Disclaimer: I do not own Fate/ Stay Night or any of its characters...
Fate/ Stay Night: Alternate Routes
Scenario Four: SPECIAL
Have you ever stopped and asked yourself when you lost faith? I'm not talking about faith in the religious sense. I'm referring to the faith that a child grows up with, that good will always triumph over evil. Let's not turn this into a complex subject just yet, let's observe a simple concept before we do that. As a child we think to ourselves that villains never reap the rewards of their crimes because there will always be a hero around to get the drop on them and put an end to their schemes. We're shown this basic principle in fairy tales, children cartoons, and your regular b-movie. We expect that before the comic strip ends, or the show hits its climax, justice will be served and everyone gets to return home to their family and enjoy the rest of their day.
We believe in that sort of thing, until one day we realize the truth.
The heroes and super heroes of our fantasy eventually become just that, a fantasy. At some point in our lives we come to accept that murder and thievery is a matter of course, one that more often than not, succeeds before the criminal is brought to justice. Suddenly villains are regular people to us. They can be the person we pass on the street, or the shady politicians that we read about in the newspaper whenever a new scandal pops up. Sometimes they can even be the people we depend on to prevent crimes from happening. The heroes that rarely do stand up for justice are considered vigilantes in the eyes of society, people that are looked down upon because they break the laws that protect criminals. We never stop and think to ourselves that there's something wrong about all of this, that maybe we're all fools for just sitting back and shrugging our shoulders whenever a person we barely know is beaten to death in some dark alley, or a young lady is taken against her will in the half lit stairwell of a parking lot. We just accept it, and if you don't others call you crazy, or...I guess...you become a vigilante.
Another evening began as the sun set in the horizon and the members of the Emiya estate gathered at the table for another exquisite dinner, courtesy of Rin Tohsaka in her latest attempt to trump Shirou Emiya in their ongoing competition to claim the title of best cook. This was, of course, banning Sakura Matou since she was in a league above them even if they did not want to acknowledge as much. The magus sat across from her culinary rival with a smug grin on her lovely face as the young man stared down at the variety of dishes that were masterfully set out on the dining table like some promotion out those restaurant commercials that always caught Saber's attention. Said blonde knight, who was usually the first to defend Shirou's culinary honor whenever it was threatened, could only stare at the choices laid out before her with poorly concealed anticipation. Sakura's eyes kept on traveling from the food on the table to her sister, to her beloved sempai, and back to the table as though an inner monologue was taking place and Taiga kept wiping her mouth with her gradually dampening sleeve. Rider sat on Shirou's left side with the usual look of disinterest while Illya sat across from Saber, trying to score points with her young brother by casting disgusted looks at the food despite the contradicting sentiments that her stomach had on the matter.
"Looks delicious, eh, Emiya-kun?" Rin taunted Shirou with a gleam in her eyes as she enjoyed the way his eyebrows furrowed at the taste of defeat. She winked at him and went on, "Sometimes you'll find that a woman's touch is what it really takes to creating a genuine masterpiece."
"Don't act so victorious." He grumbled. "There's always tomorrow."
"Yeah?" She smirked sinisterly, "Well, that's never promised, last time I checked."
"You wanna make something of it?" Shirou growled as he leaned up in her face with a scowl.
Rin furrowed her eyes with disdain, "Your funeral, pal." She snarled back, pressing cheek to cheek with him. They looked like two school delinquents getting ready to rumble, and everyone had their bets placed on Shirou. One less woman in the house meant less competition; all unfortunate implications aside. Unfortunately for them the news reporter on T.V felt that what he had to say was far more pressing at the very moment, exclaiming, "Breaking news!" With a dramatic jerk of his head his toupee was almost flung off the screen.
Shirou backed down from Rin, seemingly forgetting their conflict altogether and directed his attention to the television screen without another word. The magus blinked when he resumed his seat without attempting to resolve things with her and narrowed her eyes at him irritatedly like a woman scorned. The other women at the table with the exception of Rider also exhibited similar reactions to his sudden shift in interest. It wasn't like him to drop things with Rin so lightly, not like he did just now.
As for the reason behind this peculiar behavior, there was a helpful explanation in order to satiate your curiosity. A week after Shirou's birthday a news announcement of the exact nature came on during dinner, Sakura's day if not mistaken. A vigilante by the name of Velvet Rose had taken to the streets making headlines with her heroic endeavors and stealing hearts with her blurry photo shots. She was the talk of the net, the subject of interest in a few late night shows, and Shirou's newest obsession. Almost every conversation with the young man usually ended with her somehow becoming the main focus and quite frankly, it was rubbing a few people the wrong way, most notably the people that lived with him. Perhaps that might have been the reason for the television going off without warning.
"W-What ju..." Shirou turned around thinking that it was Tohsaka's doing to find her without the remote in hand. "Huh?" The actual culprit turned out to be Saber, holding the remote in her hand with a stern expression that almost appeared to be reprimanding him.
"That was rude of you, Shirou." The blonde knight berated him. "Were you not speaking with Rin just a moment ago?"
"S-she's right, sempai." Sakura joined in, glaring at him as if it had been her who felt disrespect toward his actions. Rider continued eating, occasionally picking at Shirou's plate with her chopsticks while he was preoccupied with the others. At certain points the dark servant alternated stares between her plate and his plate like a gourmet on a highly sponsored cooking show. Either Shirou's plate had magical properties, or Rin specially prepared the food on the young Emiya's plate so that the flavor was more pleasing to the palate. Rider set out to solve this mystery, discreetly switching plates with Shirou while he stared down the other female residents, however, upon safely securing the mystical dish the food tasted just the same. Another unsolved case for detective Rider, but the trail had not gone cold just yet.
Shirou felt like his back was against the wall, "Sakura-"
"I'm the one you have to apologize to." Rin cut him off, bringing his attention back to her. "Not Sakura."
"Guh..." He looked to Illya and the little homonculus upturned her nose as if the mere sight of him insulted her. "F-Fuji-nee?" He turned to his teacher to find her ignoring him childishly, head turned away with a clearly miffed expression on her tomboyish features. W-What did I do wrong? Finding himself at a total loss he turned back to Rin pathetically and apologized, "I'm sorry..."
"You're forgiven, Emiya-kun." Rin patted him on the head like a mother accepting her son's mistakes. She pulled back her hand and gestured to the delicious spread, smiling like a saint, knowing well that her actions were doing nothing but irritating her culinary rival/love interest/familiar...kind of. "Now, let's all enjoy the food that I've cooked." Saber didn't need to be told twice, taking advantage of the magus' victory over her master to rustle up as much grub as she could without feeling the unwelcome sting of guilt. 'Serves him right' the gluttonous side of her said with a self satisfying nod as she popped a delicious morsel in her mouth, while the faithful side screamed in anguish 'FORGIVE ME MASTEEEERRRR! I HAVE FORSAKEN YOOOOOUU!'. If you stared at her face really hard you could see her eyebrows twitching as the drama played out in her mind.
Whatever. The defeated young man thought to himself, rolling his eyes, but he decided it best to keep the peace. Better to submit to their whims and bow his head in shame, or they might all jump him at once like one of those ridiculous super sentai shows that he found Illya snobbishly critiquing every Saturday morning. Upon pointing it out to her one day, she began writing her own column on the web. Hits and hits like you wouldn't believe, but anyway- "I suppose it would be in bad taste for me to ignore your efforts to compete with my culinary prowess." The redhead did his best to sound smug as he seated himself with the rest of the family, nose upturned like a certain someone that Rin couldn't stand. "I'll humor your ego for a bit." He inwardly noted something being out of place about his plate, but he dug in anyway, oblivious to the surreptitious glances that Rider sent his way from beside him.
"That's the spirit, Emiya." Rin smiled in spite of his words, although the bulging vein on her forehead said otherwise. "Denial is the first step to mourning a loss, after all."
