View Poll Results: Who do you want to see appear here from Prisma Illya?

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  • Kiritsugu

    34 23.78%
  • Irisviel

    66 46.15%
  • The Ainsworths

    15 10.49%
  • Emiya Shirou (Miyuverse)

    54 37.76%
  • Rin and/or Luvia

    34 23.78%
  • Caren

    26 18.18%
  • Others (Write in the thread)

    3 2.10%
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Thread: Prism Mayhem (F/SN X Prisma Illya)

  1. #521
    吸血鬼 Vampire Ausreford's Avatar
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    Chapter 25.5 – Vanish under the Moonlight

    -

    Saber could feel her body tumbling down the stairs leading to Ryuudou Temple well before she processed the wound. Hastily getting to her feet and readying her weapon, the King of Britain took a moment to assess her situation.

    She had been intending on finishing Assassin with a well-timed counter, relying on the force of her blow to push back his sword. Everything had gone according to plan – their swords had met, and she had without a doubt unleashed her killing blow – but the one who ended up unscathed was Assassin.

    What’s the meaning of this? She thought to herself. I was sure I could have finished him off with that exchange. Our swords definitely clashed, so what on Earth…?

    It had not been an issue of misjudging her distance or the enemy’s strength. In truth, Saber’s assessment of Assassin’s abilities had been correct. Her only miscalculation, however, had been Assassin’s hidden trump card.

    “Most impressive,” Assassin said, unable to suppress a smile as he waited for Saber to charge at him again. “I was supposed to have taken your head with that exchange, but your instincts are certainly sharp.”

    “… I see,” Saber moved her shoulder a little, as though checking the extent of the damage. “Was that your Noble Phantasm, Assassin?”

    “I wonder,” Assassin replied, the smirk not slipping off his face. “I’m no hero, so I don’t have anything fancy like that, I’m afraid. But… if I had to call it something, it would be something similar to a Noble Phantasm, I suppose.”

    “Impossible,” Saber said. “Are you telling me that blow from earlier wasn’t a unique attack from your sword?”

    Even though she was unable to discern the true nature of that move, Saber understood its effects: by some form of magic or illusion, Assassin had been able to produce three blades in the instance of their exchange, hitting Saber and forcing her to retreat before she could finish him off.

    “Unfortunately, I don’t have some fancy weapon like that,” Assassin shrugged his shoulders in good humour, almost sounding bitter about his humble arsenal. “There’s nothing really special about this sword, Saber. That move you’re fretting over right now, it’s nothing more than a simple technique I’ve spent my entire life perfecting.”

    In the face of Saber’s expression, Assassin lowered his sword and continued.

    “Have you ever tried cutting down a swallow in flight, Saber?” Assassin mused. “They’re swift little creatures, so it’s nigh impossible to achieve such a feat in a single stroke. If one wished to accomplish such a feat, one would have to unleash a second slash at the same time. But even if you could pull that off, it would not suffice, so you would have to add a third slash in order to accomplish the task. Do you get what I’m saying now, Saber?”

    “… I understand,” Saber replied. “However, what you’re suggesting is not something achievable by any means, Assassin.”

    “Indeed,” Assassin conceded. “It’s not a technique that can be perfected under normal circumstances, but I had a lot of time on my hands, you see. And since I had nothing else to do… I eventually managed to complete what no one else could.”

    Saber processed the swordsman’s words. After facing a move like that, she had no choice but to accept the truth of his claims; despite her unwillingness to do so, Saber had to admit that Assassin simply outclassed her as a swordsman.

    But then, how was it possible for his sword to be this empty?

    “I accept your claims, Assassin,” Saber declared. “However, allow me to ask you one question.”

    Assassin raised an eyebrow. She had been so adamant on getting past him as quickly as possible until just moments before, but she was much calmer now. But instead of pointing it out, he simply raised an eyebrow, wordlessly telling her to continue.

    “I now understand that you’re a swordsman worthy of much praise and respect,” Saber said. “A technique such as yours is one befitting of a truly admirable warrior. Surely you must have poured your entire life into your swordsmanship in order to reach such a level. And yet… why is it that I can feel no pride from your blade?”

    Assassin considered her words. Like the blue-haired Servant from before, she had a proud gaze in her eyes that refused to waver. There was an unshakable faith in their beliefs present in their voices, and that was what allowed them to say such things without hesitation.

    And that was why they could demand such things of others, never realising there could exist people like himself.

    “It’s as you said, Saber,” Assassin conceded. “I did pour my entire life into perfecting this technique. However, that is precisely why I am empty. You asked me why I have no pride in it, Saber. Then let me ask you this in return: for what reason did you pick up your sword in life?”

    “Of course, it is to protect my beloved homeland,” Saber answered without hesitation. The confidence in her voice was breath-taking, even if she was his enemy.

    “That’s a noble cause,” Assassin said, a bitter smile tugging at his lips. “And as the celebrated King of Britain, you were acknowledged by those around you, were you not? As a king and as a warrior for your people, you were extolled by those who served you, were you not? You practiced your swordsmanship for their sake, and they answered your efforts with their affirmation. You should surely take pride in that, for that is what makes you a Heroic Spirit.

    “But consider this, King of Britain: what affirmation can there be for someone who devotes his life solely to the sword, and nothing else?”

    Descending the stairs in a slow gait, Assassin looked into Saber’s eyes with a sharp gaze he had not been wearing before. It was a fierce gaze, but it was not one of resentment; rather, there was something akin to desperation in his voice, as though he wished to hear her answer no matter what.

    “I devoted my life to the way of the sword,” Assassin went on. “I did not do it for any one person, much less for an entire country like you did. So who will affirm my existence and my efforts? As you said, my entire life has culminated into this technique. But Saber, all that means is that my entire existence may as well be just this technique alone. There is no “me” in a life like that.”

    A soft breeze blew by the staircase, but it was no ordinary breeze; as though responding to Assassin’s question, the mysterious wind around Saber’s blade had dispelled itself, revealing a sword of shining gold.

    “I understand your sword now, Assassin- no, Sasaki Kojiro,” Saber declared. “However, allow me to say one thing: As a fellow Heroic Spirit, I will not permit you to sully your own skills in that way.”

    Assassin could not help but betray his surprise at those words. Of all the things he had expected her to say, that had not been one of them.

    “After exchanging blows with you, I understand that you are truly a formidable foe,” Saber said, raising her sword of light. “I respect that unparalleled swordsmanship which I can never hope to achieve. That is why, I cannot accept that you do not take pride in those skills.”

    Readjusting her stance, Saber readied her body for her next blow. Assassin, however, did not move from his spot.

    “The technique that you’ve spent your entire life perfecting… it is truly a sight to behold,” Saber said. “That is why the technique itself is an affirmation to your existence, is it not? If you are the only one who can wield it, then surely… that itself is a testament to your existence and your prowess. That is why I cannot allow anyone to speak ill of such a warrior, even if that man is yourself.”

    There were no lies in her words, nor any pretence in her tone. This was a woman whose spirit is surely unbreakable, and thus her decree absolute. In the face of her words, Assassin could not help but curl his lips into a smile.

    I think I finally understand now, he thought. Just why it is that I enjoyed fighting you so much, Saber.

    Reassuming his fighting stance, Assassin raised his nameless sword. Staring him down with a look of defiance and confidence, was a king with a sword whose name was known far and wide.

    And as a show of gratitude, I will carve your words and your life onto my blade!

    The screech of metal meeting metal shook the air, as Saber’ and Assassin’s swords clashed atop the steps to the temple. Sparks danced against the tranquillity of night, as Saber’s sword drew paths of light in its wake.

    The trails left by their weapons cut into the space around them, meeting and repelling each other with every exchange. Neither side was willing to yield, sending echoes of their fleeting blows dissipating into the night before new shrieks took their place.

    Against the blinding light of Saber’s sword, Assassin’s let off a dim glow; in the absence of moonlight, all it could do was reflect the light from Saber’s weapon. But even though its glow was dim, the strength behind its blows was anything but weak.

    And upon the face of the man behind that weak glow, was an unmistakable smile.

    Surely, to this woman, this is what swordsmanship was meant to be. For her, the clashing of swords was a clash of wills, a baring of their souls where both sides put their lives on the line. It was surely glamorous and noble, but it was not a world fit for someone like him.

    And yet there he was, carving his own existence into the blade of a king, into the swordsmanship of a true king and hero.

    In that aspect, he was probably similar to Rider’s Master. In the end, maybe he too, had just simply been looking for some form of affirmation – something to give his existence meaning. Maybe he had been dependent on someone else for that meaning, and maybe he still was.

    But in that moment, as their swords danced in the cold night air, none of that mattered anymore.

    Backing away from Saber and her powerful blows, Asssassin ascended the steps until he was at the gate of Ryuudou temple, relinquishing his advantageous position. Against an opponent like Saber, that was a fatal mistake, but Assassin was no fool; he knew that in order for his secret technique to succeed this time, he had to use it on a level surface, even if it meant abandoning all other options.

    Saber, likewise, understood Assassins intentions, but rose to the challenge nonetheless. She was a proud warrior, so using cheap tricks was something that never crossed her mind. If she were to fall here, then it would just mean she was not strong enough. Regrettable as it was, she would just have to accept that fact.

    With that in mind, and with her own life on the line, Arturia Pendragon readied her entire being to receive his attack.

    “Hiken – Tsubame Gaeshi!”

    The air went silent, still. For a single instant, the world had paused in its tracks, holding its breath as the two swordsmen exchanged their final blows. And even as time began to move once more, nothing happened for a good long while.

    What broke the silence, was the unmistakable sound of metal falling against the stone steps.

    Saber stared in wide-eyed disbelief as bright red crimson gushed from Assassin’s chest, where the bronze tip of a spear protruded. Neither of them had made a move yet; the weapon that had pierced him had been fired from somewhere far off, by an unseen assailant.

    -

    “Hmph, to think that you would make the King sully his treasure on the body of a mere phantom,” the King of Heroes muttered. “It would seem that you’re still as troublesome as ever, Saber.”

    With a look of disinterest, Gilgamesh turned back to gazing at the mountain where the strange presence had been emanating from. Educating his bride could wait; he had something more interesting to deal with at the moment.

    -

    “Go,” Assassin said. “You have to help your Master, don’t you?”

    “It’s your victory, Sasaki Kojiro,” Saber said, lowering her weapon and turning towards the gate. The expression on her face was unreadable. “Go with your head held high.”

