…Easily slashes the stallion in red. Saber raises her wing to finish him off. But right before the stallion in red’s neck is slashed, he disappears as a powerful magic is cast. Saber doesn’t stop. She dashes to the pony behind the stallion in red and easily cuts off the large spell the pony launches.
“What the…” I knew she was strong, but this is overwhelming. That spell right now was at a level of intervention magic that I cannot even compare with. Father could use one as strong as that, but to cast a natural intervention of that power instantly… I don’t think even a first-class mage could do so. But Saber nullified even that master-class magic. The enemy must be a mage, as the match is decided right there. The mage’s attacks are no use against Saber, and she mercilessly attacks the mage. A sound of somepony falling backwards. The mage has miraculously dodged Saber’s blow, but the enemy now cannot move. Saber corners the enemy and points her invisible sword.
“……” My mind freezes. Probably because the moon lights up the scene for an instant. I can tell that the figure Saber is pointing at is pony. I can’t tell who it is, but the image of Saber killing somepony and getting splattered with blood pops into my head. “……” Saber moves… She will pierce the enemy’s throat with the “thing” in her wing.
“Stop, Saber!” I scream as loud as I can. Her sword stops. Thank Hasbro I can’t see her sword. The end of her invisible sword isn’t wet with the enemy’s blood. “…Don’t. Please don’t do it, Saber.” I address her, glaring. Preparing myself to do my best to stop her.
“Why do you stop me, Storm? She is Archer’s Master. We have to kill her here.” No, Saber has no intention of stopping. She only stopped because I said so, and she is ready to bring her sword down at any time…!
“I-I’m telling you to wait! You’re calling me Master something, but I don’t understand anything at all. If you’re going to call me that, I think you should explain things to me first…!”
“……” Saber doesn’t answer. She only stares at me in silence.
“You’re doing this in the wrong order, Saber. I still don’t understand who you are. But I’ll listen if you talk, so please don’t do this.”
“……” Saber is silent. Still pointing her sword at the fallen enemy, she looks at me discontentedly. “What do you mean by that? Are you demanding ideals like not hurting anypony unnecessarily?”
“Huh…?” Not hurting anypony unnecessarily…? Well, it is true that we should avoid fights as much as possible, but I’m not good-natured as to release somepony who came to attack me. “So you are saying… do not take life even if it is that of the enemy, correct? I will not obey such an order. An enemy is somepony you must defeat. If you still want me to stop, make me obey with your Command Spell.”
“…? I’m talking about you. A mare shouldn’t be swinging swords around, all the more so if you’re hurt. …Oh wait, I don’t even know if it’s a sword or not, huh? Anyway! You’re a mare, so you can’t do that!”
“……” Saber looks dumbfounded, as if taken back. How long were we standing like that?
“…So? When will Saber lower her sword?” The figure on the ground suddenly speaks.
“…!” Saber suddenly returns to concentrating her attention on her sword. “Give up. I have no sword to lower in front of an enemy.”
“Even if your Master says to lower it? Wow, so even Saber would betray her Master, huh?”
“……” Saber grits her teeth. But Saber lowers her sword and relaxes. Saber hostility disappears, so she must have put away her sword as well.
“I see. Then I can stand up, right?” The one on the ground stands up. She looks shameless, brushing her rear. …Hey, wait a second. That sulky person is definitely…WHAT!?
“You, you’re Rarity…!?”
“Yes. Good evening, Storm.” Rarity replies with a big smile.
“Uh..?” That gets me. If she greets me normally like that, everything that happened up to now seems like a dream and… No, my head’s about to explode, geez, how easy would things be if it did…!? “Um, no, well, um… so you were using magic right now, so that means…”
“I’m a mage. Well, we’re the same, so it’s not something I need to hide.”
“Guh…” When she replies clearly like that, it makes me seem stupid for asking.
“Let’s talk inside. You don’t know anything, right Storm?” So saying, she walks toward the entrance.
“Wait, what are you thinking…!?” And then… She turns, and the smile on her face isn’t like the previous one.
“Are you stupid? I am thinking about a lot of things. That’s why I want to talk to you. Storm, it’s good to be surprised by sudden turns of events, but it could sometimes cost you your life if you don’t just accept it. Incidentally, do you understand that now is one of those times?” She glares at me.
“It’s fine if you understand. So let’s go to your place.” Rarity goes through the gate.
“…She’s really pissed…” It’s only natural. She had a sword pointed at her until now, and she was almost killed. “No, but still…” It is just my imagination or is she totally unlike how she seems at school? So, I’m in a strange situation. In front of me is the school’s number one idol whom I admire, Rarity Jewel. And following silently behind me is Saber, who calls herself a Servant.
“……” Oh. The hallway suddenly feels like a different dimension. But I can’t be a coward forever. I’m a mage, even if I am just an amateur. Rarity Jewel, a mage just like me, is acting so fearlessly, so I have to act firmly too. …But I can only work out a few things. First, about Saber, who’s following me. I am sure that she is some kind of a familiar, because she calls me Master and I’ve made a contract with her. I hear that a familiar is some kind of an assistant for a mage. Most mages transfer part of their body into something and summon it as another self. For the other self, a mage usually uses a small animal. That’s simply because it’s easy to take over the mind of something like a cat or a dog. Some mages use a pony as their familiar, but they need enough magical energy to restrain a pony at all times if they do such a thing. But if one constantly uses enough magical energy to control somepony, it would take most the mage’s magical energy to sustain the familiar. But that’d be putting the cart before the horse. A familiar is something that assists the mage. To reduce the burden on the mage, it is commonly accepted that small animals are most suitable. …So I’ve been taught, but…
“Hm? What is it, Storm?”
