Ritsuka was only beginning to wrap his head around what Dr. Roman had said after reconnecting with the stranded trio, that Chaldea had lost 80% of its functionality and was cut off from the outside world due to communication equipment malfunction… when Olga Marie volunteered herself, Mash, and Ritsuka to continue the mission that had originally been entrusted to 50 master candidates. Being Japanese, Ritsuka unconsciously went with the flow and didn’t try to question Olga Marie’s judgement in front of Dr. Roman, but he had some concerns…
“I’m cutting off the connection. Go do your job.”
With that, Olga Marie cut off communications with Chaldea. That’s when Mash spoke up, as she apparently had reservations on leaving the exploration of the blasted cityscape and finding the cause of its destruction to the three of them.
“Director, are you sure about this? There’s also the option of waiting here for rescue.”
That wasn’t wrong. After all, Olga Marie had ordered the restoration of the Rayshifting system to be the top priority. The three of them were woefully under qualified to be acting as a scouting force, even if they were technically the most capable members of Chaldea at the moment, but not a one of them were old enough to even drink alcohol. It made more sense to have actual adults take the responsibilities of that role.
“I can’t afford to do that,” immediately negated Olga Marie. “After we return to Chaldea, who knows how long it will take to select the next team? A month won’t be enough to gather personnel or funds. Do you know how much the Mage’s Association will harass me in the meantime? Worst case, they’ll blame me for mismanagement, and I’ll lose Chaldea to them. If that came to pass, I’d be toast. I can’t go back empty-handed. I need something that will shut them up! …Sorry, but you’re both stuck with me, Mash, Fujimaru. Come on, let’s explore this town. The cause of this twisted history must be here somewhere.”
“I’m sorry, Olga Marie. I know you want to hold onto your position, but I don’t think we can do this. Realistically speaking… there’s no way we can complete this mission with just the three of us.”
Olga Marie gave Ritsuka a sharp look, and with thorns in her voice said, “First off, I am the Director. And you will refer to me as such. And if I say we’re going to investigate this city, we’re going to do just that.”
Fujimaru was raised by an energetic British mother, and had ties into a multinational magic community through his father. It wasn’t rare for foreigners to visit and many of them were on good enough terms with Ritsuka’s father that they liked to be called by their first names. Unlike most Japanese, Ritsuka was comfortable being on a first name basis with foreigners. Also, since Ritsuka was part of a culture club at his high school there was a far less rigid chain of leadership than in sport clubs. In fact, the “captain” of his club didn’t like to be called by his title. So Ritsuka was less use to formality than your typical Japanese citizen, so he had unconsciously been speaking to Olga Marie in a more friendly manner than their positions would have normally allowed. After all, the three of them in that ruined city were all about the same age, and, for Ritsuka, the organization known as Chaldea was still an unfamiliar entity. Even with the previous battles and the wounds on his hands… it didn’t really feel real for him.
But Olga Marie had requested to be referred to by her title, so who was Ritsuka to disagree.
“Ah. Sorry Director, but what I mean is… well, as soon as we run into another mob of skeletons we’ll be in major trouble. We’d have no choice but to call for Chaldea to perform an emergency evacuation. Since Mash is the only real combatant we have and, well, I don’t think she’s received any combat training.”
Mash looked down at the ground with a sigh. Apparently Ritsuka hit the nail on the head.
“What are you saying, Fujimaru? Mash is a Demi-Servant. She has more than enough power to get us through this place.”
“No, Director. Mash has more than enough power to fight off the skeletons. But I don’t think she can protect us both if something unexpected happens.”
“D-don’t worry, Senpai. I’ll definitely protect you if you’re in danger,” said Mash, looking to defuse and appease the situation.
“I believe you Mash,” said Ritsuka with a sad smile. “But if you’re protecting me, then who’s going to be fighting on the front line?”
“What are you talking about, Fujimaru?”
“…Director, how much combat experience do you have? Excluding the fight in the alleyway just now.”
Olga Marie’s face made a complicated expression that was a mix of surprise, annoyance, and embarrassment as she spat out the words, “That’s nothing you should be concerned about.”
No experience, then. Just as Ritsuka thought.
“Well, Director, I at least have no experience. I don’t know how to fight, and I can’t cast magic. Uh, I mean, magecraft. Either way I have no way to defend myself, and if Mash is going to remain a Demi-Servant as you’ve been calling her… I gather that I need to stay safe.”
