Naturally, there were good reasons for why Ruler left to go to the hideout in Bucharest later than the other two. One was to have a negotiation session with Fiore, who had asked Sieg to help their side.
“You want me to write a contract?”
“Yes. A contract that guarantees the safety and well-being of the homunculi. Currently, you’ve only made a verbal promise, and there will be no one to protect them after we leave.”
“They’re stronger than I am, though—”
Gordes, who had earnestly been taking care of the homunculi’s tuning and adjustments, had been spewing nothing but idle complaints lately. Perhaps because he was always being dragged away by the homunculi whenever an abnormality occurred among them regardless of the time of day, even when he was eating or sleeping, the glint in his eyes had started to shine blazingly like those of an emergency hospital doctor. He had no vigor left, but he was uplifted by a half self-destructive desperation.
“But you’re right. It’s impossible to believe the words of a magus without any form of guarantee.”
“Yes, so I’d like to ask you to enter into a security guarantee contract with the homunculi. Once that’s been confirmed, we’ll move on to the agreement we made earlier.”
Fiore thought it over for a while, and then nodded, stating it wasn’t a bad deal. Either way, if they won, she and the rest of Yggdmillennia would no longer have any jobs to give them. They would only be able to do maintenance on the castle ramparts at most.
“Then, I’ll make the contract with the homunculi—”
“Nee-san, you’re going to make a contract with these homunculi? I think their self of sense has developed too much for that, though.”
At Caules’ words, Fiore covered her mouth and said, “Oh my.” Just as he said, in a contract between magi, one’s full name was had a lot of importance attached to it. A name was like an address that every being had.
When using curses, the target’s true name was indispensable information as well. If the curse wasn’t restrained to a specific existence like a name, it would disperse without any effect.
And these homunculi had started to develop a sense of self the moment they chose not to obey orders. In other words, there was ample reason to fear that simply referring to them all as [homunculi] as they had up until now could create an obstacle in forming a contract.
“Have no fear. Gordes-dono has given us all names,” stated Tool as she and the rest of the gathered homunculi nodded.
“I don’t know whether or not it will work with the contract. I don’t think there will be a problem, though.”
Gordes looked away in a sulky manner. He couldn’t be embarrassed, could he? Caules thought, but judging from his expression, he really did seem to be sulking.
“My, how serious and diligent of you, Gordes-oji-sama.”
And Fiore praised Gordes without minding his behavior at all. When he was praised, Gordes became even sulkier. What a difficult old man, Caules thought with a sigh.
“Then there should be no obstacles to the contract. We’ll make it by slightly adjusting the regular content of a contract between magi. Basically, in exchange for allowing your residence in this castle, I’d merely like for you to help with routine chores and the maintenance of the castle ramparts. I don’t have any problem with you leaving either. However, please refrain from acts that will be scowled upon by the Association of Magi.”
“There aren’t that many homunculi among us who want to leave. But there are some problems with legal identification and such—”
“Hmm… we can provide that much at least.”
Fiore added in several modifications to the contract content that Caules suggested, and then presented it to the leader of the homunculi, Tool. When she accepted it, she frowned.
“No, it’s just that this whole deal went more smoothly than I thought. I wondered if you might have added in a trap somewhere or not.”
“You’re quite distrustful, aren’t you?”
Gordes goggled at her in shock.
“If you think about how we’ve been treated until now, isn’t it only right to think that way?” Tool responded coolly.
“Now, now,” Fiore said as she soothed the two of them. “Please calm down. It’s precisely because I thought I might be doubted that I asked the judge of the Great Holy Grail War to arbitrate these negotiations.”
Ruler received the contract and seriously read it over.
Incidentally, Ruler—Jeanne d’Arc—didn’t truly understand contract stipulations. She was simply more sensitive to deceptions of this kind than others by nature.
