Chapter Thirty-two: To Begin Again

(*)

It didn't seem real, watching Archer pass.

Shirou had not liked the Servant. At all. But over the course of the War, coming to respect the man had been the only possible response. A bastard he might have been, but he was a bastard who had done a lot of good in defense of Rin and Ilya, even as he seemed to disdain the very idea that he might be helping anyone. Bitter and spiteful he may have been, and what he said was often not what he meant, but he had been a stalwart ally in spite of it all. Almost against his own will, Shirou mourned his fall even as he felt a deep and abiding sense of wrongness at the sight, like someone had just stomped on his grave.

And as he mourned, he thanked Archer, silently, for taking the time to give one last lesson.

"I hope you understand I truly didn't want this," Sakura said. "The Servants are meant to be aspects of the Shadow, as Caster and Lancer were. Pieces of it, born anew as swords of the absolute, carrying out divine mandate. I truly wanted him to become part of me, and never meant for him to fall in such a way."

God, she actually sounded sorry. That was the worst part, really.

Shirou had already started moving before the last sentence was even finished, and because of this he was able to avoid the spears of darkness that slammed home on to the asphalt he had been standing on.

"Oh, Shirou," Sakura said, still sounding apologetic. "You plan to die avenging him, then? I was hoping you'd just give up. It would make this hurt less for you."

Shirou ignored her, and ran. He had been fighting for half the night, drawing on Archer's skills and memories to keep up in a battle he should not have been able to survive. His body still moved with fresh energy, that thing inside him that had made his injuries fade holding him together no matter how much he was ripped into. But while the flesh was willing, the spirit was weak.

He had created Saber's sword, born from a dream and pulled into the waking world, to save Archer. It had failed in more ways than one. Not only had the Servant died regardless, but the creation of the sword had taken more than he had to give. Static buzzed in his mind, resonating around the sense of loss and wrongness that flooded him. He saw blood pooling inside his eyes, blurring the world.

Archer was gone, and his skills and memories were just echoes carved into the mind of Shirou Emiya, now. And that mind was falling apart from strain and exhaustion. The weapon Shirou had depended on was gone, now, and soon his physical weapons would follow it. How many more projections could he manage, without the superior skill and efficiency of the Servant guiding his hands and mind? One, maybe two? Not enough to face whatever Sakura had become, that was certain. Just barely enough, in fact, to put that last lesson into use.

He called to mind a jagged dagger, one that he had seen before only in a haze of madness as Caster drove it into Ilya's body to steal her guardian. He had barely perceived it, so furious he was that night. He probably wouldn't have remembered it ever again, had he not seen it driven into Archer's heart by his own hand.

He dove, using the last of his stolen reflexes, as lashing tendrils of anti-life tore at his ankles and one carved a white-hot line across his back, stopped from slashing into his spine only by his last-minute dodge. But he didn't need to go far.

He called Rule Breaker to his hands, ignoring the static playing across his vision as everything in his body screamed at him to lay down and die from the strain, and drove it into the shuddering mass of shadow-coated blood and muscle that had been Gilgamesh.

It… got a reaction.

The blackness coating the fallen Servant hissed and then screamed, a sound like a dozen different people being brutally tortured all at the same time, before falling off him in a black mist that made Shirou's eyes water and his knees feel weak. And beneath it.

"Oh my God," Shirou said, wondering very much if he had made a poor choice here.

Gilgamesh was no longer recognizable as a person. His armor was entirely gone along with his skin, revealing muscle tissue and bone that looked like someone had taken a flensing knife to it. Blood and viscera leaked from beneath the pile of steaming flesh, most of it similarly shredded and releasing a toxic black mist as the last of the consuming magic was released.

"Sakura, what did you do to him...?"

"Nothing he didn't earn for himself," she said. "Salvation doesn't come free, Shirou. I'm not some petty monster, and of course he will be saved. But he has to earn it, and sins as deep as his don't purge easily."

