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re:Birth

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            …I wake up feeling well-rested, but with a sense of light fatigue as though I just want to roll back over and sleep some more.
            Something in the back of my head is telling me that I can’t do that, though, and so I don’t reach for the snooze button on the alarm.
            …Ugh.
            Rather than draining Yggdra’s magical energy, it seems that I’m the one last night’s battle took a toll on.
            …Well, I suppose that’s not too unusual as her energy supply does come from me.

            “—”
            Enough.
            I drag my heavy body out of bed and go to wash my face.
            Last night it was all I could do to bathe and actually make it to my bed, but since I got nine hours of sleep, I’m rested enough to function, and my prana should be back to its optimal levels later today if I rest and eat well.
            The cold water helps to wake me up a little bit more, and I’m able to pick out clothes and dress.
            …Still, I feel too sluggish and I don’t like it.
            There’s no call for laziness at a time like this when the Grail War will begin in earnest soon.

            “Good morning, Roswell.”
            Yggdra greets me with a bright smile when we meet downstairs.
            …Unlike me, she seems to be fully awake.
            I’m glad that at least she got her rest.
            If she didn’t sleep in physical form, she must have been able to escape exhaustion by returning to spirit form.

            “…Roswell?”
            “—What? Oh, I’m sorry. Good morning.”
            …I must really be out of it, as I’m even causing the Servant in front of me to make such a distressed face.
            “Are you all right?”
            “…Yes, I’m fine. My prana levels are still a little low, so I’m just a bit dizzy. Think of it like having low blood pressure.”
            Maybe this was an unexpected simile, but Yggdra starts smiling again.
            “All right. Let me know if there’s anything I can do in the kitchen, okay?
            “It would be a little unfair to make you handle everything in this state.”

            …Hmm.
            My pride as a chef wants to refuse, but honestly it would be good not to have to mind the little things right now.
            In the end it would hurt my pride more to make a mistake and have Yggdra witness that, so I agree and we head into the kitchen.
            For the sake of making my head work, today’s breakfast will be Japanese-style with meat, soup, and rice.
            I need the protein right now, and a western breakfast with eggs might be too heavy to start off with.
            I get out the ingredients and Yggdra passes me things, taking care of the secondary tasks.
            …I almost miss it because of how sleepy I am, but…
            Her attention to my directions is fierce and she’s very careful not to make any mistakes.
            My hand is practiced enough that I can go through the motions half-asleep like I am now, but if Yggdra were a little less careful, her mistakes would trip me up.
            In other words, she’s doing her utmost to protect the breakfast and my own mental equilibrium.

            …And her white fingers nimbly move through the ingredients and cooking tools.
            At first her movements are very measured as though she’s not as familiar with them as me, but gradually her confidence builds.
            I have to be careful to watch my own work instead of the soft curve of her hands and wrists, or I’ll be captivated and wind up ruining the breakfast because I’m so intent on her.
            Beautiful girls are dangerous creatures.

            …At any rate, we make a surplus and sit down to eat.
            The caffeine in the tea goes to my head and helps perk me up.
            It should buoy me up until the protein actually kicks in.
            Like last night, Yggdra eats quietly while making a pleased face.
            The rice is very fluffy, and the light teriyaki on the delicate cuts of beef has a pleasing taste and aroma.
            …As a westerner, this feels a little more like lunch than breakfast to me, but the food is warm and filling and I’m glad that I prepared it well.
            I’m glad that this food is going to sustain me and can make Yggdra smile.

            …Once we’ve finished and are cleaning the plates, I hear the doorbell.
            “—I’ll get it.
            “Honestly, I’m a little glad they showed up. I was worrying that our directions weren’t good enough.”
            Yggdra smiles and waves, then goes back to turning a bowl over under the jet of water from the faucet.

            I wipe my hands dry, and then go to welcome our guests.
            …That’s right.
           Standing at the door are the small girl whose face is half-hidden behind her hair, and the green-eyed young man.
            …Archer and Vienya are both wearing street clothes.
            The air around the both of them is relaxed and quite different from last night.
            “—We’ve been waiting.
            “Please, come in. We made extra food if you haven’t had breakfast yet.”
            This news causes Vienya to perk up, and after removing their shoes, Master and Servant come into the living room and sit down at the table.