"Alright, that's the end of that, you two." Fujimaru finally acted the role of the guardian much to the surprise of everyone else at the table. Illya alternated looks between the homeroom teacher and her hot tea, and decidedly took that moment to down it all in one gulp just to see if she would wake up from this dream. Unfortunately for her the only results from the experiment were a smarting tongue and two globs of tears building at the corner of her eyes. Shirou offered his older sister his best consoling look, earning a pained smile from her in return. "I say food is food." The Taiga wagged a finger at both Shirou and Rin whom exchanged discreet looks at that comical line. "And food is to be enjoyed, not paraded like a trophy." And with that Taiga went back to wolfing down her dish, setting things back into their proper place as it should be.
Shirou and Rin were thoroughly disturbed by this odd turn of events, because Fujimaru actually said something worthwhile...and it stung. It stung so much that the two looked at each other in a silent apology.
"Yeah, I guess you're right, Fuji-nee." Shirou agreed with her, a grin forming on his face before he added. "For once."
"Frankly, I didn't know you were capable." Rin teased the teacher with a grin.
"Being the mature, young lady that I am, I'll let those comments slide." and yet Fujimaru could not conceal the twitch of displeasure that those comments brought to her left brow.
Shirou's eyes lingered on the television, but he was sure there wouldn't be another peep from the electronic piece for the rest of the night, especially not with Saber guarding the remote. He might just lose a hand if he reached for it. "Man..." Shirou groaned quietly, failing to keep the attention of the others from being drawn toward him when he did. He noticed their eyes on him and wisely shoveled his mouth with food before they could inquire on the cause for his dampened spirits. Not that they were ignorant to the cause, but anything to make him uncomfortable about that subject, as Sakura was about to do.
"Sempai." Sakura called the attention of her beloved Shirou. "I don't see why you're so interested in this vigilante anyway." She pouted, cutely one might add.
Shirou swallowed quickly, jumping to defend his new idol. "What could possibly be uninteresting about a vigilante? She's doing us a favor by risking her life to keep the streets safe."
"Well, yeah..." The kohai felt that he wasn't wrong in his reasoning, but she didn't want to back down. "B-But if you think about it...there's much more interesting things out there." She was, of course, hinting to the fact that he was having dinner with King Athur, Medusa, Taiga, and three fully competent mages, one of which was a homunculus that tried to put his soul in a doll at one point in time. Funny how time allowed him to forgive that major detail. Depending on the cycle (Don't ask) Sakura might have even tried to kill him at several points, and he might have discovered that he himself was something of great interest. Were these stories for another time? No, they were stories for your time...not shared by mine.
"She's got a point, Emiya-kun." Rin backed her sister up, of which Sakura's appreciation was noticeable through a faint smile. "A common vigilante really isn't all that much of a hot topic."
"But that's the thing, Rin." Shirou told her, motioning to her with his eating utensils as he did. He missed another sly swipe of Rider's chopsticks to his plate when he did. "Vigilantes aren't common at all. You rarely hear about people who take it upon themselves to protect others."
"Law enforcement?" Rider spoke up from beside him after swallowing what was in her mouth, getting a flinch from him.
He turned his head to regard her, albeit, with little enthusiasm. "Well, they're paid for their services."
Rin scoffed, the expression on her lovely face seemingly mocking him. "And you really think this 'Velvet Rose' character is doing this for selfless reasons?" The magus paused to take a sip from her glass, setting it down on the table with a roll of her eyes. "She's probably just a thrill seeker, Emiya-kun. Once she's had her fill of excitement she'll just disappear, and if that doesn't happen first, the media will eventually get tired of her and set their sights on the next good headline."
Shirou almost appeared to be insulted by her words, and Fujimura could see it in his eyes after Rin was done delivering her diatribe. "Actually, I think this Velvet Rose girl is pretty cool!" The older woman chimed in, forcing a chuckle to lighten the gradually darkening mood. Knowing well how much Shirou admired defenders of justice, her big sister instincts refused to allow the girls to cheapen his image of the vigilante, even if she was to make an enemy of them in the process. "Thrills or not, how many people do you hear about try to do some good for the world?"
"That may be a gross exaggeration, Fujimura-san." Saber spoke, setting down her bowl for the time being. "Her efforts do nothing to affect the overall well being of the world."
Taiga scratched her cheek sheepishly. "Well, fine, so the world is still running wild with miscreants and all around bad guys, but Edmund Burke said it himself-"
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Illya took the reigns from her, getting a glare from the teacher. The little homunculus grinned at Taiga and continued the argument from there, "So in the end you all talk about this vigilante as someone not worth onii-chan's time when in fact she's so much more interesting than...well..." Illya's eyes passed over Rin innocently before she finished, "...other women he could spend his time with."
"Thank you, Illya!" Shirou cried out passionately, happy to have some support on his side, and yet for some reason he suddenly felt even smaller than before. Perhaps it had something to do with the way Rin and Saber's eyes sharpened on him like daggers in the night after he whole heartedly agreed with what Illya had to say on the matter. It wouldn't be the first time that his brain failed to sync with the suicide operations his mouth periodically embarked on.
That last one went right over Taiga's head, but something told her that if there was ever good time to depart there would never be a better time than now. "Well, my compliments to the chef!" The yakuza princess rose from the table with a smile to Rin before waving to the others. "Unlike you guys I have business to keep up with so I'd better head home. Keep up with your studies, or I'll give ya hell later!" And with that charming advice she headed for the entry way to make her exit for the night.
Shirou rose quickly when she did, alerting the girls with his sudden movement. "I'll see you out, Fuji-nee!" The young man offered, following after her hurriedly.
"Oh no, don't worry about me!" She waved him off with a smile, but he kept after her regardless with a polite insistence that was all too well acted out to be genuine.
When the both of them had vanished from sight Rin set her sights upon Illya with a growl of, "What kind of talk was that earlier, Einsbern? I'm loads more interesting than some woman that prowls the streets at night for cheap thrills!" Of course, had Archer been around to hear that leave her mouth he might have said something unsavory in response. Well, good thing he wasn't, because Rin might have wasted a command spell on something most unfortunate like, for example, ordering him to work in drag at the red light district for her...and harbor no doubts that she would.
Illya grinned, oh so knowingly. "You're so vain, Rin-san. Who was talking about you anyway?" The snow fairy took a sip from her warm cup of tea. "I could have been referring to anyone, you know?" She directed a coy look at the annoyed magus and giggled sinisterly. "Or could it be that you have insecurities about your bland character?"
Rin grinned darkly at the little homunculus, coming close to reaching the limit of her tolerance. "Keep darting that forked tongue and I'll present you with a character establishing moment."
Illya took the challenge without hesitation. "Coming from a second rate magus, I don't see any reason to cower from such a weak threat." Illya returned the grin full force. "Come on, I'll take you." And this might have gotten dirty if not for the timely intervention of Sakura Matou's 'Sempai Senses' alerting her of something amiss like-
"Sempai is taking a while to get back." The plum haired kohai noted with a look of concern. "Could he be talking with Taiga-san outside?" She wondered aloud, drawing the attention of her fellow diners.
Rider, who had just finished cleaning off the contents of Shirou's neglected plate with her chopsticks, decided to take this opportunity to lay her master's concerns to rest. "Perhaps he was in need of fresh air and decided to take a walk around the area?" Said with the innocence of one who was only offering a possibility, and yet it was so startlingly possible, implying things upon things upon...things.
This statement, unfortunately, did little to appease the volatile mood that was gradually growing in strength among the female residents of the Emiya household, with even Saber setting down her eating utensils to express how displeased she was by this development. In fact, it only made things worse, though with Rider to blame it was rather debatable whether that wasn't the aim of her words all along. With the seeds of darkness being nurtured by their winding minds Rider concluded that it was time for her to leave. "Thank you for the meal, Rin-san." The dark servant expressed her gratitude to the lovely magus with a slight bow of her head before rising from the table. "I'll be reading in my room should any of you need me." And left, she did.
The other four sat there and stared at each other in brittle silence, contemplating over which one of them should take the blame for scaring off Shirou Emiya.
The Fuyuki Bridge was a place of reflection for Shirou Emiya, poetically enough. Here at the path between destinations was the domain where he had come to make many important choices in the past (Some in alternate possibilities), some that turned out for the best, while many others turned out for the worst. That wasn't to imply that Shirou made many bad decisions when the cards were laid out on the table, because while one could say that he did, most of those instances had left him no choice but to choose the unthinkable over logical convention. That aside, Shirou Emiya had once again found himself here at the Fuyuki Bridge, though luckily it wasn't to make a life changing decision. No, tonight he just wanted a moment to himself, one that wouldn't be in danger of corroding into madness as many a moment was prone to in the Emiya household.
