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Waver had expected the day to end at the peak of triumph with a successful summoning.
After the previous night spent in a fierce battle with the cackling chickens, he had studied in his bed this night, satisfied with the pleasant weariness of accomplishment.
"... How, did this happen?"
With a dry wind blowing strongly over the public park of the Shinto area, Waver sat on the bench, curling in the lonely coldness. He still couldn't understand, ‘’just how on Earth did my plan go wrong’’?
The summoning was a success. That was a satisfactory response.
Along with the successful summoning, the status of the invited Servant was still imprinted in Waver's consciousness. He was of the Rider class. Although that isn't one of the three major knights, his basic abilities still were at a more than average level. Without a doubt, he was a powerful Servant.
The moment he saw the silhouette of the big frame slowly rising from the summoning circle, behind the white smoke, Waver was so exalted he almost came in his pants.
... Thinking about it, the situation had turned for the worse at around that point.
From Waver's knowledge, a "familiar" is the puppet of its summoner.
An existence that can barely survive in the present world by relying on the prana supplied by the magus.
A wooden doll that can be used as the practitioner pleases. That's what a familiar is, essentially. So he had guessed a Servant would be basically the same, more or less.
But that thing that came out of the summoning circle—
Right from the start, Waver's soul was overtaken by the sharpness of the eyes, glowing like a blaze.
The instant the eye contact was made, he had instinctively sensed that the Servant was a mighty one, and was overwhelmed like a small animal.
The overwhelming presence of the giant blocked his view. From the body odor he picked up, the fragrant of the muscular stature, Waver understood. Never mind the quibble about him being a ghost or a familiar, he sure is a HUGE guy.
Waver knew that the Heroic Spirits invited by the Grail are not only free spirits; they gain a material "body" to exist in the present world. But, the cluster of massive muscles that was the actual entity, not a virtual image or a shadow, the feeling of impending threat, was beyond Waver's imagination.
No matter what, Waver hated the great man.
It's not just that Waver was, still, a bit shorter than an average person. Certainly, his body tended to be frail, because he had done nothing but study in his childhood, and had had little time to forge his body, but he didn’t think it was a weakness. Rather, Waver had pride in polishing up his intellect.
But, the truth of such an obvious thing wouldn't get through the big man's muscles. No matter what, the time lag before such a game with a rock for a soul would lift his fist and swing it down is way too short. There is no time to expand into a discussion however brief, and there is also no future in using magecraft.
That is— once he is approached by the fist of that pack of muscles.
"... So, I'm asking you. You must be my Master, right?"
That was the big man's second question. A booming voice that could shake up the Earth.
He had been overpowered beyond his senses from the first question asked with a voice you couldn't fail to hear.
"Ah— Yes! I-I-I-I'm, I mean, I am! I am your Master, I'm called Wa, Waver Velvet! I mean, that's my name! I'm your Master!!"
Though it really was useless in more than one way, Waver stuck to bluffing with all his might to stand up to the muscles in front of him.... Even so, he felt dominated already by the physique of the unaware giant.
"Hm, then the contract is complete. So, boy, can you lead me to some archives immediately?"
Waver was blown out of his mind for the second time.
"Some books, I'm saying! Books."
The giant Servant repeated himself gloomily, leaning toward Waver, stretching a strong arm that looked like the root of a pine tree.
I'm going to be killed— Waver immediately thought, feeling like he was floating. The giant had seized his neck and carelessly lifted him. Waver hadn't noticed until then that he had fallen flat on the ground. He realized that was the reason his interlocutor had, mid-way, started looking even more like a giant.
"If you are one of those magi, you should be able to provide some archive? Now, show me around. We need to prepare for war."
Now that the giant mentioned it, Waver simply had totally forgotten about the Holy Grail War.
Having lived as a blatant freeloader in a private house, Waver had no kind of archive, and reluctantly led Rider to the library.
The central library of the city of Fuyuki was in the public park in the Shinto area and was still under construction. Frankly, it felt awkward to walk through the city in the middle of the night —with the recent strange murder case, the police frequently announced a state of emergency— Waver felt that what the big muscles in front of him could do was a bigger crisis than being questioned by the patrolling police.
