Beta read by Shigiya, Fluffy Slayer and DOOMRAIDER
He woke up to the sound of birds chirping and the morning rays caressing his face.
"Gah..." Brushing off what felt like a lifetime of fatigue, Archer strenuously climbed off the bed to get a good look at where he was.
Scanning the room, he noticed the common furnishings of a bedroom, desk, books and the likes. Grabbing his attention next were two large windows with white curtains covering them, under which stood a wooden desk with several books scattered across its surface.
Various pieces of equipment were there as well, including a water flask, knife, some bandages, and even his black Dao sword. They were all very well maintained.
"Where... am I?"
Barely audible, it was a far cry from his usual booming voice. Probably the lingering effects of his comatose state.
His mind had started to clear up as he looked around the room once again. It reminded him of his stay at Alice's Inn, except this one seemed much more luxurious, possessing handcrafted furniture reminiscent of those found in noble households. Yet the spareness and room size doesn't categorize it as so. Glancing over he noticed both his shroud and armor neatly hung on a rack and in pristine condition. Someone had been maintaining it for him..
Before long, Archer realized where he was; another castle. Just the view from the window said it all, it was located in the heart of the city from what he could see from up there. In some parts he could see dense black smoke rising in the air and even partially blocking out the sunlight, possibly the result of blacksmiths in the works. It was a contrasting image than that of Maia's kingdom.
What happened after he fought off those monsters? His last attack should have annihilated everything, but he blacked out just after from the strain and blood loss he put his body through. Waking up here of all places must mean quite some time has passed.
'I'm alive...' Despite the excruciating pain he felt throughout his body, it felt good knowing he was still alive.
A few broken bones was fair trade compared to what the demons had in store for them.
As he struggled to sit up, he noticed that his wounds had healed completely, including his fractured collarbone from the Ogre's strike. Any trace of cuts and bruises were stripped off his body.
"Just how long was I out?"
Either two things had happened, someone found and healed him using some sort of restoration magic... Or, he was taken care of until he healed naturally. Avalon was no longer inside him, so he didn't benefit from the accelerated rate of healing, unlike his past self.
The former seemed far more likely than the latter, but either way, someone looked after him. He was lucky that they even cleaned his wounds and treated him before he woke up.
But as nice as their hospitality was, he couldn't just stay here forever. For now, he needed to rest while figuring out where exactly he was at the moment.
He carefully got dressed and moved towards the door. As soon as he opened it, he spotted someone standing right outside the door. A middle aged man with short brown hair and a stern face.
The man replied coldly, "You're awake. We are happy to hear about your recovery."
Comforting words for most, but Archer could hear the hint of disappointment in his tone. Faced with such an attitude, the man sighed as he looked back at the rude person, "Well aren't you polite. Where am I and who are you?"
"My name is Gaius and you're recovering in my master's home. You should be honored that she has allowed your presence in this safe haven. " The man said, not meeting his gaze as he spoke. He wasn't exactly rude, but he clearly wasn't very pleased to be talking to Archer.
"Safe haven?" The red bowman chuckled, "Unfortunately, I don't exactly feel welcomed here."
Gaius snorted, "That's because you are not." That cold stare intensified, a hint of disdain mixed in with disgust."If you want me to treat you kindly, then I expect you to behave like a guest. Otherwise, you will be dealt with accordingly"
Archer took a deep breath before replying, "Very well, if that's how you want to proceed. My name is Archer."
"I have not heard of you, nor do I know your purpose here in Eostia. So please spare me your lies. We shall decide whether or not we can trust each other once you are fully healed."
'This old snob sure did wake up on the wrong side of the bed today.'
But instead of arguing further, Archer decided to ask a question that has been weighing heavily on his conscience since he woke up. The more he thought about it, the more it affected him.
"Where are they?" He asked. "Maia and Brynn?"
Gaius's expression turned into an ugly sneer like he heard one of the most abhorring things in his life.
"Insolent fool! You dare address her excellency by her name!? It was thanks to her and the intervention of the Goddess's judgment against those filthy demons that you are alive today!! You must address her properly, Princess Knight or master respectively."
Archer's eyebrows twitched, he wasn't in a good mood to begin with, and this fool was only aggravating the situation.
"Just answer the damn question. Where. Are. They?" He said with an ominous glint in his eyes.
"Princess Knight Maia-sama, is alive." Gaius said coldly, "While the former Knight is still being treated as we speak. Praise Celestine, her life is no longer in danger as well despite the heavy blood loss."
