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Equilibrium

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Preface

The following story contains spoilers for Fate/Grand Order.

True Genre: Political Thriller (Hybrid)
It's not a perfect fit. It's closer to a hybrid Political Thriller with mystery/suspense elements in the beginning, then a third surprise genre's elements come in towards the end.

Unlike previous Fragments series entries, this fan work is completely original, and is not based off any plot within the game. It will serve as the prologue to transition the series from FGO Part 1 to FGO's EOR era. No prior knowledge of the game is necessary, but comprehension of the Nasuverse will certainly give the reader a bigger appreciation.

In addition, this is a supplement work for the series' core entry, Fragments of Chaldea , and  reading everything up to Fragment 75  plus  "Supplement Story IV:  Who We Are"  is practically required  for this entry in order for half of the story to make sense. Everything that applies to, and has happened over the course of, that collection applies here. It's background/foundation material, and makes more use of the Slight AU setting than the other supplements did.

As an added disclaimer, anything that is portrayed in this original work is fictional. I don't believe it truly needs to be said, but any events contained herein were not made to resemble or address current events.  This is purely for entertainment purposes.

You've been thoroughly warned, and with that, I hope you enjoy the journey ahead.

~GhostXavier


« •= Ξ Ξ [ I ]Ξ Ξ Ξ ]= »


Intelligent life is a remarkable thing.

It's this strange, unbelievable concept that from nothing, and with enough time, a species could evolve and surpass the nature that controls it. It's the idea that something can think beyond its survival needs and place equal value on other things. It's the door of potential that humans have walked through.

Through it, we've thought of the most ridiculous ideas to pursue our hopes and ambitions in ways unfounded. We've waged wars in the names of imaginary beings, gave terminology to provide an understanding for what is, and dared to experiment in hopes of making something for our gain. Suddenly basic survival was far removed from our worries, and we became more invested in our tireless struggle to create new ways to kill each other.

Yet, try as we might through reoccurring strife, we're still here! There's over six billion of us on the same planet, yet the creativity from thought grows strong. Millions of perspectives, beliefs, and morals lead us to argue or agree on the strangest of ideas. All of us are still here after the world was supposed to end last December, and we're still coming up with more radical ideas!

But among them is the most unbelievable, time-worn pursuit of all! That in a world full of so many different opinions, perspectives, agendas, ambitions, and ideals, many still dare to believe in the most ridiculous, impossible, and long-desired concept to ever grace human thought.

World Peace…

The ridiculous thought that, somehow, we can all agree to stop trying to bury each other's children for our own personal gain.

Even so! I still hold my upmost respect for those who dare… for is it not better to hope and fail, than to have never believed at all?

How else did we learn to fly?

- May 2013 Interview -
National Geographic Magazine Online


« •= Ξ Ξ [ II ]Ξ Ξ Ξ ]= »


Warm light from the small chandelier illuminated the Chaldea Director's office. The room's luxurious glow and comfy seating set a perfectly similar atmosphere to the library; Anyone within would have even felt comfortably compelled to pick up one of the study's many ancient books for a quiet read. It was a disarming sort of atmosphere, though Da Vinci always had her suspicions there was more than just the mysterious, rare tomes that were sprinkled across its many shelves. It only became more suspicious when the late Olga Marie Animusphere insisted that the boundary field be upgraded.

It had been many years, but now her suspicions were finally confirmed.

As she sat in one of the guest chairs in front of the desk, she stared at the curiously simple manila envelope Roman had placed on top. It was completely plain and unmarked, though the secret safe that housed it had been everything but unassuming. For the small vault to be hidden within the desk's drawer was impressive, for even she hadn't been able to spot it in the many occasions she curiously peeking around the room. If Roman hadn't activated the hidden hybrid locks, it would have easily remained a secret from her.

Yet her genius was torn from the urges to inspect the sophisticated device for later. One look at Roman's unusually stern expression had silenced any will to playfully tease the doctor about any other secrets he may be hiding from her. The lack of any mirth in his eyes, combined with dashes of paranoia as he occasionally glanced to the door, shifted her mood like a switch. The last time she saw this look was when he revealed his former identity as King Solomon, so she wasn't about to take anything that followed lightly.

Da Vinci folded her hands atop the skirt of her blue sundress, and stared at the folder. "So this is what you wanted to show me. Does it have to do with becoming Solomon again?"

"No. I only need the ring you hid in your dimensional vault," Roman replied evenly and quietly, though he refused to take a seat at his former friend's desk; He always did hold him highly. "I'll need you to hide this in there too. If Chaldea should be… This is too important to be lost."

"I assume the folder itself isn't, but what's inside is," she lightly joked to lift some heaviness from the air, though her expression remained curious.

She opened her mouth to inquire, but Roman quickly cut her off. "Please don't look at anything within, Leona. I'm… I'm really sorry I had to keep this secret from you, but it's something Marisbilly did not want shared with anyone."

"…Then besides us, who else knows of this…?"

"No one anymore," he answered as he picked up the folder. "I informed Olga when she became Director, but… Marisbilly didn't trust anyone else, and for good reason."

Da Vinci was far from a slow learner. A genius of invention and the arts, her mind worked faster and more creatively than everyone else in Chaldea, she'd easily boast. For this to be kept an absolute secret the entire time, almost as well-kept as Roman's true identity, meant this classified folder was critical. Yet, Roman, who could keep a secret far better than anyone else suspected, now told her of its existence, which likely meant…

"You're not just telling me so you can hide this," she easily surmised, and Roman quickly nodded. Her expression fell, and her fingers curled slightly with worry. "…So then you're really set on doing it?"

"I… I'm not sure how hesitant I'll be when the time comes," Roman sighed as he scratched the back of his neck. "I've become pretty cowardly, yea… but if there's no other choice, I'll have to do it. I just hope it doesn't come down to that… I really like it here, you know?"