Fortunately, as soon as they came out of the grove, the giant turned invisible.
That must be an ability the Servants have, to go into spirit form. Waver felt relieved as he wouldn't look suspicious walking along a big man with armored cloth, but he still felt the pressure of being followed by that overbearing presence.
Luckily, they didn't meet anyone when crossing the big bridge of Fuyuki into the Shinto area; reaching the public park, Waver pointed at the modern architecture in the back.
"There should be as many books as you want over there."
Then, the oppression that was weighing on Waver softly went away. Apparently, Rider was entering the building in spirit form.
―And so, it had been 30 minutes since he had been left behind. Released from the threat he didn’t comprehend, he was finally able to calmly sort his thoughts.
"... How, did this happen?"
Waver buried his head in his hands, remembering his shameful behavior from earlier. However powerful, the Servant is his contractor. As the Master, Waver is the one who has to seize leadership.
The Servant Waver had summoned definitely was strong. That was a given, considering the history of the relic he had stolen from Kayneth.
Heroic spirit Alexander. Also known as Iskander or Alexandros.
The reason he was known under several names depending on the pronunciation of the land was that he was the heroic "King of Conquerors". Succeeding to the throne of Macedonia at only 20 years old, leading ancient Greece in an invasion of Persia, then through Egypt, up to western India during the great "eastern campaigns", and reaching the success of a great hero in barely 10 years. He literally is the "great king" who built the era known as the Hellenistic civilization.
Even though he is such a great man amongst great men, once he is summoned as a Servant he cannot oppose his Master. The first reason to this is that in the present world, he depends on Waver. If Waver ever stops supplying him with prana for him to remain in the present era, he will have no choice but to disappear.
There is a reason why all Servants answer the summoning of a Master― that is, why they participate in the Holy Grail War alongside their Master. Namely, just like the Masters, they want the Grail. Hoping to get that wish-granting machine, they also have to fight until only one remains, so that they will obtain the grace of the Grail along with the Master they accompany. In other words, the cooperation between the Master and the Servant is natural.
Furthermore, the Masters also hold the trump cards that are the Command Seals.
All three Seals can be used one by one for 3 absolute orders. That is what defines the relationship between the Servant and the Master. The Servant cannot oppose an order from the Command Seals, even if it is something as unreasonable as an order to self-destruct. That is the central point of the contract system made up by one of the "three families of the beginning", the Makiris.
On the other hand, the Master who uses up all 3 of his Command Seals is exposed to the danger of rebellion from his Servant; but it is a risk that can be avoided if the Master acts carefully.
Yes, as long as the Command Seals are carved on this hand― suppressing the irritation in his stomach, Waver, in a trance, stared at his right hand, chuckling― he might be a huge mass of muscles, but he has no reason to oppose the magus Waver Velvet.
As soon as that Servant comes back, I must tell that inviolable rule to his face...
Suddenly, while Waver was thinking, a breaking sound heartily roared.
Jumping out of surprise, he turned around as the closed shutter of the library hall were being distorted and torn off. The one who was calmly walking there, materialized under the moonlight, was none other than Waver's Servant, Rider.
With how dark the forest had been, this was actually the first time he could clearly see how he looked in this light.
His height easily exceeded 2 meters. His unprotected arms and thighs spread out from his bronze armor, and from the size of the muscles all over his body he looked like he could kill a bear with his bare hands. On his sternly chiseled features there were eyes with a dazzling glow and burning red hair and beard. The thick mantle dyed in a similar red, with fringes like his cuffs, was luxuriously decorated, looking just like a curtain wrapping the stage of a theater.
The magnificent posture of that big man in front of the modern library made a somewhat funny combination, but Waver took no interest in that as the alarms resounding like a shrill got him ready to flee.
"Idiot! Stupid, stupid, stupid! What were you thinking, kicking the shutters like that! Why aren't you in spirit form like when you entered!?"