That made him sigh in relief, the weight of a mountain has finally been lifted off of him.The scene of her previous state re-emerged in his mind, she lost an arm and whether it was something treatable in this world was unknown. Nevertheless, she would need him by his side to ease things and provide her with the comfort she needed.
"You still haven't answered my question, where can I find them?"
Gaius simply glared at him, "Why? Do you think that I will tell you?"
"Because I have restrained myself long enough from shoving a sword up your ass. And if you keep acting like an obstacle to me, then I won't hesitate to become a real problem to you and your master. "
The man was now glaring daggers at him, the air in the room grew thick and stifling. Archer stood unmoving, staring straight into the man's eyes, with no intention of backing down from this pompous ass. In the end, Gaius was the one to relent and step back before walking away.
"Whatever, you'll be taken care of by the end anyways. They are on the second floor, second door on the right." He said as he left the hallways without another word.
Well, if that wasn't ominous.
The man wasn't worth salting the earth over so he decided to search for Maia and Brynn immediately. After going to the place Gaius mentioned, he found himself standing in front of another wooden door but hesitated to move any further.
He could just leave this place, the deal was done. They arrived in Geofu and this was the ideal time to leave. But he wouldn't do that right now, a few things needed to be taken care of before he departed.
And so, he opened the door and walked inside the room.
"I just need to make sure that it won't slip off."
"Maia-sama, I can manage on my ow—"
"—Don't you act stubborn, I told you that this coat will suit you well."
"B-But it's so revealing!"
"Ha! That armor you used to wear showed far more skin!"
To his surprise, he found both girls in the middle of changing clothes. The redhead was completely naked, standing there with nothing but her red lacy underwear. She was helping Brynn out with some clothes, and it was in fact her own fur coat she wore regularly. The Knight herself was blushing like a tomato with how handsy Maia was with her, especially how she roughly handled her breast to fit inside the already tight clothes. Both girls stopped when they noticed the door open with a single figure standing at the entrance.
"M-Master?" Brynn stuttered as she quickly covered herself. Her blush was becoming visible even under the dim lighting of the room.
Maia meanwhile turned into a blur and rushed at him with her arms open. "Archer!" She wrapped herself around him and hugged tightly, her strength nearly choking him to death in his weakened state and even making the man fall to the ground. He managed to gasp for air, but that was a useless action as an arm wrapped around his face, increasing the weight he felt on top of him.
"You're okay!" She exclaimed loudly, kissing his cheek in her happiness, not caring for her actions, as she followed Maia's example.
He didn't mind their display of affection, what happened before must have been traumatic. So he let them express their happiness however they wanted to without a word if it would help them. Archer smiled and returned their embrace, not minding that one of them wasn't even clothed.
Honestly, it felt really nice.
"It's fine, everything is going to be alright."
Both of them finally loosened their grip on him, allowing him to stand on his feet once again but they continued to hold him close.
"Thank goodness, you are okay." Maia said while sobbing, he could feel the girl shaking like a leaf on his torso. "I thought that... That... Y-You..." She couldn't even finish her sentence, just burying her face on his chest. Brynn had tears pricking her eyes as she held onto his arm even tighter, the images of not ever seeing her teacher again causing her distress.
A part of him felt relieved seeing them so lively, the image of their bodies covered in blood and inching towards death were more impactful than he would have ever thought possible. Knowing them for less than a year yet being convival towards them, it was a feeling Archer thought he had lost long ago. Maybe an old part of him he used to abhor, a side of him that he buried from time immemorial..
It worried him greatly, he was becoming far too attached to these two.
Who would have thought that he of all people could turn out like this... Although, in the end, he could indulge himself with these feelings a bit more. Savor it before eventually going back, who knows when would be the next time he could get such a chance. Knowing Alaya, probably never again.
After a few minutes of silence and the two calming down, she finally released him from her hug. He had to hold her back to prevent her from getting carried away again. Then he turned his attention back to Brynn, noticing the bandaged stump where her left arm used to be. It seemed like this world didn't have the means to heal such a wound, he wondered if things could have turned out differently if he had managed to secure her severed arm before everything went downhill.
The girl noticed his gaze and became downcast. Her smile became hollow.
"It's... alright, master. The most important thing is that we're alive."
Archer saw right through her act, she was suppressing so much right now. This kind of loss was not easy to get over with, she would need a lot of support and encouragement to get better. And it looked like Maia saw it as well, as she squeezed Brynn's shoulder in comfort.
"Don't worry girl, there must be a way to heal you up. Maybe Celestine can help ya." She said, keeping her optimistic attitude.
