Hello there. It's good to see you again.
The author's note is at the top of the chapter this time because I would rather let you end this on a happier note. So you remember how two chapters (and five months) ago I said that Saga was in its final stage? Well, we're closing it now. This chapter marks Saga as complete. I still have ideas but... I'm tired of the itch. The thought that I should be writing for this story. If I have writing energy I should channel it to this story since I made so many commitments to it, that kinda thing. I'm really tired of it.
So to give both of us some closure, I'm calling this the end. Maybe, just maybe, there might be something else in the future, but I would rather not have you hold onto that hope for the next nine years. I just got asked on twitter where the next chapter was for a Percy Jackson fic I edited when I was in my teens, and it made me realize how awful that abandonment can feel. So, yeah, the stories are unfinished, but at least you won't be waiting forever. In fact, I have an offer for you:
If any of the chapters in this fic elicited your interest and you want to see it continued, you have my consent to write a continuation of them yourself. You don't have to ask me, I am giving blanket permission for this. Just let your readers know where you got the idea from, that's all I ask.
Anyway, I don't want to make this much longer, and I don't want to say the melodramatic "thank you"s that I've given this in the past. Just... I appreciate you, if you made it through this whole thing. I appreciate that you cared enough, even if it was only to see it crash and burn. This silly little idea became more popular than the stories of all of the authors that I looked up to, which blew me the fuck away, and still does to this day. I've gotten to meet so many incredible people because of it.
I hope that this story gave you something more than the words on the page. I don't know what that something is, but I hope that it exists. I hope that something helped you want to live for just a little longer. I hope for you to find whatever it is that you're looking for, too.
One last time, thank you to all of my Loresingers: Aberron, TungstenCat, Exstarsis, Kat-2V, YukiKazami, and nd7878. The fact that they all stuck with me through this means the world to me. You should really, really, really go read their works. Who knows? Maybe you'll find something that has a piece of me in it.
Your credits theme is To the Beginning by Kalafina.
This is Pallan Minerva, signing off. Enjoy the chapter, and one last time:
Thanks for reading.
When Shirou Emiya first summoned his Servant, when he was first pulled into the hell that was the Holy Grail War, he felt nothing so much as shock and awe. Having two near-death experiences in as many hours was enough to put anyone off-balance, and even with all of his training, he couldn't do anything but turn fatal blows into slightly-less-than-fatal blows. So it was understandable that, when a girl who barely seemed old enough to be in secondary school blew the spearman away with a shining sword glimmering in the starlight, he wasn't exactly in the right mind to give the best words.
Then she turned around, and he witnessed the most beautiful thing he'd ever laid eyes upon—
"You must be my Master, right?" She bowed quickly. "It's a pleasure to meet you. Excuse me for a moment!"
And then she bounded away, and with her she took any semblance of Shirou's normal life.
The procession of events that followed were both the stuff of his greatest dreams and of his worst nightmares. The violence he participated in, the lives he saved and the lives he couldn't, had left scars on his mind whose depth he wasn't yet capable of measuring yet. And that was saying nothing of the physical wounds he bore, all of the times he tried to push Saber out of the way of an arrow or a blade, stories engraved on his skin and his bones. He should have died another five times these past couple of weeks. And yet, every single time, he woke up in the morning with a fully functional body and a relieved smile from Saber, brighter than the sun through his window. It was unlike anything he had ever known.
"You're okay," she whispered.
He smiled back. "I'm okay."
The first couple of times, she begged him not to do it again. But he couldn't promise that—how could he let her fight alone? How could he ask someone younger than him to fight his battles for him, someone like her who outshone every star in the sky? Servant or not, he would hate himself forever if he didn't stand alongside her.
So she relented. She taught him what she knew, the techniques she had drilled over and over and over again. A style very unlike the kendo he had grown up with. And he taught her what he knew—that is, the wonders of this world she never knew. The joys of a day out in the park; a snow that she could rest assured would not snuff out that year's harvest; and even the simple sweetness of a strawberry parfait.
And that day he could finally hold his own against her (even if she wasn't using her full strength) was also the first time she kissed him. Of course, that made them both turn red with embarrassment, and neither spoke for what felt like hours.
"So, um..." he started.
"S-sorry!" she squeaked. "I, um, I just, I—you don't have to, I mean, it's okay if you don't—"
"N-no, you're fine!" he stuttered back. "You're, um, I think—can we, ah... can we do that again?"
