While Saber and Jeanne Alter handled one Servant, Shirou, Ritsuka, and Mash had moved to intercept the other that was reportedly maneuvering in a pincer formation in the south.
Using Reinforcement, Shirou was quickly striding across the hills of Rome on the way to the southern front with Ritsuka and Mash in tow. With their speed, they were able to quickly reach their destination without much difficulty, but it was there that Shirou began to have his doubts.
It was strange.
"Where's the army?" Shirou mumbled in thought while Ritsuka rushed ahead using Mash to carry him forward.
To Shirou, it was odd that even now he couldn't see any sizable force other than Rome's beyond the southern wall. In the eastern front, Saber Alter had conveyed with him through their link that there was a sizable force at the gates. Even if this was a strategic maneuver, it didn't make sense not to send an adequate number of men.
For a second, Shirou asked if Saber Alter could try to get a read on the enemy's intentions, but ever since she met up with the other Servant on the eastern side, all he could feel from their connection was a seething fury. He trusted her, really, but she was not going to reply any time soon.
Then, what about Jeanne Alter?
That connection was just as bad. All he could make out was the crackling of flames, and…debilitating stomach pain?
He was utterly confused, more so when he could clearly hear Jeanne's unceasing cackling, as if she was doubled over the ground wheezing and dying from being out of breath. Was she being choked? Jeanne Alter? No way. She'd die before letting herself be caught so helpless.
The situation on the east was bewildering, yet Shirou had his own people he had to look after. Jeanne and Saber Alter were capable. That much, he could always guarantee. However, Ritsuka and Mash reminded Shirou too much of himself before he grew into his own capabilities. At least with him, he had a chance of surviving his own recklessness, but the two were going headlong already without assessing the situation.
It was understandable that they wished to save as many Romans as possible, but at the same time, without getting an overall picture of the situation, there were too man risks.
Finally, Shirou focused on the sound of battle, alerting him to the enemy's position in the south.
As Romani had indicated, it was a Servant.
The Servant was alone, but even then, it was a force that Nero's Roman legionnaires could not hope to compare to. They had made a tight defensive formation with shields forward and spears poking through the gaps, but the opponent beat them away with heavy winds from the stomp of his foot alone.
Shirou was quite familiar with the method too.
"Mash, help them!" Ritsuka was quick on the uptake in situations like these, and that's why Shirou felt the most relatable to him.
Mash accepted the order, put Ritsuka down, and immediately dashed towards the enemy Servant.
"Shirou, can you provide her support?" Ritsuka asked sheepishly. Unlike Mash who was his Servant, Shirou was a fellow Master.
Regardless, Shirou nodded to the request. As good as his capabilities were, recklessly charging in against a Servant was grounds for Saber and Jeanne Alter's ire. He'd sooner get chewed and spat out by them like a wet noodle if he kept putting his life as collateral for no reason. Besides, by staying near Ritsuka, he doubled as a guard to give Mash ease of mind.
A large black bow formed in Shirou's hand, as he readied himself to give support. He decided to use this chance as a growing opportunity for Mash and Ritsuka.
Without missing a beat, Mash leapt over the Roman defensive line, and dug her heels into the dirt directly opposite to the enemy Servant.
"Mash Kyrielight, on the field!" Mash braced her shield against her shoulder, her determined eyes staring directly at the opponent before her.
"Doctor, any readings on the Servant?" She asked stiffly, noticing that a layer of wind seemed to be concealing whatever weapon the enemy Servant was using.
["His mana levels are high, but he doesn't appear to be a Caster if that stance and armour is anything to go by, he wields a weapon. Well, that is if we consider Olga's EMIYA as an exception to common convention. Just be careful."]
"Yes!" Mash nodded, turning off her comms to prevent distraction in battle.
The Servant before her was dressed in plate armour mounted over regal blues inlaid with gold trim. He was taller than Mash by a head, and his demeanor exuded a type of presence that caused a shudder of alarm to travel down Mash's back. Over his head was a shoddy hood that only revealed the lower half of a face.
