No matter how exciting, exhausting, or nerve-racking the events of the previous days were, time proves again and again that life goes on. Wounds heal, traumas ease ever so gradually, but in the end, there was wisdom in accepting the hand life had dealt and 'going with the flow' as Emperor Marcus Aurelius once spoke.

Of course, only Athena would have such second-hand knowledge of human history in the ancient era, but she wasn't Arturia.

For Arturia, things were far simpler in that she was a stout believer in 'leave it till tomorrow,' and 'a good night's sleep fixes everything,' a biproduct of modern age schooling and procrastination. Granted, the feeling of being way over head in the last few days was taking its toll.

Stress-free sleep, in comparison, was practically a Godsend, and she'd milk it for what it was worth. She needed it. Just thinking about going back to class and putting up with the tension in that room was dismaying.

'Nope. Stop. Don't think about it. This is your moment, your temple, your outer haven.'

Groaning into her pillow, Arturia absently rubbed traces of drool from her lips before once more burying her face into soft fabric and sighing in contentment. Her body shifted, and her left foot left the warmth of her bed covers to dangle off the side of her bed. Frowning, she pulled her leg back up and used her toes to toss the covers back over her, wrapping herself in a cocoon with only her head sticking out.

It never crossed her mind that someone could have been watching her, but then again, she'd somehow managed to get Shirou to promise not to sleep or stay in astral form in her room. As for Athena, the Goddess herself saw no reason to idle and watch some 'little girl' (Arturia still resented that, but didn't dare call pot for kettle in rebuttal) sleep the morning away.

So…she was safe.

Purring to herself, she pressed her cheek to her pillow and let her body slacken, the ahoge over her head the only thing peeking out from the blue and gold fabric while she hugged her childhood lion plushie to her chest.

Bang, bang bang!

"Arturia, you're going to be late! The bus is in ten minutes!" Kay's voice drifted languidly after a couple hard thumps on Arturia's locked door. The shadow of Kay's feet beneath the doorsill shifted away a moment later as the echo of Kay hurriedly running down the stairs resounded.

'Late?'

Kay was only older by a year, and with the current state of Homurahara, he was her upper-classman in Jounan. The word repeated in Arturia's mind like a mantra until her eyes snapped open and her body shifted into auto-pilot until she remembered she'd wrapped herself in a cocoon.

"Aaaaah!" Grunting as she rolled off her bed in a hurry and smacked onto the floor head-first, she squirmed and floundered while ignoring the pain.

Unlike Kay, she was more of a serious person. The idea of tardiness and ruining her flawless attendance record sent a jolt through her.

Skirt, blouse, stockings, bra, panties, she grabbed all that she could, uncaring for coordination, and locked herself in the bathroom for a quick grooming. By the time she was out, and running down the hall to the front door, she had half-a-stocking rolled up while the other was still scrunched over her ankle. Her skirt was only partially zipped, and her school blouse was a mess.

She all but sprinted to leave the house, but slipped on her feet when she passed the living room to see who was inside lounging on the couch with a bowl of cereal.

'Kay? Kay what the hell?'

Her mind ground to a halt, her processors shifting on.

"Kay, you're on the couch, but you…?" Arturia fumbled for words as a smile slowly crept up Kay's lips and realization dawned on her.

Arturia's gaze shifted left and right, looking first at the clocks, and then at the TV Kay was watching.

"I hate you," she mumbled and marched straight out of the living room, eye twitching when she passed the TV playing morning news with 'Sunday' blatantly on screen.

Now awake and dragging her feet in annoyance, she hardly had a second to calm down and grab a bite to eat for breakfast when another hurdle was lobed her way.

"Humans are intriguing creatures," a high-pitched yet elegant voice spoke absently.

'Wait, what?'

Arturia stalled before turning stiffly when she understood that she wasn't just imagining Athena seated on a high-stool by her dining table swinging her feet. In both hands were a pair of utensils, a few grains of white rice still stuck to her cheeks.

