Disclaimer: I do not own the Fate series. Type-Moon does.
"Hello again, Arthur."
Saber looked upon her antithesis with disgust and anger. The sight of her own face, paled and yellow-eyed sickened her. A sign of the corruption that had affected her counterpart long ago, a reminder of what she had to become and what Saber could have become if she were more ruthless.
"What do you want?" asked the Once and Future King.
Due to her physical body being in the state of unconsciousness, the two personas of the same person could meet in the scene that both of them were familiar with.
Which was a barren field littered with corpses of their enemies.
"Oh, are you assuming that I was the one who summoned you into this place? Ck ck... think again." said her alternate self, "I do not have any wish to summon you here, but because we share the same body that anchors us to Gaia, you could find your consciousness drift into this place.
"Those memories that you saw, of the execution of your friend and wife, was not something that I sent to you as much as it was something that you pulled from me." she revealed, "Your lingering guilt and shame made you remember my memories. The ones that I would never forget no matter what. You made all these things happen. Not me."
Saber composed herself after hearing this information, "So in other words... I... am the one who has power over you."
"Correct." Alter spat out, "And so, it's not a question of what I want... It's about what you want. So speak up."
Saber knew not what she's seeking from her. She was confused as to why her subconscious sent her to the Tyrant of Knights residing within her, as if seeking something from her corrupted counterpart.
How could she told her what she wanted if she herself did not know what it was that she wanted?
"Typical, you even don't realize why you're here." Alter said after a few moments of silence, "Just like you do not realize a conundrum until it stares right into your eyes and scream and yell and attempt to usurp you for acknowledgement."
Saber knew just who her counterpart was talking about. Mordred. Her 'son' who rebelled because she deemed her as 'imperfect' and unfit to continue her legacy.
Her rejection caused an undeniable wound that festered and expanded as she continued to ignore her 'son''s pleas for her acknowledgement. Then that wound became a scar that would never fade. It was not long before it became her wound to bear as well...
The realization that it was something that seemed so insignificant and trivial at the time ballooned up to become something that would haunt Saber for as long as she lived was something that she would have a hard time, if not incapable, in letting go. For what she did was one of the main factors that brought her downfall.
"Allow me to enlighten you, Arthur." said Alter, "You are here... because you are confused. Lost. Doubtful. Yet despite these facts, you refused to acknowledge them, thinking that you're still able to overcome it through sheer force of will."
Saber was not amused by the answer given by her counterpart, "Confused? Lost? What for? Do not play games with me." she warned her.
Alter sighed exasperatedly, " Do you not understand, Arthur? You wish to understand the person who confuses you so much. The one who's beginning to rob you of the purpose which drove you here."
"...who?" asked Saber with an apprehensive tone of voice, as if she's already fearing the answer.
"Must I answer everything for you? And you already knew the answer so why don't you say it out loud?"
Saber wanted to speak the name out loud, already knowing who it was. And what came out of her mouth was... "Shirou."
"Yes. Our Master." Alter spoke out, "A peculiar being he is. A distorted one, very much so that despite him realizing how much of an aberrant he is, he still struggles to be as ordinary as others around him."
Her eyes hardened as she looked at Saber, "But these things are known to you, so you might wonder what made you so lost and confused." Alter said, "Perhaps the facade of your supposed perfection was too ingrained upon you that it makes you unable to see what others might see. Fortunately for you, I can see it perfectly."
"What are you talking about?" Saber couldn't help but ask, a bit bothered by her counterpart's cryptic way of speaking.
"You harbor an affection towards him." Alter answered bluntly, "Small, but it was not something that a sharp eye could miss. And there's a part of you that suppress this seed of affections and it's eating you away from the inside."
Saber, for once, was at a loss, she did not know the best reply to what her counterpart was saying. But she did say something, "You are mistaken. Perhaps I admire him for his conviction and his willpower, but that does not equal to infatuation."
"And you think I am merely trying to confuse you." Alter revealed Saber's inner thought, "I am not."
"Nonsense!" Saber shouted out, "He is my Master, I am his Servant, that is all we will ever be!"
"And this is why you are confused." Alter said calmly but condescendingly, "You are drawn to him, but you know that any kind of dalliance between a Servant of the Holy Grail War will not last no matter what. You try to fight this affection, deny it, in hopes that it will go away in time. Perhaps it will, but until that day happens, you will never be free of this confusion, and me."
Alter approached Saber and continued; "You will always be pulled into this place. To me. As long as this affection lingers still."
"...Why?" Saber asked as she became slightly wary.
"Because I am a part of you." Alter answered, "A part of you that has its share of sentience in this anchor to Gaia. A part of you that has been long tainted by the atrocities that it has committed. A part of you that is driven by a twisted sense of order, similar to yours. And not to mention, a part of you that see itself for what it is worth, and at least, able to be honest with its own self."
Alter then began to walk closer to Saber, "As long as this affection lingers, you will always be drawn here, Arthur. But trust me when I say that you... won't be the only one that finds no enjoyment in this."
Then, the King and the Tyrant was only separated by a few inches in length. They glared into the other's eyes, seeing the other as an enemy despite the fact that they were the same person, separated by the choices they made in their respective lives.
"A small advice for you to ponder." Alter said as the world began to fade, indicating that Saber was beginning to wake up, "Try and be honest to yourself, unlike before. And perhaps... this will not happen again."
A pair of green eyes that belonged to Saber opened and gazed to the ceiling above her. She silently rose up into a sitting position as she recomposed herself from the previous conversation that she had with Alter.
Her dark self, damn her, was far more foresighted than she had taken her for. And though Saber hated the Tyrant, she couldn't deny that... perhaps... she might have a point.
Perhaps there was something that made her care for her Master. Something more than just an obligation towards the one who summoned her into this War, something that made her care not only for his life, but for his well-being.
But, it could also be her noble nature coming towards to the surface.
As for now, Saber was merely confused. She was not, like the Tyrant implied before, being dishonest with herself.
At least... that was what she thought.
She looked at the place where Shirou was supposed to be sleeping in, right beside her position, and found his bed already empty, as expected, considering that he always woke up early in the morning to prepare breakfast.
Saber stood up graciously and tidy up her bed before she changed her clothes from the pajamas that she wore to bed to her usual long-sleeved dress shirt buttoned up to the collar and the long blue skirt that went past her knees and almost reached her ankles.
The Servant walked towards the kitchen, and she saw Shirou, already preparing breakfast for both of them, as she had thought. "Good morning Shirou."
"Morning Saber." Shirou responded back as he turned his head slightly towards where Saber was to greet her. "Just wait in the dining room okay? I'm almost finished."
Saber nodded and walked towards the dining room as Shirou said.
The Servant vividly remembered what he, Saber, Tohsaka Rin, Luviagelita Edelfelt and Caster were discussing in the same room just yesterday after they were finished with the problem at the Einzbern Manor.