“…No, it’s nothing.” …Saber looks pony no matter how you look at her. And she is clearly superior to me, her master. I don’t have the magical energy to control such a pony and more than that, I don’t have the Magic Circuit to summon a familiar. “……” So Saber must be something rather unlike a familiar. She said she is a Servant. I don’t know what that is, but I think the stallion called Lancer and the stallion in red with Rarity were the same thing. Then it must be that Rarity is also called a Master. I just saw her magic skills. If I am worth half a mage, she is worth about three mages… though of course, there’s no point in comparing me to other mages when I can only use the strengthening magic. Anyway, Rarity is an amazing mage. In any spiritually superior land is a family of mages that looks after that land. The Storm family only came to this land in Doctor’s generation, so we’re just strangers. That’s why I didn’t know that Rarity was a mage, and I’m sure Rarity didn’t know that I knew magic. …There are several mages in this town that I don’t know about. If Lancer is the familiar of another mage in this town, then does it mean that I stuck my head into a conflict between mages?
“Wow, it’s pretty big. Ponyville-style is unusual for me. Oh, is that the living room, Storm?” Saying so, Rarity goes into the living room.
“……” Let’s stop thinking for now. Let’s just listen to Rarity’s story. I turn the lights on. It’s already past one in the morning.
“Oh, it’s so cold! What’s this, the windows are broken?”
“I couldn’t help it. I was attacked by this Lancer stallion. I was just desperate.”
“Oh, I see. Then were you fighting him alone until you summoned Saber?”
“I didn’t fight him. He just beat me up.”
“Oh, so you don’t try to show off, huh? …I see, I see, you’re really just as you appear, Storm.” Rarity walks over to the broken window.
“…?” Rarity takes a piece of the shattered glass, takes a look at it, and…
“…Minuten vor SchweiBen.” She cuts the tip if her forehoof and puts a drop of her blood onto the glass.
“…!?” What kind of magic is this? The shattered glass combines on its own and restores itself in a matter of seconds. “Rarity, that was…”
“It’s just a small demonstration. It won’t be enough to repay you for saving me, but I have to at least do this much. …Well, I’m sure you would’ve fixed it even if I hadn’t, but that’s just a waste of magical energy, right? All you really have to do is replace the window, but we don’t want to talk in this cold, do we?” She says so as if it’s something natural. But needless to say, her skills are beyond my understanding.
“No, that’s amazing, Rarity. I can’t do that sort of thing, so I’m glad you fixed it.”
“Huh? There’s no way you can’t fix it. Handling glass is so elementary. Restoring glass that broke a few minutes ago is only like an admission test for any school, right?”
“So that’s how it is? I was only taught by my father, so I don’t even know the basics or the elementary stuff.”
“…Huh?” Rarity freezes. …Dammit. It seems I said something I shouldn’t have. “…Wait. Then you’re saying you’re just an amateur who can’t even run your own workshop?” …? I don’t have a workshop. …Well, I do have that shed as my training area, but I think Rarity would get mad if I called that my workshop. “…I think it’s impossible, but I’ll ask anyway. Could it be that you don’t know how to handle the five main elements, or how to make a Pass?” I honestly admit that I don’t know. “……” Wow, that’s scary. She’s so beautiful usually, so she looks pretty scary now. “Then what are you, just an amateur?”
“That’s not true. I can at least use strengthening magic.”
“Strengthening… that’s an awfully odd magic. So, you can’t do anything other than that?” Rarity glares at me.
“…Well, to be honest, probably not.” Her glare makes my answer vague.
“..Geez. Why did Saber get summoned to a stallion like this?” She sighs.
“Hm.” It makes me mad. I haven’t been playing around. I know I’m an amateur, but I don’t think it matters right now.
“Well, I don’t care. There’s no point in complaining about what’s already happened. More importantly, I have to pay back my debt right now.” Rarity takes a breath. “Well, I’ll begin. Storm, you don’t know what kind of situation you’re in right now, correct?”
“……” I nod.
“I thought so. Well, I could tell easily, but I have to confirm, right? It’s only putting flab on my mind if I tell somepony that already knows about it.”
“…?” I think that was a weird phrase, but I stay quiet as I think she’ll beat me up if I make fun of her now.
“To put it bluntly, you have been chosen as a Master. You have a harmony sign on one of your hoofs, right? On your hoof or on your legs. There are personal differences, but there should be three Command Spells engraved. That is the sign of a Master.”
“On my hoof… oh, this.”
“Yes. That is also a spell that rules the Servant, so take care of it. It’s called a Command Spell and you can retain control over your Servant as long as you have it.”
“…? What do you mean ‘as long as I have it’?”
“The Command Spell is an item of unconditional obedience. I think you’ve already realized that Servants have their own will, but that mark overrules their will and makes them obey your command. There’s no spell needed to activate it, and it will be activated when you put your mind to using it. But you’ll lose on for every time you use it, so make sure you only use it twice. If you lose all your Command Spells, you’ll be killed, so be careful.”
“What… I’ll be killed?”
“That’s right. It’s fundamental in the Harmony Grail War for Masters to kill other Masters. And the Master that kills the other six Masters is awarded with the Harmony Grail.”
