Disclaimer: I do not own Fate/Stay Night or Highschool DxD, or any of its characters.


As time passes, memories begin to fade.

It's simply the nature of things.

In time, one can forget both precious and vile events.

However, some memories stay with you until the bitter end.

Or at least that's what I like to believe.

My memories are...


Chapter 24:

The SIMP


This was certainly something I was not accustomed to.

I'm sure that many people have dealt with this at one point or another in their lives, the sudden appearance of unexpected guests. Those awkward times when you were minding your own business only to suddenly find yourself entertaining someone you were not expecting to or in some cases might not even know.

In my case the person that apparently decided to drop by just happened to be the wife of arguably the strongest devil in existence, who in addition to that also possessed a presence that exudes power to such a degree that I felt like a bug ready to be squashed.

The events that came about that led to this current situation were a mystery.

However, more than that, what truly baffled me...

Was why was she casually having tea with my mother and chatting together like they were close friends?!

As I stared at them conversing on the couch in the living room all I could do was look around while trying to make some heads or tails of what was going on here. Occasionally, I would look to my right and check on my other impromptu guest Rias Gremory, who appeared to be just as shocked as I was about whatever this was that was happening.

It wasn't long before Sella appeared to serve tea and snacks to my mother and the woman she was talking to. However, to further add more to my current confusion, the Einzbern maid was absolutely ecstatic when she saw the devil maid. Bowing down and greeting her respectfully, even going so far as to call her senpai of all things.

When the opportunity presented itself I discreetly dragged Sella away for a few seconds to ask her what was all that about and what she knew before I entered the room. But the information I received from her didn't help much, as I was only told that the silver-haired woman is apparently an inspiration to all maids across the world and a goal to strive towards or something along those lines.

In any other circumstances, I might have questioned more deeply about what she told me, but after the madness that was today, I just let go and went with it.

Leys probably took the best approach to how to deal with this situation. The moment she stepped in and saw what was going on, she just shrugged her shoulders and went back to bed.

That being said, unfortunately, that wasn't an option for me. So staring silently was all I could do at the moment as I continued to try to make some sense of what I just got myself into.

On the positive side of things, in spite of looking sick mere hours ago, my mom showed no signs of illness presently and was now absolutely beaming as she chatted with her partner. "So Grayfia, how is work treating you?"

"I would say the same old same old. Nothing really worth mentioning." The female devil, Grayfia, smiled amused. "What about you Irisviel, anything new in your life?"

"I guess I've been spending more time around the house lately." The matriarch of the house chirped all excitedly. "My son recently got involved in the supernatural side of things himself, so I've been around more just in case."

"You don't say." The devil mused, her silver eyes shifting towards me for a brief moment, a shiver instantly running down my spine when I made contact with those piercing eyes. Luckily it didn't last long and she returned her focus back to my mom. "Isn't it hard without Kiritsugu though?"

"It is!" Iri pouted, puffing her cheeks like a little child. "I do call him often, but most of the time what happens is he is in areas with poor signal or fighting some monsters. So the connection breaks or he doesn't have the time to talk."

In spite of the childish way she was told, the woman nodded firmly. "That sounds about right with Kiritsugu."

An exaggerated sigh escaped my mother's lips. "I just want to hear my grumpy cat's voice and have him tell me that he loves me, is that too much to ask?"

Was it wrong of me that I wanted to bury my head into the ground out of embarrassment when my mother talked like that?

...

No, I don't think it is.

At least the silver-haired devil didn't seem to mind it.

"Sounds difficult," she remarked, taking a long sip of her tea, the cup making a small clinking sound as she placed it back on the saucer. "Though I can relate, my duties also restrict me from properly spending time with my family."

Iri nodded and gave her an understanding look. "What about you Grayfia, how is your husband doing?"

"Sirzechs is the same as you remember. The same childish goofball that more often than naught tries to skip out on his work unless I am there to keep an iron grip on his shoulder."

A part of me had a hard time believing that this woman was calling arguably the strongest devil in history a 'childish goofball'.

"What about your son?"

That question made the maid's eyes sparkle in excitement. "Oh, Milicas is doing fantastic, his studies are coming along marvelously and he is showing astonishing potential with his Power of Destruction."

"That's just lovely, you just have to bring him along next time you visit, I'm sure he and Illya would get along splendidly." My mother spoke joyfully in reply.

"Oh yes, your daughter is the same age as my son." The maid hummed, taking a few seconds to ponder. "Perhaps we can arrange a playdate, but that would require both our husbands to agree."

"That's no problem at all, I know how to convince my Kiritsugu." My mom smiled, a familiar mischievous look present that promised a lot of headaches for my dad in the near future. "And I'm fairly sure Sirzechs-san knows better than to refuse you."

That remark made the other woman smirk. "That he does."

"Then it's settled!" Iri absolutely beamed.

"We can discuss it at a later date, for now, I will be quite busy covering over Rias's mistake."

I could see the sudden jolt in the younger woman's body and feel the couch shifting slightly. The red-haired devil sitting next to me was definitely taken by surprise. "I didn't do anything."

Given how quick and meek her voice was, she was either too embarrassed or too scared to talk back at the woman across from her, maybe both. "Call it intuition or whatever you will, but I'm fairly certain you would have if I had not stepped in."

I struggled not to blush at that remark. While I did my best to resist temptation so as not to scar Gremory-senpai's heart. There were admittedly several moments I really wanted to give in to my desire for the beautiful woman next to me. If she had kept seducing me, not even I could tell where things could have led.

Much to my own horror, my mom pouted like a child at that. "Why did you stop them?"

"Mom!" I half snapped, jumping up from my seat.

Without looking in a mirror I could already tell my face was a red mess.

"What?" My mom tilted her head innocently. "Maybe if you experience a woman's embrace it will make you more proactive in seeking a girlfriend."

How I didn't facepalm in response to that was beyond me. The flustered choking sounds I could hear from my side told me that my senpai was equally embarrassed by this discussion.

"Irisveil, as much as you try to sugarcoat it, you're not fooling anyone." The maid deadpanned dryly, taking another sip of her tea. "I'm very aware you want grandchildren, but try to have more class about it."

"Easy for you to say Grayfia." Iri pouted and cutely waved her fists up and down in vexation. "With how Shirou is sometimes when it comes to women, I half expect you to become a grandma before me."

… Somehow that lack of faith in me, kind of stung. It's not like I don't have an interest in women, I mean I noticed a beautiful woman when I saw one just as much as the next guy. I'm just not in any particular hurry to get a girlfriend.

Plus with how hectic things have been the past months, it's not like I had the time for one either. Pretty sure I nearly died at least half a dozen times these last few months. I kind of have to be alive in order to have a girlfriend and to stay alive, I need to get stronger.

"All jokes aside, do keep in mind that Rias has a vow of purity to maintain until her wedding night. Breaking it would only result in a political scandal." The woman glared lightly at the girl in question, a scary smile present on her face. "One which will drag not only you Rias but also the man that took your purity into trouble as well."

I could see the visible flinch from my schoolmate, sweat quickly forming on her brow, in spite of how hard she tried to appear calm. "... I am aware."

"Judging by your reaction, you certainly didn't think about it until now." The mature beauty commented dryly, taking another sip of her tea. "A little food for thought Rias, rare as it may be, when something like this happens, in order for the families involved to keep face in public they often try to shift all of the blame to the one that besmirched the bride. Make it so it appears that the man who seduced her did so by some unsavory means and that she had no real blame in the incident, letting the woman appear like the victim if you may."

There was a heavy silence in the room as her words sank in and the possible ramifications that could have come from her indiscretion came to mind.

It lasted until Iri made a small groan, hitting her fist in her other palm. "... Oh, that would be bad."

"Quite." The maid affirmed, clearly not amused. "Breaking an engaged lady's 'Vow of Purity' is a serious offense in devil society. Your son would have been made an example of and hunted down like an animal if worse came to worst."

"Okay... maybe it's actually a good thing in the end that you stopped them," Iri replied, a strained smile present on her face.

"You're welcome," Grayfia said.

As intriguing as all of this was to watch, especially how smug the woman appeared after winning the argument with my mom, I couldn't just sit still and keep quiet anymore.

I raised my hand up like a kid at school, gathering the attention of the ladies present. "... May I ask a question?"

"Go on." The silver-haired devil motioned me to continue.

I stood up and almost shouted. "What the heck is going on here?!"

"Now Shirou, mind your manners, we have guests." Iri half scolded me, waving for me to sit down.

As much as I wanted some answers, I first listened to my mom's warning, sitting back down. "I think my manners are hardly the main concern here."

"Well if you must know Shirou, Grayfia is my bestie from Hell." Iri smiled and gave me a peace sign, the woman beside putting a hand to her head clearly suppressing a groan but made no move to deny it.

There was so little I could say in response to that. My mother calling this woman her 'bestie' was just... I didn't have the words.

"You know, that hardly answers anything," I grumbled.

"No, he has the right to know given how he got dragged into all this. Perhaps I should shed some light upon the current situation." The devil maid remarked, making me thank her inwardly. "Rias here currently is engaged to a fellow pureblood devil noble, one whom she is to marry very soon."

The blue-eyed devil glared angrily at the older one. "Who I was supposed to marry AFTER I graduated college mind you."

Grayfia hardly registered that and went on. "Yes, however, due to some recent events and insistence from the groom and his family, the original agreement has been changed. They expect for them to tie the knot as soon as reasonably possible." The mature devil paused for a moment to pour herself a new cup of tea before continuing. "Rias, as you most likely realized, is against the very idea. Because of that, she has been searching for a means to break off the engagement, the solution she came to was breaking her vow of purity."

My hands balled into fists.

The very idea that girls like my schoolmate, devil or not, being forced into marriage like this was repulsive to me.

"I heard that devil society is pretty much an aristocratic one, but I didn't think things like this actually happened," I spoke calmly, trying my best to withhold any anger from my voice.

"You would be surprised." The maid spoke with a slightly weary tone.

"That sounds pretty bad. However, while a forced marriage does sound like something most women would be against, this does seem a bit reckless."

My comment didn't go unnoticed, The blue-eyed beauty slapped her hand against the couch in response. "You wouldn't say that if you knew the pig I was promised to!"

Iri hummed lightly and tilted her head. "Hmm, is the person Rias-chan engaged to really that bad that she wouldn't even consider the idea?"

"From an objective perspective, he is what many would consider a good catch." The maid carefully went on. "Young, handsome, son of a distinguished noble house, plenty of wealth, in addition to being an upcoming talent within the Rating games. All in all many women would kill to be in Rias's shoes."

While that was technically good and all, my eyes quickly narrowed. "I feel a 'but' coming on."

"You would be correct." She took another sip of her tea. "Admittedly, he does have a bit of a reputation as a self-absorbed, arrogant ladies man."

