Skirmish (III)


The day started simply enough. Shirou and Satsuki got up at the same time as usual and went about their morning routine.

Weirdly enough, even Medea was back to her usual self. Whatever it was that had happened between them, she clearly decided it was not worth her time anymore. She even saw them out for school, waving and smiling cheerfully.

This sudden change put Shirou even more on edge. Medea wasn't one who knew how to let bygones be bygones. She had carved her legend out of not letting go of her grudges -understandable as they were - which only made Shirou certain he wouldn't be let off as easily.

Still, there was nothing he could do other than dealing with it as it came along. For the time being he would allow himself to have a completely ordinary day of school. It said a lot about his way of life that being a student in a country with one of the most punishing school systems worldwide ranked as kicking back and relax to him.

Still, as absurd as it was, he was really looking forward to it.

Too bad that his expectations were immediately shattered when he arrived in front of the school, where two police cars were parked with their lights flashing.

"What could have happened?" Satsuki asked.

"No clue," Shirou shook his head. "I hope it's nothing serious."

They stepped past the gate amidst the many other students, just as curious as they were.

Looking around, Shirou saw that the police officers were coming and going from the direction of the archery club.

"Satsuki-san, please go on ahead without me. I'm going to see what happened."

"Okay," she muttered. "Don't get into trouble though, please."

"Is that the impression I give?" he frowned. "That I go looking for trouble?"

"Remember how we first met?" she asked rhetorically.

"... fine, I'll give you that much. I'll do my best, alright?"

She nodded and headed for class, while Shirou approached the clubhouse.

"Excuse me, what happened?" he asked at the first police officer he came by.

"Hm? A girl was assaulted here last night. Are you a member of the club?"

"I used to be," he replied, "who is it that was assaulted? How is she?"

There were several girls among the club, Sakura and Mitsuzuri were just two of them. Plus there were the new recruits he hadn't gotten around to know yet.

"Sorry, I can't answer that. Wait a moment though, they might have some questions for you. Adachi-san! There's a club member here."

A man in suit turned in his direction. The moment their eyes met, Shirou felt immediately on guard. There was a slight widening of his eyes that Shirou identified as recognition, yet he was fairly sure he never met this man.

"Hi, I'm detective Adachi Tooru. What's your name kid?"

"Emiya Shirou," he bowed. "How can I help you, Adachi-san?"

"Emiya, uh? Well, you could start by telling me where you were yesterday evening, between eight o'clock and midnight."

"I was home, why?"

"Anyone who can vouch for that?" the detective pressed on, disregarding Shirou's own question.

"My guardian was at my place at least until nine o'clock." He'd rather not mention Satsuki, since he'd prefer no one would look too closely into her residence at his place and of course he couldn't mention Medea, since she technically didn't exist. "Fujimura Taiga. She's a teacher here."

"Is that so? How close are you with the captain from the archery club?"

"Mitsuzuri-san? Was it Mitsuzuri-san that was assaulted? How is she?"

"I cannot divulge that information. Now, please answer my question."

Shirou frowned. He would have pressed for answer, but he knew that it wouldn't work.

"We are friends. Not too close, but well acquaintanced at least."

"Hm-hm," Adachi nodded as he jotted down a few lines on a small notepad. "To the best of your knowledge, does she have any enemies? Someone who could wish her ill?"

"Not that I know of. She's a good person, well-liked by everyone as far as I can tell."

"Hmm, yes, that seems to be the general consensus around here. When was the last time you saw her?"

"I'm not sure. A couple of days ago in the halls, maybe."

"You didn't attend club practice yesterday?"

"I'm not a member anymore," he clarified. "I quit at the start of this term."

"Why? Disagreements with the captain maybe?" Pressed Adachi.

Shirou didn't like the obvious insinuation, but he didn't let it color his answer.

"Hardly, considering I was the previous captain and that I left the position to Mitsuzuri-san myself."

"Interesting. Could you say that you were sort of competitors, then?"

"On the archery stage the only enemy is one's own self, Adachi-san. Mitsuzuri-san knows this and so does any kyudoka worth their salt. No one would hold a grudge over something like that and if they did, they would be so down the rankings they would have a lot of other people to take it out on first."

"Is that so? Good to know. Very well, Emiya-kun. That will be all for now. I'm grateful you for your cooperation, but you should probably get to class now. Wouldn't want to get you into trouble because of me."

"It was my duty to help, detective," he bowed before leaving for class. "Have a good day."

"You too Emiya-kun."

Shirou turned and headed toward the main building, feeling troubled. Who could have hurt Mitsuzuri? But more importantly, why?

She wasn't so popular that someone would harm her out of jealousy. She was a nice person to be around so it was difficult to imagine someone would have it out for her so much that they would go to these lengths.

Sadly, no matter how he thought about it he just didn't have enough information to come to a conclusion. He would have to look into it himself after school.