She nodded solemnly. "Then, if worse comes to worse, which I hope it doesn't too… Should I read whatever is inside?"

The sternness in his eyes returned, yet he quickly nodded. "Yes. You would be the new head of Chaldea, and you would need to know that information before it returns to Antarctica."

"…Before?" Da Vinci quickly asked. The timing seemed very strange, and partially unnerving. She had no worries about doing it, however. She was a fast reader, and her mind was sharper than a well-honed blade fresh from the grindstone. The folder wasn't very thick, and most of the paperwork they handled stacked higher. Still, that was clearly a lot of secret information contained within. Her voice became hushed, "Then this has to do with Chaldea's connections in the real world."

"Diplomacy, more or less… yea," Roman informed just as quietly. "I hope you never have to look at it, but when Chaldea returns, those who knows us will be coming for answers, and there's few we can truly trust out there."

"At least you're confident of success," she offered a tiny smile to break the heaviness I the room, and thankfully he returned the expression. "I'll keep it a secret, Roman. Just like your name."

"I know. I trust you more than anyone else," he smiled gently, and she wished for the hundredth time he would man up and make a move on her already. He sighed, picked up the manila envelope, and handed it to he- Her eyes grew wary, and she raised her hand quickly to stop him. He froze in confusion, but she turned towards the door. The paranoia in Roman's eyes grew. "W-Was someone…!?"

"No, but a servant is approaching," she murmured as she felt the presence grow stronger. Even though Chaldea was undergoing heavy fortification, her newly modified boundary field made it easier for her to detect anything that drew near the office. With all the hours she placed into creating it, the field even detected servants in spirit form, which was another boasting point for her genius. She kept her focus on the signature as it approached, wondering if they would just pass-

They wouldn't. Footsteps approached the door and paused. Da Vinci glanced to Roman, then the folder. "Hide it."

As the servant knocked on the door, a panicked Roman opened the drawer and fiddled within. After a few flipped switches and a combination of buttons, the hybrid device quickly churned into action and opened a hidden compartment. Roman quickly cleared his voice as he shoved the folder in and allowed the undetectable vault to collapse on itself again. He still stuttered. "W-Who's there!?"

"Hey! It's hector! Just stopping by to leave a message!"

Da Vinci looked to Roman, nodded, then stood up to walk to the door. Though the secret would be kept, her mind couldn't stop curiously pondering over what she knew of the folder's contents. She wouldn't go against Roman's word, but it didn't stop her ever analyzing and imaginative mind. It also made her sympathetic for the hidden burden Roman seemed to have amongst his thoughts; Even just returning to the modern world seemed to be a migraine.

For the life of her, Da Vinci could barely imagine it could get more complex than dealing with the Mage's Association… but apparently, it was promised.

« •= Ξ Ξ φ  Ξ Ξ ]= »

Prologue

« •= Ξ Ξ φ  Ξ Ξ ]= »

An empty cup of tea sat on the table in front of the still battle-clad Da Vinci. The dead silence of her workshop did little to calm her turbulent emotions, which did not help her mind focus on the current task. Still, she was a genius, and so she managed what she could. Her mind, though tormented and filled with lingering anguish, read the words of the folder's letter once more as her fingers drummed out some tension into her table.

Leona,

If you're reading this, then I'm truly sorry. I hope you're not taking it terribly, but I had no other choice. If there was another way, you know I would have gladly jumped at it. I'm a coward like that, you know?

It must be difficult having to read this so soon, but what I told you wasn't a lie. This folder contains important information that must be followed to the letter. The world of mages is filled with distrust and betrayal, but Marisbilly and I had found a few genuine friends. They're willing to help out in the worst of times, and the information within this folder will detail everything about who they are and what needs to be done to guarantee cooperation.

Remember to keep this absolutely secret. Ever since Lev's surprising betrayal, confidentiality became that much more important. We don't know who else might be a sleeper agent, or who can actually keep this secret. It'll be painful to go behind the backs of our friends, but tell no one, and trust no one until after the instructions are completed. Then when the pieces are in place, everything should be smoother sailing.

It's going to be a chaotic first week, but I know you'll manage. You always do. You're a genius.

Love,
Roman Archaman

'That idiot even had the gall to write love on the letter,' she joked dryly. He didn't need to. She could tell it was obvious, just as she made it obvious to him. It was a shame their only kiss had been as a parting, but it was one regret she wouldn't live with. The only thing more irritating was that this folder was technically his last gift to her. And yet, it was far from a gift, as the letter so simply put it.

Da Vinci glanced to the manila folder, that now rested open before her. There had been very few pictures within the stack of contained papers, so it was mostly heavy reading. It ranged from descriptions to diary entries, but the most important was the set of instructions that must be followed. It had been at the very end of the folder, but she ensured she read that list several times and chiseled it into memory.

Her task would begin the very second Chaldea returned properly in the world exactly five minutes from now. She still had time, and though she memorized the folder thrice over, she still read through it a fourth. The information contained was eye-opening and specific, and there could be no mistakes. She would allow no foul-ups so that everything was done accordingly, and in absolute secret. This was on top of everything she had to manage in Chaldea, as well as the inevitable headache of the next hour.

Da Vinci sighed, and placed the letter aside. She closed the manila envelope in preparation to lock it away in secret once more. The first week was going to be a mess, but the next day or two was promised to be a nightmare by comparison to the rest. The Mage's Association and United Nations will likely be knocking on their door, yet they weren't exactly in the right state of mind to greet them properly.

Chaldea did just come out of a terrible battle barely a day ago, and those terrible wounds were offered no lengthy respite to heal…


« •= Ξ Ξ [ IV ]Ξ Ξ Ξ ]= »


The inventors, engineers, and casters of Chaldea were still busy with important repairs, but they took care to ensure the Communications Room was still in working order for her. A few robots manned it, but that's all Da Vinci needed to ensure contact with the outside world would be flawless. She thankfully didn't need to be in that room to make calls, since the Director's office was far more comfortable and offered more privacy.