“What…?” H-Hold on. I don’t understand what Rarity is talking about at all. Like the part about Masters killing other Masters. And the part where the winner gets a Harmony Grail… wait, does she mean that Harmony Grail…!?
“You still don’t understand? To put it simply, you’ve been dragged into a game. A survival game between the seven Masters, a game called the Harmony Grail War. A battle royale between the Masters that won’t end until you kill all other Masters.” Rarity Jewel states so as if it is the most natural thing in the world.
“……” That phrase swirls in my head. I have been chosen as a Master. Rarity says she is a Master. Familiars called the Servants. ...And. A battle to the death between other mages called the Harmony Grail War. “Wait. What is that? What are you talking about all of a sudden?”
“I understand how you feel, but I’m just telling you the truth. …Besides, you should understand deep down. You should know you’re in a situation you can’t run away from, having been almost killed by that Servant twice now.”
“……” That’s… Certainly, I was almost killed by that Lancer stallion, but…
“Oh no, that’s wrong. In fact, you weren’t almost killed, you were actually killed. I’m surprised you’re alive again.”
“……” Rarity’s comment finishes me off. …That’s right. That stallion killed me, and I certainly died. No excuse nor negotiation was possible. I was just somepony who had to be killed. So… Even if I do deny this battle to the death that I cannot understand, the others in it will not withdraw. “……”
“Do you get it now? Then I’ll go on. I don’t exactly know what the Harmony Grail War is. But I know that every few decades, seven Masters are chosen and given Servants. I’m also a chosen as a Master. That’s why I made a contract with a Servant, and you made a contract with Saber. Think of the Servant as a familiar, given to you by the Harmony Grail to win the Harmony Grail War. And as Masters, we are to work together with our Servant to kill other Masters.”
“……” Rarity’s description is too brief for me to understand. But there is one thing I do wonder about. “…Hold on. You say Saber is a familiar, but I’m not convinced. Familiars are things like cats and birds, right? Well, I do hear that some use pony ghosts, but Saber has a body. Besides, she doesn’t look like a familiar.” I glance at Saber. Saber is quietly listening to our conversation. …She looks just like a pony being. I don’t know her identity, but she’s a mare about my age. Just having a mare like that near me is more than enough, so I don’t get it when she tells me that Saber is a familiar… and besides, my heart is pounding right now.
“Familiar, huh…? Well, Servants are in that category, but they are on a different level. Because that mare over there is a Ghost Liner, considered to be the strongest of all familiars.”
“Ghost Liner? Then do you mean she really is a ghost?” A pony ghost that stopped living a long time ago, the remaining minds of those with strong abilities, who remain in this world even after they die. But that doesn’t make sense. A ghost doesn’t have a body. A ghost can be only hurt by ghosts. So, as I have a body, a ghost shouldn’t be able to kill me.
“A ghost… huh? She’s similar, but Saber would kill you if you compared her to one. Servants are heroes of the past given bodies. Beings surpassing ponies, more like spirits.”
“Huh? Heroes of the past given bodies?”
“That’s right. A legendary hero was pulled from the past or the present or whenever and given a body. Well, it’s the role of the Master to summon them, and the Harmony Grail does the rest. It’s impossible for a mage to give shape to a soul, so we’re assisted by a strong Artifact.”
“Hold on. So a ‘hero of the past’ means… what!?” I look over at Saber. The she’s a heroine from the past too? Well, it’s true that nopony would dress like that now, but still… “That’s impossible. I’ve never heard of any such magic.”
“Of course not. This isn’t magic. Think of it as a phenomenon created by the Harmony Grail. It’s impossible to recreate a soul and give it a body without it.”
“…Recreation of the soul? Then a Servant isn’t a ghost?”
“No. Haven’t you been taught that any ponies, animals, or machines that leave any great achievements behind get removed from the ring of reincarnation and sublimate into beings of higher rank? Heroes are that sort of beings. To put it simply, they have been worshipped and made into artificial gods. ‘Ghost Magic’ such as supplicating ghosts uses heroic spirits to make miracles happen. But the Servants are familiars of the heroes themselves. So they accompany you in spirit form, but if need be, you can give them form to make them fight.”
“…Hm. So you mean you can give them form or keep them in spirit form? I don’t see your Servant, so he’s in spirit form right now?”
“No, he’s healing his wounds in the summoning circle at my house right now. Saber wounded him just now, right? If I hadn't withdrawn him by force, he would have had his head chopped off. Look, the only ones who can beat these Servants are other Servants, spirits like them. Well, we can hit them too if they take form, so we might be able to beat them. But Servants are all strong as monsters, right? So we let monsters deal with monsters. The Master usually supports them from behind.”
“…Hm.” Rarity’s explanation irritates me for some reason. She calls them monsters. I don’t know about the other Servants, but I don’t want her to talk about Saber like that.
“Anyway, somepony who becomes a Master must kill all the other Masters using his Servant. Do you understand it so far?”
“…In words, yes. But I’m not convinced. To begin with, who started such a thing and why?”
“That’s not something I know about, nor should I answer. You should put that kind of question to the one overseeing the Harmony Grail War. The one thing I can tell you is that all you can do now is to fight, and Servants are powerful familiars, so you should use them wisely.” Rarity says so, and now turns to Saber. “So from what I hear from Storm, you must not be in full form, Saber. You were summoned by an apprentice mage who has no idea how to be a Master.”
