Gwyndolin Interlude: The Shadow Behind the Sun (Part III)
Sparing a glance to her sister, Stheno shook her head and then brought her focus back to Gwyndolin whatever he was now going to call himself, and then took two steps away from her own little group and placed her hands on her hips, levelling an unimpressed look on the Moon God. "Is this usually how you treat guests?"
Gwyndolin barely stirred, that only served to make her a touch more annoyed though it was kept at bay purely by the fact that she doubted getting angry would actually net her anything in the way of a pleasing reaction. Gwyndolin wasn't like how he was when they last met, that version had seemed lethargic whereas this one just didn't seem to care in the least.
"You go out of your way to summon us, you tell us that Medusa and her Master are coming here and then you creep away to the far end of the room and fall asleep." She still didn't get so much as a twitch from the God, which left her to wonder whether she was speaking to herself or not. Regardless, she wasn't going to let all of this remain unspoken. "I would have thought that you, of all people, would have a better idea as to how to treat invited guests. The very least you could do would be to provide something to avoid us all getting bored while we all wait."
A faint but audible groan echoed out from the cloak of darkness, Gwyndolin's red eyes rolled as their voice came out a moment later, a mixture of exasperation and thinly veiled annoyance. "I've made it clear what I expect from you…but I shall recant what I know of. The three of you were Goddesses born of the nature of human wishes. Though yourself and Euryale were revered while Medusa became the object of interest of the sea God…one thing leads to another and she exiles herself to an island while the two of you join her. Then she finally accepts freedom and kills the two of you and becomes known as the monster Gorgon."
Stheno took in a deep breath before she opened spoke, keeping her voice measured as she did so. "I do not know where you garnered these delusions of yours, but I can tell you that Medusa is not as you think she is-"
"Why?" She was cut off almost immediately by the honest confusion in the voice of Gwyndolin, the shadows shifted as the eyes rose up higher and higher from their space in the room. "Why is Medusa different from I? What is it that makes her so different? Abuse from your family remains abuse. Whom else can you trust save for them but when those bonds are twisted in such a way…in what way is 'Medusaless' any less an insult than the name Gwyndolin?"
Rolling her lips inwards, she narrowed her eyes a touch at them and brought her hand up to rub her forehead in exasperation. Trying to explain to them the nuances of the sisters relationship would have been a wasted effort. It wasn't just something that could be so easily explained to an outsider. This was just how they showed Medusa their love, she understood that. "It is not something for you to comment on with only a passing involvement-"
She caught herself as the snakes surged out of the darkness, stopping a few metres from her and all of them looming down with eyes burning with visible rage. She took a step back before being swept up in the arm of Asterios, the minotaur kept her close as he retreated back further and set her down. The snakes continued to glare at her for a few seconds before they turned and skulked back into the darkness.
"...I've been a pleasant enough host in allowing you to remain here." Gwyndolin spoke after a few moments of silence, his voice empty of emotion. "Do not impede upon my generosity further in this nonsense. Whether you consider it a matter beyond the care of an outsider means nothing to me. Those boundaries you believe exist? They do not. Not to me. So you can either explain to me why you treat Medusa as you do or I can find other ways of demonstrating my capacity as a host…I've had a long time to get creative."
Stheno wet her lips for a moment, then turned around to look at Euryale and saw that she was similarly on edge about the whole situation. Turning back to face Gwyndolin she clicked her tongue and placed her hands on her lips. "If you think she became the Gorgon to try and free herself from us, then you're a fool. She became the Gorgon because…"
"...We are Goddesses born for the nature of mankind." Stheno explained with a touch of disdain entering her voice as she did so. Glancing away with a minor frown on her lips. "All of us. Beauty to be sought out and possessed. To be violated by humans. That is our purpose in this world…and then Medusa took it upon herself to protect us." she announced, looking back at Gwyndolin and now sporting a more confident smirk. "She became the Gorgon for our sake."
"...You seem displeased with that."
The smile died immediately. "Of course I am you…" she caught herself before she said something unkind. Pursing her lips and straightening herself out. "...That was Medusa's choice to do that. We never asked that of her, we never wanted her to do it, she just did…she took it upon herself to be our protector. So no. She didn't become the Gorgon because she hated us."
The red eyes started dispassionately at her for a few moments before a single grunt flowed from the dark cloud. "For a Goddess, you are astoundingly naive. No one becomes a fiend because they hate their family…they become a monster because they love them too much and remain all too aware of what they truly are. Whether you realise it or not, you are the author of Medusa's misery and the creation of the Gorgon…mankind and Athena were little more than stepping stones but you were the ones who kept pushing her along."
Euryale spoke up from behind her with a hard tone of voice. "Did you summon us here to try and deny our claims of family? Medusa is our sister. She is not going to be used by you as something to justify hatred against us. If you desire someone to blame for her condition, blame Athena."
"Ah, yes…the Curse inflicted upon her by Athena…you accompanied her to these islands because of it, didn't you?" Gwyndolin mused aloud with a strange note in his words. "She was forced into exile…but you followed her willingly, though still being loved by mankind you walked in step with her and then…then she devolves herself into a monster for the sake of keeping you safe. Sacrificing her own life…for you. You who mock and insult her at every turn and call it love. A love, I am certain, that she could do without."