With an old-fashioned phone glued to her ear, she listened as patiently as she could while she sat at the office's desk. Its receiver had its own special compartment in the desk's top drawer. Lord El-Melloi II, clad in one of his regular black suits, sat in a chair across from her. They shared a look between each other, and he rolled his eyes as the voice over the line cried out indignantly at her spoken fact with no undertones. She had to give the other caster a lot more credit than she ever had for dealing with these arrogant aristocrats on a daily basis.

"Yes, I understand you're skeptical of what happened, and that's exactly why we're opening the doors and allowing your inspection team to enter," Da Vinci spoke evenly into the phone, though Lord El-Melloi II shook his head. "We're ready to receive them at the Clock Tower's convenience."

The irritation on her face was obvious, but anyone would have been that way with the pompous magus on the other end of the line. "Ah, that's good then. Very good. At least you're able to do that much correctly, so we can acknowledge your efforts on that front. It's bad enough you've been activating the leyshift system without proper authorization from us or those commoners over at the UN."

"With all due respect, we couldn't exactly contact either of you when the world was destroyed," Da Vinci commented, and was met with a huff at the other end. "We took the time to log every single event and situation for proper review. Everything done was of absolute necessity."

"We'll be the ones to determine that," the caller reminded, and Da Vinci rolled her eyes. The caster in front of her offered a small sigh of sympathy. "Until then, any attempt to leyshift will be seen as illegal activity. You've created enough of a headache for us to sort out already. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes. That's perfectly reasonable." It's not like it was hard to agree to that, but the Clock Tower didn't need to know quite yet. Only the main generator and two backups have been repaired. The Leyshift and Fate Summoning Systems would be next, but they'd take a lot longer and require more effort.

"Outstanding. We're assembling the investigation team as we speak, and they will arrive with the United Nation's group within two day. They'll be the ones to contact you about their arrival when they reach Ushuaia. Now if there's nothing else that needs to be discussed, I have more important work to attend to."

Da Vinci had to withhold her groan, as Lord El-Melloi II urged her to stay calm from the other side of the desk. She breathed out slowly. "That's all."

There wasn't even a have a nice day or proper goodbye as the woman hung up the line; She hadn't even properly introduced herself, saying it wasn't necessary or important. Da Vinci placed the phone back onto its receiver with tense vigor. As she let out a groan, she shut the drawer with the force of a slamming door. She stared at Lord El-Melloi II, who merely nodded. "I say you did fine. You handled it as well as I would have."

"Would that have included the facial expressions?" she asked dryly.

He shrugged. "It wouldn't be uncommon, but you would have gotten more pompous chest-beating if this had been in person."

As the other caster stood up, she sighed in aggravation. "This is just the beginning too… Thanks for coming."

"I'm just glad I didn't need to step in," he answered simply. "We don't know the status of this world El-Melloi family. It might have done more harm if I tried leveraging anything with my position."

She nodded quietly as he walked towards the door. He paused before exiting, then stared at her as she remained seated at the desk. "Not leaving quite yet?"

"You can go ahead. I'd rather not eat my dinner with this foul mood," she offered with an exasperated smile, and he chuckled. "I get the feeling this won't be the last for the week."

"Just don't burn yourself out this early, Director," he noted with a small smirk. The door slid open, and the caster quietly took his leave. The door clicked shut behind him, leaving Da Vinci alone in the comfortable office. Her smile slowly faded as she waited for his presence to leave the vicinity of her field.

The calls with the Mage's Association and United Nations had been irritating, but it was to be expected. They had no idea what truly happened, yet they knew something was definitely wrong. Chaldeas' calculations hadn't lied: For them, yesterday was April 22nd, 2015, but today was August 27th, 2016. If the timeline had been corrected earlier, maybe far less would have noticed. She doubted many wouldn't question why the memories of the past year felt hazy and intangible, or so the mage had so angrily informed.

This wasn't going to be something that can just be thrown aside, and the Mage's Association was, to be fair, understandably angry at this incident. Over a year felt convoluted in memory, and the rest of the world likely felt the same effects; It's like history truly continued, yet they didn't actually 'live' the dreamlike moments they remembered. How they were going to diffuse the growing suspicion and paranoia would be a mystery, but there was no doubt Chaldea was going to be the target of absolute blame in their eyes. Marisbilly hadn't been subtle about his ambitious leyshift project, after all.

Yet, that headache was pushed to the side for now. There were things that needed to be done amid the current situation, and she wasted no time now that Lord El-Melloi II had left the room. Making one more, partially paranoid check that no one was nearby or watching, she reached under the desk and pressed a button. The room's automatic door was now locked with a subtle click.

Da Vinci pulled out a small, folded piece of paper from her dress' pocket, opened the drawer once more, and picked up the phone. This part could have been done at any moment, but the sooner she did, the better. Timing wasn't too specific for this part since it just needed to be within a day, but it would be rigid from here on. She quickly plucked one of the pens from a holder on the desk in preparation for what's to come.

She glanced at the rotary phone's receiver, whose spin-dial system hid a lone secret. While holding the paper, she looped her finger into the rotary phone's zero slot, then spun it all the way to the hook. With a little force, the hook gave way and allowed her to spin it completely twice more. After three full rotations, she let the dial spin back to the start, then placed the phone to her ear. As promised, a unique dial tone quickly came on.

Three short dashes, three long dashes, and three more short ones constantly repeated as she listened carefully.

Her heartbeat felt louder as the dial kept ringing, and then someone picked up. No one spoke, but Da Vinci unfolded the piece of paper and looked at the numbers and dashes written upon it. She quickly moved her finger back to the rotary dial, then placed her finger in the number one slot. She moved it to the edge of the hook, then released. Her next entries were two dashes, so she looped her finger into the number three slot, moved it to the hook, released, and repeated once more.

