Sometimes, the best laid out plan is not a plan that can survive first contact.
That idle thought crossed my mind after I threw aside a section of the wall, coughing at the clouds of dust and dirt that rose up. Not even a minute had gone by ever since the magic circle exploded for some reasons. It was a jarring experience to know that not even a change of location and proper tweaking that should have suited a regular Servant summoning ritual succeeded, and the ruins provided a fine testament to my failure as a Magus.
Then I heard a thread stretching. Looking up, an iron arrowhead pointed at my forehead while my gaze met ferocious glare of a girl in green and black dress.
"Why are you here?" The girl asked, almost hissing those four words.
Her verdant green eyes glimmered with intense light. It was bright and sharp like a predator locking on her natural enemy, and the huntress directed such glare to me. Despite all that, I could sense other emotions leaking from the Link between us. As a Master, I was fed subconsciously with information that I interpreted as confusion, anger, and worry.
"...I'd say the same thing to you. I never expected summoning you..." I breathed out. "Archer of Red."
The triangular ears on her head twitched. The maiden blessed by the Goddess Artemis was about to let loose her arrow and a part of the ruin next to us flew to the sky. Red lightning clapping and a silver bullet raced for a brutal downward slash.
The Archer in green dodged. She zigzagged, retreating like an animal and jumped to land on a tree branch before launching arrows with resounding fwip.
Unfortunately for her, Saber was not a Servant that could be trifled with. The knight swatted the arrows with one strike and pointed Clarent towards Archer.
"You have some nerves, stray cat." The knight snarled.
"And you are as unpleasant as ever, mad lioness." The huntress quipped, notching another arrow. "Here I thought it was all but a nightmare yet..."
I felt her gaze on me, the Archer narrowing her eyes before she pursed her lips in a scowl filled with hatred and frustration. I'd think for once that she was trying to say something but the Servant whipped her head to the side and I heard of a yell.
"You!" Rider attacked, his golden-tipped lance striking down. "Why are you here too!?"
Archer nimbly dodged it but the tree was pulverized in exchange. Standing atop rubble, surrounded by my two Servants, the Chaste Huntress growled as she readied her bow. Meanwhile, I had successfully dug my way out from the ruin and stood up.
I felt like everything had escalated even without my interference… Or is it the natural thing for something like me to attract troubles?
...Well, maybe nothing other than the fact that I've yet again summoned another troublesome Servant.
Looking at Archer, however, she remained glaring at me as if Rider and Saber were of no concern. At this range, Saber could reach her even before another arrow was let loose. Why would she be more wary of me when she faced two Servants who boasted agility that could match her? While it was a viable method to attack the Master instead of their Servant, especially when they are clearly stronger than you…
Hm. This situation held too many unknown variables. Perhaps Archer has too little information and the situation did not help her, it wasn't ideal. At least for me and Archer. …Isn't it obvious for me to take the initiative, then?
"That's right," I nodded, stepping ahead of my allies. "Saber, Rider. Stand down."
The two Servants whirled their heads and stared at me as if I had grown a second head. Rider, catching my expression, exasperated while Saber snorted in plain annoyance.
Even so, there was no rejection. Does that mean they approved my action? I feel honored but most probably, Saber would gauge my worth if I stepped in like this… which is just wonderful.
"What do you want?" The Chaste Huntress queried, looking both regal and feral at the same time.
"I apologize for the... unusual situation I've summoned you in." I replied, "But I believe there's a misunderstanding here. I'd like to resolve that."
The Servant didn't look pleased at all.
"And what will stop you from going against your words?" Archer asked. "Once have I seen the Saint killing a child, one under my charge. She is no different than that vixen fox! And you—"
"Are not a human, yes?" I tilted my head. "I believe that discarding my humanity and living in timeless exile is better than letting the world the Fake Priest desired to come true."
I frowned and pursed my lips.
"Regardless of what the future may hold, I believed in mankind. And still I believe that the cause I fought for is worth of the sacrifices," I said, completely determined. "What do you believe in now, Atalanta the Chaste Huntress? What do you hold in this world where there is no such thing as the Holy Grail?"
In the face of my question, the Servant of Bow gritted her teeth. It was clear that she understood the meaning behind my words and question, but pushing too far would do no good for either of us.
So I waited. I waited as none of us refused to divert our gazes away. With the windows of our souls reflecting each other, time passed, and...
"...You are a cunning man," Atalanta huffed, slowly lowering her bow. "Yet I detect no lies from your words and actions. You... Are you incapable of lying?"
Well, now... I glanced at Rider for a bit, then pressed a hand on my chin.
"I guess I can blame that for Rider's loose mouth," I answered. "Apparently, it's his personal skill to blurt out any secret he has and those entrusted to him. It can't be turned off or even sealed."