Shirou revealed that the Master of Berserker was his sister. Step-sister, to be exact. One that his step-father had before he was adopted.
Rin, Luvia, and even Caster showed some degree of surprise and shock when this was revealed. Saber, being the one that already knew who the little girl was, only showed a fabricated surprise, as to not arouse her Master's suspicion.
And the Tohsaka heiress was the first to ask what Shirou was planning.
"If she wants to, she can be an ally."
Truly, her Master was ridiculously unpredictable. One day, the Einzbern girl was their enemy. And now, she became a wild card, as it turned out, her purpose was not to reach the Holy Grail, her wish was to make him suffer for being the one that her father had taken care of while he left her behind.
When Shirou explained the reason why Emiya Kiritsugu wasn't able to be with her after the Fourth War and his subsequent adoption, he let it be known that Illya seemed to be re-thinking her objective in the war, and perhaps, change it entirely.
Hearing this, Saber's sympathy went to the young Einzbern. The circumstances that led her to hold an unjustified vendetta against Shirou, her own brother, if not in blood, was a cruel thing that someone could do to another.
More so when she considered the fact that Illya was a part Homunculus from her mother's side. Her lack of growth from the last time she saw her, which was a nearly a decade ago, indicated that her growth was stunted because of the Homunculus blood inside of her.
Homunculi were not known for their longevity, and as such, Saber had the assumption that Illya was currently living the last years if not months or days of her life.
The thought of Irisviel's daughter having only a short time to live was disheartening in itself, but to think that she would have been spending that time to enact some kind of misguided revenge upon the young man that did not deserve to be put at fault for Emiya Kiritsugu's incapability to take Illya away from the secluded mansion that she was locked upon and raise her together with her brother was simply tragic.
If it not for how Shirou explained things to her, then perhaps she would still be regarded as an enemy.
As Saber sat in the dining room, waiting patiently for Shirou to finish cooking, her thoughts wandered due to the situation of this current War.
Even though she could not say that the Fourth War was anything straightforward, this current War felt a bit... tenser compared to the Fourth one. Perhaps it was due to how easy it had gotten thanks to how Shirou seemed to be solving things without too much difficulty.
Being a veteran of wars, Saber always feared moments of peace during the times of war. It felt as if it were a facade that would break at any given moment she spent ignoring her enemies for the sake of enjoying mere moments of tranquility, and most of the time, she was proven right.
This time however, even with many allies that supported her Master, it felt as if there was something looming over them. A greater threat. One that would prove difficult to be defeated.
Perhaps it was just her Instinct acting up. Perhaps she was just a tad paranoid. But with what she experienced in the Fourth War and the many oddities of the current one, her feeling of apprehension was understandable. Not to mention the fact that Luvia's Servant, Caster, was still raring to go against the others, and thus making her and her Master Shiro's enemy still.
Cordial their Masters still were, but Caster was not a hero that should be underestimated despite the fact that she herself possessed resistance to magic. 'No matter. If she attacks, I will stand and fight her.' was Saber's thought, though she could not help but to feel slightly afraid, due to the enigma that Caster was and her lack of knowledge of her ability and identity.
However, the scent of the heavenly breakfast that Shirou had concocted allayed her fears for the moment, as she verily waited for the dish to arrive so that she could satisfy the need of her stomach and her tongue.
Rin found herself annoyed with everything that had been going on. Which, considering her fondness for best laid-out plans, was understandable, seeing that Shirou Emiya had just turned this War into a bloody chaos that benefited him greatly.
Her Servant was still out cold after Berserker's attack. While she had deigned to ask Luvia for Caster's assistance, it turned out that the red-haired witch specialized in destructive Magecraft and barely dabbled in healing.
It was not her favored field of study or so she said to her. And now that she wanted to be frugal in maintaining her remaining Jewels, she was a bit troubled by Archer's current status.
As she paced around her room in trepidation, she had yet to dress herself in Homurahara school uniform and was considering skipping classes, at least until she could get her head straight in the game.
Yes, that seemed good, if not for the fact that she herself wasn't sure that it could do the trick. Despite the fact that her image at school was at the back of her mind as the problems of the War were placed in front, she was facing a dilemma, on whether to focus on her masquerade of a life or her real life as a magus.
Not to mention that she still hated Shirou for not allowing her to at least punish that insufferable little Einzbern brat for putting her Servant on the brink of death, kidnapping her, and then making her a leverage.
Oh how angry she was when the shock of finding out she was his sister died down. She knew that now Shirou placed that Illyasviel brat on top priority of the people that he would protect, thus disallowing her from doing any everlasting harm to the white-haired jailbait that she was sure was older than either herself or Shirou, or at the very least, disturbingly precocious to the point where it's just creepy.
Still, she considered herself a person that could easily adapt to any situation, and so she cast away those thoughts on the back of her head, assured that there would be a time when she would be able to satisfy her need for some retribution. Perhaps humiliating the little brat would satisfy her, but for now, she had a War that she needed to survive through.
'Forget about winning, with these many strong players on the field, surviving should be my first priority.' Rin thought to herself as her walking pace was increasing by the minute, "Damn you Shirou..."
With his unique magecraft, his allies and his Servant, Shirou had become a major player in the War. Out of spite, she had berated herself for saving his life back then, when she thought that he was just an innocent bystander who got caught in the middle.
Looking back now, pragmatism should have been her choice instead of showing mercy. However, the retrospection did not make her regret what she did to Shirou, only the consequences that came along with her action.
Despite being a magus, there were moments where she simply could not be as pragmatic as she was supposed to be. She had never seen a life taken away by someone else, though she supposed that once she had, it would be easy for her to do so.
But it didn't. If anything, seeing a human life starting to leave their body before her eyes made her conscience react the way that they weren't supposed to if she were a full-fledged magus to her very core.
If anything, a magus weren't supposed to have a conscience. It was nothing but an obstacle, preventing them from unfolding Mysteries of the World.
Sighing to herself, Rin despondently thought, 'For all my anticipation on participating in this war... It seems that it's nothing that I expect it to be. '
She then shook her head before lightly slap both of her cheeks to regain her moxie, "Well, then I just have to adapt to it, don't I?" she rhetorically asked herself.
Though her goal was changed from gaining victory to attempting to survive, Rin realized that she must weather on the storm that was the War for a while longer, and for that... she needed Shirou.
And so she made up her mind. She left for her room to quickly change into her school uniform.
Another round of discussion with the impossible magus that was Shirou Emiya was something that she must do to fulfill her current goal.
With Illyasviel being a wild card of a sort until she solidify her allegiance towards Shirou or otherwise, the problem that the redhead Incarnation was facing was two-fold. The Lancer and his Master being a certain enemy that he will have to face, and the problem with Sakura.