            It’s easy to arrange the four of us around the sides of the table.
            Rather than each of us taking a single side, we sit facing each other as though over an interview.
            …Well, that may be a strange way to put it as Vienya is simply enjoying the breakfast with no qualms.
            Archer compliments the food politely, but the same as last night, Vienya says nothing.
            She does hand some rice to her bird familiar, though, and her single-minded focus on food that I have cooked is as much of a compliment as I really need.

            Once the meal is over, I clear the table so that we’ll be able to actually speak to one another.

            “—First of all, thank you for agreeing to my offer last night.
            “It must have been quite sudden.”
            Vienya shakes her head and refutes my words.
            Still, it’s Archer that speaks.

            “Actually, if you hadn’t offered, we might have asked.
            “Neither of us focuses in close-range combat, so it would be smartest to team up with someone else who can and support each other. It’s pretty much just common sense.”
            “—Well, in that case, it’s mutual benefit.
            “Saber is the only one here who can fight at close quarters, but especially if we can speak to each other and trade tactical advice, I’m sure we’ll all be of help to each other here.”

            Vienya and Archer both nod their heads.

            “—But there’s something we should tell you.”
            Archer says so while making the first unsure face I’ve seen on him.
            “You’ll have to forgive us if we seem rude.
            “But my Master is unable to speak, and so I or her usual familiar need to stay with her as much as possible so that communication is easier.”

            …Ah.
            I should probably have guessed.

            “—That isn’t a problem. It’s out of everyone’s control, and I’d only be a burden as far as that goes as I’m not particularly skilled in either mind-to-mind communication or sign language.”
            Or, more honestly, I only know a few gestures in the latter.
            Not nearly enough to plan battles, to get to know someone or even to have a basic conversation.

            Vienya smiles and something in her posture relaxes.
            “—Yeah, I’m kind of glad we decided to join up with you.
            “It’d be hard to cooperate with someone that wasn’t willing to work around this.”

            It feels a bit as though the air in the room has grown warmer and friendlier.
            So far Yggdra hasn’t made any complaints, and so as long as it’s all right with her—

            “—Roswell?”
            I turn to face her.
            “It might be a bit bold for me to say so.
            “But this house is more than large enough for the two of us, and so for the sake of being able to cooperate better—”

            …I can’t hold back the smile.
            We were thinking the same thing.

            “I was about to suggest that myself.
            “There’s the issue of communication as well, and it would just be easier to coordinate our movements and get used to each other’s styles if the two of you were to move in here for the time being.
            “Of course, I’ll provide everything you need, and I’d be more than happy to supply food.
            “It just seems as though trying to reach each other over the phone or magically would be rather a pain.”

            The Master and Servant across the table look at each other.
            Vienya’s expression doesn’t change, but she grabs Archer’s sleeve and stares at him intensely, making Archer start to laugh.

            “—It looks like I’d be in trouble if I didn’t agree.
            “So yeah, there are no problems. Of course I can’t tell you in detail right now, but I’m used to team efforts that involve living together, so I’ll be the last one to complain about this setup.
            “Especially when the food’s good. That’s always important.”
            Hm.
            It seems I’m being praised quite a bit lately.
            Of course it makes me happy. It would be a lie to say otherwise.

            “As long as you don’t mind us imposing, we’d be more than happy to move in. You can have us stay wherever you like as long as we’re close, and it shouldn’t take long to get our things.”

            It seems that Archer and Vienya have been staying in a hotel room not far from here, so it will only take one trip.
            …Well, somehow I doubted that this girl was from the Fuyuki area.
            I may not have been here very long myself, but she certainly stands out, especially as she’s still around middle school age.
            For a girl like her to not be in uniform seems as though it would be a little strange in these surroundings.

            There are plenty of rooms upstairs that I’m not particularly using but have made up as guest rooms anyway, and so I go ahead and let the two of them choose when they get back.
            Like Yggdra and I, they wind up in rooms that are directly next to each other.
            …Apparently this isn’t so irregular among Masters who have a good dynamic with their Servants.

