Chapter 2 : Morning

So tired as if she had gone through a tedious journey, Matou Sakura woke up later than usual in the morning. Thinking about taking a day off from school, the girl snuggled back into her blanket. The thick curtain prevented sun lights from entering her room but still, the temperature was gradually rising and the blanket became quite uncomfortable. Tossing away the blanket, Sakura lied on the bed with her eyes shut but she could not call back her sleep. Slowly rewinding the event happening last night in her mind, she could not fully believe it was real.

A mighty hero who had his name recorded in legends and myths, the one who carries on his shoulders the wishes and faiths of many people. Once a hero meets his end, his soul will not step into the cycle of rebirth like normal humans do, instead, he, along with his glorious feats which are crystallized in his ‘Noble Phantasms’, will ascend to the Throne of Heroes, a timeless place exists outside the mortal world. Invited to the world of humans by the magnificent power of the Holy Grail to participate in a battle royale and bring victory to a particular magus known as ‘Master’, that is the role of a Heroic Spirit called ‘Servant’. Therefore, ‘Servant’ is just a title in name only, he who is summoned here should not be treated as a humble familiar but rather a guest of honor. Sakura has learnt that, nevertheless, due to her deep hatred toward her mentor Zouken, his words only hold half-truth to her. In the eyes of Matou Sakura, a Servant, no matter how great his legend may be, once becoming a Servant, he is nothing more than a mindless robot which obeys the Master’s orders obediently and insensitively, just like her to Matou Zouken.

The incident that had happened last night changed her thinking otherwise.

Slowly rising from the summoning circle was a figure of a grown man clad in armor, his weapons were held firmly in his strong hands. His face, once became clear, made Sakura gasp in silence with its rare, gorgeous pulchritude. A beauty spot under his left eye like a grain of tear further enhanced his charming yet manly and valiant air.

“I ask of you, are you the Master that summoned me ? “

With a low and warm tone he asked her.

Momentarily mesmerized by appearance, Sakura was speechless. Behind her, Zouken shouted in a rare excitement hardly found in this living corpse.

“ What are you doing Sakura ? Answer him, seal the contract !”

Then he murmured to himself.

“To be able to summon one of the three ‘knights’ without an actual artifact, my efforts on her aren’t waste.”

Judging from his look and his weapon, he was definitely a Servant belonged to three ‘knight’ classes : Saber, Heroic Spirits of the sword; Archer, Heroic Spirits of the bow and Lancer, Heroic Spirits of the lance. He who was wielding two spears, a blood-red one in his right hand and a golden on in his left, each was releasing enormous amount of prana, was undoubtedly the ‘Lancer’.

“Yes…-with a bit of hesitance and shyness, Sakura replied- I am the one who summoned you, Matou Sakura is my name. “

Much to her startlement, the knight knelt on one knee and gallantly took her petit hand and kissed it.

“I, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, acknowledge you, lady Matou Sakura as my true and only Master. On my honor, I swear allegiance to you and shall offer you the Holy Grail with these hands.”

While Sakura was deeply moved Lancer’s pronounce, from the bottom of her heart boiled a pleasing heat when his golden eyes looked straight into her purple ones, clear and filled with utmost sincerity. With that look, Sakura felt as if she could put her trust completely in this man.

However, there was someone in this place did not feel anything about Lancer’s touching words. Rudely destroying the solemn romance that had just blossomed between Sakura and her Servant, Matou Shinji uttered his disgraceful request.

“Transfer the Command Seals to me, Sakura ! I’ll be the one to control him.”

In contrast with the gentle, loving look when he gazed at Sakura, Lancer stared coldly at Shinji, a glare full of murderous intent that caused every hair in his body to stand. Swallowing hard, Shinji protested.

“What’s with that insolent look ? Dare to look at me, your Master, that way ?”

“Sakura-sama is my true Master and only her orders will I obey. Open your impudent mouth again and you’ll regret it.“

“Sakura ! Transfer them to me, now !”

