Disclaimer: I don't own anything Type-moon or Nasuverse related.
A/N: Hello. It's been far too long, but these transitional chapters can be an unexpected source of writer's block. But I steeled myself, and with some inspiration from watching the new UBW anime, I finally managed to get this done. Hopefully I'm not too rusty. More than that though, I hope those reading enjoy the new chapter.
It was a little past noon by the time the trio reached the park. The crisp air made Shinji glad that he'd decided to wear a jacket. It had been a while since he'd been to the park, since neither his father nor grandfather was willing to take him when he asked, so Shinji was happy to visit. Usually he'd occupy his time on the swing sets or force his way into games other children were playing. Sometimes he'd simply lay on the grass and soak up the sunshine, the bright atmosphere a stark contrast to his own home which was kept constantly in the dark for whatever reason.
Right now though, he didn't go about his usual routine. Shinji was actually in the middle of an observation.
He took a mental note: His uncle sure knew some odd people.
Shinji watched in half bewilderment and half amusement as Kintaro laughed and kicked a soccer ball around, dancing around the other children as he tried to keep the ball away from them. The five other children ran and stumbled after him, trying to kick the ball away from the man or trying to trip him. While most adults would feel inclined to let children win or go easy on them, the man didn't look sorry for his aggressive actions at all and actually seemed to get a charge out of teasing the kids and pushing them around. It had turned into a five vs one game and the strange adult seemed to be winning. Shinji glanced around, cheeks coloring slightly in embarrassment at the stares other adults and parents directed towards the man causing such a ruckus with the children.
He glanced to the side, his gaze coming to rest on his uncle who sat on a bench some distance away. Shinji grimaced at the tattered jacket Kariya wore and the way his hood was drawn up, the combo making him look like he was some homeless bum. The other parents gave him a wide berth and sat away from him, chatting and whispering amongst themselves while pointing at him and Kintaro. They were probably wondering who those two strange people were and why they had arrived with a child.
Honestly, it just made Shinji feel even more embarrassed and made him wish that he hadn't taken the offer to come to the park in the first place. It wasn't worth the humiliation. He should've just stayed at home and continued to study in-
Shinji turned his head and had just enough time to widen his eyes before the soccer ball that Kintaro and the kids had been playing with bounced off of his forehead. The boy cried out as he fell back onto his behind, biting his lip as his forehead throbbed from where the ball had hit him. Shinji sniffed, forcing himself not to cry as he glared at the offender.
"You should pay attention, Shinji-kun." Kintaro called out teasingly, catching the ball under his foot as it rolled back to him. "Try using your feet to block it next time."
Seeing no trace of sympathy on the adult's face and noticing that the other kids were laughing at his stumble, Shinji's face swelled with indignation. The boy scrambled to his feet and stomped over to those ridiculing him, staring up at Kintaro with furious eyes.
"What's the big idea?! I wasn't even playing!" Shinji said angrily, looking quite comical as he tried to shout at Kintaro who towered over him.
"Exactly." Kintaro grinned, turning to the other the kids. "There's no point in coming to the park if you're just gonna stand around, right?"
The other kids all nodded and voiced their agreements with smiles on their faces. Shinji just got angrier in response. Even so, he held himself back and forced himself to calm down. He wouldn't allow the adult to wind him up anymore.
"Hmph. Some guy you are, picking on a little kid." Shinji scoffed. "You must be pretty depraved if you think hitting me in the face with a soccer ball is funny."
Shinji squawked and fell back on the ground when the soccer ball was bounced against his head again.
"I'm not the only one who thinks it's funny." Kintaro said, chuckling as the other kids laughed at Shinji's bewildered face.
"Did… you just…!" Shinji sputtered, shaking with unbridled rage.
Even as he tried to get up the boy was knocked over when the ball met his head for the third time. Flailing his arms as he got to his feet, Shinji stamped his feet indignantly.
"Stop doing that!" Shinji shouted as he threw a tantrum, unshed tears gathering in his eyes.
"Alright, alright. I didn't know you'd be so sensitive to teasing." Kintaro chuckled, rubbing the top of Shinji's head playfully. The boy quickly swatted his hand away.
"This isn't teasing! This is child abuse!"
Kariya sighed to himself from a distance as he watched Berserker mess with his nephew while the other children looked on. He stalwartly ignored the reproachful looks and loud whispers from the other adults watching them, too tired and spent to muster any sort of concern or embarrassment for how his Servant was being perceived. Reclining on the bench that he'd claimed upon arriving at the park with Berserker and Shinji, he tiredly rubbed the side of his face that didn't look like a spider web of veins and wrinkles and tried his best to ignore the aching of his limbs.
What to do from here… that was the question. He couldn't return to the Matou manor anymore. While he wasn't particularly broken up by the fact, it meant he was completely on his own. While Zouken claimed to have no confidence in his abilities to win the War and had only agreed to Kariya's whims for his own amusement, Kariya believed that there was a small part of Zouken that had invested in a possible victory. Kariya doubted the vampire would have saved him otherwise if that wasn't the case. However, due to Berserker's defiance, Zouken had completely washed his hands of the matter and now he was on his own.
