Chapter 79: Building the Foundation

He crossed his arms over his chest as he approached, doing his best to appear confident, yet he privately wondered how the best way to approach was. Unseen to everyone else, he had run through several different methods by which he should be walking in order to appear confident and commanding.

Alois' method had been a little difficult for him to mimic, mainly because swinging his arms so animatedly was a little beyond him and he was genuinely worried that he would end up throwing his shoulders out of place if he swung them back and forth like that. It left him more than a little bewildered as to how the man was able to achieve something like that in the first place.

Catherine's method was a bit easier but he lacked the general intimidation that she held. Watching her march towards someone with her face held in an ice cold grimace of focus just held something different when she did it. Everyone else looked tame by comparison, if that was how they looked to him when they tried copying Catherine, how did he look to them when he tried it? He'd put everything he could into appearing friendly and outgoing because he was the gatekeeper!

Greeting people with a smile on his face and making them feel comfortable the moment they stepped foot into the Monastery was something he had worked on developing for ages, not to mention keeping his ear as low to the ground - figuratively speaking - to try and gather all the news he could to keep people abreast of whatever was going on. He hadn't actually figured he'd found something all too secretive yet but it was just a matter of continuing on.

As for his current predicament…

He was much more comfortable when his greatest concern was getting someone to turn their frown into a smile. Harold had no illusions about the difficulty of command, he always held respect for those who had the positions in the first place. They were the sort of people who really worked hard for their positions and only got them because they proved they could be the best of the best, the type you could actually entrust with lives.

He felt really out of place being given that sort of responsibility, in fact he was certain that he was quite mediocre at the role itself. His experience with people had only ever been relegated to greetings at the gate and having to settle an odd argument when he was placed with the town watch for a couple of days, that was the extent of his job thus far and he certainly hadn't done anything to justify being promoted like this. He was certain there were still plenty of others who were much more deserving of the role than him.

Except he didn't want to kick up a fuss about it, the decision had already been made and if he went towards them and said that he wanted to be demoted again then he might come across as ungrateful. He was truly grateful that he got the role but it was just a case of whether or not he would be any good at it, everything he had done so far had been little more than a mimicry of what others had done. He was basing his command style off just watching people who had been doing this for years longer than himself.

Heck, the fact they didn't even know his name was proof enough that he wasn't all that suited for the role. How can you trust someone with your life if you don't even know what their name is in the first place? It had been daunting then and it was still daunting now. Having all those people that he'd worked with for years stare into his eyes and salute him when just a couple weeks ago they had all been saluting someone else together.

No, they had all been saluting Sergeant Mina and now she was dead and they were all serving under him. Harold had been certain that the position would have gone to someone else but…

Shaking his head, he slowed his walk and turned his chin down, looking towards the ground and letting out a short breath. He was panicking again and everything he had seen thus far of those in command was that they never let their fear into their eyes. That would be a bad thing, if everyone saw how uncertain he was feeling then it was guaranteed that they would probably be put on edge just like he was. The proper thing to do would be to put on a calm face - or work on getting one - and just power through all the troubles.

Bringing his head back up, he put on the best expression he could, which was the same type of smile that he always wore whenever he greeted someone at the gate, and he resumed his walk towards the direction of the newly arrived caravan. He knew it was coming because he had been the one to order it in the first place during the last couple days, it hadn't taken as long to get here as he had expected but that was nothing but good news in his mind, picking up the pace but not quite going into a jog.

More of a brisk walk.

The red hair of the merchant turned, the woman's eyes landing on him and widening briefly as he approached. Stepping around the cart, she placed her hands in front of herself and tilted her head ever so slightly while looking defensive for some reason. He opened his mouth to greet the woman as he approached, though she spoke up first before he could even get a word in.

"Is there a problem here, Sir Knight?" Anna asked with clear confusion in her voice, gesturing towards the cart with her hand and ending whatever it was that he was going to say, replacing it more with confusion. "I assure you that all my wares are perfectly legitimate and that any complaints in regards to the quality of my merchandise are little more than slander against me."

The last part came out a little indignantly, though he was still rather confused as to what she was speaking about in the first place. Leaning his head back ever so slightly and uncrossing his arms, dropping them to his side and blinking repeatedly. Was she expecting someone to have made a complaint about her?

Turning his head, Harold glanced around left and right and then behind himself in search of any other knight who might have been approaching. He spotted a couple other knights, but they were all on their patrols and none of them looked as though they were in any real rush to be heading over in this direction. Which only managed to bring more confusion to him as he returned his attention to Anna.

"Umm…were you expecting to be stopped by the knights?" It felt like the most prudent thing he could ask her, the response she gave was rather quick and she hadn't even waited for him to speak.

This time, she was the one to blink at him, her expression shifting into one of confusion as she glanced at him up and down with a rather strange look in her eyes. "I was not…that is why I was asking if there was a problem…" Her words were delivered slowly and clearly, like she was trying to make sure he understood exactly what she was saying.

The two fell into a silence after she finished speaking, Harold was more confused as to why she had asked him what the problem was in the first place. Did he look like he thought there was a problem? He might have been walking a touch faster than was normally acceptable and he did have his arms crossed over his chest…Did he have an aggressive look to him when he approached her and was that why she asked what the problem was?

On the outside, he kept his slightly curious expression, on the inside he was screaming in horror at making such a blunder, instantly placing his hands on his hips and trying to think of a way that he could phrase this next part.

