The light from the circle was blinding, and it emphasized the dark shadow that rose from within. A figure appeared, armored and terrifying, like a nightmare from the darkest of fairytales made real. A woman, her hair golden, her skin pale as death, but her eyes alight with ferocity. She swept into the room, took one swing like a Hitchcockian villain, and the lance-wielding attacker was sent flying out of the shed.
Shirou stared up at his savior, the woman's armor gleaming iridescently in the faint light from the moon outside.
"Servant, Saber, here as summoned," she said in a voice full of barely-restrained wrath, tense with the energy of battle. "I ask, little boy, are you my Master?"
Unable to reply to the horrible beauty, Shirou could only look on helplessly.
The woman clicked her tongue. "How unfortunate."
"Saber, don't! Don't kill her!"
The terrible swordswoman paused mid-swing, looking up and back at her Master. The golden eyes seemed even more enraged at the command. "Surely, you jest. We must wipe out all competition if we are to win."
"I don't want you wiping out anyone! I don't even know what the hell is going on! And I don't want you killing anyone until I get everything straightened ou—Tohsaka?"
The figure beneath the shadowy blade calmly smiled. "Well, Servant Saber, are you going to disobey your Master when he has made such a plea? Especially when I can help explain things, perhaps."
Saber gave a noise of disapproval and jabbed the weapon down, halting mere millimeters from Rin Tohsaka's throat. "Master," Saber said, glaring back over her shoulder, "Hurry up and pump this one of information so I may yet kill her for her insolence." A twisted sneer crept onto her lips. "Or you could pump her for information until she keels over on her own. That would be a suitable punishment."
"Saber!" Shirou rounded on the blond and grabbed her by the shoulders, swinging her to face him and away from Rin. "Don't talk about things like that! I'm not that kind of person! Whatever is going on, we're doing this without needless bloodshed or violence, got it?"
Saber stared in shock at the boy, eyes wide, unable to comprehend how anyone would talk like that to her. When she had a grasp of her emotions, her eyes narrowed and she shoved Shirou's hands away. "How dare you speak to me like that. Well, fine, have what you will with this enemy Master. I will wait until she has you twisted into near-death and then see what it is you wish to do with her."
The swordswoman vaulted the surround wall, leaving Shirou and Rin behind. Shirou watched her go, then caught sight of the man in red, once again corporeal, staring after Saber with widened eyes. He seemed to catch himself when he noticed Shirou's gaze and quickly turned as if examining further down the road.
"So, Emiya-kun," Rin Tohsaka said, standing and brushing herself off with the same nonchalant indifference as if they had not just been staring down a sword glowing with eldritch energy, "Invite me inside?"
The great beast towered over them, a goliath of ages long past, and the tiny girl at his feet only accentuated his great size.
"Get them, Berserker."
With a roar that could have been heard for miles, the giant charged the trio.
"Wha—Saber!" Shirou sputtered as the dark knight shoved him out of the way and moved in to meet her foe head-on.
The black sword and the stone axe clashed with the sound of thunder, and the force of the blow was enough to throw Shirou right off his feet. He rolled along the ground and tried to keep his attention on the battle before him; Rin landed next to him, having managed to stay on her feet, crouching and shading her eyes from the gale-force winds. They both watched as the black-clad woman held her ground, dug her feet in, and somehow, shoved with force beyond such a body and sent the giant rocking back on his heels.
"She…pushed him back?" Rin gasped.
Even with Saber's back turned, Shirou could imagine the cool little smile she gave before charging in after her off-balanced opponent—
Who swiftly disappeared.
Shirou realized it was not actual invisibility or teleportation only belatedly—when Berserker appeared to Saber's flank and swung right over her head, he came to the conclusion that the giant had merely moved so fast his eyes could not track it. It broke his mind to try and comprehend something so large and ungainly-looking moving faster than the images could process.
The swing was so fast and heavy that the wind following in its wake brought Saber to her knees; the second strike was blocked by her sword, but swept her right up into the air and into the lamp post across the street. The device bent awkwardly and Saber staggered right up, no longer with a pleased aura.
Shirou could not believe his eyes so many times over. First, that Saber was somehow strong enough to repel that giant. Second, the giant moving faster than he could see. And now, that even misses from the giant were enough to—
Blood splattered the ground at Saber's feet.
The silver-haired girl up the street merely giggled, and that gave Shirou a greater sense of unreality, the bloody battle countered by the angelic sound. "Your Saber is strong, onii-chan, but not as strong as my Berserker."
Shirou was only distantly aware of Rin grabbing his wrist, and only then did he realize he was on his feet and ready to charge in after Saber. The swordswoman, dark and dangerous as she put out, had something about her that Shirou felt he could not leave alone…
And as she stood there, bleeding, leaning on the pulsing black sword like a shadowy crutch, he felt the loneliness of that image, a danger greater than the swords being swung about. A danger that Shirou could not wrap his mind around or give a name, but that he realized—
She had lived with for a long time.
"Finish her, Berserker!"
The monster howled, and perhaps the faint flinch from that caused Rin's hand to loosen momentarily; Shirou tore himself from her grip and made for Saber.
A stone blade came down.
Shirou body-checked the girl in black, just in time to feel his spine severed by the force of the goliath's might.
She was inhuman.
He wasn't sure how she could harden her heart like she did. Destroying her own villages to protect others. Sacrificing loved ones to keep herself perfect in the eyes of those that depended on her. Killing so that others may survive.
She was inhuman, and she knew it.
With every thrust of the blade, with every judgment passed, with every life held in her hands, it was clear.
She was no longer a part of this world, but above it.
And she embraced that.
Even if it meant sacrificing the soul of the human girl she once was.
The Sleeping Arrangements
"You're not sleeping in here, and that's final!"
The woman glared at him, and despite their height difference, it made Shirou feel very small. He thought for a moment he was a wilting plant.
"Master," the girl in black said, "You charged in pointlessly and stupidly to save a life that did not need saving. You made it out because the gods pity fools. I do not pity them. I do not suffer them." Her eyes narrowed. "I will sleep in your room, next to you, so you do not leave my sensory range in any fashion, or I will maim your legs so you cannot leave to do something foolish at all. The choice is yours."
Shirou coughed, eyes darting to and fro, sweat forming on the back of his neck. "Er…um…"
The Servant reached out as if to materialize her black sword—
"Alright, alright, alright! Let me drag the futon in here…geez…"
Of course, he spent the remainder of that night fidgeting, unable to calm down with a woman so close. Even though he rolled to face away, he was certain she would look at his back every now and again, as if he would jump up and leave if not checked up on every few moments. Finally, after he was certain she had been staring long and hard at him, he swung around with a rebuke on his lips, only to find her calmly on her back, eyes closed, the rise and fall of her chest steady.
Somehow, very small and vulnerable, even if she slept at the ready.
"Tch, idiot," Shirou muttered. He was not sure to whom he was referring to, though.
