The palace was supported by countless towering marble pillars. Its walls were alabaster in color and of proportionately great height. Adorning those walls were paintings and statues of beautiful and handsome people, all wrapped up in tunics and robes. There was not a single livery or decoration in the long, spacious corridor that didn’t stand out. Atalanta supposed that there was a lot of thought poured into making such a marvel, however, from where she stood, the peaceful essence of the forest and plains still couldn’t be toppled over.
“How do you like it, Master? My new abode is finally complete after great planning and ingenious architectural prowess. It certainly looks better than what I had imagined. Well? Well?” Nero swung her arms wide extravagantly. Her bright bridal dress fluttered at her bouncing steps. Her piercing voice never ceased to echo across the arches of her palace.
“It is quite eye-catching,” replied Chaldea’s Master, rather perplexed. Being dragged on by her rambunctious personality was quite tiresome for him, though he tried to hide it as much as possible. Atalanta felt sorry for him. Her poor Master had already run a great distance and visited several rooms with outlandish and sketchy decorations. She was grateful she volunteered on this mission. There was no telling what would happen to him if left alone with these eccentric Servants.
They were shown the vastness created by the Wandering Sea’s magecraft space that was leaps and bounds ahead compared to Chaldea’s. Anything from a forest to a palace, the Atlas institute was capable of simulating it inside a limited space, much like Shadow Border but better.
Atalanta followed closely, crossing her arms. The place is too gaudy if you ask me. It was not that she hated the lap of luxury that came with royal blood, and it certainly wasn’t the fact that her father, a prince who possessed wealth and power, had abandoned her in the wild. She just didn’t like the way the Roman empress was trying to impress their Master with her grand, over-the-top displays.
“What’s on your mind, Atalanta?” Ritsuka turned his attention from the pristine palace to her.
“It’s not such a big matter.” Atalanta walked beside him. “I just do not fare well in the presence of Rome’s lavishness.” She held back from saying what she truly felt, which was that she couldn’t wait to get Nero away from Master.
“This is certainly bigger than its actual size outside. I must commend Da Vinci for achieving such a feat. Perhaps I shall shower her desk with rose petals.”
“Da Vinci will probably think it’s a nuisance,” replied Atalanta coldly.
“Really, O great huntress? Perhaps a more extravagant gesture is to her taste? Very well, I shall decorate her workshop with effigies of my likeness.”
The Archer sighed, shaking her head.
“Nevermind that. We have arrived at my personal chambers,” announced the empress. She spun around once they reached a large double-door entrance to face their Master.
“Finally,” remarked the Master with a sigh of relief. “There were just so many places you put in here that we wound up spending a long time checking each one. Da Vinci needed to make sure nothing was wrong, so she’s relying on me to make a report before the end of the day.”
Nero chuckled. “Don’t fret, Master. This is the final room, and I assure you it has the finest luxuries humanity has to offer.”
When the Saber unveiled her extravagant room, Atalanta was almost lost at the sight of the small lustrous pool of water in the middle of the chamber. Not far from it, there were a handful of steps leading to her enormous bed which could fit roughly five Master-sized individuals. The oval-shaped room was like a porcelain vase with arching walls and tall, draping ruby curtains.
“Well? Are you speechless, Master and Archer?” Nero was proud of herself. “I get that it has its charms, but it does not compare to the real thing in my Rome’s palace. Nevertheless, it shall do, and I am happy that it is mine.”
Ritsuka glanced around the wide space. “Everything seems to be in order. No anomalies or fissures in terms of magecraft. I think that should be all.” Atalanta exhaled, relieved, as Ritsuka returned to the entrance. “That should be all then,” she said to him.
“Hmmm? Where are you going?” Nero smiled while tilting her head to the side.
“We’re heading back.” Ritsuka seemed surprised at her reaction. “It’s getting late so I’d rather report to Da Vinci as soon as possible and go to sleep.”
“But I thought we were going to spend the night together here, Master.”
Ritsuka and Atalanta’s jaws dropped at those words.
“Am I wrong?” She patted the valley of her chest. “Is that not the reason why you have so insistently requested to enter my bedroom?"
Atalanta wanted to retort so much. How could a woman be this delusional? It's like she thought the entire world revolved around her. “There is no way that is going to happen. You must understand that Master has no business with the likes of you, isn’t that right, Master?”
“Eh?” Ritsuka was taken aback by this development.
“Hm?” The empress raised a brow. “And what makes you say that? Is it because you are conscious of other female’s courtship on our dear Master?” She grinned. “What’s wrong, Archer? Are you afraid?”
Frowning, Atalanta didn’t get what this crazy woman was implying. Truly, the statement had left nothing but questions for the fabled huntress of old. “If you mean by a contest against you, then I shall accept whatever terms you come up with. As long as it entails a display of marksmanship, I will not lose.”
Nero sauntered over the flustered huntress, taking her side and leaning over to her pointed cat-like ear. She whispered in a soothing voice, “If you don’t make a move soon, someone will take him instead.” Atalanta stiffened at those words.
What a conniving woman. The huntress narrowed her eyes at the Saber. It was common knowledge their Master’s unique charisma and kindness had won more than a handful of women in their midst. Although, the reason actually varied from person to person. Some believed it was his mundane flaws while others believed it’s his humility and selflessness. And for others, it was a combination of both. That, and with the fact that you just couldn’t help but be good friends with him. That being said, Atalanta didn’t count herself among the group.
Atalanta, for the longest time, thought of Ritsuka Fujimaru as a companion that she thought she could entrust her back to. Since their brief partnership at Okeanos, she thought that he was an intriguing man. Not an all-powerful Master by any means, but a Master who wasn’t afraid to admit his weaknesses. He was still too immature but that in and of itself was a singular nature that set him apart from the rest of the men she had come to know.
