Merem had stepped out of the room, having left on the pretense of wanting to see more of the city. Of course, it was probably a lie, but it wasn't like Shirou was going to stop him.
It was much less of a hassle that way.
On the bright side, that left him alone with Jeanne, who was much better company than the ancestor. She sat beside him with a curious expression. Considering how she has never really seen magic before, it was easy to understand.
"It is truly surprising. You say you are no magus, yet you wield a miracle only few could ever achieve." Jeanne said as she quietly watched Shirou work over his bed.
"Yes... Ironic, isn't it? My aptitude for magecraft is quite low, barely even at the level of a third rate magus. It's only thanks to my gift that I can survive in this world. I can at least thank God for that much." Shirou chuckled, truly finding how ironic his life was. He knew he was only placed on such a high pedestal because of his usage of the first, but he was truly just a regular man without it. Sure, being a vampire didn't exactly mean that he was normal, but he was frail even by their standards.
It should have made him feel important, though he just couldn't help but feel pretty inadequate compared to others who had to work hard for their abilities. All he had to do was copy whatever it was they were doing and he could perform it in no time, putting all of their hard work to shame.
There wasn't a single thing he did that could be called a true accomplishment. Everything he had was stolen or ripped off of someone else. In every sense of the word, he was a faker. A truly depressing thought, but he never let it get to his head.
Although, that's not to say that it hasn't brought up some conflicting emotions from time to time.
"I see. Such a gift is certainly something to be thankful about." Jeanne murmured with a small smile, before frowning. "Though I do not like that tone you're using. Do you truly think that your life is not as precious as others?"
Shirou blinked in confusion. "Huh?"
Jeanne sighed. "I asked if you truly believe that your life is less precious than others."
"Er... What brought this up?" He laughed awkwardly, causing Jeanne to give him a deadpan look.
"Your tone says it all, Shirou. I have done my fare share of confessions during my time, so I can easily tell when someone is distressed just by talking to them." Her posture relaxed, though she still had a serious look on her face. "Now tell me... Do you think your life is not as precious as others?"
He paused for a moment before smiling sadly. "To be honest, I cannot figure out just how precious my life exactly is. I'm just put on a high stool by everyone else, simply because I can wield a power that none of them can." He sighed. "Before all this happened, I was just an orphan who had to work hard to get by. My life was full of struggles because of that."
He looked at his hands with a sense of weariness. "Now? Now I just feel conflicted. Every problem I come across now can be solved with a single thought. Whatever I needed most can be brought to life before my eyes. That was cool and all, but then I thought about those who couldn't say the same. What happened to all those other people who go through trials? They all suffered while I survived. Don't you think that's a little bit terrible? Suddenly, my power didn't seem as nice."
Jeanne remained silent as he continued on with his train of thought. Her expression was blank, but it wasn't uninterested in what he was saying. It was gratifying to say the least. He hadn't really confessed his problems to anyone other than Ciel, and even then it was kinda awkward.
"It just didn't sit right with me. Why must I be saved while others have to fight for survival? Why did God choose to give me such an ability? In the end, I could never truly figure out the answer even after I became a full Christian." He looked at her, a lost expression on his face. "Tell me, what am I to God? Does he favor me over others? I just cannot understand..."
It was silent in the room for several seconds as Shirou finally stopped talking. His question was an incredibly intricate one, but it was also very simple if you dug right down into the core of it.
Why was he saved?
The teachings of the Church say that God is all-loving and all-knowing. He would tend the needs of every single person who would knock on his door, but where would suffering be if that was true? To save one person, another must be left behind. That is the law of the world, and something humans are forever bound by. However, it is an earthly rule that doesn't apply to something that can be classified as 'GOD'. As such, why does God permit suffering to exist?
All through her life, she had met people who felt the way this boy did. They felt as if God had abandoned them, not caring that they were essentially slaughtering their fellow humans and death had taken over Europe. It was hell on earth, or at least the closest it could get at the time.
However, he was slightly different. Unlike them who questioned if God abandoned them, he questioned if God placed him upon a higher pedestal than anyone else. It was the first time she had ever heard such a question, seeing as many people never really bothered to question the blessings they were given.
"Your question is quite unique." Jeanne admitted after a while as she closed her eyes. "So you're saying you have no idea why you have been blessed with your gift, correct? You feel like God favors you over other people?"
"Have you ever heard the saying, 'God works in mysterious ways.'?" She asked as she sat on the bed, making herself comfortable. "Well, it's a lot more simpler than you'd think. God didn't give you these gifts because he favors you more than others, that would be against his encompassing love for everyone."
