“Hurry and depart, Mongrel! How am I supposed to have an appetite if one such as yourself lingers in my chamber? Begone!”
The Chaldea staff member who was probably from the maintenance team hurriedly disentangled the food cart wheel from the bunched up carpet on the floor and left Gilgamesh’s quarters without pausing for even a breath. It made sense considering how dense the menacing aura around the Servant was. However, Ritsuka felt like that menace was something of an act. It lacked that touch of true bloodlust that he’d encountered when Gilgamesh nearly went off the rails in the conference room, when Ritsuka made a request of him.
Well after the door had closed and the worker had departed, Ritsuka part stated and part asked, “You weren’t actually intending to hurt that man at all, were you?”
“Humph. Of course not,” stated Gilgamesh flatly as he poured himself some wine into a gemmed goblet from a jewed decanter. “This place of yours, this Chaldea, has so few humans that the loss of just one would be disastrous to its continued functioning. In some ways, it’s a bit like my ideal. But of course, I wouldn’t let him know that. Slaves tend to become complacent when they no longer fear for their lives. Red wine?”
“No thanks, your Majesty,” said Ritsuka with a wry smile. “I’m under aged, after all.”
“How ridiculous. There are no laws here, Mongrel.”
“Hmm? What do you mean, King Gilgamesh?”
Gilgamesh slowly moved his hands to give meaning to his definition of, “This place. This Chaldea. It resides outside all defined national borders. It is a place that no nation holds dominion over, and therefore has no ruling body. And without a ruler, there can be no laws. That is why there is no minimum age for drinking, you brainless cur. In such a place, one could easily perform atrocities large or small and not have to answer to a court of law.”
“Chaldea is under the control of the United Nations, though,” observed Ritsuka as he took a piece of karaage on his ornately golden fork (the tableware having been provided by Gilgamesh) and began deciding which dipping sauce to try first. It was a rather unusual topic of dinner conversation, but since his partner was a legendary king, perhaps the topic of national reach and principalities was a natural choice.
“Perhaps, but that is a foreign influence. Why the nations of this world would put up with such a thing is beyond me. It reeks of cowardly incompetence, allowing foreigners to tell you how to rule your own people. Where was I…?”
“Claiming there were no laws…?”
“Yes, just so. Even now that the only remaining humans are the few dozen in this structure, the concept of abiding by laws is merely a vestigial influence.”
Ritsuka gave a light shrug and said, “I don’t disagree with you, but I grew up in a nation that had a rigid set of laws. They’re the morals that I was raised to follow. Even if the place that created those rules is gone… even if such rules hold no power, they are not without meaning. Laws are the framework by which a civilization remains civilized. If I just cast them off, I’d lose the link I have to my homeland and the civilization that produced it, and my own identity as a person. Something like that, I guess?”
“You guess,” said Gilgamesh with a well intentioned sneer. “Well, as a king, I am used to entertaining foreign diplomats and royalty who cannot afford to let their local customs and taboos be broken. So I can understand you wishing to retain a link to your homeland. But still, if you keep that kind of rigid mentality there’s no way you’ll be able to take multiple women to your bed at once.”
Ritsuka swallowed a bit of chicken too early out of surprise and nearly choked. In between coughs, he spouted, “Where the heck did that come from!?”
“Hmm? Could it be that you actually haven’t had that thought yet, Mongrel? Do you even possess a man’s anatomy? Fufuhahahaha!”
Ritsuka calmed his throat with a drink of water from the golden goblet that sat on his side of the table. It was actually pretty darn heavy. People in the past had to have had strong arms just for the sake of eating a meal. Once that thought passed through the background of Ritsuka’s mind, the forefront thought jumped out while his face was blushing deep red.
“Hey, I’m a healthy Japanese teenager. Of course I’ve had… thoughts about… that… but what I mean is, why did the topic arise now?”
“Well, aren’t those two purple haired girls your women? They seem a bit timid to your authority. If you just pushed them a little I’m sure they’d gladly open their legs.”
“We don’t have a relationship like that, your Majesty, we barely know each other.”
“See? That’s why you’re a coward. When I was your age I was taking every man and woman who caught my eye to my bedchamber.”
“Men and women,” asked Ritsuka slightly amazed.
“That is what I said, Mongrel. I do not repeat myself,” rebutted Gilgamesh with a touch of annoyance in his voice.
“Oh, no, I was just surprised by how broad minded you are.”