Stheno frowned for a moment, then curled her lip as she looked them up and down. "Is that why you summoned us here? Projecting your unhappy existence onto Medusa and thinking you are one in the same?" she all but scoffed at the notion as she narrowed her eyes at them. "And do not think us so ignorant of how Medusa became as she is…we indulged her enjoyment of slaughter because it made her happy and she lost herself to it."
"Lost herself? Because she developed some method of enjoyment amidst the hell you forced her into?" She could feel the sneer being projected towards her. "And indulged? As though you alone are the one who should command what she can and cannot do? You speak of sibling affection and all I hear from you is the pleasant treatment of a slave. Medusa did indeed become the Gorgon of her own volition…but only because she cared for you. Only because she loved you…You spit on her and call it love? Mock her at every turn with snide comments because you care for her? Call it what it is."
"...You've certainly changed since I last recall meeting you." Stheno commented with a frown as she placed her hands on her hips and narrowed her eyes. "The you I met before would never have dared to speak to me in such a way."
"Because Gwyndolin was too weak and too sad. That's why." They responded with a palpable sneer in their tone of voice. "But I'm not them anymore. I'm not motivated by weakness…I'm finally strong enough to be without anything. I don't need the same approval Gwyndolin needed. I'm finally free of it." The red eyes closed. "...Now we need only wait until the visitors arrive…or the one visitor who actually matters."
Glancing at the shadow, she paused and then turned her eyes to either side of the great hall and noticed there was still nothing around them, then directed them back to her and waved her arms about in a lazy fashion. "And what is it you intend to do now? Rid Medusa of her tyrant sisters? Because I guarantee that won't play out as you think it will."
They scoffed loudly. "I am aware that this version will love you deeply. Because, like Gwyndolin, she is too weak to be rid of the knife from her heart. I know that the Gorgon herself must be capable of appearing and yet why is it that Medusa roams this world and not her? Why does the version who slaved her life away for you linger while the other is hidden…I can only assume she regrets the choice and if that is the case…fine. She can return to the abusive family if that is her desire. If that is what makes her happy…"
Stheno paused at the strange note that entere Gwyndolin's tone of voice, almost as though there was something wistful there, but it lasted for only a moment. "If that is what makes her happy, if there is something that can be salvaged from your family…then do that. I trust you won't repeat the return of the Gorgon at any rate."
A frown, then she leaned back and parted her lips slightly. She had been expecting more from him and she naturally would have responded but then it sounded as though he was just going to leave things as they were. While she was certainly more than fine with being returned to the side of her youngest sister, there was something odd about the nature in which Gwyndolin allowed this. Especially after his rather emotional spiel earlier.
"Is that all you have to say on the matter?" Euryale spoke up, annoyance mixed with surprise in her voice. "Perhaps you do know Medusa well enough, she would never approve of being kept apart from us because we are her beloved sisters…yet you clearly hold our bond so low but make no effort to seperate us? I would have thought-"
"Thought what? That I would rip your family apart?" Gwyndolin gave a disgusted noise as the shadow turned away from them and moved across the room. "Medusa can make her own choices…and I am certain that her current Master would be swift to step in if something were to arise once more." another pause and then a quiet chuckle. "I likely won't be around long enough to care about it."
"And what does that mean? Are you so quick to assume death?"
"Yes." They didn't even hesitate. "I'm culling the weakness from me. The chains that bound me for so long and I shall bring forth the largest and strongest of them…Gwyn is out there and he will come here. He will stand before me as I spit in his face and decry him a worthless facsimile of power and then tell him that I accomplished more in my life than he ever did in his. Then I will kill him…though he is all but certain to kill me in the battle but either way…I'll finally be free of him."
How disappointing. Still, if he wanted to be a suicidal fool then that was entirely on him, but surely he was aware of the flaws of his plan, especially if her sister and her sisters Master were coming here as well.
"And tell me, when does this Gwyn arrive?"
She got only silence from them.
This time, she did laugh. "You do not even know that? This is getting quite the awkward little encounter. After going through all of these measures, coming and summoning us to these islands, I thought you were to enlist the aid of Medusa and her Master against him but you plan on facing them alone? I never thought you looked at sucicide and saw it as an appealing option. Are you tired of living?"
Red eyes turned and stared at her.
"I will not return to Chaldea or any of those others ever again…that way invites doom upon me and I shall not be subjected to it ever again. The Goddess Gwyndolin dies forever. Never to return to this, or any, world. A prisoner and victim no longer."
Stheno scoffed "It sounds as though you're trying to turn yourself into a literal victim of slaughter. If you are still so compelled to stand before your father, if you cannot move past such a thing, then you're still a prisoner of them. Besides, if you were summoned as a Servant you would likely regress once more which makes this exercise of yours utterly pointless." waving a hand at him, she offered a dismissive stare.
"I didn't bring you here for your opinions."
