Chapter 60: A Heroic Flame
The sun was already setting when Bell and Assassin returned to the Hearthstone Manor.
"We're back…" Bell called out as he entered the main building. He could hear some chatter from the kitchen and dining room as well as the sound of the stoves burning. Had the Goddess's group returned as well.
"Ah, Bell! Welcome back!"
But it wasn't the goddess who greeted him.
It was Emma, who was on her feet and without her casts. She was currently placing her arms around a teary eyed elf who was absolutely refusing to be pulled away from her waist. One blink later and a white and black shadow was added to the other side.
"And welcome back to you too, Jack," Emma said with a laugh as both Jack and Primo tightened their hugs on the taller girl.
"Emma, you're okay?" Bell asked quickly as he ran up to her. "Did Fels stop by?"
"Yeah," Emma replied with a nod. "It was a bit scary but they fixed my arms right up. So high five!"
She held her hand up to Bell expectantly but Bell could only look at it apprehensively. As such, he could only warily raise his hand but couldn't find it in him to actually finish the gesture.
Seeing his hesitance, Emma simply smiled as she forcefully brought her hand against his in a loud smack, which echoed in the corridor.
"See?" She said, pointing to her hand. "All better."
"…Yeah. And Rider?"
"Doing all the cooking before Archer could get home," came the sly reply and accompanying grin.
All the stress accrued within the past several days seemed to fade away as the realization and relief sank in.
Bell quickly stepped around the girls, to Emma's soft giggle, and headed toward the kitchen, only to stop in the middle of the living room when he noticed Caster sitting in the arm chair. The king's eyes were closed as he seemed to be relaxing against it, having both of his arms on the arm rests and with a drink sitting on a stool to his side.
All thoughts of checkin on Rider went out his ear as the memory of the earlier meeting slotted itself at the forefront of his mind. But as he walked up to the king, ready to plead and beg for help, Caster held up a finger to halt and silence him before he could even open his mouth.
"Hold your tongue, mongrel," he said. "Wait until the War God and his ilk to return, lest you force me to listen to you twice."
Well, on the bright side, he was willing to hear him out at least.
Seeing that he wasn't being rejected outright and that he wasn't going to make any more headway right now, Bell quickly hurried into the kitchen where Rider was cooking. The Servant was happily humming to herself as she dexterously pulling apart and deboning a bird of some sort with Gina tending to a large pot on the stove behind her.
Rider looked up from her work a moment before she had came into Bell's view. After cleaning her hands, she walked over toward Bell before he could say anything and placed her hands, both of them, on his cheeks with her thumbs gently stroking the area between his eyes and cheeks.
"Come now, no need for that face," she said gently. "Smile. Everything's all better now."
It was all he could say as a smile came to his face more naturally than he expected.
It wasn't a perfect reset to before the Expedition. The trauma and horror they all suffered were still fresh in their minds but the scars would fade and they could move forward from it.
A few hours later, Takemikazuchi and his Familia returned to the manor just before Hestia did.
Seeing both her Adventurers healed had caused Hestia to start bawling as she threw her arms around both Emma and Rider's necks, forgoing any dignity of a goddess that she might have, causing Caster to have a complicated expression on his face.
"Restrain yourself, Goddess Hestia," Caster said with a tired sigh full of disappointment. "It is unbecoming of a goddess to shed tears over something as minor as a healed injury."
"Who cares about dignity at a time like this!?" Hestia said as Rider held a handkerchief in front of her, allowing the goddess to blow her nose. "Everyone's all healthy again!"
"You need to because the boy has something new to share regarding the renard."
Takemikazuchi Familia's eyes shot to Bell almost immediately.
"What is it Bell?" Takemikazuchi asked. "Did you have an idea to make money fast?"
"No…it's not good news at all," Bell replied softly and a worrisome atmosphere settled upon the two Familias.
Bell then recalled the conversation he had with Momiji and Kaede earlier in the day and Takemikazuchi's face was white as a sheet.
