The gardens were looking more and more wilted. The neglect was showing. The shrubbery still had life, but the flowers were all gone. But Jeanne could swear she saw those glass flowers in the garden bed below her. The ones she’d smashed over and over again for hours.
Who are you, exactly?
Jeanne gripped the railing of the balcony she was on hard enough for the stonework to shatter in her hands. Jeanne looked down and opened her hands that held onto nothing but broken ruins. After dusting her hands off, Jeanne looked again and saw that her hands held nothing.
Who are you, exactly?
The alabaster skinned girl clicked her tongue in frustration and cursed that silly queen in her mind all over again. It was obvious who Jeanne was. She was the betrayed saint who’d risen from the dead to take her vengeance! It was completely natural, her existence was the natural progression of her hatred, her bitterness, her desire to take her rightful God given revenge!
Who are you, exactly?
The real Jeanne! There’s no way Jeanne d’Arc could forgive her betrayers! Something like that… something like that… not even a Saint could forgive…
That gives me no reason to murder them in return.
Jeanne manifested her flagpole and mowed down the remnants of the ornate stone railing around her with a cry of anger.
“Oh my, Jeanne. Is something the matter,” asked Gilles as he stepped into the morning light.
“Nothing,” shouted Jeanne in frustration. Her mind had been so preoccupied that she’d let her attention on the location of the Servants lapse. “I was just sick of looking at that shitty railing, is all.”
“Oh, yes, anything that is unsightly to you should absolutely be destroyed,” agreed Gilles, nodding happily. “If you want, shall I tear down all the railing here?”
Jeanne looked at Gilles and bluntly said, “Certainly there are more important things to do, idiot. I won’t have you wasting time on the eve of battle. Just focus on annihilating those Servants and then the French army. It’s the reason I gathered my forces here in Orleans, after all.”
“Yes, of course, Jeanne,” said Gilles with the smile and half closed eyes of a proud father. “I will have all who oppose you swept away. Now, if you will excuse me.”
The lanky and mis-shapen man bowed elegantly and turned to depart for his task. He was stopped by Jeannes voice, powerfully demanding with a small hint of insecurity.
“Gilles. Tell me who I am.”
With a smile, the wild eyed man turned and gently said, as though reading from a favored sermon, “You are the blood stained Saint of France, the one who was forsaken, betrayed, and rose again to wipe this sinful nation from the face of the world. You are she who will walk a road of skulls, and bring salvation through death. The perfected Jeanne d’Arc.”
A relieved huff of a laugh was released from Jeanne’s throat as her worries were blasted away. That’s right, after all, wasn’t it. If Gilles said so then it had to be true, right?
Jeanne’s attention snapped to what was behind her, as she spun with her flagpole outstretched in time to catch the grey and purple shadow that flung itself at her from behind. The dark figure smashed into stone work, hovering there for just the second Jeanne needed to bring her pole around and then use the blunt side to pin her assailant against that wall by planting her polearm hard against their chest.
“Kill- You-,” feebly screamed the figure Jeanne could barely recognize as being the Berserk Archer. Jeanne couldn’t remember her name, but the thin girl’s eyes showed nothing but the feral madness of a predatory slaughterer. The cat-eared girl had somehow been able to stalk Jeanne while she’d been distracted. The Archer’s eyes and aura showed that she was completely broken. Her sanity and her spirit core were too far gone. She was… completely destroyed by her hatred.
“Revenge- Jack-” the girl hissed while clawing at the flagpole that held her in place, her strength too feeble to overpower Jeanne’s force. Is this… what someone who was completely consumed by hatred looked like? Twisted? Falling apart? All reason lost?
Who are you, exactly?
“Unforgivable,” shouted Gilles as he stormed over, his voice screeching and breaking in hatred. “To turn against your Saint, the woman who summoned you! Absolutely unforgivable! Jeanne! End this miserable existence once and for all; for the sin of turning against your glorious salvation!”
“Killing this girl would be a mercy,” muttered Jeanne to herself, aghast at this sight.
“Ah! You’re right,” muttered Gilles as he closed in. He flipped open his spell book and muttered something that was too many consonants and misplaced vowels to be anything but gibberish. But some power flowed through him all the same. Approaching, Gilles looked at the broken Archer and said, “You wish to kill Jeanne d’Arc, correct?”
