Interlude - Making of a Tyrant (I)
Shirou lay on the floor, staring at the ceiling of his room with eyes wide open.
He used to have a futon, but the bedding was crumpled in a corner, having been kicked out of the way during the course of the restless night.
Next to him was Medea, Princess of Colchis. The Heroic Spirit known with the moniker of Witch of Betrayal. A not undeserved title, for she had been betrayed by others and she betrayed others in return. An existence steeped in blood and tragedy.
An existence that currently lay naked, with her legs intertwined with Shirou's, who was just as naked. Her head was resting on his chest while her face was adorned by a thoroughly satisfied smile.
"Okay," Shirou eventually said. "Okay. That happened."
"Are you having trouble believing it?"
Shirou looked at her with an arched eyebrow.
"Of course I do. You really don't understand how magnificent you are. You are... Wait," he frowned. "You do know. You just want to hear it from me."
Medea laughed into his chest, before pulling herself up to a seating position so that she could see his face better.
"Oh, thank goodness. I feared I would have to employ drastic measures every time I had to make you realize something so basic. Yes, Shirou, I do know and yes, I did want to hear it from you."
"... Are you sure about this then? I... You deserve so much more than a guy who goes around the world chasing after his own dreams."
Medea sighed and pushed a few strands of hair away from her face.
"I'm not so sure about that and besides, life isn't about deserving or not deserving. If that was the case, no one would ever suffer unjustly. No, life is about what you want, and what you are willing to do to obtain it."
"I thought you wished for a normal life with a man devoted to you."
She tilted her head. Of course, through the dream cycle he should have at least figured as much.
"Yes. That was the wish of the woman who had been scorned by gods and fate alike. The wish of a woman who had nothing because she was been robbed of everything."
"You speak of her as if she's someone else," he observed.
"She is me and I am her, but I'm also more. I'm the woman who met you," she explained, running a finger across his chest. "A man who would look at her and see more than someone to despise. Thus my wish changed from being with someone devoted to me and no one else to being with you. You should take responsibility for that."
"Once upon a time, a man trampled upon my wishes and took my happiness from me. Now another man does the same in order to give it back. Honestly, no matter the era, it seems my fate is to be a hero's plaything," she shifted her legs and straddled him. The hand that was gently caressing his chest was now scratching into his skin. "I probably ought to curse you for that."
"Okay," he nodded solemnly.
"... okay?" Her eyebrow twitched in mild annoyance. "You know, I was only joking, but now I really do feel like putting a curse on you."
"You were?" he blinked. "I thought you were serious."
Medea paused. What aspect of his idiocy had she just stumbled upon? She curled her fist and was about to bump him on the head for his stupidity when he suddenly grabbed her wrist and sat up, pushing her down on the floor instead.
"I can take a thousand curses and still call it a win if that means being with you like this, Medea. So... curse away."
Medea's heart suffered a critical meltdown, which brought an interesting shade of red to her cheeks that far surpassed those she had shown during the night.
"Dummy," she muttered, looking away for a moment. "But if you actually mean it, there is at least one I want you to bear."
"Of course," he nodded.
"I curse you to never give up on your desires. I fell in love with your brand of selfishness and I traded my dream to be with you. So... I curse you to never change that. Always stay true to the dreams you chose, no matter how many other wishes you must trample upon."
"That would make me a tyrant, wouldn't it?"
"You already were a tyrant before I met you, Shirou. That's the thing about wishes; they are all inherently selfish things. The harder you pursue them, the more selfish that makes you and I don't believe I ever met someone who chased after his dreams as strongly as you do. You are simply no longer allowed to pretend they aren't about you."
Shirou turned pensive. Medea's words were true, in the end. He pursued an ideal because he thought it was beautiful. He didn't want to be a Champion of Justice for Kiritsugu. He didn't want to become a hero who can save everyone for the sake of those who passed away while he lived. In the end, it was nothing more than an act of self-fulfillment. A purpose of his own choosing. A way to fill the bottomless gap within his soul.
Even though what he wanted for was to bring other people happiness, it was still his own personal desire. To call it otherwise would be pure hypocrisy. An hypocrisy that he had willingly embraced every day of his life until now.
"I don't have any choice in this, do I?" he asked.
"If you did, it wouldn't be a curse, Shirou," she replied, matter-of-factly.
"Eh," he scoffed, shaking his head, "that's what I get for scoring with someone way out of my league."
