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Fate/Stay Night: Heirs

Chapter Text

 

            Tonight. It starts tonight. Tonight I summon my servant and enter into the fifth Holy Grail war.

            But it’s so early. Way too early. Papa said it should only be every sixty years, and yet…

                Rin brushed the back of her hand with her fingers, a stinging sensation prickling further at the touch. The mumble of her teacher was lulling her into deeper contemplation. She couldn’t focus on anything else but the looming trials. She had trained herself diligently for this very moment in time. However, now that it was upon her, she couldn’t deny the nerves circulating within her entire being.

                I will summon Saber, the most powerful class of them all. Papa showed me what I should do. I’ve practiced many a time. This will be simple. I’ll win the war, restore the honour to the Tohsaka name and wish…and wish…

                ‘Rin…?’

                But how should I deal with the other masters? I don’t necessarily have to kill them as long as I take out their servants. It’ll be fine. Even if I have to defeat the other magus, I’ve known my duty since infancy. It’s fine. I can do it.

                ‘Rin…?’

                Should I move aggressively or quietly? I’ll have to take immediate defensive measures. My name doesn’t do me any favours other than invite a little caution. Even then, my identity isn’t a secret either. Populated areas will have to be my main method of recon. I suppose it really depends on the servant I manage to summon. If it’s Saber…

                ‘Earth to Rin!’

                ‘Huh?’

                Rin blinked and realized that class had been over for what must’ve been at least 5 minutes.

                ‘Kaede.’ She breathed, looking about as the classroom cleared out and the cleaning duty began their tasks.

                ‘Oh! So you do remember who I am. Fancy that!’

                ‘Sorry. I was lost in thought.’

                ‘Obviously.’ Kaede sighed. She didn’t have patience to begin with, let alone when she was ignored. ‘So, I gotta go meet that guy before practise. You mind coming with?’

                Rin nearly rolled her eyes. Romance was the sole focus of almost all of her classmates, yet she was distracted by a war that could very well influence the entire world. Completely different lives. Insignificant? She wouldn’t go that far, although the thought had passed her mind. Kaede wasn’t too bad, at least.

                ‘Right. You got that letter in your locker this morning.’

                ‘Yep. Isn’t that a little old fashioned?’

                ‘Slightly. But you have to admit, there’s a level of charm in such an approach.’

                ‘Hmph.’ Kaede crossed her arms and scoffed while Rin packed up her things. ‘So, are you coming or not?’

                Rin valued her friends, but for selfish reasons more than not. They helped her blend and not draw attention to herself. Her grades were far above average, alongside her looks, so she couldn’t be completely invisible, but living a perceivably “normal” life in school certainly assisted where it needed to. However, she couldn’t sacrifice the preparation time she needed for this very special night.

                ‘I’m sorry. I have plans tonight. My family is having a celebratory dinner for my grandfather who is in the city. Forgive me?’ Rin considered herself a professional liar. It was necessary as a mage. It was a good thing.

                ‘Ugh. Fine. I’ll just let him off easy and be done with it.’

                ‘Don’t do that.’ Rin found herself getting serious, finally standing and placing her bag over her shoulder. ‘Let him down hard. Don’t leave room for doubt or false hope. You’re only crueler if you don’t.’

                Kaede couldn’t respond right away, and Rin noticed the shift in the classroom’s atmosphere immediately. Damage control. She needed to repel the stares.

                ‘At least, that’s what my father told me once. I personally wouldn’t know.’

                ‘Pu-lease. How many confessions a month do you get?’

                Rin didn’t want to answer that question.

                ‘Text me if you need anything. I’ll do my best to respond when possible.’

                ‘Yeah. Yeah.’

               

                Considering how long ago class ended, Rin expected the halls of Homurahara Gakuen to be a little less busy than they were. Perhaps there wasn’t any real difference in the volume, and it was her own suppressed anxiety that was pushing through her nerves.

                An obnoxious voice accompanied by bird-like giggling made Rin’s back shiver, and she pushed through the crowd a little more aggressively than she usually allowed herself.

                ‘Rin-chan! What’s the hurry?’

                Shinji Matou. He could be an enemy in hours. He could already be an opponent. His family had deep ties with the Mage Society. Magic ran through his veins like her own. Not only that, but he was a Grade A prick. If he hadn’t spoken so loud, Rin could’ve feigned ignorance to his antagonism, but she wasn’t so fortunate. Some cockroaches required endless defeats.

                ‘That would be Tohsaka-san to you, Matou-kun.’

                Shinji dramatically acted out a pitiful excuse for emotional injury. The three airheads among him, one under his arm, cackled almost wildly at the display.

                ‘You wound me, Rin-chan. I would think we had gotten over any previous misunderstandings.’

                ‘There are no misunderstands in these circumstances, Matou-kun. I am not interested. End of story. Thank-you for the offer.’ Image. Image. Image. Balance. Balance. Balance.

                ‘Hmph! You’re practically implying that I would bother to give you the time of day. How foolish, Rin-chan. You must be aware that I am a very busy man and there are many ladies that require my thorough attention.’ Shinji held one such girl even tighter, although Rin could certainly see that she had successfully struck a nerve.

                ‘Very well, then. My mistake.’

                Victory…to a degree. She may look foolish to some, but at least she knew the truth. Shinji had, on multiple occasions, asked Rin on many a dates even though he was clearly unwilling to admit as much. Rin had, naturally, turned him down every occasion. She didn’t have the time or desire for romance. Perhaps after the war, and her training was complete, she could make such considerations. Besides, it’s not as though she had met a single individual that she could tolerate or count as her equal intellectually, let alone romantically. It just wasn’t a focus. It couldn’t be. Romance created weakness. Weakness couldn’t be tolerated during such a deadly war.

                That being said, Rin noted Shirou Emiya and Issei Ryuudou as she neared the staircase leading to the first floor of her school. Shirou was something of an enigma in her view. There was always this sort of disconnect in his eyes that baffled even Rin. He never truly smiled either. He was helpful and considerate; ridiculously so, and honestly fairly attractive in his solemn way, but there was an air of mystery about the boy that annoyed Rin. Issei, on the other hand, was the student council president, and openly disliked Rin for reasons she didn’t care to consider for more than a second. He amused her enough, so she poked the bear when she could. It was the little things, after all.

                ‘How are you today, Ryuudou-kun?’

                ‘F-fine.’ Issei adjusted his glasses and scoffed. He was normally quite put together, but he wasn’t foolish enough to dismiss Rin’s placement in the school’s hierarchy either.

                ‘Don’t work poor Emiya-kun to the bone now.’

                Rin giggled inwardly at the sight of Issei’s face. He was utterly flustered. Shirou didn’t seem to pay her much mind though, simply tinkering with a piece of machinery in his hands as he tended to do.

                ‘Have a safe trip home, Tohsaka-san.’ Shirou’s softer voice uttered suddenly.

                Rin was thankful her back was to the boys, for her face must’ve reflected her surprise in some manner.

                ‘You as well.’ She managed gracefully. Shirou almost always remained silent when Rin pestered Issei, so why the change of heart suddenly? It wasn’t truly worth investigating at the moment, but perhaps after the war she could amuse herself in some way.

 

                The air was brisk on the way home. Summer had barely finished, yet Fall seemed to be welcoming itself sooner than most would willingly allow. It could be some sort of freak anomaly, and the warm weather may return any day, so Rin didn’t fret. Cooler temperatures were preferred for physically demanding activities anyway, so Rin considered herself lucky.

                Everyone’s lives were moving along as though it were any other day. As long as the rules were followed, the impact upon Fuyuki City would be minimal. The enforcers would make sure of that if they did their job properly. The church wasn’t Rin’s favourite establishment, but she had no choice but to have faith in their involvement. She cared for and hated Fuyuki City. The feelings were mixed. It housed so many wonderful and painful memories. Maybe that wasn’t entirely unique to her own childhood.

                Rin shook her head and quickened her pace home, subconsciously aware of her surroundings in case the war took a turn for the worse more hastily than she anticipated. This would be her last walk home feeling even a semblance of comfort and safety. From here onward, from the moment she summoned her servant, everything would change. She was ready. She would will herself ready, just as she always had.   

Chapter Text

 

                Rin passed through the gate to her western-influenced house. It was large, comparatively speaking, but nothing compared to what her family was entitled to. Kirei Kotomine, Rin’s official guardian, had done away with most of her fortune. Being a man of the cloth, and Rin’s late father’s friend as well as pupil, he had seen the fortune as little more than a taint upon Rin’s responsibilities. Kirei had also participated in the fourth Holy Grail War; the same one Rin’s father had died in and her mother driven insane.

                Rin didn’t like thinking about it if she could help it. A loss of focus was a loss of power. She didn’t have time for dwelling on the past. She was here now. She was alive. She would avenge her father and place the Tohsaka’s name upon the pedestal once again within the magi realm to which it belonged.

                Rin felt the coolness of her own magic as she entered into the force field erected just that morning. Nothing dangerous had passed through it to her knowledge. She would have to reapply the ruins’ circuits before bed. Rin unlocked the front door and heard its familiar creak as she entered the Tohsaka manor.

                ‘I’m home.’ She murmured quietly. There was no response. There never was. Kirei had long since left the moment Rin entered high school. He was a busy man. Despite the fact Kirei had given her the Azoth Dagger, a Tohsaka heirloom, Rin could never fully trust such an obviously deceptive man. There was just something about him that instinctively put Rin on edge, and she wasn’t one to doubt her gut.

                Rin went to her room and allowed her school bag to flop to the floor. She would eat to ensure her energy was maximised, and then the ritual she had rehearsed hundreds of times would be put into play. Rin undressed and then put on a better functioning outfit that bore a little more leg than she would normally prefer, but allowed for the most comfort when moving aggressively. The red turtle-neck and black skirt with thigh-highs seemed a little silly in appearance, and she knew this, but something about it also made Rin feel like a different person. Not quite a super hero, but along those lines. She wasn’t a high school girl; she was a mage. This was her other persona; her true self.

                Rin strapped the Azoth Dagger to her leg, packed some of her magic-infused crystals into a hip pouch, and made her way downstairs for a quick dinner. She felt odd, being battle ready in her own house, but she supposed it was something to get used to. Until she had a servant she could fully trust for night watch, this was life now. Rin swallowed deep and steadied her breathing. Her father wouldn’t be impressed. She needed to calm every magical circuit in her body. Every single one.

                It took longer than ever. She would never manage to summon Saber in this state.

                Rin went to the old record player in her father’s study and placed what she knew to be his favourite collection of music upon the relic. The scratchy sounds implied that all was well with this device, at least, and Rin closed her eyes as a classical tune filled her empty halls. She allowed her mind to meld with the pure musical cords and to distance everything superficial from a thought. It was a method her father had bestowed upon her. She could feel her magic circuits opening up and absorbing her focus as well as the natural energy all around her. Fuyuki City was ripe full of mana, and she had no problem obtaining the necessary amount for the ritual ahead.

                A simple but effective supper was had. It was traditional in every sense, the steaming white rice and various vegetables and meats fusing with a tried and true sauce she had prepared that morning. Rin didn’t consider herself the best of cooks, but she certainly could get by when needed. To her embarrassment, Rin found she simply purchased microwave-able meals and breads to tie her over most nights.

                This evening wouldn’t be like most nights, however.

                Rin allowed the music to continue playing as she descended into the basement of her house. She could just barely make out the strings and wind instruments dazzling their imaginary audience. She allowed a small smile, but continued to maintain all focus upon a true mage’s dwelling. The basement had been her father’s true and very secret study. It had been where he taught Rin her first spell, and it would be where Rin cast her most important chant.

                Rin took a moment to calm her breathing. In and out. In and out. Inhale and exhale. Inhale and exhale.  Remember what her father had taught. Remember the vast knowledge he had managed to pass on before he lost the fourth war and paid with his life. Eject all emotion. Focus on the craft. Remember the chant. Recall all the verses and every perfect syllable.

                Rin closed her eyes and dipped her fingers into a reddish powder upon the ancient table with quill, parchments, ink stains, and a history beyond understanding. She felt the powder respond to her energy and merge into almost a liquid.

                One final exhale.

                And then she began.

                Rin knelt and drew, uttering words from a golden time of wonder and discovery. Her voice echoed within the confines of a room pulsating with magic dating back thousands of years. She spun and formed a circle, crafting glyphs within smaller circles until a design brought itself forth and only grew more intricate with every passing second.

                The score upstairs heightened alongside Rin’s focus. She was in a trance, another language passing through her lips and attaching itself to the vocal point of her spell. This was a ten line spell, and one of the most powerful to modern mages. One mistake and she would risk her place in the fifth Holy Grail War. She would risk it all.            

                No. Focus.

                And it continued without another pause. Rin’s magical circuits warmed her body in an almost pleasurable way, her cheeks flushing and her movements becoming more rapid. A violin screeched above, and Rin stood outside her perfect circle, eyes still closed so that no distractions would cause falter. She drew her Azoth Dagger and began the final line of her chant. She couldn’t see the room quivering at the spell she was casting. She couldn’t know that nature itself trembled at the unnatural process at work. She would summon a hero, and that hero would serve her in an attempt to win the Holy Grail and obtain a wish of any kind. It was the opportunity of a life time. It would change everything.

                Rin breathed out the final word, and the moment she felt the syllable enter into the blanket of power she had created, just as her father had shown her, everything went silent. It was a silence so deep and raw that Rin thought she was deaf for a moment. The music had stopped somehow. Nothing moved. Time had been frozen.

                And then…

                A golden ray of light pierced through all matter and exploded upon impact within the magic circle Rin had created. Paper flew everywhere, and cracks erupted all throughout the floor as though an earthquake was beginning.

                ‘Hng!’ Rin lost her footing and fell to the floor, her butt bearing the brunt of the impact and seeming to bruise instantly. The smoke and golden light didn’t dissipate immediately, and Rin’s heart hammered against her chest as she covered her eyes, trying to squint through the dust flying everywhere.

                This was the moment of truth. In seconds, she would learn precisely how she would be fighting this war in her family’s name. This was what she had worked toward for so long. This was what she had given up her life for. This was her calling.

                So, then, why did her eyes burn so?

                Finally, something clanked, and movement could be heard within the smoke and angelic light. A step and another step. The servant sounded as though they were clad in armour, and soon enough, Rin discovered that this was indeed the case.

                A woman with green eyes full of nothing but resolve and dedication passed through the gate of energy, her blonde hair pulled back into a tight bun and her brilliant blue battle dress covered in the most awe-inspired of silver equipment. She was at once utterly beautiful yet terrifying. She looked as though she were some sort of knight from another era nearly long forgotten.

                Rin found she couldn’t move. She could only stare as her servant’s own gaze bore into her soul.

                ‘I am Saber.’ The young woman spoke as proudly as expected. ‘Am I to presume you are my master?’

Chapter Text

 

                “Saber is considered the most powerful of the seven servant classes. It ranks incredibly high in all categories, and often hails from the time of Gods, when magic was commonplace. Summoning the Saber class is a boon of luck, often guaranteeing the master, even if he or she isn’t overly competent, to be involved in the final moments of the grail wars.”

 

                Rin recalled her father’s words and felt her heart, trying to convince herself that this was real. The burning on the backside of her hand indicated that she was, indeed, not dreaming. The command seals had fully formed, a blood red symbol indicating the three irrefutable demands a master could make of his or her servant. Once all three commands were used, however, that master could no longer hold forced authority over a servant. It could only be a matter of trust from that point forward. The command seals were the ultimate bargaining tool in the grail wars, and Rin had been told to value their power above all else, including her servant’s.

                Rin finally pushed herself up, dusting off her skirt and gathering her thoughts into a place she could form words from. Saber’s brilliance solidified her position as a great heroic spirit. It was difficult to look directly upon her at that very moment. However, the first encounter with any servant was of the utmost importance, and Rin Tohsaka had to position herself as a master worth serving within seconds. She was dealing with a hero from ancient lore, and had to behave accordingly.

                ‘I am your master, Saber.’ Rin lifted her hand and presented the command seals. ‘My name is Rin Tohsaka. My family’s name dates back to the first Holy Grail War and its very establishment. I am honoured to meet you.’

                Saber gave the slightest of nods. Rin could see it immediately: dismissal. Saber was not impressed. This only irked Rin into a frustrated, yet restrained, interrogation.

                ‘Is there something you need to say?’

                ‘No, Master.’

                Was it worth pushing the issue?

                ‘Is there something about my appearance that displeases you?’

                Saber raised a brow, her emerald green eyes flashing within the illumination of a scarce few candles.

                ‘I will do as I am told by my master. The grail is my only objective.’

                Rin grit her teeth. Her immature and stubborn side insisted on pushing, but she channeled her father’s infinite patience and steadied her hand.

                ‘Then we have similar goals. That is a start.’

                Saber nodded, studying the room and everything but Rin. She wasn’t used to this. At school, and even everyday life, Rin was accustomed to being stared at and admired. This servant barely payed her any heed. It was troublesome for so many reasons. Rin would have to earn Saber’s trust and respect before the current Grail War could be taken seriously.

                ‘Shall we go upstairs to discuss our tactics?’

                ‘If that is what you wish, Master.’

                Rin noted the slight sarcasm. Her temper rose.

                ‘Believe me, if I wish anything of you, I only need to use a command seal.’ She hissed, but immediately felt terrible; like she had lost something. Tokiomi Tohsaka would never allow a servant to rile him like that.

                ‘Indeed.’ Saber nearly sighed, following Rin up her stairs to the living room area. It was now nearly dark, so Rin flicked on the lights and indicated the elaborate chairs within her manor’s living room. Saber seemed to hesitate, but then seated herself, magically evaporating her armor so that only her blue and white dress with gold trimmings could be seen. Rin noted the woman’s amazing figure, grace, and presence even more so now that they were in the light and out of the haze created from Saber’s emergence. Rin had little doubt that Saber was some sort of royalty now, but she couldn’t think of exactly who in history yet. She had some ideas, but best wait for Saber to tell her herself to minimize speculative fiction.

                ‘You live alone?’ Saber went on to say.

                ‘Yes.’

                Saber seemed to acknowledge more than the simple answer Rin gave.

                ‘In order for us to proceed into this Grail War competently, I will need to know your identity so that I can formulate a proper strategy surrounding your strengths and weaknesses.’

                ‘My strengths…’ Saber began, blinking longer than needed. ‘…swordplay, loyalty, magical defense, honour, and courage. My weaknesses…I have none.’

                ‘That is encouraging, although everyone has a weakness.’

                ‘Perhaps, but none of mine are worth noting or will influence our chances of winning the war.’

                ‘I will be the judge of that.’ Rin put one leg over the other and leaned on her hand, observing Saber and meeting her eyes. She was mesmerized by her beauty, but this was still an ongoing test. They were feeling one another out. Summoning a servant and building an instant rapport was essential since time was so limited. Saber was a challenge, indefinitely, but she was certainly a challenge worth overcoming, considering her class.

                ‘Your identity, please.’ Rin insisted.

                Saber remained still.

                ‘A servant’s identity is all they have in these battles.’

                ‘I understand that. Who is summoned, and how they are used, determines any master’s success.’

                ‘Indeed. How they are used; as though an inanimate object being properly harnessed.’

                Rin’s eye twitched.

                ‘Are you going to force me to use a command seal?’

                ‘That threat is becoming tiresome. Your maturity within my mind presumed prior to this conversation has been proven correct.’

                Rin’s eyes flared, but she held the fire down, feeling her whole body shaking in fury. She hadn’t trained so hard for so long to be patronized by this woman!

                ‘I am King Arthur of Camelot. I wield the holy sword Excalibur, and will bring victory to my people with the Holy Grail won from this battle, Rin Tohsaka. Have no doubt that you successfully summoned the most powerful of all the servants.’

                ‘King Arthur…?’ Rin muttered. ‘King…? But you’re a woman.’ Rin knew the story. Everyone knew the tale of King Arthur and Excalibur. But Arthur was a boy. There was no doubt about that. Every historical text had marked him as a male; a boy who had ascended the throne based on a sword’s test of purity and worth.

                Saber sighed once more, her whole body ejecting what could have been frustration.

                ‘After being told that, my sex is what you are fixated upon?’

                ‘I’m sorry, but it’s a little difficult to believe. How? You became king. “King”.’

                ‘Yes. The sword deemed me most worthy to lead my country.’

                ‘So Guinevere was…?’

                ‘Is not imperative to this discussion. I was the only one to extract the sword from the stone, and thus, I became the king of Camelot. There is nothing more to expound on. King Arthur is your servant, and I possess the most power at my disposal to best even the most delusional of opponents.’

                Rin crossed her arms and made sure Saber was finished. Her pride continued to threaten a beneficial conversation. She controlled her breathing and then made her reply.

                ‘That is reassuring.’ Rin settled with.

                Saber nodded, although she seemed taken aback. Rin considered that a victory.

                ‘Your mana supply is impressive.’ She said suddenly, possibly softening, to Rin’s excitement.

                ‘Good. I imagine a servant of your calibre would need a healthy dose at regular intervals.’

                ‘Hm. Indeed.’ Saber paused, surveying the room once again. ‘What is that music?’ She asked, as though the two women had been deaf until that moment. Rin’s face burned slightly, but she maintained her composure.

                ‘It is nothing. Just something to help calm my mind.’

                Saber listened for some more time before speaking again.

                ‘It is soothing. I can understand your enjoyment of the sounds.’

                Rin almost smiled, but she didn’t want to let down her guard.

                ‘I would prefer to go over our strategy for the upcoming battles, but summoning you and maintaining your presence has drained me. I need to rest.’

                Saber was brought back to the moment, her expression becoming hard once more.

                ‘Very well. I shall watch over the premise while you recover.’

                ‘That isn’t necessary. I have a barrier outside. Please take some time to fully situate yourself into this world, for tomorrow we will truly begin this battle.’

                ‘The first night is the perfect opportunity for a surprise attack.’

                ‘No. I would be notified immediately via my shield.’

                ‘Some servants may be capable of sneaking through such a magic trick.’

                Rin’s temple throbbed. Her patience was nearly exhausted. How dare this servant question her.

                ‘Do as I say, Saber. I have prepared for this longer than you have.’

                Saber opened her mouth to respond with more, but she snapped it shut, tightening her jaw and closing her eyes.

                ‘As you wish, Master.’ There was contempt in her voice, but Rin ignored it, focussing on getting herself up the stairs. She realized her father’s record was still playing, but could barely will herself to care. Her vision was blurring, and the stairs warped before her eyes. Rin stumbled into her room finally, and then collapsed onto her queen-sized bed face first. The cushions welcomed her, and seconds seemed to pass before she was shaken awake by a firm touch to her shoulder.

                ‘Master…’

                Rin saw her mother and then another girl in her mind before her consciousness came back into being and she registered Saber’s presence.

                ‘W-who…?’

                ‘Master.’ Saber said a little more urgently this time.

                ‘What?’ Rin felt dizzy.

                ‘There is a battle occurring.’

                ‘Huh?’

                ‘Master. Wake up.’

                ‘I am awake.’

                Saber’s brow arched, but she waited patiently, her stance perfect.

                ‘Two servants are clashing in the distance. They are near a large building that I am assuming to be some sort of educational facility.’

                ‘How do you know this?’

                ‘Primarily because I can feel it, but the sounds are also reassuring.’

                Rin strained to hear anything, moving her magic into her ears to better enhance their reception. Saber was right. There was no mistaking the clashing of weapons. It had started already.

                ‘How long have I been asleep?’

                ‘Five hours.’

                Five hours!? Ridiculous. Rin had underestimated the strain she had put on her body. She was in no shape to enter any sort of battlefield at this point. She couldn’t, and yet…

                ‘This is a golden opportunity, Master. Knowing your enemy is the first step toward victory in any battle.’

                Rin knew Saber was correct, but the risk was too great. What if she herself became entangled in a fight? She wouldn’t be able to support Saber the way she needed to in order to win this war.

                ‘I cannot.’ Rin admitted to herself primarily. ‘I’m too weak. I can be at nothing but full capacity if we are going to potentially reveal ourselves to two sets of masters and servants.’

                Saber disapproved as much as Rin thought she would. The features on her perfect face changed just slightly, but the frustration was there nonetheless.

                ‘I house enough power to make up for such a handicap.’ Saber said bitterly.

                ‘No.’ Rin refused bluntly. ‘I have deemed the risk too severe.’

                ‘I prayed I would not serve a coward a second time, yet I am the bearer of misfortune, it would seem.’ Saber hissed, stepping toward the door.

                Rin saw red, her magical circuits flaring to the point of causing her body to emit visible static. Her father would’ve chuckled to himself and let the wiles of a “mere servant” be, but she couldn’t hold her temper in check any further. She was tired, annoyed, and stubborn beyond reconciliation. She was the last of the Tohsaka’s, and she would not be talked down to.

                ‘Fine!’

Chapter Text

                Rin found herself running through Fuyuki City, her legs propelled through enhancement magic. She was still drained, so the improvement was minimal, but it helped where it needed to. Saber had vanished, likely staying close and moving among the shadows while keeping herself hidden from the naked eye. The night had gotten even colder, and Rin was pleased with herself for remembering to throw on a long, brown jacket before heading out against her better judgement.

                Rin didn’t like this one bit. She had been taunted into taking action in a way that she knew was foolhardy at best. Saber was brave enough, but Rin was well aware that just having a Saber class servant didn’t guarantee victory. Two overly stubborn allies did not bode well for the duo.

                Nonetheless, Rin would make the most of this opportunity. As she drew closer to the battle, a notable clang of weapon on weapon made her fully understand that she was, indeed, in the Grail War she secretly believed would bypass her generation.

                ‘Saber, we are only to watch.’

                ‘Understood, Master.’ Saber’s voice penetrated into Rin’s mind, although such telepathy was only possible if her servant was close by and focussed enough.

                Rin burst from one building to another, careful not to attract attention from other potentially interested masters. Fighting so early in the war though? It seemed foolish. Whomever was involved was practically placing an enormous target on their back for the rest of the war’s participants. Rin sighed to herself as she took up a position near her school’s recreational storage unit and peered around the corner, into the track field.

                What Rin saw dazzled her vision. Two beings moved in blurs, one a blue trace of light, and the other a red. The two servants would clash, break apart, gauge one another’s next move, and then meet once again in a flurry of blade strikes.

                ‘A spear and a duel-sword wielder? Lancer, evidently, but the other…?’ Saber hummed to herself.

                ‘They’re both very skilled.’ Rin commented further.

                ‘Hm.’

                Rin attempted to get a full visual of both servants, and managed after no less than three breaks in-between the incredible battle. The blue blur had skin tight armour on, silver shoulder pads being the only truly evident pieces of real protection. His bodysuit, however, allowed him unparalleled mobility, his leaps and twisting making perfect use of the versatility of his weapon of choice; a blood-red spear that he wielded like an extension of his own body. His hair had a deep purple tinge to it, tied into a tight, low ponytail. He had a maniacal grin almost the entire fight, and had no problem cackling mid-clash as he fought for his life.

                The other servant maintained much more composure. He had ash-grey hair and dark skin, his tight black clothes not completely unlike his opponent’s save for the flowing red cape-like addition that enveloped his body as though an extra layer of protection. This servant used two short swords; one black, primarily, and the other white. In addition, there was something about him that tugged at Rin’s soul. She couldn’t place the feeling in any words easily, but there was no doubt that her circuits, or something, were reacting to this particular servant in a peculiar way.

                ‘Assassin…?’ Rin surmised, but knew immediately she was incorrect.

                ‘Nor Berserker.’ Saber agreed.

                ‘Certainly not Caster or Rider…’

                ‘Then Archer. That’s the only one that makes sense.’

                ‘But what of his projectile weapon?’

                ‘Perhaps he is keeping his hand closer than expected for such a spectacle.’

                Rin had to agree with that. She watched the servants duel for a moment longer, and then her eyes wandered slightly off the battlefield, suddenly catching sight of another person present. It was dark, but there was definitely someone nearby, and they were seemingly collapsed next to the athletics’ exit of her school.

                ‘The Master…?’

                ‘Hm?’ Saber took a second to understand where Rin’s attention had been directed. ‘That, or a civilian that had to be eliminated for bearing witness to this epic battle.’

                Rin let the wheels turn in her head, wondering if ensuring this new presence was truly a master or not was worth any effort.

                ‘I’m going to see.’ She decided, not wanting to hear Saber argue.

                ‘I do not think it is wise, but I will cover your back.’

Rin knew her servant likely only agreed because she wanted a taste of one of these other heroic spirits. It worked in Rin’s favour either way.

                Rin moved as stealthily as she could manage, making only serious progress when she presumed the servants to be too busy to focus on much else. After somewhat minimal effort, Rin made it to the form that had caught her eye, and reeled back at the sight of reddish-orange hair and one of her classmates, gripping his bloody side and wheezing wildly.

                ‘Shirou Emiya…?’ She whispered to herself.

                ‘You know this boy?’

                ‘Yes…’ Rin took Shirou’s hand, his breathing becoming coarser as he barely came to with squinted eyes flickering open and closed. Her heart went to her throat when she saw the crude command seals engraved upon Shirou’s skin pulsate.

                ‘He is weak. Best provide him with a warrior’s death and end it quickly. Shall I?’

                ‘No!’ Rin replied inwardly but sharper than she intended.

                ‘No…?’

                ‘I can’t…’

                ‘Kill a classmate? He is an enemy now. He is also evidently mortally wounded. We would be doing him a favour.’

                ‘Not like this. I won’t win like this.’

                ‘Master…’ Saber hummed, although she didn’t exactly sound as angry as Rin might think she would be.

                Rin dug though her coat and extracted a red crystal on a chain. She held it over the gaping wound in Shirou’s side and chanted a few lines of magic. The gem aligned with Shirou’s blood colour, and seemingly melded with the injury, sealing it and expediting the healing process of the damaged cells.

                ‘You’re going to save him? That seems counterproductive.’ Saber sounded closer.

                ‘I know it’s foolish, but…’

                ‘Ho?’ Lancer’s voice burst out, the battle finding another lull.

                ‘Shit…!’ Rin cursed, leaving her crystal next to Shirou so that it could continue doing its work.

                ‘So it has come to this.’ Saber’s armour gleamed upon her, golden dust falling from its wake.

                ‘Tonight is my lucky night now, isn’t it?’ Lancer spun his spear about, impressively moving it along his body and around his shoulders before swinging it down and snickering further. ‘Guess a two for one deal isn’t so bad, huh?’

                ‘I would think the opposite.’ Saber stepped forward more, her voice loud and proud. She was completely unwavering even in the face of two servants. ‘You stand before a servant of the Saber class. Do you still consider yourself fortunate, Lancer?’ A blast of wind enveloped Saber, her hands gripping onto an invisible weapon. Rin presumed it to be Excalibur, but the identity of a servant was an Achilles heel, and Excalibur was far too well known to be seen.

                ‘Is that a fact? Best be done with you and breeze through the rest of them, eh? What say you, Archer? Temporary truce to get rid of this future headache?’ Lancer’s tone was rough and full of antagonism, although he also came across as a bit of a prankster.

                Archer turned, observed Saber, and then grinned slyly.

                ‘I will have to decline. Perhaps I will side with Saber and do away with such an annoying pest before anything else.’

                Lancer’s joy fell flat just then, his brow narrowing and his pose shifting into something much more aggressive.

                ‘Or I deal with you both right here, right now.’ He muttered dangerously.

                ‘Wherever the tide of the battle goes, I will emerge victorious.’ Saber stated as though it were the most basic of facts.

                Rin glanced down to Shirou, noting that his breathing had somewhat stabilized. Where was the other master? Who belonged to who? Was this fight worth sticking around for? There had to be other masters observing this confrontation. It was too open. It was too soon. Everything in Rin told her that any benefit from this scouting mission had been lost upon her being spotted. However, she had saved a life. Was that even worth it?

                ‘Damn it.’ Rin grit her teeth and spread her feet to prepare for evasive manoeuvres.

                Lancer knelt down even further, his spear held over his body and arched toward the ground. A red blast of light surrounded the servant, swirling about as he gathered a massive amount of mana around him. Every magical circuit in Rin’s body quivered. So this was the power of a heroic spirit? Was he preparing his Noble Phantasm? Was he certain he could win? The Noble Phantasm, after all, was a double-edged sword. Its power was generally absolute, but it also revealed the servant’s identity, in turn potentially creating openings for other Grail War contenders.

