Gordes was feeling agitated. This was nothing new to him, but it was not quite the same as usual this time.
“I’m sorry… there’s nothing more that I can do.”
Said the disheartened homunculus, and his patient who was lying on the ground patted his arm.
“Don’t worry about it. You’ve done your best.”
The other homunculus said somberly, her tone as that of someone facing her own death. The scene irritated Gordes immensely.
The homunculus lying on the ground was one of the prana provision types that were kept in tanks. Born defective, they were meant to spend their existence without ever coming out, only rotting away…
Fools! Damned fools, the whole lot of them!
Gnashing his teeth, Gordes could finally bear no longer and rose to his feet.
Apparently noticing the approaching Gordes, the nursing homunculus tensed only for Gordes to ignore him, instead lowering himself and taking the pulse of the female homunculus lying on the ground.
“What are you…?”
Gordes tapped the girl’s arms and shoulders, then the collarbones, and nodded to himself in satisfaction. Commanded to open her mouth, the homunculus did so despite herself. Gordes made a sound of contempt and explained.
“You simpleton. In case you could not tell by looking, her respiratory organs are undeveloped… there are ventilators set up inside the prana tanks. Bring one here, now.”
Gordes glared at the bewildered homunculus, daring him to speak another word. With a flustered “Right away!” he ran down the hallway.
“Why? Why are you helping us? Weren’t we just batteries to you?”
The homunculi knew that, while not nearly as cruel as Celenike and Roche whom treated them as breakable toys and test subjects, Darnic and Gordes viewed them merely as things.
“You still are, even now, but… argh! If you saw a human making a fool of himself at cleaning, wouldn’t you want to correct them? It’s just like that. Anyone would be annoyed by someone trying to clean a bathtub with a vacuum cleaner!”
Gordes was a fair bit too old to be suddenly developing love for his fellow man. This was merely the conduct of a veteran craftsman scolding his junior.
Shut up and pay attention!
“All that we have taught you are mending techniques to deal with external wounds, and simple ways of resisting mental domination. You could not possibly know how to heal a defective respiratory system. You never learned to.”
“I… I see.”
It was actually quite obvious. After all, it had taken the magi great effort simply packing in all of the most basic necessities into them.
“Are these what you were talking about?”
The homunculus who ran off returned carrying what resembled respirators under his arms.
“Yes. Give it here.”
Snatching it from his hands, Gordes pushed a hypodermic needle into the female homunculus’s vein, and connected it by a tube to a box of processed bone.
“A tool to circulate oxygen and assist breathing. Here, put this on.
Some life returned to the girl’s face when she put on the mask over her mouth. Seeing this, Gordes said disinterestedly.
“Sorry to say, but you will be spending the rest of your life putting this thing on and off. You, uh… oh, never mind, whoever you are. You might as well start bringing the other homunculi in here. No doubt there are similar cases loitering about.”
The male homunculus could only blink, utterly lost.
“Are you sure…?”
“Feel free to reject my offer. You can go back to acting out your soap operas with them.”
Gordes said pompously, barbs on every word. The homunculus hesitated somewhat but decided to put the lives of his comrades first.
“Our lives in your hands.”
“Yes, of course they are. To think that fools who cannot even perform such simple tasks would try and seek their own lives!”
The impulse to punch Gordes in the face passed the homunculus’s mind. His fellow, lying on the ground with the breathing apparatus, thought much the same. Unfortunately, it did not change the fact that he represented their salvation. With an unconcealed sigh, the male homunculus began to carry in one patient after another.
The first one was very pale, his face drained of blood. He was clutching his abdomen, so Gordes inspected it and understood the issue.
“Most of his internal organs aren’t functioning. Adjust his magic circuits to act in their place. Next.”
“The signals from your brain are being reversed. Just think the opposite of what you want to do… right is left, down is up. Keep moving your body and your brain will be used to it within a month. Next.”
“The flesh is developing into gangrene. It’s impossible to heal completely, we have to put a restoration ritual into the body and keep it there. One of Darnic’s Mystic Codes should be capable of that. Go to his room and find it. No, wait… there are powerful defenses set up to intercept anyone not of the clan. I’ll have to retrieve it personally, then.”
Saying this, Gordes got to his feet. Although everyone in the castle aside from the Servants were already resting due to exhaustion, he gulped down a remedy of wakefulness and paced briskly down the hallways. A homunculus hastily followed him. It was the female who first spoke to Sieg and currently the de facto leader of the homunculi.
