First Encounter (Repost)

Based on Diarmuid Ua Duibhne and Oscar, characters from the Fenian Cycle of the Irish mythology

Rating : T

Genre : Friendship

Characters : Diarmuid, Oscar

Diarmuid's appearance is heavily based on the character Lancer - true identity: Diarmuid Ua Duibhne  (Fate/Zero series)
Diarmuid’s appearance is heavily based on the character Lancer – true identity: Diarmuid Ua Duibhne (Fate/Zero series). Oscar’s appearance is my pure imagination

Preview : It took place years ago, before Diarmuid’s legendary flight with Grainne, and of course, before his painful death by the jealous hand of his trusted leader, the encounter that marked the friendship between two boys who later grew up to be two mighty warriors of the Fianna.

When his grandfather, his mighty, honorable grandfather brought a young boy to the Fianna, Oscar was in perplexity. Judging by his look, the boy could very well be younger than Oscar himself. And Oscar was the youngest in the Fianna. Since he was son of Oisín and grandson of Fion, he found his place in the Fianna at such a young age. But lineage was not what mattered here; it was skills and valor that did. Oscar’s feet were strong and quick and his javelin rarely missed its aims. But for his fighting prowess which proved to be a real challenge even for accomplished warriors, Oscar would not stand amongst the proud warriors battling under his grandfather’s name.

That was the reason for Oscar’s perplexity. The Fianna would normally accept adolescents and above to their rank and even those who got in had had to overcome a series of seemingly impossible trials, which he was certain, a frail- looking boy like this one could not pass in a hundred years.

Oscar began to eye the boy from head to toe with an air of superiority. Oscar was older; therefore he was bigger in build. Because of all the harsh training he received day after day, he was in better shape. Fine muscles rippled on his long limbs and his skin sported a healthy bronze. The boy, on the other hand, was shorter and lean. His complexion was fair as a girl and on a careless glance, he could very well be mistaken as one.

“Why did you bring him here?”. He voiced out his untamed thought, questioning the wisdom of his grandfather.

Noises immediately broke out after him. Some would agree with Oscar; some would protest while others openly displayed their defiance toward Fion’s decision. Oscar took a glance at the boy and was surprised to see him standing unfazed. It was as if all the objections to his entrance did not concern him, the boy said not a word. He simply stood there, wearing an expressionless mask on his pretty countenance and waited for Fion’s order. His serenity, whether fake or genuine, impressed Oscar and the older boy found an odd admiration toward the younger one.

Fion’s voice bellowed, putting the crowd to silence. Everyone, including Oscar, turned to their trusted leader.

“This young man is Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, son of Donn and foster son of the great Aengus*. However, origin does not matter as a Fian found his place with his courage and strength. To accept the challenge to become a warrior of ours is his reason to stand here.”

His hawk eyes scanned the group, searching for signs of protest. When none was found, the leader of the Fianna announced:

“Let the trials begin tomorrow!”

Despite the shouts around him, the boy, Diarmuid was his name, remained quiet as a statue.

He was sitting alone by the fire he made, roasting some sort of rabbit when Oscar found him. Since he had yet to acquire membership, he was not allowed a seat at the grand campfire where the warriors sat together, enjoying a feast of finely spiced meat and exotic wine. Compared to the liveliness of the crowd, his lean shadow on the boulder seemed too lonely.

In curiosity, Oscar came to the boy’s side.

“I’m Oscar. Mind if I sat here?”

The boy sat aside, making place for Oscar.

“Seems tasty. Can I have some?”

The boy handed him a steamy fresh slab which he took a bite.

“It’s good. You have talent.”

Oscar rarely complimented a male’s cooking, thinking it would be kind of embarrassing. But tonight, he did, with genuine praise.

The boy only nodded slightly, saying not a word.

“You haven’t said anything since you came here. Are you, by any chance, mute?”

“No, I’m not.”

A voice that still bordered on childishness replied. It was soft and rather pleasant to the ear; still, it did not lack the solitary.

“Then why don’t you speak?”

“I’m not into conversations.”

The flat-out remark just declined any attempt of conversion from Oscar. Still, as the grandson of Fion, he was not so easily discouraged.

“What are you into then?”

“Training.”

“You’re quite confident in overcoming the trials, aren’t you? Not to dispirit you but they’re probably harsher than you think.”

The boy remained silent but Oscar swore he noticed a flame flare up in his golden irises. Suddenly Oscar no longer saw a frail looking adolescent as he appeared but a young man of firm determination.

“Well then, may the gods bless you.”

Intrigued by this surprised discovery, Oscar lost his interest in being loquacious. He stood up and returned to his own position at the grand campfire.

Before leaving, he turned back and caught a glimpse at the boy’s shadow on the old trunk.

Orange fire flickered and the shape became twisted as if a dark creature threatened to devour the lone fellow, foreshadowing an ominous future looming over his head.

The boy passed the first two trials with ease, much to everyone’s astonishment. Everyone except Oscar. Others had not had a chance to peek at his soul; Oscar had. Therefore it did not strike him as a surprise to see the boy pass his trials easily.

The last trial was also the most severe which had failed many testers in the past. To be accepted as a Fian, it was the most important that one survived this challenge.

The testee began with having his body buried half-way under the ground for three days. All limbs were paralyzed saved for one arm. Food and water were not provided; he had to fight back his thirst and hunger while coping with dangers from outside, mostly from wild animals. In case he wished to forfeit the trail, a horn was placed within his reach; its sound was loud enough for the warriors to hear.

The first day went fast and Oscar occasionally sneaked out during his breaks to check on the boy. Fatigue had begun to creep up his beautiful countenance and his golden eyes had lost their brilliance. Still, he showed no signs of giving up. That, Oscar was certain.

He could only watch and pray to Lugh*.

On the second day, Oscar sneaked out to the boy’s site. As Oscar had feared, the boy was in terrible shape. Hunger and thirst had sapped his vitality and he was one step away from a corpse. Nevertheless, the horn still lied in its place, not moved even by an inch. Oscar was happy that the boy had not given up yet; still, it pained his inside to watch him suffer. He could easily pass the guards to give him a piece of bread or two; they should be able to rejuvenate a portion of his strength. The fire he had seen that day in the boy’s eyes restrained him from doing so.

Oscar kept telling himself that was normal comradeship he was harboring toward the boy. But since when he started worrying about someone so much that he was willing to go against his grandfather’s rules?

He could only watch and hope for the last day to pass quickly.

The third day he went out to check the boy, Oscar witnessed a remarkable event. It was already late in the night when he sneaked out, concealed by the darkness of a moonless night. Hiding behind a boulder, he watched the boy in silence. Sometime during the night, the boy had fallen into a deep slumber. Weariness was obvious on his profile, yet, somehow, under the pale orange of the torch, its beauty was preserved. He was a pretty boy, perhaps too pretty for his own good. His unusual pulchritude was enhanced by a small beauty mark under his right eye. A small tear as if he was crying. Fair as it was, that fabled tear was an omen of misfortune. The fairer the face, the uglier the fate, how many times had he heard the old sages said that? He did not want to believe it; still, his parents’ fates were the clearest examples. His mother was a great beauty but she had passed away at the apex of her youth, plagued by an incurable ailment. His father, a man whose face was fairer than a number of men, was also a man of misery. Since he was conscious of the world around him, Oscar had not seen his father smile a true smile. Though he constantly wore a faint smile on his lips, in his eyes only sorrows prevailed. Looking back at his parents, Oscar could almost foresee the boy’s fate. For that he could only hope he was wrong, terribly wrong.

There was a rustle of dry leaves. Accompanying the wind was a foul stench of rotten flesh. Much to his horror, what revealed itself under the light of the torch was a grey wolf. Mouth drooling,  the wolf approached its prey with impatience. He wanted to alarm the boy but waking up the soldiers was not a wise idea. His hand found a small rock and quickly, he hurled it the boy’s side, dragging him back from his sleep. He eyed the landscape with slow, weary eyes and saw the impending danger. Oscar had half a heart to inform the guards but he stopped himself, fearing that he would send the boy’s effort of three days into nothing.

Could he just watch as the boy struggle against his fate?

That was a starving wolf. However great the desire to devour his prey was, he lacked the significant strength. As if contemplating his odds, the wolf, though close in distance, had yet to attack. The boy, on the other hand, stared at the beast’s predatory eyes with his bloodshot ones and a fearless expression.

Mesmerized by the wonder of a silent battle between human and beast, Oscar stood behind the boulder holding his breath. Silence held its reign and Oscar could even hear the sounds of his heart thumping against his ribcage. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead; his nerves tensed and his eyes strained. He had witnessed men versus beasts before but a bizarre fight like this he had not seen yet. He knew not whether he was looking at a fight between a human and a beast or a fight between two beasts.

The staring battle dragged on until the first streak of dawn appeared. Morning had arrived and the soldiers also woke up. It was time to get back to his tent before his night endeavors got discovered. Before leaving, Oscar looked back to see the wolf had been driven back to the woods by the loud footsteps. The boy, won over by tension and fatigue, had fallen unconscious.

It took several days for him to recover. The boy was, after all, not as tough as he tried to be.

He was settled to rest in Oscar’s tent, their tent from now on, as Fion had decided to leave the duty to take care of the newly recruited member in his grandson’s hand.

Once they were all by themselves and after the medic had finished his job, the boy turned to Oscar.

“I thank you for not having interfered with my trials.”

Oscar was immediately alert.

“You mean… “

In a coarse, weary voice he replied.

“If you had informed others about the wolf, the trials would have been over. For that, I thank you.”

“You saw me?”

“Everytime.”

A comical smile spread across his face.

“I’m pretty confident in the lightness of my feet. Even the warriors could not discover me.”

“Your confidence may backfire you sometimes.”

“Hey, isn’t there someone whose confidence had put himself at risk?”

“I had good reason to stay confident.”

“And what good reasons to guarantee that the wolf would not have torn you apart?”

Oscar exulted, thinking he had landed a finishing blow.

“We were having a debate about what consequences he would face if he ate me.”

That was totally unexpected.

“You talked to that wolf?”

“In a way, yes. But not in the way humans communicate.”

“Wait! You can communicate with animals?”

“Aengus lives in the forest of spirits, where animals are free to communicate with no restrains. Let’s say I learned something there.”

Since his foster father was a god, the boy was likely to have visited the afterworld. Oscar wondered if he had ever met Lugh.

“Was it a nice place?”

“It’s heaven for humans.”

“Then why did you leave such nice place?”

“I want to live the present life before entering the afterlife.”

So that was the root of his odd tranquility and awkward loneliness Oscar had seen in his first days.

“Life in the forest of spirits was plain. Too peaceful, I must say. Aengus would get angry if I tried even the simplest thing like hunting.”

Oscar could sympathize with him. Born a son of a warrior, fighting was in his blood. Sooner or later, he would take up his spear and fight. If it was his destiny to perish on the battlefield, then so be it.

“You still like hunting even when you can talk with animals? Have you ever heard any words of resentment?”

“Unlike humans, animals don’t know hatred. If a rabbit is to be eaten by a wolf, it will peacefully accept its fate.”

‘That’s why you roast rabbits?”

“I did promise them I would make it painless as possible.”

Oscar gave him a comical look.

“To talk with your food, you’re one strange boy.”

Anger flashed the boy’s profile, giving him nothing but a childish look. Oscar tried to suppress his laughter and muttered an apology.

“From now on, you and I are gonna share this tent. I’m called Oscar, son of Oisín.”

With a tad hesitance, the black haired boy took the redhead’s held out hand.

“My name’s Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, son of Donn.”

“Let us be brothers from this day onward!”

With a strong shake of hands, the boys sealed their budding friendship.

*Aengus: the God of Love in Irish Mythology. He was believed to be a very beautiful young man. Aengus adopted the young Diarmuid after he was abandoned by his parents. During Diarmuid’s flight with Grainne, he was helped many times by his foster father. Later, after Diarmuid’s death, Aengus took his body and soul with him to the afterworld.

*Lugh: Chief God in Irish Mythology. He was believed to father the greatest Irish hero Cú Chulainn.

[Pics] Diarmuid

… Anh lại là một mối tình đơn phương lâu năm khác của em.

Em quen anh sau Tiểu Phó một thời gian (và sau một số trai khác một quãng khá lâu :v). Và anh là một trong số hiếm hoi giai “phẳng” (tức 2D) em vừa nhìn thấy đã thích ngay. Được rồi, anh cứ nghĩ em bị dính cái ‘Love spot’ của anh cũng được, dù sao em cũng là người và Magic Resistance= 0 (tuy nhiên em sẽ cố phủ nhận).

Ấn tượng đầu tiên của em về anh là… đâu ra một thằng mặt đểu thế này (em xin lỗi dù thực sự cái hình minh họa của anh trong vol 2 F/Z quá giống Shinji =””= mà anh và em đều biết thằng ấy nó khốn thế nào =”=). Nhưng anh xuất hiện rồi em mới biết, không nên chỉ nhìn hình minh họa mà bắt hình dong; anh của em (em biết nhiều người sẽ phản đối cách gọi như vậy) so với thằng Shinji là một trời một vực (anh là trời còn nó là vực). Và em không ngần ngại leo lên con tàu của những cô gái (fangirl) nhỏ bé “xui xẻo” trúng phải charm của anh, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne (em đã phải google tên anh và copy vào và em không có khả năng đánh vần cái họ của anh =””=)

Nếu phải so sánh thì em cảm thấy anh có lẽ không mang họ Duibhne mà phải mang họ Stark mới phải =”+ (liệu có sự nhầm lẫn nào khi anh còn bé không). Anh hành xử y chang nhà Stark vậy, trời ạ, honor, loyalty etc. và cái chính là cứng nhắc y hệt nhà Stark. Em xin miễn bình luận về cái sự honor cũng như code of chivalry của anh vì nếu nói ra, em sợ mình không kiềm chế được mà chửi anh… ngu mất (ấy, lỡ… tay nói ra rồi =”’=). Và trong thế giới của Uro đồ tể và George đồ tể thì không còn nghi ngờ gì nữa, người như anh không chết ngay từ season 1 như Ned Stark thì đã là một kỳ tích rồi!! Nhất là khi anh chả có main char shield, luck còn kém đến bất ngờ =””=

Thôi, em lảm nhảm như vậy là đủ rồi, bây giờ xin nhường lại cho những tấm hình (từ official art cho đến fanart) “tôn vinh” nhan sắc của anh ^^

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Hình cuối troll tý ^^

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PS1: Một góc nhỏ trong kho hình anh. Thân là fangirl, em tự hào vì em trữ rất nhiều hình của anh, từ chibi đến R18

PS2: Nhân post hình em mới thấy anh có rất nhiều hình đẹp, nhưng mà chung với Kayneth *lật bàn*. em mà biết xài photoshop em cho Kayneth biến ngay và luôn =”=

[Cosplay] Fate Zero (1)

These are pictures of cosplayers I have collected from various sources (tumblr, curecos, baidu, deviantart, weibo) on the Internet. They belong to their respective owners. 

(The post may have some mature contents)

1. Diarmuid Ua Duibhne/ Lancer

This is photoshop rather than cosplay
This is photoshop rather than cosplay

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We have a Gilgamesh here too
We have a Gilgamesh here too

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2. Diarmuid x Kayneth  Archibald El-Melloi

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Genderbent
Genderbent

3. Diarmuid X Grainne

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Chapter 6 : Sunset (I)

On the luxurious sofa in the living room sat the young and elegant lady of the house. A finely crafted cup in her hand, Tosaka Rin briefly inhaled the sweet scent of Chinese black tea before taking a small sip and placing the cup on its coaster. From the beginning to the end of the process, not a single flaw was found. ‘Always maintain your elegance’ was the Tosakas’ principle and so far, Tosaka Rin had been doing an excellent job in keeping her family’s reputation.

“How’s the tea ?”

The red knight who sat casually on the opposite seat, her Servant, asked.

“As always.”

Her reply was short and plain. Even if she was enjoying the best tea in the world, her pride would not allow her to add the faintest slice of satisfaction to her tone.

Knowing his Master too well, the knight just nodded.

“It’s not like you at all, Rin.”

“What do you mean ?”

Alarmed with sudden remark, Rin put on guard, all the while maintaining her harmonious tone.

“Usually, you won’t do anything that does not concern you. Yet a while ago, you wasted your mana healing Lancer.”

“Well, you think it as ‘wasted’, I don’t.”

“To begin with, he’s our enemy.”

“I know. However, I did it not for his sake but Sakura’s.”

“She was in fatigue. It would be critical for her if she had to spend her mana fixing her Servant.”

“Well, that’s the strange thing I mention. Isn’t Sakura our enemy as well since she’s also a Master.”

“I can’t disagree.” While her tone was serene, her blue eyes somewhat lost their sharpness. A quiet, distant grief filled her irises as she spoke the truth she had been keeping for years. “Yet she is also my little sister.”

This newfound truth dumbfounded the red knight. His steel-grey eyes locked intently in hers, expecting more explanation.

“My father gave her away to the Matous ten years ago, to fulfill an ancient promise between two families. Even if she’s become a Master, she’s still my only family member.”

“If you love her, shouldn’t you wish for her happiness ?”

“I’m not quite followed.” Alarmed with his tone which bordered on cynical edge, Rin eyed him anxiously.

“Heaven’s Feel is a ruthless battle. Once engaging, even family members become enemies. If you care for Sakura’s well being, shouldn’t you keep her away from the war ?”

“And by ‘keep her away’ you mean…”

“If she loses her Servant, her participation in the war will cease.”

“You mean I should not have saved Lancer ?”

“You understand it better than me.”

A smile grazed his lips, the red knight sipped the tea in his own cup ever gracefully.

“I did consider that.” Taking the blow, Rin admitted. “But I couldn’t bring myself to do it.”

“…”

“At Matou mansion, I could feel it, how deeply he cares for Sakura, risking his life for her sake. That exceeds beyond their positions as Master and Servant.”

“…”

“That’s a man loves a woman. I could assume the feeling is mutual. If I had let him die, would it break Sakura’s heart ?”