She rolled her eyes at them. "I am a Goddess. Permission is nothing more than a trivial suggestion for one such as I. What was it you said earlier?" placing a finger on her chin, she tapped it twice as she pretended to think before she spoke with a sharp grin. "Whether you consider it a matter beyond the care of an outsider means nothing to me. Those boundaries you believe exist? They do not. Not to me."
Her eyes met his in a clear challenge, he would either take back his words or fall silent.
"...Why do you even care?"
"I don't." She dismissed that notion away immediately with a wave of her hands. "I care only for my family, but you are being so foolish that to not comment upon it would be unthinkable to me. Unless you would prefer I sit in a corner and do nothing but then you know me already, I would not do something so fool as that."
Red eyes lingered on her, then gradually turned away. "Hmph. Talk amongst yourselves then. As you said, it is stupidity-"
"Why?" That voice came from neither herself nor her sister, instead the gentle manner of speaking which drew the attention of the room upon it came from Asterios. The white haired Berserker having taken a step forwards and tilted their head to the side. With a troubled frown, they spoke further. "Why. Hurt. Self? Why. Not. Like. Chaldea. They. Kind."
She expected some manner of comment that was vaguely insulting, instead there was nothing more than a faint but indulgent sigh from Gwyndolin. "There is an innocence about you that is mildly envious, Asterios. What do you see when you look at Euryale?"
Asterios visibly jumped, then glanced away from them for a moment and towards the Goddess in question. their red eyes lingered over her sister before they returned to Gwyndolin and spoke in a slow and slightly confused tone of voice. "I. See. Friend. Someone. Who. Was. Kind. To. Me."
"...There lies the difference between us." Gwyndolin replied after a single moment. "I had a family. I had seen the love in my fathers eyes when he looked at my older brother, and in my brothers eyes when he looked at me…then he left and I never saw it again. Despite the love I showed my family, despite all my efforts to appease them…It changed nothing. I saw no love in the eyes of my family ever again. Not even in Gwynevere."
He exhaled. "Yet Gwyndolin loved them. Fool that he was. He loved them at the cost of his own joy. Twisting and turning himself into something they demanded of him because he hoped it would somehow fix it…yet he broke his own mind for nothing. He kept the world turning out of love…and in the end, love rewarded him nothing but a slow and agonising death. Eaten alive after being poisoned by the one I thought of as a friend."
The red eyes turned away from them.
Asterios remained silent before he spoke again. "What. About. Now? Can. Find-"
"No." They were cut off. "Not this time…because if there was ever a moment then it was long ago. I endured insult after insult and misery after misery inflicted upon me in the name of love. I destroyed my own happiness in the name of love. Never again. I would rather die and I likely will die."
The minotaur stared in silence, then looked down. "No. Happiness. Now?"
"So I can run through the same agony all over again? I think not."
Stheno raised an eyebrow. "Is that truly it then? Your family cannot match your love so you decide that there is no value within it? Surely you cannot have gone so long without an ounce of affection. You would have killed yourself long before now." she waved a hand "Why did you not just present yourself as a God to humans? I doubt they would have cared for your physical appearance in the least."
"You think I would care for the affection of strangers?" Gwyndolin spat. "I'm moving past the need to love and be loved. At least as this I don't need to pretend, I don't need to expect anything from them. I can hate and be hated…If my family will not care for me, then I won't force myself to care for them."
He continued to glare at her, to which she only offered an innocent smile, through her eyes quickly flickered to the left of Gwyndolin when a figure cloaked in a black robe suddenly materialised next to him, crouched over and the only notable feature to them was the white mask made in the shake of a skull.
"My lord." The distinctly male voice echoed out, Gwyndolin gave the faintest of hums in affirmation. "Archer has forced them into the lower streets, Saber and Lancer await your command to halt their momentum. They are undamaged from the initial assault, however."
"Of course they are." Gwyndolin answered tiredly, glancing down at the Servant who could only have been an Assassin. "Assist them in delaying the advance of Chaldea." he clicked his tongue with annoyance. "Recall that it is only to delay. I would rather he not stain the streets with the blood of our guests soon to be Master."
The Assassin bowed his head once more, then turned and vanished from sight, leaving them alone in the room once more.
Stheno shot a glance towards Gwyndolin. "...Are you really not capable of letting us see Medusa's progress here? I would much rather keep an eye on her."
Gwyndolin stared at her for a moment, then scoffed and turned away without another word, though before she could let out another sentence, she felt a tingle of magical energy above her, turning her eyes skywards and raising her brows as the ceiling of the hall shimmered like the surface of water, the stone surface faded away and was instead replaced by a distant view of the city streets as a little under half a dozen figured walked onwards, her eyes instantly sought out the familiar purple hair of Medusa.
Though she was a little surprised to see that she wasn't the tallest woman there, that went to the vaguely familiar shape of the chestnut haired woman in the silken white dress and match veil, though her familiarity extended to the statue she had watched get demolished a short while ago.
A distinctive tall figure in rather bulk scaled looking armour seemed to be having a rather animated discussion with her as they moved.
Ritsuka supposed this could have gone worse.
