(A/N) Wow- it's been a minute.
I've been saying this a lot recently, and I get that it can get a bit annoying, but the reality of the matter is that it's out of my control, unfortunately. I'm not a superhuman like Coeur Al'Aran or Parcasious, so me having this many stories rolling out at once means that it takes a little longer to get to everything.
Truth be told, this is probably my fav story to write. I know that it's a little rough around the edges at times -it was one of my earlier stories after all- but I really do love it to bits. To those of you out there that are getting fed up waiting months between updates, know that it won't keep being like this forever. Fear the Superhero (my fate x Sekirei story) is the one that's getting the most attention right now, but my objective is to get that one done by the end of the year. At that point, either Emiya-sensei? or this story here will take its place.
WIth that heavier(?) stuff out of the way, I'm absolutely shocked by the scene that was voted to be the illustration here (which is up on the Spacebattles version of this story). I was like, 100% sure that it would be, uh... something else. Lol.
Shoutout to Ajpa for beta-reading!
It was already pretty late by the time that I got back to the house. When I stepped through the door, only the light in the dining area was still on.
I slipped off my shoes and opened the sliding paper doors as quietly as I could. If anyone was already in bed, then there was no sense in disturbing them.
Only Barthomeloi was here.
She had dragged in a rocking chair from another room to sit on while she read some sort of book. A cup of tea was nursed between her legs and her spare hand. If my nose was correct, then it would seem that she had found the unopened box of the expensive stuff that I had stashed away in the cupboard.
"You're going to scratch the floor," I told her instead of greeting her properly. I immediately moved towards the kitchen to make myself some tea as well. "Isn't it getting late?"
The others must have gone to bed already.
She shot me a look that told me exactly how much she cared about anything that I had just said. The woman quirked a brow.
"Are you trying to tell me how I should regulate my own time? That's brave of you." She lowered her book just enough to bring the mug to her lips and take a quick sip. "Anyhow, your pekoe is middling at best. I wasted a good while sifting through what you had was left wanting. Have I taught you nothing?"
"Yes, Lady Barthomeloi. How silly of me, Lady Barthomeloi. I'll do better, Lady Barthomeloi."
"Your sarcasm isn't appreciated."
"Is that so?"
A funny coincidence, perhaps. I, too, could name a thing or two that wasn't appreciated.
For a while, we stood in the same room in silence. She continued to read her book while I stared at a slowly-boiling kettle disinterestedly.
"I visited the Second Owner today," I remarked offhandedly. "She didn't know that you were here."
"A Second Owner should be more observant," the Clock Tower magus shot back immediately in a chiding tone without lifting her eyes from the page. "I shouldn't have to say anything."
A loud –perhaps even exaggerated– sigh escaped me. My shoulders slumped and I leaned over the countertop exhaustedly.
"Damn it, woman. You're a piece of work."
"Watch your tone," she warned. She licked a finger and flipped the page.
"Be a little more honest, will you? What's going on?"
I didn't get an answer immediately. This infuriating, glorified owner of mine took the time to sip at her probably-lukewarm beverage once more. Seriously, there was no way that it could still be hot by now, so there was absolutely zero reason to make the sip so dainty and drawn out.
"Whatever do you mean?"
Hah… I wanted to go to bed already. I didn't feel like playing games right now.
"Lord El-Melloi was there too," I announced unabashedly. Was I throwing him under the bus right now? Maybe. Not my problem. "He said that he followed you here. He told me about what's going on with your Gramps."
The book slammed shut.
"Refer to the Vice Director by his title, you disrespectful brat!"
Ah, there we go. Now we were getting somewhere.
"Sorry, sorry," I apologised disingenuously. "Wanna talk about it?"
Well, at least I tried.
I poured my tea, grabbed my cup and walked away.
My traitorous feet stopped midway through the room. How annoying.
Before I knew it, I was sitting cross-legged at the table, craning my neck to stare up at the woman in her high chair.
"You sure?" I tried again half-heartedly.
I was shut down on the spot.
"No. None of this is of your concern. Now hurry up and end your business so that I can take you with me."
Didn't she realize how backwards that was? How could she say that it has nothing to do with me then immediately follow up by telling me that she wanted to me to relocate permanently?
Then again, my opinions on the matter were irrelevant to her to begin with, so maybe the mental gymnastics weren't that crazy from her perspective.
"Maybe you're right," I lied.
