So after deciding to split up and search what remained of the French countryside for a second Saint (no matter how much Jeanne would claim she isn’t one), the teams were chosen by Marie’s rather excited insistence on lots. The result was-
“So Mash, Mozart, Siegfried and I will be travelling west, while Altoria, Jeanne, and Marie take the longer route by going southwest. And we’ll meet up around Bre-… Brie…”
“Brive-la-Gaillarde,” said Jeanne in her mother tongue. Ritsuka didn’t want to attempt butchering the name again so he just nodded.
[Don’t worry, I’ll be able to guide you there. And we’ll be able to keep track of the second team to a certain extent now that we’ve shared some of our communications equipment with them.]
Which was a small black box not unlike a walkie talkie. It apparently wasn’t a high end piece of equipment like what was shared with the Master Candidates. Since most of those that had been shared out were still frozen on the owner’s wrists. Ritsuka ruffled his own hair for a moment to let that thought of the position of 47 other people pass him by.
[But is this line up really alright? Most of our combat personnel will be in the second team, and Ritsuka’s team is the one that will be cutting closer to Orleans.]
“Ritsuka can always summon me using a Command Seal. Therefore it makes sense for me to accompany the second team, in case the Dragon Witch aims for Jeanne d’Arc once more. Besides, Mash is an excellent knight, she will not easily let danger befall Ritsuka before I can be summoned to his side,” stated Altoria calmly.
“And while my ability is now limited, I am still a Servant capable of sensing other Servants. While Ritsuka’s team has Chaldea, I’ll be supporting the second team,” said Jeanne with a follow up.
“And since it’s the three of us, it’ll be a good chance for some Girl Talk,” exclaimed Marie excitedly. Both Altoria and Jeanne looked very confused for a moment before Mozart said, “I’m honestly nervous about leaving your side, Maria. Not that there’s a time when I’m not nervous about you. But lots are derived from fate. If I defy fate, I might invite misfortune. But considering the chosen teams, I’m actually more worried about our side.”
Mozart scanned the team he belonged to, with only Mash being a person who was capable of performing normal Servant level combat. His eyes especially lingered on Siegfried who was stuck sitting in the one pony cart that Marie had made for the team to use. Siegfried quickly said, “Sorry for being so useless.”
“It is what it is,” replied Mozart with a light shrug.
“Amadeus,” chided Marie. “Make sure you get along with them. You tend to be misunderstood by friends.”
“I don’t want to hear that from you,” said Mozart sullenly, considering how many misunderstandings Marie causes around her. “Anyway, Maria…”
“…Well, nevermind. Just be careful along the way. Don’t try to find a pastry shop even if you get hungry.”
“Oh,” cried Marie in slight disappointment tinged with excitement. “My heart beat hard just now thinking that you might propose to me again!”
Looking like he’d just taken a stunning slap to the face, Mozart asked, “Wait. Why would you bring that up now?”
After Jeanne, Mash, and Altoria’s reactions, Dr. Roman said, [Oh, you guys didn’t know? It’s a pretty popular story. When Mr. Amadeus, standing right there, was six years old, he proposed to Marie who was seven years old.]
“Yes, I reached out to him as he fell, then I saw him staring at me with his starry eyes,” recounted Marie, swaying lightly like dance steps as she was caught in her romantic remembrance, her cheeks blushing in happiness. “He said, ‘Thank you, nice lady. My name is Amadeus. If a beautiful lady like you has no fiance yet, could I be the first one?’ He said that to me! I’d never been flattered like that since I was born!”
“Proposing at the age of six,” uttered Ritsuka in shock. “How advanced for his age…”
“Who knew the story would get passed down,” said Mozart while cradling his head in one hand. “This is a nightmare…”
“Of course it would,” said Marie while giggling. “I was so happy that I told everybody about it.”
“So it was you,” shouted Mozart, devolving into a peevish child. “You did it! Wasn’t it enough that you turned me down! You’re such a femme fatale!”
Since the core of Mozart’s complaint still involved Marie being beautiful, it seemed it didn’t affect her mood at all, and instead she simply explained, “I had no choice. After all, I couldn’t decide who would be my fiance. Besides-”
“Besides,” asked Mozart, calming down to a surprising degree that Ritsuka thought he was caught in a two man love comedy. Or perhaps watching a comedy duo.