"Downright insulting to him! Have you not even a shred of understanding as to the damage that would have inflicted on his mind!?"
Then again, it could be going a lot better.
"I fail to see the value of your words now, especially considering you were the one to leave so long ago. I believe you forfeited the rights to decide what was and was not best for anyone in the family at that moment."
"You-this has nothing to do with that!" Faraam hotly shot back at his sister, stabbing an accusing finger towards her. "You're not stupid, you saw the way he would sometimes cloak himself in matching armour to me and wield a mimicry of my weapon! His desires were obvious-!"
Gwynevere, naturally, didn't let the accusation pass without getting her own words in, her eyes narrowed and hands clenched into fists as she pressed her left into her bosom just above her heart. "And his desires meant nothing when compared with the duties of the Gods! All of us understood that lesson and took them to heart, there might have been some dissonance in the change but Gwyndolin accepted his role-"
"Of course he accepted it! You think he was going to say no when everyone else was telling him what the proper course of action was?"
"I fail to recall you suffering from a similar problem when it comes to walking opposite the wishes of others!"
This was perhaps one of the worst outcomes, but at least they hadn't started trading punches with one another yet. He mainly felt bad for Faraam during this encounter, a very long time without seeing his family or even hearing of them and then he comes back to find out some rather big changes had occurred and none of which he seemed to approve of, if the rather vocal disagreement was any indication. At the same time, he felt as though he should have provided more information at the time to try and stem this.
However, at the time he wasn't sure what he was supposed to have said. Tell Faraam to his face that his brother was a depressed shut in and his sister was a mind breaking creep? Yeah, because that would have gone over well with first impressions. Just insult his family who he seemed to be viewing through nostalgic lenses at the time.
Mash shuffled up to his side, glancing at the pair of Gods in front of them as they continued to shout at one another, then leaned closer to him and dropped her voice into a whisper. "Is it a good idea to let this go on, Senpai? Because they seem to be…it doesn't seem as though this is going to end well."
She probably felt awkward just being stood near them, he sure did.
However, he shook his head from side to side. Even assuming that they would actually listen to him amidst their own shouting long enough to actually heed his commands, this felt like one of those situations that would only get worse the longer it was allowed to fester. Besides, it might have been a little cruel but this was virtually the only way that Faraam was really going to learn just how much his family had changed.
"I'll stop it if it goes too far." So long as it remained as just loud words being traded between one another, then he wouldn't have much in the way of complaints against them. "But I'd say this is a situation that just has to play out…"
Then again, he didn't have siblings so he wasn't sure how this would normally go with them, his eyes glanced towards the only other person around him who did have siblings, Medusa sensed his stare and then turned her head to face him. She probably understood what his intentions were, given the complicated expression that fluttered across her face for a brief flash, then she turned her attention back to the duo. "...Avoiding the issue will lead to problems in the future. Either here or at Chaldea, Gods will also hold long grudges to those who have wronged them. My sisters…we never had moments such as these, so I cannot comment upon the best choice. All I might say is what you believe is the best choice as a Master."
He made a small noise "Sending one of them back would seem like the best choice and then letting them shout up the halls outside of a dangerous situation would be what I want, but Gwyndolin has already seen both of them so he's probably going to be expecting both of them." grimacing rather deeply, he shook his head from side to side. "I send one of them back now, Gwyndolin's probably going to think they're running away from him all over again and considering how he is now…"
The communicator beeped, his eyes turned down to his wrist as he brought it up and flashed open the screen. Only to bring his brows up as a rather surprising face greeted him instead of the expected Roman or Director. "Nudd?"
"I was informed of the situation when I inquired as to the disappearance of Gwynevere." Before Ritsuka could ask how he actually knew that Gwynevere was missing, the Saber pulled a tired frown and shook his head from side to side. "I caught the Servant known as Ash as he made for this room, sensing the disappearance of the Goddess Gwynevere…but he seemed troubled, I came in his stead and sent him back-are those raised voices I hear?"
Ritsuka cringed, then glanced up to the pair as they stopped walking and continued to just yell obscenities and accusations at one another, they were just going round and round in circles and making the exact same arguments against one another at this point. All of which boiled down to 'why didn't you do something?' and 'I didn't do anything wrong, it's your fault!' and the like. "They're…disagreeing when it comes to Gwyndolin."
"Hmph." Nudd gave a troubled grunt as he leaned back in the chair, glancing off to the side for a short moment and then turning back to the screen. "...I cannot claim to know all, but if they feel strongly enough to argue over it, then they must care for him…But fighting between siblings is something that saddens my heart."
Grimacing, he spared the arguing pair of Gods another look before he returned his attention to Nudd. "It's something that feels quite awkward being stood near. Though…I think that there's something the matter with the family as a whole. I don't think Gwynevere knows what went wrong and I don't think Faraam can quite grasp how much people can change."