For a while, that was all that I felt the need to say. I stared into nothingness as I slowly worked at my own hot beverage. Unfortunately, she wasn't going to be the one to crack first. Bullheaded, this one was.
"…But even so," I eventually continued, "that doesn't mean that I can't help, right?"
She kept shooting me down.
"It does mean that. This is a family matter, and family matters are to be dealt with by the family. How is that so difficult to understand, boy?"
I grit my teeth.
Gently so as not to chip anything, the teacup was lowered onto the table with a soft "clink!". I got up, circled the piece of furniture, and stood in front of this pain-in-the-ass of a woman.
My expression hardened and I glared at her intensely. My arm shot out past her shoulder to grab the rocking chair's back, keeping her still. My face was a hand's width away from hers.
"Stop calling me 'boy'."
The book in her hand shook as her fingers twitched.
I didn't make my eyes off hers. Neither one of us blinked for a good, long while.
Thankfully, she cracked first this time. She looked away and clicked her tongue.
"How much do you know?" she asked. "…No, forget it. I doubt there's anything you could do."
"You're not stupid, so stop acting like it," I shot back. "Someone's planning a hit on the Vice Director of the Clock Tower, and you thought that you could sort things out all by yourself? I've been a slave to your whims for years, so I have no idea why you're cutting me any slack now. I'm right here! Use me!"
Her palm pushed my cheek away and I was forced upright.
Barthomeloi huffed and snapped her book shut.
"Sit down and stop breathing in my face. I won't explain this twice."
I did as I was told, if in a fashion that could come across as a little mocking. I dropped onto my butt right in front of her, crossed my legs, and stared up attentively. It was hard to take the reins from a smug grin that was threatening to split my face, but I managed, luckily.
The thought seemed strange to me the moment after it crossed my mind. What did I win, exactly? This was just more annoying crap that I'd have to deal with now, wasn't it?
"I thought that I would be able to manage my affairs in peace while you were busy putting an end to yours, but maybe that was a little optimistic of me," Barthomeloi admitted dryly before I could contemplate the matter any further. "Yes, if the Lord of Modern Magecraft Theory was the one who told you, it's likely that everything you have heard is the truth. The vice director's life is in danger."
"So is yours," I added with a quirked brow and crossed arms. "From what I hear, it's your whole family that this mysterious antagonist is after. Not just him."
Infuriatingly, she only scoffed.
"Am I wrong?" I asked.
"The vice director is at risk only because of his poor health," she defended. "This matter would not have been worth worrying about otherwise. The rest of my clan does not share the same disadvantage."
Fine, fine. Whatever. I could only be baffled by one moronic thing that came out of her mouth at a time. I chose to focus on the point that I had wanted to bring up from the get-go.
"So now you're here," I closed on her behalf. "What does Fuyuki have to do with any of this? El-Melloi sounded like he couldn't make heads or tails of why you're here. Are you chasing whoever's planning all of this?. Do you know something that he doesn't? Who's after the old man anyway?"
She seemed perplexed.
"Why would I pay any mind to them? They are inconsequential. What I'm after is the Dead Apostle who cursed my grandfather. There are individuals committed to my cause that have informed me that my target was moving this way."
It was said with such matter-of-factness that I almost missed the part where she said that an incredibly dangerous supernatural entity was closing in on my town.
The woman misunderstood what it was that I was questioning.
"The curse on the vice director can only be lifted by killing the one who inflicted it upon him," she explained as if speaking to an infant. "If I return the vice director's health to him, then any attempt on his life is pointless."
Incredible. She managed to keep a straight face while saying all of that. Her kind really was something else. The inner machinations of her mind were an enigma to me: hers along with the rest of her family. There was a certain level of "full of yourself" at which common sense was not applicable as it would be with a sensible individual.
"Do you know who's trying to kill him, at least?"
"Of course. It's those knavish Fraga. It wasn't that they were hiding it either: they sent us a handwritten letter declaring their intentions. 'Stand down as acting vice director or be removed by force' it said. It's annoying that outsiders have found out about it, however."
Huh? Could this really be called an assassination attempt? They were offered an ultimatum– by mail, at that!
Though if the Barthomeloi never had any intention of removing themselves from the seat of power regardless of the reason or consequence, then maybe it made sense that the "we'll kill you if you don't listen to us" part was the bit that stuck.
"Fraga," I repeated. I knew that name from somewhere. How strange. After having worked at the Clock Tower for so long, most names of importance came to me pretty easily.
