It turned out exactly as Shirou had expected. Emily had not needed his help in order to secure her position. As it would turn out, the impact of his support, whether he was a True Magician or not, had been far more than enough to elevate Emily's odds of becoming the heir from around thirty, to guaranteed.
Regardless of what merits, achievements, or breakthroughs in magecraft her rival competitors could produce, ties with another magus who could create Noble Phantasms held far more relevance to house Barthomeloi. In a way, it was like having a connection on par with the esteemed yet reclusive Fraga family of magi who had exclusive access to the Noble Phantasm Fragarach. Honestly, not much was known about the Fraga family, but it was said that should the family ever choose to abandon their hermit-like existence, major changes would come to the power structure of the Moonlit World. This went to show just how pivotal a role Noble Phantasms could play in battle and politics against other magi.
When House Barthomeloi further considered the point that a True Magician may be supporting Emily from the back, the current head of the family would have had been a fool to choose another candidate for heir. More so after she conveyed Shirou's intention to give a copy of a traced Noble Phantasm for house Barthomeloi to research.
She was obviously ecstatic. In a rare show of emotion within House Barthomeloi, a wistful smile was over her face. Better yet, none dared scorn or ridicule her for her lapse in self control. Her aunts and uncles who had once belittled her no longer appeared before her, and even in the off chance that they did, they'd slink away without a word. Others tried to warm up to her, her half brothers and sisters included. However, she would not be so easily trusting in a den of wolves. Instead, she preferred to head to the little cottage that had been prepared for Shirou and the others to sleep within the previous night.
It was now morning.
The cottage was detached from the main family house. A true blessing in disguise because she was planning on commandeering the cottage as her personal quarters so she wouldn't have to be around the rest of her family too often.
Stopping in front of the cottage door, she knocked and waited to be let in by her friends.
In her hands were the Noble Phantasms that Shirou had lent her the other night. The only exception was the Mjolnir (Fake) which seemed impossible for anyone else but Shirou to wield. Said mythological hammer and Divine Construct was transported by way of levitation magic which ignored the concept of weight. It was how the Mjolnir had been transferred through the past battlefields after Shirou had fought too hard and passed out from exhaustion.
The Mjolnir (Fake) hovered a foot or so away, the drain on her magical reserves quite substantial in order to maintain her levitation spell. However, it was 'tolerable.' By tolerable, most magi's reserves would have had run dry at this point, but not a member of House Barthomeloi of the Blue Bloods.
Waiting for someone to answer the door, her demeanor almost immediately began to shift as her ears perked up to the sound of footsteps. The coldness in her eyes was replaced by warmth and mirth; the neutrality of her expression instantly becoming serene and carefree.
She wasn't certain of what the future may bring, but it was like the heavy clouds that had once weighed down on her shoulders had finally parted. In a few years, she would have full control of House Barthomeloi.
No one would ever impede her decisions again.
If she said 'march,' the response would be 'how far?'
If she said 'quiet," the response would be 'how long?'
It sounded tyrannical and cold even for her soft heart, but she had to be firm when dealing with Magi. More so those of her own family whose pride and prejudice stemmed from their belief in their blood.
House Barthomeloi had already secured their Lord's position, and she was directly elected into the seat. She would maintain the elite image of House Barthomeloi for the other families of Magi while at the same time, change the inner workings of the family.
Rule with an almighty fist.
Lead with a stunning intelligence and charisma.
And let no one question one's word of law, punishable by enforcement.
If she wanted respect from fellow magi, then strength and connections were the only real solutions that she could rely on. One of which had been helping her grow into her current person since day one.
She smiled blindingly as Shirou opened the door and stared at her flatly.
Strange enough, his clothes were in disarray and his brow was constantly twitching. From the view that she could see just passed him, the inside of the cottage had turned into a battle zone. Pillows and feathers were scattered everywhere and furniture was upturned and scattered.
She did not pity Shirou. She just nodded in sympathy.