"A hero of justice." Shirou said to no one in particular, holding his right hand out before his eyes to examine as if he expected the answers to all of his question to materialize on his palm. "Why am I suddenly so focused on that again? After the girls entered my life I had become so content. I didn't concern myself very much with those ideals anymore because I was...happy. I was happy to have a new family, but now I'm not sure anymore. Have I really become content with my life despite setting aside my ideals?" He closed his eyes so he could envision their smiles and their voices. He didn't want to lose that, but nothing would last forever. One day Rin and Sakura would set out to pursue the futures that were ahead of them. When that happened he was sure that everything would change.
"I'll probably travel to London with Rin and Saber when that time comes, but what will I do then?" His eyes narrowed in annoyance. "Will I follow Rin for the rest of my life...or will I pursue my own path like I originally intended?" He shook his head with a cynical laugh. It died in his throat with a somber tone. "Path? What am I talking about? I never really had a straight line drawn out for myself to begin with. Archer said it himself once before, I've lived my life so far on borrowed ideals." He looked at his hand again, clenching it with a crack of his knuckles. "So when will I make it my own?"
"What is this I see before me?" Shirou cringed reflexively at words that weren't his own. "Shirou Emiya has gotten bored with his harem so he's come here in the middle of the night to wait on some unfortunate female passerby to force his insatiable lust for the flesh upon?" This voice, this inflectionless tone that mocks him so thoughtlessly that it comes as a natural occurrence. It could only belong to one person.
"Why'd it have to be tonight?" Shirou muttered under his breath, but he turned his head to regard his encounter for the evening, Caren Ortensia; a rather stunning young woman of bewitching gold eyes, and lily white hair that tumbled over her shoulders and fell down her back. One might describe her as angelic looking from the appearance of her delicate facial features, stoic and unchanging, but her attire for the evening kind of ruined that image. This particular individual was supposedly a member of the church, a priestess/nun if you will, however, the image that normally came to a person's mind when they envisioned a woman of that title was pretty conservative; black robes, a habit, the usual outfit that was associated with a woman of the cloth. Caren was pretty conservative with her choice of apparel down to the waistline. After that all bets were off (skirts and pants included in her case, though she had the sense to keep her stockings on.), at least during the evening, anyway. She maintained the whole holy woman disguise very well during the morning to afternoon hours. "Why is it that your first reaction when seeing me is to accuse me of carrying on a shady agenda?"
"I see a ripe young man of your reputation standing here in the middle of the night, all alone. What else should I believe?" Caren replied smoothly, her expression suspiciously calm for a person who claimed to be meeting with a rapist. Wait a second...
"My reputation?" Shirou leaned back, perplexed by her statement. "What reputation? I have no such thing!"
"Well..." Her eyes shifted away from him slyly. "It's certainly nothing to be proud about." Caren regarded him again, crossing her arms. "Fine then, what could possibly be your reason for coming here so late in the night?" Shirou could have sworn that he caught the tell tale signs of a smirk take the place of her usual frown, but now that he thought on it it could have just been his imagination. "Trouble in paradise, Shirou Emiya?"
"I doubt it would hold your interest long enough to listen through it." The young Emiya grumbled, setting his eyes upon the reflection of the city lights from the water below.
"Don't hold back on my account, Emiya." Caren responded, shrugging her shoulders with the same stoic expression as always. It was strange every time he drew the comparisons between this young woman and a certain deceased priest, if that man ever was the genuine article to begin with. Were all of the clergy members assigned to Fuyuki Church this eccentric? "After all, it's my job to listen to others pour out their hearts. I promise not to judge you, no matter how depraved, or perverse, or disgusting, or tasteless your story might be. All children of God are welcome to speak with me, even those with the burden of sin upon their shoulders and you are no different."
Of course, after hearing all of that spill out of her mouth Shirou felt even less willing to speak with her. "Why do I get the feeling your impression of me isn't very upstanding?"
"What have I ever done to make that cross your mind?" The nun inquired innocently, cocking her head to the side as she did. "Might it be possible that you possess a guilty conscience? Any recent crimes that you wish to confess to?"
"Recent?" Shirou bristled at the indirect accusation. "What do you mean recent? I've never committed any crimes to begin with!"
"Such a defensive reaction." A sly grin flashed briefly, though it may have just been a trick of light since her lovely face appeared expressionless. "Don't let it bother you if you have nothing to hide."
"Ah, never mind." Shirou waved her away, finally reaching the end of his patience with his tormentor. "Why don't you just keep walking along, evil nun? Don't you have better things to do with your time aside from bothering me?"
"Put such conceited notions to rest, Emiya." Caren told him in an unaffected voice. "I was just going for an evening stroll. Our meeting here is by chance and nothing more, nothing less."
"So, in other words, you have nothing better to do at the moment." Shirou stated for her gloomily.
"Oh, what a stubborn man you are." She remarked, casually taking her place leaning against the rail beside him. "If you have something to say then get it off your chest while I'm still willing." She fixated her eyes to his profile as he continued to stare at the water below. They remained there side by side for a time in a strangely profound silence before Shirou opened his mouth to speak to her again.
"Fine then..." Shirou turned his attention to the woman standing beside him, meeting her eye to eye with a serious expression. "What is your idea of justice, Caren-san?"
The nun stared for a moment longer, blinking before she replied. "The administering of due punishment in response to immoral actions."
"Fair enough." Shirou chuckled, intriguing his companion. "How often do you think justice succeeds?"
"Justice never assumes a definite form, so the answer is debatable." Caren replied thoughtfully, catching Shirou off guard with the tone of her voice. "After all, the justice you believe in may not be the justice that others believe in."
"I'm talking about the prevention of crime." Shirou clarified himself to her. "How could that not be justice?"
"Well, that's the thing, Emiya." She told him, her expression as unreadable as ever. "The circumstances of the crime may not always necessarily be evil in nature, though it my appear that way from the viewpoint of a bystander. Since we're on the subject, what inspired this sudden fascination?" She leaned toward him slightly without drawing his attention to the subtle movement.
Shirou scoffed softly while turning away from her briefly. "It's not sudden. I've been thinking on it for a while..."
"Would this have anything to do with the appearance of that shady character, Velvet Rose?" Caren asked, one eyebrow raising ever so slightly.
"Geez, it seems like no one has anything good to say about her."
"So she is the reason that you're out here." The woman beside him said with a hint of mischief. "Emiya Shirou doesn't just prey upon any woman it would seem."
"Stop referring to me as though I'm some sort of rapist." He said with a deadpan expression, already accustomed to this treatment, sadly enough. "Anyway, yeah, she's the reason I'm here. I just don't get it."
"What?" Caren asked, closing her eyes as she scratched her chin before opening them again.
"Well, Rin and the others don't think so highly of her despite her noble deeds. I mean, shouldn't we be happy that she's risking her life to keep the streets safe?"
"Velvet Rose, hmm?" The angelic nun mused softly. "She's been a popular subject of talk around here with the kids and young adults, believe it or not. I suppose you could say she's becoming something of a role model."
"But what she's doing is abnormal in the eyes of the older residents in the area." Caren observed, piquing Shirou curiosity. "Emiya, you seem to be discontent with the overall attitude of society, in general, about vigilantes." She turned her head to regard him, a small upward curve present at the ends of her lips. "I'm right, aren't I?"
The redhead appeared to be slightly disturbed by her spot on observation, but he responded with a somewhat reserved, "...Yeah."
"Fine..." She appeared incredibly bored at that moment, punctuating the mood with a well timed sigh that succeeded in annoying her conversation partner. "I've nothing more pressing to attend to tonight, so I'll humor you. The reason people don't trust individuals like 'Velvet Rose' is because normal individuals simply don't get out of bed one morning and decide to act as a street cleaner. The regular upstanding citizen doesn't jump at the opportunity to get involved in life threatening situations because it's far easier, and safer to just turn their head in the opposite direction and go about their own private business in the presence of trouble. As a result people have become desensitized by criminal activity, fully aware of it, but treating it as a matter of course in their day."