"So," Shirou edged into it, "how does it taste?"
"Terrible," Saber said, blankly scooping up rice. "You are considered a good cook? How unfortunate for your nation."
It was a greater blow than Berserker had lain upon him.
The Battle (for School [Ends in a Pyrrhic Victory])
"No, absolutely not, you're not coming with me to school!"
The unfortunate situation was Saber stood above him now, his feet already in the genkan to start to school, she still in the hallway, arms crossed, face crossed. She gave him a hard stare with eyes that shone just a little brighter than his. "I told you last night, you are not leaving to where I cannot see you. Either you are staying here, or I am coming along."
Shirou was determined not to lose this time, having come up with a plan while he was still smarting over breakfast. "I have the Command Seal. If something happens, I can call you with it, right?"
"That is assuming your arm is still attached to your body," Saber said.
He sighed. "I'll be sure to use it if I encounter another Servant. Tohsaka will be at school too, and we'll back each other up otherwise."
"Or she will attempt to steal your Seals while your guard is down so that she may have me as a Servant." There was this underlying statement, not vocalized, that came from the faint smirk on Saber's lips. One that said: because, after all, I'm the strongest Servant, and much more useful than that white-haired fop that stood around uselessly staring at her all the time. Not that she could blame Archer; she was worthy of admiration and envy, of course.
"Tohsaka wouldn't do that." Shirou sighed. The clock was ticking, and he was certain that Tohsaka would raise hell if he didn't show his face at school in a prompt manner like they had planned. "Look, I'll compromise with you. I can't take you into the school grounds, but if we hurry up and find a location where you can sit around outside without being conspicuous, would that be enough?"
Saber regarded him carefully, like one might in scrutinizing a statement for a logical trap. Her finger tapped along her elbow momentarily, then shot out to point directly at his face. "Stop making it sound like I am merely some chore for you to accomplish, you commoner."
His head bent, Shirou fussed with his hair, desperately wanting to scream in frustration. He was certain not even Fuji-nee had ever made him feel so trapped before, made him feel like all of his words just hit a stone wall before they ever managed to reach this person's earlobes. Growling, he reached out and caught her wrist, pulling her along. "Just, shut up and come on, okay?"
It was like trying to grab hold of a brick wall and pulling it along with him down the street. Shirou almost felt like his arm dislocated from its shoulder, the level of resistance Saber had in being dragged along. He stumbled back to her and met her golden gaze, eyes watching him dully. "You're a moron," she said.
"Please, Saber, I need to go to school. Tohsaka will kill me if I don't!"
"I will kill you if you do."
Shirou groaned, his mind whirling. He thought at first to bribe the woman with the feature that seemed to be on her mind the most: food. Though Saber professed to hate his cooking, she certainly ate a lot. That, however, was trashed when he realized she would just demand he stay at the house and cook from there. He thought of asking her to wait for lunch outside the school grounds and he would take her to a restaurant, but the school was much too far from any good eating location to be there and back in a timely manner. Too, Tohsaka would then murder him for showing up but not meeting with her to strategize—
Like he had been electrocuted, Shirou shot up in place. He said, "Tohsaka wants to strategize about our team-up for the war. We'll probably do so during lunch. If you wait outside until class is in session, then leap to the roof, I'll have her meet us there for lunch. That way, we can all participate together. How about that?"
Her eyes narrowed again, though this time she was the one to sigh. "You absolutely must go to school."
Shirou nodded. "Absolutely. At least for now." He hoped the sweat he felt forming on his forehead was not as apparent as he thought it was. Just staring her down felt like a battle itself—
"Fine. Show me the way."
The tension in Shirou's shoulders relented, though he tried to keep the relief from his face; Saber was certain to give him more grief if he did. Realizing he had actually yet to let go of her wrist, he pulled again, this time with Saber relenting and following after.
"But we will be telling Rin that tomorrow, you will be staying in," Saber said.
Another clash of steel. A swirl of black and the faint hiss of energy, like boiling water, and Saber set herself in for the killing strike.
And the Servant before her responded with a stance, an odd stance, his shoulders squared and his sword poised like a cobra's head.
The moment the words left his mouth, Saber understood that to not completely commit herself to avoiding the strike completely would be her doom. She flung herself back down the stairs, rolling along her shoulders multiple times, her armored knees eventually finding purchase. The metal grated against the stone steps and she clawed her way upright, her sword still in hand, ready for a follow-up that did not come.
"Quite an impressive decision, Saber," Assassin said, his tone both awed and amused at the same time. He looked down from his place on the stairs, his eyes never once leaving hers, his sword slowly drawing back like a serpent reeling in from a lunge. "Any other swordsman would have thought to block my blade, as fragile as it is. Your decision to retreat is one of great instinct and valor."
"You can save your flattery for your birds." Saber raised herself, then her sword. "If cutting a swallow from the air has earned you the status of a hero, I will show you what it means to be a ruler."
The black energy that radiated from her formed and swirled around the sword in her hands. It howled like a beast in the wind, deep and bone-rattling, like the dragons that were thought to have once populated this very temple—
The sound of Shirou's voice did nothing to halt the swordswoman, the energy in her blade growing, growing, until it seemed as if the sword could reach the heavens—
"Saber, sheath your sword," Assassin said, calmly. "We have a visitor."
Saber, too, had sensed it, had carefully kept watch from the corner of her eye: Rider, the Servant of Matou, stalking them from the shadows, wanting a glimpse of her technique. Saber briefly considered the situation, considered bringing death down upon this swordsman regardless. Damn the cowardly woman and her slinking, it would not matter if she saw this power, it would not help her—
But her own Master was now here, vulnerable, and the cowardly types always went for such tactics.
The energy in Saber's weapon receded, her sword no longer taking on the unnatural glow. She said, "Cut all the birds you wish, master of the gate. When next we meet, I will show you that I reign over the very skies they soar through."
Assassin bowed his head faintly. "I will be waiting, then."
Saber turned, dismissing her armor, her dress fluttering out in the wake of her disarmament. She said over her shoulder, "To the one lurking in the darkness, I would recommend you go return to the side of that spineless Master of yours, before I beat you there."
There was no response, and Saber seemed to pay no further mind to the possible dangers beyond the stairs. Instead, she centered her gaze upon her Master, meeting his fuming eyes with her own. "What? Must I remind you I am a warrior and this is a war? Must I berate you for your own cowardice?"
Shirou growled, "Must I remind you that we decided not to attack, and charging off on your own without even consulting me is the more cowardly decision?"
Saber did not respond immediately, instead meeting his fierce look with a slight smirk. She glanced over her shoulder, though the Servant at the gate had disappeared and she could no longer sense the presence of Rider. "Perhaps." She waved him after her as she descended the stairs. "Perhaps. So then, let us return, since it seems there is nothing further to be accomplished here tonight. You can have your little victory, my Master, if it makes you feel better."