"Doth humans derive amusement from another's misery?" Athena lauded morosely, hands out and palms forward in fervent appeal. "No, doth this behaviour be tied to the mischief of baby Hermes? I see, I see, this one hath yet to know the appeal."

Athena appeared dazed; granted, she'd obviously been eating, likely in some kind of post-clarity state while too lost in her gorging and its aftertaste to notice the offending grains over her face.

"A question for a Quest?" Athena blinked in all seriousness. "A mystery!"

"Arturia, uhm, are you talking to someone? I didn't hear the door open?" Kay called out sceptically. "Did Lancelot and Bedivere come back early from their morning run?"

"N-No one! No one's here but me!"

Arturia panicked, running towards the bend separating the kitchen from the living room from an arched opening and hastily shutting the entry way door usually left open. Quickly, she made her way over to the offending perpetrator of this dilemma.

"What are you doing?" Arturia kept a deceptively straight poker face void of emotion, until that too broke at Athena's confusion. "You're not supposed to let my family see you."

"This Goddess doth not recall thy arrangement?" Athena tilted her head to the side.

"It was implicit," Arturia stressed, rubbing her temples. "Now hurry and hide before Kay decides to come."

"Hmph," Athena snorted, putting on airs and crossing her arms. "Just as Atlas will not move from the weight of the world, this Goddess is much the same."

"Are you saying you ate too much?" Arturia eyed Athena's rounded stomach.

"Duty, I'm talking about duty," Athena glared sanctimoniously. "The obligation of a God is to accept the offerings of the devote and well mannered. The God of Knif- ahem, Steel offered seconds; I graciously receive."

"With your stomach?"

"…With. My. Acknowledgment."

Athena seethed, shifting her eyes away from Arturia lest the urge to lash out overwhelm her due to Arturia's genuine sincerity. It was one thing if Arturia was actively insulting her, but another when it wasn't on purpose.

"Offered seconds?" Arturia changed the subject before the distinct clinking of pots and pans alerted her to Shirou in an apron cooking food over the stove in her kitchen. He wasn't wearing the outer red mantle and was instead just in his standard black combat vest and dark pants.

The way the fabric of the apron naturally wrapped around him and highlighted his toned biceps was a sight to behold. It was true that men didn't have to be overly fit to be considered attractive to women, but it was also true that effort was to be admired. Coming from a household of boys, Arturia had thought herself immune to well-crafted physiques, but…

"Master, you're awake?" He smiled ever so naturally at her, and her alone.

That smile, that face, the way he looked at her.

Her cheeks flushed red, the hammering of her heart reaching her ears, a pleasant tingling in her stomach and navel like butterflies.

'T-Take me- Noooo! Down girl, stop!'

Her mind blanked. She prided herself on her seriousness and stalwart character, but Merlin was a horrid influence.

"Arturia, is it just me or am I hearing more voices?!" Kay's tone was growing more and more doubtful. "Did you invite people over and not introduce me?"

Arturia snapped back to reality, running to the door leading to the kitchen and keeping her grip on the knob.

"I told you it's nothing!" She yelled back.

"Suspicious!"

The sound of Kay's feet marching towards the kitchen reverberated in Arturia's ears like thunder. Think, think dammit! Anything!

"Don't come! Dammit Kay, I ugh, I spilled water on myself and removed it. I only have a bra on!"

"…" The footsteps abruptly halted. "Acceptable, but since when did you become such a clutz?" Kay clicked his tongue and nonchalantly went back to the living room much too fast to be normal.

Arturia just barely managed to stop herself from saying she'd spilled water on her skirt too and was just wearing panties- that would have stopped Kay for sure, but just her bra? No way.

"That, that was too easy," Arturia trailed off, easing her grip on the knob. Growing up in a household of men, personal space and boundaries weren't exactly things to be fretted over much considering Arturia herself was more of a tomboy. So, what if she was seen wearing a bra? She'd only grow more aggravated as she knew Kay would just say that there was nothing to see anyway. The bastard.