Again, he was treated to the sight of a blushing Witch, which prompted him to lean forward and kiss her.
"You... idiot," she protested weakly before he lips were seized by him. "Being suave all of a sudden is... against the rules."
"I'm a Magus and the Master of the Witch of Betrayal," he smirked mischievously. "I think it was high time I engaged in a round of rule-breaking."
"You," *kiss* "insolent," *smooch*. "Hmm. Don't kiss me while I'm trying to be cross with you."
"I'd totally listen to you, but a beautiful witch just cursed me into putting my wishes before anyone else's, so I'm afraid I'll have to disregard that and just do what I want."
"You are...such a dummy."
No more words were spoken for some time, while the room was filled by the sound of lips dancing to a tune as old as humanity itself.
Eventually though, the two lovers broke apart.
"You're going to be late for school at this rate."
Shirou looked up towards the rice-paper door. The sun was already quite high in the sky. What time was it again?
He stole a glance to this clock, which had fallen to the floor and had rolled not to far away from their current position.
"You're right," he admitted, getting up from the floor and from on top of her. "I should probably get ready. Taiga will be here soon, and I'd rather she didn't find us like this."
"Hmmm? Are you already trying to deny our love, my darling?" she asked with a dangerous edge to her voice.
Shirou gave her an amused yet exasperated glance.
"You're fishing for compliments again."
"So what if I am?" she taunted unrepentantly.
"Yes, well, I'd would love nothing more but to worship the very ground you tread upon, but I'm pressed for time so I'm going to call a rain check on it."
Medea licked her lips. "We'll get to the worship part, eventually. Now get dressed before I decided to lock you up somewhere and never let you out again."
Shirou rolled his eyes and hastily put on some clothes. With people coming and going from his house at all hours he'd rather not accidentally flash someone. He then left the room with one last glance to Medea's naked body.
He still couldn't believe it. How did that happen?
As soon as the sound of Shirou's footsteps vanished, Medea sighed and leaned back on the floor. Then she waved her hand and summoned an item through a runic circle.
It was a women's magazine she had bought some days prior. She quickly flipped through the pages looking for a specific article and soon found it.
- Morning After: Top Ten Things To Do To Wrap Him Around Your Finger -
Giggling, she started reading through it.
Half an hour later, Shirou was cleaned and dressed. Taiga had called that she wouldn't come for breakfast because she had a few errands to run before heading to work, so she told Shirou to pack her something extra for her.
Satsuki refused to come out of her room, saying that she didn't feel like being in the sun for that day. After making sure she didn't need blood and that her vampiric impulses weren't acting up Shirou agreed to let her skip school for one day.
Being a bit moody was the least thing considering what life had thrown at her.
So he told Medea that the bath was free and that he would be in the kitchen setting up breakfast just for the two of them.
Soon enough, a delicious smell drifted around, while the sound of pots and pans echoed, composing together the unmistakable atmosphere of the Emiya household in the morning.
While he cooked, Shirou couldn't help but going back to the events of the previous night. For all intents and purposes, he didn't suffer from self-esteem issues. He put other people's lives above his own not because he thought his life was worth less than normal, but simply because he prioritized theirs above his.
He just never thought about himself much, busy as he was concerning himself about others. Still, he really couldn't wrap his head around the concept of being in a relationship with a woman like Medea.
Shirou was many things, but conceited was not one of them. Medea was a stunningly beautiful, intelligent, driven and prideful woman. Not in a hundred years he would have considered having a shot with someone like her.
Of course, he knew that relationships were a matter of character and circumstances rather than some imagined parameter of worthiness, but still!
Anyway, he wasn't going to look in a gift horse's mouth. If being with him despite his glaring flaws was what she wanted, then he would do his utmost best to live up to her expectations. He might have been an idiot, but he wasn't that much of one.
A few minutes later, he heard bare footsteps approaching.
"Whew," he heard her say as she stepped into the living room. "I really needed that bath."
He turned around, pan and skillet still in his hands, and promptly forgot what he was about to say.
Medea stood in the doorway, beautiful as ever with the sunlight framing her slightly damp hair. She was already breathtaking on a regular day, but Shirou's young heart really couldn't take the sight of her like that. Not when the only thing he could see on her was the long-sleeved shirt he was wearing the previous day.
Because of the difference in their height, and the way her curves filled it, it fell all the way to her porcelain thighs, acting as a makeshift dress. A dress far too short for his heartbeat not to accelerate considerably at the sight of it.