“…Yes, I am not in full form as you say. Since Storm does not have the magical energy to give me form, it will be difficult for me to turn into a spirit or to replenish my magical energy.”
“…I’m surprised. I’m surprised that you were in that bad of a state, but I didn’t think you’d tell me honestly. I was wondering how I ought to find out your weakness.”
“I do not wish to let others know of my weakness, but I do not think I can fool you. It would be meaningless to hide our situation from you. So it will be better for us to tell you of our situation, and to have Storm better understand the situation he is in right now.”
“Correct. And you have a good personality too. …Geez, I’m regretting it even more now. If I was your Master, I would have certainly won this war!” Rarity stomps her hoofs with anger.
“Hmm. Rarity, do you mean I’m not fit to be her Master?”
“Of course not, idiot.” Wow. She just said something that any normal pony would have trouble saying. “What? Do you have any more questions?” And she doesn’t realize it. Her honor student image from school crumbles inside of me. …Good going, Applejack. Rarity certainly shows no openings, just like a devil. “Well. We’re done talking, so let’s get going.” Rarity suddenly says something strange.
“Huh? Go where?”
“We’re going to see the stallion who knows all about the game you’re involved in… the ‘Harmony Grail War’. You want to know the reasons behind the Harmony Grail War, right?”
“Of course. But where is it? It’s already late, so…”
“It’ll be fine. It’s in the neighboring town, so we should be back by dawn if we hurry. And besides, it’s Sunday tomorrow, so it should be fine to stay up late.”
“No, that’s not the problem.” It’s just that a lot of things happened today, so I want to have a rest and think about them.
“What, you’re not going? …Well, if you say so. But what about you, Saber?” Rarity asks Saber.
“Hold on, this has nothing to do with Saber. Don’t push her.”
“Oh, you’re already feeling like a Master? You don’t want me talking to Saber?”
“T-That’s not it! It’s just that if what you said is true, the Saber is a heroine from the past, right? So she wouldn’t know about this time since she was just summoned. So…”
“Storm, that is wrong. Servants can adapt to any time. So I know a lot about this age as well.”
“Yes. This is not the first time that I have been summoned in this age.”
“No way, what are the chances of that!?” Hey, Rarity is surprised too. …So that must mean Saber said something incredible.
“Storm, I agree with her. You have no experience as a Master. As a Servant who has made a contract with you, I want you to be stronger.” Saber stares at me silently. …It’s a gentle stare that’s worried not for herself, but for me.
“…All right. I’ll go. So, where is this place, Rarity? It’s a place we can come back from, right?”
“Of course. We are heading to Blue Church in the neighboring town. That’s where the false priest, the one who oversees this battle, is living.” Rarity makes an evil smile. It looks like she’s having fun dragging me around while I don’t know anything.
“……” It might be prejudice… But I’m beginning to feel like there’s a problem with her personality… We walk through the nighttime town. It’s past one in the morning and there’s no pony out at this time. The lights in the houses are out, and only the streetlamps illuminate the silent town. “Hey Rarity, are you planning to walk to the neighboring town?”
“Yeah. The buses and trains have stopped running. A walk at night is good once in a while, right?”
“I see, then if I may ask, do you know how long it takes to get there?”
“Well, it should take about an hour walking. If it gets late, we can always take a taxi.”
“I won’t waste that kind of money. And besides, what I mean is, it might be dangerous for mares to walk around at a time like this. You know it’s dangerous, right? I won’t be responsible if something happens.”
“Don’t worry, nopony’s going to mess with us. You may be forgetting, but Saber is really strong.”
“Oh.” She’s right. Whoever it is, if somepony attacks her, they will be counterattacked viciously.
“Rarity. What was Storm saying? I did not quite understand.”
“Huh? Well, he was just making a big misunderstanding or being plain stupid. He’s saying he’ll help us if some pervert appears.”
“What? Storm is my Master. I should be protecting him instead.”
“I don’t think he’s thinking about that sort of thing. He seems unconcerned about mages and Servants and all. I kind of wonder what’s going on in his head.”
“……” Rarity and Saber now know each other well enough to talk to each other. Saber has been silent ever since I stopped her from going out dressed like she was. She said she wouldn’t take off her armor, so I made her wear a raincoat, and she’s been quiet ever since. Now, she follows me and only speaks to Rarity.
“Wait, where are you going, Storm? Isn’t that the wrong way?”
“We need to get to the bridge, right? Then this will be a shortcut.” I don’t want to walk alongside them, so I quickly make my way to the small side-road. They follow me without objection. We come out into a park. We have to cross that bridge to go to the neighboring town of New Ponyville, but…
“Wow, I didn’t know about this road. I see, since you can get to the bridge from the park, all you have to do is head for the park.” Rarity looks up at the bridge, talking happily. Maybe it’s just because it’s nighttime. Rarity’s face, looking up at the bridge, seems even more beautiful than at school… I’m troubled.
