Despite Nero's bold declaration against the Great Founder Romulus, the moment was short lived as she yelled like some startled middle-school girl when Shirou suddenly grabbed her by the hand and dashed away.

A cold wind blew by the others at the unexpected action including Romulus who'd frozen in place after taking a defensive stance with his lance.

Mash, Ritsuka, Saber and Jeanne Alter, and even the two brooding saints were thrown off at the sudden escape.

It was just that the momentum and spirit in Nero's eyes had given the stark impression to all that she was going to make a final stand for her beliefs and ideals, and the stark difference in expectation and actual result rendered a momentary lapse in reaction.

Naturally, this included the woman in question herself.

Nero's eyes widened as the rushing wind and blurred scenery of the sudden sprint she was dragged into caused a sense of embarrassment to assail her.

Her face grew heated, and her lips warbled from shame.

For shame.

A shame Shirou or anyone else would fail to understand unless they too were an accomplished thespian.

"T-This, you're ruining my scene!" Nero mouthed at Shirou, pouting and weakly resisting the urge to cover her face from Lord Caesar and Romulus's dubious expressions. The blank looks of her allies made it even worse. "L-Look at my compatriots. T-They're judging me! Quick, we need to trap them in my theater before they spread bad publicity!"

Shirou's lip twitched at the drama, but he held firm to Nero's hand and continued to pull her along. The return of her boisterousness was a better sign of improved mentality than any small smile or reassuring nod Nero could pull off, but the lack of rationality was astounding.

What sort of confidence did Nero have not to consider the current state of where she chose to have her 'final stand?'

Romulus had affected everyone with his words, actions, and motivations to the point where Jeanne and Martha appeared half-hearted in their support, and Ritsuka appeared to be having an internal struggle.

Naturally, the Roman soldiers behind Nero were even more affected.

Shirou took account of the situation from a logical perspective, and understood how disadvantaged Nero would be if she remained where she'd been.

Indecisive allies, coupled with an army that could likely turn-coat if persuaded by the enemy, and there was no way the location was suitable for battle.

With Caesar mulling over Romulus's reason to go against Nero, Shirou couldn't even determine if Caesar would still take their side in the end. Worse, Arthur was temporarily under Caesar's employ and was honor bound to at least go through the motions.

Saber Alter and Jeanne Alter would be on Shirou's side, but they would face the same problem of encirclement unless they changed the battlefield.

"Are you listening?" Nero murmured before growing quiet.

Shirou finally spoke back to her. "Did you realize?"

"..." Nero shut her mouth while sadly looking at the state of her Roman soldiers.

As a ruler, it wasn't as if Nero was air-headed or slow, rather she likely had the best sense among the emperors in regards to favorability.

Even without Shirou hinting towards it, she could see the way her Romans were losing strength in their arms and loosening the grip of their weapon. In contrast, the legions under Romulus were being filled with an unwavering conviction to follow their leader to the death.

"Umu, you are as wise as my former advisor," Nero said before picking up her pace to match Shirou's.

Despite bolstering Shirou's physical capabilities with Reinforcement, Nero was keeping up with him. The humans of the pre-modern times were just built differently and were more attuned to the supernatural. There was a reason why a single mage from the age of the gods could wreak havoc in the modern era, but Shirou digressed.

The momentary pause caused by Shirou's sudden action to flee with Nero would not last forever. Already, the legions under Romulus were giving chase while the Romans under Nero hardly put up any resistance.

They couldn't stay on an open field, and slaughtering too many of the enemy would destabilize the Singularity if Rome's forces grew too weak and were annexed by rival powers.

"We must re-enter Rome and lose our pursuers in the winding side streets until we can come up with a plan." Shirou suggested.

Their lead was such that Shirou and Nero had enough time to scale Rome's walls and enter the city proper before any could react.

If Romulus could be defeated, the entire matter ends. However, that goal wasn't so easy.

"Umu, then I'll do as you say." Nero said, before sprinting ahead of Shirou. "But you follow me. There's no one else who can claim to know my capital better than myself!"

Nero avoided the markets and moved to the less conspicuous areas by the pottery makers and storage facilities.

The civilians Nero and Shirou had run past gave them strange looks, but it didn't matter as they searched for a building where they could get a short reprieve.

