Results 1 to 9 of 9

Thread: Tanabata Pairing Exchange Contest (2017) Entries

  1. #1
    🔫 Kirby's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Age
    22
    Posts
    15,594
    JP Friend Code
    578706164
    Blog Entries
    1

    Tanabata Pairing Exchange Contest (2017) Entries

    Entries, here. Voting begins in one or two days. Each fic will have the prompt at the end, in a quote. Both the prompts and fics will remain anonymous, and it's up to the submitter's discretion to reveal themselves if they wish.

    And the Wall of Shame is empty!

    Contents:
    Last edited by Kirby; July 8th, 2017 at 12:40 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dullahan View Post
    there aren't enough gun emojis in the thousandfold trichiliocosm for this shit


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  2. #2
    🔫 Kirby's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Age
    22
    Posts
    15,594
    JP Friend Code
    578706164
    Blog Entries
    1

    Bonny & Clyde & the Eight-Hour Adventure

    In a distant corner of the Chaldea Security Organization's dining commons, as if in an act of self-isolation meant to shun society, it happened at a table laden with manuscripts, inks, toners, brushes, and tablets. Yes, this table was less of a place that one sat down to dine on sub-par cafeteria victuals at and more instead of an entire studio that had been dumped onto the the furniture and left to grow organically into something else entirely – much like how a meteor that slams into Earth leaves a crater which then becomes overgrown with vegetation, rendered into a valley. Yet, this den of creativity was a sordid one, as evidenced by the presence of Chaldea's Miscreant Quartet, the organization's most dastardly-yet-ineffectual clique.

    As to what 'it' was...

    "Y' bloody retarded git, belay tryin' t' getcher wank bait into this project!" The Rider-class Servant Edward Teach bellowed at his compatriot from across said table. By now, the argument had gone on for some time, with neither budging on the matter. "This be MY project! MY wank bait is of utmost importance! How're we even supposed t' properly dumpster all over them curse'd Real-Lifers come next V-Day if the project isn't JUST right?!"

    The compatriot in question, that very The Phantom of the Opera, gave a low but impassioned wail, as if his agony was to be a secret shared between lovers. 'O'... but the heroine's name... surely, it must be Christine, yes, surely, SURELY...!'

    "Y' trap! Shut it! Fuckin' thirstlord!" Blackbeard had had it up to HERE with the lovesick Assassin. For that, he smacked his comrade across the face. A slap and a ring resounded from their corner of the court. He hit The Phantom's face on the side where the latter wore his mask, and the infamed pirate received a welt on the back of his hand for his troubles, courtesy The Phantom's faceplate. 'Doh!' yelped Blackbeard as he clutched at his (barely) hurt paw.

    "-More like, 'I am THE DOPE, for I struck it with my naked hand!'" Shakespeare proudly interjected, ready to again coin phrases and contribute to the lexicon of the English language at the drop of a hat.

    "Shut it wit'cher wily wordplay, Will!" Stewing in his own melodrama, Blackbeard, red in the face and on the verge of ugly-crying, yelped a compliment that was as backhanded as the errant strike that gave him the pain in the first place.

    Shakespeare accepted the compliment as-is. "If you say such while pained so, then those feelings must be true!"

    "BWAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA--!!!!!!!!!!" Spartacus' guffaws were like cannon shots, booming through the hall.

    "Christine... must be... Christine!"

    "Y' waifu be traaaash!!!!"

    "Behold -- the clash of a madman and a mad man; watch them toussle so!"

    The conflict resumed anew, not missing a beat.

    It was a familiar part of any development cycle. Well, any development cycle that involved the participation of as many forces of personality as this one did. Because of their unfettered, erm, impulses, creative or otherwise, the three of them decided to channel their aggressive creativity into the formation of a doujin group focused on releasing indie projects for as long as they remained in servitude to Chaldea and its surely-noble mission of humanity's salvation.

    Edward Teach, Blackbeard: the artist. With his eye for treasure and things to be treasured, the true Queen Anne's Revenge was this buccaneer-otaku's for drawing sultry bodies of all shapes and sizes!

    The Phantom of the Opera: Creepy basement stalker by day (and night), jack of all the trades on account of his peerless NEEThood and copious amounts of spare time on hand when he wasn't tugging it to Christine, this idiot savant was the programmer and composer in turn, puppeteering the heart and soul of any given project from the shadows!

    William Shakespeare: the scenario writer. Obviously. Why wouldn't you want William God-Motherfucking-Damn Shakespeare to write your fucking story, prose and all? The man's a legend. I mean, come on. No brainer.

    On occasion, they would contract Mozart for the real showstopper soundpieces.

    Spartacus was just the mascot.

    ...........................with friends like that, who needed enemies?

    "You fools, blind as bats. She must be preserved in this project, never to be forgotten!" The Phantom doth protested.

    "Then write a bloody lovesong, you Christinefag!" Blackbeard flipped a table in indignation. Not the one they were working on, ladden such that it was that not even his B+ Strength would've been able to budge the thing with ease. Also, all their shit was on there, trashing the project in one fell swoop just because he and him were going at it -- Blackbeard was furious, not stupid. Fool him once, etc. "The game's scenario's been delayed enough, we dun need the rabblerousing!"

    As if speaking about the writing was his cue, the very writer had another interjection to happily give. "Alone but not lonesome, that is I, William Shakespeare! So long as there are tales to weave and stories worth telling, I shall dedicate myself to such work and never lament a lack of the touch of a companion!"

    "Graaaah! Shove y' Christine where the sun don't shine! Ya'd like it, wouldn't ya?!"

    "Ohh! Ohhh!!"

    "Um...Mister Blackbeard???"

    It was an out-of-place sound. The sound of a woman amidst the ruckus of rowdy men. A melody among discord.

    They took notice. All of the action froze. The Phantom's hair was being torn out in black, silky clumps, grasped in the pirate's palms. Blackbeard's vintage, limited-edition '働いたら負け' shirt was being shredded apart by The Phantom's talons, red gashes drawn across his chest like lashes from the cat o' nine tails. Shakespeare watched from the sidelines, silently mocking them all with a mirthful grin.

    It was their Master, and she stood in front of them with a curious, intriguing look of determination.

    "Pardon?" asked Blackbeard. Not even flinching from his oozing wounds, all thoughts of showboating his pain and channeling his anger gone from his mind.

    "P-Please go out with me!" She replied quickly, to the point, yet not without a hint of a stutter.

    A beat, silent as a vacant theater.

    After that, they were ready to acknowledge that that indeed had happened.

    Blackbeard, damaged as ever, gave his beard a thoughtful scratch as he pondered. "I see, I see. A wee drop cliche, but a chestnut all th' same." He turned to regard the playwright, the only sane man 'round here in this damned and shunned corner of Chaldea. "Think you could work a take into the game? An eroge worth its salt could use a scene like this?"

    Shakespeare, however, was far too wrapped up in himself, nor did he seriously want to consider Blackbeard's proposal anyway. Certainly not at this time, either. "And lo, what may it be, but a suitor who disregards thoust foibles and bears her beating heart for all to see, and in front of scoundrels like us! Verily so, a display of gallant valiance, my maiden of a Master!"

    "...That, is YOUR Christine." The Phantom merely replied with, eyeing Blackbeard.

    "I said, shut it!" and Blackbeard tugged the opera house ghoul's hair some more as he ground his knuckles into the guy's bare cheek.

    She quickly stamped her foot and counter-interjected. "I-I'm serious!" Their Master seized the flow of conversation, and she aimed to keep it for good this time.

    "OKAY?!" Blackbeard replied, suddenly at attention. The Phantom flopped to the floor and slid away to his side of the table. "Okay! ...okay?"

    "That's better," she said.

    "Huh. You...and me? This be the real life?"

    "I told you. It's for real," she cut that impending Bohemian Rhapsody recital short. "Don't make me ask a third time. Please go out with me, Blackbeard."

    Blackbeard scanned to the left, then scanned to the right, looking thoroughly perplexed, but a keen variety of perplexed -- like a leopard seal scanning the horizon for orca fins before it decides to slink into the water and gobble up a fat penguin. "Huh," he said, upon deciding that the coast was clear. "That be fine. No qualms here.

    "Well, whadda'ye wanna do?"

    "Erm...?" At that, the Master's curiously determined, take-charge façade faltered a mite.

    "Y' know, fer the get-together -- the date?"

    She placed a finger to her cheek and glanced toward the ceiling, a gesture that accentuated her girlishness.

    A beat, silent as a doldrummed sea.

    "Sleep on it?" she suggested, and then waved off Blackbeard and scampered away, squirrel-like, the heels of her boots clicking away on the linoleum tiles.


    ***


    Thus their Master left them -- Blackbeard most of all -- to consider her desires in an awkward silence. Said silence was broken moments later when the dread pirate she had opted to concern herself with began to laugh. He laughed, and laughed, and laughed. It started out as a low and slow vile cackle, distant like the crash of dank and murky waves against rocky outcroppings as heard from atop a high cliff.

    "Heeheeheeheehehehuhhh--"

    Said laughter devolved and warped, becoming like the devil's own shrill shriek.

    "HYAHAHEHHAUGHOHOHOHHH......! L - M - A - O!!

    "Bloody hell...

    "BLOODY hell...

    "BLOODY GODDAMN HELL! I've become normie scum! And fer some reason I'm giddy 'bout thaaaat!" With tears of self-deprecation in his eyes and a wild countenance that was as much grin as it was grimace plastered across his face, Blackbeard lamented and suffered an identity crisis, resembling so much like central figure from Munch's pièce de résistance, or that kid from Home Alone.

    The Phantom of the Opera shrugged, already begining to lose himself in thoughts of Christine, and William Shakespeare scratched at his chin, left deep in thought by these circumstances.


    ***


    The ring of shipyard bells, foretelling of comings and goings at all hours; the cacophony of the relentless crowd as everyone goes off to somewhere else, always in-between point A and B; the mewling of gulls, those robber birds that are as kindred to the most hardcore of old salts -- and beneath the choppy surface of all that noise, like sunken booty just asking to be discovered by the only the most incredible, the distant crash of dank and murky waves against rocky outcroppings.

    There had never been a wakeup call with more character than this.

    Swaying as she stood there, she came to on her feet, as if she had been sleepwalking. When she opened her eyes, the bright light mercilessly savaged her eyeballs and she blinked repeatedly. The details came to her as she recovered. She was in the middle of a busy street, dirty cobblestone paths beneath her feet and an attar of human filth and tangy sea air bored its way into her nostrils.

    "Huh?"

    She turned her head, left to right, and didn't have to vector far to catch the border of the street, narrow as the passageway was with rows and rows of businesses that gave off a seedy, adventurous air. Painted ladies -- in broad daylight -- flirted loudly and coquettishly with would-be johns. The seamen were receptive, pulling them into their arms and carousing. Other seamen were downing pints in the middle of the street, the drink flowing and sloshing as they sung dirty ditties. Grabby sign walkers with toothy grins and missing teeth urged streetfolk to visit this place or that place, to spend, spend, spend and get their rocks off as they parted with their clams.

    A stray breeze cut through the manmade gully of the narrow street and ruffled her clothes, which drew her attention to herself and her own state of dress. Rings on every finger, gaudy, expensive pieces made from gold, mother-of-pearl, scrimshaw, silver, turquoise, steel and copper alike. Bangles too, on both wrists, loose and tight and dangling with trinkets and fetishes. Her neck felt tight, and -- heedless of a concept of modesty -- popped the buttons off her collar (a collar attached to some dress, brown layered atop white, leather and cotton, ankle-length skirt, decent with the pleats in both the skirt and the shoulders and cuffs alike). She felt something there, and reached into her bosom -- a shark tooth necklace, a single fang strung through a miniscule hole with catgut. A simple thing, compared to everything else.

    "Huh."

    The young woman shook her head, and felt the hoops of her earrings bounce against her cheeks and neck. Apparently she also had earrings on as well. More like, oh well. She put that thought out of mind and set about to scaling up a wall and a storefront. Positively unladylike of her, but she didn't feel especially ladylike at the moment, only hunger for bearings. Her boots provided good footing as she shimmied up the side of a wall and pulled herself onto the roof. From there she saw ocean, miles of it in all the directions that weren't a part of the island she was on. Yes, it was an island, and a crowded one at that, swollen with buildings and people and the docks stuck out from it on all sides like roots or tendrils, as if spreading its influence out into the surrounding waters. Yet, the island was not isolated. She saw other landmarks. FAMILIAR landmarks. She saw THAT island, the one where Drake and her crew had set up camp. She saw the king's island, its curving bow-shore and mountains at the back. She saw THAT reef, the island temple, those whirlpools, the island where the wyverns nested, the caldera home of those warring centaurs, the land of the giant hermit crabs, and -- in the far distance -- the storm clouds.

    She did a double-take like she was a cartoon character. She glanced between the city, and the oceanscape, and the city and the oceanscape again until it seemed like she would get whiplash.

    "Enjoyin' yeself the view, Master?"

    "Oh! Mister Blackbeard? That's...you?"

    "Ain't nobody but me!" said the hulking man, and though his manner of dress differentiated some from the pirate king that she knew well, he was still undoubtedly Edward Teach. He donned a hat, tricorn and wide-brimmed, far more traditional to the image of a seadog. His jacket, like the one he donned during his most serious of moments, but with more edge and ponce to it, made of good material and with more details. Ten flintlocks were holstered in straps that went across his bare, muscular chest. His boots, steel-toed but still undeniably period chic. And his beard -- two flaming wicks, tastefully placed atop a single, split braid.

    Around his neck; he wore an identical shark's tooth necklace.

    "Well? How be it!? Hell of a town, hell of start, ye?" he asked her, with joviality.

    "This place..." she asked. "Did I blackout during the leyshift?"

    "Only blackin' out y' did be the normal kind to m'knowledge. Wit' sleep n' all."

    "So, it's not a simulation, either. Then, perhaps..."

    He gave a her wry look from under the brim of his hat, interested in her as he'd be interested in the leaked trade routes of future tack.

    --a Servant dream, memories shared via between familiar and Master.

    "When I said 'Sleep on it,' this wasn't what I had in mind."

    Blackbeard laughed and clapped her on the shoulder. "Arrharrharrhaarrr! What be the story o' our lives, eh? Mistakes into miracles, lass!"

    " 'sides, else could we have possibly done? An outting with Blackbeard's gotta be somethin' to remember, aye? Chaldea sure ain't for bein' the sorta place we can get into all sorta nasty trouble! Too dull! Not enough swagger!"

    Servant dreams were not an uncommon experience. Most Masters would experience them so long as they were contracted with a given spirit. But, because of her experience here as a Master of Chaldea, she was a special case. According to the records of Holy Grail Wars throughout the world, most Masters had only ever had one Servant, two at most in a rare, RARE, isolated incident. Now, she, she had dozens of Servant-partners. Dreams are already a barely conceivable happening for a typical human. HER subconscious was utter chaos. Or bizarrely specific.

    "This level of interactivity -- this isn't a memory of yours, is it?" she asked.

    "Er, seems like a yay n' a nay on that. But moreso." Blackbeard answered, vaguely but honestly, a devil-may-care shrug upon his shoulders.

    "That seems like it. This isn't the Okeanos I remember."

    "Nay! 'tis that but more! 'tis a marriage of yer memories and mine, copulatin' together t' form something wholly new and grand!" The pirate among pirates pointed to his braid, emphasizing the winding strands with a fingertip as he made suggestive comments and winked at his Master. With flair most dramatic, he spread his arms wide and bellowed it to the heavens as truth, the devil's own gospel; " 'tis the rum-soaked Mecca of the pirates, the Sodom and Gomorrah of the seven seas -- Port Royal!"

    Whoosh. The wind blew. The crowd continued to bustle. Gulls cursed in their avian language. His Master clapped a little, polite claps of encouragement, very yamato nadeshiko, yet maybe more than a shred of wit and sarcasm.

    "Congratulations. I'll admit, it's quite something," she smiled at her date. "It's a little creepy to dig around in my head like this, but still, I didn't know you were capable of this, Mister Blackbeard."

    "Aye, but nay, I could'na do it alone. I contracted the help of a -- friend -- and he set to work. Not even I know what to properly expect here!"

    Indeed, for what lay before their eyes, this Port Royal was not Port Royal. This Port Royal was not the Port Royal of history, the one that Blackbeard haunted so during his lifetime of piracy. This Port Royal was a memory, and one that bloomed like a tumor, a cancer fueled by hopes and dream and glutted on rose-tinted nostalgia and fantasy so that it grew into a fanciful pirate metropolis. Bigger, better badder than before, it was what everyone wished Port Royal could have been.

    "Fer now, let's have ourselves a go at this, a night on th' town what shall sink beneath the waves come daybreak when ye wake! This... Eight-Hour Adventure!"

    "I asked for this, I might as well give it a shot." The Master shrugged, and she held out her hand, this time making a ladylike show of it.

    Blackbeard took it, and with that, the clock began to tick in earnest for the two of them.


