A/N:my good marks have prompted me to write more before I leave soon on holiday~ This chapter finishes the Kyoto field trip arc and the chapters that follow will sadly be the last arc. Thanks to everyone that has reviewed and I hope you like this one!
"Goodbye! Have a safe trip!" The old couple from the costume rental waved them off. Shirou and Saber left with a wave, Saber's head still down and her face still a lovely beet red. They were wearing the clothes they'd worn before but had their costumes in a bag as a parting gift from Nakamura, who, unbeknownst to them, was quite an influential manager of Movie Village. Shirou sweatdropped when he remembered how those gifts had come to be.
Shirou and Saber were ambushed as soon as the curtain dropped by a gaggle of excited actors.
"That was brilliant! For a couple of kids you act really well!" gushed one actor.
"It was a very nice romantic touch," agreed Hiroshi's actor.
"Ahahaha it was nothing," Shirou tried to be modest as Saber decided to become as small and inconspicuous as possible. Nakamura jogged over to them, ecstatic.
"There you are! Thanks to you, I've acquired some excellent footage!"
"F-footage!" Shirou gasped, as Nakamura held up a camera.
"Yep! It's all on here and it's going to make an amazing new advertisement for the Village! If you guys are alright with it, that is."
"W-wait a sec! That's.." Shirou groaned as the grown man made puppy dog eyes at him. "Argh, fine!" he conceded and Nakamura beamed.
"Thank you very much! As a reward, I think I'll let you keep those costumes." Nakamura ripped a piece of paper out of his notebook and scribbled a note to costume hire. Behind the paper, Nakamura's gaze roved over Saber and Shirou, culminating in a smirk.
Oh, those two were so smitten.
Shirou and Saber disembarked from the bus, finding themselves in the Higashiyama district. Shirou pretended to be engrossed in scrying the map in his hands and Saber stared off into the distance. Since the kiss, neither of them had been able to work up the courage to address the other. Saber didn't, or couldn't meet Shirou's eyes, a battle raging in her heart.
"What was that earlier?" Saber asked the voice, praying for an answer. "Did he do that just for the audience or was that..?"
"Wouldn't you like to know," the voice said nastily. "Don't you think it's obvious?"
"I don't know." Saber frowned. "I realise that most people wouldn't believe in the concept of a medieval king simply walking among them but this is ridiculous! It's like Shirou is trying to persuade himself it isn't true."
"Bingo." That was all the voice had to say. "So what will you do about it?"
"I could ask Rin to tell him, but would he believe her? He refuses to even see what is before him."
"Aha. Since you know now, I'll leave you to your soul-searching, Arturia. I will give you one word of advice: there are just some opportunities that present themselves once in a lifetime. I suggest you seize them with both hands." With that cryptic statement, Saber probed her mind's darkness but the voice was unyieldingly mute.
Saber looked back at the brunette ex Master. 'I guess this is it,' she thought.
'this is one of those times.'
Feeling her gaze on him, Shirou finally stopped staring blankly at the roads and landmarks on the map, which had all blurred into a mass of blacks, blues and greens, overrun by twisting, vine-like lines. Faced with the inevitable, he opened his mouth and spoke.
"Hey, Aurora. About just now, that was.."
He didn't get to finish his sentence; she did. "..for the children, am I correct?"
Taken aback slightly, Shirou felt relieved that she'd interpreted his gesture as such, but beneath the relief was a strong undercurrent of disappointment. He violently sent it to the back of his mind and forced a smile. "Y-yeah. So no hard feelings, right?"
"Of course." He and Aurora resumed a dialogue after that, admiring row upon row of teahouses and souvenir shops. Autumn patterned kimonos were on sale, the kimonos in the shop windows a mosaic of pinks, mauves, reds, oranges, blacks and yellows. On these elaborate fabrics, Shirou and Saber saw a myriad of images, each an artist's interpretation of uniquely Japanese autumn splendour. Black silk, emphasising falling maple leaves. A sea of scarlet, peach and saffron, spectacular chiaroscuro against sky blue - autumn maples against a sunny sky. Cranes, ivory plumage fluttering around them as they took flight from an azure river, amber sunset at their backs. Shirou's eyes eagerly drank in the sights, revelling in their beauty and that of the one beside him. Inside, Saber was a confused mess of fluttering nerves and frustration at her own weakness. Feeling so good had to be wrong. It had to be. For someone who had lived her entire life to serve others, Saber was, at best, a novice at understanding the concepts of personal ambitions, desires, pains and pleasure. Her feelings, being (for once in her life) almost entirely self-centred were, to put it lightly, new and unpleasant and evoked a curious mixture of guilt and satisfaction from the powerful ex-Servant. Shirou tore his gaze from the streets of Higashiyama and stared unashamedly at Aurora.