“You know how my life was after that, don’t you? I was happy with my decision. It was best to turn you down. It turned out that you were loved by many as a musician. That’s why I ended my life as a silly queen. It can’t be helped, you see. I have no choice because I’m always in love.
“Maybe I was in love with the country named France,” said Marie, with dull pain and resignation creeping into her voice. “Loving only the country and not the people themselves. Because I was such an arrogant woman, I ended up getting killed by the nation.”
Before anyone could really break into Marie’s remorse concerning her own demise, Mozart adamantly said, “What is that? Are you a fool?”
“Yes, you are. You’ve got it all wrong. You say you were in love with France? You’re wrong. It’s not that you were in love with the country. It was France that was in love with you.”
Since Marie can’t dislike being told she is loved, she responded with, “…Yes, thank you, Amadeus.” Then she tilted her head in bewildered thought, and exclaimed, “Wait, isn’t that strange? Doesn’t that mean I was killed by the people who loved me?”
“That’s right. That’s how people are,” said Mozart with absolute certainty. “Love can easily turn to hatred. You were hated precisely because you were loved.”
“Hated because she was loved,” wondered Mash aloud. “They were in love, yet killed the one they loved…”
“You hear it in the news,” said Ritsuka sadly. “People killing the person they loved, and then sometimes killing themselves afterwards. Desperation, fear, anxiety. The people saying that the blood rushed to their heads… but at the core, they did it because of love…”
“I see,” said Marie while smiling sweetly. “People are complicated. Until I died, well, even after I died, I couldn’t reach love. But I think I’m fine with it now. I’m Marie Antoinette, a woman loved by France,” called out Marie to the nation she loved, the nation that loved her to death. Then spun around happily to face everyone again, saying, “See you, Amadeus! I’m leaving now! When I come back, let me listen to your piano again!”
Marie happily climbed aboard her glass carriage with Jeanne and Altoria following suit.
“Take care, everyone, and be careful,” said Ritsuka as a send off. The glass carriage slowly started moving. Jeanne hung out a window, faced the other exploration team and waved while saying, “Thank you, Ritsuka! You take care too!”
It was the most girlish face Ritsuka had seen Jeanne make. No responsibilities or self-sacrifice weighing down her expression, just a happiness for her friend being relieved from a burden. Even Altoria waved slightly as a goodbye, quickly stopping and looking a different direction once Marie smiled at her. The carriage slipped off into the distance on it’s wheels of glass, taking its occupants over the horizon.
Ritsuka and the rest of his team climbed into the four seat one pony open topped carriage that Marie had made for them to use. It was an independent manifestation that Marie was not directly controlling, so it was nowhere near as powerful or swift as Marie’s four horse carriage. But it could be driven by someone who was not Marie. Specifically, it could be driven by Mozart, who was in the driver’s position. It was a few minutes after Mozart had started the open carriage moving, and some stale small talk, that Ritsuka asked what had been bothering him.
“Do you still love Marie?”
“Certainly not,” said Mozart with a hint of a smile on his face that made it hard to believe his words. “I have no more passion for her. She was just a special divergence in my fate. If I’d led a decent life, the divergence would’ve been that proposal I made to her. It’s like what you called the cornerstones of human history, but for a single person. What choices would this man, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, have made to end up this way? No matter what happens. No matter what lovers I meet, what friends I gain, what bliss I grasp. I would still have offered my life to music, and become scum that abandons all human virtue.
“But there’s just one thing. If there were someone who could change my fate, I think it would’ve been her.”
The smile of satisfaction on Mozart’s face started to infect Ritsuka’s as well, and both people at the front seats were smiling in satisfaction. Then Mash asked, “Amadeus. Doesn’t that mean that you love Marie?”
“Oh, sure,” admitted Mozart lightly. “I do love her. It’s just that I’m not in love with her anymore. Is there a problem with that?”
“I don’t know,” said Mash at length. “Before you said that we humans are filthy. Based on what you said, that means you think Marie is also filthy without exception…”
“So what? I love anything filthy,” said Mozart happily. “Music is beautiful. We humans are filthy. You weren’t aware of such differences? It’s just a matter of category, isn’t it?”
Siegfried smiled and released a faint laugh, and said, “I honestly wish I could have had some of that self-assuredness you possess back when I was alive.”
“Oh, it’s simple to obtain. You just have to become scum in human form.”
Ritsuka and Siegfried both laughed as the latter said, “Then perhaps it’s better that I didn’t develop it, then.”
The three men in the cart laughed again, but Mash brought the subject back up as it was still bewildering her.