Nudd didn't physically react to his words, instead he folded his arms over his chest. "It would remain a matter of acceptance, son. I would say that when Faraam remained with his family, they were still very much the idealised versions that he spoke of during his conversation. Sisters who would care for their brothers and a younger brother who was a little mischievous rapscallion…I do not believe that he would wish to contemplate what occurred after he left and it seems the results…"
He trailed off meaningfully but Ritsuka knew what he meant, especially since Faraam was quickly showing to be rather disturbed by the events. A part of him would say that it was Faraam's choice to leave the family - and in a rather sudden way - so it would be natural they would change with him gone. But he doubted that anyone would want to imagine the worst. It was a rather unfortunate situation for everyone involved.
"Yeah…" Clearing his throat, he glanced back to Nudd. "So how come you're in the command centre anyway? I know you said you were just checking in for Ash…" he paused for a moment, then pursed his lips and opened his mouth. "How-"
"Without knowing what he was like before, I cannot say if he is better or worse." Nudd replied with a troubled frown and a shake of his head. "It would seem as though the upbringing has poisoned him against the Gods, he was a touch hostile with me when we met, but he was willing to let the matter settle when I assured him I would deal with it. As for why I am sat here in place of either Romani or Olga Marie." he glanced to the side of the room and twitched his lip upwards. "They're enjoying some coffee."
Ritsuka blinked several times before he spoke. "C-coffee?"
"I was headed to the command room anyway. I figured that it would be best to ensure that everyone was at least prepared without being overly anxious." He explained as he turned back to face Ritsuka, though he was still moderately baffled by the idea that the literal 'King of the Gods' for Ireland was bringing coffee to people. It was a pretty far fling from what he remembered from the others. "We encountered Ash on our way here."
He paused, then furrowed his brows. "We?"
"He means me!" Nudd's smile grew a fraction and Ritsuka blinked as the figure of Caffrey suddenly appeared behind his shoulders, the first thing he noticed in the hands of the Goddess was another mug supported, and what looked like a small white trace of foam around her upper lip "When I heard uncle Gwyndolin ran away, I didn't know what to do…Mother told me she would deal with it but I was still worried so I was coming to see if there was anything I could do to help, then I ran into Lord Nuada-"
"Careful there." Nudd gently chided her with a light tone as he placed his metal arm against the underside of her drink and moved it back a fraction. Giving her a raised eyebrow. "You don't want to end up spilling it or…"
He released a mirthful huff as he gestured towards his top lip silently. Caffrey froze for a moment, then pulled one of her hands away and touched at the lip, pulling some of the cream back. With a hacking noise, she shuffled out of the view to probably hide her embarrassment.
"It's hot chocolate, by the way." Nudd explained with a shake of his head, jerking it in the direction of the Goddess. "She has a bit of a sweet tooth and the taste of coffee is a bitter pill to swallow."
Ritsuka stared in silence.
"...That was funny and you know it." Nudd pointed at him with a lopsided smirk, lowering his hand back down. "All the same, myself and Princess Caffrey are here in the event you require assistance. I hope that you do not but…I feel as though that there will be hard truths spoken before this night is over." he grimaced and turned to the side. "...And how are you feeling right now, son?"
How was he feeling?
He hadn't stopped to think about that since they came down, then pulled his lips into a thin line before he exhaled. "I…I'm feeling a little anxious at the moment. This family is probably one of the most important in another world and I look at them and I…I just see a lot of damage. I don't want that to spill over here because…" he shook his head from side to side. "...Well, I don't want to think about what would happen if it does get worse because these disputes are always ugly…I just want everyone to be happy because we're in a pretty unhappy situation. Is that selfish of me?"
"Of course." Nudd replied without even a moment of hesitation. "But happiness does not come to you naturally. To wish to be happy in itself is a selfish thing, you want something for yourself. To wish it upon another is equally selfish but there is no shame in something like that. Wishing for a spot of light in a dark cave isn't something to admonish yourself for…it is common sense. Besides, would you stop if I told you that it was wrong?"
Nudd gave him a pointed look. "Then you have your answer already. It's fine to be a little selfish." frowning, the Saber jerked his head forwards "In any case, that family could probably use a fresh perspective. They've got themselves a closed circle of misery which seems pointless to cling to now…because they're only hurting themselves now."
Ritsuka turned to the direction of Faraam and Gwynevere, then shut down the communicator with a farwell nod to Nudd. Approaching the duo before bringing up his hand and waving them down. Their conversation became clearer was he moved closer to them.
Faraam briefly spared a glance towards them for a moment, then focused back on Gwynevere with a slightly subdued heat. "-I understand I wasn't there when it mattered but you were! Gwyndolin wanted to be a soldier! A warrior like me! For that matter, why would father even put him in the clothes of a Goddess in the first place? He could have served as a God in the exact same role!"
Gwynevere frowned and rounded on him. "Because there would never be a prince your equal. Father decreed you had shamed the title to the point where any who bore it would likely follow in your disgrace. He did so to save face for Gwyndolin and allow him to remain free of further repercussions of your betrayal."
