You don't have to ask.
The answer is yes.
How could she not?
She would be cruel not to feel that way.
Any honor he once had disappeared in those fleeting seconds.
Even here, in such a realm, her soul still tied to the holy grail—one she believed she had destroyed—she laments about what happened.
The only person who she truly had fun with, who reminded her of both the honor and excitement of battle; of challenge. The past lancer was a formidable opponent, unmatched by most. His fair gaze, beauty mark bewitched, slight smirk to his lips held such boyish happiness. Despite how sorrowful and angry he looked in his final moments.
Those are things she will never forget. Those are things she wills herself to remember, to hold against herself.
"I'm...sorry.." she whispers, alone in this dark realm, with other warriors sitting just as alone, somewhere else. Perhaps just as miserable. Awaiting a single moment of time so that they could be revived. And for what?
For glory? Greed? Selfish hopes they could not achieve when they had been alive? If they are dead, perhaps it is for a reason. If they are dead, why waste such time on such a thing as the Holy Grail War. What terrible tragedies it has dragged along with it.
She lost a friend, in such a dishonorable way that she can only rightfully blame herself for.
Clutching her saber, she nibbles on the inside of her cheek.
Stupid. Again. You made a foolish decision and more suffered because of you!
If she could do it all again, she would apologize to Lancer. She would beg for forgiveness and take responsibility for the actions of her past master. One she despises, one without emotion. Selfish.
In her head, sitting in this realm, waiting to be summoned, she has thought about many things. After a decade of waiting, her mind probes all her faults, picks at all her past decisions with a critical eye.
I could have done something. Said anything to comfort him in those last few seconds. Yet I—stepped away from him.
Lancer had preached the honor of battle with such passion, it was inevitable that she would suddenly feel that same passion reinforced within her. Then how quickly it diminished when he turned his dark and angry gaze towards her, blood seeping from his lips and eyes; sharp and glowing unnaturally.
"How useless it all is. How useless my dreams are...I wish—" she breaths out, a sudden weakness overcoming her, "I wish I had never—"
The words do not escape her. She pauses in her lonesome muttering and jumps to her feet. Her grip around the hilt of her saber tightens immediately. The ground rumbles beneath her feet, like thunder from above striking the floor.
Across the "sky", a splinter of lines seeps through the foggy mist. The rumbling turns into a roar. It's as if the world is splintering before her and she reaches out towards the sudden light seeping through the cracks. If she could ever wish for one thing, with all her heart, it would be to end this slavery she cast upon herself and seek redemption.
She would protect what needed to be protected if given another chance. If given another chance—
The world around her tilts and she is falling into the light. Her saber glides with her and she reaches out desperately, fingers curling around the hilt, dragging it against her chest in a feeble attempt.
The light is immense as she falls into it and she wonders for a moment if she has truly, fully died at this moment. It is warm, fluffy. Her limbs turn numb and she is simply floating in this bubble of warm, brilliant light. She can see, behind her eyelids, flashes of memory. Painful ones, her past. And now, added to it, are the memories of the last Holy Grail War. Fighting Lancer, her fierce and competitive desire to win. Her meeting with Rider and Gilgamesh, their mocking stares as she spoke of a dream that seemed misplaced and idiotic. Her horror as Caster appeared as a monster and then her gratitude, her slight happiness when Lancer snapped his lance for her. The look in his eyes, one of contentment. His trust in her.
Then all of it disappearing in that last moments of his life. Blood pouring from his wound, his body slumped over in pain, red lance pierced straight through his back. It makes her heart wrench painfully.
Destroying the grail, her mouth open in a shrill scream, horrified eyes pleading Kiritsugu to spare the very instrument she lost her friend over, she gave her life to. The sting of that grail breaking and her heart lurching sends flames of rage through her.
Then she opens her eyes, fluttering her lashes against the brightness and searching for any discernible shapes. This is not heaven and she is not dying. She is falling. The ground is rushing towards her, a splotch of green. She hits the ground with a harsh thud. Sharp pains race up her ribs, making her bones ache deep into the muscle. Still clutching her saber against her chest, she groans.