Sakura was Rider's true Master, the one who really summoned the gorgon of legend named Medusa, and Shinji was a fake Master using a phony Mystic Code in place of Command Seals.
The implication of that information was something that really bugged Shirou. From what he had gathered, Sakura acted as the summoner while Shinji acted as the enforcer who happened to enforce himself into that role despite his lack of capability to perform Magecraft, his incompetence, and not to mention, his sloppy nature.
Thinking back on his sword-induced death made Shirou remember about what most magi were like... And through the young Matou's memories, he saw that it was all true, and what he and the one whom he called grandfather did to Sakura was simply unforgivable.
What Shirou got from the monster's scent was all but right or normal. He was an abomination that dared to walk the earth's soil when he should be under it, and the malice that his scent brought out with him was so repulsive that Shirou had to quell his instinct to bring out his full power to kill him.
Now that Sakura's Mastership over Rider had been restored with Shinji's death, Shirou hoped that the gorgon of legend could be her protector from those who would seek to hurt her, however, considering that she was an Anti-Hero who was a bit different from the monster that she was pictured as in Perseus' legend, Shirou reserved some doubts regarding the Rider Medusa.
However, what he knew and agreed on was that Sakura needed help. And he was not one to let someone who needed his assistance hanging when he could provide it, especially after what he had seen.
Since the day that they revealed to each other about their status as magi, Shirou had not seen Sakura, as she was, rather conveniently, absent from school, and because of that, she had not been to his house ever since then either.
As he walked towards his classroom, his expression slightly betrayed the turmoil within his mind. Sakura's absence deeply worried him, to the point he prioritized thinking of securing her safety rather than the War as a whole.
He felt as if he had failed. He had known Sakura ever since they were little children, and even though he didn't fully realize his abilities until he entered high school, and even though he didn't have a good grasp on his 'Artifact' Origin at that time, he felt as if he should've noticed something wrong with Sakura before the horrible truth was thrown to his face in the form of Shinji's memories.
He supposed that he had to give Sakura a part of the credit in his lack of knowledge about her private life. Sure, he had been very respectful to let her keep her private life private, but she had been quite clever in keeping many secrets. From him, from Ayako who was her senior in Archery club, from everyone outside her 'family' that she appeared to be close with.
But his Origins allowed him to see that despite the fact that her smiles seemed to be somewhat artificial, the ones that she showed to him were quite genuine.
And this brought another dreadful feeling to creep up from the base of his stomach and to his chest.
He was the reason why she was happy. But at times when he could feel bits of strange dread from her, he could sense a taste of despair, anger, hatred, all combined... Similar to the feeling of darkness that he had felt from the creature that called itself Zouken Matou, but different in the emotions that it brought out.
For how long had she been in this situation? Ever since he met her? Or had it been going on long before his arrival to her life? Perhaps even before Shinji began to treat her in such a way...
And the realization that he was one of the very few reasons that could make her happy also made him realize the fact that she might had been considerate of his feelings and decided from early on to not bother or drive him away with her dark secrets and to let herself be content in just being with him.
Though he did not like to put himself on so high of a value, the possibility was there, considering that Sakura had never shown any trace of selfishness around him and never once demanded anything from him, which was especially prevalent whenever she was sided with Taiga.
'She had been holding back all this time... For my sake?'
The thought bothered Shirou more than anything else. It was not because she didn't want to reveal her whole dark personal life to him, as no matter how dark one's personal life is, one had the privilege on keeping it a secret or public. What bothered him was the most possible reason for her to keep the dark side of her life, which was to keep him safe.
He did not know if it was his Origin or his distortion, but her reason stung him deeply. The need to help someone was so ingrained within him that the concept of someone keeping a secret from him for the sake of securing his safety deeply disconcerted him.
'If it were true... She had done enough.' Shirou decided, thinking of the years of unthinkable treatment that she had suffered under the creature, Zouken Matou 'This time... I will fulfill that promise.'
"I will prove to you that I deserve that title."
He still remembered that promise. When he told her that someday, he will prove to her that he deserved to be called a hero by her. He meant every word when he said that, and now that he knew of the plight that she had went through when he pierced Shinji's soul and look into his memories, he would hold true to his word.
With that thought settled in his mind, he focused on passing by the incoming day in the school until he could go back to his home and prepare for what he had decided.
He blinked before he turned to the source of the voice that called him. It was Ayako Mitsuzuri, once, his fellow Archery club member, and the one whom he had saved using Avalon after Rider took a large part of her Od under the command of Shinji.
"Ayako." Shirou replied evenly as he stopped walking through the hallway of the school that led to his class. He smiled at her and said "I'm glad that you're fine now, I heard what happened."
She stopped a few feet away from him and replied to his statement with a rather sheepish rebuttal, "Heh, um... thanks. A-anyway, that's not what I'm here for."
Shirou could see that she was driven to came to him, that she had something that she wanted to ask or tell him, and so he said; "What is it Ayako?"
Though Ayako Mitsuzuri appeared calm and collected after what had happened to her, her mind was still preoccupied about the one who saved her that night.
The assuring voice that said she would be alright before she fell unconscious and waking up in a bed of a hospital room had been haunting her ever since that fateful night. It seemed so familiar somehow, but to her frustration, during her enforced home stay, she could not quite link the voice to a name, let alone a face.
She remembered of the night assault that severely weakened her, but not of the attacker, add to the fact that she also did not know who was the one that healed her either, it was no surprise that she spent her time home wracking her mind to try and find out why the voice was so familiar.
She just knew that the voice belonged to someone that she recognized! Whoever it was, she was somebody that she knew, more than that, she was sure that she had heard the voice so many times before that her relationship to the owner of the voice was quite close.
However, she had come up with nothing despite her attempts. But when she came back to school after convincing her parents that she was alright and that this kind of thing would not happen again, she saw him.
And in her head, something seemed to click into place, like scrambled pieces of puzzles that fell and somehow formed into a complete picture by themselves, and she suddenly remembered why the voice of her savior seemed so familiar to her, and it was because she had heard him so often when he was still at the Archery club.
Brought by her impulse, she ran over to him as she yelled, "Emiya!"
However, once she was there in front of him, and once he asked the reason for her coming onto him so suddenly like that, she was at a loss for words.
"Um... uh, you see... uh..."
Just a few seconds ago, her certainty was nigh-absolute. She wanted to come to him, thank him, ask him the exact circumstances of the attack and how he was able to restore her, but once she was with him, she was unsure on how to begin.
'Thanking him would be a good start!' was her own thought screaming at herself, 'Just say thank you, and then go from there!'
But nothing could ever be that simple, could it? What should she say, 'Thank you for saving me after I was attacked by that unknown assailant.'? While it seemed as the most appropriate sentence to convey her gratitude, she began to think that there was something more to the attack on that night.