"I know that." Shirou quipped sarcastically. "What does that have to do with Velvet Rose?"
"People don't break the mold unless there is a personal agenda at work, that's what." Caren answered him, turning around to lean back against the bridge rail. She allowed her head to fall back, looking up at the faintly visible stars twinkling above, disguising the passing airliners that were present in moving blinking lights. The way she appeared at that moment, hair hanging back with the bridge lights gracing her, it was like admiring a beautiful figure out of some tragic work of art. The cunning sister was very well aware of the way Shirou simply stared in awe of her, but she found it within the mercy of her soul to resist the usual urge to tease him. "Or at least that's how an average person would rationalize the actions of a vigilante."
Shirou recovered from his stupor when she spoke to him again, responding to her words with an absent–"Hmm?"
"Velvet Rose has ulterior motives." The picturesque maiden clarified for him straight out.
"That's ridiculous." Shirou argued, quirking a brow incredulously. "What ulterior motives? It's not like she's gaining anything from this."
"Isn't she?" Caren challenged him with stroking her hand along the rail smoothly so that it rested beside his elbow. "There's only one way to find out for yourself, isn't there?"
Shirou stared at her silently, trying to make sense of what she was undoubtedly implying. "You mean...become a vigilante myself?"
"Why not?" For the first time during their conversation the nun smirked, and the curl in her lips remained plastered upon her lovely face, devious in nature. "Wouldn't this be a great opportunity to try out something new and exciting?" Which was amusing hearing out of her mouth since Shirou could see the apparent excitement simply welling within her as she thought about it. She was deriving a sort of guilty pleasure from this, he just knew it. "She's doing it, so why shouldn't you? If anyone can become a defender of justice it's you, Shirou Emiya. That is, after all, your inescapable fate in the design of this world."
"Really, an echo?" Caren questioned, seemingly amused by his predictable response judging from the cat-like smirk on her lovely face. "That's mighty cliche, even for you. Anyway, I'd best be on my way back to the church. I wouldn't want those stray dogs to get too comfortable in my absence." The nun's expression reverted to its default mode of stoicism and she offered him a slight nod before giving him her back and walking in the other direction. "Enjoy the rest of your evening, hero of justice."
Shirou watched on silently until she was nothing more than a black and white speck within his vision. "...That ill natured girl." He said flatly, his expression growing sour while her pretty face lingered in his mind like a brand left behind in her departure. "She always leaves a bad taste in my mouth." Shirou entered into a deep silence after the words left his mouth, an unamused frown forming as his eyes crinkled in distaste. "I guess I could have worded that differently."
[ Returning late night to the Emiya Estate ]
Good times here at the Emiya Residence. Shirou Emiya had finally returned from his unannounced walk, and the women of the house were all glad to see him return safely and in better spirits than he'd been in before he snuck out like a cooperate leader in the midst of a stocks failure. Actually, that might not have been all true; the part about the girls being happy that he was in better spirits that is, because when the lovable Proto-Archer returned he had brought along a little more extra baggage than they were frankly comfortable with. For example–
"You wanna do what?" Rin Tohsaka, official master of Shirou Emiya, asked with an expression that clearly conveyed how much she didn't approve of what she just heard leave his mouth. Saber, who was usually the first to defend and respect her master's opinions and decisions, had a similar expression upon her regal face, eyes narrowed in disapproval with the ends of her lips curling slightly downward in the face of Shirou's reasoning. Their sound logic simply could not– would not comply with what the young Emiya had declared when he joined them at the table.
Shirou could sense the oppressive vibes coming off of Rin and Saber as they stared him down from across the table, with Sakura joining in from the end of the table at his right side, but he kept his chin up as he repeated himself, louder than before. "I'm going to become a vigilante!" He balled his hands into tight fists on his lap as the vibes came off even stronger from the three girls like a dark miasma filling the room. Rider and Illya made no foolish attempt to back him in his decision at that very moment in fear of making the mood even worse, but arguably they were taking this far better than the aforementioned three, listening on calmly without showing any opposition towards this startling turn of events. "It's the only way I'll ever meet Velvet Rose in person, and I need to speak with her or I'll never be able to resolve this anxiety inside of me."
"Sempai." Surprisingly Sakura was the first to speak, getting Rin to turn her head and look to her sister. "I don't mean to offend you by saying this, but this is ridiculous, isn't it?" Her hands balled on the table, trembling ever so slightly. "Going through so much trouble just to meet this woman...why are you so fixated on her, huh?"
Shirou, naturally oblivious to the feelings of his female house mates, especially the intense (For lack of a better word) affection that Sakura harbored for him, did not see her question as an act of unbridled jealousy. No, he did not stop to consider that perhaps his openly displayed obsession over this lady vigilante might have been the actual root of all of this negative chi flowing between him and the girls at the table. So rather than taking the political approach to the situation and easing his way out, he answered Sakura without restrain. "If I can hear her reasons for becoming a vigilante out of her own mouth, then maybe I can clear my mind of these doubts that plague me."
Saber's expression fell grim at his reply to the lovable kohai. "Doubts, Shirou?" She asked, resting her chin on a balled fist with an inquisitive stare. "About what?"
Shirou didn't answer her immediately, instead watching her silently before he opened his mouth. "What it means to uphold justice."
"Justice?" Rin repeated the word with a slight hiss, her dislike for the very word boiling to the surface like a pot of water left unattended on an open fire. "Why does this sound so familiar, Emiya-kun?"
"I know what you're thinking, but I'm not doing this to fulfill some childish aspiration." The young Emiya assured the lovely magus, holding up a hand so she wouldn't interrupt him as she appeared ever so ready to do so. "I don't intend to follow in Archer's footsteps. This is a path I'm paving with my own ideals in mind, not those that I inherited from my father."
"Regardless of your reasons, I find this to be a risky endeavor, Shirou." Saber retorted, crossing her arms with a lift of her chin. "I cannot say that I approve of this idea. Best for you to abandon it before you get ahead of yourself."
"Ahead of myself?" Shirou stared at his faithful partner wide eyed. "Compared to the dangers I've already experienced–"
"It's not the dangers that bother me about this vigilante business that has seduced you." Saber retorted, her gaze sharpening. "It's the decisions you will be forced to make."
Shirou leaned forward questioningly, the message Saber was attempting to get through to him at a loss. "Decisions?"
"Justice isn't a one sided coin." The king of knights explained. "It never has been that easy, never will be. Cast aside your self righteous delusions about this justice you seek, master. What you'll discover at the end of your search is an answer much darker than you believe it to be."
"Then I'll stand tall when the time comes to face it, Saber." Shirou held eye contact with the blonde knight for a few tense seconds, a swirl of unreadable emotions being exchanged between them until Shirou finally broke contact, his shoulders slumping dejectedly when he added in a regretful tone–"With, or without you if that is your decision." Those words must have wounded Saber deeply. The king flinched back from his rejection, widening her eyes in blank shock with a few quick blinks. Rin, Sakura, and Illya were no exception to the feelings that were invoked at his startling words, staring at Shirou as though he'd just broken a sacred vow between him and his partner. Rider maintained a mask of neutrality upon her face in contrast, though she too stared at Shirou all the same.
Saber raised a hand timidly after opening a closing her mouth a few times, looking for all the world like she wanted to reach out to Shirou and keep him from leaving the table despite him not budging from his seat. "...Shirou, I only wish to protect you."
"And never doubt my appreciation, Saber." Shirou spoke to her warmly, perhaps because he himself realized how harsh his prior statement must have came off. "But this is something I can't allow you to keep me from." Sensing a possible assault from his own master, who was still staring at him like he was the enemy of all women in the world, Shirou decided that it would have been in his best interests to bail as gracefully as he could while he was still allowed even that. He stood from the table without announcing his leave and offered Saber a final nod before making his exit.
Rin's eyes followed him like a vulture until he disappeared from the entryway. "...Ugh." The magus brought her palm to her forehead, shaking it slowly as though her head began to ache. "And I really wanted us all to have a quiet night together."
