"You cannot defeat Satan."
She wondered when it happened.
She felt so listless, floating there as if she were nothing.
Bedivere held hope that she would continue dreaming, but this was no dream.
It couldn't be Avalon, it was famed as a paradise.
She felt no pain, she felt no wounds, but...
She also did not feel at all.
Vaguely, she began to wonder if she did something wrong.
No, she told herself, she could not have taken the wrong course of action. After all, the 'Holy Grail', if it could be called holy, had been destroyed.
She returned and died in front of Bedivere, knowing that her precious weapon had been returned to its home, and that the one she loved would be happy.
She knew she would be in Avalon soon, and she would wait for him...
Why was she floating like this?
Why did she feel detached from herself?
She heard a man's voice.
"I am the bone of my sword."
And all was quiet once more.
Day 1: Projection
The red headed boy pushed his face further into his arms, trying to ignore the outside intrusion that was causing him trouble.
It was the voice of an angel...
"Get up you lazy oaf!"
No, it was more like the devil. He slowly opened his eyes and pushed himself up. He seemed to be the only one left in the class, and outside the sun was already setting. Above him stood his best friend, Tohsaka Rin, with a glare that could stop a serial killer in their tracks. "Sorry," he said, "I must have fallen asleep during the last period."
"Yeah, I can see that!"
Why was she in such a bad mood?
"I need to talk to you!" she shouted before he could get a word in edgewise. "It's about your abilities as a mage!"
"I thought I was doing pretty good," he said simply, stooping down to retrieve his backpack and standing to face the fiery girl in front of him.
She frowned, "That's the issue, you've been doing too well."
"I didn't know there was such a thing."
They left the class together, walking down the already empty halls of the school. If Shirou didn't know any better, he thought the girl by his side looked a bit melancholy. It was a small thing, but he had known the real Rin long enough to notice it. "I've been thinking, it's already been quite some time since Saber left, about a little more than a month..."
What was she driving at?
"I told you I'm leaving for London when we graduate, I'm going to take classes and become an even better mage. My father wasn't the most affectionate man, but he did care about me and what I did, and not only that, I want to do it."
Oh, he knew exactly where this was going now. He could tell from the sound of her voice. "You want me to come with you," he said it like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Her face instantly reddened, and she looked down on him as if he were a cockroach.
He smirked to himself.
This was the real Tohsaka Rin, this was how she behaved towards people she truly favored.
"Don't be such an idiot! I didn't say I would miss you or anything! I just wanted an apprentice, and it's a good way for you to start learning some real magic, as well as enhance the magic you already have!"
"Projection is real magic," he snipped back.
"It's not effective!"
They stopped walking, she was pissed now. She didn't want him using projection at all. "Listen... Rin." He held up his hands and flexed both of them, so that she could see. "I know that for normal magi projection isn't a very effective tool, but... I don't feel normal. I don't feel special either, but I think projection is something that I can do with no problem. You said it yourself, I should be a paraplegic by now, but I'm not."
The girl gritted her teeth and let her shoulders slump a little, indication that she was backing out of the argument, "I suppose that is true, but it still wouldn't hurt to learn other magic too."
"I'm no good at all, but... I could try."
Her mood brightened instantly. He did not say anything, but he knew that she was afraid he would say no, afraid that he would continue to only use projection, but that wasn't the case. As they continued walking in silence he grasped his left arm tightly, the arm that the pieces of Avalon had been transplanted to. It ached slightly, but that was a given, he had literally used his magic to piece it back together and push it out of himself. His arm was still perfectly fine and usable.
But for the rest of his life it would slightly ache, and when he grew old he would probably develop arthritis.
He did not find it taxing however.
That ache was a reminder of Avalon.
That ache was a reminder that he and King Arturia had been in love.
That ache was a precious memory.
"You better hurry Shirou, or I'll leave you behind!"
She knew this feeling...
This feeling of complete emptiness and worthlessness.
It was what she had to face every time she went back to her body.
Every time that she felt that blood drip on the ground.
Every time that she saw those bodies around her.
Every time that she felt herself dying, only to be pulled back at the last second and sent to another time to fight for that monstrous Holy Grail.
However, this time it was different.
There were no bodies.
There was no hill.
There was no blood.
It was simply nothing.
This was not the deal she had arranged for. She had died in what she assumed was peace. She felt angry, was the Holy Grail not destroyed at her hands?! Was she not a great king who did her best, who, despite it all, still thought of the greater good, still thought of her people?!
It was as Shirou said, she had never been happy for herself, she was always...
If she had a mouth, she would have laughed at the irony.
She reprimanded Shirou for only caring about others...
While she, the king of Britain...
Was exactly the same.
In that moment, she realized that they saved each other. Not from an outside threat, but from themselves. They were both on a sure path to self destruction at the rate they were going, and it couldn't have turned out for the better. When she met him he was simply her master, but as she slept in this limbo, she realized what she should have known from the beginning.
He was Emiya Shirou.
"Steel is my body, and fire is my blood."