Shirou looked conflicted. "But-"
"God gave you this gift of yours for a reason, Shirou." She said, adopting a lecturing pose. "You may think that he simply abandoned others who could have needed such a gift, but it doesn't seem so to me." She smiled gently. "Do you want to know why?"
He blinked as Jeanne giggled with amusement, seemingly laughing at a private joke.
"Because he gave you the tools to do something about it." She said as she clasped his hand. "I know it seems counterintuitive, giving one person an ability that could save them instead of the entire human race, but that would make humanity's existence as a species null and void without any need for improvement."
She sighed. "I know it seems harsh, but we should not expect God to do everything for us. If God were to give us the answer at every problem we faced, it would be the same as revoking us of our free will to think and choose for ourselves. We can pray for guidance, ask him to help us with a problem once in a while, but we should never ask him to solve everything with a wave of his hand."
Shirou remained silent, listening carefully to what the saint was telling him. To be honest, after hearing this little rant of hers, it actually made more sense then everything else he could come up with. At the very least, it was better than Ciel's own advice which pretty much summed up to 'Shut up and stop taking things for granted'.
"Your gift is special, though do remember that this has not just happened to you. God has allowed many saints in history to perform miracles in his stead. Healing the sick... raising the dead... actions like these are gifted from God himself to once ordinary people like you. The question is, what do you plan to truly do with your gift?"
What he wanted to do with his gift.
He never really thought about that before. All the time, he always used it whenever he was in peril or whenever the situation demanded it. It was his go-to solution for everything, simply conjuring whatever he needed to solve the situation at hand. Nothing more, nothing less. All this time, subconsciously, he took his ability for granted.
His mind was clearer now. In his head, he went through many ideas, many possibilities, thinking about what he should do with his life to quell those questions he had presented to God.
He jolted suddenly as Jeanne put her hand on his shoulder, her warm smile still present on her features.
"Take your time... This may very well decide how you wish to go from here on out. Do not rush yourself."
Shirou stared at her for a moment before sighing. This woman... really had a point. Then again, this was the Maid of Orleans he was talking to. Why was he acting so surprised that she could give him an answer to his troubles?
He gave a genuine smile. "Thanks, Jeanne-san. You really are a saint. Your words definitely helped me."
The girl blushed shyly and smiled bashfully. "I-it was nothing. Like I said, we should always think to help others in need. My job is to inspire others, so it kind of comes easy to me..."
As she twiddled her thumbs and continued muttering words to herself under her breath, Shirou just returned back to his work with a satisfied smile. Closing his eyes in concentration, he pictured that beautiful set of armor he had just seen earlier. It was unlike anything he had seen before, giving off such a thick aura that it could be likened to a walking fortress.
If he could incorporate it correctly... He'd have a weapon even those at Atlas would be jealous about.
"Now then... perhaps I should sew it between the fabric."
"Are you daft, Berserker? Stop your assault this instant!"
A young woman wearing a vibrant green dress leapt through the trees as she tried to keep a steady pace with the target. She had an unusual anatomy, having cat eats on her head and a cat tail that swished in the wind, giving her the appearance of a feral tiger. In her hands was a bow that was nearly as tall as she was, yet she didn't seem to have any problems carrying it.
She was Atalanta, the chaste huntress from Greece, summoned as the Archer of Red.
"Ahaha! You tell me to stop, but I cannot obey that! I must head to where the oppressors are and crush them underneath my heel!"
Her target laughed as he continued to plow through trees without effort, carving a lane of destruction towards his destination. The man she was chasing couldn't be likened to an ordinary man, but a huge slab of muscle that was bulging with power. His only piece of clothing was a simple belt that covered his crotch, though it was clear he really didn't need anything else.
Those muscles... were armor in and of itself. A blade may sink into it, but it would surely snap before breaking the skin. That was how unnatural his muscles were.
He was the legendary gladiator who fought against oppression: Spartacus. Though his rebellion had ended in his death, his legendary will remained on.
"We can do that later, there's a time for everything! If you walk in there right now, you'll be killed! Just wait a few more days!" She shouted with exasperation.
"Bwahaha! To me, the word 'wait' does not exist!"
That was it. There was no convincing him. She had thought that she would have been able to get through to him, being a natural with handling beasts, but he was just too abnormal for her. For now, she would do as she was ordered and support him to maximize the chaos. If they were going to loose a piece, it was only natural that they should at least take one of theirs.
"Damn it all..."
"Hey, don't be too angry. He's a very determined man."
