So, meant to get this out sooner, but beta had RL problems. And, as you guys know, I ALWAYS have RL problems so whatevs. You guys know anyone hiring a Japanese to English translator specializing in the gaming industry? Any takers? Hm?

Also, this was updated a bit ago on P(a)treon, so if you want the chapter faster, there's your way to get it. Thanks guys. Enjoy.

Oh, and c17's already in progress. Yeah. You heard me. What up. And, that contest is still open, up until the third arc, ya'll. Get yo drawin' done.

"Maybe you didn't hear me correctly," Shirou growled out. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"

Huw wiped some of the muck off of his face, narrowing his eyes at the redhead as he pulled his breeches back up. He gave a nod at his mates and all of them stood up slowly, cracking their knuckles as if to intimidate Shirou, but it did nothing if not incense him further.

"Damned foreigner," Huw spit out crudely. "This be what happens when ye forget your place."

"You forget that I outrank you," Shirou murmured back, his blood coursing through his veins as his anger only amped.

Huw burst out laughing, something that all his other friends mimicked. "An' yet anothe' thing that damned fool king can't be getting' right. I hate livin' like this, oppressed by a man who think he be some kind o' god. He jus' sit there on his throne, not even liftin' a finger to help people like us. A dictator like that ain't even worth the grime under me boots!"

"You have no idea of what you're talking about."

"Shut it!" Huw yelled back, pointing his finger determinedly at Shirou. "I told ye, din't I? Ye chose to show your ugly mug all the time, an' us here? We gon' teach ye a lesson! That there girl be ours, now! Jus' try an' stop us!"

Shirou raised his gaze to stare straight at Huw, his golden-brown eyes darkening and narrowing.


Before the boys even had a chance to register his retort, prana swept towards Shirou's feet as he burst forward, one clenched fist grinding into a teenager's stomach with enough force to regurgitate whatever he'd eaten that day. Shirou coolly stared at the teenager's widened eyes and slowly retracted his fist as the young man fell to his knees and then hit the ground completely. Shirou glanced, annoyed, at the vomit covering his sleeve, but then turned to face the other four.

Huw and his three friends stared disbelievingly at the redhead. Huw turned on them, yelling,

"What, do ye need an invitation or somethin'? Get 'im!"

Shirou didn't even bother getting into a fighting stance as the three boys rushed at him. One boy threw a swing, and Shirou, catching it, spun around and launched the boy over his shoulder to slam smackdab on his back. Turning back around, Shirou sidestepped a different assault, swept his foot back behind the second boy's knees and threw him down to the ground with a forearm to the boy's throat. The last boy hesitated for half a second before outright leaping at Shirou. Eyes narrowed, the redhead took it in stride by rolling with the force onto his back, pushing prana into his feet, and launching the teenager into the air for the boy to hit the ground with a sickening crack some ways away. Shirou rose back to his feet, brushing himself off easily as Huw stared with disbelief, his last line of defense gone.

"I'll kill ye!" the lanky boy screamed as he charged at Shirou.

Shirou chose not to comment, and with a roar of his own, slammed a fist directly into Huw's face, sending the boy reeling back and onto the ground. Huw clutched at his face, a few whines escaping his mouth before he pushed himself back up and stumbled at Shirou again. Shirou simply popped another fist in Huw's face before grabbing at the teenager's tunic and dragging him in close.

"You don't get it," Shirou stated, his voice loud and clear. "No matter what you might have against me, you don't take it out on a girl who has nothing to do with this. You don't hurt people to satisfy your own jealousy, or rage, or whatever the hell your problem is. Lodes didn't do ANYTHING to you. Nothing!"

Huw cried out to express his pain, blood dripping down from his nose and a few teeth missing from his mouth. One eye was on the verge of bruising, but the boy tried to open it anyway, just so he could glare at his enemy.

"What, ye jealous she ain't suckin' jus' yours, eh? Jus' ye wait 'til I be balls deep in again! I be runnin' her –!"

Shirou cut him off by slamming a fist into the boy's gut so hard, he almost thought he'd killed the kid. Blood spilled from Huw's mouth onto Shirou's own tunic before the boy slipped down to the ground, too winded to breathe properly. Shirou breathed in and out harshly, closing his eyes for a moment before refocusing on the one who he'd come to save in the first place.

Lodes stared back with some fear in her eyes, and for a second, after looking around at the damage wrought by him, and at the gathering of people who stared at him with their mouths agape, he thought Lodes was afraid of him. But when he took a step forward, she whimpered and reached out for him, the fingers on her hands trembling.

"Did he jus' kill that boy?"

"Damned dog o' the king..."

"How could this happen?"

"He be killin' us next..."

"Nowhere's safe anymo'!"

"We're all doomed!"

Shirou ignored all of them as he pulled off his tunic and forced it onto Lodes to hide her naked body. Tears streamed from her eyes as she clung to him, the only sounds coming out of her mouth full of cries and sobs. Shirou held her tightly to him, whispering apologies as he tried to soothe her distress. He knew that was far from likely though, and he couldn't imagine what it felt like to be in her position.

"Lodes, hey," he murmured, trying to gain her attention, but she dug her face further into his chest, as if to block out the entire world. "Hey, I need to know... Did... Did they...?"

She went still for a moment and he could a sense of cold foreboding strike through his body, but when she slowly shook her head against him, all of the wind went out of his sails. Shirou sighed, holding her more tightly as he rejoiced inwardly over making it in time enough to save her.

"Thank god," he muttered in Japanese, unable to contain his relief.

"Make way! Make way, I said! Move! Give heed to His Royal Majesty's soldiers!"

At that, Shirou almost groaned vocally, but swallowed the urge as he forcibly separated himself from Lodes, making sure to keep an arm around her shoulders to provide some form of protection. Shirou eyed the ten armed soldiers warily, his left hand clenching tightly into a fist. The soldiers caught glimpse of him and Shirou could tell the instant they became uncertain of how to handle the situation.

"My Lord," spoke one soldier with some semblance of confidence. "What has occurred here?"

"He done killed that boy, that's what!" shouted one villager.

"Haven't we suffered enough as is?" cried out another.

"Look at 'em! Ain't none o' them movin'!"

Shirou gritted his teeth and the soldier barked at the civilians to shut up and stay that way. The latter walked towards Shirou, and as he reached both him and Lodes, the redhead could feel her flinch away from the other man. Shirou gripped her shoulder more protectively as he glared at the soldier.

"My Lord, I'm sure you're aware that this doesn't look good on His Majesty."