“Let’s go. We didn’t come here to play around.” I hurry Rarity, who is standing still in the park, and make my way up the stairs. Once we reach the road alongside the bridge, New Ponyville will be straight ahead of us. There’s no pony on the bridge. That’s only natural as not many ponies use it even during daytime. It’s more normal to use the bus or the train to get to the neighboring town, so this bridge is rarely used. That’s because it’s so long and it carries a fear that it might collapse on you. That must be why this place isn’t used for dates, even though it’s perfect location-wise. “…That’s stupid. What am I thinking?” Saber is following me silently and Rarity is walking besides me. Trying to ignore them, I hurry across the bridge. Beyond the bridge, Rarity leads us into the suburbs. When I think about New Ponyville, only the office buildings in front of the station come to mind, but there are streets from the older times once you get away from the station. The suburbs are the most extreme of those. There are hilly roads and a high ground overlooking the sea. As you go farther up the hill, there are fewer buildings and the foreigners’ cemetery built on the slope of the hill can be seen.
“The church is up here. You must have been there at least once, right?”
“No. I know it used to be an orphanage though.”
“I see. Then it’ll be your first time today. You should prepare yourself. The priest there is a difficult stallion to deal with.” Rarity starts up the hill. …Looking up, I can see a building at the top of the hill; a church atop the hill. I never thought I’d visit Hasbro’s house for the first time for a reason like this.
“Wow… this is really awesome.” The church is magnificent. The whole top of the hill must be the church’s land as a flat field welcomes me as soon as I reach the top. The church isn’t that big, but it is compelling, towering over its visitors.
“Storm, I will remain here.”
“Huh? Why? I can’t just leave you when we’ve come up here together.”
“I did not come for the church. I followed to protect you. If your destination is the church, you should not go any farther, so I shall wait here for your return.” Saber says clearly. It doesn’t seem like she’ll budge an inch, so I decide to respect her decision.
“All right. Then I’ll be going.”
“Yes. Please do not let your guard down whomever you are facing, Master.” It is a large, impressive chapel. Since it’s so large, many ponies must come here during the day. If he’s entrusted with such a church, the priest here must be a stallion of character.
“Rarity, what kind of pony is the priest here?”
“It’s kind of hard to explain. I’ve known him for ten years, but I still can’t grasp his character.”
“You’ve known him for ten years? That’s a pretty long relationship. Is he a relative of your or something?”
“He’s not my relative, but he is my guardian. On top of that, he is my senior as an apprentice, and my second teacher.”
“Huh… senior as an apprentice, you mean apprentice as a mage!?”
“That’s right, but why are you so surprised?”
“Because he’s a priest! Aren’t priests forbidden to use magic!?” By their nature, a mage and the church cannot be in harmony. The organization that mages belong to is called the Magic Association, and the other side of religion, the side you wouldn’t see while living a normal life, is called the Harmony Church. The two are barely similar. They cooperate in name, but they’re always trying to kill each other when given the chance. The church hates heretics. They totally eliminate the non-pony, and they count magic-using ponies among their targets. For the church, miracles are only given to the chosen harmony saints. Any miracles handled by other ponies are heresies. There are no exceptions, even for those within the church. The higher one rises in the church, the more one is prohibited from the impurity of magic. And for a follower entrusted with a church like this and the more divine protection one receives, the more one should stay away from magic… “…No, first of all, is the priest on our side?”
“Yes. He is the one supervising the Harmony Grail War after all. He is a real Agent. …Well, I don’t know if he has divine protection, though.” Rarity’s hoofsteps echo as she approaches the altar. It’s bad manners to do that when the priest isn’t here, but it’s so late at night. He won’t be in the chapel, so if he’s anywhere, it will be the private room in the back.
“…Hmm. So who is this priest? You said a name like Blue before…”
“His name is Blue Blood. He’s a student of my father, and we’ve had an inseparable relationship for ten years now. …Well, I wish I’d never met him, though.”
“…I feel the same way. I did not want an apprentice who did not respect her teacher.” A hoofstep. He must have noticed our entry as he slowly appears from the other side of the altar. “You didn’t answer my repeated calls, and now you bring a strange guest. …Hmm, so he is the seventh one, Rarity?”
“Right. He’s a mage, but he’s pretty much a beginner, so I just couldn’t let him be. …I believe it was the rules to report here when one becomes a Master, right? It’s a rule you invented, but I’ll follow it this time.”
“Very well. Then I must thank this young stallion.” The priest called Blue Blood slowly turns to me.
“……” …Without realizing, I step back. …He’s not scary at all. …I don’t feel any hostility from him. But this priest still has a presence that makes the air around him feel heavy.
“I am Blue Blood, the one entrusted with this church. What is your name, seventh Master?”
“…Storm Whooves. But I haven’t agreed to this ‘Master’ thing yet.” I glare back at the priest, trying not to lose against his presence.
“Huh?” The weight on my back turns into a chill. The priest slowly smiles as if he’s met somepony pleasant. …That smile. It makes me…
“I thank you, Storm. You have brought Rarity here. If it were not for you, she would not have come.” The priest makes his way toward the altar. Rarity moves away from the altar and stands beside me. “Then let us start. Storm Whooves, you are Saber’s Master correct?”
“That’s wrong. I certainly made a contract with her, but I don’t understand this whole Master and Harmony Grail War thing. If a Master should be a proper mage, then you should go and choose a more suitable pony.”
“…I see. This is serious. Does he really know nothing, Rarity?”
“I told you he’s a beginner. Train him from the very first steps, will you? You’re really good at that, right?” Rarity urges the priest.
“…Oh, I see, I see. That’s how it is, huh? I understand. This is the first time you have ever depended on me. Storm Whooves, I can never thank you enough.” Father Blue Blood laughs. Their conversation makes me feel uneasy. “First, let us correct your misunderstandings. Listen, Storm Whooves. Master is not a role you can give to somepony else nor is it something you can stop being once you are chosen. Those who have those Command Spells carved on them cannot resign from being a Master. You must accept that fact.”
