“I am in such awe of you, Senpai,” said Mash as she held her balled fists before her chest. A chest that had gone back to not being well defined now that she was wearing her hoodie plus work uniform instead of the cos-play armored swimsuit. Ritsuka had mixed emotions about that. Speaking of which…
“Uh, in awe of what, Mash,” asked Ritsuka while continuing to walk through the hall. Medusa, Mash, and the three Artorias were with him as he slowly made his way back to his quarters. Summoning so many Servants had left Ritsuka with almost no energy at all, even if having others helping out behind the scenes and a leyline powering the circle lessened the strain on Ritsuka’s body considerably. The tour around Chaldea didn’t do anything to help restore his stamina, either.
“Senpai, you Summoned eight Servants today, in addition to bringing Medusa back! And you were able to convince them to help us, as well! You didn’t give any of them orders, either, like the other Mages I’ve met claimed you had to. And you were able to talk to them so naturally, too! Even that really scary guy at the end of the table.”
Mash shrank a little just remembering Gilgamesh. That guy really was terrifying. Every move, action, and word of the man seemed like he was willing to cut through anything around him. The cloak of circulating mana around his form was also incredibly controlled, even when the guy was completely at rest. The old adage of ‘A man like an unsheathed sword’ popped into Ritsuka’s mind to describe Gilgamesh. He truly was someone who could kill or destroy anything around him without a care. It made Ritsuka… curious. How did one have to think in order to look at the world in such a way?
“Well, no matter who it is, as long as you can find a common point you can talk with anyone,” said Ritsuka with a smile. It’s something his mother often said because she had to constantly get through the stigma of being a foreigner in Japan. True, it took a bit of mental gymnastics and some false bravado to find a common point with Gilgamesh. But now that Gilgamesh had settled on his role here in Chaldea, that of a Guest, he’d be a lot easier to talk to as long as Ritsuka remained in the role of a Host.
“No, Fujimaru-sama, that exact attitude is why Mash is holding you in awe. While it’s easy to claim that you can communicate with others it is far harder to do so in reality. After all, I myself…”
As Medusa began to withdraw into herself, Mash backed up her statement with, “Exactly, Medusa. I also wish I could do that. No, I think I will try from now on, just like Senpai.”
Ritsuka gave a cursory laugh and decided to try and cut off the path to Medusa’s self inflicted depression by saying, “Why don’t the three of us work on that together then? I’m sure it’ll start to come naturally as long as we practice.”
As Mash quickly gave an affirmative, Medusa was stunned by surprise before quietly saying, “So there are Masters like this after all…”
“Ah, we’ve reached my room,” said Ritsuka, looking up. He turned back before going in to say, “I think I’ll lay down for a few hours until it’s dinnertime. Well…”
Ritsuka walked inside and made a straight line for the bed. It didn’t register on him that it took awhile for the automatic door to close itself behind him. Turning around and taking a seat, he exclaimed, “Why did everyone follow me in!?”
“Isn’t it obvious, Master,” said Artoria. “We are your Servants. While the other newcomers are more frivolous, we’re sworn to your service. It’s only natural that we would remain by your side to protect you.”
“What could you possibly need to protect me from here in Chaldea,” asked Ritsuka in amazement.
“The Golden Archer, for one,” said Altoria, disgust slightly evident in her controlled voice.
“The Doctor also said that we shouldn’t leave you alone,” said Lily, her voice trying to be both reasonable and apologetic at the same time.
“I… kind of just entered with everyone else,” said Mash, her face red while still being blank.
Ritsuka understood that everyone was trying to be helpful but…
“You realize that there’s not enough room in here for everyone, right? It’s really crowded already.”
Everyone looked around at Ritsuka’s comment. No one could deny it’s truth. Mash was the first to give into reason by saying, “I will go and take care of my duties, Senpai. But I’ll come back and wake you for dinner. Then… could we… eat… together?”
“I’d love to, Mash,” said Ritsuka with a smile. Mash’s face lit up and she exited the room repeating her promise while moving with light steps.
The remaining four stood there in silence, obviously intending to stand sentry. Once the silence became awkward for Ritsuka, he said, “Really, I’ll be fine alone. I’m sure it would just be boring for all of you to just hang around while I sleep.”
“I’m sorry, Master. But I will not allow you to remain unguarded,” insisted Artoria in a tone of voice that made it clear that she would not budge on the topic, no matter how Ritsuka tried to approach it. Ritsuka was too tired to try, anyway. So, he sighed and said, “Alright, I’ll allow one person to stay. The room would feel too crowded with more than two people anyway. You all can decide who stays- peacefully. Decide peacefully.”
“Very well,” said Altoria immediately. “Rider Medusa, you watch over Ritsuka. The three of us have other business we can take care of.”