Barthomeloi waved her arm.
"They keep out of the way for the most part, so it's no surprise that you don't know of them. The Clock Tower hasn't dealt with them through official channels in quite a long time."
That explained why I've never been given Fraga-related paperwork to complain about, at least.
I almost raised my hand, but I stopped myself just in time. Maybe I was getting too used to classrooms.
"Have they always been hostile? You don't sound surprised about any of this."
She closed her eyes and hummed before answering me.
"I couldn't say. Their feelings towards us are what they are, but it's difficult to have a firm grasp on the motives of a family that hasn't been a part of the association for so long."
"You don't sound like you care."
"That's because I don't." She was fed up with me and my questions at this point. "I've said this already. They aren't the priority."
"They should be!" I responded. I would've shouted, but I didn't want to wake anyone up right now.
She finally reached a point where she couldn't stand me anymore. She got up, pushed her empty teacup into my hand and tucked her book under her arm. She offered me parting words before leaving the room.
"I've found the apostle at the heart of this mess," she repeated needlessly. "I finally have an opportunity to end it, and I won't back away now. You won't be the one to turn me away from my goal, boy."
In the end, I couldn't get through to her. I just couldn't understand her. We were too different. She was a magus, and I–
Hold on. Just how long had she been after this dead apostle?
I chased her down before she could leave. I cut her off and pinned her against a wall, using my body to cut off any means of escape. Again, my face was close to hers, only this time we were both standing: the height difference between us was made more apparent. I had to look down to meet her gaze.
"I told you not to call me that."
I hated it. Whenever she wanted to brush me off, all she had to do was treat me like a kid who didn't know any better.
Her brows were furrowed. She bit her lip. I could only imagine how angry she was right now.
"I should strike you down where you stand, fool," Barthomeloi bit out. "Don't think our familiarity with each other to be an excuse to behave so crassly around me."
My arm moved away from where it was planted next to her ear, and she quickly took the opportunity to rip away from me. I grabbed her wrist before she could escape entirely.
"Don't let your feelings cloud your judgement."
"My mind is clear."
"Then don't die."
"Like this, you just might. This doesn't have anything to do with the letter."
"How could it not!?" she questioned hotly.
"It doesn't," I repeated. "You've been after this apostle for a lot longer than that, am I right?"
She yanked her arm away. I didn't fight it.
"I want my grandfather to live," she muttered.
"If the apostle dies, then grandfather will live all the same. I don't have to stop the Fraga."
"If you know, then why are you still talking!" she snapped at me.
"Because you make things difficult for me for no reason!" I grumbled right back. "It's like you enjoy exasperating me with your hard-headedness. Don't you know that it's that much harder to help you when you refuse to be upfront about literally anything?"
She stopped at the door for a moment before sliding it open. I couldn't see her face.
"No one's asking you to help. Certainly not me."
"I don't have a choice. I reject any outcome that leads to your death."
A short silence.
Ah… I went ahead and said it. I didn't mean to. How embarrassing.
"…We'll talk in the morning," she said a moment later.
Her voice was much gentler than it was a second prior.
"Sure. The Second Owner is coming in the morning to speak with us though."
She turned back for an instant and I saw a look of mild surprise before she turned back and left my line of sight.
"We'll need to make it quick, then. We'll have places to be," her voice projected through the thin walls.
Hm. Well, at least we were on the same page now. It was a page in a book that I didn't want anything to do with, granted, but the same page nonetheless.
Morning came much quicker than I would have liked. The fact that I was such an early riser was a big part of it, but it certainly didn't help that Barthomeloi could drag out a pointless argument with the best of them.
A prolonged, teary yawn slipped out of me. The sound of a blade hitting a cutting board ceased for a moment as the tensing of my arm muscles forced me to stop chopping the vegetables that I was prepping for breakfast.
"You got home pretty late last night. Did you have trouble sleeping?"
My eyes flicked towards Sakura. The girl stood not far from me with a skillet in hand. I could hear the sound of the onions sizzling inside of it.
"Mm," I vocalized with a nod. "Boss Lady and I were going at it last night."
She sputtered. I turned back to her.
"Sakura? You okay?"
"It's nothing. What was it that you were saying about Lady Barthomeloi?"
Well, I wasn't saying much of anything about her, really.
