There are times where he began to question the normalcy of his life, but all things considered, it was probably for the best that he didn't if only to prevent an ensuing headache.
Bags had formed under Shirou's eyes, and a distinct twitch was formed over his left brow. Moreover, the cause of his lack of rest didn't even seem to be affected all too much and had even asked if he'd slept well.
The way Tuka and Caila regarded him had taken a qualitative leap since the events of the prior day, and he wasn't too sure how to feel about it yet. They didn't dare speak too casually to him anymore, but instead tried to be overly polite and helpful in attempt to ingrain themselves to him through action rather than words.
He let out a long sigh, but there wasn't really time to sort many things out with the urgency of the Warrior Bunnies requesting aid.
Since the dawn of the coming morning, Reines had taken to making arrangements that had everyone set on a carriage hastily makings its way south.
Tuka and Caila were originally seated on either side of Shirou looking as if they'd defend him from any threat, but had since moved to take the reins of the horses pulling the carriage. Tuka had the reins and drove the carriage while Caila had hopped up onto the carriage's roof to act as a sentry.
Inside the carriage were Waver, Shirou, and Reines respectively, Trimmao in a liquid form on Reines's person. The only one who appeared well rested was Reines. Shirou's fatigue was self-explanatory, but Waver's was more out of annoyance.
In the interior of the carriage, a silencing spell was cast to prevent conversation from leaking.
"Now, dear brother. It's no one's fault that you were careless and had your transmogrified ears dispelled in your sleep," Reines snorted, recalling how Waver had to hide from patrolling demi-humans lest he be discovered. As Waver wasn't too physically inclined, this was what caused his exhaustion in the early morning.
Shirou was keeping oddly silent at the rebuke towards Waver, but the way he stared at Tuka and Caila's direction outside the carriage was largely overlooked. He didn't want the two to get into too much trouble for something that was already fixed.
Reines had seen to it. "Shouldn't you be thanking me for being so prepared that I was able to procure you knew ones so swiftly?"
Waver wilted, rubbing his temples as two long and puffy ears fell flat over his head.
"Bunny ears," Waver murmured while Reines smiled to stifle a giggle. He leveled Reines with a flat face. "I fail to see the humour in this."
"Of course, you would. Not that you have much humour to begin with." Reines shrugged uncommittedly, but she wasn't that cruel. "Not to demean you, but if it's any conciliation, the effects of the spell were random. The only binding term was to give you a pair of animal ears. Fate and luck decide the rest, otherwise, we'd need a stronger spell, as I'm sure you'd know."
Eye twitching, Waver inclined his back into the carriage seat and tried to get some rest in while he could. He crossed his arms. "Fine, but that's not the issue. Wouldn't people notice my ears changing from dog ears to bunny ears?" He pointed out.
Reines had already considered the notion where Waver was just being too paranoid. She glanced idly at her finger nails. "That is to say, dear brother, that they had to have had paid attention to you in the first place?"
Waver glowered at himself.
"Think about it, between Emiya occupying the elves, Trimmao basking in the praise of her timely aid to the Demi-human alliance members, who was going to pay much attention to you or I? If anything, there may be a few observant ones, but they won't say anything lest they risk our cooperation. Hence, your worries are unfounded."
Silence followed after Waver grumbled about always being put on the back foot.
In any case, the trip south was a good opportunity to wind down. Reines's instructions had bought time before the other Lords of the Clock Tower could investigate the Gate in Shirou's inner world.
Speaking of which, this was as a good a time as any to bring the matter up.
"Emiya," Reines called out, shifting her attention to Shirou. "Do you have an idea, or level of control regarding the Gate in your Reality Marble?"
Shirou blinked owlishly before frowning. He did have some idea about things now. A few conjectures here and there, but the most important one was based on what he'd learned in a dream sequence of sorts.
Implored by Arturia, Merlin had meddled with some entity that ended up creating the Gate in the first place. If all was true and she'd been watching over him in Avalon all along, then it was almost certain that the Gate must have been a means to let him live freely. What was to stop him from closing UBW down, and therefore cutting access off to the Gate inside of it. No one would be able to pursue him, and he'd be a free man, Sealing Designation or not.