Their relationship was one of mutual respect though, and nothing more. She could never distract him with meaningless fluff, not when there was a ton of pressure already on his shoulders.
“You shouldn’t concern yourself with my well-being,” Atalanta said, narrowing her eyes. “I have absolutely no intention of doing that.”
Nero seemed bewildered at that. “Then why do you interfere with my advances?”
“That’s…..” Atalanta’s thoughts came to a halt.
“You cannot fool me, great hero of Greece,” whispered Nero. “Your true motive is much easier to discern.”
“I don’t really know what’s going on,” Ritsuka interrupted, putting himself between the two glaring women, “but, I’m really sorry. I appreciate the offer, but I still have a lot to do.”
“I digress, Master.” Nero approached the small pool and then turned back towards them, pulling at her bodice and tugging it down all the way until the queer bridal dress peeled off of her perfect skin. She unveiled herself in all her glory, forcing Atalanta to make a snap decision and shielding her Master’s eyes with her hands. Atalanta’s tail pointed straight up when she witnessed the unveiling of Nero’s sinful body. “For I thought we could explore each other’s bodies without restraint. Moreover, I thought you would like to discover the true taste of ROMA.”
It wasn’t easy turning down the blonde. Atalanta practically dragged her Master across the long stretch of the palace, with the empress shouting and following close behind. And when they escaped the room, the fleet-footed archer carried him all the way over to the exit. Nero was only able to catch up to them thanks to Ritsuka’s protest, settling the two down.
They were only able to escape the entrapment when their Master promised to visit Nero again sometime for a cup of tea. Atalanta swore she would meddle in this affair in the event that it becomes a reality.
“Guess I’ll get going,” Ritsuka said as they parted ways. “Thanks again for accompanying me.”
“It’s not a problem, Master.” She felt conscious at his blushing cheeks, fearing that he might’ve seen Nero in all her nakedness. “Although, I must warn you to be careful with that woman. She does not hold a good head on her shoulders.”
They parted ways after that.
Hearing his footsteps disappear into the distance, Atalanta took a deep breath, facing the now unpopulated base. The air in here was like an enigma mixed with the essence of magecraft. It was filled with tension. Any individual wouldn’t be able to relax completely under normal circumstances. Regardless, this was going to be Chaldea’s home now. It was best to welcome any fleeting moments of warmth between whenever they could.
Ritsuka once told her when they reunited that he had fallen into despair once and seeing her lively tail and beautiful dress had brightened things up for him. That fool said it all so smoothly with a smile, and yet, it made her heart wrench.
Thinking back on Nero’s behavior, Atalanta’s lips dove further into listlessness. This wasn’t the first time she felt her spirits fall like a rock into a lake.
Yesterday, they visited the Valkyries. Hildr in particular was having nice moments with the Master. The two really hit it off, both being cheerful and upbeat, discussing books and myths.
The day before that, Nightingale had used up a lot of their time with her talks about Ritsuka's mental health. But Atalanta wasn't fooled. She saw through the Berserker's emotionless mask. No other woman could wield such a burning gaze. Oblivious to that, Ritsuka had a good time.
While he smiled in the presence of these women, Atalanta felt herself sinking deeper into an abysmal well.
"This feeling is strange. It’s powerful and scary." She looked down at her feet, clenching her chest. “I don’t want this to get in the way of what I already have.”
After shaking her head free of these troublesome thoughts, Atalanta passed by the ongoing constructions and remodeling of their area in the Wandering Sea. The Captain was a busy worker despite showing not a hint of motivation. He, and along with all the cute members of his crew, always gave her a reason to linger around.
She was hiding atop a piece of tall machinery, just a few meters below the cavern ceiling. No one would look for her there. It was a perfect place to take a break and watch the crowd. There were several groups of Servants traversing the walkway. Most of them were coming from the simulator. As heroes, it was ingrained in their bodies to take any opportunities in testing their strength. She remembered how Chiron came to her with that annoying smile of his, and how he tried to correct some of her stances. That man was truly an annoying one, despite being a sage and renowned mentor.
There was a great number of shouts among the ruckus of warriors there. Atalanta managed to pick out a certain figure among them. This one was a vessel of the goddess Artemis, stripped down into a faux Divine Spirit. Nonetheless, she was Artemis in the flesh. The goddess dashed across the crowd. The absence of her beloved on her shoulders spoke the reason for her hurry.
I have not gotten in touch with her in a while. Perhaps I shall pay my respects. Atalanta stood up. Her azure skirt fluttered before she descended in swift, careful steps. It was as if she was flying in mid-air. There are still so many aspects of life I have trouble dealing with. This feeling for instance. It gets in the way, and I don’t know how to deal with it. I hope goddess Artemis shows me even a tiny shred of her wisdom.
“Thanks for all your hard work.” The little girl known as Da Vinci stored her records on her desk. “I’ve been so busy repairing and upgrading all our equipment that I couldn’t run a thorough check on the dormitories we’ve set up.”
“Feel free to call me anytime. I have more free time than I know what to do with.” Ritsuka grinned. “Let me know if there’s anything else. I’ll get it done in a jiffy.”
“That’s the spirit! It’s reassuring when our very own Master is so chipper.” Da Vinci’s expression softened. “The recent ventures took a toll on you no doubt, but it’s impressive that you bounced back so easily.”
“I wasn’t that bad, was I?”
Da Vinci appeared as if she heard a funny joke. “You were like a living husk, and I don’t blame you. The nature of our work has too much weight for a normal person.” The last few words sounded almost melancholic. “But, it’s great that you recovered quickly. I wouldn’t know what we’d do if our only Master went down and was unable to fight.”
Ritsuka scratched his head, remembering the harsh trials he had undergone and the reason behind his resolve. “Well, I had my inspirations.”