“Kill- Kill- Jeanne-”
“The Jeanne you wish to kill isn’t here,” said Gilles in a singsong voice. “She is to the south west. You should go there. We’ll help you go there.”
The Archer’s eyes glowed with a putrid purple as she calmed, asking, “South west…?”
“Yes. Take some of the wyverns in the courtyard. Go there, and kill Jeanne d’Arc.”
At Gilles’ behest, Jeanne pulled her flagpole away from the pinned Archer, half expecting to be attacked again. But the insane girl did as Gilles had suggested, and ran to the courtyard to gather a strike force.
“How brilliant of you, Jeanne,” said Gilles to his Master. “Using that girl up to her last drop. Hopefully she will accomplish something before she disappears, and she will be suffering until she does. How wonderful, you spare no mercy even to your allies. Truly, you are Jeanne d’Arc.”
“H-Hmph! Of course, Gilles. After all, who would spare sympathy to someone who would betray and attack their own Master,” said Jeanne, posturing as though she’d been the one to come up with Gilles’ idea. “Now, begone Gilles. There is a war to be fought!”
With Gilles’ kowtowing departure, Jeanne spared another look into the garden, and heard that foolish queen’s final words all over again. Disgusted, Jeanne went back inside… but Marie Antoinette’s words echoed over and over again.
“Sasaki-san, Medea, it’s good to see you, thank you for coming.”
“It is a pleasure to be of help, Master,” said Sasaki with a bow.
“Thank you for the warm greeting, Master,” replied Medea with a formal curtsy. “I will be adding my meager aid to your upcoming battle, but first, please accept this.”
Medea produced a parcel wrapped in thin paper from under her robes and offered it to Ritsuka.
“Is that,” asked Ritsuka, cutting himself off while his eyes widened in expectation.
“Yes, Master. The Medea Workshop is proud to present it’s first completed order,” said Medea in a pleasant business woman’s voice.
Ritsuka thanked Medea heartily, took up the parcel and pulled apart the crinkly and fragile wrapping paper to reveal-
“Gloves,” asked Mash from beside Ritsuka.
Indeed, they were a pair of black leather gloves, perfectly made to fit Ritsuka’s hands. The boy wasted no time in trying them on. The left glove completely enclosed the entirely of Ritsuka’s hand, while the right one had a square window on the back of the hand allowing Ritsuka’s Command Seals to show through. The gloves had a securement around the wrists, and fully enclosed fingers. Despite the tightness of a perfect fit, the gloves were not stuffy or uncomfortable. They seemed to breathe and wick moisture as though the hands were still completely exposed to air.
Ritsuka would probably be able to spend weeks studying these gloves and come nowhere near to replicating them. Especially the triggers.
“So that function I requested is this right here,” asked Ritsuka, tracing a line on the palm of one hand, and then another.
“Just so,” exclaimed Medea in her sales woman voice.
“So, what are these triggers here,” asked Ritsuka, indicating the index finger of the gloves.
“What treachery are you planning,” demanded Altoria as her eyes narrowed. It seemed like she was a moment away from manifesting her sword for the sake of either intimidation or attack.
“No treachery, Alter, just a small bonus. Since it would be a waste of dragon leather to stop at one small gimmick, I decided to add a little something more for our non-Mage of a Master. Do you know of Gandr?”
Mash shook her head no, Ritsuka searched his memory, and Alter raised an eyebrow in surprise. All the other Servants were busy with their own focus; Siegfried especially with measuring up Sasaki as a swordsman, and vice versa. Finally Ritsuka asked, “Isn’t it a rather low powered projectile spell?”
“A basic Gandr is, indeed, not very powerful. At most it will make it’s target feel ill for a period of time appropriate for it’s magical output. However, the highest concentration of magical power will give a Gandr spell the force of a bullet, and a resulting effect that is great enough to give pause to even a Servant. Or, at least, is the result I was going for. I didn’t have the time to really test the function if I was to be able to present these to you before today’s battle.”
“Oh, that’s really nice of you Medea, you didn- DID YOU SAY DRAGON LEATHER!?!”
Ritsuka took another hard look at the gloves on his hands. Forget weeks of study. Ritsuka was now wearing something he might never be able to replicate in his lifetime if he succeeded his father’s business in the future.
“Yes, Master. Thank you again for obtaining the materials for that. Though I am hoping to obtain something of a stockpile after today. Hopefully enough for me to remain occupied for a long time to come.”
