“Do you have any idea how much time and effort it took for Chaldea to successfully summon just one Servant,” howled Olga Marie at Ritsuka at point blank range. “And not only do you succeed on your first attempt, but you summoned two Servants at once?! And Mash makes three Servants! Are you really some public sector nobody!? Are you a spy sent by another faction?! Did you sabotage my Chaldea?! Who are you?!”
Ritsuka was fumbling for a thought he could express in this sudden shift in Olga Marie’s levels of energy. It would take a man far more composed than Ritsuka to be able to smoothly deny such fervent accusations, and all he could do was stutter some broken excuses and apologies. Mash was also caught off guard and the limits of her actions were about the same as Ritsuka’s. Around the time Olga Marie started gripping Ritsuka’s uniform jacket in her hands, a black gloved hand grabbed Olga Marie by the back of the neck and pulled her back.
The lavender haired woman who’d grabbed Olga Marie asked, “Master, do you want me to dispose of this person for you?”
“D-Dispose,” repeated Olga Marie, her face turning pale in an instant. It seemed she understood just how precarious her position was from the pressure being exerted on her neck from behind. “L-let me go! Hey, Fujimaru, tell her to let me go!”
Not able to follow all the sudden changes right away, Ritsuka looked around him at the others present. Mash was giving Ritsuka a furtive glance, not knowing what to do herself. The lavender haired woman was deathly serious. And the man who called himself an Archer had his arms crossed and his head tilted, waiting for Ritsuka to make a decision about someone’s life and death. Even through all the tension Ritsuka was able to be completely aware that such a situation was both ridiculous and completely messed up. It was like common sense had gone right out the window.
“It’s alright nee-san, you can let her go,” Ritsuka was able to sputter out.
“As you wish, Master.”
When Olga Marie was released she wasted no time in skittering behind Mash for cover and then pointing an accusatory finger at Ritsuka.
“Y-you keep your familiars off me! And answer my questions! Who are you, really?!”
Well, at least Olga Marie looks like she’s willing to listen to what I say now…
“Ah, Director, I really am just a civilian. I responded to the ad campaign for Chaldea recruits. If I’m frank, I still have no idea what’s going on.”
“Then how did you summon two Servants, huh,” demanded Olga Marie, her hands on Mash’s shoulders to keep her as a body shield.
“Nonsense,” countered Olga. “There’s no such thing as beginner’s luck in Magecraft! Who sent you, and why?”
“I wasn’t sent by anyone though…”
Ritsuka scratched his cheek with a forefinger as he was dumbfounded with how he could convey his sincerity. Especially since it seemed Olga Marie wasn’t convinced by Ritsuka’s words alone.
[Ah, please forgive the interruption.]
“Eh? Dr. Roman?”
There was no image coming from Ritsuka’s communication watch. Communicator? Comm-watch? Okay, Comm-watch. So Ritsuka wasn’t expecting to hear the Doctor’s voice.
[While I don’t know the exact situation over on your end, I was able to – no the latch is on your left – Well, it seems there are questions about Gudao. Rest assured, Director, he doesn’t seem to be anything more than he says he is.]
“H-how can you be so sure, Romani!”
[Well, Director, I was with him before the blast. He didn’t look at a clock or fidgit like he was waiting for something even once. He also ran into the danger area instead of evacuating, so he’s unlikely to be a saboteur.]
“It’s true, Director. Senpai did his absolute best to save me. He wouldn’t have done that if he wasn’t a nice person.”
Ritsuka blushed and looked away a little at Mash’s direct compliment and smile. It wasn’t every day a girl in a skin tight bodysuit gave him a compliment, after all.
[I also double checked his personnel file after learning he’d been Rayshifted with Mash. Gudao’s family is completely unconnected from Mage Society politics, and there have been no suspicious money transfers through anything that could be remotely connected to them. The chance of someone breaking through the surveillance the Fujimarus were under to compromise them is negligible.]
“I was being watched?!”
“But the explosion happened the day Fujimaru arrived at Chaldea! There’s no way that’s a coincidence!”
[Actually, Director, I believe it was. I’m a doctor, remember? I can attest that there was no way Gudao was healthy enough to carry out an undetectable act of sabotage with the level of Chaldea’s internal security at the time of his arrival. He couldn’t even retain his consciousness after the admission process ended. And Mash was the one who found him, if what Gudao told me is correct.]
“Actually, Fou found him. He’s the one that led me to Senpai, but yes, he was still unconscious at the time.”
“Fou?” asked Olga Marie.
“Gah! Where did that furry thing come from,” exclaimed Olga Marie as she spotted the squirrel rabbit that was next to her. Olga Marie quickly moved around to the other side of Mash, and used her as a body shield against Fou. It seemed the Director was feeling a bit skittish at the moment.
“Fou’s been here the entire time, though…”
Dr. Roman gave a cough to cover up Mash’s mutter, and continued on.