“I see.” The girl paused for a while, checking a message that came in on her computer. “By the way, how was your date with Atalanta? If you don’t make a move on her, you won’t progress at all.”
“About that…. I honestly don’t know if she even sees me that way.” A forlorn smile split his lips. “She’s the great huntress after all. Unless I beat her in a fair race, there’s no possibility of me earning her approval. On top of that, she has that vow that she made. That’s a pretty tall mountain to climb. No, that’s actually sugarcoating it.”
“But you do have a pretty strong bond with her.”
“I’ve mostly been saved by her.” He sighed. “At first, I was pretty nervous around her. The tale of the Argonauts is one that I visit over and over again. So, meeting the real Atalanta really knocked the wind out of me.”
Da Vinci grinned. “Love at first sight?”
“I wouldn’t say that. I just really looked up to her.” He started blushing despite trying hard not to. “Or maybe… It actually was? I can’t be sure. We were together at almost every Rayshift, but we seldom talked to each other, even during lunch. She did teach me tips on hunting before. But I think I only got really interested in her when we-”
“Yeah, yeah, enough of your love story.” She waved her hand away at him. “Just go ahead and make a move on her already. If you don’t, then when will you?”
“That’s a fair point.”
“Think about it. Anyway, go to sleep. You must be really tired taking care of all your Servants’ antics.”
Da Vinci nudged him out of her office. She was quite cheerful about it, too, which made him judge just how sincere she was, or if she just wanted him out so she could continue her work. Regardless, Ritsuka was too terrified of revealing his feelings to the beautiful Archer. She was not only strict but blunt when it came to things like this.
A creeping chill ran up his spine while imagining her coldly staring into his soul after his clumsy confession. Although, she would look beautiful while doing so.
“Oh, Atalanta, have you seen darling anywhere? I haven’t seen him at all the entire day.” Artemis came to a stop. They were in a vacant hallway that split off in multiple directions. It was reminiscent of Chaldea’s old layout. Much of the Wandering Sea had been transformed in such a short amount of time. Since the mages of this Atlas Institute were far from cooperative, most of the dirty work had been placed on the staff and the Servants. If it weren’t for the ingenuity and talent of the Heroic Spirits, they wouldn’t have been able to transform this place into a fitting stronghold.
But for it to be reshaped into resembling their old home, she just hoped that whoever owned this place wouldn’t feel violated. Incurring the wrath of powerful mages was always not such a good idea.
“I’m afraid not.” The huntress shook her head. Still, she couldn’t believe she could converse with the goddess like this. Half of herself still didn’t believe that this was the same goddess she worshipped. Regardless, she tried to calm herself before she
Artemis pouted. Her gaze was distant and unattentive. Atalanta wasn’t even sure her thoughts focused on the present. “That bear must be flirting with another woman again. I need to look for him some more. Well, it’s been nice meeting you again. Take care now!”
“Please, wait!” Atalanta stepped forward as the other Archer floated away. How could such a powerful figure be so dull? And why does she cling so much to that adulterous bear all the time? Atalanta had no way of explaining that woman’s behavior. "I wish to hear your counsel on a- Wait!” Glancing up after steeling her heart, she noticed the goddess veering away around the corner and into nothingness.
There was no reason why Atalanta couldn’t keep up. But unexpectedly, a lady in love was a frightening opponent.
“Damn it, where could she have gone off to?” She cursed under her breath after going through all the places she thought she might find her. Of course, she also checked where that bear could be lurking. Men were easy to read. Perverted men even more so. Therefore, the women’s bath was the first place she checked out.
The loud murmurs of the Wandering Sea diminished entirely once she went around full circle, turning the place over, only to discover that her efforts were futile. Turning around, she headed back to her room, unsatisfied and gloomy about not being able to catch her hunt.
However, upon arriving close to her destination, she found a surprising visitor standing imposingly in front of her door. She stopped dead in her tracks and addressed the person.
“What are you doing here?” Crossing her arms to her chest, Atalanta shot the woman a skeptical look. “Wasn’t our business with your room done already?”
“You took your time, Archer.” Nero chuckled proudly. Her outfit made Atalanta frown. She was not wearing her usual clothing but a revealing one-piece dress that had its cleavage splitting apart down the middle to the point where it showed her navel. “But that is not what I came here for. This matter is far more important than my dwelling. Yes, it’s a matter that revolves around you, Archer.”
“Me? What do you want with me?”
“You have been keenly following Master all through his journey, sending your arrows right to where evil is directed at Master and his allies, and I commend you for that. No one in Chaldea debates who is closest to him, not even Mash. But I’m afraid that has to change. I want you to step down from your position as Master’s attendant.”
Atalanta was confused yet annoyed by that arrogant tone of hers. “Don’t be foolish.”
“I know you will never back down from that, which is why I’m offering you a challenge.” Nero grinned.
“A challenge?” The Archer was skeptical. But a contest, especially one of skill, sparked a small flame in her that she had thought long extinguished back in her life as a huntress. This brought memories of former glory. Racing across the fields of gold and verdant, fending off giants and old, extinct creatures, and Although, this brought up even more questions.
“A battle between Roma and Greece. If I beat you in a sparring match, you will have to resign yourself from that position of yours. But on the unlikely chance that I lose, I shall stop pestering our Master.”
Atalanta looked thoughtful for a moment. “I… don’t see any reason for this challenge to existing. Master is his own man, and I am no attendant of his.”
“Then why do you keep staying by his side?” Nero gave a knowing look. “Why do you look at him so warmly, as if he was your babe? Every turn and step he takes, you follow swiftly, thinking of his tomorrow. Your bond has been tested and reinforced through time. And no one doubts that it led to your romanticism to bloom.”
Atalanta shook her head. Her tail lay straight down. “You are mistaken. I have never thought of him like that.”
