This… this isn’t fair.
The Magus was shouting. After all, what stood in front of him was a Servant, along with the woman who was apparently her Master. They were in the middle of a Holy Grail War; it was hardly strange to find a Servant somewhere.
However, the Magus was not a Master.
The Servant had openly invaded his home, sealing all means of alert beforehand, and denying any resistance on his part by ■■■■■■ him.
This is madness! Have they forgotten the most fundamental principles of the Holy Grail War? I am not a master. I am only a Magus. How can I fight against a Servant?
This was an infraction. A breaking of the rules. Where was the judge? This Servant and her Master ought to be punished. The Magus was not even directly involved in the Holy Grail War, but only in a support role.
Were they even listening? This was unacceptable. He was fully intent on protesting. But he could only croak, and his conscious was leaving him. Just as he considered how strange this was, the Magus involuntarily brought a hand to his own chest.
His hand found an enormous hole, where his heart had been bore clean through. His Magic Crest was giving its all in an attempt to revive him, but with their degraded Crest, all it could manage was prolonging the moment before his death.
Ahh… so I am going to die.
The truth broke him, as fear shut down his mind. Drained of energy, he would never rise again.
Confirming this, the Servant spoke.
“This is a very nice place to live, isn’t it, Mother?”
“Yes, it’s a beautiful home. But we can’t, Jack. This is the house of a Magus… they’re sure to check this place first once their communications network is destroyed.”
The mother explained in a gentle tone of voice to her Servant, who nodded meekly and tossed aside the corpse. It was a decent position geographically, but it seemed they had better find a different spot.
In which case, they should seize any necessities worth taking, and move on to the next location – until she found something that had not been in any of the houses they had broken into before.
“My, a piano… I didn’t know that there were Magi who could play the piano.”
It was a grand piano crammed into a small room. Judging from the relative thickness of the walls, it was likely reinforced with sound dampening measures. There were also a number of rituals and magical mechanisms set-up along the walls. One could surmise that the Magus had pursued his craft via the medium of sound.
Then again, the Magus was not a Master – which made him meaningless to Rikudou Reika. Not so much for the piano, however.
“Can you play it, Mother?”
“I used to. Quite often.”
It was back when both her parents had still been alive. It brought her a sense of nostalgia, but it was not something she wanted to return to. The bliss was far too unfitting for someone like her, thought Reika.
She raised the fallboard. The piano appeared quite well used, but was faithfully maintained. Jack peered at the keys with great interest, poking at one of them lightly with her index finger. A beautiful note echoed through the room. Seeming pleased with the sound, she pressed on the keyboard again and again.
“Hey, Jack, would you like me to play you a song?”
Jack lifted her face, her eyes shining with unusual excitement. Telling her to shut the door, Reika sat down in front of the piano, placed her hand on the keys – and began to think of a song fit for her daughter’s ears. But Reika had a limited repertoire, and there were only a few songs which she was confident she could still play.
“Is there anything in particular you want to hear, Jack? Something sad? Something happy? Anything is fine.”
“Umm… something gentle. We don’t want anything sad or happy.”
The mother murmured in understanding. Recalling a song suited to Jack, she placed her fingers on the keyboard.
“This one is perfect for you.”
Reika began to play a song that was gentle, as requested. It was not somber, yet contained a hint of wistfulness. It was not joyous, but brought calm to its listener. Entranced by the tune, Jack asked for the name of the song.
“Träumerei is its name. Kinderszenen No. 7.”
“It means dream in German, if I remember right.”
The innocent children dream in their sleep. But for the adults who have known all good and evil in the world, dreams become recollections of their past selves. Reika did not know to which the song referred to – perhaps both – but she thought it fitting for Jack, who stood beside the piano as the melody took her away like a dream. Reika even felt some regret as she ended the song, and ended up playing the same song three times.
“We want to hear it again.”
“Once we’ve found a place to settle, I can play it for you as much as you want.”
