The scent of roses wafted through the air in a storm of red flower petals descending from the sky.

The distant drums play the chorus of the march echoing the sound of strapped boots over dirt and sand.

As the music plays, the world overlays into a stage surrounded in gold whose domain encompasses all. Lavish tapestry hangs down from marble columns decorated in jewels and paintings in the motif of Nero.

-Aestus Domus Aurea.

The Golden Palace.

At the center of the stage, Nero stood with her sword planted in the ground. Her eyes were set with unwavering confidence and a belief that she would never topple or fall, and that belief was the basis of this magic.

"Do you see it?" She murmured, listening to growing whispers of her allies and the silence of her adversaries.

A rose formed on her hand which she held close to her nose before tossing into the wind.

The rose scattered into a ceaseless storm of petals to make way for the actor.

"The roaring crowds!"

"The thunderous applause!"

Reacting to Nero's will, the setting of the stage shifted from the palace to a colosseum, to a flowing garden. In this world, Nero was the actor, director, and choreographer representing her legend.

None may leave until she saw it fit or if her magic energy waned.

Grabbing the hilt of her sword, Nero pointed it at Jaldaboath. The magic energy hummed in accordance to her wishes, the space changing, buildings rising and falling.

From the markets, to the streets, then to the heart of Rome itself overlooking a terrace of thousands.

A red mantle formed over Nero's back, her laurel crown shifting from gold into ivory.

"Witness the glory of the Empire!"

Jircniv and the others swallowed, staring in wonder at every scene of the act. The empire they witnessed, the marvels of architecture, wealth, and prosperity were a callback to an era seemingly long past.

For the people of Re-Estize, they were rendered mute like Momon and Nabe of Team Darkness who glanced nervously at each other. Others like Princess Renner knit her brows in thought of what this could all mean?

Shirou already knew that Nero was more than willing to explain.

Right here, right now, Nero's words carried not only her belief, but her will and that of her Rome.

"Here is the honor of the Imperium!" Nero declared, glaring at Jaldaboath.

The scattered flowers gave rise to a debilitating weakness that bore down on Jaldaboath's shoulders. This very space that marked him as an enemy weakened him just by being within it.

"Here, where dancing scatters the flowers and cleaves open the stars, the stage is set!" Nero swept her sword out, the wind generating a current of sword light that left an opening cut into the tiled floor next to Jaldaboath. "Behold my theater! Behold the supreme beauty of the thespian overlaid on reality through time and space!"

Demiurge was utterly silent in his guise as Jaldaboath. To say he was taken aback would be an understatement because he was genuinely perplexed. None of this could have ever been accounted for, but he could never allow his apprehension to show. Thus, he held his tongue while tensing his body.

Nonetheless, even if Nero had changed the battlefield, it didn't change the underlying issue that Demiurge knew Nero's entire skill set and could read her movements mid-battle. This was…a set back, but not one that was worth despairing over. As a floor guardian, he had more composure and thought than the common rabble.

Focus was all that he would need, or so he had thought.

Nero did not show any sign of engaging, rather a distant nostalgia crossed through her eyes.

It was acceptance and self-reflection.

Regardless of her pride, regardless of her skill, that which she represents must never be allowed to be tarnished or conquered.

She must not fall. Rome must never fall.

Nero let it go.

This wasn't YGGDRASIL. This was a new world, a new place, and a new opportunity.

There was no conflict here, rather, what was present was a potential branch of the old republic transported into this new world.

Senātus Populusque Rōmānus.

Yes.

SPQR.

The senate and the people of Rome.

The others would understand.

Nero glanced up and made eye contact with Jaldaboath.

"You were right all along, Demon," she freely admitted. In both her current parameters and in-game parameters, she was considered weak in regards to her fellow peers. "My strength does not lie in individuality, but by the strength of my performance and support!"

Nero focused.

Here was the stage where everything was advantageous to her, where enemies were trapped and weakened, and where she could invoke her own rules!

Buildings, structures, audiences, topography, she was the sole arbitrator of the play, and in this world, a unique set of circumstances would enable her to create a miracle.

"Do you know, Demon?" Nero hissed, throwing Aestus Estus into the air. "In the winding stretches of the empire, travelers near and far who tread upon paved roads are connected no matter where they may be."

Nero's magic energy extended and manifested to form the standard of the eagle, a glorious Aquila.

It wasn't her Noble Phantasm, but another's that was interconnected with all emperors.

'Wherever you are old timer, its time to show why you were considered wise…'

"They will see, and they will know what appears at the end of the paved stones!"

Jaldaboath frowned, feeling as if Nero wasn't speaking solely to him. The same was true of everyone else, but the link Nero spoke of was real.

So long as that man existed in this world as an emperor, it was possible.

"No matter our differences!"

Nero looked to the floating standard of the legions.

"Our conflicts!"

With righteous will, she boldly spoke to former enemies that would all align should a threat or slight to the empire arise.

"Or our legitimacy! One thing will always remain true!"

All roads lead to Rome.

And when threatened at the height of the empire's hegemony, the full might of the kingdom and its legions would follow.