"N-no, th-there's no problem." He cleared his throat after his voice cracked a little, moving his fist to the front of his face and coughing into it to dislodge whatever was in there. Which in this case happened to be his entire leg. Pulling the arm down, he let out another breath as he tried to compose himself a little more. He just needed to think of this as a normal day. "Sorry, let me start that over again."

Anna raised an eyebrow and nodded her head up and down slowly.

He pointed to the cart behind her "Is this the supply cart of food that had been requisitioned several days ago and signed for the camp at the base of the Monastery?"

Again, Anna nodded only this time she looked much quicker on the uptake. Her eyes brightened and whatever apprehension she had previously held all but evaporated as she let out an amused chuckle and waved her hand dismissively. "Oh, it's just business is it? You should really work on that posture of yours then." Her critique was accompanied by her gesturing to him up and down with a finger, her brows furrowed slightly "By the way you were rushing on over here all puffed up, I thought you were about to announce some sort of fine against me."

Was that how it looked?!

"I am so sorry!" He hastily cried out, taking a half step backwards and raising his hands towards her as he felt mortification flood across his features. In all his time working at the gate he had never once given anyone the impression that he was there to arrest or hand out fines to them. Now he had people thinking he was going to do that just by the way he was walking towards them?

"You can apologise by not shouting my ears off." Anna muttered, making a show of cleaning out her ear as if to hone in the point. Harold winced at her and opened his mouth to speak, though he didn't get a chance before the woman clapped her hands together and busted out a wide smile. "Unless you're going to shout about how pleased you are with my products, in which case I encourage you to scream as loud as you like!"

"I…probably shouldn't do something like that…"

"...Worth a try." Rather than being put off, Anna just shrugged her shoulders and then turned her head to the cart. "If I recall the order correctly, this cart was to be sent down to Abyss, was it not?"

Harold jolted in surprise, how did she even know where it was supposed to go?

She looked back to him, then grew a knowing smirk "The camp under the Monastery? Most people just write down Hillfar." placing her right hand on her hip, she brought her left hand up and pointed it towards him "And considering how shocked you look…I'll take a wild guess and say it was you who requested the order in the first place? Hmmmm~"


"Knew it." She smugly declared, pulling her hand back "Well, considering I have already been paid for the delivery of the requested goods, I suppose there is little else to be done now except for you to unload them." Anna kept the confident look on her face as she continued onwards "Oh and be sure to do it quickly, I'm probably going to be needing that cart fairly soon…but considering you're a big strong knight, I'm sure you'll have those boxes out of there in no time, right?"


Harold took a step around to the back of the cart and stared at the boxes and barrels. There might have only been around five of them in total, but he knew just how heavy food was in the first place and the idea of moving them all by himself was more than a little intimidating…

He took in a deep breath, then turned to Anna and gave her a single confident nod of the head and as best a smile as he could muster. "Don't worry Anna, I'll have all those boxes and barrels out before you know it."

Anna blinked at him. "...I was joking. This is clearly a group effort and if you drop this stuff on the floor it's going to be ruined." a frown came upon her face as she leaned forwards slightly, crossing her arms over her chest and raising a single eyebrow at him. "When someone buys from me, I don't typically pay attention to what happens to it after the purchase has been made but I certainly care for whether or not there has been any waste."

Thinning his lips, he remained silent as the merchant jerked her head towards the cart. "So, while I am sure you would love nothing more than to impress me with your incredible feats of strength-" Harold pursed his lips and rose his brows "-I'm sorry to say that I probably won't be all that interested…that and there is brined meat in there so if you drop that, it is going to smell. And dealing with that is not something that I would prefer to do." she pointed to him "So unless you are packing a crest of the Holy Kingdom's royal Family somewhere in there, I would suggest finding a couple more big strapping knights to help you move some of that stuff before you end up hurting yourself. I don't want anyone coming to me and complaining because you have butter fingers and a bad case of pride."

That wasn't what he intended and he was confident that he could at least move them off the cart, the real problem was carrying them all down to Abyss. He would probably be able to manage lugging one of them down there before he came back to get the rest but it seemed like it would take quite a bit of time otherwise. That and he wasn't sure how long the cart would be around for. He mentally chided himself for his oversight, he should have arranged to have some of the people from Abyss accompany him here before carrying it all down but he got ahead of himself.

Perhaps he could do with a short breather after this was done, something to try and calm himself down. Perhaps a spot of reading, the book that he was doing on behalf of Goetia was still very interesting but…he hadn't really had much of a chance to discuss it with the man nor had he really seen him in quite a while. Sure, he heard bits of him dotted around the place since his awakening but he hadn't actually seen him nor had the chance to talk with him…

It was actually a little bit worrisome.

Last time he had seen Goetia was when they had travelled to Abyss with Lady Nuvelle, he hadn't seemed all that distant but there was something there. Something that looked a little off, like he wasn't really all that present or had his head in the clouds. The fact he had managed to get off more than a few, not quite jokes but still humorous, remarks at the expense of the man before he responded was certainly a little surprising to him. Either Goetia didn't care anymore or he was finally getting used to him. As much as Harold wished for the latter, he was more aware of the likelihood of the former.