Reika stroked Jack’s head gently as she craved for more.
As this happened – the battle raged on the plains outside Trifas.
* * *
Ruler awoke in her room in the church’s attic after about five hours of sleep. Thanks to the period of rest, her mind was clear and no longer mired.
Just as she finished carefully cleaning the room she had been lent, it was time for lunch. Offering her help to Alma, they began to prepare a stew together.
As Jeanne stirred the stock pot, a savory aroma rising from its bubbling contents, Alma who stood beside her toasting bread spoke out abruptly.
“May I ask you a question, Jeanne?”
“Of course. What is it?”
“Do you believe in the Lord?”
Dumbfounded by the impossible question, Jeanne turned to look at her. Alma wore a troubled smile as she waited for the girl’s response.
“Of course… of course, I believe in Him.”
“It’s often ridiculed by the world at large that only those who believe would receive salvation… that the non-believers would not be cared for, and were doomed.”
“It is an incorrect assumption to begin with. It is arrogance to pray for the rapture to occur before the great tribulation.”
Expressing joy in the company of the joyful, and shedding tears alongside the desolate in their hour of sorrow. It was the base condition of being a believer.
“I see… and would that be why you yourself had not been saved?”
The kitchen fell into a sudden silence. Jeanne, without looking up from the stew, shook her head at Alma’s words.
“No, it has nothing to do with myself. The fires of execution were not the result of Him abandoning me. It was the fate that I had chosen.”
She was finally finished with the stew.
Apparently, Alma was a Watcher of the Church, ordered to keep watch over the Yggdmillennia clan, reporting at the first sign of activity and fulfilling the regular duties of a sister otherwise. It was not an easy job; for one, in the twenty years since her assignment, there had been no real movements at all.
However, that quickly changed a few months ago. Family members from all over the world began to congregate, working through the nights to perform rituals. Large amounts of resources were transported into the city and the situation clearly pointed to the deployment of some powerful magecraft. Despite Alma’s reports, the Church was delayed in its response and failed to intervene in the Holy Grail War until it had nearly begun.
“When did you find out about me?”
“At first, I thought you were a Magus of the Yggdmillennia. There aren’t many tourists to this city, after all. I was contacted later and got quite a shock.”
“Hmm… so why did you let me stay here if you thought I was a Magus?”
“Oh? And what does that have to do with anything? Our doors are always open to those who seek our aid.”
Seeing the elegant smile appear on Alma’s face made Jeanne smile back in return.
“Can I ask something, as well? Why weren’t you surprised by this?”
“I did not think that a small city like Trifas would have a proper church in the first place. While I cannot speak of other Magi, I knew that the Yggdmillennias had survived by spreading their blood widely.”
But it was not as though she had been doubting Alma all this time.
“And, in any case, even if a member of the Church knew of my existence, I did not think it would be a problem.”
Ruler belonged to the side that protected the order of the Holy Grail War – she was an overseer. The existing overseer of this Holy Grail War had unilaterally decided to join the Red camp, but Jeanne had no way to know that when she first arrived. By now, she understood that it was Shirou Kotomine who had spun things out of control on his own judgment.
“So, Alma, how much do you know?”
“Not very much, other than that the overseer sent by our side is no longer under our control.”
Alma replied impassively.
“I see… well, there is no issue then. The Holy Grail War is under my jurisdiction, so I would prefer a free rein in handling it.”
For an instant, Jeanne considered proposing an alliance with the Church. However, there was the fear that their interference would invite further chaos into the proceedings. Although Amakusa Shirou Tokisada was never canonized, he did belong to the Church, and that would convert the conflict into infighting.
“Oh? Is that so? To be honest, I think I’m quite glad to hear that. As it stands, it looks like there is some friction with the Association, as well.”