Shirou pinched the bridge of his nose as he followed. He did not feel better at all.
She stood alone, a bastion of power and strength.
Shirou could see it, even if it was from her eyes. The wind to her face, the earth beneath her feet, the horizon to the distance. Even the disparity in their height was offset by her bearing, the straightness of her back, the way her heels dug into the grass and soil, her blade before her.
She stood alone.
Her allies to her back, her enemies before her. Vast numbers on either side, endless lives, weapons pointed in every direction around her.
She stood alone.
A bastion of power, of strength.
But Shirou, who knew well the difference between the vitality of life and the silence of death, could only feel the latter within, an echo of his own existence.
And he knew, without anything else, without anything more to be explained, that it was wrong.
She stood alone, empty, and…
The breath was kicked right out of Shirou's lungs as she appeared, one arm clotheslining him in the sternum and snapping his head around enough for whiplash. He coughed as they landed at the foot of the building, Saber dropping him unceremoniously to the ground.
"You fool, I told you this would happen," Saber said, glaring down at him.
Shirou pulled himself back up to his feet, despite the wound to his arm and leg. His eyes were not even with his Servant, but up at the window he had fallen from, the ones he needed to stop beyond. "You can gloat later; we're going to stop them now."
Despite herself, Saber allowed a faint smirk at his words. At least he had his priorities straight. "Then keep up, Shirou." She took off for the entrance, the stairway already known—she had carefully mapped the location out in her mind earlier at their meetings with Rin Tohsaka in the event of a battle. She was pleased to hear Shirou chasing after her, his injuries of little concern. It pleased her to know that, despite his stupidity when it came to estimating his own ability, her Master had no lack in the determination and courage areas.
It was doubly apparent to her once they were before Rider and her Master, a boy Shirou's age. The Master dropped back three steps at her appearance and seemed significantly less resolved than her Shirou Emiya.
"Shinji!" Shirou shouted at the boy who stood in front of a classroom entry, "Give it up!"
"Like hell," Shinji Matou shouted back. "Rider!"
The visored woman darted down the distance, her nail-like dagger thrusting for Saber's jugular—
Saber absently blocked the attack with her sword in one hand, then casually backhanded Rider with her free gauntleted fist.
For a brief moment, even with the visor protecting a view of her eyes, Rider looked absolutely shocked.
"Shirou, I suggest you go do the same to that cockroach of a Master," Saber said.
Recovering from the irreverent strike, Rider jabbed with her other blade and Saber moved aside, deflecting both the strike and blocking an easy path to Shirou. The redhead took that moment to pass the dueling Servants, charging in after Shinji.
The Noble Phantasm
Glaring back at her Master, Saber could only curse her luck. "You moron! Why must you always stand in my way?" The idiot, she left him downstairs for a reason: so he would not get in her way once again! Now, he would perish if Rider's Noble Phantasm came down upon them. Now, her route to a simple victory was thrown to the dogs.
"Saber!" he shouted, glancing up at the shining star careening down at them from above, then back to her, his eyes wild and determined.
The enemy Master, that annoying flea of a boy was laughing at them, and Saber briefly could not help but consider planting herself right next to that voice, just to see the absolute horror in his face and shut him up for good. But in her consideration, she peered at her Master's face, the look of concern—not for himself, but for everyone else on this rooftop—and she felt the weight instead of her responsibilities. Always her responsibilities. She could not deny that, if nothing else, that her boy was different than the other, that this Shirou Emiya understood the radiance of a warrior even if he was oblivious to the fact that he himself was incapable of it.
"Fine." Swinging her blade to one side, she set herself for Rider's charge. "Fine then. A true warrior must prove through diversity, then? Fine! Fine!"
The swirling winds, the gale force screamed past them, past Saber, past Shirou and the hidden Shinji. Then the air stood still, stood absolutely stagnant, as if cowed by the presence—
Blacklight. It cast energy, perceivable and deep, but felt like the polar opposite of the white star bearing down from the heavens. The violet trim of her blackened armor glowed, and for a moment, it was as if the romance of the midnight sky and the unknown beyond sang with the mysteries in Saber's hands.
The truest, darkest, most glorious mystery of the warrior, of one who took life, of one who lived and died by the sword.
And as was the truth of the world, darkness claimed even the greatest of lights.
"I'm fine," Saber said, still laid out on the futon. "You, on the other hand, I'm not so sure. I ask again, what kind of brilliant stupidity formed in that tiny thing you call a brain, to come up after me in such a fashion? It is like you wish to die—"
"That's not it at all," Shirou said, sighing, slapping his knees as he sat down next to her. "I just didn't want you to go up there alone."
She snorted. "That is the point of this war. I am your sword."
"That's not what I mean either." Shirou looked away. With each night, he glimpsed more and more of her life, and each time, he could only think of one thing. "You're always alone. I hate that. I don't want that for you."
A scowl marred her face. "What you want, and what I want, are two very different things."
The words of the man in red halted the boy, despite the inherent danger as the giant Servant loomed just beyond. Shirou stared back at Tohsaka's Archer, his shoulders squared in the face of his enemy.
"If you want to save that woman, you had better be prepared to see yourself fail."
Shirou glared as if his vision could pierce the man's black armor and reach to that cold heart beneath. "I'm not going to fail."
"She will be your greatest obstacle, then. She will be determined to make you fail."
Even though the giant took a step forward, seemed ready to charge in on them and kill them both with one swing, Shirou could not help but square his own shoulders at Archer's words. "I'm not backing down."
The Servant in red seemed to sigh, faintly, his shoulders registering the faintest of motion. "Then you had better do it. If she threatens to defeat you, you will have to do better. Imagine that which is better than she is, better than you are."
Berserker roared. Paired scimitars were "drawn." Shirou made for the exit, the sound of battle erupting from behind him.
The Prana Exchange
"So, there's one way to give her the prana she needs," Rin said, matter-of-factly. "Sleep with her. You're a guy and she's a girl, so it makes it that much easier."
"W-wh-wh-whaaaat?" Shirou immediately glanced to his Servant, feeling a hot-to-the-touch blush shooting up into his ears.
The woman stared up at him with those intense golden eyes, ones now bearing down on him with anger. "What kind of reaction is that? How annoying." She smirked, giving him a look from head to toe. "Could it be my Master prefers men?"
"NO!" Shirou shouted, louder than necessary, louder than Rin apparently had tolerance for, as she scrunched her face up in a flinch. "I mean, no, that's not it at all—"
The smirk turned to a frown, then crept somehow closer to the expression of rage that painted her face amidst battle occasionally. "Then it is me?" She moved up to him, her muscles tense, as if ready to strike. "Would my Master be such an idiot as to deny this opportunity for me, a King, to make him a man?"