    ***


    Truly, this was not the Port Royal that Blackbeard knew from memory, that she thought she knew from the stories. Crammed within the streets of the pirate's unholy city, a district among many, it was--

    "This is...Akiba?"

    A surreal sight. Otaku central, patronized by ruffians and salts and wenches. Kanji and nerd swag on the high seas; Japantown within Port Royal. It was too much for him. Blackbeard fell to his knees and pitifully held up his hands, looking like a devil who just witnessed a redemptive miracle. "Whoa," he said, with tears streaming down his face, snot pouring from his nostrils and getting caught in his beard. "It's like a fuckin' flood! It won't stop! Sh-Shut up and take my moneyyyy...!!" He reached into his pockets and threw coinage and jewels into the air, unable to help himself. "Thank y', Will the Wonderful!"

    IMMEDIATELY, store patrons, still looking as period as ever, rushed from the shops of the replica Akiba, and Blackbeard was drowned in a shower of lolige.

    "GG WP BASED GOD BLESS!!!" he crooned to the heavens in pure ecstasy. It was a sight unsuitable for the faint of heart. "Gimme it all, ya bastards! I mean it!!"

    "...c-congratulations. I'm happy, for you..."

    "Would you like some goods, miss? Fresh outta Comiket 666!" inquired an eager barker.

    "It's, it's okay. I really, really can't take it with me." She bowed apologetically, aware of the etheral dreamworld they were in.

    Blackbeard sounded especially happy all of a sudden. "Oh shit! Waddup! It's Jefferson?!! He's here too!? Shove off, ya shophounds! Here come dat boi!" With a swing of his branchlike limbs, Blackbeard pushed away the capitalists crowding around him. "This way, ya lil' ape!" he playfully called, his voice full of warmth and joy.

    "Jefferson?" his Master asked. "What's 'Jefferson?'" She caught a glimpse of what Jefferson was. Its appearance mirrored that of Port Royal's -- filthy, bristly, smelly, and yet somehow weirdly grandoise and dignified. The young lady was face-to-face with a knuckle-dragging, tail-swishing, lazy-eyed howler monkey. A horsefly skittered across the primate's wide eyes, but it gave no regard to the errant creepy crawlie. It merely regarded her in kind, with one furry hand agrip with the cord of a pouch that it wore strapped across its back.

    "Jefferson?"

    "Yep, Jefferson." Blackbeard gleefully, confirmed, reaching down to take the monkey in his arms. "Ya got'cha-self that little Four fellow -- I had me-self a Jefferson!"

    The gross monkey scratched itself. Blackbeard's Master was reminded of how people and their pets tended to resemble each other, and Blackbeard and Jefferson absolutely looked like they were brothers from another mother.

    ...which meant that Blackbeard probably had fresh monkey DNA floating around in his bloodstream.

    Well, there certainly were Servants in contract to her that sported supernatural animalistic heritage! Blackbeard could feel free to join the club.

    "H-Hello, Jefferson..."

    "Ah, ye can chat him up iffen ya wanna, but it's bogus to be expectin' an answer back," Blackbeard said. "...he's mute."

    "Excuse me?"

    "Lost 'is voice in a tussle wit a razor-billed sealark."

    Though she wasn't particularly Audobonlike with regards to avian sorts, the Master of all of Chaldea's Servants commented on it all the same. "I've never heard of that species before."

    " 'Course not! We wiped 'em all out! Port Royal glutted itself real good fer a fortnight on them buggers!" Blackbeard laughed. He slapped Jefferson the Monkey on his shoulder, his large hand seeming like it'd crush the primate it dwarfed, but still the little beast showed ambivalence and, perhaps, trust in the captain. Perhaps more than that, Jefferson occupied himself with staring at her, not blinking whatsoever with one eye and the other quivering rather unpredictably in the socket.

    "He's a very calm monkey, Mister Blackbeard."

    "This lad's always been a man of few words, y'know?!" Blackbeard said proudly, scratching the animal under its chin.

    Meanwhile, the horsefly disappeared up one of Jefferson's nostrils, never to be seen again.

    "Anywho! Jefferson! This be my lady friend! We're out on a bucaneer's soiree for a bit! Her name be, well, 'Master' be that we call her, alla the good boys and girls at Chaldea."

    Jefferson silently looked to Blackbeard, and patted him on the dirty, hairy cheeks with his own dirty, hairy paws. "Haw haw, aye, aye. Good to see ya too, fam." Blackbeard's eyes narrowed gently, almost serenely in the presence of the silent howler.

    At that moment, she thought that Edward Teach looked like a content cat. A Maine Coon. A grizzled one, veteran yet spry and full of piss and vinegar.

    Atop Blackbeard's broad-as-a-port-bow shoulders, Jefferson wiggled his simian behind. Blackbeard saw that for the cue it was. "A'ight Jefferson, g'wan an' git. Don't need me no wingman ATM, since the ladyfriend is here right from the get-go. 'twas naught but an old please, my good friend."

    Before the monkey left to go about its own gross ways, it stopped in front of the Chaldean Master. Her auburn eyes met with Jefferson's own inscrutably inky peepers. The semi-walleyed not-so great ape reached into the pouch strapped to its back and pulled out a colorful box that it held out to her. She crouched down to the monkey's level and received the gift. At that, he scampered off back into the woodwork from which he had crawled forth.

    "What's this...?" With the monkey out of sight, she took a better look at that gift. It wasn't just a box. It was the box of a video game. Eroge, by the looks of it and the R-18 label in the bottom-right corner. Endless Days & Startless Nights. The circle's name: VARIANT~SOL. "Oh, okay then...?"

    "Wha'd m' lil dude leave with ya, lass? Did he give y' a monkey bomb?" He waggled his eyebrows and snickered.

    She nodded and shrugged. "Doesn't seem like it. Check it. Seems to be your thing." The Master held out the game for Blackbeard to inspect.

    His reaction? Instantaneous. He froze on the spot, wide-eyed and pale-faced. "No shit it is." He swiftly, gingerly took the game box in his hands and stared at it in agape awe. "Christ on a spiky cross..."

    "Mister Blackbeard?"

    "This is... I see. 'Cannae take it wit ya,' " Gripping the unopened package tighter than before, a somberness laced its way into his voice as he unconsciously echoed her own words from moments before. "Ain't that a bitch, huh, Will?"

    Blackbeard looked up from the eroge and met her eyes with his, exactly as his lil' dude Jefferson before had done. "Master," he said, "Ya should carry this. Ya deserve what honor it be. Keep it safe. It be the most valuable treasure in all of this shitty-ass town."

    "What about me?" she asked, girlish smile full of feminine charm on her lips, for what madam could resist such a riposte?

    "Bloody females-" Blackbeard growled. "Ye, next to ya."

    She smirked in response, and it made her seem all the more womanly beyond her youthful years. "Much obliged, Mister Blackbeard," yet his Master lifted her hands in repose. "But, I don't have a handbag to carry it in. Why not use your satchel instead?"

    "Feh! What be the point of it all?!" He complained, yet did so anyways, and stowed it away--

    --a truly earnest dream that could only be birthed within this cancer of a dreamworld: the eroge that he, The Phantom of the Opera, and William Shakespeare had yet to create in the real world.


    ***


    "--------Now then, the next act. For dreams must end, lest the lasting sleep embrace us in the great unknowing of its darkness.

    "Survive, you two merrymakers, and be rewarded with adventure's end and memories that remain as memories.

    "Expire, and be rewarded with an eternal midnight kingdom seated atop a recurring tide, as dreamers you shalt remain.

    "Good reasons of must of force give place to better.

    "Enter, stage left."


    ***

    Empty bottles of alcohol -- monumental gravestones to shindigs of yore -- lined the dark wood walls and shelves, wood imported to Port Royal from the fertile and wild lands of the Carribean. Driftwood shaped by strange tides hung from the ceiling as decoration, and polished abalone shells gently reflected the soft light of the drinkery. It was a truly roughshod locale, yet it felt like a homey, cozy place all the same. She felt this way about it, and with that feeling in her heart reasoned, too, that he felt such about the tavern.

    "Two ales to start 'er off, barmaid!" Her Servant tipped his tricorn at the nearest available girl. "But keep 'em coming! We be burning moonlight out there in reality!"

    "These drinks..."

    "Ya need to misspend more of your youth, lass!" Blackbeard insisted to his Master. "By Davy Jones' nutsack, if yeh can't even let loose in your own DREAMS, when can yeh ever?" He pushed the ale towards her.

    "It's a bit much, doing whatever you want, whenever you want."

    "That's the beauty of it! I dun give a damn!" Blackbeard quaffed down a hefty draught. "I be like this all the damned time! No filters, nunna that codswallop! I'm already a devil, might as well enjoy the trip down to Hell!"

    "That freedom of yours, it's admirable, in its own way," she admitted, fingers tapping at the rim of the mug.

    "That, right thar, is where w' see eye-t'-eye. I know what this be what I be, and I know you be what you be. T' each their own, and fuck the rest of 'em! I may be selfish, but I ain't no fool of that caliber! M' lifestyle is mine, yers is yers, as previously established.

    "HOWEVER, this is an opp; an opp to get crazy and do all y'wanna do w'out them consequences. A real sandbox, w' buried treasure, to boot! I organized this here dreamrealm for that sake. No one cares what y' do, or do t' 'em! Thar be a clear boundary between fantasy and reality. It be like a video game, y'see?"

    If she played a video game, and slaughtered an entire crowd of innocent NPCs, did that make her a psychopath? Nay. Such was Blackbeard's argument. Such was Blackbeard's argument that she should take the drink, and that there would be no lasting consequences of any sort here in this phantasmal Port Royal.

    "I understand," she conceded somewhat to him. "But, that and this situation are perhaps a little bit fundamentally different. The parallels might not quite hold."

    She was his Master. She was THEIR Master. Of all of the Servants. An isolated system would remain isolated so long as it remained isolated. Who knew exactly how her wires crossed with the dozens of Servants she had contracts with? The possibility was certainly not zero. With the possibility not being zero as it was, the team synergy could suffer as a result. Negative bond points equalled the possibility of fatal results.

    "I know. I know it's hard," she said. But, no matter how she'd want to cut loose, redirect her stress, the weight of judgment was heavy on her. Judgment from the crowd... Judgment of the self directed at the self...

    The scent of the ale was mighty. It reached her nose just fine, even in that smelly and well-used ale house. She wanted it. To feel it burn down her throat. To get all funny like she knew she'd get. To loosen up, lead to things like this or that. It was a leap of faith, one of temptation, the devil's own.

    "Even in this playground as we are, I just don't know."

    A leap of faith into temptation. The devil's own, yes. But, she was human -- and as a human, they had all eaten the fruit of knowledge, offered by that very devil.

    "Iff'n ye make any mistakes, lass, let 'em blame me. I don't give a rat's arse." Blackbeard placed his hand over hers, and, for once in their relationship as Master and Servant said something that sounded like what a Servant would actually say to their Master......

    Then, there was a voice, stiff and unfamiliar and wholly insistent. "Edward Teach?"

    "That be this feller." A man in uniform, his face shadowed by a distinctively detailed tricorn. He wore the colors of the military on his breast. Judging by how many other men like him there were in the tavern, they were but rank and file, yet authorities all the same. One of Blackbeard's eyes twitched, but he remained calm on the surface, as if a jagged reef awaited below his meager waves. "It's you folks," he said with some recognition. "What's the problem, Officer? We're just here, cavorting, having fun with our friends."

    "The Dawnkeepers have been summoned and charged. You will be executed on the spot, wherever our order finds you on Port Royal."

    " 'Dawnkeepers?' What crappy light novel did you gigacucks walk out of?" Blackbeard asked, the mockery and confusion as genuine as the beard upon his face.

    "Same," said his Master.

    "Double same," replied Blackbeard. "Ain't no 'Dawnkeepers' I never done heard of. Pissants like you were just regular lawfolk when I was alive. Piss on off out of this dream, pigs."

    "That we cannot allow." They drew their swords. "The Dream shan't know The Dawn. That is all.
    The time is out of joint—O cursèd spite, That ever we were born to set it right. Goodbye for now."

    "Fuck almighty, this is some trite bullshit!" Blackbeard complained. "We were gonna raise some hell anyway, might as well-"

    "Hang on, Mister Blackbeard--" said his Master as two things instantly happened. 1) She reached into his coat, snagged one of his numerous flintlocks, and unloaded the handcannon into the dime-a-dozen faces of one of the Dawnkeepers; and 2) downed her ale in one go, trickles of hot bitter drink pouring down the side of her face that she couldn't swallow in one go.

    Blackbeard raised an eyebrow.

    "That's the spirit, lass! Playground time?!"

    "Playground time, Rider!"

    "Yarrrr!" giving a cheesy, stereotypical pirate growl -- his role, he might as well own it -- Blackbeard's long, wicked hooked gauntlet materialized into thin air. He immediately used it to hook the neck of another Dawnkeep and threw the mook like a ragdoll across the room. The body impacted HARD against the wall, and it shattered like a bomb had gone off.

    "They be dense, lass. Their spirits are as hard as I get when I see me a spicy doujin!" He mobster kicked another straight in the breadbox, knocking him into a group of his buddies. Tables and chairs crunched noisily underneath their bodies. His Master reached out to him, and he threw her another flintlock.

    "Are they familiars?" Another shot, another body hit the floor.

    "Ya tell me!" He bashed the heads of two together and instantly made a chunky Dawnkeeper sauce. "BARMAID!"

    "Yessuh, Cap'n Blackbeard?!" replied said barmaid.

    "We're gun need more ale here! Can't go off to war on an empty liver, now can we?!"

    "Nay, Cap'n Blackbeard!"

    Drinks and weapons and piss and vinegar in tow, Master and Servant hurried out, ready to meet the challenge head-on.

    "C'mon you DawnCREEPERS! Where ya at?!" Blackbeard crooned, hungry for his right to fight.

    "Ah, such spirit so soon. To think that even a third-rate creation could entertain so, you must feel especially protective at the moment, Blackbeard."

    "Eh, is that you? Will?!" said Blackbeard.

    "Shakespeare?" asked the Master.

    "It can be no one else!" The proud voice came from a gull. It was not a talking gull, like a cartoon animal. Its bill was ajar, as if that were the mechanism for the relaying of audio. "Well, regardless of your reasons for your action, the fact that your actions exist mean that you've taken me up on my little game?"

    "Game?" she raised an eyebrow.

    "Yes, yes, yes! It is quite a simple one, at that. See, Good Sir Blackbeard here cannot control a world like this. Such a job requires the handiwork of a Caster. Doubly more suitable if it involves the nature of stories and roles! Imagine - an ersatz adventure a la the devil pirate himself. Blackbeard here has become quite married to modern day nerd culture, 'weebshit' as he likes to call it, but in truth he was quite taken that you wanted to go on a date with HIM, of all the Chaldeans!"

    "Shakespeare?" she asked.

    "Yes?"

    "Why are you telling us this?"

    "Context and exposition, my dear! There is no need to hide the truth, and with the exposure of the truth can I properly tell you both of the rules to the game."

    She got miffed at that. "Since when is this a game?!"

    "Since Blackbeard said I had free reign to make your memories resonate with each other. The human mind is a place of magic, and imagination simply goes hand in hand with my work. I am the imagineer here, and as such it's my duty to keep things entertaining -- no matter what emotions that entertainment entails.

    "This fanciful Port Royal is to your likings, no? Blackbeard, you liked Akiba, did you not?"

    "Y-Yes..."

    "Then I have thus far done my job as organizer well," concluded Shakespeare. "However, as you indulged on your myriad adventures, dawn approaches. Hence, the third-rates, the Dawnkeepers! Quality must be sacrificed for a true interactive experience, but they shall do their part well."

    "What 'bout them DawnCREEPERS?"

    "Please don't make that a thing, my friend. It was barely funny the first time. But, coming from me it shall be comedy gold, ahahaha! Ahem. The Dawncreep -- erm -- Dawnkeepers have a simple role. If you survive, or defeat them all, you get to enjoy this Port Royal until you wake. If you die, then you shall experience this Port Royal FOREVER."

    "That penalty's way too harsh, Shakespeare!" bemoaned the Master of the Rider and the Caster Servants.

    "But it's riveting, no!?"

    "Well yeah, but-!"

    "There have been greater risks to your life! You shall have fun aplenty, unleashing yourself so! Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war, you two!" and with that, the gull went silent.

    Blackbeard shot the bird anyways, just because he felt like it.

    "Bill, ye bastard guy! You fucking flamerdog!"

    "Is his nickname 'Will' or 'Bill?'"

    "It be whatever be more alliteratively appropriate, lass!"

    "How honest!"


    ***


    Not much to tell, after that. Break one Dawnkeeper and you've broken the whole of their order.

    True to Shakespeare's word, the Dawnkeepers were third-rates phantoms of the army from Blackbeard's memory. Disposing of them was a simple task, even if in the end the final battle looked like something out of a musou game. Still, the threat they posed was real, at least, within the confines of the illusionary Port Royal. Much blood was shed, much shot was shot, and again, true to Shakespeare's word, both Master and Servant were able to enjoy the rest of their time together in this dreamland.