"Is something the matter, Shirou?" she asked, seeing his stunned expression. Of course, she knew perfectly well what she was doing, if the light blush on her features and the way she bit her lip was any indication.
With the iron-clad will that characterized him, Shirou slowly put down what he was holding and took a deep breath. He was a man who put little to no emphasis on himself. One could have even go as far as calling him prideless.
Even so, he wasn't so broken that the sight of the woman he loved wearing his shirt the day after they sealed the deal wouldn't stroke a fire inside him.
"You enjoy tormenting me way too much," he eventually said.
"You enjoy being tormented by me just as much," she countered.
Shirou gave her a mild glare with no actual bite in it. After all, there was just no way he could look at her in that state and be upset with her. Even without taking into consideration that was she said was a hundred percent true.
"What if Satsuki-san decides to come down for breakfast after all, and sees you like that?"
Shirou was clueless about many things regarding women, but even he knew the significance of a woman wearing a man's shirt that way and if he knew it, then so did the rest the world.
"Well. Let her see me, then. I'm not ashamed of what we did, or what we are."
"Neither am I," Shirou sighed, "it's just… we Japanese are reserved people. We don't really make a public show of our relationships."
"Well, I'm from ancient Greece and our idea of sport is naked men covered in oils wrestling each other. Besides… do you really not want to see me like this?"
Biting her lip mischievously, she tugged up one hem of the shirt and the other one down, making the bottom line of that piece of clothing cut obliquely across her hips and thighs.
"You… you aren't wearing anything under there, are you?"
Medea did not answer, but arched an eyebrow suggestively.
Shirou's heart took a critical hit and he didn't fall to his knees only because he was supporting himself on the counter that separated the kitchen from the living room.
Even though he was tired from not having slept a single minute the previous night and being physically drained in every sense of the word, the young man could feel a surge of desire swell inside him.
"You are going to be the death of me, Medea."
"Oh, don't you worry about that. I have plenty of means to make you stand back up."
The innuendo didn't escape him. Shirou slammed his fist on the counter. "Stop. Please, stop," he begged. "I have classes. I already know I'll be thinking of you all morning. Please don't make it harder than it already is."
Medea shoulders twitched as she suppressed her laughter, causing Shirou to frown.
"What? What did I say? … THAT'S NOT WHAT I MEANT AND YOU KNOW IT!"
Medea couldn't hold it anymore and burst out laughing, falling on her knees, holding her sides while tears of mirth rolled down her cheeks.
Shirou's shoulders dropped as he let out a long drawn sigh. There was no way he could be upset with her when she smiled like that. Eventually he too joined her and the sound of laughter filled the house.
Even though the war loomed over them, for one perfect moment, all was well.
They ate breakfast chatting easily, though Shirou was captivated by Medea all the time. She had always been strikingly beautiful, but now it was like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders and she shone with a light he couldn't quite describe.
"Jokes aside, it would be better if we didn't let most people know about our relationship for the time being," Medea said.
"I don't object to that, but what made you change your mind all of a sudden?" he asked.
"It's not much of a worry, but I'd rather that the topic didn't come up around Rin. I'm quite confident she wouldn't let her personal feelings interfere with our common goals, but since I'm going to have to work closely with her for the foreseeable future, it would be better if she didn't know that her crush had been stolen. Worst case scenario, we can use her feelings as leverage."
"Huh?" Shirou frowned, then blushed slightly. "T-Tohsaka has a crush on you?"
Medea started at him with a questioning frown, then she rubbed the bridge of her nose wearily. "Of course. Why did I expect any differently? No, Shirou, Rin doesn't have a crush on me, to the best of my knowledge."
"Ah? Then who….?" he trailed off as he noticed Medea staring intently at him with narrowed eyes. "Eh…. EEEEEEEEEEH? No way! You must be mistaken. There's no way that Tohsaka would-"
"Shirou," she interrupted. "Are you suggesting that you understand how a woman thinks or feel better than another woman does?"
"Eh…no," He stuttered.
"I guess that I have been lucky that she didn't act upon them before I did," Medea decided.
"But… are you sure? I mean… that's just too unbelievable."
"Please, tell me you at least knew about Sakura," Medea said wearily.
"... Sakura as well?"
"Shirou, I don't believe that's the case, but are you by any chance making fun of me?" She asked in a deliberately patient tone. "Sakura swoons when you so much a breath in her general direction. I saw it happen."
