“I’m sorry, but I still don’t quite understand,” said Medusa in a tone of voice that made it clear she was politely baffled.
“It’s quite simple,” repeated Artoria after having visited Medusa in her quarters. The King of Camelot had given up on catching the woman while she ran along the installation walls. “Rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper, and paper beats rock.”
“Yes, I understand that part, but where do these objects come from? To the best of my knowledge there’s no soil in Chaldea, so where would we be procuring rocks?”
“No, Rider, it’s the shape of your hand that denotes what items you bring out in this duel.”
“Oh,” uttered Medusa as understanding dawned on her. She stretched her hand out palm upwards and asked, “So what shape does my hand adhere to?”
“The shape of my hand decides which of the three items I am assigned, correct? So, which weapon was I born to wield?”
“No, Rider, your hand does not decide the object you use, you shape your hand into the form of the tool you wish to use in the match,” said Artoria, rubbing the side of her head in an attempt to alleviate the headache she could feel coming on.
“Oh, I think I understand now. Like the buddist mudra for hand gestures?”
“Sure, why not… Rider, how do you know about buddist hand gestures?”
“I have some vague recollections of spending my life copying scriptures in a temple, though that may have just been a pleasant dream.”
“Uhhh, anyway- When you form a fist,” Artoria demonstrated, “It is a ‘Rock’ in the game.”
“I see,” said Medusa, clasping her fingers into a fist. Her palm was still pointed up. Artoria gently realigned Medusa’s hand so that the fist was in the proper position for use in a game after getting Medusa’s permission.
“Good, now, leave the ring and pinky fingers closed and extend the middle and index fingers for ‘Scissors.”
Medusa extended her two fingers after Artoria’s demonstration. They were still touching and looked like a finger gun.
“No, Medusa, let there be some distance between the two extended fingers.”
“Oh, yes, I see now. The shape really is reminiscent of a pair of scissors,” remarked Medusa as she continuously moved her fingers in the pattern of cutting cloth. She kept doing it with a slight smile on her face as though that movement in itself was fun. “It reminds me of the crabs back on the island.”
“Yes, how nice,” impatiently said Artoria, disregarding Medusa’s happy recollections. “Now the third one is ‘Paper.’ You lay your hand out flat like this.”
Medusa flattened her hand while stretching it out. The angle was like she was offering a handshake.
“No, Rider, turn your hand a quarter turn.”
Medusa turned her hand so the palm was facing upwards again.
“No, back down, another half turn, face the palm down.”
“But my hand can’t rotate any further than this,” remarked Medusa innocently.
“Turn it the other way,” growled Artoria.
“Oh,” uttered the snake girl, as she rotated her right wrist a half turn to her left to point her palm towards the ground. “Is this right?”
“The position is fine,” said Artoria with a bit of relief in her voice. “But the shape is wrong.”
“Really? I thought you said the hand had to be flat?”
“Yes but your hand is splayed out,” pointed out Artoria, for Medusa’s fingers were indeed extended outwards like she was going to grab a large ball. “Shape your hand like this, Medusa.”
Artoria demonstrated with her extended hand. Medusa looked down at Artoria’s hand, and looked back at Artoria’s face before saying, “I’m sorry, Saber, but my eyes are sealed right now.”
“Guh,” was the sound Artoria made, as though the logic had punched her in the gut. “Would you mind if I correct your hand’s posture again?”
“Not at all.”
After Medusa’s hand shape was corrected, she asked, “Now what?”
“Now we play the game. Rock-Paper-Scissors-SHOOT!”
There was a blast of air as Artoria’s hand shot forwards in the shape of Rock, causing Medusa’s hair to flutter. Medusa however hadn’t moved an inch, and her hand was still extended as Paper. After a moment, Medusa innocently asked, “Who won?”
Artoria silently grit her teeth. Objectively speaking, Artoria threw a Rock on her own which was inferior to Medusa’s Paper. However, Medusa hadn’t moved, so Artoria had basically defeated herself, which means it wasn’t a real loss, AT ALL! It was just that Artoria had defeated herself, it wasn’t Medusa’s win, so the game itself was invalid, definitely!
“The match was inconclusive,” stated Artoria in a strained voice, unwilling to accept defeat, especially in such a ridiculous manner.
“I see,” said Medusa in a tone that made it obvious that she didn’t understand in the slightest. “Should we go again?”