[Anyway, since Mash stumbled upon Gudao, he hasn’t been alone in Chaldea for even a minute. Even when he entered his room, I was already in there and we kept each other company until the explosion. Gudao didn’t have the time or the opportunity to perform any kind of sabotage.]
Olga Marie was offering a finger to Fou to be smelled, but Fou turned his head away with a tiny animal ‘pui.’ Olga Marie’s face of disappointment turned into one of suspicion when she said, “Wait a second, Romani. I didn’t catch it the first time, but… what were you doing in Fujimaru’s room before he even arrived at the installation?”
[Ah! Uh- I- I gotta go! The systems won’t restore themselves! Anyway, just think of Gudao’s presence as being a bit of good luck! Bye!]
“Hey! Get back here you slacker,” shouted Olga Marie into Ritsuka’s comm-watch. “Seriously! What is with that guy! …Anyway, Fujimaru, I’ve decided that I’ll believe you. But don’t do anything suspicious, because I’ll be keeping my eye on you, alright?”
Ritsuka just laughed uncomfortably at that, when the Archer said, “You seem like a person with some circumstances around you. Though I guess I’m not one to talk.”
Hearing the Archer’s voice, Ritsuka realized that it wasn’t just the three humans there anymore and, being Japanese, felt that a polite introduction between everyone was long overdue.
“Ah, yes, sorry. So many things happened I forgot to introduce myself. I’m Fujimaru Ritsuka. My friends call me Gudao, though I’m not sure why. I may be a little inexperienced and unreliable, but I hope you’ll take good care of me.”
As Ritsuka gave his bow, bending at the waist, Mash seemed to catch up with Ritsuka’s intentions and gave her greeting, complete with a bow as well.
“I’m Mash Kyrielight. I’m Senpai’s Servant as well. To be more exact, I am a Demi-Servant created through Chaldea’s research. I don’t know my class yet, but I look forward to your guidance in helping me better serve Senpai.”
“Oh? A Demi-Servant? I guess I’m fated to constantly be impressed by technology,” remarked the Archer. The lavender haired woman responded by saying, “So that’s why your presence felt different from a real Heroic Spirit, then?”
“Ah… Yes, I suppose it is…”
In response to Mash’s minor bout of depression, the lavender haired woman said, gently but with a bit of fluster, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. I just meant that I can’t recall ever encountering someone with your presence before.”
“No, it’s alright. Thank you for your kindness.”
Somehow things were moving in a positive direction again. Mash seemed like the kind of person that didn’t hold a grudge. Ritsuka then looked over at Olga Marie and made some minor motions to indicate it was her turn.
“Oh! Uh, I’m Olga Marie Animusphere. Even if I’m young I’m the Director of Chaldea, so uh, something-something… let’s get along?”
Olga Marie gave a rather pathetic imitation of a bow that almost made Ritsuka crack up laughing while Mash introduced Fou, who greeted the Servants with a “Fou.” The lavender haired woman hesitantly bent down to interact with the mysterious lifeform while the Archer said, “While I cast off my True Name a long time ago, you can call me Archer. While you are my Master, I will protect you, and bring you victory. But I will still need some proper explanations of what your goals and intentions are.”
With so much happening, somehow it didn’t seem strange for the Archer to desire to be called by his class instead of by his name. But there was something that caught onto some of Ritsuka’s remaining common sense.
“Archer,” asked Ritsuka, “You said that you’re an Archer, right. Wow, that sounds redundant. But you used a pair of swords just now. How can you be an archer if you fight with swords?”
Archer rolled his eyes slightly and put some more emphasis into his crossed armed with a tiny shrug of his shoulders as he said, “Not all Archers use a bow, Master. There are many that use more modern weaponry, and others that use less conventional weaponry. I choose not to let my class define my available arsenal. I suggest you not let that bother you, Master.”
There was a bit of force in Archer’s explanation that made Ritsuka think he’d had to give that sort of explanation before. Remembering that most people in the world shook hands when greeting each other, Ritsuka offered his right hand, and then retracted it, remembering that it had fresh blood on it.
“You’re wounded, Master,” stated Archer, and the lavender haired woman asked, “Ah, are you alright?”
“Yes, it’s really nothing. The least of our worries at the moment,” Archer’s eyes narrowed at Ritsuka’s statement and he started perusing the ruined landscape with his eyes, as though to confirm that fact for himself. “But, nee-san, no, miss, could you tell me your name?”
“My name,” asked the lavender haired woman, who turned her head slightly, warily, towards Archer before saying, “I would prefer to tell you my True Name in private. For now, please call me by my Class. Rider.”
“Rider,” asked Ritsuka, who thought he’d misheard. But the woman, Rider, nodded her head. “As in, riding animals? Like horses?”
Ritsuka looked around him, but didn’t see anything that looked like a horse.
“Um, miss… What do you ride?”
“…I will tell you in private later, Master.”
Before Ritsuka could be even more confused, Archer interrupted by saying, “You should leave it at that, Master. She’s acting out of your best interest here.”