'Man, she's beautiful. Really like Saber..' a smile tugged at the corners of Shirou's lips as he took in the way her tourmaline eyes roved over the shops, the genteel way she lifted one small white hand to brush away a stray strand of hair and the proud angle of her head as she surveyed what was before her, reminiscent of a mighty ruler admiring his hard-earned domain. Shirou felt as if there was something pushing from the inside of his heart, demanding release. The quiescence suddenly became abhorrent to him and Shirou searched for something, anything that would allow him a chance to enjoy every nuance of her voice.
"Hey Aurora, you hungry?
Shirou's eyes bulged and his jaw dropped comically as he watched Aurora raise her bowl to her lips and drink the soup, finishing what looked to be her fourth bowl. Behind him, he could hear one of the waiters muttering something about foreigners having large appetites. Aurora didn't seem fazed at all by the surprise of he friend and merely bowed her head, thanking the chef for the meal. It was only when she lifted her head to thank Shirou that she realised that he only had one empty bowl in front of him, whereas she had four.
"Aurora, I never knew you at that much!" Shirou heartily guffawed at her reddened face.
"It's not nice to tease," she said, avoiding his eyes and pretending to be affronted.
"Don't worry," Shirou winked. "I won't tell anyone you eat like a sumo."
Meanwhile, Issei and a group of his friends were passing the restaurant, and Issei stopped to stare. He watched as Shirou and the transfer girl squabbled over who was going to pay, finally settling on splitting the bill. He watched as they headed up the hill, Shirou buying them both ice creams, and arrive at Kiyomizudera. 'That's funny.' Issei thought.
'From here it looks like they're going on a date.'
"Wow.." Saber stared upwards at the large, majestic gates in front of the temples, and the stone lions flanking it like a pair of protective sentinels. It was late in the afternoon, and dulcet notes of sunshine were causing the faded gold on the gates to glitter like topaz jewels. Shirou smirked at the transformation from the reserved, detached club president most knew and followed her inside. The first shrine was empty save for a pair of iron monks' staves in the centre. The floorboards were immaculately polished and the ornately carved roof showed no signs of having being built hundreds of years ago. A small crowd had gathered around the staves and it looked as if some of them were trying to pick them up.
"Ugh, it sure is heavy!" a young man grunted, his face contorted with the effort of trying to carry one.
"Ah, I give up," his companion agreed, releasing his grip on the other staff and stepping back to mop the sweat from his brow. Shirou and Saber neared them and exchanged meaningful glances. Then, Saber proceeded to elicit gasps of surprise from everyone present by lifting a staff one-handed, displaying none of the exertion that it had cost large men to lift it. As they walked away, Saber resisted the urge to roll her eyes while Shirou looked duly impressed.
"As expected from the monster of our kendo team."
Saber's face flushed and she looked away. "I don't know what you're talking about."
Outside the shrine, they found the famous "Kiyomizu Stage". The stage was every bit as magnificent as postcards always depicted it - overlooking a good part of Kyoto and bedecked by the rouge and golden hues of the maple trees beneath.
"Amazing, isn't it Aurora!" Shirou remarked. "They say that if you made a wish then jumped off the stage and survived, your wish would be granted!"
"Really?" Saber personally felt it was extremely strange, if not suicidal, but did not express this.
"Yeah." Shirou placed both arms on the balustrade and looked down at the canopies below. "Can you believe that, though? What kind of wish would be worth that?" He added the last bit as a bitter afterthought.
"Well," Saber mimicked his pose. "There might be some wishes that carry that kind of importance."
"Maybe. But everyone knows wishes don't actually come true."
"What makes you say that?" Saber was slightly surprised to hear the normally optimistic Shirou speak that way.
Shirou hesitated, but plunged on ahead. "There was a time that I could've.. Made a wish.. But then I realised that our wishes, based purely on selfishness.. May not deserve being granted."
"Hmm, it depends, I think." Saber's answer caused Shirou to look at her in surprise. "I agree that our wishes are always expressions of self-interest but.. Sometimes fate would have us have our way."
"?" Shirou was confused.
"For example, um.." Saber wracked her brains and received a sudden flash of inspiration. "Say there was this person you wished you could meet again. If you weren't fated to do so, you could wish all you wanted, and you'd never see them again. On the other hand, if you were destined to, I'm sure that somehow, someday you would be reunited."
Shirou felt a pang as he recalled Saber disappearing after the destruction of the Grail but swallowed it. "So are you one of those people that subscribe to the 'we're-all-puppets-of-fate theory?'"
"No." Saber stared off at the skyline of Kyoto, now streaked with orange and magentas. "I believe fate merely pushes us towards the important decisions in life. From then on we.. We write the script."