"A Sesshouseki…" Takemikazuchi muttered into his hand. His expression so heavy that wrinkles were appearing around his eyes and mouth. "Curse you, Ishtar…"
His Familia members were no less agitated at the revelation. Ouka's hands were clenched into fists and small drops of blood were leaking out while Chigusa was covering her mouth with both hands.
Mikoto however, was more proactive in her worry, with it having taken the form of fury instead.
"How ludicrous!" the young woman shouted. "The only reason she would be using such a thing is if she was trying to start a war!"
"Yes…" Takemikazuchi agreed as he slowly leaned back in his seat. "And there's only one person that could be her target."
"Freya, right?" Hestia said but it was less of a question and more of a confirmation.
Bell chanced a glance toward Welf and his reaction was much like he suspected.
The smith was grinding his teeth together with such ferocity that there was a chance they would turn into dust and his fists were clenched nearly as tightly as Ouka's with his bones cracking rather audibly to the point that Gina placed her hand on his in worry.
"Are you all not leaping to conclusions?"
Caster's unconcerned voice sliced through the atmosphere in a way only a king could.
"Before one acts, one must gather enough information to make decisions in a calm and rational matter," Caster said folding his hands in his lap with one leg over the other. "All you know right now is that the renard is a simple prostitute and that the Killing Stone allows the dissemination of a renard's sorcery into those who hold onto its shards. Thus the first question you must answer is this: what kind of sorcery does she possess for Ishtar to use such a thing, if she has any at all?"
The one who answered that was not Bell nor anyone from Takemikazuchi Familia.
Instead, all eyes were on Archer.
"A magic that unconditionally increases the power of an individual Adventurer," Archer continued as he recalled some distant memory. "Back then…back during our vacation to Melen. One of the Berbera was fighting on an even field with Ais Wallenstein, a Level 6."
"Indeed," Saber added, his eyes widening all so slightly. "None in Ishtar Familia have such high a level. Their Captain is only Level 5 and was the one fighting her. A blonde renard was on the field at that time and a good portion of their number were focused on protecting her and prioritized getting her to safety when the tables had turned."
"A magic buff that can produce an effect akin to a Level Up?" Hestia asked, gathering the information together to make sense in her head. "Where the heck did Ishtar get a Cheat like that!?"
"At a slave market," Caster replied dully, ignoring Hesita's glare to glare at the other male Servants instead. "Yet this provides the answer you seek. The soul of a single girl to give your army the ability to Level Up, even if only a temporary one, any time they wish? A completely unbalanced exchange that any would make in a heartbeat."
Certainly, in a world where people lived under the fear of monsters and the Dungeon, one would give up the soul of a single person to power up the strongest of Adventurers in a heartbeat.
If such power were in the hands of Loki Familia, they could turn their seven Level 6s into Level 7s and completely destroy Evilus in a flash.
Instead, the power was in the hands of a Goddess with a bone to pick with Freya Familia.
"You can only say that so easily if you're not the one being sacrificed or have no connection to the one being sacrificed," Rider countered to which Caster merely shrugged his shoulders.
"Perhaps," he seemed to agree.
"Umm…how likely is it that Lady Ishtar would use such a thing to fight against Lady Freya?" Primo asked, raising her hand. "I mean, the rumors all say that she doesn't really like her but…"
"If there is any chance Ishtar can take to get one up on Freya, she'd take it in a heartbeat," Takemikazuchi replied and Hestia nodded her head in agreement. "If Haruhime really does have such magic, then there's no way Ishtar would give her up normally."
Which meant the plan of simply buying her contract was dead in the water.
"And so?" Caster asked again. "What foolish request are you going to make to solve this pointless dilemma? Are you going to suggest infiltrate Ishtar Familia and squander her away, never to see the light of day again in fear of Ishtar's and her ilk finding her?"