His mind was the first thing to blank. His stomach was full with Rin's delicious cooking, and his mind was sharpened from the amusement Fuji-nee and Ilya brought to the table, so he went to Rin's room, and they continued their lessons.
"Excellent," said Rin, a smile on her face, sitting down next to him on her bed.
She looked extremely happy.
This girl loved magic, magic was her life.
He handed her the lamp. With no hesitation, she threw it to the ground as if to break it, but it simply bounced and made a light dent in the floor boards, as if she had dropped something heavy. "You're getting much better at this," she said, still smiling, "To be honest, I'm actually not that nervous about you learning different magic. You don't have a crest to pass down, but that isn't an issue."
"What is it?"
"Something has been bugging me. Why is projection magic not an issue for me?"
She nodded, agreeing with him wholeheartedly. "It's been bugging me as well."
They sat in silence for a moment, pondering over the question which had been unspoken until now. Shirou was the first to break this silence. "I mean, when I was fighting Kirei I projected Avalon. It was the shield it was meant to be, but it wasn't right, I have a feeling that it wouldn't be able to get rid of the effects of my projection."
"I assumed it was Avalon that was preventing projection from harming your body."
"I want to try it again, I need to make sure."
Rin shook her head, "No, absolutely not. Projection is way too risky and uses up too much magical energy."
She was still adamant about it.
"I already told you," said Shirou, "I don't think projection is something that can harm me. What'll hurt if we only try it once? I won't even summon Caliburn or anything like that. I'll summon the swords I saw Archer use on that first night."
Rin gritted her teeth, trying to come up with a suitable argument that would make the persistent sword mage back off.
"Listen Rin. I don't want to be helpless anymore. The Holy Grail War, Saber, those fights, it all came out of nowhere, I was hardly what you could call prepared for it. As much as I loved my father, he didn't do all that he could for me, but you're different Rin, I'm your apprentice now, you should be allowed to know my strengths and weaknesses."
She stayed silent, pinching the bridge of her nose.
"I couldn't help Saber, I don't blame myself, and I'm not depressed, maybe it was time for her to go, maybe I could have kept her with me if I was powerful enough, but it doesn't make a difference because she's already gone. I wasn't prepared, and because of that I let you guys down a lot. Archer was killed because of my lack of skill as a mage, and a lot of other things happened that I could have prevented. Emiya Kiritsugu left a valuable lesson to me, and I was stupid to have not seen it from the start.
"He caused that fire, it was not an accident, the Holy Grail had to be destroyed, he did what had to be done. He sacrificed the lives of the few to save the many, that's how he chose to live his life. I chose a different path, I wanted a path where everyone could be happy, where I could save everyone, but it's an impossible feat. I'm only one person, even if I become powerful I can only do so much, and I can only be in one place at any given time.
"However, that doesn't mean I'll stop doing what I'm doing. I'll become a mage, and I'll use that power to help people, because I couldn't do it the first time, so I'll try even harder next time."
Shirou had changed, Rin had to admit defeat, what could she possibly say to something like that? Shirou had been fooling himself with his ideal, he had wanted to save everyone, but in pursuing such a path he had forgotten about his own happiness. Now, here they were, and Rin, the powerful mage, the ruthless and kind girl who pursued what she wanted, was in awe of the man in front of her. She couldn't help but admire him, without even realizing it...
He had already reached his ideal.
"Um... listen Shirou... just once, and if it doesn't work then we'll call it quits for the night, and you have to promise me to never use projection again, okay?"
Her voice was filled with concern for her friend.
Shirou's heart felt warm.
"Okay, I promise."
Emiya Shirou closed his eyes, knowing that the conversation had reached its end for the moment. He felt Rin's weight leave the bed, and knew that she was trying to give him some space.
He stood from the bed slowly, still with his eyes shut.
It was a long time ago, so he couldn't quite remember perfectly what Archer's swords had looked like.
He took a deep breath, shutting out his surroundings and the outside world.
Rin's room was the first thing to disappear.
He still felt her presence across from him for a moment, but then she vanished.
As far as Shirou was concerned, he was the only person and thing in the entire world.
It left his mouth naturally, and then he saw the circuit, one of many contained in his body.
He had only done projection a few times, and all of those times were while he was under pressure, this was a completely different ball game.
Now that the circuit was built he had one thing left to do.
"Build, composition, recall."
With the world shut out, and Archer's swords being the only thing his mind cared about at the moment, it was much easier to remember what they looked like.
Twin blades, Yin and Yang.
For some reason, their names entered his mind naturally, Kanshou and Bakuya...
He wondered vaguely who this Noble Phantasm had once belonged to, but the thought quickly faded, as if it had stayed it would have interrupted his concentration.
The circuit clicked.
The hammers in the back of his head knocked into his subconscious.
"Shirou..." the whisper was slight, and he could barely hear it.
She thought she did not have a body, but she could feel limbs.
She thought she had no eyes, but she could see it.
It was blank, a limbo, but she could see nonetheless.
"I have created over a thousand blades."
"Unaware of loss, nor aware of gain."
Her fingers were the first things that moved.