"Repur-" Faraam dragged his hand down his face, letting out a long and suffering sigh. "This isn't about…fine…" he dropped his arm to his side, keeping his tone empty. "You say he was happy and that he accepted it? Then I'll accept your words…I wasn't there. I don't know how he reacted and how he thought of the role…but the least he deserved was a choice in the matter, just so he would have the option…and my betrayal has nothing to do with my title as prince-"
"Whether you think that or not played no part in it." Gwynevere coldly cut him off. "It is merely how it was. The Prince turned against his kingdom, the first crime ever dealt to the Gods. You branded the word forever as being synonymous with treason. You think anyone would have looked at Gwyndolin in the eye and thought him different? His reverence of you was apparent enough, rivalling Ornstein…there would doubtless be those who thought he would follow in your footsteps-"
Faraam cut her off with a growl, turning his head away from her and stomping off "That's nonsense. Myself and Gwyndolin were two entirely different people, we had different talents! We had different experiences! Father wouldn't…" Ritsuka watched as Faraam's shoulders slumped, bringing his hand up to cradle his head as his voice, barely above a gentle whisper, echoed out. "...Father wouldn't do that to Gwyndolin by force…"
Ritsuka opened his mouth to wave them down, though his efforts were cut short by a deafening voice reverberating through the air like last time.
Your idealism is almost sad to see.
Almost in the sense that you were the catalyst, I was a Prince until you poisoned the title, brother. Though my sisters certainly made sure that I looked the part of Princess…
Slathering myself up like a doll day after day and smiling all the while…
I would have preferred it if you had just clamped me in irons…at least that would have looked the part of a prison.
"...Where are you Gwyndolin?" Faraam's hollow voice rang out through the streets, turning his head to the skyline and looking up at the crimson eyes which had appeared once more. "How long do you wish for us to walk the streets? Or do you delight in watching me stumble through this…family reunion and feeling the weight of change pressing onto my shoulders."
I won't deny it's amusing.
But I'd long since given up on trying to get you to understand, utter meathead that you are.
But if we're on the path of emotional revelations, why don't you ask your sister what she did to her son?
That would be worth a good wheeze and a-
"Don't you dare joke about that." Ritsuka stepped forwards, clenching his hands into fists and aiming a glare towards the sky. It silenced Gwyndolin midway through whatever he was going to say, he felt the weight of the eyes falling upon him in the next moment but he didn't care all that much about it. This was one thing he wasn't going to let anyone back down. "I'm not going to pretend to understand what you're going through, but don't you dare think that's going to give you a free pass to just start pointing fun at others."
Narrowing his eyes, he hardened his voice. "Not about him and not about that. I wouldn't tolerate anyone saying that sort of thing about you and I'm not going to tolerate you doing it to anyone else."
The weight of the stare remained heavily pressing upon him, but he didn't care all that much. Compared to the weight of everything else he had gone through so far, this was nothing compared with it. Not with the intimidation that Gwyn exuded and not with the sense of danger that Solomon exuded just by looking in his direction.
He wasn't going to let Ash be reduced to ammunition for people to use to throw barbs at one another as a means of getting one up in an argument.
If you cared all that much about Gwyndolin, then Sulyvahn wouldn't be squatting in Chaldea, would he?
Rituska didn't flinch at the accusation, but that didn't mean he didn't feel it because it was hardly as though Gwyndolin was wrong to say something like that, but at the same time it wasn't as though he…no, he wasn't going to be drawn into a debate over something like this. He wasn't willing to start killing Servants just because they had problems with other Servants, he would defend them in public both ways, but he was always going to remain neutral on whatever personal grudges they had with one another from before.
"You're not the only one with a grudge, Gwyndolin." He called back up to the voice, standing his ground against them. "And we're not going into a debate as to whether or not I should start killing people just because you don't like them or because they wronged you in the past. There is a whole host of people who would want you dead, not to mention that A-he holds no love for you either. I can care about him without resorting to murder in order to prove that."
Taking in a deep breath, he lowered his attention back to the street as he started moving. "In the same way that when we're face to face, we're going to have words with one another but I'm certainly not going to jump at violence as a first resort."
The presence of Gwyndolin faded away from them soon after, not offering any further words between them but at least he kept quiet about the nature of Ash. Ritsuka let a lot of things slide but from now on, he wasn't going to make a habit of tolerating that sort of behaviour when he was around, not about making light of the pain of others while they were still going through it.
He continued on, then paused and shot a look over his shoulder to see that the others were staring at him with varying degrees of emotion, save for Gwynevere who was pointedly looking away from him. He wasn't sure whether or not she would have spoken up to prevent her son being used as ammo or not, but he wasn't sure whether he would have liked the answer either.
Everything about this family was quickly proving to be the source of a major headache, his eyes flickering from Gwynevere to Faraam, the God giving him an indiscernible look as his gaze danced between him and the sky for a few short movements before it stopped. "...The path the lift is not far from us. So long as Gwyndolin has not destroyed that, we will have a clear route to the surface…"
He paused for a moment, then took in a deep breath before he spoke. "...I shall not ask about the matter of my newly discovered nephew, nor will I ask his identity right now…" he shot a dark look towards Gwynevere for a brief moment before it settled back on Ritsuka. "...Because I suspect I shall find the answer displeasing and right now, there are more pressing concerns…But I will hear of it. Make no mistake."