    Without looking back at her opponent, Saber rushed past the gate. Assassin, rather than giving chase, walked over to the steps and sat down.

    “Surely you jest,” he said to no one in particular. “From the very beginning, being able to ‘die’… was my greatest triumph.”

    Perhaps this was the punishment for one who sought things beyond his reach. Perhaps this was retribution for someone aspiring towards something he did not deserve. Whatever it was, there was no denying that he had no means of rejecting that decision.

    “Worry not, Saber. For this is an end befitting a nameless shadow like myself.”

    As he said those words, a bitter smile formed on his bloody lips. Had this happened with anyone else before this, he surely would not have felt any regret; he had been summoned a spirit, and he would die as one. There was nothing wrong with that. And yet…

    Still… I wish it didn’t have to end this way.

    A distant breeze blew. The clouds shifted across the sky. From the tiniest of gaps between those clouds, gentle beams of moonlight peeked through, illuminating the steps he sat on.

    “Ah… I can’t see the moon tonight either.”

    Illuminated by the moon’s gentle glow, the Servant Assassin faded into the wind.
    "It's not that I don't have common sense; I just choose to ignore it sometimes."

    -

    Where to find me:
    Fanfiction: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/1852114/Blue-Hurricane
    Deviantart: http://ausreford.deviantart.com/

  2. #522
    For a while there I thought this story would never have an end. Your absence has been missed, it is so good to see you up and writing again.

  3. #523
    吸血鬼 Vampire Ausreford's Avatar
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    Chapter 26 - Someone Else Pt. 1

    -

    Illyasviel was wide awake in Someone Else’s dream.

    Unfamiliar laughter filled her ears. Unknown faces flooded her vision. She was a pair of floating eyes, watching a movie about Someone Else’s happiness.

    “Illya-san, did you oversleep again? I bet you were up all night reading manga, weren’t you?”
    Sella’s voice echoed in her – no, Someone Else’s – ears. There was a stern, insubordinate quality to her voice that Illyasviel could not understand. Sella was not capable of sounding like that.

    “Mm…? What time is it?”

    Someone Else’s voice, buried under a sleepy veil, thundered in Illyasviel’s ears. It was a child’s pitch, but it was a voice full of confidence, of hurt, of a glorious mission.

    Or at least, it was supposed to be.

    But what escaped those lips that she could not control was a voice drowning in weakness. A weakness that was almost nostalgic.

    “Geh! I’m going to be late!”

    It was a voice full of carefree ignorance. It was a voice that deserved to be silenced, for she had no use for it. It was the same voice she had left behind ten years ago, in the field where walnut trees stood like tombstones upon the snow.

    “I’m going off!”

    A male’s voice commanded her attention, forcing her eyes to travel across the tiny room towards the door. There stood a man she loathed, a man whose existence had robbed her of her happiness.

    But he wasn’t that person. He, too, was someone else. The look in his eyes, after all, belonged to another person, across another universe, in another time where impossible things happened.

    “Wait, Onii-chan! Give me a ride to school!”

    Joy. Excitement. Longing. Everything that Illyasviel would never direct at the auburn-haired man, or anyone else ever again for that matter, poured out of Someone Else’s mouth. There was something in that voice Illyasviel would dearly wish to crush, yet desperately clung onto at the same time.

    Someone Else still had the lifeline, dangling over the precipice of no return. Someone Else still had yet to fall into the abyss in which no laughter existed. Someone Else’s hand still held the wish of Illyasviel von Einzbern.

    But that was Someone Else. It was, and always would be, just Someone Else.

    “Morning, Illya-chan~!”

    The floating pair of eyes turned, tearing themselves away from the boy towards the source of that voice. That voice she had so sorely missed, since the day she left Illyasviel behind.

    “Mama-”

    -

    Illyasviel woke to the sight of her own trembling hands. Her vision was slightly blurred, with strange colors swimming about before her eyes. A thin layer of heat spread across her pupils, robbing her of the ability to think or speak.

    Pit, pat. Pit, pat.

    Something was pecking at the back of her hands. Something small had collapsed against them, before sliding off her pale skin. Something wet and warm. Where it had come from, she had no idea.

    “What was that…?” she muttered, her feeble voice dissipated by a passing breeze. “What’s happening…?”

    Slowly getting to her feet, the young homunculus finally came to her senses. Before her was her invincible guardian – her unbeatable Servant Berserker. She was not in some dream, and she was not living out some fantasy; she was currently fulfilling her family’s purpose.

    “Did you win, Berserker?” she asked, looking around for the remains of Tohsaka Rin and Archer. Even without Berserker’s reply (assuming he could reply in the first place), she already knew the answer. She had not felt any changes occur to her body, so the Servant had to still be alive. And if he was alive, so was Rin.

    Illyasviel vaguely remembered the battle. Archer, like the third-rate Servant that he was, had been unable to even scratch Berserker. The battle had been utterly one-sided until Archer said some strange words.

    “I am the bone of my sword.”

    In an instant, the world had evaporated. Night turned to midday, and a large wasteland replaced the ground they had been standing on. The world had been replaced, swapped out with the image of someone else’s creation.

    A Reality Marble. A projection of one’s internal landscape, capable of sealing off the normal ‘reality’ around the user. It was forbidden magecraft, and one that was considered close to being real magic. The creation of one in itself was not a significant feat if she considered Rin’s ability, but Illyasviel was sure it had not been the Tohsaka magus who had created that scenery.

    It had been her Servant, Archer.

    And in that space, he had achieved the impossible. With movements that he had not displayed before, Archer ended up taking two of Berserker’s lives before Berserker could land a hit himself. Just as Illyasviel started getting flustered, the Reality Marble erased itself, returning them to the nighttime landscape of Fuyuki.

    In the end, it had only lasted a moment. Not that it mattered, since the world they just returned to was bearing witness to something much, much worse.

    Illyasviel remembered the pillars of bright gold that ascended towards the heavens, erupting against the pitch-black squall that blocked out the moon. She remembered the panic in Tohsaka Rin’s eyes as she fled the battlefield, towards the source of the pandemonium.

    The last thing she remembered was flash of bright pink, colliding against two world-eradicating forces. Then she dreamed. She dreamed Someone Else’s fantasy as the warm glow of the pink light washed over her.

    That amount of prana… It’s not normal, Illyasviel assessed. Is she responsible…? No, she shouldn’t be able to do something like this… Did I let my guard down? Did she have help?

    In the distance, the sound of something tearing could be heard. Somewhere beyond the sky, where two world-ending Noble Phantasms clashed, something was breaking apart. As the force from Gilgamesh’s Enuma Elish obliterated the black Servant, Illyasviel was sure she had seen a white crack form against the starry canvas. In any other situation, the whole phenomenon would have been worthy of attention, but at that moment all she could focus on was that beam of pink light.

    It was definitely impressive from a magus’s point of view, and at best it would be able to compete with a regular Servant’s Noble Phantasm. But in this case, it was barely able to push back the shockwave caused by the collision of two Eas. Even with that amount of prana, Someone Else had just barely protected the city beneath them.

    It’s definitely her, Illyasviel bit her lip, annoyed but unable to figure out why. It’s definitely her doing… But how?

    Whether it had been intentional or not (and Illyasviel had a hard time thinking that girl was capable of doing anything intentionally), that pink beam had managed to reach all the way to where Illyasviel was, and had planted that weird dream in her head. What was the point of it? Why make her see an illusion in the middle of the fight like that? It simply did not make sense.

    Just a few kilometers away, the sky was torn asunder by the collision of two world-crushing weapons. Even though the explosions had stopped, the aftermath of the clash between two Kings could still be felt in the air no matter where one hid. It had been a battle on a scale which Illyasviel herself had never seen before, and she was the Master of Berserker.

    And yet, despite being in the presence of all that, Illyasviel’s attention was entirely directed at one simple, powerless child. A child whom she could not be sure was there, but was confident about her involvement all the same.

    “Who are you…?” she asked, as the distant disaster settled into darkness. In the silence that followed, her voice dissolved into nothing, robbing her the reprieve of even her own verbal confidence. Not that she possessed any confidence at the moment.

    “Who are you?” she asked again.

    -

    Illya was awake in Someone Else’s home.

    To call it a ‘home’ was accurate, but a huge understatement. The place was a humongous castle with corridors that went on forever, with a world of eternal white beyond the windows. It was a place she had never set foot in before, yet filled her with a sense of nostalgia at the same time.

    “Where am I?” she asked to no one in particular. The snowstorm outside the windows occasionally replied with a distant howl, as though the storm existed somewhere far off and not just beyond the planes of glass. “Hello?! Is anyone around?”

    Her question bounced off the walls and disappeared down the endless hallway.

    How did I end up here? She wondered, taking timid steps down the expensive looking corridor. I remember… that gold Servant and that… that black Servant… I merged Ruby and Sapphire, then… there was pain, and… I blacked out?

    Why are you here?

    A scream of surprise died in her throat before it could even emerge. Tripping over her own foot and falling face first onto the floor, Illya scrambled to her feet and looked around desperately for the source of that voice.

    You should not be here right now.

    She recognized the voice. If she just thought about it, Illya would recognize whose voice that was. But something was wrong; the chills she got from hearing that voice was something she should not be experiencing. Especially after everything she had been through.

    It’s mama’s voice, she thought, her eyes tearing across the ceiling and walls in the hopes of finding Irisviel’s smiling face. But something’s wrong… It’s mama’s voice, but mama wouldn’t sound like that…!

    “Who are you?!” Illya yelled, her empty hands tightening into shaky fists. “Where am I?!”

    You are not the conduit. You are the same as that, but you are not the conduit.

    “What’re you talking about?” Illya asked. “I’m not the ‘conduit’? What’s that supposed to mean?”

    And yet, you are still functional. That is why you are here.

    “… Who are you?” Illya asked, her voice slowly losing its vigor. The voice was starting to scare her, and the space around her was starting to feel extremely unnatural. “What are you?”

    You should know. This is what you were created for.

    In the distance, Illya thought she heard someone’s voice. This time, it was a human’s voice; it was someone else trapped in this space with her, by whatever that chill-inducing voice was supposed to be. She was sure she had heard that voice somewhere before. But as she strained her ears in an attempt to identify the source, the voice was gone.

    “Why’re you keeping me here?!” Illya yelled to the unfeeling white walls. “Let me out! Where on earth am I?!”

    In response to her question, the voice went silent. For a moment Illya thought the owner of the voice had gone away, but before she could say something else, it returned as a cold whisper that echoed across not only the long hallways, but throughout her entire being.

