While Chaldea's small temple served many of the religious activities of select servants and employees, its constant use made it less than ideal to use as a meditation area. A particular group of Asian servants decided, with the permission from Chaldea's council, to construct a small place of their own and for anyone else who wished to find inner peace. Construction began near the chapel on an outer wall of Chaldea so they had room to expand into the mountain if necessary. The servants decided to do this of their own accord instead of asking the Engineering Division and Furniture Department for help.
Thanks mainly to Nobunaga's excessive use of her custom bombs, the employees wound up getting involved anyway for everyone's sanity and safety.
Within a week, the Shrine, as it has come to be called, was completed and ready for use. It had a completely Asian aesthetic to bring a sense of home to the group of servants and was thankfully one of the less demanding things to be built within Chaldea. It had a large, main dojo for both meditation and martial arts practice which was separated from the rest of the shrine by a shoji. On the other side of the translucent paper wall were some changing rooms, smaller shrines, and a gathering place that served as a lobby. It was everything they could have possibly needed to have a small place of their own for various activities.
Inside the dojo, quiet meditation silenced the air. On top of the traditional tatami mats sat the four servants currently occupying the large room, each having their own spots within the silent chamber yet remaining fairly close to each other. All of them save one were clad in their own hakamas, colors varying between them greatly. Okita was knelt on the ground, hands on her lap, in her usual Hakama in shades of lighter and hotter pinks. Across from her, separated by a few meters, was Sasaki in his blue and white variation.
Both had their eyes closed and remained silent, much like the other two who joined them. Adjacent but fairly spaced from Okita sat a rider whose long, flowing black hair matched the shade of Okita's hair tie. It pooled on the ground behind the red bottom of her clothing. A black kanmuri perched itself on her head, which was a gift from the room's assassin.
To the head of the room, opposite the shoji entrance that led to the hallway, sat the last member who often led the meditations and gatherings. He wore a white topped kimono of Heian period design, its brown bottoms tucked neatly with his legs. A well-trimmed chin strap adorned his sharp angled face with a brown wrap covering the top of his otherwise bald head. A single silver earring hung from his right ear which didn't move as he let out a slow yet silent exhale.
Sasaki briefly opened his eyes to look across towards Okita. His eyes swung towards the rider next to her, then back across to the lancer before slowly closing once more with an exhale. Since his arrival as Chaldea's first servant, he often kept himself alone but worked with the others as instructed by his master. It wasn't that he minded being alone since he very much enjoyed the quiet solitude for himself, especially after a summoning involving a crazy caster. Simply explained, he just didn't see himself forming a close bond with anyone in Chaldea that extended beyond allied camaraderie and small talk.
It was obviously different now compared to many months ago. He was on good terms with many servants, some even greatly enjoying his jests and sense of humor. There were not many closer to him than those who used the Shrine, and they were directly responsible for how large his strides were in forging an interesting life in Chaldea. Tamamo and Kintoki played their part too, though they would occasionally be absent from the meditations sessions like they were today.
As Sasaki exhaled, he mentally went over his head what he had scheduled today. His basic routine was straightforward, broken only by spontaneous events and supply sorties; He enjoyed the occasional distraction and chance to sharpen his skills. Silently he smirked and broke any remaining meditation, relishing quietly in how far he's come from simply considering himself another expendable resource.
The period his tale originated from had countless casualties, and his death was to be considered just a number when it finally came. He was chastised often about that cold viewpoint by Gudao, and slowly with the help of the unexpected life he found in Chaldea, he realized it couldn't be considered that way anymore. The assassin had formed too many friendships and bonds to just disappear. Thus, he decided that so long as he had them, his newly enriched living quality, and a spectacular duel or two, he was more than content with enjoying a day-by-day reality his tale never considered.
Fragment 17: As Real as it Gets
"You're still okay for the sparring session at two, Sasaki-san?" Okita asked with a hopeful tone.
"Of course. I'll meet you and Ushiwakamaru at the training grounds," He replied evenly with a small smile. "Let's hope there's no one else there."
"Sharing the field is rather troublesome with the berserkers," The rider agreed as the shoji slid open.
Sasaki and the rest returned to meditation as soon as Benkei stepped back into the dojo. Once more he let his mind wander fondly over many memories his long time in Chaldea. He had often done this alone until a week after the France campaign when the fellow Asian servant arrived. The lancer had approached him rather quickly, offering a friendly greeting and the usual pleasantries of hoping to fight side by side well. After countless small talks and invitations to sit with him, the two had begun to form a small friendship and even began meditating together in Salon de Marie, which was the only real quiet spot before the Shrine was constructed.
Soon they had Okita and Nobunaga as well, and they realized they needed a better spot for three of them to meditate so they wouldn't bother anyone. Since then, their small group had grown and he had come to make lasting, almost family-like bonds with the servants around him. Unlike the other various relations with different servants, this small group gave him that tiny sense of home which was a concept he has never felt before. It was a comforting serenity he enjoyed.