"That's putting it lightly!" The Gremory devil next to me snarled. "Whenever we meet he spends every second stripping me with his eyes and expects me to listen to his orders like some trained animal. He doesn't see me as a person, all he sees is a trophy to add to his collection."

It was a bit difficult not to remark on that. "He sounds like a dick…"

"I wouldn't quite say that," The older devil started off, leaning back in her chair and waving a hand in dismissal. "When compared to the majority of devil nobility, Riser Phenex is still quite manageable."

"Wait a minute!" My mother nearly jumped from her seat at the mention of the man's name, showing real shock for the first time during this conversation. "Rias-chan is engaged to Riser-kun?"

I and the red-haired devil next to me both stared at my mother in silence.

"Riser-kun…" I let the way she called him roll off my tongue and sink in as a flurry of emotions surged within me, needless to say, I wasn't quite sure what to make of this. "Y-You know him?"

"Why yes!" Iri beamed all excitedly, holding her hands together as she reminisced. "I used to go with Kiritsugu on business trips to the Phenex territory and met Riser-kun many times. He was just adorable, acting all proud and moody, but really he's just a big tsun tsun underneath."

… It was rather difficult to decide what was more mind-boggling. The fact that my mom knew my schoolmate's fiance or the fact that she just called him a 'tsun tsun'.

The Gremory heiress also seemed to have a hard time processing all of this and looked at me. "Maybe she's talking about another Riser Phenex."

My eye twitched ever so slightly if only things would be that easy. "I doubt it."

"People tend to change Irisviel, especially children," Grayfia-san remarked from her side, looking somewhat disinterested. "When was the last time you saw him?"

There was a pause and Iri started to hum to herself. "Uh… five… or was it six years ago?"

"I figured as much." The maid sighed. "You will find that Riser Phenex may have gone somewhat astray while growing up since the last time you saw him."

"Oh my!" She gasped, hand covering her mouth. "Did he start doing drugs?!"

If the silver-haired woman was bothered by my mom's thinking process, she certainly was doing a good job not showing it. "No Irisviel, he did what any young man of his power and status would do and got himself a harem."

"Oh..." Iri paused for a few seconds. "That doesn't sound too bad, I for one am hoping my son will also get one too."

For a few seconds, time seemed to just freeze as I stared at my mom without saying anything, my brain trying to process the words just spoken.

My jaw dropped when my mind rebooted itself and it all sank in.

"Wait, what?!" I gagged at that remark.

"While harems are a common sight within devil society, it's a matter of etiquette." The maid explained, ignoring my shock. "A true gentleman will wait until he is properly married then start a harem or at least get his fiancee's approval beforehand."

With a shake of my head, I pushed the embarrassing thoughts aside. "Is that how it works?"

"It's quite simple actually." The older woman nodded, acting like this was an everyday subject, as if talking about the weather. "A single man with a harem is considered lecherous. A married man with a harem is considered being proactive. Likewise the opposite holds true too."

As simple and straightforward as she explained it, it was still hard to wrap my head around what she said. "I... don't see the logic there."

The beautiful devil didn't seem bothered by this and further elaborated. "Siring children and keeping the bloodline going is akin to an unwritten law for pureblooded devils. Not having a proper partner and wasting time with a harem with no intent of children is frowned upon."

Something clicked in my mind as I recalled the various lessons I was put through by Sona. Thinking about it, this information wasn't exactly something new.

After the Great War and the Devil Civil War, the devil race as a whole was very much diminished when it came to the number of their species. The legions of devils that were once in service to the seventy-two pillars were gone, many members of the noble houses perished during the wars, and even the common populace was badly affected. It was so bad, extinction was very much a potential possibility if nothing was done.

The numbers had to be increased, and fast.

The Evil piece system was more of a patchwork solution than anything. It made devils out of other races by converting them, but this in turn would cause the 'Real' and 'Pure' devils to become a minority within their own race. Although the benefits can not be denied as the system helped to bolster the lack of civilian and military forces allowing the race as a whole to recover.

So it sort of made sense that the pureblooded devils believed they had a sort of 'duty' to sire more pure children.

That however was easier said than done, considering that even reincarnated devils apparently have really low birth rates and it was apparently even more difficult for purebloods to have children.

So in a messed up mathematical way, having multiple partners did technically increase one's chances of having kids.

Not that I necessarily approve of the idea, but it did make a sort of sense.

"I find that hard to believe," Gremory-senpai murmured in annoyance.

"Oh Rias, you should know first-hand from experience regarding this matter." The maid rolled her eyes in dismissal. "Your father Zeoticus built his harem only after he properly married your mother and both were very much in love with each other. Did anyone ever comment about him having a harem in a bad way?"

Strangely or not, the revelation that her father also had a harem didn't really bother me and I instead focused on her input on the matter. She mostly seemed to deflate as she pondered about it for a bit. "... Not that I can recall."

"Point made."

A small part of me wanted to point out how messed up it actually sounded that her dad apparently built a harem in spite of being married and loving his wife, but that would probably open a whole new can of worms I don't want anything to do with. So I wisely kept my mouth shut rather than put my foot in my mouth.

"In any case, Riser, unfortunately, has been showing his harem far too much attention instead of trying to make his engagement with Rias work first and foremost."

Iri nodded sagely to her. "Oh, so that's the problem."

"That's hardly the problem!" Gremory-senpai snapped, standing up from her seat in indignation. "That man is a chauvinistic pig! He treats me like property rather than my own person."

"Similar to how many men of his status treat their betrothed. It's nothing new."

"Tsk! Why do you keep defending him, Grayfia!?" She directed her burning glare at the maid. "Last time I checked you had a pretty low view of him as well!"

The red-eyed devil was hardly impressed by it and just took another sip of her tea.

"I do, but I also consider all of the other factors involved as well." She explained in a cold, but fair tone. "Do not forget that you are the heiress of the house of Gremory as well as the sister of the current Lucifer. You have an image and reputation to uphold. If I were in your shoes I would have tried to solve this matter in a much more delicate and refined way, not offer my virginity to the first handsome boy I can find and hope everything magically works out in the end."

The glare the older devil directed at her was quite effective, her skin paling ever so slightly, forcing her to sit back down on the couch.

The air in the room had gotten a bit cold and heavy by this point. Luckily or not, it lifted when my mom started laughing, albeit a bit forced. "When you put it like that, she really jumped the gun, didn't she?"

It helped a little, yes, but it did not solve the issue.

I could practically hear the sound of Gremory-senpai's teeth grinding in sheer frustration. "Grr! I tried but couldn't figure something else out. You have no idea how humiliating and miserable it felt to offer myself like that."

A long exhale escaped her lips and the girl lost most of her vigor, sinking tiredly into the couch. "It's not fair that you and my brother were able to overcome such impossible odds and be together, yet I can't get out of a stupid engagement."

My mom tilted her slightly and hummed to herself. "Oh right, you and your husband were enemies at first right. Rias-chan does make a good point, if the two of you were able to find love, it's not surprising that she would hope for something similar herself. "

"Perhaps Sirzechs and I are not the best examples." A small chuckle escaped her lips. "You'd be surprised how things might have been otherwise. After all, if we would've stayed true to our previous engagements, I would've married the grandson of the previous Lucifer, while Sirzechs would've married Serafall."

"Hold on!" Iri practically jumped from her seat before her bestie from hell had a chance to speak further. "Sirzechs-san and Sera-chan were once engaged?!"

I would say my mom was overreacting to this, but after seeing Sona's sister with my own eyes, and how absolutely terrifying she is when she's angry, I'd say the man dodged a bullet there.

"They were at one point, yes, but they called it off on amicable terms since both of them were against it." The maid explained, a small smile present as she reminisced. "The two of them have been close friends since childhood, so they were originally willing to give it a shot, but after Sirzechs fell head over heels for me that changed. Not that Serafall minded though, she actually was glad that something came up to call it off."

While I wasn't too involved in this particular story, Rias seemed rather intrigued by what she was hearing. "I don't get it, Serafall-sama and Onii-sama seem to be on such good terms, why would she be against it?"

"Sirzechs just wasn't her type, among other things." She half chuckled as she went on. "Serafall has a different taste in men, she doesn't like men who are prettier than her."

The words had a hard time sinking in. "Prettier than her…?"

"Just look at Rias, from the neckline up." Strangely I just did as the silver-haired devil instructed. "Now imagine if her face was slightly more angled and masculine."

Somehow the image formed in my mind was rather… odd, to say the least. While I never met the man, visualizing a somewhat masculine Rias Gremory was strange, to say the least. I could only laugh awkwardly in response. "I guess you and your brother really look alike."

"One would assume they are twins if not for the large age gap." The female devil mused, taking another sip of her tea, her eyes locking onto me. "Speaking of red-haired men, I think we shouldn't ignore your son here, Irisviel."

I silently gulped and very much felt like a deer caught in the headlights, something telling me this was going to be bad. "Oh please, do ignore me, I feel like I hardly add anything to the conversation. "

My response elicited a raised eyebrow and perhaps the beginnings of a smile as the older devil seemed to derive some amusement from my response. "Nonsense, you are quite involved in this so your opinion matters too. I am quite surprised you didn't do anything with Rias in spite of her advances."

I hate it when I'm right…

My eyes avoided looking in the younger devil's direction. "I just... didn't feel like taking advantage of a clearly distressed girl."

"Chivalrous as that may be, it's still an intriguing choice nonetheless. Rias is rather famous for her beauty, to the point that many men would kill to have her. "

Even without looking in the mirror, I could tell my face was flushed. "... Somehow I feel like I'm the one being interrogated now in spite of not doing anything wrong."

"Now, now, Grayfia, you said it yourself that the situation would have been quite dire if they would have gone through it, so you should be thankful my son was able to restrain himself." my mom chimed in, something that I was very much glad for once.

"I am just curious, that is all. It's incredibly rare for boys his age not to give in to their passions. So much so the situation is making me question your son's sexual orientation even while I am grateful he was able to control himself."

For a moment I could've sworn a mirror shattered in the room. My mom instantly was overtaken by a childish panic. "No! Shirou is just a late bloomer, that's all."

… I feel like I watched a scene like this in a comedy show once. The questioning of one's sexual preferences and the parent being in absolute denial at that thought.

It's a good thing I'm not gay, not that I have anything against them, but I have the distinct Impression that Iri would take it really poorly if it turned out her son was quote-on-quote pitching for the other team.

...

… Man I really must be tired if I'm actually thinking about stuff like this.

A clang of a teacup got my attention, the silver-haired woman letting out a small sigh. "That's enough jesting for now. Let's return back to more serious matters."

Irivisiel agreed with a firm nod. "Yes, let's skip Shirou's sex life, we can discuss strategies on how to improve it some other time."

"… Someone, please kill me," I muttered in defeat, my head dropping down, unable to handle the embarrassment.

At the very least the female devil on my shoulder was giving me a sympathetic 'I feel your pain' sort of look as well as a couple of pats on the back for comfort.