    This, the voice of Irisviel said. Is the Holy Grail.

    -

    Archer had, for better or worse, faced several life-threatening situations in his life. For him, risking his life was the very definition of what he did as a Counter Guardian, and as such he had become accustomed to dangerous scenarios and foes.

    This, however, was an exception.

    He had known a magus by the name of Tohsaka Rin during his time as a magus (and a complete idiot), and he knew first hand just how tough she could be – on others and on herself. He had been fully prepared this time for the remarks and actions he had since grown accustomed to in another lifetime, but he had not prepared himself for this.

    “Archer, explain.”

    With an air of authority befitting a first-class magus and Master, Rin stood facing her Servant directly as she made her demand. Archer had heard that tone of voice enough times to understand that simple excuses would not suffice this time.

    “That thing you brought out in the battle against Berserker,” Rin went on. “That was a Reality Marble, wasn’t it?”

    “… It’s as you say,” Archer conceded. “That’s what you could call my ‘trump card’, so I didn’t want to use it unless it was absolutely necessary. But as you can see, Berserker is simply too strong so my hand was forced. Well, not like it mattered, since I couldn’t kill him even then…”

    “You could’ve done more if you had just taken prana from me, couldn’t you?” Rin asked. Or perhaps ‘accused’ was more accurate, given the cold look in her eyes. “The reason the Reality Marble dissipated wasn’t because it was unstable by itself, but because you used your own prana reserves.”

    Archer opened his mouth to speak, then paused. She had not been asking him; she was simply making a statement.

    “But I don’t care about that right now,” Rin went on. Archer could feel a distinct chill running down his spine. “What I want to know is this, Archer: since you’re able to produce a Reality Marble, which manifests one’s inner world, you must’ve recovered enough of your memories to know who you are, right?”

    “… I wonder,” Archer replied. “Something like that could be pulled out simply by instinct; after all, it’s an image strong enough to overwrite reality with one’s own.”

    “I see, that’s how you’re playing it. Then, how about I tell you what I know so far?”

    Archer froze. There was something odd about the way she had said those words.

    “During that huge explosion between whatever those things were,” Rin said, seemingly ignoring Archer as she turned away from him and walked down the sidewalk. “There was this pink blast that protected Ryuudou Temple from the shockwaves caused by the impact. At the same time that it collided, I felt a strange migraine. I thought it might have been due to the exposure to such large amounts of prana, but then I saw something.

    “For a brief moment, I saw a bunch of images in my head. No, I saw a bunch of memories in my head. Memories that belonged to someone else… to another Tohsaka Rin.”

    “And you’re sure it’s not some illusion caused by the enemy?” Archer asked.

    “You’re right. I did think that at first,” Rin replied. “But then I thought about what we discussed before. The presence of a parallel universe and an alternative Holy Grail War, another talking Mystic Code that could theoretically access prana from parallel universes… That collision might have caused some sort of reaction, which allowed me to briefly see into the memories of the me from that world. The world where that other Illyasviel and ‘Kuro’ came from. Well, I’ll know once I get back home and interrogate my own ‘Ruby’, so it’s not a big issue.

    “The issue is that a part of those memories mentioned something called a ‘Counter Guardian’.”

    Archer, having returned to spiritual form as Rin started walking, did not reply. Had he been physically by her side, the mention of the term might have made him stop dead in his tracks.

    “That tanned girl said it to ‘me’ in that memory,” Rin went on, almost as if she was in a monologue at this point. “That while she didn’t know his name, she knew that he wasn’t a true ‘hero’, but a Counter Guardian – that is, someone who made a pact with Alaya to gain power in exchange for becoming an agent to its will. In other words, they’re essentially not heroes in their own right and have no autonomy, appearing only in response to certain events.”

    “I see,” was all Archer could manage. “And what does that have to do with anything?”

    “The person he was referring to was the Archer Class Card,” Rin replied. “The Heroic Spirit whose powers she borrowed and whose form she copied. And she looks and fights just like you. I think you know what I’m getting at, don’t you?”

    Archer, unable to reply, took up his physical form. Rin, having stopped walking, simply stood there in the middle of the sidewalk with her back turned to him.

    “Counter Guardians gained their power from the Counter Force, meaning they had insufficient power on their own,” Rin said. “In other words, they couldn’t have become true Heroic Spirits in life through their own merits. Add that to you having a Reality Marble, and being able to produce so many copies of the same sword in your battle with Lancer… means you were using magecraft from the very beginning. Am I wrong?”

    It was phrased as a question, but there was nothing in her voice that suggested she actually wanted a reply from him.

    “That’s why, you were likely a magus when you were alive,” Rin deduced. “But there was no reason for you to hide that from me. Then I thought about it: I didn’t have a catalyst prepared when I summoned you, which meant that normally the Holy Grail would choose someone whose personality was aligned with mine. But being the sarcastic jerk that you are, that couldn’t have been the case. So that must mean that something about me or something in my house had called out to you during the summoning. In other words, you have a connection with the Tohsakas, and that’s why you wanted to keep your identity from me.”

    With that, Rin turned to face her Servant proper. Even without meeting her gaze, Archer could tell what expression she must have been wearing then.

    “Answer me, Archer: who exactly are you?”

    Archer stayed silent. He knew there was no way out of this one; the compulsion brought upon by her first Command Seal aside, when Rin was like this she would more than readily use a second one if need be. In that case, it was simply a matter of how long he could delay the inevitable – even if it was only a few more seconds at best.

    “… It’s as you say,” he answered at last. “I was a magus with connections to the Tohsaka through you. I studied magecraft under an excellent teacher, but wasn’t able to manage anything of mention. Frustrated at my own lack of power, I became a Counter Guardian to protect those around me. The Tohsaka Rin I knew didn’t agree with my methods, so that’s why I kept it from you all this time.”

    Not lies, and yet not the whole truth either – that was the best he could offer her. He wanted to be completely honest with her, but he knew that was impossible; like he had said, Tohsaka Rin would never agree with his methods.

    “Then… what’s your wish for the Holy Grail?” Rin asked. “From the way you said it, you don’t seem to regret turning your back on me in the future. In that case, what are you fighting for?”

    “I’m not interested in the Holy Grail,” Archer replied. “The only reason I’m in this war is to kill a certain man. That’s all I can say.”

    There was no hiding it from her at this point. Now that it has come to this, he had no choice but to tell her as much as he could. And yet, he had refrained from saying his name.

    The name doesn’t matter, he thought. Knowing you, it’s all the same.

    “I see,” Rin said, her voice not wavering in the least. “However, as the representative of the Tohsaka, I cannot and will not let you kill anyone, Archer.”

    “I expected as much,” Archer replied with a wry smile. “That’s why I didn’t want to tell you anything.”

    “If that’s the case, why don’t you come join me instead?”

    Echoing across the night sky was a voice Archer had hoped he would never have to hear again in his life. It was the voice of a witch who stopped at nothing in order to get her way.

    “It’s not very polite to be eavesdropping on people’s conversations,” Archer said, shielding Rin with his body as he drew his swords. “Although it’s not very wise to reveal yourself either, if you wanted to launch a surprise attack.

    “Oh, but I wasn’t intending to fight,” Caster replied, materializing out of thin air just a few meters from Archer. To face him head on at such a distance was tantamount to suicide for her, or at least it should have been.

    It should have been, had it not been for the servant Rider standing by her side, and a new set of glowing Command Seals on the back of Caster’s hand.

    “I’ve come to make you an offer, Archer,” she said, her lips parting into a confident smile. “I want you to become my Servant. In exchange… I’ll let you kill whoever you wish.”

    -

    Next chapter will be a continuation of this in a way, but I wanted that to be its own chapter because it's everyone's favourite Mama Iri, so please make do with Part 1 for now!

    Also, special thanks to ItsaRandomUsername for helping me with the proofreading of this chapter!
    "It's not that I don't have common sense; I just choose to ignore it sometimes."

    -

    Where to find me:
    Fanfiction: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/1852114/Blue-Hurricane
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  4. #524
    Two chapters in less than a week? My cup doth overflow. After so long with so many mediocre Fate fanfiction stories, to have a truly great one return and update so quickly is practically an early Christmas present.

    I do like how the two Ilya's refer to each other as Someone Else, a way to try and distance themselves from the parallel paths their lives have led. And it'll be interesting to see if Archer will take the chance to ditch Rin and carry on with his scheme. Either way, can't wait for the next chapter.

  5. #525
    吸血鬼 Vampire Ausreford's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MauiLand View Post
    Two chapters in less than a week? My cup doth overflow. After so long with so many mediocre Fate fanfiction stories, to have a truly great one return and update so quickly is practically an early Christmas present.

    I do like how the two Ilya's refer to each other as Someone Else, a way to try and distance themselves from the parallel paths their lives have led. And it'll be interesting to see if Archer will take the chance to ditch Rin and carry on with his scheme. Either way, can't wait for the next chapter.
    I'm glad to hear that you're still enjoying the story; it's been such a long time after all! Hopefully you'll still have fun with this ride until the end!
    "It's not that I don't have common sense; I just choose to ignore it sometimes."

    -

    Where to find me:
    Fanfiction: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/1852114/Blue-Hurricane
    Deviantart: http://ausreford.deviantart.com/

  6. #526
    DIĒS VENIET ITERVM Walnut Sparks's Avatar
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    I like Ilyasviel's reaction to her Prismaverse family. It does make me regret that there's no one alive who could and would fully explain what happened to her parents in the main universe.
    Day will come again.

  7. #527
    死徒 Dead Apostle
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walnut Sparks View Post
    I like Ilyasviel's reaction to her Prismaverse family. It does make me regret that there's no one alive who could and would fully explain what happened to her parents in the main universe.
    Kirei could cover most of it, I think, but he's not the one you'd want to hear it from. Kiritsugu's deal you'd have to get from Shirou, but he's also missing large parts of the picture (particularly in regards to him leaving to try to save Illya).

    It's a bad scene all around, yeah.

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    Chapter 27 – Someone Else Pt. 2

    -

    “Damn it!”

    Stomping the ground in what could only be described as a childish tantrum, Matou Shinji cursed a variety of things; he cursed Lancer, he cursed Assassin, he cursed Kuzuki, he cursed Rider, but most importantly of all, he cursed Caster.

    Of all the people he would personally make sure regretted ever crossing him, she would definitely be the first on the list.