Ritsuka intentionally avoided talking about his own potential death. If felt that if he used those words in this place that they might come true. Pushing that macabre thought from his mind, Ritsuka continued, “Which means that Mash would have to stay close to me, so there would be no way she could fight freely. And you, the Director, are too important to be fighting as the vanguard position. So Mash would be tied down protecting both of us. We would be forced to fight completely defensively no matter what strange creatures we came across in this place, which would put us at an enormous disadvantage.”
Olga Marie stared at Ritsuka for a long moment, her eyes narrowed in annoyance before she gave a sigh and said, “I suppose it is true that I can’t expect much of an untrained Master Candidate. It only makes sense that you wouldn’t know any magecraft.”
“No, Director,” corrected Ritsuka. “It’s not that I don’t know magecraft. I know some spells. I’m actually incapable of using magecraft.”
Shock ran through the faces of both of the girls at Ritsuka’s confession. That face was why he hated coming clean about his condition. But their lives were all in danger, so they needed to know Ritsuka’s limitations.
“Senpai? What does that mean?”
With a sigh, Ritsuka started in on his explanation.
“It means that while I have mana, and can utilize it… I can’t form it into anything. So the instant I try to turn my mana into magecraft, it begins to dissipate. I’m physically incapable of casting any spells.”
“Wait, wait, wait, wait! Fujimaru, you’re telling me you can’t use your mana at all!?”
“Well, that’s not quite it, Director. I can tap into my mana, and I can move it as I please. I can also power magical tools, Mystic Codes… but that’s it. With any kind of free forming magic, I’m incapable of having any control over its formation. So that’s why I studied ritual magic. But Ritual magic also requires giving direction to the mana to go to after activation. And whenever I tried giving direction to the ritual, my connection would be lost and the magic would fail. I’m incapable of using mana outside of any magical tools. And I don’t have any.”
“Which means you’re nothing but a liability,” said Olga Marie, summing up everything Ritsuka was trying to explain in one painful bullet point. “Then if that’s so, I’ll just have to take on the role of protecting you, and have Mash fight as the vanguard, as you put it.”
Mash made a difficult face, as though she didn’t want to go against Olga Marie’s orders, but wouldn’t go against what Ritsuka thought. Her expression exhibited her torn loyalties as she looked at Ritsuka to make a decision.
“With respect, Director,” said Ritsuka, as he tried to direct the conversation to the solution he’d had in mind when he first started objecting to Olga Marie’s plan of only the three of them exploring the Singularity. “I think Mash is far more suited to protecting people than to attacking. Which is why I think it would be best if you summoned a Servant who could take her place as the Vanguard.”
Olga Marie’s face took on a dark demeanor as she looked away while she crossed her arms. “That’s impossible.”
“Maybe not,” said Ritsuka hopefully. “Mash said this blue light chamber around us looked just like that summoning thing at Chaldea. Maybe we could use it the same way!”
“I already said it was impossible,” rejected Olga Marie softly, but strongly.
“Well, how do we know until we try? It’s worth a shot, right?”
At Ritsuka’s energetic hopefulness, Olga Marie exploded, and plodded right up to Ritsuka and started poking him in the chest, shouting, “I already said that what’s impossible is impossible! If you want another Servant, why don’t you try summoning it!?”
“That’s a great idea, Director!”
“Haaa,” exclaimed Olga Marie as she turned her gaze away from a startled and slightly petrified Ritsuka to look at Mash.
“Having Senpai summon another Servant! There’ve been Grail Wars where the same Master has controlled two Servants at a time. And if it’s Senpai, I feel that he’d be able to do so as well. After all, it doesn’t feel like I use much of his mana in the link we have, so maybe he has enough left over for a second Servant.”
After Mash’s explanation, Olga Marie was stone still for a moment before she grabbed Ritsuka’s wrist and pulled it up in front of her eyes.
“I-TETETETE,” cried Ritsuka in pain. He was pretty sure his arm wasn’t made to bend that way.
“Oh, shush. You’re a boy, aren’t you? Man up!”
Spouting those words, Olga Marie stared intently at the symbol on the back of Ritsuka’s right hand from close range, studying it intently. After seeming to have seen or learned something, she looked Ritsuka in the eyes and asked, “Does it feel like you’re using much of your mana with Mash?”
After pulling his hand out of Olga Marie’s grasp and began rubbing the pain away, Ritsuka said, “What? Not at all. I didn’t even notice we were linked until a bunch of people started telling me we were.”
“Hmm. That seems about, right,” muttered Olga Marie. “Mash, Fujimaru. It seems most of the mana for Mash’s transformation comes from Mash herself. Only a little of Fujimaru’s mana is being used, and more for stabilization than empowerment at that. A normal Servant needs the mana of the Master to form their corporeal bodies, but Mash already has a real body… Maybe it eliminates most of the power drain… And Mash was something of a Candidate in the first place…”
“Um, Director,” asked Ritsuka hesitantly. He was somewhat afraid of having his limbs pulled in strange directions again.