"I am curious though, why did you pick Shirou-kun here out of all the people around you, Rias?"

She clearly was taken by surprise, now that the spotlight was on her. "Uh…"

"Because last time I checked, you do have a handsome knight in your peerage, as well as a lively newly added Pawn which I hear would be quite eager to help you with such an act."

Now that the devilish maid mentioned it, Rias did have other options. She was an incredibly beautiful woman and one of the most popular girls at school. She had her own peerage with men close by yet despite that she went out of her way to pick me of all people. That being said, her answer was of interest to me as well.

The Gremory heiress was silent at first, fidgeting around in her seat as all eyes were on her. A strained sigh eventually escaped her lips. "Yuuto respects me far too much to consider taking advantage of me like that, and I did consider Issei at first, but I realized that doing it with him would hurt him in the end and may ruin our peerage if I went through it like this."

… Huh, in a way that did make sense.

If hypothetically this thing would have happened with me and Sona all the way to the end, I'm fairly certain that if handled poorly could really ruin our team's unity. Destroying the Sitri group's camaraderie as well as also hampering our group's overall combat ability.

It would be one thing if we got together like normal lovers, but in this case, it would be taking advantage of her, something which the others would not appreciate.

All in all, just as I couldn't do it with Gremory-senpai as I realized it would hurt her in the end, so did she realize that doing it with either of her peerage members would hurt them in the end as well.

"Then why Shirou-kun?" The maid went on. "From my sources, the two of you hardly know each other."

"I just… I don't know…" the redhead fumbled, her eyes downcast in shame. "It was in the heat of the moment I guess."

She leaned back and took a deep breath.

"I was so desperate to break this engagement off that I wasn't thinking straight. It would have been very easy, all I had to do was pick a boy from school that I knew was head over heels for me and be done with it. In spite of that, I couldn't just lower myself to do it with just anyone. I wanted it to be a boy I had some sort of connection with, as well as see me as more than just something to brag about. After talking with Emiya-kun earlier, he made me believe that he was the kind of person I could rely on in a time of crisis."

That made me recall the things she told me earlier, after everything that happened, now all of it made sense. "Oh... so that's why you were asking me all that stuff earlier?

The Gremory heiress looked at me but avoided locking eyes. "I didn't originally mean to get you involved, but talking with you gave me the feeling that you were the kind of person one could rely on during a time of need."

My hand reached for the back of my head, rubbing it slightly. "Well… I do offer people a helping hand when I can, but getting asked to sleep with a beautiful girl was definitely a new one for me."

As much as I tried to joke about it, the air did not become any less awkward although the young female devil seemed to give me a weak smile at my remark. "Desperate times call for desperate measures I guess. The more I look back on it, the dirtier I feel but still… Thank you for caring about me."

Images flashed in my mind about how I recently held the girl next to me in my arms as she sobbed against me. I could feel my frustration about this entire situation building once again but forced it back in check as lashing out wouldn't do any good here. A sigh escaped my lips as I leaned forward, looking over at the older woman in front of me. "I don't get it though, earlier you mentioned being able to call off your engagement, why can't she do so as well?"

The beautiful older devil looked at me in contemplation for a moment before answering. Her silver eyes staring into mine as if to find something.

"While the situation isn't nearly as complicated or similar as ours was. However, they could technically break it off without making a big fuss out of it." The off-duty maid explained. "Only that would require mutual consent from both parties involved. That being said, Riser Phenex would need to agree as well."

"Hence why I've been looking for other means to break it off. As I doubt that man would be willing to lose his pretty new toy." The Gremory heiress muttered in mild disdain. "Is it wrong that I want to marry a man I love, one that treats me as Rias, not some new prize to add to his collection and warm his bed?"

I personally wanted to tell her she has that right, but someone else seemed to beat me to the punch.

Before I knew it my mom had jumped up from her seat and held Gremory-senpai by the hands.

"No!" The Matriarch of the Emiya house exclaimed. "You have all the right in the world to fight for love Rias-chan! It doesn't matter what or who you are!"

As surprised as I was by this, the devil beside me was even more so by the sudden gesture. "Irivisel-san?"

"If that is truly what you want to have then fight for it!" she declared strongly, tightening the grip on her hands. "Even if the odds are against you, even if you know that in the end, it may result in a tragedy, you mustn't give up! I know that things may seem bleak now, but if you move forward and never give up I'm sure some door will open for you!"

My mom pulled her closer, making sure that Rias's blue orbs stared directly into her red ones. "Take it from someone who's been there."

Was it strange that her words were affecting me just as much as they were affecting the girl they were meant for?

I just...

What was my mom even talking about?

It was like she went through something similar.

… Just what is Iri hiding from me?

"Don't encourage her Irisviel, lest you want her to try and seduce your son again." The silver-haired woman remarked.

A shiver ran down my back at the mere thought of that, recalling how much I struggled to keep it together. No way I want to get into that situation again any time soon. At least not without true consent from the woman in question.

"... No, she's right, Grayfia." The Gremory heiress nodded, a spark igniting in her eyes. "If I want to be free and choose for myself I have to properly fight for it, not try to take the cheap way out."

She stood up and walked in front of me, bowing her head. "I apologize for what I did earlier, Emiya-kun, that was very rude of me, not only for not considering your feelings in this but also for potentially putting you in danger."

I quickly brought my hands up and waved them around. "O-Oh, sure, it's all water under the bridge, no need to be awkward about it."

"R-Right." the devil next to me laughed, though it was quite strained.

"I think you just made it awkward by saying that Shirou." Iri deadpanned.

"Leave me alone!" I crossed my arms and grumbled a little. "Anyway… now that I know why this happened, what's next? Is there any other way for her to get out of this engagement?"

"The simplest one that would involve the least amount of public backlash would be a Rating Game." The maid explained. "I take it, you know how they function?"

A grim nod was my response at first. Truth be told it would be impossible for me not to know of them when you consider how dedicated Sona is. In spite of the team not being allowed to officially participate, she has been giving us multiple assignments and material to read about them, that way when the day comes we are allowed to participate we won't be unprepared.

The subjects I read ranged from the history of their creation to different variations of games to play, their rules, as well as the rewards that can be gained from participation and victory.

Looking back, the name is ironic on so many levels.

I couldn't help but snark a little at this. "An over-glorified bloodsport if you ask me. Two Houses with far too much time on their hands duke it out to see whose peerage is better, all the while gaining fame, status and fortune that most of them already have."

The fact that only High-class devils and above are legally allowed to form a peerage in the first place just screams how elitist this thing is. The common Low-class devil would have to work their ass off for decades or even centuries to gain enough achievements that would make them eligible to achieve High-class rank.

This was sort of like how they show on TV how golf is a sport that is mostly enjoyed by the rich and privileged.

However, judging by the stink eye that the devil on my right gave me, she didn't like the way I described what was the equivalent of the Devil's race national sport.

"Oversimplified, but that's about it." The wife of Lucifer nodded, not showing any visible annoyance to what I said. "But it's also a viable means to break off the engagement. Should Rias challenge him to one with the nullification of their engagement as her prize and win, then she will be a free woman."

"... I see." I nodded but went silent as I kept pondering. "Let me guess, she has no time to really prepare does she?"

Given that she dropped by my house and was in such a hurry told me that the danger was right around the corner.

The silver-haired devil nodded. "You'd be correct. My sources informed me that Riser had scheduled a trip in the human world for tomorrow. He will most likely come to visit Rias as she has been ignoring other means of communicating with him."

A tired sigh escaped my lips, this just wasn't going to end well, I could feel it. "So you're gonna challenge him tomorrow?"

In spite of how conflicted I sounded about this, the girl gave me a firm response. "I will."

"Though I don't personally recommend it, you are free to come and be a witness to the proceedings. Not that anything would happen right then and there, but a few extra people present may keep the parties involved from acting too reckless."

This suggestion from the maid was rather tempting. "I'll think about it."

"You're totally going." Iri deadpanned.

My eyes were half-closed as I stared at my mom. "Thanks for the support there Iri."

The Matriarch of the Emiya house just rolled her eyes at me. "Shirou, we both know you won't be able to stay on the sidelines after all that happened."

Why I still even bother is beyond me.

"... I just can't win an argument with you."

"And you love me for that." My mom crooned proudly at me.

"Well, as entertaining as this all turned out to be, we have to go." The older female devil spoke, placing her teacup aside as she stood up. "I'm fairly sure things will take a turn for the worst very soon regarding this matter, so it would be best that we prepare."

"Oh, just when things were getting fun." Iri pouted like a kid that was just told she won't get any dessert after dinner. "Well, we can always get together again after this all gets sorted out."

"Apologies again for the inconvenience Irisviel."

"It's no problem at all, it was good seeing you again."

Grayfia then walked to her sister-in-law, giving her a firm tap on the shoulder. "Rias?"

There was a moment of hesitation present before she bowed to me once more. "I apologize once again for everything Emiya-kun."

"No worries," I said plainly, not wanting to create any more awkwardness.

A magic circle manifested beneath their feet, illuminating the room in its light.

"I hope you two have a goodnight." said the red-eyed devil with a small smile.

"Bye, bye have a safe trip." My mother waved as our two guests teleported away.

I just stood in place for a while, processing all that happened this evening, my head feeling like it was spinning from all of this information and from what happened earlier in my bedroom. "Well, that was… something."

A mischievous smile formed on my mother's face. Before I could react she covered the distance between us and sat next to me, grinning as she started to poke at my side with her elbow.

"You should ask her out after she becomes available."

I almost choked at that remark.

"Iri!"

"What, you were totally looking at her breasts!" she shoved an accusing finger in my face.

"That's because they kept bouncing every time she moved! It would have been impossible not to look!"

Her smile only grew as I tried to defend myself. "Aha! So you were looking~!"

With the imminent danger that was my mom's teasing, I jumped from my seat. "I just remembered I need to finish my homework!"

"Run all you want Shirou, but you will return!"

Was I running like a little bitch?

Yes.

Was I in the state to deal with mom's attics?

Hell no.

Once I was safely back in my room I closed the door and placed the lock. Allowing myself to slowly slide down against it and onto the ground.

A deep breath escaped my lips as I embraced the serenity of my room. Reflecting on everything that took place was much more difficult than I believed.

Man, this day was just… I don't even have a word for it. A constant roller coaster of events that kept taking me by surprise. The moment I thought it was over something new would blindside me as if to mock me.

I swear if I don't figure out some way to deal with this supernatural-related stress my hair will go white before I even get to finish high school.

Well, if that happens, at least people can't say I don't resemble my family anymore.

"Fou, fou!"

I felt a tug on my leg and saw the small ball of fluff make its way onto my lap. Curiously it seemed to have something in its mouth. "What have you got there, Fou?"

I carefully took the item from him and tried to examine it. "What is this?"