Shirou sat in the shed with his back to the wall, his usual refuge whenever he wanted to be alone, which, like his room, had gradually become less private as of late. Still, bad habits were hard to kill, so here he found himself pondering the events that had transpired earlier at the dining table. "Ahhh, dammit." Shirou sighed out sharply, allowing the back of his head to rest against the wall with a sarcastic grin. "My mouth sure has a knack for getting me into trouble." He squeezed his eyes tight when Saber's shocked face materialized, fresh and vivid in his mind. "I'm sorry, Saber. I shouldn't have said that to you." He paused, opening his eyes with a dull stare, the grin still plastered on his face. "...You should have apologized when she was around to hear it, idiot." He growled to himself.
"I normally don't care for your occasional spats with Saber, but I'll admit that you surprised me this time." Rider's voice alerted the young Emiya of her presence before she dropped down from the ceiling above him, landing in front of him on all fours like a feline. Shirou flinched backwards when she suddenly appeared before him, mistakenly banging his head against the wall in the process. Man, did he hate it whenever she popped up like that. The dark servant must have been an elite ninja in her other life, he was sure of it.
"You keep this up and I foresee a concussion in my future." Shirou remarked tepidly, rubbing the back of his head with one hand.
"So..." Rider moved beside him and took a seat, drawing her right leg toward her with both hands wrapped around the knee while keeping her other leg extended. "What just happened back there, if you don't mind sharing?"
"If I knew it myself I'd try to explain it to you, Rider." He answered her vaguely, folding his hands behind his head as he leaned back against the wall again. "I don't know what came over me during that conversation, to be honest. When she told me that I couldn't handle it, something just came loose inside of me." A curious smile spread along his lips, almost cynical in nature as he went on–"Knowing Saber, she might even be right about what she said, but hearing it out of her mouth felt pretty damn insulting...I guess."
"It's understandable." Rider replied with a casual shrug of her shoulders. "I believe it's called a 'man's pride', or something like that. Hearing those words out of your partner's mouth must have poked at some manner of insecurity buried deep within your ego, and your natural reaction was to defend yourself as best you could, even if it meant hurting her." Boy, did Rider have a way with words. She could twist the knife without even trying on an off day, and reduce the average man to a miserable pile of angst on a good day.
"You'd make a terrible psychiatrist." Shirou grumbled, directing a sidelong glance at the dark servant.
Rider stared at him thoughtfully before raising a hand to his forehead. "If you want someone to improve your mood, I'll hel–"
Shirou quickly moved her hand away from him before she could go through with whatever she had planned. "N-No, you don't have to do that!" His immediate rejection seemed to disappoint the bespectacled servant, forming a slight frown upon her lovely lips. She regarded him silently for a moment before reluctantly allowing her hand rest upon her knee.
"If that's your decision, then I'll respect it." She told him softly, turning her head away slightly to keep him from noticing the mysterious gleam in her eye that said otherwise. Thinking on how to keep the ball rolling, Rider posed a question that had been itching at the back of her mind since he returned, "So did you happen to bump into anyone during your evening stroll earlier?" Her question made the young man cringe informing her that indeed he did, and perhaps into someone not too pleasant.
Shirou forced his lips to curl into a smirk. "You know, sometimes it scares me how accurate you tend to be with your questions."
"Does it now?" Rider inquired innocently, cocking her head to the side.
"It almost makes me wonder if you're...watching me."
"Is that so?" The lavender haired beauty responded naturally.
Shirou blinked. "Y-You didn't deny it?"
"Would it set your mind at ease if I did?" Rider asked, her voice betraying nothing.
Shirou knit his brow. "Well, denying it now would make me suspicious after just hearing you ask that question."
Rider extended her pointer finger to draw his attention, adjusting her glasses with an elegant tilting motion of her other hand. "So then, you must resort to convincing yourself that I am not watching you. Employing that method should ensure that you won't become self conscious of your conduct in public whenever you leave the house."
"You're right." Shirou concurred with her reason, nodding his head until–"W-Wait a second!" He shook his head quickly. "You still didn't deny it, and now it sounds like you're implying something unpleasant about the way I carry myself in public."
"Whatever you make of it, Shirou." The dark servant responded unaffectedly. "But we're beginning to lose focus of the actual topic. Why don't you tell me about your walk?" She paused to tuck back one of her inhumanely long locks of hair, with a tantalizing crook of her neck as she did. The young Emiya was grateful that the lights weren't on in the shack, or she might have taken notice of more than the light blush on his cheeks when she did that. "Something must have happened to you out there for you to make such a sudden decision upon your return."
"No reason to keep quiet about it, I guess..." Shirou removed his hands from the back of his head and folded his arms, leaning slightly away from her when he felt her shoulder brush up against his. "I stopped at the Fuyuki bridge to zone out when Caren came across me during one of her late night strolls." He figured it best to neglect mentioning the details of her apparel for the evening. He didn't want Rider getting the impression that Caren's clothes (or therefore slight lack of) was the only thing that held his attention during their meeting, as she would undoubtedly allude to upon striking the mood.
Rider blinked, recalling the woman in question. "You mean that weird sister standing in for Kotomine Kirie?"
The young man spared a moment to flash his companion a grin. "Yeah, she's really out there for a woman in her...er...field, I suppose you could refer to it as." Continuing quickly from that minor misstep, "As usual, she started off the conversation by insulting me, talking all sorts of nonsense as soon as she saw me."
"Nonsense?" Rider sounded curious. "Of what sort, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Really?" He raised an eyebrow, him having never intended to expand on that particular detail of the conversation he had with Caren. Why did it seem like this woman was only interested in hearing about the embarrassing details of his life? "You wanna know?" Shirou blinked when she nodded smoothly, without hesitation, and rolled his eyes awkwardly as he thought back to the nun's scathing words. "Erm...well, if I heard her words correctly, she makes me out to be some kind of extremely frustrated guy that would prowl the streets for any woman to satisfy his..." He came to a halt in his explanation, studying the look of understanding that gradually came through on the lovely servant's features. She didn't actually agree with that ill natured sister, did she?
Just to make sure– "You look awfully abiding there, Rider. It's kind of discouraging, you know?"
"Hmm?" Rider slipped back into the present conversation, her eyes regaining proper focus upon detecting Shirou's voice penetrate the veil of risque thoughts that played through her mind like a lovingly organized clip show. They reminded her of the "Iyaaas!" and "Aaahns!" that had filled the most recent dreams that she had imparted upon the young Emiya, cries of pleasure expelled from a joyously flustered Mitsuzuri as the young man in question vigorously pounded her hips with unrestrained thrusts. Rider could recall it all vividly: the archery captain's melodic cries of her lover's name as she looked over her shoulder to meet his intense eyes, hands tightly gripping the slightly larger hands that dug into the sides of her shapely behind; the misty dew that formed on the blades of grass around the two of them as they made love in the moon kissed field of the archery range. Indeed, the more Rider thought about Shirou's sexual encounters with the women of his dreams (herself included on occasion), the less she found herself going against Caren's impression of him. Sure, she had faith in Shirou's integrity as a gentleman, and she knew that he would never do anything as morally ambiguous as forcing his own sexual lust upon an unwilling partner, but it would have been a complete lie to claim that his sexual appetite was on the average side. Sometimes, even Rider would admit, it came off as being a little too healthy to be categorized as normal.
"N...Never mind." Shirou dropped the subject quickly before it could carry on any further. "Forget I said anything."
"No!" Rider held him down with a hand on his shoulder before he could stand to leave, discreetly wiping the small drip of blood from her nose with the other hand. "Think nothing of it! It's nothing to be ashamed of!"
"...What exactly?" The young man blinked with a dull expression that spoke of all things but being pleased. "...To be ashamed of?"
"It's of no importance." The dark servant told him, shoving him a thumbs up while maintaining a perfectly serious expression despite the visuals that continued to fill her mind. "So what did you and Caren talk about?"