On the battlefield clashing sword against sword in an honorable duel was where he found his calling. But here in the Shrine, he found a small semblance of belonging he could have for the first time outside of his private room. It was forged with the help of those he's chosen to surround himself with. These heroic spirits were fierce teammates on the battlefield, and peaceful company off of it, and he found the duality a welcom- An almost evil cackling fit interrupted his thoughts.
...And then there's Nobunaga.
Everyone's eyes had opened to face Okita with amused stares. She simply nodded with a small smile and a sigh before gracefully getting up from her position. Quietly she made her way towards the shoji that separated the dojo from the rest of their small sanctuary. Sliding the paper wall open, she stepped through before subtly closing it behind her. There was more silence as her barely audible footsteps disappeared down the hall. The remaining servants simply closed their eyes once more and returned to their own meditative states. They still had a bit of time before breakfast star-
"Nobunaga! How many times does Gudao have to tell you not to make your bombs in our shrine's-" A sudden coughing fit erupted.
"Ah! Okita! Don't get blood on my prank bomb components!"
"What do you mean prank bomb!?"
"What else do you think I mean!? I'm gonna get that Blackbeard back like I swore!"
"This better not be like the last one!"
"You can't tell me what to do! Become my retainer and I'll consider it!"
More coughing. "As if!"
Within the small dojo, the occupants smiled quietly before returning to their own meditation.
¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ III ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨
"You seem much deeper in thought today than usual."
"You know me too well, Benkei."
The lancer smiled, his near pitch black eyes somehow shining with mirth. "Well enough to barely notice, my friend."
"Just thinking about my interesting schedule tonight, that's all."
"I understand," The lancer stated with a small nod, hands still folded in front of him on the cafeteria table. "At least you're not nervous about it, I can tell that much."
Sasaki chuckled to himself as he took a sip from his cup of green tea that a robot had placed on the table for them. Several cups remained stacked for the other occupants who were had yet to arrive, while two rested on saucers in front of the servants as steam rose gently from their contents. Another robot hovered by to drop a pitcher of water which was casually waved away by the lancer, the robot dipping in place as acknowledgment since they couldn't nod a head. As it floated past the door to serve another table of early arrivals, the entrance swung open and the laughing of children was heard.
Illya and Gilgamesh walked into the cafeteria and looked around before the magical girl skipped over to the table adjacent to the Asian servants. She wore a knee-length white skirt with a long sleeved, purple formal shirt with golden accents. A white neck piece and magenta boots rounded out the outfit her parents got for her as a small purple purse swung at her side. Gilgamesh followed behind with a small smile and his hands in his blue sweater. His over-sized tan shorts swung as his sneakers squeaked quietly with every step of his approach. As the young girl reached the table, she gave a small wave to the two servants who waved back.
"You're here early today, Illya," Benkei noted with a small smile.
"Mhm," She replied quickly as Gilgamesh walked up next to her and stopped. "I wanted to get here earlier so we could ask privately."
The lancer and assassin looked at each other with some confusion before turning back to look at Gilgamesh, who nodded. "I just wanted to be sure it was alright if I sat with the girls today. I know my older self gave the two of you some choice words you probably didn't appreciate."
They were choice words indeed, but one shared between them and a third servant. The older version had called them fakers of a different degree, stating they were an embarrassment to Heroic Spirits for not even properly existing in the first place. "Such forgery is an eyesore. Feel thankful that you are not worth the effort of execution for such crimes."
It did bother the two to hear it, as it's the very reason they bonded so well, but it didn't get to them. They knew they were fakes and accepted it. The assassin had long since come to terms even before his arrival in Chaldea, but those choice words were not from the servant currently standing before them. It was still surprising to fully comprehend this small boy was vastly different than his older self even if they shared the memories.
Sasaki chuckled and nodded towards him. "I'm certain I speak for both of us when I say it's alright so long as it's you, young Gilgamesh."
"Thank you!" Illya smiled and turned to her companion, the two of them swiftly high fiving each other to chuckles from the older pair. They soon made their way to their own seats.
The older servants observed the two, quietly appreciating how the more arrogant Gilgamesh was a far cry from the much friendlier child that went about Chaldea. It was a pleasant change from the usual. He had been abrasive to nearly everyone, including Gabrielle, and they were saddened to learn that Illya was no exception in an alternate life. Yet here they were, getting along just fine simply because Illya knew a child Gilgamesh and they were allies then too.
It seems there were some benefits to not being aware, especially when her adopted older brother decided to keep her ignorant of that information so long as she was happy; The family was not looking forward to the first Memorial Essence should one actually arrive. They would simply be there for her when the time comes, one could only presume. Until that sad day, the only reflection of her alternate life was her family's say in part of her wardrobe.
"I see you finally got your new outfits, Illya?" Benkei observed as the young girl took a seat at the table.
She turned around in her chair and nodded. "Yea! They came this morning! It was annoying of wearing my school uniforms every day when there's no classes. At least it was only for a few days."