This was a gift in a sense, a confirmation of Arturia looking out for him even now.
Still, he couldn't just leave Rin and the others behind which was why he'd yet to close his Reality Marble in the Clock Tower despite knowing he could do so.
Well, regardless of anything, one thing was clear. Contrary to expectation, he was the one in control in the present arrangement.
"I don't think I can do anything about the Gate, but I should be able to dictate who's able to enter and exit my Reality Marble," he reasoned.
Reines wasn't foolish. She understood full well that he may not be giving this knowledge so freely just because she'd asked. It was a subtle hint that if she tried to press him for things he refused to agree with, he had still had chips in his hands.
"I see," she hummed. "In that case, perhaps we can make a contract about who does and who doesn't get access to your Reality Marble? I'm sure you understand how we magi are, and it may very well be catastrophic if use of the Gate in your Reality marble was unregulated."
"You want exclusive access for the El-Melloi," Waver spoke up with a snort. "As a future Lord, this wouldn't breach any laws considering Shirou has a Sealing Designation and is 'technically' in the Clock Tower. In fact, you can argue that you're overseeing him. Clever, I'll admit."
"How about it Emiya?"
"I think that we should focus on helping the Warrior Bunnies," Shirou changed the subject knowing that it wasn't in his best interest to agree to anything recklessly.
"Tch," Reines clicked her tongue, but was more amused than feeling snuffed.
"Shall we go over the plan then? And remember, the more indebted to us that they are, the better both for relations and research opportunity."
"I'd help for the sake of helping, and that's all the reason I need," Shirou crossed his arms and stated his views. Neither Reines or Waver contested his point as they both had a general grasp of Shirou's personality by now.
"Good, because we're nearing if all the smoke in the distance means anything," Waver sat up straighter while looking out the carriage windows.
"Be sure to remember the plan." Reines pushed up on her seat, glanced in the direction of the smoke, and then cleared her throat. "Emiya is the sharp sword, myself and Trimmao are the canons, and you dear brother will play the role of the strategist. You always were quite good at thinking outside the box."
"Right, I know," Waver recalled his role. "Once we make contact with these Warrior Bunnies, I'll ask to see their leader and try to get command of their forces while you all head off to the battlefield."
"Be sure to sell yourself as someone reliable. We can likely defeat this Empire army on our own, but it defeats the purpose in trying to establish good relations if there's no mutual enemy to build bridges with," Reines reasoned. "Emiya,"
Shirou perked up.
"Save as many as you can. Trimmao and I can deal with the enemies."
Shirou could agree with this. It was up his alley.
It was go time.
Tyuule, Queen of the Warrior Bunnies was nearing her wits end. Her waist length silver hair was constantly dishevelled after numerous days of neglect in favour of keeping track of the war front, but her efforts were still proving uselessly vain. The valor and determination that had once gleamed within her eyes had long since dulled into a helpless disquiet.
Three years. It had been three years of constant war, and despite the Warrior Bunnies superiority in fornication, childbirth, and capabilities, compared to the sheer number of the Empire's population, it wasn't enough. No matter how many aggressors the Warrior Bunnies killed, they would keep on coming, and in turn, the causalities of her large tribe continued to mount.
Quality was suffocating under the effectiveness of quantity, and sure enough, Tyuule could already foresee the end of her people as she knew it.
Balling her hands into fists, she wanted nothing more than to hear some form of good news, or at least a new variable that she would work with that didn't lead to the destruction of her people. Alas, all she could see were numerous reports about her people being overrun in their stations, forcing them to kill themselves and for her to mark them down as martyrs for the cause.
Death was better than the slavery that awaited the Warrior Bunnies in this war.
Tyuule's ears drooped over her head as her mood fell at the thought- no, at what she was even considering.
Fleetingly, her narrowed eyes stared at the letter addressed from a prince of the Empire raising terms for her surrender at the price of ensuring her people's safety. She in turn would become a slave, a play thing to that insufferable brute used to warm the bed chambers in the thralls of debauchery.
She was a Queen first and foremost.
The thought of what she'd be subject to caused bile to rise up her throat, her complexion paling while she furrowed her brows and pursed her lips. The silk-like fur covering her forearms and shins rose on end; revulsion causing her stomach to twist and knot.