It was some kind of black silk material, really soft to the touch. I slowly untangled the piece of fabric, trying my best not to rip it as it felt rather fragile.

When I was done, I lifted it up high and stared at it.

I stared.

I stared long and unresponsive at it.

I knew what the item in my hands was, but my mind was in denial as to why such a thing was in my room.

"Would you look at that," Archer whistled from the back of my mind. "First time having a girl over and she already forgot her panties here."

As the white-haired asshole pointed out, it seems that when the Gremory heiress put her clothes back on earlier, she forgot to put her thong on as well.

My face was most likely doing a good impression of the dead fisheyes stare my dad often had when he was too tired to deal with all the madness of my mother.

I placed the piece of cloth aside and just crashed head first in my bed, my mind had dealt with enough bullshit for one day and just wanted to sleep it all away.

"One question though, how do you plan to return those?"

"Aw hell…" The smug bastard had a point. I pressed my head against my bed in sheer frustration.

A muffled gagging sound could be heard as I screamed into my pillow.


The next day couldn't have come any slower. I barely got a wink of sleep last night in spite of how exhausted I was. The morning was hardly any better, I had no appetite and just went out for a long jog, my mind was so jumbled that I failed to realize how long I've been going at it and that it was almost time for school.

I was hoping that I could use the first period to put some order in my mind, but that idea didn't really go far, unfortunately. The moment I stepped into the schoolyard Reya dragged me straight to the council office, telling me that Sona wanted to talk with me.

She more or less had been informed about what happened last night by my mom's bestie from hell, Grayfia-san, but Sona wanted to hear my side of the story personally.

From her overall mood and the way she had been reacting to my explanation, she was rather livid by the whole turn of events herself.

Sometime later she told me that apparently, this Riser Phenex guy will drop by to see his fiance right at our school. Needless to say, Sona was more than unhappy about that little prospect as well.

We dealt with enough nonsense on a daily basis, a supernatural lover's quarrel is the last thing she wanted taking place in her school.

After contacting Grayfia-san, they agreed on Sona dropping by to act as a third neutral party in this meeting, so things don't go out of control.

That being said, Sona, after a bit of insistence on my part, allowed me to tag along. The two of us were currently making our way to the building where the Occult Research Club or also known ORC was located to participate in the meeting.

"... You know Shirou, I'm not sure if I should be mad at Rias for what she tried to pull or if I should be laughing hysterically at how it all turned out," Sona remarked with a sigh.

She clearly wasn't amused by this in spite of her words. "Is this really something that you laugh at?"

The bespectacled devil most likely referring to how her friend attempted to break her engagement by visiting my room for a late-night tryst. While in a different context, it may have been funny, to me it was hardly a laughing matter.

"Guess not." The Sitri devil rolled her eyes. "Still, it would be unfair of me to completely blame her given how I recently went and had to deal with that whole Segrif fiasco."

I sighed as I recalled that headache of an event, hoping this Riser situation won't be in any way similar to the previous one. "So how do you think this is going to turn out?"

"Given how Riser is, it can only end with a massive headache for everyone." Sona clicked her teeth in mild annoyance. "He isn't a particularly violent person, but he likes to assert his dominance, to make himself seem like the center of the universe and make people see that he is not someone to be messed with."

How reassuring, of course, it's going to be like that. It'd be too much to ask for a nice and civilized person that is willing to resolve this issue peacefully, oh no, we can't have that. Life has to punch you in the face to keep you on your toes.

My hands balled into fists. "Any chance he'll pull a fast one as Segrif did?

She shook her head in response. "No, he is prideful and arrogant but not mentally insane. He knows that trying anything like that will get both him and his family ruined. I often think that all those body modifications that Segrif made to himself must have destroyed his sense of reason in order to attempt to pull off what he did. "

Considering how those modifications ended up mutating his body into a giant blob of misshapen flesh I'm inclined to agree. To purposely mess with your own body like that it's safe to assume that his mind was warped as well, even before he lost control.

"In any case, what Segrif did lit a fire and now devil society as a whole is on the edge when it comes to the issue of arranged marriages, people are silently keeping a watch out for any other possible scandal. That being said, Riser should know that this time around he has to keep this under tight wraps and not let it escalate out of control."

Well, that made sense.

After what Segrif tried to pull, it would be weird if nothing really happened and it was simply shoved under the rug. Maybe it might have been covered up if it were a person of less importance, but this involved the sister of one of their race's leaders, the repercussions of Segrif's actions would be felt by many.

In fact, people who were in arranged marriages and married recently are most likely now in the spotlight as well. Others are undoubtedly curious to see if there were any dirty dealings behind the various arrangements or participants were willing.

It would be quite stupid of Riser considering present circumstances to make a scene at this time.

… However, if there is one thing my experiences have taught me it's that people can be really stupid even when they really shouldn't be.

Our walk came to a halt as we arrived in front of the ORC building. Sona turned around and glared at me. "You have no idea how huge of a bullet you dodged last night, Shirou. If you would have gone through it and slept with Rias, even my name would have meant little in protecting you."

I reached for the back of my neck and rubbed it. "Well… it's a good thing I felt she wouldn't go through it."

"And what if she did? " she asked, her tone cold.

She grabbed me by the shirt and shoved me against the nearby wall. While there wasn't much force in the push, the sudden gesture took me by surprise.

"What if by some sick twist of fate the two of you went ahead and did it?" Her glare grew more intense as she pressed me against the wall. It was strange that in spite of being much shorter than me she looked very intimidating at the moment. "What would you have done then?"

I opened my mouth to answer, but sadly no words came. I did think over and over about what happened last night, but I hardly considered what may have happened if I did give in to her request.

From what Grayfia-san told me last, there would've been heavy repercussions to it.

Ones that I can't even begin to imagine how they might have affected my life, and more importantly the lives of those close to me.

Now that Sona confronted me about this. I had no answer to give. "… I'm not sure."

A sneer formed on her face, but it lasted only a few moments, the Sitri devil releasing me. "Men."

As she walked at the front door she threw me another glare. "Better not mention anything that happened last night in front of Riser."

I fixed my shirt and stepped next to her. "Do I look stupid to you?"

"Look, no. Act, more than often, unfortunately." The student council president deadpanned.

It was kind of sad that I couldn't really refute her statement.

The walk down the building halls was surprisingly quiet.

However, with each step closer, I began feeling the scents of magical energy. There were the ones that I more or less could tell apart, that of the ORC members.

There was also that ridiculous overwhelming one from the beautiful maid I met last night.

Other than those there were several other people present, with the strongest one having a sort of burnt scent to it.

Needless to say, the fact that I was feeling so many of them told me that the people present were quite ready to throw down if things went south.

Which was more concerning now that I think about it. A supernatural team battle on the school campus while the students were still here was really something that I wanted to avoid.

As we reached the main office door, Sona directed one more icy glare at me. "Don't you dare start anything."

I simply nodded in response and the two of us entered the room, gathering the attention of the many occupants already inside.

A rather large company present. On one side of the room, the Gremory group and Grayfia-san. On the other were about fifteen girls dressed in VERY questionable outfits and one man dressed as if to proudly proclaim his playboy status.

The said gigolo-looking guy raised a curious eyebrow when we entered.

"Well isn't this a surprise, did you come here to participate in the festivities Sona?" he spoke in a seemingly friendly yet condescending manner as if he was the most important person here. "My dear Rias will be in need of a bridesmaid."

"I will ignore that Riser," Sona spoke calmly, straightening her glasses. "However, I will not ignore how brazenly you arrived at my school and started showing off your power."

He hardly seemed bothered by that and just scoffed casually. "Please, that was hardly anything to worry about."

His flippant attitude was starting to grate on Sona, the vein throbbing in her head was quite noticeable even as she took a seat on the side.

Normally, it might have been best for me to sit beside her since we were here merely as observers, but I wanted to get some information first and foremost.

I slowly made my way behind the Gremory group noting that the tension was quite high. While they appeared professional and calm at first glance, looking closely and how taut their bodies were they clearly weren't very pleased by this meeting.

Kiba-san had his hand open behind his back, ready to draw a sword.

Toujou-san had her fists clenched and ready to clobber someone with them.

Faint sparks danced at Himejima-senpai's fingers, ready to unleash a lightning bolt if the need arose.

Argento-san was confused for the most part, most likely not sure what to make of the situation.

Then there was Hyoudou, oh boy. The guy looked like he was ready to bite the fiance's head off.

Gremory-senpai was also looking like she was one step away from vaporizing this place.

I got close and whispered to the group, making sure the guests didn't hear me. "So that's Riser Phenex, huh…?"

"In all his douchebag glory." Toujou-san deadpanned.

Vicious as that comment was, it seemed appropriate. My eyes narrowed as I studied the opposing group, recalling the discussion from last night. "Okay… and just so we're clear, that over there is his harem right?"

"Indeed." Kiba-san nodded.

I could hear a pained gag from Hyoudou at this remark but chose to ignore it and instead focused on the party present. The so-called harem seemed, for the most part, relaxed, none of them appeared particularly on the edge or bothered by the current tension in the room.

Either they don't care or they simply didn't feel like there was any need for them to worry.

I paused when my eyes landed on one of the girls, the one that had her hair styled in a pair of golden drills.

There was a throbbing sensation in my head as I looked at her. For some reason, I kept picturing her in a blue dress instead of her pink one.

I shook my head and changed my attention to someone else in the room. That person just happened to be my mother's friend.

She took notice of this and silently called out to me. "Do you require anything Shirou-sama?"

It was strange every time I saw it. With a sigh, I began. "I have no way of saying this without being rude, so I will say it as it is, it's weird how different you are while in that maid outfit."

A frown, a glare, or maybe a twitch, I expected something like that as a reaction but the woman was a picture of stoicism. "I take no insult, this is simply a professional work ethic. There are many others who keep work and personal life separate, behaving differently on each."

"If you say so…" I muttered a bit unsure. Then again, there are jobs that require one to be perfectly calm and precise. You can't have a surgeon or a dentist be a hyperactive ditz while on clock.

A sigh escaped my lips, clearing my mind. Right now, that was hardly what mattered.

"Okay, so what did I miss?" I asked the group, taking a step closer to them, the vice president Himejima-san being the first to answer.

"Nothing much, just Riser boasting and trying to make Issei-kun cry out of jealousy for being haremless."

My mouth twitched. "Not sure if that's an actual word…"

The Gremory Queen hummed to herself. "Not sure either, but I will check it later."

I could practically feel the migraine that was approaching.

Might as well get some stuff covered before things get complicated. I took my backpack off and removed the box within it, offering it to the Gremory group. "By the way, I brought you guys something."

The red-haired King rose a curious brow to this. "What are those?"

"Cookies," I replied, putting the box on the nearby table. "Thought something sweet may ease the stress a little."

"I see." She gave a nod and smiled lightly.

The very moment I opened the box a mop of white hair appeared right in front of my chest.