She continued the process for the entire message, all while her heartbeat grew steadily cautious. She kept her focus shifting between her coded response and for any possible witnesses; No one could know. Even the one robot quickly passing the room gave her reason to be paranoid, but she continued her task. After an agonizing minute, every dot and dash of the code had been sent. She waited quietly, and after a small pause, there were three clicks of recognition on the other end of the line. They hung up, and she got the steady hum of a dead line.

Da Vinci let out a breath she didn't know she was holding, then quickly grabbed her pen. She stared at the wall-mounted video intercom's clock, and swiftly wrote the time down. Exactly twenty-four hours from now, she needed to be here again for the next part. That would be right before the reception dinner that followed Roman and the fallen staff's funeral. It should be relatively easy to sneak out, but she would still remain cautious.

Thankfully, she didn't have anything else to be wary of or stressed about until the next appointed time came.


« •= Ξ Ξ [ V ]Ξ Ξ Ξ ]= »


Outside the windowed hallway's massive panes, Chaldea's signature snowstorm remained steady. It wasn't as chaotic as it could have been, and she wondered if it would let up a bit more to make the investigation team's arrival less frustrating; If the mages were in a better mood, Chaldea would likely be too. She sighed at that thought as she strolled down the hallway towards Salon de Marie, the first stop on her morning facility check.

Walking the reinforced hallways almost felt like a surreal experience. For the most part, they looked as pristine as the days before their confrontation with Goetia. If it weren't for the many broken, aesthetic glass panels, it was hard to believe that these hallways had seen any conflict; Even the large, reinforced windows of this hallway were intact. The robots had done a thorough and dutiful cleanup over the past twenty-four hours, but not all traces of the heavy conflict could be swept away on a recycling cart.

The near-silent air was threaded with the despair that wafted through Chaldea. The salon, her workshop, and the Director's Office were but a few small reprieves from the heaviness of the aftermath. Every tiny reminder poked at the freshly scabbed wounds and eagerly attempted to pry them open. Even if she tried to help her heavy heart forget, it was an impossible task so long as reality's parasitic gloom clung to every inch of this place.

As she expected, the vibrant currents of their victory spirits were short-lived. Reality returned as clean up commenced and damage reports were gathered. Slowly but surely, even with the attempts of some to keep spirits even, the anguish eventually filtered back into the air. Most servants handled it fairly well, even if they were all affected in some way or form. The employees on the other hand, whose closest experience to the chaos of war was the Fuyuki incident…

Da Vinci glanced up as one appeared from a connecting new corridor. Besides the small squad of robots repairing some broken panels, a lone employee practically dragged his feet towards her. The brunette didn't even look up as her pace slowed, and she watched the employee walk with distant eyes. He clung to the stack of papers in his hands like they were a newborn. Da Vinci cleared her throat lightly, smiled gently, and greeted him. "Good morning."

It snapped him out of his trance, and the startled employee looked to her with slight shock. He recovered quickly, and nodded. "Ah. Sorry... Good morning, Miss Da Vinci."

She slowly frowned as he marched on without further words; There were none to give. Many of the employees had been given light, but simple tasks to hopefully keep their minds occupied elsewhere. Some could barely function properly, and there were at least three who were already crippled with trauma. Others bravely tried to act normal, like that man just did, yet it was beyond evident. With thirty-six employees dead and over a dozen others severely injured, it was only to be expected the remaining staff would be distressed.

Da Vinci quickly took out a tiny notebook and scribbled her notes onto it. There definitely needed to be at least one dedicated therapist among the many future staff they needed. What to look for in new employees would be another task she'd have to figure out, but that could be put on the back-burner for more pressing concerns. Some staff would probably wish to retire, and she wagered nearly all wanted to see their families.

She would at least manage some encrypted phone calls before then. With the Communications Room up and running again, she just needed to re-verify the encryptions, but they could start talking with loved ones as soon as tomorrow morning. Ah, but the logistics of managing visits would be much harder than keeping a secret over the phone. Classified information must remain undisclosed on their visits too, so they'd need to sign specialized Geis that one of the casters was still designing.

Confidentiality from the servants would be even harder though; There were many who wanted to go out and explore, but that had its own set of problems with it. Just telling them to wait patiently for a facility meeting to discuss the possibility was negotiation at best, yet some headstrong servants would still… "Ghhh!"

With increased frustration and anxiety, Da Vinci aggressively pocketed her notebook, which caused a nearby robot to glance at her with all three eyes. There was just so much she had to address in such a short time! Her nerves were getting racked, and it was only dawn of the first day since they arrived. She breathed deeply to calm herself; She was Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest geniuses. She could manage this. She would manage this!

For all their sakes, she'd make it through this terrible week… somehow.


« •= Ξ Ξ [ VI ]Ξ Ξ Ξ ]= »


Da Vinci walked into Salon de Marie, or at least what remained in its current state. As one of the larger rooms in Chaldea, it had definitely received some of their unfortunate, recent guests. When she had first looked around before the celebratory feast, it had been quite the damaged mess. Much of the furniture was destroyed, and the bar had seen far better days. Even one of the central chandelier had fallen and destroyed the grand piano. By all means, it was a mess, and Marie had been understandably disheartened.

That's why Da Vinci couldn't help the small smile as she saw the optimistic and smiling rider talking with Phantom by the grand piano's former spot. Robots and French servants went about their tasks around the room, cleaning up whatever debris still remained while the queen looked at the giant blueprints the assassin held up for her. With all the work going on around her, Marie looked a bit out of place with her bright yellow sundress, but Da Vinci found it rather fitting.

She was kind of like a spring flower amid the desolate ground after winter's thaw. It was a breath of fresh air after her recent, overwhelmed thoughts. The well-dressed Phantom was the first to see the new director, and the suit-wearing man turned to her with a smile. "Madam Leonardo. Come to see the reconstruction efforts?"