While a large part of him was overjoyed by that his father wouldn't be looking over his shoulder and laughing at his failures, he was now alone in the War with no one but his own erratic Servant for support. While Berserker promised to lend his assistance, Kariya had no illusions about his Servant's attitude and could see Berserker getting easily agitated and going on a rampage if he didn't find some way to keep him in check. One more slip up like that night… if he pushed himself past his limits again…
Kariya shuddered and gripped his unresponsive arm tightly in a fit of anxiousness and worry. The second he pushed himself too far, or if he let Berserker out of control, he was finished.
And Sakura would be left all alone.
He… He couldn't let that happen. But what could he do? It was a little after noon on the third day of the Holy Grail War and he was already in such a weak state. His chest throbbed with every intake of breath and his limbs ached with every motion. More than anything, he just wanted to sit down and rest… but he couldn't afford to. Not when his goal was still so far away.
Kariya groaned, rubbing his forehead as he felt the painful throbbing of a headache behind his eyes. Worrying about his own precarious position in the War and trying to come up with a viable plan of action just made his head hurt. He couldn't think of anything he could do, and was frustrated at his own helplessness. He… He had to think of something. Anything. Come to think of it, had any of the Servants even been eliminated yet? He didn't think so… which meant he wasn't even close to winning the War. Given his state, he was probably the furthest away from victory.
"That's quite a miserable look you've got there, Master."
Kariya was distracted from his morose thoughts when he heard his Servant's cheerful voice address him. He glanced up at Berserker who was grinning down at him. Kariya gave him a strained smile in return.
"Done picking on my nephew?" Kariya asked dryly.
"Don't get worked up about it. He whined a lot less once he actually got involved." Berserker said, gesturing to the group of children. Shinji was now part of their game, smiling and laughing as he stole the ball away from another kid. "Kind of a brat, but he's tolerable."
Kariya chuckled at his Servant's pouting indignation but his laughter quickly devolved into fitful coughing. Berserker's smile morphed into a frown as he sat down and rubbed his Master's back soothingly in an attempt to put him at ease.
"You really are sick, huh…" Berserker muttered.
"We've… we've established that, yes. I'm very sick." Kariya said after he recovered himself. "I told you, the worms…"
"I know, I know. The worms, the demon, I know." Berserker said with a resigned sigh. "You're in a fragile state. It's gonna be difficult trying to win the War when I've gotta remember to treat you so delicately. What a pain…"
Kariya observed his Servant with a pensive frown, still getting used to his Servant's shift in demeanor. He still had a hard time getting a grasp on his Servant Berserker who had been impulsive, selfish and childish since the very moment of his summoning, and this calmer, sincere person that had only recently decided to show himself.
Not only that, but he had a name to put to the face now.
"So just to be clear, Shinji-kun doesn't know about… y'know…" Berserker asked, trailing off.
Kariya shook his head. "No, not that I'm aware of. Shinji is unaware of the Matou family's legacy, and I'm thankful for that."
"Hm… I guess it's safe to assume that. He's a lot more cheerful than Sakura-chan, that's for sure." Berserker nodded, crossing his arms.
The Servant had told him about his bumping into Sakura in the Matou matter and how listless she had appeared. Berserker had made his displeasure and disgust with Sakura's situation quite clear.
"It's just a shame Shinji-kun doesn't know how to treat her." Berserker sighed, earning a confused look from Kariya. "He told me he teases her a lot."
Kariya felt a rush of anger at that, stirring when he thought of Shinji picking on Sakura, only adding to her misery. His anger was suddenly smothered by surprise when a large hand suddenly pushed against his face, knocking him over on the bench.
"Wha…! Berserker?" Kariya gasped as the Servant shoved him.
"Don't make that face. He's a kid. They tease. It's not unnatural." Berserker said.
"Even so, Sakura doesn't need…!"
"Plus, to him, she's a stranger in his house. She's not his real sister, yet she's his family now. It'll take some getting used to. If he is really unaware of the demon and his worms, you can't really blame him for his insensitivity."
Kariya sputtered, unable to deny the Servant's logic but shocked that his Servant was even capable of making such a valid argument. Kariya's head began to throb more intensely at the disassociation he felt towards his Servant. What happened to the bratty man-child he'd come to know?
"I'll admit, it's not ideal the way Shinji-kun treats Sakura-chan. Knowing the kind of situation she's in, she doesn't need his teasing to add to her suffering." Berserker said solemnly before shrugging. "But he just doesn't know her well enough to treat her appropriately."
"…You sound like you know a lot about the situation."
"Well, Shinji-kun and I had a little talk about things while we were walking here." Berserker confessed to Kariya's surprise. "You were just too busy coughing and looking miserable to notice."
"I-Is that so…"
"Yep." Berserker replied simply. "Shinji-kun's actually got a few things of his own he's frustrated about."
"Frustrated? What could he possibly have to feel frustrated about?" Kariya demanded, unsympathetic towards his nephew when Sakura was the one who was really suffering.
