Was it wrong for a saint to love, I wonder? Ponder it as I might, I could not think of an answer that satisfied me. Indeed, no other Saint that I could recall could claim a spouse of their own. Prayer offered no answers either, nor did consulting my fellow Servants offer much insight. Save for some jealous glares from a handful of women (I have since tried to avoid being seen by Kiyohime after she threatened to burn my clothes to “see how saintly I would be naked”). When I was alive, I had thought I knew love, but I ran off to war to follow the Lord’s will and left the people I loved behind.
The thought gave me pause, stopping me in the middle of the hallway of Chaldea that I’d been roaming. If I had left my family, would I do the same to him now? Inevitably, yes, the purpose we Servants served Ritsuka would be fulfilled and we would go away. And when it was done, he would be left behind by all of the friends and loved ones he had garnered. “And none of us will remember him if we are summoned again.” I muttered to myself, the thought itself deeply unnerving me. I didn’t want to forget Ritsuka, he was too dear a friend, and the man I was hopelessly in love with.
There were just too many negatives to justify pursuing him romantically. Even if I did approach him, if we all left he would be alone with no one except Mash. My heart clenched once more as I remembered the pink haired Demi Servant, I knew she held a candle for our shared Master. Yet here I was, fretting over if it was proper to love him myself.
How in the wrong was I right now, I began to think as my armor clad feet continued their previous journey. A maiden saint that was in love with a mortal man who also was the target of affections from at least four other women. Perhaps it was best to simply set my own emotions aside, to let another take their place at his side, I reasoned, that way he and another at least would be happy too.
A sound of frustration escaped me when I shook my head to rid myself of those thoughts. “Why must love be so complicated?” I groaned aloud, thankful that the halls were empty; the last thing I needed was anyone seeing me in such a state. Especially my...’other’ self. I suppressed a shudder at the thought of how she would react to this. Probably in disgust and revulsion, so at least she wouldn’t be any more trouble than she already was. I needed to distract myself, to get my mind off of the human. But how could I, when everything in Chaldea in some way would bring him to the forefront of my mind?
“Maybe I should talk to him.” I reasoned, turning around to go back the way I came. “If I air these feelings out, maybe we can come to an understanding.” I wasn’t too confident in my own reasoning but it was all I could think of, short of hiding away from him. Not that it would work, in all likelihood; absence made the heart grow fonder, after all.
I quickly traversed the halls of Chaldea, navigating toward Ritsuka’s room and thankful I didn’t come across anyone else. It was nearing the time for Christmas celebrations, so everyone was no doubt making plans and decorating the more traversed areas. But that was fine, I didn’t need anyone else knowing what was going through my head or the pain my heart was going through. I wasn’t sure how long it took me, but I arrived at Ritsuka’s room far sooner than I really felt comfortable with. I took a steadying breath and held a hand up, knocking on it quietly yet each knock sounded like a bell that sealed my fate in some way.
“Master? Are you there?” I called out when I heard no response, but again received no answer. Frowning a little, I tried the door to find it unlocked. I opened the door to see the room was dim with the only light that was on was a single desk lamp. I slowly stepped in, looking around for Ritsuka but I saw no sign of him. His bed was made, his desk was neat and seemed untouched, his room was spotless save for several small decorations. I even recognized a few that he had pointed out to me before; a French army banner from my time hung above his bed, supposedly acquired from a Singularity I had not been around for, a red rose he had been given by Nero in Rome residing in a small vase on his desk (I tried not to think too much on the reasoning for that particular gift), a picture in a frame resting on his bedside table, and several others no doubt acquired from his many friends among Servants.
Coming further into the room, a large, decorated rug laying in the middle and providing some warmth and color in the otherwise metallic room. My frown only deepened when I saw there was no light coming from his attached bathroom indicating he wasn’t currently here. In fact, if it wasn’t for the way his scent lingered in the room or the decorations, I would have thought this room was unoccupied entirely. Crossing the room to his bed, morbid curiosity guiding me to the picture that seemed to have some special significance to him to have been residing near his bed.
I told myself I shouldn’t be snooping, it was ill-fitting of a maiden and a Saint both, but my curiosity was overwhelming. For a man who was both honest and open about himself, he did not reveal many details about his life before Chaldea. Besides, the only Servant to really go into his room very often was Mash herself, so this was a rare chance to see the Ritsuka that only she saw, selfish as it was. Reaching his bedside table and picking up the frame, I tilted it for the light to get a better look at it, only for my heart to skip and my body to freeze.
The picture was one taken the year prior during a trip to a beach Ritsuka had taken with several other Servants, myself included. And the picture itself was of me, strikingly reminiscent of a magazine or swimsuit model emerging from the water, the sunset in the background and the dolphin I had befriended leaving the shoreline. I could only stare at it in confusion, why, of all pictures he most likely had, did he choose this one? Was it purely out of lust, given how much the white one-piece I had worn clung to me, or was it something else? I lowered myself to sit on his bed, staring at the picture intently as if I could divine the reasoning for keeping this particular picture from it.