Shirou was just as silent as he was wide eyed.
"You really had no clue at all, did you?"
Shirou shook his head rapidly several times.
"If I didn't come to cherish you as much as I do, I would extract your skull just to see if it's made from some high-density alloy. There should be a limit to how thick anyone can be, but you surpass my expectations every single time. Did you ever notice any woman having an interest in you at all? Not Satsuki or that Ayako girl?"
"... them too?" Shirou asked with a barely audible voice.
"Hmph! Satsuki is making a good job to keep herself emotionally detached from you as possible, but that's only because you are not even trying. If you pushed a little, she would capitulate in short order. And do you really think that that Mitsuzuri would have reacted the way she did when I implied our relationship, if she didn't have an emotional investment in you? Don't make me laugh."
Shirou sat in stunned silence for a long time.
"But... why?" he eventually asked.
"I can't speak for everyone's personal preferences," Medea explained, "but you do possess traits that most women would find attractive and I'm not talking about your looks. In case I didn't made it clear enough already, I think you are a remarkable man. Sure enough, your stubbornness can be troubling to the people around you, but the truth is that most women like a man who confidently pursues his own ambitions without compromising."
"It can't possibly be that simple," he objected.
"On its own, maybe not," she agreed, "but if to that you add above average looks, great reliability and a penchant for surpassing expectations I'm afraid that you are bound to be highly regarded by any woman you spend sufficient time with, whether they decide to do anything about it or not. And that's without keeping in consideration to what lengths you have gone for some of us."
"Eh? I didn't do anything."
Medea shook her head. "Perhaps it was nothing to you, as you were merely acting according to your beliefs, but do you think that Rin doesn't hold you in high esteem for what you do for her again and again? That Satsuki is indifferent to you after you became the one person she can always rely upon? Do you think it matters nothing to me, that you chose to believe in me when no one else ever did?"
"I… I just did what I thought was right every time."
"Our choices define who we are, " she explained. "Yours have simply made you into a man that many women admire. They made you into the man I love."
Shirou stared at his empty plate without knowing what to say. He had never considered how people thought of him. To begin with, he did nothing for the purposes of being acknowledged, but that didn't mean that people wouldn't acknowledge him all the same.
Only now such a basic fact of life had dawned upon him.
"W… what should I do now?" he decided to ask.
Medea shrugged. "You don't have to do anything at all. It's not like you did anything expressly for the purpose of making them like you. If you had, I would have already shown you what I planned to do to my ex-husband if I had the chance," she said with a smile that would have sent him running for the hills he had been the cause for it.
Indeed, he had no intention of knowing what Medea had wanted to do to Jason. Certainly he wouldn't have wanted to be the object of whatever elaborate form of living hell she had in store for people like her former husband.
Still, even though Medea said he should do anything about the situation, Shirou couldn't easily do nothing about it.
"I would have preferred you didn't tell me about it."
"And let you break one maiden's heart after another in blissful ignorance? No way," she rebuffed. "But seriously, I didn't think you were absolutely unaware of it. It's so painfully obvious."
"You are awfully nonchalant about your boyfriend being the recipient of other women's interest."
"How odd," Medea said, tilting her head as she pondered his words. "I would definitely be most upset if you turned your attention to another woman, but at the same time I feel surprisingly good knowing that my man is... highly coveted."
"Is it a woman thing or is it just you?" he asked with his brows furrowed. He had the feeling he had unknowingly stepped into a twilight zone, but it was too late to turn back now.
"Possibly, I'm not sure. This is the first time I'm in a relationship with anyone of my own volition, you understand."
He did, though that helped him little with the situation at hand.
"You don't seem happy about the situation," she observed.
"Of course not!" he exclaimed. "I can't possibly reciprocate their feelings but I don't want to hurt them either."
"Hm? Why, don't you find them attractive?" she asked, sounding almost casually.
Shirou suddenly felt on the edge of a very high cliff. One wrong move and he'd fall to his death... or at the very least to a very painful experience. There was just one way he could answer that question in his mind.
"Of course they are attractive," he confessed. "...What?"
Strangely enough, Medea's mouth was curved into a loving smile.
"Thank you for not lying to me," she said simply.
Shirou shook his head and let out a slow sigh. Attractive or not, women were troublesome. He was half-expecting her to skin him... or at least to electrocute him a little bit.
"You are being weird about the situation again. Aren't you supposed to be angry about it?"
"They all are objectively attractive women. I would have been angry if you had lied just to appease me."
