It was not that she was in love.
The feeling was there, certainly. Loneliness had chipped away at her since leaving the halls of Atlas and seeking the solution to her plight. His presence had been a boon, something to hold close so she did not have to consider such emotions. The ease at which she had found herself in his presence was surprising, too, as despite their disparate backgrounds he had somehow shared more with her than any peer she had ever known. She thought that, maybe, had they been given the chance, it could have become love for her. Though a part of her considered the fact that he still had strong feelings for another within him to be integral to how she had known him, so she doubted anything but their current relationship would have come of it.
Beyond that, however, was the perspective he had given her. Atlas was, as the saying went, a no-brainer. She was born into a family line that had both fame and infamy within the boundaries of the organization. Her own abilities were far above the average. In many ways, being named Atlasia was merely a matter of course for one such as her. That was different from seeing a path with ones own eyes and choosing to walk it.
His path was such a thing, forged by the man he had come to call his father. He may have had help on those first few steps—his lover, plus a golden-haired knight he had once met certainly featured prominently in his memory with regards to that—but it was something he had chosen for himself. That path was something hard and infinitely painful, but one that anybody from Atlas could understand and accept intellectually as a noble, if impossible, goal and ideal.
She, too, could understand intellectually that the survival of the greatest number of people possible was worthy of pursuit. In many ways, his ideal was like a subset of a goal Atlas held to stop the future apocalypse from occurring. It was concerned only with the here and now, but it had many similarities. Yet for how important it was, for how it would affect the lives of so many, Sion had never considered it much more than simple data. She had never truly lived enough or understood the significance of the "other" to realize the drive, the need to pursue that end where those destined to die would be saved instead.
The one from the Holy Church, the knight that had given her life to protect Sion, had that same drive. Sion, however, did not understand it in the same way. Riesbyfe Stridberg was, despite the constant consideration Sion gave to her memory, not a being Sion felt she had an adequate comprehension of. Their motivations, their histories, so much differed. The time spent together had not been long enough to reconcile with these differences, despite the fact that their personalities had been synchronized.
Shirou was different. Perhaps, she thought, it had to do with the concept he pursued so strongly, something so single-minded it warped the very reality within him.
Something that humanity as a whole unconsciously strove for.
Something Sion thought she might be on her way toward.
Sion did not know whether it was the final death-blow. The swords that rained from the sky continued to crowd Wallachia until his original moon-like form could no longer be seen. Then an explosion would occur, or a sudden flash of light, and the darkness would be revealed—only to be overwhelmed once more by the color of steel.
She was certain that what ended it was not the weapons themselves causing damage. Wallachia did not have a "body" capable of mortal destruction—at least, not in the conditions provided by the current world. It did, however, possess the mind of the original bearer of TATARI, one who had a mind like Sion. One who had to process all things that occurred.
How does one process unlimited blades? How does one conceptualize an endless number of mysteries?
Wallachia could handle the data amount. That was for certain. However, could Wallachia handle the contradictions the data provided?
Sion could. If she held with her the one that this came from, it was a simple task.
When I was young, I wanted to be an ally of justice.
In the darkness of the Blood Lair's Night, a hero with no name did his work.
Sion squinted at the light cresting over the horizon. She was tired, her mind overworked, and soon the demonic part of her body would be a lot more uncomfortable.
The town below was overly quiet. Those waking from slumber would feel like they had suffered a bad dream. Those that had been awake would feel unease but be unable to discern why. As humans do, however, they would eventually go on with their lives and forget, perhaps too easily, the moment of suffering that they could not quite remember.
Sion laughed. A memory that was not hers bubbled to the top of her consciousness, of a high school classroom. Of a girl pacing outside the halls, then screaming bloody murder, and the entire class witnessing it—then erasing it from their minds. It never happened.
"You think it's funny now," a voice said from beside her.
The hologram remained. It stared unflinching at the warming sky, something he might have done even if he were not a mere replication of ether and data.
"It is a strange thing to think about. His memories, your memories—they only seem to house strangeness."
The figure in red snorted.
Her gaze went to where the orb had hovered, to the calculations she had already concluded even before this battle was fought. "He is not destroyed for good, is he?" Sion asked. It was a rhetorical question, more rhetorical than others—she was, after all, merely asking another facet of her own consciousness.
"No. That thing is a mystery, closer to a force of nature than a being that knows life and death. This weakened it, though it will continue."
Her head dropped. The thought that came to her now only heightened her guilt. "And I will fight him again. Once more, you are left to nothing but a cycle of destruction."