Shirou just stared at him. "Which part? The part where you guys weren't around to keep this from happening, or the part where I kept her from getting hurt?"

The soldier fell silent. "My Lord, there are several boys injured here –"

"Who outranks who, here?"

"Well, I," the soldier fumbled before bowing his head. "You do, uh, sir."

"They just tried to rape this girl!" Shirou yelled out. "And no one tried to help her! No one saw anything! No one did anything! They just committed a crime, and you're worried because they got a little hurt? Are you seriously telling me that there's nothing wrong with that scenario?"

"My Lord, please understand how this makes the king look..."

"I will talk to the king, personally!" Shirou told him, forcefully. "I will explain what happened, and I will make sure they understand the repercussions of their actions! But, you! You guys need to do your damned jobs and put these kids in a cell, like the criminals they are!"

The soldier looked bewildered at the demand, and when he started to protest, Shirou cut him off immediately.

"You want to tell me what makes the king look worse: the fact that his servant came to the aid of someone in need, or the fact that his soldiers ignore the people when they need help? I don't think I need to tell you the answer to that one."

Lips tightening, the soldier relented, bowing his head and turning to the other soldiers. "You five: arrest those five men and put them in cells, as so ordered by Lord Shirou! And the rest of you do damage control! Get these people out of the way! Now! And you, escort Lord Shirou back to the castle!"

"No, hold on," Shirou interrupted. "I've got to take her home, and I want to make sure she's safe. That guy should run ahead to the castle and inform the king that I'm going to be a little late."

The soldier in question hesitated, looking instead at his commanding officer, but the latter just glared at him.

"Do as he says! Quickly!"

Shirou watched as a muted form of chaos erupted with the guards corralling the villagers away from the site and yet even more guards taking hold of the teenagers and dragging them away. He absolutely knew that this was going to put him into hot water with the king, but at the moment, he really couldn't care less. Why hadn't there been any guards around to prevent this debacle? How could no one have seen anything that had happened here? This wasn't like the future, where minding one's own business was more heavily valued than looking out for that of another. People knew Lodes, so why didn't anyone suspect anything was wrong? How often did this even happen?

He heard a muffled sob from Lodes as the soldiers dragged one boy – Huw – down the street leading away from the western gate. Hugging her again tightly, Shirou forced her to look up at him.

"Don't worry. You're safe now," he whispered as her eyes filled with tears. "Let's get you home."

When he attempted to walk forward though, she held him back, her expression full of fear. Shirou frowned.

"What's wrong?"

"...Th-The king..." was all she could murmur, and Shirou immediately understood the problem.

"It'll be fine," he told her confidently. And even if it isn't, whatever. At least Lodes is safe – I don't care about what might happen to me. I just want to make sure this never happens again.

Shirou walked alongside Lodes as they moved through the village towards her residence. She was jittery, and understandably so. He wished there was something more he could do for her, but he would have to settle for just being a source of protection and consolation. And, although Lodes never once looked at him the entire way home, he could see her tightly grip his tunic around her, as if it would keep her safer from harm. Shirou felt a bit embarrassed to be walking around – note: stared at – in his half-naked glory, but so long as she felt better about it, then he couldn't really complain.

He didn't walk her to her door, but merely stood aside just far enough to give her privacy, and just close enough to intervene if anything happened. The shouts of dismay and cries of worry and joy were as easily heard as ever, despite him being outside. Shirou crossed his arms over his chest and sighed, wondering how he was going to approach his conversation with King Arthur. It wouldn't go well, that much he knew for certain. Obviously, King Arthur's soldiers couldn't be everywhere at once, but, it was like there were the bare minimum on the west side, protecting the poorer villagers. First there was the issue with the dogs, and now Lodes' near-rape? The way the soldiers had looked at him with confusion over how angry he was about the whole situation irritated him more. There was no way that the King Arthur he had come to know, or the Saber he damned well knew, would allow for such a thing to ever happen. Ever. He was sure of it.

The door to Lodes' house creaked open and the soft glow of candlelight made him squint a bit. A man of average height slowly walked out with a rather beautiful, obviously pregnant woman at his side. The man frowned at Shirou, his mustache ruffling as he grunted.

"Ye must be Lord Shirou," the man gruffed, holding out Shirou's tunic. "Ye saved me daughter. If there be anythin' we can be doin' for ye..."

"No," Shirou said with a soft smile. "I'm just glad she's safe, and I'll make sure those boys pay for this."

"Good man," Lodes' father said with a tone of approval. "Me name be Bryn, and this here be Glynis."

Glynis took a couple of steps forward, her head bowing so many times he thought she'd get dizzy. "Oh, dear Lord Shirou, ye be such a kind soul! May our Lord in Heaven rain blessin's upon ye fo' bringin' our child back safe and sound. If there be anythin', an' I do mean anythin', say it, an' we be answerin' your call."

Her trembling hands reached for Shirou's and she simply held them in hers as she kept bowing. "Praise be to ye... Ye be welcome here anytime..."

Shirou set a gentle hand on her shoulder, stopping her from bowing further. "Don't worry. It's okay. I wasn't going to let her get hurt, and I never will. Just let me know if you need me, okay?"

Glynis cupped her mouth, tears threatening to spill from her own green eyes. Shirou smiled again as Bryn wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Shirou waved bye to them as he started his trek back up to the castle, his eyes burning with a rage he had difficulty suppressing.

The object in her hands was bound to shatter if she continued squeezing it thusly, but she was having some difficulty finding her sense of calm. She had trusted him – trusted him – to not cause an incident, and he had promised her he wouldn't. The problem that had occurred when he first went to the village was easily forgiven. After all, the man hadn't had any opportunity to deal with those types of situations, and she probably should have warned him a bit more firmly that his position would make things difficult in a variety of ways, but this...

Truth be told, she knew she didn't have the full story, and Shirou was not someone who voluntarily caused problems wherever he went. Rather, the problems seemed to attach themselves to him and make things ridiculously difficult for everyone else... Like her.

"Your Majesty," a masculine voice spoke out, interrupting her thoughts. "Your authorization is required for the containment of five peasants found at the scene. Lord Shirou has demanded they be locked up promptly."

Arturia felt another peck of irritation flash through her, but made certain to mask her emotions. "Walk with me. Explain."

"Yes sire," the soldier responded quickly, matching pace with the king as she walked down the corridors. "As I'm sure you are aware, there was an incident in the western sector of the village – an altercation between five teenage peasant boys and your Personal Servant, Lord Shirou. While the specific reasoning behind the instance isn't yet known, the conflict apparently occurred because of the treatment of another peasant, a young woman. Lord Shirou insisted that the boys be locked up for the crime, whatever that might have been, and that he would discuss the instance with you personally."