"Athena set a suggestive boundary around the kitchen," Shirou explained, noting her confusion. "It's relatively harmless and only plants the suggestion that it's not worth it to enter the dining room."

Arturia processed the words, her head snapping in Athena's direction a second later, horrified. "Y-You're charm spelling my family?" She accused.

"Would thou rather we invite them over to dine with this Goddess?" Athena made a 'by all means' gesture which hand Arturia pursing her lips unable to refute.

"You, you, I, ugh-"

"It's not worth it, Master," Shirou advised while opening the kitchen pantry and looking for seasonings. "A fool is any who attempts to understand or judge the thoughts of the Divine. Look at the story of Troy."

'Troy? Why did that sound vaguely familiar?'

In contrast, Athena's countenance was black until Shirou gave her a second serving of food which she eyed carefully.

"I was obviously the most beautiful." She argued pointedly even still while reminiscing of the past. "Paris was a blind fool to choose that calculative slut as the fairest. No self control that she-bitch." Athena provided her input with a dark scowl.

Shirou gave Arturia a flat look before Arturia slumped her shoulders.

"Point taken," Arturia murmured.

"Are you not hungry, Master?" Shirou offered in consolation, frying up the pan and gathering more ingredients that wafted with the scent of blue-berry pancakes, bacon, and eggs. Then there was traditional miso, grilled mackerel, and yakatori.

She swallowed audibly.

"…I'll take five servings."

Athena's eyes widened at the answer as she emptied her plate, her lips quivering ever so slightly to show the break in her demeanor. "T-Thirds?" She tentatively called, coughing into her hands while covering the flush over her cheeks. A Goddess did not beg, but merely suggested.

Shirou merely nodded and plated a new serving for the Goddess of Wisdom.

She took a bite, and post-clarity once more subdued her thoughts. "In the Age of Gods where the likes of Peleus and…"

"Arturia, the fuck!? I swear I heard voices this time!"

Arturia no longer bothered with Kay. He'd run towards the kitchen and then suddenly just turn back for no reason whatsoever. However, just because Athena set a ward didn't mean that sound didn't travel.

"Then Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons…"

Arturia noted that Athena still had rice on her cheeks while monologuing.

'You're hopeless. What kind of God of Wisdom are you?'

Arturia sat on the dining table and exasperatedly thumped her head on its surface while waiting for her meal.

From the kitchen, Shirou's lips twitched when he noticed the glint of amusement flicker across Athena's eyes while Arturia muffled her ears with her hands and groaned.

Gods were petty.

/-/

Somehow, someway, Arturia felt that she managed to get out of her hectic morning in a rather normal state of mind. The fact that she was getting habituated to everyday life with Shirou and a bonafide Goddess eluded her to the point that she was in fact, no longer normal.

As noon arrived in the day, Arturia found herself in her family's dojo where she stood at the center in her school's sports bloomers and white t-shirt that she had no problems sweating in. There was rack nearby filled with wooden kendo swords and on the adjacent wall were actual armour and apparel, but it wasn't formal kendo she was practicing.

It was only now that she'd had the time to calm down that she had the time to let everything sink in.

The weight of what was to come, and what role she'd have in it, and a part of her just couldn't accept it.

Drawing her trusty katana from its sheath, she sucked in a breath, cleared her mind, and took on a forward stance. Gripping tightly over her sheath, she swung in an overhead arc, twisted, and then followed through with a horizonal sweep.

The ferocity and swiftness of her strokes were beyond what most could even hope to react to. She wasn't as talented as her elder brother Lancelot in regards to technique and skill, but nonetheless, her swordsmanship too was formidable.

Arturia hadn't earned her moniker as the Lion of Fuyuki for nothing. Some were even whispering that she could take on the legendary Tiger, but that figure had been in hiding for years. In some measure, Arturia could relate. She was embarrassed enough being called the Lion of Fuyuki, and she could feel second-hand embarrassment from the name 'Tiger of Fuyuki.'