Her lungs opened and she gasped for air.
Rin wanted to say something, but she could only whisper his name, he was in what mages called the Ripped Mind state.
The one moment of concentration in which the entire world is shut out and only the magic matters.
Mages were rare because of one simple fact.
The concentration required for magic was beyond basic human understanding.
This was what monks called 'Reaching Enlightenment'.
When she had first met Shirou he was an amateur mage who didn't know any better, but the man in front of her was a completely different story.
He was in that one moment...
Those few seconds in which a magic caster is one with themselves.
She was holding her breath, waiting.
She didn't know for how long, but it felt as if she were thrown from the castle walls, or off the roof of a tall sky scraper.
And yet she was not afraid of death, for she had already been killed by what were once her allies.
Betrayal, hatred, scorn...
She held no contempt for the ones who had attacked her, she felt it was justice for them.
And she regretted sacrificing those villages.
She was no longer the emotionless and noble king.
Shirou had turned her into something else entirely.
"Withstood pain to create many weapons."
Only a few seconds had passed, but it felt more like an eternity.
She knew this feeling.
She was alive!
"I have no regrets, this is the only path!"
Shirou's eyes snapped open.
Rin gasped, the swords in his hand, and...
A single sentence escaped her, "It... can't be..."
She reached solid ground.
It felt natural, as if she belonged there.
Her armor weighed down her shoulders, her sword Excalibur rested in its sheath, Avalon, both strapped at her side.
She took a deep breath.
It was a comfortable feeling.
She felt the lady of the lake was smiling for some reason, though it only escaped her.
You are the true owner of that sword Arturia, use it well.
"My whole life is..."
"Saber?" Rin breathed.
In Shirou's hands were Archer's swords, but even more amazing...
The servent Saber stood behind him at the foot of Rin's bed, looking as glorious as the night she had disappeared from their world in that bloody fight.
Everything went silent.
And the three simply stood there...
Waiting for reality to shatter around them...
The sheer fact that Saber was there was completely impossible in itself.
Only high level mages could summon Servents of their own will and energy, and even then, it only lasted but a few seconds.
Saber had been standing behind Shirou for what was bordering on two minutes now, and it did not look like she would disappear any time soon.
It must have been a dream, it couldn't have been anything else.
Shirou was afraid to turn and look, the swords fell from his hand and faded away.
His body felt fine, and the projection obviously had no effect on him.
He felt her presence, he felt her standing there...
He heard Rin breathe the woman's name...
And yet he could not bring himself to hope, to believe.
He was not sad when she had to go, he had known that death was waiting for her on that very hill. He knew that she couldn't have possibly stayed with them, no matter how much he had wished it to be so. On that final night they said their goodbyes to each other in the darkness of his room, desperately clinging to what they knew was going to leave them in a matter of a few hours.
And when she had parted with him...
Shirou, I love you.
No, he was not sad. He had made her happy, and she had made him happy. They had saved each other, and had learned to save others.
He swallowed, though his mouth was dry and there was no saliva.
She said his name...
Her voice was louder than Rin's, more firm, and a bit less shocked.
He still couldn't believe, this had to be a dream.
He heard the withdraw of magical energy, and he felt the presence of the king's noble phantasms fade away.
He felt a pair of soft and warm arms wrapped around him.
"I don't know what's happening," he said softly.
Rin looked pale.
She had felt the presence of Shirou's true magic...
That was why he could project without issue...
That was why, even though he almost killed himself every time, he could preform magic without his switch.
That was why, even though she was more experianced than him, the sheer raw energy that Shirou emmited was so much greater than hers.
He wasn't even using mana from his own body.
She gritted her teeth as the pieces fell into place around her, not like a puzzle, more like a toppling tower. The very foundation of everything that Rin had believed in up until that point was shattered mercilessly.
'Reality Marble,' she thought to herself.
For some reason she remembered her own servent, Archer.
Then the puzzle was extended.
She remembered the night Archer fought Lancer, those swords that he seemingly pulled from nowhere.
Why he used blades instead of a bow.
She remembered watching Shirou from afar during his archery practice.
She remembered every target he hit, the intense concentration.
The selfless need to help others around him...
The fire in his eyes...
The fight in his body...
The light in his soul.
'Archer...' was the second puzzle's solution.
Rin felt light headed.
She wasn't one to faint, but the sudden revalations had caught her off guard.
She couldn't say anything about this...
Better to let him be ignorant.
Yes, it would only worry him if she were to tell him such trivial things.
After all, servents were summoned from all places in the wheel of time, it only made sense.
But that only multiplied her own worry.
Saber was here, and if she herself taught Shirou how to use magic... was it all her fault that he ended up trashing her living room? Was it all her fault that he was a merciless cynic? Was it Tohsaka Rin's fault that Shirou's ideal was warped and twisted by the very thing he sought to admire?
She could not allow that to happen.
She would not teach him magic.
'I'm sorry Shirou, it's for your own good,' she thought.
She felt sick to her stomach, lying to the closest friend she ever had, but... what else was there to do?