Her final year before her death in particular was a battle of words and sentences. Clergymen had tried to trip her up with various questions. In order to overcome that, Jeanne had faced them with the same seriousness she had on the battlefield.
While passing her eyes over the contract, she sometimes glanced at Fiore who had written it and Caules and Gordes who had helped in doing so. There was no deceit or malice in their eyes. Gordes’ somewhat rude attitude was simple sulking on his part and didn’t seem to be anything else.
She thought of the merits and demerits of lying in this situation—the merits were too few and the demerits were too big. It was fine to conclude that there weren’t any lies in concern to this contract.
“There doesn’t seem to be any problem. Just in case, I’d like for everyone to look at it as well.”
After saying that, Ruler passed the contract to Tool. Tool and the surrounding homunculi then began to carefully read it with serious expressions on their faces. Normally, homunculi were only dolls that obeyed the orders of their creator. But now they were seriously gazing at a contract that had been written in regards to them.
In other words, that was proof of their developing ego. However, that couldn’t be called unilaterally good. The ego included thoughts to increase personal gain as much as possible. That could also lead to committing crimes as a result.
It could lead them to step over others for personal gain—However, at the same time, Ruler optimistically thought that it wouldn’t be a problem for them.
They were beings created for the profit of others. They probably would never forgive the act of stepping over others for personal gain and never do so themselves either.
At the very least, Sieg believed in them. So she would believe in them as well.
“…There doesn’t seem to be any problem. Then we just need to sign this contract?”
“Yes, please sign it with a drop of your blood as well.”
By combining one’s name and the blood from one’s body, it greatly strengthened the contract. There were also contracts that enforced binding even onto one’s descendants, but this one wasn’t that strong. But that wouldn’t be a problem. The chances that Yggdmillennia would be involved with them for generations were extremely low.
When the gathered homunculi finished signing the contract, Fiore turned to Ruler.
“Now then, may we take care of the matter I mentioned earlier?”
“I don’t mind. Should we start right away?”
“…Yes. I have to do it now, or my resolution will wane later.”
Fiore smiled bitterly—and Caules’ face became grave. Gordes silently left his seat. Even if they were part of the same clan, he wasn’t a magus of the Forvedge family. If he tried to watch what happened next, they would have to kill him.
What Fiore had requested of Ruler was her help in transplanting the Forvedge family’s Magic Crest.
The Magic Crest would be gradually transplanted from Fiore to Caules. Fortunately, Caules had been born as Fiore’s spare. His body had been adjusted since birth so that he could have it transplanted to him at any time should the situation require it.
The problem was that, because the magus whose job it normally was to do the transplant procedure wasn’t present, Fiore had to do the transplant while making necessary adjustments on her own. Moreover, in order for Caules to be acknowledged as the family successor, she had to transplant a very large portion of the Crest to him.
At the very least half of it, or if possible, 70% of it. Naturally, the cost of doing so was great. By halving the Crest she had, Fiore’s prana stores would drop sharply, and Caules wouldn’t be able to handle it satisfactorily for a while after it was transplanted.
But the situation had already surpassed what a Master could singlehandedly deal with. Since the Red camp’s only Master was Amakusa Shirou Tokisada, this Holy Grail War now consisted of battle between Servants alone. Therefore, the two siblings were completely meaningless in terms of fighting power.
However, normally a Magic Crest was gradually transplanted from a young age. No matter how much her younger brother Caules’ body had been adjusted for the transplant, doing such a large transplant at once naturally came with danger.
Therefore, they had requested that Archer, who was deeply knowledgeable about magecraft, and Ruler, who could use healing to a certain extent, be present during the transplantation.
“…I truly am lucky to be attended by two Servants.”
Fiore giggled. Caules sighed and grumbled.
“I didn’t think I would suddenly get 70% of it at once…”
“Are you nervous?”
Caules shrugged at Archer’s question.
“I only have meager Magic Circuits, after all.”