"...eep," was the tiny noise that emerged from her next. But after that, well, there wasn't much talking for a little while.
Of course, every high must have its low. That didn't make it any easier for Shirou when he wasn't able to stop Shinji from having Rider nearly massacre his entire school. It was a wake-up call. Just because he found a sliver of happiness didn't mean that he could stop pushing himself. There were still people out there that needed him—still people out there he could save.
That was why he was still awake, the night before they would have to go confront Berserker and his Master. Because maybe there was still something to do, something to prepare with, something that might give them an edge—
His eyes shot open and he sat up. Oh. He'd fallen asleep on the floor of the shed. Ouch. He scratched his hair and looked to the door. Saber stood there, bathed in moonlight just like she had been on that first night. She was radiant, even when she closed the door behind her and all that illuminated her was the glow of the space heater.
"Heya, Saber." He gave her a wave, though halfway through he had to use the hand to cover his mouth due to the wide yawn he couldn't keep back.
"I thought you said you were only going to be a few more minutes?" she asked, taking quiet steps toward him.
"Still got stuff to do." He waved to the assortment of workshop tools he was Tracing. There was no way someone could concentrate on weaving a spell to kill him when he was throwing three pipe wrenches a second into their face, right? That's what the hope was, at least.
A soft hand reached over to wipe dust off of his cheek. "It's been two hours."
He sucked in a breath. "Oh. Sorry."
She kneeled down on the floor next to him, and Shirou winced at the grease that stained her dress.
"Sorry about that," he mumbled.
"What?" She looked down at her dress. "Ah, well... that's fine."
She nodded, smiling nostalgically. "I've worn far dirtier clothes than this. To be honest, dressing in something this fancy is..." She pulled nervously at her left glove, the opening of which stretched past the elbow. "Feels weird."
"I still have some of Taiga's old clothes if you want to change."
She shook her head. "It might feel weird, but... it's also a part of me. This me. Thank you, though."
"Of course." No matter how many times he offered, she never took him up on it. And they always turned out clean the next day anyway. Shirou wished his clothing were as easy to clean as that. Especially when it came to blood... too many damn bloodstains to count as of late.
"So?" she asked after a few silent moments.
"You wanna come get some rest?"
"No, I still got stuff—"
She patted her lap twice. "If you're going to lay down, at least lay down on something more comfortable."
He met her gaze. She was smiling. The light in the darkness.
He sighed and laid on the floor again, putting his head in her lap. She instantly began to run her fingers through his hair, and he yawned.
"I'll get back to this soon," he mumbled.
"Whenever you like, Shirou."
Her voice was the last thing he heard before slumber claimed him.
The smell of dinner carried farther than the sound, even if the sizzling pans were quite loud. So it was no surprise that Shirou could hear his pseudo-older-sister drifting into a stop in his driveway before quickly locking her scooter and ripping her helmet off.
She was already starting up, too.
"Shi-rou!" she roared. "The Tiger is hungry!"
Then she ran through the entrance, slamming the door shut behind her. He couldn't help but wince, even though he knew that she was just playing around, and that it wasn't as rough as it sounded. Taiga loved to be melodramatic, loved to play the fool, and of course the people who were taken in the most by it were—
The screams and giggling of children echoed down the hall, trampling footsteps made the house tremble, and then the door to the living room flew open.
"Papa, help!" yelled his oldest child, Eira, at eleven years old a near carbon clone of her mother. "She's gotten out of her cage ag—!"
Another roar, and Eira quickly scurried inside, crouching down to hide behind the kitchen wall. Shirou raised an eyebrow, but she'd done as he'd asked and placed herself just behind the pillar, so as to not cause an accident in the kitchen. She put a finger to her lips, desperately pleading that he not say a word. Which, of course, he wouldn't. He was the parent who tended to spoil his kids more than he should.
"Rraaaaaargh!" The only thing his children feared was the creature that walked into his living room—a hungry Taiga. Under each arm she carried his other two children, who were squealing appropriately. "Shi-rou! If I don't get my meal in the next five seconds, I'm gonna snack on your kids instead!"
"Nooooo!" cried Taka, his only boy, flailing underneath her right arm. "Papa, don't let her eat me!"
"You don't wanna eat me!" Hana, Taka's twin, was always quite the bargainer. "Take Taka instead! I taste bad! I taste like... like vegetables!"