"This isn't about that, you—"
Words halted when Rin put her foot up to Saber's rear and shoved the Servant into Shirou, who promptly stumbled back, his legs hitting the mattress, toppling them both over. Saber landed atop him, and for the first time, he could feel the way her breath was heavy and sweat formed on the back of her neck. Even as she glared up at him, he knew that she was not her usual self, on her last legs.
"Listen, we don't have time to argue about this," Rin said. "Saber isn't willing to be my Servant, so this is how it is." The girl moved up and Shirou could feel her plant a knee in the space between his legs on the mattress.
Shirou groaned. As if having sex itself wasn't nerve-wracking enough. Now he was doing it both under pressure, and with another person present for critique. He sat up as best as he could and met his Servant's pale eyes. "Saber?"
"Oh just do me you incompetent simp." Without preamble, the Servant's hands went to her skirt, pulling the material up at her waist and exposing the single barrier beneath, a lacy thing that was both fitting considering her normal attire, but also quite scandalous to the teenagers.
Nearly choking on his own tongue, Shirou managed, "Oh—"
"…Wow," came the breathless follow-up from Rin.
"Hurry it up," Saber demanded. "Not that I expect any less." Another faint smirk.
Shirou heard none of it, his eyes locked on her exposed skin. He reached up to curl his hands instinctively around her waist, his fingers digging into flesh, sliding along the smooth arch until they encountered the lace frill that covered her. He slipped fingers just beneath the edges, then groaned when Rin's hands moved over his, urging Saber's hips closer to him. The smaller woman complied and Shirou was once again met with her body flush to his.
"Shirou, you should really kiss the girl you're about to love," Rin whispered, leaning over Saber's shoulder. "Like this," she added, before pressing her lips to Saber's skin, just below the chin.
A laugh rose from Saber's throat. "As if we had time for such little foreplays—"
The boy leaned forward abruptly, as if a starved animal devouring a meal, his lips taking possession of Saber's. The woman let out a surprised hum into his mouth even as her tongue met his, quickly, more responsive than Shirou thought she would have been. Even as his breath started to pick up, he could feel hers play out across his cheek, and he was certain that this alone would have knocked him flat in any other situation.
They parted, panting, both of them, though Saber's hunger apparently was left wanting, and she crawled her lips along his chin to his neck, her tongue swiping like a brush against his skin. Even as Shirou gasped aloud, Rin could not help but be caught up in the motion, the witch leaning further into Saber's back to reach in for her own kiss. The girly gasp that accompanied the touch of her lips was in contrast to the near-guttural moan from Saber as Rin pressed her deeper into the hardness still beneath Shirou's clothing.
Saber glared when Shirou put his hands on her shoulders and pushed her away, reaching up to undo the clasp at her neck. At the same time, Rin pulled her back at the waist, then with the snap of release, pulled the dress down to expose the curves of Saber's breasts. Shirou leaned down to drift his lips along the Servant's collarbone as Rin's fingers danced along the exposed skin up to the peaks of her chest. The glare abated and was replaced by lulling eyelids, a soundless sigh attempting to escape Saber's open mouth.
"Shirou," Rin said, "turn Saber around this way…"
All three of them wobbled in place as Shirou moved Saber briefly off of his lap, pushing one shoulder toward Rin, who pulled the golden haired woman to her briefly, their lips meeting in a helplessly wanton urge.
Shirou inwardly groaned as he watched them kiss, unable to tear his eyes from the sight, nor tear any further brainpower to functions beyond the bare necessities. Rin withdrew, then reached over to grab for the waist of Shirou's pants, and Saber's hands were not far behind the moment the Servant followed the train of thought.
"R-Rin," Saber stuttered, the faintest lapse in that stoic mask.
Rin responded by pushing Saber to back into Shirou, halfway falling back into his exposed lap; both Master and Servant gasped as his length moved up between her legs and along her body. The witch then knelt before them and her tongue began moving between them both, first licking up Shirou's cock before flicking up against Saber's clit.
"T-Tohsaka," Shirou tone mirrored Saber's.
"I never thought this sort of thing would happen," Rin muttered, even though the pitch of her voice was nearly swooning. Her mouth enveloped Shirou and pulsed over him momentarily, the wet sounds making Saber squirm. She then returned the favor to Saber, her tongue thrusting beyond the woman's lips in a similar motion before Rin's lips locked around the nub just above.
Shirou's breath grew heavy, and he tried his best to lock himself in place, his hands coming up to return the attention Saber's body had earlier, his fingertips pinching lightly. Saber let out another low moan—
Rin guided Shirou's body into Saber, and both shot up in place at the intrusion.
"Shirou," Saber growled, though her tone was anything but angry—instead she sounded both thrilled and scared, like they had started speeding down the highway a hundred kilometers faster than expected. Her hands scrambled for purchase, one finding Shirou's wrist, the other tangling into Rin's hair. "Rin, y-you didn't give…me warning…"
Even as Rin replied, Shirou could not help but move his hips up into Saber's, burying himself in deeper. "You said no time for foreplay," Rin gasped out, her breath hot even amidst the penetration. Her lips found Saber's thigh as Shirou moved slowly beneath them.
Saber tried to argue back, but her breath rushed right out as Shirou pulled back almost completely, the feeling somehow digging deeper even as he withdrew from her body. She halfway forced Rin back in closer, the touch of the girl's tongue a rough counterpoint to the slide of Shirou's cock as he pushed back in. "Don't y-you talk back at—"she started, but lips dove into her neck from behind, and she hissed out further gasps.
"Ohh damn, d-don't!" Shirou cried out himself as Saber tightened around him. He managed to glance over Saber's shoulder in time to see Rin move down again, the feel of a wet tongue swirling around his testicles. Even as the sensory feeling hit his brain, it was the wiggle of Saber's hips over his and the oddly synchronized motion of Rin's rear doing the same that made him feel pressure build up. "Tohsaka?"
"S-shut up," the girl moaned, even as the movement of her skirt fluttered faster and her ass bobbed hypnotically. She slipped her tongue back up and against Saber—
Who shuddered from head to toe. "T-t-tha—"
Shirou thought he might have lost it the moment Saber did, a warmth even stronger than before enveloping him. "Gonna…" he gasped out, his voice trailing off as he lost his breath. He buried himself once more into Saber, who shook silently in return.
"F-fuck!" was what he heard from Rin, who leaned up into Saber's stomach and shuddered, one arm coming up to encircle them both.
Rin's scream was cut off by the breath torn from her lungs. The giant hand squeezed, and even from the distance separating them, Shirou could hear the strain of muscles and bones in Rin's body crackle.
Saber took a step forward, both hands on her black sword. The Servant clenched her teeth and readied for a killing stroke—
"No, Saber, don't do it!"
The swirl of magical energy accompanied Shirou's declaration, and Saber fell to one knee, her teeth grating loudly even to her own ears. "Do you want to die?" She felt the power in her dissipate, though, as the Command Seal robbed her of the intended action.