Ritsuka was telling the truth. Depending on the region and religion, sexual predisposition could be ultra loose or ultra rigid, with potentially deadly results either way. And Ritsuka was fine talking about sexuality as long as it wasn’t… well… his own. Being a teenager is confusing, you know!?
“Broad minded,” repeated Gilgamesh with a hint of disgusted amusement. “Listen well, Master of Chaldea, for this is a lesson directly given by the greatest king to ever walk this Earth. I am not broad minded. That would assume that I placed value in the thoughts of others. No. The truth is far more simple. Everything I think, say, and do is correct. There is nothing more to it than that.”
Ritsuka’s chewing mouth came to a complete halt from the shock of the statement. And from the dawning of understanding. The idea that the man was an ultra narcissist brought everything about him into a sensible frame of understanding. That and he was pretty much a slightly benevolent tyrant whose word was law no matter the situation. Ritsuka started wondering if Chaldea had a copy of the Epic of Gilgamesh he could read for more background information… but then again, the horse’s mouth was directly in front of him.
“There are also some half decent women amongst the staff of this place for you to bed as well. You should do that,” said Gilgamesh between sips of wine. “Ah, but the Blue Saber is my future queen. So do not mistakenly place your hands upon her unless you wish to lose them,” threatened Gilgamesh lightly as he picked up his fork again. His table manners were immaculate even if his words were light heartedly bloody. Then Gilgamesh tilted his head and wondered aloud, “I’m still pondering what role the Black Saber would take, or even if she would have one at all. The White Saber… is off limits to everyone, including myself. Something that adorable can only be praised, and not touched. That Merlin was truly a mad genius…”
Ritsuka couldn’t keep up with the subject anymore now that it had devolved into such a delusional topic, so he quickly changed the subject with, “You said Chaldea was close to your ‘ideal.’ What did you mean by that?”
“Oh? A world free of excess humans.”
“I think… I need a better framework to understand you.”
“Hmph. The limited minds of the current day plebians,” sighed Gilgamesh as though the act of speaking something obvious to himself alone was troublesome. Actually, it probably was, but he was doing it anyway. “Since you have limited knowledge of me, I assume you don’t know any of the tales of my life and adventures. So I shall skip any recounting and only speak of the ethos. One of the things that made Uruk so beautiful was that every person who lived there was indispensable. Every person had a purpose. Every person was useful. Every person contributed. And even then, there was always a need for more people for the boundless ambition we had in conquering a world that could not be tamed.”
“Sounds like the citizens of Uruk were incredible people.”
“They were, and only mostly because I was their ruler. But if it was not for their inborn ambition and ability, they would not have been worth ruling. And now… you have modern civilization. Where homeless and unemployed people are given handouts by governments that are too bloated to understand their own incompetence in being leaders. Disgusting food products so filled with body destroying substances that obesity is the greatest pestilence the world now knows. Everything in the world has been watered down in quality in order to provide it as the cheapest cost to the massive crowds of feeble minded maggots that feed upon it, for the sake of profit. And that, in my opinion, is the worst sin of all. It is the perversion of Greed. Honestly, a part of me is relieved to see this current civilization in ruin.”
“Greed,” asked Ritsuka. “If corporations are working to maximize their profits by providing products at a price available to the widest markets available to them… then isn’t that the definition of greed?”
“Idiot! Do not be fooled by mere definitions! If you follow such a path your intelligence will be bound by the mediocre minds of this age. No, Mongrel, Greed is something far more beautiful. It is the act of seeing something, and making it yours.”
“…Theft,” asked Ritsuka lamely.
“…Sometimes, but that is not what I meant.”
“I’m sorry that I’m not following your words, your Majesty. Perhaps you could give me an example to help free my mind from the mentality of the current age,” asked Ritsuka, aping Gilgamesh’s opinion of the world to facilitate the conversation.
Gilgamesh put his fork and knife down and crossed his arms while he chewed on his meal as well as his thoughts. By the time he swallowed, he had his parable ready.
“Being the Mongrel you are, I suppose you can understand the idea of being born completely worthless and having nothing of merit to show for it.”
Ritsuka raised a cautious eyebrow. Gilgamesh kept speaking.
