In Flight: Thirty Ninth Wing
Author's Notes: Yeah. A lot faster than my recent update speed, but honestly, I've been waiting for this myself the entire time
I do have a plan for the next few chapters. This really has been something that I've had in mind the entire story. Whether or not I can pull what I had envisioned off and still have readers who look forward to the next chapter, that I'm not too sure about.
Never mind that though. I've always said that fanfiction is how I sharpen my teeth for when I go out and write my own work. I guess this is just one more test.
On to reviews.
A lot of tension building up, and a lot of reviewers who have a lot expectations. Not much to say there. The next arc is going to be difficult to write, and I'm going to do my best to deliver my absolute best in return. The last chapter ended in a cliffhanger so that I could properly deliver scenes, and this chapter also ends kinda early so I can keep with that. I can only hope that I'm managing to keep the story in lines with expectations, so that's where I'm gonna leave this part of the reviews.
On to the potential spoiler section...
This chapter was tricky. Quite frankly, there were a lot of ways the initial confrontation between Rin and Saber and the Flock could have gone. I wanted something that would allow for initial anger to give way to focused rationality to be reasonable.
Still hoping I got that right.
Anyway, I wanted to set a baseline here, the groundwork for the next chapter where things heat up more, while still allowing the hard core Rin and Saber fans to get a glimpse of their heroines not just caving over to join the harem.
God, I get kinda tired sometimes at harem fics. Considering I'm writing one, that should be a sign. People don't just roll over and join the pile of fun.
That would be stupid.
Anyway. More to unfold as shortly as I can manage it. Special emphasis on the difference between human, Sekirei, and magi thinking was meant to be hinted here, and more on that tract in the future.
And here it is, the next chapter.
Still not really able to hit the forums, but still gonna post at thread there. If readers want to debate their own predictions, well, at least it gives them a spot to do it.
For general thoughts on the topic, give a review.
And as always, dear reader, enjoy.
It was the kind of scene which would inspire dread in any man.
On one side, there was the former girlfriend, or girlfriends, in this case: two women whom I had had a serious and long term relationship with, a relationship that hadn't ended under good terms, a separation that had been forced due to necessity rather than the genuine end of mutual feelings.
On the other side, the, well, I guess girlfriends is the best term for them, the new girlfriends: the women that I had gotten to know over the course of several months, whom I had come to know and care for each in their own way, but women who were also aware of the ambiguous end that my last relationship had come to and had were now being confronted by the former girlfriends.
I wasn't the most well versed in relationship etiquette, seeing as I didn't really have much experience in dating in general, but even I could tell how badly this could go.
And that wasn't taking into account magecraft, Noble Phantasms, super strength, psychic bonding rituals, and innate element control.
"Alright," I began nervously, running a hand through my hair nervously. "Now, I know that we're all a little high strung right now, so why don't we all just take a deep breath and…"
"Emiya-kun," Rin interrupted me in a perky and chipper voice that sent a shiver down my spine. I had been with Rin long enough to know what that voice meant. It was typically a sign that she was upset.
Upset, as in she was most likely charging a gem under the table at this very moment.
"I do believe that I'm waiting for an explanation," Rin continued, cocking her head to the side. She had long ago abandoned the twin tails of her youth, instead switching to just letting her hair fall back normally. "I'm sure that there must be a very good one for why after you've been away from your lovers for so long you would gather such an unusual number of housemates."
"Well," I hedged, frantically trying to find any way to keep this scene from escalating. I gave a hopeful look at Saber. Typically, whenever Rin got this worked up about something it would take both of us to calm her down enough to have a reasonable conversation. That hope was dashed when I found Saber casually nodding her head in agreement with the magus, eyes closed and poise maintained. "It's a really long story?" I offered, wincing as I already knew that wouldn't be nearly enough at this point.
"Ahhaha," Rin tittered, one hand coming up to cover her mouth as she politely giggled. "I'm sure it is, Emiya-kun," she agreed, prompting another wince. She'd switched over to calling me 'Shirou' a long time ago. She only brought out the 'Emiya-kun' when she was upset with me. "I'm sure it is a long story, if it involved you managing to end up with six strange women." She only then seemed to notice Akitsu as well and her eye twitched noticeably. "Seven strange women," she corrected herself. "And one of them a child as well! My, how low have you fallen, Emiya-kun?"
"Indeed," Saber spoke up, still nodding along with Rin. "This situation seems most unchivalrous."
"That's right, Saber," Rin agreed, back to smiling politely. "It must be a long story, because if it was a short story that ended up like this, why, I would be very, very angry."
"So you're not very, very angry now?" I asked hopefully.
"Of course not!" Rin assured me happily. "Right now I'm just very angry."
"But why would she be angry?" Musubi asked, confusion obvious in her tone as she put a finger to her mouth. "Shouldn't she be happy that she got to meet up with Shirou-sama again?"
"Quiet, you dolt," Tsukiumi hissed at her friend, having apparently gotten used to Musubi's unusual interpretation of how love should work in the real world. The water user was keeping a sharp eye on the two interlopers, though judging from the way she was chewing on her lip Tsukiumi was definitely not happy at the moment.
"Eh?" Kazehana chimed in, sipping her sake. Despite her impressive focus, her voice sounded more catty than anything else. "Seems like someone doesn't like the fact that they weren't able to keep their man."
Rin twitched at that too, and I desperately wished that Kazehana would just shut up. I mean, I could understand why she would say something like that. She was a Sekirei, after all, and she was being faced with two potential threats to her relationship with her Ashikabi. Even if everyone here was just a normal human, I'm sure that a woman like Kazehana would have some harsh words for the competition.
That didn't change the fact that the chances of this ending up badly just ratcheted up from 'extremely likely' to 'time bomb ticking the final seconds'.
"Quiet, whatever you are," Rin shot back, her voice losing some of her unnatural chipperness. "The important people are talking."
Kazehana blinked, pausing mid sip as Rin casually called her on her lack of humanity. It seemed that she hadn't expected Rin to realize she wasn't human at all.
"You were able to tell right away, just like Shirou-sama," Matsu noted, in her serious mode with her glasses nowhere to be seen. "Is that a trait of all magi?"
And now it was Rin's turn to pause, giving the hacker a cautious look. It seems she didn't expect the group to know about magecraft either.
"Hoh?" Rin muttered, getting a speculative look. "So you're not just a group of layabout espers. Demons? Monsters?" She shook her head, dismissing the sudden moment of academic curiosity. "Whatever it is, do be quiet while I finish my discussion with Emiya-kun."
"You don't seem at all nervous about being surrounded by demons or monsters," Homura noted, eyes narrowed as she peered at Rin cautiously from the wall. She was in her work clothes the dark suit and face mask, and with the mask up I couldn't make out her expression completely.
"She doesn't need to be nervous," I interrupted, holding out my hands as I tried to play peacemaker. "Because nothing is going to happen, right?" I was promptly ignored by all.
