It was slightly early for eating dinner, so the expedition crew was enjoying the tea that had been brewed in the teapot and served in the teacups that Marie had made with her Noble Phantasm. While sitting at the glass chair and table set that Marie had made. Inside the glass gazebo she’d fabricated. Ritsuka thought there was an English word to describe the current situation, Glamping?
“Now that things have settled down, I’d like to introduce myself again. My name is Marie Antoinette. I’m from the Rider Class. As for who I am, I’d be happy if you could examine me closely with your eyes and ears.”
Ritsuka held his face steady, despite wanting to tsukkomi that it sounded like Marie wanted to be ogled. It seemed there were reasons for the fashionable knight’s exasperation back at that confrontation. Marie continued on while Ritsuka held his stone face.
“As for why I was summoned, unfortunately, I have no idea. After all, I have no Master.”
The tall and rather carefree Servant to Marie’s left gently bowed his head, which was still something of a large display. The man was abnormally tall and slim at the same time with an enormous violet and black hat with rainbow decorations in it that changed colors as his head moved. The man’s clothing was of a similar design for a courtly and caped outfit. Ritsuka couldn’t tell if the hands of the male Servant were in gloves or his limbs were naturally without any pigment and held talon shaped fingertips.
“Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,” said the man, causing Ritsuka’s breath to catch in his throat. Ritsuka was a huge fan! Back at the High School, Ritsuka was a member of the music club so meeting an actual Hero of Music was like an Englishman meeting their Queen. Though Ritsuka’s appreciation was mostly for the piano concertos.
“I’m the same as her,” the long eyed and blond haired man said, indicating Marie. “As for why I was summoned, first of all, it just doesn’t feel like I’m a hero. Yes, I’m great; but even so, I’m still just one of many artists. Well, I did apply magecraft in my music, but that was only because I was drawn to the sounds played by demons.”
Mozart toyed with demons…!?
“I’m Mash Kyrielight. I’m a Demi-Servant, and I don’t know what my True Name is. This is Fujimaru Ritsuka, my Master.”
Guh!? Why is Mash introducing me, I’m not ready to meet a grandmaster of the musical arts! Grab the first thing that comes to mind!!!
“Oh, my! What an interesting greeting,” exclaimed Marie, making Ritsuka want to dig a deep hole to die in. It instantly got worse when Marie tried to copy it a second later, but with an undeniably regal air. “Wh… Whassup! My homies! Hmph, it seems different when Ritsuka says it. Perhaps I need to think more like a peasant…”
“Master, please don’t teach her weird greetings,” admonished Mash. Ritsuka found himself wishing to die in two holes.
“Oh, I’ve got it! I have to be more needy! Come on, Amadeus! Whassup!”
Please don’t get one of my personal heroes involved in my social self-destruction!
“Whassup! I like it, Maria. Keep it up!”
He liked it!?!
“I can feel the love of a century beginning to fade!”
He liked the fact that it was so disappointing…!?
Marie groaned, turned towards Ritsuka and said, “I’m sorry, Ritsuka. Whassup is a very stimulating greeting, but I must reluctantly refrain from using it.”
Please refrain all you want!
“If Amadeus likes it, that means it’s not appropriate for a lady to use.”
“Eh,” grunted out Ritsuka, a bad premonition settling in his stomach.
“Let’s not be slanderous here,” said Mozart in defense. “You’re acting like I’m a pervert gentleman who loves dirty jokes.”
“Ahem. Since you have revealed your True Names, I have no choice but to reveal mine. I am Artoria Pendragon Alter. Saber.”
“Pendragon,” asked Marie. “You mean the King Arthur was a girl all along? How romantic!”
“I can assure you, my life was devoid of romance.”
“But wasn’t King Arthur supposed to have been married,” asked Ritsuka.
“Like I said,” restated Altoria. “Devoid of romance.”
“And I am-”
“Jeanne, Jeanne d’Arc, yes,” interrupted Marie in her excitement. “The saint who saved France. One of the people I wished to meet in my lifetime.”
True to character, Jeanne withdrew a little and uncomfortably said, “I’m… not a saint.”
Not being daunted, Marie kept the mood up by saying, “Yes, everyone knows that’s how you saw yourself. But the way you led your life was true, and we all know the results. That’s why everyone will always remember and admire the name Jeanne d’Arc, and the miracle of Orleans.”