Mash braced herself for battle as she had put herself in front of the Roman soldiers, but contrary to her expectations, the Servant did not immediately engage a clear hostile. Rather, he seemed almost bemused.
"That shield…" the Servant muttered. "I see, so that's what it was."
"Y-You recognize it?" Mash blurted, taken aback. The only one with any information on it was Saber Alter, and she refused to reveal anything until the Servant that Mash was fused with opted to tell her.
"How could I not?"
Mash grew hopeful that if it wasn't Saber Alter, she might be able to get an answer, but she was bound to be disappointed. The Servant did not elaborate beyond that, seemingly respecting the wishes of the shield's true owner.
"Who are you?!" She insisted.
"Someone that knows words mean little in combat." The Servant smiled, not answering and choosing another course of action. "Let me see how much you've grown, old friend."
Mash stared at her shield as it thrummed with equal parts familiarity and confusion, but it didn't last as the Servant was on her in an instant.
"Ugh," The invisible weapon smashed against her shield with such force that she felt nauseous as a dinging echoed in her head.
Gritting her teeth, Mash revolved her shield and shoved forward, hoping to force the enemy back, but she stumbled on her feet when she met no resistance. She tripped, momentum carrying her forward to smack her shield into the ground, and her body following along with it, leaving her vulnerable.
She only had a second to glance up before she realized that the enemy had sidestepped, but had not used the opportunity to attack. W-Was he making fun of her? The Servant chuckled in amusement, as if the maneuver brought back distant memories.
"Still head long and stubborn I see," the Servant grinned, pointing his weapon at Mash.
An acute sense of shame and frustration was conveyed through her shield, and into Mash, before she huffed and swiped the edge of her shield in attack.
With a careful set of footwork, Mash's attack was easily dodged, leaving her stunned at the ease of which she was being handled.
Rounding back, she kicked up dust with her shield by smacking the butt end on the ground, before she rounded back with a sweeping overhead.
That too was countered by nothing less than a violent storm of wind that sent her tumbling.
It was almost like the man knew her attack patterns.
Grunting, Mash's legs wobbled as she quickly fell back into a defensive stance.
By this point, Rome's soldiers had designated her as an ally and were throwing javelins to divert the enemy Servant's attention. Not even looking in their direction, the enemy raised his weapon, and then swept it to the side with a burst of magic energy that rebuffed every single strike.
This Servant was strong. There were no doubts about it.
Fortunately, Mash wasn't alone.
The streaking sound of a tactical missile echoed through the air, giving Mash the signal to hide herself behind her sturdy shield while leaving the enemy in the open.
The enemy Servant was no push over, immediately detecting the source of the sound and identifying it.
"An Archer- what sort of arrow?!"
The complacency on the enemy Servant's face shifted from laid back to stunned the moment he tried to easily bat away the strike like the javelins before it. However, this was no ordinary arrow.
"D-Damn it." The Servant cursed before flaring his magic energy and striking at the oncoming arrow.
The invisible weapon struck true, and the explosion of impact sent the enemy Servant backpedaling away from Mash, giving her room to breathe.
"Emiya-Senpai," Mash smiled in gratitude when Shirou and Ritsuka entered the battlefield.
Staring at Shirou and Ritsuka's arrival, the enemy Servant brushed off the dirt and grime from the attack, and otherwise appeared fine. However, he was making a face now that his opponents had shifted from just one, to what seemed like three.
"Well, this is going to be more work than I thought," the Servant muttered, getting back into a fighting stance, but Ritsuka pressed forward.
Oddly, Shirou let him, a peculiar expression on his face while Mash moved to protect her Master.
"What do you want?" Ritsuka demanded. "Why are you even doing this!?"
More amicable than anyone thought, the Servant actually eased his stance and answered. "Before being a Servant, right now…I'm a hired hand."
"A Servant like you, working as a mercenary?" Mash pursed her lips, the sentiments in her shield just as baffled.