Ayako was never one to vehemently believe in the supernatural, but her instincts had been said to be as sharp as a blade whenever it mattered, and this time, it was telling her to lay off and not say anything.
However, despite her subconscious yelling at her to let things go and leave, her conscious thoughts did not want to just let the matters drop as if she was ungrateful for what he did.
And so, she was at a war with herself, and because this happened in front of the man that she wanted to thank, her reluctance was pretty much visible.
"Ayako, are you alright?" Shirou asked, somewhat worried that she had not spoken anything coherent in the last eight seconds. He was willing to wait, but her incoherent mumbling concerned him.
"I-I'm fine." This was not the time for her to be so self-conscious, just thank him, it shouldn't be that hard, but why was it so when she was faced with the man himself? "A-anyway, the reason I called you is because-"
The calm voice of another young woman diverted the attention of both Shirou and Ayako to one Tohsaka Rin, who was slowly approaching him with her gaze focused solely on the redhead.
However, once she was close enough, she noticed Ayako, and her demeanor changed quickly from stern and cold to warm and welcoming, "Ayako? Ayako! I'm so glad you're okay, I heard what happened, I'm so sorry for not visiting you at all, I've been so busy!"
Ayako's hand was grasped by the Tohsaka heiress, and the captain of the Archery club procured a rather strained smile, as she felt that Rin had interrupted an important moment, but she was nevertheless grateful for her concern and said; "Heheheh... not to worry Tohsaka, I understand. I'm just glad to be able to go to school again, you know?"
"Well, Let me be the one to say that a lot of people in this school shares my sentiment Ayako. What happened to you was awful, and your well-being puts each and every one of us at ease." Rin said as she patted her friend's shoulder. She then turned to Shirou and with the same pleasant voice, she said, "Anyway, um... Emiya-kun? During lunch... I want to discuss something with you at the usual place."
Shirou had an idea about the topic of the discussion that she wanted to talk to him about, Archer's severe injuries inflicted by Herakles that caused his debilitation that led her to become a technically Servant-less Master.
It was very likely that she wanted to extend their alliance. As much as he hated to mock someone... despite being a competent magus, in a war where the participants were required to have a Hero of Legend to fight, she was at a massive disadvantage if she were to cut off all ties with him.
At this moment, Rin felt as if he knew what she was going to ask him as his eyes conveyed a sense of understanding. And her assumption was proven true when he nodded and said; "Sure thing. I also want to discuss something with you. Regarding your... sister."
Ayako had never seen Rin Tohsaka gasped nigh inaudibly before, nor had she ever seen her blue eyes widening and her skin tone paling ever so slightly in an attempt to fight down her reaction. And she had never heard of Tohsaka having a sister before either.
Shirou's expression was not readable. It appeared neutral, but as his amber eyes were looking at Rin, a pair of sharp eyes could see satisfaction, disappointment, anger, and sadness all combined into a single directed gaze.
But Ayako could only see him directing a neutral gaze towards Rin. However, her eyes could also see the slowly rising turmoil within her friend and rival, and couldn't help but think that there was something more to what Shirou just said.
The redhead then sighed, turned to Ayako and said; "Anyway... I'm glad you're okay, Ayako." he then turned to Rin, "See you at lunchtime, Tohsaka."
With that he left. Ayako turned to Rin, and she saw that the heiress of the Tohsaka family was having a hard time to contain her fear and apprehension from appearing through her face and body language. "Tohsaka... are you alright?"
She looked at Ayako with eyes filled with fright before she cast her head down again and left without a word.
But Ayako did not feel insulted, after all, she felt as if she had just become a witness to something that she shouldn't be a part of. So she began to walk towards her class as the bell rang, signalling the time when the class will begin.
It was only when she reached her class that she remembered what she had forgotten.
'Crap... I forgot thanking Emiya...'
How was this possible?
How the hell did he knew? Who told him?
Rin did not have the capability to concentrate on the lesson being given at the current moment, and once again, the reason why was because of the redhead named Shirou Emiya.
He knew that Sakura was her sister. Her sister by blood, who was separated when they were little because of the decision made by their father due to the tradition of their family, something that she had... come to terms with.
Once again, the question that riddled her mind was 'How?', and it was understandable of her to be extremely bothered by it, after all, no one was supposed to know of this information besides her, Sakura, and everyone else involved in the custody.
'Sure, he has a really sharp mind, but... Even a sharp mind needs some kind of clues and evidences before it can come to a conclusion right? So how the hell did he know that?'
Then, another thought came to her, 'Could it be that he was just bluffing me? That he actually did not have enough clues that he could use to support the thought but it was enough for him to make assumptions about it and he used a bluff to draw out a reaction from me as some sort of confirmation?'
It was very possible, but still, she also did not have any information regarding where he received the information that led him to such assumption, and so she chalked it up as a mere possibility.
Still... now that he knew, what was he planning?
She pondered that question for a moment or two until she remembered their previous discussion where he revealed his desire to destroy Zouken Matou, and suddenly, everything clicked. He wanted to discuss a plan of attack to the Matou estate to retrieve Sakura, and he wanted her insight, being Sakura's sister and all.
'...That idiot maybe didn't even know the exact nature of our relationship...' she thought, 'Wait, maybe he does know, but he was being considerate of me because of our blood relation? ...Yeah, that sounds like him alright.'
Despite their complicated relationship, despite the circumstances that separated them from one another, Rin cared for her little sister. But her desire to fulfill her role as a magus of the Tohsaka family forced her to suppress her compassion and concern for Sakura for...
It pained her so when she mentally chanted this... 'For the sake of convenience.'
Her father would've been proud if he were alive and she said it to him, she was certain of this judging from the collection of the man's notes that she had read. Ever since the seed of guilt was planted within her thanks to Shirou, it had festered to the point where doubt regarding the acceptability of her family's treatment of her sister was abound and she had no power to suppress them, not any longer.
'I really am a bad magus...' she lamented at her innate ability to be compassionate and the lack of capability to do things that were morally unacceptable without batting an eye. Though normal people would cherish this fact, Tohsaka Rin was not supposed to be this.
Had she been lying to herself for the sake of convenience? She had always thought that Sakura was not her problem and that she should focus on what was important, which was the War, but was Sakura really not an important matter that she should concern herself with?
The more she spend her thoughts thinking about it, the more pain she received from the reminder that in the end, if it were true that Sakura had been spending a decade of horrible treatment under the custody of Zouken Matou and that worm Shinji, and it was very likely, then her own treatment that she had given to Sakura might have also deeply affected her.
No more justification, no more lying. It was time to come to the fact that even if it was necessary at the time, it didn't mean that what her family, her father did to Sakura and her subsequent treatment that she gave to her little sister was acceptable.
Rin sighed despondently as she let her chin fall to her table. '...Would she forgive me...? Would she forgive our father? Would she even understand...?'
