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Thread: Reforged: The Twin Blade

  1. #21
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    I've gotten a little of the backstory, and while I don't know his ultimate goals in this, I'd say Vigilantia's planning on giving us quite a ride.
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette




  2. #22
    Vigilant. Relied Upon. Vigilantia's Avatar
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    Reforged: The Twin Blade - Chapter 2

    - Reforged: The Twin Blade -
    - Chapter 2 -

    - Past Now Present -


    Blood.

    It was everywhere, its metallic tinge permeating the air and soaking the soil beneath Arturia’s feet. All around her the bodies of her people and her enemies lay around her upon the hill; their bodies intermingling in death. The fighting had been close and brutal, with what felt like hundreds falling to her blade alone. Her men had stood with her at the beginning, until one by one they had fallen. In the end she had been the only one left standing; surrounded against countless foes. Even against these odds, her skills had let her persevere in the end.


    Arturia leaned upon her sword, her blood leaking from the wound in her chest and dripping down her once pristine armour and soaking her clothes. Her eyes looked towards the sinking sun on the horizon and she sighed. Despite all her strength and power, all she had managed to do was destroy her country and people she had sworn to protect. Everything she had done, everything she had tried… had not been enough.


    Every muscle in her body burned, a result of the constant, intense fighting. Her eyelids felt heavy and she let her blade take the strain of holding her body. Perhaps she would rest, just for a moment…


    - - -


    Blood. She could smell its heavy metal scent on the air.


    Arturia’s eyes shot open and she pushed herself off the ground, her heartbeat raced as she struggled to gain her bearings. Memories rushed back into her mind as she recalled what had happened. Looking around the room, she found Nathaniel unmoving beside her with his head was slumped forward and dark crimson soaking his white dress shirt. With a burst of adrenaline, she crawled over to check on him.


    He was still alive. However, even if he was breathing now, she knew he could easily succumb to blood loss or disease. She had watched too many of the soldiers under her command win a battle only to still perish afterwards.


    She measured his pulse and checked his forehead with the back of her hand. Surprisingly, Arturia found his pulse level and temperature normal; unusual given the wound he had taken. Moving down, she clumsily fumbled with his shirt’s buttons before taking a look at the wound. The flesh around him stomach was still flush red and hot to the touch, but compared to the gaping wound from before, it seemed healed. Removing his shirt, she looked at his back to find it in a similar condition. For a man on the edge of death before, she would say he was in amazing shape. Which led her thoughts to...


    Had she done that? How was it even possible? She had never been much of a caster in life so how had she healed...


    Arturia shook her head and dashed the thoughts from her head. She could figure all this out later. Gripping him under his arms, she pulled with all her strength and aching pain erupted along her arms. With a squeak of surprise, she slipped and she fell to the ground; muttering words unfit for a lady of her stature.


    It was at this time she finally recalled just how sore her body felt. She pushed herself off the floor and closed her eyes, trying to summon the prana needed to strengthen her body and muscles.


    Nothing...


    She tried again, willing her prana to flow.


    Still nothing…


    Arturia opened her eyes in worry. That should have worked.


    She tried once more, putting even more effort into this attempt. Her face scrunched in concentration and her face tinted red as she tried to draw out prana from her magic core but it was as if there was nothing there. Releasing a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding, she collapsed to the ground in fatigue. She took several long breaths trying to steady her breath and composure.


    First, her magic core had been out of control and had almost killed someone; now it wouldn’t work. She exhaled in frustration.


    If she was going to move him, it appeared she would have to do it without the aid of her magic. Grabbing him under the arms again, she began to pulled with all her strength and gradually dragged him towards the couch. Inch by inch, she carefully maneuvered Nathaniel’s body to the couch and lay him against the cushions. For the first time in a long while, she cursed her small stature.


    She wiped the sweat from her brow before turning to the pool of blood on the floor. It wouldn’t do to simply leave it laying on the floor, especially since there was no one else around to clean it. Searching and grabbing some cleaning supplies from a hall closet, she mopped away the mess into a yellow cleaning bucket before heading to the nearby bathroom.


    Opening the door, she paused and looked inside the cramped bathroom. Compared to Shirou’s home, the bathroom small and cramped. A small shower stall took up almost half the space with a vanity recessed into the wall across from it. She supposed it made sense, going by Nathaniel’s last name… McNab, it would be logical he’d seek out a house with a familiar western design.


    On the counter was a pile of clothes with a note on top.

    Wasn’t sure your size, so I took the liberty of relieving some of my colleague’s clothes for you, under the assumption you didn’t want to be wearing oversized clothes all day. I do hope they fit you.

    - McNab


    Nathaniel must have placed them here earlier in the day. How… thoughtful.


    Emptying the contents of the bucket into the toilet, she glanced outside and watched Nathaniel sleeping soundly on the couch before deciding to silently close the door. She supposed a quick shower wouldn’t hurt…


    Arturia glanced back at the messy girl in the mirror, her clothes stained red with blood and her hair a dirty, disheveled mess. Blood stained her once golden hair and dirt tarnished her pale skin. The girl looked back at Arturia, her expression tired and haggard from the countless battles and wars. However, the greatest change was the look in her eyes, one that had lost its determination and certainty.


    Arturia sighed, moving away a stray strand of hair before leaning into the mirror towards the other girl. In some ways, she missed the simplicity she had held on the throne. Her will had been resolute and the path had been clear; there had been nothing more important than the integrity of her country, the sanctity of her honour and the life of her people. Nothing mattering more than that and nothing existing beyond that simple truth.


    The tired and scared girl that looked back at her told Arturia she had been wrong.


    Removing her pants, she stepped into the shower and closed the glass shower door behind her before turned on the water. She rested her head against the shower tiles and let the heat of the water wash over her and soothe her sore muscles. Her thoughts turned to her old mentor, Merlin. He had once said she could have made a powerful caster if only she’d had the patience to learn more about her magic. Right now, she deeply regretting not taking him up on his offer. With everything going on, it was clear she couldn’t rely upon her prana burst or any of her magic ability.


    Arturia sighed, wishing she still could ask her old friend for help. At times like this, she felt useless. Turning off the shower, she waited; watching the water drip from her long blonde hair. Eventually, she eventually opened the stall door and grabbed a nearby towel to dry herself.


    Wiping the foggy glass with her hand, she looked at the girl in the mirror again.


    Better this time, but she still looked weary… and that cursed stray strand of hair was back again. Her brow furled as Arturia patted her hair to mat it down, only for the stray hair to pop up again as if taunting her. Giving up at the futility, she finished drying her hair and got dressed.


    ===


    Still patting her wet hair down with a towel, Arturia left the bathroom; still tired yet refreshed for the moment. Outside through the glass patio doors, light from the fire still raged and lit up the horizon rays of sunlight. Nathaniel was still sleeping soundly on the couch when she finished drying her hair and placed the towel on the kitchen counter. Her stomach growled in hunger and she pulled open the refrigerator door. It was mostly bare, filled with mostly take-out trays and a single unopened pack of beer. However, on the top shelf sat at least a foot-long sub sandwich, filled to the brim with ham, chicken, turkey and what looked like corned beef along with fresh tomatoes and other assorted greens and filled with… possibly mustard? Almost salivating in hunger, her hand reached out before stopping mere inches from the delicious and perfect meal.


    “I almost killed him and now I’m going to raid his food stores?” she thought to herself.


    Despite the protests from her stomach and with no small amount of will, she pulled her hand back; suppressing a disappointed groan. She stared yearningly at the refrigerator for long moments before eventually deciding on a simple mug of tea to tide her hunger over. The only thing she could find were some western teabags on the counter, a far cry from what Shirou used, but they would have to do. Filling a kettle with water, she turned on the stove element and sat against the kitchen counter, waiting.


    That lasted for a mere moment before she looked around the room for something to do. Boredom turned her attention to the numerous boards that took up a large portion of the room, the ones she had been looking at before. Each board detailed different battles and sections of the war with a table in the middle filled with loose notes and stacked folders. Numerous mugs, half filled with tea or coffee, were also clustered together on the table next to a shut laptop.


    All the boards and folders reminded her of one of the crime drama shows Taiga enjoyed watching, the show’s detectives staring intently at the slew of information while looking for the week’s killer.


    Arturia stopped at the folder labeled “Saber.” Opening the yellow folder, she picked up and read the memo on top:


    Due to the limited support from the MA combined with the general reclusiveness of the von Einzbern family, we have failed to accumulate any substantial concrete information regarding Servant Saber or Saber’s master. It is only through the process of elimination that we’re able link the von Einzbern family and the Servant Saber.

