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Fragments of Chaldea

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Note for Anime, China FGO, or NA FGO Server players: This work follows the JP original which is much further ahead, including terminology and servant names. You are warned ahead of time, but this contains countless spoilers for almost anything from the Fate Series.

Foreword for everyone:  I completely ignore suggestions and requests for servants, scene ideas, and developments. Save yourself the time by not typing it.


Fairy tales





There have always been countless ways to tell fantastical stories, both past and present. They might chronicle the lives and achievements of the make believe, those who existed and are elevated further from the truth, or the actual facts themselves. Depending on the source, they might be tales to lift the spirits in calamitous times, lay children to sleep with a rekindled imagination, or historical information that helped shape humanity's identity. Telling the difference was often as easy as recognizing broad subjects such as magecraft and scientific endeavor.

But sometimes, the line between fact and fiction disappeared entirely to those privy to the truth.

The story of a group of brave souls that were fighting a war across time to prevent humanity's extinction would seem like another fictional story. Yet, in the snowcapped mountain range, hidden far from the curious eye, that very unbelievable tale is being written. A lone structure of massive proportions jutted from a large mountain's side. It stood as the final vestige of humanity, and the lone beacon of civilization's long history of defying the odds.

Near the smoothed white walls of Chaldea, a lone cemetery stood as a silent reminder of what may still come to pass. Simple graves in countless rows lay blanketed in snow to serve as a memorial to the many who fell four months ago. Cremated and buried, their resting places lay close to one another, placed on a flattened mountain peak that overlooked the side of the facility. While not visible from its many windows, it was but another illustration of the fate that hung over the heads of the remaining.

In this dire reality, there were no more listeners for this story except for those fighting against time itself. Outside the barriers that protect this structure, humanity had seemingly disappeared. Their future had been declared extinguished by the those who pulled the strings. The opening sabotage had robbed civilization's last defenders of many in number, but still they continued to fight. There have been many setbacks, but they were equaled in fortune, for they were no longer alone. Though the light of humanity has all but extinguished, they pressed on to kindle the flickers of hope.

Within the walls of this secluded structure, in a room in the very heart of this secret, man-made marvel, this new "fairy tale" was being written in hopes there will be readers once more.

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Prologue Fragment: Once Upon a Chaldea

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"Not sure if this catalyst will actually work, but it's better than nothing."

"As long as it's not more black keys, I can live with it."

Figures cloaked in the shadows moved about while others stood idle to the side with anticipation glinting in their eyes. Multi-pointed, colorful objects were placed upon four pedestals on the outer rim of the circular room. As a figure on the far side placed the last one, they turned to another behind a control panel. After the center of the room was cleared, there was a nod of confirmation followed by the quick throw of a lever.

The placed offerings glowed with the entire color spectrum and resonated with a low hum before being absorbed into their pedestals. The receptors shined a soft white before gently fading into silence. The collected energy shot from the base of the pedestals through large channels carved beneath the floor. The lines of power continued to emit their silent glow as the diverse played their song together.

A surge of energy erupted from the center, then, in a contradiction to its violent entrance, gently slowed to form a floating ball of pale blue. Ancient text and lines formed an intricate and organized conglomeration as they expanded across the floor, letting their glow illuminate its surface. A translucent, elaborate cross, a holographic replication of a signature artifact, formed within the circle itself to complete the vast ritual. It was joined by several more pale orbs that hugged its form and floated above the dance of prana beneath.

From these actions combined, a summoning circle formed, yet a modified version that most modern magi would reject. At its core, it was a bastardized union of science and magecraft. Its definition was a side note; Its vastly improved efficiency was an undeniable fact. Something that should not have been possible without a grand ritual had become but a daily possibility that allowed Chaldea to gather reinforcements for its mission.

There was a pause in the process as the room fell deathly silent. All previous murmurs had been hushed, but the air remained thick with expectation and uncertainty. The balls gently hovered as a contrast to the violent clash within the Fate System as mystery, design, luck, and calculated probability collided. The crowd watched, waiting for the outcome.

Their answer was revealed.

The balls sparked and released a low hum as their blue hue whirled into a rainbow aura. A low gasp and some cheers were released by the crowd as the hum growled louder. The spheres began to rotate clockwise. Round and round, slowly but surely, they accelerated. Within a second, they seemingly lost their form as their speed formed a wide ring around the ritual's core.

Their movement accelerated even further as the central sphere crackled and sparkled with power. Spurred by the calculations and drives, the concentration of energy in the epicenter grew unstable as its shape was threatened. Small sparks of crackling energy flailed like whips as the core threatened to burst with sundering lightning. The harsh song of their dance was deafening as the orechestra reached its crescendo.

Gradually, the rainbow ring slowed down, but then rapidly expanded to the outskirts of the room. The torrent of energy in the ritual's heart became more unstable once the expanding ring reached its apex; It barely missed the figures in observation who remained unstaggered statues. One figure blinked as the ring finally collapsed violently into the core.

The thunderous crack of an explosion was heard, but no one panicked: It's all part of the process. Some spectators shielded their eyes. Many didn't need to, whether being used to the procedure or of a different existence entirely; It was simply just another activity within this facility.

In place of the controlled dance, a single column of energy erupted from the center of the floor, only held in check by a calibrated absorption shield in the ceiling. The absolute surge of powerful energy shook the room with enough force that an outside observer would have related it to a minor earthquake. Despite the violence of the event, the room remained sturdy without any signs of collapsing.

The rumbling slowly died down as the surge of energy lost its power. Its attempt to break its vertical confines had failed; Its onslaught of the roof faded. Gone was the river of uncontrolled prana, only to be replaced with the peaceful glow from a smaller pillar of bright light that illuminated the entire room.

Small smiles were formed. Others raised their brows in curiosity. Yet, all eyes rested upon the origin as the light faded to a soft glow. In the deafening wake of the ritual, an armored figure basked in the fading, residual prana.

Small specs of visually manifested mana fell from the artificial shield above, and floated past the golden hair of the newcomer. The light continued to fade and revealed color: a royal blue, purest white, and shined silver. It was soon obvious the figure was a young female with a fair complexion.

Seconds later, the light had faded fully to reveal the newly arrived servant. The figure in question slowly opened her eyes to shoot her surprisingly steadfast and resolute gaze forward into the audience. Her green eyes scanned the room. She seemed to note the peculiarity of her summoning while observing the figures cloaked in shadow. Her beautiful eyes narrowed in harsh suspicion upon realization that she is not the only servant present... by a shocking amount.

One figure approached from the front of the crowd to slowly reveal themselves in the glow. Black hair and blue eyes took form from the darkness as his gentle approach continued. His white uniform with black adjustment straps appeared from the curtain, contrasting the black formal pants and shoes below. By his magical energy signature, he was clearly a magus, albeit a rather average one.

Her green eyes darted to a fair-skinned hand. Red lines covered its back to confirm the presence of a comforting symbol that would herald the answers sought. Her shoulders sagged slightly from released tension, and she met the eyes of the man in front of her with only a hint of reservations. The rest of the room remained quiet, yet a fair number mirrored the small yet enthusiastic smile on his face; Catalysts completely guaranteed a servant's arrival, after all.

"I am servant Saber," the girl proclaimed. "I ask of you... Are you my master?"

The man's gentle smile grew radiant as he nodded firmly. "Yes, Saber. I am Gudao Fujimaru, your new master."

The young woman nodded in confirmation. She opened her mouth to inquire about the situation, but stopped when he raised his hand in a small gesture of pause.

"We have a lot to discuss about the circumstances of your summoning, but for now at least..." Gudao extended his hand forward to the new arrival, who looked at it with slight surprise before meeting his eyes once more. "Welcome to Chaldea. I look forward to working with you."

There's was but a moment's pause. Saber showed a very subtle but genuine smile and grasped the man's hand with her own. "As do I, Master."

Cheers erupted from the crowd as they shook hands in agreement. He chuckled. "Ah, please… you may call me Gudao, if you want! It's fine to be informal here. That's how it usually winds up anyway."

The newly arrived servant quirked an eyebrow. "...I'm afraid I do not understand what you mea-"

Behind the crown, the double doors to the room quickly slid open to flood the room with the hallway's blinding light. Gudao and Saber released their hands and turned towards the interruption. Some murmurs ran through the audience that now stared towards the doorway at the lone silhouette.

"Hey, Nero! You're late! The summoning was at-"

"Why didn't any of you inform me!? The Empress was told yesterday that she may take part in the activity! Why did no one inform me it was at this time!?"

"Calm down, Miss Empress. Sheesh, you're always like this when you're mad-"

"I never asked you, fox caster! And you! Blackbeard! I demand you cease laughing! You lied and told me it was changed to four!"

A man's unique laugh echoed out. "That's what you get for ratting on my newest contraband! Those magazines weren't easy to get ahold of you know! That was top quality penthouse!"

"…Why didn't you just ask the other Romans?"

"That's what I thought too! It's like her thinking skills are as bad as her singing." There was that unique laughter again.

Yet another voice called out. "Nero's not having the best of weeks, Teach. Back up a bit. She'l-"

"She'll what? Whine louder? Continue to not take my jokes in stride? Gudao made it obvious fighting is not allowed withi-"

There was sniffling, which made the offender pause for a moment. "W-Wait, you're not actually going to-?"

A collective cringe and shiver flew through the crowd as a woman's rather loud sobs echoed into the room.

"…Wow. That bad of a week?"

"Someone stop her wailing!"

"At least she's not singing." Some laughter quickly followed, even as her crying grew louder from the comment.

Slowly the master turned back to look at the newest servant to Chaldea. Her almost stoic features were now etched with a look of total disbelief. Gudao let out a nervous laugh that only made the saber more confused. With a sheepish grin, he looked back towards his bickering servants and sighed.

"As I said, there's, um, quite a lot to explain… and we're often informal at times. Bear with me, please."




Important World Points/Revisions


There are rarely Author's notes in the entire Fragments collection, but all of them are important notifications in regards to proper progression. They mark where supplements attach to the main story. There will also be one at the end of the latest chapter for update/insight purposes that is removed with each new addition.

The world/lore revisions change the nature of F/GO world, I do not advise skipping them to go to Fragment 1.  All of them get introduced in the story proper, but they've been collected and placed at the very beginning to act as an early warning. None count as spoilers. If you're a stringent Fate Lore Aficionado , you'll probably dislike this series for one reason or another; That's fine.


The following divergence mark this series as  Slight AU .

1: Chaldea Revisions

- Day and night will still pass in Chaldea as normal, and they will follow a calendar year. They are a separate dimension as mentioned in the FGO prologue, so they can conceivably take as long as necessary to complete the Grand Orders.

- Its altitude has been lowered from 6,000 meters to 4,000 meters.

- Humanity is still set to perish in December 2016

- FoC's timeline starts in April instead of FGO's canon June start. There will be occasional time markers as helpful reminders.

2: Regarding Fate Canon Lore

- I will follow the lore as closely as possible but will do occasional tweaks. I can only make it as precise as the translations I find, however.

- The main plot of early singularities are mostly unchanged, so what happened there still applies. Supplements address any differences.

- Events will not appear in their game form. I've taken creative liberties to adapt situations and servants with them in order to properly fit this slightly different timeline.

- The Protag is of a different origin. They're a below-average magus in this timeline instead of a civilian.

- Servants may act slightly OOC. This series focuses heavily on development past their character in relation to their environment, interactions, and formed relations. Some have spent the months since Fuyuki adapting, bonding, and even curiously trying new things in their spare time.

3: Regarding Servants

- There is a larger number that can be deployed, but there are still limitations.

- Alter/Duplicates are handled very differently throughout the series. Rules regarding this are spread throughout the series. There are rarely exceptions, so be warned: duplicate servants don't appear 'easily'.

- Servants can remember past Grail experiences and singularities with vivid clarity.

- If a servant is not specifically mentioned to be present, assume they're not present in Chaldea. A full list can be found on the tumblr archive. Check my profile for links.

- Star ratings from the game do not matter for "summoning chance" appearances. They arrive at random.

- No Non-Canon servants will ever appear.

- I will not introduce canon servants that haven't been added to the game's gacha yet. I need to know the circumstances of being able to summon them. There has been a one-time-only exception to this rule (63).

4: Regarding Staff

- In canon, twenty survived the blast. I've increased the surviving staff number to roughly over a hundred, and the original Pre-Fuyuki count to three hundred. A humanity saving organization on such a tiny staff count is beyond absurd.

- There are multiple new Divisions, including a Science Division. Chaldea has Cryo Vats that are presumably built into the master capsules. They are top tier science devices, so for the place not to have a tech department for maintenance is equally absurd.

- Robots supplement the workforce. A full explanation can be found on the World Revision's tab on the tumblr, mainly so I don't waste any more space here.

- The frozen masters mentioned in the prologue are presumed dead due to Lev's precision planning.

Thanks for taking note of the changes. If you're still willing to continue, especially upon discovering the Science Division and robots, cool. I hope you enjoy.

Chapter Text

NOTE: All dividers are numbered. Take a break when you want to in each Fragment!

Footsteps echoed down the blue-tinted hallways of Chaldea. Large tiles made up most of the floor, matched by panels attached to the opposing walls. Aesthetical glass struts protruded from the sides of the hallway on one side. On the opposite wall, the emblem of Chaldea was placed on certain panels to break the mundane wall, appearing once every few ceiling lights. Doors, potted plants, benches, and intersecting corridors also helped to break the monotony of the rather modernistic hallway.

It was the same corridor design used by most of Chaldea's hallways, which required a map to properly navigate for newcomers. The employees, all of which were now veterans, never needed it past their own respective second week. Guiding maps were just wasted paper now, since only servants had been arriving since the Fuyuki incident. Rarely did the hallway design deviate, except for a few exceptions like the topmost corridor that had windows to showcase spectacular view of the surrounding landscape.

A group of employees appeared from an intersecting corridor. As standard for workers in the facility, the trio wore matching white formal jackets with black pants, or an optional skirt and leggings for the ladies. Their jackets sported gray accents in contrast to the near-pure white tops of the master's uniform. Their white collared dress shirts were paired with different colored ties which depicted their matching division.

There were three separate colors for the individuals in the group. One black-haired man's orange tie proved he was from Engineering, while a brunette female's turquoise indicated they belonged to Magecraft. A green one on the blonde female stated their employment in the Science Division. It wasn't uncommon to see groups of mixed divisions during off-hours or food breaks, especially after many had been shifted to different stations with the significant loss of personnel; The fully activated robotics reserve helped to stabilize the understaffed facility.

A fourth employee passed by as one of Chaldea's robots turned a corridor further ahead. This one's top was noticeably different from her colleagues as she walked by them with a small smile. Her unique, black top denoted her position as a Leyshift Operator, with her home division's color sported on the front and cuffs. The turquoise was separated from the black jacket with silver accents, with the logo of Chaldea present on the upper left arm and zipper. There were still other uniforms within the organization, but those were only worn by key individuals in each division.

One such person walked towards the conversing group with a new servant by his side.

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Fragment 1: The French Revelation

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Without hesitation, the group shifted to the right side of the hallway as the pair of individuals approached. The duo consisted of a green-eyed, young man carrying a stack of books and a female companion of young age carrying a large, ornate flag. Her lengthy, blonde locks were tied in a braid that reached to her thighs, which made the man's orange ponytail seem minuscule in comparison. His long, white lab coat had a turquoise design down the front and came with accompanying pearly white boots, pants, and gloves.

In stark contrast, the cerulean-eyed woman was covered in a navy blue, from her leggings to her undershirt. The cape was also similarly colored save for the white crosses and upper accents. Her gleaming, silver armor covered much of her arms and torso, with matching boots and a head protector in identical material. An ornate sword hung at her hip, barely noticeable under the large cape.

The group of employees turned their heads as one while they passed, but continued walking forward. They quickly looked to each other and began murmuring in excitement. Slowly, the armored blonde looked back to the fading group and lightly smiled, which no one noticed except for her current walking partner. She quickly turned back after realizing he had stopped talking.

"I apologize, Doctor Roman. I just overheard them talking about me." The young woman explained.

"Nothing negative I hope," the doctor stated, giving a small glance behind them.

"Oh, nothing of the sort. They were excited to see me," the woman beamed back.

The man chuckled lightly. "Can you blame them? It's not every day you get to see the famous Saint Jeanne d'Arc in person!"

The ruler smiled back. "I guess this is true. Though, I still prefer not being called a saint… I'm truly sorry for the interruption. You were saying?"

"Ah, I was just rambling. Our luck has been terrible until this week. Usually the system would generate craft coins or present memorial essences for servants... but to think we'd get another new servant of such prestige so soon after King Arthur is amazing! August is looking up!" exclaimed the man with accompanying hand gestures from his free limb.

"Please, you're embarrassing me," Jeanne spoke firmly, though with a bashful smile.

"Sorry, sorry," Roman added quickly. "Usually Gudao would be the one guiding and praising, but as stated back in the summoning chamber, he had to take care of an emergency at the training grounds. Ah, but I digress. We've arrived at your room!"

The doctor stopped walking and used his free hand to extract a card from his pocket. He held it up to a computerized scanner next to the door, receiving an automated beep in response followed by a green light flaring to life. The door slid open as the man presented his companion the key card, which she graciously took with a small nod.

"We've got extras in case you misplace your own. As easy as I imagine it is to go into spirit form to enter a locked room, we like to ensure the quality of life of our guests," Roman stated before smiling. "If you need anything, there's a video intercom in each room. The info packets and maps are in the drawer next to your bed. Gudao will give you a tour once he finishes the mountain of paperwork that has likely just accumulated. I'm definitely looking forward to working with you!"

With that, Doctor Roman nodded and walked back down the hallway. She smiled lightly as she caught him mumbling about scolding Gudao for making him feel like a hotel manager, before she slipped into her room. The door quickly slid shut behind her.

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The rooms of each servant were identical to that of Master Gudao's own; Most previously belonged to the other master candidates that perished during the Fuyuki incident, while the rest remained vacant. Some were simply unused due to the organization's overestimation for the number of masters they may require in the future, up to a total of a hundred. Some larger servants and blood-related ones had to take residence elsewhere or get "creative" with room sizes.

The room itself was nearly empty save for a few pieces of movable furniture. The bed was very simple and came with two, fluffy pillows. Its arched rear supports matched its gently curving side guards, but the front lacked this design in favor of two sturdy legs. The sheets were all white to match the rest of the room. Polished, smooth white floors were glistened from the ceiling's illumination. The lights were shaped differently with bars on one side and pentagons on the other, both symmetrically designed for the styles. Plants were placed sporadically with only basic concern for decor.

Extra conveniences were even included in the room to make it feel less like a barracks, with the most notable being a small beverage dispenser to make hot water for tea or coffee. The intercom and drawer were adjacent to the bed, and a simple glass table with a single support was attached to the wall on the opposite side. Some empty shelves lined the wall near the door and a large, built-in display case faced its opposite. Next to the display case was a single door leading to the private bathroom which had an open glass shower, counter sink, and western toilet. Otherwise the room was, by proper definition, incredibly basic.

"Let's see..."

Jeanne sat with perfect posture on the bed with one of the brochures in her hand, quietly humming to herself. Her battle regalia remained on, though the cape had been removed. They didn't usually have clothing immediately available for newly arrived servants, but she didn't mind since she wasn't expecting that luxury. It was gracious enough that the service was available for her, and she was interested in having some clothes for herself after experiencing it during a past war.

She would never forget that kind soul. 'Thank you for the memories, Laeticia.'

Her thoughts shifted back as she turned a page to continue her current task of brainstorm furniture ideas. She was surprised to find that besides custom-fit clothing, Chaldea also has a Furniture Department whose original purpose was repairing damaged items from potentially reckless or angry servants; They probably had the berserkers in mind. A few servants had voiced some complaints about room simplicity and gave plenty of ideas for expansion, or demands depending on who you asked.

Suddenly the Engineering Division's small branch found itself busy with work, not those specific technicians had very much to do previously. She supposed she could get a few pieces to make the room her own, but she wouldn't want to cause them immense amounts of additional workload. She smiled slightly and pondered about the mysterious nature of the event Roman called "The Furnishing Hurricane".

The furniture selection was surprisingly diverse, though aesthetically basic, but that was to be expected; They were technicians first, not artisans in furniture. She was only really interested in a table and chairs, as well as possibly a flag holder so her standard could remain materialized. Surely the latter was a simple request that could be fulfilled easily. She hoped the Clothing Department would be fine with her future clothing order, but those shouldn't be much more complicated. She was a simple girl after all.

Her thoughts were interrupted with soft knocking on her door. She looked at the time on the intercom's screen and noted it was already half past two in the afternoon. Had she really been in her room for an hour just staring at the packets? She let out a small sigh at her distracted state and quickly made her way to the door. While pondering how busy Gudao seemed to be, she soon questioned which servant signature stood outside, for it seemed… familiar.

"Hello? How may I help-" The door slid open as fast as her eyes lit up.

Standing on the other side with a smile like diamonds was another woman with long, pearly white hair that hung back in two long tails. Two bangs framed her face that held crystal blue eyes. She wore a red sundress which exposed much of her porcelain-skinned arms. One of her legs was crossed behind the other, letting her red slippers line up perfectly. The woman in question let out a giggle and swiftly leaned forward to hug the surprised but happy blonde.

"Vive la France~!" the woman cried happily while hugging her friend. "I came the second I learned of your room, Jeanne!"

The Maid of Orleans smiled and hugged back. "I didn't know you were here too, Marie! I would have come to see you first."

Marie pulled out of the hug, her smile still beaming brightly. "Oh, non non! Worry not. You were just getting settled in! No rush... though I have to say, you've taken my advice in the singularity to heart. It's good to see you a little less serious."

"I'm still getting used to enjoying myself, but I believe it will be easier with familiar faces," Jeanne nodded happily. "Did Doctor Roman or Master tell you I was here?"

"Roman told me the room number when I bumped into him, but word spreads fast in this place. I was told you arrived by one of the Magecraft employees from the summoning room. Orange hair? Maybe you've talked with Gabrielle? She helps operate the room with Tesla when Gudao want to attempt a summo- Oh look at me, rambling again."

Jeanne chuckled before tilting her head slightly in thought. "Ah, so I guess everyone knows then?"

Marie nodded enthusiastically. "Gudao is beyond busy thanks to Roman. I'll bet he apologized firmly for not being able to give you a proper tour?"

Jeanne nodded. Marie giggled before continuing. "Don't think anything of it, he works much too hard sometimes… so I volunteered to give you the tour instead! But first, some of the servants in my lounge are eager to meet you! Would you be willing to take a detour to say hi?"

Jeanne let out a small laugh as she checked a small pouch for the key card. "If that's the case, of course I'll come. I'm curious about who some of my new teammates will be."

"A wonderful variety, that's for sure," Marie stated as she took a step back. "We might run into a few on the way, since most servants are scattered around Chaldea doing their own thing."

Marie turned and skipped. Jeanne's eyes widened slightly as she followed her friend down the hallway, the door to her room closing behind her. "I felt the feint presence of a number of servants, but I can only sense so far in this facility. Exactly how many are in Chaldea?"

The white-haired girl brought a finger to her lip in thought before she smiled and turned to her friend. "I think you're number sixty five. Now come on, let me show you the lounge!"

The young blonde had to take a pause to relieve her sudden shock.

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Jeanne had to take another pause to fix her jaw once they reached the lounge. To say this room was unlike the rest of Chaldea was a vast understatement. One would have thought, if not for the large Chaldean door that served as the entrance, that they had walked into a room in a palace which could easily hold hundreds of people.

Long, red curtains framed large windows that overlooked the snowy, mountain landscape of the surrounding range. Identically designed, red couches with glass coffee tables were positioned near the windows. There were large columns along the exterior of the room, that looked to be faced with faux marble. Between them hung large paintings of various origins.

Ornate, dark wood nursing chairs with red upholstery were placed in small groups with accompanying ottomans between the windows and the dining area. Booths with the same upholstery and mahogany color created rows that divided the lounging area from the dining section. The same chair designs were used for similarly designed tables between the section's booths. Judging by the number of seats and the open spacing, the room could seat several hundreds if more chairs were added.

Several giant, crystal chandeliers illuminated the room in a soft glow as they hung from the center, placed at interval with the columns. The red carpet that covered the floor was decorated with beautiful, golden designs. The far-left side of the room contained a small bar with a black marble counter. An adjacent door to the bar presumably led to a kitchen with a small hallway nearby leading to the equally luxurious bathrooms. Classical piano music played from a lavish Grand Piano in the center beneath an accompanying chandelier, creating a very sophisticated atmosphere.

In all likelihood, this room was one of the results of "The Furnishing Hurricane" she was previously told about. Where the Logistics Division managed to get so much material was beyond her understanding, and she made a mental note to inquire about that later; She knew they had a stockpile of material, but this would have required much more. As Jeanne collected herself, Marie pranced a few steps ahead, and spun around giggling with her arms held wide.

"Welcome to Salon De Marie! Well? What do you think?"

"It's... spectacular, Marie," Jeanne breathed in awe. "It feels so... royal."

"And so you see, there is some truth to her luxurious and bad spending habits after all, wouldn't you agree, Saint Jeanne d'Arc?" A soothing male voice echoed from behind the piano.

Marie's face quickly mirrored the upholstery. "Amadeus! How dare you!"

The piano music came to a slow stop, accompanied by soft laughing as the man stood up to reveal himself. A purple cutaway jacket with golden trim covered a golden button up shirt with ornate patterns upon it. He gently wiped his hands with a handkerchief and promptly returned it to a pocket in his white pants. Stepping away from the piano, he bowed gently. After his gesture, he ensured his long, platinum blonde hair was still in proper place before smiling with sharp, green eyes. Jeanne smiled back to the newly revealed former comrade, and gave a small curtsy of her own.

"It is good to see you again, Jeanne," Mozart spoke fondly.

"The pleasure is mine, Mozart," she replied similarly.

"Non non! You must not just ignore the queen!" Marie stated with crossed arms much to the amusement of the male.

"Ignore you, madame? How could we possibly?" asked another male voice, lacking in emotion.

Jeanne turned to look at two individuals who walked towards them from the bar. Both were dressed in similar design to Mozart, but the male with white hair and pale eyes wore a black cutaway where his companion with long, blonde hair and turquoise eyes wore a cyan version. There was recognition in her eyes upon seeing two former adversaries, but unlike her small campaign with Gudao in France, there was no tension in the air. This time, they were all comrades under one roof.

"I see I will be working with the both of you as well. It's good to meet under friendlier conditions, Mr. Sanson and D'Eon."

Sanson stated with a barely noticeable smile. Barely. "No need to be so formal, Jeanne."

"Indeed. While you're here, would you like a drink perhaps?" Chevalier d'Eon asked kindly.

"Water would be lovely, thank you," Jeanne stated as the French agent bowed and left to retrieve the order. "I see you've got some servants of your own, Master Marie."

Marie smiled at the observation. "They do it of their own free will, mind you. They also happily stick around since many other servants thoroughly enjoy the luxurious atmosphere we provide for lounging and dinners. As I have since its founding, I do my upmost to show them the true elegance of France."

"Thankfully it reduced eating in the cafeteria next door to only twice a day at most," Sanson chipped in. "We're currently in off hours so it serves as a lounge, but we mostly use the time to cater to patrons when we're not on a mission."

"We have a lot of hands who were willing to help thankfully. Mostly employees of Chaldea's kitchen who help with the meals, but also a few notable servants who gladly lend a hand," Marie exclaimed with a dreamy look in her eyes. "Tamamo and Boudica do a wonderful job, but Emiya's cooking is to die for. I'd introduce you now, but they're busy doing weekly inventory and preperation."

"You'll get to taste one of his meals tonight. Très bon, of French Quality even!" D'Eon chipped in, holding a wine glass of ice water for Jeanne which she graciously took.

"Let's relax and catch up for a bit so you can finish your water, then I'll happily give you the tour!" Marie exclaimed as she lightly gripped the saint's wrist. With a happy hum, she pulled her towards the windows as the three men shook their heads and returned to their duties. Knowing their employer, of sorts, they were likely going to talk until dinner without a break.

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"How was lunch with Astolfo? Still as you remember him?"

The saint chuckled, though her eyes wore a tint of exasperation. "As energetic as ever, that's without a doubt. I didn't think he would be here."

"You didn't? I figured he'd make a beeline for you after learning you were here... wait, what am I saying. He did exactly that at dinner last night! Silly me."

After giggling with Marie, Jeanne smiled and continued humming to herself as she placed a second set of new clothing into her closet. She was currently wearing the first one, which was a white, sleeveless formal shirt with a black tie, coupled with black shorts that barely reached down half of her thigh. Black leggings rounded out the comfortable set she wore from a past war, and it seemed an easy enough request to order. It had been a day since she arrived, and her first four outfits for her wardrobe arrived exactly as she wanted.

It was likely because she had been summoned in a small lull, with Arturia arriving before her only a week ago after the completion of a primary singularity. The saint had met the King of Knights after yesterday's dinner, and despite the small teasing from some servants that they looked similar, the two started off on quite a positive leap. They would be meeting again for dinner tonight to get to know each other, though her friends Diarmuid and Emiya would be joining them. At least she was getting to meet other servants quickly.

The queen currently sat on her bed in her usual red battle attire, happily kicking her feet while inspecting the last clothing laid on the bed. Beside her large, red hat that rested at her side was a strapless, blue gown that was beyond eye catching. The rider took a quick glance between the dress and Jeanne, taking in the rather ornate flower designs sewn down one side. As the Maid of Orleans finished placing and smoothing the third set, Marie giggled, causing the ruler to look towards her friend.

"What's so funny?"

"Ah, mon amie… I just never thought my saintly friend would get something so… alluring."

Jeanne blushed lightly as Marie held up the dress with a playful smirk. The queen giggled again. "Strapless… and even a little curve hugging too. Between this and what you're wearing… My, my, dear Jeanne~!"

"It was something they had in stock that needed only minor adjustments," The saint responded rather hastily. "I didn't wish to demand more than necessary."

"I was only teasing." The rider sighed and shook her head slightly. "Remember what I said about you always being too serious? Just relax and enjoy yourself! You're in Chaldea now!"

"We talked about this yesterday, Marie. I'm keen on trying," the saint reminded with a smile. "I'm looking forward to that dinner meeting today."

"I hope it goes well! King Arthur's quite interesting." While giggling, Marie handed Jeanne the dress to place away.

"She has as much regal presence as I thought, but it's still surprising she's not a he," Jeanne mused as she placed her dress into the closet.

"To be fair, how many are surprised dear little Astolfo isn't a she?"

Jeanne chucked as Marie checked her watch. With a small smile and a hum, she hopped to her feet and picked up her royal headwear. "Thanks for letting me spend time with you! I'll meet you in the lounge later, oui oui? I have that singularity deployment to take care of! Shouldn't take too long."

The Maid of Orleans nodded and smiled. "Be safe, Marie."

"An easy request! The quantum piece supply sorties are simple affairs!" Marie laughed as she skipped towards the door. It quickly opened, but the rider paused in the door to glance back briefly. "Until later, Jeanne! Vive la France~!"

The door shut behind the rider, leaving a slightly confused ruler behind. Jeanne blinked as she thought about what Marie just said, which only confused her further. Didn't the queen state it was a singularity deployment? The change in terminology confused her, but it was too late to ask her now. She made a mental note to ask someone about it later. But first, she had a small meeting with Shakespeare in the library to get out of the way; Thankfully, he seemed genuinely interested in making up for his past transgressions against her.

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"Ah, yes… our lovely queen loves to skim the details sometimes."

Chevalier d'Eon, in his customary salon uniform, stood by the couch Jeanne was relaxing on in the lounge. She took a sip from her glass of water before placing it on the glass table before her. The snowflakes reflected off her eyes as she glanced curiously at the blonde saber, who waited patiently to continue. With a nod, she folded her hands on her lap as the feminine saber cleared his throat softly.

"They deployed with Gudao to a minor singularity. They aren't as much of a threat to humanity as the primary ones, but they may have the potential to do so if left unattended."

"She called it a supply sortie, I believe?"

The saber nodded. "That's how they're often referred. Chaldea is cut off from the rest of the world, so minor singularities are the best way to bring different resources back. Anything from food to construction materials can be Ray Shifted back to Chaldea thanks to Da Vinci's tinkering."

"Would it be safe to say it's not just regular supplies that are required?" The Holy Maiden asked as she briefly glanced towards Sanson. He was fixing something near the Salon entrance.

"I believe today's has a higher potential for acquiring quantum pieces for later use."

Marie had talked about quantum pieces, but never what they were used for. The two girls had briefly talked about the revolutionary techmaturgical generators Chaldea used to help provide servants magical energy, and the pieces were mentioned as a byproduct of the process and created surplus. Beyond that, she knew very little besides quantum pieces being a small unit of crystallized mana that could also be harvested from anomalies. Jeanne both sighed and suppressed a laugh; Marie was so bubbly and jumped to different topics far too quickly.

She would make a note to learn more about it later, since the saber likely had some things to finish at the bar. "Thank you for the answers. I appreciate it."

He bowed with a small smile. "Of course, Jeanne. I'll be sure to tease Marie about not explaining things properly to our dear saint."

As the saber walked towards the bar, Jeanne turned back to the window and enjoyed the falling snow. She had plenty of time to learn the intricacies of this war, but she could also enjoy the circumstances for what they were; Even compared to the previous one she participated in, the number of allied servants this time was unprecedented. The chance to actually get to know different servants without being at each other's throats was an extraordinary opportunity, and as equally appealing as creating her own semblance of a relaxed life.

Jeanne never regretted her past life, nor the choices she made. She followed her path and was recognized as a saint, even if she didn't see herself as one. There were times she would wonder what if, like during her walk towards that fateful stake on her final day, but in the end she had made her decisions without doubt. Here, there was only a flexible schedule and a rare opportunity to try something different. There was plenty to do, but where to start looking remained the question.

As a Catholic, she could help with any religious ceremonies in the building. Though it was a nice idea, she still had some reservations after learning Amakusa was currently in charge for Catholics. But maybe that ruler, like some others she heard were here, had also taken a shine to the idea of a second chance. She hoped that was the case considering who else was here she was admittedly keeping her distance from. Regardless, the idea of trying to create something for herself among faces, old and new, was very enticing…

…and she was resolved to try. She had plenty of time to think of other possibilities to spend her time; Maybe she should find a hobby?

While her musings paused momentarily, she silently enjoyed the sudden gust that swirled the snow before her. Chaldea had an interesting change of scenery compared to the places she'd been, and she silently reminisced about the last time she had enjoyed watching snow; It was made easier by the tranquil peace gifted by the Salon. Only footsteps echoed in the near silent Salon in the late afternoon as she gazed at the falling serenity. On arrival, she had been worried the facility's interesting robots would be busy cleaning, but was pleasantly surprised they had finished in an ever-efficient manner.

She sensed a new servant enter the lounge, though she did not turn around. She simply listened and heard the working assassin greet him. "Good afternoon, Mozart."

"To you as well, Sanson. I see you are attending to the dinner board and table cards for Marie this evening."

"She'll likely complain about being too tired to do it after the supply sortie today. You know how she gets."

The chuckles of the two men brought a tiny smile to her face. "It's quite charming in its own way, of course."

Footsteps calmly moved to the center of the room, followed by rustling clothes as Mozart sat down at the piano. He began playing some quick scales out of habit. The caster often did some warm-ups well ahead of time to see how Marie's song selection sounded to his well-trained ears; Every pre-dinner playlist lasted ten minutes and served as a refined bell to signify appetizers would come out shortly. After that, the salon's sound system would play its own set of music to let him enjoy his meal, usually among his fellow countrymen. After the past night's dinner, Jeanne was more than convinced of the entire operation Marie had running for the organization.

With his scales complete, he turned to the first piece, which instantly caught Jeanne's attention. A soft smile graced her features as memories flooded back from the Great Holy Grail War. There was much to happily forget from that questionable conflict, but there were nearly as many moments she had been glad to experience. Quietly, and without knowing, she found her lips moving to the song in sync with Mozart's playing. She saw neither the snowflakes in front of her, nor her reflection in the window, but rather a quaint country road flanked by grassy plains.

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There were still several hours until they reached the border, and the ruler was still a little tense. She gently tucked her long, flowing braid behind her once more as the rushing wind dislodged it from its place behind her formal shirt. It was the clothing Laeticia had on hand, and while more revealing than she liked, the saint found it rather comfortable. Silently, she leaned on the back windshield of the green pickup, ever mindful not to get the small bits of rust onto the clothing. The young student had been gracious enough to grant her possession of the body, the least she could do was be respectful to her host.

The wooden crates rattled as she slipped the Mathematics textbook back into her bag. The sun was setting on the horizon through parted clouds, and she looked back down the road to admire it with a small smile. Ever since she left those golden fields of wheat, these moments of peace had been rare. To be able to witness it, even with the coming storm, brought a sense of peace to her mind. Silently inspired, like the curiosity to learn more, she felt the sudden urge of the host.

Jeanne was already well aware of some of the quirks Laeticia had, especially with the slight nervousness around attractive males her age. Thankfully, what she currently felt was far more comforting. It resonated within, matching her own past experiences singing hymns and prayers to the lord. With a humored sigh, she relented, and slowly began singing the first song that came to mind from her host's memorized favorites.

As the wind rushed by, the words to the religious song left her lips. It started quiet, but soon gently grew as she hugged her legs to herself. Eyes gazed at her passing surroundings, occasionally glancing back towards the setting sun. Passing cars failed to flinch her, as she continued to sing to herself. After a few minutes, the song finally came to an end, and she smiled fondly with a sigh. She thought about the possibility of singing more as another way to pass-

"By chance, young miss, are you an angel?"

Her cheeks flushed lightly as she looked towards the back windshield; She forgot the small window's divider had been open. The man simply looked at her with a glint of admiration through the rearview mirror as he kept driving. "The rain should have started hours ago, but instead the clouds part for a nice sunset... then you start singing Ave Maria better than any opera I've ever seen."

With a small smile, and a steady blush, she shook her head. "I'm no angel, but thank you for the kind words."

"I should be thanking you for the wonderful performance," the man chuckled as he tipped his deerstalker in a show of praise. "I turned the radio off to listen to it better. You going to sing more? I'd love to hear more of that voice. It's one of a kind!"

The man had been beyond generous in taking her to Trifas, even if she had to ride in the back. Silently, she thought it'd be a great way to pass the time and pay him back since he enjoyed her voice. With a small nod, she turned around to gaze at the sunset once more. She leaned back and sighed, mentally going through the list of songs Laeticia knew. There was still plenty of time to Trifas, and she could use a longer break from that Mathematics book.

Slowly, her lips began to move once more as she gently closed her eyes.

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"Enjoying yourself as much as we are, Jeanne~?"

Marie's voice shook the saint out of her reverie. As the queen giggled next to the sofa, Jeanne blushed and stared at her as several hands began clapping. Mozart had stopped playing the song to give her a standing ovation, which was joined by D'Eon and Sanson from their own positions. She silently thanked the lord no one else had been there to witness it, or her embarrassment may have multiplied. Still, Marie's amused grin proved capable enough of keeping her blushing.

"You're back early, Marie." Her attempts to deflect failed.

The queen hummed an affirmative sound before winking at her friend. "You know, if you were any louder you might attract Nero and Elizabeth to a sing-off."

"And Jeanne would easily win," Sanson added with a chuckle. He had begun working on decorations near Mozart's piano.

Marie rolled her eyes. "Asking them to sing was the worst mistake I've made as manager…"

Jeanne blinked. 'Are they really that bad?'

"But I digress, mon amie… Your voice is as lovely as ever, which makes the perfect opportunity to bring up something I've always wanted to!" Marie exclaimed happily, with the three servants suddenly turning to look at Jeanne once more. She internally recoiled, more out of nervousness than curiosity, but visibly held her ground; There were only so many things she could be inferring with the context. Marie leaned over the couch's arm and whispered in her friend's ear as the rest of the Salon group broke into small smiles at Jeanne's shocked reaction.

"Y-You want me to what?" Jeanne exclaimed much louder than she wished, chastising herself for letting Marie catch her so off guard. A tanned skinned, white haired individual in a chef's outfit peeked out the kitchen doors before shrugging and returning to his work.

"Oh don't play coy. Absurdité... Even if you didn't just sing here, it was clear as day while traveling. I saw you sneak away from camp on some French nights thinking we wouldn't hear you! And then there were the hymns to cleanse Siegfried!" Mozart declared with a teasing smirk.

"You do it so wonderfully and almost no one here knows!" Marie chimed in happily. "It'd also help you loosen up a bit! Break the ice further before the dinner meeting! You'll be wonderful!"

She beamed back at Jeanne who shifted, a bit uncomfortable by the quick suggestion. The queen sighed and placed a comforting hand on her friend's bare shoulder. "Sorry, it's very sudden since you just got here yesterday… but that performance just now didn't help with our eagerness. Will you think about doing it in the future at least?"

"We'd much prefer you over trying Nero or Elizabeth again."

"I still think Nero sings decently."

As the males started to bicker among themselves, Jeanne shifted in her seat as she blushed lightly. She never thought about performing in front of people before, let alone an entire room full of Heroic Spirits; Her small performance to the driver was completely different. She had just been a simple farm girl following her heart and the word of the lord. At least, that's what she used to be before becoming a saint and heroic spirit.

But the possibility was there. She did enjoy singing, especially after her time with Laeticia. The generous girl's repertoire also resided in her mind still, and it would be a great way to honor her memory. Singing was a wonderful talent, and hobby for some, so it could be a solid step in creating something for herself in Chaldea. There was also the idea it would make others smile, especially her recent friends… so maybe...

"I'll do it, Marie. I'll sing before dinner," she stated much to the excitement of Marie. Even the other Salon attendants began talking eagerly in their enthusiasm. "Um... tonight even."

Marie was even more ecstatic about the idea that she'd start so soon, at least until Jeanne held up a hand. "But only under one condition, if I may…"

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Jeanne looked at herself in the mirror of the girl's bathroom one last time. She blushed, noting that the dress really was rather form fitting. The strapless blue, gown reached to her high heels which barely showed underneath with their matching, glossy sheen. Marie lent her twin silver bracelets to wear, as well as a beautiful necklace with a cross that Jeanne picked out from her friend's collection. She wasn't surprised to find Marie with so much jewelry, and a lavishly decorated personal room for that matter.

"Feeling okay, mon amie?" the friend in mind chirped from the newly opened door.

Jeanne turned back to her friend and gave a soft smile. "Just some last minute nerves, I guess... I'll be fine."

"How unlike you to get nervous."

"I'll have to tell you more about Laeticia sometime," Jeanne mentioned with a smile, attempting to shake the slight unease.

Marie nodded and gave a reassuring wink before closing the door. Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, Jeanne regained her composure as she turned back to the mirror. Even if she did think about it, she still felt she rushed into something once more without knowing the full situation; She was now a lounge singer for pre-dinner, and tonight would be her premier. A nearby clock on the marble counter stated it was nearly seven, signifying it was time.

'No turning back now,' she thought as she collected the folder placed neatly beside the pristine sink. She breathed in one last time before exiting the bathroom door, entering a small corridor that exited into the lounge near to the bar. A few decorative plants and paintings hung between her and the now lively lounge. Her hesitation returned slightly upon hearing her future audience, and she paused in the middle of the hallway. The pondering barely lasted a few seconds before her thoughts turned to the tapping on her left shoulder.

She looked behind her to face Emiya's reassuring, small smirk and gray eyes. They had become acquainted earlier when he had a small break from cooking, though they would speak much more at the dinner get together. He had traded his chef outfit for a sharp, black tuxedo. A red vest peeked out from beneath his jacket to match the identically colored tie. His white hair was slicked back from its previously loose state.

"My, my… stage fright, Miss Jeanne?" Emiya asked with a small hint of amusement.

She smiled lightly and nodded. "A bit, but I'll be fine... I've gone through worse."

"Haven't we all..." the man let out a low chuckle. "From what we heard in the kitchen, you'll be phenomenal."

Jeanne faced forward and, with renewed confidence, walked into the lounge. She glanced at the vibrant red, one-shoulder dress the excited queen wore as she spoke with Mozart. Marie, having spotted her from the center of the room by the piano, turned on the microphone and tapped it to get the room's attention. The small talk subsided as all eyes turned to the Salon's manager who smiled warmly.

"Thank you for your attention. It is my pleasure to announce the surprise opening entertainment tonight and future nights! Our newest ally and blessed saint, Jeanne d'Arc, who will be singing for us this evening!"

With a gesture of her hand, all eyes turned to Jeanne, but this time she didn't even flinch. Just like the past dinner, the room was filled with servants and employees alike, but many empty tables still remained. Wearing a confident smile, she walked calmly to the piano where the microphone and Mozart remained. He smiled at her and nodded as she reached the slightly elevated center stage. Some dinner companions were whispering to each other while Jeanne opened her folder on the music stand.

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To Marie's surprise, the condition was simply a requested first song. Thanks to Laeticia, she had much more experience than before on singing to music, especially on paper. The saint was going to follow through with her rather impulsive decision, but she needed to do it right. For that, she needed a song she knew as the first piece. With Marie's agreement, the song in question was then added to the front of tonight's revised playlist.

The song Jeanne requested was different from the one she found herself singing as Mozart played; It was by chance she had known that one as well. Of all the pieces within memory, she felt the most confident about this one. It was the very same song she sang on a whim on that road to Trifas. The question was, would the composer before her be willing to play it?

"One must be comfortable for their debut, no? So you wish for us to perform the piece penned by Schubert?" Mozart asked.

"I'm sorry if playing another composer's work upsets you," Jeanne said.

Mozart smiled. "I heard he was partly inspired by my work, so I can hardly take offense. I am curious though… is it just because of the song's relevance to your faith?"

A small, fond smile graced her features. "My host loved this particular song. I kept it with me in memory of her. It's a wonderful piece."

"I can't mock her taste," Mozart laughed lightly. "Sure, I can play this for you. What key would you like if not the original?"

Jeanne smiled happily.

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Mozart's fingers began their waltz across the piano, playing in the key of B-flat major. A few audience members' eyes widened in eager anticipation at the recognizable notes, while many others remained clueless. Jeanne waited for the cue before breathing gently so the microphone wouldn't pick it up. She slowly opened her eyes and let her heart grant flight to her voice.

~~Ave Maria~~
~~Jungfrau mild~~
~~Erhöre einer Jungfrau Flehen~~
~~Aus diesem Felsen starr und wild~~

It was a fitting song for the pious Maid of Orleans. As she continued to sing, it was clear the audience was already captured by her voice. Emiya, leaning up against the bar, smirked as he noted the saint's confident performance. D'Eon was smiling in amazement as he shined a wine glass. Beside him, Sanson wore a more noticeable smile than he would usually show. Marie, sitting in perfect regal form on a stool, wiped a small speckle of a tear from one eye.

Gudao stood at the door, having arrived a little late from surprise logistical records presented by the unofficial director. He stood with his hands folded in front of his master uniform and smiled, enjoying the sound of Jeanne's voice resonating through the room. He noted the inspired and captivated eyes of the organization as Mozart's fingers danced with the saint's voice. Silently, he thanked his luck that he did not miss out on this surprise debut.

As the song reached its final moments, the saint glanced around at her audience and felt her expression glow. Save for a rare few jealous looks, two of which she assumed were the two singing rivals, the expressions she received were more than she could imagine. She could definitely do this every night if this was what she could do for others.

~~Dem Kind, das für den Vater fleht~~
~~Ave Maria~~

Jeanne chuckled and bowed with an angelic smile to a deafening applause.

Chapter Text

An arrow whistled through the air before impaling itself through the center of another shaft three hundred meters away. A target fifty meters closer was briefly illuminated before it was hit by a fireball, then quickly frozen by a secondary strike. It was just the usual business at the Chaldea shooting range, an outdoor area in the north wing where servants could freely practice their ranged abilities on easily produced targets without worry of damaging the facility. Its entrance point was renovated from a section of the storage garage where cargo supplies formerly arrived. Rebuilt with a large awning, benches, and several lockers, the garage now served to shelter servants from the elements when the targets are being replaced or the snowfall increased dramatically.

The crack of a matchlock precedes a round tearing clear through three moving targets that lined up at the precise moment. With a grin, black-clad wielder readjusted her peaked cap that sat atop ebony hair, and wiped the snow off its large golden emblem. A red-banded accent on the headwear matched the flowing, crimson cape that waved in the wind to her left, held on with a golden badge. With a chuckle, she eyed new targets in her port's range.

She shifted her golden armored boots back into a balanced position before adjusting the katana on her left. A new musket materialized in the air before her and she grasped it with one of her white-gloved hands, swiftly pointing it at a new target before squeezing the trigger with practiced grace. The weapon released its payload with a crack, tearing through the throat of the silhouette forged by projection magecraft.

Oda Nobunaga smirked. It's only been a day since she returned from fixing a benign singularity in Australia with a small squad of servants, so she was still picturing her smooth dispatching of enemies as she practiced on the range. Several targets came into view in front of her port and she pretended it was similar to the group of werewolves that attempted to ambush the party in the outback. She materialized several matchlocks at once, grasping two while letting three more hover nearby. In a chorus of orchestrated fire, all muskets fired as one and blew apart the visible targets. Nobunaga let out a laugh at her own display.

The warlord frowned upon hearing footsteps approach from behind. She was the farthest port on the left, so anyone approaching probably wanted something from her. On the range, that usually meant someone was challenging another to a target duel. For Nobunaga though, it was usually a "true" archer just passing by to ponder out-loud how a rifleman made it into the ranks, just to grate her nerves.

As she thought about the possibility of both, she suddenly found herself ignoring both possibilities when the servant simply took the port next to her instead of declaring a challenge. Maybe she thought too far into it. Since the ports weren't divided physically with barriers, she could simply see who took the slot next to her, but she decided it wasn't worth the wasted destruction time. Readjusting her position with a small sigh, she materialized a rifle and pointed it towards the first of her next intended targets and-

Three cracks of the sound barrier echoed from the port beside her.

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Fragment 2: Friendly Fire

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Her eyes widened when the heads of her next three targets rattled from the impacts that sank clear through the center of each. With significant damage received, her chosen targets began swiftly degrading to nothing. It was no significant loss since projecting them was a rather simple affair; They were designed to be easily made and destroyed for simplicity's sake. But they were still her targets she wanted to shoot at.

"You've got some nerve," she groaned out to the nearby shooter.

Straightening her posture, she looked to the source of the rounds and her red eyes met a turquoise pair from beneath a black western hat. The platinum blonde smirked and casually readjusted his black duster and red, flowing scarf. Silver spurs on brown boots clinked when he shifted his legs back, holstering a pearl handled revolver. Fine leather made up the holster itself was held by ivory straps, matching the tops of the boots. A bronze patterned undershirt partially covered the top of his jet black pants, both only barely spotted beneath the duster of the signature battle attire.

"Gotta be quicker than that," the boy chuckled cheerfully.

Nobunaga raised an eyebrow at the offender before scowling. "It's only polite to claim targets to your port mates before firing, newbie."

The young man only smiled in response. "Reckon that's a hello to you too. I can't argue I'm a greenhorn in Chaldea, so I'm not surprised I've yet to make this fellow marksman's acquaintance."

Oda grunted. "Well, you broke the ice, kid."

"Billy the kid is more like it... Miss?" the cowboy asked with a raised brow.

Oda's eyes widened in recognition. A young cowboy who was swift on the hammer; How she didn't recognize the famed Billy the Kid immediately, nor seen him around Chaldea in the three months she's been here, was beyond her. She chalked it up to her spending most of her time, including most meals, meditating and cleaning rifles in her room… or playing explosive pranks on random servants and some irritating human mages, of course. Perhaps he should be next on her list.

"Oda Nobunaga."

"Woah! One of Japan's greatest warlords was a girl?" Billy let out a small chuckle.

Red eyes turned darker. "Watch what you say before you end up a skull, cowboy. I'm not the Demon Archer for nothing."

Billy raised his hands in surrender, though the aggravating smile he worse was still present. "My mistake. Didn't mean to step on the snake! I'm sorry. I get ahead of myself sometimes."

She huffed. At least he didn't press his point. "Just don't do it again."

"Fair enough, but tell you what. Reckon since the two of us have yet to properly greet in the ten days I've been here, and it seems I crossed you, how 'bout a shootout to let out the tension?" He smiled.

Nobunaga smirked back. "Sounds good to me, seeing as we can't openly fight. What're the rules?"

The kid looked out towards the range to see the last targets taken down, signaling a break as green lights flared above and robots proceeded to erect new ones. Since the targets were mostly moved by rather simple mechanisms created by Da Vinci, targets only need to be placed onto the holders. This allowed everyone else, save for the mages projecting new targets for the robots, to enjoy a slight bit of leisure. The other servants were already returning to the shelter of the garage, but the pair continued to stand under the light dusting while Billy considered the options.

Oda stared impatiently at one of Chaldea's signature robots to pass the time. A silent, mana powered thruster beneath it kept the machine afloat. On metal arms that sprouted from the central sphere were three eyes that adjusted constantly to focus on its task, its current one being to properly gauge the target's stability in its holder. It had ocean blue paint like the rest of Chaldea's robotic units, though each could have different varieties for its four arms depending on their delegated tasks. This one simply had four clawed arms for precision grasping, which was the standard design.

She pondered what it took to get the mages to agree to having these scientific machines, let alone upgrading them into techmaturgical achievements. From her experiences, mages abhorred technology, yet this facility was filled with scientific endeavor and accompanying personnel. Roman had often explained their sheer versatility and obedience won them over, but she still believed the former director had to have been more convincing than that. Regardless of what it took, they made every chore from laundry to cleaning an automated process no person or servant had to do, and that was something that couldn't be ignored.

Speaking of ignored, she chuckled but offered no apology as Billy cleared his throat for the third time. "Now then… Open season. Highest target count wins."

Nobunaga raised an eyebrow. She wasn't one to often follow the rules of war, but she had a reputation to uphold here. "Any limitations?"

"No noble phantasms… No craft coins… All skill."

Oda's expression remained calculating. She reached into her pocket and grasped the metal craft coin she had been testing. Gudao had given it to her this morning, face down like it currently was to depict the red back with the Chaldea logo in gold. He did it as a tiny surprise of sorts, letting the servants flip it to see what they got before theorizing what its purpose was. Sometimes they'd receive a new one, and a random servant would be asked to test its qualities.

With a swift motion, she flipped the standard coin, nearly five centimeters in diameter, into the air to catch it on the opposite face that depicted a brunette, female archer. Gudao believed, judging by the image depicting traditional Japanese archery, that it had something to do with accuracy. After leaving her favorite craft coin in her room, since carrying any more than one neutralized all of their boosts, she had come here to test it. Nobunaga was pleasantly surprised to find aiming at moving targets was now a complete joke when combined with her marksman skills.

Too bad she couldn't use it in the little shoot off… not that she needed it. The coin was dropped to her feet as she smirked.

"Prepare to lose!"

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ III ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

'Two targets. Two!'

The cowboy's smirk irritated her to no end as it flashed in her mind. "There's no way he didn't cheat!"

Nobunaga groaned in frustration as she sat in the middle of her room. She soon yelled loudly in frustration before falling back onto the tatami mats that covered her floor; They had to actually get them from a supply sortie instead of having them made. She kept the room otherwise bare since she didn't like having guests besides Okita or occasionally Benkei. It was the reason she only had two sitting cushions, one of which she threw across her room to nearly topple the traditional, four-paneled room divider. The item wobbled briefly, but remained standing thanks to a supporting chest on its opposite side.

The warlord stared towards the edge of the lone container, silently contemplating whether she should use her contraband materials to make a prank bomb. While it was always an amusing way to lift her mood, it wouldn't erase the fact a veteran archer of Chaldea had been soundly defeated by a newbie. It didn't help her situation that he only had one gun to his name while she had several. Groaning again, and flailing almost comically, she racked her brain to think of-

There was irritated knocking at the door. "Will you keep it down, Nobu? I'm trying to take an afternoon nap!"

She remained where she was, her eyebrow twitching slightly. "Shut up, Okita! I'm angry!"

"Clearly…" There was coughing, which made Nobunaga chuckle. Some blood was likely involved. "You need to learn to fume in silence. But thank you for at least doing it now instead of midnight…"

"Love you too, damn hitman…" The archer groaned sarcastically as the saber's footsteps signified her leave.

With that out of the way, the warlord sat up with a huff. She plucked the craft coin from her pocket and tossed it onto the bed, making a note to put it with the others in her collection bag later. At least they were all the same size which made the possibility of displaying them easier. Perhaps she should get a wall case for the craft coi-

The video intercom soon began beeping, drawing her attention with a raised eyebrow. Nobunaga grumbled as she walked over to the display and pushed the largest button with irritated force; Thankfully the machine was beyond durable. Roman's face appeared on the screen with the summoning chamber clearly in the back.

"Good afternoon, Nobunaga!"

"What's so good about it?" the warlord responded glumly. The doctor scratched the back of his head awkwardly, which matched his uneasy chuckle.

"Well… your second ascension, if you want it. I don't recall a servant not wanting one of those."

The archer's spirits rose quickly at the great news. Ascension was just the term used for a process to increase a servant's magical energy limits. Every heroic spirit had a maximum defined by their saint graph, but this could be increased slightly with a finite number of boosts. Using rare, magical materials as catalysts, quantum pieces can be absorbed by their saint graph to increase their capacity, which boosted a servant's abilities and skills. It was a way to attune a servant closer to their strongest feasible existence, made possible with Scathach's knowledge that allowed Da Vinci to adapt it to the Fate system.

Of course no servant would say no to becoming more powerful. "About time! I was starting to wonder if you forgot about me!"

Roman chuckled again. "Yes, well… your materials are a little unique compared to others. After Billy received his second yesterday, we wound up finding an extra, hidden piece that was unlogged. It's one that corresponded best to your saint graph."

Nobunaga had stopped listening after Roman mentioned a key piece of information. She didn't need to hear his explanation for an ascension, since she could care less how they got the material. What she cared about was the fact Billy was at his second ascension when they had the duel. Her frown increased, pondering if he had known and simply wanted to show off to another firearm user. If that was the case, he was in for serious payback.

Slowly, her sneer turned into a smirk at another, more likely possibility. When they introduced, he apparently had not known she was Oda Nobunaga. Countless have fallen on her war path, and Billy was just going to be another on her tallies, if only through a shooting competition. She was feared and renowned for her action, and some simple American cowboy from the wild west dared to best her legend. Sure it was just a friendly match, but she had her fearsome reputation and pride to protect!

At least some here should see her with fear in their- Doctor Roman cleared his throat, with uncertainty on his face. He had clearly watched the warlord's facial expression shift unnervingly in the silence, and was currently scratching the back of his head again. "Is uh… Are you okay? Not planning another glitter bomb are you? Those are a pain to clean up, even for the robots."

Nobunaga laughed loudly, making the doctor cringe. "I'm fine, Roman! I'm going to be just fine!"

It would not be like his Siege of Mount Hiei, but she was definitely looking to massacre him in their rematc- There was banging on her door again.

"I told you to keep it down, Nobunaga!"

"Just shut up and let me cackle in anticipation, Okita!"

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ IV ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

"Hey, kid! Yesterday was a fluke! I demand a rematch!"

The battle-clad gunslinger turned on his heel in the middle of the hallway, making his spurs clink lightly as Nobunaga marched towards him. With a little extra pride in her swinging arms and step, the demon archer stopped before the cowboy and placed her arms akimbo. Billy simply blinked at the approach, not at all concerned or worried about the girl's unnerving aura she often emanated.

Every human and servant within the facility got used to different presences with time since, in the grand scheme of all things, they just prevented people from getting anywhere or completing tasks in a timely manner. Sometimes a presence had even been influenced by a servant's newfound disposition. Jack the Ripper often had a sense of foreboding, killing intent around her that became much more apparent in battle, but within Chaldea it felt very subdued as of late; They had her adoptive mother to thank for that.

He simply tipped his hat and smiled. "Sure thing, darling. Always fun to play to the gallery! How about tomorrow morning?"

"Don't call me darling," Nobunaga growled. She knew it was a figure of speech with his dialect, but it still irritated her.

"Understood… Let's consider it a slip of the tongue then. I'll keep that in mind from here on," Billy relented with a small shake of his head. Nobunaga silently pondered how many confrontations he's been able to slip out of with his tactful attitude. "Now then, about tomorrow morning when the range opens."

"Good! I didn't want to wait too long!" the warlord chuckled. "Meet you at ten before seven. Don't be late."

Nobunaga quickly marched away from the gunslinger without waiting for a response. Billy simply chuckled at the haughty warlord's leave before turning back down the hall. He failed to notice the warlord's eager grin as she glanced back momentarily, nearly running into a robot without looking. Thankfully their guidance systems were phenomenal, otherwise this one might have had an irritated warlord to answer to.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ V ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

The demon archer sat on a crate alongside Billy as they stared at the robots setting up the range. Usually only early birds like Arash or Robin Hood would be here early, but it seems even they were taking a break today. That created a problematic snag for the two, who were currently, silently searching for a judge to their competition. Since the last one didn't have any, Nobunaga had requested there be one this time just to ensure no one was cheating. To her surprise, Billy agreed without even a hint he may have been offended by the insinuation of foul play.

"Do you think we should ask a magus?" There was one Magecraft employee sitting on the other side of the large garage from them. His companions were projecting targets.

"They're not going to see the high-speed rounds with their eyes."

"That's true… Our shooting competition will need a proper judge for that."

"Oh~? I hear something about a shooting competition? Must be some sort of grand prize involved then."

The pair turned towards a tall woman with long, pink hair as she materialized from spirit form; Had she been listening the whole time? She readjusted her captain's hat and lightly tugged on the collar of her red long coat before approaching the duo. A leather band around her chest kept the coat partially closed, which only made her bust appear larger than it already was. The noticeable scar across her face usually drew attention, if she didn't have that gleaming fire of competition in her blue eyes. Her hands rested on two, twin flintlock pistols as her leather boots clicked against the pavement.

"You can't go and have a firearm competition without inviting me," the pirate boasted loudly as she finished her approach with a proud grin.

Billy looked to Nobunaga, slightly concerned she would not take the new addition lightly. To his surprise, the warlord didn't seem phased at the prospect of more competitors. The smirk on her face as she stared at the famous pirate was more than enough evidence for that.

"You want me to show you up too, huh, Drake?" Oda shot back confidently. Beside her, Billy sighed.

"I guess it's no longer just a duel, but anything went in the Wild West. Sure, Francis, you can join," he shrugged. "Still doesn't solve our problem about a proper judge."

Drake shrugged. "We'll just grab the first servant who comes through the door. Big deal."

"And if they don't want to?" Billy asked curiously.

The pirate only laughed. "Not our problem! They should be happy they get front row seat to a spectacular Chaldean gun show!"

"You're always fun to fight beside, Drake!" Nobunaga complimented with a grin as she turned to look at the robots finishing range setup. She wasn't lying, and it was rare for her to give out flattering comments like that. But it was certainly true.

Nobunaga and Drake had fought together on several singularities. Though it had always been in close range, they found their own combat styles rather similar. It was all about showing off for the two of them, and they did their best to be as blinding as possible in those moments. Though she never actually paid close attention to her marksmanship skills, it was simply the act of showcasing proudly who they were that made them mutually respect each other. But that respect would be left in check when the competition started; Nobunaga had no intention of losing after receiving her ascen-

"Hey! No! You got the wrong idea! I'm not hurt! I've just been sitting on my leg too long and it lost circulation!"

"Just hold still. You'll feel your leg again soon enough. I promise."

The shrieking in horror was accompanied by Drake's laughter. Nobunaga turned back in confusion, apparently having missed something develop. She followed Billy's confused stare towards the crates on the opposite side to see the mage employees now taking shelter in the garage. Many were staring at the lone magus who had been sitting there waiting in a Chaldean long coat. Nobunaga hid her own laughter as she spotted the newly arrived servant leaning over him… drawing a scalpel from the leather pack with red medical cross.

"Lost circulation… I see. I'll have to make this quick then," the pink haired berserker observed casually. Her black, officer's trench coat reached to her knees and waved in the small breeze, with the hem of a black skirt peeking from underneath. A black beanie covered the top of her long, braided pink hair. She took another step forward in her silver boots as she pulled a unique revolver from under her coat. Her red eyes glinted with purpose, making the magus' blood drain from his face.

"No! Please, Nightingale! It's not that bad! See! I can move! I can move!" The employee yelled as he began bolting towards the range.

"No running on the range!" Drake yelled while laughing, making the employee trip and fall into the snow face first. Almost everyone was laughing at this point.

Nightingale watched in anticipation as he quickly got up and made a show of being perfectly fine. With a slow exhale, she returned the pistol to its holster under her coat, and casually placed the scalpel back in her medical bag. She turned to the trio of shooters as Nobunaga and Drake clapped at her performance. Billy, who had never seen something like that before, simply blinked in confusion. Nobunaga noticed and chuckled, patting him on the back roughly.

"You've met Nightingale, right?" Nobunaga asked as the warlord waved her over. She began her approach.

"I thought the Angel of Crimea seemed rather normal for a berserker…"

"Oh, she is," Drake commented before sitting on the crate. "She's just hard to talk to sometimes, especially when there's treatments involved."

"What in tarnation…"

"It's rude to speak of others like they're not here," Nightingale commented as she approached the group. Other servants and the last volunteer employees were now starting to fill the garage behind her. "Now, did you require something?"

"I thought you were taking a break to play cards with Beowulf," Drake noted as she crossed her arms. Every time the range ran, a servant would oversee its operational safety. It was random at first, but now Nightingale was usually the officers since it was only open three days a week.

"We moved it to last night with Asterios since Euryale yelled at him for an undisclosed reason. Beowulf wanted to cheer him up."

"Well since you're here… Mind if you judge a shooting competition? It's between Billy, Nobunaga, and I."

Nightingale raised her eyebrows in surprise. She glanced towards the other servants then back to the group. "I wouldn't mind, but we need to ask the others. You need proper space and target count."

Drake waved her hand dismissively. "They'll agree to it. Not every day you get a grand shootout like this!"

"You sure you don't wanna join in yourself instead? More the merrier?" Oda asked with a tilt of her head, which was quickly answered by a shake of Nightingale's own. It seems she was more interested in judging after all. Nobunaga was partially glad she didn't have a fourth competitor, but also dismayed she couldn't personally defeat another firearm user.

"Oh sure, invite the whole range at this point," Billy sighed in exasperation. He had agreed to a rematch, not a free for all.

"Oh relax, kid. I'm sure the others would rather watch the shootout, right? You guys wanna see a gun show to remember?" Nobunaga exclaimed happily. The response was surprising, and near unanimous.

Billy sighed. It appeared a break from the routine was appealing for the usual range attendees.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VI ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

The trio were lined up, a port separating each from the others. Drake looked to her left to see Nobunaga priming her hand-held matchlocks, then to her right as Billy calmly stood with a hand hovering above his revolver. To the side, Nightingale stood watch with an employee from the magecraft division who would help with the competition. Between her improved vision as a servant and the helper controlling when targets appear, the scoring would be perfect. Behind them was a small gathering of servants and employees who have come to watch the shootout as word quickly spread to the nearby wing.

Nobunaga grinned to herself as Drake spun her twin flintlocks in anticipation; This was going to be fun!

"Remember the deal! You'll be adding to my trove in no time!" Drake proclaimed proudly as Nobunaga laughed next to her.

"Losers forfeit a portion of recovered currency from their next mission to the winner. I can't wait to get a piece of your next haul," Nobunaga smirked. It had been a condition they added last minute to increase the pressure, in addition to craft coin and noble phantasm limits. The competitive flame was in full blaze among the trio as Drake laughed in response. The pirate was really glad she included the bet to spice things up, because it definitely worked as Nobunaga smirked towards them. "I've stolen victory from many overconfident enemies. Prepare to join their ranks!"

"Reckon I got no other choice then… Prepare to fork your winnings over to a true dead eye," Billy chuckled as he got himself immersed. This was going to get loud, and while he was secretly not a fan of that, it's not like he had much of a say at this point. With all the boisterous servants and their fighting styles, he needed to get used to it sooner or later.

"I see the contestants are ready," Nightingale stated as she nodded to her temporary assistant. The middle aged, dark haired man pressed a few buttons on a remote he held.

"Robots are returning to the firing line, ma'am. The targets are ready to pop up at random," the man said with a small smile.

The woman nodded towards him. "Thanks, Daryl. Once the robots return, I will start the countdown. On the mark of fire, weapons are free to be discharged."

Nobunaga nodded, and quietly psyched herself up further. This small achievement was nothing compared to what she did in her real life, but there was only so much to do in Chaldea. The thought of more bragging rights, especially to use against Okita, were always a nice addition so things didn't get old. There was also that pride to keep against Billy, and her second ascension was sure to guarantee her edge over him. There was still the matter of Drake, who was a wild card, but she silently figured she could topple her too. She wasn't a famous warlord of Japan for nothing.


Oda grinned eagerly, and gripped the two matchlocks in her hands. Two more rifles floated above her shoulders.


Billy blinked, but when his eyelids lifted, his gaze was sharper than newly forged blades.


Drake spun her pistols by the trigger guards before gripping the handles, stopping their rotation. She held them at an angle in front of her.


Nightingale glanced down the line as if she could see the newly formed tension before turning towards the target gallery. She raised her hand high.


One of the robots floated next to Daryl, holding up a monitor. He pressed a button on the side and red lights flared alive above the firing ports, signifying the line was hot. The employee turned and gave a thumbs up to the servant next to him. She nodded in reply, and dropped her raised hand swiftly.


Leather shifted. Before she finished yelling the word, Billy had flipped the revolver out of his holster, drawn back the hammer, and let loose a round down range with a crack. A single target fell with a hole clear through the center torso within a fraction of a second after the competition started. Billy smirked and brought his opposing hand over to begin fanning the hammer. Another target swiftly fell to his quick target acquisition before the sounds of Oda's firearms burst from the barrels of her matchlocks, striking two targets for her count.

'No cutting corners this time,' Nobunaga reminded herself. Two of her floating rifles opened fire to hit only one target since the accuracy of her hovering armaments regrettably lacking. She had let them fire at separate targets before, sometimes causing both shots to miss. She would not allow that to happen with two opponents.

Drake broke out of her momentary shock to fire two rounds simultaneously into two separate targets; Billy may have a legendary quick-draw, but she had her own tricks up her sleeve. Ordinary flintlocks would never keep up with the rapid pace of the more recent Colt 1783. Pirates increased rate of fire by carrying several loaded pistols around their neck to fire and discard when boarding hostile ships. Drake had no need for such waste as new rounds, charges, and flints materialized instantly for her pistols, resetting them near instantaneously. She fired a new volley and took down one more target while the oth-

"Damnit!" She frowned as the second round lost the race to the next target to a shot fired from her left.

Oda might not have the precise ability to reload her arquebuses in the same manner as Drake, but who needed to specialize in that when you could just call a new, loaded rifle from thin air? As swiftly as she squeezed the trigger on her rifle and the round flew out of the barrel, she threw it backwards with one motion and summoned a new one into her grip. Two floating rifles fired, only to disappear to be replaced by new ones. As she was bringing the new one down on another target, she simultaneously fired a round from the one in her other hand-

She cursed loudly as the round made its way down range to a now falling target, hit by one of Billy's shots barely milliseconds after her discharge. She redoubled her efforts and increased her rate of fire; She decided to fire at as many targets as possible indiscriminately instead of wasting time acquiring "safe" targets. The warlord would not be defeated again.

"Like hell you're winning!" Nobunaga yelled as her volume of fire increased.

"Not on my watch, Oda!" Drake countered as she also stepped up her game. Billy aimed at a new tar- it began its decent.

He grit his teeth at Nobunaga and Drake's sudden barrage of rounds down range that changed the situation, but he quickly formed a plan. The revolver couldn't compete with their rate of fire in its entirety due to the maximum capacity of the cylinder and lack of magical reload, but he could certainly deal with targets in a smarter fashion. Thanks to the shootouts and duels he had during his life, he was able to glimpse a rough trajectory for rounds, but not a precise one. He just needed to- there!

With a smile, he squeezed the trigger and let a round hunt its prey. The round impacted a target before one of Drake's rounds could strike first, much to her displeasure. It seemed all Billy needed was the general path of the round to guess which was the intended target. The gunslinger then let loose one of his own rounds to counter it since his projectiles flew through the air at a much higher velocity. Every successful attempt meant an opponent's shot was wasted, and Odaa worried his newfound, legal sabotage could- His sudden smirk confirmed her suspicions.

Nobunaga saw Billy glance towards her as a round left the barrel of a matchlock. His eyes gauged the flight path. He then fired his round at an intersecting target with the results as good as he imagined. The shot glanced off of her projectile, sending it on a diverted path, but also corrected his round's flight to strike a target before Drake's shot could impact. It was a stunning maneuver even Nobunaga had to bitterly give praise to. If he kept pulling off trick shots like that than he could still pull a victory, and that concerned the warlord greatly.

"Quality over quantity, girls." He chuckled as he kept firing. He'd have to thank Annie for showing him trick shots.

Drake caught on to Billy's schemes and decided to throw one of her own into play. Her superior fire rate was being matched by Oda's absurd technique, but she could still improve the quality of the barrage. Strengthening her projectiles, she smirked and placed her high luck parameter into play. She fired a round while moving her pistol. The round's trajectory shifted, throwing off Billy's interception calculations, only for the round to strike through the targe- It flew on its curved path through another! Drake smirked at her play and mentally confirmed to throw in those specialized shots when the shot opportunity presented itself.

"You gotta do better than that to keep up with El Draque!" Drake boasted proudly.

Nobunaga was now growling. This was supposed to be her victory, yet her opponent's skills were making this a serious challenge. But still, as she growled, she found herself smirking. The better the challenge, the greater the reward tasted afterwards. She would win this and prove the supremacy of the great Oda Nobunaga!

They needed to be countered at the same time. She now summoned rifles six at a time, which made it harder to spot which one aimed where. All of them quickly kept firing, though it was difficult managing this many rifles at once. Her accuracy was certainly dropping, but the sheer volume had countered Billy's attempts of sabotage. In addition, her sporadic shots were now sometimes deflecting off her opponent's rounds. It was a chaotic strategy, but it was almost akin to the early days of using arquebuses in his campaigns. They were never as reliable as their later counterparts, so they had to be made up in volume.

She did win several major battles with these prized weapons, after all. "Do not think for a second you will defeat me here!"

The audience watched the trio fire off enough rounds to give modern suppression fire a run for its money. Besides the small gaps to throw them off, likely Daryl purposefully waiting to raise new targets, their chained shots were a continuous rattling. Some of the audience was torn from who to root for and who to pay attention to, with non-servants having a much more difficult time figuring out what was going on with their average eyesight. There was a small group whose amusement was solely on a janitorial robot attempting to clean up Nobunaga's discarded rifles.

Its processor could not register the weapons disappearing faster than it attempted to pick them up.

Nightingale mentally kept track of the targets to each competitor. To most it would have seemed a crazy task, but to a heroic spirit who had to keep track of several patients' conditions that changed almost unnoticeably, it was just another task. She watched with precise eyes as round after round impacted targets, finding some amusement in Billy's interesting method to stay in the race. Nobunaga's was simply another reminder of the chaotic battlefields and sanitation conditions she often saw in her early career.

After only another minute of continuous barrage fire, the shots halted as targets ceased to appear. The nurse looked towards her helper who nodded in confirmation. She let out a sigh as the three competitors turned their attention towards her, each with a mental count of their targets in case there was a dispute.

Nobunaga was grinning. If it was similar to the previous day, then by her count she had already won. There were a hundred twenty targets last time, so if they kept the hidden number the same, she already had half of the targets to her name. That would mean sixty points would need to go to another competitor solely for them to even tie with her, yet both were clearly hitting targets. She was about to prematurely yell in triumph, had a final thought not crossed her mind and braced her for the coming news.

The thought that the number of targets increased since there were more competitors. Battle reports often told a different story.

"It appears we have a dilemma," Nightingale announced, raising several eyebrows. "I was not expecting a three way tie between our gunners at sixty targets each."

The trio's eyes widened as one as they looked at each other, mentally confirming that the nurse was correct. There was a round of applause as the audience clearly thought that was a more interesting outcome than one of them winning. As their gazes turned to glares, Nightingale cleared her throat regaining their attention. "The mages have begun projecting new targets so we can break the tie. After a twenty-minute intermission, we will start a new round to determine a victor."

Nobunaga grumbled to herself as she dematerialized her rifles. The warlord began her trudge to the garage as Drake and Billy followed behind her, clearly as disappointed as the demon archer. She silently decided she would go to the cafeteria to grab a breakfast snack before heading back. Twenty minutes was plenty of time to do that, especially if she started over now in spirit form.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VII ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Nobunaga finished chewing on a rice crispy cereal bar as she walked up to the line. Drake and Billy were already in position waiting, but she wasn't late. The warlord had been sitting on one of the crates, eating her chosen breakfast in peaceful solitude while fuming over the situation. As she took her spot, she shot a glance towards the other two were clearly as eager to claim victory.

"Sure those snacks aren't going to slow you down?" Drake quipped with a smirk.

"You're going to need all the handicaps you can get this time!" Nobunaga retorted.

A robot hovered over to the judging servant and her assistant. It presented the employee with a remote as before, signifying setup completion. Daryl nodded and flipped a few switches on the device, before giving another thumbs up to Nightingale. "Round two ready!"

Nightingale smiled. "Competitors, take your positions."

The trio retook their stances. Drake mentally prepared to double her reloading speed. Billy flipped the flaps on his pouches to speed up his loading process. Nobunaga now had eight rifles floating over her shoulders, as many as she could feasibly fit in her port without going over the boundaries or slowing her handheld reload. This was borderline absurd on her part, but she did not want to lose. If this was going to be an all-out war, she would gladly unleash shotgun volleys down range to claim her supremacy.

She didn't even bother responding to Drake's incredulous stare at the comical number of floating rifles.

Nightingale took this as the cue to begin the countdown anew, and she did so. Her countdown was the same and ended with Billy once more quick-drawing and blasting a round into a target down range to take the initial lead.

Drake and Nobunaga began their own signature barrages. Billy began his round interception plays. More cleverly placed, new tricks appeared from the trio in an attempt to confuse the other competitors. Drake double shot at a target to prevent a satisfactory interception by the kid. The warlord fired a single volley at a trio of newly popped targets to secure the points. Billy fired a round and took down two targets before they properly lined up from movement paths.

They had changed everything in their personal strategies. Nobunaga even dematerialized rifles at different times to create a slight mist of dematerializing prana around her, making it harder to read her shots. Her mind raced to keep up with the other two, and she found her strategic mind was still being matched by them. It irritated her, but at the same time made her content. She was among competent heroes of different ages, and only they could provide her a real challenge in this situation. In any other situation, she would be silently glad they had her back.

Right now, she was just angry they weren't letting her win easily.

The barrage continued for sixty seconds only to end in the silence that followed the first round as they awaited the results. To their dismay, the tally was rather quick and the surprised look from Nightingale did not help. After Daryl scratched his head, the nurse sighed and looked towards them while shaking her head. At that point, they already knew the answer before she spoke. Collectively, they began their own forms of complaining.

"Another three-way tie."

"You've got to be kidding me!" Nobunaga yelled. The other two thought the same, but didn't voice it, as they glared at each other in discontent.

"This is getting ridiculous," Billy groaned. "How had a simple rematch turn into this mess?"

"The mages have prepped another count in case the same happened again," Nightingale announced as Daryl played with the remote. "We have one final round of targets, with this one having an odd number to ensure no further ties. A winner will be determined this round."

"Heh, I'm glad you can keep up with me. I don't like the idea of almost losing to servants not on my level," Drake boasted through grit teeth.

"The great warlord commends your abilities to wage this war on equal footing," Oda admitted begrudgingly.

"Reckon I haven't had a duel this intense in a long while," Billy stated. "But it ends here, ladies…"

Three gazes grew colder than the surrounding atmosphere as Nightingale prepared to make the countdown. The three competitors prepared for the final round, with Billy even resting his hand on his revolver to state his dead serious intent. Nobunaga and Drake had their weapons aimed in preparation to blast the first targets down. The warlord's gaze narrowed, fully determined to take home the grand prize.

Nightingale began her countdown as the crowd looked to the line enthusiastically. With word having spread to the cafeteria, the audience had grown by two dozen as those with no previous interest suddenly found an intriguing show being performed by the noisy gunslingers. The tense atmosphere could be cut with a knife, as Nightingale reached the end of her countdown as several murmurs erupted from the audience. The trio paid the disturbance no attention, especially Nobunaga as she gripped her matchlocks harder.

In hindsight, she should have. The final round did not start with Nightingale's opening call. It didn't begin with the solid report from Billy's revolver. Not even the barrage of Oda or Drake's guns cued the last act.

In fact, the final round didn't even begin at all.

But, as the trio realized with eyes wide in complete surprise, the revving of a Gatling gun did.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VIII ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

"Senpai… please get up."

Gudao grumbled as he felt two hands shaking him awake. The owner of said limbs was currently calling his name, or at least her particular nickname for him. He hesitantly opened his eyes to see warm, violet eyes gazing into his from behind eyeglasses. With a small smile, he instantly recognized of his personal assistant and closest servant, Mashu, standing next to his bed with some worry etched over her face.

She brushed one of her large, pink bang to the side. Unlike him in his sleep clothes, she currently wore the Chaldea assistant's uniform with red magecraft tie. The jacket was replaced with a sweater of similar design. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes and sitting up, Gudao groaned as he scratched the front of his white shirt. His legs remained under the blanket, basking in its continued warmth. "Good morning, Mashu… I believe I'm allowed to oversleep today."

"Senpai, Doctor and Da Vinci need you at the shooting range as soon as possible," Mashu stated quickly, hands folded in front of her. She played nervously with her fingers, a cute gesture she often did… when something unexpected and serious happened.

'Did she say shooting range!?' Gudao's mind flew into overdrive as he rubbed the sleep form his eyes in panic. "Mashu, what happened!? Is anyone hurt!?"

"Um… No, but Nobunaga's throwing a fit and threatening to prank bomb people for having her competition interrupted. But that's not the real issue."

"…I'm afraid to ask, but if Nobunaga isn't somehow the real problem, then what is?"

"Lancelot heard of a shooting competition with guns and got a little... excited," Mashu explained hesitantly. She smiled at him sympathetically for the next part she knew he always hated. "No one was hurt, but the range and several robots need some repairs... Doctor Roman has paperwork that needs to be filled after you survey the damage."

Gudao stared at her blankly before turning to the nearby screen. 0820.

"...I wanted to sleep until ten." he groaned as he covered his hands with his face. Mashu rubbed his back with a sympathetic smile.

Chapter Text

"Breakfast. Spar with Saber. Lunch. Prepare tonight's dinner event… Just another average day in Chaldea."

With a chuckle, Emiya looked into his mirror to fix the collar on his crimson polo. Running a hand through his loose, white hair, he visually ensured the top was tucked into black slacks. With a small sigh, he fiddled with the glossy belt as his eyes wandered across his room. Since it was devoid of almost any furniture, save for what a white-haired caster would request for him, the eyes landed on the only interesting furniture besides a full-length mirror. As his eyes gazed at the cabinet next to the lone sofa, there was a knock at the door, but it did not slide open.

"Good morning, Shirou! I might be a little late to breakfast with you and Saber. Jekyll said he and Roman could use an extra hand for a bit."

"I'll tell her, Okaa-san. See you at breakfast."

As the footsteps faded away, he walked to the cabinet and stared at the craft coins displayed on a shelf. There were three in total, though a fourth had been gifted to his adoptive mother who had just walked away. One displayed Arturia in a blue Christmas outfit holding a present, while a second depicted a purple-haired magus wearing her mystic code with a determined stare. Though his gaze lingered a little longer on the King of Knights' own, it was the newest craft coin that had most of his current attention.

Formalcraft. It synergized well with his combat style, which amused him upon testing it yesterday. Usually the Chaldean master would keep the first copy of a craft coin, but thanks to all the training and advising the archer had done in the first month, it was given as another token of appreciation. Emiya was hardly surprised Gudao had remembered the description of the black-haired, twin-tailed magus; He did talk well of her and many others. What did surprise him was that she had become the conceptual image of a craft coin. Every time he stared, that last conversation always played once more in his mind.

"Yeah… I know. I'll do my best… I'll do my best so that he won't get twisted like you. I'll do my best so that he will be able to like himself…! So you should also…"

'Forgive yourself.' She did not put it into words in that farewell, but he understood clearly. He engraved the girl's smile with pride into memory.

Within that golden sunrise, that smile he wore was the same as the idealistic boy he loathed so much. Emiya had told her he would, though the usual workings of the throne made it a false promise… or so he thought. He was not an idealist, nor was he an idiot, but Chaldea's unique circumstances gave him the chance he needed. Over the months he's been here, he had found a comfortable balance between the extremes. It had been difficult at first, but if that fool could persevere, then he could too.

Emiya smiled. "I hope you kept your end of the deal, Tohsaka. I've been doing my best here."

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Fragment 3: A Sweet Treat

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Snowflakes fell lightly outside the hallway's large windows. Emiya stared at them as he continued his stroll back to the residential area while lost in pleasant thought. There was a hint of a smirk still on his lips as he walked the nearly empty, spacious hallway; He had clearly enjoyed breakfast with Arturia and Irisviel. His enthusiastic mother had always been one of the sunnier individuals, but it had been great watching his former servant warm to up the place since her arrival.

Truthfully, he had appreciated her more thanks to that memorial essence he received in his second week. Memories he shouldn't have, from a different timeline, had been gifted to him by the unusual Fate System of Chaldea. Multiple summonings was rare enough, but the chance for a duplicate was also plausible. If one were to try and form while they were already present, a memorial essence would be left instead. It empowered a servant's abilities and noble phantasm by giving them memories from another timeline they experienced.

Thanks to that summoned memorial essence, he remembered much more through the eyes of that idealistic young master he disliked so much. He had now lived the memories of Shirou as he fought and fell in love with Arturia. That orb was a strange concept unique to Chaldea, and was responsible for these memories of 'him' from another timeline; After all, he had never fallen in love with Arturia in his own time. It had been nearly four months since he received it, and he had long since gotten used feeling those memories as his own.

But he was not the only servant to receive one, nor was he the first or last. A few days after arriving, Irisviel had also received one, though it took her an entire week to come to terms that she suddenly had a husband, daughter, and adopted son. Concerned over how she may react, he had waited until she received one in hopes it carried recollections from one of his timelines. The wait had paid off, and after she had gotten accustomed to her memories from a different self, she had reached out to try and create something new for herself and him. It's been a few weeks now, and Emiya was beyond glad to finally know what a mother's love felt like.