Sakura was clutching the back of her right hand, where the three strokes of the Command Seals were glowing. Each stroke will give her an absolute order that her Servant can never refuse, each stroke is a cord that ties her and this handsome man. When the last of the three disappears, he is free to leave her. So, in order for him to remain by her side, Sakura must treasure these strokes. Now Shinji was asking her to give them to him, how could she agree ? But, on the other hand, Sakura shivered with thought of how Shinji would vent his anger on her later.

Taking her silence as refusal, Shinji yelled loudly.

“Sakura, you stupid ! Are you listening to me ?”

“Sakura will remain Lancer’s Master.”

For the first time in her life, that hoarse voice of Zouken bore a bit of pleasant to her.

“Sakura, tell me his stats !”

Sakura did as she was told, using her newfound skill, ‘Master’s Perspective’, which allowed her to understand her Servant’s abilities.

“Grandpa !” Like a spoiled kid, Shinji rebuked.

“No, Shinji ! If you were to receive the Command Seals and become Lancer’s Master, due to your poor magical ability, Lancer’s stats will be gravely degraded. Plus, you don’t have enough prana to support him. So, let Sakura be the Master.”

“Fucking bitch !” Despite Zouken’s presence, Shinji hissed curse, glaring at her with eyes burning with flame of jealousy.

Unable to stand his Master being insulted, the sharp tip of the red spear immediately drew a few drops of blood from Shinji’s frail neck. The cowardly boy was too shocked to utter a word, his pants came wet.

“Take that back and apologize to her before this lance pierce your neck !” The knight coldly announced.

“Please don’t kill him, Lancer !”

No matter how she wished otherwise, Sakura instinctively pleaded for Shinji’s life.

“Such foul insult deserves blood, Master. “ The knight put more strength in his weapon, more blood oozed out but Shinji’s life was not in danger yet. This was the extreme accuracy one should expect from master of the lance.

“ S..sor..ry…Sa..kura…”

“Please, Lancer !”

“For the generosity of my Master your life is spared.”

The spear retreated and its pressure was lifted off Shinji. Witnessing the incident, Matou Zouken, who had stayed silent about the whole thing, frowned.

“Thank you Lancer. For listening to me.”

“That’s what a Servant should do, Sakura-sama.” Lancer once again gave her an alluring smile, which sped up her heartbeats.

“Sakura”

As if the voice rose from the earth beneath her feet, Matou Zouken spoke.

“Although you remain Lancer’s rightful Master, it’s Shinji who will represent the Matous. Order Lancer to obey Shinji with a Command Spell. You may stay away from the war.”

A Command Spell, an absolute order that no Servant can disobey, made by using one of the three Command Seals.

While Shinji’s face suddenly lit up with an exulted grin, Sakura’s heart sank in despair. Even crueler than plundering her status as Lancer’s Master was ordering her to make such a heartless command to the Servant she had just got attracted to. Lancer’s expression was not less terrified than hers. In a short time he got to know these people, he could figure out how powerful that old corpse Matou Zouken was to Shinji and his Master. Especially his Master.

Struggling between her conscience and Zouken’s order, Sakura already knew which would win.

The three Command Seals on her hand burnt and hurt terribly as if they reflected their owner’s agony. Looking at her, Lancer had already known how his fate was decided.

“ Lancer, by the power of the Command Seal, I order you to obey Shinji’s orders and help my brother attain the Grail.”.

The spell took effect immediately and Lancer’s body was under an incredible burden.

“Forgive me, Lancer.” Her eyes brimming with tears apologetically spoke to him. Anger burnt in his chest but its subject was not his Master’s weakness of character but rather those people she called ‘grandfather’ and ‘brother’, who took pleasure in abusing his Master.

With the satisfaction of having Lancer under his command, Shinji had spared Sakura a night of peaceful sleep, which she undoubtedly needed after the exhaustion of the ritual and the amount of prana flowed from her to Lancer.

A large and warm hand stroke her forehead snapped her back to reality.Since no one in this house would treat her with such kindness, Sakura could instantly tell whose hand it was.