"There's no need to beat around the bush, Caster," Rider said, folding her arms and frowning. "What you're saying is that short of forcing Ishtar and her Familia out of Orario, this Haruhime girl won't ever be safe, right?"
"Obviously," Caster replied with a tired nod. "I suspect getting a hold of the Killing Stone is neither a cheap nor simple affair. Especially not when she hired the resources of Hermes Familia to do so.
"But do not think for even one second that the Guild will overlook at the destruction of one of the most profitable areas of Orario. The fines they will leverage against both Hestia Familia and Takemikazuchi Familia will be extensive should you choose to do something that threaten the economy and livelihood of the city. And I do not believe either of you can afford such things."
Though it sounded as though he was talking to the two deities, Caster shot Bell a glare before his eyes shifted toward the window.
Bell followed the gaze and saw that Berserker and Fia were peeking inside, no doubt curious as to what everyone was arguing about.
"The both of you have promised to support the lives of countless other individuals," Caster said finally, leaning back in his seat. "Will you jeopardize and ruin all of that for the sake of a single useless child?"
"What makes you call her useless?" Rider demanded.
"A fool that laments their position and makes no attempt to escape, call for help, or resist it is nothing more than useless baggage. If she neither has the courage to save her soul via death nor to beg for help then what other purpose does she have other than to be offered as a sacrifice to her goddess's ambitions?"
Though they was his own words, Caster's scowl worsened at the thought of someone being sacrificed to Ishtar. Though Bell wasn't sure if it was the sacrifice part or if it was specifically because it was to Ishtar. Surely it was both?
"In any case, there is nothing any one of you can do that will not bring massive ramifications to the city or the two Familias," Caster concluded. "To attack Ishtar Familia means to bring the wrath of the Guild down in the form of penalties and fines, which you have no choice to follow lest you be declared a Dark Familia and be blacklisted and if Ishtar survives, your dependents will suffer in retaliation, no matter where they are.
"That woman will only bring ruin to you if you attempt to save her."
As he leaned back in his seat again, Caster suddenly turned a sharp gaze toward the two Servants who had been standing quietly back of the room.
"What is it?" He demanded. "Do you have something to say?"
"No," Saber replied softly from where he was standing with Lancer, the latter of which was looking away while digging her nails into her arm.
"…You know, for someone who spent so much time planning Ishtar's ruin, it's strange to see you so reluctant to take this opportunity to do so," Hestia pointed out.
"I will tear her down from her debauched throne on my own terms and for my own purpose. Not for some mongrel girl. And none of you have anything of value that you are willing to offer in order to change my mind."
With that, Caster simply leaned into his seat with both arms on the rests and shut his eyes. It was a sign that he would hear no more arguments from anyone.
Save for Caster, all eyes turned Gina as she timidly spoke up despite the harsh and heavy atmosphere.
"Is the difficult talk done?" She asked. "The table's been set so…"
"A-ahh, right," Hestia said quickly with a nod before turning to her fellow deity. "Take, you said that the Killing Stone thing needs the full moon to work right?"
"Yes?" The defeated looking war god replied, unsure where she was going with her line of questioning.
"Then we still have a few days to think about a plan," Hestia said. "You got hit with a one-two punch of learning that that Child is here and then about this Killing Stone. So you need some time to calm down and think about what to do next." She also turned to the members of Takemikazuchi Familia. "That goes for the three of you too. I know you want to help your friend but if you just rush in without a plan then you'll blow your chance of helping anyone. So let's all have dinner, get a good night sleep, then think carefully about what to do starting tomorrow."
She then turned a tired gaze at Caster.
"And I'll do my best to convince this thickheaded king to offer even a little bit of help."
To which the king could only let out a soft sigh as he foresaw the night of nagging that was about to come.
One by one, the two gods and their Adventurers started filing into the dining room, leaving Bell almost alone with his thoughts.
"Master?" Lancer began. "Are you all right?"
"Lancer…what should I do?" Bell asked back.