Though these questions scared her to the point where they surprised her somewhat, those questions needed to be asked. And along with those questions, there was also one more question that she was also afraid to ask herself as much as she was afraid to ask the others...
Even though Shirou was a really understanding person... 'What would he think of me when I tell him of what my family did...?'
After all, he was one to give a high value on family judging by how he revered his father whenever he spoke of him... And he also held a healthy amount of disdain for the average population of magi in general who possessed varying degrees of moral insanity that allowed them to do immoral acts in the name of their research, fame, pride and such things...
Rin had never thought that she would value a man's thought over her character so much that the possibility of him having a negative opinion about her worried her so. Nor did she ever think that the thought of her little sister would give her a feeling of indescribable guilt that almost overwhelmed her.
But nevertheless... she both anticipated and dreaded the appointed time of their discussion.
It was rather reckless of her to wander during the day, even when she was in her astral form that rendered her invisible to all but her Master, but it was necessary.
She was on a mission, one that was not imposed by her Master, but by herself. A mission that she had taken for the sake of one Sakura Matou, who was still at the clutch of the repulsive creature that masqueraded itself as her 'grandfather'.
Many would laugh at the notion that a monster such as her would be willing to go on a quest to ensure the safety of others, but she had learned to not care about what people might think of her even before she entered the realm of the Throne of Heroes.
But never mistake her indifference to people's opinion of her as a sign that she was apathetic to the plight of others. Especially when there was someone whose plight equaled if not overshadowed her own.
When she was bound by the pretender Shinji Matou, she was rendered in a proverbial shackles as she watched the arrogant man did what he did best, which was to try and assert his dominance over those who were subservient.
She had seethed in silence and remained stoic despite the atrocities that she was forced to see and/or commit, but nevertheless, she kept her facade until the time when Saber's Master killed the pretender and returned her Mastership to the rightful owner of the title.
As expected, Sakura was slightly saddened by the pretender's death. It slightly baffled her, but the genuine sentiment that she showed to her made her pity Sakura.
And it wasn't a surprise either when she knew that Zouken Matou regarded the death of his grandson as 'irrelevant'. After all, why would such a creature feel compassion? She could feel the type of Magecraft that the creature used, and it made him reek of putrefaction and it was clear that what he did to himself to remain in the world of the living had its price.
Although she was certain that the creature he had become no longer cared. Hell, it might have forgotten why the man he once was did that in the first place.
His was an existence deserved to be treated with disgust and, if one were compassionate enough, sympathy, but what he did to Sakura for all these years should banish the latter sentiment from even the kindest, most compassionate man in the world, living or dead.
It almost pleased her that his plan with Sakura did not seem to work somehow. But there were two things that dampened that feeling.
First was the realization that whatever it was that dampened the creature's plan might be connected to something far darker than what the creature had planted inside Sakura's body.
Secondly, it was the grim reminder that despite the fact that his plan was not working, Sakura still possessed that which he coveted inside her, and he would not be that willing to let her go as he valued her as much as a magus would value the subject of their experiment.
Add to the fact that her Master, bless her soul, lacked the drive to initiate anything due to her traumatic experience, she became the one who must do something to save her from whatever fate that the creature had planned for her.
Still, on her own, she could do nothing. Realizing that fact, she turned to the person whom Sakura cared so much about, the one who seem to possess not only the drive, but the power to save her.
When Rin arrived at the roof, she saw Shirou there, already waiting for her arrival as he sat with his back leaned on the railing and his arms crossed.
They looked at each other for a moment, their eyes conveyed a sense of vitriol hidden beneath a neutral gaze from her blue eyes and his amber ones. Wordlessly, she closed the door from where she entered and walked towards Shirou.
She then took a seat at just a meter away from him and remained there, in silence, for the next thirty seconds.
Finally, it was broken by Shirou, who said; "Have you been wondering how is it that I know that Sakura is your sister?" he asked her.
From the way she looked at him, Shirou could see that yes, she was indeed curious, but she seemed rather apprehensive as well, which made him ponder on the why somewhat. Then, she answered, "Yes. Where did you get this information?" she asked.
In response, he said; "Trace. On."
With his specialized Gradation Air, he summoned a sword, seemingly silver in make. It looked somewhat normal, deceivingly so, if not for the fact that the way the light is reflected off the sword suggested a property supernatural in nature.
Grabbing the blade's grip wrapped in a long grey bandages, Shirou said to Rin, "This sword's name is Elucide. This is a sword that I used to kill Shinji."
Hearing him admitting that he killed Shinji somewhat unnerved Rin, especially when she saw that he held no particular expression when he said so, as if what he did mean nothing to him. "I see. And why are you showing me this?"
Shirou answered, "This sword is designed to not only affect the physical body of the one it stabbed. It can also pierce through one's soul, and with the blade as a medium, the wielder can access the memories of the affected before their death."
He then de-summoned the blade and continued, "When I killed Shinji, I entered his memories... see the things that he did through his eyes... and what he and the creature Zouken did to Sakura."
Her heart ached. It somewhat bothered her that she felt so much pain at the connotation of what she was hearing from Shirou, but once again, the side of herself that she didn't want to acknowledge forced her to react in such a way.
A part of her wanted to know, wanted him to elaborate, but a larger part of her wanted nothing to do with the knowledge that he had received.
"Through his memories, I came to the knowledge that Sakura was adopted to the Matou family... And that she was originally a part of the Tohsaka family. Considering her age, who else could she be but your little sister?" his gaze then hardened, and the intensity of her blue eyes seemed to wither at his amber ones, "It didn't require me too much of a stretch to figure out the circumstances of what happened that led her to be put under the custody of Zouken Matou by your father."
Even though she had been rendered despondent with the recent re-surfacing of her human side that she had been suppressing, she couldn't help but to let herself laugh in a bitter fashion, "He... hehehe... It wasn't hard to figure out, wasn't it? After all, what my father did... it was something ordinary for a family of magus to do to ensure lack of conflict in the matters of inheritance."
"It's a medieval custom. I suppose it fits, considering the life that an average magus family would have." Shirou said rather neutrally, "But what makes me angry is the possibility that your father might have known about what Zouken Matou did to sustain his life and its side effects and he still gave Sakura to him for the sake of-"
"I KNOW! I KNOW WHY HE DID IT, ALRIGHT?!" Rin, so suddenly, yelled out in anguish, anger, and frustration as she knew what he was going to say.
A moment of tense silence followed that outburst. Shirou's visage remained normal and neutral, but Rin's stoic facade had been badly cracked as she showed the worried, guilt-ridden sister within, burdened by the sin of her father that led them into this complex relationship that they now have with one another.
"I know... why he did it." Rin said shakily, breaking the silence, "Before his death, my father's written a lot of notes on many subjects... including his thoughts on sending Sakura to be adopted into the Matou family. From what I've read... it was clear that he was more concerned about the tradition and for the convenience of everyone involved."