"Get him, Alice!"

"I'm trying, Jackie, bet he's so fast!"

Emiya's smirk widened as a pair of employees stopped further ahead. A fluffy, white creature, no larger than a toy dog breed, leapt into view from the connecting hallway. It sprinted on all fours in Emiya's direction with a joyful glint in its eyes. As its tail wagged happily in the air as it continued its retreat, its pursuers appeared from the same corner. The two child servants ran after the little familiar, not bothering to cheat through use of their skills or spells. While he never honestly played with the pair, seeing them was always a pleasant treat.

One child wore a black, Victorian dress with a simple bow in the front. Two hot pink bows tied her white hair into two braided ponytails. Her violet eyes glanced at Emiya as she giggled in her run. Her adopted sister beside her had whiter hair, albeit much shorter. She wore a black turtleneck sweater, with white accents along the sleeves and collar. A single scar fell over her left, silver eye, and another one graced her right cheek. Her blue jeans covered legs allowed her to move slightly faster than her companion.

"Good morning, Alice. Jackie," Emiya nodded. The two were very accustomed to their nicknames their adoptive mother gave them. Nursery Rhyme in particular had been very pleased with her own, since her current look was in honor of her former master.

"Good Morning, Emiya!" They chimed together with small smiles as they ran past. They always did brighten up an area when found together.

"Oh no, he went into the Salon! Auntie Marie won't let us run in there…" Nursery Rhyme pouted as Emiya looked after their disappearing backs.

"Maybe she'll help us catch him!" her sister suggested as they giggled. They waved playfully at a robot as it hovered past with several laundry bags.

Emiya turned forward with an amused smile, and kept walking. If he was content feeling a mother's love, then he could only imagine what those girls felt when Atalanta adopted them. Within weeks after Nursery Rhyme's arrival, the huntress had adopted the caster as a way of personally ensuring all children can be saved. She had ceaselessly showered Nursery Rhyme with care and affection, which was also the same case for Jack after her adoption much later.

Their start had been rockier than his and Arturia's; The saber still saw him more as the red archer than her young master even with her vivid memories from three similar timelines. Thankfully his adoptive mother was surprisingly eager to make sure the two former adversaries wound up getting along; That same concept was applied to the family before him too. There was no doubt Atalanta had committed a lot of effort into making that family work, especially during the act of bridging the previous gap between her and Jack.

From perspectives of different servants, he vaguely understood the two had trying experiences with each other from a large grail war, but the progress Atalanta made with her almost animalistic determination was impressive. Soon the idea of having a loving mother and sister resonated well with the assassin. The female archer had also successfully convinced her there was far more affection and comfort to be found outside of the womb. At the very least, Gudao was no longer waking up in the middle of the night, screaming in total horror upon finding Jack cuddled snugly into his side.

"My, my…" Emiya chuckled to himself, earning a small glance from the passing robot. He'd found his pace had slowed considerably, but he was in no rush even if he was a bit eager. Not minding the pace, he let his mind shift to dinner tonight. If there was one thing he would never grow tired of thinking about, it was culinary ideas.

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"I thought we had more cinnamon…" Emiya scratched his forehead which was partially covered by loose hair. The archer then readjusted the straps of his white apron before he paused to glance at a section of his sanctuary.

Chaldea's kitchen was expanded as a byproduct of Marie's need to create the lounge. He can hardly complain about the new additions, one of which he was currently checking. The enlarged pantry had aisles of food, which were mostly spices, supplied by the adjacent storage elevator. It brought more stocked food from a lower wing of Chaldea where the import storage and Bioscience greenhouses were located. There was even another set of metal doors next to the elevator that housed the freezer room for cold goods.

Usual stocks were supplemented by ingredients brought in from missions. Normally it would be frowned upon to take things from the past, but with standard leadership destroyed and the rest of the real world theoretically destroyed, there was a unanimous decision that it was alright for priority items. That didn't stop some servants from labeling personal interests as important, but as long as the item didn't hold a certain importance, no one seemed to give a second glance.

No one would miss bought items from a market, but a town's small monument or someone's prized trophy were still controversial despite the singularity repair theory.

Emiya sighed as he wrote down on the grocery list they were also running low on black pepper and ginger. They had two days' worth at most if he used the ingredients sparingly, but this afternoon's minor singularity in the Banda Isles should pay off massively. While the archer wouldn't mind personally picking materials on singularities, the received goods were never poorly chosen. He often spent more time in the kitchen than on missions nowadays with the larger number of servants, but he didn't mind too much.

"Mister Emiya, my check is complete. All turkeys will be defrosted as scheduled," a robotic voice called from outside.

"Perfect. I'm just finishing up a last minute ingredients check before lunch," he replied evenly.

With a sigh, he wondered when the Robotics Hanger would complete work on his requested staff member. The archer was initially judgmental about robots in a food environment, but their surprising cleanliness, dexterity, and spatial awareness compared to the standard models convinced him otherwise; No food given had even a tiny hint of metal or machine oil. He chuckled at the idea he now wished for additional ones, though mainly for inventory purposes so he could spend more time cooking and supervising. Proper materials to construct a new robot were significantly harder to acquire than culinary ingredients, so he didn't mind waiting.

His stock check complete, he pocketed the list and walked towards the exit. The real dinner prep after lunch should go smoothly, so for now, he could at least relax and enjoy lunch with Arturia, Jeanne, and Diarmuid. The sparring had made him rather hungry.

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"I'm looking forward to dinner tonight!"

"Of course you are, Saber," Emiya teased with a smirk as he pushed through the swinging doors into the cafeteria. He missed their friends' laughter at Arturia's expense.

He walked through the cafeteria's kitchen, nodding at the scattered culinary employees and helper robots. The old kitchen that served breakfast and lunch still operated as usual, though most of the staff now had the rest of the day to themselves. Their current task was the creation of simple snacks since lunch officially ended minutes ago. Chaldea's head chef and his culinary bots handled this half along with some employees, churning out plenty of tasty dishes; It wasn't five star, but it would definitely pass as enjoyable and delicious.

The double door entrance to the pantry acted as the divider between the new and old.

Salon de Marie's wing of the kitchen was created after knocking down the wall left of the pantry's entrance. This stylish section was under his supervision, serving the lounge directly for dinners, and consisted almost entirely of hand-picked personnel. With some surprise to the Chaldean residents, even four robots had also passed his culinary exam, which included on-the-fly flexibility. Fine-tuned multitasking abilities and sheer precision of the robots made them valuable workhorses throughout the facility, but their lack of 'a human touch' to their work was their downfall at the hands of Emiya's test.

He never did state that directly to the mechanical helpers though.

Walking into the new wing, he noted some helpers were storing the cleaned dishes into their metal cabinets, and taking count of proper silverware for tonight's banquet. Part of the polished, granite counter on the pantry's side was covered with trays for the garlic bread rolls to be made later. The far counter was currently for preparing cold, side dishes to go with tonight's dinner menu. It seemed everything was going smoothly as usual, and they were well ahead of schedule.

Tonight was Boudica's birthday, and a surprise party was definitely in order for the Heroic Spirit. She was another of the Salon's mainstay kitchen staff, and was a wonderful cook without a doubt. With some help from Gudao, she was slotted for the deployment today so she couldn't help in the workplace; His three friends were ensuring she stayed in the dark. Thankfully the redhead was very vocal when making small talk, so there was no need to sneak around to discover her favorite dessert.

"Good afternoon, Emiya!" Chaldea's head chef greeted from behind as the somewhat plump man walked into the pantry. The man, while proud of his work, was far more modest than expected. He was the only regular cook worthy of being five stars, yet didn't mind being under Emiya's leadership for dinner. "Let's work our beautiful magic to make Salon de Marie shine with smiles!"

"There's no doubt we will, Leandre," He looked back with a tiny smirk, but the chef already disappeared. He could hear his laugh though.

As he greeted his own staff, Emiya ran his mental checklist. He eyed the turkeys and quickly gauged the portions and thawing times. With a slight hum, he glanced at the salads and saw they were also progressing smoothly. All clockwork, just the way he liked it. Everything was smooth at this point, though it was a far cry from his beginnings.

It had taken him a while, but he appreciated and enjoyed his newfound life. Admittedly, it did feel a bit too routine at times. Maybe it would do him good if things were shaken up…in a good way, of course. Not in a bad way like finding Nobunaga's small glitter bomb in Fionn's bed last Sunday.

"Mister Emiya, everything is still proceeding as scheduled, I presume? No unexpected surprises?" came a robotic voice to his left.

With a small smile, he turned to the floating robot beside him. It was a standard culinary robot with precision claws and the classic Chaldean blue-paint. Atop its sphere, or what many referred to as the head, sat an enlarged chef's hat in comical fashion. It had been a joke gift to the top robot in his staff, and this one's humor programming let it receive the gift in good stride. If anything, the robot was proud of its present.

"Without a hitch, Codsworth. This is far from our first birthday party, after all."

"Oh, of course not, sir! But it pays to stay vigilant. One bad surprise may create a fussy British Queen, and I have no programming to handle that!"

He chucked lightly. "Wouldn't want to make Boudica mad on her birthday… Now then, we'll start salad prep in an hour."

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"Sorry I'm a bit late, Emiya. I was helping Benkei and Sasaki in the shrine."

"Oh? Is this the part where I scold you and say you're a bad student?" He smirked as giggling answered his question.

To say the Emiya now was different than when he first arrived would be a serious understatement. His cynicism had lost much of its edge, though his sarcastic quips remained to different extents. Even though that spark of a youthful ideal was once more lit, he still remained realistic of the likely end results; He was not the naïve Shirou, but he wasn't entirely the same Counter Guardian anymore either. It had been the result of months of self-realization thanks to these unique summoning circumstances, and he would freely admit it was a change he did more than just accept.

Dare he say, Chaldea does a fine job of making him smile.

There were many to blame, or thank, for the change in disposition. He was surrounded by allies fighting to preserve humanity, but it didn't feel like a questionable warzone. Chaldea had presented itself as a sanctuary and a place to call home. If the descriptions of this facility before the catastrophic event were any indication, it had evolved into a peaceful respite for servants after leyshifting back. No grail war or counter guardian mission had ever felt this incredibly rewarding, both in possibilities and opportunities.

One such possibility, turned reality, stood at a nearby counter with the head chef, helping Leandre with the salads so they can move on to the next part.

There was a lot to get done but he was glad for the usual support this day in the form of a particular apprentice, whose golden eyes met his as he looked up from checking the thawed turkeys. As expected of his student, she wore an apron over her blue halter dress. She had matching leggings and crystal clear slippers that tapped enthusiastically against the floor as she moved. Large, blue bows on the back of her head tied long, pink hair into twin tails.

She may have been new compared to Boudica and him, but Tamamo was very much one of the signature faces for the Salon's kitchen.

Thankfully, after nearly two months of practice and learning she kept her fluffy, golden tail and ears in check when near the many dishes. Granted, she was already an incredible cook, with a notable increase in taste when Gudao was involved; His training was slowly diminishing her bias so she may create wonderful delicacies for all to enjoy. He walked over to examine his student's current work with the basic salad preparation.

"How are the garden salads coming along, Tamamo?" he asked as he looked down at her work.

"Smooth as silk!" The fox girl exclaimed happily. Like several others, her spirits had been further lifted after taking residence in this facility. "This makes the third special order, putting Leandre and I ahead of schedule in case he needs a break."

The head chef nodded to her kindly with a smile. "I don't believe I'll need the break, but thank you! Today was relaxing so far."

"You make me so proud," Emiya stated without a hint of sarcasm, patting her on the shoulder. "Keep up the great work."

Tamamo was glowing. "Thank you! I'll continue to work hard to be the perfect wife for Master!"

Emiya, and Leandre too, internally cringed. Yes, he knew that her reason for wanting to cook at his level and variety was only as part of her 'Proper Wife Training,' but it didn't stop him from feeling bad for their poor master. She was often very fanatical about that vision of hers. Still, the glint in her eyes when speaking of Gudao made the archer question her motives, since she spoke of him strictly with high admiration up until Kiyohime's arrival.

It wasn't hostile or suspicious by any means, but he could have sworn sometimes that she was saying it to convince herself. If that was the case, it may just remain a crazy theory. From nearly everyone else's point of view, she was now clearly obsessed with their master. Still, Emiya kept the peculiarity in the back of his mind and never voiced it.

Tamamo wasn't the only one obviously interested in him, much to the amusement or concern of others when a cat fight broke out over the dilemma; The fox caster and the over-attached berserker may never get along at this rate. He had some experience with such problems before, but never to the extent of two servants at once. The fact Gudao was still standing was both a testament to his abilities to coordinate their combined efforts during a mission, and as a silver-tongued peace keeper in Chaldea.

To be fair, the master's best friend also played a critical role in the social politics when it came to his well-being.

"Have we decided on the dessert course?" Tamamo inquired while quietly humming to herself. She had begun quickly slicing lettuce again.

"Carrot Cake for everyone. Boudica and friends get a towered one. We'll start prep in as soon as you two are finished here. I'll get the ingredients for the appetizers."

"Yes, teacher!" she saluted back playfully, making him chuckle. It was a shame Boudica couldn't be here to add her friendly antics.

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Despite the smaller staff, Emiya never had an issue getting dinner made on time, and without exhausting his coworkers. It had been a long time since his first dish for a fellow servant. Boudica was curious of his cooking skills after the topic arose during a rather relaxed conversation. He had asked for permission from the head chef before cooking a meal for the rider, who absolutely loved it. After that, he began cooking a random dish for others when asked, since he didn't mind the extra tasks in the least or helping the head chef.

There was no need to do other chores or menial tasks since the robotics workforce had it covered well, so all he had left was cooking. It was one of his few fond traits from his younger days, which was an identity he still disliked. There would always be that regret about ignorantly chasing his ideal, but never anything negative about his culinary skills. After nearly two weeks of cooking sporadically for others, with the head chef even worshiping the ground he walked on, he had been approached by Marie with a proposition.

"My vision demands only the best! If France is the modern capital of cuisine, then we absolutely must have you leading the way! I will not take no for an answer!" She had proclaimed; He still laughed about it to this day. Suddenly he was no longer another of Chaldea's unique archers, but the Grand Chef for Salon de Marie. Since then, he has upheld astounding quality, and ensured his staff was praised with high regard.

"Turkeys will be in the ovens in two minutes, Emiya!" "Starting work on the appetizers." Moving the wine from storage, Mister Emiya."

The archer smiled at the usual communication from his staff. It truly had become a comfortable environment for him and his staff, and as a bonus, they even got to enjoy their own dinner since the robots could distribute. It was a simple manner of making sure the desserts were made ahead of time, which was why he was currently-

"Emiya!" A recognizable voice called from the kitchen's entryway, though not from his staff.

"Coming, Marie," He replied quickly. "I'll be right back, Tamamo. Then we'll start with desserts."

"Okay!" She replied as she fixed the tie on her apron. Leandre had moved on to helping with the appetizers.

Emiya walked over to where Marie had previously stuck her head from the Salon's entrance. "Is there something needed for th-"

His question was interrupted when he pushed the door open to see Marie had already departed; She was now discussing something with Jeanne and Mozart by the grand piano. In her place were three other servants, two of which were currently beaming up at him happily. The two child servants giggled as their adoptive mother happily rubbed their shoulders, before looking at her fellow archer with a smile.

"Good afternoon, Emiya," The three greeted at once. They were almost completely in sync, which made Marie and Jeanne smile towards them.

Emiya's eyes walked up slender arms, past the top of a jade A-line dress with gold accents. He swiftly met the green eyes of a fellow archer, face framed by green tinted hair that turned blonde in the back. A golden braid of hair wrapped around the back of her head past her similarly colored ears. Her tail hung limply behind her, occasionally swinging gently left or right. He smiled at the huntress and the children.

"Jackie, Alice, Atalanta. To what do I owe the pleasure?" he asked smoothly.

"I realize you're busy, but my girls have a small request," The huntress spoke swiftly, raising an eyebrow from the man.

"Of course. What's this about?"

"Jackie and Alice were recently substituted from the strike team this afternoon, but I'm still the ranged support. Since they have nothing else to do, Jeanne and Irisviel thought they might like to help out making desserts," Atalanta explained while smiling and rubbing the duo's heads lightly. "Isn't that right, girls?"

"Can we help you make the cake, Emiya?" Jack asked in a soft voice. It was hard to think someone so adorable could be so completely horrifying on the battlefield, both in assassination precision and... choice of clothing, or lack thereof.

"Can we please?" Nursery Rhyme chipped in with a happy smile.

Atalanta smiled at him warmly. Emiya smiled back... but was mentally screaming. Having the routine shaken up was good, but this was not what he was expecting.

Emiya had dealt with suicidal missions and ideal crushing objectives. The spine-shattering blow from Heracles his alternate self received during the Fifth Holy Grail War was horrific. He even dealt with a King of Heroes on a war path, but nowhere in his mental book of game plans did he have any idea how to deal with children. Ilya hardly counted since she was stuck in a child's body, and out for his blood initially. He never had children nor dealt with any in his previous life for extended periods. Plus, he had the main dishes to help supervise and prepare for tonight-

"Awwww~! Mikon~! Of course, you can help~!" Tamamo squealed as she knelt down and hugged the two children. She had been watching the encounter since the sliding doors opened to reveal the girls. Her actions eliciting giggles and small, happy cheers.

Not from Emiya, of course. He kept smiling, but internally he was on the verge of a small breakdown while mentally scolding his apprentice for forcing his hand.

"Wonderful! Thanks you two! I'll be sure to find a small trinket or two to bring back from the mission!" Atalanta waved happily as she walked off. "Behave yourselves, girls! Don't cause Emiya or Auntie Tamamo any trouble!"

"We won't, mother!" Jack said while waving goodbye. Nursery Rhyme joined her sister's gesture with a giggle.

"Let's go girls!" Tamamo exclaimed, breaking Emiya out of his thoughts and taking the children's hands to lead them into the kitchen. No way out of this one now.

'Calm down. Regain focus. We're ahead of schedule,' He thought to himself. There was still much to do but plenty of hands to complete the objectives. He and Tamamo were going to do the deserts anyway, and he could delegate supervision to Leandre for the main course. If he took quick breaks to oversee their work occasionally, everything should turn out alright and as planned. Thankfully the small smile never left his face to show his inner anxiety for the task ahead.

"Codsworth! Leandre!" Emiya called out into the kitchen, answered swiftly by the floating robot and head chef.

"Mister Emiya," The robot called in its mechanical yet friendly voice. "How may we be of service, sir?"

The head chef smiled as he watched Tamamo lead the children towards the dessert ingredients. "Does this have to do with our surprise little helpers today?"

Emiya nodded, then sighed as the two before him chuckled.

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Thankfully Leandre was head chef for a reason, and with the help of Codsworth was able to organize the remaining staff without any issue or delay. The section the group of four was currently using was set aside for desserts, and two employees who were originally helping were tasked to the primary dishes. Thankfully, the pair of female employees was more than happy to oblige after some fawning over the child servants. Even with his personal workforce already compensating the current situation, he still felt nervousness and anxiety about the task at hand.

"I'll clean the carrots…" Tamamo began as she turned on a nearby faucet.

With her free hand, she reached behind and plucked a knife from the central counter. "And you can do the slicing, because you're the best in Chaldea at that~!"

"Okay!" Jack smiled as she took the kitchen knife from Tamamo.

Emiya watched Tamamo and Jackie prepare ingredients for a carrot cake, after the former tied an apron to the child. The assassin currently manipulated the knife with precision and was making quick work of dicing the carrots to pieces, all with a small smile on her face. Her task was expedited after Codsworth brought some apple boxes for the little servants to reach the counter easier. As he watched Jack's extraordinary knife work, his mind wandered to stories of the grail war involving the famed assassin showcasing those skills in a different manner.

Atalanta, Jeanne, and the Ripper had intense conflicts in the latter half of the war that would have left anyone with a permanent grudge. Though there had been some palpable hesitation among them, he was only partially surprised new bridges had been built. He was glad for both Chaldea's atmosphere and their own benefit that their former interactions were discarded in favor of the new, bigger picture. Most of the employees had certainly welcomed the idea of another child in the facility, after taking time to get used to her horrifying aura and origin.

Thankfully, the facility was very used to dealing with different presences at this point, so adapting only takes days at this point.

The archer was snapped out of his thoughts as the other little servant pulled lightly on his apron; His mind was wandering far too often these past two weeks, but thankfully it wasn't a bunch of internal conflict that troubled him. "Yes, Alice?"

"I got the sugar," she smiled at him, and pointed towards four entire bags at her side. He let out a small sigh as the side of his mouth twitched upward in amusement.

"We didn't need that muc-" He stopped himself when he noticed her sudden, downcast look. "But it's always good to be prepared just in case. Thank you, Alice."

Her smile returned in full force as Tamamo giggled. "Yay, I helped!"

'...How did Okaa-san and Jii-san do it with Illya?'

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Nursery Rhyme had her tongue stuck out in concentration. Tamamo was trying to control her giggles while helping Jack with their bowl. "Just like this?"

"Just like that, Alice. Crack them gently, and make sure none of the shell falls in."

She cracked an egg perfectly and watched it slip in with the others. She smiled. "Perfect?"

"Perfect," Emiya chuckled with a small smirk.

Once they were busy with preparing the desserts, Emiya slowly felt himself relaxing. Sure he had no solid experience dealing with kids, but he was a master of cooking well before he became a counter guardian. As long as he was doing something he loved and was amazing at, he would be fine. He was soon feeling very reassured about his current dilemma, and far faster than he initially thought.

There were several pairs of large bowls mixed with their respective ingredients; The cakes were going to be larger than usual so they were measured to double the normal requirements. Emiya and a giggling Nursery Rhyme just finished adding the last batch of eight eggs to one of the bowls. Tamamo closed a carton with half its contents remaining and happily handed it to her little helper who currently held three extras.

"Jackie, would you mind taking this back to the freezers in the pantry?" She requested in a soft voice.

"Okay," Jack replied quickly with a small smile.

"They'll be behind two metal doors. They'll open for you if you stand on the mat, so you won't need to put down the eggs," Tamamo smiled.

She began walking towards the pantry when one of the culinary robots entered through the salon doorway. She stopped to let it pass, then continued walking while keeping her eyes glued to the previous interruption, the robot balancing four trays with its arms. Lifting them with perfect balance, it floated towards the dish washers to help the Salon's staff clean the wine glasses from the bar. Jack watched it with a small smile as it made all of it look as effortless as she did fighting in a mist.

If she had kept her eyes in front of her she would have seen the employee carrying a container full of fine wine bottles coming out of the pantry. The servant turned forward just in time to yelp as she bumped into the employee, causing him to yell in surprise as well. It would have been fine if the shock wasn't accompanied by some loose bottles falling out of their holders, beginning their plunge to the ground. Jack looked from her hands holding the egg cartons to the falling wine bottles; This was not an easy decision.

Thankfully it was not one she had to make.

With agility and grace, Emiya had closed the gap and caught the bottles. He let out a held breath of relief. He looked towards the former serial killer who stared back in surprise. The employee had quickly glanced around his stack and released a sigh of relief that nothing had been loss thanks to the Grand Chef. Jack looked ashamed and embarrassed as she looked at Emiya.

He simply closed one eye and smirked towards her. "Don't frown, Jackie. Nothing bad happened."

She nodded in relief as he got up and quickly placed the bottles in their container. "All fine."

"Thank you, Emiya," The employee nodded before heading towards the Salon's doorway. He turned his attention to Jack, who still held the cartons. Recalling what his mother and the others would do for them, he reached over and gently rubbed her head, causing her to giggle.

He smirked. "That's better. Put the eggs away, and we can finish the cakes… sound like a plan?"

"Mhm!" Jack giggled as her head bobbed up and down happily.

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Tamamo placed another cake pan into an oven as the pair of children put the last into an adjacent appliance together. They shut their respective ranges with the older woman turning them on with the proper settings. Emiya was quickly cleaning some of the mixing bowls in a nearby sink so they could use them to make the icing. His student walked into the pantry to get the icing while Jack and Alice placed an apple box in front of another faucet to wash their hands.

To the archer's amusement, they were both sharing the same apple box and trying not to fall over. Nursery Rhyme pouted. "Jackie, me first!"

"There's room for us both," she retorted with a small smile. Her sister still kept pouting.

After quickly locating and extracting the frosting that was newly brought up from lower level storage, Tamamo brought it back to their counter without incident. She opened the tops of each to do a quick check to make sure they weren't spoiled or in the process of, and smiled when confirmed. Jack and Nursery Rhyme walked over as Emiya finished drying one of the bowls with a towel. As he placed it on the counter, he looked to the girls while drying a second.

Tamamo was quietly eyeing Nursery Rhyme as she held one of the lids to a frosting container to her mouth and licked it. The little girl froze when her eyes met the golden orbs of the older caster and she pulled the lid back, embarrassed at being caught. As she smiled nervously, Tamamo couldn't help but giggle at the dabble of frosting that made its nest on the tip of her nose. Kneeling down to her level, she reached out with her finger and wiped the frosting off her nose, making the child go cross eyed in the act. The fox girl licked the frosting off her finger and reached out once more to tickle her little helper's stomach, causing them both to laugh.

"You should have just asked~!" Tamamo cooed as she joined her in laughter.

"I will next time, I promise," Nursery Rhyme replied bashfully.

Emiya watched the pair from nearby as he finished hand drying the last bowl. One side of his mouth lifted in amusement after witnessing the act. He placed the bowl down and looked back to see the other child licking another lid. Jack pulled back to reveal a dot of frosting on her nose, but turned to look at the archer when she caught his stare. Tamamo looked down and then followed the gaze back to Emiya, holding a hand to her mouth in a terrible attempt to hold back her giggling. Her amused eyes were relaying her teacher a very clear, unspoken challenge.

"Well, Emiya?" Tamamo teased while placing her hands on her hips. "Please show your dear student how it's done."

He let out a sigh. 'How do parents do it?'

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With veteran ease, Emiya applied some quick decorations atop the frosting of the small test cake. It was more akin to an oversized cupcake as it sat on the counter in front of the children. The tiny rumbling of some stomachs and some shy requests later led to using excess batter so they can "test" the quality of the batch; It didn't take a super computer to figure out what the real reason was, not that he minded.

Tamamo smiled as the kids stared happily at the cake presented to them, and quickly took their forks and sunk them into the delicacy. They took their bites eagerly, eyes lighting up upon first taste. Emiya smiled at the expected outcome, though it was honestly probably harder to fail at making proper carrot cake than succeeding. Regardless, he always took pride in his work, but there was a little extra this time since it was shared with his student and the surprise little helpers.

"Perfect batch?" He asked with amusement laced in his voice.

The pleased noises that came from chewing mouths were all the answer he needed. Leaving the girls to their small reward for helping, he turned his attention to the several cakes freshly pulled from the ovens. The batch still needed its own decoration, and the one for Boudica and her closest friends would be a layered one that required a little extra attention. With Leandre reporting often that everything was going smoother than he expected, Emiya was beyond content with simply finishing the desserts with his little group.

"When you're finished, please come help me complete the rest of the batch, alright ladies? We'll start with Boudica's towered Birthday cake."

"Of course!" Tamamo replied between her own bites.

She was about to take the final bite of the small cake, but noticed some crumbs on Nursery Rhyme's mouth. The fox caster smiled and placed her fork down, taking a nearby napkin. She didn't need to kneel since she was standing on one of the apple boxes.

"Alice, dear," Tamamo spoke softly as the little girl turned to look at her, mouth full of food. "Here, let me wipe that for you."

With gentle hands, Tamamo wiped the crumbs off the sides of her mouth, all while the child kept chewing. The older woman hummed to herself while she finished her small courtesy before winking. Turning her attention to Jack, she noticed a slightly messier situation and began gently wiping the crumbs off of her face as well. Content with her work, she placed the napkin back on the counter, picked up her fork, and reached for-

The plate was empty.

Blinking in surprise before turning to a giggling Nursery Rhyme, Tamamo placed her hands on her hips and gave her a mock glare accompanied with a terribly hidden smile and the small twitch of a fluffy ear.

"Hey, that was my bite," She fake scolded, receiving a muffled response in reply before the young girl swallowed the last bite.

"Not anymore!" She replied, sticking her tongue out at the older woman as she hopped off the small apple box.

Tamamo swiftly knelt down and reached for Nursery Rhyme, eliciting some giggles as she held the child by her sides, laughing while doing so. "Didn't Mama Atalanta teach you not to steal?"

"She wasn't stealing, she was borrowing it from Auntie Tamamo!" Jack said enthusiastically from behind, breaking into her own fit of giggles when tickling hands found their way to her own sides.

"Oh, an accomplice in crime, huh~?" Tamamo grinned while tickling the girl. Some nearby, amused employees watched the little scene as Emiya leaned on the counter with a smirk, buried in his own thoughts once more.

To say it was a pleasure to see the trio in such good spirits was an understatement. Tamamo's story was well known in his home country, of a goddess incarnated as human by her own wishes. The tale varies like many, but almost always ends with her being hunted down and killed after being misunderstood. Her tears and screams filled the field of her demise as an entire army finished the job. Yet here she was, enjoying her time laughing with children who also had rough pasts.

Nursery Rhyme and Jack were never even born, one being the incarnation of several aborted children identifying as a single entity, and the other being a collection of tales that manifested in a chosen form. Collected as identities within the Throne of Heroes, the grail could call upon them to fight each other to the death. But instead, a small positive from humanity's currently dire situation, they have been brought together on the same side among many others. They're able to have a small semblance of an average life between battles that determine the future of humanity.

Emiya continued to watch the smiling faces of those before him. Even after all that happened to them in the past, they were lost in the current moment. They were blissfully uncaring of what would happen in the near future as the two children assaulted the laughing Tamamo with ticklish hands of their own. As they smiled and played, it was burned into his memory as another small reminder he wasn't the only one to receive a small slice of happiness… nor would he be the last.

He didn't even try to hide the honest smile, nor stop their antics prematurely.

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Sitting on the floor, Tamamo hummed to herself as she gently brushed the hair out of Jack's sleeping face. Both her and Nursery Rhyme were napping with their heads on the older woman's lap. Jack's legs rested on Emiya's feet as he relaxed on the couch behind them. The fox caster leaned her back against the plush sofa and continued to watch the snow fall outside though the salon's windows. In the distance the sun peaked through the clouds to bask a distant peak in golden light. Emiya chuckled and looked down at the two sleeping servants, curled in small balls on the floor.

"My, my… and here I thought we'd be playing a game with them," Emiya pondered quietly.

Tamamo giggled softly and looked back at him. "I guess that little bit of sugar was enough to crash them."

"I'm surprised, considering they're a bundle of sugar themselves," he replied, forcing Tamamo to hold back chuckles.

With a smile she went back to humming, only turning her head slowly at the approach of footsteps from behind. Did they need to move this couch? Marie and some salon assistants were busy rearranging furniture in preparation for the banquet tonight after getting word the strike team returned earlier than anticipated.

Emiya turned around and smirked upon seeing Atalanta's signature battle dress, and noted the large bag she had slung over one shoulder. The huntress didn't look tired in the slightest from the deployment that afternoon. With a small smile, they waved to each other silently, but he stopped her greeting with a simple hand to his mouth. Taking the note, she reached the couch and slowly looked before trying not to swoon at the sight. She gently dropped the large sack she was carrying in one hand, its contents likely the spices he had requested.

"Finished already?" Atalanta asked quietly.

Tamamo shook her head, "Well ahead of schedule. The Head Chef and Codsworth let us take off early."

"Emiya? Taking off from the kitchen early?" Atalanta spoke with a teasing, scandalized look.

"Your girls have unbelievable peer pressure," Emiya noted, making the two women giggle.

Atalanta looked down at the two girls resting on her friend's lap. Their gentle breathing and peaceful faces told her all she needed to know. Emiya watched as she smiled fondly at a piece of her little wish come true. The huntress was one of the few servants in Chaldea whose wish was widely known, and without fear. That dream and the mission of the organization go hand in hand, and she was beyond grateful she had a personal chance to make part of her wish a reality. Emiya silently wondered if being able to give the two a piece of happiness was similar to what Irisviel did to him… except her recent pampering was to force him into more decorations for his 'awful, barren room.'

"I trust they weren't too much to handle, were they?"

"Not at all. They were the highlight of the day," Emiya replied with a genuine smile.

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~~Happy Birthday to you~~

A fair skinned, red haired woman blushed in a shade of pink that almost matched her red dress, obviously embarrassed by the turn of events. She looked to her sides across the long table moved to the center of the salon. With a warm smile, she met the eyes of her closest friends that flickered with the light from candles on the table. Assorted servants shrouded in the dark room, and even some employees, joined her at the table as the cake was wheeled into position.

In front of her, approaching from the Grand Piano where Jeanne and Mozart stood clapping was Jack and Nursery Rhyme with the large cake. Tamamo and Emiya ensured they placed into position on the other side of the table, next to their standing master. As Gudao readjusted the tie on his black suit, the rider covered her mouth with both hands as the quartet of cake makers placed the large, layered carrot cake in front of her.

"I present to you your cake, Queen Boudica. It was an effort completed secretly by the hands of the Grand Chef Emiya, his apprentice Tamamo, and their two little helpers this afternoon," Gudao declared proudly as the candle light illuminated her alone. Without waiting or warning, she quickly blew out the candles to more cheering and laughter.

"Thank you, thanks so much," she beamed while looking at the five before her. "It's wonderful."

"Nooo~! You say that after you take a bite!" Nursery Rhyme reprimanded playfully, causing some laughs. Tamamo patted her head from behind.

"I never knew you were fine with the kids helping in the kitchen, Emiya. How did it go?" Gudao whispered as Jack handed the queen a cake knife.

The culinary master chuckled as the mana powered chandeliers finally flared back to life.

"I wouldn't mind it happening more often, that's certain. They made the day far more memorable."

Chapter Text

The Party Cave, as it was commonly called, came into existence when a quarrel between two female servants quickly turned physical, resulting in a giant hole in the wall that separated the original Chaldea bar from the mountain rock. Much to the further dismay of the Engineering Division, several individuals presented an idea that the hole should remain and the big indent transformed into a new recreation room. The renovations were quick with the help of several berserkers and casters, though it did take two weeks. Since then, the two rooms had been referred to under the same name.

The bar itself was secluded from the rest of the building, found at the end of a long hallway between it and Salon de Marie. As one can tell by the ornate columns and wall decor, this place was not originally meant for regular employees. Its spacious interior was carpeted and had plenty of booths with plush, blue upholstery. Neon blue mood lights formed on the boundary of the walls and ceiling. The counter was a monolithic, ocean aquarium filled with different coral and fish. Blue lighting from underneath made it glow brightly in the dim room. Dark Oak stools lined the counter, with only one current customer since it was the afternoon.

"Lex! I could use another Ale!" Drake requested. Her black button up contained her bust as efficiently as her battle coat, but her jeans were nowhere near as tight fitting. Her pink hair was tied in a rare pony tail, though a rather unruly one.

"Right away, Miss Drake!" answered a robotic voice.

To say the pirate was a regular at the Chaldean bar was a severe understatement. Salon de Marie was much too refined for her tastes, but she found the Party Cave to be exactly what she liked. To the chagrin of the Logistics Division, her arrival only made the alcohol consumption problem worse. A consumption limit had to be put in place for servants, but it could be bypassed by helping to acquire alcohol during singularities. Since then, Drake and several others have been consistently bringing large varieties of the precious liquid back to Chaldea. There has been a constant surplus ever since.

"One fresh mug, right from port," the robot replied as it placed a wooden cup onto the bar for her. Drake chuckled as the robot floated back to the center.

"Thanks, Lex! I'd treat you to one but… well…"

"A can of premium motor oil would be great for my servos," it quipped back, making the pirate laugh heartily.

"I'll see if I can get you a couple next singularity!"

In one swift motion, Drake threw her head back and downed the remaining half of her current mug. As the glass parted her lips, she let out a satisfied exhale as recognizable laughter filled the nearby hallway. As the robotic bartender floated over to grab the used mug, the pirate pulled the new one closer as footsteps approached the entrance. Swirling her mug, she casually looked over as the silhouetted servant appeared with a friendly wave.

Drake snickered at the doorway. "You're late, Fergus."

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Fragment 4: Double Intoxication

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The Irish servants were all ranked highly by the employees, especially in terms of sheer allure. Fergus was no different, and he often displayed his scarred, muscular chest like he did now. Loose-fit, black track pants covered his brawny legs, and were coupled with a pair of white sneakers. He ran a hand through his short, dark blue hair as he took the stool next to his drinking buddy. Drake had long since gotten used to his unusual eyes, and never did bother to ask whether he was always squinting or if it was their natural state.

"The usual, Fergus?"

"That'd be great, thanks, Lex!"

As the robot began working on his drink, Drake chuckled. "So… I guess you didn't time a little sortie well enough?"

Without missing a beat, Fergus laughed. "Yea, well, Cassandra was extra energetic today."

"And here I thought it was Alicia today…" She mused with a grin before taking a sip from her mug. He only laughed harder.

Even if Chaldea was a large place, when you lived in it for an extended period with the same people, sexual tension was bound to build at some point. Roman, as the acting director, came to an agreement with Da Vinci and the other staff heads that it was fine to have relations in Chaldea, so long as parties kept mature about it. To the delight of a few female employees, Fergus just happened to love women almost too much. He kept things casual, and the girls didn't seem to mind in the least. If there was anything to be surprised about, it was that he had multiple partners and the humans didn't seem to mind sharing the Irish hero.

It was thanks to Drake's impromptu drinking contest with several employees that he bridged the gap with the first two... not that he likely needed help. They had been friends since the Okeanos Singularity, thanks to Fergus being one of the initial servants upon landing. He had kept up with her drink for drink, and they soon became drinking buddies throughout the entire situation. While nothing ever happened between them, though possibly in a casual manner, the absolute respect had carried over easily to her arrival within Chaldea. They've had almost daily meet ups ever since, though usually they were joined by their third companion.

"Where the hell is Robin anyway?" Drake mused as Lex dropped off his glass mug. The two servants clinked their alcohol before taking a quick swig.

Fergus exhaled in content. "Small shooting competition at the range with Arash and Tota."

Drake blinked. "The range is closed."

"That it is. They're at the training ground with El Melloi firing spells for them to hit."

"Huh. Sounds like fun," the pirate chuckled as she took a sip. "Almost as much fun as the shootout last week."

"Oh boy… Going on about this again, are we?" Fergus chuckled as Drake rolled her eyes.

"Last week's little competition was mine, fair and square!" Drake complained before throwing her head back and downing the entire mug of ale in renewed frustration. "Oh well… It was a fun little show we put on."

"I still would have loved to see that," her drinking partner chimed in, taking a sip from his own, large mug. The bartender floated over to replace Drake's mug as the pirate took on a contemplative look. Fergus simply waited quietly, though an amused smirk remained on his face. Finally, he sighed. "So, what's got you all water logged all of a sudden?"

"Just a fleeting thought… I wonder if Mashu will ever take me up on that offer," She quickly answered with a small shrug.

Fergus laughed. "I don't believe so. She's prim and proper, and fairly assertive about it."

"Yeah, yeah…" Drake replied offhandedly with a roll of her eyes. The pirate got along well with Mashu, as did the rest of the servant population, but it was her sense of responsibility that always irritated her. Granted she could have been worse, but the rider was almost positive she had never broken a rule or walked the fine line. There was a whole world of thrill and excitement the shielder was missing out on just by being simply content with the way things are. Sooner or later, Mashu needed to learn some real adult pleasures.

Drake was more than willing to take the heat for introducing her to those concepts, with alcohol being the first. She had decided to treat Mashu like one of her own crew and invite her to a drink after their latest supply sortie, though she was very shy about it. Using her small cunning, and unknowing manipulation of the kind girl, the rider had worded her offer so that the girl's answer could be seen as a confirmation. Whether or not she was going to be stood up about it was another thing entirely, but it's only been a few days.

"Ah, just give the poor girl some time. She's still young."

"The earlier the better, I say," Drake chuckled with a grin.

"Yea, but you're all about living the moments like they're your last. I think Carpe Diem is one of the phrases they use now? Maybe it was yolo or something…" Fergus pointed out as he scratched his chin. He soon shrugged.

"Nothing wrong with living for the moment. You're sleeping around with little thought on consequences," She pointed out with a small chuckle. He shrugged once more, and they both laughed. "I've said it before, and I'll say it again… Chaldea is a nice place, but everything has an end. Whether it ends brightly or not, we'll find out in time… but by the seas, I've never seen something shine so incredibly bright for so long. It's really nice here, so I wouldn't mind making it last as long as possible."

"One of the few long-lasting things you'll appreciate," Fergus agreed while raising his mug. Drake clinked it with her own.

"If it means day after day of guaranteed, ephemeral bliss, of course I'll take it!" Drake laughed heartily.

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Ever-sailing and ever-indulging, Drake still had a few quiet insecurities she kept to herself and refused to show. Besides a secret fondness for girlish jewelry, her luck with men was one of those, and she never did find someone who had a chance of settling down with her; As if she could ever do that. There were some she slept with out of lust, but that's the most it ever came to in the end. It never bothered her though, as she was content enough sailing the seas and drinking with her crew. At least those experiences let her bond quickly with some of the male servants in Chaldea.

One of them shook his head on the stool next to her. "Arash is just too good."

"Maybe you just keep letting others win, Robin," Fergus chuckled.

Drake stared into the archer's green eyes with amusement as he shrugged and sipped from his cup of sake. It was always strange seeing the legendary, British Robin Hood sipping on his favored Japanese drink of all things. Granted the orange haired man in a green muscle shirt technically wasn't the real one, but a man who took up the mantle, though they always treated him as the real deal. His skills often proved it despite his rather modest deflections that he was never anything much. He sighed as he rubbed his hands casually against his dark green sweat pants.

"I'm not that good," He responded with a small smirk. "I really was giving it my best, but he's simply on another level."

"Would you like me to get you another bottle, Robin?" the bartender asked as it floated over.

"I'm good for now, thanks, Lex."

Fergus raised an eyebrow with a smirk. "Late and not drinking to make up for it?"

Robin rolled his eyes in amusement. "Hey, it's only two in the afternoon. I got some pride."

"Who cares about shame," Drake ribbed as she started drinking from her mug.

"Not the pirate with her cannons nearly hanging out, that's for certain." She playfully smacked him on the arm as the two men laughed.

Becoming acquainted with the archer had actually happened during a previous grail war. While they did not actually fight each other, they did pass occasional taunts and greetings when her master wanted the pirate materialized. He hadn't been deployed in Okeanos, but Fergus talked about his drinking buddy often. Needless to say, they got along rather well after she arrived, though she had a lot to say about how openly dismissive he was about enjoying himself. He did feel content with his own sense of justice for others, but getting the archer to have a more positive outlook, despite his past with that village, was hers and Fergus' little project.

Thankfully, it had worked rather smoothly, and his long time in Chaldea did jump-start their task.

Drake placed her mug back down with a smile before she noticed a familiar servant presence approach. Her eyebrows slowly rose as Robin and Fergus sensed it too. The archer glanced to the door discreetly since he was the closest, though the rider casually pretended not to notice as a familiar splash of pink hair appeared in the doorway. Even though she was silhouetted and in her peripheral, Mashu was recognizable as ever to the pirate and she wondered if she was actually going to take her up on the offer. Judging by the slight nervousness and her quick glances around the room, it appeared she was searching rather than arriving.

"You going to make a move?" Fergus asked Drake quietly as she turned slightly to face him.

"If I must," she replied with a quiet chuckle as Mashu slowly tried to retreat from the doorway.

Robin broke the silence. "Hoy Mashu, looking for someone?"

Her fingers froze in the doorway, and she slowly looked back in with a worried expression. She flinched and stared back, only to be met with a smirk from the orange haired archer. "Would it be master?"

"Y-yes, Robin, have you seen him?" she replied quietly, silently happy that it was him who had asked.

"Not since lunch, sorry," He apologized while scratching the back of his head. "Well, good luck in your search."

"Thank you," She said and slowly pulled away from the doorway. She missed Robin's quick glance and raise of an eyebrow to Drake. She nodded with a smirk.

"Ahoy! Mashu!" She yelled with a playful tone.

Drake quickly got up with a hum and walked towards the door, earning laughter from her male companions. Swiftly closing the distance with a brisk pace, she turned the corner and casually leaned against the wall with a friendly smile. Mashu gulped quietly as she played with her fingers behind her back in nervousness; The slight predatory glint in the rider's eye was all that she needed to recognize.

"Where are you headed off to?"

To her credit, she steeled herself rather quickly to explain. "I was looking for-"

"For me so you could get that drink, right?" Drake snickered, making the shielder uncomfortable again. The shielder tried to open her mouth to refute the claim, but the rider calmly closed the gap with a hum and threw her arm over the shoulder of the pink-haired demi-servant. "Ata' girl! I knew you had it in ya', and soon you'll have a great drink in you too!"

"W-Wait, Drake I-"

"Can't wait for your first sip! Neither can I!" Drake exclaimed happily before insistently pushing the girl back towards the bar. They rounded the corner to see Fergus laughing heartily.

"Oh, if only Gudao and Gabrielle were here to see you now! They'd be so proud, I'm sure!" the pirate stated. Mashu shot a glance towards Robin for support, since he was usually looking out for many despite his rather laid back stance. To her dismay, he only shrugged his shoulders and mouthed a silent apology. There was only so much anyone can do against Drake when she had her mind set on something fun.

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With a content smile, the rider currently had her left arm slung around the poor girl's shoulders. Robin had moved down a seat so Mashu could sit in the middle of the group with the vice admiral. Both he and Fergus looked on in amusement as their friend cornered her current prey. The rider paid them no heed, as she silently observed and strategized the next moves to ensure this went well; As chaotic as she could be at times, she did not become a legendary commander as a joke.

Mashu stared at the big glass of alcohol in front of her. From the worry in her eye, Drake knew she was still thinking about her current predicament. She'd never partaken in anything of the sort before, so the nearly six-inch tall container in front of her likely intimidated the demi-servant to no end. To be fair, the pirate's first drink had intimidated her too, but that was before it was forcefully shoved down her throat. To be fair to the shielder, she had no intention of doing that and risking serious consequences.

No. As famous as Drake was for some of her other traits, even she had a sense of timing and responsibility.

It wasn't that the rider disliked the sense of order within Chaldea, rather she agreed with it. Everything has a need for rules, as she too did with the crew on her ship. However, simply following the guidelines and being content never led to truly high spirits, and the vice admiral was slightly worried this was the case for Mashu. From the looks she would often send towards Gudao to her nearly rigid form of obedience, Drake saw who she was and frowned. Like a good older sister or friend, she was not going to allow Mashu to be simply content with the moments given. Whether the master would agree to her decisions or not was something else entirely.

"What's the matter, Mashu? I told you I would get you a drink for that awesome stunt you pulled!" Drake spoke proudly.

"It was really nothing, really," She responded quietly, still uncertain about what rested before her.

"You flung that massive shield through multiple skeletons, caught it when it rebounded off a chimera knocking its shot off target, then bashed it over the head on the way down. You prevented Drake from taking an unnecessary hit and looked good doing it," Fergus explained smoothly with a grin before he took a quick chug from his mug. "Let her treat you, what's the harm in a little alcohol? Everyone drinks a bit of it sooner or later."

Mashu gently pushed the drink away from her, "Sorry, I really am in a rush. I need to find Senpai an-"

"Oooohhh, looking for master rather urgently, huh?" Drake teased with a wink. Mashu tried to hide her blush behind her hands, making it more obvious.

"N-No, that's not-"

"Did you tell him yet?"

"Not surprised she hasn't yet. Can you imagine if Kiyohime and Tamamo caught wind?" Robin answered for her with a slight raise of his eyebrows. Mashu quietly gulped in her seat at the implication. "She'd get dragged into all those cat fights if they found out she was also in the race for his companionship."

"Ah, you got a point there, Robin. Always sharp as your aim," Drake noted, though her teasing expression still held to the dismay of the shielder.

"Need some pickup lines? I only go after ladies but maybe I can help you tailor one for our Master," Fergus chuckled out before chugging more of his drink.

"No I don't nee- I-I mean I don't want-"

"Hey, we're just ribbing you, that's all!" Fergus stated with a firm pat on her back.

Mashu looked down in her seat, red as a tomato and quivering slightly at all the attention. Drake looked at her as she sighed softly, and she could see the shielder definitely did not want to be here. If she was looking for the master, and he was out of the room, that likely meant more paperwork was going to be delivered for him. She smirked as Mashu continued to play with her fingers, instantly affirming that she was doing this for both the shielder's and master's wellbeing. Gudao did far too much paperwork as is, so he could use this small break for his own enjoyment.

It was hardly a secret Mashu liked Gudao, but there were quite a few servants who still didn't realize it. Whether or not Tamamo and Kiyohime did or not was of little concern, since the demi-servant was often responsible for defending their master anyway; She was going to be close to him whether they liked it or not. That wasn't going to change her courage in making any advances or flirting, since Mashu was often too respectful and courteous to even attempt it. Perhaps the alcohol would make her a little more courageous for her sake.

Drake interrupted the shielder's thoughts by sliding the drink closer to her. "My crew always complimented me on my choices of pillaged alcohol. I picked this one out myself for you, though it doesn't taste as good when it gets warm. Just give it a sip, I'm sure you'll love it!"

"I'm too young to drink, Drake," she responded rather firmly.

The pirate only chuckled. "That didn't stop Gudao or his best friend! I heard Gabrielle made him drink when they were sixteen. That's your age, right? I doubt they'd put you in the brig for a little bit of self-indulgence."

"Wait… Gudao's only been drinking for three years?" Fergus asked curiously, though was met with an amused smirk from Robin.

"We're not all Irish, Fergus. Some of us don't start knocking them back straight out of the womb."

The drinking buddies laughed as Mashu played with her fingers again. "I know he did… but I don't wish to do that."

Drake studied the shielder with a small sigh. She really was too prim and proper, and she could respect that, though begrudgingly. The glint in her eyes showed she was definitely not interested, and her approach was not working as intended. Usually her enthusiastic approach and comradery would be enough reassurance to make them try, but it was apparent she needed to try another tactic. With a small sigh, and an apologetic smile that startled her drinking buddies, Drake slowly pushed the glass away from Mashu.

"Hey… listen. I realize I've been pressuring you, and I apologize. My friends and I really like drinking our hearts out, and that was aggressive of me to assume you'd like it too. Blame my love for libertine ideals, I can't help it. I won't push you into taking the drink anymore, I promise."

Mashu looked at her hopefully. "You mean that?"

"I'd say pirate's honor, but that wouldn't mean much," Drake joked, making everyone chuckle. "If you don't want it, I'll down the drink myself."

"Or me if you don't take it fast enough!" Fergus bellowed out from his seat laughing.

"You got balls to try and steal from a pirate!" Drake exclaimed as she fired a wink towards him. He laughed harder as she turned her attention back to Mashu. "I mean what I always mean what I say. I'll have it if you don't, since it'd be a shame to waste it. But just to make sure, do you want a tiny sip before I claim the treasure?"

Mashu looked at the drink with sudden contemplation. Inside the giant, clear mug was a light blue colored liquid mixed with what appeared to be crushed ice, and it honestly didn't smell bad. Compared to Drake's and Fergus' nearby, it definitely didn't look like any alcohol she'd seen before. Even with a large container, the drink didn't even look alcoholic to being with, and was rather inviting. These attributes were the very reason Drake had picked the drink for the girl, and she may have started to realize it as the pirate smiled.

"Maybe just a sip," she said quietly as the trio around her cheered.

With growing delight, Drake watched as she brought the container to her lips with both hands and gently started tilting it. The liquid touched her lips and she parted them gently, letting it trickle into her mouth. Just by noting her slightly squinted eyes, Drake could tell she was bracing for the terrible aftertaste and a burning throat after she swallowed. She smirked as Mashu's eyes opened slightly in surprise, recognizing the moment she tasted the rich flavor of pineapple with a hint of cherry.

The trio watched as she clenched her eyes shut in anticipation and swallowed her first gulp. Her eyes opened soon after, and she gladly began drinking more of the beverage. The next few gulps went down smooth and without hesitation, making the pirate smirk proudly in victory. There was alcohol for everyone in the world, and it was just a matter of picking the right one for the person in question. By the last, satisfied gulp before the glass parted from her lips, Drake was certain she had just claimed victory and opened Mashu's eyes to a new form of pleasure.

As Mashu placed the mug down, her eyes filled with curiosity and surprise. The container now missing half of its original contents. Around her, the trio stared at her with proud eyes and smirks, quickly followed by Drake rubbing her head affectionately. She looked around and smiled, adjusting her glasses with a finger.

"Liked it? Refreshing and tropical, right?" the rider inquired with a grin.

"This is alcohol? It's really tasty. I thought beer tasted bad," Mashu questioned looking at Drake.

"Not all alcohol is beer, Mashu. There are plenty of fruity drinks like that for those who hate the after taste," the pirate replied smiling. "That one I gave you is a special mix by me! It's my own little version of a drink called a Blue Hawaiian I had Lex cook up for you. So you like it, huh?"

Drake's answer was Mashu tilting her head back and quickly downing the rest of the drink, much to the surprise of the trio. She placed the empty mug back on the counter and wiped her mouth with the sleeve of her uniform. The drinking companions looked at each other and grinned. It seemed Mashu's mission to inform Gudao of paperwork had been shelved, if her curious look was anything to go by.

"Is there more?" Mashu asked eagerly.

"Sure thing!" Robin stated before waving towards the end of the bar. The robotic bartender began its hovering approach.

"What would you like, Robin?" The robot responded, picking up the empty mug upon reaching the group.

"Another drink with the recipe I gave you!" Drake grinned. "Add one of those tiny umbrellas to the next one too!"

"Of course, Miss Drake!" The robot replied before beginning its work.

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Drake was now starting to get a little concerned with Robin. Fergus just kept hammering down drinks.

Mashu's face was clearly red now, probably because of the three alcoholic drinks she practically downed within the last hour. Drake was starting to have second thoughts about giving the girl a drink smooth enough that she could barely taste the alcohol, especially now that she was so eager to gulp it down like a camel after leaving the Sahara. What bothered her a little more was she was now requesting a fourth. Not much worried El Draque, but her underestimation of the shielder's newfound love of fruity drinks had just been added to the list. Why was Mashu so thirsty today anyway?

"Please, just one more," Mashu pleaded with a small smile while tugging on Drake's sleeve. It seemed the tables have been turned on the pirate, who looked at Robin for some support. She had expected the archer to be a little more assertive in watching out for the girl, but he had taken interest in seeing her drink for the first time. To both of their concern, he had wound up a silent enabler instead.

"Uh, of course, but just one more, okay?" Drake said reluctantly while nodding to the bartender. Lex quickly began work on another mix as Mashu looked disappointed.

"Oh come now, Drake. Why stop the pre-gaming? The party has yet to begin, but it won't even start if you cap it at one!" Fergus bellowed as he downed yet another drink for himself. Drake shot him a quick, incredulous look. He caught it in his peripheral and stared back, a tilt of the head indicating confusion.

'There's more alcohol in these than she can probably handle,' She mouthed silently to him from around Mashu's head. It took him a few seconds to translate the silent message before his eyebrows raised and he mouthed an 'oh' in response. Her particular mixture hid the alcoholic content of the drinks very well, of which there was a potent amount. Nothing to the ratio of wine, but for someone as thinly framed as Mashu, more than enough in two drinks to get her drunk.

"Here you go, little lady," the bartender stated as she handed her the drink.

"Thank you~!" She cheered in a chipper tone before taking a few gulps and setting it down on the counter.

'Where is she putting those drinks!?' Drake wondered, though clearly impressed.

Her own ale practically forgotten as her mind scrambled. Thankfully she could hold her drinks better than almost everyone in Chaldea so she can think clearly after her tenth mug, but Mashu was an unknown. Yes, it's clear she's drunk based on the sway and the few hiccups, but she now had to figure out what kind. She hoped if her current state indicated anything, it was a happy or funny drunk and not a delayed angry or depressed one. There were still the worst cases…

She looked up to Robin who also seemed equally concerned. He had ordered her a few slices of bread in a vain attempt to help stem the tide, obviously to no avail. The empty plate long since taken away by Lex, Drake tapped her fingers on the counter in thought. There was some tapping on her shoulder and she turned to Robin who motioned for her to lean in, to which she gladly accepted.

"If worse comes to worse, you think the medical bay has anything to help? A sober pill or something?" Robin whispered, making Drake's eyes light up. With all the magic and science in this facility, surely something as mythical as a sober pill would be in existence; She never thought to ask since being drunk was the fun part she always enjoyed. The pirate can't imagine it would be a terrible idea to have a few of those on hand to instantly clear minds for emergency deployments. Just maybe...

"Good thinking, I'll go check. You and Fergus keep an eye on Shielder here," She replied very quietly before standing up.

"I need to go to the bathroom, Mashu. I'll be right back!"

"Okay!" Mashu cheered with a smile, clearly drunk enough not to question why a servant was going to the bathroom. Fergus looked to her in confusion before she quickly mouthed silently, 'Just watch her!'

As she disappeared into the hallway, Mashu turned to Fergus with an enthusiastic grin. "Can I have another after this one?"

Robin looked up in horror towards Fergus, but he responded much faster than he could think. "Sure! We'll get you another-"

He finally spotted Robin's dumbfounded look before the archer placed his hand swiftly against his own face. Fergus mentally scolded himself as Mashu cheered, realizing he just made the situation a tad worse.

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The Medical Bay, where Doctor Roman worked most of the day, remained relatively empty of patients. A few employees would get sick occasionally, filling two or three of the beds among the hundred or so available. Otherwise there were separate areas for the Emergency, pharmaceutic storage, and medical examinations behind several doors that all lead to a central counter near the entrance. Double doors near that monitoring station led to the actual waiting area of the wing.

The lobby itself contained a reception desk, computer with filing cabinets, and several sofa chairs for those waiting. A few paintings hung on the walls and some potted plants were scattered about the room, but beyond that it was almost as plain as standard Chaldean hallways. It is in this lobby that Drake currently stood, doing very well to hide her disappointment.

"So no such thing exists?" Drake asked one last time, her shoulders slumping slightly.

"As far as medicine has advanced, no, we still do not have anything close to this 'sober pill' you're requesting," the red haired, Asian secretary explained once more. She readjusted her glasses and folded her hands in front of her before returning her gaze to the servant. "I can ask the Magecraft Division if they have anyone trained in alleviating the symptoms of-"

"Uh, please don't, I'd rather not deal with the mages," She stated scratching the back of her head. The less people knew about this the better, especially of the mage variety. She was quite surprised the mages here were noticeably nicer, which made sense considering they were actually open to the idea of technology. The ones she dealt with in a past war had been very self-centered and self-assured, with her master being no exception. She did miss looking after that kid from time to time, since he had plenty of growing up to do.

With a dejected sigh, Drake nodded. "I guess I'll just be going now. Thanks, Samantha."

"Sorry," she responded before returning her attention to the computer monitor and began typing away. Drake quickly left the room just as Doctor Roman came in through the double doors.

"Hey Samantha, has Mashu still not come back yet?"

"Not yet. Would you like me to have someone find her?"

"That'd be great. I'd like to have this paperwork filed early so I don't keep Gudao in his room too long." He stated, holding a folder full of documents in his hands.

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Drake walked down the hallway towards the Party Cave with a hand against her forehead. So much for Plan A, and they haven't bothered to come up with a Plan B before she left as she was so sure of the concept. She let out a sigh. If she had an overly drunk or hungover crew member and a battle erupted on the high seas, she'd just have them thrown in the hold until the fighting stopped. That was hardly an acceptable option here, no matter how much she would be willing to argue it if the need ever did arise.

Tossing Mashu in storage probably wouldn't go over well publicity wise, and the lack of leyshift today meant there was no urgency. She did like the concept of hiding her until she was sober, that way she couldn't get into any potential trouble while she sobered up. Maybe she could confirm her drunk habits and personality as well, for teasing purposes, of course. As a girl, her room would probably be the most ideal for this and would give her plenty of time to observe in safety.

There was also that matter with Gudao. Though she was fairly certain it was for paperwork, Drake would also have to fish a confirmation from the drunken girl. She'd pass on the necessary info herself and all would be well, plus Mashu should now have a handle of her own alcoholic tolerance in case she wanted to drink with her again. Hopefully she would, since she simply just wanted others to relish their time here as much as she did. If there was anyone who knew how to live every moment and spend riches in the most enjoyable way possible, it was the great El Draque.

She smirked at having formed a new game plan, but it quickly vanished upon seeing both Robin and Fergus staring at the girls' bathroom near the bar. They both had their arms crossed as they noticed her approaching curiously.

"Did you get the pill?" Fergus asked but was met with a shake of the head. It appears Robin had filled him in, which was good.

"Doesn't exist," Drake sighed then put her hands on her hips as she raised an eyebrow. "I'm guessing the little shielder is in the bathroom."

"Yea, she said she needed to go. Can't blame her after drinking so much," Robin explained.

"At least she didn't go at the bar," Drake joked, eliciting some chuckles from her drinking companions. The rider's small smile slowly drooped as a thought crossed her mind. "She is in there, right?"

"Yea, she's definitely in there. She only walked out of the bar ten minutes ago," Fergus responded quickly. Drake did indeed sense a servant's magical energy signature in the bathroom, and said individual was currently headed for the door. Maybe the poor girl was just throwing up and had to clean herself up a bit. That's probably the case for a first ti-

The door swung open revealing a fair skinned girl with long brown hair and golden hoop earrings. From the yellow, one shoulder dress she wore, to her brown eyes, all the way down to her painted toenails peeking out of blue high heels… it was very obvious this was not Mashu… at all. The confused servant looked between the surprised faces of the three before her, and tilted her head in curiosity while placing makeup away in her purse. She clearly had no idea what she did to warrant such sudden attention by just coming out of a bathroom.

"Mata Hari!?" Robin exclaimed, turning her full attention to him.

"That would be me, yes," she responded slightly amused at him saying her name. "Were you expecting someone else?"

"We though- Why i- Where's Mashu?" Fergus stuttered out.

"Mashu? She was never in there. I came down here because the bathroom near the lounge had a small line. I was happy to find this one completely empty so I could fix my makeup. Why, was she supposed to be in the-"

Before she could finish her statement, Drake and Robin had already taken off towards the floor's main, windowed corridor in a sprint. Confusion and concern shined in their eyes equally. Judging by their direction, the two left standing assumed they were headed to the salon first.

"You said she was in there!" Drake yelled in concern. She wasn't one to care much about most consequences, but this one was going to fall into the exceptions. Nothing was permanent in the world, though she was quietly hoping this situation would come to an end far faster than most.

"I thought she was! Shit, we have to find her!" Robin responded to his pink haired friend. Mata Hari turned back to a stunned Fergus with a look of confusion and suspicion.

"Alright... What did you three drinkers do to Mashu?" She asked, already having put together several clues based on their group's reputation, current location, and servant in question. Fergus scratched the back of his head with a sheepish grin on his face.

"Well, it was only supposed to be one celebratory drink, and I guess she really liked it," He laughed, looking towards Mata Hari who had both arms crossed and whose glare carried a very clear message to him.

Something around the lines of, 'You've got to be kidding me.'

It wasn't even five yet!

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Gudao left his room practically the same as when he first got it, save for two added dressers. The only time he was in there was sleeping and paperwork, and sometimes he did the latter elsewhere like the library or Salon de Marie; Those dreaded documents seemed to be most of what he was doing these days, though. The only decorations were a few trophies stacked on some shelves and some pictures of him with his servants.

He glanced up from his paperwork to look at one such photo that hung above his writing desk, directly above a fluffy white Fou sleeping on a small red cushion. There were many, but this was one of the more recent ones from the set. It was a picture taken during some downtime in the London Singularity, one of the primary incidents he had to address. One of the servants in the picture wasn't at Chaldea, so it brought some fond memories looking at a moment that happened only a month ago in a local library.

There was a blonde haired girl with a pony tail, braided along the sides, with her armored arms slung over both himself and another servant. The blonde haired male had a shocked expression much like Gudao, but was trying to fix his crooked glasses. Only the torsos and higher can be seen thanks to Mashu's decision, showing off just a fancy gray vest with golden accents over a white, long sleeved button-up shirt.

The male servant was adjusting his black cravat tie attached to his collar, which served as great contrast. The girl wore a wide grin and closed eyes, a strong reminder of her personality… or at least one facet of it since she was often temperamental. Behind them peeked the blue hair of another man, who looked to be chastising them about taking the situation more seriously, which he was when this moment was captured. At least Hans and Jekyll were both in Chaldea helping around.

Gudao smiled fondly at the memory. London was a tough fight but he befriended so many servants on that singularity, some of which have been summoned to Chaldea much to his pleasure. Maybe, Fate summoning system willing, he'd get to see some of them again soon, and lead them into battle once more. He can hardly complain about the current roster, but it would be nice to see those servants again on friendly terms.

Then there was the one next to it from Okeanos, which was just simply him and Drake. The pirate had let him borrow her hat as they posed at the bow sprint of the Golden Hind. The pirate had been an endless source of inspiration to him in terms of optimism and showcasing skill. As a servant, she was just as mighty and powerful as she was before, except her ship and fleet could now fly, much to his delight. He also never stopped being amazed at how surprisingly caring she was at times too, in her own way of course.

He let out a sigh and turned his attention to the paperwork that Roman handed him directly barely a minute ago; He had been enjoying some rare free time in the gym with Diarmuid, Cu, and Fionn before headed back to his room. It was strange, usually Mashu would inform him that the doctor was looking for him. For the doctor himself to come give him the work was very unu-

Two ears sprouted from the fluffy white ball before it happened. There was a knock on the door as it slid open simultaneously, causing Gudao to raise an eyebrow. Only certain servants entered unannounced but never along with a kno-


"Mashu?" He asked aloud as he raised an eyebrow but kept looking forward, confusion etched across his features. Mashu was one of the most polite when asking to enter. And what was with her very playful sounding voi-

Fou's head looked right past Gudao, its violet eyes staring curiously past its tiny black nose as its ears twitched. Two arms wrapped around his shoulders and he felt warm breath and ticklish hair on the back of his neck. "I finally found you, Senpai~"

"M-Mashu what're you doing!?" Gudao exclaimed, blushing brightly, as he turned around in his chair to get a better look. His task was eased by the roller chair's design, and his voice lodged itself in his throat as Mashu pulled back slightly.

The Chaldea sweater she usually wore was completely off one exposed shoulder, and hung on only by the sleeve still covering the arm. Her tie was loose, with the collar and undershirt unbuttoned as much as it could be with her black dress covering it. The eyeglasses had slid down her nose a bit, but it was the emotion in her slightly glazed eyes that seized his attention. No, rather it captivated and worried him at the same time.

The sheer emotion aimed at him was clear as day. It didn't help she was biting her lower lip playfully and giggling lightly, a bright red blush clearly painted onto her cheeks. He felt his breath quicken as he felt one of her hands trail slowly up his shirt, quickly unfastening straps as it went. 'Why did I forego the black undershirt today!?'

"M-Mashu! Are you drunk!?" The young master exclaimed as he quickly tried to fix his uniform as she began fumbling with the buttons.

Realizing he wasn't going to get a clear answer, he tried to stand and escape, which was a tactical miscalculation on his part. He stood quickly, accidentally bumping Mashu backwards. When she stumbled and Gudao reached out to stop her from potentially tripping, she gripped his arm with her free hand and took him down with her. His hands landed at the sides of her shoulders to prevent himself from landing on his assistant, swiftly noticing the very compromising situation they were now in when she curled one of her legs around his and giggled. Tomatoes would be jealous of the color painting his cheeks.

"Ooooohh, Senpai~!" Mashu giggled, very much pleased with the moment while her alcohol-laced breath tickled his face.

Speechless, he could only watch in slight horror as Mashu fumbled with both hands to unfasten a third butt-

'Wait, when did she get the top two undone!?'

"Kyu," squeaked the fluffy white animal from its new position under the nearby bed, staring at the two entangled youths.

"Fou! Help me out!" Gudao pleaded quietly, with its only response being a tilt of its fluffy head. There was a glint of mischief in its eyes. "Oh, thanks little guy..."

He struggled to push himself up but Mashu's new found strength as a demi-servant meant that her lone leg was more than enough to keep him right where she wanted. He considered yelling for someone to help or activating a command seal to call a very understanding servant to help him, but considering the current position it would have to be a very, very understanding servant he called. His mind raced for an answer in pure panic as he felt her open the last button on his ja-

"Mmmm, Senpai~" Mashu giggled as her glazed stare hungrily met his chest.

His pants were starting to get tight. Really tight. He needed to stop this. Now.

Opening his mouth to yell towards the door while one of Mashu's hands eagerly felt his now exposed chest, his voice caught in his throat as his eyes widened.

'How long has that door remained open!?'

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Drake and Robin ran into Fergus and Mata Hari at one of the central hallways near the residential area. Passing employees gave the group of four servants very curious glances based solely on their facial expressions. Even if Mata Hari had been angry at the group's antics before, it no longer showed as she was now as worried as they are about the condition of their little friend.

"No sign in the Medical Bay," Robin stated quickly.

"No one at the library or gym saw her either," Fergus added.

Drake cursed under her breath. "There aren't many placed left. If we split into four an-"

"This isn't what it definitely looks like!"

Without thinking, the four turned to the source and ran down the hallway passing only people going that direction; That wasn't a good sign already. Confirming that thought, a group of employees were currently clustered, looking at something further ahead of them. The eyes of the group widened when they realized that specific location was in front of Master Gudao's room, where they currently sensed two servants. They quickly pushed into the crowd with apologies, the cluster quickly giving space to allow the servants to pass.

Breaking through the roadblock, Drake's eyes widened in total recognition of one of the worst possible scenarios. Silently, the rider acknowledged things have taken a serious turn for the worst. There was likely going to be some repercussions for her actions considering the current circumstances, so she could only hope the master would be a tad lenient on the consequences. Her little mischievous, yet playful, intent to get Mashu to enjoy herself had worked far better than she hoped, and that wasn't the seriously bad part.

While she couldn't see into their master's room, Drake did see one of the servants staring in with a total aura of malice and jealousy. The servant in question wore a blue kimono with sunflowers scattered across it. She had yellow sandals with little sunflowers on top. Her pale skinned fists were clenched exceptionally tight as her steady release of prana practically swayed her long, light green hair with the wind. It was also a fact that she had yellow eyes, but if one were to ask anyone present to retell the story, they would say her eyes were burning red with fury.

There were many things Drake had faced as a challenge. Toppling the Spanish Armada and circumnavigating the world were just two of her giant accomplishments, and together made her beyond famous. She chuckled inwardly and cringed, realizing she was absurdly comparing the current situation to those. Still… calming down the berserker in front of her in a peaceful manner, who was clearly enraged at something to do with her beloved master, was also a near impossible task. Whether or not she could accomplish this one too, she was about to find out for the first time.

With her companions currently stunned at the realization of what was currently happening, Drake inhaled deeply and prepared to move advance. To her surprise, Fergus beat her to it and began slowly approaching with a hand out declaring loudly, "Envy and jealousy are foolish emotions, Kiyohime. If you wish to be a good person for ma-"

"You will cease your advance, Fergus Mac Roich." The woman roared without turning her head from within the room. He stopped and shut up quickly.

At least they were certain where Mashu was now.

Chapter Text

Chaldea operating at peak efficiency was nothing short of a miracle.

With the sheer destruction wrought upon the facility in its first mission, humanity should have been doomed. At its height, Chaldea had more than three hundred staff in various positions both menial and significant. Lev's traitorous actions, and well planned sabotage, crippled almost everything necessary for operational integrity, including as much staff as possible. Barely a hundred remaining, most of the employees had become severely demoralized in addition to the news that humanity had ceased to exist outside the small mountain range. In those dark, early days, some even considered it a curse to have been left alive.

The content employees that can be seen around the halls told a vastly different story now.

To the relief of the suddenly overburdened workforce, there had been two savings graces. Due to the initial suspicion from the mages, nearly ninety percent of the robotics workforce was held in reserve. The second was Da Vinci's distrust for Lev, which caused her to do an insurance check of the Fate Summon System. Before she could inform the director of the explosives she managed to disarm, the rest of the bombs had been triggered. Between the initial save of the Fate System, and the untouched Robotics Reserve, Chaldea had received its first coincidental miracle of sorts.

Nearly a hundred and fifty robots had been reprogrammed to assist with the sudden loss of personnel. It took two weeks for the overworked Science and Engineering Divisions to get it done properly. While they handled getting the workforce back on its feet, the first servants to arrive had been busy clearing debris and restoring the facility to its former prime. With Da Vinci's assistance, Chaldea had returned to its former glory within three weeks, and just in time to handle the next major singularity.

While getting the facility on its feet again was rather straightforward, adjusting the workforce to its new circumstances was not.

Many servants had unique presences that varied greatly. Employees were transferred to fill different positions based on other specialties. Many had to perform their duties with the assistance of robots. Servants were often seen as celebrities and mysteries. The list of roadblocks was long, but eventually the population grew used to its conditions.

Living among heroic spirits and working jobs not previously mentioned in their job description became the norm. With all of the menial chores and duties handled, employees were often tasked with quality of life and advancement positions. Some remained furthering research and development, while others were shifted to fabricating furniture. Whatever their task, the increase in free time for most had been a welcome change that helped facilitate their adaptation.

Yet still, there were some who not only grew used to it, but became far closer than most.

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Fragment 5: A Healing Stitch

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On the third basement level in the east wing sat a large and constantly busy room. It was one of the many sections where windows allowed a quick glance inside for those walking in the adjacent hallway. Along with a neighboring entrance labeled Laundry Room, it wasn't hard to figure out what this place was for when given a glance.

Inside resembled a warehouse, with shelves stacked high with raw materials in organizers or crates. Just past its double-door entrance was a reception desk, behind which were quickly constructed cubicles where employees and robots worked with material. The shelves closest to the double doors revealed the actual contents and purpose of the warehouse without concern, refined cloth stacked to fill every square inch ready to be used.

The Clothing Department wasn't even an official sub-division to begin with, but a handful of employees and their support robots that operated a supply closet. Like the unofficial Furniture Department, they wound up having to cater to servants' needs when most of them only knew how to do patch repairs. Very few of the former Logistics Division employees were actual tailors; It was no surprise the rest had to learn quickly from the experienced needle workers and designers present.

The sudden flood of requests by interested servants needed to be stemmed.

After a steady work flow was established and skills were fine-tuned, the little supply closet was working as an effective clothing store for everyone. Thankfully their robotic assistants were quick with retrieving material and precisely creating the rough outlines, so the craftsmen only had to assemble and detail. Coupled with incoming material and wardrobes from supply sorties, the Clothing Department was more than stocked to handle newfound requests.

In an office backroom near the cubicles, the fair skinned supervisor released a sigh. She looked over the coat a tailor had newly completed. "Three hours late… Unbelievable."

She brushed a large bang behind her ear, the only cluster of unusual green hair not tied back with the rest of her ponytail. Her jade eyes scanned the new piece of clothing with scrutiny, slender arms crossed across her Chaldea uniform. A yellow Logistics Division tie hung perfectly around her neck, the collar crisp and the definition of regulation. Shifting weight to the opposite leg, she turned the sweater over, smoothed it on the table with her hand, and glared at the white outerwear as if it offended her.

Grabbing the item by the hanger, she lifted it and presented it to the robot that hovered almost silently behind her. It beeped. "Miss Stolarz?"

"Place this on the delivery rack and tell Evans he did a decent job, though he was late and that is completely unacceptable," the woman explained sternly. She was glad she had an extra cup of coffee that morning. "I doubt Miss Arturia will be mad at the slight delay, but I don't want it turning into a habit… This is the second delayed item he's had for a customer this week."

"Yes, Miss Stolarz, right away!" The bot beeped as it took the hanger and made its way towards the front. That article had missed today's delivery.

Looking at her clock, she felt the sides of her mouth upturn slightly at the time, but it was only noticeable to her. Grabbing a small bag from her nearby desk, she began her stroll to the front desk before yelling, "Lunch break everyone, be back by 1300 sharp. We got a lot of orders in this morning, and I want them done yesterday."

Several groans formed the collective response.

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"Oh shoot, it's her." "Squeeze over a bit." "Don't make eye contact."

Naomi Stolarz walked down the hallway. As they gave her the extra space, she scoffed.

Since she was the top tailor in Chaldea, even before the Fuyuki incident, she was chosen by the unofficial director to head the Clothing Department after a few servants, with very extravagant desires, demanded better quality of life. After the weeks of her training sessions and work schedule, rumors began circulating about how difficult it was to work under her, let alone pass her quality check. Some even compared it to boot camp, though that was truthfully a huge exaggeration.

'What is so wrong about perfection?' She thought in frustration as she walked down the hallway alone. Her thoughts were usually her only companion.

Sure, true perfection was impossible... but by striving to reach it the results became more than magnificent. She had never heard a complaint brought back to her department regarding received items after the first week of work, proving her thoughts correct. It still didn't stop the choice comments floating around about her; 'The Stitch Witch' was a fairly popular nickname, though whether that was because of her particular brand of magecraft or her attitude she could never discern.

Naomi came from a third-rate magus family often insulted by more prestigious households due to their non-existent Magic Crest and penchant for using technology; They were considered spell casters passing down family gimmicks at best. She had to laugh at the absurdity of that statement, as she recalled fondly how her father still has issues using search engines properly and falling for fake virus detection pop ups. If her part time job as a computer salesman instantly made them heretics, then the Mages Association wasn't something she was ever going to take seriously.

Not that she would, based on the number of arrogant mages still present in Chaldea.

It was just a side job, with her mother teaching her alteration knowledge and tailoring alongside various, less important home schooled lessons. It was during those lectures that striving for perfection and complete self-discipline became key habits; These were the first two of four lessons her mother taught that she would never forget. While learning self-control, she discovered latent telekinetic powers by accident after making a nearby spoon rattle as she calmed her anger. Her mother, hoping dearly it was their family's hidden magic potential, was more than ecstatic they would finally find prestige.

Her life's story wasn't as extravagant as her mother thought it would be.

The twenty-nine-year-old had exactly the same telekinetic powers as she did ten years ago when it stagnated… that is to say she has issues lifting anything heavier than a bottle of water. It was completely embarrassing to even admit she had this power and that was the heaviest object she could lift with it, granted she could move it around as long she wanted, but only if it remained within a meter of her. Due to a eureka moment, she learned that she could apply this ability to tailoring, manipulating several needles at once to finish work quicker.

Most mages would laugh at the peak of her magic prowess, but her mother and father smiled in pride. Her mother was disappointed at the stagnation, but she was the first to also point out Naomi's constant struggles to improve revealed the hard worker within. She was encouraged to ignore what others might think and to keep working hard to make something 'uniquely yours.' The third lesson from her mother was that everything should be given a chance, and that your perception of someone or something shouldn't be founded on what others say.

"Hey Stickler!" someone called out from behind her.

She turned around and glared upon realizing the offender had turned down another hallway with a group of other employees, chuckling still clearly audible. She gripped the bag in her one hand tighter, scoffed, and continued to her destination.

The fourth lesson from her mother: People can also be assholes.

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If someone were to tell her where she'd wind up when she began working for the prestigious Animusphere family as a tailor, she could have been the first mage to die laughing. But it happened, and Marisbilly took her in when he found himself impressed with her quick needlework and tech savvy insight nearly a decade ago; One of their personal servers answering their potential emails for them would be wonderful.

The heir, to which she was assigned, had quite a bit of self-importance about her, but she never held it around the tailor due to the speed of her work, polite manners, and total obedience displayed. Always striving for perfection, she made sure all her work was perfect for the young mage who valued the same. She hoped her efforts would bring her own family pride by helping out such a prestigious name.

Thanks to her labors, Olga Marie was always kind to her and even considered the older tailor a close friend.

Before long, the heir was even secretly taking knitting lessons from the personal tailor. It was few and far between at first, but the heir could no longer hide her curiosity and eagerness behind a mask of mild interest. It helped Naomi's self-esteem grow, but it never became arrogant. She only continued to help the heir learn her craft with a hopeful smile.

Olga found it unusual that someone would just teach their craft so willingly since she constantly dealt with the secretive nature of mages. To Naomi it was just a small hobby she wanted to share with others. She promised jokingly that she'd keep her telekinetic mage tailoring a secret from her instead; That was the first time she got Olga to laugh. It was also the first time Naomi smiled genuinely herself since her parents passed away peacefully.

Her heart sank at the thought of her late friend, but it's thanks to her that she wound up at Chaldea among company she never thought she'd be near.

"A bit earlier than usual, Miss Stolarz," came a regal, masculine voice.

"Better than once late," she replied simply.

Naomi pulled out the two knitting needles from her bag, and soon after a small sandwich she made at breakfast. She looked to the pair of servants that currently shared a chair and ottoman cluster with her at Salon de Marie. The trio sat on plush chairs, perfectly spaced in a diamond with their personal bags scattered on the floor around them or on the small end tables next to their seats.

A lone woman across to her right gave a small smile to the tailor before returning to her own needles. Long, blue hair flowed loosely behind her, with a single braid accenting the style. She wore a purple strapless dress with golden accents, which made Naomi swell with pride upon having created the very item herself. Her bare arms displayed her smooth, porcelain skin without worry, save for some golden bracelets on each wrist. The older woman hummed a quiet tune to herself as silver eyes immersed themselves in her work.

The second servant wore an almost plain, black robe, albeit a very luxurious looking one, which she also proudly crafted herself. Silver accents along the collar matched the equally shiny belt. A white ascot covered the man's neck and chest that the robe's design would have revealed. Ghostly white hands and long, bleached blonde hair gave him an almost phantom-like appearence as he worked his own needles. His well-trimmed goatee almost blended with his pale complexion.

Pale, green eyes glanced up from their work to catch her gaze before simply returning to the needles in front of him. Most people would have considered it a dismissal coming from an individual whose posture and presence spoke of royalty and proper etiquette. Naomi was not most people. She knew him just enough to understand the action didn't hold hidden contempt; The tailor had dealt with enough forged attitudes to realize when someone was being dismissive in a subtle manner.

He never was with her. She started knitting, and concentrated on her needlework. "Did Elizabeth like her scarf?"

"More than enough she wanted a second from her dear uncle," Vlad noted as he raised the blue fabric. "I hope you don't take offense."

"Take offense of a lighter workload?" She dared to joke. The two chuckled lightly in response.

"Can a scarf add that much extra work to your day?" Medea inquired quietly, though as a tiny joke.

Naomi's smile faltered, drawing a curious glance from the other two. "It does when it's Nero requesting it."

They all nodded in silent understanding. This was her little piece of stability and usually silent reality every lunch.

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"… and Asterios still caters for Euryale to this day, and by request Stheno too."

"So that's why their dresses are strangely long," Naomi mused quietly. They had recently inquired about her workload, which was one of the small, staple talks.

"There's no need to worry about tripping on them if you're always carried by a tall berserker," Medea concluded with a tiny smile. "It would be nice to have a butler."

They soon fell back into comfortable silence. She never dreamed to be knitting in the company of such esteemed individuals, let alone have the honor to be their acquaintance… or so she dared to presume. While the rest of the heroic population considered her a great tailor and valued hard worker, it was the two in front of her that made the extra step and went further than just compliments and greetings.

It all began barely two weeks after the Clothing Department formed, when orders were at an all-time high from servants who wished to have an actual wardrobe to wear around the facility. Naomi kept to herself on her lunch breaks, knitting in the corner of the cafeteria since Salon de Marie was still under construction at the time. She had some rare acquaintances in the facility, yes, but Olga was the only real friend she had. Upon her death, she was actually glad the Clothing Department formed, since it provided a distraction and gave her the chance to let others smile through her art.

That was when he was summoned. The feared Vlad III of Wallachia had arrived in Chaldea in a fearsome display. She heard the story from Gabrielle about how angry he had been for being summoned in his class. Not understanding why it was a problem, she never did bring it up. All she knew was that the man had been rather dangerous and scared nearly all of the employees until he received the memorial essence a few days later. Still, the cloud of fear hung over many employees when dealing with the source of vampire tales.

To her surprise, he had approached her after the completion of the French singularity.

Lunch time was always when she knitted by herself. The table she had in the corner of the cafeteria was quite tiny and secluded, so his approach meant it was for her alone. Since a very rare few ever made small talk with her, she slowly switched to business mode. She mentally prepared herself for what she assumed was an off-hours order from the feared Prince of Wallachia; The tailor was still proud she held a firm and orderly demeanor when taking that order. What happened instead surprised her.

"Miss Stolarz, would you mind if I joined you?" she still recalled him saying.

She agreed, slightly taken back. It only multiplied when he sat down and began knitting along with her. The infamous Vlad the Impaler, Berserker servant of Chaldea, was knitting a scarf with rainbow yarn. She did not question it, nor did they really talk. It was a strangely comfortable silence that replaced the lonesome air, and she quietly appreciated it.

For the next two weeks, they met on occasion in her little corner of the cafeteria and knit privately, conversing in small talk on occasion, but mostly sitting in silence. She found her initial fear of Vlad III was founded on what she knew and didn't. The tailor was aware the prince had a complex opinion of being related to his other legend, where he was a vampire known the world over. Tales of what he did to an invading army echoed throughout history, a gruesome display the world would not forget. What she found instead was a perfectly regal prince who was quiet company.

Thankfully, she never did see what he was like before that memorial essence.

Shortly after the conclusion of the Roman Singularity, Salon de Marie finally opened. The new, luxurious lounge was well worth the extended wait, and Naomi's lunch time breaks had relocated to one of the chair and ottoman clusters near a corner. Vlad would occasionally join her again, but it happened more often. Nearly two weeks after its opening, they were approached by a certain Princess of Colchis wearing exactly the same dress she wore that moment.

"Does Master Gudao require something of us, Medea?"

"No… I just simply decided to see for myself if you were telling the truth about knitting at lunch."

He had chuckled lightly in small amusement at that. "As you can see, I was not lying. I do knit… as strange as the notion seems."

"…Were you maybe interested in joining us?" She recalled asking calmly and curiously.

Naomi still remembered the surprise and hopeful glint on her face that day, something she didn't expect from the Witch of Betrayal. She heard a few stories going around Chaldea about her cunning and vicious precision in battle. There were also the tales of how she acted on first arrival, which contradicted what she saw at that moment. Thanks in part to her revelations with Vlad, Naomi wasn't as surprised by her hidden personality, and found it amusing that she also joined with the intent to knit in peace.