    Still...

    "Now, Master, I don't be the type of man what look a gift horse in the mouth to check its smilebones." Blackbeard nursed a hearty mug of ale, still reeking of viscera and gunsmoke. "But, a seadog's gotta bite the doubloons to make sure them's real karats, savvy?"

    "True that," replied the Master, smelling much the same way, and looking quite uninhibited at the moment. Her trademark redheaded side tail was gone, hair completely let down.

    "Iffin' ye don't mind me askin', then praytell: why me?"

    "Pardon?"

    "Ah, thar be it. Thar be yer word."

    "Heh, true that," she repeated.

    "You've amassed quite a crew for ye'self. Lotsa gorgeous devils, to boot. So, why ol' Edward Teach hisself?"

    "...it's not much, really. It was a recommendation from da Vinci, for one thing."

    "To what, wine and dine the pirate?"

    "Not the pirate, no!" she giggled. "Anyone. She wants me to get a boyfriend, for my sake. The sake of my mental health. It's so idiotic."

    "...idiotic, huh."

    "Yep, stupid as can be! Yet, I don't dislike that. It's weird to be dating anyone, with the way I am right now. I'm THE MASTER. Relationships with co-workers is supposed to be a weird, WEIRD thing, isn't it? But, I can't help it -- I'm interested in that."

    "So, what?"

    "What, can't the great Captain Blackbeard puzzle out this one on his lonesome? A hedonist like you'd gotta know what his own charm points are."

    "Suck my dick. I'm too drunk to recall anything a' th' moment."

    "Then, fine," she paused. "Let me put it as simply as I can: Deep down, we have the same taste and drive to collect what we want, and we just can't break that habit. ...mostly it's because you have great taste in wenches. "

    Blackbeard's eyes glittered in admiration, like teary diamonds. "I see that you're a (wo)man of culture, as well."

    With her dress and her hair blowing in the salty wind, she gave a cheeky grin and said that one magical word:
    "Nice."

    Out of dreamland and back in the real world, without knowing why but subconsciously acknowledging the omen as one, all of Chaldea's lesser-developed ladies gave a collective shudder of dread.

    --and Chaldea's Miscreant Quartet became Chaldea's Miscreant Quintet.


    ***


    "WHY IN THE BLOODY FUCK IS THE HEROINE'S GODDAMN NAME 'CHRISTINE'?!?!"

    Da Vinci and Gudako share a conversation in which Da Vinci says it might be good for Gudako's mental health to take some time off, and maybe get herself a boyfriend. She gives the girl the challenge of at least taking a man out on a date. So Gudako goes to the dining room where everyone is, goes to the table where Phantom, Spartacus and Blackbeard are plotting to ruin the next valentine's day with shakespeare immensely amused, and asks Blackbeard out on a date. The date, the tone of the date, the result, and the reason Gudako chose him are entirely up to the writer. Gudako/Blackbeard, awkward yet comfy. Shitposting for Blackbeard thoughts and words is encouraged.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dullahan View Post
    there aren't enough gun emojis in the thousandfold trichiliocosm for this shit


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  3. #3
    🔫 Kirby's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Age
    22
    Posts
    15,594
    JP Friend Code
    578706164
    Blog Entries
    1

    Galatea Project Prologue

    A red-hair young man with stray white-locks trails through partial frost. Weeds and grass stick out like sore thumbs among the pure white splotches. Leading up to a wooden gate, the young man reaches to open it. A water droplet spills from an overhead icicle above the gate onto his hand. The cold sensation gave him pause to drink in his surroundings. The streets and alleys are void of people despite the daytime. Turning back to the gate at hand, he brings his attention up above. Breathing in the clear blue beyond, a faint cloud escapes his lips. Looking up, he gazes into the sky's tone much like looking into his own heart.

    Sliding the gate aside, the young man steps inside the Emiya Residence. He walks up to the eastern-style mansion, noting the pathway overdue for a long sweeping. Rattling aside the sliding door, the young man stares down at the empty hallway. Vestiges of recent guests flicker out at the blink of his reminiscing.

    A reluctant smirk stretches at the corner of his mouth.

    “I’m home,” he calls out. Shutting the door behind him, he steps over to the edge of the wood floor. Turning around, he sits down to take his shoes off.

    The sound of space tears open accompanied by soft footsteps, “———Welcome back, Emiya Shirou.”

    Glancing over his shoulder, a twin-tail blond-hair woman in dress attire stands over him. Her cold expression betrays her warm greeting. And yet, a small light shines in those blue eyes.

    “Ahh,” Shirou gets up to face her, “Thanks for coming out— Angelica.”

    * * * * *

    Partings are as inevitable as greetings come.

    The final fight with the Ainsworths lasted a long time, yet it took place in the span of a day. From the rise of the sun to the fall of the darkness, they nearly brought their plot to fruition. However, just like in the original myth itself, hope lay at the bottom of Pandora’s box. Illya, Miyu, and her friends managed to beat the Ainsworths.

    The conflict wasn’t without its costs. Sacrifices were made on both sides. Though she faltered, Illya wasn’t deterred by the despair before her eyes. With strength anew, she overcame the trials ahead of her.

    Illya kept her word and wished upon the Holy Grail for everyone to be happy. And as with all happy endings, so too came their goodbyes...


    * * * * *

    “Emiya Shirou,” a voice calls out.

    Staring at his cup intently, Shirou’s reminiscence is shaken, “Huh?”

    “Are you not going to drink your tea?” Angelica raises her cup, never taking her eyes off him.

    “Ahh, yeah.” Shirou looks down again at his cup. Weak steam rises from the elevated pool, light blaring at the edge. Raising his cup, he crinkles his nose while taking a sip. “...honey?”

    Angelica nods.

    Peering at his cup, Shirou contemplates for a moment, “Well it’s a bit too sweet, but it’s not bad.”

    “Is that so. I will take that into consideration next time.” Angelica closes her eyes, sipping from her own cup. The conversation dies down and an awkward silence takes place. Eventually both their cups are empty and Angelica takes notice, “Would you like another serving, Emiya Shirou?”

    “Yes,” Shirou replies. As Angelica reaches for the kettle, a frown crosses his face. She stands up and walks over to the opposite side of the table. Before she can refill his cup, he speaks up, “Also…”

    Angelica pauses in mid-action to look at him.

    “There’s no need to be formal, you can just call me Shirou.” He straightens up to face her.

    A moment or two passes before she begins to steadily pour tea into his cup. “You are the master of this household, while I am a guest. Therefore, I will address you as such appropriately.”

    Shirou slouches forward. Picking up his cup with a sigh, he takes a sip from his refilled cup. Setting it back down, he glances to the side. Out of the corner of his eye, he notices day has turn to night. Smiling a bit, he stands up, “Angelica, could you join me for a bit?

    Angelica looks up after pouring tea into her own cup. Grasping her cup, she follows after Shirou’s lead.

    The sound of wood shuffles to the side, inviting a night breeze into the hallway. No moon is out tonight, but the stars are enough to light the backyard of the residence. Taking his spot at the edge, Shirou sets his drink down. Angelica stands off to the side behind him, staring aimlessly.

    “Go ahead and have a seat,” he prompts his guest to act.

    Focusing her sight where he tapped beside him, she speaks up, “For what purpose?”

    “Well,” Shirou turns to the starry sky. “It’s been a while since I’ve watched the stars with anyone. I guess you could call it a tradition?”

    The solemn moment passed before Angelica took a seat, seiza-style, out of arm’s reach from him. “Just for a bit, then I will leave ahead of you to bed.”

    A small smile crept at the corners of his mouth, “Yeah.”

    For a bit of time, neither one of the two bothers to fill the silence with idle chatter. This time, they prefer the tranquil silence. The twinkling stars capture their attention, not taking it for granted. Gathering his thoughts, Shirou dispels the silence, “Hey, Angelica.”

    His guest shifts her eyes over to him.

    “Even if I may seem uncomfortable at first, I am glad you’re staying here.” He leans back with his arms spread behind him.

    “I am only fulfilling the promise Illya and Lady Miyu requested of me.” Angelica trails off, “That is all there is to it.”

    “That’s true, but even so I’m glad you’re here keeping me company. Even if it’s not of your own volition.” Shirou closes his eyes, feeling the cool breeze.

    Angelica knit her brow before relaxing her focus. She moves over to the wooden porch to let her legs hang freely. Letting out a sigh of relief, she places her hands in her lap. Peeking over to her side, Shirou relaxes in the moment seeing his guest intending to stay.

    It became the first of many nights that she stays with him.



    Shirou x Angelica - Now that the Faker and Counterfeiter are no longer enemies, Shirou takes it upon himself to wash away any bad blood and get closer to his very attractive houseguest. Setting timeline-wise is flexible, considering the source material isn't done. One suggestion would be a potential future setting in which the doll has moved into the Emiya estate for good.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dullahan View Post
    there aren't enough gun emojis in the thousandfold trichiliocosm for this shit


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  4. #4
    🔫 Kirby's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Age
    22
    Posts
    15,594
    JP Friend Code
    578706164
    Blog Entries
    1

    Colour

    Colour

    AN: For those of either prudish or prurient taste, Blue Two involves sex.




    White

    “Ah!”

    Shirou groaned and lifted his head half a centimetre from the pillow, lidded eyes barely taking in her back. “T’saka? Wha-?”

    “Emiya, you’re hurt. Lie back down right now,” Rin said, scowling into her mirror.

    Shirou just blinked for a second, apparently either too fuzzy to understand her, or just baffled by the fact that she was awake before him. With his brain unable to respond, his body took over and yielded to the three great animal needs of Rest, Comfort, and Obeying Rin, dropping him back onto his pillow.

    Even faced with this display of the inevitable natural order, he still protested. “It’s fine, Tohsaka. I can even get the bandages off this evening. Everything’s been healing up great.”

    As Rin opened her mouth to retort, a blonde head emerged from beneath the sheets next to Shirou, Saber unburrowing from her nightly cocoon of warmth to join the morning’s impromptu discussion. Her voice, though clear as ever, was wrapped in the softness and husk of waking. It was a precious, exclusive tone, and one which still made her partners shiver with desire when they heard it.

    “Do not be foolish, Shirou.” A yawn briefly interrupted her, but a vicious glare put paid to the adoring smile on his face. “Your body may seem whole now, but you are still weak, as any human would be. You must be patient with your arm – or would you like to criticise my experience in war? Even I was resting to recover from the battle.”

    Leaving him to mock-cower on the other side of the bed, she sat up, took a moment to smooth her nightdress, and turned her attention to her Master. “Now, Rin. Tell us what’s the matter.”

    The grin that had been curling the edges of Rin’s mouth dropped away, and she dropped her gaze from the reflected image of her lovers. Her shoulders slumped and an ashamed pink gathered in her cheeks.

    “I-i-it’s, um, nothing. Don’t worry about it.”

    “Rin?” Shirou’s voice was gentle and kind, and it made her all the more embarrassed.

    “Please. You know there is nothing too trivial for you to tell us.”

    Ugh. Could you two be just a little less … Um, w-well. I -.” Rin took a deep breath, turned away from the glass to face them, and squared her shoulders in defiance before blurting it out. “I think I’ve got my first white hair!”

    The room froze for a moment, and she cringed as Saber and Shirou stared at her.

    They slowly turned to look at each other, and then immediately span away again, eye contact proving a serious problem. Their shoulders shook, and hints of snickering escaped to fill the otherwise total silence which had descended on the room.

    “A. A white hair, did you say?” Shirou asked, struggling to force the words out. “Well, I guess it is kind of unusual, Tohsaka.” He paused, obviously controlling himself, but it made his finish all the more devastating to Rin. “Most women would have got it about thirty years ago.”

    Saber picked up the torch and continued, without mercy, in the exact same, pointedly guileless way. “I understand that, as a magus, you are used to ageing less quickly, but I don’t believe this experience will be outrageously novel to us. Shirou has borne the hardship for quite a few decades by now. We swear we will love you no less for it.”

    Shirou shifted, winced, and then instead brushed his left hand through his ashen hair, bashful amusement crinkling the corners of his eyes.

    Rin’s face had gone from pink to a bright red during their careful sympathising, and she span back to her mirror again, folding her arms and tilting her head back. This completely failed to win back her dignity, and in fact just set her partners off, their howling laughter filling the room. She pouted briefly, before their humour infected her, and a wry smile crept in instead. A white hair! What a silly thing for her to feel vain about, for her to even mark as a milestone - but it was normal too, and even if it was embarrassing, Rin wouldn’t give that up. If they’d learnt anything, the three of them, it was that there had to be time to be human too, in amidst great magical discoveries and acts of heroism and the recreation of ancient legends.

    Saber caught the smile, and met her gaze in the mirror. She recited, deliberately and solemnly and tenderly, “But you were something more than young and sweet
    And fair,--and the long year remembers you.





    Rin wasn’t sure she’d ever been more frightened in her life. Not when the demigod Herakles himself had been charging at her with an aura of bloodlust so thick it was nearly physical; not when her treacherous Servant had trapped her in a cage of magic and razor-steel; not when Gilgamesh of Uruk had unveiled himself in all his ancient might and majesty; not when she’d been clambering through cancerous flesh while fighting off the curses of the Grail and desperately trying to ignore the doomed battle just metres away.

    Shirou was lying on the floor of their flat. His breathing was shallow and rapid; his skin bloodless under its bronze overtone; and his hair – his hair was white.

    She’d spotted the first strand in the morning after that lunatic fight in Ryuudouji, when a boy had faced down the ages of arrogance and power that the first of all Heroes had gathered, and thrown out his soul to meet it.

    She’d leant in close, enjoying just how badly he was flustered by her even while her own cheeks burned, then curled her finger around the hair and yanked it out. She’d smiled at his outrage, teased him, kissed him gently, kissed him passionately, and not thought much of it. If a single, pale fleck, easily discarded, was the only mark he’d take away from his impossible victory, she’d be grateful for it to the end of her days.

    Later, in situations less desperate – though sometimes still very, very lethal – he’d repeated the feat, drawing on her energy to manifest the world of infinite swords. And each time, afterwards, she’d found a little more of his hair gone white. One strand became two. (This time, when she plucked them out, she actually kept them to see what experiments could show. She found nothing that made any useful sense, and gave up in a huff. Impossible boy). Two became four; four became a lock; a lock became two.

    But, this time, she’d felt nothing. Not a hint of her power drained, what was left from keeping Saber manifested. (And she really should get to work properly on a less burdensome solution – but it bound her and her and him, and she wasn’t sure she could let go of that rope yet).

    So what inconceivable, reckless, bone-headed, heroic thing had he put himself through to end up like this?

    “Emiya! Shirou, you absolute moron, what did you do?”

    Miraculously, Shirou’s breathing stuttered, then deepened. His lids cracked open, and her heart skipped a beat when she saw a hint of the familiar amber peering up at her, even if it seemed duller than it should be.

    “Tohsaka?” His voice was distant, and its timbre odd – a deeper, more resonant cast to it. But, but, he was alive, and sane, and knew who she was. The tide of relief and helplessness and anger and love rolled over her, and she drowned in it.

    Shut up, Shirou! Just shut up! You dolt!” Rin cursed at him in four different languages, an effort undermined a little by the fact that she knew he was completely incapable of understanding at least two of them. And made even more pathetic by the fact that she knew she was sniffling while she did it and, judging by the way her eyes were blurring, probably crying too. It didn’t even make her feel better.

    She thought for a split-second about hitting him but decided it wouldn’t help either. The guilt over punching her boyfriend while he was some sort of invalid - even if it was probably his own fault - would kick in too fast. Maybe later.

    Instead, she slumped over from where she’d knelt by him, and buried her face in his chest, hiding her tears and listening desperately for his heartbeat. She started crying even harder when she heard it, shallow and fast, but there: the proof of life.

    Shirou was obviously baffled by the entire situation - he still didn’t properly understand how much he meant to her, damn him - but managed to raise his arms and loosely wrap them around her anyway, surrounding her with warmth. It should have been reassuring, but his grip was so weak that she couldn’t help but shake in his embrace. What had he really done to himself, trying this? How deep did it go?

    He squeezed her gently, kissed the crown of her head, and whispered into her hair. “It’s okay, Tohsaka. You don’t need to worry. I won’t have to rely on you any more: I won’t be a burden. I can do it by myself now.”

    It wasn’t any comfort.




    “And in the midst, in peaceful power,
    She saw, of kings, the lily-white flower”


    A lily, Rin thought, gently stroking a hand across her sleeping lover’s moonlit skin, and then smiled a little to herself at the pun. But, as much of a cliché as it might be for the English poets, she couldn’t think of a better way to describe the soft, glowing paleness of Saber’s colouring. And poetic it might be, but if you couldn’t be poetic about King Arthur, who were you meant to be poetic about? A hero out of legend needed words out of song to describe her: it wasn’t flattery or fawning, it was just what fit. Camelot was a court of bards even in its own time, its king patronising the arts as a way to restore the pride of a Saxon-devastated land, and it had inspired centuries of poets since. It was only natural that their verse went so well with her.

