The front panel of the toppled drink vending machine released only that sound as Mash’s shield forced it open. The shape of her shield was unorthodox, but it made a surprisingly suitable crowbar. Taking out some cans with a cartoonish mascot on the front, Mash handed out the sports drinks to Olga Marie and Ritsuka before setting aside a portion for herself and the other Servants who were not present. Olga Marie languidly popped the tab on her can before taking a mouthful. Ritsuka struggled a little with the tab on his, most of his strength was still drained from the sustained running he’d done before, and then proceeded to chug down the entire contents of the can of Padoru Sweat.
“Are you sure you’re alright, Senpai?”
“Yes, Mash… But may I have another can?”
“Ah, yes, Senpai. Here, let me open it for you.”
Seemed like Mash noticed Ritsuka’s difficulty with the previous can. She’s definitely the considerate type.
Ritsuka took the proffered can and then sat back into the bench seat of the train terminal that Archer had led everyone too as a temporary resting place. It was rather perfect for their needs. It was elevated, letting them see the surrounding areas, and cutting access to only a few key points. It had a waiting area where a handful of people could comfortably spend time (either in waiting for a train or recovering from a chase by a horde of monsters). It also had a few surviving bento lunch boxes at a sales counter and soft drink machines that were much appreciated by the now-official recon party of Chaldea. Though, Ritsuka felt a little guilty about taking them without permission, until he was reminded that it was basically a post-apocalyptic survival scenario.
Shortly after Ritsuka, Mash, and Olga Marie began their salvaged bento meals, Rider returned from her voluntary task with a flashy landing nearby. Ritsuka would have never known she’d returned without seeing her land due to how silent she was in her arrival. Rider walked over, knelt, and began pulling items out of a giant soiled granny purse and laying them on the ground, since there was no table in the rest area.
“Archer was correct, Master. I was able to find some supplies in the nearby clinic.”
A bottle of rubbing alcohol. Gauze. Sealed bandage pads. Medical tape. Scissors. A bottle of superglue. Hand towels. And a generic retail first aid kit.
After laying everything out, Rider stood and… waited. Everyone kind of just… stared at the items littering the ground.
“Isn’t anyone going to do anything with them,” asked Olga Marie.
“I’m sorry, but… I have no training with such things,” remarked Mash.
“I’m in the music club, not the health committee,” said Ritsuka with a wry smile, since the items had been gathered to treat him.
“…I’m afraid I’ve never rendered aid to a human before,” said Rider, with a sense of disappointment in herself.
“Then I guess it’s up to me,” came Archer’s voice from thin air.
“Archer? Where are- gah!”
Ritsuka released an embarrassing cry when Archer materialized out of thin air with a golden luster accompanying his arrival.
“So cool,” muttered Ritsuka.
“So they really can appear and disappear at will,” remarked Olga Marie with a disapproving tone of voice before her eyes flicked to the sign showing the way to the ladies room. “So I take it you finished placing my wards, then, Archer?”
Olga Marie had used a few splinters of concrete to inscribe rune magic onto for Archer to secure the access points of the train station with. Archer shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s taken care of, but I’d classify those as grenade traps instead of wards.”
“Please. At most they’ve got the strength of a flash bang. They’re nothing so dangerous as a hand grenade. I wouldn’t want to kill a survivor of this city on accident.”
“Well, either way they’ll give us a warning should anyone try and sneak up on us. Now, Master, remove your jacket so I can treat your shoulder.”
Ritsuka had obtained a wound at some point during the escape from the skeletons, a light cut in his left upper arm that wasn’t too deep… but still required medical attention. Ritsuka honestly hadn’t noticed the injury until Mash had pointed it out well after the bridge had collapsed.
“Then I shall keep watch while you give treatment to Master.”
“Wait a moment, Rider,” came Archer’s voice, stopping Rider as she was bending her knees to leap upwards, probably to the roof of the semi enclosed train station. “Master. I think this is as good a time as any for that explanation I’d asked for before. And I think it would be advantageous for Rider to be present for it.”