"...I asked her about her idea of justice, one exchange led to another, and she happened to bring up Velvet Rose." Shirou said the name of the vigilante lightly, not sure how the mention of her would affect Rider. After finding out how the girls particularly felt about her, he figured that the mere mention of the vigilante simply wasn't advised around his house mates. Fortunately the dark servant either couldn't be bothered by it because she was so intent on hearing the rest of what he had to say, or she simply didn't care for it as much as the others did. "She seems to cast her in the same light that Rin and the others do, and as much as I hate to say it...she made some points I couldn't really argue against. At least not without coming off as an idiot."
"Is that so?" Rider mused almost absently.
Shirou shrugged at the lack of response, noting, "I really didn't take notice before, but you're pretty neutral on the subject." He folded his hands behind his head again, shifting so he faced her as he leaned his back against the wall. "I guess you don't let these sort of things concern you, huh?" He chuckled.
"Perhaps." The lavender haired beauty replied vaguely. "But it appears that Shirou has always concerned himself with the subject of justice, and that alone can work as a magnet for change."
"Hm?" He raised an eyebrow upon receiving such an intriguing from her. Her last few responses were sort of uninspiring so to hear her actually offer some productive input was unexpected, yet not unwelcome, a small part of him allowed.
"The strength of one strong will tends to draw others, influencing them, and at times taking control of them." She explained, keeping hold of him with her bewitching eyes as she went on, "I believe the word for this power is charisma, and I have strong reason to believe that you possess it."
"W-Wha..." Shirou stammered out the best response he could in the wake of her surprising words. "You don't really mean that do you, Rider?" He questioned her skeptically after the feeling passed. Not that he couldn't trust the sincerity of her words, but a compliment from her wasn't exactly an everyday occurrence, especially one so grand, and without an accompanying insult to balance it out for good measure.
"I only tell you what I believe." She assured him, taking no offense to his skepticism. "I acknowledge more than just your short comings after all."
That sounds more like it. Shirou found some relief in hearing that last smarting statement, smiling genuinely at her for it. "Thank you then, Rider. It flatters me to know that's what you think of me, even if I don't entirely believe it myself." He mumbled his last few words, but Rider's ears picked them up all the same.
"You should learn to appreciate yourself as others do."
"Appreciate me, huh?" Shirou's tone became strangely somber in response, drawing a near silent gasp from Rider who hadn't anticipated such a reaction. "You know, Rider..." He trailed off, regarding her with an unreadable expression gracing his handsome face.
For reasons privy to Rider she felt her face begin to build with heat as she brought her hands to wrap around herself. "Yes, Shirou?"
"We talk a lot don't we?"
"Yes...yes, we do."
"I guess I've become so comfortable around you that I barely acknowledge just how casual we are around each other these days."
Now Rider was grateful for the darkness in the room. "Is that so?" She bit her lip when Shirou rested a hand on her shoulder comfortingly.
"I guess what I'm trying to say is, you've become a good friend to me Rider." Shirou made to remove his hand from her shoulder, but her hand rested upon it to keep it there. "I apologize if I've done nothing to make that clear."
"You need not go out of your way, Shirou." Rider told him with the barest of smiles, a rarity comparable to worlds most precious minerals. "Allowing me to be a friend is more than enough."
Shirou couldn't sleep soundly in his room that night for some reason. He twisted right and left in his futon, waking at periods of the night in uncomfortable positions and angles, even finding himself straying from his own bed at times and it disturbed him. His eyes swiveled to the clock on the wall with an unsettling full awareness to confirm how much time he had left until the sun roused him from this restless night, but time was ticking at a near crawl; just twelve twenty-seven and the long hand almost appeared to be held there. What was going on? Why did this night feel so ominous?
"Hm?" The young Emiya felt his blood run cold when he spotted something unnatural in his peripheral–movement. He wasn't alone this night– "R-Rider?" He would later curse himself for saying the name of his former nemesis. He would have never guessed that the person sitting with their back to the wall was his close partner, Saber. It wasn't like her to come into his room unannounced, and not at this time, at least not without informing him earlier in the day that she desired his company...but then again there was something particularly off about Saber this evening. For one, she wasn't wearing any pajamas tonight; the clothes she wore were suspiciously familiar, and secondly, there was something missing. He couldn't quite place his finger on it since the lights were off, but...
"...Where did it go?" Shirou questioned in a deathly silent voice, realizing just what was missing.
"Expecting the company of someone else tonight, I take it?" Saber's voice felt like a cool breeze reaching his ears.
"N-No." Shirou answered her. "But wait, Saber?"
"Call me Arturia." Saber told him, her tone unsettling him. "And get dressed."
"Huh?" He quirked a brow. "What do you mean get dressed? Where are we going?"
"I said call me Arturia, did I not?" Saber cut him off before he could argue.
Now Shirou was beginning to feel a familiar chill. "W-Wait a second..." He glanced at the top of her head, noting once again the absence of her ahoge, however, this time his mind began to put two and two together. "...Who are you?"
Upon hearing his question Saber stood from the floor without warning, making him flinch back out of reflex. Her shadowy figure walked over to the side of the door where his light switch was located and with a flick of her hand the room became illuminated, revealing Saber dressed in his school uniform...and a cold expression gracing her lovely features. Shirou felt himself hold in a breath when he met her gold eyes, confirming his dreadful hunch of just what was going on, but he just couldn't make sense of it. How was she here before him?
"You look very surprised, Shirou." Saber Alter, or rather 'Arturia' told him with a slight bit of mirth in her cruel voice. "Am I unwelcome here?"
Shirou swallowed, choosing his words carefully. "...You're always welcome here...Arturia." He answered her hesitantly, feeling his forearms tremble ever so slightly as the woman approached him, standing over him when the distance between them had become non-existent. "It's just...you look different from what I'm used to seeing. W-Why are you wearing my uniform?" It seemed a little loose on her smaller frame, but she managed to make it work out somehow.
"My own clothes didn't agree with me." She answered him, kneeling down so they were at eye level with each other. "Now," She placed a hand on his shoulder, gripping it a little harder than necessary, "Get dressed so we can leave. I'm hungry."
It took everything within him not to let his voice waver as he held her piercing gaze. "Alright...just give me a moment to get changed."
"No need." Arturia told him, standing away to give him space. "It would not bother me to watch."
Once again, Shirou felt chills run down his spine as the strangest curl became apparent on the tainted servant's lips, but he made no move to oppose her. "If you say so..."
"Ohm!" Shirou watched mesmerized as another lump traveled down the king's elegant throat marking her consumption of yet another burger, and perhaps the further diminishment of his hard earned cash; with the way this woman made food disappear it might as well have followed suit. Saber was a voracious eater without a doubt in usual form, but she also brought a manner of elegance to her eating. Arturia, on the other hand, simply devoured what was presented to her because it was in the nature of a king to take sustenance so that they may further the lengths of their conquest. To this woman, black as knight in appearance and perhaps soul, food was not an art to be respected, but merely a resource to be consumed and so she did just that without so much as an afterthought.
It was only when she refrained from her eating to suck down on her carbonated drink that she turned an eye upon Shirou Emiya, still staring with wonder at how quickly she made her stack of burgers vanish from sight. "Why do you stare, Shirou? You've yet to eat your own food and you're more interested in watching me do otherwise?" Her voice lacked the warmth and nobility that Saber normally exuded in her speech. Her words came slightly rough with an unsettling chill to accompany it.
"I'm actually not that hungry." He told her, barely managing the words out of his mouth when she reached out and relieved him of his meal with a curt, "Suit yourself, then."
The tainted king resumed scarfing down her food leaving Shirou to stare again, wondering how to approach her with the anxieties occupying his thoughts like why she was even up and about. Alter rarely surfaced to make contact with him, and even in the occasions that she did manifest it was always very brief and of no actual consequence to him. Having an actual sit down with the jaded king was doing bad things for his stress levels.
"Sabe–" Shirou caught himself quickly when her eyebrow twitched at the usual title, "I mean, Arturia." He corrected cautiously, drawing Alter's sharp eyes to regard him with all their frightening intensity.
She set her burger down. "What is it?"
Shirou swallowed down the lump in his throat. "I think you know what." He boldly retorted, getting her to sit back, arms spread along the back end of the booth.
"I won't know unless you speak your thoughts." The king passed the ball back into his court without batting an eye, following with a demand of, "So speak them now, or leave me to my meal."