"Why would I be nervous about dealing with a few stray cats?" Rin demanded, her eye twitching again. "Now, you all can either shut up or get out, before I shut you up or put you out." Rin was starting to lose that pleasant false air she held when she was pissed off around people and didn't want to show it.
"Big words from such a small girl," Kazehana smirked, shifting in such a bit in a way which showed off her considerable bust. It was pretty obvious that she wasn't referring to Rin's height with that last comment. "But you know what they say about small dogs and large barks."
"Seriously," I hissed at the bottle fairy, "Kazehana just shut up!"
"Strange that a bitch like you would call someone else a dog," Rin snapped back, glaring as she dropped her nice act completely.
"Hey!" Musubi puffed her cheeks angrily. "Don't be meant to Kazehana-san!"
"Indeed," Tsukiumi also seemed upset. The water user seemed to be extending the same general protectiveness that she usually had with Musubi to the rest of the flock as well.
"Alright, seriously," I tried to interrupt the eminent conflict that seem to have all the ear marks of what could only be called a 'catfight' from happening. I seriously doubted would be as gentle as a normal catfight would be though. "We all need to calm down and…"
"Shut up Shirou!" Rin and Homura snapped at the same time. Even the former host was starting to get heated up, surprisingly. I had a weird moment where I wondered if this was some sort of manifestation of the link that all the Sekirei had through me that Matsu had described before.
"Don't bully Shirou-sama like that!" Musubi declared, still with puffy cheeks, completely missing that Homura had done the exact same thing at the exact same time. Beside her Kuu nodded vehemently, before sticking her tongue out at Rin.
"I might say the same to you," Saber interjected, now giving a hard look at Homura. The King of Knights was still maintaining the same pose, but now she had her eyes open and a glare out. Was even Saber starting to lose her temper?
"Oh?" Kazehana gave Saber a lidded look. "And who are you to try and give out orders? Why don't you kids hurry up and leave, and let the adults take care of things here."
Okay, I can see how Saber looked very young, and how she could be mistaken for a fourteen or fifteen year old, but did anyone here remember that she was actually a Heroic Spirit, nearly a decade older than she looks, before she died anyway, and had run an entire kingdom at one point?
"Alright," Rin finally declared, giving another glare at Kazehana as she insulted saber. Saber didn't seem to pay it any attention, but Kazehana's taunts seemed to have gotten to Rin. Slowly she began rolling up her sleeve, eyes closed as she gave a scary smile as only Rin Tousaka could give scary smiles. "I've had about enough of this."
Kazehana looked like she was about to take another shot, but she froze, dropping her cup as Rin's arm began to literally glow, traces of faint blue green luminescence that outlined twisted whirls and jagged lines all up and down her forearm.
"Rin, stop charging your Crest," I snapped, no longer able to try and calm down the situation with words. If Rin was preparing to use the culmination of her family's research, it meant she was being deadly serious.
Well, words weren't really working too well anyway. I tried to think of anything I could do to stop this fight from happening, some strategy or tactic that would let me to force these two very angry groups to calm down, or to at least put them down quick enough that I could keep them from killing each other…
I wasn't quite sure what happened next. Honestly, I only had an impression of something white and purple, a swishing noise, and then sudden pain in my forehead that left me seeing stars.
"What the…?" Rin yelped, and as I blinked through the sudden pain I realized that the one person in the room who hadn't been pulled into the argument was standing calmly in the center of the room by the table.
"Now, now," Miya said, smiling gently as she held her impromptu in her hand, tapping it into her palm thoughtfully. "None of that."
"Is that a ladle?" Rin muttered, rubbing her head, staring at the alien dressed as a priestess. "Where did that come from?"
"Rin," Saber hissed, eyes narrowed, the swordswoman half raised from her kneeling position. The blonde was giving Miya an incredibly wary look. Did even Saber just get hit? It was hard to tell, but it looked like something had set of Saber's instincts. It was too late for that now though…
"Most of you here should already know this," Miya chided gently, "but violence in Izumo House is…"
"Wait, Miya!" Kazehana began looking very nervous as she started to scurry backwards, the rest of my flock already flinching back as they too realized what was about to happen.
"Prohibited," Miya murmured the last word of her aria gently, but the sudden manifestation of malice made that gentleness a lie as her mask came into shape. It seemed to form directly around her, a conglomerate of hundreds of scowling faces, the Hannyas glaring as blood dripped from their eyes and the hellish chorus of the damned joined the myriad smashing wood blocks.
The results of the avatar of hate's presence were pretty typical.
"Now," Miya's voice cut through the audio delusions like a knife, silencing them in an instant as the masks vanished just as quickly. "I understand that many here might be upset, but that's no reason to violate the rules of Izumo House."
"U-understood, Miya-sama," Matsu muttered. She was still sitting at the head of the table, but she was twitching periodically. Musubi and Tsukiumi had latched onto each other like normal, and between them Kuu had managed to hide her face by grabbing both of their skirts and pulling them over her head. Homura was steadfastly looking away, but judging from the shifting of her mask she had developed a nervous tick in her eye. Kazehana had stuck the bottle in front of her, either to use it to hide or to maybe use it as an offering to appease the malevolent thing. Even I was shaking a bit, though I managed to keep my composure better than the rest. Though I had my own, that technique still was unnerving.
"W-what the hell was that!" Rin demanded, a quaver in her voice. She had handled her first exposure to the Hannya rather well. She had apparently jumped into Saber's arms, wrapping her own arms around the King of Knights' neck.
"Such a thing," Saber murmured, still tense. She seemed less effected than most, as in she wasn't a quivering ball of terror, but even in the half crouch she had risen to I could make out a slight shake of her shoulder.
"Thank you, Asama-san," I muttered, never as a glad for the presence of Izumo House's disciplinarian as then. Seriously, I was wondering if it was appropriate to build a shrine to her somewhere.
"No, I mean it!" Rin demanded, shakily pointing at the innocent looking landlady. "What was that!"
"Why, I have no idea what you mean," Miya declared, an innocent look on her face while she tapped her cheek thoughtfully.
"But! That!" Rin frantically looked around the room as though to find some explanation for what she just saw, and found only that the rest of the room had been equally affected by it. "Shirou! Explain that right now!" When she gave me a pleading look, her anger from earlier apparently set aside in the face of such horror, I just gave her a small shrug.
"No idea what you're talking about, Rin," I told her in as close to the same tone as Miya's as I could manage. Rin sputtered at me, before giving Miya one last long look.
"Can I see it again?" she finally asked in a small voice. Several in the room winced, and Miya narrowed her eyes at the question.
"It must be a magus thing," Homura muttered, palming her forehead as Rin repeated my own reaction to the Hannya the first time I saw it. "Being crazy, that is."
"Can't you stop those now, Lover-kun?" Kazehana muttered, giving me a slightly betrayed look.