“In what way,” asked Ritsuka back. To which Archer continued.
“For a Heroic Spirit, our names often go down in history as great men or terrifying monsters of legend.” Rider seemed to grimace at that. “And when legends become more and more well known for a Heroic Spirit’s strengths, their weaknesses are also equally made well known. Thus, holding our True Names secret allows us to hide our weaknesses from our enemies, while maximizing our strengths.”
“But we’re all friends here,” said Ritsuka lamely.
“Hardly, Master. We are allies at best, but there is no guarantee that such an alliance will remain in place. It is not uncommon for a Heroic Spirit to betray their master should they feel the need arise, or should their personalities conflict too much. Rider is simply being prudent in keeping her identity hidden from me, since there is no knowing as to whether or not I may betray you in the future.”
“Oh, I see. But, Archer, if there’s a chance of you betraying me… why would you tell me beforehand?”
“…I’m just making sure that my Master is aware of the dangers he faces. That’s all.”
“Ah, so Archer is a nice person,” exclaimed Mash.
“I’m simply a pragmatist. That’s all there is to it.”
Archer turned his back on the others in apparent embarrassment, and then called over his shoulder. “Besides, Mash, correct? That object over there is apparently yours, right? Shouldn’t you retrieve it?”
“Ah, my shield!”
Mash dashed off as Ritsuka turned to Rider and said, “Sorry for not understanding you earlier. I’ll hold off on asking you personal questions until we’re alone.”
“Are you sure it’s alright for you to be alone with her, Fujimaru?”
“Mm? Why do you say that, Director?”
“Well, she attacked us the moment she was summoned, didn’t she?”
“I- that’s- I thought that man was about to attack you, Master. So, that’s why I… did that.”
Rider was obviously embarrassed about her misunderstanding. As though taking this opportunity to rejoin the conversation now that it was another person’s turn to feel awkward, Archer said, “Her weapons accurately attacked only me at that time, so I would be inclined to believe her. It’s not a regular occurrence, but sometimes a Master can be under attack at the time of the Servant’s summoning. A Servant who can judge that danger to their Master and immediately act in their defense… I would suggest you place your trust in her, Master.”
While Olga Marie seemed unconvinced, Mash who’d returned heard the tail end of what Archer said and remarked, “I see! Then let’s both do our best to protect Senpai, Ms. Rider.”
“Oh, I… I understand, Ms. Kyrielight.”
“Please, just call me Mash.”
Using that opening, Ritsuka also wanted to give his goodwill to Rider, saying, “I’m sorry for misunderstanding your intentions, Rider. But I’ll trust you and properly wait for you to open up to me when you’re ready to. In the meantime, I’m glad that I have you as a Servant and a friend.”
Archer seemed to grunt in annoyance when Ritsuka used the word ‘friend’ again, but Rider seemed to appreciate Ritsuka’s intention. Seeing her up close, Ritsuka finally could get a grasp of her height, which was tall for a woman and nearly the same height as his own. She was probably a little over 170 centimeters, and her body was perfectly sculpted in the way a supermodel’s would be. Not too much anywhere, and none of it being too little, except for the healthily slim waist. Ritsuka just felt that it was a shame that half her face was covered by the mask, but he decided he wouldn’t pry, and let Rider talk about herself when she was ready to do so.
On receiving Mash and Ritsuka’s combined goodwill, Rider hung her head slightly to regain her composure and said with cool sincerity, “To welcome me as a Servant… You have strange preferences. If you require a sacrifice, do feel free to command me as you wish.”
“Sacrifice… you say…?”
It seemed Rider had a low opinion of herself. When she clashed with Archer, the height of her ambition seemed to be about buying time for Ritsuka to escape instead of defeating Archer, now that Ritsuka thought of it.
“Well, if we’re all done with the introduction, can we get back to the mission, please,” stated Olga Marie from the sideline a little sullenly. “If I’m right, the base for the Church’s observer should be to the east. It’s likely the best place to-”
“Master,” called out Archer, cutting off Olga Marie, “I ask again, do you have a base or stronghold for us to go to!”
“Hey, don’t interrupt me!”
“Why do you ask, Archer?”
Ritsuka decided to ignore the pouting Olga Marie in favor of Archer’s urgent tone of voice. The Rider said, “Damn, I was slow noticing,” as her weapons appeared in her hands again and her posture dropped into a combat stance.
“Master, your answer!”
Pressured by Archer, Ritsuka said, “We don’t have anything like that, Archer. Please tell me what’s wrong.”
“Master,” said Rider in a low but stern voice, “We are currently surrounded.”
Ritsuka instinctively strained his ears, and heard a muffled gaaaa of a skeleton, echoed by another. Ritsuka wasn’t the only one to hear it, as Olga Marie said, her voice wavering with emotion a little, “How did they know we were here?”
“Ah,” uttered Ritsuka as he looked back towards the fountain where the summoning circle was. “It’s because we sent up a signal flare. Twice.”