Olga Marie took a wide stance and pointed an index finger directly between Ritsuka’s eyes and shouted, “Master Candidate Fujimaru Ritsuka! I order you to summon another Servant!”
A few minutes later, Ritsuka was at the center of the magical formation, forlornly looking at the lines of magical power running through the ground and the air around him. He turned his head slightly to look at the two girls off to the side before saying, “I already told you I fail at even ritual spells, right?”
“You said that you fail when you try to direct the ritual, Fujimaru. Summon rituals for Heroic Spirits don’t need to be directed, just activated. It’s all about making a point for the Heroic Spirit to connect to. After that, the ritual basically goes on autopilot. Even you should be able to complete the ritual as long as you don’t try and influence the summoning circle at all.”
That’s a blessedly optimistic thought, it seemed to Ritsuka. And Mash’s cheer of, “I believe in you, Senpai,” only put a few needles in Ritsuka’s heart. He really wasn’t looking forward to seeing their disappointed faces after he failed.
May as well get it over with…
Ritsuka lifted his right hand, the hand with the Command Seals, Olga Marie called them, and formed a fist. Concentrating, Ritsuka started pouring his mana into the ritual circle and recited the words that Olga Marie had taught him.
“For the Elements, Silver and Iron. For the Foundation, Stone and the Arbiter of Covenants.”
Ritsuka could feel power leaving his body in a stream. The ground below him began to brighten as his mana mixed with the power of the Ley Point.
“Let no man be my Master, as we trod the path to the future. Seal the gates of the four directions. Come forth from thy jeweled pinnacle and follow the exalted road leading to the Kingdom.”
Ritsuka’s power spread outwards from the center, where Mash’s shield took the place of what Olga Marie had called a catalyst. Ritsuka clenched his fist harder, hard enough for it to hurt as he tried to prevent his concentration from faltering.
“Fill, fill, fill, fill, fill. The five vessels are complete. But when each is filled, let them be destroyed.”
The sensation of heat began to permeate all around Ritsuka, and there was a wetness in his grip.
“Heed my words. My will creates your body, and your blade cuts the path to my destiny.”
A single drop of blood fell from Ritsuka’s clenched fingers, dropping onto the edge of Mash’s shield. The blood shone bright blue, and then vaporized, as did the following drop, and the next. With each drop of Ritsuka’s blood, the spell circle grew more luminescent.
“If you heed the Throne’s call and obey my will and reason, then answer me! I hereby swear that I shall be all the good in the world! That I shall defeat all evil in the world!”
Ritsuka was shouting now in order to be able to hear himself over the raging swirls of power that surrounded him, kicking up wind and detritus. Ritsuka was having to squint to see what was in front of him at this point, nearly blinded by light, wind, and dust.
“Thou Seventh Heaven, clad in the three great sigils of power, come forth from the circle of binding, oh Guardian of Balance!”
Three bands of pure mana appeared around the summoning site, and around Ritsuka himself. The ground was blazing with sparkling light, like electricity that blasted in a rainbow of colors. And then Ritsuka felt all control of the ritual ripped away from him. The world exploded in a pillar of light that held for what seemed like an eternity. Ritsuka was consumed by both the fear of failure and the fear of success; but he had one earnest thought, one earnest plea that he directed towards whatever had taken over the reigns of the ritual.
Please, we need help… Someone, anyone who knows what they’re doing, please help us…
Ritsuka thought he felt a tear squeeze itself from his eye before the wind blasted his face dry.
And then the world was silent. In that silence, there was one word that was uttered, that carried the feeling of astonishment in it.
At some point, Ritsuka had closed his eyes to keep from being blinded. It took a moment for Ritsuka to build up the courage to see the outcome of the ritual. To face up to his failure. Slowly, timidly, Ritsuka opened his eyes.
And there, sitting on the edge of the ruined fountain, his elbows on his knees and his head lowered as though he were in deep thought, was a man Ritsuka had never seen before. His coat was the red of fresh blood. His skin was brown with a heavy tan. His slicked back hair was as white as a sheet.
The man who was easily over 180 centimeters tall slowly lifted his head, and with an adamant sternness said, “Servant. Archer. I have been summoned and come at your request.”
Ritsuka’s legs gave out and he fell to his knees. “I did it,” he whispered to no one.
I actually used magic…
Note: Archer is 187 cm = 6 ft, 1 ½ inches