It was no wonder that the both of them would rather stay low profile.

Moreover, it didn't help that she was conscious of her speech patterns which were reminiscent to her brothers. She caught herself numerous times intruding herself as 'Boku wa,' rather than 'Watashi wa,' during first meetings in Japanese class. It was the worst.

She was seriously questioning even now whether Kay's teasing that she'd never get a boyfriend would come true.

Dark times. Dark clouds.

Mortification twisting her regal and solemn features from past memories, she paused in her swings if only to clap her hands over her cheeks and focus.

She was training for a reason, and it wasn't because she wasn't strong enough to deal with the common thug or vagrants. She just couldn't keep still with the reminder of how useless she was to help Shirou at all while he always protected her.

'Not good enough.'

She swung, again and again, chambering and using footwork to transition from stance to stance.

'Not enough.'

The regality of her features gradually faded away into a determined droning of sharp breaths and exhales. Sweat matted her brows, a glistening sheen reflecting the overhead lighting and emphasizing the bright teal of her eyes.

The furor of her swings, the speed, and the strength seemed to elevate the further she focused on the concept that she wished to cut and surpass. Yet it was fleeting, the objective there, yet unable to be reached.

[I am your sword…I want to stand by your side…this wish to the stars calling for the miracle…]

Her eyes pursed closed, a distant yearning hammering and resonating on the edge of her being.

She swung faster and faster, growing more anxious, more unsettled as the beating of her steady heart mirrored the distant days of her youth.

"It's not enough," she panted, swallowing audibly before resting her palms over her knees and buckling from fatigue.

She alone remained in the center of the Emiya Dojo in which Gawain had purchased as their house in Fuyuki. Her legs were wobbling, her muscles screaming at her, and yet her blade once more raised itself into a forward stance.

A hand patted her shoulder.

"Rest," Shirou materialized.

She pursed her lips, shook her head, and stubbornly refused the invitation. Too much was at stake the more she thought about their present circumstances…and the liability she imposed.

"No. Not yet," she replied, wiping away the sweat over her brows.

"Arturia-"

"Please. Just let me keep going," she swallowed and stared him down with resolve in her eyes.

It was a look, an expression, a wish, a desire on her face that was all too familiar to Shirou. He'd seen it before several times in his youth staring back at him from a mirror in that war so long ago. The war where the woman that he cherished the most shouldered all danger on his behalf.

For duty, for honour, for the love that they shared, the nostalgia cut deep. Then came understanding.

The very grip Arturia adamantly maintained over her katana was trembling from the exhaustion of it all.

Stubborn. Stubborn…Just like he had been.

That face was staring right back at him, the hands of fate turning full circle; just that he didn't know if he had the heart to see this Arturia run head first into a just-as-bloody state as he did.

Saber give him strength.

"Is this not enough, Arturia?" Shirou tried to appeal, staring at her with concern while placing his hands over her own shaky grip on her sword. "You're exhausted."

"It's not enough. Not yet."

"What are you fighting so hard for? I'm here. You know that."

She bit down on her lips, craning her chin up to stare at him with self doubt and shame. "I just…I just want to be of help," she lamented, dropping her sword and letting her arms fall by her side. "I-I know what you're trying to say, alright! But if you expect me to just stand by while you fight others for my sake- then I can't accept that! I-I can't stand it."

"I'll keep you safe. There's no need to worry."

"You don't understand! You are my- never mind!" Arturia grasped at a pang of emotion over her heart, twisting and piercing. "I can fight too. I can help!"

"And exhausting yourself to bed rest is the solution?"

"Then train me. Help me. What else am I supposed to do?"

"Stay put and keep safe." Oh, how ironic, Shirou inwardly scowled the moment he said those words coming from him. "It's not your place to jump into a battle against the equivalent or greater of Servants."

"But you did!"