“I’m sorry, but you said that humans only love beautiful things…”
“Oh, it’s not that we can only love something beautiful. What I meant was humans can love beautiful things, too.”
“Hmm, I guess I can’t make you understand it with just words,” said Mozart slightly troubled with how to express himself. But he quickly resolved his thoughts into the form of pushing things onto others. “You’ll understand someday. You’re going to continue your journey with Ritsuka, right? Then you’ll figure it out. When it comes to the topic of humanity, he is the ideal Senpai.”
“Y-Yes! I can completely understand the ‘ideal’ Senpai part,” exclaimed Mash in certainty.
“That’s… some pretty daunting trust,” said Ritsuka sincerely with a wry smile.
“Not at all,” said Mozart. “I’m mostly certain, but I feel I should still ask. You… are a fan of music, aren’t you?”
“How did you know?”
“Simple. When Maria introduced me you looked at me with eyes I’ve seen a few thousand times. It’s impossible to miss it. You’re also stiffer with me than the others. You’re still calling me Mozart, after all.”
Embarrassed, Ritsuka stammered out, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to be distant.”
“It’s fine. But if you could call me Amadeus like everyone else, it would not be unwelcome. But. I would like you to answer a question.”
“I see,” said Ritsuka in answer to Moz- no, Amadeus. “What’s your question.”
“Who is your favorite composer?”
Ritsuka hesitated and said, “It’s a bit embarrassing… and I wish I could say it was you, Mo- Amadeus… but my favorite composer is Chopan.”
“Oh? Why is that?”
“Well, I’d listened to a few compositions by various people. They were wonderful, but then I heard one of Chopan’s works. I can’t even remember which one. But I remember, it entranced me right away. I could tell, he had created the composition using a completely different set of rules from all the other composers I’d heard. Right from the start, he was establishing his own rules of music. And then, half way through the song, he destroyed his own rule set to establish a new one. It was… incredible. And inspiring. I… I asked my mother if I could learn the piano the same day.”
“A fan of Chopan,” said Amadeus happily. “No wonder. Yes. You really are the perfect Senpai for this child.”
“I agree he’s the perfect Senpai, but how does that relate,” asked Mash. Ritsuka was also curious.
“It’s quite simple,” said Amadeus. “If one were to classify my music, it would be that of beauty perfected. I did not perform anything unless I was satisfied that it had obtained perfection. However, the music of Chopan can be called that of the pursuit of perfect beauty. It is music that takes its audience on the journey of hope and the promise of greater and more wonderful experiences to come. And for those who are the audience such music reaches, well, anyone can appreciate perfected beauty. In fact, it would be strange if they didn’t. But to truly be entranced by Chopan the way this child was, there has to be a sense of romance that I am incapable of capturing, a sense of adventure.
“Young man, you are a born explorer. You love not only your destination, but the journey that takes you there, while appreciating the beauty you find along the way.”
“You could tell all that just from asking my favorite composer,” asked Ritsuka in disbelieving wonder. Ritsuka was starting to not regret having met his hero.
“Of course. Not only is music beautiful, it’s a perfect window into the soul.”
[You know, I thought this guy was as much of a loser as me, but he’s actually a great person with a deep view on life.]
“Don’t worry about it, Doctor,” said Amadeus with evident amusement. “I feel sympathy for you too. We are both good-for-nothing humans. Or rather, worthless adults, I should say.”
[Yeah, thanks Amadeaus! I’ve never been this unhappy with words of comfort in my life!]
* * * * *
The dissatisfaction piled up higher and higher in her heart, her stomach, her throat-
Every time, every arrow, missed and missed and missed.
“Stop darting around and just die, already,” shouted the Berserk Archer at her target. Normally the high altitude winds and the distance would have made it impossible for the two to hear one another, but they were both Servants. Those kinds of conditions couldn’t prevent their hearing one another.
“I! Don’t! Wannaaaaa,” shouted back the pink haired Rider with the miniskirt astride the hippogriff. Riders were notoriously swift as a class, but this one was fast and skilled even amongst those ranks. The myriad arrows that Atalanta were firing at the speed of a machine gun were missing consistently, adding to her frustration and causing her to lose her calm at a quick rate because of the Madness Enhancement. Atalanta kicked her wyvern mount harder, causing it to squeak in pain and pursue the hippogriff faster.
“I don’t care what you want,” shouted Atalanta right back. “I won’t be able to calm down until you’re dead!”