If Baharuth was an offshoot, then it was a colony of the Golden era of Rome, and where Roman colonies lie, his hands had surely reached.

"Trajan, you expansionist!" Nero screamed into the air, calling to one of her smaller competing compatriots in the warring Emperors of YGGDRASIL. "Our Rome stands here! Connect the Roads!"

Emperor Trajan, the Heroic Spirit and Emperor of Rome known as one of the Five Good Emperors. He who expanded Rome's borders to the farthest reaches and connected the entire kingdom through its infrastructures, roads, and social plans possessed a skill that connected all of Rome.

Not all who would answer were present in this new world, but those that did would surely be more than enough.

The flames of magic energy that formed the Aquila Nero had formed flickered violently before bands of light shone out in random directions.

From the start, each and every one of them had decided to do their own things. Whether it be out of gratitude or personal motivation, they all pursued their own goals.

However, here and now, they gave pause and looked to the light that led to the Aquila connected to Trajan's utilitary Noble Phantasm.

Luca Stellaram, the star light road: Mille Viae Ducunt Homines per saecula Romam' (a thousand roads lead men forever to Rome)

Each band was a road that bridged the distance in an instant.

One by one, each figure looked to the light and were spurred to action through the standard of the Eagle for its symbol, beckoning their intervention.

All roads convened to one.

"Behold, the march of the Imperium!" Nero declared, calling back her sword as Trajan's bands of light created pathways for those already present in this new world to follow.

In bands of light that created a path, figures began to tread through the starlit path accompanied by armoured legions donning Roman plate summoned from their own skills.

"My my, what have we here?" A rotund man wearing a laurel crown murmured while tapping a finger over his chin. Behind him, his unique skill to command and conjure a legion to follow him into battle was already activated.

On wheels of reinforced wood and stainless steel; Roman ballistae were lined for war.

"In a bit of trouble, are you Nero?"

Gaius Julius Caesar.

From another road, a figure bolted out alone and plowed with a spinning double heel kick into the crowd of demons falling from darks spheres. His punches were lightning, his magic bursting out from his fists.

He who howls at the moon.

"NEERROOO!"

Mad Emperor Caligula.

And from the most radiant path, one imposing man striding with the symbol of victory and holding a spear aloft nodded in understanding. His red eyes stared upon the banners of the Baharuth Empire, and then at Nero and the words she'd spoken through Trajan's connection.

His words summoned the thoughts of all warring emperors present.

"For the vision that is Rome-"

Finally, the Great Founder, Romulus.

"We are here."

The power of the greet tree swept growing roots through the ranks of the demons even as Caesar grumbled before joining the foray with his retinue of summoned Roman soldiers.

And through it all, the blessing of Nero's roses continued to provide an area-wide buffing effects that doomed the entire operation.

Nero alone could elevate an ordinary army to a killing machine, but that added with the individual strengths and capabilities of the other emperors, and the super power of the Roman Golden era was reborn.

Trajan's Aquila continued to burn. So long as it remained, the starlit road would connect all Romans back to that which was designated as Rome.

Demiurge felt cold sweat form on his back. It wasn't as if he was unfamiliar with the figures before him as they were all recorded in the observations of the Supreme One. However, no such warning was given in regards to a rallying skill where the emperors would put aside their differences and cooperate.

Nero's buffing skills.

Caesar's commands.

Caligula's brawns.

And the unifying strength of the Founder.

When divided, they could each be picked apart and exploited, but united, there were no gaps for even the barbarians to exploit.

Had the original Rome remained united, the empire unfractured, the great power of the Mediterranean would never have collapsed.

What awaited by confronting such a united force was nothing less than death on his own.

The calculation was made in an instant in Demiurge's mind. He'd failed. The operation would be deemed impossible to carry out.

Demiurge spread his wings. The only chance of escape was to flee while the focus of the other emperors was on the unceasing flow of lesser demons.

A wave of searing flames cut Demiurge's flight short.

"Not so fast." Nero intervened, putting herself in front of Demiurge. This space was still her theater. No one gets out until the performance ends. "It is not yet your turn to leave the stage."

Demiurge wasted no time and swung his tail, unleashing a burst of fiendish magic energy that corroded the space around him.

Flames rose to meet Demiurge's attack, but Demiurge had already taken to the skies with a 'Fly' spell.

'Dangerous.'

Demiurge mused, feeling his stomach drop from the growing tension. As much as he was focused on escape, he'd never taken Ainz's gathered observations for nothing. A single strike would be enough to inflict a persistent burn damage that would quickly try to engulf the entire body.

Nero's sword was covered in flames, but so long as Demiurge maintained his distance and continued to read Nero's patterns, he should be safe-

"You're in my theater, and I am the main character." Nero mused with a wry smile beyond Demiurge's understanding.

Eyes widening, Demiurge gritted his teeth.

A building spontaneously formed above Demiurge and halted his ascent, the sudden impact causing his vision to spin.

Simultaneously, raised platforms appeared under Nero's feet with every step, leading her closer and closer to Demiurge.

Although Demiurge was right that Nero's techniques and fighting style hadn't changed, everything was different within this space that heavily favoured Nero.