    Our initial surveillance has told us the master is highly likely a female Einzbern homunculi with albinism traits. Curiously, the subject has an affinity for shopping, which allowed our field agents to observe her during the day. Following her was a male companion (blonde hair, European descent), which Agents Adachi and Jin theorized could have been either her Servant or perhaps a hired bodyguard.

    As mentioned in my preliminary report, Agent Ikeda was killed in the line of duty while observing the battle in the dockyard, resulting in a void of information during that first critical battle. However, the fact his death was the result of conventional arms (9mm round from short range through the skull), it is possible one of the Masters (especially one from one of the main families) could have hired contractors to fight in the war or aid in deception. It is with this in mind why I am hesitant to confirm nor deny her blonde companion is the Servant Saber.

    Due to the proximity of Saber’s dossier when our safehouse was breached and the subsequent water damage from firefighting efforts, most of our primary source documentation on Saber was lost. As such, much of the detail and information in the subsequent documents are extrapolation and conjecture from the remains of our original files.

    Sincerely,

    Agent Nathan McNab


    Arturia sifted through some of the other files and folders… Flight records and transcripts from the two F-15s lost in the war… satellite imagery of Fuyuki before and after the fire… missing person reports from Fuyuki’s police department… It was clear Nathaniel worked for people much larger than just himself.


    She was starting to like this situation less and less. Ignoring the fact they had been surveilling the war, if they discovered her identity as a Servant there was no telling how many problems that would bring up. She recalled what Irisviel and Rin had said about the Magic Association. Their people were utterly fanatical in their devotion to reach the Root. Family, friends, even their own lives were forfeit to reach that end goal. Could she even trust him? The thought of being bound to a cold steel table while Magi examined her body haunted her thoughts and sent chills up her back.


    Adrenaline shot through Arturia’s veins at the sound of a key clicking in the door. The handle turned once... twice… followed by thumping on the door. Another moment passed before runes appeared on the door as someone tried to break through. Unarmed and without her powers, Arturia’s instincts told her to retreat.


    Immediately, she began evaluating scenarios in her head. There was nowhere to hide in the open room. The washroom was the closest room, but there was no escape route from there; she’d be trapped. She could hide in the bedroom, but that was past the main door and she couldn’t be sure she’d be out of sight in time. Wait… the patio!


    Hurriedly pushing open the glass door, she pressed her back against the outside wall, carefully peeking inside the house.


    “I’m hooooooomee!” called a feminine voice. “Really, Natey. You tell me to answer my cellphone and ye… Nate!?” The stranger’s voice, almost sing-song in tone, switched to a sudden serious tone. Arturia heard the stranger’s footsteps, moving with haste and yet with measured and careful steps. A shadow appeared from the hall and she hugged her back against the wall, listening to the woman walking over towards Nathaniel.


    “Damn it, Nate. What’d you get yourself into now?” heard Arturia. She waited a heartbeat, before risking a look inside.


    The stranger knelt over Nathaniel, checking over his pulse. The woman... no... girl was dainty in stature and young, perhaps only several years older than herself, with dark red hair was cut short stopping at her chin. Wearing a simple green jacket, the stranger placed her hand against Nathaniel’s forehead while gripping a pistol in the other. Underneath her long jacket poked the end of a sword’s sheath, slightly curved and thinner than the blades of her time. Given the girl’s reaction, she seemed less like an intruder and more like an old friend.


    Arturia shifted forward to get a better look, causing the wooden floor underneath her to creak.


    “Who’s there?” yelled the stranger, anger tinting her voice. Head turning at the noise, she raised the sidearm towards Arturia and rapidly advanced upon her position. In her other hand, light blue runes formed in her hand signaling a spell.


    A cold chill ran up Arturia’s spine. Her instincts had saved her from certain death in her past battles, and at the moment her combat instincts were telling her to run.


    Ducking back behind the wall, she leapt over the second floor patio railing before landing and rolling on the grass below; the soft grass compressing between her toes. Arturia got back to her feet before sprinting away from the house. She took a quick glance behind her before taking a left and heading down a sidestreet and into the distance.


    ===


    Arturia walked silently along the empty Fuyuki streets as she headed northward; the winter air chilly against her skin. Although the sky above her was dark, the horizon was still bathed in light from the light of fires in the distance. Her eyes lingered on the firefighters, battling the inferno across the river for a moment before she continued walking. Although barely into the evening, there was hardly any activity on the street, only the occasional vehicle that quickly drove out of sight. Similarly, most of the homes she had past by were dark and empty, devoid of life. The city was in a coma.


    Arturia followed the river Mion to her right like a landmark, simply content to follow the road and let the streetlights illuminate her way forward. Taking a deep breath of air, she detected the faint smell of soot that seemed to tinge the air with a bitter aftertaste, like some of Merlin’s herbal remedies. Occasionally, she glanced backwards looking and failing to see any signs of pursuit from the girl.


    Now walking barefoot on the city’s streets without a goal, nagging thoughts began to crop up in her mind again despite her efforts to push them away... about the day’s events, about the past Grail Wars, about her magic abilities… but her most worrying thought was simply what to do next.


    She hated to admit it, but she was lost. Where exactly would she go? She had no friends here. No place for refuge. Nowhere to run to. When she’d made her wish, she had wanted to help fix her own mistakes, but not like this. This was not what she wanted or asked for. Perhaps the Grail had simply malfunctioned and thrown her back to this time by mistake?


    It didn’t matter, at the moment she was completely alone in this timeline.


    “No, that wasn’t right. I do know one person in this time, ” she corrected herself, “I could ask... him.“


    The question was whether he’d help her or shoot her on sight.


    ===


    A lone figure walked the empty streets of Fuyuki with only the pale streetlights and faint glow of fire in the distance to guide him. He was dressed in the same dark clothes and coal-black trenchcoat that he’d worn from several days ago, their once pristine condition blackened with soot and burnt from fire. It was obvious from the dark shadows on his face and the ragged condition of his clothes that he’d been through a harrowing ordeal. The hospital had been on the other side of the river, kilometers away from his home but he didn’t mind. After everything that had happened these last few days, the task of walking from central Fuyuki back home was refreshingly simple.


    He remembered the doctor that had finally stopped to talk to him. It had been many long hours of agonizing wait and pacing as the hospital did its best to save the child. He saw the other people there, waiting, worrying, and crying; stuck in the same limbo as he was. Again and again he had seen the same situation occur as a tired doctor approach the family, sometimes unable to even able to finish his words, before the family broke down into tears. Sometimes it was a mother waiting for a son, or a husband waiting for a wife but most of the time it was the same answer.


    And then... his time came. Fear turned his chest to pulp and gripped his heart so hard he could barely breathe… and yet this time it was different. The man had a small smile on his lips this time around. Maybe the man had been the same as himself, simply happy to see someone saved in all this destruction.


    “Get some sleep,“ the doctor had said. “You should be able to see him tomorrow evening.”


    And so… he had left the hospital on the doctor’s orders, one of the lucky few that left without tears of sorrow. Turning the corner, he headed for the house gate. In the distance, he thought he saw something that he knew was impossible. Walking closer, his eyes reconfirmed what the slight tingle in his magic circuits already told him.


    He stood there, his mind still trying to process the person that sat peacefully against the wooden door. She shouldn’t be here. In fact, she shouldn’t even exist given what had happened, and yet here she was clad in a simple oversized white shirt and jeans; dozing off in the cold night sky. Perhaps it was the sound of his footsteps, or perhaps she had simply sensed his magic circuits but the small girl slowly opened her olive green eyes as he approached.


    “Kiritsugu,” she said, her voice still unsteady from sleep.


    “Saber,” replied Kiritsugu in surprise.


    ===


    They sat at the table, two mugs of piping hot tea between both of them. He wore his dark evening robes while Saber had a warm blanket draped over her shoulders. The Saber that sat across the table from him seemed miles apart from the proud knight that he had known. For the last several minutes, she had simply stared deep at the cup into her own reflection.


    Kiritsugu had listened to her as she’d told her story… how the Grail’s mud had swallowed her whole after she had used Excalibur… and then how she had woken up, somehow still alive, saved by a stranger of unknown origins.


    Looking at Saber now, it seemed impossible that she was still here sitting across from him and yet there she was alive and well before him.


