*This is a sequel to my other SiegKar fic, Sharing Warmth.
Disclaimer: Characters belong to their respectful owners
Fandom: Fate/Grand Order
Pairing: Siegfried x Karna
Genres: fanfiction, humor, crack
Characters: Siegfried, Karna, Arjuna, Kiyohime, Cú Chulainn, Diarmuid, Sasaki Kojirou, Yan Qing, Achilles and some other Servants, also original characters
It’s the New Year’s Eve meaning it’s time for party! But what is party without booze, right? A combination of Heroic Spirits and alcohol, what could possibly go wrong?
“This is bad,” thought Siegfried as he had but only half a second to tilt his head and manage to dodge the blazing arrow by a hair. Still, the heat had singed a lock of his hair before the arrow embedded itself so deeply into the wall behind Siegfried that only the silver tail was visible. The wall was magically reinforced time and time over, but it was still no match for the sheer divine force. The Saber had no doubt the arrow had aimed to take his life and even with the armor of Fafnir, he couldn’t be entirely certain that he could withstand its furious power at point blank.
“Prepare to be eradicated,” a heavily accented masculine voice deadpanned. Another blue arrow manifested in the archer’s fingers, its body flared with mana, eager to hit the target.
With a silent gulp, Siegfried’s hands clenched the hilt of Balmung, bracing himself for another fatal shot imbued with the power of thunder.
“This is really bad,” thought the Dragon Slayer.
What led to this mano a mano was a series of events which had happened two days ago.
Here in Chaldea, the staff had sought to provide the Servants a living condition as human as possible, which included foods, drinks, privacy, entertainment and, last but definitely not least, festive activities. Since ancient ages, humankind had never gone without celebrations and festivals. During his life, Siegfried had enjoyed countless celebrations, many of which had been held in his name, where a lavish feast had lasted for days and the beers and wine never stopped flowing. As a Heroic Spirit and Servant, he couldn’t say he didn’t miss such once-upon-a-time occasions despite the overzealous singing of his heroic deeds. Having been summoned for merely a week, he had no idea that here in Chaldea, celebrations were held as well, until he woke up one crisp morning to find all sorts of decorations strung along the normal sterile hallways and a gargantuan pine tree erected in the grand hall. Even his Master’s plain room got several dashes of colors. During the holidays, all missions were postponed and Masters and Servants were free to enjoy their relaxed time as well as various activities the staff had planned, and let’s not forget, the foods and drinks; after all, what would become of celebrations without booze?
The second thing that came across Siegfried’s mind that chilly morning was the New Year’s Eve being around the corner. The first thing on his consciousness, as was every other morning, was the soft curve of Karna’s slender waist under his arm. Spooning seemed to be the Lancer’s favorite position as most nights, he would pull Siegfried’s arm in mute insistence that the Saber hold him. Karna’s back pressing against Siegfried’s bare chest, that way both Servants could felt each other’s heartbeats. By that euphoniously monotonous rhythm they were lulled into dreamland together every night.
Karna seemed so child-like, almost innocent, in his sleep. His peaceful features, eyebrows relaxed, piercing eyes hidden behind his eyelids and cherry-blossom lips slightly parting, told Siegfried that he probably hadn’t been troubled with nightmares. It poured a lukewarm stream into Siegfried’s heart knowing his comrade, his friend, his partner had been able to enjoy some respite from constant battling. Only the Saber knew how many nights he had spent lying sleepless beside a sweat-soaked body, shaking from whatever horror buried so deeply in his soul that even his ascension to the Throne of Hero hadn’t been able to uproot.
“Good morning,” Siegfried welcomed a drowsy-looking Karna back to the real world. The Lancer blinked a couple times, purring softly like a petulant kitty being roused from its sleep, before shutting his eyes while muttering, “Still early.”
Siegfried smiled an indulgent smile – he just happened to adore this hidden childish side of Karna, and he really hated to disappoint the Lancer but there were things to be done and they had already been a little late. “No, it’s not,” said Siegfried, nudging Karna’s shoulder, “and we’re supposed to lend a hand.”