                Saber stood unwavering, nonetheless. Her expression was a mask of resolute confidence. Was she just foolish? Or did this fearless woman have the strength to back up all her claims?

                ‘Ready or not…’ Lancer threatened, the power encircling him becoming even more intense.

                ‘Saber.’ Rin said aloud, transmitting her thoughts to her servant.

                ‘I know. Make the necessary preparations, Master.’

                Suddenly, Lancer hesitated, and then stood up straight, the power he had gathered evaporating alongside his bloodlust.

                ‘You can’t be serious…’ He groaned like a child.

                ‘What?’ Rin didn’t want to get her hopes up, but Lancer was clearly being called off.

                ‘Hmph. At least your master has some sense.’ Archer moved to where Rin and Saber stood, his form becoming much larger than Rin had thought. He stood at least 6’2”, and was purely toned muscle. He was much more intimidating than the seemingly frail Saber in comparison. Archer turned and locked eye-contact with Lancer once more, his blades disappearing within his hands in a flash of white light.

                ‘Well, lucky you.’ Lancer teased. ‘Guess we can continue this party another day, assuming your master survives long enough. Probably bled out by now. Too bad! Until next time!’ Lancer pushed off his spear high into the moonlit air and then vanished without a trace.

                Archer sighed, turning to Rin and Saber before kneeling next to Shirou.

                ‘He should live.’ Rin claimed, maintaining a steady flow of magic inside her legs should she need to make any sudden shifts.

                ‘A pity, but such is his fate.’ Archer responded surprisingly.

                ‘Your orders, Master?’ Saber asked now.

                ‘We will not kill a drained servant and a downed master. For now, we retreat.’

                Saber stared at Archer for some time, the cool night air blowing through her front, blonde bangs.

                ‘Very well.’

                ‘I will not thank you.’ Archer hoisted Shirou over his shoulder. ‘This is a war, and you have made a series of decisions tonight that I shall guarantee you, here and now, you will regret. With such a soft heart, you will not last long in this collection of battles.’

                Rin did not waver, her eyes narrowed and body planted firmly. She tried to push away the nauseating draw to this servant as she formed her words coherently.

                ‘If they truly were errors in judgement, then they are my burden to bear; not yours.’

                Archer grinned arrogantly.

                ‘I am sorry to hear that, considering you have managed to summon Saber, the most powerful of us all.’

                ‘Care to validate that comment?’ Saber spoke in a low tone, not missing the condescending rhetoric behind Archer’s words.

                ‘If you can draw honour from slaying a battered servant, then so be it.’

                Saber relaxed her stance, her face scrunching up in bitter submission.

                ‘Of course not. That’s not the kind of warrior you are.’ Archer didn’t look back as he strode past Rin and Saber, jumping into the air and practically disappearing as Lancer did, although his abilities as an Archer class allowed for nearly unparalleled navigation of high places.

                Rin clicked her tongue, her blood boiling and legs allowed to shake now.

                ‘Let’s go, Saber.’

                Her servant didn’t even have the heart to respond, and Rin couldn’t blame her at all.

 

                Hours felt like they had passed, but in reality, Rin had only been out for a little over one. It wasn’t past 12:00 p.m. yet and she was exhausted. Using so much magic in one night was truly testing her abilities, and Rin knew she would need the better part of the next day to recuperate. Would skipping school draw too much attention? She didn’t have a choice.

                ‘May I ask a question, Master?’ Saber broke the silence of the night. The lights lined a subdivision within Fuyuki City, the lesser known route to Rin’s house being her choice for traversing to hopefully avoid potential threats.

                ‘Not if it’s related to me saving Emiya-kun.’

                ‘I just…don’t completely understand what made you do so.’

                ‘I’m not sure myself. Let’s leave it at that.’

                ‘I do not…utterly disagree with what you did, however. I just wanted you to be aware of that.’

                Rin drew more pleasure from this vague compliment than she could have anticipated. She couldn’t reply directly though, frightened that she would say something more hurtful than she wanted.

                ‘What was your evaluation of those two servants’ basic combative abilities?’ Rin decided to ask.

                ‘Lancer had more dexterity but less power. Archer was extremely capable, but appeared to be hardly trying. Both servants were still testing the other out; pushing for an opportunity to make better use of the clash.’

                ‘Lancer was about to use a Noble Phantasm, was he not?’

                ‘Indeed. It likely has something to do with his overwhelming speed and reach, but beyond that, I could only trust my instinct to evade properly.’

                ‘And Archer?’

                ‘He hadn’t even drawn a projectile of any kind, which concerns me slightly. We didn’t learn as much as was desirable.’

                ‘I have to agree with that.’ Rin sighed, putting her hands in her pockets and glancing about the surrounding area. She had come to a hill leading down to the road adjacent to her own. The silence of the night kept her on edge, and a single flickering light hardly helped matters. Saber’s somewhat soothing voice penetrated her ears once again before she allowed her nerves to project further.

                ‘That master had an odd aura about him, did you notice?’

                ‘No.’ Rin thought about the pull she felt from Archer. She didn’t want to fluster Saber, so she decided not to mention as much, but was her servant feeling a similar experience? How odd. Lancer had no such effect, so why?

                ‘Hm. Perhaps I am still adjusting to this world.’

                ‘That’s possible.’ Rin’s feet stumbled slightly as she descended down the sidewalk on the hill. She was nearly halfway down now. ‘Either way, I would rather just do away with Archer than kill a classmate, but if push comes to shove, I suppose I may have to get rough with Emiya-kun…’

                ‘If I recall correctly, my previous master would have killed everyone around us at that very moment. Honour meant nothing to him; only results.’

                ‘Your previous master? Saber, what are you -- ?’

                ‘Quiet, Master.’ Saber shushed suddenly, the urgency in her tone immediately silencing Rin. It was only then that Rin felt it: an overwhelming weight of dense magic and bloodlust. Whomever had come within earshot, they were making their presence no secret whatsoever.

                Saber allowed her majestic armour to take shape in reality as Rin turned and found a small shape at the top of the hill she had just barely reached the base of.

                ‘Heheheh…’ A creepy, little girl’s laugh flowed through the air. ‘Good evening, Rin Tohsaka.’ The child’s silhouette gave a little curtsy as her tiny voice went on. ‘Would you terribly mind playing with me?’

Chapter Text

                It was animalistic instinct that told Rin that she had somehow been cornered in such an open area of Fuyuki City. No matter where she went, Rin knew she couldn’t get far before being taken out by the sudden emergence of this master.

                The little girl stepped into the flickering street light, its breakdown further emphasizing her frightening presence. Rin could see instantly that she belonged to the Einzberns, a mysterious mage bloodline that kept itself holed up within a castle deep within the mountains. Her snow-white hair and blood-red eyes were dead giveaways. This only made Rin more apprehensive. The Einzberns were known to dabble in homunculus production, infusing the creations with unnatural doses of magical circuits in order to create overly adept mages. Rin would be dead before she knew it if she allowed herself to judge this opponent by her size only; the cute, Russian-inspired winter wear be damned.

                ‘Fear not, Master.’ Saber began, evidently aware of Rin’s hesitation. ‘I have yet to use any major reserves of the magic you have competently provided me. This will be a swift victory for us.’

                ‘Oh?’ The girl tipped her head and giggled. ‘Is that your servant? She’s so tiny and cute! Heheheh!’

                ‘Indeed. I am Saber, and I will be the heroic spirit to bring your involvement in this Grail War to an end, I’m afraid.’

                The girl clapped, her mittens making a puffing sound as she did so. She then went into a small curtsey once more, her eyes closing and her milk-white skin merging with her hair.

                ‘A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Saber. I am Illyasviel Von Einzbern, and this…’ Illya maintained her pose as a monster of a man appeared behind her, his height easily reaching over 6’10” and his muscle mass completely dominating every inch of his body. He had wild, long black hair that almost seemed afraid to lay flat, and a glowing, red eye in his left socket. Beyond the servant’s armoured loincloth, he was completely bare, his dark-skinned muscles in full view of anyone who bore witness to his majesty.

                ‘…This is Berserker.’

                The mass of destruction breathed out deeply, as though in a trance, smoke emitting from his mouth like that of a dragon. Rin couldn’t believe her ill luck. Berserker typically had the highest attack power of all the servants, trading sanity for an incredible boost in raw destructive capability. It took a master an incredible amount of magic power to subdue such blind rage, and even then, most Berserker masters kept their distance, typically relying on their command seals to be used in a creative fashion to potentially win the war.

                Yet, this tiny girl stood barely a foot in front of Berserker without a fear in the world. Indeed, Berserker seemed completely tamed, his ferocity clearly present, but chained until released by Illya.

                ‘Berserker…’ Saber mused, losing herself for a moment.

                ‘An impressive looking servant. I am Rin Tohsaka, as you know, and I would like to offer a temporary truce in exchange for information regarding the other servants.’

                Saber glared at her master, shocked by the display of cowardice.

                ‘No, thank-you.’ Illya simply answered. ‘Saber is said to be the strongest servant all around, but will that mean anything when playing with my Berserker?’ Illya leaned forward so that a shadow was cast upon her small face. ‘Let’s find out, kay?’

                Berserker let out a horrid cry that could have come from a beast of mythical descent. Saber barely had time to draw her invisible blade before the monster was on her, a massive, crude looking sword/club that must have weighed well over hundreds of pounds being swung easily in a single grasp. Sparks flew as Saber hardly managed to parry the strike, the clanging of the two servants dwarfing what Rin had just witnessed between Lancer and Archer.

                Saber spun and redirected Berserker’s momentum, moving in for a couple of strikes that just grazed the beast as he lunged forward, displaying a movement of grace and flexibility that should have been impossible for a fighter of his size.

                ‘Hng!’ Saber grunted, the sheer weight of that first clash likely making her think twice about her prior claims of invincibility.

                It wasn’t good. Rin could only watch in horror as Saber bravely met with Berserker again and again, her smaller frame literally being pushed around with every block that had to be turned into a parry less Saber be flung completely off balance. The sparks flew, Berserker’s cries of rage echoing into the darkness. Rin had to admit, Saber looked good in a fight. She had a certain amount of elegance even despite the odds, but Rin could still tell that, unless Saber released Excalibur to its fullest capacity, they were more than likely doomed. On top of that, Illya couldn’t have been a pushover as a master either, considering Berserker’s unyielding commitment.

                They had to run somehow. They had to get away. Rin had hardly any energy left magically. This was a very hard first lesson to learn.

                ‘I will draw him to an area where I may acquire a more tactical advantage.’ Saber spoke into Rin’s mind, immediately shifting the fight into a dangerous game of cat and mouse. Saber struck, and then yielded, forcing Berserker in the direction she wanted. Soon enough, she burst away completely, making amazing dashes through the air and ground until she had simply disappeared into the mountains surrounding Fuyuki City.

                ‘Oh, boo!’ Illya pouted. ‘I wanted to see Berserker kill your Saber.’

                While the little girl gazed into the distance where her servant had gone, Rin took hold of a single, small crystal from her pocket, ensuring it was the one out of her three types that she wanted. They were, in essence, stored magic that helped her perform advanced commands without having to utter any chants. The idea of hurting a little girl was certainly something that left a terrible taste in Rin’s mouth, but she didn’t have a choice. There was an obvious psychotic angle to Illya, and Rin doubted there would be any hesitation once that thirst for pain shifted to herself.

                ‘Forgive me…’ Rin whispered before tossing her crystal in the air and then pointing her finger at Illya. ‘Gandr!’

                Blackish-red rays of raw offensive magic fired from Rin’s extended arm, the spell not being overly powerful, but effective enough on anything other than a servant. At the same time, her red crystal blasted into Illya as well, an explosion being left in its wake, likely leaving the little girl close to death, if not completely gone.

                ‘I’m such a damn hypocrite.’ Rin cursed, but once the smoke cleared from the upheaved granite sidewalk, Rin swallowed deeply and quickly ran through a number of scenarios that involved dealing with a very competent master, for Illya remained unscathed somehow.

                ‘Shit!’ Rin took a step back, already redirecting all her magical circuits into her legs to help her at least get back to Saber.

                ‘Did you want to die tonight too?’ Illya hummed, cocking her head to the side slightly.

                ‘This is supposed to be a secret war. We can’t fight in the open like this.’

                ‘Oh! You’re right!’ Illya slapped a fist into her other hand, looking to the sky. ‘The church will help cover it all up though, won’t they?’

                ‘But there can be repercussions for deliberately causing too much chaos in Fuyuki City. Those are the rules.’ Rin was just about ready.

                ‘Heheheh. You’re cute. I kinda wanna play with you, Rin Tohsaka.’ Illya smiled, and it would’ve been adorable if she didn’t have such madness behind her red eyes. ‘Wanna come back to my place while Berserker rips Saber’s head off? She was really pretty too, you know, but I don’t think she would want to co-operate.’

                Rin readied her body and then ran as fast as her legs could take her. The magic did as she commanded; enhancing her speed to three times her normal capabilities.

                ‘Saber, where are you?’ She projected.

                ‘In a cemetery that just lines the Fuyuki City forest.’ The voice was barely present. The distance was too much for clear communication.

                ‘I’ll be right there.’

                ‘It would be best if you went back to the manor, if possible. This foe does not discriminate when it comes to destruction.’

                ‘You won’t face him alone.’

                There was no response, and Rin made the bold claim even though she knew her magic was practically spent. Normally, she would have more than enough for the evening’s events, but summoning Saber continued to take its toll. Nonetheless, if she could create an opening, at least, Saber may be able to finish Berserker off. It was their only hope.

                It felt like much more than nearly five minutes before Rin finally found Saber still gallantly fending off Berserker. She was using the uneven terrain and multitude of cover to force Berserker into much clumsier movements. Despite these advantages, however, Berserker still managed to pressure Saber, and Rin could see the damage on her servant’s form, her armour hacked away in many places, and bloody cuts and scuff marks aplenty. Berserker himself didn’t look exactly unhurt either, but proportionally, any damage on his massive body looked minimal compared to the much smaller Saber.

                Rin moved into the bushes and readied her gandr again. This would just about be it. She could fire off maybe a few rounds before having just enough magic to maintain Saber’s battle prowess for a little while longer.

                ‘Wait for an opening.’ Rin told Saber, not expecting a response considering the intensity of the fight. Saber whirled and clashed, sliced and evaded with such dexterity and grace, Rin was almost shocked she hadn’t ended the battle already. Whoever Berserker was, he was an impressive servant that could very well win the Grail War through his brute strength alone, not even mentioning his swordsmanship and overall skill.

                Rin tried to understand the beast’s movements enough to make some logical anticipation in relation to his actions. She couldn’t wait too long, however, for Illya could very well be right on her heels. Rin’s heart pounded hard again, and she shuffled thoughts of death away from her focus.

                This is what I signed up for. This is what I knew the grail wars were all about.

                Once the moment felt right, Rin fired off a barrage of gandrs, all of them connecting into Berserker’s back. Saber displayed her skill instantly thereafter, her golden blade manifesting for but a second as she howled and struck Berserker’s momentarily flinching form, cutting him wide open from his collar bone all the way across and to his opposite waistline. His right side hung apart, blood pumping out of him as he slumped to his knees, groaning in agony, steam still emitting from his laboured, final breaths.

               ‘Unbelievable…!’ Rin gasped, still convincing herself that they had somehow won.

                Saber looked less sure of it all, allowing her sword to become the wind again, the momentary brilliance of its temporary existence in the physical realm still dazzling Rin’s eyes.

                Rin came out of hiding, approaching Saber tentatively.

                ‘You really are strong.’ She admitted, trying to pay a compliment even though there was still strain between her and Saber.

                ‘Something is not right.’ Saber mumbled to herself more than anything, extending her hand as though to tell Rin to move no further.

                Her servant was correct. Why did Berserker’s form remain? It could have been because of Illya’s magic maintaining his body, but why bother? Did the little sadist have a softer side as well?

                ‘Back, Master.’ Saber shoved Rin now, both girls’ eyes widening at the twitching of Berserker’s monstrous body parts. A strange, bloody mist surrounded him now, and his right eye shone gold, pulsating in time with the emanating power encircling him. He let out a growl, and Saber immediately lunged toward him once more, throwing her blade down, but meeting only Berserker’s massive, ugly machete. He grunted again, his body literally pulling itself back together, his side no longer dangling disgustingly, but reforming itself as though reversing time itself.

                ‘Oh, my God!’ Rin covered her mouth, knowing Saber didn’t have it in her to take down such a servant however many times it took to kill him for good.

                Berserker stood straight up, bellowing into the night sky, his scream of denial shaking the very earth. This was much, much more than Rin could have imagined the Grail Wars to be. Her father had participated in such battles? How? How could he stand in the presence of near Gods as though he himself were one of them?

                ‘Have at you, then.’ Saber declared, unfazed seemingly.

                ‘No!’ Rin commanded. ‘We run while he completes his regeneration. We cannot win this fight tonight. I need to support you before we stand a chance.’

                ‘You would make me a coward, girl?’ Saber’s eyes flared, her grip tightening upon her invisible blade.

                ‘I can and I will if you dare force my hand.’

                ‘Y-you…!’ Saber’s composure was lost. Rin saw raw emotion in her servant’s face for the first time since her summoning. Agony. Despair. Regret. Desperation. This battle was more to Saber than its immediate place in the present. Nonetheless, Rin had to steel her heart.

                ‘Will you make me waste a command seal because of your stubborn pride?’

                Saber turned back to Berserker, his regeneration nearly complete. Yet suddenly, her head twitched in a completely different direction, a look of utter shock passing over her before she dug her feet into the ground and practically teleported to Rin, taking hold of her in a tight grip. An explosion of extreme power erupted from the ground while Saber was still in mid-air with her master, the shockwaves sending them flying hundreds of feet, breaking through branches and brush until a tree stopped them both, Saber’s back and momentum causing the great piece of nature to crack.

                Rin found herself miraculously fairly unscathed, but she couldn’t say the same for Saber, her servant’s armour shattered in too many places, and blood spilling from the corners of her mouth. Saber coughed erratically, sending red specks into Rin’s face.

                ‘Saber…?’ Rin said in a hushed tone, holding the woman’s head. Now the pain came. Rin’s back ached, and her stomach felt queasy. It was nothing compared to what her servant had endured though. She wouldn’t complain.

                There was no time to consider what had happened. Presumably, another servant had gotten involved in the fight. No matter. Home was the objective now. Rin had to somehow, someway get Saber back to the safety of her manor without being spotted. They were already close enough, and Rin could make an educated guess as to where she needed to go, despite the sudden trip she and Saber had taken. If she could avoid any other confrontations, she would make it. She would live to fight another day.

                ‘Take on your astral form for now, Saber. I’ll get us somewhere safe somehow.’

                Saber didn’t do as she was told though, and at first, Rin wondered if she was refusing a command once again, but the woman’s coarse voice soon broke through the eerily silent night.

                ‘I…cannot…’

                Rin didn’t have time to question her servant further. Although it taxed Rin’s already short supply of magic, she would carry her servant while moving as quickly as she could with her remaining power available. She wouldn’t lose the war during the prelims. She couldn’t lose anything just yet.

Chapter Text

 

                Rin’s eyes cracked open to the familiar sight of her bed’s ceiling. The drapes had been pulled messily aside, and she was still in her red sweater and black skirt. The long, brown jacket had made it to the floor, at least.

                The doorbell rang. It was a deep, resounding tune that had an authentically ancient feel to it.

                Rin groaned, turning to her side and using all her effort to push up and into a sitting position. She sighed, hearing the doorbell once more. Rin took off her sweater and unzipped the side of her skirt, allowing it to fall to the floor as she half-stumbled to her closet. Her black bra snapped off, and she changed her matching panties to a plain white pair with a small, pink ribbon in the front. She then tossed on a loose-fitting, black t-shirt and tiny blue shorts that mostly stayed hidden. Comfort was what she needed. Looking good was such a miniscule worry she didn’t even bother brushing her untamed hair.

                The doorbell rang again.

                ‘Persistent…’ Rin groaned, focussing hard upon the stairs she had to scale downward. She felt hungover, as if she had drank far too much wine the night before and only just barely recalled collapsing into bed before a sleep so close to death took her over. Her father had an incredible collection of wine in the cellar downstairs, and Rin had partaken in the stuff a couple of times, although she couldn’t say she loved the flavour, it reminded her of family, and that overwrote any preferred comfort for one of her senses.

                Upon reaching the ground floor, Rin saw Saber sitting in one of the living room chairs wearing no armour and only the beautiful blue, white, and gold-trimmed dress beneath it all. She was staring out the window, the light casting an enchanting shadow on the woman’s face. She was truly like an angel when she allowed herself to relax like this. Rin almost forgot about the doorbell ringing.

                ‘At ready, Saber.’

                There was no response from her servant, but Rin assumed her command was being taken seriously regardless. The fact her barrier hadn’t reacted whatsoever, other than a light hum, meant all should be well.

                Rin pushed her eye against the peephole of her grand door, her heart giving a leap when she saw who had, for whatever reason, come to pay her an uninvited visit.

                Sakura Matou; Shinji’s sister…or at least, his half-sister at best. Rin couldn’t allow herself to think about it further. It was a distraction she couldn’t handle at the moment, especially considering her mental instability due to being utterly drained of most of her magic the night before. Sakura was a pretty, quiet girl with dark brown hair, like Rin’s, with a hue of violet within it. She got along well with just about anyone, and had an extreme fixation on Shirou Emiya, going so far as to visit him almost every morning on her way to school.

                Perhaps that’s part of the reason Rin couldn’t allow the boy to die. He meant so much to Sakura, and she had such an intense sadness about her that almost nobody seemed to realize. It was a bond Rin was forced to accept was lost, but despite that…

                Rin unlatched the door and pushed it open, giving Sakura a bashful smile to hopefully cancel out her ridiculous appearance. It was all very calculated.

               ‘Matou-san. Good morning.’ Rin’s throat tightened as the words left her mouth.

               ‘Oh! G-good evening, Tohsaka-san. I’m sorry to bother you.’ Sakura gave a small bow, her larger than average chest catching Rin’s eye. How could they be so different in that regard? Was it the diet? Foolish thoughts. Idiotic thoughts.

               ‘It’s…evening time already?’ Rin caught herself, glancing to the sky and noticing the twilight hour finally.

               ‘Yes, it is. You were absent from school, and I was asked to bring you the assignments you missed.’ Sakura extracted some papers from her hand bag and began giving them over to Rin.

               ‘I see.’ Rin eyed the girl, wondering if she was being illogical with her intention. ‘Did you want to join me for some tea, Matou-san?’

               ‘Pardon? Me?’

               Rin’s chest pained further at the disbelief in the girl’s voice.

               ‘Yes; if you want.’

                Sakura thought about this for a bit, glancing inside behind Rin and then nodding slightly.

                ‘If I won’t be intruding, then excuse me.’

                Rin led Sakura into the living room and allowed her a seat, thankful that Saber had the tact to make herself scarce.

                ‘What sort of tea would you prefer?’

                ‘Um…Anything is fine.’

                ‘I prefer something with a little more punch, but I have this new mix that I’ve been meaning to try.’

                ‘Punch, huh? That does sound like you…’

                ‘Hm?’

                ‘O-oh! I-I mean…er…I’m sorry.’

                ‘Why are you sorry? I do come across as a little strong-willed, don’t I?’ Rin grinned slyly, making Sakura relax a bit, although while still blushing profusely. She disappeared into the kitchen, beginning the brewing process while contemplating the dangerous game being played.

                Why now? Why bother? The timing couldn’t be worse. Was it because she saw her life flash before her eyes last night? Had her perspective shifted so?

                Rin looked at the work Sakura had brought her. Equations, English translations, Science pages to read; it all seemed so meaningless in the moment. The fight with Berserker had shaken Rin to the core. She considered herself a brave woman, but in the face of such raw power, she could do very little. Saber was her sword and shield, and she didn’t quite want to accept that emerging fact just yet.

                ‘This place is beautiful…’ Sakura said as Rin came back into the living room and handed her a small plate with an antique tea cup upon it; imported from Europe, and one of incredible value. It was nice to share such lavish items with another.

                ‘Thank-you, although I did little to earn any praise.’

                ‘Do you…live alone?’

                ‘Much of the time.’

                Sakura caught herself, covering her mouth and shaking her head.

                ‘I’m so sorry. That was dumb of me.’

                ‘It wasn’t dumb; you didn’t know. Now you do.’

                ‘I always do that though. I just don’t think. So stupid…’ Sakura muttered, glancing to the floor, a dark shadow passing over her face.

                ‘I am fine, Matou-san. Don’t think anything of it. Really.’

                ‘Okay...’ Sakura blew on her tea, her presence coming back. ‘This smells nice.’

                ‘Good. It was a gift from a family member.’

                Sakura looked about once again, evidently feeling a little awkward. Rin couldn’t blame her. This must’ve been a very random invitation with little real purpose on the surface. Although not as awkward as expected, it couldn’t be called a warm interaction either. What Rin was expecting, she didn’t know. The charade went on.

                ‘How is home life, Sakura-san? Do you mind if I call you that?’

                ‘N-no. Not at all.’

                ‘Good. You may call me Rin as well, if you’d like.’

                ‘Okay. Rin-san…’ She smiled, and this made Rin much happier than it should have. ‘Um…Home is home.’

                ‘Does your brother treat you well?’

                ‘Shinji…? Um…Yes. We’re fine.’

                It was a lie. Rin adjusted her position and found herself glaring. There were rumours of Shirou and Shinji having a falling out because of supposed abuse between the Matou siblings, but Rin had no proof other than the fact Shirou wouldn’t hurt a fly without enough reason to.

                ‘If there are ever any problems, please feel free to come and see me.’ Rin tried to smile sincerely, but she was livid. Her hands were essentially tied considering the idiotic deal between adults using children as means to a cruel end.

                ‘I will.’ Sakura lied again. She would have to be practically dying before bothering anyone for her own benefit. It was both admirable and beyond foolish.

                ‘Shall we?’ Rin took out her phone, the two girls quickly swapping information.

                ‘Um…Rin-san; I’m sorry to ask, but why were you absent from school today? You seem well enough. Is everything okay?’

                ‘Yes. Sorry to make you worry. I was just overtired. I needed a “me” day.’

                ‘A “me” day? That…sounds kind of nice.’

                ‘It is. I recommend it.’

                There was some polite laughing. Rin wasn’t sure how much more she could take.

                ‘Emiya-kun wasn’t at school either. It’s really rare for him to miss anything.’

                ‘Maybe he was feeling exhausted as well.’

                ‘Maybe…’

                Rin took a sip of her tea, enjoying the warmth sliding down her throat.

                ‘Do you like him?’

                ‘H-huh? Me? Like Emiya-kun? U-um…’

                ‘I guess that’s kind of a dumb question, huh? It’s sort of obvious.’

                Sakura glanced every which way but at Rin. It was cute.

                ‘It is…?’

                ‘Only to observant people, I would think.’ Rin put a finger to her lips. ‘Don’t worry; your secret is safe with me.’

                Sakura smiled with a little less reserve. She was sincerely relieved. There was a bit of silence, but then, surprisingly, Sakura spoke up once more.

                ‘You know, Rin-san, you’re actually a really kind person, aren’t you?’

                ‘Actually?’ Rin teased, causing Sakura to laugh nervously.

                ‘Y-yeah.’

                ‘Only to people I like. Everyone else might as well not exist.’

                ‘You’re very popular though, aren’t you? Especially with the boys.’

                ‘I don’t have time for that sort of thing.’

                ‘Right…’

                ‘N-not that it’s a bad idea to have a crush or something every so often.’

                ‘Is there anyone you kind of like right now, Rin-san?’ Sakura’s voice went up, her tentativeness toward asking such a question somewhat clear.

                ‘No. Not at all.’

                ‘Really?’

                ‘Really, really.’

                ‘That’s kinda sad.’

                ‘Oh? How so?’

                ‘Um…’

                ‘Tell me.’

                ‘It’s just…you’re only in high school once, you know?’

                It was such a simple response, but it touched something in Rin, and made her heart react in a bizarre sort of way. Rin didn’t know what to say now.

                ‘Sorry.’ Sakura added.

                ‘You don’t have to keep apologizing, Sakura-san. Your opinion is important to me.’ Rin could tell she was just confusing Sakura now, and decided that, with the sun nearly set, she should let the girl go now. She had had her fun, so it was now time to get back to what mattered most.

                ‘I better get going…’ Sakura said, reading the mood deceptively well.

                ‘Will you be okay getting home?’

                ‘Yes. Thank-you for the tea and…chatting with me.’

                ‘Anytime.’ Rin waved her off, walking to the door. She opened the heavy barricade and allowed Sakura out, waving calmly and feeling an old notion of disconnect and longing all at once.

                ‘Good night, Rin-san. I hope I’ll see you at school tomorrow.’

                ‘I should be there, yes.’

                ‘Okay. Great!’

                Sakura pranced off, apparently high in spirits. Rin watched her go until she couldn’t see her anymore, closing the door and locking it in three different places. Saber instantly emerged from deeper within the manor, not seeming to be in a good mood.

                ‘Who was that?’

                A beat.

                ‘My…little sister.’ Rin whispered.

Chapter Text

 

 

                ‘Your sister? She did not have the same last name as you.’ Saber sounded slightly more interested, if still very prickly.

                ‘It’s complicated.’

                ‘I see.’

                Rin knew that wasn’t the reason Saber had shown herself. She moved back into the living room and waited for her servant to follow and sit across from her where Sakura had just been.

                ‘You have recovered from last night. That’s good.’

                ‘Your mana supply is sufficient.’

                Rin nodded. She was somewhat of a prodigy in the world of magi for her age. Saber’s subtle praise didn’t come as a surprise. Nonetheless, Rin had a feeling she knew what was coming next.

                ‘You underestimate my abilities still.’

                ‘I don’t. You performed admirably.’ Rin shifted into her Master tone, heightening her linguistic ability to continue picking at a level of respect from her servant she wasn’t sure she would ever quite achieve.

                ‘Then why do you insist on holding me back to the point of practically using a command seal?’

                ‘Because I don’t have a thirst for battle or blood like you do. I can think with a clear head in the heat of combat while you are only interested in proving to yourself that you are not inept.’

                Saber stood up, her chair being pushed back.

                ‘You dare insinuate that I would desire such juvenile antics?’

                ‘I’m not insinuating anything; you have shown me as much twice now.’

                ‘You are but a child.’

                ‘I doubt you’re much older than me, technically, anyway.’

                ‘Do not let my appearance continue to deceive you; I have existed much, much longer.’

                ‘But have you lived much, much longer?’

                Saber bit at her lip, her eyes shaking in restrained frustration. Had Rin pushed too hard? She hated acting like this, but Saber was being difficult as well.

                ‘Summon me should you need anything, Master.’

                ‘Saber.’ Rin commanded almost harshly.

                ‘What?’ her servant snapped.

                ‘Thank-you for saving me yesterday. I would have died if not for your impressively quick reaction to danger.’

                Saber hesitated, but steeled her expression once again.

                ‘Without you, I would be gambling with my own life.’ And then she was gone.

                Rin leaned forward immediately thereafter and gripped at her chest, holding the fabric tight against herself and gritting her teeth. Water filled her eyes, and she hastily wiped it away in anger. This wasn’t who she wanted to be. Her father wouldn’t have batted an eye. What was she even going to do now? Shirou was a master. The grail meant everything. Did that mean she should kill her own classmate? She could always just get rid of Archer. She was fairly certain he was the one who had caused the explosion. Perhaps he had more honour than she had assumed? Berserker likely wasn’t done yet though.

                Rin fell back in her chair and mapped out her next course of action. She would have to wait for now. The other masters would make a mistake first, and that’s when she could move. It was evening time, but as long as Rin stayed in a fairly populated area, she may be fine venturing out. Dealing with Saber was her primary objective now. She wouldn’t be able to win anything with their relationship in the state it currently stood. They had to respect one another. A bond had to be formed.