He just wished that the man would appear and he could talk to him. Harold liked to think of him as a friend but perhaps that was him getting ahead of himself. Really, all they ever did was exchange a couple of conversations here and there, they didn't really hang out or have all that much in common. Another mental chiding hit him, fighting back the urge to shake his head. Of course they wouldn't be friends, it was just something that-

"Oh, hey Spellbook." Anna suddenly commented, no longer looking towards him and instead looking over his shoulder. "I wasn't expecting you today, but I'm always happy when someone comes to discuss business." The grin on her face got a little sharper. "Unless you're also here to buy something, don't expect any discounts though."


Harold paused at the voice, his eyes widening beneath his helmet and a very conscious effort not to drop his jaw at how close it was to him. It really couldn't be him, could it?

"It would be a poor showing of you to break your declaration of pricing." The impossibly familiar voice continued onwards, unaware of the raging swirl of emotion in Harold's mind or perhaps to taunt him further. "I have no expectations for decreased pricing on your goods and would actively argue against such a thing unless there is a true need for it."

"Is there ever a need for lowered prices?"

"Are you unaware of bulk discounts to encourage greater purchase quantities?"

"Of course I'm not!" Anna scoffed in a tone that would have been offended, except for the fact her indignation was overly exaggerated and she looked as though she was performing at a theatre, placing a hand over her heart as her lips quirked upwards. "I'm quite wounded that you would even believe me so ignorant as to something like that."

"I doubt the ease at which I could mirror that comment is not lost on you." Goetia's voice continued onwards, sounding as monotone as ever. He felt something prickle the back of his neck, as though there were a set of eyes now placed on his back. "Harold. I was not expecting to find you here, though if you are in discussion with Anna, I can only assume it in some way relates to-"

"Goetia!" Harold whirled around, grinning at him and spreading his arms wide. Goetia stared at him strangely for a few seconds, his brows crinkled ever so slightly and a faint curling of his lips, he supposed he had just shouted in the man's face but he couldn't help it, they hadn't run into each other like this in a while. Taking a single step forwards, he briefly caught Goetia widening his eyes before he wrapped his arms around the man and drew him into a hug.

He was feeling a little stressed and needed something familiar, right now that was Goetia. At least he didn't have to worry about Goetia looking up to him or anything and he always knew where he stood with the man as well. He kept on grinning, patting Goetia on the back for a few more seconds before he pulled away.

Then blanched at the expression on the face of the man which could not be described with words.

Releasing him immediately and taking a single step backwards.

Harold felt something build up in his throat, he brought his hand up and coughed into it. "So-sorry about that, I just a little excited was all."

The silence stretched on for a good few seconds longer than he was comfortable with, the fact he could still feel Goetia's eyes burning a hole into the side of his head was something he was acutely aware of, so much so that he was certain he was going to start sweating if it went on for any longer.

"...So long as you keep your excitement in check in the future." Came the measured words of Goetia a few moments later, ending the rather dreadful silence he had been experiencing up until that point. While he did not openly let out a sigh of relief, he did drop his shoulders down and feel the tension that had been in his body slip away rather easily. "You were the one who spoke of being promoted. I doubt it is common nature for those in command to display such emotions while-"

Goetia had cut himself off, Harold turned towards him and tilted his head. The expression on the face of the tanned man had gone tight, visibly biting back the next words he had been going to speak and then frowning, though Harold got the impression that Goetia was not necessarily frowning at him, but rather at something else. "...Forget what I just spoke of. You may act as you wish, but recall how it will appear to others who look to you for guidance. Fraternisation with a foreigner will certainly earn you very little respect amongst your ranks when they are refilled from distant installations."

Those…were words.

They existed.

He heard a quiet chuckle, glancing over to Anna and seeing her roll her eyes in amusement. They then fell onto his before she exhaled. "Perhaps I should look into a business for translating what you say? I'm sure that would earn me quite a nice little amount."

"It would be a niche and short lived market." Goetia replied not even a second later, clearly surprising Anna before her face settled into a more cordial one. "Though it does distract from my initial goal of coming here. That being the need for supplies-" he paused once more, then looked towards Harold. "You are still a liaison to Abyss, yes?"

He was indeed, though it was still very much a limited role that mostly related to the back and forth messaging between the Monastery and Abyss itself, though without an actual figurehead like Aelfric had been for them - according to Yuri at least - it was still a little tough going when it came to getting a final decision on some stuff.

"I am, yes."

"Good. That will make my next task all the more simpler." Goetia's eyes darted from him and towards the cart "Shall I assume these supplies of…That is a large portion of root vegetables and brined meats. I am quite surprised by the quantity." the man glanced between the pair of them "How did this come about?"

"I…agreed to keep my wages the same as they would be otherwise." He explained slowly, he knew what he had been signing up for in the first place and he didn't actually buy all that much in the first place to begin with. "Before the promotion, I mean. At least for a couple of years and in return, Seteth agreed to put my wages into the purchasing of food for Abyss. It amounted to…about a year worth of wages."

Goetia blinked at him once, then looked at the cart with a more critical eye. "This was short sighted on your part. With the population of that ghetto, this would barely be a month, perhaps stretched out at two with the introduction of rationing." Harold resisted the urge to flinch when the red eyes fell back upon him "It will keep them placated for a time but there was little reason to sacrifice your own financial welfare for this endeavour."

He sighed, he could understand what they meant but…

"Maybe, but I wanted to." It was the only thing he could say, waving a hand to the cart "The people of Abyss have been through a lot and not many of them trust the Church to have their best interests at heart. I thought that giving them something like this would be able to convince them that I at least care."

"A tribute of good will, then."

"...I guess so."