"We were both up late talking about her plans for her time in Fuyuki," I reiterated. "It lasted a while longer than I would have liked."
She blinked at me owlishly, though it didn't take the blank look of confusion long for it to melt into an amused smile.
"You two get along quite well," she noted. I disagreed.
"What makes you say that?" I asked. My attention returning to the task at hand, I moved the diced carrots before me into a metal bowl to clear space on the cutting board.
"You're honest around each other," Sakura explained, leaning to grab the bowl of carrots. "I don't know, something like that, I suppose."
I'd take her word for it. I couldn't see it.
Speaking of honesty, however…
Everything had happened in the heat of the moment yesterday, and now I had to deal with the fallout of my own oversights.
I had her eyes on me in short order.
"I sort of… invited Rin to our place while I was at hers. I asked her to stop by sometime today. Is that a problem?"
"We're not children. We can behave ourselves."
Right, but she sure as hell couldn't stop it from being as awkward as possible.
"Although," she continued, "what's this about, anyway? Mine and Tohsaka-san's grievances are our own; I know that she's your friend. If this were a matter of hosting a friendly visit, then I hope that you would have felt comfortable doing so without thinking that I would have gotten in the way of that."
"It's not that. She and Barthomeloi have something to work out. It's business, not pleasure."
"Oh," she exclaimed softly. "It's like that, then. Some days I forget that matters of magic and mystery exist at all, truthfully. Recently, it's all felt like an afterthought compared to our ordinary, day-to-day life."
She would never know how happy it made me to hear her say that. I'd worked pretty hard for that to be the case, after all.
"Well, here's to hoping we can get this over with and get back to forgetting," I grumbled under my breath.
"Jeez, you. Always dramatizing."
I was going to say something else, but the pitter-patter of nearby feet cut me off. It would seem that everyone else was starting to come to the surface.
Illya was the first to come through the door. Her hair was a mess, and she was still in her pyjamas.
"Mmmm," she moaned tiredly. "Smells good…"
Sella and Leysritt took little time to follow, though they were already in a much more presentable state than the other white-haired woman. They acknowledged Sakura and I with a nod and a lazy wave respectively and guided the sleepy Illyasviel to the table.
Barthomeloi wasn't anywhere to be seen as of yet, but that was to be expected. She wouldn't be presenting herself publicly until she was practically sparkling.
Sakura tapped me on the shoulder and motioned for me to lower my head so that she could whisper something into my ear.
"Shouldn't you tell them too? About Tohsaka-san, I mean."
"No, it'll be fine," I answered in an equally quiet voice. "I have no idea when Rin's actually coming, and Illya would just complain about it until she finally gets here."
If only it were a school day. Then, at least, Rin could have walked back to my place with me instead of leaving things up in the air.
Sakura seemed a little unsure but didn't fight me on it.
The doorbell rang.
That was quick. I didn't think Rin to be an early riser.
Illya, who had just sat down, jumped right back onto her feet with all the energy in the world.
"I'll get it!"
As the girl made her way to the front entrance, I could only mull over the fact that it would have been smart of me to not let her be the first one to greet the unexpected guest that she very much did not like for whatever reason.
As far from it as I was, I could still hear the creak of the opening door as well as the following gasp of surprise.
My little sister's cry for help told me everything that I needed to know.
"Coming," I droned.
She glared at me with wide, betrayed eyes as I approached, but she moved out of the way so that I could see–
What I saw was not what I was expecting.
Rin was at the door, but she wasn't alone. El-Melloi was right behind her; his companion was nowhere to be seen.
I must've been staring because Rin spoke up.
"Something wrong, Emiya?"
I shook my head and stepped to the side.
It made sense for him to be here too, actually. Good on Rin for inviting him. That was one less thing for me to have to juggle right now.
"Come on in," I urged them.
They did as much, the Clock Tower Lord offering me a curt greeting as he stepped past me, though Rin seemed pretty hesitant for whatever reason. It took me rasping my knuckle against the doorframe for her to finally step through.
"It's crazy to think that you've never actually been inside of my house before," I remarked, though the girl I was talking to was too preoccupied with another matter to properly engage with the topic.
"H-hello?" greeted Rin, though it came out as more of a question than anything.
Illya's eyes were narrowed. Her shoulders were rounded like a frightened cat's.
"Sorry about her. This is my little sister."
The pigtailed girl's head flicked back and forth between us. I knew exactly what she was trying to piece together, but that particular puzzle was a little complicated, I'm afraid.