“Of course, your life ended at the stake and resulted in that Witch. Really, it’s just like Maria to only look at the good parts of a person,” said Mozart while taking a sip of tea out of the clear cup with the horse design worked into the handle. “Am I wrong, Jeanne d’Arc? Your life was a little out of tune. After all, Jeanne herself is the one who gets hurt when people call her a perfect saint. Listen, Maria, you always say what you think others want to hear. Sometimes you need to scold or deny them instead.”
“I don’t need to hear that from you, Amadeus! You already tell me that every day! This is what you want, right? You piano-brain! Piece of human garbage! You’re a pervert who can only get it up for musical scales! If you like music so much, you should turn into a piano!”
The entire table was shocked into a stupor by the words the adorable queen just spouted. Mozart smiled like he’d been refreshed from head to toe and said, “I don’t know if I should say this, but when you insult me like that, I feel something indescribable.”
“A genuine pervert,” muttered Altoria. Ritsuka clutched his head and uttered, “It’s falling apart… My image of Amadeus Mozart is falling apart…”
“But see,” asked an energized Mozart. “You can do it if you try! Give the same treatment to Jeanne. Faster. Stronger. More violent! Tell her all of her flaws as you see them!”
Was Mozart’s nostrils flaring just now?
“Non, that’s impossible Amadeus. Human garbage like yourself has nothing but flaws. But Jeanne herself has none.”
Mozart was palpably disappointed in Marie returning to her previous sunny disposition, asking, “Are you serious? I didn’t know you had it that bad. You really did love Jeanne d’Arc, didn’t you?”
“I would say it’s closer to ‘worship’ than to love… with a tiny bit of guilt, as well. A tiny bit of ‘I’m sorry’ the size of a teaspoon. The natural guilt we foolish royals feel towards the Saint.”
Jeanne bravely cut into the comedy duo no one would ever want to approach, saying, “Marie Antoinette. Your words honor me, but that’s why I must confess. In life, I was no saint. I held the flag high for what I believed in, and as a result, I stained my hands with blood. Of course, I don’t regret that. Nor do I regret the Inquisition, or my own death. But I shed too much blood. I believed in the dreams of a little country girl, but, at the time, I never imagined how high the price of that dream was. I never regretted it, but never did I feel fear. …And that is my greatest sin. Only the outcome of my actions made me a saint. I do not think it’s the right word for a country girl like me.”
“I actually think that’s the definition of a natural born leader,” said Ritsuka from the sideline.
With a gentle smile, Marie said, “I see. So you’re not a saint, right? Then, may I call you Jeanne?”
“Y-Yes, of course. It feels like that would bring back old memories.”
“Wonderful! Call me Marie, then,” said the girl with the hint of a woman who’d just sprung a delightful trap. “If you’re simply Jeanne, and not a saint, then I want to be Marie, and not a queen. Please, Jeanne, will you call me Marie?”
“Y-Yes. All right. Thank you, Marie,” said Jeanne, tripping over her own happiness. It looked like Marie was right earlier when they were all escaping from the Dragon Witch. It looked like everyone was going to end up being good friends.
“Thank you, too! I’m so happy, Jeanne! And, I’m also sorry. I keep pushing my own views on you. You’ve lost your own answers about yourself, haven’t you?”
Ritsuka’s eyes dropped to his tea, his heart heavy because he knew he could help Jeanne… if he was willing to risk the safety of his family. All eyes were on Marie and Jeanne, however, so Ritsuka’s inner struggle went unnoticed as Marie kept speaking.
“Just like the day I died, not knowing a thing about what was going on. You’ll have to find your own answers. I certainly want to treat you as a saint, but I’ll stop myself. I won’t just believe in you, I’ll support you! Isn’t that what female friends are supposed to do, Amadeus?”
“I suppose so, yeah,” said Mozart uninterestedly, but with a bit of bemusement. Seemed he was enjoying the situation without any desire to be a part of it. “You guys can go eat sweats or something.”
“We believe in you too. Right Master,” asked Mash brightly.
“Of course,” said Ritsuka resolutely. “It’s just like I said, Jeanne. We’re all here to help carry your burden, so you can depend on us.”
“Indeed,” said Altoria, uncharacteristically jumping on the bandwagon. “As a Servant to this one, it matters little if my burdens increase by one or two.”