The archer stopped in her tracks and turned towards the sound of the voice. Standing on a branch next to her was a green haired man with rugged features and a youthful face. He wore Greek style armor and carried a simple black spear in his hand. It wasn't anything fancy, but it was still deadly nevertheless.
He was the rider of red: Achilles. One of the most famous heroes in Greece, surpassed only by the legendary Heracles.
"Rider..." Atalanta muttered, seemingly annoyed. "Why is it that you are here?"
Rider grinned. "Well, I was worried about you so I came to offer my support! The big guy is quite unstable, so I was kinda worried about you."
Rider sweat dropped at her nonchalant tone. If he had done that with any other woman, he would have surely reduced them to a blushing mess with his incredible masculity. Though for the huntress who had lived most of her life in the wild, courtship was something that was lost on her.
If he recalled correctly, she hadn't even been courted into getting married. A son of Poseidon had managed to beat her in a race through cheating and took her hand in marriage.
Alas, one of the many tragedies in Ancient Greece. For him though, it was just a Tuesday.
"So what is the plan?" He asked, recovering himself and switching back to his serious mode.
"We support him from the rear. If the situation becomes too much for him, we are ordered to retreat." She sighed. "I had hoped we could have communicated with him, but it seems a mutual understanding is just impossible."
Rider shrugged. "He's a very single minded man, though he certainly takes determination to the extreme. I've never met anyone like him before, though if I were to have lived his life, I'd be pretty pissed about authority as well. Then again, I've never been this obsessed with something before."
"Oh really?" Archer gave him a deadpan. "What about when your friend got killed and you dragged the enemy commander around on your chariot after you killed him?"
"Oi... I'm all over that. Really." he scratched the back of his head. "I wouldn't want to get back in a fight with Hector again. He was pretty tough for a dude who moved like a sloth. Of course, I had to get rid of my invulnerability to make it fair, but it was still really hard.
Archer sighed. "Whatever. Just hurry up and follow me. We're loosing him."
As the pair took off, a pair of eyes stared at their backs from the darkness.
Merem grinned as he strolled out of his hiding place. He had left Shirou and Jeanne alone to go and check out the base of the Yggdmillenia, believing the two of them should be left alone to themselves. And besides, he wasn't sure that woman would actually let him anywhere near this place.
Lightly jogging through the woods, he quietly kept his distance away from the servants up ahead. If he wanted to get through without being seen, he would have to go around them.
It was a simple manner for one such as him. He excelled in stealth, often relying on sneaking up on opponents before overwhelming them with brute force from his right sided demons. It was a cowardly method, but it has kept him alive longer than most of the other dead apostles.
Besides... He wished to see what these 'heroic spirits' were capable of.
Moving carefully, he avoided most of the detection fields and familiars that had been stationed as recon for the enemy. It seems like the Yggdmillenia are just waiting to see what will happen with the enemy berserker.
He laughed at that. The man was a person who ran on pure determination, no doubt about it, but even that would not keep him alive against the might of seven servants. A person like him was doomed to fail from the very beginning.
Then again, he had two other servants to support him. Their capabilities were unknown, but he could tell that they were powerful. The one with green hair in particular. He carried with him a divine scent... Something long lost on the modern age.
"Mm... This war is getting interesting."
He soon came upon a large clearing, revealing a towering castle in the distance.
"Yes... Interesting, indeed."
Within the fortress of Yggdmillenia, a man wearing an all blue suit with a golden helmet worked frivolously without pause. Around him were masses of moving stone and wood, which were actually the sturdy bodies of Golems. Some were skinny, while others were large and bulky. However, none of them were the same. Each of them had a unique characteristic that distinguished them apart.
The man whispered words and commands to the golems, each of them carrying a specific load of parchment and mystical jewels. Upon receiving his word, they all spread out with a salute and began separating each of their specific loads into a corner where they would begin the process of creating more golems.
The man looked up as a young boy no older than twelve approached him with a grin on his face. In his hands were an assortment of jewels and parchment, not unlike the golems he employed for his work.
He was Roche Frain Yggdmillenia, his young master and a prodigy in the construction of Golems. Well, at least compared to those of the modern age. Compared to him, he was nothing more than an amateur who paled in comparison to the speed and efficiency at which he was able to create them.
After all, he was Solomon Ibn Gabirol, or Avicebaron for short. Summoned under the caster class, he was known as the founder of the art of Kabballah. As the first leader of a large theological system, it was only natural that he would be the individual who every golemancer strived to be.