The grass against her skin is soft however, ticklish almost. A soft breeze. It is all so peaceful.
Has she been summoned?
But it never felt like that before. It never felt so...freeing.
Blinking, Saber rises to her feet, still adorned in her armor and dress. Across a wide expanse of green, she sees the movement of other bodies. She claps a hand over her sword and drags her feet backwards, forming distance between the familiar faces.
Never have all the same warriors ever been summoned together before. Rider, Berserker (her heart lurches in pain) and Assassin have moved to their feet. The same alarm flashes across their gazes, all except Rider, who flashes his usual grin.
His laughter is raucous, interrupting the fear and suspicion brewing between the following servants.
"What is the meaning of this?" Saber lifts her sword, the scabbard slipping to the ground. Assuming her stance, the other servants (minus Rider) follow.
Rider flaps his hands out, blocking Assassin and Berserker from moving.
Something isn't right. This does not feel like a war nor does she feel obligated to fight. What is even more strange is Berserker. Someone she had known and hurt in the past, a man whose face she will never forget—is strangely calm. He has not charged her, or roared out in fury, nor done anything rash and erratic. Despite being here for a few seconds only, the berserker in the past would have most likely attacked anything a foot away from him in those same mere seconds. So why does he not attack now? Why does he seem stoic and calm?
Still foolishly grinning, Rider takes a thunderous step forward, "Hello King Of Knights! Will you still refuse joining my army?"
Grimacing, saber tightens her grip around her saber, slipping her teeth over her bottom lip, "You offend me greatly Rider. As usual."
His smile does not fade, in fact, it grows wider.
For a moment, she wonders if he's going to ask again, and she firmly stands her ground, flashing him a sharp glare. But then his bright and gleeful eyes shiver, to the spot just above her shoulder.
"We are not the only ones, it seems! More have joined!"
Whirling around, Saber minds that lurking behind still lies danger, three servants at her back and two more trudging towards her front.
Her stomach knots and her eyes widen as she spots the familiar green material, tight against toned muscle and large legs, two lances swinging precariously around nimble fingers.
She nearly drops her saber. She doesn't but her grip loosens considerably and she can't help but keep her eyes from flicking up to his face. In fear that his eyes may be filled with the similar rage he died with.
Beside him, someone who is none to happy to be standing beside Lancer, is a man with golden hair. Unlike the rest of the servants however, he wears civilian clothes and in his hand, he holds a square device. As most servants are inclined to do, she immediately is informed of the world around her. Of the technological advances and much about the capabilities of the phone in Archer's hand.
While the rest of the servants wear the clothes they were summoned in and most died in, Archer moved with an air of comfort and elegance.
Which means he's been living for a long while. Regardless of the fact that he should have been dead.
His gaze captures Saber's startled one and his lips turn up into a slight smirk. She can already sense his arrogant thoughts burning into her skin.
She's caught off guard by Rider's large hand slamming down on to her shoulder. Saber hisses and slips out from under his grasp, putting distance between each servant. She is most untrustworthy of Assassin, Beserker and Archer but she can imagine that if Lancer's anger has lingered, then he will feel inclined to attack her as well.
Rider, she isn't so sure he will openly attack. Yet.
"I thought I sensed a change in the air." Archer's smirk doesn't fade, in fact, it grows wider. He slips the phone into his back pocket and then splays his fingers outward, a portal of gold forming above his open palm. In his hand, a pristine wine glass falls, filled with pure red wine, smooth like velvet.
He presses the glass to his lips, far too nonchalant and knowing much more than she imagines he lets on.
He must. Archer has always been conniving.
"This is strange," the voice is polite but masked with slight annoyance, a hint of poison between the words of a deep, calm tone, "What is more offsetting is that we are all here...not one new servant."
Saber glances up at him, cautiously, her gaze shielded. He isn't looking at her, he's watching Archer with his own guarded and shaded look but seeing his expression, his fair face—she is reminded immensely of his smile. Not because of his handsome face, she knew he was handsome, it never bothered her truly, but because she is reminded of the fact that his smile had once held respect. A sweetness, an excitement that ignites a fire of competition within her.
He is—was, a true friend.