    The Saber that sat silently at the table was a far cry from the proud warrior he remembered from several days ago. Kiritsugu looked at the girl before him, her face seemed tired and her loose hair was ruffled as if she had rolled down a hill. At the moment, that girl who sat huddled with the thick blanket he’d given her seemed more like a scared lost child than the brave King of Knights; that once proud and confident Servant now a shadow of her former self. However, he himself had changed as well.


    He remembered his time when he had been immersed inside the Grail, seeing Irisviel for one last time. He remembered her words as if he were still there and the haunting mirages he’d seen. The images of the hundreds dead by his hand, blood streaked against the ship’s white walls and wooden floors. He knew it was an illusion, but it had been visceral enough for the nightmare to still haunt his thoughts.


    He had given up many things on that day. His beautiful wife; her smile now only existing in his memories. A long-time friend and partner, her long journey finally complete. A lifelong dream now forever gone from his grasp. A daughter…


    He halted his thoughts. Ilya was alive. He would find her and bring her back to Japan, just like Irisviel had said. Ilya was alive and he would return for her. No matter what might come from the Einzberns, he would find her again. That much, he promised himself.


    Kiritsugu looked back towards Saber, who hadn’t moved from the position she’d been in. Her eyes were still filled with the same haunted look as she stared down at her mug and the tea’s reflection looked right back towards her.


    What had she seen in the darkness of the Grail? What nightmares had she endured to bring such a proud Servant to this state?

    He wasn’t sure he wanted to know.


    Kiritsugu called her name, rousing Saber from her thoughts. It must have been disorienting, given how little he had even acknowledged her presence during the war. “What will you do now?” he said.


    Saber looked up towards him, contemplating her words. “If it would not inconvenience you, Kiritsugu, I would like to ask if I may stay here for the moment.” The girl’s cheeks bloomed crimson as she spoke, “I… do not have anywhere else I can go. You are the only person I have left here.”


    Hands clasped around the mug of tea, Kiritsugu noticed her fingers squirm nervously as she looked away from him to hide her embarrassment. Once a proud Servant, now she was forced to swallow her pride in order to simply find a place to live. Her behavior reminded him more than a little of Ilya, finally forced to apologize after he had caught her stealing a cookie from his plate.


    “Very well, Saber,” he said. His mouth couldn’t help but curl in an amused smile. “I believe I may have a room or two free for you.”


    Something between a gurgle and a growl emanated from Saber’s stomach and turned the former Servant’s face bright red. For the first time since he’d met Saber, he smiled at her and laughed.


    “I suppose I could also make you dinner, if you’re hungry,” he said warmly.


    Saber clasped both of her hands together and nodded at him, her body unconsciously trying to shrink itself in embarrassment. “Thank you, Kiritsugu.”


    =====


    - Life -


    Two weeks later...


    It had taken some time, but life for Arturia seemed to have returned to some semblance of normality. With the appearance of sudden rainfall, the fires across the river had eventually brought under control by the concerted efforts of Fuyuki’s firefighters thereby allowing the city to slowly return to life as normal. Kiritsugu would leave for most of the day, traveling to Fuyuki General Hospital to look after Shirou while he recovered; not that Kiritsugu had ever told her the boy’s name. She had taken extra care to hide her knowledge of the future war. There were many things she had to do before the Fifth War began, before she could right her wrongs and save the people she had lost.


    However, she could deal with all of that in the future. For the moment, she was weak and vulnerable; easy prey against enemies. Arturia wasn’t sure what exactly had happened when she returned, but it had left her without any of her weapons or any powers. As it was, she was even weaker than Shirou at the start of the Fifth War. She would have to keep her secrets until she was able regain her strength and act on that knowledge.


    With Kiritsugu gone to look after Shirou, Arturia had been left to her own devices until his return in the evening. This had allowed her to regain her strength and practice her combat abilities. It had been at that time that she’d discovered how weak she had become. Physically, she felt fine. However, when she tried to use her magic abilities it was as if her body was rejecting the prana. Every time she tried summoning enough prana to strengthen her body, her limbs would lock and seize in burning pain. The first time she had tried testing it, she had been stuck in bed for an entire day; her body barely even able to move.


    Even worse was the embarrassment when Kiritsugu had to feed her dinner in bed that day; bite by bite. She couldn’t be sure, but her face certainly felt as it was bright red from the humiliation. At least, given the amused smile on his face, Kiritsugu had enjoyed dinner that night. It seemed almost alien to see her old Master smiling like that. It had been… comforting to see.


    That, however, was her second major problem. If she was to live with Kiritsugu from now on, she couldn’t simply live off his generosity. It grated against her sense of honor to beg, to feed off his kindness, but more importantly she knew she couldn’t stay here because Shirou would be leaving the hospital soon. Arturia remembered the way Shirou had fondly talked about his time with Kiritsugu and Taiga as if they had been the best years of his life. She had no right to interfere with something like that.


    If she was to survive in this time, she would do so by her own efforts; not by relying on someone’s good will. Which was why she found herself washing dishes amongst the steam and heat of the Rainbow Butterfly’s kitchen.


    It wasn’t the most glorious of positions, but Arturia didn’t have much choice. Without any sort of certification or even ID, her venues for quick employment were limited. She supposed it was humbling, really, having to fallen literally from the position of king all the way down to that of a simple labourer.


    Scalding hot water splashed against her face as she tried to clean a bowl and she grimaced. Grabbing a nearby tea towel, she wiped the water off her face before grasping the stainless-steel sink hose once more and began using it in smaller bursts. The small bowls the cafe used were annoyingly difficult to clean without the hot high-pressure water spraying back against the user.


    “Sable. Remember the oven. Ten minutes,” said Chef Matsu, poking his head from out of the corner before disappearing back to his side of the kitchen.


    “Yes, Chef,” Arturia replied tersely. Finishing up the remaining set of dishes, Arturia donned a pair of oven mitts before opening one of the cafe’s ovens. She let the rush of hot air warm her face before enjoying the smell of fresh baked pastries. Placing the tray on the counter, she took another moment to waft the smell to her nose before closing the oven door. This had been the first time Matsu had allowed her to make and finish a recipe from scratch by herself and she took a moment to appreciate her work. Although full-on baking hadn’t originally been part of her job, perhaps the young chef found the way Arturia’s eyes watered in anticipation every time he pulled a meal from the oven endearing enough to offer to teach her the basics.


    She had made sure to make two extras just for herself, with Matsu’s permission of course. Taking one of the small ham and cheese croissants, she bit into it. The outside was delicately crunchy yet mixed perfectly with the soft interior of the pastry and the ham complemented the pastry quite nicely. The only issue was that she may have added too much cheese on the top. Arturia stood there, savoring and chewing on her delightful snack.


    She reached for the second croissant only to find it missing. Arturia looked up and found Yui Hyoudo, the Butterfly’s manager, across from her eating her treasured snack.


    “Looks like you made extras,” said Yui innocuously.


    “That was miiiine… “ Arturia thought sadly.


    Yui stood there, absentmindedly finishing the rest of what was Arturia’s croissant as if taunting her. Finishing off her food, Yui seemingly remembered the reason she’d come into the kitchen. The manager pulled off the employees schedules off from the nearby wall before say, “Artie-chan, I don’t suppose you could help us up front for a bit?”


    Arturia winced at her nickname. Despite Yui’s many eccentricities, this had annoyed her the most. Every one of her attempts to derail Yui’s attempts to ‘rename’ her had failed.


    But it’s too long. We can pronounce it faster this way. It sounds better this way.

    It hadn’t helped that several co-workers had agreed with Yui. As such, in the interest of not aggravating her new colleagues or manager, she begrudgingly accepted her new nickname.


    “Hyoudo-san, I thought you said yesterday would be the last time this week...” began Arturia.


    When she had taken this position at the Butterfly, Manager Yui had promised her she wouldn’t need to help out with the other girls at the front of the store; only needing to help Chef Matsu prepare in the morning with baking or deal with other issues behind the counter. However, it seemed like she was being called out to go out to the front more and more often. It didn’t help that her European appearance easily attracted attention, causing customers to ask for ‘Artie-chan.’


    “I know, I know,” Yui said, nervously. “But Izumi just called in sick and we’re really short staffed right now. I’m sure chef Takashi can take care of everything back here in the meantime.”


    Arturia gave a heavy sigh.


    “Pleeeeeease?” Yui pleaded.


