“Well done, well done,” said Caster as he landed next to everyone. Seemed he leapt from the next building over.
[Yes, I can confirm the disappearance of all enemy Heroic Spirit signatures in the immediate area. Well done indeed.]
Dr. Romani’s image appeared from Ritsuka’s comm-watch. While Archer and Rider took up wary positions to watch Caster and Olga Marie helped Mash back onto her feet, Caster pulled close to the image of Dr. Romani and looked it over with the eye of an appraiser.
“What is this? Some means of communication through magecraft?”
Dr. Roman gave a quick visual inspection of Caster, nodded his head as though he understood something, and cleared his throat before putting a winning smile on his face and said in solemn friendliness, [Well met, Caster Servant. I don’t know which Heroic Spirit you are, but we have nothing but respect and awe for you.]
“Oh, spare me your remarks. State your business with me, weakling. Isn’t that what someone like you is good at?
[Uh… I-I see. All right then… Weakling… I got called a weakling from someone I’ve met for the first time.]
“Shut up for a second, Romani,” said Olga Marie, who then stepped to the forefront. “Caster, the others may have forgotten in all the excitement, but I haven’t. You have information about what happened in this War and I wanna hear it.”
[Wha-?! Director! Servants have a lot of pride! You shouldn’t talk to one like-]
“Sure, I don’t mind. It’s what I intended to do from the beginning.”
[He responded well to that!? Is… is my judgement weak as well…?]
Ritsuka found himself grinning wryly. Ordinarily he’d have thrown some tsukkomis into the mix, but he felt like he was physically and emotionally drained by the battle to the point where he’d prefer to just let things take their natural course.
“But are you sure you want me to tell you here,” asked Caster waving his hands at the wrecked buildings, fire filled streets, black smoke, and ruined cars. “Besides, it seems your Master desperately needs some rest.”
“You noticed,” retorted Ritsuka in surprise, but without much energy.
“Caster might not be my preferred Class, but it’s still easy for me to see how little magical power you have left. I’m surprised you haven’t been drained dry already, considering how you’ve been supporting four Servants. You must be very well trained.”
Ritsuka smiled wryly again. Olga Marie looked in a different direction while Mash kinda just made a slight whimpering sound.
“Enough of the small talk, all of you,” said Archer, stepping into the conversation with the intention of taking it over. “Our Master needs to recuperate before anything else. Caster, you’ve been in this mess since the start. Are there any defensible locations you could suggest for these youths to recover and pass the night? The hour is growing late.”
Caster tipped his head back in thought, his free left hand touching his chin, and said, “I guess I would have to suggest the high school. It’s mostly intact since it had some wards placed around it to protect the daughters of the families participating in the Holy Grail War. And since it was neutral ground there’s no chance of deadly traps being left behind.”
Archer froze up for a moment and quietly repeated the word, “Daughters?”
[There should be beds in the Infirmary if it’s a High School. Yes, I concur. It seems like a good place to make into a temporary base. I’ll navigate you there-]
“No need,” said Caster as he turned and started walking in a chosen direction. “Follow me.”
[It’s like my entire existence is being denied…]
“P-please don’t give up yet, Dr. Roman,” said Mash trying to put the man’s shattered heart back together. “I’m sure there’ll be something only you can do later!”
Meaning there was nothing worthwhile he could do now…?
Despite Ritsuka’s mental tsukkomi, Dr. Roman was move by Mash’s kindness and nearly shed tears.
“Enough of the sideshow, Romani! Get back to repairing my Chaldea,” called out Olga Marie.
* * * * *
Strangely enough, Ritsuka started gaining back some strength during the walk towards the high school. Rider was tasked with scouting and eliminating any packs of skeletons in the way. Judging by the remains the group sometimes meandered through, Rider was going a good job. The walk was peaceful enough that it took a good while for Ritsuka to realize he’d left the granny purse with the Padoru Sweat in it behind during the chaos of battle. Long ago enough that it was impractical to go back for it.
Ritsuka’s physical fatigue piled up while his spiritual fatigue declined, which caused him to finally ask , “Say, Archer, earlier you said you’d explain something to me.”
“Mmm? What was that, Master?”
“What’s that Nobu Fanta thing?”
Archer groaned audibly while Caster missed a step and turned around going, “Huuuh?”
Olga Marie started talking as though she understood why Ritsuka would be asking the question, saying, “A Noble Phantasm is the-”
Archer interrupted almost immediately.
“Noble Phantasms are either the physical form of a Heroic Spirit’s power that can be used as a weapon, but more commonly it’s used to describe the powerful trump cards we Servants have that we can use based on the legends that we were passed down in and abilities we had in life. You can think of it as the crystallization of our power. And the secrecy and timing of the use of these Noble Phantasms are often the difference between victory and defeat.”
“Does every class have their own Noble Phantasm,” asked Ritsuka innocently.
“What,” uttered Caster in confusion.
Archer spoke over Olga Marie again, who lost the initiative because she lifted her index finger to look more sagacious in her lecture.
“Every Heroic Spirit has Noble Phantasms that are unique to themselves… Barring specific exceptions. So figuring out a Servant’s legend and understanding the effects of their Noble Phantasm is key for victory. We should hurry on, Caster; Rider will be waiting.”
“Hold on, Archer,” said Caster with a little bit of menace in his voice before asking. “Hey, kid. What are the names of the seven Servant Classes?”
“The seven class-”
“Not you, girlie,” said Caster with vehemence, shutting down Olga Marie’s outrage over not being able to drop exposition like she wanted to. “Now, Chaldea Master. Tell me what the Seven Classes are?”
Archer made a face as though he’d failed at preventing something while Ritsuka thought hard and said, “Archer, Rider, Caster… Seiba and… Knight?”
