Arturia felt that her nerves were getting the best of her as she neared Jounan Academy's school grounds for her second day in this new school, but it couldn't be helped. Memories from the day prior filled her with trepidation.
The very idea that an enemy Master, likely Erica Blandeli, was her classmate didn't do any wonders for her apprehension.
Then there were thoughts of a hidden enemy Servant she couldn't see in astral form, making her even wearier.
Dammit Merlin. Why make your draft so detailed?
She bit down on her lips, a shiver travelling down her back.
Alright. Calm. Keeping calm can get you out of anything.
Somehow, she highly doubted her own inner words when she entered through Jounan Academy's front gates and was on her way to homeroom.
'Is it too late to back out?' She inwardly asked, knowing that Shirou was near enough to hear her. Although she didn't speak, her fretfulness was conveyed in her unease.
No answer came.
She pouted, but her neutral features were too unused to showing expressions too easily and made her seem petulant instead. The image was only made worse as others couldn't see Shirou, making it appear as if she was crazy.
She blushed from the strange looks shot her way, and retracted her neck into her shoulders in a futile attempt to hide her flushed cheeks.
'A-Are you ignoring me?' She tried to come off as offended, but Shirou didn't rise to the jibe.
Now she knew there was something on Shirou's mind because he simply wasn't acting right. From her connection as a Master, she had a vague feeling of where Shirou was floating beside her, but it wasn't like she could see what expression he was making.
'Shirou?' She asked again, this time softer. 'What's wrong? You've been quiet all morning. Is something on your mind?'
The air shifted somewhat, but Shirou didn't seem to get the message that she wanted him to confide with her instead of handling everything on his own.
'Look, you can trust me, can't you?' she tried to persuade. She had her own pride as a Pendragon, and even if she wouldn't be of much help in a magical fight, she disliked the feeling of being useless.
She began to think about what could have possibly happened in the time Shirou had coaxed her to sleep the previous day and the morning in which she woke up.
Almost instantly, her gaze shifted to her left arm where it trailed down her sleeve where she sported a pair of biker gloves. She'd learned her lesson from the day prior and decided to follow Shirou's advice and hide her Command Seals.
The fact that she was wearing a glove on each hand was telling in its implications.
'Does it have anything to do with this other set of Command Seals on my left hand?' Arturia probed.
The sound of a tired sigh entered Arturia's ears, followed by the sensation of someone tussling her hair like an adult to a child.
"Short answer: Yes. Long answer: It's complicated," Shirou finally replied.
Unknown to Arturia, but there was no way that Shirou knew how to explain how disconcerted he felt after a single conversation with a Greek Goddess turned every convention he knew about his summoning and tossed it out the window.
He was running blind right now, and he still didn't how much he should trust Athena's explanations yet.
Campiones, Heretic Gods, and the absence of an actual Grail War?
Something told him that he was going to be spending far more than a two-week period as customary in a standard Grail War.
This meant no wish granting Grail, and no idea of what he should do from here on in this botched up summoning aside from keeping Arturia safe, and this was more of a personal choice than an obligation or requirement.
Still…he looked deeply into Arturia's worried features and couldn't help but think that he might be fine with this decision for the time being. In the end though, he wouldn't stop searching for his Saber until the promised miracle could actualize.
'Forget it. I know you're not telling me anything because you're worried about me, but you know it's frustrating right? My own weakness. It's been a long time since I've felt this way.' Arturia drooped her shoulders, a cloud of uncertainty pouring rain down over her head. 'Okay, I'm just a litttttlle peeved. So, you really aren't going to tell me anything?'
Shirou had to admit that the way Arturia was trying to play sly and guilt him into confiding with her was kind of cute in that she obviously wasn't suited for the role. She went from gloomy to petulant too quickly. Her headstrong and obstinate character was rearing its head.
It was another similarity Arturia shared with Saber.
The parallels were not good for Shirou's heart and mentality.
This was all the more reason that his desire to keep her safe only strengthened.
"You have another Servant," Shirou divulged after a moment of thought. Keeping Arturia ignorant wouldn't be in her best interests in the long run. 'I wouldn't put much trust in her as of yet since she definitely has her own motives in forming a Master Servant contract with you. She left before you woke up, but she told me that she'd be making her own arrangements to keep you safe. Oddly enough, I could tell that her words were earnest."
Shirou didn't explain to Arturia that not only were Athena's words earnest, but she even went to the extent of saying that if she let Arturia die, then the world would end. The sincerity Athena showed Arturia despite the hallowed way Athena regarded ordinary humans made Shirou believe that there was something she wasn't telling him.