"Have we met before?" tried Rin.
"Never on purpose," Illya shot back.
I pulled the childish woman back by the collar of her shirt.
"Never mind that," I interrupted them. "I'm sure we all want to get down to business. Follow me: you're free to join us for breakfast. I made plenty."
"Hey, wha– I want an explanation!" Illya shouted, understandably feeling like she's been thrown for a loop. "Shirou! Hey, are you listening?"
Shortly, our two guests were seated at our table across from me. To give the pair more room, Sella and Leysritt moved to sit by my side. Neither homunculus outwardly raised a fuss over such things happening with no advance notice, but Sella pinched my leg to tell me that she would want a run-down later.
Sakura was still in the kitchen, and Illya had disappeared. She had either gone to bother Sakura or she had simply decided to leave the picture entirely.
Speaking of absentees…
"The girl in the hood didn't come along," I remarked. "Is she all right?"
El-Melloi closed his eyes. His brow furrowed.
"She's… fine," was what he settled on. "She was already much better by the time we got to the hotel, and she's sleeping off the rest right now. The sickness was probably something minor. My bet's on bad airline food."
Right. It couldn't have been whatever Rin had served since the hooded girl hadn't touched any of it.
"Enough," Rin snapped. She seemed annoyed. Impatient. "You owe me an explanation, Shirou. You're the one that told me to come, aren't you? You said that Lady Barthomeloi would be here."
No wonder she was willing to get here so early in the morning. She seemed a little stressed. Hopefully, she at least got a decent night's sleep.
"I am indeed."
We all turned back to the entrance. Barthomeloi had finally decided to make her appearance.
While El-Melloi seemed to take her arrival in stride, I could practically see Rin's heart beating out of her chest. Come to think of it, she'd never actually been to the Clock Tower, right? She would only know of the Barthomeloi family by word of mouth, and I was sure that stories of them would have been… aggrandized, to say the least.
Which wasn't to say that grovelling at their feet wasn't exactly what Barthomeloi would have wanted the girl to do, but that was beside the point.
Lorelei stopped behind me and rested her hand on the top of my head as one would do with a pet dog. I'd get angry, but it really wasn't worth the effort.
"Tell me, girl, you are the Second Owner, correct?"
That seemed to be enough to snap her out of whatever nerve-driven trance she was in.
"Right. As such, I would prefer that you make me aware of your arrival in future, Lady Barthomeloi."
Wow, Rin. I'm surprised. You really just said that, huh? Good on you.
…Oi. Rin. Are you okay? You look like you've passed out while standing. Er… sitting.
By virtue of being the only one standing, Barthomeloi had an easy time staring down at the younger girl imperiously. The woman said nothing, which was probably more stressful than any admonishing remark she could have given.
Barthomeloi let go of my head and sat at the head of the table. She shot El-Melloi nothing more than an acknowledging glance before speaking.
"This is everyone that insists on interfering, I take it. Let us say what needs to be said and get this over with quickly."
I bit the bullet.
"I'll start," I announced, trying to find Rin's eyes with my own. "It's like you said. I do owe you an explanation. I have for a long time now."
I paused, waiting for her to say something. She didn't, so I decided to get right into it.
"My father was a magus," I admitted. "I was adopted after the Fourth Holy grail war. Everyone here" –I gestured to the two white-haired women beside me– "is from his wife's side of the family."
Rin clicked her tongue and looked away.
"I couldn't see any resemblance between you. No wonder."
…Man. This was awkward. It didn't make it any better to have a Lord from the Clock Tower at my table as a silent observer.
The Einzbern, the next grail war… maybe it would be best to leave that for another time. When I can get Rin alone, probably. For now, I'd just go over the important bits so that she doesn't think me any more of a horrible person than she should.
Something smelled good in the kitchen. Breakfast would be ready soon, which meant that Sakura would be joining us.
I bit the inside of my cheek. I really hoped that everything would work out here. This was as delicate a situation as any, and knowing me, I'd probably find a way to mess something up.
One thing at a time.
"Before my old man passed away, he made a deal with the vice director. He looks after us during school breaks, and in exchange, I get to be his granddaughter's happy little helper."
Despite her desire to remain standoffish, Rin couldn't keep the incredulity off her face.
"You just said something really outlandish, you know. I do hope that you don't think a sentence-long explanation will be enough to get me to forget about this."