Caster’s face froze in a position that made it seem like he’d just bit into a bug. Mash pulled close to Ritsuka and said quietly, almost apologetically, “The Archer, Lancer, and Saber classes are known as the Knight classes, Senpai,” Mash had slowly pronounced the word Saber with the correct pronunciation instead of the kind of nickname way that Archer had been using. “And the Caster, Rider, and Assassin Classes are called the Cavalry classes, with Berserker being the seventh.”
“O-oh, thanks, Mash,” said Ritsuka over his shoulder and then with as bright a smile as he could manage said to Caster, “The Archer, Lancer, and Saber-”
“Don’t try and gloss over your ignorance, kid,” exploded Caster in outrage.
“Calm yourself, Caster,” said Archer in disapprobation.
“Don’t ‘calm down’ me, Archer! What the hell kind of Master doesn’t even know the basics of the Servant system?!”
“It can’t be helped, it’s Senpai’s first day.”
Mash said that to try and placate Caster, but the effect was that Archer pinched the bridge of his nose like he was fighting a headache and Caster’s face twisted into even greater disbelief.
“First day,”asked Caster, who then repeated, “First day? What the hell does that even mean, girlie? What, your organization takes interns or something? Did he miss the orientation speech or something?”
“Actually, I kicked him out of the orientation,” said Olga Marie, not without a bit of guilt leaking into her voice.
Caster planted his palm to his forehead and said, “What kind of fly by night operation are you guys that your only remaining Master is a punk who doesn’t know dick about being a Master?”
“I-it can’t be helped. It’s not like we intended for this to happen,” lamely protested Olga Marie.
Caster gave a sigh and said, “I can’t say as how I like it, but, hey, kid, you did a good job of coordinating us Servants back there. You get a pass in my book. But seriously, you need to learn your stuff right quick.”
Ritsuka lamely laughed and said, “Thanks for the support.”
Caster then turned to Mash and said, “I can’t overlook you, however.”
With the various reactions to that statement, Caster continued on by saying, “You’re not a full Servant, right? A person fused with a Heroic Spirit?”
“A-a Demi-Servant,” stammered Mash.
Caster continued on as though he didn’t hear Mash. “And this kid is your Master. And it’s his ‘First Day.’ Meaning this is your first day being a Servant, right? I was wondering why you didn’t use your Noble Phantasm while that shitty old man was pelting you with his weapon. Is it possible you don’t know how to use your Noble Phantasm?”
Mash looked down in shame, which was kind of an odd pose because she was still holding her enormous shield in one hand.
“I… have been in several battles already, so I should be able to use my Noble Phantasm. But I’m still unable to unleash it. No, I don’t even know how to unleash it. I’m like a defective Servant.”
“Gah! When did that get here,” cried Olga Marie. Seemed she was weak to Fou, but she had a point about the creature showing up whenever it wanted. Dr. Roman opened a communication line again at that time.
[Oh, so that’s what was bothering you. You have such a strong sense of responsibility, Mash…]
Olga Marie got snubbed by Fou again so she turned to Mash and lightly said, “Try not to worry about it, Mash. I mean, it’s a Noble Phantasm. There’s no way you could learn to do something like that so quickly. After all, if the secret weapons of Heroic Spirits could be mastered in just a day or two then Servants wouldn’t be anything special.”
“Of course we can master something like that immediately,” stated Caster flatly. “Heroic Spirits and Noble Phantasms are pretty much the same thing, after all. The moment this young lady here could fight like a Servant she was capable of using her Noble Phantasm. But… you can’t. The problem is probably that you’re not circulating your magical energy properly.”
Caster put his free hand up to his chin as he carefully studied Mash’s face while brainstorming aloud.
“Let’s see, is it a lack of enthusiasm? Being too reserved? Well! I’m sure it’s just because you’re not yelling out loud when you practice.”
Ritsuka was about to call BS on that comment, but then remembered, “Ah. Mash was shouting pretty loud when she carried Leonidas on her shield…”
“Really,” asked Mash. Then she shouted “REALLY!!!?”
Fou skittered away while Olga Marie clapped her hand over her ears and cried, “Don’t just start shouting all of a sudden!”
“I don’t think you have the right to say that to anyone, though,” remarked Ritsuka.
“Cut it out, Caster,” said Archer in admonishment. “You shouldn’t be filling an impressionable girl’s head with nonsense.”
Caster scratched the back of his head and said, “Ah, sorry. That was really just a metaphor. But either way, I think you’re lacking in guts. So… let’s change that.”
Caster’s staff moved in a flash, the oblong head of the staff swooped down and struck the shield Mash was carrying like he was scooping it, and her, up. Mash was instantly sent flying as though she’d been thrown instead of struck, and she landed on the ground in a semi-controlled fall. Archer instantly moved between Caster and Ritsuka, and Fou moved to jump onto Ritsuka’s shoulder while making disapproving noises. Olga Marie was left out of the Ritsuka centric movements and just shouted, “What do you think you’re doing you blue-haired jerk!”
“I also want to know, Blue Caster. Depending on your answer, I won’t overlook your actions.”
“It’s simple Archer. Using a Noble Phantasm is instinctual, right?” Archer nodded slightly to that. “The young lady over here is too caught up inside her own head, so there’s no way for her to pull out her instinctual power. So, I’m gonna smack her around until she’s too tired to think. Then she’ll be able to draw out her full power. A brilliant plan if I do say so myself. Ha-hah!”
Everyone present was stunned by Caster’s plan to the point where they were rendered speechless. Only one person had the lack of manners to say aloud what everyone was thinking.
“Is it possible that Caster is actually an idiot,” asked Olga Marie quietly.