Disclaimer: I don't own Fate or anything related to the series.
Like always, thank you to Blind_Seer0 for editing this chapter.
Fate/Grand Order: Ring of Promise
Chapter 3: The Time of Remembrance has Come
"Ah, Masters of Chaldea, I see that you've made it this far," said Lev, turning around to face his foes. His smile was wide as he imagined the sensation of tearing Roman limb from limb. Revenge would be so swee-
Lev recoiled as he saw only three figures facing him across the throne room. Mash Kyrielight, the Roman Emperor Nero and Ritsuka Fujimaru. "What is this joke?" he asked. "Where are Roman and his Servant?"
Ritsuka pointed at him, determination on their face. "The Doctor can't be here, but we're going to beat you for what you did to Chaldea, and especially to Director Olga."
Mash moved towards him, shield at the ready. "Prepare yourself professor!"
Lev laughed in disbelief. "If you choose to go along with this joke, then so be it. Come, warriors of Chaldea, rush to your death!"
"Good job fixing Singularity Two," said Roman, greeting Mash and Ritsuka as they exited the coffins after a successful Rayshift home. There were bright smiles on their faces, satisfaction at a job well done. That was a good sign. "Take the rest of the day off you two, you deserve it."
"Thanks, Doctor," replied Ritsuka, suddenly looking tired. The whole endeavor must be catching up to them. They had walked a long way and wasn't a Servant, they would be feeling it in the morning.
"Senpai," said Mash. There was an excited smile on her face. "Would you like to watch a movie with me tonight?"
A nod. "Of course, which movie?"
The pair walked away, talking about their movie plans, Roman forgotten. He felt a strange pang in his chest from being excluded from watching the movie, an activity that he had for years shared with Mash. He gave a heavy sigh, banishing the feeling. It's not like he hadn't raised children before. Well, maybe not directly, since he'd been busy ruling, but he had had four children in his past life. He'd seen them grow up and move on in their lives. But Mash, not even his flesh and blood, had been the one he'd actually spent time with, seen her grow. Was this how every normal parent felt?
Da Vinci watched from across the Command Center as Roman gave a heavy sigh and walked off in a daze to deal with one of the hundreds of tasks he was now in charge of. He exited the room, the door closing behind him. The room was now empty, the various staff of Chaldea taking a rest now that the Singularity had been dealt with and rest was well deserved. Well, most of the staff. Da Vinci still had plenty of work to do recalibrating the systems after all. She was a Heroic Spirit though, her energy supplied by Chaldea itself, she didn't need rest in the way that her human coworkers did. Plus, getting to spend some quiet time alone with Chaldea's systems was relaxing in its own way.
As she taped away at the keyboard, she spared a glance for the other remaining person in the room. Makeda sat on a stool, her tail waving idly in the air behind her as she stared intently at a tablet. She had been doing so since the operation into Singularity Two had begun. Da Vinci understood though, Servants like them couldn't help to verify the existence of those participating in a Rayshift since they themselves were ephemeral existences. Makeda was also new to Chaldea. While they had lost most of their staff, the ones who remained still filled every position needed for their operations, leaving the Queen with nothing to do.
"What have you been working on over there?" asked Da Vinci, pushing a final key and swiveling her chair to face her fellow Servant. She had a few minutes while the computer ran through a system check, might as well make conversation.
Makeda looked up from her tablet. "This is a list of all the supplies, resources and staff at Chaldea."
"What do you plan to do with that?" asked Da Vinci, curious.
"As you probably know, Chaldea is down to Master, Ritsuka, Mash, and nineteen staff members. And Fou, of course. We cannot get supplies from the outside and preventing the Incineration of Humanity will likely take several months, at least. So, that means rationing food."
Da Vinci blinked slowly for a moment. "Did you just call Roman 'Master'?"
Makeda's ear twitched slightly. Da Vinci thought it might be in embarrassment. "I did. Is there a problem with that?"
"I just never expected anyone to call Roman something like that. To me, he's just Roman." She shrugged. "That's oddly formal for someone with a relationship like the one you have with him."
There was another twitch. Her face was a perfect mask but didn't seem to notice the tells of her tail and ears. "I do not know what relationship you are talking about."
Da Vinci swiveled her chair slightly so that she could glance at the computer. The scan was running fine, nine percent complete. With another click, she checked the cameras, no one near to the room at all. Satisfied that they were as private as they were going to get, she turned back to her companion. "You don't need to pretend with me. I know that Roman is Solomon reincarnated. I also know the relationship that you two had in your past life. Are you not going to continue that?"
Makeda's mask fell finally, her expression drooping. "How do you know about that? Did he tell you?"
A laugh. "Roman doesn't tell anyone anything. I guessed and then pulled the information from him."