“Then don’t calm down! Sanity is overrated!”
Atalanta wasn’t even bothering to properly draw her bow anymore, shooting more and more randomly. She even concentrated the power of her Noble Phantasm through brute force, forgoing all finesse, efficiency, and safety. Atalanta felt another fracture in her core as she released her Noble Phantasm too abruptly.
The two arrows Atalanta released split into hundreds, flashing towards the Rider she’d been assigned to kill. The vast majority of the arrows could not possibly strike the target and would fall until they buried themselves in the forest they were fighting above. It was all Atalanta could do to keep herself in check until the two skybound warriors were in a place that wouldn’t see any civilian casualties. However, her opponent used the release of Atalanta’s Noble Phantasm to release their own, faster and more efficiently than Atalanta’s, and concentrating the power into a small area instead of spreading it out.
Time to show your true power!
An aura of power surrounded the Rider’s mount, turning the beast itself into a projectile. It wasn’t so fast that Atalanta couldn’t avoid it, but the difference in their mounts left Atalanta a sitting duck. She could only gaze in horror at the approach of the Rider, leaping off her wyvern at the last second only for the beast to be pulverized by the attack of the Hippogriff.
The Rider disappeared into the distance, not caring enough about the Berserk Archer to turn back to finish the Servant off while she was free falling. Or perhaps the Rider could tell… there was nothing Atalanta could do against the forces of gravity.
Atalanta’s speed picked up as she streaked through the sky in a mortal plummet towards the ground. Even as a Servant, that impending force of impact was too much for her to be able to survive. Various thoughts of methods of survival pounded through the huntress’ head even as the tearing winds attacked her lionlike ears.
Atalanta was a Servant focused around speed, precision, and expertise. She didn’t have the explosive power required to create an updraft large enough to spare her a fatal fall. She didn’t have the sturdiness to survive the impact on her own merit. And the only power she had that was capable of generating flight…
Might just finish the job of destroying her sanity.
The wind was screaming in Atalanta’s ears as the green land began filling her sight. There were seconds at best before Atalanta perished. And a very large part of her longed to die, to return to the throne and be freed from that vile woman’s clutches. But as a Servant… she had to keep herself alive the best she could. So she could continue to hate and destroy.
Pelt of the
Atalanta surrounded herself with power, and pulled at the foreign trophy she had in her possession. Appearing out of thin air, manifested by her own soul, a great beastly boar’s head appeared at her shoulder and the clothing around the girl was rent and replaced by garments of black fur. Instinctively, Atalanta tried to pull at her downward course, the flight abilities of the Noble Phantasm garment pulling against gravity. But it was too little, too late.
The rushing greenery impacted Atalanta across her face, her limbs, her body as she tore through leaves and tree limbs, branches and twigs lashing across her body in a way that even bullets and knives used by humans couldn’t inflict harm. Her body came into full impacting contact with the trunk of a tree, and cannoned through the wood, shattering the trunk and raining the forest with splinters at a lethal velocity. The final impact with the ground wasn’t even the end, as the blow was deflected just enough that Atalanta was sent rolling while the ground was torn and scattered about her while dropping debris and filling the air with cloying clouds of dust.
Atalanta’s mind and body came to a standstill as her world stopped moving at deadly speed. She stayed still for a few minutes, and then slowly began to move. Her arms, her legs, her body. Checking for injury and permanent damage. Her face was sore, her limbs weak, her body aching. Her hair was now a mismatch of colors, green and white, as her body and nature warred with the corrupting nature of the Calydonian Boar’s influence with the Madness Enhancement that had been forced on her by that wretched woman! The impact had definitely done more damage to Atalanta’s core, she could feel the fractures running further and deeper than before. The fractures that had started when Atalanta desperately fought against the Dragon Witch’s commands to commit widespread atrocity. The attempts to turn against her Master and kill her to be freed. The attempts to retain her sanity. Atalanta was nearing the edge of her ability to exist, let alone remain sane.
While Atalanta coped with her half ruined body, the order to return to Orleans arrived in her mind from the Dragon Witch. With a sigh of exasperated helplessness, Atalanta forced herself back to her feet, and began the long trek back to the lair of the detestable woman that Atalanta desired to kill more than anything else in the world. Each step was a struggle, as the corrupting nature of the Calydonian Boar interacted with the Madness Enhancement, creating a compound curse that slowly ate away at the girl’s soul.