Kariya frowned when Berserker turned to look at him, though it was hard to gauge what kind of look the Servant was giving him when he's eyes were obscured by those dark sunglasses he always wore.
"You're terrible family." Berserker told him before getting to his feet.
Kariya sputtered, puzzled and indignant by his Servant's words. "Wait, Berserker…!"
"I'm adopted too, you know." Berserker told Kariya, surprising Kariya with the fact that came out of the blue. "I'll talk to Shinji-kun about it."
When the children started calling his name, that childish smile was back on his face and that serious mood from before had completely disappeared. Kariya had questions and concerns about Berserker's words at the tip of his tongue, but the Servant bounded away before he could voice them. Kariya watched as Berserker immersed himself with the group of children once again, staring intently as Shinji seemed to shout something at Berserker while the golden-haired Servant just laughed in response, which only seemed to infuriate his nephew more. Berserker stole the ball from Shinji's hands and grinned as he seemed to address the children who gave him their undivided attention. Eventually, the ball was tossed in the air and a new game began.
Kariya turned away from the group, feeling more drained than he had been before if that was possible. His mind swirled, thinking of his next move in the War, Sakura's suffering, his father's cruelty, Berserker's words, his own worrying condition… just trying to organize his thoughts was a challenge in itself. There was so much to do, so much to think about…
…In the end, it was easier to give into his fatigue. Kariya felt his eyes droop close as he surrendered to his exhaustion for now, deciding that he'd worry about Sakura and the War once he woke up…
Archer stared at the woman sitting across from him, smiling brightly and completely oblivious to how they looked.
"Here, Archer," Irisviel smiled, ignoring his obvious discomfort. "Say, 'aah'."
Archer gazed up towards the ceiling, as if trying to convey his suffering to the heavens, before turning back towards Irisviel. They were sitting in a small diner Irisviel had insisted they eat in once they'd returned from the forest. Even after searching all morning, they hadn't found any trace of Kiritsugu's gun. While disappointed that they hadn't found her husband's precious gun, Irisviel had brightened up and decided that they would spend the rest of the day exploring the city as they had done previously. She still hadn't gotten bored of sightseeing and was still quite enthusiastic about walking through the streets. During the times they went out, Irisviel had shown that she had a little bit of a sweet tooth and the small restaurant they currently sat in was apparently known for their sweet treats. After finishing lunch, Irisviel had ordered a small shortcake, part of which she'd scooped up and was currently offering to the Servant sitting across from her.
"…You're aware of how this looks, right?" Archer said, flushing in embarrassment when he noticed a couple customers around them were glancing at the duo curiously.
"Hm…? Is this strange?" Irisviel wondered, looking genuinely confused. "I saw this in a couple of videos Kiritsugu and I watched together back at the Einzbern castle."
"…Just what kind of videos were they?" Archer thought, edging back a little when Irisviel brought the cake closer to his face.
"I'm being nice and sharing. It's rude to refuse." Irisviel insisted, her tone similar to that of a parent scolding an unruly child. She smiled warmly at him and raised her fork again. "Don't be shy! Here!"
"Iri, I'm not-"
"I don't need-"
"This isn't something that-"
Rolling his eyes at her childishness, Archer quickly leaned forward and swallowed the offered treat. Irisviel smiled happily and brought the fork back and away from Archer's face.
"How does it taste?"
"…Hard to say." Archer muttered, trying to ignore the piercing looks from around him.
"I think it's delicious." Irisviel replied, scooping up a piece of cake and taking a bit for herself. She smiled happily as she savored the sweet taste. "Ah… Kiritsugu's country has so many wonderful things!"
"You couldn't have sweets back home?"
"Of course I could have, though admittedly not that often. But the food here has its own charm and taste. We are in a different country." Irisviel smiled. She peered at Archer while she continued eating. "What kind of food do you like, Archer?"
"I don't really have a preference." Archer replied neutrally, smirking a little at Irisviel's dissatisfied expression.
"…I'm beginning to notice that whenever I ask a question, your answers are always pretty vague." Irisviel accused.
"That's just your imagination."
"It's true! At least give me some clues!"
Archer sighed. While they had devoted their morning to looking for Kiritsugu's gun in the forest, after their initial discussion Irisviel had also used their time giving him a headache with her attempts to fish for more information concerning his identity and constantly made guesses about who he was. At first she'd stuck to notable figures from King Arthur's legend, as Avalon was the catalyst used to summon him, but Archer hadn't claimed to be any of them. She then moved on to names of heroes in the European area, and shortly after that she began naming any sort of hero that came to mind. She'd been grasping at straws near the end, and Archer had to keep himself from laughing at some of her more unbelievable guesses.
Of course, now that his amusement at the situation had worn off it had gotten to a point where it was just irritating. Part of him honestly considered just outright telling her who he was, but he wouldn't do that. He could only imagine how she would react if he told her his true name. That was nothing to say about whatever Kiritsugu's reaction would be when his wife told him, which she obviously would if she ever learned it.