    And, they hoped, this was both a lily and an unfading amaranth, weathering even more centuries and millennia, flowering as long as there was magic in the Earth. (The pseudo-formalcraft spellwork to tap Saber’s Grail-woven body into the deep places of the Greater Source had been horrendously complicated, frighteningly dangerous, enormously illegal - and, in the end, bizarrely easy, as if the world welcomed Arthur’s touch. Rin still wasn’t sure what to make of it).

    Rin could rarely help the hint of envy that sparked at the thought of her never-wilting lover, that compared Saber’s skin to her own, gradually drying and wrinkling and ageing, in spite of her sparing but powerful use of vanity magics. And yet the flickering jealousy never survived long, smothered by an ocean of love and the knowledge that she and Shirou had chosen this. Chosen to let Saber free of any tie to them, and rejoiced when she’d come back to them all the same, to be with them as long as they could.

    Besides, if you wanted to contrast Saber’s youthful glow, Shirou was far more at odds with her than Rin probably would ever be. She just obeyed natural processes, admittedly at a somewhat delayed pace. His body had, over the years, become more and more a reflection of his soul, each time he pulled it from within and made it without. His hair, ash-white; his eyes, iron-grey; and his skin, bronze, tarnished by forge-smoke.

    That much, they’d expected, though not wanted, after seeing the Archer of the Fifth War. Less so, that ‘bronze skin’ was, in fact, starting to become a simple statement of reality now, not just the poetic description which was so right for Artoria. A deep cut by his shoulder, one which had confined him to bed for some days so he could heal, had left behind a scar formed of dull, dark metal. He swore it didn’t hurt and didn’t get in his way at all, but it had been a sobering reminder of the consequences that came with the power they used.

    What a trio they made. A perfect, royal lily; a lump of steel being slowly hammered into its fated shape, the sword coming closer day by day; and - and just a woman, for whom, like so many others, time would not stand still.

    And Rin wouldn’t change it for all the jewels in the world.






    Blue

    Rin turned down a corridor, saw blue and gold, and her heart jumped in her chest. Just a little, of course, but the uncontrollable reaction still sparked anyway. She was still so new to this, so new to Saber’s … participation with them, and that meant her body hadn’t stopped flooding her with a rush of happiness and embarrassment and arousal whenever she saw her ally-familiar-friend-Servant(-lover).

    Then the shape at the far end of the Mineralogy Department’s fourth-floor corridor came closer, and her upturned lips curled down. The blue was too bright, an artificial cobalt instead of royal navy; the curling hair goldenrod instead of Saber’s paler blonde.

    “Miss Edelfelt,” she said, her icy politeness conveying the exact opposite of courtesy.

    “Ohohohoho!” Ugh, when would the hyena learn that she needn’t cackle like she’d just found a lion’s three-day-old leftovers? “Miss Tohsaka, how wonderful, you’re acquiring the rudiments of some manners! I must congratulate you on overcoming your considerable natural difficulties to progress so far!”

    “Listen, you carrion-eating, corpse-thieving, mercen-” Luvia really could set her off like no-one else, even if they’d grudgingly allowed that carrying on their families’ feud in the Association’s halls was going nowhere except toward getting them both expelled.

    “Oh, Miss Tohsaka, please, remember yourself. It would be such a shame to throw away your hard-won progress.” Luvia’s eyes suddenly sparkled. “Why, my very own butler has taken to his training so excellently, in spite of being from your benighted backwater himself. Wouldn’t it shame the Tohsaka if their head were less civilised than a mere servant?”

    Rin was pretty sure her face was red by this point, and steam was probably starting to hiss out of her ears. “There’s nothing about him that’s ‘mere’ and definitely nothing about him that’s yours, jackal,” she hissed. “He’s from my country, which you apparently dislike so much; he’s sponsored by me; and he’s my lov-, l-, l-.”

    Luvia smiled as she stuttered, and Rin knew she’d lost the point, though the Edelfelt breezed on without doing anything so crass as gloating over it. “Well, Miss Tohsaka, I do believe I’m the one who holds a formal contract with him. Am I not? What a shame that the house of Tohsaka has fallen on such hard times as to be unable to keep even a single servant, and to force him to make his wage elsewhere. You needn’t worry, though. I’ll be only too glad to provide for him in every possible way.”

    Luvia’s tone left her meaning in no doubt, and Rin gritted her teeth. “Exactly like a wild dog, for you only to be able to think about rutting. I suppose it’s a good thing to want to live up to a title your family’s so proudly earnt, Miss Edelfelt. I should congratulate you.” The insult was blunter and cruder than it should have been, even in response to Luvia’s insinuation, but Rin wasn’t having this fake petty noble in her fake blue-and-gold even think about stealing Shirou from her like that.

    Luvia remained cool, just a hint of ice her in eye when she continued, “I would, of course, take your compliment in the spirit in which it was meant. And one good turn certainly deserves another, so I should praise you in turn for your academic achievements. Your essay on the properties of haematite has been widely admired in the department, I understand.”

    Rin was halfway through opening her mouth for a snide comeback (back to their normal grounds, thankfully, instead of the unthinkable territory they’d started encroaching on) before she stopped and cocked her head. That essay actually had been excellent, as far as she remembered, raising the issue of iron in other elemental magic systems, and perspectives that could bring to the Association’s study of the ore. What was Luvia’s point?

    “I discussed it briefly with my butler, and he had an almost learned perspective on it, for a servant and a minor apprentice. Of course, one might expect it, given the unique tang that’s always in the air around him. Metallic, I suppose one might say. Iron and steel.” Luvia trailed off. Meaningfully.

    Rin felt her face go from heated red to frozen white in an instant. No. Surely not. Luvia couldn’t. Of course not - she’d barely hinted … But. But she’d said it with so much weight behind it: she wouldn’t have if she didn’t think it meant something, meant a lot.

    “I. I. Ah. Um. He - you …”

    “That kind of insight is a valuable trait, you know, Miss Tohsaka?” Luvia bulldozed on, airy snobbishness back in full force. “I’d hate for it to be lost. And, of course, as an Edelfelt, I will do my best to prevent that from happening. It would be a true shame if the carelessness of the Tohsaka were to cost me such a useful butler when I could protect him.”

    Rin breathed out, slowly. Luvia would … help? Keep their secret?

    Luvia stepped closer to Rin, bent her head in so she could nearly whisper in Rin’s ear. Her voice was quietly, unbelievably, serious. “Good luck with him, Tohsaka. You’ve got love there. Proper, unyielding love. Hold it tight.”

    And just as quietly, just as unbelievably, just as seriously, Rin murmured back to Luvia.

    “Thank you.”




    It had been a long labour of love, finding the right sheets for this bed.

    Shirou, to Rin’s total lack of surprise, had been baffled pretty much throughout the process, and she’d occasionally caught him muttering under his breath that there surely wasn’t that much difference between ocean blue and sky blue. She’d twisted his ear for that.

    Because, as she’d told him, it did matter. She needed the right shade: a colour that wouldn’t drown her dark hair, but also wouldn’t clash with his own ridiculous bright one; one that would bring out their skin but not swamp it.

    She still wasn’t sure he appreciated it, not even now. But as she gazed with lidded eyes at his body against the sheets, and ground her hips down into his, she certainly did.

    She felt the rapid rise and fall of his chest under her fingertips, the hammering of his heart, the heat in his blood. His breath rasped in the air, a counterpoint to the little whines drawn from her throat with every press and thrust.

    Shirou’s own hands, wonderfully rough with sword-callouses, swept up over the muscle of her thighs, glided over her ribs, making her breathe in sharply, and then settled down at her hips. His thumbs stroked carefully, gently, thrillingly over the soft skin of her sides and belly, building the charge that was gathering deep within her.

    But she still needed more. Tightening the grip of her legs (and drawing a gorgeous groan from Shirou when she did), Rin raised her other hand from her sheets to her breast. At first, she closed her eyes and just tried to wring the pleasure out of herself as fast as she knew how, fingers pinching and tugging at her nipple, looking for the electric jolts that swept right down to her core. But then it was too much - she couldn’t go without the image of Shirou held beneath her, couldn’t starve herself of that pleasure as powerful as anything her body could produce. She looked down: and he gazed back, his eyes fixed on her like she was a treasure more precious than anything found in Babylon’s vaults.

    And, oh, the heat that stirred in her. How glorious it felt that even a sight he’d seen so many times before still had this power over him, still transfixed him so utterly. She gave him a wicked smile, and clamped down on her urgency. Her hand retreated from the raw sensation of her peak, and started to tease. She cupped her breast, stroked a single fingertip along the outer curves of her chest, spiralled slowly in toward the areola without quite touching, slipped away again, then came back to just graze over the hard little pebble that was demanding her attention. And, as light a touch as it was, it couldn’t help but thrill her right down to her belly, and wring a throaty moan from her. It should have embarrassed her, would have at any other time, but in this moment, she couldn’t be ashamed of her body’s honest response to their shared love.

    Shirou didn’t reply in words, maybe even couldn’t by now, but there was no mistaking his reaction. Underneath her other hand, he bucked, control disappearing. His grip on her hips, so gentle up until then, tightened, and his thrusts came harder, deeper, each of them accompanied by a quiet grunt of effort. The desperation she’d driven him to shone clearly in his flushed face, the little trickles of sweat drawing lines over his body. He was coming to the brink, and she wanted nothing more than to dive over with him. She leant back, scraped her nails down his body, and found her clit. Her efforts were as wild as his now, but even sloppy and uncoordinated strokes were enough when the pleasure was running through her body like fire.

    And … there. He arched, froze, and spilled within her, and she followed him over the edge.




    The huge, bearded man drew lines in the air with a speed born not of simple practice, but of experience. He hadn’t studied at a wisewoman’s knee, hadn’t joined a circle of magi, hadn’t sat in a temple listening to the chants. He had crossed the seas in a dragon-headed boat as soon as the first hair had appeared on his chin, and gone to war. He had mastered his power because it was that or death, and no soft peace-time child had ever stood against him and lived.

    His runes burnt themselves into the air in lines of searing blue, then twisted and span themselves into a barrage of icicles: sharp-edged spears shining with their own strange glow that had nothing to do with the bright moon above.

    Then he spoke a secret Word: ancient, terrible, and powerful, said to be learnt from the gods themselves. In it echoed battlecries long-forgotten, and the sound of iron horns, and the spilling of blood. His javelins shot forward, so fast that they were almost invisible, instilled with an unquenchable thirst for the life of their master’s enemy.

    They hit Saber and dissolved instantly.

    Rin had to desperately suppress a giggling fit, if only so that she could hold onto her own magic, keeping False Caster’s summoner from interfering. The other Servant looked utterly dumbfounded, jaw slack and eyes wide. And that was the last expression his vessel ever wore on its face, before an invisible blade took him through the chest, even his last-second reflexive twist unable to match the speed of Arthur Pendragon, the Britons’ Lord of War.

    Did I look like that, she wondered. When I first saw Saber and threw my magic at her and it did absolutely nothing - did I look like a total idiot too? She really hoped not. She remembered it as clearly as she did anything in her life: there had been a chill in the air, the parting gift of winter as it gave way to spring, and the moon had been bright overhead just like it was tonight. And Saber had stood above her, silhouetted by that pale light, looking cold and proud and heart-breakingly beautiful.

    It’s really rather pathetic to fall in love at first sight, much less to fall in love with an enemy about to put their sword through your heart. But Saber seemed so impossibly perfect in what Rin had thought was her final moment: radiating magical power, wearing the aura of a king like a cloak, embodying the ideal of a valiant knight. She’d even complimented Rin on her spell, like no small matter of an attempt at annihilating her would stop her chivalric code recognising skill and giving it its due. On one of these moonlit nights, when Artoria Pendragon went to war in all her majesty, Rin challenged anyone to not fall in love with her.

    Rin certainly was, all over again.

    When Saber came to stand by her side, Rin brushed a kiss over her cheek, ending just at the corner of her mouth - a little, teasing promise. Then they turned stern eyes together to the second of their enemies.

    She’d all but collapsed where she lay in Rin’s snare-circle: none of the binding or power-transferal spells were even being tested. The False Servant’s death had broken her, to all appearances. Rin was tempted to gloat - but they needed to get to Shirou, and provoking the other magus would undermine what they really wanted here.

    “Lady Cynthania, of the Family Cholmondeley-Featherstonehaugh. Your Servant is defeated. Your Authority to Command,” - here Rin clicked her fingers, and reduced to ash the crude imitation of the Matou’s Book of False Attendant - “is dissolved. But you have a Right to Mercy - just once. You are no longer part of this War. Return to the Clock Tower and there will be no enmity between us. If you so swear, I shall too so swear, on my honour and my Crest.”

    It was pure theatrics, all Capital Letters and important language that meant absolutely nothing when you really got down to it. There were no rules in this pseudo-Holy Grail War, even insofar as the real one had had any either. Rin had no time to enforce a geas, despite her circle being in place. If Lady Cynthania had the presence of mind to remember those facts, and the will to defy the people who’d just so comprehensively defeated her, she could turn right back around and rejoin her side. Maybe even get another of these False Books, however they were being created, and a False Servant to go with it. But, ruthless as magi were meant to be, the Clock Tower also ingrained them with a certain sense of (pompous) style, and Rin was playing right into that.

    Cynthania whispered it, but she whispered it all the same. “I swear it, on my honour and my Crest.”

    Rin nodded, swore her own oath, and released her trap. She and Saber turned their backs with a careful deliberation that scorned the mere idea of trying to take them by surprise, and walked away.

    One more battle won. One more step on the road to winning one more War.






    Red

    Saber began, as was their tradition, in Welsh.

    Trywŷr a ddug tair a wen
    Y tri oferfardd hardd hen;
    Arthur aestew a Thrystan
    A Llywarch, pen cyfarch cân.


    Three men who bore three poetic gifts;
    The three magnificent princeling bards:
    Arthur of the strong shield, and Trystan,
    And Llywarch, lord of address in song.”

    It had been a strange sight, when Rin had discovered those four little lines, one summer during a little side project to look at the detail of how Arthur was remembered. Going beyond the things everyone knew, and into the full breadth of the traditions. Rin had called Saber over to casually ask if she’d ever composed poetry as well as sponsoring it, and had suddenly provoked one of the most ferocious blushes she’d ever seen on her lover’s face. Even more peculiar than that, given how much Saber hated being embarrassed, there’d been a smile in the corners of her lips which she couldn’t seem to control at all, one that spoke of flattered pride.

    Rin hadn’t managed to get many more details than that out of her, though Saber had afterwards allowed herself to be a bit more obvious about her interest in poetry, and had slowly, nervously, made it part of their everyday conversation. Rin and Shirou had the unique experience of being introduced to writers - English, American, Welsh, more than a handful of Japanese despite the fact that they’d begun to speak English even in their own home - by someone who’d lived centuries before any of them had even been born.

    Eventually, between that little revelation and a lot of the other bizarre ideas, right and wrong, the summer project had resulted in a ritual for their household. Maybe once a month, as long as they were together, Saber would tell Shirou and Rin the truth about her old life. Sometimes she just talked, sometimes she laid it out in prepared prose or verse, and sometimes, hesitatingly, she sang.

    Today, it looked like, was a day just for talking, though coloured by the old bardic rhythms and phrases. And so a lilting accent laid it out:

    “We marched to the Usurper’s castle under the banner of a red dragon. It was magnificently made: a great square of emerald-dyed silk, on which the ladies of the court had embroidered the crimson symbol of our country, proud and fierce. Merlin laid spells on it so that even if the day was as still as a millpond, it still fluttered in its own wind. Whenever the trumpets sounded for the charge, he made it roar - a sound that filled our hearts with courage and our enemies’ with dread.

    “My army loved that banner, more than me, maybe even more that their country. “Britain” was an idea, and I might as well have been too, for all they knew about me. But as much as that dragon stood for - freedom, defiance, the old traditions of our magical isle, the prophesies of victory - it was something concrete too, something they could understand. They could touch its staff, heft its weight, and it never failed their expectations as it waved overhead. When my soldiers bellowed their warcries, they named justice, and righteousness, and their kingdoms, and their lords, but they fought for that banner. And they fought like lions.”

    Her smile said she loved her men for what they’d done, that she was proud of how they’d met the challenge, but she still couldn’t keep the wistfulness from her voice. Shirou and Rin reached for her hands at the same time, each trying to give her what comfort they could. She thanked them with a flicker of her eyes, and went on.

    “That day, when we went to defeat the final Briton who still made common cause with Saxons, I wore a gift from one of my oldest allies. Leodegrance of Cameliard had heard about the banner we marched under, and he’d had his royal daughter make a cloak of the same colour for me. He sent it to me as a token of his affection, he said, and that of Guinevere.”

    Saber smiled nostalgically. “It was the first I really knew of her. She admired me, he said, for my courage in standing up to old Vortigern, and for the fairness with which I ruled. She hoped for my success in all I did: that I could unite the Britons and defeat the Saxons, and then reign as well and as justly as she knew I could. That was a Britain she dreamt of, she’d said, and she thought I dreamt of it too.”

