About thirty minutes after escaping from the wyverns and the French military, the emergency treatment that Ritsuka had been undergoing in the abandoned French fort that Jeanne had led the party to was over. Between the bloodstains and having one leg cut off for the treatment, Ritsuka’s pants were ruined. But the wound had been cleaned, which had hurt. The wound had had a topical anesthesia applied, which relieved the pain. The wound had been wondered at by Dr. Roman remotely for having closed up more than it really should have, which had been owned up to by Marie as a side effect of resting in her Noble Phantasm carriage. And then the wound had been dressed by Mash with a bandage pad and a wrapping of gauze that had come with the rest of the supplies that Chaldea had Rayshifted over.
[Now Gudao, I’d like you to take two of those capsules right away, and another one every eight hours just in case you picked up something nasty from that arrowhead. You’re current on your tetanus vaccine, so I’m not going to be worrying about that for now. And while the wound has closed, it’s not completely healed, so try not to do anything more strenuous than walking for the next few days if you can help it. The grey capped bottle has ibuprofen in it, to be taken once every six hours if you are experiencing any lingering pain. Additionally, the bottle with the yellow cap has a more powerful pain management medicine that you can take once every six hours if you require it, but I’d suggest you not use it unless you have to. Do you have any questions?]
“No,” said Ritsuka to the voice only broadcast as he changed into the new pair of pants in privacy. “But you do seem strangely reliable all of a sudden.”
[That’s because I’m actually a doctor! Not a magecraft time travel engineer, or a militarily trained mission operator! I’m doing my best to adapt like everyone else,] whined Dr. Roman from the other end of the line.
“That’s the Roman I know,” mumbled Ritsuka with a wry smile on his face as he came out from behind an outbuilding and back to the rest of the exploration team with a noticeable limp. The arrow had only struck muscle and only entered shallowly, but the human body is complex and frail by nature. There’s no way an arrow injury would be so easy to walk off. As he approached the Servants, Ritsuka asked, “How’s Sigfried’s wound?”
Jeanne lifted her head from what appeared to be a deep prayer and alighted from the carriage where Siegried was resting. Marie was nearby her carriage while Mash and Mozart were cleaning up the medical relief supplies and getting the boxed lunches that Chaldea had sent in order. Altoria was standing guard at the edge of the gathering of people, keeping an eye on the skies.
“My Noble Phantasm can heal wounds, just a bit, but not this one it seems,” said Marie, feeling depressed with her inability to help someone in front of her.
“I believe it to be some kind of curse,” said Siegfried, trying to be helpful.
“I concluded the same,” said Jeanne. “Baptism rites could probably cleanse this curse, but a Servant of considerably high rank must perform it.”
“Jeanne, you can do that, can’t you,” asked Marie with her hero worship on full display. But Ritsuka was of the same mind, considering that Jeanne was classified as a Saint, even if she did not consider herself one.
“I’m afraid not,” said Jeanne as she sadly shook her head. “I tried, but my power alone isn’t enough. Multiple curses have been interwoven in the wound Siegfried received. It’s truly a miracle that he’s even still alive. We will need the help of a real Saint to help me if we’re to remove multiple curses at once.”
“And we don’t have anyone who qualifies as a Saint working for Chaldea,” observed Mash.
“We might just be out of luck then,” muttered Ritsuka aloud as he sat down gingerly on a stool that had been left to the elements in the fort courtyard.
[No, there should be a chance.]
“Oh? And what does that mean,” asked Mozart.
[Jeanne d’Arc, or rather, Jeanne the Dragon Witch seems to have possession of the Holy Grail. There’s the possibility that our Jeanne d’Arc was summoned as a result of the Counter Force. And Saint Martha was summoned on the side of the Dragon Witch.]
“So this Balancing Force may have Summoned a masterless Saint in opposition to Saint Martha,” asked Ritsuka, connecting the dots without understanding their meaning.
“It seems like a logical possibility, Master,” said Mash with pride and hope before asking, “Has anyone else encountered a Saint before we all met up?”
From his seat inside the carriage, Siegfried weakly said, “I’m sorry, but you’re the only Servants I’ve properly met since I was Summoned.”
Jeane lightly shook her head, saying, “The Chaldea Expedition and I met up shortly after we both arrived, as far as I understand. We didn’t have the time to encounter anyone but each other if we’re talking about Servants. And the only friendly Servants we’ve encountered are all gathered here.”
“Maria and I have not encountered any Servants unknown to the rest of you in our time either. Since that is the case, I believe we shall have to go searching for this lost Saint,” said Mozart.
[It seems that way. However the scanning functions of Chaldea in that era are limited to the areas around Gudao. It will probably take a while to search a nation the size of France.]
“We can discuss the search later,” said Altoria butting into the conversation and taking it over completely. “Right now there is something that must be resolved before we move onto forming new plans.”
“Altoria,” asked Ritsuka wonderingly.
“Jeanne,” stated the dark armored tyrant. “I told you we would be speaking later. Do you know what it is I was referring to?”