"Yeah," I nodded, before narrowing my eyes. "But considering what all of you were about to do, do you think I should have?" Kazehana winced, looking away guiltily away as she did so. Since she had been one of the most direct instigators she had better be feeling guilty.
"Now," I continued, deciding to take advantage of the forced cessation of hostilities to try and take charge of the meeting before the tension started ratchetings back up. "Why don't we all take a seat for a minute while I catch you two up to what's going on?" Rin started to scowl, no doubt not liking that I was getting in the way of her warpath. "Please?" I nearly begged her, trying to give her a pleading look though it most likely came out as a grimace. "Things are a lot more complicated than they look."
"Fine," Rin huffed, before realizing that she was still being cradled in Saber's arms and blushing a bit before she climbing off of the petite girl. Saber let her down, the swordswoman still focusing most of her attention on Miya, only giving the rest of the room cursory glances. "But this better be one hell of a story," she snapped. "If it doesn't involve something like aliens, or long lost family, or the end of the world or something along those lines, than I'm still going to be angry."
"You know," I rubbed the back of my head sheepishly. "Actually…"
I explained what I could about the Sekirei Plan, mostly telling the story as it happened to me. I had to skip over some parts, because they really didn't have much to do with the actual overlying situation, but I managed to hit most of the highlights. It did have the added effect of allowing me to introduce most of my flock, and explain how I met them as well.
Honestly, Rin reacted pretty much like I thought she would.
"Let… let me get this straight," Rin stated flatly. "You managed to stumble across a hidden tournament which involved partnering up with aliens super weapons and fighting until there was only one left for a some kind of all-powerful prize, which involved you saving a whole bunch of those aliens and causing you to take them on as familiars in a bonding ritual which is there species equivalent of marriage, and are now fighting a secret battle against the forces behind the conflict in an attempt to try and keep the innocent from being involved. Is that pretty much right?"
"Familiars?" Matsu repeated softly, cocking her head to the side as she started to type rapidly at her doohickey, once more finding herself researching a strange term referring to magecraft.
"Well, yeah, that's a good way of summarizing it," I nodded with a sigh. I had taken a seat at the table too, opposite Matsu so that my flock was on my left and my lovers were on my right. It was a position I had chosen mostly due to it being open, but if things went bad it also meant I could get between both sides relatively quickly.
"And not only that, but you also managed to find, through complete and absolutely blind luck, that you still have biological family around," Rin nodded to herself, still speaking flatly. "As in you actually have a sister and a mother."
"That too," I agreed, nodding in resignation. I could already guess what was going to happen next. The last time I had seen Rin like this had been at the end of my most awkward day ever, when I had had to sheepishly explain just why I had come home looking like I had.
For several moments Rin just gave me a flat, direct stare. Then her body began to shake slightly.
"Rin," I began, and several of the Sekirei began to tense, no doubt expecting another explosion like earlier. That lasted until they heard the first of Rin's snorts. Finally, she couldn't hold it back anymore.
"Bwahahaha!" Rin began to laugh shaking with how hard she was giggling. She started to point at me. "I-it! A-again!" She tried to get words out between her snorts, but it was a losing battle. "W-wait! I have to prepare myself first!" She collapsed onto the table, wrapping one arm around her head and slapping the table top with the other one as she lost the ability to make actual words.
"It's not that funny," I muttered with resignation.
"I agree," Saber nodded, and for a moment I felt hope that she was coming down on my side, before she unleashed a stern, disapproving look at me. "To find out that while you were away from my presence that you would once more be involved in such a churlish event is indeed disconcerting." She wrinkled her nose in a contemplative look. "That your luck is so bad is indeed an event which borders on humorous."
"And now even Saber is laughing at me," I muttered.
"That counts as laughing?" Musubi asked Tsukiumi in a voice she probably meant to be quiet.
"Indeed," Tsukiumi nodded imperiously. "Can't you see the way she is smiling?"
"How is any of that a smile?" Kazehana actually leaned over to get a closer look at Saber's expression, and the blonde swordswoman drew back, an affronted look on her face at having so much attention directed at her.
"Y-you! A sister!" Rin was finally starting to come out of her laughter induced seizure. "Please tell me she's a brocon!"
"Yukari isn't a …!" I began, flushing a little before I was interrupted.
"She's a brocon," Matsu nodded. The hacker actually smiled a bit, still typing away at her tablet.
"Totally a brocon," Kazehana agreed, grinning behind a cup of sake.
"What on earth is a brocon?" Tsukiumi muttered, looking confused. It didn't surprise me. This was the girl who didn't know what a tsundere was, after all.
That was enough for Rin to fall back into the arm she still had on the table, and though she had managed to cut down on the audible laughter her entire body was still shaking.
I sighed. "You guys," I muttered, but even as I grumbled I finally started to relax. With Rin's attack of uncontrollable laughter most of the tension in the room had begun to seep out as the two groups united behind a common cause: picking on me.
If that was what it took to keep the two groups off each other throats, then I had no problem being a target.
"Well now," Miya began, covering a small smile with one hand, relaxing as threats of future violence dwindled. "It seems that there are even more targets forEmiya-kun's horrible perversity and unslakable lusts…"
"Et tu, Asama-san?" I grumbled. The landlady continued as though I hadn't spoken.
"Oh, what would Takehito-san say if he knew how far his beloved inn has fallen into debauchery?" she bemoaned the horrible fate of having me as a resident.
"That you are horribly repressed and that the two of you should go take a second honey moon to work it out of your system?" I suggested dryly. Miya actually blinked at my come back, and both Matsu and Kazehana snorted in amusement themselves before both finding other places to be looking at when Miya turned to glare at them. It was my turn to chuckle as I managed to turn the teasing around on the lavenderette.
I glanced back at Rin to find that her laughing had finally died off. Strangely, Rin was staring at me with an odd look on her face, one which was part shock and part disbelief. It looked like she was finally starting to take the situation a bit more seriously, her teasing having come to an end.
Even Saber seemed startled by something, giving me a concerned look with her usual poise.
"So anyway," I tried to put the conversation back on topic. "That's the general gist of things right now."
"I," Rin began before trailing off. She shook her quickly and started again. "I see," she finally allowed. "Still, the situation isn't so bad," she continued, apparently focusing back on the details of the Sekirei Plan. "Even if you've taken some unusual familiars, it's not like this tournament stacks up to the Grail War," she reasoned. "It's not like anything too dangerous can happen here. They even have regulators that are actually doing their job. The whole thing is probably just some attempt by, who were they again? MBI? An attempt by MBI to wipe out the rest of the aliens so they can claim the spoils as their own." Rin shrugged as she casually came to the same conclusion I had long ago, and Miya narrowed her eyes, probably surprised at how quickly Rin had reached the same hypothesis I had. The magus continued, casually flipping her hair over her shoulder. "Why haven't you left already?" she asked me, starting to frown as she narrowed her eyes. "Staying here for too long… you know how stupid that is, with the Clock Tower after you."
Some of the tension started coming back to the room as Rin brought up my own hunted status, but now it had less to do with the two factions attacking each other and more to do with the general danger in my life.
