For a split second, it seemed like all noise had come to a halt, the name 'Sophia-Ri' echoing within the tent. Most didn't understand the significance of that name, or why Shirou had even bothered yelling it out. For example, Tyuule and the other Warrior Bunnies were frowning at Shirou for interrupting an important discussion where the freedom of a VIP Male Warrior Bunny was at stake, and for what? Just to yell a random sounding name?
However, just because the majority didn't understand the weight of the name, didn't mean that those that did would think any less of it.
Waver winced while Reines snapped the feather quill she'd been using to write out terms for an unsuspecting Waver's lease in her hand, the ink splattering between her fingers and palm. For the life of her, Reines didn't even seem to notice her blip in favour of staring Shirou down with a severely critical eye.
If this was some kind of joke for the sake of her getting her attention, well congratulations, you've got her interest. Now if this was all a joke, one should expect prompt retribution.
"Is this true, Emiya?" Reines spoke up, causing the Warrior Bunnies trying to escort Shirou out to pause.
Everyone could tell that there was a hint of steel in Reines's tone- Well, steel or annoyance. Pick your poison, but she was far from amused if nothing else.
In contrast to Reines's pleasant mood while putting out terms that Tyuule would have to grudgingly accept for Waver's lease (Reines had refused freedom despite Tyuule's dogged insistence), Reines no longer had any smugness or amusement in her voice. Instead, what replaced it was nothing less than the cold demeanour of an upcoming heiress of the El-Melloi family.
"By all rights, we are getting off topic," Tyuule cut in, lips pursing, and hands balling into fists. It wasn't lost on her that Shirou was part of Reines's group. It wasn't lost on any warrior bunny either.
The fact that Shirou just so happened to barge in mere moments away from making a deal that would temporarily ensure Waver's freedom for the duration of an agreed lease, was just too convenient.
Were they in cahoots? Was this all another delaying tactic?
From how shrewd Reines had been during their negotiations, Tyuule felt like she couldn't put it past this devious catwoman. To begin with, anyone who thought that it was easy to make a deal with members of the cat tribe were fools. They'd always try to take as much from you as they can, all while smiling.
"Off topic?" Reines repeated Tyuule's words. If she wasn't standing behind an amiable enough poker face, then her words would have almost sounded derisive. "No, I think we're directly on topic. Dependent on my associate's answer, I may or may not be in a position to offer you my dear brother's services-"
Waver coughed, clearing his throat. "Again, by 'services' you meant a lease for teaching, right?"
Neither Reines or Tyuule answered, and for the life of him, Waver didn't know how to feel when only Shirou took the time to give him an empathetic expression.
"Don't worry bunny, leave it all to the Queen," Tyuule muttered in determination. From her perspective, Waver was clearly being misled under Reines.
"Big brother, just be quiet for now," Reines rubbed at her temples, but once more focused her attention on Shirou, much to Tyuule's indignation.
"The truth, Emiya?" Reines pressed, the pressure of her gaze stunning the Warrior Bunnies around Shirou to give him some breathing space.
Shirou wet his dry mouth, his thoughts racing.
He needed to say something that would convey or give a sense of urgency to Reines, but lying was certainly not his forte. If he tried, Reines would easily see through it. Worse, her aid could then easily become an obstruction if she chose to be petty.
Therefore, if Shirou couldn't lie, then he'd do the next best thing which was to explain and share his own conjectures regarding the current action of the Sophi-Ri.
"The Sophia-Ri have arrived," Shirou answered without hesitation, not shying away from making eye-contact with Reines. To do so now would only weaken his attempts to convince her.
"How can you be so sure of their arrival?" Reines perked up a brow before her eyes narrowed, lips pursing. "I'm certain that I'd managed to obtain a week of exploration before having to send a report in, and by then, we'd have already consolidated our position. Moreover, Emiya, I'm sure you would have told us that you possessed some sort of scrying spell earlier?"