            While they’re busy setting themselves up, Yggdra turns to me.
            “—It’s a little nostalgic.
            “In both good ways and bad.
            “The feeling of cooperating with a new ally is something that I missed, but not what that means in and of itself.”

            …I wonder what it is.
            When she turns her face in the direction of the others…
            Something about the way the light catches her profile, perhaps.
            Her expression seems closed-off and severe, as though I’m staring up at someone who is much older than me.
            …I don’t understand it.
            But it’s true that this girl, who appears young and smaller than me, is definitely a different level of being—both in the truth of her being a Servant and in her experiences.
            This is someone from a different time who lived an entirely different style of life, essentially that of the sword.
            Maybe it’s understanding that fact.
            But she seems incredibly distant right now, an existence as far away from me as the stars.

            …As I’m thinking that.
            The doorbell sounds.

            A cacophony like the world is about to end.
            This sound is the harbinger of misery and misfortune.
            —Aaah, go away.
            I don’t want to deal with you right now.

            “—Roswell?”
            Yggdra is looking at me uncertainly, and even Vienya and Archer are staring from the top of the stairs.

            …Hmm.
            I feel like I have to apologize.
            I wonder who that reflects on, the intruder demanding entry to this haven or on me.

            “—I’m sorry.
            “There’s only one person who would try to barge in here uninvited.
            “It’s a cousin of mine named Rosary. She was the other Master candidate from my house.
            “…She’s a nuisance, but she’ll leave on her own soon enough.”

            And with all of their eyes on my back, I go to open the door.
            …There she stands.
            Really, can’t you read the atmosphere any better?
            I try asking her with my eyes and expression, but it doesn’t seem she can read it in my face.

            “—And here I thought you were going to let me stand out there all day.
            “Really, show some courtesy to your family.”
            Complaining, she lets herself in, shoving past me.
            …I’m surprised she even manages to take her shoes off before entering with an attitude like that, but at least she’s willing to grant me that basic courtesy.

            “—”

            But when she enters the main room, she’s silent.
            Rosary is staring at my Servant with an intense but complicated expression on her face.
            …For her part, Yggdra is holding herself with pride and refuses to be cowed by such an unpleasant stare.

            Still, I’d better do something.
            “—Rosary, that’s rather unmannerly.
            “You know what kind of being you’re standing in the presence of, correct?
            “She’s a Heroic Spirit. I know asking for deference is too much when it comes to you, but at least a little respect wouldn’t be out of place.”

            Rosary continues to stare.
            Until, at last.
            “—Huh.
            “I didn’t know you were running a charity house here.”
            …She has turned and is now looking at Vienya.
            …Or rather, she has only contempt in her expression for the Master, but is looking covetously at the Servant.

            I suppose it’s only to be expected.
            Yggdra, the Servant who responded to me, is grouped as an “enemy” alongside me.
            But other Masters are there to be jealous of.
            …Really.
            It’s like a little girl demanding the same toy she sees in her neighbor’s hand.

            “‘There are more things on Heaven and Earth, Horatio.’
            “Rosary, I really don’t have much time to deal with you today.
            “From here on out, it’s the Holy Grail War, do you understand?
            “—You’ll be in danger if you continue at this rate. I’m working for our family’s victory, of course, but you would only bring them pain if you were to be injured or worse.”

            “Hmph.
            “Time for the grownups to work, is that it? You can’t brush me off that easily, Roswell.
            “—Still, I don’t care for the Servant you summoned.
            “You have strange taste in allies, but I’d think you’d at least be able to draw a better card.
            “—I guess that only reflects on you, but I’m not impressed with our chances.”

            “—”
            …
            Yggdra says nothing, but the air is vibrating.
            The only expression on her face is sternness.
            …I suppose it’s too much to question her capabilities and honor as a queen.
            The air swells with the intense presence she gives off.

            …This overwhelming white aura is Yggdra’s honor and pride.

            To her credit, Rosary barely reacts.
            She simply shrugs one shoulder as if irritated.
            “—So I’m not welcome anymore.
            “Well, fine, but don’t expect that you’ll always be able to chase me out with a threat.
            “—You’re boring me, and tea wouldn’t taste good in this company anyway.”