    Saber went on, describing the skirmishes as her troops approached; and the castle of the White Dragon, made all of black rock; and the battle that was eventually fought in his throne room. Rin just sat back, closed her eyes, and let it wash over her, unfocusing so that she no longer heard the meaning behind the English despite Taiga’s tutoring and the years she’d now spent here. There was nothing except the soothing sound of her lover speaking, and she needed nothing more than that.




    She sensed them just before the rap on the door, their power calling out to her: a hammer ringing against the anvil, and a far-off dragon’s roar.

    She should have stalked over to the entrance, glowered at them coldly, then dragged them inside for a blistering lecture. They were a week late, they hadn’t called, and she’d been worried sick. But - they were back, and that was what mattered She yanked the door open and threw herself at them, smothering them both in a tight hug. Admittedly, she reinforced herself so she could squeeze hard enough to hurt, but that was the least of what they deserved.

    When she was done with her chants of “I love you” and “I hate you” and “Use your damn phones, you idiots!” her brain began to catch up with what she was actually seeing. She froze.

    “Ah,” Shirou said.

    “Well,” Saber said.

    Shirou was in his usual body-armour, a light, self-repairing set that the two of them had spent an inordinate amount of time putting together and enchanting. Worn on top of it, though, was something else familiar, except not on him. A red overcoat.

    She swallowed.

    “Where?” she asked. “Who? And - what is it?”

    Saber and Shirou exchanged looks. Shirou lost whatever competition they had to not be the one telling her, and ventured into the breach. “Um. You know we were following up the Dead Garden incident, right? Well, the Burial Agency were on the same case.” Rin sucked in a breath. The Burial Agency were some of the Holy Church’s best. If they’d had to fight one of them, had maybe even killed one of them - because how else did you get a relic off those fanatics? - then they were in real, serious trouble.

    Shirou continued. “We’d worked out that it shouldn’t be a hungry spirit - whatever was going on, it was swallowing all the mana in the area, and that was what was killing everything. It wasn’t a Blood Fort where life force was being eaten up directly.

    “Anyway, we were on the trail of whoever or whatever this thing is, when we found that every time we ended up in a new town, this other girl would arrive at about the same time. Sometimes a day after us, sometimes a day before, so she wasn’t exactly following us, but there was no way it was a coincidence. We thought maybe she was a free-lancer, or just someone who was interested, like a conspiracy theorist or something. We thought we’d meet up with her, try to see what she knew.

    “Long story short, we ended up somewhere totally desolate in the Swiss mountains fighting a swarm of vampires, because apparently a Dead Apostle was responsible for the whole thing. She was long gone, as it turned out, but she’d left her ghouls behind. Our new ‘friend’, who’d been telling us she was just some curious reporter, then turned out to be a nun in the service of the Church, armed with a genuine Holy Scripture.”

    “Oh. The fight didn’t last long then.”

    “Not really, no. When we were done, she said this incident was her responsibility and she’d probably have to kill us if we kept chasing the Apostle. She was … really scary, and we were pretty convinced of how competent she was by now, so we agreed fighting her would be a waste. We’d got other problems of our own to look into anyway, what with Mons Graupius and everything, and said we’d leave it to her.

    “I guess she hadn’t been expecting that, because she looked totally shocked not to end up trying to murder us. She sort of ummed and ahhed a bit, and then gave me this. It’s a saint’s burial shroud, originally, something to protect you from outside influences, like the Apostle’s draining magic. She said it was totally inappropriate to hand it over, but that was really the Church’s fault for hiring heretics. And apparently my curry was really good?”

    Rin gaped. Shirou looked at her and shrugged uncomfortably. She supposed it didn’t make any more sense to him that it did to her.

    “Burial Agents aside, what does this mean?” she asked, eventually. “We know about the path Archer took, where it led him. You fought him, defied him, and you both learnt what his mistakes had been. We’ve taken our own path, totally different - he never had someone to stand by him like this, never understood where exactly he was going.”

    “And, after all that, you’ve still ended up with his coat.”

    The silence that followed wasn’t a comfortable one.




    The hangover was finally gone.

    It was well into the afternoon but she’d finally got rid of it, with a mixture of plenty of water, a solid lunch, and a cantrip she’d learnt in her student days from some English magi who’d been astonished she didn’t already know it. Just a basic twist on reinforcement, something so minor it wasn’t even worth naming. And yet, as far as Rin knew, it was still the single most used spell in the Clock Tower.

    She and Saber and Shirou had been up far too late last night, toasting her new fellowship. Buffered by the incoming pay rise, she’d ordered some disgustingly expensive whisky from the Tower’s cellars, and they’d made a very merry time of it. Enough that she couldn’t remember at all how she got to bed, though she assumed Saber ended up carrying her there, and that a fair bit of the rest of the evening was a blur in her memory.

    They’d definitely had fun, anyway, but now it was time to be serious and sober and able to stand the light of day without cringing. It really wasn’t fair - Saber not only sat through enough royal banquets in her time to be nearly immune to alcohol’s downsides, her superhuman constitution could take her the rest of the way. Shirou wasn’t quite as tough while actually putting it away, but he always woke up the next day without so much as a wince.

    Now that there were finally three members of the household inhabiting the land of People-At-Least-Theoretically-Capable-Of-Handling-Life, she had something to do. She’d finished the preparations a couple of weeks ago, but that hadn’t meant it was time to rush on into the thing itself. There had to be an opportunity, a moment, a perfect instant of time.

    ‘I’m finally sober after my lovers and I got seriously drunk together last night - or at least I did, and the other two indulged me’ probably didn’t make for a perfect anything, by anyone’s reckoning, but it was enough for Rin. She’d finally found her place: her ability to teach was well-recognised, her academic insight lauded, and no-one even considered threatening her as a way to get her on their side in the interminable Clock Tower squabbles. (She was perfectly happy to hand out her own threats about ‘trialling your theory in a practical environment’ when anyone tried to interfere in her business; and, after everything, there were now very few who wanted to test her combat prowess). Her bizarre relationship with a childhood sweetheart and the ghost of a legendary king had stood the test of time, and was firmly bedded down. Her finances were even just about stable, despite the presence of two total freeloaders who only occasionally came back from an expedition with a priceless artifact, usually covered in blood. So … yes. This was the moment.

    She sat up on her bed, where she'd been covering her eyes, and went to her dresser drawer. She took out the garnets on their chains, one of the strangest proofs that she really had summoned a sarcastic future version of Shirou who’d become an immortal servant of the World and wanted to kill himself for it. The heirlooms she’d inherited so long ago weren’t dull and empty any more: their depths sparkled with energy, finally refilled years later.

    She hung one around her neck, and then clenched her hands behind her back.

    “Artoria, Shirou?” she called.

    “Rin?” Saber poked her head around the door, blinked for a second when she saw Rin’s new accessory, and then came closer, examining the gem with unabashed curiosity.

    “Where’s Shirou?”

    “He’s working on one of the motorbikes.”

    Rin’s face went sour. That wasn’t in the plan. “And by ‘one of’, you mean yours, don’t you? You really need to remember how fragile they are when you can’t put magical energy all the way through them.”

    Saber looked at the floor, but Rin just sighed and said, “It’s his fault too. Can you tell him to come in? And get him to tidy himself up, too!”

    Shirou subsequently retrieved and degreased, they both stood in front of her, shooting each other unsubtle questioning looks. Rin gulped.

    “Last night was … wonderful. But, the thing is, I think it wasn’t complete. There’s something more, something I think would make it perfect.”

    The looks were now suspicious.

    Rin glared. “No, I don’t mean more whisky. Could you two stop treating me like an alcoholic?”

    They dropped their gazes.

    “A-a-anyway. Shirou. You know Archer gave me this. It was empty, more empty than yours, but it’s just as good. So I filled it back up, like mine. It’s what it should be again, before I had to use it up making you a new stupid heart. But, um, I hope you’ll keep it as a reminder, of how we really met, and of what we’ve done for each other.”

    She thrust out the hand holding the second pendant at him, and Shirou took it. He was clearly pleased, but his forehead creased in confusion.

    Now here we go …

    “And. Saber. Um. You don’t have any sort of connection to this, I know. But, I think, that can be part of the point too. We didn’t end up together all as neatly as that. It was luck and coincidence, and it could have gone so many other ways. But we found this road, and we chose to walk down it, chose to be together. So I hope that you’ll chose to be together with us in this too.”

    Rin extended her other hand from behind her back, which had a third pendant. She’d had it made, to the absolute best of her ability, to be identical to the other two, down to the finest detail of the silver etchings. And she’d poured her power into this one too, filled it up just like the ones that had belonged to her father, in this time and another.

    Saber reached out carefully to take it, and put it on with a quick, graceful motion. She looked flattered, and probably like she’d already started to figure out what this was, so Rin plunged on. Shirou wouldn’t get it until she said the words, and probably still wouldn’t understand until she’d repeated it several more times, but she had no intention of being anticipated by either of her partners.

    So she took a deep breath and came out with it, “I’m giving you these to mean something, beyond what I just said. Shirou, Saber. Would you do me the honour of becoming my husband and my wife?”






    Black

    “What do you think Saber’s getting?”

    “I don’t know, Rin. I thought that was the point of it being a secret. You were really really strict about that.”

    “Don’t be silly, Emiya. Of course it’s meant to be a secret, and that’s what makes guessing about it fun. Sheesh.”

    “Well, it’s Saber, so it’s probably something practical. Especially since you’re paying. Even if it’s a present for her birthday, she wouldn’t like to waste money.”

    “If she gets some kind of weapon, I’m totally going to punish her afterwards.”

    “Um.”

    “Emiya? You had a thought?”

    “Thanks for noticing, Tohsaka. But … do you reckon she thinks food is practical?”

    “Oh no.”

    “It’d be a lot of food.”

    “Or really good food. Though it’s kind of sad, isn’t it, that even a king from her time can be amazed by how much food there is for us today?”

    “If you look at it another way, you could say it’s a really happy thing. What we get to eat now, what we can buy in a supermarket that everyone can go to, is just as good as what a king used to eat, or better. And she’s here with to to enjoy it now, isn’t she?”

    “That’s exactly like you to say, Emiya.”

    “Just because you’re always a decade behind the modern world, Rin.”

    “Hmph. Some things used to be better. Like empresses feeding impertinent slaves to lions if they got too full of themselves. You should consider that, Shirou.”

    “Huh.”

    “Shirou? Hey, pay attention!”

    “No, no, that’s an idea. Stuff Saber likes that’s not practical. Lions.”

    “Lions are pretty practical. For feeding you to when you’re being dense.”

    “Do you know how many heroes went lion-hunting with their weapons, Tohsaka? It’s a lot like wild boar. There’s a point at which you’ve got so many legendary hunting spears and arrows and everything in your head that you just can’t get that afraid any more.”

    “Maybe that’s something you shouldn’t tell Saber. She does really like that plushie you got her. But I don’t think even she could manage to spend all her money on lion dolls today.”

    “Wait, hey, is that her?”

    “Where - oh. Oh wow.”

    “That’s …”

    “It is … practical. In a way. But I’m not definitely punishing her for getting it.”

    “Um …”

    “Oh-ho, Shirou! You’re red. You like suits, do you? I always thought you and Issei were a bit close at school.”

    “T-t-tohsaka! Stop it! And stop cackling. People will work out that you’re a witch, you know.”

    “And now you’re parroting your old boyfriend’s words to your girlfriend. I really should be jealous.”

    “Are you really going to go on about Issei when Saber’s ten metres away, wearing that?”

    “For once, Emiya, you have a point. Come on, I want to get her home. Now.”




    They wore black.

    The funeral was in London, so of course they did.

    Rin didn’t think it was disrespectful to say that Shirou’d had very few true friends. Magus or civilian: either way, it didn’t really change the number of secrets he had to keep. Against the forbidden magic of his Reality Marble, the ancient hero who was his lover, the reality behind the Holy Grail Wars and their ending, his co-operation with Holy Church, the truth about the Aylesbury incident or the Avignon campaign - well, the simple existence of the supernatural itself wasn’t even that big a deal by comparison.

    But, as always, he’d had many people who, if they didn’t really know him, appreciated him. They liked him for his kindness, for his willingness to help, for his sincerity. They owed him, sometimes, their lives, for reasons ranging from killing a predatory Dead Apostle to catching an apprentice’s mistake as he wandered past in the library.

    And so many of them had turned out today.

    Rin wasn’t quite sure why, and didn’t think they really knew either. She liked to believe it was because they marked, at least subconsciously, the death of a truly great man, of a hero. That they recognised just how much good he’d done and how much more he’d still wanted to do. But, she thought bitterly, that was probably just vanity talking. Of course her husband had been special and wonderful and all that. But wives and husbands all over the world thought the same thing about their partners, rightly and otherwise. She wasn’t any different to them.

    Suddenly, a warm hand wrapped around hers. She noticed with a start that she was shaking again, and that her eyes were burning with a pressure which still wouldn’t release itself.

    “Rin. I’m here.”

    It was Saber, of course. Rin had a moment’s awful desire to rip her hand away, but she couldn’t. Couldn’t defy the quiet strength in those small fingers. And couldn’t hurt her wife, who stood there with her back so straight, but her face so pale and drawn. Her wife, who’d still had the presence of mind, and still had the courage, to try to comfort her.

    Rin’d expected a fight. Both long before this, both when she’d first begun to admit the reality that someday Saber would come back and Shirou wouldn’t, and when that day came, when her wife walked in without their husband. Rin had, in fact, thrown bitter, cruel words at Artoria which she wished she could take back. But she’d gone on, in spite of everything Rin had said. When Rin had been staring dead-eyed at the wall of her professorial suite. When she’d been lying in bed for a week, ignoring all her lectures and students, and had barely eaten anything Saber had patiently brought her. When she’d taken one look at the letter accidentally left out on the kitchen table, had just barely caught the words “will” and “probate” before running to the toilet to be sick.

    Rin wanted to say she was sorry: for then, for now, for not following them to their battles, for always being so weak. But the words wouldn’t come. They just lodged in her throat, unformed, choking her, and she could have died for the shame of it. She couldn’t even manage saying sorry to her wife.

    Saber just grasped her hand tighter and shook her head.

    “I love you, Rin. He loved you. Without any reservation. Never doubt that.”

    And then she said the words that Rin hadn’t heard until now, whether because Saber hadn’t wanted to say them yet, or because she’d been sunk too deep to hear. Words that cut painfully deep, right to her heart, but words that still meant everything.

    “He got them away safely, and he made no contract. I was with him to the end, Rin, and I swear to you on all my honour as a King: he made no contract.”

    Rin looked up into the black clouds hanging overhead. The rain poured down and, at last, she wept.




    Rin’s teeth are gritted, her shoulders knotted, her hands clenched to the point that her nails must be about to draw blood. A despairing scream is welling up in her throat, and she’s not sure that she wants to stop it.

    She hates this little rock.

    She’s put it through every single test she can think of. Then, a couple of hours back, she started making more tests up, just for the sake of having something to try on it, and maybe an excuse to take a hammer to the damn thing.

    Nothing. It has no discernable elemental alignment, no resonance pattern, no sympathetic trace. Every single identifying ritual she’s learnt as an apprentice here is completely useless.

    She starts composing the rant in her head. It’ll be a good one, she can feel it, and she doesn’t care in the least that she’s going to be addressing it to a stupid, dull, inert gem. It’s got it coming. It deserves it.

    “Tohsaka?”

    Rin leaps half a metre in the air and spins around in a panic.

    There’s a single ray of light streaming into the small, cramped room she’s designated as her lab, coming through the door Shirou’s opened a crack.

    She’s gratified that she’s trained him well enough to not just barge in, and mortified that she didn’t notice his presence or the door opening until she actually spoke. A lack of paranoia isn’t a survival trait in magi.

    She’s also suddenly aware that there’s a reason she doesn’t like Shirou disturbing her, beyond the possibility of delicate experiments getting messed up. She's got ash smeared across her face, coal dust all over her hands, and probably smells of six different enormously unpleasant chemical solutions.

    “Can we come in?”

    Rin stutters, hesitates, prevaricates, and then lets her shoulders slump while muttering, “All right. Fine.”

    Shirou enters cautiously: he’s always careful around the lab, partly because he’s still nervous about entering a room so definitively marked out as hers, partly because she gave him an extremely thorough lecture about how he still wasn’t nearly enough of a magus to do anything in here except break her things. He’ll still look around curiously, but touching is forbidden.

    Saber, who follows in after him, is bolder. She hangs on to her own chivalrous reticence about entering a lady’s private chambers (which Rin finds hilarious and sad by turns), but her scattering of arcane knowledge is actually a bit better than Shirou’s. It’s got an awful lot of bizarre trivia in it, that she just happened to learn because Merlin had been in the mood to lecture her about something totally irrelevant or because some questing knight had to deal with an absurdly specific curse, but it’s enough that she’s less likely to make things explode.

