Nero gasped for dramatic effect, but grew embarrassed when the others just stared at her with varying levels of disbelief or amusement.

Nero wasn't stupid. She could infer from how the conversation had been going that there was some sort of history that was relevant to her here, but for the life of her, she felt like she'd gasped too early.

"Hmmm." Nero hummed in a bid to buy time, but she wasn't fooling anyone.

She was playing the person in the group of friends who say they know about the hottest gossip, but actually don't know shit.

Wilting, Nero pouted.

"Who's that?" She asked, huffing while placing her hands on her hips. "You all act as if there's some sort of grand revelation about this Boudica? Umu, this feels unpleasant. Share! Hurry and share! This emperor is not the butt of a joke!"

Historically speaking, it wasn't as if Nero operated in the British Isles. Rather, the most she would have gotten were messages from appointed leaders if problems occurred. Minor uprisings and revolts were solved primarily by Roman generals deployed from the capital or within the empire.

"She's from Britannia." Caesar was the one to break the news.

"Ooh!" Nero nodded, more and more impressed with the Britanica settlements. "I've heard Britannia is doing well from the reports, but to think such capable people were living there. Should I plan a summer tour?"

"You weren't worried about any instability?" Martha asked carefully.

"The Black Rose speaks for itself!" Nero pointed at Saber Alter as if she was the answer to everything.

Granted, Saber Alter did say she was from Britain. To Nero, the fact that Saber Alter shared remarkably similar features to herself meant that the Roman influence in the northwesternmost settlement of the empire was in good standing.

Saber Alter had mixed feelings, unsure about whether to be flattered or irritated.

"Right…" Caesar drawled, shooting glances at Shirou and the others to deal with it themselves. "You guys can explain it to her, but there are other matters that need attention. I'll handle accommodations for Caligula's defeated soldiers, but it will be up to Nero and her substitute to convince them later…or I could, but I don't think Nero would approve."

"Insightful, Lord Caesar," Nero chuckled. "I won't stand still as you poach my Romans."

Putting on a cunning smile, Caesar made his exit. "Yes well, I'll leave it to you all."

Shirou looked at Nero, then to everyone else, then back to Nero. No one was too enthused to explain the history between Boudica and Nero to Nero who looked excited at the prospect of more allies.

Even Shirou balked at such a task, but perhaps he was too obvious about his apprehension because Saber Alter and Jeanne Alter reacted to his sentiment.

Good thing there was a pushover among them.

Saber Alter was giving Romani's hologram and flat stare while Jeanne Alter began chuckling under her breath in a threatening manner.

Martha and Jeanne sighed at the antics of the Alters while Arthur scoffed.

Sweating, Romani met an 'unexpected' error in the transmission, and abruptly cut himself off.

Jeanne Alter clicked her tongue. "Pussy," she cussed.

"J-Jeanne Alter!" Martha was appalled.

Squirming, Jeanne Alter didn't even wait for Jeanne to respond before making a beeline out of the room.

Arthur shook his head, sighed, and made to follow. Indirectly opting out of explaining to Nero.

However, Shirou had other ideas that had immediate priority.

"Arthur." Shirou stopped Arthur from leaving by blocking his way out. "A word, please." He requested.

Shirou soon gestured for the others to go, putting off the matter of Boudica to first put out a larger fire.

This wouldn't take long.


An awkward silence stretched across the vacated room within Nero's Golden Palace where a standoff was occurring between three participants.

Arthur crossed his arms and leaned his back against a support pillar in the room. He was expressionless, plate armour clanking as he shifted his weight from his left foot to his right, a hand carefully palming the hilt of his sword.

Saber Alter was no different from her male counterpart, only that she chose to lean on a wall the furthest away from Arthur. She too was expressionless, but beneath the façade was frustration.

Failure was failure regardless of alignment or stance, and now neither she or Arthur had any pointed words or barbs that wouldn't directly apply to themselves too if said. They'd been too busy putting checks and bickering with each other that even if they were focused on Caligula, neither had reacted on time.

In truth, the two had come to a tacit understanding at that time.

The one Caligula charged would have been the one to engage in one-on-one combat, and the other would spectate. It was the fairest assessment, and one neither would be able to argue against later.

Berserkers would not be able to reason in their madness and were more like feral animals that struck out at all those perceived as enemies.

A cautious Berserker?

Such a thing shouldn't have existed.

However, expectations differed from reality. Though steepled in madness, Caligula had once been stigmatized with the title of a 'wise emperor.' What little rational he had left would have understood that death was all that awaited him if he attacked-

No.

Not quite. Death wasn't something that deterred a Berserker, rather, it was strong emotion and sentiment.

The answer in hindsight then, was clear.

Nero Claudius.

Was the extent of Caligula's emotion enough to overcome even madness for the briefest of moments?