As it would turn out, while Shirou was getting up to open the door, Arturia had not wanted to let him go in her state of sleep and had rolled over in order to wrap her arm around him. In her grogginess, her actions were too slow and by the time that she attempted to wrap an arm around him, Shirou was already out of bed and heading towards the door.
This left only Mordred who'd slept on Shirou's opposite side to be the recipient of Arturia's actions. Both in a state of half-sleep, Mordred felt Arturia's arm wrap around her, assumed it to be Shirou and reciprocated the gesture.
They were snuggling up to each other, their arms intertwined.
It was at that point, that Shirou knew that he'd fucked up.
Although Mordred and Arturia were slowly getting along, they were still largely like ice and fire to each other.
The two had ended up hugging each other tightly, their faces only millimetres apart such that their foreheads touched. That was the breaking point. Their eyes had abruptly opened when they both realized that their hug pillow was far smaller than what they were used to.
They blinked, and blinked again while gradually comprehending their utterly compromising position. Red crawled up their faces from their necks, burning at their ears and short circuiting their minds. From how identically they were reacting, it must have had been a family thing.
Petty violence he meant, because they'd began shoving and kicking each other in seconds.
Shirou was the fool who'd tried to intervene.
Emily peaked into the cottage to get a better view.
Both Arturia and Mordred were on opposite sides of the room, expressions heated in mortification and denial while glaring daggers at each other as if it was the other person's fault.
The scene reminded Emily of hissing cats, their backs arced and tails pointed upwards.
She looked back to Shirou who'd tried to appease the situation and grinned. The dork. Perhaps this was a future representation of what his family life was going to be like. It would probably worse when a gaggle of kids would be running around. "Congratulations," she said snidely.
She ignored the way his eyes seemed to be screaming at her for help. She was far more content to watch the debacle for what it was at a distance.
Shirou's expression fell.
She laughed unreservedly.
Happy Days were surely ahead.
Hellish days were surely ahead.
This was his first time learning that getting in-between a flustered Mordred and Arturia was not healthy for his sanity. Therefore, he inwardly raised the metaphorical white flag and excused himself from the premise of the cottage with the excuse of finishing his business with Emily and the Mages Association.
"Had enough yet?" Emily asked him while he sulked to her right.
Obviously, she was enjoying his current debacle and was not buying his excuse of finishing off his business with her and the Mages Association. Instead, she had secretly led him to a more private sector of the Mages Association in order for the two friends to actually enjoy their time in peace.
Sinking into the cushioning of a luxurious chair, he stared at Emily as she sat on a seat across from him, evidently relaxed.
"I take it the preliminary selection of the Lord's Gathering went well then?" He asked while sitting up on his seat.
Emily smirked. "More than you'd ever know." She gestured with a finger and the floating Mjolnir (Fake) levitated towards his direction. "The hammer was the kicker. My family has actually been quite vocal about haggling with you to let them study the hammer rather than the copy of the Noble Phantasm I had your permission to lend them."
"Well, then I'll politely refuse," he said flatly while taking the Mjolnir (Fake) into his hands. As for the copies of the traced Noble Phantasms that Emily was still carrying on her, he dismissed them with a small gesture.
House Barthomeloi would already become a power house of the Clock Tower in the future. Should they be able to use a Divine Construct as a research material, he wouldn't be able to fathom the level House Barthomeloi may reach. For that matter, there was a chance that an upstart in the Barthomeloi family may undergo a breakthrough with the research and undermine Emily's authority. Therefore, he really wouldn't lend out his hammer. He simply didn't want to risk anything endangering Emily's position.
Emily was smart. She immediately understood his intentions and nodded in thanks.
A table was set up between them with two cups on either side and a kettle of herbal tea already prepared. Emily bent over and poured each of them a cup before reclining her back into her chair.
"So, I suppose that you'll be leaving pretty soon." It was more of a statement than a question. Emily took a sip of her tea, blowing first to cool it off.
"You would be correct," he answered. His matters with the Mages Association were over and with Emily's position secured, there was no longer any reason for him to stay. The best trade off that he'd had for making the trip, was that he'd discovered some kind of lead to whatever Morgan had planned in regards to Boundary theory.