"Alice and I told her she looks cute in it, but she doesn't agree," Gilgamesh stated with a flat tone, smirking as Illya's cheeks turned a small shade of pink. "She's difficult."
"I didn't disagree, I just don't think it's as cute as everyone says. Even Jackie and Alice!"
"And Kuro," Ruby stated as the winged head of the wand flew into view after freeing itself from her small purse. "But I agree. It's certainly not as cute as Illya's sleeping faces~! Would any of you be intere-"
"Ruby I told you to delete those!" Illya practically screamed as she jumped out of her seat to begin chasing her wand.
The kaleidostick simply laughed haughtily as it ducked and weaved around the cafeteria. "Why~? Your parents sure did enjoy that album though, yes they did~!"
Gilgamesh sat laughing at the table as the two older servants chuckled. The doors to the room swung open revealing the remaining three girls of the group who stared blankly as Illya chased her wand around the room. Kuro simply sighed while the other two giggled at what they had to deal with on a near daily basis between the white haired, young caster and her very lively wand.
¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ IV ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨
A man with long, brown hair stood perfectly at attention with an ornate silver sword on his hip. The blade had a bronze cross guard and handle, with designs running down the center of the business end as engraved decoration. The fair skinned man's brown eyes would occasionally meet with a passing employee before giving a small smile and a simple nod. The employees would often return the gesture with a smile or wave of their own, and even the robots gave a nice multi-armed greeting to the friendly servant. Dressed in tan formal pants and a vest, coupled with a white formal shirt and red tie, he looked more like an entertainer than a vault guard.
The man's eyes met the indigo eyes of Sasaki as he approached casually, the servant now wearing his traditional umanori hakama and purple haori, his regular battle garments, in place of the casual one crafted by the tailors. His geta tapped lightly against Chaldea's floors as he nodded towards the fellow servant with a smile. The well-dressed man returned the nod.
"Enjoy your late breakfast, Saint George."
"Many thanks, Sasaki. I hope your shift is ordinary."
"Not too mundane, I hope," Sasaki chuckled back as he took his place at the vault door. The saint made his way down the hall towards the direction of the stairs as the assassin placed his blade down.
Sasaki leaned against the wall near the vault entrance, closing his eyes and humming to himself. His arms were crossed neatly and his long blade rested next to him. Employees and robots alike passed by over the course of the following hour, paying no real attention to one of the other servants usually guarding the vault. The employees knew that Chaldea's first servant treasured his peace and quiet at times, so they left him relatively alone. The occasional one would send a quiet greeting his way which was returned with a nod and a small smile. Those acts were few and far between as his shift continued in relative peace.
The assassin never actually minded the guard duty as opposed to the one given to him in a previous summoning.
He wasn't glued to a ley line underneath a temple gate, and the occasional servant who would stop to help him pass the time was a nice treat. Not once did he have to lift his blade to defend the vault, and he hoped it would never come to it even if he always welcomed a challenge. The amount of stored energy in that hardened room was practically an artificial ley line, albeit with a finite amount of tapping potential. It made sense for it to be guarded directly by a servant, and so long as there weren't any overly threatening women bearing down on him he was more than content.
Speaking of women...
He felt the approach of a specific spiritual reading and smirked. Opening his eyes, he turned towards the source as it came into view, not bothering to hide his amusement as Gabrielle made her way towards him in her usual master uniform, a slight scowl growing on her face. Instead of moving to the other side of the wall, Sasaki gently lifted his sword and scooted a bit further from the nearby security terminal before resuming his previous posture, eyes still locked onto his female master. As she approached, Sasaki could only chuckle at the small growl she made as her eyes narrowed.
"Not today, please."
"Only if you get it on the fifth try. Tesla upgraded the scanner again."
Gabrielle's face fell in disbelief. "Why does everything need an up- Oh forget it."
Sasaki chuckled as Gabrielle placed her hand on the scanner as the eye reader adjusted to her height. Scanning her eyes and hand, she smiled and gave a quiet cheer as the machine beeped in confirmation before the vault door began its unlocking sequence. Sasaki raised his eyebrows in surprise as his female master gently pulled down on one of her eyelids and stuck her tongue out at him in a childish expression. The servant simply laughed as the vault door opened for the magus.
"Well I'll be. I concede, for I am defeated this time."
"No more pesky comments from you today!"
"I guess so," He chuckled before looking at his master inquisitively. Catching the look before she entered the vault, she looked back at him with a slightly tilted head. "I thought you and Gudao weren't doing multiple summonings today."
"We weren't. But an azoth dagger appeared so he's doing one of his little spite roulette rolls to make up for it," Gabrielle giggled. "I told him I should have been the one to throw the lever."
¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ V ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨
"White thread if you please."
"Har har, Medea."
The caster laughed as she casually tossed the spool of thread towards her employee friend. The spool floated in midair when it neared her, Naomi having caught the spool using telekinesis. Thanks to some coaching from Gabrielle, the ability had grown a bit stronger where she could manipulate small items in motion, though it was still very much combat impractical. Not that the tailor magus cared as the spool unwound and attached itself to a needle. It began its intricate design on a sleeve of the dress the two women were working on within the supervisor's office of the busy clothing department.