Nero studied her for a moment, amusement coming over her face. “Does this mean I’m free to claim him as my own then? I can sneak into his room at night and surprise him with a special gift that I’ve been oh so wanting to give this whole time?” Atalanta’s heart was pricked by those words. Nero continued, “Victory without effort does not appeal to me, but if you are yielding, then so be it. I shall invite Master to a night at my room.”
“Who knows, maybe something might develop between us.”
“HOLD IT!” Atalanta opened her eyes from scrunching her face too tightly. “I can’t let that stand.”
“Give me some time, and I’ll inform you whether I accept your challenge or not.”
“Very well!” Nero turned before giving her a sideways glance. “I shall wait until tomorrow for your reply. Whatever your decision is, I shall respect it.”
Atalanta watched her rival scamper off into the darkness of the Wandering Sea’s common room before turning a corner and disappearing. She could not just believe what she just said. Her knees gave out, and she hid her face as with her arms as she crouched on the ground. The hostile glare she had from before melted like butter, and now she was blushing madly with tears streaming from her eyes. She didn’t mean to get riled up. She didn’t mean to reconsider her decision. But, at the same time, she couldn’t sit idly by while Ritsuka got together with another woman. It was just that plain and simple.
“Now then….” She stood back up. Her expression now was stern. “I need to visit her first thing tomorrow.”
It was morning.
Orion was wandering around the new compound, enjoying the freedom from his beloved and the sights of so many beautiful Servants, while distracted by his daydreaming of the next beauty he’d pay a visit. Perhaps one of the new recruits. He heard more than a handful of them joined while he and Artemis had been unsummoned by Chaldea. Perhaps that new Scathach, or her attendants, the Valkyries. Maybe he should visit that spear-wielding lady from the orient. He had already seen her and her skin-tight bodysuit, and he admitted the people from the Far East had good tastes.
“Hmph! Ow!” He bumped into something while waddling his way across the smooth metal floor. Looking up, he found a nostalgic sight and a beautiful one at that. “Oh, Atalanta! You came just in time. How about you and I explore this new base for a bit? Hm? What do you say.?”
The woman grinned, hands to her slim hips, gazing down at the pitiful bear at her feet. “Shouldn’t you be asking that to your beloved?”
The tiny bear broke into a cold sweat. “Artemis? Uhhh...of course! I was just planning to go to her. We made plans yesterday too.”
“You’ve been avoiding her,” she said grimly. “I think it’s time you behave yourself. Come, we’ll take a walk.”
“Huh?! No, no wait! Don’t pull my breaches like that!”
Atalanta held the other Archer with her fingers pinching his tiny clothes as she set off to find a certain goddess.
Outside the hangar for the Shadow Border, she found the Greek goddess surveying the area, looking for her important person. She handed the wanted criminal to her and watched the agony on Orion’s face as he was squashed between the woman’s arms. Artemis seemed very happy to see him and jealous at the same time. She scolded him harshly for avoiding her and flirting with other women, an act he denied profusely.
Watching the two lovers cuddling and having their little spat gave Atalanta a mixed feeling of warmth and somehow….loneliness.
“May I ask your advice on something, O great goddess?” Atalanta said interrupting their moment.
Artemis finally turned her attention to her. “Sure! What’s on your mind?”
“I remembered making my vow to you a very long time ago. Back then, during the time when I was still green behind the ears, I had a distaste for men. However, I feel that is no longer the case,” Atalanta spoke calmly. “Now, though, in this strange yet mystical environment, I feel that I myself have turned over a new leaf. My mind has started opening up, and I have grown to entrust my own life to a man.”
The great goddess smiled. On her shoulder, Orion went quiet. “I know what you mean, and I know who you are referring to.”
“But this feeling….it doesn’t seem as if it’s just simply mutual respect.” Atalanta found herself looking away bashfully. “It confuses me. But whenever I see you and Orion, I feel like this type of feeling is similar.”
“Looks like you already fell for him, young lady,” Orion blurted out.
“”Hey, that’s being too blunt!” Artemis chided.
“So it is true….” Atalanta spoke as if she was feeling uneasy. “What should I do with this? It’s not like me to be involved in intimacy. What if he doesn’t find me a possible partner? Master, at times, has a very tired and exhausted air around him. It’s grown even stronger since the Chaldea base was lost. Wouldn’t it be inept of me to put more burdens on his shoulders?”
“That may not be completely false,” said the goddess. “Well, if you ask me-”
“Wait, you’re really asking this crazy woman for advice?” cut in Orion. It took only one glance from the goddess for him to turn away though.
“Anyway, as I was saying, you should just trust your instincts. Follow what you think is right. If you approach him and he rejects you, it won’t be the end of the world. After all, he’s a nice guy. I don’t think there’s any reason to fret with him.”
“What easygoing advice,” interrupted Orion again “Are you sure you’re taking this seriously?”
“Of course I am! As someone who is in the same boat, I know how it feels to be in the arms of love, so my word comes from experience.”
“So you say.” Orion eyed her suspiciously.
“Just be bold, Atalanta. Be as courageous as if you are hunting a wild boar.” Artemis grinned.
The huntress nodded. “If that is as you say. I will accept any mistakes I make in the trials ahead. Thanks to watching you and Orion, I have come to accept that this feeling I have isn’t so bad.”
They bid her farewell and good luck, smiling as they wave. Atalanta felt a large amount of weight had been lifted off her shoulders, but now it was replaced by a pang of fear and excitement.
First, there was a challenge she needed to face.
The air was electric. One could slice up the tension as if it was made out of butter.
There was a crowd of Servants just outside the simulation room, as well as the viewing deck above it.