I wouldn't dream of it.
"Please don't hold this against him, Tohsaka-san." Sakura had circled the island countertop and approached with a large, steaming bowl of fried rice. "He does what he can, but he's only human. Given time, I'm sure that you'll understand why he's hidden this from you for so long.
Somehow, Sakura's appearance had totally caught Rin off guard. She surely knew that the purple-haired girl was here so I didn't understand how that could be the case. She drank Sakura's form with her eyes, analysing every nook and cranny of her body with unsettling attentiveness.
Rin choked out whatever comment was threatening to come out. Instead, she merely nodded politely.
"Of course. Good morning, Matou-san. I hope my intrusion isn't unwelcome."
Barthomeloi finally spoke up.
"I don't care to be subjected to this pubescent drama any longer. Lord El-Melloi is here as well, so I'm sure there's a more pressing topic at hand."
The Lord in question grunted and frowned apologetically.
"I agree. I'm sure you two have something to work out, but I'd like to carry on from where we left off last night. We're working against the clock right now."
I couldn't say much to that, then. I nodded to Barthomeloi, giving her the go-ahead to introduce the "more pressing topic" however she preferred.
She coughed into her fist to clear her throat. Sakura moved back to the kitchen to grab more plates as the discussion commenced.
"Well then. First of all, I'd like to know how the Lord of Modern Magecraft Theory knows of this dilemma of ours at all."
"Adashino told me," the man replied instantly, naming someone who I only knew in passing. She was part of the Policies Department if I recalled correctly.
Barthomeloi tisked. "I'll have to speak with her at a later juncture, then."
"Please don't," asked the man in a tone that was more fed-up than begging. "It's her job to stay on top of these things."
"Moving on," I said, jumping in before an argument could derail us, "Barthomeloi wants to focus on removing the curse placed on her grandfather. The logic is that we can kill two birds with one stone if him being at full strength obsolesces the assassination attempt."
To his credit, the man took it a lot better than I did.
"That will work given the following statements are true," El-Melloi began. "Firstly, you need to know that you'll be able to remove the curse before the attempt is carried out. The dead apostle ancestor in question has been able to elude enforcers for ages."
"He's coming to Fuyuki, apparently."
Maybe I should've cushioned that a little better. Rin and El-Melloi's jaws weren't far from dropping to the ground, and I could practically sense Sella and Liz tensing beside me.
El-Melloi's shock was soon covered by a grimace.
"If that's true…" he trailed off for a moment. "That brings us to the second condition: whether or not we actually have the means to kill that thing."
Would now be the right time to bring up the Fraga? I didn't know. Something told me that the sensible people in the room would rather shift focus to them if I did, and Barthomeloi would probably make her anger known to me if that were to happen.
The table was quiet, all of us lost in thought. That silence was interrupted, however, when the front door suddenly burst open.
I tensed, and I was sure that the others were similarly put on guard.
"Shirou~!" exclaimed a very familiar voice.
Tension left me for a moment. It was just Taiga.
The tension returned immediately.
Shit! It's Taiga!
The cheerful high school teacher sauntered into the room with a big smile on her face. Her eyes were squinted shut.
"Gramps wants to talk with you!" she said. "He sent me to–"
Her eyes opened and she paused.
I felt like I was in limbo for a moment. No one moved. No one spoke. I didn't know what would happen.
I could see the woman's face switch between a myriad of emotions over the span of a few seconds. Joy turned to confusion, then shock.
"Ma… ma… ma…"
She was trying to say something, but it wasn't coming out.
I considered our options carefully. She didn't really discover anything she shouldn't have, but this would be pretty hard to explain in a way that wouldn't unwittingly get her involved in this magrecraft-centred mess. Maybe it would be best to hypnotize her and have her forget all of this.
The woman's eyes moved to Sella and Leysritt, who were sandwiching me at the table. I wasn't too worried about that– as far as Taiga knew, they were my step-siblings.
Then she stared at Barthomeloi for a moment, who was seated between the two groups with a stern expression and crossed arms. They didn't meet often, but Taiga knew that Barthomeloi was the daughter of a "family friend" at the very least.
Finally, her eyes were stuck on the dark-haired magus duo. She only knew Rin as a student that I talked to every once in a while, so seeing her here must certainly have been strange. There was no chance that she knew Lord El-Melloi, however.
"Ma… Marriage interview!?"
"How the hell did you come up with that!?"