… Did Toujou-san really just slip between my legs like an agile cat just to get to the cookies first?

Maybe the fact that she staked her claim by taking about twenty or so cookies was perhaps another reason why I thought that.

It was also curious that her eyes were practically sparkling as she took eager bites out of the sugary treat.

Honestly, at this point, this was hardly anything for me to get surprised by. The bar had been set too high for me as of late. It'd take a pretty large jump to move me.

I tilted my head to the side and noticed that some of the girls on the other side of the room were looking rather intently at the cookies. "You can have some too if you want. I made enough for everyone."

There was a flash of excitement on a number of them, however, the one with golden drills took a step forward and spoke. "Heh, as if something so low grade is worth eating."

For some reason that remark made my brow twitch. "And you know that, how?"

"I can tell." she declared with an elegant scoff.

Although she said that, some members of her group were clearly thinking otherwise.

"What about you two, do you think they're bad?" I asked the two catgirls, their eyes had been glued to the box the moment I took it out.

"Actually-" the red one began.

"They smell-" the blue one continued.

"Really nice!" They both finished in unison.

"Then try some," I said casually, doing my best not to seem puzzled by how the two of them seemingly were completing each other's sentences like that.

Before I knew it the two girls, who I believe are twin sisters now that I look better at them, were all over the box.

"Wow, so good!"

"Are they really just cookies!?"

And just like that, a flame had been lit and one by one the female guests began to indulge themselves, leaving the haughty playboy and the drill-haired ojou-sama all alone and baffled on their side.

"Did he cast some sort of spell on them?" The one dressed as a knight exclaimed. "These taste way better than they should be."

"Maybe there's some secret ingredient?" The one with an opera mask followed up while reaching for another.

There was a nudge on my side, Sona appeared calm, but also somewhat confused. "... Tell me those aren't normal cookies."

"They are." I deadpanned.

Sona took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. "That makes this even weirder."

"A lot weirder." I heard the Gremory knight remark silently from his side.

Is it really that surprising though?

I live with four women in the house. I had a lot of practice when it came to baking.

My eyes glanced at that one girl with the golden drills. She also took a cookie and took a bite but she was less vocal than her friends. I couldn't bring myself to ask. "So, are they still low-grade goods?"

Her cheeks seemed to puff up a little and turned her head to avoid looking me in the eyes. "They are… decent."

She may have said that, but I was pretty sure they were more than decent.

Eh, whatever. I didn't come here to talk about my baking skills.

"Sona, I've been meaning to ask, but what's up with this kid?" The fiancee spoke, mildly curious. "Did you get a personal chef or something?"

Sona sighed and shook her head in response. "No Riser, Shirou here is my Pawn."

"A pleasure." I greeted with a small bow.

He may have finally given me some attention, but it didn't seem to last too long and instead returned back to Sona, not bothering to return the greeting. "... At least he seems to have some more class than that brat over there."

A felt my eye twitch and looked over at the Gremory group's resident pawn. "What did Hyoudou do?"

Kiba-san was the first to answer, albeit clearly ashamed by his friend's antics. "Break down crying since Riser has a harem and he doesn't."

"Like a total bitch." Toujou-san interjected.

"That, and he was about to jump him when Riser started making out with his Queen to spite him." Finished the blond knight with a strained smile.

This was certainly not how I imagined this meeting would go.

"... While the first reason is dumb, I can understand his second one," I remarked and gave the male Phenex devil a long stare. "Not very nice you know, you should consider your fiance's feelings in this. Making out in front of her like that is just rude."

He didn't even bother to give me a reply, only glare at me in annoyance, small embers flickering around his eyes.

Better not add any more fuel to the fire than necessary.

"Well, I tried." A sigh escaped my lips and I sat back in my seat, making sure to keep my promise to Sona. "Just ignore me and go back to whatever you were doing, but just so we're clear if you start anything I will have to interfere."

The embers became more intense around the man's eyes, in spite of not trying to show any hostility, clearly, he didn't like that I was behaving like I was on the same playing field as him.

"That won't be necessary." The maid spoke and her aura spiked. It was like getting hit head-on by a wave of cold water, threatening to wash you away. "With my authority as the Queen of Sirzechs Lucifer, I shall personally stop any acts of violence shown by either party."

If the show of power from the maid was meant for intimidation, it certainly was effective. Those embers around the Phenex heir had been extinguished, a placid expression on his face now present, but anxiousness could still be seen in his eyes.

"No need for that Lady Grayfia, even I am not so foolish to invoke your wrath," he spoke respectfully, clearly not wanting to anger the older woman.

"Very well." Grayfia-san nodded firmly and took the center of the room. "Now that Sona Sitri is present, we can proceed to discuss the matters of the meeting."

My fingers kept fumbling over each other as the terms and conditions were being laid bare for all participants.

After debating on the matter, no common ground was found between the Gremory and Phenex kings. No compromise could be reached between the two parties.

Rias Gremory is against the engagement while Riser Phenex is very insistent on proceeding to make things official as soon as possible.

That being said, this meeting didn't really go anywhere.

This led to the following last resort, the very same that the maid told me about last night.

A Rating Game between their respective peerages. The winner decides once and for all if the engagement will go or if it will be called off for good.

As one can expect, the haughty male devil was hardly bothered by this, the arrogance was practically oozing around him as he believed he already won.

To top it all off, as if he wasn't showing off enough overconfidence, he decided to give his opponents a handicap and allow them ten days to train instead of settling things immediately.

In spite of this being a generous offer on his part, the way he presented it left a lot to be desired. As if you give a person chewing gum and tell him that you did it because his mouth stank, not because you wanted to share.

This clearly got under the skin of his opponents, the Gremory group.

I looked over at their pawn and put a firm grip on his shoulder. "Hyoudou. I know you can't stand him, but hold it together."

He may have given me a nod, but he didn't stop glaring knives at the Phenex heir.

Just as the Phenex group was almost finished and was getting ready to leave, the maid of Lucifer walked up to me, a mischievous glint present in her eyes.

"By the way Shirou-sama, before I go, do tell Irisviel that I will contact her later tonight." She said rather loudly… like very loud, enough that everyone present could hear her, Gremory-senpai also appeared a bit surprised by her loud tone.

"Wait a moment!" Riser Phenex shouted and dashed right in between me and the maid, panic and shock present for the first time since I met him today. "How does this kid know Lady Irisviel!?"

The sudden outburst seemed to catch everyone off guard, with the exception of the maid.

I for one was in a unique state.

Something between denial and horror.

A gag-like noise got stuck in my throat. I slowly repeated those words, making sure I heard them right. "... Lady Irisviel."

In spite of having an accusatory finger pointed at me, the devil still didn't look at me for answers.

The maid for her part was completely stoic, though there was that glint present in her eyes that just screamed at me that she was very much enjoying this turn of events. "Oh, were you not aware, Riser-sama?"

He did not calm down one bit, if anything he seemed even more desperate for answers. "Aware of what?!"

She did not indulge him with an answer, instead, she gestured for me to do the honors, the male devil was finally giving me his full attention.

My eyes took a quick glance towards Sona, looking desperately for some help. The latter feigns not seeing my silent cry for help as she is studying her nails.

Betrayed, abandoned, and alone it seems to be left hanging. Hurray for me.

I could only sigh in defeat, feeling the oncoming problem that was imminent. "...Irisviel is my mom."

"Your what-" His mouth instantly dropped, eyes large and dilating. He grabbed me by the shoulders and pulled me up close, studying every nook and cranny of my face. "Absurd! You look nothing like her!"

This stupid thing again… I swear at this rate I will end up dying my hair white just so I can look the part.

"I'm adopted." I deadpanned, not giving much of a damn anymore.

Dark blue eyes blinked once, then twice. He slowly let go of me and nodded to himself. "Huh… that makes a lot more sense now."

To say that the atmosphere in the room took a complete one-eighty was an understanding. Both Gremory and Phenex groups were taken aback by this unexpected display from the Phenex heir.

Hyoudou, in spite of looking like he wanted to bite his head off mere moments ago, was also completely stunned. "Okay, I can't be the only one confused here… this guy here knows Emiya's mom or something?"

Now isn't that something I was dying to know myself?

"Know her... I don't just know her." Riser Phenex spoke, gone was the arrogant and self-absorbed tone, instead, he spoke sagely. "Lady Irisviel is an inspiration for men like me."

"Huh?" was the collective reaction from both groups.

One slow dramatic step at a time, he reached the nearby window and gazed through it at the sky, a longing expression present, the gentle breeze making the curtains dance lightly around him.

"Have you ever seen something so beautiful that you couldn't even bring yourself to stand in front of it, feeling that your presence will taint it?" A hand was raised up high as if trying to grasp the sun itself, his tone like an actor holding a monologue in the theater. "Her beauty cannot be comprehended by the uncultured, it's something pure and fragile. Hair that makes the pristine snow look tainted and dirty, eyes that make rubies look like mere pebbles, and a melodious voice that makes even the most talented musician feel inadequate. She is truly a source of beauty that makes even goddesses feel jealous."

A shudder ran through his body, he tightened his hand and brought it close to his chest. "But alas, like all truly beautiful things in this world, she's something that can't be attained by mortal hands."

Okay…

I wasn't sure what to do at the moment.

Was I supposed to cringe at the way this guy is talking about MY MOM of all people or just trace a blade and stab him for talking like this about MY MOM.

Needless to say, I felt like I was gagging on the inside.

Taking a look left and right it seemed that I wasn't the only one affected by this display. However, it was plain as day that I was still the most affected by it.

Most of the people present were either confused or surprised.

"That guy sounds like even more of a simp than Issei-senpai." Toujou-san commented. I have no clue what a 'simp' is but I didn't care.

"Oh, Maou… not this again." The girl with the golden drills seemed to be covering her face with her hands in embarrassment from what was going on, blushing and trying not to see what she was witnessing from her King.

"Wait… this person is the son of that woman Riser-sama is obsessed with?" the girl with the Zweihänder drills gasped.

Obsessed?!

"I thought she was just a dream girl or something, Riser-sama never really told me much about her." The girl in the belly dancer outfit remarked.

Dreamgirl?!

"You mean that woman he occasionally sculpts out of marble and decorates the mansion?" The woman in the mage outfit inquired.

He does what?!

Was this what vertigo felt like?

Everything felt like it was spinning in my mind and I was about to crash. My emotions were a chaotic flurry as I could hear the pumping of my heart in my ears.

There was a nudge from Sona, but I hardly felt it. "Shirou, are you alright, your eyes are looking a bit wild."

Hyoudou, not understanding what the issue was, stood up and demanded some answers. "Oh come one, just how hot can she be to make this guy act like this?"

Sona sighed and took out her phone, flipping through it a couple of times before passing it to her friend's pawn. "See for yourself."

The guy almost dropped it but managed to catch it nonetheless. He took a moment and stared at the image.