“…Why can’t I quit?”
“The Command Spell is a harmony mark. Becoming a Master is a trial placed upon you. You cannot escape it just because it is inconvenient. You cannot be released from that pain until you obtain the Harmony Grail. If you wish to retire from being a Master, all you can do is obtain the Harmony Grail and wish for it. If you do that, everything will be as you desire, Storm Whooves. Your wishes, even cleaning out all the mud inside of you, is possible… Yes, it is even possible to start everything over again. Therefore, you should desire it. If the time comes, you will appreciate being chosen as a Master. If you wish to erase those burns that cannot be seen, all you have to do is to accept that holy mark.”
“Wha…” I feel dizzy. The priest’s words don’t make any sense. They just confuse me more and more as I listen. …But still, his words soak into my brain and clot like blood.
“Blue, don’t go off topic. I asked you to tell him the rules. I didn’t ask you to open up his old wounds.” A voice cuts in.
“R-Rarity?” That clears up my dizzy head.
“I see. It is pointless to say anything to these kinds of ponies, so I was trying to take away his mortality while he still misunderstood. …Heh, I guess it’s true that compassion is not good for others. And I rather enjoyed it too.”
“What? Does it do you good to help him?”
“Of course. Helping ponies means saving yourself in the end. …Well, it won’t do any good to preach to you now. So, let us return to the main topic, Storm Whooves. The battle you have been dragged into is called the ‘Harmony Grail War’. Have you learned from Rarity that this is an all out war between seven Masters, using seven Servants?”
“…I did. It’s some ridiculous thing where seven Masters kill each other, right?”
“Indeed. But we are not committing these non-pony acts because we want to. Everything is a ritual to determine who is the most suitable to receive the Harmony Grail. Because of its greatness, we require trials to determine its owner.” …What trials? I’ll bet this priest doesn’t think of this Harmony Grail War thing as a “trial”.
“Hold on. You keep saying ‘Harmony Grail War’, but what is it? You can’t possibly mean the actual Harmony Grail, right?” The Harmony Grail, a grail said to have received the blood of Hasbro. It is considered to be one of the greatest harmony relics, and said to be capable of many miracles. The most common rumor about it is that the one who obtains the Harmony Grail will obtain the world. …But that’s just an invention. After all, the Harmony Grail itself is almost something that “exists, but doesn’t exist”. “A Harmony Grail that makes wishes comes true” certainly appears in many folklores and legends around the world. But that’s it. A fictional power that doesn’t exist and isn’t possible. That is the Harmony Grail. “So answer, Blue Blood. Is the Harmony Grail you’re talking about really the Harmony Grail?”
“Of course. The Harmony Grail that appears in this town is real. As a proof, the great miracle of the Servants has occurred. Summoning and controlling past heroes. No, a miracle close to resurrecting the dead is almost a sorcery. A Harmony Grail with this much power shall grant its owner unlimited power. The object’s unreality is worthless in front of that truth.”
“……” So. He means that even if it is a fake, it doesn’t matter if it has powers that would overwhelm even the true Harmony Grail. “…All right. Let’s assume there really is a Harmony Grail. Then why is it required to do something like the Harmony Grail War? We shouldn’t be killing each other if the Harmony Grail exists. If the Harmony Grail is so great, we can all share its power.”
“That is a fair argument, but we do not have such freedom. Only one pony can obtain the Harmony Grail. That is not something we chose, but what the Harmony Grail has decided. The Harmony Grail decides the seven Masters and summons the seven Servants. I told you that this is a ritual. The Harmony Grail chooses the ponies suitable to obtain it, and selects its appropriate owner by making them fight for it. That is the Harmony Grail War… the ritual where those chosen by the Harmony Grail kill each other to obtain it.”
“……” The priest speaks plainly. I have no rebuttal, and I look down at my left forehoof. …There is the mark they call the Command Spell. It must mean that as long as I have this mark, I cannot quit being a Master. “…I’m not convinced. Even though only one pony can be chosen, I don’t like the idea that all we can do is to kill the other Masters.”
“Huh? Hold on. You’re misunderstanding if you think that you have to kill them. There’s no need to kill the Masters.”
“Huh? But you said we have to kill each other. Blue Blood said so too.”
“You will kill each other.”
“You be quiet, Blue. Now, the Harmony Grail in this town is in spirit form. It’s not something with form, so it’s something we have to call forth by a special ritual… meaning we have to materialize it. We can call for it as mages, but since it is in spirit form, we cannot reach it. Do you understand what that means?”
“Yeah, only spirits can touch spirits, right? …Oh, that’s why you need the Servants!”
“Exactly, to put it simply, the goal of the Harmony Grail War is to eliminate all the Servants except your own. So there’s no rule that you have to kill the Masters.”
“……” Man, she could have told me that earlier! Honestly, Rarity and this priest were being mean. …Now I’m relieved. So even if we enter this Harmony Grail War, Rarity’s not going to die.
“I see. I guess that is one way to think. Then let me ask you, Storm Whooves. Do you think you can beat your own Servant?”
“…?” Beat Saber? That’s impossible. In the first place, magic is useless against her, and she is skilled with her sword.