“No, it’s fine,” said Artoria with a strained smile. She then excused herself feeling like she’d lost something other than a game of rock-paper-scissors. Medusa pondered the events for a while, and then put the thought out of mind. There was a task that she had to undertake after all.
* * * * *
“Please teach me,” shouted Osahar Moussa from his position of kneeling on the floor like a penitent in a church. The hooded woman he was addressing- no, ambushing as she emerged from her workshop to get a meal flinched back in surprise.
“What on earth is this,” exclaimed Medea to the disturbing sight of a chubby grown man with a perpetually sweaty shaved head grovelling on the ground before her.
“Lady Medea, I humbly beg you to make me your student! No! Your disciple! Even your servant if it would please you to share your knowledge of Ritual Magecraft!”
“Stop shouting and explain yourself properly!”
“Yes, of course, I apologize Lady Medea. My excitement got the better of me. Now, please, may I become your Disciple?”
“Stop jumping to the end and explain yourself properly,” cried Medea at an uncommonly loud volume this time.
“Of course. Lady Medea, I have spent most of my life studying rituals, and I had prided myself on my knowledge and insight. But in the span of a few minutes you showed me how little I truly understood. I was so moved, I could hardly stand on my own two feet. I truly had no idea how wide the world really was until that moment.”
“You enjoyed having your pride destroyed,” asked Medea aghast at the revelation.
“Only when one’s pride has been destroyed is one ready to learn. That was my teacher’s first and most important lesson.”
“What kind of sadist did you have as a teacher,” retorted Medea on reflex in a wary tone.
“And the one who has destroyed my pride utterly was none other than you, Lady Medea. Wise Mage of the Age of the Gods! You possess a fathomless well of knowledge that has been lost to modern Magecraft! I humbly request to learn from you, so that mages all over the world could benefit!”
“You… intend to publish my teachings,” asked Medea with thorns of wrath in her voice, as she began to sense the betrayal the man would commit. The vision of him utilizing her knowledge for fortune and fame while cutting her name out of the writings appeared in the back of her mind.
“For only myself to gain from your knowledge would be a crime against humanity,” exclaimed Osahar, not noticing Medea’s tone of voice in his rush of excitement. “The collected teachings of Lady Medea, resurrected as a Servant to save and then enlighten the world! What textbook would be finer in the halls of the Clocktower!?”
Medea’s wrath was aborted by the man’s fiery and out of place passion that caused her to take a step back.
“You make it sound like my teachings would receive recognition,” asked Medea probingly to gauge the man’s response, searching for a future betrayal that she could cut off at the source, possibly along with cutting the man’s life short. She was a Servant, not a tool for a man’s personal gain. “What chance would a long dead Witch have of receiving any recognition in the Modern world?”
“What are the chances you wouldn’t,” cried Osahar back, his eyes wide. His animated movements from his double kneed perch on the ground caused his body to writhe in strange ways. “Your knowledge would reduce magical power consumption, increase efficiency, provide alternate catalysts, remove the veil of long held prejudices and superstitions concerning Ritual Magecraft the world over. It wouldn’t even be a stretch to say that your knowledge would save lives! Such a contribution would leave a larger mark on history than your legends ever did!”
Medea was suddenly very troubled. The man had answered immediately and with a barrage of his own expected results. She’d had dealings with a very skilled con man, and before his flowery answers he would always take a moment to remember his lies and then expound upon them, all while carefully watching the person he was manipulating. This man had not hesitated, and during his disturbingly wild gesticulations, he hadn’t been observing Medea at all. Not that he’d have been able to see much through her hood. And… the way the man said her knowledge would save lives… Medea recalled the children being used as catalysts by her original Master from Fuyuki.
No. It wouldn’t do to be careless.
“You keep going on and on about Ritual Magecraft, Mr Moussa,” said Medea with an air of frivolity, to let the man think she’d let her guard down. “But are you not interested in the teachings of Hecate? The power of hexes, curses, potions, and magecraft so great that they left their mark on history and legend alike?”
“Not at all,” came the immediate and cold reply.
“Geh,” reacted Medea as though the instantaneous answer had been a sucker punch to the gut.
“Lady Medea, can a man even learn the teachings of Witchcraft? I don’t know and I’m unwilling to try and tempt the wrath of a Goddess. Besides, I’m far too weak as a Mage to even attempt to put such knowledge into practical use, even if they were within the field of my study. Heck, my best self defense technique is to call the police. So please don’t worry about teaching me such things, it would be like putting pearls before swine in my case.”