It was only natural, Jeanne thought. Based on what she heard from Mordred’s Master, Shishigou Kairi, the Association had brought in freelance Magi at great costs to cover all their bases before joining the war. It must have been a slap in the face to discover that the overseer betrayed them, and had planned to do so since the start. And, as Shishigou said, they had been an acceptable expense. Without the freelancers, the Association might now decide to pour their full strength into the war.
“So you mean to say that both the Association and the Church will only observe for the time being, more or less?”
“Yes… I believe that’s correct. We do not consider a fake Holy Grail to be worth such fixation. It’s all the more unfortunate that Father Kotomine would be so obsessed with obtaining that wish-granter.”
Alma confirmed her assumption, and Jeanne let out a sigh of relief. While any aid was appreciated, further interventions would be troublesome. This Holy Grail War was abnormal enough as it was.
“We also don’t have a full picture of the situation, after all. Interfering in a situation where our own agent has gone renegade would only create further doubts.”
That is fine by me. And… may I ask one last question?”
“Yes, go ahead.”
“Why did you go out of your way to reveal yourself to me? I doubt it will cause any issue, but I do not see any need to, either.”
“Oh, you’ve forgotten something very important.”
As Jeanne tilted her head in confusion, Alma gave her a mischievous smile.
“Jeanne d’Arc… you are the great holy maiden who brought light back into the world. Was it wrong of me to wish to speak with such a person?”
Jeanne’s eyes widened.
“Oh, um, mmmm… yes, I see, you are right. But… surely you exaggerate. I am neither great nor did I bring light…”
Jeanne lowered her eyes in embarrassment. It was true that her name had gained some recognition in the world. She would not have been summoned as a Servant otherwise. However, to have someone else speak directly of her admiration for Jeanne was highly discomforting.
“People of the world know of your sacrifice. It brings tears to their eyes, and indignation in their hearts. You might not have intended it, but your actions have become a source of motivation for others. I think that’s something to be proud of. In fact… it was learning about you that made me decide to become a sister.”
Jeanned chatted with Alma for a while longer before saying goodbye to the church. Although reluctant to leave, she could hardly have stayed there forever. However, in the midst of her regret, she recalled the sight of Alma waving her hand.
It was a strange sensation, leaving one’s name for the generations to come. It was not the same as the welcome and acclaim she would receive upon freeing a city with the army at her back. The common folk had entrusted their hopes to her, that she would free their country. But it was different for Alma, who had learned of La Pucelle’s end. She learned that Jeanne d’Arc had carried something with her – faith. And she knew the tragedy of the holy maiden who had faded into the flames. That was the standard “image” of Jeanne d’Arc to this world.
‘You changed the world, you know. Much more than you realize.’
Alma had said that. Perhaps that was something for her to be proud of. But something snagged in her thoughts. Her existence did bring change to the world – but it was through the sowing of the seeds of disasters.
Jeanne shook her head as her thoughts changed tracks. It was something she would never forget, but it was not something she could worry about now. It had long since ended.
If only she could have spoken to him after her burning. Perhaps she could have comforted him. However, their lives had ended far in the distant past. There would be no resolution, no way to entrust it to what had been the future. Even so, to see that great Marshall of days past fall so far…
That alone would remain nothing but a source of sorrow to her.
Collecting herself, Jeanne paid a visit to the Fortress of Millennia. It had barely been half a day since she parted with Alma, but the air already felt somewhat gloomy and dim.
As she arrived at the gate, a homunculus opened it and greeted her.
“Lady Ruler. Has there been a development?”
It was one of the leaders of the homunculi – the one with rather sharp eyes who wielded a halberd in her hand.
“No, that is not why I am here…”
“Ah, you have come to see Sieg, then. I will lead you to his room. Follow me.”
“That… is why I am here, I suppose.”
It was true that she felt worried about letting him out of her sight. While she believed Sieg to be highly intelligent and collected, he was also the type to become exceedingly reckless once his mind was set on something. And that was without mentioning his Servant, the wild and devil-may-care Astolfo.