"Honour and debts really. No hard feelings." The Servant shrugged, but it was by this point that Shirou shook himself out of his stupor.
"It's fine." It was easy for Shirou to tell now that he noticed that none of Nero's soldiers were killed or grievously injured. "You don't seem to be putting much effort into this anyway?"
"Was it not obvious?" The Servant finally put away his weapon and crossed his arms. "I was asked to be a distraction, and that's what I'm doing. Killing without reason is something I'd never do."
"B-But why?" Ritsuka muttered.
The Servant, a man, clearly, did not seem to know how to answer without embarrassing himself. "Ha fine. I was offered food, I ate it, and the fat man had a glib tongue. I'm now paying off a debt of roast lamb."
"All this for just a single meal of lamb?!" Mash sounded indignant, more than she probably should have been, but her shield was acting too strangely.
The man looked flustered; the part of his face not concealed by his hood appearing flushed. "A whole lamb. Six of them."
["...Why does that sound like something Saber would be susceptible to?"]
"I am a Saber," the Servant answered despite searching for Romani's voice and not finding it.
"But Servants don't need to eat." Ritsuka reasoned before he glanced at Shirou and then recalled Saber and Jeanne Alter's voracious table manners. He immediately redacted his words, but the Servant took the silence as incredulousness.
"Then you know nothing of hunger." The Servant lectured. "As a man who has both led and fought wars, it is universal. We must eat. Hunger is the enemy."
"You, ugh, does your name happen to be Arturia?" Shirou could help it no longer. Something about this entire encounter was jarring him.
The Servant hummed, but before he could answer, his focus snapped to the east where Saber Alter and Jeanne Alter were. He sighed, slapping a hand over his face, but he was still honour bound.
"Sorry, but we'll have to cut things here," the Servant said, not wasting a second before astralizing into motes of golden light.
"Wait, where are you going?!" Mash demanded.
"To finally repay a debt in full and be rid of this constraint."
The Servant's features grew exaggerated before he disappeared in full.
"My jolly employer may have bitten off more than he can chew."
Not Nero! Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!Not Nero!
Beads of sweat dripped over Caesar's face, his rotund form barely escaping evisceration through another perilous twirling evade. Honestly, he wished his army could help him, but a Servant's capabilities dwarfed those of common humans. They'd just serve themselves up as fodder, and Caesar had no intention of allowing them to do so when his army was composed of those who viewed him as the most fit to rule Rome. These were his people, his Rome.
"Don't interfere! And stay away from the flames!" Caesar warned before paling as he narrowly dodged another blow that cratered the ground beneath his feet.
Caesar's expression twisted, staring at a pair of unblinking golden eyes that reminded him of an enraged lizard.
"You dance well for a Deadman."
There was no way this was Nero!
Caesar would never believe it. They could have the same face, height, and body, but the voice, mannerism, and brutality of her offensive did not match the reports at all!
Raising his sword, Crocea Mors, he made to counter a heavy overhead slash, but soon thought better of it, and chose to continue evading. From the damage output of Saber Alter's strikes, even if Caesar successfully blocked or parried, the burst of mana Saber Alter was discharging at every strike would engulf him instantly.
"Tch," Saber Alter clicked her tongue as she relentlessly continued her charge.
For all of Caesar's rotundness, the man was deceptively quick and agile. If anything, his weight added to the strength behind his swings, forcing Saber Alter to bat them aside rather than let them graze her. This was even more so as she wasn't wearing her usual armour, but a dress that barely covered the important parts.
"C-Cleo, I have sinned." Caesar murmured disheartedly, sweat beading over his forehead as he pictured his demise.
He pulled his foot back, making panicked faces but still evading death at every turn.
It looked like he was making fun of Saber Alter, and subsequently, her strikes were only getting more and more aggressive.
She was lucky this wasn't a battle of wits, but damn.
This was such a pain! He wasn't exactly fighting at his full strength, but it meant nothing when he could determine that even if he pulled out all the stops, Saber Alter would still crush him in the end.