Ritsuka slowly nodded, sagely if one were inclined to describe it as such, and said, “I think it’s a good idea as well. And with that, Director, please give a proper explanation.”
“I think I’ve already said that I don’t really know what’s going on- e-tei-tei-tei”
Ritsuka’s excuse was cut short by the disinfectant that Archer poured onto the wound in Ritsuka’s arm. Afterwards, Archer wiped the area clean with a hand tower and started pushing the wound together while applying the super glue. Ritsuka ground his teeth together to deal with the pain while his knuckles gripping the armrest of the bench went white.
Seeing that, Olga Marie said in a voice that was faltering at first, but slowly gained strength, “Al-alright. So, as I said, we’re from the World Security Organization, Chaldea. Recognized by both the Mage’s Association and the United Nations with the responsibility to maintain a watchful eye on the future of mankind…”
Olga Marie’s explanation was pretty in depth, and a little verbose. Apparently she was the kind that enjoyed explaining things and would make a great tutor if she could fix her short temper. The short explanation was that Chaldea had an assembly of devices to project the future of humanity on an artificial globe, and then to observe the globe with enough accuracy to confirm the state and general path of humanity, to confirm that humankind will not go extinct within the next 100 years. Mostly from the lights of the cities that humanity has built, kind of like how they can be seen by the space stations in orbit during the night time.
And six month ago, all the lights went out.
“They disappeared? Without a trace,” asked Archer as he wound Ritsuka’s injury tightly with gauze.
“Yes. What appeared in place of a world with a thriving mankind, was a planet devoid of life.”
It wasn’t war, famine, disaster, or anything else observable that had destroyed humanity. There was no specific point Chaldea could locate in the future of mankind that explained the disappearance of humanity that occurred in the year of 2018. So Chaldea started looking through the past 2000 years of human history looking for something that hadn’t existed before. And what was found-
“-Was here, in Fuyuki City of 2004.”
“…Grit your teeth, Master. I’m going to disinfect the palms of your hands.”
Ritsuka gave a nod, and Archer began applying the alcohol. Ritsuka felt like the flesh of his hands were dissolving, and then like the nerves were being dragged over gravel as Archer used a hand towel to clean the wounds. Mash looked physically pained over Ritsuka’s treatment as he released strangled moans, and even Rider was gripping her arms hard watching the spectacle. Olga Marie wasn’t any less impacted as she couldn’t even speak while Ritsuka was going through the disinfection process. As Ritsuka began to come down, or grow numb, from the pain of having his hands treated, Olga asked, “Are you alright? We can pick this up later if you want…”
“No, I’m okay,” a pale Ritsuka said with a smile. “I’d really like to hear the rest.”
To explore and hopefully counter the emerging threat in 2004, Chaldea proposed the Rayshifting experiment to the UN. It turned flesh and blood humans into spritrons to send them back into the past, allowing them to alter it. But only mages of exceptional quality and the ability to become masters were able to be transformed. Which were very specific and rare qualities. Which was why a global search for Master Candidates was undertaken, and even civilians like Ritsuka were snapped up at whatever cost it took to gain their cooperation.
“Master,” breathed Rider with an air of hostility in her voice, “Were you threatened into taking part in this plan of theirs?”
“Hey, I take offense to that,” protested Olga Marie. “We may have been desperate, which was why we hired this guy in the first place, but we’d never break the law. We’re a government organization after all.”
Ritsuka felt that Olga Marie was a bit pure hearted to think that governments didn’t break laws, but Rider cut in with the words “I wasn’t asking you,” before Ritsuka’s thoughts could come to a natural conclusion. So Ritsuka said, “It’s alright, Rider. While it’s true I wasn’t told anything about this before being sealed inside a secret government testing lab-”
“You make us sound shady, Fujimaru.”
“But I properly accepted a high paying job that required secrecy. And I was originally not suppose to have any part in this mission. Olga Marie made sure of that-”
“In fact, the only reason I’m here is because I was stupid enough to run into an accident in the first place.”
“Accident,” asked Archer as he broke the seal on the bandage pads.