He wanted to save Haruhime but he couldn't think of a way that wouldn't cause massive problems down the line. If he disrupted their business, which something like mounting an attack on the Pleasure District would definitely do, then the Guild would sanction their Familia as they sided with one of the biggest contributors to the city's economy. Even if Ishtar's Berbera had attacked them first, any counterattack from Hestia Familia would have longer affects on the city through the District compared to the damage done to Daedalus Street.
If Hestia Familia were to be sanctioned, or worse blacklisted, by the Guild then any hopes of helping the Xenos would die.
Despite claiming repeatedly that he did not care about them, this was what Caster was stressing when he made his arguments about not helping Haruhime.
But it wasn't just the Xenos.
Primo's dream of becoming a great mage. Emma's desire to save her sister. Welf's goal of reaching Hephaistos.
His Familia had their own hopes and dreams that involved being within Orario.
The lives and future of the Xenos. The hopes and dreams of his Familia.
Or the soul of a single girl?
Caster and Haruhime herself had said that she would only bring ruin to them.
And now Bell was acutely aware of how true that was.
There was a chance that Ishtar would try to get her hands on Bell again, for whatever reason, but if Bell were Ishtar, he would wait to use the Killing Stone first to tip the scales in his favor before making another attempt.
"If only I let them catch me in the first place…" Bell muttered. That way his Servants would arrive him force and he may have been able to drag her away…if he had even found her in the first place.
"Master…" Lancer began, drawing his attention to her. "As I am merely your Servant, I cannot ask you to act in any way in particular. However, I will say that everyone in the Familia, your Servants and your friends, hold you in the highest esteem. Whatever you wish for, we will come together to help you accomplish it."
"But am I really someone who deserves that as I am now?" Bell thought but held his tongue and instead replied with a simple, "Thank you."
"And that's how it is."
Lefiya was with Loki in Sleipnir's room, going over the details of the intelligent monsters, the so-called Xenos, that they learned about earlier in the day.
To be honest, her mind was still reeling about the fact.
A whole society, however small it was, of talking monsters living in the Frontiers and Safe Zones of the Dungeon, out of sight of both Adventurers and other monsters alike. It also explained the small nagging feeling in the back of her head of why the Dungeon might have Safe Zones in the first place.
People always assumed it was so it could lure in more Adventurers to kill if they knew there were places where they could worry less about monsters popping in on them unannounced. But the new knowledge of the Xenos had made her feel that Hestia Familia's suggestion was closer to the truth.
The Safe Zones were in fact for the Xenos to survive in.
"And so, would you like to meet them?" Loki continued as Sleipnir was too busy looking dumbfounded at the confirmation/revelation to say anything.
"I…yes…" Sleipnir replied after a moment's hesitation. "Although…I do not know if I…"
"Don't want to go back into the dark Dungeon now that you had the taste of fresh air?" Loki supplied and the siren nodded.
"I…yes…that's the one thing I know for sure, even if there are others like me."
"Yeah, Hestia said that her minotaur and harpy are the same. And I think all the other Xenos are the same too seeing as Hestia's planning on running herself ragged making money to bring them all up. Anyway, since you want to meet them, we'll have to wait for Hestia to send them a message first. Then we'll have Raul and Lefiya…?" Loki turned to look at her and Lefiya nodded in confirmation and agreement. "Go with them to meet the other Xenos."
So it was basically confirmed now that Loki Familia will be keeping a siren on base.
Most of her fellows seemed fairly ambivalent to it all, chalking it up to Loki's deviancy again as they didn't know about the fact that she could talk. Which, to be fair, was true in many different ways. Sleipnir was very different from her "normal" counterparts that lived in the dungeon. Were it not for her injuries and scars, Lefiya could say the siren was extremely beautiful, making her wonder if the Dungeon made her that way, so different from her fellows, in order to make her seem more acceptable to the outside world.
There just wasn't any reason that Lefiya could think of for her to be so different otherwise.
Lefiya let out a long sigh.