It was a red dress, to be accented with white floral patterns on the edges of the sleeves and collar. Medea was currently humming to herself as she sewed the chosen design onto the collar, giving it a little bit of her own signature style but still complimenting what Naomi did with the sleeves. As the tailor worked on the left one, she manipulated the other needles casually using her abilities on the right. Before she would have had to look constantly at what she was doing, but her precision and skill had grown in the recent months to speed up her work flow. She already had the ability to sew and knit while blindfolded, but now she can do two under such conditions.
It also helped Chaldea wasn't receiving an influx of servants recently so the Clothing Department wasn't swamped. If anything, Naomi and her staff found more free time when servants weren't requesting repairs on some choice garments. Kiyohime and Tamamo, with their constant fighting, were always the main culprits; The dress they were currently making was an improved replacement of an old one Kiyohime had almost torn off of Tamamo a few months back. It was only now she requested a replacement albeit reluctantly, apparently aware how much ire they cause the department sometimes.
The doors to the room opened but the two didn't pay any attention to it since it was currently active hours.
The staff managed the order acquisition and most of the tasks, and they did it with much better moods since Naomi lost some of her 'attitude issues.' She had respect now, which was without a doubt, but some even considered her a mentor now that she was imparting knowledge through informal personal training and giving constructive criticism. The tailor obviously couldn't do it for the robots, but they were always happy to work regardless if she was her previous stickler self or not. So the pair of women continued to work, paying no heed to the servant talking at the front desk until they began to approach her large office.
The pair stopped and looked towards the approaching Sasaki as he held a tray full of assorted lunch dishes and accompanying beverages. Naomi eyed the kettle of coffee with a glint of total delight in her eyes threatening to make the room's overhead lighting look dim. Medea's eyes were not quite as delighted by a long shot, focusing on the servant with an almost blank expression and an accompanying, barely concealed scowl. Sasaki simply ignored her with a tiny smirk, making the caster's blood pressure rise the slightest bit.
"Unfortunately, Vlad was ensnared by Nero and her group for a game of Anomia. As I was heading this way anyway, I offered to bring your lunch in his place."
"Poor Vlad. But thank you, Sasaki. You can leave it on top of the dresser next to my desk," Naomi stated before she plucked a cup and the kettle off of the tray. She began pouring herself her favorite drink almost greedily. "How is the fit on your latest kimono?"
"Perfect as always. I hope my order wasn't problematic."
"Your orders? Never." She smiled lightly at him as she took a sip. "I can start listing names of the real problematic ones, but I'm certain you could guess them based on their clothes."
Sasaki chuckled as he finished arranging their lunch so they could easily acquire different dishes as needed. After taking the kettle from Naomi and gently placing it on a coaster next to the tray, he nodded towards the tailor before meeting the eyes of the caster. Naomi looked between the two with an amused smile, knowing full well what was quickly approaching as she took another sip from her coffee. Sasaki's smirk grew the slightest touch while Medea's scowl deepened. She sighed as he chuckled quietly.
"Just once, can we meet and you skip on a snarky comment?"
"But Miss Medea, I'm overly concerned about how much you scowl at me," He started with a coy tone. "If you keep doing it, then you may get even more wrinkles. Hardly befitting for a princess."
"You keep saying that!" Medea's voice practically boomed as the entire room quickly halted work, save the robots, to watch as a laughing Sasaki quickly made his exit from the supervisor's room. They looked on in amusement as Medea chased him towards the entrance, an ironing board in her hands held like a makeshift warhammer.
"Running in heels is very unbecoming, Miss caster! How unrefined!"
"Sasaki!" She growled out as he exited the door, laughter coming out of the hallway as he made his escape.
The caster ignored the chuckles from some of the employees as she felt a reassuring rub on the shoulder from her friend. Medea sighed as Naomi chuckled next to her. Naomi knew that assassin had yet to skip a meeting without teasing commentary, and she was aware Medea was partially at fault for it thanks to a certain Grail War; She admittedly was quite insufferable to anyone even remotely in her way back then. Though a bit amusing, it was definitely better than having him attack her friend unrestricted on the battlefield.
Everyone was well aware how his Chaldean legend practically surpassed his former story.
¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VI ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨
Sasaki felt the cold wind fly across the skin of his face, its winter sting attempting to pierce his shut eyelids. As the katana completed its failed attempt and sailed clear over his head, the servant readjusted his posture and parried the offending blade as it came back quickly for a return strike. Okita jumped back to dodge the counter slice from the deceptively agile blade, the light blue of her battle attire catching the wind like a flag as she did. Her gaze sharpened as she brought her katana back up into her signature stance, ready to stri-
"I will never understand why you choose such daring clothing for battle, Okita."