Gray eyes closed, though a look less scathing than she expected creased his face. He did not say anything, though he did not need to. With that, the image of the knight dissipated, leaving behind only a coil of invisible wire.
The wire itself seemed to be his reply.
Not just a cycle of destruction.
It was not that she was in love.
The feeling was there, certainly. Memories of what was not to be and things that once were moved back and forth between synapses like a letter in a bottle floated to and fro in the sea. If the metaphor was apt, Sion was unsure as to how she was supposed to take it, what her own thoughts were if she had to pluck the bottle out of the water and examine its contents. Was she to take what was written inside at face value? Ignore them? Consider them but decide not to pursue a course of action?
Perhaps the new influence within her mind was exerting some form of control—or lack thereof—as she found herself acting before having considered the possibilities thoroughly. It was not in her nature to act before adequate preparation so all things were set to her favor. To some degree, the memory-within-a-memory she held also agreed to that. The remembrances of the knight in red were in line with her own, a being that carefully planned out as much as possible ahead of time to maximize efficiency. That was yet another thing they had shared in common. Though, Shirou himself had yet to come to that point. It was not yet something he consciously took in; intuition was his primary modus operandi and it had yet to run completely parallel to the quick, deliberate thinking of his future self.
Nearly seven months had passed since Shirou's death. Three since she had driven off TATARI. Still, not enough time for her to process every new emotion to any degree she found acceptable.
Compared to Egypt, London on a good day was cold. As Winter had started in earnest, Sion considered the city was more oppressive than anything she had ever sensed. From the droves of people going about their daily business weighing on her mind to the inhospitable weather making her uncomfortable, she truly felt like crawling into some isolated—and warm—den and conserving her energy. Somewhere closer to the equator. Somewhere far, far away from civilization.
Despite her discomfort, she waited. She stood in the shadows between buildings, out of sight unless someone was looking carefully, still mulling over the course of action she was about to take. She was desperately unprepared, under-informed, and the possibility that there was a better time to do this ranged much closer to 100% than 50%. It could wait until the weather was pleasant and both parties could be comfortable. It could wait until a time of year in which many had free time, like a holiday. It could wait until emotions were less raw and fresh on the mind.
She heard a set of footsteps like any other, yet unlike any other. Within the scope of her borrowed memories, they were engrained as special, unique, despite the everyday nature to them. There was a certain cadence, an energy, matched with the sound of shoes she liked to wear. It was nostalgic, a fond remembrance of times when they echoed through the halls outside a classroom, their sound just like any other but their rhythm somehow telling him the owner was thinking only of him.
"Rin Tohsaka," Sion said, causing the footfalls to halt at the mouth of the alleyway. "Is there somewhere we can talk?"
"It's in here, somewhere," Rin grumbled.
The sight was everything Sion did not recognize, did not have the basis for comparison. Rin crouched just inside her closet doorway, shifting through a mixed mess of shoes and papers. Though Shirou's memories contained similar images—usually of Rin searching for a specific paper amidst the pile—the way the young woman hunched over was unusual. There was a closed-off, distancing sense she projected, as if she were cold or afraid. Not the mundane way Rin regularly cast herself about, something that had amused Shirou to no end with its un-ladylike demeanor.
"You have too many shoes," he would always say. And he would always get a shoe tossed at him in return.
"Here." The box was smaller than Sion imagined, though it should not have been a surprise. Shirou had taken most of what was important with him when he fled London—and he otherwise lived rather ascetically.
Rin set the container out, then got to work shoving all the detritus back into the storage space. When Sion had introduced herself, the magus had avoided eye contact. Putting off what hung unsaid.
Sion removed the lid from the box and peered inside. Some clothing odds and ends Shirou had not taken with him—mostly mismatched socks. A stopwatch. A mobile phone. Something Shirou's memories had no recollection of: a pair of rugby tickets. "I did not know he was a fan of sports."
"He wasn't. He caught things here and there but didn't pay much attention." Rin rummaged through another part of the closet. "It was going to be a surprise. He spent two weeks helping me carry a bunch of books and project equipment around. I was going to treat him." The way she continued on surprised Sion. The alchemist had assumed she would have to prod around, drag the information out of a reluctant knowledge keeper. This admission appeared as though Rin wanted to get some things out into the open.
"I think he would have appreciated it."
Rin let out a long, deep sigh. "Okay, I get that you spent some time with him. I've looked up your name before and it doesn't surprise me that he'd end up crossing paths with you. But, honestly, what is it you want? I don't really have the resources to help you with your…problem."