"And all of this because that Bell couldn't help but help that harpy when he and his Familia were in Melen," Lefiya thought. "And speaking of helping people…"
Her thoughts went back to the previous night in the Pleasure District and the renard they met. Lefiya could tell Bell desperately wanted to help her in some way but showed enough restraint to not interfere with the business of another Familia. That waitress girl on the other hand seemed to want Bell to help in spite of his better judgement simply because she seemed amused at the thought.
It wasn't as though she had any doubts of how such a rescue would go.
She believed 100% that should Bell wish for it, his Spirits would utterly destroy Ishtar Familia without a second thought. The aftereffects of such a thing however…
Lefiya found another sigh escaping her lips as they left Sleipnir's room, causing Loki to turn toward her again.
"What's wrong?" The goddess asked. "They say that happiness leaves you with each sigh you know?"
"No…I'm just worried that Hestia Familia may get into an altercation with Ishtar Familia after all," Lefiya replied. "Especially considering that Bell Cranel definitely wanted to help that prostitute who helped us escape."
"I'm sure you're right but it won't be that bad," Loki replied. "I bet at worst Archer and co will bust some of her 'inns' up and piss her off to try and get her to agree to a War Game and then we'll have another show on our hands."
"That would be for the best, huh?" Lefiya replied.
"I mean there's no way the Guild would just let them run roughshod over the entire district. And there's no way Hestia, who is trying to help the Xenos, would blow everything over a single girl."
Loki then stopped in her tracks with her arms folded behind her head.
"That is unless they found some proof that Ishtar was planning on doing something worse than chasing around Hestia's little rabbit in Daedalus Street," Loki said glancing out the nearby window.
"…Like what?" Lefiya asked.
"We never did find out why Kali came to this neck of the words after all," Loki reminded her. "It could just be a vacation but in that case, why is she still here? Not to mention the Berbera were conveniently stopping Ais and the other girls from looking for you."
"…Do you think that Lady Ishtar was conspiring with Lady Kali to attack Orario?" Lefiya asked, eyes.
"It is a bit crazy, but considering Kali had two Level 6s and somehow had a Level 5 match Ais, even if the latter was Cursed to be unable to use Magic, it would be a powerful force multiplier."
"Do you think they are with Evilus then?"
Loki didn't answer right away.
She seemed to be racking her brains to try and recall a distant memory but it didn't seem to bear any fruit.
"I dunno. I wouldn't go that far, I think since she lives here too and they are trying to burn the place down. It might be indirectly in someway like maybe she's funneling cash through them or they were the ones that built that underground secret exit you used to get out of the Pleasure District but…"
Lefiya nodded her head as Loki let out a sigh.
"In any case, go get some sleep. We had a long day after all and I suspect that it's only going to get longer as we prepare to meet the Xenos. Who knows, maybe we can score some free monster parts from them or something. They said they had a unicorn, right? Certainly would explain how Ais got a horn way back when with that weird Quest of hers."
"I don't think a single unicorn would be able to shed their horn that often to fulfill all of our needs," Lefiya said as Loki let out a laugh.
"Well since your little Casino trip our finances aren't that bad anymore."
With that, Loki dismissed Lefiya and the elf headed back to her room.
Of course, there was a sinking feeling in her stomach that she would not be getting much sleep tonight.
The world was fire and flame.
In the depths of the earth lay a cavern located atop one of the natural peaks of the world. Within lay a Great Spirit, one tasked with carrying the departed souls of only the greatest of heroes to the heavens in preparation for the end.
But they had gone against the will of the Great God and their powers were stripped and imprisoned within a gaol of fire.
Shackled and trapped within a state of suspended animation none too different from death, surrounded by flames crafted by the Great God and placed in the depths of a cavern comparable to the hole in the center of the world, it was clear to all the extent of the Great God's fury.
But the Great God had foreseen the future and told the Spirit thus. Their destined hero would come and awaken them from their slumber…and profess his profound love for them.