Siegfried heard Karna huff but the Lancer didn’t stir for a while. Before he assumed that Karna had either not listened to his words or chosen to ignore them, the body in his embrace rose to a sitting position. Yawning, Karna stretched his arms, and his joints popped. Beside him, Siegfried had also sat up.
There was a flurry of activities going on in the grand hall when the two of them entered. Siegfried scratched his silver mane, feeling somewhat embarrassed for not showing up on time; it was just snuggling with Karna had been so tempting.
Kiyohime appeared before them, wearing her usual black with flame patterns kimono. However, the pristine white apron in front of her kimono had already been stained with a few shapeless blotches (Siegfried hoped these were tomato sauce and not gore) and she was having an oversized spatula in her hand. There was no doubt she had taken part in the kitchen duties; one of the Oriental Servant’s fiery passions (pun not intended) was culinary and she had been the first to volunteer on the (probably heaviest) task of preparing the New Year’s Eve’s feast. Siegfried could make an educated guess on who else was on the cooking team.
“Where have you been?” Kiyohime asked, her brows knitting and her lips pouting. Then, without waiting for Siegfried’s reply, she grabbed his arm with her free hand, pulling him towards the direction into the kitchen. “Let’s go. There’s no time to waste. Let’s put your big fancy wings to good use. I need someone to fan the ovens.”
“The ovens are electronic,” Karna pointed out before Siegfried did.
“You know nothing,” Kiyohime scowled, her tone free of malice. Siegfried found her remark oddly familiar; he probably had heard it somewhere. “Electronic ovens are nothing compared to wood-fired ovens. I’m going to fix some fires and we need someone with enough stamina to fan them; who else is more fitted for the job? We’re going to have pizzas – because no one disagrees with pizzas, pastries and a lot more. And you,” she pointed to Karna, “those lance-wielding guys are looking for you to help them hang decorations.”
Casting a slightly bewildered Karna one last glance, Siegfried smiled and allowed himself to be ushered by the dragon girl.
By the time their Master had arrived at the kitchen to see how things were going and give every Servant on the cooking team, led by Emiya and Kiyohime, encouragement, Siegfried had already finished his designated task of fanning the ovens and was now peeling a giant basket of potatoes with the dexterity every Saber had with the sword, or knife, for that matter. Altria had strongly insisted on fish and chips – patriotic that she was – and Emiya had promised Elisabeth some potatoes au gratin. Since Servants were blissfully unperturbed by watching out for their weight, they could indulge in the fatty delicacies as much as they’d like. After having done decorating the place, Karna went to the kitchen to help Tamamo no Mae prepare the curry, a hybrid between Indian and Japanese curries which retained the rich, enticing flavors but not too spicy so that their Master’s too-sensitive tongue could enjoy. Whenever their gazes accidentally met, Karna would give him a tiny discreet smile that was sure to cause the Saber’s heart to flutter.
As it turned out, Karna’s discretion wasn’t so discreet after all, as Tamamo no Mae teased him later.
Siegfried sat at the table alone, nursing a mug of beer in his hands. Different from the sort of beer he had been accustomed to drinking, this beer had black color and a strange but not necessarily unpleasant flavor; in fact Siegfried might even start to like it – this Guinness beer which Cú Chulainn and Diarmuid had insisted that he try, and he would be greatly enjoying its taste if it wasn’t for the rowdiness coming from the tables across the hall. Unconsciously his eyes had kept veering at that direction for the last hour. Every time he heard Achilles’ laughter followed by strings of incoherent words spoken in ancient Greek, he felt his insides churn and that wasn’t because the alcohol was getting into his bloodstream and making him tipsy.
Could Heroic Spirits get tipsy from consuming alcohol?
Technically they couldn’t, the same as food couldn’t fill their stomach and replenish their energy the way it did humans. Enchanted alcohol, however, was an entire different story.