The Japanese warrior felt her face light up when she looked down at the hem of her short, white kimono; It was indeed flapping in the higher winds of the battlefield this morning. From the sidelines, Ushiwakamaru was trying to hold back laughter though the questionable clothing decisions also applied to her. The loose top she often wore to battle also threatened to reveal far more than necessary in the high winds. Pulling down on the hem with one hand while still blushing, the saber looked bac-
Okita swiftly redirected the incoming strike which was followed by two more in rapid succession. It was always a spectacle to watch Sasaki manipulate the large blade in such a swift manner, the weapon never touching the ground or going anywhere deemed unnecessary or wasteful. He chuckled as Okita pouted. "That was cheap, Sasaki-san."
"I am classed as assassin," He jested before leaping back to avoid Okita's powerful thrust. "And that was a variation of one of the older tricks in any book. We are sparring for singularity after all. Opposing servants are not as nice."
"Um... Can we save the battle conditioning for later? I want to enjoy a fair and square duel," She asked hopefully which made Sasaki smile. "We haven't had a good one in a week."
"Very well. I gladly accept."
The two got back into fighting postures and swiftly ignited into simultaneous charges. A swift slice by the saber was sidestepped only for the return cut to be redirected. Another downward strike by Sasaki was immediately canceled by a threatening thrust. That move was countered by a backflip as Okita dodged nimbly.
The overly fancy maneuver was not nearly as fatal as it appeared as she swiftly countered the three precision strikes aimed to her torso. Okita dove into a charge, her blade becoming a swarm of strikes as she gracefully danced around to Sasaki's back to deliver quick hits. All of the offending strikes were stopped by Sasaki's precision movement and long blade which helped to cover more vulnerability even if it looked unwieldy.
As eager as Okita was to improve their noble phantasms, the he knew that couldn't be the case. She was always interested in his signature technique, just as he found himself curious about her own unblock-able maneuver. The problem was the two of those attacks meeting head on would most likely end in serious injury for one if no other servant was there to help mitigate damage through some spells. It was hardly ideal for the two companions to be incapacitating each other when an anomaly could appear at any moment.
Thankfully, Okita was more than content to view his noble phantasm at work whenever they deployed together. The two formed a powerful offensive force that could swiftly cut through more dangerous opponents with swifter physical counters and defenses. She would never admit how many times she would watch the assassin at work through her peripherals, but he secretly knew. She was always openly curious about his notable achievements during the first singularity. Though she was jealous she never got to see it, he was more than content to tell her the stories whenever she wished.
"I just simply thought that dragons are but larger swallows," He remembered telling her once. It was a hilarious thought, though mostly just a jest-
With a flick of his wrist, he blocked the saber's strike while silently pondering when he got so comfortable to casually think about other things during battle. Refocusing, he noticed Okita's guard open, and went to strike. She jumped to avoid a sweeping attack from the offending blade, flipping herself forward with her katana only to be met by the counter swing of Sasaki. Pushing his leg forward, he poured some molded prana into his arms and forced her through the air.
She nimbly flipped and landed into a small crouch before taking her stance once more, a smirk on both of their lips. In the few seconds pause, she readjusted her blade and tensed her legs in preparation to- cough up some blood as a small fit took over her. Sasaki lowered his weapon and quickly jogged up to the saber while pulling out a handkerchief from his pocket and handing it to her. Ushiwakamaru also came up swiftly, the snow now battering the trio as a gust picked up.
"Sumimasen," She said quietly as she wiped the blood from the sides of her mouth with the piece of cloth; She hated whenever her battle concentration broke and allowed a fit to surprise her.
The assassin simply chuckled and waved off the handkerchief she offered to give back. "It's fine. Keep it, I can just find another one in the next deployment."
"It's acting up a little more today. Are you sure you're alright, Okita?" Ushiwakamaru asked with concern.
"Hai! I should be fine! I'll just sleep a little earlier tonight," She sighed at the thought. "I really don't want to miss dessert though."
"I'm sure no one will mind if you skip the after dinner meditation and relaxation," Sasaki chimed in. Okita smiled back.
"It was always by choice, I understand. I just..." She began, a light cough making her pause before she chuckled dryly. "... I'm the only one who Nobunaga really listens to the first time."
The other two laughed at that thought. Hopefully the warlord's more troublesome habits and interests wouldn't be a problem since Okita caught her making the prank bomb earlier. She unfortunately did still finish the offending item and set it off on Blackbeard. Arguably the best part of the prank was the poor robot that had to clean the mess. Sasaki recalled it looked like a disco ball afterwards.
At least this time it wasn't a smell induced weapon, but one that sprayed glitter all over him. It was far more humorous to witness since there wasn't a horrendous odor drifting through Chaldea. Gudao wasn't too pleased about that 'Modern Fart Bomb' Nobunaga got from a book of practical jokes so many months ago. Thankfully, Sasaki wasn't present for that one; Benkei still cringes every time it's mentioned.
The group shifted their focus to the newcomers just cresting the saddle near the field. Silver and black armor adorned one hero while the other knight had near jet black armor. Completely lacking in the concealing aura that used to cloud him, Lancelot was having a light conversation with Siegfried as the two walked along the pathway towards the trio. Their light talk soon stopped as they came closer to the group, with the servants exchanging greetings when they could be heard without yelling over the occasionally howling winds.