    Despite the fact Yui was easily taller than herself, the manager had a way to seemingly shrink herself and flashed large puppy dog eyes towards her. Some leaders motivated their soldiers by their selfless actions and leadership. Others led with ruthlessness and hate, pushing their subordinates towards mutiny and abandonment. Yui could do neither. Anyone that worked with her knew Yui wasn’t a leader, despite her best efforts, and the girl was too kind to yell at the girls working for her. As such, she resorted to using her carefree attitude and seemingly innocent demeanor to achieve her goals. Truly, Yui was a devious opponent to contend with.

    Arturia sighed again, rubbing her head in frustration. “Very well,” Arturia finally said.


    “Thank you, Artie-chan!” cheered Yui. Arturia winced at the name again. Exiting into the store’s change room, she had just hung up her apron and begun walking towards the front of the store when Yui stopped her.


    “Don’t forget the store uniform,” said Yui as she pulled a spare uniform from the change room wall. “Here, I’ll lend you a spare here.”


    Arturia’s eye noticeably twitched as she stared at the offending articles of clothing offered to her. Black cloth mixed with lacy white frills that adorned the hem of the uniform and the accompanying headband accessory. She had to forcibly stopped herself from gagging at the thought of wearing it.


    With no small amount of forced effort, she reached out to take the uniform.


    ===

    Author Notes: Since my IRL Editor is on a work binge and I have no idea when I'll be able to meet him next, I decided to release this chapter early. Changes may apply.
    Last edited by Vigilantia; January 30th, 2014 at 02:32 AM.

  3. #23
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    Looks awesome.
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette




  4. #24
    Vigilant. Relied Upon. Vigilantia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kieran View Post
    Looks awesome.
    I'd hope so. This took me two rewrites for the scenes to flow smoothly.

  5. #25
    夜魔 Nightmare Olive's Avatar
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    Hey, discovering this for the first time, this is really cool.
    Spoiler:

    Quote Originally Posted by VelspertheCat View Post
    “Reincarnate into a cooler cat. Maybe I'll give a damn then.”
    Quote Originally Posted by Elf View Post
    "Live Slow, Die Whenever."
    Quote Originally Posted by kay4today View Post
    If I got a cent everytime I read "Mou~" in a Nanoha fic, I could buy a yacht and laugh at poor people.

  6. #26
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vigilantia View Post
    I'd hope so. This took me two rewrites for the scenes to flow smoothly.
    The work is often difficult, and therefore frustrating, but the rewards are worth it.



    Quote Originally Posted by Olive View Post
    Hey, discovering this for the first time, this is really cool.
    Why, yes - yes it is.
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette




  7. #27
    Dapper Deathwing YeOfLittleFaith's Avatar
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    It's back!
    8D

    This makes me very happy, Vigilantia. And this chapter was quite interesting to read. Kiritsugu's softened demeanor and Saber's own changed view of him and her weariness sure made for some nice interactions. Arturia is being industrious and has the right idea about not living off Kiritsugu's kindness, but it's also kind of a lonely thought that she doesn't want to interfere with what she knows to be Shirou's happy years living as a family with Kiritsugu and Taiga and plans to move out because of that. It's considerate, yes, but also kind of sad. That said, of course she knows more people now, but it doesn't feel like the same thing.

    I didn't find anything that needed fixing by a Beta while reading it. Great job with the chapter, and I'm very curious to see where you go with this story.
    Last edited by YeOfLittleFaith; January 30th, 2014 at 09:53 AM.



    Quote Originally Posted by RadiantBeam View Post
    Not my fault Shirou is an awesome bro to lesbians.

  8. #28
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    You and me both.
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette




  9. #29
    Vigilant. Relied Upon. Vigilantia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YeOfLittleFaith View Post
    It's back!
    8D

    This makes me very happy, Vigilantia. And this chapter was quite interesting to read. Kiritsugu's softened demeanor and Saber's own changed view of him and her weariness sure made for some nice interactions. Arturia is being industrious and has the right idea about not living off Kiritsugu's kindness, but it's also kind of a lonely thought that she doesn't want to interfere with what she knows to be Shirou's happy years living as a family with Kiritsugu and Taiga and plans to move out because of that. It's considerate, yes, but also kind of sad. That said, of course she knows more people now, but it doesn't feel like the same thing.

    I didn't find anything that needed fixing by a Beta while reading it. Great job with the chapter, and I'm very curious to see where you go with this story.
    Well, you'll remember in FSN basically hears how Shirou talks about Kiritsugu and she get's too emotional to tell him how his father was before the war. Coupled with her kingly/take charge demeanor and you have someone that can't just sit around on Kiritsugu's generosity. It is sad and I hope to build on that in the future.

    As for the Beta, he's mostly on the look out for things like "sword surfing," Mary sues and other plot issues. He's very effecting at smacking me and hunting that stuff out. i.e. (Dual Wielding Claymores!? This isn't a john woo movie, you dolt.)

  10. #30
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vigilantia View Post
    As for the Beta, he's mostly on the look out for things like "sword surfing," Mary sues and other plot issues. He's very effecting at smacking me and hunting that stuff out. i.e. (Dual Wielding Claymores!? This isn't a john woo movie, you dolt.)
    "Sword surfing" . . .?

    *fights back images of a Saber/Dante matchup*
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette




  11. #31
    Vigilant. Relied Upon. Vigilantia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kieran View Post
    "Sword surfing" . . .?

    *fights back images of a Saber/Dante matchup*
    It's from TF's FFD. Shirou fights Berserker and then escapes by surfing away on his projected swords.

  12. #32
    I am Jack's stupidity. Phearo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vigilantia View Post
    Well, you'll remember in FSN basically hears how Shirou talks about Kiritsugu and she get's too emotional to tell him how his father was before the war. Coupled with her kingly/take charge demeanor and you have someone that can't just sit around on Kiritsugu's generosity. It is sad and I hope to build on that in the future.

    As for the Beta, he's mostly on the look out for things like "sword surfing," Mary sues and other plot issues. He's very effecting at smacking me and hunting that stuff out. i.e. (Dual Wielding Claymores!? This isn't a john woo movie, you dolt.)
    So your beta's the straight man to your shenanigans?
    Hamburgers. Also, apparently a wizard.
    (I have a tendency of not finishing things I've started.)
    I hang out alot at my own Discord server, though there isn't really much activity in there. The Art Haus Chatterbox! Accepting commissions. Do you want some art done, and do you want it done for cheap? PM me, man, and we can talk. Currently not taking any commissions, sorry!

  13. #33
    Vigilant. Relied Upon. Vigilantia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phearo View Post
    So your beta's the straight man to your shenanigans?
    Haha, no. As he said, "(Vigil) you really write utterly retarded sometimes."

    I'll give you an example: there was a touching scene in another fic where I had Shirou address Saber significantly as his "partner". The way I saw it was Shirou and Saber weren't going to be True Lovers in the fic but they'd also be more than just friends so I figured having something akin to battle partners/war buddies would work.

    My editor then laughed at me and made western jokes for a good minute before smacking me, saying readers would only see a Western.

    I think I changed the wording of that scene after that.
    Last edited by Vigilantia; January 31st, 2014 at 01:06 AM.

  14. #34
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    I'd have argued "buddy cop" movies, and I suspect he was exaggerating a bit - but it's nice to know he thinks of these things.
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette




  15. #35
    Sword of Chaos Knight of Khaos's Avatar
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    Well, this is very interesting. Gonna keep an eye on this.
    Quote Originally Posted by Detective Blackstone View Post
    Just embrace the trolling and enjoy it like a fine croissant.

  16. #36
    Vigilant. Relied Upon. Vigilantia's Avatar
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    Chapter 3: Talking Over Taiyaki

    - Reforged: The Twin Blade -
    - Chapter 3 -
    - Talking over Taiyaki -

    Arturia took a breath of winter’s air, letting the biting cold air fill her lungs. It was chilly outside even with the warmth of the sun’s rays on her face. However, compared with being cooped up blasting dishes with steaming water or being ogled by customers at the front of the store, the outside air was a refreshing change of pace.

    Due to the high amount of customers, she had been forced to skip her lunch in order to keep up with the orders. She couldn’t prove it, but she had a hunch the rise in traffic wasn’t simply due to Chef Matsu’s curry rice special. Luckily, Yui had given her the rest of the day off when Chidori came in to relieve her. It was with a heavy sigh of relief that she had finally been able to remove the offending uniform.

    It was still mid-afternoon when Arturia left from the back door of the cafe and headed west. She followed the path she normally took to get back home, her stomach rumbling along the way. She supposed she would simply have to persevere until she returned home. Yui had been kind enough to provide her employees with a discount at the cafe and normally she would take a quiet lunch in the cafe corner but with the amount of customers here, that was as likely as Taiga turning down Shirou’s food.