Anything about that woman just screamed bad. It was good that he'd found a trace of her actions. It made him wearier, more prepared. This time, he'd even made Arturia aware in advance.
If Morgan still managed to harm him and Arturia, then the both of them were nothing more than fools.
He'd be ready.
All that mattered now was when and how Morgan would choose to strike.
"I can't quite say that I'm happy that you're leaving so soon," Emily sighed wistfully. "However, I won't make any excuses to stop you either. Father had always said that each man and woman had their own adventures and roles in life. Who am I to stop you from pursing yours?"
"Someone that saved this poor man's life," he said in all seriousness. "If you'd left me back there with Arturia and Mordred, I'd have asked you to prepare me my will."
It wouldn't have had taken long before Mordred and Arturia would blame him for the situation for getting up in the first place. By then, he really would be dead.
One was hard enough to deal with. Two? That was death.
"I'd laugh if I didn't understand that you're being serious." Emily said solemnly. Still, there were traces of mirth in her eyes. "As for the matter of your trip to Camelot, I'd advise you to arrive as soon as possible."
"Why's that?" He asked curiously while watching the way Emily crossed her legs and laughed at his ignorance.
"The sooner the news of you being made King spreads out, the sooner you can begin to sort out the initial mess such information will cause." Emily spoke slowly while waiting for something to click in his mind. Evidently, it wasn't working because Emily ended up spelling the situation out for him.
"With Merlin and the rest heading to Camelot first, can you image how blunt and insensitive those people can be?" Emily looked exasperated. She'd already had her fair share with dealing with Merlin.
When he considered Emily's words, he understood that Emily was right. Merlin was a prankster by nature. So long as a situation would amuse him, he wouldn't hesitate to follow through at the expense of someone that wasn't himself.
"How long has it been since we've split off from them?"
"Almost a couple days by now."
Emily raised up her glass of tea. "A toast," she said warmly while watching his expression twitch at the thought of what Merlin was doing. "To a jolly cooperation."
He listlessly tapped cups with Emily while staring at her with an expression that said 'why didn't you tell me sooner?' Of course, Emily would never admit that she withheld such information because she'd wanted to spend more time with him.
He deflated before shaking his head. "What's done is done. With your reminder, I'll probably leave as soon as Mordred and Arturia have calmed down enough for me to crawl back to them."
Emily knit her brows. "Crawl?"
"It makes me less noticeable." He was talking from the plethora of experience that he'd had with dealing with irritable women. "If I'm lucky, they might laugh at me enough to be unable to direct any anger at me."
"You're going to make quite a unique King, aren't you?"
"A man must do what he can to survive to a certain extent."
Emily grunted. "You sound like my dad."
"Then your dad's a wise man."
The two stared at each other before laughing lightly. For Emily, it had been too long since she could let loose like this. For Shirou, it was nice to see that Emily was still herself despite all the years that had passed between them.
It made him somewhat guilty to just leave her without at least giving a parting gift. Now that he thought about it, maybe he could actually give something to her before leaving.
"Care to follow me for a moment?" He asked her.
She blinked at him, but didn't deny his request. She followed him as he made his way out of the private rooms of the Mages Association and made his way towards the crafting areas.
He'd been to the Mages Association before in the future, so he was familiar with its basic layout.
The room he entered and led Emily inside, was forging type of room equipped with the latest in magical instalments.
"What are we doing here?" Emily seemed confused.
"I want to give you something," was all that he said before he decided to get to work.
He didn't want to Trace anything because it wouldn't be enough to show his sentiments and gratitude towards her. Fortunately, in his time away from Arturia, he'd been working for five years as a blacksmith. He'd long since learned the art of the craft and could forge everything from utensils and pottery, to armours and weapons.
From his bag, he produced a block of mithril ore that he'd obtained while leading Emily to the current forging room. Said mithril ore was a type of magical conducting metal that was a high-grade material to be made into mystic codes. He'd acquired the ore because he'd asked Emily to help him obtain it by using her influence as the next head of house Barthomeloi.