Rider strangely smiled out of good humor, holding out two books at the defiant Waver.
"I couldn't pick up this when in spirit form, could I?"
The books were one with a thick hardcover and a thin one. Apparently Rider had taken them from the library. But his Master couldn't afford to disturb public order for something so trivial.
"Don't be slow! Run! We have to run!"
"How unsightly to be that flustered. You look like a thief or something."
"What thief, what's wrong with you!"
Rider was astonished by the threat in Waver's yell.
"You're greatly misunderstood. Those who run away under cover of the night are night burglars. Walking away victoriously is what the King of Conquerors does after looting."
You just can't discuss anything with him, Waver thought, scratching at his head madly. At any rate, Rider apparently wanted to parade through the night with those two books, looking like a suspicious cosplayer, with no intention of turning back to spirit form.
At the end of his wits, Waver rushed to Rider, picking the two books from his hand.
"You're done, now, right!? Now disappear! Disappear right now! Disappear immediately!"
"Ooh, then I'll leave this to you. You don't have to repeat yourself like that."
Satisfied, Rider nodded then became invisible again.
But Waver still couldn't feel relieved. The alarm of the library had to reach some security firm. You wouldn't know how long it would take for security guards to rush in.
Oh, what the heck, who cares.
"Aah, damn― How― did this happen, man!?"
Waver didn't know how many times he had lamented like that this night, but he just ran like hell.
When he reached the promenade on the border of the broad bridge of Fuyuki, he felt he had run enough to be safe.
"Ha―, ha―, ha―,..."
As someone who usually neglected himself, Waver felt his heart was on the verge of bursting from running such a hellish distance. Without the strength to even stand up, he knelt on the roadside― and took another look at the books Rider took from the library.
"... An anthology of Homer's poetry? And... A world map? Why?"
The luxurious book in a hardcover was from the famous poet of ancient Greece. The other thin book was a color print you would use for school.
From behind a puzzled Waver, a stern arm suddenly stretched out to pick the atlas up by the fingertips.
Once again with a physical body, Rider heavily sat down cross-legged on the road and, in a clatter, started to turn the pages of the atlas taken back from Waver.
"Hey Rider, when you mentioned preparations for war..."
"You can't start a war without a map. Isn't it obvious?"
Apparently pleased, Rider's face lit up in a grin, and he stared at the content of the atlas.
"Apparently the end of the world has been discovered, and it even rolls up in a sphere... I see, that's what we have when we draw the round Earth on paper..."
As far as Waver knows, when a Heroic Spirit is summoned as a Servant by the Grail, they receive minimum information so that their knowledge doesn't conflict with the current era. That means that even this ancient one should understand that the Earth is round. So Waver couldn't quite understand why Rider had acted like a thief to get something like a map.
"So... Hey boy, where are Macedonia and Persia?"
Waver felt discouraged at Rider's usual arrogance in calling his Master "boy" instead of saying his name; still, he pointed his finger at a part of the atlas. At that moment―
Waver was again dumbstruck by Rider's excited burst of laughter.
"Hahahah! That's small! Only that on such a big Earth! Hm, good! I was worried by an era where there is no unknown land anymore... But if it's that big, then I'm fine!"
Suitable for his big frame, Rider's laughing voice was grand. Waver felt he'd rather face an earthquake or a tornado than oppose a man of that size.
"Good, good! I'm excited!... And us, boy, where are we on this map?"
Nervously, Waver pointed to Japan at the far East. Rider gave a groan of admiration, and,
"Hoho―h, at the opposite of the round Earth... Hm. That too is very pleasing. Our objective is even clearer, then."
Grimly stroking his chin, he gave a satisfied nod.
"First we go halfway around the globe. Westward, straight west. We take over all the countries on the way. Upon my triumphal return in Macedonia, I will make all the people in my land celebrate my revival. Fufhuhu. How do you like that?"
Dumbstruck for a moment, Waver roared, still dizzy from anger.
"What the hell did you come here for! The Holy Grail War, the Grail!"