Do I love being me. The young Emiya inwardly quipped at the situation he set himself up for as he folded his hands at his lap beneath the table. This could get ugly if he rubbed her the wrong way, but it wasn't as if he was an expert at juggling words with royalty. The last time he tried that he almost received a face full of flying weaponry courtesy of the king of kings himself. Luckily for him Saber had not been nearly as arrogant and lacking in general conscience as Gilgamesh when he first met her, but Arturia wasn't necessarily Saber per say.
He decided to press his luck with this one. "Why are we sitting here face to face, Arturia? Since when have I been such a subject of interest to you that you would bring me out at this hour to dine with you?" He made sure not to make use of the word 'together'. Something told him that it would have been downright disrespectful to include himself at her level, at least while they were just coming to understand one another.
It would have been a poor lie to say that he didn't feel his anxieties spike at the sight of a smirk in place of her usual stone like expression. This was a reaction he hadn't been anticipating . "It would seem as though your balls have dropped since we last met, Shirou. It's a pleasant surprise, one of many to come I would hope."
Shirou quirked a brow. By the sound of that he got the impression that she wouldn't be leaving for a while. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"You expressed an interest earlier, one that piqued my interest; a curiosity in becoming a vigilante, was it not?"
"I did." Shirou's knuckles went white under the table fighting to keep a respectable posture before the eyes of the tainted king as he continued, "That interest still remains strong."
"It would displease me to hear otherwise." Alter replied, lifting her chin just slightly when she spoke her part. The gesture alone made her appear to grow before Shirou's eyes, looking down upon him with the overbearing presence of one passing judgement over his life. "I intend to oversee your transformation personally, Shirou; to ensure that you do not stray from this path that you have chosen."
"Wait, what happens to Saber?" As expected his use of the title did not sit well with her, but he was past caring for her mood at this point. The woman sitting in front of him wasn't her. "I'm not referring to you." He made clear to her in an irritated tone, drawing a slight scowl from her at is open disapproval for the conditions of her presence. "How long are you planning on walking around with her body?"
"Hold your tongue, Shirou." Alter spoke low, her voice a crawl that nearly robbed the young man of his gathered wits. "This body is as much mine as it is your beloved Saber's." Her gold orbs transfixed upon him dangerously. "You would do well to keep that information in your thoughts when making foolish claims."
To her surprise Shirou had not backed down from that, matching her glare with one almost as impressive. "You two may share the same body, but your souls are as separate from one another as winter is to spring. You're not the woman I fell in love with, and I refuse to acknowledge you as one and the same." His courageous words might have invited the passage for hell on earth, or perhaps it was that the tainted king's smile was unfit for this world.
"Whether you love me or not, fate has bound our souls as one and in that respect you are just as well mine as you are hers. Your heart and soul belong to me so long as you adore the woman who shares this body with me, so I suggest that you swallow your pride and embrace me, Shirou." Her eyes remained on him when she was done, her food no longer of interest to her and that's when he realized that this would be even more difficult than he had originally imagined.
So he asked the question straight out, "What do you want from me?"
The smile all but gone, she replied cryptically. "I imagine that we desire similar things from each other, master of mine."
Shirou's only response to that answer was to blink. Well, I imagine that's the sort of answer that will rob me of my sleep tonight...
Returning home from the burger joint after having that little conversation proved awkward enough for the young Emiya, especially since the tainted king took to walking just a few steps behind him the entire time. He wasn't sure if her reasons for doing so related to some residual sense of protectiveness from her pure self, or simply because she desired to watch him squirm after having the nerve to confront her earlier. Whatever the reason, he was unnerved by it all, and when she halted at one point in the residential block on the way back, staring to the rooftops of the surrounding houses as if expecting someone to ambush them in the streets he became desperately curious of her behavior. Not that his curiosity ever did him any good–
"What's got your attention?" Shirou asked Alter when she drew her eyes away from the rooftops to settle upon him with an unreadable look.
The king crossed her arms in a manner all too familiar to a certain someone else, one eyebrow mocking him. "Your ignorance to the dangers that surround you don't surprise me in the least, master of mine." And her usage of the term 'master' could have been no more condescending as it rolled of her sharply tipped tongue.
Shirou turned on his heel after receiving the scalding remark with a grumble of, "We're hitting it off just fine already." There were no further words exchanged for the rest of the walk after that.
The Emiya Estate was still quiet under the weight of slumber when they both returned , and Shirou couldn't be any more grateful for that. Running into Rin or Sakura with Arturia at this hour of the night would have aroused some unhealthy interests in both young women, he was sure. Normally he would have been more wary of Saber's watchful presence, but being that she was technically in his company, creeping through the halls unnoticed proved a manageable task with the proper footing to avoid uncooperative floorboards.
"So," Shirou started off in a quiet voice, stopping in front of his room since it came before Saber's. Alter stood before him unblinking. "Good–" She opened the door and walked past him to enter of her own accord. "–night?" The young man spared a moment to blink in bewilderment before whipping around. "Sabe–ge–I mean, Arturia–" He choked when he saw her strip his jersey off revealing more than enough that his imagination didn't need to compensate for the scandalous imagery. "–What are you getting undressed in here for?" He hissed just as she kicked off his sweat pants, leaving herself in nothing but black lace underwear, which begged the question of where and when she got that risque article of lingerie. Shoving that aside, however, "Your room is down the hall! This is my room, in case that bit of information slipped your mind." Between whispering and trying not to raise his voice too loud he almost came off as a hissing cat.
Alter laid down on his futon, "I'm aware of that." She stared up at him expectantly, her body enticing him with its elegant beauty. "Well?" She raised a brow in veiled irritation. "Join me."
Shirou felt another lump in his throat, trying to keep his focus on her eyes and not straying toward her creamy thighs or the small, perfectly shaped breasts that were once familiar to his touch, but now quite alien to him. "J-Join you for what?"
"Sleep, of course." The tainted king told him, the look in her eyes commanding him as she ordered, "Get undressed and lay with me, Shirou."
Perhaps it was because of her natural charisma; Shirou Emiya wasn't entirely sure at that moment, but he found himself complying with her command in an instant, pulling off his shirt and getting down on his futon with her. Unable to face the intensity of her gaze up close he turned over and gave his back to her only to feel the king press up against him from behind, encircling her arms around him and gripping his chest firmly with her small hands.
"Sleep well." Alter told him before resting her lips on the nape of his neck where they remained all night, and though she held him securely in her arms Shirou never felt so naked and vulnerable in his life.
Sleep did not come easily, just as he had predicted.
It should be noted that Rin Tohsaka did not resent the one named Shirou Emiya as he was the only man in the world (as of writing this account) that she deemed worthy of her deepest affections and she doubted that anything could ever change her mind on that account, however, she did sometimes entertain the question of how different things in her life would be if, for example, Shirou was dead. Granted, that would be essentially removing the lynchpin of her current living situation; her friendly arguments with Illya probably wouldn't be decidedly so because the snow fairy would be out for her blood on principal of her being the rival daughter of another highly esteemed magus bloodline (and because she was a sadistic little—), she and Sakura would likely still be very distant from one another without Shirou's kitchen there to keep providing excuses for them to occupy the same room without the irresistible need to opt out of the close proximity, Kotomine might still be ali—okay, dammit, so Shirou was too important to cut out of the everyday equation.
Still, if those details were to be ever so conveniently swept under the rug, Shirou's absence in life would profit her in one particular count—Rin would have complete control over Saber; all five feet and 2 inches of her, which given how the two of them were officially contracted to one another as master and servant that should have already been the case, but for whatever reason Saber favored Shirou a hell of a lot more as a friend and romantic partner, which meant that the lovable king spent more of her time with him on the regular—she even went so far as to continue honoring him with the affectionate title of "master" despite their own contract being annulled (Thanks for nothing, Caster!) Rin, too, would have taken favorably to awaken in the middle of the night to find Saber using her arm as a pillow; for her to announce that she would leave the house and have the golden haired knight strongly insist on accompanying her even if it was an errand so mundane as to make a quick run to the quick mart. Saber did so many things to improve the nondescript quality of Shirou's life and he just took it all for granted!