Hidden may not be the best descriptive term, but it was at least partially accurate after all that Medea had gone through in her legend. Along with Vlad, their small talks slowly increased, and she got a glimpse of the real Medea. What she found was simply a bitter princess with severe trust issues, but how could anyone blame her for that? But at the same time, she was also more than happy to reciprocate any sincerity shown, and just another person with a hobby enjoyed in pleasant company.

It was not what she had expected, making acquaintances with two legendary figures with dark pasts. What was even less expected was finding common ground in just simply knitting, an activity that forged a crack in the ice large enough to break through to allow occasional small talks to occur. It let her see these Heroic Spirits in a different light, away from the legends that defined them. While their talks had not been personal in the least, she was talking with heroes past nonetheless.

Sometimes the waking world was more interesting than woven dreams.

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Naomi checked her watch and noticed it read 1249.

In roughly a minute, she needed to head back to the department and immediately return to tailoring some extra pieces. She always wanted to arrive early to set a positive example for her workers to follow, and has not once failed at making her own standard. With a quiet sigh, she began packing up her things. Quickly, she crumpled up the saran wrap that once held her ham and cheese sandwich to throw in the trashcan on the way out. After placing her knitting needles in her bag, she looked up to meet Medea's calm gaze.

"I wish some of my castle servants in my previous life were as stringent as you, Miss Stolarz."

She turned her gaze to Vlad who had beaten Medea to speaking, a small smile gracing her lips. "Thank you, Vlad. I try."

"Trying means you may fail," The prince chuckled lightly. "I have yet to see any possibility of such."

"He's right, you're always so well organized," Medea stated with a smile. "That department of yours is lucky to have a supervisor as responsible as you."

Naomi rolled her eyes, but not at the servant. "I wish some of them said anything of the sort."

"At the very least, you're not their doormat," Vlad complimented evenly.

"A fair point, I guess... I'll see you two tomorrow," she waved, receiving nods in return as she walked towards the door. She swiftly threw her garbage in the trash at the door and prepared to step up her pace as she exited the do-

"Woah, there you are Naomi!"

She stopped herself before she bowled over Gudao. The male in question was fairly tall, though she secretly took some pride in being just as tall as the resident master. Looking down, she saw he had an ornate, silver box in his hands, big enough to pack a lunch, and closed with a golden lock. Her name was written on a nameplate which raised an eyebrow in curiosity.

"The robots are finally going through past belongings and found this in the cargo hold. I had some rare free time, so I decided to run it down in case you were still here," Gudao explained and handed her the box, which she gingerly took.

"Hey Master, you got time to oversee the formation we were working on?" A male called from down the hall, causing him to turn to the source.

"Sure thing, Cu, I'll meet you three at the training grounds after I grab my coat," He replied swiftly. "Gotta run, glad I caught up to you!"

The tailor watched the young master run down the windowed corridor before turning her attention to the box. She flipped it over and examined it in vain; As if looking at the bottom would make her remember having a box she'd never seen before. She huffed and started walking, thinking on how original Logistics employees had lost things before irresponsibly. It was a little absurd they would just lose a box with her full name on it though; No one was that bad.

As she picked up her pace, Naomi turned it back over. Curiosity got the better of her and she flipped open the lid, her legs coming to a screeching halt. Her eyes widened as she stood frozen in time, breathing rhythm shattered. Her hand unconsciously moved for the framed item and piece of paper sitting on top of crumpled cloth.

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"And… done!"

"A little slow… but that's okay, Olga. Some things can't be helped. It's not like you do this for a living or anything."

There was some giggling. "Maybe I can someday. I did great huh?"

Naomi smiled softly but shook her head lightly, making the white-haired girl next to her pout.  The pair sat on the edge of a very large canopy bed, easily fit for royalty. The dimly lit room around was lavishly decorated and very spacious. On the only nightstand, next to the ornate bed, was a golden lamp of exotic origin that lit the room in a soft glow. Magecraft and history books filled many spaces from the nightstand's cavity to the shelving that flanked the large, curtained windows.

There was a giant maple dresser with a mirror the size of a small car opposite the bed that bore their reflections. Both of the girls had their hair in messy ponytails. Whereas Naomi had a dark blue nightgown, her companion wore a yellow variation. Said companion let out a sigh of frustration before dropping her knitting needles to one side. She glared softly at the offending piece of cloth: a crocheted sweater.

"I don't get it. It looks fine!" the heir clarified. In response, Naomi reached out and gently pulled on one of the apparel's sleeves, making it come apart with little effort.

She did a good job of suppressing her laughter at Olga's dumbfounded expression, her golden eyes reflecting pure disbelief. "Lies! You broke it with magecraft!"

Naomi couldn't hold her laughter in any longer much to her friend's displeasure. Olga only half glared at the green-haired girl; She reluctantly knew she didn't need to activate her few circuits to do something as simple as pull her work apart. Her pride still stung though.

"Ugh, that took seven days!" The heir cried out in exasperation.

"Sorry, sorry," Naomi quickly added. "You were very close this time though."

"Suuure," Olga cried out before throwing herself backwards on her bed and letting out an exaggerated groan. "This is absurdly hard for such a simple task. I should've asked you years ago who you first came here."

"I think you're just over-ambitious. You went straight for a sweater after learning the basics," The tailor stated. She took part of the ruined sleeve and began working it with her own needles, using her telekinesis to pick up her friend's pair to help manipulate faster.

Olga Marie sat up on the bed and watched her work quickly, turning the small piece of the black and white sweater into something else. She squinted her eyes in scrutiny, looking at the jumbled mess of string as she worked. There was no way that would turn into anything remotely inte-

Her eyes widened when the needles stopped working and Naomi manipulated the cloth a bit. Her needles began working again on the spherical cluster of thread as Olga gazed in surprise. Only a minute later she was done, placing all four needles down, then dropping the small bundle of thread in front of the heir.

A piece of the black and white sweater became a small panda head.

Olga did the only thing she could think of at that moment and exclaimed, "Is this a sixth magic!? How did you…!?"

Naomi burst into laughter, quickly followed by her friend a few seconds later after a poor attempt to suppress it. The former held her sides as she rolled off of the bed and onto the floor, the latter falling back once more, having lost complete compo-

Someone knocked on the door.

"It's late, Olga. Please keep it down or I'll have to ask your personal tailor to return to her room."

"Yes, Father," Marie responded. The pair quietly listened as the sound of footsteps faded down the hallway.

"I still don't know how you do it," She said in a frustrated voice, but with a small smile.

"It took years. You just started last month. Don't feel so down, you'll get it, and I'll be here to make sure you do," Naomi smiled genuinely at her friend. "Just don't give up, okay?"

Olga smiled. "Of course I won't! There's no way I'll allow this little activity to defeat me!"

The student picked up the needles again, then the small panda head. There was a moment of silence as she observed the items. A happy smile graced her features, "You've got such a wonderful skill, you know."

"You're too nice to me," Naomi responded evenly. "You know that?"

"No, I'm only nice to competent people!" She replied quickly. "That's why you're my friend."

Naomi raised her eyebrows in surprise then chuckled. She got up from the bed and picked up her pair of needles. "So almost everyone else but your family and maid are incompetent?"

"Yes, ugh, no one ever gets anything right."

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Dear Naomi,

It's been hectic around Chaldea since I had been thrown into leadership. I'm sorry for being crankier than usual these past years, and the terrible tantrums I threw after my father passed away, but I hope it gets easier from here on. When things settle down after the masters are finally ready, I'd like to spend more time getting better at crocheting again if I can find the free time to do so.

You can laugh at my attempt since it's not much compared to what you can do, but I made a small present for your birthday. I tried to make something that was special since we both know I'm terrible with gift giving, as evidenced by your last few birthdays. I'm still very sorry about the dress last year. I'm not the best with ordering online even after you explained it to me. This birthday won't be very special because of all the work that needs to be done, but I hope to make the next one even better for you, I promise.

It's a bit of thanks for putting up with my little god complex in this facility since I know it's not your favorite side of me. I also just want something special for you to remember me by. You are the only one who makes me feel important, and I want you to know you will always be that way for me too. Thanks for making me feel like I'm worth something every day. I really don't know what I'd do without you or Lev.

Your best friend,

Olga Marie Animusphere

P.S. - I still think your smile is better than mine.


Tears streamed freely down her cheeks as Naomi turned her attention from the now tear-stained, handwritten letter to the picture frame in her right hand. The ornate box lay discarded and open on the ground. A few employees had stopped further down in confusion when it dropped rather loudly. She didn't care if they were judging since her eyes remained glued to the picture.

Both of them were in matching outfits, ones she made for the both of them at the heir's request. They were black coats sporting orange front accents over a white dress with frilled sleeves. The coat's wrists had orange bands embroidered with golden designs, much like the front accent. A red, fanned neck piece with circular emblem hung neatly in front. Olga had her hair completely loose, as well as Naomi, and the two had an arm around each other, smiling happily towards the camera they set on a tripod in her room. In Olga's left hand was the small panda head Naomi made, turned into a small keychain.

"Why did you…" This was taken just a week before the Fuyuki Incident.

The tailor collapsed to her knees and openly wept, not caring who would witness the perfectly organized supervisor in such a state. It's been four months, and she thought she was over it, but the wound had remained in her heart. Through all the busy months that were the masters' initiation, she still found the time to make her a secret birthday gift… A gift which now lay on the floor near the box. Through blurry eyes she looked towards the real gift that spilled from the box, her body racked by even more sobs as she leaned against the wall on her right for support.

To her surprise, she saw someone kneel down in her peripheral to her left. She was about to brush them off, collect her things, and bolt to her workplace, but a gentle hand on her shoulder stopped her. She turned her head and recognized Medea through tear filled eyes. Bringing her sleeve to her eyes, she began drying her tears in a panic.

"Naomi, what's wrong? What happened?" Medea asked with concern practically dripping from her voice. Her eyes now relatively clear, she looked back at the servant to see worry written all over her face.

"I-it's nothing, I just l-lost my comp-posure, t-that's all," She declared as a lone tear race down her cheek. A sob slipped out of her throat followed by another tear down a cheek. "I s-should get going, I'll be late."


"I c-can't let them s-see me tardy o-once or-"


Medea had gently but firmly placed both of her hands on the tailor's shoulders, looking her squarely in the eyes. Another sob escaped from her throat as she looked down and to the side, ashamed and embarrassed by the current situation.

"If you don't wish to share, it's alright… but I'm here for you," the princess spoke slowly but clearly. Her sympathy and concern surprised her, and she was left speechless as the caster gave a solemn smile that spoke of years of experience. "It's alright to cry... I would know."

There was silence as the pair remained in place, a tiny crowd having formed a respectable distance in the windowed hallway. Naomi collected her thoughts. Since her friend passed away, there was no one she could openly talk to in the organization, even after spending years within its walls. She never realized how much that meant to her, or did for her, to have someone to turn to for support.

Another tear run down her cheek at the realization of just how lonely she made herself without realizing it. Burying herself in her work only made the situation worse. Somehow, another opportunity presented itself from a source she wouldn't have believed months ago. While breathing in deeply to calm herself, but still not trusting her voice, she dared to see how much she cared. With a shaking hand, Naomi presented Medea with the letter.

The princess took the parchment gingerly and began reading it. Once she got to the bottom, she looked towards the tailor with some confusion before her eyes widened slightly. She looked back at the bottom where the signature of the sender was and slowly covered a mouth with one of her hands upon silent confirmation. Gently putting the letter down, she looked towards the tailor. The hand that covered her mouth moved to gently hold one of the supervisor's own in a surprising show of compassion.

"The late director…?" Medea asked hesitantly, receiving a sob and a silent nod as her first response.

"She was n-nicer than anyone ever thought," she choked out before more tears overtook her. Medea closed the gap in an instant to wrap both her arms around the poor girl, rubbing her back gently in soothing circles with one hand. 'Was I really the only one who ever acknowledged her?'

"I'm sorry," The blue-haired woman whispered as she felt tears against the bare skin of her shoulder.

"M-my birthday," she stuttered out. "It was a w-week after F...Fuyuki. S-she never... forgot... I-I miss her."

Medea closed her eyes and gently rocked the woman in her arms. "I'm so sorry…"

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ IX ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Naomi didn't know how long she had been in the lounge. Medea had brought her back with the help of Vlad who, much to her surprise, watched silently from a few feet behind as Medea comforted her. She had calmed down considerably and could think straight again in the untold minutes they had sat here in silence.

It was hardly uncomfortable, just painful.

The Princess of Colchis had collected her belongings and placed them on the ottoman in front of the tailor. The green haired woman stared blankly at the ornate box that rested on the plush upholstery. It sat together with the letter, picture frame, and personal knitting bag. A tray with a glass of water sat on the table next to her as a silent offering from a passing Marie.

"I apologize. I'm not the best with handling personal grievances." Vlad said quietly as he shifted in his seat slightly. It was unusual for the prince to look even a tad uncomfortable.

"It's alright, Vlad…" Naomi replied softly, still in her trance. "I should have been in more control."

"Hush. No need to be sorry about that, silly mage," Medea replied soothingly. "Are you feeling better?"

Naomi nodded. "Yes, thank you."

Medea gave a small smile in response. There was a comfortable silence as she sat there, thoughts divided between her late friend and the two servants in front of her. She had done nothing but knit with them and partake in occasional small talk, yet they already went the extra mile and helped with her total breakdown. She looked up and stared at the two who gazed at her with concern. It wasn't as clear with Vlad, but there was definitely a hint of it in his usually regal and stoic gaze. That's what she would like to believe at least, but there was only one way to find out for sure.

"Why did you two help me?" She asked in a quiet voice, causing both servants to look at her surprised. It was more obvious on Medea's face than Vlad's, but at least this time there was no doubt of it from the Prince.

"Is this a serious question?" Vlad asked with an even tone. Had she irritated the prince?

"We did it because we're your friends, why else would we?" Medea responded soon after, making the head of the Clothing Department's eyes widen. Friends she said.

"We only knit together and talk at lunch. I didn't know that gave me the priveledge of-"

"Privilege?" Vlad chuckled. "Please, you've earned our friendship many weeks ago. Medea and I agree on this."

Looking to the woman in question, she found a small smile and a nod as her answer. Now she was really confused. What exactly had she done? She could think clearly again, right? They only really knitted together at lunch, having small talk while doing so. Besides pleasantries being exchanged in the hallway, she couldn't figure out what else she did to warrant that kindness they showed without hesitation.

"I see you're trying to figure out what you did," Medea observed, which made Naomi nod in agreement. "It's not just what you did, but also didn't do. You didn't judge us by our legends like so many others."

"I just didn't think it was worth mentioning. You two were nice to me from the beginning, so I just treated you like you treated me and..." Naomi explained when her voice trailed off, which generated a glint in Vlad and Medea's eyes.

"I thought it was obvious. That's why you're our friend," Medea stated plainly. "I've kept to my room most of the time simply to avoid the accusations and glares since my arrival. I don't receive nearly as much anymore, but you gave me a seat and company without judgment when I first approached. Right, Vlad?"

The regal individual nodded in confirmation before looking back to Naomi. "Several employees have called me Dracula, and some still outright avoid me with fear. While my actions in the first week didn't help my case, I'm more than satisfied and pleased it never seemed to influence your opinion. You always treated me as a person, even if it was just simple small talk and pleasantries."

It never occurred to her before what these two might still be handling on their own. She recalled her first meeting with Vlad, of the intimidation she felt at the sight of the approaching prince and the rumors that swirled about him. She felt worse for having the same reservations, but felt a modicum of pride at having held back in favor of treating everyone equally on first glance. She was simply following the dear lessons learned from her mother and she managed to befriend powerful individuals.

"Friends..." she said quietly, though they heard her clear as day as they watched a small smile appear on her face. "I guess I misinterpreted the silent knitting. I didn't think you wanted to talk to me that much."

"We thought you preferred the silence. Medea and I talk a lot after you leave," the prince nodded and looked to Medea. "I apologize if it sent the wrong messages."

"I see… then I'm sorry for presuming," Naomi smiled back. "And… thank you. I can't thank you enough for considering me your friend."

"I'm glad we could be," Medea replied quickly with a small smirk. "But I'm more glad you're feeling better… my fellow stitch witch."

"Ugh... not you too," Naomi groaned with a smile as Medea laughed. She straightened from her slouched position in the chair and reached for her things. "I better get back to work. I'm beyond late at this point and I can't afford to be late."

"And she's back to normal," Vlad stated in amusement, but held up a hand to stop her. "There is no need. We had Roman call in for you. One of your staff are assuming temporary control, so you have the rest of the day off."

A shiver ran up her back. Naomi stared at him in surprise and worry. "…Did he say a name?"

The prince looked to Medea and she simply nodded. "Miss Maemi, I believe it was?"

Naomi let out a sigh in relief, causing Vlad and Medea to look at each other with amused expressions. "As long as it's her… Heavens help me if it was Evans."

"Now then… Naomi," the berserker spoke to her the tailor's attention. He gladly noticed the small smile on her face upon hearing her first name. "Since it appears you've been under the wrong impression because of our comfortable silence, I suggest we remedy this. What would you like to know about your friends?"

Her smile grew a little more.

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Two hours flew by faster than Naomi could have imagined as they talked absolutely nonstop. Though they had been meeting every day for the past month and a half, any talk was always short and brief. Comfortable silence filled most of the fifty minutes she spent with them daily. It would always be a few simple sentences, then several minutes in peace and quiet. She didn't realize how much she missed talking endlessly about everything like she could with Olga, and she couldn't keep the smile off her face. She may have lost her, but she was glad to find Vlad and Medea.

"I appreciate the offer, Medea, but I think I'll stick with my little needle magic," she explained with a little embarrassment. "The last time I tried anything more, my parents had to bring me to the hospital."

"You pushed your circuits too far?"

She chuckled nervously. "No… I… It's actually too embarrassing, but it involved accidental telekinesis and a nearby vase."

"Oh dear…" Medea giggled, though Vlad suppressed his own chuckle.

"It could have been worse… at least I don't have a scar," she reassured herself with a small smile as she stared at the ornate box still sitting on her ottoman. She picked it up and opened it to look at the lone gift inside. Naomi smiled before finally closing the lid and slipping it into her bag alongside the letter and picture frame. She smiled softly.

"Thank you, again… I really mean it. I haven't laughed or smiled like this in too long."

"And we'll be sure to keep it that way, since the same applies for us as well," the prince nodded in confirmation. He looked to Medea as she agreed, then checked her watch and sighed.

"I'm sorry to cut this early, but I have to go. I haven't practiced self-defense in a week and master was adamant about casters learning at least something for protection," the princess lamented as she got up. She smiled towards Naomi. "I liked learning more about each other."

"I hope we all talk this sincerely from now on." Naomi smiled as she waved at the caster. It faltered slightly in uncertainty. "…Though, I won't mind if you two prefer the comfortable silence we shared…"

"I believe being more personable and open will be far more enjoyable for us," Vlad interjected with a reassuring smile. "The small talk was fairly droll after so many weeks. I can understand how you'd get the wrong impression when we only discuss supply sorties, your work, and any… usual, crazy occurrence in Chaldea."

They nodded in agreement, and Naomi smiled. "Sounds wonderful, thank you. Both of you."

Medea was about to wave to Vlad when she stared at the piece of furniture in front of him. His bag was there, but what caught her attention was the lone knitting needle that somehow wound up stuck into the upholstery; Marie wasn't going to be very pleased with that. Naomi also noticed, and stared with her. Vlad followed their gaze to the offending tool, and gently pulled it from the cushion, staring silently at the small but obvious hole it created on extraction. He met their gazes met for a second.

"At least it's not the first time I did that to an ottoman," He mused with a slight smirk. Naomi cringed.

Medea groaned. "While I'd love to be more personal with our dear friend, please tell me puns won't begin polluting our lunch breaks. That was a true atrocity."

Vlad actually laughed.

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The supervisor hummed as she looked over the pair of slacks a tailor newly completed. Her jade eyes scanned the new piece of clothing with scrutiny, slender arms crossed across her Chaldea uniform. Her yellow Logistics division tie hung perfectly around her neck, the collar crisp and the definition of regulation. Shifting weight to the opposite leg, she turned the pants over, smoothed it on the table with her hand, and stared at the white outwear with a small smile. Grabbing the piece by the hanger, she lifted it and turned it around, presenting it to the robot that hovered near silently behind her.

"Send this to the front, please. Also, please tell Evans he did a fantastic job, and that he shouldn't worry about it being late," She smiled.

"Yes, Naomi, right away!" The bot beeped as it took the hanger and made its way towards the front.

It had been a little over a week since her breakdown, and she dared to say she really needed it. Thankfully her lunch meetings with her friends had become as cordial as they hoped. The workplace was a slightly different story after she decided to loosen the reigns a little. A week since she made the changes and still no complaints about the quality of the department's work, much to her contentment. There were a few rumors floating around about what actually brought about the change, with the lead being a secret boyfriend in another division.

The only new change she absolutely loved was the significant drop in hecklers and bad nicknames.

She sat on a chair and pulled out some drawing paper from under her desk, unrolling it so the end just barely graced the new picture frame propped against the wall. She began to draw up a new dress the female servants might be interested in acquiring. Her hands worked like clockwork as they began the outline. Naomi brushed her loose lock of green hair behind her ear, barely brushing against her newest wardrobe addition: a bright red, crocheted rose.

It was the beginning of another consecutive good day for the jade eyed tailor, and she smiled lightly at the thought she didn't even need a cup of coffee to begin this morning. Maybe Medea and Vlad will find that rare cloth and material she requested on their supply sortie, and make the day even better. In the distance, she heard door to the Clothing Department open and presumed another cli-

"Greetings Roman citizens! Your Empress has arrived with her requests for more fashionable outfits!"

Naomi suddenly wished she had three cups of coffee on standby.

Chapter Text

Howling wind was one's only companion on the high peaks.

Above the endless clouds, there was only an unnatural darkness. It surrounded Chaldea's mountain and the nearby range, creating a sphere protected only by the dimensional field generated by Chaldeas. It was almost like a reality marble, and though the employees never saw it, some of the servants had to make the report. They really were alone in this dimension, just like he was on an adjacent peak.

"Seventy-one… Seventy-two…"

The mountain where Chaldea was built, with the building sitting at nearly four thousand meters above sea level, was the largest and most prominent in sight. Several mountains acted as makeshift supports for the colossal mound of earth, with one of them flanking the structure. This smaller cousin formed its peak only a scant few hundred meters above the facility, forming no threat of avalanches. A saddle formed between it and the massive mountain, connecting the organization to another large, flat outcrop that used to act as a helipad.

"Ninety-Eight… Ninety-nine… One hundred."

With a sigh and a smirk, the well-toned, muscular berserker placed the large boulder he had been using for squats onto the rough peak. Celtic tattoos ran down the biceps of the man in question, ending near the elbow and letting the black hand wraps cover his wrists and forearms. The blonde-haired individual had his scarred chest in full view, and wore nothing more than a pair of gym shorts for leggings.

Beowulf patted the two-ton boulder, which was originally the peak of the very mountain before he accidentally broke it during his training sessions. The workout machines in the gym could only do so much, even while purposefully lowering their energy outputs. He preferred to use his servant strength and personal training regime, not that it would actually accomplish anything. Servants couldn't gain more power without the ascensions or assisting craft coins, so he did it out of habit.

The training grounds below, this mountain, and any nearby spires, formed his own little sanctuary. Here he could think about random things, or spar to his heart's content with anyone willing. It was usually with one of the three larger berserkers, but trading blows with others was always a nice treat. Cu and Diarmuid were some of the more interesting spars since they were considerably faster, though Leonidas' love for training and tenacity made him a great fighting partner as well. Perhaps another good sparring partner would arrive soon.

It might be interesting to spar with Attila the Hun, or maybe even Iskandar again, should either be summoned.

With a frown and a sigh, he scratched the back of his head. He was the one leading today's special training session due to the master's disappearance. As concerned as he was for his mysterious disappearance, they had to keep training while those who could search for him with Chaldeas' aid did so. If anything, it gave him a rare opportunity to give form to his particular opinion about the class in training. He had not been happy about how much effort they pushed into their defensive training.

"I'm not looking forward to it either… but they need to learn a lesson," Beowulf grumbled and shook his head.

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Fragment 6: Talk with your Fists

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To reach the Training Grounds, individuals needed to walk half a kilometer west of Chaldea over the small saddle between the main mountain and the smaller, adjacent one. The small trek was eased by a metal grated, raised walkway that was easy to clear of ice. Occasionally an avalanche or two would bury the path, but robots would handle the cleanup work with occasional servant assistance. Thankfully the avalanches couldn't threaten Chaldea itself due to its reinforced nature.

The former landing field served well as a training area. Several smaller peaks rose around the almost circular plateau, partially hampering the view of the range beyond. Structures on sight were limited to separate bathrooms and a small observation deck with a slanted roof, but no walls to protect from the cold. This lack of environmental protection was amplified by the wind that was always blowing at least ten kilometers an hour, increasing to fifty at random intervals.

It was rare to ever see an employee out here unless it was to repair something intricate a robot couldn't. High altitudes made the work extra strenuous, on top of the harsh conditions. The relatively shielded, by mountain and structure, shooting range was one of the only safe places outside for employees. Even the servants were reluctant to come here unless they were keen on sparring. The ones that absolutely loved coming here enjoyed the challenge of sparring under adverse conditions to keep themselves primed.

Beowulf looked over the group of mages and nodded in approval. They looked ready.

There was a small gathering of servants who normally wouldn't consider being anywhere near these grounds, most of which stood on the walkway observing a spar in progress. Casters made up the vast majority of the group, though a few others showed up as support. It was for both distracting herself from anxiety and observing for Gudao that Mashu likely found herself standing in the observation deck, bundled with a large, white jacket with the Chaldea logo on the back.

To her right were the only two other occupants of the room, the closest of which was Medea wearing her full battle regalia with the hood over her eyes. The one furthest pulled a cigarette out of his mouth and exhaled. He had positioned himself downwind out of courtesy for his deck mates. It honestly surprised Beowulf to see the caster here, but figured Hans absence meant they were handling the situation with Da Vinci instead.

Lord El-Melloi II had what appeared to be a permanent scowl for a face as he stared at Beowulf. His hands were tucked into the pockets of his red trench coat with golden accents. The golden scarf he wore waved in the wind with his long, black hair. Still, his eyes didn't leave the berserker as Beowulf turned his attention elsewhere. He was content enough to know Gudao's analytical advisor would likely lend a hand in the critique of his fellow classmates' defenses.

Beowulf's quick glance ended with a small nod. "Showing up is only the first step, but it's good to see many of you have come. I will presume Irisviel is also assisting Da Vinci… while Shakespeare is just simply not showing up. Again."

"Shakespeare? In a battle? We'd have to bring it to the library," Tamamo joked dryly in her battle attire, making some servants chuckle.

"As interesting as that might be, I don't think Hans would appreciate that," Beowulf snickered and shook his head. "How about Paracelsus? I know he's not one to take to the field as often either, but he could still use the training."

"He is also assisting Da Vinci," Mashu answered, making the berserker nod in response. "Though… to be fair, he and Tesla are likely just keeping Gabby calm. She's still having an anxiety attack over this whole ordeal."

"They're best friends. I'd be more worried if she wasn't," El-Melloi chimed in simply.

"It can't be helped then… but the rest of you casters didn't come to talk, right? That's great, I mean it. We've got to make Gudao happy and make sure you can defend yourselves well."

Stretching both arms to his side, he shifted into his battle attire. His gym shorts would be protected since they were now replaced with his regular pants, but it was the two swords that really mattered. Two tanned hands grasped the handles as they appeared. The largest of the pair, Naegling, was lifted onto the shoulder of the berserker as the chain connecting his wrists rattled. He shifted his legs, squaring his bare feet with his shoulders, before flashing one hell of a smirk as he swung the lengthier blade, Hrunting, like a windmill at his side.

"We'll keep this simple. I'm only going to hold back so much, and my opponent simply needs to last as long as possible. Stalling might not be fancy or heroic, but we usually have the numbers advantage in the singularities."

This was the simple truth. Chaldea almost always had the numerical superiority in conflicts, especially when stray servants lent their hand. There had been several instances where backline servants had been focused by rather problematic assaulters though. Weaker foes, while easy enough to handle, sometimes bogged down reinforcements from assisting fast enough. This concern never left Gudao, and was only amplified when Tamamo and Mozart had almost been overwhelmed while advancing on Washington.

As far as Beowulf could remember, the pair still owed Elizabeth and Fionn for coming to their aid. That had been Gudao's final straw for his nerves, and he had pleaded with them to undergo some sort of training. Combined with his habit of overworking, and constantly burying himself in formations to better assist, the casters had agreed. Still, the trainings he had seen felt lax by his and Leonidas' standards, so they needed a wakeup call. Gudao was being far too lenient as far as he was concerned; They were heroes, and they needed to act like it.

"You can call it quits if you wish, but I recommend taking this seriously. I'm not aiming to kill or anything."

"So we just need to hold out until we decide to tap out," El-Melloi II murmured. "Straightforward and easy enough."

For heroic spirits, most things were indeed easy, but there was a difference between confidence and cockiness. Hrothgar's sermon still rang within his head after presenting him with the head of Grendel. To have fought the best and won with bare hands, then defeat it certainly with its mother soon after was truly a feat of praise. Still, the king had given him words of wisdom, and to be wary of pride and arrogance. As a heroic spirit, he could safely say he had him to thank for reeling it in, but it appears the casters needed a lesson.

If it was indeed their pride that resulted in partial effort, then he'd show them what only a fraction of his effort was.

Determination flashed across Beowulf face as his amused smile grew. "It's going to be anything but easy."

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"Should I?" The demi-servant asked. Lord El-Melloi II sighed.

"Yes. Please be ready, Mashu," The man specified flatly.

"I'm set!" Mashu replied before Lord Chaldeas materialized into one of her hands. "Scutum fidei defendet te!"

There was a pained yell as the spell activated in the nick of time. "You said you were holding back, you brute!"

The ability's ignition, and the panicked yell, were followed by the ground shaking as the defeated servant flew past the observation deck and collided with the side of the smaller mountain. An obvious, human shaped indent in the snow was the only indicator where she landed. Mashu looked back with concern while both Medea and the male caster sighed.

"Tch, I am holding back!" Beowulf grunted from his position in the center of the Training Grounds, completely unscathed.

Beowulf relaxed his position, making it clear he was no longer on the offensive. This prompted a few servants to run quickly towards their fallen ally to check if she was alright. The berserker had to admit, Tamamo was quite strong in holding her own. He couldn't feel any real flaw in her defensive maneuvering. Between signature spells, and some minor close combat capabilities, he would say she was likely one of the more prepared casters. She had lasted nearly fifteen minutes, which was a considerable amount of time against his onslaught.

Tamamo didn't even need the help of a craft coin either. He simply watched as they fished her out of the hole in the snow to check for injuries. Judging by her slightly frazzled hair, and an angrily waving tail, she was clearly alright. As stated, he wasn't aiming to kill or severely injure, but he was going to make a point. These things needed to be taken seriously.

"Alright... Well done, Tamamo. Who's next? You want a go, El-Melloi?"

"Do not forget the two in my title… I shall pass for now."

"Right. My mistake… How about you, Mozart?"

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" Scutum fidei defendet te! "

Mozart quickly flew into the side of the mountain's base, though much harder than Tamamo did. Even Beowulf winced slightly. 'Sheesh… I didn't think he was that fragile.'

It has been weeks since Gudao gave the general order for casters to go through some close combat training. Their class wasn't the only one more specialized to ranged and support roles, but the archers were diverse enough that close combat wasn't much of an issue for them. Even though they operated independently, most coordinated interlacing lanes of fire that covered each other from extreme distances. The casters did this less.

If on the frontlines, the casters had to remain relatively close to the other servants to properly support, and were often seen as juicier targets for enemies that chose to bypass the front line. Serious training was only sidelined in favor of making the frontline more cohesive. Coordination between the melee fighters and ranged support also was a higher priority. Increasing strength and coordination by enemies only proved this could no longer be delayed.

Since then, Gudao had been focusing most training on their protection.

This was only part of the reason why most of the casters had started coming to the Training Grounds. Still, they had appeared for the scheduled session today without their master's presence. Helpless as Roman and Da Vinci scrambled to find out his position, venting only seemed proper. Upon first contact a few minutes ago, relief broke through Chaldea upon discovering there were friendly servants protecting him. It seemed this was the only piece of good news for the casters.

Beowulf had only sparred with two so far, but it was clear they were getting unnerved by his ferocity.

"First me, now Mozart! How the hell is that holding back, Beowulf!?" Tamamo cried from the sidelines. The muscular male shifted his attention to the fox caster, an eyebrow raised out of some amusement. Still, he was exasperated she was asking.

"The telegraph for him was more obvious. It was clear as day I was about to unleash my noble phantasm. I even held back further for Mozart," Beowulf explained while shrugging his shoulders

Tamamo was clearly dumbfounded that he'd consider his most powerful attack as sparring appropriate, but he did it all the time with Heracles and Spartacus. "I have to give credit to Mozart, though. Not many would try and take that kind of a strike head on, even if it was only at a small fraction of its strength. He also got better at evading as the fight went on."

"A noble phantasm is a noble phantasm," Marie complained as she tried to reassure Nightingale he was alright. The nurse was starting to get that little glint in her eye that unnerved almost everyone.

The queen knelt in the snow next to him, concern written on what could be seen of her face. Anyone could take numerous guesses on how many layers she wore under her over-sized red parka and cloth covered face... Weren't servants supposed to be unaffected by temperature?

Nightingale was quickly running a medical check over the very dazed Mozart. The front of his green overcoat was open to allow the nurse to inspect for any damage, but true to his word, there was only bruising at the impact sight. Beowulf knew with Nightingale's presence, he had extra incentive to hold back otherwise his friend would go crazy on him and the wounded. The man was a master in managing the strength of his fists, so even the weaker Mozart should still be fine after his strike.

Behind the bundled rider was an equally covered Nursery Rhyme, wrapped warmly in a matching set of black mittens, wool hat, and a parka. It truly was both amusing and adorable how much Atalanta babied her children. She rubbed her covered hands together as the unnerving stare left Nightingale's expression upon Mozart's annoyed mumbling. "Miss Nightingale, will Mister Mozart be ok?"

Nightingale placed a hand in front of the dazed caster's face and snapped her fingers repeatedly, not getting his attention. The glint in her eye returned as she shook her head. Beowulf watched as his friend stood up and let out an exasperated sigh. She took off her medical backpack and opened the main compartment, struggling a bit to see past the sleeves of her long coat. She smiled almost demonically as she pulled out the tool in question, bringing it into full view: A bone saw.

"I must examine Mozart's chest for internal damage."

"I'm fine! I'm fine! I insist!" Mozart yelped as he crawled backwards in a frenzy, falling back into the hole the pair had dragged him out of much to Marie's dismay. She found herself significantly more watchful over her lounge musician than the adorable young caster she was originally supposed to accompany for Atalanta.

"Mhmm, no serious complications it seems," Nightingale chuckled, repacking her equipment. "Well done, Mashu."

"Thank you," Mashu replied quickly from the nearby observation deck. A small buzzing was heard over the wind, causing the demi-servant to reach into her pocket and pull out a small device. It was a monitor with attached keyboard, used to relay text messages among similar devices without direct connection. It was the only communication device that worked outside thanks to the snow's interference. She frowned at the message.

"Bad news?" Medea asked next to her, gazing towards the device.

"Doctor Roman wants me back inside. He said he wanted to try something to retrieve Senpai," Mashu stated clearly before quickly beginning her jog down the grated path. Servants stepped out of her way as she passed the surrounding group. They watched her swiftly disappear over the saddle. Beowulf shifted in the center of the plateau and exhaled.

"So..." The masculine voice of the volunteer echoed across the field. "Who's next? I'll go easier on the next one. I promise."

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To Medea's credit, she had lasted against Beowulf for over twenty minutes straight, even if she was airborne.

"Tie yongqi... Baohu wo di shibing!" El-Melloi's voice boomed the small activation, covering the female caster in a small sheen of light as a powered fist slammed into the servant. Medea's eyes widened at the force of the impact; Even though it was dampened significantly by the spell defending her, the sheer power behind the fist meant that she wasn't going to be flying much longer. The magic circles floating in the air around her shattered, and her breath left her lungs.

Then down she went.

She screamed in pain as she impacted the snow-covered rock of the plateau, having been struck from midair by the cunning berserker. As if Beowulf's strength wasn't enough of a hurdle, his significantly weakened mad enhancement meant he had almost full clarity with his thoughts and reasoning. The muscular servant landed near his discarded weapons, cracking his knuckles while mentally patting himself on the back for that spontaneous play. He met the caster's glare who was now flanked by Nightingale and Marie.

Beowulf clapped with a grin. "Well done! I think you're more than prepa-"

"Are you trying to kill me, you brute-" A coughing fit interrupted Medea as the rider held a towel in front of her mouth; Part of the cloth turned red.

Nightingale's eyes flashed dangerously as she instantly coaxed Medea back onto the ground to do a proper evaluation. Beowulf watched nearby as she checked on the caster, asking Marie to act as a small curtain as she parted bits of the blue-haired servant's robe. Even as she worked, she occasionally tossed a venomous glare towards her friend, making the grin quickly leave his face. He frowned as she continued to shoot glares his direction.

"I thought you treated your people and women kinder than this," she practically growled. She soon began mumbling about her typical medical know how, running a verbal checklist as she assisted the wounded caster. Truthfully, Medea could heal herself, but there was no arguing with the berserker nurse regardless of who you were; They simply let her be. "This isn't like you, Beowulf."

He frowned further. Nightingale knew more than most considering how close they were as companions. Besides eating together, and occasionally with the larger berserkers to keep them company, they would occasionally talk aimlessly in their free time. If anyone knew him, it was her, and vice versa. The memorial essences from their counterparts in America had only improved that.

So it was only expected she would be angry with him like the others. The Angel of Crimea, who wanted nothing more than to rid the world of its need for hospitals, by bringing an end to disease and war. Here he was, her friend and confidant, supposedly training casters by inflicting serious injury onto them. He truly did intend it as a wakeup call, but he had gotten too excited when sparring with Medea. She truly was a fearsome opponent with her incredible magecraft, which made him put that much more effort into ensuring he didn't get fried instead.

Medea was slowly being walked to the sidelines by Marie. Nightingale glared towards her fellow berserker as she stood up and approached him. She got right up to her friend and gazed with frustration into his eyes, but spoke loudly. "This sparring is only acceptable up until you decide to end it the hard way, Beowulf. You're going to completely incapacitate another servant at this rate, and I will not allow that. Can you please spar lighter for them?"

The muscled man merely grunted and crossed his arms.

"Tch... Look, Gale. I'm putting serious effort into these spars so they become better at reacting, evading, and defending. This is a serious matter. It's their safety at stake, but I am holding back considerably... You know I ain't lying."

Nightingale's glare did not falter, and even Medea sent one as she reached the catwalk. Several casters on the sideline were also frowning towards the berserker, who didn't seem openly apologetic. Beowulf was not completely controlled by his mad enhancement, but he can see how they might think his idea of sparring and training was possibly being influenced by it.

Though most did not want to admit it to him at the moment, he could tell by their silence they acknowledged it. He did have a fair point about being prepared for conflict by training as if it were real. Practice was best when it was as close to the real thing as possible. With a shake of her head, Nightingale began walking away with a sigh, and he knew he would likely hear more complaints about his training later.

He looked to the sidelined and observed as Lord El-Melloi II strolled up to Medea. Marie slowly brought the female caster to a sitting position as she began healing herself. With some quick coaxing, he convinced her to stop healing herself so he could perform the act for her. She let out a sigh of relief as he began a quick healing spell.

"I apologize for not having the same quality as Mashu's defense," The man grumbled, more than just upset with the situation.

"It's fine... preferable to being unconscious," Medea responded, obviously still upset at the berserker she was gazing towards. "The most handsome men are always the worst."

"He's just the destructive guy he is. We've known this, but he is holding back."

"Still doesn't excuse his behavior to me," Medea griped with a huff.

The sidelines fell quiet as Beowulf scanned them. Several of the servants have already fought him and lost, some putting up quite the defense before he broke through. Of the servants present, the only caster he had yet to fight would be Nursery Rhyme, who was currently cowering behind Tamamo. He doubted many would appreciate making a little girl cry, not that he would even try to.

Tamamo's valiant defense and surprising agility still let her claim the second longest time against him. Lord El-Melloi II was a shocking surprise, having gone a full fifteen minutes without taking a single hit, thanks partially to that silver mystic code of his. He had fought for twenty-two before stating he had enough upon an increasing number of blows the silver mystic code had intercepted. Beowulf was impressed, though mainly for the signature mystic code that had intercepted him well.

"Striking girls and using excessive force against fellow allies. I guess I'm not being to genuinely heroic am I...?" He mused out loud, but no servant dared reply in case they sparked an aggravated reply. "It's for your own sakes that you need to learn to defend yourselves better against a break in the line. It's already happened several times, and it won't stop there."

It even happened to the frontliners, but they were at the highest risk of course. Still, if he could help it, he didn't want to see a repeat of his personal experiences. True, the loss of Aeschere at the hands of the vengeful Grendel's mother was of slightly different circumstances, it still held an underlying concern of his. Though he enjoyed his time in this peaceful place as much as most, complacency may wind up getting another trusted ally killed. Beowulf really did trust them with his back, but he wished they trusted his method more.

He sighed. "We're all heroic spirits. We've each gone through many trials, and this is just another one. Please take this seriously for your own sakes."

"You could be nicer," Nursery Rhyme said quietly, yelping in surprise and retreating behind Tamamo further upon attracting his gaze. It had been a simple, calm expression though.

Beowulf let out another groan in frustration and looked down at his feet; He wasn't doing a good job keeping positive relations with the other servants today. The berserker couldn't imagine the others in his class being any more managing, except Asterios and Kiyohime. Definitely not Lancelot in his current state, though Scathach had a close eye on him usually; Something clearly needed to be done about that chaotic berserker. Shaking the thoughts, he looked up with frustrated eyes and-

There was a disturbance that all servants on the plateau felt at the same time. Surprise was the first reaction. It was replaced by a wave of relief washing over all of the servants present. The muscular servant grunted in satisfaction, his current mood with the frustrated casters having disappeared.

Their master had just returned to Chaldea. The diluted signature of the prana flare centered in the Deployment Room was clear evidence.

Lord El-Melloi II exhaled the smoke from his lungs before musing out loud, "Shakespeare would probably say something poetic about now... if he was actually here training."

Medea rolled her eyes. "That playwright... As least show up once..."

A buzzing noise resonated from Nightingale's pack, which she quickly took off and opened. Grabbing the offending device and staring at its monitor, she read aloud, "Flawless news... Gudao is safe and in perfect health. He and Mashu will be coming to supervise training as soon as they summon a servant. Our master apparently has a specific catalyst he wishes to use immediately."

No one spoke, but Beowulf assumed the thoughts were all the same. There was some discontent and uncertainty about the decision, though it was mixed with curiosity over the hasty summoning. It was likely going to be a servant from the incident that just happened, specifically one of the ones who aided him. Beowulf had to make a note to thank that servant when they arrived for keeping their master safe.

Still, he could see the disinterest growing on dealing with him longer, and he couldn't blame them honestly.

At worst for them, training with him would probably continue unless Gudao requested someone else as a replacement. At best, that meant training with each other while master coordinated, which he would enjoy. It wouldn't be the first time the latter happened, but sparring sessions have been the norm recently in regards to the casters' self-defense. Regardless which one it would be, all their hands were reluctantly tied, at least until master arrived to make the final decision.

"I'm going to ask master if we can have a break," Medea said quietly as she stood up from her spot. "Gods willing, maybe I can convince him to switch it to formation drills."

The princess, accompanied by Marie, made her way past the crowd and towards the saddle, her eyes covered the whole time. The queen was staying near the mage as silent support if she needed it. The quick breaths she took made it apparent Medea wasn't completely recovered. Nightingale and Lord El-Melloi II stood underneath the observation deck, scowls on both their faces. On the sidelines atop the walkway, the rest of the casters looked reluctantly towards Beowulf, who was currently doing hand stand push-ups to keep himself preoccupied.

"When one of you feels like sparring with me, feel free to step up and we can try again," Beowulf sighed in slight resignation.

'I could use a real challenge after this. I wonder if Herc or Asterios is up for a spar later.'

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"I shall be your opponent!"

There was no room for discussion as the newly summoned servant leapt in front of Beowulf barely ten minutes after Medea. The master, Mashu, Marie, and the magus were jogging down the walkway the challenger had charged through, a grin on her face the entire time. The servants along the sidelines stared in confusion at the entrance of the newest ally, who now stood before a confused Beowulf as he gauged his new opponent.

The woman was in a fighting stance and holding what appeared to be a bo staff. Her white overcoat was so low cut it revealed a bikini top between its golden accents, but also her bottoms through a small gap in the front. White leggings with golden accents covered her lower legs, completing the perplexing ensemble. Long, dark brown hair waved in the wind, while a purple, spiked cap with beige shroud looked secure and non-threatened by the gusts. Her magenta eyes and wide grin showed that the fair skinned woman was more than just eager for a fight.

She now had Beowulf's full, content attention and curiosity. "Heh. The new servant, eh?"

"Yup! That's me! I heard there was some training with Beowulf and I got all excited!" She grinned and rivalled the sun.

"Well I don't know who you are, but I like the enthusias-"

She swung her staff swiftly, and to the surprise of those observing, it extended and was quickly blocked by both of Beowulf's weapons in a cross guard.

Beowulf smirked. "My, my. We got a feisty one. I like that even more. I'll thank you for protecting master later… Let's fight!"

The staff retracted instantly, and the woman charged quickly along her opponent's right flank. Beowulf watched her as he gripped both weapons and lowered them to his sides. Judging by her approach, she was sizing him up, looking for an opportuni- She vanished.

In an instant, she was in his face and bringing the tail end of her bo staff up for an uppercut. The muscled man flipped backwards, his eyes widening slightly as he performed the maneuver. With a grunt, he landed and swiftly jumped back. Curious at the new predicament, he stared at the tip of the extended staff.

'A rake?' He thought flabbergasted. 'What kind of a lancer is she?'

The woman only smirked and giggled at hi- She disappeared again!

This Houdini was slowly beginning to infuriate Beowulf who was still trying to size up his targe- He blocked and his eyes widened. The attack had come from his left side, but the weapon had changed yet again to resemble a monk's spade. He didn't have time to contemplate before the woman used the momentum of the block to swing the blade over her head and attack him from the opposite direction. He grunted in frustration.

'Enough of these defense moves, berserkers belong on the offensive!'

Beowulf back flipped over the offending blade while simultaneously twirling his blades. Using Naegling to redirect the spade while swinging Hrunting towards the woman's chest. The female servant shifted her weapon into the bo staff in an instant, jumping off the ground while retracting the ends of the staff to free it from Naegling's grasp. Hrunting missed its target. Beowulf completed his spin to land on both of his feet and swiftly squatted, spotting the servant in midair.

"Gotcha," He said as he leapt towards his target, swinging both of his weapons from over his head for a powerful buster hi-

He sliced through thin air. He growled in both frustration and exhilaration.

On the sidelines, the group watched the fight with interest. Beowulf was quite the fighter when he was putting actual effort, but for this newcomer to take him on at his own close combat game was surprising. The crowd observed as she reappeared in a streak of light on Beowulf's flank as he landed, spinning her staff rapidly to land a few grazing hits before being blocked.

Quiet conversations broke out within the crowd, barely audible over Nursery Rhyme's cheers for the newcomer. Standing on the walkway several meters back, Gudao, Medea, and Mashu watched. Marie had returned to the crowd to get a closer view. With simple glances to them, even while mid-fight, Beowulf could tell they were impressed. Frankly, so was he.

"So she's the one who protected you?" Medea asked, mouth slightly open in surprise.

"Unique fighting style, huh?" Gudao grinned at her.

"She's a very interesting Lancer," Mashu added, making Gudao chuckle. She looked curiously at her senpai while Medea kept her eyes on the fight, clearly astonished. Gudao could tell she knew, but Beowulf still didn't.

The woman disappeared again, but that was just the quickest way to explain it. She never disappeared at all, but rather moved at such a speed that the only telegraph of her direction was a streak of golden light that followed her path. Only servants would have picked up on the flash in time to properly anticipate a strike. For Beowulf, she was simply too fast to strike for him when she moved in that fashion, but a plan swiftly formed in his head.

'She can only do it in bursts, and the direction is straight,' he thought as he gripped his weapons harder. 'Time to step it up then.'

The female servant vanished into that streak of gold, but Beowulf was prepared for this one. He swung Naegling in a wide arc in the general direction of her supposed appearance. The weapon sliced through the air and hit nothing, but created a shock wave that threw up snow in a wall as it tore across the plateau. His plan had worked.

Flying snow took on a human indent at one section, and he smirked, charging and swinging Hrunting at the offending area. To his surprise, the blade sliced through the snow silhouette within the shock wave. There was no block, nor successful hit on her. It simply impacted the ground and causing a small, localized tremor as it cratered the surface. He scanned for a presence as he brought himself back into a-

He gripped Naegling and brought it down behind him in time to catch the spade blade before it impacted his back. He grit his teeth and let out a grunt in frustration. The woman had used his snow screen against him by masking her light trail with the temporary wall created by the shock wave. He'd have to use it more effectively if he was going to land a proper hit.

He swung Hrunting at her as she back flipped out of reach, the grin still stretched across her face. The muscular servant simply grinned back and gripped his weapons fiercely.

"Alright. No more holding back."

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The battle had dragged on for nearly thirty minutes now. Even though Beowulf was stronger, the ever-adapting technique of the newcomer proved problematic. It was both exhilarating, and absolutely frustrating, for him. It reminded him of his enemy counterpart fighting with Li Shuwen during the American campaign. He wished he were faster, but alas, only slow opponents had met him in his past days.

There was a small dash of light as the woman reappeared with her weapon. The newcomer landed a blow on Beowulf with the raked version of her weapon through an unguarded flank, sending him skidding across the ground. Yes, he definitely wished he had a bit more finesse and agility. Nightingale would likely tease him to no end if he lost this fight.

"This is fun!" the new servant cheered as she spun in the air, dodging two of his strikes while giggling happily.

"Glad you're enjoying it," He replied as he did a fake stab, only to thrust Naegling behind him in anticipation. Beowulf turned to notice she did not appear as predicted, and his eyebrow twitched as the bo staff slammed hard across his back.

The man grunted, though barely a bruise marked the impact area. This woman was making him actually try, and she was still simply evading his strikes. He had yet to land a successful, solid strike against this servant, yet she landed many, albeit weak ones. Ignoring the slight stinging sensation in his side, Beowulf observed her quick breathing with slight content. He could outlast her if needed. He was still far from fatigued, even after all the spars before this one, but dragging the battle out would only increase the potential mocking afterwards.

This could not be allowed.

Gudao tensed up at the feeling coming from Beowulf and turned to Mashu. "Please prepare to defend her, Mashu."

"Hai, Senpai."

"Is that brute really going to use his Noble Phantasm on a new arrival!?" Medea asked with disgust, growling. "That infuriating…!"

"No worries," Gudao said calmly, which caused Medea and Mashu to look at him as if he had nine heads that each spoke a different language. "He's about to get one hell of a surprise with Mashu's help. Let her shine."

Lord El-Melloi II looked back towards the fight after overhearing Gudao's confident statement. He had a slightly amused glint in his eyes that Nightingale observed curiously. The caster simply looked toward her then back at the fight.

Beowulf dropped both of his weapons and they dematerialized. It was the first clear sign he was about to use the full force of his noble phantasm, with the second being his feral grin as he stared at the target servant. What remained of her grin vanished instantly, as she seemed to sense the incoming strike. He chuckled, knowing the full power of his offensive prowess rested with the concept that no weapon in his grasps could do what his fists could.

"Faith is my shield, and projected onto you. Defend my charge!A golden sheen covered the newcomer, and Beowulf chuckled to himself; She was going to need every bit of Shielder's ability to withstand what was coming next.

'The time for holding back is over! She can surely take it!' He squatted down and hurled himself towards the woman, watching as she mumbled something under her breath the-

Charged right at him!? 'Ho? Making this easy for me!'

The crowd on the sidelines stared in disbelief at the sheer confidence, or ignorance, of this new servant to take Beowulf's noble phantasm directly. Before anyone could cry out that she should dodge, Beowulf made contact with a ferocious first punch to the face. It was followed in a split second by a fierce kick to the torso which sent her flying backwards. He grinned at his first successful strikes.

Not letting her recover, he charged as the female landed on her feet. A fraction of a second later, he followed up with a stomp that knocked her off the ground. It was followed by an uppercut that changed her trajectory upwards. She looked at him surprised as he savored every moment of finally having the slippery servant in his grasp.

The berserker pumped more prana into his arms and let loose a volley of punches so quickly his arms blurred, and the surrounding snow was displaced by the shock waves. Gravity forced her body onto the bombardment of punches before he leaped back. It was time to prep his final swing. He had truly enjoyed the spar, but it was time to drop the curtain.

The golden sheen of invincibility shattered as the servant neared the ground. Beowulf grinned at the sight, as he forced a surge of prana into his cocked arm, making it shine brightly with overflowing power. He watched as the female servant landed on her feet and swiftly jumped backwards. With a grin, he shoved more prana into his legs to propel him forward and unleash the final hit of his- "Grendel Bus-"

Beowulf's eyes widened and the grin faded. 'What!? I can't move!?'

His prepped arm held stiff but continued to surge with power. The servant looked all across his body frantically for the cause and found dark lines snaking themselves around his body. Looking closely at one near his chest, he noticed in shock they were lines of Chinese script, woven intricately with prana. On the ground, glowing brightly on the snow, was a magic circle where the strands originated from, in the exact spot she stood before charging him head on mere moments ago. His eyes widened in realization.

Beowulf looked towards the offending servant in shock and realization. She was now releasing a golden aura of her own as she opened her eyes to meet his. The female simply grinned and winked at him. Her mouth suddenly moved quickly but rhythmically, as if she were chanting. It was in that final moment before her body glowed radiantly that he realized how much more absurd the entire session had unknowingly been.

"You're a Caster!?" He roared in surprise, causing gasps from the spectators, but an amused laugh from Gudao.

"Surprise! Now it's my turn, tough guy!" the Caster cheered happily as she flew at Beowulf in a flying kick, a bright streak of light following her swift charge. She was a golden comet this time, and no longer a quick streak. It was clear this would hurt.

And there was nothing he could do.

He struggled to that last second against his restraints in complete vain as the female servant slammed her kick into him with the force of a landslide. This one had definitely hurt more than the other attacks, as his breath left his lungs on impact. He would have found total irony in the attack she launched if it wasn't for the sheer pain that surged through his body. The woman had discarded her weapon, and was bombarding the berserker with swift palm strikes.

The woman's arms were a maelstrom as they peppered the male servant consistently and without remorse. They never picked up speed, nor lost power, as they battered the man while her trappings held him still. Small shock waves lifting the nearby snow, dazzling some of the spectators who were already daunted by the new caster's preferred attack style. As swiftly as it begun, it halted, as the woman took a step back an-

He was freed! The trappings came loose and he began to swing the final strike of his noble phantasm in an attempt to meet the final attack equally. If the attacks were to impact at the same time, his was going to overpower based solely on the difference between physical strength. But if his mind were thinking more clearly, it would have advised him to dodge instead. It likely would have recalled Hrothgar's advice about pride in that moment, instead of attempting to counter her noble phantasm with his.

She had proven consistently she was slightly faster after all. "Grandel-"

"Wu Xing Shan, Shijia Rulai Zhang!" the woman cried out as the giant manifestation of Buddha appeared behind her for a split second. The golden mirage was gone with a blinding flash. A final palm strike impacted the berserker dead center, and sent him flying into one of the nearby peaks.

Beowulf's body collided with the pinnacle, shattering it into several large pieces upon impact. He came to a halt in the ruins of the shattered piece, groaning in pain as a light golden sheen shattered around him. A small avalanche erupted on the nearby mountain top as the shock wave of the attack blasted through the western mountain range. Still, Beowulf retained consciousness, but refused to get up in case the overexcited caster wanted to try something else.

The female servant let out a sigh and re-materialized her staff, which now had a rounded, golden top with chimes. She looked at the results of her attack and smiled. The crowd stared in complete disbelief as the servant skipped happily towards them and stopped when she was only a few meters in front of the group. She grinned once more and bowed.

Most of those present were too stunned to do anything, except for a happily cheering Nursery Rhyme. Tamamo's right ear continued to twitch, as the gentle clapping from Gudao grew louder with his approach. Marie was trying to retrieve her jaw from the floor, and Mozart was shivering a little in fear of the display. To the new caster's delight, Lord El-Melloi II and Medea looked at her with approving smirks.

"That was very rude of me, I apologize! I should have introduced myself properly first but I got way too excited at the thought of sparring with the great Beowulf! I am Xuanzang Sanzang, a humble monk of Buddhism, and I look forward to working with all of my fellow casters! Oh, but you can call me Sanzang! I like that!"

Beowulf watched them from his spot, still reeling after what just happened. On the catwalk behind the still stunned group, Medea collected her scattered thoughts on what she just witnessed as Gudao made his way to the crowd. The newcomer, Sanzang he thought he heard correctly, was still talking lively in a rather long winded introduction. That servant sure loved to talk as much as fight in close combat. He probably just found a new sparring partner, and a preferred supporting caster.

He noticed Nightingale quickly bow towards the newcomer with a smile before making her way towards him. The glint in her eye grew as she approached her friend, and Beowulf recognized it as he jumped down to the training grounds while bracing for the worst. He winced painfully upon landing, which caused the female berserker to dash towards him. With forceful coaxing, she had him on his back as she began her checkup. The countless bruises and large trickle of blood from his mouth only reinforced her concern.

Still, she had a small smirk on her face with the accompanying determined gaze she was feared for. "As much as I detest any injuries, I do believe you were asking for these. Karma has visited you, so sit still and let me treat you."

"Just don't joke around with the saw again… It was only funny the first time." She chuckled, while remaining forceful in her inspection of his condition.

As she performed her regular tasks, Beowulf eyed the now surrounding group that bombarded the new caster with endless questions. "So how's she know who I was?"

"I should be telling you to be quiet, but I know that you'd just do what you want anyway," she sighed and shook her head. "When Medea and Marie met them as stated. They informed Gudao about your excessive training, and the new servant had grown determined in showing the lessons of moderation to him while trading blows with a legend."

"I guess I'll be a lot nicer the next time," Beowulf groaned as he looked towards the crowd again. Sanzang kept shivering as she complained rather vocally about the cold. Truly she was one of the more interesting, and stranger, servants to arrive.

The Princess of Colchis had been staring at Mashu who had a small smile on her face. Even in the chaos of the newcomer unleashing her noble phantasm after Beowulf's attempt, the shielder had sent one final defensive boon to him and he felt it… but her second casting wasn't a perfect move by the usually stalwart and alert defender. Her first protected the new caster flawlessly. It had succeeded in protecting him from any serious damage from the final strike and forceful landing, but the beginning was a very different story. He sighed upon realization.

"Mashu," Medea began, gaining the smaller girl's attention. "You casted that second ability late."

"I have no idea what you're talking about, Medea," Mashu replied smugly to the older woman.

Medea couldn't contain her laughter, or her blooming fondness over Mashu's hidden mean streak.

Chapter Text

Comparing the cafeteria and Salon De Marie was pointless. As the original, it could never compete with the new room's luxury. The large room was made with efficiency in mind and had the same post-modernistic style of the original Chaldea. It was like night and day, which was why everyone looked forward to dinner in the salon since its conception.

The double door entrances of the room led to the hallway, with vending machines lining the opposite wall. Potted plants and paintings were symmetrically placed around the room. The tables were white and plain, placed in rows of three down the center of the spacious room. Bordering the center rows were small rounded tables of similar design capable of seating eight people each. One wall exchanged its seating for an open-arch access to several self-serving buffet stations, complete with two swinging doors that accessed the kitchen.

It is from this area, after picking her desired lunch, that a newly arrived servant was looking for a place to sit.

A long sleeved maxi dress with a low-cut front covered most of her body, though hints of a thin and toned body can be guessed where the clothing clung. The dress had a simple cream color, but was accompanied by a firmly-wrapped black sash around her midsection. Her tanned skin was paired with short, white hair that reached just past her shoulders. It framed the sides of her face with cleanly cut bangs, but only covered her forehead, revealing her fuchsia eyes that gazed around the room with a blank expression.

She began walking towards one corner of the room while sparing passing glances to tables on both sides of her. Most tables became quiet as she approached. The individuals faced their food and ate silently while paying her no attention. Those that did accidentally catch her stare quickly found something more interesting to do. The ones that had servants weren't as rude, but were all full as usual.

With a sigh, she continued her approach to a table in the corner of the room and ignored the same responses she received as she passed. Placing her tray down lightly, she pulled the chair back and sat down with her facing the wall… The same thing she had done for the past few days. She closed her eyes for a moment and just listened to the friendly conversations, and the quiet hum of an approaching thruster.

"Good afternoon, Miss Altera. Would you like to try today's coffee? It's a special brew from our storage, originating from Monte Verde, Costa Rica! A fantastic quality if I do say so myself," The robot hummed in its own excited, electronic voice. It had a stainless-steel coffee pot grasped in each of its arms.

"No, thank you," She replied calmly with a blank expression.

"Very well. Please feel free to signal one of us if you change your mind! Enjoy your lunch!" It stated before floating away to another table.

At least the robots were a little friendly. She ignored the small stinging sensation in her chest and began eating, unaware of the feminine eyes that watched her from across the cafeteria.

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Fragment 7: When in Rome

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Altera leveled her sword.

The blade resonated with the entire spectrum of rainbow light as it spun along its axis silently. She gripped the black handle with both hands, and leveled her combat stance against her chosen, lifeless opponent. The veil of her battle attire waved in the blowing winds of the training ground. White lines were etched onto her tanned skin pulsed slightly with each beat of prana charged into her blade. Her black stockings and white arm pieces barely did anything to protect her heavily exposed body from the elements.

The warlord stood alone in the middle of the training fields. The wind howled around her as snow battered her face, yet she didn't flinch or shiver. Her eyes remained closed as she focused on the gentle rotation of her blade, pushing more prana into it so it rotated faster and resonated with light. The golden light bathed her, illuminating snowflakes like golden dust as they flew past. She concentrated harder, molding more of her od into prana and charging her blade faster.

Opening her eyes slowly she looked at one of the smaller mountain peaks that stood partially hidden behind her glowing blade. She gripped the weapon tighter and glared at the offending piece of earth, taking her first step towards it as she raised the blade high above her head. She took another step then growled as she shifted her stance to char-

'Is this all you'll ever know?'

She stopped, eyes widening barely enough to be noticeable. The blade began losing rotational speed, and the golden light that bathed her faded along with it. The rainbow weapon came to a halt as the grinding of its rotation was replaced once more with the howling of the snow. Silently, she stared forward, past her blade at her former target. Snow brushed against her face, yet she still didn't move.

She could only stare forward and wonder.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ III ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Altera slowly opened her eyes.

She breathed out gently and sat up, appreciating the cool breeze on her skin. Looking down, she sighed upon seeing her battle attire without accompanying shoes, but her attention soon grasped the soft grass below. Vibrant green she had come to appreciate so many times before cushioned her, just like the sky-blue blanket soothed her aching soul. The clouds wisped past gently, yet almost mechanically. It wasn't natural, but it could've fooled most.

She was here again, but where was here?

This was the second time she had this dream. She was in the rolling plains once more, with the grass blowing like the world she remembered. It was as vast and endless as she remembered, yet the mountains could not be seen, nor were there signs of life anywhere. It was just her again, alone in the grasslands that formed her interesting, dreamlike prison. She breathed out, and slowly found herself smiling.

Just like before, her urge to destroy was gone. Altera only felt peace.

Since the dream was lasting longer than before, she decided to wander further. She took her first steps, smiling as she felt the grass beneath her bare feet. They caressed every step she took as she walked aimlessly towards the horizon. There were no trees, towns, or mountains in sight as she crested a hill. Her eyes only graced upon the endless plains of rolling, blowing grass.

She sighed as an idea crossed her mind. For minutes, she considered it as her veil blew like a flag in the wind. Turning around once more, she gazed and contemplated. Then, with a quiet and firm inhale, she yelled out for someone to hear. "Hello!?"

There was no echo to return, but only the ticklish gust of the wind against her ear answered. She sighed, not knowing why anyone would bother answering in this dream. She wasn't even sure how dreams worked. All she knew, was that she was in the comforting place she had appreciated in her life on Earth… but she was alone, as always.

Even among her fellow Huns, she was revered as a conqueror and destroyer. Altera was kept at a distance, not out of fear, but respect and courtesy. She had done much with her life, and seen many, but in the end, there was this unshakeable loneliness she could never understand. It was if for countless millennia, she had only been with herself when surrounded by thousands. It pained her, and raked at her mind. She couldn't understand why.

Altera fell quietly to the grass beneath, allowing a rare, lone tear to escape her eye. She didn't bother to brush it away, but simply let it fall. One sniffle accompanied it as the winds tried to soothe her soul. They did, but only to such an extent. As they caressed her skin, they only continued to remind her she was alone. She hugged her knees to her chest to rest her head upon them, pondering why this feeling always seemed to accompany her like destruct-

The world grew hazy. She looked around in surprise before the fringes of her vision frosted over. Framed by a ghostly white, she looked around in slight panic only to realize the world remained the same. The colors had faded with the unusual vision, but they had remained the same plains of her dreams. She gasped as she reached out, only to see her arm had shrunk. She held the smaller hand to her face in surprise, curiosity, and uncertainty.

Her vision blinked rapidly, and the world shattered, but in that moment of destructive end, she felt it.

Altera felt appreciated.

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"Still nothing?" Doctor Roman sighed as he looked towards his guest solemnly.

"No," Altera answered plainly but quietly, causing her orange haired companion to rub his forehead.

They sat in his office within the Medical Bay with a white desk separating the two. Several cabinets and drawers lined the walls behind him, with the remainder being decorated by abstract paintings. One monitor and his open laptop sat atop his desk, with scattered folders and paperwork littering everywhere else. The rest of the office was practically empty, the result of the doctor finally getting around to cleaning stacks of paperwork and books he failed to return to the archives or library.

Doctor Roman sighed and looked to the servant he was trying to help. It has been nearly five days since she had arrived and revealed herself as Attila the Hun. Much to the surprise of many, she preferred to be called Altera, as it felt more comfortable to her. To her disappointment, many still call her Atilla. Word spread significantly faster at the arrival of the famous warlord. Reactions were generally similar but in different flavors…

Intimidated, fearful, and wary.

The difficulty she had with finding a group she could bond with was unusual, but Roman theorized it was mostly from her stoic and silent attitude. She recalled it was only to be expected for a day or two as Gudao had requested every servant be treated fairly. While the servants followed it, it wasn't an order for the employees. Most servants stuck to their already formed groups, only showing courtesies and exchanging greetings with her on occasion, but none seeking her purposefully.

"A commander must not be distracted in his conquests," she had told him firmly when asked why he was approached instead of Gudao.

To his surprise, she had opted for the third person to make her feel welcome in Chaldea instead of her master. Gabrielle had been kind, but she didn't want to bother her since she seemed to have many servant and employee friends. With her master always busy, she requested he was left unaware of her predicament so he would not be distracted with trivial pursuits. Roman had thought aloud that the facility should be checked for any potential masters with leyshift compatibility to help lessen Gudao's workload.

While it was nice the doctor was rather thoughtful in helping her, and even offered to keep her company at lunch twice, Roman was as busy as Gudao this week.

Altera's quiet shift in her chair seemingly broke the doctor from a potential tangent of thoughts as she spoke. "As you can see, I wore Naomi's hastily made dress instead of my battle attire. You said it might make them feel less intimidated by me."

"The battle attire was certainly… distracting in different ways," Roman noted again. She never personally saw it as potentially arousing as he claimed, but she saw his point about it being intimidating. Fear was not an ally for making true friends. "…Did it work?"

She shook her head, and the doctor sighed.

The dress was far more appropriate for wearing around the facility. Roman had hoped it, and the others of similar style ordered, would help break the ice, and allow her to join a group. From her reception at lunch, this was not the case as she wound up sitting alone again. A simple change in looks was not going to be enough for a destroyer like her to be accepted. Thankfully, is seems the doctor still had other ideas for her.

"Have you tried talking to any of the tables and asking if you could join?"

Altera paused, but shook her head and he smiled softly. "Try that at dinner tonight. Introducing yourself and showing them you're interested in joining them is usually enough to break the ice around here."

"But what if they…"

"Come on, Altera," Roman tried to convince with a small smile as he woke his laptop from sleep mode. "If you truly want something, you sometimes have to work for it. I'm sorry I can't join you myself, again, but this has been a crazy week full of-"

Altera gave a very tiny smile. "Do not worry, Doctor… Chaldea's mission comes first. I will try again tonight… thank you."

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ V ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Salon de Marie was bustling with activity as pre-dinner conversations were in full swing at tables. Looking around blankly, Altera mentally tried to decide which table to approach that interested her. She kept walking as she searched, the tables around her falling only partially quiet when she neared. Conversation were reduced to quiet talking as some eyed her. She wanted to try introducing herself, but the reactions were having an instant effect.

She would never admit it, nor be able to show it, but she felt uncomfortable every time tables would quiet down as she approached or even gazed in her direction. Were people that intimidated by her? She had no regrets on her choices as a warrior and leader, having led her armies victoriously. Altera founded a staggering empire atop her conquests.

Yet, this was the same reaction she always received.

The saber was hardly the only servant here with a controversial past. Almost all that had questionable origins had found their own groups, even heroic spirit exclusive tables for some. What stopped her from joining them was the setback that almost all tables with a servant at them were full every night. It simply seemed like there were no available seats for her that didn't involve empty tables.

…with the exception of one spacious table she just spotted. Finally, a table with servants that wasn't full, but why has she never noticed it before? Perhaps she didn't pay as much attention before Doctor Roman decided to help her two days ago. Whatever the reason, she now had a chance to be part of something.

In one of the corners of the salon sat a rounded booth with nearly half of its plush upholstery was currently vacant. There were a few servants sitting at the table, all wearing white togas with single red sashes slung across a shoulder. Atop their heads, sat wreathes of faux olive branches that glistened under their table's mood lighting. From all her conquests, she could clearly recognize the dress origins of her furthest conquests.

Hesitation throbbed in her heart on asking the Romans, one of her former adversaries, for a seat. She could only stand and stare.

One of the muscular men at the table had short blue hair that was gelled back and spiked. A shadow was cast over his eyes, but she could see the glints of red on occasion. Another taller, more muscular male with bronzed skin made grand gestures with his hands as he spoke. There was a third person at the table, but from the angle of the booth the warlord could only see the back of some blonde hair from over the seating, and a single large ahoge.

For some reason, that piece of hair was familiar to her. There was another servant here with similar hair, but she had just passed her filled table a minute ago. Perhaps it was just Deja Vu regarding the hairstyle, yet something within felt comforted at that thought. Her hesitation began to slip away at the simple sight of hair, and she couldn't fathom why. It bothered her to no end, but she could not find an answer.

Altera simply stared until a throat cleared. "You're not thinking of joining us, I hope."

In slight surprise, she looked behind her towards the source of the voice, realizing she had been lost in her own thoughts. It was hard to confuse the large, overweight servant for anyone else at Chaldea. The former emperor also wore a white toga with accompanying sash, and an olive branch wreath sat atop his head as it usually did. His green eyes examined her as he adjusted the wreath on his short, brown hair with one hand. There was a look of dismissal written across his face as he placed a hand on his hip and stared down at her.

"Surely you didn't forget what you've tarnished by invading our soil," the emperor stated low enough that other tables nearby wouldn't hear. She was at least grateful for that, though the tone left much to be desired.

"Master said-"

"Yes, yes, yes… Master said for all servants to treat others equally as we are all mutual allies in the fight for humanity. I, the great Julius Caesar of Rome, acknowledge this fully," He stated before leveling a carefully masked glare at her.

"Then what's the problem with a dinner seat?" She dared to ask, finding newfound courage. She didn't know why, but this was something she wanted to fight for. The male saber only scoffed and increased his glare ever so slightly.

"Neutral and cordial are two very different definitions. I have to be respectable in my actions towards you, and I will gladly do so as an Emperor of Rome and servant of Chaldea, but accepting you among my fellow Romans is a different story."

With that, the large man began his approach to the distant table. As he did so, the large bronze lancer stood up and waved him over as Altera watched from her spot. There was a stinging in her heart once more present, but masked by the fury that someone would dare-

No, she couldn't think like that with allies. That was bad civilization according to Master. Disappointed with the interaction, but stoic faced as usual, she turned around and walked towards the exit of the salon for the night. She suddenly didn't feel as hungry as she did before she entered. She would simply try another time and skip dinner as usual.

As she walked out, she could feel a pair of eyes watch her leave, though she did not see the curiosity and concern.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VI ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

"This field again…" Altera breathed as she sat up.

As the wind caressed her face once more, the clouds swam by and the grass flowed in waves. It was as calm and serene as always, but ever lonely to her sadness. Not troubling herself to waste time by walking, she simply hugged her legs to her knees. Why did it always have to be like this? Why couldn't she just be allowed to live a normal life like she wants to try? Is that so hard?

The tear fell from her cheek again, and in that instant, her vision crystallized once more. Frosted white shaded the edges of her vision again, and her form shrank to the childlike state of last night. Her panic returned as she stared at her smaller hands, only for her to gasp in surprise as the plains shattered. They melted and reformed into small cubes of various sizes before shooting off into the sky. They flew away faster than she could imagine, leaving her alone until only her spot of grass remained.

It, too, gave away and shattered.

Altera screamed at the top of her lungs, but there was no one to hear. No one would come to save her from the darkness as the pounding vertigo and sense of falling faded. All that remained was the sense of purpose. To her dismay, the need to destroy and eliminate filled her being once more, but it was conflicted and balanced. Soon it was overtaken, but ever present, as a more distressing emotion grasped her ever fiber.

The loneliness was back, and coupled with the fear of the endless darkness that surrounded her. Her child like hand reached out but could grasp nothing. She called out, but her voice could not be heard. No one saw her in this endless darkness, and no one would come to save her. The pitch black of her surroundings had an eerie familiarity to it, and that's what scared her the most. She was terrified and alone as she felt tears run down her face.

The strong and stoic Attila the Hun, reduced to a crying mess… but why?

Suddenly, there were footsteps. She looked forward in surprise before she saw a figure emerge. Her frosted vision hazed her sight, but she could still see the silver of the man's shoulder decorations. Though his black and crimson clothes blended with the darkness, the yellow and purple accents of his waist cape and gloves forced further fear and dismay into her heart. Though she did not recognize the fair skinned man with unruly hair, she recognized the sound.

His laughter felt too familiar, but she couldn't place it. The four silver rings that chimed at his hip were ominous yet recognizable. Still, she couldn't piece his face to her memory, nor a name to the person. What she did understand that for some reason she hated him. She hated this man with all her being and couldn't stand being in his presence. But she was helpless as he laughed.

"Awaken! Awaken, Sephyr! Fulfill your purpose!"

There was a pounding in her heart that tore at every fiber of her being. Anger, hate, despair, and guilt fought for control. Tears rained from her eyes as she screamed to be heard, only to remember no sound would ever emanate from her throat. His laughter continued, tormenting her being as an unearthly howl shrieked from her own vocal chords. Desperately pleading to anyone, she reached her childlike hands out in hopes someone would… stop her? Stop her from what?

Altera felt it as everything fell to silence. Racked and tormented by the emotions, she sobbed silently and refused to open her eyes in fear of what may be seen next. But she didn't have to fear, because she didn't see what happened next. With a hitch in her throat, she felt it. Slowly, Altera opened her eyes to see a fair skinned hand holding hers gently.

"Altera!" The voice was familiar, and so was the silhouette. It brought no fear as the light behind the figure blinded her. Still, she stared forward at her savior as she pulled her closer. Altera did not resist.

Warmth. She felt the warmth of the individual as her tear stained face was buried into the comforting bosom of her savior. Not caring where she rested, Altera simply cried into the comforting embrace. She clung to the savior with her only remaining fear that she would let go. The negative emotions from before were gone, only to be replaced by the wonderful concept.

Altera was no longer alone.

She felt it again. The winds of the plains as she dared to open her eyes. Looking to the side, she was greeted not by the plains… but by the marble columns and paved streets of Rome. At least, that's what she believed she saw as she gazed in surprise at the magnificent structures in her sight. The sky was unusual and digitalized to a degree. It was unnatural, but it also felt comforting. As she held onto her savior, she smiled as a final tear rolled.

"Isn't it beautiful, Altera? Our home? Just like you, Umu!"

With a final burst of confidence, Altera moved her smaller form up to look past her savior's bosom. She looked into the vibrant green eyes of her savior as she smiled warmly at the servant in her arms. Her golden hair framed her like a goddess. With a giggle and a tightened, yet gentle, embrace, the fair skinned savior happily spun Altera around as she noted the key feature that drew her attention.

It was the long ahoge that felt so very familiar.

"Miss Empress! How brave of you to leave our husband with me!" a female voice called from the distance. It too, felt warm and familiar.

"Don't lay a hand on our Praetor!" the woman called with a slightly irritated voice, only to be met by laughter from Altera, the distant female, and third male voice. Her savior's smile soon returned as she gazed back at the giggling servant. She didn't know why, but Altera couldn't help but giggle even if she was only ever stoic and stern in her memories. Perhaps it was because this was how a normal life would feel… Yes. It was a warm and comfortable dream that felt all too real. She wanted it for herself.

But like all dreams, they eventually come to an end. Her smile faded as the dream slowly faded into a bright light. She shook her head, willing the dream to continue, but it wouldn't. It faded at a consistent rate, and she felt her tears well once more upon losing the comforting scene. She wanted to be here more and enjoy everything… to thank her savior for giving her a pleasant dream. It was not to be, but still, the savior smiled warmly at her.

All Altera could do, was forcefully burn the face of her savior to memory.

Unbeknownst to Altera, it would be a long, long time before she had this dream again.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VII ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Though the dream echoed in her mind relentlessly, and the lost details bothered her to no end, Altera remained focused on the current situation. She sat in Roman's office very early in the morning, when he first arrived to be exact. She had revealed what had happened last night, but kept her dream private. The confrontation had irritated the doctor, but he was glad she had handled it rather well. She didn't need to have a run in with Scathach to further place problems in her way for disturbing the peace.

"To be fair, at least he said it quietly and no one noticed."

Altera only continued to look at a corner of his desk with a detached stare. He sighed and sat back down, looking at the servant in question. She knew he was likely disappointed she skipped dinner again, but if she was going to feel alone, she may as well truly feel alone.

"I'll just be sure to tell Gudao about Caesar's actions. He needs to know of that, at least." She shook her head. The last thing she wanted to do was disrupt the Romans further and turn their attention against her. After that dream she just had, something was telling her this was important. She couldn't risk losing it, but it was still difficult to join them. There would be no searching for another group when something in her mind and heart was telling her this was the-

Altera abruptly stood up with a glint of determination in her eyes. "I want to try something."

Doctor Roman, shaking himself from his shock, replied quickly, "You got an idea?"

Altera nodded towards him. "I do… But I have some questions."

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VIII ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Naomi sifted through more contents of the crate in an attempt to find something she overlooked. Sighing out of slight frustration she placed the lid back on the container then checked to make sure the crocheted rose was still in her hair. She tilted it back to its original position before opening up another container, finding it filled to the brim with spools of different colored thread much like the last one. She looked over the top layer and smiled, reaching out and grabbing the particular spool that caught her attention. It was a silver thread that shined much like its metal counterpart, and a rather large spool of it to her delight.

"Glad to see one still exists. Elizabeth's dress just got a little bit fancier," She beamed as she examined the spool.

The bell at the front desk rang, making her raise an eyebrow in confusion. Curious at the identity of the ringer, she walked towards the front of her department without needing to check her watch to know they weren't open yet. It was common knowledge that the Clothing Department only opened at the start of breakfast which was still an hour away. It couldn't have been any of the employees as they only arrived half an hour before opening. She was surprised to see a servant waiting at the desk with an order form in one hand, and their gazes quickly met.

"Miss Altera, it's good to see you up bright and early, but I'm afraid we don't open until 0800," Naomi stated quickly with a small smile.

"I didn't know," Altera replied with a small nod. "Please excuse me, I will return later."

"It's alright. You're new here. I'll take your order now, but please be aware of the times from now on."

With a glint of hope and gratitude in her nearly blank expression, Altera nodded and looked at the order form in her hands. Lifting the paper towards her, Naomi took it and glanced over the writing, her eye brows lifting in the process. She continued to scan the document as the servant stood there silently, her glance only being stolen for a few fleeting seconds when a robot would pass with a bundle of cloth or article of clothing.

"Really? Huh. I can get one made for you by tonight, no problem," Naomi explained as she looked at the order form. "Is this all you need, Miss Altera?"

"Yes," She replied stoically accompanied with a small nod towards the supervisor.

"Ok, I'll have it delivered to room Three-forty-four with the rest of your clothing order this afternoon."

"Thank you. I appreciate your kindness," the servant said softly before turning around and walking out of the Clothing Department. The automated double doors sliding shut behind her. Naomi stood there and scratched her head with her free hand before beginning her walk back to the office. She adjusted her precious flower before smiling in amusement. At least the newest order would take roughly thirty minutes to complete, thirty-five if she wanted some coffee first.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ IX ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Breakfast and lunch had passed uneventfully, with Altera still having to sit alone upon noticing all tables with servants at them were once more full. Not as many servants chose to enjoy their lunch at the cafeteria, preferring to go to their own separate places for their meals. The ones that remained already had full tables of cordial employees or other servants, with the remaining groups being composed of the workforce. With most of them wary about her, she was left with little choice but to eat alone once more.

It wasn't as bothersome as the previous days when her thoughts were still constantly invaded by the fragmented pieces of her dream. Large columns of marble stood proud. A female voice in the distance had sounded somehow familiar. But the one thing that didn't fade from memory was the smiling face of her savior as she held the saber in her arms. If she was happy about anything these recent days, it was remembering the feeling of being appreciated by someone.

With renewed vigor, she would gladly pursue this conquest. Like the conquering warrior king she was in her past life, she would dominate this battle and secure the prized treasure of a seat with the Romans. Picking any other table may be interesting, but something in her gut and heart told her this was the proper course. She didn't understand it, just like she couldn't fathom why she only felt the urge to destroy. It was all a mystery to her, but at least it drove her forward.

So much so, that when dinner arrived, she had much more confidence in her step.

The reactions Altera currently received were much different than the ones from the previous nights as she walked through Salon de Marie. The stares and glances aimed at the servant lasted much longer. Some found it hard to move their attention away from the sight. She couldn't blame them in the least, but she kept her stoic expression.

It was a nice contrast to how tables usually ignored her. Their conversations still become secretive and low, but for a different reason. Tables still fell quiet when she approached, with most tables becoming dead silent as she passed. It was almost humorous what a simple change in wardrobe could do. They weren't fearful or cautious so much as in complete surprise or confusion at her attire.

It wasn't every day you saw Attila the Hun wearing a toga and red sash.

She quietly made her approach towards the table in the corner, hopeful that her little wish may still come true. The warlord received her weapon to see what life would be like besides that of a warrior. Downtime in Chaldea proved promising for that potential, even if they were still fighting for humanity's survival. There was envy at seeing everyone getting along so well without her, when all she wanted was a piece of normality to see how it was like. Was it so difficult to make friends and be accepted like in her dream? Unknowingly, she was about to get an answer.

"Hmph. Really, Altera?" The familiar male voice stated from in front of her. She snapped her gaze to find Caesar standing there with the same attire, his arms folded and leveling a glare at the fellow saber. At least he called her by her appreciated name.

"Is this not proper attire for your table?" Altera asked quietly.

Caesar rolled his eyes. "It's proper attire for our table. It is also proper attire for Romans. You are not Roman, Altera. If anything, you are one of the greatest banes of Rome. We will not forget your history with us so easily."

Altera rarely showed emotion, which was why even she was slightly surprised when she returned his glare with one of her own. To his credit, Caesar didn't even budge an inch as the stare-down began. The two kept glaring as surrounding tables grew interested in what occurred. Thankfully, it was still only a few stares, but that number was rising to her concern.

Murmurs erupting with guesses as to the argument. From what she heard with her enhanced hearing, some were near correct while others missed the mark completely. Was Caesar confronting Altera about the casualties she caused during her invasion of Rome? Was Altera trying to mock Roman attire by wearing her own? Did Altera steal Caesar's plate of hamburgers at lunch?

"Unless you want to really make a scene, I suggest you go to your room and change into another set of clothes, then find a seat for yourself," he worded, almost as a command.

She glared back. "Don't order me around, Caesar."

"No, no, no... I never ordered. I merely suggested," He fired back without hesitation.

With clenched fists and a partially wounded pride, she decided in the best interests of the salon, master, herself, and Chaldea's peace, to turn around and begin her walk to her room. The surrounding tables returned to normal conversations, with some talking about what has possibly just transpired. Caesar let out a grunt and began walking towards the table with a satisfied smirk. Altera didn't return that night, still refusing to spend another dinner alone at a table staring silently at the wall with no company.

…but she would not surrender so easily.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ X ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨




The latest impact of metal against metal ended with a stalemate as two blades were locked in contact. Their wielders refusing to back down. With a small roar, the giant, muscular servant threw a kick at the smaller one but missed as she dodged swiftly to the right, gaining distan-

With a roar, the berserker closed in rapidly and swung its weapon downward, forcing Altera to block. She grit her teeth at the sheer force of the attack and poured prana into her arms, overpowering her opponent for a brief second to dodge left and swing. She was met with a counter as the giant swiftly blocked with its blade and attempted to kick her, forcing the warlord to jump back once more.

Sizing her up from a short distance away, the tall servant grit his teeth as he gazed at her. Red eyes flared with its breath.

His skin was dark gray, stretching across bulging muscles with most of his body completely exposed to the elements. He had jet black anklets and wrist bands, both with silver bracings that matched a dark grey, padded kilt with a cloth front. Bare feet cemented themselves into the snow of the training fields as he gripped his weapon, a darkened blade similar to an oversized cleaver. The rough, gray exterior exposed an obsidian edge at its business end, with black cloth covering its handle and pommel. His black hair blew with the currently fierce wind, similar to Altera's veil.