Ritsuka got the distinct impression that Altoria threw that in as a backhanded comment, but then saw the tiny twist of a smile and amused glint in Altoria’s eyes, and couldn’t help but crack up in a snicker from Altoria’s deadpan humor. The rest of the table caught the case of the giggles, with Jeanne fighting through it to say, “Thank you. That makes me feel better.”
The following conversation took place over the dinner that was fresh from the kitchens and Rayshifted by Chaldea to the exploration party. With the Summoning Circle laid down, the connection to Chaldea was stable and the transition of inanimate materials was quick and simple. It was an interesting experience to eat with ornate utensils of glass, but Marie’s utilitarian Noble Phantasm just had no end of uses it seemed. And the topic of the conversation, of course, was the sharing of information.
“I knew it was dangerous when I learned this was a Masterless summoning, but I didn’t expect this,” remarked Mozart on learning how the world was in peril. “Now, there were five Servants in opposition. So we have a total of ten Servants in this Holy Grail War if we include Mash and Artoria Alter. Isn’t that too many?”
“The rule of seven Servants is no more,” remarked Mash while she pet Fou, who had taken residence in her lap. “Although that doesn’t mean infinite. It’s not surprising at all if there are more than seven Servants. According to the records I saw, there was a time when a total of fifteen Servants fought.”
“What’s surprising to me is that Servants can apparently summon Servants,” said Ritsuka. “It just feels like a loophole for a disaster waiting to happen. Like some kind of bookkeeping scam that’ll crash in on itself.”
The bubbly Marie shouted, “Oh, I get it! I’ve figured it out, everyone! We were summoned so we could defeat them! Like Heroes!”
“Well, yeah,” said Ritsuka. “You’re Heroic Spirits after all, so heroism is in the job description.”
“Yes, yes,” exclaimed Marie happily in response to Ritsuka. “I finally feel like I’ve found my job in life!”
“It’s perfectly fine to be confident, Maria,” said Mozart to be the voice of reason. “But we’re up against powerful foes. Jeanne, Mash, Artoria Alter, and Ritsuka are used to combat. But you and I aren’t the fighting type. The numbers matter less than the fact that they’re far stronger than us.”
“And I feel the need to point out that I am perfectly useless in combat,” stated Ritsuka confidently. It would be bad if people expected him to be able to do something useful. Altoria nodded alongside Ritsuka in seriousness in between sips of tea. With a serious face, Mash listed off the enemies that were known.
“Vlad Tepes the Third, and Elisabeth Bathory. One carved their name into history as a hero, and the other, a murderess…”
“Legendary killers,” supplemented Ritsuka between Mash’s sentences.
“The other that looked like a Saber seemed to know Marie…”
“That’s right,” said Marie dejectedly. “If she knows who I am, then perhaps she’s Chevalier d’Eon? I’ve no proof, though.”
[Chevalier d’Eon. A spy with Louis the Fifteenth’s intelligence agency, the Secret du Roi. She was also a Dragoon, and a plenipotentiary minister. She, no, maybe a he?]
“It matters little, mage from a distant world,” said Marie wistfully. “She was summoned from a different time than me, but her splendid face hasn’t changed.”
“I remember there was an anime about Chevalier d’Eon some years back,” said Ritsuka, shamelessly stretching his lack of knowledge about a historic figure. “That it was a bishi man who was able to act like a woman by getting possessed by his twin sister’s dead soul? I never watched it, though, so I can’t say any more than that.”
[…Anyway, it would be wonderful if she would join us…]
“That might be difficult,” said Jeanne seriously to cut off the wishful thinking. “I’ve lost my Ruler’s ability to see True Names, but there is one thing I could see. All of them have been given Madness Enhancement regardless of their alignment or background.”
“What’s Madness Enhancement, specifically,” asked Ritsuka so as not to get lost.
“It is the premier trait of the Berserker class, Ritsuka,” said Altoria as a stern tutor would. “Most Berserkers are men or women who had episodes of madness or wildness as integral parts of the legacies they left behind. But in practice, that trait can be applied to any Servant at the time of their summoning; increasing the power they draw from their Master to boost the combat performance of a weak Servant at the cost of a potentially fatal drain on their Master’s magical power and the Servant’s sanity.”
“So. Magical steroids,” asked Ritsuka.
“I… suppose,” answered Mash dejectedly.
[It’s probably the power of the Grail, allowing so many Servants to be summoned with the Madness Enhancement trait.]
