It seemed that all of Olga Marie’s shouting had drawn out all the skeletons in the immediate area. It seemed that way because there were no more encounters between the time when the alley fight ended and the little adventuring party of three arrived in a small park. All the foliage had been torched and the fountain in the center had suffered structural damage, but it still held some mostly clean water for Ritsuka to wash the blood off his hands with.
The initial treatment had just been some paper napkins that Mash had scavenged from a chain franchise family restaurant that Ritsuka had been pressing between both palms like he was in prayer for the sake of stifling the bleeding. He’d held that position while he, Mash, and Director Olga Marie were making their way to the ley line to make contact with Chaldea. After all, the sooner Chaldea could rayshift everyone out of this blasted landscape the sooner Ritsuka could get proper treatment for his lacerated palms. Mash also used that time to fill Director Olga Marie in on what had happened.
Mash finished up her recapping of events with the words, “…And that’s how it happened.”
“And what about his hands,” asked the Director. “You didn’t mention how he injured himself.”
Ritsuka might have misunderstood Olga Marie’s question as concern if there had been any hint of empathy in her voice. Ritsuka carefully studied his hands. Broad strips of skin had been torn off. The wounds weren’t deep, but they were wide. “I’m pretty sure I got these wounds-”
When I slashed my hands trying to lift the concrete off Mash while she was dying…
“From the skeleton’s sword. It must have had some barbs on it I didn’t see.”
There was no way Ritsuka could bring up Mash’s mortal wound again. Let alone make her feel bad that Ritsuka had hurt himself because of her. It was Ritsuka’s ignorance and weakness that had resulted in him hurting himself. But Mash would definitely blame herself.
“I’m sorry, Senpai. If I had finished off that skeleton properly you wouldn’t have been injured.”
Just like that.
“Please don’t blame yourself for this Mash. It was my own negligence that caused this. If I’d just asked Director Olga Marie to finish the thing off then this would have never happened.” Mash looked down with a difficult expression on her face of conflicting emotions. Relief and self-blame warring across her features. Ritsuka decided to change the subject by addressing Director Olga Marie. “But I’m really glad we ran into you Director. I was afraid we were the only people around.”
“Ah, yes,” said Mash, leaping onto the tangent that Ritsuka had provided. “If the Director is here then that means there must be other Master Candidates who got teleported here…”
“…There aren’t, actually,” interrupted Director Olga Marie. Her arms and legs crossed in negation from her seat on the edge of the water fountain. “That much I’m certain of. …I hate to admit it, but I know why we were shifted to Fuyuki.”
“So you understand why we survived,” asked Mash.
Olga Marie gave a curt nod before going into her explanation.
“All of us here share a common denominator. Neither me, nor you, nor that useless guy ‘were actually inside the Coffins.’ Though Rayshifting flesh and blood isn’t likely to succeed, it’s not impossible. Meanwhile, the coffins have breakers. When the success rate’s below 95%, the power’s cut off. So they never actually Rayshifted. We’re the only ones here.”
“I see. That’s why you’re the director.”
Mash just accepted what Director Olga Marie said, but Ritsuka picked up on an unnecessary word in the Director’s explanation. Even though the girl who was Ritsuka’s age was his superior… she was still his age. It made him want to poke fun at her back. With a sliver of a smile on his face, Ritsuka said, “You can be reliable when you’re calm, I see.”
“What’s that supposed to mean? Are you saying I’m not usually calm!?”
Ritsuka lifted his hands in a way to mutely signify that his case has been made for him. There was a tiny sting from moving them, but the bleeding had mostly stopped.
“Hmmph, whatever. I understand the situation now,” quipped Director Olga Marie, pointing her nose up to the sky as she tried to salvage some dignity before turning to look Ritsuka in the eye. “Fujimaru, since it’s an emergency I’ll approve you and Kyrielight’s contract. First, let’s set up the base camp.”
Oh, the job that Mash and Team A were assigned from the start? Director Olga Marie stood up from her seat and started studying the skyline as she continued on.
“Listen, this is the time to search for a Leyline Terminal. A place where magical energy converges. There we’ll be able to contact Chaldea. So in this town’s case…”
“This is the point, Director,” interjected Mash before Olga Marie could dig her own grave. “The Ley point is at your feet.”
“Whoa,” cried Olga Marie, hopping backwards a little in surprise. “Oh r-right, I knew that, I knew that, of course!”
“Come to think of it, Mash was the one who led us here. Good job, Mash.”
“Ah, thank you Senpai.”
“Anyway, Mash, place your shield on the ground. I’m going to set up a summoning circle with your Noble Phantasm as the catalyst.”
Director Olga Marie pulled out some chalk and started making lines in a particular pattern on the ground. While she was doing that Mash turned to Ritsuka and said, in Japanese, “…So she says. Are you alright with that, Senpai?”