Rider sighed, bored by Waver's threatening attitude.
"But that’s just the outset. What's the fuss about―"
Rider sounded as if it had only just now occurred to him.
"Right, the Grail, I should have asked about that first. Boy, what would you do of the Grail?"
Unable to read Rider's slow tone, Waver felt a chill he couldn’t describe.
"... Why the change? Why do you ask?"
"I need to make sure of it. In case you too want to conquer the world, then that'll make you my enemy, right? There is no need for two supreme rulers."
It was highly unreasonable of the Servant to say that so carelessly over his shoulder, almost turning his back to the Master and his Command Seals; yet Waver shuddered violently from the hints of cruelty in the big man's audacious voice. The overwhelming fear made him forget his fundamental superiority as a Master.
"Th, that's stupid! The world, I don't..."
Choking until then, Waver suddenly remembers the necessity of keeping his dignity.
"Conquering the world― Fuh, I have no interest in such a vulgar goal!"
Rider’s expression completely changed, staring at Waver with great interest.
"Do you mean that there is an aspiration greater than wanting the world for a young man? That's interesting. Do tell me."
Waver sneered, then, with all his courage, started speaking haughtily.
"I... What I wish for, is only to be judged equitably. To renew the impression of my colleagues at the Clock Tower, who never acknowledged my talent―"
Before he could finish speaking, an unequalled shock hit Waver.
Roughly at the same time, he heard Rider roar in his loud voice "That's small!", but the shock and the roar were so equally strong that Waver couldn't tell the difference.
In fact, Rider hadn't particularly put more strength than for slapping a mosquito; but that was too strong for the short and fragile magus, and Waver spun like a top then collapsed on the ground.
"Small! That's puny! Ridiculous! Is that all the ambition you would risk your life in battle for? And you're my Master? That’s really sad!"
As if he couldn't accept it, Rider proclaimed so to the magus with an amazed expression, far from anger but practically lamenting.
Waver had never been confronted with such straightforwardness and violence. Being hit by the truth struck Waver's pride even more than the pain of his cheek.
Waver's lips shook with rage, the color drained from his face, but Rider didn't give it any consideration at all.
"If you want respect from others so much, right... I'll tell you boy, use the power of the Grail to grow by a good 30 centimeters. When you'll have a higher view over things, yeah, you will be looking at most people from above."
"You... you... u"
That was the greatest humiliation to him. More than rage, Waver felt dizzy as if suffering from anaemia, his whole body trembling.
Unforgivable. That was plainly unforgivable.
That big man, a Servant, nothing more than an attendant, had completely denied Waver's pride and got away with it. Even a god wouldn't forgive such an insult. To Waver's dignity—
On Waver's right hand, clenched so tightly his nails could tear his palm— power flowed into the three Seals carved on the back.
'By these Command Spells — guardian of the order of the Grail — may that man, my Servant —'
May Rider... make him what, exactly?
Of course he hadn't forgotten why he left the Clock Tower, why he came in this remote countryside in the far East.
It was all to gain the Grail. That's why he summoned a Servant. Such a crisis with that Heroic Spirit he bounded with may happen twice. After the third time— the Command Seals are gone. That means a decisive defeat as a Master.
The first of these serious situations could not be right now, could it? Not even one hour after the summoning?
Ashamed, Waver looked downward and breathed deeply several times; then by natural reasoning and calculation, he shut down the irritation in his heart.
Impatience leads nowhere. Certainly, Rider's attitude is hardly forgivable; but the Servant hasn't opposed his Master yet, nor has he disregarded any order.
Waver can brandish his whip only three times to hit this wild beast. Isn't it careless to use it when only barked at?
Having regained his composure, Waver finally looked up again. Rider was still sitting on the ground, disparaging his Master; or rather, having even forgotten his Master's existence, he was reading the atlas. Waver spoke at his incredibly wide back.
"If you can just get the Grail, then I have no complaint. I don't care what you will do after that. You can fly wherever you want, Macedonia or the South Pole."