"And where is Shirou now, Captain?" the king asked as she briskly walked into the Great Hall.

"Attending to the girl, Your Majesty. What will you have done?"

"Where are the perpetrators?"

"In a holding cell awaiting your instruction. One in particular appears to be quite rowdy."

"Put them in the dungeon until I oversee their trial."

The captain of the guard bowed and she turned around only to see Dylan approaching her at the rapid speed he always seemed to walk with. She crossed her arms over her chest as she frowned at him.

"Dylan. Where have you been?"

"You are a difficult person to track down, Your Majesty," the squirrely man stated first and foremost without a hint of accusation apparent in his voice. "If I may?"

She nodded curtly. "Report."

"A riot has broken out amongst the rabble –"

" 'Villagers,' Dylan," Arturia sharply corrected. "Or 'peasants' if you must."

He fell silent for a moment. "Yes, of course. A riot has broken out amongst the...peasants, over the scuffle that occurred between your servant and some teenage boys. I, however, have taken it upon myself to dispatch some of the guard to contend with the matter. I believe it will be handled accordingly without further delay."

"Good," she replied. "What else?"

"The people are wary, but there is little to be done about that at this point, and our noble families are rather shaken by this act of violence. I might suggest talking to your servant about the source behind the incident."

Arturia turned her gaze away. "I fully intend to. Any word on where my errant servant might be?"

"As far as I am aware, he recently returned to the castle not too long ago. I believe he said something along the lines of preparing your meal."

"Forget the meal," she said irritably. "See that he is in my study within the next ten minutes. If he is not, then I will be taking my anger out on you first and foremost."

Dylan, for once, appeared surprised at her order. "Sire, it may take some time to –"

She turned toward him with a cold gaze. "Then, I suppose you had best start searching. Now."

It was brief, but she could have sworn she saw his expression morph into a dark, sinister sneer, but he scurried off before she could be absolutely certain. Placing her hands on her hips, Arturia breathed in deeply before letting out a slow, long exhale. She clenched her hands into fists as she set back into motion, heading for the stairs to the fourth floor. With each echo of every step Arturia made, she felt as if her frustration was seeping out for all to see, and the object in her right hand felt almost as if she were crushing it to bits. She wasn't sure of the material – it was yet another one of Merlin's endless experiments, but it did keep her from throwing things, or yelling at people.

What have you done, Shirou?

As she reached her study, she sent the two guards away – the fewer who were near her at this time, the better. Walking into the room with the door clicking shut behind her, Arturia gently set the object in her right hand onto her desk. She laid both her palms flush against the desktop, feeling as if a heavy weight were pushing down on her. Arturia closed her eyes slowly.

I'm tired of, no – I'm just...tired.

She finally opened her eyes when a knock came to her door.

Shirou pushed the door open gently when given entrance, his eyes downcast and muscles tense. He stood only a little ways from the woman, her back to him as she leaned over her desk. When the door clicked shut, he took in a deep breath and gritted his teeth, but she spoke before he could say a word.

"I believe," she murmured softly, "that we held an agreement, you and I. Starting a brawl with half-grown men in the streets? Practically incapacitating them? Causing a ruckus and incensing the villagers to riot?"

He kept his gaze on the ground. "I had no choice."

At that, the king shifted her head slightly. "No choice?"

She stood up fully, looking back at him with a blank expression. "We all have choices, Shirou. What I want to know is what would incite you to needlessly beat down helpless villagers."

"Nothing about those kids was 'helpless'!" Shirou exclaimed. "Is that what those soldiers told you? How can you take their side after what happened?"

"Told me?" she questioned. "No one told me anything, Shirou, because no one knew the source of the issue. All I know is that an incident took place and that people are pointing fingers at me because of your actions."

"I did what I thought was right," Shirou retorted. "Why can't you understand that?"

"Fine then," she acquiesced. "All right. Then tell me so I can. Shirou, to be quite frank with you, this is a mess, and not an easily disposed one, either. I allowed you to visit the village because you said you wanted to explore, to understand what's beyond these castle walls, and to be honest, I agreed with that mentality. As my personal servant, you need to mature to be able to handle your own in situations that you won't confront here in the castle. I trusted you to take on this task, knowing that the eyes that followed you and the ears that heard your words would formulate a distinct opinion of the world far out of the villagers' reach. I trusted you, but I can't help but feel that it was misplaced. Why would you –"

"...Rape..." Shirou muttered, fists clenching more tightly.

Cut off though she might have been, King Arthur's eyes narrowed somewhat at the short bit he'd choked out. "...What was that? Speak more clearly."

"...They nearly raped her," he ground out loudly enough to gain her complete and avid attention. "Helpless? There was nothing helpless about them. They orchestrated the entire thing, to get back at me! She didn't even do anything, and they were going to ruin her life, forever. There was no way I could stand by and watch that happen without doing anything!"

She held out a hand to stop him. "Wait, I don't understand. Who did those boys try to rape? Why were they trying to get back at you, and for what?"

Shirou forced himself to exhale. "They tried to rape a friend I made, someone named Lodes. She's just a girl I happened to get close to, and so they used her. They wanted to wreck her life, just for a shot at me."

"Shirou, why did they want to get at..." King Arthur trailed off, her eyes centered on him before falling away as she held a couple of fingers to her temple. "...Of course. They saw you as an extension of me. Yes, I see."

He tilted his head slightly, trying to formulate a question but wishing he didn't have to.

"Did..." he started, catching her attention again. "Did you know something like this might happen?"

"I can't say that I wasn't aware of the possibility," she conceded a bit warily. "This does make things a bit easier to contend with, however. If the incident was an attack against you, and by extension, myself, then that is an act of treason, which certainly makes them punishable by law. Very well, I will take care of everything else. Thank you, Shirou."

He stood there, head still tilted when she turned for the door. When she neared him, he just stared at her.

"Wait, is that it?"

"Hm?" she hummed as she looked back at him. "Ah, yes, my apologies. I should not have insinuated you would do anything untoward without due reason. Forgive my slight."

"Are you serious?" he asked incredulously. "What about the girl? Don't you care about her? Doesn't she get any type of support?"

King Arthur looked tired when she faced him again. "Support, as far as what? And by what means? This might sound cruel to you, but I cannot give personal support to every villager who comes by some kind of harm."

"But they're your villagers!" Shirou argued. "How can you not help them when they need it?"