Shirou shuddered. Yes, the Servant had been a horrible person, but this...thing, eaten from the inside out, his skin peeled off, his eyes gouged out. Nobody deserved to die like that, and despite knowing that Sakura might well turn on him at any time he still felt the need to give the man a moment of silence.

And then he jumped halfway of his own skin when the mangled corpse moved.

He couldn't talk. He couldn't stand. His tongue had been cut out, his muscles shredded and bones broken. But somehow, he was alive.

And, as the sky turned gold, it became clear he was also furious.

"Shirou, get away from him!" Sakura snapped, raising a hand and sending her shadow at them both in a wave of solid black; no razor tendrils or slow, safe absorption anymore, just a wall of darkness to absorb them both in one fell swoop. But what fell from the golden light was not swords, but shields, dozens of interlocking barriers that formed a half-dome around Shirou and Gilgamesh. The wave of darkness slammed into them with a sound like ice hitting a hot pan, and Shirou could see black tendrils begin to worm their way through almost immediately, but the barrier held… for the moment.

Gilgamesh tried to speak, but the only sound he could produce was something between a moan and a hiss as what was left of his hand gripped at the pavement, leaving trails of blood on the sidewalk from ruined fingertips. He still tried to push himself to his hands and knees, falling uselessly without raising more than inch.

"Don't try to move! You… God, how are you even still alive…" Shirou muttered. "Look, we need to get out of here. Do you have any way to heal yourself? Or… can you even hear me? Look, I can't carry you. You don't have anything holding your body together anymore, and if I try to move you you're going to die. If you have a tool or a treasure that can save you, now's the time!"

One of the shields broke, and thick black ooze, half-liquid and half something insubstantial that made his eyes hurt, began to flow through the wall of defense.

"Now is very much the time!"

The crushed body of the Servant was barely able to make noise at all, much less communicate genuine thoughts. But somehow, Shirou still got a sense of resigned annoyance from it, along with not a little bit of killing intent. He vaguely considered the fact that someone as arrogant and ruthless as this man would very possibly try to kill him for past offenses, even if Shirou did save his life.

But it was Archer's final plan. The Bow Knight had been a master tactician, and Shirou believed that whatever else might happen, he wouldn't pass on a plan that had no hope of success.

… Besides, it wasn't like Shirou had a better idea.

For what seemed like an eternity, but was probably less than five seconds, he waited to see if what happened next was a suicidal rush of blades aimed his head and chest, or if Gilgamesh was able to read the depth of this disaster and see that whatever happened next, an ally certainly couldn't hurt.

Finally, a small portal opened, and from it came not a weapon, but a crystal vial holding a silvery liquid; it swirled and shimmered like mercury, but it very clearly had an inner glow to it as well that cast faint shadows across the pavement. Gilgamesh, a moan of obvious agony just barely escaping his ruined throat, turned his head to one side with a sick, wet noise. His mouth fell open, even that much motion clearly exhausting him.

Shirou winced. "This is going to hurt, but I don't have time to be gentle. Sorry," he tugged the stopper out of the crystal bottle tugged the Servant's head to one side, ignoring the feeling of wet bone beneath his fingers, so he could pour the entire thing down his throat.

Once again, the reaction was immediate and obvious. But this time it was also kinda weird.

Soft golden light ran over the form of the blood-coated mess, not even terribly bright and yet Shirou felt he couldn't look directly at it. It faded after only a second, though… no, not faded, but collapsed in itself, falling into a pinprick of light, and then…

Shirou's jaw dropped. "Oh, that doesn't even make sense," he complained, seeing the results.

Another shield melted, letting a mass of blackness slide in and begin splitting into tiny, razor-edged tendrils that began to slice apart the pavement as they skittered toward him. And while Shirou didn't want to run, he truly didn't, he knew that even if he could fight her now, he truly, truly shouldn't. Not… well. Not now.