Yet your people would be safe…
Her body trembled, shivers travelling down her back from equal parts indecision and despair.
Tyuule sucked in a shuddering breath and used the back of her palm to wipe away the moisture accumulated over her eyes, a lump forming in her throat that she had to work to swallow.
She was royalty, pure bred, and raised since young in the noble ways of putting her people first before herself. This was her duty as ruler of the tribe. Even so, the parts of her crying out for salvation lingered ever still.
Her position was not one she asked for, but one that she was born into. She couldn't be like the others, nor could she allow her own selfishness to undermine the prosperity of her race.
Fingers trembling, she picked up the letter addressed from Prince Zorzal, her grip on it so tight that it crumpled in her palms, but she couldn't burn it nor tear it even if she wanted to. In this letter, held an ultimatum that may very well end the war, and the hardship befalling her people…at her sacrifice.
Quivering, she hugged herself in a moment of weakness.
Help. I-I can't do this anymore…
She needed aid, and she'd initially been optimistic that she'd receive it, but none was coming.
Despite an ill reputation propagated by the Empire and rival nations, the Warrior Bunnies enjoyed increasing favourability with its neighbors and allies. You see, male Warrior Bunnies were rare and reserved only to preserve the pure bloodline of the royal Warrior Bunnies, causing the species as a whole to commonly interbreed with others. This fostered amicable relationships in both social and economic level, as nothing could endear anyone more to change their opinions on someone or their people, than their own children.
There was also the growing ill reputation of the Empire and its warlording tendencies to covet lands and subjugate foreign peoples into slavery. The foreign nations should have grouped together and come to each other's aid, and yet, they were too fearful, too submissive.
Tyuule bit down hard on the inside of her cheek, the metallic taste of blood doing little to offset the helplessness she was feeling when regarding the 'promised' help from her neighboring allies.
The letters sent may as well have just been formalities on their side, always making excuses as they weren't the ones being targeted for war.
What was she supposed to do?
Tyuule was abruptly cut from her musings when the flap of the command tent she was in was hastily opened and a Warrior Bunny wearing a sleeveless tank-top and baggy trousers stepped inside. The attire was much like Tyuule's own, only that Tyuule wore an ornamental crown and had stockings and lace gloves on her person.
"Report," Tyuule asked quickly, hiding away her unease and growing despondence.
"My Queen, the Empire troops are sieging the southern barricades," the Warrior Bunny said, features contorted in grief. "T-They can't hold and need orders."
It was like another blow to the gut, Tyuule's teeth grinding. If they lost the south, then the other barricades would be routed. She was all for continuing the fight to the bitter end, but she couldn't risk the prosperity of the race as a whole.
"Abandon it," she decided with much regret. "Tell the others in the forts to abandon those as well and regroup near the capital to defend it at all costs."
"But, my Queen we-"
"Abandon it. There's no other choice. We don't have the personnel to send to reinforce the group, nor the time to create additional defences. There's nothing else that we can do."
"Please pardon my rudeness your majesty, but I-I can't tell our people that order! They've been fighting too hard, too much, and are too invested!"
"I'd assume that you're one of these people? It's not that I don't understand, but its because I do, that I'm asking you to put the lives of our people first. We'll lose more if we try to defend than if we consolidated our loses and make a final defence at the fortifications at the capital."
The Warrior Bunny wilted, shoulders sagging, before letting emotion drive her.
"If we give this barricade up like our last fort, morale's going to plummet! The lives of our people that were sacrificed, they would mean nothing if we gave everything up!"
Do you think I don't understand that?
Tyuule bitterly sneered, a pitiful sight honestly, but not something unpredicted. Her people were dying, and the decision of who dies was always left in her hands. Between saving the few over saving the majority, logic's answer could only ever be clear, feelings be damned.
She made up her mind.
"I won't repeat myself. You have your orders. Abandon the-"
"Your Majesty, the Alliance forces are here!"
Another Warrior Bunny barged into the tent unannounced. You'd think her own people would afford to give her the proper courtesy of a ruler as to knock or signal their arrival, but circumstance may play a part in that.