"Hmmm." A hum was his answer, soon followed by "If that is your intention, then I shall re-evaluate it. My initial belief was that you intended to use your own wages to provide food for those of Abyss. Though it should have gone without saying such a task would be doomed for failure, while Aelfric managed it his position was far higher than yours."

Harold chuckled wryly, he wasn't quite that stupid as to think that he alone could provide Abyss with all the food it could need.

"Though if it is tribute to inform the citizens that you have no negative motives towards them, then it will suffice. Certainly more meaningful than a speech of good will being delivered which they would have doubtless heard many times before." Goetia gave him a single nod, for a split second it looked as though there was a hint of approval on his features. "This will most certainly suffice in earning you a small portion of amiability from the citizens of Abyss."

Harold let out a breath at the words of Goetia, the man having very nearly done a full reversal on his earlier assessment, though that hadn't really been what he had been aiming for with the food. He mainly just thought they could do with some actually decent food for the first time in however long the last time was, just something to let them know they hadn't been abandoned once again.

Goetia raised his left hand, then he paused for a moment and tilted his head. "Shall I assume that you were to take these supplies to Abyss at this very moment?"

"Probably not at this very moment." He admitted with a slight frown, glancing towards the barrels and boxes with a frown "I was going to unload them first and then find someone to help me carry them down, but it was just a matter of getting the help. I didn't really want to trouble anyone on what had been my idea in the first place-"

He was cut off when Goetia made a noise of disapproval. "Thinking such as that will lead to failure in leadership. They are no longer your equals in terms of status. Those beneath you are not yours to command in whatever endeavour you deem them to be, just as you can be commanded by those above you."

The man frowned openly at him now, Harold felt as though he was standing before his father being chided for something silly once again. "Unless they are doing something that is absolutely vital, then they are free to be repurposed to whatever goal you have. At least, those who you have been assigned to are. Do not doubt your authority over them or they will doubt your ability to command them. The moment that occurs, you will have suffered a catastrophic defeat."

Harold found himself very nearly reeling from the tangent that had been much more detailed than he had been expecting, not to mention all the information that he received was an awful lot to process. The message he was getting though was a little difficult for him to swallow, that was if he was reading it correctly but he couldn't be certain of it. Though, he knew that Goetia meant what he said and, in theory, it sounded correct.

Be confident or people are going to doubt you.

But the way Goetia phrased it was rather aggressive.

"I…I don't want to think of myself as better than anyone else-"

"You are a leader." Goetia continued onwards "You are now, by definition, better than they are. At least in certain aspects, it might not be in fighting or in fitness, but you are now superior to them at the point where you are in command. If you do not demonstrate this superiority then they shall not treat you as a leader."

"Still…the idea of…nevermind, you're probably right." He'd never seen Catherine so much as hesitate when it came to ordering people about and he had not once given it a second thought when it was his turn. There was just something about the way she spoke and carried herself that was practically demanding you listened to her. Then there was Alois who, while still friendly and sociable, just had an aura that could be just as commanding.

The tanned man scoffed "Of course I am right. Though your promotion is recent you have likely not received adequate training for the role." though Goetia was clearly excusing him, Harold couldn't help but flinch a little at the blunt declaration.

It was true, he'd just been dumped with the post due to a lack of manpower. He liked to think he was getting on rather well but it was impossible to tell.

"Returning to my original point, you were to take these to Abyss?" He wasn't even able to speak before the question was answered by the one who posed it in the first place. "In which case, this works out in accordance with my own agenda. I have reason to return to Abyss and your presence will likely make the discussion I intend to have with what passes for a command structure less complicated."

That part of the conversation, he did understand. Harold found that he had barely enough time to blink before Goetia waved his hand and the barrels vanished in a flash of light, it looked like the very air opened up around them to reveal a black nothingness which sucked them in before snapping shut. He shuddered at the sudden disappearance, then glanced at Goetia. Now noticing that Anna was just staring at where the supplies had been with a bemused expression.

He wondered if that was what he looked like the first time he'd seen Goetia do something like that.

"Did you just teleport the supplies to Abyss?" He felt the need to ask, but at the same time he could feel as though that wasn't the correct answer. Having seen and experienced Goetia's teleportation first hand, he could sense as though there might be something more to what happened. Then again, he wasn't really a mage in the first place so he didn't-

"I sense doubt in your voice." The curious tone of Goetia put an end to his thoughts, he looked at the expression of the man and noticed that there was clear interest in his features, his crimson eyes gleaming with something. It was a little strange to see that look on his face. "Do you believe that what I performed was not spatial transportation?"

…Those were words. That existed.

"Uhm…it…didn't really look like a teleportation spell?" He ventured with a shrug of the shoulder, he probably looked as unsure as he sounded. To be completely honest with himself, Harold wasn't even sure what Goetia was after in the first place.

The intrigued look remained on Goetia's expression for a few seconds longer before it faded away, replaced by the usual mask of indifference save for the slight hint of approval in the eyes of the man. Harold mentally cheered at that, it meant that he was probably right. So that was a nice enough feeling for him.

"You would be correct. It did not. I merely placed the supplies into a different plane of existence for the time being. They will remain there - undamaged - until I return them once again."

"...You really like to show off, don't you Spellbook?" The mirthful tone of Anna rang out a second later.

Harold couldn't help it.

He laughed at the deadpan expression on Goetia's face.