But the Spirit held no hope of being rescued. They had resolved to rest like a corpse until the world came to an end, whether by disappearing under an endless tide of monsters or be drowned in ice and fire.
But came he did.
A hero born from the lineages of two kings, surpassing all others in skill and intellect, holding great skill in both the art of magic and hailed as "the king that surpasses all noble warriors."
A hero who wielded the curse sword obtained by his kingly father. A hero who avenged said father by defeating the armies of his enemies. A hero who slew the evil dragon and claimed its heart, earning the wisdom and strength of the gods. A hero who stood gallantly before his enemies without ever sustaining a wound on his back.
The hero crushed all that opposed him as he traversed the devil cave and entered the hall where the Great Spirit was shackled.
A knight who none could deny was a true hero.
Even though he too was aware of the future.
He then reached the sleeping Spirit, shackled and encased in mythril…and cut through.
Through the flames and the mythril symbolizing the goal of the gods with the same calmness one would have in trimming one's nails.
All traces of the prison was destroyed in one smooth motion and the spirit lay fully bare in front of the hero.
And as the Great Spirit awoke, she could only ask one thing.
It was a prophecy written by the gods and told through a wise sage.
A hero would awaken the Great Spirit sleeping in the mountain and the two would fall in love. The two would go on to accomplish many great deeds that would be passed down through legends. And in the end, she would take everything from the hero and bring about his ruin.
The hero knew this and had came to aid them anyway.
Even though he too was aware of the future.
"Love is unnecessary on my path. Feelings are useless. I will continue until I carry out what I must do."
Such were the words of the man who moved like a living ice sculpture. A knight that had the calm visage of a demon born from a glacier.
Such words were said despite being in front of a Great Spirit, beings said to hold the beauty second only to the gods. And yet she saw no emotion in his eyes. Though his words were released rationally they were crude and (in her eyes) not very nice, she could he was determined to see his course through.
It didn't matter what the sage or any of the gods said. The Hero had simply done what he believed was his duty when faced with someone in need.
"I see. I'm relieved."
Though she said this, tears formed in their eyes for the first time like a mortal young woman being forcefully separated from her beloved.
Even though she knew that countless disasters would follow their love, she could not help but cry when hearing the words "I will not love you" in front of her.
"Opposing the wise sage's prophecy is the rational course of action, however…"
As the hero's words trailed off, his icy expression broke.
"I can probably say…that it was love at first sight."
With one simple smile, her heart was pierced through.
The Great Hero who never knew the love of a father, a mother, or even a god.
The Great Spirit who was only ever supposed to move at the orders of a god.
Two beings who never knew love, knew their love started at that very moment.
"That's not true…" came the weak retort as a thousand new emotions swirled in the Spirit's newly born heart.
Even though their love would never last. Even though both were aware of the ruin that awaited them. Whatever regrets that awaited them…even when their bodies were enveloped in her blue flame.
The Hero would never regret saving the Spirit.
The Spirit would never regret loving the Hero.
Bell Cranel's eyes snapped open from his sleep.
His thoughts swirled for only a moment before he sat up and spun around to smash his fist into his pillow.
"Darn it…" he spat out a soft curse that would nevertheless probably have caused Hestia to faint in shock.
Even so, Bell continued to punctuate each punch into his pillow with his self-chastising curse.
As his fist pierced through the pillow and even the mattress of his bed, he hated how it took until now for him to keep to the words he shot at Hermes back in Primo's village.
"'How can you call yourself a man if you can't even save one girl,' was it?"
Even if it brought ruin in his future, he can't turn away at adversity. If he stopped following his heart just because he was unsure of the future, then why even try to be a Hero in the first place.
As he pulled his hand out of his bed, Bell headed to the one person he needed to see before making his case.
The cool spring night nipped at Bell's heels as he stepped out into the backyard.
He looked around for a moment before spotting Fia perched on top of the pavilion, staring at the nearly full moon above them.