Alliance Forces? They actually came?
Her face must have shown her disbelief, but she quickly shut her mouth and allowed a semblance of life to bleed back into her eyes, her pupils gleaming with eagerness.
"Bring them here!" For her part, she couldn't hide her own excitement. "How many came, an army? No, it doesn't matter, we'll be fine with even a hundred!"
Thoughts and scenarios erupted forth in her mind. It wasn't that she feared battle or doubted the strength of her people, it was just that she didn't have enough warriors to use. One warrior could decimate over a dozen Empire legion soldiers with their superior speed and physical abilities. With a hundred extra Beastmen from the Demi-human Alliance, there was the real possibility of turning things around.
"What's the matter, didn't you bring them?" Tyuule asked, a laugh of relief escaping her mouth.
Unfortunately, Tyuule didn't even notice how awkward the newest Warrior Bunny became in her agitation.
"We did, and, ah, there were uhm…six," the Warrior Bunny trailed off.
Suddenly, it was like someone poured ice water over Tyuule's person.
"The majority of them took to the sieged southern barricades, but one of them said that they may have a plan to help, so we brought him here."
"Help?" Tyuule's shoulders sagged, her anxiety now showing. "What can one person do to help with only six people for reinforcements? What did this person ask for to come here?"
"Well, he's asking for our cooperation, actually."
"And you just brought an unknown individual straight to the Queen. No mediatory? Do you not understand how reckless this is?"
"We felt we could trust him…"
"And how did you figure that? Did you just look at him and then decide he was- oh no you cannot be serious?"
Tyuule pinched the bridge of her nose, and took substantial effort to maintain her composure. "What does he want?"
"He wants to help oversee what's left of the army."
"What good would that do?" Tyuule clicked her tongue, resisting the urge to pull at her hair. She then laid down the facts for what they were. "We're outnumbered, starved of resources, and have been pushed to our wit's end. What makes anyone think that a single person could outperform our best minds who themselves couldn't devise a feasible strategy?"
"Perhaps, I may have an answer to that," a new voice interjected as the reporting Warrior Bunny grew tongue-tied.
The new voice was just a reminder that the newest Warrior Bunny had brought a stranger to their Queen, knowing the very real danger of a potential attempted assassination.
A fool. Especially in a time of war.
The most recent Warrior Bunny's features coloured at the look Tyuule shot her with due to the unexpected arrival, but this wasn't the time. Tyuule's expression pressed for an explanation.
"The man's name is Waver, and he said that he was a strategist, so we brought him here instead of to the field," the Warrior Bunny explained.
Tyuule pushed aside her doubts and decided to instead look in the direction the voice came from, and soon enough, a man with long flowing dark hair walked into the tent.
If anything, the man looked reasonably young and quite irritable if she was reading him right. He wore the strangest garment she'd ever scene, some sort of black cotton wrapped over his body with a white undershirt and red tie. He was smoking on some kind of white twig, but she could hardly care about the strangeness of his clothes.
What caught Tyuule in stunned surprise and sudden understanding as to why her Warrior Bunnies would trust a stranger with her location, was now readily apparent to her.
It wasn't about whether this man could be trusted or not. Something he had endeared himself to them with a sense of trust born from 'comradery.'
-He was one of her people, no doubt.
"Will you give me command if only for this moment?" Waver asked, not liking the looks he'd been getting ever since stepping foot into the Warrior Bunnies main camp, but putting up with it as he had to prove himself here.
Tyuule tried to stammer out a response, but failed as she tried to collect herself.
Low would a Queen be to not put faith in her own people. Besides, she hummed inwardly if only to herself. Waver was a bit on the feeble side, almost like a pushover, but he looked intelligent. Moreover…
Again, she looked to the bunny ears, and then back to Waver.
He doesn't seem half bad.
Again, did she mention male Warrior Bunnies were rare?
No. No stop. She had to focus.
"Very well," she eventually agreed after deliberate thought and plans to shadow him, letting Waver take command and begin issuing instructions; no doubt already becoming the center of attention.
Let's see what he could do.
Thanks for reading!
Next update: Fate Kill by the looks of it right now.
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