“Here you are, Senpai,” said Mash as she set the box down on the round playing table where the five figures sat. Artoria sat to Ritsuka’s left without her armor covering her blue and white dress. Emiya was to Ritsuka’s right, the two of them forming a human wall to protect their Master against the other two figures at the playing table.
“What game is it that we are playing, Master,” asked Medea from the right side of Emiya as she leaned over in interest to read the label on top of the box. “Monopoly…? What sort of game is this, Master?”
Ritsuka was quiet for a moment thinking of the best way to explain the board game to people who originated from another age. He decided on, “It’s a game about economic conquest, using equal parts strategy and luck.”
“Fufuhahahaha! Sounds like I am already destined to be the victor, then,” called out Gilgamesh from Artoria’s left. He was no longer wearing his gold armor, but instead was wearing casual clothes consisting of dark pants, a white shirt, and a dark jacket with his hair let down instead of being slicked back. Ritsuka had no idea where those clothes had come from however.
“Now, now, your highness,” said Ritsuka gently to maintain order. “We’re all here to have fun and strengthen our relationships. So please try not to go too far with trash talking. That goes for everyone at the table, as well.”
Ritsuka had identified the four major competitors of the 5th Holy Grail War as being the ones with the most animosity between them. As such, he felt that trying to break through their old competitiveness with a new type of friendly rivalry was the best way to foster healthy… semi-healthy relationships between the four of them. So he set up a game night! Well, game afternoon. Archer was taking some time off in between lunch finishing and preparing for dinner. Speaking of people with duties…
“I’m sorry you can’t join us, Mash. I’m really grateful to you for finding the game box, though.”
“Please don’t worry about it, Senpai. I’m just happy that I was able to be of help to you. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to return to my duties. I will see you later, Senpai. Come on, Fou.”
With the departure of Mash and the bunny-cat-squirrel, Ritsuka opened the box and handed out the rules for Archer to read to everyone since he seemed to enjoy instructing others. While Archer went through his tutorial, Ritsuka set up the game board and asked, “Now, who wants to be the banker?”
“It only makes sense for the one with the Golden Rule to be in control of all the funds,” said Gilgamesh offhandedly. “Hand over the tray and I shall make sure that everyone is properly remunerated for their minor accomplishments at the table.”
It kind of felt like everyone was getting use to Gilgamesh’s toxic togue, as they let the comment pass without rebuttal. So, then came the selection of pieces.
“I will take the hunting dog,” said Artoria immediately.
“It’s a terrier though,” said Ritsuka quietly.
“He is Temporary Cavall,” stated Artoria. Apparently she already named her game piece.
Gilgamesh picked up his selection, saying, “I can feel this piece calling out to my soul. It is an appropriate representation of myself on this game board.”
The piece Gilgamesh chose was the battleship.
Emiya was next to make a selection, picking up the race car, flatly stating that, “It feels like I have some connection to auto racing. I suppose this will do.”
Medea was second to last, and after carefully studying the game tokens, chose the cat with the words, “I shall use this one,” with a slightly charmed smile on her face. Medea might unexpectedly like cute things.
“I’ll be the top hat,” said Ritsuka, making his selection. Then carrying on to, “Now we roll to see who goes first.”
“Yes, the first to attack is the one who wins,” said Emiya as he rolled the dice.
“Attacking first or second makes no difference, Emiya. Victory only goes to the strong,” said Gilgamesh challengingly with a glint in his eyes while casting the dice for his roll.
The one who rolled highest and went first was Medea, though, which caused the two manly guys at the table to shut up while she counted the spaces moved aloud. The opening of the game went as a normal Monopoly game went. Properties got snatched up at a swift pace, with many of the same colored tiles being taken by different people, ensuring there would be no early game Monopolies. It was quite fast and peaceful until Artoria landed on the Community Chest.
“You have won second prize in a beauty contest. Collect ten dollars,” said Artoria aloud in a monotone. Gilgamesh stifled his laughter while dropping the ten dollar bill next to Artoria at his side, his being seated next to her being his condition for taking part in the game. Gilgamesh’s comment of, “Congratulations on being second best,” to the eerily still Artoria caused her to snap and throw down the card.
“I demand a re-match,” shouted Artoria as she slammed her palm on the table. “I refuse to accept anything short of victory in any contest! And when did such an event even happen! I demand an investigation into these so-called judges!”