He answered lightly—but from another magus’ perspective, it was an event worthy of fainting over. If their parents heard about it, they’d probably be prepared to kill Caules over it.
Frankly speaking, this act was effectively a crime in the eyes of magi. They were going to transfer the family’s inheritance to the inferior sibling rather than the superior sibling, after all.
Moreover, it wasn’t because the superior sibling was particularly inconvenienced or impaired by something. This was simply in order for her to go from a magus to a normal human.
They used Fiore’s room for the Crest transplant ritual. The two siblings lay down together on the bed, closed their eyes, and synchronized their minds. The human mind was tougher and stiffer than people thought. So first they had to start by fusing them.
Ice wouldn’t fuse together no matter how much time passed. It had to become water and melt together—and then freeze once more. Naturally, if they failed even one step, two broken down people would be created due to their personalities fusing together.
“Then, please begin the sympathizing process.”
Archer of Black spoke quietly.
Even so, Fiore had chosen this. She neither hated the life of a magus that was always adjoined with death, nor did she fear battle, but she had understood that it was impossible for her.
She would never have the kind resolve her younger brother did. No matter how far she strived, she was just a normal person deep down.
“Caules. You’re going a little too fast. Please calm down.”
“I know, but this sensation is just—”
The crystallization of everything their family had cultivated through desperate struggle and battle was suddenly divided in half.
They were instantly attacked by a terrifying feeling of nothingness. Their ancestors whom they had never met severely condemned them with dark faces. What are you doing!? You siblings have done something unforgivable!
The older sister cowered, but the younger brother spurred her on.
So what? he spat out. The one to take responsibility for this is me, not my sister, he shouted.
It’s true this might throw us back by a hundred or two hundred years. So what? I am Forvedge, I am Yggdmillennia.
I won’t acknowledge any objections.
“Oh no, his body is reacting to the foreign sensation of the Magic Crest… Ruler, please calm down Caules-dono!”
“Yes, understood! Listen, Caules. Can you hear me? Listen to my words…!”
Hundreds of years’ worth of obsession attacked the youngster who brazenly didn’t know his place. He saw a ghastly miracle that resembled hell—and he succumbed and fell in love as he witnessed his family’s founder who had tried to change from a human into a magus.
He had yearned for magecraft, had loved magecraft and had become inhuman with little effort.
Like a sword, the founder’s tenacity pierced the heart of the boy who claimed he would be the next successor. If he let himself throw it up, it would mean exposing his own soul.
But it still felt terribly revolting. His entrails were crushed inside his body as he rode a merry-go-round that endlessly sped up. It rose in his throat—would he feel better if he threw it up?
Just let it out and ease yourself, someone whispered. He thrust his hand into his mouth and tried to drag out the thing in his throat along with his entrails.
“It’s all right. —You’re all right.”
Suddenly, the voice of a holy maiden came down from the heavens.
Instantly, the desert was overturned and became green tracts of land. The refreshing smell of grass immediately caused his urge to vomit to disappear. The boy kicked his feet off the ground and lightly began to walk.
“…All right. He seems to have calmed down. It’s almost done. Just hold on a little while longer, Master.”
He heard someone’s… gentle voice. He thought its calm tone was appropriate for these grassy plains.
He walked, walked, walked—and arrived.
This was the final part of the Crest. There was nothing new about this place for him, which lay in the memories of his older sister who had been with him since he was young. This was the place where the two siblings had used to play in the past. A perfectly ordinary flower garden near their home.
They had always been together. He had been aware that she would sometimes turn around to confirm his presence. As if to say that being by herself was lonely, that she hated solitude.
That’s why he kept saying “It can’t be helped” to himself and always followed after her.
—It was the younger brother’s duty to follow after his older sister, after all.
He had thought they might be together forever.
He had also thought that they couldn’t be together forever.
When he had gotten dragged into the Great Holy Grail War, he had merely sighed at himself as a magus—but he had thought it was still better than if they were in a normal Holy Grail War.