He ran, gathering what little mana he had left in his legs and carrying… Gilgamesh?... over one shoulder. It was easier than it should have been.

(*)

The last of the shields broke after less than a minute, but Sakura knew she would find nothing there. Her connection to the golden Servant had been broken after a distressingly short period; she had not wanted to risk drawing him fully inside her soul, choosing instead to drain him remotely, for fear that his ridiculous power and will would let him overwhelm her from within.

But she had been too overcautious. He was gone, and Shirou with him.

She knew it wasn't his fault. He was childish. Small. He didn't understand things the way she did. And yet, it still hurt her more than she'd expected that he didn't trust her enough to go with her unquestioningly. That he would flee from her. Even ally himself with a beast like that golden Servant.

She still loved him, of course. She would always love him. But it hurt. She had to admit that.

Well, that was all right too. Pain was natural. She was trying to give birth, at least in a metaphorical sense, and that had to be painful. Nothing in life worth doing was easy, right? And what she was doing was the most worthwhile thing that anyone had ever done. And besides, she hadn't gotten everything she wanted, but it had still been worthwhile. She had not taken the full might of Gilgamesh, but she had devoured most of him, power and flesh. In a normal Servant this would be nothing, but that creature had been more powerful than any five Servants combined, and even if she had not gotten all of it, she had still claimed the mana of several thousand souls all in one go.

And of course, she had Archer now, too. Not as a new ally, but his corpse was good enough. He was a part of her now, and she hoped that brought him some peace. It was not everything she had hoped for, but she had profited from the night's work. It might even be enough, though she wanted to consult with Kirei about that first.

She sighed. There was much she didn't understand and much she still had to learn. She was better with these new powers than she had any right to be, but she could hardly be said to have fully mastered them. Indeed, she wasn't sure a human mind could master them. But she was getting stronger and wiser with each passing moment, and she could not help but believe, less human at the same rate.

She supposed some people might have found that worrisome, but she had known too many humans to really mourn it.

Assassin, can you hear me...?

(*)

Saber sighed in annoyance. "Really, this is more tedious than I imagined."

Assassin would have replied, perhaps, but she had cut off his lower jaw. He was not in much position to complain about that, mind you, because she had also done far worse to most of the rest of him. His arms hung loose, attached only by rotting tendons. Dead flesh had been hacked away across his back and torso, leaving crushed bone exposed in a dozen places. Had he been able to bleed more profusely, he would be practically swimming in his own spilled lifeblood. And yet, he refused to stop.

And more to the point, refused to scream.

She wanted to break him. To make this malformed thing beg for her mercy before she denied it. And yet, no matter what he just would not stop, and it.

Was.

Infuriating.

"Ten seconds," she snapped. "You have ten seconds to stand and make me exercise some effort. Or rest assured, I will take your head with me to make it watch as I gut your harlot master." Personal insults were on the petty side, she knew, but threatening the Master usually got a rise out of the Servant. That was good enough.

Assassin chuckled, a dry hissing sound that despite gurgling through a mouth half-full of blood and only barely reattached. "It hurts...it feels...good..."

Saber sighed again. "And that is ten. Farewell."

She stepped forward, blade raised...

Assassin. We have enough for now. The rest will come to us soon, so don't die, Sakura's warm, soothing voice said, echoing from the night. You have my permission to survive at all costs.

"Ha...hahahaha..." Assassin giggled, something distressingly childlike in the sound, and he slid bonelessly to his feet, something cracking in his arm as it lifted his blade despite being visibly broken. "Yes. Yes. It hurts. It hurts so much. Mistress...

"I."

"Love."

"You."