"Oh, really now?" purred the Tiger, her grin all teeth. "Then it looks like I just became a vegetarian!"
And cue more squealing. Eira grinned but did not break her cover. Shirou decided that it was probably time to calm them all down.
"Well that's just too bad," he called out. "I was just cooking up some fantastic karaage, but if you don't eat meat anymore then I guess I'll just have to—"
"I'm cured!" yelled Taiga, letting the kids wiggle out of her grasp and raising her hands to the sky in triumph. "Thank you, Shirou! I'm no longer a vegetarian!"
"Well, isn't that good to hear?"
Shirou's smile brightened as his wife walked through the door. She wore her most comfortable green turtleneck, the one he'd gotten for her as a Christmas gift some years ago. Whenever she blushed too hard, she'd pull up the neckline to cover the bottom half of her face.
"I would hate for you to miss out on the newest best dinner in the world," Artoria continued. "I got him this spice kit last week and he has been having the time of his life with it."
Shirou scratched the back of his head and laughed, somewhat embarrassed. "Well, I mean, it's just that there's so many more options now, and—"
"Papa, just finish it already!" said Eira, before slapping her hands over her mouth.
"Oh?" The Tiger began to purr once more, taking slow steps towards the kitchen. "There was one prey that got away, wasn't there? Could it be... that she is... hiding from me?"
"Uh... um... meow," was the reply from the girl. "I am a cat, meow. Do not harm me, fellow feline, meow."
"Hmm..." The Tiger paused for a moment, thinking. "Okay, you're free to go then."
A sigh of relief, and then Eira walked out from behind the pillar and straight toward her doom.
"Not!" Taiga grabbed the girl and carried her into the living room, undisturbed by her prey's protests and pleas. "As if the Tiger would fall for such petty—"
"Now!" yelled Eira.
With a cry of war, her two siblings charged from behind their mother and grabbed onto Taiga's legs, shaking her back and forth.
"Bad tiger!" said Taka. "Let her go!"
"Yeah, let her go!" said Hana. "You should have taken Taka while you had the chance for an easy snack!"
Shirou would have loved to continue watching their antics, but a tap on his arm made him look to the side. Artoria smiled at him, then pointed at the stove.
"Oh, right." He quickly shut it off. Some of the pieces got a bit singed, but nothing that would disturb the meal too much. "Thanks."
"Of course." Shirou inhaled as she hugged him from behind, her arms going underneath his apron. "Mm. You smell like chicken."
"You think everything smells like chicken," he teased.
"Not true." He could hear her pout. "I can think of at least... three, no, four things that don't. But you definitely smell like chicken."
"I'll take a shower tonight."
Though they no longer exchanged words, she still held him close, leaning her head against his back. The laughter and yells of the others became mere background noise. Shirou put his hands on top of hers.
"Thank you," she said quietly.
"For?" He already knew the answer, but he loved it all the same.
"For giving me this."
He reached underneath his apron and interlaced her fingers between his. "Any time."
They stayed like that for a few more moments, but it could not last forever. Another roar from the Tiger, now brought to one knee by the three children, reminded them that they still had obligations. Artoria let him go and began to move away, but he caught her hand.
"Yes?" she said, eyes twinkling in the sunset.
"I love you," he whispered, and kissed her.
[...just for now.]
"And they lived happily ever after..."
Two figures looked upon the Emiya household from the other side of the street: a little girl tightly holding onto a book, and an old man whose eyes could not settle on what color they were.
"The end," the girl finished.
"You're going to give me cavities with an ending that sweet," said the man.
"Well, excuse me for wanting something nice for once!" The girl crossed her arms and let out a small "hmph". "Not everyone likes dark and depressing endings, you old grump!"
He shrugged. "Life is what it is, little book. Sometimes misery lies at the end of the path."
Her frown grew deeper. "Yeah, well, I don't like that!"
"I can tell." He chuckled. "Well? Are there any more?"
"Of course there are!" She thrust her book at him. "Look at how much is left unfinished! We have to give them all happy endings!"
He sighed. "Were it only so simple."
"It is!" she argued. "We can make it happen! You've got like a kajillion years to think about stuff and I've got a bajillion stories to read to figure out how to make things go right. We'll figure it out somehow!"
"Heh. I suppose so." With a snap of his fingers, a shimmering portal appeared, large enough for just the two of them. Another street just like the one they stood on lay behind it. "Shall we, then?"
The girl pulled the old man through the portal, and it closed behind them.