"If you do that," Shirou was shouting back, "you'll die!"
"What do you expect? Nothing but Excalibur will work against this beast!"
That was not true, and Shirou knew it. He had felt it ever since the dreams began, since seeing her lonely stance amidst battle, since understanding what it was that he hated whenever he looked at her. The abandonment of her humanity, the sense that she had given herself over to what she had to become for others, the consumption of the girl in favor of the weapon. It had started with that first act, the sword drawn from the stone, but had continued on, continued to the lives sacrificed so others could flourish.
The sword had broken then, as she had to sacrifice one thing for another, had to further stray from her humanity to be perfect in every way—
No. Shirou knew it, had come to the conclusion when Archer had told him.
Imagine that which is better than she is, better than you are.
Here she stood now, powerful, accomplished, a King among Heroic Spirits. And yet, for everything she was now, all he could think of was that brief glimpse, that one moment, long before she was one with power—
The girl that had wanted nothing more than to do what she could.
"Then I'll make something that will work! Trace, on!"
And as the sword formed in his hand—an elegant shape with the careful lines and elegant curves that Excalibur lacked—Saber stared, her eyes drawn to something she had long ago discarded.
Something that made her angry, like seeing an old friend that had betrayed her come back into her life.
Something that made her sad, as if reliving the innocence of a childhood long forgotten.
Something that, deep inside, thrilled her to view once more—
In the hands of her Master. Even if he was an idiot.
"So what will you do now, my dear little Saber?" Caster said, her voice silky with amusement.
Saber smiled in a way that made even Shirou's skin crawl.
With an irreverent shrug of the shoulders, Saber hefted the black sword over her shoulder and flung it end-over-end at the cloaked Servant. The weapon cleaved right through the shield Caster raised to protect herself and tore into the woman, who let out an agonized scream. Saber was over the figure like a flash of lightning and pulled the blade smoothly from the figure, who shuddered, robe rippling like disturbed water.
The flowing material folded in on itself and flew up into the air, like a bird attempting to flee in haste, but it was stopped as a radiant figure appeared along the exterior wall of the Emiya estate. Golden armor seemed to sing, heralding his presence for all to see. "Out of my way, mongrel."
Swords rained from the sky, piercing the fluttering cloak multiple times over.
"He is Gilgamesh, the King of Heroes. He fought as the Archer-class Servant in the previous Holy Grail War." Even as hungry as she seemed to be, Saber could not help but snap the chopsticks Shirou had provided her for their impromptu meal.
Shirou and Rin both glanced at each other. "How is that possible?" Rin asked. "Shouldn't there only be one Servant left at the end?"
Saber gave a sound somewhere between a growl and a hiss, crossing her arms before her. "In the end, I could not tell you what happened to him. The power cascading forth from the Grail enveloped him as we fought."
Rin's eyebrows fell to dangerously sharp levels, and Shirou even looked upset at that. "Power from the Grail?"
"Yes. It consumed him. I did not believe at the time that he could survive it, though. The power there was great enough that it was palpable. Beings would be brought to their knees just in its presence. I would have thought that Servant no different." She sighed. "Perhaps he somehow managed a wish from that power, I do not know. Whatever the case, he is now here."
Shirou stared long and hard at his Servant, at the subtext within the statements. Even if they were speaking of a golden-armored Servant, of Gilgamesh, there was something she left unsaid, something he could intuit out of it all. "I asked you before, Saber, of what you wanted to wish for."
"And I told you it was none of your business."
Shirou rolled his eyes at the wording, though, as her exact words were closer to question me and we have a problem that can only be solved with violence. "It is now, if we're going to be thinking about winning this. It is now, because the Grail seems like something completely dangerous if used wrong."
That anger flared into her eyes once more. "You dare think I would use it wrong?"
"I think," Rin interrupted, putting her hand on Shirou's shoulder, "that anything with power you yourself do not have is potentially a threat."
Saber opened her mouth to say something, seemed to think better of it. She rocked back on her legs in a way that even Shirou would find uncomfortable in seiza. "Perhaps."
"So," Shirou pressed, "what is your wish?"
The golden-haired Servant looked askance at him, looked like the words forming on her lips were just as bitter as the concession of the argument. "It…would be a reward. To ones I knew. For loyalty."
"Ones you knew?" Shirou asked.
Saber was silent, as if the answer was beneath her, too obvious. She picked herself up from the table and headed for the kitchen, tossing her broken chopsticks in the waste bin. The sound of silverware being shuffled around signaled her desire for new ones.
Despite the silence, Shirou nodded in understanding. Beneath it all, she does still abide by that gallant instinct. She wants to save people, do what is best for them, even if she hides it. He glanced to Rin, who stared off out the window, possibly to thoughts of her own Servant and whatever wish he might have made. Somehow, Shirou knew that there was a common thread there, even though even Rin admitted that her Archer had been tight-lipped about his desires.
There was something left implied, too, that Shirou had noticed. Gilgamesh was consumed by the Grail's power while they fought. Was Saber, as well?
Shirou groaned, rubbing his right shoulder. Even when he had first started training as an Archery club member, he could not recall a time he had worn his arms out so much. "Sure am glad I didn't try taking you bowling."
Saber halfway ignored him in favor of her third burger out of the six they had purchased from the local Mos Burger. She gave a neutral tilt to her head, neither confirming nor denying Shirou's statement.
The boy sighed in utter exhaustion. Seventeen rounds through the batting cages did that to you.
That face of hers, cold in bearing but hot in temper, somehow seemed lost when gazing out over the harbor. There was pain in her eyes, the kind of pain that was deeply rooted in the body but had no discernable location, no way to center and fight against, an ache that was everywhere at once and yet seemingly not even a part of the body. "Do not ask such things of me again, Shirou. My time here is for the purpose of the Grail, nothing more."
"So you can save people from your time that suffered for your sake."
She glared out of the corner of her eye. "I would have hoped you at least could understand, could comprehend. I thought, after seeing what you have been through, you would have a similar wish in mind."
He met her glare with his own, head-on. "Wishing for things isn't going to work. I don't want you bound by something in the past when you have a future you could be looking to instead."
"Hah!" The laugh that escaped actually resembled a roar. "You are such a hypocrite! You are bound to your own past more than I am! Your only dream seems to be something Kiritsugu instilled in you, and that is a greater mistake than I could ever make!"
Shirou leaned in such that their foreheads almost touched. "But unlike you, that dream is looking forward. Kiritsugu always pursued something even though he admitted it was impossible to him. I'll make that come true, with my own hands. I don't need a wish to do it, and I'm not going to try and go back to fix his mistakes or my own, save lives that neither of us could manage. Because that would be endless."
"Grow up, Shirou. You think you're looking to the future, but you are still yet a child at heart if that is your goal. I do not wish to serve a Master that cannot accept who he is."