"I'm aware," she told him, a hard edge starting to line her tone. "But I simply don't have the time to give everyone the attention they might need. It's unfortunate, but there's nothing I can do about that. Heartless though that may sound, it is a matter of reality. A matter that you need to come to terms with, and soon."

As soon as she turned away again, Shirou felt his anger come to head, and without thinking it through, his hand shot out to grab her arm, his fingers coiling around tightly. Her reaction was immediate as she shoved him away, eyes cold as ice when she glared harshly at him.

"You are on very thin ice," she hissed. "I would watch that tone, and above all, your actions towards me. This is your last warning."

"...Don't you know what's going on in your village? The antagonism towards you, towards anyone who hasn't experienced their plight? Do you even know what it's really like down there? Do you have any clue?"

Her eyes narrowed sharply. "As king, I have a kingdom to run – and that does not involve just these people. I am in no position, nor do I have the time available, to mingle amongst the common people or sympathize with their every issue."

"No...time?" Shirou murmured with disbelief, as if incapable of comprehending her words. He shook his head, taking in another deep breath.

"I feel like I expected more," he whispered. "But, fine."

King Arthur lifted an eyebrow. "Fine, what?"

"All right," Shirou said, all warmth gone from his voice as he looked back at her coldly. "If you can't spare the time to care or understand, then fine, do what you have to. But, I'm not going to sit around here waiting for something better to happen for them."

The abrupt change in atmosphere caught King Arthur off-guard. "What...?"

He looked down at her, and for once, she felt a shiver run down her spine. Shirou turned away.

"I'll just deal with it myself. End of story."

She froze at the harshness of his tone and at its conclusiveness, and when he opened the door, shoulders straightened and head high, she found herself speechless. He looked back just enough to make eye contact briefly, before turning around completely, bowing his head, and softly saying, "Have a good evening, Your Majesty," before closing the door behind him with a gentle click.

Arturia's fingers dug into her arm as the muscles in her jaws jumped from her constant tooth-grinding. She stood silently, eyes a frost green, as looked along the populous of people gathered together, their eyes flickering over to look at her with a mixture of fear and respect. Immediately behind her stood several of her closest and most loyal knights, and within the vicinity were a number of soldiers standing guard and keeping the people corralled. To her right was the large, erected scaffold with all five of the teenagers associated with the rape crime standing upon it, bared for all to see, and to her left... Shirou.

She turned her attention away from him to study those officially charged with treason. Glancing behind her, she met the gazes of her fellow knights before nodding, pushing back her shoulders, and walking up the wooden steps of the scaffold. It wasn't a particularly large scaffold, merely large enough to do one hanging at a time. Each criminal would take their turn, and each death would hold a significantly meaningful impact for the villagers to remember for all time. That was the point of it all – she knew that.

She absolutely hated it.

Arturia took in a deep breath, her eyes closing briefly as she turned towards the large crowd of people.

"People of Camelot: I do not stand before you to speak of a joyous circumstance. I am certain many of you are aware of the altercation that took place three days prior. A person directly affiliated with me nearly came unto harm in an effort to strike at me, your king, and I take such appalling action very seriously.

"People of Camelot: I have seen fit to charge these five men with treason. They thought to hurt me by attacking my servant and sullying a young woman. There is no excuse whatsoever for their decisions, and they will be met with swift repercussions. I hereby sentence them to death by hanging! They would not only dare to use their strength against a young, defenseless girl, but would also attempt to strike at me indirectly as well? This is intolerable, and I will not stand for such insolence!"

"I din' do nothin'!" cried out one teenager. "That bitch asked for it!"

"Down with the king!" yelled out another. "Burn in hell, heathen!"

"I just want go home," one teenager sobbed. "Please don't kill me! I gots three siblings!"

Another young man just wailed out his grief, while the last remained silent. Murmurs swept amongst the crowd as they saw the two teenagers cry out pitiably, and Arturia could sense some discontent. Although her soldiers tightened the grips on their weapons, she knew she needed to take control again. She flung out her arm, shouting at them with a voice that rang out loud and clear to everyone present:


It was as if she had personally slapped each person in the face – they all fell into a shocked quietness, save for the sniffling of the two boys. Turning her gaze back on the public, she could swear that she saw a few flinches here and there, and some people wouldn't make eye contact with her. That was just as well.

"If there are any who would challenge my judgment," Arturia began quietly, although her voice was sharp enough for everyone to hear, "you are more than welcome to join them."

Not a single person spoke up after that announcement. Arturia turned to face the criminals.

"Unmask them."

The executioners stepped up and began pulling off the bags from each boy's head. She looked on with affected aloofness, but she could feel the ice churning within her veins.

"Start from that end."

Her soldiers, clad in a black masks, roughly grabbed one crying boy and pulled him across the scaffold, making him stand atop a firm barrel as a noose was lowered around his neck. His entire body trembled as big tears fell down his face.

"No, please! I'm sorry! Please don't kill me, I don't want to die!"

He struggled with his hands tied behind his back with rope. His face continued to pale as he looked around wildly for some kind of support, for someone who would help him in his last hour. Looking at the king, he tried to beseech her for another chance.

"Please, I beg o' ye, Your Majesty! I swear, I can be better! I'll be better! I promise! Please! Please!"

Arturia turned her gaze to look at the executioners.

"Do it."

"No, I –!"

The boy's voice cut off the moment the barrel was kicked out from under him, his body falling heavily as the noose tightened around his throat. Tears flowed from his eyes freely as he struggled to breathe, his body shifting and jolting as his pallor whitened by the second. His fingers tightened into fists before flexing outwards, over and over again, and his eyes rolled wildly, seeming as if they were going to pop out in his distress. Even still, he whispered out his pleas and continued to beg until his oxygen cut out and he lost consciousness.

Arturia watched on with as calm a front as she could manage, but executions always wore her down. Death was inevitable, and she had killed countless many herself, but something of this nature was planned, and deliberately served to suit a justice that she wasn't sure was actually there. These people were punished with a death that took minutes of suffering, and by far, a long enough time to regret one's actions and hope desperately for a different end. Desperation and fear took control until fading away into helplessness in realizing one was dying, and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.

Arturia hated watching as they silently screamed out fearfully, hated seeing their eyes roll up and their mouths gape open, hated seeing the light fade from their eyes. There was little justice to be found here. There was no honor in such a death. However, there was hardly any honor in a terrible crime going unpunished either, and that was where it was her duty to see that these criminals paid the consequences for their mistakes. That was the task presented to her as king, after all.