Altera nodded at the behemoth, and he grit his teeth and roared before exploding towards her in a vicious charge. Returning the charge, their blades collided in the center of the training grounds as the shock wave sent snow flying in all directions.

She found sparring to be quite the stress reliever, and was happy to find the legendary hero Heracles was more than willing to do so. The warlord found much in common with the hero as they exchanged blows. Here, they were just warriors training to do what they do best. There was no need to think about their pasts or their troubles.

The only need was to fight each other to their hearts content.

Altera wanted very much to be something else with the chance Chaldea presented, but she knew at her core she was still the feared warrior that was still known throughout the world. There was the need for destruction she couldn't fathom or understand. As she swung her blade down with a satisfying miss that cratered the ground below, she acknowledged she needed this stress reliever. Being a warrior was tough, but trying to become something else was tougher.

It's too bad Heracles never ate and chose to confine himself in his shared quarters with the other large berserkers. Maybe he would have made a nice meal mat-

A swing sliced a few strands of hair as she dodged forward into the behemoth, slashing horizontally at its legs. Heracles jumped swiftly and spun, throwing a full slice at his opponent who dodged underneath the attack once more to close distance. She was met with a fierce kick she blocked with her sword, the sheer force of which shot the female backwards. There was another pause in the fight as the two servants got back into a fighting stance.

Altera could feel someone watching, but she chose to ignore the spectator and continue their conflict. The only thing she couldn't ignore was the raging hero before her. If she couldn't beat up Caesar, at least she could take her blows out on someone more than willing. There was too much for her to lose if she started something with the male saber, and that was something she wasn't willing to compromise. The dream had awoken an idea she couldn't comprehend, but she knew she had to follow it.

Maybe if tonight's attempt went just as badly, she could ask Heracles for a night brawl.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ XI ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Altera looked herself in the mirror and adjusted her toga.

During her spar with Heracles, she was inspired by their little battle and reaffirmed giving up wasn't something Attila the Hun would do. Tactical withdrawals were necessary at times. Losses and gains had to be weighed properly to calculate when it was alright to do so, but they were acceptable. Too many made a habit, and she would not allow that. Tonight would be the night she was accepted into Rome.

Three is the charm, as some might say.

She had nothing to lose and much to gain if she could just keep trying. It was only one person at that table that was discouraging her from attempting. She was a great warlord, feared throughout history, and she was letting one overweight servant turn her away from politely asking the rest of his table for permission to eat with them. All she had to do was ask everyone else if it was alright, and if that turned out well, they would likely convince the emperor. He would no longer stand in her way.

Then the doubt began to seep into her thoughts. What if Caesar already told them and she wouldn't be accepted? Her chances may have been lost on the first attempt without her realization. If that was the case, all of this was pointless and she simply wasted her time and other- No!

Tonight was the night. She steeled her gaze at herself. "Veni, Vidi, Vici, Caesar…"

She looked at herself in the mirror and nodded in approval. Her usually stoic look was replaced with one of determination. It was a face she often held in her conquests across Asia that she decided to hide in favor of attempting pleasantries. The warlord walked through her near empty room and opened the door, ready to go to dinner and face Caesa-

Altera froze in complete shock, unable to move or even breathe as she gasped lightly.

Had she not looked forward, she wouldn't have seen the woman dressed in the same outfit as her and barged into the poor girl. But it was because of the recognizable strand of hair that she had paused in complete shock. Coupled with the toga, her mind had instantly connected the dots as she looked down. It was when her red eyes met the vibrant green that spoke loudly to her soul that she was immobilized.

There was no mistaking her savior.

The woman in question had the same blonde hair in an ornate bun, coupled with that unusual strand. Large bangs framed the sides of her face and a slightly surprised look graced those familiar vibrant, green eyes as she stared at Altera. Golden bracelets decorated her wrists, one of which was currently held up, presumably to knock on the now open door. It was her savior in the dream without a doubt, and she was in Chaldea.

Had the dream been prophetic? Was she the one who would somehow bring her what she desired? Altera was no mage, but she doubted someone in Chaldea would actively place an illusionary spell on her. There would be no point except to tease a new arrival, but it had been so descriptively clear that it was her. She could not mistake this Roman's face for anything when compared to the dream. Then did it speak of something else?

It was almost as clear as a memory, but it did not make any sense. She had never been to Chaldea, nor had she recalled any grail wars prior to this one. She was simply Attila the Hun, so why did she know who this person is? The questions began to pile, but she steeled herself for what was to come. There was no telling how she might react to such an absurd statement, so she couldn't be told of what transpired.

Altera had to keep the dream a secret.

Regardless whether this person knew or not, she couldn't reveal the dream. It was her personal drive and part of the reason she pursued the Roman table still, but it may also make them perceive her as crazy. She did not need a misidentified psychological issue from keeping her from this chance. Even so… as she stared at the vibrant green eyes that looked at her patiently, she felt compelled to say the name that, not once, had been voiced to her since arrival.

Yet, it felt so familiar for some reason. "Nero…"

The woman's eyes widened as she gasped. Altera's own remained wide as the Roman leaned in closer to inspect her. Confused and wary, but also curious, as to why she knew that name, she stared back at the woman before her. Eyes had become hopeful for some reason, but she could still feel the warmth. She felt compelled to stay near this servant, even as her eyes narrowed in slight scrutiny.

"Umu? That's it? Aren't you going to say anything else, Altera?"

The scrutiny from her eyes slowly melted into frustration as her return gaze remained puzzled. It became more confused. The servant sighed and shook her head, both with slight anger and a clear look of disappointment. Why though? What was she disappointed in? The woman suddenly crossed her arms and looked at the still surprised and bewildered Altera from head to toe. The small woman huffed.

"I see… a sad song for the muses to sing, but it can't be helped… In that case, the Empress wishes to know why you are wearing that, Altera?" The woman demanded firmly.

A sudden spark of determination and anger made its way to the surface. No, she could not be denied now, even if she did dream of her. The warlord glared at the small woman. "Am I not allowed to wear what I want, fellow Chaldean servant?"

The blonde raised an eyebrow at the white-haired servant before shaking her head again. Disappointment and confusing sadness remained in her eyes. It confused her further, but she was still frustrated by this boiling confrontation. Dream or not, she would not be denied a third time.

Altera felt the rage rising within as it peaked. Master had strictly ordered no one was to fight within Chaldea, but she was more than willing to break that if a couple of Romans weren't willing to even give her the time of day. All she wanted was to be part of a small group and try her hand at something other than being a warrior. Was that really so hard to as-

"Of course you can! My question is, why are you wearing that?" She repeated with hands now placed firmly on her hips.

Altera's rising rage subsided as some confusion welled up within. "What do you mean wh-"

"You want to sit with me right?"

Confused as to why she worded it so specifically, she couldn't help but ask. "With… you? I want to sit with the Romans and have company. I want to sit with… Nero?"

The name had felt so familiar, that she couldn't help but utter it again. The woman before her simply sighed in disappointment, but her frustration remained. Why? Why was she getting so disappointed now when she had seemed so hopeful before upon first making eye contact? What had changed that Altera couldn't see for herself!?

"Yes… I am Nero… and you're trying too hard! That looks bad on you!" the woman quickly added, gesturing towards the toga. "I'm flattered you want to look like a Roman citizen, but it just looks wrong on you. You look so much more beautiful in other clothes! Like that dress you wore the other night! Also, if you wanted a seat at our table you should have just asked me first!"

Altera blinked. Had she just heard that right?

Opening her mouth to question the small empress, she was quickly cut off by Nero brushing past her and walking towards the closet. Without hesitation, or asking for that matter, the blonde opened the closet and her eyes widened in amusement and satisfaction. Soon she began humming, and that too felt familiar… though it brought with it an unknown foreboding. What was so menacing yet similar regarding her humming?

Nero quickly browsed through the other dresses that had arrived yesterday as Altera approached from behind. Picking one of the newly delivered maxi dresses, a rainbow one in particular, she smiled and turned around to present it to a startled Altera who took it with both hands. The small blonde turned to the closet once more to fish out a sash of a possible, complimenting color. That would be a tad hard for a rainbow.

"I looked… beautiful?" Altera asked, taken back.

"Umu~! Of course you did! Not as beautiful as me, of course, but you were catching glances that whole day! You never noticed?" Nero asked honestly, tilting her head slightly as she presented the sash to her.

"I… I thought most of them were just intimidated of m-"

Nero laughed. "Most of the employees are always wary of us servants. But there were quite a few admiring looks from behind you didn't catch! Now, dress into this and let's get to dinner so I can introduce you to my fellow emperors properly."

Altera's eyes widened as Nero grabbed her gently by the wrist and proceeded to push her into the private bathroom, clothes in hand.

"I scolded Caesar, so don't worry about him anymore. He listens to me, as I listen to him," Nero explained before Altera could protest. "He loves Rome a lot, and considers anyone who ever said or did anything bad to the empire as a villain. Romulus and my uncle will be interested to meet you, but not as interested as I was!"

"But Nero, we never properly introduced," Altera said quietly, halting Nero in her tracks at the bathroom door. The blonde looked back to the warlord with a dumbfounded, yet sad, expression. Altera felt she never wanted to see her sad appearance ever again. It quickly evaporated as she smiled happily, possibly at a reassuring idea she told herself.

"Umu~! You're right! How rude of an empress!" Nero proclaimed as she faced her companion fully before declaring in a loud voice, "I, Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, am pleased to make your acquaintance, Altera! May our friendship last a lifetime!"

Altera, still partially stunned, let Nero push her into the bathroom and close the door, a proud grin on her face the entire time. Though the saber did not wish to tell the Roman her dream, she did not realize she was the only one who decided, in that moment, to keep something secret until the arrival of a specific memorial essence.

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"You have to earn those hamburgers, Caesar," Gudao stated smugly from the sidelines. The wind howled but carried his message clearly, with the clouded skies above lighting the training fields with few snowflakes in the air.

Nero sat beside her master on a small chair she had brought from storage, a look of amused mischief gracing her features. Her red coat, yellow scarf, and red earmuffs kept her warm, with only a slight blush on her cheeks. The two other servants at the Roman dinner table stood behind them, both wearing matching white long coats. The bronze skinned Romulus favored a black beanie for warmth, while his companion Caligula kept a blue one. They stood with their arms crossed, grinning at the scene before them as Caesar barely dodged a vicious chop.

"Make Rome proud, my child! Roma~!" Romulus yelled from the sidelines. Caligula grunted loudly with an amused tone next to him.

A small yelp escaped Caesar's lips as a rainbow sword came down hard next to him, cratering the ground near the overweight saber after he jumped to the side with surprising agility. The blade's owner brought the weapon back into a proper stance. Altera glared at her opponent with no small amount of amusement laced into her eyes. It was clear the saber noticed with extreme discomfort that the glint of amusement had only grown since the start of the sparring session.

"Nero, please stop this!" Caesar yelled in disbelief. "I learned my lesson! I won't do it to any servant in the future! Please stop, Altera!"

To the amusement of those around her, the empress slowly stood up with her trademark smirk and thrust her hand forward in front of her as a fist. Slowly, she stuck her thumb out and twisted her arm until it pointed towards the ground.

"My child, Caesar! The Empress has spoken!" Romulus laughed, with the others joining him as Caesar pale-

His eyes shot wide open as he brought his blade up and stopped Altera's sword inches from his face. He looked into the eyes of the feared warlord as she kept their blades locked. In that moment, Caesar felt shorter than Altera as she stared him down, a small smile growing on her face that scared him more than the glare she threw at him two nights ago ever could.

"Rudeness is bad civilization." She whispered in amusement.

He paled.

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"Thank you for all your help, Doctor Roman," Altera bowed lightly with a small smile.

The doctor scratched his head bashfully near the doors to the Medical Bay. "I'm just glad it all worked out! Nero is quite the friendly servant."

"Umu~! Of course I am! It is only natural for I, the Empress of Roses," Nero proclaimed with a sweep of her hands. The other two chuckled at her antics. "Thank you, Doctor Roman, for helping her until then. I promise I'll do everything in my power to ensure she enjoys the luxury of Rome!"

"I have no doubt about that, Nero," the doctor nodded as he turned to enter the doors. "Take care, you two."

"Bye, Doctor Roman," Altera waved as Nero took her other free hand. She gently began dragging the fellow saber until she was keeping pace with the smaller blonde. Nero began humming happily while Altera walked in step.

She smiled at the proud empress beside her, not because of the small spar she helped set up earlier, but because of how warm and familiar she still felt. It had barely been a day, but she had already discarded the dream as a simple coincidence. Her first encounter with Caesar, coupled with her hopes, likely just made enough of an impression she dreamed of it. There was no need to delve into it further, especially when her dream savior had already opened the door in reality.

Thanks to Nero, Altera could finally explore the regular life she always wanted. The empress smiled at her. "Elizabeth and I are having a sing off today! Would you like to come watch?"

Regardless of the sudden sense of foreboding, Altera nodded happily. "I would be interested."

"Umu~!" Nero flashed one of the brightest, happiest grins she could, and she could feel the warmth radiant through her soul.

Altera smiled the first of countless genuine smiles she would have in Chaldea.

Chapter Text

Worn leather scuffed against the weathered stone of the stairs. His metal armor was marred with use, losing much of its original sheen in the overcast light. A worn bandoleer gently clinked against his armored back, matching the well-used brown of his boots and greaves. The metal of his opened knight's helm creaked as he looked up at the battered door before him, which he eyed with sunken, obsolete eyes.

The worn and shriveling face of the man looked before him before carefully placing his hands against the next room's entryway. He paused, listening carefully to the silence of the ruins around him. The feint groans of beings, like him, were feint over the loud, ominous steps from the floors below; He had grown less wary of that striding beast, which paid him no heed. Confident there was nothing waiting to ambush him among the shadowy floor above him, he placed his weight against the door.

Slowly, the wooden constructs gave way. With every step, they creaked open as dust fell around him. After pushing through, he looked around the next room carefully. He eyed ever nook cautiously as he walked through, though he stuttered to a stop when the door behind him closed with a bang. The warrior looked back, noticing there were no handles on this side to pull; The only way left was forward.

Weakened and defenseless, he carefully made his way through the room. Large vases and pots of age-old ceramic filled the sides, leaving a large aisle before him. He walked down it between its massive stone columns that ended in simple arches. Abandoned overhangs and stone-brick walls gave an air of entrapment, but there was a set of double door before him. As the overcast clouds above threatened to open up into a rain, he staggered towards the exit-

The warrior stopped completely with an open mouth, stunned that a vile, putrid beast, nearly five meters tall, had fallen to the floor to cut his escape. Bones protruded from it like alien worms, forming antlers and flanking spikes on its sickly gray skin. Tiny, malformed wings sprouted from its back, barely visible past its red, toothy glare. Though its stomach was massive and supported by short but mighty legs, its arms were deceivingly smaller.

They were at least large enough to wield the unholy, twisted ebony club.

With a roar, it swung it at the warrior who rolled backwards to avoid the strike. His armor scraped against the ground, causing sparks to fly as the demon walked forward. It raised its club backwards, telegraphing its next attack, but the warrior could only dodge back again. He was defenseless against this thing, and it knew it well. It practically grinned as it repeated the process to corner him against the first door.

With no where left to run, he changed tactics. He quickly ran towards one of the case sides, but the demon's sweep was deceptively large. The black club slammed into his leg, knocking it into an unnatural angle and causing the warrior to yell. He smashed to the ruined stone floor as vases burst around him. Quickly, he tried picking himself up, but the demon made for the finishing blow. With a quick raise of its club, it slammed it down on the warrior with a sickening noise.

Lord El-Melloi II cursed and dropped his controller next to him on the couch as a large screen in front of him spelled out, "You Died."

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Fragment 8: Insert Chance to Continue

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With the servants requesting a variety of different accommodations and luxuries for Chaldea to provide, it was only fair that employees had their own say in post-Fuyuki improvements. Breaks were still mandatory or the staff would lose efficiency due to fatigue and building stress, and entire days off were not uncommon. Some specialists even had more free time depending on their current purpose in the workforce. There was only so much to do as is in Chaldea, and they needed more outlets to shake potential cabin fever.

Any method to keep spirits high considering their circumstances had essentially become a necessity.

It is with this in mind that the Engineering Division wouldn't argue with the renovation of a new entertainment room so long as the workforce got to enjoy its benefits as well. The conditions were fair. This was the only instance where completion of a room required the staff to donate certain contraband that slipped through initial screening upon their entry. It was this place and the Strategy Center where one could most likely find Lord El-Melloi II.

The Game Room was self-explanatory unless you had the reading comprehension of certain berserkers. It was located on the floor beneath Salon de Marie and was split into two sections. As the larger of the two pieces, the first had the entrance and two custom built billiards tables. There were other round tables placed in the center of the room while still giving enough space for floor activities if necessary. Its walls were covered with newly installed shelves that held a bunch of board and card games of a wide age and variety.

A doorway led to the slightly smaller section that had a few standard couches, large screens that were originally monitors, several chairs, and a few coffee tables. The floor of this spacious alcove was covered with blue carpeting. Plenty of walking space was still available, and it was designed so everyone in the room could view the screens without interference. Though both could house several dozens with each, it was the second room that usually saw the most activity.

This was the section that housed the donated contraband, as the Animusphere family made it very clear that personal entertainment of the electronic variety was banned. Employees graciously donated much of their secret gaming consoles, found mostly among members of the Science and Engineering Divisions, for all to enjoy upon announcement of the room's construction. Thankfully, the donated items were treated with utmost care. Replacements were impossible to encounter unless a singularity happened in the recent past, which was a rare occurrence.

One of those donators of two game consoles sat on the opposite end of the white couch from the frustrated servant. Currently on a personal break day thanks to his specialization, he had his white socks, on one of the wooden coffee tables, and his nose buried in a strategy guide. His Science Division tie was completely loose and the top button of his uniform undone. He ran a charcoal colored hand through his black hair as he lowered the magazine to look at the screen in front of them. His green eyes blinked twice before looking towards the servant.

The employee grinned at his friend.

The servant's choice of casual clothes contrasted heavily with how formally he usually dressed himself. Blue jeans and black socks rested against the soft carpeting. A dark green sweater had its front completely zipped open, its hood replaced with a simple collar. Underneath the sweater was a white shirt with a unique bronze design on the front showcasing the world. Written across it were several Japanese characters, but some English across the center spelled out Admirable. The grumpy caster turned towards the employee with a scowl.

"Don't even say it, Tyler," The servant grumbled, making the employee chuckle.

"I mean, I did say it already, y'know?" He smirked at the servant who rolled his eyes. "Dark Souls is famous as one of the toughest game series for a reason, Waver."

The caster clicked his tongue. "I'd argue this has more frustration than entertainment value."

"Ah, don't be like that! That was only the tutorial! That's the whole draw of it! You don't play it... You survive it and boast of getting good!"

Lord El-Melloi II and Tyler Fields were on very cordial terms, even a friendly rivalry, since they broke ice over a mutual interest in video games. They liked most types in general, though the caster was more specific in his preferences. The future rivals met after the room's creation when they wound up the final competitors in a Japanese fighting game tournament. It was the first contest, and the two had dominated their competitors in a show of supremacy.

Tyler is the only one who could evenly compete with the servant in any video game since his childhood was spent almost solely on said form of entertainment. He gladly spent all his break hours in the Game Room when he wasn't helping to maintain or refabricate parts for some of the units floating around the facility. All that free time spent in the room and interacting with the servant led to an eventual friendship, which was strong enough for the heroic spirit to allow the employee to call him by his real name, Waver Velvet.

The servant let out a sigh as he offered the controller to Tyler, who only shook his head when he held up a New Nintendo 3DS that was currently on but muted.

"I still don't get how you could stand trying to catch all four hundred of those bloody bastards," The caster grunted in amusement, picking up a nearby water bottle.

"Neither can Spartacus. Said something about Pokemon being oppression or something like that," Tyler chuckled as he looked back at the game guide he was holding. "And it's seven hundred now actually."

El-Melloi nearly choked on the water he was drinking, "…and here I am, remembering when there were only a hundred fifty of them."

"Oh don't you get started, Gen Wunner," Tyler said with a mock glare before putting the guide down. "Just found out how to get myself a Porygon Z!"

As he picked up the controller again, El-Melloi simply shook his head with a small scowl. It had been one of his hobbies to play video games and send back detailed reviews to the distributors. Some series he had continued to play and fill out their survey cards, but Pokemon had lost his interest after the third generation. They had simply rehashed the same design repeatedly, so if all that changed were the characters and variety, he had not further interest. Dare he say, it was akin to replaying a damn Grail War in different colors, but with more diversity and an unholy amount of repetitive grinding.

The underlying strategy was nice though.

Still, he had to give respect where it was due for the employee. He voiced it a few times, but the caster figured Tyler never paid much attention to it. Determination and drive to complete what he set out to do was a respectable quality, and the employee had that in spades. It was simply exasperating that ambition was directed solely at video games. El-Melloi figured the employee in his mid-twenties would have been as much of a genius as his coworker Anton if he put more effort into work.

Perhaps the casually friendly employee just needed a mentor to point him in the right direction… not that he'd be the one to do it. He could mentor someone like Paracelsus or Scathach did, but his gaming rival was out of the question. He's a mage, and he was an engineer. Though he didn't have as much distaste for technology as the rest of his affiliation, that stuff was simply out of his league.

His scowl increased. Action games were out of his league too, especially when compared to the types he favored. Regardless, he hit the continue button, making Tyler look up and laugh. "Alright! You're slowly turning into one of us masochists! Praise the sun!"

"I am not. I'm simply not going to let a tutorial get the better of me."

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ III ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

"Showing up for strategy night, Cu Bro?"

"Nah. That stuff doesn't interest me and Scathach wants to spar. I might watch the beginning while waiting for her."

"Just though I'd ask since you're here," Tyler shrugged as the male servant sat on the couch between them. "Which fighter?"

He scratched his chin in slight thought. "I'm feeling Soul Caliber this time."

While the blue hair on top was cut shorter, the back was long and neatly made into a ponytail. His red eyes observed Tyler as he saved his game and placed his personal handheld away. Slowly slouching into the couch, but letting his white socks stop at the coffee table, the man exhaled slowly. He scratched his chest, slightly wrinkling the once neatly pressed green Hawaiian shirt plastered with yellow hibiscus. Quickly, he raised his arm and casually caught a game controller without looking.

Cu was technically another member of a core gaming group that consisted of Tyler, two of his friends, and a few servants. It was unusual to think the great Hound of Ulster would be even remotely interested in these things, but it made sense considering his favorite genre. When no one was around to spar, fighting and party games provided a great way for him to burn time. Thankfully, his competitive drive didn't go too overboard during the events.

That over-competitiveness was almost strictly between the caster and the employee. El-Melloi smirked at the thought. Though he could call him a friend, their rivalry would often heat up very rapidly once they were against each other. Names, taunts, and choice comments would fly faster than their fingers across the controllers. Bragging rights were king between the top two gamers. The caster wasn't much for reputation, but that changed when the occasional nicknames became a thing. Thankfully, none of his fellow servants used them.

"You want in next round, Scowly?" Tyler asked with a small smirk, making Cu chuckle.

"I'll pass."

"Don't worry, El-Melloi II. I'll soften him up so he's a pancake at the tournament later."

"Yea okay, it's on now, Cu," Tyler chuckled as the game started up on the screen.

El-Melloi rolled his eyes as he got up from the couch. "You two have fun with that. I need a smoke before the strategy meeting."

"Aight, have a good one, bro. And don't be late to the RTS tournament at five!" Tyler yelled out without looking away from the selection screen. "I'm taking your champion title for the next week."

"What bravado. I patiently await to see your face after I wipe the floor with it," the servant shot back with a smirk as he exited the room. It was definitely one of the few times his competitive spirit ignited into partial arrogance, but he enjoyed it. It brought back fond memories of a certain loud servant.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ IV ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

"Calm day… strange," Lord El-Melloi II murmured as he walked up the catwalks to the nearby ridge.

He glanced back at Chaldea with his hands in his pockets before turning back to his climb. The sweater remained unzipped since it wouldn't be billowing out of control, like his exhaled smoke, in the usual gusts. Still, the snow fell lightly around him as he took a cigar container out of his pocket. He smoked them less often than cigarettes since they were more expensive to acquire.

Truthfully, he didn't have to go this far for a smoke. It wasn't uncommon for him to take his break near the Shooting Range or the catwalks towards the Training Grounds. The caster was simply being considerate for those around them, especially if any of Chaldea's child servants were nearby. He didn't want the girls to get any ideas, or else he might receive some reprimanding from their loving mother. The idea of not accidentally teaching the violent, dismembering assassin new bad habits was a funny thought.

Atalanta had taken an entire month to shake Jack's habit with plurals.

The caster finally crested the ridge as he lit the cigar. It only took him one time with the lighter thanks to the conditions. Usually the wind would force him to use a fire spell thanks to the increased repertoire he gained from Zhuge Liang. Whether or not the real heroic spirit approved of the smoking or not, he didn't know. Since they had combined body and mind, he had not heard from him again. He didn't even feel any change in his personality, only a large increase in strategic and combat prowess.

Luck was on his side. It had always been on his side, it seems. He had made it through a past war rather unscathed compared to most. Allowed to live on, he had even become a respected member of the Mages Association. Though there were still many obstacles and difficulties, luck had shined on him since his pride and arrogance got the better of him during Kayneth's lecture. However, there was no greater luck than who the catalyst summoned for him during the Fourth Holy Grail War.

El-Melloi looked up as he filled his mouth with the vivid taste of the cigar. It was almost as clear as the flavor, but his mind etched out that muscular form. The light had been similar to the diffused glow from the snow as he first laid eyes on the rider. He could still remember that flowing red cape whenever he stood before him, ready to challenge everything and everyone for his simply dream. Yes, El-Melloi had been lucky to find his inspiration back then.

The same could not be said for the fallen before him. He exhaled calmly. "I hope you're all resting easy."

His eyes gazed across the rows of graves that overlooked Chaldea. Not many employees still made the climb, but some still did. It was harder for them, especially with the altitude, but he would make the trip along with other servants. Many had perished during Fuyuki, including the cryo-frozen masters, and he would make sure these victims won't be forgotten. Hundreds had died, but some still lived to continue their task.

It was an inspiring thought. Though many could still smile and laugh, he could tell the other emotions still lingered. They had been months without family and friends, even without counting it was a secret organization. Many had lost an acquaintance. Still, they persevere for humanity and the fallen with ambition, purpose, and determination. It was admirable and inspiring by definition, both them and the techmaturgic facility they operated.

"I wonder what you'd think of this place, Rider," he murmured into the falling snow as he exhaled the smoke.

The silent air answered him, and he simply chuckled. "Would you ask Gilgamesh for a rematch? Would your opinion of Arturia change if you saw her now?"

With a chuckle, he asked the rhetorical question in his head. He liked to believe he knew the answer, and it was even spoken to him directly. To even question it was stupid, but he had followed in those footsteps and stared at that visualized back more times than he could count. It was what drove him after all.

'Have I proven loyal and worthy, my King?'

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ V ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

The Strategy Center, sometimes called the Intel Hub, was located near the Summoning Chamber. Its sole purpose was to hold the archives of all past singularities and house a collection of data regarding all known forms of combat, strategies, and tactics. It was a meeting place before deployments as well, especially if a pre-leyshift scan provided vital intel of the area. Besides that, the Intel Hub was only ever occupied by a few people at a time.

The room was very spacious as it was designed to house several dozen magi, but now remains nearly empty due to the Fuyuki incident which took many of the tactical staff. A central table was covered with various open books and documents taken from the surrounding cabinets and bookshelves. There were several computers as a new addition since the fallen mages could no longer complain about directly using technology. One large monitor on one wall displayed an overhead map of the lastest minor singularity visited during the Japanese Edo Period.

Slouching in one of the chairs around the central table, Gudao stared at the report in his hands with tired eyes. Across from him, Lord El-Melloi II scanned through other documents regarding Solomon and his London notes. It was a rare time the pair were able to find some stable time to look through the notes regarding the Grand Caster, with constant supply sorties, emergency singularities, paperwork, and report logs taking up most of Gudao's time. As he let the document slip to the ground, the master rubbed his eyes and groaned, earning a small glance from the servant.

"You should probably take a nap," the man spoke, flipping a page in a log book. "Can't have you passing out and possibly drooling on some documents."

"Harr harr, Adviser, harr harr. Taking quip notes from Gabby, now?" Gudao responded blandly before picking up the document he carelessly dropped, trying to fix the edge of the paper that bent on impact.

"We have been at this for three hours," the caster stated. "While I'm more surprised there hasn't been an interruption from a random servant-related incident, I'm equally disturbed that there's still much about Solomon that we don't know with our notes. It only seems to get worse the more we research what he may be capable of."

"While I'd rather we not encounter him again soon, we may need to in order to figure out his motives and why he's holding back so much. Perhaps a limit?"

"At very worst he's just toying with us."

That's what bothered the caster the most. Solomon had given quite a show of power during the singularity's final stages, yet that was only a fraction of what he was capable of using. As a demoralization tactic, it should have worked rather well, and it did shake Gudao's confidence momentarily. Thankfully, he and Mashu had managed to shake him out of his fall. If that was him playing with the Chaldean force, then what was his full capabilities?

"I wish there was someone here who knew what he was truly capable of."

"We haven't had any luck on summoning David. If anyone would know, it would be the legendary father who fell the giant. I can't imagine many of the others related to his legend would have as much of a chance to become a heroic spirit."

Gudao sighed in disappointment and discontent. "Then all we can do is bolster the servant force and hope."

El-Melloi looked at the master in concern. The man had gone through much since his arrival in Chaldea, and he was impressed he was still confident and holding together. His resolve had been faltering as of late, but that was mainly due to his overworked condition and piling worries. For the entire world to be shouldered essentially on one master was a weight he would wish on no one. Perhaps, for everyone's sake, he should bring up the idea of searching the staff for a second possible candidate.

The double doors of the room opened and tore their attention away. They stared at the interruption, who looked at the pair with lovely rose red eyes. Long white hair flowed down her back which matched the color of her skirt. Her burgundy blouse matched her eyes in vibrancy and was paired with a small, black neck piece pinned by a crystal brooch. Black tights were tucked into thigh high, white boots that zipped closed from the front. A pale skinned hand held back one of the bangs that framed her gorgeous facial features as she stared inquisitively at the two men.

"Need something, Irisveil?" The lord asked, his eyes returning to the document in front of him.

"Sorry for bothering you two, but Gudao, it's about time for the summoning," the woman stated softly.

Gudao checked his watch and smacked his forehead. "Right, time flies. We're just using the surplus generated from today, right?"

Irisveil nodded. "I believe so. Roman didn't say anything changed, at least."

"Are we going to use the shard of the round table we recovered as a catalyst?" the male servant asked, curiosity rising.

"The Research Lab is still determining its estimated age to make sure it's part of the round table. I just don't want a surprise in case something more chaotic and violent gets summoned in its place."

El-Melloi cringed at that thought. Arriving after the French Singularity, he had been surprised to find the maddened Lancelot once more. Though relatively under control by the master, the idea of a rampaging berserker manifested upon Spartacus' arrival. That servant was beyond a headache, especially if any Romans were in the vicinity. Thankfully any damage he caused was limited to cut walls and broken lights thanks to sparring sessions, but it was still something unwanted.

Grail forbid if a much more chaotic berserker wound up within the walls.

"It has yet to happen, but I understand the caution," the former professor stated. The last thing Chaldea needed was to have its sole source of spiritual reinforcements destroyed.

"Almost did when Heracles arrived. Thankfully he listened to me before he attacked Tesla and Scathach. I can't imagine if we summoned Darius or Lu Bu," Gudao replied as he got up and walked towards the exit where Irisveil patiently waited.

"Don't curse it, you might just accidentally summon them now," Grunted the servant, making the master chuckle nervously.

"I'll be back within the hour."

The door closed, leaving the caster alone in the Command Center.

'Guess I'll see if I can come up with anything else until he gets back. Maybe change subjects for a bit,' Waver thought to himself as he moved a stack of books from Gudao's former side of the table to his own.

He checked the clock on the monitor and turned back to the document in his hand. It was a small collection of manuscripts from Jerusalem. He still had a few hours before the tournament began, and he could always use the virtual beat down as a stress reliever anyway. It always made the dinner afterwards taste much better. The servant smirked as he pictured Tyler's glare when he defeated him in the racing tournament the past week.

There was a rustling sound, followed by the caster's groan. "Another paper avalanche. Spectacular."

A loose stack of papers fell off a nearby cabinet, causing the servant to look at the small avalanche and groan. He got up and walked over to the scattered documents. He began slipping papers back into their folders neatly and rolling his eyes at the lack of proper organization. There were folders from very different singularities stacked together with no real relevance from a passing glance. He'd have to chastise Gudao about proper organization, or perhaps see if Tyler could reprogram one of the robots to sort this disaster of a room.

Waver stopped stacking folders and felt a mirthful smile grace his features. Had anyone been around he would have done a better job keeping a scowl on his face, but the name of the folder he picked up brought some fond memories to the servant. How could it not? It was a singularity of those interesting days.

He opened the folder and glanced at some of the images taken by Gudao during that singularity nearly seven weeks ago. His handwriting was present on countless loose log pages. Not caring about his master's occasional lack of proper detail in the report, he simply read through the descriptions of certain sections of the conflict in Fuyuki, specifically the ones involving a boisterous rider and his naïve master.

The servant sat down as he let nostalgia take the reins of his attention. This had been the singularity when Irisveil joined the organization and became a capable caster class. It was also the event he had remembered his frustration regarding a certain servant and his infrequent knack for trying to derail their objective throughout the entire campaign. He could have done without the small reminders of how much of a novice he was when he was younger, but the final conflict between him and his former servant more than made up for it.

To fight against Iskandar as an equal was beyond his imagination, and he was glad it happened.

Closing the folder, he sat there quietly. After a moment, he stood up and returned it to the disorganized stack. Upon sight of the various documents thrown carelessly about the room the servant groaned, and his trademark scowl returned to his face. Maybe he could do a little cleaning just so he wouldn't have to look at this mess longer than he needed. He had taught the master much about strategy and tactics, but maybe organization should be next.

To be fair, Gudao was a neat freak, and this mess was mostly Da Vinci and Roman's fault.

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Armor clanked as Roman legionnaires recollected themselves after the recent fight. A few servants dashed through the surrounding woods with lighter armed scouts, assuring the area really was clear. Atalanta's silhouette dashed to a taller tree to provide a longer sight picture. Well below her, the master was flanked by his closest servant and the male advisor.

"Dammit. That was sloppy and reckless. I lead us right into that ambush."

"Bless your luck, then. We made it through just fine."

El-Melloi studied the heavily breathing Gudao. Mashu remained at his side as he sat on the ground against the trunk of the large tree. The other servants were scattered about, ensuring the offensive from the attacking army had been halted. By the reports from Empress Nero's troops, there shouldn't have been any troops on route to Massilia. It was clear there had to be some investigation into report quality.

The ambush by the road had not caused any casualties in the servants, but a few troops from Nero's legions had been killed. She didn't blame him, and took the responsibility herself. It was clear to El-Melloi Gudao still blamed his own inexperience and poor insight. There was no sign Gudao wanted to talk about it though.

"How much longer until we meet these allies Nero talks about?" Gudao asked as Mashu handed him a bottle of water. He finished the drink and handed it back, making the demi-servant more concerned for him. Fou's ears twitched on her shoulder in worry.

"Senpai… I'll go refill the bottle at the river. I'll see if Marie and Emiya have found anything to make you a snack when I get there," She nodded firmly before quickly walking off.

Gudao watched her disappear into the brush, before quickly turning to the caster. "Tell me truthfully, Lord El-Melloi II. How bad did I screw up?"

The caster fished a cigar out of the pocket of his coat. "We shouldn't have walked on top of the ridge, but mistakes happen. Learn the lesson."

Gudao looked down at his feet and sighed. "Nero was adamant on getting to the destination on time."

"She may be the empress here, but we are a separate force. I know you prefer to be a diplomat and play nice, but there comes a point you have to make strategic decisions and suggest alternate means for your allies. You have an issue with being assertive, Gudao."

To his surprise, and respect, Gudao nodded in agreement. "Gabby complained about that more than I could count."

"No one's perfect," El-Melloi stated as he took a small puff of the cigar. "Do not chastise yourself so hard for this failure. It's clear Emiya did a fine job when you're giving commands with confidence in a fight, but you still have quite a bit to go."

Gudao met his eyes and nodded. For a few moments, he looked unsure, before the resolve returned. He stared firmly at the caster. "Can you give me any lessons on strategy and tactics? I want to become a better master for Chaldea."

With an exhale of smoke, he nodded. "Perhaps I should have offered upon my arrival over a week ago. It is good to see you acknowledge your shortcomings though. If it's strategy and tactics, I can help with that thanks to my newfound knowledge."

With a sigh of relief, the master quickly smiled and nodded. Truthfully, the caster was relieved. Though clearly inexperienced, the master had an almost borderline fearlessness when directing the servants in combat. He had been worried this would translate to arrogant bravado, but it was clear the master knew his limitations. It wasn't that his strategies were particularly bad in combat, but there were still some holes that needed to be filled. There were even marks of brilliance in his ingenuity.

That order for Medusa to let Atalanta provide aerial fire support from the Pegasus had been a decisive play earlier in the campaign. Honestly, it made him curious. "I simply need to know what you understand so far, so I know where to begin."

Gudao nodded and shrugged. "I know some basic strategy like numerical superiority, clear sight lines, and using the high ground."

'That's why we walked the ridge,' El-Melloi thought with a nod. Still, basic strategy didn't involve that ingenuity with airborne attacks. That was much further down advanced and expert coordination. "And air superiority?"

"I learned most of that from my dad. He was really big on that sort of thing, and I am too. I think air superiority is key."

The caster's interest suddenly grew. At least now he knew which way to properly guide the master, just like Iskandar had for him. Though he didn't know it, the rider had subtly picked up what the young, naïve master had truly needed. With words of encouragement and leading by example, he truly did give Waver the means to improve. He wasn't expecting to become some sort of idol for Gudao, but at the very least, he now knew more than enough to fix his problems while encouraging his personal interests.

"Alright. We'll see if we can't remove those second-guessing and brooding issues while teaching you proper strategy and tactics. Just be warned… I'm a stern professor."

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"H'oh yea! Wooooooo and that's good game, gentlemen!" Tyler grinned as he set his controller down, some grunts and sighs coming from his fellow players on the couch.

"Geez, trying to wear yourself out for the tournament later?" El-Melloi asked from the doorway as he shook his head.

"The strategy is working! You'll owe me for it later," Cu joked with an exasperated expression. He had just clearly been defeated.

"I wish my skills in these were even half as golden as his," chuckled the muscular man on the far end of the couch.

His fully exposed chest revealed a golden necklace that matched a shining belt with 'Gold' written on a giant buckle. White formal pants lead to equally dark socks that rested on the edge of the coffee table near a crumpled blue dress shirt that presumably belonged to the servant. Dark sunglasses covered his eyes, which was peculiar indoors but anyone who knew this enthusiastic servant acknowledged it was his thing. The sharp features of his face were framed by cropped, bright blonde hair. Unlike the Irish lancer next to him, the Japanese berserker was grinning.

"Just keep playing, Brotoki. You'll be able to smash Waver or myself someday," Tyler encouraged, making the blonde-haired servant laugh. The caster rolled his eyes from the doorway. "And you know that grumpy caster won't stand a chance against me tonight, Cu Bro."

"Quit talking like I'm not here, Tyler."

"Oh hey, Grumpy McGrumps-a-lot! When'd you get here?" The employee quickly dodged a thrown pillow from another couch as the other two servants laughed. "Ayyy, but seriously... Aren't you supposed to be in a strategy meeting with Gudao right now?"

"He's a bit late, so I presume there's a new arrival," the caster noted with a sigh. "I'm just here to request my bracket be moved later in case I run late."

"Yea sure, we'll just switch you to the last one. No big deal," Tyler waved off. The tournaments were rather lax save for their rivalry.

"Thanks," he nodded. "I'll see you three later then. I'll head back to the Command Center."

"Cool stuff, see you in a bit, Wabro." Cu chuckled at Waver's forced nickname as the caster walked out of sight. His presence quickly faded.

The lancer picked up the controller again as Tyler set up the next round on the screen. A few beeps and menu swaps later and the screen returned to a roster selection consisting of several different characters. The selection range was wide, running a gauntlet between an elf bearing a sword and shield to a mummified individual with dual katars. The trio began moving their cursors to select their chosen champions as a timer ticked down from the corner of the screen.

"Ora-Ora," Kintoki grinned as he selected a yellow electric rodent as his champion. "I'm getting you to one life this time."

"Tch, Not before I get you both," Cu stated as he chose a burly figure in a metal diving outfit, complete with a large drill for one hand.

"Here, I'll pick a character that sucks," Tyler smirked as he selected a small, pink ball with red shoes. The other two laughed.

The employee's friendship with the legendary Cu Chulainn and Sakata Kintoki had been easily founded with El-Melloi's help. It was also thanks to the robotic expert's very outgoing attitude and friendly disposition. The man never felt intimidated by servants like the magi were, but rather saw them as celebrities. It was totally rad that he could hang out with important historical figures.

Tyler's friendship with the two solidified completely on their initial interest in video games when the room was finally constructed. He was more than happy to show them the ropes, though it did start with fighting games since that was Cu's real interest. Since then they've been a close-knit group when around, with Lord El-Melloi II making it a quadra. Cu was usually hanging with his fellow Irishmen, but they still counted him since he fit rather well.

The lancer and berserker couldn't peg the strategist as a game fanatic, and were even more surprised he was so good at them, specifically the Japanese or strategy variety. While there was always curiosity about why, the only answer they received was that it brought back fond memories; The small glint of nostalgia in his eyes proved it. Deciding to leave it as a mystery, and since Tyler never really questioned it, the duo's attention switched to attempting to dethrone the dynamic gaming rivals.

As the stage loaded up on the large monitor, the chosen champions were dropped onto the floating castle stage and the game began. The sounds of mashing button filled the room, along with small grunts, chuckles, and random commentary as the trio smacked each other virtually for dominance. Occasionally items spawned onto the field, leading to much mischief and shenanigans as the two servants used them to try and level the field against the skilled gamer.

As they were playing, they heard the door to the main room slide open again. Tyler glanced the clock and saw there was still an hour until the tournament gathering and shrugged.

"Huh, crazy. Fernando or Lisa got here early," he shrugged as his champion knocked the electric rodent off the map, eliciting a complaint from Kintoki.

"It's a servant. Definitely has the presence, but a rather strong one," Cu noted curiously.

The sounds of heavy footfalls made the employee raise an eyebrow, his friends following soon after. Their champions stopped moving on screen as they simultaneously turned towards the entryway to the virtual section in time to meet the figure that had just walked through. The employee's curiosity peaked as he eyed the large man and guessed he was a new serv-

The sound of a high-pitched yelp from the screen brought Tyler's attention back to the monitor where he noted his champion's lives had dropped by one and Cu was laughing. Kintoki soon snickered alongside the blue haired servant as Tyler's eyes switched between the lancer and the screen rapidly.

"Dude! Cheap!" He scolded, even if there was a grin on his face. "Oh it's on now! It's ON!"

"You should've paused the game, champ!" Cu yelled as he brought his laughter under control, moving his character to run away as Tyler's pursued its new priority target.

Tyler brought his own chuckling under control and passed glances towards the individual who just entered, "Never seen you before. You new here big guy? And more importantly… you want in on the next round? We got space for one!"

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Lord El-Melloi II checked his watch and sighed, shaking his head before nodding and waving as Arturia and Jeanne passed in the hallway. As they turned down a corridor, he heard the familiar chuckling of Astolfo as well. He picked up his pace a little and let out a sigh, wishing he could take another smoke break outside if he wasn't a tad pressed for time. The servant turned away from the corridor that led to a small observation deck near the firing range and into an open, empty elevator.

The tournament started five minutes ago. Thankfully he asked for the bracket shift.

The caster and master had been going over new formations in the Command Center after Gudao returned much later than expected. The caster's most recent creation was to utilize a new spearhead tactic that paired mounted riders with archers to create a new breaching technique against defensive positions on open ground. It was just one of many new strategies and tactics in the playbook that he had helped Gudao create, along with the input of several other servants. It could have been rather handy in America.

The servants could usually handle anything that presented itself, but the prana efficiency and building fatigue left a lot to be desired before dedicated formations and techniques came into play. No one had argued how much easier the singularities had become after actual combined arms coordination was introduced. As opposed to winging it and relying on sheer weight of individual skill and instincts, it gave a solid base of reliability. Those lessons for Gudao, and his continued advising, had truly paid off.

The servant had inquired, while taking a small break from the formation brainstorming, about Gudao's tardiness. The man had intended to scold his master on keeping his word when he returned nearly an hour later, but decided against it upon learning he was giving a new servant a tour of the facility. Normally Gudao would be excited about a new servant and talking up a storm, but at the moment he was practically a walking zombie. El-Melloi had done most of the talking since he returned, noticing the master's drowsy state.

It was actually the servant who called the end of the small meeting upon noticing the time, and realizing he probably would only get snores out of a practically sleeping master.

The ring of the elevator door opening brought him out of his thoughts as he walked down the hallway towards the Game Room. He could already see the increased traffic and bustle of the place. Some younger employees and servants chatted in the vicinity of the open doors, while more were inside. Sighing to himself, he buried his hands in his pockets and walked forward.

There was no real need to mentally prepare as Tyler was his only real competition. The rest of the tournament considered third place the start of the real winning placements since the employee and servant were practically gods. He jokingly speculated if being a video game god could grant divinity. As he neared, a woman and a certain demi-servant turned their attention to him as they likely waited for someone.

"Good evening, Gabrielle."

"Hey! Strategy meeting went long?" The female employee with golden eyes asked as he neared the door. She wore the standard uniform for the Chaldea Magecraft Division and had shoulder length orange hair, part of it tied into a small ponytail on one side. The servant mused her uniform was tighter than it should be for her top, which was typical for her. It still remained a partial curiosity if it was the reason she was a little more popular than most employees around Chaldea, though her sunny personality was likely the real reason.

"Gudao wasn't keeping track of time, but it's alright. I sent him to take a nap before dinner," the servant stated as he glanced into the room. There were roughly two dozen presences total, which was the norm. While it would be hard to find a place to sit, there was still plenty of room to walk around. The young woman sighed and shook her head.

"He's so overworked. It's ridiculous! He needs better sleep!" She grumbled, and he smirked. It was reassuring how much she cared.

The woman's mood quickly flipped, and she winked and nudged the quiet demi-servant next to her. "And he also needs to let loose sometime and enjoy himself. You can help him with that again, right, Mashu?"

"P-Please Gabby, I told you I was drunk and…" She trailed off, her shade of red turning brighter by the second.

The employee laughed and patted her on the back as the servant gave the pink haired girl a sympathetic nod and small smile. It didn't help her flush in the least. That incident had gotten around the facility, though at least Scathach and Cu managed to stop Kiyohime. Mashu turned away and looked down as the caster walked into the room.

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After getting several cheers and comments in the other section, El-Melloi made his way towards the back. Tyler, who was leaning in the entryway, spotted him and waved the man over before turning his attention back to the interior of the virtual section. Another simultaneous cheer rose through its inhabitants as war sounds echoed from the game.

"And here I thought I was going to get the title easily," Tyler joked as Waver smacked him on the arm, causing the shorter man to laugh.

"As if," The caster rolled his eyes and stared into the room. "So who's fighting in this bracke-"

His voice caught in his throat as his eyes widened upon recognition of the muscular man on the couch. There was no way he could mistake that leather chest piece and accompanying battle dress. His sandal clad feet fidgeted and rocked endlessly with excitement. The caster eyed the fiery red hair and beard, heard the booming laughter, and noted black eyes full of enjoyment. It was humorous to view such a large, muscular figure sitting on a couch and manipulating a game controller that looked tiny in his grip, but to Waver it was the first moment he saw his king once more.

"You should see this guy play! Man, he's a natural! Might actually give Tatiana and Jared some competition!" Tyler stated in amazement before noticing his friend's stare.

The crowd within the room cheered as the muscular man stood up and thrust both arms into the air, one hand still firmly gripped to the thankfully wireless controller as he yelled in victory. He quickly shook hands with the blue haired employee he battled with before giving him a rough pat on the back, sending him to the floor with much laughter. Handing the controller to the next contestant, he stepped away from the couch and met the eyes of the caster.

"Yo, you alive, dude?"

Tyler looked curiously at the stunned servant next to him before looking at the new servant. The room had grown progressively quieter upon noticing the silent exchange, interest leaving the tournament momentarily as the two servants stared each other down. Kintoki looked between the two servants from his spot where he leaned on the wall, confused at the look of nostalgia and relief in the caster's eyes and the recognition in the rider's own. The blue haired lancer next to him, who had been present in the singularity, simply grinned and watched in understanding.

"Hey! Earth to Waver, you're making a scene with your goo-goo fuck eyes, bro," Tyler stated which instantly snapped the attention of the caster to him, returned the man's trademark scowl, and earned the smirking employee a smack behind the head to much laughter. "I was just kidding!"

"I had my suspicion… So it really was you, boy," The muscular rider stated as he stepped towards the caster, his attention centered once more on the man. The next bracket began selecting their factions for their round in the background.

"It's good to see you again, Iskandar, my king," Waver stated as he kneeled on the ground and bowed his head towards the servant. Tyler, who noticed he was too close to the reunion, snuck into the room past the two to join Cu and Kintoki on the back wall.

"Stand up, Waver. You may still be my retainer, but here we are equals and allies, no longer adversaries or master and servant," he said with a laugh as the caster stood and nodded, giving the rider a smile. "And judging by that familiar shirt you're wearing, I expect you will finally play some games with me this time."

"Of course, idiot," Waver stated jokingly, with a small, mischievous glint in his eye which Iskandar caught, causing him to raise an eyebrow.

"But in this room, you've got a long way to go if you want to equal me."

"Not for me, Scowly Scrub! I'll taste your tears of defeat tonight!"

El-Melloi fumed. "Tyler, you bloody son of a-"

Rider's laughter boomed though the room.

Chapter Text

A tiny strand of blonde haired shook occasionally with its owner's movement, visible over a booth's divider in Salon de Marie.

Arturia sipped from her tall glass filled with a blueberry milkshake, complete with whipped cream and cherry. Her green eyes seemed distant as she gazed forward. While maintaining her regal posture she smoothed out her ocean blue, sleeveless halter dress. A golden necklace adorned her otherwise bare neck since her hair was tied up with blue ribbon in the servant's usual crowned bun. Resting both hands on her lap, the young woman listened to the light piano music, enjoying Mozart's elegant pla-

"Hi Arty!" came a cheerful voice to her side.

She smiled back and replied, "Hi, Jeanne!"

The Saint waved to her before the amethyst dress disappeared in the direction of Mozart, leaving the King of Knights once more to her thoughts. She was close friends with Jeanne, and with her and Mashu they made quite the trio on the fields. The only qualm she had regarding the beautiful girl was that sometimes others would joke they were sisters since they had identical faces. While she could see that, their eyes and hairstyles definitely separated them as individuals much to her relief. It was just a nitpick though. It wasn't as bad as-

"Good evening, Arturia!" came a female voice just as she turned to look for her dinner companion.

A figure with short cut, platinum blonde hair bowed towards her. She returned upright and smiled as silver eyes met green. The woman before her wore a white kimono covered with a sakura petal design. A red obi-age wrapped around her waist with a white obi-jime cord. A pale skinned hand went up to her mouth to cover her cough, before returning to her side as she smiled once more.

"Hello, Okita," Arturia responded pleasantly with a slight bow of her head.

"I hope you enjoy your dinner!" The servant called before disappearing towards the bar, likely where Nobunaga currently was.

Arturia sighed and looked to where Okita had disappeared. If people joked that she and Jeanne were sisters, it was only worse with Okita who people claimed was her fraternal twin. She got along well with the top notch saber, and like many, was concerned for her health. Between her and Jeanne, it was just annoying to deal with all of the teasing thrown at her and wondered how the two dealt with it. Maybe she was just nitpicking before her birthday, but at least it wasn't as bad as-

"Good evening, stalwart King of Camelot!" the proud voice of the Empress of Rome boomed from the side as she strutted by in her red dress, swiftly disappearing before receiving an answer.

Nero. Their physical appearances were nearly identical. Their battle regalia almost matched completely should she take her armor off. She huffed in frustration at the amount of twin and clone jokes thrown at her just for the sheer coincidence she and Nero looked nearly interchangeable.

Thankfully her friend's haughty attitude, more revealing dress styles, and battle stances weren't identical or she knew the jokes would have multiplied tenfold. Even master was initially shocked at how similar they looked after Nero stopped crying and pushed through the crowd to meet the newest servant. She even had the guts to state her Roman figure was still more beautiful, especially her chest. As much of friends as they were now, Arturia still couldn't shake how much the red saber reminded her of Gilgamesh.

Her mental train now dipping negative, the King of Knights sipped on her milkshake with irritated eyes and a partially broken posture.

She groaned quietly as her mind snowballed to topics that annoyed her about Chaldea. So many servants looked like her. There were just so many servants in general. Emiya wasn't cooking for all three meals. She even began thinking about so many other sabers, and while not one was bad, it diluted the class so she shined less, but she was still controversially called the best saber. Maybe she let past grail wars coax her into believing she was the best, but many considered her the most pow-

"Brooding will never suit you, Miss Pendragon."

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Fragment 9: The Heroine Chaldea Deserves

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The male voice of her dinner mate came from her side as he walked to his seat, snapping her out of her thoughts and instantly straightening her posture.

The male servant sat down, wearing a dark green dress shirt with a black tie that matched equally dark formal pants. His black hair was slicked back at the top, with only a single, wavy strand falling in front of his face between his golden brown eyes. A single, small mole rested just beneath his right eye, a mark giving to him as a curse. He smiled with pearly white teeth towards his dinner companion, who groaned quietly and looked to the table in embarrassment at being caught with negative thoughts by her close friend, yet again.

"Neither does tardiness suit you, Diarmuid," the woman grumbled in response, causing a small chuckle at her feeble attempt to get back at the lancer.

"Grumbling over your look-alikes again? Or is it that Emiya never cooks enough?" He asked, making her blush at how he knew her so well at this point.

"The former," she stated, deciding to be honest about the cause of her storm. "At least you don't joke with me about it."

"Angering the King of Knights is low on my to-do list," He said simply with a friendly wink.

Diarmuid had been one of the servants to watch her catalyst summoning weeks ago, and she was surprised to see him at the facility. Her wariness about unfamiliar servants was vanquished, but only to be replaced by a concern and caution regarding the pair's last encounter. To say they left on harsh conditions was an understatement, with the male servant even declaring some choice words directed towards her and others involved. This concern diminished after they had talked privately about it, both acknowledging that it was their respective mages at fault, particularly saber's cunning yet deceitful master.

Since that talk, their friendship has been solidified off and on the battlefield where she could consider him one of her closest friends alongside Jeanne and Emiya. The latter two joined them at dinner later since they usually had their own tasks to do during supper. Jeanne entertained most nights and Emiya was constantly working in the kitchen. On some nights Jeanne would sit with them early and eat when someone else wanted to sing, or attempt to, but Emiya usually had to deal with extra orders.

In all honesty, she was often the one asking for thirds and keeping him in the kitchen, much to his teasing.

Irisviel was another of her closest friends, but she was usually found near Atalanta, Tamamo, and the children. Her motherly instincts made her a perfect, close aunt for Jackie and Alice, and lets Emiya have some breathing room from the smothering affection of his adoptive mother. While spending any time with Emiya was one of the better moments of a day, watching his mother fuss over him was always a treat. He would begrudgingly deny liking it.

A robot with a bowtie hovered to their table and placed down a basket of garlic bread and a red wine bottle, their usual appetizers. Discarding her negative thoughts, thanks to the newly arrived food uplifting her spirit, Arturia started small talk and jokes with Diarmuid as Jeanne began to sing softly with Mozart's playing.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ III ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Across the room, a certain supervisor in a green, one shoulder dress and a berserker in a black suit stared at their dinner companion.

"Oh no. What are you planning?" Naomi asked with a hint of concern as she watched Medea attempt to hide the fact she was mischievously staring towards Arturia and Diarmuid from a few tables away.

"Oh, nothing," she giggled before turning to her salad. "Just a funny prank or two."

Vlad looked at her with a raised eyebrow before returning to the appetizers on the table. Naomi had also returned to her own salad, having acknowledged it was the truth but unsure of the reason why.

"Just... don't set off the facility's alarms like Drake did. Especially tomorrow when they're doing maintenance on the security system."

Medea smoothed her purple dress and cast one last sidelong glance towards the unknowing pair. There were a scant few jokes that Arturia and Diarmuid were more than just friends, the comments started by the male servant's fellow blue haired, Irish lancer who feigned ignorance. They were not as numerous as the rumors about her and Emiya as an item. If anything, Cu likely started it as a jab towards Emiya.

She amusingly ran through possibilities she could do to prank Arturia, acknowledging Diarmuid would get hit by the collateral damage unfortunately. She would have used Emiya, but Diarmuid was far more likely to be near the King of Knights just based on chore load. She had nothing against the man, but she did have a small, though slowly diminishing itch to tease the poor king even though they were on pleasant terms now. Not friends, but definitely not antagonizing. There was nothing wrong with a prank or two, especially since some other servants were known to be total jokers.

The princess ran some pranks in her mind but settled on one that would make her feel a little better at her defeat during the fifth war. She just needed to mix that potion and deliver it properly, then sit back and enjoy the embarrassing show. Nothing wrong with a tiny prank, right?

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The Alchemical Room, located in the lower floors of the west wing, was more active than usual the following afternoon.

Among its many shelves filled with glass containers, the few of the surviving magi worked, busy trying to create more potent elixirs and potions to help Gudao or some of his servants. Mixing stations and other tables filled with utensils were placed on the opposite side of the room from the entrance. Unlike most of Chaldea but similar to the rest of the Magecraft wing, the room lacked many decorations and was constructed with utility and purpose above all else. It was this design that Medea was currently thankful for as she zipped around the room quickly gathering more ingredients for her prank potion.

The princess glanced at her measurements once more before adding another set of ingredients to a small mortar in front of her. Many times Medea overheard some pieces of conversations involving Merlin's various pranks on the King of Knights, so she was likely to be wary at any signs of tampering to anything. She would have to use her superior skill to make her potion tasteless, while still retaining enough potency to bypass her high Magic Resistance. It was a very difficult task, but easy for a caster born from the Age of the Gods. It is with this thought that Medea smiled as she grounded the ingredients of a love potion with the pestle.

Tomorrow was a certain little blonde's birthday, and she was going to ensure it was one she wouldn't soon forget for multiple reasons.

Medea's calculations were on point as she paused from grinding to mentally check the parameters of her concoction. While creating a potion that would make a person fall in love was easy, most had an obvious taste to them. Therefore it was better, for stealth's sake, that the caster used a vague mix that compelled the consumer to act on current emotions to an exaggerated degree.

It had the drawback of needing to be applied at exactly the right moment of the targeted emotion, but she was sure she could manage a plan for that in the next few hours.

At best it would only last a few minutes, but that was more than enough time for the potion to make the King of Knights do something romantically embarrassing with a certain lancer. All she had to do was cast a faint suggestion spell, not perceptible thanks to her skill, to harmlessly turn the saber's thoughts towards her companion before she drank. The delivery method didn't really matter since Arturia tended to eat and drink a lot of food variety anyway. Medea would only have to pick what is most convenient.

"Figured I'd find you here," a male voice came from behind her accompanied by approaching footsteps. Medea turned to look at a man wrapped in an elegant, white cloth that resembled a mix between a robe and formal magus clothing.

The sleeves were loose and waved at his sides, golden stripes lining the edges. Black, finger-less gloves reached from his hands to under his sleeves. An intricate design ran along the outer, upper arms of his coat and onto his shoulders, with gold trim decorating the epaulets. A purple cross marked the front, with similarly covered diamonds decorating lines that stretched from the cut seams. Black formal pants and shoes covered his legs, a contrast to the battle attire that normally decorated his lower half.

Golden eyes gazed at his fellow servant as Medea turned her body to face him. "Aren't you on the training deployment today, Paracelsus?"

"Master decided to move my training for another time," He responded simply with a small smile and wave of his hand.

Paracelsus von Hohenheim was one of the first servants Gudao had summoned to Chaldea, but also one of the few to not participate in battles unless absolutely necessary. The servant was surprised that Gudao would let him sit out, since he disliked combat, and in return he was placed in charge of the Alchemical Room where he would usually be found crafting new elixirs for the teams. His training sessions were mainly for team practice and tactic familiarization.

"However," He began as he eyed a curious Medea, "shouldn't you be in the deployment room? They'll be ray shifting within the next twenty minutes."

The female caster's eyes widened slightly. "What do you mean? I'm not supposed to-"

Paracelsus sighed. "I told him he shouldn't have trusted Blackbeard with message delivery, wherever he is now. Yes. You're going with Gudao and the training team instead."

Medea mentally cursed Blackbeard as she turned back to her partially finished potion. She wasn't going to have time to finish it properly by tomorrow now that she had training, and she was going to play some card games with Naomi and Vlad after dinner. She could apply it another day, but that wouldn't be fun. The only way to finish it was to-

But Paracelsus was also an alchemist, and he'd know exactly what she was making if she told him the remaining ingredients.

There was no way she could lie to him about what it is, but she could definitely make him think it was for a different purpose. He would trust her without a doubt on that considering they were often working together when they were in this room at the same time. She couldn't trust one of these modern mages with getting this intricate potion finished correctly, and they were likely to talk about it and blow her cover. All that would be left to do was apologize to him later for deceiving him into helping her with a prank after her plan came to fruition.

"If I may, can you complete my potion for me? I need it done for Arturia's birthday tomorrow but I won't have time now."

Paracelsus nodded. "Sure. What kind is it?"

'Here goes nothing,' she thought. "It's a form of emotion boosting elixir. I made it tasteless so the consumer won't know they've had it. I saw Arturia moping around on occasion so I thought she should enjoy a happy birthday tomorrow."

Paracelsus paused and her heart skipped a beat in anticipation until he smiled. "That's very thoughtful of you, Medea."

A little lie can still go a long way.

Medea smiled and nodded. The princess searched around quickly for an unused pencil and parchment and brought them over to her table. She began writing down the full ingredients list as fast as she could, then made a small check next to everything that's been added and completed.

"This is all that remains," She stated as she handed him the parchment, which he quickly glanced over and mentally confirmed she didn't deceive him.

"Pretty easy one for our skill levels. Good luck with the mission, I'll have this ready for when you return," He smiled as he patted her on the shoulder.

"Thank you!" Medea smiled as she quickly made her way towards the door. The male alchemist turned to the concoction then rechecked the list. Placing the parchment down, he whistled and looked towards a nearby shelf as a small Chaldean Magus appeared from around the corner. The brunette haired woman had glasses that framed teal eyes, with her face giving away an age that would demand she be placed back into middle school. Regardless of her young age, there was a specific reason the former director found her worthy to be added to the organization, one that Paracelsus soon took a liking to as well.

"You called, sir?" His apprentice chirped.

"Janice, I think this is a good time to put your genius-grade skills to another test. I want to see how far you've come with my training."

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ V ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Fifteen minutes later, Janice was happily finishing up with Medea's Elixir under Paracelsus' supervision.

She had done everything perfectly using just the ingredients and proper timing, asking her mentor before adding specific measurements just to ensure her insight was correct based on the volume of the container and current ingredient combination. To his delight, she was spot on as always, the perfect prodigy of Alchemy in the modern age. She would likely become one of the top mages of this time in potion crafting just based solely on her skills, let alone her high grade magic crest, if it wasn't for one simple drawback that made the male caster supervise her every move.

Janice tended to be unbelievably clumsy at the worst times, and that is an atrocious habit to have in Alchemy.

"Final ingredients now," He stated simply as he watched from a few feet to her left. Janice reached for some ingredients on a low hanging shelf near the top of the flask she currently had boiling over a flame.

One vial wiggled precariously, causing the male caster to tense until it steadied itself. She measured the correct amount of a specific herb and showed it to her mentor who nodded. Dropping in the ingredient to be boiled, she watched as they dissolved in a cloud of tiny bubbles within the clear colored mixture within the glass container. She reached for the next ingredient container, this one holding the shredded remains of a root fro-

The door to the Alchemical Room was wrenched open with an audible screech. Janice almost dropped the container had Paracelsus not caught it as it hovered over the potion's flask. The pair looked towards the sound of heavy footfalls as a large, half-naked servant peered into the room, drawing the attention of everyone else within.

His grayish skin and bulging muscles gave away his identity to those in Chaldea upon first glance. The servant's neutral gray armor was more akin to straps and side skirts, with only a gauntlet on his left arm and leather gloved forming any reasonable protection besides his face guard. Blonde haired fell around his head and reached to his shoulders, framing an eerie smile and blue eyes. Paracelsus rolled his eyes as he noticed the servant's large hand gripping the automatic door.

"Come with me, Janice," He stated as he began approaching the servant in question. "Spartacus. Stop prying open automatic doors. You've broken two the past month already. Gudao has also stated many times you're not supposed to be in this room."

"You speak of oppression, Paracelsus! I am not even in the room as Master has said so!" The berserker bellowed into the room, causing several mages to cringe. While he was leaning into the room, technically he still stood outside.

One particular mage with long black hair and maroon eyes lost interest in the scene, and instead took the distraction to slowly sneak towards the concoction Janice was helping her mentor create. The particular mage was always a little jealous at the pre-teen's capabilities, and even more so at the amount of attention she took from the servant. He'd worked more years than her to get his craft going, and this prodigy comes out of nowhere and takes more glory in a few months than he could in a decade.

Thus he quickly tampered with the potion while the two were distracted with the loud berserker, looking over the ingredients list swiftly and choosing two at random. Adding a new ingredient may cause serious consequences of a violent nature, but increasing a few of the more mundane ones should be fine enough to ruin the potion's final effect. It was a shame the man didn't realize this was no mere elixir, but a concoction from the Age of Gods, lest he would have realized adding more of any of the ingredients would exponentially increase a desired outcome.

A little tampering can go a long way.

Oblivious to what he had done, he quickly made his way back to his isolated work station as Spartacus removed himself from the doorway as it slid closed, thankfully not damaged, and the pair began their walk towards the tampered but still clear potion. He chuckled to himself lightly at the thought of sticking one to that damn student of his.

"Now, where were we...?"

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VI ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Paracelsus examined one of the vials of the potion his student so perfectly crafted with a smile as he walked down the hallway. Janice had created her first potion that required a very high skill level not found in the modern era. She truly was a prodigy, and she would continue to bloom if the male caster had any say in it. He would keep it hidden from Medea that he didn't finish the potion personally, but supervising still counts doesn't it? In case she required more, there were several extras in a small leather pouch that he would deliver to the mailbox outside her room.

Thoughts aside, he pocketed the small vial as he walked into the cafeteria to see if there were any leftover snacks from lunch.

Upon entering, he spotted the unknowing recipient of the potion sitting alone at a table with an empty cup in front of her. She wore a blue strapless dress complete with gold trim and matching white throw-over sweater. The blonde looked up and met the inquisitive eyes of the caster as he made his way towards her, the only other servant in the room. The cafeteria was empty save for them and the few robots cleaning the surrounding tables, avoiding the one the King of Knights sat at out of courtesy for a customer.

"Still here and alone, Arturia? Lunch ended an hour ago," Paracelsus stated curiously.

"I just wanted to enjoy one final milkshake. Jeanne was accompanying me, but she went to the bathroom to help Marie with makeup," she stated as she stared at the empty cup in front of her. The male caster caught the small glimpse of a sour thought process in her eyes. In that one moment, he got an idea. 'No harm in a test run.'

"Would you like me to get you another?" He asked politely. Her eyes lit up as she smiled softly. Answer received.

Paracelsus smiled as he walked towards the self-service stations as he pulled out the small vial from his pocket. As he was about to gain the attention of a robot, the double doors to the kitchen swung open to reveal Emiya wearing his chef uniform. Their eyes met.

"Paracelsus. What can I do for you?"

"Arturia would like another milkshake, if you don't mind that is."

Emiya chuckled. "Of course she would."

Before he could respond, Emiya had retreated into the kitchen and came back with a readily made milkshake only moments later. It was another glass complete with whipped cream and a cherry on top. The male caster raised an eyebrow an-

"Before you ask, I just know," He chuckled as the male caster took the item in question and nodded. "But, I have to ask. What're you planning to do with that vial?"

Emiya's knowing eyes were locked onto the vial concealed in Paracelsus' left hand; One doesn't simply hide items from the keen eyes of an archer. Looking down to the offending appendage and back up to meet the Archer's stern gaze, he knew he had to come out honestly lest he look suspicious.

"It's a potion I made that stops negative emotions and replaces them with happier ones. I figured Arturia should have a very happy birthday tomorrow after what she's gone through in her life, and I wanted to test it out now since she seemed a little depressed for some reason," he calmly explained.

Emiya nodded and smiled lightly. "If it was anyone else I would have stopped them, but you've always helped us on the field with your elixirs. I don't see a reason not to trust your concoctions now. Thanks for doing this for her, she really does deserve happiness."

A little lie can still go a long way.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VII ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Arturia stared at her milkshake with a suddenly uplifted mood. She was disheartened that Jeanne and Emiya were likely to be working on her birthday; The young king would have loved to spend the day with them. It was only after Paracelsus gave her the new milkshake that her spirits lifted higher than usual, though whether it was because of the nice gesture or powerful suggestion magecraft was something else entirely. Whatever the case, she was smiling again when Jeanne had returned.

"Food cures everything for you, doesn't it?" Jeanne laughed as she sat down next to her friend.

"Emiya's cooking especially," she replied as she played with the cherry on top. She noticed some of the whip cream on a side looked... displaced, but she ignored it. Arturia took the spoon out of the cup. She raised the glass to her mouth and began drinking, letting the perfectly crafted sweet tickle her taste buds. For a split moment she thought she tasted something else, something much more foul, but it soon disappeared. Her thoughts on the strange occurrence left her as more of the delicious liquid distracted her min-

"Yo Arturia!"

A male voice called from one of the cafeteria's entrances, causing both of the girls to turn only for the source to start laughing. "Geez, I know you hate being called clones but you don't both have to turn at her name! I mean, unless you are clones."

Jeanne pouted as she fiddled with the hem of her blue sundress. "That's not funny, Cu. You know Arturia doesn't appreciate those jokes!"

Cu raised both of his hands in surrender before brushing a sleeve on his Hawaiian shirt. "Yea, yea. It is obvious where the jokes come from though. So before you kill me with your glares, I just wanted to say Diarmuid was looking for you. He's currently with Scathach and Fionn at the Party Cave."

With that, the blue haired lancer ducked back out of the cafeteria. Jeanne sighed and shook her head before turning to look at Arturia, who was glaring at her drink as she downed the rest of it quickly. She put the empty glass down harshly and folded her arms, causing the saint to raise an eyebrow curiously; The King of Knights never let her emotions take control of her like this.

"I guess it's really getting to you these days. I understand, it's annoying for me too," Jeanne sighed as Arturia got up quickly. "I'll see you at dinner, okay? I'll make sure tomorrow's singing is extra wonderful for my dear friend!"

Without saying anything in return, Arturia stormed towards a doorway exiting the cafeteria with clenched fists. Jeanne, eyes widened in shock, watched her friend's mood plummet dramatically as she left, something no one has seen from the great King Arthur before.

The door slammed shut behind Arturia, and she turned in the opposite direction from the Party Cave; She currently had no intention of seeing Diarmuid. There were much more pressing concerns to be addressed. The wave of atrocities that has swept through Chaldea, mocking both her looks and her name needed to be answered, and it would be resolved with justice if she had anything to say about it.

It had gone on long enough, with these people who would dare joke about some simple similarities. However, it was apparent to her that asking them to stop several times would never stop the wave of insults... So she suddenly had the greatest idea she ever had to deal with the Arturia-faced identity problem and jokes. She continued her march back to her room to get what she needed.

The King of Knights will have to deal with the clones herself, by any means necessary.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VIII ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

It was a year after the initial construction of Chaldea that many of the non-magus employees demanded there be a universal place of worship.

While the arguments for and against religion could go on for eons, it was near unanimous that those who worked so hard for the future of humanity be given a small, pious sanctuary. This room was adequate enough for large groups with flexible furniture such as pews, candle holders, altars, podiums, and mats for different religions. It had the same design as the rest of Chaldea, save for two wooden double doors that replaced the classic sliding design. It was far from a high quality place of worship, but this dedicated sanctuary room served its purpose well enough.

It was here that Jeanne was silently praying in one of the front pews, the light from the hanging chandelier basking her in an almost ethereal glow. Her lips moved quietly as she softly went through her small routine. She had just finished helping set the pews up for tomorrow's sermon. It wasn't often that she would pray in the middle of the day with other tasks or hobbies to occupy her, but she resolved to ask the lord for some good fortune for her currently troubled friend. While this was a common place for her to be found throughout the week, her two companions practically lived in the room.

At the altar stood one of her friends, quietly leading through the bible in preparation for a prayer service the next morning. His white hair was spiked high, with two high cropped bangs framing the top of his forehead. The man's red cape lay on a chair near the altar, choosing instead to wear a standard, black priest outfit of the Catholic Church. His golden eyes glanced each passage, marking certain ones for relevant use with lightly tanned hands.

Behind him moved the second companion, her fair skinned hands swiftly and carefully setting up candle holders and moving the Buddhist pieces to their proper places in hidden backrooms. As she reappeared from behind a small curtain to the left, she swept a bang of her long purple hair behind her shoulder. Her teal eyes darted across the room, checking to make sure everything was in place for tomorrow. The female wore a very modest, white high waist dress that some would joke was more concealing then her battle attire could ever hope to be.

Two matching colored heels clacked lightly against the ground as she walked next to her male friend. "I believe we're set. I'll have the Eucharist brought out tomorrow morning."

"Thank you, Martha," He smiled back and nodded before turning back to the bible. "I'll just need a few more minutes to finish."

"Amakusa, would you like me to lock up after you two leave?" Jeanne inquired.

"If you would be so gracious, Jeanne," the man smiled once more.

Upon learning that Shirou Amakusa was in Chaldea, Jeanne had mixed feelings. Their last known memory was not a friendly one, though she was surprised and relieved upon finding out he was more than ready to mend the bridge as a current ally and fellow Catholic of sorts; Saint George helped too. Any reservations she had in her first month within Chaldea were removed and the quartet had become the heads in leading worship for the small group of Catholics in the organization.

For Jeanne, mending a bridge and working together to give proper thanks to their lord was a nice way to pass the time. Upon hearing of one attempt of turning on their master, her doubt would have been revitalized if not for the fact he was the one who informed her; It appears he really was trying to walk a new path. With the last of her doubts now subdued, she took every chance to show her appreciation for their friendship as opposed to their previous antagonism.

Jeanne found she helped to bring out Martha's less 'refined' side that few knew. While it is embarrassing enough for Martha to apologize every time it manifested, the ruler ignored it when in animated conversation with the fellow saint. They had quickly become friends thanks to their time in the French Singularity, though one would argue it was difficult not to become at least good acquaintances with the Maid of Orleans due to her bright disposition. The saint could hardly figure out if anyone in Chaldea actually had any negative feeling towards th-

The double doors of the sanctuary swung open viciously. With a loud crack, the stopped as they slammed into the walls, and instantly garnering the attention of the three servants. The chapel fell quieter. Their eyes widened, and several brows were raised, as they took in the familiar servant before them.

Long, blonde hair was tied into a ponytail with familiar bangs and ahoge peeking out of a black baseball cap. A blue jacket with golden trim covered her torso and arms, with black short-shorts revealing her legs. Two black combat boots protected her feet and lower calves, the muscles partially concealed by the footwear were tensed in preparation for instant movement. A long blue scarf with golden trim was wrapped around her neck, flowing behind her casually. What was most interesting was the swirl of blue that colored her glaring eyes, and the clenched fists that held onto Excalibur.

"Arty?" Jeanne stated with much concern in her voice as she stood up to face her friend. "What happened to your eyes?"

Before she could approach her friend, the saber grit her teeth and dashed swiftly towards the Maid of Orleans, bringing Excalibur down in a chopping motion. Jeanne, in total shock, back pedaled and panicked as her friend's weapo-

Arturia shifted her movements, and swung in quick precision to shatter three black keys that had been thrown to intercept. She back flipped as another pair flew towards her, smashing them to pieces as well. After back flipping and landing, she glared towards her interruption. Jeanne looked to her side as Amakusa casually took his place between the two servants, cautiously analyzing the saber in front of him. Six black keys materialized in his hands and he took a fighting posture, his right hand tensing to throw at a moment's notice.

"Stay back, Jeanne. Something is wrong with Arturia," Amakusa stated calmly as Martha ran up beside him, her cross-like staff materializing in her hands.

"What do you think you're doing, King of Knights?" Martha yelled. "You know that figh-"

"There is a plague," Arturia stated calmly, startling the trio. "I am the cure. I am justice."

"What are you talking about? Explain yourself this instant!" Amakusa demanded.

"Too long has it been allowed that Saber-faced jokes and teases be thrown so casually. It must end. To do so, I will become the only one! I must eliminate the other clones!" The crazed Arturia yelled, the blue swirls in her eyes causing her pupils to glow faintly. Excalibur began to glow.

Jeanne's eyes widened. "They're just jokes, Arturia! You're going to strike me ov-"

"Enough!" She yelled as she dashed forward with a swift step. Six black keys detonated against Excalibur as she swiftly destroyed the projecti-

Only to be stopped by the combined efforts of Martha's staff and Amakusa's swiftly drawn katana. The two grit their teeth as they stared into the maelstrom of fury that was Arturia Pendragon. The male counterpart quickly turned to their partially stunned friend. "Run, Jeanne! Find help to subdue her! Something is seriously wrong!"

She wanted to stay. Jeanne desperately wanted to help her friends and figure out what was happening, but he was right. She was the target, and running would be a better answer. Without further hesitation, Jeanne materialized her flag and bolted for the door. Arturia turned to attempt to cut her off only to be met by a swift strike from the male catholic. She parried the slice to her left, only to have to dodge right as Martha's cross was thrusted from behind as Jeanne escaped.

Arturia growled in frustration. "Do not keep me from righting these wrongs!"

Amakusa grit his teeth. They had to hold back considerably or they could cause massive grief for the Furniture Department, and Engineering Division in general. He could only hope Arturia, in her crazed state, still had enough sanity to limit damage to the structure as well. He began planning a safe way to deal wi-

"My wish will not be denied!" The female saber yelled before a blinding flash from Excalibur engulfed the room. The ruler and rider covered their eyes as the flash peaked, before fading away to reveal Arturia had vanished. Sensing her spiritual signature chasing Jeanne, the male ruler mentally growled. He thought to make a run and set the alarm system off, but was instantly dismayed upon realizing it was under maintenance today.

Gritting his teeth, Amakusa turned to Martha. "We need to run for help immediately as well!"

"Yeah! You got it, Shir-" Martha coughed with a slight blush on her cheeks. "I mean... I understand!"

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ IX ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Diarmuid was walking one of the many halls of Chaldea. Cu had informed him that Arturia was told he wanted to talk to her, but that was ten minutes ago. Usually she would promptly arrive when requested, but she failed to do so for the first time. The lancer had opted to leave his fellow Irish to their drinking so he could look for the particular saber, curiosity driving his steps. He'd have to apologize once more to the lancers about running out early on their drinking session, but he needed to get Arturia to appear at a certain place and time for him, Emiya, and Jeanne to surprise her tomorrow wit-

Speaking of Jeanne, wasn't that her running towards him in full sprint with her flag?

"Diarmuid!" The saint yelled as she came to a halt in front of him, fidgeting on her feet anxiously as she looked behind her. A few employees were running past the pair.

"Jeanne, calm down, what's happening?" The lancer stated as he tensed. His dual lances materialized in his hands upon recognition of another servant presence approaching rapidly from where the Maid of Orleans had appeared. It felt familiar, yet different... Had Chaldea been breached?

"It's Arturia! Something's wrong! She's trying to attack me!" She spat out quickly as her head snapped back at the approaching presence. Diarmuid's eyes widened in total shock. "Please! You have to help!"

Diarmuid swiftly pushed past her and crossed his lances in time to block a strike from Excalibur. He grit his teeth as his eyes widened even more as he gazed into the stormy blue eyes of his friend. The lancer had never seen his friend so angry before, nor her eyes so blue for that matter.

"Keep going, Jeanne! I'll hold her off!" Diarmuid yelled as he forced the saber back with a push before thrusting with Gae Buidhe to force her back further. He could hear the retreating footsteps of Jeanne behind him.

"Get out of my way, lancer!" The saber yelled in rage, making him mentally flinch. It had been a long time since she had used anything close to resembling hostile words with him, and that was from another war.

"What happened to you, Arturia!? Why are you acting like this!?" He yelled as he used Gae Dearg to deflect a slice from Excalibur that would have carved a large gash across his torso. Gritting his teeth, he deflected yet another strike.

"I am the strongest of sabers!" She declared as she struck with speed and ferocity not previously shown by the King of Knights. "I will prove this by defeating those unworthy and ending all form of mockery against me!"

"By killing our dear friend!?" Diarmuid spat out as he blocked a vicious attempt at his head with his lances. These were not sparring blows but full-fledged strikes. 'Something is definitely wrong with her. She would never do this.'

He was shaken from his thought from a swift flurry of strikes from Excalibur that came at blinding speed. The fighting style had also changed the situation dramatically as he struggled to prevent damage to the nearby walls and stop Arturia's advance.

Arturia's eyes steeled. "It is the only way left. Now. Out. of. My. Way!"

With astounding speed, without use of a prana burst, she dashed towards Diarmuid, making him raise his guard. In a split second reminiscent of their first fight, she twisted her body to throw off his aim and flew well past his guard. His eyes widened as he turned towards his fleeing adversary and began a hasty pursuit.

'I can't let her get to Jeanne!'

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ X ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

The afflicted saber's eyes narrowed. 'She's stopped running.'

Arturia dashed through the hallways gaining distance from the lancer, occasionally bowling over an employee or robot that got in the way as she continued her search. She carefully felt for the presence of nearby servants in the facility. The magecraft-laced walls made it harder to detect other servants from a distance, but with her current speed she deducted she should be near her target. Not paying attention to her current location, she continued scanning for potential signatures that were nearb-

She sensed two presences nearby that were stationary. One was roughly around the center of a large room, making occasional movements, but it was the second one that remained perfectly still that caught her suspicion. Its presence was incredibly faint, almost at the assassin level of concealment, but she found she could surprisingly detect its trace. This one was obviously trying to hide, and due to its proximity and direction of travel for the saber, she quickly assumed she found her target.

Pumping prana into her legs and into Excalibur, Arturia grit her teeth and dashed directly towards the end of the hallway where the offending wall that concealed the target stood strong.

Employees yelped and jumped out of the way in a hurry as the saber obliterated the wall in a single strike, taking out the small nook the servant was hiding in. Its enclosing walls crumbled with a cloud of smoke and flicker of lights as a new pathway between the hallway and large room was forged from the ruins. Screams echoed through the room with the sound of retreating footsteps. Standing proudly and resolutely above the debris of the walls, Arturia reached down beneath her to pluck the offending servant from the rubble, pulling her target out of the-

Her eyes widened at the sight of rough, shaggy black hair and matching beard tied with some rope. The man wore blue jeans and a white shirt that had a few game controllers making an intricate design on the front. A special cloth that acted as a presence concealing shield lay in tatters underneath the debris near his bare feet. Besides some gashes in the shirt and light scratches, the man was obviously fine, save for the half shocked, half angry look in his sharp, black pupils.

"Hey! I searched hard for that cloak!" The servant yelled at the partially stunned saber.

"You are not my target," She stated plainly as the King of Knights shoved the servant far into the larger room before passing glances down both ends of the split hallway. She had to pick quick as she sensed a certain lancer searching nearby. Choosing one of them based on her instinct, she quickly dashed down the corridor. The servant, left in a slowly disappearing cloud of dust, slowly froze at the aura of malice that emanated from the servant behind him.

He didn't need to turn back to recognize the servant in question, who glared vicious daggers into the back of her fellow pirate. Behind her, a few female employees were staring through a door to a nearby room, partially masked by the dissipating steam. The pink haired servant's only shield was a towel wrapped around her as the steam's veil began to clear, revealing the hot waters that filled the many bathes and central pool of the large room. Towel racks, showers, benches, and cleaning products made it very clear what room had been breached from the hallway, and revealed the intent of why the male servant was trying so hard to stay concealed.

'Ah shit. Well, I'm dead anyway so...'

"You have guts, Teach. But not for long," Drake growled out as she stared at the back of the male servant only a few feet away. Her feet were still enveloped by the warm waters of the central pool.

Blackbeard stood up and sighed before turning to face the angry servant. The female employees panicked as they ducked back behind the swinging doors to the nearby changing room. To her surprise, he had a straight face as he looked directly into her eyes and put his hands on his hips, definitely not the response she would expect for someone caught peeping. Their height difference was made very apparent as he stared down at her, though her fury made her seem significantly more threatening.

"I mean, can you blame me?" The man stated as he took two steps forward much to the surprise of the pirate. What came next was even more startling and knocked the anger straight out of the female pirate for a split second. She looked down towards Edward Teach's outstretched arms to find his hands softly cupping her breasts through the towel. He gently fondled the pair as he hummed to himself. The room froze over at Drake's overpowering icy glare.

"I mean, look at these cannons. These lovely twenty-four pounders. What a fine treasure. The true booty for raiding a British fleet. Just. Glorious." He stated calmly as he dropped his arms to his sides to look at the absolutely infuriated fellow rider in front of him. The male pirate smiled and let out a chuckle. "That was great! Did I really call you a hag back then? Sheesh- Oh don't look at me like that. You often say do whatever you want, right, Drake? Do what you want cause a pirate is free?"

A vicious growl was his only answer as she took a step forward, letting her blood lust pour from her eyes as she seethed at him.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. 'Worth it.'

