“Okay, I’ve decided. The name of your Noble Phantasm is Lord Chaldea,” decided Olga Marie on her own while Mash was busy with an affectionate Fou. Mash was able to use her Noble Phantasm, but didn’t discover it’s true name. Hence, Olga Marie choosing to decide things on her own while the group tread the path Rider had safely cleared to the high school. At least Olga Marie was in high spirits again, since she kept going on and on about how Mash overcoming her trial was like a fairy tale. Ritsuka couldn’t really follow along since he didn’t know many fairy tales, so he didn’t know what was or wasn’t like one.
But while they were deciding on things…
“Well, since we’ve got a name for Mash’s Noble Phantasm, what about her class,” asked Ritsuka. “I’ve been wondering what Mash was classified as now that I know the seven classes. It is seven, right?”
“Yes, Senpai, it’s seven. And I’m… um…”
“Huh. What is the young lady’s class, Archer?”
“Why are you asking me, Blue Caster? You’re the one with the wise Servant Class.”
“I’m asking cause any knight worth their salt knows another of their kind! She’s obviously not a Rider or a Caster, and she’s way too straightforward to be an Assassin. And there’s no way she’s a Berserker, which leaves a knight class. So, what is she Red Archer?”
Being put on the spot, Archer started furiously ruminating aloud, “I’ve never seen a Saber who doesn’t have a sword, so that’s out. And she doesn’t have a pole arm of any kind so I doubt she’s a Lancer…”
Ritsuka chimed in due to the process of elimination, “So Mash is an Archer then? Can she throw her shield like Captain America and have it come back to her?”
“Let’s see. YAH! ……Senpai, I have concluded that my shield does not have a return function built into it. Please excuse me while I retrieve my shield.”
As Mash ran off, Archer held his forehead and stated, “There’s no way an Archer would be using a shield for their main weapon.”
“Says the Archer who uses swords,” needled Rider in an aside which earned her a dirty look from Archer. Rider continued her thought in a different direction because of that. “So, I guess Mash really is a Berserker, then.”
Rider’s gaze very obviously followed the path Mash’s shield traveled from the throw. However Caster shook his head saying, “The girl’s air headed, not crazy. There’s no way there’s a Berserker who wants to learn theories. They always move their bodies before their minds. This girl… is she an Extra Class?”
“Extra? Which of the seven classes is that,” asked Ritsuka who felt like people were changing the game rules on him on a whim.
“The Extra Class is…” started Olga Marie as she started digging deep into her memory. However, Archer cut her off to give the exposition once again. It seemed Archer really liked explaining things.
“The Extra Class is a catch all term to describe the very rare classes of Servants that don’t fall under the seven core classes. They are very rare however, and it is likely that all of them combined do not equal the potential roster of even one of the main seven classes. Which is why they are typically discounted from the class system.”
“So Mash is unique, then,” asked Ritsuka.
“Very,” stated Caster. “As someone who fought her, I can say with certainty that her heart, mind, and Essence is built around protecting others. No other Heroic Spirit I’ve encountered can claim the same. I can’t even think up an equivalent, let alone a name for a Servant like that.”
“Then she’s a Shielder,” stated Olga Marie emphatically to prevent being cut off again. When everyone gave Olga Marie a blank stare, she got angry and started shouting, “Every class is named after their weapon, and ends in -er, so that makes Mash a Shielder! Shield! Er! Do any of you have a problem with that?!”
Everyone quickly started shaking their heads no, not daring to say how simplistic that categorization sense of Olga Marie’s was, some members even taking a step back from Olga Marie’s fury. In the middle of that, Mash returned with Fou on her shoulder, shield in hand, innocently asking, “What is the shouting about?”
“I’ve decided on your Class, Mash! You’re a Shielder, and everyone agrees. Right?!”
Everyone nodded in unison.
“Shielder… Yes. Thank you, Director,” said Mash, blushing from happiness.
The general feeling of all the rest present was, Well, as long as she’s happy with it.
* * * * *
The school was dreary, stained by ash and soot, and the grass was all dead and black. But the structure was still standing and intact. On arrival the Servants split up to check the grounds and returned shortly after to notify the teenagers that there were no problems. On deciding what to do first, Archer said, “Having a proper meal.”
No one disagreed with him, so the party went to the cafeteria and Archer went into the kitchen in the back as though it were the most natural act in the world. Once there, Archer discovered many things. First, there was clean running water being provided by the water tower on the roof, but no hot water because there were no more utilities. Second, that all the refrigerators were inoperable, and so anything perishable was rotten. However, rice, seasonings, and root vegetables were still able to be used. That was how Archer came to the decision to make a vegetable curry for the team to eat. And to make curry, Archer also discovered that he needed Caster’s magic in place of the non-functioning stove top instead of leaving him in the seating area answering Olga Marie’s questions.
Which was why there had been no important discussion until dinner was served.
“This is so tasty, Senpai!”
“Yeah, Mash. If it’s Japan, it has to be curry!”
“Oi, curry comes from India, Fujimaru. But this sure is great!”
“Haha! I guess you’re a Domestic Hero, huh, Red Archer!”
“Sorry, Rider. There’s no yogurt I can use to mellow the spice, and there’s no surviving milk. Try chewing on this bread to reduce the after burn. I’m sorry I don’t have anything I can use to make the flavor more to your taste.”
“Ah, no. It’s fine Archer. I’m just not used to eating human food, is all.”
[I wish I could try some, it looks so tasty. We’re eating emergency rations on our end…]
There was no important discussion before… or during dinner.