“She is, well, less of a Park and more of a Drive kind of Rider…”
Astolfo not only had no brakes, but had an afterburner. The Servant would not only allow Sieg’s recklessness, but encourage it.
As these absent thoughts crossed her mind, the homunculus leading her came to a stop.
“Here we are. It is almost time for the others to wake up and take over for me, so I will go sleep now. Excuse me.”
Seeing the homunculus off, Jeanne turned to face the door again. She tried knocking but there was no response. Was Sieg still asleep? After some hesitation, Jeanne tentatively open the door.
In a word, the room was a mess. Discarded pieces of clothing were left here and there, and several emptied bottles of wine had laid on the floor. There was even a spot where the stone wall had been broken. She wondered what had happened.
There was a large double bed in the center of the room where Sieg was sleeping, his face buried in a pillow and the sheets wrapped around him.
“So he is still asleep…”
Sieg did not even twitch as she murmured. Rider was nowhere to be found but definitely close at hand, so he must be in his spirit form.
Perhaps due to his birth as a homunculus, Sieg appeared rather androgynous, like the other homunculi in the castle – though he leaned more towards female, with not a single strand of facial hair on him. It might depress Sieg to hear it, but Jeanne found an elegance in the homunculi, as works of art.
If the Rider Astolfo were a single pure bloom flowering gracefully – then the homunculi like Sieg were painstakingly polished gems. She could not compare and rank their different forms of beauty.
Sieg was in deep sleep. Perhaps it would be better to wait until he woke up by himself. Previously, they had both been utterly exhausted and ended up squeezing themselves onto a single, small bed. He definitely deserved to take up the entire double bed himself this time.
Without warning, the peaceful rhythm of his breathing changed.
Some voiceless pain distorted his expression, and his skin became pallid, like he suddenly lost a great amount of blood. For an instant, Jeanne felt a chill run down her spine as Sieg’s life force weakened.
Jeanne shook his shoulders in a panic, calling his name. When she did it a second time, Sieg’s eyes snapped open.
Whispering hoarsely, Sieg reached out to her. Jeanne hastened to take his hand and was relieved to feel his weak grip in return. However, his condition was serious beyond doubt.
“Are you all right? I will heal you right away…”
“No, I just saw a bad dream. It’s nothing. I’m not hurt.”
Saying this, Sieg placed a hand on his chest over his heart – the heart that once belonged to a hero. As he said, his sweat was clearing and the blood was coming back to his face. With no external injuries, one would be hard pressed to find anything wrong with him. As though Death himself had decided to move on, his soul remained in one piece.
“Are you sure that you are all right? Could it have been some kind of curse, or…?”
“That’s not it, Ruler. This isn’t magecraft. It… isn’t.”
Sieg muttered as he continued pressing on his own heart.
Just as Jeanne was about to question the meaning of his words, she finally noticed some strangeness in the scene. Sieg had already raised his upper body off the bed, so only his waist and legs were still hidden beneath the sheets – but she found the mound oddly large.
“Where is Astolfo?”
“Oh, right here.”
Sieg rolled up the sheets, revealing the Rider that was wrapped around his legs. In spite of the turmoil that just occurred, he was still soundly asleep, a far cry from the image of a Servant protecting his Master. But more importantly…
“…Sieg, what is going on here?”
It was the lowest that Sieg had ever heard Jeanne’s voice go, sounding like when she was fighting – a deep rumble that shook him to his insides. The dauntless voice would inspire brave deeds in her allies, and cause her enemies to quiver. For some strange reason, Sieg could not help but hear it from the latter perspective.
“Well… I guess he took it off while we were asleep.”
Sieg glanced at the various bits of clothing scattered around the room. It was most likely something he received from Celenike, but Rider had changed into proper pajamas before he went to sleep. One might question why he did not simply go into his spirit form, but suggesting that would definitely send him into a teary-eyed protest, as though he was being dismissed.