As the young boy's body swung back and forth, all life vacant from it, Arturia only narrowed her eyes slightly. It wasn't supposed to be like this – her killing young men like this, men who hadn't even held a sword before in their life. Things should have been different...


She stayed rooted to where she stood as the next three young men experienced the same fate as the first, and with each last breath they took, Arturia could feel herself growing steadily colder inside. At some points, she almost felt disembodied, as if she were watching everything from afar. Once the fourth boy was tossed into a pile to be burned later, Arturia slowly turned her gaze to look at the last one, a young man whose jaw muscles were strung tightly as he stared straight ahead of himself.

"Any last words, boy?" she asked, inwardly surprised at how hollow and icy her voice sounded to her.

He turned his head to look at her, his eyes dark with a cold fury, and then he looked beyond her at something else. Arturia frowned, her own eyes narrowing as she followed his gaze to look back at the redhead that was at the crux of all her problems as of late. And he, Shirou, met her gaze head-on, golden-brown eyes no longer warm nor welcoming. Then, he looked past her at the boy and Arturia felt as if she could sense his agitation, his rage. It was an unpleasant feeling to note, and she had never witnessed Shirou in this state before.

"Ye care mo' 'bout playin' nice with enemies than lookin' out fo' ye own."

The boy's voice drew her gaze back, and she stared at him blankly, without any emotion on her face.

"We been dyin', cryin' fo' help, wantin' a better life, an' yet ye would take 'im in?" the boy continued. "Ye'd feed 'im, clothe 'im? We mean nothin' to ye? 'Ow many have to die 'fo' ye to care? Ye be a devil playin' at bein' king, citin' the good Lord's name for your evil. I hope ye rot in hell."

Arturia stared at him for the longest time, then nodded for the executioners to take him away. The young man didn't struggle, didn't do anything other than stare back at her as the noose was looped around his neck. Arturia walked over to stand in front of him, looking up with her shoulders and back ramrod straight.

"Pray that you do not meet me there, then," she told him softly, and the young man gave her a malicious sneer right before the barrel was kicked out from under his feet.

A gasp of alarm escaped his lips as the noose bit into his neck and he tried his hardest to take in as much air as he could. His feet began to whirl as he fought to attach to something, to find something that would aid him somehow. When he finally stopped breathing and his head rolled to the side, Arturia finally turned away to address the crowd, her heart and mind both heavy.

"What you have experienced, people of Camelot," she started, her voice loud and clear, "what you have seen this day – let it never be repeated. In order to survive, we must trust in one another, and you must all place your trust in me. With the Lord as my witness, I am endeavoring to work for your sakes, that we may be able to unite all of Britain as a single entity and fight away those who would destroy our namesakes, our livelihoods. Those who would seek to tarnish these values of ours must be met with a swift punishment, and that is something I only hope you've come to understand.

"I take no pleasure in this event," Arturia continued, speaking truthfully. "There is little to be enjoyed in watching four young men pass, but they must answer for their crimes, as should we all. Never forget this moment."

With that, she turned away from the audience and her gaze once again sought out Shirou's as the crowd began to disperse quietly, hardly a murmur from anyone in the crowd. Shirou looked back at her, but yet again, she could see nothing of the man she'd used to know. Arturia reflected back on the words the last criminal had said, thinking that it was just as Shirou had accused her of. She had become a king and strove for absolute perfection, but it was as if she was losing sight of her goal. This wasn't what she had intended to do, but if she faltered for even a second, then surely absolute destruction was in her near future. She couldn't falter... She had to keep pushing forward – what she was doing had to mean something. It had to.

Arturia let out a soft sigh, turning back around as she headed back towards her castle, never looking back at the redhead who watched her every move.

"I know I never will," she whispered.

"What, exactly, is it you expect of me?"

Shirou stood next to the wall, waiting for the king to finish her meal. He casually ran his hand along his neck to catch the sweat that continued to bead in the hot weather. What with it finally being August – that was what he assumed the month was, anyway – the heat was really starting to home in on Britain. It wasn't necessarily burning up outside, but being on the fourth floor in clothing that didn't really breathe was taking its toll on him. A short-sleeved shirt would've been great, but that wouldn't have been ideal for the king's servant to wear.

As he wiped his brow, Shirou did his best to ultimately ignore the woman in front of him. He was still nothing short of pissed off at her, and couldn't believe that she would go so far to drive home a point. A public execution? He'd just wanted to make sure they were punished, that they knew the consequential severity of their actions. What was a public execution going to do other than make the villagers distrust her even more? He'd seen several of the women outright crying, albeit silently, because they didn't want to be next on the chopping block, so to speak.

Shirou forcibly held back a growl as he reflected on how a couple of the teenagers had begged for their lives to be saved, only for King Arthur to blatantly ignore them and leave them to die an excruciating death. What was the point? What purpose did that serve other than to estrange people? Did she enjoy watching them suffer?

Wait, no. Damn it, she wasn't cruel. There was a point to be made, and he'd gotten it, but there was a line and as far as Shirou was concerned, King Arthur had essentially pole vaulted the hell over it.

He was mad. So, fucking, angry. This was not the King Arthur he'd come to know, or did he even know her at all? Maybe he never had, but... Shirou just couldn't wrap his head around what had happened a few days before. He was so ridiculously shocked that there were no words to properly describe how he felt. Regardless, the only thing he was certain of was that he couldn't deal with it, with her. He couldn't talk to her like before – he didn't feel comfortable with her anymore. Shirou couldn't even trust that she had the best of intentions in whatever she did. He needed more time to process things, and it was strange because...although he had nearly, almost completely, lost faith in her after what she'd done, he couldn't withhold his trust in her. Something about her still made him want to think that this wasn't all there was to her.

He was mad, but... Shirou sighed inwardly. He was a hundred percent sure that this woman was not the one he'd so quickly fallen head over heels for, but...he had the smallest inkling that he was falling for this version, too.

Maybe that's part of why I'm so fucking ticked off right now.

Shirou nearly glared over at her, but forced his gaze over to glower at the door instead. He continued silently doing this until he heard the distinct clink of her silverware hitting her plate. Sucking up his irritation, Shirou turned to collect her tray and mumble his goodbyes. He couldn't feel her gaze on him and assumed she was probably ignoring him, too, which was perfectly fine as far as he was concerned. He took the tray in his hands and lifted it up slowly, up until it came to a hard halt as her own hands gripped it tightly.

Confusion flooded him, but he refused to meet her gaze.

"For how long do you intend to avoid me, Shirou?"