A slight smile. "So, he has not changed in that regard. He was always so eager to learn something new, but very bad at volunteering information unless pressed."
"Old habits must be hard to break," replied Da Vinci, shrugging. "I'm curious, is he the same as you remember?"
A thoughtful expression that also seemed be a little sad. "He is much different. Warmer to other people. More openly awkward. He…he is like any other person you might find."
"Oh?" That was a curious thing to say. "Do you not like that?"
A sad smile. "I love it. He feels alive, able to feel and choose. The other day I was visiting him, and he was not working, just checking something he called a blog. When I looked out of the corner of my eye, I could see him smiling. A genuine smile. I never expected to see something like that in the old him."
Da Vinci leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms over her chest as she studied Makeda. "Then why do you look so sad?"
The other Caster looked surprised at that, her right ear twitching slightly. She brought a hand up to her face. "I looked sad?"
"You did," replied Da Vinci with a nod. She shrugged. "It makes a great picture captured in art but says a lot more in reality."
Makeda considered that for a moment. "I guess…I am just sad to realize that these changes happened in him, and I was there for none of it. I love seeing him like this, but it makes me wonder if there is room for someone from the past in his life anymore."
"Seems reasonable to me," said Da Vinci. An idea occurred to her and she swiveled her chair back to the console she was working at. She minimized the status bar of her current project and pulled up a file folder. Quickly typing in her password, she unlocked the folder and clicked on the first file inside. A picture opened on screen and she turned back around to Makeda.
"Is that…?" said Makeda, trailing off as she processed what she saw.
Da Vinci nodded. "Yep, it's Roman."
"He looks so mysterious," said Makeda, her tail waving unconsciously behind her. "Why is he dressed like that though? And why the wine? Does he like wine now?"
A laugh. "No, the wine was my idea. And so was the picture. Chaldea was having a Halloween Party and the staff was mandated to dress up. So, I helped him make a costume and he came as 'Count Roman', a vampire. Well, that was the conceit. The price of making the costume was that he had to pose for a picture."
"Does Chaldea have events like that often?"
"As frequently as we can," replied Da Vinci. She gestured to a monitor that showed a snowstorm outside. "It's almost never pleasant outside and the staff spend a long time locked up in here. Celebrating holidays like that was the previous two Directors' method for making sure no one went stir crazy."
"I will need to factor that into my supply calculations. Put some aside for special events and recreation. Those will be even more important going forward." Makeda's tail was starting to wag faster in excitement now. She leaned forward on her stool. "Would you happen to have more pictures of Roman like this?"
"Could I have them?"
Da Vinci shook her head. "Nope."
A frown. "Why not?"
Da Vinci gave a devilish smile. "I'm not just going to give these pictures away for free. As you can tell from this one, each is a work of art. If you want them, you'll need to trade for them."
"Trade?" said Makeda, sitting back up. Her confusion changed into an excited smile. A glint appeared in her eye. "Trade I can understand. What is it you want for these pictures?"
"Information," replied Da Vinci. She held up a finger. "One piece of information for each picture. This first one is free, but the next one will cost you. The information needs to be something interesting about either you or Roman, and it needs to be something I don't already know."
Makeda's smile broadened. "So, not just a trade but a battle of wits. My two favorite past times. Interesting. I accept. Please show me the next picture."
Da Vinci waved her finger. "Not until you trade me some info first."
"I just did."
A moment's pause, and then Da Vinci realized what had happened. "You told me what you liked." She smiled. "You sly dog."
"I assume that will suffice?"
A nod. "It will." She opened another picture. This one showed Roman sitting on a porch, a plate of watermelon next to him and a look of excited wonder on his face. In the sky could be seen the explosion of a firework. "This one was from a hot springs trip that former director Marisbury took Roman and I on. It was in Fuyuki, Japan during a summer festival." She laughed. "I've never seen anyone so excited to see an explosion in the sky."
Makeda gave a childish giggle. "He was constantly surrounded by spectacle and wonder in his past life, yet this is what makes him smile like that? It is truly wonderous how these changes in him have come about."
"Agreed. Want the next picture?"
"Of course," replied Makeda with a nod. "The payment this time will be that I love camels."
"Camels?" asked Da Vinci, looking at her companion incredulously. "Really?"
Makeda's cheeks puffed out in annoyance. "What is wrong with camels? They are fantastically efficient and adorable animals. Strong, capable of carrying people and objects long distances through tough terrains. They can often go as many as ten days with minimal water. And their very form is cute and huggable. There is no animal more valuable."
Da Vinci held up her hands in defeat. "Fine, fine. You've got me there. I'll show you the next picture." She started to scroll through the pictures, choosing another. She opened the next picture. This one featured Roman sitting at a kotatsu, working at his computer. He was slumped lazily on the table, his legs hidden under the blanket. Visible on the other side of the table was Fou, sleeping.