Shirou scratched the back of his head while under Reines's scrutiny. Loosely worded, it was Merlin's connection to the dreamworld, and Shirou's connection to it that allowed Merlin to let him view things from afar. Everything else, just worked out from there.
"Well, I'm not sure about scrying, but it might just have something to do with my 'connection' to the Gate which lets me see things?" Even to Shirou, the explanation sounded too vague, but it was all he had.
"Such as?" Reins pressed.
"Well, they seemed to have come under the lead of a girl all in grey, and who's features were obscured by a large hood," Shirou began to describe what he'd seen with Merlin's aid. "She seemed uncomfortable, but it didn't seem as if she had much sway in convincing the others not to follow her from behind. Actually, the way she acted, it was more like she wasn't good with dealing with crowds, or talking under attention in general."
If Reines reacted at all to the description, she didn't show it. Instead, it was none other than Waver who winced.
"Dammit, Gray," Waver pinched the bridge of his nose in realisation. It was this reaction alone that caused Shirou to understand that he'd at least gained a pillar of support.
"Reines," Waver called out. "Listen, but if he can describe Gray that accurately without having met her, it's likely that Emiya is telling the truth."
"You think I don't know that?" Reines fired back, biting down on the nail of her thumb in thought. "What else did you see, Emiya?"
Relief flooded through Shirou's system. The fact that Reines was still questioning him meant that she was already partially convinced or willing to move. It was all up to Shirou's persuasive skills from this point.
He cleared his throat.
"Members of the Sophia-Ri family are setting up their own bounded fields around the Gate as we speak," he began to explain, the warrior bunnies all sporting confused features, but Reines and Waver nodding on for Shirou to continue. "From what I saw, a large number of unaffiliated magi have also crossed over the Gate with the majority falling under the Sophi-Ri's jurisdiction."
"It may not mean much, but if they decide to fortify the area and use their connections within the Clock tower to form mutual agreements, then-"
"The bastards would try to monopolise, or set a toll." Reines clicked her tongue in irritation, a thumb resting over her chin as she cut in.
Yeah. Yeah let's go with that.
Shirou had no intention of following through with what he was going to say if Reines could just fill the dots and motivate herself without too much specification.
Silence ensued with Tyuule and the Warrior Bunnies looking more distressed than anyone else. They weren't stupid. They could judge the flow of the conversation that was directly leading towards a breakdown of negotiations for the release of their fellow tribe member.
Reines let out a long breath, Tyuule and the others holding theirs.
"We go back."
"Now wait just one second!" Tyuule gnashed her teeth, indignant. "Our dealings take priority. As a basis of courtesy, you can't just overlook one situation that's right in front of you to prioritise something else. Our terms aren't over yet."
"You're right," Reines shrugged without blinking. "It's been postponed, now move aside."
Tyuule opened and closed her mouth. She wanted to just lash out, but knowing that to be a breach in conduct, Tyuule could only restrain herself. After all, Reines was still technically one of the warrior bunny kingdom's saviours from the beastman alliance, despite Tyuule or the other Warrior Bunnies having never seen her contribute much of anything.
In fact, Reines' biggest contribution was revealing that she had a male Warrior Bunny collared to her through a debt of some kind.
"That's no way to talk to the Queen," Ryuli, one of Tyuule's generals grimaced, a hand palming the pommel of her sword.
"Who do you think you are?!"
The other Warrior Bunnies, agitated by Reines's attitude were unable to be suppressed despite Tyuule giving them warning looks.
Be that as it may, Reines was far from intimidated or forced into submission. She spoke a single name that cut through all the commotion.
The name echoed in the abrupt silence.
Waver, the person in question, groaned. Standing up, he naturally acted as an escort for Reines while trying to forcibly smooth over the situation with a perpetual twitch on his brow.
Tyuule and the other Warrior Bunnies were indignant on Waver's behalf, but they had nowhere to vent the injustice that they were seeing.
"L-Lord Waver, just say the word!"
"You're not alone!"