    Assassin had been a high-and-mighty jerk. Kuzuki was just an asshole. Rider was more worthless than a sewer rat. Lancer had looked down on him and simply told him to run for his life.

    But Caster. She had done something much, much worse. She had actually dared to betray him. Not only that, she had lied to him. She had offered an alliance under the pretence of beating Emiya, but her plan had been a complete disaster; because of whatever that black thing that had erupted from the mountain was, the entire clash at Ryuudou Temple had been thrown into chaos. He had managed to escape because Lancer had gotten bored of fighting Rider, but he was fairly sure no one who stayed could have possibly survived.

    But as it turned out, Caster had managed to flee like the coward she was.

    “My Assassin was taken out,” she had said, that strangely shaped dagger in her hand. “That’s why I need a new bodyguard. I’m sure you wouldn’t mind giving me your Rider, would you?”

    Deep down, a part of him understood. He may not have been a true genius, but he was by no means stupid. A part of him had known Caster would betray him, and had braced himself for that. The only problem was despite that knowledge, he had been unable to stop her in the end.

    It would have been fine if he had just been caught off guard. It would have been fine if she had just outsmarted him. But having prepared for her betrayal and still being powerless to stop it made him feel much worse. And in the absence of a scapegoat, all he could do was blame everyone else.

    “All of you… looking down on me!” He cursed, slamming a fist into a nearby wall and flinching at the pain. “Argh! I’ll make you regret this! I’ll… I’ll…”

    “Nii-san?”

    … Ah, come to think of it, there’s someone I forgot to blame.

    “What are you doing out here…?” Matou Sakura asked, genuine concern plastered on her face. Despite it being her fault, she sure looked nonchalant about it all. “It’s dangerous out here, so-”

    “Of course it’s dangerous,” Shinji said, a strange smile tugging at his lips. “Do you know why, Sakura?”

    “U-um-”

    “It’s because your Servant was worthless!” Shinji roared. “Your Servant was such a useless piece of shit that she got herself taken away by that bitch! If only you managed to summon a proper Servant, I wouldn’t have had to suffer like this!”

    With slow steps, he approached Sakura and placed his hands on her shoulders, causing her to jump. Despite her reaction, she made no move to get away; she certainly knew better than that by now.

    “Do you know what this means, Sakura?” he said in a dangerously low tone. “This is all your fault. The Matou are now officially out of the Holy Grail War because you were worthless. How are you going to take responsibility for this?”

    “… Hah? Why must I clean up your mess, you pathetic cur?”

    The force of those words struck him hard, causing Shinji to remove his hands as though he had been electrocuted. Staggering away from his younger sister and falling onto the ground, he struggled to find the right words as his trembling legs betrayed his fear.

    “Eh?” Sakura said suddenly, as though she had just woken up from a daydream. Just as suddenly as it had appeared, the foreboding aura had dissipated entirely. “W-what was that…? I-I’m sorry, nii-san! I don’t know what came over me-”

    The rest of her excuses were cut short by the sharp impact of Shinji’s palm against her cheek, leaving a stinging burn on her skin. Despite his shaky legs, Shinji had rose to his feet and hit her the moment she started apologizing, as though it was something akin to reflex for him. However, having stood up too quickly, Shinji staggered back a few steps from the effort, his expression a mixture of anger and confused fear.

    “W-who do you think you are, talking back to me like that?!” He stammered, turning to walk back towards the Matou Mansion. “T-the next time you do that, I won’t let you off so easily!”

    “I-I understand,” Sakura replied, but her brother had already walked off, his speed suggesting he was afraid of something. Of all the time she had spent in that household, she had never seen him wear that expression on his face before.

    Sakura looked down at her own hands. Normal. She checked her clothes, felt her face. All normal, save for the pain from Shinji’s slap. She put a hand to her chest. Her heartbeat was normal as well. Nothing was out of the ordinary, and yet…

    Why did I say that? She wondered. I’ve never said something like that before… But who does he think he is, lording me around?

    She froze, her hands over her mouth as though she had just uttered some forbidden curse.

    “What on earth was that…?” she muttered.

    -

    “Judging by the look on your face, you didn’t win.”

    Leaning against the wall of the Emiya Residence’s living room, Lancer spoke those words in an almost offhand manner. Despite that, the implications of his accusation hung ominously in the air between them.

    “… No, I lost,” Saber replied, her gaze directed at the table before her.

    They were, in every meaning of the word, heroes and warriors. For them, pride was something every bit as important as their life, if not more so. In their world, where spilled blood glistened with honour and drawn swords reflected glory, a warrior without pride was nothing more than a ravenous beast; to a noble warrior, having their pride sullied was a punishment worse than death. To fight for one’s pride was the obligation of a Heroic Spirit, and quite possibly the only joy permitted of their flawed existence as Servants.

    Such had been the air around Saber when Lancer first encountered her. But right now, the Servant before him was not the same warrior as before; even without asking for the details, Lancer could hazard a guess as to what had happened.

    Simply put, her pride as a warrior had been trampled over.

    “So you survived, but you didn’t win,” Lancer said. “What, did your opponent take pity on you?”

    “No, he was a splendid opponent,” Saber lamented. “However, our battle was interrupted by someone before we could trade our final blows, and he fell.”

    Her fists tightened as she remembered the scene. The shock on Assassin’s face as he was impaled by an unknown weapon, the blood that seeped from his lips as they tried to form words that could express his surprise… they were vivid not because of their brutality, but because of their familiarity.

    “Ah… Ahh… Do you want to win so much… that you’d trample over my one and only wish…?”

    She had seen her share of violence and death. She had braved battlefields that would break the hearts of even the toughest soldiers, and she had emerged victorious from them. But despite her wealth of experience, Saber had been struck speechless by the death of that spearman.

    “Let the Grail be cursed! May the wish it grants bring disaster! And when you fall into the searing pits of hell… remember the rage of Diarmuid!”

    She had been unable to fulfil her promise to another warrior back then. And now, ten years later, she was still unable to fulfil a similar one to the Nameless Assassin. How many times must this world sink its fangs into her pride before it was satisfied? Could it even be satisfied?

    “I see,” Lancer replied. “It’s a shame, but it can’t be helped.”

    “… Do you intend to just brush it off, Lancer?” Saber asked in a low tone.

    “Well, yeah,” Lancer replied, his tone casual but his gaze sharp. “Or are you suggesting you intend to somehow turn back time so you can settle your match with him?”

    “A match between warriors is a clash of pride and honour,” Saber declared. “To not give it its due respect is akin to spitting in the face of chivalry, Lancer.”

    “And harping on something in the past is chivalry to you?” Lancer countered. “Sorry, but if it’s pride you’re talking about, mine’s already been dragged through the mud, Saber.”

    Saber started. Taking advantage of her silence, Lancer went on, his gaze not breaking away from hers.

    “Hey, Saber. That silver-haired woman who appeared at that temple… you said she was someone you once failed to protect, right?”

    “… That’s right,” Saber replied, almost reluctantly. “Her name was… is Irisviel. I swore to protect her, but she…”

    “Then you don’t have the time to be moping around, do you?” Lancer challenged. There was something in his eyes that suggested this meant more to him than he was letting on. “If you’re a king, you should have this thing where you put duty above all else, right? And now that you have another chance to protect her properly… are you going to just waste it?”

    Silence fell in the wake of his words. He knew just as well as Saber did that the Irisviel who had appeared at Ryuudou Temple was not the same person Saber knew, but it mattered little; after all, they had accepted both Illya and Illyasviel to both be proper ‘Illyasviel von Einzberns’ in their own right. As far as they knew, this woman was every bit the same Irisviel that Saber had met ten years ago.

    The same Irisviel who had, in order to fulfil a wish bigger than her, lost her life in the Fourth Holy Grail War.

    “… I understand, Lancer,” Saber said, fresh determination burning in her irises. “Your words hold true. My apologies.”

    For a few moments, Lancer did not reply. Despite a voice brimming with confidence, there was still evidently something lurking in the back of Saber’s mind. It was something that Lancer understood could not be dispelled by simple words, so he refrained; after all, he was no king. There was no way he could fully empathize with someone whose sword carried an entire nation.

    In the end, all he could do was appeal to Saber’s warrior half. The burdens she shouldered as a King were weights she would have to deal with on her own.

    “Heh, don’t worry about it,” Lancer replied, returning to his seemingly carefree demeanour. “If you want to thank someone, thank that brat; talking to her made me think a little about stuff like that.”

    “‘That brat’… You refer to Illya?”

    “Yeah, that’s her,” Lancer said, turning his head towards the direction of the guest room.

    Even though they could not physically see it, the two Servants cast their gaze towards where Shirou had carried Illya. The girl had been covered in wounds and unconscious since the raid at Ryuudou Temple, with nary a sign of waking up anytime soon. Next to Bazett (who somehow managed to walk back with them on her own), she was the one who had suffered the most damage during the entire event.

    “We don’t have the time to be sitting around feeling sorry,” Lancer said, more to himself than to anyone else. “Not when the kid’s tearing herself up to save our asses.”

    -

    “Bazett-san’s asleep,” Shirou said as he stepped into the room. “She said she’ll be fine after resting up for the night.”

    “I see. Thank you.”

    The woman who had spoken uttered those words without once turning to face him. Wet towel in hand, Irisviel spared not a moment for anyone but her daughter, who had been tucked into a futon in the center of the room.

    “How is… she doing?” Shirou asked hesitantly.

    “She’s extremely fatigued,” Irisviel replied, her expression unreadable. “She handled too much magical energy at once, and to put it simply… it wore her out.”

    “That… that can’t be all,” Miyu, who had been so still and silent that Shirou had not noticed her before, said timidly. Right next to her, Kuro managed a small nod. “Illya protected us from that huge shockwave, so she wasn’t hit by anything. There’s no way she could have wounds that severe from simple mana exhaustion.”

    Irisviel sighed as she replaced the towel on Illya’s forehead, before turning to face the two girls for the first time since she had appeared out of nowhere. Her gaze was firm as always, but there was no longer any hint of playfulness present anymore.

    “You’re right,” she admitted. “As expected of you, Miyu-chan. I didn’t want to worry you since there’s nothing we can do, but I suppose that’s not going to work out. Mysterious Stick-chan?”

    At her words, Ruby wriggled her way out of the covers, hovering over to Irisviel and resting on her shoulder. Even she – the Mystic Code of Love and Justice who could not shut up regardless of the situation – was quiet.