"Matsu," I began tone somber. "Bring down the Jinki."
"But Shirou-sama…" the hacker began, giving Rin and Saber a concerned glance. I had spent a lot of time impressing how dangerous it would be for magi to have access to something like the Jinki, so it made sense she would be nervous about it.
"It's fine," I told her. "I trust Rin."
Matsu hesitated for another moment, before finally nodding her consent, getting up to make her way up to her room. Rin rolled her eyes, though at what in particular I wasn't too certain of.
"So," she began, making herself comfortable. "Just what Type are these?" she gave a casual wave at the Sekirei present, and Homura blinked, giving me a quick look as she remembered our first meeting.
"None," I answered Rin's question, and she paused, giving me a curious look. "They're extra-solar. Actually, they even had a spaceship." Rin's eyes widened in surprise at the revelation.
"Like an actual UFO?" Rin demanded, looking intrigued by the very idea. "So then MBI's new inventions…?"
"Derived out of their technology," I nodded.
"Why is having a spaceship so strange?" Tsukiumi ventured, looking miffed at Rin's surprise. "How else would aliens arrive?"
"The last two just kinda appeared via some form of matter transference," Rin told her absentmindedly, still contemplating the novelty of aliens actually having a space ship. "That or they just traveled through space on their own."
"Really?" Musubi sounded curious, and Rin shrugged.
"It's hard to tell, seeing as both the original aliens slaughter anything that approaches them out of hand," she admitted. "It makes the research a little tricky."
"Speaking of tricks," Kazehana spoke up, frowning slightly as she gave Rin a measuring look. "Just what was that one with your arm earlier, Tattoo-chan?" It seems Kazehana had settled on a nickname for Rin. I found myself very grateful that it wasn't something as hostile as Yukari's 'Washboard-chan'.
"Oh?" Rin grinned smugly, giving the drinking Sekirei a superior look. "You mean my Magic Crest?" As though to show off, Rin proudly pulled her sleeve back, and again the whirls of eldritch energy began to glow beneath her skin.
"Pretty," Kuu exclaimed, before she began to clap excitedly at the trick. Musubi joined in a moment later with a cheerful agreement.
"That's the Tousaka Thaumaturgical Crest," I explained as Rin basked in the awed gazes of my flock. "Since most magecraft is passed down through the family, it's customary for the head of a family to graft some of their own magic circuits onto their heir, using them as a way to store or archive the research they accumulated over their own lifetime. Each circuit grafted that way acts as a sort of precreated spell that allows the owner of the crest to use the magecraft just by activating the crest by the crest with prana."
"So it's a fancy cheat sheet?" Homura supplied, eying the lit of magus carefully. It was probably a wise caution. Generally speaking, a magus with an activated crest had the same threat equivalent as a fully loaded gun with a hair trigger, the hammer cocked, and the safety off.
"Cheat sheet?" Rin sputtered, glaring at the former host. I winced.
"The Thaumaturgical Crest is the most cherished treasure of a magi lineage," I explained carefully. "It's the result of generations of research, and represents all the accumulated knowledge of the entire blood line. It has to be physically grafted onto the next inheritor, a painful process with high chance of death or injury in both the owner and the inheritor. It's almost like having an organ transplant really."
"Like a second liver, or a third arm?" Miya hummed, giving me an amused look. I blinked, then remembered the analogy I had used to describe what having Avalon returned to my body felt like.
"Something like that," I acknowledged.
"So do you have something like that, Shirou?" Tsukiumi asked, narrowing her eyes as she contemplated the still glowing crest on Rin's arm. It wasn't like the magus to show off that much normally, but I had the impression this had less to do with just trying to look cool and more to do with emphasizing just how good Rin was as a magus.
I was getting better at spotting that kind of subtle one-upmanship. I guess having a harem causes you to develop a keener sense for spotting those kinds of maneuvers.
"No," I shook my head. "My father never wanted to pass it down to me. Since I wasn't his blood relative, he probably couldn't have even if he tried. In the end I count as just a first generation magus."
"That is no reason to look down upon yourself, Shirou," Saber spoke up calmly. "Even as a first generation, you have acquitted yourself admirably with your craft."
"Yeah," Rin grinned. "You're the best Faker ever."
"Faker?" Kazehana repeated, frowning slightly as she did so. It looked like she thought that Rin was making fun of me.
"'Faker' is the title for someone who specializes in Gradient Air," I explained, holding up my hand and tracing a sword as I did so. Kuu's eyes lit up and she promptly abandoned her place between Tsukiumi and Musubi so that she could disappear under the table. "Basically, anyone who specializes in matter recreation through the use of magecraft."
"Though most Fakers tend to graduate up to using stabilized Ether instead of just using their own od," Rin reminded me, giving my sword a cursory look. "When it comes to creation, Shirou probably really is the best."
That seemed to relax Kazehana a bit, the Wind Sekirei returning to her drink. I opened my mouth to continue the conversation, before I felt a tug at my leg. Glancing down I caught sight of Kuu as she tried to sneakily crawl up my leg, little hands reaching for the sword slowly as though I wouldn't notice that she was already half way in my lap. With a snort I let the blade disappear.
"Fuuuuu!" Kuu growled glaring at me before she decided to give up for now and just crawled up onto my legs, flopping down with a huff as she folded her arms and glowered.
"The little one seems quite taken with you," Saber noted, raising an eyebrow as she took in the scene. Rin scowled, though it looked like she wasn't quite sure how to take the sight of me with a little girl sitting in my lap. "It is unusual to see you taking care of someone so young." The swordswoman cocked her head to the side in curiosity. "You mentioned having to rescue this one at some point?"
"Onii-chan saved Kuu-chan!" the Green Girl declared, nodding her head furiously as she took it upon herself to tell the tale of her rescue. "The bad lady was there, and then onii-chan came and he was like 'Foosh'! 'Swish'! And then the bad lady went away!" She emphasized her story by waving her hands dramatically before folding them again and leaning forward as though she was about to share some great secret. "Onii-chan has swords!"
"Indeed he does," Saber smiled slightly at the younger girl, and Kuu blushed, happy at having impressed my most important attribute to the new girl.
"That is just adorable," Rin grinned. "You know, if babysitting was your thing we could have always set something up back in London."
"You," Homura cut in, ignoring the conversation as a whole. The former host had tensed and was staring at Saber as though she had only just realized something.
"Me?" Saber asked coolly, giving Homura an equally cool look. Homura didn't seem to notice.
"You," she repeated, one hand coming up to shakily point at the swordswoman. "You're King Arthur."
Saber blinked, apparently not having expected that particular response. Several of the other Sekirei perked up as well, Tsukiumi and Miya most noticeably, as they realized that for all her human appearance the being sitting in front of them was in fact a Heroic Spirit given physical incarnation, a creature of the past so well known that its very legend has power.
"Indeed," Saber finally nodded, her expression turning curious.