    Arturia gave off a sigh. Her steps entered a robotic routine as her thoughts reminisced about the past. As much as it pained her to admit it, she missed the school teacher’s energetic, though juvenile, antics. She missed her fellow knights in Camelot, her old friend Merlin, Shirou, and Rin with her brash attitude which she used to cover her softer side. Although she’d have liked to think of herself invincible, the truth was...

    ...she felt alone.

    Even Kiritsugu was distant. To be sure, he was warmer than his former Fourth War self but for the last two weeks he had mostly kept to himself; always silent when she ate with him. At every other time, he isolated himself to his study or into the shed in the yard. He was always busy, either with tying up loose-ends with the war or repairing every visible or imagined problem in the old dilapidated house. Maybe she wasn’t the only one trying to hide their troubles.

    Arturia found the pavement stop in front of her and she looked up to find herself off the usual path home. Shaking her head, she mentally cursed herself before checking the pocketwatch Kiritsugu had given her. She was going to miss her bus.

    A spike of anger rose from her chest but was overridden by the sudden pangs of hunger from her stomach. Arturia supposed she could take this opportunity to eat her missed lunch… she did have an extra thirty minutes now, after all. On the wind was the faint smell of fresh baked pastry mixed with… was that custard or…? Her stomach urged her forth.

    She followed her nose to the source; a simple wooden shack situated on the edge of a small city park. The small store sold numerous grilled or fried snack foods, such as Takoyaki, dumplings or Yakitori, along with chips and hot drinks.

    She walked up to the counter, replacing the young couple that just finished buying their food.

    “What can I get you, little miss?” said the owner, scratching the white bandana wrapped around his head. The aging man gave her a warm smile as she looked around.

    Arturia resented the name although she couldn’t exactly blame him for assuming she was a small child. She supposed she could look at it like a blessing, to have retained her youth for so long. Although, she wasn't sure how long her patience would last, especially in this different age. She stared at the menu at the top with the myriad of different choices before her nose made the choice for her.

    “I’ll have one small Taiyaki please,” said Arturia. Her words came out at a higher pitch than she meant, making her almost sound like a child. She felt the blood rush to her cheeks.

    Reaching into her pocket, she took out the pouch containing most of her daily cash. There wasn’t much there, with most of her pay stored at home for the future, but she could afford a small treat for today. Counting the coins, she placed the right amount on the counter.

    “Here you go, miss. Today’s been slow so I made it a size larger. I hope you enjoy it,” he said kindly. He handed the snack to her in a brown paper bag.

    “Ah, thank you,” she replied. Arturia looked inside the bag at the massive looking pastry, and she felt her mouth water. She supposed there were some benefits to acting her physical age.

    Arturia headed down the park’s dirt path looking for a place to sit. Poking the head of the fish-shaped pastry out of the bag, she wafted the sweet smell of red beans to her nose before taking a bite. It was a welcoming warmth in the cold weather and although the sugary red bean filling was more muted than she expected, it was still tasty.

    Truly, with all the changes in the modern age, the advances in cooking and baking were what Arturia loved best. The small kingdom of Camelot simply could not compare to the new foods, produce and spices delivered from across the world.

    In the distance, Arturia spotted a nearby park bench with a beautiful view of the small park’s scenery. Although the cherry blossoms weren’t in bloom yet, she imagined the bench would give a beautiful view during spring when the trees were blossoming. There was another person sitting on the bench, her features wrapped up in a thick brown coat with the hood up against the park breeze as she munched on her meal.

    Approaching closer Arturia asked the woman, “ do you mind if I sit here?”

    The woman turned to look at her, and Arturia froze.

    She recognized the deep burgundy-red hair and lightly freckled cheeks from two weeks ago. The girl looked at her nonchalantly, while quietly munching on the taiyaki in her hand. Arturia stood there in silence, too nervous to break the stare. Should she run? Fight? She was too close to run away and in the open fields of the park she would have no cover while retreating.

    The girl arched a brow upon recognizing Arturia. “mrmy rai moi…” she said, amidst a mouthful of custard and red bean.

    “Uhhh…” Arturia replied. She could only look on in confusion at the redhaired girl’s food-filled words. The girl swallowed her mouthful of taiyaki and cleared her throat before trying again.

    “Sorry I pointed my gun at you. I thought you’d hurt Nate… uhh, well, you did but… umm… y’know what I mean.” she said, with a shrug. The girl took another bite of her taiyaki and began to chew again, turning away to watch the park’s scenery shift in the wind. Out of everything Arturia thought would happen, it certainly hadn’t been that.

    “The seat’s free if you still want it,” said the redhead, not even bothering to look back at her.

    “I… thank you,” she said. With seemingly no other choice, she sat down on the bench.

    “Yup,” the girl said.

    With nothing else to do, she continued munching on the tasty snack in her hand. She glanced at the dark haired girl beside her, before giving a sigh and relaxing the stress from her shoulders. It was an awkward silence as they ate, with only the occasional light gust of wind to break the stillness. The grass here was different from the park Shirou had brought her to, a lively green with ferns and different colored flowers lining the flowerbeds at the side of the road, although the touch of winter had caused them to droop slightly. In the distance, she watched small birds hopping around on the pond bank and an elderly couple slowly making their way on the park trail.

    She had almost gotten to the tail of the fish when the girl spoke again.

    “So... what was your first name?” the girl asked suddenly.

    “Huh?” said Arturia. The statement caught her by surprise.

    “Your first name. Nate said your name was Sable, but he wasn’t sure if you meant your first or last name. I mean there’s always the assumption you’d go by your first name since you’re from the US or Europe but then there’s the fact we’re in Japan so maybe you were using your last name? I mean, Sable sounds like a last name but it also works as a first name and…” rambled the girl. Arturia noticed that the girl’s speech was odd, as if her words streamed together like a limerick or song.

    “It’s Arturia,” she said, stopping the girl’s stream of words. She supposed telling her name couldn’t hurt, she’d already given it out to everyone at the Butterfly cafe.

    “Oh. right. Arturia Sable then,” the girl said with a nervous smile, “Heh. Sorry, I tend to ramble on sometimes when I meet new people.”

    Arturia returned a smile. She found her nervous traits slightly endearing, reminding her of another certain magus that became flustered when under pressure… or in proximity to electronics.

    “What was your name?” Arturia asked in return.

    “Huh? Oh,” the girl said. She extended out her hand towards Arturia. “Lynn Linden at your service.”

    Arturia completed the handshake with her hand and then found her arm oscillating up and down from Lynn’s energetic handshake. Arturia retracted her hand from Lynn’s grip with slightly more relief than she should have felt.

    “It’s nice to me you again, Ar-tur-ia,” Lynn said, mouthing the words. She stopped and thought for a moment, “you have a… peculiar name. Has anyone ever told you that?”

    Arturia’s head tilted as she thought about Lynn’s words. She hadn’t heard anyone comment on her name before but that may have been due to the fact she had not met many people after her summons. Even when she had been free to roam the Fuyuki with Irisviel, it had been under the name of Saber.

    “A little, although I have not met that many people over here,” Arturia said. She’d had to correct her name’s pronunciation to Manager Yui and several of the girls at the Butterfly cafe, but she’d always thought that was simply due to the fact that her name was foreign.

    “Oooh, yah? Where you from?” Lynn asked, her face perking up.

    “Britain…” Arturia said. Lynn began to say something but she interrupted her. “Is your friend, Nathaniel, doing well then?” she asked, hoping to change the subject.

    “Nath… oh… y’mean Nate? Oh, he’s just hunky dory,” she said. Arturia raised an eyebrow at the unusual expression.

    “It means he’s alright,” explained Lynn. “Don’t worry. Nate’s made of sterner stuff than that.”

    “I see...” she replied. “I was worried his wounds were more severe than I had originally anticipated.” From what she remembered of the wound she’d given him, she was amazed he was even still alive.

    “Don’t be silly,” Lynn said with a snort. ”You did great. From Nate’s description, you’re a better healer than even Doc Fujinawa, and he’s a damn good spirit healer. I’m sure you’d do quite well in the Association with that skill.”

    Arturia almost slammed her taiyaki into her face at Lynn’s words. Once again, she felt her stomach freefall in her chest. “Mmm,” she muttered incoherently. Stuffing her mouth full of red bean, she hoped to buy enough time to figure out a deflecting question.