                This was her strategy. Tokiomi Tohsaka would likely look down on paying a servant so much mind, but he also didn’t win the last grail war.

               

                Rin went to her room and changed into something a little more practical. Shorts with black leggings, a loose-fitting tank top and a stylish button-up sweater over top of that. Rin made her way to the washroom afterward and put on a light dose of make-up, giving her hair a quick brush to tame the beast that it had become during her rest. She still felt a little drained, overall, but the long sleep had helped, and she would only get better now that the most taxing part of entering the grail war had been completed. Once she was ready, Rin checked the antique clock in her room. 7:08 p.m. Perfect. Was this a ridiculous plan? Maybe. But it was worth a shot; especially so early in the battle.

                ‘Saber.’ Rin called out.

                Saber appeared nearly instantly, stepping into Rin’s room, but she didn’t say a word. That was fine. Rin opened her enormous closet and indicated the various articles of clothing present.

                ‘Pick out an outfit.’

                ‘Pardon?’ Saber broke her silence.

                ‘You and I are going on a date. Pick an outfit that is from this decade, please. You could get away with cosplaying that dress, and it is really nice, but let’s try not to draw too much attention, okay?’

                There was a lengthy pause, as though Saber was actually considering Rin’s request.

                ‘I refuse.’

                Rin smirked, crossing her arms.

                ‘Will you really force me to waste a command seal on something like this?’

                ‘It is your loss, ultimately.’

                ‘It will be yours as well; at least partially. Who knows if another master could take you in?’

                ‘Such a frivolous trip is utterly pointless.’

                ‘It isn’t. I think it’s worth the effort.’

                Saber eyed the clothing before her once again.

                ‘You would truly use a third of your command seals for this?’

                ‘Yes.’

                ‘So be it.’ Saber rolled her eyes, grabbing a basic hoodie and black, tight jeans. ‘So be it.’ She said again stubbornly, retreating to the washroom.

                ‘You could’ve just changed here.’ Rin muttered, smiling despite herself. She expected much more resistance, but it all seemed to be working out well enough. In minutes, Saber emerged, appearing to be much more like a young woman in her prime than a king who had ruled over a vast expanse of land. She was even a little shorter than Rin with her boots off notably.

                ‘Here.’ Rin said, taking hold of her brush and going behind her servant before tugging at her hair and combing it out.

                ‘I-I can do that myself.’ Saber grabbed at Rin’s hand, her grip very strong.

                ‘Just allow me.’

                Saber resisted a little further, but then submitted with obvious reluctance. Within a short amount of time, Saber’s hair was in a cute little ponytail, and Rin surveyed her with a critical eye. She was overly attractive in every way even in a rather humble combination of clothes. Rin’s only complaint was that Saber appeared as though she were constantly angry. Her eyes were permanently narrowed alongside a scowl that rested easily on her otherwise beautiful features.

                ‘I feel ridiculous.’ Saber claimed.

                ‘You don’t look ridiculous. The fact you can pull off that outfit is proof that you’re just naturally a very pretty girl.’

                ‘Being pretty means nothing to me. It will help me little in combat.’

                ‘I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Men are easily distracted, as I’m sure you know. A girl can certainly use her looks to weaken an otherwise unshakeable opponent.’

                ‘No heroic spirit worth his legend would be present in this war if he could fall for such shallow beliefs.’

                ‘You would be surprised.’

                ‘I wouldn’t.’

                ‘Fine, fine.’ Rin gave in. ‘Anyway, if we’re going out into public, I can’t be calling you “Saber”; that would just be weird. You can call me “Rin-san”, so what should I call you? Arthur?’

                ‘No.’

                ‘Then what?’

                ‘I do not care.’

                ‘Hm. Maybe Guinevere?’

                ‘Please, no.’

                ‘Merlin?’

                ‘Stop mocking me.’

                ‘So you do care.’ Rin meant to playfully tease, but Saber seemed legitimately upset, and that didn’t make Rin feel so good. Her servant downcast her eyes just so, her cheeks colouring barely.

                ‘Arturia. You will call me Arturia if anything.’

                ‘Arturia? Is that your real name?’

                A pause.

                ‘Yes.’

                Rin said the name a few more times in her mind, clearly appearing to be in contemplation.

                ‘Is it that strange?’ Saber’s previous irritation returned, her momentary showing of meekness so brief Rin wondered if she had been mistaken.

                ‘No. Not at all. I was just thinking that it was very beautiful. It’s different from any name I’ve heard before, although I guess it makes sense, since you’re originally from another country.’

                ‘Indeed…’ Saber replied a little more quietly.

                ‘Arturia-san then. Shall we?’

                ‘If we must.’

 

                Rin led Saber out into the early night life of Fuyuki City, deciding on the fly that going to the biggest outdoor shopping area somewhat nearby was the best place to take her servant since she wasn’t certain she would ever convince Saber to make such a venture again.

                The two girls hailed a taxi, Saber being taken aback by the convenience of transportation.

                ‘Are they simply lying in wait for your beckon?’ She asked while in the car.

                ‘Pretty much.’ Rin decided to answer.

                The trip wasn’t long, especially considering the way taxi drivers moved through traffic, causing Saber to grip at her door quite tightly.

                ‘We will surely be injured.’

                ‘Maybe.’ Rin couldn’t help herself.

                Master and servant soon stood at the entrance of a large shopping district that had an attractive structure to better welcome any who wished to visit. The place was alive and bustling, the flashing lights, loud conversations, and random noises/music bringing the entirety of the community to life.

                ‘So, this would be like some form of market square for trading and the like?’ Saber observed, not totally off by any means.

                ‘That’s right. There’s plenty to see and do here, and it’s easy to blend with the crowd so that we don’t attract any unwanted attention.’

                ‘Hm. That would be wise.’ Saber tried to hide it, but Rin could see her pupils darting back and forth, every spectacle fighting for her attention. ‘There are a variety of scents that are quite appealing. Best we test some of the food’s quality, I suppose.’

                ‘Heheh. That works for me, but you may want to tone down your elegance of speech. Is that possible?’

                ‘The grail provides enough knowledge to all servants so that we are not completely overwhelmed upon landing in this time period, but it will not come easily, I fear.’

                ‘You can practise a bit with me then.’

                ‘I did perceive that you have relaxed your intellect since Matou-san’s presence. Is that what you are referring to?’

                She had noticed then? That was sort of impressive.

                ‘Exactly.’

                ‘You can turn such a thing on and off?’

                ‘I’ve had a lot of practise.’

                ‘So, you wear many masks depending on who’s looking.’ It was a statement, and it was a painfully true statement at that.

                ‘I always have and I likely always will.’

                ‘That is something I can understand quite well.’

                Rin could only imagine. A king. A king that had to hide her sex from the public eye. Saber wasn’t allowed to love, have true friends, or simply be herself. She was an idol for the masses the moment she drew Excalibur from its stone. Rin thought she had it rough with the expectations left by her father and family’s name, but she could only try and guess the weight of an entire country leaning upon one person; a young girl at that. Rin’s emotions became overwhelmed with pity. Saber never lived, and that was exceptionally sad.

                ‘Come on. We don’t have all night.’ Rin took Saber’s hand, ignoring the awkward barrier she had contributed to creating, and led her to one of the best food stands she knew of. The smell was nearly unbearable, and Rin pointed to the menu excitedly overtop of the collection of chefs within the indoor/outdoor restaurant.

                ‘Pick out whatever you like; it’s on me.’

                Saber took a moment, seeming a little taken aback with everything before her suddenly. Not only that, but she still harboured obvious resentment toward Rin which she simply couldn’t shake without feeling as though she was compromising her pride as a knight and king. Nonetheless, the smell was tempting, and it wouldn’t do to forcibly maintain walls between master and servant.

                ‘I do not know which would be…good.’

                Rin smiled.

                ‘I’ll order you my favourite then. It’s a mix of rice, vegetables, breaded pork, and a sauce to die for. It’s like a stir fry, but not quite.’

                ‘I will trust your judgement.’ Saber relented, rubbing shoulders with the crowded hot spot.

                Rin wasn’t fazed whatsoever, obviously accustomed to pushing to have her voice heard. The forceful girl placed the order, and then stood off to the side, pulling Saber next to her as they waited.

                ‘We just wait for them to call our number, and then we grab our meal. Neat, huh?’ Rin waved about a small white sheet of paper with the number “7” messily printed.

                ‘A way to somewhat tame this…business.’

                ‘You were going to say something like “chaos”, weren’t you?’

                Saber didn’t respond, turning her attention to the various collections of crowds and buildings.

                ‘This is peace.’

                ‘In a way, yes.’

                ‘I never saw such tranquility. Happiness. Freedom. Friendship without ill-intent.’

                ‘It’s not all great, but I’m sure it’s better than what you came from.’

                Saber was lost in her own mind again, her thoughts so deep and so mournful that Rin felt them course through her for a split second. It was a connection. They were beginning to understand one another. It was right. This trip was already worth it.

                ‘Number 7!’

                Both girls jumped a bit, Rin being the first to giggle at how out of it they had become while waiting for food and being surrounded by endless noise of every variation.

                ‘Here!’ Rin handed over the paper, taking two bowls and handing one to Saber. ‘Careful; it’s hot.’

                ‘Thank-you.’ Saber answered simply.

                ‘Want to take a seat?’

                ‘Of course.’

                There was an outdoor section and indoor, but Rin was drawn more so to the slight quiet of the inner part of the restaurant. Both girls said thanks for their meals, and then began to dig in. Rin waited for Saber to take a few bites before asking for her appraisal, the expression on her servant’s face being a bit of a giveaway. She tried to hide it, and Saber did so well enough, but with a stoic tendency came easy cracks to spot.

                ‘It has quite a bit of flavour.’

                ‘Right? It’s really pretty simple, but I can’t get enough.’

                Saber didn’t lift her eyes from the meal until she was nearly done. They had managed to eat without much conversation, Rin understanding that her servant was still frustrated with her but having difficulty choosing between submission and stubbornness. By the end of dinner, Rin had had enough of the brooding Saber, fully aware that she shouldn’t care, but not being able to help herself.

                ‘I’m sorry, Saber.’ Rin finally said, biting her lower lip afterward and shifting her jaw angrily.

                Saber finally looked up, her clear green eyes a mixture of shock, confusion, and maybe a hint of respect. This reaction gave Rin the ability to go on.

                ‘You need to know that I do not doubt your skills; far from it. Maybe…maybe I’m just doubting my own. I’m in a war I didn’t actually think I’d be participating in. I have too much riding on it, and I’m almost frozen; too scared to make a move lest it be fatal. I don’t want to be the first one out. I don’t want to fail you. I don’t want to fail…’

                ‘Tokiomi Tohsaka…’ Saber said distantly.

                Rin nodded, gripping at her shorts beneath the table and trying to bite back the urge to tear up.

                ‘I…can also understand such doubt. Doubt has been my enemy since I felt the transcendent hilt of Excalibur within my callused hand. I was but a girl; a farmhand at that. To suddenly be thrust upon a throne…’

                ‘Yeah. I know. I can’t possibly understand…’ Rin shook her head.

                ‘That is not what I am implying.’ Saber’s voice softened. She leaned forward just a bit. ‘You have a vacant throne as well. Indeed, it is not as large as mine was, but that makes it no less difficult to fill in a way. We are…much more similar than perhaps I thought at first.’

                Rin sniffed, able to compose herself now.

                ‘Your speech…’ She whimpered with a small laugh.

                ‘Ah. Yes. I ap – I am sorry.’

                ‘So, you were somehow in the last war? That’s…sort of impossible, isn’t it?’

                ‘It should be, but my will can move mountains.’

                Rin was thrown by this comment, eventually understanding it to be a joke. Saber’s lip twitched, and then her master laughed a little more boisterously.

                ‘That is the truth, isn’t it?’

                ‘Hm.’

                ‘Do you remember much from that war?’

                ‘Fragments at best. Faces are impossible to discern, really. My memory has been muddled. It’s like a dream that I can only recall the most basic elements of.’

                ‘I didn’t think so.’

                ‘I’m sorry.’

                ‘Don’t apologize. It makes sense. I don’t want that sort of advantage anyway.’

                ‘Summoning me is advantage enough. Best be thankful for that.’

                ‘I am.’ Rin nodded.

                Saber smiled back, but then went solemn again, sighing to herself.

                ‘I owe you an apology as well.’

                ‘You really don’t.’

                ‘I do, and I apologize here and now. You…are a good master. I am…difficult at times, yet you still respect me as a person. My previous master, though I do not recall his name, was far less caring. In fact, the thought of him causes a storm in my heart I cannot fully understand beyond an uncontrollable rage. There was another, however…’ Saber leaned back, reflecting. ‘I cannot quite remember, but she was…so very kind…’

                ‘Oh. Did someone have a crush?’

                Saber blinked rapidly, apparently very confused by the question. She seemed to try and access some information before replying.

                ‘A crush? You mean, did I fall in love with her?’

                Rin smirked, although something deep, deep within her prickled.

                ‘Hm. I had not considered that. I do not think so, but a war is hardly a time to fall in love, I suppose.’

                Rin’s eyes went wide, curiosity getting the better of her since Saber seemed to be opening up just a little.

                ‘So, did you have a wife when you were king?’

                ‘…It is as you suspect. For public relations, yes, King Arthur had a queen named Guinevere.’

                ‘But it was strictly for show?’

                Saber’s eyes faltered.

                ‘I do not wish to discuss this, Master.’

                Rin backed off immediately.

                ‘Call me Rin-san.’

                ‘Nobody can hear us. It is too noisy.’

                ‘Just practise.’

                Saber looked away.

                ‘Fine. Can I ask you another question then?’

                ‘Yes.’

                ‘You said you couldn’t take on your astral form before; why is that?’

                Saber breathed out heavily, almost appearing to be somewhat ashamed.

                ‘Unique circumstances and my status within this world’s lore seem to suppress that particular luxury.’

                ‘Hm.’ Rin pondered, seeing a slight touch of doubt on her servant’s face. She wanted to support her in any small way she could outside of the natural duties of a master. ‘That’s fine. I like having you around like an actual person anyway.’

                There was relief, however small, in Saber’s expression then.

                ‘That is kind of you to say, Master.’

                ‘Rin. Call me Rin.’

                ‘That…’

Rin smiled. This was good enough for dinner. She decided a change of scenery might be a healthy choice, so Rin led Saber to the counter where they dropped off their dishes and were thanked multiple times by the gentlemen still working away in their own sweat shop of culinary delight.

                ‘Are we heading back now?’ Saber asked. Rin couldn’t tell if she was hopeful or hesitant.

                ‘I just want to stop off at one more place before that.’

                Saber nodded, staying slightly behind her master and allowing the smallest of smiles to pick at her mouth.

 

                ‘This is…overwhelming.’ Saber breathed, lights flickering in her eyes and sounds unlike anything she had heard before banging into her ears.

                ‘It’s an arcade. Amazing, huh? I usually don’t come to these kinds of places, but I thought you might find it interesting.’

                ‘It is that.’ Saber was apparently incapable of deciding where to focus. ‘There are so many people.’

                ‘I know. It’s a popular place to unwind or even hide.’

                ‘Hide?’

                ‘From life.’

                ‘Hm. You mean…a distraction?’

                ‘Trade reality for fantasy; it’s easy to do.’

                ‘So it would seem.’

                ‘But we’re just here to have fun, so what do you want to try first?’

                ‘That is difficult to say without having any knowledge on any of this sort of entertainment.’

                Rin hooked her arm into Saber’s and led her into the arcade further.

                ‘Then I’ll just have to be your guide.’

                At first, Saber simply refused to try anything. Rin would demonstrate some of the games, but her servant was much more content just watching and critiquing. Finally, however, when Rin came upon a much older game in the form of Whack-a-Mole, Saber showed a little more interest.

                ‘It’s ancient, but still fun. The moles come out of the hole, and you have to try and hit as many as you can with the hammer.’

                ‘This seems unnecessarily cruel. Why should I punish the moles? What have they done to bear such brutality?’

                ‘Arturia-san.’ Rin shook her head, and this seemed to make Saber cease her analysis.

                ‘Fine. A game such as this will enable me to gauge my current reaction speed.’

                ‘Okay, okay.’ Rin sighed, inserting some coins and listening to the start of the game. ‘Here they come!’

                Saber’s eyes flashed at the emergence of the first mole. Her arm flew, the hammer becoming a blur before the mole was sent back down with a stern hit, points beeping on screen and music adding to the intensity. Another mole popped out in the top right, but he merely stuck his nose into the air before being sent back from whence he came. Saber was impressive. It was almost as though she had a sixth sense, which might not be so far from the truth, Rin decided. Saber’s battle instincts had risen to heroic status, and she saw, heard, and felt much more than the average human being.

                Soon enough, the stage of the game where too many moles came out to hit in the time allowed for most individuals came upon the girls, but Saber was relentless, her wrath falling upon every creature who dared stick their nose just the slightest above ground. The hammer was a streak, and Rin doubted her servant was aware of the crowd gathering about them. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but with so many people, a master would be foolish to try anything without the church being alerted and taking disciplinary action.

                After nearly five minutes of pandemonium, the new high score was displayed, dwarfing any who had attempted to make a name for themselves up until this point. A crowd around Saber and Rin cheered and clapped, cameras and phones lifted high into the air to record the moment by any means possible.

                ‘This is not…’ Saber shook her head, her cheeks heating.

                ‘It’s fine. Just act casual.’ Rin waved and laughed as an example. Saber did her best to blend, but she knew she seemed much more awkward than normal. On the battlefield she was a maiden of destruction, but in modern day social settings, Rin could see how uncomfortable she became. Individuals approached the two girls for commentary and a quick photo or two, but soon the crowd dispersed, seeking another brief thrill to help fill various-sized voids.

                ‘That was rather difficult.’ Saber sighed, following Rin to a small couch away from the main attractions and closer to a snacking area.

                ‘I can tell. Did you want me to get you a drink?’

                ‘I can get one myself.’

                ‘I am fully aware of that, but I am offering.’

                ‘It is not a master’s duty -- ’

                ‘I’m not anything like that tonight, you crazy person.’ Rin poked Saber’s nose and then went to the snack stand, quickly ordering something for herself and Saber. Was this working at all? They seemed to be getting a little closer. They were better than before, anyway. Understanding. That’s all it took. Maybe her father lacked such a bond with his servant. He had summoned an Archer; Rin knew that much, but what had gone wrong? Her father was a master strategist. He hadn’t written beyond…

                Rin turned with cold drinks in hand and found three young men standing around Saber, one of them leaning forward, overtop of her with his arm outstretched and resting on the back of the couch. Rin quickened her pace, hastily making her presence known with a clearing of her throat.

                ‘I’m sorry, gentlemen, but we are not interested in boys this evening. Girls night, you understand?’

                All three individuals, or perhaps thugs, turned and faced Rin, wide grins stretching over their mouths.

                ‘Damn; another hottie. We were just asking your lovely friend here what she thought about joining us for a drink back at our place.’

                They were all fairly revolting, if only because they attempted to look a little more intimidating than most. Long, messy hair, piercings, and postures that invited any sort of hostility with open arms. The biggest of the three did all the talking, his two buddies snickering and grinning as though following a stock character script.

                ‘We’re not interested.’ Rin replied without missing a beat.

                ‘Come on; we’ll make it worth your while.’

                ‘I doubt that’s possible.’

                The pleasantry was over in that instant.

                ‘You think you’re better than us or somethin’, Bitch?’

                ‘I hardly think that.’

                ‘That so?’ The thug leaned in to Rin’s face, his breath smelling like fast food mixed with cigarettes. It was terribly nauseating, and Rin sighed inwardly, not completely unfamiliar with being aggressively flirted with. She doubted these three “boys” would do anything too terrible in a public place, but the leader seemed a little more hostile than she gave him credit for. Already, Rin was moving magic into her fist if necessary.

                However, soon the apparent leader of the pack was spun in a complete 180, totally caught off guard and not realizing what his future held until an impact like that of a wall met his nose, causing instant blood to drip through his fingers and onto his clothes. The other two individuals went to their friend’s aid, although they were swat away angrily before the young man growled something under his breath and made a dash for the washrooms.

                ‘Hm. All bark and no bite, it would seem.’ Saber rubbed her knuckle, a deep scratch taking over her hand because of a piercing on the thugs face, no doubt.

                ‘Let’s get you to a washroom…A different one a little further down.’

                It all happened so quickly, Rin doubt anyone had really seen anything except for a nearly grown male rushing to take care of a bloody nose. Thank goodness for the lights and sounds.

                ‘You okay?’

                ‘Was that guy bothering you?’

                ‘Should I call security?’

                ‘They won’t be allowed here again.’

                It would seem the scene wasn’t as secretive as expected, although Saber didn’t appear to be in immediate danger. Rin waved off the offers and inquiries, moving into a quieter part of the arcade near the exit and entering the washrooms for women there.

                ‘It will not take long to heal.’ Saber insisted as Rin turned on the hot water.

                ‘I know that, but we don’t want the blood getting everywhere either. Those are my clothes you’re wearing, remember?’

                ‘Ah. Yes. I’m sorry.’

                ‘It’s nothing. Just stay still and let me help.’ Rin took hold of Saber’s wrist and guided her under the water, rubbing the wound on her knuckle gently until the blood was cleaned off. She felt the warmth of Saber as her body pressed up against her, and smelled something foreign upon the young woman that had become one of the most important kings in history.

                How could a spirit emit such things? Servants were essentially ghosts, but their physical presence was much more real than Rin had thought all this time. Rin could feel Saber’s skin, her warmth, her breath, and her entire being. Arturia Pendragon was standing right beside her, and it was only just now, in this somewhat intimate moment, that Rin Tohsaka felt a new sort of weight given to her by this fifth Grail War: She was responsible for this other human. They were partners; or perhaps more than that, since they literally relied on each other to stay alive.

                ‘ -- san? Rin-san?’

                Rin blinked, realizing she was still massaging Saber’s hand. She immediately released her servant, her face turning a couple shades of red.

                ‘S-sorry!’

                ‘You were lost in thought.’

                ‘A bit.’

                Saber seemed to find this amusing, and had the decency not to pry beyond that.

                ‘Still, I am confused as to why those men showed such a keen interest in us. Did I do something to invite them over?’

                Rin relaxed now, enjoying the obvious confusion on Saber’s face.

                ‘The only thing you did was look pretty, and that’s usually enough for guys like that.’

                ‘How shallow.’

                ‘Most of them are.’

                ‘Hm.’ Saber thought little more about something so integral to many a young girl’s life before her eyes lit up, spotting something behind Rin that made her lose some of the control she was so bent on maintaining.

                ‘Rin-san…’ Saber almost gasped, moving past her master and to another game. Mounted in front of a fairly large screen was a fake motorcycle that was life-size and fairly accurately made. On the screen the road wove around tight corners and through mountains, showcasing the thrill this particular attraction at the arcade had to offer.

                ‘That one catch your eye?’ Rin smiled, feeding off Saber’s excitement.

                ‘Yes. In the past war, I do recall riding something like this. It was…extremely pleasant. This is a simulated version, correct? Would you mind if I tried it?’

                ‘Not at all.’ And Rin didn’t hesitate to get the game started.

 

                ‘Thank-you, Rin-san. I appreciate you allowing me to give in to a silly, frivolous desire.’ Saber was a little ashamed with herself for allowing some joy into her life, and this bothered Rin as the two of them began walking home, passing on the availability of a taxi in order to enjoy the nighttime of Fuyuki City with all its lights and life.

                ‘It wasn’t silly, Saber.’ Rin wanted to see how long it would take for her servant to realize she was being so familiar. It’s not as though she didn’t want to keep calling Saber Arturia, but the name felt so private and personal that Rin just didn’t feel right using it haphazardly. ‘You’re allowed to enjoy your stay here a little bit. I know we’re in a war, but how many times does someone get a second chance at living?’

                ‘Yes…’ Saber sounded reflective, and Rin knew she was thinking about her past. Maybe Saber would go into it someday, depending on how long the war lasted. ‘That is true.’

                ‘Besides, you looked really good on that bike. It was sexy.’

                ‘P-pardon?’ Saber’s pitch went up, and Rin knew she had her.

                ‘I’m serious; the way you worked those handle bars and straddled that seat, tightening your legs when you were making a sharp turn. Oh, yes. Very sexy.’

                ‘You are teasing me.’ Saber realized, allowing Rin to smile openly now.

                ‘I am, but it’s still all true.’ Rin didn’t look to see Saber’s reaction. She was too focussed on her chest flopping ever so slightly. She was just messing with Saber. It was her forte. She liked seeing people squirm; especially those that had so much pride. But something felt…off.

                ‘You appear rather desirable to men as well, Rin-san. Am I wrong?’

                Rin was caught off guard, not expecting such an attack from her servant.

                ‘I-I suppose so.’

                ‘It is to be expected. Beauty like yours is a rarity, of this I am sure. Beauty and intellect housed upon and within one body? Well, I suspect few wouldn’t be drawn to such brilliance.’

                Rin’s heart thumped and she now understood the charisma that was required for any good leader. Saber had delivered her counter attack perfectly to the point of making Rin nearly swoon.

                ‘So, you really are the most powerful servant.’ Rin relented finally, leading to both girls laughing quite openly. Their joy was cut short, however, when a paramedic’s siren came within earshot, the disruptive sound causing anyone within the vicinity to stop what they were doing and wait for the vehicle to zoom past. Cars pulled over, and the street went still before the lights came into view, adding to the luminosity of the night.

                ‘That…means there has been an injury, correct?’ Saber’s face went serious.

                ‘Yes.’

                ‘It might have been the doing of a servant. Best investigate before heading home.’

                Rin nodded. The emergency was in the direction of Rin’s place anyway. She hailed a taxi, and pursued the accident without making it obvious to the driver what her real objective was.

Chapter Text

 

                The night had been going so well, it was easy for Rin to desire simply dismissing the presence of a paramedic zooming through the city. However, Saber was much more focussed, hungry for information regarding any other servants that could be making their move.

                The two girls exited the taxi, tipping the driver handsomely for not being too nosy, and then snuck about the subdivision, following the flashing lights to the scene that was already taped off. There was a decently large crowd gathered already, so it made getting closer to the incident that much simpler. Rin and Saber focussed on the victim, watching as the paramedics went to work and evaluated the situation.

                ‘They are confused.’ Saber revealed quietly.

                ‘This isn’t a normal situation, then.’

                ‘No. I suspect some supernatural foul play.’

                ‘Hm…’ Rin channeled her magical circuits into her senses, surveying the area and noticing faint traces of enchanted residue lining the border of the victim’s previous location.

                ‘Please be on your way, everyone. The family and patient need space.’ An officer directed.

                Rin and Saber backed off, annoyed by the curtness of the man.

                ‘That might be all we are capable of observing tonight, Rin-san.’ Saber decided, knowing there was little benefit in remaining exposed after a servant had likely already left.

                ‘Energy drain…?’ Rin pondered, having noticed some abnormal physical characteristics on the victim’s face before he was placed in the back of the medical vehicle.

                ‘She calls you by your first name?’ A familiar voice sounded from within the crowd. Both Rin and Saber sent notices of caution to one another, but Rin almost instantly relaxed once she saw Shirou Emiya approaching her. He waved casually, although he maintained his common, absent-minded gaze that hid many a thought.

                ‘Yes.’ Rin answered shortly.

                ‘Interesting. Archer barely even talks to me.’

                Rin’s face flared as she took hold of Shirou’s arm and dragged him into a darker part of the subdivision.

                ‘What the hell are you doing? If you know as much as I’m assuming you do, why on earth are you talking to me like this? I could kill you!’

                ‘Oh. I guess that’s true, but then why would you save my life only to kill me?’

                Rin grit her teeth and growled.

                ‘Unbelievable!’

                ‘Shall I, Master?’ Saber offered, although she sounded a little unsure, no doubt because she had been notified about her familiarity with her master.

                ‘No! No. This is your final warning, Emiya-kun. Stay. Away. From. Me. When we’re at school, fine, but don’t let me find you exposing yourself like this again!’

                ‘Huh.’ Shirou cocked his head. ‘You’re totally different from how everyone sees you at school. You really are just another teenage girl when it comes down to it.’

                ‘And what does that mean?’

                ‘Nothing. It’s good. I kind of like this you.’

                Rin couldn’t help the blood rushing to her cheeks.

                ‘G-go! Try not to get yourself killed.’

                ‘I know. I know. Archer had me visit Kirei Kotomine at the church after you saved my life. I can’t say I like this Grail War concept, but I don’t have much of a choice if I want to be the man my father wished me to become. I’ll just be playing a little differently than the other masters, I think.’

                Rin’s chip softened, and she reminded herself why Shirou struck a chord in her every time she passed him in the halls. There was something so pure and good about him that she just couldn’t not like. He was naïve to the point of stupidity, but his clear heart and giving nature hadn’t gone unnoticed by one of the school’s celebrities.

                ‘Do you even know magic? I had no idea you were a magus.’

                ‘I only know one type. I’m not very good at it either. Archer stays hidden a lot, and he’s pretty pissed most of the time for getting stuck with me. It’s going to be a rough ride, but he’s really strong, so I just have to catch up. We have similar magic, you know? Projection and re-enforcement…’

                ‘Shhh! Be quiet! Be! Quiet! Are you just going to stand here and tell me all your weaknesses? We’re enemies, Emiya-kun. If I were any other master, Saber would have cut your head clean off by now.’

                ‘Oh. Right. Well, thanks for not beheading me, Saber. I’m Shirou Emiya, by the way.’ Shiro extended his hand to Saber, whose honour wouldn’t allow her to refuse such pleasantry.

                ‘Good evening.’ Saber said, but not without some coldness in her voice.

                ‘Guess I am being a little reckless again, but Archer’s on point, so if there are any sneak attacks, I just need to give the word and he’ll protect me…hopefully. At least he’s somewhat listening to me now. That first night? The guy went hunting for other servants without me and that’s how I practically kicked it. Stubborn to the core. That’s not even mentioning the fact that he…well…’ Shirou laughed, evidently hiding something.

                Rin rolled her eyes. At least Shirou wasn’t wandering around aimlessly. Still though, the idea of hurting him was not one that Rin revelled in. He genuinely wanted to help people at the expense of his own happiness. He was an enigma; one that Rin couldn’t help but watch from afar with a hint of admiration. Even now, his attitude baffled her. How could one person act like this? While she had him here, Rin thought she might as well ask a question that weighed on her mind slightly.

                ‘Matou-san visits you at your place almost every morning, correct?’

                Shirou seemed a little thrown by this.

                ‘Shinji-san or Sakura-san?’

                ‘Sakura-san.’

                ‘Oh. Yes.’ Shirou smiled wryly.

                ‘You are close friends?’

                ‘You could say that.’

                Right. Rin thought. Because you like to fix broken things.

                ‘What are your intentions regarding her, Emiya-kun?’

                ‘My intentions? I don’t follow.’

                ‘You can’t be that clueless! Nobody is so oblivious! Why would any girl visit a guy’s house almost every morning to walk with him to school?’

                ‘Because they’re friends?’

                ‘Ugh!’ Rin ran her hands through her hair before poking Shirou in the chest and staring at him with unrestricted frustration, fury, and something else she didn’t want to quite admit. ‘At least think about it, Emiya-kun! Matou-san is a shy, considerate girl who wouldn’t involve herself with someone unless there was a reason. She is a girl. You are a boy. What does that usually equal?’

                Shirou finally appeared to put the puzzle together, a realization flashing through his face. However, he waved his hand and almost laughed at Rin.

                ‘Oh, no. That’s definitely not happening. We’re just friends. She’s like a sister.’

                This stung Rin.

                ‘Then you better make it abundantly clear to Matou-san that’s how you feel, because she might think otherwise, and you might be leading her on without knowing it.’

                Shirou’s face went serious at this point.

                ‘I wouldn’t want to do that.’

                ‘Good. Now go. I will act civil at school, but if you cross my path like this again, I can’t promise I won’t see it as an opportunity to remove a master from the war.’

                ‘Ah. Now it’s the Tohsaka-san everyone sees at school. I get it.’