He snapped his left foot back, his hands coming up perpendicular to his torso, sword behind him and ready for what was clearly a thrust, and yet…

Her instincts were not what they had once been, but they screamed now. This sudden grace from a twisted, broken corpse was something inherently wrong to her, offending everything she knew as a swordswoman. The blade itself even seemed different than it had been; the elegant silver blade no longer opposing the sick creature's stunted shape, but somehow accenting it. Stunted corruption shifting and warping itself, a corpse standing strong with a master's serene flawlessness. It was at once beautiful and disgusting, even she had to feel it.

She smiled, and matched the stance. "Do not disappoint me."

Assassin's grin stretched so far she could see the sides of his teeth through his torn cheeks, and a pair of poisonous yellow eyes opened wide in what she had thought was a featureless face, even as he ran one hand along half the length of his great sword, coating it in a thin layer of his own blood. "I wouldn't want… to make you unhappy. We do it all… out of love."

Zabaniya: Akuma no Tsubame Gaeshi

He thrust, the blade gleaming red and silver, and…

No, he slashed to the left… the right… above, below…?

It was impossible.

It was impossible.

She was the Servant of the Sword, the one chosen for her skill with the blade, and it was totally impossible for there to be a sword art she could not perceive. And yet…!

She did not try to counter, she did not try to face the storm. She leaped backwards with all her might, the wind of her prana burst exploding out like a hurricane… and being slashed to ribbons as a blade of curses tore through the space she had just vacated.

Her breastplate shattered, the edge of the attack striking it despite the inhuman speed of her dodge and the wall of mana surrounding her, and she watched in open shock as the metal was slashed again into even smaller pieces before it hit the ground, the very earth beneath them cracking apart in the same breath. It was like a hurricane of iron, the hideous bloody sword in a dozen places at once, each one a killing blow that cut with enough force to pierce steel like paper.

She landed, skidding to a halt and feeling blood leaking down her body from where a single blow had grazed her stomach, despite her armor. The street beneath her and the breastplate she had been were both slashed beyond recognition, like some massive multi-armed beast had dragged twenty talons the size of swords along the road all at once.

And Assassin himself was gone, vanished into the maelstrom that bizarre blade had formed.

She shuddered in a combination of fear and pleasure. Dimensional refraction? A blade that can be in many places at once, a True Magic. But the curse he placed upon it with his blood should not have been strong enough for such a reaction, I felt that. No. No, it was a combination...

Yes, that made sense, in a terrifying way. A dark curse gifted from Shaitan to the Hashashin, combined with the skills of a swordsman who surpasses any assassin who has ever lived. Combined, they could break the laws of man and god to create a blade that has no weaknesses, and no counter save to avoid being in its range at all. A Noble Phantasm worthy of Angra Mainyu's gatekeeper, indeed.

She sat for awhile, in silence, unsure of her path. Sakura was gone for the moment, she knew. It was unlikely she would return to anywhere Saber knew to hunt her.

And she would hunt her. Until she killed Sakura and destroyed all trace of the false promise that was the Holy Grail, she couldn't feel complete. Arturia had died years ago, broken and bleeding among the bodies of her loyal knights, but Saber felt that death had only truly completed itself this night. With the end of Arturia, there was only Saber now, and Saber needed to be her own person. That meant destroying all remaining traces of the woman she had been, and she felt the most important step of that was revenge. Not for Arturia, but for the shattered dream and broken ideals that poor, lost child had pursued.

The Holy Grail and all connected to it. A false promise that had consumed Arturia wholly and stolen her soul to power a useless wish, dragging her endlessly from battlefield to battlefield when she should have passed peacefully under Bedivere's watchful eye, her duty completed. For Saber to be complete, for her to be a whole, new person, Arturia had to be avenged from this most vile of deceptions.

Angra Mainyu would be destroyed, its curse ended for all time. And the three families who had given it form, the Matous, the Tohsakas, and the Einzberns…

Yes, she would kill every last one of them. It was the only way to be sure.

And the only way to be free.

(*)

Shirou was not entirely sure what to do or say, at this point.