"In his past life as Solomon, he was very fond of sheep," said Makeda. She paused and thought for a moment. "His father kept a large flock, and I believe that was where the majority of interaction with animals he had came from. I caught him once visiting them, a smile like that on his face." She smiled as well. "It was adorable."
"Interesting," said Da Vinci. "You make it sound like he didn't smile that often."
"He did not smile this easily," replied Makeda. "He would smile as needed, but almost only then."
Da Vinci considered that. "I guess that counts as enough information to earn another picture."
Makeda smiled gratefully at her. Her tail was wagging excitedly, and her ears were perked up in anticipation. "You are a very generous person Miss Da Vinci."
"Nothing like that. A deal is a deal after all." She opened yet another picture. This picture had been taken by a staff member and showed Roman and her relaxing in her workshop and drinking coffee. She realized her mistake when Makeda froze up.
"You have m-matching cups…" muttered Makeda. Her tail and ears visibly drooped as she stared at the screen.
Da Vinci waved her hands defensively. "That means nothing. We're just friends, nothing else."
"Really?" asked Makeda, leaning towards her with a suspicious look on her face. "You have matching cups, spend time together in your workshop and he's such a handsome, charming man and you still deny anything going on between you?"
Da Vinci couldn't help but laugh at that. "Roman, charming?" She ceased laughing when Makeda started to glare at her. "Fine, fine. How about this? I won't deny that he's my type, looks wise, but I've always valued our friendship much more than any other attraction to him. I'm an ephemeral Heroic Spirit tied to no Master, so I'm not really looking for a romantic relationship currently."
She leaned back in her chair, thinking for a moment. "Plus, I've never gotten the sense that he would be emotionally available or interested in a relationship like that. I guess knowing who he is, and a bit of his history, explains a large part of that."
Makeda studied her for a moment before resuming her earlier expression and posture. She let out a sigh of relief and Da Vinci had to resist the urge to start sketching her. There was a beautiful melancholy to her, and what artist wouldn't want to draw the definitive portrait of the fabled Queen of Sheba? Maybe at another time she'd ask, but until then they had other things to discuss.
"Sorry for suspecting you," said Makeda. "I see now that you have your own, complicated, circumstances."
"I guess that's one way to put it," replied Da Vinci with a shrug. "No hard feelings. I've got one more picture, want to see it?"
A nod. "Yes please." Makeda stopped and thought for a moment. "I am unsure what to pay as the final bit of information for our deal. Do you have any questions you'd like to ask me?"
Da Vinci smiled, her plan finally paying off. She could now ask the question she'd been dying to ask. "I happen to have one question for you." A pause as she leaned toward Makeda. "Why do you look like that?"
There was a glimpse of momentary surprise that faded into an amused smile. "I assume you mean the tail and ears?"
"Yep," replied Da Vinci. "I hope that's not rude, but it's piqued my curiosity since I saw you. There are no truly detailed accounts or renditions of what the Queen of Sheba looked like. Definitely none that hinted at features like that. Yet, when he saw you in Singularity F Roman knew who you were immediately. So, are the records just incomplete, or is there something else to it?"
"You do not look like recorded either, Miss Inventor," said Makeda, sounding amused. "No, I am not offended by that question. The truth is that I was born with the innate ability to change my form, and what you see here is what my natural birth form is. I would hide and change my features depending on the situation as needed. Most outside of my kingdom never realized what was going on."
"Let me guess, Solomon was different?"
"Of course. He saw right through me, which is why he called me 'furry' when I entered his throne room." A frown. "The story has lost its original context and been changed to him complaining about my legs being hairy, but I do not believe I can blame the story tellers. They did not have the ability to imagine differently. Only eighteen people ever witnessed this form in my lifetime, Solomon being one of them."
Da Vinci did a short bow in her seat. "I thank you for the honor of seeing your beauty then."
A smile. "You are welcome, but since I am a Heroic Spirit and not a Queen anymore, it only feels fitting that I strip away any artifice surrounding myself."
"I agree wholeheartedly," replied Da Vinci. "This is a new chance to live our lives in a much different form, only a fool would waste the opportunity."
She tapped the console and the final picture appeared on the screen. This one was Roman in a suit, hand extended while on the middle of a dance floor. Facing him was a young girl, her hand shyly extended and resting in his. Both had shy smiles on their faces.
Makeda leaned towards the screen, looking entranced. "Is that Mash?"
