It was… a brilliant dream.
It was the radiance of glory, as though all blessings in the world had gathered at this ceremony. It was the crowning of Prince Charles as King of France, after his victorious march into Reims – the dream and hope of all the French people.
Jeanne d’Arc had lifted the siege of Orleans and continued the fight against the English. It was by her decisive victory at the battle of Patay that the crowning could be realized. She, a young girl of seventeen years of age, had command of the French army. Scandalmongers might have seen her as little more than a symbol, an ornament at the helm of the French army. However, all the men who followed behind her would surely dispute such a claim.
If her presence had been nothing but symbolic, she needed only to have waved her banner from the rear – but the girl had always stood at the front line of battle. Although she never once drew her holy sword from its scabbard, it could not be doubted that she had fought alongside them.
The dream passed, carried away by the currents – and what came after the brief shimmer of glory was a swift fall into the dark.
It was a trial for heresy. The days passed as her enemies sneered at her and caused her pain, revenging themselves upon her. Yet despite bringing her suffering, the trial had changed nothing in the end. Her homeland had been freed from its bonds, and her dream had been realized.
To give a concrete measure of time, she had only watched it for a short two years, never feeling bored by what she saw. She had listened to the voice of God and thrown herself into combat. She chose her battles, even as she knew that she would be betrayed. In spite of this, she made the decision to fight until the very end.
Why did she do this? What was it all for? She had asked herself many times.
‘…was it to atone for your sins?’
Was it punishment for the deaths that she had caused?
‘…did you want to save as many as you can?’
Was it a prayer to bring salvation to at least one more life before her banner was broken?
‘Or was it…’
Or was it because she believed it to be just?
Jeanne knew – I knew – there were those who claimed that God had abandoned her.
I knew, of a man who was brought to insanity by his own despair, lamenting the fate of this sinless girl.
What did you think about him?
I was saddened, knowing that he had turned his back on God – and I was unable to tell him that God had not rebuked me at all.
I had faced the battle of Compiegne, knowing that my path would end in flames.
Then why did you fight, knowing how it would turn out?
I knew that my death would not be in vain. I brought hope for the future, even if I were not rewarded for it. In death, Jeanne d’Arc would become the force that took back her country and put a stop to the bloodshed.
Perhaps it had only been a fleeting footnote in history, beginning and ending without fanfare.
Perhaps it had only brought salvation to a handful of souls, quickly lost to the flow of time.
Perhaps it had all been meaningless in the end, and all she accomplished had been for nothing.
Did you ever think so?
No… I never did. Even when they bound me to the stake, I never felt any hatred for them.
I had already surrendered my flesh to Him.
You are strong.
Thank you… though I would not be here now without your help. Luck smiled upon me the day I met you, and for that I can only express gratitude, from the bottom of my heart.
This is my last question… Was it really all right to bring him along with us?
The words pierced my heart like thorns. It was the dull pain that I had kept hidden from the others all this time, my one source of hesitation.
Sieg – the boy had declared his name with such pride. He was a paradoxical existence, filled with both immaturity and experience. Despite dearly wishing not to become involved in the battles, he himself challenged the enemy as a Master.
I knew that I was being sentimental. The boy should be counted as another asset of this war. And above all, I could hear the whispers, reaching out to me from somewhere, that he would be needed.
It was guidance coming from Heaven itself, and never before had it proven wrong. The boy had come into possession of Siegfried’s heart, and by lightning’s strike gained even the strength of Servants. It was absolutely necessary to bring him back to the field of battle; he would not have resurrected from his death otherwise. His powers as a Servant would be required still in what was to come.
To this final question, I could reach no answer.
“I do not know. Truly, I do not.”
The girl who had asked fell into a nearly mournful silence. I knew painfully well that she was concerned for the boy’s well-being.
Holy Grail Wars, Servants, Thaumaturgy – Leticia had accepted all of these things and continued to act as an observer. She had placed her trust in my words, and left everything in my hands. The choices made by the Servant Ruler would be her choices; she had accepted that. However, there was one thing that the girl held firm to.
The pawn of fate who continued to march forward, his will unwavering – the girl continued to care for him. Unfortunately, he knew nothing of the girl inside me – even though it was she who looked to him, and loved him, more than anyone else.
Is that so?
The girl said to me with a mystified expression. I could hardly blame her; after all, vague ‘similarities’ were not the only things shared by the girls called Jeanne d’Arc and Leticia. They were alike not only in terms of physicality or personality or birth, but they were of a similar nature even in the color of their souls. In other words – given the same knowledge as Jeanne d’Arc, there was no doubt that Leticia would take nearly all the same actions as me. That would mean, of course, that I also cared for Sieg and held affection for him. At least, Leticia would think so.
However, that was not the case. She was wrong.
He does not want to fight… but he would not possibly abandon us.
I do not want him to fight… but his power was needed.
It is not a lie… but I have not told all of the truth.
It was an unbearable contradiction within me – a lie. I hid away the truth and turned my eyes away from it. It would seem that the great blessing in finding someone to walk the path with – a privilege normally denied to Servant Ruler – had blinded me.
I should leave him behind, I thought. Yet I was convinced that he would come after me, regardless.
Everything that took place in this Great Holy Grail War had its meaning. Every single Servant was an important existence – and it was no mistake that Sieg, capable of being possessed by one of them for 180 seconds for three more times, had a purpose to serve.
That was the decisive difference between Leticia and me. More than anything else, the hazy thoughts that the girl held for Sieg trampled over Servant Ruler.
I had no right to even think about him, much less care for him or love him. All I could do was to seal those thoughts in some distant corner of my mind, behind as many locks, under as many layers of wrappings, and bound with as many chains as I could – so that no one would see them.
So that no one would fault me.