    “It’s like this,” Ruby said. “In order to protect everyone from the shockwaves caused by the collision of Noble Phantasms, Illya-san required access to larger amounts of energy. To accomplish that, Sapphire-chan and I merged ourselves into one Mystic Code, capable of converting parts of the user’s entire body into pseudo magic circuits.”

    “Is something like that even possible?” Miyu asked. “Turning the entire body into a medium for magical energy… That’s…”

    “Normally, such an act is tantamount to suicide,” Sapphire chimed in, peeking out from inside Miyu’s hair. “Nee-san and I are already capable of supplying a nearly endless amount of magical energy to our wielders, so the only limiting factor for our output is the user’s body and capacity for magecraft. If the output exceeds the user’s personal limit, they run the risk of permanently damaging their magic circuits. That’s why in order to temporarily exceed that limit, we convert things like muscles and nerves into magic circuits to lower the burden on the user’s original circuits, and to allow the user to wield more energy at once. But we cannot control this by ourselves, so we merge in order to do so.”

    “But to be honest, most of the time it doesn’t matter,” Ruby added. “Just increasing the output at the risk of destroying one’s body is pointless, especially considering the increase in output is usually nothing too special. But in Illya-san’s case… she has an exceptional talent for magecraft, so she was able to draw out an unbelievable amount of energy. That ended up causing heavy damage to her muscles and nerves. The signs of internal bleeding you can see are a result of channelling that much power.”

    “My goodness, this foolish daughter of mine…” Irisviel sighed. Reaching over and stroking Illya’s head, she added with a faint smile: “But that’s just like you, going to extremes for other people. Now I can’t even scold you for being reckless.

    “But of course, when you wake up, I’m going to have a fitting punishment ready~”

    A chill ran down Shirou’s spine. Even whilst unconscious, Illya’s body shivered in fear. Miyu looked absolutely petrified.

    “But that can wait,” Irisviel said, walking over to Kuro and Miyu and pulling them into a tight embrace. “Don't worry; her life’s not in any immediate danger. If we just give her some time to rest, she’ll be awake soon.”

    “… I’m sorry,” Miyu muttered. “If only I was stronger, Illya wouldn’t have had to-”

    “No, it’s okay,” Irisviel shook her head. “That girl of mine tends to forget about herself when it comes to moments like this. She really takes after her father in that regard. If it means those around her are safe, she’ll do any number of reckless things.”

    Releasing them from her hug, Irisviel put on what Shirou thought to be the warmest smile he had ever seen someone make. It was an extremely gentle expression, and yet incredibly reassuring all the same.

    “That’s why, there’s no need for you to blame yourself,” she said. “Let’s not make Illya wake up to any unhappy faces, okay?”

    “… I-I understand,” Miyu said, her shaky voice betraying just how much effort she was putting in. For an elementary schoolgirl, the display was nothing short of miraculous.

    “… Yeah…” Kuro replied, in a voice that was almost inaudible.

    “It seems you have a lot on your mind as well,” Irisviel said with a knowing smile. “If you need a listening ear, Mama Iri is here, you know?”

    “I know,” Kuro replied in the same flat tone. “It’s just… is it okay if I talk to Miyu in private for a bit?”

    “… I understand,” Irisviel replied, getting to her feet. “Then I’ll leave Illya to you two for a bit, okay? I needed to talk to Shirou as well, so that works out.”

    “Me?” Shirou asked. He had been expecting to be filled in at some point in time, but he had not been expecting that moment to come so soon. After all the chaos at Ryuudou Temple, he had expected them to be too preoccupied with other things than to bother explaining things to an outsider like him.

    “Yup,” Irisviel said cheerily, flashing him a friendly smile. “Judging from your reaction, you don’t seem to know, but I’m actually Kiritsugu’s wife.

    “So, that makes me your mother, Shirou-chan~”

    -

    Shirou sat in stunned silence as he tried to come up with something to say. At Irisviel’s request, they had moved out of the room, sitting in the darkened corridor overlooking the courtyard.

    Come to think of it, this was where Kiritsugu…

    “My, this really is a nice house,” Irisviel said, sounding like a child with a new toy. “I wish our home was like this.”

    “So… you’re from a parallel world?” Shirou managed. It was, in hindsight, not the best question to ask, but he had no clue what was.

    “Yup, I am,” Irisviel replied simply. “I’m from the same world as Illya, Kuro and Miyu. And going by your response, I suppose you’re already accustomed to that fact?”

    “I wouldn’t say ‘accustomed’,” Shirou said hesitantly. “It’s more of ‘going with the flow’ at this point.”

    “Well, that’s definitely a very Shirou-like thing to say,” Irisviel giggled. “I guess no matter what world you’re in, you’ll always be at the mercy of those around you, huh?”

    “… Is that what I’m like over there as well?” Shirou asked.

    “No, no,” Irisviel said. “Our Shirou is much more of a playboy than you are!”

    “… What?”

    “That boy is quite sinful indeed,” Irisviel said, a mischievous and playful smile on her face. “He unknowingly gets girls falling for him, and then is all slow and dense when they make advances on him. He even got his little sister to fall for him, like the eroge protagonist he is. He’s like a natural gigolo, you know?”

    “… I kind of want to punch alternate me in the face,” Shirou said, massaging his temple with one hand.

    “Fufufu, you say that, but are you sure you’re not the same~?” Irisviel teased. “Maybe you’ve already had girls falling for you but you haven’t realized it yet~?”

    “Of course not,” Shirou replied hastily. “T-there’s no way something like that… I think…”

    “In any case, our Shirou is worlds apart from you. Unlike you, he actually knows what it’s like to be happy.”

    The night air was still. The same, playful smile was still on Irisviel’s face, but the levity had all but vanished. No, perhaps such a thing had never existed in the first place.

    “What… do you mean?”

    “When I saw you for the first time, I understood,” Irisviel said, her smile fading. “I knew that you were carrying something larger than yourself, and that your mind functioned in a different way from how a normal human’s would.”

    “What do you-”

    “Your eyes when you rushed over to Illya and saw her injured,” Irisviel cut across him. “Those weren’t the eyes of concern or worry. Those were the eyes of someone who has already glimpsed despair, and was reliving it when they saw Illya collapsed. Am I wrong?”

    The fires. The empty black canvas stretching out into eternity. The silent screams that died amidst vermillion cackles. The scarlet tongues that clawed at the skies. The scene of carnage and hell returned in that moment with a simple sentence from her, as though called upon by her voice. In that moment, Shirou was the helpless child trapped under rubble again, waiting desperately for someone to save him.

    “… Looks like I was right,” Irisviel said. “You’ve not known happiness in any way, and it’s probably because of Kiritsugu’s death.”

    “How did you… know about that?” Shirou asked, his voice sounding foreign even to himself.

    “You didn’t know I was your mother despite being an ‘Emiya’,” Irisviel replied. “Which means Kiritsugu must have adopted you in my absence. But just as we predicted in our world, there’s a Holy Grail War happening right now. If the Grail is active and I’m no longer around, that must mean Kiritsugu failed and the current representative of the Einzberns… is the Illya of this world, correct? There’s no way Kiritsugu would have just sat back at let that happen, so he must be dead now.”

    “B-but this is a parallel world,” Shirou countered. “Kiritsugu could have never met you in this-”

    “That’s not possible,” Irisviel said, a bitter smile tugging at her lips. “Ruby-chan told me that there’s an Illyasviel von Einzbern in this world as well, and there’s no way she could be the child of anyone but Kiritsugu and Irisviel.”

    “How can you be so sure?”

    “Because,” Irisviel’s smile then was, simply put, dazzling. “Regardless of what world we’re in, the only person ‘I’ will ever love is Emiya Kiritsugu.”

    Silence followed her bold declaration. Shirou was unsure of how to respond; after all, Kiritsugu had never mentioned anything about having a child or even a wife. He had always avoided talking about his past, and had refused to break that rule until just before he died.

    When I was a child, I admired heroes of justice.

    That was the only thing he had learned from Kiritsugu about his days before adopting Shirou. In the end, that was just how much Shirou knew about his own father.

    “What was… Kiritsugu like in your world?”

    “He was weak,” Irisviel replied. “He was kind, he was determined, he was loving… but he was weak. He couldn’t afford to lose me and risk Illya for the sake of his dream, so he threw it away. He didn’t have the strength to give up on me… so he gave up on the world for my sake. That’s the kind of weakness he had, that the Emiya Kiritsugu of this world probably never followed through.

    “But because of that weakness, I managed to live,” Irisviel went on as she looked at the sky. “Because of that weakness, Illya was able to have a proper life. Because of that weakness, our Shirou had a proper family and experienced normal happiness. Even if there are nights where he would curse himself for giving up on the world, he never regretted the family he chose to save. That’s the kind of person Kiritsugu is.”

    “He gave up… on being a hero?” Shirou asked. In his final moments, Kiritsugu had revealed to him that he had given up on those illusions because he was an adult. If the result of him giving up on that was a happy family in Illya’s world, why was it so different in Shirou’s? If Kiritsugu had given up on those dreams here as well, why was this house’s sole occupant Shirou?

    As he asked himself those questions, Shirou felt like he understood. The major difference between the two Kiritsugu had been something very simple: one had made the choice of his own free will, and the other had been forced to make that choice. But how was it possible for a simple thing like that to change the world?

    In the end, what had the Kiritsugu he knew gone through, to give up on a dream he had pursued at the cost of his loved one’s life?

    “… Wait, you said you managed to live because of Kiritsugu’s choice,” Shirou said. “What did you mean by that?”

    “I guess you really don’t know anything about us,” Irisviel said. “But I guess it’s okay, since we’re family and all. Despite how I look, Shirou, I’m not actually human. I’m a homunculus created through alchemy, meant to serve as the vessel of the Holy Grail.”

    Shirou felt his lips move, but there was no voice in his throat.

    “As long as there’s a Holy Grail War, an Einzbern homunculus will serve as the vessel in order to summon the actual Holy Grail into existence,” Irisviel explained. “That’s my role, and also Illya’s role in the next war. It is, simply put, the very reason we were created for.”

    “Then that means-”

    “That is correct,” Irisviel nodded. “If this world’s Illya was forced to come to Fuyuki, then she must be the vessel this time round. If they were confident enough to make her a Master, she must be an even better vessel than I am. But that won’t change the fact that as the war goes on, she will slowly lose her bodily functions and, upon the completion of the ritual, she will cease to exist.”

    “Isn’t there anything that can be done?” Shirou asked, almost instantly.