"Never see you out here too often, Sasaki," Siegfried greeted as the two shook hands. "So what brings Chaldea's famed Savior of France to the training ground today?"
"Just sparring with Okita and Ushiwakamaru," He replied smoothly before exchanging nods with Lancelot. "Came to practice as well?"
"Ja. Lancelot asked me for a friendly duel," He stated simply. "Don't mind if we share the training field, do you? I promise we'll hardly take up as much space as the berserkers often do."
The rider chuckled. "Everyone takes up less space than Heracles and Beowulf having a sparring session. We'll just move closer to the cliffs."
"Sounds great, thank you," Lancelot nodded before the two turned to take up positions closer to the saddle. Siegfried quietly drew Balmung as Lancelot materialized Arondight while the trio moved closer to the cliff side. Sasaki was ahead of the group to take up his spot closer to the cliff while Ushiwakamaru walked up next to Okita to talk in private.
"Okita, would you mind taking a small break while I spar with Sasaki?" The rider asked which was met with a smile and a nod.
"Hai! I'd like a real duel with you afterward I get another shot at Sasaki-san though!"
The two exchanged nods before the rider slowly and quietly extracted her katana from its sheath. Without missing a beat, Ushiwakamaru charged with lightning speed towards Sasaki who calmly swung his blade twice to counter three swift strikes, a small smirk on his lips as he met the eager smile of the rider.
And so a new dance began.
¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VII ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨
Emiya and Tamamo sat at Salon de Marie's bar with Sasaki as Sanson poured them some new drinks. The assassin pulled coasters out of the pocket of his standard Salon attire to keep the counter in good condition; He was always attentive to keeping the salon pristine. He served Tamamo's drink first, who wore a strapless blue dress that fell to her knees. It was coupled with an apron to protect her clothes like Emiya's did to shield his black formal shirt and slacks.
The four had gotten into some deeper talks unexpectedly while the two cooks were taking a small break. Boudica and the rest of the kitchen staff insisted they take an hour break for all the hard work the past two days. While it was obvious they decided to heed their advice they, kept within earshot of the room in case something was necessary. Sasaki just wished for an easy drink, but didn't mind joining them on their small break for some company.
"So many servants in Chaldea," Sanson mused. "The issues are mild compared to what could have been. Almost a miracle, like Astolfo making Gilgamesh drink his own youth potion,"
"I can agree with that," The archer had chimed in before nodding a thanks to Sanson as he gave him another tall glass of iced water. "Father was telling me stories about his Grail War experiences. He recalled the Tohsaka head had summoned Gilgamesh but did not realize how much of an attitude problem that king had. It worked mostly in everyone else's favor."
"You can't plan for everything," Tamamo stated before taking a sip of her Pina colada. She cringed at the thought. "If I was a master and didn't know Gilgamesh was that insufferable..."
"Not everyone can be perfect charmers," Emiya stated flatly. Sasaki could bet he wanted to let the thoughts of Gilgamesh slide to the side, having had enough negative interactions with the king to count; There were few in Chaldea who wouldn't agree.
Sasaki wondered if Emiya was still a little worried about him now hanging around Illya and her group of friends. If his own experiences with the child Gilgamesh were any indication, there shouldn't be a problem; The child king truly hated his older self. At the very least, the Illya in Chaldea was very different from the one that participated in their war, but he wouldn't know best. What he did know was the little flower could throw some seriously deadly strikes, so she was capable of defending herself.
It was curious how he and Emiya managed to become acquaintances. Sasaki knew he hated the fact he prevented Emiya from killing his younger self, but the archer was also grateful that he bent the rules to allow his reckless youth to pass. Memorial essences were so confusing sometimes, especially when they conflicted with so many memories and feelings. At least, since he was also one of Chaldea's earliest servants, they had plenty of time to have better interactions as good allies.
"A curiosity... What if it was child Gilgamesh that you got instead?" Sanson asked with a small raise of his eyebrow as he cleaned a glass. "It wouldn't be a sweep since he seems to have less access to his gate, but he's cordial."
"Well that's different, but then I'd have trouble not squeezing that cute kid all the time," Tamamo replied with a small giggle.
"I'm surprised you and Boudica haven't done it yet considering what you do to my sisters," Emiya teased, making Tamamo stick her tongue out at him.
"I have the girls to hug whenever I want~! But regarding him, judging by what he says sometimes, I guess the memories carry over but the attitude changes when he switches," The fox caster concluded. "I'd rather not have another king on my tail should he change back. Ozymandius is overbearing enough as it is with the whole sister thing."
"The possibilities that keep getting summoned are interesting," Sanson stated as he picked up a new glass to clean. He was surprisingly talkative today, but the conversation was a curious one. Whenever he had a drink here and it was just him and Sanson, they would be more than content with just silent company; Never uncomfortable, but merely quiet.