Gritting his teeth, Shirou attempted to pull back on the tray again, gently, but her hold on it was too strong.

"Please let go," he muttered.

"Pay attention to what I have to say."

"Let go," he once again requested, though it sounded significantly more demanding this time.

"Look at me, Shirou," he heard her ask once more.

Shirou almost let out a sardonic laugh, but restrained himself. "What, are you going to command me to look at you now, Your Majesty?"

Fine. He was a bit on the spiteful side right then, so sue him. Still, the pull on the tray disappeared as her hands fell away. Shirou kind of just stood there, somewhat uncertain for a moment before finally shifting around and heading towards the door.

"What...have I done to incur such anger?"

At that, Shirou came to a complete stop, his mind bewildered. He looked back at her with transparent disbelief only to see her standing up and staring down at her desktop, her shoulders nowhere near as ramrod straight as usual. A spark of concern blitzed through him, but he stamped it down.

"Are you...asking about what I really think about that? Or the polite version, Your Majesty?" Shirou asked back, unable to deal with that fact that she honestly seemed to have no idea on why he was mad.

King Arthur looked at him with those green eyes of hers and it irritated the hell out of him that he couldn't just shout at her, couldn't yell that she should know what she'd done wrong. She just continued looking at him in an almost subdued manner.

"I don't understand what's irritated you so," she started softly, "but isn't this over the top, even for you? You're acting like a child, constantly ignoring me and glaring at everything in sight. What have I done for you to act this way?"

"Y–," Shirou stuttered, gobsmacked. He set the tray down with trembling hands, marched up to her desk as she made direct eye contact with him, and slammed his hands on her desk.

"You executed them! You killed them, in front of everyone!" Shirou ended up shouting, his frustration palpable. "They begged for forgiveness! Begged for their lives and you just... You stood there, coldly, like you were throwing out garbage! They asphyxiated and struggled and suffered, so how can you stand here and ask how the hell I'm pissed the fuck off?"

His raised voice was enough for the two guards standing outside to burst in, ready to deal with whatever troubled the king. King Arthur didn't even spare them a glance, her eyes centered on Shirou as she held up a hand and waved them away. They hesitated just long enough for her to make a fist and grit out,


Then, she spoke back to Shirou: "You desired punishment, and their crimes were treasonous."

"Yeah, punishment," Shirou sarcastically retorted. "Not death. They were kids! Yeah, I was mad, but I didn't want them dead! You could have had them picking up cow dung or cleaning the dungeons for the rest of their lives or something. Did you... Why did they have to die?"

King Arthur's lips thinned as she frowned at him. "I served a punishment that best suited their crime. I did my duty. I tried to appease you and the laws simultaneously. What, exactly, is it you expect of me?"

Shirou rubbed his forehead and bit his bottom lip, his head shaking side to side.

"I guess," he began as his voice cracked a little bit, "I guess I expected you to act like a real king, someone who cares for his people and not some kind of... I don't know. It's like, they don't matter to you at all. How could you just watch them die like that?"

He barely saw the flicker of hurt and pain in her expression before she hid it away like a true professional. "You seem very certain that I have taken the wrong path. However, allow me to inform you of what you can't seem to grasp: there is far more to being a king than simply caring for individuals."

"Well, yeah, I know, but –," Shirou tried to say before getting cut off.

"No," King Arthur interrupted, her voice stone cold. "This isn't simply a matter of right and wrong, Shirou. There is no black and white world to contend with here. Yes, they died. Did they need to? I believe so. Why? To serve as a point, and a demonstration to all others."

Shirou furrowed his brow as he frowned at her. "That's called being a tyrant!"

"No!" she argued, obviously growing angry now that her initial shock had worn off. "That is called being proactive. You do not need to understand why I do what I do, and quite frankly, I'd rather you not poke your nose into my business. I have made allowances for you, but no longer. Do not interfere with whatever I do ever again. Are we clear?"

He closed his eyes, almost feeling resigned. "So, that's it? People are just going to keep dying if they ever disagree with you? You're just going to let fear spread around and ignore those in need?"

"Enough!" she yelled. "Right now, stamping down possible insurgences, from your actions if I need remind you, is my main priority. My goals apparently do not coincide with yours, though I see no reason for them to."

"There are other ways to deal with things!"

"You seem to have all the time in the world for such nonsense," King Arthur told him softly as she walked up to him, her voice like ice. "I'll leave you to it. Now, get. Out."

Shirou stared at her challengingly for a while longer before tightening his fists and turning away abruptly. He grabbed the tray off the ground and marched out, ignoring the eyes on him as he walked down the corridors, his boots stomping against the stone floors with each step. He didn't bother going back to the kitchen, and instead went to his room and let the traced tray dissipate into thin air.

At first, he just paced back and forth, letting out harsh breaths as he struggled to get his emotions under control. He wasn't wrong about this – he knew he wasn't. Why couldn't she see that the way she was going, she'd only end up hurting herself and everyone involved? He had to do something to keep things swirling in an endless downward spiral. He paused in his pacing for a moment, his right hand stroking his chin as he mulled it all over.

He stole a glance over at his window, watching as the stars twinkled in the night sky.

Well, there's always that option...

Arturia stared blankly into space as she hugged a knee close to her chest. The fact that her hair still hung loosely around her shoulders and that she still hadn't bothered prepping herself for the day were not lost on her, but she wasn't particularly inclined to care at the moment. Her irises shifted left and right absently, thoughts racing through her head, although none she could focus completely on. She almost jolted when a hand waved itself in front of her face.

Arturia warily looked over at the other woman sitting right beside her. "Guinevere."

Guinevere gave the briefest of smiles to her "husband" before it fell away. "You've been rather quiet lately. I almost feel as if I am sleeping next to a doll."

"I-I apologize," Arturia stuttered. "I have had a bit on my mind recently."

"Hoh, do tell," the brunette teased, though she couldn't hide the concern glimmering in her eyes. "What in the world could possibly be bothering you? You would almost think you were running a country."

A ghost of a smile fluttered across Arturia's lips before vanishing as if it were never there. She leaned forward, both feet firmly on the floor as she cupped her mouth with her hands. Guinevere sat next to her patiently, waiting for the blonde to gather her thoughts together.

"I'm troubled, to say the least," Arturia said softly, countenance serious. "Already two months have passed and I have absolutely nothing to show the Vikings, nothing they probably haven't yet witnessed. Weaponry? Food? Tactics? I hate to admit it, but Camelot is not a pioneer in any such matter. If I do not come up with something with which to placate them, then I dare not even assume what terrible scenario this village might face. I simply do not have the manpower to repel what assaults may come."