Archer raised an eyebrow. Then she nodded as if she understood the length of sufferings I have dug myself into.
"I know one fool who runs his mouth off all the time," she said, "Even though time has changed, there will always be people like that. You have my condolence."
I nodded in reply, accepting her words. It was reassuring to know of a kindred soul.
"Wh—oy!? Why are you two hitting it off so well when it's about insulting me!?"
Huh, I think it's kind of obvious, right?
"This is so stupid..." Saber breathed out. "Bah. I'm out of here."
Huh? Ah, she was already back in her tube top, jacket and shorts garment. None of her armor or even her Noble Phantasm could be seen and she waved a hand while she pulled out a box of cigarette.
"...Saber, you can't smoke in school grounds." I told her off.
"Shaddup! I do as I wish!" And the Servant replied thusly.
But much to many assumptions she could garner, the girl marched towards the school gate while abiding my words... I guess she's going to take a patrol in the meanwhile too. I've been hearing a lot of tales about her exploits around the town and honestly, it was so like her to just barge in on a group of ruffians and hammer some senses into them.
I'm quite certain she did so simply because they were an eyesore, though…
"Sigh. Looks like no matter what kind of situation she's summoned in, she will just do whatever she wants."
While I exasperated, I could feel a gaze put on me. I looked back and found Archer staring at me yet again, her lips pursed together.
"...What exactly do you mean by that?" She asked. "What 'situation' are you referring to? And why is there no one else but that beast and this fool here? You said you summoned me, but who contracted those fools again? And you said that the Grail is not here…"
...Well... if it's that—
"Oh! Master, the Devils are here!" Rider shouted, my eyes following his direction and finding the entirety of the Student Council entering the clearing and standing still upon laying their gazes on us. "Eh? It looks like they're all in bad mood..."
"Whoa... The building is completely ruined." The only male member of the Student Council muttered.
"That explosion wasn't natural at all. Could it be..." Shinra trailed off.
"Another failed summoning ritual? This is the third time, isn't it?!"
Ah, uh... Well... I fumbled with words and yet I drew only utter pure white sheet from my mind. This was completely unexpected. There were witnesses and most important above all else... It was the Sitri, the local supervisor of this land who discovered my failure despite me being under her watch.
Honeyed words wouldn't work. Lying obviously wasn't an option. Dodging the truth? But Rider was around!
"...I committed yet another grave mistake, aren't I?" I raised a rhetorical question.
"Ayyup." Rider nodded.
Damn. Is it the Curse of Rhein Gold? Should I blame that pile of rotten treasure that always blinded even the virtuous with false promise?
This wasn't supposed to happen in the first place!
"So," the black-haired Student Council president of Kuoh Academy started. "Is this yet another one of your allies, Sieg-kun?"
Uhmm… How should I explain now? Scratching my cheek, I decided that it was a wise move for me to pick up the tea-filled cup served for Rider, Archer and me. Of course, it wasn't like there's any appeal in drinking tea in a ruined building. All the supernatural beings in the school grounds had chosen to stay at the Student Council office and I was seated in the sofa with Rider sitting next to me.
Archer opted to stand next to the window. I assume she's being cautious and prepared in case the unexpected happens, though her nose scrunched up every once in a while. Ah, wait. She started to glare at the entirety of Student Council, probably because they looked like humans despite smelling unlike them. Please don't get the wrong idea again, Archer…
"You sure attracted feisty maidens left and right with your gravitas, Master."
My eyebrows twitched. Be quiet, Rider. What do you mean by gravitas and why would I attract feisty maidens with it? Is that even the correct term to address the opposite sex? Anyway, even I could tell that giving the raw truth would be counter-productive, so…
"Well, though I'm reluctant to call her as an ally, but I know her due to some… 'circumstances'." I raised a hand as I explained.
"Oh?" Sitri raised her eyebrow. "Does this circumstance involves the other two as well? Does this mean she's yet another Servant, a Hero who boasts both the fame and strength of those from the ancient times?"
Mgh. This Devil sure knew not to hold back in the most opportune time. She also linked the dots pretty quickly.
"However, I'm afraid that I have never seen another Nekoshou besides Rias's Rook…"
"'Nekoshou?'" I wondered aloud, and realized that Archer as well parroted the same word.
The two of us stared at each other. For once, there was an odd stillness hanging in the air and it lasted for a while. After what I assumed as fifteen seconds, Archer blinked and averted her gaze with a huff.
Huh… what was that?
"Eh? Ah, well… Umm, what do you mean by 'Nekoshou', Sitri-san?"
It seemed my question caught her off-guard. The Heiress wasn't able to hide her surprise and she glanced at Archer before returning her gaze on me.
She nodded. "It's… Well, do you know what Youkai is?"