Placing the ore in front of him, he understood that regular means of smithing would not allow him to create his intended product. Which meant to say, ordinary hammers would not have much of an effect against mithril ore.
Fortunately, he already had his own unique hammer.
The Mjolnir (Fake) struck down with the clang of thunder as he began to mold and shape the mithril ore in front of him with one strike at a time.
The forge was lit, and magical flame melted the ore and made it more malleable.
Gradually, his intended product took shape and hardened as he doused it into a bucket of water.
It was a Mithril Gauntlet. He made the gauntlet with the purpose of helping Emily channel her magical energy.
"Here," he said as he gave the finished piece to her. "I hope it will be able to serve you well."
Perhaps in the future it would be passed down to Emily's descendants.
Emily just stared for a good minute. Everything that he was doing was clearly done on her behalf. Yet unbeknownst to him, it was just making it harder for Emily to let go of the bitterness forming within her heart.
She looked at the gauntlet in her hand, felt the profoundness of it, and suddenly just broke down crying when she stared into his earnest gaze.
He spluttered in response, not knowing what he'd done wrong.
"I-It's not fair," he heard Emily mutter under her breath, her head shaking from side to side as she began to sniffle. "It's not fair."
He didn't know what to say.
"If only I'd met him first."
Nor what to make of her last statement before she bolted out of the room.
To say that the situation was awkward would be an understatement.
After he'd returned back from the crafting room where Emily had left him to ponder on what he'd done wrong, he began preparation to load the carriage for the journey back to Camelot. That was when Mordred and Arturia arrived intent on helping him, yet the two could not seem to stand each others presence.
No matter where they were or how they worked, they always maintained a ten-foot distance from each other. If that was all that they were doing then fine. He could put up with it. However, when they tried to involve him in the matter, that was when they crossed the line,
Silence was golden, and that's what he chose to do until Mordred and Arturia could solve their problem on their own. He'd learned his lesson already about trying to physically intervene between them. It wouldn't work. In fact, he theorized that regardless of who he chose to side with on the issue, one of them was going to get frustrated with him and make his life more difficult.
If either choice was a bad end, then he'd choose his own option. Side with neither.
He had more important things to worry about anyway.
What had he done to upset Emily and where did she end up going?
The carriage had long since been set to leave, yet he'd been stalling in hopes that Emily would come out in order to see them off on a good note. From there, he'd apologize to her about whatever he had done to offend her.
Well, that was the original plan. The impatience in Arturia's expression made it so that he couldn't stall for much longer otherwise she may begin to doubt whether or not he actually wanted his current marriage. That topic was a whole other can of worms.
As for Mordred, she'd already sat herself inside the carriage and was sitting silently with her helmet over her face. Her arms were crossed, her back straightened with an unnatural stiffness. She wasn't talking either. She hadn't been talking all morning, probably still reeling from the earlier incident.
He decided not to needle her with any reminders of what had transpired.
After Arturia grudgingly got into the same carriage as Mordred, the two looked to him in order to beckon him to get a move on. By now, he'd already stalled long enough. The time to go had come yet Emily had still not shown herself. He looked around once, then twice, before sighing in frustration. Why were women so difficult to understand?
He moved and took the reigns of the horse in order to guide it forward. The previous driver was a normal human unaware of the moonlit world so they'd had to switch the driver out midway through the journey. From here on, it would be his duty to act as the driver because he certainly wasn't going to let Arturia or Mordred do something so hassling.
As he whipped the reigns and urged the horses forward, a clear voice echoed out into the sky along with the sound of the rolling wheels of the carriage.
"Take care!" Emily called out in the distance. She was probably using magecraft to amplify her voice.
He turned back to see her waving goodbye at him from an elevated building of the Mages Association, her hands clutching the mithril gauntlet that he'd made for her. Whatever it was that had caused her to run away from him earlier appeared to have had been put aside in favour of wishing him well.
"House Barthomeloi will stand on the side of the King! We'll meet again some time soon!"