He could feel Harold very nearly burning a look into the side of his head as they walked, the frank truth of it was that he was expecting the question to come sooner rather than later. It was just a case of waiting for the man to muster up the courage to present him with the queries that were, rather apparently, coming to the forefront of his head.

Perhaps he would have answered the questions himself without prompt, but this was just as much a lesson for Harold, if only a subtle one. The man lacked the same sort of confidence that he had been presented with earlier, or at least during their initial encounters with one another. He could very easily come to conclusions about why that was, the most pressing would be the fact he was now in the role of a position he had never once expected himself to inhabit.

Or if he had, it likely came with the belief it would not be made into reality for quite some time.

Having already been party to seeing one individual lose themselves to the burdens of leadership, he was not quite so willing to see Harold suffer the same fate. Perhaps it was because he had grown accustomed to the behaviour of the man or perhaps it was because he saw the chance to act and do so. Once more, he was behaving outside of his usual self, spurred on by little more than a mere whim.

Though…this one was not so egregious as past actions.

When Harold did finally make a clearing noise with his throat, he inclined his head ever so slightly in the direction of the man. Internally, he was…perhaps not relieved, but grateful that Harold had not disappointed him and mustered up the courage.

"Not that I'm against exercise, but how come we're walking down there?" The question was posed to him with a bit more hesitance in the words than he would have preferred, but it was a learning curb all the same. "Is it because you don't have enough magic?"

He stopped walking, slowly turning his head in the direction of the man and ensuring that his face was kept bereft of emotions. Taking a long hard look into the man, he searched for any sign that he had been making a poor attempt at humour, and it would have been a poor attempt. He sincerely hoped he was not taking cue's on command from the likes of Alois, the last thing this Monastery needed was another oaf running around and making poorly constructed jokes that failed in even their simple purpose.

Silence reigned between them for a good few seconds, four to be exact, as he noticed Harold's face twitch. Though it was not an effort to hide a laugh and was clearly trying to mask hiis obvious discomfort, a single bead of sweat rolled down the side of his head from underneath his helmet.

This naturally meant Harold had not been joking and was, in fact, quite serious.

"No. We are walking for the benefit of the citizens of Abyss. Not for myself." Narrowing his eyes ever so slightly, he curled his lip into a disapproving frown. He was more insulted at the fact Harold had genuinely believed he was incapable of something as simple as teleporting. His condition might have been worse than in the past, but he was still far from helpless. It would be the equivalent of asking if Harold was sitting down because he had suddenly lost the use of his legs.

The man relaxed slightly, but that quickly gave way to surprise "We are? How come?" tilting his head, Goetia could almost see the pinching of his brows in confusion. "Aren't they used to you suddenly appearing by now?"

"They accept it because they cannot prevent it." He shook his head as he made the correction, turning his eyes from the man. "Experiencing a storm after having done so before does not suddenly mean you become indifferent to the sight of another one approaching from the horizon. You accept the existence of the storm because you can do nothing to prevent it, but it is far from ideal."


"Those of Abyss are accustomed to my sudden appearances because they have seen me do so before. However, they pride themselves on their early security and their ability to get their non-combatants to safety. Secrecy is their weapon." Raising his hand, he pointed a single finger upwards. "My ability to appear in the very heart of their town with all the ease of taking a single step robs them of this early warning."

Harold was silent for a few moments, then made a face and nodded his head up and down, his lips pulling themselves into a pleased smile. "I get it now. We're walking there so they see us coming first and don't get freaked out, right?"

"...Simply put, yes." Avoiding surprise at his arrival was one thing, but there was another matter. "Appearing before them in this manner serves another purpose. They are alerted to my presence before I arrive rather than after. In allowing them to see me, I am informing them I wish to be seen."

"Like knocking on someone's door rather than just walking into their room?" Harold supplied once again, the analogies he was presenting were rather fitting. If that was how he interpreted the information and compartmentalised it then there was nothing to be said about it. So long as he retained and understood it, Goetia had no complaints.

"It's just basic manners, right? Yeah…yeah!" An enthusiastic nod followed his statement as the smile widened. "That's a really good thing to do, isn't it?"

"...It demonstrates that, at the very least, I am willing to grant them the basic level of respect they would deserve. This is their home, first and foremost, and I remain little more than an outsider for the time being." Pulling his lips upwards, he allowed a smirk to grace his features. "Though, how long that remains true is dependent upon them."

As expected, Harold took interest in the words the second Goetia had uttered them, he was reliant on the man to do so as well. If only because his experience with Abyss - and most likely, his sway with them - would make the proposal sound much more appealing or carry a greater deal of inclination for acceptance.

"Huh? What does that-are you moving to Abyss?" That naturally wasn't the direction he had been expecting, the panic in the voice of Harold was rather genuine and he didn't need to look at him to tell that he was currently on edge. "Did something happen? Are you in dange-"

"Whatever you are currently imagining, banish it from your mind." He cut off the concerned rant before it could truly pick up any real speed. With the benefit of hindsight, he could see how the knight might have come to the wrong conclusion about what was going to occur or what his interest in Abyss related to, but if he had managed it this far through the Monastery and made a…not quite an enemy out of Rhea, but he doubted she would do so much as lift a finger on his behalf.

"My interest in Abyss relates to the circumstances of its current citizenry, not my own. For the time being, I am still welcome within the Monastery."

A long and clearly relieved sigh echoed through the hallways, the two of them making another turn and continuing down a flight of stairs as they did so.