“Wha-? Alter, what are you-”
“Just come with me,” insisted Altoria towards Artoria while forcefully pulling the girl outside with her. Lily gave a bow and followed the other two outside with her hands waving lightly like the walk of a girl in stark comparison to the manly pace of Altoria who pulled Artoria out by the hand while she complained. As the door closed behind the three Sabers, Medusa asked, “Is it really alright for me to be here, Fujimaru-sama”
Drat. No matter how nice it would be to nap alone, there was no way Ritsuka could kick Medusa out now. It was like refusing to dry off a wet puppy.
“Well, I don’t know how entertaining it would be to watch me sleep,” said Ritsuka wryly before continuing on. “If you want to stay, you can, Medusa. If you’d rather do something else I won’t stop you.”
“I… would prefer to stay, Fujimaru-sama. It is not a bother for me to stand guard for you.”
“This is Chaldea though, Medusa. It’s a safe place. The only safe place remaining, I guess…”
“Even so… I think we Servants will feel more at ease if our Master is protected at all times. It is in our nature to worry about harm befalling the one we are Contracted with.”
“…Because if a Servant loses their Master, they lose the anchor they have to the physical world. You’re right, I’m sorry for being obstinate. If it’s no bother, please continue to watch over me. I’m afraid… I don’t have anything on hand to keep you occupied while I sleep, though.”
“It is fine. I will not grow bored.”
“Well then, good night,” said Ritsuka a little awkwardly before leaning back on the bed and closing his eyes. After a minute, Ritsuka opened his eyes and saw that Medusa was standing in the exact same spot, looking down on him.
“You can make yourself more comfortable, Medusa,” said Ritsuka weakly. “You don’t need to remain standing.”
“Thank you, Fujimaru-sama.”
Medusa then went to a chair and took a seat. Her back remained rigidly straight, however. Ritsuka put it out of his mind and allowed his fatigue to catch up to him, quickly falling into the pleasant oblivion of rest. Meanwhile, Medusa listened thoughtfully to the rhythm of Ritsuka’s breathing. It was somehow… relaxing to her.
* * * * *
Artoria succeeded in pulling her hand free the moment Artoria Alter loosened her grip. Which was only after the door to their Master’s quarters had closed. There in the hallway, Artoria demanded, “What business do you claim I have to take care of, Alter?”
Artoria Alter took a solid stance that would allow her to respond in case Artoria decided to attack her and flatly said, “Lily. Go to the training area. I will meet you there to help train your swordsmanship.”
“…Are you sure,” asked Lily, knowing the situation was tense, but not understanding why.
“Yes. That one and I need to talk.”
“It is fine, Lily,” said Artoria without taking her eyes off her Alter.
“…Then I will go on ahead.”
As Lily disappeared from view, Artoria sternly asked, “And what is it we need to talk about, Alter?”
Alter’s response with filled with disdain and condemnation.
“Are you really alright with just leaving things like that?”
“The situation with Archer,” stated Alter, who then narrowed her eyes and corrected herself with, “No. Emiya.”
Artoria shook ever so slightly. Alter continued speaking, low and confidential.
“That reaction now and back in the meeting room. You possess enough memory to know his True Name. Undoubtedly, he noticed too. Are you really going to just ignore that?”
“…Emiya did not seem to feel a need to talk about-”
“My memories of the Fifth War are fractured, but even I know that that one will never honestly approach a subject, especially if it’s worth talking about. So I ask again, are you really going to just ignore him?”
Artoria looked away and said, “This is not the Fifth Grail War. Those events have nothing to do with our presence here. There… is no need to talk about such things.”
Alter waited for a moment before saying in disappointment, “This is exactly why I am better suited to Rule than you are.”
“You obviously wish to speak with Emiya, and you are denying yourself that desire. Just like you killed all your desires while you sat on the throne of England, and eventually led the nation to ruin. You have not learned anything from your time as a Servant, have you? Failure King.”
Artoria grit her teeth and said, “What do you-” stopping herself from finishing with the word ‘know.’ It was extremely hard to deny the words that another form of herself said. But Alter picked up the meaning of the words and rebutted them with, “I am the form of us that never existed. The King who did what he pleased, when he pleased, ruling with strict law and iron fisted justice. I am the we who lives true to our nature, denying myself nothing. And I can tell you, that if I was in your place, I would immediately speak with Emiya to clarify where we stand with one another so that things don’t devolve into a 3rd rate love comedy ‘will they / won’t they’ scenario. You both need to say your words aloud instead of leaving them unspoken so they don’t become a distraction on the battlefield.”
Artoria hung her head while gripping her fists close to her sides. The chastisement had struck through all the armor around her heart. Finally coming up with something to say, Artoria asked, “And what about you? Don’t you need to speak with Emiya as well? Why are you pushing everything on me?”
“Because I don’t care about that man.”
Artoria’s eyes snapped wide as her face was colored in disbelief. Alter simply continued to speak.
