disregard for human life! Anyone would be furious. It was surprising that Saber’s Master wasn’t saying anything about it. When he turned to see her reaction, the uniformed Servant saw the thing that disturbed him most: she was nowhere to be found.
How was this possible? They had stepped through the doorway together. But that was of no consequence now. He had to find his Master as soon as possible, and he had to stop the enormous familiars from destroying Fuyuki City. He dashed out of the classroom and made his way down the building one floor at a time, searching for any sign of his Master. Once out of the building, Saber searched the others nearby. Surely his Master couldn’t have gotten far in such a short time. As he circled around the school and arrived back at the entrance, worry had started to show on his face. He hadn’t encountered either Caster or her Master so far. What if they’d absconded with his Master? Saber scolded himself. Idiot. He’d been tricked by the simplest magic, which even regular humans could perform: sleight of hand.
Then it was time to expand his search. For a Servant, searching the entirety of Fuyuki could probably be done in a few hours. But when Saber tried to step out of the school grounds, he found that it was impossible. Not that anything in particular was stopping him—the gate was wide open, and he was able to move freely—but no matter how fast he ran, he never got any closer to the road outside. He was trapped. Trapped inside the school, with a small army of gigantic familiars closing in on every side.
Wait. Something wasn’t right. If the city was really being destroyed, there would surely be people screaming and running—emergency services performing rescues—the local army fighting the familiars—but there was no one. Saber looked around. Not a single building in the vicinity seemed to be occupied. Not a single light was lit. The only living things here were Saber and the familiars. It was like another world entirely.
Aha. Saber had vague knowledge about this sort of thing. Some from his own memories, some from the Throne of Heroes, and some from talking to his Master. This was a closed space known as a Reality Marble, and it was the most immense one he had ever heard of. Unlike the closed space Archer encountered, whose physical shape was the same but whose nature was different, the closed space Saber encountered was different in both nature and shape. In actuality, he was still inside the classroom on the top floor of the school building, but it had been modified in accordance with Caster’s mental image to appear like the entire school and all its immediate surroundings. So this was the power of the Caster-class Servant.
There was still one problem, however. Saber didn’t know how to get out of the Reality Marble. He could only think of erasing it at its source, and the only way he knew how to do that was by killing Caster, who was nowhere to be found. If only his Master—or his mentor from back in the day—were around to help him. But they weren’t. The only person who could save Saber was himself. So he wracked his brain for knowledge about closed spaces like this one. It occurred to him that for the Reality Marble to still be active, Caster had to still be inside it. That in turn meant that both of their Masters were probably still inside as well. But where? How had they been hidden?
Saber didn’t have the chance to think about it, for the nearest familiar had finally reached him. It swung its arm—ten metres long and several in diameter—intending to crush the puny man beneath. If the familiars could feel surprise, this one would have at that moment: its arm was suddenly detached from its body and fell, evaporating before it could hit the ground. The rest of its body soon followed, dismembered with ease thanks to the anti-mystery properties of Saber’s two swords.
He leapt into the air time and time again, slicing through the alien beings like butter. His trajectory sent him dozens of metres through the air, clearing the gap between buildings with ease. One familiar after another fell as Saber showed his full strength. But for every one he slew, another rose in its place. Even though he counted no more than a dozen giant familiars earlier, that number never seemed to decrease. It was like a hydra designed purely to exhaust its opponent rather than overwhelm them; the very embodiment of a Sisyphean task.
This was an admirable strategy Caster had employed, if a bit underhanded. Casters were known for being physically weak and resorting to trickery to gain the advantage against close-combat opponents such as Sabers or Lancers. All she’d have to do is wait until her familiars crippled him then swoop in for the kill. And there was nothing Saber could do about it. It put a wry smile on the uniformed Servant’s face. At this rate, Caster should just kill his captive Master and get it over with.
But then there was a thundering crack that echoed all around. It sounded like every bit of glass in existence shattering all at once. Saber turned his head every which way, trying to find the source of the noise, when he saw a red streak zip out of thin air and embed itself in the ground not far behind him. It was incredibly lucky he hadn’t been hit. He couldn’t put it down to reflexes, or even instinct—there was only one way whatever that was had missed him: it was aimed at something else.
When Saber turned around, he saw Caster for the first time. She was a young girl, probably the same age as his sisters, and there was the hilt of an unusual red spear sticking out of her chest. Caster gurgled, incoherent words spilling out of her mouth along with crimson blood. She swayed and twitched, but remained on her feet, held up purely by the spear.
“Caster!” her Master screamed.
“I’m fine,” she replied, deadpan, the only intelligible thing she’d said so far.
The spear disappeared, leaving Caster to fall into the young man’s arms. Her body began to dissolve, no longer able to sustain itself. At the same time, so did the space around them, revealing that they were, in fact, inside the classroom on the top floor the whole time. It was an unusual sensation for Saber, seeing the world around him warp from an open space to the enclosed classroom without taking a single step. When the scene had returned to its normal state, Caster was gone.
Her Master remained on his knees, grieving the loss of his partner. At that height, he was easily dismissed by a beautiful blonde woman, her borrowed swords piercing his chest in much the same way that the mysterious red spear had done for his Servant. He, too, died, mouth erupting in mumbled words and blood alike.
Saber couldn’t contain his joy at seeing his Master safe and sound. But before he could greet her, she produced a piece of paper, unfurling it and handing it to Saber to read.
‘We’re not done yet,’ she said, flatly. ‘Courtesy of Lancer’s Master. He invites us to parley in exchange for saving your life.’
Saber was perplexed. “Parley”? Alliances rarely lasted in a Holy Grail War. There had to be more to it. But he could see his Master was set on entertaining the request.
‘All right. Let’s go.’
* * *
As usual, Assassin was watching. He had been paying close attention to this location since the first encounter here a week ago. It wasn’t out of any particular curiosity for the Caster girl herself, but rather that, since she’d remained in one location for the entire Holy Grail War, she was easily observed. And this time Assassin had seen through her trick. If anything was to arouse his curiosity, it would have been that.
But instead Assassin became interested in Lancer, who had literally shattered Caster’s Reality Marble from the outside and killed her in one fell swoop. Perhaps he had misjudged the albino Servant? There was only one way to know for sure. It was the only thing his own Master seemed to think he was good for: watching. Sighing, he set about following Saber and his Master to their parley. He needed to be patient. Justice would come to his cowardly Master in due time.
Fate/Cross features elements originating from Fate/Stay Night by Type-Moon