Seems Mash was placing more importance on Ritsuka’s judgement than the Director’s. That was both comforting and discomforting to Ritsuka for different reasons. But it seemed that if there were differing opinions between the Director and Ritsuka then Mash would take Ritsuka’s side. With a wry smile, Ritsuka said in Japanese back to her, “Sure, go ahead and do it, but I don’t want you to relinquish your weapon, Mash. We don’t know what will happen to you if you lost your shield.”
“Alright, I’ve finished the circle. Mash, place your shield here, in the center.”
“Understood,” said Mash soberly.
As Mash moved to place her shield on the ground, Olga Marie asked Ritsuka, “What were you two talking about?”
“Nothing important,” said Ritsuka, dodging the question.
“Mmmm. Whatever. Mash, stand by the two of us, I’m going to activate the circle.”
Director Olga Marie put her arms out in front of her and light shone not just from her hands but from the pattern on the ground and the surface of the shield. Before long there was a slowly spinning grid of magic formations around the group, glowing in a blue hue. Ritsuka was lost in wonder at the sight, but Mash seemed to recognize it.
“This is… The same as the summoning experiment chamber at Chaldea.
Before Ritsuka could ask about what the experiment was his watch lit up and a holographic Dr. Roman shone through.
[CQ, CQ. Hello, hello? Okay, the connection’s back! Good job, you secured the connection. Now we can communicate again, and even send rations…]
As per her normal form, Director Olga Marie immediately lost her composure when faced with the unexpected.
“Huh?! Why are you running the show, Romani? What about Lev? Where’s Lev? Put Lev on!”
Dr. Romani screamed and recoiled as though he’d just been attacked by a ghost. His scream was so loud that everyone on the Fuyuki end of the connection flinched at the same time.
[Director, you’re alive? And you’re unharmed? What the…]
“What’s that supposed to mean? Where’s Lev? What’s the head medic doing in charge?”
Ritsuka was starting to wonder if Olga Marie had an unhealthy preoccupation with Mr. Lev. After all, when she was getting chased by those skeletons she just ran around calling out his name instead of solving the problem herself…
[Don’t ask me why. I’m fully aware that I’m not cut out for this job. But there’s nobody else, Olga Marie. Currently, the surviving full time staff of Chaldea is less than twenty people, including me. The reason I’m in charge of operations is because there’s no one ranked higher than me who survived. Dr. Lev was supervising from the Command Room. There’s no way he could survive that blast.]
Olga Marie was shocked to the point that tears appeared in the corner of her eyes.
“No way. Lev… No, forget that, wait… please wait. Less than 20 survivors? What about the Master candidates… the coffins?”
[…47, all in critical condition and we’re short on medical supplies. We might be able to save a few, but all of them might be-]
“Don’t be ridiculous,” snapped Olga Marie, as she wildly moved her arms like they were an extension of the orders she was giving. “Cryopreserve them immediately! Think about reviving them later. Your top priority is to make sure they don’t die!”
[I forgot the coffins had those functions! I’ll get on it right away!]
The connection to Chaldea cut off immediately, and silence enveloped the three teenagers that were standing in that glowing ephemeral chamber. After a moment Mash said, “That surprises me. Cryopreservation without prior consent is a crime. Yet you made the decision right away. You put human lives ahead of your own reputation as the director.”
Olga Marie was hugging herself tightly, and gave a small twitch at Mash’s words. Then forcefully said, “Don’t be stupid! As long as they’re not dead I can explain myself later – why else would I do that?”
Is it possible that Olga Marie was a tsundere…? Ritsuka thought they didn’t actually exist outside of Japan. You learn something new every day.
“And in the first place… 47 lives… There’s no way I can carry that burden!”
Looking closely, Ritsuka saw some faint trembling from Olga Marie as she hugged herself and muttered some final words under her breath. Ritsuka caught only “don’t die.” But Ritsuka recognized the trembling as being exactly the same as what Ritsuka went through in the battle with the skeleton gang before. And then something clicked into place in Ritsuka’s mind.
“That’s why you banned me from the first operation, isn’t it?”
“Even if I’m an untrained civilian I could have been used for manual labor. But you decided on an excuse to send me away for training instead of deploying me despite having an obvious shortage of manpower. Otherwise you never would have recruited civilians into Chaldea in the first place.”
“Y-You idiot. I was just making an example of you. You’re nothing but a tool for the sake of completing the mission.”
Ritsuka may not be an expert on tsunderes, but he’d had a friend in his childhood that used a lot of deflection. That’s why he knew that sincerity was the best move to make when confronted with a defensive lie.
“Thank you, Olga Marie. Your decision to have me trained properly saved my life.”
Olga Marie’s face contorted from a dozen exploding emotions and she purposely took a few steps away from the others, keeping her back to them. After her feet came to a stop Olga Marie said, with some wet emotions creeping into her voice, “Something like that… doesn’t mean anything to me…”
Ritsuka said nothing in return and simply began to re-apply some paper napkins to his hands with a slim and self satisfied smile on his face. Mash looked back and forth from Olga Marie to Ritsuka, and smiled happily. The three teenagers continued standing there in silence, waiting for the next contact from Chaldea.