"Except for Sakura's. I assume he didn't think about how Sakura would feel."
As much as it pained her, she must admit... "No." she admitted as much as she shook her head, "He was not concerned about how it would affect her. He had always been pragmatic and cold, and I suppose that's what makes him a good magus... But..."
"You consider what he did as heartless, but necessary, am I right?"
At this, she tilted her head down even more as she answered with a quiet voice, "...At first."
Shirou's gaze that he directed at her softened, "Has it changed? If so, then would it be right of me to say that you care about Sakura?" he asked of her, "I know that you have no knowledge of what she had experienced inside that accursed estate, and I have no wish to divulge you of what I had seen through Shinji, but let me get to the point..."
Shirou then leaned towards Rin, who tilted her head up to look into his amber eyes. Then, she heard him say, "I want to infiltrate the Matou estate and take Sakura away, with all that comes with the act, and I want you to be with me."
He was not surprised, bothered or confused when Rin did not show any sign that she was surprised or befuddled by what he said. After all, he had revealed his intention before, and now that he had enough information on what was going on inside the estate, particularly what Sakura had been experiencing, he was determined to perform an invasion to the magus' estate.
The redhead saw her eyes regaining the usual stern, sharp quality that he had always seen before, and then, she merely gave him a firm nod without saying anything. But despite the fact that she spent no words to convey her agreement, he could sense the authenticity of her desire to fix things with her little sister, and that elated Shirou.
"It's what I wanted to talk to you about anyway." she said before she elaborated further, "Extending the period of our alliance, I mean."
Despite the fact that his opinion of Rin had been lowered a bit due to how she initially accepted the arrangement that her father had given them, the fact that she seemed to be willing to make right what was wrong allowed Shirou to accept her as his ally and friend once again.
In fact, he was well aware that Rin did not have much of a choice. She was a participant in the war, but her Servant had been rendered incapacitated by Berserker. Perhaps he could provide some help with the Conceptual Weapon within him, aided with Saber...
All secrets would have to come to light sooner or later, and the existence of the sheath of Excalibur within him, he felt, was something that he needed to reveal to Arturia during the course of this War.
"Then, now that our intentions have been said... I'd like to extend my help to you." Shirou said to Rin, "I will help you in restoring Archer, but in return, I want him to aid us in breaking through whatever Zouken Matou had prepared for any intruders to his home, what do you say, Tohsaka?"
With what he said, she remembered of the existence of Avalon within him, and know that what he said was not an empty promise. "I will accept that, Emiya-kun." she said with a nod of her head.
"Alright. Now, as to freeing Sakura..."
"I will also give my aid to you, Emiya Shirou."
To Rin, her sound was not familiar, and therefore, it warranted a frightened response from her as she turned her head towards the sound, stood up, and took several steps backwards away from the Servant.
To Shirou, her voice was quite familiar, and so was her scent, which began to infiltrate his olfactory system as she materialized herself to appear before them. His response was one created out of wariness, but nevertheless, due to what she said before, he was curious as to what the Servant of the Mount wanted to say for herself.
"Rider...! How is she still alive?"
And Shirou suddenly remembered that he had forgotten to tell the Tohsaka heiress that Sakura was the original summoner of Rider and Shinji was just using some sort of method that allowed him to control her. That, and that it was because of him that Rider lived still.
"You are willing to give us your help Rider?" Shirou asked as he too stood up and keeping his eyes focused on the woman with purple long hair who was crouching on the top of the door as she directed her blindfolded eyes towards him as he continued to speak, "I would welcome it. But I want to know your reason first."
The gorgon of legend knew that just saying her intention, no matter how genuine it was, would not make them accept her. Still, she appreciated the boy's willingness to listen to her. In her experience at being treated like a monster, this was another fresh whiff of air after Sakura's willingness to trust her and treating her with courtesy.
"Sakura is not a person who deserves this life that she had been subjected to." answered Rider, "I am speaking from my own experience when I say that the girl whom I am bound to... deserves a better life. This fate that has befallen her... if she were of a lowlier life... perhaps I might be content in receiving her abundant mana and maintain this situation as it is. But it is not so."
Rider then dropped down to their level and said; "I can sense your distrust... Perhaps we can have a civil discussion so that you are more willing to trust me?"
When Ayako saw Rin leaving the class, she wanted to ask her about her conversation with Shirou. Though it felt as if it was not something that she should be interfering, she was quite whelmed by her desire, her need, to thank Shirou.
At first, she let her leave the class without asking her, but after five minutes, she was a bit bothered and her mind began to wonder where could they be holding their meeting, and that's when she heard the conversation between Kaede, Yukika and Himuro.
"You think she's going to meet Emiya at the rooftop again?"
"D-do you think so Kaede-san?"
"Don't jump into conclusion now. Their previous meeting might be a one-time thing."
It was enough of an incentive for her to go to the three and ask them what they were talking about. And Kaede, ever the blabbermouth, instantly told her of the Tohsaka's previous rendezvous with Shirou and her assumption that they might be having it at the same place again at this moment.
As she walked towards the rooftop, she was a bit bothered by Kaede's assumption that Rin and Shirou were an item. While she had some doubts regarding that notion, she was bothered not because of her having Shirou as a significant other or vice versa, but by the fact that either one of them did not tell her anything about that.
...Or, maybe it was because of the former?
Ayako shook her head as she cast away the thoughts of Shirou Emiya's smiling face from her mind. 'Why am I remembering any of that now anyway? It was so long ago, why the hell do I still have those memories?'
Succeeding in completely banishing those thoughts away, Ayako increased the pace of her walk towards the rooftop.
When she was there, and was about to open the door discreetly, she heard an unfamiliar voice that did not belong to either Rin or Shirou saying, "...Perhaps we can have a civil discussion so that you are more willing to trust me?"
Then, she heard Rin asking, "Why should we? Never mind the fact that you are an enemy Servant and-"
"Certainly." Shirou said, interrupting Rin's incoming tirade, "What do you have in mind, Rider?"
Even though that Rin had known Shirou's incredible capability to be willing to give his trust to someone who was supposed to be an enemy of his through her own experience, she was nevertheless befuddled by his acceptance of Rider at such a short time, especially after what she did under Shinji's orders.
...Then again, the last words of that sentence might be the reason. She did what she did because all of it was her acting under Shinji's orders. Remembering that bit made her slightly more willing to listen.
"Zouken Matou did something to Sakura. Something that had festered within her, something dark, something... repulsive. Even for me." Rider began, "I know not of what can be done to destroy this... dark influence that he had planted within her... But perhaps, if Zouken is destroyed, then it too, will die. I would do it myself, but he had summoned a Servant to his side."
"Assassin." Shirou said with a grim expression, realizing that all the classes were accounted for except for that particular one, "Do you know about his or her identity? I have many presumption, but if you are able to provide us with a physical description, it would be better."