Archer took another sip, showing neither approvals nor protests but the sternness in his piercing gaze had softened quite a bit. Rin did not notice such change since she had already shifted her eyes to the unseen horizon outside the window glass.

Sakura was screaming.

Confined in darkness, her eyesight was rendered useless. Since she could not see, her other senses such as hearing, smelling and feeling were heightened than usual and that was the cause of her terror. She could hear thousands chitterlings beneath her bared feet; she could pick up the stagnant stench overflowing in the air. These brought up the nausea in her throat as they reminded her of the underground bug room she was all too familiar. Pairs of hands reached out from the darkness, gripping her ankles so painfully that she could taste the saltiness of on her tongue. What added to her horror were wicked laughters that had been haunting her life for ten years.

“You’re not going anywhere Sakura. Forever you belong to the Matous.”

So she screamed.

A streak of light pierced through the veil of darkness. In that light Sakura saw the tall figure of her Servant, her lover. Bliss overwhelmed her heart as she called out for him.

“Lancer, help me !”

Ever slowly, he turned back and glanced at her, mute as death. His golden eyes were no longer the honey that sweetened her bitter heart; in them, there was only a hollow as deep as the surrounding darkness that threatened to engulf her entire being.

“Diarmuid ! Diarmuid !”

Desperate, she shouted his true name, betting on a faint hope that her knight would come and save her. Despair trampled her heart as he turned away from her, shaking his head before his figure broke into thousands scarlet vermilions.

“Sakura-sama !”

When she opened her eyes, the first thing she saw was a familiar handsome face that she had come to love. Upon seeing that face, a surge of emotions went crashing down her being. Unable to withstand, Sakura bursted out into tears.

“What’s the matter, Sakura-sama ?”

A calm, sweet voice to solace her, as the same time, a pair strong arms immediately enveloped her trembling body, buried her teary face in his broad chest. The soothing beats of another heart quickly erased her anxiety. Her wails quieted down to sobs.

“I was having a nightmare.”

Her lover was not a human. However, whenever in his embrace, Sakura allowed herself to momentarily forget that he was a spirit materialized thanks to the Grail’s power and her mana to enjoy this blissful sensation of being held in her lover’s arms. Whether it was because of the war or not, Sakura was grateful that the Grail had brought this miracle to her.

“I was trapped in the darkness with Zouken and Shinji. And you, you looked at me as if we were total strangers.”

“That’s why it’s only a bad dream. Zouken and Shinji have died; they can no longer torment you. And there’s no way I will turn my back on you.”

“It didn’t just end there. Something even more terrifying happened.”

“Like what ?”

“You broke into thousands of vermilions.”

“Ha. That was partially true.” Caressing her hair, Lancer amusingly replied. “I would have ended up worse than that if it hadn’t because of Rin and Archer.”

“Tosaka-sempai saved us ?”

“Yes. Although you two are entirely different in terms of appearance, from the very first glance, I could tell you two resemble each other. Rin’s a bit haughty but deep down inside, she’s a kind-hearted girl, just like you.”

“You may not know this. I used to look a lot like her.” Sakura shuddered as she recalled her dark memories. “Before Zouken had his ways with me.”

“Easy, Sakura ! I doubt he could trouble you when he himself is burnt in flames of Hell. Besides, whatever you look like, I love you just the way you are.”

“Really ? You don’t feel disgusted knowing the inside of my body is filled with worms ?”

“I feel rather insulted when my Master is dubious about me.”

Despite his words, his tone was surprisingly amused. A mischievous grin lingered in his lips. “As a knight, I must regain my honor.”

Sakura let out a light yelp when the knight gently pinned her down the soft bed. His fully-armored body hovered over hers while Diarmuid sealed her lips in a sudden kiss. His hands did not stayed innocently as they were supposed to be; they began their exploration on the luscious curves under her thin pajama. She did not protest, allowing them to act as they pleased. Simply, she was more than welcome them.

When they finally broke the kiss, instead of getting pale due to lack of air, her face flushed deliciously; a sweet, ripe peach awaiting him to savor.

“Just how much honor have you regained ?”

“Not enough.” He replied with a teasing kiss on her collar bone before his lips traveled down her chest, hungrily inhaled and tasted her skin on the trail.

“For a proud knight, you’re truly greedy.”

On one hand, she chided him for doing as he pleased; on the other, she quickly worked on her buttons for more intimate parts to be revealed. Her milky skin seemed to glow in the dimly lit room.

“Only when I’m starved.”

She could not help but allow a sharp breath to escape her lips when a wet, teasing sensation invaded her most private part. The pleasant heat coiling in her stomach was steadily built up into a fierce flame as her sensitive nerves continuously received playful stimulation.

Diarmuid was a good kisser and apparently, it did not only apply to kisses on the lips.

“I didn’t know Servants could get hungry.”

Between shaky breaths, Sakura chided him.

“Of course they could. But not always for food.”

“Then what’re you starving for ?”

“For you.”

One last click of tongue and the sheer pleasure sent her out of control. Trembling, she repeated his real name in a mixture of soft moans and pants.

When she regained enough conscious to realize that she was in Tosaka mansion and her sister could have clearly noticed the bizarre noises that were leaking from her room, the girl’s already flushed cheeks turned an even darker shade. Though it would have been too late if there was a chance Rin had heard such intimate noises, the girl brought both of her hands to cover her mouth.

Lancer chuckled at her silly act, which he found very adorable at the same time. Amused, the knight took her hands, quickly placed a soft kiss on their backs before skillfully freeing her from her pajama. He was gentle and careful not to ruin the frail material, especially when it was something borrowed; they would not want to return it to Rin with a torn or two, leaving the girl space to imagine what they had been doing. And he was slow, oh so slow, as if such simple task would take forever to complete. Either he was over circumspect or he was teasing her, Sakura’s patience ran thin and she decided to help him up, earning a few giggles from her lover.

Not only was her skin as smooth as a baby’s, the Sakura who laid before his eyes was not so different from a newborn infant; yet, no babies could trigger the pristine desire deep within him as a man. Fixated on his lover’s nudity, Lancer did not even blink.

“It’s not the first time you’ve seen me naked !” Sakura chided, blushing to the ears under her lover’s stare.

“True. However, this is the first time I’ve had you, fully and freely, knowing that every of you belongs me, as mine to you.

“It’s not fair when you remain in your armor while I’m exposed like this.” Sakura pounded on his breastplate, very much akin to a cat. “I want you as bare as me !”

“Whatever you want, just command me with these lips. Your words hold the power that surpasses even the Command Spells’.”

“Is it really so ?”

“Well, trying is believing.”

With a mischievous grin, Sakura proudly pronounced her command.

“Then, take off your clothes ! I command you with-”

No other words followed at the end of her unfinished sentence, only a bold move of a girl who was not quite modest.

Giving her lower lip one last tuck, Diarmuid whispered to her ears.

“As you wish.”

Servants do have advantages in this kind of situation, Diarmuid realized. With only a mental click, he was able to cancel the mana flow that shaped the forms of his armor, gauntlets and clothes. It did save him some precious minute so that he could be quicker to answer her order.

Everytime she witnessed her lover’s bare body, which was as flawless as a sculpture of a Greek God, she could not help but held back a silent gasp. But a marble statue could not present to her touch a soft and warm sensation as she fingered his firm chest and abdomen.

“Satisfied ?”

“Not quite.”

“You’re one Master who is so difficult to please. Then how may I serve you ?”

“Make love to me, Diarmuid. That’s the best way to please me.”

“You’ve grown quite bold, haven’t you ?”

“Let’s say I’ve changed. You don’t like the new me ?”

“I love you no matter how much you change, you know. And it’s my pleasure to comply with your order.”

In attempt to sink his body into her luscious core, the knight was startled when Sakura abruptly halted him.

“One more thing : don’t call me Sakura-sama. Just my name’s fine. I’m no longer your Master.”

“I am your lover.”

Her declaration erased whatever confusion he might have had, the knight gave her another smile as he proceeded. This time she did not stop him.

Nobody would stop them now.

Saying goodbye was also a difficult task, especially when it was your sister, your only remaining relative, that you bade farewell to. To Sakura, there was no alternative; as long as the war was still going on, they remained enemies. It pained her as much as the farewell hurt Rin but Sakura knew it was better not to stay together.

The dying rays of sunlight weakly lit the stretching road they were walking on. The pair of Servant and Master left Tosaka mansion to march forth the road that opened up for them; somewhere at the end of that road laid the utopia they were searching for. Deep inside the hearts of the girl and the revived hero, they knew the path they had chosen was not meant to be an easy one and the happiness they were pursuing might even cost them their lives; still, neither of them looked back. From the beginning, the girl had never genuinely wanted to participate in this war and the hero had never genuinely wanted to obtain the Grail’s miracle. It was fate and loyalty that joined the hands of the ancient hero and the modern day human girl; it was love that united their hearts and dreams and together, they sought the same goal, the omnipotent miracle that could fulfill their one and only wish.

It was hope that led them out of the darkness and it was also hope that was about to fling them into despair.

Note : It’s the end of the first part. A little lemon to ease the tension before tragedy begins ;)).

Chapter 5 : Afternoon

Sakura could not free Lancer from the burden of the Command Spell yet. There were two ways to annul that Command Spell she had placed on him previously; one was to annul it with another Command Spell, which was also the only one left on her hand. If Zouken noticed the three seals had all vanished, he would certainly know something was not alright and thus, he would act beforehand and their plan would be ultimately crushed.  The other was to eliminate the subject on which the spell was made, which was Shinji. And killing Shinji was even worse of an option than annulling the Command Spell. Failed as he might be, he was still the Matos’ first born son. Zouken was cruel but he obviously loved his only grandson, that, Sakura harbored no doubt. The death of Shinji did not ensure their freedom but it would definitely enraged Zouken. Who knew what wicked of a method he would use to avenge his beloved grandson?

So, before they came up with a clear plan, the two of them would still be under Zouken’s control : Sakura remained an obedient doll and Lancer remained submitted to Shinji’s despicable orders.

Among the orders Shinji gave him, ambushing other pairs of participants was perhaps what soiled his knightly code the most. A proud knight as he was, Lancer wished for nothing other than a fair match in which true heroes could combat using the skills they had spent their lives polishing. Yet, he was ordered to attack and to win using any means possible, even stooping so low as to ambush. Such act was fitted to the likes of Caster or Assassin, not the one who carried the title of ‘knights’ like himself. Still, he had no other choice but to obey, staining his honor with every mission carried out. Even if this was meant to ensure Sakura’s safety, the knight could not help but grind his teeth, cursing Shinji’s vileness and his own inability to change the situation.

Zouken seemed to be away for a few days as he was not seen at dinner time. With Zouken’s absence, Shinji assumed the head position belonged to himself since he was the oldest and only son and thus, he acted on his own initiative. Tonight, he gave Lancer a strange order : that was, to capture the Tosaka mage or in order word, Master of Archer. Normally, Shinji did not care whether the Master stayed alive or not as long as the Servant was defeated. A Master without a Servant to command was equal to a loser in the War. And since Master was the anchor to keep the Servant in this world, murdering the Master, if possible, was his favorite option. However, he wanted to make sure Archer’s Master was captures safe and sound.

Why ?

As if he was able to read Lancer’s confusion, Shinji turned around and gave his usual smirk :

“You’ll know once you see her.”

So that was a woman. A young and beautiful woman no less. Though he never meant to compare her with Sakura, he had to admit the Master of Archer was indeed an attractive woman. Seeing her, Lancer could somehow figure out the reason why Shinji wanted her alive. As a man, Lancer could see through his motive and was utterly disgusted by it. Fair as she might seem, the Tosaka mage was far from being a normal woman; she certainly lived up to her family name as one of the Three Families of Origin. She was strong, so was her Servant. Archer was indeed an admirable opponent whom Lancer had to utilize all his wits to combat against. If it was not for a dishonorable reason, he would have enjoying battling with an individual possessing such skills as Archer.  However, as per the weight of the Command Spell on his body, he had to resort to methods that were unfitted to his title as a knight. Though, at last, he managed to inflict a fairly serious wound on Archer and abduct his Master, the consequence was rather devastating: a long diagonal slash ran from his left shoulder to abdomen, severing a good deal of ribs and probably a few of his organs. It was sheer luck that he could remain standing without spilling out his intestines or something else.

The lady Master, once regained her conscious, began to quietly eye him and Shinji like they were two lowly insects. That look was a fatal blow to what little dignity had left in the proud knight. Although it was Shinji’s order, after all, it was him who had injured her Servant and kidnapped her. Judging from her perspective, he indeed deserved that look. Looking at her lovely face which did not bother to hide a blatant loathe, Lancer shook his head ruefully. Somehow, that lady Master resembled his Sakura though their hair and eye colors were entirely different. Perhaps because they were roughly the same age.

“Leave her to me and go to your Master to have your wound healed.” A smirk. “Before you fall into two pieces of flesh.”

“What will become of her ?” Feeling responsible for her pitiful state, Lancer retorted.

“Humph. You care ? I thought you only care for Sakura ?”

Unknown to both men, the lady Master briefly raised her eyebrows in shock when her ears caught the name “Sakura”.

“What’s more to do when a man and a woman are left alone in a room ? I guess you know better than me.”

“Don’t lay your dirty hands on her.”

The sense of justice hit his heart.

“Shut up, dog ! You dare lecture your master ?”

“Zouken won’t approve your doing as you please.”

“Grandfather let me play with my ‘toys’ as much as I want. Now shut up before I’ll take your precious Sakura instead.”

“Tch…”

The lovely eyes of Archer’s Master which were fixed on him brimmed with tears, half pleading him to help her, half cursing him for causing her misery. Those eyes exposed the weakness of the proud, dignified heiress of the Tosakas, leaving her in a vulnerable state which deserved help and protection. That was exactly his duty as a knight. However, the situation in which he was now did not allow such act; he could only try his best to protect one woman and it was his Master and his beloved Sakura that always came first. Having to weigh between who he must protect and who he could not protect, this pain was far worse than his physical injury.

Turning his back sharply to the girl, he walked to the opposite direction. Along with his silhouette, her sole and only hope faded.

Even in this insane war, there were still moments when the knight of lances could be at ease. One of which is having his beloved Master heal his injuries. Though he felt a tiny remorse as to drain her mana, he certainly loved the pleasant sensation of her petit hand ghostling over his flesh, sewing back broken bone and muscles with utmost grace. As the warmth spread, the pain which was tormenting him quickly subsided so the knight let out a quiet sigh. The tenseness vanished from his expression; his beauty was restored to its gorgeous charm.

Wiping the damp beads of sweat clinging to her forehead, Sakura sighed. Though every time she spent her mana on fixing her Servant, she experienced an indescribable uneasiness, it was not so severe as the first time she had overgone her limit. Either the worms had learnt to adapt with her condition or she had somehow found the way to control them, she did not really know. As long as they did not cause much trouble, it was fine to her.

“Such terrible wound ! What was his order this time ?”

“Abducting Archer’s Master. That Archer was indeed a formidable opponent. So, that’s how I got this.”

“Archer’s… Master ?”

For some unknown reason, Lancer spotted an abrupt change in her expression.

“A lovely girl about your age. Shinji called her Tosaka or something.”

“It can’t be.”

“Is something the matter ?”

“That girl… Shinji…Shinji must not harm her !”

Her soft, quiet tone began to shake, so did her small frame, as if she was struck with a sudden mix of fear and anger. Recalling hiss déjà vu from earlier, Lancer could somewhat establish a vague link between the previous and this incident.

“Shinji spared you…for he has already got that Tosaka girl. Is that someone you know ?”

“I can put up with what he’s done to me but not with her. No matter what, she must not be harmed. Because… because Rin is my real sister.”

Lancer was dumbstruck by the truth he just had gotten to hear. No wonder why she so resembled Sakura. Conscience struck him, a lot harder than it had ever done because he had allowed Sakura’s only relative to fall to that filthy hand.

“I must stop Shinji before it’s too late.”

Momentarily forgot the existence of her Servant, Sakura strode through the door, only to be stopped by her Servant’s firm grasp.

“Lancer…”

Her voice was hoarse with her anxiety and the raging beats of her heart.

“You know it, right ? If you stop Shinji, it means that you have openly opposed them. Soon, Zouken will know about our rebellion and things’ re going to be ugly.”

Hesitantly, as if his words had struck a part of her mind that was constantly feared of that old vampire, Sakura lifted up her head. For years, she had been living in domination. For years, she had been abused and treated worse than a slave. Courage was thought to have vanished from her mind until the day this Heroic Spirit, this man came to her side in a twist of fate. There had to be a reason why he was brought here, to fulfill her wish of being saved, being protected. So far, he had done much more than that, he had given her courage and hopes, the things she had almost forgotten. Nevertheless, if she truly desired freedom, she had to break it, the cage called cowardice in which she had trapped herself.

A moment of silence passed and the girl spoke while calmly looked into her lover’s eyes :

“No matter what, I can’t allow Shinji to soil my only sister. Besides, I’m tired of being their puppet.”

Resolution was sparkling in her purple eyes. For the first time since he had been summoned, the knight found a light in them. Though he loved and wished to protect the weak, vulnerable Sakura with all his heart, Diarmuid found his heart busting with admiration as seeing the new Sakura who also wished to fight.

“I’m not afraid because I know you will always be by my side.”

“Of course, from the moment I had sworn my loyalty to you, I had decided to follow you everywhere, even if we were to leap into the fire of Hades. I won’t have any regrets, my Master.”

Their lips brushed in a haste kiss before the pair stepped out, ready to face this challenge.

Tosaka Rin found herself in the worst scenario. If being separated from her Servant was not bad enough, she was now in the hand of the boy she detested the most. Judging from that horny look in his eyes, it was not hard to figure out his intention. Rin cursed silently. Being the heiress of the Tosakas, Rin inherited not only the prominent blood from her ancestors but also the Crest which contained the fruits of her family; an incompetent mage from a dying magus family like Shinji would be small fry to her. Had she not been tied with a charmed rope and under a mute spell, she was sure she would have gandred him until that smug face was nothing but a bloody pulp. Surely Rin was not that sadistic of a person, it was just no one had ever evoked her murderous intent as awfully as this jerk did.