She notices the muscles in his neck flex and she quickly removes her gaze, locking it harshly on Archer's eyes, meeting his calming smirk with a harsh grimace of her own.
Rider glances over his shoulder, "It goes unsaid that this is all new. And this can't have something to do with the war. We have no masters. We must be—the only answer could be that we are free."
This time, she allows the saber to slip from her fingers. It lands stabbed into the ground, sinking into soft dirt and swaying grass, "Impossible."
Archer swirls his wine, "Is it? I have been living amongst humans for a long while. All with my abilities intact."
Saber growls beneath her breath, "That is something we should discuss as well. How in the world have you survived since the last holy grail war? And why did you not return as we did?"
Archer's smile persists. Frustratingly, she feels the urge to take up her sword once more and slice him in two, but she reins in her anger when Lancer interjects, "There isn't a need to fight. Rider is right. Something is different. I don't feel the power of the grail or the pressure of war. Or the chains of a master. What other answer is there except that we are free?"
This time, without thought, she swivels her head towards Lancer, forgetting that she had been ignoring his gaze, "Why now? How could this—" she swallows and quickly turns to Rider—realizing how strong Lancer's eyes had been, a honey swirled yellow nearly, locked on her own eyes—tongue twisting over her words, coming out in a strangled gulp, she manages to finish, "Be possible?"
Rubbing his jaw, Rider frowns, although the expression truly doesn't fit his often bubbly face. Neither of them have answers and before they can come up with a doubtful explanation, rocking and thunderous steps boom from behind them. She grabs her saber but stills in shock as Berserker stomps over towards them. He groans and then murmurs, as if the sound is coming out like a low growl from his throat, "Free...dumb..."
Tapping his chest, he forced words out again, slowly, more enunciated and focused, "I. Feeeel. It."
Saber's chest constricts. Is it only she that refuses to go about this situation based solely off of feeling? Why does it feel so unnecessarily wrong? Or as if this will be short lived?
Archer's glass sits empty in his hand, "What does it matter? If you have no masters, why stay and fight. I have been here for many years already and there has been no sign of any more mages or a holy grail."
Lancer is watching her. She can feel the heat of his gaze but it is impossible to discern if it is blank or furious, "We could try. To live a normal life. Be on our ways. Would it be so bad to believe in a miracle like this?"
Shaking her head, Saber's heart pounds, "It isn't right? Why would any of us deserve a miracle like this?"
"Those are answers we may never know," Rider interrupts before Lancer can reply. He stands with his mouth open and eyebrows furrowed, whatever argument they nearly faced is stopped quickly. Both of them find their sense of calm.
Rider continues, "I refuse to fight, especially when no award exists nor a master. Perhaps I will find my previous master, see how he has grown?"
She hardly wants to see that man again. Kiritsugu. Evil. Emotionless. Dishonorable. The man who hurt Lancer, a friend with dignity that her master had taken.
"That isn't something we should do? We should stay here, find a way back into the realm."
Archer laughs gleefully, "You want to go back?!" He laughs so hard that he must wipe comically at his eyes.
Lancer stabs his weapons into the ground, standing straight, chin up.
"There is no way I am going back to a life as a servant and prisoner. I want an honorable life."
The words sting her and Lancer flashes her a sharp gaze, one filled with mistrust, in her direction.
She understands everything he thinks about her. He sees a past servant who stepped away and allowed her master to force a man to suicide.
She regrets ever stepping back from him, ever meeting a man that she regarded as her friend. And who she assumes now hates her.
Rider glances at Berserker, "It seems we all want the same thing," turning his gaze to Saber, his eyebrows raise, "King of Knights?"
Saber grips her saber, squeezing the holt into her palm. She kneads it deeper into the ground, "How can you all feel so settled? This is all suspicious, we have no answers as to why this has occurred. And him—"
She cocks her head towards Archer, who watches her with a bemused smirk. Berserker huffs, a slight hint of annoyance at the appearance of Gilgamesh, but does not attack.
Glancing past Berserker, Saber grits her teeth, "Assassin! He can't leave. He is hardly even one person. You would want to send a servant like that into the world and—"
She pauses. Swiveling around, she eyes the clearing, a vast expanse of green grass flowing in the breeze.