"Then go find yourself another one, you idiot!" Shirou was practically shouting into her face. "Because this is who I am, and I'm not going to change my mind now!"
"I'm not going to apologize," Shirou said.
Saber regarded him carefully, again as if looking for a trap in his hand. She slowly reached out, touched her fingers to his palms, allowed him to take hold. He pulled her along, firmly, though the soft, boyish touch was not one of a leader, a warrior, or even a Master. She huffed a long sigh. "I did not expect you to."
"Your Master is just a jerk like that."
"Yes, he is."
Shirou allowed a faint smile. "I'll make us some dinner when we get back."
Even if he said he would not apologize, still, it seemed as if he would.
The golden light that had protected him from Gilgamesh's strike faded along with the King of Heroes, who retreated in disgrace, his armor broken by the rebounding strike.
Shirou fell to his hands and knees, gasping, his body screaming at him for the injustice of overuse, even if the light had made him feel momentarily euphoric. Biting his lip hard enough to draw blood, he hauled his body around and dragged himself to Saber.
The dark Servant lay there, still unmoving, her eyes staring up at him blankly as he approached. His circuits still open, he forced the same sensation out of his body, out of his mind, the golden light that had come from Archer's advice: Imagine that which is better than she is, better than you are.
The light descended around Saber, swirled about like fireflies. Shirou half collapsed atop her, the strength in his arms going completely out, though Saber's steel-clad hands weakly crept up around him as if to shield him from further harm.
"You…watch too many soap operas," she whispered.
He managed a chuckle, though it came out more like a wheezing cough. "Shut up, you idiot," he said, muffled by her breastplate.
Shirou stared up at the ceiling, his body desiring rest, his mind still too busy to even consider sleep. The entire day just felt like sitting in a wave-machine pool, making him nearly seasick with every up and down he took. An enjoyable day, a heated argument, a battle for life and limb. Not too long ago, his body was blown away, pierced, almost torn in two. Now he just felt elated, confused, and angry all at once.
Saber flung open his door, and his mind settled on confused as she moved in on him. "What are you doing?"
The Servant asked, "You are doing better?" even as she crawled right over him so he could not look away.
"Uhh…" the proximity did not help his situation, as he could not help but be reminded of that night. The fact that his blood-stained and torn shirt had been removed and left no barrier besides Saber's clothing between them was doubly-distracting. "I'm…doing fine, yeah." If it were not for the sudden rush of blood elsewhere in his body, he was sure he would be blushing a lot more than he was now.
"You are forgetting something important," she said, her nose almost touching his.
Shirou could not help the nervous expression or the shudder that ran up his spine. This could be bad. "What…uh, what am I forgetting?"
The grin that broke her lips was even more dangerous-looking than the one Rin occasionally sported. It was not an expression of battle, whether physical like Saber's, or mental like Rin's…but something Shirou understood intuitively to be a king's expression. The expression of a ruler that remembered they had every right to claim something. "Perhaps you have been too wounded to remember to feed me properly? Could it be that I have in some way harmed your pride as the hired help type, and now you are feeling incapable as a cook?"
Shirou said, "Well, now that you mention it…"
"Don't worry, my Master," she said, her smirk widening to a grin. "It isn't too late."
"It is after midniiiiiiiohhhh," was as far as he got before she descended on him, her tongue darting out to stroke along his belly. His muscles fluttered beneath the touch even as his hands came up to run through her hair. It was only then he realized she had removed her braid, leaving the golden locks to hang loosely around her face and shoulders. "Saber, what are you—"
"What do you think I'm doing, you idiot?" she mumbled against his skin. Ducking her head further down, her teeth grazed his body, then grabbed the zipper to his pants and pulled.
Shirou responded weakly with, "Going to kill me."
Smiling, Saber unhooked his pants open, reached up and took hold of his waistband and pulled all of his remaining clothing off at once. "Now how would I do that?" She raised her hands to show them empty, then wrapped herself around his body and plunged her lips down on him like she could swallow him whole.
His hands threaded through her hair and he groaned, feeling her swish her tongue around him. "Heart attack," he managed to get out before a whimper escaped his throat.
That seemed to invigorate Saber, her breath coming out in a show of excitement; she bobbed her head over him in response, a wet sound following her every movement. She cradled his body with her arms and her back bowed in what looked like an uncomfortable position to Shirou, but just as he made to comment, she pulled back far enough to return her lips to his very top. The faint, pinkish skin formed an o-shape right around him, then seemed to close back around as if she were savoring a kiss.
Frantically, Shirou could not help but try and pull her back in, but the Servant held firm, her tongue flicking out to give broad strokes along his cock, a quiet gasp for air sounding when her lips parted. "Saber…you…"
"I…what?" she smirked, pressing an almost loving kiss to his tip, then taking him back in once more. Another pulse, and she said, "If your taste is good enough for me, my mouth should certainly be enough."
"Not what I-I meant," he stuttered out as she moved over him again.
Humming in laughter, she coaxed his length with a hand and went to lick along his underside, right up to his testicles, her tongue flicking against them in the same fashion as earlier. "Then it is good?"
Had Shirou been able to think clearly, he might have detected the subtext beneath the rhetorical question. Instead, he merely gasped as she kissed right back up and her mouth then surrounded him completely once more. Even faster than before, she pulsed along his length, her hair swaying about—
She felt his fingers grab hold even tighter, felt the muscles in his legs tense. Smiling wickedly, she pulled back completely clear of him, basking in the tortured sound that escaped his throat. "My Master," she purred. "Let me taste you. Come, Shirou, come now."
The look on her face and the words she spoke more than anything set him off, and as she descended on him again he moaned in compliance and spurted into her mouth, clutching her head as if afraid she would pull back yet again. She moaned in turn, his taste filling her, overflowing, until it spilled right out of her mouth despite the frantic swallowing she gave.
Shirou fell back, watched himself as he spilled onto Saber's body and clothing. The Servant gulped him down and wavered in place in her own mindless daze. "…nk…or…ea…" she muttered.
Something about that just fired Shirou right back up. While Saber regained her own breath, he crawled over to her and with one tug, grabbed the underside of her blouse and pulled it right off, the clips at her neck unhooking perfectly as he swept it down her body, bunching it with her skirts. Her body spilled into view, and before she could even get out a surprised sound, he took hold of her breasts and pressed his lips to her stomach in the same place she had made her own initial strike.
Saber writhed slightly under his touch, though her hands found his hair as well. "Who gave you permission?"
"I'm the Master here," Shirou countered, swirling his tongue into her belly button.
The strangest of noises sounded: Saber giggled. Shirou's eyes flew up and the golden eyes of the Arthurian King met him, looking embarrassed. "Shut up," she said.
He did not say anything, instead pulling out of her grasp completely.
"Why are you sto—" her voice cut out, replaced by a startled gasp as he flung her right onto her back. Pulling her stockings off at her feet, he tossed the garment over his shoulder and brought one foot up and pulled a curled toe into his mouth. Her head reared back in response, a soundless whimper trapped on her lips.
