Happy New Year, everyone!

First of all, I'm really sorry about the long break. I would have posted this chapter before New Year's Eve, but I caught influenza and had to stay in the hospital for the whole Christmas week. After that I was too weak for a few days to work on anything. But now the chapter is finished, and I hope you will enjoy it.


Chapter 35: Escape

Farrie stood in front of the white cathedral of the Church of the Three Heroes.

This place had been her home for years. Even with all the discrimination against her, it was still the place where she learned a lot of things.

However, starting from today, she didn't think she could consider this place her "home" anymore. And after what she's planning to do now, there's no way they would even let her consider this place her home.

But she needed to do this. She needed to know.

She took a deep breath and pushed the heavy door of the cathedral open.

The place was the same as usual: the quiet, white room with sunlight peeking through the opaque windows, and the only noise in the room was the sound of sand dripping down the Dragon Hourglass. Just like a usual day in the Church, but for some reason, at the moment Farrie felt an unusual chill creeping up her spine.

"Oh, so the traitor has decided to come back."

Her eyes darted toward the direction the new voice had just come from. Walking toward her was the people she hated seeing the most in the cathedral.

"Nicole, Jacqueline," she said. "I'm here to see His Excellency."

The nun named Nicole, the one who had just called out at Farrie, sneered while glaring at her. "Arrogant, aren't you? A few months with the Sword Hero and you already had the gall to talk back to us? Crybaby Farrie?"

Farrie calmly received the gaze of the two bullies without flinching. "I don't want any trouble," she answered. "I just need to talk to His Excellency. Please tell him—"

"'Please tell him', hah!" the other nun, Jacqueline, snorted haughtily. "You, of all people, are making demands on us?! It seems you need another lesson to remind you where you are!"

Her hand lashed out, aiming for Farrie's cheek, just like she always did before.

But to her horror, her wrist was caught in midair. The usually meek crybaby was now holding her wrist with her bare left hand. She struggled furiously, trying to free her hand, but the grip of the other girl was strong beyond her belief.

And her eyes…

There wasn't any anger or menace in those eyes. However, something still made her breath choke inside her throat when she looked into them. A look of… pity and disappointment.

Jacqueline was supposed to be angry at the moment. But right now, that condescending look from her (used to be) bully victim somehow nearly managed to make her wet herself in fear.

Farrie released her grip on Jacqueline's wrist. The nun stumbled back, but she couldn't even walk two steps before plopping her butt on the floor in utter fright.

"How dare you?!" Nicole, the other nun, shrieked like a banshee. "How dare you lay your hand on us, you little blood traitor?!"

Farrie calmly received the glares of the two bullies with her own gaze. "I'm not the weak, helpless girl I used to be anymore," she said, still in her very calm and gentle voice. "So you're mistaken if you think you can do to me those things you did in the past. Now, if you don't want to pass my words to His Excellency—"

"Now, now, what is happening over here, I wonder?"

The three sisters turned their heads towards the direction of the new voice, and immediately kneeled to the ground in haste. "Your Excellency!"

The Pope walked into the chamber, with his serene smile and calm posture just as usual. Nicole hastily raised her voice.

"She hurt Jacqueline, Your Excellency! Please give her the punishment she deserves!"

"Now, now, I suppose Farrie here must have had a reason," the Pope smiled gently, and looked at the girls on the ground with a grandfather-like gaze. "Now, stand up, stand up! You don't need to kneel there all day!"

The three girls stood up, but Nicole and Jacqueline kept throwing glares of hatred at Farrie.

"Now then. I heard you have something to talk to me about. What's so urgent that needed you to come here all alone to talk directly to me like this, my dear?"

Farrie took a deep breath. Her body was trembling furiously from fear, but she forced every particle of her will to keep herself firm. She must do this, even if it cost her her own life. For the sake of her friend, and for the sake of everyone she loves.

"Please stop it, Your Excellency!"

The Pope's left eyebrow raised. "Hmm?"

"Please stop with whatever you're doing!" Farrie exclaimed, her eyes bore straight at the Pope's. "What did Wyndia-chan ever do to you?! Why do you even need to go after her life so badly?! And us… We're all trying to protect the world, and yet… Sir Shield Hero… Why did you send that guy over to kill him?! Is that what the Church of the Three Heroes should do?!"

For a few seconds, the Hourglass Chamber was covered in a choking silence.

"What the hell are you talking about, you insolent wench!?" Finally, Nicole was the one who broke the silence with a deafening shriek. "I'm going to—"

But the Pope raised his hand, and the nun fell silent again. The older man looked at Farrie, not with the grandfatherly eyes anymore, but a calculating gaze that couldn't hide the suspicion flashing inside it.

"Now, this is a rather… bold accusation of you, my dear," he said slowly, as if he was choosing carefully which words he should use to address the girl. "From what you have just said, it seems that you are saying that the Church is trying to kill the Shield… Hero. Do you have any proof of that?"

No one could miss the obvious pause when he talked about the Shield Hero.