In any case it didn't matter as much as whether he could trust Athena or not. He'd only truly consider Athena an ally if she kept Arturia's best interests and wellbeing in mind. On this requirement, Athena was already making progress.
Now if only Athena could show the same sincerity to him. She'd been kind enough to tell him that Japan had a Campione, but she didn't divulge the Campione's identity, stating that a true Heretic God could just 'feel' enemy Campione.
The problem was, even if Athena considered him a Heretic God, did she not consider that he had no idea what he should be feeling for, or that some aspects of him may be different from ordinary Heretic Gods?
The fact that he wasn't affected by this so-called Curse of Madness should have been evidence enough, but Athena just gave him a flat face and said it didn't count by nature of his contract with Arturia.
Honestly, Shirou had a lot to think about right now, and judging from the curiosity that gleamed in Arturia's eyes, she still wished to know more.
"I know you have more questions Arturia," Shirou began evenly. "But for now, aren't you forgetting about something?"
Shirou materialized for an instant and stopped Arturia from banging into the door of her homeroom class by pulling on her shoulders.
"Ah," a gasp escaped Arturia's lips, then came anxiety.
In her talk with Shirou, she'd managed to put off her concerns about running into Erica, but now the moment of reckoning had come.
"Don't worry. I'm here," Shirou spoke to comfort her.
Bracing herself, she placed a hand over her heart and breathed in deeply before sliding the door open and trying to act as nonchalant as possible when she noticed Erica's gaze lock on her.
One step then two.
She tried to keep her attention on her feet, inwardly berating herself for her cowardice. She'd always been strong-willed, but things changed really fast when she understood that she and the opponent were fighting on different levels.
She was no fool.
How could she have confidence if she could be turned into a frog with some weird magic or something?
Thus, keeping to herself and giving a polite reply to classmates whose names she had yet to familiarize herself with, she sat down awkwardly in her assigned seat and waited for homeroom to begin.
Said seat was three desks away from Erica Blandeli who shifted her attention from embarrassing Godou Kusanagi a desk in front of her, and onto Arturia.
Arturia kept her head down despite noticing the brief moment of guilt and turmoil over Erica's features.
Too little too late.
Arturia pursed her lips, forcing down the trembling in her hands.
Be strong Arturia. Look that wasn't a large flaming boar. I-It was just flamed barbeque.
She wet her lips subconsciously before blushing and hoping that no one saw her do that, but considering Erica had been staring at her, Arturia didn't have much hope in this regard.
"Thinking about food?"
'How did you know?'
She planted her face on her desk. At least now, she couldn't embarrass herself further.
Honestly, she would have remained in this position if her perception didn't alert her to the fact that someone was standing beside her desk. The clear sound of someone clearing her throat and trying her attention almost impossible to have missed, but she deluded herself into believing that she wasn't the intended recipient.
There it was again. Who could possibly be being addressed here?
Certainly not her.
"Ms. Pendragon. I believe we need to talk, so if you would stop being so childish, I'd appreciate it if you could take some time after school to-"
"Alright! Alright you brats! Break it up. Homeroom's starting! Back to your seats! And Godou, stop flirting in the morning."
"Don't make excuses Kusanagi, I know your playboy kind."
"How astute, professor. To think you could see through my darling Godou's feigned innocence."
A sigh of relief escaped Arturia's mouth when she confirmed that the person standing next to her desk turned around to leave under the professor's prompting. Glancing up, she saw Erica taking her seat behind a betrayed Godou who was practically wilting under the weight of allegations. Erica however gave a sharp nod which Arturia certainly didn't miss.
She got the message.
'This wasn't over.'
It practically screamed from Erica's demeanor.
Buckle up. A Pendragon doesn't shirk away from a challenge, she convinced herself by repeating the phrase over and over again.
Her back straightened, strength filling her gaze while she held her head up high to see what this day had in store for her.
"Due to unforeseen circumstances, our class we'll be having another transfer student." The professor turned towards the door and gestured with a loud voice. "Come in and introduce yourself!"
The sliding door opened, and Shirou in spirit form had to do a double take as a familiar silver-haired Goddess wearing an endearing beanie walked in all expressionless to stand at the class's podium.
Shirou noted Erica tense up immediately, her arms that were secretly hugged around Godou's shoulders practically choking the guy whose eyes were widening by the second.
It could have just been Shirou, but for a moment, he thought he saw a small smirk play on Athena's lips in Godou and Erica's direction. A second later though, and it was as if there was nothing there but a detached aloofness.