Shirou mirrored her own touches to her toes, swirling his tongue around one, then the other, before kissing up along her foot and up the inside of her leg. Holding each limb over his shoulders, he worked his kisses up to her thighs, then speared his tongue against the warmth at their junction, earning a low and drawn-out moan from the girl. "Tell me when to stop," he teased.
"O…kay…" she whimpered. Her hips undulated in the air as he held her up, legs around his head and her shoulders planted on the ground.
Grinning at having the upper hand now, Shirou nipped lightly at the tiny spot just above her entrance, each touch causing Saber to twitch in need. He flicked his tongue against it, then swirled around in a circle, matching the rhythm she gave as she rocked in place. He slowly replaced his tongue with a finger, keeping the same motion, then plunged back into her body, drawing out another breathless gasp.
He swirled into her, the taste he drew out dizzying his senses. The tightness around surprised him, and she seemed to pull him in, the same way she demanded of him when they had kissed back in the forest. Shirou smirked into her skin and drew back, teasingly, denying her body's desire momentarily, pressing a kiss to the inside of her thigh.
When she batted his hand away with her own to touch herself, his tongue joined her touch and brushed fiercely along her body. Saber whimpered and started breathing faster and deeper; Shirou matched her with each touch, swishing against both fingertip and body, then pressed his mouth to her nub when she shuddered, her tension wavering.
"S-S-Shirou…" she said, panting, even as her body wiggled closer to him. "H-hurry up…"
He nodded, drawing up to pull her skirts completely off. She flicked her detached sleeves to either side as he descended back on her, already hard, touching his body to hers, slowly entering—
"O-ouch," Saber whimpered.
Shirou paused, leaning over her, his arms to either side of her head. "What?"
"J-just…" she turned about as red as he had ever seen her, so very apparent on her porcelain skin. "A little…sore."
Her blush intensified. "Be more careful, okay? I'm…not used to this…"
"You…the…huh?" Shirou moved carefully, trying to ease in slower, though everything in him screamed to just drive in harder. "You didn't have a problem…earlier…"
A fierce look came to her face, though it was marred by how red she had turned. "LIKE I W-WOULD EVER SHOW WEAKNESS IN FRONT OF SOMEBODY!" she screamed, though she was still so short on breath it came as little more than openly defensive. As she did so, he slowly moved back and her eyes rolled up into the back of her head at the sensation.
Shirou thought of how used to pain she must be to have hidden that, how it made sense from how much he knew now of what she concealed behind fury and pride. Even as he pressed back into her, Shirou touched his lips to her shoulder and she shivered beneath him in response. "You're…enjoying it now, though, right?" he whispered.
"Don't ask me such things," she muttered, even as her arms came up around his neck, her legs doing the same with his back. "Just…make me feel good, you jerk."
He felt his breath hitch at her words, felt her tighten around him even as he moved again. Mustering up all of his concentration, he reached up to bite her ear and say, "Make you feel good?"
"Yes…" she whimpered, her heels locking around him as he thrust into her further, "Give me everything." Her nails dug into his shoulders and even the muscles inside her body seemed to pull him in further, struggling against each withdrawal of his body.
"Your…highness wants everything?" he muttered, biting his own lip, her body so slick now that he had no trouble sliding in and out, her body shaking with each motion.
Saber moaned, her back once more arching, her body pressing further into his even as his cock slipped further in response, "Give it to me, Shirou! Fill me—"
Unable to hold it in any longer, he leaned back while taking her waist in his hands, driving into her faster, with greater urgency. She hooked her legs even tighter, keeping his hips to hers, his pulsing closer and closer in. He watched her breasts tremble, reached up to brush his hands along her body, and her voice hit a pitch that just sent him overboard.
The Stay Away
Saber charged across the city, from rooftop to street pole to bridge to wall.
She knew that the Grail was dangerous, knew that even if it could grant her wish, she wanted Shirou to be far away from that place when it happened. If it truly was brimming with the dark power she had seen before—
If that power consumed Shirou—
She chased the thought from her mind. Her feet brought her to the Kotomine church, the place she loathed to step into but knew she must. Something about the entire location felt off to her, though she could not put her finger on it. Even besides the fact that once upon a time, Kirei Kotomine had been a Master in the Holy Grail War—that was a minor issue, since it was not as if she completely agreed with her own Master at the time either. If he was an enemy to Kiritsugu Emiya then, they probably had more in common than she wanted to consider, truthfully.
Within the doors, the church was lit but silent, not a presence to concern herself with. Considering the late hour, Saber was not surprised, though she knew Kotomine would be around to observe the war as it progressed, unless he was out overseeing something related to it.
Wandering into the back courtyard, she could not find any signs of life, but spotted a doorway leading to a downstairs location. Saber considered the idea that the man had some divination tools hidden from regular sight for the purposes of the war, and it made sense to keep them underground.
"Kirei Kotomine," Saber said loudly as she entered the basement. "I am a Servant of the Holy Grail. Are you here?"
The basement was silent, though there was yet another closed door he could be behind. The sense of something off once again rose into Saber's mind, and her eyes narrowed as she pushed the doorway open—
"Quite the vision, is it not?"
Saber spun in place, Excalibur in hand, her eyes locking onto the priest almost as soon as he had spoken. She intuitively added up everything that this meant, who these beings could be, and her hand raised—
And the Hound of Ulster materialized, his spear already speeding toward her heart.
The Curse and the Hope
"And what could you understand about loyalty?" Kotomine's voice rumbled deep, echoing through the basement quarter like the herald to an oncoming earthquake. "You, Shirou Emiya, who lived when others did not. You, who live now, when others suffer in your stead." The priest gave a faint grin, a show of amusement, like a child entertained by the fluttering of a wing-clipped fly. "You are a hypocrite, Shirou Emiya, one who wants to save others when he himself has discarded those others to be a savior."
"Just shut up!"
Kotomine nodded. "Yes, I shall be silent. I wish to know this one's truth." He pulled on Saber's hair, pulled her so her pale neck jutted out and her wound bled even more about her body, as if readying her for a throat-cut slaughter. "Yes, I wish to hear it. Tell us, Servant of Emiya: what is your wish?"
She screeched in pain, the blood flowing from her chest spurting unnaturally, so grotesque in its resemblance to a sprinkler. Even Lancer looked away, his eyes dull and lips frowning.
"Speak it, Saber," Kotomine said.
"To…" she coughed, choked, and swallowed her own blood, "to save those…that suffered for me."
Kotomine smiled, somehow an innocent smile despite the pain he was causing. "You see? So simple." His eyes moved up to meet Shirou's. "So, there you have it, boy. You and your Servant are much alike. Would you deny her such a wonderful hope, a selfless gesture?" His smile deepened, now reaching his eyes, and with that came a turn from beatific to malicious. "I can think of at least one that she knew, one that served her faithfully. He died in disgrace and torture so that she would be left untouched by his sins. Would you deny her the wish to see that he gain peace?"