"So if there was such a person, and fate didn't want you to meet, you'd never meet them again?" Saber's heart clenched at the pain in Shirou's voice, knowing to whom he referred. However, she remembered something, something that literally felt as though it had been said a lifetime ago.
"Do you behold, King Arthur, the continuation of your dream?"
'Yes,' she thought. 'Even if I never did return to Shirou, I would still have been by his side, even if only in dreams. Just to see him, to know he would be safe.. That would've been enough for me.'
"Even if you never saw them again," Saber started, "I don't think it'd really matter. If your feelings of friendship or love towards them were strong, I think that you'd be with them. Always."
No one spoke after that as they were too busy being entranced by the scenery from the stage. Patches of pale blue had materialised, signalling the day was coming to an end. A soft wind blew, causing Saber's hair to sway delicately, reminiscent of gossamer-thin willow leaves and Shirou watched her. His mind was elsewhere, though.
'With me always, huh?'
Shirou and Saber spent the last vestiges of the afternoon enjoying the rest of Kiyomizudera's facilities such as the Otowa waterfalls, the jizo statues and the pagoda before returning to the hotel. That night, Taiga had proposed that the teachers take the students to a nearby restaurant to celebrate their last day in Kyoto, to which the other teachers were more than happy to agree. They sat at a table away from the students, laughing, joking and drinking bottle after bottle of sake. Taiga was beginning to become flushed, but continued to call out, "One more, one more!"
At the same time, Shirou and Saber lost themselves in the camaderie and excitement. Issei had an arm around Shirou and was imitating Taiga, exaggerating her mildly drunken movements. Some distance away, Rin had her head close to Saber's and was whispering something into her ear. Saber blushed upon hearing this and protested while Rin snickered in amusement. Shirou was struck by a sudden desire to know what they were discussing, but forced himself to focus on what Issei was saying.
"..and that's not all! We went to Yasui Konpira-gu shrine and crawled through the famous tunnel! No more bad luck for me!" the Student Council president crowed triumphantly.
"Ah, I wanted to go there too, but we spent too much time at an arcade.." another boy sighed wistfully.
"Yeah, that's too bad," said Issei distractedly, but then sat bolt upright and looked at Shirou. "Oh yeah, that's right! On the way there, we saw Shirou and the kendo club president!"
"Ehh, for real?" a freckly boy called Maro, whom Shirou recognised from the kendo club spoke. "What were they doing?"
"Um, having lunch, teasing each other, going to Kiyomizudera.." Issei held up fingers as he ticked them off. "A bit like a date really."
"Woah, Shirou! Never knew you were into the tsundere types!" Maro teased.
"W-wha-!" Shirou was caught off guard. "No way! How?"
"We-ell," Maro had a very cat-ate-the-canary grin on his freckled face. "First Tosaka, then buchou. Never pegged you as the type who'd like complete and utter ice cubes."
"There is not, and has never been anything between me and Tosaka!"
"You never mentioned buchou," added Maro.
"That's.." Shirou searched desperately for anything to avoid the subject. "Never mind that, why the heck were you stalking me, Issei?"
"I wasn't stalking you." Issei was impassive, leading Shirou to realise he was telling the truth. "My group and I were in the same area around the same time. We saw you two going to a restaurant and then heading towards Kiyomizudera, where we'd been. It looked pre-tty interesting too, so we thought we'd stop to watch a little."
"Urgh, you're such a busybody," Shirou complained.
"You know you love my concern."
"I dunno why you're so annoyed, Shirou." said Maro. "You seemed to have had a really good time with buchou this trip. Not to mention you.." he trailed off and then sat where he was soundlessly, as if what he'd wanted to say had been something worth punishment.
"Come on man, tell me."
"Okay, I know you're gonna kill me but.." Maro looked to Issei pleadingly.
"You two looked like a pretty good couple."
Shirou didn't say much for the rest of the dinner, instead pretending to be fascinated by Taiga becoming intoxicated and weaving, inebriated, around the tables, hugging random students and generally making a fool of herself. Shirou noted mentally to remind her of this once she sobered up. However, as soon as they returned to the hotel, Shirou immediately engaged Issei and Maro in a pillow fight, causing the usually peaceful inn to echo with the sounds of teenagers guffawing. The staff didn't mind too much though, and the festivities distracted Shirou, at least for a time, from his overwhelming questions. It simply wasn't the time for laments or indecisions.
A/N: Kind of short, I thought but ultimately it's your opinion that matters! Challenge: can you guys do ninety reviews? These things are gold to us authors, you know! Hopefully the sun and sand will give me some inspiration to write some more.. Okay, give you a hint for the last arc - festive. Major developments coming up, stay tuned!