            Pridefully.
            She turns her nose up and walks back out of the house.

            …Even so, it takes another minute or so for Yggdra to relax.

            “—Really.
            “It may be rude of me to say so about your relative, but what a thoroughly unpleasant woman.”
            She complains with a furrowed brow.
            Well, I can only agree.
            It’s simply not for outsiders to spit on the pride of the Heroic Spirits.

            Archer and Vienya are also looking towards the door with disquieted expressions.
            …Sigh.
            It seems I’m going to have to do something about Rosary soon for the sake of this house’s peace…

            …And so.
            After everything, the sun started setting and I decided I had better devote my attention to more important things, such as cooking dinner.
            There are still some leftovers, but what kind of host would I be if I didn’t attempt to welcome the new guests with an appropriate feast?
            …I’ve been making a lot of teriyaki recently, so I decided in the end that I would go with fish and baked some salmon.
            Instead of white rice, I used wild rice as a side and seasoned it with lemon, and steamed some pumpkin and zucchini as a side dish.

            …The food seems to have cheered everyone up, at the very least.
            I worried after setting the dishes down for everyone because I forgot to ask Archer and Vienya if there was anything they couldn’t eat beforehand, but in the end it seems that everything is all right.
            …I’ll ask tonight, I suppose.
            Yggdra’s tastes are easy to understand, but the others might have some difficult problems with food, for all I know.

            “—So then, what should we do tonight?”
            Yggdra asks after we have taken the plates away and washed them.
            Everyone is still reclining at the table with relaxed expressions.

            “The problem is that not all the Servants may be summoned yet.
            “It would be rather ill-mannered to start fighting without the starting bell being rung first, but…”
            I sigh.
            “—There was Avenger.
            “If we go out to get a feel of the city, we should be on guard for her.
            “Her Master most likely won’t have any qualms about fighting other Masters even at a time like this, and she was aiming to feed her Servant souls when she attacked us.
            “—Still, going out to police Avenger is going out looking for a fight. It’s a problem.”

            “We should definitely go out.”
            Archer says so nonchalantly.
            “We definitely need to compare knowledge and get a look at all of Fuyuki.
            “—If we run into any fights in progress, we can stop them, and beyond that I think that whatever happens, happens.
            “This is a war, after all. I wish we could say that wars were always fought fairly, but unfortunately that isn’t the case, and so we need to stay on our guard in case things start a little too early.”
            Archer and Yggdra both sigh.
            …Well, as heroes I’m sure they must have had unhappy experiences along those lines.

            “There’s the war’s supervisor, too.
            “—I haven’t met them myself, but they’re supposed to able to keep track of the summoned Servants, so we should be able to ask them if the war has actually begun.
            “They’re at the church here in Shinto.”

            “First, though, we need to look at Miyama.”
            Yggdra shakes her head.
            “Last night I got a good idea of the layout of Shinto, but Miyama is still unknown territory for me, so we have to go there if we want to be prepared.”
            “—That seems more than fair.”
            The sun is going down.
            Once night falls, we will step into the world of magi once again—

            …As we walk, I make note of the location of the church to show the others.
            I pointed it out to Yggdra last night, but we didn’t actually go there, of course.
            The bustle of Shinto is already beginning to die down, and Miyama will surely be almost silent, so this is good for us.
            Archer and Yggdra will be able to walk around normally at that time.
            …That’s something to think about, too.
            It might be best to prepare a few more modern outfits for them in case they ever need to go out without being in spirit form, as it seems Archer’s clothes from earlier were the only outfit available to him.

            Thinking about things like that, I direct everyone over towards the bridge.
            If we’re going on foot, it’s the fastest way to head to Miyama.

            …Miyama is filled with suburbs and traditional Japanese religious grounds.
            If my research is correct, at least one of the four directional bases of the Holy Grail War is here somewhere, at a temple lake or some such.
            I might be able to locate it on a map.
            …I believe it was the epicenter of the last war.