After classes

"You're going to visit Ayako, aren't you?" Tohsaka said as she intercepted him out of the school gates. The ever present Saber was right next to her of course. "I'm coming too."

Shirou nodded his agreement and the three of them headed toward the hospital. Satsuki had gone back home since she wasn't really close to Mitsuzuri and she'd rather not stay in the sun more than strictly necessary.

About half an hour later they were at the hospital's front desk, but they were told that Mitsuzuri couldn't have visitors as she was apparently unconscious. They also weren't told the extent of her injuries, since they weren't her relatives.

"Well, so much for that," Rin sighed as they walked out of the hospital.

"Hmm. Maybe there is a way," Shirou said as he pulled out his cell phone. He quickly punched in a number and after a few rings a gruff voice picked up.

"Dojima speaking."

"Ryuutaro-san. It's Shirou."

"Hey kid. Haven't heard from you in a while. You still in one piece?"

"Yes, thank you. Sorry for bothering you but I need a favor."

"What a shock," he grumbled ironically. "What is it?"

"A girl was assaulted last night. Mitsuzuri Ayako. Do you think you could get me access to her medical records?"

"Is this another supernatural case?" the detective asked. In the background, Shirou could hear him typing at a computer keyboard.

"The circumstances feel odd to me and considering what's going on around here I can't exclude the possibility."

"Yes, well. You might actually be onto something. It's certainly odd. Huh. You might want to check this with your vampire friend, because the only thing wrong with her is a bite around her neck and a huge amount of blood loss. Considering there was no blood to be found on the scene, it makes for a pretty damning picture."

Shirou blinked. "That can't be."

"That's what the report and the medical records say."

"No, what I mean is that a Dead Apostle's bite is lethal. If it were the work of a vampire like Satsuki, Mitsuzuri would be a walking corpse or vampire herself right now."

"Aren't there any other type of vampires out there?"

"There are, but they are few and there's no reason for them to be here. Fuyuki is notoriously an area of interest for both the Church and the Clock Tower. For any of them to be here is the same as asking for a target to be placed on them."

"So, you think it's an ordinary psychopath who did it? ... I never thought I would use those two words together."

"No. There is another possible explanation," he looked at Tohsaka, who had been listening in on the conversation. The grim expression on her face told him she had reached the same conclusion. "A Servant who's gathering additional energy by taking it forcibly from ordinary people."

The first enemy Servant of the Grail War had made a move.


Later

Shirou, Tohsaka and Saber moved to his place to discuss this new development with Caster.

The Witch looked surprised, to say the least, at the mention of a Servant being summoned without her noticing.

"This shouldn't be possible," she muttered.

"Can you make sure?" Shirou asked.

"Give me one moment," she closed her eyes for a moment, concentrating on a spell. "Yes, without a doubt a Servant has been summoned recently."

"I thought you had it under control," Tohsaka replied, sounding frustrated.

"I do. Whoever summoned it must have an insight into the Grail as good as mine in order to hide it from me."

"Matou Zouken, then" Shirou sighed, looking toward the empty kitchen. "Sakura hasn't come around in a while either. Chances are that he knows about us being Masters and told her not to come anymore."

"Yes, that's the most likely scenario," Tohsaka agreed.

"Why send his Servant to harness energy like that though?" Caster asked. "Ordinary humans don't have much Mana to being with. Unless it's done on a large scale it's pretty inefficient and I would expect the head of a Magus family to have enough energy to support their Servant even without resorting to such measures."

"No, according to my father's notes that guy has been around since the third War at least, which makes him at least a century old," Shirou explained. "There's no telling how much of his energy goes into keeping himself alive and functional."

"I see. Then what course of action do you think should we take?" Medea asked.

"Somehow I doubt he'll just hang around his place waiting for us to make a move on him," Shirou replied. "And if he knows about us he must have realized he's at a disadvantage. No Boundary Field would hold a candle against an alliance between a Caster and a Saber Class Servant. If he hasn't gone senile, he'll be nowhere to be found. Could you find him by scrying, Caster?"

"I can certainly try, but unless he's completely inept he will have taken some precaution against it. Without a catalyst of sorts, divinations are very inaccurate. Given enough time I could eventually track him down, but that's only if he doesn't relocate often. As for the Servant I can pinpoint it only if it's materialized. There's just nothing to latch onto otherwise."

"So we are forced into a reactive position," Shiro sighed. "Great. Just great."

"Not necessarily," Tohsaka said. "Why was Ayako targeted in the first place?"

"She was a target of opportunity, most likely," Saber replied. "She was alone, after dark and with no potential witness in the general radius"

"Precisely," Tohsaka agreed. "They are trying to keep a low profile, therefore they will go after isolated targets. If we want to find the Servant all we have to do is provide them exactly with that."

"Some bait, huh... I'll do it then," Shirou decided.