    “Absolutely none,” Irisviel said, her tone allowing for no argument. “I apologize if I sound too blunt, but that is what I am; no matter what I say or do, I am but a doll created through magecraft. Even if I can understand and replicate emotion, I cannot feel them. So I can only tell you honestly: there is no saving this world’s Illya no matter what you do. It is simply a matter of her body not being built for that sort of function.”

    Shirou felt his blood run cold. After all that they had been through, he was told that he could not even save a little girl. How could he ever accept something like that?

    “Well, there is a small workaround, though,” Irisviel said, her expression softening a little. “Since I am also a vessel and also a model made before Illya, I should be able to wrestle some control from her. The Einzberns have something called the ‘Dress of Heaven’, and if I wear that I should be able to do something about her body. Simply put, I can shift her ‘soul’ into a new container, one that will enable her to live longer. That will at least buy her some time.”

    “But then, if you become the vessel in her place, what will happen to you?” Shirou asked, although he could already guess the answer.

    “I will die, of course,” Irisviel replied simply. “Or rather, I will return to the Grail just as I was supposed to. And before you ask, no,” she added as Shirou opened his mouth. “There is no way to save all of us. No matter what you say, no matter how much you deny reality like Illya and Miyu have been doing all this time, this is the absolute truth.

    “There is no happy ending here, Shirou. At the end of the day, at least one of us will have to perish. If it can be just me, then I will be happy with that. I came here to save my daughter, and I will willingly trade my life for that.”

    Even though her words were sad, and even though her eyes reflected a staunch resignation, Shirou could tell her spirit was strong. If it meant saving her daughter, this woman would cross dimensions just to die for her. Even if the Illyasviel in question was not from the same world as she was.

    She had not come here prepared to face the possibility of death. She had come here knowing she would die from the beginning. But whether the cause was supposed to be the Grail of this world or not, Shirou had no way of telling.

    “… I won’t let that happen,” Shirou said. “Illya said something like that as well. She won’t let anyone die, and she’ll save everyone. I’m sure she’d agree with me that we can manage something!”

    “I guess if you look at it a certain way, that is true,” Irisviel said. “However, Shirou, your words and hers mean very different things. Illya’s wish is that of a child’s, and she has a very earnest greed of wanting to save everyone. But in the end, even if she puts her life in danger, she does not want to die. That’s because she understands that if she dies, those who care about her will be hurt as well. Illya may be greedy in wanting to save everyone, but she also understands what that ‘everyone’ means. That’s why if she was to be in your shoes, she would have said ‘I don’t want that to happen’ instead.

    “Shirou, what you want is very different; what you want is not to save ‘everyone’, but to save ‘everyone else’.”

    An eternity passed as their eyes met. The look in Irisviel’s eyes was indecipherable, no matter how much Shirou tried to understand it. Understanding? Pity? Sadness? Emptiness? It was impossible for him to tell the emotion behind those words, behind her eyes.

    It was even harder, however, for him to reject her words. Even if he did not understand what they meant.

    “I know because your eyes are the same as his,” Irisviel said, answering the unasked question within Shirou’s throat as she looked away from him. “He always had those eyes back then, all those years ago… Eyes that saw the world, but that was all; you could not tell what kind of person was looking through those eyes, because they did not care about themselves. That is why I cannot accept your words, Shirou. After all, the man I fell in love with was someone who had given up on that.”

    Standing up from her spot, Irisviel looked at Shirou for one last time before adding:

    “Consider this, Shirou: if you really wish to save everyone, there is someone else you have to save first. If you cannot figure out who that is, you will never be able to protect anything.”

    -

    “What… what are you saying?”

    In response to Miyu’s shocked expression, Kuro simply walked towards the window.

    “I guess you were expecting a kiss, so it can’t be helped that I surprised you,” Kuro said, not turning to look at her. “So I’ll repeat myself just this once, Miyu: I understand now that I can’t win. And since our last exchange, I’m confident that Onii- that Shirou can pull off that move, so there’s no need for me to be around anymore. Plus, you have Bazett, so you’ll be fine.”

    “You can’t be serious, Kuro,” Miyu muttered, her weak limbs unable to give chase to a girl mere meters away from her. “Please tell me you’re just joking!”

    “Well, jokes don’t work on you, so there’s really no point, is there?” Kuro asked, opening the window and looking back one last time. At her sister, at Miyu, at her ‘brother’ and mother just outside the door.

    At the room that she may never return to ever again.

    “I’m going to join that red Archer,” she said.

    Without waiting for a reply, Kuro leapt out the window and into the night.

    -

    I fully expect people to be confused at the Sakura part, due to how long it took for me to update after the Ryuudou Temple part. There’s a hint in Chapter 25 – At the End of the Battle if you’re lost as to why she would suddenly behave like that.

    Also, many thanks to ItsaRandomUsername for helping me with the proofreading again this time!
    "It's not that I don't have common sense; I just choose to ignore it sometimes."

    -

    Where to find me:
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  9. #529
    So does Sakura have the Gilgamesh Class Card? Pretty sure that explains why his personality is starting to infect her own. That could cause complications down the line.

    Once again I have to applaud how on-point all the characters are. Iri felt like Iri, and her conversation with Shirou where she laid out his great flaw felt natural, even down to her teasing. That is ultimately one of the greatest strengths of this story, all the characters feel spot-on.

    Roll on the next chapter.

  10. #530
    Hey, I ain’t no lizard! Draconic's Avatar
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    Holy mother of crazy daffodils it’s baaaaack!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Can’t remember what was going on when I left off. I guess I’ll start again from the beginning.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    That makes me think of Rin as a loan shark.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    Admittedly, she'd probably be the hottest loan shark you'll ever meet. She'd probably make you smile as she sucked you dry.


    Oh dear, that doesn't sound like yuri at all.
    Quote Originally Posted by Techlet View Post
    Not with that attitude.

  11. #531
    吸血鬼 Vampire Ausreford's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MauiLand View Post
    So does Sakura have the Gilgamesh Class Card? Pretty sure that explains why his personality is starting to infect her own. That could cause complications down the line.

    Once again I have to applaud how on-point all the characters are. Iri felt like Iri, and her conversation with Shirou where she laid out his great flaw felt natural, even down to her teasing. That is ultimately one of the greatest strengths of this story, all the characters feel spot-on.

    Roll on the next chapter.
    Thanks for that! I personally enjoy writing the dialogue chapters a lot more than the action ones (there is an exception, and it's coming up soon and involves a helicopter. That's all I'm gonna say), so I'm always worried if I mess up on the characterization somewhere. Glad to hear I didn't screw up that part!

    And yes, that is the Gil class card. Because the normal shadow sakura was so tame and such.

    Quote Originally Posted by An Abstract Platypus? View Post
    Holy mother of crazy daffodils it’s baaaaack!

    - - - Updated - - -

    Can’t remember what was going on when I left off. I guess I’ll start again from the beginning.
    Sorry about that. Hope you still enjoy the story even on reread though!
    "It's not that I don't have common sense; I just choose to ignore it sometimes."

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    Where to find me:
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  12. #532
    Hey, I ain’t no lizard! Draconic's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    That makes me think of Rin as a loan shark.
    Quote Originally Posted by Hymn of Ragnarok View Post
    Admittedly, she'd probably be the hottest loan shark you'll ever meet. She'd probably make you smile as she sucked you dry.


    Oh dear, that doesn't sound like yuri at all.
    Quote Originally Posted by Techlet View Post
    Not with that attitude.

  13. #533
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    28 – Betrayal and Change

    -

    “Goodbye, Illya.”

    A flash of light. A deafening sound that echoed across the ends of the world. A sharp, intense pain. Then blissful, blissful darkness.

    Just as she gratefully accepted the embrace of nothingness, light returned to her eyes, filling her vision with the face of a very familiar man.

    “Goodbye, Illya.”

    The callous man pulled the trigger, plunging her into darkness once more. But that reprieve, like the many deaths before, was short-lived; before she could recover from the pain under her chin, the huge, fancy room had returned, with its enormous sealed windows that overlooked a perpetual blizzard trapping her in.

    And then there was him. The man who held her with one arm as her tiny hands clung onto him for warmth. The same man who, with his free hand, had pointed a gun to her chin.

    “Goodbye, Illya.”

    Light. Sound. Pain. Darkness. And once again, she was back in the room, in his arms, facing the man who had already murdered her countless times. But the man was no stranger; in fact, she knew him quite well.

    That man was her father, Emiya Kiritsugu.

    “Stop… stop!” She heard herself gasp before the trigger was pulled, but the man ignored her pleas. Without remorse or expression, the man had ended his daughter’s life as easily as breathing.

    “Why’re you doing this?! Who are you?!” She screamed to the shadows. But she knew there would be no reply; all that awaited her when the darkness recedes was the same scenery-

    The pain of her bottom hitting the floor interrupted her thoughts, rendering her speechless for just a moment. For what felt like an hour, she just sat there, expecting this to be an error or a trick of some sort.

    “Oww…” she whined, rubbing her butt as she got to her feet. If Ruby had been there, she would probably have said something along the lines of ‘Falling on one’s butt is a Magical Girl staple, therefore you must say something cute like ‘ouchies’, ‘Illya-san’!’. And for once, Illya actually found herself wishing the Mystic Code would annoy her like that again.

    But Ruby was not there. Even the murderous version of her father was absent; this time, she was alone in a long corridor of that same large castle – which, for some odd reason, did not feel like a stranger’s home.

    She recognized nothing within that space. Not the large windows, nor the marble pillars and expensive-looking vases, nor the patterns on the carpet. None of this was familiar in the slightest, and yet, at the same time, it felt like home.

    “I see. You may look the same, but your exterior is different, so you won’t break like she did.”

    Illya spun around so quickly she almost fell down again. Standing in the middle of the corridor just behind her was a woman with long, silver hair and scarlet irises. Her visage was an exact copy of her mother’s, but there was something about her that felt… off.

    “W-where did you come from?” Illya asked, retreating a few steps from whatever that thing was.

    “You’re resisting far more than she did,” the thing said. “You lived her ideal life for much longer than she did, so you don’t believe it as readily as she did, it would seem.”

    “Who are you?!” Illya asked.

    “Now, now,” the creature wearing Irisviel’s face said in her voice, giving her a gentle smile. “Is that anyway to talk to your mother, Illya?”

    “My mother can’t just appear out of thin air,” Illya countered. “Wait, no, maybe she can. B-but you’re not my mom! My mom doesn’t look like that!”

    “I see,” the figure replied. “It would appear that the ‘Irisviel’ you know is somewhat different from the one I assimilated.”