Jeanne looked at a loss for words for a moment, but it seemed she was fully expecting this confrontation. She shrunk in on herself a little, and gripped an arm with her other hand as a comforting action. One that accidentally emphasized her bust, but with a body like hers there was really no avoiding it. Regathering her determination, Jeanne said in a voice of apology, “It’s because I left Ritsuka’s side to battle by my own will at Lyon, when the French army was attacked.”
Marie looked on worriedly. Mozart looked amused. Mash was worried for a different reason, seeing contention inside the team. Siegfried just continued to pant, sweat, and occasionally gasp in pain. Ritsuka uttered a quiet, “Oh, that.”
To Mash’s questioning gaze, Ritsuka said, “Well I wasn’t going to say anything.” A comment that made Jeanne shrink away just a little bit more.
“So you understand your failing as a Servant,” said Altoria with the tone of a judge.
“But Jeanne didn’t actually do anything wrong,” said Marie, leaping to the defense of her friend. “She moved to help people who were in danger. She was just being true to herself as a person. If she were capable of overlooking those in need, she would never have become the Heroine she is.”
“Marie,” said Jeanne, moved by the support.
“So you support her abandoning one person, her Master by contract, to save others,” asked Altoria, bringing the core issue into the spotlight once more. Even Marie shrunk back a little to the pressure and vehemence in Altoria’s voice. “Jeanne, your actions were thoughtless and impulsive, and because of the opening you created, Ritsuka was ambushed by two other Servants while I was acting as your reinforcement. Do you even comprehend the magnitude of your failure?”
Jeanne, Marie, and Mash were shrinking back, unable to stand against Altoria’s words. Mozart didn’t look like he wanted to, and Siegfried looked unable to stand, period. In place of everyone, Ritsuka decided to act as the peacemaker.
“I understand your concerns, Altoria, but I think you may be pushing things a little too far. Jeanne is obviously regretting her actions, so we can just leave it at this.”
Altoria looked like she was going to bulldoze on ahead even despite Ritsuka’s request, but settled her passion by coolly saying, “While I am willing to let my matter end here, Master,” said Altoria with a hint of sarcasm. “I think it is best that you use this opportunity to voice your own grievance. After all, you said that you ‘were not going to mention it.’ Which means you yourself do actually have something you wish to say. I suggest you say it now. I’ve become satisfied that this girl is the type you have to be blunt with.”
Ritsuka was honestly just going to let his thoughts on the matter go, again. But Altoria’s unwavering stare forced Ritsuka to give voice to his thoughts… only partly because of the inherent threat in Altoria’s gaze of what she’d do to him if he didn’t.
“Jeanne. I was going to help the French army anyway. But you didn’t give me the chance to.”
“Ritsuka,” asked Jeanne wonderingly.
“Well, in the end, because you ran off like that we were able to protect the soldiers, save Siegfried, and eliminate an enemy Servant… but the course of actions that resulted in that outcome were really the worst that we could have taken. Like Altoria said, we got ambushed because both our strongest fighters were away from us. And Jeanne and Altoria were nearly wiped out as well. After having the chance to think about strategy, I was going to have Marie zoom us over to the battlefront, have Mozart play that frequency that the wyverns hate, and force the enemy to retreat by attacking in the confusion. Maybe even take a Servant or two out in the process, and zoom away because Jeanne didn’t want to encounter the people she used to know. That’s how things could have played out.”
“I… I’m very sorry, Ritsuka. Because of my thoughtless actions,” trailed off Jeanne as she sincerely apologized.
“No, Jeanne, you’re misunderstanding. I’m not upset about you complicating things by running off on your own. I’m sad that you obviously don’t trust us.”
“Eh,” exclaimed a startled Jeanne.
“Jeanne. You asked me to help the French army. And before I could give an answer, you assumed that we wouldn’t help you. And then you abandoned the team to run off and help those people. You did not trust us to help you, and decided to handle everything yourself.”
“It… it was my own selfish wish. I didn’t want to-”
Ritsuka interrupted Jeanne, saying, “It doesn’t matter if it’s selfish, as long as it doesn’t hurt others. I have no choice but to leave all the fighting to everyone else, but I can at least try and ease the burdens everyone is carrying. Even if your wish is selfish, unrealistic, or unreasonable… I’ll do my best to fulfill it. Because that is what I can do. I may not be able to stand on the battlefield beside you, and I’m incapable of protecting anyone… but I’m there for you when you need me. We all are. So please, try and trust us a little more.”
“That’s right, Jeanne. As your friend, I hope that you can trust me too,” said Marie with a serious heartmelting kindness that was unique to her. Mash said that she’d be there for Jeanne as well, while Mozart smiled contentedly. The outpouring of kindness finally made Jeanne break down, thank everyone, and she shed a few tears of happiness mixed with regret for her actions, she said, “I’m sorry for being so wilful. I’m… not used to depending on others like this. Fighting beside friends and equals… but I’ll try my best from here on out. Merci.”
With that breakthrough, it turned into a support party headed by Marie, Mash, and Jeanne. The guys stayed quiet and out of the hubbub; in fact Siegfried may have actually passed out at one point. Altoria entered into the feminine anarchy long enough to give Jeanne peace of mind that Altoria was not holding any grudges, but warned Jeanne to not repeat her mistakes. Jeanne’s serious nature came into play again, ending the chattering, which allowed Mozart to suggest lunch.