"If you say so..." Brynn replied with a weak smile.
The atmosphere had become awkward, it was clear that Brynn wasn't as optimistic about her options and already lost all hope of getting her arm back.
"Maia, can you give us a moment alone?" Archer asked.
"Sure! You two talk things out, I'll be back in a bit." She quickly left the room, not forgetting to tap his shoulder before closing the door.
The moment she left, Brynn immediately lost her smile and looked down at her feet. Unable to meet his gaze, whether it was out of shame, regret, or something else—he couldn't tell.
"I failed you, master."
Those words made Archer sigh, he understood what she must have been going through all this time. She was aiming to become an exceptional swordswoman, someone who wanted to stand equal to him in the future. Yet before she could take a step further in her path, she lost her arm, making her goal seem unreachable.
"Why do you think so?" he asked, gesturing to her to take a seat with him.
She remained quiet, looking at her palm instead.
"It's impossible for me to reach your level now that I have lost my arm. I'm nothing but a cripple, someone who has no future on the battlefield."
"There is no reason why you should believe that. You are an exemplary knight, a true warrior to many. Many aspire to be like you." he said, remembering many of the knights in her platoon followed her into battle at Grünes.
Brynn didn't reply, she continued to stare at her palm.
"You don't believe that, master... It's hopeless for me." She started crying, finally unable to hold it in. "I-I didn't want to show you such unsightly b-behavior. B-But, I can't help it!"
Brynn stopped when she felt his palm rest on her head, bringing her closer to his chest. After his action, she continued to cry for the next few minutes, her remaining arm resting on his back, drowned in pain and sadness.
It hurt immeasurably, her dreams were shattered before she could even start her journey.
But that was not what Archer thought.
"You know... There is an old story in my hometown. Though it happened so far in the past that people now considered it a legend. It's about a certain knight... Not exactly the type of knight you're familiar with, but with the same role of protecting their king—he was known as Bedivere."
Brynn stopped crying, listening attentively to his story. Nobody knew much of his past nor where he came from, but to hear such a thing directly from him was not a chance she was willing to waste.
"He?" she asked, confused by that part.
"Right, your system is very different from where I came from. There, anyone could become a knight as long they get anointed by the king or queen. With enough valor, courage, feats in battle, and strength, they could earn such a title. Of course, there are other factors as well, but it will be too complicated to explain all of them now and it's unnecessary to do so."
"Can your Deity grant everyone a blessing?" She said, already guessing that he served another being other than Celestine. Normally, she would have been appalled by such a thing, but now, she just stopped caring.
Archer laughed, "No, you didn't need to get blessed by a god to get knighted. But in general, most of them were naturally powerful, to begin with, so blessing them would've been overboard. But that doesn't mean that there wasn't anyone in history who didn't get an extra boost."
"They could wield magic and fight like us?"
"Yup, many of them were even stronger than me. The knights of the round table were fearsome foes to any kingdom, standing amongst the strongest figures at that point in time."
That made Brynn's heart skip a beat, her master wouldn't make up a lie... She already saw him as a monstrous mage who could flatten mountains with a single wave of his arm. Yet for him to claim that there were knights like her capable of beating him was unthinkable.
"Impossible," she denied it immediately.
Archer shook his head. "The world is bigger than you can even imagine. There exist people whose power dwarfs the gods themselves. Heroes who've battled against entire armies for days without rest, while close to death themselves. Compared to them, I am not that impressive, you can even call me weak in comparison."
Cold sweat ran down her body, just imagining an entire kingdom filled with people like her master was far more frightening than the Dark Queen's forces.
"But the title you mentioned, round table?"
"The Round Table at which they meet is a symbol of the equality of its members. Basically, no one is superior or lower than anyone else around them. Even the king himself expected everyone to treat him the same as any knight."
That concept sounded so wrong and foreign to Brynn, treat a king like an equal? That was a major offense that even their boldest knight would never do. It was the same as treating Claudia like an equal, an act which would have her thrown into the dungeons without pause.
Yet for her master to insinuate there were entities more powerful than him… if such a force one day decided to invade Eostia — they would be doomed.
"Stop shaking, they won't attack your kingdom anytime soon. Not like these people are alive anymore to begin with, it's been centuries." Archer said laughingly, flicking her forehead at his student's irrational fear.
"Ah!" Brynn pouted at his action. "Master!"
"Heh, it was just a joke." He waved her anger away. "Now, back to my story. The person I just mentioned, Bedivere, was the odd one from his group—he had a single arm."
