Chapter I:

Superbia/ Of A Golden King

Only the strong have the right to survive.

The first time he had heard those words, Gil King hadn't actually understood them. He had just nodded obediently, his bright crimson eyes digging a proverbial hole through the floor as the boy had kept his head bowed down. You do not argue with Father, you do not ask him needless questions, you never ever disobey. Those three simple mantras had been the creed by which young Gil had lived until that fateful moment. The memory itself was a blur, a mere droplet in the ocean of memories accumulated during his life. The scene itself could have been easily changed with any of the vague memories he had of interacting with his father.

A spacious room drowned in a permanent half-twilight. The fire in the fireplace behind the imposing figure of his father always raging, the flames peeking from the edges of the man's darkened silhouette as if he had a hellish aura engulfing him. Not the golden sword mounted above the mantle-piece, its rubies flickering like dozens of fiendish eyes as they reflected the light scorching embers, had scared the young boy. Nor had the other numerous bladed weapons, an impressive collection gathered from far and wide had been of anything more than of passing interest to him.

No, it had always been his father- or rather that shadowy giant with the tongues of the flames flickering around his frame, who had always terrified the one known as the Golden King when he had been little.

Their interaction hadn't been that of father and son or even that of a teacher and a student. It had been the peculiar bond between a King and his successor that had connected them. Gil was a King both in name and calling, his had been the duty of inheriting his father's modern kingdom. Not an honor, not a family right, not a legacy- merely a duty. The child known as Gil King had been considered merely an extension to his predecessor. One to bear the crown the way he was molded, his only inheritance being continuing his father's will after the earthly body of the elder King had perished.

For all intents and purposes, the young prince was but a puppet. An empty shell of meat and bones, connected to that scary man only through the bond of blood. A shell meant to be filled with the spiritual essence of the elder King, the essence of his teachings, and left to continue the silent crusades that the Kings had waged for generations in the grim modern world.

And yet, even though the bonds of blood had sometimes felt like shackles to him, the boy had endured. He had accepted his role, mostly because there had been no other for him. From the moment he had being conceived, he had been merely another piece in the old King's game. A kingly piece, yes, but even the pawn that was meant to be promoted was still a pawn like any other. But the boy with the crimson eyes, who knew nothing of a parent's caress, had taken all those lessons to heart. The existence of a pawn was the only existence he had known.

And so, when his father had summoned him to his study and imparted those infallible words of wisdom to him, Gil had engraved this new mantra inside his heart. Indeed, there was no recollection of the scene itself in his memories, but the words still rang inside his mind, as clear as crystal.

That night the old King had patted his head before sending the boy out of his study. A rather painful gesture that had nearly brought tears to the boy's eyes- that hand had been way more used to crushing others' heads instead of caressing them. But he had bit his lips and swallowed back the tears of pain. The sensation of nearly getting his skull dented was Gil King's first and last memory of that man showing any affection to him.

And as the years rolled by and the boy grew, that was the only rule which he abided by. The other inhabitants of this world were nothing but competitors. Measuring sticks meant to challenge his abilities, both in strength and mind. The private instructors hired to teach him weren't merely meant to impart their knowledge on him- they were just the checkpoints for a level of knowledge he had to surpass. The fencing teacher wasn't merely an instructor- he was an enemy, whom Gil had to dispose of, following his own rules of conduct and with merely a blunt rapier- to prove that he could beat him at his own game. Even those piano lessons during the rainy Saturday afternoons, a skill he thought was more fitting of a girl than the future King, were an obstacle he had to overcome. The scatterbrained pianist, a cheerful virtuoso that young Gil had hated with all his might for the man's constant sunny attitude, was meant to be used as the boy's training wheels as he gained proficiency with that skill.

With every challenge beaten, with each skill learned, two more obstacles took their places. And so the cycle continued, winter after winter, until Gil finally reached that age when he was supposed to make his debut to the high-class public. His father hadn't reminded him of the possible repercussions. After all, his son had been taught long ago that failure merely wasn't an option. He was a King. A King couldn't make a mistake- if Gil actually did, the blunder wasn't made by a King. Because, after all, no King ever made any blunders. Armed with this foolproof philosophy the golden-haired teen had marched bravely into the den of the waiting beasts.