"Gudao would often talk about the servant possibilities based on who we've already encountered... About fakes ones and real ones," Emiya started. "Technically myself and Nursery Rhyme shouldn't be here when compared to actual historical heroes."
"That applies for Benkei and I, but the throne has other ideas," Sasaki continued, getting the attention of the other three. "Why were we summoned as opposed to a real hero? I don't question it anymore, and neither does Benkei... As random as the masters perceive the Fate System to be, I believe it holds up to its name."
The four remained quiet as Sasaki's thought sank in. The blue-haired assassin simply chuckled. "But we're here now. As much as I enjoy a good waltz of blades on the masters' quest to save mankind, I know that memorable battles aren't the only opportunities for us here. But I'm preaching to the choir, as they say."
"That you are, and rather talkative today too," Tamamo giggled as she took a sip from her drink. "Though, supposedly fake hero who never existed or not, you've gained quite the genuine daily life and Chaldean legend, haven't you? Better than any tale about the fabled you."
Sasaki chuckled. "I can't deny that."
"Who says a fake can't surpass the original," Emiya suggested plainly with a smirk towards Sasaki. The assassin smirked and nodded back, having heard that line several times from the archer. Emiya checked his watch and slowly got up from his stool at the bar. "It was an interesting chat, Sasaki. Always interesting when you and Sanson get talkative. Thanks again for the drinks and talk, you two. Tamamo and I better get back in the kitchen to make sure Boudica is doing alright."
"Of course, chefs," The white-haired assassin replied with a small wave as the Tamamo got off her chair.
"You have a good day, Sasaki," Tamamo called out with a small wave and a wink. "Emiya and I will be sure to get the special requests for you tonight."
"I appreciate it," He replied with a smile and raise of his cup of sake. The servant pulled out a small pocket watch from his battle attire and looked at its face. It wasn't long before dinner, so he might as well get changed. Still not feeling an inch of nervousness, the assassin nodded towards Sanson before slowly getting up to start his final preparations.
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Sasaki stared at himself in tall mirror that was given to him as a gift from Gabrielle. As often as he teased the young master, he found it comforting she was always so nice to him in return. Did she secretly like being teased? Shaking the thought from his head, he looked at himself wearing black formal pants and a blue shirt. He decided not to wear the accompanying vest or jacket and chose a black tie instead. It was simple enough, and he hadn't worn the formal attire once since it arrived earlier this week, so it was decided.
He looked around his relatively plain room. The surface was covered with tatami mats with the regular flooring underneath, the walls remaining plain. There were two banzai plants at a small, traditional Japanese table with pillows for seating. Near the door was a small mat for placing shoes when entering. A tiny shrine to hold his long blade was placed near the space which would hold his currently stored futon; He had replaced in favor of a bed. A few cabinets and drawers in dark wood completed the aesthetic, and overall it was one of the easiest furnishing tasks given to the Furniture Department.
Walking over to his dresser, the assassin picked up the golden cuff links in the shape of sakura trees and properly inserted them into his sleeves. Looking himself over one last time in the mirror, he confirmed he wore the attire properly before heading to his door and slipping on the black formal shoes. He opened the door to his room, making sure the key card was still in his pocket, before walking through the opening and letting it shut behind him. As the confirming beep locked the door, he turned- and nearly walked into Medea.
The caster was headed back to her room to collect a forgotten jewelry and nearly walked into the assassin herself upon turning the immediate corner. The two stared at each other for a split second before the caster's scowl started to form on her face while Sasaki began to smirk. Medea was wearing a long, one-shoulder purple dress that nearly covered her heels accompanied by a golden necklace. The dress displayed her long slender arms that held two ornate ring bracelets on each with a ruby center piece. Perceptive as always, He noticed the missing earring which signified what she was returning for.
She crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes at the assassin. "Don't tell me you're going to give me two choice comments in a da-"
"That's far too much, and you look very beautiful, Medea."
Yes, he honestly did have a lingering grudge against the caster for what she did in that war. However, he was someone who could see what lay hidden behind that rough wall. It was all done with the sake of winning, but doing so to keep that piece of happiness she found at the temple. That master of her's, as flat and stoic as he was, had been the rope she clung to, and she did anything to keep it safe.
With that in mind, he was fine giving her a second chance. He was having an enjoyable time, and they were allies; It was ridiculous to keep pursuing that grudge in a hostile manner. He'd just tease her, but only to such an extent that it wasn't outright harassment. He would also gladly protect her for the master's sake if the situation called on the battlefield. It was neither a form of friendship nor intolerance, for he merely accepted what was in his current reality.
Taken back by the sudden compliment, Medea looked with wide eyes at the assassin as he chuckled and walked past her. He was a few steps away before he heard her turn to face him. "Sasaki...?"
The assassin turned to face the caster as she looked away from him for a moment, probably at something more interesting near the intersection of wall and floor. She looked up at him with a hesitant look before giving a tiny smile and a nod. "Thanks... and have a nice dinner tonight."