"—!!" That caught her attention, she looked at him with wide eyes. "Was he..."
"Stronger than me? Can't say, who knows. A better swordsman? Definitely, I'm just a faker." Archer said self-deprecatingly.
"You're being too humble." Brynn argued with him.
He just shrugged and continued with the story.
"He had many different legends, but in most, he was both an excellent swordsman and spearman, with mentions of spilling more blood faster than three men could despite being one-handed. Even though he wasn't the most well known or strongest amongst his peers, everyone respected him unconditionally. He was called the only normal human in a group made of monstrously powerful demigod-like beings, managing to keep up with them."
"Bedivere was known for his loyalty, his bravery, and a nearly unbreakable will to resist any challenges in his path that made him so legendary. He was not only the king's caretaker but a loyal friend as well." The man only wanted for the heartless king to smile one more time. Along with keeping her safe, Bedivere wanted to show the people that Arturia was also a human with a beating heart. Capable of compassion and empathy towards her people, to destroy that image they had of her as an unfeeling king.
Brynn listened intently to his story, a flame being lit inside her heart that grew each second. Such a great person existed in this world, one that she still doubted could surpass her master in terms of greatness—but was still regarded highly by him. It gave her some hope, no matter how small it was, there now existed a dim light at the end of the tunnel.
"I... I can't do that. Without the blessing, I would have been not—"
He cut her off, "—You would have been a regular human, just like him. Whether you are without talent, born with a weak body, crippled or any sort of disadvantages—they can all be surmounted with enough effort and will. Nevertheless, your journey will not be easy but such a goal cannot be attained so easily in the first place."
"Do you believe that I can reach his level one day?" She whispered, not believing herself to even come close to such a legendary figure.
"You won't if you keep moping around like this. Get up, keep walking, learn to adapt, and surpass your past self. It is natural to doubt yourself, but only the strong can push forward despite those feelings and you are a strong person, Brynn." Archer smiled at her, making her blush slightly when she saw such a rare sight of him.
"You can do it, I believe in you... Just promise me to never give up."
She looked at her hand and at the stump, thousands of questions rising in her mind before she shook her head. No! She couldn't afford to let him down, no matter what.
"I promise, master!" She said with confidence, a beautiful smile emerging from her face as she drowned herself further in his warmth.
The door opened slightly, and Maia's head popped in while looking at them suspiciously.
"You two better not be fucking, I have first dibs."
"F-F-Fu-Fuc…" and Brynn was already gone, as she quickly pulled herself away from the man.
She wore revealing bikini armor on a daily basis, and dealt with monsters that let their junks hang in the air, and this was enough to make her fluster?
Honestly this woman…
Archer glared at the redhead for having played such a trick on this weirdly innocent maiden.
"What? The moment I avert my eyes you end up in bed with two busty harlots, so you can't blame me for being cautious."
"…I'm not gonna even bother to argue about everything wrong with that logic. Come in, we still have lots to discuss about what happened before."
After that, they all began talking about everything that happened so far. Apparently, those who managed to retreat from the valley of the attack signaled Luu-Luu to send in reinforcements and she even mentioned the number of days that have passed since then.
"Four days?" Archer mumbled in disbelief. "Was I out for that long?" That wasn't normal, even in his most broken state back in his old world, the longest amount of time he was unconscious for was a day or two—not anywhere near four days.
"Yes," Brynn answered with a nod. "We were worried sick about you, Master."
"Maia-sama even had Luu Luu-sama call the best healers in the kingdom to check if you were alright. They couldn't find the reason exactly, but most agreed that you pushed yourself too much and needed a lot of rest."
"I see..." He decided to put this matter aside for now. "By the way, are any of you familiar with Gaius?"
Maia nodded, "Oh, so you met him!"
"More like confronted, he looked like he was about to throw me on the streets at any moment."
Maia scratched her head, sighing. "Yup, that sounds like him alright. Don't worry about him, he won't do anything of that sort with you without Luu-Luu's permission. He's like her assistant and apprentice of sorts, having an ego the size of Celestine's tits. He acts all calm and polite with me, but good luck making him get along with anyone 'beneath' his rank."
Speaking of Luu-Luu, Archer brought out another issue that was bugging him. "Do you know who's the one who went through my stuff? My sword and my armor were polished... but I can't find my shroud along with my other sword." It could have been possible that they didn't find him with those two items, but Archer heavily doubted that.
"No idea," Maia admitted with a shrug. "They only cleaned your wounds, but last I checked, no one was allowed to enter your room without either our or Luu-Luu's permission."