Marie quickly spun around with a happy smile, then pointed at the very detailed blue prints. "Oh~! Come look! Erik did a wonderful job! I knew he'd make a great architect~!"

"I can see that," she nearly hummed as she stared at the blueprints. She thought it had been a joke at first when Marie asked if she could use the equally devastated cafeteria's space. Clearly, as the blueprints depicted and her previous insistence proved, that was no joke. The new salon was going to be massive. She couldn't help but giggle in the relieving, comfortable moment. "Will this be Chateau de Marie then?"

Marie happily laughed, but shook her head. "Did you talk with Dantes? Because he said the same thing~! But no, mon Amie~! It stays my lovely salon~!"

"As if anyone could ever take it from you, my Queen," the uniformed Sanson commented as he passed by, carrying what remained of a booth's fancy dinner table.

Marie only giggled again as she swayed back and forth on her heels. Da Vinci smiled, "I'm glad you're feeling much better than yesterday. It's good to see some smiling faces again."

"I'm trying to make more! Seeing all these sad and miserable dears… It's terrible! Absolutely dreadful!" Marie insisted. "There's so many sad stories now… like yours. How are you fairing with…?"

"…I'm managing," Da Vinci replied easily, though the disappointment in her voice was obvious. Marie quickly hugged the inventor, and she smiled lightly at the gesture; The caster was hardly the only one in the facility that could use one though. "Thank you, Marie."

"Always wlecome," she smiled back as she released her embrace. "I'm going to do even more to help people smile after this! I want to help soothe these wounded hearts!"

"And by that, you mean we're going to do all the heavy lifting for you," Mozart chuckled from somewhere behind the bar, and Marie quickly pouted in embarrassment as Phantom laughed. The musical caster lifted his head just enough to show his teasing, yet gentle smile. "But… We're happy to do it for Queen Antoinette. It's nice working for you. A new piano at some point would also be nice."

Marie giggled, and blushed at the comment as Mata Hari popped her head out of the kitchen to nod in agreement. Da Vinci smiled and appreciated the genuinely warm and optimistic attitude of this group. Even if they, like the vast majority of the servants, were still relatively low on magical energy, they busied themselves with hopes of building a brighter future. She had been hoping to see this when she came, and she was glad that's exactly what she got from the accommodating French.

This was a needed respite on her tour, and a welcome recharge before she headed towards the hotbeds of Chaldea's grief.


« •= Ξ Ξ [ VII ]Ξ Ξ Ξ ]= »


Nowhere else in Chaldea was the suffering more apparent than the Medical Bay. Da Vinci had purposefully saved it for last, even if she started her tour of Chaldea from her workshop across the hall. Just standing near the double sliding doors plucked at her heartstrings. The heavy air felt like a wall as she stepped through the doors. It was terrible enough this place reminded her of the many countless memories of Roman, but now it housed the cries of many more.

"Good morning, Da Vinci," Samantha greeted from the front desk, though her smile wasn't quite the same.

The inventor smiled back sympathetically, but only quietly returned the gesture. She was organizing paperwork and charts likely left by one of the working servants, so she didn't want to bother her further. Instead, she tossed a brief glance at some of the servants idling in the waiting area before she strolled through the second set of doors. The air was stiff and suffocating, and marred only by the soft claps of shoes across the pristine floors.

She glanced towards David, who turned to her with a small smile. Her eyes gently glanced over his newest attire, a Chaldean medical outfit that looked terribly reminiscent of the one Roman used to wear. It appeared he took the vow of watching over Roman's previous post extra seriously, and the homage was both solemn and beautiful. 'If only you were here to see this.'

"Good morning, Director," he greeted before he turned back to the mounds of paperwork he was reorganizing. He sounded far better than yesterday, and she was glad even if it may just be a façade. "Come to check on the patients?"

"That, and hopefully stay out of your way," she answered simply with a tiny smile. He smiled back, yet it held the same traces of mourning as hers. "I hope there were no other incidents since yesterday."

He frowned lightly, but nodded quickly. "Thankfully… I can't wait for things to return to normal…"

His voice hitched on the last word, but she didn't point it out. She merely smiled softly, then walked deeper into the den of sadness and whispered, "Me too..."

She turned down the hallway and glanced towards the report chart hung on the first door. The mage within was in stable condition, but he wasn't going to walk again without surgery. Both his legs had been ripped off by a demon, but Boudica arrived just in time. He almost didn't make it after he attempted to stall so two regular employees could hopefully get away. The mage had come far from being the jealous man who tried to sabotage Janice's potion so long ago. She had to wonder how he'd handle his condition when he awakened…

As she walked past the door, she glanced to the next one as the door opened. Vlad exited in his luxurious black robe, yet he looked far stiffer than he usually did. With his back to her, he held the door open for Medea as she exited with the saddest expression Da Vinci had ever seen the ancient mage wear; To think she wasn't even hiding it was understandable. Her hands shook at the sides of her simple, black wrap dress as Vlad closed the door.

They hadn't noticed her yet, but Medea's attention quickly shifted further down the hallway. Da Vinci watched cautiously as the other caster glared daggers towards Nightingale. The nurse, dressed in a set of clean red scrubs, paused at another door further down to glance back towards them. Vlad quickly put a hand on Medea's shoulder as her fists shook at her sides, but the maddened nurse only stared back sternly.

"Let's go, Medea," Vlad insisted quietly, and to Da Vinci's relief, she seemingly listened. They turned and took their leave, but only Vlad acknowledged her with a small nod. An upset, furious, and depressed Medea only walked by without a word. Da Vinci glanced back to Nightingale, who nodded briefly towards her, then entered another room to check on a patient. The inventor was just glad those two didn't explode into another fight that the Peacekeepers needed to diffuse.