He was tired beyond belief, his legs feeling like lead weights strapping his body down to the earth more than limbs keeping him upright. Frankly, he felt the only reason he was even still able to walk was because the alternative was to lay down and die, and people still needed him. As long as he was needed, he just couldn't let himself stop moving. And with Archer gone, he was needed more than ever, wasn't he…

He winced. God, Archer. He hadn't much liked the Servant, but he had gone down fighting with everything he had, and used the last of his power to pass on a much-needed hint to Shirou. It was hard to not respect that, and…

Oh God, Tohsaka.

How was he even going to tell Tohsaka any of this? The manor was looming large in his vision already, and the plan, at least, was to meet there. If she was waiting for him, waiting for her Servant to come home, wondering where Sakura had gone? He had no words for her. Or worse, what if she was out looking for them? Archer was gone, and Sakura was worse than gone, and Saber… he didn't even know what to think about Saber. His command seals were still there, but they were cold and grey, the vibrant red light faded from them. He had dreamed about her, seen her swords in his mind's eye, and he thought that meant something important, but his mind was too full of static to ponder it deeply right now. He needed to rest, to consider the next move, and to make sure Ilya was-

"You're okay!"

A tiny white missile rocketed out the front door of the manor before Shirou had even gotten halfway across the yard and slammed into his chest. He fell onto his backside as a small but surprisingly strong bear hug clamed around him and a very (distressingly) warm face nuzzled into his neck. "Oh, Shirou, I was so worried about you…" Ilya said with a gentle sigh. "Thank goodness you're all right. Everything's just gone so terribly wrong. I don't know what I would have done if you'd been hurt, or even worse…"

"Shhhhhh," he said, stroking her hair. God, she was trembling. Ilya seemed most of the time to be in total control of whatever room she was in, often to extremes that made her damn hard to deal with. It had never occurred to him to wonder how much of that confidence might be an act for those around him. "I'm fine. It's okay."

She sighed, pushing herself back off him to straighten her skirt and hair. "Um. I'm sorry about that. I didn't mean to knock you over."

"It wasn't your fault. I'm just too tired to stand up, really," he said, giving her his most reassuring smile. And despite it all, he actually felt the expression. Say what you would about Ilya, but he just had a damn hard time being unhappy when she was around; whether because she cheered him up, or just left him too confused and embarrassed to be depressed, she always poured about a billion volts of raw energy into the room.

"I just got really excited to see you okay, because… um. Things aren't good. It's just… well. Sakura is…"

"I know. I saw her."

She winced. "It was all my fault, and… I don't know. It was right but it wasn't, and I don't really know if I should have done something else, or if there was something else to do, or… ugh, morality is confusing. The point is that it's been a hideous disaster, and I was so worried about you but I couldn't let Rin see that, and so when I saw you were okay I just was… you know. Happy. And I ran out to be happy here." She narrowed her eyes at him. "It wasn't very dignified of you to inspire such worry in a lady. You should repay me."

He chuckled despite himself. "I didn't do it on purpose. Besides, I don't exactly have a lot to pay anyone with. My house probably burned down."

She considered this for a moment, then before he could react or even really think, she leaned in and kissed him.

This was technically the second time she had done this, but the last time he had been so mentally broken he couldn't really consider the gesture beyond 'shocking.' This time, he was calm enough to notice a lot of little details. Like how oddly warm she was, or the way her lips very slightly moved against his. It was alternately horrifying and… well, calling it 'kind of nice' felt odd, but she was soft, and her hair smelled like the day after a fresh snowfall, and for some reason he just froze up and let her do what she wanted instead of pushing her away, and honestly his brain had mostly short-circuited a second after she started, so all he could really notice was that her lips had parted slightly, and she tilted her head to deepen the embrace, sighing blissfully, and how odd, he still couldn't quite move his arms to stop her

She pulled back after a few seconds, grinning and visibly blushing all the way to her ears despite the fact it had been fairly chaste, as far as such things went. "Okay, we're even."

