Lancer waited at the peak of Mount Enzou for Saber to arrive. In addition to her Master’s written invitation, she had stated her intent to Saber by choosing to eliminate Caster instead of him—or, more drastically, as well as him. Really, he should ascend the mountain and prostrate himself before her in gratitude.
At least, that’s what her Master had said. ‘We’re at a temple! If they refuse to bow for us, then they should at least bow for the resident spirits,’ he declared, face obscured by his interlocked fingers.
Lancer didn’t care either way. She was reluctant to seek out this alliance in the first place; it was against her very nature as a Servant to refrain from killing another Servant, after all. If not for her Master’s intervention, she would have eviscerated Saber as a mere matter of due course. But he had seen something in the plucky young Servant that made him change his mind.
He had told her of Saber’s powerful regeneration ability, his mystical weapon’s ability to be duplicated, and his keen sense for counteracting divine mysteries. They were, in the bearded Master’s mind, not to be trifled with lightly. Therefore, his solution was to ally with them to defeat the other Servants, then stab them in the back at the critical moment. It was horribly clichéd, Lancer thought, and anyone with half a brain ought to see through the ploy right away.
But to her disappointment, Saber showed up anyway, his female Master at his side. Lancer stood from her kneeling position and signalled her own Master. Slowly, Lancer indicated to her guests that she carried no weapon. Saber did the same in response. Then they crossed the gate at the top of the stairs and entered the temple grounds.
‘What is it you want?’ Saber’s Master asked.
‘You have been allowed to live. In exchange, my Master expects your full co-operation to take down the remaining Servants. If you prove useful, you may share in the Grail’s blessing.’ Lancer’s voice was cool and even, carrying an air of detachment to it. It served to enhance the mystique of her appearance.
The female Master snorted. ‘Haha. “Allowed”? You didn’t need to spare us, and we didn’t need to be spared. What makes you think your false generosity appeals to us?’
‘I don’t,’ Lancer’s Master said, stepping out from the shadow of the temple building.
‘You’re not making a very convincing case here,’ Saber noted.
‘There is a Servant present in this Holy Grail War that somehow exceeds normal parameters. It is likely that it will take the strength of more than one Servant to bring him down.’
‘You need our help, don’t you?’ Saber’s Master said smugly, her question rhetorical.
‘I prefer to think of it as you needing ours.’
‘My, how kind of you, offering your assistance to take down the big, scary Servant. Which is it? Berserker?’
‘No, Rider,’ Lancer replied. ‘He took down Berserker single-handedly and only gets more powerful the stronger his opponent gets.’
Saber’s Master was taken aback. ‘He took down Berserker…?’ Her own encounter with Berserker had very nearly ended her and Saber’s campaign in mere minutes. And this Rider supposedly won by himself?
‘How do we know you aren’t just going to kill us while our backs are turned?’ Saber asked.
‘Oh, you don’t,’ Lancer’s Master said. His chinstrap beard accentuated the unpleasantness of his grin. ‘I expect the same could be said of us for you.’
‘I’d prefer not to worry about it in the first place.’
Lancer’s Master narrowed his eyes. ‘Then I suppose you aren’t agreeable to our terms?’
‘No. People need to be able to solve their own problems.’
In the next instant, several things occurred. A swarm of roots burst out of the ground at Saber’s Master’s feet, conjured by Lancer’s Master. Saber himself dove in front of the attack, pushing the blonde woman out of harm’s way and drawing his swords. Lancer whipped her arm forward, thrusting her crimson spear at Saber repeatedly. Lancer’s Master fled back into the shadows of Ryuudou temple, content to let his Servant do the fighting. Saber’s Master recovered from her fall and got to her feet, also drawing Saber’s swords.
And then time seemed to resume its normal flow. The fight was on. Lancer’s strikes were immensely fast; she reeled back her arm and drove it forward like a snake attacking its prey. The twin-pronged spear in her hand made the attack sting like a snakebite as well. After only a handful of seconds, one of Saber’s arms was completely out of commission and one of his legs was crippled to near uselessness. But his standing between the assault and his Master was the only thing keeping her alive.
Even with two of her Servant’s swords in hand, there was nothing the female Master could do here. It was impossible for a mere human to fight a Servant, even bolstered by magic. Her only chance was to get away from this front of battle and make the bearded Master her opponent instead. As much as it pained her to do so, she abandoned Saber in his losing battle and sought out the smug bastard that had fled into the temple.