He waved back, missing the way that Arturia was eying him suspiciously from inside the carriage. Regardless, she didn't say anything and instead lifted her body out the window and waved goodbye to a good friend.
Emily had been there for Arturia when Arturia had thought he was gone, and that sentiment meant a lot for Arturia. Emily wasn't just his friend, but Arturia's too. Unlike the Saber he once knew, the present time line's Arturia had forged strong bonds with others that she could firmly call friend. Even if he were to one day disappear, she would never be alone.
That fact was heartening.
The carriage soon left the vicinity of the Mages Association and so began the journey back to Camelot. The journey itself was pleasant as far as journeys went. He was just thankful that they didn't run into anything major. It was almost too strange considering his type of luck. He entertained the thought that he was finally getting a break of some sort, but he didn't have much expectation.
He had a lot on his mind, and he mainly chose to focus on what would happen after the events of his marriage.
Arturia's happiness was his goal, and if her happiness meant just staying by her side, then who was he to deny her? Of course, the Britons still needed to be saved and united and the Saxons to be dealt with, but maybe it was best not to rush for the time being.
He started to think about the prospect of starting a family first. God knows that Arturia was already strongly leaning towards it. She was both impatient, excited, and hopeful all at once.
"How about Anna for a girl?"
"Edith? Flora? Hermione? No no wait, what if it's a boy?"
"What about Artus? George? Jack? Noah?"
"How about Mordred Jr?" Arturia glared at Mordred. "Yup, right, never mind. Shutting up now."
She'd been talking about her marriage prospects and future plans over the entire course of the way. Which was why she was probably immensely furious by the time they reached Camelot's walls.
After all, the gates of Camelot did not open even after she'd spoken her, Mordred's and Shirou's identities. The white gates of Camelot remained firmly shut, the sturdy walls lined with the Dragon's Coat of Arms and various pike man standing at attention and holding Camelot's war standard aloft.
The guards at the gate looked both troubled and dismayed, but no amount of insistence on Arturia's part got them to open the gates. Instead, they were all looking nervously in one direction.
"It was quite a surprise even for me to discover that my esteemed cousin was in fact a woman." The clanking of armour over tiled floor began to echo outward alongside a deep and charismatic voice. "More so when I heard that she was to be married off in the next sentence."
Damn you Merlin.
Was that who she thought it was?
Arturia felt an ill premonition begin to fester within her. Anger and annoyance came afterwards.
"Speculations and personal feelings aside, how am I supposed to judge the man to wed my fair cousin?" A Knight in shining silver armour directly leapt from atop Camelot's walls and cratered into the ground with knees bent. The man was smiling, but it was strained at best, provocative at worst. "How am I to know that she isn't just being mislead and manipulated in her inexperience?"
Arturia stiffened upon directly seeing the approaching Knight.
"Honestly, I too am to blame. How could I not have had noticed it earlier as a gentleman?" The Knight lamented gravely as if he'd committed the greatest of blunders. "I would have never let any man draw near my fair cousin unless they pass my rigorous screening."
The Knight unsheathed his sword, shaggy wheat-blond hair lifting in a surge of magical energy. "I stand before you as the representation of the morning dawn itself." The man beckoned towards Shirou's direction. "I am Gawain, Knight of the Round, and I challenge you to a duel."
"He decline's this baseless duel," Arturia spoke in monotone. It was one thing to uphold the honour of Knights and ladies in duels, but it was another thing for Gawain to fight on her behalf regarding the man that she loved.
"Dear cousin, this is a conflict between men." Gawain tried to explain in the best way that he could. How could he just let some random man marry his cousin without passing his standards? "It must be settled through merit of combat."
"Well why don't you let this woman settle it through combat?" The last Arturia recalled, Gawain had never actually beaten her in in sword play. Ever.
Gawain's lip twitched before he turned his full attention on Shirou, sunlight illuminating his form.
He did not rise up to Arturia's challenge.
Chaldea Alternative Records: Chapter 3: Divergence. Posted along with this update by request.