And though he wouldn't admit it, there was a part of him that was… scared of how his father would react if he knew his true name.
Archer sighed and turned to face Irisviel again, preparing himself for another stream of wild guesses. "What is it…?"
Archer blinked when he felt soft hands suddenly seized his face. Irisviel had her hands of his cheeks, her red eyes gazing deep into his steel-colored ones. Her expression was one of deep concentration, and their faces were mere inches apart as she leaned over the table to observe him closely. Her gaze was inquisitive and searching, and Archer wondered what she could possibly be looking for.
"…It's hard to tell, but your features…" Irisviel muttered as she held his head in place. "…I get the impression that you're eastern, maybe…?"
Ah, so that's what she was after. Archer gently pulled away from her hands and Irisviel let him go, smiling at him in a way that made her look a bit smug.
"Bingo?" Irisviel smirked.
"I don't think you can determine my ethnicity by just looking at my face." Archer replied.
"I can. I told you that Kiritsugu taught me about the world, and he also taught me about the people living in it and what they look like."
"Did he now…"
"Mm-hm! I thought you might be West Asian or South American at first, but your face doesn't match up. The shape of your eyes, and just the way your face looks too… almost reminds me a little of Kiritsugu."
Archer's face was impassive in reaction to the statement. He ignored and smothered whatever emotions rose in response to being compared to his father.
"And you didn't immediately deny my guess either," Irisviel smiled. "So you really are a hero of the east, right?"
"I didn't deny it because it wasn't another random guess like the rest. You were honestly putting thought into this." Archer replied dryly. He smirked a little. "And I told you I'd only confirm if you got my name right. No clues or hints."
"Hmph. That's fine." Irisviel said, still smiling. "I think my guess is right. After all, since Kiritsugu did the summoning it isn't too far of a stretch to assume he summoned a hero from his own country."
"But he used a catalyst. To my knowledge, japanese lore has nothing to do with Arthurian legend, let alone Avalon." Archer pointed out. He wasn't an expert on mythology, but he at least knew about the more prominent figures of his own country.
"Even with a catalyst, there are many more factors that go into summoning a Servant that the Grail takes into account. And even when using a catalyst, there is no guarantee you'll get the Heroic Spirit you normally associate it with." Irisviel said, her tone not unlike a teacher's as she relayed this information. "And who knows who came into possession of Avalon after it was lost? It could have ended up in Japan somehow. I should've asked father where he acquired the sheath. That might've given me a clue…"
"So even though I haven't said I'm from Japan, you've just decided to assume I'm a hero from this country now?"
"I think it's a safe assumption. I have to narrow it down somehow. And even if I'm wrong…" Irisviel paused for a moment before shaking her head, giving Archer a determined look. "No, I don't think I'm wrong."
"You sure are confident." Archer smirked.
"I told you I'd guess it right!" Irisviel reminded him. "Since I've figured out which land you're from, I have to deduce the most important thing."
Archer gave her a wry smirk. "My name?"
"Your name." Irisviel confirmed with a smile. "Now, I know a lot about my husband's country and studied famous and mythological figures… but I think some review would help narrow things down even further."
"Review?" Archer wondered.
"Yep!" Irisviel chirped. "I know where we're going next… after I finish this cake."
Archer allowed himself a small smile as Irisviel resumed her meal, the woman making happy sounds as she enjoyed her sweet.
Kiritsugu held a cellphone to his ear as his informant on the other line informed him of the situation.
"Yeah. Two of our guys followed him into the forest. We waited for a couple hours and then he came back out. The two trailing him came back after he'd long gone. They lost him in the forest and don't know where he ended up."
The man he was currently talking to was one of many Kiritsugu had contacted immediately upon his arrival in Fuyuki. Kiritsugu may have been lauded by his enemies for his resourcefulness and seeming ability to detect trouble and appear when they least expected it, but he wasn't omnipotent. No, Kiritsugu was just good at gathering information, and in addition to that, good at negotiating. With his skill in the latter, he had built up a wide range of contacts over the years who were who often gave him his jobs or let him know when something odd was happening in their general area.
Kiritsugu was very choosy when it came to establishing contacts though, and while he made sure his contacts knew him and made sure they were capable of helping him accomplish his missions, there were very few who knew his true work. In essence, Kiritsugu only formed relationships with those who were unaware of magecraft or did not know that Kiritsugu Emiya and the Magus Killer were one in the same.
He understood the need for a helping hand every now and again, but caution made Kiritsugu picky.
The informant was part of a group who was headed by a man who Kiritsugu had helped in the past. While the exact details of their meeting and what he'd done for him had gotten hazy over time, Kiritsugu's deed had earned the man's respect and much gratitude. Kiritsugu was also grateful to the man, since he was one of the few he found he could place his faith in. Other than Maiya and his wife, Kiritsugu could count on one hand the number of people who warranted that level of trust from him and still have fingers left over. The man constantly enthused that he thought the same of Kiritsugu, and when the man had contacted him upon his arrival in Fuyuki asking for help he had offered his entire network and any supplies he owned for Kiritsugu's use. While his primary contact was a bit overzealous, he and those under him were good at their work and had quite the reach in Fuyuki and surrounding cities. He could have eyes anywhere he wanted, and that helped Kiritsugu extend his own vision and gather information on other Masters and Servants, which was crucial in the tournament he was competing in.