                Rin’s eye twitched. She crossed her arms and turned, beginning to make her way down the alley and out into the subdivision that would eventually take her closer to home. Saber, naturally, followed, keeping pace and finally beginning to speak once again.

                ‘That was an extended conversation.’

                ‘I know. I’m sorry, Saber.’

                ‘No. It was enlightening. I see why you find it difficult to hurt such a man. The clarity in his eyes is noble and true. He wants nothing but to help others.’

                ‘At the expense of his own happiness.’

                ‘Pardon?’

                ‘It’s nothing. It’s nothing at all. He just better be careful with Sakura.’

                Saber knew it wasn’t the place, but decided to log her lingering questions until she and her master were safely at the manor. Just hours ago she couldn’t care less about such things, but something was changing in her heroic heart, and she was still deciding on whether she wanted to embrace it or not.

 

                ‘I must thank you for taking me out this evening, Master. Although I had severe doubts, it would appear that, at the end of the day, I was able to have a pleasant time with you. I suppose you are much more insightful than I gave you credit for, although it is not as though I thought you incompetent to begin with.’

                ‘Thanks, Saber.’ Rin had already changed into her pajamas; a loose fitting, frilly beige/pink strapless shirt that generally revealed her midriff alongside rather short bottoms that sometimes hinted at the young woman’s pleasing back side. She was sitting with one leg over the other in the grandest of her chairs, sipping some tea and reflecting upon recent events even though her furrowed brow seemed to indicate frequent bouts of irritation.

                ‘Shall I leave you alone for some time?’

                ‘No. I don’t mind the company.’

                Saber relaxed her stance, moving behind her master and placing her hands upon Rin’s shoulders. She began squeezing and releasing at regular intervals, finding a multitude of knots for one so young.

                ‘Y-you shouldn’t…’ Rin breathed, placing her tea down and leaning forward despite what she said.

                ‘My attendants used to perform such tasks for me all the time. It is not so abnormal for a servant to help relieve their master of stress. You are trying to plot out our next move, are you not? Allow me this then and let us discuss your thoughts openly to better flesh out ideas.’

                ‘You are a king though…’ Rin’s voice had gotten even smaller. Saber’s grip was strong, thus the massage was overly pleasing. Prickles went all throughout Rin’s body, and parts of her stiffened embarrassingly so. She pressed her arms against her chest to calm her reaction, but the deep exhales through her mouth hid very little from her servant otherwise.

                ‘I am a king, and I serve Rin Tohsaka. What does that make you, I wonder?’ Saber countered, pinching Rin’s shoulder and causing her to shriek in pain and then sigh with pleasure at the release.

                ‘F-fine. I won’t stop you then.’

                ‘Good girl.’ Saber smiled softly, rubbing down Rin’s bare arms and feeling the goosebumps for the first time. ‘Ah. I am doing well. I wasn’t very confident in my skills since I am used to receiving, so this makes me quite happy.’

                ‘You’re doing…really well…’ Rin managed, her knees pressed together and legs rubbing into one another. What was happening? Why was her pulse quickening so? This arousal wasn’t normal. Rin’s magical circuits felt as though they were on fire. It was frightening yet incredibly intriguing. This was something she had done a little research on, but she didn’t think such a basic physical movement would start a reaction like the one she was experiencing. Saber and Rin already had a spiritual connection thanks to the summoning ritual, but was this the physical connection she had read about? If she performed the actual ritual then, would Saber and Rin become even more powerful?

                But that would mean…!

                A sharp pain shot through Rin’s mind, breaking the moment at multiple junctions before she realized that someone had stepped through her barrier.

                ‘Another guest?’ Saber had returned to normal, her sisterly tone gone and heroic presence once again prevalent.

                ‘Yes. I know who it is, but still be at ready. He is not a man I trust despite his role in this war.’

                Saber nodded, equipping her armour easily, she too having felt the bizarre link unknowingly started between herself and Rin. She was thirsty for battle, and almost wanted this guest to force her hand. Saber nearly felt frustrated, although this confused her quite a bit.

                Rin grabbed her housecoat and went to the door, unlocking it and opening the wooden construct to Kirei Kotomine. He was a close friend to her father, and technically Rin’s foster parent, although his business generally took him elsewhere. He was an imposing man of the cloth, his dead eyes doing little to hide the lethal combatant behind them. He had been involved in the previous Grail War, as Rin understood it, and had also somehow survived it. Rin trusted him little, and was always on guard when he was around even though he played nice ever since taking her in after the destruction of her family.

                ‘Good evening, Rin.’ Kirei’s voice rumbled, sending tremors through Rin’s veins.

                ‘I thought the moment the war started, you weren’t supposed to leave the church less a master needs refuge.’

                ‘I have taken the necessary precautions, thank-you. You hadn’t visited yet, and I was curious as to how the summoning had gone.’ His intonation, his posture, his movements; all of them indicated a man of presence that knew how to fight to survive and how to manipulate all who dared underestimate his ability.

                Rin maintained her scowl, opening the door slightly wider to reveal Saber. The moment Saber’s eyes fell upon Kirei, something within her stirred in panic, although she couldn’t place any other reasons beyond instinctual caution. She gave the priest the smallest of nods, and he returned the greeting with a twitching lip.

                ‘As you can see, I am doing quite well for myself at the moment.’

                ‘Indeed.’ Kirei closed his eyes, placing his hands behind his back and speaking once more. ‘I have fulfilled my duty to your father then. I can no longer play favourites, as I’m sure you are aware.’

                ‘I would prefer it no other way.’

                ‘Good. There are a few competent masters in this fifth installment of the war. Already, some very bizarre circumstances have come to pass. We are sure to see a progressively intense battle as the days go on. This feeling period will doubtfully extend past a scarce few more days. Best enjoy the peace while you have it, Rin. Remember what your father and I have taught you, and you will go far.’

                ‘My, aren’t we talkative today?’ Rin sneered.

                ‘Perhaps I am just anticipating good things from you. You truly are a spitting image of that impressive man.’

                ‘Enough. You have said your piece. You are breaking the rules that your order are meant to protect. Leave.’

                Kirei allowed himself to be mildly amused by this aggression.

                ‘Trust no one, Rin. You are on your own now.’

                ‘Then nothing has changed.’ And Rin shut the door, waiting until she felt Kirei pass through her barrier before finally letting out some air and steadying her heart.

                ‘He is a dangerous man, Master.’

                ‘I know.’

                ‘He facilitates the war?’

                ‘To an extent, yes.’

                ‘I see. He seems very knowledgeable.’

                ‘He always knows more than he lets on.’

                Perhaps sensing Rin’s shaken soul, Saber placed a hand on her master’s shoulder and met her eyes with a steady and confident stare.

                ‘There is one thing he didn’t seem to understand, however…’ She began, familiarity returning to her voice. ‘You are most certainly not on your own.’

Chapter Text

                Rin’s trip to school was always done in solitude. The friends she did have hailed from completely opposite parts of the city. Honestly, Rin preferred it this way. She needed time to think and organize everything on her mind, and the walk allowed her to do so. On foot, Rin could make it on time within about 45 minutes. Being more fit than most would assume, Rin enjoyed the exercise, but now that Saber was with her, she had even less to complain about. Having breakfast with someone certainly helped as well. Rin didn’t realize how lonely she was until now. She supposed she was fortunate that she and Saber had, for the most part, come to a mutual understanding. If anything, Rin was under the impression that her servant truly liked her, based on the night before. It was a feeling she enjoyed, even if she wasn’t sure she should bask in such acceptance at the hands of, essentially, a tool.

                ‘It is hard to think that underneath this city there is such a legendary battle taking place.’ Saber said, wearing a simple white blouse and blue skirt that Rin decided to provide her.

                ‘Do you like Fuyuki City?’

                ‘It is much different from where I ruled. I do find it appealing though, yes.’

                ‘I’m somewhat indifferent toward it, although I’m starting to warm a bit, I think.’

                ‘And why so suddenly?’

                ‘Hard to say.’ Rin lied. ‘Anyway, today we’re going to do a little more recon at school. Emiya-kun is a master, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more masters hiding within that very building. I’ll need you to stay close enough to the school, but maybe also just outside the gate, if you don’t mind, to keep an eye on who comes and goes.’

                ‘A master is likely draining mana from regular humans to provide him or herself with an abundance of stored energy based on last night’s discovery. It is a tactic I find most revolting considering the method. Additionally, having a rather powerful magus as a master makes it almost unnecessary for me.’

                ‘True.’ Rin let the statement linger but, feeling her face fever slightly, pursued a topic that had kept her awake a little longer than usual the night before. ‘Not to change the subject, but what if there was a way to unlock even more power between us, Saber? Would you be interested in the ritual involved?’

                ‘As long as it doesn’t put your life at risk, I would consider as much. However, I must say that I feel plenty capable enough as is.’

                ‘R-right.’

                ‘What would this “ritual” entail?’

                Saber’s ignorance made Rin even more flustered. Was she some sort of sicko for thinking about it? She wasn’t even sure such a thing worked properly. Besides, like Saber had said, it didn’t seem necessary. They were stacked at present anyway.

                ‘Nothing. Forget I mentioned it.’

                ‘…So be it, Master.’

                Rin neared her school and found a couple of her friends standing about the gate, chatting with Shirou and Sakura. Rin’s chest tightened at the sight. How was she supposed to act now that she had allowed herself to enter both Shirou and Sakura’s life? This sort of situation is what she had been trying to avoid until after the Grail War, and yet she seemed to let such careful restriction fall apart with the worst timing.

                ‘This is where we part for now, Saber.’

                ‘Understood. If the situation demands it, don’t hesitate to summon me with a command seal.’

                ‘Thank-you.’

                Kaede noticed Rin first, and notified the others before waving excitedly.

                ‘Hey! Rin-chan! Good to see you again!’ Kaede shouted out in her usual, boisterous voice.

                ‘Are you feeling better?’ Kane Himuro, a much quieter and considerate friend of Rin’s asked. She wore circular glasses and had very light, almost white-blonde hair that was quite rare. Apparently she had mixed blood. She also had an amazing crush on Shirou, likely feeling quite fortunate for speaking with the loner first thing in the morning.

                ‘Yes. Thank-you.’ Rin spoke in a stoic manner, proceeding past the crowd. ‘We best hurry, for class is -- ’ The moment Rin entered the gate to Homurahara Gakuen, an intense, uncomfortable grip took hold of her mana. It was toxic in every way, draining her of energy with but the faintest of attention, yet because of Rin’s sensitivity, she couldn’t shake the undesirable invasion. Rin projected her thoughts to Saber as best she could, hoping there wasn’t too much distance between them just yet.

                ‘Master?

                ‘Do you feel that, Saber? It may be the same person who sent their servant after that man last night.’

                ‘Hm. Perhaps, but this seems…different somehow.’

                ‘You might be right. It was the moment we entered the school grounds, correct? It’s almost as though a net of magic has been cast around the school, sapping every student of their life force without them noticing. This could be very, very bad.’

                ‘Then an investigation is in order.’

                ‘Definitely. See what you can find, but stay out of sight.

                ‘Consider it done.

                Saber’s presence in Rin’s mind disappeared, and Rin felt naked suddenly. She had adapted to her servant always being around much quicker than she thought possible. Perhaps this war was what she had been waiting for all along, strangely enough.

                ‘Tohsaka-san.’ Shirou’s voice started. The group had entered the grounds as well, but none of them appeared to be affected in any way whatsoever; even Sakura, surprisingly. ‘Can we talk?’

                ‘Ooo!’ Kaede teased, which Rin really didn’t want to hear right now; especially in front of Sakura and Kane.

                ‘Not at the moment, Emiya-kun. Class is about to start.’ Rin answered, glancing to Sakura briefly to try and get a read on her sister. She didn’t seem too fazed by Shirou’s invitation, but she was also a professional at hiding her true feelings. It was always the nice ones, wasn’t it?

                Shirou didn’t seem to have the same tact as Rin, to her dismay, since he proceeded to grab Rin’s arm to make a point.

                ‘It will only take a second.’

                Not wanting to cause more of a scene, Rin acted exasperated, and finally relented.

                ‘I’ll be right behind you guys.’ She said, knowing Kane wasn’t pleased, but getting the positive support from Kaede. Sakura didn’t even look at Rin, and that hurt more than anything. She was mad. As soon as the three girls were gone, and Rin had found a fairly secluded place to deal with Shirou, she let her frustration go.

                ‘I thought I told you that I would be civil at school, but that would be it! This isn’t what I had in mind! We are not friends, Emiya-kun! Do not ever put me on the spot like that again!’

                ‘I’m sorry, but you felt it, didn’t you? When you walked past the entrance gates?’

                ‘Of course I felt it! That doesn’t mean you yank me into a conference. This war is a secret! Part of the challenge is participating stealthily. Thus far, you are doing rather poorly. Stop dragging me down with you!’

                Shirou’s resolve appeared to falter, and Rin almost felt bad, but then he opened his mouth again.

                ‘We should work together. If we work as a team, we can get further. I have a feeling I know who’s behind this.’

                ‘Pardon?’ How? Already? That didn’t seem possible.

                ‘But I’ll only tell you if you agree to be my partner.’ Shirou grinned a little bit, thinking he had her, but Rin hated being manipulated more than anything, and if Shirou thought he could best her intellectually, he was dead wrong.

                ‘No. You need me more than I need you. I will do my best not to actively hunt you down for Matou-san, but that’s all I’ll promise.’

                ‘Archer is really powerful though. I don’t want to have to fight you. We can disable the other masters and then draw for the grail or something.’

                ‘That’s idiotic! This is war, Emiya-kun! You have to kill or be killed. The other masters won’t be as…as foolish as me! They won’t hesitate to kill anyone in their way.’

                ‘Anything can be worked out if you have the right discussion.’

                Rin couldn’t believe it. Shirou honestly felt he could get through a war without hurting anybody. He was going to get himself killed, and then Sakura would be devastated…again.

                No.

                Rin wouldn’t allow it.

                She shoved past Shirou, being sure to check his arm with her shoulder.

                ‘You’re a fool.’

                ‘I know.’ He sounded proud. Ever more the fool.

                ‘Meet me after school in the library. We’ll wait for the clubs to finish and then we will disable the glyphs that are likely stabilizing this net of poison. Most of our classmates should be able to make it through the day with minimal injury. I’ll do what I can on breaks.’

                ‘I’ll have Archer seek out the glyphs and mark them for us as well. I’m not sure how to cancel them out, but I might be able to trace the magic’s source to make your job easier.’

                Rin kept walking to the school, barely hearing the last part of what Shirou had said. She had a plan, and it wasn’t her first choice of action, but he was leaving her no choice. She had to do it…for Sakura.

 

                Sneaking about school so that it could be explored after nearly everybody had left was much more difficult than Rin or Shirou had anticipated. The librarian took forever to leave. It was fortunate, as it was, that she didn’t feel it necessary to be too thorough regarding her search for any lingering students. After all, who would possibly want to stay after hours? It just didn’t really happen.

                Waiting around with Shirou wasn’t Rin’s idea of a good time either. They both had to remain very quiet and very still, hiding out in an underused corner of the decently sized facility until 20 or so minutes after the door was shut and locked tight. Rin caught Shirou, on more than a number of occasions, looking at her. She did her best to dissuade such observation with her most practised of scowls, but he seemed completely invulnerable, grinning and waving awkwardly.

                ‘Shall we begin, Master?’ Saber spoke into Rin’s mind, being the only thing keeping her sane throughout the long waiting. She was likely outside of the school still, waiting to enter and rejoin her master.

                ‘Yes.’ Rin nodded to Shirou, and they scouted the area until they were both convinced the school was left all to themselves.

                ‘There are three floors. We will start from the bottom and work through until the top. Also…where is Archer?’ Rin noted the absence of Shirou’s red-clad servant.

                Shirou shrugged.

                ‘He helped me pinpoint the glyphs, but he claims anything else is beneath his duties. He’s going to stay somewhat nearby, but mostly just be on the lookout for any major trouble coming our way.’

                ‘That works.’ Rin tried not to sound too enthusiastic. ‘Then let’s begin.’

                After reuniting with Saber, and running all over the track field, into the storage building, out into the archery field, and all throughout the first floor of her high school, Rin knew she was taking on a very large task. The sun was already nearly set, which meant another day had practically ended with very little progress being made. Masters weren’t supposed to involve civilians to this extent, but Rin supposed the servant responsible for this mess had a means of draining mana without making it too disruptive. Kirei was also the proctor for the church, so that simply meant the lenient rules were bent wider outside the stipulated parameters.

                Not only was Rin growing more frustrated with this ridiculous glyph deconstruction, but Shirou was insistent on speaking with her and Saber.

                ‘I honestly don’t understand how another master could do this. Involving normal civilians is against the rules, right? A lot of people were complaining about headaches and being tired by the end of the day. A couple of my classmates even had to go home or rest in the nurse’s office. It was crazy. I’m glad we’re nipping this in the bud before it got too serious. I really appreciate your help, Tohsaka-san.’

                Rin finished dispelling another glyph, apparently the last one on the first floor of the building before deciding to respond.

                ‘We can’t allow this servant to get too powerful through such means. It isn’t right.’

                ‘I agree. We should protect everyone from a war they want no part of.’

                ‘Emiya-kun…’ Rin sighed, ascending the stairs with some strain. Despite the dispelling charm being fairly simplistic, Rin had performed it no less than ten times already, and she worried about her state by the end of all this. ‘There is going to be crossfire, more than likely. Naturally, the mage society wants to keep it all to minimal and secretive, but people will get hurt. When heroic legends are involved, the fights will only escalate in scale as we get further into the war.’

                ‘No. I won’t let anyone get hurt.’

                ‘You and what army, Emiya-kun?’

                ‘Archer and I.’

                ‘A master and servant can only do so much.’

                ‘I know, but I’m still going to try.’

                ‘That is admirable.’ Saber finally interjected, staying very quiet up until this point. ‘Admirable, but ultimately futile. A single being only has the power of a single being, as my master has wisely declared.’

                ‘Oh…’ Shirou hummed. ‘So, you’ve tried something like what I want to do then?’

                Rin whirled to Saber, shocked by the insight Shirou was displaying.

                ‘…Perhaps. But that is neither here or now. I have a new objective, and I will fulfill it.’

                Shirou smiled, leading Rin to another glyph within his own homeroom.

                ‘Archer agreed to train me last night.’ He started again, watching intently as Rin performed the dispelling ritual. ‘He doesn’t wasn’t to lose this fight either. I think I just irritated him enough.’

                ‘Good for you.’ Rin breathed.

                ‘He’s all prickly on the outside, but we have a lot in common too, I think.’

                Rin bit at her lip and finally stood, staring hard into Shirou’s clear, brown eyes.

                ‘Why are you telling me this?’

                ‘Just…for conversation?’

                ‘For conversation? What part of you thinks I care?’ Rin immediately liked herself a little less after this question, but she had to make a point. She couldn’t allow any sort of relationship; friendship or otherwise, to develop between her and Shirou.

                Shirou’s gaze narrowed, his entire being suddenly going serious.

                ‘Because I know you’re a good person, and you push people away because you’re scared of involving them in your life of magic and whatnot.’

                ‘Magic and whatnot!? It’s not magic and whatnot! It’s been my life since childhood! This is the most serious task I’ll ever undertake! I have trained years -- years for this!’

                ‘And that’s why I want to help you. I want to make it easier for you.’

                ‘Why!? You hardly know me!’

                ‘Because I -- ’ Shirou stopped himself, clamping his mouth shut and diverting his previously focussed stare. He didn’t have to finish. Rin wasn’t an idiot. It all made sense now. Poor Sakura; she had so much taken from her already by Rin and now this? No. Not happening. Never. Rin honestly wasn’t interested. Perhaps something about Shirou intrigued her, but that was as far as she would ever allow it to go.

                ‘You don’t even know who I am.’ Rin repeated almost under her breath.

                ‘I know enough.’ Shirou responded, showing how stubborn he could also be.

                There was an awkward pause for some time, both masters standing still for minutes until Saber finally broke the silence.

                ‘We best continue. This conversation can take place another time, if necessary.’

                ‘Thank-you, Saber. You’re right.’

                The rest of the task was done without any further discussion. Shirou would simply point where Archer instructed him, although Rin could generally have an idea as to where the concentrated poisonous magic was located most of the time. The roof housed the final glyph, and the moment Rin dispelled it, the web of agony surrounding the school lifted, and it was as though Rin and Shirou had never breathed clean air before.

                ‘It’s finished.’ Rin concluded, entering the school’s stairwell and hearing Shirou still following her.

                ‘Well done, Master.’ Saber said with approval.

                ‘That was pretty impressive.’ Shirou added. His voice was still solemn, but his sort of personality would only allow him to be selfish for so long.

                ‘Thank-you.’ Rin stepped into the main hallway of the first floor and suddenly turned, facing Shirou and hardening her resolve. Shirou seemed to instinctively recognize the shift in her demeanor, but didn’t want to respond, doubting Rin capable of anything but kindness.

                ‘Do not interfere unless Archer does, Saber.’ Rin transferred mentally to her servant.

                ‘Understood…

                ‘So, we go our separate ways now?’ Shirou shrugged, grinning awkwardly again, as though he didn’t want to believe what he was saying.

                ‘Yes.’ And Rin took hold of her right arm, pointing it at Shirou and uttering the single lined spell for gandr, her most easily cast spell while still being moderately destructive. The first blow nicked Shirou’s shoulder, scrapping against him with enough force to tear the corner of his uniform and singe the first layer of skin beneath. The look Shirou gave Rin upon realizing what she had just done tore at her heart, twisting it to the point of suffocation.

                Betrayal. It was more painful than she imagined.

                ‘We are enemies, Shirou Emiya. You best get away from me before I take true aim.’ Rin fired off two more warning shots, both flashing by Shirou’s face.

                ‘But…you saved me!’ Shirou extracted the red crystal Rin had used to heal him. It was one of a kind. Rin didn’t place much value in physical things to begin with, considering her upbringing, but she still felt an odd attachment to the piece of jewellery. Perhaps because it was red.

                ‘Don’t make me repeat myself again, Emiya-kun. If you, by some miracle, survive this war, then we can talk, but until then, we are enemies, and I expect you to stay away from me, even at school. Do not converse with me. Do not look at me. Do not even think about me.’

                ‘Master…’ Saber uttered. Rin knew what she wanted to say. Rin felt the same. But this was the only way.

                ‘I’ll give you five seconds to get out of my sight.’

                ‘You’re serious…’ Shirou finally understood.

                ‘5…4…’

                ‘But if worked together…! If we formed a truce…! It just makes sense!’

                ‘3…2…’

                ‘This isn’t over, Tohsaka-san. I won’t give up on you. I’ll win this war the right way!’ Shirou began turning, but the moment Rin uttered the number “1”, glass shattered to her right, and Saber was on her other side, a loud clang of forged metal on metal ricocheting throughout the halls.

                ‘No, Archer!’ Shirou commanded.

                Rin exhaled, knowing if she had a less skilled servant her skull may have been destroyed by such a perfectly aimed projectile.

                ‘I don’t mean to be blunt, boy, but this woman and her servant best be dealt with now rather than later.’ Archer appeared by Shirou’s side now, his abilities as his respective class giving him skills at manoeuvring second only to the Assassin class.

                ‘No. The other masters won’t expect a team up. It’s the only way we can get through this without too many casualties.’ Shirou insisted.

                ‘The time for negotiations is over.’ Archer replied, his frustration obvious. ‘Before us stands a servant/master combination that could very well take the war on their own. We have a chance in this moment, while the woman magus has been weakened because of the glyphs. Give me permission, and I can subdue them both.’

                ‘Ho? Quite the bark from the dog willing to betray his master’s wishes and perform a dishonorable kill.’ Saber sounded less than pleased. ‘My master has saved yours not once, but twice now. Her mercy is an admirable trait. However, removing you from the board is likely a tactic we are prepared to enact. Master?’

                Rin was humbled that Saber would become so enflamed due to the risk her master had just been placed in. This wasn’t an ideal situation though. Rin felt the hesitation. Why couldn’t Shirou’s words leave her be? She thought of Berserker and Lancer. She thought of the other masters and servants she had yet to encounter. Was it wise to discard such readily available help? Had her father formed such a truce? If only he had left her more information.

                ‘I have changed my mind.’ Rin finally revealed. ‘Refusing a truce would be foolhardy at best. You have proven your loyalty, Emiya-kun.’

                Shirou’s face lit up. Rin didn’t know he could look like that.

                ‘Then…?’

                ‘We will not work closely together. I will not do that. However, we will trade information and will stay out of one another’s way until the end. Then, our servants will decide who is most worthy of the grail.’

                Shirou didn’t seem to completely love that answer, but he was competent enough to weigh the pros and cons, and he clearly decided this was a best case scenario, everything being considered.

                ‘Fine. Deal.’

                ‘It would appear our duel has been placed on hold, Saber.’

                ‘I recommend honing your swordplay to perfection if you wish to stand the slightest of chances against a warrior such as I.’

                ‘Hmph.’ Archer grinned cruelly, looking down on Saber in many ways, to her controlled anger.

                ‘That being said,’ Rin continued, ensuring Archer relaxed his stance since he had proven to be quite unpredictable. ‘You mentioned suspecting someone of being a master earlier? Care to elaborate?’

                ‘Sure.’ Shirou didn’t even hesitate.

                ‘I do not feel that is wise, boy. How do we know we can trust this girl? What is she giving us in exchange for such valuable information?’

                ‘It works out in the end for me either way, Archer. I can trust Tohsaka-san because I’ve known her for a couple of years now. If she double-crosses me, it just goes to show that she’s very good at hiding some pretty awful morals.’ Shirou said this and stared at Rin the entire time. She knew the tactic he was pulling, but in his mind, it was probably just natural. ‘If she can take out a master or two for us, doesn’t that mean less effort on our part? She might be more capable of removing a master and servant without killing both anyhow.’

                ‘So be it…’ Archer sighed.

                Rin smiled a little bit. This was working out much better than it could have.

                ‘I think Shinji-kun might be involved. He was acting a little strange since a couple of days ago. That’s basically all I know. It’s just a hunch, but I’ve known him for a long time and, although we’re not really as close as we used to be, I can tell that something’s off about him.’

                Rin nodded slowly. It would make some sense, although she certainly suspected Sakura to be the magical heir to the Matou clan’s involvement in the war. This was good news. Perhaps the fact Sakura wasn’t a true member of that family backfired on Zoken. How fitting. But Rin couldn’t get too excited yet. That crazed old man wouldn’t give up that easily. Rin would have to somehow keep an eye on Sakura without alerting the lunatic that she was breaking a deal.

                ‘That will do, Emiya-kun. As for me, I fought Berserker and his master; a little girl by the name of Illyasviel von Einzbern. My appraisal, thus far, is that they are our biggest threats in the Grail War. Not only is Berserker capable of regenerating after a mortal blow, but Illya herself is bursting with magical power as a genius magus. The fact Berserker listens to her is proof of that.’

                ‘I see…’ Shirou cupped his face.

                ‘So, I did not kill him.’ Archer grunted, clearly annoyed even more.

                ‘Some warning would be appreciated the next time you aim such an attack at the enemy.’ Saber spoke up.

                ‘Berserker was the target. The fact you were able to evade the attack just goes to show my calculations were correct.’ Archer responded, lifting his arms up in a mockery of ignorance.

                ‘A likely story.’ Saber huffed.

                Rin looked out the school’s window, seeing that it was getting very close to nighttime. She wanted to head home. This day had proven productive enough. She would perform her own investigation on Shinji to prevent another conflict like the one she had spent a great deal of her own mana correcting. If Shinji was a master, she would remove him from the board quickly. He was incompetent and headstrong; an easily taken down target.

                ‘One last thing,’ Shirou started once more. ‘Issei-kun mentioned that his father has taken in a mysterious, beautiful young woman. It was about half a week ago that he told me about her. I didn’t really think anything of it, but the timing is a little odd, don’t you think? Apparently it has something to do with the woman’s upcoming marriage, but I’m not so sure.’

                ‘Very well. Another angle we could take. For now, we know about Lancer, Saber, Archer, and Berserker. That leaves Assassin, Rider, and Caster. The mysterious woman may be one of those servants, or perhaps even a master. The pieces will likely fall into place so long as we move cautiously and wisely.’

                ‘Right.’ Shirou nodded in confidence, but Rin still wondered about him.

                At that moment, however, neither master had more time to consider the newly obtained information, because a terrible crackling sound erupted all around them, echoing through the halls and breaking through their eardrums to cause an instantaneous headache that penetrated any sort of natural defense against such dangerous noise. The ground beneath everyone vibrated as though a minor earthquake was taking place, but it was obvious to all present that this was the work of magic; very powerful magic at that.

                ‘Another servant decides to show himself.’ Archer manifested his twin swords, a flash of light bursting from each outstretched hand before the blade was fully formed and gripped by its creator.

                ‘They will have to prove much more powerful than even Berserker to provide a fair challenge.’ Saber gripped her invisible sword as well, her eyes thirsty for any kind of combat now.

                One by one, skeletal, humanoid creatures with jagged features and monstrous details pulled themselves through the ground. They had clearly been teleported via some sort of black hole magic, and Rin immediately surmised that only Caster could pull off something of this nature without being anywhere near the prey he wished to kill. Soon enough, more than 100 skeleton puppets of all shapes and sizes filled the halls, revolting weapons clasped in their magic-imbued grip. It was an army of death, but Rin knew no fear with Saber by her side.

Chapter Text

                It was just barely two days ago that Rin was going to school like any other girl her age. Sure, she practised magic intensely, and was more than aware of the Grail Wars that took place and involved her family every 60 years, but it all felt so far away and fantastic. Rin could perform magic, and that was the constant reminder that the world seemed to go on without a thought of the mages that dwelled all throughout it. Naturally, certain institutes helped foster magic and made it an integral part of everyday life, but from where Rin had stood not that long ago, it was a horizon she could believe only once she entered university to further harness her craft.

                Yet, now she and a heroic spirit summoned from the past known as Arthur (Arturia) Pendragon, wielder of Excalibur, stood surrounded by skeletons controlled by another heroic spirit of incredible magical talent, capable of manipulating so many objects at once, infusing them with his thoughts and coordinating such a grand attack. Rin almost wanted to laugh, but she feared the sheer volume of enemies would pose a threat, especially when one considered the tight quarters for combat.

                ‘What say you, Archer? A contest for who can smite the most within a set time frame?’ Saber yelled, full of anticipation, her stance shifting into something that allowed her to strike with minimal initial movement.

                ‘Hmph. Could your pride take a no-name, like myself, outclassing you?’

                ‘An unlikely outcome!’

                That is when both Saber and Archer exploded into action. Saber’s movements were graceful and perfect, every strike, evasion, and push forward complimented by the most effective slashes from her invisible blade. She downed multiple skeletons at once, the clacking of the monsters rising into near insanity as they died and gathered about the warrior maiden. Archer wasn’t allowing himself to be outdone, however, and although he didn’t move with the same sort of majesty as Saber, he nearly seemed more deadly with the brutal way in which he handled two blades at once, dismembering enemies with precise and focussed attacks, spinning and leaping in a chaotic yet dance-like fashion.

                Overall, Rin was mystified, understanding just how far above her these individuals stood in terms of raw power and experience. She didn’t have much more time to marvel though, for inevitably, due to their incredible numbers that only continued to increase, a couple of straggling skeletons broke through the ranks, charging toward Shirou and Rin with their weapons hoisted upward, prepared to strike down the masters as much easier targets.

                ‘Damn it!’ Rin cursed, shoving Shirou away and firing off rapid shots of her gandr. It took nearly five well placed concentrated bullets of magic for Rin to take down just the closest skeleton to her, with more progressively shuffling through the massacre surrounding Archer and Saber. This was a coordinated attack. The masters were the targets all along!

                Shirou managed to think on his feet, breaking into the emergency fire kit station on the wall and taking hold of the extinguisher, using it as a most bizarre and desperate means of protecting himself and Rin. The two masters did what they could, but the skeletons almost seemed to be increasing in numbers rather than decreasing. Gandrs continued to fire from Rin’s finger, but she felt shallow cuts from simply being in claustrophobic space among an army of jagged edges.