"I've learned about cursed weapons in my lessons, Your Excellency!" Farrie continued heatedly, throwing all of her caution to the wind. "Even the wealthiest nobles of this land would have a hard time procuring something like that, and yet that mere commander of the Royal Knight had something like that in his hand, powerful enough to try to kill a Cardinal Hero! Don't you think it's too much of a coincidence? There is only one weapon I know of which fits that description, and it is the Cursed Sword of Ginnungagap which is sealed in the basement of the Church!"

She had expected the Pope to deny it. However, to her surprise and shock, the older man just nodded with a smile.

"Ah, yes, that sword. Indeed, a month ago, after you left with the Sword Hero, the Church did entrust it to Commander Rikert for… safekeeping. But after that, whatever he did with it was completely out of our control. So if the Shield Hero comes here to talk about that… well, we would apologize to him about that, but you can't say it's the Church's fault he nearly got killed, can you, my dear?"

This was the first time she heard about this. However, even she could know for sure that even if that was what actually happened, it was just bullshit at best, and a political excuse to goad the commander into killing the Shield Hero at worst. The Cursed Sword of Ginnungagap is a terrible weapon of destruction; there is a reason that it was sealed up in the Church to prevent people from laying their hand on it. There's no way the Church could "entrust" something like that to anyone for safekeeping, like what the Pope had just said, let alone someone vengeful and arrogant like Rikert.

Even though she knew that, there was no reason she could find to counter that argument.

"Then what about Wyndia-chan?"

The Pope's eyes twinkled behind the spectacles he was wearing. "Wyndia? Now, who is that, I wonder?"

This time Farrie's whole body trembled, not because of fear, but because of true fury. Everything that happened, and he still wanted to pretend that he didn't know anything about it?!

"Please do not make it as if you don't know, Your Excellency! The other day, the whole council of the Supreme Court had just tried to take her from us by force! And we all know that all of them, Judge Gellert, Chancellor Robert, everyone else… they are all devout followers of the Church! I've seen them coming here countless times, even having personal, private conversations with you, Your Excellency! And they are all politicians with the highest positions and authority in this country's government, only below the Queen and the King themselves! Who else has the power to make them do something like that?!"

The Pope stood straight up. He glared at Farrie. "And you still don't have any proof that it's us who told them to do so. After all, they could have done that by themselves, for whatever reason they have."

"Then why were they all killed in prison?"

The Pope's eyes narrowed. "Hm?"

"If there were no one behind them for real, they wouldn't have been murdered within their prison cells the other day," the trainee priestess said. "And yet, someone managed to slip into their top-security prison cells, in the royal palace, in the middle of Melromarc's capital city, not to rescue them, but to kill them, to ensure that they wouldn't let a word slip. Who in this world has that kind of power, and why do they even need to do that?"

She didn't finish the accusation, but everyone could understand what she was implying.

Even Farrie was surprised about what she had just said. Those words were completely out of her character, and she blurted them out in a fury. She knew for sure that had it not been for the rage inside her right now, she would have never been able to say those words in front of anyone, let alone the Pope himself.

She knew that she was going to be punished for insolence for sure. But she refused to back down because she knew for a fact that she wasn't wrong this time.

She stood up straight in front of the Pope. "No matter who or what she is, Wyndia-chan is my friend. So, I'm going to do whatever I can to protect her, to ensure that she's not going to be harmed. Even if it costs me my own life, I swear I'm going to protect her. With everything that I have."

Then she bowed deeply. "Please forgive me for wasting your time, Your Excellency."

She turned away and started walking out of the building…

"You know that a war cannot be won with feelings alone, don't you, Farrie Gainsborough?"

Farrie's feet stopped dead on their track right before she could open the giant doors. That voice wasn't the warm, grandfatherly voice she usually heard from the Pope anymore. It was… cold and full of menace.

"What do you mean by that, Your Excellency?"

The Pope walked toward her. His cane tapped the marble floor with each of his steps, making loud "clang" noises echo around the room.

"You used to be one of the most devout members of the Church of the Three Heroes, someone with the potential to go far. And yet, after just a few months, you have become like… this. Now you even dare raise your voice in front of me. Just because of a demi-human you have just known for less than a month."

"I didn't mean it like that, Your Excellency," Farrie answered, bowing her head.

The Pope's eyes twinkled dangerously behind his glasses. "Oh, but you do, don't you see? Just for the sake of that demi-human, you're ready to go against the teaching of the Church, the words God bestowed on us in his Holy Scripture. Now you're standing on the side of one of those half-breeds, even considering it your friend?"

Farrie snapped her head back so abruptly it felt as if her neck was threatening to twist. She couldn't even stop her shoulders from trembling in rage anymore.

"So the lives of all those demi-humans are worthless to you?! They might not be human, but they are also sentient beings who can think, work, and communicate just like us! They are people! They also have their own life, and they also deserve to have it, just like us! What right do we have to think that we are anything better than them, just because we are humans?!"

The head of the Church looked at her with condescending eyes. "Isn't it obvious? That is the teaching of God to humankind! Didn't He say that demi-humans are the blights of the world and must be put down for the sake of humanity, since the beginning of time? Didn't He tell us to condemn all non-believers, and ones who stay on the side of those half-breeds?"