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ XI ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Diarmuid ignored the blood curdling screams that came in the direction of the public baths as he turned a corner to face the angry gaze of Arturia. He braced his lances as he quickly got into a fighting position. As he stared at her furious form he realized she wasn't looking at him. Deciding to break an important rule in combat, he quickly looked behind him to find the target of her gaze.

Further down the hallway, stood Okita in her standard, replicated hakama she sometimes wore around Chaldea. The loose, pink sleeves hung beneath her tensed arms as she gripped her katana. Determination filled her eyes as the blade of her weapon held without wavering as she approached, the hot pink lower garments fluttering lightly as she did.

Diarmuid turned back to meet Arturia's eyes, grateful that he wasn't punished for his recklessness in that one moment. It appears that everyone else is just an obstacle in comparison to her targets. But that didn't make sense since Jeanne wasn't in the vicinity, yet she still holds the same look when gazing upon her friend earli-

"...all forms of mockery..." The lancer's eyes widened upon realization as his head shot back towards the oblivious Okita.

"We will stop you here, Arturia! You will not get to the Holy Maiden!" Okita declared proudly as she continued her approach.

"Okita! Get back! You're one of her targets as well!" Diarmuid yelled out as he turned around upon recognition of a feral growl. He braced his lances as he dashed forward to intercept Arturia's dash, her flurry of strikes beginning once more as she tried to batter his guard. Behind him, Okita wore a startled expression as a male ruler bolted down the hallway from behind her to place himself between the Shinsengumi Captain and Diarmuid.

"You're not safe here, Okita!" Amakusa yelled as he took a fighting stance with his own katana.

"Out of my way, Diarmuid!" The lancer flinched internally at the venom used when she said his name.

"Warn the others! She's targeting anyone who looks like her and possibly other sabers! We can't let her get to any of them!" Diarmuid yelled as a slice from Excalibur nicked his cheek, drawing blood. He struck Gae Buidhe towards her arms in an attempt to disable her fighting capabilities, but her new found agility let her parry the attempts like child's play. "Run Okita! Amakusa, protect her and find Scathach!"

"Y-Yes! We will warn the others!" Okita yelled as she swiftly retreated down the hallway, her temporary bodyguard following suit.

Diarmuid bashed Arturia back with his lances and took the offense. Surprised at his sudden ferocity, the saber was being driven back as the lancer manipulated his weapons with skill and grace that helped make the first knight of Fianna famous. Her flurry of blows were met with graceful parries, swift strikes, and well-practiced feints. He was glad that in her crazed state, Arturia's moves seemed to have traded some skill and power for the increased agility, which he took advantage of now that he was familiar with it.

Now if only he could land a disabling strike.

A sudden spin attack from Arturia made Diarmuid dodge backwards as the wide horizontal slice gashed the surrounding walls. Using the newly acquired space, she tried to dash through his broken guard to pursue her target only to be intercepted by the lancer who predicted the maneuver. She grit her teeth as she dodged backwards, away from a strike aimed for her right wrist with a certain golden lance.

She growled and turned around, bolting down the hallway with speed in an attempt to find another target or route. Diarmuid cursed under his breath, then swiftly chased after his friend.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ XII ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Paracelsus was working frantically in the Alchemy Room, Janice moving quickly back and forth between shelves as carefully as she could to bring him the necessary ingredient for an antidote. Something had happened to the mixture that increased its potency and duration, and he was partially at fault for letting Arturia consume a corrupted concoction. Mentally cursing himself while trying to find a reason why, he skillfully prepared an antidote. What could have gone wrong? When could it have ha-

Spartacus' interruption.

They had left the potion unattended. Mages were particularly jealous and scornful people. If there was a secret rival that had enough envy, a mix could easily be tainted for one's personal satisfaction. While he would not have any rivals of the sort considering he was idolized by the other alchemists, that left Medea and Janice. It was doubtful anyone would dare attempt to cross the Princess of Colchis. There had to be a secret rival of Janice's who wanted to see the prodigy fail, and he would find out who it was one way or another.

But the antidote came first.

"How much longer?" Martha asked from behind him, staring at the elixir sitting over a cooling stand.

"Almost ready. It's a splash potion so it doesn't need to be consumed. I'll need to deliver it myself to be sure, however. Let us hope the others are holding her off fine with the limitations they're under," He explained as he stirred the mix.

The doors to the room slid open and Martha took a fighting stance before slowly lowering it upon seeing Emiya. He had his usual skin tight, black and red battle attire and his white hair was slicked back properly. Gone was his friendly smile, replaced with the cold stare and determined grit he was known for on the field. In his hands were Kanshou and Bakuya, gripped with angry fists. Paracelsus met his glare with an even stare of his own, knowing full well he had helped make a grave mistake.

"It appears my trust was misplaced," The archer stated evenly, with an underlying current of disappointment and anger laced in his otherwise smooth words.

"I am one of those at fault. The antidote is almost ready. I will explain the rest when we are less pressed for time and I have righted this wrong," He stated evenly as he took the flask of liquid off of the cooler.

"And how do we know you aren't accidentally pouring more gas onto the fire?" The archer scoffed.

"Please, Emiya, you had no reason to doubt me before this, do not now," The caster stated in his attempts to-

"You gave me reason to, caster," Emiya retorted coldly.

The two servants stood glaring at each other. The tension could be cut with either of Emiya's blades. Martha watched the stalemate tentatively, unsure of getting herself involved. Only the saint turned when the doors opened once more and Gabrielle strolled through the doors, her arms crossed and her Magecraft uniform in pristine order. She sighed at the sight before her, guessing the exact problem instantly. Golden eyes scrutinized the two arguing servants.

"We don't have time for this! Arturia needs to be cured immediately, Emiya," She explained, eyeing the archer coolly as he turned his harsh gaze towards the orange haired employee. "I informed Roman to get Gudao to return, but because time is of the essence, that is Plan B. I have Plan A ready to roll, so if you aren't going to trust Paracelsus, then place your trust in me!"

Gabrielle finished her approach and gave a small smile and nod towards Martha. "Thank you for telling him to get working on the antidote. I had other servants to round up."

"You're welcome," Martha replied with a small nod of her own.

It was hard to perceive, but Paracelsus raised his eyebrows at the Magecraft employee. There were often jokes and choice comments thrown towards the outgoing mage, but they were equaled by the praise of having some guts and leadership skills of a promising level. He had figured a loose plan was forming among the servants when Martha informed him of the situation, but for Gabrielle to have been revealed as the mastermind was unexpected. The caster could suddenly see why she has earned the respect of many servants.

Emiya's gaze did not wither. "You best hope it works, Miss Rutherford. Saber deserves far better than this."

"It will so long as you don't mind lending me your strength," She stated simply, and after a few seconds pause was met with a small nod from the archer. "Great, thank you! Please meet us at the ambush point when the antidote is ready, Paracelsus. I need to find Diarmuid. Emiya, can you head to..."

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ XIII ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Arturia glared past the blockade of servants that blocked the hallway in front of her to a certain Roman clone behind them. Nero glared back with Jeanne close behind her, eyeing her friend warily behind the wall of lancer class servants. Diarmuid had engaged Arturia in time for the makeshift wall to form, joining in the ranks to fill in the missing gap. His companions to his sides all wore their standard battle attires, a rainbow of different colors forming an aegis for the two Arturia-faced servants behind them.

A blonde haired lancer with long hair and silver armor stood poised to his left, his green eyes glaring at the King of Knights. White cloth and blue armor pieces accented certain parts of his war gear. To his far right was a female with long maroon hair and determined red eyes, gripping a red spear visually similar to Cu Chulainn's. Her maroon body tights hugged her tightly, leaving little to the imagination with only two silver shoulder pauldrons for armor. Black, reinforced cloth woven onto the tights covered some of her more exotic regions from lustful eyes, though barely.

In the direct center with Diarmuid was a mostly naked lancer, save for a leather brief that covered his private region. A red cape flowed behind him, matching similarly colored lines that wrapped around parts of his exposed, bulging muscles. A golden shield and Greek helmet accompanied a sturdy, bronze spear. The shield was faced forward with the spear poised to thrust at a moment's notice. The servant's eyes glared at his target through the dark slits in the helmet.

Behind the line of lancers, forming a final line of defense, stood Altera with her sword poised to strike in defense of her Roman friend. She looked determined, yet a little uneasy. Her gaze shifted between Arturia and the sword before her. Still, she held firm, though her nerves were wary. She did not like the sight of Excalibur, but she didn't know why.

"You march no further, King of Knights. We hold this pass," The half-naked lancer declared.

"You will not keep me from destroying that which has brought so much grief!" She retorted and thrust an accusing finger towards the two servants behind them.

Nero glared back. "They were just jokes, Arturia! Grow a backbone already!"

"Then grow a face that doesn't mock my own!" She yelled back. "You copy my clothing. My class. My hair. My face! How dare you!"

"You were born after me, clearly you copied me!" Nero yelled back tauntingly with a smirk on her face. "Or are you just jealous of my lovely bosom?"

"Empress Nero, please don't make this worse!" The blonde haired lancer yelled, throwing a quick glance behind her.

"She started it! I always finish negotiations like a proper empress!"

"Then finish it with your ugly mug at the end of my sword, Red Saber!" Arturia yelled in anger.

"...What did you just say to me?" Nero asked in a whisper.

"You're nothing compared to me, you ugly empress! I am the best saber! Therefore I am also the most beautiful and the best leader! You are nothing before the greatest! So allow yourself to fall to my blade and end this quickly, you sorry excuse of a clone, so I may move on to the next target beside you! And take your terrible art and ear cringing singing with your fall!"

There was silence at the audacity of Arturia's claim. Some stared back with surprise and concern over the effect of the influence she was under. Others stared back with anger and determination to fix the real problem. But it was neither clashing weapons nor retorts that broke the silence.

It was a lone sniffle.

"M...My ar- My voice is... How dare you!" Nero sputtered before she began wailing, much to the surprise of most of the servants present. Jeanne quickly moved to try and calm the crying empress as she bawled, with Altera passing a glance of sad concern to her friend. It was replaced with fury when she turned back to the King of Knights.

Blue, storm filled eyes grew angrier at the sight, with Excalibur igniting with power that gusted down the hallway. "True sabers do not cry to such petty insults! You will fall here!"

"I, King Leonidas, will meet your charge, saber!" The half-naked lancer roared proudly as he bashed the shaft of his spear against the shield. "Spartans! Prepare for glory!"

He was met with incredulous looks from the Irish lancers around him.

"Fionn, Leonidas, Diarmuid. We just need to stall a bit longer," Scathach ordered calmly, reasserting control over the situation. The tension of the standoff was threatening to explode in the next instant, and she would not allow that to happen.

"Did Gabrielle say for what exactly?" Altera asked while concealing the anger, and remaining nervousness, from her voice.

"Arturia!" The entire group of servants looked past Arturia to spot the source of the outcry.

The corrupted saber turned to meet a comical sight further down the hallway, wearing a familiar blue skirt with black leggings and white blouse. Blonde hair was tied into an also familiar bun with a special strand sticking from the top of his head. The most bizarre piece of the sight was a lone mask that covered his face that looked like a copy of Arturia's. Judging by the rapier in the obviously fake saber's hands, it was clearly D'Eon. Several of the lancers kept their incredulous looks from before.

"This is her master plan?" Scathach asked with a dumbstruck tone, finally breaking her usual composure. She would have a word or ten with her orange-haired friend after this.

Diarmuid sighed. "There's no way that's going to wo-"

"What!? Another Same-faced clone!?" Arturia cried out as she dashed down the hallway towards D'Eon. "Identify yourself and perish, fiend!"

"...I don't know anymore," Diarmuid groaned in complete exasperation, but internal relief that the plan seemed to be working as D'Eon disappeared further down the hallway with an angry Arturia in pursuit.

"Scathach! Diarmuid!"

The lancer turned around with several others to find Gabrielle running towards them her side ponytail flailing above her shoulder. "We're going to need your help for the next part."

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ XIV ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

To Arturia's frustration, D'Eon proved to be a skilled swordsman who swiftly parried all her strikes while making a run through the now empty hallways. They had been making turn after turn, shooting down staircases and then up others as the effeminate Frenchman seemed to be leading her in random directions. Thankfully the absurd ruse had yet to fail as Arturia's blinding rage forced her to chase the 'clone' that stayed within striking distance. The maddening chase seemed to draw to a close when the Arturia look-alike sped up down a straight hallway towards a blinding light at the end.

Prana flooded the King's legs as she used a burst to shoot down the hallway after the saber, following him out the door and into the surrounding snowy mountains. To the crazed saber's satisfaction, the target kept within visual distance as they bounded further and further away from the structure. Sensing something was amiss, the King of Knights bolted towards her target to end the chase quickly, closing distance as D'Eon crested a saddle and leapt towards a familiar, circular clearing.

'You want your end in the battleground, eh?' Arturia thought as she grit her teeth, using another Prana burst to close the final distance towards D'Eon, clearing the raised walkway in a single vault and swinging Excalibur down to stri-

Her eyes widened as she used a mid-air emergency burst to fling herself backwards. Red projectiles penetrated the ground in front of her, tearing up snow. She dodged backwards quickly as the rain of swift, red projectiles followed her path, inching closer with every mom-

She dashed left as the rain of arrows turned to follow her. Gritting her teeth and sensing the source of the incoming fire, she looked towards a nearby mountain top to-


She had raised Excalibur instantly to parry a flanking strike from a red spear. In an instant the user appeared from the opposite flank, sending a horizontal strike to her legs which she quickly blocked before he re-positioned behind her in a split second. The lance was spun as its user thrust towards the saber, forcing her to dodge through the incoming rain of arrows. Swinging Excalibur furiously, she managed to deflect several incoming projectiles, taking only minor tears in her clothing, as she landed safely on the other side.

The incoming fire stopped as the glow of Gae Bolg appeared through the cloud of debris sent aloft by the bombardment. Arturia glared at the offending servant as he cleared the debris cloud, casually strolling forward. Cu Chulainn stopped and took a fighting stance, angling Gae Bolg towards the ground as he grinned at the King of Knights.

"No hard feelings, Arturia. But this needs to end. Let's just consider it a fun spar, how about it? I always like those."

"Chaldea is plagued by mockeries of my very existence!"

"I wouldn't really say plagued," He shrugged. "Were the jokes really that bad? I could stop after this is over."

"I don't believe you, villain! I am the hero that will save Chaldea fro-"

She dodged right as a powerful arrow penetrated the ground where she stood, detonated the earth, and sent snow flying. Arturia glared towards the red-clad archer on the mountaintop, his expression tense as he held another arrow knocked on his jet-black bow.

"Less talking, dog," Emiya growled in frustration, making the blue haired lancer glare back towards him. "I don't want this delayed any further."

"Your cooking is the only thing that gives you any of my time, bastard."

Arturia dodged back and growled as more arrows penetrated the ground in front of her, sending her airborne. She swiftly parried a blow from Cu who had followed her flight path with a thrust. As they landed, Cu rapidly began engaging the saber as she furiously swung Excalibur to disengage from th-

She ducked backwards as an arrow sliced through the air were her torso wa-


Excalibur impacted a rapier as Arturia swiftly dodged backwards and eyed D'Eon with a glare, the mask now gone and replaced with his usual determined look. 'Three against one, huh? A fitting fight for the best saber.'

"I will defeat you and carry on with my mission!"

An arrow was deflected as she rapidly swung Excalibur to meet the swift blows from D'Eon and Cu. She jumped to dodge a sweep from the red lance as she back-flipped over a slice from D'Eon, sending a chop down towards the opposing saber which was swiftly blocked by a parry from the rapier. She dodged away from the incoming riposte, turning her body to intercept an arrow from Emiya as another grazed her side. It sliced through her jacket and drew some blood.

Arturia winced as she glared towards her friend, pumping a large amount of prana into her legs before jetting towards him at blinding speed. She grit her teeth in frustration as she swung Excalibur to block incoming arrows. She brought the blade down harshly and releasing built up prana.

Emiya casually jumped as his perch exploded where he once stood, his maneuver sending him towards the battlefield. He swiftly traced a unique arrow with a spiraled tip, firing the projectile into the peak near Arturia causing it to explode with considerably more smoke than usual. As his bow de-materialized it was replaced by his favorite blades. He threw both in a wide arc before tracing a new pair, hearing when his friend shattered the two thrown blades in the smoke cloud before landing next to a readied Cu and D'Eon.

"Get another firing perch, bastard. Too many in close comba-"

"Good grief. I said less talking."

"You've gotta be- You need to get your smug ass back out of range, now!"

"I don't see any command seals on your hand."

The lancer threw a glare and growled at the red arche- He dashed towards Emiya.

The red lance swung up and deflected a blow from Arturia aimed at the archer, the dash coming far faster than the three servants had expected. Without missing a beat, Kanshou and Bakyua were swiftly swung in graceful arcs, aiming for the clenched knuckl-

A swift burst of invisible air knocked the pair away from the crazed saber as she used the energy to bound herself backwards. She grit her teeth as she swung Excalibur to the side, parrying a follow up strike from D'Eon. With rapid speed and precision, D'Eon delivered a bombardment of thrusts towards the airborne saber, with most being blocked by the golden sword while the rest tore her jacket, revealing the white shirt underneath.

Arturia landed and swung horizontally at D'Eon who ducked underneath and thrust once more, forcing the King to dodge backwards again, pouring lots of prana into her blade as she deflected an incoming twin strike from the red archer, his blades shattering upon impact. Two new ones quickly formed in his hands as he swiftly struck in dual wielding precision, which she deftly blocked before he leapt backwards to gain distance. Tensing her legs to pursue an-

She swiftly brought her blade behind her to stop a swing from Gae Bolg before dashing forward to clear herself from a whirling follow up strike.

The saber was intercepted once more by the red archer who deftly flanked the crazed saber. To the opposite flank, Cu appeared, Gae Bolg spinning violently in a vertical rotation as it approached Arturia. The saber swiftly struck Gae Bolg to change its strike path before swiftly pivoting to smash twin slashing blades away from her legs. Spinning once more she deflected a thrust from Gae Bolg that appeared from a different angle then turned to skillfully intercept a blade coming down from above and another from the side.

The whirling dance continued as the lancer and archer struggled to prevent intercepting the other while attempting to disable the King of Knights. With a golden glow, Arturia launched a violent spin attack, simultaneously releasing invisible air to push the two allies away from her. D'Eon observed in a fighting stance from the side, unable to find a proper time to engage without making things more difficult. Cu cursed under his breath and glared at Emiya who had landed on the opposite side of Arturia.

"You're making this difficult! Get some distance already!"

"When I need to," Emiya shot back with a huff. "And when do you not make things difficult yourself, Lancer."

"Quit the bickering! Now is not the time!"

The four servants glanced towards a familiar employee standing at the saddle leading to Chaldea. Next to her stood Amakusa and Scathach, weapons drawn and ready to defend her at a moment's notice.

Using magecraft to help amplify her voice, she pointed at Arturia and declared, "We're stopping your rampage here!"

"Not until I-"

"Emiya! Cu Chulainn!" The magus employee interrupted. Arturia turned her attention back to the tri-

There were only two. Looking up quickly she saw the lancer had suddenly gained considerable height, Gae Bolg glowing red with a surge of energy. His posture was partially leaned back, his eyes locked onto the crazed saber as the prana being exerted from his spear multiplied by the second. 'I can't let him throw that!'

Arturia rocketed towards the lancer, Excalibur glowing blue as she prepared to strike before he could fire off the noble phantas-

Gae Bolg stopped charging and he dashed towards her, meeting her in midair with a fierce blow that caused a shock wave to disturb the snow falling around them. Arturia fell towards the battleground and righted her posture before impact, landing gracefully as D'Eon swung his blade, slamming against Excalibur and locking it into place. The blue lancer landed and readied Gae Bolg, but he didn't move as he studied Arturia. Preparing to disengage from D'Eon she began pumping her dwindling prana into her legs to swiftly disenga-

She heard it and leapt prematurely, dodging a volley of arrows that sliced through the air where she had previously been. As she dodged backwards, she glanced Cu charging Gae Bolg once more with energy before rocketing towards her with a swift thrust that- it would have pierced her if she didn't prana burst once more, her reserves now nearly dry from the sudden expenditures.

From her right flank she spotted Diarmuid as he made his charging approach, Gae Buidhe coming within inches of her wrists as she dashed backwards once more towards the steep drop-off that was quickly approaching; She was running out of dodge room. She swung Excalibur violently, the shockwave of energy from a suddenly formed and then destabilized invisible air forcing the two lancers far back towards the others.

She swiveled as a servant teleported on her other flank, causing her eyes to widen as she caught sight of a hurled flask racing towards her, only a few feet and closing. She saw an incoming arrow from Emiya on an interception course with container to break it, sending whatever was insi- 'No!'

Excalibur ignited, sending blue prana gushing from its blade as she swung at the offending container, incinerating it, its contents, and the incoming arrow in one swing. The impact also sent a surprised Paracelsus to the ground for cover, the attack singing his robes. Arturia was panting as the smoke from the snow cleared, her stormy blue eyes glancing at the servants around her.

"Shit!" Cu exclaimed as he grit his teeth.

"She shouldn't have been able to do that!" Paracelsus whispered as he picked himself up and backed away from the servant who was now glaring daggers at him. "You should be out of usable magical energy to fight!"

"You underestimated the greatest saber!" She roared as Excalibur lit up with energy once more as she prepared to swing it down at the caster. Amakusa began charging spells from the distance but they wouldn't reach her in time, nor would Emiya's arrows as he swiftly began knocking a new arrow to send airborne. Arturia's downward slice came down as Paracelsus attempted to dodge backwards while drawing his blade, too late to chant a short ranged teleport spell. His close combat skills weren't going to save him from the vicious blow that came down violently.

"Paracelsus!" Gabrielle cried out in horror. Scathach was about to make the blinding dash, but her eyes widened in the last second.

Cu Chulainn and Diarmuid slowed their charges to a stop and grinned as the blow was intercepted by another blade. The long, silver claymore with black handle glowed with power as it held back the legendary Excalibur. A black under layer of clothing with red accents contrasted against the silver armor pieces of the newly arrived saber, his black cape and long, white hair blowing with the mountain winds. His white eyes gazed into Arturia's stormy blue ones with calm determination. The green glow from his exposed chest illuminated the closely falling snow, mixing with the golden and bluish light from Excalibur and the white from Balmung.

"No one is underestimating you, Eure Majestät. This is over. Cease and desist, King of Knights."

She grit her teeth and glared at Siegfried, one of the sabers said to rival her in legend and power. She could feel her energy reserves approaching depletion, but if she had enough energy to defeat this one saber then she could at least prove her worth to Master as the best. 'I could then take my time to defeat the clones when the time arose! Yes! This will wo-'

A cloaked figure ascended from the drop-off behind Arturia, the cloth fanned out in the form of makeshift wings. A feminine hand clenched a jagged dagger as it shined brightly.

"Rule Breaker!"

Her vision went dark.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ XV ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Jeanne stared worried at her friend beside her, who breathed slowly with a look of regret, sadness, and anger defining her features.

Her tattered clothes had been replaced with a loose blue shirt and matching sweat pants. The pair sat on the edge of the King's bed, but it was far from comfortable. Quietly, Arturia held her emotions in check even if they shined in her eyes like a small blaze. Yet, she held herself together, even if those who knew her understood what lay beneath the composed veil. Through the crack in the door, Emiya and Diarmuid stood leaning against opposite walls of the hallway and occasionally passing glances into the room.

Jeanne reached out and rubbed her friend's back as she let out another long breath. "You never meant them to begin with. It's alright, Arty."

"…But I can never take back my shameful actions… What I did was…"

"It's not your fault. Roman has already figured out what really happened."


Jeanne slowly placed her hand atop her friend's own. "You're still my friend, Arturia. I'm sure the others will forgive you too. You shouldn't worry about it!"

She let out yet another controlled breath, but Jeanne quickly reached out to pull her friend into a hug. Though she was stiff in her hold, Arturia raised one of her slender arms to gently hold the other servant's own. Still, her glare penetrated the floor with the tornado of emotions that wrecked her thoughts within. Her eyes narrowed ever so slightly as she grit her teeth at the damage she'd caused, and the likely scar against her name.

Emiya sighed in frustration. To see his former servant and dear friend in any distressing state was always aggravating. To only partial relief, the King of Knights was handling the situation well through a mix of emotions rather than adding to her mountain of past regrets… but if he had a choice, he'd obviously rather see a smile. He looked towards Diarmuid in front of him as the lancer glanced back while shaking his head slightly. It obviously didn't sit well for him either.

They can only hope Chaldea's leadership was dealing out appropriate punishment to those involved in this disaster.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ XVI ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

"…Then that's it then. No one is totally at fault. It was a giant chain of snowballing events," Gudao sighed as he rubbed his temple with one hand. Before him stood Medea and Paracelsus, with the recently caught, self-proclaimed rival of Janice standing slightly away from them with his gaze directed elsewhere.

Gudao stood next to the doctor on the other side of the hallway, joined by one of Chaldea's first heroic spirits. The caster had one hand on her hip, and her mechanical gauntlet gripped a large staff topped with rings that projected a prism of prana. The inventor wore her standard Renaissance era outfit in vibrant red and blues that she used in battle. She used a hand covered in a blue, silk glove to brush some of her black hair behind her shoulder. Her blue eyes glared at the employee across from her as the iron grip on her staff tightened.

"But there still needs to be consequences so this doesn't happen again," Roman stated with crossed arms as he stared at his two servants in the hallway. "I'm placing a temporary ban on any new use of potions and elixirs within the facility unless express consent is given by the receivers and I am properly informed."

"Paracelsus." The male caster looked at the unofficial, acting director. Roman's expression remained calm. "You and mages in the Alchemical Room can no longer leave any mix unattended. Please be more scrutinizing yourself in determining what is being made. I do not want any repeats of this."


The female caster reluctantly looked to her master, shame very much present in her eyes. "Though it was meant to be a prank, the series of events caused it to spiral out of control. The fact of the matter is you're one those who consistently picked on Arturia. You're banned from doing anything of the sort to anyone, and are ordered to find a proper way to make it up to Arturia by tomorrow afternoon. Her birthday should not be a sad day and I worry for her spirits. I will ask Naomi and Vlad to keep a closer watch on you as well."

"...Understood, Gudao," she said quietly and let out a relieved sigh. 'I got off light.'

Gudao's glare was joined by Doctor Roman's and Leonardo's as they glared at the employee, who flinched at the sudden intensity.

"And you. You've broken the strict code of conduct forged by the founders of Chaldea and purposefully tampered with an alchemical mix for ill purposes. The results, while severe, could have been far worse. You are hereby banned from using the Alchemical Room. You are also sentenced to a month in the brig," the doctor stated without any hesitation. "We'll find a new position for your skills in time."

The employee nodded reluctantly in understanding.


The two servants quietly turned and walked down the hallway as two security robots appeared to take the employee down the opposite direction. These two had one of their arms replaced with what appeared to be a gun. A blue lasso of pure energy shot out from one arm of a robot and secured itself onto the wrist of the employee.

"Letting the servants off a little easy, Gudao..." Da Vinci stated plainly as she passed a subtly disapproving glance at the master.

"If I think of something more suitable as punishment, I will inform them. But Paracelsus was deceived, and Medea meant it as an embarassing prank at first. Now if you don't mind, there's someone I have to thank before I talk to Drake about causing the only casualty of note during this disaster."

As Gudao left down another corridor, Roman let out a sigh that caught Da Vinci's attention. The inventor raised an eyebrow as the doctor pulled out a notepad and began scribbling.

"I'm going to throw a memo into the system that any 'saber-face' jokes are completely banned. Last thing I want to see is some sort of relapse."

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"It still failed…" Gabrielle said dejectedly as she gazed out the window of the Salon at the falling snow; It danced in her orange eyes as she played with her orange ponytail. Her gaze remained firmly planted on the faded reflection of herself in the window as Gudao sat across from her at a salon booth. Though she looked a bit disappointed, he remained firm.

"Doesn't change the fact your initiative stopped anyone… I mean anyone besides Blackbeard from getting hurt. Many of the servants agree you helped organize the effort, and I'm happy it was you," Gudao stated as he looked at his closest friend and chuckled.

That grabbed her attention instantly and made her turn back. "What's so funny?"

"Just find it humorous that the tactical rumors of the "resident pervert" are gaining traction. If only they knew how much of a genius you really are."

"And you don't remind them?"

"Of course I do! But no one takes my opinion on you too seriously… Like I'm just defending my pervy best friend like I should be!"

She puffed her cheeks in annoyance. "Oh? Am I not allowed to appreciate the fine wildlife?"

"…That's what you're annoyed about?" He laughed as she rolled her eyes. "Seriously though, Gabby… thank you. I appreciate it. So does Chaldea for that matter."

"Don't sweat it... Last thing I want is to see the last light of humanity snuffed out by an intended prank, let alone my best friend being buried in the mountain of ensuing paperwork for that matter."

"There's still a lot of paperwork after this."

The Magecraft Division employee huffed and looked her best friend in the eye. "Seriously, you work far too much. Take some time off already. How about a day for once instead of an hour? Hang out and play sports with us sometime or something. Go play video games with Tyler and... Hell! I don't know, anything!"

"Yes, yes, mom," Gudao rolled his eyes as he got up to find Mashu, but chuckled as Gabby threw some of the table napkins at him. She always was as temperamentally immature as many people claim her to be, but also has some tactical impulses and can take the initiative without hesitation... not to mention she also had master potential. At least a lot of servants respect her on a level most other employees can only dream of reaching with a few.

Maybe that lesser known nickname from the few Japanese staff really does hold some water if those facts had anything to prove.

'Ko-Gudao Gabby huh... There's a teasing nickname in there somewhere... Gudao-ko? Kudao? Nah...'

Chapter Text

Arturia watched silently as a small squad of robots continued setting up scaffolding for the demolished wall. Thanks in part to yesterday's events, the women's baths wouldn't be seeing much use anytime soon. A passing employee gave her a sidelong glance, but nothing that sent waves of guilt through her. It was simply curiosity about what was going through her mind as she looked upon one result of her actions. Maybe they wondered if she even remembered any of it in her haze.

…To her chagrin, she remembered all of it well.

The King of Knights wished the potion would have blinded her to her actions, but the potions heavy suggestive influence had other ideas. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she knew what she was doing went against everything she stood for, yet her emotions seized full control of the wheel. It was the equivalent of watching a horror movie without being able to switch the channel, but the consequences were very much real.

"No spa for a week... Shame. Drinking and bathing in a bathtub isn't the same."

There was a pang of guilt driven through her thoughts, but she ignored it as she turned to face the musing rider. Drake gazed casually towards her only a few meters away, wearing a simple pink shirt and jeans. She seemed to inspect the King of Knights for a moment, noting her highly unusual choice of clothing compared to her usual garb. It seemed the young blonde didn't feel like putting much effort into her look based on the loose ponytail and matching blue sweats.

"Bah… Being hard on yourself? I wouldn't feel bad about this if I were you... Hell, I should be thanking a fellow British legend if anything!" Drake laughed with a smirk. Arturia simply remained composed and curious where she stood. "The bastard deserved it every time he's caught, and you know it… Though I guess I'll admit, he gets some credit for his persistence."

Arturia eyed the Pirate while she approached, turned, and threw her arm over the smaller girl. "I'll bet he'll take a little longer break this time around... Dirty perv."

"I guess so..."

"I owe you an extra drink later. Your choice! Feel free to redeem the little coupon whenever!" Drake winked at the girl before patting her back. "Ah… and Happy Birthday, Arturia! Don't let the past sully a day worth partying over! Enjoy the hell out of yourself and live for the moments ahead!"

The pirate began walking down the hallway, leaving the small blonde to her thoughts. Like a broken record, she had apologized profusely to many yesterday, including master, Nero, and Okita. Much to her surprise, they had practically forgiven her on the spot and cited the potion as the real culprit. Emiya had jokingly threatened to limit her dessert servings after her birthday, but quickly retracted the statement when she thought he was being serious.

In truth, she felt… dissatisfied that they'd been so forthcoming. She personally didn't feel like she should have been forgiven so easily and quickly; She could have hurt someone. She'd put humanity's last hopes in danger, and yet… that was all there was to it for them. It was just another accident they were willing to look past. Another reminder that she was still much to stern and beholden to past beliefs and experiences. Perhaps loosening up more, as her friends suggested, would do her some good.

Releasing a sigh, Arturia began walking away from the baths to follow her master's 'order' to enjoy her birthday. 'Hopefully breakfast is extra tasty…'

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Fragment 10: That Sweet Sound

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A tiny smile graced Arturia's lips as she sat in her room. She was wrapping up her daily cleaning of Excalibur while humming. To her surprise and delight, Emiya had personally cooked breakfast for her, and a large one at that. It had taken her record time to indulge herself in the meal like a famished wanderer, much to the usual amusement of those around her. Riding the hopeful high that the day was already turning out well, she decided to return to her room for a bit to do her usual daily routine.

The King of Knights leaned over towards a small, stone pedestal positioned at the foot of her bed with a slit carved into its top. Carefully positioning Excalibur, she placed it into its pedestal where it properly sat in full glory, mimicking what Caliburn had once done so many centuries ago. The sword shined as a few accent lights in the base lit up, letting the blade bask in extra golden glory. Content that her sword was cleaned, she took a moment to appreciate her room's newest furnishings that her friends suggested.

She had two of them requisitioned, with each being its own unique design and meaning. The left most one was blue with gold trim, and was adorned with the honored crests of each of her famed knights. The right was in white with black trim, and held small designs resembling crests placed upon it to represent different servants. If the blue one was her former companions, then the white one was her current in Chaldea. She smiled lightly; Diarmuid always had some pretty interesting décor ideas.

The rest of her room was relatively ordinary, but she preferred it that way. A simple display shelf to hold assorted tokens, craft coins, and assorted pictures. On the wall beside it was a large artist's rendition of Camelot, though if you asked the King herself she found it a little less ornate than the real one. To relax comfortably with any visiting friends, there was a set of oak chairs, beige sofa, and glass coffee table.

Though comfort for guests was at Jeanne's suggestion, the little minifridge disguised as a chest was Emiya's lone contribution… and her favorite. It beckoned to her from beside the closet, but she could resist. The snacks paled in comparison to Emiya's cooking, so her resolve remained stalwart like her armor on its display stand beside it… or… maybe she could sneak one little snack. It was her birthday after-

A knock on her door shook the saber out of her thoughts. Sensing a servant behind the door, she quickly walked over so she wouldn't keep them waiting. Upon feeling for any telltale signs of the servant's signature presence, a frown was slowly etched onto her expression; The day had been starting off rather well too. With a slow but silent exhale, she pressed the button beside the door and let it slide open.

"Yes?" Her voice was composed and calm, even if she slightly clenched her fists in frustration. There was no mistaking this presence for how many times she felt it.

"...May I come in?"

She slowly let out a breath as she considered the answer. A few seconds passed before she stepped to the side so Medea may enter the room. As she quickly stepped in, the caster's purple halter dress with a small white throw over waved gently with her strange movement. Arturia, both curious and guarded, stared at Medea, whose gaze remained out into the hallway while she kept her arms behind her back suspiciously. It was only when the doors close did Arturia's eyes narrow slightly.

"…Is there something you wanted to say, Medea?" Arturia asked slowly as she cautiously stared at her arms for any sudden movement. After what she helped to do yesterday, she wasn't about to trust the caster's current motives. However, that didn't stop her from curiously noting how her eyes seemed to glint with genuine apology. Even her fidgeting lent itself to that notion alongside her clearly uncomfortable state of being.

For the Witch of Betrayal to even dare show this sort of perceived weakness to anyone was enough of a surprise.

"I made some... big mistakes yesterday," Medea began as Arturia crossed her arms, making the princess sigh loudly. "…Yes... That was an understatement. I did mean to prank you, but not to that severity. So… I'm sorry… Things spiraled well out of control and I am responsible for that."

Medea kept her eyes stiff and faced away; An apology was the last thing anyone, save for a scarce few, could ever hope to receive from the usually distant caster. It honestly shocked Arturia, who had nothing but bad experiences with her from any of her recollected summonings in Fuyuki. For her to openly apologize and take responsibility was strange, and left many question, but… was honestly welcome.

"I almost ruined Chaldea, our... mutual home over a teasing joke." It still sounded like Medea was uncomfortable giving any sort of apology, but at the very least, it sounded genuine to the saber. "…I shouldn't have done that. At our master's and my friend's request… I'll stop. Completely. No more ill will."

The tension had left Arturia, though she remained surprised at the turn of events. She had mixed feelings with Medea since the older woman tended to tease her when a window opened itself. It was never meant in outright harm, and the two did have a civil conversation on a rare occasion where they had to, but they wouldn't go out of their way to interact with the other. She had honestly expected the caster to take much longer with the apology if one even came… but it was apparent she misjudged the princess severely.

"You don't have to forgive me. What happened to you yesterday was terrible and I almost cost you friendships you hold dear… I know what it's like to have those dear to you turn away, and I wouldn't wish that upon others who don't deserve it… and there are plenty more deserving than you."

The caster shifted and brought her hands forward from behind her back. Arturia was taken back by the white dress she presented; It must have taken a long time to craft. The design of the strapless dress was much more ornate than any in her wardrobe, and its blue accents pleased the eye. It came paired with a sapphire bow for her hair which rested on the hanger. Arturia reached out and held the presented dress, taking in every ornate detail that was knit into its form. It was so beautiful it could even pass as a simpler wedding dress.

"Naomi helped me finish it last night. It was my short-term secret project I thought you'd like as a gift... without wrapping... I didn't know how you'd feel about something given by me without knowing what it is," a partially ashamed Medea explained as she looked away.

"It's... It's so beautiful," she breathed.

"We worked on it for two weeks, and Vlad pitched in too… We made it extra ornate, fitting for a true royal as the prince stated."

She studied the female caster through her peripheral vision, noting how she kept her gaze purposefully away. Admittedly the young king didn't pay much attention to the powerful magus, but facts were facts. She was now an ally and not trying to openly manipulate her, plus they hadn't fought together all that often. She only really paid attention when she sensed a tease incoming.

…But observing her secretly now, she found pleasant changes.

The air of malice was almost completely gone, replaced by a glimpse of what she can only assume was the Medea before the manipulations and betrayals. It was no wonder her presence felt so familiar yet different when she tried to discern it through the door. She silently gave thanks to her little group of friends that managed to bring the best out of the previously churlish and devious caster. At least she didn't have to deal with her more… questionable methods of torture anymore.

Arturia smiled towards the older woman, "…Thank you, Medea."

Medea looked at the smaller girl hopefully. "Arturia... you…?"

"Yes. I like it," Arturia said softly as she turned the dress around to look at the back before adding. "And I shall forgive you. I only request you do truly stop the teasing."

Medea opened her mouth but Arturia held up her free hand to stop her. "I've forgiven people for far worse actions against me."

"...Thank you, Arturia," Medea stated and bowed slightly with a tiny smile now on her lips. "Once more, I'm sorry. It was a little... difficult for me to do something like this."

"I can imagine for you. No offense," she smiled lightly. It was nice to see the Witch of Betrayal's sincere personality more often. Some change was good. "…But you said this was your project? Not Naomi's?"

Suddenly, Medea flushed noticeably, and Arturia's eyebrows rose ever so slightly in shock. A flustered Medea? That was easily the last thing she ever expected to see, yet there she was… looking embarrassed. "…Yes, well… I had some ideas that I thought would… look really cute on you."

She said the last part so quietly, a human wouldn't have picked it up; Arturia was a servant. Her smile grew slightly as Medea fought to throw her blush aside. To the caster's relief, she managed to win, even if she did look a bit uncomfortable under Arturia's small smile. "Then this isn't the only one?"

Medea slowly nodded, and then curiously raised a new point. "Um, there is one more thing... I'd just like to ask. It's a request, of sorts."

Arturia looked at the older woman. "Yes?"

There was a small pause, and a tiny shift of feet. "Would you... like to help Naomi and I with new dress designs? You'd be a model for them of course, but not to an audience... just for us to get a look at how some new dresses may look..."

"So... you want to dress me up on occasion?" the smaller girl asked with amusement laced into her voice. Medea shifted on her feet again at having her interest caught red handed and fiddled with her hands more. It seemed some things don't change. "To try some of your new designs?"

"W-Well to be fair, you're adorable, and there's a lot of styles Naomi wishes to try now that she's turned into quite the fashion designer…" Medea attempted to deflect. It clearly wasn't working but she continued anyway. "Naomi thought it would also be a good way for us to truly make amends for our past Grail War. I just thought I would ask, but you don't have to answer now…"

Arturia's smile grew.

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"Where are you taking me?" Arturia asked as she looked around; It was useless with a blindfold wrapped loosely around her. To match her uplifted mood, she changed into one of her blue sundresses, though she kept the ponytail after she and Medea had a surprisingly long conversation in her room about fashion; Her passion for it was surprising. Diarmuid had been surprised to find both of them there talking and laughing, but it had been a pleasant encounter for her birthday.

It had to be cut short, because Arturia had somewhere she needed to be apparently. The lancer behind her kept both his hands on her shoulders as they walked. He'd looked dashing as always when he came to get her in a light green polo with jeans, but to be fair, the Celtic knight was usually dashing in anything he wore. His smile was remained his best feature as he kept it tight on his lips while he maneuvered his curious friend. "I can still sense servants, Diarmuid."

Diarmuid rolled his eyes as he turned them down a new hallway, much to the entertainment to any witness. "That's fine, King of Knights. It doesn't matter if you do."

"Is food involved?"

"No. No this time." Diarmuid laughed as Arturia pouted quietly.

Left. Right. Another Right. Left.

After several more turns and a stairway, they made their way down a hallway until Diarmuid gently stopped the small girl. With a small whisper to wait, the lancer walked down the hallway a little further and into a room with the slide of an automated door. To Arturia's curiosity, she could no longer hear any employees or robots in the area, and only sensed the few servants and her master in the room ahead. She heard the sliding doors open once more and listened to his seemingly excited return.

"Right this way," Diarmuid whispered as he slowly walked the small king into the room ahead. Once inside, the only thing she heard was a radio playing classical music from somewhere in the room. It felt welcoming, but otherwise confusing for what sort of surprise show rested beyond the curtains.

"You may remove the blindfold, Arturia."

"Thank you, Gudao," she replied as the occupants of the room collectively held their breaths.

She removed her blindfold, and let her eyes quickly adjust to the light again; They froze as she got her bearings, but the room would never have enticed that reaction. It was just one of the simply designed Chaldean break room for staff. This one belonged to the Magecraft Division as evidenced by the number of sorcery books on one of the three tables with accompanying swivel chairs.

A radio rested on another one, while the Gudao, Mashu, and Doctor Roman sat at another in their standard Chaldean uniforms. Fou sat curled in a ball on their table, looking curiously with a tilted head at Arturia. Paracelsus stood in his robes just behind them with Janice at his side fiddling with the oversized tie on her uniform. Eyes were locked on her, but hers had yet to turn to them.

All of them waited carefully and in concern, for it was not them who caused her to freeze, but the servant sitting on the lone couch at the back of the room.

The man wore tan slacks with black formal shoes that squeaked gently against the floor as he stood. He wore a white collared shirt with a black blazer over it, and kept his fair-skinned hands folded before him. His familiar black eyes gazed back into hers to send a surge of nostalgia and memories coursing under her skin. A mix of emotions fighting for control over the man's composed expression, barely hidden by the long purple hair that reached behind him.

"…My King."

"Sir Lancelot..."

"Thanks to Paracelsus and some assistance by Roman and Scathach, we found a work around potion for Lancelot's mad enhancement," Gudao explained carefully while eyeing the knight as he approached Arturia slowly. "You've had a terrible time yesterday, Arturia… so I'm very glad we were able to figure this out this morning. If all turns out well… you won't have to worry about his mad enhancement again."

"I have already given you my apology, which I am grateful you have accepted, but I had yet to give you a gift. I hope it is well received," Paracelsus explained quietly with a nod. "Everything that has happened recently still bears heavily on my mind. Hopefully one of your knights can help alleviate that better than any of us."


Arturia was at a loss of words. They had kept Lancelot as far away from her as possible due to his reactions in her presence. The last time she had seen her closest knight was during the Fourth Holy Grail War, and that had been a moment she never wanted to relive. Now… Now he was here, in her presence again, but in complete sanity of mind from what she could see. It was him… It was really Lancelot.

It brought back fond memories just looking at him. The many battles and feasts of the Round Table where they were merry and united... Toasting to the victories of Gawain, or for Galahad who had returned from his own quest... From the antics of Percival to the considerate actions of Bedivere, just having one of her knights present again made warm memories of Camelot surface in renewed, vivid detail.

Those same memories were the very reason it was so painful to have Camelot collapse before her eyes. She had taken it heavily, and it was only made worse when she saw Lancelot's own, chaotic eyes after Iskandar's reprimanding at the banquet. This had been what she had sowed into their legend… but now, things were looking up again, if only as a torch in the night. He could talk with her now… after everything that's happened, so they may both find closure. It made her happy.

Lancelot looked uncertain as he took a step forward tentatively. "Your majesty, please… You do not nee-"

He was interrupted by the small king sniffling, but a tear didn't fall; She kept her flood of emotions in check well. Before he could react, Arturia had looked up with a small smile gracing her lips as she stared at the greatest of her knights. Lancelot was left speechless as he stared at his King. Diarmuid leaned against the counter and smiled at the sight, with Mashu still observing carefully in case something happened. Roman was tense in case any extreme emotions would cause a relapse, but in all honesty, everyone was aware how paranoid he usually got.

"…I'm glad. It pained me to see my greatest knight in sheer agony that I have caused."

"You were never to blame," the knight began, letting out a long breath. "There's still much I don't understand… Your decisions. Your forgiveness. I never deser-"

"My decision about you and Gwen stands, Sir Lancelot." Arturia interrupted as her smile faded slightly. "You don't need to understand now, but you do not need to apologize to me. I forgive you. I'll always forgive you and Gwen."

"But my king-!"

"Lancelot… If you are to agonize over anything, it is how you may apologize to your fellow knights should they be summoned."

Lancelot paused. He nodded slowly, and she could see the thoughts racing through his mind. Facing Gawain was going to be beyond difficult after what he had done to his brothers, and he would no doubt be her famous knight's hardest obstacle. There was also Mordred to consider, but many more had issues with that knight. Her whole table of heroes had become so fractured… and she wondered if they were all summoned, could they find a way to mend the breaks? How would she even start to try…?

Her knight was just as troubled as she was. "I still do not feel…"

"If you are still troubled by my decision and find yourself unworthy," Arturia began in an authoritative tone. She paused slightly when she met his gaze firmly. In truth, she steeled her voice to reassure herself as much as him. "...then make yourself worthy by serving by my side once more as my greatest knight."

Arturia wished to make things clear. They were on the same side once more, and what better way to redeem himself then to right his wrongs fighting loyally at the king's side for the sake of humanity itself? If he didn't feel he was worthy of redemption, he would become worthy and make things right for himself through action. That could be his new personal mission now that he had clarity of mind once more.

Fou chirped happily with a small sparkle in its eyes. Lancelot's eyes lit up in acknowledgment. She could see the recognition and subtle hope in his eyes. They mixed and waged war against the despair, shame, and guilt within. It would not be a battle won this day, but she'd done what she needed to: She helped reassure him a path exists, and things could improve again.

With a smile, she found herself glad he had accepted the proposition. Lancelot slowly dropped to one knee and bowed his head, closing his eyes as he breathed in swiftly. "King Arthur, greatest of kings…! On my honor, I, Lancelot du Lac, ask to once more serve at your side and prove my loyalty! Let me fight in your name and help shine what has been tarnished! Allow me the honor of being your sword! I shall not put your faith in me to question ever again!"

Arturia's smile grew even more that day. "It is my honor to accept your request. Rise, my faithful knight… but there is one last declaration you must heed..."

Sir Lancelot lifted his head in uncertainty. He found himself facing a regal smile she had never displayed before. "Though I was known as King Arthur… You know my name is Arturia Pendragon. Let it be thus henceforth."

He slowly smiled. "Understood, my king."

Diarmuid chuckled at the scene in front of him as Mashu lightly clapped with Roman. Turning her head slightly, Mashu stared at Gudao who watched the scene and clapped slowly with a distant, almost mourning look in his eyes. Roman also noticed and stopped cherring to look towards their mutual friend with complete curiosity. Slowly, all eyes of the room turned upon Gudao who was shaken from his thoughts upon becoming the new center of attention. It also helped Fou had come up to lick his cheek.

"…Is something wrong, Senpai?" Mashu asked quietly.

"I was just thinking about, um… the future with Lancelot. In battle and so forth. You know," Gudao explained quickly, trying too hard to stay coherent in thought which caused Roman's eyebrow to slowly rise.

"Care to explain?" the orange-haired man asked with some slight amusement at Gudao's sudden lack of composure.

Gudao let out a breath and looked to Lancelot, who returned the gaze with a glint of curiosity, but a shine of steadfast resolve at what his master may say next. Arturia could see it, and she was proud of what she saw. As a knight, even if plagued by lingering guilt, it would be his honor to properly serve his king and his master. His first step on the path to redemption would likely be to follow his master's orders well, and show he is still very much the grea-

"Erm, I was thinking... you can still use the gatling gun, right, Lancelot? I mean..." Chuckles from Mashu and Paracelsus filled the room.

Well… that was certainly not what anyone was expecting.

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"Where are you taking me now?" Arturia asked curiously as she took another bite from the cheese sandwich she shamelessly took from the cafeteria. She was disappointed Emiya had not done anything for lunch, but it was a tiny bump in her increasingly sunny day. Catching up with Lancelot and introducing him to Diarmuid made for time well spent.

The lancer simply turned around and gave her a smile, causing the small blonde to turn to tilt her head slightly. He had been leading her through the hallways again for a few minutes in comfortable silence. Normally she would be fine with starting small talk, but the two remaining sandwiches in her arms demanded her attention. They would not be disappointed as she quickly finished the third one cheerfully, then took a sip from her soda's straw nestled between the sandwiches.

Her attention was snapped away when Diarmuid abruptly stopped in front of a door. She blinked. "You could have said we were going to Jeanne's room."

"I know, but where was the fun in that?" he mused softly as he knocked on the door. "Jeanne?"

The door slid open and Diarmuid swiftly hustled the small king into the room. Jeanne quietly shut the door behind them. Pleasantly pleased, Arturia looked around while taking a bite of a sandwich. Emiya was seated on Jeanne's couch wearing black slacks and a red collared shirt. He had one leg thrown over the other casually with both arms slung across the couch's back. The saint wore an amethyst blouse and stood next to Diarmuid in front of her closet with hands clasped in front of her white skirt. She looked a little uncertain about something.

Yet, nothing was out of place in her friend's room. A single pedestal held Jeanne's flag at an angle with her sword in an adjacent stand. The bookshelf was filled with different novels she had borrowed from Chaldea's library or acquired during singularities. Some picture frames hung by her crucifix and bible shelf on the wall, showcasing Jeanne's favorite moments spent with her many friends. If anything, the room looked a bit too clean.

Instead of being covered in various articles, the lone coffee table in front of Emiya only held its usual centerpiece vase filled with glass flowers of different colors. There wasn't a single item on the maple table or matching set of chairs either. Unless Jeanne and Diarmuid were hiding an unusually messy closet, that meant whatever surprise awaited her was definitely behind her two- "Good grief… Still eating, Saber?"

She turned to the archer who was shooting her an amused at the lone sandwich nestled in her crossed arms like a newborn. He chuckled as Arturia playfully glared at him. "You didn't make me anything, so I had to settle for this!"

"Jeanne was helping me wrap a present last minute."

Arturia blinked and deadpanned. "You mean my present was last minute? Tardiness is the enemy, Shirou!"

He sighed, but his expression turned a touch apologetic. "Please don't twist my words, Saber. You know you're far more important to me than that."

A throat clearing ended the small bickering. Jeanne smiled upon gaining their attention. "When you two are done flirting, we have those presents for you, Arturia."

"We were not-!" They started together before being cut off by Diarmuid and Jeanne laughing as they opened up the closet.

The ruler took out the first present and placed it on the coffee table in front of Emiya. The archer casually got up and took the remaining articles of food from the saber, much to her disappointment, then placed them on the maple table. Jeanne led Arturia towards the couch to sit as she observed the unique shape of the present. It looked like a snowman could be hiding within it based on the shape, but the lack of an obvious carrot nose proved otherwise. The wrapping paper was plain blue with a yellow ribbon around the mid-section.

"This is the offending present," Emiya stated simply as he stood near the coffee table, observing the saber carefully as she carefully took the bow off intact and began unwrapping the present.

She was surprised upon finding that whatever was underneath was very soft. As she took the top of the wrapping off, two rounded fluffy ears sprouted into plain sight. Arturia's mouth slowly opened unconsciously as she removed the rest of the wrapping paper, revealing a tan plushy with key white accents. Two familiar black orbs for eyes stared back at her as she picked it up slowly and felt her smile increase tenfold.

"I thought it would be difficult to obtain, but Gudao managed to help me acquire one… I'm unsure why it was a mystic code."

"Shirou... thank you," Arturia smiled breathlessly as she brought the plush lion to her chest and hugged it gently. Her soft gaze met Emiya's. "Thank you. I appreciate this... "

The man smiled fondly. "Anytime, Saber."

Her smile subsided and a look of uncertainty filled her eyes that no one in the room missed, especially not the Archer. "Is something wrong with my gift?"

The King of Knights blushed lightly. "N-No. It's just... well..."

Arturia held out her hand and closed her eyes, materializing an item as she would her weapon. The eyes of the other three servants widened quickly upon the item in question taking form. Pulling it towards her to join its companion, Arturia now held two stuffed lions that looked practically identical. Emiya's eyes slowly darted from one plush animal to the other as disbelief swam erratically in his eyes. The saber softly smiled with the blush still on her cheeks.

"I had gotten one from Gudao when it first arrived. I'll keep yours safe in my room. Thank you again, Shirou." The older lion disappeared and she hugged the new one once more.

Jeanne smiled while observing her friend before turning towards the red archer with a playful look. "So what makes this little lion so very important that she'd grab it?"

It was rare to see Emiya loose his composure, but to his credit he simply looked away and scratched the back of his head instead of stuttering. "Well... it's special to the both of us. It has meaning. Enough meaning to be a mystic code, it seems."

That was an unbelievable understatement, but Arturia made no mention of it. She merely smiled and thought of her time with the young Shirou Emiya during that war. The archer had all the memories of the boy from that past due to a memorial essence, so that bond remained firm. He was certainly a different person than the archer she dealt with, and she was satisfied with the circumstances that made it possible. At least, she did have that boy from back then to talk to in some form, even if he was older, wiser… and more handsome.

"Uh huh…" Jeanne smiled knowingly, and though the archer's composure remained, Arturia could tell he was squirming uncomfortably within. The lancer chuckled as he stood up and walked to the closet.

The saint turned as Diarmuid brought the next gift out in the form of a small jewelry box. It lacked wrapping paper and was tied with golden string. Arturia eyed the black box as she picked it up, pulling on the string to unravel it. As she lifted the lid, her eyes lit up at the necklace that sparkled underneath. It had a simple silver chain that led to the centerpiece which was properly designed and painted. The blues and gold of a miniature, ornate sword that mimicked Caliburn practically glowed in the light.

"I thought you would like this," Diarmuid stated with a small smile from his seat on the floor. "Found it on a supply run."

"It's wonderful," She stated as she admired the necklace. She carefully undid the band and immediately placed the necklace on, taking great care not to accidentally knock the lion off of its spot on her lap. As she finished, she gently observed the ornament and smiled. "Thanks, Diarmuid."

"It is my honor, King of Knights."

"We'll do Emiya's second present before mine," Jeanne said quickly to earn some curious glances from the other three.

She swiftly went to the closet to pick up another unusually shaped gift. It was apparent the presents were hidden in the closet based on peculiar shapes that might be guessed. The bottom of the item was flat, but had a very cylindrical shape until it reached the top where what appeared to be a handle jutted backwards. On the front was a small, protruding triangle with a silver bow on it. Tilting her head in confusion, Arturia began unwrapping the white paper that concealed it.

Her eyes lit up in curiosity, though not as much as when they eyed the plush lion; Could her smile grow any larger this day? Swiftly tearing through the rest of the paper to elicit chuckles from her friends, Arturia cautiously picked up the blue and white item as her eyes sparkled like stars. Two more black eyes stared back, but this time with an accompanying yellow beak. Emiya chuckled at the instant response as she held the penguin while Jeanne and Diarmuid looked curiously at the item.

"Sorry it's not lion or panther shaped. I figured since you found... accessing its interior to be distasteful, you wouldn't wish to do it to your favorite animal."

"I can make my own shaved ice now!" she exclaimed happily, causing Jeanne to giggle and Diarmuid to laugh. She felt a sense of Déjà vu, like she had seen this before, but she couldn't place it. A gift was a gift, though, but one that could make food was a present that gave for a lifetime.

She placed it down and stared at it with a content smile. With a pleased nod, she hugged the lion plushy once more as Jeanne got up to get the final gift. Without saying a word as the three other servants engaged in idle chatter, Jeanne, showing some hesitance, placed her box shaped present in front of Arturia who stared at the amethyst wrapping. An ornate ribbon wrapped around the unassuming present elegantly, and held a handwritten letter.

Dear Arturia,

Happy Birthday!
I told the boys to write you cards too but they probably forgot!
Or were too busy in Emiya's case!
I hope you enjoy my gift! Maybe it will come in handy someday!

Love your friend,
Jeanne d'Arc

"Marie helped me write it..." Jeanne admitted bashfully with a small flush as she played with her fingers.

"A card. I knew I forgot something," Diarmuid relented, somewhat embarrassed. "You should've reminded us more than once."

Arturia raised an eyebrow as she reread the wording on the last line, and turned to her friend who was currently facing away with a slight blush. The king smiled and began opening the gift in front of her as Diarmuid and Emiya stared at her inquisitively.

"It wasn't that embarrassing, was it?" Emiya asked simply with cross arms and an amused look.

"No... the card isn't," Jeanne stuttered as she looked towards the present. The flush on her cheeks intensified before a determined look graced her eyes. She glanced towards the boys who stared back in confusion. "I request the two of you to please look away! This gift is private!"

Emiya lifted an eyebrow in slight confusion. "Why the secre-?"

"Please!" Jeanne insisted with clenched fists held before her, surprising the trio with her steadfast resolve. The two male servants simply looked to each other and shrugged before turning their bodies away and covering their eyes. Content, Jeanne looked towards her friend and nodded.

Taking the lid off the box, Arturia raised an eyebrow at the extra wrapping paper concealing the article of clothing within. She didn't want to rip the paper, so she picked it up and began turning it in different directions to figure out how to open it. Finding it taped at the back, she quickly undid the adhesive and felt something fall out of the bottom and onto her lap beside the lion. Placing the small packaging down for a moment, she looked for the fallen article….

She felt her eyes widen as Jeanne's flush deepened. "I-I, um… honestly was hoping you'd open mine as just the two of us, Arty, but... the boys insisted we do it as a group."

Arturia stared at the blue, lacy garter that sat on her lap and blushed a bit. Quickly doing the math in her head, she looked up towards the packaging and undid the wrapping paper. Her blush deepened rapidly as she picked up the article of clothing, which was the last thing she expected the Maiden of Orleans to give her. The garter matched a set of royal blue, lacy lingerie perfectly. The set of clothing was very intimate by its design and left nothing to the imagination if worn. A pair of matching stockings and opera gloves sat within the opened wrapping paper.

"J-Jeanne…" Arturia stuttered with her cheeks now as red as a certain archer's polo. Jeanne d'Arc, the often serious and rash ruler, had gifted her lingerie of all things.

Diarmuid held fast to his resolve and ignored his curiosity to look or risk putting his honor as a knight on the line. Unfortunately, Emiya was not a knight, and he took a peek through his fingers and glanced back… an act which was caught by a furiously blushing saint.

"Emiya!" Jeanne practically squeaked as she stood up and glared at the archer. He turned back and covered his peeping eye.

"Sorry! I got curious!"

"Breaking the trust of a lady... For shame, Emiya." The archer just grumbled in response to the lancer's teasing.

Jeanne looked towards her female friend who was still appraising the item in her hands. She honestly couldn't tell if her blush or Arturia's was brighter.

"Marie helped me get it in a past singularity..." Jeanne said bashfully as she continued to eye her friend. To her amusement, she made the sign of the cross. "I-It was her idea, not mine! I honestly didn't know what you'd like that I could get you and… um…"

"I... I didn't know you had this side to you…" Arturia murmured under her breath as she continued to examine the intimate clothing. "Thank you, Jeanne. I, um... will hopefully have the chance to wear it sometime?"

It seems Medea wasn't the only servant being greatly influenced by their personal friends.

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"No, no! Sit, Saber! I insist! You've done enough of that for me in the past!"

Arturia sighed as she sat at the couch in the lounge. The glow of the falling snow illuminated her face as softly as the caster who accompanied her. "Irisviel. You were the one always doing the gestures of kindness before the grail war."

"Yet you do it so much for me here! Friendship goes both ways, Arturia, and I am not letting you lift a finger on your birthday in my presence!"

With a sigh, Arturia relented as the Homonculus mother hummed next to her. Clad in the prestigious white dress she had seen so many times, Irisviel quickly poured the two of them tea while they waited for dinner. Her son was busy preparing the food with the help of the staff and fellow cooking servants, while Arturia's friends were helping gather some salon decorations with Marie and her personal salon staff. That left both of them in peace to talk.

Though she was, at first, a different person, Arturia only felt terrible for Irisviel's past and circumstances. She was doomed as a grail vessel, destined to live only a short lifespan with a chosen destiny. As much as the saber had detested her husband and his crude actions, he had admittedly done what he could to ensure her life was happier than it could have been. Illyasviel was the culmination of that idea, though it was the mother's idea to be fair.

She picked up the woman's favorite Darjeeling tea they always had in her castle. With a sip, she confirmed she never lost her touch no matter the timeline. The caster smiled at her friend hopefully. "I hope this day has been better than yesterday?"

"In more ways than I could have imagined," Arturia nodded happily.

"Then it's only right I make it better!" Irisviel chirped as she quickly took out a present from her purse. Arturia blinked in surprise as she carefully placed the cup down on its saucer. She took the small jewelry box curiously.

If she weren't a servant, she wondered if her face would have been sore from all the smiling today. "Thank you, Irisviel. Do you want me to open it now or later?"

"Whenever you wish, Saber," Irisviel giggled as the King of Knights smiled back.

Quietly, Arturia took the white enclosing ribbon off of the golden box. She discarded it gently on the table before opening the lid, and letting her eyes shot wide in surprise. The silver ring bracelet within was ornate in design, and shimmered under the snow-lit light that filtered from the large windows. Its centerpiece, which sat perfectly to draw attention among the glamorous lines, stood out in color and recognition.

Shining in blue and gold glory, was Excalibur, but only partially viewable. It was sheathed in Avalon.

Arturia breathed out gently as she inspected the custom-made jewelry. Irisviel giggled softly. "I'm not the best at making jewelry, but I tried my hand at it… I'm so jealous of Medea's skills."

"It's hard to believe you don't have Item Construction," Arturia smiled. "…It's beautiful, Irisviel. Thank you."

"You're welcome, my knight," Irisviel playfully joked as she hugged the smaller girl. Arturia returned it with one hand, being careful not to drop the bracelet. Upon breaking the hug, she was given the chance to place it down gently.

They had a close bond because of the war's circumstance. Through protecting Irisviel as a decoy master, they had grown close as friends. That had thankfully carried over well to Chaldea, and she would gladly protect the caster once more. This feeling only doubled now that there was a confirmed family connection between her and Emiya, and she was glad their bond had not been awkward. If only Illyasviel could join them now… and maybe even Kiritsugu, for the mother's sake… though she personally would not deal with him more than necessary.

Arturia only wished Irisviel could be as happy as she was this day. She certainly deserved it. With a sudden raise in enthusiasm, Arturia's thoughts were abandoned as Irisviel turned her legs to face her more directly. That was the usual sign that she was interested in talking gossip of some sort, a habit she picked up with Marie and Atalanta. With an amused sigh, Arturia only smiled and picked up her tea to learn of the excited mother's next conversation topic.

"Now, enough about that! Let's talk about that secret relationship I've begun to suspect you have with my adopted son!"

Arturia thankfully did not choke on her tea in surprise. Irisviel only kept smiling eagerly with an inferno of curiosity burning into the saber.

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In Salon de Marie, Arturia blew out the candles to her cake to the orchestra of clapping hands.

As the light of the chandeliers flickered back on, she smiled and nodded towards Emiya and Tamamo who stood on the other side of the table, dressed in a black tuxedo and strapless blue evening dress. The King of Knights had opted to wear the dress Medea had gifted earlier that day, with her brushed hair falling loosely past her shoulders. Taking the knife handed by the archer, she made the first cut into the layered blueberry cake. As she did so, Gudao approached from her left and leaned in between her and Diarmuid.

"Is it safe to assume from that shining smile that today turned out well?" he asked quietly and received a quick nod in return.

"Indeed, Gudao, it was wonderful. It made me forget yesterday," she practically chirped as Emiya handed her the first slice of cake before beginning to divide the rest of it with Tamamo's help.

"Plenty of good gifts worthy of your grace?" Gudao asked, causing Emiya to nearly lose composure cutting the cake. Diarmuid almost choked on the water he was drinking, much to the confusion of Lancelot to his left. Irisviel giggled beside the lancer as Gudao stared around in confusion.

"Yes. The gifts were wonderful," Arturia stated as she looked towards Jeanne as she approached the table in a flattering amethyst gown. "And some gifts were extra unique."

Jeanne flushed as Arturia passed a knowing glance to her, causing Gudao to look between the two perplexed. He shrugged and grinned. "I'm just glad you enjoyed your birthday, Arturia!"

"Thank you, Gudao!"

As Gudao was about to leave, Marie bounded over happily in her red, one shoulder dress and stood next to Jeanne cheerily. "So did you like Jeanne's gift?"

"Marie!" Jeanne started, flush still very much evident on her face. Gudao stopped and turned.

"What? It's her favorite color! I'm sure it will look sexy on her when she wears it for Emiya! I mean, they were an item, right? Maybe they still are when no one's looking? Ohhh, young love!" she grinned as she elbowed her friend. After a moment, the chipper rider looked around and noted, sheepishly, she had probably said that far too loudly.

"Oh my~…" Irisviel giggled with a hand to her lips and a teasing stare at Arturia.

Jeanne's jaw nearly dropped to the floor, as did Emiya's as he lost his composure. Tamamo's ear twitched and her eyes widened in total surprise at the suggestion. Diarmuid practically choked on his water once more as Gudao stared dumbfounded at what Marie had just inferred. Arturia's cheeks were flushed bright red. There was a small clattering of silverware as Lancelot stood up and passed a very level stare towards Emiya, which unified the smorgasbord of reactions into growing curiosity.

"…Mister Emiya, is there something you care to explain between yourself and my king?"

Caught off guard at the potentially veiled threat, Emiya took a step back and held his hands up. "Sir Lancelot. I assure you I would never do anything to Arturia that she does not wan-"

"And what's that supposed to mean?" the knight asked with a playful smirk, enjoying how much he managed to shatter the red archer's usually cool and composed demeanor. His response was tailored to look menacing, but Arturia could tell he was more curious at the plausibility that his King had found someone to relieve her former loneliness.

…and maybe he did feel a little protective over his liege.

"Saber, assistance please!" Emiya yelped out, inwardly cursing at how stupid he suddenly sounded. Some chuckles ran out among the group present, including Lancelot.

The thoughts and laughter soon died out instantly upon recognition of an unusual sound. Gudao stared at the small king next to him as the others nearby fell completely silent upon witnessing the act in front of them. The rest of the room seemed oblivious as they carried on their conversations in the background, but to those present, they were gifted the privilege to witness what some would have described as a miracle.

Arturia, after so many years, was laughing, and it was the sweetest sound.

Chapter Text

The Summoning Chamber, Deployment Room, and Primary Generator were located in the very center of Chaldea, stacked on different floors. The energy provided by the Primary Generator descends through the floor to power both the Fate Summoning system directly below and the Deployment Room on the lowest floor, in addition to the rest of Chaldea. Secondary generators were located around the facility to power each wing individually in case of a serious malfunction, which is exactly what happened during the Fuyuki incident.

Repairs took a week to bring the three rooms back into their original states. Since then, the Primary Generator has been creating stores of excess energy to be used for the two rooms as originally designed. The merging of conventional and thaumatergical energy formed the rainbow-colored rocks that acted as a stackable reserve. They were an unintentional, but very welcome, consequence of the merging.

Whether or not science or magecraft was mostly responsible for both its discovery and continued creation is a flashpoint for an argument between the employees from both camps. Regardless of where the truth lies and how it's made, these rocks, nicknamed saint quartz, provide the massive influx of energy needed to activate the leyshifts and Fate System independent of the Primary Generator.

The Primary Generator spares enough energy to provide a single deployment via leyshift or three uses of the Fate System, but not both at the same time. The saint quartz provides the answer for the need to deploy several times in a day, if deemed absolutely paramount, or to expend in an attempt to bring in reinforcements from the spiritual world. A large stockpile is always kept on hand in case of emergencies involving an outbreak of problematic minor singularities or to use when a catalyst is confirmed.

It is frowned upon by both Roman and Da Vinci for Gudao to just activate the Fate system aggressively in an attempt to bring in a powerful hero. The young master is not one to argue the point either, as proven time and time again about how terrible the ratio between expended saint quartz and valued reward actually is. The chances of acquiring the essence of a servant already summoned, a craft coin, or a famous mystic code are far more likely than acquiring a new ally.

Unlike the regular summoning during a Holy Grail War, the Fate system powered by saint quartz didn't differentiate between famous items, concepts, and heroic spirits. Roman often inferred there was a previously discarded method to guarantee summoning a servant; The doctor keeps information from that away from Gudao for an unknown reason. While the chances for a hero to appear using the current method cannot be increased or guaranteed without a catalyst.

Though those were few and far between, the efficiency of the system could still be modified.

It is with this idea in mind that the Summoning Chamber received its first renovation that was completed this morning, in time for the special ceremony tonight. The room was inoperable for a week, so no use of the Fate system was done allowing the Primary Generator to create additional reserves. It wasn't a huge improvement considering the system can only create a single saint quartz in twenty-four hours. There were other means of acquiring saint quartz, but since they were difficult at best, the improved efficiency was more ideal.

The Fate system now operated at a twenty-five percent efficiency increase. The stockpile could grow faster, and they could attempt a summon more often. While the leyshifts were constantly tweaked to allow for longer duration and servant numbers during deployments, this was the first actual increase of efficiency for the summoning system. These are the thoughts the young master kept in mind as the light from the prana release faded and restored vision to the room's occupants.

"Oh. Oh spectacular. More damn black keys..." Gudao exclaimed in exasperation as he threw his hands up, eliciting some chuckles from the nearby servants.

Unfortunately, more efficiency didn't mean improved ratios.

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Fragment 11: Then There Were Two

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"So, what do you think, Master? Perfect adjustments with my help, no?"

"Except the black keys, it was a flawless first shot." The young master turned to the strong male servant standing next to him, giving him a small smile which was returned with a smirk and hearty laugh.

The man forwent his normal battle attire which could have easily passed as formal wear. Instead he wore a black formal vest over a plain, white collared shirt. A black tie had yellow lightning symbols running diagonally across it to form a unique pattern. The shirt was tucked into tan formal pants coupled with an ebony belt and matching formal shoes. He stood with both hands resting on his hips as he faced the center of the room with his master.

"I shouldn't have second guessed you for being able to complete the renovation in a week. I'm sorry for misjudging you."

"Not a problem, master, but you know better next time," the archer stated as he fiddled with the unusual blue markings at the ends of his long, black hair. "I can achieve great feats swiftly, especially when I work alongside the legendary inventor, Leonardo Da Vinci."

"Likewise to work with you, Tesla," The female caster stated cheerfully from behind the control panel. If the beeps and pings coming from the console's many screens were any indication, she was running some diagnosis tests as her fingers flew over the buttons and switches. A few employees were behind her at smaller data consoles.

"Tooting each other's horns, much?" Roman murmured to himself with a chuckle. A shiver ran up his spine. Sensing the threat, he looked up from the pedestal he walked up to check, seeing Da Vinci glaring at him from her spot at the panel. He raised his hands slightly in surrender as Tesla and Gudao turned to look between the pair.

"Sometimes I feel like you try to irritate me on purpose, Roman." The doctor let out a sigh as he scratched the back of his head; He'd have to watch his murmuring more often.

There was a knock on the door to the chamber.

Gudao looked at the chosen blades of church executors still sitting on the summoning platform and sighed before walking to the entrance. Activating the keypad next to the door swiftly, the console beeped and the automated doors swung back to life and immediately opened. Gabrielle strolled through the door casually with a smile and gave a tiny wave to Gudao before turning to the rest of the room and waving to them silently as well.

Instead of her Magecraft Division uniform, she wore white sweat pants and a matching tank top. The wide straps of an orange sports bra with black lining could be clearly seen under the tank top's own. She leaned against the door. "So, how'd it go?"

"I have to tell our resident priest I got more ammo for him. Otherwise I think we're ready for tonight."

Gabrielle laughed much to the annoyance of her best friend. "Wow! More black keys? Even after the renovation? You have no luck this month."

"Shut up, Gabby. You think I like wasting quartz?"

"Oh calm down, I was kidding," she stated before strolling over to the black keys on the ground. Quietly picking them up, she eyed them for a split second before pocketing the red handles. "I'll give them to Amakusa on my way to the gym if you don't need anything else."

"Would you mind getting six more quartz? I would just like to make absolutely sure everything is working without a hitch for tonight~!" Da Vinci stated as she continued to run a diagnostic on the system. "Wouldn't want your big day going awry."

The young magus nodded and turned around with an excited smile. She liked the ring to her new title.'Gabrielle Rutherford. Second Master of Chaldea.'

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Gabrielle exited the Summoning Chamber and walked barely thirty meters down the hallway to reach the door to the Storage Vault. The door was highly reinforced compared to most of Chaldea, resembling a bank's heavy steel barricade. Granted it was more aesthetically pleasing than its civilian counterpart. Between its runic enhancements and high end components, it secured the contents with the help of the vault's solid construction.

The key card slider only activated for approved employees, though the female magus was thankful that she was promoted to that tier for multiple reasons. However, in order to even use the slider and accompanying scanning technology, one had to bypass the extra security measure in the form of a volunteer servant. The security measures were enough for employees, but some servants protested that the vault should be further guarded; There's no telling what a new servant may attempt in the future.

Though not many were interested in volunteering, a few did without any real hesitation, with the current long, blue haired guard being the last one; He was volunteered at the sincere recommendation of a certain female caster. At least he did his job well with minor complaints.

Forgoing his battle attire, the Asian servant chose a Hakama with a light blue top and darker shade for the bottom. The blue-haired assassin with a long ponytail leaned against the vault door with arms crossed and eyes closed in almost complete silence. A sandal occasionally tapped the ground beneath him in anticipation. Though the presence of his large nodachi was a usual circumstance, his guard had always remained vigilant.

Though Gabrielle had nothing to fear from the servant, he made her anxious for a very different reason.

His eyes opened calmly as he turned his head to view the approaching magus, a small smirk gracing his face as he pushed himself lightly off the door while acquiring his weapon. Moving to the other side of the hallway, the assassin simply resumed his previous posture and placed the blade next to him. He folded his arms once more as he watched the orange haired employee work the key card console.

Gabrielle pressed a few buttons on the console. Activating with a confirming chime, a few panels shifted on the wall next to the door to show a hand scanner. Above it another panel opened to reveal a blue screen with an interior eye scanner. Squaring herself to both, she placed her hand on the scanner and looked towards the eye screen as it re-positioned itself to her level. A ray of light shot into her eyes as the hand scanner glowed green.

'There, that wasn't so ba-'

The scanner beeped. "Error. Retrying biometric scanning procedure. Standby."

She lifted her hand and placed it back down, restarting the sequence. The light washed into her eyes again. The hand scanner glowed a warm gree-

And beeped again. "Error. Retrying biometric scanning procedure. Standby."

There was a low chuckle from behind her as the young magus felt her eyes narrow greatly in irritation as the system attempted once mor-

Another damn beep!? "Error. Eye scan could not be completed. Please open your ey-"

"You stupid piece of technology!" Gabrielle screamed as the servant behind her burst out laughing. She turned around with clenched fists and glared daggers at the assassin who was enjoying the scene too much for her liking.

"You're not helping, Sasaki!"

"This makes up for guarding this door any day!" The servant stated as he approached calmly with the irritating smirk still on his face.

Calmly turning her around and taking one of her arms, he opened up a clenched fist and placed it absolutely center on the hand scanner. Ignoring her slight squirming, he then used the free hand to tilt her head slightly back as the eye scanner redid its work with a confirming beep. The vault door made a series of clanks as reinforced bars were lowered from within. Slowly the door slid open, revealing the dark room within that lit up partially with overhead lights.

Satisfied, Sasaki took his place on the opposing wall once more as Gabrielle looked around to confirm no one saw what had happened before glaring at the servant with a pout. "I could have done that myself!"

"On the seventh try, maybe."

"Hey! I took-"

"-nine tries last time. I'm giving you more credit, young magus. You're clearly not as technologically adept as Gudao. That's alright. I needed entertainment."

Still fuming while the servant chuckled, she turned around and entered the Storage Vault. The room was filled with safe deposit boxes that lined the walls, all stainless steel and shimmering in the low light. A few carts in the center were also made of similar material, with small rotating tires underneath to maneuver them efficiently. Half of the carts contained the physical formation of mana prisms that Da Vinci often needed for extra research and crafting purposes.

Within the other half of the carts were the rainbow colored rocks that the female caster desired. Thankfully she only needed six.

Though each was small enough to fit within the palm of a hand, they were deceptively heavy. Gabrielle took three and cradled them in her left arm, and their combined weight was cumbersome; Whoever designed the crystallized manifestations to weigh so much was a masochist among magi. The female mage was glad she was physically capable, and especially loved to rub it in Gudao's face whenever he decided to tease about her technological ineptitude.

It's not like it was her fault she couldn't operate anything more complex than a calculator; Those things were demon incarnate!

Brushing the thoughts aside, she began the process of closing the vault door, much to the infuriating amusement of the servant behind her; Tonight was her big night and she wasn't going to let some smug servant's teases get to her!

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ IV ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Gabrielle fell onto her back and stared at the gym's ceiling as her training lance clattered to the ground next to her.

She let out a sigh as she stared at the familiar symmetrical lighting of the high ceiling, lining the outskirts of a large dome window that melted snow as it landed. The room was circular to allow for a track to run along the outside, and large enough to fit four adjacent basketball courts in a grid for sports entertainment of various kinds. The outer rim of the gym held the weight equipment for those inclined to do so.

There weren't that many, even before the Fuyuki Incident.

The number of interested employees was small considering the population consisted mostly of scientists and mages. Regardless, many servants and several employees found the large room adequate for their use. Some even admired its tan walls and blue rubberized floor as an escape from the rest of Chaldea's modernistic design. It certainly meant less squinting in the dimmer lighting, which would have been annoying for anyone concentrating on maintaining physique.

Slowly pushing herself up, the young magus put a hand on her bare side and let out another breath as she thought of a potential bruise from the sparring strike.

She reached for the discarded lance with her other hand and used it to help herself up. She got into a sparring posture once more against her maroon haired opponent who stood quiet and ready. Unlike the magus, who had discarded her tank top and sweat pants to wear just the orange sports bra and black workout shorts, Scathach had chosen light gray yoga pants and a black tank top that hugged her figure well. Her eyes stared directly into Gabrielle's and awaited her first move patiently.

It had been ten days since Gudao, Roman, and Da Vinci agreed to make her Chaldea's second master.

She was a qualified candidate. Since then she has personally asked several servants to help her in different fields ranging from strategies with Lord El-Melloi II to advanced magecraft with Medea. Her physical combat training with Scathach and the other willing Irish lancers was another request, one she favored almost immediately despite being bad at it. She was a bit of a show off, as Gudao would often say, but there was nothing more impressive to the young mage than martial and weapon arts.

Her sneaker clenched the ground, causing Scathach's eyes to narrow ever slightly. Gabrielle grunted as she thrust the training lance towards her opponent who simply sidestepped and knocked the weapon downward before scrapping it up the length of-

The magus jumped backwards before the hit could connect with her head, following up with another thrust underneath the now raised lance. Scathach simply brought her training lance down to pin the orange headed female's to the ground. Grunting, Gabrielle swiftly freed the weapon and swung from the right at blinding speed, a miracle attack for most martial art practitioners, only to be casually intercepted by the spinning lance of her opponent.

Without missing a beat, Gabrielle sidestepped the incoming thrust and pinned the lance to the ground with one end before closing the distance to strike with the still freed opposite. Scathach pulled her weapon back, intercepting the potential strike to the cranium before pushing the entire lance at her opponent to force her back. Gabrielle was suddenly a blur as she re-positioned behind the Scottish lancer and thrusted her weapon towards her using the same inhuman agility as be-

Scathach casually side stepped and knocked the lance aside before taking a fighting stance once more.

Gabrielle sighed, "Seriously?"

"You're far better when we started your requested training, but you've got a long way to go, Gabby."

"But not far enough. I want to land a hit!" Gabrielle spun her lance swiftly with one hand, trying for a downward stri-

Scathach stopped the lance from spinning with a simple horizontal block before smacking the lance to the left and striking Gabrielle on her right, in the exact same spot she was hit barely a minute ago. She groaned as she dropped her lance again, both hands shooting to her side to rub the pained area as Scathach planted her lance firmly onto the ground next to her feet, holding it to her side like Jeanne does her standard.

"Gabby. Do not get fancy."

"You do spinning strikes all the time!"

"Cause teacher's a goddess among lancers and knows what she's doing."

Gabrielle turned to notice Cu had approached from behind her, interested in their daily training in the center of the gym; He had been the one sparring with her yesterday. His bare chest was coated with a light sheen of sweat as he placed himself akimbo. A white towel hung around his neck with his shirt nowhere to be found. Blue sweat pants hung loosely from his hips as he stood there barefoot, much like the duo.

Gabrielle consciously let her eyes grace his chiseled abs without any shame before looking him back in the eyes, a knowing grin and raised eyebrow on his face as she casually winked back. 'Clothes aren't the only thing I want to rub against that washboard.'

"How's the training going, little Gud- Er, Master-to-be?" He grinned, chuckling as he caught the glare she gave him for almost blurting a certain nickname.

"Painful. As usual. Your teacher knows no mercy."

Scathach chuckled lightly. "The battlefield is no mercy. The sooner you're ready for that, the better."

"I'm still not certain why you want to learn lancer arts in particular. Gudao barely knows any himself."

"...I just find it more interesting than the rest, that's all."

Cu shot her a half questioning look that she received every time she gave that answer. "I still say there's something else behind it. Not prying though, best of luck with your training today. Don't be too hard on her, teacher! Wouldn't want her battered for the ceremony."

Gabrielle watched him walk off before Scathach cleared her throat. When she turned around, the training lance struck a third time in the exact spot and she crumpled to the ground with a whimper. Obviously she was taking the recommendation half-hearted if anything; She'd have to ask Gudao for a healing spell or two later for the sore spots she can't reach properly.

"One, pay attention to your opponent. Two, I hope you don't intend to ogle half naked men on the battlefield too."

"I wasn't planning on i-"

"Hey, where are you going!?"

The two girls turned to the source of the voice, past Cu who was also staring curiously. All cleaning robots in the room began filing out of the gym with their eyes flashing gold and emitting constant synchronized beeps. They had appeared to abandon whatever it was they were doing and were making haste somewhere; Something of this sort had never happened before at Chaldea.

Confused and partially concerned, the trio looked to each other and nodded before running after the fleeing robots. Had it been an emergency, the alarm would have gone off by now, but the klaxons weren't blaring. Gabrielle disregarded the thought as she held her lance and chased after Cu and Scathach. Perhaps there was something engineering knew that they didn't.

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"We should hit the alarm."

"No, I don't think that's necessary yet. Let's just wait and see. Besides, Gudao or Doctor Roman haven't stated to do so yet."

"I've seen enough machine revolution theories in the fiction section to know the robots are rising against us right now! We have to stop them before they kill us all!"

Ignoring the argument between the two scientists and a third panicked, observing magus, Gudao and Doctor Roman stared with two equally dumbfounded servants at the center of the Summoning Chamber. After a momentary break, they had just expended the final three quartz and managed to get the glorious golden spin and rainbow light of a new servant summoning. It was only the third try with the new system and already they were rewarded with a new ally to join the fight.

The flood of robots from all corners of Chaldea suddenly entering the room was something else entirely unexpected.

Gabrielle, Scathach, and Cu barged into the room to take in the sight in equal confusion. They made their way towards the control panel where the others stood. The three bickering employees who had followed the robots in were ignored in favor of the synchronized display.

"It's like they're gathering before a king," Cu noted offhandedly with a small chuckle, his eyes locked to the center of the room.

All robots were all linked via a centralized processor and relay hub in the science wing, so they could be remotely shut down or ordered as an entirety if necessary. The young magus crossed out the idea that someone gave a mistaken command function, though a glitch in the system was still possible. Based on the servant in the center though, and the robotic chants of the surrounding machines, Gabrielle could only assume the large, armored figure in the center was definitely the cause of the current situation.

She noted Gudao was prepared to use a command seal to summon additional servants to their side in case of an emergency. "It seems fine for now, Gudao."

"Yea. I hope it stays that way," he replied warily.

"What do you think they're doing?" Da Vinci whispered as she leaned towards Tesla.

"I do believe they are chanting," Came Tesla's dumbfounded observation.

"Chant? As in, prayer chanting? Can robots even have a religion?" Roman asked incredulously as he stared at the scene. "I need to have a word with the Science Division on the separation of church and robot if this is the case."

Da Vinci rolled her eyes at the absurd claim while Gabrielle giggled.

"Praise the Omnissiah! The Omnissiah graces us with his presence!" The robots suddenly echoed as one to a chorus of additional beeping that could only be assumed to be the machine equivalent of clapping.

"What's an Omnissiah?" Scathach asked, before hot air vented from the newly arrived servant.

In the center of the room stood the large, armored figure, looking out over the waves of robots. It finally approached the group of humans and servants behind the console. His dark gray armor clamored to life as the humanoid moved towards the group slowly, the hissing of hydraulics and pistons sounding within its plates. Golden accents coupled with a white design on the chest, resembling a cravat, with several large rivets adorning parts of the plating. Its fists nearly dragged on the ground as its red eye stared straight at Gudao.