                ‘This has become futile!’ Archer screamed in frustration.

                ‘Move the battle to a more advantageous position!’ Saber concurred, leaping up to the ceiling, twisting just before the top, and springing off of it to reach Rin, taking hold of her, as though she were a bride, and jumping backward out of a window, the glass shattering all about them. Almost immediately after, Archer and Shirou followed suit, breaking yet more of the school in order to make their escape.

                ‘Get back.’ Saber urged Rin, the early moonlight now casting a strange shadow upon the educational building and the emanating necromagic oozing from the first floor of what should have been a normal high school. The skeletons didn’t hesitate. They followed the prey programmed into their instinctual activities and poured out of the windows, soon bursting through the various exits of the school and lining the side of the building as though a massive army from wars of old. Their movements were almost dizzying, the low number of 100 units now expanded upward toward thrice that.

                ‘A coward’s way of fighting.’ Saber hissed, a glowing aura passing over her blade. Was she thinking of using Excalibur to its greatest capacity?

                ‘We merely run. They will not be able to keep up. If there is no master or servant present, then, as I stated before, this fight is more than futile. We play right into Caster’s hands. Only he could possibly manage a feat such as this. I will waste no more of my energy on puppets.’ Archer allowed his weapons to disappear, the skeletons seemingly awaiting a decision to be made.

                Archer was right, but Rin wondered if Caster was nearby. Perhaps if they routed the army he would be forced to show himself? No. That was wishful thinking. A sound retreat made the most sense.

                ‘No! If we leave these creatures be, innocent people could get hurt. We take them all out.’ Shirou shouted, taking a step forward.

                ‘Idiocy. Caster knows that such a public spectacle would not go unnoticed by the church. We make ourselves scarce now, boy, or we potentially injure ourselves for nothing.’

                ‘I’m not willing to leave it to chance.’

                Archer breathed out deeply, but then proceeded to place Shirou over his shoulder and prepare to disappear. It was almost comedic, until Shirou’s hand glowed as he spoke up once more through grit teeth.

                ‘I command you, Archer, by the seal as a master, we do not retreat from these grounds until every single threat has been destroyed by either yourself or Saber!’

                Archer’s body flinched, a red glow overtaking him for a moment before he placed Shirou down and stubbornly drew out his blades once more.

                ‘You ridiculous fool!’ He choked, rushing into the rows upon rows of enemies.

                ‘Saber.’ Rin sighed, and her servant looked for no more confirmation, also entering the fray.

 

                ‘In the end, Caster was nowhere to be seen, and we simply wasted precious energy displaying our abilities for a servant and master team to better prepare for us when we do encounter them…’ Rin muttered to Saber who remained on guard outside the manor’s main washroom that housed a somewhat pretentious vanity room, tub and shower options included. Rin undid her hair and took off her clothes, permitting everything to fall to the floor before she placed one finger into the warm water and then allowed the rest of herself to ease in, the soothing effects of a bubble bath immediately causing her to groan in exasperated pleasure.

                ‘Indeed. I appreciated the practice though. I feel much more prepared for any future challenges.’ Saber decided to be positive, her voice somewhat up in pitch to support her enthusiasm.

                ‘I guess that’s one way of looking at it.’ Rin agreed, leaning back in the tub and staring at the ceiling, watching the steam rise and vanish. ‘I feel somewhat sorry for Archer. Shirou truly is ridiculous.’

                ‘Yes. I couldn’t imagine being his servant. It makes me all the more thankful for you.’

                ‘…Thank-you, Saber.’

                ‘It’s the truth. I am merely stating facts.’

                ‘Still…’ Rin sprayed some liquid soap into her hand and lathered her body, enjoying the familiar feel of her own touch. She sensed her tired magical circuits recuperating, begging for more rest than the amount she was willing to give at this point. ‘Every day, since this war began, feels like a week. I hope there is some rest time coming…’

                ‘When we win, there will be plenty of rest. Until then, I imagine, like any war, the exhaustion will continue.’

                ‘Well, isn’t that something to look forward to.’ Rin mumbled, lowering half her face into the water and blowing a couple of bubbles.

                There were some moments of quiet, allowing Rin to finish cleaning her body and then simply relax, leaning her head on the back of the tub and focus on not accidently falling asleep.

                ‘Master…’ Saber started once again, her tone completely changing to something much softer.

                ‘You can call me Rin, if you’d like.’

                ‘…I’ll consider it. But what I wanted to say is that I didn’t expect to find myself to be with such an intriguing master. You are very strong. I can see it in your eyes, and it’s reflective through your incredible magical power. You have evidently worked very hard, even with the passing of your father and mother.’

                ‘Thank-you…’ Rin wondered if she was feeling the effects of being in the bath too long. Her head became light, and her face was on fire.

                ‘However, perhaps even more impressive, is your compassion for others. How many individuals would treat that Shirou boy the way you did tonight? You had every right to discard him completely, and part of me knows it would have been the correct path, yet I find myself in awe of the way you handled him.’

                ‘I’m not that amazing, Saber…’ Rin eased herself out of the bath and began drying her body off. ‘I know how much Emiya-kun means to Sakura. I could never contribute to her misfortune. I’ve added a handicap to this war we don’t need.’

                ‘That being said, would you mind if I asked what the circumstances are that led to you and Sakura being separated?’

                Rin bit at her lip, but then exited the washroom, her towel wrapped around her and her long, dark brown hair falling over her shoulders damply. She noticed Saber’s eyes linger for a moment, and suddenly felt self-conscious.

                ‘I know. I look like a drowned rat. Nobody gets to see me like this…’

                ‘On the contrary, Master…’

                ‘Don’t tease me.’ Rin waved Saber off, not letting her thoughts move forward. She took a seat in the living room and relaxed, breathing out deeply. ‘I suppose the Tohsaka name has room for only one heir. A deal was made with Zoken Matou to provide him with the less talented of two sisters to groom to be his magical heir in place of his real grandson, Shinji Matou. I don’t know much more than that. I just know that, should I try and interfere too much with Sakura-chan, Zoken Matou has every right to get involved.’

                ‘Is that why you do not allow yourself to be close with her?’

                ‘Yes. Mostly…’

                ‘I see. Yet, the Shirou boy appears to be under the impression that Shinji Matou has become the master for that house’s name.’

                ‘I know. That struck me as odd as well. Come the morrow, I’ll likely confront Shinji Matou to clear some details up.’

                ‘A direct encounter, then?’

                ‘Might as well. As a master, I’m assuming he’s weak. If I can disable his servant and scare him enough, that will be the end of him and one part of the competition.’

                Saber nodded, adjusting a bit of her dress.

                ‘Saber,’ Rin decided she wanted to change the subject, fatigued from a day of investigative thinking and fighting. She also didn’t want to think about Sakura more; it always upset her for so many reasons. ‘Did you want to take a bath?’

                ‘I-it’s not necessary for a servant to do so, truly. The contract between us allows me to siphon the appropriate amount of magic to conceptually cleanse my body; much like the healing process, I suppose. Technically, we servants do not need to even eat, in a sense, although it is certainly more pleasurable than sustaining ourselves through the links created with our master…’

                ‘Then I will assume taking a bath would be more pleasurable than letting magic remove any bodily odour.’

                ‘I suppose…’

                ‘It’s likely better for the skin as well.’

                ‘That does not matter to me…’

                Rin smiled, uncrossing her legs and moving toward her servant. Saber’s eyes widened slightly, her mouth tightening and her entire body stiffening awkwardly. Yet she did nothing as Rin took hold of the string holding the corset piece of her dress tight around her toned form.

                ‘Shall I help you, Arturia-san?’

                Rin felt the magical circuits forged between her and Saber surge, a spark of energy flowing through her veins at the sudden intimacy. So, it wasn’t a fluke before? This was a preliminary act that led into an ancient form of ritual between two individuals. Rin attempted to keep her own face from flushing too much as she undid the knot on Saber’s dress and watched the blue layer slacken slightly, the white blouse underneath becoming dishevelled.

                ‘No.’ Saber suddenly grabbed Rin’s arm and removed it from her safety net. ‘I will not decline your offer to bathe, but I am capable of doing so without assistance.’

                Rin almost backed off, but the fact Saber had let her get so far meant there was hesitation. Was this worth pursuing? It all depended upon the strength of the other masters. Rin had confidence in Saber, that much was true, but Berserker could be real trouble, and this may be the only way to guarantee a more evenly matched fight.

                ‘I know you are, Saber, but you are a king, and it is only natural for the king to be pampered by his servants.’ Rin stepped into Saber’s zone once again, the closeness of their two bodies heating the small space of air between them.

                ‘You…have it wrong, Master. That is no longer who I am. I am but a spectre of myself. This existence is a temporary one. Best not tease me into thinking otherwise. It will only end in tragedy.’

                Rin swallowed at this harsh truth, but stubbornly placed her hand upon Saber’s waist and moved even closer so that their breasts just barely touched, Rin being slightly taller than her proud servant.

                ‘You feel real enough to me.’ She breathed, leaning into Saber’s ear and brushing it with her lips.

                Expectantly, Saber retreated, practically dashing across the room to the washroom. She kept her face hidden, and held her dress together as she spoke.

                ‘I do not know if such closeness is common between young women of your age, but please, do not involve me in anything of the like again, Master. It does not make me comfortable.’

                ‘Did you dislike it?’ Rin continued, her ears burning and heart hammering.

                ‘It is not appropriate or the time. We are in the middle of a war. Any feelings I have are locked away to better prepare myself for what is to come. I consider you a good master, but that is all.’

                ‘I consider you a friend at this point, Saber.’ Rin returned quickly.

                ‘T-that…’ Saber hesitated, still standing next to the washroom. ‘I will be in the bath!’

                The moment the door shut behind her servant, Rin fell into one of her pieces of furniture and covered her face, the steam from her quickened pulse nearly flowing into the ceiling. She had never, never acted in such a way before; let alone to another girl! What was she thinking? What was she doing? How could she even consider…? What if Saber took the rhetorical words to heart and initiated something more than intended? Yet, that was the final goal, wasn’t it? To become even more compatible with one another, and to unlock any unused magical circuits, the mana transfer ritual demanded two individuals to…!

                Rin screamed into a pillow, waiting for her heart to slow before emerging and staring at her ceiling once more.

                Saber was gorgeous. It wouldn’t be such a bad thing, would it? There was something masculine about Saber’s presence, although she could be just as feminine in the same breath. What an enigma of a servant.

                Rin sat up straight, her heart leaping again.

                Did this mean she was bisexual? She didn’t have any qualms about fantasizing being with men, but the thought of making love with Saber didn’t revolt her either. How bizarre. She had no idea until this moment. Rin had been so completely focused on preparing for a war; she had never allowed herself to even flirt with anybody seriously, despite the constant confessions of love from many a male classmate. Now, of all times, during that very war she was in preparation for, Rin had finally begun to question her personal desires relationally?

                It was nearly ironic. Rin had to laugh inwardly.

                Still, now that she was on the wavelength, Rin couldn’t help imagining what Saber looked like without any clothes on. She wore so many layers of armour that the thought was tantalizing, and it stirred something in Rin’s bowels that made her anxious.

                It wasn’t the time. Not now. Perhaps…perhaps…

 

                Rin left a housecoat and a pair of her pajamas on a small table just outside of the washroom for Saber before she went to her room and changed into her own sleepwear and lounging robe. She stood outside upon a small balcony and stared off into the distance of Fuyuki City. The lights and sounds of the night life calmed Rin to an extent, almost convincing her that she wasn’t in a war that had a multitude of masters after her. She could only hope she wasn’t being targeted right this moment, because she supposed being exposed as such wasn’t her most brilliant plan. However, this calm she felt couldn’t be replaced, and she needed to see that life went on around her. She wasn’t the centre of the universe. It was sad but hopeful at once.

                Rin shifted her gaze to that of Ryuudou Temple. She had little doubt that the woman Shirou had mentioned was involved in the Grail War somehow. After dealing with Shinji, she would set her sights on that temple and its surrounding area if no other leads had come about. Berserker would be dealt with last. Perhaps Rin would then recruit the help of Shirou and Archer to ultimately take the monster down before performing a proper duel between Saber and Archer. It would be the honourable and most clean cut way of doing things, but Rin had heavy doubts that dictated her logical side to contribute to the scenario and ensure her nothing would go smoothly in this war.

                ‘May I come in, Master?’ Saber’s voice broke Rin’s thoughts, sending a chill through her spine.

                ‘Of course.’ Rin breathed, trying her best to not sound flustered. She could hear Saber carefully step across her room’s floor before she too was on the small balcony, the freshness from her shower prevalent alongside some appealing scents Rin had purchased herself.

                ‘This is a calming location.’ Saber said simply, standing close, although not relaxed.

                ‘I think so. Good thing we have a cease fire with Archer, because I’m sure he could easily take me out right here from halfway across the city if he so desired.’

                ‘With me close by, that would not come to pass.’

                Rin almost swooned. This was the nearly masculine side of Saber she had thought of earlier. Images passed through Rin’s mind that were girlish at best, and she willed them away with a small shake of her head.

                ‘Not while you were in the bath.’ Rin joked, which made Saber speechless for a time.

                ‘Master…’ Saber soon started, her tone softened and comfortably familiar. ‘You do everything for a reason, and I must ask what were you attempting to accomplish downstairs? Were you merely seeking amusement at my own expense, knowing my…my sexual experience is rather lacking?’

                Rin did not know this, in fact. She had suspicions, but…

                ‘What about Guinevere?’

                Saber almost giggled at this.

                ‘I told you, did I not? She was a figurehead at most. We were hardly even friends. She and my best knight, Lancelot, were in love. It was strangely painful, but in the end, I was pleased I could contribute to their happiness.’

                Just as the legends told…somewhat.

                ‘I see…But didn’t you…?’

                ‘I am quite a virgin, in a manner of speaking, if you must know. So, when you tease me, as you did not that long ago, I am reminded of many things linked with that fact that I would rather not consider further.’

                ‘Have you ever kissed anyone before?’

                ‘Stop it.’

                ‘Oh, my gosh! Not even that!?’

                ‘Master.’ Saber’s voice turned painful, and Rin instantly retracted any further prying. How could one person live their life in such a way? Especially someone as mystifying as Arturia Pendragon?

                ‘That doesn’t make sense to me.’ Rin shook her head, trying to make Saber feel a little better.

                ‘The life of a king is a life of solitude. I found true friendship in Lancelot…or so I had thought, but beyond that, I gave up my personal life for the life of a ruler. There is no middle ground. I died fighting to save my country. I failed. I failed everyone.’

                Rin heard the quiver in Saber’s last word, so she kept her eyes away, not wanting to insult her servant by staring at possible tears.

                ‘And thus, the grail, right?’

                ‘Yes. The grail. It will allow me to fix the mistakes I made. I distanced myself from everyone and everything, thinking it the most honourable and fair route for a ruler. It was ultimately my undoing. No matter how much strength and prowess with Excalibur I wielded, I was still very much alone, and that is why my country fell. It is my lifelong regret. So strong is my desire to change my past that I have been summoned twice into this war over the grail.’

                ‘I see…’

                ‘I know it is borderline foolhardy, but it is the only way I can move on. I can’t stop thinking about the tragedy that befell my kingdom because of my ignorance.’

                ‘It is foolish to want to change the past, but I can understand your reasoning too.’ Rin paused, taking in some of the cool night’s air and continuing on. ‘That being said, you can’t shoulder everything on your own. Being a martyr isn’t the only way to forgiveness.’

                ‘But if the opportunity presents itself, I cannot turn a blind eye.’

                ‘I suppose. At least it’s a somewhat noble cause to fight. You want to save those you couldn’t…and yourself.’

                Saber didn’t respond to the comment directly, but Rin had a feeling she had hit the nail on the head.

                ‘I did not think I would reveal my motives to you so quickly. You put me at ease, Master. You are a kindred spirit that I am honoured to serve…even if you enjoy causing me internal panic at times.’

                Both girls laughed, but then Rin put her hand on top of Saber’s upon the balcony.

                ‘I’m not sure about just teasing you, Saber…’ She said in a different tone before releasing the touch and exiting the room while adding, ‘I’m going to prepare for bed. If the last couple of days are any indication, we will likely be busy tomorrow. At least the weekend is coming.’

                Saber touched her hand and watched her master leave, making observations unbeknownst to her even then.

Chapter Text

 

                Ideally Rin wanted the war over with by the end of the weekend. She knew she was being a little ambitious, but it would be so nice to go back to a regular lifestyle. Even getting to school had become a test of her anxiety. It was unlikely for a master to attack in broad daylight with so many witnesses around, but that didn’t mean they wouldn’t. Rin would be dead either way; even if the church reprimands the assailant. Fortunately, Saber was ever vigilant, hardly leaving Rin’s side. It was a little difficult that Saber couldn’t go into her astral form like the other servants, but simply having such a class as her servant was good enough for Rin to look past the minor inconvenience.  

                ‘The plan is to potentially deal with this Shinji character today, correct?’ Saber decided to speak into Rin’s mind once they were about a block from school.

                ‘Yes. He is likely the weakest of the masters. I don’t think it is wrong to at least confirm some details about him as an opponent.’

                ‘I see. Be on guard.’

                ‘Of course.’

                Saber separated from her master, as she had done the day before, and Rin finally made it to the gate, noting that her two friends, Kane and Keade, were once again waiting for her. She put on her most convincing smile, and approached them with a wave, maintaining her natural elegance.

                ‘Good morning, ladies. It’s rare to see you both waiting here at the gate like this.’

                Kane’s expression didn’t change much, but she managed a small smile while Kaede did most of the talking, as was common.

                ‘Oh, Rin-chan, Rin-chan, Rin-chan. You are one popular gal.’

                ‘Pardon?’ Rin cocked her head, feeling her heart skip slightly.

                ‘Sakura-chan is not happy with you. At least, that’s what I think.’

                ‘Because of yesterday?’ Rin knew there was a chance Shirou’s public display of idiocy could cause her minor annoyances, but this was ridiculous.

                ‘Yup. She was super quiet with us when we all said good morning to her. She was staying pretty close to Emiya-kun, too.’

                ‘So, this is all conjecture.’ Rin almost sighed, but stayed true to the character she had built.

                ‘M-maybe. But since when is Sakura-chan anything but polite? It’s weird. You should maybe say something to her. There’s nothing going on between you and Emiya-kun, right?’

                Rin wanted to vomit. She liked Shirou enough, and maybe admired him in a completely bizarre way, but she had no feelings for the boy beyond that. She hoped her facial features expressed as much.

                ‘Absolutely not. I don’t have time for romance at the moment.’

                Kaede and Kane looked to one another.

                ‘Are you sure?’ Kane’s softer voice entered.

                ‘Yes, I’m sure. Emiya-kun is a nice guy, but I do not like him.’

                Both girls nodded to one another, seemingly convinced.

                Such trifle matters. Saber would have likely said. It was true at this point.

                ‘I know.’ Rin said aloud. Her two friends looked at her questioningly, but she waved it off with a laugh. ‘I know…um…it might have seemed that way, but really, I will talk to Sakura-chan.’

                ‘Good idea.’ Keade nodded vigorously.

                ‘Oh! Also, someone saw Shinji-kun hanging around your locker…alone! You think he’s finally going to do it proper this time?’ Kane brightened up, fixing her circular glasses mischievously.

                ‘I can only hope, because maybe then he will finally take the hint.’

 

                ‘So? So? So?’ Kaede leaned over Rin’s shoulder as she extracted a letter from her locker.

                ‘Give her space, Kaede-chan.’ Kane mumbled, although she too was quite close.

                ‘It says, “Meet me at lunch on the roof. Shinji Matou”.’ Rin read aloud, not caring to hide the contents.

                ‘He’s totally going to ask you out! What are you going to say?’

                ‘I’ll give you one guess.’ Rin scrunched up the paper and tossed it into the trash.

                ‘Really? He isn’t unattractive though.’ Kane continued quietly.

                ‘That’s debatable, but what isn’t up for discussion is his arrogance, cruelty, and disregard for anyone else’s emotions beside his own. I have no tolerance for an individual like him. I will be kind, but I will not leave any room for doubt.’

 

                ‘Is that a common practise in this day and age? It seems almost primitive.’ Saber distracted Rin during her homeroom class. How she managed to get close enough to the school to communicate mentally was curious, but Rin couldn’t say she minded. Saber’s intrigue was charming though, and Rin was already too distant from reality to care overly much about the current lesson.

                ‘Mostly, yes. It isn’t unheard of, that’s for sure. I am surprised that Matou-kun would use such a tactic, so I can only assume it has something to do with the Grail War. He is saving me some effort, which is welcome.’

                ‘Do you believe he will reveal himself as a master to you?

                ‘I have little doubt. Perhaps he will also be looking to form some sort of truce with me. I will do my best not to laugh.’

                ‘This seems unnaturally mean for you, Master.’

                ‘Trust me, you’ll agree with how I view this particular cockroach. Besides the glorious traits I mentioned earlier, there are also rumours in constant circulation that he is abusive to Sakura; my sister.

                Saber didn’t reply immediately, but when she did, her tone had changed from curious to agitated.

                ‘Any man willing to raise a hand against a woman, much less his sister, does not deserve the treatment a fellow human should be allowed.’

                ‘My thoughts exactly.’

 

                Lunchtime finally came, and Rin separated from her classmates and friends in order to make her way to the rooftop. She felt her nerves stand on end, but she replaced any fear with the confidence as a competent mage, trained from childhood. There was no way Shinji could be as capable as she. He didn’t have the discipline or talent. The whole reason the Matous took Sakura in was because their family’s bloodline was thinning from the purity found in the last remaining great houses of mage craft. Rin had read cryptic passages suggesting a highly unnatural way to which the Matou family enhanced their magical talent, and such underhanded tactics must finally have caught up to the once feared name.

                ‘It was a couple in my neighbourhood.’

                ‘Yeah? We only had some office worker go down nearby.’

                ‘I heard there are about 50 victims now.’

                ‘Do they have any idea what’s causing the collapses?’

                ‘Probably something in the air. People are starting to wear masks.’

                ‘Maybe I should grab one on my way home.’

                ‘I’ll go with you. It’s getting bad…’

                Rin slowed her pace, listening in on the gossip between two female classmates and a male. It was another servant at work. It had to be. The timing was too perfect. Was it the same one who had been draining the school? Possibly, although the cases had some discrepancies. The collapsed victims were somewhat randomized, whereas the draining magic net cast over the school centralized a set location for siphoning.

                ‘One thing at a time, Master.’ Saber spoke into Rin’s brain, sensing the stress building in her master’s mind.

                ‘Thank-you, Saber. You’re right. Be ready, but don’t show yourself yet. I’d rather Matou-san believe that you can, in actual fact, take on an astral form.’

                ‘…Yes. That makes sense.’

                Rin made it to the top of the stairs and exited through the door leading to the roof. It was getting chilly out, so few students used the location anymore for lunches or hanging out. Under better weather conditions, however, the roof was quite popular; especially considering its size.

                ‘I was waiting for you, Rin-chan.’ Shinji peeled himself away from the shadow cast by some sort of storage unit across the way. His arms were crossed, and his hair seemed a little messier than usual. He also looked tired; very tired.

                ‘I should hope so since you invited me here. And it’s Tohsaka-san, Matou-kun.’

                ‘Don’t get sassy with me, Rin-chan. I’m here to benefit both of us.’

                ‘How so?’ Rin allowed Shinji one more second of feeling as though he were in control. It was the least she could do. His world was about to come tumbling down.

                ‘I’m giving you the opportunity to work with me to win the grail war.’

                So, it was as she thought. How Shinji knew Rin was a master somewhat baffled her. It was possible Zoken had begun playing a hand in this battle as well. If that was the case, Shinji could be more of a threat than Rin gave him credit for.

                ‘There can only be one winner.’ Rin shrugged, noting Shinji approaching her.

               

Do not reveal yourself unless necessary, Saber.’

                ‘…Understood, Master.’

 

                ‘Well, naturally it shall be me. But the king who takes a sip from the holy cup needs a queen, doesn’t he? I’m willing to let bygones be bygones and overlook your rude behaviour toward me from the past if you accept the hand being offered to you now.’

                Shinji was now a mere foot and a bit away from Rin. She could clearly see the dark circle under his eyes and the unleashed madness within his pupils. She hadn’t really noted it before, assuming it only to be one of their class’s textbooks, but Rin realized Shinji was holding some sort of tome with obvious magic circles upon it. There was ancient writing alongside those circles, but Rin couldn’t read such text while it was so far away.

                ‘I will have to decline. I will win the war on my own terms.’

                ‘But you’re a mere woman. You would do much better riding the coattail of a much more capable being, such as myself.’

‘I have been in preparation for this war since I could read. Tell me, Matou-kun, how much magic do you know? Care to try me?’ Rin leaned in close, not breaking her gaze with the cowardice before her. Shinji’s lip twitched, cracking into a maniac smile.

                ‘S-so that’s your answer, huh? I give you a chance to be my woman and be placed at the right hand of an upcoming god and this is how you answer me? I thought you wiser than that, Rin-chan.’

                ‘Evidently you truly feel lost in this war if you’re desperate enough to beg.’

                Shinji’s eyes widened, and his hand went up, fist clenched and intent obvious.

 

                ‘Hold, Saber.’

                ‘…Master?

               

                Shinji’s fist came flying down, aimed for Rin’s head, but Rin took hold of the coward’s arm, twisting it so that Shinji had no choice but to yield and collapse to his knees backward. A splash of magic dusted off of Rin’s arm, her physical prowess increased by the concentrated circulation of her mana flow. Rin did not like Kirei Kotomine very much, but she couldn’t deny the benefits of his tutoring in the ways of magic control in physical combat.

                Unfortunately, Rin saw white a second later, feeling the pain of her face smashing into the concrete and the rest of her soon being pulled by the ankle, flying off the roof of the school’s building and freefalling to the ground. It all happened instantly, Rin having barely any time to react.

                ‘Say…ber…’ She gurgled.

Just seconds before crashing into the hard ground at the side of her school, Rin felt a jarring impact on her body once again, shifting her momentum and dragging her off into some woods just off the parameter of Homurahara’s private property.

 

                ‘Master? Master! Are you okay?’

                Saber’s voice came in echoes, Rin’s head still spinning and the taste of blood in her mouth making her cough. Her face felt mauled, bruises immediately forming on her chin and forehead. Rin wanted to tell Saber she was fine, but she couldn’t get the words out. Was she falling unconscious? The world was a haze.

                ‘I’m so sorry, Master. I’m…’

                A water droplet fell upon Rin’s face. She reached up and touched Saber’s cheek, trying to smile.

                ‘It’s…fine. I’m just a little…shaken up. I’ll be okay in a second.’ Rin grasped her magic and redirected its attention to emergency healing conditions. Her head was the primary objective. She could hardly think clearly and form words. She worried some damage was done to her brain. It was almost panic-inducing. She hadn’t hit the ground after falling from the roof, but she hadn’t landed in pillows either. Saber must’ve saved her, but whatever had pulled her off in the first place was…

                The trees around Saber and Rin moved rampantly, an enormous gust of wind pushing their girth every which way to create a foreboding atmosphere of danger.

                ‘We are not alone…’ Saber stood up right just in time to deflect an attack from somewhere within the brush of the tree’s leaves. Rin began moving against her will once more, a tight pulling breaking into her ankle. She grabbed at the earth in an effort to slow her unwilling progress, but all that did was dirty her nails terribly.

                Rin finally heard something that put some pieces into place: chains.

                Saber was by her master’s side in another instant, slashing at the air with perfect precision near Rin’s possessed foot, a loud clanking indicating something being broken. A silver chain with a sharp knife on the end appeared, the other half of the piece retracting almost faster than the naked eye could follow.

                ‘Assassin?’ Saber looked about the trees, expecting another attack from any angle.

                ‘Seems that way…’ Rin groaned, her recovery happening slower than she would like, but allowing her to at least think somewhat straight now. She stayed on the ground, knowing it would make her somewhat more difficult to target with Saber so close.

                Once again, the blade came, but Saber was prepared, hearing the chain a split second before the attack appeared. It was all the master swordswoman needed. She easily swatted the thing away, pivoting to her right in order to counter yet another chained dagger. She did so with minimal movement, displaying her grace for whatever unfortunate servant had decided to confront her.

                This did not deter the assailant’s strategy, however.

                The trees moved with more intensity, their merging of branches and discoloured leaves making it nearly impossible to track the being hidden within them. Daggers on chains began pouring from every which way, the sheer volume and rate of the attack seemingly impossible for one servant alone to enact without it perhaps being some sort of noble phantasm. Saber defended herself and Rin valiantly, but Rin could tell her presence was a handicap with the way Saber had to lunge to parry some of the more difficulty placed strikes.

                With a sudden howl and extreme movement by Saber, however, all the attacks were repelled at once, a golden light flashing for but a second as Saber threw her blade in a wide arc that emitted a wave of magic so dense that it acted as another movement of cold, ancient steel tempered to perfection. Within that moment of recovery from Saber’s attack, something burst through the clearing, and it was all Rin could do to notify her servant in time.

                ‘There…!’ She hollered with a rasp in her voice.

                Saber might have seen it coming, or her reflexes simply were god-like, for the King of Knights managed to fend off the sudden attempt at her throat, the invisible blade in Saber’s hand nicking her attacker’s flesh, leaving a spray of blood in its wake. This evasion could only be considered a small victory, because Saber hastily realized she herself wasn’t the target whatsoever. A fairly tall woman with incredibly long, violet-toned hair and a pink bondage seal across her eyes now held Rin tight, one of her daggers at the master’s throat. The servant wore a skin-tight, short black dress, her figure imposing with its curvaceous, athletic build leaving little to the imagination. The wind took hold of the opponent’s mane and tossed it about as though snakes enveloped her entire being.

                Rin struggled, but she was too weakened to pull anything off. That, and the servant restricted her tightly, the grip alone likely cutting off blood circulation with every passing second. Rin’s mouth was gagged by a chain, the rest of her body properly entangled in a none-too-subtly erotic fashion. The cold metal pressed up in between her legs and pressed her breasts together uncomfortably.

                Saber lowered her blade, lifting one hand up and speaking slowly.

                ‘Let her go.’

                The servant didn’t respond, her breath brushing against Rin’s neck, but nothing more.

                ‘Please.’ Saber begged. She couldn’t read her opponent at all. With eyes hidden and no intonation to work with, Saber could only guess how much she was being toyed with in this moment. Would Assassin wait until just enough hope was built inside Saber to make a brutal, vicious death all the more dramatic? Saber had seen it before. People were cruel. People could be heartless. People hurt each other.

                Maybe that was why she found herself valuing Rin so much in such a short period of time. There was a sincere bond; above and beyond that of the master and servant pact.

                ‘Please…’ Saber asked again, forcing her armour to disappear to further prove how far she was willing to go.

                Rin’s eyes widened, and she struggled more, her voice a disgusting gurgle under the pressure she experienced. For Saber to lower her head like this…it wasn’t right! Not for her. Not for a master that couldn’t prevent such a ridiculous scenario. Rin had to do something; anything! She didn’t want to lose yet! It was too early! She hadn’t even begun to live yet! And she just met Saber…! What about Sakura…? There was too much…!

                ‘Now, why the hell would we do something like that, huh?’ Shinji’s voice came into the clearing suddenly, his obnoxious figure stepping in beside his servant. ‘It just wouldn’t make sense! We have you both exactly where we want you. It was just too easy!’ Shinji cackled, clapping his hands together and breathing horrendously.

                ‘Why do you wait? Why hesitate?’ Saber hissed.

                Shinji grinned crazily, stepping past Rin and spinning to her other side, cupping her face in his hand and pressing his cheek next to hers. The disgust on Rin’s face was as plain as day, but that didn’t stop Shinji from enjoying the moment.

                ‘Why? Why wouldn’t I play with my new toy? Rin-chan is useless to me dead. Someone’s got to learn her place!’ And Shinji slapped Rin as hard as he appeared capable of, the rage prominent in his final word and erratic behaviour.

                ‘Fiend!’ Saber screamed.