He had thought they would survive and be together again—but as expected, the girl had ended up having to face herself in this Great Holy Grail War.
Having grown up, she made a choice. It was a cruel choice that no one else would ever understand.
But the younger brother was happy just by the fact that she had made a choice.
So it was fine.
It was a scene he was familiar with, but there was one irregularity within it.
The girl noticed her younger brother, and walked up to him while waving her hand. In her hand was a leash, and attached to it was a sluggish dog.
The dog wagged its tail and went to greet the boy… I see, the boy thought as he suddenly understood. The reason the girl had never given up magecraft lay there.
She couldn’t let it be in vain. She didn’t want to let it be in vain. She had to at least scoop up and make up for the life that had been used and discarded—
That’s why Fiore Forvedge Yggdmillennia had continued to live as a magus.
“…But that’s also over now.”
She gave a lonely smile and hesitated to let go of the leash. Picking up on her actions, the old dog began to leisurely chew the leash.
“It isn’t over, Nee-chan. I’m inheriting it.”
In the blink of an eye, he took the leash from her. As the girl watched him in surprise, the boy spoke.
“I’m inheriting it, so I’ll also inherent this guy too. He won’t be forgotten. I was there back then too. I also saw and watched.”
He had known. He had been resolved. He had known that his father would use the dog back then.
And while knowing that, he had watched and let it happen. He had tried not to feel anything for the dog as much as possible and did his best to ignore its existence.
But even if he ignored the dog, he couldn’t ignore his sister. That day, he had watched the dog wagging its tail at his sister. As neither his sister nor the dog had any suspicions about what lay in the future—all he’d been able to do was shed tears at that scene.
So the boy had a responsibility to take charge of this leash.
“You’ll take responsibility and keep hold of it?”
“…Yeah, I will.”
The girl smiled and entrusted the rest to the boy. The old dog wagged its tail in a very slow-witted manner.
He would receive and inherit it.
He would inherit her magecraft, this discarded life and her pride. The divided Magic Crest might be too much for the boy’s hands. But he would never fear or regret it.
That scene all those years ago. As long as he kept it carved in his mind—he would discipline himself as a magus of the Forvedge family and Yggdmillennia.
The illusion ended, and Caules groaned at the sensation of something cold having been inserted in his brain.
“Are you all right?”
Ruler peered down at him anxiously. Caules calmed down his heated and cloudy thoughts and nodded at the question.
“Ye—Yeah, I think I’m fine.”
His awareness of reality was gradually being restored. He moved his limbs, and felt the strong sensation of something foreign in his body. His movements were slow and dull as if his joints were clogged with mud.
“Are you all right, Caules-dono? …Let alone 70%, you received a full 80% of the Magic Crest from my Master. Your sister might feel more comfortable as the one who gave it away, but it must be painful for you as the one who received it.”
“…Not really. It isn’t all that much.”
Well, it was, but—when he thought that his older sister had endured this kind of pain for such a long time, he felt he had to put up with it at any cost.
“Magus-kun. Please use this.”
After saying that, Ruler tightly wrapped a cloth around his chest. That alone immediately eased the pain. Moving was still troublesome, but he had recovered enough to get off the bed and walk.
“It’s a holy shroud. I prepared it just in case, but it’s better for you to use it now. It will also grant you resistance against impurities such as curses or poison, so I don’t mind if you keep it on for a while.”
“…The pain has gone down a lot. Thank you, Ruler.”
Ruler smiled slightly at those words.
“You did splendidly, Caules Forvedge Yggdmillennia. And you as well, Fiore.”
As Archer helped her sit up, Fiore shook her head and smiled feebly.
“No, not at all. All the praise should go to Caules right now. He’s my younger brother who I’m very proud of, after all.”
Caules turned red at those words and put his hand over mouth as his lips reflexively slackened into a smile.