Shirou flinched, thinking that the dream cycle between Master and Servant had likely progressed further than he was comfortable with. "And the experience didn't end well. It's not the same."

"It is the same, or do I have to get nearly cut in half and bleeding out first?"

Low blow, but Arturia had just rendered Shirou speechless.

"Her words of have merit, God of Steel." Athena made her presence known from where she was standing at the entrance of the dojo. "The little girl may know nothing of magic, is ignorant, overly foolish, and her righteousness and convictions flawed at the worst of times, but it matters little."

Athena pushed off from the dojo's entrance and walked in to appear in front of both Shirou and Arturia, gauging Arturia up and down before nodding.

"This Goddess must acknowledge that the little girl's drive is real; one seen from heroes past, and someone worthy of aiding in the quest to recollect my Gorgoneion possessing the last aspect of my Divinity."

"You really think so?" Arturia turned away from a brooding Shirou to a poker-faced Athena.

"If thou wish to carry thy weight, then who is the God of Steel to bar thy path?"

"Her Servant. Her protector. Her guardian?" Shirou provided and was promptly ignored by both women.

"I agree to this quest if it means being of help," Arturia immediately accepted, much to Athena's approval and Shirou's karma induced despondence.

"Wait." Athena suddenly pondered in all seriousness, a hand resting beneath her chin. "If Heracles was granted his title through the labours of Lady Hera, does this not mean that I must bestow upon thee the right of mine naming should thy succeed in this Quest?"

Arturia's brow twitched at Athena's sudden revelation. "I don't believe that such a thing is necces-"

"Be honoured, not even Odysseus had thy privilege of mine Divine name as a root." Athena nodded. "Do well, and you, little girl, may earn the name of… 'Arthenia.' Wear it with pride."

"Stop getting carried away, Athena," Shirou interjected. "I didn't agree to anything. It's too dangerous, and the humans of the present era aren't the same as those of the past. They aren't as strong nor attuned to magic."

Athena blinked. Shirou demonstrating once more that there were problems with his knowledge of the world as far as the Goddess of Wisdom was concerned.

"The root of human magic ties into the Authority of Gods. It hasn't changed from the past and even the present. In the olden days, Gods created champions and messengers blessed with their divine providence, and I doubt you'd care to lose any of your Authorities, anyway," she stated flatly. Thousands of them, literal thousands upon thousands of them existed within Shirou's inner world that it was impossible even for her to discern them all. "Besides, the feasibility of enabling the girl to fend for herself in the unlikely event that we are incapacitated, is more of a boon than a liability. Gods of Steel, really? They never fail to prove their narrowmindedness in the face of Mother Earth Goddesses."

Athena placed her hands on her hips and sneered.

"Shirou…" Arturia pursed her lips pleadingly.

Shirou buckled under the pressure, and the fact that Saber too had been the bigger person and agreed to train someone as hopeless as him in the Grail War. To his Master Arturia, why shouldn't he extend the same curtesy?

"Very well," he relented.

"The girl needs a weapon, an Authority, not training," Athena reminded. "No amount of training will help a human in a battle between Gods and Campione, only luck which is hardly dependable."

"Right," Shirou trailed off before focusing inward.

[A tale began all those years ago upon the mutterings of a prophesized destiny setting everything in motion.]

The inner workings of an unlimited blade works stirred and rumbled at the prompting of inevitable fate, a wayward mistress.

Light shone in the clanging armoury, growing ever stronger, ever brighter.

[What was lost, what was left behind…an iridescent and fleeting dream spoken aloud yet unheard.]

Magical energy gushed forth, warm waves lapping against Arturia's face and blowing back tresses of her hair in an ephemeral glow.

"Trace. On," Shirou intoned, the energy surrounding him, the divinity called upon through the descent of an Authority washing over Arturia's form.

"Knowest thy name to sing aloud the miracle held aloft in thy hands..." a voice whispered softly.

Arturia swallowed, her mouth drying, shortness of breath and distant nostalgia assailing her.