Guinevere frowned as well, her own eyes darkening as she considered the situation. "The circumstances are grim, to be certain. Admittedly, I am also unaware of what would serve as a suitable gift to an enemy we've never once dealt with. What would nomads like the...Vikings, was it?"

"They travel all over the world, apparently," Arturia replied, running a hand through her hair. "They have access to supplies and technical knowledge that we've never encountered before. I can't willingly and knowingly dispatch my men against an unknown. There is far too much at stake, but I'm steadily running out of time."

"Is there more to this, Arturia?" Guinevere gently asked, resting a hand on the small of Arturia's back. "Tell me what ails you."

Arturia hesitated for a split second before taking in a deep breath and letting it flow out.

"You recall, of course, the public execution I enforced," she murmured, eyes downcast.

"Hm," Guinevere hummed, lips pursed. "I recall your irate state, most certainly. Any angrier, and I feared you would combust into a large ball of fire. Do not tell me you regret your actions."

The blonde remained silent, shoulders slumping as she looked down at the floor. Guinevere let out a harsh sigh and shook her head. "Don't you dare back down now. Don't you remember what you told me from the start? Do you remember why you did it in the first place?"

"I'm just concerned," Arturia said in the smallest voice Guinevere had ever heard from her. "I took no pleasure in seeing them suffer. I despised using such measures to ensure nothing would sprout up among the people. I believed this was a justice that needed to be served, that they needed to be served a consequence that would fit their crimes, but... Now, I question my decision, as to whether it might have been a touch too hasty..."

"Arturia," Guinevere called, her tone absolutely demanding that the blonde pay attention. When the latter didn't even glance up, Guinevere tenderly placed her fingers under Arturia's chin, forcing her to make eye contact. Arturia's green eyes were filled with doubt and wariness, and that would not do.

"Listen to me, Arturia," the brunette demanded, "and listen to me well: you, yourself, told me what might happen if you didn't act quickly. Insurgences, possible coup d'états, discontent, a general understanding that something of that notion is tolerable under your reign... Who knows what might have happened as a result?"

Arturia shifted her gaze away, although her chin was still firmly in Guinevere's grasp. It wasn't until she gave another sigh and nodded that the brunette released her.

Guinevere looked up towards the ceiling. "I know it's difficult now. But you are only a few years into your reign, and you are still young, yet."

A scoff left Arturia's lips with an eyebrow raising to contest that last statement. Guinevere swatted the young king's shoulder as she glared half-heartedly.

"How dare you! If you are old already, then what does that make me?"

Both of Arturia's eyebrows rose in response as she wisely chose not to answer that question, her gaze steadfastly looking far away.

"Prat," Guinevere muttered, seeing Arturia's shoulders tremble a bit as the blonde held back a laugh. "Listen to me, though."

Arturia looked back at Guinevere, shoulders far straighter than they had been before. Guinevere smiled kindly and ran a hand through the blonde's hair.

"Things will grow worse before they get better. That is what it means to live," the queen spoke, her words striking a chord in Arturia's heart. "Do you understand?"

Arturia gave Guinevere one of her rare, beautiful smiles. "I believe I might."

"Good," Guinevere replied, smiling genuinely as well before all humor left her expression as she stared at the blonde with some annoyance. "Now. What's the real issue here?"

Arturia lost her smile almost immediately. "What do you mean?"

"Do not even try that deflection with me, Husband. I mean it. Who started this fussiness?"

"No one at all," Arturia readily said. "I just want to live up to the expectations cast upon me."

With a short nod of understanding, Guinevere crossed her arms over her chest, an expression of concentration overtaking her face. "In other words, someone must be awfully disappointed with you. Who might it be? Merlin? No, he was never one for overtness. Kay, perhaps?"

Arturia acted as if the conversation was already over as she stood up and started changing her clothes. Guinevere simply watched the blonde, an eyebrow raised as she continued thinking aloud.

"No, I suppose Kay's dissent would have rattled a few doors. Lancelot accepts all of your decisions without a single complaint... Bedivere somewhat reminds me of a stray puppy who snarls a bit too much, but is obedient until the end. Percival... Well, you've always ignored him for the most part. Who could it be?"

Arturia had already dressed and sat down in front of her mirror to contend with her hair while Guinevere was humming and hawing. The brunette stared at Arturia intently until an idea flashed across her mind. Tilting her head at the absurdity of it, she let out another sigh.

"Perhaps that servant boy... Shirou?"

The very slight flinch of Arturia told Guinevere she was right on target. "Ah. So, that's who it was."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Arturia shot back, running the brush through her hair once again.

"So quick to protest, too," the queen said, her gaze sharp. "I take it he did not appreciate your actions very much."

"What I do is absolutely none of his business whatsoever."

"Oh? That wasn't the sense I got from you not ten minutes ago. To me, you sounded quite regretful. Ashamed, even."

Arturia stood up and spun around quickly, mouth open to rebuke, but seeing Guinevere standing right in front of her, glaring straight into her eyes, made her avert her eyes. The queen snatched Arturia's brush out of her hand and pushed the blonde's shoulders down forcefully until Arturia was sitting on her stool. The younger woman continued looking downward, eyes clouded by indecision. She felt the strokes of the brush against her hair and let out a heavy sigh.

"He was...rather upset," Arturia confessed eventually. "Is there something wrong with me that I should note his opinion so much?"

"I dare say not," Guinevere replied, biting her bottom lip as she started on Arturia's long braid. "Rather, it is always good to have someone else to respect so wholly. I am just glad it is someone with such seemingly honorable intentions."

The queen patted her husband's shoulder after finishing, and Arturia rose in her full regal glory. The blonde turned around to face her wife as Guinevere looked back at her.

"If it really bothers you so, however," the brunette began, Arturia's attention never wavering, "then it would hardly be beyond you to apologize, would it?"

"I did what I thought was right at the time," Arturia argued softly. "I still feel that is true, more so than not. I was just...concerned."

Guinevere nodded once and clasped her hands in front of her. "Then, don't apologize. Do what you feel is right, and make it all right. For both your sake, and his, if it means so much to you."

Arturia held eye contact for a while longer before seeming to come to some kind of conclusion.

"I need to go," she told Guinevere as she walked away. "But, thank you, Guinevere, for forgiving me despite my mistakes and foolery, and for always lending an ear."

Guinevere's wonderful violet eyes seemed to glimmer as she smiled. "Of course, my dear Arturia. I only hope that you may forgive me of mine should such a time come."