Roche in particular looked up to him the most out of the other magi, even referring to him as teacher instead of his usual class of caster. He admittedly found it a bit hard to get used to, with his anti-social tendencies and whatnot, but he soon was able to at least act the roll of it for the time being.
"Where should I put this, teacher?" The boy asked with an excited expression.
"Over here, Roche. A flat area is needed for precision placement of the jewels. If it is even an inch out of place, it may cause unforeseen errors in their programming." He said as he tapped the base of his workshop table. "When up against a servant, structure and framework must be precise. You have seen what has happened when your golems tried to attack Saber of Red, no?"
At this, Roche began pouting. "I know... She broke them all like twigs."
One of the Yggdmillenia's alarms had gone off in the city and had summoned a small portion of their golem force to intercept the threat. While his own golems were able to last about three hits against the Saber's monstrous strength, Roche's had shattered in a measly one hit. It wasn't surprising, giving that it was a servant, but Roche had been quite depressed that his creations were taken care of so easily.
He hadn't comforted the boy, but his offhanded response about promising to give him a few pointers seemed to have brightened his spirits. It was... Odd. For him, who has spent all of his life around golems, he could never understand humanity.
"It is of no matter that she did so. We can always create more." He said as he drifted around the table and began his work, his hands flying across the ingredients before a humanoid shape began to appear.
"After all... The ultimate creation that I prepare next will, ah, wipe the floor with them once it has been brought to life." He gave Roche a subtle glance. "And with your help, it will be sooner than I had originally planned!"
Roche's eyes lit up in sparks. Caster never got himself worked up about anything, except when he started talking about 'that'. For him, who wished to increase his skills in his art, found himself shivering in anticipation for what was to come.
The creation of the ultimate golem... One which Caster himself had planned on achieving during his life, but ultimately failed to do so... Was just a few days away from completion.
The creation of perfect life... In other words, the creation of the perfect human 'Adam'.
That is what he strove for, the ultimate achievement that rivals God.
"My lord, what do you plan to do with these intruders?"
Lancer of Black glanced behind him to see Darnic approaching from behind. Judging by the look of annoyance on his face, he assumed his master could feel the warnings from his bounded fields going off like a fire alarm.
"It is simple, Darnic. I shall make an example of them, like the ottomans who tried to stand before me." Lancer wolffish lay grinned as he glanced in the direction of the oncoming servants. "They would boldly dare to stroll into my territory without their full forces is a grave insult that I cannot forgive."
"Then do you wish for me to send out our full forces? A show of overwhelming might could serve as a good psychological move against our enemies."
"You truly think well, Darnic." Lancer complimented with a smirk. "Though it is something I would have done long ago, I have came up with a different plan. One that will be far more useful to us in the long run."
Darnic blinked. "Really? What is it?"
"That large servant who has smashed through most of our guards... It is surely their Berserker. How wasteful would it be if we were to simply exterminate him on the spot?"
"Ah... I see. You wish to divert him form his path of destruction."
"It would be valuable of us to gain a pawn to our side... Especially since Assassin has yet to show up."
The two of them grimaced. The Black Faction was sadly down a single servant, which was the candidate of the Assassin class. Their associate who had planned on entering the war was off in Japan to summon his servant. Originally, summoning the Assassin class servant only netted you a member of the Hasashin sect, but the man had a crazy theory about being able to net an assassin who was not from the organization.
It was a good plan, as the candidates who make up the Hassans are able to easily be identified. If they didn't know what they were looking for, their assassin could easily swoop in and kill one of the masters before being noticed.
Of course, the summoning had been planned to take place a few days ago. Their associate should have already summoned his servant by then.
There was the incredibly low chance that the Red Faction had somehow tracked him down, but he scrapped that idea as impossible. They had taken large steps to destroy any signs of his existence for the past few days. They would have needed to dig awfully deep to find out anything about him.
Or they could use a computer, but magi were particularly against using technology. It was inferior, they said.
Still, it was quite worrisome. Assassin wasn't a particularly strong class for frontal combat, but they were invaluable when it came to killing masters. If used correctly, they could kill the masters before any servant knew what was happening. Without a supply of mana to keep them in the world, they would quickly die off one by one until the last man stood in front of the Grail.
But alas, they would have to make do with what they have until Assassin's master got here.
"You want me to call caster? I can have him make some preparations."
"Do it. I may need a few of his golems to bring this one down." Lancer admitted as he sat down upon his throne. "And get the rest of the servants here, too. Those other two servants will be a nuisance to deal with."
"As you wish." Darnic bowed and left the balcony, quickly making the preparations for their counterattack.
All the while though, he missed the glare from a pair of eyes from the tree line.