"Do you have any more orders for us?"
Kiritsugu was silent for a moment, reviewing the new information he'd gathered, before giving his reply.
"No. You're relieved for the moment. I'll contact you if something comes up." Kiritsugu replied. "Give Fujimura my regards."
Kiritsugu hung up and pocketed the phone, fishing out a pack of cigarettes from his duster pocket and brought one to his mouth. He lit it, taking a long drag and felt his nerves calm somewhat as the nicotine hit his system.
Two days into the War now and not one Servant had fallen yet. While the other Masters had probably assumed that Assassin had met its demise, thanks to his encounter last night Kiritsugu knew better. While such information was valuable, Kiritsugu was still bothered by the fact that there had been little progress made in regards to eliminating the competition.
Of course, even if he was dissatisfied he would not act rashly. It was still rather early in the game, and right now the most important thing now was knowing the kind of enemies he was up against. He had plenty of information to work with regarding the other Masters, bar two, but little information on the Servants. Well, he knew the true names of both Saber and Rider, as well as the abilities of Berserker, Lancer and Assassin to some degree, but it wasn't enough.
The Magus Killer actually found it more irksome that he knew less about his own Servant than he did about any of the others.
…Well, barring Caster and his Master. Currently, that pair was the only one he had no information on. While Archer had mentioned finding grotesque creatures roaming the darker corners of Fuyuki, assuming they were familiars summoned by the enigmatic Servant, there was little else to go off of.
"No… no that's not true." Kiritsugu thought, remembering something that Maiya had reported to him earlier.
His assistant was currently monitoring the Kotomine Church along with a couple others, and early in the morning their surveillance had yielded fruit, and he'd learned that quite the unexpected event had occurred. While no Servant had been eliminated, it seemed that a Master had.
Kayneth El-Melloi Archibald had been killed.
His fiancé, Sola-Ui Nuada-Re Sophia-Ri, had apparently somehow inherited the magus' Command Seals and was now the new Master of Rider. While Kiritsugu could only hypothesize the woman's motives for competing in Kayneth's stead, the most likely assumption being she wanted to avenge her fiancé's death, she'd arranged for the Archibald head's dead body to be delivered to the church during her visit. Unfortunately, the exact cause of Kayneth's death were unknown since they weren't able to take a look at the body and the impartial observer, Risei Kotomine, had yet to report the man's death and it was likely that he would cover it up given that the Holy Grail War was meant to be kept a secret from the general public thus it wasn't out of the question for Risei to take matters into his own hands. Probably only the man's family would be informed following the Grail War's conclusion.
Kiritsugu wished that he could get his hands on an autopsy report of some kind. Maybe then he'd be able to figure out how a child was able to kill an experienced magus like Archibald.
Yes, while those observing hadn't been able to analyze the body, Maiya and those assisting her in her surveillance were able to pick up bits and pieces of conversation from the old priest and from Sola-Ui and her new Servant. On the way back to their hotel, the loud Servant had said something about being amused by how the student had surpassed the teacher. A few more hints and details from the conversation lead to only one conclusion, and that was that Waver Velvet, Master of Lancer and a student of the deceased Lord El-Melloi, was apparently the one who had killed him.
That was surprising. Observing the boy during the battle at the docks from the first night, as well as further notes made by those he'd sent to keep surveillance on the boy, Kiritsugu hadn't thought much of the teenager. Kiritsugu mentally berated himself for writing him off due to his age and outward appearance. Anyone who had the potential to become a Master was a very real threat, and Archibald's death proved to Kiritsugu that he'd have to keep a closer eye on the boy.
…Of course, that would be a little difficult given Lancer's abilities. He kept the number of people observing Waver to a minimum since he didn't want to agitate the odd Servant. The people assigned to watch those two had already voiced their discomfort, constantly feeling like they were the ones being watched as opposed to the other way around.
Kiritsugu grimaced as he remembered the time when Lancer had spotted him during that night at the pier. They were lucky Lancer hadn't deemed it fit to confront those observing it and its Master. They would have to tread lightly during further observations.
Other than that, during Sola-Ui's brief return to the church to take care of the matter of moving her dead fiancé's body, Risei had also mentioned that there had been a series of disappearances as of late and that Caster, the only Servant who hadn't revealed himself yet, and his Master might be behind it. Kiritsugu was aware of the disappearances, mostly children and a few young women, but it wasn't to the point where the existence of the War was compromised… yet.
Kiritsugu had a suspicion that whoever Caster and his Master were they were either waiting until some of the competition had been eliminated or were preparing and building up power in order to confront the stronger Servants. Kiritsugu had no way of knowing, given that he had no information on the mystery duo whatsoever. No matter which case, it still frustrated him that there was still an unknown Servant lurking about and had no proper method to prepare should the hidden Servant suddenly show himself.