“Su-such a well made mystic code,” said Mash in admiration.
“This woman’s skills were never the problem with her,” coldly stated Altoria. Medea laughed a little uncomfortably in response.
“Lady Medea, do you make wedding dresses, by any chance,” asked Kiyohime.
Well, it was every woman’s dream to get married, but who did Kiyohime intend to wed? Well, that wasn’t really Ritsuka’s business, but the question seemed to put Medea on the back foot as she looked furtively at Altoria.
“Yes, this woman does have experience making wedding dresses,” stated Altoria venomously.
Kiyohime clapped her hands to a close in glee and asked, “What do you charge and what are your wait times?”
“Lord Fujimaru,” said Georgios. “I am sorry to interrupt, but it seems the enemy has grown tired of waiting.”
True to the saint’s words, there was a formation of wyverns lifting from the center of the city and approaching their own position. There were easily thirty wyverns.
“Master,” asked both Jeanne and Siegfried. They wanted to be ordered to prepare for interception. Servants really were people who needed Masters, weren’t they?
“Yes, get ready,” said Ritsuka, cutting pleasantries short in the face of battle. “Sasaki-san, if you’re comfortable with it, please take up a position near the front with the melee combatants. If not, please take a position in the rear to fill any holes.”
“It will be a pleasure to step to the front. I am quite looking forward to taking part in an actual battlefield, you know.”
“Medea, please stay in the center with Mash, Siegfried, Kiyohime, Amadeus, and myself. Please use your abilities as you see fit.”
“Master, are you sure that’s wise,” asked Altoria. “The Assassin aside, this woman is fond of large attacks containing lots of magical power, and that’s not even including the possibility that she will ‘forget’ who is friend and who is foe should she see an opportunity.”
“You needn’t worry, Alter,” said Medea as she smugly took up a position just behind Ritsuka. “My reservoir of magical power is currently full. As long as I ration out its use there should be no need for more than a trickle of Master’s magical power unless there is some sort of emergency today. In other words, please enjoy fighting to your fullest, with me standing at Master’s back.”
Medea’s provocative smile made Altoria glower menacingly as she manifested and gripped her sword with the intent to use it. Ritsuka headed things off by kindly asking, “Altoria, please, let things go for now. The common enemy is right ahead.”
“Altoria? My, such a cute nickname,” muttered Medea.
Altoria narrowed her eyes, manifested her plated visor, and moved to the front. The flight of wyverns was nearly upon them. “Master,” called Altoria without turning around while filling her dark holy sword with power. “I have enough magical power to start things off with a bang. Do I have your permission?”
“Yes, Altoria. Let them feel the wrath of a Tyrant.”
There was a flare up of black light around Altoria’s sword as she held it close and upright in a two handed grip. The dark energy burned furiously, and as Altoria lifted the sword overhead, the energy coiled tightly around the sword before exploding outwards with the downswing of the blade.
At least a dozen wyverns were caught in the wave of darkness, flash fried or scattered as chunks of meat. The wave of power continued on into the distance, disappearing into the sky and out into space. The remaining wyverns descended on the party, the first having opened it’s jaws to consume Sasaki’s torso in one bite. The samurai had adjusted the sheath of his extremely long katana to allow the hilt to hang at his left side. With an unnervingly smooth and swift iai draw, the first wyvern was cut almost in two down the center, and pounded into the grassy turf slain in the span of a heartbeat.
“It would seem that wyverns are nothing more than larger swallows,” said Sasaki with sardonic dignity.
“Just make sure you don’t actually cut them in half, you hear, Assassin! Don’t go wasting any of these precious materials,” called out Medea as she fired a lightning bolt from her hand, stunning a wyvern long enough for it to collide with the ground to be finished off by Elizabeth’s spear stabbing the throat.
The initial few wyverns were swiftly dispatched, but the party wasn’t able to reform their ranks before the rest of the wyverns descended on them. It seemed like the group was instantly surrounded on all sides. Mash moved right behind Ritsuka to deflect dragon fire that came at them from a blind angle to Ritsuka. Kiyohime was delicately weaving her folding fan in intricate patterns, spawning blue fire that struck out towards targets non-stop. Medea formed magical circle after magical circle, casting lightning, fire, ice, and a paralysis trap that one wyvern that thudded onto the ground directly in front of Ritsuka fell victim to, just before being beheaded by Siegfried.