Farrie bit her lips. It was true that what the Pope had just said was written in the Holy Scripture; Farrie herself had to learn about it before, when she first became a member of the Church.

But…

"Is that really what God told us to do?"

The Pope's eyes narrowed again. "What did you just say?"

"I admit that I didn't know much about demi-humans before," said Farrie quietly. "But after just less than a month living together with Wyndia-chan, Fohl-kun and Atla-chan, I feel that they're not as bad as mentioned in the Holy Scripture. Yes, Wyndia-chan might be rude sometimes, but… but I know for sure she's not a person who would do anything bad to anyone! And Fohl-kun… he is young, but he has the spirit of justice, and he would do anything for the sake of the people he loves! How can they be the evil monsters portrayed in the Holy Scripture?"

"Shut your mouth, you heathen!" Nicole yelled at her with a glare. "A blood traitor like you dares open your dirty mouth to say that the Holy Scripture is wrong?!"

Farrie looked straight into the nun's eyes. "Have you ever tried living together with them? Only people who live with them, work with them, train with them every day and fight together with them have the right to judge them for who they are! They are completely different from what the Holy Scripture said about them! Doesn't that mean there might be something wrong with what we have been thinking about demi-humans after all?!"

The Pope took a step forward. He glared at Farrie; now the grandfatherly expression had completely disappeared from his face.

"Don't you dare open your mouth again. There is nothing wrong with the teaching of God. You are a human; you're supposed to follow the way God shows you, in the Holy Scripture, not take the side of those half-breeds! The Holy Scripture, the words of God, is absolute!"

"Then we need to see whether it's really God who came up with the Holy Scripture or not!"

The whole room was covered in stunned silence after those words came out of Farrie's mouth. Even Farrie herself, who had just blurted out those words in a fit of emotion surge, immediately understood that she had gone too far.

The Pope's eyes bore dagger on Farrie's face for a while. Then, he said, his voice was low and quiet, but everyone could hear the danger lace in that light whisper.

"I see. So you have finally declared your heresy to everyone."

Farrie's eyes widened. "No… I…!"

"Then I have no other choice but to treat you the same as every other heretic in this land."

Farrie's irises dilated in utter terror as two Shadows appeared out of nowhere and brandished their weapons. She turned toward Nicole and Jacqueline, but she was terrified seeing that they didn't have any intention to defend her. Instead, their faces were both brightened with glee.

"Goodbye, Farrie Gainsborough. It seems that your wish of becoming the next Pope is going to end here. You only have yourself to blame for that, for declaring such a blasphemous wish to the world."

At that moment, she understood everything. They weren't just punishing her for her heretic thoughts. They had wanted to kill her since the beginning. And she had just given them the excuse they needed.

The two Shadows leaped at her; light gleamed dangerously on the blades of their weapons. Farrie turned around and tried to run away, but those Shadows were too fast for her. One of them kicked her in the back, and the girl screamed as she stumbled to the ground. There was no way she could escape the blades of the knives which were aiming for her neck…

She closed her eyes shut, waiting for Death to claim her…

And she was surprised when she found out that she was still alive even after a while. She timidly opened her eyes, and her amber irises widened in relief upon realizing who was standing in front of her, shielding her from her assailants.

"Sensei…!"

"Seriously, Farrie," the Sword Hero said, not glancing back. "How many times do I have to tell you to think carefully before doing anything?"


It was obvious that no person in the chamber could predict the Sword Hero's arrival. The two nuns looked terrified, and the two Shadows picked themselves up from the ground where they had just been thrown violently to, but didn't dare move a single step from where they were standing. All of them stared at the man in red with wary and alert eyes.

And when he opened his mouth, the atmosphere of the room somehow even got more terrifying.

"I thought I already made it clear, that someone is going to pay if they dare touch my companions."

EMIYA's voice almost made everyone in the room, even the Shadows, piss themselves in fear. However, the Pope didn't even show a hint of faltering. He glared at the Sword Hero.

"Lord Sword Hero, I'm afraid this has nothing to do with you. This is the Church's business; we're punishing a heretic who defiled the name of the Church, so I need to ask you not to interfere."

"And why should I care about that?"

The Pope's eyes narrowed. "What?"

EMIYA answered him with a death glare. "I don't know anything about your religion, your hatred towards demi-humans, and I don't care about quarrels within your organization. However, what I know for sure is…" he lowered his voice to a dangerous tone, "…Farrie was sent to me to become my companion, and as such, she has become one of the people I cherish the most in this world. Therefore, trying to threaten her life is the same as declaring war to me, personally. And as I already told the King the other day… I'm not going to forgive anyone who does that, even if that person is royalty themselves."

The killing intent leaking out of the Sword Hero was so intense everyone in the room unconsciously took a step backward in fear. Farrie, who was standing right next to him, knew for sure she would have fainted right in place had she not been experiencing the very same thing every day. The two Shadows raised their weapons, ready to pounce…

But the Pope raised his hand. The two Shadows stopped abruptly on their track, looking at their master in confusion. The supposedly holy man walked up and said.