This was why he shouldn't have been a Saber! This class was just wrong! He was a commander before he was a fighter. At least make him a Rider! It would have been far better, and slimmer in comparison-
Caesar raised his sword to defend, this time, unable to dodge. Expectedly, the explosion of black mana that showered over his sword then over to him did just what he thought it would. It bruised his poor body, and imprinted it into the ground.
He groaned, debating on whether there was merit for a plea deal, but knowing there was no negotiation on Saber Alter's face in the least.
Hastily deciding to take things seriously, Caesar decided to ascend to his peak form, but suddenly stopped moments before doing so.
"...Took you long enough," he muttered.
Saber Alter read Caesar's lips, and immediately realized that there was something wrong. Caesar was no longer looking at her, but beside her.
That's when Saber felt it. A build up of mana that was done with the intent of being noticed.
"Another Servant?" Saber Alter mused, deftly evading the strike that hit the ground and created an obscuring plume of dust. She covered her face, squinting her eyes to try to see through the dust, but only managing to notice Caesar retreating out of sword range.
She would have to give it to the new Servant, he wasn't a cowardly Assassin who would strike without care for honour.
Still, Saber Alter quickly surmised that the interloper must be the second Servant Romani had detected.
Then what of Shirou? Truly, this was what gave Saber Alter the most pause.
"Ah, the glutton."
Saber Alter heard Caesar's voice somewhere within the obscuring dust.
"Just in time."
"…Must you call me that? It was just some lamb."
Turning in the direction of the voices, and using her magic senses to locate the exact position, Saber Alter quickly took a battle stance and glared directly in front of her. Whoever the new Servant was, they were bold to face her directly in battle.
"It was only six."
"And it still makes you a debtor, so you're honor bound!"
Were they ignoring her?
Saber Alter's brow twitched, her mind trying to formulate an explanation for the sudden appearance of the second Servant. No matter, she trusted her Master, and she would have felt it if Shirou died. She had no grudges with this new Servant yet. If the new Servant could be so gracious as to not intervene, she may even let him live.
Targeting Caesar's location, Saber Alter slashed a blade of wind and mana forward, but was stopped by the emergence of the second Servant that intervened again.
"Move." Saber Alter gave her only warning.
The dust made it hard to see the figure of the new Servant clearly, but it was a demeanor that radiated confidence.
"Sorry, as sly as his tongue is, he's right. You're going to have to stop here." The second Servant said. "I owe a favor, and if intervening this once will return it, then it's a small price to pay."
An honorable Servant? Saber Alter could respect that.
She waited for the dust to settle. It would be too troublesome if Caesar used the obscurity to launch any surprise attacks.
The new Servant seemed to have a similar view as Saber Alter, as he too waited.
When the dust finally settled, and the two got a good look at each other, it was the new Servant that balked while Saber Alter made a peculiar face at the man's weapon shrouded in air.
The man stared at Saber Alter's black dress, to her pale complexion, and then to her venomous eyes while Saber Alter stared at the familiar blues and magic armour set.
"M-Morgan?" The man bristled with loathing and scorn, the grip around his invisible weapon tightening. "Curse you, you'd follow me even here?!"
Now it was Saber Alter's turn to bristle in disbelief.
"I. Am. No. Witch."
Caesar shifted his gaze between his ally and Saber Alter several times before making the tacit decision to retreat several steps back.
"Y-You cur! You even took Merlin's voice?!"
'That's two strikes you bastard.'
She was nothing like her sister, and she was certainly no flakey flower wizard! She shuddered at the mere thought.
Saber Alter's features twisted with fury, a look that all but solidified the new Servant's impression of Saber Alter.
"Your machinations will never harm me again."
Saber Alter gnashed her teeth. Something was definitely wrong here, but she couldn't help the way her eyes gravitate back to the man's weapon.
She eyed the weapon concealed in wind with bafflement if only for an instant before the man was on her. The two exchanged a rapid set of parries and relentless flurry strikes, only to realize that the root of their swordsmanship was practically the same.
Two swords clashed together, pressing the other for dominance with both wielders glaring at the other.