Da Vinci nodded. "Director Marisbury held a special party at Chaldea in honor of his daughter Olga turning twenty. He called it the 'Chaldea Father-Daughter Dance'." She laughed. "The people who work at Chaldea are mostly frustrated singles with no chance to leave and meet anyone or start families, so it was a pretty oblivious declaration of war to the staff. Roman took advantage of the situation and worked to get permission to let Mash join as his niece. This was before she had officially joined as staff, so it was the first time most of the staff got to see her."
"If her existence was so secret, how did he manage that?"
"Something about how he was her physician and she needed physical activity and socialization. The pair of them practiced for weeks beforehand for that stupid dance." Da Vinci considered something for a moment. "Thinking about it now knowing his original identity, I think he wanted to give her a chance to experience the life of a normal girl."
Makeda glanced away from studying the picture to her. "Mash looks to be around thirteen here, correct?"
A nod. "Yep."
"Thirteen is an important time as it's when a child starts to enter adulthood in our society." She became thoughtful. "I wonder if that was on purpose?"
"It was," said a voice. Da Vinci and Makeda both sat up in their seats, turning to see an exasperated Roman standing in the doorway to the Command Center, rubbing the back of his neck with a gloved hand. "I was wondering where you two had gotten to. Looked all over Chaldea before I realized you might still be here."
"Don't change the subject," said Da Vinci. "Did you intend that to be a coming of age ceremony for Mash?"
Roman nodded. He walked over to the console, pushed a button and the Command Center door clicked, locking so no one could walk in on them. He sat down in a chair between Da Vinci and Makeda. "Please keep this confidential, although I suspect that you both already have an idea about what it is I'm going to say. Mash was created as a designer baby meant to contain a Heroic spirit as a Demi-Servant. This was before I joined Chaldea, before I was even summoned to the modern era. The people who made her did so with no consideration beyond making a vessel. A long life-span was not in the equation, so they didn't bother."
"She only has eighteen years in her," said Makeda solemnly, drawing their attention. Her eyes seemed to glint with a magical light at that moment. "I saw it when I first gazed upon her. She will not live to maturity."
"Unfortunately," replied Roman with a heavy sigh. "So yes, I chose that event as a way to start easing her into Chaldea and to give her a coming of age ceremony." A sad smile. "I figured that would be the closest I could get to giving her a Bat Mitzvah."
Makeda gestured to the picture. "She looks happy there. It looks to me like you succeeded."
"Yeah, but I still can't extend her lifespan."
Da Vinci studied her friend. "Did Mash remind you of your life as Solomon?"
He looked unsure for a moment. "Maybe. Unlike her I got to live a long time though."
She read within the lines of that statement. He might have lived a long life, but there sounded something hollow in how he said that. She made a note to dig for more information later.
"It sounds like you have been a good father to her," said Makeda, looking as if she wanted to reach out and take his hand in hers.
Another sigh. "I don't know about that." He stood, clicked the console and unlocked the door. "Now that I know where you two got to, I can focus on my work. There's a lot to do before we can enter the next Singularity. Have a nice conversation."
Without another word he left the room, the door sliding quietly shut behind him. The Command Center, which up to that room had been filled with their conversation was now very silent. Neither talked, taking in what had just happened. Da Vinci closed the picture and saw that the computer had finished running it's diagnostic. A long list of technical data ran across her screen demanding her attention. She glanced over at Makeda and she had already buried herself back into her own work, staring intensely at her tablet. Not feeling like disturbing her, Da Vinci turned her full attention to the computer console. Roman was right, there was a lot to do.
Author's Note: This conversation was a lot of fun to write. I love Da Vinci, Makeda and Roman so much. This is also the first chapter posted after the NA release of Salem, to which I have now beaten. I had been avoiding any Salem spoilers before playing it. It's interesting to see how their version of Makeda and mine are both similar and different.
So, technically B'nai Mitzvahs (Bar Mitzvah for boys and Bat Mitzvah for girls) as the formalized coming of age ritual that we know today is a more recent tradition from the last few hundred years. But thirteen as the time of coming of age is a much older tradition, so is one that Solomon would know and wish to practice. Fun fact, Judaism considers living to seventy as getting to live a full life, with the count restarting then. If you make it to eighty-three, that is considered your second B'nai Mitzvah.
The pictures Da Vinci shows of Roman are all (except for the last one) CEs he features in. The idea of the CE's as pictures Makeda goes through is from a comic by yanag_f (translations available on reddit). The part where Makeda talks about Roman checking the blog and smiling is from a comic to which I can't find a source (the original tweet seems to have been deleted?) but a translated version can be found with a little searching. Just image search "fgo Solomon and sheba" (or variations) and you'll find a lot of good stuff pretty quickly.
The Chaldea Father-Daughter dance is a short fic idea I had. I doubt I'll ever get to writing it in full, but I wanted to include a bit of it here. Writing a father-daughter relationship between Roman and Mash gives me life.