“What’s with that look, Tosaka ? Don’t like being tied ? Sorry, if I hadn’t tied you up, you would not be as nice as a helpless kitty like you are now.”

She changed her mind. Gandring him was not enough; for the boiling heat in her stomach to calm down, this jerk had to be minced and then thrown into the incinerator.

“Compared to that ignorant Sakura, I find you more desirable. You know why ? That haughty, icy expression of yours more or less attracts all the punks at school. ‘Know what they say ? They say you are an empress. Haha, what nonsense. If possible, I’d love to show them your pitiful state.”

Along with his words, his hands began their shameless exploration on her body, starting with her cheeks, her neck then her thighs.

“Archer, help me.”

In humiliation and dismay, Rin cried out her Servant’s name.

Before Shinji went on further, the door abruptly opened. Sakura, followed by her faithful Servant, stood firmly at the entrance. Her face did not try to mask her anger.

“Nii-san, please let go of Tosaka-sempai !”

“Bastard ! Get lost, Sakura !” Being interrupted while his hormone were near its peak, Shinji was even more irritated than  normal.

“No. Not when you’re holding her captive.”

“If I don’t, what can you do to me, slut ?”

Shinji’s fist went flying. Having full belief in Sakura’s defenselessness and Lancer’s inability to stop him, Shinji intended to give the girl a good lesson for ruining his ‘game’.

Crack. The sound was hard and dry, as a small tree branch was broken in half, the sound of bones being crushed under crude force. Sakura, the one who was supposed to received the blow was standing unfazed while Shinji’s face twisted with unbearable agony.

“Arg…”

His fist was in enveloped in the knight fist; fragile bones smashed effortless under the strength of the master of the lance.

“Stop, Lancer, stop !!”

Shocked and panicked, Shinji shouted while trying to free his miserable fingers from their bonds but Lancer did not lessen his strength one bit. His beautiful face full of hatred and murderous intent.

“Why, Sakura ? He was supposed to obey me.”

Sakura, whose expression did not differed from her Servant’s, lifted up her right hand. The back of her hand was smooth and free of any marks.

“You released him ? You bloody fool !”

They said old habits died hard. Even in his condition now did Shinji still manage to spill ill words. Sakura’s face darkened with disgust.

“Shinji.” No longer the “nii-san” she always addressed him, Sakura now called him by his first name, implying the change in their positions. “I’ll spare your life if you release sempai. If you don’t, then we have no choice but to eliminate the caster.”

“I’ll do anything. Please don’t kill me.”

Shinji immediately chanted the secret code that unbound Rin. Lancer also released his fist and Shinji felt to the floor, clutching his messed hand.

“Once Grandpa knows about this, you’re dead meat, Sakura.”

Helping Rin get to her feet, Sakura gazed at Shinji with an ever-calm look.

“When we get here, we’re already prepared to face Zouken. I’m sick of being a slave for you Matous.”

Her knight nodded in agreement. His twin spears materialized in his hands, ready to obey their masters.

Even when Sakura and Rin had stepped out of the room, Lancer still lingered inside. His spears in hands, his tall figure cast an ominous shadow over Shinji, who was huddling on the ground. With eyes wet with tears of pain, Shinji looked up, only to be met with a gaze cold enough to send chill down his spine. Vaguely aware of Lancer’s intention, Shinji weakly entreated him, voice hoarse and trembling.

“Sakura’s spared my life. You cannot…”

“That’s Sakura-sama’s promise, not mine.” Lancer coldly cut him short. “My Master is just to kind that she can’t bear to kill; however, I’m not that soft.”

Diarmuid’s ‘Mystic Face’ was said to be able to marvel women’s heart with just one glance. At this moment, its magic was still strongly emitting but it was more akin to an invitation of Death.

Wounds inflicted by Gaé Buidhe could never heal, as long as the spear itself or its owner remained unharmed. Leaving a writhing Shinji in a pool of his own blood behind the closed door, Lancer finally left the room.

Leading the way, the knight protected the ladies on their escape. Taking Rin’s hand in hers, for the first time after years, Sakura experienced the warmth of sibling love. This love which she thought she had already forgotten was now blossoming in her heart. At the same time, it struck her sharply like a needle, as if to remind her that once outside the mansion, they would become opponents who slaughtered each other as Masters invited by the Holy Grail, the omnipotent wish granting machine could only grant one wish. That wish was her ultimate goal. With the Grail, she would wish for Lancer to have a body with flesh and blood so that he could remain by her side as a human, not a spirit. All her life, Sakura had never dared to wish for anything but now, her desire to be with the man she loved was burning strongly in her heart, so strong that she would not allow anyone to stand in her way.

With determination in her mind, Sakura tightened her grip on her sister’s hand, as if to treasure what little moment together they had.

Unknown to both Lancer and Rin, True Assassin had been silently creeping up behind them. With his skill ‘Presence Concealment’, True Assassin had sealed up any chance of being detected by other Servants or Masters. But Sakura was a tad different. The worms inside her extremely keen on picking up even the faintest source of mana; thus, the moment True Assassin came into their range, the worms had instantly informed her of his existence. Still, her reaction could not match his in speed.

A heart wrenching cry shot through Lancer’s ears. Shocked, he turned around, only to find a wickedly tall figure clad in inky black with a chalky white mask that covered up its entire countenance. What was even more horrifying than its appearance was the sleek claw that was dripping with Sakura’s blood.

“Sakura-sama !”

“Sakura !”

Both Lancer and Rin were equally panicked just to see Sakura’s oozing out from her wound.

“No need to worry ! She won’t die right away.”

Behind True Assassin stood a dry old corpse.

“Get a hold of yourself, Sakura !” Rin shouted while quickly chanting a healing spell.

“Didn’t I tell you, Heroic Spirit Diarmuid ? Can you stay perfectly calm when your Master’s life is at stake ?”

His taunt came with a string of laughters that sent chill down Rin’s spine.

“Archer’s Master, how’s Sakura-sama ?”

“It barely missed the heart but Sakura’s bleeding so much. I’m trying to close the wound.” Rin answered anxiously.

“Right now, I leave my Master to you. Please take care of her !”

While his tone was full of anguish, his spears had materialized in his hands, already unbound by the enchanted cloth; mana started surging from them.

“Alright, fight with all you’ve got. I’ll protect Sakura.”

“I’m in your debt, Archer’s Master.”

Bowing his head swiftly in respect, the knight recovered his fighting spirit, trusting that Rin would protect his beloved Sakura with all her might.

The air became thick and tense with the death match between the knight and the assassin, between the demonic spears and the sinister claw was about to begin.

An Assassin-Class Servant should not be a match for one of the ‘Three Great Knights’ as the latter’s skills were far superior to the former’s. However, this was not a normal Assassin but rather the Master of all Assassins. Judging by the way he could  maneuver his claw with ease, True Assassin was not an opponent to be underestimated.

So far, neither of them was able to land a fatal blow. A master of weaponry, Lancer understood well the advantages of his twin lances. Normally, a lance should be held by both hands in order for the lancer to handle the weight and deliver the blows with high and accuracy. Wielding a long weapon earned the wielder a great pro in range but at the same time, a considerable drawback in defense as he could hardly evade the attacks that got closed to him. So, to make up for this con, speed was added up to his blows. It was understandable that most Lancers had a fairly higher stat in agility than other Servants. However, through his arduous trainings, Diarmuid had developed a unique fighting style that was able to compensate for lance-users’ weak defense. His longer lance, while remaining his ‘lance’, acted as the attacker while his shorter lancer acted as a defender. Since swords were generally more flexible and much more powerful than lances in defense, using the short lance as a sword, Lancer could both attack and defend with efficiency.

This style of combat had won him countless victories in his past life.

However, in front this claw, the skills he had polished for years somewhat became dull. The oddly long arm of True Assassin, added with his steel claw, were roughly the same length as Lancer’s Gaé Dearg but it was much more flexible since it could alter the length and strike like a vicious cobra.

“This is a very formidable foe.”

Normally, Lancer would be very pleased and excited to be able to face such a worthy enemy. However, with his Master, his dear woman laying motionlessly on the ground, her life hung on a strand of hair, Lancer decided praising his opponent was pointless (and it was unlikely True Assassin would react to praises either). Right now, his goal was to destroy his foe as quick as possible.

One should know that in the midst of battles, a mere distraction could cost a life. As a warrior having survived countless, Lancer knew it all the better. Still, any man’s mind would shake at the terrible cry of his lover. In a blink of an eye, True Assassin’s claw had carved a hole in his chest. Realizing his enemy’s move at the last moment was helpful as Lancer managed to evade the attack aiming straight for his heart. Though he had dodged death in a hair, he had to suffer quite severe a wound. Coughing a mouthful of blood, Lancer took a few steps away from True Assassin who was awaiting Zouken’s next order.

Clutching his chest, Lancer looked at Sakura, who was writhing violent while Rin struggled to hold her down.

“What’s wrong with her, Lancer ?”

Lancer stayed silent; instead, his golden eyes glued on Zouken’s dry, bony hands.

“Ho, what will you do now, beautiful spearman ?” Grinning Zouken wickedly. “The worms will continue their feast on her flesh and organs as per my order. Soon, your Master will be nothing but a hollow shell. And I must warn you, the pain will increase until her life distinguishes. She will die of pain before the worms completely devour her inside. By my calculation, there’re 6 minutes left.”

“Bastard !” Lancer gritted his teeth in sheer disgust and anger. His heart was burning hot as if it was thrown into a frying pan, not because of the wound but his fear for Sakura’s life.

“Cursing won’t do any good, spearman. But this surely will.” Narrowing his eyes, Zouken adjusted his tone to a more serious one. “If you agree to my condition, Sakura’s life will be spared.”

“What condition ?”

“I may forgive your killing my only grandson. He may be my family but as incompetent a magus as he is, I don’t trust him with the family business. On the other hand, Sakura is an excellent magus. So, she will continue Shinji’s role in this Heaven’s Feels, with you as her rightful Servant. After all, it would be a real shame to end her life here, as she is my precious little doll. Is is not satisfied to you, Heroic Spirit Diarmuid, to fight alongside your Master like you always wish ?”

In fact, Zouken’s proposal contained quite a temptation. Sakura would be safe and together, they could pursue the Holy Grail. Moreover, if they won the war, there would be no need to fear Zouken’s reign. The Grail should be more than enough to earn them their freedom.

Confused, the knight glanced at his Master, expecting an instruct from her but no words left her lips, only painful groans. Each was a sharp dagger penetrating his heart. In front of him, Zouken was exulting in his offer which Lancer seemingly could not refuse regarding Sakura’s present condition.

It seemed that was the best option now. How could the knight deny an obvious chance to save his Master ? Nevertheless, only the two of them knew what horrors she had been through in ten years and what efforts they had made to take themselves out of this mud. If they were to step back into Zouken’s dominance, would their endeavor not be all in vain ?

Weighing between that and Sakura’s life, Lancer made a painful decision. Lowering the weapons in his hands, he silent nodded.

“That’s what I expect from a loyal Servant. Value his Master’s life above all else ! simply splendid !”

With a snap of his fingers, Zouken gave a signal to the worms inside Sakura. Her cries went softer but not completely quiet yet.

“Remove the pain completely. Are you trying to trick us ?”

“Ah, one more thing, Lancer. Finish off that Tosaka wench and Sakura’s safe and sound.”

Zouken’s words made her blood run cold; the insides of her hands were even more sweatier than Sakura’s forehead. Fear dominated her heart as she witnessed Lancer lifting up his weapons. No matter how capable a magus she may be, she could barely stand a chance against Assassin or Caster, let alone one of the three knights. Though Rin knew Lancer would undoubtedly choose his Master’s life over hers, she could not bring herself to loathe him, the one who was going to kill her. In her heart, there was only a deep regret that she had not fulfilled her father’s expectation before her existence ended in such pitiful manner.

Death was inevitable, Tosaka Rin closed her eyes and accepted.

What had happened lasted only in the blink of an eye. In that short instance, Lancer hurled the long spear in his right hand at True Assassin who was standing beside Zouken and simultaneously, his body dashed forward like a sonic bullet. Despite being caught off guard, True Assassin blocked the attack with little effort. By then did he realize it was all a bluff as Lancer’s target was not him but rather his Master, Zouken. Gathering the mana to his pair of legs and releasing it all at once, Lancer had momentarily achieved the speed of light. This was a special technique he only resorted to use in dire situations since it would put great exhaustion to his physical body later.

Even when the blade of the yellow spear had pierced his throat, Zouken could not believe it. His deep eyes gouged out in pain, his mouth agasp but the pain was inferior to the terror he was experienced. One minute he was certain in his victory and the next he was on the brink of death; everything happened in less than a second. To be able to achieve miracle, this was the true ability of hero who had become legend. The first time he was able to experienced it was also his last.

A yellow lance that allowed no cures. Lancer did not have to make sure his lance had fulfilled its duty when he pulled it out, spraying thick, ink like liquid over the wall and floor. When Rin opened her eyes again, she saw the small body of Zouken crumple to the ground. Too weak to command the worms, what the dying Zouken could do before succumbing to his demise was uttering his last order to True Assassin, who was standing still, unfazed by his Master’s death.

“Kill… kill them.. all. By…Command…Spells…”

The two-hundred-year-old vampire of the Matous had met his karmic end like that.

“Lancer, behind you !!”

His limbs hurt, his lungs burnt, Lancer had well understood the consequences of using this technique while carrying a serious wound on his chest but the situation left him no other choice. There was not much left of his energy to defend himself and the ladies against true Assassin. It was hard enough to remain standing, let alone fighting with such a powerful enemy.

He heard Rin’s screaming but his limbs had betrayed him. Raising the shorter spear as fast as he could, Lancer managed to counter the claw that aimed for his head. Now, it was a competition of raw strength to see who could last longer. For Lancer who had already sustained a fatal injury, the odds were not in his favor. It was not long before the spear slipped from his hand to fall on the ground and True Assassin’s claw tore open his shoulder. Biting back the pain, he grabbed the claw with his other hand, starting another wrestling match.

Red flashed his eyes and the sensation of Death crawling near was all too familiar with the knight. However, thinking about Sakura and Rin, about what would happen to the sisters after he perished by True Assassin’s hand, the will to live once again set his mind ablaze. Gathering his strength, he kicked hard at True Assassin. At the same time, several black energy balls flew from Rin’s finger. Having lost all her jewel, Rin could only rely on her gandr to buy sometime.

Sinking his body in an almost impossible manner, True Assassin dodged both the kick and shots aimed at him with an extraordinary speed. His long arm extended out, catching Lancer’s leg and flinging his helpless body at Rin. Consequently, both landed hard on the floor.

“It’s hopeless.” Just when Rin was about to give in to her fate, the sound of metal crashing roared in the air. Two blades of exotic shape were dancing above True Assassin’s head, forming a loose circle. And then four, True Assassin was caught in a middle of four flying blades, rapidly shrinking their circle until they simultaneously flung at their target.

Dust and ashes  came flying as the result of the explosion. Tattered but not yet mortally wounded, True Assassin jumped out to the entrance, where the blades had come in.

“This is exactly my plan, Assassin !”

A baritone voice rang with haughtiness unconcealed. Along with his words, a rain of swords came pouring down on True Assassin. Caught in this ultimate rain of death, even the strongest Servant hardly stood a chance. Before long, what was left in True Assassin’s spot was only a piece of inky cloth.

“Archer !” Witnessing the magnificence of her Servant’s skill, Rin could not contain the utmost relief that was threatening to burst her ribcage.

Standing in the entrance was the knight in red, a haughty smile playing on his lips.

“If you let some sneaky rat wins the fight, our reputation as the three knights will be dangerously on the verge of dying, Lancer.”

“If you had appeared just a minute late, the number of knights would be reduced to one.” Lancer replied with an amused tone to Archer’s mocking remark.

“What’s taking so long, stupid Archer ?” Despite her eyes which were swelling up tears, Rin pounded hard on his breastplate.

“Sorry, Rin. Our friend Lancer here got really quick feet and it was quite a burden to track his traces, especially with the wound he gave me still hurts. Besides, it took me some time to clean up those lowly monsters that guarded this mansion.”

A hint of sympathy in his steel-gray eyes as Archer glanced at the body of Zouken, the wounds on Lancer’s body and an unconscious Sakura laying on the ground.

“Sakura is your true Master ?” The question directed at lancer, who, despite his torn arms, carefully took her into his embrace.

“Finally, she’s free from the evils of this house.” The knight nodded slightly while caressing her cheeks.

“What do you plan to do from now ?”

“To pursue the Holy Grail, of course. There’s a wish that we both share. Which means, after tonight, we’ll see each other as enemies.” Firmly, Lancer declared.

“That’s our lines, too.” With an equal determination in her tone, Rin replied. “But, since both of you are in fatal state, you two could stay at Tosaka mansion until you regain your health, if you don’t mind.”

Smiling, the knight accepted Rin’s offer.

“Once again, we owe you.”

End of ‘Afternoon’.

Note : Fighting scenes wore me out +_+

Chapter 4 : Noon(II)

Chapter 4 : Noon (II)

The alarming clock rang with familiar tune, waking Sakura up from her sleep. Frowning, Sakura glanced at the clock. It was 5:30 AM and her school starts at 7:30 AM. Ten more minutes won’t hurt, thought the girl as she snuggled back into her blanket. Like an electric wave ran through her body, Sakura shuddered as she found she was not alone on the bed. Beside her lied another body, chest heaving rhythmically with every breath and back facing her. To make matter worse, that was a man’s body sleeping soundlessly on her bed, only covered by the thick blanket that they shared. Looking back, Sakura’s face lost its color since she realized she was not in better state than him. Clothes were discarded carelessly on the sheet and floor, hers only.