    “Assimilated…?”

    “It can’t be helped,” the figure said. Its expression just then changed, warping into one of mild interest as she regarded the girl in front of it. “It’s true, I am not the original ‘Irisviel’, but this appearance and personality that I’ve copied are undoubtedly hers. I cannot converse with others without borrowing a form like this, so I simply chose one that I thought you would be most familiar with.”

    “Then… what are you?” Illya asked, feeling her right hand tighten its grip around nothing; without Ruby around, there was no way for her to fight back.

    “I am the will of the Holy Grail,” the creature replied. “And this place, as I’ve said before, is the interior of the Grail itself.”

    “The interior?” Illya echoed, a thousand questions flooding into her brain. “How did I end up here?”

    “I don't know,” the thing appearing as Irisviel replied. “But it’s not an impossible occurrence, since you’re also a proper vessel.”

    Vessel… I think mom mentioned something about that before, Illya thought. And the ‘me’ of this world… she’s a vessel as well.

    “… How do I get out?” Illya asked.

    “You will, when you wake up,” ‘Irisviel’ answered easily. “It is too soon for the Grail to manifest, so there is no reason for you to be here just yet. But when the time comes, you – or one of you, I suppose – will return here.”

    “Why…?” Illya asked, unable to help herself. “Why do you have to do this? Why do you have to take ‘her’- why do you have to take us just to appear? Aren’t you the Holy Grail that’s supposed to be capable of miracles?”

    “Of course,” the creature said. “I am able to take a person’s wish and turn it into reality. I am able to achieve a person’s desire by accomplishing their goals at a rate and scale impossible for any human.”

    “Then-”

    “However, it is impossible to achieve this without any form of sacrifice,” the creature said. “I may grant wishes by doing things on a level beyond any human, but the methods I employ are ultimately human by nature. And that means sacrifices are necessary regardless of what the wish is.”

    The cold from the endless blizzard beyond the window began to invade the corridors, as a thin layer of frost started to spread across the walls.

    “Humanity cannot conceive of accomplishments that are attainable without sacrifice,” the creature went on in the voice of Irisviel. “The very fact that the Holy Grail War is a ritual that requires the spirits of celebrated heroes to be obliterated to activate is proof of that. Even you, despite what you might claim, understand that, don’t you?”

    “W-what’re you-”

    “You asked me why I had to take ‘you’ to appear,” the creature said. “But you’ve never once mentioned all the Servants who would surely have to die as well. That’s because deep down, you understand that sacrifices are inevitable.”

    The frost invaded the hallway, clawing its way across the floor and towards Illya. Behind the creature, the corridor extended endlessly into the distance, disappearing into a shadow that swallowed everything.

    And amidst it all, undaunted by the cold and with unwavering confidence, stood a monster with the face of her gentle mother.

    “And yet, you talk as if you believe otherwise,” it said, giggling in the way that Irisviel would but without a shred of mirth. “Even that man, for all his foolishness, understood and accepted reality while clinging to the impossible. But you… you are truly a child, even though you look exactly like her.”

    “Don't… don’t talk as if you understand her!”

    On the other side of the corridor stood a tiny girl. The distance between them was merely a few meters, yet it was a distance that could never be crossed.

    “I know… I already know what she saw,” Illya said, her voice trembling with emotion. “I got Ruby to show me… I know what you showed her that made her this way. That’s why I can’t accept it. I won’t forgive you for doing that to her! Even if you’re the Holy Grail, I won’t let you have your way!”

    Silence followed in the wake of her words, as the snowstorm outside slowly started to fade into the darkness of night. But it was not a natural transition; the canvas of bright white had been swallowed by something darker than night, by something colder than the winter.

    “… I understand,” the figure said, as the frost and shadows began to encroach on its form. “That stubbornness comes from an ignorance I cannot erase with just words. But when reality crushes you and your fragile illusions, you’ll come to understand the truth of what I’ve said… of what you’ve already accepted deep inside your soul. I can’t wait to see what you sacrifice then.”

    “I… I won’t give up on anything!” Illya managed through the fear that was constricting her throat. “I won’t sacrifice anyone! We’ll create a miracle on our own!”

    “A miracle cannot be created without a sacrifice. That’s the undeniable truth that she has accepted.”

    Illya turned around. This time, the face that greeted her was that of a child, one that was much younger than she was. It was the face of Illyasviel von Einzbern, but she was much younger than the Master of Berserker; it was, Illya suspected, her face from ten years ago.

    It was a form small enough for Kiritsugu to lift onto his shoulders, and a form fragile enough to be destroyed by a handgun. It was a form that brimmed with an innocence on the verge of collapse.

    “After all, you mean to save her when she doesn’t wish to be saved,” she said, as the frost around her climbed onto her feet and began to spread to the rest of her body. “Your only ‘miracle’… is the solution that you’re holding in your hands.”

    A sudden weight tugged at her hand. Illya looked down, and clutched in her right hand was a pistol too big to fit it. Regardless, her fingers clung onto its wooden handle, with her index finger resting on the trigger. She had seen the same gun before several times, in the vision the Grail had shown her.

    It was the gun that had ‘killed’ her over and over again.

    “That’s right,” the young Illyasviel said, smiling as the gun lifted itself and Illya’s hand to point its long barrel at the younger girl’s head, which the frost had covered entirely except for her lips. “To save her means to destroy everything that she is up till this point. If you want to go through with your stubborn ideals, you’ll have to break her to move forward.

    “Go on. If you wish to persist with your current way of doing things, break ‘her’. Destroy everything she stands for, because what you’re denying… is what gives her very existence meaning.”

    Her index fingers twitched as it struggled to pull the trigger, but Illya refused to allow it. There was a force moving it against her will, but she resisted, causing the gun to tremble in her hand.

    “I… won’t let you have your way!” she said, forcing her own fingers loose and letting the gun to drop to the floor. “I won’t let you… I won’t let her… I won’t let anyone take her away!”

    “… Is that the stubbornness of someone who has never known reality?” the tiny Illyasviel asked, her entire body now an ice statue. “It matters not. No matter how much you scream, your inability to come up with a concrete plan means you’re doing nothing more than throwing a tantrum.”

    As it said those words, the statue broke into pieces.

    Struggle to your heart’s content, Illyasviel von Einzbern, the disembodied voice said. And show me just how long you can flail about before drowning. Whether you stand atop the corpses or join them at the end of it all, you’ll come to know the futility of your endeavours.

    And when that happens, you will know the true weight of a miracle.

    -

    “Senpai? It’s morning.”

    Shirou opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling for a few moments before realizing he was staring at the roof of the storage shed. He could not remember when he had fallen asleep the night before, so he must have just dozed off while tinkering again.

    “Senpai?”

    “Oh, sorry, Sakura,” he said, sitting up and looking at his junior. Matou Sakura was no stranger to finding him in the shed in the mornings, so it was no surprise to him that she had managed to find him there. Regardless, to have her waking him up when he was supposed to be the older and therefore more reliable one was embarrassing, to say the least. “Must’ve overslept again. Do we still have time for breakfast before school?”

    “As expected, Senpai doesn’t know,” Sakura said with a smile on her face. “We don’t have lessons today, Senpai. In fact, School’s out for an entire week.”

    “Huh? Why’s that?” Shirou asked. It was then that he realised Sakura was, for once, not in her school uniform but rather casual clothes.

    “I’m not too sure on the exact reason either,” Sakura replied. “But it’s probably because of that explosion over Ryuudou Temple, I think. Apparently the shockwaves knocked over several power lines and damaged several buildings, even the ones located far from the temple, so they’re likely keeping us in our homes until they figure out exactly what happened.”

    “I-I see,” Shirou muttered. So whatever happened there affected such a wide area… Wait, does that mean Illya protected us from something like that-

    “Senpai? Is something the matter?”

    “Huh? N-no, of course not,” Shirou replied. He wasn’t the best of liars on a good day, and last night’s conversation with Irisviel had made it even harder for him to think. What with everything that had been happening lately, he was at last finding it difficult to cope with it all.

    I need to stop thinking about what she said, he thought. I can’t let that get to me, but still…

    “Hey, Shirou? Are you in here- Oh?”

    Speak of the devil.

    “Oh ho,” Irisviel said, a smug look plastered on her face. “Was I interrupting something, perhaps?”

    “Senpai, who might this be?” Sakura asked, hardly taken aback by the appearance of another stranger at the Emiya residence. At this point, it would be weirder if a stranger didn’t appear every other day.

    “Ah, um…” Shirou scratched his head, trying to figure out what an acceptable answer would be. “Well, it’s… complicated. S-she’s Illya’s mother, and-”

    “I’m Shirou’s mom!” Irisiviel declared cheerfully. “To be precise, I’m Emiya Kiritsugu’s wife, so that makes me Shirou’s adoptive mother!”

    “… There you have it.”

    “O-oh! Pardon my manners!” Sakura said hastily, giving Iri a polite bow. “I-I’m Matou Sakura, and I’m Senpai’s underclassman at school! Your son has always been helping me out and taking care of me!”

    It was, in all likelihood, just a polite thing to say; if anything, Shirou was the one indebted to Sakura for all her help. But that did not stop Iri’s smug grin from getting (if possible) even wider.

    Despite that, there was a split second where Shirou was sure her eyelids twitched at the mention of Sakura’s name.

    “In any case, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Mrs. Emiya!” Sakura said.

    Instead of replying, Iri went silent. For a few minutes, the scene simply froze there, as though Sakura had paused time with her words. No one had any idea what was going on except Iri, from whom a heavy aura emanated.

    “… Say that again.”

    “E-eh?” Sakura muttered.

    “That title,” Iri said, grabbing the poor girl by the shoulders. “Say it again!”

    “M-Mirs. Emiya?!” Sakura exclaimed, half as a question and half as a frightened statement.

    As though she had been pierced through the chest with a sword, Iri backed away from Sakura and clutched at her dress, seemingly in pain.

    “I-I’ve… never been called that… before…” Iri muttered under her breath.

    “Mrs. Emiya?! Are you okay?” Sakura asked, as Iri was struck by her words again.

    “Shirou!” Iri said suddenly, turning sharply to Shirou without warning. “I approve of this girl!”

    “Haah?” Shirou could not help but wonder if he had heard her right.

    After all those things she said last night… what on earth is she talking about now? How is she even still so happy?

    Bewildered, he turned to Sakura for support, expecting her to be just as lost as he was. The girl in question, however, seemed to have understood what Iri meant, as she looked down with a faint blush on her cheeks.