"What about the other things?"
"I don't know."
"Then I guess it isn't important," Archer said with a sigh, deciding not to dwell on it anymore. Not like anyone could ever steal his things for real, as he could just dismiss them at any time.
'Might as well do it right now just to be safe.'
As Archer was about to ask more questions, a piercing screech was heard all around the castle.
Everyone froze in place, looking toward the source of the noise. "It's Luu-Luu!" Maia exclaimed loudly, fearing that something horrible must have happened to her fellow Princess Knight.
Without hesitation, all three of them ran toward Luu-Luu's location, Maia was familiar with the structure so everyone followed her as she made her way below the castle and arrived in front of the forge. She burst through the door only to find a weird scene in front of her.
The halfling was on her knees crying incessantly, holding for dear life onto what looked to be a white Dao sword, it was crumbling into pieces as they entered. She was even wearing his shroud that was much too big for her and hilarious to see on her petite form. Even the servants were clueless about why this was happening, as they also thought that someone had attacked their leader and came running with the guards—even Gaius was amongst them holding a large halberd.
"My precious! Come back to Mama! Why are you leaving me!?" She cried, with tears streaming down her face, as she tried to keep the blade from disappearing.
"What the..." Both Maia and Brynn were speechless. Archer was just talking about his missing items, and they were worried a thief was lurking in the castle without their knowledge.
"Oh, looks like the thief was none other than this brat." Archer said without missing a beat, the scene amusing him to no end.
Meanwhile, all Maia could think of was that smirk of his, 'What a sadistic bastard…'
"Umm... What's going on here?" Brynn asked, her voice sounding like she was still holding her breath.
"I was just doing some maintenance on my baby, when it suddenly started crumbling into pieces!" Luu-Luu cried out, trying to grab the weapon and fix it back together, but everything soon just broke down further and disappeared into thin air. The broken look on her face was akin to seeing her parents murdered in front of her.
Archer walked up to her and to everyone's horror, picked up the girl from the red shroud and brought her to his eye level.
"Little kids shouldn't steal a grown-up's belongings. You could've gotten hurt." Though his words sounded genuine, no one could ignore the heavy amount of sarcasm and joy coming from his tone.
Looking into her eyes, one would see an abyss filled with a promise of pain and suffering for the perpetrator who took her baby.!
"You... You did this..." Her whisper was silent, but trembling in rage. "Give Bertha back and I'll let you keep Rufus… or else, I'll break your bones, brat."
Archer rolled his eyes, this girl had the audacity to steal his sword, call him a brat, all the while going as far as naming them those ridiculous names. Though he did find it curious how she stayed true to the male and female names. Nevertheless, he wasn't going to give it to her and forcefully removed his shroud, making the girl fall on the floor.
"Ouchie!" Luu-Luu cried out, rubbing her butt.
"Go drink some milk instead, it will probably help you gain a few more inches in the future, pipsqueak." He continued to mock her, "Then maybe I'll give you the time of day."
The others were flabbergasted, even Maia, as they watched this madman treat Luu-Luu of all people like a disobedient child. Even Celestine herself was known to falter around the halfling when she got worked up. Gaius was completely red-faced, his mouth foaming and veins popping all over his head at the blatant disrespect to his boss.
"Also, please dress more appropriately. Brynn's armor may be less revealing than that cape, but then again, It's not like you have anything to show off compared to her.."
'This man is courting death…' This was the unanimous thought going through everyone's head. Brynn on the other hand felt her face redden at the unintentional complement from her master.
After wearing his shroud, Archer walked out of the forge leaving everyone paralyzed in their spot.
Luu-Luu jumped to her feet, grabbing a nearby warhammer that looked to be twice her size, moving it around like it weighed nothing. That along with the freshly forged spear with the tip still glowing red hot from the forge.
"THAT BASTARD! THIS MEANS WAR!!!!"
The girl charged after Archer, bloodlust washing off her eyes in waves. She was going to kill this bastard and rescue her baby. Her not stolen babies mind you, she just happened to come across them while snooping around the newcomer's room.
"For Moradin!" She ran outside with a loud war cry as she busted through the door and went after Archer.
Nobody knew what to say.
"What the fuck just happened?" Maia muttered in confusion.
The next 5 chapters of Snafu, Harry Potter and my 3 other Fate fics (Fate Coiling Sword and To love a sword having 3 chapters) are already available on my P@treon. With 4 more Broly chapters at /NimtheWriter. Also, I post monthly commissioned arts on each story, already posted a few on an Archer's Promise, Broly and Snafu.