Romulus was still outside Rome's walls, and not all Roman soldiers were swayed enough to just let Romulus's legions through.

"What should we do?" Nero asked after leading Shirou into an old Roman warehouse.

"We need to isolate Romulus," Shirou said with a frown. "It's our only chance-"

"Or you can reconsider things a bit more."


Shirou's expression crumpled as Martha and Jeanne materialized in motes of golden sand in front of him and Nero.

Although Martha and Jeanne's expressions were awkward, there was an underlying sense of duty in their gazes. It was resolution and faith that had spurred them into action.

"Let's be civil about this," Jeanne tried to placate with clasped hands, but it was clear to everyone that it wasn't working. She sighed.

Martha stepped forward. "What Romulus said can't just be ignored. There's more to this Singularity than it seems, and I suggest reconsidering your actions, Shirou. There was no deceit in Romulus's words which makes this case all the more compelling."

Then what?

Were they suggesting that he take a neutral stance and watch Nero spiral to a point of no return?

Shirou narrowed his eyes, noting the sweat forming over Nero's palms as she glanced at him uneasily.

There was no choice. He couldn't show hesitation here.


He used his trump card in a storm of heat and flames that manifested from beside him all along and lunged at the saints.

"Let's tango, bitches!" Jeanne Alter swung her blackened polearm at Jeanne while igniting flames around Martha.

Jeanne Alter had been the boss of an entire singularity. This much was child's play, but her opponents weren't easy.

"Little sister, NO!"

Sparks grated as Jeanne hastily defended and Martha prayed for a prayer of recovery that doused the burn damage.

"Oh, I'm going to enjoy this." Jeanne Alter seethed at that deplorable title Jeanne continued to tack onto her.

The entire building exploded in a fiery blaze as the Servants collided; Shirou and Nero burst out sprinting from the location and out into the open plaza while trying to reorganize their plans.

This time Shirou ran in the lead, missing the subtle way Nero stared at him for longer than necessary before shaking her head and trying to focus.

She just couldn't understand why Shirou was going to such lengths for her when everyone else had chosen otherwise.

"Don't think too much about it," Shirou said without even turning around to address Nero.

Nero's eyes widened, her lips pursing.

"Nero is Nero. I'm helping you for you and no one else." Shirou said. "Now focus. It's too much to be distracted now."

Nero lowered her face, a hand touching her cheek and growing flustered from how hot they felt. This wasn't the first time she's heard flattery, so she didn't know why she was reacting like this.

"Right," Nero mouthed, but Shirou was no longer paying her attention.

If Martha and Jeanne had taken action, then Shirou had to prepare himself for what the others would do. Chaldea's Servants were one thing, but Caesar and Arthur were another.

Just like Nero, Caesar held veneration for Romulus and wouldn't take his words lightly even if he had doubts.

Which meant to say…as expected.

"No hard feelings," Caesar said, stepping out from the side of a Roman road to block Shirou and Nero's path.

Just as Nero knew Rome's streets, so too did Caesar.

Caesar's expression was clouded, as if struck with indecision, but belying all else was the wisdom that the Great Founder Romulus was not a liar.

Shirou and Nero tensed as Roman soldiers began to surround them. Moreover, Arthur stood behind Caesar, making the situation more pressing by the second.

"Leave this to me."

Saber Alter materialized next to Shirou without any prompting, glare focused at the enemies surrounding them and hardening on Caesar and Arthur.

Something was telling Shirou that Saber Alter's proactive contribution was just as motivated by personal interests than they were because it was for Shirou's sake.

Saber Alter and Arthur locked eyes while Caesar wisely shunted himself off to the side.

"Thanks." Shirou nodded before he Traced and launched a volley of swords to clear the way through the roman soldiers.

Nero's eyes lit up at the 'magic,' but the situation was too dire for questions.

"This way!" Nero took Shirou by the hand and started leading him in the direction of her Golden Theater.

As much as her theater was built as an attraction, few if any people dared visit it after her first performance.

Nero found her lips curling.

The peons just didn't know class and art even when it rubbed on their faces, but she digressed as she and Shirou entered her lavish theater. Only, it wasn't the safe haven Nero had been hoping for. Rather, she should have considered its proximity to Palatine Hill.