"We're all here and waiting!"
Waver was the most confused at the show of support. Did they wish to get taught by him that badly? Well, it wasn't as if he didn't appreciate attentive students. He nodded in approval, but refused them all the same. Now wasn't the time to be teaching.
"L-Lord Waver. It's just not fair!"
"We're all here! J-Just one word will do!"
Waver balked. He just couldn't understand where all this passion was coming from, and why Tyuule wasn't discouraging it. Hell, it looked like she'd be the first to jump if Waver so much as nodded his head as a sign of 'help me, Queen Tyuule. You're my only hope.'
Waver shook his head and focused. He was just imagining it all.
"Emiya, let's go." Reines cut in, trying to put an end to the Warrior Bunnies' antics. "If they try to stop you, just pull out that sword."
All the noise just suddenly seemed to die out, several warrior bunnies giving Shirou a wide berth.
Regardless of how the Warrior Bunnies were pulling on him before, they'd not forgotten that Shirou was the one who slew the Empire's legions, and was likely an Apostle of the Elf God. Even if a few Warrior Bunnies did forget, that didn't mean that Tuka and Caila weren't watching if they made any sudden movements, let alone the danger Shirou imposed when armed with that sword.
Still, could the gratitude the bunnies felt for Waver be defeated by apprehension? They were warriors who would rather die in battle than of old age.
Naturally, the air grew tense with the Warrior Bunnies and Tyuule more than unwilling to let Waver go when the lease was almost completed.
The way things were going, if things continued heading south, and no side would budge, it was inevitable that some form of conflict would bloom.
However, the tension was quickly cut by the emergence of another factor…a pink flower that abruptly bloomed from the top of Shirou's head.
"...Emiya?" Reines blinked, followed by Waver as they both tried to process what sort of 'magecraft' Shirou was using now.
"-Can you all hear me?" The flower's stem shook, the petals shifting slightly from the movement.
For a moment, no one seemed able to process just 'who' was talking, but that all changed when Tuka and Caila barged in upon detecting a magic so in tune with nature. In fact, flowers were inexplicably blooming from under Shirou's feet, giving him the image of walking on roses.
"A-A revelation from the Elven God?!" Caila stammered out.
"Uwuwu," Tuka awed, her hands clasping together before Caila pushed the back of her head down into a bow.
"Mind your manners," Caila admonished, embarrassed.
Meanwhile, shock spread through the minds of the Warrior Bunnies. They had a feeling that Shirou was an Apostle, and if this was true, then the one speaking may very well be the God of the Elves. Worse, every resident in this new world beyond the gate understood that it was never in their best interest to offend a deity.
"Ahem, yes well…it's something like that."
Not that Shirou wasn't thankful that Merlin's intervention might have averted an armed conflict but…it felt wrong. This swindler.
Shirou could almost picture Merlin acting smug in his vaunted Tower.
The pink flower atop Shirou's head seemed to nod towards Caila and Tuka.
"Delicate lilies such as yourselves need not bow."
Merlin was literally talking above him, and Shirou didn't know how to feel about this.
If Merlin was being the spokesperson to help move things along, then Shirou was practically the pedestal at this moment. Even Waver and Reines were looking at Shirou oddly as if this was just another magecraft unique to him.
Shirou's lip twitched ever so subtly.
"Now then, would you warrior bunnies kindly let my Apostle and his colleagues through?"
Tyuule and the Warrior Bunnies pursed their lips, clearly reluctant, but in the end, Tyuule could not weigh the wrath of a 'God' even for Waver. In the end, she could only relent.
"T-This isn't over," Tyuule bit down on the inside of her cheek so hard that she could taste blood.
Meanwhile, Reines and Waver were understandably caught off guard that Shirou had somehow come in contact with a 'New world' God.
The worst part was that Shirou knew that Merlin knew that Shirou had no choice but to keep up the charade if he wanted things to go smoothly.
So long as it worked, Shirou guessed he'd just have to roll with it.