Youkai… Humm, if I remembered correctly, that was how the people in this country call demons and nonhuman entities bearing mystical powers, isn't it? Though I've lived in the Reverse Side of the World for considerable amount of times, I steered clear from beings such as Demons and Divine Spirits. Not because of their nature, but simply because they were way too much to handle. I didn't like those who would break my day in a heartbeat.
Honestly, the world would've been much better without so much distorted or nonsensical things. Rules existed for a reason, not as a standard that should be bypassed through the backdoor repeatedly.
"Hmm… Though I am not sure if that is what people think back in your time…" Sitri pressed two fingers on her chin. "Youkai as a whole, to put it simply, is a race of supernatural entities. They come in many forms with various abilities and most if not all of them reside in Kyoto, the old capital of Japan."
Haa… If I remembered correctly, Kyoto was known as the Demon Capital in the past, right? I've already done my research about this land's history so at least I could follow the flow of this conversation.
"So Nekoshou is a type of Youkai…?" I tilted my head. "I presume they have something to do with Archer's appearance, then?"
The Chaste Huntress' triangular ears twitched, her eyes narrowed down and the tail hidden by her skirts secretly tensed up. There was no need to second guess her irritation since being judged due to appearance must feel like a form of discrimination, and discrimination meant unjust treatment; one thing someone like her would feel about in the extremity.
I drew out a deep sigh. "Although I am unsure of why this sounds like a big deal, but Archer is different."
I looked to my third Servant. She was now glaring at me again and a telepathic Link was connected with my mind.
'Do you honestly believe I would reveal my true identity to these beings?'
…Ah, well. I don't think you have a reason to be truthful. Why not tell them some sort of white lies?
'Fooling them with neither lie nor truth?' Archer scoffed carried off into the telepathic Link. 'I see that you're not all talk.'
Hm. Good to hear that. Although… Rider and Saber can listen to this conversation.
'That's right! Now we can chat even without moving our mouths! Amazing, ain't it!?' Rider chimed in.
'You're all way too loud! Enough with the prattling, you bastards!' Saber yelled.
…Aaaahh… This is bad. My head is filled with voices. Augh, whose bright idea was it to make the Master as the hub for the telepathic Links…? I can't even hide my thought when it's connected…
'Master, that's asking for too much,' Rider interrupted. 'Or rather, if you think it's bothering you, you shouldn't have said it when we're all Linked together like this.'
…I breathed out. Breathed in. Closed my eyes. Placed my elbows on my thighs while my entwined fingers became a cushion for my forehead. After some deliberation, I expelled one word.
I received a sound advice, but the advice came from Rider of all people that were in this room. Of everyone who could have said it better, it was Rider who lectured me! Since when common sense and insanity switched around!? Where is God in this messed up world!?
…Oh, yeah. God is dead. Nietzsche must be laughing from beyond his grave now that his mad theory had been proven right. Sigh… mankind has never stopped surprising me. They would probably not going to stop even if they went extinct, either.
- Author's Notes -
Honestly, there are a lot of stuff to say. I'm pretty sure people are wondering what has happened to this story but the issue is pretty simple, and... Well, dodging the problems ain't gonna cut it so...
I'm sorry. I burnt out.
Honestly, I know that there's something wrong with this story. I'm sure as hell the grammar is subpar and my attitude is clearly showing in the narration, not to mention I got constructive critics that pointed out the really bad parts that should be fixed ASAP. However, I find joy in writing the story and think believe that I should continue to work at my own pace.
And yet that didn't work. Not. At. All.
The motivation to write just disappeared. Ideas stopped entering my head and I couldn't imagine anything about the direction I should go with. It's annoying, frustrating, depressing, and humiliating. So much so that I started to hate myself at some points but cutting my fingers off will just be unproductive. Besides, that would just make it as an excuse to run away, and I hate running away the most.
Thus, after mulling about it, I've decided to put this story into the Hiatus shelf and be upfront about it while delivering the latest update regardless of how incomplete it is.
Yeah... this won't end well. I'm sure a lot of readers will leave this story but I need time and probably divine intervention if I want this story be resurrected. Ugh, this is even happening to the original stories I'm writing. Is it just me or is growing up limits your creativity? At any rate, I'm sorry for everyone who's looking forward to the continuation of Sieg's story in the different world. I no longer have anything to work with and there's not enough drive for me to continue it.
That doesn't mean I'm retiring from writing, of course. It's just... while at it, life is throwing lemons at me so I've got to find or make a net to get them all. Update here is gonna be far and few in between but as long as internet remains active (and I'm still fond or alive enough to care about it), I'll continue to stick around somewhere.
Now, everyone. Thanks for the supports so far. Once again, I'm sorry and see you again.