Ritsuka nodded his head once. "Sort it out amongst yourselves once we get back to Chaldea…but for the love of all that is still around in this world, do not start flinging around insults or weaponsing his life just to make the other feel bad." he turned away from them and continued on for a few more steps, "...There's enough bad blood without trying to intensify it further."
The footfalls of Faraam passed him by, soon followed by Gwynevere coming to a halt behind him. He could feel her stare in the back of his head, then she spoke up in a quiet tone of voice. "I…appreciate you preventing Gwyndolin from-"
"Don't start thanking me for that." He cut her off with a sigh, he didn't turn to face her as he brought his hand up and rubbed his forehead. Resuming his walk with only the parting words behind them. "I did it for him."
Medusa hadn't imagined that she would quickly find herself walking in step with the rather daunting visage of Gwyndolin's older brother, but at least he was marginally more pleasant to walk beside than his sister. If only because he was less obnoxious on her senses, Gwynevere was radiating her divinity like a sun whereas Faraam was like a gentle hum, only just reminding her that he wasn't a Demi-God and was indeed a God at one point.
Though she had noticed the God had purposefully slowed his walk just to come into step with her, though his eyes remained locked on the path ahead, she knew that his focus was instead on her. She did her best to remain calm, not that she was worried for physical reprisal, but in the event he asked her questions she wasn't prepared to answer…or answers she did provide that he found displeasing.
When she finally heard the intake of breath from the God, she tensed for what was doubtless going to be a problematic situation.
"I am…recently of the opinion that my family has changed rather significantly." The quiet admission brought a blink behind her visor, turning her head slightly as a form of acknowledgement but little else. "And…my jesting of Gwyndolin's position as your companion aside, it would seem as though you are the only one who can actually answer my questions so…what is he like?"
She pursed her lips, it seemed a simple enough question to answer but she was unsure as to why there was a tension in the air. "...I can only speak to what I have encountered thus far."
"That will suffice."
"...He is quiet but respectful." Gwyndolin had always been the one to seek her out but their conversations never once drifted from anything other than their respective books. Anything else would require an external prompt and he didn't make much in the way of conversation. In her personal opinion he was…the perfect reading companion. "When he does seek out conversation, it is cordial and patient. A dislike for…overexcited situations and individuals, much like myself."
When she glanced back in the direction of Faraam, she felt as though there was a deep sadness that he now exuded for whatever reason. By her own metric, she had just called his brother a polite and well mannered individual who liked to keep to himself. She wasn't sure how that could possibly be seen as a negative.
"He's never spoken of his past?"
"I have never asked." He'd actually been respectful to her past as well, not as though she shied away from what she was, however the way in which Gwyndolin had spoken with her was as though he didn't much care for what she became or what she did. It was unusual, she supposed, but she'd not put much further thought into it. Perhaps he was just fine with having company. "I assumed it was a topic he would rather not discuss and recent events…"
She trailed off at that, not saying anymore because she didn't need to.
Faraam gave a gentle but troubled hum in response to her words, he didn't attempt to defend himself either. He just hummed and said nothing more on the subject, she imagined that was the end of their conversation before he spoke up again. "He used to prank me."
…How was she supposed to respond to that?
"I'd see doors where there were mere walls and walk head first into one, I'd find him not far away…he'd give himself out by his snickering." He continued on with a wistful tone, it seemed more as though he was speaking to himself than anything else. "Other times I would find myself speaking with a knight about training, running through the proper forms and the like…only to find out they had never been real and it was Gwyndolin spying on the lesson to pick up the art."
He made a small noise as he rounded the next corner. "He wasn't very good at anything…I did think he might make a good bowman but…it would be something of an embarrassment if the God of archery was less skilled than one of the knights who served them and Gough earned his title for a reason…more to save face in the end…but I think Gwyndolin might have been happy just to be able to contribute."
Taking in a deep breath, he turned his eyes skywards. "...Even Gwynevere participated to some degree…she was the one who pointed out Artorias and said he would make for a finer knight if he were raised higher and after a spar with him, I accepted that he had great potential. Gwynevere trained him herself until he was better than her-"
She managed to suppress the rising of her brows at the fact that the Goddess behind them, who seemed to be nothing more than an icon of beauty, was apparently skilled with a sword. It did beggar belief as though he was mocking her, but the fact he continued speaking in an utterly serious tone of voice banished that possibility. She didn't know much about the skill of this 'Artorias', however.
"-and then he was elevated to one of Gwyn's personal knights…so I sought out Ornstein and put him forth as mine. Then there was Filianore and Ciaran…Gough just happened to prove he was a skilled bowman and that was that." He shrugged his shoulders. "Gwyndolin was too young to participate by that point and he didn't have…"
Medusa thinned her lips. "Your brother has found other talents."
"...Yes." Faraam remarked in a bland tone of voice. "...But it seems he found them much too late…Thank you for coming, at least. Just…just so that someone else cares about him because I'm not sure he'd accept anything from me."