"No you won't," Medea protested firmly.

"But-!"

"Don't start it, you two," Tohsaka said firmly. "It's not going to be that simple anyway. We have no idea which part of the city they'll pick as their hunting ground next. More importantly if both Emiya and I have already been identified as Masters they'll smell the trap for what it is. Unless they feel ready to face us all, they are going to avoid a confrontation. If we're going ahead with this plan, we need to use someone unrelated."

"I'm against it," Shirou objected. "I have no intention of dragging bystanders into this mess."

"Who said anything about bystanders?" Tohsaka smiled. "There are others who have chosen to stand their ground and fight even if they aren't like us, aren't there?"


Back at the police station, Ryuutaro Dojima snapped up his head as a shiver went down his spine.

All of a sudden, he felt like his life was in danger. The unmistakable sensation he had when someone was out to get him.

Maybe he should stop pulling all-nighters all the time and let Adachi handle things for a while.

"Yeah, right," he snorted and returned to his paperwork.


"Out of the question," Shirou replied.

"That's not your call to make," Tohsaka objected. "You decided to drag Dojima-san into this. You gave him the power to choose whether to run or fight. If you won't ask him, then I will."

"I agree with her, Shirou," Caster said. "That man already decided to be our ally knowing the risks it entailed. Besides, we're not going to just leave him on his own. More importantly, someone unrelated is going to be targeted again sooner or later, anyway. It might as well be someone who chose to."

"Fine! Fine, I'll ask Dojima-san," Shirou relented. "Now, how do you think we should proceed?"

"The best thing to do right now is letting the new Servant move freely," Tohsaka suggested. "As much as I loathe to admit it, we don't have the resources to protect the entire city at the same time. We must see if there's a pattern to their movements and then place our bait accordingly."

"That's the best we can come up with?" he asked.

"Sadly, yes. Of course, we'll be out patrolling the city separately in the meantime. Maybe they'll grow overconfident and make a stab at us."

"That's forfeiting the advantage of our alliance," Medea observed, clearly dissatisfied.

"Every maneuver opens up to the possibility of a counter," Saber explained. "Every trap can be sprung against the one who set it. There is no course of action to be taken without risks."

Medea knew that, of course, but she was more of a schemer than a risk-taker. She'd rather have other expose their side while she reaped all the benefits.

Sadly, that wasn't an option any longer.

"Yes, well. I don't have to like it."

"We're going to keep in touch all the time anyway," Shirou said, trying to placate her.

"That doesn't mean we can get to each other in time to be of any help," Caster objected. "I can easily warp us to their location but they can't do the same with us."

"There is a simple solution to that problem, you know?"

"And pray tell, what would it be?" Caster asked, unconvinced.

"We'll swap partners. Saber will patrol with Emiya and you'll come with me. That way, you can either teleport us to them or I can summon at least Saber to my side with a Command Seal."

"Huh," Shirou rubbed his chin. "That would work just fi-"

"Absolutely not."

Caster's voice was level and she looked perfectly calm when she said those words, but she might as well have shouted them. Shirou and Rin both sat up a little straighter.

"W-why not?" Rin stuttered despite her best attempt not to.

"It's simply unacceptable. Even putting aside concerns about trust, there is still the matter that the worst case scenario leaves my Master on his own."

"Well, Emiya-kun should be more than capable enough of handle himself for a while. Even if Zouken decided to take advantage of that window of opportunity to launch an offence against him he should be able to hold out long enough for us to come to his aid.

"And what if there is more than one Servant? Assassin from the previous War had more than a hundred bodies. Without knowing anything about the enemy Servant there is no telling what we'll leave him exposed to. Saber, in my place would you leave your Master without protection even for a minute?"

"Of course not," the blond Servant replied. "Still, your Master has proven himself sufficiently skilled to survive long enough for us to come to his aid if needed be."

"That's a gambit you are making with his life, not with your own," the Witch insisted.

"Caster, there's no helping it," Shirou intervened. "It's a worst case scenario which I should be able to deal with. More importantly, it's the safest course of action available."

"Safest for everyone other than yourself," she objected.

"That may be the case, but out of the four of us I'm the most expendable."

"W-what?"

He shrugged. "You are able to sustain yourself just fine without me, but if we were to lose Tohsaka, for instance, we would also lose Saber. Keeping every Servant alive is our primary goal right now, so we must follow a plan that maximizes your chance of that. If someone has to be left exposed, it has to be me."

It was an argument rooted in logic with little to do with Shirou's penchant to prioritize other people's lives over his own.

"Is that supposed to make it better somehow? Do you think that I could agree with a scenario in which your death is an acceptable outcome?"

Shirou frowned. "Caster, what's this about? Even if I were to die you would still be able to live on without m-"

The palm of her hand hit the table, making everything on it rattle.

"I don't want to live without you!"