"You're… King Arthur," Homura said again, and I had the impression she was wrestling with the knowledge that this petite and innocent looking girl-child was in fact a legendary king who had fought wars and ruled a kingdom.
"And what does this knowledge mean to you?" Saber prompted, patiently waiting for some other response from the former host.
Homura's eyes flicked between Saber and I, and here was the part where I was pretty sure she was also coming to terms with the fact that the blonde swordswoman and I had been intimate in the past. Finally, she slumped a bit, and seemed to come to a decision.
"Can I have an autograph?" she sheepishly requested, rubbing the back of her head awkwardly. Saber blinked, and Rin snorted at the very thought.
"Ah," Saber began, getting a familiar flustered look on her face as she was put on the spot with the most unusual of requests. "I mean, if that is what you desire then I am not averse to doing so," she hedged.
"I'll be right back," Homura declared, making her way to the door with undignified haste. Rin snorted again, and Saber gave her a small glare.
"Looks like someone has a fan," Rin teased, and Saber folded her arms with the grace of a king, ignoring the way she was blushing slightly at the unexpected attention. "Still, if you've set up shop here, I would have thought you'd have a workshop set up by now," she turned back to me, again apparently trying to catch up with what I've been doing since I left. "Have you been making any effort at your magecraft at all or have you just been playing around?"
"I did have a workshop," I declared indignantly, "I was even working on permanent magical enhancements and enchantments!"
"Well, where is it?" Rin prompted, sounding as though she was actually curious. As my former master, she did have a vested interest in my progress as a magus. "And what have you been enchanting? Have you started on a Mystic Code?"
"Code?" Musubi raised one hand slowly, the other tapping on her lips as she tried to follow the conversation and ended up getting lost. Judging from the way Tsukiumi was pressing her lips together she was much in the same boat.
"A Mystic Code is an item enchanted and used by a magus, mostly for battle," I explained, before I winced. "And well, I kind of had to blow up my first magus to stop a Fraga a while back." I winced even more, promptly looking away and trying to seem innocent and unnoticeable. "And no, it wasn't really a Code, per say…"
"A Fraga?" Rin scowled at that. "You mean you've actually been tracked and you still haven't left yet? And stop trying to dodge. Shirou, what were you making?"
"I couldn't leave, and the Fraga are well known for their separation from the Mage Association," I reminded Rin, before finally sighing. "And I had been making a magical washing machine, until it got blown up too."
Rin sat there for a moment, giving me a blank look as she tried to digest the absurd thing I just said.
"A magic washing machine?" Miya blinked, sounding equal parts amused as perplexed. "Why on earth would you do something like that, Emiya-kun?"
"Mostly so I could try out a whole bunch of different types of enchantments designed to accomplish a wide variety of different effects under numerous different environmental situations," I defended the washing machine, may it rest easy in the rubble out back. "Also, well, I thought it would help cut down on the electricity bill."
"You," Rin muttered, actually holding up a fist in front of her as she closed her eyes and grit her teeth. "You really tried to… How stupid… I mean, how utterly incredibly stupid…"
"It sounds as though it would have been an effective measure of training your craft while simultaneously contributing to the well-being of the household," Saber noted calmly. "A noble effort, Shirou."
"Saber…" Rin growled. "Stop… encouraging… the stupid."
"I'm back," Matsu announced, before pausing at the doorway, taking in the sight of the newly enraged Rin. "Uh, Ashikabi-sama," she began slowly. "Is it really alright to show them?" She gave the fuming Rin a careful look. "She doesn't seem particularly… stable right now."
"It's fine," I told her, waving away Rin's tantrum. "Go ahead."
Actually, I was kind of hoping that the Jinki would serve as distraction enough to keep me from dodging potential onslaught of Gandrs.
Carefully, Matsu unwrapped the bundle in her arms, revealing the three Jinki we had managed to acquire, gently placing them in front of the quivering Rin. The magus opened her eyes at the approach, glaring at the hacker and giving the items in front of her a cursory glance.
"And?" she growled, folding her arms as she gave them a once over before dismissing them. "Are these supposed to be important or something?"
"Use structural analysis on them," I told her, keeping my own gaze firmly locked on a corner of the room away from the Jinki.
"Are you serious?" Rin demanded, sounding like she was building a head of steam up again.
"Please, Rin," I told her firmly. I heard her sigh, and then the sound of clinking as she picked one of them up.
"Strukturanalyse," Rin muttered halfheartedly. Rin tended to use German most of the time for her Arias, and in this case it was close enough to English for me to understand that she had followed my request. I waited patiently for her to respond.
"Rin," I glanced over at Saber to see the blonde swordswoman giving the magus a concerned look. "Are you alright?"
I risked a glance of my own, and found that while Rin had picked the Jinki up, she had it down far enough away from her face for me to ignore it while focusing on her.
And Rin was out. Her eyes were glazed, her jaw slack, and I swear I could make out the beginning of a bit of drool starting to come out of the corner.
"Why is she…" Musubi began, sounding confused, but Matsu interrupted.
"Just like when Shirou-sama looks at them," she confirmed, and I nodded with a sigh.
"Onee-chan looks silly," Kuu declared with a huff.
"Shirou," Saber gave me a concerned look. "Do you know what this is about?"
"Yeah," I nodded. "Just a sec." I leaned over the table, taking care not to squish Kuu-chan, and managed to get my finger between Rin and the Jinki before snapping loudly.
"Inverse ultracompact counter-crystaline purple!" Rin squeaked, blinking rapidly as she shook her head, the sudden noise interrupting her trance. "I mean…" she started to pant, finally remembering to breath. "That… I… what was that?" she finally got out, her voice weak as she shook her head hard enough to whip her hair around.
"The reason I can't leave Shin Tokyo yet," I declared, drifting into battle mode.
"I got it!" Homura declared, slamming the door open. "I had to dig a bit to find the copy," she began, waving a copy of 'The Once and Future King' in her hand for some reason before she paused as she took in the once more tense scene. She narrowed her eyes, and even with her face mask on I could make out the scowl she was wearing. Finally she palmed her head, growling as she did so. "You really do wait until I'm out of the room on purpose!"
Again, I found myself explaining everything I knew to Rin, this time focusing on Jinki and what I'd managed to uncover about them.
She didn't end up laughing this time.
"And you say there are eight of these?" Rin muttered. She had hunched over, still peering at the three Jinki in front of her, though since she wasn't engaging in magecraft she wasn't turning into a drooling wide eyed mess. She was in a familiar pose though, with one hand up and half covering her face while she looked between her spread fingers, the other hand supporting that arm at the elbow. It was her usual thinking pose, and I had little doubt that the many, many wheels in the small magus' head were turning pretty quick at this point.
"According to Asama-san," I agreed, and Rin gave a quick look at the landlady. The lavenderette had taken a seat at the table as well, choosing an open seat which put her between Saber and I and making her the only Sekirei that had taken that side of the table.