"... I don't believe I'll ever understand how you women think."
"Well, I really wasn't expecting any different from you at this point," she said mockingly. "Besides, I already know you won't turn your back on me no matter what. In light of that I suppose I could forgive a few dalliances."
"I... no," he said firmly. "I don't do... dalliances. I don't even understand why you of all people are bringing up something like that."
"Well…," she looked away with an embarrassed smile. "I was hoping that if I let you keep Rin and Sakura as pets, you'd let me have Saber in exchange."
"Buh?!" Shirou exclaimed, blushing to his ears. "Saber what? But she... you..."
"Oh, don't be like that. Saber's beauty is of the highest degree. I would do almost anything to get my hands on her. The things I could do with her... fu fu fu."
A shiver went down Shirou's spine. How could he have forgotten? Even though he loved her, that didn't change the fact that Medea was still a wicked witch at heart.
His instincts as a hero kicked into high gear. He had to protect Saber's purity.
"Medea... molesting our allies, no, molesting anyone is absolutely prohibited," he declared.
"What if I share Saber with you?" she offered with a hopeful glint in her eyes.
"Absolutely! Prohibited!" he insisted, though his blush intensified.
"... you are such a stick in the mud, Shirou."
"No," he said firmly. "In this case, I'm pretty sure my personality is not the problem."
"Hmm, fine. I'll give up... for the time being. Although..."
"What?" he asked, feeling dread creep up his spine.
"I wonder if you would be of the same opinion if you found me and Saber together in your futon one night."
"I'll use a Command Seal, Medea. I swear I'll do it," he promised in all seriousness.
"Shirou…," Medea said as her gaze fell to his lap, "your erection is betraying your true feelings."
"MY ERECTION IS NOT IN CHARGE OF ANYTHING!" he bellowed, covering the traitorous part of his anatomy with both hands.
And so, as Medea laughed heartily once more, Shirou was left with the impression that he had bitten more than he could chew again.
Eventually Shirou managed to leave for school, but not before Medea gave him one last parting kiss.
Although he couldn't be too sure about it (he never could around women), Shirou felt that Medea was truly happy about being together with him.
Despite her words of praise earlier that morning, Shirou really didn't see what was the big deal with him. Although he didn't think she was making fun of him, he really couldn't believe that so many girls had a crush on him. He would have noticed if they had...
... except he had completely misunderstood Medea's blatant hints for weeks, and they lived and worked together.
Maybe, he was willing to admit, he was a little bit dense when it came to these things. The problem was that now he couldn't get this knowledge out of his head. Not only he would be thinking about the previous night all day long, he didn't know how he would face Tohsaka and Satsuki with a straight face.
Even Saber was not spared by his overworking imagination. Monk-like attitude aside, he was still very much a red-blooded young man. It simply wasn't in his power not to think of the image that his girlfriend had planted in his head.
The awkwardness he had just managed to surpass with Medea would come back in full force around just about any woman in his life with the exception of Taiga.
And thank goodness for that small saving grace.
Needless to say, Shirou would not be able to pay any attention to his classes that morning.
While Shirou went to school, Medea got properly dressed and went about cleaning the house.
Just like Shirou wouldn't be her perfect husband, she wouldn't be his perfect housewife.
That was fine, though. That was the beauty of their bond. They didn't need to be perfect.
It was fine to be flawed, stained, marked by sin.
Medea never felt his liberated in her entire life. Even when she was still a little girl she didn't feel in such a way.
In short she walking on clouds, humming and giggling to herself while she moved around the almost empty house.
This happiness... she would protect it at all costs.
Before I say anything else: Merry Christmas people. It's been a long, eventful year for me and if there's one thing I know for sure is that having you, my readers, gave me the motivation to go over and beyond when I would have otherwise given up. So thanks, people. You rock.
I hope you enjoyed the chapter, which as usual wouldn't have been half as good without the invaluable help of my beta Obiki Doragon. Merry Christmas to you in particular, buddy. I know it's not been a good time for you lately, but thanks for sticking by me anyway.
In case you didn't know already, I have a Pa treon account running, where chapters are released earlier and in greater quantities (by the end of this month, Path of the King over there will have three more chapters than here). If you are interested in a little bit of extra reading, or you just wish to support me, please take a look at my page "Pa treon [dotCOM] / neoalfa"
PS: Shekels are nice, but don't underestimate the power of a review. I hope to hear from you all.