It took a few minutes to calm her down.
By the third round of the board, territories were being marked out, and Gilgamesh had succeeded in naturally obtaining all four of the railroad properties.
“It’s only natural for me to collect that which I desire,” said the man with a smug grin pointed towards Artoria, who shuddered in annoyance and revulsion. But that was a side show to the initiation of haggling that broke out between the players in trying to collect all properties of a given color. The swiftest trade was between Ritsuka and Emiya in trading Emiya’s States Avenue with Ritsuka’s Connecticut Avenue, thus giving both players a monopoly of comparative strength. The other properties were spread across three players and trades were slow, and never came to fruition.
On the fourth lap around the table, Medea pulled the Chance card that sent her to the Boardwalk. The woman began giggling menacingly as she purchased the property, completing the third monopoly of the game.
On the fifth lap… goodwill went out the window.
“Come now, Emiya,” said Gilgamesh with the winning smile of a loan shark. “You must either pay the rent, or find another way to compensate me for using my railroads. You’re thirty dollars short.”
“If it’s come to this,” said Emiya as he stuck his hand out and said is a voice filled with meaning and power, “Trace-”
“Creating counterfeit money is against the rules,” said Gilgamesh with a smug smile.
“…Damn, my trump card has been sealed,” said Emiya, who then mortgaged the first of his properties to pay his debt. Gilgamesh used the money to buy a house to place on his own Baltic Avenue.
Emyia’s bad luck remained like the curse of a rejected lover. He then landed on Medea’s Park Place with a house on it, and was forced to mortgage everything he had left to pay the woman off. With no source of income, the man’s fate was soon sealed. Indeed, the fatalist decided it himself before long.
“Artoria, it seems that this is as far as I go. I will be leaving the rest to you,” said the penniless man after landing on Artoria’s Kentucky Avenue location.
“Please don’t say that, Emiya! I’ll waive the rental fees! You can keep going!”
“No, Artoria. This defeat is my fate, of that I’m certain. In fact, it’s nearly time for me to start preparing for dinner. If I delay for too long, our meals will be served late.”
Artoria was quiet for a time with her head downcast before saying, “Then I suppose it cannot be helped. I will continue to fight in your place. But please, promise me one thing, Emiya.”
“And what is that, Artoria?”
“That the karaage will have multiple dipping sauces.”
“Ah. Don’t worry, Artoria. I will make sure of it.”
“Then it is fine. Farewell, Emiya. I will carry on the fight in your stead.”
As Emiya was making his overly stoic departure, Gilgamesh unnecessarily said, “I’m really not surprised that you were the first player eliminated from the game. Fufuhahahaha!”
While Gilgamesh was having his good laugh and Artoria was collecting the mortgaged properties she obtained from bankrupting Emiya, Ritsuka rolled the dice and landed on the Community Chest.
“Lessee… You have won second prize in a beauty contest-”
“What kind of rigged contest is this,” shouted Artoria in outrage. “I mean no offense, Master, but I can’t accept that we both scored equally outside of some corruption of the judges! I demand that we launch a full investigation!”
Once again, it took some time to cool Artoria down. Afterward, Artoria paid off all the mortgages she’d received from Emiya and went back into the game. Having absorbed Emiya’s properties had reduced Artoria’s liquid assets, but left her the most land rich of the players in the game. Artoria swiftly declared her own Kingdom.
“New Camelot,” asked Ritsuka in disbelief.
“Yes! In honor of the departed Emiya-”
“He only left the room, he’s not dead,” observed Ritsuka,
“I establish this New Camelot, and will continue to fight against those who destroyed him.”
“You were the one that knocked him out of the game, though,” observed Ritsuka again.
“Come, Master! Let us form a united front against these two, and claim victory!”
“Hoooo. How interesting, Saber,” said Gilgamesh with amusement leaking into his voice. “I accept your challenge as the King of Babylonia! Prepare yourself, for the men of Uruk know nothing of defeat!”
“I cannot overlook this, either,” said Medea in determination. “I may have lost my home, but I am still the daughter of Aeetes. I will not forgive a challenge to my homeland. We wary, Artoria, for the strategies of this fallen priestess will now unfold.”
As the three other players declared the formation of their independent nations on the game board, Ritsuka began to wonder if he hadn’t made an enormous mistake in setting up this board game. Seemed Monopoly was less safe when played by Heroic Spirits than when played by family at New Years.