Da Vinci took a few steps towards the door the pair of servants exited and stared at the charts in hopes of a positive change. It was a naïve hope, especially after seeing Medea's expression as she left. Naomi was as stable as they could hope for a comatose patient. Even with the vast repertoire of healing skills in Chaldea, there was no erasing the concerns over her self-inflicted brain damage. All they could do now was wait and hope for the best.

Door by door, she walked and checked on the status of each patient. If they were awake, she'd even peak in just to give a few comforting words. Some were thankful and appreciative to be alive. Others were rocked by the lingering turmoil and trauma. It weighed heavily on her heart with every step, yet she ingrained every sight into her mind. It would be her fuel that drove her to doing everything in her power to ensure Chaldea would recover.

All were pained. All were traumatized in some way, even if they didn't show it. Some pulled through well, while others remained in critical condition; One even passed away last night from sudden heart failure. Nightingale, Irisiviel, and the others worked tirelessly with the robots, and their efforts showed brilliantly. The reality was just too difficult and sad.

As she came out of another patient's room, who was thankfully one of the more enthusiastic types, she heard muffled sniffling from the room next door. Her curiosity and concern spiked, and she strolled a little faster to check on the possibly broken individual. Should she signal for one of the helping servants or doctors? Anishka should still be checking that unconscious amputee a few doors ba-

As she approached the door with mellowing concerns, Jekyll, in a set of jade scrubs of his own, walked out of another across the hall. She glanced to him, and his eyes quickly looked to the door she approached. He merely smiled reassuringly, which evaporated any lingering worries.

"Tyler's the last employee you should worry about," Jekyll almost chuckled as a robot pushed a medical cart between them. "It's probably Serenity. She's been crying on and off since she came to visit him."

Relieved yet curious, Da Vinci smiled and nodded. She approached the slightly jarred door and glanced at his charts. He'd been awake for an hour, but she was more curious about the muffled crying within. The last bits of stress for one of her personal employees vanished as she glanced through the jarred door and saw everything was as fine as she could hope. Of the three occupants within, only Rena's little robotic eyes swiveled to look at her with glee.

She smiled back, and briefly waved before gazing at her employee. He wasn't just covered by the hospital gown, blanket, and head-wrapped bandage anymore. Serenity, wearing a white sundress, was gently clutching onto his chest as she leaned onto the bed. There was a tiny smile on Serenity's face as she quietly mouthed her gratitude over and over, all while the smiling, yet tired, employee gently rubbed her back with his IV-free arm.

"Sheesh, Serenity… Why would you even think I'd blame you for keeping me safe…?" He definitely sounded exhausted, but there was only a tiny hint of despair in his tone.

Da Vinci couldn't help but smile; Trust Tyler, Chaldea's most layback employee, to be fairly accepting after losing part of his leg. Maybe reality just didn't hit him hard yet, or maybe he had that much trust in Chaldea's potential; She did have a few conversations with him about Shiki's realistic puppet limb. Whatever the case, she was just glad to see some bright spots in a dimmed Chaldea.

"…I'm sorry…" she merely whispered again as she hugged him dearly. He chuckled lightly and rolled his eyes gently. Da Vinci took this as her cue to leave them alone; She'd clearly caught the tail end of a little moment, but she didn't want to invade any further. She merely walked to the next door with blooming hope for Chaldea's future atmosphere.

Maybe recovery wouldn't take as long as she first thought, so long as she ensured nothing else got in the way.


« •= Ξ Ξ [ VIII ]Ξ Ξ Ξ ]= »


The Strategy Room was a disaster of a different kind as the three within rushed to organize everything just before the day's main event.

The vast majority of all paperwork archived by Chaldean staff and servant alike filled every inch of table in giant stacks. Helena's automata zoomed between them with more paperwork, ensuring everything was organized properly. The short caster in a black sundress often disappeared between the mounds as she also busied herself with sorting. Lord El-Melloi II and Da Vinci sat at the head of the table with a massive checklist and disgruntled expressions.

"I didn't think they were actually going to check everything…" Da Vinci groaned, but Lord El-Melloi II just shook his head. The combined United Nations and Mage's Association team had reached Ushuaia earlier than warned, and they demanded all evidence be present for their arrival around dinner time. She was hoping she'd have at least one more night of peace before they needed to be dealt with.

"This is an unprecedented event for the association." El-Melloi didn't need to state the obvious, but she guessed she did ask for it. "I'm not too surprised they'd have such a ridiculous demand. As far as the many factions are concerned, we screwed up terribly, and will want any reason to tear us apart."

"Good thing Roman was so adamant about keeping records…" Helena commented behind a larger stack of manila envelopes. That section in particular pertained to the major singularities alone. "Sheesh… What would we have done without the printers?"

"Just thinking about writing all this makes me crave a few cigars," the male caster commented gruffly, but it brought a small smile to Da Vinci's lips.

It had been one of the strangest standing doctrines in Chaldea, and Gabrielle's absolute bane, but she was thankful Roman had the foresight. Word of mouth was inconsistent when recalling events, so that's where the paperwork came into play. With so many records, photographic stills, and even video, there was plenty of evidence to backup the truth to their words. The Mage's Association were a distrusting and difficult organization, so all the painful paperwork and evidence would serve well to cover any possible holes they may try to poke.

Everything from the necessity of using the leyshifts for critical supplies to assigned tasks every staff and servant did was logged and categorized. Even the superfluous need of furniture and luxury rooms was covered under morale and keeping spirits high during a drawn-out war. Though it had come into question whether or not the masters' files should be tampered, the vote among servants was unanimous.

Even if it meant having to defend them from possible consequences, the three masters deserved credit for being critical to humanity's protection.

Many at the association would likely be offended that two of their former, underwhelming students wound up with such an achievement, but they'd handle that road when it came to it. The masters deserved it, and the servants would simply ensure they weren't pestered to no end in the coming days for it. God knows Gudao was an emotional wreck at the moment, and Gabrielle was barely keeping herself together for both of them.