                ‘Oh, I’m sorry, Rin-chan. Oh, God, I’m so sorry.’ Shinji almost sounded sincere. It made his acting all the more terrifying. He gently brought Rin’s wheezing face next to his and licked where he had just struck, lingering his wet tongue at the end before gripping her breast and squeezing it so tight that Rin couldn’t help but screech, her eyes watering.

                ‘See? I can give pain as well as pleasure!’

                ‘You…!’ Saber crunched her teeth so hard together she thought she heard them crack. ‘You have no honour!’

                ‘Honour!? The two fucks I give about honour? This is my time now! I’m going to be the king of this pathetic world!’

                A fury rose in Saber she hadn’t experienced in a very long time.

                ‘Let her go, or you will regret it, I swear upon the power that binds me.’

                ‘No! I make the demands!’ Shinji ripped the bottom of Rin’s shirt, buttons popping out from both her vest and blouse, in order to make his point. ‘You get on your hands and knees and beg if you want me to even think about listening to a word a lowly servant like you has to say!’

                Rin made more noise than she had before, going so far as to try and say something. Her struggle was in vain though, and the fact she was capable of such sound made Saber realize how much her master was enduring. She had to do something! If only her noble phantasm wasn’t so powerful. If only she could use a minimized version of it. Perhaps, if she concentrated enough energy…but then Rin might be done with. She had no choice. She had to stall until a better plan presented itself.

                Saber placed one knee down and then the other, slowly getting on all fours before bowing low, nearly kissing the grass in front of her nose.

                Rin made more sound, but Shinji’s laughter overruled it.

                ‘You see? You see? This is your current state of affairs! No matter how “great” you were in the past, I am the master here. You bow down to me! With these command seals, I can make my servant do whatever I want! Anything! With your master’s life in my hands, I can make you do whatever I want!’ Shinji licked his lips.

                ‘Let her go.’ Saber muttered dangerously.

                ‘Shut up!’ And Shinji went to kick Saber, his servant seeming to say something finally before his foot was caught and he was on the ground, the air knocked out of his lungs and a harsh gasp escaping his mouth. Saber moved like the wind, slashing at Assassin but only cutting the shadow of her presence. Shinji and his servant were gone in a flash, with Rin discarded upon the earth, left to deal with the injury inflicted on her person.

                Saber rushed to her master, kneeling next to her and observing the damage done. She knew something was wrong when Rin didn’t say anything, opting to simply rub her mouth and messily tuck her school uniform into her skirt.

                ‘Master…Are you alright?’

                Rin nodded slowly, her blue eyes unfocussed but narrowed.

                ‘I am sorry. I am so sorry. Assassin specializes in stealth attacks. I never expected such a daring move. Even with my abilities, it was barely possible to register before the deed was done. I…’

                Rin lifted up a hand, practically commanding Saber to be quiet for but a moment.

                ‘You were brilliant, Saber. You…didn’t have to bow to him like that. I was the burden. How could I…?’ Rin bit at her lip angrily, her pride and overconfidence shaken. It was a moment of vulnerability that she would have never been able to show her father. He would have shaken it off. He would have moved forward, planning his next attack. Yet she…she felt disgusting.

                ‘A small thing such as that is a little price to pay for your extended safety, Master.’

                ‘Your honour is everything to you. I compromised that…’

                Rin felt a hand on her shoulder and then a soft touch to the cheek Shinji had struck and licked. Saber wiped it almost fiercely, wetting her thumb and then cleaning once more.

                ‘Honour means nothing if those who are important are hurt in the process of maintaining it. We have only known one another for a short period of time, Master, but I hold you in a high place already.’

                Rin smiled subtly, averting her eyes and staring at the ground. She picked at some grass, allowing her body to cool from the embarrassment and fury she felt threatening to make her do horrible things.

                ‘Thank-you, Saber…’

                ‘It is my honour.’ Saber said with absolute resolve.

                Rin’s heart skipped, and she suddenly became aware of how dishevelled she was.

                ‘I must look terrible.’

                ‘How many times must I repeat myself?’ Saber sighed, picking up her master as though she were her princess and holding her tight. ‘You are quite possibly one of the fairest maidens I have ever laid eyes on.’

                And they were gone.

Chapter Text

 

                ‘I can’t believe I was nearly defeated by Matou-kun! Matou-kun!’ Rin yelled, staring at her somewhat battered face in the mirror and applying some modern medicine to hopefully speed up the healing process she had already assisted. Considering what she had been through, Rin couldn’t complain too terribly. Her nose was internally bruised, her mouth and lips had some cuts and discolouration, and her cheek was slightly swollen, but other than that, she felt as though she had gotten out of a fairly awful situation with minimal damage. Thank goodness she could hasten the healing process somewhat through her minimal knowledge of the healing arts.

                Upon returning to her manor, Rin had allowed herself some rest, even if it wasn’t exactly easy to fall asleep completely. It was now after dinner, and she had to get right back into the field.

                ‘He was much more conniving than thought initially?’

                ‘Matou-kun thinks with his groin; that’s it. His servant must’ve helped him think up the attack. It was too well executed for him.’

                ‘Perhaps. His servant wasn’t especially strong, from what I could tell, but she could maneuver competently enough.’

                ‘So I could see.’

                ‘Still…’ Saber remained just outside the washroom where Rin worked, standing at ready. ‘You seem to be handling the entirety of that rather traumatic experience quite well. I doubt most young women would react like you are now.’

                Rin paused for a moment, hesitation clear in her presentation.

                ‘It’s not that I enjoyed it. It’s just…you were there. I didn’t feel totally threatened at all. I knew that, as long as you were breathing, there was likely a way out.’

                ‘I…I see.’ Saber held back a big smile.

                ‘I am a little shaken up, but I don’t have time to be distracted. Matou-kun knows where I live. I have to take care of him tonight.’

                ‘Tonight?’            

                ‘Yes. I don’t have a choice. We need to deal with his servant and then force him to give his command seals to me. It’s the best way. Saber, do you think you can defeat Assassin?’

                ‘Of course.’

                ‘Good. Then all I have to do is find out what plans Matou-kun has tonight and corner him.’

                ‘That seems rash.’

                ‘It is, but better I take the initiative than wait for him to come after us again.’ Rin began changing. She put on a sweater with shorts and her favourite thigh-highs. She then went back to the washroom and began applying make-up in order to hide her injuries enough so that they weren’t terribly obvious.

                ‘You will interrogate Sakura-san?’

                ‘I should apologize to her anyway. I’ll be taking care of two birds with one stone. I need you to change as well though, Saber. You’ll be accompanying me in person tonight. It’s better I travel with someone physically present than not at this point.’

                ‘I understand, but…change?’

                ‘Yep. Don’t worry,’ Rin smiled, placing a baseball cap on her head and grinning. ‘We don’t have to look nice or anything. I don’t want to draw any attention.’

                ‘Aren’t there devices that allow you to contact someone wirelessly?’

                ‘Well, yes, but I think this conversation requires something of a personal touch. First, I need to know if Sakura is at Emiya-kun’s or not. For that I’ll use a cell phone. Just pick out whatever you want to wear from my closet while I call.’

                ‘You have his contact information?’

                ‘Yes. Emiya-kun and I have spoken before, and he is always looking to help others out, so he insisted I have his number quite some time ago. I don’t dislike him either, so I accepted his offer, naturally. But I didn’t think he…’

                ‘You didn’t suspect he cared so deeply for you?’

                ‘…Pretty much.’

                ‘I can understand his fixation. You are quite the charmer.’

                ‘I don’t do it on purpose! Mostly…’

                Saber laughed to herself and then departed into Rin’s room to select an outfit while Rin found Shirou’s contact card and selected the “call” option. It took nearly six rings before Shirou, thankfully, picked up.

                “Tohsaka-san?”

                “Good evening, Emiya-kun.”

                “Are you okay? I almost wanted to check on you, but Sakura-san insisted that you were probably fine, but…well…you know.”

                “I do. I am okay. Is Matou-san still there?”

                “S-she’s not here all the time, you know.”

                “Fine. Is she there though?”

                “...Yes. She’s in the kitchen with Fuji-nee, cleaning up the dinner dishes.”

                “Will she be there much longer?”

                “Not much longer. She usually heads out pretty soon after we eat. She seems especially hesitant today.”

                “Okay. Thank-you, Emiya-kun.”

                “No problem. Um…are you doing okay? Did something happen? Apparently you disappeared halfway through the day.”

                “I don’t have time to talk. I’ll see you in a bit.”

                “Real -- ”

                Rin hung up and found Saber in a lose-fitting white blouse, beige shorts, and black leggings.

                ‘You look cute.’ Rin complimented without thinking. Saber could be just an ordinary school girl when she wasn’t wearing her armour and wielding a sword against hordes of demonic undead. It seemed almost like a waste.

                ‘That wasn’t my intention.’

                ‘You can’t help your natural appearance.’

                Saber flushed, glancing to either side of herself.

                ‘You flatter me…’

 

                After a quick cab ride, Rin and Saber stood in front of Shirou’s enormous place. It was quite infamous that he lived there, and Rin was thankful for that since it made finding Sakura that much easier. Without even ringing the doorbell, or anything of the like on Rin’s part, Sakura exited the building saying goodbye to Shirou and Taiga, Shirou’s homeroom teacher and close friend of the family, apparently.

                ‘Oh!’ Sakura blinked, evidently shocked that Rin had come as quickly as she did.

                ‘That was fast!’ Shirou commented, coming outside.

                ‘Whoa! What’s Tohsaka-chan doing here? You messing with another virtuous maiden’s heart, Shirou-kun? And who’s the blonde beauty? A foreigner?’ Taiga elbowed her student lovingly.

                ‘No, no. Tohsaka-san just wants to talk to Sakura-san. And that’s…um…’

                ‘Her name is Arturia, and she is my cousin, twice removed, on my mother’s side.’

                ‘Whoa! Your family really extends out there, huh, Tohsaka-chan?’

                ‘Enough, Fuji-nee; you’re making her uncomfortable.’ Shirou tried to calm his teacher, although their relationship was obviously very casual outside of school. ‘Did you two want to come in? It’s a little chilly.’

                ‘No, thank-you. I’ll walk you home, Sakura-san.’ Rin looked directly at Sakura, but the gaze wasn’t returned. The quiet jealousy was too clear, and Rin wanted to dispel it as soon as possible.

                ‘T-thank-you…’ Sakura could only reply without coming across as completely rude.

                ‘Be careful.’ Shirou warned as he and Taiga waved goodbye. Only Rin and Saber knew exactly what he meant. Shirou surely wanted to accompany the girls, but even he could tell when an important conversation needed to occur.

               

                Rin thought it would be easy to deal with Sakura, but the heavy silence that hung over them was thick and repelling. Nonetheless, Rin couldn’t allow her personal feelings to threaten the ultimate goal. She sucked in some air quickly, and did what she could to handle the situation at hand.

                ‘There is nothing going on between Emiya-kun and I, Sakura-san.’

                ‘…Pardon?’

                ‘I’m not sure if you’re under the wrong impression, but I barely even know Emiya-kun.’

                ‘Oh…’ Sakura answered absently. ‘He seems to think highly of you though…’

                ‘I can’t help that. Just know that I’m absolutely not interested. I know you have feelings for him, and I would never betray that knowledge.’

                ‘…Thank-you.’ Sakura’s voice almost returned to normal. ‘I don’t want to be a burden to him, but sometimes…I just don’t want to go home.’

                Rin’s lip twitched. She didn’t want to know why. She prayed her guesses were wrong.

                ‘Emiya-kun appreciates you, so I’m sure it’s not a problem.’

                ‘I know. But…I don’t think he’ll ever look at me the way he does you.’

                Rin sighed.

                ‘Then maybe you should show a little more confidence.’          

                ‘Confidence…?’

                ‘You’re better than you think, Sakura-san. You’re pretty, you’re considerate, you’re graceful, and…you have enormous breasts. Seriously; it’s ridiculous.’

                ‘W-what!?’

                ‘Guys love big boobs. Maybe accidentally graze Emiya-kun’s arm with them or something.’ Rin was trying to make Sakura laugh, and although she hid her face, Rin could tell her sister was smiling amidst the fluster. ‘If that doesn’t work, then try giving him a little eyeful when you bend over to grab a dish, you know? Play up your assets.’

                ‘I-I could never do that!’

                ‘Just try it. Honestly. Emiya-kun probably sees you as a sister more than a potential girlfriend, and that’s a problem if you want more out of him. You have to show him that you are a desirable lady. He already knows you’re a nice girl; now show him a little naughty to round it all out. Emiya-kun needs a strong, confident woman. He’s too wishy-washy socially. There has to be a balance.’

                ‘M-maybe you’re right.’ Sakura looked down at her chest and blinked a couple of times. ‘Hm.’

                ‘When was the last time you could see your feet anyway?’ Rin added, glad the ice was melting. She wanted this. She wanted to be with her sister so desperately. She wanted to share secrets and support one another like this. Instead, Sakura was forced to live with strangers who misused and possibly even abused her. It made Rin sick.

                ‘Stop it.’ Sakura giggled. She then muffled her laughing abruptly and changed the conversation completely, apparently content with where it had ended. ‘I’m so sorry for not introducing myself, Arturia-san. I’m Sakura Matou. It’s a pleasure to meet you.’

                Saber nodded, not minding watching Rin interact so openly with her sister. It was a little envy-inducing, but Saber had to understand that her place wasn’t on earth. There was no point in getting attached; that is, more attached.

                ‘The pleasure is mine, Matou-san.’

                ‘Oh, Sakura is fine. It’s easier since my brother and I are siblings.’ Sakura took Saber’s hand, and they both shared a small moment before releasing. ‘So, you’re related to Rin-san?’

                ‘Loosely, yes.’

                ‘That’s amazing that you have natural blonde hair. You look foreign too. Your Japanese is quite good though.’

                ‘I studied it thoroughly.’

                ‘You’re…very pretty, if you do not mind me saying so.’

                ‘I appreciate the compliment.’

                ‘My! So formal.’

                ‘Yeah, we’re working on that.’ Rin sighed, patting Saber’s shoulder.

                ‘It’s actually neat that she can speak at such a level.’

                ‘Thank-you.’ Saber bowed slightly.

                There were a few more pleasantries exchanged and little, normal conversations took place before Rin recognized the Matou’s manor. It was similar to Rin’s, although quite a bit more uninviting. Rin could only imagine the horrors that took place in the past at Zoken Matou’s hand. He was rumoured to still be active somewhere, but few could say he was seen remotely frequently.

                ‘Well, here we are.’ Sakura stood at the gate, smiling at Rin a burdened symbol of joy. ‘Um…thank-you for walking me home. It was much more fun with the two of you.’

                ‘No problem.’

                ‘Our pleasure, Sakura-san.’

                Rin swallowed, knowing she had to move forward with the war instead of remaining transfixed in a scenario that couldn’t be this moment.

                ‘Sakura-san, do you mind if I ask where your brother might be this evening?’

                ‘Brother? Hm. He’s rarely home on Saturday nights. He likes to be with girls most of the time…’ The cloud over Sakura’s eyes dug into Rin’s heart. ‘He likes going to local clubs on the weekends…and sometimes the weekdays. Apparently he is allowed in, although I’m not sure how since we’re underage.’

                ‘I see. Is there a particular club that he is fairly fixated on?’

                ‘Hm. He’s mentioned Cloud Nine before…but I honestly have no idea. He doesn’t talk to me very often.’

                ‘Right. Well, thank-you anyway.’

                ‘Why did you ask? Did my brother ask you out again, Rin-san?’

                ‘No. Well, yes, but that’s not why. I was just curious. Arturia-san and I were thinking about having some fun tonight, so…um…we just wanted to avoid him. He can be a little…aggressive.’

                Sakura’s lip flinched.

                ‘Oh…’

                ‘Anyway, I hope you have a nice evening. Sorry for asking those weird questions.’

                ‘Y-you too…’

                ‘Goodbye, Sakura-san.’ Saber bowed a little lower this time. Rin and her servant began on their way, but as soon as they reached the main sidewalk, Sakura’s voice made Rin freeze, her chest collapsing at what her sister asked next.

                ‘R-Rin-san…um…I-if you don’t mind…could I…you can say “no”, but I was wondering…may I…could I possibly come with you and Arturia-san tonight?’

                ‘It’s not possible, Master. Not for what we need to accomplish.’ Saber whispered under her breath.

                ‘But…’

                ‘N-never mind! Never mind! I’m sorry!’ Sakura waved her hands frantically.

                Rin turned on her heel, placing both hands on her hips and grinning widely.

                ‘That’s a brilliant idea!’

                ‘Master…!’

 

                ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this! It’s so…so spontaneous.’

                ‘This is good though! This kind of rambunctiousness is attractive to guys like Emiya-kun.’ Rin and Saber were shown to the living room as Sakura continued to doubt her assertive decision. The manor was normal enough in the main rooms, but Rin couldn’t deny an air of eeriness regardless.

                ‘What should I wear?’

                ‘Um…if we’re going “out” out, then Arturia-san and I should go back to my place to change. It’s on the way downtown anyway. So, don’t use us as a basis. Try for flirty but reserved. You don’t want to accidently pick up any guys, right?’

                ‘N-no! No, no.’

                ‘Yeah. So, go with that.’

                ‘Flirty…but reserved. Okay…’ Sakura tapped her cheeks lightly and then began toward her stairs. ‘I-I’ll be right back. I promise I won’t be long.’

                ‘Take your time!’ Rin reassured the girl. As soon as Sakura was out of the room, Rin prepared for the inevitable reprimanding from her servant.

                ‘I understand your desire to be with your sister, but we are entering into a warzone. Do you want Sakura-san to be hit with crossfire?’ Saber kept her voice low. She didn’t necessarily sound angry, to Rin’s relief, but she obviously wasn’t pleased either.

                ‘I know, I know. But you also know I didn’t have a choice. How much courage did it take for my sister to ask us to hang out? That’s an amazingly great step in the right direction. I couldn’t just ignore her. I couldn’t…’

                Saber was quiet for a time, but then she leaned in close to Rin, almost as though she was about to take her master’s hand. Rin’s skin prickled at the thought. Maybe she was overthinking everything these days.

                ‘That…is something I very much like about you, Master. I wish we had been friends during my reign as king. Perhaps we could have helped one another.’

                Rin couldn’t stop the smile from spreading all over her face. She needed to summon a powerful servant; she never expected she would summon a kindred spirit and…possibly the best friend she never truly had. It had only been a few days, but Rin felt as though Saber was the missing piece in her lonely life. It was horrible. This was all temporary…

                ‘Thank-you, Saber. That…actually means a lot to me, to be honest.’

                Saber nodded.

                ‘What is the plan now, then?’

                ‘I might need you to do some scouting here and there. Just say you’re going to use the washroom, or maybe there’ll be a place you want to see. We’ll figure out ways to get you separated from Sakura-san and I so that we can pinpoint Matou-kun’s location. Once we do that, we’ll figure out a way to split up from Sakura-san so we can take care of our business. We might have to make a return trip to the district, or something like that. Either way, we don’t make our move on Matou-kun until we’re ready. Ideally, I want tonight to be the last night he’s a master.’

                ‘Understood.’ Saber became very serious. ‘Are you prepared to kill him, if need be?’

                ‘That is an absolute last resort. We can forcibly remove his command seals before it comes to that, I’m sure. At the end of the day, Matou-kun is a coward. Take out his servant, and he’ll give up.’

                ‘Let us hope it proceeds more smoothly than earlier today.’

                Rin then felt a vibration in her pocket. She checked her phone to find that Shirou had written her.

                ‘Master?’

                ‘One moment.’

 

                “Tonight Archer and I are going to do a little snooping at Ryuudou Temple. I’ll let you know what we find.”

 

                Rin hastily wrote back, hearing Sakura move around more upstairs, possibly indicating that she would be ready to go very soon.

 

                “Fine. Keep me informed. I might be taking out Assassin in a couple of hours.”

                “Want help?”

                “No.”

                “Be careful.”

                “Obviously.”

 

                ‘It was the boy.’ Saber concluded easily, likely based off the expressions Rin didn’t even know she was making.

                ‘Yes.’

                ‘Is he doing something foolish again?’

                ‘Possibly. It doesn’t matter; I’m not his babysitter.’

                ‘Indeed.’

                Sakura's footsteps were heard coming down the stairs, and Rin blinked a couple of times when she stood up and saw what her sister was wearing. Sakura had on a deep purple, knee-length dress that hung loosely off of one shoulder, seductively revealing the dark spaghetti-strap of the shirt beneath. She had done her hair up a bit, adding some volume and a cute hair clip that held some of her bangs to the side. Finally, she wore dark stockings beneath and cute, matching bracelets on either wrist. Rin could tell her sister was overly nervous about presenting her ensemble to the two other girls, so Rin tried to put her initial jealousy aside and explain the core of it without the very human reaction.

                ‘Whoa. Well, now that’s what I’m talking about.’

                ‘R-really…? I-I feel very…um…naked.’

                ‘I’d maybe bring a sweater, just in case, but you look really pretty, Sakura-san. I didn’t even think you would own something like this.’

                ‘Well…I’ve been meaning to try and change, and when I go shopping sometimes, I think buying an outfit that I’m not comfortable in will help, but this is my first time wearing this in public. It…doesn’t look strange?’

                Rin approached her sister, giving her another one over before nodding.

                ‘Nope. You look really good. Arturia-san and I are feeling the pressure now.’

                ‘O-oh! Don’t feel that way.’

                ‘It’s fine, it’s fine. I can conjure up a couple of outfits that I have that might work with that look. What do you think, Arturia-san?’

                Saber also stepped closer, unable to rip her eyes away from Sakura’s chest, primarily.

                ‘Those truly are impressive breasts, I must say. Any individual with a liking for such things will be overjoyed. Indeed, you will need to be guarded valiantly.’

                ‘T-thank-you, Arturia-san…I think.’

Chapter Text

 

                ‘Are you doing okay so far, Sakura-san?’ Rin observed her sister, seeing the way she was wide-eyed and somewhat unsure of how to move about the crowd they had all entered. It was simply moving through the streets of downtown Fuyuki City, but Saturday night was the night to let loose after a long week of school, and/or work. Rin almost wished she wasn’t on a manhunt and could actually enjoy the somewhat frivolous and almost dangerous excitement in the air.

                ‘I-I’m fine! No problems here!’ Sakura’s voice was a high whisper, further proving Rin’s point.

                ‘This is quite cramped compared to the last time we were here…’ Saber observed.

                ‘Why don’t we start off the night with a treat, and then we can decide which club we’re going to.’ Rin suggested, careful to watch Sakura’s reaction. Fortunately, she didn’t seem completely put off by the idea, if a little nervous, naturally.

                ‘Okay. Yeah. Something sweet, maybe?’ Sakura suggested.

                ‘That sounds good to me.’

                Rin was already shamefully enjoying herself. She certainly went out with her other friends every so often, but those outings were few and far between, mostly due to Rin’s own reluctance in allowing herself to be completely open with anybody. Saber was already someone very important to her, and being with Sakura brought feelings forward Rin didn’t think she still had. A sisterly duty and protectiveness overcame her. She didn’t want any harm to come over her sister. It was surprising, really, how much she still loved her even after all these years of separation. She only prayed she wasn’t accidently breaching any portion of the contract forged between the Tohsaka and Matou agreement. That would only spell trouble; trouble she didn’t have the time or energy to contend with at the moment.

                Rin shook her head, trying not to think too hard about the time she was being allowed to relax just slightly before calling her servant into action once more. She had decided to wear something similar to Sakura, except red, and a little shorter on the legs. Obviously she wasn’t as “impressive” as her sister, but it was a dress she hadn’t worn yet, only buying it on a whim for the sake of buying something one time out. Saber, on the other hand, was drawn more so to the blues and whites in Rin’s closet. She had on a frilly, white tank top with blue shorts underneath that could only barely be seen. She completed the ensemble with some trendy, brown boots, and had her hair tied in a ponytail. All three girls had some sort of sweater or jacket on, although the additional piece of clothing only enhanced the mystique beneath. Rin could tell that Sakura really liked the idea of having semi-matching outfits, and this was a small victory for Rin amongst some frustrating losses as of late.

                The bell to a bakery café brought Rin back from her own mind, the poppy music and overly zealous greeting from the staff jarring her.

                ‘Welcome!’

                ‘Welcome!’

                Sakura gave a little bow, and Rin traced the male employee’s eyes, making sure he realized his wandering gaze had been noted. Rin gave him a small grin, but it wasn’t inviting by any stretch of the imagination. The male worker seemed to try everything in his power to distract himself from that point forward.

                ‘T-these kinds of places are my weakness…’ Sakura commented, already having a tray and pair of tongs in her hands. She was circling the various displays, immediately placing a couple of pastries on her order.

                ‘You…simply select what you wish to eat?’ Saber stayed close to Rin, which she couldn’t say she minded. The servant smelled like flowers almost always, although Rin couldn’t quite place the scent. Perhaps it was a foreign aroma from a time long gone. That would be romantic…not that it mattered.

                ‘Yes. The prices are marked near the treat, but don’t worry about that. I’m buying for everyone today. Help yourselves.’

                ‘N-no! I couldn’t!’ Sakura immediately put something back.

                ‘Honestly. It’s my pleasure.’

                ‘I have money…’

                Rin smiled at her sister, frightened by how relaxed she could act in the moment.

                ‘I don’t doubt that, but when someone offers to treat you, it’s sometimes ruder to deny them that opportunity, Sakura-san.’

                Sakura hesitated, still not retrieving what she had just placed down, being a delicious looking donut-like pastry.

                ‘Rin-san speaks the truth. If she is willing to allow us the honour of dining like kings, then so be it.’ Saber backed up her words by loading her plate up quite impressively. Rin, on the other hand, only took a couple of treats, such as a coffee bun and waffle.

                The three girls were soon at the counter, the female employee more than happy to help them while the male gave one single, quick glance and then remembered he had something to do in the back room.

                ‘All on one bill please.’ Rin commanded.

                ‘Very good, m’am. Do you have one of our membership cards?’

                ‘I do not.’

                ‘Oh! I-I do!’ Sakura shuffled through her handbag, soon extracting a colourful little piece that was promptly scanned. The employee seemed genuinely surprised by what her computer told her as she looked back up at her customers.

                ‘My! You have enough points for 1000-yen worth of items! Did you want to use that today?’

                ‘Y-yes!’

                ‘No.’ Rin rejected.

                ‘Yes, please.’ Sakura insisted. This almost made Rin happy. So, she could have that Tohsaka stubborn side then. Good.

                ‘Fine.’ Rin relented. It wasn’t worth it, and she didn’t want to be a hypocrite.

                ‘Such divine practises.’ Saber nodded, appearing to comprehend what was occurring…mostly.

 

                ‘Thanks again for letting me come with you two tonight.’ Sakura said in between bites of one of her desserts.

                ‘Don’t think anything of it. I could tell that you weren’t enthused about being home alone.’ Rin answered, watching Saber practically devour her tray-full with enough grace to barely make it acceptable, although borderline disgusting. She just slightly paused in between bites.

                ‘I’m not always alone. Grandfather is sometimes in his study…although he rarely comes out.’

                ‘Zoken Matou?’

                ‘Yes. You know him?’

                ‘He was friends with our -- ’ Rin bit her lip, hoping she slurred enough to recover from the mispronunciation. ‘ -- with father.’

                ‘Oh. I didn’t know that. I guess it makes sense…’

                ‘They’re not as close anymore.’

                ‘I see…’

                Rin shared a piece of her waffle with Sakura, going so far as to feeding her a cream-covered strawberry. It was something she wanted a picture of for future reference, and it was a good way to shift the strained conversation.

                ‘You are…welcome at my place anytime, Sakura-san. You know that, correct?’

                ‘Y-yes…’

                ‘So, if there is anything you need to talk about or simply want to be with someone, please, don’t be afraid to let me know. Just ring the doorbell.’

                Sakura thought about this for a moment, but then nodded slightly.

                ‘O-okay. I’ll keep that in mind.’

                Knowing her personality type, Rin was aware that Sakura would never take her up on the offer, but she wanted it to be there anyway.

                ‘I’m sure you’d rather have Emiya-kun be your knight in shining armour, and that’s fine, but know you have options.’

                ‘Thank-you, Rin-san…’

                ‘That being said, I don’t want to see you hanging off of Emiya-kun all day every day for now on.’

                ‘P-pardon…?’

                ‘I’m officially initializing operation “Make Shirou Emiya Work for It” as of this moment. He takes you for granted, Sakura-san, and I’m done with seeing it. If you’re serious about him, then I want you to see how serious he is about you before you make a final decision.’ Rin pointed at her sister with a piece of waffle at the end of her fork, her disciplinary tone being somewhat negated. ‘If he actively seeks you out and maybe makes a move of some kind, heaven forbid, then he’s worth your time. If not, then move on. Find someone who understands how attractive, smart, and caring you are. You don’t need anybody. Be happy with who you are first and foremost. If you’re not happy, then make changes until you are happy.’

                ‘Hm.’ Saber nodded, chewing almost nonstop since the beginning of the outing.

                ‘T-that’s…that sounds difficult.’ Sakura stared off, diverting her eyes completely and crawling into her shell.

                ‘Then I’ll help you. I’m going to be there for you for now on. I’m your friend, understand?’

                Sakura slowly lifted her violet pupils to meet Rin’s. She smiled just so, and allowed herself a small nod. Rin didn’t know what had happened at the Matou’s during Sakura’s childhood, but she could only guess, based on the horrifying practises the Matou clan was known for. Physically, Sakura seemed fine, but mentally, there was certainly something in her sister’s mind that had become unhinged. Few would be able to tell, but ancient memories assured Rin that there was work to be done.

                ‘…Why now though?’

                ‘Why now?’ Rin’s body heat increased immediately. It was a legitimate question. Because of her cowardice. Because of her selfishness. Because of her fear. Brilliant answers to give. ‘Have you ever wanted to somehow, someway get to know somebody but didn’t know how to place yourself in their life?’

                ‘S-sometimes…maybe.’

                ‘This is kind of like that. I didn’t know how to create a natural way to approach you, but I’ve always wanted to know you, Sakura-san. W-we’re…you know…?’

                ‘Me? I’m not…’

                ‘Stop it. You are. You are worth it.’ It pained Rin to see that Sakura would have none of it. She didn’t believe she was worth anything, at the end of the day. No matter what Rin said, it was up to Sakura to convince herself otherwise. The demons were too plenty, and Rin could only do so much on her own. Their relationship was so damaged that fantasy was mixing with truth.

                ‘Forgive me for interrupting,’ Saber finally spoke, her tray impressively empty save for a couple of crumbs. ‘But if Rin-san believes that you are an exceptional individual, then that should be proof enough that you are, indeed, someone worthy of praise. Rin-san herself is an admirable young woman, and I am proud to be her…er…to be related to her, however loosely.’

                ‘That’s…sort of true…’

                Rin reached across the table and took Sakura’s hand, gripping it in her own tightly. Something within her magical circuits trembled, and Rin thought she might have seen Sakura fight through a chill as well.

                ‘It’s not going to happen overnight, okay? Let’s just try and enjoy ourselves in the moment.’

                ‘Okay. Yeah…’

 

                Rin was apprehensively excited for the next couple of hours of the night. She, Sakura, and Saber looked around at various trinket and accessary places, trying on rings, bracelets, and hairclips. They then tried their hand at some arcade games, Saber immediately jumping at the chance to ride a virtual motorcycle once more. The crowds were still thick, and navigating the streets proved cumbersome at best, but Rin hoped Sakura was having a good time regardless. The lights, the sounds, the sights, and the presence of the night bringing smiles, laughs, and memories at a point in Rin’s life that she least expected to accumulate such things.

                Eventually, as planned, Saber excused herself from the group near Cloud Nine, claiming she needed to visit the lady’s room. Rin and Sakura found a spot to sit near a fountain in the meantime, both happy to take a breather.

                ‘This has been fun. I think I’m a little overdressed though…’ Sakura pulled at her outfit, the cleavage shot in Rin’s view shifting and causing her envious eyes to wander.

                ‘Arturia-san really wants to try going to a club in Japan, so you’re fine.’