"Thank the Goddess-" Oddly enough, Harold's thanks were rather well aimed. It was very likely due to Sothis he still remained at the Monastery in the first place. "-I thought something terrible had happened with you and you needed to run away." glancing towards the Knight, he watched as the man placed a hand over his chest around his heart and angled himself forwards slightly. "You had me worried there for a moment."

Harold reached towards him with his left arm, placing it on his back and patting him repeatedly while letting out a low - if slightly nervous - chuckle. Once again, Goetia found himself unable to do anything more than stare at the display of physical interaction with a frown. He did not recall Harold being anywhere near this level of intimacy in the past and this was twice in a short span of time that he had started touching him.

His eyes lingered on the arm, watching as it was pulled back and then brought his eyes back towards the face of the knight, who was not even glancing in his direction as the nervous energy started to fade away, one more it was replaced by curiosity.

"So, what are you doing with Abyss anyway? You make it sound like you're really interested in it now."

"I am."

"Oh." Harold made a noise, clearly surprised by his actions and the worst thing was that he couldn't blame him. "How come? You didn't seem all that interested in it before."

He suppressed the twitch at the reminder of his apathy in the past, his overlooking of the conditions and the dismissal of the suffering were grim signs of his failed quest to mimic Solomon. Something he was now certain he was incapable of, he was oddly content with that but it came with a great many inconsistencies that he would likely ponder for weeks on end before even glimpsing the beginnings of an answer.

"True." He could accept his own role in the past, however. "Though recent events have brought the conditions to the forefront of my mind. Suffice to say that they have…lingered in a manner that I find deeply offensive on a personal level."

"Al-alright? So…what are you going to do-?"

"You were there alongside me, you saw the conditions they lived within and your role as a liason has made it apparent that you were subject to more of Abyss than I witnessed. Am I incorrect?" He already knew the answer.

As expected, Harold shook his head from side to side "Not at all…" rolling his lips, the man looked down "It's really not a very nice place to look at or even live in. Don't get me wrong, I'm amazed that they have managed as much as they have." He hastily added on, bringing his hands up and waving them from side to side. "But…"

"That does not make it any less disgusting to witness."

"That's…" Harold cringed rather deeply "Not quite what I would say-"

"That is because you seek to spare the emotions of those who reside there. I have no aversion to the truth." He bluntly remarked, delivering his next words with as much confidence as he felt in them. "Abyss is physically revolting and is not even a place that should be considered habitable. That its existence was allowed but nothing was done to support it is insulting to me."

He grunted, his lip curled down. "So long as it exists in its present state, I will not find myself at ease. The mere knowledge that such a filthy place exists so close to me is…vexing."

Harold to his right looked rather hesitant, though he did open his mouth and speak up, albeit at a rather slow and slightly unsure pace. "I…think I get what you mean?" The doubt in himself was palpable "Maybe? You're mad that something like Abyss exists at all, right?" he did not give an immediate response, though he clearly did not need to as Harold continued on without prompt. "I sort of feel that way too, I guess."


"Yeah, it's…I'm not stupid." The knight exhaled, his left hand moving towards his forehead as he slowed his steps before finally stopping, Goetia ceased his own walk and turned his neck to face the knight fully, watching as Harold's fingers rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Compared to the Monastery, a lot of the other places in Fodlan aren't all that great by comparison. They get, sure, but it's just…you can't help but see all the differences."

"Disparity between humans is a given."

"I understand that but to have something like Abyss right beneath Garreg Mach is…" Letting out a sigh, Harold removed the fingers from his face and brought them back to his side, shaking his head and finally returning his attention to Goetia. "It just doesn't feel right to me. You know? Though it might just be me seeing them living like that and wanting to do something. I mean, that's really what you should do when you see someone in trouble, right?"

A shrug of the shoulders soon followed "We're all children of the Goddess, so it just feels right that we would help each other…It might be more complicated than that though-"

Goetia didn't even hesitate. "Undoubtedly. Though, that you can tell such a thing means you are not wholly naive." He drew his lips into a thin line, the face of a certain human fluttering through his mind. The single wish they had that pushed them so far. "Though…I am not so quick as to dismiss the simplistic approach. You would find yourself…surprised at how far a human can reach with such a simple viewpoint."

"Really? Huh…guess I might be doing something right." Harold beamed, then paused and seemingly came to some sort of conclusion as he started "I'm sorry. I think we moved away from what we were supposed to be talking about." he lamented with a grimace "Sorry about that again. So…you're also mad about Abyss?"

"My hatred of the conditions of Abyss are…" They were confusing to say the least, or rather it would be more accurate to say it was difficult to discern the overarching reason as to why he was invested in Abyss. There were a great many factors influencing his decision and they could all have led to the same result had they been the only factor.

Inaction between Sitri and Rhea.

His own personal disgust towards suffering and fear.

A refusal to continue playing the part of the observer.

Every single one of those was reason enough for him to act and yet they all came together. Perhaps it did not truly matter which reason led to this eventuality but he would have preferred his thoughts streamlined, or linear. 'X' scenario leads to 'Y' action which brings about 'Z' outcome. He was missing that, the uncertainty of his own motivation was troubling.

"...A matter of disagreement with its existence." He remarked after a few moments of silence "I do not believe it should exist in its current state and am now working towards alterting this to a far more preferable existence."

Harold was silent, then he spoke up "Ah!" he made a noise, resuming his walk and smiling more genially "Then you also want to help the people in Abyss as well! That's great! I'm sure they'd be really grateful for the assistance that you're offering."