The following struggle between the three nations unfolded with malice and determination. Gilgamesh ended up building funds at an unnatural speed by passing GO swiftly and repeatedly. Medea built her properties in expectation of a single great strike. While Artoria… only had the disjointed smattering of properties except for Emiya’s Monopoly of the Grey tiles, and built houses on them a little too early to be financially viable.
“That will be eighty dollars for landing on my Water Works,” said Gilgamesh to Artoria, who growled cutely in discontent. She already had to mortgage her properties outside of the grey tiled monopoly to keep up with her rent in the tiles she landed on and the unfavorable taxes she’d accrued through Chance cards. If Artoria wanted to pay Gilgamesh off, she’d have to sell one of her houses, and that meant a solid loss of funds.
“I tell you what, Artoria,” said Gilgamesh winningly. “I will pay you four hundred dollars for Marvin Gardens. You don’t even need to pay off the mortgage on it. You’ll be able to pay off the debts to my water company, and have another three hundred in your pocket. That sounds like a good bargain, doesn’t it?”
“Nnnnn. What is in it for you, Gilgamesh. There has to be a reason you’d overpay for that property.”
“The reason? Why Artoria, it’s simple. I want to keep that property out of Medea’s hands. She has both Ventnor and Atlantic Avenues. Should you land on her space without funds she’ll certainly require that property as her payment. And then we’ll both be facing her new Monopoly. I’m just trying to avoid strengthening an enemy. Come now, Saber. This deal may just save your kingdom… and your people.”
“When did populations become part of Monopoly,” asked Ritsuka from his spot In Jail, where he’d been spending a lot of time recently.
“…I accept your offer, Gilgamesh,” said Artoria at length, the weight of her kingdom (?) and her people (?) weighing down her shoulders. As they exchanged the property for cash, Gilgamesh turned to smile at Medea as he lifted the card up between his fingers and thumb.
Medea asked, “North Carolina?”
“Just so,” replied Gilgamesh. And then the two players exchanged cards with a smile on their faces, establishing two new Monopolies. Green for Gilgamesh, and Yellow for Medea.
“What is the meaning of this, Gilgamesh,” demanded Artoria.
“A coalition, of sorts, my dear,” said Medea with a creully charming smile. “Really, if you declare war on two nations at once, what is to stop them from allying to destroy you? It seems you are unused to forgein affairs, my dear King Artoria.”
“I… that… Agravain took care of such matters…”
“It is of no consequence, Medea,” said Gilgamesh offhandedly. “We merely need to slowly corner the prey before we celebrate any further. And once it is just you and I… the final stage of the war will begin.”
“Exactly my thoughts, King of Babylonia,” replied Medea. The two then began their cruel laughter as Artoria was crushed by the knowledge of her failure.
Artoria lasted another three laps around the game board, but was finally crushed by landing on Gilgamesh’s Railroads.
“One must never underestimate the importance of Trade Routes, King of the Britans,” said Gilgamesh with a smile. “Now, how do you expect to pay me with all your properties foreclosed?”
“Nnnn,” grunted Artoria painfully.
“I suppose… I could extend you a loan,” said Gilgamesh with a leading tone of voice. “An interest free one. If you were to ask nicely, that is.”
“Come now, King of Knights. It’s just a few kind words. That’s all that’s required for the salvation of your country. Just a few words, and I shall deliver you from your peril.”
“Nnnn. Nnnn. Nnnnnnnnnn! I refuse!”
“What,” asked Gilgamesh to Artoria’s shouted refusal.
“While I can only admit my defeat, and my inadequacy as a King, I will never surrender my pride! I refuse your offer, Gilgamesh. Instead… Master!”
“Huh,” responded Ritsuka lamely to being forcibly pulled into the conversation.
“I hereby forfeit my lands and my claim to the throne to you. My people are yours now. All I need from you is enough to pay the national debt to the King of Babylonia.”
“And there you have it, King of Heroes,” said Artoria in triumph. “My nation will not be conquered so easily. I have full confidence in the one who replaces me as their leader.”
“You guys are all so overreacting to this game,” mumbled Ritsuka while cradling his head. But with that result, Ritsuka now had a Monopoly for the Purple and Grey tiles. Gilgamesh had one for Green and Dark Blue. Medea had Blue and Yellow. And Orange and Red were both contested territories. Medea’s land had been built to extremely high value at the expense of her liquid capital. Gilgamesh on the other hand had a great deal of money, but most of his property were railroads and utilities that could not be built up. And Ritsuka had a partially mortgaged empire without the funds to save it, commanding from his prison cell.