"A king means no longer being human."

A sword manifested in Shirou's grip, pristine, authoritative, familiar.

"This Authority," Athena trailed off, her words barely uttered in alarm.

[Sing the name of its hymn.]

Arturia wasn't even aware enough to notice the sheer disbelief colouring Athena's face at the sight of the sword when Shirou offered the sword to Arturia as if it were hers to begin with.

"My…sword," the words escaped Arturia's lips. "Caliburn."

Mighty Caliburn, Sword of Selection, and through the lore of the present world, possessing close connection to the prophesized Sword of the End:

Mirror swords in the legend of the undefeated King, interchangeable.


Elsewhere in a moderately furnished manor Erica Blandeli lay on her bed while staring blandly at the ceiling. She'd just moved into this new place and was still in the process of moving all of her belongings to fully furnish the place, but she'd been delayed for over a week now.

Erica just couldn't help it. There were too many complications and subtleties that couldn't be ignored, not the least of which was the emergence of Heretic Gods the moment Godou returned to Japan.

It was all too coincidental and something Erica was beginning to consider might just be divine intervention of sorts. There was no way else to explain it.

"Is something wrong, Lady Erica?" A voice interrupted Erica's thought, a maid entering the room wheeling in a cart of refreshments.

Erica shifted her gaze towards the woman in French-maid attire. This was Erica's personal maid, Arianna Hayama Arialdi from Italy. She was a young woman with short dark hair and innocent blue eyes. The clacking of her heels echoed as she pulled up the hem of her maid skirt and inclined herself to pick up the amulet Erica kept well away from.

"No, it's fine Anna," Erica answered mutedly.

"My lady, then what of the Gorgoneion? You haven't touched it once since the previous days?" Arianna questioned in concern while moving to pick up the snake-faced amulet stored in a velvet box. "Were you not instructed by your father to cooperate with Japan's History Compilation Committee and help seal this artifact?"

"Wait, stop Anna! Don't bring it over!" Erica sat up on her bed in alarm as she observed Arianna's actions.

Arianna stopped in her tracks and gently put aside the Gorgoneion. "Milady, there really is something wrong isn't there?"

"It's complicated," Erica's features wilted. Worse, she had to keep her condition under wraps.

She was no fool. If before the process of sealing the Gorgoneion was more a side project, it took a whole new meaning now that Goddess Athena had arrived likely in search of it. Considering her current status at the machinations of the God of Wisdom, Erica refused to take any chances.

If Athena learned that she was already in possession of the Gorgoneion, there'd be nothing she could do. Moreover, just by touching the Gorgoneion may trigger a response from the mark Athena had left on her. It was too dangerous.

"Anna, remind me when the Committee said they'd take the Gorgoneion out of our hands?" Erica steeled her resolve.

"They weren't in much of a rush and neither were you milady. The agreed date was a week from now before Lord Voban could make his way over and complicate things. However, if need be, I could send it to the committee post haste?" Arianna offered, putting aside her tray of refreshments to better serve her lady.

Erica mulled everything over in her mind.

Godou stood no chance against the God of Steel they'd run into. It was a complete mystery regarding the God's origin, rending the 'Warrior's' Authority void. It was true that most mythology and lore could be twisted and convoluted, but she still couldn't picture how Celtic mythology melded with Greco Hector.

Then it hit her.

'Voban? An elder Campione?'

She gnashed her teeth at the sheer recklessness of the subsequent thought.

No. Not him. Never him.

Erica cradled her head in dismay, but if she gave the Gorgoneion into the committee's hands, what could they do against a Heretic God Godou had failed to best?

"Milady, you look pale," Arianna fretted.

Stop. Think. What other resources exist?

If the origin of the God of Steel couldn't be discerned with her own logic, then what of the divine?

Himemiko, the Witenagamot, she listed.

"No, it's fine." Erica bit down on her lips before coming to a decision. "Listen, Anna. I need you to…"


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