I could only vaguely recall when the photo was taken, having not thought much about it at the time. Ritsuka had taken pictures all throughout the trip of anything he thought would be of note, as he often did during their sporadic and few vacation times, so him taking a photo of me hadn’t seemed suspect. Did he take the photo on a lark or had he waited for a chance to take one like this? More questions I didn’t have the answer for, and more questions that made me feel dizzy and my heart to pound like a war drum. “Ritsuka, why do you do this to me?” I sighed, brushing my fingers along the surface of the frame with care. I had hoped coming here would settle me, that, in some small way, he didn’t feel the same as I did and I could put this behind me.
I heard movement outside of his room, the door thankfully having closed after I entered, and I quickly put the picture back in its place on the nightstand. I was thankful for my nature as a Spirit in that instant, as it was only because of it that I was able to cross the room quickly enough so that I was now at the door. I began reaching to open the door, but genuinely jumped in surprise when it opened before I could, revealing the equally surprised face of Ritsuka. “Jeanne? What, uh...what were you doing in my room?”
My cheeks colored quickly, mortified of what might have happened if he’d come in to see me with the picture in hand. In the back of my mind, I noticed he was wearing his arctic uniform, lending him a rugged and militaristic air. “W-Well I-I’d come in to see if you were in, that’s all.” I smiled as best I could, but I could feel how shaky it was. My nervousness grew when Ritsuka raised an eyebrow but calmed just as quickly when he smiled.
“Sorry, Mordred wanted to spar with me all of a sudden.” He laughed, and I could see the faint marks of what looked like marks left by a training sword on his arms. I visibly winced at the thought of him being subjected to the Saber, even in training she left no quarter and was brutal no matter who she was with. “So...what’s up?” Ritsuka asked after a few moments of awkward silence, and I realized the onus was on me to continue.
I felt another burst of panic as my doubt and uncertainty set in again now that I was faced with the moment. “I...um, I wanted to...” Could I say it right now? Could I confess right at that moment to the man I pined for? I took a shuddering breath and was about to speak, looking up to face him when I noticed a certain pink haired girl behind him, a small, familiar creature hanging onto her shoulder. As soon as our eyes locked, I could tell she knew why I was there; was it her intuition or was I that painfully obvious? Either way, with a pained and heavy heart, I realized I couldn’t, not with her there. “I’m sorry, it’s nothing.” I shook my head quickly before running past him, ignoring his and Mash’s calls for me.
I was so close! If I hadn’t seen Mash behind him, I would have said it! Those thoughts hounded me as I raced through the corridors, trying to run from them just as much as Ritsuka and Mash. What had I been thinking, going to his room like that?! What could I have possibly said that would make me appeal to him when he had another so close to him at all times?
Nothing. I could do nothing, so I did...nothing.
“Jeanne seemed really upset, Senpai.” Mash was concerned about our friend, and honestly I was too. “Did...you didn’t do anything lewd toward her did you, Senpai?” She narrowed her eyes a little behind her glasses while Fou trilled at me accusingly from her shoulder. Little, furry traitor.
“I haven’t done a thing, Mash.” I sighed before sitting on my bed, my closest friend seating herself at my desk and giving Fou the chance to jump onto the empty workspace. “Hell, I haven’t known what to do with her ever since...” My gaze turned to the picture on my nightstand, the picture that made me realize how I felt about the Ruler.
“Well...maybe you should say something to her?” Mash adjusted her glasses so they sat a bit higher up her nose. “Isn’t...that what people in love do?”
I laughed at that, a bitter sound now that I thought about it. “Mash, I wish it was that easy.” I smiled sadly and tore my gaze away from the picture to look at her. “But what would I even say? She’s a maiden, a Saint, and I’m just a normal human, number of contracts I’ve made not-withstanding.” I couldn’t help but sigh again, burying my head in my gloved hands. I hated feeling like this, this self-depreciating feeling that always seemed to come around when I tried to envision approaching Jeanne. She loved the Lord with all her heart, her legend confirmed as much, and I was nowhere near the level of any deity in any sense, so how could I?
Mash remained silent for a few moments before I heard the rustling of fabric and movement coming from her direction. I jumped a little when the bed sagged beside me and thin arms looked around me from the left. “Tell her you love her, Senpai.” She muttered, laying her head on my shoulder. “It’s the only way to see what would happen.”
I couldn’t help a chuckle from escaping and I placed a hand on Mash’s head. “When did you get so wise about love?”
“I don’t know.” She answered into my shoulder. “I...am just saying what I believe.” She tightened her hug and I wrapped my left arm around her in response, not having any words for her. Maybe she was right, and I could just tell her how I feel, how I’ve felt.
Maybe I was an idiot for it, but what did I have to lose?