    “Lynn,” Arturia said after she finished chewing, “I never did ask you, but when I woke up you had all this information and pictures on those whiteboards. What do you and Nate do exactly?”

    “Eh?” said Lynn. Wiping the custard from her mouth, she said, “Nate never told you?”

    “No…” muttered Arturia. She didn’t mention she almost killed Nathaniel before he could even talk.

    “Ah, I see,” she replied, “well… Nate and I work for an organization called Shin’i partially under the Japanese government, You’ve probably never heard of us less you were an Association enforcer. Our job, along with the dozens of other national agencies worldwide, is to protect people.”

    “What do you mean? Like bodyguards?” she said, biting into her taiyaki.

    “No, more like national law enforcement. Police,” Lynn replied.

    “I thought that’s what the Church and Magus Association were there for? To protect people?” Arturia said.

    Lynn scoffed, suppressing a laugh. “The Church and Association protect interests. They protect their secrecy. The one thing they don’t protect is people. Most people can’t afford to wait while bodies pile up high enough until the Association or Church can be bothered to get off their fucking arses.”

    Her cheeks flushed red for a moment. “Ekk. I get caught up sometimes. Sorry for the language, Arturia,” Lynn gave a nervous laugh before continuing, “however, when it comes down to it, the truth is that it’s up to the small organizations like us to work together to protect people when the ‘Big Two’ can’t be bothered that day.”

    “I see…” Arturia said. “I have simply never heard of any of this before. This is all new to me.”

    “Hah, I hope so. Nate always said if we were well known it meant we failed somewhere,” replied Lynn, the side of her mouth in a grin.

    “So then those pictures…” Arturia said.

    “Were from before the fire. You probably haven’t heard of it, but magi from the Association fight a battle in Japan once every fifty years or so. Some sort of tournament to the death for some ultimate magic prize. We’re here to investigate what happened in that tournament and who started the fire,” Lynn said.

    Lynn gave a cat-like yawned, stretching her arms in the air. Beside her, Arturia sat silently chewing her food looking at the birds hopping around across the pond. The fact Lynn was treading

    “Seems kind of dumb to me,” Lynn continued. “I have my friends, Nate, and a great job that also lets me travel. Kinda silly to risk all that for a one-in-six chance at victory don’t you think? I mean, that’s like playing five bullet russian roulette.”

    Arturia raised a brow at the term. “What was that? Was it a kid’s game?” she thought.

    She paused, noticing Arturia was simply watching her talk. “Bah, I’m just shooting my mouth. Anyways, Nate initially thought you might have been a part of it but now he says he thinks you’re clear. Don’t worry ‘bout it.”

    “I don’t suppose…” Lynn began.

    However, before she could finish her question, her pocket began to ring with a cheerful jingle. She reached into her pocket and opened her cellphone. “Hello-lo? Nate? Funny story, I was talking… what? But there… hold on… where are…? Do...”

    From the way Nathaniel was continuously cutting Lynn off, it was clear to Arturia he was obviously in a hurry.

    “Nate? Naaaate… Damn it all...” Lynn down at the phone, her brow creasing in irritation.

    Lynn sighed before pocketing her cellphone. “Sorry to take off so soon, it seems like Nate needs my expertise once again.” She rose from the bench and waved goodbye to her. “It was nice to meet you again under better circumstances, Ria… Umm, is it okay if I call you that?”

    “Ria… Ria…” muttered Arturia, pondering the name. She supposed it would be more convenient than having to explain her name or spell it out to everyone she met like she did now. She made a mental note to to test it on Manager Yui tomorrow.

    “I suppose that would be fine, Lynn,” she said.

    “Alright. Well, until next time, Ria,” Lynn said with a grin. Pivoting on her boots, she headed down the park path towards the nearby road.

    “Oh, I know it’s not really my business, but you might want to take care of that prana leak problem of yours. It’ll attract the wrong attention sooner or later,” Lynn said over her shoulder.

    “Prana leak?” Arturia said in confusion, watching Lynn disappear into the distance. She would have to ask Kiritsugu about that when he came back.

    Turning her attention back down at her taiyaki, its delicious and hot contents quickly cooling in the cold temperatures, she focused on finishing it before it lost any more heat. She looked down to see a brown bag Lynn had left behind with another one of the golden pastry-shaped fishes left untouched inside. Feeling the bag, Arturia could feel it was still mildly warm inside. She looked around but Lynn was already long gone. Had anyone else been around, they might have noticed Arturia’s eyes lighting up in joy.

    “Well, it sure would be wasteful to simply throw it away…” she thought to herself.

    ===

    Emiya Kiritsugu slid the front gate closed behind him and picked up the bags of groceries from the floor before continuing down the wooden hall. There was good news at the hospital, the doctors had said they’d finally be able to release Shirou once the paperwork had gone through. It had been a long wait filled with piles of paper bureaucracy but it looked like Shirou would finally be able to go back to a home.

    He wondered how Saber would take it. Compared to her commanding demeanor in the war, she had been oddly subdued whenever he saw her. In fact, they had barely talked since that day after the war. It didn’t help he was always busy dealing with Shirou at the hospital, fixing up this rickety old house, or calling in favors from old contacts to cover his tracks. As an assassin, his work had left him with no shortage of enemies. It would take more than just words to bury his sordid past.

    If he was going to hide the presence of someone as powerful as a Servant, he couldn’t do it by himself. His crest and magecraft were too specialized to effectively hide Saber’s magical aura; it would be like digging a trench with a sword. She would need a better magus than himself to teach her.

    The lights were on in the living room and he could dishes or pots being washed in the sink.

    “That was odd…” he thought to himself.

    Suddenly, two things clued into Kiritsugu’s head. One, Saber was in the living room instead of her usual place practicing with a shinai in dojo or meditating in her room. Two, from the smell of baked good in the air, Saber was cooking. Suddenly, the image of Irisviel accidently setting bread on fire came to mind.

    Hurrying to the living room, he gripped the door handle and pulled the rice paper frame open and looked inside.

    “Saber,” he said, a little louder than he intended.

    “Kiritsugu!” Arturia said in surprise.

    The former Servant turned away from the sink towards him, her hand holding a brush and littered with suds. The front of her jeans and black shirt were stained white with flour and her hair frazzled with a hint of white from dough; perhaps a result of scratching her head in frustration. The kitchen itself was a mess, by his own standards at least, with unwashed metal bowls and utensils on the counter, flour staining the tables and a pile of dishes piled in the sink. Not what he’d consider clean but at least the kitchen wasn’t aflame as he imagined.

    “I am terribly sorry, Kiritsugu. I failed to anticipate just how much time and effort it would take to simply bake a simple recipe as this. Chef Matsu truly made it appear quicker and easier than it appeared. I am sorry for the mess, Kiritsugu,” said Saber. The small blonde girl bowed her head in shame at the mess around her.

    Kiritsugu approached the baking tray where twelve dainty croissants lay, each one filled with cheese and ham. He took a bite, enjoying the crunchy yet soft texture.

    “Apology accepted,” he casually replied, focusing more on the food at hand than Saber. Taking another two bites, he easily finished off the small snack before rubbing Saber’s head. He hadn’t thought about it but without her blade or plate armour, Saber really looked like a kid. A smile tickling the edges of his mouth at the thought and he ruffled her hair some more.

    “Kiritsugu…” said Saber, trying to fix her now messy hair.

    “So what caused this sudden rush of cooking. I don’t believe cooking was one of your skills when you… were with me before,” he said. Even with the new alarm and counter-surveillance boundary field around the home, he wanted to be careful with his words.

    “They are not. Chef Matsu taught me how to bake at work and I simply wished to test my culinary skills at home,”

    “Well, consider the test a success,” he said before taking another of the mini-croissants. Saber panicked as she saw him bite it.

    “Kiritsugu! Try not to ruin your appetite and… and I… I am having those for lunch tomorrow and… momph...“ Saber’s worries were stifled by the sudden pastry that had entered her open mouth.

    “Fine, this’ll be the last one,” he said. Arms crossed and eyes narrowed, it was evident Saber was angry at him yet not mad enough to quit chewing her croissant.

    He responded to her irritated expression with a grin, before walking past her into the kitchen. “Help me clean up the counter and I’ll make dinner. Maybe you can be le sous-chef tonight, Saber.”

    Saber stood there for another moment with a confused look on her face, munching on her food, before nodding toward him. While he stored the new groceries into the fridge, Saber wiped down the counters and washed the dishes in the sink. By the time he finished storing the last daikon in the fridge, she had cleaned, washed and arranged the stack of bowls and plates by size and type.