Saber himself was struggling. Though the Saber class was often regarded as the most powerful by raw strength, this Saber was at the very bottom end of that scale. Truth be told, everything about him that defined his existence as a Heroic Spirit was not even his own. His sword was borrowed. His regeneration was a curse placed on him by another. His strength was conferred upon him by the Saber-class vessel. He had no business being here, fighting this albino teenager with a nasty habit for stabbing things.
Saber chuckled to himself. This scene was somewhat familiar to him. It was funny how fate worked at times. But fate was also cruel. A matchup of a Saber and a Lancer was almost always weighted in the Lancer’s favour due to the range of their weapons. Even though Saber’s swords were exceptionally long, they were still shorter than Lancer’s spear. It was only the raw strength of the Saber class that evened the odds, but even that wasn’t enough to help now.
Lancer stabbed, again and again. Saber couldn’t touch her at this rate. But it was his Master that was in more danger. Her attempt to circumvent the clashing Servants had not gone unnoticed by Lancer, who was merely biding time until the female Master was out her Servant’s protective range. To her credit, the blonde woman was rightfully wary, holding her Servant’s swords at the ready and casting barrier magic between her path and where Lancer stood. Not that it would do much good if Lancer truly wished to break through.
And she did. Crippling Saber’s good shoulder to deprive him of his offense, Lancer immediately changed her target to Saber’s Master. She flung her spear at the fleeing woman, the weapon soaring through the air, piercing the magic barriers as if they weren’t even there. In a mere fraction of a second the spear had lodged itself deep into the female Master’s body, sending her flipping over herself to land on the ground in a rapidly-expanding pool of blood.
Saber shouted in anger. He launched himself at Lancer, his wounds already mostly healed. In his furious haste, however, he neglected to take hold of his dropped swords. Lancer seized the opportunity and recalled her spear, driving it clean through Saber’s heart. Saber too fell to the ground, but Lancer didn’t stop. She pierced his body repeatedly, striking any bit of flesh that remained unsundered without hesitation.
Agony was the sole thought that Saber’s brain could register. Despite his incredible regenerative abilities—and his equally incredible constitution as a Servant, for that matter—he could still feel pain, and the rate at which Lancer was delivering it to him was unlike anything he had ever felt before. If his eyes weren’t busy spilling aqueous humour all over his pulverised face, they would have been locked on the red eyes of his albino assailant, engraving her expressionless face into his mind forever.
This is taking far too long, Lancer thought. Saber’s healing continually kept him on the brink of death, but never allowed him to cross the threshold. There had to be a limit. She was right. Soon enough, Saber’s healing slowed. His appearance visibly began to degrade, beneath all the blood and severed tissue. Then, with a final stab to the heart, he stopped healing altogether. Saber’s body began to dissolve, disappearing like motes of dust in the breeze. Nearby, his Master’s shallow breathing also came to a laboured end. Lancer couldn’t tell if the timing was a coincidence or not, but it didn’t matter. They were dead.
‘Well done, Lancer,’ her own Master said, emerging from the safety of the temple once again.
‘You told me you wanted to ally with them.’
‘A mere ruse. If they accepted, I would have used them as bait for that brute Rider. If they refused… well, you’ve seen that outcome. They were weak. Unworthy.’
‘Then how do you plan to defeat Rider? You made me flee last time.’
The bearded Master smiled. It was in no way a reassuring smile. ‘Don’t worry, my dear Servant. I have the utmost confidence that we will emerge victorious. Trust me.’
Lancer said nothing. She didn’t trust her Master, but it wasn’t her place to act against his wishes. Regardless of her feelings, she would have to face Rider again eventually. Archer, Berserker, Caster, and now Saber were dead. Rider was the only other threat left. The time had come for this Holy Grail War to reach its conclusion.
* * *
Except Lancer had neglected to consider the man in the suit now descending Mount Enzou. That man wasn’t surprised; many Masters and Servants had forgotten about Assassin in many Holy Grail Wars. It was to be expected of a class that specialised in remaining hidden in the shadows. As such, Assassin was surprised that no Servant of his class had yet won the Holy Grail. Granted, no winner had yet been ordained in any of the iterations thus far. All those magi had killed and been killed for nothing but their sinful ambitions. At least, in that respect, there was some justice being served.
Assassin put the thought out of his mind. Like Lancer’s Master, he too had the utmost confidence that he would emerge victorious. For now, he needed to return to his ungrateful Master. Assassin had had his fill of observing. It was time to start being proactive. It was time to start winning.
Fate/Cross features elements originating from Fate/Stay Night by Type-Moon