“An explosion that occurred without warning when the master candidates were all having their biometric information registered in the Klein Coffins,” said Mash with a heavy voice that was trying to maintain composure. She was probably reliving those moments as she spoke. “All of the staff had been gathered to observe the first experiment. And… the Director and I were the only survivors of the assembled staff, it seems like.”
Olga Marie looked away, her face taught to keep any emotions from playing out over her features. Ritsuka felt like lightening the mood, so he happily made a joke at his own expense.
“And being the idiot that I am, I ran into the explosion and got pulled into the time travel experiment alongside those two. And now we’re all here, and are searching for the cause of what everyone’s calling a Singularity.”
“It’s not just called a singularity, Fujimaru,” said Olga Marie tersely, “It is one. It’s a hole that appeared and then cut itself off from human history, trying to assert itself over-place of the proper timeline. That’s one of the reasons we received clearance to investigate, because our entry into the Singularity would be to the effect of trying to correct the course of history instead of having our presence distort it.”
“Is what she says,” concluded Ritsuka lightly.
“Don’t go treating my lecture as a joke,” protested Olga Marie, to which Ritsuka said, “Wait, you’re aware that you were lecturing us?”
“You little…” growled Olga Marie at Ritsuka’s joke. “You look quiet but you’ve got some nerve, don’t you?”
“…So this is the point in history that destroys the rest of the world…” said Archer solemnly as he taped the gauze on Ritsuka’s hands into place.
“Yes,” said Mash. “According to our data there was an undocumented Holy Grail War in Fuyuki City, Japan, over the Greater Grail. There are few records indicating what happened, but it’s known that the winner of the war was Saber and their Master.”
“Holy Grail War,” asked Ritsuka, looking up from experimentally flexing his bandaged hands.
“It’s a system that summons seven Heroic Spirits, one of each class, in a battle royal for the sake of their Masters obtaining the Holy Grail, and being able to make a wish upon it… and have it granted. For both the Master and the Heroic Spirit.”
“So Saber was the one who won it here. Originally. Something must have gone very wrong for Fuyuki to have turned out like this.”
“Archer, you’re talking as though you know something,” said Olga Marie pointedly.
“That’s because I have fought in that particular Holy Grail War before. Depending on who obtained the Grail… an outcome like this isn’t impossible, or the absolute destruction of mankind…” Ritsuka shivered from hearing Archer confirm such a grim fact. “But if the Saber I’d encountered at that time had been the victor… there’s no way this would be the outcome. The Grail War has definitely been tampered with in some way.”
“You fought in the Fuyuki Grail War,” exclaimed Olga Marie.
“I fought in a Fuyuki Grail War. I don’t know if I’ve fought in this one. Rider over there has fought in at least one of the Fuyuki Grail Wars as well, you know.”
Rider seemed to gasp in response to Archer’s proclamation just like everyone else present. When Olga Marie asked if it was true, Rider said, “I can’t be sure. As a Heroic Spirit, I’ve doubtlessly been Summoned before but… whatever memories I have often feel like they were experienced by someone else, or are swirled together so that I can’t be sure where one memory starts and another one ends. But… yes. That would explain why I have such a strange wariness of Archer. It makes sense, seeing as how we were previously enemies…”
“I see. I’m sorry for that Rider,” said Ritsuka with sincerity before turning towards Archer. “But Archer, if Rider’s memories are jumbled like that, how are you able to be so certain about yours?”
“…Different Heroic Spirits have different experiences in their various summons. Most of the time their experiences are not important or potent enough to fundamentally alter the original consciousness they are summoned from. Like an image taken on a camera of a painting. No matter how the picture is altered, the original painting remains the same. However, rarely, there are events that transcend that separation between the original and the summoned Heroic Spirit. I experienced something very important in the Fuyuki Holy Grail War that I will carry with me, now and forever. And before you ask, it is something that is not relevant to your investigation. Does that answer your question, Master?”
“Yes, it does. Thank you, Archer.”
“It answers my questions as well. Thanks, Foreign Archer.”
“Who’s there,” shouted Rider as she turned towards a potted plant that just spoke, daggers in hand.
“Please, calm down. I just want to talk, that’s all.”
Things just got Biblical around here.