His head had been held high, his crimson eyes looking at them from above the way one King should look at his followers. They may have considered themselves noble, be it because of birthright or money, but he was leagues above them merely because of his blood. Or rather, he was allowed to be of this blood because he was the one fit to be the next King. Unlike the hungry beasts hiding in the flesh of humans circling around him and waiting for him to slip, he never considered the smirk that had played on his lips as a sign of hubris. It was just something natural, merely a telltale sign for an outsider to see who was the golden-maned lion among the pack of frothing mangy hyenas.

Even though he could have never passed off as an adult, not just yet, Father had saddled him with plenty of new tasks. The training wheels were off and the boy had to succeed in the world of business, backstabbing and secretly-spilled blood before he could be allowed to call himself a man. But to Gil that little rite of passage was like merely going through the motions one made before falling asleep. No matter how much time it would take, for him it was already a fact. Like how one would always fall asleep sooner or later, that was how the success of Gil King was something inevitable. The effect was treated like it had already happened- and so Gil just went with the rite to show the motions that caused this effect to his father and the world.

Like the snowy winters of his childhood, days spent in a golden cage as the blizzards had roared outside, so had his teenage years disappeared in a flurry of leaves colored in the signature palette of Autumn, as one fall after another had passed by.

The man had summoned him again. And the son had obliged, as always. But this time the aura of the flames was quickly dismissed as stray embers, the room wasn't that dark anymore and for reasons unknown, even the silhouette of the giant before him wasn't shadowed anymore. Or rather, traces of the imposing shadow were still there- but the giant was somehow missing, the golden-haired young man now towering above the old man confined to the president chair.

Only the strong have the right to survive.

But he dismissed the thought, chased it away out of his mind with the strength of the first three mantras that a crimson-eyed little boy had created so long ago. The old man didn't seem to notice the malicious light in his son's eyes. He had only given his orders, as loud and clear as always.

Find a wife. The future King needs to secure an heir of his own.

Gil judged it as a reasonable task. His own father was the living proof that time didn't wait for anyone. And so he began his search for a woman worthy to bear the child of a King in her womb. The initial stages weren't even worthy of being called difficult. Countless were the ones who wanted to be connected to the line of Kings and even though the majority were even beneath whatever stuck to Gil's shoe as he walked down the street, some of the families were qualified enough. It wasn't noble blood that he searched for. The blood of Kings was pure and regal enough to chase away any other from the veins of his future child. No, the usefulness of his future relatives was the one thing he considered. Money, power and their position in the food chain of the city of sins. But even when a family fit all the requirements, each time he met a plausible fiancée, he found a reason to reconsider.

The ones who draped themselves around his neck he chalked off as potentially unfaithful. The ones that were the epitome of the perfect, demure wife, he claimed to be too spineless to be worthy to bear a King's child. For every woman he found a reason not to be his wife. Why precisely, Gil couldn't understand for the life of his, but even when his father flew in a fit of rage as his son fell behind schedule more and more, Gil strangely didn't find himself bothered.

He met her in spring, when the flowers blossomed and all life began anew.

Gil was just walking down the street, the crowd of pedestrians parting before him like the Red Sea before Moses. He found nothing strange in it. That was how things were supposed to be and so the golden-haired man frequently indulged in short walks around town during spring. It was one of the few ways anyone could accuse him of spending time doing nothing but he certainly doubted there was anyone in this world aside from the old man cooped up in that study who would there to.

So it was somewhat understanding that she was like lightning striking from the clear skies to him.

As he was calming strolling, a surprising collision stopped him in his tracks. A young woman, one dressed in ragged clothes and currently trying to stand up from where she had fallen on the ground amidst a bunch of scattered groceries, seemed to be the cause of his momentary discomfort. Gil never bothered to look where he was going more than necessary. After all he was a King and the others were supposed to just stand aside and wait for him to pass. And yet he wasn't angry, fully understanding that unlike him the ordinary people made mistakes frequently. Surely, she must have tripped when trying to get out of his way and had involuntarily bumped into him. Indeed, Gil was sure that it was only matter of time until the young woman fretfully excused herself.