"So, you're planning to make an enemy of the Church of the Three Heroes, aren't you, Sword Hero?"

"Of course not," said EMIYA, not smiling. "Not unless you're stupid enough to force me to do that." He raised the Legendary Sword in his hand threateningly.

"I see," the leader of the Church said. "Then I'm afraid you left me with no choice. You're going to regret doing this, Sword Hero."

He raised the cane he was holding in his hand. And EMIYA's eyes narrowed when he had a close look at it.

Thanks to Unlimited Blade Works, he could recognize any weapon and understand every detail about it, as long as it wasn't something absurd like a god-made holy weapon, or something not made in the planet. And because of that, he could see that what the Pope was holding was indeed a human-made weapon.

However… there was something… different about it. It wasn't like anything he had seen in this land before. It was absurd, but Unlimited Blade Works never lies about a weapon it can analyze. That cane was somehow all four Legendary Weapons.

How in the world was that even possible?

He remembered something Akari had told him before, during the first time they actually talked to each other. Many generations have tried to replicate the functions of the Legendary and Seven Star Weapons. Could it be that this thing was also one of those replicas?

But if that was the case…

Akari also mentioned that none of those attempts to replicate the Legendary and Seven Star Weapons succeeded. And even if what she said wasn't true, he had observed with his own eyes the result of one of those attempts; Wyndia's staff, made by the blacksmith Refia of Zeltoble, was one of those things. It was a powerful weapon, indeed, but it took tremendous power and potential to completely master it. Looking at the Pope, that pudgy old man who he doubted ever being through a single day of training in his life, EMIYA was pretty sure he wouldn't have the ability to wield something like that properly.

The calmness and confidence of the Pope unnerved him, though. He knew for sure that the Pope wasn't a fool; he must have known that the weapon would bring nothing good to him if he tried to abuse it. So why was he so confident?

He raised the Legendary Sword in his hand in response. The Sword, answering his command, morphed into the twin blades of Gaelion's Wrath.

"Come to me, Nicole, Jacqueline," the Pope said, and the two nuns hesitantly walked up next to him. At the same time, the staff started glowing, and when the light died down, EMIYA could see that its form had changed. Now, it looked like a cheap knockoff of the Legendary Sword in its basic form. And his body also glowed in a golden light, forming something around him… an energy barrier?

Then he did something even EMIYA couldn't expect. He swung the replica Sword to his right and decapitated Nicole, who was standing right next to him, in a single slash. The head of the nun was cut cleanly off her neck; blood splattered on the floor, but none managed to dirty the Pope's clothes.

In a split second, EMIYA understood immediately what the Pope was trying to do.

"You bastard!" he yelled and rushed forward with a Flash Step, but even that wasn't fast enough; with a flip of the Pope's hand, the fake Legendary Sword turned its blade around and stabbed the other girl, Jacqueline, straight through her heart, before the Sword Hero could even swing his own weapon to stop it. Blood splashed EMIYA's overcoat as he pushed the Pope away, but it was too late for him to do anything; the girl was dead, and her face was still bearing her last expression of astonishment. The fake Legendary Sword fell to the ground with a "clang", and promptly turned back to its original form of a staff.

"You son of a bitch," the Sword Hero snarled and pointed the tip of the Legendary Sword at the other man, who was on the ground. "How dare you…?!"

The Pope only answered him with a sinister smile. "It's what I said, isn't it? You're going to regret antagonizing us, Sword Hero. Now, I hope you enjoy being the enemy of the whole country."

Then he suddenly screamed. "HELP! HELP! SOMEBODY! THE SWORD HERO IS TRYING TO ASSASSINATE ME!"

"You…!"

But before he could do anything else, the heavy doors at the cathedral's entrance burst open again. Rushing into the room was a group of soldiers, weapons brandished, and their faces shared the same expression of shock and disbelief upon seeing the scene in front of them.

EMIYA cursed. Grabbing Farrie, who was still completely stunned by everything that had just happened, he hurtled themselves through an opaque window, and ran.


"Why…? Why does everything… turn out like this…?"

Farrie sobbed in EMIYA's arms as he carried her princess-style and ran full speed on the street of Castle Town. Unlike what would usually happen, however, this time EMIYA couldn't find any word to console the girl.

The biggest flaw of Farrie was that she was always too trusting. She was too nice and naïve to even cast doubt on what other people would say to her. Therefore, being betrayed like this was a devastating blow to the innocent mind of the poor priestess. Not to mention, the betrayal came from the people who she had been with for a long time, the people who had taught her what she thought was the right thing, the things that she had believed in until now.

Not to mention the brutal murder she had just seen with her own eyes right in front of her. Even though they weren't anyone nice to her, they were still her coworkers and churchmates. There was no way she wasn't shocked and terrified seeing them killed like that.

"There they are! Do not let them get away!"

EMIYA cursed. A group of soldiers had found them, and they were forming a phalanx on his way, blocking them from running further. He halted his feet and without missing a beat, he abruptly turned and lunged into an alley nearby.