The silence that followed that statement was as deafening as the shout itself. A cup of tea rolled off the table after Caster had knocked it off in her outburst. Its content spilled all over the tatami but no one noticed or cared.

Everyone was wide-eyed, though Shirou was the most stunned of all, for obvious reasons.

Only after a moment did Caster seem to realize what she had so-very-loudly admitted. Her face turned a bright red and without a moment's hesitation she fled the room.

"Caster!" Shirou shouted as he run after her. In his haste he tripped on the table and fell down, rolled on the floor and launched himself out of the room. He barely saw her slip into the toolshed and he heard the secret passage open when he was halfway through the courtyard. When he stepped inside the building, the heavy trapdoor was almost entirely closed again.

Shirou knew that he wouldn't be able to open it unless she wished it and thus literally dove in the rapidly shrinking gap, completely disregarding the fact that he was jumping head first down some very steep stone stairs.

He put his hands forward and managed to not crack his head open, but he still rolled down like a textbook household accident. He crashed in a heap at the bottom of the stairs but jumped to his back to his feet like it was nothing.

"Caster... Medea," he called out softly.

In the dim light of the Workshop he could barely see her shape. Her back was turned to him and her arms were wrapped around her own torso.

She looked frail as a glass figurine. Vulnerable like that night he found her unconscious under the rain.

He took a step forward.

"Don't come near me!" she said, her voice cracked.

Shirou stopped in his tracks for a moment and then proceed to advance again until he was standing right behind her.

"Why me?" he asked. "I can't possibly give you the life you'd want."

"Do you think I don't know that?" she sobbed, still not turning to face him. "Do you think I don't know how selfish you are? Chasing after your own dreams without thinking what others could want?"

"Selfish?" Shirou wondered. "I suppose I am a little."

"A little?" She scoffed. "Was there ever a time when you put your so-called justice aside for someone else?"

"No," he shook his head, slowly but firmly. "And if I have any say in it I never will. This is who I am. If that makes me selfish, then I'll take responsibility for this sin until the day I die and beyond."

He had made that decision a long time before. Long before he had even met her.

"I know. I know that, you see?" she turned around to face him, tears streaming down her face. "That's why I love you. Because you'll never let anyone push their crimes on me ever again, just like you won't push yours on anyone else. I love that stupid, inconsiderate selfishness of yours even if I know you'll never love me back because of it."

"... that's not true," he admitted, looking away.

"Eh?" she blinked. "B-but I thought...:"

"I never... believed you would feel the same," he explained. "I'm just a kid and you are... you. Besides, even if you returned my feelings for some reason I knew I wouldn't be able to to give you the life you want."

There was a pause in which the crackling of the flame within the forge was the only thing that could be heard.

"I am your ally, Medea, and I always will be. That was my oath to you, but it's the only thing I can give you in its entirety. I'm sorry."


He loved her.

Loved her? She who had been stained black by crimes both her own and not alike? She who had brought nothing but ruin to everyone?

That was not possible, yet that was what he said.

He said that he loved her, in a roundabout way, but that couldn't give her what she wanted. She could trust him, they both knew, because his faith in his ideals was absolute.

He would never betray her because in doing so he would betray himself, and for the same reason she could never be the centre of his life.

He could not commit to her without betraying both her and himself in the process.

Such a twisted irony was par for the course to her.

But still, it wasn't like she didn't know he was like that from the start. Just like he had known he couldn't be the man she wished him to be, so did she.

And yet…

… in spite of that…

'I love him anyway.'

"We… we should probably head back now," he said after the silence stretched into deep awkwardness.

She dried her tears and nodded.

"I'll... I'll be there in a minute. I'll be fine, don't worry. Tell Rin... tell her I agree with the plan."

"Alright, then. Take your time."

He turned around and left. She watched him go without a word.

To be rejected even when her feeling were being requited... Even beyond death, her heart would never have what she yearned for.

Such was her fate.


"Everything alright, Emiya?" Rin asked coolly when he finally returned a little while later. She was bit miffed about the entire situation, but what could she do about it?

Even though by the looks of it, it didn't seem like anything good had come out of Caster's confession.

... why was she feeling relieved, damn it?

"It will be, eventually. Don't worry about it. She agreed to your strategy, by the way."

"Glad to hear it," she nodded. "Well, let's call it a day for now."

"Huh? Aren't we going to plan the patrol for tonight?"

"It's almost evening already, there's not enough time to set things up and there's no point rushing anyway," she shook her head. "I highly doubt the enemy will go out hunting twice in a row. They probably want to gauge the level of our reaction. The easier we take it, the more they'll fret and risk making a mistake."

"Indeed," Saber agreed. "A hasty response might exactly be what they want. There are times when it's better to advance slowly lest you step into an ambush."

"Please, set up an meeting with Dojima-san in the city, sometimes tomorrow afternoon," Rin continued. "It would be better if it looks like an accidental encounter. We can then slip him an envelope with our plan."