"Where is Caster?"
Panic seized her but she attempts to still her pounding heart, still tilting her head to search for the familiar, grotesque expression of that terrible servant.
This time, there is a hush among the group. Archer scoffs, "Perhaps that animal wasn't freed. We are all free of terrible crimes...or perhaps he has been living among people. As I have."
"Impossible. He's far too unstable to live normally. He'd have killed again."
Archer shrugs, "A dog of inferior intellect has no purpose on this Earth. Some of you shouldn't even be here," his eyes slide towards Saber, "Except my wife, she is the only one with a place here."
A cough, "I hardly believe any of us are free of crimes or truly belonging in this world. We died once in history..." Lancer must be watching her because Saber can sense the irritation in his tone.
She resists the urge to bite back, rather, knowing she should understand why he is so angry. She soaks it in, allows it to wash over her. It seems to only irritate him more because his eyebrows furrow and his lips turn down into a deep frown. She says, calmly, "We must find him."
"We?" Archer snickers, his wine glass disappearing through a small golden portal, "You are so adorable when you wish for the impossible, aren't you?"
Saber growls under her breath, turning towards Rider, "Surely you agree with me. Caster is a danger to this world. It is our responsibility to find him!"
Rider shrugs, "And do what, little girl? Murder him? We have no masters, we are liable to this world's laws."
"It—" she bites her cheek, cheeks flaring with slight color, "We must do this. We owe it
to these people to take responsibility. We are servants and if Caster is out hurting others, it is our job to stop another servant. Stop him from killing innocent people! Please, fellow servants, help me stop him."
"I refuse." Rider stands his ground before Saber, unimpressed and not very moved by her passionate outburst. He scratches the back of his neck, "I am sure your worries are misplaced. You killed caster yourself which means that if he is not here—"
"Then he has not been freed." Lancer grabs his lances, turning his head away from her, "You are spouting nonsense. Enough already."
He would have sided with her before. Or at least not been so cold. She huffs, "We can't know that for sure."
"It's the only logical outcome," Assassin appears beside her. She flinches away.
Assassin's wispy form shimmers, shadowy tendrils floating from his back, "We only want to live normally. Leave it be."
Berserker steps back, "Good. Bye."
She whirls around, watching the large figure slowly lope off, his shadowy armor nearly shimmering in the sunlight. Assassin glances around the group, "I hope to never see any of you again."
She can't leave this be. A servant like assassin isn't capable of living in normal society. His abilities only serve in darker parts of the world, in shadowy business and jobs. Murder. Berserker as well. Where will he go? How will he survive, unable to speak, hardly intelligent and prone to anger?
Archer hums with amusement, "This was all interesting but now it bores me. Please visit me again my lovely wife," he flips a white card towards her and Saber swipes it out the air. Glancing down, it reads his name in fancy lettering and then an address she cannot discern. When she looks up again, he has disappeared in a golden shimmer of lights.
Now only Rider and Lancer remain and both of them don't seem inclined to stay.
Rider reaches for her and Saber slaps his hand away, giving him a fiery look, "Don't touch me."
He rolls his eyes, "Now is not the time to fight. Perhaps it is all you know little girl, and I wonder how well you will do in this world. But you cannot run around in armor for much longer, welding a sword. Our powers will stay hidden, I suggest you learn to live in this world rather than the past. Good luck."
And in the air, grey clouds rolling through, and blue lightning striking, a chariot comes down. He waves happily, his grin wide, "Goodbye fellow servants, if you ever need me, I will be with my old master!"
He is gone, bellowing laughter lost to the sudden harsh wind. She covers her eyes as debris and dust flashes into her face, heart thudding in her chest. She turns to Lancer,
He turns his head and mutters something but she cannot discern what it is. His figure disappears into the air and he is gone. She stands alone, sword still stabbed into the ground, dress flying in a strong breeze.
How is she to survive? When all her worries seem misplaced, when she is stuck in a past life, refusing to accept a miracle she feels she does not deserve.
She falls to the ground, suddenly losing her strength. She keeps her hand locked around the hilt of her saber, head tucked against her chest.