            …The last Grail War.
            Apparently it was a messy affair, as something went wrong midway and a number of civilians died in the process.
            However, the Einzbern family finally claimed their victory, and following that, the three families that founded the ritual withdrew their lot.
            It appears that they didn’t close the Grail War down, but instead left it running.
            …In that case you would almost expect for the Tohsaka and Matou families, the traditional participants, to continue striving for the Holy Grail, but…
           The young head of the Tohsaka family, who I of course contacted to arrange my lodging, is studying in London, and for whatever reason the Matou head seems not to be qualified for this war.
            Or something along those lines, anyway.
            …I don’t know any of the fine details, and there isn’t any time to try to find out now that this sixth war is about to begin.

            ……Holding such thoughts to myself, I cross the bridge.
            It’s fairly cold tonight.
            We all walk in silence as the town is bathed in the soft blue of night, becoming a city of shadow pictures.

            We arrive in the park and walk up the hill towards the first large intersection.

            …Wait.
            ……I’m certain I heard the sounds of steel.

            “—Is someone already fighting at a time like this?!”

            Archer turns to look at us and shakes his head.
            “—We’ll get a vantage point and keep in contact. You two approach slowly. Take Vienya’s Moja with you, and we’ll communicate with you through it until we decide what we’re going to do.”

            His clear emerald-colored eyes pierce the night.
            The knight of the bow kneels down.
            The black bird on Vienya’s shoulder takes flight, and lands on my outstretched hand.
            “—”

            Vienya herself settles on Archer’s shoulder.
            His arm wraps around her legs and she puts one arm around the back of his neck.
            —Like that.
            He leaps and vanishes into the night.

            …Her familiar is still with us, and this is a time for work.
            So.
            “—Saber.”
            There is a clarity in her eyes as she nods.
            “Try to suppress your presence as we go.
            “—We don’t want them to notice us first, no matter who they are.”
            She nods again.

            …And we head towards the noise of steel on steel.

            …………
            …Something is definitely strange here.
            The enemies fighting are—

            On the side closest to us, a blond man with black wings and a red mantle.
            He wields a jagged red spear in both hands.
            Two magi stand behind him, a plain-looking boy and a girl dressed in black.
            One of them must be the blond man’s Master.

            …That’s all normal enough.
            It’s the other side of the battle that’s the problem.

            …There are two Servants.
            Both of them are tall, armored women wearing full plate armor, wielding lances like the kind that are meant to be used from horseback.
            And behind the women, two small girls about Vienya’s age, one with reddish-brown hair and one with pink hair.
            …Hmmm.
            No matter how you look at it, this is more than a simple alliance the likes of which Vienya and I share.
            …Those Servants, they…

            “—They’re the same class.”
            Yggdra’s voice is close and feels like she’s murmuring near my ear.
            “The man on his own is probably Lancer, and the two women are both Rider.”

            …But that can’t be right.
            It’s simply absurd for two Servants to be summoned into the same class.
            ……No matter what, something bizarre seems to be going on here.

            Lancer seems to be in trouble, and the enemy Masters are advancing on the two magi supporting him.
            …The prana level of both these magi is weak.
            I see, so Lancer may have been freshly summoned.
            …As such, there’s surely no way for his Master and the other weak magus to defend themselves.
            ……
            …I don’t like it.

            “—Saber.
            “And Vienya.
            “…We ought to stop this if we can.”

            There is no answer from the bird, but it flies away as if in assent.
            —The next moment, red-gold bursts of light like tiny meteors rain down on the scene before us.

            The Masters of the two Riders scurry backwards to avoid it.
            And Lancer and the two armored women stop their battle to look in the direction Archer fired from.

            “Ah—so we’re not the only ones.”
            The Rider with black hair says so.

            …I can make out Archer and Vienya standing on the hill.
            From what I can see, Archer is wearing a stern face.
            “I don’t really want to fight you, but it’s my Master’s order. And besides—shouldn’t it be beneath knights like us to gang up on others?”

            Vaguely, I see the Rider with flowers in her hair smile.
            “We have our orders too—I suppose I should call you Archer, now.”

            …That’s it.
            Their attention has shifted towards Archer.
            Meaning.

            “—Saber, go!”
            As soon as the words leave my lips, she is already running.

            Her footsteps ring on the pavement like a bell choir, and she swings her massive sword with a pure cry, heralding the beginning of the battle.
            Taken aback, the two Riders are easily pushed back when she and the injured Lancer attack them.
            Furthermore, Archer is standing there with his bow at the ready, and can take shots at the Riders at any time.