Gabrielle was less worried and more curious if this new servant could squeeze through the doors, or would need to go into spiritual form like some large berserkers.

"Your facility houses a curious host of machines, master. Very impressive how far technology has come since my time, though I would have been more pleased were they of steam origin!" boomed a mechanical voice as the eye studied the young man.

"The Omnissiah blesses our creation!" "We have been praised!" "All hail the Omnissiah!"

"Thanks for the compliment, Babbage," Gudao nodded without hesitation, though obviously taken back.

'So this is the robot guy they met.'

Thankfully, Gabrielle could count her best friend among one of the 'heretical' mages that was great with technology, so he at least heard of Charles Babbage prior to their conflict in London. Gabrielle was when it came to knowing stories of past historical figures though. The nearby maintenance robot that was in the room must have relayed the summoning to the central hub and caused this event. But she was baffled why they robots would be so interested in-

"Um, Babbage, if you don't mind for your first order of business here..." Gudao began as he looked towards the sea of robots, causing the large servant to turn around much to the approval of its fellow machines.

"The Omnissiah graces us once more!"

"Do you mind doing something about all these robots flooding the room? I'm pretty sure they've made you their god considering your work, but Chaldea's efficiency is gonna slow to a crawl if we don't get them working again. Plus we have something to prepare for tonight, but I'll tell you about that after I give you the tour."

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"Feeling nervous?"

"Hardly. You were always the one with stage fright, remember?"

"Not so much now."

"You're welcome."

Gabrielle was putting on her new black skirt as Gudao, already in his cleanest master uniform, was finishing some paperwork on his desk behind her. Most would have seen this as inappropriate as the female magus wore nothing over her torso but a bra, but the two have had a long, sibling-like history together.

They had been neighboring friends since childhood, an oddity coming from relatively new magus families who lived next door of all possible absurdities. No one knew the other better than themselves, and while some at the Clock Tower jokingly called them a couple, they both knew they'd never be anything more than awkward siblings by that point. It was a good combination, as the two had grown up as only children, and their personalities complimented each other fairly well.

Where Gudao was an introvert, very observant, and calm under heavy pressure, Gabrielle acted on instinct, wore her heart on her sleeve, and was easily a social butterfly of the class.

It may seem like an ill fit, but the two opposites allowed the pair to see things from different perspectives with a simple inquiry to the other. It also allowed the two to push past their own little comfort zones when working together. In their younger days, one would easily cover the others' weaknesses and vice versa. But despite their differences they were both magically adept and treated the servants well regardless of origin. Gabrielle did have a tendency to shift her opinion of a servant if they proved to be more problematic or abrasive, however.

"Thanks for letting me change in here. I haven't unpacked yet from moving this afternoon."

"As always, damn slacker," He jabbed lightly and chuckled when she gave him the finger. She had recently moved to the room across the corridor from Gudao, one of the many kept open in case more masters were needed.

The female master-to-be smiled.

She remembered when Gudao was a total shut in and wouldn't even make jabs like that against her. Gabrielle always had to defend the poor guy from bullies, being taller than him when they were younger. It was ironic and it brought a nostalgic smile to her face; She was his knight in shining armor back then and he held a huge crush on her in their childhood. The young love had only faded after they moved to Britain for the last two years of high school.

If it wasn't for her building up his courage, he would have never had the guts to ask her, and she was worried the rejection in their pre-teens would have shattered their friendship they built up over the years. By the third time he tried asking her out, she tossed the idea of a broken friendship out the window. It seems they were always meant to be great partners but nothing more. Thankfully he stopped asking upon entering high school, even if the feeling lingered a bit longer.

Gabrielle silently turned sour as she put on the top of her master's uniform. It was their partnership and always doing things together that bothered her when Gudao was chosen as a master on his application but she was not. They had roughly the same magecraft prowess, albeit different fields, and their circuits were on equal par. The only reason she was not chosen like he was simply boiled down to time: Gudao was the last master of the forty-eight needed, so her application was rejected flat.

She was still taken as a Magecraft employee though, so at least they'd been together.

Since they arrived and the Fuyuki incident occurred, she was placed with the Summoning team after the Leyshift Department filled their diminished numbers. She honestly thought she fit better elsewhere, but the Security group was the closest fit and they were practically disbanded. That didn't change the fact she had great healing capabilities, the highest tier self-defense grades... and failed the summoner courses in the first year at the Clock Tower.

Yet she was placed in the Summoning team of all things. She hated how much Gudao rubbed in her face how she couldn't even properly create or control a familiar let alone summon something worthwhile. She also hated that Gudao became more popular than her and employees would refer to her as a more childish version of him when in reality it was the other way around: He became a more reserved version of her.

However, what she hated most was how much Gudao shouldered by himself since Fuyuki.

He always came to her for help and assistance, but since arriving from that singularity he almost completely shut himself away from her and carried the burden alone for months. They would still hang out, but never would he try to ask for her assistance, nor accept her offers... simply assured her everything was alright. They were partners, and he was more willing to take things on with the confidence and smile she taught him than ask for help again.

Was it his way of showing he's thankful for helping him become who he is now, strong and capable?

If that's the case it wasn't working. She constantly noticed the bags under his eyes and his weary stance. Sure he smiled and was kind like his mature self always was, but behind the mask she could read him like a book. He was beyond tired and had reached breaking point several times, and she thankful she had been there to make sure he didn't shatter. That wasn't like him though. That wasn't the Gudao she knew, the one who knew when help was required, and she really wanted to know-

"Why?" She frowned.

Gudao looked up and faced his friend. "Why?"

"Yes. Why?" she asked once more. "Why did it take you so many months to finally ask me for help again."

He was silent.

"We were partners, Gudao."

"You mean we are partners, Gabby."

She scoffed. "It sure didn't feel like it when you turned away from all my help until you were nearly broken. Then you'd just rinse and repeat. Who are you?"

He let out a long breath.

Gudao leaned back in his chair and sighed, running a hand through his head before covering his face with both. Gabrielle looked over to him with concern flooding her pupils. She slowly approached her friend, not finishing to clasp the last straps, and put her arms around his shoulder in a reassuring hug.

"I'm sorry, Gabby," He practically whispered as he dropped his hands and stared blankly at the picture frames hanging over his desk. The one directly in front was a picture of him and Gabrielle in front of the Clock Tower for the first time. They were some of the youngest freshman before they left for Chaldea.

"You always helped me through everything that wasn't academic. For once I wanted to show you I am able to stand by myself, thanks to you. Being surrounded by powerful servants who followed my plans and treated me like their comrade in arms... I felt powerful for once, even against the odds I faced. I felt like I could finally stand on my own. I didn't want to continue to lean on you like dead weight... I just wanted to show I can do things easy now... just like you always did."

"Since when is saving the world easy to do alone?"

He half smiled. "It's not. You're right. As usual."

"Damn right I am," She smiled as she rubbed her head against his affectionately. "Don't bottle yourself up again, got it?"

"Sure thing," He whispered. "Oh… and uh. Thanks... For being my childhood hero and best friend. I don't think I ever did say that yet."

"Oh don't start, you're gonna make me tear up," She said as she released her hug and playfully smacked him on the head. "I mean it though. Rely on me again, it makes me happy. I love helping people, and I hate seeing you struggle by yourself..."

But that was in the past now, as tonight would change everything for the sake of her old partner. She would finally be able to help her oldest friend again and ensure he doesn't die from a million paper cuts caused by an overload of desk work.

Turning to the mirror, Gabrielle finished the last clasp on her new Master's uniform and looked herself over. The top was tight and hugged her figure, exactly as she requested of Naomi. If there was one thing she loved doing, it was looking good no matter the situation or clothing choice. She quietly observed Gudao as he started to work on yet even more paperwork with a small cringe; How much of that was she going to be doing starting tomorrow? Feeling her gaze on him, Gudao turned to her and smiled.

"Done yet? What, making sure your boobs looked good for the male audience?" Seems their long overdue heart-to-heart was over.

"Har har, Gudork. I will have you know, my sex appeal is timeless," She winked at him causing him to roll his eyes.

"Right, right, Gudako," He dodged the tissue box she threw in his direction. "Let's get going then. Don't want to be late for your own Command Seal ceremony."

"Lead the way... partner."

Gudao stopped as his hand touched the doorknob. He smiled back at her. "Been a while since we've been able to say that title."

She grinned enthusiastically. "Too long, but no longer... and we've got a lot to discuss, like what's this I keep hearing about you being near recklessly fearless in these singularities?"

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The doors to the summoning chamber opened as Gudao and Gabrielle walked in side by side. Countless servants and employees, the entirety of Chaldea, had gathered within to celebrate the occasion. With eyes upon them, the pair walked down a makeshift red carpet stowed from when Chaldea first opened. The crowd made a pathway directly to the center of the room with no one standing within the outermost reaches of the summoning floor.

As the pair walked, Gabrielle looked to different points in the crowd as she noticed them. She smiled and nodded towards Scathach and Cu who stood side by side near the entrance as they walked past. There was a mock salute given to Nobunaga and Okita as they came up, the latter smiling sincerely while Nobunaga had the widest grin. She gave a small wave to Mashu who stood towards the very end of the crowd near the console, the fluffy Fou chirping happily in her arms.

While there was no servant against the idea of another master for Chaldea, there was a surprising number of servants who really pushed and advocated it should be her. A vast majority servant population accepted her, even if it was the previous application and qualifications that decided it. She'd simply prove those qualifications extended to trust, respect, and cooperation too. Since then, many have gone out of their way to help ensure that she would smoothly transitions into deployments.

She will not let any of them down, especially not Gudao.

"Your big moment, Gabrielle!" Roman exclaimed as the female magus stepped onto a makeshift stage near the main console. Gudao stood nearby, off the stage, with hands folded behind him in a similar fashion as Tesla and Da Vinci.

"Sorry, didn't prepare a fancy speech or anything. But thanks everyone! I'll do my best! Let's get this over with, we got work to do and saving the world isn't a breeze," Gabrielle said with a grin, eliciting chuckles from several in the audience.

"Of course. Feel free to start," Gudao stated with a smile from nearby.

"Mhmm," She murmured as she thrust her left arm out towards the Fate Summoning System.

While the system was directly responsible for summoning new reinforcement and items for the facility, it was also directly responsible for creating new command seals. Extra generated energy from the generator also helps to refresh an expended command seal over the course of twenty-four hours, or crown a new qualified candidate with the use of thirty saint quartz. While the loss of ten potential summons is a hard hit, the addition of a new master to help on the field was priceless.

But the system had to make the final acceptance first, just like the original ritual. And thus, with her hand outstretched, Gabrielle began the modified chant as the system roared to life with prana filling the surrounding air, ready to pass judgment. Based on compatibility, her crest quality, and her personal will, a majority believed there was no doubt it would accept her as a capable master. Her booming confidence removed any doubt from her mind about success, but there was only one way to truly find out.

Heed my words,
My will creates your bodies,
And your swords create my destiny.
Together we forge the future of humanity!
When all is naught, we shall be the guiding light!

The swirling vortex of blue prana that formed around the center of the room ignited in a bright flash. The hurricane of energy continued to surge and churn, forming a single ball within the center of the room that shifted from blue to red before shooting towards Gabrielle and colliding with her outstretched hand. She grit her teeth and continued.

I hereby swear, That I shall be all the good in the world
That I shall defeat all evil in the world!
Seventh heaven clad, And the great words of power,
Grant me the power to lead the Guardians of the Scales!

Pain rocketed up her arm from her hand but she continued to grit her teeth and held firm, watching in amazement as the system accepted her call, circuits, and prana. The searing pain subsided as did the brilliance of the light as three red command seals formed on the back of her hand, almost completely identical to Gudao's.

Quickly gasping for breath when she never realized she held her own set, she gazed upon the command seals that glowed faintly as cheers erupted from the crowd around her. As quickly as it had begun, the simple ceremony was over, and the Fate System has accepted a new master. Grinning wildly at being successfully accepted by the system, any trace of doubt left her mind as she turned to the audience behind her and threw an excited fist into the air to many cheers. She wrapped her arms around Gudao as he jumped onto the stage and hugged his friend, with an excited Fou leaping onto her shoulder to lick her cheek in acceptance.

"The dynamic duo is back!" She beamed.

"Please don't start calling us that. It sounds really bad," Gudao laughed as they released and high fived. "Don't forget, you still have one last thing to do."

The cheers slowly died down as the female master tilted her head in confusion. "You didn't tell me about anything before the after party. Are we pre-gaming before dinner?"

"Yea we- What, Gabby no!" Gudao exclaimed to many laughs. "You have to do your first summon!"

"First summon?" She asked incredulously. "Didn't you just summon Babbage today? We're going to burn even more quartz for black keys with the day's luck gone."

"Not necessarily," Gudao grinned as he pointed towards a small, ornate wooden piece that Da Vinci was currently raising on one hand as she walked towards the center of the room. Gabrielle's eyes widened upon sight of the catalyst. "All indicators are green. We have a round table fragment. All that's left is for you to pull the lever once it's in place."

"You sly devil, you planned this secret."

"Consider it an apology gift for forgetting one of your birthday presents last year."

"Throw in some blueberry schnapps later and you're forgiven."

"Deal, Gudako."

"Asshole Gudork." She grinned happily.

Da Vinci returned to the control panel and pressed a few button, making a sole lever appear from underneath a safety hatch. She nodded towards Gabrielle, giving room as the female master approached. Placing her hand gingerly on the lever until it blinked green upon recognition of her od signature and circuits, she then gripped it tightly and threw it back, activating the pedestals.

The ritual began as it had so many times before. The energy from the saint quarts shot to the center, formed the ball of energy, and created the summoning circle. The catalyst dissolved within the swirling central ball of energy, gone to the world in order to form a spiritual bridge to a servant. Without a single doubt, the audience watched as the balls turned golden and spun, speeding up until they imploded inwards as they had so many times before.

The light from the summoning faded to reveal the silhouette of the summoned knight.

Truth be told, the catalyst could summon any knight, but like the original system used before, the identity of the master helped to play a role in determining who was chosen. If it could not be a specific servant, then it would be a match to whatever the summoner's identity was. When she gripped the lever and the system's biometric and prana scanners sensed her identity and spirit. The fusion of magecraft and science determined, without a doubt, its call to a specific spirit.

And so, an enthusiastic, energetic knight appeared in silver armor with accents of red that made Gudao's eyes widen in delight.

A familiar, silver horned helmet made Lancelot and Arturia tense in severe concern. The front, crimson red cloth blew with the last breeze of flowing prana as the knight's ornate sword swiftly de-materialized. With subdued clanks of moving metal, the helmet swiftly disassembled itself and integrated with the knight's chest piece, revealing vibrant green eyes, a wide grin, and blonde hair tied back into a ponytail with coupling braids. The knight closed her eyes and chuckled.

After reopening them, she looked forwards towards the first familiar face to her. "Hey! Long time no see, Gudao!"

"Mordred!" Gudao exclaimed happily as he began his approach to the female knight. Gabrielle followed closely at his side as some cheers erupted from the audience at the arrival of a familiar face.

"So, I see you're my master now, huh?" She beamed as she put her hands on her armored hips.

"Correct, but not quite."

Her grin subsided and she tilted her head in confusion as Gabrielle stood next to her oldest friend. They turned to look at each other and smiled before facing Mordred once more. Connecting the dots, and similar uniforms, the knight of treachery studied the two before she smirked.

"We are your masters. Welcome to Chaldea! We look forward to working with you!" Gabrielle stated proudly for the first time.

Chapter Text

The library was comparable in size to the cafeteria or Salon de Marie, housing a literary armada of all genres in its many shelves. Located half way between the salon and the archives, it utilized the large, windowed hallway so many enjoyed walking. The room provided a quiet sanctuary for those wishing to spend their free time in imaginative worlds forged by books. Surprisingly, it had a more luxurious interior crafted with deep cherry wood and plush fabrics since Marisbilly Animusphere spent most of his free time reading before his untimely passing.

A walkway circled the room, with the large center it surrounds residing in a lowlands so one could see across the ocean of shelves from the raised area. Bookshelves lined every wall save for the large window at the far end, likely the inspiration of Salon De Marie's lounging area because of its elegant sofa and table arrangements. A second floor walkway provided access and helped solve a potential issue with absurdly tall ladders.

Carpet in ornate designs of red and gold covered the floor, matching the upholstery of the sofas and reading chairs. Large chandeliers lit the room with a warm glow, its candles eternally lit by magecraft. The lone entrance, with its wooden double doors, was centered on the wall opposite the large window. To its sides were an ornate staircase to the second floor walkway and a well-crafted librarian desk for checkout.

It is at this cherry wood counter that Gabrielle was checking out a book to read in her free time, titled "Well of Ascension". The book was currently in the hands of a male servant with light brown hair, whose fingers danced across a keyboard to log the item's checkout. A well-trimmed anchor mustache and light brown eyes made it dead obvious who the playwright was to anyone within Chaldea. A jade tie and vest were coupled with black formal pants and a white collared shirt.

It was a more modern approach to his standard battle regalia... if he were to ever fight that is. He handed the book back to Gabrielle with a smile. "Per chance, still not willing to flatter me, young master?"

"Sorry, Shakespeare, but I was forced to read enough of your works in High School," she laughed as he made a theatrical gesture of being stabbed through the heart. "Have a nice day! Oh, and show up to caster training sometime!"

"In due time," He laughed back before turning back to cataloging some new additions acquired on a recent singularity. Much to his delight, one was a finely covered book that housed one of his own creations, "Taming of the Shrew".

In the corner side of the room, sitting casually on one of the sofas by the window, sat a young man in his early twenties that watched the small scene. His Chaldea uniform was mostly clean, save for some small grease spots, with the orange tie denoting his presence in the Science Division. The young man adjusted his thin framed glasses and turned back to his book, one of many acquired from supply sorties. His standard business cut would have been dull were his hair not a strawberry blonde that glowed in the sunlight.

Letting out a sigh, he turned another page an-

"Didn't know you were interested in these books. I'll have to keep that in mind," came a teasing voice from behind.

He nearly jumped in shock at the quiet voice.

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Fragment 12: A Sincere Understanding

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The female servant chuckled as she silently took a seat on the couch opposite his, placing both her hands on the book she lay on her lap.

A tiny, amused smile flashed his way as she studied the cover of the book he held with her unique square-shaped pupils in light violet eyes. Specialized glasses sat lightly on her nose, their temples hidden behind long violet hair. The servant wore a black turtleneck sweater with dark denim jeans, a set much more concealing than her usual choice of clothing. The rider chuckled quietly at the discomfort she caused in her companion, who knew he had been completely caught.

"It's uh...for- I'm jus- Oh forget it," he grumbled as the servant across from him chuckled more, placing a few fingers to her mouth in a vain attempt to stop. "Just... please don't tell anyone, okay?"

"Of course, Anton," She smiled as she opened her own book. "Though that does make me curious. Finally going to do something about that little crush on Gabby?"

"Yea, regarding that. I... I guess I'm still not brave enough yet," He sighed as he put the small book about love tips down. "My probability of success would be low right now."

"Maybe, maybe not. One doesn't know until you try," She mused before beginning to read her book.

Nodding in delayed agreement seconds later, he let out a small sigh before picking up the book once more. The employee was glad Medusa was one of the few people who took the time to speak to him. It wasn't hard to conclude for the young robotics specialist that his complete socially awkward nature made it beyond difficult to bond with people... especially in an environment filled mostly with arrogant mages and supremacist scientists.

Of the remaining staff in Chaldea, most found speaking to him to be a chore and a half. Some even found it easy to pick on the poor engineer, getting some extra laughs when his nervous stutter always overpowered him. Most had since stopped upon the accidental revelation of his physical handicap by a talkative Nero. At least most people treated him fairly now, which he liked.

He could honestly only claim to be on fair terms with roughly six individuals, and two were servants. His friendship with Medusa was largely unexpected, taking him completely by surprise when the servant openly told him she considered the engineer a friend. Granted, it took two months of just sitting across from each other to do so. Both were usually engrossed in their own reading material, so it took some effort for the icebreaker to actually plow through that ocean.

Since then, it had been much the same as it was before except for added small talk and friendly banter on occasion. The two often silently read in each other's company in a comfortable silence. He was grateful for this small piece of stability, since even introverts needed social interaction to retain mental sanity. This was even more important considering how his past two weeks have been going.

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The Science Division's area was separated into many larger rooms for each specialty. Those rooms were then divided even more for offices and special equipment space. It was the same case with the adjacent Engineering Division since the two had similar backgrounds, at least when compared to Magecraft. In between the two divisions was a single large room dedicated to their combined specialty: robotics. While the room fell under both divisions, its custody resided with the Science Division due to the high-tech nature of its instruments, but it took employees from both to run properly.


The Robotic's Hanger was self-explanatory, and was both the control hub for Chaldea's mechanical workforce and repair center. It was much larger than most rooms to accommodate space for the individual repair stations, offices, and full assembly line that had not been activated in years. The precious amounts of remaining, high grade material were kept for maintenance purposes since singularities brought back too little. The future addition of a Chaldean forge with knowledgeable workers may solve that issue should the idea ever be implemented.


It is in one of the private offices that Anton found himself working on yet another robot mainframe, hunched over his desk while sitting on a folding chair. The circuit board lay on the desk in front of him as he swiftly worked the soldering iron. To the sides and over his desk was a tool & utility shelving unit that took up the entire back wall save for where the desk was placed. Besides the steel shelving unit and desk, the rest of the room was relatively bare of furniture except for an ordinary, beige couch the employee often found himself napping on during long shifts.


Anton sighed and waited for the next hit that never came; Babbage sure was loud with his attempt to remodel a utility robot to become more efficient in physical design. What arrived instead was a knock followed by his door opening without permission to reveal a well-muscled, middle aged man with a black, clean cut goatee. A pencil hung on the tanned skin of his right ear, clearly visible thanks to his complete lack of hair. He leaned on the doorway with crossed arms, partially glaring at Anton with ebony orbs as his foot tapped the ground beneath him.

A title plate hung next to his yellow tie marking his position in the room as 'Supervisor Damien Tavera.' The man clicked his tongue. "Were you burning time reading a book again? I needed that circuit board yesterday."

"I'm not supposed to be working on these, and you delivered it to me this mor-"

"Learn to read between the lines, Anton. You may have lost most of that stutter recently but you're still a friggin' idiot in my eyes."

Anton glared back at the supervisor before the man moved towards him, making the smaller employee visibly recoil backwards into his seat. The man gave a satisfactory, predatory grin as he dropped a small pile of paperwork onto his desk along with another circuit board. Anton stared right up at the tall man who was currently driving chills down his spine. Ever since he was promoted to supervisor three weeks ago, he never stopped displaying how superior he was to him, not that he didn't make a show of it before for that matter; He never did get along with the muscular giant in front of him.

"New repair request, and Tyler won't be saving you from the extra work. Get both of these by tonight. Skip lunch if you have to."

The man walked out of the office with a low chuckle escaping his smirk as he shut the door casually behind him. Anton released the breath he didn't realize he was holding and grunted in frustration, slamming his fist onto a clear spot on the table.


¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ IV ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Anton wasn't skipping lunch, but he was definitely still working on the circuit boards. His room proved much quieter than the office with Babbage's construction always ongoing, and it came with the added benefit of a friendly servant to keep him company. Said servant sat on his bed as she watched him work on his adjacent desk.

The room was bare as usual for employees. Its interior was the same modernistic design like the rest of his furniture, which included a table with chairs, a shelving unit, and a few dressers. The contrasting white and blacks almost made it feel monochromatic if it wasn't for the blue accents. A few personal belongings like book posters hung on his wall, but otherwise the room was perfectly kept and tidy. One would say sometimes it didn't look like anyone lived there based on how clean it was, save for the desk which was currently cluttered with the task at hand.


"Yea. As usual."


"It's alright, Fran. It's quieter eating lunch here anyway."

The robotics engineer turned to the pink-haired servant as she stared back at him sympathetically with a silver and gold eye. He had been curious about her different eyes when he first met her, until he found out the identity of the pink haired servant in front of him. After that, there were far bigger questions regarding her in general; At least the golden, horn-like lightning rod and electrical array around her ears made perfect sense.

What still didn't quite click with him was her usual wedding dress attire with white veil, but she wasn't wearing that combat attire; Her white sundress was simple and elegant. Doctor Viktor's monster was, to be honest, a very beautiful woman as opposed to the common interpretation. He had accepted that curiosity off a while ago, since he was more interested in learning more about the inquisitive and cordial servant in general... especially after they had become friends after a rather rocky start.

Correction, very rocky start. It wouldn't take an awkward genius like Anton to find the reasoning for Frankenstein's reaction regarding the facility. It did formerly churn out a robotic workforce without much attention or care. A few misunderstandings, plenty of assumptions, and no small amount of resentment later, the female berserker had to be held back by Mashu and Kojiro until Gudao could arrive to stop her potential rampage.

For a month after her summoning, she had been banned from going anywhere near the science wing, as if she would have gone there of her own cordial volition. Chaldea's third servant, since the Fuyuki incident, despised most of the wing's employees after its discovery due to a detached attitude. No one could honestly blame her after what she had gone through after her creation; It reminded her too much of her origins.

However, the programmer with high potential for Robotics AI had found her fascinating, regrettably as a one-of-a-kind creation at first.

The scientist in him wanted to know how such a flawless melding of flesh and machine was possible. He grew up in the age of millennials where his nanny was a computer screen, and his mother and father worked late hours at their respective companies. Anton grew up despising them since their idea of family time was to point him in the direction of technological studies so he could inherit the father's business in computer chips.

He was picked on for being too smart yet socially crippled, with his parents' only sympathy being a simple 'look to the future where they're slaves in your company.' As if he would have ever let that come true; It was their dream, not his. He just wanted someone who cared for once, so he could appreciate them in return.

And so after graduating college with a master's degree in computer engineering at age twenty, minor in robotics, he finally disappeared from their sight. He had to thank his few, solid friends he made for helping conceal him so well all across Germany. The search for him was impressive, with the two people he hated most in this world using every resource at their disposal to reclaim their runaway investment.

They had almost gotten him too, had the paid mercenary who found him in a friend's basement not had ulterior motives.

The woman magus was hired by the Science Division's current director, and offered to end the family's relentless search by faking his suicide on tape with the help of magecraft. In return, he would have to travel to a far secluded region and work within Chaldea's walls to upgrade their high-end robotics unit. Apparently, the young director was more interested in younger additions with potential than arrogant old ones.

Anton took it with minimal hesitation, only saddened by the fact his last true friends would never be told he still lived. But he was tired of running and hiding. He honestly never knew what he always wanted to do, but he always understood science and engineering were his natural gift. His parents were right about that one, regrettably, but he would never openly admit that until his deathbed.

It is this curiosity for the unknown and need to understand how things work that drove him ambitiously to new heights. He quickly became one of the division's top tier assets, though still an awkward youth. There was nothing that he couldn't analyze, decipher, then program or repair when it came to his specialties, and he resolved to prove it time and time again even if his heart was never fully behind it. But then this servant appeared, and he was at a total loss of understanding.

He had to understand her... and figure out how she worked...

Frankenstein did not take too kindly to that.

He had gone ahead and, without any permission, tried to use scientific tools to decipher her make and record readings, much to her displeasure. Once more, Gudao and several servants had to defend a robotics employee from the reaches of Frankenstein's wrath. He had been reprimanded for his reckless and completely immoral data collection that he had attempted, earning him some scorn from many of his colleagues that thankfully disappeared with time.

After much awkward apologizing to everyone, especially to Frankenstein while under the protection of Mashu, things had smoothed out. The initial situation was left as a bad memory and an example of what must never be done. The servant simply just avoided him instead of getting angry, with no sign of negative intent should they pass by each other. He had figured that he would never completely understand her, and went on to different things to figure out like how to not awkwardly ask Gabrielle's on a date.

How wrong he was.

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Anton froze and slowly looked up.  The young man sat at a table in the empty cafeteria. He had thought the room was empty when he entered in an attempt to fix something that had been bothering him about his leg.

Taking a seat at the far corner, he had lifted the pant leg after rearranging the pile of paperwork he had to fill out for a robot reprogramming. As he grumbled about mages hating computers, he failed to see the approach of the female berserker. The battle-clad Frankenstein apparently caught sight of something that peaked her curiosity. What had brought her over, letting her curiosity overtake her usual avoidance for the previously churlish and detached young man, was currently unveiled from secrecy.

The employee grit his teeth in defeat as he looked down solemnly, the pant leg covering up the top part of the bionic calf that shined with stainless steel craftsmanship. It wasn't too spectacular considering what Chaldea's robots could do, but its silent running and ability to mimic the original human leg made it so that Anton kept his disability secret from everyone except Doctor Roman. He wondered if she saw the irony of the revelation upon discovering his secret.

"...I know, um, we're not on the best of... well, terms, yea... but... just please don't tell anyone I have a bionic left leg, alright? Just. Please," He begged in a quiet voice. "I... don't want anyone's sympathy."

"Uuu...why?" She spoke softly, earning his total shock. She stared with surprised eyes of her own.

"You can talk?" He immediately recalled his first thought as he saw her start to frown. "I-I didn't mean it in a bad way, I'm... well I guess I didn't thi- alright... I'm an asshole, I know. Sorry."

He sighed and leaned back in his chair, releasing the grip on his pant leg so it fell back over his bionic le-

"It...o...kay... for... give..." She said softly with a nod.

"Thanks... God I hate being awkward..." He turned his head toward her when he heard what he thought was quiet giggling.

"fu...nny..." She smiled softly at him.

"Honestly I'm... more perplexed you're not scorning my existence in every possible manner."

She shook her head. "Name...?"

Anton looked at her inquisitively as she tilted her head in curiosity. After all that they went through, he still never properly introduced himself to her. Sure his name was said a few times but- Yea, time to fix that.

"Anton. Anton Schneller."

She smiled at him. He perceived and assumed he was forgiven, but to be on more cordial terms so quickly for just showing a bionic leg was still surprising. Maybe she found someone like her and just took that as something to bond over? Is she really a human being or is it advanced computerized logic? This servant sure was difficult to understand.

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He was shaken from his thought by the soft poking of a finger on the center of his forehead. The employee shook himself from his thoughts upon hearing the soft giggling of the servant in front of him, who held a hand to her mouth. He chuckled and rolled his eyes. "I lost myself in thought again, didn't I?"


"Figures. Sorry."

The berserker giggled again. "Al...ways...sor...ry...Uuuu."

"I think it's a solidified habit to apologize to you now."

Since that day in the cafeteria, he had gotten to know the berserker a lot more in those many months, at least through her actions. Frankenstein wasn't the best linguist by any stretch of the imagination, but after all of her experiences since her creation, she has gained the ability to at least converse on a very limited level. It was tough for some, but Anton didn't think too much about it considering her origin and how she spent more and more time with the otherwise reclusive man.

After learning her story from Gudao after his friendship with the berserker had solidified, he felt even more like an asshole upon learning her true story, and not the one told by books. He had strived to always treat her with the highest respect and kindness since. To be fair, it wasn't hard since she always treated him very well. Becoming friends also helped. A lot.

"You want your cheesecake?" He asked as he picked up the small package from his tray and held it out to her.

"Uuuu!" She cried happily but softly as she took it with a smile.

"You're welcome, as always." Anton was especially glad she was one of the few people he could now talk to without ever stuttering. They often hung out at lunch, whether at the cafeteria or in his room when he was stuck with more overtime tasks. She'd usually be found in her own room or being dragged around by Astolfo if not with him, much like he'd often be found working with new prototype coding if he wasn't with her.

It was a very beneficial friendship by its very definition; He was glad to make that discovery. Anton found himself content with spending his time with the female berserker, but he didn't liken it to the driving force that previously wanted a scientific analysis. The young man just enjoyed being in her company since it made him feel more... what was the word or phrase...

A knock on the door made him cringe as he turned to look.


Before he had a chance to say anything, the door slid open to reveal Tyler in his regular uniform, staring in frustration at his fellow employee. His hand gripped the side of the doorway tensely as he let out a sigh. "I knew it. That asshole has you working on more hardware again."

"It's alright, Tyler. I can handle this. I don't want to bo-"

"I'm a faster worker than you, Ant. You're the software genius. Hardware is more my neighborhood," Tyler stated firmly as he crossed his arms. The friendly wave, smile, and nod he gave towards Frankenstein were quick before he returned to his frustrated look. "Yes, you're lightning, but we both know I can get that done, and you can be enjoying lunch with Fran in the cafeteria without having a task in front of you."

"I bothered you too much in the past two weeks... I just don't... Just please, Tyler." He inwardly cursed at his stutter coming back. It always did when he got nervous or frustrated. "I don't mind eating in here with Fran. It's quieter here."


Tyler let out a sigh and walked over to Anton who didn't flinch at his friend's approach, simply watching as he looked at the circuit board. "You really have to stick up for yourself and push that guy off."

"He's the new supervisor."

"Damien is also king of shit-bags since he got promoted as far as I'm concerned. Too bad this shit isn't reportable."

Anton gulped. "You tried?"

"Sorry I didn't tell you, but yea I did. Da Vinci believes the man's only doing it cause we're short on man power and robots can't service each other. Pretty sure he's just fudging the details," He explained as he eyed his friend. "Don't tell me he doubled his hazing cause of tha-"

"No, he did not. I was just curious why he was glaring more intensely the past few days."

"Uuuu..." Frankenstein growled, making the two employees look to her. She was clearly upset.

"It's alright, Fran, I swear," Anton half smiled. "He's just an asshole. I've dealt with countless in my life. This is insignificant."

"Uuu... O...kay..." She replied in a low voice, still clearly not happy.

"Thanks," he said before turning back to his friend. "I'm serious, Tyler. I'm fine. Just go back and enjoy your lunch. Please."

"Geez... Whatever, bro, you win this round, I'll let you two eat in peace. My own lunch is probably getting cold if Brotoki hasn't stolen any of it in my absence. I'll see you back in the workshop."

As he was walking out, he stopped in the doorway to turn towards Anton with a sudden smirk, catching the young genius off guard with the sudden shift. "Oh, and don't forget about the jam at the Party Cave this weekend. You lost the bet, so you gotta do as I say, and that means living a little."

Tyler snapped him a thumbs up and his trademark wink before walking out the door as he closed it behind him. Anton cursed under his breath, making the servant tilt her head in curiosity.

"I hoped he forgot about that..."

"Ner... vous...?

"The definition of it."

"I... co...ome... help...?"

His eyes widened as he turned to look at the curious servant. "A Science Division party? You want to come to that?"

"Uuu... with... you..."

"But you hate them! I'm still surprised you give me the time of day."


"Right, right, we're friends. Sorry," He corrected himself. The young genius felt a warmth within him at the thought of his friend caring so much. But he couldn't allow her to do this. "Still though, just to make me feel less nervous? I don't think you should, honestly. They revive bad memories for you. You shouldn't go just for m-"

"Uuu. Uuuuu."

"...huh?" Anton asked, completely dumbfounded.

"Uuu." She spoke resolutely.

'Does she not have the words for the answer?'

Perhaps he'd never fully understand the servant in front of him.

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"Do you think you might love Gabby?" It was more of a tease than an inquiry.

He stared at her in shock. "I-I'm not adept at understanding these specific social constructs."

'Incredible. Way to sound like an idiot.'

Medusa chuckled in amusement as she crossed one leg over the other while staring at Anton who was squirming under her interrogation. She had chosen a conservative purple dress to wear at the library today. "But you've had the crush on Gabrielle for so long. Are you certain it hasn't grown?"

"I- well, I mean... Why are we talking about this anyway?"

The servant laughed quietly at Anton's expense as he pushed his glasses back into place with a finger, a slight blush on his cheeks. "I'm just... I'm not sure, alright? I'm not great at these things."

"It's alright, I was just teasing," Medusa stated before reopening her book. "And a little curious to be honest."


"About what attracts you to my master."

"I...well um..." he began, but couldn't finish. How could he phrase it? The whole love at first sight thing was an absurd notion to him. He believed undeniably in the chemical reactions that made up what was, at its base, just an over exaggerated mating ritual.

Yet when he observed her the first time when she was casually interacting with many employees he felt... he felt a fire of interest. He had felt it a few times before in High School, but the crushes never amounted to anything. This felt a little different, but it made him wonder if he was simply misinterpreting something else. Perhaps he should actually ask one of his friends about it.

The friends he made in Chaldea did more to help him improve than his private school buddies, though they currently hold the trophy for most dedication to protect their pal. Tyler was probably the biggest help with having someone to talk to, as he acted like an older brother to him since his introduction. Frankenstein and Medusa were the reason his awkward stutter mostly disappeared; Dealing with two prestigious servants, especially one with undeniable beauty, made holding his composure when talking to other people relatively easy.

Besides them, Doctor Roman, Janice, and Gudao, there was no one else he could honestly consider a friend.

Gabrielle was far from even being an acquaintance, so to put into perspective why he felt to differently about the crush was hard to explain. Was it just because she was hot? Was he envious and liked her very outgoing personality, the practical opposite of what he is? It wasn't like how he felt when around his friends, or especially Frankenst- Wait. Those last lines of thought. It all made sen-

"No answer?" Medusa asked curiously, looking up from her book once more. She patiently listened to him make thinking noises for a solid minute.

"I...I just... I think I have an idea, but I need some time before I can answer properly."

"I see. It's alright if you're shy to share. Just know I'll listen if you wish to." She said quietly.

"I'm not shy about it, Medusa. I just... well, when I understand I'll come to you."

She smiled kindly. "Very well. Sorry for prodding."

"It's alright. We're friends, right?"

She nodded with a small smile and turned back to her book. Anton was silent as she continued to read, his inner confusion hidden from presenting itself upon his features.

Maybe he would soon understand.

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"Uuu!!" came the pleased, quiet sound from Frankenstein as Anton handed her the ice cream cone. Careful not to spill any drips on her cerulean strapless dress, the berserker held the cone over the table. Anton looked in amusement as she eyed the treat's texture with a soft smile.

"I'm still surprised. You've never had cookie dough ice cream since you arrived?"


"I hope this fixes that then," He stated as he watched the servant happily start licking the ice cream from across the cafeteria table.


Pleased with the result, he turned back to his salad and began eating it. Tyler gave him an earful at the lunch line and stated he needed more meat, and that vegetables are what their food eats. Anton was far from a vegetarian, but there was nothing wrong with following the food pyramid to the letter. He wasn't as chiseled as some servants walking around, but he wasn't exactly scrawny either; His only real leg was at least fit for having to keep up with its steel counterpart.

"Ah, there you are."

Anton felt his heart sink at the familiar voice as he turned to see the supervisor walk up to him and stop. Damien put both hands on his hips before looking towards Frankenstein and nodding politely. He turned back to Anton.

"I'm sorry, but we're a little overloaded and there's a processing unit for one of the robots that needs immediate repair. I know it's your specialty. It would be very inconvenient if this wasn't done before the party tonight. Mind lending a hand?"

Anton looked towards his supervisor who had a calm expression on his face, a perfect mask of what his words really said. Frankenstein looked between him and his superior with a slightly tense face, and from across the room he could see Tyler staring at them with a disapproving frown from his servant-packed table. Anton looked towards Frankenstein then back at the supervisor calmly. The false front the supervisor put up may fool everyone else, but it certainly didn't for those within earshot. He mentally steeled himself for the reaction he knew he would receive.

"I'll be right there."

"Excellent. I'll throw in proper compensation as usual. See you in the hanger."

'There is never proper compensation.' He thought as the supervisor began walking towards the exit. Anton kept his mind steeled and grabbed his salad and dri- Only for Frankenstein to stand up and level a glare at him. Her ice cream cone was discarded onto the table.

He knew this was coming. "Why."

"I'm sorry, Fran. I don't want to make a scene in front of ev-"

"Not... right... be...brave..."

"I can't, Fran... I can't-"


"No! I can't, okay? I can't. I'm not brave like you servants, alright? I'm sorry… I'll talk to you later," He shot out, feeling a chill, and a pang to the heart, at the shocked look on her face. Not wanting to see how angry the servant was going to be at him, he swiftly began leaving the cafeteria to the confusion of some employees who had seen the exchange.

What he didn't see was the servant's disheartened look that followed the employee even after the door closed behind him. Standing there, still watching. Her trance was only broken when she felt a hand place itself lightly on her shoulder. As she turned it was lifted and she saw Tyler with a small, sincere smile. There was a pained expression in his eyes as well.

"Maybe someday he will."


"Tell ya' what, I'll get you another ice cream. Same flavor."

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ IX ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

"I'm pathetic, huh?"

"There were lots of people who would have seen that. I don't blame you for not standing up for-"

"I made Fran angry at me! Again! Damnit, I just keep digging a hole for myself." He never gave her an answer about letting her join them, but he highly doubted she was going to even consider it now.

Tyler and Anton were sitting at a table booth in the party cave, one with only space for two people. The party, which just started, was mostly in the dance area next door, but some employees preferred the bar for drinks. Occasionally others would come in for a refill before quickly scurrying back out to the dance floor. Tyler and Anton would be among them, if not for how things had gone earlier. While some of his friend's buddies tried waving Tyler in, he only waved back and continued to keep him company.

"She wasn't angry, dude, she wa-" He stopped himself before he revealed something that might have been taken much worse. "She was just a little surprised is all. She's not angry with you, I promise."

"Still doesn't make me feel much better. I yelled at my closest friend who's always there for me. And I did it instead of standing up for myself. I'm pathetic."

"It's alright, dude. It's whatever. How about we handle this later? I'll get us a beer each, then we head into the cave. How 'bout it?" There was some silence as Anton silently brooded in front of him before there was a silent nod.

With a pat on the back and a trademark grin, which honestly made the young genius chuckle, Tyler left for the bar counter. He felt a little better just by barely a minute conversation and flashy smile, but only a little. It was a strong relief to him that his servant friend wasn't actually mad at him, but the pang in his heart for yelling at her was painful. Maybe tonight wouldn't be so bad so long as he could apologize to her... yet again... Though maybe not as profusely as the first time.

Loud laughing came from the cave as Damien and some of his friends made their way to the bar counter, plenty of glasses already empty in their hands. As the robot worked to fill the glasses in order of recipients, with Tyler being next, the small group put their containers down and began loudly talking among each other. Anton swore he would be getting a headache before he even entered the party cave.

"You're telling me you wouldn't let her ride you?" Damien hollered. "What are you, blind or something? She's a total ten. It's her class for crying out loud!"

"She's a servant. She'd probably break your dick off before you made a move," one of his friends said to more laughter from the group.

"Servant or not, Medusa is one fine piece of meat. Total trophy lay I tell you. I'd drag that onto me any day!" Damien boasted as he waved towards the robotic barkeep. "Hey, move faster! What, are your processors running slow?"

Anton felt his anger rising as he clenched his fists to control himself. At the counter, Tyler simply rolled his eyes and chuckled, passing it off as drunken banter. The group paid no attention to either of them even as Anton glared towards his supervisor with discontent. They were clearly, at the very least, tipsy and moving onto drunk but that still didn't help to quell his frustration. Medusa had always been so nice to him. But what could he even do about it? He didn't want to make a scene in front of all these people...

"Sounds like you need to get laid, Damien."

"No shit I do. Hell everyone does. Who doesn't want to get laid, am I right?" He boasted raising his hands to his sides to the laughter and agreement of his friends. "Except maybe that pushover in my section but whatever. Maybe he's just asexual and only needs to bud."

"Bud? Like coral?"

"Shit yea like coral!" Damien agreed while trying to calm his laughter. "That idiot hangs around with that babe and has no idea what he could have in his lap. Pisses me off. I should be in his position!"

Anton could feel his anger rising, but was still held in check by the chill that ran down his spine at the thought of having to deal with his imposing giant of a supervisor. He looked over at Tyler who was looking back angrily, currently waiting on the barkeep to fill two glasses that he ordered. The first one slowly filled with amber liquid as another of its arms poured the second. He cracked his knuckles but Anton shook his head subtly, making Tyler roll his eyes and give him an incredulous look ba-

"Gotta hand it to the kid, though. He's a programming genius. Definition of smart. Probably more than all of us combined."

"Pretty nice guy honestly, glad he shook the stutter."

"Oh come on, you all sucking his dick or something?" Damien stated flatly as he looked over at the barkeep finally filling Tyler's last drink. To Tyler's credit, he was doing a good job hiding his glare, even if he did want to punch the supervisor. "He needs to grow a spine if anything. And maybe find a better friend than that failed science experiment he hangs out with all the ti-"

"Frankenstein is not some failed experiment!"

The room fell silent as Tyler gaped with wide eyes towards Anton, who had thrown the napkin holder and its contents to the ground with a large clatter. He currently glared at his supervisor with the angriest look he's held for anyone save his own parents. Though it appeared Tyler was about to intervene, his own anger snapped first. To his friend's credit, he failed to drop the two glasses of alcohol he held as he stared at Anton with in surprised delight.

Yes... Tyler looked proud, but also worried as he glanced towards the supervisor. The man's look could murder and hide the corpse alone. Pushing some of his friends out of the way, he slowly approached Anton, who felt compelled to approach to the much bigger man without hesitation.

With a growl the supervisor came closer to allow his height to tower over his friend by a solid margin. Anton was by no means short by being a few centimeters short of a hundred eighty; Damien was just that huge. They stopped within arms distance of each other as the supervisor crossed his arms, the room still deadly silent save for the party noises coming from the next room.

"Well, well. You have a spine after all-"

"Take it back." Anton glared back evenly at the taller man who narrowed his eyes.

He scoffed. "About Frankenbolts? Not even any of the comments abou-"

"Yes, about Frankenstein, are you deaf?"

Damien narrowed his eyes and clenched his fists. "You've got guts to talk back to your superior, kid."

"You disrespected my friends. You can... you- you can eat shit for all I'm concerned!"

Some of Damien's friends raised eyebrows as Tyler quickly put the mugs on the counter before he could drop them; He looked absolutely stunned. Some employees in the far corner of the room laughed quietly, and silently rooted for the awkward employee. Damien was clearly not amused as he took a step further to puff his chest, making Anton flinch.

"So what if I disrespected your friends? What are you gonna do about it? Report me again?"

Tyler's hands moved onto both of their arms and slowly began to move them away. "Hey, easy now. We're here to have relax. Let's take it down a not-"

"Don't get involved, Tyler!" Damien roared as he pushed him away, causing him to fall backwards over a nearby chair with a clatter. "You ain't saving your shithead of a friend this ti-"

He couldn't finish his last sentence as he felt a fist connect with his jaw. Damien grunted as he stumbled back a step and felt the taste of copper in his mouth. He wiped his lips with his forearm and saw some blood on it, making him narrow his eyes as he looked towards the culprit.

Anton himself was hissing and holding his hand, having heard a crack as his punch connected with Damien's jaw, but it did not come from the supervisor. He was hardly an expert on medical knowledge, but judging by the pain coming from his thumb he had definitely broke it. His other hand held his injured one by the wrist as he slowly backed away from the supervisor, both anger and horror in his eyes as the larger man bared his teeth at him. Tyler was scrambling backwards to his feet, reaching for anything solid to help him to his feet faster.

"Now that is s a reportable offense, but I'm going to take much more pleasure handing it personally..." He growled out as he charged towards Anton, bringing his fist back swiftly and then throwing it forward with his entire weight behind it.

The blow connected with Anton's chest and he felt his breath leave his lungs as he flew backwards, slamming into the sofa backing of a nearby booth. He grunted at the pain he felt where he was struck and slowly tried to right himsel-

Damien grabbed him and lifted him by the collar of his uniform to throw him towards the opposite side of the room, over a table and onto the floor. Thankfully he landed on his bionic leg which absorbed more damage with less pain than the rest of his body would have. Anton began backing away towards the booths behind him, trying to get distance from the mad supervisor.

"You have no idea how much I wanted to do that," He laughed with a savage grin as he approached the downed employee.

"Please cease and desist!" Lex stated as its internal signal was activated to get help. Damien knew exactly what the beeping from the robot was all about.

"Hey, Damien, calm down man!" Tyler said as he tried to approach before halting with both hands in the air when he was met with the supervisor stomping the ground, throwing a punch that missed, and glaring daggers.

"You're going to get locked up for this! He's not worth it-" cried one of his friends as the supervisor rounded the table and pinned Anton with a hard step onto his chest, causing the man to yell in agony.

"He's not worth anything, but I have to make my god damn point!" He yelled as he glared towards his group, before bracing his fist. He rotated his torso with a yell as he brought his hand down from above to stri-

It would never connect. "Get off Anton!"

Damien yelled in agony as he was sent flying into the bar counter several meters away. Upon impact, he groaned in agony as the two discarded beers that Tyler ordered fell over and poured themselves over the now unconscious supervisor. The room was dead silent, and even the dance floor itself fell quieter as some employees looked into the bar to see what had transpired. Tyler quickly ran behind the bar in search of its first aid kit as some of Damien's friends went to check on his condition.

Anton coughed and grunted as he felt soft yet strong hands prop him gently against a nearby booth he was close to reaching. He grit his teeth as he tried to find a comfortable position but it seems he was frailer than he thought since every angle hurt immensely; Or maybe Damien was just that much of a monster. Groaning in pain he slowly opened his eyes to a slightly spinning room as he stared straight into the eyes of Frankenstein.

The amount of worry laced into her features was immeasurable, but that's not what stuck out the most. She was in her battle attire instead of her casual dress, appearing like an angel that just saved him. He found himself losing his concentration as he stared at the beautiful bride before him, whose concern melted him. Had he really tried to understand her as a machine, and not the wonderful girl he had been so previously blind of?

"Anton... are you hurt badly...?" She asked softly. He was stunned by her cohesion, and tried to mentally note asking her about it later, but…

"Everywhere hurts. He... he hits like... a rocket," he grunted out as Frankenstein glared towards the unconscious supervisor. "I'll... I'll be... okay though... Thank-argh-... for saving me."

Frankenstein turned back with her worried expression with a small quiver of her bottom lip. "It's my fault… I told you to be brave…"

"It's... alright," He said through his wheezing. "I needed... to do that. He mocked... me. My friends... You. He insulted you... I was tired-ghh- of running."

"Sorry…" She said as she wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him, much to his total surprise. He slowly hugged her back as Tyler rounded the bar with the medkit before stopping upon seeing the scene. His friend slowly approached instead of running.

"I'm sorry… forgive me…" The female berserker kept saying as he felt warm tears dampen his shoulder. Many gut wrenching, and some gut damaging, things had happened to him today, but none had compared to the idea of feeling her sad tears. That was something he never wished for again.

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Anton sat on the examination table in the medical wing. Like the other rooms, it was near blindingly white with its lone LED overhead at full power. The black and white cabinets that lined one side of the room hung over a counter with a long sink. A medical cabinet and several other instruments took up another wall while an eye chart and large forest painting took up the other two. He found himself staring at the painting to his right as the servant in the room went through the final paperwork.

The servant sat on a chair with perfect posture, adjusting his glasses with a finger before resuming to write on the clipboard. He wore a clean white collared shirt with a black cravat and matching formal pants; The assassin sure loved classic clothing. Attaching the pencil to the top of the clipboard, the servant looked towards the employee one last time with analyzing green eyes before scratching at the top of his blonde head.

"The bruising should subside within the next week, Mr. Shneller. Your thumb will take much longer to heal, though. Possibly six weeks at most."

"That's acceptable. I work mainly with my left hand."

"You're certain you don't want this sped up with magecraft?"

"Please don't… I'm not too fond of the idea."

"Very well. We will release you as planned today. Please try to refrain from working for the next week at least. If not for the injury, then any possible mental trauma that may still affect you. "

"I appreciate the concern, Doctor Jekyll, but… I am the lead robot programmer."

"And you can do that when you're healthy," Came the voice of Gudao from the room's only doorway as he stepped inside with Gabrielle. "Sorry you had to deal with all that. It should have been reported sooner that he was harassing you to this degree. I'm worried Tyler's report had been tampered with, and I will see it is looked into."

"I didn't want to cause unnecessary hassle, but I wound up causing more. I apologize."

Gabrielle sighed. "It's alright, Mr. Schneller. But please do not hesitate if it happens again. We've worked hard to make a solid community here, and any possible infringement to upset that balance must be dealt with. Neglecting to do so will not only hurt us but also those we truly care about. Our bonds in Chaldea are golden. I'm sure you understand."

There was a small silence before he gave a small smile and nodded. "I understand now, yes. Very clearly. Thank you."

Gabrielle blinked in confusion before looking towards Gudao who shrugged, but with a smile of his own. "Besides that, Gudao has an inquiry for you before you leave."

"In regards to the scuffle yesterday?"

"Partially. Damien Tavera was very clearly someone who should not have been placed in a leadership position. As he is now in the brig, I would like to know if there's anyone you would think would make for better leadership to encourage others in the division to work harder without be-"

"Tyler Fields."

"I thought you'd say that," Gudao chuckled. "I'm honestly a little worried about his carefree stance when it comes to most things, but he is in for consideration. The final decision rests with the council though, but thanks for the opinion."

"You're welcome."

"We won't take up more of yours or Doctor Jekyll's time. If you'll excuse us," Gabrielle said as she waved goodbye to the occupants before turning around with Gudao to leave through the doorway.

"Nice speech, Gudako. 'Our bonds are Golden?' Who are you, Kintoki?"

"Oh shut up, Gudork. It was heartfelt!"

The servant chuckled with the employee upon hearing the two masters retreating down the medical corridor.

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"I have an answer for you." They had been reading in their usual silence before he broke it. Medusa looked up from her book in surprise.

She stared inquisitively at the small smile of the employee in front of her. Since he still had to relax for two more days, he could often be found in the library or with Frankenstein in various locations. Sometimes he would even be found at the Robotic's Hanger just keeping Tyler company as he helped with the programming, promising his friend a beer a day for every lost shift. But today he had sat in the library for most of the time, thinking to himself and contemplating quietly with a smile.

Medusa looked extra curious. "About your feelings for Gabrielle?"

"Yes," He said simply as he looked directly at her. "The answer is there is no answer."

She looked at him and deadpanned. "You've never talked in riddles before."

"I'm not talking in riddles, Medusa," He said politely as he looked down at the book of love tips he had shamelessly been reading on occasion the past week. "I mean it. There is no answer, because there are no feelings."

"You mean yo-"

"I wasn't lying about finding an answer before."

"I wasn't implying that."

"Sorry, I assumed. That was improper of me... I was confused. It was definitely a crush, but it didn't develop into love. It grew into envy," He explained as he leaned back onto his sofa and stared at the ceiling, fiddling with the brace on his thumb with the opposite hand. "I wanted to be like her. Socially adept, making copious friends, receiving a lot of attention, standing up for myself without hesitation…"

He paused and smiled. "Being attuned to my emotions and understanding them. I confused it for bigger feelings than the combination of infatuation and envy it truly was. And yes, I did have a crush on her for a while, I guess I miscalculated into thinking it lingered."

"Ah, shame. So my little friend was simply misunderstanding his feelings," Medusa mused with a slightly disappointed frown before giggling. "And here I thought I could play pretend matchmaker like my sisters occasionally do in private. Ah, C'est la vie I believe the saying goes."

The servant smiled at her friend. "Thanks for the answer though. And once more for punching that lecherous pig."

He laughed, albeit a little too loudly and covered his mouth when some nearby readers glanced at him. "You're welcome, Medusa."

"I'm glad you've at least reached an understanding of yourself."

He smiled softly. "That's not the only thing I understand clearly now."

She looked at him inquisitively once more. Today's talk was turning very interesting for her from what he could see in her intrigued stare.

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"Uuuu..." Frankenstein mused softly as she looked at the appetizers that were placed in front of them. Even though she was created, she still had to eat normally to sustain herself since that was her design. Anton knew it made her feel more human and she enjoyed it. He paid his friend in a pink one-shoulder dress more attention than he did the food; She looked extra special today, he would gladly admit.

"Yea, looks especially delicious today," Anton agreed as he awkwardly held his fork in his non-injured hand.

He had changed into a formal black suit after returning from his first day back, much to the curiosity of his friend. The only downside to having that thumb broken was it belonged to his primary eating hand. Frankenstein giggled at the sight, as she did every night for the past week. Her gaze suddenly turned towards her female master in a stunning red dress as she made her way past their table.

"You... ask... ?" Frankenstein asked curiously.

"Yea, I'm going to make my move tonight. I really hope it doesn't end negatively," He stated as he put his fork back down. She had been reaching for her own before Gabrielle passed, and now watched curiously as her friend appeared to be getting ready to stand up. She smiled softly at him and he noticed a glint of jealousy in her eyes before she glanced back at Gabrielle. Internally he was also nervous but he felt more confident and calmer than he ever had before.

'You assaulted your supervisor, Anton. This is a cake walk. Just... don't stutter.'

Frankenstein looked to her left as, to her widening eyes, Gabrielle came back with a red rose in her hand as he stepped out of their booth. She presented it to Anton with a small bow and smile which he returned. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Frankenstein's surprise; She likely thought she was making the first move. To be fair, she was making the first move that he had requested earlier, but he thought Marie was going to be the one to deliver the rose.

He quietly smiled, knowing he was going to catch her off guard with his pleasant surprise. Now, with more understanding than before, he quietly took the rose from Gabrielle as she waved and walked off with an excited giggle. Frankenstein looked at the rose inquisitively before Anton sat back down across from her and readjusted his glasses. He put on his, hopefully, best smile before turning to the dear servant across the table.

Anton could almost see her heart skip a beat as he presented the rose to her. She was frozen in place, save for her arms that slowly brought her hands to cover her mouth as her cheeks reddened. He chuckled, knowing full well she understood, just like he finally did, as he observed the small shine at the corner of her eyes. She lowered her hands to show her smile turned from surprised to genuinely happy.

"Me...? You... It's for me...?" It seems it was her turn to stutter, and it was cute.

"Fran, have I ever told you you're the best thing that's ever happened to me?"

Chapter Text

The servant came to a stop in the doorway and levelled a firm stare within. The windowed hallway leading to the cafeteria was bright enough, but Chaldea itself always seemed brighter. It was an ensuring and hopeful sight to see the last torch of humanity being warmly lit, yet a fire still burned. For all its beauty and promise, there were always hidden dangers lurking within the light.

As he stood there and observed the overflowing light from the doorway, he stared over the waves of mirthful smiles and vibrant laughter. Though the enthusiastic chatter rang soundly through the air like a spring drizzle, the sights flickered before him. It was almost as if he could feel it writhing beneath… the unsightly sin that welled in man's hearts. With firm crimson eyes, a cousin of the very same malice and discontent that led humanity to the brink whispered from his core.

With a small frown, the servant pulled the brim of his pork pie hat down so it helped shade his eyes from the suddenly brighter overhead lights; They hadn't changed, nor had the laughter that now sounded maniacal and foreboding. His twisted nature spun the tune differently from how others perceived, and his eyes projected tendrils of hate where there was only mirth… It saw a hidden loathing and sinful motive where it didn't exist.

Yet, try as he might, he couldn't see the mirth for what it truly was… He was of the dreaded avenger class, after all.

Undeterred, he merely stood in the doorway as the sight before him flashed between his mind's twisted vision and the true reality. It was a jarring mess that aroused the worst of migraines. Once more, he grimly missed the dim corridors of that damp, unforgiving prison… and he hated that damned prison.

Unbeknownst to him, while he struggled with adjusting to the dark perception grafted by his class' nature, more and more turned to the well-dressed avenger. Clad in a noble suit of the dimmest gray, his elongated red tie twitched with the unsteady malice that leaked from him. It grew thick and palpable in the air like a coating mist, making his crimson eyes and sickly pale skin appear far more demonic than they should. An avenger's presence was often unsightly, but none would have noticed in Solomon's crafted prison.

Regaining his senses and holding his darkened perception at bay, his strained stare gazed around unintentionally to look like a scrutinizing glare. He caught the sights of intimidation and terror from many employees. Others were cautious and unnerved at the very least, but to his curiosity there were others that didn't even seem phased; Good for them. The present servants had turned into wary guard dogs, yet that was not his intent in the least.

Still, his twisted mind sowed the seeds of discord in the form of criticism. This place was far too content, and everyone seemed to take the peaceful atmosphere for granted. Were they not at war? The previous mirth was not how a bastion, currently involved with a struggle to save mankind waged across time itself, should feel. It was too much like he was before, where the complacency blindsided him. The whispers continued unabated, and he even dared to say he let them…

"…Dantes? Are you just going to stand in the door?"

The Count of Monte Cristo, or what he was best known as at least, turned towards the source of the curious inquiry with a growl upon hearing that hated name; It was an instinctual knee-jerk demanded by his heart. He met the uncertain yet firm stare of Gabrielle, who had been with Gudao in the summoning chamber when they had the luck of contracting him. It had been good to see the taller master well and healthy, yet his intrigue quickly grew on Chaldea's newest.

Her anger had flared on arrival for daring to try and harm her best friend back then. Though it was a trial, and he had no choice, he'd flatly accepted her verbal outburst. To her surprise, he even complimented her on it. How could he not? That vengeance to right a wrong resonated within, even if his core whispered it housed further ill intent, he could not see it… or could he see it? He wasn't certain what was or what wasn't.

All he did know, is that Gudao accepted him fully, and Gabrielle rather cautiously and reluctantly. He couldn't blame her… avengers were unsightly. He, the King of the Cavern, was the very embodiment of vengeance. Every inch of him wreaked of chaos to the point his vision was drawn and swirled by its hands. Despite the almost mad enhancement influence on what he perceived, he still held some semblance of control.

Though his eye twitched, he responded with a natural nobility marred by the tints of aggravation. "No… I was just considering my options."

"…Oh, okay," she responded calmly, but offered him a small smile. Though he saw it perfectly as it shined, it rattled his core. "If you want, I could save you a-"

"You can do no such thing!" he suddenly flared as his eyes leaked with sudden ferocity. The usually brave Gabrielle flinched and took a step back, causing several nearby servants to jump to their feet; There was no need. Though his malevolent presence had rocked the air wildly, he did nothing further than allow his voice to impulsively lash out against his will. His fists shook at his sides, and his glare lightened swiftly as he brought a hand to his now growling head.

"…save you a seat…?" Gabrielle finished hesitantly. With eyes closed, he let out a slow breath, then opened them again to look at his startled master. He shook his head slowly, glimpsed into the cafeteria at the sea of anxious faces, and began walking away.

"Excuse me…" he pardoned himself in a small whisper as he strolled away from the cafeteria, leaving a bewildered and concerned Gabrielle to watch after him.

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Fragment 13: A Prisoner's Requiem

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Dantes grumbled to himself as he leaned against the side of the elevator as the doors slid close before him. He glared at the electric counter that displayed the floors as it transited to the lower levels where the residential area rested. He crossed his arms in aggravation over the impulsive outburst, yet it couldn't be helped. The accompanying pain was almost instantaneous and seized control like gasping for breath while drowning.

"I suppose I'll have to apologize to her later…" he mused as he stared at the moving floor counter.

With a final tick, the elevator halted at the floor he requested. Recalling correctly, his room should be towards the end of the second hallway after an immediate left. He sighed to himself as the doors slowly slid open and he pushed himself off the wa-

He was immediately shoved back against the wall with a grunt and hiss as he glared towards the servant who had crammed hastily into the elevator. The blonde, incredibly muscular man simply grinned back though his eyes were hidden by his usual shades. His hair was currently cut short and slicked back. A fresh leather jacket was draped on his shoulders over a white shirt. To his disbelief, a few robots floated in too, but it was just the start of a train.

The rest of the elevator quickly filled as Macedonian royalty, an Irish legend, and a grumpy professor filled into the remaining space with just enough room for an employee with blasting headphones. They all seemed to have matching white shirts with an identical design on them, paired with different flavors of casual pants. Cu had his battle attire instead.

"Hey, I'm really sorry! We're in a rush and didn't see you there! You the new servant?" Kintoki asked as he looked down at the avenger. To the new arrival's dismay, the elevator shut closed and began its ascent, but he only grew more curious as the people around him seemed rather… oblivious to his presence.

"Ho? New servant? Let me see!" "My king, you bloody idiot, that was my foot!" "Please do not bump my sensors, sir!"

"Woah, woah! Watch it big guy, I don't want to be grinding against Cu! That's Gabby's dream, not mine!" There was loud laughter from the other servants as Tyler was practically pushed up against the backside of his Irish friend as the Macedonian King pushed by.

The avenger groaned as he felt a headache growing with the mirth. After rubbing his temples with one hand he looked up to see a red-haired giant dangerously close to his face. To his credit Dantes didn't flinch, as he most certainly felt irked with this servant's lack of personal space. He was more surprised at the large individual being able to move towards him through the cramped elevator.

"Fancy clothes you have their, friend! I am Iskandar, King of Conquerors!" the giant of a man boasted loudly, making the avenger quirk an eyebrow. Kintoki let out a laugh next to him, which made him instinctively cringe as the sound grated against his very being. The bright elevator only continued to flash and twist as his being skewed his perception.

'Am I going to go through this pain for every simple act of mirth…?' he internally grumbled as he looked towards the king. He seemed unperturbed by his dark aura, so the least he could do was introduce himself properly in hopes of getting some extra personal space; That wasn't too hard to ask for, right? "I am the King of the Cavern."

"Huh? That your personal nickname or something, Dantes? Not Count of Monte Cristo or Edmond?" the blue-haired lancer mused out loud as he looked towards the avenger with a raised eyebrow. His eyes sparkled for a fight, but Dantes' glowered back instinctively at the mention of the name. It made Cu blink in surprise and share a glance with Kintoki.

El Melloi looked towards the scowling man as he tried to reel in yet another impulsive reaction. "It seems so… How interesting."

Tyler, now curious at the sudden conversation, took his blasting headphones off and turned his personal music player down. "What? Who the hell mounts Crisco?"

Iskandar laughed loudly once more as Dantes recomposed himself. The rider was accompanied by chuckles from the rest of the group before they quieted down after quick introductions to the Avenger. The conversations soon split among themselves naturally. It left him to thoughts that tried to distract him from the lingering mental tugs, like the employee… Tyler, he recalled, who seemed to be embedded among powerful heroic spirits without fear.

Locking himself away mentally, he paid no more attention to the group, save for a small remark about maintenance still not fixing the elevator's cable lift properly. Dantes squinted his eyes as the bright lights of the hallway soon flooded into the elevator again. Tyler didn't miss the sight as he glanced back, but mistook it.

"Well, see you later, Grumpy!" the employee waved with a small smile which was returned with an incredulous stare.

The lancer blinked. "Grumpy?"

"Like the dwarf from Snow White. Always scowling. Even more than Waver!"

"Leave him be, Tyler…" El Melloi smacked the employee on the arm as he jumped out of the elevator, almost making him lose his balance. More chuckling followed as Dantes quietly stared after them. Despite what his core twisted and drew, he still silently watched that sight with unbiased intrigue.

"Swing by the game room sometime if you want to hang out!" Iskandar bellowed as he followed his group out. The robots soon filed out after the group ran out of sight to grant him breathing space. With a small breath of relief, he hid his surprise behind his composed visage as he reached for the elevator buttons. Despite his presence, some dealt with it rather well, even if he was still trying to figure out how he was going to cope with these constant jarrin-

"Hold the elevator!"

His eyes widened in curiosity as he looked up to see a group of Roman Emperors and a dark-skinned Hun running towards the doors. It wasn't so much the number of them that concerned him since only five were approaching and two were fairly small. The problem was the fifth one who was behind the group… who was going to take up more space than necessary. The avenger let out a low, disappointed sigh as yet more called out to hold the elevator.

Yet even so, he was more worried about the boiling vengeance within as he recognized some of the sinful emperors from earlier. 'Keep civil…'

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ III ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Dantes casually walked down the hallway, grumbling to himself after finally placing some furniture orders through the device in his room.

The avenger would never admit it had taken him a day to choose so little. He didn't really want much, but a desk, study lamp, and chair seemed adequate enough for any interest he may gain. His current stroll would be his first attempt to learn more about this place and maybe other servants; He spent enough time locked in that room. If he was going to live here, he needed to grow accustomed to how his twisted form skewed the world around him to see-

"Fare thee well, Boudica!"

"Don't forget that book for dinner, Shakespeare!"

"As promised!" Dantes stood there, lost in his swirling thoughts. He stared at the red-headed servant making her way towards him after turning the intersection. She wore a red dress and white overcoat that highlighted her curves well, and it was almost a hint of nostalgia. A sincere smile graced her lips as she hummed to herself, completely engrossed in the book in her hands to notice the entranced avenger. Yet… she almost shined to in his sight.

Drawing conclusions from the knowledge granted to him, he identified her past in a heartbeat and what he found interested him. Here was a beautiful queen, chipper as can be as the rest of this facility, who had such a dark and horrendous past of torture and failure. A slave to the Romans and their deeds, and some of the offenders were even present in this very facility… but she was happy.

He was intrigued alright as he approached his day's first curiosity. The avenger gained the attention of the rider who was now looking at him curiously. "Oh, hello! I presume you're Dantes?"

"I would be the King of the Cavern," he lightly corrected as the irritation spilled into his tone from within. He batted it back down as he looked her over, or more through her, at the tendrils of hatred that his mind projected onto her peaceful form. The queen squirmed slightly as his eyes bore into her own, but he shook his head reassuringly. "Pardon… you just remind me a bit of someone in days gone. Think nothing of it."

"…I'm Boudica, Queen of the Iceni of Britannia," she replied with a dignified voice after shaking her discomfort. She bowed slightly to him and held out her hand, and he slowly reached out to shake it. She seemed unnerved as he grasped her hand, and he couldn't blame her; Discomfort was promised in his presence.

Still, her gaze remained on his almost scrutinizing glance as he stared through her. She glanced at herself uncomfortably. "Is... there a problem?"

"…How do you find yourself so happy?"

She blinked in confusion. "How…?"

"There's not a servant in this facility who doesn't know your past, right? Some of them even delivered you into that hell," Dantes commented through his silent confusion. "You have many chances to exact revenge, yet you stroll these hallways humming with your nose in a book... Why? Shouldn't you be plotting your vengeance against the criminals of Rome? I don't understand."

It was difficult for him to grasp. He, who was forever wreathed in the agonizing desire for vengeance against a world that abandoned him… stood before someone with an equally scarred past. Yet, the vengeful terrifying queen of legend seemed to be serene, as she was in her early life. She was happy, and not an avenger as she should have been. Though a small voice whispered praise at overcoming such a crippling desire, he couldn't help but feel compelled by his irritated heart to find out why she had gone free, whereas he was…

A frown slowly took form. "I haven't forgiven Rome… but is it really so hard to think I can push my past grudges to the side for the sake of humanity?"

"…To me it is. They tortured you. They executed you and committed unspeakable acts against your children. They delivered grave sins against your beliefs... and now you fight alongside them without an inkling of the justified revenge you once desired? Yes, Boudica, I can't help but feel there is a problem. I don't see how you can forgive that so easily. I don't understand why it doesn't seem to influence your existence."

She grit her teeth and glared lightly at the servant who stared back with scrutinizing eyes. 'Ah… then she does then…?'

"…I see. So you were just hiding it? You still wish to release your wrath upon Empress Nero? It's commendable you've been able to put it aside, but should this curtain finally close, would you try-"

"Nero and I are on civil terms, even if I can never bring myself to truly forgive her or Rome! For the sake of Chaldea's tranquility and humanity's future, I put my personal grudge aside! Why is that so hard to understand? I guess you're just like your book… nothing but hate and vengeance…" she growled back as she gripped the book in a frustrated vice. "Well, I hope you have a good day because at least someone else should have one…"

Dantes watched with slightly widened eyes as she stormed past him and towards the nearest staircase. An employee moved out of the way swiftly before the irritated queen. Despite her sudden anger, she looked to the man and mouthed a quiet apology, and he nodded. He only turned hesitantly to Dantes in response.

The avenger quietly cursed at having remained silent; He wasn't trying to fan the flames further. He was just trying to understand how it seemed so easy for her to get past a facet so thoroughly embedded in her legend… He was so wrapped up trying to comprehend how others may not be defined by their summoning and past that he had, rather shamefully, cut right to the chase in his determination. 'How very gentlemanly of me…'

He had distant memories... or were they dreams? Images of a time when he had escaped that dreaded place and through careful scheming, dismantled those who locked him away to rot. Memories of people and places he dealt with after his internment within those dark moldy walls seemed distant at best. Then there were the distant glints of the final years… like looking into a fractured mirror, but not recognizing who stared back.

They felt intangible and hazy to him, like a watched play rather than a true memory. If they were the real moments of Edmond Dantes, then he wagered they were the result of his summoning compared to Solomon's twisted hand. He was an avenger, and the embodiment of vengeance his book was known for. If there was another Dantes who had learned to let go at the end of his mission, then this one, thanks to his summoning, only knew of the damned walls and vengeance... a grim reality his core accepted.

So with frustration and bafflement rumbling in his steps, he walked down the Chaldean hallway and unintentionally spooked any employee or robot in his path. He didn't want to spread malice or unrest in humanity's last bastion, but his hands were tied; It was his presence personified, and he could only hope they'd grow accustomed to it with time, just like he tried to adapt to the vengeful pain that throbbed like a heartbeat. If not, perhaps he'd just be a constant reminder of the evils of this terrible world, and a warning to be vigilant of what may lurk beneath their crystal palace.

Silently, he continued his stroll as vengeance trailed forever in his footsteps.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ IV ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

The avenger walked into Salon de Marie, glanced around quietly, and admired what he found once more. The regal space, that sung with distant nostalgia, was certainly as well-lit as most of the facility. Compared to the blinding brightness that he would describe as the rest of Chaldea, this place didn't ravage his waking thoughts nearly as much. He walked past the vacant Grand Piano towards the window seating on the far side while finally taking in the winter world beyond the glass.

If humanity was on the verge of extinction, no one would be able to tell with uninhabited mountain tops as far as the snowy haze allowed.

Dantes' eyes latched onto a lone sofa in the center of the giant windows and walked smoothly towards it. Rounding its side, which was backed by a planter with lush house plants, the avenger casually sat down and let out a breath. As he stared out the window, he found himself lost in… different thoughts. At least here he could think clearly without the accompanying headache from all the mirth. His room also did the trick, but it didn't offer this entrancing view. He let the white noise before him consume his vision as the snowflakes slowly drifted to the ground.

'It's almost too peaceful… My mind isn't warping this view nearly as much…'

The sound of children laughing snapped him out of his forming thoughts as it sent a spike of pain through him. He used his peripherals to spot the offending servants coming into view. Jack and Nursery Rhyme ran to the couch to the immediate left of his, jumping onto it after removing their slippers. They wore matching black dresses that had frilly edges on the bottom of the skirts and white flower motifs. In the hands of the two adopted sisters were several packs of crayons and rolled up paper that they dropped unceremoniously onto the coffee table in front of them as they jumped on the sofa happily.

"No jumping on Auntie Marie's couches, girls," came a soft and soothing voice, causing the assassin and caster to take their seats and begin unpacking their coloring utensils.

"Yes, Auntie Iri," the girls echoed together, with a small hint of disappointment laced in their still happy voices.

Dantes stared calmly to the girls, but curiously noted Jack's terrible scar as Nursery Rhyme spoke up. "Jackie! Can you get the rose red crayon?"

The older, white-haired caster brushed a length of hair behind her shoulder as she walked over and took a seat on the far side of the girls. Her long white, conservative dress that hid her upper arms and reached down to her knees. A golden sash wrapped itself around her torso, tied into a beautiful bow in the back, making her appear like a goddess in the dim world. The woman smiled warmly as she gently rubbed the back of Jack who was the closest to her.

Atalanta's girls giggled as they began drawing with their crayons, making various little scenes on one large piece of paper. Jack was clearly not as good at sketching as Nursery Rhyme, whose drawings honored her name in both style and quality. The little assassin's precision did make the geometric shapes and designs more realistic, so the two had a small system going on that impressed Dantes. Like clockwork, Jack handled most of the scenery while Nursery Rhyme did the characters and cartoon-like accents.

The end results were always an impressively drawn scene as they continued to work on their collaborative book.

They continued to laugh and talk enthusiastically as Irisviel gave encouraging words and loving rubs on the head to the two young servants. Their mirth irked his core, yet he did his best to resist showing it. These were children, and as much as being in the presence of happiness seemed to cause pain, he was their ally now. He just needed to grow accustomed to this so he, at the very least, wouldn't lash out.

As the girls tossed an occasional glance towards him, Dantes did so in turn, but said nothing; His silence was gone, but this was a public space. At one point, the girls and the avenger finally caught each other glancing, though nothing happened. He merely glanced curiously, and the girls blinked; He was now very curious why these girls weren't afraid of his presence.

"Oh, how rude of us! You must be the newest servant. I am Irisviel von Einzbern. These two girls are Jack the Ripper and Nursery Rhyme, but you may call them Jackie and Alice. It's a pleasure to meet you, Mister Dantes, or do you prefer Edmond?"

"...I prefer King of the Cavern," he quietly corrected, but unfortunately failed to block his irritation at the spoken name.

Their eyes lit up in recognition, with the two girls talking to each other in hushed whispers much to his irritation. Irisviel nodded slowly as she noted his narrowed eyes, "It's no wonder you're an avenger. Once more, it's a pleasure to meet you... Oh, if we're being too loud we ca-"

"You were," he said calmly, but quickly cleared his throat. The girls looked to each other uncertainly. "What I mean to say was that I was enjoying the peaceful silence."

"Oh dear... I'm sorry we were being too loud. Are you perhaps having a bad first day?"

"…It could be better, but it's far from the worst I've had," he relented quietly.

Irisviel offered a sympathetic smile, and it made his anger flare instinctively from within. Caught off guard even by his own internal flames, he struggled to keep his gaze from turning into a glare. It worked, though the caster's next words fanned the flames. "…Your story was sad… but you won't have to worry about prisons or backstabbing in Chaldea."

"Yea! Here you can be safe and happy!" Jack happily chimed in, but it quickly earned a light scowl from the avenger.

"…Me? Happy?" he nearly scoffed with the lingering edge from his flared impulses. The assassin winced in surprise as Irisiviel's smile faltered. "I'll peg your naivety on your inexperience dealing with an avenger… but happiness is a concept I'll never get to hold in my heart."

"But you were saved from the prison…" Irisviel murmured softly, but it only lashed at his nerves and ushered the wild manes into a fury.

"I was never saved!" Dantes cried out angrily, and made the three flinch. "Even now, I remain crippled with the thirst for vengeance! To lash out at the evils of this world relentlessly until they've all vanished! Does it sound like I've been saved!? I embody a cursed existence till the end of days!"

"But you were saved! I read your story!" Nursery Rhyme shot back, and he turned to her incredulously; Child or not, she was still a servant. She should know better, and the mounting pain and anguish within seemed to grow with every word. "You were happy in the end! Maybe if you threw away that crummy attitude?"

"You think I can just throw this…!?" Dantes started, but stopped as he breathed to try and calm his ever-swirling tension… "…Chaldea's peaceful air has influenced you too much… or maybe you're too swayed by your little fanciful stories that paint false promises of happy endings to everyone."

That quickly snagged Nursery Rhyme's attention as she pouted towards him with a hint of sadness in her eyes. "There's nothing wrong with my stories!"

He breathed out slowly, but shook his head. Even if they were children, his mind and wrathful vengeance fully agreed this time. "They're too joyous and contrived to be the truth... Just fleeting distractions from reality's harsh mistress. Life is marred with struggle and sin, of a few succeeding with excess while most get discarded if they can't be used as pawns… Some are even left abandoned. Certainly you can agree with that terrible truth, Jack the Rip-"

"That's enough!" Irisviel shouted as she began packing up the drawing materials, all the while Nursery Rhyme and Jack looked to her and each other with uncertainty and sadness. "I will not have you speaking badly to children! How dare you even consider doing that! I won't have you wasting any more of their time with your inappropriate comments. Come on girls… we'll find a better place away from this rude man."

As the girls held onto the drawing materials that Irisviel handed to them, they began walking away as the older woman ushered them with her hands on their backs. She glared one last time at Dantes as they walked, "I hope someone helps you with whatever is causing your problem, avenger."

Their footsteps disappeared and he found himself in silence once more. That had not gone how he thought it would have at all, and he suddenly wasn't too sure what compelled him to speak about a heavier topic to children. He'd only spoken what he believed and knew was right, yet the chosen words fell heavier with every second his pained mind agreed with his avenger soul… He'd have to be far more mindful than he realized if he was to be civil.

As he sat in the now marred silence, he thought back to the older caster's statement and frowned. He scoffed as he shook his head, yet the notion she raised echoed in his head…

Why would anyone want to save him?

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ V ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

In a small corridor near the gym away from most prying eyes, Dantes glanced back at the servant who followed him. Kiyohime fixed the ponytail she tied her light green hair into, then brought her arms back across her chest. She wore a blue sports bra and gym shorts, her standard attire when she decided to tone her legs for her beloved. She looked curiously at the battle-clad avenger as he stopped, then tilted her head as he finally turned around.

"Now that we're here, Kiyohime, I have a few questions if you'd spare the time," he stated calmly. He hoped the vengeful Kiyohime might provide some valuable insight for him, but he was going to be sure about asking properly this time. He wanted to understand the conditions of some in Chaldea.

"Then please get on with it. I have work to do to impress Gudao."

"As you wish… I am aware of your past, Kiyohime. How you were betrayed and sought vengeance against the man who denounced your love," Dantes began, easily holding her interest. "I am also aware that you have many love rivals in Chalde-"

"Do you have information I can use against my love rivals!?" she interrupted with sudden curiosity and excitement. Her hands were curled into fists and her face was lit with excitement.

Dantes, caught off guard, recollected his thoughts. "Well… no, what I was referencing was that I am well aware of some of Gudao's inner thoughts an-"

"Gudao is in love with me!? Please say so, Avenger!"

He tried very hard not to let out a sigh. "Once more, no. I have spent many dark hours with Gudao, guiding him through various trials, but I never glanced those tho-"

Kiyohime's gaze froze over as she began to glare at the man before her. This is what he wanted to find out… how much her tales' love and anger controlled the berserker, yet he didn't want that anger somehow pointed at hi- "Are you trying to say that you spent several nights with my Gudao!? That you've come to declare romantic war with me and gloat over your conquests!?"

Dantes felt completely dumbstruck as he sighed loudly and incredulously. Kiyohime tilted her head in slight confusion as the irritation shined in her eyes like an inferno. "Well? Are you a love rival? I would like an answer!"

He was starting to lose hope he would ever get a straight answer about legends and their influence on servants.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VI ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

The Eternal Avenger narrowed his eyes as he stared out the large window in Salon de Marie, observing the approaching figures by their reflection on the glass. He sat regal in his usual sofa, and faced back forward to fathom his current predicament. Almost all servants he encountered had been left with a bad after taste, though mostly unintentional. He was still trying to reign in his impulses and adapt to his condition, but many percieved it the wrong way.

Spartacus was a rare exception, but his attempted conversation with the berserker had the unexpected result of him turning on the Romans. That was not what he wanted, nor Chaldea, and he found himself in rather hot water for that accidental instigation. To be fair, he was only going to talk with Spartacus if he had to… considering how difficult it was.

Since learning that he stood alone as vengeance's chosen pet, he had backed off from his curious advances, but the collateral was dealt and attention bought. Two particular servants he had met before had even begun to approach him often in hopes of shifting his views... again. He let out a groan as the two Catholics rounded the side of the sofa to stand next to each other by the coffee table with firm eyes gazing into his fiery red, which stared elsewhere.

"…You won't find victory on this battlefield, but your persistence is worthy of saints."

The blonde nodded. "Because we wish for your salvation and happiness. Is that really so much to as-"

"Yes, Jeanne d'Arc, it is too much to ask for someone who does not desire it. I am vengeance manifest in flesh and blood, unless you've forgotten," Dantes remarked dryly as he finally turned to glare at the two servants. Jeanne wore a simple blue skirt and white blouse while Amakusa wore his usual priest outfit.

The male ruler sighed. "At the very least, we appreciate you toning down your antagonizing actions around Chaldea."

"For your information, I didn't do any of it on purpose. Drawing the ire of a league of servants was never written on my list of priorities."

"Then what were you doing? You'd yet to give anyone a straight answer," Jeanne stated resolutely, meeting his light glare with one of her own. "All you've done is locked yourself in your room for most of the day."

"It's nothing you should be concerned about. Isn't everyone allowed to spend their time in Chaldea as they please?"

"Of course, just like we're doing by asking simple questions," Amakusa countered to re-earn the avenger's glare. "So if you're not aggravating servants on purpose, that says all I needed to know. So you really are wondering if you can also be sa-"

"I'm not looking to be saved," Dantes levelled immediately as pain rocketed through his form. Every time it was mentioned, it was like driving a stake through his heart. It was a struggle just to hold back his vengeance from making him spew out far more of what he truly believed, but he at least tried not to step on anymore toes. "I suggest you just leave me alone."

"We won't," Jeanne countered swiftly. "You are clearly a prisoner of your own wrath!"

He stared incredulously. "As if I had a say in this class… This is the only gift I received from the world! I had no say in this existence!"

"But you have a say in how you live with it, just like you did when you decided to escape that prison," Amakusa replied firmly. "How are you certain you can't overcome your own limitations? How are you sure you're not just letting yourself be controlled by your anger, Dantes?"

"Do not call me that name!" Overcome the class container? Did they really think he could build something out of this existence? It was excruciating pain just to live with the ever-vengeful hatred that resided in his saint graph! This was the fate he was dealt… a cursed hand from a hate-filled world that sewed him into a mockery again! He glared, "There is no redemption for me! The King of the Cavern cannot be saved!"

"…Yet I will still pray for the goodness that resides in your soul," Jeanne stated evenly as she crossed her arms and breathed out slowly. She turned and began walking away from the couch as Amakusa and Dantes continued their stare down. The remaining ruler let out a sigh and shook his head at the avenger before following Jeanne's leave. Even so, he solemnly knew their resolve did not waver.

Even if he couldn't be saved, they would continue to pray for its fruition.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VII ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

His eyes stared curiously towards the pink-haired berserker. Since arriving at Chaldea five days ago, he had quietly observed the familiar servant several times. Her amnesiac demeanor reminded him a bit of his former love before he had been locked away by his conspirators, yet physically, she was different; He even named her differently then, as a small whim of her possibly helping Gudao escape.