What he didn't expect was getting yelled at to watch where he was going and getting punched square in the face. After the initial shock at the sheer absurdity of the situation, with a now broken nose bleeding all over his new and expensive suit, Gil had finally gotten a clear look of the woman. Her old clothes truly were like rags put on a tiny doll. Her body was so lithe and slender, the golden-eyed man could only wander how she hadn't gotten broken when she had fallen, much less how could she possibly send a grown man to the ground with only one hit. Her waist-long hair was wild and unkempt and yet he found himself admiring some natural beauty in the long mane of light green color. And the pair of eyes that looked at him, at him- the one and only future King, mockingly from above, shone with bright determination that he had never encountered before in his life.

Only the strong have the right to survive.

And was there anyone stronger than the one who dared raise a hand against a King and still be willing to look him in the eyes so challengingly? At that moment, as he lay down on the ground and blood poured inside his mouth from his rapidly-swelling nose, Gil King fell in love more madly than anyone else.

And while he had certainly expected a challenge, hell, he had welcomed it even, Gil was just about ready to give up several times. His name she had shrugged off as it was nothing. His expensive gifts had been thrown back at his face. Even his threats had been of no use. But each and every time he thought of giving up, those bright eyes shone in his mind's eye. And so, be it through sheer determination or he had turned annoying enough for her to give up just to have some peace, he won.

Her name had been a strange one- Enkidu. But such trivialities were of no concern to him when he could taste her lips or feel her warm skin as he trialed his fingers around it. It was on an afternoon at the end of spring, when the cheery petals finally fell off completely and a thick green shroud engulfed the trees in their absence, that she told him the strangest of things.

The strong are strong because they have the duty to protect the weak. Any other strength is meaningless.

He laughed off her words. She called him a fool. But for some unfathomable reason he had trouble falling asleep that night.

Alas, no dream was meant to last forever. His father may have spent the majority of his time on his throne behind the mahogany desk, but that didn't mean that he had no eyes and ears observing the outside world. And while Gil knew it was inevitable for his father to learn of their relationship, he had never expected that outcome. After all, Enkidu had been strong, the epitome of the creed of the Kings and one surely possessing the right to survive. His father had told him that she was not worthy of being the consort to a King. His men had given her a treatment worthy of a lowborn whore like her before finishing her off, his father had said.

And as Gil had listened, as still as ever, the statue symbolizing the power of the King over his child- the marble encasing him had finally cracked. It was then that realization had struck him. Father, the giant with the fiery aura from the memories of his childhood, had been right.

Only the strong have the right to survive.

The ultimate truth. And the old balding man slumped in the King's throne was undeserving to live by his own words. Or rather, the old coot sitting in another's throne, the lunatic who had grown too proud and dependent on his family's blood, wasn't Gil's father anymore. He was just an imposter. A failure. A weakling. Enkidu's murderer, who hadn't even bothered to dirty his own hands.

"Only the strong have the right to survive. And only the strong have the right to bear the name and title of the King."

Gil's words had lingered inside the twilight of the room until the old coot had agreed with a hoarse barking laugh. His son's next words, however, brought an end to his annoying laughter.

"But there is one very important fact that you are missing. If only the strong can bear that title then neither name nor title can be inherited through blood. The right to be King, Father, the right of the strong… it's not inherited. It's earned."

The King is dead. Long live the King.

Gil thought of it as a form of poetic justice when those words were the first that sprang to mind as he ran the golden blade through the old man's useless body. It was also ironic that his last conversation with the man had been the longest exchange of words in their whole lives.

Enkidu's spring of dreams soon passed away as well, letting the scorching heat of the summer to take its place. And Gil's kingdom had only grown, thriving under a King who ruled by strength and not by his family name alone. He had decided by then, that no woman other than Enkidu in this world was fit to be his wife and that any heir sired through blood would've been useless to him as well. No, when the right time came, his heir would show himself to the King- one strong enough to earn the position in the future.