"The Servant felt dark... Not dark in the way that the thing that Zouken planted in Sakura feels, but it felt as if the Servant... as if there's something wrong with them. As for physical description, I am unable to tell you of anything, even their gender. In their proximity, I never once released Breaker Gorgon and they had never spoken a word to anyone." Rider answered.
"Hm..." Shirou muttered as he pondered on every possibility of who the assassin might be. Considering the origin of the word itself, there was one man who had a high chance of being summoned in the class because of how the designation referred to him, being the creator of the group which would become the word that is designated for a professional, stealthy killer and all.
"Who do you think the Assassin is, Emiya-kun?" Rin asked the redhead with a slightly demanding tone of voice, a product of his quick acceptance of Rider.
"My first presumption is Hassan-i Sabbah. After all, he is the creator of the term Assassin, even if it did not mean what it now means back in his time." Shirou answered, "It would be the most likely, as the class alone would be a strong catalyst, but... anyone is possible. Considering what we are dealing with here, Zouken might be able to summon any Servant he wishes."
"Hmh... true enough." Rin conceded, worried over the unknown Assassin that the creature Zouken had summoned.
"Nevertheless, Assassin would be an obstacle that we have to bypass... Considering their class and our lack of knowledge of them, if we are pitted against them in the shadows of the estate, we will be at a massive disadvantage." Shirou stated, "We need to remove Sakura from the premises first before we launch an attack. Ensure her safety and... wait a minute, could whatever Zouken had implanted within her allow him to exert his control, even from afar?"
Rider bit her lip in slight frustration at the possibility of what Shirou said before she answered, "I... do not know. It is a likely possibility, however."
Shirou gritted his teeth in anger, "That creature must have dozens of contingency plan... But then again, it's a risk that we have to take. Let's just hope that Sakura is strong enough to resist his influence."
Rider procured a faint, nigh-invisible smile as she said; "She might just have enough strength, Emiya Shirou. Thanks to you."
Hearing her statement brought Shirou to say; "...So I was right..." he muttered before he cast his head down, "I... To her, I am..." he then sighed before he finally said, "Sakura... I'm not the only one who cares about you, you know."
He then looked at Rider with a stern gaze and he said with a commanding voice; "Rider, you must gather more information about the Assassin that Zouken has summoned along with the schematics of the estate. But be careful, if Zouken suspect something, then do not push it. After that, meet us here tomorrow afternoon to tell us more of what you know, and at night tomorrow, we will begin the attack. Are those orders understood, Rider?"
How commanding and firm... 'Your affection might not be misplaced after all...' Rider thought about her Master's infatuation towards the redhead, "I will try my best." she answered with a nod.
He then turned to Rin and said; "Tohsaka, I want you to come to my house to heal Archer. Having Saber in the proximity of Avalon can augment its healing property, and it can heal Archer more quickly. That, and she needs to know what we are going to do anyway."
Rin nodded as she crossed her arms. Though she was not used in being ordered, she had to admit that Shirou was the one who suggested the lucrative mission, and he too must be the one to lead, and so she conceded to his will.
'He does look cool in a way with this attitude...' she mentally muttered to herself.
'No, no, I did NOT just think that!' Rin thought as she shook her head profusely to try and banish that thought.
Shirou tilted his head at the Tohsaka heiress' sudden action, "Are you alright?" he said with genuine concern over her well-being.
Before she could reply, she and Shirou heard Rider lightly giggling and said; "I'm certain that she is well, Emiya Shirou. On a more important matter... I will ensure Sakura's safety until your assault on the estate. Though my word might mean little considering that you know what I am and what I have done... I am, nevertheless, giving it to you. As a sign of my willingness."
The redhead nodded, and with that, the purple-haired woman said; "Then I shall take my leave. Until next time, Emiya Shirou."
Then, the Servant of the Mount astralized herself, at the same time when the school bell rang, indicating that it was the time for them to continue their study session.
Shirou looked at Rin and said; "Let's go Tohsaka." before he walked away, with her following close behind.
When they re-entered the school's interior through the same door that they used to go to the rooftop, they passed the spot where one Ayako Mitsuzuri had eavesdropped on their conversation, which she had left by running away when the school bell rang.
As the night began to fall on Fuyuki city, the Matou estate was still as dark and gloomy and quiet as before.
However, a presence lurked the halls of the estate's interior, a presence controlled by the creature known as Zouken Matou, a presence that choked the estate with its capability to fog the surroundings with its very presence, allowing those who possess no control over her to be suffocated within it if they were willing to.
The presence only acknowledged and tolerated three beings thus far, three beings that they had met or seen... Their Master, which they loathed, the monster Servant, whom they were indifferent towards, and the girl, whom they could connect to at a higher level compared to their own Master.
The only reason that they were willing to follow their Master despite the fact that he had earned their loathing was because they were ordered to keep her in the manor at all cost. The girl was different, and in a way, she was similar to them. And even though they were ordered not to make any contact with her, they considered her as an important figure to be guarded.
Oh they would do what their Master had ordered them to with devotion... But if he were to order them to do something that would endanger the girl...
Then no one can stop her from exacting her desire to hurt him.
After all... no child would remain idle when their 'Mother' was threatened... would they?
To be continued...
So Assassin's identity has been revealed! ...To those who can get the reference that is. Fate/Apocrypha is your guide if you want to know who this Assassin is.
Anyway, a bonus Omake is coming up! I've always wanted to try and make one for any of my stories, and this is my attempt for this one. Maybe this is canon for this fic maybe it's not, but it's an omake, so I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.
Taiga's audible sigh spoke of tiredness and slight exasperation. Within the family room of Emiya Residence, Shirou Emiya had been left alone with his guardian, one Fujimura Taiga, who seemed to be bothered by something that made her look quite exhausted.
Shirou looked over at his surrogate big sister, her usually vigorous form and visage were not present as they were replaced by a sense of exhaustion and slight incapability to care about her surroundings.
Knowing that there must be something that made her this way, Shirou said to her; "What's wrong Fuji-nee?"
She responded by looking at Shirou with a glare sent straight to his amber-shaded eyes. He did not remove his gaze from her own, and so the interaction lasted for a couple of minutes before Taiga said...
"I feel like I'm being pushed away you know." she said.
Shirou frowned in slight confusion, and before he could say anything, Taiga used her hands to prop herself upwards slightly with her head cast down, "At first, there was Sakura, the sweet kouhai whom I had no doubt will one day capture your heart as you had, unwittingly, captured hers."
She then continued, "She has nothing but my approval when she tries to capture your attention, even when you were sometimes dense enough to not notice. Then, there's Arturia-san, the young woman is beautiful, dutiful, strong, and noble, and like Sakura, you have captured her heart as well."