    “What is it?” Rin asks, shortly. This stupid project has worn her down, especially because Professor du Seringapatam had insisted that there was to be no collaboration and no visits to the library. ‘Pure, intellectual research,’ he’d called it. ‘Pure, unmitigated sadism,’ Rin called it.

    “Tohsaka,” Shirou begins, “you’ve been in here for twelve hours straight. You haven’t eaten all day. You’ve shouted at your cauldron twice, your azoth dagger once, and that rock seven times. You need to get out of here, get some fresh air, and have a proper meal. You’ll turn yourself grey.”

    Rin raises an eyebrow at his own hair and he blushes, but Saber fills in for him, undaunted.

    “Shirou was worried enough about you that he didn’t even do the shopping.” Oh, damn, Saber’s ‘why won’t you feed me?’ pout. That’s not fair, Shirou! That’s too cute! You can’t use her like this! “We’re going to have to go out, and we aren’t going to leave you behind to starve and ruin your lovely hair. Shirou says there’s a really good seafood parlour a few streets over that he wanted to visit and see if he can get tips from them. So leave all this behind, and you can come back to it when you’re fed.”

    It’s obviously all been planned out for her already, and Rin doesn’t have any choice other than to acquiesce with a smile. It’ll take a while for her to get cleaned up, a process both Shirou and Saber are determined to help with, mainly by way of very carefully washing her hair and petting it while murmuring protectively. It ends up being a giggly, slippery, silly process that takes far longer and involves far more kisses than it should, though Rin for once can’t feel the least bit upset about their poor time-keeping.

    At last, they’re ready to leave, Rin’s stupid rock abandoned for some other day (or never, she thinks, how about never?) What matters is today, right now, this instant: what matters is the golden sunset flooding the streets as they open the door, the scent of shampoo, the anticipatory taste of fish on her tongue, the laughter still bubbling up from within all three of them, and the feel of their hands in hers.






    AN2: I’d like to use this opportunity to answer the most important question about what happens after UBW, which couldn’t appear in the fic. Nope, no-one ever remembered Sakura’s existence, even when they went back to Fuyuki. They had a foursome with Taiga instead.

    Thanks to Seika for beta help, language help, and prompt help once I realised I'd locked myself into coming up with literally a dozen different plots.

    Poetry, by turns, is Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Mindful of you the sodden earth in spring, R. Williams Buchanen’s Sir Tristem, and Guto’r Glyn’s marwnad for Einon ap Gruffudd (with a slightly adapted translation from Rachel Bromwich).

    Prompt: Shirou X Rin, post-"UBW" (either True or Good, author's choice. May include Saber if the latter).
    Quote Originally Posted by Dullahan View Post
    there aren't enough gun emojis in the thousandfold trichiliocosm for this shit


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  5. #5
    🔫 Kirby's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Age
    22
    Posts
    15,594
    JP Friend Code
    578706164
    Blog Entries
    1

    All One Can Do

    Alone in a room, a girl lay on a bed.

    In the city of Berlin, in a hotel room, she stared at the ceiling all alone.

    She wasn’t in the city alone. She had come with someone, someone who was needed elsewhere as soon as he arrived. Someone who told her, he’d sleep here every night, if he could, so that she wouldn’t be alone.

    Someone who called her, on the first day, saying he had to sleep elsewhere, as it wasn’t safe for him to be with her right now.

    She’d expected it, of course. It didn’t stop her from giving him a bit of grief over the phone. A couple remarks that he was a liar, a bit of a childish tantrum. She wasn’t mad, but she needed him to think she was still herself, still energetic.

    Despite being on a bed. Despite being incapable of finishing her meals.

    It was supposed to be three days. Three days, and they’d be gone, together, to another location, another job. Yet on the second day, her companion called.

    He asked about her first, her health, her appetite, if the television shows were entertaining her. If she was still mad about him sleeping elsewhere. A happy conversation, a check-in, the kind he always did when they were separated like this, as it happened a lot. It was a call born from caring, most of the time.

    Yet this time, there was an addition. Three days turned into an indeterminate number. She accepted it, calmly, reasonably, while only calling him a liar once. Before the call ended, she asked when he’d return to see her. Soon, he said, once his work was finished. He will call everyday, he said.

    And so, the girl stayed alone, accompanied by room service. Occasionally, she turned on the television, sometimes finding something to watch, sometimes not. Everyday day, she received a call from her companion, asking her health, her day, her needs. And every day, it was the happiest time she had.

    Every night, she dreamt of him, or her father, or her guardians, or her friends, or of all of them. Sometimes, they were happy dreams, sometimes sad. On the seventh day, she dreamt of all of them, in the distance, yet no matter how much she walked, ran, fell and crawled towards them, towards him, she could never reach them.

    She woke up in tears, that day. She wanted to call him, to tell him to come back, right away, to be here. But she didn’t. She knew she wasn’t going to be alive for long. She was already going beyond her given time. She wasn’t made to live this long, wasn’t created to keep living after her purpose had been fulfilled.

    But despite that, alone in her room, she endured. She waited, incapable of anything on her own. She worried, incapable of reaching him.

    She was alone, crippled, dying.

    But she had to endure.

    She absolutely had to endure.

    A knock on the door. A person enters, not room service, but him.

    He looked tired and hurt. His hair had turned white in more and more places. He had little wounds healing wherever she saw skin. His clothes were torn, the bag he’d left with was missing, and a shoe was gone.

    And yet, as soon as he saw her, a softness appeared on his face. His eyes stopped looking so hard and tired, his face relaxed into a smile. He walked over to her bed and took her hand.

    This was why she had to endure, even if she couldn’t walk on her own, even if she couldn’t help, even if she was alone so often, even if she was in pain.

    Because, the moment she was gone, the only one who followed this man, accepted his ideologies even after everyone else left him, would be gone. The one person who kept this man from being totally, entirely alone, would be gone.

    The only thing he had to come back to would be gone.

    “Welcome back, Shirou,” Ilya gently said, enjoying the feel of his dirty, grimy, warm hands grasping hers.

    “I’m back, Ilya,” he said, and for that moment, that day, she did not feel alone. He stayed with her, hand in hand, until he was needed elsewhere.

    This was enough for her.

    She hoped, also, it would be enough for him.

    Fin

    Emiya Shirou x Illyasviel von Einzbern. During or after F/SN-era. Like their parents before them, an Emiya and an Einzbern are being drawn together. Be as angsty and soulful and as fun as you can get it, but it must be of an ultimately romantic nature. (18+ okay)
    Quote Originally Posted by Dullahan View Post
    there aren't enough gun emojis in the thousandfold trichiliocosm for this shit


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  6. #6
    🔫 Kirby's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Age
    22
    Posts
    15,594
    JP Friend Code
    578706164
    Blog Entries
    1

    In the Silence

    In the Silence

    Amidst a flurry of snow, a young winter princess wandered through a forest, knowing not where she was nor where she was going. Occasionally, she would bump into stray trees or stumble over scattered branches, forcing her face to be exposed to the cold that was piled on the forest floor. The reason for this was not the haze of the snow flurry, however. It seemed that some time ago, her eyes had lost all purpose. For a reason she could not even remember, the only image she was allowed to see now was an impenetrable darkness.

    Yet blind as she was, she was still capable of hearing.

    “Will you wait for me, Ilya?”

    Through the blizzard’s winds, a voice called out to her. A voice she had not heard for a long, long time, yet one she recognized anyway. As if coming from all directions, it penetrated her senses, forcing to ignore all else.

    “Even if you’re lonely, can you hold on until I get home?”

    “Stop...”

    Laughter. Not laughter directed towards her, of course. That person had already gone away, and could no longer hear her. It was not even a singular voice now, but a mixture of voices: strange people she had never met, laughing along with the voice she knew.

    She could not see their smiling faces, but she did not need to see. Simply imagining was enough. Imagining: she had gotten so good at it over these years. Locked away in that frozen castle, the only thing she had been allowed to do was imagine. Imagining how happy that man was without her. Imagining what kind of family he had replaced her and mother with. Imagining the terrible things she would to do him when they finally reunited.

    “Then, it’s a promise: no matter what happens, I’ll come home straight away.”

    “No, that’s a lie,” she whispered. It was just like mother said, he had been nothing but a liar. He had never intended to come back. “It was all a lie!”

    More innocent laughter. In the midst of it, she could hear a young boy. It seemed they were playing some sort of game. For a moment, she had to wonder, if things had turned out differently, would she have been in that boy’s place? Would it have even be possible for her to be smiling alongside him, like a real family?

    “Stop it!”

    In her frustration, she tripped and fell onto the ground once again. This time, however, she did not bother to get up. She let the snow muffle the sounds of the forest -- the promises, the laughters -- and dull what little senses she had left. She did not want to hear anymore. She did not want to imagine anymore. She had done so much of it already. “Please… just stop it.”

    Before she could finally get some rest, a strange disturbance in the snow forced her awake. The disturbance moved closer and closer, and once it reached her, she found herself being lifted off the ground and back onto her feet. Although she could still not see anything, she felt a familiar presence.

    “It is alright, child.”

    It was a voice different from the others, and one she had never heard before. But still, there was something in it that filled her with relief. “B-Berserker?”

    The ground trembled again, as if the presence in front of her was kneeling down. When it stopped, she reached out to touch it, and felt a familiar hand. She knew it for certain now. “Berserker!” She ran to the giant and embraced him as if it was the last thing she might do.

    When she did, however, she realized something was off. Berserker’s body felt strange: she couldn’t confirm it for herself because of her lack of vision, but it was as if he was covered in wounds. That was impossible, wasn’t it? Nobody should be capable of hurting Berserker. And wait, how had he just spoken to her, anyway? She tried to think of an explanation, but every time she attempted to check her memories, something inside her screamed.

    A hand was placed on her head. “Do not think,” Berserker said, holding her gently. His voice calmed her, pushing away all other sounds in the forest. “It is over; forget those thoughts. You no longer need to fight.”

    She relaxed. If Berserker said it was alright, then it must be alright. After all, he had saved her so many times now. Whenever she needed him most, he was always there, just like back in that forest. He would never betray her; never lie to her. He would always be there for her, unlike ---------

    The voices came rushing back, and she let out a cry.

    “Child?”

    “I’m fine, Berserker.” She hoped her lie would quiet them again, but it was to no avail. They continued, barraging her endlessly, pushing her further and further into despair. She couldn’t stand it any longer. Her frustration was already well past its boiling point. “I’m just a little… disappointed.”

    “Speak, then. Tell me what concerns you.”

    It was strange, speaking to Berserker like this. Even so, those words triggered something in her. Maybe, just this once, it would be alright to let everything go.

    “I spent years waiting for him. Waiting for him to come home, so he could lift me into his arms again. But he broke his promise. He killed mother, and left me behind so he could be happy with some other family.” The words flowed smoothly off her lips, like it was a performance she had rehearsed beforehand. A performance laced with vitriol. “I hate him. I hate him more than anything in the world. I wanted to kill him, but he didn’t even give me the chance. I wasn’t even able to get revenge on that boy for taking him away…”

    After she was finished, Berserker did not say anything else, but that was fine. She had never needed him to. He had always been there, not asking questions or offering false kindness, yet watching over her nonetheless. His presence alone had always been enough.

    For a time, the two simply basked in this silence, as if they were the only two souls left in this forest. However, eventually, Berserker spoke. “Is this really how you feel?”

    “H-Huh?”

    “Hate is a strong emotion, child. It is a curse that envelops your mind, tainting and twisting every single thought inside you. Men throughout history have fallen under its spell, driving them to rage endlessly against the gods and light fires which burn unending. Even I was not immune to its allure, once. It is not something to be taken so lightly.”

    “What are you saying?”

    “You do not know, do you? You spent so much time basking in your hate, imagining this man in the vilest of scenarios, that the truth might be something else entirely. Perhaps he had attempted to come back for you, but was unable to. If he did truly love you as much as you once believed, he must have spent the rest of his life tormented over his failure. You should not underestimate the love a father can have for their child.”

    “You’re wrong!” she said, struggling to free herself from Berserker’s grasp. He had to be wrong. Mother had already told her. That man had only seen them as tools, fit to throw away after they served their purpose. “He had never loved me!”

    She didn’t want to think it, but had Berserker been the same all along? Was he also her enemy? “You’ve lied to me, haven’t you? You’re just like him… just like Kiritsugu! You’re going to betray me!”

    Finally freeing herself, she pushed him away, nearly falling over in the process. But someone caught her before she did.

    “No, Illyasviel,” Berserker said, embracing her again. “I will always be on your side. That will never change.”

    Something inside her snapped, and after all this time, she cried. She cried over the warm smile of the mother she would never see again. She cried over Kiritsugu, and the walnut game they would never have the chance to play together. She cried harder than she ever had before, releasing every last pent up emotion of those ten years once and for all.

    Maybe Berserker had been right. She had spent so much time in that castle, she had been incapable of seeing the truth. Maybe Kiritsugu had loved her, and had desperately tried to rescue her. Maybe his new family had not just been a replacement, but the sole thing keeping him from falling into despair over his failure. Maybe, had things been different, even that boy could have been like a brother to her.

    But that was all in the past, and she was already so very tired. Just like Berserker had said, there was no need to think about it any longer.

    “Are you fine now, Illyasviel?”

    She nodded softly, too tired to speak.

    “Then I think it is about time for us to leave.”

    “Could you carry me, Berserker? I’m too tired to walk anymore…”

    He lifted her up into his arms, one last time. “Of course.”

    With the snow flurry having stopped, a warm calm descended over the forest. In this silence, the two departed together. Their tale may have been a cruel and unfortunate one, but as they met their end, neither could have been happier.

    Illya and Heracles. Suggestion: After their untimely end in Unlimited Blade Works, Heracles is determined to see out his duty to protect Illya to the very end and beyond. As he appears to escort her to the other side, however, Illya realizes that his Mad Enhancement has disappeared, and for the first time the two are able to truly exchange words. (Please, for the love of all that is holy, keep this safe for work)
    Quote Originally Posted by Dullahan View Post
    there aren't enough gun emojis in the thousandfold trichiliocosm for this shit


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  7. #7
    🔫 Kirby's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Age
    22
    Posts
    15,594
    JP Friend Code
    578706164
    Blog Entries
    1

    Last Winter

    Last Winter




    "And don't forget to study, okay? I know the Center Test is over, but that's just the beginning!"

    With a look that was both concerned and chastising, Taiga continued to heckle me as she slipped into her shoes.

    "Come on, I do nothing but study all day. What more do you want from me?"

    Immediately, her eyes narrowed as she looked past me into the hallway, searching for the girl that wasn't there.

    "Really? I find it hard to believe that you study at all with that brat hanging around all day."

    This time it was my turn to give the disapproving look. "Keep talking about her like that and she'll keep pulling pranks on you, you know."

    Taiga just crossed her arms with a huff. "I don't see why I have to be the adult in this situation. She's the one who lounges around home all day like she's a retired old woman. Honestly, she's acting more like her father every day."

    I couldn't help but smile at that. I hadn't thought about it like that before, but thinking about it now...sitting around at home all day, floating around on her whims, childish to an almost helpless degree...she really did seem to be the spitting image of Kiritsugu.

    Looking back down the hallway again, this time Taiga's expression was devoid of humour.

    "You know, Shirou...a girl her age should really be in school. It's not good for her to spend all her time at home like this."

    "This again?" I sighed. "You know just as well as I do that she couldn't handle school. Her personality is the complete opposite of a student."

    "And that's precisely why she needs to go!" Taiga huffed, keeping her voice low so the subject of their conversation wouldn't overhear. "She's a smart kid, but being smart isn't enough! She needs to learn how to get along with real people, how to function in society. Her future is being crippled like this!"

    It was a conversation we had had countless times over the past year. I couldn't blame her for always bringing it up - she was a teacher, after all - but the fact of the matter was that there was just no way to make it happen. For anyone else, Taiga would have been right, but in her case...

    "Alright. I'll talk to her. I can't promise anything, but I'll at least talk to her. Okay?"

    Though she didn't look convinced, Taiga nodded. "At the very least, it's late enough in the year that she won't be able to start until April, so she has some time. Try to get her to at least think about it, okay? And if worse comes to worst, don't be afraid to put your foot down."

    "I'll do what I can," I replied with a half-hearted salute. "Now you need to get going. It's already late, and you have class first thing tomorrow morning, right?"

    "Ha! Don't worry about me, little Shirou! There's a reason they call me the Indestructible Fujimura!"

    Choosing to let slide the fact that I was pretty sure no one had ever called her that in her life, I held myself to just answering her goodbye wave with a wave of my own as she slid out the front door and closed it behind her.

    Shaking my head with another sigh, I turned around and headed back into the house. As I had just said, it was getting quite late, and I still had some cleaning up to do from dinner before I could justify going to bed. Pausing for a moment as I returned to the strangely empty living room, I shrugged before picking up the leftover dishes from dinner and taking them into the kitchen. She had seemed awfully tired lately. Maybe she had just gone back to her room.