The resulting struggle was fascinating for Artoria to watch, for she was the only trustworthy Servant in the room remaining and was not about to leave her Master’s side. True to their word, Gilgamesh and Medea turned on each other immediately after Artoria’s removal. The rolls were savage, and the cards were brutal.
“Advance to Boardwalk,” asked Gilgamesh after reading the card he pulled.
“Oh, welcome to my hotel, valued customer,” said Medea with a venomous smile. “I assume you’ll be paying cash?”
“Only if you give me the best room, Witch. As the King of Heroes, I demand nothing less. For this much of my funds, it had better not disappoint.”
“Oh, I assure you it won’t, King of Heroes. Ahahahahaha!”
Medea was quickly laughing out the other side of her face when she pulled the next Community Chest card.
“Street repairs!? Since when has street maintenance cost more than the land itself!?”
As the two villains waged their back and forth battle-
“Income tax refund. Guess I collect twenty dollars.”
Ritsuka quietly continued landing on Free Parking and card spaces. Slowly advancing around the board, and slowly accumulating funds.
“Advance to a Railroad and then pay double!?”
“Thank you for your patronage, Witch of Betrayal! Fufuhahahaha!”
And ever so slowly…
“Welcome to Ventnor Avenue, Oh King. Your rent is due!”
“Take your scraps like the mongrel you are!”
The kingdoms of Babylonia and Colchis began their decline from the protracted war they waged.
“I guess I could put another house on St. Charles Place,” said Ritsuka offhandedly.
Eventually both Medea and Gilgamesh started noticing the slow and steady build up on Ritsuka’s corner of the board. In fact, the two villains had run afowl of the slowly climbing rent of that region a few times. Their bickering slowly dulled as they watched Ritsuka’s calm and unassuming progress as he slowly overtook them in accumulated wealth. By the time the chimes over the intercom announced that dinner was ready, both Gilgamesh and Medea were watching Ritsuka in quiet fascination.
“Well, I suppose we need to end the game here,” said Ritsuka cheerfully. “I guess we’re gonna have to call this a tie.”
“A tie? Hmph,” harrumphed Gilgamesh haughtily. “The fact that I could not crush a mongrel like you in the alloted time is in itself a defeat. You may consider yourself the victor here, Fujimaru. This King will allow it.”
“I will just call this a non-conclusive end, Master,” said Medea placidly. “Though I must say, it was quite gratifying to be able to release my wickedness without doing anyone any real harm.”
“Oh, this is nothing,” said Ritsuka as he helped clean up the game table. “You should try Cards Against Humanity sometime.”
“If you suggest it, I suppose I shall, Master.”
“Oi, Mongrel,” said Gilgamesh to Ritsuka as he was folding the game board and putting it into the box. “You have piqued my interest. You shall be eating dinner with me as my guest tonight.”
* * * * *
Medusa had declined Fujimaru-sama’s request to join the board game. She had no lingering hostilities to work through, nor was she capable of easily interacting with such toys while she bore her blindfold. So instead, Ritsuka asked her to do something she enjoyed.
But what was there for her to do?
As Fujimaru-sama’s servant, she had the responsibility to guard him at all times and carry out his will. But right then both Artoria and Emiya were going to be acting as his guards. They were far more capable than Medusa, and she knew it. For the first time in memory… it left Medusa purposeless. And without purpose came a lack of responsibility. Without any responsibilities… what was Medusa to do?
The young lady stood there in the hall, her mind blank as her thoughts hit a standstill. Finally Medusa realized that if she was going to do nothing, she may as well do it while walking. She might come upon something she could do if she did. And so, Medusa began to walk through the corridors. It was… comforting?
Medusa’s walk slowly became faster and less aimless. Chaldea was a circular installation and so the main halls formed a perfect circle around the compound. It was… a self inclosed loop.
Medusa began moving faster and faster, until she was moving at a jogging pace. She found that she was having more and more fun. So, if she moved even faster…?
About an hour later, some of the maintenance team were heading towards the cafeteria to get a jump on the lines before dinner was announced when a lavender shadow zoomed past them, running along the walls. Thus the First Mystery of Chaldea was born, the Rumor of the Wall Running Woman.