"Fia…" he began as he walked over to her. "I…I want to apologize."
"For what?" The harpy asked, not yet having turned to look at him.
"For what I'm about to do," Bell replied, lowering his gaze to his trembling fist. Clutching it in front of his chest with his free hand, he continued, "It's probably…no, it's definitely going to make things harder for us to help your friends leave the Dungeon after. But…I can't not do it…I…"
"I know. You have to save that girl right?"
Bell looked up to see the calmly smiling harpy right in front of him. It was a soft smile, but for some reason seemed like the biggest and brightest smile he had ever seen from her.
"I knew you'd do it," Fia said. "After all, if you weren't the type of person to save everyone and anyone in trouble…you wouldn't have saved me, right?"
She extended her wing out to him and Bell saw in his mind's eye the crying and broken talking monster desperately reaching out to him from her steel prison. Once more he gently took the wing in his hands.
"Thank you," he said, bringing the wing up to his forehead in gratitude.
"Silly Bell, that's what I should be saying to you," Fia said as she took a step back from him and showed her teeth in another bright smile. "But don't ever apologize for wanting to help people, okay? That's what I love best about you after all!"
When Bell stepped into Caster's dimly lit office without knocking, he was greeted with the sight of Hestia with her hands on the desk opposite of the king as if she had spent the last few hours since dinner trying to change his mind.
"…What now?" Caster demanded as Hestia stepped aside, allowing Bell to walk right up to to the other side of the desk. "Have you come to join this goddess in her useless sermons?"
Bell didn't answer right away.
Instead, he simply raised his left hand up, showing the back of his hand to the king.
Where two distinct red lines and one faded one in the shape of a flame could be seen.
Caster's eye brow raised slightly as the king's eyes bore into the Command Seals.
"…I trust you understand what will happen if you infuriate me?" He asked softly.
"I know," Bell replied with a short nod. "But…this is the only way I can show you that I'm serious about this."
The second seal lit up as Bell spoke.
"Hear me, my beloved heroes!"
Hestia took a step back just as blue wisps lights began to swirl into the room.
Berserker's massive form appeared first, taking a kneeling position at the door with the floorboards groaning under his massive size.
Lancer appeared next, standing to the left, a small smile forming on her face as she stared at Bell's back.
Rider materialized by Lancer's side with her hand one her cheek and a wry smile of her own as if expecting the outcome.
Berserker's hand then shot up to his shoulder as Assassin slid into view on top of it, using the minotaur's hand to keep herself from sliding off. Her face was blank as if she wasn't sure what to think of what Bell was doing.
Saber formed across from Lancer, to Berserker's right. The knight simply nodded his head, awaiting Bell's Command.
And finally, Archer appeared, arms crossed over his chest as he heaved an exasperated sigh.
"By the power of my Command Seal, I beseech my Servants! 'Destroy Ishtar Familia by night's end!'"
The words had been carefully chosen. It was already clear that Caster would not accept anything involving Haruhime specifically. But when Bell thought about it, it was strange that someone as prideful as Caster would have allowed Bell to keep something that could assume any sort of control over him, even symbolically. Bell had no doubt in his mind that a Servant as powerful as Caster didn't have a way to resist or counteract the ability of the supposed "Supreme Order" of the Command Seal. He had also confirmed Bell's worries with his threat.
Thus the only thing he could do was word it in a way that allowed him to give up the Command Seal as an offering in exchange for the destruction of Ishtar Familia.
The magic contained within flashed red and illuminated the dimly lit office.
The ticking of the clock in the room seemed to echo in the night before Caster made to respond to Bell's insolence.
But Caster barely reacted at all. Bell had expected even a chuckle or sigh but there was nothing at all. Even so, a complicated expression revealing countless emotions swirled within the king's form.
Caster simply slid his seat back before placing both hands on his desk to push himself up and uttered three simple and quiet words.
"Very well then."
And like that, the War was on.