Her sleepiness had already been swept away thanks to the chain of bizarre incidents. Her memory of last night was very blurry. Zouken had told her to fix Lancer and she had done, even having to invoke the worms inside her body. After that, she felt extremely tired, prana depletion, probably. Her eyelids were heavy and all she wanted was a long, peaceful sleep, with her Servant by her side to protect her.

Why her clothes were not attached to her body ?

Why there is a man lying on her bed ?

What on earth has happened last night ?

Gathering her courage, Sakura took a glimpse at the man. Despite his back turning opposite to her face, Sakura could easily tell this was not Shinji. His broad shoulder, his toned muscles, his wavy dark hair, those were things that Shinji could never possess even in a million years. Wait, dark hair… Could it be ? Sakura exhaled a sign of relief , what her eyes caught was a sleeping face of her handsome Servant, his beauty spot under his left eye like a grain of tear. A smile on her lips as she enjoyed the innocent, child-like look on the face of the slumbering hero. It was unusual for a Servant to be sleeping like that, he must have been exhausted due to prana lacking and later, Sakura would have to make up for him.

“ I had… with Lancer ? “

Judging from the discarded clothes, the wrinkled sheet and two naked bodies together on the bed, it was undoubtedly a passionate night they had had with each other. Her face turned pink like a blooming cherry blossoms, still, she harbored no regrets of spending the night with the man to whom she had already got attracted. She could not tell whether it was love or not but from the very moment his eyes looking into hers, Sakura had felt a tiny bud of affection taking shape in her heart. Though it developed much faster than she had thought, Sakura only concerned about how they had gotten to this level. A thick mist surrounded her brain, preventing Sakura from recalling her vague memories. All she remembered was a sudden heat that rose from her core. Last night was the first time she had exceeded her limit and had to rely on the worms for prana support. And now was the result : Sakura felt freshly rejuvenated while her Servant was on her bed, sleeping and as bare as her. Plus, her Command Seals were reduced to just one left. It was quite clear to put all of them together. Sakura learnt from Zouken that when a Master was not capable of providing his Servant with enough prana, there was a way to compensate for the lack of magical energy, through sexual intercourse. To think that the flow of energy could be reversed, from Servant to Master, this was probably the strangest case in magi’s world.

Putting that matter aside, how would Sakura deal with Lancer once he woke up ? Apparently, driven by the worms’ craving or not, Sakura had gone so far as using a Command Seal to force Lancer to commit this shameful act. Would he loathe her, hate her ?

Lancer stirred and opened his eyes. Sakura gasped in embarrassment and pulled the blanket up to her shoulders, covering her bare chest. Not daring to look straight at him, she allowed her long bang to block her sight.

“Good morning, Sakura-sama.” The knight greeted her with a sleepy tone and weary smile. Deprivation of prana was not the cause of his fatigue since he was fully charged but rather the few hours he had spent sleeping on her bed. It has been a long time since the hero last slept, perhaps one or two thousands year, the delightful sensation he thought he had long forgotten now came back to him, too tempting to get himself out of the comfortable mattress underneath his back. There was another thing he had experienced last night. Recalling the burning passion between him and his Master, the luxurious curves of her body, the flawlessness of her skin, the rich fragrance of her flowing hair, Lancer could not believe they were all real. But they were, and the fact that he woke up to see Sakura by his side proved that.

Love was a tidal wave crushing his throbbing heart as his eyes traced the curve of her spine, the knight could not resist a sudden urge to envelope her body with his arms, holding her tightly in his embrace. Sakura made no protest to his bold act, still, she refused to face him, to talk to him. Awkward silence filled the space secluded in the narrow room, almost suffocating.

Mistaking her remorse with resentment, Lancer frowned and asked apologetically.

“Are you mad at me ? “

His query confused her since she was supposed to be asking that, not him. Her eyes were wide, anticipatively looking into his, waiting for an explanation.

“I apologize…for what happened last night. I… I took advantage of you.”

“What do you mean ?”

“You grew weakened by trying to heal all my wounds. Therefore, you were affected by my Mystic Face.” The knight confessed remorsefully.

The more she listened, the more bewildered she became. What was that ‘Mystic Face’ he was talking about ? She did not even know such thing ever existed.

“ I don’t get it. “

“I was given… cursed to be more precise, with a magic charm that makes women…”

“Makes women what ?”

“…makes women want me despite their true feelings. That’s what happened to you last night. I got carried away and…we had…. If you’re mad at me, please vent your anger on me. I deserve to be punished by any means.”

Normally, Lancer’s beauty shines brilliantly with the pride he keeps in his heart as a noble knight. Even when he was lowering his head in shame, his eyes avoiding her, his face turning slightly red, his attractiveness was not dull at all; rather, Sakura found his boyishness indeed lovely.

“ I wasn’t mad at you. Really !”

“Huh ?” It was his turn to be confused. “ Then why did you refuse to talk to me ?”

“I was afraid… that you would be mad at me.” She replied sheepishly.

“Why ?”

“I coerced you into this disgraceful act. You should be angry, no ?”

“It was quite strange.” He admitted. “For a modest girl to act that way. But I never describe it as ‘disgraceful’. “

“You don’t think of me as ‘dirty’, ‘slutty’, do you ?“

“Absolutely no !” The knight firmly proclaimed and in a loving tone, he whispered into her ears. “I’m not some bastard who spills ill words to a woman who has just offered him her most precious gift. Not when that woman is also my Master. Moreover, I’m also the one to be blamed.”

“Lancer…” Profoundly touched by his sincerity, Sakura was rendered speechless. What she could not express with words, her action could declare in a much better way. Without reservation, her hands allowed the blanket to fall soundlessly to the mattress to cup his face and her lips met his gently. The knight was surprised at first but soon closed his eyes and surrendered to their mutual feelings. Compared to the fierce kiss they had shared before, this one was modest and absent of the previous burning desire; yet it was far more intimate as the Master and her Servant gave each other their hearts and their utmost trust. Through that kiss, the lovers had confirmed their unspoken love.

“I won’t regret what we did last night. Ever ! “ The girl whispered as she buried her face in his broad, warm chest, right at the place where his heart was beating with the same rhythms as hers. Just listening to his heart and inhaling the scent of his materialized body, Sakura’s being swelled with unmitigated happiness. “Thank you, for everything.”

“It’s kind of waste, you know. To lose one Command Seal to take us to this stage.” He said amusingly.

“Yes, it’s a waste. Guess I’m little impatient.” Sakura responded to his joke, secret moaning her inability to recall anything thing throughout the process.”

“I heard from Zouken, once all Command Seals are used up, the contract between Servant and Master is annulled. Will you leave me then ?”

“Command Seals are device to bind a Servant. You don’t any of that to bind me since I’m yours already. I will never betray my oath and my feelings for you.”

“I trust you.”

“I trust you”- Three simple words that could be easily spoken by anyone. However, to be able to speak those lucid words, a person must completely understand and put total faith in another, which is much more complicated said than done. For someone whose life is nothing but a lie, it is a miracle greater than that of the Grail for her to speak those words.

When Sakura dressed fully in her uniform, she wore back the mask of an enduring doll girl, sealing away all her emotions and smiles to show to Lancer only.

“Good morning, grandfather, nii-san.” Sakura bowed to the others Matous with her head held humbly low, a type greeting between servants and masters, not family members. In response, Zouken remained as still as a rock while Shinji merely threw a glance at her.

“I have healed all Lancer’s injuries. “

Zouken made a low noise, neither approved nor disapproved. Shiji gave her a meaningful smirk as if he had known something about the incident last night. Hardening her composure, Sakura ignored an uneasy feeling in her stomach.

“I’m going to school.”

While passing through the door, Sakura exchanged one look with Lancer. One glimpse of his face was enough to warm up her heart. No matter what would happen, he was always by her side. Sakura had his words for that.

“Interesting. Huhm. “

In the darkness as thick as blood rose a voice that was devoid of any human’s senses. Accompanying with that ghostly voice was thousands of chitters. Those noises that resembled bone chewing sound could freak out any normal people were to hear them; to the speaker, they were more appealing than most symphonies. The wicked voice belonged to none other than Matou Zouken, the 200-year-old vampire of the Matous.

Behind Zouken silently stood an oddly tall figure, clad in robe as black as night. Under the faint light of a dying candle, his face, if that was really a ‘he’, could be dimly seen. No, it should not be called a face, more like a mask, a skull mask so contradictorily white to the robe. His appearance was of the most mysterious and fearsome class out of seven : Servant Assassin. This Servant was under Zouken’s command.

If Zouken has already have a Servant on his own, why did he make Sakura summon another one ?

Zouken’s Assassin was not summoned due to the invitation of the Holy Grail since another ‘Assassin’ had been previously called in this 5th Heaven’s Feels. Two Servants of the same class are not supposed to appear in a Holy Grail war, that is the rule agreed by the ‘Three Families’ in which the Matous was. Despite, Zouken had managed to succeed in summoning the strongest of assassins, True Assassin, using the flesh of the Servant invited by the Holy Grail as catalyst. The rule was bended, however, the first and the most important requirement to participate in this war is to have a Servant who answers the beckoning of the Grail. Plus, Servant Assassins who excel in the art of spying and killing can only play the role of supporting and gathering intelligence. In frontal combats, an Assassin cannot stand against Servants of the three ‘knight’ classes. In order to ensure victory, Zouken made Sakura summon Lancer.

Why are Assassins fearsome when they are apparently weaker than other Servants ? It is because this class is given a unique skill that allows Assassins to cancel their prana to nearly zero to easily lurk behind others’ backs and slay the enemy Masters. That skill is ‘Presence Concealment’, which True Assassin had used to report the incident between Sakura and Lancer to Zouken, using his eyes as a camera. Now, sitting in the dark basement, his lair, Zouken was examining her strange reactions. The old man was really pleased with his conclusion.

“The worms have reached this stage, to be able to influence her mind and body. It seems my fruit is about to be harvested.

If she has to keep depending on the worms for prana support, sooner or later she will succumb to the evil seeds I planted in her. “

Thus, Matou Zouken encouraged his grandson to order Lancer to challenge other Servants. Under limited condition, the knight had to expand his skills and abilities to be able to return to Sakura.

“You aren’t fighting with your full potential, are you ?” While healing her Servant’s wounds, Sakura raised a question. Challenging other Servants, including the mighty Hercules, without any tactics or Master’s magical support, it was a lethal drawback to a Servant, did Shinji even know that ? Or did he do that to let Sakura waste her prana, to make her suffer the torture of the worms ? To think about it, it did not make any senses at all.

“What makes you think so ?”

“Women’s intuition.”

“Only with my true Master, the one whom I made the contract with, can I unleash my full potential. That brat can only command me with the power of the Command Spell. My constant resistance to his orders hinders my abilities to a fatal extent.”

“Uhm… Don’t you think…” As if afraid of offending her knight, Sakura took an awkward pause before she finished her sentence. “…don’t you think it’s better…if you don’t resist ?”

As expected, his eyebrows furrowed deeply in a frown.

“I-I’m sorry if I said something wrong !”

A bitter smile hung on the corner of his lips, the knight gently caressed Sakura like a understanding big brother to his little sister. Considering the gap in their ages, Lancer is old enough to be her father, let alone her brother.

“It can’t be blamed. Sakura-sama, you don’t understand a knight’s heart, do you ? To us knights, what should be prioritized is not our lives but rather our pride, our honor.”

“I understand. I’m really sorry.”

“It’s true that I can’t disobey his orders but if I give up without a fight, my pride will be stained with utmost shame.”

“I’m sorry- She said ruefully-for putting you under such a heartless command.”

“You have apologized too many times.”

“But…” Her lips muttered but only one word came out, the girl’s big eyes had already swelled up with tears.

“It’s not your fault.”

In order to console his lover, the knight held her in his arms, all the while sealing her parted mouth with his own. Being an experienced man, Lancer knew the best and most primitive way to soothe a woman’s trembling heart was for pleasure to wash away whatever was bothering her.

It worked everytime. Sakura’s tears swiftly dried up and she eagerly responded to his passion. Since it was not their first time, there was no embarrassment or restraint, only pure desire heated up their cores.

His hand started roaming her breasts which were eventually revealed as Sakura unbuttoned her thin blouse. Both of them knew what would come next; they had adapted to this gratifying way of replenishing the magical energy they had lost.

“Don’t you think we should have your other arm fixed first ?” Through half-lidded eyes Sakura asked.

“I can’t wait to get my reward. After all, tonight I killed Rider.”

“Does it hurt so much ?”

“Yes, it does. I seriously need painkiller, is that kind of medicine people in this era use to relieve pain ?” Grinning mischievously, the knight placed a soft kiss on her collar bone.

“The best way to kill the pain is to let me finish my job.” Though it seemed like scolding, Sakura did not wholeheartedly want him to stop.

“It can wait; however, I can’t.”

Before the pair had the chance to dive deeper into their passion, the door was pushed open rudely and there came a voice neither Sakura nor her Servant welcomed.

“Oops, I came at the wrong time, didn’t I ?”

“Nii-san ! Grandfather said you should not come into my room.” Despite her bold declaration, her face turned purple due to her anger and embarrassment. Sakura quickly buttoned her blouse to keep her pearly white skin from Shinji’s horny stare.

“Shut up ! It’s useless to threaten me with grandpa. “ Shifting his gaze to Lancer, who had instinctively shielded Sakura behind his back. “Ho ? You little slut don’t want me here so you can fuck your Servant ?”

“Enough of your filthy mouth !” In spite of his wounded arm which had not been healed, Lancer summoned his lances.

“Stay still, Lancer !”

As soon as the words came out his mouth, the Command Spell took effect instantaneously; Lancer’s limbs were stiff as if they were frozen.

“I’m not making the same mistake. “

“Bastard !” Lancer ground his teeth, his struggles against the Command Spell was in vain.

“Still cursing ? You’re really protective towards that little slut. You think she’s loyal to you ? To truly love you ? As a fellow man, let me tell you a secret…”

“Nii-san, please stop !” Shouted in panic, Sakura’s face turned as white as a paper sheet. Knowing Shinji too well, she could effortlessly guess what ‘secret’ he was going to tell Lancer. Please don’t tell Lancer ! If Lancer knows how filthy I am, he will hate me, leave me. I won’t be cared by him any more.

“Please don’t…” Sakura bursted out in tears. “I’ll do anything you want.”

“Why suddenly become so obedient ?”

“What’s wrong Sakura-sama ?”

“Really ? Anything I want ?”

Ignoring Lancer’s beckoning, Sakura painfully nodded.

“That’s more like my dear sister. There’s no more business for you here, dog, go out and guard the door !”

Unable to control your very own body, that is the mercilessness of being a Servant. No matter how he wished for his spear to pierce through that disgusting face, all he could do was compliantly walking out of the room. One last glance at his Master’s face, the knight secretly hoped Sakura was brave enough to break his chain but much to his disappointment, she remained silent. When the door behind him closed, a face wet with helpless tears was her reply to him.

Hours later and the dawn was near.

Four hours. For four hours, Lancer’s heart was constantly in a furnace, so was his arm. Right now, worrying about his injury was the least thing he had in mind, what bothered him was Sakura’s safety, which depended entirely on Shinji’s mercy, something he doubted was ever existed in that bastard’s vocabulary. For four hours, what his extraordinary hearing ability of a Servant caught was the sound of furniture being destroyed and Shinji’s maniac laughters, Sakura was as mute as death. Had she cried, yelled or groaned, his heart would have been stabbed by hundreds stakes, yet his mind would have been a little at ease. As long as she could scream, could cry, Lancer could tell she was not yet in danger. However, her silence sunk his heart in terror. The sacred cord binding him and Sakura was beckoning him with terrible heat with every passing minute and the Command Spell rendered him powerless to change the situation. His body was agonizingly tormented between two forces.

“You can come in. Your Master really needs your care.”

Passing the impatiently waiting Lancer, Shinji was satisfactorily humming.

“Tell you something, I hate it when my stuff is touched by another hand. I’d rather break it than share it.”

A shackle was lifted off his shoulders, Lancer rushed to her room. Although he was not in the mood to think about Shinji’s murmurs, what he was about to see behind the door would make he believe Hell does exist on Earth.

The room was messy, furniture were damaged; shards of broken mirror, cups and many other fragile things scattered on the floor; clothes were torn and discarded. Trembling weakly on the ground was his Master Sakura, her naked body, covered in countless bruises and cuts, was exposed in front of his very eyes. Her blood tainted the wall and floor, her eyes were hollow as if she was a soulless corpse.

“Sakura ! Sakura-sama !”

Only his connection between Lancer and Sakura told him that she was still alive. Pain stabbed his heart and fury filled his veins. The scene he witnessed was too much for a sentimental knight who values goodness and love like him to endure. Casting aside his pride, his honor, everything, all Diarmuid wanted to was to gorge out the heart inside that body to see what color it was. This was not human’s doing, this was the work of devils. Worst, it was his Master, his beloved woman who fell victimized to this evilness.

Carrying her to the bed, covering her nudity, the knight held her in his embrace, trying to nurse her back to her senses. His tears shed in place of her dry orbits.

“Don’t touch me !” So faint her voice was that even his keen hearing could not make out.

“Don’t touch me ! Your hands will get dirty !”

“What are you talking about ? I never think about you that way.”

To be put in this state, Sakura’s mind was not sane anymore. Through a veil of blood and tears, she yelled and pound at him like a crazy beast.

“He lied to me. He let you know. Now you know how dirty I am, you will feel disgust, will loathe me…”

Despite her wailing and hitting, Lancer did not let go of her. Despite his wound which was bleeding due to her punches, his arms gently tightened around her dedicate frame. Such simple yet caring act solemnly spoke out his determined love.

No matter what you are or how you may become, you remain my Master, my Sakura forever.

Just like the very first time he had held her, Sakura once again experienced the warmth that shielded her from the cold, savage winds outside. Because of those arms that she began to calm down, because of those arms that she could feel safe. Her wails turned to sobs as she noticed the tepid stickiness on her hand was his blood.

Slowly and carefully, he cleaned her body with a piece of cloth. Cleaning all the traces that Shinji had left on her.