"You too," He nodded back with a small smile of his own before he began walking once more. The clicks of heels disappeared as Medea continued walking back to her room. The assassin slowly shook his head and chuckled once more before turning another corner and nodding to a passing robot. It was a shame he was just going to continue the teasing the next chance he got, but he could afford to be cordial every now and then, especially since he was in a good mood.
¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ IX ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨
Admittedly he had arrived a little early to dinner, noting many servants and employees were absent. Relaxing to one of Mozart's impromptu viola pieces, the assassin watched as the robot swiftly prepared the table he sat at with machine speed. Everything was swiftly and precisely placed and arranged, even down to the evening's flower arrangements and candle lighting that each table was to receive. The assassin waved to his masters as they passed by, the two returning quick smiles and nods before returning to their conversation.
As the robot finished its task and waved to him in acknowledgment, it floated away as Benkei approached with a small smile adorning him with his formal green hakama and white hamori. "Looking extra sharp tonight."
"I figured I haven't worn my new suit yet, and deemed it fairly appropriate."
The lancer smirked and teased. "Oh, is that all?"
He didn't answer, but only smiled. The assassin chuckled back before the lancer patted him gently on the shoulder. "Enjoy yourself."
"Doumo. Have a good dinner, and I hope the girls aren't too loud." On cue, the confirmation came. The lancer walked away as Sasaki turned to watch Okita and Nobunaga bickering about something as they entered the room.
They approached the table Benkei was slowly walking towards. Ushiwakamaru sat at the round table already, patiently awaiting the arrival of her friends and enjoying the small scene they were making. It was the table he usually joined them at, and it reminded him of how he felt before when he saw lots of other servants gathering into groups as they slowly arrived. While he enjoyed being alone, humans were social beings, and he definitely felt the small lingers for a group of his own. As he watched his group sitting down and relishing in each other's company, even the two bickering servants, he chuckled and enjoyed what this dire mission had helped to forge.
His thoughts drifted to how lonely it was in the early days after Fuyuki. Back then it was only a handful of servants since Gudao was still green and the facility was severely damaged. Through the combined effort of his first servants, they restored Chaldea to a working state. In the many minor and major incidents they had to repair, Gudao grew more experienced and the servant count grew rapidly. Even with the large number of potential allies, he was glad to know in the French anomaly that he earned a name for himself as one of Chaldea's finest, though he was far from alone now.
He had help several times over the months, but none more so than from a fellow, but actual, dragon slayer who had arrived after the third singularity. They had fought together valiantly many times since her arrival. Their strong partnership had grown into one of Chaldea's most famous duos on the fields. Though he was heralded as a lone samurai, Savior of France, he would much rather continue to fight alongside-
"No hello, Sasaki? I'm hurt," Came a teasing voice on the other side of the once empty table.
The assassin smirked and looked across the table at his partner as she smiled at him with a quirk of an eyebrow. "My sincerest apologies, Martha."
"Forgiven," She winked at him before she started giggling once he could no longer control his laughter. After the quick but enjoyable moment, the two calmed themselves down.
"So..." She started quietly. "Got anything secret planned tonight?"
"It's not a secret if I tell, now is it?" He replied back coyly as he received a playful eye roll. "You'll just have to wait and find out. The night is young."
Sasaki stared at the woman across from him as she smiled back confidently yet relaxed. Her eyes matched the modest blue dress she wore, its white accented edges forming a boundary between it and her light skin. Her right shoulder was partially covered by her flowing hair while the other remained bare. He eyed her small cross necklace but politely refrained from going any further down. They didn't pay much attention when a robot hovered by to place the fine wine on the table for them as they made small talk, the first of many small details that Emiya and Tamamo had planned.
The rider eyed the wine and raised an eyebrow before looking back towards the assassin. "Nice choice."
"It actually was my choice, if you believe me."
"I have faith you did."
"You have plenty of faith, so I'm grateful you always spare some for me," He chuckled as Martha rolled her eyes again but laughed anyway.
"That was terrible, Sasaki."
He merely raised an eyebrow and smirked. "You still laughed, didn't you?"
The rider nodded with a smile and looked across the table to her partner. She was one of the few people that could draw out something a little more from the assassin. He was slightly different when around her, and it only grew since their camaraderie in Chaldea was guaranteed upon her arrival. It was mutual, since she felt free to act outside her saintly disposition to show her true self. She smiled gently at him and as he enjoyed how relaxed and confident they were with the whole situation.
The assassin stared back, quite pleased with how things were turning out so far. He never had a doubt about this small dinner date beforehand, knowing full well they got along very well anyway. To a servant who was nothing more than a tale however, it was comforting to know he had come so far with so much in all aspects of his newly created life.
As he looked into her eyes, Sasaki recalled how often he jokingly complained that women and short men were hard to manage; He made plenty of jests about how difficult it was for him to comprehend the opposite sex sometimes. But as he stared at the genuine look she gave him from across the table, he was more than willing to at least try with this flower. After all, she was just another special spice that made his life far more interesting these days, and another testament that he may still be a decent judge of women's character.
He smiled and she winked back.