They would be fools to reject his help, the fact he was personally getting involved in this should warrant emotions far above the likes of gratitude. He was going to raise Abyss from being a skeevy little slum into a centre of commerce and culture that was far more in line with what he had been expecting of humans. There was certainly room enough for it, an underground paradise,

Externally, he hummed in agreement with Harold "Though I am intending to offer more than simple help. With the loss of Aelfric, Abyss is currently without a centralised leadership and my opinion of the four that remain is they lack the experience necessary to govern an entire town. Even if they have yet to make a mistake, it is inevitable that they will flounder."

"I'm sure they'd manage." Harold defended them, a slight frown on his lips "They've managed so far-"

"It has been barely more than a week since Aelfric perished, the very existence of Abyss was reliant on two things." He brought his arm up, raising a single finger "His capital-" a second finger "-and his leadership. Without these two things, the future of Abyss is left to fate. It has only been the present conditions within the Monastery that have, thus far, kept Abyss out of the scrutiny of the Church."

Harold slowing his pace granted him the chance to overtake him.

"Not least of all because of the populus of Abyss being outcasts for either social, economic or religious reasons. Now, more than ever, the Church needs to provide a strong image and there is an entire town's worth of heathens and criminals skulking around an undercity situated directly beneath the central point of worship in the entire continent. The Church requires a reason to keep it around. Before, it would have been at the behest of Aelfric. With his passing, his assets have undoubtedly been repossessed by the Church and I doubt they will go towards the restitution of this place."

He glanced at Harold "That you have been forced to purchase supplies for Abyss from your own coffers is proof enough of this." the knight flinched but didn't say anything in response. "In other words, Abyss requires stability and self-sufficiency if it is to survive. That is precisely what I am going to offer them."

Harold blinked "Huh?"

"I am going to request permission to assume control of Abyss and work to reform the entire town into a location that humans would actually want to live in, rather than be forced to live in."

"Ha-hang on!" Harold gaped at him "Isn't that a lot of responsibility?"

"No less than I am accustomed to."

"But it's managing an entire town-"

"It is nothing compared to a Kingdom." He rebuked him, compared to governing all of Judah, this would have been little more than an afternoon activity. The real challenge would be securing the necessary funds and supplies to actually begin improving the situation. There was a great deal of work that went into it, however once it was all secured, then the road ahead would be simple enough.

"You have experience in managing a Kingdom?"

"Naturally. I was a King, once."

"...Hah?" Goetia stopped and turned his head, Harold was staring at him with his jaw very nearly unhinged, dropped any lower and he would have assumed the man dislocated his jaw. Shakily, he brought up his right hand and pointed at him "You were a…wait…hang on…" he slowly closed his jaw, turning his head to the side and drawing his lips into a thin line. "That…actually makes a lot of sense, when I think about it."

Goetia blinked at him once "Does it? I very much doubt I ever carried myself as though I was of common origin."

"Well, no but I just…thought you would have been a noble." Harold argued rather weakly, then nervously brought his hand up and rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm more wondering…yikes…there's an awful lot of rulers showing up at the Monastery this year, isn't there? Between you and the Holy Kingdom and the Adrestian Empire and the Leicester Alliance…there's also the future Queen of Brigid here as well so this is really, actually, very stressful right now…"

"You are rambling."


"Besides, I am not a King any longer, whatever status I might have held is long since gone. Therefore, I am of similar standing to those in Abyss."

"I-I guess?" Harold muttered, then shook his head "Now I'm just going to be thinking about how to talk to you."

"If you truly believed I cared for what title I was granted, do you think I would have allowed the true extent of my heritage to go hidden for so long?" Raising an eyebrow, he looked the man up and down for a few moments. Receiving no answer, he continued onwards. "That aside I would…prefer, if you did not call me a King. My Kingdom is gone and my people are dust."

Harold visibly recoiled "By the Goddess…Goetia, I'm so sorry-"

"Do not-" He cut himself off, closing his eyes and shaking his head. "It does not matter to you or anyone else." turning away, he resumed his march to Abyss. "Come, we have a brief journey ahead of us and, I suspect, that my proposal will lead to a lengthy discussion-"

"It matters to me, you know?" The words of Harold brought him to a halt "I…well…I can't really understand what you've lost but…I'm…if you need a friend or something…"

"Harold. I am not going to discuss this further with you." He remarked, trying to keep the edge from his voice but making his words curt enough to inform the knight that he meant what he said. He was not going to discuss the loss of his people, not now that he played a role in their extinction, especially with the death of Sitri. Not even the hope that others had survived could ease his concerns…because if he had killed one over a difference of opinion, how likely was it he would kill another?

"...Alright, Goetia…" Harold did not sound as though he wished to drop the subject, though he fortunately did just that. For the rest of the walk, they did not speak to one another again, Though it was a short journey, he could find himself barely at ease with the silence.

Instead, he turned his mind to the future, thinking on how he would secure the cooperation of those in Abyss. The words of Dorothea played on repeat in his mind, or their general message did. Ensure that those of Abyss genuinely believe he did care for their existence. That was the greatest hurdle in his mind, everything else was a matter of logistics, that which he was accustomed to handling.

Human mentality on the other hand…

They often seemed to reject that which would improve their lives based on their emotions or limited viewpoint.

Whatever the future held, he was not privy to it.