"...or I could just tell him over the phone. It's not like a Magus of all people is going to tap into the call."

"Yes," Rin nodded slowly, not at all embarrassed. Not at all. "That would work too. Well then, if that is all we might as well return home and prepare for tomorrow. Saber, let's go."

"Yes, Rin."

"Alright then... have a safe trip, I guess," he said awkwardly.

"You guess?" she asked, regarding him with a doubtful gaze. "You are still out of it, aren't you?"

"Sorry," he replied, looking away. "That was... unexpected."

"Was it really, though?" she muttered, too low for anyone to hear. "See you, Emiya," she sighed.

"I'll see you both tomorrow at school, then," he nodded. "Do be careful on the way back."

"Yeah, yeah. Worry getting your head back on track. We'll be fine."

They soon were out of the house and onto the streets without further ceremony. They made their way in silence even though there was lot to talk about. Somehow, the thing that bothered Rin most wasn't the appearance of a new Servant, but the development with the first one she had met.

Saber seemed to read her Master's mood and chose to hold her tongue. Honestly, war time is the worst possible moment to let feelings run rampant.

Hopefully, Caster would be able to get a hold of herself soon, otherwise this would be a major setback to them.


Shirou closed the door behind Tohsaka and Saber, letting out a tired sigh. It was clear that they weren't happy about how the day had gone and he couldn't exactly blame them. At a time like this being cool headed was paramount, yet he definitely wasn't and the same could be said for Caster.

He didn't want for things to turn like this between them.

He had chosen his ideals over love so that he would not betray both himself and her and there was nothing else to be said about it Nothing he could to make it better.

Even though he wished for nothing but to rush to her side, he knew that he would do her more harm than good.

With his head lowered, he retreated to his room.


After the house finally became silent, Satsuki poked her head out of her room. She hadn't been listening in the conversation, but when Caster shouted it had been impossible not to hear.

So, the Heroic Spirit was in love with Shirou. Satsuki could certainly see why. She didn't love him, or at least she didn't think so, but she liked him a lot at the very least.

There was no reason why she wouldn't and maybe, if she wasn't still hung on a certain bespectacled boy she too would have feelings similar to Caster's. Not that it helped anyone knowing that, least of all her.

She was already too dependant on Shirou as she was and she was getting tired of her own helplessness. There was no need to add love into the mix, thus she vowed right there and then that she would not fall for him. Of course, asking the brain to rule upon the heart is a fool's errand and she knew as much.

She needed to get stronger as fast as possible, so that she could stand on own legs again. Then, she would remove herself from the equation and relieve him of the burden. She owed him at least that much.

She slipped out of the house, unseen and unnoticed. The atmosphere was too gloomy for her liking anyway. She knew there was another Servant around and she decided to stick to populated areas and not come back until the next morning.

She had learned her lesson the first time around.


Slowly but surely, the day advanced. The sun continued his cycle and disappeared beyond the horizon, allowing the night to lay its claim upon the city of Fuyuki.

After eating dinner by himself, as it seemed no one else would show up, Shirou retreated to his room to read a book about runes and Boundary Field left by Kiritsugu.

He already knew it by heart, but it was too early to sleep and he'd rather not be alone with his thoughts more than strictly necessary. Going into his Workshop was out of the question as well. Medea might have not been there any longer, but he'd rather not be in there on his own after what had transpired down there.

He was quietly flipping through the pages when the lights flickered out, plunging the house into complete darkness.

"A power outage?" Shirou frowned. That wasn't supposed to happen and he tensed a little bit in response. Cutting power was a standard practice before assaulting a building. With a new Servant on the scene, this might be their offensive.

He got out of bed and onto the patio, mental hammer ready to go down and ignite his Circuits.

The light was out, not just at his place but also the neighboring houses. He could already hear people clamoring about it in the distance. Even the streetlights were off adding a further layer to the darkness that shrouded the district.

Only the moon provided any sort of illumination whatsoever.

He immediately relaxed. It was too over the top and eye-catching to be the start of a covert attack. It was just a regular power outage, as unusual as it was.

Well, since there was no more light he decided that he might as well give himself a chance at sleeping early.

He returned to his room, only to stop dead in his tracks once he had closed the door behind him.

Medea stood in the middle of the room wrapped in her dark cloak. A shadow melting into the night. Still having to adjust to the darkness, he could not see her eyes and read her expression.

"Medea?" he called out uncertainly.

She took a step forward and at the same time she pulled her cloak open. It run on her body and fell on the tatami, pooling at her feet, exposing her skin to him in the process.

Every inch of her skin.

Shirou's entire body froze in place.

He couldn't move, he couldn't think, he couldn't even breathe. There wasn't a single brain cell inside his skull that he could coax into doing anything but stare at the figure in front of him.