Romulus himself stood in the center of the theater, his eyes taking in the view before he turned in Nero and Shirou's direction.

"The Rome I knew, and the Rome I see today is proof of the empire's growth." Romulus said while slowly pulling out his spear. "And that is why we must not let the evil of man spread."

Shirou grabbed Nero's hand, but this time, she refused to budge.

"No." Nero shook her head. "Enough running."

What was running going to achieve now?

"You hear it, don't you?" Nero asked Shirou. "We're surrounded."

The clanking of Roman armor and the sound of marching outside the theater was causing the space to rumble. There was no point in trying to escape any further.

Shirou grimaced, but Nero had already come to accept the situation for what it was.

"Did you wait long, Founder?" Nero asked.

"Duty bids that I stop you before you stray to the abyss. My roman child, pray this will be quick."

Shirou clenched his hands into fists before he stood between Nero and Romulus.

"Let me handle this," he said.

"On your own?" Nero saw right through Shirou and raised her sword for combat. "Umu, a quick refusal."

Nero walked up to stand next to Shirou, a hand covering her bangs from the winds generated from the torrent of magic energy Romulus was releasing.

A Servant grew immensely more powerful if they were summoned to their point of origin. The place or homeland where their legends sung the brightest and truest, and no other place represented Romulus more than the entirety of Rome.

The pressure was stifling even to Shirou as he considered what Noble Phantasms he had at his disposal to achieve victory. It wasn't an issue of quantity or quality, but magic energy.

Unlike Gilgamesh who could fire off numerous Noble Phantasms through his Gate of Babylon, Shirou had to Trace his Noble Phantasms as they came into existence. The energy drain was naturally taxing unless he was within his Reality Marble.

Against Gilgamesh, Shirou could face him one-on-one, as the Golden King was a one trick pony, but Romulus would be different.

Boosted by Command Seal and empowered in Rome, this wasn't going to be simple.

The sheer waves of magic energy were making it difficult for Shirou to even categorize Romulus as a normal Lancer. His very presence reeked of Divine.

"I'll start the act."

Nero suddenly dashed ahead, her boldness and confidence in her physical prowess spurring her forward.

"No, wait!" Shirou shouted in warning, but Nero wasn't hearing it.

This place, this area was her theater. She knew it best down to the last tile.

The echo of her heeled steps resounded as the ground cracked and warped from the emergence of giant tree roots that sought to impede Nero's charge. Romulus stayed right in place, staring Nero down with a growing fondness steepled in pity.

Nero danced and strafed around the roots, cutting the attacks she couldn't avoid or burning them with her sword's fire.

In places that she couldn't see, a pair of thrown black and white blades cut apart the growing roots, enabling Nero to progress further.

Gritting her teeth, Nero weaved through a branch aiming for her stomach and another one aimed at her head. Pupils dilating, she stomped on a root she just dodged, and used its momentum to propel her into a spinning blade attack that cleared the area in front of her of branches.

The way to the founder was clear, and Nero glared as she took it.

She had to win.

She was Rome no matter what the founder said. Because one person still believed in her, and that was enough to act.

Because he was fighting by her side.

"Aestus Estus!" Nero invoked the name of her sword, an unholy fire consuming the sword's blade and illuminating the area with glowing red roses.

She couldn't fail.

Nero broke through the roots and firmly planted her feet in front of Romulus, her sword chambered into a penetrating thrust. One palm struck the butt of her sword's pommel to increase the damage, but everything was taken in by the founder's eyes.

"A good effort," Romulus side-stepped, the movement alone creating a shockwave of wind that disrupted Nero's stance and made her miss her mark. "But this is where it ends."

Time seemed to slow down for Nero as she tracked Romulus's spear whipping towards her head.

Numerous sparks and collisions sounded in the background as steel was blocked by wood, but Nero could no longer register Shirou's efforts to aid her.


Her muscles screamed in agony, but the motion of turning her sword up perpendicular was narrowly achieved by straining her wrists and arms.

Barely able to block the sharp end of Romulus's red spear with her sword, the crushing pressure of the impact quickly rattled her organs, and blasted her through the roof of her theater as the subsequent magic explosion detonated point blank.


Shirou called out in concern.





What was she doing?

A groan escaped her lips.