“How long has he been doing this to you ?”

“Since he realized Zouken had chosen me to receive the Crest of the Matous, not him, who is originally the first born son. The more I cry or scream, the harder he will beat me to satisfy his sadism. So I stay mute until he loses his interest in me.”

She replied so blankly as if she was telling someone else ‘s story. There was nothing to hide from this man anymore. Her darkest past had been exposed and he had generously accepted it, that was enough. It was not an exaggeration that even if she had to die right now, she would have no regrets beside the short period she had spent with him.

“That Zouken… he allows Shinji ?”

“Not just ‘allow’, even ‘encourage’. “ Sakura’s tone was full of hatred. “More than Shinji, he enjoys watching me suffer.”

Grudge was mutually felt in his heart. His grip on the soft cloth was so tight it was like he was strangling that man’s neck.

“You haven’t thought about running away ?”

“I once thought about it and even tried it. But Zouken caught me and the punishment was unimaginable. Then, I could do nothing but giving up everything to become their puppet, do anything they order so I receive the least punishment.”

“No one tried to help you ?”

“No one will believe me. Zouken and Shinji have their way to make me look like I’m living in a happy family.”

“Say no more, Sakura-sama !”Grasping her hands in his, the knight looked straight into her eyes; inside his golden irises, his fighting sprit soared, fueled by his sense of justice and his share of hatred with her. “Annul the first Command Spell. You won’t need a Command Seal to order me, I will claim the heads of those that have been tormenting you and offer them to you. Together, we will pursuit the Holy Grail.”

In contrast with his spirit, the girl who had been through countless agonies only lowered her head.

“I can’t kill them. Never.”

“Why ?” Cutting off her sentence, the knight showed his anger of her weakness and hesitance for the first time.

“This is why.”

Sakura stretched out her left arm which was as smooth as the finest savory. Compared to her Venus-like body, this arm was just a small part to complete the beautiful sculpture. The strange thing was on that smooth surface an hour ago, there had been a cut about ten centimeters. Fixated on her skin, the look on his face was that of confusion.

“I don’t understand. Have you cast a healing spell ?”

“No, I haven’t.” In a tone that could not be any calmer, the girl explained. “My body heals itself. It is their work, to be exact.”

“Their ?”

“Inside this body, there are hundreds worms. Crest worm is their name. I was originally a member of Tosaka family before the Matous took me. Zouken said I was a gifted child but my body was designed to best function with Tosaka magecraft; in order to fit in with Matou magecraft, he had to ‘fix’ me. By fixing, he jammed those worms into my body. For ten years, they have completely washed away my Tosaka traces and taken my body as their nest. Since Zouken is their master, there’s no way I can escape his palm.”

Lancer remembered very clearly the moment he had defeated the last of seven hundred soldiers and stood in a pool of blood; how revolting the thick smell of blood and innards had been. However, the hellish scene was still inferior to what Sakura was telling. Just how broken his lover was ?

“That night, when I tried to mend your wounds, I was in short of prana and more or less, called for their help. That resulted in the strange behavior later; it was their craving for prana that clouded my mind. But believe, my feelings for you are genuine.”

“That’s enough Sakura-sama. As long as I remain in this world, you won’t be alone anymore. “

The knight sealed his oath with a tender kiss on her lips. Apparently, albeit being the passive, Sakura did not even show a slightest sign of irritation. As their hearts were dancing to the same beats, their bodies responded to each other’s need, Sakura allowed her mind to momentarily forget about her tragic life.

In front of the boy she used to have a crush on, Sakura is just a little sister whom he can hardly harbor any special feelings. In front of Zouken and Shinji, she is just a mere toy they play and discard at will. Only in front of this man, who is not a human from the beginning, can Sakura feel that she is a human, a woman who loves and is loved.

With Sakura slept peacefully by his side, her chest heaving with every breath, a picture so beautiful, the spearman’s heart ached with the thought of how to free this poor girl from devil’s hand.

End of ‘Noon(II)’

Chương 3 : Trưa(I)

Khi Shinji về đến nhà, Sakura đang ngồi đọc sách trong phòng phòng khách. Quăng cái cặp lên ghế, không thèm để ý xem nó có trúng Sakura hay không, gã ngồi phịch xuống, lầm bầm những gì trong miệng không rõ. Quá quen với kiểu hành xử này, Sakura thậm chỉ chẳng chớp mắt, cô lặng lặng dịch ra sát mép ghế.

“Thằng chết dẫm đó yếu như sên !” Chưa ngồi nóng chỗ, Shinji đã văng tục. Bình thường, Sakura sẽ chẳng để ý xem gã chửi cái gì, đơn giản vì cô đã nghe quá nhiều. Bất cứ chuyện gì ở trường khiến gã phật ý, điểm kém hay bị một cô gái từ chối, Shinji luôn đổ lỗi cho người khác, rủa xả họ bằng thứ ngôn ngữ hạ cấp nhất mà gã có thể nghĩ ra, còn gã thì hoàn toàn không gây ra lỗi lầm gì. Nhưng hôm nay Sakura lại chú ý tới lời của gã. Cô gần như có thể đoán được Shinji đang nói đến ai.

Theo sau Shinji là chàng hiệp sỹ dùng thương mà Sakura đã triệu hồi được. So với đêm đầu tiên, trông anh thê thảm hơn nhiều : áo giáp rách mấy chỗ, để lộ ra làn da đầy những vết thương lớn nhỏ; máu tươi vẫn còn chảy từ vết thương trên trán, ướt đẫm nửa khuôn mặt; tay trái anh đỡ lấy tay phải dường như đã gãy.

Trái tim cô như bị một bàn tay thô ráp bóp chặt khi nhìn thấy tình trạng của Servant mình. Khi cô nhìn anh, Lancer lập tức quay mặt đi, né tránh ánh mắt của cô. Dù vậy, Sakura vẫn kịp nhận ra sự xấu hổ hiện trên nét mặt Lancer. Điều lạ là trong khi Servant của cô bị thương nặng như thế, Shinji hoàn toàn bình yên vô sự.

“Chuyện gì xảy ra vậy nii-san ?” Điều cô quan tâm không phải là chuyện gì đã xảy ra với Shinji mà nguyên nhân Lancer ra nông nỗi này.

“Tao lên kế hoạch tấn công biệt thự ở ngoại ô, nơi Master nhà Einzbern đang sống. Hóa ra con nhóc tí hon nhà Einzbern lại có một gã Servant khổng lồ. Thằng Servant bất tài của mày chỉ làm gã xây xát chút xíu rồi bị đập tơi bời vậy đó.”

“Xì” một tiếng, Shinji làm như thể tất cả là lỗi của Lancer mà gã không đạt được mục tiêu tối nay. Cảm thấy có lỗi vì đã đẩy Lancer vào tình trạng này, Sakura đứng lên bênh vực anh, một điều mà trước giờ hầu như cô chưa bao giờ dám.

“Đừng quá khắt khe với anh ấy quá, nii-san ! Ít nhất anh ấy đã cố hết sức để bảo vệ anh mà.”

Sự bất ngờ khi thấy con bé nhút nhát này đang cố bảo vệ một người khác lập tức chuyển thành tức giận. Shinji nói như hét vào mặt Sakura.

“Nhảm ! Nó mà bảo vệ tao á ? Thằng Servant chết dẫm này đâu thèm để ý đến việc bảo vệ Master của nó. Nếu tao không nhanh trí chuẩn bị sẵn một vị trí để quan sát từ xa, chắc tao đã nát bét như quả trứng thối rồi.”

Trốn ở nơi an toàn rồi để Servant tự xoay sở, có thể trông chờ gì hơn ở Matou Shinji ?

“Ta không có trách nhiệm bảo vệ ai khác ngoài Sakura-sama, chưa kể đến đồ cặn bã như ngươi.” Dù toàn thân đang tê dại vì vô số vết thương, lời lẽ của Lancer vẫn sắc bén như mũi thương của anh. “Ta không thể vui hơn khi chứng kiến Berserker dẫm nát ngươi như dẫm nát một quả cà chua.” Nụ cười nửa miệng của anh như một mũi tên nhắm thẳng vào sự hèn nhát của Shinji.”Thật không may, Berserker chẳng đủ tỉnh táo để lần ra chỗ ngươi trốn.”

“Mày…” Trong cơn giận vì bị sỉ nhục bởi kẻ mà gã chỉ coi là thứ nô lệ hạ đẳng, Shinji giơ chân lên, định ‘dạy’ cho Lancer một bài học. Gã cũng còn thông minh khi nhắm vào cánh tay phải đã gãy không còn sức kháng cự của anh.

“Đừng mà nii-san !!” Nhìn rõ ý định của Shinji, Sakura lập tức hét lên.

“Urg..”

Âm thanh phát ra hoàn toàn vô nghĩa vì nơi phát ra nó, cổ họng đang bị siết chặt bởi những ngón tay mạnh mẽ. Nếu chỉ thêm chút sức nữa thôi, không chừng cái cổ sẽ gãy làm đôi.

Đau đớn và sợ hãi làm nước mắt chảy ướt đẫm mặt gã. Matou Shinji, kẻ ra đòn tấn công  trước lại đang bị nắm cổ như người ta xách cổ một con gà. Gậy ông đập lưng ông, đúng lúc này, Shinji mới nhận ra hành động của gã ngu ngốc đến mức nào. Một Servant, dù đang bị thương nặng, vẫn mạnh hơn nhiều so với một người bình thường chứ chưa nói đến một gã ẻo lả như Shinji.

Không tốn chút sức, Lancer đã tóm lấy cổ Shinji bằng tay trái và nhấc bổng gã lên khỏi mặt đất.

“Sao thế ? Muốn nói gì à ?” Một nự cười châm biếm pha chút tàn nhẫn trên khóe miệng người anh hùng Ireland này. “Nghẹn họng sao ? Hay để ta giúp ngươi một chút vậy.”

Khuôn mặt Shinji tái xanh vì sợ hãi rồi tím tái vì thiếu không khí. Gã há miệng như một con cá mắc cạn.

“Chỉ cần ngươi không mở miệng ra thì Phong ấn mệnh lệnh không có tác dụng với ta.”

Gương mặt thanh tú hớp hồn phái nữ của Lancer giờ đây bị máu và sự căm giận biến đổi thành tương tự như ác quỷ.

“Sức mạnh như vậy đúng là không Servant nào có được ngoại trừ Anh hùng Diarmuid.” Giọng nói của người thứ tư vang lên, cùng với một mùi mục rữa quá quen thuộc. Lão xác ướp này như từ dưới đất chui lên và ngợi khen Lancer với một giọng châm biếm, phần nào giễu cợt tình trạng của anh hiện tại. Sự xuất hiện của lão khiến mặt Sakura trắng bệch như sáp. Trực giác nhạy bén của hiệp sỹ cho anh biết lão là một người nguy hiểm. Thay vì giận dữ, anh chỉ lạnh lùng đáp.

“Thay vì  khen ngợi sức mạnh của ta, lão nên khen ngợi sự can đảm của cháu mình khi tấn công một Servant bằng tay không.”

Hai bàn tay xương xẩu vỗ vào nhau tạo nên một âm thanh khô khốc, thêm vào tiếng cười quái dị của Zouken khiến không khí căng thẳng hơn.

“Hành động xứng với lời nói. Tuyệt vời ! Nhưng ta tự hỏi liệu anh còn ngạo mạn và bình tĩnh như vậy không nếu Master của anh cũng bị y như thằng cháu của ta ?”

Lancer giật mình nhìn lại Sakura, gương mặt cô trắng bệch và đầy đau đớn,  như thể một đôi tay vô hình cũng đang bóp chặt cổ họng cô, thậm chí còn thô bạo hơn cả bàn tay Lancer nắm cổ Shinji. Ánh mắt như tóe lửa khi liếc nhìn lão già xác ướp, Lancer buông tay, Shinji rợi phịch xuống nền nhà như một cái túi chứa phế liệu, cùng lúc áp lực vô hình buông tha cho Sakura. Cả hai cùng thở gấp, cố lấy lại oxy cho lá phổi suýt chết ngạt nhưng trong khi dấu tay Lancer còn hằn rõ trên cổ Shinji thì làn da Sakura hầu như không có gì khác lạ. Thứ vừa định bóp cổ Sakura vừa rồi rõ ràng là trò của Zouken. Cắn môi, chàng hiệp sỹ thầm nguyền rủa. Trò của lão không thể gây hại cho một Servant có khả năng kháng phép thuật cao như anh, nhưng còn Sakura thì sao ? Cơ thể mỏng manh của cô sao có thể chịu được sự thô bạo đó ?

“Giờ con học được một bài học rồi đấy. Không bao giờ được xem thường Servant. Lần tới không chừng ta cứu không được con đâu.”

Dù nghe như một lời trách mắng, đó thực ra là một lời nhắc nhở đối với Shinji : Đừng mất cảnh giác, cố gắng tận dụng sức mạnh của Phong ấn mệnh lệnh. Shinji lén liếc nhìn Lancer đang đỡ Sakura đứng dậy với cặp mắt vằn những tia máu. Gã đã nghĩ đến việc sẽ bắt Sakura trả giá cho hành vi của Lancer vào đêm nay.

“Sakura” Zouken nhìn cô gái.

“Dạ ?”

“Chữa lành cho Lancer. Ta muốn sáng mai anh ta hoàn toàn khỏe mạnh.”

“Vâng thưa ông.”

“Còn Shinji, Để Sakura có thể tập trung, con không được phép quấy rầy nó.”

Mệnh lệnh Zouken vừa đưa ra lấp tức gây ra hai phản ứng trái ngược nhau ở hai đứa cháu của lão : Shinji nghiến răng tức tối còn Sakura thở ra nhẹ nhõm như vừa trút được một gánh nặng. Trừ Lancer, ba người họ đều biết rõ từ ‘quấy rầy’ mà Zouken nhắc đến nghĩa là gì. Tuy trước sau gì Lancer cũng biết được bí mật của Sakura nhưng cô muốn trì hoãn nó càng lâu càng tốt.

Căn phòng nhỏ và tăm tối, tấm màn tối và dày ngăn ánh trăng lọt qua khe cửa. Dĩ nhiên, chủ nhân căn phòng không mấy thích thú ánh sáng. Nếu không cần ánh sáng để làm bài tập hay một vài việc khác, nhất định Sakura đã tắt hết đèn và để bóng tối hoàn toàn xâm chiếm không gian. Ánh sáng bộc lộ sự nhơ bẩn của cô trong khi bóng tối ôm ấp, che chở cô.

Suốt đường lên phòng, cả hai không nói với nhau lời nào, Sakura lặng lẽ dẫn đường còn Lancer lặng lẽ theo sau.

“Anh ngồi xuống đi.” Sakura chỉ vào giường.

Vừa ngồi xuống chàng hiệp sỹ lập tức cúi đầu.

“Thứ lỗi cho ta. Ta đã thua trận và mang nhục nhã về cho nàng.”

“Không đâu.” Cô nói nhỏ, gần như thì thầm. Kích hoạt Mạch ma thuật, Sakura chuyển prana vào lòng bàn tay. Bàn tay cô tỏa sáng trong bóng tối, dấu hiệu của việc sử dụng phép chữa thương. Trông qua thì đó chỉ là một hành động cực kì đơn giản, bàn tay cô lướt từ từ trên từng vết thương, khâu lại da và cơ bắp bị tổn thương, thậm chí cả áo giáp cũng liền lại; thực ra, để có thể hoàn thành chừng ấy giai đoạn đòi hỏi một sự tập trung cao độ, một sai sót nhỏ cũng có thể gây hại cho cả người bị thương và người chữa thương. Hơi ấm dễ chịu từ phép thuật của Sakura khiến Lancer cười nhẹ.

“Tôi mới là người phải xin lỗi. Nếu không vì tôi, anh đâu phải chiến đấu và bị thương thế này.”

“Đừng xin lỗi, Master. Servant được triệu hồi đến thế giới này còn vì mục đích nào khác ngoài chiến đấu ? Nhưng thật nhục nhã khi ta đã thua ngay trận đầu trong Heaven’s Feels lần này.”

“Ngay cả người không có mặt lúc đó như tôi cũng biết Hercules mạnh như thế nào. Anh đã cố hết sức bảo toàn mạng sống và trở về với tôi. Chỉ điều này thôi đã khiến tôi rất vui rồi.”

Một nụ cười yếu ớt nhưng chân thật trên khuôn mặt đáng yêu của Sakura lọt vào mắt Lancer. Thầm ngưỡng mộ nét đẹp của nụ cười đó, nhịp tim anh tăng lên từ lúc nào anh cũng không rõ. Nhưng cùng lúc, trái tim người anh hùng Ireland nhói đau khi nhận ra nỗi u uất, cam chịu trong đáy mắt cô.

Sakura bước vào phòng tắm và mang ra một chậu nước ấm và một cái khăn mềm. Ánh mắt Lancer không giấu sự kinh ngạc khi nhìn cô nhúng chiếc khăn vào nước.

“Tôi từng nghĩ Servant không hơn những công cụ trong tay Master.”

“Đó cách nghĩ khá phổ biến.” Lancer cười chua chát. Đâu đó trong tâm hồn anh còn tồn tại cảm giác đau khổ khi bị đối xử như một cỗ máy, bị tước đoạt danh dự của một hiệp sỹ và buộc phải làm những điều lương tâm anh không cho phép; nhưng ký ức cụ thể thì đã bị xóa sạch từ lâu rồi. “Một số Master coi Servant của mình là những công cụ để tùy ý sử dụng. Kết quả là họ nhận được từ Servant sự oán hận. Khi Phong ấn mệnh lệnh cuối cùng biến mất, họ bị chính Servant của mình giết chết.”

“Nhưng khi anh xuất hiện, suy nghĩ của tôi hoàn toàn thay đổi. Servant, dù đã chết, họ vẫn là con người,với tâm tư, tình cảm. Vì vậy, họ phải được đối xử như con người.”