“Now, using that base, imagine you lived in a place that had needs that could not be met without work. Without hard labor. And from your home, you look out and see a distant hill that possesses all that you need. Water. Stone. Metals. Wood and wild game. You know you can have a better life if you could only take that place for yourself. And so, you find others who have the same selfish desire as you, band them together, and set forth. You conquer the beasts of that place and feed on their meat. You fell the trees and cut the stones to make comfortable homes. The metals make the tools you need to till the lands and the weapons to protect the people. The process requires years of hard, intense labor. And at the end of that time, you sit upon a throne at the apex of the hill, the conqueror of all you survey, lauded as the mightiest and wisest of the people of that place. You have obtained that which you lusted for and all bow before you. And yet, there is a child born in the outskirts of the city who looks up at your palace just like you once looked upon the hill in the distance. The desire to take that which is out of your reach and make it yours, the driving force behind progress. That is the greatest and most glorious thing Humans have that no other being, even the Gods, possess.”
“And that’s what humans have lost,” said Ritsuka with understanding. “Because we have a civilization that gives everything to us we could want, without having to struggle or take for ourselves.”
“Yes. The current civilization is disgusting in many ways, but that is the primary. As soon as the first NEETs appeared, how could this world avoid destruction, really?”
Surprisingly, Gilgamesh seemed to be an ultra moralist as well as a narcissist. Though that also seemed to come from his extreme narcissism as well. Ritsuka forced himself not to give a dismissive ‘Well that’s one way of looking at it’ response that is so common in people, since being dismissive with Gilgamesh’s opinions was probably a good way to get on the man’s bad side. And it was possibly deadly to get on his bad side if the conversation in the conference room was an indication. But knuckling under to Gilgamesh’s viewpoints wouldn’t be interesting at all.
“I agree that the NEET situation is unacceptable. But our current civilization is the one that landed on the moon, after all. I doubt anyone before the 20th century could claim that accomplishment, except Princess Kagura of legend.”
“Hmph. I suppose you do have a point, though it is a flawed one. That accomplishment is fifty years old already, and what have the humans of this age done to build upon it? The moon remains unexploited and isolated. Though I suppose the real question is if the moon would allow humans to colonize it in the first place…”
Gilgamesh trailed off into his own thoughts for some reason Ritsuka couldn’t follow. Instead of pursuing those thoughts, Ritsuka kept up his verbal tac.
“The transit of information and communication is far quicker and more versatile than ever before, as well. And isn’t one of the cornerstones of civilization the ability to communicate?”
“It is true that this plastic tablet I found in my quarters is capable of accessing far more literature than I was expecting, and it’s far easier to use than the ones of clay in Uruk. But in the end it is merely a toy. This society has become enamored with it’s toys and has lost its spark. You, yourself, are a good indication of that.”
“Yes, you. What do you see on the table in front of you?”
“And what is it resting on?”
“Plates and bowls made of gold and inlaid with jewels. Even one of these pieces here would provide you with more wealth than you can imagine, and you simply call them ‘fancy dinnerware.’ If you truly held Greed within you, you would covet them for yourself. Yet I see no indication of desire from you. For all the reaction you have shown I may as well have served your meal in a dog dish.”
“Well, you are far more interesting as a dinner companion than any meal service could be,” said Ritsuka in full earnestness. Perhaps it was that Gilgamesh could sense the honesty in Ritsuka’s statement that he showed a reaction of being ameliorated.
“Well, I suppose I can’t fault you for finding mere gold to be less interesting than myself. But back onto the subject. I can’t sense any desires from you. You have no lust for the women around you. You are not pulled by the promise of golden wealth. And when we played the board game you held no desire for conquest. If I didn’t know better then I would think you were a hollow existence, devoid from desires as a whole.”
“Well, your Highness… I think it’s just that I’m inexperienced. I have never thought that I need more money, my family has always been comfortable. And with women… I want to find someone I care for rather than just satisfying myself. And far from conquering anything the only thing I really want… is to be able to go home.”
“Sickening sentimentality,” said Gilgamesh abruptly. “And an impossible dream.”
“Even if it’s impossible for me to achieve it, I’m still going to do everything I can.”
“You misunderstand, Mongrel. This is why you are so inferior. The reason you will fail is not because you lack willpower, but simply because you are too weak. You and your Servants both. It is not your fault though, it is the make shift method that was used to summon all of us. We have materialized, and we are stable… but we are all incomplete.”
“Yes. What you see before you is merely a sliver of my true power. Because my Spirit Core is flawed, as are all the other Servants’. It limits the amount of power we can use in combat. While we are still superior to humans… your enemy is far from being such a weak and limited being. As you are right now, there is nothing you can do to correct this flaw.”
Ritsuka balled his fists in helpless fury. Gilgamesh sounded like he was speaking the truth, and the fact that Ritsuka couldn’t refute his words was infuriating. Not because it meant he was outmatched by Gilgamesh in conversation, but because the implication was that he was destined to fail before he’d even begun to try and take back his world, his home, his family.