That was why Anishka would be the first master to meet with the mages later. Hopefully they'd at least give some leeway for the other two on the first meeting, but she feared having to drag them from dinner in their solemn states. Truthfully, she was more concerned with keeping the Mage's Association part of the team from going wherever they wanted. There were a bunch of servants who did not take too kindly to their presence at all.

"Thanks for your help, Madam Blavatsky," she sighed with a smile as the final stack was organized.

She merely nodded with a concerned smile. "I don't have to be here when they arrive, do I?"

"I doubt you'd want to deal with them ever again, so please avoid them like the plague," El-Melloi offered, and she smiled gratefully to him. "We'll handle them when the time comes. You just go make sure Tesla and Edison don't fight at the barbecue line for the second bloody night in a row..."


« •= Ξ Ξ [ IX ]Ξ Ξ Ξ ]= »


Memorial Hall was packed with nearly everyone in Chaldea. Only those most crippled by recent events, caring for the injured, or incapable of attending were absent. The warm glow of the braziers was offset by the gloomy sea of black suits and matching dresses. There was not a single splotch of color to be found by any present, both on their attire and their expressions.

They stood quietly, each with a candle in hand before an ensemble of upright, closed caskets. One was present for every lost soul, and the gathered remains were entombed within as respectfully as they could manage with the time constraints. If only they had more time before the outside world marched within for answers… Da Vinci knew she wasn't the only one who held these frustrations.

She stood before them all with Anishka at one side and Jeanne on the other. Their black dresses were nearly identical, but instead of a candle, the inventor held her written speech in hand. Behind her, a temporary monument against Memorial Hall's wall divided the sea of caskets. A permanent, worthy tribute to the fallen would be created when they had more breathing room, but she didn't want this ceremony to be marred by the chaos of the next week, nor put off inconsiderately for later.

It would have been a dishonor to the many fallen staff, whose pictured hung from the monolithic stone slab behind her. Countless smiling faces, captured at their happiest moments, plastered its surface thanks to the efforts of George and Mashu. The biggest photo of all was Roman's, whose smiling, bashful face marked the very top of the temporary monument. It was the sight of that smile and others that brought fresh glints of tears to the eyes of several.

Before Da Vinci began, she glanced to Gudao and Mashu up front, as Gabrielle passed the two occasional, worried glances. They took Roman's loss harder than most, but none more than the revived Mashu. It was confounding and warranted a real explanation, but her revitalized cells and projected lifespan promised her a long, natural life… but one without the eccentric man she cherished as another father figure. Her eyes rarely left Roman's picture since they arrived. She'd have to figure out how Mashu was so miraculously saved when she had the chance.

With the candles now lit and everyone silent, there was no point delaying their final goodbye any further.

"Residents of Chaldea, Staff and servant alike… We gather here today to not only mourn, but celebrate the lives of those who spent their time with us in humanity's darkest hours," Da Vinci proclaimed loudly. "Among many of us, they were companions, friends, and even family. More than that, they were regular people whose lives were sadly shorter than any would want. Though they have been taken from us by the hands of fate… We must never forget the moments they spent at our sides."

Before, the divide had been pretty stark. Employees had been reverent and even cautious of their summoned allies. The servants had also been fairly distanced from the employees, but time slowly changed that. By the time of the third primary singularity, it was far from uncommon for servants and employees to talk to each other. By the end of the sixth, there wasn't a single employee who didn't know at least one servant at a cordial level.

"Though many may not be heroes, I speak for all the servants when I declare they were all brave in their own right. With the threats looming from any possible sides, they could've been paralyzed by fear or cowered at unseen threats. Instead, they assembled strange lives among us and busied themselves with mundane tasks and chores for our sake. The air of community they helped create blossomed into one of the purest flowers humanity could ever hope to see. For that alone, we owe them our thanks."

Though the sacrifice of Roman sat higher in their minds than the others, this funeral was for everyone lost. He wouldn't have wanted to be held separately in anyway. He just wanted to be human and happy in the end. "Whether they are buried here in Chaldea's own cemetery, or the remains returned to their loved ones abroad, we will take this moment to give each of them one last, personal farewell. Each name carries a story and memory we must etch upon our hearts."

Da Vinci had stayed up all night to write the profound summaries for each and every one, because all of them deserved no less.


« •= Ξ Ξ [ X ]Ξ Ξ Ξ ]= »


It had taken nearly two hours to get through the eulogy, but she made it as thoughtful as she could. By the sniffles and tears that ran through some in the audience, especially when it came time for Roman's, she knew she had honored the deceased. Her throat felt parched, for she gave herself no pause. Mashu wiped a tear from her eye as she stood before Da Vinci with Fou by her feet. She smiled. "That was beautiful… for all of them."

"I just wish I had time to memorize it all," she replied back softly as she glanced over at the growing line of candles.

One by one, servants and employees walked, or shuffled slowly, up to the caskets to place their candle holders onto the ground. Many carried flowers plucked from the Biogardens, while others brought gifts of different kinds. The casket marked for Roman expectedly had the most gifts, but she was glad to see all of them were getting some attention. Marie, Boudica, and a few others even ensured each casket had at least a few flowers.

"Go on, dear," Atalanta gently reassured as Jack, in a frilly black dress, walked up to Roman's casket with a candle in one hand and an orange teddy bear in another. Da Vinci smiled gently as the assassin placed her candle down, then sniffled as she placed the teddy bear in front of Roman's casket.

"…Clementine will make sure you don't get lonely... You can take her with you." Nursery Rhyme soon joined her and placed a wreath of fairy tale inspired flowers to join it. Jack wiped her eyes and sniffled. "…B-Bye bye, Roman."

As Atalanta came up to hug her girls, she glanced over at Gilgamesh and Ozymandias as they waited, surprisingly patiently and quietly, for their turn. The wide array of those lining up to pay their final respects to Roman warmed her heart, and fueled her own desire not to let him down. Her own final respects would be to ensure the Chaldea he loved would blossom further, and that meant getting past the last difficulties the world would understandably throw.