"Yes," Miya nodded, her eyes in her normal lidded position as she sipped tea. I honestly wasn't certain how it happened, but Saber somehow took a sip at the same time, and I couldn't help but notice how similar the King of Knights and the zero one of the Sekirei looked at that moment. They both had an unconscious grace, and yet even while just sitting they had a natural, eye catching pose which seemed to hint at their regal natures.
"If you don't mind me asking," Matsu cut in, still typing away at a hurried pace, though she was looking away from the screen so she could keep an eye on Rin. "Just why is it that both of you are so disturbed by the Jinki? I understand the danger behind them, but both of your reactions seem extreme. And for that matter, why do they effect Shirou-sama so much stronger then you?"
"Because they're unnatural, unearthly, and utterly impossible according to the logic and laws that govern all life on this planet. And I actually have to concentrate to use Structural Analysis," Rin muttered, only giving the hacker half a mind as she continued to glare at the shards of the apocalypse before her. "Shirou over there does it unconsciously, almost constantly. I almost have to qualify it as some sort of Mystic Eye condition for him."
Matsu started to turn to me, but I was already explaining. It gets kind of old, having to wait for someone in the group to repeat whatever new confusing term they come across before giving an explanation.
"Sometimes people will be born with unusually active circuits. It tends to happen in the eyes quite often, and those people will develop some sort of psychic ability based around their vision," I explained. "If it happens in the other parts of the body they can develop other capabilities too. We call those types of people mutants or espers typically."
"So Shirou-sama is better than yourself at sensing?" Matsu turned back to Rin, and the magus probably didn't even notice that Matsu was probing her for information.
"Shirou is a freaking blood hound when it comes to sensing," Rin muttered in return. "I swear, he can sniff out magecraft at like a hundred yards. The Enforcers loved having him come along on Apostle hunts."
"Is that why Shirou-sama can smell Sekirei?" Musubi asked, blinking innocently.
"Wouldn't surprise me," Rin shrugged, before sighing leaning backwards. "I can definitely feel all of you, but Shirou probably can even get impressions as well." Rin only then seemed to realize that she was admitting deficiency in any way, and promptly snapped her mouth shut.
"So that means you can't tell anything about us," Matsu nodded. Rin looked uncomfortable, but knowing she was trapped she just shrugged.
"Sensing comes in different ways for different people," I already started the explanation. "I interpret it as smell, but Rin typically feels it as pressure. She can't really differentiate too much unless she's actually touching something and concentrating." I gave Rin a wry look. "If you want to try something else disturbing, try touching Asama-san."
Miya blinked, giving me a sideways look, but Rin just glared at me, before rising to the challenge and reaching out to poke the lavenderette. Rin promptly jerked, eyes widening as she snatched her arm back instantly.
"Oh my," Miya sighed, giving me frown. "Was that really necessary, Emiya-kun?"
"Fairs fair," I told her, giving Rin a careful look. I hadn't recommended that just to yank her chain. Rin still didn't seem to realize just how much potential for violence the Sekirei were capable of, and the best way to get that through her stubbornness was to rub her nose in it.
I definitely didn't want Rin starting something later just because she was underestimating the potential fallout.
"That's rather impressive," Rin muttered, now turning that focused look that she had been using on the Jinki to the rest of the room. Kazehana grinned impishly back as Rin spent an extra few moments glaring at her in particular, the wind Sekirei taking the chance to deliberately flounce her chest again. Then Kazehana blinked as instead of getting jealous Rin instead took the opportunity to give her a terse once over before moving on to the next target for study.
Rin was firmly in her magus persona at this point. Earlier, during the confrontation, Rin had been using her more public persona, and maybe then a little taunting might have gotten to her. Now though, just like with me in battle mode, there was no time for things like embarrassment or personal grudges.
"Indeed," Saber agreed, her eyes closed as she took a sip of tea. "Though earlier my judgment might have been too clouded to see, it is obvious that Asama-san is quite skilled." Saber seemed to have picked up on what I had to clue Rin in on earlier, most likely after Miya had managed to startle her with the ladle.
"Why thank you, Saber-san," Miya smiled politely at the blonde sitting next to her, and Saber smiled back. I entertained a momentary thought of what it would be like to see the two of them have a sparring match, but decided that suggesting even simulated violence might not be the best course of action right now.
Maybe if I had a bunker or something to wait out the fall out though…
"So your plan is to recover as many of these, these Jinki," Rin stumbled over the unfamiliar word, but quickly recovered, "and separate them from the rest?"
"Yeah," I nodded, letting myself slip into battle mode. It was time for a good old fashioned strategy meeting. "We're still not sure what MBI might have in mind for them, but frankly it's likely that they'll need either all of them or a majority of them in order to do it."
"In that case, wouldn't it be better to wait until you had at least half?" Rin proposed, and I nodded.
"Yes, but there's also no telling how long it would take to gather them," I countered, Rin nodding as she got my point instantly. "There's always the possibility that MBI has a timetable, and taking too much time might be playing into their hands."
"True," Rin acknowledged. She frowned roughing her own hair as she considered the situation. "But even if you leave, there's no guarantee that one of the other, Ashikabi was it? One of the other Ashikabi might be able to utilize them."
"I've already taken steps to eliminate the more problematic competitors," and at the end of the table Matsu frowned at the casual mention of just what I had done to Higa. "And it's my hope that with the Plan delayed due to my escape MBI would be forced to step up to maintain the status quo here in Shin Tokyo while trying to retrieve them. It most likely wouldn't fit into whatever scenario they have to let things get too out of hand until they have all the pieces in control again."
"What about destruction?" Rin proposed easily, and I shook my head.
"A possibility, but there's no way of knowing the potential consequences," I explained. "It's just as likely to accidently trigger the Jinki as not. There's no way of estimating necessary containment procedures either."
"This would be easier if we could just get more information," Rin complained, scowling as she contemplated all the new info I was giving her.
"I've been having Matsu try to get into MBI's databases, but they have some good protection," I admitted. "And most of the key personnel are too well guarded to simply abduct and interrogate."
"Is anyone else a little disturbed by just how well those two are getting along?" Homura muttered from the side. Tsukiumi and Kazehana nodded, scowling as they watched Rin and I quickly shoot ideas back and forth, and I swear I saw Akitsu nod as well from the corner of my eye.
"How is she getting the information?" Rin asked, drumming her fingers on the table as she pursed her lip and gave Matsu a dubious look. "She doesn't seem the infiltrator type."
"Oh," Matsu narrowed her eyes at the casual distain Rin was showing her, before she got an evil smirk of her own. "I've been hacking their system via the internet."
I blinked, and even though we had been discussing a serious matter I felt like sighing and smacking my head. I could already see just why Matsu had spoken up. She was probably anticipating another reaction like mine at the mention of cyber space. I don't think she realized that the response she was going to get was gonna be quite different.