As Archer was clearing the plates away, Olga Marie started pressing Caster for details about the Holy Grail War, with Dr. Roman asking Caster to start from the beginning, chronologically speaking.
“The beginning, huh? Well, I’m not much of a details guy, but there seemed to be a coalition of three or four families that were intending to work together to make the Greater Grail, and then use it to reach the Root of Magic. Combining their power they were able to summon the thing, and then their cooperation basically broke down. You guys know the rule of seven Masters, but one winner, right?”
“Not really,” said Ritsuka, who turned out to be the only one who didn’t know. Caster continued on to supplement the information with Archer being conspicuously silent during this time, listening with his full attention.
“Well, seven Masters are chosen by the Grail and marked with those Command Seals, proof of Master status that allow the Masters to use one time commands on their Servants. You have them too kid, though it looks like you used one already. Try not to do it too much in the future, alright? Those are precious things, ya know?”
“Don’t be, kid. It was great timing for it, and you probably wouldn’t have been able to beat Leonidas if you hadn’t reinforced the little lady at that time.”
Ritsuka looked at his hand, and sure enough, one of the parts of the pattern on his hand had gone blurry, almost like it was half erased by a poor quality pencil eraser.
“So, one member of each of these four collaborating families had a member marked as such, and three external Mages got marked as well, the people who were picked by the Grail itself to be contestants in this battle royale I’m taking part in. My Master was a half assed guy who only found out about the War when he intercepted a secret report meant for some big wig at the Mages Association that was keeping an eye on the Einzberns. Way he told it, the report just fell into his lap. So, learning about how to summon a Heroic Spirit, he stole a relic from some Enforcer and, boom, summoned me as a Caster. Maaan, even if my class is different my bad luck with Masters doesn’t change.”
Caster released a sigh so deep it felt like it came from the bottom of his soul. Archer took this opportunity to ask, “What do you know about the participating families?”
“Well, not much, since I was summoned by an outsider. But I know the participants thanks to my scrying. The Head of the Tohsaka family, Tokiomi was their participant, and he seemed like he was making a lot of secret deals with the church. The scion of the Matou family, a piece of shit named Shinji, was the one who got the mark instead of their family head, Kariya. Guess the kid couldn’t wait to prove how good of a mage he was. The Einzberns had used some kinda fucked up magic to put Command Seals on a homunculus lady they named Irisviel as some kinda Alchemy field test. And the Emiya family head, Kiritsugu, was their participant.”
Archer looked like he swallowed a bug, and asked, “You’re sure of this?”
“Deadly sure. My Master talked about the families a lot, and Kiritsugu more than the rest. My former Master was scared shitless by the guy, saying he was some kind of super assassin that disappeared off the face of the planet about nine years ago. An assassin that specialized in killing mages, so my Master was adamant about keeping himself, and me, as far away from the guy as he could. And I don’t disagree. Even just watching him through scrying showed how cold the guy was. He was the sort of opponent where even if you won, you’d still lose something precious. Anyway, Kiritsugu seemed like he was pretty chummy with the Einzberns so I thought he’d be one of the final Masters when the dust started to settle… but then he died, right outta the blue.
“Then the world changed, like it’d been burned, and all the humans disappeared, including the Masters. And without a Master to supply us with energy, we Servants can’t show our true power. It was at that time Saber, Kiritsugu’s Servant, reappeared. The guy was clothed all in black and had more power than he ever showed before. He quickly blew all the other Servants away, and when they died… they got back up. And there was something wrong with them after that. It was like they’d been infected… no corrupted by whatever was going on with Saber. The killed Servants were under his power too, as though he was a Servant and a Master. I gotta tell you, it was creepy as all hell. If I hadn’t have been sacking it out in the forest to draw what mana I could from nature, I’d have gotten caught up in that mess, too.
“Then Saber sicced his dogs after me. They’re the three that we took out today. Archer, Rider, and Lancer.”
“Counting you and Saber, that leaves Berserker and Assassin,” observed Olga Marie. “What about them?”
“Oh, we don’t have to worry about Berserker. He’s beyond being controlled by Saber. He’s just sitting in the ruins of the Einzbern estate and not moving. As long as we don’t go poking him, he almost certainly won’t bother us. Assassin, however, is gonna be a problem.”
“He’s Saber’s Gatekeeper. After getting reanimated, Assassin hasn’t moved from his post of guarding Saber’s stronghold, a network of caves in the mountain under Ryudou Temple. He’s squatting in the only entry point, so we’re gonna have to go through him, one way or another.”
[Do you have any information about Assassin?]
“He’s a weird guy with baggy clothes. Aside from that, I got nothing. I wasn’t able to track his movements very well. But he did foil a kidnapping attempt by Matou Shinji and Lancer on the daughters of the Tohsaka and Emiya families.”
“The Tohsaka and Emiya families,” asked Archer, with a slight strain in his voice.
“Yeah. Tohsaka Rin, and Emiya Sakura. There was some punk kid trying to be a hero there, too, but I dunno what happened to him.”
[That’s interesting, Caster, but currently irrelevant. What can you tell us about Saber? Do you know his identity?]
“Hmph. How could I not. Anyone who gets hit by Saber’s Noble Phantasm will find out that bastard’s True Name… The other Servants were all defeated because Saber’s Noble Phantasm was just that powerful. How could it not be, being a sister sword to the Sword in the Stone. It’s the most famous sword in your time period. It’s name…”
“The Sword of Promised Victory, Excalibur.”
Caster looked over to Archer who had painfully squeezed those words out through a clenched jaw and said, “That’s right. Our enemy is none other than King Arthur, the legendary King of Knights.”