What Ifs...

Narration: ...The man she loved was withered, old, and very near the end of his life.

Narration: He never demanded anything of her. His only request was that she be with him when he passed.

Narration: She had learned song and dance to curry favor with men. But the old man smiled and said she was free to sing and dance to her heart's content...not to please anyone save herself.

Narration: It was a quiet, gentle love.

Narration: But, it didn't last. By the end, it was trampled beyond recognition.

Narration: She doesn't regret what happened. But...

Narration: ...she still sometimes dreams about what might have been.

Fujimaru 1: One, two, three...

Fou: Fou, fou, fou.

Fujimaru 1: Come in!

Shakespeare: I do beg your pardon, Master! Ah, I see you were working out.

Fou: Fou.

Dove: Coo, coo.

Fou: Fouoo!?

Shakespeare: Indeed.

Shakespeare: This dove has taken residence upon my head and quite adamantly refuses to depart.

Fujimaru 1: I'm glad you two are having fun.

Shakespeare: Setting aside my ceaseless worry over when it might defecate on my head, I suppose I am!

Fujimaru 2: What's the harm? It's cute.

Shakespeare: Do you speak of me, [♂ sir /♀️ madam}, or the bird?

Shakespeare: In any case, it seems this dove's demeaning deportment was demanded by that despotic, diabolical debutante. That is, the empress.

Dove: Coo, coo.

Fujimaru 1: Is that a letter tied around its leg?

Shakespeare: That it is. An old fashioned sort, isn't she?

Shakespeare: But then I suppose she ought to be, as the world's oldest known poisoner.

Fujimaru 1: I wonder what this is about...?

Shakespeare: Ah, it seems the letter was bewitched with a small spell to let her know once it is read.

Semiramis: Come see me with the playwright within thirty seconds of reading this letter.

Semiramis: Fail to do so, and I will trap you both in an illusion that will have you stripping down to bathe in the dining hall.

Shakespeare: How did I come to be ensnared in all this!?

Shakespeare: Well, I certainly have no desire to denude myself in the dining hall.

Semiramis: There you are, Master.

Semiramis: Hmm. Thirty-two seconds...

Semiramis: Very well, then. I am generous enough to grant you a two-second grace period.

Fujimaru 1:

Shakespeare: (Gasp, gasp)... So...? (huff, huff)... What did...(wheeze, wheeze) want to...(breathing hard)

Semiramis: Are you gasping for breath? How can a Servant be that out of shape?

Shakespeare: Well...I am a playwright, so...

Semiramis: Hmm. Well, no matter.

Semiramis: Now, let us get down to business.

Semiramis: Shakespeare, I seem to faintly recall your Noble Phantasm can recreate the past?

Shakespeare: Oho, I'm delighted you know my Noble Phantasm's true purpose!

Shakespeare: Indeed, my Noble Phantasm recreates the past, exposes one's hidden sins, and metes out justice for them.

Shakespeare: Every hero or monster has a point in their past when they were powerless, whether that past is mythical, legendary, or historical.

Shakespeare: My Noble Phantasm zeroes in on that point and uses it to break their spirit.

Shakespeare: ...Hmm.

Shakespeare: But, I suppose it could also be used to merely recreate the past.

Semiramis: Hmm, I see... Very well. To my next question, then.

Semiramis: Can your Noble Phantasm change the past once it has recreated it?

Shakespeare: Oho? And what exactly might you mean by that?

Semiramis: Simple.

Semiramis: Were I to make a different choice in that recreated past, would it continue to unfold accordingly?

Semiramis: ...I understand that what is done is done. One cannot change reality.

Semiramis: But is it possible for your Noble Phantasm to reveal a possible alternate path the future might have taken?

Shakespeare: Hmmmmmm. Good question.

Shakespeare: I suppose I could ad-lib something based on your reactions, but the future would become something of my own creation more than anything else, really.

Shakespeare: And surely that is not what you seek.

Shakespeare: In which case, our only option is to trust your memories of the person in question.

Shakespeare: That is to say, the actions they would take in response to yours...

Shakespeare: ...would depend entirely on how well you understand them.

Semiramis: Hmm.

Shakespeare: I take it this means you have something in your past you wish to change, Empress!

Shakespeare: If I might hazard a guess at exactly what this is about...

Shakespeare: ...perhaps you grieve for your husband General Onnes's untimely death? Or perhaps you feel remorse for killing King Ninus?

Semiramis: ... ...

Fujimaru 1: (Huh? Is that not what this is about?)

Semiramis: True, I suppose it could be amusing to try this with them first.

Semiramis: Very well, I grant you permission to use your Noble Phantasm on me.

Semiramis: Master, this hardly need be said, but you will be coming with me as well.

Shakespeare: Master, just to be certain, is it all right with you for me to use my Noble Phantasm?