“You have really done it this time.” Achilles seemed to be enjoying the festive mood. He was watching the small party that was waiting for the main event as he leaned against the wall outside the simulation room along with Atalanta and Medea. “This should keep us entertained while we wait on the next big mission.”
“Did you properly assess yourself before heading out?” Medea was looking at her worriedly. “Although, if it’s you we’re talking about, then there shouldn’t be any need to be concerned.”
“Why did so many people have to appear out of nowhere?” Atalanta sighed. “And why are you two fussing over me when it’s a little mock battle?”
“I’m not fussing over anything. Just wanted to make sure you’re ready to kick that Roman’s butt.” Achilles grinned. His spear was already resting on shoulder, perhaps eager to take part in the fight. “I took a bet in your favor, so you better win.”
“With whom?” asked Atalanta.
“Cu Chulainn, Beowulf, Jekyll, Nobunaga, and Andersen. Want to know the odds?”
“What brought this on though?” asked Medea. “It’s not like you to be challenging people out in the blue. It’s more of this guy’s habit.” She glanced at the Rider, who gave her a shrug.
“It was...a proposition of Nero’s. She wanted me to hand Ritsuka over to her, so she challenged me to a duel.”
Achilles burst out laughing. “That’s rich. I’m glad I woke up from that nap or else I wouldn’t see the ruckus when news broke out.”
“I guess that’s fine.” Medea had a straight look on her face. “Hearing about a fight involving you caused me to worry, but if that’s the reason, then it couldn’t be helped. We’re all Heroic Spirits after all. Most importantly.” The Caster laid her hand on the Archer’s shoulder. “Good on you for finally acting on your feelings.”
A subtle warmth made its way across Atalanta’s face. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It’s great you’re not using any pretenses anymore,” replied Achilles.
Medea nodded. “I’m happy for you. I know I’m not much of a success in that area, but I hope you find happiness with him.”
Atalanta wanted to retort but let it go instead. She was thankful that she had people in this place where she could open herself up. Medea was no stranger to her, far from it. And while she had never met Achilles in her past life, there were small, vague strands in her memories containing an encounter with him from a different time. Although, those memories weren’t exactly pleasant.
Remembering that, she smacked him on the shoulder.
“Hey, what’s that for?” He rebuked.
“I just felt like doing it.” Atalanta turned around, summoning her ebony bow into her hand. “I’m off.”
The crowd gathered above the viewing platform where they could watch the match through the windows. Atalanta paid them no heed as she entered the simulation room, which was enclosed on all four sides. Nero was there at the center with her alluring smile, waiting for her. She kept her bright, shining sword standing upright with both hands.
“I was glad you changed your mind,” Nero shouted, “and even gladder that you don’t seem to deny your true nature any longer.”
Atalanta merely sighed. “So how are we going to do this? A mock battle between Heroic Spirits could end up overloading the simulator if we expend nearly all our magical energy trying to win.”
“True. How about who lands a hit on the other first wins?”
“That puts you at a disadvantage.” Atalanta frowned, starting to position her bow forward, low. “I don’t like handicaps.”
“You think my sword cannot reach you from a distance?” Nero smiled. “Though not an Archer, I have every means to force my way through your hail of arrows, even without the assistance of my Caster form.
“Fair point.” The weight of Atalanta’s body had never been so light before. She could feel herself liberated from her conflicting emotions. At first, she had been afraid of this new experience of developing romantic feelings for another, but after remembering his smiling face, she grew even more sure of herself and her decision. “Let’s begin then.” Her stance was ready and so was her hunter’s instincts. The hunt was about to begin. She notched the first arrow into her bow, and as Nero raised her sword, she let the arrow fly soundlessly through the air.
The battle was a fierce one. The absence of a death clause did not stop it from being so heated. Atalanta showed her pride in her swift legs running across the vertical walls while shooting arrow after arrow onto the blonde woman. Nero didn’t at all betray her expectations despite the pompous words she spat out. She did well dancing around the onslaught of arrows, twirling and showering brilliant lights along the Archer’s path.
“You are not bad for an emperor.” Atalanta casually leaped across the Saber’s side, directing her gaze.
Nero dashed with commendable speed, and by commendable, in Atalanta’s standards, paultry, before thrusting her sword with a bright flash of light. “I must hold a performance fitting for Master after all.”
“I just heard what’s happening,” said Ritsuka as he rushed into the observation deck. “What’s this all about?” He came through the crowd of Servants who were spectating the match. A lot of them were cheering and some of them were just quietly eating snacks.
“Yo, Master,” greeted Achilles as he approached. “You’re just in time. Take a seat and watch the show. Don’t worry about anybody getting hurt ‘cause it’s just sparring.”
“Doesn’t seem like it to me.” Ritsuka peered down through the glass where a brilliant fight was taking place. Figures faster than his eye could catch sped across the room. “Why are Nero and Atalanta having a match though?”
Achilles gave him a knowing smirk. “I’ll leave the explanation to Atalanta. Meanwhile, you shouldn’t fret about their safety. I believe the match won’t take long now.”
Nonetheless, Ritsuka’s gaze was strongly attracted to the flashing fight, particularly at the fast bow woman. “I hope she does alright.” His grip on the handrail tightened. “But, then again, this is her we are talking about,” he whispered.
Nobody could tell how long this lasted. Even though the match was supposed to be just a simple demonstration of power, the two gave it their all. Achilles and the rest were no doubt shouting and inflaming their bets. Caligula and representatives of the Romans provided their vocal support to their beautiful empress. Their shouts were distinctly loud even from below.
But when the last arrow flew, nobody was expecting it would brush by Nero’s cheek. Despite the light contact, there was no denying the thin scar visible along the Saber’s skin. The conditions of the challenge did not require a clean hit nor a lethal one.
“You have won.” The Saber struck her sword down. Seeing her disposing of her guard and stance caused Atalanta to do the same. Nero smiled at the victor. “Finally.”