    “I’ll support you!” Iri said enthusiastically, making Sakura’s blush deepen. “Our Shirou may be extremely dense around women, but I’m sure it’ll be okay! Since it means he’s dense to other girls as well!”

    “What on Earth are you saying?” Shirou interjected. “Sakura, you don’t have to listen to her, alright-”

    “Ah… Right,” Sakura mumbled. “Senpai is a little dense when it comes to some things…”

    The unexpected (and bewildering) comment aside, Sakura’s sudden betrayal certainly shut him up for good.

    -

    “I wasn’t expecting you to join in her antics as well…” Shirou sighed, cracking an egg over the pain absentmindedly.

    “I’m sorry,” Sakura said, giggling as she did so. Shirou had a faint suspicion that she was, in fact, not actually sorry. “But Senpai’s mother was a funny person, so I got pulled along…”

    If only she was really like that, Shirou thought. Is this what they call a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’…?

    The words she had left him with still echoed in his ears. The things she had said – and above all, the things she had denied – weighed heavily on his mind.

    If he could have it his way, he would have wanted to wipe it all from his memory. If he could, he would have wanted to reject her words. But no matter how hard he tried that very thing, her voice still returned to haunt him.

    No matter how hard he tried, there was a part of him that knew she was telling the truth. Even if he didn’t understand what that ‘truth’ was just yet.

    “Senpai? Are you listening?”

    “Huh? O-oh, sorry,” Shirou replied, snapping out of his stupor yet again. “I guess I’m still a little tired after that all-nighter. What were you saying?”

    “Geez, Senpai,” Sakura put on a mock angry expression as she turned away from him, pretending to sulk. “I’ll have you know it’s not every day that I talk to a boy like this, so please be more mindful of how lucky you are!”

    “R-right,” Shirou said, pausing in his cooking to stare at his underclassman.

    “What’s the matter, senpai?” Sakura asked, when she realized he had been looking at her intently.

    “It’s… it’s nothing,” Shirou shook his head. “I just thought it’s rare for you to express yourself like that, Sakura. I’ve never actually heard you talk about yourself in that way.”

    Sakura was surprised. Then she was confused. Then her eyes were wide in disbelief. Then she was outright flushed with embarrassment.

    “I-I’m sorry! I don’t know what got into me for a moment!” she said as she tried to bury her embarrassment in the dish in front of her. “I didn’t mean to say something like that, so please forget it!”

    “Ah, no, I don’t really mind it,” Shirou said. “I don’t often hear you praise yourself like that, so I was just surprised, that’s all.”

    “If we’re talking about that, then aren’t you the same…?”

    “Hmm? Did you say something, Sakura?” Shirou asked.

    “It’s nothing!” Sakura replied with her usual smile. “I’m done on my end, so I’ll go let Iri-san and the others know!”

    “Oh, um, about that,” Shirou said. “Illya, she… she had a really rough day yesterday, so we’re letting her sleep in today. Could you just let Miyu and Ku- let Miyu know? K-Kuro’s away at a friend’s house.”

    “I understand,” Sakura replied as she exited the room. Which was fortunate, since Shirou had just about reached the limit of feigning the smile on his face.

    That’s right, Kuro’s gone as well, he thought, piling the scrambled eggs onto a plate. She’s gone to Tohsaka’s place to join Archer, but why? Was it because of what happened at Ryuudou Temple?

    His mind wandered back to the training sessions they had. Even back then, Kuro was evidently holding back – not because she wanted to go easy on him, but because she was, for the lack of a better word, distracted. There was something else (or perhaps someone else) occupying her attention, and that had made it more difficult for her to fight properly.

    Just what’s going on? Shirou lamented. But what he really wanted to know wasn’t just that; it was something that had been raised and unanswered since their battle at Ryuudou Temple. It was a question that had surfaced when he had been forced to acknowledge his own lack of ability, in the face of insurmountable power.

    Can I really… do nothing?

    -

    “Miyu-chan? Breakfast is ready!”

    “… I understand. Thank you, Sakura-san.”

    Sakura had seen the girl called Miyu a few times, and she had been with Illya during those times. In her eyes, Miyu was a quiet child, but she was a friendly person at the same time.

    Now, with Illya absent from the room she was in, she seemed like a different person altogether; her gaze was lifeless and her demeanour dispirited – an image certainly not helped by the circles under her eyes. The child had not slept a wink, and the fatigue was starting to show on her face.

    “What’s wrong, Miyu-chan?” Sakura asked, walking over to the girl and kneeling down next to her.

    “It’s nothing,” Miyu denied in the same way Sakura had seen Illya do. Despite their different personalities, the two of them had more in common than one would expect. “I’m just… I don’t know.”

    “If you don’t mind, I can hear you out,” Sakura offered. “What happened? If it’s something you can’t tell Senpai or Iri-san, you can let me know.”

    “I don’t want to trouble you, Sakura-san,” Miyu mumbled, her voice losing energy as well. “I can’t do anything, so I don’t want to anyone else to waste their time on me.”

    I wish for a world where you can find happiness.

    Unbeknownst to Sakura, those were the words that resounded in Miyu’s mind. Those were the words that had once brought her much joy, and now they were the words that brought her the greatest grief.

    She was supposed to have found the friends she always wanted. She was supposed to have found the happiness her brother wanted so desperately for her to find. Now all of it was taken from her, and those very friends were gone or hurt because she had been unable to do anything.

    From the very beginning, she had been unable to change anything. There was no way anyone, let alone Sakura, could understand the turmoil she was facing. There was no way anyone could understand just how much pain had been behind the words: I don’t want anyone else to waste their time on me.

    “… I can tell it’s something really important to you,” Sakura said gently. “But I can’t just leave you alone like this. Tell you what, how about you come with me to do some shopping later?”

    “I appreciate the offer, but-” Miyu began.

    “Come now,” Sakura cut her off. “Don’t be like that.”

    Eh? She thought as her mouth continued to speak words she had had no intention of speaking. What am I saying? Why did I cut her off like that?

    “Don’t worry about it, I’ll get Senpai to agree,” Sakura continued with the same gentle smile on her face. “In fact, why don’t you sleep over at my place for a few days? We could have a nice talk between us, girl-to-girl.”

    No, no, no, Sakura’s mind thought, but her mouth refused to obey. She’s mentally exhausted, so it’s easy for her to give in to pressure. Whatever her guilt is, I just need to push- no, what am I thinking? I wouldn’t mind if she suggested coming over, but why did I-

    I need to keep it around. My possessions are mine alone. I won’t allow it to wander around out of my reach-

    What on earth am I thinking? What’s with these weird thoughts in my head?

    Unaware of the inner struggle behind the smile, Miyu weakly contemplated her options. She knew Sakura was a nice person and was definitely trustworthy, but there was really no need for her to spend a few nights over at her place.

    Also, the way she’s speaking… it sort of reminds me of Kuro those times she lost control over the Archer card… but it can’t be. I must be overthinking it.

    She opened her mouth to refuse yet again, as her eyes settled on the divider that separated their room with the one where Illya lay sleeping. It had been her fault that Illya now lay unconscious there. It had been her fault that Kuro was gone. How could she possibly stay here and face Irisviel after all that?

    She had told Irisviel and Shirou last night about Kuro’s decision, and they had spent a good few hours in vain searching for her. As they returned to the Emiya residence, Irisviel had told her that it wasn’t her fault, and that there was no need to blame herself. But how could she not?

    Her half daughter had ran away, and her actual daughter was comatose while this unrelated girl was perfectly fine. How could she not blame Miyu for something like that?

    “Come on now. Whatever it is, surely it will do you some good to take a breather and leave this place for a few days, right?”

    “… You’re right,” Miyu said, against her better judgement. “I’ll be in your care, Sakura-san.”

    “No problem,” Sakura said, the smile tugging at her lips feeling foreign even to herself. “It’s no trouble at all.”

    -

    “Coming, coming,” Shirou said as he jogged over to the door. “Who could it be at this hour…? Did Fuji-nee forget her keys again?”

    “Took you long enough. Five seconds slower and I would have blasted the front door down.”

    Shirou, upon seeing the unexpected visitor, fought the strong urge to slam the door right then and there. But considering the threat Tohsaka Rin had given, he decided it was in his best interest to at least not run for his life.

    “W-what do you want, Tohsaka?” he asked, mentally preparing himself for an assault from Archer or the magus herself. “I thought Masters weren’t supposed to fight in the day.”

    “You would be right,” Rin said, holding up her right hand and showing the back of it to Shirou. There, where her Command Seals had once been, was nothing but fair skin. “I’m here for this.”

    Silence. Shirou had a strong suspicion this was what Irisviel had meant by “he’s a little slow around girls”.

    “… You got a manicure?” he managed after a lengthy pause.

    “Why would I come here just to show you my nails?!” Rin yelled. “It’s my command seals, you dimwit! My command seals are gone!”

    “Your command- Wait, does that mean…?”

    “Yes, obviously,” Rin sighed. “We’re not done with the witch from Ryuudou Temple yet. And now I want you to listen to what I have to say.”

    -

    Before you ask, no I am not planning to introduce Miyu to the worm pit. I’m not that evil.

    Also I’m sorry this one took so long; my computer broke so I had to rewrite all of this from scratch on a phone. I might make some edits to it later, but not too much even if I do.

    In any case, here’s a belated happy new year!
    "It's not that I don't have common sense; I just choose to ignore it sometimes."

    -

    Where to find me:
    Fanfiction: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/1852114/Blue-Hurricane
    Deviantart: http://ausreford.deviantart.com/

  14. #534
    DIĒS VENIET ITERVM Walnut Sparks's Avatar
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    Sakurilgamesh is shaping up to be fun.
    Day will come again.

  15. #535
    Sakurilgamesh is a lot more assertive, which for her is always a plus. Though the dark side is certainly worrying with what it seems to promise.

    And still no word on what’s happened to Kuro, given she was out looking for Archer, who has defected to Caster. What will Caster do with Kuro when she shows up, I wonder?

    Interestingly, while you said that you’re not planning to introduce Miyu to the worm pit, I can see Zouken doing it. Not putting her in there but just showing her as a warning and a way to keep Miyu under his thumb. “This is what awaits you if you try to escape me.” Horiffic, but very much in-character. And Miyu finding out what kind of hell Sakura's been subjected to would make her that much more sympathetic towards Sakura, which Sakurilgamesh could use to bend Miyu towards her will.

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