    “My… that was really fast,” he remarked.

    “I had to learn to be quick at the Butterfly. Matsu and Manager Yui count on me so I can’t be slow,” said Saber, beaming with scarcely contained pride.

    He brought out a pair of carrots, potatoes, tomatoes and chicken from the refrigerator before placing them on separate cutting boards, the chicken for him and vegetables for her. Taking the vegetable peeler from the drawer, he handed it handle first to Saber.

    “I don’t suppose you know how to peel and dice the the tomatoes and carrots?” he asked. She had been a king, not a cook, after all.

    “Actually, yes. Those were the first tasks I helped Chef Matsu with,” she said. Taking the peeler, she quickly set to work washing then skinning the carrots.

    “Then, I guess you’ve had some experience cooking while you’ve been working at the Butterfly then?” asked Kiritsugu, as he set to work cutting the chicken.

    “Not initially,” she replied, focused on the task of peeling..“When I began my duties there, Yui simply had me washing dishes and cleaning the tables but I suppose Chef Matsu noticed me watching him on my spare time and decided to make me his apprentice.”

    “You could have just asked me. If I’d known you were interested I could have had you help me here,” he said. Placing the beef on the cutting board, he looked for his knife.

    “Well, I knew you were busy, Kiritsugu. The last thing I wanted to do was burden you knowing you were busy at the hospital and fixing your home. After all, I’ve already burdened you enough by living here,” she said.

    Kiritsugu flinched at what Saber had said: “your home.” Opening the nearby drawer, he looked through the utensils for his knife all the while thinking about her words. Perhaps he’d been more distant that he realized.

    “Saber, it’s your home too,” he said turning towards her. “You’re always welcome here if you want to stay.”

    Saber turned towards him, her olive green eyes staring towards him in surprise. She opened her mouth but failed to find words.

    “Thank you, Kiritsugu,” she finally said.

    “There’s no need. I think, given how I treated you during the war, it’s the least I can do,” he said.

    “Things were different then,” she said. She finished peeling the carrots and started on the potatoes. He nodded. A different life and a different world, but that was all over now. While Saber finished peeling the rest of the vegetables, he quickly finished chopping up the chicken and placing it aside before working on the cilantro.

    “It was a difficult time, for the both of us,” he replied.

    “So how has your work been?” Kiritsugu said, hoping to change the dour subject. “I know you’ve been working there for over a week now, but I never really asked…”

    The truth of the matter was that he’d investigated the Butterfly Cafe before Saber has even begun to work there, looking for . However, he’d never actually asked her if she’d enjoyed working there. That had been, in truth, tertiary concern of his.

    She raised her hand to silence him. “I understand. My work has been busy but that helps at least keep me focused. While it may not be the most glorious of work, it at least provides me with something to do than simply train all day. Chef Matsu, as I said before, teaches me how to cook when there’s spare time and Manager Yui is nice although rather painfully unorganized. Most of the girls I am working with are really friendly, although Izumi could really improve her tardiness. I… like working with everyone there.”

    “There was, however, something different today. Not at work though,” she said, her eyes looking away in thought.

    “Oh?” he replied, glancing at her.

    “I met that lady again at the park today. The one from two weeks ago I told you about? Her name is Lynn and she was actually quite pleasant now that I got to meet her on better terms,” she said.

    “What!?” he cried out in alarm. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner? Did she harm you? Are you alright?”

    Saber raised a brow in confusion. “No, I am fine. She did not harm me. Mostly, we just talked.”

    “Was she following you?” he asked.

    “Following me?” said Saber, dumbfounded at his words. “Of course not. In fact, it was I who met her by sheer chance. If anything, it seemed she was the one that seemed scared,” she said.

    “You should have told me sooner, Saber,” he said, pushing the point.

    She put down the peeler and potato.

    “Kiritsugu, I am not some child that needs to be pampered or protected,” Saber replied, arms crossed in irritation. “If I truly believed there was a threat to my safety, I would have informed you sooner, not that it would have mattered as you always away and come home very late. In fact, I believe this is the first time you’ve returned this early. In any case, I’m unsure how I would even contact you if I required your assistance so that point is entirely moot.”

    The anger from her voice stung him like a whip and he looked at her, dumbfounded.

    She turned towards him, her piercing eyes staring at him now. “I am still an excellent warrior and swordsman, Kiritsugu, despite what you may have thought during the war. Do not treat me as some mewling babe to be coddled, it belittles both of us. Simply… trust me. That is all I ask.”

    There was a resounding silence as she finished speaking, Saber’s knuckles almost white gripping the counter. He suddenly felt tired, as if the world were upon his shoulders again.

    “You’re right, Saber, “ he said. “You’re right. I’m sorry. It’s just that without your Noble Phantasm or your strength now, I feel that I’m responsible for protecting you now that you live here and that means I have to be suspicious of everything. I guess old habits die hard.”

    He turned his attention back to chopping the herbs, letting the tension recede with the silence. As much as he hated to admit it, he didn’t know how to trust people.

    During the war, he’d kept everything to himself. Even Maiya and Irisviel had been merely tools to draw out and eliminate the other Masters. One had been the perfect soldier while the other had been an important tool. He hadn’t trusted either of them to inform them of his plans in the war; it had been safer and more expedient that way. And yet, even with the people closest to him around him, it had felt as if he’d fought the entire war by himself.

    “So what was she like? Was she… nice…?” he finally asked. Kiritsugu couldn’t even remember the last time he’d even used that word, as if it were a foreign notion. Nice...

    His question caught Saber off guard, causing her to almost nick her hand with the knife.

    “Who? Lynn?” she asked and Kiritsugu nodded in confirmation. “I would say so. She’s really friendly, yet shy at times and from what I can tell seems nice. I cannot foresee her being the dangerous homicidal killer you suspect everyone of being,” she replied.

    Kiritsugu’s mouth twitched, annoyed at the verbal jab.

    “Saber…” he began to say.

    “It might be naive, given how little I’ve talked with her, but I like her. That is my view of her,” Saber said. Her tone indicated a sort of finality on the matter.

    “Very well, Saber. Then I will respect your opinion on this matter,” he said.

    “Thank you,” she replied.

    It wasn’t surrender on her part. It wasn’t a victory on his but, for the moment, it was enough for him. An unspoken truce by two very different soldiers. He could live with that.

    He placed the herbs aside and began to boil a pot of water before he noticed Saber looking at him once more.

    “Another question, Kiritsugu?” Saber said. Her tone seemed softer now.

    “Of course,” he replied.

    “What is a sous?” she asked.

    Kiritsugu failed to suppress a chuckle. “It’s French,” he said, before beginning his explanation.

    ===

    Step. Parry. Step. Swing.

    Arturia swung forward towards her imaginary opponent before relaxing her stance and lowering her shinai to the ground. She looked at the clock on the wall: 8:45 pm.

    Normally, she’d retire for a bath by now but she had tomorrow off. Manager Yui had said something about Izumi needing the hours for the upcoming “anime-con thing.” Arturia could have protested, but she didn’t really want to cause a big commotion, especially due to her working status here. She remembered Kiritsugu saying she was essentially an illegal immigrant, a dour if accurate truth for her condition. Arturia didn’t want to admit it, but she had been extremely lucky to even find work in Fuyuki. There were no open positions looking for able swordsmen, especially none in her decrepit condition.

    Arturia sighed, thinking about her current situation once more. Without her prana burst, she was no better than a simple fifteen-year old girl. Her eyes closed and she felt her brow knit in frustration. If only she could fix it...

    She swung the shinai forward once more, hearing the bamboo sword whistle in the air, testing its weight before holding it ready. She took several deep breathes and she could feel the chill air of the dojo against the sweat on her skin as she prepared herself for what came next.

    Arturia decided to start small, less she have a complete repeat of last time. She concentrated, focusing the prana in her body into her arms. Gripping the wooden handle with renewed strength, she swung downward against an imaginary foe.

    Searing pain, like scalding water, burned her arms and she collapsed to the floor; a scream of pain roaring from her throat. If felt as if her arms were covered in molten steel. Arturia rolled against the wooden floor, gasping in pain as she forced herself to simply breathe; her throat hoarse. The burning seemed to grow in intensity, like a spreading fire, and Arturia screamed once more. She rolled against the floor, hopelessly trying to extinguish this unending fire.