“What are you doing? You don’t need to come with me, it’s not too heavy to carry.”
“I do not understand. Why are you going so far for us?”
“I don’t understand it, either! How can I possibly understand this situation? It’s chaos, chaos! This is far from the world of mysteries unified by thaumaturgies… Servants, and Holy Grail Wars, and Greater Grails, curse it all! We’ve all been played for chumps!”
Gordes shouted as he walked down the hall. The homunculus placed the tip of her halberd by his ear in apparent frustration.
“Answer me properly.”
“I told you already… I don’t know. This was supposed to be a war for the Holy Grail! Then that madman, Shirou, blindsided us and took it! And he wants to use it to save humanity? Absurd! That was not what we sought after! We were supposed to conduct a noble battle using the crafts we have mastered and the heroes we have summoned! How did it come to this? Why did things go so wrong? Was it because Lancer lost? Or is it because of the Noble Phantasm of their Assassin? Or…”
“…is it because you pushed Siegfried to take his own life?”
Her quiet words finally put to stop to Gordes’s endless speech. She sighed and lowered her halberd.
“It was not my fault…”
“But it was. But at the very least, you believe that it was.”
“Quiet! I will not have a homunculus speak to me like this!”
She ignored this and affirmed to him once more.
“It was your fault…. but it wasn’t only your fault. It was by everyone’s own decisions, their own beliefs, their actions in accordance with their own wishes… it was all of these things coming together that led to the defeat of the Black camp. I do not believe that the future would have been changed simply by strengthening your bond with Saber.”
“Yet… I was still at fault.”
Gordes murmured into the cold air filling the hall. His hunched and despondent figure quickly lost all hints of arrogance.
From the start of this Great Holy Grail War till its end, this man had been nothing more than an observer. However much he claimed to be a magus, and a Master, it was not a conflict he could not have been capable of taking part in were not for his Servant. And now, in the midst of all of this confusion, the war itself had ended. As Gordes himself had said again and again – he was truly lost.
“You are right. So think about it from a different angle. Yes, you are arrogant, cocky, and a terrible human being. But as an alchemist, you are… not so bad.”
“Couldn’t you have picked your words a bit more…?”
“Well, you are hardly comparable with the Einzberns.”
At her prompt reply, Gordes fell into silence with a bitter expression.
There was a point in time when the Musik family had very nearly found themselves shoulder-to-shoulder with the Einzberns. However, that had been the height of their glory; they fell into decay afterwards.
“Hmph… well, no doubt that they’ll be spending the next few centuries pouring all of their efforts into a new Greater Grail. Our house of Musik will use that time to surpass them.”
It was practically fantasy. Although the power of the Einzberns had greatly declined from the loss of the Greater Grail, their techniques were beyond compare. The house of Musik would have to be blessed with gifted offspring like Gordes for three entire generations in order to close the gap.
“I see… in that case, begin by extending our lives. I think that you will find the birth of something new, then.”
However, it seemed that Gordes had decided to walk the harder path. After all, it suited his warped nature perfectly that he would reach out for a star which he knew he would never be able to grasp.
“I know that full well. Now, enough chatter, we have little time as it is. Let’s go get that Mystic Code, homunculus… oh, for God’s sake, enough is enough. Get yourself a name like Sieg… something easy to remember.”
The homunculus snorted, and replied with all the derision she could muster.
“It was our idiot of a parent who decided not to give us any names. Reason dictates that you should name all of the surviving homunculi, no?”
“And do not even think about giving us any poor names, or you will find this halberd carving off all of that useless blubber.”
Gordes ground his teeth and muttered under his breath – but unfortunately, he was dealing with a combat homunculus. Their lifespans might be short, but they were all the stronger at both physical and magical combat for it. In short, this homunculus was stronger than her creator.
“What a nightmare…! I should have added a function for unconditional obedience…”
Gordes moaned theatrically, and the homunculus’s lips began to curl slightly.
“I doubt that you are capable of that with your level of skill. But do not worry. As long as we are allies, I assure you that we will not harm you.”
As she said this, she gave him an overly friendly pat on the shoulder. Gordes thought to curse at her – but instead decided to save the heartiest of laughter for her deathbed.
In the end, Gordes did not sleep until he finished fixing all of the homunculi.