The feast had been great and the cooking team’s efforts had been well appreciated. But before the feast commenced, Cú Chulainn had made a complaint that good food would be wasted without the accompaniment of beverages and by ‘beverages’ he had meant alcohol; plus, it was New Year’s Eve and this was the glorious time of the year to not be sober. His remark had met with irrevocable agreement because apparently, almost every Heroic Spirit, regardless of gender, nationality and occupation, had indulged in booze at some times in their life. With the abstinence from all fighting activities and the festive mood, the Masters had seen no reason to restrict drinking; they, too, had agreed to joined.
And so, leave it to the numerous Casters here to brew booze that could produce the same effects alcohol did to living beings in the matter of hours. The Masters had had to explicitly instruct their Servants not to spike the drinks, however, as some Casters tended to have a wicked streak of mischief. The Christmas shenanigans caused by Gilles de Rais, Medea and Mephistopheles were still painfully fresh on everyone’s memory, but that was another story.
And so, throughout the feast, all Servants, including Siegfried, had been enjoying the satisfied products of Cú Chulainn’s brilliant idea. Not only had they been able to made wines and beers – the staple of every drinking occasion, they had also created a variation of alcoholic beverages to please just about every cultural and national palate. After sampling a couple beers and wines, including Chinese rice wine and Japanese sake, Siegfried had decided to stick with the beer native to his homeland mostly out of reminiscence. Then, Cú Chulainn, with one of his arm slung over a slightly flushed-faced Diarmuid (due to inebriation or embarrassment unsure) and a huge mug of some black liquid in his hand, approached him. Since his summon, aside from Karna, Siegfried had formed a rather close companionship with these two spear wielders hailed from the Emerald Isles out of their shared sense of justice and, arguably, their pathetically low luck. Intrigued by the Son of Light’s choiced drink, he asked and was suggested to give “Irish national pride” a try. Finding the taste immensely agreeable, Siegfried sought out Karna, who had been spending the last hour with a fellow Indian Heroic Spirit, Rama. Nonetheless, by the time he reached Karna and Rama’s table, his roommate had already been pulled away by the boisterous Achilles to a large table of equally boisterous Greek heroes. Sighing, Siegfried only had his low luck to blame.
That was the reason why Siegfried had spent the last hour sitting alone on his table, sulking and trying so hard to deny that he had been sulking. To him, the festive mood had been dampened and he’d rather face Fafnir again than admit the true cause was the rambunctious laughter coming from across the hall and Achilles’ arm boldly draping across Karna’s shoulders and his body pressing against the Lancer’s. He had always known Achilles was pretty fond of Karna but never had that knowledge been much of a thorn in his sides like at the moment.
“If you’re so concerned about him,” a voice suddenly went through his addled mind, perking Siegfried’s attention, “why don’t you go over there with him?”
He glanced up to see Sasaki Kojirou sitting down opposite him. He was having a ceramic jug of sake in one hand and one of those Japanese cups to drink sake with in the other.
“I’m not—” Siegfried rebutted, then immediately cut himself, knowing it was futile to hide things from Kojirou’s keen eyes; the man could read a person’s heart as well as a swallow’s motion, having spent a good deal of his life observing both. “It’s that transparent?” Mortification lowered his voice to nearly a whisper, and his rhetorical question sounded suspiciously like a confession.
“It’s not that obvious,” Kojirou replied, sipping his sake. “Those who have noticed are just Kiyohime, Tamamo no Mae, Fuuma Kotarou, Cú Chulainn, Diarmuid, Emiya, Shakespeare, Yan Qing—”
“I got it.” Siegfried didn’t dare to look behind his back; he could hear their sniggers already.
“There’s no need to feel ashamed. Most Servants at Chaldea already assumed there had to be something going on between you two the day you moved to his room. Some of them are even betting whether you’ll make a move or stay passive as we speak.”
“There’s nothing going on between us,” Siegfried said and instantly regretted it. “Not yet. Just sharing a sleeping space.”
Kojirou responded with a disbelieving shrug. “Anyway, why don’t you come to Karna’s side if you’re not comfortable sitting here and sulking?”