Shirou stared now, not at the priest, nor the enemy Servant, nor even Saber. He stared beyond, into that room, into the hells of his own life and history—
Of victims, who survived.
Of survivors, who were victimized again.
Those victims, their voices cursing their own existence, cursing his existence in turn—
His eyes found Saber's, though even as he saw the pain in them, the anguish…all he could think of was another time, another place. The girl that had wanted nothing more than to do what she could. Taking up that sword, taking on those responsibilities.
Not a curse, but…
"It is a beautiful wish, but it is wrong," Shirou said. "People suffered, and I remember that suffering. I keep it with me wherever I go. Even if it is sad, or unfair, I'm not turning back from that. I'll pursue a future, a better future, with their sorrow and pain in mind, never once denying that it existed. No magical wish is going to ever equal what they suffered, what I live with every day." What was left unspoken was still as firm, though: You too, Saber. What you have lived with and suffered for.
Kotomine's delighted features turned sour, like desert turning to ash in his mouth. He sighed, deeply, his shoulders going slack. "How foolish." He yanked back on Saber's hair again, forcing the Servant to stare straight up at him. "Then, I would like to hear your response. If you still desire the Grail, I will give it to you, of course. You have proven yourself worthy of a wish."
Saber stared back up, at the emptiness she saw there in return.
Her knights' suffering for their King. These children's suffering for Shirou.
She had spoken of loyalty to them, and rewarding it.
Her Master's loyalty to her, even when they disagreed.
"…don't want it…"
The priest leaned over her, a scowl on his face. "Speak up, Servant Saber."
Kotomine shoved the woman away like an unwanted pet, though Shirou was instantly beneath her, catching her form before she hit the floor completely. The priest looked completely unimpressed. "You truly are a pair that belong together."
Shirou settled his Servant down in the graveyard, bracing her back to one of the headstones. "I think I know why I'm always healing."
Saber stared at him, eyes taking on an almost-so-dull-it-was-an-overreaction look, one that seemed to imply she would smack him across the back of the head if she had the strength to.
"Kiritsugu…saved me from what I knew was to be instant death." Shirou closed his eyes, pressed his hand to his chest. "Tohsaka told me of your legend. I think…"
Light seemed to draw from his body, and despite the blood pooling in her lungs, Saber could not help but gasp.
Shirou reached out, pressed gold and enamel into her gauntleted hands. The color reflected eerily off of her mail, but seemed to shine in Saber's eyes, as if to give them new life. "I know you hated him, but…as his son, let me take on that hate, and return to you what he kept from you."
Though the power immediately began to flow into her, the strength return to her limbs, the damage even from Gae Bolg be reversed by a greater mystery, Saber could not help but stare in awe at something that had been taken from her, something of priceless and peerless quality—
Returned to her like it was nothing more than a dropped coin on the street, by this simple little boy.
The Distant Dream
Gilgamesh gave a triumphant grin. "ENUMA ELISH!"
The light of the stars crashed into the darkness of humanity, and though the darkness claimed even the greatest lights, the darkness of mankind was nothing to the lights of the beyond.
Even so, Saber leapt in that space, that moment of stillness before Ea consumed her.
The long-lost protection, her perfect sign before the betrayal of all. She had cursed even its existence once, her reliance upon it, her failure without it. That all her loyal followers had suffered was to be lost over one betrayal and theft had enraged her more than the betrayal ever could, more than anything could. She had cursed it for not protecting them, cursed it for not being the shield it needed to be when she could have gone on, could have righted so many further wrongs—
As she evoked it, as it once more took up its duty for her, the one she secretly held responsible, the one she secretly felt must have been unworthy—
Perhaps, in the end, she could understand one Kiritsugu Emiya, could thank him from the bottom of her heart—
Because it had been taken from her, one single boy had been saved.
A boy that was nothing more, and nothing less, than everything it embodied.
Her distant dream, alive and well.
Shirou carefully wrapped Illya in a blanket, then set her down out of the way, on grass that had yet to be tainted by the darkness pouring out of the Grail.
Standing, Shirou glanced over his shoulder to the woman, her armor no longer present, the midnight of her dress fluttering faintly. She stared up at the hole in the sky, her sword-arm shaking in anticipation. He absently reached up to touch the mark on his left hand, the last one remaining.
"Give the command, Master."
Shirou stepped up to her side, his eyes still unable to leave her, the pale skin peeking out from darkened dress. He could see now, something different in her, something completely, fundamentally changed—like viewing a Trace, he could see the structure had been redone. The anger was still there, the impatient desire, the view of the world still ruined—
Yet, still, beyond all of that…
"Destroy the Grail, Saber."
The remaining seal on Shirou's hand faded. Blacklight once more swirled about the sword in Saber's hands, and she raised the weapon to the skies.
Darkness struck and consumed the darkness.
When both unnatural glows faded away, the rising light beyond the hills and mountains bloomed into view and the sun crept up on the horizon. Saber's sword seemed to evaporate from her hands while the deep rise and fall of her shoulders signaled her relief. "I have fulfilled your commands and defeated your enemies in this war, Master."
Shirou dared to step closer, wanted to approach despite the fact that he knew they were to part here. He nodded, though, despite himself. "Yeah. You did well, Saber." He chuckled, scratching the back of his head and stared up at the vacant space in the sky. "I don't know what else to say."
"Then let me say something." A faint laugh. "Your cooking isn't actually that bad."
His eyebrows furrowed and he tilted his head at the inane statement. "Okay?"
"I've been waiting a while to say that. Couldn't let you think I was too pleased, could I?"
Shirou smiled, but before he could reply, Saber reached up to pull him in closer by the collar, her lips finding his, her taste invading his mouth. He held her close, kept her warmth to his skin as long as possible, felt like pushing his own assault when she withdrew.
"Carry me too," Saber said.
His smile deepened, even as the glare of the sun fully rising caused him to flinch away. When he could open his eyes again, she was gone.
"Of course, my King," Shirou said.
Arturia's eyes cracked open at the sound of footfalls.
Her loyal knight Bedivere stood there, empty-handed and solemn. "I have done as you tasked and returned the sword to the lake. A hand reached out to catch it."
"You have served your king well," Arturia muttered, her eyes glazing over. The vision of Bedivere before her wavered, and she sighed. "I was just reminiscing."
"Yes?" The worry could not be contained in Bedivere's voice.
"Mm." The king's hand seemed like it almost moved on its own, brushing through the grass at her side. Despite the steel barrier between hand and earth, she seemed to smile like the touch was still the same, prickly and ticklish. "Of a place I wouldn't…mind returning to. Someday."
Slowly, her eyes fell closed, and she took another single, liberated breath.
Yes. The place of her victory. Their victory.