While leaning in the doorway, he gazed from a distance as she took a bite of her sandwich and quietly observed the firing range before her. Other servants were making short work of targets like she made short work of her late lunch, yet the only thing that was intriguing him was her. His mind, flashing with jarring images, consistently overlapped the image of a different girl over her… It was ridiculous. Yet still, it lured him like a moth to flame, and that former compulsion that he easily ignored before grew.

Finally compelled, he slowly walked towards her and stopped when she turned to look at him with inquisitive eyes. She quickly recognized him by the glint in her eyes, yet he still approached calmly and hesitantly. He wasn't quite sure how she was with her actual faculties, but he wasn't about to make a new unintentional mess either.

"I see we cross paths once more, Mercedes," he introduced calmly in jest, mostly to see if he sparked further memories like a pickaxe to iron.

"I beg your pardon?" She tilted her head very slightly in apparent confusion.

"…Do you not remember…? The prison? Gudao's grueling trials for liberation?" he asked curiously to see where they stood. How could she have forgotten? Servant or not, she should have remembered those dark walls and him. Maybe it was a case of not having what the others called a memorial essence?

"I don't recall ever meeting you properly, or any prison Gudao escaped from for that matter," she explained evenly. "I am Florence Nightingale. Pleased to meet you… I assume you are our new Avenger Edmond Dantes? Quite the elusive one for all the poor waves you've been making…"

His eyes narrowed slightly at the accusation, but he nodded. "Yes… I would be the King of the Cavern."

"Interesting. Another servant from a book," she mused before crushing the wrapping of her sandwich into a ball and placing it into a side pocket on her medical bag. "Your mistaken identity aside, have you come to me about those issues I've been hearing rumors about?"

His eyes narrowed suspiciously. "…Issues? Have those saints approached you, Mercedes?"

"No. I've just been overhearing things based on all the trouble you seemed to cause," Nightingale noted as she stood up and gazed to him. After his strange yet natural slip of her name, her gaze seemed sharper for some reason. "And so I see… all does not seem to be well with you... My name is not Mercedes. Is there something plaguing you? Are you seeing things? Hallucinations? It may be hypnagogia. That's a serious ailment that cannot be overlooked if that's the case."

He fell incredulously silent, but her determined eyes turned a brighter shade of red and narrowed. He did not know why, but he felt her scrutinizing his state, and it made him the slightest bit wary. So this was how she was like when she was… 'normal'…

"…I'm fine. I assure you." He shook his head as he turned around and started walking away. Upon feeling her palpable presence continue to approach, he quickly stopped and turned around. He glared right into her firm eyes. "There's nothing wrong with me."

She was unmoved. "You clearly need treatment."

"I can't be healed because there's nothing to heal," he shot back swiftly without room to argue, yet she still seemed capable. Her mad enhancement was clearly something else. "I see it was a mistake to approach you… Kindly leave me alone."

"He's right, Nightingale. Let's just leave him be." The berserker turned towards the tall, dark, and handsome man that approached from the sidelines with a red bow slung neatly onto his back. He wore a jade green trench coat and black pants as opposed to his antique colored armor, and his usually friendly facial expression was replaced with firm concern. Ebony orbs studied the pink ones within her eyes, then turned to Dantes with a suddenly welcome and friendly smile. "You'll have to forgive her, Avenger. She gets a bit intense."

With but a simple nod in thanks, the avenger decided to quickly take his leave before he unintentionally made a new mess; The berserker's intensity was something else. He quickly disappeared into the hallway even as Nightingale made moves to try and follow. It was only after he finally disappeared did Arash finally release his hold on the woman so she could turn to him. He sighed, "…It's like you thought from that memorial essence you got. He might call you Mercedes."

"His mind is clouded, there is no doubt about that. He is trying to imprint someone else upon me. I am not his Mercedes," she stated calmly as another round of musket fire erupted from the firing line. "You know as much as I do he's clearly troubled, Arash. His class is poison, and I can't accept that."

"But there's nothing we can do. That's his class, Nightingale," Arash insisted with a sigh. "This isn't something you'll be able to heal."

Even so, it was clear by the determination in her eyes she would try. This was Nightingale, after all. If someone was in trouble, she was going to figure a way to save them of their ailments. Yet, this was not a clear-cut case. Dantes was something else altogether, and would require more than simple time.

Yet, if he could be saved, then she would try to find a way.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VIII ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

"Your actions before the true king are damning offenses, Mongrel."

Dantes sat on his sofa in Salon de Marie, but paid no attention to the angered king who stood behind him. The blonde-haired man emanated prowess even in his clashing leopard print blazer with black formal shirt, pants and shoes. His haircut was clean, with the top spiked back to reveal golden earrings and judging red eyes. One hand sat on his hip as he glared angrily at the offending servant, though to the arrogant king's credit there were no glowing portals opening up around him. Instead he had a clenched fist and grit teeth as he burned a hole through the avenger with his eyes.

At the piano behind him, Mozart and Marie were watching with caution and anticipation, while Emiya stared at the doorway to the Kitchen with Tamamo in case they needed to intervene. The argument had been going on for five minutes and looked to spill over, simply because the King of Heroes was curious enough to finally investigate the new servant for himself.

"…Tch. Why did I even bother coming out of my room for this. You owe the King of Heroes much for even sparing some of his precious time, mongrel. I was mistaken to think you were potentially interesting. You're nothing but a delusional, one dimensional curr."

"That's theatrically ironic when spoken by you, Gilgamesh."

Gilgamesh's eyes flared in anger. "Do not ever address me as such… Know your place, curr! You have no right to call me by that name!"

"I didn't know one needed permission," Dantes replied flatly as he continued to stared forward with both arms crossed lightly. This argument was giving him a bigger head pains than he already had. These longs days of getting used to dealing with his ever swirling, festering hatred just to act civilly dragged on enough. Even now, he wanted to lash out at the absurdity of this golden king, who caused the natural malice in his spiritual core to writhe and whisper action… to demand vengeance against sinful evil.

Yet, he'd gotten a bit better at handling his manifested vengeance. At least now, though he naturally loathed the hatred projected onto everything in this world, he was mostly in control over his impulses. Still, they flared, but only in battle would he let it run wild. That's all he ever looked forward to aiding the masters; All this cordiality and banter between servants was just a dreamland he could never be a part of.

"See to it you make amends for the injustice you've dealt," Gilgamesh spat as he dissipated into a wavy mist of gold; He vanished into spirit form without giving the avenger a second glance. Dantes huffed in irritation, but tried to placate it as another pair of servants approached him after the archer's leave.

"That was impressive handling of the King of Heroes. Most wouldn't even attempt to rouse his anger," came a regal male voice. Dantes didn't turn around, but breathed out slowly to quell the swirling mass within. He found clarity before he spoke to smooth any coarseness.

"That arrogant king is nothing but selfish monologue," the avenger spat plainly. A female servant chuckled, finally making the avenger turn to see who was addressing him. He noted the black robe worn by the tall, pale berserker and the purple dress adorning the female caster next to him. Both seemed to observe the servant in front of them as Dantes glanced at these two new faces. "Anything else you wished to air?"

"Just the compliment," Medea replied firmly as she tugged on Vlad's sleeve. "Let's go, Vlad. We've taken enough of his time."

The man nodded and the two turned to leave. The avenger's eyebrow rose curiously. "Vlad of Wallachia? Vlad the Impaler? Dracula seems just as regal as legends say."

Medea's eyes turned worried as she looked towards her knitting friend who now wore a very irritated expression. The avenger was curious of the glare, but inwardly kicked himself. He was trying not to step on too many toes, yet he just set off another landmine. "…Is something wrong?"

"I am not Dracula," Vlad corrected with irritation dripping from his lips. Though his mind cautioned about going further, part of him wanted to. There were so many here trying to change their image or be something else, yet how was that possible? He couldn't even see it for himself. All he could understand was what others saw often twisted those into something far more hideous.

"And I'm not Edmond Dantes, but everyone seems fit to call me that even though I despise it," he explained with his own irritated voice. As much as he sympathized with his plight, there was simply an inescapable truth; A constant reminder of it always flared painfully in his heart thanks to his class. "They're our stories. They're how we're remembered… and there's nothing that can be done about how others have perceived the legends."

"It is not part of my legend," Vlad roared impressively with a controlled voice. It wasn't loud, but the tiger's roar still rattled the cage. "It is a twisting of my name after my death, spun to form tales of some fearmongering vampire!"

"…The others mentioned that…" Medea mumbled beside him, then looked towards the avenger curiously. "Why do you not like being called Edmond Dantes? Is that not your real name?"

"Edmond Dantes was a man who was saved... I am the King of the Cavern… the Eternal Avenger, one who was best known for the plotting within the walls of that chateau. We cannot be called the same," he growled back, but kept his temper from flaring. "He lived that full life, but I am vengeance incarnate."

"…You are only what you choose to be," Vlad declared in a calmer tone after regaining his composure, gaining the attention of both Medea and Dantes. The other servants watched from their respective places at the tense exchange, but their eyes glinted with caution.

Dantes felt his irritation grow wild. He could feel it… deep in his pained heart, the vengeful hatred swelled like an untamed mammoth trapped in a plastic cage. He could only do so much to placate its rampage. It didn't control him… but it influenced him so greatly with pain and malice. It dictated what he must do, and who he was; Right now, it only discouraged his ultimately futile thoughts of hope.

"Are you deaf, Prince of Wallachia? I just said I am the Eternal Avenger, not Edmond Dante-"

"And do you like that?" Medea inquired quickly. "Is that what you've decided or is it imposed upon you by others? There will always be someone who will see you for who you truly are if you let them, and not what others decide to see based on twisted notions. You were a man driven by vengeance until your successful ending, yet here you are controlled by it once more. It's almost as if you refuse to portray yourself as anything else."

Refuse? This woman dared to say he refused to try and be something else? That inferred there was ever a chance he could have been, but that was impossible. Even keeping that swirling mass under control was a exercise in determination, yet he was at least trying to curb his abrasive impulses. But to change it…? There was no way an avenger could escape… this… "And who might you be, to discuss portrayal of one's story when you're probably some beloved-"

"Medea of Colchis," she responded firmly as she crossed her arms, bracing for what may potentially come from revealing her name to the servant before her.

"…Medea?" he lifted an eyebrow as it clicked, but he stared quietly. "…So the Witch of Betrayal from Greek legends is here in Chaldea as well? How many hundreds have you planned to backstab today? Is that not how most others appraise your worth? Just like vengeance is mine, it's your defining story characteristic… an inescapable truth by being summoned."

"I am the Witch of Betrayal, but I've done no such thing. That demeaning title does not control who I choose to be," she emphasized as she narrowed her eyes. "With the help of my friends I've taken a chance to redefine myself and leave that in my past."

He glared with frustration. "One does not simply abandon parts of their pasts and have people forget abou-"

"That's an absurd notion coming from someone who is doing exactly that, Edmond Dantes," Vlad spat, earning a glare. "…It is clear he only wishes to be seen the way he's most often remembered and refuses to do anything himself to possibly change that. He has decided for himself that he will not be the man who was saved in the end, rather the blind, vengeful man Gilgamesh so aptly described."

Dantes narrowed his eyes further and scowled at the Prince of Wallachia, but he kept the raging heart placid. The tall berserker simply scoffed and held his head high; His regal posture was still very much present. "You are no prestigious Count of Monte Cristo… just a miserable man controlled by your own rage. Let us converse with this churlish servant no more, Princess Medea."

They turned around and walked back towards their little group of furniture they usually knit at, even after Naomi left following the end of her lunch break. Dantes scowled after them, then turned back to look through the large window. The snow fell softly and he cursed every flake he could see. As he did so, vague images, or memories denied, flashed through his head once more after the chastising given to him by the knitting pair. He growled and tried to crush the thoughts into oblivion.

If he could be saved, it was not likely... but as he dwelled on his thoughts, he pondered it again.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ IX ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Dantes entered the library the next day and looked around, noticing it was mostly empty; Even the front desk was currently unmanned. To the far right he noticed a working servant with long, purple hair helping a formally dressed caster who made dramatic gestures while holding a book.

His was interested in finding a certain book to paint those hazy outlines in his head with color; It was an odd thought, as all servants should have clear recollection of any possible memory. That book would have the answers he needed, whether his class' vengeful hold had caused the line between dream and reality to blur, or if he never actually escaped in his real life. Had they been lost memories because he was defined by others' perception? He needed to find out, but he wasn't about to ask for help in doing so.

Deciding to ignore the working pair, he made his way down the few steps into the sea of bookshelves in the center. He strolled straight towards a specific section when he spotted its label. Quickly browsing through the packed bookshelf, his eyes glanced from spine to spine as he read at an accelerated pace. He crouched down to read the lower shelves, and even used some of his unfathomable agility to speed up his search.

Two sweeps later, his eyes stopped and re-scanned the shelf yet again. After another moment, he aired a dissatisfied grunt when he realized the book he was looking for was not shelved. He did not feel like talking with others about his issues, and decided instead to stand back up from his crouched posit-

"Looking for this?"

His eyes shot to the entrance of the aisle and slightly downward, then identified the source of the deep voice with slight surprise. The short, blue-haired servant could have passed as a child had he not opened his mouth to speak. There was an intense stare from his ice blue eyes that seemed to pierce and analyze the avenger as they stood locked in place. His satin blue vest and tie, coupled with black pants and a white formal shirt, shined under the library's soft lights. With a small frown, his free hand pushed his glasses further up the bridge of his nose.

Dantes grunted as he glared at the book the short man held towards him so the cover could clearly be read.

Le Compte de Monte-Cristo
par Alexandre Dumas

The avenger narrowed his eyes as the short servant scoffed and pinned the book back under his arm. "Something you don't understand about your own past? How humorous."

Dantes glared at the servant as he continued in a low tone. "Or maybe you're just affirming your decision to imprint familiar memories onto others you deem acceptable replacements. Boudica as Haydee? Nightingale as Mercedes? Who will Fernand be then? Danglers? Villefort?"

"That's personal business I will not be discussing with you."

"This is a library. Lower your voice." The avenger growled and narrowed his eyes further. The shorter man was unfazed.

"How do you kn-"

"It's been a week, Edmond Dantes. You're already well known around Chaldea as one of the more volatile, unmannerly servants to ever be summoned to this facility," the caster stated as he placed his free hand on his hip. The avenger scowled at the use of his name once more, earning a small smirk from the caster. "I found it interesting to see yet another character from a book take form as a servant, especially from a work written and published when I was still alive. Though to say I'm pleased with what I've heard would be a lie, considering the work in question... I am hardly surprised though, Avenger."

Dantes scoffed. "Another variety of book guru, are you?"

"Hans Christian Andersen," he introduced flatly, making the avenger head tilt upwards slightly in recognition.

The avenger stared quietly. "…Yet another person life dealt an unfair hand… Then you're also-"

"My heart is a demon that loves bad ends, but that which I lived is now separate from my actions and words since arriving here," he explained evenly. "It's a sequel, so to say, and not so bad a setting for a story."

"Then you've also decided to somehow change who you are?"

"As if. I was content with the cards dealt, so there was no need to rewrite the main character. But I will remind you, it was a choice," he countered. "For others, Chaldea has already proven more fruitful in self-improvement for many than you may ever acknowledge for yourself."

"I do not need to see anything. I've seen enough. This place may be the last chance of humanity, but I will admit, it offers an… inspirational second life for its inhabitants. But their circumstances aren't mine. Change is impossible for me."

"…And there's the interesting part, Avenger, because are you not looking to do just that with this?" Hans scrutinized as he waved the book in front of him again. "If you were already so convinced change is impossible, you would've stayed a bird in its cage and only flown out to help the masters… yet here you are, showing yourself in public after many days of only showing up to Salon de Marie."

Dantes' eyes narrowed. "Your words hold no water."

"Your words are the ones poorly penned," Hans countered calmly. "You could hardly believe many only put up a facade to hide who they really are, yet you're the one hiding behind a theme of your own legend like a slave... Refusing to try and risk when presented a golden opportunity," Hans shot out forcefully, yet still in a quiet tone. Had they not been arguing, Dantes may have been impressed at his voice control.

The avenger narrowed his eyes. "…I'm not hiding. I am the Eternal Avenger. I relish in who I a-"

"Relish? Nonsense," Hans scoffed as he narrowed his eyes. "It is very apparent that you believe yourself to be chained helplessly to the most common theme that defined your story like a dog out of reach of its water bowl. Vengeance is an iron chain you were summoned wearing and you, yourself, refuse to believe you can even bend it... Or perhaps it really is impossible for you to break…? Maybe these walls have forced you back on your knees, and the class container is the new warden glaring through rusty bars? …You may have escaped that hellish prison, Dantes, but you are still a prisoner."

There was a pause as Hans glared at the taller servant who failed to respond for several seconds. In truth, though his anger flared, and his pained mind wanted to lash back… he just remained silent, as if to accept Hans saw what he couldn't. Dantes then returned the scoff and crossed his arms, feeling slightly uncomfortable about being analyzed. "…Special treatment for me?"

"This is not the first time I have analyzed a character. Do not count yourself special, Avenger. Though your class is unique, you are currently but another boring tale of blind vengeance, insanity, and angst. Another predictable and one-dimensional act. How droll..."

Finished with what he had to say, Hans stunned Dantes by presenting him with the book with an outstretched hand. Taking his own story in both hands, much gentler than he would have liked to admit, he stared at the cover as the caster turned and started walking towards his two fellow helpers in the library. After a few more steps he stopped and regained Dantes' attention by partially looking over his shoulder.

"Tis' a shame, really. Your character was actually noteworthy in your story... A far cry from what was summoned. I wonder if that class really does bind you helplessly, or will you actually dare to try and escape… to embody your whole tale once more, like many others have..."

The caster walked away, leaving the avenger in silence. Had he looked back once more, he would have seen a gleam of uncertainty in the pale man's eyes. If he could be saved...

'Would I accept it?'

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ X ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Dantes stared out into the snowy mountains from the edge of the training fields. Barely an hour later, he sat in contemplation, holding the book he acquired from Hans.

Opening the book allowed small snowflakes to drift onto its pages, but they didn't melt as he glanced over its many lines. The avenger didn't need the book to remember the distant memories of vengeance. It was his story of success and triumph, where in the end he smiled once more, yet this was not him... or was it? His mind kept drifting back to everything that's been told to him and scoffed. He used to wander Chaldea, questioning how anyone could reach past their own defining legends, yet he was now the one putting his own thoughts into question in the cell of his own room.

He browsed the page, reading line after line at random and sparking memories of what was his tale. Everyone remembered him for his vengeance, so why did other servants feel the need to wish for him see anything else? Why did some, even after his rebuttals, still wish for his salvation? He was the eternal avenger, cloaked by darkness and rage to tip the scales of karma and rain hell onto those deserving. Yet...

Yet as he read, the distant images started to become vivid again. They remained blurry, yet the clarity increased as they turned from haze to a forgotten memory. If what was happening was true, then they really were memories he had somehow forgotten. Ones he believed he didn't want anymore... yet a small part of him wanted to reach to a long-lost warmth. Is he so engulfed by his class' wrath, that it was this difficult to believe those brighter times were merely buried all along? Were the others rig-

Dantes dodged in a flash, just as the piece of cliffside where he sat exploded into debris and rained down into the misty abyss below. In his haste to dodge, he had dropped the book, and it too disappeared from his sight. Scowling, he looked towards the offending servant who stood casually with only light blue carpenter jeans and white sneakers. Beowulf's muscular chest and red scars were on full display as he scratched his hair. His toes wiggled in a stretch as his feet remained firmly planted into the snow.

"You mind explaining what that intended?" Dantes growled as he looked at the unknown man. 'So there are still servants I haven't seen yet.'

"You looked like you were ready to jump, so I thought I'd knock the thought out of you before you did," Beowulf explained simply, cracked the knuckles he used for the punch, and earned an incredulous look from the avenger.

"…What? Commit suicide? Are you sane of mind?"

"Just because I'm a berserker with mad enhancement doesn't mean I'm automatically insane on all accounts," he explained as he pointed towards the avenger, eyes narrowed. "Besides, you did think about it in your story, Dantes."

He hissed, more at the accusation than the use of his name, but there were more pressing matters. "A book you just made me lose to this abyss."

The berserker shrugged. "Hey, c'mon... Did you really need it? There's no need to cling to your story that badly, right?"

Dante considered his words as they mingled with what others had told him; The berserker probably didn't mean anything philosophical, yet it still echoed as such. In truth, with his unfathomable speed, he could have grabbed it out of the air and yet… He scowled and Beowulf sighed. "Look, I'll pay for the book's replacement and take the heat from writer boy. How about that? I know he can be a pain in the ass."

Dantes put a hand to his face and groaned. 'I can't believe this guy.'

Before he could make a statement, he heard footsteps and then felt a strong hand grab onto his arm. Beowulf pulled him towards Chaldea, much to his annoyance. "What do you think yo-"

"I'm bringing you to someone who wants to have lunch with you. She ordered me to come get you since she… can't, so let's go. I don't like keeping her waiting."

"You refuse to indulge me with your name yet you expect me to-"

He smirked back. "I'm Beowulf. If you don't know my name or legend, you're an idiot. Now come on, Gale is waiting."

"Just unhand me! I can walk just fine!"

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ XI ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

It felt like yesterday when Beowulf came to get him. Dantes looked between the two berserkers sitting in front of him in the cafeteria, with their table meters away from an exit. This is where they came to sit for the past three lunches since he joined them. He preferred skipping and being alone in his room, but the battle-dressed Nightingale sat in front of him which mixed his thoughts as he caught the pink-eyed gaze of the woman in particular.

Staring into those eyes still reminded him a bit of his former fiance, he watched as his vengeful core merged memory and reality.

The images had grown clearer, and he could see just how much the two were alike, yet so very different. He had stopped calling her Mercedes after a day to her approval, yet he still occasionally ponders it. She was Nightingale, and she was definitely a servant of Chaldea... Yet the images kept overlapping, and he often felt very disoriented when trying to pick the two apart. Even so, he couldn't help but feel his thoughts slowly shift during the past three days, all since he started sitting in silence with her and Beowulf.

He blinked and turned back towards the sub sandwich that lay untouched before him. Both berserkers were roughly half done with their own subs, with small choice snacks also on their trays that were partially consumed. Nightingale opened the lunch box next to her and stored a banana and tomato, presumably as a snack for later. The other berserker cleared his throat, making the avenger look towards him.

"If you're not going to eat that, I'll devour it for you," he said simply with a smaller version of his feral grin. Dantes sighed, picked up the sandwich, and bit into it with a small chuckle from Beowulf.

Dantes finished his bite before looking up, sandwich still in hands. "You never answered my question when I first sat here. Three days, and no answer... I still don't understand why you choose to eat lunch with me where most would not give me the time of day anymore."

"I will save you from your mental illness." That again… That's all he ever got.

Beowulf soon turned back to his food, but Dantes kept looking incredulously at the woman in front of him. "Why would you even try to save me...?"

"Do you still not understand?" she said with a small hint of annoyance as she ate the last bite of her sandwich as a pause. "I am Florence Nightingale. And regardless of whether you want it or not, I will save you. Treatment should be applied swiftly, but mental delusions are a complex procedure. Had the masters not ordered it, I would have had your skull open for proper examination to identify the afflicted neurons of your neocortex and cure the illness immediately."

"Just be thankful Gabby actually used a command seal to stop her ..." Beowulf chuckled, though the two did not break their gaze.

Dantes looked at the absurd woman in front of him, reminded once more that she isn't the Mercedes he loved even if the memories overlapped and told him otherwise. Next to her, Beowulf looked at her curiously once more before chuckling and patting her on the back with his free hand. He quickly grabbed the last bite of his sandwich. Nightingale continued her intense and determined stare at Dantes, and he scowled as the always-present vengeance swirled within. "And you don't care if I can't be saved?"

"I don't care, I will save you. It is my duty."

"Did you not listen to me?"

"She doesn't listen to anyone when treatment is involved. More stubborn than even me, so I'd just accept that she's going to do exactly that if I were you," Beowulf mentioned casually as he started opening a packet of bacon chips with a small grin.

"...Then how do you plan on doing so?"

"Since my direct surgical procedures are out of my reach, I am forced to use secondary methods like persuasion and rehabilitation through mental stimuli," the female berserker detailed flatly as she drank her own water. "Over time, I will succeed in remedying you of those eternal flames. It is an illness that will be cured so you can act as you please, and not how they dictate."

"Oh? And how do you plan for this intervention against my very class' attributes, oh wise Nightingale?" he asked dryly. It drew a small glare from the woman in front of him, but he didn't waver; Avengers were controlled by their wrath. There was no escape, so it was pointless to try. Silence prevailed for the moment as Nightingale considered what to say before a loud voice at a table further down the room took their attention.

"Hey seriously, I don't think that's a good idea!"

"Oh come now. If Anton can get with a servant, what's stopping the rest of us?"

They watched as an overconfident employee loosened his tie and approached an irritated looking blonde girl with a wild ponytail sitting at a table with another well-dressed servant. The blonde male servant adjusted his glasses as he looked at the employee come up to his companion. Mordred wore a white tube top and short cut jean shorts that the employee eyed briefly before flashing the girl a smile.

The male servant reached into his black formal vest, partially brushing his cravat to the side, as he pulled out a pen and paper and quickly scribbled "be nice" and aimed it so only his companion could read it. Mordred rolled her eyes. "What do you want?"

"Hey beautiful, what say you and I get something extra special for dinner tonight?" the employee winked, making the female groan at the horrendous attempt.

Her companion smiled nervously. "Please don't make a scene..."

"I'm trying not to, Jekyll, but this pig is asking for it."

"Aw, don't be like that. A pretty girl like you should have a proper arm to latch onto!"

The temperature in the room dropped several degrees as Mordred exhaled sharply with a glare. She slowly turned towards the employee who suddenly backed up as she stood with clenched fists. Even though he was much taller than her, he suddenly felt like an ant facing a flash flood. Nightingale and Beowulf were both chuckling while watching the scene as Dantes observed with slight interest. Jekyll on the other hand was paling… likely at the prospect of having to tear Mordred off a poor employee.

"What the hell did you just call me!?" she roared, making the employee turn several shades whiter.

"I-I'm sorry for trying to ask you out!"

"You called me a girl!"

The employee looked back at the servant with a confused look. "Wait, what? But you're a woman."

Mordred looked like she was about ready to burst, and several servants in the room were preparing to get up and disarm the angered saber in a flash if the need arose. It certainly did look like it would be the case. Beowulf's eyes widened as he looked towards Dantes, who stared back blankly. He followed the berserker's eyes down to his sandwich with a single bite in it before meeting his gaze once more.

Beowulf smirked. "Gonna save that employee. Got a clever way too. You finishing that?"

Dantes scoffed. "And what if I am-"

Before he could complete his answer, Nightingale watched with amusement as Beowulf grabbed Dantes' sandwich and held it like a football, much to the surprise of the avenger. The muscular berserker hurled the makeshift javelin, which flew through the air, barely bending its path from gravity thanks to the force it was thrown at; How it held together at that velocity was another mystery entirely.

Mordred's eyes widened as the sandwich impacted the employee straight in the chest, knocked him to the ground a few meters away, and splattered ingredients all over him. Shocked and angered, the employee got up while groaning in slight pain from the large bruise he felt forming. He looked over to see Beowulf standing up, arms spread wide in a 'come at me, bro' statement with accompanying savage grin. He walked with that posture toward the center of the room and away from his two lunch mates.

"What was that for!?" the employee complained as he rubbed the very sore center of his chest. His anger was held back due to lingering intimidation to the servant.

"Oh, nothing... Just thought I saw a trash can to throw some food in!" Beowulf bellowed making a lot of the cafeteria laugh. With renewed irritation overpowering his worry, the employee ignored the still fuming Mordred and grabbed a cake off of a nearby coworker's tray. He hurled it towards the berserker, who simply ducked and let the slice of cake impact Lord El-Melloi II in the face. Apparently any sort of combat instincts did not work too well against flying food articles.

The scowl on the servant deepened as he wiped the cake off, with his two lunch companions laughing at his expense while he looked at his now stained black blazer and formal pants. Suddenly smirking, Iskandar grabbed some pie from his retainer's tray and hurled it at Tyler. The dessert exploded on his face and he fell backwards as the large man continued to laugh. The employee looked at his stained, white Nintendo shirt then glared incredulously at his friend.

Iskandar struggled to control his laughter as he clutched at an overly tight "Admirable Tactics" muscle shirt. "I thought that's what we're supposed to do!"

Beowulf grinned savagely, now holding two peeled oranges in his hands he plucked from another employee's tray. He bellowed like an announcer, "FOOD FIGHT!"

Without hesitating, but laughing at his antics, Nightingale swiftly flipped the table and dragged Dantes behind it before the room exploded into flying chaos. A confused avenger stared as the berserker peered her head over the table on careful watch for any injuries, even as a cupcake slammed into her hair; Her vigil remained. The utter lunacy of this made him narrow his eyes, yet he couldn't help but peek out to see too.

Across the room, Beowulf was running full speed towards the serving stations, counting the time before the automated response cut it off from the rest of the room. It was installed after the last major food fight to cut off the fighters from a source of ammunition. He dove underneath the lowering barricade and made for the kitchen with a specific weapon in mind. The male berserker ignored the angry cries from Emiya and Tamamo as he made his way through the kitchen, laughing all the way.

Back in the cafeteria, Iskandar, El-Melloi, and Tyler were hiding behind a four sided fortress of tables as the caster used magecraft to acquire more ammunition from nearby without revealing himself. Tyler was enjoying himself, but also not looking forward to the potential cleaning he, Anton, and some others might have to do on the cafeteria robots who were currently trying to begin scrubbing.

Iskandar laughed heartily. "So this is a food fight! How exciting!"

"Yo, big guy! Hit someone with the cake!" Tyler cried out as he presented a slice of cake to the back of the large rider.

"Oh ho! That's a great idea!" There should have been a moment of silence after the conflict for the poor employee that got nailed with an entire, layered blueberry cake from an over excited King of Conquerors. There were audible gasps and grand laughter, though.

"Holy shit! I meant my slice not the whole thing!" Tyler yelled between gasps for air as he and the larger servant hollered. Though the food-stained El-Melloi scowled, a small smirk peered through at his two laughing buddies.

"I want to throw the oatmeal next!" Iskandar said as he reached for his retainer's thermos as the employee's eyes widened in horror.

"Broskander! Not the oatmeal! That's against like three articles in the Geneva Convention!"

From behind another set of barricading tables, Jekyll looked at Mordred with concern as she laughed enthusiastically while hurling parts of their lunch at random targets. She easily dodged several incoming attacks and ducked back down to find more ammo. Jekyll sighed and decided to indulge his friend in her escapades. The assassin opened his lunchbox and pulled out his container filled with soup in order to get to the bag filled with baby toma-

He yelped as an apple came down after angling off the ceiling, making him lurch forward. Much to his dismay, the lid flew off and Mordred was drenched with chicken soup as she stared dumbfounded at her friend. Jekyll had a horrified look on his face as he raised both his hands in the air. "I-I'm so sorry! It was a mistake! I didn… You know I wouldn't-!"

"We're on the same side, Beansprout!" she yelled with an amused grin as she found a slice of her pie and held it up. Her gaze to Jekyll turned mischievous and playful, and a tad evil.

"Wait- Mordred no! Please!"

Behind their own barricade, Dantes watched Nightingale smile as she dodged an incoming apple that shattered on the wall behind her. She picked up a nearby orange and hurled it over the table bunker like a grenade. She reached around the table and grabbed another before her eyes caught the surprised gaze of the avenger, noting the small shine of curiosity and interest in his eyes. It was different then how she looked at her so many times before and she smiled lightly, tossing the slightly dented veggie his way which he caught. He looked down at the tomato he cupped with both hands then back towards the berserker who had taken the banana back out of her lunch box and began peeling it.

"Don't just sit there, Dantes. We're taking fire!" she chuckled as a pineapple rammed into the other side of the table, sending some fragmentation into the air. As someone yelped, she quickly peered over to see if anyone was in need, then got nailed with an orange; She didn't even flinch.

"Beowulf coming in!" They heard the other berserker roar as he slid back behind the table bunker after entering through the cafeteria entrance, just as a barrage of grapes barely missed him. There was a banana peel on his head and some smashed tomato residue on his once clean denims. A feral smile was painted on his face as he cradled a few large watermelons in his arms. He looked towards the two servants, making Nightingale laugh as she instantly did the math in her head.

"I got the warheads! It's time to make it rain!" he yelled enthusiastically as he placed two of the watermelons down then held the third like an over-sized football. Dantes watched in disbelief, and silent amusement, as he took a javelin stance and aimed towards one of the reinforced ceiling fans hanging all across the cafeteria. A few grapes impacted his torso but he paid them no attention as his grin widened. "Eat this!"

Across the room, Tyler spotted the berserker in a stance and looked towards the target of his gaze. His face turned white as the berserker let the fruity bomb fly, diving behind Iskandar for cover while yelling at the top of his lungs, "Tactical nuke incoming!"

The warning came too late for everyone else as the watermelon slammed into the fan, though the reinforced appliance held firm and barely shook. The same could not be said for the fruit as it shattered into a slushy rain that hailed down from the ceiling, soaking any servant or employee unlucky enough to have been on the opposite half of the room from the launcher. Before anyone could recover, a second watermelon impacted a different fan, causing similar fallout to the poor victims below.

Beowulf bellowed from behind the table alongside Nightingale. He quickly flashed her a grin, and she accepted his high-five. Dantes, still holding the tomato, watched in partial amusement at what had just occurred as the groans of several victims could be heard in the blast zones. Upon hearing them, Nightingale quickly looked over with newfound concern, but fell relaxed as she only saw a bunch of people groaning at their stained clothes. She quickly giggled.

The groans were interrupted by the door closest to the trio. It opened to reveal Nero, who had taken a bathroom break for her makeup. She stared incredulously at the sight of the food-pocalypse in front of her. A few still continued the fight while others were trying to clean themselves off behind makeshift barricades. There were also robots still frantically trying to clean the room, some of which had food smeared onto their exteriors.

"Wha... What happened? Roman Citizens! Your Empress demands to know what happened while she wa-AAAAAAHH!"

She looked down in complete shock at the tomato remnants that now marred her otherwise beautiful red strapless. She looked up with slightly teary eyes and a pout on her face as some in the cafeteria laughed at her expense. Altera, partially marred by muffin residue, ran up to her friend with an arm full of napkins. Behind the table, Dantes turned towards the duo of chuckling berserkers. Beowulf gave him a thumbs up while Nightingale flashed him an amused smile… which he gladly returned with a tiny one of his own.

He wasn't sure what came over him at that moment, but it was different from the usual vengeful impulses and desire to keep to himself. Even he believed part of his avenger soul begged him to do something to help punish the wrongs the Empress had done in the past, this was hardly a way to do it… In truth, he had acted spontaneously, and joined in Chaldea's strange antics for the first time. He threw the tomato of his own accord, just because he wanted to have a little entertainment.

…There may still be hope for him after all.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ XII ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

"Morning, Saber. Lancelot."

Arturia, wearing a simple blue strapless with white sash, stopped walking down the hallway with her knight and turned around to smile at the approaching Archer. He wore jeans and a black polo, with both hands casually placed in his pockets. "Good morning, Shirou."

"Mister Emiya," Lancelot bowed slightly with a small smile. He wore a black blazer with gray slacks and a black undershirt, since semi-formal attire seemed to be his favorite wardrobe. The knight had only recently joined with the king, having encountered her in a hallway while having his morning talk with Mashu. The duo turned to continue walking as the red archer reached them to form their little group, making occasional small talk such as discussing the food fight from yesterday. They swiftly jumped from one topic to another as they walked towards the salon to relax until the cafeteria opened for breakfast.

"…Ready for the extended supply sortie today?" Arturia said in a disappointed tone, making the two men next to her chuckle in amusement.

"I should be asking if you're ready to go without my cooking for an entire dinner." The blonde king blushed lightly and clenched her fists.

"We'll make sure she lives, right Lancelot?" Diarmuid stated as he ran up to the group from behind to join Emiya's side behind the British knights. Lancelot chuckled as Arturia nodded towards her lancer friend who had obviously overheard the start of their conversation.

The Irish man's smile dropped as his face turned serious. "First time you'll be fighting alongside Dantes, isn't it?"

Emiya nodded lightly. "You just have to watch what you say around him... Nothing difficult. Better than dealing with Gilgamesh."

They all simultaneously cringed at the thought. It was rare enough to see Gilgamesh outside his much larger Chaldean room, and every time he was it was never too pleasant. His current attitude was a far cry from what it had been during the fourth and fifth wars, and he was cooperative with Gudao, but his arrogance seemed timeless. At least he wasn't trying to kill every servant that offended him in any way, which would have been almost all of Chaldea by now.

"I'd rather not think about him as much as I can. Either of them," Arturia stated quietly as Emiya patted her shoulder comfortingly from behind.

"Speaking of rude servants… It seems he's walking about again," Diarmuid observed in a low voice. The group stopped in the hallway as Dantes rounded the corner from further down, but to their surprise his former light scowl from the first few days was replaced with an unusually expressionless face.

As they observed him, some of the group crossing their arms as he came closer, they braced themselves for any passing curiosity he'd voice; His previous approaches were always, and only, with a conversation in mind. A week ago, he had approached to ask about the Battle of Camlann and that one did not go over too lightly, especially since a certain fiery Saber was also within Chaldea's walls. The avenger looked towards them and slowed down, making the group narrow their eyes at him as his face remained unchanged.

"Good morning," Dantes said simply with a blank expression and continued walking down the hallway. As he passed, he failed to see the confused looks among the group as they turned to each other and passed glances to the retreating avenger rapidly. A certain British Queen turned the corner further down and glared at the approaching servant, only for the expression to melt into surprise as he once more mouthed a simple morning greeting, and nothing more. As he turned the corner and left Boudica still in shock, the group started walking again, still with confusion on their faces.

"…He didn't want to say anything?" Diarmuid asked incredulously. Emiya nodded slowly.

"Indeed so. He's never made such a simple greeting since his arrival," Lancelot chimed in as he looked back to where the avenger had vanished past a corner.

"Gudao did say he never meant anything intentional…" Arturia pondered, looking to the first among her knights.

"It's only been one comment, and his apologies were a bit too simple. I shall retain my doubt for now," Lancelot stated as he unfolded his arms. They were nearly at the intersection where Dantes had appeared from the right.

"Doubt about what?" Jeanne asked as her head peaked around the left corner with a smile. She gasped and ran up to Arturia and took her hands, stopping the group. "Oh! You're wearing the dress Irisviel got for you! You're so adorable!"

"Adorable..." Arturia mumbled with a slight blush as she smiled. "…Thank you, Jeanne. Your dress looks great too."

Jeanne twirled in place to show off her violet, one shoulder dress with silver accents as her loose hair caught the wind while she spun. "Martha, George, and Amakusa got this one for me! But enough about fashion in front of the boys. What's this doubt all about?"

"Dantes is walking around telling others good morning." Emiya said flatly, still in disbelief himself.

Jeanne raised an eyebrow in surprise. "…He's walking around again? No joking?"

The silence and small head shakes confirmed it. Her eyes widened in surprise as she lifted a hand to her chin in thought. If it was certainly true, it would have made the first comment rather than a determined approach to ask about someone's past. A small smile grew on her face as she mentally noted to talk to her fellow ruler about the possibility.

Maybe he had taken the first step.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ XIII ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

The avenger, wearing a black formal vest and pants with accompanying gray undershirt, walked into Salon de Marie and headed for his usual spot. There was no need to check his watch to know he had arrived much earlier than he usually did to contemplate. He walked with a nearly blank expression, with no sign of his former scowl as he passed Marie and Mozart at the piano who noted his expression with curiosity. They had slowly watched his expression lighten over the past ten days and were more surprised how almost calm it was today.

Shaking the thoughts from their heads, they returned to discussing the play list for tonight. Marie pointed to sheet music for a particular piece she desired, titled "Kiss the Rain" by Yiruma, smoothing her red dress with a free hand as she did. Mozart unfolded the connected sheets and placed them on the piano's shelf, adjusting the sleeves on his formal shirt and pants before his fingers danced across the keyboard; There was nothing more annoying to him than playing and being uncomfortable the entire time. The piano music slowly filled the room as he began playing the piece in question for Marie to decide where it belonged in the playlist.

In a group of chairs and ottomans, a trio of knitters noted the avenger's arrival.

Naomi watched her two friends curiously while still enjoying her day off of work immensely with the pair. They were working on a collaborative set when the two servants turned to observe the avenger with noticeably calm expressions. She had been told about their confrontation with the boorish arrival, yet found it curious they looked at him now with more intrigue than spite. Had she not known them for so long, she wouldn't have picked up the small body language that indicated as much; The little movements did much to betray their facial masks to her.

Looking up at the sound of children's laughter, he saw Jack and Nursery Rhyme on the couch to the left of his usual one, as they had been exactly nearly three weeks ago. Had it been that long since he arrived in early September?

Judging by the quiet sounds of scribbling, they were drawing and coloring once more as he finished his approach, gaining their instant attention as he came into view. As they drew he observed they were also wearing the same matching dresses from that day. He sensed two servants near the bar begin to approach them, guessing that it was their adopted aunts or even mother. The girls looked at each other in concern and disappointment and began reaching to pack up their ute-

"It's alright. I don't mind."

The two girls looked up at the surprisingly calm voice Dantes spoke with. They were uncertain as Dantes turned to face them and reached out towards them. From several meters back, Atalanta and Irisviel were closing in on the two, cautious and protective instincts kicking in as the avenger reached for the heads of both of the girls in front of them. Atalanta opened her mouth to bark at the man to get-

The girls stopped in their tracks with eyes wide as Dantes rubbed the top of their heads, causing the children to giggle and smile. His face remained expressionless as he did so, yet it looked like the action was done softly to the surprise of the two motherly figures.

The avenger looked towards the two women, noting their surprised looks, and simply nodded towards them before walking to his couch and taking a seat. The women approached the children, slowly taking their seats with them and occasionally passing curious glances towards the avenger. If he was uncomfortable or irritated by the fact the children had started giggling and chatting happily as they drew, it was not present on his face as he did what he always had.

Dantes sat on the couch, as he did for the past three weeks at varying times. Staring once more through that large glass window, he listened and felt as his two masters approached the sofa. He didn't turn when they arrived, even as Gabrielle gave him a softened look, though the children stopped what they were doing and went to hug Gabrielle as the female master giggled. Crouching down, she wrapped her arms around the two children and hugged the girls.

"How are you two sweeties today?"

"We're still making our book!" Nursery Rhyme cried happily as she pointed to the coffee table. A small scene with a girl and boy playing on a swing set was discernible, though the image was still incomplete.

"You're not being too loud for our resident avenger?" Gudao asked curiously as he looked towards the man in question. He didn't even move.

"Mister Dantes doesn't mind," Jack stated as Gabrielle released the hug to look towards him in curiosity. The small assassin still held onto her arm though. "Isn't that right, Mister Dantes?"

To the masters' surprise, he slowly nodded but said nothing more… No irritation at the name, nor bloom of his vengeful presence. Gudao shook himself out of his confusion to turn back to Atalanta and Irisviel. "Atalanta… Just reminding you it's a formation training day during the supply sortie, so-"

"Auntie Irisviel is watching us later!" Jack chirped as she followed Nursery Rhyme back to the sofa to begin work on their drawing again. As they scribbled, Irisviel rubbed Jack's shoulder softly as the young girl shifted closer until she was practically on the lap of the caster. She simply smoothed her white dress that lay over her legs and picked Jack up, with some giggling, before placing her on her lap. The young assassin simply bent back over to continue drawing from her new seat.

"I'll be dressed within the hour," Atalanta smiled and nodded to her masters who nodded in return. Her black sweatpants and jade tank top probably weren't the best battle armor.

"Awesome!" Gabrielle stated, giving the quiet avenger one last hopeful look from the corner of her eye. "We appreciate the amount of effort you're all putting in."

"If it makes our tasks ahead easier, we're glad to do so," Atalanta stated firmly. Irisviel nodded in agreement while the children simply kept drawing. Dantes kept listening without moving. Waving goodbye to the group of girls, the masters turned to leave while quietly discussing what extra steps they should take later today during training. The plan they currently had was to improve synergy and situational aware to help preve-

"The servants you gathered will certainly help you complete your mission, as you have helped them more than you may know. You will save this world with them one day, Gudao… You and Gabrielle. This much is apparent."

The masters stopped in their tracks at the sudden, unexpected comment. They turned back to the avenger who was still looking forward, with the four female servants nearby also joining to stare inquisitively. The avenger sighed as he prepared to let more of his thoughts into the open after thinking hard for the past two weeks… Yet he had finally been able to.

The swirling wrath roared within him, yet he'd gotten so much better at seeing what was and what wasn't. He'd gotten used to the colors of his skewed perception and hateful projection to understand what truly rested before him... of what control could be grasped. They defined him and beckoned with seductive tints and whispers, but he now knew he could at least steer. It had taken so long, but suddenly, everything wasn't so definite anymore.

"Reality is a bitter guardian. What has been forged here was difficult, but genuine... Unique. The fruits of your labor are bountiful," he offered as he stared forward. "But should something dire happen to threaten this delicate balance... To crack that glass palace you've all built…"

"No amount of attitude or caution can prevent everything, Dantes. We'll simply bear the weight together and move forward, maybe even as a family," Gudao said simply, making Gabrielle turn to him with a small smile.

Dantes was silent for a few seconds before he chuckled lightly to surprise those around him. It sounded so… wonderfully calm. "Good answer."

Gudao commented quietly. "You're part of it now too, whether you like it or not. Chaldea is your home."

"I suppose so. We made a contract, and you have my word. I will unleash my wrath on your enemies for humanity's sake... But the Eternal Avenger has no place in relishing in that final victory at the end. It is for those who have struggled together to save humanity. It will be a victory for the honest of hearts, and not for an avenger who exists as vengeance, whose only embodying purpose it to vanquish sin where it lingers."

Gabrielle clenched her fists slightly and narrowed her eyes sadly at the back of the talking servant, with Gudao putting a hand on her arm as he stared solemnly at the avenger. She spoke firmly, yet softly. "Why, Dantes? I thought you were finally looking to better yourself! When will you sto-"

"The Eternal Avenger has no right to be saved," Dantes declared absolutely… yet his presence didn't flare. Instead, he was merely tame. "…But..."

The master stopped, her frustration partially being replaced by curiosity as a sudden silence overtook Salon de Marie. The thrusters of the robot helpers seemed to quiet down. Marie and Mozart had stopped discussing the piece he played to stare towards the scene by the window, though the musician's fingers kept playing the moving music. Vlad and Medea were listening in curiously with enhanced hearing, all the while Naomi looked between the two, confused at their sudden shift of attention.

Long seconds into that deathly silence, the avenger let out a small sigh and looked back to his masters with a firm yet calm expression... Still, the stoic mask had its holes. A single glint of something different than an avenger's malice, solemn acceptance, and tension was caught by the masters' gaze.

"...but maybe Edmond Dantes can have a role in that epilogue."

There was no irritation in his voice as he said his name that time. Gabrielle's eyes lifted in surprise as the words churned in her head. Vlad let out a chuckle and Medea smiled lightly, further confusing Naomi who felt absolutely unaware of the development. Mozart didn't even skip a beat as he looked to Marie with the sides of his mouth threatening to turn upward. She simply giggled.

Gudao's eyes had widened in surprise before a small smile appeared on his lips to join his best friend's expression. He smiled. "I believe he will."

Dantes said nothing as, once more, he turned to stare through the grand window of Salon de Marie before him. "…Is that so?"

The male master chuckled softly before looking at Gabrielle and signaling with his head they should go. She nodded and turned to leave without saying a word, the male master moved to do the same before glancing one last time at the avenger's back. "…Wait and hope, Dantes."

Having said his parting words, the sounds of masters' footsteps faded as they exited the Salon, but still he faced forward with a near stoic expression. Even as the older girls began whispering nearby and the children giggled, his body remained a statue. He watched as the snowflakes fell slowly downward, gently swaying and shifting as small breezes changed their flight path. Eyes blank and emotionless, he stared forward and watched as the light snow drifted and danced in his view, as it always had for the past three weeks.

His mind was a mix of loose yet connecting thoughts of recent events and new, revitalized memories as his eyes witnessed a different image than what floated on the other side of the window. He stared. Ever forward Dantes stared...

...and gave the first, faintest hint of a genuine smile... the first he felt in a long, long time... the prison bars slowly rose.

Chapter Text




Hallway goers made room as a bubbly rider skipped down the center of the corridor.

Employees stared curiously at the pink haired servant as they watched the 'girl' practically waltz down the hallway at times. If the servant could hear their thoughts, he wouldn't even mind they thought he was female. There were plenty of gender revelations that initially confused the workforce, but before long everyone grew used to it; Barely anyone bat an eyelash when one of Charlemagne's Paladins appeared as a girl, though he was still definitely a guy. He silently figured his choice of cute clothing didn't exactly help to prove his actual gender to the workforce who mostly remained ignorant of the truth.

The rider simply turned to the passing group, glancing with pink eyes, and gave a bright smile and wave which they returned with accompanying nods. He paused to check the hem of his short, black skirt to ensure it wasn't revealing too much when he skipped, then continued to prance down the hallway. Black stockings and purple sneakers covered the rest of his legs, while a striped violet shirt exposed his feminine midriff. A purple, zip-front sweater flapped wildly as he went. His pink hair was decorated with black side bows, and the cut was styled in the same way as the resident female ruler.

Astolfo definitely looked like a girl to everyone else, there was no doubt about that.

The male rider hummed brightly and thought, for the ninth time in the past thirty minutes, of the reason he was currently extra enthusiastic today; He was recently informed that training sorties were canceled until further notice while Leonardo and Tesla searched for the source of a large energy leak. While they could generate enough power with the leak to deploy to a possible emergency singularity, any other deployment was cancelled to conserve the minimal reserves. It was also uncertain what would happen if they tried to use Saint Quartz to surge power into a potentially damaged system.

So until the problem could be fixed, there would be nothing for the rider to do today; The suited him perfectly fine. Unlike his previous war with that rather displeasing master, Astolfo found himself in a new conflict with more than enough relaxation time. Getting a full day off wasn't too rare, but it was always cause for celebration of some sort! There were many things the rider loved, and an entire day off to do what he pleased was one!

"I wonder what adventure I can have today?" The rider pondered out loud, drawing the curious stares of another passing group of employees. This group belong to the science division, and one guy eyed the effeminate man longer than the rest before being snapped out of his gaze by his teasing colleagues.

As much as Astolfo loved exploring and adventuring around Chaldea on his days off, it was significantly more fun doing it with friends; The problem was every one of his closest seemed to have made plans already. Jeanne was with Arturia modeling new designs for the Clothing Department. Siegfried was sparring with D'Eon and Fergus out on the training fields. Mordred preferred being alone, or was pestering Jekyll.

There was one option left, but only if Frankenstein wasn't currently enjoying some time with her boyfriend.

The simplest way to check if she was with Anton was to see if the employee was reading with her and Medusa in the library, since that room was located more centrally than any other communal area in Chaldea. Frankenstein really didn't read, even though she had some learning experiences after her creator abandoned her, so Anton did it for her quietly. It was one of the ways they spent their free time in public, and was the most common place to find them outside of the dining areas at proper times. Maybe Anton would be interested in joining their adventure before working his shift?

Deciding it was well worth the simple effort, the pink haired rider made a swift left down a corridor and headed towards the library for his request.

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Fragment 14: Astolfo 's Big Adventure

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The rider walked casually into the library, having remembered last time he skipped through happily that Hans reprimanded him. Even though Shakespeare was the one manning the desk, he decided not to attempt to find out what the playwright thought. He was sitting, leaned back in the leather chair with his jacket on the backing, wearing the same modern jade three-piece he usually did. He waved happily with his usual grin, receiving a smile and wave in return before the caster turned his attention back to low humming and writing in his scratchpad.

The rider looked around the room and noted that only Medusa was reading in the corner. His smile faded, though barely, as he walked towards the fellow rider by way of the outer walkway. As he glanced at the passing books without paying much attention, he turned towards the center in time to see a glimpse of blue hair within an aisle before swiftly disappearing. There were a few employees reading on separate couches near the window, all engrossed in books similar to Medusa. The female rider yawned lightly and softly brushed the front of her white sundress with her hands, turning to face the male servant when he finally drew near.

"Astolfo," She greeted with a small nod. The enthusiastic rider practically plopped down on the sofa in front of her, drawing a faint smile from the Greek woman. "Looking for Frankenstein?"

"Mhmm!" He nodded as his feet kicked restlessly in front of him. "I wanted to see if she was willing to come on an adventure with me!"

"Where in Chaldea this time?" Medusa asked, a glint of amusement in her eyes.

The male rider held a finger to his mouth in thought, making a show of pondering even though he already knew the answer. He grinned. "Don't know yet!"

Medusa chuckled as she turned the page in her book, turning her attention back to the written work. "She and Anton left for his room ten minutes ago."

"Thank you!" He answered in a chipper voice before jumping off the couch.

"Lower your voice, Astolfo," came the deep voice of Hans from the central bookcases. In a much lower voice, that no one heard, he added, "That's the tenth time this week..."

Astolfo made a show of keeping both hands over his mouth, making the female rider chuckle in amusement. He gave her one last toothy grin before walking away, deciding to go through the middle this time. The paladin made eye contact with a lone employee on his way towards the steps, waving to him enthusiastically. As he was about to turn and head down the steps, he noticed an empty coffee table and sofa set with a large piece of paper on it, resembling parchment.

Privacy and secrets were difficult concepts for Astolfo. Sneaking Sieg and keeping him in hiding had been one of his greatest achievements in that regard, but his curiosity knew no bounds; It was that personal intrigue that lead him to helping the poor soul out. Now that same curiosity was tugging at him to look at someone's discarded item. Every inch of his mind screamed that it was inviting him, and thus, he was only happy to follow his instinct.

The rider stopped and stepped over to the abandoned piece. It had a small sticky note on it that read, 'To ye that finds, your adventure begins.'

He picked up the parchment eagerly and felt it, revealing it was actually just regular construction paper stained to look like the rich material. Very detailed yet colorful drawings of the floors of Chaldea were placed in an orderly fashion with numbers marking the floor levels. There were some cartoon doodles of ships, mermaids, Fous dressed as pirates, and a kraken all around the outskirts. A compass rose at the bottom right gave it a nautical look, and the X marks all over the map indicated its true intent as the sparkling eyes of the rider widened with his grin.

On the top of the unlabeled map was a message written in pen and forged to look like old English script.

To find the treasure of forbidden booty
Find the clues to the hidden looty
The first of the first and the last of the last
Are necessary to find the spot

Find the room with the nearby clue
Search near the fake and find it true
A treasure to find and stow away
Since the goods were shamelessly got

Astolfo was jumping and squirming with joy, but stopped before he got into trouble. Gripping the treasure map with glee, he rolled it up quickly and held it with both hands like a prize. The rider looked around before swiftly, yet quietly, crossing the room without being spotted by either male writer. Hans was too busy cataloging new books in an aisle and Shakespeare was still jotting on his notepad. Astolfo easily slipped past but let out a cheer of happiness, causing Shakespeare and Hans to look towards the doorway. Shakespeare smiled, though Hans rolled his eyes.

Astolfo bolted down the hallway towards Anton's room with enthusiasm thundering with every step; His adventure had begun!

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The male rider skipped out of the elevator as the doors opened, nearly bumping into a well-dressed avenger who rolled his eyes at the sight of the bubbly servant. He entered the elevator as Astolfo continued his prance down the hallways of the residence area, waving to the occasional servant or employee he passed. Robots weren't excluded as he even gave one a high five, much to the apparent confusion of the robot that was spun like a top by the excess strength used by the servant.

It usually took servants a few days to adapt to this curios facility, but that was not the case for Astolfo! He loved this place immediately, and eagerly tried to fit in as best as he could. A place where he could do what he wished was like a dream come true, and it was even better with little surprises like this treasure map! Today was already starting to look brighter than most, though nearly every day here was sunny from his point of view.

Left, right, another right. Astofolo made quick, memorized turns as he approached his destination. The door to Anton's room resided at the end of the hallway dedicated to some members of the science division. There was no one in the corridor which allowed the rider to pick up the pace and skip at increased speed. He slowed to a brisk walk as he neared the door, toothy grin still plastered on his face as he unrolled the map to take another look at it.

Too engrossed in his map, he failed to hear some of the muffled dialogue through the nearby wall with his enhanced hearing. "This alright? I'm not hurting you am I?"


"Just making sure, dear."


Astolfo grinned wider, if it was even possible, and rolled the map back up as he reached for the door handle. Without hesitation he grabbed the handle and twisted, opening the unlocked door swiftly yet quietly. The door finished its movement with no sound and Astolfo opened his mouth to greet the coupl- but found his grin had all but vanished. It was replaced with total shock and a bright red blush.

"Just a bit more, Fran. We're close. Sorry I'm taking longer than usual... I'm not very good at this..."


The pair were on the bed, but he could barely see Frankenstein's yellow sundress from her spot on Anton's lap. Both of their backs were towards him, and the sitting employee's position looked awfully intimate. A small, soft sound escaped Frankenstein's mouth, making Astolfo's blush turn several shades darker as he completely ignored the fact they were fully clothed. It didn't help the berserker shifted her position on his lap gentl- He shouldn't be watching this intimate ritual!

"ImSorryImSorryImSorry!" He screamed rapidly as he ran back down the hallway, letting the door slide closed silently behind him.

Back within the room, both Frankenstein and Anton were facing the door, still partially in their previous position. The strap of the servant's sundress was held loosely in Anton's right hand. In his other hand was a needle and thread, likely being used to sew on the loose butterfly decoration that threatened to break free. Both had raised eyebrows and confused looks on their faces as they stared at the door.

"...Was that Astolfo?"


"I wonder what that was all about."


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Astolfo, still with a tint of blush on his cheeks, walked down the hallway with arms dropped at his sides. He made a mental note to apologize to the pair after walking in on a very intimate moment. The servant let out a small sigh, part of his endless enthusiasm drooping upon realization he didn't get to share his treasure adventure with anyone. Secretly, he'd never admit, he would also like someone to help him with the riddle he couldn't figure out. But that could wait.

He could at least go to some of these X marks and find out what they were.

Noting one X was nearby, the servant's enthusiasm returned swiftly and he skipped towards the location. Judging by the position of the mark, it was located in a rather mundane corridor near the gymnasium, with another mark within the room itself. While holding the map in front of himself with both hands, he swiftly approached the specific location and looked about, catching the curious glances of some employees. His eyes lit up upon spotting the only thing nearby, then lost some of its sparkle upon realizing it was just a small sign.

All employees must follow proper sanitation procedures.
Wash your hands thoroughly after using public restrooms.

Astolfo pouted. This was definitely not what he was expecting to find at the first marker. He looked down at the opened map then back at the sign. This was clearly supposed to be a clue yet it was far from what he expected. The rider began squirming a bit as his eyes ran over the simple statement over and over, his eyes resembling a game of pong as the pupils bounced back and forth. He gripped the map slightly more and let out a sigh and small groan as some passing employees gave the feminine rider curious glances.

The rider didn't know how long he had been putting on a small show until a small tap on the shoulder broke his trance. He turned around and found Mata Hari standing there with a perplexed look clearly displayed on her features, a lone hand on her hip and the other holding a small purse. Astolfo would have enjoyed commenting on how she still managed to look cute in her yellow shirt and matching gym shorts, or how her brunette hair looked lovely when tied in a ponytail, but his small pout remained.

The assassin giggled. "You've been squirming in front of that sign for a few minutes now. Does it have something to do with that map you've got?"

"It's part of my adventure!" Astolfo nodded enthusiastically with a sudden grin which faded a bit. "I can't figure out what the riddle means though... Oh! Can you help me for a moment, Maty?"

"Sure, mind if I have a look?"

The assassin glanced over the rider's map and read the note scrawled across the top. She put a hand to her chin and hummed to herself as Astolfo looked at her inquisitively and in delighted anticipation for the answer. He watched as she glanced towards the sign then back at the riddle, a smile slowly growing on her face. The rider could only grin at the telltale signs.

"First of the first and last of the last. That's your answer, I believe. Since this sign is the only possible clue here, then the message is likely referring to the words," Mata Hari explained as Astolfo watched her in awe. "I hope it's not more complex since this treasure hunt map is decorated in a cartoony fashion. If that's the case it would be the first letter of the first word in the message, and last letter of the last word that you need to know. Would you like a piece of paper and pen to borrow?"

"Yes please!" Astolfo exclaimed as the assassin opened her personal item and fished through her purse to get the two items. "Wow, you're really clever, Maty! Was it from all your spy work?"

"Um, well I had different circumstances and means of acquiring info for that. I just enjoy puzzles," She deflected with a giggle as she handed the articles to the rider, who swiftly noted the info. "I'm sure you would've gotten to that point as well."

He blushed and scratched a cheek with a finger. "Maybe after a bit. Not having common sense is difficult sometimes."

Mata Hari blinked and paused before giving a sympathetic smile. "Can't be too difficult. You did become a heroic spirit after all."

Astofolo grinned as he began skipping down the hallway. "Thanks again! I'm off to my next adventure point now!"

"In the gym right?" The assassin inquired as she followed the enthusiastic servant, having noticed the nearby mark within the large room.


The rider reached the destination quickly and opened the gym doors. He looked inside to see a few employees working at some of the stations around the track. Before he could glance at the map to see where the location of the mark was, his curiosity was seized by a loud female yell in the center of the room followed swiftly by the sound of an impact. The rider observed the three servants in the center of the room, noting Xuanzang sitting cross legged on the floor with a water bottle observing the other two. She wore a pair of yellow workout shorts and a white tank top, her hair tied in a large ponytail that swung from the breeze of another impact between her partners.

Beowulf stood in a fighting stance, his leg muscles tensed underneath his black gym shorts. His bare feet gripped the gym's floor as another impact collided with one of the padded gloves on his hands. He grinned as another fist was thrown by Martha, the small shock wave of the impact registering the power she used. Her determined look was locked onto her next target as she threw another punch. The sheen from a light layer of sweat glistened on her visible skin between blue workout shorts and matching sports bra.

Her hair hung loosely behind her and waved with every movement made as she swiveled to keep Beowulf in front of her. She threw a fist forward and struck another training glove, making the berserker chuckle in approval. "Ata girl! There's gonna be a poor golem that you will introduce to your fist someday!"

A roundhouse kick collided with a training glove with a solid slam as Martha smirked and Xuanzang laughed. From the doorway, Astofolo grinned and turned to Mata Hari who was standing slightly behind the rider. There was a nervous look on her face as she watched the duo sparring and she let out a small sigh. The rider tilted his head in curiosity.

With a grin, Astolfo turned to the friendly assassin. "Joining their fun?"

"Unfortunately... I didn't think Martha meant this when she said we should work out together sometime."

As Mata Hari reluctantly walked forward and approached the group, with Martha enthusiastically waving her over, Astolfo looked at the piece of paper she handed him and grinned. Now his adventure could begin in earnest!

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Carefully peering into the kitchen from the cafeteria side, Astolfo ignored the silent curiosity from the attendants.

Boudica hummed to herself as she mixed a bowl of batter at one of the counters in the kitchen. Her white halter dress hugged her figure and was protected by a red apron with yellow flowers. There was a magazine about different cakes opened in front of her and she seemed completely distracted with preparing a blueberry cake for Jack's birthday a few days early. She stuck a finger into the batter and raised it to her lips, licking it off with a satisfied smile before returning to her work.

Continuing to hum, she ignored Astolfo moving quickly into the pantry after entering through the cafeteria.

With a finger to his lips, the robots and kitchen staff merely stared at the sneaking rider. Many times he had managed to sneak a snack before a great feast. While no assassin, he had become adept at infiltrating the kitchen back in his day, but this was the first time doing it in Chaldea. It made him excited with nervousness, and he nearly cheered when he managed to enter the enlarged pantry.

None of the robots or employees seemed to have said anything, so he quickly assumed he was in the clear. Neither Tamamo or Emiya were here, which made the task of infiltration that much easier. He ignored the employees near the pantry, who made confused glances into the room as he searched. Finding the stocking notice, the pink-haired rider cheered and began pulling out a piece of paper from his sweater.

Being among the delicious ingredients was tempting his stomach. Though most were unprepared and raw material, there were a few cookie jars nearby. His eyes occasionally wandered to them, tempting his taste buds. However, he had to remain focused and write down the clues. He couldn't be caught here while he still had the gracious window open; Tamamo and Emiya could return at any moment!

Still, his hunger urges overpowered his senses. He found himself reaching for the jar's lid after successfully copying the clues. As he slowly opened the lid with an eager, mouthwatering grin, he failed to sense the arrival of two servant signature. He didn't even hear Boudica's voice, "...Tamamo?"

"Boudica... if you're out here, then who's in the..." Judging by the tone of the voice, that one was definitely Emiya.

Astolfo began panicking on feeling the servants approaching the pantry. He struggled to pull his hand out of the jar, but his own optimistic greed led him to grasp a handful. Quickly, he released all but one to pull his hand back, but the pantry's doors flew open. As the kitchen's illumination spotlighted him, he knew they had caught him with his hand in the cookie jar. Unconsciously, he placed the cookie into his mouth and began to happily chew.

With a sheepish smile as he ate, Astolfo turned back to look at the trio of servants peering inside. He quietly contemplated complimented their appearances as a distraction. Emiya was dressed up in a white dress shirt tucked into black formal pants with Tamamo wearing a blue sundress and slippers, so it was too plain to work. Thankfully, Codsworth floated over to them to catch their attention and buy him time... but he popped a cookie into his mouth instead.

"Mister Emiya, I'm afraid I wasn't made aware you were entertaining guests today."

"Neither was I, Codsworth," Emiya replied as he crossed his arms and stared back at the rider.

Astolfo quietly swallowed the cookie he had eaten, leaving a few unapologetic crumbs on his lips. "Hi Emiya!"


His grin grew more sheepish as Emiya's glare narrowed. Maybe honesty would work. "...I'm on a treasure adventure?"

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Arturia and Jeanne, both in casual blue dresses, were talking cheerily about their recent discovery involving modern television shows as they made their way towards the cafeteria for lunch. The diffused light from the windowed hallway illuminated them, making them glow like their soft smiles. The pair had recently gotten into watching some TV series in their off time and were discussing their favo-

A clattering and commotion from the cafeteria drew their attention as they continued walking, now slightly confused at the registered presence of two servants making a beeline for the doorway. "Sorry only a little sorry! I'll share them with the kids or something!"

"Get back here, Astolfo!" On cue, a cheerily laughing Astolfo burst from the doors with a rolled map and cookie jar in his arms. He bolted down the hallway past the two girls.

Behind him, Emiya appeared from the doorway with two reinforced brooms in his hands, held in an awkward manner that partially resembled Diarmuid's stance with his lances. An irritated scowl graced his features as he stared at the back of the retreating rider. Tamamo casually walked through the doorway as several employees peaked out to see the end of the scene. The caster giggled and pat Emiya on the shoulder as he groaned and rolled his eyes.

"Maybe that security robot wouldn't be a bad idea after all."

"At least it was only one cookie jar this time," Tamamo stated with a smile before turning a teasing look to Arturia only a few meters away. "Certainly less than what we usually lose, right?"

Arturia lightly blushed and crossed her arms as she leveled a half glare at the caster. Jeanne laughed next to her.

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Astolfo skipped down the hallway, munching on the last cookie he took from the jar he had stashed in his room.

While many times others found his enthusiasm and impulsiveness to be both cute and endearing, there were just as many of the opposite. He tried more often to be more considerate about it, but he couldn't help it. It was who he was, even when representing Charlemagne or assisting Roland. Thankfully, others had come to accept and understand him through the unique situation of their war. He'd just have to make ammends later after letting the archer cool down a bit.

He added Emiya to his 'Apologize Later' list for his impulse acquisition, but he had no time to stop by the cafeteria for lunch when there was an adventure to be completed! Wiping the crumbs on his lips away with a tissue, Astolfo made his way towards the women's spa which was newly renovated. He quietly pondered to himself how he was going to get into the restricted rooms as he turned a corner. Making his final approach to the locker room, and still with no plan in mind, he was knocked from his thoughts as he stared at Blackbeard rummaging through a backpack near the entrance.

There was a small reflection of light from the lens of a tiny camera that quickly disappeared within the backpack. 'Ah... so that's it.'

Astolfo quietly approached, map currently held in both hands, as he stared at the fellow rider. The black haired man was currently stuffing something into the side pocket of his jeans. A loose white shirt had a unique logo on the back with some text reading, 'Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag.' He stared at the pirate as he smoothed the front of his shirt, back still turned to the fellow rider, before casually getting up and nearly jumping when he spotted the paladin so close. Putting the thought of the map to the back of his mind, the effeminate rider pursued his new curiosity.

"Hi Blackbeard!" Astolfo cried out happily, making the servant shudder at the volume as he looked around nervously. Astolfo bent over and looked up, taking on a familiar pose he's known for as he stared curiously up at the fellow rider, hands held behind his back with the quickly rolled map. Blackbeard had both of his own tense at his sides, looking up and down the hallways quickly to note no one else was thankfully watching. His pack lay on the ground near his feet.

Astolfo grinned and tilted his head. "Whacha up to?"

"I-erm...I wasn't..." Blackbeard knew he was caught, and there was no way to save himself, yet again... until he spotted the rolled map clutched in the other servant's hands, clearly resembling a chart of old. "Is that a treasure map?"

"Oh! Yes! It's my current adventure!" Astolfo exclaimed happily and loudly as Blackbeard inwardly sighed in relief on buying himself some time.

"Astolfo, was that Blackbeard!?" A voice roared from within the locker room.

The pirate paled and groaned as a familiar scarred face poked through the doorway. Drake wore a white tank top and jeans, her hair still damp from a shower. Behind her was a short girl with an over-sized black sweater with the hood masking part of her own scarred face; Crystal blue eyes still shone through the shadow cast by the cloth. Long sleeves covered her hands and hung well below her fingertips.

Anyone looking at her could see denims from the knees down, and would question why anyone would want clothing so loose. A tall blonde appeared from behind Drake and stared at the two male riders with her red eyes. Unlike her petite friend, she wore only a large white towel and hid slightly behind the British servant. Amused with the situation, Astolfo waved at the trio of girls in the doorway of the locker room. "Hi Drake, Anne, and Mary!"

"What are you two doing?" Mary asked as her taller partner held her towel a little tighter. Mary had a suspecting look directed at Blackbeard who squirmed slightly. He had already been warned about going anywhere near the women's spa, and for him to be caught so close to the door was already spelling doom for the famous pirate.

"Well I was-"

"He's helping me with my treasure adventure because he's a pirate! See?" Astolfo unrolled the treasure map he held and showed it to the pirate girls, much to the surprise of the four servants. Blackbeard quickly regained his composure upon seeing the opportunity.

"Yes! Our fellow rider was having some difficulty deciphering the charts so I agreed to lend him a hand. I did not mean for us to get so close to the women's spa but I was dragged here anyway."

Drake looked incredulously towards Blackbeard who held firm. Astolfo looked between them in amusement. The group of pirates were a curious mix of rider friends. While Drake, Anne, and Mary got along very well, it was usually hit or miss with Blackbeard. They still spent time with him, but it was just a matter of if he did anything wrong that day. At least they were always rather kind to him, even if they were just acquaintances. It made believing him that much easier.

"There's a mark in the locker room though, and I can't enter," Astolfo explained as he pointed to the mark and approached the girls to prove his point. The trio looked towards the mark clearly displaying its position within the locker room. "Do you mind helping me with my quest?"

"Oh, sure!" Anne answered quickly, observing the position of the mark and disappearing into the locker room. The riders waited patiently for the small girl to return, and upon doing so, Astolfo perked up. "There was just a sign. Is that what you need?"

"Yes! What did it say? Exact words please!"

"Oh, I'll be back then. I'll take a picture of it for you with my camera."

Anne once more disappeared into the room as Astolfo looked back towards Blackbeard who had slung his pack onto his shoulder. There was a very appreciative look on his face which was returned with a grin; It was missed by the two remaining females as they whispered to each other about the potential of treasure. Anne returned with a small camera and showed the back display for the paladin to read. He quickly scribbled the clues he needed onto the paper Mata Hari gave him and smiled.

"Thank you! I'm one step closer to the treasure!"

"As pirates, it tempts us greatly to join you, but we have things to do," Anne stated as she looked at the map. "Besides, you already have a pirate helping."

Blackbeard quickly flashed a thumbs up and nodded. Drake shrugged, walked over, and threw an arm over the shoulders of the paladin. "I'd like to know what you find at least. And if you share some with me and the girls, even better!"

Astolfo laughed. "We'll see about the last part, Drake! Thanks again! Let's go, Teach!"

Grabbing Edward by the wrist, Astolfo dragged the pirate down the hallway with him as he skipped. The female pirates waved at the retreating pair before disappearing back into the room to finish changing. The duo quickly turned a corner further down and out of ear shot where Blackbeard dropped to his knees and bowed towards the paladin. Astolfo wore a knowing grin as he took his trademark stance and stared at the pirate.

"You're too kind!"

"You owe me so much!"

"I'll repay you for this someday, I swear it!"

"Just delete the pictures, Pervbeard. I saw the camera," Astolfo smirked, but then his eyes lit up with glee. "Oh! And maybe some ice cream~!"

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Astolfo looked into the Clothing Department nervously from the doorway.

Vlad and Medea were looking over an ornate rug that was being displayed by two robots. Next to the red rug with golden trim, Naomi was manipulating multiple needles to finish some extra detailing in the center. Olive branch outlines framed a golden flower in the center. Naomi placed one hand onto her hips as she adjusted the tie on her pristine, as always, uniform with her other. Medea wore a purple dress with a black throw over while Vlad stood casually in his black robe. The group eyed their collaborative work as Naomi placed her needles away into a holster on her back hip.

"There... done."

"This should get Nero off your back," Medea teased as she looked towards the prince who rolled his eyes.

"Not quite I'm afraid. She's always on my back," Vlad sighed and Naomi giggled. "I appreciate you two helping me with her personal request."

"I know how extravagant and demanding the empress can get, no worries," Naomi stated as she reached a hand up to adjust the crocheted rose in her hair. "Will you be delivering it to her or..."

The tailor fell quiet as she finally acknowledged Astolfo, whose face was buried in the treasure map. He looked up nervously and glanced around the room. After a pause, he waved towards the knitting trio before quickly looking onto the vacant front desk and staring at the information sign. Pulling out a piece of paper, he began writing as the trio approached; He felt his nervousness grow upon feeling Vlad's skeptical eyes on his back.

While the berserker still held a grudge over the rider's previous antics, he was rather civil about it. There was no misinterpreting his exasperation on having anything to do with him though; It sure beat an angry Vlad by comparison. Still, there were only a few servants that made Astolfo much more paranoid and aware of his own antics, and Vlad was easily topping the list.

Thankfully, it appears it was Naomi who wished to speak. "We're closed for lunch, Astolfo."

"I know! I just needed this sign and another in the back! I promise I'll be quick and won't make a mess or anything!"

Naomi looked back towards her equally confused friends. "What?"

Astolfo quickly held up the paper with scribbled letters in two groups and the treasure map so the group can get a clear visual. "I'm on an adventure!"

Vlad sighed as Medea and Naomi examined the map. After a few seconds, the eager and nervous rider quickly began skipping towards the back of the room. While Medea remained curious, the gears in Naomi's eyes turned. Vlad noticed. "Something peculiar?"

"It's just... Astolfo going where Gabrielle had been yesterday..." Naomi pondered before she raised her voice. "Astolfo? Who gave you that map?"

"I just found it!" he replied in a chipper voice as he found the item he was looking for. It was another small sign regarding placing material away properly.

"Just behave yourself, Astolfo. Don't make a mess and trouble Naomi," Vlad chastised with crossed arms as the rider flashed him a nervous grin from the other side of the room. A robot hovered past the berserker with a pile of sweaters in its triple arms.

"Aw come on, I'm just reading a sign! I'm not that bad, Vlad," he tried to reassure.

Vlad stared at him incredulously. "I'm well aware of how bad your impulse actions can get, Rider of Black."

Astolfo grin fell bashful as the berserker let out another sigh. Medea patted him on the shoulder.

Without properly looking, Astolfo began walkin- He bumped into a robot with a large tower of designer shirts. The column tipped and began falling as Astolfo quickly grasped for the doomed clothes, catching them miraculously but accidentally shoving the robot out of the way in the process. The robot smacked into a stack of boxes causing the top most pair to topple over and spill their contents as countless spools of thread rolled across the ground, some even coming unraveled.

Naomi stood with mouth agape as Medea watched the sight in bewilderment. Vlad growled and stared right at the offending rider as the robot began attempting to clean up the new mess. Astolfo's grin grew even more sheepish as he scratched the back of his head after placing the clothes on a nearby table. He felt the nervousness amplify and his own dread mounting as Vlad glared at his former faction ally.

That apology list sure was getting long.

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"But you're so cute in that outfit, Mordred!"

"What are you saying, idiot!?" The knight cried out as Astolfo looker her over as he passed. He grinned before skipping away and unrolling his map once more. The knight was wearing black jean shorts and a leather jacket with a white tube top underneath. "I look tough, not cute, idiot!"

With a chuckle, Astolfo merely skipped by hid friend. Mordred was always rather rough on the exterior, but there were a few servants who could get under her skin with no fear; He was one! Their times spent during their shared grail war made for a decent foundation, so he was used to her antics by now. It was likely the same for Mordred, but she had an appearance she always wanted to uphold. The rider ignored her complaints as he ducked into Salon de Marie and nearly stopped in his tracks.

Once more his task was pushed aside in favor of what was occurring before him. Marie was by the bar in silver sweatpants and a red shirt, staring warily with Tamamo at two arguing servants near the large window. Dantes sat on his usual couch and was glaring at the two offending servants as well, clearly displeased with the commotion. The suit-wearing avenger had just put on his black jacket and stood up, likely to get away from the bickering servants Astolfo now eyed curiously.

Gilgamesh stood proudly with crossed arms as he glared at his opponent, Chaldea's newest arrival. He wore his hair spiked back with usual golden earrings, and his favorite leopard print suit. Across from him was a tan skinned man with a black formal shirt open and revealing his well-toned chest. Black formal pants and a belt accompanied the shirt and matched his equally dark, spiked hair. A golden necklace with a centerpiece Ankh hung around his neck.

Golden eyes stared arrogantly back into red ones as the tanned man let out a haughty chuckle. "I do not enjoy repeating myself, but very well. As pharaoh, I permit you to worship me."

"Mongrel, you have no right to that tone when speaking to the King of Heroes. Know your place!"

"Ah, but my place rests atop all to be worshiped! I am the perfect pharaoh, the King of Kings, Ozymandias, and therefore above you King Gilgamesh! Isn't that right, sister Tamamo?"

"Don't drag me into this! I'm not your sister!" Tamamo yelled from the sidelines to Marie's amusement.

"Ah, my sister is quite embarrassed. I normally do not take an interest in heroes or mages, but this place is full of people worthy to worship me and spark my intrigue. Will you not join them, Gilgamesh?"

The King of Heroes scoffed. "Do not address me like I am your equal, mongrel!"

"We have been over this. You are beneath me, but worry not as there is no shame in admittance of my pretiege."

"No, you are beneath me!"

Astolfo walked by the bar to find the first mark in the form of a large drink menu. He scribbled the notes necessary onto his piece of paper before moving towards Marie and Tamamo. The fox caster had a look of slight irritation on her face as Marie's wary glance held a tint of amusement at the sight. Dantes exited through the doors as the rider came to a stop next to the two girls. They looked towards the paladin and nodded in acknowledgment as he stared curiously at the newest servant in Chaldea.

With a finger gently tapping his lips, he mused openly, "So Ozymandias finally got to meet Gilgamesh?"

"Unfortunately," Tamamo grumbled as the male rider looked at him inquisitively. "Don't mind me. It's just irritating how he still insists I'm his little sister."

"It's kinda funny though, isn't it, mon amie? Their bickering has a sort of humorous charm, non~?" Marie asked with amusement. "Who knew there would be someone as arrogantly narcissistic as him? It's almost like a mirror... Oh, what have you got there?"

"It's my adventure! I'm looking for treasure!" Astolfo explained happily as he held the map for the queen and caster to see. "I almost have everything I need! Just a few more marks!"

"There's two in this room," Tamamo observed as she slowly looked towards the two arguing kings. "And the second one is..."

"I'll be back!" Astolfo exclaimed as he placed the map on the counter and skipped towards the two arguing kings. There was a picture frame containing a poem near the two, placed on a table between two flower vases.

"Wait, I wouldn't...!" Marie exclaimed, but it was far too late to stop the quick rider who was already skipping towards them blissfully. "Oh... oh no..."

"Count your blessings that you're too beneath me to warrant opening my gate, mongrel."

"I ceased counting my endless blessings eras ago, Gilgamesh. It is but the minimum of praise I deserve!"

"Stop addressing me a- hey, what're you doing, mongrel rider!?" The archer exclaimed as the paladin casually skipped between the two kings and began scribbling onto the paper the necessary letter he needed. "How dare you interrupt!"

"Oh, don't be so childish," Ozymandias stated proudly while rolling his eyes. "Though I do say this girl has been disrespectful. I shall forgive you if you offer your praise and worship, servant."

"Childish? You dare call me chi-" Gilgamesh stopped upon realization and smirked. "King of... Kings... How about we hold a small banquet?"

Two portals opened for Gilgamesh as he held his hands out. In one hand, two golden cups fell while another carefully dropped a translucent bottle of fine china glass. Ozymandias eyed the bottle with curiosity at its ornate design, taking one of the golden cups Gilgamesh offered. Astolfo stopped writing and eyed the two's exchange as the King of Heroes poured the contents into both cups. Sending the ornate glass back into the Gate of Babylon in golden dust, Gilgamesh raised his glass towards the King of Kings and smirked.

"To our... mutual prosperity."

"Ah, so it seems you are ready to worship me then, King of Heroes."

"I shall allow you the honor of drinking first."

"Wait!" The two stopped to look at Asolfo's outburst, with Gilgamesh glaring with irritation at the feminine rider. "Shouldn't you test it for poison or something? That's standard procedure!"

Gilgamesh scoffed, unaware the idea of a possible trick completely flew over the head of the paladin. "Poison? Why would I poison my own fine wine, mongrel?"

"Then Ozymandias should drink second since you save the best for last!" Before Gilgamesh could react, Astolfo approached swiftly with a toothy grin and brought the cup to the king's mouth happily. His eyes widened upon realizing his plan had backfired, but before he could spit out the liquid that now made its way down his throat, he accidentally swallowed. A bright light erupted from Gilgamesh that forced everyone but Ozymandias to avert their eyes.

Upon the light subsiding, the servants were met with a sight that stunned all of them. Gone was the King of Heroes that they knew, replaced with a small blonde boy wearing a white, zipper-front sweater and desert-style camouflage shorts. A blue undershirt rounded out his attire as a look of confusion graced his face. Holding up his two hands, the boy looked at them then towards the, now much taller to him, pharaoh whose lips twitched. The sides of his mouth slowly turned upwards and Astolfo looked towards him as he laughed heartily.

"Wh-what?" The small boy stuttered. Astolfo considered adding Gilgamesh to his growing list.

"Oh? A failed assassination attempt? How amusing!" He said between bouts of laughter before turning to Astolfo. "What is your name, fellow rider?"

A toothy grin sprouted on the feminine rider's face. "I am Astolfo! Twelfth Paladin of Charlemagne!"

"I will not forget this moment! You have earned my thanks, worthy hero! You have saved the King of Kings from outright humiliation!" Ozymandias proclaimed as he looked at the child-like Gilgamesh. "Indeed! I wish this moment to be eternal! Dear sister Tamamo, please acquire a camera to do just that!"

"I am not your sister!"

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Mashu sat on Gudao's bed in her usual uniform and tickled a playful Fou on her lap who squirmed under her torture. She stopped and hugged the small animal to her chest and giggled as it licked her cheek. The shielder leaned forward and rubbed her forehead against it before pulling back and readjusting her glasses. Nearby at his desk, loaded with paperwork as usual, Gudao took a small pause and watched with a tiny smile at the sight. He swiftly returned to his work with a light blush when Mashu turned to catch him staring at her.

The moment was soon interrupted by his room door opening to reveal Gabrielle in a casual, blue dress since she wasn't working today. Gudao himself was wearing his standard uniform but with the collar popped. She entered the room without a word and looked towards her partner's desk and frowned. Gudao noticed and shrugged, "You were expecting me to do something else?"

"You should be actually. You didn't by chance see a treasure map, did you?"

Gudao blinked. "Treasure map?"

"Yea. Treasure map. I seem to have misplaced it. I was making it for you to do later today and I completed it... but now I can't find it," Gabrielle stated and scratched her head. "I thought I left it in the library but Shakespeare and Hans said they thought I took it back to my room."

"And it wasn't in the room," Gudao asked. The female master shook her head.

"It was a scavenger hunt kind of map, right?" Mashu chimed in, still holding Fou to her closely. Gabrielle nodded with a raised eyebrow; She had definitely not informed Mashu about it since it was her personal secret until she recently lost it.

"How did you know?"

"Astolfo was skipping around the halls, saying he was on an adventure in search of treasure. I helped him get a mark near the Party Cave. Could that be it?"

Gabrielle's eyes widened, making Gudao and Mashu look at each other confused. "What's the treasure anyway?"

"Something no servant should find!" Gabrielle practically yelped as she raced out of the room. Mashu and Gudao quickly followed after her.

Fou quickly hopped onto Mashu's shoulder as she cried out, "Gabby, wait!"

"What do you mean no servant should find it!?"

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ XI ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Astolfo felt proud of himself. He had successfully found all the clues and unscrambled the letters collected to spell out "Summoning Chamber." He had proceeded to that room, past a few confused employees, Tesla, and Leonardo, to find a hidden clue by the console that redirected him to the Game Room. He had entered the room and found it vacant of anyone, which wasn't surprising since the room was technically closed for a day of cleaning and maintenance. The cleaners in particular were taking a small break for a late lunch, their tools scattered about the room.

"Search near the fake and find it true," Astolfo mumbled to himself as he looked around the room. He placed the map down on a table and sighed. "What could that mean?"

Astoflo looked around at the various board games. He had never actually been in this room much before, and while the grail did inform him of the information necessary for modern entertainment, he still had no clue what he was looking at. Only a few games weer recognizable when he played Marie and her staff during salon down time. As far as he was concerned, one of these games could be fake and he wouldn't know it.