“It’d be rude to disrupt them.” Moreover, he doubted Karna would fancy being mother-henned by his roommate.
“Karna isn’t the type to indulge drinking, you know, and Achilles and his Greek fellows can be somewhat forceful. Looks like he could use some help as he seems to be a little weak on his legs.”
Siegfried’s gaze traveled across the room and found Karna’s form with ease. He was still standing with his back straight; however, upon closer inspection his legs appeared to be slightly trembling. It was true that those Greek heroes were all heavy drinkers while Karna wasn’t. His favorite drink was hot chai tea latte, as Siegfried had found out; as a matter of fact, if the Saber raked his brain, he couldn’t recall a single occasion where Karna drank although drinking wasn’t restricted in Chaldea: as long as it didn’t affect their fighting, the Servants could drink the whole sea for all the Masters cared.
Siegfried downed the rest of his beer in one gulp and stood up. His back straight as a pole, his gaze focused and sharp as a hawk on its hunt, he left his table for the Greek heroes’ with all the solemnity of a soldier marching to battle. Unbeknownst to him, Kojirou raised his sake cup with a smug grin on his handsome countenance to the directions of Tamamo no Mae and the others.
“Oy, oy, looks like the great Dragon Slayer has decided to join us,” declared Hector. His face was colored and he seemed even more relaxed and loquacious than normal.
The rest cheered and one of them was quick to hand him a cup of wine, which Siegfried accepted out of politeness even though he had no intention to consume its content. Mixing different alcoholic drinks in one’s stomach could lead to disastrous consequences, that he had learned from experience.
Karna turned around in response to his name being addressed and the words immediately turned into molasses and got stuck in Siegfried’s throat. His mouth agape, he stared at the sight in front of his eyes. Karna’s skin was always pale as snow and his eyes so blue and clear they made the clearest ocean felt ashamed. Now the snow had been stained with the color of cherry and the clear water had been misted over – no doubt the effect of alcohol. Saying not a word, Karna scrutinized him with his half-lidded eyes like there was nothing else more intriguing in the world as he made an unsteady walk towards Siegfried.
Siegfried was rooted on the spot, entranced by the way Karna looked at him as though he was subjected to the power of Mystic Eyes. It was not until a good few seconds of reality had slipped through his consciousness did he register the softness of flesh on his own lips and the intoxicating scent of red wine ghosting in front of his nostrils. When he finally realized that Karna had pressed his lips against his own, the miniature universe inside his head experienced a Big Bang, the immediate aftermath of which created a black hole to suck away everything in his mind except how Karna felt and tasted. He closed his eyes because it seemed the most natural thing to do. Time stretched out and out into infinity.
Siegfried was pulled back to the real world by the clanking sound of metal hitting marble. He opened his eyes and saw the Greek heroes all staring at him and Karna with their eyes wide as a goose’s egg. Achilles’ hand was frozen in holding his goblet (Mommy’s precious gift, saved for special occasions), which was now lying on the floor.
“Karna…” Siegfried’s voice sounded like a plea.
Karna lifted his head to look at Siegfried, blinked a few times, then shut his eyes and… collapsed. Thanks to years of training and well-honed reflex that the Saber was able to catch his limp body before it collided with the hard ground. It was not Karna’s wellbeing that Siegfried tried to protect as Heroic Spirits wouldn’t get hurt by falling to the ground; what he wanted to keep intact was Karna’s pride and dignity, which were both put at risk at the moment.
“Well, well, looks like someone can’t handle our precious nectar,” said Achilles, picking up his goblet – thankfully empty when dropped – and turning to his table, his back conveniently covering Karna’s sight. “Shouldn’t have pushed the poor dude though. Now, let us continue. The banquet is far from over.”
Siegfried was half-convinced Achilles’ act was on purpose and took that as a cue to quietly carried Karna out of the hall. He just hoped that came morning, these men would have injected enough wine into their bloodstream to dismiss this ‘little’ incident as an alcohol-induced hallucination also deep down he suspected they would forget such an impactful scene. Were he them, he would never.