This time it would be different. Surely. At least, that was what Saber Alter had told herself while subtly observing the young Ashton that she was still grudgingly unwilling to admit was beginning to grow on her in her current dream world. Presently, she was sparring with the young Ashton who opted to use an actual practice sword rather than a branch.
She was harsh in her words, something that should have had been readily apparent to the young Ashton. Despite finding herself in a child-sized body, there were certain characteristics about her adult self that transferred over to her dreamscape. For instance, she was acting too mature for a kid of her age.
When Shirou had attempted to help correct her sword form, she glared at him without another word. It wasn't that she was making any sort of mistake, she was just trying to adjust to the changes in a smaller body. She didn't need the assistance of child to learn something that she was already adept in. Well, that's what she had believed at first.
The young Ashton was incredible.
He moved with the fluidity and precision of a skilled Knight despite his age. It was all the more stunning when she tried to determine which Knight must have had trained him. His style was exquisite and removed any excess movements while relying heavily on the foundations of swordplay. It was solid, and without criticism. It reminded her of her own sword style. A style in which she'd taken years to perfect and hone.
How had she allowed herself to miss out on such an exceptional ally?
Because of some God damned decision not to cross through a wheat field?
In truth, she'd been jealous. Watching her child self grow up with the help and care of a talented friend who seemed fully devoted to her just for being there for him, was difficult to endure. Moreover, her child self was evidently growing stronger at a faster rate than any parallel timeline.
It was just the difference of a single decision, and she'd blown it.
Almost certainly, the young Ashton would grow up to become a formidable individual. The fact that he'd never appeared in her time line or the other Arturia's timeline obviously meant that such a devoted friend had died.
Yet how could someone so skilled be killed when even weaker Knights such as Bedivere lived on to help create her Kingdom of Camelot?
She glowered at the young Ashton when she realized that she was being evenly matched by a green horn. At times, she'd even found herself on the losing end of a duel.
Who trained him? The answer dumbfounded her when she truly considered it.
Shirou was child Arturia's age which meant to say that this would be the time that he should be apprenticing himself to a Knight figure. However, the Ashton family had been massacred meaning that it was more than likely that Shirou had never actually been taught by a mentoring Knight. Therefore, his skill…it was natural.
The realization caused her a moment's delay and sure enough, she found the tip of a wooden sword leveled at her throat.
"Wandering thoughts have no place in battle," the young Ashton's childish voice admonished her as if she was just another naïve child.
She growled, the tips of her cheeks reddening in her amateurish blunder. She batted his sword to the left and resumed their current spar.
The young Ashton just grinned lightly at her, as if urging her on to reach her own limits and surpass them. It softened her impression of him.
He smiled at her despite everything, even her particular quirks, faults, and attitude.
It was…nice. Pleasant even. Though she was loath to ever admit to anything.
Dammit. Her mind was wandering again.
"Concede?" A sword found its way aimed at her throat again.
A wordless stare and a provocative growl that she didn't know that she could ever make was Shirou's only answer.
-(Chaldea Alternative Records)-
"Have any of you managed to beat him without using magical energy?"
The first words that Saber Alter spoke were filled with equal levels annoyance and resignation. In her dream realm, she was an adult in the body of a child and yet she was only able to match the young Ashton's sword play blow for blow. She hadn't actually beaten him yet, and no; she didn't count her earlier loss for anything. She was just distracted was all. It wouldn't happen again.
She had been a tyrant. Someone who ruthlessly stood upon the corpses of her enemies and always remained utterly alone in her position of power.
To save a country, sometimes it was inevitable to stain one's hands in blood. However, she took the concept to a whole other level. She ruled though fear and overwhelming might and skill.
A might and skill that was being pushed to the limit against a child with no background in sword training whatsoever. Grudgingly, it was vexing. It was like the young Ashton knew where and when she'd strike. Every. Single. Time.
It was to the point that she was starting to doubt herself and her capabilities. Were the hits that she was able to land 'actual' hits or hits that the young Ashton 'allowed' so as not to ruin her ego?
Damn her child body.