"Y-You even managed to steal this?!" An eruption of blue mana surrounded the second Servant.
"You're delusional." Saber Alter sneered, black aura encasing her in full, vying for supremacy.
The earth cracked beneath their feet, tendrils of magic energy intermittently singeing the ground before it too began to crater and crumble away. It was like watching a sinkhole. The more Saber Alter and her opponent released their energy, the deeper the crater became with them at the center.
Things were getting horribly out of hand. Caesar wobbled on his feet, trying to keep his balance, but he could watch no more.
"Wait, stop!" Caesar moved to intervene, but he didn't actually dare to get between them. The most he did was yell. "I'll have you know that we came in peace!"
Left unsaid, but if they were too weak, Caesar had been fully intent on assuming control of Rome for his own reasons, but this was not the case.
"Just burn and die you, pig. You expect us to believe that?!"
Caesar shrieked as a torrent of flames nearly swallowed him whole. Once again, he disproved the notion of slow fat people by evading off the skin of his teeth.
The sudden attack on Caesar may have missed, but it certainly reminded the second Servant that he was fighting to repay a debt right now. Clicking his tongue, he forcibly disengaged from Saber Alter, and moved to defend Caesar from a surprise attack.
However, the man's momentum sputtered to a halt when Jeanne Alter, threatening to burn Caesar to death, came within view.
The man froze in alarm much to Caesar's panic.
"...There are two of you? What sorcery is-"
"Saber, Jeanne, wait!"
Everyone froze when Shirou, Mash, and Ritsuka finally arrived on scene. Of everyone present, Caesar felt the most reprieve as she scuttled away from Jeanne Alter's reach and recomposed himself.
"I'll say it again, but we didn't come to destroy Rome." Caesar stressed, trying to sort things out before it got any more out of hand. "This was just a test? A test okay?"
Saber Alter would beg to differ, and scoffed, but she didn't say anything when Shirou nodded at her. Jeanne huffed, but she didn't say anything either.
"Let's hear what he has to say first." Shirou proposed to everyone with a sigh. "At the very least, they didn't kill or critically injure any of Rome's soldiers."
Now that Saber Alter assessed the soldiers under her command, her Master's words were indeed correct. The soldiers defending Rome's eastern wall were exhausted and tired, but all could recover with a few days of rest.
Caesar was thankful for the chance to speak, and didn't care to address the blatant confusion his hired hand was feeling. As this wasn't truly life or death, Caesar could reason that the debt of lamb had yet to be paid!
A powerful backer would be stuck with him yet!
But to more important matters.
"I'll have you know but none of us in the United Roman Empire actually desire to destroy Rome," Caesar immediately divulged a fundamental truth of the U.R.E.
Mash's eyes widened in surprise
"But then the Singularity and its divergence from-"
"Who cares about what that foul court mage wanted? He left some time ago, and has never returned." Caesar spat disgruntledly. It was the first genuine show of emotion he displayed, and everyone could tell he wasn't faking it. "However, there are problems."
"Like what?" Ritsuka ventured.
Caesar glanced at Ritsuka, noticed that he was a Master, and then deemed him worthy of political discourse.
"That court mage, Lev Lainur, left behind a safeguard to ensure his twisted goals, and nothing is as compelling as Command Seals for a Servant." Caesar crossed his arms and huffed. "I may be greedy, but everything is for Rome. Therefore, I came today with a proposal. It may not be the same for everyone, but I'd like to present a truce between Emperors."
"A truce? Is that why you bring an army to Rome's doorstep?" Saber Alter sneered derisively.
She underestimated the pig's shamelessness.
"I'll have you know it's not the first time." Caesar patted himself off, bits of grime and dirt falling over his feet.
"In fact, I set the political precedent to march armed forces into the Forum Romanum. Therefore, what say you?" Caesar offered his olive branch. "Agree, and I'll tell you the true state of this war."
Many looked to Saber Alter to decide as Nero's substitute.
