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Bonds {Redux}

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“Isn’t there some kind of moral issue about using these to summon a spirit?” Rem turned the saint quartz around in her hand, careful not to get jabbed by one of its many points. It would probably hurt, she thought; even if up close the tips seemed sort of blunted.

The fires consuming the city around them weren’t so frightening anymore. It’d become background noise in a sense – uncomfortably warm, yes; but not really any worse than older experiences she’d lived through. And there weren’t any skeletons or shadow-beings lurking around, which made all the difference.

“Would it really matter?” Sayo, the other girl who’d stumbled out of the flames; her Chaldean uniform smeared with ash and grime looked calmer too. Almost bored. She gave her own saint quartz a measured toss, catching it when it came back down with ease. “All we gotta do is summon a Servant and make a contract. I mean, I’ve got enough mana to maybe fight a few more of those monsters but I can’t promise it’ll cover everybody else.”

Caster favored them with a sidelong glance, looking as nonchalant as ever even with the Director puffing out her cheeks like she might burst into a tirade.

“Good point.” Rem decided to head that possibility off, grunting as she pushed herself up to stand. Mash waited patiently over her shield, hands reflexively twitching every time something in the city ruins shattered or crumbled into nothing. “Let’s see what happens.”

She raised her chin at Sayo to go first, curious to see what would happen. If it would be anything like what Caster did when he called up rune flames or if the stories she’d heard about Grail Wars might be true. That summoning a Servant was an awesome experience – like a huge rush of adrenaline to whoever managed it.

Tiny lights rose up from Mash’s shield and pure mana beat at Rem’s senses like a wave. She watched them spin, closing her eyes when it grew too bright and hissed out a breath when the tide of magic broke over them.

Maybe it was more dangerous than awesome, because there was no way their enemy couldn’t have seen that display from their position.

Blinking shadows out of her vision Rem peered at the circle, surprised to see a little girl standing there; a shabby black coat swallowing up her form. She looked like a ghost with a head of messy pale hair and large green eyes, gaze fixed unnervingly on Sayo. Then she hopped down from Mash’s shield like it was the most normal thing in the world, coming to stand in front of the red-haired woman curiously.

Sayo, for her part, didn’t seem particularly sure what to make of her Servant.

“Mommy?” The little one had a soft voice, probably not much older than nine or ten if Rem had to guess. “I’m Jack, Assassin.” She continued, rocking back on her heels.

Caster whistled from where he stood, stave leaning against his shoulder. “Assassin. That’s nice, for a first summon.”

Olga frowned, arms wrapping around herself as she considered Jack. Something darted across her expression, wary and a little frightened; but she couldn’t seem to bring herself to speak just yet.

“Not your mother.” Sayo managed, slowly reaching out to ruffle Jack’s hair. Then she sighed, nearly sounding defeated. “Shit, but you’re cute though.”

“Hurry up and summon your Servant.” Olga snapped, glancing around nervously. Rem watched the Director from the corner of her eye, curious if her reaction to Jack had anything to do with the return of her bad mood. “We don’t have all day.”

Well, Rem supposed, there’d be plenty of time later to watch Sayo get used to her Servant. And she knew what to do now, so there was really no point in hesitating.

Lifting her hand Rem tossed the quartz into the ring of Mash’s shield, silently praying that whatever answered wouldn’t be too unpredictable. A shallow wish, maybe. Probably an impossible one too, but given their circumstances she didn’t think was unreasonable to hope. Light grew and swelled, sapping the city’s flames of their glow before it vanished.

When she opened her eyes again there was a book floating in the air above Mash’s shield, its cover brightly decorated with all the most famous characters of Alice in Wonderland.

“Hello to the wonderful you.” A voice rose in sing-song, the covers of the book parting to let pages rustle. A few playing cards slipped out, dancing in a tiny circle before disappearing back into the text. “Let us make this a beautiful dream.”

Rem stared, not quite knowing what to say as the book bounced down from Mash’s shield to hover in front of her; seeming to expect a response. She thought she heard Caster snickering, the bastard; but couldn’t bring herself to take her eyes off the book.

“So I get a daughter,” Sayo drawled from her left, “and you get a kid’s story book. Nice.”

“Nursery Rhyme.” The book corrected matter-of-factly, turning its cover to Sayo. “We are Nursery Rhyme.”

“Caster.” Rem hazarded a guess, surprised and a little pleased when Nursery Rhyme bounced up in delight. Reaching out she carefully closed her hand around Nursery Rhyme’s covers, lifting them up to study their form. They felt real, just like a paperback book; warm as though someone else had only just set Nursery Rhyme down for a moment.

“Well,” Rem mused slowly, letting Nursery Rhyme go in case being held was uncomfortable. “Good to have you. I’m Rem.”