He walked through the room looking at the televisions before going through the small doorway to the video game section. It is at that moment that his eyes widened in understanding as he looked at the large, converted monitor planted against the wall. To everyone else it was serving as a television at this point, but it was still a monitor to the servant who took things at face value. It was a wild guess, but it was better than nothing.

Skipping over to it, he eyed the piece of equipment and noticed it was partially unattached from the wall. Whether it was maintenance or done intentionally didn't matter to the rider. He carefully removed the large monitor and placed it on the ground, revealing a mess of wires in the wall behind its former position. Most importantly was a black box among the wires written with the word "Treasure" in large white letters.

Grinning in delight, Astolfo cheered as he pulled the treasure from its spot. In total excitement, he skipped into the other room to place it on the map's table. After dropping the medium sized box onto the piece of furniture, he began playing with the lock to find it was already open. Countless possibilities raced through his mind ranging from sweets to a new noble phantasm of all things.

It might have been absurd for most to think they'd get a new noble phantasm outside a memorial essence, but he was optimistic. He's adventured to countless places and obtained many treasures and items along the way. It was obviously fate granting him another fun adventure which would reward him with something great! While suppressing a newfound wave of giddiness, the rider rubbed his hands and finally threw the lid open.

Blackbeard appeared in the doorway just in time to see Astolfo's glee falter. "Ah drat, it really is under maintenance today... Oh, Astolfo. Is that the treasure?"

Astolfo stared shocked and disappointed into the now opened box. "I... I guess it is."

Blackbeard raised an eyebrow at his fellow rider. "I thought you'd be happier about it. What is it?"

The pirate approached the box, and before Astolfo could hide the contents, Blackbeard rounded the table and spied the items within. His eyes lit up instantly and his hands seized the box to pour the contents out greedily. Pictures of scantily clad women fell onto the table in heaps as the pirate happily shook the box empty. Some of the pictures had a complete lack of clothing, and the worst part for Astolfo was that some of them were actually servants in Chaldea. Thankfully, none of those were in compromising pictures or naked.

"My stash! I thought they burned it all when Gudako seized it from me days ago!" Blackbeard cried happily as he looked at the pictures with shameless delight. "I can't thank you enough for finding these! It looks like I owe you again! You can take three dozen photos for yourse-"

"I don't want any of these, Pervbeard!" Astolfo cried out with a blush on his cheeks. Blackbeard quickly began collecting all of the pictures back into the box while humming to himself. The effeminate rider was still in shock.

"Oh, so I can keep them all then? Great! I'll figure out another way to repay you but until the-"

"Oh no you don't!"

Gabrielle had stormed into the room and snatched the now closed collection from the servant's hands. In the doorway stood a stunned Mashu with Fou and a confused Gudao.

"No! Please! You can't just burn my stash, that's too cruel!"

"What's too cruel?"

Blackbeard paled as he saw Robin stick his head into the doorway in curiosity at the sudden commotion. If he was here, then there was a high chance that she was also nearb- Drake also looked into the doorway and noticed Astolfo and Blackbeard. She smiled and waved towards the still stunned rider.

"Ahoy Astolfo! Did Blackbeard help you find the treasure just fine?"

"Yea... Yea he did..."

"Well, hold up your end, fellow rider! What was it?"

Blackbeard looked towards Astolfo with horrified eyes and was met with a blank stare; Astolfo could tell by the acknowledging look in his eye that there would be no assistance a third time. "Blackbeard's stash... There were some pictures of you in there too."

Before he had even finished the statement, Blackbeard had fled the room past Drake who was now glaring at him in irritation. She charged after the quickly disappearing Blackbeard. Robin followed close behind laughing at the riders' antics while his friend roared, "Get back here, Teach!"

Mashu had approached Astolfo who was now sitting in one of the chairs in slightly slouched disappointment. Fou leapt from her shoulder onto the rider and it nuzzled its cheek against his, slowly bringing a tiny smile back. Mashu rubbed the servant's back in a reassuring manner. "Sorry your adventure didn't end as planned."

"I had fun doing it... I just wish I got real treasure out of it."

"I'll get you something worthy to make up for this trash, Astolfo. Promise," Gabrielle stated and laughed at the rider's renewed mood. He was back to his enthusiastic self within seconds.

"Thanks Master!"

Gudao had also walked into the room and was eyeing Gabby with a raised eyebrow as he picked up the treasure map. "Blackbeard's treasure was going to be my reward? You wanted to give me personal time fuel?"

Gabrielle blushed lightly. "No! You said you wanted to burn this contraband personally when we found it two days ago... so I just decided to hand them to you in a fun way to get you off your ass!"

"Should have thought this through a little better... and my god, I forgot how terrible you are at poetry," Gudao stated with some amusement as his best friend flipped him a choice finger. His eyes glanced over the map of Chaldea and his eyes widened when he reached a certain point before staring at Gabrielle horrified. She giggled at her assumption of where he looked.

"You were going to have me walk into the women's spa!?"

Chapter Text

"What do you mean no!?"

"No paperwork, no management, no nothing! Take the day off! I got this."

"Gabby you ca- I've got a lot of stuff I need to finish today!"

"I'll finish it for you now go! Have some fun!" Gudao sighed and crossed his arms, leveling an uncertain look at his best friend who stood adamantly in front of his room's door, arms akimbo.

The male master had only just returned from grabbing a quick lunch with Mashu and Fou, who were now with Dr. Roman, only to be met by an orange haired blockade. They'd been arguing for a few minutes, much to the amusement of the crimson haired lancer next to her. Unlike the formal uniform wear of the Chaldean masters, Scathach had a very casual outfit in the form of tight navy jeans and a black turtleneck sweater. She held Gabrielle's coffee cup in one hand, her other hand placed on her hip as her eyes casually glanced between her two masters.

"Gabby. I really nee-"

She pouted. "I'm going to hit you."

"Alright! Fine! I'll go take the day off!" Gudao quickly raised his hands in surrender at his friend's raised fist; He was very much aware of how deceptively, bone-crushingly hard the shorter girl could throw a punch. "The paperwork is on my desk. Roman might come by later with more."

She smirked at her victory and returned to her akimbo stance, winking towards her best friend. "Just have fun, okay? I'll be fine."

"I hope so," He said under his breath making Scathach chuckle. Gabby caught the small statement and rolled her eyes before beginning to push the dark haired male down the hallway. "Okay, okay, I'm going!"

"See you at lunch!" She remarked happily as he began walking off in the direction of the elevators.

The female master walked the few paces back to her closest personal servant, a proud smile on her face that made the lancer chuckle. She stopped in front of Gudao's door, reaching into her pocket and pulling out her master key card to unlock the room. She took a glance at the female servant as a beep resounded, unlocking the door.

"You sure you don't mind keeping me company? Might get a little boring."

"It's fine. Cu, Diarmuid, Fionn, and Fergus are having a Male Irish bonding session. Gods know whatever that could be," Scathach sighed before her gaze turned incredulous at the small blush slowly growing on her friend's face. "I doubt it's anything like that, Gabrielle."

"Don't crush my fantasies!" She complained as her friend rolled her eyes and chuckled. "I'll just grab the paperwork, then we can relax in my room while I... finish... this..."

Gabrielle trailed off as she stared towards Gudao's desk. Perplexed at her sudden loss of voice, the Scottish lancer peered into the room and felt her eyes slowly widen at the sight before her. The room was very much clean, as expected of the neat freak that Gudao was. All of the room was pristine except for his desk, which held three messy, large piles of paperwork. Each of the piles had to be at least two dozen centimeters high as the female master eyed the offending stacks, feeling the strength in her legs being sapped as if a drain spell had been cast upon her.

'There was never this much paperwork in a day.'

"I'll go get you another cup. Or three," Scathach stated simply with a small, amused smile threatening to widen should she watch her friend's predicament any longer. Turning away, she made a beeline for the elevators to get to the cafeteria.

Walking over to the piles, Gabrielle stopped at the desk and picked up the first paper on the closest pile. It was stapled to several more sheets beneath it. Her eyes scanned the typed text and long paragraphs, skimming for possible information on the identity of this particular incident. She never did like how each incident had an official number, this one marked ANI-N21, and preferred the unofficial nicknames created for the more well-known incidents.

As she skimmed the first page, her fingers tightened around the edges of the sheets as she let out a low growl of irritation. This particular incident was still fresh on her mind, partially because it involved her and a certain haughty individual who decided to participate in a bet she thought she could easily win. Things had not gone according to the servant's plants by any means.


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Fragment 15: Gudao's Day Off

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"...Frodo came forward and took the crown from Faramir and bore it to Gandalf; and Aragorn knelt, and Gandalf set the White Crown upon his head and said:
"Now come the days of the King, and may they be blessed while the thrones of the Valar endure!"

Anton quietly continued reading to Frankenstein on his morning break as Gudao and Medusa sat across from them, reading their own books. The rider sat closer to the window letting the soft illumination from falling snow make her pages brighter. Frankenstein wore a newer wedding dress with a slightly smaller skirt for mobility. Anton's uniform was kept proper since he had to return to work later, and Medusa favored a blue dress with a throw over for some warmth.

Gudao leaned against the arm of the sofa on the opposite side, quickly skimming through his chosen novel at lightning speed. Medusa made occasional glances his way, as did Anton and Frankenstein, to marvel at his reading ability. Whether it was magecraft enhanced or he bypassed most of the detail was anyone's guess. Regardless of which it was, he was nearly a quarter way through his novel after joining them only an hour ago.

There were many solitary activities Gudao enjoyed, but to combine reading and his interest of spending time with his servants was something he couldn't resist. It had been a bit since he had a long reprieve to spend with his allies off the battlefield and he relished every moment he could with his servants. There was hardly a hero or heroine who thought negatively of Gudao's intent to bond with them, and they certainly appreciated him and Gabrielle that much more for treating them with more than just respect.

Approaching footsteps tore his attention from the book along with the rest of his temporary reading group.

Looking towards the source, the group was met with the pink haired demi-servant quietly approaching. Fou sat on its regular perch on her shoulder, bouncing lightly with each step she took. She wore a simple white blouse with jeans, which was a fairly unusual sight since she often chose to wear her Chaldean uniform even for casual circumstances. She stopped next to Gudao, smiling and bowing towards the other three as Fou hopped off her shoulder to perch on the male master's. The man pet the furry familiar as it licked his cheek.

"I heard you were taking the day off, Senpai," Mashu smiled.

"Yea, I've spent it here reading for now, enjoying the nice company," He complimented as Fou scurried across the sofa back to attack Medusa's cheek. The female servant smiled and pet her assaulter as it continued to lick her. "I'm guessing Gabby told you? She doing alright? I did kinda leave her with a lot of paperwork."

"A little bit of an understatement," She giggled making him wonder what she had seen. "She's fine, Senpai. Just relax and enjoy your day."

"Don't worry, I am," He said simply before returning his attention to the book in front of him. "Is there something you needed?"

"Yes," She responded quickly but quietly, fiddling with her fingers behind her back. "I was wondering if... if Senpai wanted to join me in babysitting Jackie and Alice. It's her birthday today so Tamamo and Irisviel are helping Atalanta with decorating her room in secret. Only if Senpai wants to, of course. It's your day off..."

The reading trio looked at the two with interest, reading the undercurrents easily. Medusa hid her small knowing smile thanks to Fou's continued adorable assault, this time rubbing itself against her stomach from her lap. Gudao pondered for a bit, not minding the idea too much considering the novel he was reading was a second read through. While he did spend the most time with Mashu, it was almost always work related or in combat. In fact, he wasn't able to recall the last time he had spent any prolonged amount of free time with his first servant. Mind easily made up, he gave Mashu a small smile and nod.

"Sure, sounds fun," He chuckled as he slid a bookmark into his novel and closed it. He reached down to a small pack at his feet to put the book away, oblivious to the slight blush that appeared on his kouhai's cheeks before slowly disappearing. Had she noticed the knowing glints in the looks from the other three, it probably would have deepened.

"Enjoy yourself, you two," Medusa said with a small smile, watching as Fou hopped back to Gudao before jumping off his back and into Mashu's waiting arms.


"Same goes for you three," Gudao replied as he waved to the group and got up, following Mashu towards the door of the library. Fou squirmed a bit in Mashu's arms before breaking free and perching on top of her head, occasionally looking around like a meerkat. The group watched as the pair left the double doors of the library before turning to each other.

"He has no idea, does he?" Anton asked as he took one last glance where they disappeared. Frankenstein giggled softly next to him.

"Typical," Medusa chuckled as she shook her head lightly. "But she is a bit reserved. Unlike a certain other two servants..."

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A dark aura surrounded a certain caster clad in a blue floral kimono with black obi-age. Tamamo gripped the corner of the hallway with such intensity that the employees approaching from the opposing branch stopped like gazelle before a hungry lioness. Her tense glare was not directed at them thankfully, and they took the opportunity to retreat from the angry caster in the direction they came. The servant's eyes were glued to the backs of Gudao and Mashu as they retreated down the hallway and disappeared into Salon de Marie. She let a low, frustrated growl escape her lips at the sight.

She had just finished helping Atalanta and Irisviel decorate Jack's room for her surprise party, and was headed to the kitchen to see if Boudica needed any extra help with the cupcakes. Irisviel and Atalanta were preoccupied with last minute wrapping of their own presents while the fox caster had extra time in the days before since she was not on any of the training session rosters. Tamamo had intended to help out in the kitchen in prep for the party, but this new predicament threw a wrench into her plans.

Boudica and Emiya should be fine; Her heart could not allow this to happen.

With clenched fists, Tamamo began walking towards the Salon before her eyes widened in recognition of another servant that appeared from the women's bathroom near the cafeteria entrances. Her eyes narrowed and she grit her teeth at the sight of her current love rival as Kiyohime walked into plain view wearing a jade green kimono with white obi-age. The berserker stopped upon sensing the other servant and slowly turned to meet the eyes of the fox caster and glared. The two servants swiftly approached each other before they stopped within centimeters of the other, both glaring and bearing their teeth at the other.

"Well if it isn't the fox slut."

"How dare you, dragon-breathed hag!"

""What did you just call me!?"

"Your name of course, hag!"

From further down the hallway, a lone black-haired employee turned the corner, and her eyes nearly popped out of her head at the sight of the two female rivals engaging in verbal war. She quickly reached behind her back and fumbled with a handheld radio, a new standard issue to every Chaldean employee since the 'Heroine X Incident.' She held the radio to her mouth as she peaked around the corner to stare at the two arguing servants from supposed safety.

She had to keep eyes on the situation so she couldn't keep tabs on the two from the recommended safety distance of three hundred meters from the infamous rivals without losing visual. The thirty meters would have to do. "Security central. We have a potential Code Valentine at the entrance to the cafeteria. Please have a reaction unit on standby!"

The sounds of quick scrambling sounded over the radio as the female employee received a confirmation of the message. A small force of robots and a few servants served as the Rapid Reaction Force that quickly answered most of Chaldea's more potentially destructive incidents... though this was one of the more standardized codes due to its common occurrence rate. To prevent accidentally making an incident spill over, the reaction force was almost always kept on standby until necessary, though they would deploy to within quick response distance. She just hoped they would reach the area in time.

"I don't have time to waste on you, so just go away and leave Gudao alone!"

"I can't just let Gudao be taken by Mashu like that so I'm not going anywhere, especially if it means you're near him as well!"

"Oh so you saw that too? You're more perceptive than I thought," Tamamo stated haughtily with crossed arms as Kiyohime grit her teeth. The employee down the hall began sweating a bit. To her surprise though, Kiyohime seemed to calm down slightly.

"Hmm," Kiyohime mused out loud, making Tamamo raise her eyebrow. "Maybe we shouldn't fight here. I doubt master or anyone would appreciate us destroying the cafeteria."

"I doubt you'd appreciate me kicking your ass again anyway."

Kiyohime growled. "Look. Mashu is trying to take our man away from us. Again. This is serious."

Tamamo raised an eyebrow. "Are you inferring we team up? Not happening. Not off the battlefield, you know this."

"Like I'd ever be friends with you again. It's a temporary alliance or we both lose Gudao to her. If we fight, Mashu takes the victory. I thought you were good at strategy, Tamamo."

After scoffing, Tamamo growled back and bared her teeth at Kiyohime again. "Of course I am! Fine! A temporary alliance it is!"

Tamamo held her hand out and Kiyohime reluctantly shook it quickly before letting go. Further down the hallway, the female employee's eyes were nearly dropping out of their sockets in surprise. No one could blame her since she just witnessed one of Chaldea's most intense rivalries end in what appeared to be a temporary alliance. While she couldn't hear the exact words, it was obvious by the lack of thrown spells that this was suddenly the case. She reached for her radio to inform security the situation was stable. "By my lucky stars... I'm glad that ended fine."

Unfortunately for Gudao, he suddenly had more lucky stars he unknowingly needed to find.

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Jack giggled as she continued to color in pictures with Nursery Rhyme in a book she had received earlier that week. The caster wore a black blouse and zebra print sweatpants while her foster sister wore a beautiful black dress and silver tiara. Their slippers were discarded nearby, favoring to go barefoot on the plush carpet of the lounge. Fou sat on the rug between them, curled happily next to the two small servants and receiving their warmth. Jack sat in a more refined posture for a dress while Nursery Rhyme lay on her belly, kicking her feet in the air behind her. Their backpacks were discarded on the couch behind them.

On the other side of the coloring book from them sat Gudao and Mashu with their backs to the massive window, both with their legs underneath them in a traditional Asian posture. The packets of crayons sat between them, occasionally disturbed when one of the two had to hand the smaller servants a particular color. Small smiles graced their faces as they watched the two girls work, completely oblivious to being observed from the other side of the lounge by the two kimono clad females.

The two stared at the small group from the safety of a small booth. They were far enough away to not raise suspicion, though their respective matching veils only increased their presence. It didn't help a very signature headpiece and furry fox ears poked out of the veils as dead giveaway to their identities, not that the open faced clothes did much to hide their faces in the first place. Credit had to be given to them for even trying to conceal themselves, but there was simply no feasible way to do it without appearing completely absurd.

"The veils are a dumb idea."

"Better than your no ideas."

"Just shut up and keep observing. The first sign of trouble we move in."

Tamamo growled but stopped when they felt the approach of another servant. Looking up, the two noticed the completely surprised and confused look of Sanson as he stared at the two females. The uniform-dressed assassin held a tray in one hand with a pitcher of water and glasses perched on top. The pitcher was made of well-designed glass that resembled crystal, with light reflecting off its various edges to create an ever shimmering look. He had both eyebrows raised, his usual stoic look completely shattered at the sight of one of the last visuals anyone thought they would see in Chaldea.

"What's the occasion?" He asked simply as he distributed the glasses and placed the water pitcher in the center between the two. The two simultaneously reached for the pitcher and growled before Tamamo quickly acquired it first with a smug smirk.

"This is only temporary," Kiyohime explained calmly while giving Tamamo a stink eye.

"I see. So still eternal love rivals then?"

"Of course. Only one may have Gudao," Tamamo explained with a small smirk. "Though I do have the edge since I had previous competition with Empress Nero. She was intelligent enough not to make another rivalry with me this time around... unlike Kiyohime."

Kiyohime narrowed her eyes at the caster across from her. "We are in alliance, do not forget."

"Just because we are in alliance does not mean we can't trade verbal jabs. I will work with you until we confirm the threat has passed, then it's back to love business as usual."

The two traded glances and let out simultaneous hmphs before crossing their arms at the same time. Sanson looked between the two before internally shrugging and decided to leave the two to their business. As long as they weren't tearing up the salon, he supposed Marie would be happy with the situation. He made a mental note to keep an eye on the fragile alliance in case anything went south in a heartbeat, which could likely happen considering the two in question. The pair turned their attention back to observing the group by the window, noting it had suddenly become more active.

"Ah! Fou, I need that crayon!"

Jack giggled. "Get him, Alice!"

Nursery Rhyme was currently trying to grasp the crayon from the mouth of a playful Fou who sat just out of reach of the caster. She pouted as she had to crawl forward a bit to reach the furry familiar only to have it simply hop away and drop the crayon at its feet. It stared back at her with a playful look, tilting its head to the side. The young caster managed to crawl forward and pluck the crayon from in front of Fou before rolling back to her spot and beginning to color with it. In exchange, Fou walked over and plucked another of Nursery Rhyme's crayons.

"Hey! Fou!"

Jack giggled as Fou returned to its out-of-reach position and placed the crayon down at its feet before chirping happily. Gudao looked between Nursery Rhyme and the furry familiar and connected the dots as he looked at the crayon. Looking to the packets of crayons, he grabbed the much larger jumbo set and pulled out the black utensil. The three girls looked at him as he quietly murmured a chant under his breath, reinforcing the crayon slightly. He opened his eyes and looked towards the two young servants.

"You don't need to color with black, right girls?" He received shaking heads as a response.

Looking towards Fou, Gudao reached over and plucked the stolen crayon. He returned it to Alice's nearby pile before holding the crayon out to Fou and tilting his head. Fou's playful eyes looked towards the crayon as it got up from its sitting position, its tail wagging in anticipation. In a swift but light movement, Gudao tossed the crayon a distance away and watched Fou jet towards the crayon like a playful puppy. Mashu's eyes widened and she smiled at Gudao's swift ability to guess what Fou had silently requested.

"Guess Fou just wants to play fetch," Gudao chuckled as the furry animal hopped back towards them with the large crayon in its mouth.

It carefully placed the crayon back on the ground near Gudao before sitting down and wagging its tail. It tilted its head as Gudao quickly picked the crayon back up and faked a throw, making Fou run before stopping and turning back towards the male master in slight annoyance. The girls giggled as he threw the crayon just above the animal's head, making it jump into the air to grab the crayon in its teeth and falling lightly onto its back. It rolled over and made its way back to Gudao as the group lightly clapped for its display.

"Can I try?" Jack asked, her crayons now discarded nearby as she looked towards Gudao hopefully. Gudao nodded before smiling with a little mischief in his eyes.

"Of course, Jackie! It's your birthday after all."

He quickly picked up the crayon and tossed it towards Jack, who caught it quickly and easily with her enhanced reflexes. She was not expecting the furry animal to jump over the book and tackle the assassin, making her fall backwards in some surprise as the furry animal wiggled on top of her as it tried to get the crayon. Jack laughed loudly as she tried to keep the crayon from Fou, whose tail was happily wagging in the air above the wrestling duo. Nursery Rhyme giggled next to her foster sister before she crawled over to try and help get a very playful Fou off of her.

Gudao felt a nudge from his kouhai's elbow and looked towards Mashu who had a look of both slight chastisement but more amusement. "That was a little mean, Senpai."

"They don't seem to think so," He stated plainly as he smiled and pointed towards the two girls hugging the playful animal as it held the crayon in its mouth. Jack carefully plucked the crayon out of its mouth with its content before tossing it to her side, laughing as it jumped out of their grasp and chased after the makeshift stick. It swiftly returned with the item and dropped it before rubbing its head against Jack, eliciting more giggles.

From the other side of the room, Tamamo watched with yearning eyes as Kiyohime eyed her with a slightly incredulous look. The look was more of jealousy however, as the berserker was well aware of how much time the fox caster got to spend with the adorable pair of adopted sisters. Tamamo noticed the look and pouted towards the berserker before turning back towards the group.

"What? They're always so cute! I want to join them but we'll be exposed!"

"I know what you mean," Kiyohime sighed, causing the caster to look at her with a raised eyebrow. The berserker stared back incredulously. "What, am I not allowed to think it's cute too!?"

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"You didn't have to work out with me, Senpai."

"It's alright, Mashu. I missed my usual morning routine in exchange for reading."

"If you say so," Mashu smiled as she curled some weights near him. While she could activate her circuits and servant capabilities at will, she took the time to train her physical attributes properly. They had left Fou in the care of the two young servants, though the furry animal hardly minded the extra playtime as opposed to watching his two caretakers train.

It was a little embarrassing for Gudao since Mashu was capable of lifting weights far above what he could, though she would never dream of rubbing it in his face. He was glad for that as he stopped watching her and turned back to his currently racked weight above him. He lay on his back on the bench press, a simple white shirt and black gym shorts making his workout uniform. Small glimpses of Mashu's deceptively feminine form lingered in his mind, more on the side of admiration for having such strength while retaining a non-muscular look.

There were also some stray thoughts of her workout clothing, from her tight purple tank top down to her black workout shorts that clung to he-

'Stop right there,' Gudao chastised himself as he internally smacked himself for having slightly impure thoughts of his kouhai.

He unracked the bar and felt all of the eighty kilograms of weight feed pressure into his arms. Slowly he began his reps and felt his left elbow giving him disapproving soreness making him mentally groan. That elbow had been acting up on him occasionally since it was injured from flying debris during the American campaign. He could never thank his casters enough for being so adept at healing.

Unknowingly to him, multiple eyes were upon him as he finished his fourth rep.

Mashu was passing him some lingering glances as she continued to casually curl her heavier than usual weight. Across the gymnasium from the two were Kiyohime and Tamamo, both on identical leg press machines. They were slowly working their leg muscles while their eyes were glued to their master, appreciating the tone of his arms that usually remained hidden beneath the very conservative uniform. The berserker and caster shared similar workout clothes in the form of sports bras and gym shorts, though Tamamo favored a blue and black color scheme as opposed to Kiyohime's turquoise pair.

The two looked at each other and confirmed they were both staring, before they quickly huffed and returned to their workouts in an attempt to see who could do more squats than the other.

Gudao racked the weight and let out a breath of air, content with lying on the bench. The room was a little hotter than usual today since a few of the air conditioning units were pumping more hot air than they were supposed to. There wasn't a single person in the room without a light sheen of sweat on their skin. The top edges of Mashu's top were slightly damp from the sweat, and Gudao's shirt was beginning to cling to him. He sighed in frustration at the hot conditions before sitting up, gauging in his mind how many more sets he needed to do before he moved on to the lats machi-

"Hey Gudao! A bit heavier weight today, eh?" Mashu and Gudao turned to see Fergus and Robin making their way towards the two.

The archer had a towel draped over his neck, sweat drenching the top of his green tank top and visible skin. His orange hair was slightly matted down from being damp but his black shorts were loose enough to avoid cling. Fergus only wore blue gym shorts and let the very visible sheen of sweat reflect light off of the many angles of his well-toned muscles. He quickly downed an entire water bottle before tossing it behind him, landing it in a trash can nearly fifty meters behind him. Gudao knew the muscular servant was clearly taking care of his daily workout, or showing-off to be more specific.

"Yea, Gabby said I need to work to heavier reps."

Fergus laughed as he reached the master before patting him roughly on the back. "That lass is quite the strong one, she is. May be a mini Scathach someday!"

"Keeping him guarded, Mashu?" Robin asked with a small smirk.

"I'm keeping him company on his day off," She replied, deflecting his simple jab. He chuckled in response.

"Rough to spend some of your day off in here though. This temperature is horrible," the archer stated as he ran a hand through his damp hair. Fergus simply laughed next to him.

"Nothing like tough conditions to build tougher muscles! Gains are important!"

"Glad someone's enthusiastic about this heat at least," Gudao chuckled as he got up from the bench. He looked down to see a small imprint of sweat and groaned, looking for where he placed his clean towel so he could wipe it down.

"Hey master, that shirt's becoming awfully drenched. You should take it off and showcase your gains proudly!" Fergus boomed cheerily as he flexed in various poses, much to the annoyance of his friend who took a sip of his own water.

Robin sighed. "I wish that employee never told you what that word meant... you use it too much."

Gudao was aware the saber had convinced the archer to become his workout buddy after enough drinking sessions together. Robin Hood had almost no interest in workout sessions until Fergus related it to another form of prep, but it involved the physical body instead of traps and poisons. The idea was still laughable to Robin, who had to drop his enhanced strength like any other servant in order to make heavier weights actually require effort. Whether it was more for show or for kicks, a servant really didn't need to workout like a human did and sparring was a better option.

Some even believe most servants do it as a hobby, though Robin would state it's still a strange activity for them to have. Maybe it just made them feel that much more alive again. As long as his servants were content, Gudao didn't mind either way. He just enjoyed seeing them appreciating their time here in various ways, as he noticed Robin was secretly doing. "Don't listen to muscle head, just do what you want, Master."

"Ah don't be like that. I'm sure our master has some great muscles to show off! Here, watch!"

Without any warning, Fergus walked over to Gudao who had stopped to turn to him. In one swift movement, Fergus ripped the white shirt off the master, revealing a surprisingly well toned body and a feint set of abs. They were nowhere near as defined and chiseled as many servants walking about, but they were apparent along with the nice contours of other visible muscles. What was also now visible was the small blush on his cheeks on being exposed by one of his servants without permission, with the saber in question laughing heartily at his act.

"Yea! You see? He's got a nice growing set for the ladies! Ain't that right, Mashu?"

Gudao turned to Mashu to see she had completely frozen, the weights in her arms caught in a fully curled position as she stared with a flushed face towards the master's visible torso. Noticing she had been caught, she tried to look at various other places only to spot more embarrassing sights such as Fergus grinning proudly or Robin aiming an amused eyebrow and smirk towards her.

Across the room, both Tamamo and Kiyohime were also frozen in place after several hundred squats each, looking with interested faces towards their now exposed master. Kiyohime greedily admired his toned muscles and chest, her mind amplifying the sight several fold simply because he was her beloved. Tamamo seemed to take it more in stride, though she was still admiring the eye candy. The two didn't even care to bicker towards the other for staring at the prize as they were more content with enjoying the glorious sight they have been blessed with.

A servant nearby cleared their throat, drawing the attention of the two ogling females. They were met with the slightly annoyed face of a small servant as her dragon like tail swung behind her impatiently. Two small horns sprouted from beneath her vibrant pink hair as sky blue eyes stared narrowed at the two girls. Her pale arms were crossed over her black shirt with a pink microphone design on the front, while white shorts covered past her knees. The two females stared at one of Chaldea's self-proclaimed idols as she rolled her eyes.

"You two piggies have been hogging the leg press machines for the past twenty minutes. Can I at least get a quick turn while you two undress Gudao with your eyes?"

The two love rivals looked at each other, narrowing their gazes slightly as their eyes met before the lancer had to clear her throat again. "You can keep stalking on the exercise bikes if that's what you want to do."


"All your's, Liz."

The two girls let out similar scoffs while they got off their machines and headed towards the exercise bikes. The lancer rolled her eyes at the two as they began bickering between each other, reminding her of Tamamo's former, heated rivalry with Nero. At least the lancer got to finally use the machine for fun.

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"Don't take my star! Don't you dare take my star, Guda- SCREW YOU!"

Gudao laughed as Tyler smacked the master on the arm as his on screen character seized the star on the virtual board. A mushroom headed figure soon pointed out a new location for another star, closer to another figure controlled by Lord El Melloi II than Tyler's own. The dark skinned employee let out an audible groan as his gaming rival let out a chuckle, earning him a smack on his arm.

The three were squeezed onto the same couch along with Mashu, who took up the end space next to Gudao with Chaldea's humans taking up the center spots. Tyler wore his uniform loose as always during his chosen break session while the caster sported a red and gold robe with black pants underneath. The robe had the logo of Chaldea embroidered on its right side above the heart which glimmered regardless of the light's direction. The older male casually held his controller in one hand as he enjoyed Tyler's constant misfortune.

"I thought you wanted to bond with us?"

Gudao looked at the employee with a raised eyebrow. "Is something wrong?"

"Is something wro- We're playing Mario Party. Mario. Party," the employee emphasized with two hands as he gestured to the screen, making the caster chuckle. "This game stands with M-Kart, Monopoly, Dokapon Kingdom, and a few other titles as games that destroy friendships!"

Gudao blinked. "We've been playing it for half an hour and you only just now mention this?"

"Because he was winning."

Tyler smacked his rival on the arm once more causing him to laugh loudly. "Shut up, Waver. That's not the point!"

Gudao laughed. "I see. Well, who knows. Maybe this star? Lucky six?"

Tyler rolled his eyes but chuckled, rolling the virtual dice to decide his movement and getting up from his seat and cheering when he landed a six, the exact number he needed to jump past the caster's character and claim the star from him. The older man scowled as Tyler made a display of a small victory dance, slowly moving himself between his friend and the screen much to the displeasure of Lord El Melloi but the total amusement of Gudao and Mashu.

"Thank yoooouuuu, Gudao for blessing my wonderful roll!" Tyler cheered before getting jabbed in the stomach by his friend, making the employee chuckle while holding his stomach. "You hit like a girl, Mister Caster!"

"I wouldn't have to if you didn't take hits like one!"

Gudao laughed as he watched the two before settling down when Mashu tapped on his arm to get his attention. Looking towards his demi-servant, the girl pointed towards the nearby couch at the lazing figure of Iskandar. He wore his signature Admirable Tactics shirt and blue jeans, his shoes clear off his feet and discarded on the ground as he barely even twitched in his sleep. His light snoring could be heard over the unmuted party music coming from the game. Several empty bags of chips lay around him on the couch, floor, coffee table, and himself.

"Ah don't worry about that. The big guy sleeps through explosions on Battlefield, he can sleep through this no problem," Tyler explained as he squeezed back into his seat.

Mashu and Gudao passed one last glance at the King of Conquerors who inhaled sharply, causing a slightly louder snore, before he reached a hand to his stomach and scratched. The hand fell unceremoniously back to the floor as he continued snoring, much to the amusement of the two. The lord and employee were exchanging rivaling glances next to the pair.

Outside in the hallway, Tamamo and Kiyohime were listening through a sound amplification device they had acquired from Babbage after making various, very poor excuses for requiring such a device from the engineering group; He probably gave it to them just so he could get back to development instead of being pestered by the love rival alliance. Tamamo was positioning the amplifier against the wall to Kiyohime's direction, with the berserker whispering to the caster.

"They're definitely just playing games. I can just tell over Iskandar's snoring."

Tamamo chuckled at the observation. "Maybe we should take the time to get our late lunch. Nothing happened when they played cards with the Romans and I'm getting hungry."

"A good idea for once. Me too. I think it should be safe for now."

Passing employees gave the two very strange and wary looks but were internally grateful they weren't causing a sudden incident. Many would dare say they were even getting along.

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"Aim a little higher, Master. That's it. Now exhale and release."

An arrow flew through the air and struck a wooden training target fifteen meters away on its outer rim. A few other arrows penetrated various parts of the training bullseye erected for the male master, with none near the center of the target and a few scattered on the ground around it. Mashu gave Gudao a golf clap from a few feet behind him as he lowered the wooden composite bow. He sighed and looked next to him at Arash with a small smile. He wore his usual combat outfit with the addition of a blue scarf around his neck. The archer laughed and patted the master on the shoulder lightly.

"Not bad for your first time ever holding a bow, I'd say."

"Well done, Senpai."

"Thanks, Arash. I have so much more respect for you legendary archers now."

He placed the bow down next to the small stand of remaining arrows some servants had quickly acquired for him. The bow was just another practice bow for any employee to use should they feel encouraged enough to practice alongside the heroic spirits. Gudao hadn't intended to pick up a bow and start practicing; He and Mashu only came to the range to see how the servants here were doing. Some encouraging words from several archers later, Arash and another servant were teaching him the basics of archery for his understanding.

"I think I might have to come here more often. Sure took some of the feeling of stress away."

"Great! That's good to hear."

The trio turned to look at the returning helper servant, clad in a red jacket similar in color to his combat outfit's robe. He wore black slacks and carried a large satchel of arrows and an accompanying quiver on his back as opposed to the usual endless rice bag. Long green hair was tied into a ponytail and swung behind his back while its bangs were kept partially away from his face by a black headband. His sun kissed skin could have been tanned by his golden pupils that almost seemed to glow like sunset in the right light. He gave a bright smile as he hefted the large satchel of arrows off his back and onto the ground next to him.

Gudao blinked as he stared at the satchel. "Um, Tawara-san... What are those arrows for?"

The muscular man chuckled as he placed the empty quiver next to the satchel. "It's for you of course, master! You weren't going to leave until these were all fired, right?"

Gudao paled and Arash laughed at his fellow archer's antics. Mashu walked up to Gudao and rubbed his back in a soothing manner upon seeing his suddenly exasperated expression. "I didn't think this is what you guys meant by learning."

"Of course! A hundred without the quiver than a hundred more with the quiver! You can handle that, right master?"

Gudao's groans were cut off by a volley of shots from Drake's flintlocks further down the firing line. Mashu and Arash chuckled at his expense as he did what he usually did when presented with a daunting task. He dragged his feet to the bow and picked it up before grabbing one of the last arrows in the stand and prepared to nock the projectile. Regardless of what the task was, he always met it head on and one step at a time like Gabrielle taught him. While their methods now differ, he is at least glad they now shared an endless determination to see things through thanks to her.

"Only one way to make these arrows disappear then."

"Aha, that's the spirit!"

From the spectator area in the firing line, a few resting servants and employees stared perplexed at the pair of love rivals staring at the learning session through shared binoculars. They were constantly squirming and working together to move the lone pair of binoculars to a better vantage point, creating an interesting show for those watching. Nobunaga sat with a half-eaten sandwich still in her hands as she stared at the commotion, finding much more amusement in the bickering pair than the thought of surprising the entire line with some new tricks she learned with her rifles. 'Huh. They're actually sharing.'

"You didn't have another pair?"

"You took them a long time ago, remember? We'll have to make do."

"Mashu didn't pull a move right? Tota is partially blocking the view."

"We're fine. She seems to be keeping her distance. But we must stay vigilant!"

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"They still following us?"

"Of course. It's Tamamo and Kiyohime after all."

The pair laughed as they walked down the hallway. "I'm just surprised they haven't broken into a fight with each other once."

There was a small pause as Gudao thought of the two jealous servants and what they must have possibly been thinking the entire time. There was no one in Chaldea who didn't recognize their unending show of affection towards him; No matter how many times he tried to turn them down, they kept up their act as if he hadn't said a word. It was a little tiring at times, but also flattering to know such beautiful servants considered him worthy of a relationship. It did give the two some extra amusement when they noticed the rival pair and their strange antics thoughout the day.

"Sorry that archery session soaked up the rest of the time, Mashu."

"It's alright, Senpai. You learned a lot and did well!"

"I haven't spent much time with you and I hope to keep finding opportunities to do so in the future. Promise. But, thanks for keeping me company today Mashu. I enjoyed my day off thanks to you coming along and suggesting places to go."

Gudao smiled towards the girl at his side and kept walking towards his room with her. The master turned back forward in time to miss the light blush that appeared on the girl's cheeks. "You're welcome, Senpai. Thanks for spending the day with me too."

Gudao had just finished the lessons barely ten minutes ago and he was intent on getting another proper shower before Jack's dinner party later tonight. He had spent time with countless groups of servants today, though he felt regretful that the most quality time he spent with Mashu was limited. The best of it was during their play session with Jack and Nursery Rhyme. She had mainly sat next to him and contributed in conversation like when they visited Dantes' little group or visited Roman in his office.

As he thought about it, he realized Mashu was only supposed to join him up until the workout session, but he certainly didn't mind the surprise company regardless of her reasons for doing so. He greatly appreciated every moment he got to spend with his first servant and friend within Chaldea. She'd always been there for him, and was always eager to ensure his happiness. Though perhaps he didn't get to show his full appreciation today, perhaps another time he could show her how much she meant to him.

The pair stopped in front of Gudao's door and Mashu bowed towards him. "I have some things to finish with Dr. Roman as discussed earlier. I'll meet you and Gabrielle at dinner, Senpai."

"Of course. Thanks again for-" He was cut off by a surprise quick hug from the shorter girl as she wrapped her arms lightly around his torso.

Shaking himself from the shock, he returned the light embrace warmly with a single arm, very much aware of the potential danger. Down the hallway, the two love rivals were bickering almost too loudly on whether or not it was more than a friendly hug, though they didn't make a move surprisingly. The last thing Gudao needed was to be assaulted by two angry females, but it was very apparent they couldn't agree on the interpretation to his relief. After breaking the hug, Mashu gave one last smile before walking further down the hallway, likely to head to the medical wing.

Gudao smiled softly as he watched Mashu disappear around a corner before turning his attention back to his room. Opening the door with his key card, he looked inside to find the stacks of paperwork missing. Deciding to put off the shower for a minute or two, he turned around and approached Gabrielle's room. He could have entered with the key card like the female master always did, revenge for her doing it to him so many times, but he was always the perfectly polite one and chose not to break that trend. He knocked twice and awaited an answer.

"Come in," Came the firm voice of Scathach from within.

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Gabrielle's room was almost completely identical to Gudao's in terms of layout. There were extra dressers near her bed and a vanity case for her personal needs, but everything else was roughly standard for the master's wing save for the couch with coffee table which came from her old one. There were some clothes lying about here and there, typical for the slightly messier master, though the rest of the room remained relatively clean. Assorted posters and calendars of half-naked men in various postures were great reminders of how different the two masters actually were in terms of maturity levels.

Gudao opened the door and quickly let himself in before shutting the door behind him. Upon turning around he was greeted with a sight that instantly brought him to laughter. Scathach was on the bed, holding back tiny chuckles of her own from behind the opened novel held to her mouth, as they both stared at the partially zombified Gabrielle sitting at her desk. She had bags under her eyes somehow after barely half a day of paperwork, with several empty coffee mugs scattered about on a nearby dresser within arm's reach. She groaned as she looked at Gudao who had to lean against the wall for support from his fit.

"So this is why you weren't at lunch! My god, Gabby, you look horrible!"

"Save me..." She groaned out as she weakly held a hand out to her best friend in an exaggerated show. "How do you manage to do so much..."

"I'm the quicker reader and writer, remember? Now, how much have you gone through?"

He looked at the separate piles with one stack much higher than the rest. The smaller pile only had a few dozen reports stacked together while the taller one threatened to tip over had it not been propped against the wall. "I'm hoping that's the finished pile."

"You should be happy for her, it actually is the finished pile," Scathach praised from the bed, lowering the book now that she had her own potential laughter under control.

"Wow. Impressive, Gudako. You make me so proud sometimes."

Gabrielle rolled her eyes at the half compliment before closing them and mouthing a quiet 'screw you.' She rubbed her eyes with her hands and groaned a bit before grabbing the coffee mug closest to her and taking a sip. The speed at which she began to perk up was a little disturbing, though she was always the coffee addict in their Mages Association days. She took in a deep breath and let it out before giving a small smile towards the male master.

"Oh glorious coffee."

"That's always scary to watch."

"Oh shut up," She said as she rolled her eyes once more. "So. Did you enjoy your day?"

"Sure did. Mashu kept me company the whole time and I got to spend some nice moments with a lot of the servants."

Gabrielle's smile grew. "Great! See? Wasn't it a good idea?"

"Yea, no argument there."

"Good. Cause I have the best ideas, of course." She wasn't going to tell him she told Mashu to make sure he had a great time; That was a secret to be kept between the girls.

It was Gudao's turn to roll his eyes as he turned to leave his best friend to finish the paper work. "I'm going to go take a shower. Before dinner. I smell like snow and Nobunaga's gunpowder."

"Wait, don't leave me with these last demons!"

"See you in a bit, Gabby. Thanks again for taking care of the logistics and management paperwork for the week!"

"Wait, week!? WEEK!? Get back here, Gudork!"

Scathach didn't even bother to conceal her laughter this time.

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Tamamo and Kiyohime watched from down the corridor as Gudao made his way back into his room and shut the door as Gabrielle continued to yell from her own. Content that nothing was going to happen between him and Mashu, the two girls turned towards each other and nodded. They had surprisingly gotten more and more accepting of the other's actions, even bickering considerably less than at the start of their alliance. But all things have to come to an end, and now that Gudao was in his room alone, the pair had nothing more to fear.

"That's that then," Tamamo sighed. "I still think it was a friendly hug."

"You're blind... but it doesn't matter at this point. Our alliance can disband now that our love interest is no longer threatened."

The two nodded to each other once more before standing there awkwardly. Tamamo should finally go to check on the sweets the others had prepared and felt bad she diverted to indulge in her envious chase. It was far more rewarding in a way she didn't expect, and she'd think about it deeper when she left to retrieve Jack's present from her room. But it was Kiyohime who made the first move and turned around to walk down the hallway with barely the thought of a last minute insult on her mind.

Tamamo fiddled with her fingers in front of her as she watched the berserker leaving. "Kiyohime, wait..."

The green haired girl stopped and turned to look at the caster, an eyebrow raised in confusion as she crossed her arms to stare at her love rival. The caster shifted on her feet before looking towards the other servant. She quickly scanned the hallway around them and noted no employees were nearby. Clearing her throat softly, she looked back at Kiyohime with an uncertain face.

"Today was... fun."

Kiyohime looked taken back as she slowly uncrossed her arms, looking down to her feet as she too shifted uncomfortably. "Yea... It was nice after the rough start."

There was an awkward silence as the two kimono clad servants stood across from each other. They both looked up at the same time to stare at each other, but without a hint of jealousy or anger in their eyes. It was the glimpse of something that should have been a constant between the two Asian servants, though on a much more cordial level than what was even shown. It is at that moment Tamamo decided to take the leap.

"You know... It'd be nice if we could email each other again... I missed that."

"Yea... That was also nice."

A new awkward silence almost formed before a tiny smile broke onto the two girls faces at the same time. They had been email pals at first, and they could have wound up best friends had they not simply fallen in love with the same person and become rivals since their almost simultaneous arrival in Chaldea. Since then it was mostly insults, bickering, and catfights since they discovered their mutual open infatuation for Gudao.

"I... wouldn't mind if we had a nice conversation now and again... like we used to, though in person this time."

"Me neither..."

The smiles the two wore grew slightly and the two giggled. It was the start of what could have been a touching moment, but a sudden determined yet wary look crossed onto Tamamo's face. To the berserker's surprise, her sudden seriousness seemed forced. "But we'll still be love rivals."

Kiyohime smirked. "Obviously. But you will lose to me and Gudao will be mine!"

"In your dreams, Kiyohime! Gudao's belongs to me!"

"Fox whore!"

"Dragon-breathed skank!"

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. There were likely many more choice words to accompany the remaining steps, but it was progress however small.

Chapter Text

The strange thing about the Fate system within Chaldea is that summoned servants weren't removed from the potential pool once they've arrived. The Throne of Heroes was still a difficult concept to grasp for most, and the idea that servants could be summoned multiple times to the same plane of existence was an unusual reality. Two Jeanne's fighting against one another in France solidified the idea for Chaldea's earliest arrivals, though it was far from the last time servants had encountered themselves. But the Fate system of Chaldea, through its artificial methods, handles duplicates in a much different manner than a Holy Grail.

The duplicate begins to take form, much as it did at this very moment, but in the wake of the fading prana the figure would remain transparent. They would soon fizzle and collapse into themselves, forming a floating orb of rainbow color much like the saint quartz used to power the system. While it did not happen this time, occasionally a noble phantasm would also form, taking on a feint image of the respective item or concept underneath the orb. The luminescent sphere would remain until the proper servant came to absorb it, granting them several important aspects.

Because the throne only delivers an assembled, class-appropriate embodiment of a real heroic spirit, memories from timelines were often removed. However, some of these lost and hazy memories are contained within the summoned orb, a 'Memorial Essence' as Gudao has come to call them. These can be summoned any number of times from the Fate System. By doing so, a servant can become a little closer to the real heroic spirit in the grail.

These extra experiences from different classes or lost timelines help to boost the power of a servant's primary noble phantasm. Sometimes they even granted access to another noble phantasm the current class could normally not use. If enough were gathered to provide a servant with enough memory clarity, it may also be plausible to shift a servant's class container by manipulating the Saint Graph. However, that was a timely process that took an entire day to complete with significant setbacks and requirements.

Duplicate summoning or not, they were far more desirable than getting another black key mystic code.

Gabrielle took very solid note of the transparent figure that had been shown for a few brief seconds before collapsing into the summoned sphere. A red cape with a hood that covered the face in a deep shadow provided the only splash of color among gray armor and black clothing. The female master hardly needed a second look to determine who the servant in question was, especially since he only just arrived. Both her eyebrows were raised as she turned her attention to the tall, muscular servant who chuckled. He jotted down the summoning results on a notepad before turning towards her with a smile.

"He hasn't been here an entire day and already he gets a memorial essence," Tesla stated with crossed arms but an amused smirk. "I'm a little jealous."

"I'm surprised you haven't gotten a single one yet," Gabrielle stated with a slight tilt of her head. He shook his head slightly and waved with his hand.

"It's fine, I'm not too concerned. I don't look forward to any more memories involving Edison," He said, a hint of a scowl at the tips of his smirk. The female master giggled before looking over to Chaldea's Renaissance woman as she placed new quartz on the pedestals.

"Leonardo, please wait while I make a call to Gudao. I have to contact Emiya Kiritsugu and inform him his first memorial essence has arrived."

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Fragment 16: Different Circumstances

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The servant sat on a couch in Salon de Marie and stared out the window. On the arm rest next to him was the folded black long coat graciously created for him by the Clothing Department's supervisor. He had the collar of his white formal shirt unbuttoned and the black tie loose. A black vest and pants completed the outfit, with both of his glossy shoes perfectly polished. He ran a tan skinned hand through his somewhat untamed white hair before returning it to its original position.

After clasping his hands back together in front of him, he watched the light snow fall outside. He took this moment of time to himself which was one that he grew to appreciate after his summoning three weeks ago. It had been a long three weeks of thoughts and adjustments that still carried on. Two memorial essences made for quite a lot of information about oneself in a short amount of time.


He turned his head to the left and noticed Dantes strolling by, his own formal wear neatly put together, as he walked past with a small nod of his head. "Dantes."

Kiritsugu watched him sit at his usual couch before facing forward once more. The man hadn't made very many friends in Chaldea, but he had found his own place relatively quickly thanks to the first memorial essence he had received. He had been walking the halls, casually taking in his new surroundings and home base, when he had to return with Gudao to retrieve the luminescent sphere. He had fallen to his knees upon its reception, with wave after wave of clear memories from a lost lifetime invading his thoughts and forcing him to question which ones were his.

He knew who he was, or at least he thought he did. His original path was that of a man chasing an ideal, which was something the two selves had in common. However, the one who became the counter guardian had no light at the end of the tunnel. There was no grail to grant his doomed ideal a chance, but only mission after mission of endless violence; Take some lives to save many. At least the other one had a glimpse of happiness that made his own path more bearable.

It had taken him days to come to terms that they were all his memories. In that time he spent alone, he kept to his shared room and only made appearances when the masters requested him or Irisviel practically dragged him out. By the time he finally came to terms with himself, he had processed many more emotions and thoughts of his other self than he initially knew how to properly handle.

But at the same time, it all felt natural and as pure a part of him as his original memories. He felt a secure sense of attachment to loose identities and concepts he never knew he had. Thankfully there were also those close individuals who were already helping him cope and provide a constant source of solid support since his arrival. It was them who he was grateful for being there as he recollected himself, encouraging him to accept who he had become and the possibilities ahead.


Kiritsugu turned his head and smiled lightly towards one of the figures that was always there for him. He looked at his adopted son as he stood there with a small tray and some shrimp appetizers he had whipped into a quick dish. He wore black formal pants and a white shirt, but a red vest similar to the color of the pair's battle clothes. The archer smiled as he lowered the tray onto the adjacent table, placing the glass of water in his other hand next to it.

"Lost in thought?"

"Just enjoying another break, Shirou," He stated as he plucked one of the shrimps and placed it into his mouth. The explosion of flavor from the spices he used with the dish were superb as always. He swallowed. "Are you certain you weren't summoned as the Chef Class? Your cooking is EX+ parameter as always."

The archer rolled his eyes and chuckled. "Always with the joke. I'm certain. Though it may have been a better fit than archer."

It had taken a few days for the pair to begin joking about being heroic spirits. It was a hard topic for the two of them considering their circumstances, as well as the older figure's attempts to keep his adopted son from making the mistake by not teaching him his path. But it looks like his other self had failed anyway since the archer completely proved to become a hero of justice in his own, tormented way. How many timelines had it happened in? The entire concept of different planes was a mind raking subject, and he preferred to leave it as is. It didn't matter what he had previously thought since it has already come to pass. At the very least, they were both here under positive circumstances and with good intentions.

Kiritsugu shuddered to think of the tragedy that might have been if they were summoned against each other.

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"A little higher, uncle!"

"Jackie," Came the warning but amused tone of Irisviel.

"Sorry... Higher please!" Irisviel giggled as she watched the sight, keeping both arms behind her pristine white Einzbern dress with golden accents.

Her red eyes glanced towards Atalanta and Nursery Rhyme on the ground, preparing some other hang-able decorations near a stack of carved Jack-o-Lanterns. Atalanta was sitting cross legged, a pile of cute plush spiders between her legs, as she and Nursery Rhyme worked to give them unique poses. The caster's black gothic dress matched the spiders in color, with one in her lap practically blending in to become invisible save for its huge googly eyes. Atalanta wore a green sundress with golden accents that was a larger designed version of the white and green one Jack wore.

Never in his strangest dreams did Kiritsugu think he would be holding a child serial killer on his shoulders as she happily hung Halloween decorations near the entrance to Salon de Marie. They were in the large, windowed hallway between the two, working their way across to cover the large windows with decor. Atalanta's little family was getting a head start since the holiday was coming up on the calendar in a few weeks. Even with his new memories, he had only really been able to have such family moments with Illya. Illyasviel von Einzbern. His daughter.

Their Illya.

He glanced towards his wife and caught her glance before she smiled warmly at him, and giggled as part of the large spooky cob web fell onto his face. A small hand reached down and plucked the fallen material as Jack mouthed a quiet apology to the fellow assassin before trying to hang the decoration on the window once more. They had rarely talked before about their missing child, both secretly hoping that she would somehow find her way to them once more. Only Kiritsugu partially wished she didn't, though he never told his newly found wife why.

Irisviel had been in the same predicament as him since they were both from different timelines where they never met; If anything, she was just a greater target who warranted extra care. Since she had several memorial essences, she had already known of another time when they were married and fought in the Fourth Holy Grail War. She had been more accepting of the idea, taking a fast and curious interest at the thought of having a husband who had done so much for her. She even had her room prepared and furnished in case her significant other would arrive one day.

It was to no surprise she was the one to approach first, quickly helping him to overcome his hesitations and confusions and to give a different life in Chaldea a chance. He had taken it rather reluctantly considering how he wasn't her husband, she she wasn't his wife; She was his target and enemy from their origin timeline. Still, she persisted, and he caved. Painfully at first, he found his heart had slowly started to mend from the years of endless turmoil and disappointment thanks to the many influences. Those memorial essences carried palpable emotion in their visions, and they could not be denied; He did yearn for that saving grasp of happiness.

Between his content final years spent raising Shirou and his family time with Irisviel and Illya, he had come to appreciate receiving clarity of those lost memories. While he hardly thought he deserved such things for everything he's had to do following his path of justice, he was hardly going to argue; He had attempted to once and both Irisiviel and Shirou had gotten pretty heated at him for doubting Chaldea's second chance. Though there was far more to come to terms with, especially the absence of their precious daughter, he felt he was finally beginning to piece something new together while aiding the masters on their quest for humanity.

It was a mission to save the world he would never doub- More cobwebs draped over his face as Irisviel giggled even more.

Kiritsugu smirked as he tilted his head to look up at the assassin looking down, a slight flush on her cheeks. "You need some help?"

"Yes please."

Picking the cobwebs off of his face, he released one hand off of Jack's legs and offered it to the assassin. She smiled and placed the ball of scrunched web she held under her left arm and into the offered hand. With her second arm now free, she reached with both hands to properly start hanging the decorations, plucking extra from the offered hand when needed.

"Just don't let her go with your other arm, dear," Irisviel said with a slight worry in her eyes. Atalanta laughed on the ground next to her.

"I'm not too concerned if she falls," The archer stated with a small smile as Nursery Rhyme carefully placed a magic-infused candle into one of the larger Jack-o-lanterns. "A benefit to having heroic spirits for children. Isn't that right, Ali-"


The adults quickly turned to Nursery Rhyme as she fell backwards; She had stood up too quickly and wound up backing into a small Jack-o-Lantern. Not wanting to break the decoration, she turned at an angle, causing her to lose further balance and fall. Before the adults could react, her head had already fallen- into a larger pumpkin, which didn't break but wound up trapping her head in its internals thanks to the caster's loose, bountiful hair. Thankfully there was no lit candle in this one, as Jack began laughing from her spot on Kiritsugu's shoulders. Nursery Rhyme sat up and looked around through the carved face of the upside down pumpkin.

Atalanta and Irisviel couldn't help but giggle as Alice tried to pull the pumpkin off to no avail. "Mom, I'm stuck!"

"We may have to break it to get it off," Atalanta said as she gingerly tried pulling it from her head, a smile on her face.

"But I don't want to break it! We spent so much time making them."

Kiritsugu smirked. "Imagine if it was Jackie instead. Then it'd really be a Jack-o-Lantern."

Irisviel groaned but rolled her eyes with a smile. On the floor, Atalanta had the offending decoration half way off the caster's head. "We don't need bad uncle puns from you, dear."

Kiritsugu just shrugged as Jack casually continued hanging more cobwebs with a smile, the previous gesture causing no disturbance. He turned his attention back to Atalanta as she finished putting the pumpkin down and had pulled out a handkerchief. She was carefully wiping her adopted child's face and hair which had some residue of the internals. Irisviel knelt down gingerly to help as the two older women started a quiet conversation. He enjoyed the moment. It was something very different that he had come to understand and acc-

"Good morning, Atalanta family! Mister and Misses Emiya!"

The group turned to a young blonde boy striding down the windowed hallway happily. His white sweater was zipped closed and his baggy pants waved as he walked. The servant hummed to himself as Jack and Nursery Rhyme returned the greetings, followed by Atalanta's wave. Kiritsugu watched as the young Gilgamesh passed by, a smile on his face and not a care in the world. The formerly arrogant, sociopathic King of Heroes didn't even make a single hint of ill intent.

That was something he wasn't going to get used to anytime soon.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ IV ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

The firing range was relatively empty early the next morning, a time the Magus Killer liked to arrive to take time for himself. The rapid and constant reports that exited the muzzle of his Calico M950, a steady stream of nine millimeter rain tearing through the center of a target over a hundred meters away. The original weapon wouldn't have been able to match the capabilities, and it was far from the only weapon that received serious upgrades upon his unique entry as a guardian. Whether he appreciated it or not was never shown on his face as he fired it, the stone cold look forged from many years of his trade concealing everything.

Every time he held any of his weapons, old and constant feelings resurfaced. Grasping the tools that made him infamous, he once more became the machine that was the Magus Killer. His emotions were distanced and his determination focused to the sharpness of his finest blades. Wavering for a moment would only get more killed on his path to prevent uncontrolled casualties and prevent serious disaster. There was no room for anything that could possibly get in the way of his mission or he would make a serious mistake at the cost of many lives.

Kiritsugu tore the magazine off the top of the weapon and swiftly materialized a new one, charging the weapon and beginning a new burst at a separate target that had appeared even further away. The bullets tore into it with only a slight increase in projectile spread.

He scoffed to himself. '0.8 second reload. Slower than the first.'

And yet these feelings weren't as solid as they had been when he traveled the world on his missions. They were diluted now, mixed among the many feelings and emotions that had been reintroduced in startling revelation which have only grown at his family's insistence. His alternate life had gone through countless experiences that differed from his own, and it was a solid part of him now that he couldn't just ignore. Even with all he had done to dampen the impact of sacrificing or betraying his wife and abandoning his daughter, the regret and despair was only amplified.

That's why he needed these lone moments in practice or combat. They helped him come to terms over the past weeks that he is everything his memories tell, whether they contradict or not, and adapt to his new circumstances. He was still very much the Magus Killer, though now one of many powerful soldiers in a spiritual army dedicated to the safety of humanity. An assassin among the force, he could retain his cold precision and combat approach while returning to live a separate life, exactly like a soldier returning from a combat tour who mentally shelved his warrior heart. With these moments, he could leave his detached self on the battlefield and try to forge something completely new to him in this pla-

Three cracks of the sound barrier.

Kiritsugu was knocked out of his thoughts as he turned to look next to him. A blonde servant with a cowboy hat and classy duster stood there grinning at the assassin, the smoking barrel of his revolver casually in sight. The Magus Killer let out a chuckle before changing the helical magazine on his Calico M950 with a small smirk as he eyed the servant next to him. With a few swift hops, the duo was joined on another adjacent firing port by a grinning, red-clad warlord, matchlock rifles in both hands.

"There are better ways to ask someone to join your shooting competition," Kiritsugu chuckled through his smirk.

"True, but mine catches the attention better," Billy smirked back as he swiftly reloaded his firearm with one hand without glancing at it, a challenging feat considering the weapon.

"Enough talking, our guns want to have a conversation too!" Nobunaga cried out from the other side of the cowboy.

And through others, he was able to forge something different on the battlefield as well.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ V ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

"So what's this second mission Irisviel has given you?"

"Mother wants me to get her a vintage car magazine."

Arturia both smiled and internally cringed in horror. "She sure does love her cars..."

"Mhmm," The archer agreed as they strolled towards the deployment room. Emiya was in his battle attire while Arturia was in a white, short-sleeved sweater dress since she wasn't on the minor singularity deployment. Around her waist was a blue belt that matched the ribbon tying her hair into its usual bun.

"You want anything yourself, saber?"

"I'm unsure if there's anything in that time to interest me."

"True," He relented with a slight shrug. "Just thought I'd ask. Not too often we get sent to 1950's America."

Though he wouldn't admit it, he was partially worried at the potential for this singularity. It was not often minor singularities spiraled out of total control, but this was the heart of the Cold War when the United States was experiencing the Red Scare. Was something happening to cause the Cold War to turn hot? The possibilities were very much there and the masters had a lack of proper intel regarding the sudden alarm. They would just deal with it as best as they could, as always.

Brushing those thoughts aside, he looked toward Arturia as she visibly tensed upon turning down the corridor to the room's entrance. Standing near the entrance was Kiritsugu, fully decked out in his uniform and checking the rounds for his signature pistol. The benefit of having become a heroic spirit is that he now had unlimited rounds for that powerful, anti-magus weapon, which was a benefit that extended to his other weapons. Placing the weapon back into its holster, he looked towards the approaching pair with an almost blank expression.

The King of Knights was not too fond of the red assassin, and he very much knew why thanks to his additional memories. It probably didn't help that his chosen class and methods kept him in an unfavorable position. They remained allies and had worked together without a hitch once, though that was a training exercise. His wife and adopted son were on much better terms, and that was fine by him. Though a tiny part of him feels he at least owes the saber an apology for being so abrasive and distant, he did feel his belief about honor wasn't wrong; The apology would have to be another time, if it came at all.

"Little late, son," Kiritsugu teased before facing the King of Knights with a nod. "King Pendragon."

"Kiritsugu." She looked back blankly; It could have been worse. At least it was civil.

"Jii-san, is everyone inside already?"

"We're still missing Astofolo and Blackbeard, but everyone else is inside."

The archer sighed and rolled his eyes as Arturia stared blankly at Kiritsugu. "So we have to keep him from acquiring more unsavory merchandise. Got it."

The assassin chuckled. "Is he really as perverted as they say he is?"

"Worse," Gabrielle stated as she poked her head through the door and waved towards the newly arrived pair. "Hey Emiya, Arturia! I love your dress."

"Thank you, Gabrielle," She smiled to her master. She still glanced occasionally towards Kiritsugu.

"C'mon, let's head inside," Gabrielle stated before disappearing back into the room.

Arturia watched as the two servants walked into the room, the older man placing a comforting hand on the back of his adoptive son. The younger man chuckled, probably at a joke his father just told, as the King of Knights watched with mixed feelings. She was glad Shirou had his father back, even if she still felt serious disdain for the assassin. There was also a hint of something more as she watched their close bond, her thought wandering to involve a similar situation that involved her. The blonde shook the snowballing thought train out of her head.

She sighed. There was no way she and Mordred would ever reach that point.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VI ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

"Do you think the masters will let us have a Jaguar XKSS?" Irisviel asked with an enthusiastic grin, knowing full well how rhetorical the question was.

Her husband laughed. "The halls might be big enough to push it through, but where will you drive it?"

"Maybe we can make a racetrack through the mountains? We have a lot of talented casters here. Territory Creation?" She pondered out loud with an amused grin as Kiritsugu shook his head in amusement.

The couple was relaxing in their room, both lounging on their plush sofa. The entire room was filled with furniture crafted with elegance in mind. The Furniture Department must have had a headache with the number of ornate wooden pieces ordered, though they did receive their fair share of compensation payment and rewards. The couch was accompanied by an identical one placed across from the mahogany coffee table. The table had a lone, golden vase with white roses inside. The set matched the wood craft of the dressers and vanity with a pearl, oval mirror. Scattered across its top were various jewelry for the Einzbern.

A few picture frames hung along the wall, though most were empty. Kiritsugu's eyes wandered across the frames as Irisviel rested her head against his shoulder while continuing to read the motor magazine they had brought home that afternoon. She was oblivious to his usual pondering about the pictures, which were taken by Saint George and Mashu. Those two really did to a spectacular job in their chosen hobby.

Some frames contained photographs with Irisviel and her closest friends. There was one adorable picture with her and the two little servants at the spa together and another where she had her arms around a smiling, adoptive son. The newest was a formal portrait with the two of them in matching formal wear, though they had warm smiles. The rest remained empty in optimistic preparation for the new memories she was happily creating with him in Chaldea.

"What're you thinking about, dear?"

"The frames yet to be filled."

"It'll happen slowly, no rush," She giggled as she turned the page and her eyes widened; It was a two page spread of a gorgeous coupe. She scooted herself closer to her husband as he gently placed his arm around her shoulders. It was an improvement from it being squished between them.

Kiritsugu recalled how he slept the first few nights on the couch, still very uncertain about suddenly having a wife. Through the combination of his son's advice and his wife's warm, welcoming disposition, he had spent his first night in the same bed as her; He found he could never bring himself to return to that couch. There was just something reassuring about the woman who lovingly held herself against him night after night in blissful comfort.

There were even the fond memories he found himself living that only a close couple understood. He often woke in the night to find the blanket completely stolen by her. Sometimes her cold feet would be planted on his legs in an attempt to warm themselves too, but he accepted it with amusement; Kiritsugu loved Irisiviel. There wasn't even a lingering doubt of uncertainty thanks to the memories, and he found the feelings he held for her to be as genuine as any he felt during his actual lifetime.

Of course there were some initial disagreements and problems that came with suddenly readjusting. Most of it was handled very well since his wife was understanding, a trait he has come to appreciate more in the small amount of time that passed. There were some lines that should not be crossed, and he was grateful those lines were drawn within the first few days so he could learn valuable lessons. He found even though he was curious about some aspects of his life that still confused him, it was best not to bring it up with the ever understanding Irisviel.

He was definitely not going to curiously bring up Maiya ever again in hopes of some outside understanding.

Kiritsugu gave a gentle squeeze to his wife, making her rub her head gently against his shoulder and breathe out happily as she turned the page. She hummed to herself gently as she read the article that currently interested her, Kiritsugu reading just over her silky hair. She sighed to herself in disappointment as she glanced at the number of remaining pages.

"Something wrong?"

"I'm almost done with the first magazine and it hasn't been a day."

Kiritsugu simply chuckled to himself, causing Irisviel to lift her head and look at him. "What's so funny?"

Without missing a beat, he summoned one of the larger pouches off of his combat uniform. The size and shape was created for holding important documents and usually resided on his back underneath the red cape cloak. Her eyes widened upon realization as he opened the flap and casually took out several more magazines of different kinds before placing them on the coffee table. Irisviel practically squealed as she threw her arms around him. He groaned slightly upon getting accidentally smacked by her current magazine but soon returned the hug.

"I had the feeling our son's three wouldn't last too long."

"Ten!? You're too sweet."

He pulled out a miniature bouquet of flowers and placed the group of roses on the table next to them. Tying them together was a ribbon with a small box of chocolate tied to it. "Atalanta also suggested a proper spouse shouldn't just give magazines as a gift."

She quickly kissed him on the cheek. "You're the best, Kiritsugu!"

He didn't mentally agree with that assessment for various reasons, but he knew what she really meant and felt. Deciding not to turn it into an argument, he just let her hug him sincerely. She finally let go and eagerly resumed reading her magazine in earnest while plucking at the chocolate box with a free hand, making the assassin chuckle lightly. He glanced towards the clock next to their bedside dresser and read the time. Slowly he got up, making Irisviel turn to him as he began to make his way towards the bathroom.

"Going to bed early?"

"Just taking a shower."

"You took one when you got back," She asked curiously before an idea suddenly popped into her mind as she stared at her gifts. Smiling to herself as she gazed at the back of her husband, she slowly got up and followed him quietly, some mischief in her eyes; It's been long enough.

"It wasn't too thorough. I don't want to get our bed dirty," He said before he was quickly turned around and pinned lightly against the wall next to the door. Looking down, he met the sweet yet alluring gaze of his wife as she gently pressed herself against him. "Iri?"

"A dirty man, hmm? I should properly thank him for the surprise presents," She breathed with a seductive smile. His eyebrows slowly rose. "We didn't exactly christen our room yet..."

Kiritsugu felt heat rise to several parts of him as he unconsciously placed a hand on her hip. "Iri, I-"

The man was silenced by a quick kiss on the lips before she placed a finger on them to silence him. Her smile didn't falter as she unfastened the top button on his formal shirt without looking. "I didn't say you had a choice in the matter."

Perhaps the essences he received were still incomplete; When had Irisiviel become this forward?

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VII ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Kiritsugu was thankful there weren't any windows to wake him up with invading sunlight. He slowly breathed out as he gently tightened his embrace, pressing his bare wife closer to him as she slept. The assassin adjusted the sheets around them, preventing the cold air from circulating in and potentially waking her up prematurely like it did for him. She moaned softly and nuzzled herself into his neck as he finished his task. Slowly opening her eyes, she stared into her husband's usually distant gaze to find a small spark of happiness within. It was definitely a start.

"Sorry I woke you."

"I've been awake just enjoying the morning after a great night," She giggled. "I missed times like this I never knew I had."

"I did too," He stated before his thoughts wandered further. "I just wish Illya was here as well."

She smiled sadly at her husband before closing her eyes and breathing out slowly. They stayed like that for a while, with the assassin regretting that he brought up such a sensitive topic so offhandedly. They spent a peaceful night making love, waking up in a warm embrace, only for him to casually bring up their missing daughter. He mentally kicked himself for ruining such a peaceful moment.

"Did I ever tell you," She started quietly, making him look down at his wife. "The thought of being a mother scared me to death when I received that first Memorial Essence."

He stayed quiet while gently running a hand through his wife's hair. Memories of doing this time after time for her drifted through his mind. They were hardly as often as the comforting embraces she gave the Magus Killer every time he broke down in thought of the actions he had committed in the pursuit of his own justice. She was even one of the tragic casualties of another lifetime's dream, but here it was different. He could make things different while pursuing an equally noble cause, and he would happily do so without question or doubt for the first time in recent memory.

"I stayed in my room for days, knowing I had a daughter and husband who were no longer with me. Feelings I never knew I had tore my heart at the thought of losing people so precious to me," She stated with a sad smile, tears beginning to threaten the sides of her eyes. "Arturia and the others helped me come to terms. I thought I'd never be able to experience those lost feelings again, but Shirou definitely tried his best to make it happen. I'm glad you saved him. I'm also glad you're here again."


She smiled up at him and cupped his cheek as they stared at each other. "Maybe we'll have her again. Our little bundle of white haired happiness. You came back to me. Maybe she will too."

Kiritsugu's glance turned uncertain, and Irisviel's smile drooped upon seeing it. "Kiritsugu?"

"I'm worried, Iri. If she comes, she'd likely be a heroic spirit," He stated before staring into her eyes again. "There's the chance she lived a dangerous life to attain that status. Even potentially living bad experiences. I don't wish that upon our Illya."

"It doesn't have to be like that," She reassured with a small smile. "I didn't come to Chaldea by normal means after all. It could happen for her too."

Kiritsugu let the thought register in his mind; She had a point, however small of a chance it was. He chuckled. "Is this really the kind of conversation an average husband and wife should be having?"

Irisviel giggled. "We're hardly normal, Kiritsugu. We personally haven't met until that singularity in Fuyuki when Gudao arrived to correct it."

"You have a point."

There was a knock on their door, making the two sit up while Irisviel clutched the blanket to her bosom. The knock came again, followed by the familiar voice of their adopted son. "Okaa-san? Jii-san?"

"We're awake, Shirou," Kiritsugu called through the door, looking around on the floor for the possible whereabouts of his underwear.

"Would you like to have breakfast together this morning? It's been a few days."

"Of course!" Irisviel called through the door happily. "We'll meet you at the cafeteria. We're a little indecent right now."

There was silence from the other side of the door as the thought registered for the archer. "Oh... Uh... Right. I'll find us a table. Take your time."

The sound of the somewhat hastily retreating footprints and the disappearing servant signature made Irisviel giggle as she leaned against her husband. He was still looking around before he leaned over the side of the bed to pick something off the ground as the caster looked on from his side. Leaning back up, he presented the article of clothing onto the sheets in front of her with a small smirk.

"Found your panties at least."

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ VIII ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

"Stay safe, Shirou," Irisviel said softly as she hugged her son in a warm embrace at the door of the deployment room. Next to him stood Diarmuid and Jeanne in their respective battle armors. Kiritsugu stood near his wife in a tan slacks and a black formal shirt without a tie and nodded towards his son with a pat on the arm after they released their embrace. Jeanne watched the moment with a small smile, as did Diarmuid, though the latter still held a grudge against Kiritsugu. Granted he was slightly more willing to give the former master another chance than Arturia, but only slightly.

"Hardly my first rodeo, Okaa-san."

"What kind of mother would I be if I didn't worry for my precious son?" She winked with a smile, making Jeanne giggle and Diarmuid nod. They had been called last minute for the second day in a row to deploy to an emergency singularity, this time with an unknown location. By what the doctor has explained so far, it seems to have been generated by someone like a reality marble. They'd find out the true circumstances upon arrival.

"See you in a bit, Jii-san."

"Take care, Shirou."

"Let's go then. Arturia and the others are waiting," Diarmuid nodded towards his friend, only for a throat to be cleared from within the room.

"As touching as that was-"

"Don't start, asshole."

"What did you say, bastard?"

Irisviel placed arms akimbo and glared at her son. "Language, mister!"

"Yea, mister, language!" Cu chuckled from within the room, making the archer grit his teeth and seethe as Jeanne and Diarmuid laughed next to him.

"Yes, Okaa-san," He relented before he walked into the room followed by his two companions. Taking her husband by the hand, Irisviel began leading him away from the room. Kiritsugu gave one final glance into the room before Kintoki shut the doors casually. Turning back around, he gave his wife's hand a small squeeze before they approached the elevator and stairs. Upon arrival, the elevator opened in front of them to reveal it full of Chaldea's resident Roman emperors and one Hun. The two blinked as the servants in the elevator looked at the couple, then at each other and around the elevator.

"We can squeez-"

"We'll just take the stairs."

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ IX ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Irisviel sighed in worry and looked towards the doors of Salon de Marie for the fifth time in the past few minutes. Dinner had started ten minutes ago and the deployment team still hadn't returned, much to the worry of many. It wasn't unusual for emergency singularities to run long, but this one had started over ten hours ago and was classed as one of the smaller ones capable of causing a distortion. Across the table from her, Kiritsugu eyed his wife with concern.

"How many times has this happened before?"

"Plenty of times, but it never gets easier," Irisviel smiled towards Kiritsugu. "A mother loves to worry about everything."

"I'm glad you've taken such a shine to Shirou," He replied back with a smile.

"He's my precious, absolutely dashing son. Of course I did," She smiled back brighter with a wink, making the assassin chuckle.

Kiritsugu readjusted the napkin on his lap as a robot floated over to pour more white wine for the couple. "I hope you'll eat before the food gets cold, son's wonderful cooking or not."

"Wouldn't want to upset Tamamo or Boudica," she quickly agreed before casually picking up a fork and sinking it into one of the many sausage bites on her small plate.

Kiritsugu listened as his wife made small talk, enjoying yet another moment that had seemed so impossible. Even though they were different people before, through the countless unfathomable workings of the world they were now living an interesting life in an unusual place. He had long since abandoned questioning why they exist, rather turning his attention to learning simply how it all works and fits together. Chaldea was still one of the bigger contradictions, a place of science and magecraft, though he found its varied residents living in peace to be the bigger motivation and inspiration.

If they could find a slice of a new peace here, then he would continue to try and forge one himself with his son and wi- "Emiya Kiritsugu, are you even listening to me?"

"I'm sorry, Iri, I was lost in thought again. Forgive me," He apologized quickly at his glaring wife, both hands raised partially in surrender and a smile on his lips. 'Best keep my thoughts for other times unless I want to sleep on the couch tonight.'

The entire salon was silenced upon Chaldea's intercom sparking to life, even Mozart's playing, to the relief of many servants since it was primarily used for one purpose. "This is Doctor Roman speaking. I apologize for the interruption of dinner, but the Emergency Singularity team has just returned with no complications."

A few cheers went up around the Salon as Irisviel clapped her hands together in front of her. It was always good news to hear the singularity team arriving without any serious casualties, so the lack of urgency in the doctor's voice and absence of a medical team request was taken as the best outcome possible. The caster leaned out of her seat to look at a booth two spots down from theirs to notice its lack of silverware and appetizers. Irisviel quickly signaled for a robot which swiftly made its approach and stopped to hover near the table.

"How may I be of service, ma'am?"

"Would you mind setting up Arturia's regular booth with silverware and a plate of pigs in a blanket? My son and his friends will likely be starving."

"Of course, ma'am, I will start the task at once," The robot replied swiftly before hovering off to the swinging doors of the kitchen to retrieve the setup.

"Always looking out for them," Kiritsugu mused out loud as his wife smiled and winked back at him.

"I am the best mother, after all, right, dear?"

"Atalanta would protest otherwise, but I gladly agree with you," He replied smoothly with a smirk, making her giggle.

The two were engaging in further small talk for several more minutes before sensing the approach of the masters. Looking towards the doors, they watched the pair appear in their regular master clothes, though much dirtier than usual. Gabrielle's hair was slightly messy but she had a bright smile on her face, as did Gudao. Was that some sort of wand on her hip? Marie bounced over to them as quickly as she could in her red heels and strapless gown. Her hair was decorated with a few scarlet ribbons but was completely untied.

"Good to have you two back," Marie stated happily with clasped hands as Gudao and Gabrielle stopped to greet her.

"Glad to be back, Marie," Gabrielle smiled back happily before hugging the servant. "We're starving! But we'll need to clean up before we come back to eat."

"I can imagine," The French woman giggled before looking towards Gudao as he searched the tables. "Who are you looking for?"

Gudao smiled towards Marie. "We've got a huge surprise for the Emiya family."

Turning back towards his spotted targets, Gudao quickly went over with Gabrielle as Marie watched from spot near the entrance. The salon soon fell quiet as servants and employees alike turned to see the sudden entrance of the masters and their swift approach to a specific table. The older couple took notice and watched their masters approach, standing up to meet them. Irisviel kept her hands clasped in front as Kiritsugu stood perfectly adjacent to her. The two masters stopped and nodded towards the couple.

"Singularity was a little long but not many problems," Gudao stated quickly. "We ran into a surprise along the way however."

Gabrielle simply smiled and fiddled with something behind her back which caught the attention of the two servants. There was a moment of hope and a spark of optimism within the two at the mention of a surprise for the two, but the female master hiding something behind her back told another story. Their thought drifted in tandem to their daughter for the briefest of moments before vanishing once more, replaced with the curiosity of what Gabrielle was hiding behi-

"Mama? Papa?" The small, feminine voice seized his heart instantly. Looking towards the door simultaneously, they saw their son standing there in his battle attire and a genuinely happy smile on his face. One of his arms was loose at his side and holding a brown backpack, though it was where the other arm lead that made his heart soar.

The archer held the hand of a very familiar little girl with long golden-tinted, white hair and red eyes. She wore a tiny black skirt coupled with a white schoolgirl uniform's top with red frills. Long white socks led to brown loafers which swayed uncertainly with the girl's legs as she curiously looked at the couple. A white cap sat loose and baggy on her head, and what appeared to be a toy magical wand could be seen over her shoulder.

The two parents stood there in shock, their voices completely stopped in their throat as they stared at their daughter. Memories of many cold winters in the Einzbern manor filled his thoughts as tears slowly raced down Irisviel's cheeks. She sniffled as Kiritsugu struggled to find his breath. However, he took the first step forward, followed by another that was mirrored by his wife. The two soon broke out into a run as the rest of the Salon watched the scene unfold.

"Illya!" The two cried out before they quickly reached their two children.

Irisviel threw herself at the young girl and embraced her tightly yet warmly, her tears free falling down the sides of her cheeks as she sobbed uncontrollably. She was soon rocking the small girl as she hugged back, some uncertainty in her eyes as the archer watched the scene, uncaring that a few tears threatened the sides of his own eyes. Kiritsugu knelt next to his wife and placed an arm around her shoulders as she hugged their daughter. Gudao and Gabrielle slowly approached the newly reformed family, both smiling warmly, with the latter snapping photos with the camera she hid behind her back.

The caster would definitely appreciate the action later when she filled more empty frames.

Irisviel partially broke her embrace to look at her precious daughter's face before letting more sobs shake her. She quickly kissed her daughter on the forehead and cheeks before hugging her once more. Tentatively, Kiritsugu also slowly joined the embrace and felt a lone tear quietly go down his own cheek into the hair of his lost daughter. The small caster in question was still looking a little confused and slightly uncomfortable about the two suddenly dampening parts of her clothes and hair, but she still smiled. She looked towards the two masters only for Gudao to shrug and Gabrielle to wink back at her.

For Irisviel, it was clear to him she didn't want to let go in fear of the irrational thought her daughter would suddenly vanish. She had finally found her dear bundle of joy and felt her heart complete at the thought of a distant desire finally being fulfilled. He heard her voice this reaction many times to him, but he finally got to see it. He couldn't blame her, for he also felt this was too much of a dream to be true.

For Kiritsugu, who held his little girl only so many times,there was only one true reaction. The assassin pushed the initial hesitation aside to begin the process of making sure he spent time with his daughter and treated her properly many times over: He hugged her warmly. He could be the Magus Killer whenever the masters required, but he mentally vowed to try being a proper father this time around and show how much he cared for his daughter. The man would only be satisfied if she was complaining that he was smothering her with too much affection, but he wouldn't care.

They had their daughter back, and that's all that mattered to him...

Kiritsugu did notice Illya seemed to have dozens of thoughts racing through her mind, as show in her eyes. She had been brought to a strange place and within minutes was introduced to countless people and placed in an embarrassing situation. He could tell by her eyes and her words she recognized them, but there was still confusion. The tint of her hair was also a bit unfamiliar, since it wasn't the perfect white his wife wore. Quietly, he wondered if she was also from a different timeline.

Had their son explained the circumstances over the course of the singularity? Was she actually a servant, or a pseudo-servant like Irisiviel? He hoped she wasn't a true servant or counter guardian, but those questions could come later. There was no time to doubt this dream any longer, so he merely held his daughter warmly and tightly to assure her she was safe in their arms again. This time, they'd make sure everything was perfe-

"Mama? Papa? You're crushing me," Illya spoke casually as she tried to break free from their grasp, causing the archer, rider, and masters to chuckle in amusement. The two slowly released their embrace of the small girl as Irisviel smiled back while wiping her eyes.

"I'm sorry, Illya. I just missed you so much. So, so much..."

"Told you to brace yourself."

"I thought you were kidding, Onii-chan!" Illya complained as she looked up at him, making him chuckle more. The two parents smiled; At least they didn't have to worry if the two siblings would get along. He added Illya's understanding of Japanese into his list of curiosities.

Finally, he found her origins too much to ignore; He wanted to know. "But... how is she here?"

Gudao simply shrugged. "It's a long, complicated story. As usual."

"We can fill you in later," The archer stated with a smile. "For now, we should get cleaned up before we eat dinner."

"A bath with..." Illya started and began blushing- the wand at her back swiftly burst into motion... and began giggling, much to the girl's dismay. "Owww! Ruby!"

"Ohhhh Ilya~! Thoose thoughts again?" the wand tesased as Illya fiercely grasped it and shook the poor thing, much to the total surprise of the parents and many of the spectators.

"Did... Did that wand just talk?" Irisviel stuttered out as she observed her daughter practically wrestling with the wand. "And move?"

The stick quickly wiggled out of Illya's grasp as she stared slightly embarrassed at Irisviel. "Um...uh it's a long story, mama..."

"Hoy, Illya! I told you not to leave me with that arrogant rider servant! He's so loud!" Came another girl's voice from the hallway, interrupting the moment involving a strange, moving wand.

"Sorry! Onii-chan dragged me off first..."

"Sheesh! Hogging him to yourself too! The nerve!" came the teasing, but chuckling voice. To the total shock of anyone within sight of the doorway, another girl with pink-tinted, white hair appeared.

She stared at the family with golden eyes. Her tan skin was mostly exposed from the battle uniform that was a skimpy female version of Emiya's signature look. The two parents looked back in confusion at the sudden appearance of the tiny archer. While Irisviel was perplexed why she was wearing a specific set of familiar clothes, Kiritsugu had a few guesses. He kept quiet as she stared back and titled her head in confusion as a stare down commenced. It was broken when the parents simultaneously turned to their son with questioning looks.

He sighed as the masters chuckled. "Yet another long story... but you're now the proud parents of three children."

Chapter Text

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.

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

Fragment 17: As Real as it Gets

¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨(¯ˆ·.¸ ¸.·ˆ¯)¨·..·¨·..·¨·..·¨

"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."

"So bossy."

"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!"

"Great! Doumo!"

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.

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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.

Chapter Text

Illya pouted as she watched her brother and Kuro heading towards the exit of Chaldea in their similar battle attire.

Since their arrival, Emiya had spent time with both of them after overcoming the initial confusion and shock of having two sisters. Since Kuro was far less experienced with using the class card's skills that originated from him, the older brother had offered to help her improve; She gladly accepted. Slowly, her skills became stronger, but with a few twists that set their otherwise identical fighting stances apart. Illya knew Kuro thoroughly enjoyed all the training sessions and looked forward to the spars with her older brother.

The young caster, however, was incredibly jealous at the amount of personal time her adoptive sister got to spend with him.

She fiercely gripped the corner of the hallway and glared as they exited into the snow clouded outdoors. Passing by employees looked towards the small caster with adoring glances, as her