But as the golden sun shone brightly from above, Gil found himself facing a challenge to his kingdom each and every day. He was a man like a bear that one, his overall frame reminding Gil of a wardrobe and his shaggy red hair and beard of the hide of some rare kind of ginger grizzly bear. Alexander was a Commissioner unlike any other- and Gil soon found the older man swatting away one defense after another as he dug deeply into the events that usually happened behind the scenes. Gil had raised an eyebrow when Alexander had turned down all bribes. He had found it positively mind-boggling when the bear of a man had dug even deeper, raving to uncover whatever conspiracies Gil was hiding, not even bothered by what a man as powerful as the King could do to him. But when the hulking man, so ridiculously looking in that cheap suit that barely contained his bear-like frame, had charged straight into his office and had accused Gil of murder and organized crime, all the golden-haired man could do was burst out laughing.

A sincere and honest laugh that soon was joined by the hoarse roar-like laughter of Alexander. The older man laughed off the King's power like it was nothing.

The strong are strong because they have the duty to protect the weak. Any other strength is meaningless.

Alexander's words had stung, bringing back memories of stolen moments spent beneath the blooming cherry trees, and the sensation of his fingers playing with her viridian hair.

Gil had then accepted the man's challenge fully. And so began the game of cat and mouse, the 'cat' ridiculously underpowered compared to his kingly opponent and yet somehow always battering through. And yet when Gil had descended down from his tower to personally threaten the hulking man, Alexander just shoved a cheap beer inside his hand and introduced him to his 'son'. The kid wasn't anything like his adoptive father. He was frail, meek, his black hair always formed a veil that hid his scared eyes and the darn brat looked prone to crying as well. Waver was obviously the Commissioner's biggest weakness. Gil ordered that whoever of his men was foolish enough to even touch the kid was going to have a close encounter of the third kind with whatever marine fauna inhabited the sea floor in the harbor.

But eventually the game came to an end. The chaser ended up dying and Gil found himself strangely melancholic. Boredom filled his days until one bright and cheerful summer morning Waver had stopped him on the street, their meeting nothing but a coincidence, and had told him that he was going to be the one to put him behind bars one day. Gil had asked the kid why he wasn't scared of getting killed. Waver had promptly answered that he couldn't die because he had promised Alexander to live.

Gil spent his days in expectation from then on, waiting for the kid to finally grow up and provide him the challenge which his 'father' had given him before he had died.

Eventually, the King himself grew disgusted with his own Kingdom. The lowest thugs prowling the dark streets by night fed only upon the crippled and the weak, frequently resorting to tactics that could've been summed up with 'five armed men against women and children'. The businessmen of the city of sins leeched off one another and the ones that were supposed to rule by the right of strength had turned equally enamored with their own blood, just like Gil's useless father. And so he staged a play, a marvelous game, fitting to be observed by the King from his high tower as he watched his pieces move across the board. He was sure that it was going to be fun guessing who was going to emerge the winner.

The main players were two men both so different, yet so similar. Love and revenge were the driving factors of Kiritsugu Emiya and Kirei Kotomine. But they had chosen startlingly different ways of achieving their goals. And because no game would have been fun without a surprise guest, Gil had 'groomed' young Shirou to fit the role of the third player. It had been nothing actually incriminating. Pull a few strings here and there, introduce him to Kotomine on coincidence, have some deep meaningful conversations with the boy that could be interpreted in several ways…

Just like every other piece on the board, Gil had no direct connection to the goal and the actions. All he had done was suggest, help out in an innocent way here and there and provide some information to speed things up.

Against all his expectations, not Waver but some unknown mangy mutt had turned out to be the fourth player. And while Lancer had fit his role surprisingly well, Gil couldn't help himself but hate the man. Unlike Alexander, who had been larger than life so to speak, Lancer's goal had been simple. Close-minded. One mirroring those of all other players. Unlike Alexander, who would've seen the bigger picture and tackled the challenge from all sides, Lancer had focused merely on the other players. On love and revenge. Still, the end result was satisfying enough.

And Gil decided to leave the mutt alone because, after all, only the strong have the right to survive.

This particular game, while entertaining, had ended without singling out someone worthy to challenge the King. But he was willing to wait, until the end of time if he had to. The position of the King was to be earned and not inherited. And so, until someone worthy of the golden crown came along or there was an opponent strong enough to dethrone him, Gil was going to wait.

A golden King ruling this city of sins from his golden tower, for times eternal if he had to.