“Ah! Don’t let that head roll too far, you pointlessly good looking oaf! Put it back with the rest before you lose it!”
“Ah, I’m sorry, Caster. I’ll take care of that at once,” responded Siegfried to Medea’s berration. A small side kick sent the wyvern head rolling to rest with the rest of the corpse, placating Medea.
Georgios and Bayard bounded from one side of the combat ground to the other, misleading, distracting, and devastating target after target by utilizing his dragon slaying sword and Rider speed. A single wyvern came close to striking the Servant with a bite aimed for the head as he passed the creature. But Georgios leaned so far backwards that he had to let go of the reigns and nearly unsaddled himself. But the backwards lean turned into a raking strike against the wyvern’s thigh, cutting dragonscale and flesh, leaving the creature open to being finished by a blindingly fast thrust through the heart by Altoria, a dark blade of light piercing through the monster’s other side..
Amadeus just kinda hung about.
Half the swarm had been slain, their bodies laying in heaps, when after Jeanne had successfully grabbed a wyvern by the head and twisted until its neck snapped, a Servant landed on the ground behind Jeanne and slashed the girl across her back with clawed fingers.
“Jeanne,” called Ritsuka in worry, seeing a geyser of magical power blasted from the point where Jeanne was cut. The blonde haired girl whirled around, her pole arm swinging blind, clipping the shoulder of the assailant as they rolled away.
“I’m alright,” called Jeanne. “My armor held!”
The fluttery mantle of Jeanne’s outfit had been rent, and the chains that coiled the girl’s torso were grooved, but there was no blood. It had been a scarily close call though. But Ritsuka couldn’t dwell on it. Instead, he opened the senses of his eyes to get a good Look at the new Servant. It was a girl that seemed about the same age as Mash, himself, and Jeanne, but it was… a cat-girl.
…Damn, why’d the cat-girl have to be an enemy!? Every Japanese Male dreams of Catgirls, so why an enemy!?!
Okay, calming the bloody tears of his heart’s screams, Ritsuka Looked again. He was appalled at what he saw. The patchwork of blonde, green, and white hair was dirty and bloody. She wore a torn apart green and black dress that had dark hair growing out from underneath. Her hands were claw and fur covered weapons of death, and she was coughing up blood from wounds that couldn’t be seen. The flows of power inside her were a mess, Ritsuka couldn’t see how they had originally moved to be able to put together what the cat-girl’s Class was, because there were explosive build ups, broken lines, and torn flows through her entire body. It was like there were three or four competing powers within her. And their conflict was doing nothing but damage.
“Master, that girl is Cursed,” said Medea gravely while the cat-girl leapt at Jeanne.
“You can tell,” asked Ritsuka as Jeanne used her pole to harry the cat girl, keeping her at bay.
“With a glance. There is almost nothing left of the person she once was,” said Medea sadly, while the cat-girl rolled under Jeanne’s polearm to give an uppercut slice of her claws.
“How terrible,” muttered Ritsuka. His awareness of the rest of the battleground had diminished from giving his attention to Jeanne’s battle. The other Servants weren’t drawing as much of Ritsuka’s magical power as Jeanne was being forced to as she warded off the clawing upper with a gauntlet. One of the cat-girl’s fingers bent and broke even as her attack pushed Jeanne’s gauntlet out of the way. Jeanne didn’t wait for a follow up attack, and instead stepped forward planting a solid headbutt into the cat-girl’s face.
The blow smashed the cat-girl’s nose, sending out a stream of blood. The cat-girl used the recoil to send herself spinning to drop a surprise spinning heel kick to Jeanne’s unprotected jaw, causing Jeanne to recoil backwards as well.
“Wait, Medea, your Illusion- no, Rule Breaker, it destroys enchantments, right? Can it save that girl,” asked Ritsuka, pointing towards the cat-girl that was slowly circling Jeanne, who had her polearm pointed in a guard stance now that the distance had opened up again. The cat-girl growled and snarled like a feral predator with rabies
“…Master, that girl is currently your enemy. Even if you want me to ‘save’ her, there is no point. She was summoned by the Dragon Witch. She will not give you any thanks,” said Medea, her curt answer being punctuated by the death cry of a wyvern cut down by Sasaki nearby.
“Even so,” objected Ritsuka, his empathy preventing him from any attempt at eloquence. “I can’t just ignore the fact that she’s in pain.”