A pouty Marie said, “You know, the point of a Holy Grail War is to get the Grail, but they already have it. It’s not fair!”
“Which leads to the next mystery,” said Jeanne as she was working hard to explain her thoughts as they arose. “Why were we summoned? This is just a theory. That perhaps, despite the fact that the Holy Grail War hasn’t begun, someone already has the Grail. It might cause a reversal of causality. An error, if you will, and perhaps the Grail is resisting it. And the greater the opponent, the more powerful the Grail’s reaction.”
“Sounds convincing when an Arbiter of Holy Grail Wars says it,” interjected Ritsuka. Mash was following the trail of logic to the next conclusion, which was, “If that’s right, then somewhere else in France-”
“Indeed. There may be other Servants summoned here like Marie,” concluded Jeanne.
“Oh my! That means I can meet even more people, right,” exclaimed Marie happily.
“That’s not necessarily a good thing,” observed Mozart. “It may just mean more enemies.”
“Or more perverts like this one over here,” remarked Altoria with a thumb indicating Mozart. “But I agree that we should seek them out. We’ve already shown that our military strength is lacking. We cannot both fight our enemies and protect our Master at the same time with our current forces.”
“Indeed,” agreed Jeanne. “And we should probably move quickly as well. I’ve lost my ability to detect Servants, but the other Jeanne may not have. And on that same note, we’re going to have to depend on the abilities of those in Chaldea to help.”
[Sure thing. I can’t match a full-powered Ruler, but I can search farther than a Servant.]
“I see,” muttered Mozart. “What do your instruments tell you about our current surroundings, then, Mage?”
[Hm? Why do you ask?]
“Because I’ve been hearing someone approaching our position for a little while now.”
[EHHH!? Let’s see! Huh! There IS a Servant reading! Dmitri! Why isn’t there a proximity alert on this thing? What? The blinking light? That’s what that is!?]
The three people who’d Rayshifted from Chaldea released weary sighs in unison.
“Well, let’s get ready to meet them,” said Ritsuka, determinedly setting his teacup down.
* * * * *
Da Vinci was taking a well deserved break from her work on the storage facilities. Just plain storage was easy. The trick was for it to be built in a way that allowed the safe transfer of the Master Candidates from their Coffins to the prepared cryopreservation pods. Which also had to be built from scratch. And then have the storage units built so as to last until the Grand Order was completed, as well as survive any more emergencies that may arise while they were in stasis.
Chaldea was basically the last hold out of humankind, military or otherwise. It wasn’t unthinkable for another disaster to strike, and the Candidates’ safety were in their hands.
So, all that required time, genius, effort, brilliance, and focus. It was the primary task that Da Vinci had been concerning herself with. When she took breaks and meals, however, she reviewed the information on Fujimaru Ritsuka. He was a fun little enigma.
At the moment, Da Vinci was eating dinner while watching the video of Ritsuka’s testing at the recruitment office in the boy’s hometown. Da Vinci had it on a loop, and was looking at only a single part of the video every time. The boy’s hand. The interviewer. The testing device, which was a bit of brilliant work by her’s truly. Eventually, Da Vinci got around to watching the boy’s face, and then his eyes.
There were no indications of anything other than curiosity in those eyes. No discoloration, no warping, no stress. It was where the boy’s eyes were pointed towards that caught her attention.
They were watching the empty air above his hand.
The testing plates passed magical power from one plate to another, with the person’s hand in between in order to collect sample data from the testing subject. Simple, easy, non-invasive, foolproof. But to keep the hired part timers from learning anything they shouldn’t have Magecraft, because almost none of them were Mages, the testing plates were designed specifically to leave no indications of Magecraft. That was why the thinnest and least visible use of magical power was used in the tester. Not even veteran Mages would have been able to see the magical power as it performed it function unless they were specifically looking for it.
And yet the boy was curiously watching something he couldn’t have possibly been able to see.
Da Vinci watched the recording another three times, just to be certain she wasn’t just attributing her own thoughts to the video. And then simply closed the video file without making any notes or hiding any evidence. For the time being it was best to not bring any attention to the child, or leap to any conclusions. It was especially important not to leave any half baked evidence behind that someone could later interpret their own way.
Da Vinci had seen the level of ethics Chaldea had under Marisbury. And she didn’t want to take any chances where another person was concerned.