            “—We can’t stay here now!”
            One of the girls turns to the other.
            Her distressed voice reaches me even where I stand.

            “Hmm, I guess so. Rider, this is boring. Let’s go back home.
            “Onee-chan, Onii-chan, we’ll come back for you guys later.”

            The two armored women disengage and return to the side of the girls.

            Yggdra turns to face me.
            “Do you want me to follow them?”

            “—No, it’s all right. Chasing those four back to their home base would be a bad idea, as we don’t know what they may have planned.”
            The boy and the girl whirl around to face me with shocked expressions as if they didn’t even guess that I might be here.
            Both of them have pale faces and appear to be sweating, shaky with loss of prana.

            “Are you all right?”
            ““Huh?””
            …Both of them say it at the same time.
            They certainly are out of it.
            “…I guess it’s only natural to be confused, since technically we’re opponents.
            “We were walking around town, exploring and making plans, when we sensed the magical energy of your battle and decided to see what was going on, and help if we could. We’re not supposed to start fighting until the supervisor gives his or her word, after all.”

            …The boy relaxes.
            “Uh… actually, the starting bell just got rung an hour or so ago.”
            The girl starts glaring at him like he wasn’t supposed to say that.

            …Hmm.
            So they must have just gotten back from visiting the supervisor and finding this out.
            Given how worn out they seem, they may have just summoned their Servant at any rate.

            “…Hmm. I thought there would be some sort of signal and we would be able to tell when all the Masters were here, but I suppose I was wrong. …Then again, today was supposed to be the last day that summoning a Servant would be possible, after all.”
            Yggdra, who has returned to my side, smiles and rests her hand on my shoulder.
            …What she means by that, I’m not sure, but it feels like I’m being gently made fun of.
            Whatever the case, it’s not with the same amount of malice Rosary has, so I’ll ignore it for now.

            “It’s okay as long as no one got hurt too badly, right? …I see that Lancer was injured, but the wound should heal quickly as long as he rests.”
            As Yggdra says, the winged man’s side is bloodied, but something that shallow is nothing to a Heroic Spirit.

            However, the girl in black folds her arms like she’s not satisfied.
            “Why did you help us? We’re enemies, aren’t we? If the Riders and their Masters had killed us, that would only make it easier for you—we’d be one less fight to face, and you could have attacked those guys when they were worn out. It doesn’t make sense.”
            …What?
            “It wasn’t fair. They deliberately waited for you and attacked you with superior numbers, at a time when your strength and Lancer’s Master’s is low. That kind of cheap victory over an unprepared opponent that never had a chance to compete is dishonorable, even cowardly. And I know that most situations in this war won’t be fair, but we had a chance to help, so we couldn’t pass it up.
            “Vienya didn’t exactly argue with our decision, either.”

            …Quiet footsteps announce Archer’s approach.
            “Those girls and their Servants are headed for the forest. From there it’s gonna be really hard to track them, so we’re giving up finding out where their base might be.”
            “All right, then. We’ve seen each other and gained some information, and no real harm was done here, so I suppose that’s good. Where’s Vienya?”
            Archer smiles.
            “She’s coming. She wanted to get down from the wall by herself, after all.”

            …And as he says, lighter footsteps can be heard, and then Vienya appears at the edge of the road, running towards us.
            The boy whose name we don’t yet know just stares at her with a kind of recognition.

            Rather than joining us where we stand, Vienya walks up closer to him.
            She stares at him from behind her hair and smiles, and the bird on her shoulder opens its beak wide.
            “EVEN NOW! EVEN NOW!”

            …As all of us watch, a kind of understanding crosses the boy’s face.
            A few moments later, he wavers and falls to his knees.

            “Wha—Ein!”
            The girl in black yells, and Lancer takes a wide step forward, reaching as if to support him.
            “Ein—”

            …The boy named Ein seems to have fainted.
            The girl makes a “tch” sound and crosses her arms again.
            “—I guess there’s no helping it with everything that’s happened today.”