AN: Goetia on his way to play 'Town Simulator - Fodlan edition'

Omake: Till they are gone.

It was a strange thing to consider, perhaps more than strange. She had been aware of his death because it was a given, to be summoned as a Servant was to say that you had perished at some point, at least the usual way in which one was qualified to be summoned as a Servant.

Chaldea had no shortage of rule breakers to that little presumption, but it was still considered the de-facto criteria to be a Servant.

Yet…this was different…

She stared at the photo hanging on the side of the wall, the one thing that - apparently - the head doctor had very nearly died trying to grab from the flight from the original Chaldea and brought with him. If she had heard of that before context was revealed, she would have called him a sentimental fool. Though, once she met the doctor and saw the photo he had saved…

She could understand well enough why the man had gone to such lengths to keep something safe. Especially since there would never be anything like it again. Through all the impossibilities he had done, Goetia had finally outdone himself. Killing himself in such a manner that made it a true impossibility for him to ever return.

There was a hiss of an opening door behind her, soon followed by sharp intake of breath. She already knew who it was, considering there was no reading or sense of a Servant about the newly arrived individual and there were few else besides him who would approach the medical office in the first place.

"Hey…Seiros, right?" The voice of Romani Archaman called out to her from the doorway, the gentle rhythm of his footsteps followed as he entered the room. She did not turn to greet him initially, but she acknowledged him with a hum. A silence followed before he spoke up again, slightly strained. "Is there something you need? I'm not all that good at treating Servant injuries…hehe, that's more Nightingale's speciality and-" he cut himself off.

Seiros knew why he had done that, most likely because he had seen what she was now holding in her hands. Having taken it from the wall to examine it closer. It was such an odd thing to see that it required a closer examination.

"...You…er…that photo…" Romani's voice turned slightly different "It's…a little fragile so could…uhm…" there was a moment before he took in a single breath. "Could you please hang it back up? I'm not accusing you of being clumsy, it's just that-"

She felt her lips curl up, shaking her head from side to side. "You need not explain something such as that to me. This is the final keepsake you have of him…" with a slow movement, she returned the photograph to its original place on the wall, turning fully to stare at the doctor once it was secure, catching him in the midst of a sigh of relief. "It was rather rude of me to even lay my hands upon it, regardless of my relationship with him."

Romani waved his hand "Nah, that's just…that's just me being a worrywart is all." he chuckled wryly, glancing at the photo. "I'm not even confident in taking it off the wall. I just have this vision of dropping it on the floor and smashing it because…" he paused, closing his eyes and looked to the ground, placing his hands on his hips. "Well..just me panicking is all-"

"There is no need to defend your stance, as I have said." She waved her hand, watching his expression for a few moments before letting out a breath. "...Perhaps it was my own little curiosity. I merely saw the photograph on the wall and who was involved…not to mention it is something of a myth about you charging back into Chaldea to retrieve this photo-"

Romani grimaced "That was stupid of me…really stupid. I'll never live that down with Da Vinci…" a shudder "Or the Queen of Sheba."

"It might not have been one of the smartest choices you could make, but…family tends to draw out the most reckless impulses we have." Her expression softened "Especially when they mean so much to us. I suppose there would be more than a few stories shared about me and my…fascination with clinging to the past."

Romani shrugged "If there are, I haven't heard them." he paused for a moment, his eyes glancing to her and to the photo several times. Seiros could tell that he looked like he wanted to ask her something, he was being none too subtle about it either, something which drew a faint smile to her lips.

"If you would like…I have more than a few tales of my own for Goetia." A wry chuckle came from between her lips, she remembers more than a few of their interactions and their passive hostility to one another. She was curious at which point it became a basic part of her everyday life, she would trade such sharp words with him as though it was the most ordinary act in the world. "I'm certain our early meetings would be…rather amusing from an outside perspective."

Romani made a face of surprise for a moment, then his expression cycled through several emotions before finally settling in on barely concealed gratitude. Though, his next words made it fairly obvious that he was grateful. "That…would probably be the sort of thing I should know about, eh?"

He muttered quietly, a sad smile pulling on his lips. "I know that Makeda has been asking me for more than a few stories of him when we all called him Caster. I think she was just…surprised at what he was doing, is all."

"She is a merchant, is she not?" Seiros inquired with a tilt of the head, at the nod of the man, she made a small noise of understanding. "I did wonder where he got his business acumen from. He was - apparently - a rather talented merchant for the duration at which he did so."

The doctor double took at her words, opening his eyes wide and dropping his jaw "He wh-what?" rapidly shaking his head to the side, he continued on in a tone of voice that was desperately close to a laugh. "N-no way! No way did Goetia go into business as a merchant!"

She smirked "He did indeed…I believe his motto was 'buy low-"

"-sell high…" Romani completed, his expression shifting "...That was always what Makeda said. I think she'd be over the moon at that one." a sigh followed "...Least he didn't take after me." There was a brief pause before he continued on "Why do I get the feeling that's not even the weirdest thing he ever did?"

"I believe there was one time he made an attempt at cooking…"

"Oh boy…"

The two fell into discussion, trading stories between the time at Chaldea and the time at Fodlan, all the while, the photo hung on the wall of the room. Staring at them.

The frozen image of three people was present there.

The dumbfounded expression of Goetia with a party hat slapped on the top of his head while a beaming Mash stood next to him with a slice of birthday cake, all the while, Romani Archaman stood just behind the pair of them with a look that was moments away from laughter.