"… Huh?" Shirou said, after a few seconds to process this. "I. That. What?"

She stroked his cheek, her grin only growing more wicked. "My dummy. Don't worry, I know you don't really have any idea what you're doing, so I'll try not to tease you too much until you work it… out…?" she trailed off, her eyes roaming over Shirou's shoulder to a certain something he had dropped when she had decided to greet him with a flying tackle. After a few seconds of staring, she said, "Um… Shirou? What's that?"

He turned to face his forgotten passenger, and winced. "Um… you know, I'm not totally sure? I was hoping you and Tohsaka might be able to explain."

"I don't think I can explain that, Shirou," she said, wrinkling her nose. "I'm kind of annoyed just looking at it. It reminds me of that awful golden man."

"I think it is him."

"… Did you get hit in the head?"

He chuckled ruefully. "Yes. But that's nothing new," he said, standing up and setting Ilya on the ground, ignoring as she made a disappointed little sound at no longer being held. Best not to spoil her, frankly.

(*)

Kirei Kotomine smiled, basking in the presence of the divine. "You know, it really is beautiful, in its own way. I doubt anyone else in the world would understand why."

Sakura put her hand on his shoulder, her own smile warm and encouraging. "Because it's the future, Kirei."

The Greater Grail, a looming fifty-meter pillar of stone and magical runes, was not beautiful by any traditional standard. Most especially not now, when the Holy Grail was nearing completion and mana flowed through it; the stone had become wreathed in darkness and taken on an almost organic sheen, looking very much like a slick mass of inky black tissue with something massive squirming inside, barely under the 'skin.'

But then, wasn't that fitting? A woman giving birth, creating life, was often described as beautiful despite being, in Kirei's personal experience, a display that mostly revolved around blood and screaming. It was symbolism. The birth itself was vile and painful, but the future it created, as Sakura had said, was something pure and hopeful.

Kirei himself actually quite enjoyed the blood and pain, of course, but he was really trying to see things from Sakura's point of view. She was the visionary here, and the one he had chosen to support. He might not be fully capable of comprehending her ideals, but he knew they were something special.

She tilted his head to face her, and her smile only grew as she said, "Both, Kirei."

"Wh-"

"I meant both. The symbol, yes, but the act too. Most people would call pain something to fear, but the truth is, we need to suffer. It defines us, shapes us. The pain of birth is the price we pay for creating the future, and that makes it beautiful in its own way, you see? So both are lovely, and the pain we inflict on the world is not terrible; it is the natural price to be paid for salvation."

He shivered. "I see. I underestimated the depths of your mercy, milady. Forgive me."

She giggled musically. "There is nothing to forgive, my friend. You're a very unique mind, but its still set in certain ways of thinking. Don't worry, you will be saved from that too, if you want, but for the moment it isn't anything to be ashamed of. You are only human."

He chuckled at that. "Most wouldn't give me that much credit."

"Most people are monsters, Kirei. They just don't realize it. But we'll fix that too," she sighed. "We have so much work to do, and so little time, and even I don't fully understand everything yet. Luckily, everything we'll need is coming to us, as long as we stay here. The Greater Grail is on our side. It wants us to succeed, and destiny will draw the players to exactly where they belong. And then, well..."

Her gaze tilted to the far side of the cave, the only entrance, where Assassin sat, hungrily devouring a pile of meat and bones that might have once been a human body. Something in his golden eyes, now open wide and filled with primal hunger, grew brighter and more focused with each bite. He smiled, picking a scrap of red fabric from his rotting teeth, and continued to feed.

"... They will pay quite a bit, I think. But really, in exchange for eternal salvation, isn't that fair?"

(*)

Rin had to admit, she was emotionally shut down at this point. Between Shinji, Sakura, and her Command Seals for Archer going dark (She wasn't an idiot. There were only so many things that could mean), this day had overwhelmed her. She could admit that, and admit even more readily that her only options right now were to feel nothing and try to soldier on, or to shut down.