…The secret schedule popped into her mind again. Da Vinci glanced at her watch, which unfortunately drew Mashu's attention again. To cover herself, she quickly sighed in relief. "I was worried I'd been too long winded. There's enough time until dinner."

"There was a lot to say, but it was beautiful," Mashu reassured with a small smile as Gudao and Gabrielle returned to her side. "You did a great job."

And yet, this was among her easiest tasks to come.


« •= Ξ Ξ [ XI ]Ξ Ξ Ξ ]= »


After her second paranoid check, Da Vinci checked the vicinity of the office again, and clutched her concealment cape closer to her form. Her heartbeat was hard and steady, and every second that passed made her anxiety rise. It had been surprisingly difficult sneaking away from the after-funeral reception, but still spending too much time away may draw more unwanted curiosity. This secrecy was quickly getting on her nerves, but she had no choice. She'd just try to get back before dinner started.

With the drawer opened once more, Da Vinci stared at the phone. As properly instructed, they would be calling soon, but not soon enough. Time was ticking, and she wanted this action completed as soon as possible without any complications. So many possibilities ran through her mind, yet she forced herself to be patient. Trust must be formed, and this was the only way to do it. All she had to do was wait, act accordingly, follow the instructions to the letter, and everything would fall into place.

As a robot hovered past the room, she eyed it through the wall like a gazelle being stalked by a cheetah. It was barely day one, and already she felt like a total spy. It was eye-opening to imagine how Chevalier d'Eon or Mata Hari ever handled this pressure so easily. For an inventor like her, whose creative mind ran amok, it was increasingly stressfu-

The phone rang, and she breathed a sigh of relief since the robot had long since passed. She let it ring twice before she finally picked up the receiver. Calming herself, she waited patiently with a firm expression. Finally, a gentleman's voice echoed pleasantly over the line. "Hello! Did you know Isabella Eats Almonds with Charles is the hottest children's book to date? Stores can't keep it on the shelves for long!"

She paused quietly and connected the proper response. "I don't know how you got this number, but we're not interested in whatever you're selling. The parents are out, and it has me uncomfortable."

The other end of the line was silent. She could hear her heartbeat in her chest before it answered again. "Then would you still like the pizza you ordered?"

She breathed out slowly, and considered the statement again. Finally, she nodded to herself and spoke clearly. "Only if you delivered it."

"…We'll be printing your receipt then. Thank you kindly." A dial tone quickly sprung into her ear, and Da Vinci let out another slow breath. With her heart beating crazily, she placed the phone down onto the receiver and closed the drawer. As it locked automatically, she reached under the desk and disabled the remote locks on the door while she steadied her nerves. In a few minutes she'd be having a quick dinner, and she wouldn't have to worry about this secret again until later that night.

Over and over in her mind, she reassured herself everything she had to do was for Chaldea's well-being, and she'd explain herself properly when the time came.


« •= Ξ Ξ [ XII ]Ξ Ξ Ξ ]= »


A squadron of three United Nations aircraft soared through the dark, winter skies as it approached Antarctica. Their lights were off to avoid attracting attention, but the advanced machines didn't need them. Though these black, unarmed shadows resembled a jet-powered version of the ospreys, they were far more advanced cousins. Their fuel efficiency and speed far surpassed them, and they were a carefully classified secret from most of the world. Yet, even with their speed and stealth, their journey had been a long one.

The Drake Passage was renowned both for its often-hectic weather and as the gateway to Antarctica to many. It was this rough weather that caused the only delay of the journey for the rough convoy; They had to leave Ushuaia a little later than anticipated after the call. With only light winds harrying the flight, they reached the tip of Antarctica's cape quickly. It would only be a few more hours until they reached the fabled Mount Meru, which was the secret Antarctic location of Chaldea.

It still didn't stop the irritated mage from wanting to see if the peasants were being purposefully slow. He sat at the front row, just before the aircraft's cockpit, so his task was easy. He glared towards the suit-wearing agent who sat in a seat facing the rear of the aircraft beside the access door. "How much longer until we get there!?"

"Soon." The United Nation's agent's curt response earned him a scowl from the gray-haired magus. To think these commoners would be allowed to speak so roughly to someone like him. He was talented, and worked exceptionally hard to earn respect from his peers. Sure, some of his colleagues on board in the other faculties would give him some lip, but they were at least mages and not filth beneath his boots.

These upstarts should be given a lesson that their little technology, while very convenient, does not make them anywhere near equals.

The magus grumbled to himself and pushed up his spectacles. He glanced out the window into the ever-dark skies above the southernmost waters. There was nothing to see, and it irritated him further his first glimpses of the white continent would be at Mount Meru. At least the facility should have some luxuries of some sort, otherwise all the huff about Marisbilly's wealth was just for faction politics. It'd be warmer than this stuffy aircraft at least.

As he crossed his arms roughly, not caring if he accidentally woke up the Minerology Magus beside him, he tried to busy himself with getting a small glimpse of anything outside the window. There was very little to pass the time as is with all his personal reading material stowed in the back of the-

His eyes opened in shock as a blinding fireball flooded light through the windows. It detonated midair as it engulfed its target. The aircraft lurched violently as the magus watched the blazing wreck of the first aircraft careen towards the dark sea of ice below. Panicked and unnerved, the magus' eyes shot to the agent as the emergency lights and siren blared loudly. "What was that!? I demand to know what's happening!"

Before the agent could even answer, the cockpit's intercom flared to life. "Hold on! We're going into evasive maneuvers! We're under att-"

A deranged, high pitched laugh tore through the air before he felt something faze into existence behind him. "Remember! What goes uuuup, must come doooown~!"

Petrified by the feeling of madness and sadistic glee that filled the air, he was only thawed by the shock that tore through his system when the aircraft's left engine exploded.