Atalanta blinked. Thoughts ran rampant in her head until a conclusion was formed. “Was this your plan all along?”
“I was serious in this contest, so it matters not whether it was or not,” Nero said while approaching her. “Go on. You shouldn’t dally any longer. If your heart yearns for it, then there’s no reason to waver.” She patted Atalanta’s shoulder as she made her way out.
Atalanta found herself flushed after hearing those words. She turned to shout at the back of her rival. “I know that already!”
The audience gave one last hurrah, watching the two women part ways. Medea and Achilles were the first to meet with her, casually waving at her from the entrance. Those two had nothing better to do, yet Atalanta couldn’t help but wave back. Upon seeing their Master nearby, she lost her confidence and started acting bashfully, which her two friends caught.
“Aren’t you going to report to him?” Achilles was smirking.
“I will. Now, none of you meddle in my affairs any longer.”
“Yes, ma’am.” The Rider shrugged.
There was nervousness in Atalanta’s steps as she came to face Ritsuka. She filled him in on what just happened, leaving out certain parts. It was best that he didn’t know about that.
As their conversation diverted from the earlier fight to random topics, Ritsuka seemed to be mulling over his words a lot. He wound up fumbling a few and making vague yet hasty comments about her general condition. He kept this up until he remembered something. “There’s going to be another Rayshift experiment soon. Da Vinci told me earlier about it. Can I ask you to accompany me again when that time comes?”
“Of course.” Atalanta gave a curt nod. There was no bigger joy than to be at his side. “Tell me where to go, and I shall be there in a heartbeat.”
The air was cold, and countless leaves were rustled by it sweeping the entire woodland of western Europe. It was a time period before men had truly found their crutch to stand alone, unaided by the divines.
A short amount of time had passed since the commotion with the two Servants. They were Rayshifted to a tiny Singularity as a test for the adjustments that were made from their first Rayshift experiment. They were told that they didn’t need to do anything drastic since this Singularity would soon disappear by itself. Upon arrival, they found themselves smackdab in the middle of the wilderness up in the mountains.
After a day, the communications got bugged, and they were unable to contact Da Vinci. Neither of them panicked though. They had every bit of confidence that she’d fix all this. Ritsuka found this as an opportunity to brush up on his skills. He liked camping anyway, and having Atalanta with him was reassuring enough.
However, since they found themselves stuck there together, she had gone overly quiet.
He was putting more of the dry branches he had collected into the pit to keep the flames going. Smoke belched out, the scent far from a nice maple and honey smell. The greyness of the sky finally went dark after a few more minutes. The clearing they found had a perfect view of the stars. He thought he could impress the Archer with the position of Orion or Chiron, but those constellations were hardly impressive to her, probably.
Atalanta arrived soon after. Her wispy dirty golden hair had been tied into two bundles. The twin-tails hovered over her bare shoulders as the black and turquoise dress she wore was quite open compared to what she usually wore. And above one of her slender shoulders was a dead deer.
“What is it?” She looked at him rather quizzically. “Is there something on my face?”
“Nope, it’s nothing.” He tried to hide his embarrassment. “I’m just not used to seeing you looking like that.”
Atalanta gazed to the side, brushing the length of her hair with one hand. Her voice turned into a whisper. “Shouldn’t have asked Medea for help….”
“Hm? What did you say?”
“It’s nothing.” She strode towards the campfire. “Let’s get dinner prepared. Allow me to handle the meat.”
Their meal was rather silent. They would stare into the fire every so often when they had nothing to discuss. Occasionally, when Ritsuka would lift his gaze, he would find her staring back and then turn it away. That was strange, he thought. Ritsuka spent most of the time thinking about what topic he should use to lighten up the mood, but as more of their roasted meat got depleted, he found nothing in that small head of his apart from how beautiful she was.
“That was nice. I think you cooked that one up pretty nicely, Ritsuka,” she told him, rubbing her hands together.
“Thanks.” He rubbed his stomach. The second a surge started climbing his throat, he covered his mouth to prevent the belch from being heard. He sighed. That meat was kind of overpowering. He felt himself grimace. “It’s been a long time since I ate in front of a fire like this.”
“I am on the same boat. It’s not at all unpleasant. The whispers of the trees bring comfort.” Atalanta’s voice was gentle, like a soothing lullaby.
They went silent for a while, just staring at the glowing light of the flame. Ritsuka started feeling sleepy after leaning against the boulder at his back. When he heard Atalanta get up and turn to the treeline, he was startled out of his stupor.
“Where are you going, Atalanta?” Ritsuka raised his head out of the rocky surface.
“I’m going for a dip in the spring,” Atalanta said then paused for a while, her eyes scrutinizing the ground. A small tint of red wrapped her smooth cheeks. Ritsuka found it strangely appealing and cute. She opened her mouth, bit it, then started saying, “If….If-If you are a brave enough warrior, then you should know what happens next…. Just don’t take too long!” She stormed off, disappearing into the shadows and leaving a dumbfounded man with his heart beating madly.
“What did she mean by that?” he mumbled, feeling his own cheeks turn red. It was oddly….provocative? Or, perhaps his imagination was just playing tricks on him. Surely she wasn’t trying to turn him away. It felt the opposite.
After moments of debating and imagining, he decided he should just follow his instincts and get up. Whatever Atalanta had planned, Ritsuka wished she’d just been a bit clearer instead of sounding like a broken record. He couldn’t blame her though. Oftentimes she had trouble voicing out her true feelings.
He walked the same path she did, treading the dark woodland path towards the spring they discovered earlier.
Peeking behind the tall bushes, the sparkling water reflected the moon and stars. Fireflies danced around the calm winds, creating lingering lights that propelled the darkness.