“Then let me ask you one more thing. It is a boring question, but do you think you are superior to your Servant?”
“…?” What’s he saying? I can’t beat Saber, so there’s no way superior to her. For this question, my answer will always be that I am weaker than my Servant, so… “…Oh.”
“That’s right. Servants are hard to defeat even with a Servant. So what should you do? See, it’s such a simple solution. Servants can only exist with a Master. No matter how powerful the Servant is, the Servant will disappear if the Master dies. So…” That’s right, it’s a natural solution. No pony would choose to take the hard way. If you want to win, the most effective way to kill the Servants would be to kill their Masters instead.
“…Okay. I understand that killing the Master is an effective way to eliminate other Servants. But then, if their Servant gets killed, does that make somepony not a Master anymore? Only Servants can touch the Harmony Grail, right? Then there is no point to a Master that doesn’t have a Servant.”
“No, the right to be a Master still remains as long as you have the Command Spell. A Master is a mage that can form a contract with Servants. As long as you have the Command Spell, you can form a contract with Servants. The Servants whose Masters are killed do not disappear right away. They can stay in this world until their magical energy runs out. If such ‘abandoned Servants’ exist, a Master with no Servant can form a contract with them. That will allow them to rejoin the war. That is why Masters kill other Masters. Because if you allow them to live, there is a risk that they will impede you in the future.”
“…So what if you use up your Command Spell? Then you won’t be able to form a contract with other Servants, and the freed Servant will go off with somepony else too.”
“Yes, you’re right. If you use up your Command Spell, you will be liberated from your duty as a Master. …However, I do not think a mage exists that would waste a Command Spell that allows them to use such powerful magic. If there exists such a mage, he isn’t even an amateur, but just a chicken.” The priest laughs, as he knows what I’m thinking about.
“……” I’m annoyed. That priest is making fun of me. I think he’s trying to provoke me.
“You must understand now. So we will finish the explanation of the rules. Well then, let us return to the beginning, Storm Whooves. You said you have no intention of being a Master. Do you still feel that way? If you want to abandon your responsibility as a Master, that is fine too. As you have realized, you may use up your Command Spell to end your contract with Saber. In that case, I will guarantee your safety until the Harmony Grail War ends.”
“…? Hold on. Why do you have to guarantee my safety? I can protect myself.”
“I do not have enough free time to care for you either, but this is one of the rules. I have been dispatched to supervise the repeating Harmony Grail War. That is why I must minimize the victims of the war. Protection of mages who lost their claims to being a Master is one of my biggest responsibilities as the supervisor.”
“…Repeating Harmony Grail War?” Hold on. Repeating… does he mean that this kind of battle has happened many times before? “What do you mean? The Harmony Grail War didn’t just start now?”
“Of course not. Do you think a supervisor would have been dispatched if it were so? This church bears a duty to recover the harmony relics, as we are the lowest of the special agencies. Originally, it was our goal to research and recover the harmony cross, but here, we have a duty to investigate the Harmony Grail. We have to investigate the 726th Harmony Grail that has appeared in this far eastern land. We must recover it if it is real, and dispute it if it is not.”
“726th… that many Harmony Grails?”
“Who knows? It just means that there have been at least that many things that seemed like one. And one of those is the Harmony Grail from the Harmony Grail War observed in this town. According to records, it is said that the first battle occurred about 200 years ago. Since then, the battles between Masters have been repeating in a cycle of about 60 years. This is the fifth Harmony Grail War. Since the last one was ten years ago, this will be the shortest cycle yet.”
“Wha… are you ponies insane? You ponies have repeated this thing four times already!?”
“I feel the same way. As you said, ponies have repeated this event many times. …Yes. In the past, the Harmony Grail Wars were terrible. Masters were driven by their desires, forgot their teachings as mages, and just killed each other indiscriminately. I think you already know, but it is the highest crime for a mage to use his magic in public. A mage cannot allow his identity to be revealed to the public. But Masters in the past have violated that. The Magic Association dispatched a supervisor to caution them, but they only made it in time for the third Harmony Grail War. The one dispatched then was my father. Do you understand now, colt?”
“…Yeah, I understand we need a supervisor. But from what you said, isn’t this Harmony Grail War fundamentally bad?”
“Oh? How is it bad?”
“Because the past mages were ponies who would break the rules of the mages, right? Then let’s say this Harmony Grail thing really exists. What will you do if the one who remains is somepony who uses the Harmony Grail selfishly? It’s bad if such a thing is obtained by somepony who has no problem killing others. If it is the job of the Association to look after mages, then shouldn’t you ponies be punishing those kinds of ponies?” I question, with a little hope. But as I expected, Blue Blood laughs.
“Of course not. There are no mages who will act outside their own interests. We only supervise the rules of the Harmony Grail War. We do not care about what happens afterwards The Association is not concerned about the kind of ponies that obtains the Harmony Grail.”
“That’s ridiculous! What if the Master that obtains the Harmony Grail is the worst pony possible!?”
“It would be problematic, but we can do nothing. It is the Harmony Grail that chooses its owner. And we do not have the power to stop a Master who has been chosen by the Harmony Grail. It is a grail that makes wishes come true, after all. The one who obtains it will be able to do as he pleases. …But if you do not want that, then all you have to do is win it yourself. That is the most reliable way, isn’t it?” Blue Blood is trying to hold back his laughter. It’s like he’s enjoying my clumsy inability to accept the facts. “What’s wrong, colt? I think that was a good idea, so will you not accept it?”