    Long moments passed before she finally lay still. Slowly, she came to as the pain eventually subsided leaving her fatigued and breathless. It felt as if every bone in her arms had been broken by Berserker and incorrectly mended back together. She felt wetness and, for a brief moment, her mind feared it was blood before looking to find her white shirt drenched in water. Blurry in the distance was the scattered tray she’d brought with her for practice. She vaguely recalled colliding with something while she had been thrashing about on the dojo floor. It must have been the cup and jug of water she’d spilled.

    Still too tired to move, Arturia lay there on the wooden floor simply staring at the mess she’d made and waiting for her body to recover. She closed her eyes, feeling droplets of water roll down the sides of her face.

    Useless...

    She lay there silently for long minutes, her head lolled against the floor, before weakly rising to her feet. She sighed at the mess before her. She had to clean up this mess before Kiritsugu found out, if he hadn’t heard her cries already. However, one thing at a time, clean clothes and then grab the mop from the house’s closet.

    Tired, hurt, and defeated, Arturia left the dojo.

    She crossed the house’s yard, the chilly winter air and wet grass causing her to slightly shiver before re-entering the main house. Arturia slipped into her room quietly, feeling her muscles ache in protest as she took long moments pulling the wet shirt off and replacing it with a clean one from the drawer. Her throat parched, she headed towards the kitchen.

    “Kiritsugu?” she said, opening the main room’s ricepaper door. It was empty. On the refrigerator was a sticky note.

    “Forgot to buy something for tomorrow. Will be back soon.”
    - Kiritsugu

    She raised a brow at the note. It was unusual for Kiritsugu to forget something on the grocery list, especially considering his habit of over planning for everything. She grabbed a clean glass from the cupboard before opening the fridge and filling the glass with bottled water. Several of the pipes in the house were too old and rusty to safely run drinking water through the house’s sinks, so for the meantime they had been forced to buy bottled drinking water until Kiritsugu could affect repairs to all the plumbing.

    Arturia had just finished her glass of water when the doorbell rang, which was odd given the late time. She slowly made her way to the front gate, her arms still aching from her attempt at using her prana in the dojo. She opened the gate to see Lynn, her green coat zipped up to her neck against the night cold. The girl was looking away from her, staring down the street at something in the distance.

    “Lynn?” said Arturia, breaking the girl’s concentration.

    “Ria?” Lynn said, her eyes were wide in surprise. “My lord, you look absolutely horrid, lass. Are you alright?”

    Arturia’s felt heat rise to her cheeks before shaking her head. “I am fine, Lynn. How may I help you?”

    “Well, if you say so...” said Lynn. However, the redhead still looked worriedly towards her. “Anyways, Nate said it wouldn’t really matter since he’d return everything after the end of the investigation, but since I bumped into you today I figured it’d be rude to let you think it’d perished in the fire.

    Fishing into her pockets, Lynn pulled out a beautiful ruby heart-shaped necklace; Rin’s heirloom. She handed it towards Arturia, the red gem shining against the exterior house lights. Arturia took the necklace, examining the jewel in her hand. Arturia had thought she’d lost it when she’d arrived at city hall. Rin’s jewel was precious to her, not because of its monetary price but because it was the only link she had to the past.

    Pressing the jewel to her chest, she looked back toward Lynn. Arturia stood there, trying to think of kind enough words to express her gratitude, before failing. In the end, she gave a simple said “thank you.”

    “Oh, don’t worry about it,” she said bashfully. “I figured you might miss an heirloom as important as this. Like I said, we were supposed to return all of it after our investigation anyways.”

    “Oh! Also, I brought your pant… the clothes you were wearing that day,” Lynn said in embarrassment. She handing her the brown paper bag and it took Arturia a moment to decipher Lynn’s meaning before she felt the heat rise to her face.

    “I… thanks,” she said. Arturia was sure her face was now a tinge of scarlet that complemented the crimson necklace in her hand. At the very least, it looked like Lynn’s cheek color matched her own. Wordlessly, she gingerly took the brown paper bag.

    “Anyways, night then, Ria,” she said, beginning to turn away. However Arturia raised her hand to stop her.

    “Wait. Before you left at the park, you said something about a mana problem?” she asked.

    “Wha? You’re kiddin, right?” replied Lynn with a wry smile. However, it turned down as she looked at Arturia’s confused expression.

    “Oye… you’re not kidding,” said Lynn. There was an odd expression on her face, a mixture of bemusement and interest. She rubbed the bottom of her chin with her hand, contemplating her next words.

    “It’s… umm… actually really basic, kinda like sheathing a sword or holstering your pistol in public,” she said.

    “I see…” stated Arturia, nodding her head. She tried to focus on her words while ignoring the way Lynn’s hands seem to form an intricate dance as she spoke. It was oddly mesmerizing.

    “Basically, magi naturally leak a minute amount of prana from their body, which forces your body to work harder to replace it. Kids are normally taught how to control and conceal their prana circulation, which is why I didn’t really want to bring it up. It’s also very threatening in magi society. The only time you’ll see a magus fully released like that is in combat, when you need to gather prana quick to cast spells and the restrictions would interfere with optimal prana usage. Really, I wouldn’t have even mentioned it, but you’re radiating a scarily strong aura. I could feel it when you were still walking down the park trail today,” she said.

    “Truly, at such a distance?” Arturia said with surprise.

    Lynn nodded.

    Arturia felt a shiver down her spine. She’d never encountered anything such as that in her era nor had Merlin ever mentioned such an issue. However, if what Lynn was saying was true, then simply living with Kiritsugu and Shirou could put them in serious danger not to mention attracting the attention of other magi. She had to fix this problem quickly before it attracted too much unwanted attention. She began to speak before stopping in hesitation. Should she really ask Lynn for help? She recalled Kiritsugu’s words and his fear of dangers. She didn’t even know the magus that well, and there was countless risks with entrusting Lynn to help her and yet… her instincts told her she could trust the small magus. Arturia made her decision.

    “Lynn, you said there was a solution for this problem. Could you help me fix i?” asked Arturia.

    “Eh!? I… uh… well...” sputtered Lynn, hesitant. Arturia thought Lynn had blanched several shades from the request, but that may have been a trick of the door lights.

    “I don’t mean to force the issue, Lynn. It is fine if you do not wish…” she said.

    “No, no, it’s fine. Nate just gets antsy when I stick my nose in other people’s business… Eh, don’t worry about it. I guess I could help you now if that’s good for you. Shouldn’t take longer than a few minutes I suppose.” Lynn replied slightly nervously.

    “Excellent,” said Arturia. “Please, come in.” With no pockets to hold the gem, she placed the crimson necklace around her neck before heading back in; wincing slightly from the pain.

    Lynn looked back outside, searching for anything amiss in the darkness of the night. Her hand stayed at her waist pistol holster for a moment, before she redid the strap holding the hammer.

    “Odd, I thought I saw something there...” Lynn muttered, before heading inside.

    ===

    AN: Well, I HAD a nice section filled with magi crime scene analysis set, but I figured waiting another month for it would be too long. As such, I decided to bring the chapter out now. It's a nice slice of life-ish section as Arturia tries to cope with her new life before she's thrown back into the dangerous world of magecraft.

  17. #37
    Dapper Deathwing YeOfLittleFaith's Avatar
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    THIS HAS UPDATED?

    Ode to joy!



    Quote Originally Posted by RadiantBeam View Post
    Not my fault Shirou is an awesome bro to lesbians.

  18. #38
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    It is cool, isn't it?
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette




  19. #39
    Vigilant. Relied Upon. Vigilantia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YeOfLittleFaith View Post
    THIS HAS UPDATED?

    Ode to joy!
    I'm always working on it. It's just that life can be distracting sometimes :P. Hopefully, I should have the next chapter up before 3 months and we'll see some action and investigation this time around.

    Food for thought in the interim: What kind of sidearm would Saber use in combat and why?

  20. #40
    Jester of the Moon Cell's Sovereign Kieran's Avatar
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    Given her current strength level, this is probably a bad idea - but I can't shake the idea of her using a Walther (P88, given the current timeline, which is why it's probably a bad idea). Then again, if Kiritsugu can get his hands on a P88 Compact prototype, it might not be so bad . . .

    *Shrugs* I blame her nationality, and a childhood composed of James Bond movies.
    “Love will be cruel to who it entices — love will have its sacrifices.”

    — Carmilla Theme




    "Evil isn't the real threat to the world. Stupid is just as destructive as Evil, maybe more so, and it's a hell of a lot more common. What we really need is a crusade against Stupid. That might actually make a difference."

    ―Jim Butcher, Vignette




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