"M-maybe we… we should just stop and talk to them, sensei…!" Farrie suggested in a trembling voice. "I-if we explain everything to them… they might…"

But her teacher gave her a glare so terrifying she stopped crying immediately. He said in a cold voice.

"They have just seen me pointing a sword at the Pope with blood all over my body. Do you think they would believe us or him?"

Farrie knew that the Sword Hero was very angry now. She didn't dare say another word, and just stayed still in EMIYA's arms, although she couldn't help but tremble like crazy.

EMIYA's legs stopped dead on their track as another group of soldiers appeared at the other end of the alley. His eyes widened when he realized they were all armed with long bows, ready to fire.

Shit…

His brain processed everything in half of a second. Holding Farrie firm in his hands, he kicked the wall next to him like a professional parkour traceur, or more correctly, like a ninja, and jumped into the air, onto the roof of a house nearby, and the arrows only passed harmlessly below him to the shock and surprise of the soldiers.

He could have eliminated all of those soldiers in the blink of an eye if he wanted. However, as he was carrying Farrie in his arms, he didn't want to charge headfirst into unnecessary fights. Besides, if putting aside the fact that they were on different sides now, those soldiers were doing nothing wrong; they were just doing their job, and if he killed them right now he would be no different from what the Pope was trying to frame him as.

His hatred over the Church and the Pope once again surged up like a flame in his heart.

His legs looked like they were blurring away as he dashed from roof to roof, with Farrie in his arms. He had told Naofumi and the others to move immediately to the town gate, but whatever happened to them after that was something he couldn't be sure. Yes, Naofumi and Eclair were dependable leaders, but there might be problems that even they couldn't expect…

And sure enough…

When the gate was just three blocks away, enough for him to see what was happening there, his stomach did a 180 degree flip.

The heavy wooden gate was closed shut. And the sound of metal clashing against metal was enough to tell him that a fight was happening there.

And when he arrived…

Team Naofumi and the other members of his team were fending off the assault of a battalion of soldiers. Naofumi and Tersia were trying their best to block the strikes and stabs of the soldiers in front of them with their weapons, while Eclair, Raphtalia, Keel, Welt and Wyndia were protecting the children of the teams from the soldiers behind them. Fohl, too busy carrying Atla on his back, couldn't join the fight, and he couldn't do anything but staying in the middle of the formation, trying to prevent the sharp tips of the spears from hitting him and his sister. Yuki and the three filolial queen sisters were clustering up; their terrified and confused faces showed obviously that they couldn't understand what was going on.

With all the fighting experience they had gotten, surely they should have been able to break through the lines of soldiers easily. But coming closer, EMIYA understood immediately why they didn't.

Among the soldiers fighting the group right now, there were many who had fought together with them against the Wave the other day. Some of them were also donning a pained and confused expression on their faces; obviously they were just working under order from their superiors without knowing the whole truth. Or they might have been put under threats coming from their superiors, or whatever. The only thing that they knew was that they needed to stop the Sword Hero and his companions from leaving the town. And even though they knew they needed to escape, there was no way EMIYA's companions, being the nice people they were, could lower their hands to kill the comrades they had just fought together with just two days ago.

"What are you guys doing?!" he heard Eclair yelling at the soldiers she was fighting. Those soldiers seemed to be someone who she knew from her job before. "Why are you all doing this?!"

"We're sorry, Captain!" one of the soldiers answered. From his pained expression, it was obvious that he didn't want to do this, either. "We had order from our higher-ups not to let you out of the town! We can't turn the order down!"

Eclair gripped her sword so tightly her knuckles turned white. She yelled back. "And who gave that order? It isn't Commander Leonhart, is it?"

The soldier looked flustered. He exclaimed while blocking Eclair's sword with his spear. "N-no, but… Please do not ask! If I tell, they're going to kill us! They're going to kill all of my family!"

EMIYA grimaced. He couldn't let things drag on any further. He needed to get down there and get everyone out of there. He needed a distraction.

He looked at Farrie.

"We need to go down there. Grab on tight to me, understand?"

The girl could only nod in response. She was already too terrified and devastated to even think of anything else. EMIYA nodded, and drew the Legendary Sword from the scabbard on his back as Farrie put her arms around his neck. In a flash of light, the legendary weapon took the form of a familiar shiny decorated sword.

Then he threw the sword right into the middle of the crowd below.

"Everyone close your eyes! Flashing Blade!"

The sudden command startled everyone below. EMIYA's allies, understanding what was going to happen immediately, closed their eyes shut as the Legendary Sword, now in the form of the Royal Sword given to the Sword Hero by the King, stabbed itself on the ground. And a blinding flash of light erupted from the blade of the sword like a flashbang and discombobulated every person standing there except for the allies of the Sword Hero.

"Argh! My eyes! My eyes!"

"I can't see! I can't see!"

Taking the chance, EMIYA jumped down and landed next to his allies. He said hastily before anyone could open their mouth to ask.

"Listen, I know you want to ask, but we don't have the time here. We need to get out of here, right now!"