Pushing those thoughts away for the time being, Kiritsugu brought to mind the report he'd just been given by the man on the phone. The priest that had appeared after the War started, Sancraid Phahn, had been taking trips to the forest behind the Kotomine Church for reasons unknown, and it looks like those reasons would remain unknown for now given that those men had been unsuccessful in tailing him. Still, the priest's trips were frequent enough to be an answer in itself.
Something was hidden in the forest, and there was probably magecraft involved if those men had lost him so easily. A bounded field was most likely the case, but Kiritsugu was always good and getting past such things.
Still… what was in that forest? Perhaps Caster and his Master? Or maybe Saber? The King of Knights' Master had yet to reveal himself as well. In either case, Sancraid seemed to be working with the Kotomine Church and Tokiomi, frequently traveling between the church and the Tohsaka manor. If another Master and Servant were hiding within the forest and the priest was associated with him… who did his alliance truly belong to?
Kiritsugu sighed and tossed away his cigarette, stomping it out with the heel of his boot. He could only make assumptions until he could actually move into action when night fell. Where to go from here? Obviously, he'd prefer it if he could just kill the Masters and avoid confrontations with their Servants entirely. Caster and Saber's Masters were unknown, and he wouldn't risk going after the latter since getting into a fight with a Servant as powerful as Saber wouldn't be favorable at all. Part of him debated going after Kirei again, not feeling as intimidated by the priest as he had been before, but taking into account last night and Kirei's astounding physical capabilities unless Kiritsugu could get in a situation where he had every advantage against him it would be unwise to do so, the numerous Assassins notwithstanding. Kariya was an option, in spite of the fearsome strength of his Servant the man was sickly and if he could lure Berserker away from him… well, it was an option nonetheless. Sola-Ui wasn't an outstanding magus according to what information he had gotten about her once he found out Kayneth had brought her along. She was certainly capable and it might not be too much of a stretch to say she was a little better than average, but nothing that he deemed extremely threatening. It was just Rider that he had to be cautious of because in spite of the Servant's boastful demeanor he had shown very little of his abilities. Then of course there was Waver Velvet, who had shown by his killing of the Archibald head he was an unexpected wild card in the tournament. Kiritsugu wished he could get more information on the boy and find a way to better observe his actions, but with Lancer it-
Kiritsugu's formation of a viable strategy against his opponents was interrupted when his phone started ringing. He answered it and immediately brought it to his ear.
"New information?" Kiritsugu asked.
"Not quite. Just something you should be aware of." Maiya's voice answered him. "I was just contacted by one of Fujimura's men ordered to monitor Velvet. Something's come up."
Kiritsugu felt trepidation at the slight urgency in Maiya's usual monotone. "What is it?"
"Waver Velvet has made contact with your wife."
Kiritsugu's fingers tensed as he held the phone tighter. He only had one question in response to that.
"Where are they?"
From where he sat on the couch in the small living room in the backrooms of the church, Kirei listlessly stared ahead at the wall. He was hunched forward a little, elbows resting on his knees and his hands folded together in front of his face. To anyone observing, he seemed like someone who was deep in thought.
And he was. His mind was filled with so many thoughts. Well, his mind was filled with questions. Questions that he had no answers to. Oh, he had attempted to get answers but instead received even more questions. Questions he'd been agonizing over since last night.
You have a daughter… Caren, correct?
Kirei's head dipped down, pressing his forehead hard against his knuckles.
You had a wife then. What happened to her?
Kirei frowned, his hands clutching together even tighter as his mind kept processing. As he kept trying to understand.
Your wife and daughter… were they just another experiment?
Kirei suddenly stood to his feet, hands clenched into tight fists at his sides.
"I don't understand, Emiya Kiritsugu."
Last night, he'd finally met the one man in the world that he felt could truly understand him. He'd confessed his woes to the one known as the Magus Killer, told him his story, confided in him… he'd gotten the chance asked the one question that Kirei had been waiting to pose.
He'd asked Kiritsugu Emiya what made him happy.
It was a simple enough question, wasn't it?
So instead of getting the answer that would've no doubt finally helped him find meaning and fill the void that in his life, why had he received such pointless questions in return?
Kirei was feeling frustrated. While it was a rare state of mind for him to be in, he felt justified in his anger towards the Magus Killer who had avoided his question. Kirei was also angry with himself for being distracted by Kiritsugu's questions that had no relevance to the answer he sought.
…Or did they?
Kirei was an intelligent man. As a man of the cloth he always made a point of thinking things through, always debating and analyzing before taking action or making a decision. Even before he joined the church, Kotomine Risei had impressed these values on his son and had encouraged him to think thoroughly no matter the situation. Risei had told him that even though it was important for men of their beliefs to keep faith, they should also be logical.
That's why Kirei couldn't simply dismiss Kiritsugu's questions. Surely there had been a point to asking about his wife and Caren.