Vừa nói, Sakura vừa nhẹ nhàng lau sạch vệt máu khô che gần một nửa gương mặt anh. Nước ấm làm xót vết thương nhưng sự chăm sóc chu đáo của Sakura đã xoa dịu nỗi đau.

“Có đau không ?”

“Không nhiều.” Trước mặt Master của mình, anh không muốn tỏ ra yếu đuối.

“Nàng không cần phải làm vậy. Chữa thương cho ta là quá đủ rồi.”

“Nếu không lau sạch máu thì làm sao thấy được vết thương, không phải sao ?”

Với lời đáp đơn giản đó, chàng hiệp sỹ để Sakura hoàn thành nốt công việc. Còn gì hạnh phúc hơn là được chăm sóc bởi bàn tay của cô gái người đối với anh không chỉ đơn thuần là Master. Dần dần, anh nhận ra tình cảm mà mình dành cho cô gái này thậm chí còn hơn cả tình cảm anh dành cho Gráinne, người vợ của anh khi còn sống. Một cô gái đẹp và đáng yêu như Sakura luôn là người thu hút mọi đàn ông ngày từ cái nhìn đầu tiên; bên cạnh đó, sự yếu đuối, phần nào nhu nhược của cô kích thích bản tính của đàn ông, khiến họ thương cảm cô, bảo vệ cô và trên hết là yêu cô trọn vẹn để bù đắp cho những đau khổ mà cô phải chịu đựng. Đó chính xác là điều Lancer cảm nhận về Sakura.

“Tôi chưa từng biết…cảm giác được quan tâm, chăm sóc một ai đó…lại hạnh phúc như vậy.”

Một người trẻ tuổi lại thốt ra một điều cay đắng như vậy, Lancer không thể hiểu nổi điều gì đã làm cô gái đáng yêu này u sầu như thế.

“Hai người họ…không phải là gia đình của nàng sao ?”

Ngay khi nhận ra sự thay đổi trên nét mặt Sakura, Lancer đã nhận ra anh đã hỏi một câu không nên hỏi.

“Tôi là con nuôi.” Sakura khẽ lắc đầu, tóc mái che phủ đôi mắt như một tấm rèm, đôi mắt lấp loáng nước. Chừng đó là đủ giải đáp thắc mắc của anh. Có thể anh chưa biết gì về cuộc sống đầy nước mắt và đau khổ của Sakura, anh biết cuộc sống của một đứa con nuôi vốn không mấy dễ dàng. Có những người đối xử rất tốt với con nuôi của mình, như cha nuôi của anh khi còn sống; nhưng cũng có trường hợp ngược lại.

“Phần khó khăn nhất…là cánh tay bị gãy.” Giọng nói Sakura chợt trở nên căng thẳng. Để hồi phục xương gãy và cơ bắp bị tổn thương đòi hỏi một lượng prana lớn, có thể nói là nguy hiểm ngay cả đối với một pháp sư khá như Sakura, chưa kể đến lượng prana đã tổn hao để chữa những vết thương khác. Vượt quá giới hạn đồng nghĩa với việc tự đưa bản thân vào nguy hiểm; không gì bảo đảm cô sẽ không phá hủy Mạch ma thuật của mình và gục ngã ngay sau khi hoàn thành. Nhưng cô không thể trì hoãn việc này. Chiến đấu với một cánh tay gãy, điều đó không chỉ hạn chế khả năng của anh mà còn gia tăng nguy cơ tử vong. Không thể trợ giúp anh trong trận đấu, điều cô có thể làm là hồi phục sức khỏe cho anh. Sakura gạt đi nỗi sợ chết vì cạn kiệt prana, cơ thể cô cũng đâu nguyên vẹn gì. Lũ bọ ấy cũng đâu thể để vật chủ của chúng chết.

“Giúp ta lần này nhé !” Cô thì thầm với lũ bọ trong người. Lạ thật, đây là lần đầu tiên cô nghĩ về chúng mà không có cảm giác ghê tởm, có lẽ vì không ít thì nhiều cô đang phải trông cậy vào chúng.

Nóng. Người cô nóng ran như một ngọn lửa đang thiêu đốt ruột gan. Mạch ma thuật của cô từ ban đầu đã không giống với một pháp sư bình thường. Đó chỉ là cái ‘tổ’ của lũ bọ mà Zouken đã đưa vào cơ thể cô năm này qua năm khác. Một khi được đánh thức, chúng bắt đầu bữa tiệc trên chính máu thịt cô.

Dù cô cố gắng che dấu cỡ nào thì cũng không qua được cắp mắt sắc bén của Lancer. Nắm chặt lấy tay cô, anh buộc quá trình dừng lại đột ngột.

“Sao vậy Sakura-sama ?”

“Không có gì. Để tôi làm tiếp.”

“Mặt nàng nói khác đó.”

“Tôi đã nói là không sao mà !” Cô gạt tay anh và tiếp tục. Càng chần chừ thì nỗi đau cô chịu càng kéo dài mà thôi.

Một cơn gió thổi qua lạnh toát, người cô đẫm mồ hôi. Khi kết thúc, ngọn lửa trong cô cũng dịu bớt dần. Sakura kiệt sức như vừa trải qua một phen sống chết, cô ngã vào vòng tay Lancer.

“Sakura-sama ?”

“Tôi hơi mệt thôi, không sao đâu. Ngủ một giấc là ổn. Anh ở lại bên tôi được chứ ?” Dưới ánh đèn mờ ảo, khuôn mặt cô trắng bệch đầy vẻ bệnh hoạn.

“Ta sẽ canh chừng cho nàng. Ngủ ngon nhé, Master.”

Để nụ cười ngọt ngào và ấm áp của Lancer đưa mình vào giấc ngủ, Sakura nhắm mắt lại.

Cơ thể một Servant, dù có xương có thịt, nhưng hoàn toàn không giống cơ thể con người. Servant chẳng qua là những linh hồn, nếu không có cơ thể được tạo thành từ prana mà Chén Thánh cung cấp, họ không khác hồn ma là mấy. Để tồn tại và chiến đấu ở thế giới này, họ phụ thuộc chủ yếu vào prana do Master cung cấp.Vì vậy mà thương tích của họ cũng không thể lành theo cách thông thường. Một khi đã đủ prana, cơ thể họ không cần ăn, uống, ngủ nghỉ như con người mà luôn trong trạng thái sẵn sàng chiến đấu. Lợi dụng điểm này, Lancer tận hưởng cảm giác hạnh phúc khi lặng lẽ chiêm ngưỡng người đẹp đang say ngủ bên cạnh anh. Trong giấc ngủ, trông Sakura thật trong sáng và thánh thiện, một khuôn mặt không bị đau khổ và nước mắt dày vò. Tấm mặt nạ vô cảm, nhẫn nhục như một con búp bê khi đối diện với Zouken và Shinji bị lột bỏ. Vì thế, trông Sakura thật mỏng manh, yếu đuối nhưng cũng rất chân thật. Lúc này, anh cho phép bản thân mình là người đàn ông Diarmuid chứ không phải Anh hùng Lancer và Sakura không phải là Master anh mà là một người dấu yêu hơn.

Một vài sợi tóc vương trên mặt Sakura, Lancer đưa tay gạt ra và àn tay lập tức bị những ngón tay mỏng manh và nóng bỏng bám chặt. Có vẻ như Sakura đã tỉnh giấc và đang lẩm nhẩm gì đó mà ngay đến thính giác nhạy bén của anh cũng không xác định được.

“Sakura-sama ?”

Cúi người xuống để nghe rõ hơn, rõ ràng Lancer đã phạm một sai lầm nghiêm trọng. Như chỉ chờ có vậy, đôi tay Sakura vội ôm cứng lấy cổ anh và với một sức mạnh hiếm thấy, cô gái vật anh chàng bất cẩn xuống giường. Nếu đây là một ai khác ngoài Master của anh, kẻ đó nhất định phải chịu một hình phạt xứng đáng với hành vi này. Nhưng khổ nỗi, đây không phải ai khác mà chính là Sakura, sao anh có thể thô bạo với cô được ?

Nằm trên giường trong một tư thế kì cục, với thân hình một cô gái đè lên, ngay cả trong giấc mơ điên cuồng nhất, anh cũng chưa tưởng tượng ra cảnh này. Tệ hơn nữa, đôi mắt Sakura tràn đầy thèm khát và dục vọng đang quan sát anh, chú ý đặc biệt tới nhưng nơi làn da anh không được trang phục che phủ : cổ, vai, cánh tay. Dù mở to mắt nhưng tròng mắt cô thiếu hẳn sự nhanh nhạy và tỉnh táo của một người bình thường. Như nói trong cơn mê, hơi thở Sakura nóng bỏng bên tai anh.

“Lancer…ở lại với em…”

“Ta đang ở đây mà Sakura-sama.” Lancer đáp, đôi chú nghi hoặc.

Đôi tay cô bấu chặt lấy cổ áo, giữ anh nằm yên. Nằm dưới Sakura và để cô quan sát mình bằng ánh mắt thiếu vắng sự tỉnh táo, chàng hiệp sỹ dũng mãnh chợt thấy mình như một con mồi bất lực trước mãnh thú đói rã đang chực ngấu nghiến mình, một con mãnh thú mà thức ăn không phải là thứ có thể thỏa mãn sự thèm khát của nó.

“Saku…”

Tên cô chưa phát ra đầy đủ thì môi Sakura đã khóa chặt môi anh. Đây không phải nụ hôn đầu của anh, Diarmuid đã từng có tình nhân và vợ khi còn sống và những vấn đề thế này không hề xa lạ . Chỉ là chưa lần nào trong đời anh ‘bị’ hôn một cách dữ dội như vậy, dữ dội đến mức anh gần như không thở được. Nghe có thể hơi quá nhưng một Servant với những khả năng phi thường mới chịu được nụ hôn đó, nếu là người bình thường có lẽ đã ngất xỉu hoặc tệ hơn. Trời, như thể Sakura muốn hút cạn không khí trong phổi anh vậy.

Sakura bất chợt buông anh ra; liếm nhẹ bờ môi, cô nhấm nháp dư vị còn sót lại khi môi và lưỡi họ gặp nhau, chẳng hề để tâm đến việc Servant của mình đang ho sù sụ. Một cái nhếch mép giễu cợt, Sakura chuyển sự quan tâm đến một khu vực hấp dẫn hơn theo ý cô : cổ. Đầu tiên chỉ là bờ môi mơn trớn làn da; khi nhận ra chỉ hôn thôi thì không đủ thỏa mãn khao khát của cô, Sakura bắt đầu cắn nhẹ cho đến khi một vòng sẫm màu xuất hiện trên da anh; cuối cùng, khi đam mê lên đến đỉnh điểm, trong một thoáng không kiềm chế, răng nanh Sakura đã xuyên qua da anh. Một dòng máu đỏ thẫm chảy ra.

Đau nhói. Anh chợt tỉnh giấc khỏi cảm giác mê hoặc mà cô đã gieo vào tâm trí anh. Lancer nắm chặt vai Sakura, đẩy cô ra một khoảng cách vừa phải để họ có thể nhìn vào mắt nhau.

“Chuyện gì xảy ra với nàng vậy ? Sao lại có hành động kì quái như thế ?”

Một câu hỏi hoàn toàn vô ích, Sakura không hề mở miệng trả lời anh. Có nhìn kỹ đến đâu thì thứ duy nhất anh tìm được trong đôi mắt đó là một dục vọng khó diễn tả bằng lời mà một cô gái dè dặt như Sakura không nên có. Tệ hơn, mục tiêu của cô không ai khác ngoài anh, Diarmuid.

Trong quá khứ, anh từng bắt gặp nhiều ánh mắt tương tự như Sakura bây giờ. Hơn ai hết, anh hiểu rõ nguyên do của sự mê đắm đó là nốt ruồi dưới mắt trái anh. Khi còn là một thiếu niên, anh từng giúp đỡ một bà cụ qua sông. Hóa ra, đó là một nữ thần cải trang trong hình dạng bà lão nhằm thử lòng người. Để khen thưởng cho lòng tốt của anh, bà đã tặng anh một nốt ruồi khiến bất cứ người phụ nữ nào nhìn vào mặt anh đều lập tức yêu anh say đắm. Dù đó là một món quà hấp dẫn với cánh đàn ông, chỉ anh mới hiểu nó đã gây cho anh bao rắc rối. Cuối cùng, nó chính là một trong những nguyên nhân dẫn đến cái chết của anh. Khi nghĩ đến một điều tương tự lại xảy ra ở cuộc đời thứ hai của anh, Diarmuid không nén tiếng thở dài. Nhưng sao lại thế ? Anh tự hỏi. Thứ bùa phép này chỉ tác dụng với những phụ nữ bình thường, một pháp sư Sakura hoàn toàn có thể kháng lại ma lực của nó. Vậy mà Sakura hành động như tâm trí cô đã bị nó thao túng. Phải chăng khi tiêu hao một lượng lớn prana để chữa cho anh, hệ thống phòng ngự trong cô đã suy giảm ?

Thẳng thắn mà nói, anh không thể phủ nhận cơ thể mình đang nóng dần lên với mỗi sự va chạm giữa hai cơ thể tràn đầy sức sống và những nụ hôn cháy bỏng của Sakura. Khi một thanh niên khỏe mạnh và một thiếu nữ xinh đẹp ở trong tình trạng của anh và Sakura bây giờ, không khó để đoán chuyện gì sẽ xảy ra tiếp theo. Nhưng ý thức của một hiệp sỹ trung thành cùng với lương tâm của một người đàn ông tự trọng như một mũi kim nhọn châm vào trái tim anh, không cho phép anh lợi dụng Sakura khi cô đang bất ổn cả về thể xác lẫn tinh thần.

Lancer cố ngồi dậy trong khi cơ thể Sakura vẫn đang áp chặt lấy anh.

“Nàng phải dừng lại ! Thế này không đúng chút nào !!”

“Vậy, thế nào mới là đúng ?”

“Việc nàng đang làm không đúng chút nào !! Chúng ta là Master và Servant !!”

“Đâu ai cấm Master và Servant không được yêu nhau. Anh cũng muốn như em mà, sao phải chối bỏ khổ sở như vậy ?”

Giống như ‘Mystic Face’ của anh, toàn thân Sakura cũng đang phát ra một thứ bùa phép quyến rũ trái tim và thân thể đàn ông; trong trường hợp này là trái tim và thân thể anh.

“Nàng bị mê hoặc bởi Mystic Face của ta thôi. Khi tỉnh lại, nhất định nàng sẽ hối hận.” Lancer cãi lại một cách yếu ớt, ý thức của anh đã phần nào biến mất.

“Nếu em không hối hận thì sao ?”

Nếu có một thứ mạnh hơn ma thuật quyến rũ tỏa ra từ Sakura thì đó là hai dấu Phong ấn còn lại trên mu bàn tay cô. Anh giật mình khi thấy chúng đang phát sáng.

Một Phong ấn nữa biến mất và chút kiềm chế, do dự còn lại nơi anh bị quét sạch một cách thô bạo. Không còn gì ngăn cản họ đến với nhau nữa.

Với cặp Master và Servant vừa tiến đến một mức độ mới trong quan hệ, hai con người chìm đắm trong nỗi đam mê nguyên thủy nhất, họ không hề nhận ra những cặp mắt đê hèn đang chăm chú quan sát cảnh tượng đang diễn ra trong phòng.

———————–

Alter :

Trong giai đoạn cao trào, Lancer chợt tỉnh và hỏi Sakura một câu khá kì quặc.

Lancer : Nàng bao nhiêu tuổi rồi Sakura-sama ?

Sakura : ( không mấy tỉnh táo do bạn-biết-tại-sao-rồi-đấy ) 15,5. Sao tự nhiên lại hỏi ?

Lancer : ( toát mồ hôi ) 18 mới là tuổi hợp pháp cho chuyện ấy phải không ?

Sakura : Phải.

Lancer : Cơ bản là chuyện chúng ta đang làm không phù hợp đạo đức cũng như pháp luật phải không ?

Sakura : Phải.

Lancer : Nếu là người, ta đã phải vào tù vì làm chuyện đó với nàng ?

Sakura : Phải.

Lancer : Nàng có nghĩ… chúng ta nên dừng lại không ?

Sakura : Còn lâu.

Chapter 3 : Noon (I)

Shinji rudely threw his bag on the sofa, where Sakura was sitting and reading some book she had borrowed from a classmate. Having already gotten used to this kind of behavior, Sakura’s face was expressionless. Not even blink, she just moved further to the edge.

“Shit ! That stupid’s as weak as worm !” Right after settling his seat, ill words spilled from Shinji’s mouth. Normally, Sakura would not give a damn about what came out that despicable mouth as she had heard quite a lot. Whatever troubled him as school, getting bad results or being rejected by a girl, Shinji would always blame it on others, cursing them with the worst insults he could think of. Strangely, today, his words caught her attention. She could almost tell to whom Shinji was referring.

Following behind Shinji was the knight of lance that Sakura had summoned. He appeared much less ravishing than the first night : his armor was torn, revealing his skin covered with bloody wounds; blood was freshly dripping from his forehead, blinding his left eye; his left hand was clutching his right, one limb had already broken.

Seeing her Servant in such a dreadful state, Sakura felt as if a rough hand was squeezing her heart. When her eyes met his, the knight quickly turned his head away, avoiding her gaze but Sakura did not fail to notice a hint of shame on his handsome face. The odd thing was while Lancer was terribly injured, Shinji remained totally safe, without a slightest scratch.

“What happened, nii-san ?” Not really did she care about happened had to Shinji, what she concerned was the reason why her Servant had gotten so many wounds.

“I planned to attack the Einzbern castle, where the Einzbern Master lives. Turned out that small Master of Berserker has such a huge Servant. Your useless Lancer was only able to inflict some minor wounds on him and had his ass kicked like that. “

Hissing a disgruntled sound, Shinji acted as if it was all Lancer’s fault that he had not achieved anything tonight. Feeling guilty for having pushed Lancer into this miserable state, Sakura did a rare brave act of standing up for her Servant.