Then he turned to the three filolial girls. "You three, use all of your strength and kick that door down! You can do it, can't you?"

The three girls were all bewildered at the sudden command. But they immediately recovered. Konoha grinned brightly. "You betcha! Destroying things is what I excel at!"

The soldiers standing near the gate, as they were not at the center of the flash, were starting to recover. EMIYA yelled. "Then do it now!"

In a burst of smoke, the three girls turned into their giant filolial queen form. They dashed forward, knocking away the soldiers on their way like a bunch of ragdolls before ramming straight into the wooden gate with the force of three cannonballs. The gate was blown apart violently with a loud "BOOM".

"Get out of the town now, everyone!" EMIYA yelled, and the group started running toward the destroyed gate, passing the soldiers on the ground who were still groaning in pain, unable to stand up. A few more steps and they would be able to portal away to safety…!

"You're not running! Ceremonial Magic – Cage of Light!"

Before they could reach the gate, a cage made of pure light energy suddenly appeared above them and trapped them inside. Tersia, the one running at the top, couldn't stop in time and slammed into the light barrier. She was knocked backward and fell into the ground from the impact; that loud "thud" showed that it really hurt. She groaned in pain.

"Ow! What gives?!"

EMIYA glanced back. The group of soldiers that had been chasing him had arrived, and the mages in there were all chanting some kind of magic at the same time. Magecraft which needed a lot of casters to work together at the same time to use was something EMIYA didn't usually see, but he knew for a fact that these kinds of spell are always much, much more potent than normal magecraft used by one single magus. It's not going to be easy to break through this.

Then suddenly he felt a chill. What was this sudden premonition he was feeling?

Not only him, but Naofumi also seemed to feel it. The two Heroes looked up, and their eyes widened when they saw what was above them.

"Air Strike Shield! Zweite Shield! Dritte Shield!" The Shield Hero immediately raised his strongest barricade above the group as the beam of light shot out from the sphere of energy above them and came down on their heads. To his horror, the beam tore apart the energy shields as if they were made of rice paper. It advanced down the group's heads in a dangerous speed; there was no way they could avoid getting obliterated now…!

There was no other choice…

"Rho Aias!" EMIYA yelled, and the seven-petal conceptual blossom shield erupted from his hand and covered the group just before the beam hit. The beam of light struck the energy shield, causing a loud, nasty crunching noise instead of an explosion as he had expected, as if it were a drill instead of an attack coming from a laser cannon as it was supposed to look like.

And his eyes widened when cracks started to appear on the surface of the first layer.

No…!

And unable to withstand the force of the attack, the first layer of Rho Aias shattered with a horrible smashing sound, as if a thousand mirrors were broken at the same time. Since he arrived in this world, the only person who was able to break even a layer of Rho Aias was Captain Fargus when he used his ultimate skill during their battle. A piercing pain shot through his body; even without the punishment of the Legendary Sword, maintaining the legendary conceptual shield still requires a lot of magical energy compared to other weapons, and each petal getting destroyed would cause some damage backlash to his body.

Pushing more magical energy into his hand, he struggled to keep the shield up as the beam of light continued grinding into it. Another layer was broken, and he was pushed down on his knee. This attack might not be able to reach the level of a high-ranked anti-army Noble Phantasm like Gae Bolg, but its destructive power definitely matched that of something at a very high caliber, higher than any other throwing spears he had fought against before. Luckily, it seemed that two layers were the best the magical attack could do against Rho Aias, as it eventually died down before it could do considerable damage to the third layer.

"Sensei!" his students exclaimed and caught him from behind as he dismissed Rho Aias and slumped to the ground. He wasn't completely out of power yet, and the damage caused to his body by the backlash wasn't anything that severe. But they weren't safe yet; more and more soldiers were coming, and they're charging at them with their weapons brandished. If they couldn't find any way to escape from this cage of light…!

"Shooting Star Spear!"

The advancing army was stopped dead on their track when a wave of energy stars rained down the sky and struck the ground right in front of them. They staggered back in confusion, unsure where the attack had come from. But before they could find the time to reorganize their formation…

"Aiming Lancer!"

Rays of light shot out and struck the mages who were casting the imprisoning spell. They screamed in pain and collapsed; the spell, having no one maintaining it, promptly faded away, releasing the Sword Hero and his allies. And now they could see who fired the attacks to rescue them.

"Motoyasu!"

The Spear Hero stood between the group and the army coming for them, his back turned toward the Heroes and their teams. His body was trembling furiously; EMIYA wasn't sure it was because of rage, fear or despair anymore. And EMIYA noticed that all of his companions except for Elena, the girl who fought beside him in the Wave, were missing. Motoyasu looked back at the group and yelled.

"Everyone, go!"

The group didn't need to wait for Motoyasu's words, though. They had all rushed out of the gate as soon as they were released from the cage imprisoning them. As soon as they arrived outside of the walls, EMIYA started casting his Portal spell, but he grimaced when he realized that in order to transport this many people at once he would need at least five minutes to prepare the spell.