                ‘O-oh…’

                ‘You definitely don’t have to come with us though. I’m not overly enthused either, but she doesn’t ask for much, as you can see.’

                ‘Aren’t most of those places closed to minors?’

                ‘Some of the bouncers have no problem letting girls that are at least close to the age in, especially with a little bribery.’

                ‘O-oh, no! We could get expelled from school for something like that!’

                ‘I know, but for Arturia-san, I’m willing to take the risk. We can get you home first, if you’d like.’

                Sakura bit at her lower lip, and didn’t have time to respond immediately because Saber had returned quite promptly.

                ‘I would like to visit Cloud Nine.’ She stated somewhat convincingly. ‘The locals claim it is the most active club in the area for young males and females.’

                ‘C-Cloud Nine…?’ Sakura blinked rapidly.

                ‘Huh. If that’s what you want.’ Rin shrugged. ‘So, should we take you home, Sakura-san? We probably won’t stay long, so it’s nothing to -- ’

                ‘I-I’ll come!’ Sakura stood up, gripping at her chest.

                ‘What…?’

                ‘I’ll come. You said it yourself, Rin-san: I can’t hide forever. I-if I’m with the two of you, I’m sure I’ll be fine.’

                Rin wasn’t predicting this. She was sure Sakura would lose all interest if Shinji was involved. Perhaps the talk she had given her sister really was taking affect, although Sakura could’ve held off on the change in personality.

                ‘We cannot bring her. If the situation grows dire, then…

                ‘I don’t have a choice, Saber.’

                ‘She will become your Achilles Heel. In a war such as this, we cannot afford that.’

                ‘It will work out.’

                ‘This rashness is not like you.’

                ‘It is. Really. I’m just playing a part.’

                ‘Master…?

                ‘Trust me. It will work.’

                ‘…Fine. I will trust you.

                ‘Thank-you, Saber.’

                ‘Okay, Sakura-san. But stay close. I don’t want to lose you. I’m sure it’s going to be crowded.’

                ‘R-right.’

Chapter Text

 

                Rin, Saber, and Sakura waited in line to be reviewed for Cloud Nine. It wasn’t a particularly long line up, but Rin could feel her nerves seizing at the thought of entering a club while underage. She had never been to any such thing, and honestly had no interest to begin with. The fact she was taking charge on this mission, let alone showing two other girls into a place full of dogs, was not something sitting well with the master. Saber could fend for herself, obviously, since she somehow got the info about Shinji, but Sakura was another matter altogether. There was no way this could go well, and yet Rin didn’t mind it so much. One look at Sakura made her commitment to reconnecting with her sister, even in the smallest of ways, worth it.

                ‘You again?’ A bouncer shifted with his arms crossed like two oversized logs.

                ‘Yes. Me again. Thank-you for your help earlier, my good man.’ Saber responded approvingly.

                The bouncer shook his head and simply sighed.

                ‘Identification please.’ The man demanded, sticking out his hand and allowing his muscles to protrude disturbingly out of his black t-shirt. The music and light show behind him made it almost difficult to focus on anything. Rin nearly asked for the man to repeat himself, but put everything together easily enough after a second of thought.

                ‘Here you are, sir.’ Rin had already gathered the cards, handing them to the man and expecting a curt denial. What she would do from there wasn’t quite decided yet. Seduction? Money? How far was she willing to go?

                ‘Sakura Matou? Shinji Matou’s sister?’ The bouncer fixed his shades, giving the girls another one over. ‘You ladies sure? Shinji-sama didn’t mention his sister was coming.’

                ‘P-please. It’s just for fun.’ Sakura managed.

                The bouncer took another look, his gaze not hiding the brief moment of desire in his eyes.

                ‘Fine. Just be careful. It can get a little rowdy later in the night.’

                Rin touched the man on the shoulder, reaching up and giving it a pat.

                ‘That’s why you’re here, right?’ She winked.

                ‘Hmph. Guess so.’

               

                The inside of the club was even more of a spectacle than the outside. Music pounded into everyone’s ears, and there was hardly space to walk and move, bodies mish-mashing together everywhere; be it at the bar, where some semblance of strained conversation was taking place, or on the massive dance floor, where rather erotic movements were on display if someone could focus long enough without getting a seizure from the rapidly shifting light intervals.

                ‘I was not prepared for this…’ Saber breathed, her two companions hearing her say something but not quite understanding the exact words.

               

                ‘Stay close until we spot Shinji-kun; then we make our move.’

                ‘Understood, Master.’

 

                It was slightly easier to communicate mentally, but even then there was too much interference.

                ‘Let’s get a drink first.’ Rin suggested, yelling just to be barely heard.

                Sakura nodded, following her sister and Saber to the bar area and eventually weaseling their way into a spot the barkeep could see them.

                ‘What’ll be, ladies?’ He boomed, flicking his head at Sakura. ‘I was told Shinji-sama’s sister was here. You fit the bill. Save me a dance later?’

                ‘U-um…’

                ‘I’m kidding.’

                ‘Apple martinis for myself and Sakura-san.’ Rin demanded, saving her sister.

                ‘A glass of your finest brewed beer.’ Saber used her kingly voice, catching the attention of some nearby males.

                The barkeep gave the smaller, blonde girl another one over, evidently evaluating her physique in contrast to the drink ordered.

                ‘I know you’re friends with Shinji-sama and all, but are you sure? Don’t blame me if an accident happens.’

                ‘You insult me.’ Saber claimed. ‘Do not underestimate my abilities.’

                This amused the barkeep. He gave one final smirk and then went to work.

                ‘Should we be doing this?’ Sakura leaned into her sister, panic obviously in her eyes.

                ‘It’s just one drink to help us relax.’

                ‘Have you been to a place like this before?’

                ‘A few times.’ Rin lied, acting confident but anxious on the inside. Her eyes were darting every which way, trying to spot Shinji so she could get this all over with sooner rather than later. She could feel the stares from a variety of directions. There was something toxic about the entire setup. Perhaps that’s why Shinji enjoyed Cloud Nine so much. Was his servant forcing some sort of influence over the place? Rin’s magical circuits tingled just slightly.

                A touch on Rin’s hand made her flinch, but she relaxed again the instant she saw Saber was the one making contact.

 

                ‘Fear not, Master. I am near.’

                ‘I’m fine.’

                ‘So you claim.’

                ‘How are you not nervous?

                ‘I am a king. What is there to fear? Although…’

 

                ‘Ladies. Here are some drinks on the house. Anything more and I’ll have to charge you, although I don’t recommend it.’

                ‘Thank-you.’ Rin batted her eyes, and noticed the barkeep return her a broad grin.

                ‘Oh…It tastes just like fruit!’ Sakura exclaimed quickly.

                Rin barely heard her, scanning the area once again but seeing no sign of Shinji.

                ‘This is a crude imitation.’ Saber groaned, placing her glass down and following Rin’s lead now.

                ‘We may need to move into the middle more.’

                ‘Upon the dance floor…?’ Saber hesitated.

                ‘Yes.’

                ‘I don’t think there was alcohol in mine. That’s good.’ Sakura was talking to herself more than anything. Her voice did not travel well considering its naturally soft nature. ‘Oh! Are we going onto the dance floor already? I-I’m not sure about that…’

                ‘I’m just going to show Arturia-san what a club is like in Japan, okay, Sakura-san? You can wait by the bar if you want. We’ll only be a second. Can you keep an eye on her, please?’ Rin asked the barkeep, who didn’t seem like a bad guy upon her first impression anyway.

                ‘Shinji-sama’s sister? Yeah. Nobody’ll mess with her, but I’ll definitely keep tabs.’

                ‘Thank-you.’

                ‘Maybe you and I can have a dance when I’m off the clock?’

                Rin was flattered, since this individual certainly wasn’t repulsive by any means. He had wild black hair, shades, a lip ring, and a crooked smile that made him almost seem like a movie star. However, Rin felt no sincere draw to him, so she could only gracefully evade his proposal.

                ‘Perhaps…’

                Rin took Saber’s hand, and the two of them wove their way into the thick of Cloud Nine. Bodies and sounds were absolutely everywhere. Rin couldn’t have felt more out of place. The music was high-energy and almost overly electronic. Rin had finished most of her martini, hoping it would help calm her nerves, and it had, for the most part, but she still couldn’t relax. Shinji was somewhere in this crowd, and Rin had to find him, deal with his servant somehow, and then get back to Sakura in a decent amount of time.

                This was a horrible plan.

                Saber and Rin found themselves being knocked around a bit as they pushed through, the melding of bodies rejecting their boring method of movement.

                ‘This is nothing but an orgy.’ Saber mumbled, although part of the comment was transmitted to Rin, which made her laugh.

                ‘Not quite, but I guess I can see where you’re coming from.’

                ‘We are being tossed about quite rudely.

                ‘It’s because we’re not dancing. People see us as just getting in their way.’

                ‘I-I see…’

                ‘Just bear with me for a second, Saber. I need to get a look around.’

                Rin had managed to get herself and Saber into the thick of things, now having a decent view of the surroundings once certain shifts in the mass of dancers took place. Her head felt a little lighter, and she subconsciously placed her hands on Saber’s small waist before moving to the rhythmic sounds all around her.

                ‘M-Master…!’

                ‘Just go with it for a moment. We need to blend while we figure out where Shinji-kun might be.’

                ‘I-I cannot…’

                ‘Move your body with mine. It’s fine.’

                ‘It isn’t proper…! A-and I cannot…!

                ‘That’s not the issue at the moment. Don’t draw attention.’

                Saber reluctantly followed Rin’s lead, although she couldn’t say she did so with the utmost of comfort. The music was hardly that, and the eroticism all around her made any form of stability unobtainable.

                ‘There…’ Rin whispered, moving her hands down Saber’s back and pressing her body a little closer so that their chests were rubbing together.

                ‘Master...!’ Saber gasped.

                Perhaps the drink was having more of an effect than Rin thought. That, and the atmosphere of Cloud Nine leant itself to a very sexually charged environment that was difficult to ignore. Rin glanced about the club, trying to find a clue as to where Shinji could be, but at the same time, she was distracted by the tingling within her magic circuits. It felt good. It felt very good. She wanted to hear Saber beg just a little more. There was something irresistible about the stoic king submitting to embarrassment and arousal.

                Rin moved her leg into Saber’s, pressing in between her thighs and continuing to shift with the sounds around her. Saber’s reaction didn’t disappoint her, the young woman breathing out sharply and holding Rin even tighter in what became a sort of awkward hug.

                ‘T-this…should not…’

                ‘Tell me to stop.’ Rin murmured into Saber’s ear just before she bit it and caused her servant to shriek, instantly covering her mouth and separating herself from the moment. Some nearby gawkers made small cheers, but there was enough respect among the crowd to let any form of play be so long as it seemed relatively consensual.

                ‘Enough.’ Saber’s mouth twitched as she wiped her ear, not looking impressed whatsoever. Rin blinked, suddenly very aware of what she had been just doing. Aware…and ashamed.  What was happening to her? Why did she think it was okay? There was an immediate task at hand, and yet, Rin was teasing her servant in the worst sort of way. Not only that, but she was short on time, not wanting to leave Sakura alone for too long.

                Ridiculous.

                ‘I apologize.’ Rin maintained her attitude as though she was still completely in control of her emotions and actions. ‘I was just trying to sway any males from intruding on us. It’s better if they think us lovers so that we don’t have another individual to be concerned with.’

                Saber contemplated this logic, glancing about the floor once again and noting the number of persons giving her a moment’s glance when they thought it possible.

                ‘I-I see…’

                ‘Ah. Bingo.’ Rin nodded her head toward an area that had a small sign indicating that it was for VIPs only. The crowd had just barely adjusted enough to make the slightly obstructed entrance visible. It had to be where “Shinji-sama” was. It made sense.

                ‘VIP?’

                ‘Very important person.’

                ‘Are we considered such?’

                ‘Not to these people, anyway, but that doesn’t matter. We know where Shinji-kun is now. All that we need to do is corner him and demand the command seals. He would never expect me to follow him to a place such as this.’ Rin checked behind herself to ensure Sakura was well. Her sister seemed to be enjoying an animated chat with the barkeep. Good. ‘Come. We’ll make this quick.’

                ‘Indeed.’

                Saber and Rin shouldered their way through the crowd, finally making it to yet another bouncer who seemed much less likely to provide them with any sort of assistance. He was even larger than the man in front, his statuesque appearance intimidating, to say the least.

                ‘Is Shinji-sama in the back?’ Rin tried to sound confident, as though she belonged exactly where she currently stood and more. The man gave her an obvious examination, moving from Rin to Saber and then back again.

                ‘Names?’

                ‘Rin Tohsaka and Saber.’

                ‘Saber…?’

                ‘Yes.’

                ‘Last name?’

                ‘Saber Beatrix.’

                The bouncer raised a brow, shuffling through some papers and pausing at a spot.

                ‘Rin Tohsaka is on the list, but no Saber Beatrix.’

                ‘She’s a surprise for Shinji-sama.’

                The bouncer grinned stupidly, eating Saber with his eyes.

                ‘…Guess he’d like that kind of surprise.’

                ‘I thought so too.’

                The man breathed out deeply, flipped through some more sheets, and then stepped aside. How idiotic could Shinji be? Perhaps Rin just moved too quickly or unpredictably, because any master with some sense wouldn’t have another master’s name on some absurd list. Nonetheless, Rin checked on Sakura one more time, and then disappeared even deeper into the darkness.

 

                The music became a distant hum, vibrations from the bass reminding Rin as to where she was. Eventually, she and Saber came to a door at the end of the hall. They both gave one another a look before nodding slowly.

                ‘We move quick. Get him at sword point immediately.’

                ‘So be it.’

                ‘I know you don’t like this method, but we can’t allow Shinji-kun to be active anymore; he’s too dangerous. He knows too much about me.’

                ‘Yes…’

                ‘I’ll make it up to you, Saber.’

                ‘It is fine…’

                Rin grimaced, seeing the agony on her servant’s face. Honour was all Saber had, and now Rin was forcing her into a situation that demanded none. Was this the only way? No. Perhaps not.

                ‘Now!’ Rin and Saber burst through the door, smoke splitting between them as Saber dashed straight for the figure sitting in the back, near-naked women all around him scattering with shrieks of surprise and fear. Shinji’s voice was almost as high-pitched as the girls’ about the room now, his head angled back and an invisible sword hardly an inch from his throat. Assassin had appeared as well from the shadows, her own blade poised next to Saber’s face.

                The room was dark, save for some well-placed candles and only a few dim lamps. Soft, hypnotic music hummed in the background, and Rin tried to hide her dismay at the sight of Shinji’s pants stretched between his ankles alongside boxers. He was clearly truly receiving the VIP treatment, it would seem.

                ‘Leave us. Do not say a word to anyone or I’m a dead man, whores.’ Shinji’s voice was a rasp, the strain on his disposition evident.

                The girls did as they were told, wasting no time other than to gather their clothes and flee like rats.

                ‘Make yourself decent.’ Rin demanded, trying not to stare at the drenched, erect form between her classmate’s legs. Shinji did as he was told, making every movement minimal as he messily covered himself.

                ‘I was hoping you would come, Rin-chan.’ He snickered, something wrong with his words. He was drunk, obviously, and possibly under some sort of drug’s influence. This conversation may prove trying.

                ‘You didn’t believe I would allow you to make a fool of me and get away with it, did you?’

                ‘True enough. I’ll admit I didn’t think you would be up and on your feet so quickly though. A will of iron. I do wish to break such arrogance; it’s unbecoming for a woman.’

                Saber pressed the blade even closer, a small dribble of blood trickling down Shinji’s throat.

                ‘So, what now? You kill me and your servant dies. Quite the dilemma.’

                ‘A duel. My servant against yours.’

                ‘A duel!?’ Shinji choked back his laughter, trying not to prick himself again. ‘Rider against Saber? You must be joking. I would lose instantly.’

                Rin felt bad for the other servant. No faith whatsoever. That would be difficult as a heroic spirit. Wait. Rider? Not Assassin? Where was the steed or vehicle? It didn’t matter. Rin had to stay on task.

                ‘It’s your only choice.’ Rin insisted.

                ‘Tch. It’s pointless. I drew the short straw for servants. Rider is incompetent. Even with an advantage against the likes of you, I couldn’t win.’

                ‘That was your own foolishness.’ Saber defended her fellow servant, shocked by how emotionless Rider was. She didn’t even move.

                ‘I am giving you one last chance, Shinji-kun.’

                Shinji grimaced, his eyes wired and crazed smile twisted into rage.

                ‘I refuse! I bow to nobody!’

                ‘Such baseless pride.’ Saber waited for her master’s command. She didn’t love the idea of doing away with a master like this, but Shinji had proven his underhanded techniques and sloth. He talked down to everyone, believing himself to be the king of all. It was sickening. Where did such confidence stem from? His name? His looks? His hollow intelligence?

                ‘If you honestly refuse the right to a duel, I’ll then ask you to give up your command seals. Renounce your name as a master.’ Rin spoke lowly.

                ‘No! Never!’

                ‘Then you die.’ Saber bluffed knowing, at his core, Shinji was the ultimate coward, and would do anything to live.

                Suddenly, however, there was a knock at the door.

                ‘Onee-san?’ The words were slurred, but it was undoubtedly Sakura. Saber tightened her grip, the movement from Rider happening in a flash. She was fast, Saber would give her that. Saber swung instinctively though, slicing Shinji’s neck enough to spray blood upon the wall. She pursued the opponent, disappearing into the shadows and eventually illuminating a hidden hallway with some lights from the outside back alley.

                ‘Damn it…’ Rin cursed, allowing Sakura into the room. Her sister stumbled within Rin’s arms, her face flushed and eyes wandering. Saber soon returned, annoyance clear on her visage.

                ‘They are rather talented at making escapes. How frustrating.’

                ‘It’s fine. Based on that reaction, I’m sure Shinji won’t attempt anything on us for some time. His opportunity has been made null with our attempt tonight. He fears you, Saber, and for good reason.’

                ‘Who’s Saber…?’ Sakura mumbled, eyelids heavy.

                ‘Don’t worry about it, Sakura-san. Let’s get you somewhere to rest.’

 

                With the weight of Sakura on her lap, Rin stared out the window as she and Saber returned to her manor in a cab. She had accomplished very little during this Grail War thus far, although it was still very early. She at least knew of most of the servants, but the masters were doing a decent job of remaining mysterious. Lancer’s master was a big question mark. Archer had Shirou Emiya, who wouldn’t be a threat, assuming Archer behaved. Rider had to deal with Shinji Matou, who now had an enormous target on his back for Rin or Shirou to shoot at. Berserker was paired with that creepy Einzbern girl. Finally, Caster and Assassin were the only two servants yet to show themselves. Alongside those two servants had to be two masters, so Rin supposed she shouldn’t be too hard on herself.

                Shinji was the obvious first target, but he would likely get himself killed more than anything. That thought didn’t leave Rin with a good taste in her mouth, but such was war. She had to remind herself of that. Archer was obviously very skilled, and Shirou claimed to have similar magic as him. If the two trained together, they could be a force to reckon with. Lancer wasn’t overly outstanding, but there’s no telling what other acts of aggression he was capable of. Berserker was the biggest threat thus far. Rin may have no choice but to use Shirou to take out that particular threat…

                A sound emitted from Rin’s phone, stirring Sakura for a moment before being checked. It was from Shirou. His timing was comedic.

                “Pretty sure Caster is in Ryuudou Temple. Archer and I ran into Assassin, who’s guarding the entrance. He was tough, so I pulled out for now. Maybe a team effort?”

                Rin rolled her eyes. Two servants in the same area? That meant two masters as well. Teaming up with Shirou was looking like more and more of an inevitability. She didn’t love the idea of relying on someone else, but even Saber might struggle against Assassin and Caster at the same time. Rin reluctantly replied.

                “Fine. I’ll contact you when I have the chance to make a plan of action.”

                “Sounds good. I’ll be in touch.”

                The last thing Rin wanted to do was lead Shirou on in any way. She could only hope he was intelligent enough to understand the corner she was being driven into, and thus, the acceptance of his help.

                Sakura stirred, and Rin allowed herself to touch her sister’s face, stroking the smooth skin and smiling just a little bit.

                ‘You look like an angel, sister.’ Rin whispered. ‘I’ll make all the pain go away; I promise.’

Chapter Text

 

 

                It hadn’t taken Rin long to follow Sakura’s crash into slumber. The moment she made it to her manor and layered the barrier beyond it, Rin helped Sakura to one of the many spare room’s beds, and then soon collapsed on her own, clothes barely stripped off and bed completely embraced.

                Unfortunately, like most of her rests these days, it felt like a mere blink before Rin woke up and it was nearly noon. Her hair was in utter disarray, and her breath made her own body sick. The washroom was the first visit of the day, and then Rin made it back to her room, sitting on the edge of her bed and staring out the window nearby. It was a cloudy day. Dark and cloudy. Rain could come at any moment.

                ‘Saber…’

                Her servant stepped into the room and was at ready instantly. She was in her regular blue and white dress with gold trim that usually resided beneath glorious, silver armour. She was a king again. She wasn’t another girl by Rin’s side for a night out in the town.

                ‘Before Sakura wakes up, I want to -- ’

                ‘Sakura-san left rather early in the morning. She didn’t want to impose on you further.’

                ‘Pardon?’

                ‘I accompanied her most of the way home without her knowing. All seemed well.’

                ‘I-I see. Good. Thank-you.’

                ‘She left you a note downstairs. I did not read it.’

                ‘Okay…’

                ‘What do you need, Master?’

                ‘More rest…’ Rin flopped to her side, yawning.

                ‘Your mana supply is always impressive, but it is inevitably taxing on the master, especially when your servant is so powerful. I am somewhat apprehensive about using my noble phantasm, when the time comes, to be honest.’

                ‘I can handle it. It’s still quite early, so my body is adjusting.’

                ‘Yes. That makes sense.’

                Rin closed her eyes, allowing images from the night before to play through her mind. She had become slightly drunk, but she could still recall the intimacy with Saber. She remembered the feeling of Saber’s body pressing against her own. She tasted Saber’s ear for a second in her mouth. Rin’s face burned, and she forced her eyes open again before sitting up straight.

                ‘Would you like some tea?’

                ‘That would be nice.’ Saber nodded.

 

                Rin’s nerves were stabbing. She found her hands shaking slightly as she prepared the tea, glancing back at Saber only to find her servant sitting comfortably and somewhat distantly in one of the living room’s ancient chairs. Saber didn’t seem to be acting any differently, but Rin couldn’t know for sure if she had upset her the night before. She may be forced to apologize and, if need be, blame her drink for the uncomfortable situation she had forced Saber into.

                ‘Here you are.’ Rin placed the tea in front of Saber and then took a seat herself.

                ‘No school today, then?’ Saber sounded pleased, taking a small sip after blowing gently over her antique cup.

                ‘No, thank goodness.’

                ‘I see.’

                ‘I’m already planning how to make this day productive, so -- ’

                ‘Honestly, I am under the impression you may, in fact, need to rest today.’ Saber seemed very serious.

                ‘That doesn’t sound like you, Saber.’ Rin took another small sip of her drink, watching her servant shrug slightly.

                ‘…I realize that, but knowing when to rest and when to do battle is integral to winning any war.’

                Rin wanted to believe her servant, but she sensed there was a little more to what Saber was trying to get at. Saber was almost always ready to fight, so why the sudden change? Rin went to her television and switched it on, changing to the news and watching intently as she and Saber finished their morning tea.

                “More bodies have been found in a mysterious state of unconsciousness this morning. This brings the total number of victims to over 30 for the Fuyuki City area. Doctors are continuing to perform research to help determine the cause of such incidents, but there have been no leads so far as to what a cure may be.”

                Rin could hear the strain in the news reporter’s voice. She would be stressed too if some “unknown” epidemic was practically killing people all around the city you were expected to report in. The lady continued to outline the seemingly hot areas of the city, where more than eight people had been found over the course of a few days. Rin tried to determine a link between all the sections, but she could determine that it was all obviously the act of a servant trying to sustain itself or draw in more power.

                ‘Perhaps whoever set those glyphs around your school is also responsible for these victims.’ Saber offered.

                ‘That may be, but I’m more than less willing to bet that they are different offences. Shinji-kun is likely the individual who attempted to make our school a mana breeding ground, while these other attacks are much more maliciously calculated.’

                ‘What brings you to such conclusions?’

                ‘Shinji-kun isn’t a mage; at least, he isn’t a proper one. He hasn’t used a single bit of magic, which is why Rider was forced to use her own power to syphon mana from the students. I wouldn’t doubt it if they’re working on another area to drain from.’

                ‘And these unconscious victims?’

                ‘Possibly Assassin or Caster. There could be an issue with one of the other masters, forcing the servant to hunt for sustenance. Additionally, they could be simply attempting to boost their strength, knowing they are some of the weakest of the servants, generally.’

                ‘I see…’

                ‘In any case, I would prefer not to let either run rampant for much longer. It is against the rules to interfere with the normal populace too much.’

                ‘Indeed.’

                Rin stood up, taking her dishes to the kitchen and sighing as she did so. When she turned, she found Saber barely a foot away.

                ‘You are tired.’

                ‘Well, yes. It’s been a busy few days.’

                ‘Can you fight to your fullest capacity in such a state?’

                ‘I don’t have a choice.’

                ‘Understand me when I tell you that you do. Today, you rest. Come the morrow, our assault begins anew.’

                ‘The other masters won’t be resting.’

                ‘Perhaps. Perhaps not.’

                ‘Shinji-kun knows where I live.’

                ‘Then he will be defeated the moment he arrives.’

                Rin sighed once more, grinning a little bit to herself. She was defeated. Saber was right. She would never give in so easily normally, but this morning proved otherwise.

                ‘You’re stubborn.’

                ‘We are a fine match.’ Saber smiled as well now.

                The more Rin thought about it, the more she wanted to just have a day to herself and Saber. Her chest became light, and the excitement rose inside. She didn’t want to show it though.

                ‘Fine. You win.’

                ‘Very good.’

 

                It was nearly afternoon by the time Rin had showered and gotten cleaned up from the night before. Saber had helped herself to some of the books in the living room, bringing a few with her to Rin’s room before she herself bathed and was also feeling rather fresh.

                ‘I cannot say I completely enjoyed the atmosphere of that place last night.’ Saber began speaking, watching Rin as she combed her hair and did it up in her twin-tails. It was evidently a very practised stylization.

                ‘I’m sorry about that. I normally don’t go to clubs like that. It’s fun maybe once in a blue moon, but I wasn’t comfortable at all.’

                ‘Nor was I. We were stared at more than I would prefer.’

                ‘Trust me, Saber, we’re just lucky we weren’t on the dance floor long enough to get man-handled. It’s not very enjoyable.’

                ‘It sounds horrible.’

                Rin laughed, turning to find that Saber had changed into her blue, knee-length skirt and white blouse.

                ‘You look good in those clothes.’

                ‘This is similar to what I wore before becoming king. I was a simple peasant girl, I’ll have you know. It’s quite comfortable, and helps keep my head leveled.’

                ‘It is kind of cute.’

                Saber distracted herself with something away from Rin’s eyes, her cheeks changing just a slight shade of pink.

                ‘I-I have to admit, however, that the night was not all bad. I did enjoy dancing with you, Master. It was a sort of intimacy between…er…friends that I feel I missed when I was alive.’

                There was too much about that statement which sent Rin’s mind into a frenzy. She had been thinking about it as well. Every time she looked at Saber, she was reminded of moments she kept stealing without knowing what to do with them. Not only that, but as her affection for her friend grew, the horrible reality of their eventual parting created more of a weight in Rin’s chest than she wanted to bear during a war.

                ‘I’m sorry for being inappropriate. I allowed myself to get a bit intoxicated to make Cloud Nine a little more tolerable.’

                ‘It wasn’t…That is…I suppose that makes sense.’

                Rin could see the hurt, but it was for the best. She couldn’t let herself feel anything more. There were too many reasons not to. What would her father say? How would it ever progress beyond anything barely tangible? The Tohsaka name would be tarnished for generations of grail combatants. No. She wouldn’t be selfish. Besides, she wasn’t even positive that…

                ‘What would you normally do on a day off, Master?’

                ‘Hm.’ Rin crossed her arms, staring off into her patio window. ‘I would study, possibly walk around some of the malls, and/or listen to music. I haven’t had a “true” day off in a very long time. I feel a little restless.’

                ‘Your soul requires rest, I think. It has been taxed with a very heavy burden. I know this feeling well. I understand your apprehension, but the war’s intensity will only escalate. We must be in top form to perform adequately.’

                Rin breathed out slowly one last time.

                ‘You’re right. I think I just need to shut off my brain for a day and live for once.’ Rin didn’t want to say it aloud, but realistically, she might not have very many days left, depending on how the war went. The reality of it was that she could die at any moment. That clinched it; she would take one day and enjoy it with Saber, the first person to be let in behind her wall since her father.

                ‘Very good. Then shall we start by getting a snack and then observing the likes of “the mall”?’

                Rin giggled, a weight temporarily lifted off of her shoulders.

                ‘Oh, I see. You just want something sweet.’

                Saber tried to look innocent, an expression that was lethally adorable for the usually guarded individual.

                ‘Am I that transparent to you now?’    

 

                Rin expected to have an okay time with Saber, but she didn’t expect to laugh, smile, and generally feel completely relaxed around her servant. Saber had eased off the kingly side of herself and seemed to be embracing the young woman she was never allowed to be during her life. The weather was co-operating by the time the outing was made, so the two girls started their day with a parfait and pancake excursion at an outdoor café near the biggest mall in Fuyuki City. There were, of course, lots of people everywhere, but Saber seemed less fazed than before, adjusting to the incredible populace that must’ve dwarfed any busyness she was used to back in her time.

                Saber was beyond delighted by the sweet breakfast-food Rin and she had indulged in, and then it was off to the mall. Saber understood the concept of a mall, but that still didn’t stop her from acting a little bit like a tourist as she pointed out the various statues, water displays, and decorations just at the entrance alone.

                ‘You mean to say that there is more to this construct?’ Saber had asked, bewildered.

                ‘We haven’t even seen any of the shops yet.’

                ‘Unbelievable.’

                Rin could feel the wonder and joy emitting from her servant. Every clothes, electronic, or home improvement store transfixed Saber’s big, green eyes on the sheer wealth of options available.

                ‘This is evidently the golden age prophesied.’ Saber claimed eventually.

                ‘It’s certainly excessive.’ Rin agreed bitterly.

                ‘So many individuals are speaking to me quite kindly. It is a receptive populace.’

                ‘They’re just trying to sell you something.’

                ‘Ah. That makes some sense…’ Saber appeared a little deflated at that comment. Rin couldn’t take it for longer than a couple of seconds.

                ‘Although some of them sincerely enjoy their job and like interacting with people.’

                ‘Oh. Yes. That is good.’

                Rin had some fun when she showed Saber a lingerie store that also had bathing suits. Her servant was a little reluctant, but curiosity got the better of her, and soon they were browsing like any other couple of girls in high school.

                ‘What is the point of this particular pair?’ Saber indicated a very skimpy set, her brow arched in disgust.

                ‘The practical reason is to hide the panty line for tighter fitting outfits, but wearing that kind of underwear can have a positive mental influence as well.’ Rin tried to sound mature, but the blood rushing to her face didn’t lie as well.

                ‘I suppose that could make some sense, although the basic functionality is somewhat compromised.’ Saber paused, still evaluating the stringy, black thong. ‘Do you own such a combination, Rin-san?’

                ‘T-that’s sort of private!’ Now Rin knew she wasn’t hiding any sort of embarrassment.

                ‘Hm.’ Saber continued to stare, moving about the store and noting a cute, light-blue set of underwear that had white lining and slight frilling.

                ‘That would look good on you.’ Rin smiled, nudging her servant.

                ‘It would be quite pointless to purchase an article of clothing for me.’

                Rin bit at her lip, inwardly rebelling at the notion.

                ‘Whatever. You’re getting it.’

                ‘R-Rin-san…?’

                Rin had an attendant measure Saber and set her up with a perfectly fitting version of the blue bra and panty set. Saber’s face was flushed the entire time, but she didn’t offer much resistance, and this made Rin quite happy. Arturia Pendragon was being allowed some time as a girl. Was it cruel in a way? Perhaps. But Rin preferred to look at it in a positive light rather than a negative one.