She wanted to filet Caesar, and that much was clear. But, she was more averse to coming off as merciless and barbaric to Shirou than anything else. There was truth in the saying that love fosters change, if not for one's self, then for their partner.
"We'll hear you out," Saber Alter forced the words out of her mouth like poison. "But cross us, and I'll have you on a roasted spit with an apple garnish."
Caesar was unphased. He'd heard worse from Cleo. "I'll take that as a yes, then."
"Can you give us an idea of what we're up against?" Shirou asked.
Caesar grew solemn all at once, a sigh escaping his lips. He balled his hands into fists, before releasing them and then staring into the empire that was Rome. In the first place, he would never have proposed an alliance unless it was truly needed, and Rome was going to need all the help it could get. Caligula's forces were already desperately trying to buy time, and Caesar would rather die for Rome than see it razed to the ground.
"We face the Great Founder bound against his will, and…the Destroyer that has usurped the missing Court Wizard's grail."
Believe it or not, Nero did not like to remain idle. The stillness made her mind wander, and given the situation of her Rome, it was far too disconcerting to ever feel at ease. Moreover, the doubts and insecurity that crept in when she didn't have to care about appearances kept her constantly anxious even if she didn't intend to.
Nero winced as she tried to sit up from her floral bed, the outer perimeter and frame decorated with lavish red roses with clipped thorns. She stared at the roses, and then looked at herself, bedridden and useless. As she'd thought, she couldn't stay here.
Pressing a hand over her wound, she felt blood seep through bandages. Her fault honestly. She should have waited for her wounds to properly set and heal before forcing herself to continue onward, but her stubbornness earned her only a re-opened wound.
Grunting, Nero kept heart, found a new set of her own bandages, and quickly went about setting her wound again. This time, she kept it tight to keep up pressure and prevent anything too damaging and permanently hindering her through her rule.
She was Nero Claudius; a flesh wound would never be enough to put her down!
Or at least, that was what her stubbornness insisted on before she had marched an army to fight on the front lines before Chaldea's intervention…
Her wound felt worse than it did before. It was to the point that it was hard to even keep up appearances, but no matter, she'd found allies that she felt she could try to trust.
Whether she suspected her imperial blood ran through the veins of two of Chaldea's members or not, still under suspicion. It didn't help that they reportedly came from Britannia, too far into the Gaul's for Nero to keep proper track of her family's movements or machinations.
Nero focused step after step to prevent herself from stumbling, eventually making it back to the central hall of the Domus Aurea where she tried to make sense of the current situation.
There was a civil war, and Rome's Emperor was bedridden?! Truly she could not bear that shame. This was part of the reason she even got Saber Alter to pose as her, but more than that, they were strong.
If it was them, then they could help turn the tide against the United Roman Empire forces. After all, she'd had no luck or progress from the start. All her reconnaissance troops never returned, and Rome was constantly getting encroached upon.
Nero squinted her eyes in the direction of Rome's outer walls, trying to get an idea of whether Chaldea had claimed victory or not. From the looks of things, the walls were intact, and there was no screaming either, which meant that Rome had been successfully defended, so then…why could she see a procession of United Empire Legionaries marching through her streets led by Saber Alter and the others?
Were they perhaps war prisoners, or maybe citizens of the empire that had finally seen the light of her Rome for what it was?!
For a second, Nero was jubilant, her features beaming like a child, but she quickly reconsidered when she noticed that Saber Alter and the others were not alone. Marching alongside them towards the Forum Romanum were two people she clearly didn't recognize. One kept his features concealed with a shoddy hood, but the other could not be anymore flaunting of his Roman roots. To his red coat, tunic, and white toga beneath all that, it just screamed Rome. More importantly, just like her, he even wore a laurel crown! Blasphemy!
Nero felt her features grow pinched when Saber Alter and the others eventually reached the Domus Aurea, dismissed the following army, and then proceeded in with just a select few.
Nero was already waiting impatiently, her chin raised, back straight, and uncaring if the posture aggravated her wound.