"Holy shit!" Hyoudou pretty much screeched in response, his jaw-dropping as if it was unhinged. "Emiya's mom is a total milf!"

Strangely before I could vehemently retort to that description of my mother, Riser Phenex beat me to it. "You imbecile! Such disgraceful words aren't even suited for describing her sublime beauty!"

… Okay just what the fuck was going on here?

How did we go from deciding the fate of two people's marital status, to fawning over my mother?

Was it wrong that I was torn between hiding in some hole or just taking these two guys and bashing their heads against each other?

The latter may sound a bit rude towards Hyoudou, but the perverted face he made while looking at my mother's picture definitely wasn't one made by having only pure thoughts.

If this wasn't enough as if the Big Guy in heaven thought I needed more punishment, the comments towards my mom didn't end there, the rest of the ORC club that was seeing her for the first time was also throwing in their own opinions.

"He's not wrong though, your mother is a very beautiful person, Shirou-san." Argento-san said in awe.

"She bae." Toujou-san nodded.

"Indeed, most certainly one of the most breathtaking people I ever saw." Kiba-san smiled.

"Oh my, you may have to be careful Emiya-kun, otherwise Riser may try to add your mother to his harem!" Himejima-senpai said with a playful gasp.

There was a moment of blankness in my mind, something then short-circuited in it. Everything within my sight suddenly took on a tint of red as my hands clenched as if grasping something.

My neck suddenly bent mechanically to the side, I fixed on the problem at hand.

Fucking what now?

Before I could get up from my seat and have a nice long chat with mister Phenex, Sona firmly grabbed onto my shoulder and held me down. "Shirou... put your swords down."

I blinked and took a quick glance at my hands. When was it exactly that I traced my twin blades?

Looking behind me both the Gremory group and Grayfia most likely didn't expect me to do this. An apologetic look filled with regret was present on the older silver-eyed devil's face while the Gremory group's Queen, in particular, looked a bit guilty from what she previously said. "I was only joking Emiya-kun, no need to make a scene... "

The seething feeling suddenly washed away and was replaced by a feeling of awkwardness. Taking a deep breath and with a quick mental command, I dispersed my swords. I wouldn't want to start anything here.

Luckily for me, the Phenex heir was still in his own little world and didn't notice me pointing my blades at him.

It was only when the woman, who I assume is his Queen, gave him a nudge with her staff that he seemed to snap off his musings.

"Wait... " he spoke bewildered, his eyes reaffirming my image as he looked at me. "So you are telling me you are her son?"

How I was able to keep a straight face at this point was beyond me."... Like I said before."

Once more he rushed over to me, this time however he grabbed and shook my hand.

"Riser Phenex, it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance!" He greeted with a childish glee present on his face. "I do hope Lady Irisviel is faring well."

The man was sparkling, just like the handsome men in those shoujo anime or manga, this man was absolutely sparkling as he smiled at me. While it was a better look for him than his previous smug grin. The reason behind that smile was hard to deal with.

I really wasn't sure how I was supposed to handle this kind of situation.

"S-She is…" but I didn't get to finish as I was soon cut off.

"Marvelous!" He was absolutely beaming. "Such a joyous occasion, I haven't heard of her in years and was quite concerned at times."

… Okay, so let's do a mental recap.

While my mother did tell me last night that she knew this guy, I can't help but feel like she might have skipped a detail or two, because I'm sure no normal man would act like this just by being a mere acquaintance.

… The more I began to think about it, the more nasty or downright stupid were the answers I came up with, and slowly I was being overtaken by a strong desire to just bang my head against the wall.

Seriously, what the hell mom?!

"Oh!" The now smiling Phenex snapped his fingers in realization. "This is a great opportunity. Once I defeat Rias and we proceed with our engagement I will personally send you and your mother invitations."

I just stared in silence, as I tried to think of anything else at the moment, anything that would get rid of these messy feelings bubbling inside. Like maybe somehow going back to the past and killing myself so I won't have to live the knowledge of what's to come.

"Hey, you haven't won yet, bird brain!" Hyoudou roared in anger, a red gauntlet now encasing his left arm.

"I'm very certain I did!" The Phenex heir snapped his fingers and one of his girls jumped in the fray, smacking Hyoudou right in the sternum with her staff before he had time to even register what was going on.

The Gremory pawn was sent flying, crashing into the nearby coffee table, defeated in one strike.

"Issei!" His master shouted in concern, rushing over to his side, helping him recover.

"At the end of the day, even a Longinus Sacred Gear is but a toy in the hands of an incompetent user."

At that point, I sort of blanked out and didn't really listen anymore to what he was saying, probably something about him winning or something.

Eventually, the Phenex heir teleported away, but not before he gave me one last look, offering a dazzling smile and a thumbs up.

Somehow, that made me feel dirty and in desperate need of a shower.

Was it wrong that I was zoned out so badly that I failed to react to Issei getting knocked out?

Maybe it was because I felt no real killing intent in the small girl's strike?

Then again, Hyoudou was technically the one that raised his fist's first, so technically I should have stopped him from starting a fight here.

… Man, talk about being a mess. The fact that I let anyone get hurt under my watch is a testament to my not being in the right state of mind.

In spite of feeling bad for what happened to Hyoudou, my main concern at the moment was what other things my mom is hiding from me.

A tug on my shirt broke me out of my stupor, looking down I saw a pair of yellow eyes staring at me in concern. "You okay Shirou-senpai?"

I rubbed my eyes and took a deep sigh, this really wasn't how I envisioned this meeting taking place. I was mentally prepared for some heated arguments, a violent confrontation, maybe a wild and chaotic battle ensuing on the campus… but not whatever this was. "I'm fine… I just need time to process what just happened."

Sona grabbed me by the collar, whispering how the Gremory team had planning to do, so we should go and leave them to it. With a weak nod, I did as instructed, leaving with her right after we gave our goodbyes to the others.

On the way back to the student council office, Sona and I went over the decisions that were made at the meeting. Pondering on how things will go from here.

"So they have ten days to train…" I muttered weakly.

"So it seems."

I rubbed the back of my head in pure frustration. While I didn't know the full extent of either side's teams, I couldn't help but lean towards the Phenex if one would ask me who would win.

None of his team members had any remarkable presence when it came to their power, but they did have an unfair advantage when it came to numbers and experience. And then there's Riser Phenex himself, if what Sona told me about the Phenex clan's regeneration powers is true, then Rias-senpai really has a problem on her hands.

No matter the angle I looked at it, things were quite bleak. "Not sure if they can get stronger in that short amount, but maybe they might figure out some way to counter Riser's advantages."

I stopped in my tracks, noticed by Sona, the devil also stopping and staring at me curiously. There were many things I still didn't know about devils and rating games, but Sona was a different story. There might just be something that can be used to help the Gremory team and tip the scales in their favor a little.

If there is anyone I know that can help the Gremory team, it's Sona Sitri. "So what's our next move in this mess?"

Her face remained neutral, she turned around and began walking once more. "It's quite simple Shirou."

The answer that followed made me stay frozen in place and gawk at her.

It wasn't long before the fury hit me full force.


I have been silent all the way back to the council's office. It was only when we reached it and we were alone together that I dropped the stoic facade.

"What do you mean we won't do anything?!" I half snapped at the Sitri heiress, my tone so furious that I ended up smacking my fists against her desk.

Sona for her part was rather unimpressed by my apparent gesture. She instead pointed at the papers that I made fall when I hit the desk. "... Pick up those papers, I just sorted them."

The lack of concern from her really rubbed me the wrong way. "Forget about the papers and tell me why we won't get involved in this?"

She rolled her eyes in disdain. "No need to be so overdramatic Shirou, this is a matter involving Rias and her peerage, we have no say in it nor do we need to get involved."

Not get involved…

After everything that happened last night, she tells me to not get involved.

No!

"... You're just telling me to ignore everything that happened?"

"That's your problem if you can't keep your habitual need to help others in check."

"This isn't about that!"

"Is it not?" Sona hummed and leaned back in her chair, a curious look present. "Then are you perhaps angry about what Riser said about your mother?"

Aghh! That remark really made my face burn.

"That's got nothing to do with it!" I strongly denied it.

"You say that yet you look like you want to stab someone when I bring it up."

"How can you be so blase about this?" I grit my teeth and shook my head, deviating from the main subject was what she wanted, I couldn't let that happen. "Aren't you and her supposed to be lifelong friends, yet you sit with your arms tied and do nothing?!"

Still no change, she was set on ignoring the problem. "Shirou, drop it, nothing will change."

I did not respond, only observed her as I slowly seethed. It was probably a mistake, but I decided to point out something I was sure was gonna get a reaction out of her.

"You'd think after the Zepar incident you of all people would want to help her."

Sona stopped her paper sorting, placing them aside, stepping up from her desk. She stood right in front of me, an eerie glow present in her glasses. "... Do you think I don't want to help?"

Her tone was slow and cold, like a whisper, but it would shortly grow into something much more violent. She grabbed me by the shirt and pulled me down to her level, making sure I looked her directly in her eyes. "Do you honestly think I don't want to help her?!"

Before I could react she pushed me aside, smacking her fist against the deck, noticeable cracks forming on the piece of furniture.

That however wasn't the end of it.

"Trust me Shirou, I tried!" She snapped even further, throwing the remaining papers she was so pestering about on the floor. "Last night Grayfia-sama contacted me and told me what happened and I knew this would eventually have to be settled with a Rating Game."

Her teeth were grinding against each other, a deep scowl on her face. "In terms of teams, Rias is at a huge disadvantage. Not only does she lack any actual experience in rating games, but she barely has half a set while Riser has every individual piece accounted for. There's hardly anything I can do given the circumstances, but there was one option available."

She whipped her hand to the side, a magic circle present on it. The very next moment the nearby chessboard flew at me and almost hit me in the chest, but I managed to catch it.

As I was looking confused at it, Sona took it from me and took out a few of its contents.

"Exchanging pieces." She explained as she placed the pieces on the desk for me to see. "Rias still has a Rook and Knight piece unused as well as a Bishop that is unavailable. That being said, I proposed to Rias if it came down to it, we can exchange those with some of our team members for the duration of the game, afterwards, we would exchange them back. I also insisted on having her ask for a game handicap and have you fight for her Rook position."

This revelation washed away the frustration I felt but instead left me utterly confused. The idea she just presented was both plausible and could actually tip the scales in the Gremory heir's favor. While I wasn't sure it would guarantee a win, the addition of me and two others would at the very least help with the numerical disadvantage.

My confusion lied in the fact that it was never brought up at all.

"Then why aren't we doing just that?" I asked slowly, trying my best to understand the situation.

That question only made Sona angrier. "Because she refused my help you fool!"

It took a moment for me to process that. That didn't make a lick of common or tactical sense so I took a seat on the nearest chair, running my hand through my hair in confusion.