“After all, everyone’s stomach sounds like it wishes to be fed.”
To Mozart’s disturbing comment, all of the women on site put their hands over their bellies in embarrassment. Even Altoria. Ritsuka was just… stunned. You really shouldn’t ever meet your heroes.
The sharing out of the boxed lunches that Emiya made went quickly, but Mash wondered aloud, and a bit worried, “Where’s Fou,” as she held his portion in her hands.
“Fou,” asked the animal with it’s head sticking out of Mash’s shield as it rested on the side of the building a short distance away. The spectacle was met with an almost universal exclamation of surprise. Mozart however asked, “Why are you all so surprised? The animal has been hiding itself inside that shield thing off and on for a while now. Isn’t that a function of that blunt instrument of yours?”
“Mash,” asked Ritsuka.
“I have no clue, Master,” replied Mash as she set Fou’s food down and approached the shield. She experimentally picked up a loose and forgotten brick, and succeeded in storing it in, and then pulling it out from, her shield. “It really is a function! See, Master!?”
Mash kept experimenting to get a feel for the newly discovered function as Ritsuka remarked, “That’s great, Mash! We’ll be able to safely carry equipment again after having lost our previous pack at La Charite. That’ll be a relief.”
It’ll be especially nice to not embarrass myself with a heavy pack again…
While Mash was happily playing with her Shield, Fou started tucking into his meal while Marie reshaped her carriage into an ornate glass wheelchair so Siegfried could eat with everyone else. Siegfried got his share from Marie, saying, “Sorry that you had to go to so much trouble to include me.”
* * * * *
“Sorry to be intruding,” called out Medea without a hint of regret while striding full speed into Da Vinci’s workshop. Da Vinci was able to cope with the sudden intrusion despite being in a delicate part of the Coffin transfer procedure for a preserved Master Candidate due to how brilliant a beauty she was. She was also able to cover up the vexation of the sudden interruption… mostly.
“Is there something I can help you with, Medea,” asked Da Vinci through grit teeth.
“There is actually. I understand that our cute little Master has had another battle. And that many wyverns were killed in said battle.”
“Yes, that sounds correct,” admitted Da Vinci to the eerily calm vehemence in Medea’s voice.
“And that the bodies of the wyverns were left behind. To rot and go to waste.”
“Well, I’m not sure about what’ll happen to them after the-”
“When Chaldea has already demonstrated it has a system for the transmission of inanimate objects by providing Ritsuka with supplies.”
“Well, there are various logistics that go into-”
“And did nothing to try and collect the mountains of treasure that those wyvern corpses represent.”
“Exactly,” shouted Medea, not letting Da Vinci finish a sentence. “Mountains of treasure! Do you have any idea how hard Dragon Tooth is to get in the modern era!? I do! And that’s not even counting the more perishable parts like the bones, skin, flesh, and especially the blood! Every single one a precious and valuable resource that I could USE to the benefit of myself and Chaldea as a whole! During a time when resources are finite and there is an enormous task looming ahead of us. And you’re telling me you’ve done nothing to collect these precious resources? And here I thought you were a self-proclaimed genius!”
“It’s not self-proclaimed,” responded Da Vinci lightly through a clenched teeth smile. “I understand your position. I’ll look into tweaking the rayshifting system to be able to collect those… resources, as you called them. Now is that all?”
“Yes, that’s everything I wished to speak to you about. I’ll be taking my leave. I have a project that I am working on myself.”
“Good. Just one question before you go. Was it necessary for you to barge in here like you did without warning?”
“Ara? Are you saying that you are the only one who is allowed to unceremoniously drop in on someone else’s workshop in this place? I shall endeavor to remember your hypocrisy.”
Da Vinci, being the beautiful intellect that she is, didn’t ask what Medea meant by her comment, and instantly inferred that Medea was bitter about being disturbed the one and only time Da Vinci had visited, and had done so in a manner to put Medea at a disadvantage so as to get her to recognise an order of authority in Chaldea; specifically that Da Vinci is a ranking member of the staff. But her surprise at Medea’s pettiness was so great that Da Vinci asked aloud in annoyance, “You’re telling me that you’re acting like this to get back at me for visiting you that one time!? The name Witch of Vengeance really isn’t just for show, is it!?”
“I do admit, it’s in my nature to vex men who deserve it,” said Medea with an inscrutable smile on her partially covered face that was worthy of Da Vinci immortalizing.
“I’m a former-man, thank you very much,” corrected Da Vinci.
“As far as I’m concerned, the operative word in that sentence is ‘Man.’ Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to work. I really must construct a sewing kit to withstand the forces needed to be used against dragon leather while the wyvern skin cures.”
“Geh-,” went the sound out of Da Vinci’s throat as Medea left her workshop. Medea was using dragon leather on Ritsuka’s mystic code? Perhaps Da Vinci really should speed along the cargo Rayshifting functions of Chaldea if that’s the sort of thing she’d be using the parts for.
Donation Guide – Updated as of 9/12/20