If it weren't for the fact that she was still in the midst of adjusting, then she'd sooner wipe the floor with the young Ashton and rid him of his smug grin. At this point, she was certain that he was only grinning to aggravate her in order to try harder. On one hand, she felt belittled. On the other, it was working.
As soon as she adjusted to her child body then she'd see who'd still be grinning. She nearly started furtively laughing at her future victory before abruptly sobering. She felt blood rushing to her face when she realized that she was reveling in the future defeat of a child. Now that she thought about it, it was shameful that she'd have to go all out against a kid in the first place.
A point to the Ashton. To dare make this King feel inadequate. She could feel the burning heat over her face. Her counterparts were staring at her and she had nothing to say in her defence.
The Arturia's weren't dumb.
She'd just asked whether any of them had beaten the young Ashton yet before suddenly laughing darkly to herself. However, contrary to her expectation, no one was mocking her. Rather, she finally noticed that everyone besides Lily appeared to be in various states of agitation.
Her Lancer Alter counterpart had a dark and resigned expression while her lawful alignment counterparts grunted in shame.
So, by this point, it was probably safe to say that none of them had yet to defeat the young Ashton.
She pinched the bridge of her nose and huffed.
"Say, would any of you like to spar?" Lily spoke up in the awkward silence. "I just don't like the feeling of losing to a kid and thought that maybe we could uhm…practice?" Her voice crawled to a stop as everyone turned to face her. "Ah-ok never mind, forget I asked."
Saber Alter hummed. she'd never needed friends or companions, only subordinates who wouldn't hesitate to carry out her will. She kept reminding herself of this fact over and over again, and yet she'd seen for herself that other paths existed. Her counterparts were definite proof of what she could have had become with just a simple change in decisions.
It got her thinking in a way.
Even if her method of rule was correct, it didn't mean that it had been right. Perhaps she could actually learn something by interacting with her counterparts? Besides, she had to agree with Lily. She indeed disliked the feeling of losing to a kid.
However, she obviously wouldn't be the one to ask.
The thing was, everyone currently present was an aspect of Arturia. In which case, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to believe that in some ways they were identical in thought. All of them were waiting for their counterparts to offer up a challenge. This resulted in no one offering up a chance to spar. Their self pride was preventing them from reaching out to each other, and only Lily could see it. Not that she'd call out her older and stronger counter parts on their childishness. They'd destroy her.
Sitting in silence, the only entertainment that Saber Alter had was when the world moved to play the events of her innocent child self and the young Ashton.
In truth, her child self was embarrassing to watch. It was evident to every Arturia, but Shirou was always going easy and looking out for her. He never hesitated so long as it was to child Arturia's benefit.
She could tell just by looking at him, he would never betray her. In his eyes it would never matter what she did or would become, he would stay by her side regardless. To that extent, the one in her own dreamworld was definitely the same.
She could order the death of hundreds of people, and he'd follow her order without complaint, all while devoting himself to her. He'd be there when she'd be sad, and he'd also be there when she was angry.
By now, her counterparts must have had also understood this point if the warm expressions that they directed towards Shirou was anything to go by. Admittedly, she was the same, just that she could hide her sentiments a bit better.
As it would turn out, glancing away so that no one could see her expression was far more effective than using a poker face that everyone was familiar with. She had to face the facts; she was in the presence of her own counterparts. No matter how adept she was at concealing her true feelings, there was no way that her poker face could conceal anything from herself.
In regards to Shirou, admittedly, the story had already changed from the original, not that the Arturias would readily share with each other what changes that they'd already made.
Take Saber Alter for example. Originally, child Arturia was supposed to constantly lose in the spars that she had with Shirou. However, in Saber Alter's dreamscape, Shirou was holding nothing back and was no longer treating her like a helpless child. She and her other counterparts were all the same in this regard.
Perhaps the one with the largest divergence to the time line was Lily.
In Lily's dreamscape, she'd used her child form to her advantage and 'persuaded' Sir Ector to take Shirou into their home. Lily just found it too sad and lonely that a kid as young as Shirou was being forced to care and live by himself. She'd never admit though that a budding feeling had began to sprout from within her due to how earnest Shirou was treating her in her dreams.