“Lancer ?” She opened her eyes and saw the beautiful face of her Servant. Somehow, in his presence, Sakura’s heart felt a little at ease.

“You look tired and pale. Sakura-sama, are you sick ?”

“ No, I’m fine. Just need a little rest. You don’t have to worry.” Slightly pleased with feeling of his hand touching her skin, Sakura did not brush it aside. Anyway, who would brush aside the hand of such a beautiful and gentle man ?

“My Master’s health is what I should concern.”

“Someone as pathetic as me is not worthy of being your Master.” Sadly, she said.

“I have acknowledged your Master’s rights and swore loyalty to you. No one can change that.”

“Zouken can. Whatever he tells me to do, I must obey him.” Sakura smiled bitterly, at the same time, her peachy cheeks were wet with tears. No matter how hard she tried to surpress her tears, freezing her heart into indifference, Matou Sakura never succeeded. When she was alone, tears kept streaming down her face, reminding her how pitiful she was. No one would see her tears and try to erase her pain. Not even the boy she used to have a crush on.

A hand gently wiped away her tears, a hand of none other than someone she had just met last night. Abruptly turning her back on him, hiding her face, yet, she failed in stopping her shoulders from trembling.

“Why pity me ? I’m not worthy of your kindness or loyalty. One day, I might betray you again. Just like last night.“

“ What’s troubling you ? Please tell me “

“You won’t understand. Nobody understands.”

“Then, do tell me !” Lancer insisted.

“The problem is I can’t tell you. “ Sakura raised her voice, nearly shouted. “Not just you, anyone. That’s why I’m weak, I’m a coward.“

The knight stared at his Master’s with silence and confusion. He could somewhat understand her anguish but he could not figure out the real reason behind it. For someone who had just arrived last night, Lancer had yet witnessed the truth of his Master’s hell.

With tenderness, his strong arms wrapped around her shaking figure. Warmth quickly embraced her, softening her agony. This was the first time someone has been so close to her, the first time someone has held her, the first time someone has made her feel a tiny bit of happiness.

“There’s nothing wrong with being weak. You’re a woman and a woman must be protected and taken care of. That’s an honorable duty of men. “

“Who ? Who will protect me ?”

Her voice came soft and full of doubts. For a girl whose life is nothing but being bullied and tortured, matters like that are far too alien.

“As a knight and a man, that’s my duty. Sakura-sama, allow me to protect you until my last breath.”

Long long ago, there was a man who had said these words to her. He had also promised to return to her, to bring her happiness. However, after that fateful night, he had never come back.

She would never bear a grudge against that man for having broken his promise.

Because, albeit very young, she had understood it all when having looked at Zouken’s meaningful grin.

That man, her faint hope of brightness had perished.

Since then, she had totally succumbed to Zouken’s dominance; never would she wish for freedom or happiness again.

Again, a beam of light had creaked through the thick dark clouds that have been surrounding her life as fate brought this man, her Servant, to her. So blissful she felt when curling in his embrace like a little kitty that her dead hope seemed to slowly revive. Simultaneously, she shuddered with a fear of when that light would extinguish.

Would he remain by her side and fulfill his oath ?

Would he leave her just like that man had done ?

This time, what cruel trick fate would prepare for her ?

Instinctively, the girl put all her remaining strength into her pair of arms, holding his body so tightly that her heart almost ceased its beats. Buried her wet face in his chest, Sakura whispered.

“Under any circumstances, you must return to me, never to leave me.”

End of ‘Morning’

————————-

Altered :

Zouken : Shinji, you won’t have enough prana to supply Lancer.

Shinji : I can order him to steal energy from normal people.

Lancer : As a knight, I rather die than commit such a repulsive act.

Shinji : Grandpa, you said there’s another way to replenish prana, right ?

Zouken : Yes, indeed. But…it’s not suitable in your case.

Shinji : Tell me, grandpa !!

Zouken : Sexual intercourse. Considering the Servant is a male then…

Shinji :…. @____@

Sakura grew pale from disgust and Lancer had already fainted.

End.

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