It was an unexpected answer, a man turning down the chance at power. But Medea finally had a handle on what type of man Osahar Moussa was. A completely shameless one.
“Well, I appreciate your kindness Mr. Moussa, but I’m afraid I’m not taking any disciples right now. Please have a good day and go about your business like I’m not here.”
Osahar pitched himself forwards to plant his hands on the floor while bending his head to Medea in complete and total supplication.
“How can I call myself a Mage if I just let myself overlook brilliance that is within arms reach!?! Please, Lady Medea- no Mistress Medea! Please accept me! I will withstand any testing, any abuse, any trials! PLEASE!?!?!”
Medea cringed at the disturbing sight in front of her and started looking around for help. She saw Artoria who had just emerged from a side hall that led from the residence section who was looking at Medea with dead and disappointed eyes. Medea suddenly felt a cold sweat break out on her back.
“Ah, no, Saber, this isn’t-” uttered Medea weakly. Artoria cut in by saying, “I apologize for interrupting your hobby, Medea. I will pretend that I didn’t see anything. Goodbye.”
“N-No, Saber! Help-”
“Please accept my dedication, Mistress Medea!!!”
Osahar was looking up from his four limbed bow while shouting. The agitation of his mind and body had caused a thick vein to emerge from his face, twisting his looks in a grisly fashion. His dark skinned complexion coupled with his sweat gleaming on his exposed flesh combined together with his body posture caused an uncanny resemblance to the eternal enemy of womankind, and a giant one at that.
“Cockroach,” exclaimed Medea in primal alarm as she backed up. Osahar crawled forwards still looking up as he closed the distance, begging ‘Mistress Medea’ to accept him. Medea screamed and started running as fast as her narrow dress skirt would allow, with Osahar crawling after her in pursuit. After five minutes of the nightmare inducing experience, Medea very loudly and with a panicked voice told Osahar that she would accept him as a disciple as long as he stopped following her around, just to get the chase to end.
* * * * *
Well, seeking out Medea for rock paper scissors training had been a mistake. But Artoria’s prospects for training partners were growing slim. Most of the Servants in the facility were avoiding her requests one way or another, and training with a human defeated the entire purpose of winning against her Alter. It was quite the conundrum.
Artoria wandered the halls pondering her situation when a haughty and self important voice called out, “Oh? Saber. No, I suppose I should get used to calling you by your name, Artoria.”
“Mu. What do you want, Gilgamesh?”
The King of Heroes sauntered over while wearing a flashy white suit with a half open black dress shirt of the finest silk. The man had his hands in his pockets and left them there, as though he never felt a hint of insecurity about his personal safety or needed to have a hand free to defend himself with. In easy range of Artoria’s sword, the man stopped and said, “I hear you’re still looking for a partner. For Jan Ken,” said the man as an afterthought, as though insinuating Artoria was looking for a different kind of ‘partner.’
A jolt of aggression and disgust went through Artoria. She spun on her heel to go the opposite direction to Gilgamesh saying, “I have no need for a training partner like yourself.”
“Good,” said Gilgamesh in a conniving but wholly self convinced tone that caught Artoria’s attention despite herself. “For I was not offering mere training.”
Artoria’s feet stopped as she asked, “And what is it you mean by that?”
“We are both Warrior Kings, Artoria,” said the man, his slimy smile visible by the tone of his words alone. “Mere training is beneath us. That is why I challenge you to a Jan Ken duel. A true battle of Jan Ken skill and foresight. And once a clear winner is established, the loser will have to do one thing that the winner desires.”
Artoria sharply turned to the man, feeling something as precious as her life on the line, asking, “Anything?”
“Oh, is the King of Knights intimidated by the wager,” asked Gilgamesh as he drew the trap of his invitation tighter around Artoria’s psyche. “Yes. Should you win, you can ask anything of me.”
“So if I win, I can order you to leave me alone for good, and you will do it,” asked Artoria, her body heating up for combat.
“Just so, Artoria. Though I have no intention of losing, just like you.”
“And if you win, King of Heroes?”
“I will make my own wish known at that time. Are you ready, King of Knights?”
“Yes. On my mark, King of Heroes. Rock. Paper. Scissors. SHOOOOOOOT!”
The crack and boom of displaced air rattled around the halls of Chaldea for the rest of the night as the duel continued until the early morning hours. The occupants of the installation naturally stayed away from the scene out of a desire to not get involved in the stupidity. The only one that passed by was Medusa, who was washing the walls she had been running on with a cleaning cloth.