She took another step forward and the moonlight filtering from the rice-paper door washed on her, highlighting every curve, every peak and every slope of her body.

It was as if the moon had never had any purpose other than shining its light upon this woman, this goddess, and permanently sear the image inside his mind.

She was standing inches away from him now. Close enough that he could feel her breath on his face. Close enough to feel the heat radiating from her body.

"Me...dea..., I ..."

"Shh," she put a finger on his lips. "Show me."

Shirou couldn't recall moving. He didn't know when he had grabbed her wrist nor when he had put a hand on the small of her back to pull her against him. He regained a measure of self-awareness, and subsequently lost it, only when his lips seized hers.

God almighty, those lips. Never in all of his life had he ever imagined something could feel like that.

Warm, soft, delicious.

He wanted more of it. It wasn't enough. It would never be enough.

Both their lips opened and the kiss deepened. Their passionate dance was interrupted by the intrusion of her tongue into his mouth. Shirou's eyes who had been closed shot open again in surprise, but only briefly before he replied in kind.

He was inexperienced and all too clumsy.

Medea did not care.

Right then she could feel all of his ardor, all of his desire for her. All of his need. He hadn't lied, not one bit, when he said that he wouldn't have been able to hold himself back with her.

Her relief was almost painful, as if a thorn had been removed from her heart. One single tear fell from her eyes, dropping to the floor next to her feet. It was forgotten even before it had completed its journey.

'So what if he doesn't love me the way I'd like to?'

She pushed herself against him even more, pressing her breasts against his chest. His response was dropping his hand to her butt and squeezing almost to the point of hurting. Almost, but not quite.

Maybe he wasn't too clumsy after all.

She couldn't hold the moan that escaped her throat. She didn't even try. She wanted him to know, to realize what he was doing to her.

Medea's voice sent Shirou into overdrive even more. A notable feat, because he wouldn't have thought it possible. He was going insane. He had already lost the ability to formulate thoughts the way humans are supposed to. He was driven by a single, all-consuming purpose.

To have more of her.

Before he could decide how to go about that she tugged his shirt and led him towards the futon a few feet away, where she pulled him down with her.

There were a hundred thousand questions Shirou would have wanted to ask, but when their lips finally parted there was only one that really mattered.

"Are you… really sure it's fine? Is this really your choice?"

He had to ask, because she had been robbed of her will and made to be with a man already once in her life.

One time too many.

Medea stopped mid-motion, a look of surprise flashing across her face. It quickly turned into a smile full of warmth as she replied.

"There are no more gods left to bind me."

Then she pushed him with both hands and Shirou found himself laying on his back. In one swift motion, Medea straddled his waist, using her weight to keep him down.

Her inner thighs brush against his sides, as his shirt had partially left his stomach exposed. The texture of her skin felt like silk against his, and he found himself running his fingers on her legs while she regaled him with a smoldering look.

"I... I don't know what I should-" he started to say but she cut him off with yet another kiss.

Unlike the previous one, it was slow and tender.

"Let me worry about that," she whispered once their lips parted. "Just... don't think about dropping out on me before I'm done with you."

Shirou nodded with a completely serious expression, which almost made her giggle. Even at a time like this, when he was devouring her with his eyes, he was his usual earnest self.

'How does one go about measuring love anyway?'

If he could love her despite the stains on her soul, how could she not do the same?

Perfection was overrated. They were two flawed beings who loved each other and it was more than enough to her. More than she or anyone else could ask from life.

She only wanted to be held by the man she loved. There was no need for complicated thoughts.

And in the end, even if it would turn out to be a mistake, it was one she would not regret.

She pulled up his shirt, exposing his chest, and leaned forward to kiss her way - slowly - down to his abs.

Medea wasn't fond of muscles, but Shirou was the right combination of lean and sculpted to appeal her tastes.

She stopped midway through his stomach, at the scar from the wound he had suffered for her. She brushed it with her fingers and she felt Shirou shiver under her touch.

Before the night was over, she'd make sure to leave marks of her own making. Maybe they wouldn't be as permanent, but she'd make them burn much better.

She continued her journey southward, past his waist, where one dainty finger hooked around the band of his boxers and pulled down without preamble.

It jumped up, ramrod straight, standing at attention like a diligent soldier next to his queen.

"Is this what you've been holding back from me all this time, Shirou?" she asked teasingly, at which he could only stare back in mute embarrassment. "I'll teach you why you shouldn't do that."

And then, without another word, her lips were over and around it.

"Kuh!" he groaned at the feeling of her mouth. He had never even dared to imagine she would be willing to use her lips in such a way. Certainly, he would have never believed it would feel like that. It completely surpassed his every expectation and all he could do was keeping himself from bucking his hips.

Inch by inch, she took more of it inside her mouth, pushing a lock of purple hair out of the way and behind her pointed ear.

He very nearly lost it at the sight.