“…That’s none of your business. Anyway, I don’t have any reason to fight. I’m not interested in the Harmony Grail, and I don’t feel like a Master even if you tell me I am.”
“Oh. So you are not concerned about what the winner of the Harmony Grail would do, even if it leads to disaster?”
“That’s…” …I can’t answer the question. Crap, his words are violent. They force the truth onto me, whether I want it or not.
“That is fine, if you have no reason to fight. So you are not troubled by what happened ten years ago?”
“…Ten years... ago?”
“That’s right. At the end of the last Harmony Grail War, an unsuitable Master touched the Harmony Grail. I do not know what the Master wished for. All we know is the result of the disaster that came afterwards.”
“……” For an instant. That image of hell flashes in my head. “…Hold on. That can’t be…”
“It is. It is an event that everypony in this town knows about, Storm Whooves. Five hundred killed or wounded. A hundred and thirty four buildings burned down. That inferno, still unexplained, is the remains of the Harmony Grail War.”
“……” …I feel sick. My vision blurs. I lose concentration and I can’t focus my eyes. My body stumbles. But I hold myself firm. I hold onto consciousness by clenching my teeth. I hold back my nausea with the anger boiling up in me.
“Storm? What’s wrong? You’re looking pale. …I know it’s not a comfortable story, but… if you want, we can take a rest for a while.” I must have looked terrible. I think it’s very rare for Rarity to be worried like that.
“Don’t worry. I feel better after seeing your weird face.”
“…Hey, just what is that supposed to mean?”
“Oh, I have no hidden intentions. I meant it literally, so don’t worry about it.”
“Well, fine… hey, that’s worse, you big oaf!” The school’s number one honor student, Rarity Jewels, smacks me in the head. That does it. With that, the nausea and anger go away.
“…Thanks. You really did help, so don’t bully me too much. I have a few more things to ask about.” She looks like she hasn’t hit me enough, but she still lets me continue.
“Oh, you still have questions? All right, let out everything you want to say.” He should know what I want to ask, yet he asks me to go on. Fine, Storm Whooves won’t lose to you.
“Then I’ll ask. You said this is the fifth Harmony Grail War. Then, has anypony ever obtained the Harmony Grail?”
“Of course. A sad event like that annihilation doesn’t happen every time.”
“Do not be hasty. It is easy just to obtain it. After all, the Harmony Grail is managed in this church. If you speak of just touching it, I touch it every day.”
“Huh?” T-The Harmony Grail is at this church?
“Of course, it is only the vessel. It is empty. Rarity said it earlier that the Harmony Grail is in spirit form. What we maintain is a well-made replica of the Harmony Grail. We use this as the catalyst to draw down the real Harmony Grail and transform it into a Grail that grants wishes. It’s like the relationship between Servants and Masters. …Yes, there was indeed a stallion who obtained the real Harmony Grail temporarily, using that method.”
“Then, was that Harmony Grail real? No, what happened to the stallion who obtained it?”
“Nothing. The Harmony Grail was imperfectly completed. It was the result of a foolish stallion, affected by sentiment.” …? With the previous pressure gone, the priest narrows his eyes as if in regret.
“…What do you mean? Didn’t the Harmony Grail appear?”
“It is easy to just make the Harmony Grail appear. Once the seven Servants are present, the Harmony Grail will appear in time. As Rarity said, there is no need to kill other Masters. But that does not complete the Harmony Grail. That thing decides its own appropriate master. And for that reason, it could not be obtained by a stallion who avoided battles.”
“Heh, so that just means it’s useless to obtain the Harmony Grail without settling matches with the other Masters. The Master who obtained the Harmony Grail first in the last war was just a chicken. He just ran away from the Harmony Grail, saying that he didn’t want to fight other Masters.” So saying, Rarity looks away from Blue Blood.
“…No way.” Does that mean Blue Blood was one of the Masters in the last war, and that he retired because he refused to fight in spite of obtaining the Harmony Grail!?
“…Blue Blood. You didn’t fight?”
“I did until halfway. But I made a bad decision. As a result, I only obtained an empty Harmony Grail. Well, I guess that was my limit anyway. Because the other Masters were all monstrous. I lost my Servant first and was taken under my father’s protection. …Come to think of it, it was inappropriate for a son of the supervisor to be chosen as a Master. Father died at that time. Since then, I have succeeded the role of the supervisor, and I protect the Harmony Grail at this church.” Saying that, the priest Blue Blood turns around, before him stands the symbol of worship. “That is the end of our conversation. The only ones qualified to obtain the Harmony Grail are those who have Servants. When there is only one of you left, the Harmony Grail should naturally appear in front of you. Tell me your decision as to if you want to join this battle, the Harmony Grail War, now.” The priest requests my final decision.
“……” I’m at a loss for words. I had no reason to fight until just now. Now, I have a reason to fight and a will to fight. But can I really accept that?
“Are you still undecided? Look, a Master is not something you can be just because you want to be. Rarity has been training long as a mage, but it was not determined that she would be a Master. All that could be decided beforehand was whether to prepare for it or not. Only mages are to be chosen as Masters. If you are a mage, you should have been ready already. I guess it cannot be helped if you say you are not. You and your teacher were failures in that case. It is merely annoying for such a mage to be fighting, so get rid of your Command Spell now.”
“…!” He doesn’t need to ask. I…