“Please don’t be so harsh on him nii-san ! At least he did his best to protect you from danger.”

Somewhat startle to see that doll girl was actually trying to defend someone, a sudden fury rose from Shinji’s core.

“He ? Protect me ? Ridiculous ! That puny Servant didn’t pay a single ounce of attention in guarding his Master. Had I not been wise and observed the fight from a distant corner, I would have been smashed like an egg.”

Hiding himself in a safe place and letting the Servant fight all by himself, what could be expected more from Matou Shinji ?

“I have no duty to protect anyone besides Sakura-sama, let alone a scum like you.” Lancer, though still numbed with pain, rebuked, his words were not less sharp than the tips of his spears.-I would be more than happy to watch Berserker crush you like a rotten tomato. “ A smirk hung at the corner of his lips, a smirk aimed directly at Shinji’s cowardice. “Unfortunately, Berserker’s insanity did not allow him to figure out where you hid. “

“Asshole !” Driving mad by his anger and humiliation, Shinji lifted his leg in attempt to give Lancer a good hard kick. He was smart enough to strike at Lancer’s right side, where his broken arm resided, leaving him defendless.

“Please don’t nii-san !”Sakura shouted as she saw through his intention.

“Urg…”

The uttering sound carried no meaning as it was only the sound coming from a slender neck being grabbed so painfully. Provided a little more strength was added into the grasp, the neck would blatantly break in two.

Tears of pain and fear trickled out from the corners of his eyes. Matou Shinji, who was supposed to be the attacker, had his throat caught in the strong and firm fingers of the knight. The attacker got attacked, at that moment, Shinji realized how foolish his act was. A Heroic Spirit, even though he was gravely wounded, was far more superior in physical strength compared to that of a normal human, let alone a frail boy like Shinji.

With no effort, Lancer had caught Shinji’s throat with his left hand and lifted him up a few inches away from the ground. Seeing that, Sakura exhaled a sigh of relief.

“ Ho ? You have something to say ?” Lancer mocked at Shinji’s pathetic expression with a hint of cruelty. “Your throat stuck ? Maybe I can help you get rid of that disturbing part.”

Shinji’s face grew pale from sheer terror and turned purple from the lack of air. The boy was opening his mouth widely like a dying fish.

Lancer’s right eye narrowed deadly. His elegant face was tainted with blood and anger, turning to an opposite countenance akin to a demon’s.

“When you cannot speak with that foul mouth of yours, the Command Spell won’t take effect on me.”

“Such might cannot be expected in any Servants but Heroic Spirit Diarmuid !” Voice of the fourth person raised in the air, along with a rotten stench that was too familiar. The old corpse seemed to appear from nowhere and applauded Lancer’s act with a sarcastic tone, mocking his current condition. In his presence, Sakura’s face became colorless. The knight’s sharp intuition reminded him that this Matou Zouken was a fearsome being.

“Instead of praising my strength, you should praise your grandson’s bravery for trying to hit a Servant bare-handedly.”

The sound of two bony hands clapping came soft and dry, added with Zouken’s wicked laughters.

“Action matches words. Simply great ! However, would you remain calm and haughty like that if your Master were in the same state as my grandson ?”

Lancer shuddered at the sight of Sakura’s face distorted with agony caused by an invisible force, as if a pair of hands was also squeezing her delicate neck, even stronger and more merciless than Lancer’s. Glaring at the old man with furious flame, the knight let go off Shinji’s throat and the boy fell heavily to the ground like a junk bag. At the same time, Sakura’s throat was released. Both of them were clutching their throats, desperately gasping for air; though on Shinji’s skin, the imprint of Lancer’s fingers was clearly visible, Sakura’s skin bore no strange marks. What seemed to have strangled her just then was obliviously the work of Zouken. Biting his lower lips, Lancer silently cursed. Zouken’s power had no effect on a Servant with high magic resistance like him but what about his Master ? Her fragile body could not endure such brutal force.

“Now, you learn your lesson, Shinji. Don’t think of Servants too lowly. Next time I may not be able to save you.”

Zouken’s words might seem like scolding, they were really a warning to Shinji. Don’t let your guard down; try to take advantage of the Command Spell Sakura cast on Lancer. Getting his idea, Shinji glared at Lancer, who was helping Sakura on her feet, with blood-shot eyes, hands massaging his sore throat. He had already had a good idea of making Sakura pay for what Lancer had done.

“Sakura” Zouken’s stared at the younger girl.

“Yes grandfather ?”

“Try to heal all Lancer’s injuries. I want him in full health tomorrow.”

“Yes grandfather.”

“And Shinji, in order to let Sakura concentrate on her task, you must not bother her.”

Zouken’s order drew two contradictory reactions from his grandchildren : Shinji ground his teeth in frustration while Sakura sighed with relief as a burden had been lifted off her shoulders. Beside Lancer, the three of them clearly knew the meaning of ‘bother’ Zouken had mentioned. Though his knowledge of his Master’s hell was only a matter of time, Sakura tried to postpone it as long as possible.

The room was small and dimly lit, a thick and dark curtain blocked the moonlight outside the window. Certainly, its owner does not fancy light. Provided she did not need to do a few tasks, doing her homework for example, Sakura would turn off all the lights and allow darkness to totally occupy this place. Light exposes her impure nature while darkness gently shields her, embraces her.

While walking to her room, Sakura and her Servant did not exchange a word; she led the way and he quietly followed.

“Please sit down !” Sakura pointed to her bed.

As soon as he settled his seat, the handsome spearman lowered his head.

“I’m terribly sorry, Sakura-sama. To have performed so poorly and brought shame to you.”

“No, you did not.” She said softly, almost whispered.  Activating her Magic Circuits, Sakura poured prana to her palm. As a result, her hand gleamed in reaction of the healing magecraft. Despite her ghostly touches on his wounds, the girl was concentrating her mind on mending each and every of his injuries, even fixing his armor. The pleasing warmth of her magecraft brought a faint smile on the knight’s lips.

“It’s me who should apologize. If it were not because of me, you would not have to fight and get yourself injure.”

“Don’t apologize, Master. Why are Servants invited to this world but to fight each other ? However, to think that I already failed my first battle in this Heaven’s Feels, how disgraceful I am !”

“Even I, who was not present at that place, can understand the power of the greatest hero Hercules. You did your best to survive and returned to me. I’m truly happy.”

His eyes caught sight of a slight yet true smile on her lovely face. In admiration of the beauty of her rare smile, his heartbeats sped up; at the same time, the Irish hero’s heart ached as he detected the quite, enduring grief in those eyes of her.

Sakura went to the bathroom and brought out basin full of water and a clean towel. Lancer looked rather dumbfounded when Sakura dipped the towel into water.

“I used to think Servants are nothing but tools to serve Masters.”

“That’s common thought.” Lancer smiled bitterly. Somewhere in his soul lied the remnants of the hatred of being treated like a machine, being dispossessed of his pride as a knight, being coerced to do things his conscience never permit; yet he could not recall the specific memories. “There’s quite a number of Masters who treat their Servants like insensitive machines despite their feelings. As a result, they earn hatred from their Servants and are often killed after the three Command Seals are used up.”

“When you appeared, I was convinced otherwise. Servants, albeit they’re dead, are still humans, with human emotions. Therefore, they must be treated like human beings.”

As she spoke, the girl’s hand gently wiped away the dry blood that covered nearly half of his face, making it difficult to see his wound. Lancer grimaced at the sting when warm water touched his wound but still found Sakura’s tender care very welcome.

“Did it hurt ?”

“Not much.” Showing his weakness in front of his Master was the least thing Lancer wanted to do.

“You don’t have to do that. Healing my injuries is more than enough.”

“If I don’t clean the blood, I can’t see your wound. Isn’t that obvious ?”

With that simple answer, the knight let her finish her cleaning. It was simply blissful to be cared by the hands of the girl who has gradually become more than just his Master. Slowly but surely, Lancer realized the feelings he harbored toward Sakura had even surpassed his love toward his wife, Gráinne, in his mortal life. A beautiful and nice girl like Matou Sakura is someone that every men get attracted to at the very first sight; besides, her weak, fragile character makes her vulnerable and triggers men’s instinct to pity her, to protect her and most of all, to love her wholeheartedly to compensate for all of her sufferings. That was exactly how Lancer felt about Sakura.

“ I didn’t know… to have someone to care for… this sensation is rather…blissful.”

For someone so young to say something so sad, Lancer could not understand what had made this charming girl so melancholy.

“Those two… Are they really your family ? “

As soon as he saw the change in her expression, Lancer realized he had asked something he should not have.

“No, I was adopted.” Sakura shook her head, her long bang hung before her eyes like a curtain. The girl was trying hard to hide her eyes which were brimming with tears. That was enough to answer the knight’s question. He might not have known the truth of her life, yet he knew the life of an adopted child was not an easy one. There are parents who are kind and loving to their foster child like his father in his past life and there are parents who are otherwise.

“The most challenging part… is your broken arm.” Sakura’s tone was serious. To restore the broken bones and muscles, the amount of prana required was quite critical, even for a proper magus like Sakura, not to mention she had spent a large volume to heal his other wounds. To exceed her limit meant bringing danger to her own body; nothing could guarantee that she would not damage her Magic Circuits and collapsed right after the process was done. However, she could not allow him to battle with one crippled arm; it would greatly reduce his ability and increase his risk. Not being able to support him in battles, what she could only do was helping him regain his full health. Sakura put aside her fear of prana depletion, her body was already broken after all. Moreover, those worms would not let their host die, either.

“Hey, help me this time, ok ?” Sakura whispered to the worms inside her. Strange, it was her first time she thought of them with no nauseate or apprehension. Probably because she was more or less depending on their help.

It seemed like a flame was initiated inside her, scorching her internal organs. To begin with, her Magic Circuits were different from that of a normal magus, all thanks to Zouken’s work. It was merely a nest of those worms he had jammed into her body for years. Once she invoked them, the worms began feasting on her flesh and blood.

No matter how she tried to bit back her pain, her expression failed to lie to Lancer’s sharp eyes. Grasping her hand with his fine arm, the knight abruptly stopped the process.

“What’s wrong, Sakura-sama ?”

“Nothing. Let me continue !”

“Your face says differently.” He protested.

“It’s nothing. I’m fine !” Stubbornly she jerked off his hand and continued on her job. The more she hesitated, the more aches she had to endure.

A gust of wind sent chill down her spine as her body was dampened with sweats. Once it was done, the flame inside her started cooling off. Sakura was exhausted beyond her limit and collapse into her Servant’ arms, which had been rejuvenated.

“Sakura-sama ?”

“I’m a little tired, that’s all. Just need to rest. Can you stay with me ?” Under the dim light, Sakura looked sickly pale.

“I’ll stay and watch. Sleep well, Master.”

Allowing his sweet, alluring smile to lead her into slumber, Sakura closed her eyes.

A Servant’s body, although was constructed with flesh and bone, was unlike that of a human. Servants are simply souls, without the bodies created the prana provided by The Holy Grail, they are no thing more than ‘ghosts’. To maintain their existence in this world and to fight, they greatly depend on their Masters’ prana. That’s why their wounds cannot heal using normal methods. Once Servants are supplied with enough prana, no eating or sleeping is needed; their bodies are always ready to engage in battles. Thus, Lancer took advantage of it and enjoyed the view of a sleeping beauty beside him. In her sleep, Sakura’s face was innocent and angelic, a face free of any tears or grieves. The emotionless, doll-like mask she often wore on her face when confronting Zouken and Shinji was peeled off. If left Sakura vulnerable, defendless yet genuine and more human-like. At this moment, Lancer allowed himself to think of him as Diarmuid, the man, not the Heroic Spirit Lancer and Sakura was not his Master, but someone dearer.

A few strands of hair tangled on her face, Lancer brushed it aside only for his hand to be caught by delicate, hot fingers. Somehow, Sakura had awaken from her deep slumber and began to murmured something so soft that even his keen hearing could not make out.

“Sakura-sama ?”

Lowering himself so that he could hear her whisper, Lancer had made a terrible mistake. Sakura’s hands swiftly intertwined around his neck and with a surprising strength, the girl wrestled an off-guard man down the bed. If this were someone other than his Master, his Sakura, he would receive a death sentence by the knight. However, this was Sakura, how could he react violently ?

Lying awkwardly on the bed with the weight of his Master on top of him, even in his wildest dream, Lancer could not imagine this scenario. Worse came to worst, Sakura’s alluring gaze was eyeing him hungrily and lustfully, paying extreme attention to places where his skin was exposed : his neck, his shoulders, his arms. Her eyes were wide open but her irises were shaded, lacking their normal sane. As if she was sleep-talking, the girl’s hot breath tickled his ears.

“Lancer…Stay with me…”

“I’m here, Sakura-sama.” He replied, somewhat dubious.

Her hands gripped his collar tightly, keeping him in place. Laying beneath her and having himself examined by those eyes which were devoid of consciousness, the man felt helpless as a small prey in front of a starving predator, a predator that was not hungry for food.

“Saku…-“

Before her name was fully pronounced, Sakura had forcefully sealed his mouth with her own. This was not his first kiss as he had had lovers and wife in his past life, matters like this was familiar to him, but never in his life has he experienced such a fierce and suffocating kiss, a kiss that even with a Servant’s extraordinary abilities, he could hardly stand. As though Sakura was intended to such all the air out of his lung.

She broke the kiss and licked her lips, savouring the great delicacy of his lips, his mouth and his tongue, while her Servant was choking for air after a painful encounter. A devilish grin she had on her lips as if mocking him, Sakura abandoned his lips and traveled down to a more delicious place in her opinion : his neck. First, it was just her lips caressed his skin; when she found that kissing was not enough to satisfy her, she began to suck lightly until a dark bruise formed on his skin. At last, her teeth sank in his supple flesh, drawing his blood.

Pain woke him up from the entrancement she had planted on his mind. Lancer grabbed her slender shoulders, pushing her to a distance in which he could look into her clouded eyes.

“What’s happening to you, Sakura-sama ? You’re acting so strange.”

Much to his disappointment, Sakura did not reply. No matter how careful he read, the only thing he could extract from a look was an indescribable lust that a modest girl like Sakura should not have. Worse, the subject of her infatuation was none other than him, Heroic Spirit Diarmuid.

In his lifetime, he had encountered many looks that were similar to Sakura’s current one. He deeply understood the sole reason of these craving gazes, that was the love spot under his left eye. In his youth, Diarmuid once helped an old woman who turned out to be a goddess in disguise. In rewarding to his kindness, she had given him a love spot that made women love him at soon as they laid their eyes on his face. However, though this reward seemed very attractive to men, only Diarmuid knew how it had constantly troubled his life. In the end, it was one of the main causes that led him to his demise.  To think that the same problem happened again in his second life, Lancer could not help but sign lengthily. But, how could it be ? He wondered. His charm was only effective to normal women, but a proper magus like Sakura should have been able to resist it. Yet, she was acting like her mind had already been mesmerized by the charm. Could it be her magic resistance system was weakened when she had spent a large amount of prana to fix him ?

Basically, he could not deny the heat that was gradually building up in his core and the fact that he, too, was very much enjoying the blissful sensation she penetrated on him with her soft, full lips. Despite, his sense of a loyal knight and his conscience of a well-educated man stung his heart like a needle, preventing him from taking advantage of his Master while she was not herself.

Lancer managed to sit up notwithstanding the weight of Sakura on his torso.

“You must stop ! It’s not right at all ! “

“What’s right, then ?”

“ What you’re doing is not right ! We’re Master and Servant. “

“Master and Servant are not forbidden to love. You want it too ? Why keep denying ?”

Sakura’s entire being was also emitting a comparable charm to his ‘Mystic Face’, a charm that could marvel a man’s heart and body; in this case, his heart and body; a magical force so powerful that it made his high magic resistance nothing but a joke.

“You’re blinded by my Mystic Face. Once recovering, you’ll definitely regret it.” The night rebuked weakly, some of his sense and morality had already perished.

“What if I won’t ?”

What could be more powerful than her captivation were the two remaining Command Seals etched on the back of her hand. Lancer swallowed hard when he witnessed the tattoos glimmering.

As another Command Seal vanished, his last protest and hesitance were brutally swept away. His whole being devoted to serve his Master’s need.

Unknown to Master and Servant, who had just ascended to a different level of relationship, their intimate scene was observed by pairs of despicable eyes.

End of ‘Noon (I)’

——————————————

Altered :

In the middle of ‘it’, somehow Lancer regained his sense and asked an awkward question.

Lancer : Sakura-sama, how old are you ?

Sakura : (still not herself due to you-know-why) 15,5, why asking ?

Lancer : (sweat drop) 18’s the legitimate age to do ‘it’ in this era, no ?

Sakura : Yes.

Lancer : Basically what we’re doing is neither moral nor legal ?

Sakura : Yes.

Lancer : If I were human, I would be in jail for doing ‘it’ with you, no ?

Sakura : Yes.

Lancer : Do you think we should stop ?

Sakura : No !

End.

Chương 2 : Sáng

Cơ thể mỏi mệt như vừa trải qua một hành trình dài và buồn tẻ, Matou Sakura thức dậy muộn hơn thường lệ. Trong đầu nảy lên ý nghĩ trốn học, cô chui vào chăn, trùm kín đầu. Tấm màn dày che kín cửa sổ, ngăn ánh mặt trời chiếu vào căn phòng nhưng nhiệt độ tăng dần khiến tấm chăn dày trở nên nóng ức và ngột ngạt. Đạp tung tấm chăn, Sakura nằm trên giường với đôi mắt nhắm nhưng chẳng thể ngủ lại. Quay ngược cuộn băng ghi lại sự kiện đêm qua trong đầu, Sakura vẫn chưa thể tin rằng đó hoàn toàn là sự thật.