He immediately went behind a tree trunk and kept his mouth shut. His throat dried up as he saw her bathing in the nude, only her legs submerged, leaving her entire body fully exposed. Her hair was shining from being soaked as it clung to her slender, narrow back. Speaking of which, her backside was majorly pointed towards him, giving him a nice, sultry view. The huntress made it known just how much of a splendid physique she had with just the outline of it in the dim. Moreover, there was something mesmerizing about her tail against her naked skin.
He felt a newfound excitement as she caressed her taut stomach and her modest breasts with water. All logic and thought escaped him, only admiration for the Archer’s slim figure.
Obviously, he knew startling the bushes and crunching the crisp grass was like announcing his arrival to her sharp ears. Yet none of that concerned him anymore.
Eventually, though, he noticed her glance her way, her eyes showing nonchalance. Ritsuka became petrified under her sharp gaze. What he thought was the beginning of the end was actually something else entirely when she didn’t come to claw at his face, and instead, returned to bathe herself. Having him clearly caught him red-handed, she doused her chest with water and rolled her hair to extract moisture from it.
Ritsuka mustered the remnants of his courage and started discarding his clothes. Even now, he wasn’t sure if this was alright, but morals could no longer hold him back. His feet slapped against the wet rocks until it dipped and felt the mud at the very center of the pool.
He hesitated with every inch he took to close the distance, so before coming to meet her, he pushed his face into the spring until the rest of his body followed suit.
“Pfaaahh!” He reemerged and quickly saw the Archer glancing his way.
She put her hands on her hips and said, “What took you so long?”
Seeing her breasts up close, Ritsuka took a while to come up with a reason. “It was kinda hard deciphering what you meant.”
She sighed, her face turning red. Ritsuka in the meantime considered standing straight up, but he could no longer guarantee that his partner was still sleeping soundly between his legs.
“Are you going to keep ogling there or are you going to come any closer?” Atalanta muttered, more than slightly embarrassed. Her slender arms stuck close to her body, perhaps begging to cover herself.
At that, Ritsuka moved forward, standing up. The waters ran down the scars across his muscles. Atalanta’s eyes went downward from his chest. She sucked in a breath, witnessing his erection. In Ritsuka’s defense, there were far too many things about this event that got his blood pumping hard.
As he and Atalanta now were at eye-level, he couldn’t help but notice how his cock twitched in their, mere inches away from her smooth abdomen. His tip was barely holding back to take a jab at the Archer.
The awkward silence forced Atalanta to move things forward. “I must ask you for support in this, Master,” she started, “I’m not...experienced with many things, so it would be best if you be assertive and lead us. Just don’t go overboard, okay?!” She squirmed where she stood.
Ritsuka got the message. Them being alone like this, showing off their bodies to each other, cleared up many things. And that jump-started his heart into a thunderous fit as if his chest was about to burst. “Okay.” He created ripples across the waters as he went even closer to the point that he could feel her breath on his face.
The moment their lips touched, he felt his entire body shiver. Atalanta remained still at first. Being the renowned huntress who turned away a lot of suitors, she was still uneasy. But after sharing their warmth some more, she finally grabbed hold of his shoulders and reciprocated the kiss.
He was on fire, smelling the cool breath of the woman. His hands lingered for a moment before finally landing on his back. He badly wanted to do more. He wanted to touch more of her, but his willpower managed to calm his hormones. In a matter of moments, their kisses turned from experimental to sweltering and ravenous. Atalanta was the first to poke her tongue inside his lips, and the boy frantically invited it further with his own until they were both rolling their tongues around one another.
They broke up suddenly, keeping their breathing in order. It was then that Ritsuka took control. He plunged down her neck until his breath was tickling her chest. She had splendid breasts. Although they were not the level of ones like Nightingale or BB, Ritsuka liked Atalanta’s better.
“What are you thinking?” Panting hard, she looked at him critically as if having read him. “Are you thinking that I’m not as developed as the other women in Chaldea?”
“I’m thinking how wonderful yours is compared to theirs.” Atalanta’s eyes widened at his remark. She turned away as her face turned a shade of red, and Ritsuka praised his quick thinking.
“Fine then...just...do it gently.” She was struggling to keep calm. “Gently.”
He was perfectly fine with that of course, He moved his hands from his back, sliding across her skin and sending pleasurable jolts, and placed it over her perky tits. Their size was comfortably snug against his palm when he cupped them up. Atalanta whined as he massaged her soft flesh, a signal for him to dig in.
His mouth encircled around one of her teats as he started sucking while his other hand massaged her other. He feasted on her nipple and let his tongue drag against her skin.
“Unnghhhh…” Atalanta gritted her teeth. Her grip on his shoulder turned harsh such that her nails started biting into him. But that motivated Ritsuka even more. He played with her breasts with both hands while his mouth tortured the hell out of her stiff cherry top with the sweet caresses of his tongue. Meanwhile, her tail was showing off her feelings better than her. It was waving around side-to-side, frantically, as if it had caught on fire.
His cock pulsed and throbbed impatiently, calling for his attention with all its might. The restlessness was unbearable, so he took one of her hands and brought it to his hard mast. Atalanta was surprised, giving a sharp yelp, but eventually went silent as curiosity and lust overwhelmed her. Wrapping her fingers around his rod, she gave him a gentle squeeze. Her touch was just what he needed, but he knew he had to teach her a thing or two about pleasuring her partner.
Up and down he moved her hand along his hard dick. Once he let go, she kept moving on her own, leaving him to do as he wished with the rest of her body.
He surprised her once again with an intense makeout session while he molested her breasts thoroughly. He commended her for not stopping her hand from stroking his dick, it made her all the cuter, and he wanted to tease her some more.