That may have been a little disquieting...
To quiet what negative impressions that might have brought on, Rin did not make it a habit of envisioning a life without Shirou, and she certainly didn't plot the ways in which that could coincidentally become a reality without suspicions pointing in her general direction—she adored him far too much for that, however, Saber didn't come to her room last night. That was to say that Rin had invited the radiant knight to a sleepover as a way to comfort her over the disagreement that she had with Shirou at the table earlier that evening (and possibly cuddle together in bed afterward), and Saber had stood her up for—what Rin would discover for herself after her patience wore thin—none other than the person that had been the source of her unease. Rin had taken the rejection with the sort of grace that was expected of a refined young lady like herself; maybe she threw a little tantrum in her bed and glared at the ceiling until sleep finally took her, but she had at least restrained herself from intruding on their slumber and demanding an explanation like a jilted lover.
Now waking up in the morning and making her way to the dining room/ kitchen to find both Shirou and Saber eating breakfast together side by side ahead of schedule, well, Rin wanted to believe that her feelings didn't show on her face too much. Curiously, though, upon closer inspection of the inseparable duo it didn't appear as though Shirou was actually enjoying his breakfast, picking at his food with his chopsticks like he was at the end of a bicep power workout and his spotter had just made for the exit. Saber on the other hand...
"Black..." Rin observed with a whisper, deciding it best to continue observing from the shadows before making any judgement calls on how to crash what was looking less like a tender moment together and more like a potentially delicate hostage situation that needed diffusing. She was at a loss now that she really feasted her eyes on Saber's choice of sleep wear; a lace garter halter dress with attached stockings that made her finer points really pop in the best ways possible, particularly her yummy thighs–a complete 180 from the usual tame lingerie that Saber normally took to wearing, as Rin would have intimate knowledge of such things. "Hm?" But something else was particularly off and it wasn't just the detail of that small pile of crumpled, greasy burger wrappers that were bunched on the table beside Saber's neglected bowl of white rice, which was in itself a major red flag—Saber always maintained a dignified posture when she sat at the table, but never did it appear so baronial in nature. It made Shirou's uncharacteristic slouch this morning that much more pronounced in contrast.
Saber looked over at her eating partner, her severe expression melting a hole into his plate. "Eat, Shirou, or would you rather prefer that I feed you myself?" This invitation felt more like a thinly veiled threat, one that Shirou bravely shot down even as she leaned her body over to obliterate any pretense of personal space he so foolishly held reservation over. Rin, who normally envied his position of intimacy with Saber, had to reign herself in from telling the king to back off from her familiar.
"I've got this." A slightly subdued Shirou turned down the offer, putting more animation into eating in hopes that the increased performance would get her to back off of him a bit. He stayed his hand a moment when he noticed that Saber was still glaring at him and cracked a faint smile. "I mean it."
"Give me your egg." Her command was issued simply.
Shirou tried not to sound too relieved by her levy; tried even harder not to feel just a teensy swell of pride that she was demanding his home cooked food despite her seemingly exclusive fixation on junk food (well, it was a fried egg). "Oh, that's what you wanted." He picked the egg from his bowl and made to deposit it into the dark king's untouched bowl, however—
With a deft hand Arturia gripped his firmly just as he was about to deliver the egg, her slender fingers coiling around his wrist–"My mouth is up here, Shirou."–she then proceeded to redirect his chopsticks into her awaiting mouth, eyes branding Shirou with a cool fire as her lips closed around his eating utensils in a manner that made him question the hormonal twitch in his loins.
Rin felt a distinct chill run up her back at Saber's alluring power move, wondering if she should step in and take the heat off of him before Saber could absolutely snap him in two with her swaggering encroachment. Sakura's impeccable timing made it all easier for her to inch closer toward reaching a conclusive decision.
"Senpai!" The kohai's voice came crying from down the hall with the accompaniment of swiftly approaching foot falls. The fast approaching girl must have caught the scent of Shirou's cooking from her room and shot right out of bed thinking that she had overslept from her morning duties. "I'm sorry! It was my day to cook breakfast and you had to step in for me!" Rin's younger sister's voluptuous form finally shot into view after turning the corner with a drift, her bed hair bouncing around her head along with, well, everything else that gravity could influence. The Tohsaka elder wished her sister would have bothered to put on a brazier before bolting out of her room, because it was unintentionally pissing her off.
"Cool down, sea biscuit." Rin held out a hand to stop Sakura in her tracks before she could enter the kitchen. "You're not late. He just woke up earlier than usual."
"What for?" Sakura asked as she went about adjusting her shirt so that it did its job to maintain her modesty. "What's the occasion?" She poked her head into the kitchen to get a look of the situation and blinked a few times before turning back toward Rin with the inquiry of, "Is Saber...having a bad day?"
"I'm working my way into finding that out." Rin replied coolly, feeling that to enter the kitchen alone would have been to step into the lion's den without a spear in hand, but she had an image to uphold in front of her adorable little sister, and to allow even a hint of vulnerability to slip by admitting to feeling more confident about approaching the tainted king with Sakura to back her up would have ruined that.
The slow approaching patter of small feet alerted them to another unknowing member joining the investigation party. "Who died?" Illya made her informal induction with a soft growl, rubbing at her eyes like a cute white bunny that had just come out of its hole to gauge the weather conditions. "I heard a scream."
Rin could not help the initial frown at the entrance of her diminutive nemesis, however, a potential meat shield was never something to complain about. If Saber happened to turn on them for any reason she would make sure to have the little homunculus within arms reach to serve as a momentary distraction to cover their tactical retreat. The thought of chucking Illya at a hostile Saber made the lovely magus crack a sinister smile, especially since the way it played out in her head took on the stylistic choice of a chibified Saber batting away Illya straight through the atmosphere with a super powered Excalibur.
"Morning, Einsbern." Rin greeted with an uncharacteristic sweetness.
Illya picked up on the nefarious vibes coming off the Tohsaka heiress, pointing an accusing finger at the taller girl. "Your second rate tricks won't work on me."
Breaking her little back on one knee would be easy—she just needed to lift the little girl over her head and let gravity assist her with all the rest, Rin might have thought at that very moment. Her face, however, betrayed nothing.
"Don't they, though?" Rin responded, smiling as she cocked her head in a manner so sinister that Illya didn't know what to make of it. "You wake up in the morning, don't you?"
The little girl just blinked. "Wait. That doesn't even...what?"
"That's alright." Rin spoke to her dismissively. "I don't expect you to understand my second rate tricks." The magus then looked over Sakura's shoulder expectantly, waiting. Usually Rider made herself active the moment Sakura was up and about, so for Illya to awaken and present herself before Rider made said servant's absence slightly worrying, all things considered. Maybe it wasn't just Saber–
"Shock would be the appropriate response for this situation, yes?" Rider's voice cut through Rin's ruminating, but when the twin tailed magus threw her attention past Sakura's shoulder to where the lavender haired beauty was expected to be there was no one to be seen. In fact— "Breakfast is a part of the day spent amongst the whole family, isn't it, Shirou?" Rider was already one step ahead of the pack, confronting the radical variable of the morning with a forwardness far more in line with how Sakura tended to attack issues relating to the monopolizing of her beloved upperclassman. What made the unexpected development even more intriguing from Rin's neutral ground was how Saber stared in Rider's general direction (as she was standing just out of view). If Rin ever had a worry that her intrusion on Saber's private breakfast would put her in the direct line of fire, the expression on the tainted king's face assured her that would not be the case while Rider occupied the same space.
I know those two aren't exactly on the friendliest terms... Rin allowed a beat in her silent observation to closely study the concentrated condescension that Saber was channeling toward the other heroic spirit. It was like watching a member of high society turn their nose upon the lowest of the unclean for even entertaining the very audacity to exist in their presence. ...But damn. That's the look of a hard history right there.
Shirou's expression, for his part, was the still image of a soldier that just witnessed his best mate take a false step atop an active land mine and was trying his best to inform them of their blunder without alerting enemy troops—end scene, and nominate him for an Oscar.
POSSIBILITY ONE– TO BE CONCLUDED