"What kind of net?" Rin cocked her head to the side, obvious confusion setting in. "Is that some kind of spy ring or something? It's probably not the kind a net you'd use for fishing anyway."
Dead silence settled in the room, and Matsu actually gaped at Rin.
"What?" Rin asked, blinking at the sudden change in mood. She seemed to realize that she had said something everyone else found unbelievable, and two spots of red started to form on her cheeks as she started to get embarrassed. "W-what?"
"I might not have mentioned this in the past, but most magi don't have much to do with technology," I sighed as I gave the explanation to the rest of the group. "Honestly, I'm probably one of the few who even know what a cellphone is."
"What phone?" Rin gave me an odd look, before seeming to realize that she was only digging her hole deeper. "I mean, what do I need technology for!" she quickly snapped, folding her arms and turning her head up to the side as her flush grew a bit. "I'm a magus, not some repair man or something! I-it's not like I need things like that!"
A sudden motion at the wall brought my attention to Homura. The former host had started, standing up straight as she stared at Rin, one hand coming up to half point at her. Then, I watched as she turned both her attention and her finger to Tsukiumi.
"Shirou," Homura hissed, giving me a quick look. "You mean she's… like…" the fire user gave a jerk of her head to Rin, then to Tsukiumi in each of her pauses. I sighed, already knowing just what Homura had managed to lock on to.
Homura had a lot of dealings with Tsukiumi, after all, not to mention had spent a lot of time in a job that pretty much resolved around relationships. She was probably pretty used to picking up certain verbal cues and being able to interpret them for insight into a person's character. It looks like Homura had figured out just why I had been able to oust Tsukiumi as a tsundere so quickly.
"Yeah," I muttered. "I suppose I'm used to them."
Homura stared at me, and then quickly snapped a hand up to cover her mouth, though that was probably unnecessary considering she was still wearing her mask. She started to shake silently, and internally I was grateful that she was apparently a lot better at holding back laughter than Rin was.
"Homura!" Tsukiumi snapped, glaring at her longtime rival. "Just what do you find so funny!"
"I-it's nothing," the former host told the water user, and a few snorts managed to escape before Homura managed to get them under control.
"It certainly doesn't seem like nothing!" Tsukiumi stood, hands on her hips in her usual pose as she pointed at Homura accusingly. That only seemed to set Homura off harder, and she started to shake more, the other hand coming up to help cover her mouth.
"You at least know what a computer is, right?" Matsu demanded of Rin, more focused on the woman who had pretty much admitted to being completely ignorant of everything that the hacker stood for.
"Aren't those just like giant calculators?" Rin snapped back, arms still folded as she glared at the redhead.
"Wow," Musubi blinked, looking at Rin. "That's kind of sad."
For Musubi to be the one who said that, well, I suppose I was lucky Rin didn't know her better. I don't think the magus would have been able to survive that kind of dismissal from someone who was, quite honestly and with no ill intention meant, not that bright.
Rin was still sharp enough to realize that she was being dismissed though.
"Feeee!" Rin managed to make a noise that reminded me either of steam escaping a tea pot, or Kuu when she was starting to get upset, one hand coming up in a shaking fist. "You think I don't know when I'm getting looked down on!"
"Rin," Saber interrupted the magus before she could really get started in her new tantrum. "Calm down. There are more important things to be concerned about for now." Rin gave the Heroic Spirit a glare, but did settle a bit. "For instance," the swordswoman continued, turning to give me a piercing look. "Shirou," she began, before a new sound echoed through the room, a loud, low, rumbling.
It was Saber's turn to find herself the center of attention, and she began to blush slightly, though her expression didn't change in the slightest besides that as everyone looked at her stomach, wondering how something so small could make a noise that large.
"Shirou," Saber continued as though her belly hadn't just given her away. "When's dinner?"
I sighed, but despite myself, I couldn't help a smile from showing. Saber blushed a little brighter at it.
"Right away, your majesty," I told her, getting up to make my way to the kitchen.
It looks like things wouldn't blow up too badly now. Hopefully a little food would also help calm everyone down.
That and it had been ages since I'd been in a kitchen.
"Well," Miya began as she came into the kitchen. The landlady stayed near the door, perhaps an unspoken gesture of her lack of intent to interfere with my time cooking. I let my grip on the knife in my hand loosen as well. "It seems that your harem has grown again, Emiya-kun," Miya smiled warmly at me.
"Don't call it a harem, please," I muttered at her. "Especially not where Rin can here you." I gave a semi-nervous look at the door leading out of the kitchen. I had left it open so that I could keep an eye on the rest of Izumo House's residents and guests. So far the two groups seemed to have come to a hesitant peace, but that wasn't the kind of thing I wanted to leave to chance.
At the moment, Rin was apparently getting to know Musubi and Tsukiumi.
"You mean you actually have a whiteboard for a schedule?" Rin demanded, staring at aforementioned object, gaping at the complex mix of names, some scratched out as schedule adjustments happened, sometimes the names just having arrows pointing to various positions on the board where they were supposed to be moved to. Honestly, I couldn't make heads or tails of it, but my flock always seemed to know who's turn it was for what, so I left it to them. Since today was Monday, Tsukiumi currently had both the table, and it looked like she was going solo tonight when it came time for bedtime.
"Yup!" Musubi declared happily, though Tsukiumi at least had the grace to look mildly embarrassed at having to explain their scheduling method to an outsider.
"So you were really King Arthur," Homura was by Saber, along with Akitsu, the former host standing while the other two knelt calmly. I wasn't sure when Akitsu had moved to sit opposite Saber, but the two of them seemed to be engaged in some kind of staring contest or something.
"The two, Rin and Saber," Miya continued also giving a measured look at the room, keen eye out for any sign of impending violence herself. "They seem to be adjusting quite well."
"Is that what you see, Asama-san?" I asked, grimacing as I did so. Miya paused, giving me a glance as she tried to understand why I seemed less certain of the two groups getting along.
"What do you mean, Emiya-kun?" Miya prompted me, cocking her head to the side as she waited patiently for me to go on.
"I mean that Rin is a magus, and that Saber was a king," I told her. "Saber's used to remaining calm, no matter how upset she is. And Rin, well, magus," I pointed out to her.
Back in the room, it seemed that Matsu had reappeared, brandishing a tablet in front of her as she confronted Rin.
"Behold!" Matsu declared, glaring at the other women. "Let me show you just how great computers really are!"
"It seems that Shirou has managed to acquire a formidable squire," Saber finally noted, and whatever she was looking for in Akitsu she apparently found as she gave the other woman a brief nod. Akitsu blinked slowly, before raising a finger to point at herself as though to imply the question, 'Who? Me?'
"And what does being a magus have to do with this?" Miya asked, narrowing her eyes as she gave Rin another measuring look.
"Magi are pragmatic, and they're not afraid to study the situation completely before making a move," I explained the nature of those who use magecraft. "When they do move though, they can be absolutely ruthless, doing whatever it takes to accomplish their goals."