"My name is Athena from Greece," she intoned with all the enthusiasm of a brick. Silence followed. "That is all."
Under the attention of the entire class, Athena nodded at the professor and directly stopped in a seat in-between Arturia and Erica. There was already a student in it, but Athena raised a glowing finger, and a dazed glossiness soon appeared in everyone's eyes.
The student in the seat robotically stood up and vacated the desk to find another while no one reacted aside from the vigilance on Erica's face and Arturia's dumbfounded expression.
Shirou found himself frowning as he noticed another key detail.
Why wasn't Godou as dazed as the other students and the teacher?
The aura Godou naturally exuded was already sending warning bells in Shirou's mind, and now after this, he was going to pay closer attention to the guy for certain.
Still, he silently met Athena's gaze, not knowing what was going on in this Goddess of Wisdom's mind.
Now seated beside Arturia, Athena effectively blocked Erica and Godou off from Arturia with an indifferent demeanor.
Class resumed a second later when whatever magic Athena used wore off.
"Alright, open your English textbooks to page 32 and read the passage…"
The droning of the professor marked only the beginning of a long day.
"What are your intentions?"
Shirou didn't beat around the bush after the lunch bell rang and had immediately taken the opportunity before Erica could hound on Arturia to secure Athena and his Master in his grasp and make a tactical retreat.
Presently, he'd just deposited them on Jounan Academy's rooftop where Athena was methodically un-wrinkling the creases on her new student uniform, a curl in her lip.
"Truly a God of Steel. Thou art a brute with no delicacy for the frail," she directly raised a complaint while stone-faced.
Shirou didn't rebut the statement. It was a fact.
In his haste to not reveal himself, he hadn't been too considerate with how he'd grabbed Athena by the ankle and dragged her up to the roof. In contrast, he'd secured Arturia firmly with his other arm, so there was a basis to Athena's barbs due to comparison.
Speaking of Arturia, she'd been sneaking glances at Athena since her introduction in class. It was only now that she saw that he and Athena were acquainted that she no longer held her reservations back.
"And you are?" Arturia gathered herself and nervously eyed Athena up and down, instinctually drawing closer to Shirou in case things went awry both for her protection and to hint that this man was taken in the befuddling language of 'female communications.'
Athena was beautiful and young, a lethal combination considering Arturia was just barely winning out in the bust department. Thus, she grew wary of Athena in more than one aspect.
"Ah, yes. Proper introductions," Athena ignored Arturia's silent probing and regarded Arturia with a collected dignity. "I am your newly contracted partner, Athena, Greek Goddess of Wisdom and War."
"Huh? She's the new Servant? A-An actual Goddess?" Arturia's rattled expression said it all, especially since Shirou made no move to deny the bold claim. "Is this a joke?"
Servants were one thing since Merlin specified in his manuscript about what they were, but actual Gods weren't in Merlin's script.
W-What was happening? Arturia once again had to reconsider her world views.
Shirou pinched the bridge of his nose. "She possesses Divine Attribute. Therefore, she's not lying, and can be considered a Divine Spirit," he explained. "After she formed a contract with you the other day and divulged some information to me, she ran off after promising to help protect you in her own way. How that translates to hypnotising the school staff to take her in as a transfer student, she's still yet to explain."
Here, Shirou crossed his arms and stared expectantly at Athena who was about to take a seat and making herself comfortable on the concrete roof.
"Oh wait, I have a picnic blanket," Arturia hurriedly rummaged through her school bag and produced a blue and yellow motif picnic blanket which she laid down for all three of them to sit on. While she was at it, she also pulled out a dozen bentos Shirou had packed prior for lunch.
"Thou art a considerate human," Athena nodded and accepted Arturia's goodwill. "Now then, to answer the brute's question. Are my intentions not obvious? In the guise of a pupil, I can better guard our human contractor in the open while you remain."
A protector in the light and one in the dark, maintaining the element of surprise.
It was such a simple concept.
"Do think before you ask. Strong in Authority thy Gods of Steel may be, but lacking in foresight you all are," Athena chastised, watching curiously as Arturia opened up a bento and practically inhaled its contents.
Was her new Master actually a human given her absurd appetite?
Athena was perplexed, but she didn't let it show on her expression. Instead, she ended up eyeing one of the bentos in curiosity. With how Arturia was acting, was the taste that good? Would it be enough to satiate a Goddess's palate?
Athena disparaged the thought, but didn't refuse when Shirou noticed her gaze and ended up offering her a bento.