There it was, the primary concern. The reason she came, the reason she had to speak with Rin, the reason that she still did not fully grasp. "I do not have any motive other than I felt I had to speak with you. I must…say things. Things he did not have the time or adequate cognition to formulate into language."
And there it was, the expression that she recalled and yet did not—the expression of pure surprise on Rin's face that Shirou's memories had set aside. If Shirou's own data could have been partitioned, he would have kept a special area dedicated to "the expressions of Rin Tohsaka that are to be cherished." This was one, special of the special, that he kept in mind because of how infrequently he managed to surprise the girl. Of course, it also came with the caveat that it was often to be followed by a look that so clearly communicated one thing and one thing only: "Shirou Emiya is a no-talent idiot."
"Wha…what do you mean?" Rin stuttered out.
How was she supposed to explain? She was not Shirou, did not have that connection to exploit, yet she was—she kept everything about him within her. It was less comparable to the inheritance of ideals Shirou took from Kiritsugu and more like what Shirou experienced when siphoning abilities from Heroic Spirit EMIYA. She was a separate existence but held something so inherently common to them that reality itself distorted.
Doubly confounding because it was a fairly intimate, intrusive issue to breach. As Sion knew it, Rin Tohsaka would not be pleased to know someone else had in-depth understanding of the relationship she and Shirou held.
"I love you," Sion said.
An old-fashioned wind-up clock on the bedroom desk clicked hands as the hour changed. It punctuated the statement and reflected the cogs turning behind Rin's eyes. "Ghwha?"
Sion considered how she had not considered what she was actually saying before the words passed her lips. "Um. Let me explain."
It was not that she was in love.
Analytically, Sion had to structure her perception that way.
To be in love was a mutual acceptance.
To love another did not require reciprocity.
It was important to her to define it as such. So that, by necessity, she could fulfill something else.
Rin had said as much to Shirou, not long ago. "I will find a way for you to love yourself." Words she had repeated to him, repeated from a promise she had given at war's end.
"His inheritance was separate from him, and he decided what was important in it. His father's motivations differed from his own." Though embarrassed enough that her cheeks were most assuredly turning some shade of red or pink, she kept her gaze steady. "He loved you. More than you actually think he did. I think that is important. So…I will love you as he did. And I will remember that for the rest of my life, just as he remembered many things for his father."
The part of her mind that was always taking in data, the part that was most definitely Sion and not anyone else, watched in fascination as the thoughts of the dark-haired woman played plainly across her features: a flush of the cheeks, then a tinge of glassy eyes, a faint curling of the lips that formed something far short of an outright smile, ending on a furrowing of the brow and narrowing of eyes. The memory of how she had appeared at the funeral with nothing but a blank face was happily discarded in light of the new information.
The thought that Shirou would have, that this was a moment to file away as "never going to happen again" also skittered through her mind.
"That's…really messed up," Rin said.
"Indeed it is. However, I think that you out of anybody in this world would understand that if it were not so," Sion could not help the faint smile that creased her own lips, "it would most assuredly make me a fake."
She loved, perhaps found love in return.
It was not the kind of camaraderie she expected to encounter. Her journey was a lonely one and there were few—if any—that shared her plight. Connecting to Rin Tohsaka even took her further from the halls of Atlas, as confiding in a magus of the Clock Tower was not a glowing beacon guiding her back to her origins. Though keeping a world of one man within her mind kept her close to his humanity, it was also conceptually something that brought her just as in-line with the Apostles and their inhumanity. Tomorrow, still, she could be one of them. Today, she still had no remedy.
It's fine, just keep running.
The voice within her said it best, even if it also carried with it an edge that would never truly return.
I'm not going to listen to you sulk.
"I must remind Rin when next I see her, it is not all good. Your mouth can certainly be foul when it wishes to be," Sion said aloud.
She stared out over the darkening landscape before her, the glow of cars and workspaces and houses slowly taking light in the approaching dusk. She thought of the view he had once seen from here, of the girl he loved taking to the air and trusting the knight in red to carry her. Somewhere in that, there was a strange sense of parallelism to the world she now faced.
A black moon began to form above the skies of the winter city.
A memory of something greater than it came to mind, of a young man who stood before the greatest of heroes and, somehow, managed to win.
"You…child…" the darkness swirling above her let out what could only be called a feral growl. "The probability that the same thing will work twice on me is too low for significance."
"Continue to make it less probable, then," Sion said. The silvery threads of ether slid from her fingertips and began to take shape. "I will make what is impossible real."