Một anh hùng đã ghi tên mình vào thần thoại, người mang trên vai mong ước và niềm tin của biết bao con người. Khi một anh hùng chấm dứt sự sống, linh hồn anh ta sẽ không bước vào vòng luân hồi như bao con người bình thường khác; cùng với những chiến công lừng lẫy kết tinh thành những Noble Phantasm gắn liền với người anh hùng đó, anh ta sẽ được triệu hồi đến Ngai của những anh hùng, một nơi tồn tại vĩnh cửu ngoài không gian và thời gian. Được mời trở lại đến thế giới con người nhờ vào sức mạnh phi thường của Chén Thánh để tham gia vào một trận tử chiến nhằm mang vinh quang chiến thắng về cho một pháp sư cụ thể, một ‘Master’, đó là vai trò của vị anh hùng được gọi là ‘Servant’. Vì thế, ‘Servant’ chỉ là một danh xưng chứ không phản ánh bản chất, vị anh hùng được triệu hồi phải được đối xử như một thượng khách chứ không phải một thứ tùy tùng hạ cấp. Sakura đã được học điều đó, nhưng do ác cảm với người thầy Zouken, mọi điều lão dạy chỉ đúng một nưả đối với cô. Trong con mắt của Matou Sakura, một Anh hùng, dù huyền thoại có lẫy lừng đến đâu, một khi đã là Servant, anh ta cũng chỉ là một thứ robot làm theo mệnh lệnh của Master một cách vô tri vô giác và vô cảm, giống như cô đối với Zouken.

Sự kiện xảy ra đêm qua đã hoàn toàn thay đổi cách nghĩ của cô.

Từ từ hiện lên từ vòng phép triệu hồi là một thanh niên mặc giáp, vũ khi cầm chắc trong đôi tay mạnh mẽ. Khuôn mặt anh, một khi đã hiện ra, khiến trái tim Sakura gần như ngừng đập vì vẻ quyến rũ hiếm thấy. Nốt ruồi dưới mắt trái như một giọt lệ nhỏ càng tăng thêm sức hấp dẫn toát ra từ sự dũng mãnh của anh.

“Ta hỏi nàng, phải chăng nàng là Master đã triệu hồi ta ?”

Với chất giọng ấm áp, anh cất tiếng.

Bị hút hồn bởi vẻ ngoài đẹp đẽ của vị Anh hùng, Sakura không nói nên lời. Sau lưng cô, Zouken đang hét lên với một sự phấn khích khó tìm thấy ở cái xác sống này.

“Làm cái quái vậy Sakura ? Trả lời mau lên, xác nhận giao ước với anh ta.”

Rồi lão lẩm bẩm như tự nói với mình.

“Gọi được một trong ba Servant ‘Hiệp sỹ’mà không có sự trợ giúp của cổ vật, công sức ta bỏ ra thật không uổng phí.”

Dựa vào ngoại hình vào binh khí, không khó để xác định anh ta là một trong ba ‘Hiệp sỹ’ : Saber, những Anh hùng dùng kiếm; Archer, những Anh hùng dùng cung và Lancer, những Anh hùng dùng thương, giáo làm vũ khí. Anh, người đang cầm một ngọn thương đỏ như máu trong tay phải và một ngọn vàng rực trong tay trái, cả hai đều tỏa ra sát khi mãnh liệt, nhất định là ‘Lancer’.

“Vâng…-với chút ngập ngừng và lúng túng, Sakura khẽ đáp- Tôi là người đã triệu hồi anh. Matou Sakura là tên tôi.”

Trong sự bất ngờ của Sakura, hiệp sĩ quỳ một chân và nhẹ nhàng nắm lấy bàn tay nhỏ bé của cô, đặt lên đấy một nụ hôn.

“Ta, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, chấp nhận nàng, tiểu thư Matou Sakura, là Master thực sự và duy nhất của ta. Trên tước hiệu hiệp sỹ, ta nguyện trung thành với nàng và sẽ dâng Chén Thánh cho nàng bằng đôi tay này.”

Cảm động sâu sắc với lời tuyên thệ của Lanccer, một nguồn nhiệt sôi sục trong tận đáy lòng cô khi đôi mắt vàng rực của chàng hiệp sỹ nhìn thằng vào mắt cô, trong sáng và tràn đầy sự ngay thẳng. Với cái nhìn đó, Sakura tưởng như có thể đặt trọn niềm tin vào người đàn ông này.

Nhưng có một kẻ ở đây hoàn toàn không mảy may cảm động trước lời nói của Lancer. Shinji lên tiếng, dập tắt sự lãng mạn vừa chớm nở giữa Sakura và Servant của cô một cách thô lỗ.

“Chuyển Phong ấn mệnh lệnh cho anh mau lên Sakura. Anh sẽ chỉ huy tên ngố này.”

Ngược hẳn với cái nhìn đầy thiện cảm khi anh nhìn Sakura, ánh mắt hiệp sĩ khi nhìn Shinji lạnh lẽo và sắc như dao khiến gã giật bắn, ánh mắt như chán ghét và khinh thường Shinji lắm.

“Dám nhìn ta một cách láo xược vậy hả ? Ta, Master của ngươi đó !”

“Sakura-sama là Master duy nhất của ta và chỉ nàng mới có quyền sai khiến ta. Mở miệng ra một lần nữa là ta buộc ngươi ngậm lại vĩnh viễn đó.”

“Sakura, chuyển cho anh !”

Sakura nắm chắt mu bàn tay phải, nơi ba dấu xăm của Phong ấn mệnh lệnh đang rực sáng. Mỗi dấu là một mệnh lệnh tối thượng mà Servant của cô không thể nào kháng cự; mỗi dấu là một sợi dây trói buộc người thanh niên đẹp trai này với cô. Khi dấu xăm cuối cùng biến mất, anh hoàn toàn có quyền rời bỏ cô. Vì thế, để giữ anh bên mình, Sakura phải trân trọng ba dấu xăm này. Vậy mà Shinji lại bắt cô giao chúng cho gã, sao cô có thể chấp nhận được ? Nhưng nếu cô không vâng lời, nhất định gã sẽ tìm mọi cách hành hạ cô để trút giận.

Coi sự im lặng của cô là phản đối, Shinji càng la to hơn.

“Con ngốc Sakura này ! Có nghe tao nói không ?”

“Sakura sẽ tiếp tục là Master của Lancer.”

Lần đầu tiên trong đời, Sakura không thấy khó chịu với giọng nói khàn khàn đặc sệt của Zouken.

“Sakura, cho ta biết các chỉ số của Lancer !”

Sakura lập tức vâng lời, sử dụng kỹ năng đặc biệt giúp cho Master nắm chắc sức mạnh và khả năng của Servant thuộc quyền sở hữu của mình.

“Ông à !” Shinji vùng vằng như một đứa trẻ.

“Nếu con nhận Phong ấn mệnh lệnh và trở thành Master chính thức của Lancer, các chỉ số của Lancer sẽ bị giảm nghiêm trọng do khả năng phép thuật yếu kém của con. Thêm nữa, con không đủ prana để cung cấp cho anh ta. Vì vậy, ta quyết định Sakura sẽ là Master chính thức.”

“Con khốn !” Dù Zouken đang đứng ở đây, Shinji vẫn văng tục, đôi mắt gã như bốc cháy bởi sự ghen tỵ khi nhìn vào Sakura.

Không thể nín nhịn khi thấy Master của mình bị xúc phạm, lưỡi thương đỏ trong tay hiệp sỹ đã xuyên qua lớp da mỏng trên cổ Shinji. Mấy giọt máu rơi xuống nền đất khiến Shinji sợ đến cứng người.

“Rút lại những lời ngươi vừa nói và nhận lỗi với nàng trước khi mũi thương của ta cắt đứt đầu ngươi.” Lancer lạnh lùng ra lệnh.

“Đừng giết anh ấy mà Lancer !”

Cho dù cô rất căm hận gã nhưng khi gã gặp nguy hiểm, không hiểu sao cô lại đứng ra bảo vệ gã.

“Sự sỉ nhục đó phải lấy máu để rửa, thưa Master.” Lancer ấn mạnh mũi thương, máu ứa ra nhiều hơn nhưng tính mạng Shinji vẫn còn an toàn. Đây chính là sự chính xác tuyệt vời và người ta mong đợi ở một hiệp sỹ dùng thương.

“X..Xin…l…lỗi…Sa..kura !”

“Xin anh đấy Lancer !”

“Ngươi toàn mạng là nhờ sự rộng lượng của nàng đó.”

Ngọn thương rút lại và áp lực của nó trên Shinji cũng biến mất. Chứng kiến sự việc, Zouken, người nãy giờ luôn giữ im lặng, nhíu mày.

“Cám ơn vì đã nghe lời tôi !”

“Đó là bổn phận của Servant mà Sakura-sama.” Không biết vô tình hay cố ý, Lancer lại nở nụ cười làm say đắm lòng người. Trước nụ cười đó, trái tim Sakura không khỏi loạn nhịp.

“Sakura”

Giọng nói trầm và lạnh ngắt như mặt đất dưới chân Sakura. Giọng của Matou Zouken.

“Con là chủ nhân chính thức của Lancer nhưng Shinji mới là người đại diện dòng họ Matou trong cuộc chiến giành Chén Thánh. Dùng một Phong ấn mệnh lệnh buộc Lancer phục tùng Shinji và con không phải bận tâm về việc gì nữa.”

Mệnh lệnh tối thượng có thể buộc Servant làm những việc mà bản thân anh ta không hề mong muốn. Đó là công cụ đặc biệt được ban cho Master để kiểm soát Servant.

Trong khi Shinji không giấc được vẻ đắc thắng thì trái tim Sakura như chìm vào tuyệt vọng. Nếu có một điều tàn nhẫn hơn việc cướp đi địa vị Master của cô thì đó là buộc cô phải ra một mệnh lệnh vô nhân đạo như vậy với người thanh niên mà cô có nhiều thiện cảm này. Vẻ mặt Lancer không khá hơn Sakura là bao. Dù anh chỉ mới gặp ba người này nhưng anh đã nhận ra sức ảnh hưởng to lớn của lão già khô đét tên Zouken đối với Shinji và Master của anh. Đặc biệt là Master của anh.

Giữa lương tâm của mình và lệnh của Zouken, Sakura đã biết điều gì sẽ chiến thắng.

Ba dấu xăm Phong ấn mệnh lệnh trên tay Sakura nóng như thiêu đốt, như phản ánh nỗi thống khổ của người sở hữu chúng. Nhìn cô, Lancer đã đoán được số phận của mình sẽ thế nào.

“Lancer, bằng quyền lực của Phong ấn mệnh lệnh, tôi yêu cầu cho anh phải tuân theo sự sai khiến của Shinji và giúp anh trai tôi giành được Chén Thánh.”

Sakura vừa dứt lời thì cơ thể Lancer lập tức bị một sức nặng vô hình đè xuống.

“Tha thứ cho tôi, Lancer.” Tuy không phát ra lời nhưng đôi mắt ngấn nước của Sakura đã nói lên tất cả. Oán giận ngập tràn lồng ngực Lancer nhưng nguyên nhân của nó không phải là sự nhu nhược của Sakura mà là ‘ông’, là ‘anh trai’ cô, những kẻ tìm thấy niềm vui trong việc xúc phạm Master của anh.

Thỏa mãn với việc sở hữu Lancer, Shinji đã để cho cô một đêm hiếm hoi được trọn giấc. Giấc ngủ là điều cô cần nhất sau khi kiệt sức vì nghi lễ và lượng prana phải cung cấp cho Lancer.

Một bàn tay lớn và ấm áp khẽ đặt lên trán Sakura khiến cô trở lại thực tại. Không ai trong ngôi nhà này lại tử tế với cô như vậy, ngay lập tức cô đã đoán ra đây là tay của ai.

“Lancer ?” Gương mặt đẹp đẽ của anh là điều đầu tiên cô thấy khi mở mắt ra. Không biết vì sao nhưng khi ở gần anh, Sakura cảm thấy thoải mái và an toàn.

“Nàng trông xanh xao và mỏi mệt quá. Nàng bị ốm sao ?”

“Tôi không sao, chỉ mệt chút thôi. Anh không cần lo lắng quá đâu.” Cảm giác mà bàn tay Lancer mang lại khiến Sakura dễ chịu đôi chút, cô không từ chối sự quan tâm của anh. Ai lại nỡ từ chối một người đẹp trai mà lịch thiệp như Lancer ?

“Sức khỏe của Master là điều ta phải quan tâm.”

“Một kẻ yếu hèn như tôi không xứng làm Master của anh đâu.” Sakura đáp bằng giọng buồn buồn.

“Ta đã chấp nhận nàng là Master và thề trung thành tuyệt đối với nàng. Không ai có thể thay đổi điều đó.”

“Zouken có thể. Dù ông ta nói gì, tôi cũng phải làm theo.” Sakura cười chua chát, hai dòng nước mắt đã ướt đẫm gò má. Có cố gắng bao nhiêu đi nữa thì Matou Sakura vẫn thất bại trong việc kìm nén nước mắt, đóng băng trái tim mình trong sự lãnh cảm. Mỗi khi cô đơn, nước mắt lại rơi, khiến cô nhớ đến tình cảnh thảm hại của mình. Không ai thấy cô khóc, không ai biết đến nỗi đau của cô. Kể cả người con trai mà cô từng thầm yêu.

Một bàn tay nhẹ nhàng lau đi nước mắt cô, bàn tay của người cô chỉ mới quen đêm qua. Đột ngột trở mình, cô quay mặt vào vách tường nhưng dù thế cũng chẳng che dấu được bờ vai đang run bần bật.

“Sao lại thương hại tôi ? Tôiđâu xứng với lòng tốt và sự trung thành của anh.Một ngày nào đó, có thể tôi sẽ lại phản bội anh, giống như đêm qua.”

“Điều gì khiến nàng đau khổ, hãy cho ta biết !”

“Anh không hiểu đâu. Không ai hiểu cả.”

“Vì thế hãy nói cho ta hiểu.”

“Vấn đề là tôi không thể nói, với anh hay bất cứ ai cũng thế thôi.” Sakura lớn tiếng, dường như hét lên. “Tôi là kẻ yếu đuối, kẻ hèn !

Chàng hiệp sỹ nhìn Master của mình đầy xót thương và kinh ngạc. Anh phần nào có thể hiểu được nỗi khổ của Sakura nhưng với một người mới đến đêm qua, anh vẫn chưa có dịp chứng kiến cái địa ngục trần gian mà cô phải chịu đựng hơn mười năm qua.

Đôi tay mạnh mẽ của anh dịu dàng ôm lấy thân thể đang run lên của Sakura. Hơi ấm lập tức lan tỏa khắp người, nỗi đau của cô như được giảm bớt phần nào. Đây là lần đầu tiên có ai đó gần gũi với cô như thế, lần đầu tiên có ai đó ôm cô, lần đầu tiên có ai đó khiến cô cảm nhận được hạnh phúc thực sự.

“Không có gì phải xấu hổ khi yếu đuối cả. Nàng là phụ nữ mà phụ nữ phải được bảo vệ và chăm sóc. Đó là bổn phận của đàn ông.”

“Ai ? Ai sẽ bảo vệ tôi ?”

Giọng nói Sakura yếu ớt và đầy nghi hoặc. Với một cô gái mà phần lớn cuộc đời chỉ là ngược đãi và hành hạ, những vấn đề như vậy thật quá xa lạ.

“Dù là một hiệp sỹ hay chỉ là một người đàn ông bình thường, đó cũng là trách nhiệm của ta. Sakura-sama, hãy cho phép ta bảo vệ nàng cho đến hơn thở cuối cùng.”

Lâu lắm rồi, đã từng có một người nói những lời như vậy với cô. Ông ta cũng hứa sẽ bảo vệ cô, mang hạnh phúc đến cho cô. Nhưng sau cái đêm định mệnh đó, ông không bao giờ trở lại.

Cô không bao giờ oán hận người đó vì ông ta đã không giữ lời hứa. Vì, dù còn bé, khi nhìn thấy cái nhếch mép đầy hàm ý của Zouken, cô đã hiểu tất cả.

Người ấy, hy vọng duy nhất của cô, đã chết.

Từ đó, cô hoàn toàn đầu hàng trước sự khống chế của Zouken; không bao giờ cô còn nuôi hy vọng về tự do hay hạnh phúc nữa.

Nhưng rồi một tia sáng xuyên qua đám mây đen dày đặc che phủ cuộc đời cô khi định mệnh đem người thanh niên này, Servant của cô, đến cho Sakura. Sung sướng khi cuộn mình trong vòng tay anh như một chú mèo con, hy vọng tưởng chừng đã chết của Sakura dần sống lại. Mặt khác, cô sợ hãi với ý nghĩ khi nào ánh sáng đó sẽ biến mất.

Liệu anh có ở lại bên cô và hoàn thành lời thề của mình ?

Liệu anh có rời bỏ cô như người đàn ông ấy từng làm ?

Lần này, định mệnh sẽ dành cho cô điều gì ?

Bất giác, cô dồn toàn bộ sức lực vào đôi tay, ôm lấy thân hình anh, ôm chặt đến nỗi trái tim cô như ngừng đập. Vùi khuôn mặt ướt đẫm vào ngực Lancer, cô thì thầm.

“Dù trong bất cứ trường hợp nào, anh phải trở về bên tôi, không bao giờ được rời bỏ tôi.”

Altered :

Zouken : Shinji, con không đủ prana để cung cấp cho Lancer.

Shinji : Con có thể sai hắn đi giết và hút năng lượng từ người bình thường.

Lancer : Là một hiệp sĩ, ta thà chết còn hơn làm việc nhục nhã như vậy.

Shinji : Ông à, vẫn còn một cách để bù đắp lượng prana thiếu hụt phải không ?

Zouken : Đúng là vẫn còn. Nhưng…trong trường hợp này thì không được.

Shinji : Nói cho con đi ông !!

Zouken : Quan hệ tình dục. Nhưng Servant cũng là nam nên…

Shinji :…. @____@

Mặt Sakura tái xanh và cô chợt thấy bữa sáng, bữa trưa và bữa tối như trào lên cổ cùng một lúc. Bên cạnh, Lancer đã bất tỉnh nhân sự.

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.