She stared at it, before absently removing the lid and separating the complimentary chopsticks which she then held in her right hand.
"On to business then," Athena began. "The local human mage organizations are taking a vested interest in our contractor after reports of a Heretic God being spotted near her."
Athena flittered her eyes away from Arturia and over to Shirou's direction.
"I suppose you might have an idea as to how this was reported?" Athena questioned rhetorically while idly sampling the offered bento. The food reached her lips, then entered her mouth before she instantly fell into a daze while chewing, Shirou's response to her question no longer registering in her ears.
This was the most absent-minded Athena had ever appeared as a God of Wisdom.
She continued to chew.
Who am I? Where am I? What was I doing? What was I just trying to say?
Athena swallowed, a shudder of pleasure travelling down her back and to the tips of her toes.
She straightened her posture, and leveled a solemn stare at Shirou that was piercing in its intensity. "Art thou a God of the Knife? I accept thy offerings. Like in the ancient past, I expect consistent morning and evening bequeathments and surely with my wisdom, Victory will fall on our side."
"-Wait. Would that mean I'll get less food from now on?" Arturia cut in, blinking indignantly. Of course, this was what she focused on rather than the impending threat a mage organization's interests deigned on her.
Are you so petty?
Athena inwardly frowned, fully knowing by Arturia's demeanor that Arturia would fight to keep her share of food.
Regardless, it wasn't like they could dwell on the issue at present anyway.
A sudden flash of magical energy engulfed the school, forming a translucent dome that quickly took effect and began leading humans to vacate the area. Arturia wasn't influenced at all likely due to the connection she had with both Shirou and Athena.
Shirou and Athena's eyes narrowed.
"A bounded field? / A warding barrier?"
Both Athena and Shirou glanced at each other while Arturia pursed her lips in confusion at the terms, but the circumstances didn't allow for an in-depth explanation.
"Humans are always so full of themselves without having any idea what they are getting into." Athena sneered, crossing her arms and peering over the edge of the roof to see several magical formations being laid down. "This should be handled simply enough."
Saying her piece, Athena sat back down on the picnic blanket beside Arturia.
Shirou paused as he felt something slightly off about Athena's actions.
He glanced at the two women and quickly noticed that they were both looking at him and waiting.
Arturia he could understand not being able to contribute much in this situation, but wasn't Athena a Divine Spirit? A God?
"By the look on your face, thy seem to forget that I am in a weakened state." Athena lectured knowingly. "I am better used guarding the Master while your Steel smites the enemies."
Shirou felt his brow twitch.
Goddess of Wisdom?
Wasn't this just an elaborate means to push all the work onto him?
Shirou composed himself when he spotted Arturia's growing nervousness. For her sake, he would take action. "Keep her safe," he warned Athena.
Athena grunted in confirmation. "I swear on an oath to keep our human safe from harm."
Oaths were sacred even to Gods. The fact that Athena would impose one on herself was enough for Shirou to trust her at the moment.
He nodded, and then leapt off the roof, following his nose towards the root of the bounded field around the school and the location of the caster.
Left on their own, Athena subtly snatched a bento out of Arturia's pile while Arturia was too busy watching Shirou's figure leave in concern.
Athena mused to herself at Arturia's ignorance. There was no need to worry about anything too untoward happening to that monster of Steel.
Shirou would be fine.
Athena's nose twitched as steam wafted from the opened bento, careful to keep it out of sight.
She took a bite…
Who am I? Where am I? What was I just doing?
She melted, pupils growing unfocused.
Omake: What if Kay walked into Arturia's room after the first summoning.
"You are my Master, and I am your Servant."
That was the voice of a guy. No doubt about it.
The handsome man in red all but verified the fact; Arturia blushing and flustered of all things cemented it. A classmate? B-Boyfriend? No, there was something more important.
Kay froze midway through opening Arturia's door, staring dumbly at Arturia as the cogs of his mind began to whir. "Did he just call you 'Master?'" The words processed out, but he was more focused on the fact that Arturia accepted the address as if it was natural.
No. Nonono. Noooo. It couldn't be. B-But the evidence was right in front of him.
His little sister was making the 'boyfriend' take a knee before her.
"Y-You're sick," Kay took one step back then another, retreating into the hallway. "Merlin's diluted your modesty."
"No, Kay stop. I-I can explain!"
"Daaddd!" Kay ran screaming. "Lil sis's going down a dark path!"
Thanks for reading!
Next update: Fate: Parallels, out tomorrow
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