Nero opened her eyes to discover that she was trapped beneath the rubble of a building she'd broken through in her crash landing through the roof of her theater and into Rome proper.

The walls had broken apart and crumbled, revealing loose stone and splintered wood surrounding her, but fortunately, she wasn't crushed.

Feeling blood dripping down from a cut over her temples, Nero glanced up and squinted at the narrow rays of light that she could see through cracks in the debris.

Although the walls had fallen, the Roman support columns remained sturdy and created a small cavity in the dark.

Coughing out dust, Nero groaned as her body ached and protested against further movement.

What was she doing?

The question repeated again in her mind, her fingers curling into fists as she unsteadily managed to crawl up to her feet. The exertion had her panting, beads of sweat matting her brow.

She used Aestus Estus as a crutch to support herself, but she couldn't stop the shaking of her exhausted body.

Not even that cowardly sneak attack that crippled her at the beginning of his war against the other Roman Emperors had made her feel so debilitated.

It was both a physical and mental thing.

The Great Founder Romulus was against her Rome and what she currently stood for. Her own people sided with the founder, making her feel like a fugitive in her own empire. It felt as if she were alone, her allies indecisive.

But that was why it was all the more important that she did not fall.

For all those who called out against her, there was still someone who unanimously continued to support her.

Red hair flickered across Nero's mind accompanied by a gentle smile.

That man was now fighting alone against the founder himself for her sake, and she would not be sidelined and coddled!

Nero's vision spun, the weakness in her body spreading as a sense of demoralization hit her. The founder was too strong: A man of legend and skills revered by all of Rome.

What was she in comparison?

Head bobbing up and down, Nero blinked before shaking her head once, then twice.

Was it because of blood loss or a concussion?

Now she knew she was going crazy.

"Ah, it's you." Nero called distantly, staring at the reflection of herself that suddenly appeared in front of her.

It wasn't an exact reflection per say, but rather it was the sleeping 'Servant' summoned to aid Nero and the others in their time of hardship.

Said Servant was no longer sleeping, but actively standing.

The Servant had been sleeping from the moment the battle began, but to suddenly appear before her now must have meant something.

Oh yes. Wasn't that it?

Dramatic flair and precise timing. It was something only Nero could pull off, let alone a version of her.

Whether or not Nero felt she had any affinity for the new Servant was unquestionable.

She had no doubts because it was a version of herself.

If it was herself, then she could entrust her desire.

"If it's a future heroic me, then you know what I want." Nero said while doing her best to remain conscious.

Nero was swaying on her feet, the two staring at each other in silence before the Servant version of herself slowly opened her mouth,

"Umu. Worry not. I know more than you would know."

The horned version of Nero nodded.

Nero felt the edges of her vision gradually darken as her eyelids closed. Her knees buckled before she tipped forward into a fall, but the Servant version of herself caught her.


The expression on the Servant version of Nero hardened after laying Nero down to rest.

She thought back to the memories within her and the influence of the darkness ebbing from her heart.

Beast of the End.

At long last…

"The Empress of Black Roses has returned."


Shirou gritted his teeth and focused on the adversary before him, but even that was interrupted by an overwhelming wave of nausea and tainted magic energy that manifested in the room.

Shirou gagged, nearly falling onto his knees before he managed to compose himself.

A figure stood protectively in front of him, glaring daggers at Romulus.

"Nero?" Shirou called.

But no, it wasn't the one he was familiar with, rather the magic bond that connected them spoke of her true identity.

"Fufufu. Master, it seems you've been having trouble without me, but relax. It's over now."

A shiver ran down Shirou's back at the reverberations of the Servant's voice. In contrast, Romulus had never appeared so grave.

"So you've come." Romulus muttered before he pointed his lance in obvious aggression. "Beast of Sin."

Shirou's thoughts ran a thousand miles a second.

He glanced at his Command Seals, and then to the new Servant he'd inexplicably summoned in this singularity.

She was an ally…wasn't she?

Thanks for reading, and thanks to my newest patrons: James H, Redwinged blackbird, and Sungjun Q!

Next update: To be announced

P a treon. com (slash) Parcasious

Book links:

Fatedlegacydark. ca

The Lonely Peak

New Book: Out on Amazon (Remove dash on link)

Survivor's Log Reflection: Amazon.c-om/dp/B08VDDGN7Z?