It seemed that even Motoyasu realized this. He took a deep breath and, turning his back toward the team, he ran back and stood in front of the gate with his Spear brandished toward the incoming army.

"What are you doing, Motoyasu?!"

The Spear Hero glanced back. His face looked miserable, and EMIYA noticed that his eyes were wet with tears.

"I'm… going to hold them back. I'm not sure… if I could do that for long, but I'm going to try my best. And please… take care of Elena-chan for me."

Everyone understood immediately what Motoyasu was saying. And even Naofumi, hating Motoyasu as much as he did, couldn't bring himself to throw in a snide remark or anything like that this time. Arrows rained down their heads again as the teleporting circle started forming below their feet, but Motoyasu threw a skill into the air to intercept them, albeit not without any difficulty; some arrows still managed to get through and struck his body. He winced in pain.

And then the arrows were blown away as a wave of wind lashed out from behind the Spear Hero and stopped all the arrows dead in midair.

"Motoyasu! Come with us!"

Motoyasu looked up, and see Tersia standing in front of him with her giant sword brandished.

Everyone stared at the swordsmaiden of Team EMIYA.

No, it's not like they didn't expect someone would say those words. What they were surprised about was that the words came out of Tersia, who, just 3 days ago, had still loathed the Spear Hero with all her heart. As if answering them, the girl exclaimed while glaring at Motoyasu.

"Don't misunderstand! I still hate you, but you've just saved us! And you don't need to throw your life away here! You need to live to redeem yourself for what you have done in the past!"

Motoyasu looked at the girl. His eyes were filled with a strange mixture of emotions. Fear? Regret? Gratitude?

"I…"

"ULTIMATE-CLASS CEREMONIAL MAGIC – LAST JUDGMENT!"

Everyone's heads snapped toward the direction of the chorused voice. And their spines went frozen when they saw it.

A gigantic sphere of energy was floating in the sky. It was much, much bigger than the one that fired the beam of energy at them earlier, even bigger than the magic spell Wyndia used to slay the Hydra in Zeltoble. The magical energy used to make it must be from the hundreds of soldiers and mages who had gathered at the square; they were all closing their eyes and chanting the same thing in their mouths.

If the beam of light from before was a cannonball, then this sphere would be equal to a ballistic missile. Even Rho Aias wouldn't be able to stop it.

There was no doubt anymore; they were trying to destroy the Heroes.

And the portal skill still needed another minute to finish. He could not move from his place, or the effort of everyone until now would come to waste.

No one could move a muscle seeing what was coming at them. Motoyasu's Spear pointed uselessly at the ground as his knees fell in despair.

Naofumi punched the ground in anger and hopelessness. He was supposed to be the Shield Hero. He was supposed to be the person who protected everyone. And now, as death came down on their heads, there was nothing he could do but to look at it, waiting for it to destroy everything…

Stand up. You are not summoned here as the Shield Hero to cower down there and wait for death to claim you.

'What…?'

At that moment, time seemed to stop around him. He looked up, and saw two people who he had never seen before standing in front of him.

The first person was a man dressed in black armor with a purple mantle draping outside. He looked just a little bit older than Naofumi himself, but just a glance at his face let Naofumi know that he was more than just a veteran soldier. And for some reason, his white hair and gray eyes, and the stern expression on his face somewhat remind of him of Shirou-san.

The second one was a lilac-haired girl about sixteen years old or so. Dressed in similar armor as the man standing next to her, she also looked like a veteran warrior. However, her lavender eyes were staring down at Naofumi with a gentle expression, and she was reaching out her hand at him with a smile. He grabbed the hand without thinking, and stood up before his body even knew it.

'What can I even do now? That spell is going to destroy all of us. I don't have anything that has a chance against it.'

'Then the only thing that you need is a shield that can withstand something like that, isn't it?'

Naofumi looked down bitterly upon the question of the man. 'But where can I even find something like that?'

'It has always been with you. The question should be, do you have it in you to be able to wield it?'

He glanced at the girl, who had just said those words. 'Is it something like, "it is going to come when you need it" garbage? Then why doesn't it come to me now, when I'm really in need of something like that to protect everyone?'

The other man's gray eyes bore dagger at Naofumi's. 'And why do you want to protect them? Don't you hate how this world has been treating you?'

Naofumi's eyes hardened. 'Of course I do. I can never forget about what they did to me in the first place. However, those people are not the only ones that matter in this world. These people around me… they are the ones who didn't think of me as a failure of the world, a criminal who did unforgivable things. They are the ones who actually considered me a person. Only thanks to them could I reach who I am now. And not only them… there are a lot of other people who did, too. Not everyone around me is evil bastards who treat people like rapists. Therefore, even if I have to die, I'm going to do everything I can to protect them.'

He didn't realize that he had just repeated Shirou-san's words when the two of them had their first talk alone. The two warriors looked at each other, then looked back at him. This time, a smile could be seen on both their faces.

'Very well. Then you receive our blessing. May your heart never waver.'

'Wha…?'