"You are all back safe I see! Umu, you all did well. Rome is safe." She rolled her eyes, failing to conceal the way they kept drifting to Caesar and Saber. "Now, they are?"
If her tone sounded like she was pouting, then their ears were just deaf. Still, she held on to some form of rationality and expectation.
"P-Perhaps the generals of the enemies I may parade in my Triumph against the bandits that seek my Rome?"
Ritsuka's expression grew awkward, while Shirou coughed and looked to the side. Jeanne Alter could care less, and Saber Alter still had her rationality.
"Not quite," Mash shook her head and stiffly answered.
Nero knit her brows in suspicion. Already, she had an inkling of doubt when a United Roman Empire army was seen following into Rome.
"Then who are they?"
Ritsuka moved to give an explanation, but Caesar would not let a chance to work his tongue get away from him.
"Allow me!" Caesar immediately overtook Ritsuka's initiative. "Only I may express myself with due gallantry! But before that!"
Caesar suddenly rounded on Saber Alter. "I knew it! I knew a brute like you could have never been Nero! Truly, now that I look, you even lack her bust, her brilliance, and vigour! Look, look at it! Your stone-cold face, and her star filled eyes. Your pale complexion, and her olive tan touched by the grace of Sol! There's no comparison!"
"Oh, naturally, praise me more, keep going!" Nero found that some of her animosity began to lift. Truly, praise can get you anywhere.
In contrast, Saber Alter was mutedly shielded behind Shirou who began coaxing her with sweet nothings. They still needed Caesar's information, and even then, he could prove a valuable ally. Jeanne Alter found herself nodding to every word Caesar said, not connecting that those things may also apply to her.
"Umu. I'll permit it. Go ahead, introduce yourself." Nero said graciously, flourishing a hand.
Caesar coughed, shrewd light glinting over his rounded features. He was sure Nero had guessed who she was speaking to by now. No Emperor was truly stupid. Eccentric yes, but not fools.
"Technically, I'm not an Emperor, but all of the empire and its people should know of my name!" Caesar said, raising both arms up.
Expectedly, Nero froze, knowing the implication of a Roman ruler who was not an emperor, but still known throughout the empire.
"I see you've guessed it?" Caesar did a welcoming bow, head lifting to give a dashing smile. "I am Gaius Julius Caesar of the First Triumvirate, leader of the Republic of Rome-"
"No, you're not."
"-I beg your pardon?"
Nero pointed at a marble bust, and then towards the distant statue of Caesar by the forum of Augustus in the Romanum.
"You're fat. Umu. Honoured Caesar is definitely not you."
For once in the entire conversation, Caesar appeared genuinely rattled. "I-I was summoned in the wrong class! This isn't my fault! Did you not know that I had a body that couldn't gain muscle easily?! Then I thought of it. More weight would increase the strength of my sword's blows! Truly this is my most ideal form as a Saber!"
Nero immediately picked up on the peculiar words. "What do you mean by 'summoned?'"
Mash interrupted here, and gave a formal explanation. They'd tried to explain this to Nero before, but it wasn't as if she could understand all the terms and their significance. However, this time, Nero certainly paid more attention.
Honestly, the explanation was still something that went over Nero's head, but it didn't matter. She felt like she finally got the gist of things beyond the need for Caesar's proposed alliance.
The United Empire's leaders…
They really were true Emperor's of Rome- and all had viewed her Rome, and then opposed it.
Was she…that much of a disappointment?
Only Shirou who had coincidently been looking at Nero seemed to notice the light and confidence dim in her eyes all at once.
The smile she had suddenly erupted with, and even the careful way she had made light of Caesar's figure, it all suddenly seemed so fake.
How did Nero die in pan human history?
Nero's sword told it all; both the one in reality, and the one in Shirou's Reality Marble.
For all her bluster and boisterous tones, inside, it was an entirely different matter.
She was an Emperor who flourished through the love and adoration of her people, but in the same vein, could never bear the weight of their rejection.
Thrice, She Welcomes the Setting Sun
- Aestus Estus
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