The liveliness of the party was an echo behind his back when he made it out to the long hallway, with Karna scooped up in his arms. The Lancer looked thin even in his usual fluffy cape; without it, he was even thinner, almost fragile like a porcelain doll. His weight matched his look, so Siegfried could carry him with no difficulty. The problem came in another form though: it was only when he had stepped out in the hallway and his heart stopped trying to break free from its ribcages did he realize he had been carrying Karna bridal-style. He could not just fling Karna on his shoulders like a dumb sack of potatoes, he convinced himself, and piggybacking was simply cumbersome due to Karna’s spiky armor, dangerous even since those spikes came really close to his weak spot; nevertheless, the part of Siegfried that preferred to torment him with ruthless truths reminded him it had always been his secret desire to be able to carry Karna this way, having the Lancer so pliant and vulnerable and dependent on him. He shook his head to get rid of such despicable thoughts; right now, both of them needed a good rest in their room until their minds were clear. What had happened tonight would be no more than a weird and embarrassing dream they probably would never mention again.
Still, did Siegfried truly want to erase that incident from his memory? How Karna had so earnestly, unhesitatingly kissed him? How his lips had felt soft and moist and tasted bitter and sweet?
Like a child having a nightmare Karna began squirming in his arms, mumbling something incoherent. His sudden movement caught Siegfried by surprise and he had to balance himself or else he’d drop Karna. The Lancer might look thin as a reed but there was terrifying strength hidden in those slender limbs; anyone who had witnessed his enormous Vasavi Shakti would not harbor a single doubt of Karna’s prowess. Siegfried was already having a hard time carrying him.
“Please stop, Karna, your armor is poking me.”
By some miracle, Karna seemed to have listened to his plea and stopped squirming. Siegfried breathed a heavy sigh of relief and proceeded to haul him the rest of the way to their room. It was fortunate that most Servants, Masters and staff were present at the grand hall and no one was wandering here to witness the both of them losing face.
Once again, his shite luck just had to remind him of its shittiness with not a single but double strikes. The first one came after several seconds of stillness which falsely assured Siegfried that Karna had fallen asleep, the Lancer stirred. In a blink of an eye, Karna dematerialized his armor and all pieces of garment, leaving him stark-naked as his birth day Siegfried’s his arms. The Saber was one hundred percent certain some veins in his temples had popped and now the blood was all over the skin under his face. The description was gross but couldn’t be more accurate to his current state. He had never truly understood what it meant to be caught between heaven and hell as he did now, with Karna’s glabrous skin making contact with his. Though they snuggled up every night, direct skin-to-skin contact was usually hindered by a layer of fabric. At the moment, not only he could feel Karna’s uncovered skin, he was treated with a privileged view of the Lancer’s entire body. To say that he wasn’t the least aroused by the sinful sight was a blatant lie.
Had the Lord been putting his tolerance to trial? First the kiss and now this.
So caught up in his own situation that Siegfried hadn’t picked up the footsteps coming towards their direction until it was too late and there their young Master was standing in front of them. Needless to say, the expression on his face wasn’t pretty.
Several moments passed in thunderous silence.
“I’m not seeing anything, alright?” their Master exclaimed in dramatically loud volume as if a convict crying for his innocence and hurried past them with a speed that could best the fastest Lancer in Chaldea, a puff of smoke trailing after his booted heels.
“Wait, Master, it’s not what you think—”. What are you thinking anyway? And why are you covering your eyes when you claimed you haven’t seen anything? “The grand hall is this way, not that.”
At that speed, Siegfried doubted if any of his words could get into their Master’s ears. The Dragon Slayer exhaled an audible and lengthy sigh, no longer caring about maintaining his default stoicism; there were just him and a snoring naked Karna anyway. He had anticipated the year-end party to be fun and uneventful; never had he thought it would be botched untimely and in such awkward manner. He just hoped things would improve when the new year arrived at the doorstep.
His hope was crushed to pieces in the next morning.
I literally fell off my bed when I woke up to the closed-up face of one of my Assassin-class Servant – the one hailed from the Oriental land of China, Yan Qing. With his Presence Concealment skill, he could easily sneak into just about anywhere without getting detected. As his Master, I could feel his presence wherever he went, but that was only feasible when I was conscious and not sleeping on my hangover from last night’s party.
“Geez, Birdie*, haven’t I told you not to sneak into my room unless it’s absolute urgency?”
“First, please don’t call me Birdie, Master,” he panted – I’d just realized. “And second, it’s absolute urgency. Long story short, a first-rate Archer – I believe his name is Arjuna – has been hell-bent on killing Siegfried and the two are battling in the grand hall as we speak.”
Like a brutal gale, the news instantly swept away the mist of hangover from my head. I sprung up from the bed in my wrinkled undershirt and sweatpants, not bothering for a change of clothes, and dashed towards the door barefooted.
“Explain to me why there’s an Arjuna here while there was none just yesterday,” I said to Yan Qing as I raced along the hallway at my maximum speed, the Assassin keeping with me with ease.
“Last night your friend Miria said she was feeling lucky so she tried a summoning at the bridge between the old and the new years, and she got Arjuna.”
“Damn lucky girl,” I muttered. “But why does Arjuna want to kill Siegfried? The two have absolutely zero feud.”
Having lived in different eras and nations, so to speak…
“I heard that the cause of Arjuna’s divine wrath is Siegfried ‘defilement’ of his brother.”
I wasn’t mentally prepared for the shock and tripped and would plant my face into the floor if Yan Qing didn’t catch me.
“Siegfried? Defiled? Karna?”
Please excuse my speech.
“I’m pretty sure he’s heard some rumors,” Yan Qing replied with a suggestive shrug.
“Siegfried would never— Oh…”
For some mysterious reason, my mind called up the scene I had run into last night of an awkward and ketchup-red Siegfried carrying a naked, probably stoned-as-hell Karna in his arms. In bridal-style, no less. Fearing that I had stumbled across a very personal scene, I had fled with my eyes covered. Arjuna must have heard about this.
I had always suspected Siegfried and Karna had something going on and most people here more or less agreed because for goodness’s sake they were the most transparent people I’d ever met. It was amusing that some Servants had been betting on when they would officially be a thing. Nevertheless, I found it less laughable when my Servant got in a pickle because of it. I never doubted Siegfried’s ability but my unwavering faith in my Servant was one thing and the fact that Sabers had severe disadvantage against Archers was another.
Well, class affinity isn’t something you can fight and win.
“Where is Karna?”
“I don’t know. I didn’t see him in the grand hall when Arjuna came.”
Probably still slumbering, I guessed. It’d be a surprise if he wasn’t.
“Anyone tells Miria yet?”
Knowing my friend, I could safely bet she had blissfully drunken to comatose last night after summoning Arjuna.
“Yes, Jing Ke went to fetch her Master the moment she saw Arjuna storming towards Siegfried.”
“I can only pray that by now she’ll be sober enough to feel the seriousness of the situation.”
If Arjuna’s rage got out of hand, no one but his own Master could restrain him and even that was hopeful thought.
“Prepare to be eradicated.”
I heard a heavily accented voice before I could see Arjuna and Siegfried. The grand hall was overcrowded with Servants, some of whom still holding the remnants of last night’s party in their hands. It really bugged me that most of them were more interested in watching a deadly match between two great heroes than procuring some common sense and trying to prevent this nonsense dual. Damned warriors and their battle-lust.
“Master coming through,” I shouted, pushing my way through the crowd. “For goodness’s sake this is the grand hall, not the goddamned Colosseum! Move along, guys, nothing to see here.”
Magical energy swirled in the air like miniature tornadoes and I came to a grim realization that a lethal blow was about to be dealt. At the same time, I felt energy being sucked out from my magic circuits into Siegfried, who had prepared himself to take on Arjuna’s attack. It wasn’t a wise move to face a first-rate Archer’s arrow head on but I guessed my Saber had no other choice, being cornered and all. Grinding my teeth, I clenched my right hand. Command Seals were incredibly precious and each of us Masters were only granted three strokes in every six months – up until now this pusillanimous distribution of Command Seals still didn’t make sense to me but quit it or suck it, as they say. That was why losing one at the beginning of the year was never on my New Year’s resolution list, but I’d be damned if I was stringent with them and risked any harm to Siegfried.
A sharp draw of energy blacked out my sight for a second. When I recovered, I saw Karna materialize in the grand hall, standing between Siegfried and Arjuna. He wasn’t wearing his golden armor, his hair was sticking out in all directions (well, it usually was but right now it kinda lacked the style) and there was more red in his eyes than just his usual makeup. He didn’t look his best but the firm clench of his Vasavi Shakti, visibly vibrating with magical energy, spoke of his determination to intervene should the situation exacerbate. Though I wasn’t religious and was generally atheistic, I gave a silent loud thank to whoever above that had sent Karna here.
“Back off,” Karna deadpanned, his voice slightly hoarse. He was having his back to Siegfried so these terse words were directed to his brother. He hadn’t raised his spear to him though.
Arjuna furrowed his dark eyebrows; his arrow was still notched on the string of his bow, eager to be fired. “Who are you to give me order, oh brother?”
“You’ve just been summoned here. You have no reason to fight him to death.”
“If I want to fight him just for the sake of fighting, what will you do?”
I shook my head with a sigh. This Arjuna was as stubborn as his records in Chaldea said. It probably pricked his enormous ego to admit that he was defending his brother’s ‘honor’, whatever that meant.
“I have no idea what has stirred your rage but if you want a fight, Heroic Spirit Arjuna, I, Siegfried, will oblige.”
Karna took another step forward. “If you unreasonably insist on a battle, it is I you will fight.”
Karna’s eyes lit as he locked gaze with his brother. Arjuna knew his own brother enough to tell that he was a type to mean every of his words. The Archer gnawed his lower lip, and the turmoil inside his head was manifesting on his handsome features. The air between them cackled with tension. He lowered his arms and for a moment, it looked like he had decided to step down from a confrontation with Karna. Then, in an unexpected turn of event, his obsidian eyes sparked and his arms raised. The arrow cut through the mana-concentrated air like a flash of lightning through the tenebrous sky. I nearly bit my tongue off in a gasp. Fortunately Karna’s reflex was god-blessed. He twisted his slender hips in an unusual angle just in the nick of time to block the arrow with the flat of his lance. The force pushed him back several feet but he was supported by Siegfried. The two exchanged a brief look before Karna slightly raised his arm. There was a small quivering in his hand but his grip was tight and his eyes were fire.
Resounding footsteps trampled the intensity clouding in the air and a voice boomed. “No fighting in the grand hall; fighting is only allowed in the training ground or outside Chaldea. Haven’t you read the rules?”
There she strode into the great hall, all tall and proud even in her jumpsuit, Jing Ke in tow. I secretly envied her for looking her usual best self aside from mussed hair while I was one inch away from crap even though we both had chugged down beer like crazy last night. The Casters’ homebrewed beer was simply too good to do otherwise.
“About time you showed up,” I muttered. Miria completely ignored me while she made her way to her Servant. I took the chance to come to Siegfried and Karna’s side. “You two OK?” I said.
“I’m sorry, Master.” It was Siegfried who answered while Karna only nodded, looking somewhat abashed.
“It’s a misunderstanding alright,” I said to Arjuna, trying to sound stern despite the hangover. “Whatever you’ve heard, it’s not true, so please stop. You’ve just arrived so you may not know it’s forbidden here to fight amongst ourselves unless it’s a friendly training spar.”
Arjuna seemed to disregard my words the moment they left my mouth and steered his gaze towards his Master. From what I’d gathered about this Indian Heroic Spirit, I was not offended.
Miria looked straight into the Archer’s eyes while sporting that cute-girl-nobody-can-resist-me expression we all knew to be her secret lethal weapon. Worked like magic every damned time.
I spotted a change in Arjuna’s features. He seemed… guilty?!
“You promised me to put your feud behind and never, ever fight Karna, remember?”
“I wasn’t fighting Karna,” he rebuked.
“You would be if this continued. Am I not right? Please don’t make me lose a Command Seal on New Year’s Day. It’s extreme bad luck, you know.”
“You also promised not to use Command Seals to force me on anything.”
“I did. Let’s both keep our ends of the deal, shall we?”
Arjuna huffed but made no move.
Arjuna cast one last glare at Siegfried and Karna, mostly Siegfried, and if looks could kill like his arrows, I didn’t doubt Siegfried’s heart would be already pulverized despite his armor of Fafnir. The Heroic Spirit of the bow then dematerialized without a single word.
Wow. Although I believed Miria could reason with her Servant but I never imagined that the obstinate Arjuna would comply so quickly, albeit begrudgingly. I had expected some heated argument before his murderous intention was put out. Eventually. Anyway, things were sorted out and crisis averted. For now.
Since there was no fight to watch, the crowd quickly dismissed, and the heroes who hadn’t already passed out going back to zealously worship their respective god of alcohol.
“Sorry about the trouble this early in the morning,” Miria said to our trio, absentmindedly combing her red hair. “I’ll have some words with Arjuna about this so please excuse me. And Happy New Year.”
“Happy New Year,” I replied mechanically before turning back to Siegfried and Karna, whose weapon had vanished. He stood close to Siegfried, their bodies touching and he seemed to be leaning on the other Servant.
“It puzzles me that Arjuna actually listens to Miria. I expect him to be more… difficult.”
“My guess is that because his Master resembles Kunti.”
“Slightly in appearance and heavily in manners.”
“That explains a lot,” I muttered.
Kunti was their mother. Although her tie with Karna was as slim as a perfect stranger’s, having abandoned him when he was an infant, she probably had shared a strong bond with Arjuna and her other sons.
“Why did Arjuna attack you?” Karna suddenly, turning to Siegfried.
Siegfried stole a glance at me as if pleading to me. I shook my head and mimed a zipping gesture in a silent swear that I wouldn’t breath a single word.
“He heard some… unfavorable rumor.”
“You… remember nothing from last night?”
Karna had an inquisitive look on his pale face. “I… can remember up until Achilles thrusted the third cup into my hands. Things were hazy after that and I blacked out after some while. I really cannot handle alcohol after all.”
“Yeah, totally agree,” I chimed in, massaging my temples. “Gives you head-splitting headache the morning after, amongst other things.”
“But what happened exactly? Arjuna might be stubborn but not unreasonable. It’s not like him to pick a fight with someone he just met.”
Siegfried looked very uncomfortable having to answer this question, but he of all people knew it best that Karna couldn’t be lied to. He exhaled audibly, scratching the back of his head. Karna must have noticed his strange behavior, but given their close relationship, he didn’t urge him, opting for patience instead.
“Right…” There was a considerable weight in his tone. “I will tell you everything that happened last night… But I think we should go somewhere more private.”
I took that as a cue to leave the two Servants alone to sort things out between themselves. “Well, I’ll be heading to the kitchen to see if Tamamo no Mae has anything for my hangover. See you tomorrow, and Happy New Year.”
As I made my way down the corridor, my ears picked up a whisper in the opposite direction. “Why did I wake up naked this morning?”
Did I purposely turn my magically enhanced hearing on? Nope, totally did not.
*Birdie: Yan Qing’s family name – Yan – means a type of bird (hence the Master’s nickname), probably swallow, but please excuse my very limited knowledge of orthinology.
Just to be clear, Siegfried and Karna hadn’t done anything other than innocently sleeping next to each other like every other night. Honestly who would think that Siegfried would take advantage of someone he holds dear? Siegfried left the room early to avoid the awkwardness when Karna got up (naked).