Maybe it wasn't healthy, but dammit all she could break down on her own time. Dealing with her feelings was for when people weren't depending on her.

And so it was when Shirou walked in, flushed and looking oddly embarrassed to be there, with the creepy little brat hanging off his arm, she didn't even react. She frankly just didn't have the energy to care about what those two got up to anymore.

But the other passenger got her notice.

"Emiya," she said softly. "I don't see Saber. I don't see Archer. I do see that you, somehow, managed to adopt a child. Explain?"

"I...um, you know, I'm not sure...?" He admitted. "He's definitely a Servant, though. Or part of one. So I thought he might be...useful? ... I'm bad at lying, sorry. I just thought he looked too small to defend himself and had to save him. No pragmatism at all, honestly."

"I'mma king of heroes..." The child muttered, yawning. "Oh, my head hurts."

"Oh, hey, he's waking up!" Shirou said, apparently pleased by this. Rin wasn't sure why. Children were awful, Rin had come to learn, even women who just looked like children.

"Yes, he is. He also has too much dignity to be carried like a sack of wheat, so please set him down," the boy said dryly. "I know I reversed my time somewhat so I don't look it, but I am still a king."

Obligingly, Shirou set the boy on the floor.

He stood on his own for about a second, and then fell forward to land flat on his face.

"You didn't see that," he said, his voice somewhat muffled by the carpet.

"... On the bright side, Shirou, you already admitted you didn't have a pragmatic reason to save him," Ilya said. "So we all knew not to have any high expectations!"

"The king would chastise you, but his legs appear to not be working totally right," the boy said. "He requests you turn him over and prop him against a wall."

"So...who are you, exactly?" Shirou asked, doing such.

"Ah, my thanks, vassal," the boy said. "As for my identity, as you must have deduced from my great power and peerless collection, I am His Majesty, the King of Uruk and first of all Heroes. You gaze upon Great Gilgamesh!"

"... Seriously, though?" Rin asked.

"Do not doubt my royalty, peasant. I am the lord of lords, born two-thirds god," Gilgamesh warned her. He then kind of tilted over and fell sideways. "... I also find my muscles to be quite numb. Please hold me upright."

Shirou did so.

"Ah, you are a valiant slave. When I next procure a castle, you shall be my primary manservant."

"... Sure. Well. Not to put too fine a point on it, but, are you sure you're... Well. I don't want to say Gilgamesh because that sounds wrong to even think..." Shirou admitted.

The king proudly sulked. "Well. Rude. But I will have you know that I am, in fact, the first king born of the gods. My older self was damaged beyond hope of healing, surviving only due to the unmatched willpower we share. He was forced to turn back our personal timeline, reverting to the boy he once was. Of course, though this was done from desperation, we have lost none of our fearsome power."

He kinda tipped over again. Shirou caught him this time.

"... All right, perhaps some of our fearsome power. Mind you, the vast majority of our mana reserves were stolen by that black beast. My future self was hoping they would be restored along with my body, but as per usual his judgment was wrong," he said with a sigh. "To think I become that boor as I age. I can't deny his power, but his motives are entirely bizarre and his taste in associates deplorable. Honestly, Kirei is not fascinating, he is unpleasant. It should have been obvious from the start he could not be trusted, and yet the dolt maintained nearly a friendship with him. And where that landed us: Our powers dangerously diminished, and that snake trying to help the blackened madwoman create a god! As if the world doesn't have enough of those."

And then Rin wasn't suppressing her emotions anymore.

Shoving past Shirou, she hoisted the little blonde monster up to eye level by the front of his shirt and slammed her fist into the wall next to his head so hard it cracked. "What. Did. You. Just. Say?!"

The boy blinked a few times. "My word. Women in this era are forward."