"And is that what Rin is doing now?" Miya pursed her lips, taking my words in slowly. "She seems to be quite relaxed," she pointed out, watching as Rin tried to puzzle through how to turn the tablet on. "If anything, she seems to be making friends quite easily."
"Oh?" I shook my head with a snort. "Don't let yourself be fooled. Rin in particular is especially good at keeping up appearances. She had the entire school tricked through all of high school."
"That seems to be a rather harsh thing to say about your lover, Emiya-kun," Miya scolded, but I just shook my head.
"I love Rin," I admitted quietly, "but that doesn't mean I don't know what she is. She can be as manipulative as she needs to be, and if the time comes she can be cold as ice as well. I might be a magus, but I'm only third rate at best. Rin, well, she's first rate, one of the best in the generation. She can use all of the elements, and has some of the best grasp of magic theory in her classes at the Clock Tower. She has probably four times the amount of raw power that I have as well. More importantly, she thinks like a magus."
"And what does a magus think like?" Miya looked like she was taking me seriously at least, her expression uncertain as I laid it out for her.
"A magus would spend the time immediately after having been reunited with his two lovers trying to figure out what those two lovers are up to rather than just being happy," I told her with a grimace.
It was the truth, after all. Even me, as a third rate, could see that there was something going on here. Even though I was glad to see Rin and Saber again, it didn't stop me from asking the most important question to myself:
Why were they here?
Rin wouldn't just come to see me on a lark, not with me having a Sealing Designation on me. It was just too dangerous for all of us, the threat of the Clock Tower finding out too real and ominous to risk it casually. Rin had come here for a reason, some kind of objective of goal causing her to brave the dangers a reunion had.
And Saber had agreed with it, whatever those goals were. The King of Knights took her duty seriously, and she had sworn an oath as a knight to protect Rin and I. There must be something here, something even Saber thought was worthwhile to risk both of our safety for.
And I couldn't figure it out. I couldn't puzzle out the reason that Rin and Saber were here right now.
Well, I had a suspicion anyway, but no way of knowing if I was right or not.
"I see," Miya nodded slowly, and I wondered if maybe she did see. Magi didn't think like normal people, they were fundamentally different in how they considered the world. They saw the world, studied it, dissected it, and circumvented it through the use of mysteries. They held their bloodlines important, had great pride in both it and their own research as well, and would do just about anything at times for those two. To be a magus was to walk with death, and people who could deal with that truth were set apart from the rest of the world.
Miya, she might not have ever met a magus before me, but she had probably dealt with people like that. She had been there when MBI first discovered the Sekirei, and companies like MBI don't get as big as they are now as quickly as they did without someone with their own touch of ruthlessness backing them.
"Wait," Rin's voice drifted through the kitchen, sounding amazed as she stared at the screen with wide eyes. Matsu seemed immensely proud of herself, both hands on her hips as she gloated. "So you can use these to look up all the information you've gathered instantly? I mean…" she fiddled with the screen a bit, before her jaw dropped at something in particular. "But that would save hundreds of hours trying to find books or scrolls! It could… this could revolutionize magecraft as a whole! And Shirou has something like this?"
"That's right!" Matsu had put her glasses back on at some point, and she had switched back to her cute persona. "That's what Matsu has given Shirou-tan!"
Looks like the hacker had decided to go for the big guns when it came to impressing Rin with her chosen tools. She most likely remembered how much a digital workshop impressed me and decided that if it worked with one magus it could work with another.
"I must have one!" Rin declared passionately, a greedy look in her eyes as she hugged the tablet to her chest as though she would never let it go.
"Rin," Saber spoke up, a small frown on her face. "Do remember that that belongs to Shirou." It looked like she was going to say more but stopped, glancing to the side in surprise as Kuu tugged at her blouse sleeve lightly. The young Sekirei was staring up at her with wide unblinking eyes. Saber seemed unnerved for a moment, before finally prompting the young Sekirei. "How can I help you, little one?"
"Onee-chan is pretty!" Kuu declared, before promptly sitting herself down in Saber's lap. It looked like the Green Girl had fallen victim to the King's innate charisma.
"Ah!" Saber made a startled noise, and started to blush in embarrassment at having been claimed so quickly by little Kuu.
"Though I understand your concern," Miya finally declared, giving the mingling girls a measured look. "Are you certain that the two have not accepted the circumstances?"
"Oh, they might have accepted the circumstances as a whole," I admitted. "Both of them know how dangerous the situation is with the Jinki and MBI. Neither one of them would do anything to make things worse, and they might even be willing to help. But the circumstances between me and my flock?"
I trailed off, shaking my head. Rin and Saber would have no problem working with the Sekirei in the face of danger. After Saber had been stolen and Archer had betrayed her, Rin had instantly homed in on the necessity of getting Berserker on our side, even if his Master, Illya, had tried to kill us on our first meeting. Later, when Lancer had been willing to give us a hand both Rin and Saber had been willing to rely on him, despite the fact that he had nearly killed me twice. When it came to necessity, Rin could easily put aside her personal feelings to do what it took to acquire victory. Hell, she had even been willing to use her virginity as a tool to help us get that victory at the end of the Grail War for that matter.
But even if she had been willing to go that far, it hadn't made her less embarrassed or irritated with me for losing my control during our first time. It hadn't made her less suspicious of either Illya or Lancer while we were working together.
Saber too. She was good at concealing her feelings, a legacy of her time hiding her gender and ruling a kingdom, but that didn't mean she didn't have those feelings. It just made it harder to know what they were.
"This is troubling," Miya sighed, putting a palm to her cheek as she did so. It looked like she had understood just how much tension remained, and it worried her.
"Wait," Rin demanded of Matsu as the hacker continued to show off how amazing the internet is. "What does this do…" She cut herself off, her eyes getting even wider, and suddenly a flush appeared on her cheeks.
"Oh!" Matsu grinned sheepishly rubbing the back of her head. "Matsu forgot she had left that in there for Shirou-tan to find…"
"What is the matter, Rin?" Saber frowned, before rising to go check on her Master. Kuu refused to let go of the swordswoman, and Saber clumsily put an arm under to help support the younger girl as Kuu latched onto her neck in a hug. "What is… my word!"
Saber took one look at the screen before a blush of her own appeared, and her free hand instantly came up to cover Kuu's eyes. The girl squirmed briefly, grumbling as her sight was blocked.
"Ah," Akitsu seemed to realize what was happening and quickly, well, quickly for her anyway, rose to go check on the screen. "That is my favorite one," she nodded.
"That's why Matsu kept it," the hacker admitted proudly.
Miya and I shared a glance, and then both of us sighed. I turned back to the stove, even as Miya made her way out to the room again.
"Matsu," the landlady began, and suddenly Matsu didn't seem quite as proud. "Corrupting two innocent newcomers to Izumo House is prohibited!"
Even as the madness that was everyday life of Izumo House continued, I bit my lip.
I had the impression that things wouldn't stay like this for very long at all.