Everything would go her way and Demiurge was on the verge of cursing.

A strike just out of reach?

No, a wall would form behind Demiurge and kill his momentum. If not for his chimeric body and toughness to break through cement and stone, he would have already been skewered and burnt alive.

"Dammit." Demiurge urgently began darting his eyes, trying to will his mind to think of a strategy.

There was no protocol for this, no reference to safely plot a raid against this new skill Nero was displaying.

Demiurge laughed at the absurdity. The bane of all plans were variables, and he'd stepped on a tragically unforeseen one.

"Sunlight of Spring and Dancing Flowers."

"!" Time slowed down.

Nero had paused in her assault and gathered the flames around her into the tip of her sword which she slowly brandished in a semi-circle.

Her stance hardened, her posture warning Demiurge of an impending thrust, yet his body stalled.

Red lightning crackled over Demiurge's skin, the weakening effect of the Golden Theater tying him down and reducing the possibility of a miss.

"Laus St. Claudius!"

It happened in the blink of an eye, Aestus Estus stabbing through Demiurge's chest before a torrent of flames pierced all the way through and cooked him from the inside.

Nero pulled her sword out and cleaned her sword with a single sweep, remnant traces of blood burned away into steam.

Demiurge stood still, body singed and scalded, a fist sized hole through his chest. The surrounding area was severely blackened and crumbling like burnt toast.

Choking for breath, Demiurge fell onto this back, eyes glazing as he barely retained consciousness.

His Lord was right.

One clean strike was all it took…

Where?

Where did it all go wrong?

What had he missed or neglected to account for midbattle?

He'd been winning.

Demiurge coughed bitterly, wire framed glasses over his face shattering into pieces.

His entire body was numb, legs refusing to move while the feeling in his arms was starting to fade.

Death was not to be feared, but disappointing the Supreme One was the true horror.

The summoned emperors were wreaking havoc among the ranks of the demons, bolstering Baharuth and Re-Estize's forces. Three swordman actively participating in the front were also standing toe-to-toe against Demiurge's generals who should have long since come to support him in the original plan…

As Demiurge lay dying while staring up at the sky, he couldn't help but raise his hand towards the floating Gate that continued to inexplicably hover over the battlefield.

His blurred eyes were drawn to it despite all the chaos.

Demiurge could not get over the timing or what purpose the gate served, but such things were beyond his mind. All that he knew from the reports was that Lord Ainz had allowed himself to pass through that very gate.

Yes.

Lord Ainz.

Surely, it had to be!

Its arrival now could not be a coincidence in Demiurge's eyes, leaving only a single conclusion to console his dying thoughts.

Perhaps this entire situation, his death, and sequence of events, yes; All of this was taken into account by the mind of the supreme one.

If that was the case, then he'd be glad to play his role.

"...As expected of Lord Ainz." Demiurge coughed as excruciating pain emanated from his wound. "...Always…a…step…ahead."

He didn't bother trying to heal himself. He could tell that it was beyond recovery even with his chimera-like recovery speed. The lingering flames were eating away at any new flesh made to save his life.

"You prattle Demon," Nero drew closer. "Umu, but this Empress will at least grant you the mercy of a quick death."

"Hahahahha-ghhehaeheh," Demiurge spat out dryly while chuckling.

He was convinced.

The foresight of the Supreme one was never in doubt.

Demiurge continued to reach out to the air, hands straining to touch even a shadow of his darkness but his strength soon waned as his arms gradually fell limp.

His death must have had meaning.

"Glory…to…Ainz…Ooal…Gown…"

Demiurge's eyes closed shut, his body spasming before going still.

A cold wind blew as Nero scrutinized Demiurge to make sure he was dead before slowly nodding. There was still much to do as the lesser Demons would not stop appearing until the black spheres were destroyed.

She took one last look at Demiurge.

A subpar end for a delusional-

Nero's pupils dilated, a reverberating bang suddenly echoing before the gate above was abruptly forced open and the point of a red spear was inches away from her face.

It was too unexpected and Nero knew she was on her last life. Hurriedly trying to block, her movements were far too slow to intervene before the spear would plunge through her heart.

There was no time to dodge, the attacker possessed a beast-like agility.

However, a certain pair of eyes were on Nero from the moment she'd utilized a Noble Phantasm.

CLANG!

A shower of sparks quickly ignited as the spear was intercepted by a pair of black and white married blades grating against each other before the recoil bounced the weapons apart.

P-Praetor?

Nero's mind quickly caught up to her before two blurs of movement and a deluge of clanging impacts shook the air. A well-timed kick soon sent the two blurs careening out of the battlefield, one defending and the other pursuing.

Nero's mouth opened then closed before her expression hardened. She was sure of what she saw on the other end of her assailant's weapon.

…The Hound of Ulster?

But something was distinctly different.

Nero pursed her lips, but now wasn't the time to dwell on it. She trusted the Praetor more.

The Master would handle it.

More importantly, Nero spotted further movement in the breached gate above before a robed Magic Caster floated down and stood quietly over Demiurge's body for the longest time as if stuck in his own world.

!

An aura of death suddenly pervaded the surroundings.


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