Fujimaru 1: As long as you do it in the combat simulator.

Semiramis: Indeed. I have no wish to involve all of Chaldea in this exercise.

Semiramis: The simulator would be a better setting for this.

Shakespeare: Understood! All right, I should be ready in about...two or three hours.

Semiramis: That long?

Shakespeare: Ordinarily, I would prefer several days to prepare.

Shakespeare: But fortunately, Chaldea has a rich store of information about Heroic Spirits I may peruse.

Shakespeare: If I am to recreate the past faithfully, I must immerse myself in the culture and civilization of the time.

Shakespeare: And above all...I need to understand why things happened the way they did.

Shakespeare: Now then, I will see you again in two to three hours!

Semiramis: Tch... Very well. If that is what you must do, I will allow it.

Semiramis: In the meantime, Master, you will stay here and converse with me as my host.

Fujimaru 1: Huh!?

Semiramis: What do you mean “huh”? Do you have a problem with that? Then you leave me no choice.

Semiramis: Let the illusion begi–

Fujimaru 1: I would be delighted to stay with you!

Semiramis: Good, good. I thought that might be the case.

Semiramis: Now then, where to begin... Why don't we start with the differences between magecraft and curses?

Semiramis: It should be most educational for you. Hehehe, now, now, do not look so disappointed.

Semiramis: I guided my people for a long time as an empress. I will be sure to explain these concepts simply, yet thoroughly.

Shakespeare: There we are! My apologies for the wait. ...I say, is everything all right, Master?

Shakespeare: You look like a student on the verge of failing [♂ his /♀️ her} entrance exams for the last option on [♂ his /♀️ her} list of backup schools!

Fujimaru 1: Okay, so these are cuneiform characters...

Fujimaru 2: The special activation requirements for curses are...

Semiramis: It is nothing of consequence.

Semiramis: No matter how green a mage one might be, there is no harm in learning about what they may one day experience.

Semiramis: Even if the flower has yet to bloom, the seed will continue to grow. That will do for now.

Shakespeare: I see you aren't much for hands-on education, Empress.

Semiramis: You misunderstand.

Semiramis: Hands-on education has its place, but it never hurts to broaden one's options.

Semiramis: Furthermore, it is important to know what one is capable of, and what one is not.

Semiramis: It is a sin to fret over a decision, and it is a sin to fixate on but a single choice.

Shakespeare: I see, I see. Very good then.

Semiramis: Now, are you ready? Do you need anything from me?

Shakespeare: Not at all, my good empress! From here on, my only role is to serve as the voice of the heavens. Which is to say, I shall be your narrator!

Shakespeare: Master shall play the advisory jester, and of course, you shall be the hero of the story.

Semiramis: Good. Master, I think we can take a break from your studies for a while.

Semiramis: Start up the combat simulator, and we shall make our way to my home, Assyria.

Semiramis: Hmm. This recreation is lacking in some of the finer details, but I suppose I should expect no better.

Shakespeare: Indeed, this is the best we can do with only the library's information to go on.

Shakespeare: All right, if our capable assistant is now ready, shall we begin?

Mash: I'm all set here, Master, and Shakespeare.

Semiramis: Ah, Mash. Very well, I am counting on you to navigate for us.

Mash: Don't worry, Semiramis, leave it to me!

Shakespeare: Then I believe it is time for my Noble Phantasm!

Shakespeare: Ahem. Since it has been quite a long time, I hope you will allow me a few (meaningless) opening remarks!

Shakespeare: Yes, yes! The curtain on my Noble Phantasm is about to rise! Please take your seats and extinguish your cigarettes! Remember, there is to be no photography, and absolutely no heckling!

Shakespeare: All the world's a stage, and this world, my oyster!

Shakespeare: Life is but a walking shadow; a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.

Shakespeare: As the curtain rises, the applause shall be like thunder... First Folio!

Semiramis: ...Oh?

???: Ngh... Nnngh...

Fujimaru 1: Are you okay?

???: Oh, yes, I'm sorry. I'm just a little stressed.

???: You see, I'm about to go meet my new wife, and she's over thirty years younger than me...

Semiramis: ...And what's wrong with that?

Semiramis: If she is so much younger, then you will not lack for companionship for the rest of your days.

Semiramis: ...Not to mention that, as your wife, she will surely care for you in your old age.

???: That's exactly why I feel so bad.

???: I felt bad that she had no other family besides her adoptive father, so I agreed to take her, in something of a fatherly fashion myself...

???: But if she marries me, she will never be able to choose a lover for herself.

Semiramis: Couldn't she have an affair?

???: I doubt it.

???: She was brought up to be chaste and faithful. I don't think she would ever dream of having an affair.

Semiramis: ...Then, are you going to let her go?

???: If...if only it were that simple...!

???: But it isn't...and the way things are going now...