"But when I thought two was the limit, you surprised me through Tohsaka Rin, the beautiful student in the academy, the princess of the school." Taiga said with her right fist pumped, "The untouchable idol of the school was captured somehow by you, but then, as if they weren't enough you also had the attention of the foreign transfer student Luvia. Then, there was the mysteriously sexy and sultry Rider-san, the freaking amazing Blonde Goddess Gil-sama, and last but not least, the forbidden fruit Illyasviel-chan!"
At this point, Taiga's head was tilted towards the ceiling of the house, and it seemed like she was crying. She then swiftly turned her head towards Shirou and pointed her finger towards her, "And that was just a small part of the lists of women that you have conquered! Who knows how many others you have enthralled! Sure, we're alone right now, but every day it's as if I am being pushed away by the innocent women whom you have tethered into your harem!"
There was a moment of silence before Taiga roared towards the sky, "Am I not one of the main characters here?! Do I not have an appeal as well, being the beautiful, sexy, older guardian?! Why is it that I feel like I've been placed in the rock bottom of the hierarchy of the harem when I've been with you the longest in-universe?! Sure, I'm not seeking to be a part of your harem, but don't you at least see the appeal that your big sister has?!"
After she finally said what she had kept within her, her body deflated like a balloon and sank down towards the table, her eyes a bit teary and her teeth were gritted, "Uuuu... I understand that I'm not the main Heroine, but it's really annoying when I realized that I am just seen as the comic relief in nearly every portrayal...! Even Luvia, who didn't even have a screen-time on the original Fate/Stay Night is more popular than me and is used more often and more explored upon in many fan works...!" she bemoaned.
"...I'm afraid that I don't understand that last part Fuji-nee." Shirou replied rather neutrally, thinking that she was just having a particularly bad fit.
Suddenly, she banged her hands on the table and propped up again, her eyes tearing up in an anime-like fashion and yelled; "Tell me Shirou! What is it about me that makes the viewers and readers of any variations of Fate/Stay Night think of me as nothing more than a comic relief?!"
...It's safe to say that Shirou did not fully understand what she meant. However, from what he could gather through the nonsense was that she was a bit bothered by how she was not seen as desirable compared to Sakura, Rin, Saber, Luvia and the others.
"...Well, for starters, your appearance and behavior." Shirou said, opting for brutal honesty, "Your short hair and your summer dress over a long-sleeved shirt evoke the image of a motherly person, but your behavior is childish, irrational, and sometimes annoying. It creates a paradox, one that, I think, makes you seem less desirable because of what one might expect from your appearance."
At the sight of Taiga's shocked expression, Shirou continued, "Then, there's the problem with how you behave as well. I know some people have an inclination towards rambunctious, strong woman, but your behavior makes you appear like an adult woman who's trying to act like a kid from middle school without any semblance of maturity, which is not. At all. Desirable." he said those three words punctually and with the deadest voice that he could muster.
Shirou then finished it with, "If you want to appear more than just a... comic relief... you have to match your physical image with who you are, Fuji-nee. And frankly speaking, this might be the reason why you are not as attractive-looking to me as the women you mentioned before."
Taiga paled thanks to the shock of a lifetime that Shirou had given her. She slumped down and tried to digest the information that was given. "S-so it's my fault huh...? And I like to wear this because of him too..."
Hearing what she said, Shirou then decided to ask something that he had been suspicious about for quite a while, "...Fuji-nee... why did you try to put on the image of a housewife?"
Looking at Shirou, Taiga procured a rather sad smile and answered, "Because of Kiritsugu."
That simple answer was everything that Shirou needed to say... "Because you think that dad liked the family-oriented types of women."
Taiga sighed and said; "Yeah, that's why." she confirmed, "...I... I used to have a massive crush on your dad. But I never acted on it because he was just so... It seemed like he was not able to truly move on from his late wife, you know? I didn't want to exploit that to try and have a relationship with him... So I think that... I have a tendency to wear this type of clothing because... I want to always be one for him. Even after he..."
Her expression was somber, and her eyes spoke of a nostalgic memory that she was remembering, memories from a time long past.
Seeing her like that, Shirou immediately said to her, "Dad's not the type to fuss about housewife-type woman or something like that." it earned her attention, and so he continued, "What he liked was honesty and transparency. He didn't care about your image, he only cared about who you really are. Putting on images contrary to your identity for his sake isn't something that he would've appreciated."
Even though he basically told her that what she had been doing was unnecessary, Taiga appreciated the honesty and knew that he was right. This time, tears began to come out as she said, "...I... Heh... I've been trying too hard, haven't I?" as she used her fingers to try and wiped the tears.
Shirou scooted closer towards her and placed his hand over her shoulder, and Taiga seemed to calm down slightly thanks to his action.
After a minute of gentle weepings, Taiga said; "S-so..." she sniffed as she still felt a bit sad due to their discussion before, "W-what do you think I should be wearing to appear more desirable?"
Shirou examined his guardian for a bit before he said; "I don't know Fuji-nee. It's your choice." he said with a smile, one that dimmed a bit when he added, "Just don't try anything ridiculous, okay?"
"Then give me an idea or something like that." Taiga requested.
It took Shirou a couple of minutes more before he finally said "Um... for starters, try a ponytail hairstyle for a bit." he requested of her, not really thinking that it would change her much.
Taiga smiled before she took the nearest rubber band and did what she was told. She beamed a bright smile as she turned to Shirou and asked, "So? What do you think?"
Though the change was just a small one, the effect was quite amazing in comparison to the small scale of the change in a physical sense. "...Can't believe I'm saying this, but it does make you look more... you, I suppose."
At this, Taiga grinned widely and chuckled. "Ehehehe... I haven't worn this style for ages, it feels so nostalgic." she remarked before she looked at Shirou, "...So I really do look good in this huh?"
Noticing that she was trying to tease him as she leaned closer to him, Shirou responded, "Honestly, yes. However, if you're doing what I think you're doing..."
"Oh? What does it look like I'm doing?"
"Trying to tease me into saying something that you would not let go for a long time, and if so, I am leaving."
Faster than Taiga could try and restrain him, Shirou left the premises. She sighed and shook her head in amusement at Shirou's antics before she used her hand to feel the ponytail that she had made.
It certainly felt nostalgic and not to mention, quite comfortable for her hair to be styled as such. Perhaps Shirou had a keen eye for what made a person look good. He certainly was an observant person.
"Hmp, not that I should be surprised..." she remarked to herself with a wide smile on her face. "But it's still too early for you to capture my heart like you did the others, Shirou." she added to herself rather playfully before she chuckled.
Perhaps a change of image is in order...
OMAKE: The End.
I really like the design of the younger Taiga as Student no. 0. In my opinion, it was far more superior look than the one she had always been in in many incarnations of her and that was the basis that I used when I decided to try and make an Omake.
Please give me feedback through your reviews and thank you for reading!