    Turning on the water in the sink, I rolled up my sleeves, determined to get these dishes clean as soon as possible. It had only been the three of us eating tonight, so I could probably finish in only a few minutes. But as I picked up the first plate and brought it to the water, I stopped.

    The sound of water running into an empty sink mixed with the unnatural silence in the room behind me, causing a restless feeling in my chest. Watching the water pour down just inches away from the plate in my hand, I pondered the situation. It wasn't that I was worried or anxious, but...

    After a few long moments and a quiet sigh, I put the plate back on the counter and stopped the water. Wiping my still dry hands on a nearby towel, I rolled my sleeves back down and headed back into the house.

    I had promised that I would talk to her. Now was as good a time as any.

    "Illya!" I called out in a loud voice as I stepped out into the hallway leading to her bedroom. "Do you have a- oh."

    In the middle of the hallway in front of me was Illya, sitting down facing out into the courtyard. As she turned to look at me with a half asleep look, I lowered my voice to a more appropriate level.

    "Mind if I join you for a bit?"

    With a bright smile, she patted the floor beside her before turning back to look out into the night. Sitting down beside her, I looked out at the scenery that was holding her attention.

    The open door in front of us leading into the courtyard let in a cold breeze. I doubted I could stand it for all that long, but it was hard to deny that Illya's tolerance for the cold was remarkable. Though she had probably already been sitting here for a while, she was showing no signs of discomfort, despite the air outside being only a few degrees above freezing. Instead, she seemed completely absorbed in watching the cold outdoors, illuminated by a brilliant moon. The scattered clouds did nothing to impede the moonlight, but otherwise the sky was empty.

    For a few moments, the two of us sat in silence. Though I tried to spend as much time with her as I could, between my part time jobs, preparing for my end of high school exams, and entertaining Taiga, Sakura, and occasionally even Tohsaka almost every night, there were surprisingly few times when we were alone with just the two of us. And being Illya, she of course huffed and puffed about it in front of everyone else, but when it was just the two of us she would become much quieter.

    After a few minutes of watching the night sky together, it finally occurred to me that I had come out here to talk to her for a reason, but before I could say anything she spoke first.

    "Today's a special day. Did you know?" Without turning to look at me, she asked in a quiet voice.

    "Today? Umm..." January 31st? I suppose it was the end of the month but was there anything that special about it? It certainly wasn't her birthday. I was at least confident of that. But was there something else?

    Thinking back, one year ago today, what was I doing? That would be...

    "Oh."

    My memory wasn't that precise, but certainly around that time was the beginning of the Fifth Holy Grail War. I remember I first met Saber at the beginning of February, so January 31st would be...

    Illya smiled, happy that I seemed to remember. "Yep. You probably don't remember exactly, but one year ago today was the first time we met."

    "A year ago, huh?" It seemed totally bizarre to think of the events of that War as being only a year ago. It felt like it had happened in another lifetime - like it had happened to another person entirely.

    "It's a good thing I didn't kill you that night," she said with a teasing tone. "I almost did, but in the end I decided it would be better to wait until you summoned a Servant. It saved me the trouble of finding another Master, after all."

    I snorted in reply. "Yeah. Good thing you waited to kill me until two days later."

    Illya turned to look at me with an offended huff. "If you jumped in front of a moving car, would you blame the driver for hitting you too?"

    "...I guess that's a fair point."

    "Anyways, you're still alive, so it's fine, right?" she continued, looking back up at the night sky.

    If I recalled correctly, I think I had actually died twice that day. Not exactly what I'd call 'fine,' but I guess the fact that I was still alive was probably the most important thing in the end.

    "And I'm glad, too," she went on. "Living here is a lot more fun then living back in the castle." Illya trailed off, a flicker of something deeper passing over her expression before it returned to its previous sleepy state.

    It wasn't often that we talked about the past. She never brought it up, and I had no real reason to, so really the only time it happened was when Tohsaka dug up an old grudge. I hadn't really thought it all that strange - after all, the past was past. Clearly we both had things we didn't want to talk about, and so it was just easier to avoid the subject entirely.

    "I still can't believe my Berserker lost," she broke the awkward silence on her own, now pouting.

    "To be honest, I can't really believe it either. He was absolutely terrifying."

    "I'm even more amazed that he lost because of you. I have no idea how a magus of your...stature, managed to project a sword strong enough to hurt him, let alone kill him."

    Ignoring the barb in what I decided to take as a compliment, I replied with a sheepish grin. "Well, I had a bit of help. If it wasn't for Saber and Tohsaka there helping me out, I couldn't have done anything with a hundred of those swords."

    "Of course not," Illya said with a dismissive sniff. "Forget Berserker, you couldn't have beaten my maids."

    For a moment, it seemed like the tiredness in her voice lessened somewhat. As I gave her a flat look for her brutal honesty, I couldn't help but smile inwardly at her being so puffed up with pride in her own superiority while talking about how she had lost to a complete failure of a magus like myself.

    "Well, I guess it was for the best," she said softly. I couldn't say whether she meant to say that to me, or meant to say it out loud at all, so although I agreed with her, I remained silent.

    If Berserker - if she had won the war, all of us would likely be dead right now. Of course Tohsaka and I, who were her opponents, but as the vessel for the Holy Grail herself, there was no way she would have come out unscathed. To say nothing of the Holy Grail itself.

    After another long silence, I decided this time it was my turn to pick the conversation up again.

    "You know," I started, looking up at the moon with her, "with my exams done in a few weeks, I'm going to have an awful lot of free time coming up until the next school year starts." As she turned to look at me, I returned her gaze and continue. "Is there anything you wanted to do? Anywhere you wanted to go?"

    After blinking a few times as if the question had caught her off-guard, she folded her arms and gave a thoughtful hum, apparently taking the question a bit more seriously than I had intended. Not that I minded, of course. With how little time we had with just the two of us, I was sure she would like to do something special now that we had the opportunity.

    It felt a little unfair to ask her that now, since she had been so out of sorts lately. She would likely feel too worn out to actually go anywhere significantly far, so while my first instinct was to ask a more broadly scoped question, a much stronger instinct demanded that I didn't.

    We didn't often talk about the past. But we never talked about the future.

    Of course, simple things like later in the day, or in the next few weeks were not a problem. We could comfortably talk about what was going to happen a month from now, but I could feel that was pushing it. Anything more than that was strictly off limits.

    I had made that mistake exactly once.

    It had been what I thought was a completely innocuous question. Of course there was no way I could have known what I was asking her at the time, but that somehow just made it worse.

    What do you want to do after this?

    Of course, she replied, she wanted to stay with me. She had no reason to go back to her family in Europe, if they would even accept her back. But I had offered her a family here if she needed it, and she had taken that offer with a fervour I could barely have anticipated.

    No, I mean after that. I'm not going to be around forever, you know? As much as you are welcome to stay with me, you won't be happy cramped up in my house for the rest of your life, right?

    This time her reply was more forceful. She wanted to stay with me. After that didn't matter.

    Well that's fine, but you're going to grow up and move on eventually right? What do you want to do when-

    At that point, though I didn't think so at the time, I was thankfully interrupted by a punch to the back of my head. Without a word, and despite ample protest on my part, Tohsaka smacked me again and pulled me out of the room by the arm. As I continued to protest, I looked back at Illya in a vain attempt to ask for some support against Tohsaka's apparently random acts of violence, but instead I was immediately struck speechless by the look on Illya's face.

    As she pulled me into a room far enough away that Illya couldn't hear us, Tohsaka turned to me.

    Are you some kind of jerk, or are you just stupid?

    The happy, carefree atmosphere of just a few moments prior had been shattered in two swift steps. Both Tohsaka's ice cold expression and the hollow emptiness haunting Illya's face had turned the friendly after dinner chat into a disaster, and I was stuck somewhere in the middle, not understanding at all what was happening yet knowing somehow it was all my fault.

    I told you before, didn't I? Illya isn't like us. She wasn't just born - she was made to be a Holy Grail. Now that the Grail War is over, she doesn't have a future. At all. And I don't mean that metaphorically.

    Thinking back on it, in the year Illya had been with us, I think that was the only time Tohsaka had ever taken Illya's side on anything. At the time, I had naturally thought Tohsaka was being overly harsh, but whenever I thought back to the look on Illya's face I realized again how appropriate her response had been.

    By the time I had gone back to apologize, Illya had returned to her normal cheerful self, and the chance to apologize had never even come. Just like that, the event was swept under the rug, but it left enough of an impression on me that I knew to never bring the subject up again.

    Though it never came up again, though Illya never showed any signs that she had let that event bother her, I couldn't say the same about myself. I hadn't thought particularly hard about my future. I knew I wanted to help people - I wanted to save people. That was about it. Such a nebulous wish could hardly be called a dream, but it was at least something.

    She didn't even have that. Where my classmates and I saw an uncertain future, where we worried about whether we could make our dreams come true, about whether we would find happiness...she saw nothing.

    All she had was a past she hated and a present she loved. To her that seemed to be all that mattered but...was it?

    Was she really happy with that?

    Of course, I couldn't accept that. For months and months I assailed Tohsaka with question after question, searching desperately for any method that could help. A normal hospital couldn't help her any more than than it could help a geriatric. And even if a method to help her existed in magecraft somewhere, finding someone who cared enough to volunteer their help was impossible for people with no connections like us. And finding someone who would sell us their help at a rate a high school student could afford barely passed as a joke.

    And as Tohsaka put it when she finally got fed up of me asking, even if we could find someone, it would be like entrusting your sick pet mouse to a pack of wolves.

    Even if they could help, what do you honestly think they would do in that situation?

    And so every time Illya and I spoke, every time our gazes met, the despair she faced would come to mind. That ever present shadow haunted every conversation, every meal, every trip downtown to go shopping, every weekend spent at the park. Though I did my best to hide my feelings about it, and though it did spur me on to enjoy the time we did have together, that despair still ate at the back of my mind day in and day out.

    And I was just watching it happen. Helpless to do anything, all I could do was sit by and watch as her clock ticked slowly downward, not knowing when that last hour would strike. As my naivety in believing that somehow, someway we would find a way to save her slowly died, that shadow in the back of my head grew ever darker, ever more real. That was how I felt just being near her as it happened.

    How must she have felt?

    A sudden punch to my arm brought me back to the present.

    "Are you even listening to me?" Illya almost shouted with a frown as I snapped back to attention, punching my arm repeatedly.

    "Nope." My straight, honest reply took her completely off-guard, causing the barrage of fists to pause for a moment. After one more punch, she wrapped herself around my arm and leaned on me as if she hadn't just been attacking me.

    "I said," she spoke with an indignant huff, "I want to spend time with you. Just the two of us."

    After a few moments of trying to remember what question she was even answering, I did my best to stifle a laugh as I replied. "Well...yeah okay, but the point of the question was 'where?'"

    "Right here." Her voice was soft, almost a whisper.

    "...you want to spend a month lounging around the house like a lazy bum?"

    Her only reply was to look at me with a big grin, like a kid who had been caught cheating in a game but was proud of themselves for doing it anyways.

    "You really are exactly like your dad, you know that?" Her only reply was a soft giggle as she rested her head on my shoulder again.

    Really, lounging around the house all day, doing nothing productive at all, so helpless an actual child could have taken better care of them than they theirself could. It was a perfect description of either of them.

    ...slowly, day by day, growing weaker and weaker, their life slipping away.

    ...slowly, breath by breath, the bright, joyful future they longed for - and deserved - being stolen from them by the long-destroyed Holy Grail.

    I see. Then I guess it couldn't be helped.

    Unbidden, words from six years ago rose to the forefront of my mind.

    Yeah, it can't be helped, so I'll take your place.

    Sitting in exactly this spot, looking at the same darkened garden, under the same cold moonlight.

    Let me take on your dream. I'll make it come true.

    At the time, I had lamented the fact I hadn't noticed earlier. It should have been obvious, I thought to myself, I should have realized that his time was running out.

    Now I was in the same situation again. Only this time, I knew.

    Was it any better?

    I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself. I would have all the time in the world to lament how unfair life was later. For now, though, for her sake, I pushed the shadow from my mind.

    "Alright. If you just want to sit around the house together, that makes it easy for me." I was almost disappointed by her decision, or lack thereof, but there was no sense in pushing her.

    A satisfied sigh answered me before the two of us lapsed back into a prolonged silence.

    For a while, I didn't think about anything. Just sitting, looking up at the moon with Illya still wrapped around my arm, I waited.

    A memory of forever ago, swearing to take on his dream, to become a superhero that saves everybody.

    A lingering shadow, the weight of a young girl who had had her childhood and her future stolen from her, who I was powerless to help, pressing against my arm.

    As the two ghosts warred in my head, I sat silently, unable to raise my eyes to watch their struggle.

    After what I felt was a suitable pause, I spoke up again.

    "Hey, Illya?"

    No.

    Stop.

    You can't go there.

    That's the rule.

    "Hmm?" As Illya's voice came back to me, it was clear she was on the edge of sleep. Had I not said anything, she likely would have dozed off in another few moments. If I didn't say anything now, she might anyways.

    Are you some kind of jerk, or are you just stupid?

    As I opened my mouth to speak, those vicious words headed me off. Taking a breath, I pushed past them.

    "You know how I'm going to be going to a new school this spring, right?"

    Looking up at the night sky, I felt her nod on my shoulder more than I saw it.

    What was I thinking? How could talking about this possibly make anything better?

    How could it do anything but make things worse?

    "Well, since I was starting a new school, I was wondering. Would you be interested in going to school?"

    "School?" As she spoke around a yawn, I couldn't help but feel like she might not be awake enough for this conversation. Pushing my excuses to the side, I continued.

    "Yeah. Go to school, make some friends. Study together, play together, make some great memories."

    Don't be stupid, Shirou. I ignored the voice of the shadow creeping back up as Illya replied with a thoughtful hum.

    "Is it fun?"

    Tilting my head to the side, I thought about it for a moment. "Well, its not all fun. There are tough times, and boring times, and sad times too. But in the end, if I had to sum it up...yeah, I'd say I was glad I went."

    "...will you be there?"

    "No," I had to resist laughing as I spoke. "But I'll be here, at home. Ready to wake you up in the morning, to help you with your homework in the evening, and to cook you dinner at night. Just like always."

    Illya sighed with what seemed to be equal parts relief and sleepiness.

    "...that does sound...fun..."

    Yeah...I'm relieved.

    As the girl still wrapped around my arm went quiet, the voice of someone that was not me called out from my memories.

    The last words of a man that was both our hero and our villain.

    For a moment I choked, unable to look down at the girl sitting beside me. The seconds felt like hours as I sat, quietly watching the moon.

    Just as I felt my mind might freeze up, the sound of her soft, even breaths reached my ears, flooding me with relief.

    Not today.

    We had no idea how much time she had left. Maybe she did, but she wouldn't tell us, and we sure as hell couldn't ask. She wanted to live life to the fullest, to enjoy every moment, and so that's what we would do. Whether it was another year, or another month, or another day, we would enjoy the time we had together.

    And even if I couldn't save her, I could give her something to look forward to. And maybe, if the stars aligned, we could show her a small fragment of what it meant to be an ordinary girl.

    It was a stupid idea. There was no way it could possibly end well to send Illya to an ordinary school.

    ...but even if it was just a pretty lie, if it made her happy, even if nothing came from it in the end...was it so wrong?

    She was doing her best to stay positive, to enjoy life despite her circumstances. And though it seemed fate was conspiring against her, she never showed a shred of doubt or uncertainty.

    Despite everything, she was happy.

    "Yeah...I'm relieved."

    A whisper so quiet, I could hardly hear my own voice.

    I couldn't save her. No matter how I struggled, there was nothing more I could do than try to make her happy now. But that was all she asked for. And though he had never mentioned her, though I had to learn of Kiritsugu's daughter years after he had died, I felt like if he could see her now, he would be relieved too.

    And for the first time, in a way so slight I almost missed it...that shadow receded a little of its own accord.

    After a long pause, a gust of wind reminded me of just how cold it was outside. Gently disentangling my arm from the sleeping girl's grasp, I picked her up in my arms as I got off the floor of the hallway. Though she may have been seemingly impervious to the cold, even she had to have her limits. Sleeping out here in the middle of winter without even a blanket was just begging to get sick.

    Quietly sliding the door outside shut with my foot, I carried Illya back to her room, where she could at least sleep warmly. Though she snuggled up against me as I walked, she showed no signs up waking up.

    With what could only be described as an act of god-like dexterity, I managed to retrieve her futon from the closet and lay it out on the floor, all without dropping or waking her up. Laying her down as gently as I could, I then tucked her in, earning a smile from her sleeping face as she curled up under the covers. Without a word, I got up and left the room, sliding the door quietly shut behind me.

    For a moment, I stood silent in the hallway. Once again, my mind was blank, empty of any thought, even that familiar shadow nowhere in sight. After a deep breath, I turned back to the living room and started walking.

    It was getting late, and I still had dishes to do.