But before the question could escape his mouth, a surge of power suddenly exploded from inside of him, and the Legendary Shield started changing. It grew much, much larger than the normal shields that he usually used, and four prongs that resembled a cross started forming on the shield's face. And he realized immediately what the new shield he had just unlocked was as the notice popped up in front of him.

!UNLOCKING CONDITION FULFILLED!

[Name: Shield of the Round Table - Base Defense: 500]

[Abilities unlocked. Equip bonus: Defense +300, skill: Poison Immunity (MAX), Curse Immunity (MAX), Curse Nullification (MAX), Attack Reflection (High), Hate Reaction, Wide-Area Protection.]

[Unique Skill: Lord Camelot]

[?]

[Unlocked under special conditions - UNLOCKED]

Not even spending a single second to think, Naofumi ran forward and stood firm in front of everyone. He grabbed the new shield with both of his hands and slammed it on the ground, facing the incoming death ball. "LORD CAMELOT!"

A dome of light resembling a castle wall spread out from the shield and covered the whole group in the blink of an eye right before the energy sphere collided with the group of people. It clashed with the dome and struggled to push forward, but couldn't; the wall stood firm, not even budging a single millimeter, and with a loud "BANG", the sphere of energy was pushed upward into the sky. It flew up… and up… and up… and exploded in the air, sending a terrifying shockwave to the ground which forced everyone down their knees.

No one could even utter a word at the marvelous scene that had just unfolded before them. For a few seconds, there was no sound that could be heard on the battlefield at all.

Then the ground under the group of people started glowing in a brilliant light.

EMIYA heard the screams of fury at the same moment that everything faded away from his vision, which meant that the portal spell had worked – it was speeding him away from Melromarc in a whirl of wind and color, and everyone else along with him.


King Aultcray sat alone in his personal room.

Everything that had happened during the last few weeks seemed to have taken their tolls on him.

No matter how much he tried, he couldn't seem to understand the mysterious person called the Sword Hero. Sometimes he seemed to be a nice guy who dedicated himself to helping people, but sometimes, he was a cold, pragmatic soldier who didn't hesitate to take people's lives if he needed to.

He didn't believe what the man said about reaching his level of strength through training alone. If training alone could help people reach that level, then a lot of people would be able to become Heroes. However, at the same time, he couldn't find any reason to doubt it. The man looked utterly, completely serious when he said those words, and even his experienced eyes which had seen through lies after lies all his life couldn't find any hint of dishonesty in his words.

But that wasn't the only thing Aultcray had been wondering about him. What questioned him the most, and had been lingering in his head for a week was the appearance of his new two companions. The two hakuko children.

Aultcray was sure that he had never seen any of them before in his life. However, for some reason, he felt a sensation of reminiscence whenever he saw them. Especially the girl named Atla. He didn't want to admit it, but except for the white tiger ears, she looked like a carbon copy of his deceased younger sister.

Could it be…

He shook his head to chase the thought out of his brain. No. There was no way something like that could ever happen. Lucia had been dead for twenty-five years already. And that girl looked like she was just ten years old. There was no way she could be…

His train of thought was interrupted by a deafening explosion.

What the…?!

He rushed out of his room and looked outside through the window.

Castle Town was in chaos. Soldiers and knights were mobilized outside without him knowing anything about. Civilians were screaming and running around, and explosions could be heard around the districts.

"What the hell is going on here?! Where are the guards?!"

"Ah, they're not going to come, Your Majesty."

His head snapped toward the direction of the new voice. The Pope of the Church of the Spear Hero, Bisca T. Balamus, was walking toward him in the corridor, his cane knocked on the ground with each step he took.

Aultcray's eyes narrowed. "What is going on, Balamus?"

The Pope's eyes glinted behind his spectacles. "Well, you see, the Heroes were all summoned to Melromarc, so we had expected you to take responsibility for their growth, and their… development. However, it seems that under your supervision, they have run… out of control. And because of that, the Church are going to take matter into our own hand from now on."

Aultcray understood immediately what the other man was implying. "You're trying to overthrow me?"

The sinister look in the Pope's eyes became clear. "You understood quickly, Your Majesty… or should I say, Aultcray, from now on?"

The King raised his staff. "You seem to have forgotten who I am, don't you?"

The fallen Pope chuckled menacingly. "Ah, of course I don't. I know that I'm no match for you. That's why our contingency plan is in place, isn't it?"

"Wha…?"

Then suddenly the King felt hundreds of voltages of electricity running through his body. He collapsed to the ground in pain, completely paralyzed, and he could only glance back in shock and surprise.

"Wh…y…?!"

Malty, the one who had just shocked him with the magic tool in her hand, gave him a nasty smirk.

"Sorry Father, but your time is over."


And as Farrie had just proven, you needed more than just a righteous heart and a legendary weapon to go against a corrupt organized religion. Especially when that religion already had deep roots in the structure of the country, and had been influencing the history of the country for so long. Not everything could be solved by swinging a sword and cutting down everything on your way, especially when it was about the rich and powerful.

And now the Heroes were all forced out of the country. What were they going to do next? Find out in the next chapter!

Once again, Happy New Year everyone!