Now if only Tuka and Caila could stop looking at him as if he was a precious Elven tear or sacred artifact.
The Elven village was going to undergo an upheaval at the news that Tuka and Caila would inevitably bring back.
Blowing winds, a verdant field, and a sword in the stone…
It was that dream again, that vision.
Gray blinked her eyes open, a shudder travelling down her back that caused her to pull her hood further over her face. She was conscious of her appearance, her voice, her demeanor.
Hers was a past that she'd rather not relive. Hers was an identity overpowered by a sense of looming crisis. In fact, she no longer even remembered how she used to appear before her features had begun changing in accordance to a craft she'd been subject to in pursuit of the Undefeated King.
Gray let out a breath, shook her head, and damn well tried to focus.
Neither Reines or her teacher were stupid. At the very least, Waver had been keeping a small log book regarding their movements on the other side of the Gate that was transmitted through magic seals only those authorized would be able to read.
Gray was one such person who knew the means to unlock the magic circles, and this led her to follow a path past a supposed Elven Village, and towards an empire ruled by bunny people. She supposed the correct term was phantasmal, but she digressed. She was never much for specification and the like, choosing to keep to herself more often than not, and hoping that no one talked to her.
Still, the fact that she'd imagined that particular dream again didn't bode well for her. It felt somewhat ominous if she was being truthful. Was it a resonance of sorts? If it was…
She bit down on her lips, refusing to really think about it.
Everything would be fine once she met up with her teacher. He always knew the answers, and could keep a calm look at the overall situation.
It was just that Gray would never have thought that fate liked to play sick jokes on people with very differing opinions on the legend of 'King Arthur.'
By following Waver's trail, and with Shirou and the others rushing back, an encounter was inevitable.
Gray's eyes perked up in relief when she caught sight of a familiar mop of long black hair and that grumpy expression through a clearing in the forest underbrush. Without a single doubt, she picked up her pace, and rushed in.
Beside Waver was Reines, and further behind was someone she hadn't exactly met before.
In any case, Gray's observations didn't hamper her in the slightest. In fact, seeing Reines only further verified that she'd found the people that she wanted.
"Teacher!" She called out, a hand waving to catch their attention, not that she needed to from all the noise she was making while rushing over.
If one ever tried running with a hood over their heads, it's easy to understand how difficult it was to keep the hood in place with the wind blowing. Subsequently, Gray's hood was blown back before she arrived in front of everyone, resting her hands on her knees and panting.
"I finally found you. S-Sorry, this is all my fault and, you may not know what's going on but-"
"The Sophia-Ri, right Gray?" Waver grunted.
"How did you-"
"So Emiya was right, no- the God who took Emiya under his wing was right," Reines muttered, features wrinkling in deep thought.
Gray watched bewildered as a pink flower atop the third person's head seemed to preen at Reines's words. In any case, what truly caught Gray's apprehension was the intensity of the look being directed at her.
"Is something wrong, Emiya?" Waver felt the need to stand up for his student.
Shirou was just acting too oddly, especially when he was the one who wanted to rush back the most.
What followed was Shirou quickly approaching Gray one step at a time.
Gray knit her brows, unsure how she should react to Shirou's advance, but knowing enough by Reines and her teacher's attitude that Shirou wasn't an enemy.
Finally, Shirou stopped right in front of Gray who kept her arms up in apprehension.
"A-Arturia?" Shirou called out softly, a trembling hand trying to cup Gray's cheek, only to recoil when Gray slapped it away.
All at once, the pink flower that had once been atop Shirou's head suddenly shifted blue.
Something changed in the air. It was almost regal, elegant even.
Gray subconsciously began to back up.
"Who is this fake? And why do I feel the presence of my lance?"
"Add?" Gray called out stiffly to the scythe slung over her back for support.
"...Mommy?" was her trusted scythe's only answer.
Thanks for reading! Got a headache while writing this, so please let me know if anyone catches any typos or errors
Next update: Fate Legend
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