Saber Alter could imagine. Maddened or not, if she were induced into attacking Shirou, she too would not be willing.

Strong emotion as a weapon was still new to her, but she could understand now how much of a motivator it could be.

"I think we all know why we're here," Shirou said.

Drawing attention back to himself, Shirou didn't balk at Saber Alter and Arthur's stares. He'd experienced too much, and nearly died too much to be cowed by expressionless faces.

"Before things get any more complicated, we are going to resolve this," he insisted.

"There's nothing to resolve," Arthur said, uncrossing his arms.

"Performance says otherwise," Shirou adopted a lecturing tone he'd often seen Rin Tohsaka use on him of all people. "Do any of you have anything to say for it?"

Saber Alter remained silent.

Arthur held his tongue.

The both knew the answer themselves on principle alone, and Shirou rather bluntly got to the heart of it.

Besides themselves, only Shirou who can perceive the history and experience of the weapons they wielded, could pinpoint the issue with unerring accuracy.

"Neither of you trust each other."

The statement echoed in the room, neither raising their voice to rebuff it but narrowing their eyes on each other when it was pointed out.

"…The sword speaks for itself," Arthur opened his mouth, tone neutral. "Although we can agree to cooperate, the atrocity required to mar Excalibur into a blackened blade is unfathomable. The basis of trust begins with character, and that other version of me is my antithesis."

"I can say the same for you," Saber Alter hummed, trading words for barbs from sentiments she knew all too well from her own past. "Chasing blind ideologies or aspirations out of lofty goals and moral obligations may earn you the admiration of our people, but where has it led you? Your kingdom destroyed, your knights at each other's throats, and you naively swindled and led by the nose by an illusive bitch. In contrast, I like where I stand. I am me. I take what I want, I do what I want, and I protect what's mine."

Oath breakers and criminals are to be judged by the law for stability. No exceptions. It was how Saber Alter ruled with order and tyranny.

"Stability through oppression is not-!"

"It works." Saber Alter was no longer blind to mere righteousness.

To be loved and adored in a kingdom destined for ruin, or to be hated and ridiculed in a kingdom that would last as a result of upheld law and order?

Several veins popped over Arthur's temples, hands balling into fists as his muscles grew taut.

Saber Alter and Arthur held vastly different ideologies, and they were directly clashing and grating against each other. It would have been different if Saber Alter was the original Saber, but she wasn't. She was the tainted version abandoned and ostracized in her rule that similarly saved her Britain.

Neither approach could be considered wrong, because both had been chosen by Caliburn, but neither would admit that the other's choice was the right one.

"That's enough," Shirou cut in.

Martha's heart had been in the right place, but her approach was not the correct one.

There was only one way to remedy the situation, and Shirou was the sole individual who could at least somewhat resolve it.

The method wouldn't ease the differences between individuals, but it directly solved the matter of trust.

A calm wind blew as Shirou focused his magic energy and tapped into the armour of his inner world for a certain sword both Saber Alter and Arthur could never refute.

He needed its help.

Closing his eyes, he called upon it, and it answered.

Swaths of magic energy formed a circuit-like pattern that began to materialize into a shape in the air. From the pommel, to the hilt, and even the blade, a sword was being drawn; a sheen of white light radiating from motes of radiant magic energy permeating the air.

Saber Alter stiffened, but unlike Arthur, she was not unaware of her Master's capabilities.

In contrast, Arthur's vigilance lost its substance as his expression began to twist in disbelief and confusion.

"H-How are you holding that?" Arthur shook his head, pushing off from the support pillar he was leaning on. "No…how did you get that? Who are you, really?"

Held in Shirou's hands was the very Sword in the Stone.

He asked for it to judge the basis of trust.

Caliburn, the Golden Sword of the Victorious.

The Sword of Selection.


The clacking of her heels echoed within Nero's personal bedroom, the overbearing silence eating away at Nero's mind like Narcissus and his vanity. Oh, of course she took pride in her beauty but not to the extent of getting lost in her own reflection.

Nero digressed, jubilance gradually fading into pensiveness in the solitude of her own room.

She'd excused herself from Jeanne, Jeanne Alter, and Martha in order to return to her own quarters. Shakespeare wanted to protest saying that he didn't get enough material yet, but Nero wasn't in the mood for a jester.

She had too many thoughts she had to consider.

Unclasping the hooks on her new black dress, they shook her shoulders and let the straps fall on either side of her, leaving her with nothing but a silk strophium and subligaculum.

Kicking off her boots, she sprawled out over her bed and stared at the murals of her ceiling.

Her entire palace was the definition of lavish. The four primary bed posts were decorated with imported cloth and embroidered with gold pieces.

She chuckled, a hand resting over her eyes.