“Gaaahh!” She cried out as he pinched both her nipples and tugged them to him, breaking his promise. Yet, she didn’t complain. “Ritsuka…..” She gasped, her tail straining up. But he ignored her and kept torturing her.
Eventually, he let go of one in favor of touching her pussy. By this time, both of them were breathing hard. She was pumping his cock hard, and Ritsuka was thrusting into her hand while easing his fingers into her sopping wet pussy.
“More…” He moaned, sucking her tit once again.
And then she shivered immensely, her tail waving around like mad. “Aaaaahhhhh….” She squirted one wave after another into his hand. Her legs clamped tight against him, preventing his escape.
Soon after, Ritsuka felt himself climax as well. He shot one long rope into her stomach with great force that it staggered her for a second.
“That….was….incredible….” Ritsuka panted, trying to keep himself up while Atalanta collapsed onto him.
“The pleasure of a man’s essence….” she mumbled breathlessly. “This….is nothing like what I imagined….thank you.”
He laughed. “But it isn’t over yet.”
Her expression was that of confusion, which was good because he couldn’t wait for it to turn into a sloppy mess.
“Like this…?” Nervous and unsure of herself, Atalanta stuck her butt out to him, keeping herself steady at the edge of the spring with both her hands standing on the mound of grass. “You’re not planning anything weird, a-a-are you?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll make you feel better in just a second.” Ritsuka stood behind her, stroking his cock. He examined her wet cunt for a good while, which good him real hard. This was the pussy of the famed huntress of old after all. There was no reason for him not to. Countless men failed to get this forbidden fruit, and now he was there to take it. “But are you sure about this? Didn’t you take a vow?” he said with a bit of trepidation.
“Ritsuka….” She gazed into his eyes, more resolved than ever. “I’m willing to break my vow just for you because you are special to me.”
His heart fluttered.
“Now, take me.”
He gulped, his chest pounding hard. Jolts of electricity ran through his spine as he inserted his eager cock into her super tight pussy. Atalanta made a wide, sultry moan, her tail stiffening in front of him. Ritsuka followed her. “Oh god….this feels out of this world.”
He started thrusting in her a moment later even though the two of them were far too sensitive to keep going.
“Nnnghhh....Atalanta…” he muttered breathlessly, his hands clamped firmly on either side of her rump. He pumped his dick quickly and strongly, and her pussy welcomed every thrust. The great view of her naked, sweat-soaked back was something he wouldn’t forget for a very long time. Her tail pulled his attention for some reason. He didn’t know whether he should leave it be or give it a caress to find out whether it would please her.
But their minds quickly turned into oblivion as they came at the same time.
They looked at each other after some time, knowing that the other was unfulfilled.
“Aaahh! Ahh! Ahhh! Hahh! Hah!” Atalanta moaned aloud. Her body rocked to and fro against his eager thrusts. In hindsight, eagerness might not even be the best way to describe it. Animalistic. He was fucking her like an animal. His arms caged her as he pummeled her ass.
“Ghhh!” Ritsuka continuously groaned with each fevered pitch.
“Haaahhhh! Continue! Hard!” Her speech had been garbled since they picked up the pace. “AAahhhhh!” But Ritsuka was too focused on her sweltering pussy to care how Archer seemed like a mindless beast as time went on.
As his body pressed down, her tail started rubbing against him. Atalanta let out an incredibly moan at that, which answered one of Ritsuka’s questions.
He came inside her in moments, sheathing his length until his balls slapped against her entrance. Atalanta rested on the ground as he stopped.
They both relaxed as cum dribbled from her snatch. She must’ve thought it was over, but Ritsuka had other plans.
“NNGGGAAAaaaAAAAHHH!” Atalanta’s hands clawed the ground and scrounged up the dirt.
Ritsuka was rubbing the base of her tale as he entered her asshole with his still throbbing dick. “Damn….” he said in surprise at Atalanta’s pleading cries. It was nothing like he had expected, He thought it would relax her, coupled with some stimulation. But it’s not like she was in any sort of pain, her butt thrusting into him was proof of that.
She wanted it.
“AAAAUUUUHHHHH!” Her body twerked and crashed against his blatant thrusts. “GOOOOOD! SOOOOO GOOOOOD!”
Hearing that, Ritsuka was all too glad about bending her tail to his whim, stroking her soft fur, while broadening her already gaping asshole. “So you like that huh…. Then I’ll plow your ass until you come from it!”
Her eyes were dilated sharply, and her tongue was lulling, as she heaved pleasant, blissful words of encouragement to him. “YESSSSS! PLEEAASSE! I LOVE IT!”
Minutes passed and they were still going at it. By this time, Ritsuka was no longer just using her tail, he was also giving her breasts the affectionate kind of attention that they deserved. Her petite breasts were so addictive to touch. It gave Ritsuka shivers just feeling it.
Suddenly, her ass twitched, strangling his cock whole. Atalanta moaned loudly as she came with a great, big surge, spraying her nectar all over the grass. Ritsuka felt chills. He was cumming hard as well, but he was trying hard to last even longer in order to make their mating unforgettable.
He wasn’t disappointed when he shot a great heap of his seed into her. Her hole was completely stuffed by the time he was out of load.
They collapsed on the soft grass, their vision blurring. Neither of them remembered exactly what happened apart from the mindblowing euphoria they experienced.
Atalanta laid on top of his chest, her hair tickling his face a little. Their bodies were glistening with sweat, yet Atalanta still looked absolutely beautiful. Rtisuka couldn’t stop staring at her.
“I must apologize about earlier,” she said, avoiding his gaze. “I don’t know the first thing about seducing a man. You must’ve been really troubled.”
Smiling, he brushed her head. “I don’t mind, and you were successful on your first try, believe me.”
She caressed his face as she curled against his body. “That was a good hunt. I must thank that Roman empress one of these days for this opportunity.”