"B-But I don't understand, she is at a clear disadvantage and needs all the help she can get, so why refuse?"

"Pride Shirou." The Sitri devil stated, anger still present in her voice, but a bit lessened. "Devils are prideful creatures by nature. Knowing Rias she wants to prove a point, that she is a strong independent woman and not just someone's future trophy wife. So she wants to win by her own means with the peerage she has built."

She took the chess pieces one by one and rearranged them, their numbers mimicking the current ones of the Gremory team.

"All she had to do was just say the word and her brother would have gladly exchanged one of his absurdly strong pieces with her and have them annihilate Riser's team immediately. But that would hardly prove anything, it would just cement that she is helpless and must rely on others' help to win. So... she refused any help I tried to offer." Sona finally admitted with a tired sigh, all the fury previously shown gone and replaced with a bitter scowl. "And I felt hurt when she did so."

With slow and strained steps she took a chair and sat in front of me, appearing completely exhausted. "She doesn't even know what risks I was willing to take by offering to trade you on her team."

I blinked a few times, feeling confused. "Risks?"

"You're still human Shirou!" She snapped once more at me, only this time it was much weaker compared to the last one. "If that information somehow got leaked during the game there will be hell to pay both for me and for Rias, and especially for you, but I was willing to take that risk!"

She took off her glasses and started to rub her eyes furiously in sheer vexation.

"At this point, there's nothing we can do." She whispered in defeat, a look of utter dejection present. "So if you have any respect for me Shirou, please drop it, I had enough of this subject."

… Dammit.

All this time she was trying to keep a strong front, acting like she was fine and didn't care about what was going on, whether to me or to herself I wasn't too sure, perhaps it was both. Perhaps she was even more affected by this than I was… no, I was now certain that was the case.

And here I've been accusing her of not caring.

I just love making things worse now, don't I?

My head dropped and I sighed, turning around while avoiding eye contact. "... I'll see you tomorrow."

Just as I was to step out, I heard her tap her hand on the desk.

"Shirou, there are times when you can't help everyone." She spoke in clear sorrow, still, there was concern present in her tone. "So you should learn to step back at times."

"... No."

That was all I had to say as I closed the door behind.


The rest of the day went by at a snail pace. After everything was said and done, I was hardly in the mood for school and half tempted to ditch it for the first time in my life but dropped that idea the moment I realized the amount of trouble I would be in if I did it.

The rest of the Sitri peerage was informed about what happened and they shared my distaste about it and the fact that we can't do anything to help. However, they were less physical about showing it as I did.

At the very least no other incident took place and I arrived home without causing another scene.

The hours went by and my mind kept festering on what happened, bothering me at my every step, as if a collar tightened around my throat.

Sleeping turned out to be rather difficult because of it. When I couldn't stand rolling in my bed anymore I jumped out of it and started working out just to keep my mind focused on something.

At one point I felt something soft drop on my back as I was doing push-ups.

The answer to what it was came the very next moment with a couple of soft barks. "Fou, fou!"

I slowly picked myself up, catching Fou as he slipped down my back. "What is it, buddy?"

The small adorable beast jumped out of my hand and made his way to my bed, picking up something with his teeth. "Oh, my phone?"

It appears I forgot to switch back from vibrate-only and someone had been calling me.

Which is curious when you consider the late hour.

I only hope nothing bad happened.

After taking the phone and wiping away the drool Fou left, I answered. "[Hey Shirou, you okay?]"

A breath of ease escaped my lips as I heard her voice, there was no panic or fear in it so things were fine for the most part. "Evening Tsubaki-senpai. Yeah, I'm doing good, just working out a bit."

"[At this hour?]"

I rubbed my neck and sighed. "Can't sleep, thought of tiring myself out to see if that helps."

"[... That's not healthy.]"

"… I'll manage." A small chuckle escaped my lips, not sure why but her deadpan tone was a bit funny. "Me aside, what about you, how come you're awake at this hour?"

"[...]"

Her sudden silence made my smile drop, something was up. "... Tsubaki-senpai?"

It was a good minute or so before she finally replied. "[Sorry, it's just… nightmares…]"

My eyes widened and my teeth gritted when it finally dawned on me. While I was keeping my mind busy with this whole Riser Phenex nonsense I forgot that one of my friends is going through their own REAL life troubles.

There wasn't much I could say in response. "Oh…"

"[Yeah…]" The Sitri Queen mumbled unsure, taking another pause until she spoke again, a shriek then was heard on the other line. "[Agh! Dammit! Not even a minute in and I made this sound call all depressing!]"

A vile sensation was building in my gut, I really didn't like this. "Hey, it's okay… it's understandable."

There was a heavy breathing sound on the other line, clearly, she was trying to calm herself. "[Look, I didn't call you to talk about me, so let's drop it… please.]"

"Are you sure?" I asked her slowly, unsure what I could do to help her.

"[Yes. I'm very sure.]"

It was clear she wasn't in the mood to talk about it, in spite of clearly needing it. "Fine…"

"[Mind if we change to video call?]"

A heavy breath escaped my lips and I rubbed the bridge of my nose. "Uh, sure… but why?"

"[I feel like I should see your face for what I want to talk about.]"

"Okay, give me a second." I stopped for a moment, awkwardness shortly taking over. "How do you video call again?"

"[And Momo showed you three times how it's done.]" I wasn't sure if she was disappointed or just tired as she said that. "[I'll call you, just press the green button.]"

The call ended abruptly. It was about a minute or so before it began ringing again, only this time with the distinct ringtone of an incoming video call. As instructed I pressed the green button, shortly after the image was cleared up and I could see Tsubaki-senpai. "… Do you see me?"

"[Yeah, I can see- ]" She froze mid-speech, her eyes widening and staring unblinkingly.

That right there just got me confused, was there something wrong with my phone?

"Everything okay, you just went silent?"

Her mouth slowly closed, her lips a perfectly flat line perfectly in sync with her stoic expression, yet strangely her face was very red. "[Shirou?]"

"Yes?"

"[Why are you naked?]" she asked flatly.

I blinked a few times, then looked down at my very sweaty and very naked abdomen.

"Ah!" I panicked and immediately grabbed the nearest shirt and put it on. "Sorry, sorry, I was working out and didn't get to put a shirt on."

"[Just be careful next time. One could consider this sexual harassment.]" She paused, coughing lightly in her fist. "[Or showing off.]"'

"Why would I show off?"

"[I dunno, maybe to show how buff you are under those baggy clothes.]"

"I'm not that large…"

"[You're pretty 'jacked', as Tsubasa would say.]"

"Thank you… I think?"

"[...Anyhow.]" She muttered awkwardly.

"Yeah…" I nodded, taking a moment to get a better look at her. The room she was calling me from was rather dark, but I could still see her face somewhat illuminated by the phone screen.

Her hair was a complete disheveled mess, eyes red and swollen.

The nightmares… were affecting her much more than she was willing to admit.

"[Are you okay?]"

Honestly, that was what I wanted to ask her.

"Yeah… Why do you ask?"

She rubbed one of her shoulders and sighed lightly. "[Well… you and Sona did have a bit of a fight earlier.]"

A gut-wrenching feeling hit me when she mentioned that. "… Uh, so you heard what happened?"

"[I was at the door when you two started arguing.]" She explained weakly.

"Oh…" Okay, admittedly not one of my best moments.

"[Yeah, I didn't know if I should interrupt so I just stayed still and saw how things played out.]"

I rubbed the back of my head, what happened earlier was bad enough for me, having others hear about it was just salt on the wound. "Eavesdropping isn't too nice, you know."

"[That hardly is the issue here Shirou.]"

"I guess. How bad did I act?" I asked with a sigh.

"[Honestly, I don't want to hold sides in this but I'd say both of you are at fault. You were rather rude to Sona, but Sona also didn't explain everything properly before she shot you down.]"

I suppose it was a fair way of looking at it. If Sona would have taken the time to lie down all the facts I most likely wouldn't have snapped like that... still, it doesn't justify me acting like that in the first place.

"Nah, I'm mostly at fault here. I shouldn't have snapped like that." I rubbed the back of my head and sighed. "I should apologize to her."

"[That would be for the best. But I'd advise that you wait for a couple of days at least.]" The bespectacled Queen warned me. "[Sona is absolutely fuming right now, so any attempts to apologize might backfire at the moment.]"

Great…

Now I have to add 'making up with Sona' to my already long list of things to get over. "I see…"

"[Look Shirou I know this is a rather difficult situation, but don't let it eat you up.]"

It was easier said than done. "I'll try."

A small smile graced her tired face. "[That's all I wanted to hear.]"

"Sorry to make you worry about me."

"[Hey, what are friends for?]"

"Thanks."

"[Okay, now go to bed before you start looking like a raccoon.]"

"Wait!" I raised my voice to stop her from hanging up, clearly startling the girl. "What about you? Will you be alright?"

Her lips tightened into a thin line, eyes looking to the side to avoid looking into mine.

It was a while before she finally mustered the words.

"[... I'm not sure Shirou.]" Her voice was weak as she finally admitted. "[I honestly have no idea what I should do.]"

Sona said she will look for some professional help. I'm sure she must have found someone, however, that was meaningless since first of all she requires the Sitri Queen's consent.

Admitting that you have a problem and seeking out help is rather difficult for some. I recall watching a documentary detailing the current state of seeking therapy in Japan and it was rather… troubling.

Apparently, there's this bad stigma when it comes to going to therapy or counseling, which makes it rather difficult for many people to even admit that they need help, let alone reach out for it.

While I'm not sure if this applies to Tsubaki-senpai, it certainly doesn't help when society itself has a bad view of it.

As much as Sona and I believe that our team's Queen is in desperate need of help, we can't just force it on her.

Like someone once said 'The first step in fixing a problem is admitting you have one' only then can progress be made.

It was quite conflicting for me, whether or not I should give her a push.

If only I knew how I could help her.

"I wish I had an answer to give you." I finally admitted bitterly, my eyes downcast. "If you ever want to talk about it, like I said before, I'm always willing to listen."

For some long, heavy moments, she just stared at me unresponsive. Her lips twitched as she let out a heavy breath. "[...Goodnight Shirou.]"

She hung up on me, not even waiting for me to reply.

My eyes narrowed tiredly at my phone screen, noticing that Tsubaki-senpai wasn't the only one that tried to check up on me.

A ton of unread messages that I didn't realize I received. They were all from the student council members, each of them asking if I was alright in their own ways.

Perhaps the Sitri Queen wasn't the only one to hear of the little argument I had with Sona.

Really… it's just one thing after another, isn't it?

It was a good ten minutes before I answered them all and made sure they knew I was fine.

Though in hindsight perhaps I should've replied at a reasonable hour and not this late in the night.

Oh well, I can take any complaints when I wake up.