            …I see.
            I see, I see.
            “—Then, we should leave you be and give you time to recover.
            “…Actually, will you two be all right carrying him?”

            Lancer lifts the boy easily into his arms as if in response, and looks at us impassively.

            “—All right. Take care going home, and if you run into trouble again, signal us with colored sparks and we’ll come back to help you.”
            Something about the girl’s posture relaxes slightly, and she nods.

            “—Thanks for coming to help us.
          “I don’t really get it, but we appreciate it. We would have been done for if you hadn’t shown up when you did.”

            “It isn’t a problem.”

            …Like that, we bow to each other and go our separate ways.
            The girl and Lancer head into the suburbs, while we return to the bridge.
           …We’ve already seen something significant, and should go before the echoes of our battle attract anything else.

 

            “—There is one thing that I don’t understand, though.”
            In the entrance hall, everyone else turns to look at me as if unsure what to expect.

            “…What did you mean when you said that you were even now?”
            …Oh.
            Vienya has started making quite the face.
            She faces the bird on her shoulder, and then her hands start moving like birds themselves.
            …It doesn’t seem as though she’s signing, but I can’t keep up with what she’s trying to mime to me at all.
            My confusion must be plain on my face, because she turns around and starts gesturing at Archer with an even more frustrated expression.
            He rests his hands on her shoulders lightly and nods along with the movements of her fingers, his face very patient.
            …They look almost like siblings.
            Or maybe that’s not quite it.

            I wouldn’t be able to judge, but at the very least, they seem very close.

            Archer’s smile turns into a quiet laugh.
            The movements of Vienya’s hands halt, and she kicks at his shins half-heartedly as he gestures for her to forgive him.

            “—It sounds like that boy helped my Master out before.
            “Something about a vending machine not behaving or some such.”
            Silently and without any real malice, Vienya growls at her Servant.
            …Well.
            Perhaps I should have expected it to be something along those lines.
            It’s not as though we know each other very well yet, but Vienya has taken meals very seriously today.
            I can imagine her seeing help with getting food as a debt to be repaid.
            ……She’s a young girl, after all.

            “—No, even more importantly.”
            Archer’s expression grows more serious.
            “…Master, if it’s all right?”
            Vienya stares at him for a long moment and then nods.
            “—I don’t know anything about Lancer, but the Riders.
            “I’m sure you could tell that I know them.”

            …Yes, of course.
            But just from realizing that, I also knew that if we were to ask, we would also be asking Archer to expose himself, if not reveal himself entirely.

            “—It’s all right.
            “We’re allies.
            “If we’re going to fight together, then it’s really only right to know each other’s strengths fully, after all.”

            We leave the lobby and go into the living room instead.
            …Rather than sitting down, Archer simply leans against the wall and begins to speak.

            “—They, and I, are from Aventheim.
            “…Yes, from the same time that made it the land of a hundred heroes.”

            Archer narrows his eyes and smiles bitterly.
            “Neither of them was in the same order as me, but I still know them by sight.
            “The woman with black hair’s name is Silvanoier, and her Noble Phantasm is a demonic spear. The other one is Meslieness, and her Noble Phantasm is a holy lance.
            “…I’m sure you can understand that knowing each other, they’ll be able to work together more strongly than a pair of Servants like myself and Saber, who’ve only just met.
            “All the same, I’m sure we can work out a strategy to counter them together.”

 

            …In the end, we all just went to our rooms after that.
            There’s a lot to consider.
            …The land of a hundred heroes…, huh.
            I don’t know much about it, and so it’s not like I can figure out Archer’s identity just from being told that.
            Certainly, looking up legends about the two Riders Silvanoier and Meslieness is now a priority, and it’s probably good that we don’t know Archer’s true name yet.
            It would be unfortunate if the balance of power in this alliance were to be overturned so very easily.

            …After that, there’s still Lancer to think of.
            The winged knight in the red cloak.
            ……Just from his appearance, he must be an old hero indeed.
            Probably, something not “human”, but higher… from the age of the gods, perhaps the same era as Yggdra or before.
            If anything, I ought to ask her about that.

            …But everyone’s tired.
            Today took a lot of energy, and there’s always tomorrow.
            Thinking vaguely like that, I fall into a deep sleep.