Her Rome was at the height of her rule. From her perspective, the people adored her, the territories were stable, and her reign would lead to a new era, so then what was all this?

Dead emperors returned from their graves, proclaiming themselves Rome's rightful rulers, and their Romes were the true Romes, and hers was destined to fracture…?

Nero curled up, hugging her thighs to her chest as she glanced onto another bed in the room where a 'Servant' version of herself was soundly asleep without a care in the world. Horns and dark motifs or not, Nero somewhat envied the idea of sleeping through all the turmoil as if it were all a dream.

Her Servant version of herself was kept in her room with her at Saber Alter's suggestion backed by Caesar and the others. Rather morbid, but Saber Alter insisted that as a Servant Shirou summoned, she should be put to use.

Due to the peculiarity of Shirou's Servants basically having the same face as Nero, the sleeping Nero could act as a substitute in case anyone wanted to assassinate Nero as she slept.

Shirou's brows had twitched at the morality of the suggestion to use a defenseless Servant as a shield, but the matter was sound.

Therefore, Nero now had the company of a future version of herself sleeping in the same room.

"Your existence means I'm a good emperor, right?" Nero asked the sleeping Servant.

Expectedly, there was no answer.

Nero's bangs shadowed her face as she sprawled herself back on her bed. Left on her own, her mind began to drift and wander, remembering everything she'd experienced so far.

Sadly, she came to a sudden realization.

Just like the sleeping version of herself in this very room, nothing changes whether Nero did nothing or not. In fact, wouldn't it be better if Nero just stayed put?

Saber Alter was clearly acting as a better 'Nero,' and Shirou and the people from Chaldea were more capable than her. So then, what was the point?

Was she not needed?

Nero pursed her lips, the light in her eyes flickering.

The candles that lit her room all began to flicker, a wind blowing them back and forth as an onset of depression and confusion caused Nero to zone out.

'Fall. Fall. Fall. Fall. Fall. Fall. Fall. Fall. Fall. Fall.'

Voices were whispering in her mind, wishing for her ruin at her own incompetence. If Shirou and the others from Chaldea had not intervened, surely her Rome would have already fallen by now.

Just thinking about it, made it a certainty.

Injured, she was in optimum health due to Shirou's intervention, not her own.

Everything she had, she owed to others. Nothing was her own achievement.

Nero's features darkened, her complexion pale as a swell of red magic energy gently began to leak out of her.

Within her was an evil born of depravity that reveled in malignancy. It bided its time, always there, always waiting for its calling.

'Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches. - John, 1:11'

A revelation to befall the world.

Enemy of God.

A pair of crimson reptilian eyes blearily opened, spurred by negative sentiment and rousing pervasion of degrading mental faculties.

Focusing intently on Nero, they closed when Nero shook herself out of her stupor.

Beast of the End.

"Umu!" Nero clapped her hands over her cheeks and riled herself back into peak form.

The chilly wind threatening to snuff out the candles in the room ceased all at once, the ominous shadows vanishing as Nero found her second wind.

"The Flower of Olympia does not wilt!"

Springing out of bed, Nero put her clothes back on and hurriedly did her hair.

Nero strutted out of her room as she came to a realization.

Now wasn't the time to be lounging.

If she inferred it correctly, guests were on the way, and she'd be the first to greet them!

First impressions were the most important.


The trip down the Gauls was far less eventful than the way up, but somehow Ritsuka and Mash preferred fighting rather than the present awkward silence any day.

It had been a battle to fight their way up to the Gaelic lands as they had been mistaken for members of a Roman platoon, but Mash and Sieg made it possible to reach deep into the heartland.

That's where they had met two other Servants who were summoned into the present era.

"…"

A red haired woman in a white top, red skirt, and brown tasset trudged in silence beside them, lost in thought. She was the Rider Class Servant, Boudica, and her clear dislike of Rome was evident from her thinned lips, and constant frowning.

Ritsuka and Mash had managed to convince her of Chaldea's purpose and motivation, but fighting on Rome's behalf was hard to stomach.

And then there was the other Servant.

"Oppressors!" A familiar man that was all muscle, his decency maintained only by leather-bound restraints. "My Love shall destroy them all! The rebellion is at hand!"

Spartacus, the legendary Roman Gladiator that rebelled against Rome and started an uprising in the heart of the empire. It was another version of him not summoned by Olga, which meant no Master to restrain him.

"S-Senpai…" Mash stammered, trailing off as the group left Pitsea and traveled over the Cassian road to Roma.

It was true that their group met success, but maybe success wasn't the right answer?

"I know." Ritsuka felt beads of sweat pooling over his brow.

Sieg swallowed audibly on the side.

"Uogh!" Spartacus howled. "Rebellion calls!"

W-Was this really a good idea?


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