How could such a simple gesture be so elegant and so indecent at the same time he could not understand.

She must have felt him twitch because she gave him a look full of amusement and self-satisfaction. Then as if she hadn't already shattered whatever misguided notion he had about carnal pleasure, she started moving her head on it.

Up and down, slowly but steadily, with soft slurping noises that only served to drive him crazy even further. She used one hand to keep it steady as she sped up her motions, while her other hand had disappeared somewhere down her body.

Shirou didn't ponder about what she might have been doing with it, because frankly he didn't have enough brainpower to spare. All of his focus was directed at holding himself back, because if he hadn't he would have long since reached his climax.

However, regardless of how strong-willed he was, he could postpone the inevitable only so much.

"M-Medea! I'm about to...!" he warned, but rather than pulling back she pushed every inch of its length into her mouth and certainly even past it.

The sight of Medea - perfect, beautiful, regal Medea - wantonly deepthroating him was the straw that broke the camel's back.

"..hrrrk!" Shirou groaned as he came harder than he ever had in his life, emptying himself into her. Only when he the last drop had left him did Medea pull back and let him go.

She looked flustered and her breathing was slightly labored, but she was far too beautiful for Shirou to just lay there and stare at her.

He sat up and kissed her again, much to her obvious surprise. Maybe, if there had been someone else in her place he would have been at least reticent to kiss her after what she had just done.

However, there was already nothing that could possibly tarnish her in her eyes.

It wasn't because she saw her as a pure maiden or some such. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was because he liked her the way she was, from the stains that marred her souls to the sins she carried with her head held high.

Nothing she did with her body could ever make him want her less.

Therefore, there was no hesitation when he cupped her face and kissed her, just as there was no resistance from her when he pulled her side into his chest.

While they made out, Shirou caressed his way down her body. From her cheek to her neck, then further down to her breasts, brushing lightly against her turgid nipple. The sudden twitch of her body encouraged him to explore the area a bit more, using his callous fingers to knead the flesh of her breast.

She mutely scratched his chest as he went from kneading to outright squeezing, but she didn't break off the kiss. He took it as a sign of approval.

Still, his final destination laid elsewhere and he soon abandoned the hills of her breasts in favor of the smooth plains of her stomach. He felt her shiver as his hand journeyed downward and she required no coaxing in opening her legs to grant him access to her secret place.

His fingers met a small patch of hair, the last landmark before his goal, but when they slipped past it, they fell into a burning pit.

"Nhhh!" Medea moaned into his mouth when his fingers touched the folds of her womanhood, wet and hot beyond his wildest imagination.

Feeling it would be rude to just let himself in he instead sent his fingers to explore the premises, until they found the spot famed for being the weakest spot common to all women.

"N-yah!" Medea shrieked when he touched the bundle of nerve, nearly jumping out of his arms. "S-Shirou!"

She looked flustered at her own reaction and surprised at his homing on that particular spot. She clearly hadn't expected a virgin like him to know about it.

It was an unusual expression on her, and an extremely cute one at that. It couldn't be helped then if he attacked that spot mercilessly.

"F~uaaah!" she exhaled, squirming into his arms. Spurred by her reaction, Shirou moved to the next step.

There is something to be said about being able to juggle several type of weapons like an expert. It gives the dexterity to move every single finger just the way one wants to.

There had been no warning, no change in pace in what he was already doing when Shirou sent two of his fingers past the barrier of her folds and into her hole.

"Shiiiirooou!" she moaned aloud, scratching his chest with the hand that wasn't pinned by his body. He responded by kissing her neck, down and back up again. He didn't know what prompted him to do so, but when her elfin ear came into his vision, he felt the irresistible urge to nibble it.

"-!"

Medea's entire body tensed as she let out a silent gasp. For a long moment she shook and trembled, while her folds squeezed around his fingers, until she slowly relaxed into his arms.

Shirou cupped her face and kissed her lips gently, while he pressed his manhood against her hips. A clear declaration of intent.

He pushed her down slowly and she offered no resistance. It was so that she found herself on her back with Shirou leaning above her. He run his fingers on her thighs all the way to her knees which he gently pushed apart.

With her pussy now so clearly exposed, glistening with arousal, Medea felt a sudden rush of self-consciousness, which lasted for the fraction of time that it took him to position his hardness against her entrance.

'This is it,' they both thought, unbeknownst to one another.

Slowly, he pushed himself inside her, both savoring the exquisite pressure they exercised on each other, right until he was fully sheathed in her depths. Out of sheer female instinct, she hooked her legs around him. The pressure on his lower back, this unspoken claim, this affirmation of wanting to keep him inside her, gave Shirou all the motivation he needed to start moving.

It was awkward at first. They lacked any sort of synchronicity, but they started to get better with each thrust, with each moan, with each scratch, with each kiss.