    Shirou & Ilya - DO NOT GO TO SPECIAL HELL. A non-romantic, sibling moment of some sort, from main-verse rather than Prisma. Sweet/contemplative: would prefer feels over flat-out humour.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dullahan View Post
    there aren't enough gun emojis in the thousandfold trichiliocosm for this shit


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  8. #8
    🔫 Kirby's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Age
    22
    Posts
    15,594
    JP Friend Code
    578706164
    Blog Entries
    1

    As Not Requested (Incomplete)

    As Not Requested
    (Incomplete)

    “Is something the matter, Jeanne?”

    The question seemed to come out of nowhere and took the girl by surprise. Already sunk deep into her chair with her head resting on her right arm solemnly, she put a minimal amount of effort to look at the speaker.

    It was another tranquil and peaceful day at the security organization, Chaldea. And so, much like any other day, the flag-bearing Avenger and round eyed Caster were killing time away in an isolated corner of Chaldea, sitting face to face, just the two of them at a four-seated table.

    “… No, I’m fine, Gilles.”

    She waved the question away but Gilles didn’t seem convinced.

    “Are you sure, Jeanne? I just feel like you’ve been awfully gloomy lately.”

    He pressed his lips together into a worried frown.

    “You’ve been sulking around an awful lot lately. You hardly smile and you’ve been drinking quite a bit too.”

    His bulging goldfish eyes looked over the few emptied wine bottles on the table.

    “Do cheer up. This isn’t like you. How about we go burn down a village or two for fun?”

    “… I’m fine.”

    In response to his impassioned suggestion, she merely brushed his worries off.

    “No? Then how about we poison some snacks and watch the fools grip their stomachs in pain?”

    “…”

    “Or we could dig up some dirty secrets and blackmail the supposed heroes into acts of injustice, reviling in their hypocrisy?”

    “…”

    “Just this once, we can even mess with the other Jeanne by swapping her shampoo with glue!”

    “… I’m good.”

    As if struck by lightning, Gilles gasped aghast. His eyes widened even further while his jaw hung loose in shock.

    “J-Jeanne! Something is wrong. To not even want to harass the other Jeanne… you must be ill. We must treat this immediately. Fear not, this humble Gilles de Rais will employ the greatest means to curing you so-”

    “Shut it! You’re noisy.”

    Finally fed up with Bluebeard’s nonsense, Avenger plugged his mouth with a wine bottle. With the open bottle neck forced into his mouth, the mad man had no choice but to chug down the remaining liquid in it before Jeanne would remove it from his lips.

    “Calm down, I’m not sick. I’ve just… been thinking a lot lately, okay?”

    She turned away, pensively looking at the junction between floor and wall to avoid his gaze but the answer immediately satisfied the bug-eyed Caster.

    “I see, so you’ve been planning your next scheme. As expected, Jeanne, never taking a break from sin.”

    He breathed a conspicuous sigh of relief, placing his left hand on his relaxed chest.

    “Well, I’m not really scheming anything… but whatever gives him peace of mind.”

    Satisfied, Bluebeard poured himself out another glass and looked into its reflection with a gentle expression… well, as gentle as he could look.

    “In truth, it’s been quiet around here lately, so I’ve been wary that the peace may be boring you, dulling your heart.”

    “… well, it has gotten less rowdy, I guess.”

    At the end of the year, the world had been saved thanks to the combined efforts of heroes from across time and space as well as the heart and fist of a single normal boy. In the aftermath, with their jobs completed, most of the heroic spirits returned to the Throne of Heroes, causing the current state of tranquility in the building. But the few that stuck around seemed determined to not leave anytime soon.

    Emptying the dregs of her own glass, Jeanne turned back to Gilles, who had returned to reading as he often did to pass the time those days.

    “Say Gilles…”

    “Yes, Jeanne?”

    Simply at the sound of her voice, he immediately removed his eyes from the book and faced her attentively.

    “I was wondering… why’d you decide to stick around anyways? You don’t seem that interested in the place.”

    “Of course, to be by your side, Jeanne. Wherever you go, this humble mad man will follow.”

    Without hesitation, he blurted out that sappy line. Completely unfazed though, the Witch did nothing but nod.

    “I see.”

    “What about you, Jeanne? For what vengeance, for whom, did you choose to stay?”

    Unlike the last line, this one made her grimace.

    “I don’t get it. What’s that supposed to mean?”

    “Oh, Jeanne, I simply ask the target of your vengeance. For you to not leave, there must be some action that you feel compelled, something that hasn’t been molded properly by your hands yet or someone who you haven’t settled the score with.”

    The Baron explained in a matter-of-fact manner which seemed to have an effect on Jeanne. She minimally nodded along to his reasoning.

    “That… sounds logical.”

    Taking his words to heart, she briefly thought about her reason for staying or target of vengeance. Against her will, her mind quickly brought up thoughts of a certain black haired boy. This didn’t please her so she shook the thoughts away. Grabbing up a handful of snacks from the table, she leaned back into her chair sourly.

    “Well, it doesn’t matter does it. Who or what I burn doesn’t change the end result. It’s just that this place has become slightly more bearable now that the allies of justice have left, so I didn’t mind hanging out a bit longer on a whim.”

    “Yes, yes, of course, Jeanne. And of course there’s- Master!”

    Jeanne flinched.

    “What are you suggesting, Gilles? That that d-doofus is even worth wasting my time?”

    “No, Jeanne, you misunderstand. Behind you.”

    “Eh?”

    In response to her flustered reaction, Bluebeard pointed at her- no, right behind her. She followed the path of the finger, turning her head around until she locked eyes with the boy’s blue eyes.

    “Yo, doofus reporting in. Mind if I join you two?”

    The Master of Chaldea, commonly nicknamed Gudao, greeted with a cheery smile and wave. Taken aback, Jeanne froze in place, silently processing the progression of dialogue that led up to this point.

    “Oh, Master, how good of you to visit? Won’t you join us for a drink?”

    Gilles offered with his usual flamboyance, motioning towards the glasses and bottles on the table. In response, Gudao shook his head lightly.

    “No, no, I’ve said this already. I’m still underaged.”

    “Oh, don’t be like that. There are no laws here. Feel free to disregard temperance in our company.”

    Gilles amicably motioned him towards a seat, while practically shoving a glass, albeit empty one, into his hand.

    “No, I’m fine, thank you. I’ll stick to water, though. It’s not like I can get drunk anyways.”

    Gudao handed the glass back, while taking one of the open seats. Once settled in, he flashed a smile at Jeanne.

    “So, what were you guys talking about?”

    Snapped back into reality, Jeanne hastily folded her arms and turned her head away, refusing to meet eyes with him again.

    “None of your business!”

    “Eh, why not?”

    “Shut up. You shouldn’t poke your nose where it doesn’t belong.”

    Soon, her palm found itself locking his face in an iron grip, pushing him away from her slightly reddened face, while the young boy struggled to get her to talk with him.

    Watching their usual chaotic banter unfold, Gilles couldn’t help but smile, not in his usual over-the-top grin or even the gentle smile of the devil. It was a smile lost in madness, brought forth not by the appearance of a Saint or the ecstasy of sacrilege. Witnessing that common day miracle, he beamed.

    Yes… she really was quite lively and so lovely when next to him.

    Gudao x Jeanne Alter. 1st-Half Romantic lemon: Even if she was never supposed to exist, even if she hates humanity, Jeanne wishes to fight and stay with her Master. With these feelings ablaze in her heart, she will envelop him in their mutual yearning. 2nd-Half Familial: The pair gets ready and takes their daughter to the Tanabata Festival. After enjoying the festivities, they watch the fireworks together and re-confirm their wish to stay together. Respective tags: Vanilla, and WAFF.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dullahan View Post
    there aren't enough gun emojis in the thousandfold trichiliocosm for this shit


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

  9. #9
    🔫 Kirby's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Age
    22
    Posts
    15,594
    JP Friend Code
    578706164
    Blog Entries
    1

    A fairytale of love and death (Incomplete)

    A fairytale of love and death

    With thanks and apologies to Tolkien, Byron, Shelley, and a variety of anonymous chroniclers and poets of ancient times.

    Once upon a time without beginning or end, there was a woman who lived – if it could be said that she truly lived – alone in a castle high above the cliffs, in the land which was never bathed in any light but the cold, dying light of the perpetually grey sun. Some might call her the queen of that dismal realm, and they would not be wrong, for she does hold dominion over it; but it would be closer to the truth to say that she was a part of the land, just as much as the stones, brambles, and thorns were a part of the castle.

    She often sat alone in that castle courtyard which neither sound nor warmth could reach, except for the small campfire she kept eternally burning in remembrance of the last gift she ever received. Other times, she would leave her castle and mercilessly hunt the shades of the dead and the never born throughout the land, her blood boiling in delight at the battle songs they made together. And once in a while, she would stand atop the castle walls and expectantly look over the horizon, as if waiting for someone – but if so, for who?

    And why?

    ***

    The slaughter – for no other word was more appropriate than that – had been going on for three days and three nights, and even now, on the cold dawn of the fourth day, it showed no sign of abating.

    It had all started over a matter of pride, as was often the way of gods and men: Kings Aedan and Brennan, two of the many kings which ruled over the emerald lands of Eire, vied for the hand of fair Queen Fedelmid in marriage, each convinced he was the only worthy candidate – for Aedan was famed for his deeds in battle, while Brennan possessed as much gold and silver as three other rulers combined. Fedelmid, however, showed she wasn’t only fair but also cunning by eschewing both vicious, foul-tempered Aedan and petty, miserly Brennan for gentle, easily-controlled Donnal, yet another king. Unfortunately, she failed to consider that both Aedan and Brennan were the kind of people who would take that decision as a personal insult; and so it came to pass that the four monarchs found themselves embroiled in a small-scale war, with Aedan and Brennan’s united forces attacking queen Fedelmid’s lands on the day of her wedding with Donnal.

    Probably no bard would ever sing of that fight, for in the flow of the great river of History, all four chieftains were little more than drops, and their warriors amounted to even less (and as for the freemen – well, what self-respecting bard would deign himself to record the fates of those whose sole occupation was the tending of land and livestock?).

    But Scáthach didn’t care for any of that. Even as Aedan and Brennan led their warriors across the land and incited them with promises of cattle, silver, mead, and women, she showed up before Fedelmid and Donnal unexpectedly, saying only one thing: “Fret not over the invading armies and summon not your fighters to the feast of the Morrígan, for I will fight in their place without asking any compensation.” Now, even in those days she was already known throughout the Emerald Isles as a peerless warrior and sorceress, a slayer of monsters and men; but she had yet to become the Witch of the Otherworld, an existence between realms, someone whom even gods feared. And so Fedelmid and Donnal, thinking it was impossible for a single warrior, even a warrior such as the Lady of the Fortress of Shadows, to hold off two armies by herself, tried politely but firmly to refuse her offer. To this, she merely replied, her eyes turning cold as a cadaver: “My reasons are solely my own. To deny me this or to interfere with it is to invite my displeasure.” One look in her eyes quickly convinced the monarchs of how unwise a course of action that would be, and so they merely thanked her profusely and let her do as she willed.

    Then Scáthach stepped outside and worked great magic – not the magic of the druids of the sons of Míl, but something older, more primal, from her native land of Dál Riata. She sang to the spirits of the wind songs of greed and lust and power, songs that they would carry to the ears of the invading kings and change their minds in the way Scáthach saw fit. To Aedan, they would sing of Donnal vigorously enjoying the woman that should have been his, stoking the fire of his pride; to Brennan, they would sing of Fedelmid and Donnal’s glittering wealth, shining so brightly it blinded him to anything else. Thus it was that they didn’t let their warriors pillage the countryside as was customary, but instead spurred them forward ever faster, ignoring the grumbling of their followers.

    Once they finally reached the queen’s wooden fort atop the hill, however, they were greatly surprised to meet a single challenger on the field – none other than Scáthach herself, holding her two bone spears at the side, one in each hand. Both Aedan and Brennan found the idea of a single warrior fighting both armies at once laughable, but they did not wish to suffer any dying curses from a known sorceress; and so, both observed the appearance of courtesy and tried asking her to give them passage: “For you see, in their desperation, the king and queen must have made outrageous offers to entice you, o Slayer of the Sea Devil, but I ask: what good is all the wealth in the land of Eire and beyond if you won’t live to spend it, even if they really could uphold their promises?” said King Brennan with his honeyed tongue. “Stand aside, warrior maiden, and I promise to compensate you well” he lied, for in truth he never parted with even a single coin if he could help it.

    “Yes, stand aside, mistress of Dun Scaith” said King Aedan with a strained smile, for courtesy didn’t come as easily for him as for King Brennan – or most other rulers, really. “The bards sing of your deeds, but even you can’t defeat these, the finest warriors in the land of Eire!” he continued, gesturing nonchalantly to the assembled armies. As if on cue, the gathered warriors raised their spears in the air and cheered.

    Scáthach merely smiled – a cold, cruel smile which didn’t reach her eyes. “Aye, ‘tis true the bards sing of me, but it seems their tale-weaving skills are lacking if two lads such as yourselves address me in such a manner. It seems a demonstration of why I’m also called the Wielder of a Thousand Spears is needed” she said in a deceptively calm voice, showing no signs of anger – or bloodlust.

    To their credit, both kings immediately recognised the threat and went for their weapons. It was for naught, though, as Scáthach took a deep breath.

    The world froze.

    For the briefest of moments, the world froze as Scáthach collected a monstrous amount of magical energy from her surroundings in a single breath. Then she jumped high in the air, like a salmon leaping up the river, and yelled:

    Gáe Bolg.”

    As she did so, she threw both spears at the armies before her, releasing all the gathered energy in the same instant. The air around the weapons distorted, and they split mid-flight into fourteen spears total, each splitting into seven other spears, and each of those, in turns, splitting into seven more. Over five hundred spears rained down on the assembled warriors, each fast and powerful enough to break even the bonds of blood and love, and all of them struck true. The field was now covered in corpses pierced to the ground by magical spears, even as the original weapons reappeared in Scáthach’s hands as if they had never been released. As for the woman herself, she merely turned around to the now terrified kings, a feral grin on her lips and a bloodthirsty glint in her steely eyes, and said: “ ‘Tis a shame neither one of you thought to bring a druid. You have all stepped inside my territory, and I willnae let any of you flee. Now go join your warriors; I will kill you both last.”

    Both kings fell to their knees and pleaded for their lives, their prides – no, their understanding of the world broken by what they had just witnessed. They promised her everything they could think of – Brennan even offered her as much gold and silver as four strong oxen could carry! –, but she would have none of it: “Oh? You who would kill and have killed others with nary a thought now plead for your lives?” she asked, unconcealed contempt dripping like poison from her every word. “Those who would kill others must themselves be ready to die; such is the only path for a warrior to walk. You have indeed shown yourselves to be poor prey, but I will take those lives of yours just the same.” Even as she spoke, she readied herself for battle, for there were still many enemies left alive, and although the invaders had at first been scattered by her attack, they were even now charging at her to defend their kings, a glorious war cry being let loose from every throat. Aedan and Brennan slowly recovered their spirits in the face of so many brave fighters coming to their aid; surely, with this many enemies, they could drown the witch in blood and iron, couldn’t they?

    ***

    They couldn’t.

    For three days and nights, things simply repeated themselves, like a bard without new stories to tell: Scáthach would dance the dance of carnage among the invaders’ storm of spears, a crimson flower blooming in the battlefield, singing loudly and crying tears of joy; after a few hundred or so were slain, they would scatter and run, and she would let them – for she knew that, regardless of the path they took, they would still end up on the formerly-green fields surrounding Queen Fedelmid’s fort; then they would set camp, where no songs or tales would be heard, while Scáthach simply stood still all through the night, seemingly lost in thought.

    And when dawn came, they would gather all their fear and courage and rage and charge once again, for they knew their freedom could only be bought with the witch’s blood.

    Even now, as the fourth day was greeted by the sounds of life from all around them, they readied themselves for another desperate attack. This time, though, their faces showed nothing but grim resignation: less than one-third of the thousands of warriors which had set on this ill-fated expedition were still alive, and they knew they wouldn’t be blessed by the Morrígan.

    (To be continued)



    Scathatch and King Hassan: She must wait an eternity for a death that will never come, having lost her right to die as a human. He is an envoy of the Lord, granting the salvation known as Death to all who he meets. In the abyss that is the Land of Shadows, a visitor arrives to greet the god-slaying warrior-queen.
    Quote Originally Posted by Dullahan View Post
    there aren't enough gun emojis in the thousandfold trichiliocosm for this shit


    Linger: Complete. August, 1995. I met him. A branch off Part 3. Mikiya keeps his promise to meet Azaka, and meets again with that mysterious girl he once found in the rain.
    Shinkai: Set in the Edo period. DHO-centric. As mysterious figures gather in the city, a young woman unearths the dark secrets of the Asakami family.
    The Dollkeeper: A Fate side-story. The memoirs of the last tuner of the Einzberns. A record of the end of a family.
    Overcount 2030: Extra x Notes. A girl with no memories is found by a nameless soldier, and wakes up to a world of war.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •