Together with House-Husband, Part 2, Chapter 37 – A Red Thread.
Emerging from the depths of his consciousness, Archer choked on the taste of the ocean water that had invaded his lungs.
“Ah…. Haa… Haa… Where am I…?”
The dimly rising sunlight in the eastern sky illuminated the landscape and told him his location.
A dock… the river side park that spread across the river bank, where the sightseeing tours boarded. The rope coiled around his body was for mooring the boats to the shore; somehow he had gotten caught on it, saving him from floating into the open ocean. A stroke of good luck.
Mustering his strength, he climbed up the wharf. He wrenched out stakes stored in his foot and arm guards and stuck them into the gaps in the wall. He would stab one in and pull one out one at a time, using his hands and feet to ascend. Essentially, he was rock climbing up the pier.
As he crawled up to the top of the wharf, he fell facing up, his strength exhausted. He filled his chest full of the cool morning air, rousing his awareness, and with it reviving the pain across his entire body. Every part of his body.
“…Ha, ha ha… I can’t believe… I survived.”
He lightly examined his condition. His entire body was thoroughly covered in wounds, new and reopened. The scars caused by the holy swords, due to their offensive strength, were harmful, but the wounds themselves were not deep. It would be difficult to close them, but if he took care it would not be an issue. His eyes and right arm that had been struck were especially severe. A brutal wound caused by the final blow ran from where it had pierced his right shoulder to his chest. If he had not noticed the sniping, it would have been over then.
The main problem was his remaining supply of magical energy. He may have been in a state of near death, but he had lost a significant amount of blood for the perhaps half a day he had been underwater, thoroughly exhausting his energy to maintain his condition. He had perhaps half the amount of magical energy of a typical magician remaining. It would take everything he had to avoid annihilation, let alone healing his wounds.
Holding his wounds, Archer’s tottering body collapsed in a nearby thicket. He shed his conspicuous red coat, and used it as an emergency medical supply. Waiting for a moment when people were absent, he secured some water and cleansed his wounds, sewed the cuts whose size made stitches possible with a medical needle and thread taken from the burial cloth, and used the rest of the shroud in place of dressing to brace his injuries. It was a first-class defense-oriented conceptual weapon that excelled at protecting the wearer from damage. Even so, the treatment of his injured right arm was beyond the kit he had on hand.
“Damn… Maybe if I rest and sneak into a hospital afterwards…”
In any case, he was currently acting independently. While possessing the ability, moving on without resting would not only be a waste of magical for Archer but suicide. Placing his back against a tree, he isolated his external magic power inside himself, and decided to take a short period of rest.
…Evening fell. There was fine weather after all the rain, and the same beautiful reddened sun shone on the shade of the tree Archer took rest under. Far away, he could hear the voices of children playing energetically. Though winter was nearing, the joyfulness was just like that on a summer’s evening, and the soft breeze blowing alongside the gentle rays of the sun tickled his face as he awoke.
“…It’s late, I guess.”
Archer loosened his neck and relaxed the stiffness in his body. His sutured wounds were not in terrible state, but his right arm had as he expected not improved, and intermittently throbbed with pain. His poor condition was unchanged. But this was why something felt wrong.
“…My magical power is… Recovering?”
His internal supply of magical energy had greatly recovered from where it had been before he had rested.
It was possibly for Servants to use their own magical circuit to produce some magical energy. But as the amount recovered was in proportion to the remaining power, considering his own currently exhausted magical state, the level of energy produced was, practically, more than he could ask for from his own magic circuit.
With the creation of a supply of magical energy, it was essential the Servant themselves be in range of the Master’s magical power, and it would be impossible to receive its benefits if far apart. There were many tasks, from reconnaissance to sniping, that took a Servant away from their Master, and while the Servant Archer held the class skill of “Independent Action”, under conditions when magical energy was severed, it prevented pointless loss, and did not actually raise the efficiency of replenishment.
It was faint, but he had recovered power. That was proof that the Master was coming close to being in range with the Servant to transmit magical energy and that the supply line had been reestablished. In which case-
Suddenly, a soccer ball flew into his field of view. Unconsciously knocking it down, it bounced off the front of the bush and fell into his lap.
It was probably a stray ball from some of the boys playing soccer in the park that had found its way here. They would no doubt be coming to collect it. It would be rather troublesome if one came this way and saw Archer in his current state.
Standing out now would be extremely unfortunate. In his condition, being discovered by an enemy servant would mean defeat and death. He couldn’t kick the ball back in return, but he couldn’t very well hold on to it either. Judging that his only option was to escape, Archer placed the ball on the ground and stood-
“…Oh. Huuh? Mister! Hey, Mister!”
At that moment, a voice outside the bush called to Archer. Resigned, Archer turned his head, and in his eyes was the red haired boy he had met at the Fuyuki Department Store.
“Woow, what are the chances? Hey, is that cosplay?”
“…Just where did you learn that word from-”
“Or is it some new type of fireman uniform? …Hey… Mister is that, maybe…”
“Y-, you’re hurt- Ah!”
At the sight of the blood seeping out and staining the burial cloth, the boy fell into confusion. Archer’s left hand seized the boy’s body with incredible swiftness and pulled him into the thicket.
“Hey, wh-, what are you doing, Mister!?”
“…I don’t want to get rough, boy. Just be good now.”
“…Eh, hey, Mister. Your eyes are scary, you know?”
“Promise me one thing, and then I’ll let you go. Don’t tell anyone I’m hiding here.”
“I’m playing a game of hide and seek right now with my life on the line. It’s all over If I get found.”
“Wh-, what…!? M-, Mister, what are you!?”
“If you promise to keep it a secret, maybe I could tell you. So, do you promise?”
“I-, I swear! I swear! I won’t tell anyone!”
“…Good. Then first bring the ball back to your friends, and act normally.”
“Then when everyone goes home, come back here. Then I’ll tell you my secret. Make sure not to tell anyone.”
“A-, alright! I’ll be right back!”
The boy left the bushes, his eyes sparkling. Boys his age were obsessed with huge conspiracies and the unknown. It had really been quite easy. Confirming that the boy had run up to his friends, Archer hid himself in a stall inside a nearby public bathroom while protecting his injured body. He pictured the boy’s face twisting in sadness and anger, but it was for his sake. His heart would hurt, but he would have to bear the tears.
“I’m sorry, boy.”
Sitting on a closed toilet seat, Archer listened closely to the boys’ voices.
“See you tomorrow!”
*………Tmp Tmp Tmp!*
“That’s mean! You said you’d stay in the bushes! You promised!”
How had he found him? And then Archer finally noticed. A loose string from the burial cloth ran along the floor and stretched out past the door.
“A string from the frayed part of the cloth around your shoulder got caught on a branch in the bushes, and big pieces of it came off the whole way here!”
“…I cannot believe this.”
Unable to accept his own bad luck, Archer was shocked at how low his attentiveness must have been to not notice something like that.
He unconsciously looked to the heavens. There was… A rather proud-looking boy’s face peering in from above the door.
Together With House Husband, Part 2, Chapter 37.
The saint’s red thread. It is connected to the thread of fate.
And it is tied to several fates even he knows nothing of.
Chasing after him, what do the three children have to give him?