“…And still you do not beg for my aid,” said Gilgamesh in curious wonderment.
“There’s no way you’d give it. Not to a failure of a Master like me,” said Ritsuka in self derision.
“Shut your fool mouth, Mongrel,” shouted Gilgamesh in real anger, snapping Ritsuka out of his dark thoughts. “Even though you are nothing more than a weak and insignificant human, who possesses neither strength nor power of any kind, you have succeeded in summoning this Gilgamesh! That alone is a great accomplishment! While you have not earned my power, it does not mean you never will! I ask you, Master of Chaldea, what is your objective. What is it you see in the distance that you strive for!?”
“Something that can destroy all humans, through all time…”
“And can the current you win against something like that?”
“Then the answer is simple, you need merely grow stronger,” said Gilgamesh to the head hanging Ritsuka as he plopped a folded piece of paper on the table between them.
“Read. And see for yourself.”
Ritsuka carefully unfolded the sheet of paper. What was revealed was a spell circle, a ritual circle. Ritsuka’s previous studies into ritual magic was helpful, but there was a lot he was unfamiliar with on the page. Dematerialization. Transference. And a part was conspicuously absent, a destination for the energy that the ritual created. But there was an underlying architecture to the construction of the circle that was eerily similar to that of the summoning ritual circle he’d used in Fuyuki and in Chaldea. From the flow of the conversation up to this point, Ritsuka could only guess that it was, “A Servant strengthening ritual?”
Gilgamesh merely smiled in reply as he took a sip from his chalice, his little prank had elicited a reaction.
“How… do you have this,” asked Ritsuka in wonder.
“I have a tablet with that ritual on it in my Vault. It merely required that I retrieve it and copy the information on more easily transported material.”
“A conversation for another day.”
Ritsuka laughed and asked, “How do you use this?”
“Merely find materials that contain a magical wavelength similar to the Servant you wish to strengthen, and use them as catalysts. The cores of the Servants will be reinforced, allowing them to achieve greater strength in your war that is to come. As for the ritual words, you can just make them up, it doesn’t matter.”
“How… will I know what materials I can use? There doesn’t seem to be a guide here…”
“That is not my problem. I am certain that you shall overcome this trifle at some point, however.”
“This… this is incredible!”
“I am glad you like my gift. After all, I had to present you something for the stimulating conversation you provided me today. It has been a long time since someone has dared to try and take a point of view different from mine. The experience was refreshing. Besides, the gift was worth it if only to see your reaction.”
“I’m glad my happiness has pleased you-”
“How foolish. I don’t care about your happiness at all. What I mean is that you have finally shown it to me. Your Greed.”
Ritsuka flinched in surprise, and then looked inwardly. Yes. It’s true. This piece of paper was something he desperately wanted.
“I see,” said Ritsuka in faint realization. “What I long for… was the power to fight.”
The meal continued after that, with Ritsuka often patting the pocket the sheet of paper was in to reassure himself it was there. Later that night Ritsuka worked tirelessly on recreating the ritual spell using chalk on the floor of his room until he’d perfected its replication.
* * * * *
The sound of water being run and brushes on tableware filled the kitchen as Cu Chulainn and Sasaki Kojiro washed the pots and pans used for the preparation of that nights dinner.
“Damn, I can’t believe I’m washing plates,” remarked Cu Lancer offhandedly.
“I can’t be helped,” replied Sasaki in an equally lazy manner. “Emiya-san said it himself. Those who don’t work, don’t eat.”
“An’ what about that black Saber, huh? She’s not doing much, just training that Lily Saber each day.”
“That is still the act of a productive person, however. I noticed you didn’t mention anything about the Lily Saber there…”
“…I can’t imagine anyone being heartless enough to deny a meal to that girl.”
The sound of water continued along with the occasional clink of dishes. Then Cu observed, “I don’t think either of us have any valuable trade skills like those Casters do. If we can’t come up with some role to fill in this place we might be relegated to being janitors.”
“I’ve already volunteered to be part of the security staff.”
“Wha-!? You crafty bastard, sneaking something like that past me! Let me in on the security too!”
“Oh? Lancer-dono wishes for a job that requires him to stand in one spot for hours at a time, keeping watch in the unlikely event that something happens?”
“…I’ll leave that job to you, I guess…”
The sounds of cleaning could be heard for a while longer from the kitchen as Cu Chulainn weighed his uncertain future.