Medea looked away from the cat-girl that howled in rage while charging at Jeanne once more, to Ritsuka, and back again to the cat-girl who had been blasted backwards by another of Jeanne’s attacks. With a sigh, Medea said, “Have Ruler draw the Servant in closer to us. I will take care of the rest.”
“Thank you, Medea,” said Ritsuka before he called out instructions for Jeanne to pull in closer to the center. As Jeanne dashed towards Ritsuka and others, Georgios moved to fill the hole in the lines that Jeanne left behind, blocking off a wyvern from infiltrating through it to chase after the moving Jeanne and cat-girl. Medea slid her wicked lightning shaped dagger into view from under the folds of her robe, and began to incant, her empty left hand lifting upwards.
Oh natural master of this world
Jeanne halted, and turned. A swift swing of her polearm forced the cat-girl to back down for a split second. Then, at Jeanne’s chosen fighting position, hexagram traps like the one the wyvern had fallen for appeared as a glowing minefield around Jeanne. A poor approach of attack, or a misstep would paralyze the cat-girl. But the cat-girl was not dissuaded. Instead, the cat-girl nimbly dodged around the hexagrams, instantly finding the optimal path of attack.
Return all to its origins-
One step before having closed the range with Jeanne, all the hexagrams lit up with previously invisible connecting lines between them converging at the point the cat-girl just stepped into. There was a bolt of magical power that converged on the cat-girl, holding the Servant rigidly in place at the focal point of the real trap. Medea’s feet were already levitating centimeters above the ground as she sped forwards to stab the cat-girl in her unprotected chest before the Berserker strength could allow her to rip the trap apart.
In Ritsuka eyes, he could See as the competing ties of magical power were cut into, severed, splintered, and incinerated inside the cat-girl’s body. It looked painful in the way that tearing off a bandage was, instead of the creping and omnipresent torment the cat-girl had been going through before. The effect of Rule Breaker was fast, powerful, and unassailable by the myriad curses and compulsions that were inside the cat-girl. Even the stun trap’s magic was removed, but Medea had already retreated behind Jeanne for safety. There was no need for it however, because all the cat girl did was collapse to her side in the dirt.
“All of the magecraft in her has been severed, Master. Her curse, the Berserker influence, the compulsion spell… and her tie to the Master that summoned her. And kept her in this world. With how much damage her Spirit Origin had received, she will be disappearing any moment now that those ties are gone. Just as I said Master, you will not be receiving any thanks from her,” said Medea solemnly as the cat-girl began to disappear in motes of light. The claws and fur had already dissolved off her body, and her limbs were starting to follow.
“No, this is fine,” said the cat-girl weakly with unfocused eyes. “This is fine… What an unpleasant Summon this was. Go- and destroy that dragon… At least… I know you have found a fine Master.”
The cat-girl smiled vaguely in Medea’s direction. The cat-girl then gave a sigh of resignation as she spoke, no louder than a whisper, “Yes, next time for sure, I too-”
The cat-girl’s form broke apart and was carried away in the breeze, dancing like apple tree blossoms on the wind. A double tone sounded from the comm-watch, as Dr. Roman’s voice sounded out.
[The Servant’s elimination is confirmed on our end. But I’m getting readings that the ultra sized life form is beginning to stir. It seems Fafnir is getting ready to leave Orleans.]
The few remaining wyverns were already retreating to Orleans with the loss of their handler, the Servant. There were a precious few seconds of rest before the next battle. A few seconds to allow Ritsuka to ask Medea, “She seemed to know you. Who was she?”
“…A one time friend, from a different life.”
“…I’m sorry,. Medea. I didn’t intend for you to-”
“It’s fine, Master. After all, I was the one who was wrong.”
“I said she wouldn’t thank you,” said Medea with an inscrutable smirk from under her hood. After a moment, Medea pulled her hood back to show her face to her Master. She had gentle, yet sad eyes. Combined with her smile, she seemed to be someone who’d just had a pleasant parting with an old friend. “And yet, that girl did just that. She even departed with a smile. So, you don’t have to apologize. Because even if your decision was naive… it was correct.”
Ritsuka hesitated, and said, “Thank you, Medea.”
The various girls and warriors around Ritsuka looked kindly on him before Medea exclaimed, “Oh! I almost forgot! You and you! Pile these goodies up quick! I only have so many trackers to go around! We only have a minute or two for shopping, so everybody HUSTLE!”