But that was the source of Kirei's frustration. He was confused because his family had nothing to do with the Holy Grail War. They had nothing to do with Kirei's participation, let alone Kiritsugu's. He also had these thoughts when Kiritsugu first asked him last night. He'd been cycling through the same thoughts over and over again, unable to see the connection.
His wife and Caren didn't have anything to do with how Kiritsugu found his happiness. Kiritsugu had already found his happiness, Kirei was sure of that.
His wife and Caren couldn't be the reason for Kiritsugu's joining the Holy Grail War. Kiritsugu joined on behalf of the Einzbern, this Kirei had deduced after seeing the Command Seals on his hand.
His wife and Caren had nothing to do with the War or Kiritsugu. Nothing at all. Nothing.
"So why bring them up in the first place…!" Kirei growled angrily as he suddenly stood up.
Kirei's form shuddered as he took a deep breath. He slowly eased himself back down to the couch, pressing one hand to his forehead as he forced himself to calm down.
Maybe he was looking at things from the wrong angle. Kiritsugu had asked about his family… there was some significance to that. Somehow, those questions had to be related to Kiritsugu's answer, as nonsensical as that sounded.
Then again, he might be looking at things from the wrong angle. Maybe...
Kirei frowned, becoming very uneasy when a thought suddenly popped into his head.
Perhaps… perhaps Kiritsugu asked those questions because family played a part in his happiness…?
"…No. Impossible." Kirei said to himself.
To his knowledge, the Magus Killer had no family prior to being taken in by the Einzbern. How could family have anything to do with Kiritsugu's happiness when he'd never possessed one? Obviously he had parents at some point, but they were either dead or no longer associated with the Magus Killer. Again, there was no connection to the subject and the Holy Grail War. Then again, the Einzberns had made him their Master and he had joined the War at their behest… so was his competing for the Grail a gesture of goodwill towards those who had taken him in or a fulfillment of the condition for him joining their family in the first place?
…No, that couldn't be it. The Magus Killer was not the sort to make attachments that easily. The Einzberns had their own goals, that could obviously be assumed, but Kiritsugu had to have some stake in the War separate from the Einzberns' ambitions or he wouldn't have joined in the first place. And it didn't explain those nine years. Those nine long years he stayed with them… nine years after a lifetime of fighting without stopping! To stop so suddenly! To abandon it all, to even attempt to wipe his hands and leave behind everything else…!
He'd found something that made him stay. Nine years he'd lived with the Einzbern, clearly content until he came to Fuyuki City to go to war. Kirei had done the same, working and pursuing many things and never stopping, until the Grail had chosen him to participate in the war. Only unlike Kiritsugu, he had joined without finding an answer.
Kotomine Kirei hadn't found anything that brought him happiness. However, he knew… he knew that Kiritsugu had. That's why he'd been so eager, so hopeful when he finally met him that night in the forest…
…But those questions! What was the point? Where was the connection?!
Kirei's head throbbed as his thoughts circled until he was back at the beginning again. He had no answers, only more questions.
Kirei wrung his hands together as his thoughts kept repeating themselves like a broken record. He shifted uncomfortably, not liking how anxious those questions made him when he really thought about them.
…Family had been another failure. He had told Kiritsugu this. So why…?
"…It's no use." Kirei decided, forcibly pushing away his distressing thoughts as he got back to his feet.
…He would find Kiritsugu Emiya again, only this time he wouldn't be so careless or let himself be so easily distracted. He would force the answer out of him by any means necessary. There would be no escape for the Magus Killer until Kirei was satisfied. Unless that man finally revealed the answer to him, he wouldn't…
"No more." Kirei said to himself, again forcing himself not to think of the Magus Killer for the moment.
Kirei blinked, taking note of the music he was suddenly hearing. The melody was a little dulled by the thick walls that separated the small living room and the church's main hall but it was still audible enough to be a good distraction from his thoughts. He vaguely recognized the song that was already in the middle of its climax as he made his way across the room and pushed open the door to enter the church's main hall.
As the music filled into his unfiltered ears, Kirei glanced to his right towards the source. His eyes settled upon his daughter, whose fingers were dancing across the keys of the old piano that was settled in the corner of the hall. She sat on the bench with her eyes closed as she played, either concentrating with her hands or lost in her own performance. Risei sat on the bench with her with a smile on his face as he listened to his granddaughter play, making sure that he kept a gap between them so that he wouldn't get in her way.
Kirei gave his father a brief look before his gaze returned to his daughter, staring at her face. When familiar questions began rising to the forefront of his mind, Kirei closed his eyes and allowed the music to drown out his thoughts. He leaned against the doorframe, head bowed down as he let the melancholic song soothe his soul.
And then suddenly, it was over. Kirei opened his eyes as the sound of his father's clapping replaced that of Caren's piano playing.
"Very good, Caren!" Risei said, smiling proudly at his granddaughter. "Maybe during the next sermon you could play for us?"
"I'd rather not." Caren replied, folding her hands in her lap.
"Oh? Just one song?"
"Even one song is too much. Especially for this antique." Caren said. Kirei heard a small thump as his daughter's foot kicked the underside of the piano.