Slow, deliberate movements quickly became frantic and rushed until nature run its inevitable course and Shirou met the limit of his willpower again.

Medea felt his essence flood her, white and hot, filling her innermost place and sending warmth rippling across her body. Still sensitive from her recent climax this new wave of sensations pushed her over the edge once more and her body coiled around him in every conceivable way, while the only thing that came out of her throat was a barely audible whimper.

'How did it turn out like this?' she wondered. Just a few minutes before she was the seductress leading the inexperienced virgin past his first time and now she was suddenly holding onto him for everything she was worth, like she was the maiden who had just been deflowered.

Was this who she really was deep down? A moth drawn to the flame called love, blind to how deep it burned?

But she would not burn, not this time. The flame that seized her would warm her but never so much as singe her. It would sooner turn on itself and be smothered rather than to make her shed a single tear, for this was his true nature, proved time and time again.

She was safe, at last. She would not be hurt again, not while he held her.

It wasn't perfect. It never would be, but it didn't have to.

Even though he had just come for the second time, she felt him start moving again. It looked like the vigor of youth was more than willing to make up for the absence of experience.

The moth would dance to the flame until the sun rose again.


Satsuki returned home from her night out about a little after sunrise. Not having the physical need for sleep meant that if her mind was troubled, she couldn't hope to shut her eyes.

The first thing she noticed was how quiet the house was. That wasn't entirely abnormal as the Emiya household was naturally a quiet place but at that hour Shirou would already be up making the first preparations for breakfast before his morning workout, filling the house with mouth-watering smells.

On that morning there was nothing of the sort. Satsuki wasn't really concerned though. It was perfectly normal if Shirou had overslept for once, as he worked himself to the bone everyday.

Still, if there was one thing she had figured about him, it was that he really liked his routine and he'd be upset if he woke up too late. Therefore, she decided to go and wake him.

Moving through the halls making very little noise she reached his room and knocked gently on the doorframe. There was no answer, but more importantly there was no sound. As in her finger didn't make any noise when they struck the wood.

She tried again and once more and the same thing happened. Curiosity piqued, she decided to peek inside to make sure everything was fine with him. Before her young, naive mind could even come up with a reason why a room would be purposefully soundproofed she had already opened the door a few inches, just enough to see the inside of the room.

There she stood, stock-still, as her eyes, nose and ears were overwhelmed by the sights, smells and sounds no longer sealed in the closed space. Her face turned progressively redder until it closely resembled a heat lamp.

She didn't know how long she stared - seconds? minutes? - but eventually she found the presence of mind to close the door, making the house completely silent once again.

She stood there unmoving for a little while more, then sharply turned ninety degree and marched away with stiff, robot-like movements and a face like a bright neon light.

She would then refuse to come out of her room and see anyone, particularly Shirou, for the rest of the day.


XXX


AN: The release of this chapter to the public was supposed to be in four days, but I'm going to be too damn busy next week planning my marriage to be able to post it, so you can have it a bit earlier.

Writing it was an ordeal. I shit you not, I wrote about five versions before finally settling on this. Even know I'm not a hundred percent satisfied with it.

I thought long and hard how Shirou and Medea would finally come to be together. In canon (the original VN, not the Realta Nua version or the animes) sex between Shirou and the route heroine is the point of arrival of their relationship. That make sense for Saber, Rin and Sakura, but they don't have experience with romance. Medea does have experience, but it's the wrong type. She doesn't know how to do romance. She has no clue how to handle spontaneous love.

Thus, considering that in canon the first thing she asked Kuzuki when he agreed to help her was "do you like it rough", I decided that she would approach the matter in reverse from the other three girls. First she lays Shirou, then they'll work out the details of their relationship together. Also, that's pretty much a clear cut message about what she wants, even after Shirou rejected her.

Speaking of which, I'm not sure whether I got Shirou's thought process come through clearly. He chose to follow his ideals with the same convinction by which Medea came to trust him. Betraying those ideals would have been the same as betraying her. He loves her, so he can't do that to her.

Basically, it's reverse Heaven's Feel.

Medea pushing herself on him regardless of his priorities it's her way to say that she agrees with him. In the end, when love is involved, compromises are necessary.

I'm probably going to get a lot of flak from Nasuverse purists that believe that a characters are set in a certain way and they can't stray without breaking entirely, but meh! This is how I interpreted this chain of event since the conception of this story.

Next chapter will feature a bit of talk between Shirou and Medea, which will be defining to Shirou's divergence from his canon self, other than him not holding the idiot ball most of the time.

The next two chapter will be available to my Patrons on the 25th along with a picture of Medea I commissioned. It will be SFWish.

If you are interested in joining the club check out my page at "pa treon [dotCOM] / neoalfa"

Do keep in mind that if you join, you'll be able to vote which story will be updated next, Path of the King or Promises of a Wandering Hero.

This chapter was edited by The Ride and Obiki Doragon.