The king looked back blankly before finally giving the other woman a smile.

"I doubt I'll ever need to."

She walked away, opening and closing the door behind her as she made her way down the corridor. Her blank mask automatically fell into position the moment she saw Dylan waiting for her in front of her office, although she noted there was no sign of Shirou just yet. Dylan bowed his head as he held some papers tightly against his chest.

"Your Majesty."

"Forgive my tardiness," she apologized, her tone as cordial as ever. "Come."

Ignoring the two guards, Arturia swept into her room, showing none of her earlier discomfort and weakness. Sitting back into her chair, she held her left hand out silently. After Dylan gave her the documents, Arturia sat back, eyes roaming up and down the page quickly.

"News?" she asked without preamble, still looking over the pages' contents.

"The Vikings are growing anxious, Your Majesty," the squirrelly man mentioned softly. "Men have come asking if you're reneging on your agreement."

One eyebrow raised in feigned amusement. "By my calendar, I have yet another couple of weeks. Perhaps they should get theirs fixed? Have a letter written detailing the stipulations of our agreement as a reminder to Fiona for me. I don't have the time to do it myself, today."

"By your command, Your Majesty," her faithful servant replied. "There is also the matter of the, ahem, plebeians. Some are still outraged over the event from two weeks ago."

"Increase security in the western sectors. Allow force if absolutely necessary, but I do not want blood shed under any circumstances. Speaking of: how fares our recruitment?"

Dylan cleared his throat. "Several lack the proper qualifications to be suitable knights."

Arturia cleared the third page as she shuffled it to the back of the stack, her eyes scrolling down the next one. She raised her gaze, demonstrating that she wasn't at all impressed with the man.

"If they're large, have them work it off. If they're daft, repetitions are key. Whatever the excuse, find an answer. Regardless, I am not in a position to be choosy. Short of criminals, I will take whatever I can get."

"Of course, Your Majesty."

As she scanned down the next page, a few phrases in particular caught her eyes and she zeroed in on them, brow furrowed.

Another one? How many does this make?

Arturia covered her mouth in thought. "Dylan, haven't our cells been filling rather rapidly as of late?"

"Ah, yes, I also needed to –"

The two were jolted out of their conversation when a knock came to the door and Shirou's voice filtered through. Announcing that he may enter, Arturia turned her focus back on Dylan.

"Revisit with me in an hour. I want to hear more about this in detail."

Dylan bowed his head, barely glancing at Shirou as the redhead walked in. "Of course, Your Majesty. Should I bring the one in charge of the investigation?"

"Do that, yes," she said, sitting back to allow Shirou space enough to set down her tray of food. "I also want a written report from him sooner rather than later."

"Very well, Your Majesty."

Arturia looked back down at her documents, glanced up once at Shirou, and then frowned in thought. As soon as the door clicked shut, she gently set the papers down, a hand resting on them as she continued gathering her thoughts together. Guinevere's words from earlier floated through her mind as well, causing her let out a sigh.

"Have a seat, Shirou," she ordered just as he was about to explain her meal, her hands clasping together. "There is something we need to discuss."

Feet thudded against the ground, drawing up dirt and dust. One man raced down the dirt path, arms pumping as he rushed past one house after another. Another man clad all in black chased after him, his gait calm and smooth. The first man swept into an alleyway, running through the darkness until the back of another rickety house barred his way. Taking a step back, annoyance obvious in his stance, he slowly turned around to see the black-clad individual standing near the alley entrance.

"You're him, then? That goody fellow that takes down the baddies? The Black Archer, was it?"

'Black Archer' walked down the dirt path slowly, eyes focused on his target as a bow materialized in his left hand as an arrow appeared in his right.

"End of the line, mate," the man said, shoulders straight as he lifted his bow.

The target grinned evilly, his rotting teeth looking foul and disturbing. "You think killing me ends everything? When my boss finds out, you'll have nowhere to run, little puppy. And that king? He'll be dead as a doornail."

Black Archer drew back the bowstring, aim tried and true as he released it with ease, the arrow zipping through the air and piercing straight through the other man's shoulder. The man grunted, a trembling hand reaching for his shoulder as he suddenly fell to his knees, his hand falling back to his side. Moving his body seemed to be a struggle and he tried to force his head up to watch as the man in black walked away, boots thumping softly against the dirt.

"You'll pay for this. My people will leave no stone unturned until you're dead!"

"Let them come," Black Archer replied softly, hearing the telltale sound of the man's torso hitting the ground and falling silent. "I'll never let anyone else get hurt."

He passed one last glance at the man eating dirt behind him before facing forward again and walking away.

"Count on it."


His right and left arm shot to the left as his right knee came up high. With a huff of exertion, he wheeled his arms around as he fell into a deep lunge, pretending to slam a fist into the stone floor, and then he was up again, with another fist shooting out in front of him, his legs wide and bent and other fist tucked at his waist. He spun around, slammed a foot down and yelled out,

"Hyah! The Masked Avenger takes his stand! No foe shall go unvanquished!"

Shirou grinned at himself, striking another pose as his cape billowed behind him. "Kamen Rider's got nothing on me. Now, to add the cape."

"This should be good," quipped another voice from a corner in the room.

"Fuck you, Zago," Shirou said with a grin. "I'll look so cool, you won't know what to do."

Zago just rolled his eyes and sat back.

Looking back at the long piece of fabric on his bed, Shirou swirled it around him and tied it around his neck. He then executed another powerful pose before jumping high into the air and flipping backward to land with a thump, his right arm in a fist pump position. He grinned again and as he tried to step back, Zago's eyes widened.

"Wait, watch –"

Shirou's foot caught on the cape's end, sending him tumbling backwards with his ass hanging in the air. At first, he didn't know what he'd done and was more preoccupied with the fact that he couldn't see a damn thing and how the hell had he fallen?


The burst of laughter from Zago made Shirou's cheeks flame, and he pushed himself back into a sitting position as he glared at his friend.

"Shut up! The cape is still cool!" he ranted as he tore it off.

"You look like some dumbass jester for kids! What's a fucking cape going to do? Hah, guess you could use it to fly!"

"This isn't for kids!" Shirou argued, somewhat incensed. "Kamen Rider totally wore one and the Power Rangers had their cool masks and..."

Then, the fact that those were both heroes made for the sole purpose of entertaining children hit him like a brick and he fell silent, glaring down at the cape. Zago was doing his best to muffle his laughter, his face red from the struggle. Shirou took one look at him and tossed the cape.

"You know what? Fuck it."