Moving on, the point was, that every differing action that the Arturias made had unknown diverging effects that none of them had considered. Instead, Saber Alter and the other Arturia's had been taking the slow days of pampering for granted.
It happened during the time when she and the other Arturias were in the midst of viewing the timeline of their child self like any other day.
Word had been spreading in town about a 'Beast' appearing near the outer edges of Bristol, killing live stock and endangering fellow villagers.
The reality of the danger that the beast imposed didn't hit the Arturias until child Arturia discovered that the Beast was said to be lingering near the Ashton Forest where Shirou lived. The older Arturia's immediately tensed while Lily was secretly celebrating the fact that she'd roped Shirou out of that damn forest earlier. However, Lily soon paled when she recalled that Shirou had said that he would be visiting Ashton Manor to grab a few things to bring back.
The Arturias watched the actions of their child self grimly, jaws clenching when child Arturia attempted to face a Beast far ahead of her present capabilities. If not for the enchanted sword that Shirou had given child Arturia, then child Arturia would have had been as good as dead.
"Foolish kid," the others could only disapprove of child Arturia's actions, yet the relief on their faces was evident.
The relief did not last long.
From child Arturia's perspective, the other Arturias quickly noticed another massive beast moving in the distance. Worse, child Arturia had no inclination that it was coming.
"Look up! Hurry and look up!" Lily was the most vocal.
Saber Alter in comparison just tightly clenched her fists.
That was when it had happened. Child Arturia had no way of saving herself from an enemy that she was ignorant of and therefore, someone else appeared like a Hero from the stories.
The young Ashton. The one who'd always shown such composure during combat looked utterly panicked at the thought of losing child Arturia. After all, the other Arturias realized that child Arturia was all that Shirou had left after the Ashton Assassination.
It was clear that the young Ashton wasn't even thinking about his own life. All that mattered to him was protecting the girl he saw in front of him. Therefore, the situation led to a predictable outcome.
Child Arturia fell onto her butt, her mouth hanging open as she trembled nonstop.
Blood. So much blood that if bathed the entire area red despite the darkness.
There was a hole through the young Ashton's stomach. A kind of wound that unless healed through a supernatural means was lethal beyond doubt.
The beast that caused the damage looked entirely taken aback before being furiously driven off by a bird of flame. Efret.
The Arturias could share in what child Arturia was feeling.
Grief. Denial. Agony.
The scene faded out with the pale and despairing face of child Arturia as she desperately called out to a friend that simply would not respond. With her small frame, she hauled Shirou onto her back while sniffling and calling out for any kind of help.
Because of the folly of their child self, the young Ashton was almost certain to die. Although it was true that the young Ashton appeared to be a Wizard of some kind, not all wizards were known to carry something that could heal fatal wounds on a whim.
The other Arturias watching maintained a heavy silence. The events that they'd just seen were events that were bound to fall upon their dreamscapes as well.
Unknowingly, the tree that Saber Alter was leaning her back against splintered into pieces due to the torrent of magical energy that she was releasing. The silence continued to stretch.
Saber Alter didn't care about how the other Arturias were reacting to what they'd seen. She already knew what she going to do so she wordlessly walked away.
She inwardly thought of the young boy who constantly tolerated her foul attitude, and recalled the way that he cooked, and cared for her. It was only after seeing how the young Ashton had come to child Arturia's defence that Saber Alter came to the realization that her Shirou would also willingly risk his life for her.
For once, Lily looked utterly serious, her hands balled in front of her chest.
The other Arturias must have had reached the same conclusion because the ambient magical energy in the air was turning into a frenzied storm that promised blood.
Saber Alter welcomed it.
It would seem that the young Ashton had grown in the hearts of her other counterparts as well.
And if some Beast would dare to take him away from her.
Her eyes narrowed dangerously, her sword, Excalibur Morgan releasing a dark and violent jet of energy.
Then she'd slaughter it.
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