???: ...I'm afraid I'm going to rob her of any chance of happiness!

Fujimaru 1: What was that...?

Mash: Oh, yes.

Mash: I'm so sorry, everyone.

Mash: Whenever I have the character you're talking to swell with emotion, it causes a change in his virtual Spirit Origin.

Mash: In other words, he's gradually becoming an enemy! If you keep talking to him, you might end up having to figh–

Semiramis: That's all right. Good elder, let me give you some advice.

Semiramis: You are working yourself up over nothing. That woman has no choice but to marry you.

Semiramis: If even an older man like you will not marry her now...

Semiramis: ...everyone will think there is something wrong with her.

Semiramis: From there, it will only be a matter of time until her life is all but destroyed.

???: Ah, ahhh... It's my fault... It's all my fault...!

???: Aah! Aaaaaah!

Semiramis: ...It seems we have no choice but to help him calm down.

Semiramis: Master, you will give the orders. But, please, do not kill him.

Semiramis: And Shakespeare?

Shakespeare: Yes? What is it?

Semiramis: Don't you “what is it?” me. This is your mess, so you can at least help clean it up.

Shakespeare: Very well! Though I must say, there is very little I can do against enemies of this sort!

Shakespeare: So I shall be taking to my heels once I have sent a few buffs your way!

Semiramis: That will do. Now, come, Master!


???: It's fault...

Semiramis: You are mistaken, good elder.

Semiramis: Had you not married her, she would have died without so much as a name.

Semiramis: ...Yes, that's right. This was the best choice I could make.

Semiramis: Allow me to apologize to you on her behalf.

Semiramis: Your life would have been a happier one had you not married her.

Semiramis: In exchange for her hand, you will end your days in desperation.

???: ...Yes. I know.

???: But I don't mind. As long as Semiramis is happy, that's all that matters to me.

Mash: Huh...!?

???: That's all I...

Semiramis: Hmm. I suppose I should have known it would not be that easy.

Mash: Um... Correct me if I'm wrong, but was that–

Semiramis: You mean you didn't know? That was my ex-husband. In modern terms, we used to...hook up? No, that sounds...wrong.

Semiramis: I was all alone at the time, so I didn't care what he was like as long as he was willing to marry me...

Semiramis: ...but he was a far better man than I had ever imagined. I'd been prepared for the worst, so it was shocking how easily we got along.

Semiramis: ...Of course, as I alluded to earlier, our end was not a happy one.

Semiramis: There was a man by the name of Ninus who fell in love with me the moment he saw me.

Semiramis: Ninus took me from Onnes, and Onnes ended up taking his own life in despair.

Fujimaru 1: So you wanted to change the past to help him?

Semiramis: ...No. I would never be who I am now if he had not married me.

Fujimaru 2: So you wanted to see what a different future might have been like?

Semiramis: There may have been a future where he did not end up dying in misery.

Semiramis: But in that future, I would have been lost to history, never having had a name.

Semiramis: Still...this old man is an indelible part of my memories.

Semiramis: I merely thought that, if it were possible to save him...

Semiramis: ...I might even go so far as to entrance a saint.

Semiramis: Hmph, I need not have bothered. People never change.

Semiramis: They hold fast to ideals of change, yet also see beauty in remaining steadfast.

Semiramis: In the end, any change is but illusion. An illusion that it seems I fell prey to, however briefly.

Shakespeare: Hmm.

Shakespeare: It seems there is a greater story there, but I doubt it has anything to do with me.

Shakespeare: So, if you had chosen differently, you could have lived out your life peacefully, as one of the common folk.

Shakespeare: I would have thought that idea would hold great appeal for an empress, and yet you dismissed it out of hand!

Semiramis: Of course.

Semiramis: I am happy enough as a Servant. I need not seek my happiness elsewhere.

Semiramis: I am sorry for bringing you along on this, Master. It seems this was a waste of time.

Fujimaru 1: I don't mind.

Semiramis: Hehe, you are a simple one, aren't you. I will see that you receive some sort of reward.

Semiramis: Hmm, what should it be... No doubt you are tired of chocolate by now...

Narration: ...These gardens will take considerable effort to complete. I am certainly not going to build them myself.

Narration: Why did I go to such effort? Did I truly wish to win so badly?

Narration: There are fragments with but the barest hint of memories throughout these gardens.

Narration: Destruction... Victory... Loss... Encounters... Prayers... And...

Narration: ...No, I should not dwell on it. It would accomplish nothing except to make me feel bad.

Narration: These memories are mine, and yet not mine. I must not overstep my bounds.

Narration: I would be doing a great disservice to myself if I did.

Narration: I turn the rock–the memories I picked up over in my hand, and sigh.

Narration: Did I cast these memories away? Or did I once hold dearly to them?

Narration: Only the doves can say for sure.