“The memories I possess of your life, including the ones from the Fifth War… feel impersonal. Like they happened to someone else. That is why I have no feelings towards that Red Archer. Hate. Friendship. Violence. Competition. I feel none of that, or anything else. Just a vague acquaintanceship. Which means… I have nothing to speak with him about.”
Wait,” said Artoria. “If that’s true… why did you set Archer up with a name? That name?”
“Because he irritated me.”
“Did you not feel irritated as well? A situation where we could all wear our True Names proudly, and he claimed that insipid role of Nameless? It was a show of his innate immaturity that was befitting of an 8th Grader. Worse… it was a form of suicide and self-sacrifice. Every time he answers to Nameless is just another self infliction of harm for no reason. It’s sickening behavior from a warrior. So I put a stop to it. Because it irritated me. There is no reason aside from that. As a Tyrant, I merely moved to destroy something unsightly; while currying a favor from someone else as a secondary benefit.”
Artoria asked the smugly self-satisfied Alter a disbelieving question, “You did that just so Archer would owe you a favor?”
“Also to let him know that I know his True Name. If he should ever become flippant with me, it’s ammunition I can use to make him back down. You know that that one can get carried away at times, don’t you?”
Artoria held the side of her head and muttered, “I don’t think I can understand the way you think, Alter.”
“Good. It would be insulting to me if you could,” retorted Alter, who then turned and began walking towards the training facilities. “You know where Emiya is. Go and speak to him now. If not, then you are merely a coward not fit to wear a crown.”
Artoria stood alone in the empty hallway, feeling frustration with herself.
* * * * *
It took a while for Medea to set up the wards around her new quarters. It was just a single room, but she felt like she was already used to modest living arrangements. With the wards set, Medea checked them a second time.
Then a third.
Then a fourth.
Then the sound began to slip from her lips as they distorted into a cruel smile.
Medea’s cruelly melodious laughter surged from her until she could break coherent thoughts through to be given vocal clarity.
“Time travel! Real time travel! That golden moron even said it himself, it’s real! No, no! Not good to jump to conclusions, Medea, you already know you shouldn’t take anything on faith. But if. IF! If this Chaldea organization really can do it, then… I can make my wish come true… Without winning a Grail War! But… I’ll need to make preparations, so many preparations. My cute little Master seems like he’s something of a pushover, but I’ll need to be careful about that other Caster. Her knowing who I am puts me at a bit of a disadvantage, but things should be fine as long as I make my actions seem like they’re to this Chaldea’s advantage. Anyway, planning comes first. Let’s see, paper… paper… Hmm, I may have to give this room a proper cleaning first, maybe some decorations…”
Finally finding something to write with, Medea sat down at a desk and began joyfully planning her tasks to come.
“Research comes first. I can’t ask for too much information about this Chaldea without it seeming unnatural. Well, as long as I do my work earnestly, I’ll pick up details. And after building some bridges with the humans here I can naturally procure more information. So for the time being I should gather the tools I’ll need on the assumption of success… A long term mana supply will be required. The form… Well, loathe as I am to admit, that form would be the most suitable… And the tools… equipment… reagents… Oh, this is so much fun, it feels like it’s been ages since I’ve had other people to do procurement for me. What else should I get…?”
Becoming more and more ambitious, the Witch of Betrayal’s plans grew larger in scope.
“Maybe I should ask them to put my lab in the room next door? I could destroy the wall and enlarge my quarters… though it feels a bit ill cultured to do such a thing, and it’s nice to have a separation between my room and my workshop. I’d hate to have my bed sheets smelling of reagents… Oh, I could have a doorway constructed! I’m sure the humans wouldn’t mind a little work for my sake. After all, it’s for the best that no one interrupts my work. I’m sure they’ll understand that. Un-un,” said Medea, nodding to herself. “Ah, maybe I should have a corner for my hobby. After all, meeting those other two versions of Saber has gotten the blood of the Great Builder flowing. Oooooh, I can think of so many projects already! And without a Grail War, I can completely devote myself to them! Maybe Lily-chan would be willing to wear some gowns! Uhuhuhuhu!”
The scribbling of desired equipment on the requisition list went harder and faster, while Medea’s nose flared from the rough breathing of excitement.
* * * * *
The list of equipment Medea requested eventually reached Da Vinci’s desk. As the great inventor looked over it, she was beginning to get an idea on the direction of Medea’s research. It’s not much of a bother to prepare most of the equipment on the list, but some items would need to be specially crafted. Well, Medea could do that herself with the appropriate tools. And if she couldn’t, then she’d have to wait until Da Vinci had some spare time to create them for- what?
“Fabric, needles, thread, pigments, plastic, and an airbrush,” called out Da Vinci in surprise. Da Vinci had thought she’d gotten a handle on Medea’s desired research, but that last part of the list threw everything else into question…