Medusa turned her head from him and to the side. She wasn't wholly sure how she felt about Gwyndolin in the first place, she wouldn't exactly rush and call them friends seeing as how he only knew about her through her sisters but he…there was something about him that almost felt maternal? Or how she imagined it would have felt. He was significantly older than her, that much she knew but it was less a matter of how she saw him and more a matter of how he saw her.
She wasn't a Goddess anymore, more in line with a monster now.
Yet he kept her company all the same.
Where other Gods would have kept their distance, he just sat down and started reading alongside her as though there was nothing out of the ordinary.
For a God to find the company of a monster like her acceptable…how lonely did they have to be?
"Ah, I see that has remained unchanged." Faraam's words broke her out of her train of thinking as they finally came to a halt at what she presumed was their goal. A great stone structure lay before them, a single entrance to it which showed a spiral stairwell leading up towards the centre of the structure, at either end of it lay a path which extended for two metres before cutting off abruptly. The God at her side turned around and waved his arm to the group behind them. "This is the lift to the citadel. We're close now."
Ritsuka stared down at the crank handle in front of him, then turned towards Faraam who was standing off to the right with his arms folded over his chest, Gwynevere was standing a bit further behind him on the staircase leading up towards the, only her top half visible to him. He tore his eyes from her and towards Faraam before he spoke, gesturing to the large handle in front of him. "And this is going to work? Everything else here is an illusion so if I push this, is it going to actually do anything?"
Faraam didn't even hesitate in a reply. "If it fails, I shall have to bring forth Storm and we can chance the skies on the off chance the Archer doesn't attempt to shoot us down." he turned his head, ducking low and staring out into the horizon. "I'm sure that Storm could take the blows, but it's a matter of the rest of you and whether you fell off in the chaos of battle-"
Ritsuka had his hands on the steel lever before the Rider could even finish his sentence, taking in a deep breath before he threw his weight into the crank handle. His feet skidded along the ground as he tried to muster up as much strength as he could, feeling his entire body shake after a few moments of effort, breaths escaping between his lips in short bursts as his face started to heat up.
Letting himself go slack, he turned around and pressed his back into it, ignoring the looks he was receiving as he took in a breath and pushed once more. The only thing he achieved that time with the rapping of his shoes against the stone, though it didn't seem to go on much longer as Mash made a small noise and rushed towards him, shield vanishing as she fell by his side and pressed her hands against the metal crank and started to push as well.
It took all of a second for the crank to let out a groan before it shifted, locking in place to the new position and sending him for a short stumble as he did so. Quickly righting himself as the ground shuddered beneath them, turning his eyes to the side as the lift started to rise up and spin as it did so, the scenery lowered around them as they were carried upwards. Mash offered him a single nod of the head and a rather proud smile.
"We did it, Senpai!"
"Yep." He nodded once, he wasn't going to pretend that his contribution led to much but it was nice to be included. Returning his eyes to the former residents of the city, he placed his hands on his hips and glanced between them. "Anything else we can expect before we reach Gwyndolin, or is it a straight cut path?"
Faraam hummed. "Assuming Gwyndolin still has that Archer of his around to watch out movements, I would assume we would have to face them…" he paused for a moment as he brought his hand up to rub at his chin through the scarf, a hum rippling from him as he did so. "...However, it would be odd for him to have a single Servant to defend him and the city."
Ritsuka blinked "Why?"
"...Anor Londo, at least before my departure, was defended by a host of knights." He explained as he turned his eyes to the horizon once more. "Though the main force who would either be found in the city or leading the charge against the Dragons during the war would have been the Four Knights. Gough, the Archer. Ornstein, the Spearman. Artorias, the Swordsman. Ciaran, the Assassin."
Ritsuka saw the implication quickly. "Archer, Lancer, Saber and Assassin…" he glanced to Mash and saw that she understood what he saw right away. Bringing up the communicator once more, he spoke aloud as he pressed the screen. "Still nothing on those Servant readings?"
The voice of Romani echoed back to him as the lift slowed to a half. "Funny you should say that…because four Servants just cropped up in front of you and they all correspond to the Classes you just detailed and I have some bad news as well…" the fact of the doctor popped up with a strained grimace "You've got reinforcements waiting to be called down and I'd recommend getting them. One of the Servant readings is from someone you've encountered before-"
The lift jerked to a halt before he could even get a word out, his thoughts soon drowned out by the sudden pressure he felt on him, turning his attention towards the source of the new sensation he felt as though the world faded to nothing around him, his hands dropped down to his side as he stared at the four figures at the bridge, already waiting for them to arrive.
He idly noted some of the others but his attention remained solely on the dark armoured figure with their hands resting on the pommel of their sword, face devoid of emotion as pale yellow eyes stared at him without a trace of feeling within them, just ice cold attention.
Swallowing rather thickly, he turned to face the Servant he hadn't seen since the first Singularity.
The very first Singularity.
The Altered King Arthur's voice echoed across the walkway, reaching his ears as though distance meant nothing to their words.
"Welcome, Chaldea. Are you prepared to test yourselves against the strength of my blade once more?"