"Careful. Don't add to the damage." Risei chuckled good-naturedly before noticing his son. He smiled mischievously. "Ah, Kirei. Don't you think it would be nice if Caren played during worship time? I'm sure those in attendance would be impressed."
"Don't force her to do anything she isn't comfortable with, father." Kirei said as he approached his family. "That was very good, Caren."
"Thank you, father."
"Indeed it was. You taught her well, Kirei." Risei smiled.
Ah, yes. He had been the one who taught his daughter how to play piano. Music had been another fruitless venture of Kirei's when he'd still been in school, and he'd revisited it when Caren had expressed interest in learning a few years ago after hearing him play.
"She's a quick learner." Kirei said simply. "Once she had the basics I taught little much else."
Risei gave him an amused smile, which Kirei interpreted as a reaction to his assumed fatherly pride towards Caren's abilities.
Kirei kept himself from sighing. He wasn't boasting Caren's skills or his abilities to teach. He was merely reciting fact.
He glanced at Caren, who stared right back at him with those golden eyes she'd inherited from her mother's side.
Kirei frowned, as those questions echoed in his mind again.
His wife and Caren… how could they possibly…?
Kirei blinked when he suddenly found Caren standing next to him, tugging on his shirt.
"If you're not busy, could we go over the scriptures together?" Caren asked. "I haven't done my bible study today, and Grandfather said he'd make us lunch so it would be helpful if you could read with me."
Kirei suddenly noticed the leather bible in her hands before looking around, noticing that his father had disappeared at some point. Turning back to his daughter, he gave a nod.
"Of course. I'll study with you, Caren." Kirei said.
Kirei pulled up his own lips to return it.
They sat on one of the pews in front as Caren opened her bible to the page that she had bookmarked.
"Now, which book did you and father leave off on?" Kirei asked.
"We were going to start Luke's chapter today and I was to recite a few Psalms I had memorized." Caren replied.
"Which would you like to start with?"
"I'd like to start with the memorized verses. If I start reading Luke first, I'm afraid I might forget them."
"Very well." Kirei nodded, taking the book from Caren's lap and opening it up to the page with a second bookmark. "Go ahead."
Caren nodded, squirming in her seat as she took a deep breath, closing her eyes as she tried to remember the verses.
"Psalms chapter 1, verse 1…"
Caren was interrupted when the sound of the church doors opening suddenly echoed through the chapel. Both father and daughter turned towards the church's entrance, staring at the man who made his way inside.
"Ah, Kirei-kun. Caren-chan. Good afternoon." Sancraid greeted the two of them with a smile.
"Sancraid-san." Kirei gave the priest a small nod in return. "Do you have some business with father?"
"You and him both, actually." Sancraid replied. "Would you mind getting him for me?"
"Of course." Kirei handed the bible back to Caren as he stood to his feet. "I'm sorry, Caren. I'm afraid there are other matters I have to attend to."
"I understand. This War is more important than daily devotions, after all."
"None of that." Kirei said firmly, giving his daughter a reprimanding look as she turned away with a small pout. Kirei sighed, kneeling down. "If I have time later we'll have bible study together, okay?"
"…Okay." Caren nodded. She folded her hands together in a praying gesture. "I apologize for venting my anger and implying that God's scripture was less important than my father's other responsibilities."
"Good." Kirei nodded. "Do a little reading yourself in the meantime. Make sure you have those verses memorized."
"Yes, father." Caren nodded before shuffling her feet hesitantly. "I'm… sorry for what I said."
"…There's no need to apologize when there's nothing that needs to be forgiven." Kirei said, giving his daughter a slight nudge. "I'll let you know when we're done."
Accepting her father's words, Caren hurried past him and retreated to the backrooms. Kirei stood back up and arched an eyebrow at Sancraid when he heard the priest chuckling beside him. Sancraid noticed Kirei's look, giving a small shrug and a cheeky smile in response.
"Family, huh? I bet they can cause quite the headache."
Kirei stared at Sancraid for a moment before sighing.
"Sometimes." Kirei muttered quietly.
A/N: There's more, but I didn't want the chapter to get too long and this was as good a place as any to end it. Sort of. Yeah…
Anywho, getting back in the groove of this story which I've left alone for too long! Seriously, more than a year. I've got the next chain of events mapped out but writing it is the challenge. Still, I'm happy to have finally finished this. It has been half finished for a LONG time.
So, next chapter we finish up the scene with the church as Team Assassin's plans for the night are laid out. We also see an encounter with Team Archer and Lancer as implied in this chapter. Not sure which of the other teams I'll fit in along with them, but I do wanna fit in Saber if I can… but we'll see. Seriously, next chapter is the last chapter before night falls and the battles begin again. The Holy Grail War must go on!
Again, sorry for the wait. I was stuck, and real life kinda interfered with my attempts to get unstuck but I've got gas in the engine again! I still love writing this story and I mean to finish it! Feedback is always appreciated and I'll fix any grammar mistakes at a later date when I've got the time. Thanks to anyone who dropped by to read, and I wish all of you happy days.