Although Sieg possessed little knowledge as a Magus, having been forged with Magic Circuits as his core, the quality of said Circuits were top of the line. As such, there was no issue with letting Rider maintain his physical form for long periods…
“…that was not what I meant.”
That was scary.
Anyway, Sieg could infer that Jeanne was probably taking issue with Astolfo’s sleeping clothes being half gone. The buttons on the top half were all undone, revealing a white body. And the bottom half had moved downwards, apparently having pulled them off while sleeping.
Certainly, it was not a sight meant for the eyes of others. He was basically half naked. In any case, Sieg should wake him up.
“Rider, get up.”
Mewling like a cat, Astolfo arched his back and rose from the bed. Jeanne swallowed her breath. With narrowed eyes, Astolfo glared at his surroundings, before giving a nod as though he realized something.
He fell asleep again. Left with no choice, Sieg pulled on Astolfo’s ears.
“Wake up, you useless Servant.”
“I’m not useless! I’m a useful Servant! So many Noble Phantasms!”
Dramatically, Astolfo rose up, swinging both arms wildly in a fierce show of protest.
“Good morning, Rider.”
Hearing this, Astolfo waved his hand, lazily grinning from ear to ear.
“Oh, it’s Ruler. Good morning… what? Did something happen?”
“Yes, I suppose something did. But leaving that aside for now. Can I ask you something, Rider?”
Jeanne cleared her throat, and then pointed at Astolfo in accusation.
“Why are you in such a shameful state?”
“Eh? Ooh, when did I take these off…? Is this shameful?”
Jeanne nodded her head strongly. Astolfo grumbled as he removed his pajamas completely before equipping his armor.
“Do not stand on the sheets while wearing your boots!”
“Who cares about that? You’re so fussy. I’m not making them dirty… I think.”
“Well…? How did this happen?”
“How did what happen?”
“This! Why were you, um, sleeping together with Sieg?”
Astolfo looked truly confused as his head turned almost a perfect 90 degrees.
“But he’s my Master, right? And I’m his Servant, right?”
“T-That is true, but there was no need to sleep in the same bed together!”
“…You did, though.”
Astolfo said quietly, and Jeanne froze. After opening and closing her mouth a few times like a fish, she turned to Sieg.
“Did… did you tell Rider?”
Sieg nodded in bemusement.
“Should I not have? I didn’t think there was anything to hide…”
“Oh, um, no, of course not…”
Jeanne looked at him with some unknown resentment.
“It’s not like anything shady happened. Right, Master?”
Strangely, Sieg could not help feeling that there was no joy in Astolfo’s laugh. In fact, there was no laughter at all in his eyes as he glared at Jeanne.
“Well… I am sure that nothing shady could have possibly happened from yesterday till today, either.”
“Oh, you never know. Maybe something will happen tomorrow.”
Astolfo smiled as he looked defiantly at Jeanne, who returned it with an intense glare.
“I am simply requesting that you do not cause a disturbance with your appearance.”
“I’m a Heroic Spirit, though. There are plenty of naked Heroic Spirits, you know?”
“That does not matter! And Sieg is still a child, so you should take extra care to be responsible!”
“My Master’s not a child! He can make his own decisions. He can act on his own. He’s a grown-up! What’s wrong with you, anyway? Aren’t you the indecent one, charging into other people’s rooms this early in the morning? Without even knocking!”
“I did knock! You were asleep! And it’s noon already!”
The two Servants glowered at one another, gnashing their teeth. Sieg raised his hands and tried to calm the pair down, but was completely ignored. It was quite disheartening.
“Just… act more prudently, please.”
“No! It’s when I sleep with my Master that I feel all fired up!”
“God forbid! The wrongness of it!”
“My, my. Crimes of passion, is it?”
An unexpected voice called out to them. Jeanne and Astolfo turned at the same time and saw Chiron peering into the room from the door. He held a hand over his mouth as he chuckled – a rare act for the Servant.