Fu—m. Rider breathed dispiritedly —or indifferently, you couldn't tell with his nasal breathing.
"... Anyway. You're sure you have your priorities right? You will seriously participate in the Grail war?"
"Ah, I got it already, yeah."
Rider lifted his face from the atlas and looked at Waver from over his shoulder with a depressed grumble.
"The first thing is to beat 6 Heroic Spirits, right? That sounds troublesome, but certainly, without the Grail, I can't start anything. Rest assured. I'll get that treasure."
His speech was calm and composed, but Waver was not completely convinced.
Of course, that Heroic Spirit was not a deception. As far as Waver can grasp by being a Master, the Servant he had been granted has outstanding abilities.
But in a conflict, Servants don't only compete on skills. The Holy Grail War isn't something so nice that you can move on with big muscles.
"You seem very confident, but what are your chances of victory?"
With a daring provocation, Waver put forth all his bluff to scowl at Rider. ‘’I'm a Master, of course I can afford a high-handed attitude’’; that's what he is thinking.
"So, you say you want to see my power?"
Catching his glance, Rider changed to a quiet tone that somehow made Waver uneasy.
"Yes, that's right. Isn't it obvious? I need proof that I can trust you."
Laughing from his nose, the giant Servant pulled his sword from the scabbard at his waist. It was a valuable sword splendidly arranged, but it didn't feel like it had the prana of a Noble Phantasm in itself. Yet, when Rider took the sword, the dangerous atmosphere slowly made Waver uneasy. He can't be thinking of murdering me for my loud mouth...?
Without noticing his Master trembling violently, Rider lifted his naked sword overhead,
"By this one strike, I, Alexander, King of Conquerors, claim for supremacy!"
Having loudly called out to the empty sky, he violently swung down his blade at the empty space.
Just then, a thundering roar and a tremor shook the riverbed at night like a thunderbolt, in a magnificent shock.
His guts turned around, Waver lost balance and tumbled on the ground for the second time. If Rider's blade wasn't striking at anything, just what did it cut―
Waver saw it. The empty space torn apart, like a gaping mouth, and the absurdly powerful thing that appeared there.
And, Waver remembered just what a Servant is.
In the legend of a hero, there is not only the man that was the hero, but the anecdotes about him, his arms and weapons: all of this is the "symbol" of his existence. Those "symbols" are the ultimate mysteries that the Servant, the embodiment of the Heroic Spirit, carries as a trump card. Those are the deadly weapons commonly called "Noble Phantasms".
Thus― there is no mistake. That which appeared at the empty space struck by Rider, that must be, without a doubt, his Noble Phantasm. Hidden in this existence, the density of the outrageous magical power outside of normality: Waver can grasp that. That was a miracle that had transcended humanity, transcended magecraft.
"That's how I struck the shaft and got this. The offering to Zeus from the king Gordias.... It must be because the reputation of this that I landed the Rider class."
With a smile glowing with pride in front of that weapon, Rider didn't even sound like he was boasting; that must be the proof he has used it regularly, putting an immense faith in it.
"So, that here was only the beginning. The Noble Phantasm I really rely on is yet something else. Well, when the opportunity appears, I'll show you. If I meet a formidable opponent worthy of it, that is."
In awe, Waver viewed Rider in a new light. Precisely because he is a magus, he understands the destructive power of the Noble Phantasm in front of him. Compared to a modern day weapon, that would rival a strategic bomber. He would transform the whole Shinto area into scorched earth if he was left wild for not even an hour.
There is no doubt left. Rider here is the strongest Servant Waver wished for. His might already surpasses Waver's imagination. If there is an enemy this man can not defeat, then it has to be an existence that cannot be taken down even by divine punishment.
"Hey there boy, what's with the pale face, I haven't even begun yet."
Feeling malicious, Rider speaks to the fallen Master.
"If you want the Grail quickly, we should locate one or two Heroic Spirits rapidly. I'll immediately trample them.... In the meantime, I can look at the atlas to kill boredom, you're fine with that, right?"
His soul having left his face, Waver slowly nodded.
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