"Goodnight," I muttered weakly, crashing into my bed like a lifeless doll. In spite of being unable to sleep or sit in place mere minutes ago, I suddenly felt exhausted. A ball of fluff landed on my abdomen, looking rather tired himself. "I really should go to sleep right, Fou?"

"Fou!"

"Night Fou."


I wasn't too sure why it happened now of all times, maybe it was the events that took place today, maybe it was just stress, but I began recalling certain events from my early days with my new family.

Looking back, it feels like something that never happened, but I could never forget about it no matter how much time passed.

It was the first year after I moved into the new house.

Starting a new life together with the strangers that would become my family was by no means easy, however, it had a certain warmth to it.

Those were simple days, trying to make this new house our own.

Iri, pranking each of us, secretly dyeing our hair when we all were painting the living room.

Kiritsugu, trying to make us a snack, which somehow resulted in the kitchen getting set on fire.

Leysritt and Sella, bickering over their room, who gets which side of it and the top shelves.

Aunt Maiya teaching me how to use a kitchen knife, making everyone in the house panic over it.

Little Illya, always asking me for piggybacks.

Those were just a few of those halcyon days.

Back then I could not realize how much they would mean to me.

Everything changed one day when Iri collapsed on the floor.

It happened so fast, it took me several moments to understand what just happened. One moment she was just standing on the couch like any other day but when she got up her legs suddenly gave up on her and she crashed down to the floor like a lifeless mannequin.

I panicked and became a stuttering mess, unsure of what to do or how to help, but dad calmed me down and told me that he will handle it.

When mom woke up she laughed it off and assured me that she was fine, blaming it all on exhaustion.

Small as I was, I could tell that there was something they were hiding from me, but I grit my teeth and accepted it.

It would have been fine if that was a one-time thing, sadly it wasn't. From there on mom's health started to deteriorate all of a sudden.

Day by day her body would get weaker till the point that she was bedridden.

For months she was pinned to her bed unable to even walk without assistance.

She could barely even hug her own kids with how heavy her arms felt.

I remember one time I tried making her some soup, thinking it may cheer her up and it did, she looked really happy even though it was pretty bad.

She didn't even get to try it, her hands were so weak that she dropped the bowl.

"I'm sorry Shirou, I wasted all the work you put into making it."

You're wrong. You don't have to apologize. It's not your fault.

Those were some of the things I wanted to tell her at that moment, but found myself unable to and ran away like a coward.

I just couldn't stand seeing her like this.

The way she got all depressed and apologized to me, telling me how sorry she was for wasting all my hard work.

It made me feel so bad, her apologizing to me in spite of being in such a bad state.

I just… I just... I just wanted to see my mom laugh again.


My eyes slowly opened, the morning light reaching through my curtains. I cocked my head to the side, I overslept it seems.

Well, it was a weekend so it wasn't so bad.

Slowly I picked myself up, sitting on the bed's edge, my head feeling all woozy and fuzzy. I might have caught some hours of sleep but I felt worse than when I fell asleep.

"So, is that why you are such a momma's boy?"

I lifted my head and stared at the opposite side of the bed, Archer was sitting on the edge with his arms crossed, a curious look present on his face.

Dealing with him was hardly what I needed right now. "... Shut up."

My grumpy reaction only got me a shrug from him."Just saying, I was curious as to why you were on the edge when that Himejima girl made that remark about your mother."

"Yeah, yeah, just be a dick and laugh at it." I rolled my eyes and resisted the throbbing sensation in my head.

"Just trying to tie up some loose ends."

"If you really can see my dreams or memories or whatever you have no reason to ask me in the first place."

"Perhaps, but more often than you think one's perspective can change depending on the way you look at something. So I'm curious to hear yours."

There was a part of me that got really annoyed when he was making valid points and I didn't have any counter arguments.

"What's there left to say? Mom was really sick at one point, end of story."

"If that really was the case, how come she's all better now and with more energy than a kid high on sugar?" He inclined his head towards me, grey eyes looking very skeptical.

"Dad apparently found someone to treat her. He never really went into detail about it, but after taking her there she started recovering and got better. "

"That's all good, but then why are you so concerned now if she's all better?"

"Because I never want that to happen again." I half snapped at him, rubbing my eyes to get rid of the sting in them. "Seeing the way she was a night ago, all weak and barely able to even stand by herself made me recall those bad times."

Illya was small so she probably doesn't even remember, but there were times she would ask me 'Onii-chan, what's wrong with mommy?'.

Those moments were just… I can hardly find a way to describe how bad they felt.

"So go ahead and insult me all you want, call me a mama's boy as much as it pleases you. All I care about is that I never want to see my mother suffering ever again."

I waited for some snarky remark from the white-haired jerk, when I looked over at him, all I saw was just stoicism, as well something else that I couldn't quite discern.

… Was it perhaps pity?

"I could mock you about a lot of things, but not about something like this."

Blue embers flicker as his form slowly fades away, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

That was… unusual.

A strained moan escaped my mouth as I slowly went downstairs. When I entered the living room I stopped and looked around, noticing the small changes here and there.

Luckily for me, Sella passed by. "What's up with all the snacks here? Are we expecting someone?"

"It would appear that your mother is expecting some guests." She didn't stop and instead answered while walking. A doorbell ranged just as steeped out. "That must be them. "

"Shirou, would you be a dear and open the door?" Iri shouted from the kitchen, making my confusion only grow.

"Uh, sure."

When I reached the front door and opened it to greet the guests, I instead blinked several times. "Greetings Emiya Shirou, I hope you are well on this fine day-"

I slammed the door shut in their face.

"No way. " I muttered to myself, giving myself a couple of slaps on the face to double-check.

The stress finally got to me. I'm just hallucinating because there's no way that Riser Phenex is at my doorstep.

Yes, that has to be it.

"Shirou is that Riser-kun, what are you waiting for, welcome him inside."

My neck bent mechanically towards the kitchen where my mom was shouting, then back at the front door and the person behind it.

Just what is going on here?!


Omake: Awkward talk

When the meeting with Riser PHenex was done, Rias Gremory did not expect any other problems for the rest of the day.

Nor did she expect Shirou to return to the club room looking rather troubled?

The Gremory King straightened herself in her seat, something telling her a new headache was approaching. "Did you forget something, Emiya-kun?"

"Y-Yeah, you can say that." Shirou for his part looked very perturbed, his eyes avoiding direct eye contact with Rias. He could however look around the room, and inwardly swear as the others were also present and staring at him. "Can w-we talk a minute in private?"

This only made the people present grow even more confused. "Whatever it may be, I don't mind my peerages presence."

"Trust me, you don't want ANYONE around for this talk."

In any other circumstance, Rias would have felt rather insulted by this, however she could tell that something was very off about Shirou with his pale and shaky expression. "If you insist."

With a gesture of her hand, the others slowly left the room, some of them, namely Issei, weren't very happy with the idea of leaving her alone with Shirou.

Some on the other, namely Akeno, found this situation as a good opportunity for amusement. "Don't forget to use protection."

Shirou's eye twitched strongly at that remark. "My image of that woman is really starting to change."

"That's just how Akeno is, you'll get used to it eventually," Rias remarked, trying her best to hide her embarrassment in front of her guest.

"...I doubt it."

As much as Rias wanted to refute him, she really couldn't. "So what is this about?"

When time passed and Shirou did not respond to her question Rias only grew more impatient. "Well?"

With what seemed like an epic internal struggle for the male redhead, he reached for his backpack and pulled a small parcel, placing it on her desk. "Here, you forgot these."

A crimson eyebrow rose in curiosity, wondering what it could be?

Carefully she unfolded the parcel, her eyes almost bulging out of her head when she saw the contents within.

"...Dammit." She muttered under her breath, her face now a similar shade as her hair, steam literally coming out of her ears from the sheer embarrassment. "I was hoping I didn't forget them there."

On her desk lay the very panties she misplaced the previous night in Shirou's room.

The man in question was also sporting a very deep blush on his face, his eyes still avoiding direct contact. "Well, I found them, and wasn't sure what to do."

Rias eventually couldn't handle it anymore and pressed her face against her desk in an attempt to hide it. "… Maybe you could've just ignored them. Would have saved us both some embarrassment."

"Yeah, don't think that would've been a good idea. If you realized you left them there and I didn't say anything about it, you might have speculated that I might have done something… bad with them."

"Something bad, like wha- " The words died in her mouth as she quickly caught up to what Shirou was implying. Her head shot up and looked in disgust at the boy. "Eww!"

"My point exactly." Shirou nodded with a grim look, reminiscent of the one his father had on a daily basis.

The red-haired beauty picked up her missing piece of lingerie and examined it. "… You didn't do anything to them, right?"

Shirou had to do a double-take at that, his body recoiling as if he got hit by a bullet. "What ?! No! I wouldn't do something like that, I'm not some perv."

A shadow fell on Rias's eyes, lifting up her panties to point at them. "… What are these stains on them?"

A foreign cringe became present on Shirou's face. "… I know what you're thinking, please stop. Those are drool stains from Fou, he is the one who found it and brought them to me."

"Oh, thank Satan." She breathed in ease and splattered on her desk. This was hardly among the things she expected today… though if she were honest this was hardly something she'd expect EVER.

"So… I think I will go now," Shirou muttered as he slowly dragged himself to the door.

"Good idea." Rias nodded and just waved him off, lifting her head only when she knew she was all alone. Her burning gaze shifted to the panties that caused her so much turmoil, weighing her options regarding them. "If these weren't limited edition Victoria Secret they would be ashes by now."

Sure she is filthy rich, but that doesn't mean she should waste the good stuff.


Author notes:

Soooooo remember when I mentioned that I will handle the Riser arc a bit differently.

Well, I'm sure none of you expected what I did with him in this chapter.

Once more we are proven that Iri is a force to be reckoned with and most likely the best thing in this fic.

Again, as I said, I'm planning to make the Riser arc more interesting, so stay tuned.

Oh and before you start typing 'NTR! Kill it with fire!' In the comment section, stay chill nothing like that will happen. We all know Iri is all about her hubby… Though I'd be lying if there weren't some moments with Iri that gave me some Bi vibes, which may lead to something like- AND I NEED TO STOP THERE. Can't spoil too much.

On a more serious matter, sorry again for the delay, there were some issues both on my side and my beta's.

The crazy Brexit sure gave me a ton of shit to deal with and get done in order to get the right to stay here in the UK. Fortunately I was able to solve them all and now I can stay here without fear of getting deported.

In FGO news, after 3 years of playing, EMIYA finally decided to visit my chaldea, hell it's about time. Other than him, my roster now has Gray, Astrea, Aśvatthāman, Maou Nobu, Sheba, Kama(GSSR), Summer Osakehime, Summer Carmilla, Bunnytoria, Jeanne, Summer Hokusai and Summer Musashi.

Also hot damn, Chen Gong is damn useful.


Don't forget to review... no seriously review; I could use some constructive criticism.