                ‘Let me see.’ Rin demanded from outside the change room.

                ‘I-it is fine. The size is sufficient.’

                ‘Good. Let me make sure.’

                ‘The attendant has ensured that -- ’

                Rin pulled the curtain back and entered the change room herself, Saber instantly backing into the mirror and covering her body.

                ‘M-Master! What are you doing?’

                Rin eyed the king of Camelot, in shock by the adolescent form before her. Saber had the body of a normal 16-18 year old girl, if a little more toned than most. The bra hugged Saber’s modest breasts together in a pleasing way, and the panties were tight, shaping her bottom half wonderfully while cutting in sharply to show off an impressively firm right cheek. Rin caught her breath, staring boldly before covering her face and exiting the changing area.

                ‘You were being stubborn, so I had to confirm my purchase was a proper one.’

                ‘You continue to tease me…’ Saber mumbled.

 

                The next stop was another clothes store, where Saber felt much more at ease. She and Rin both got new dresses. Rin, naturally opted for a red dress with black trim and a small, cute bow in the front, while Saber preferred a white, gorgeous summery dress with a few buttons at the top. It would still be cool enough to get away with wearing them maybe once or twice before the really cold weather came.

                ‘I still don’t understand why you bother purchasing anything for me, Master…’ Saber uttered under her breath as Rin and her continued through the mall.

                ‘You’re alive and here right now. Why shouldn’t I?’

                ‘Because it’s a very temporary existence.’

                ‘But you’re here now.’

                ‘Not for long.’

                Rin huffed, taking Saber’s hand and holding it tight.

                ‘Are you going to make me repeat myself? What am I holding right now?’

                ‘Rin-san…People are staring…’

                ‘What am I holding?’

                ‘M-my hand…’

                ‘Yes. I can feel it. I can feel the warmth from it. You’re here. You’re here right now…!’ Rin’s eyes began to burn, so she turned and rubbed them, releasing Saber’s fingers.

                ‘You’re right.’ Saber agreed now.

                ‘Come on. There’s one more place I want you to see.’ Rin led the way to a video store, greeting the clerk who was watching a program on a small television behind his desk. ‘These are movies. I want you to pick one out for tonight.’

                Saber shook her head in dismay.

                ‘I couldn’t. This archive is far too expansive.’

                ‘Don’t worry; I’ll help you.’ Rin grinned, guiding her servant to the historical fiction section. ‘We’re going to get one with lots of honour, knights, and maybe even some random person’s idea of who Arthur was.’

                ‘Oho! That sounds intriguing!’ Saber’s face lit up, and Rin’s heart soared.

                ‘Right! Let’s find the perfect movie to watch tonight!’

 

                Before catching a ride home, Rin showed Saber a gaming centre that had mostly “gambling” games. Between the two girls’ efforts, however, Saber managed to win at a crane game, obtaining a stuffed lion as a prize. She pretended not to be overly thrilled, but Rin could see the way her servant held the beast close, knowing it was a great victory. It was an amazing way to end a perfectly grand afternoon. Once a taxi was hailed and Rin’s manor was within sight, both girls soon placed their spoils upon Rin’s kitchen counter and relaxed inside the living room with sighs of content.

                ‘That was much more fun than usual…’ Rin decided to say aloud, hoping she didn’t sound strange.

                ‘I enjoyed myself thoroughly, I must admit.’

                ‘Good.’ Rin found she was smiling again. Her cheeks were beginning to hurt. Had it been so long since she was so sincerely happy? Was this normal for a servant and master in the grail war? No. Not at all. She knew it was anything but normal, but Rin just couldn’t stop. This was a friendship she didn’t know was possible. The thought of Saber leaving instantly made a hole form within Rin’s chest. It was awful.

                ‘You have shown me a great many things,’ Saber reflected, a grin playing across her lips. ‘May I take the time to show you something, Master?’

                ‘Oh? What do you have in mind?’

                ‘You are welcome to decline my offer, but I would like to teach you the basics of swordsmanship, if you would allow me.’

                Rin blinked a couple of times, avoiding Saber’s gaze in fear of losing her way. This was her servant’s way of prolonging the time spent together. It was all Saber had to offer in this present day. Saber was a master swordswomen, and that master wished to pass on some of her knowledge to someone as normal (comparatively) as Rin. She couldn’t hide the excitement.

                ‘My father has a kendo practise set downstairs. He wanted to pick it up, eventually, but…’

                ‘That will do nicely.’

                ‘Just let me get changed. We can do it in my backyard.’

                ‘Excellent!’

 

                Rin put her hair into a single ponytail and changed into short shorts and a white, sleeveless shirt. This would be her workout. It would make her feel better about relaxing for the better half of the day.

                ‘You look ready.’ Saber complimented, handing over one of the kendo swords and approaching her master.

                ‘I don’t take something on unless I’m going to be serious about it.’

                ‘A commendable outlook. I am disgusted by any who accept tasks half-heartily.’

                Rin took a couple of swings with the weapon, getting a feel for the weight of it in her hands. She felt a little silly, but if this was important to Saber, she would try her best without being too concerned with how foolish she seemed.

                ‘We will start with the basics of handling such a weapon. The grip is exceptionally important, as I’m sure you can imagine. How you transition from a basic stance to an attack motion will determine the effectiveness of your strikes.’

                ‘Right.’ Rin watched Saber’s mouth as she spoke, her pretty lips forming word after word in an attempt to transfer information as concisely as possible. Saber never spoke this much, and Rin enjoyed letting her go on about the various stances, strikes, and grips that worked hand in hand. It was true what they said: someone always became more attractive when they spoke of their passion. That attraction could be in the form of admiration, jealousy, or even…

                ‘See? This is a normal head strike for basic swordsmanship. The attack itself is, obviously, imperative, but the recovery time and movement into the next section of combat is on par importance-wise.’ Saber demonstrated a couple of times before indicating Rin’s zone. ‘Try it.’

                ‘Sure.’ Rin attempted to sound confident, and thought she did an okay slash before Saber smiled sympathetically.

                ‘Your form is lacking, but the strength is there. Your legs and hips make all the difference. Allow me.’ Saber placed her weapon down and approached Rin from behind, reaching around her master’s waist and taking hold of her arms. Rin’s ears burned, the evening sun practically setting and casting a perfect twilight all around, painting everything a beautiful orange, purple, and red.

                ‘Move your hands a little bit.’ Saber touched Rin’s skin, their magical circuits reacting to one another like sparks. ‘Now step forward as I showed you.’ Saber then took hold of Rin’s hips, twisting her slightly as Rin stepped forward. ‘There.’

                ‘I get it…’ Rin lied. She was too distracted to remember anything. She wanted to be shown again. But why? Was she that desperate for affection? She had been so alone for so long. It made sense. She was mistaking a twisted form of attraction for remedied isolation.

                ‘Try again; this time without my help.’

                Rin did so, seeing a nod of approval from Saber.

                ‘Let’s try a couple of other things and then practise it all together.’

                A couple of hours went by, Saber going on and on about all the stances, scenarios, and practice it took for her to get where she was. Rin listened quietly, eating up her servant’s words and taking mental pictures of the way the moon reflected off of green eyes. Saber seemed to finally realize how much she was talking and literally covered her own mouth, muffling her following words.

                ‘I…I am sorry, Master. It appears I’ve lost myself.’

                ‘Don’t apologize. I really enjoyed this.’

                ‘No. I have wasted your evening going on about useless practises from ages past…’

                ‘Stop it.’ Rin commanded. ‘If it’s important to you, it’s important to me.’

                ‘Master…?’

                ‘I consider you the closest friend I’ve ever had, and we’ve only just met. I…I don’t want to feel this way, but I care about you a lot, Saber. It’s a disadvantage in the war, I know, but I can’t help it.’

                ‘Oh…’ Saber was silenced, clearly trying to find her grounding before replying. Rin knew she had said too much, but she couldn’t stop herself. It was hurting. ‘I suppose…I was foolish for thinking I was the only one who felt that way then.’

                ‘Really?’

                ‘Truly. And yes, it is a disadvantage.’ Saber sighed, but then her conviction returned another second later. ‘But it can also be a source of strength.’

                Rin controlled her next few breaths prior to nodding.

                ‘That’s a positive way of looking at it.’

                Saber paced for a moment, contemplating something in her mind. She eventually spoke up once more, her voice smaller than before.

                ‘It is a Japanese custom to wash the back of someone you hold dear to assist with the cleaning process, correct?’

                ‘Yes.’ Rin hadn’t cared for the notion before, but her response made her desires a little more clear to even herself.

                ‘Then allow me to -- ’

                Pounding could be heard on the opposite side of the manor, the sudden sounds of impact startling both girls. Soon, a soft, strained voice travelled through the wind, sending chills down Rin’s spine. Both she and Saber dashed through the house, making it to the entrance and swinging it open to find Sakura covered in blood. The sun had long since set, and the crimson splatter put a knot in Rin’s throat.

                ‘Rin-san…Rin-san…’ Sakura whispered. ‘H-help me…!’

Chapter Text

 

                ‘Your sister?’ Saber was sitting in the living room, only a dim light from the kitchen illuminating anything.

                ‘She’s sleeping. I got her into some clean clothes.’

                ‘Do we know what happened?’

                ‘Not yet.’

                ‘It may have to do with Shinji-kun.’

                ‘I know…’ Rin sat in the large couch, resting her face into her hands. ‘I can only imagine the worst.’

                ‘She’s alive, Master; there’s that at least.’

                ‘Yes. You’re right.’

                Saber stood up and went behind Rin, placing her hand on the young woman’s shoulder. She was trembling.

                ‘Is there anything I can do?’

                ‘No. No. It’s fine. She’ll be fine.’

                A sound alerted both master and servant, Saber drawing her blade out of the air and stepping around to the front door, looking to Rin for support.

                ‘Heh. My magic is all over the place. I barely felt them come through my barrier. A lot of good that is…’

                ‘Master? Shall I?’

                ‘Please.’

                Saber slowly unlocked the front door and paused at the sight of Rider. The imposing woman said nothing, preferring to allow Saber and Rin the time to create their own conclusion.

                ‘I see…’ Rin sighed, pushing a hand through her hair and standing. She went to Saber’s side, eyeing Rider the entire time. ‘You’re her servant now.’

                Rider nodded slowly, her expression unchanging.

                ‘Master?’ Saber breathed.

                ‘When a servant no longer has a master, it is possible for a new one to be created in order to continue the Grail War. Generally, it’s a form of compatibility and bloodline, but…’ Rin’s eyes shifted, moving about Rider suspiciously. ‘You killed him somehow, didn’t you?’

                Rider shook her head. She wouldn’t lie. Thus, Rin’s fears came even closer into view.

                ‘Then Sakura-san…’

                Saber looked from her master to Rider, contemplating offing the servant and being done with it. She knew that couldn’t be, however, for Rin hadn’t given the command for a reason.

                ‘Did Sakura-san kill him?’

                Rider hesitated, but then nodded.

                A heavy silence filled the entire front doorway, Rin eventually dispelling it by ushering Rider in. She showed the quiet servant to a chair, knowing Saber had all focus on an excuse to behead the heroic spirit. Rin glided to her favourite couch and sat, placing both hands in front of her face as she spoke.

                ‘Tell me everything. If you do not, I will give Saber permission to remove you from the war.’

                Rider nodded, her hidden eyes making any sort of rhetoric behind her actions impossible to read, let alone understand.

                ‘The boy was on top of her. There was screaming. She stopped the screaming.’

                Rin blinked.

                ‘When you say “on top”…’ Her breaths became short. Anger swelled within. The shaking started anew, although for all different reasons. ‘Do you mean…?’

                ‘Rape.’ Rider’s voice was like honey; soft, almost pleasing, but disconnected and inanimate.

                ‘The devil…!’ Saber hissed.

                ‘And now Sakura-san is your new master?’

                Rider nodded.

                ‘Pure master.’ She added.

                ‘Pure? Then…’ Rin breathed out in relief.

                ‘She is damaged. Her circuits are in disarray. Her body is an unnatural production.’

                ‘She’s suffering from some form of recoil…’ Rin’s heart went into her throat. ‘If she’s not stabilized somehow…’

                ‘Death.’ Rider didn’t move, but it was a word that even she placed some emotion into.

                ‘What does this mean, Master?’ Saber asked, her voice somewhat shaky.

                ‘I have to save my sister.’ Rin resolved. ‘If she’s suddenly become a master but isn’t capable of regulating her mana, for whatever the reason, she will die. It’s like any other circulatory system out of control.’

                ‘Then the solution is simple.’ Saber glared at the seemingly blind woman.

                ‘No. They have formed a contract. Sakura-san agreed to this Grail War. I won’t take her out of it without her consent.’

                ‘You cannot keep making compromises, Master! First Emiya-kun, and now…!’

                ‘You will not do anything without my authorization, Saber.’

                Saber shut her mouth, thoughts of the day past filling her with compassion and frustration. Rider suddenly stood up from her statue-like position, kneeling before Rin and then bowing her head to the ground. She didn’t say anything immediately, instead content in hearing Rin’s quick intake of air.

                ‘Please. Save my master.’ The servant begged.

                ‘…I will do what I can. Zoken be damned.’

 

                Rin entered into her own room where Sakura rested. She could hear the forced breaths and uncomfortable groans the moment she opened the door. Sakura may have been in a grand bed meant for the utmost of comfort, but she turned and tossed with evident irritation, as though hundreds of bugs crawled about her skin, looking for the perfect point to burrow.

                Rin knelt by her sister’s side, both Rider and Saber behind her, watching silently. She felt Sakura’s forehead, the sharpness of whatever fluctuated within the girl’s circuits piercing her mind. What Rider had said was true: her sister’s magic was out of control, although it seemed as though there was more to it than Rider’s need for mana to retain her physical presence and abilities.

                What had Zoken Matou done to poor Sakura?

                ‘What is your evaluation, Master?’ Saber asked, annoyance from the first floor following her here.

                ‘I need to get a feel for her magic circuits and balance them with an outside source to potentially stabilize the flow. It’s like a heart attack, but with the magic circulatory system. She will be as good as gone if I don’t do something.’ Rin swallowed, wondering if she was truly prepared for what this diagnosis meant. Did she have time to seek help from the church? It was doubtful. The way Sakura wreathed urged Rin into a near panic of forced solutions she would rather have more time to consider. Yet, there was no time. Rin couldn’t risk it anyway.

                ‘Can you perform the healing?’ Saber asked, oblivious and better for it.

                ‘I have never actually tried, but I don’t have a choice.’ Rin stood up and rubbed her face, a deep flow of air coming out of her nose and mouth. ‘I will attempt a mana transfer ritual.’

                ‘I see…’ Saber appeared to agree. ‘What does that entail?’

                Rin delayed answering, looking at her sister and trying to disconnect herself from the scenario before her. If it meant saving Sakura, what choice did she have? She wouldn’t lose her again. Never. But that didn’t make what came next any easier. Her throat felt tight, and her chest leapt onto the ceiling. This wasn’t right, but what choice did she have? Desperation. Desperation coercing action.

                Rin closed her eyes, trying her best to mentally remove the barriers that held her in place.

                ‘It entails forming a link between our magical circuits through a bonding of intimate biological merging and escalating our most dormant yet powerful periodic chemicals into a state of rapturous displacement in order to simultaneously translate equilibrium between two-made-one souls of potent magi.’

                ‘…I’m sorry?’ Saber almost grinned slightly.

                Rin turned away from everyone, looking to her window and remembering a simpler time, when her family was together and a Grail War sounded as though it belonged in a fantasy novel; certainly something Rin Tohsaka would never actually find herself involved with whatsoever.

                ‘…I’m going to have sex with her.’

                A beat.

                ‘Y-you can’t be serious, Master! How on earth is that even logical?’ Saber bellowed, her voice cracking. It was a reaction that, strangely, put Rin more at ease.

                ‘It makes some sense, really.’ Rin pulled the covers down off of her sister, still trying to shift her thinking into a perverse realm she rarely allowed herself to go. She filled her mind with desire, negating all familial connections and only looking at the flesh. ‘When are two humans more connected than through intercourse of any kind? Vulnerability and intimacy; the ultimate form of each. When two flesh become one. It’s the basis of all creation.’

                ‘M-Master…!’ Saber almost begged now. ‘It’s…it’s…!’

                ‘I know.’ Rin heard her own voice, but it sounded far away. Her mind was successfully withdrawing itself. She was making herself drunk on lust and resolution. Rider likely couldn’t do it properly. It had to be Rin. ‘But I don’t have a choice. Sakura can never know. Do you understand, Rider?’

                Rider nodded, moving behind her master slowly, like a shadow in the night.

                ‘T-then contact the boy! Surely he would be of assistance!’ Saber went on. Rin smiled at her one last time, trying to transfer the emotions she couldn’t put into words just yet.

                ‘Emiya-kun is too weak of a master. He doesn’t have the talent or ability to do something like this.’

                ‘B-but…!’

                ‘It doesn’t mean anything, Saber.’ Rin finally said, unsure of exactly why she felt the need to do so. They were the last words she spoke before moving her logical, calculating side away from what needed to be done. She didn’t need to understand anything. She didn’t need to think; she only needed to feel. Timing was everything. Rin wasn’t sure she could perform such a ritual perfectly the first time. She had only read about it, blushing uncontrollably upon finding such a perverse text in her father’s study. She was fairly young, Rin could remember, and recalled promising herself that she would never enact such a ridiculous practise no matter what.

                How things had changed. How things had become so twisted.

                Rin let out one final shaky breath and then moved onto the bed, placing her hands on either side of Sakura’s face and began by kissing her sister’s neck, gently moving her lips in various spots until she could feel the skin prickling with pleasure. Sakura’s voice escaped her breaths, her body reacting despite being in a state of unconscious discomfort. Rin started using her hands thereafter, stroking Sakura’s hips, waist, and then breasts, climbing the mounds and circling the tips until they grew hard and shorter breaths began to wisp into the air. Fortunately, as a woman herself, Rin had some concept of pleasuring Sakura, despite her inexperience sexually other than the rare moments she had succumbed to curiosity and yearning within the bath or this very bed.

                Rin consciously shook the memories from her mind. This ritual needed to be perfect or it would be all for naught.  

                ‘It’s working.’ Rider commented, her own slender fingers finding their way onto Sakura’s head and pushing through her hair so that some very particular nerves were sent into a frenzy and provoked chills throughout her master’s spine. The servant understood what needed to be done and, although Rin couldn’t say she revelled in the idea of another person taking advantage of her sister, she supposed another female, and one that evidently cared for Sakura’s survival as well, was the best option, if necessary.

                ‘Okay…’ Rin exhaled, pushing up her sister’s borrowed pajama shirt and directly feeling the arousal through her hands. She lowered her lips over one of Sakura’s large, pink nipples and kissed it tenderly, slowly at first before finding a rhythm and circling her tongue around the point, gauging her movements with Sakura’s groans. Her sister was resonating, the magic flowing between the siblings more easily already. Rin could feel it caressing her own body, tingling sensations overcoming her mind and form.

                Meanwhile, Saber could only watch, incapable of moving. Her eyes were utterly transfixed on Rin and what she was doing. She couldn’t forge explanation into the thoughts muddled in her head. There were too many reactions vying for attention. All Saber knew was that she wasn’t happy or comfortable. Everything about these turn of events hurt her more than any blade could have in that moment.

                Rin couldn’t have known her servant’s torment. She was too focussed; too caught up in the task set out before her while attempting to prevent her brain from working out too many of the details. This was her sister. This was her own family, and yet she was…!

                No. It was to save her. There was no other way.

                There had to be! This was reserved for last resorts!

                There was no time.

                Rin shook her head and reached into Sakura’s pants and panties, tracing between her sister’s legs and feeling for the moist crevice that welcomed any form of touch. It was smooth and pleasing, surprisingly, a shiver pulsating in Rin’s own body as she slid off the bed and balanced on her knees, pulling Sakura’s bottom clothes off and briefly appraising her sister’s most private and unblemished part before diverting her gaze and hesitating, immediately feeling the tug of Sakura’s mana circuits and the disruption in the ritual. The reminder gripped Rin’s head and pressed her into action once more. She leaned in and kissed between her sister’s inner thighs tentatively, soon licking and mouthing her with a bizarre sense of mixed longing. The taste of Sakura was a combination of bitterness and salt, a strange sense of accomplishment flickering through Rin while liquid seeped down either side of her mouth.

                Sakura moaned loudly and consistently now, Rider continuing to work her upper half while Rin sent her lower being over the edge. Rin didn’t even realize her own hand had travelled into her shorts, massaging amid her legs as lewd fluids soaked down between her own thighs. She was losing herself nearly. The ritual was already in its later stages. Rin had a feeling Sakura was much further along than she was, and this caused the young woman some panic, knowing she had to control herself in order to time the final moment just right. With that, Rin stood up, and lowered her body overtop of Sakura’s so that she could simultaneously pleasure herself and the girl she was trying to save with either hand. The touch was electrifying, and the discharge of magic enveloped the siblings even further, a dense, nearly tangible form of transference delicately orchestrated by no more than an inexperienced virgin.

                Rin knew she was drunk in the moment, her mind hazy and her eyes clouded, yet it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the ecstasy and pleasure found in the connection created. The sounds, smells, and contact were everything. Rin shifted her bod, leaning forward on her knees so that she could feel Sakura’s gasping breath on her face, the perverted sounds emitting from the sisters’ erotic and practically hypnotic.

                Saber fell against the wall, still hopelessly locked onto Rin’s sexual conquest. It was holding Saber’s thoughts, experiences unknown and pushed far from the reaches of the king’s mind returning to taunt her. It was so wrong and so abruptly distasteful at one time, but somehow raw, sincere, and beautiful in another second. The sound of Rin’s intensifying moans sent Saber over the edge, dislodging any further resistance and causing immediate curiosity and primal desire. Saber’s hand rest between her legs, overtop of the blue dress she had filled with the most human part of her life. She knew not what she did, save for pet through the fabric with some unknown purpose. She gazed longingly at Rin’s backside, her master’s hand pushing out her short’s fabric and forcing the material to tighten around her toned body with every progressively faster thrust into herself. Rin’s underwear seeped out the sides of the molested bottoms, Saber’s mind wondering what truly lay beneath. She bit at her lower lip without knowing how viciously she did so, her eyelids growing heavy and her chest heaving notably.

                Rin’s stomach tensed suddenly, her vision barely taking in the sight of Sakura’s breasts being teased and twisted by Rider who also nipped and tugged at her sister’s ears and neck. Sakura was awake but asleep, her own gaze wandering through dreams and reality at once. Sakura was nearly at the peak of the moment. Rin could tell. Her magic was being drowned in Sakura’s climbing lust. Rin was losing control. It would all be for nothing if she didn’t do something quick. The ritual fluctuated into dangerous territory, an opposite effect being immanent if Rin failed. Such logical thoughts, of course, only caused more strain, further declining a positive outcome.

                As if sensing all this, Rider moved from behind Sakura’s head at the top of the bed to beside both her master and Rin, immediately shifting all attention to Rin and her pleasure. Rider took Rin by the waist and stroked her sides, reaching up and into her white, sleeveless shirt to knead her much smaller breasts, causing them to harden against the thin material. Rin gasped at the touch, her voice sighing and her innards shivering at the attention.

                ‘Master…’ Saber may or may not have uttered in a strange way.

                Rin lost sight of herself suddenly, waves of arousal tickling her from every direction. The ritual resituated itself, and Rin’s mind found the haze once more, her body reacting and enacting instinctually with only the utmost of sexual desire being its goal. She pulled Rider toward her, the servant’s impressively full chest pressing her own against it and rubbing with desperate intent. Rider’s mouth soon found Rin’s neck and right ear, the stimulation rolling Rin’s eyes back and tightening her bowels.

                Rider broke from the impassioned action, meticulously repositioning herself behind the two masters before entering both of them with either hand, the movement of the two bodies becoming one in a constant thrusting motion to further the fingers’ entrance. Rin braced herself with her arms and knees, her body elevated on all fours over Sakura’s. She didn’t like the fact Rider had taken such liberty in the ritual, but it was working in Rin’s favour, and she knew it wouldn’t be long now.

                ‘G-God…!’ Rin wheezed, falling on top of Sakura and losing her mind. She barely grasped the ritual’s mana transference, easing all the circuits into place as the feed went through, a sort of balance becoming more and more within reach. She could feel Sakura’s stomach and groin trembling, and knew it was only a matter of seconds.

                ‘N-now…N-now…’ She managed, hoping Rider would know what she meant. Somehow, the silent servant displayed her prowess with such matters brilliantly one final time, taking hold of Rin’s most sensitive part on her body and causing an instantaneous climax alongside her sister’s.

                Sakura’s tired eyes pried open long enough to take Rin’s crazed face into her hands, bringing it next to hers in a tight embrace, her voice reaching another octave that whisked in and out of real sound. Rin held her screams in, her neck tightening and her body reacting in near-perfect sync with her sister’s. Both girls fell into rapturous delight as their innards convulsed for half a minute and the ritual concluded in seeming success. Sakura grew still, her eyelids falling down once more, but her apparent fit subdued.

                Rider licked her fingers clean, turning to Saber and approaching her slowly.

                ‘How dare you violate my master so…’ Saber spoke out, trying to sound much more intimidating than she ended up being. She then stood up and readjusted her black pantyhose angrily.

                Rider simply exited the room without another word, and that was fine with the proud servant, ashamed with how affected she had been with the entirety of the event. She went to her master’s side after a moment of hesitation, thinking for the hundredth time about their time together the previous day.

                Rin shakily pushed up and stumbled out of the bed, ripping herself away from the circulatory connection she had made, feeling as though she were separating Velcro from her body before falling into Saber’s arms, her breathing erratic and the trembling very real. It was so foreign and unlike Rin to seem so incredibly docile.

                ‘Master…?’

                ‘I…I did it…somehow…’ Rin whispered just as her eyes closed as well to welcome a deep and restless slumber.  

Chapter Text

 

                Rin hadn’t had such a restless night in quite a long time. Even the night before Saber’s summoning was simpler than this. In Rin’s mind, a mish-mash of fighting, shopping, eating and, most dominantly, sexual involvement corrupted any signs of actual sleep. She kept waking herself up, acknowledging that her dreams were false, and then realizing that what had actually occurred was almost worse.

                She had knowingly molested her sister. No matter what logistical reasoning she associated with the act, there was no denying the end result. Not only that, but Rider, a random servant she barely knew, had also been involved. In retrospect, Rin couldn’t comprehend how she had let it all happen. It ate her up from the inside out. The fact was that Sakura was saved, and that helped maintain Rin’s sanity, but she still couldn’t stop the waves of nausea from coming.

                Rin felt filthy. It was awful.

                Eventually, admitting to herself that actual sleep was a lost cause, Rin sat up on the bed that had once belonged to her father. Saber must have placed her there, not knowing the irony such a location had, all things considered. It was extremely early in the morning. The sky was that hazy blue that only early birds had the pleasure of seeing. Rin brought a small throw with her and wrapped it around her chilled form as she made her way downstairs to the kitchen. She noticed that she still had her shorts and her white shirt on. She wanted to change, but just ended up giving her panties to the laundry.

                Once Rin had started brewing her tea, she sat on the couch in the living room and stared with the throw over her head as the steam rose in her hand and into her face. Her eyes were wide, sleeping while awake as she dwelled as though she were some sort of crazed individual.

                Rin needed a bath. She needed to wash this off. No matter how much she cared for Sakura, maybe there had been another way. What she had done was wrong on so many levels it made her sick. The worst part of it all, to Rin’s utter disgust, was that a very small part of her thoughts reflected upon the night before with fondness and desire. It had felt good. Rin had ventured into self-pleasure on rare occasions, choosing to focus more so on her craft as a mage rather than distract herself with worldly lust, but she couldn’t deny the sensations that had sparked through her thanks to the touch and connection with Sakura and Rider.

                It was a vicious cycle. Disgust, curiosity, disgust, curiosity. Embarrassment.

                Rin lowered her head and squeezed her eyes shut, water forming at the rim of her lashes. School was definitely not happening today.

                ‘Master?’

                The sound of Saber’s voice chilled Rin, alerting her with fear and apprehension. She shouldn’t feel this way after sex. It just reinforced the idea that what she had done was wrong. Although, Rin could make a sound argument with herself that it wasn’t exactly “sex”, per se.

                ‘Good morning, Saber.’ Rin’s voice sounded as small as she felt. All aggression and pride had left her.

                ‘Good morning.’

                Rin couldn’t look up. She couldn’t look at her servant. The guilt was too much. The fear of how Saber would react tugged at her heart too much. There wasn’t a sound until Rin could feel the cushioning beside her sinking in so that she shifted slightly.

                ‘You are not well.’ Saber stated quite simply, her closeness setting Rin on fire. She was just a voice. The throw hid the world save for Rin’s own hands and the cup of tea within them.

                ‘No.’

                ‘Last night…was more than I could have ever expected from a ritual used to stabilize another’s mana flow.’

                Rin nibbled at her lower lip, incapable of replying competently. She wanted to cry, but she wouldn’t let the tears flow. She refused to show such weakness to anybody.

                ‘I will admit I was taken aback by it all. I couldn’t leave, for Rider may have used the opportunity to harm you, but it was…difficult to watch, I suppose.’

                Rin closed her eyes tighter and swallowed what little pride she had left.

                ‘I’m sorry…’ She breathed out sharply. ‘She’s my sister; I couldn’t lose her again…’

                ‘You are tormented by your actions?’

                Rin didn’t reply, but soon felt a hand on her shoulder, a strong grip holding her tight.

                ‘If that is the case, I would like to commend you once more for taking on such a burden. Placing your honour and dignity aside in order to do what is necessary to save someone you love is…admirable to the highest degree.’

                ‘I…don’t feel like anyone that should be praised, Saber…’

                ‘I beg to differ. Perhaps my personal attachment has skewed my judgement, but I am pleased to announce that Sakura-san slept perfectly sound after the ritual. I will also let you know that Rider has taken her elsewhere for the time being. I allowed as much, assuming you would be somewhat nerve-stricken after the event.’

                ‘She’s…gone?’

                ‘For now. I spent some time with Rider following your completion of the ritual. I…believe she can be trusted to care for Sakura-san. However, you must be aware that, eventually, should we wish to win this war, we will have to fight your sister and her servant.’

                Rin felt the wave of sickness hit her in full force once again. She didn’t want to think about it, but knew it couldn’t be delayed for long.

                ‘Right…’

                ‘I’m sorry, Master. That was uncalled for.’

                ‘No. You’re right, Saber. There is no going back starting today. Playtime is over.’

                ‘Take the time you need to prepare, Master. Rushing will only solidify our chances of falling in combat.’

                Rin placed her drink down and held her arms, staring at the ground and wishing she had more energy than she felt available to her. She didn’t want Saber to understand precisely how unstable the ritual had made her. There was a long pause between the two women before Saber finally spoke up once again.

                ‘Master…’ Her voice was soft, nearly tentative. ‘If you do not mind me asking, is it fairly commonplace in this era for…for two females to perform such…acts together?’

                Rin’s heart sunk. How did she want to answer the question that was partially responsible for her anxiety? Nothing seemed to make any sense anymore. Her father would be disgusted. Rin was continuously falling from grace, the shame burying her deeper and deeper into a pit of regret she couldn’t climb out of on her own.

                ‘It is not…completely unheard of, but it is still looked upon with judgement and bewilderment. Man falling in love with man, woman falling in love with woman, it is a reality, but it is still very much a hidden one due to social shaming.’ Rin surprised herself with the explanation. Perhaps talking it out was a remedy she underestimated.

                ‘I see…’ Saber thought it over. ‘In my time it was not unheard of for a woman to lie with a woman, but it was a sort of ritualistic preparation period, and even then, it was a known unknown in the public eye.’

                ‘Heh. That makes sense.’

                Saber shifted in the seat, adjusting her position a few times before standing up and wandering to the window.

                ‘Seeing how you are reacting now makes me all the more impressed with your will, Master. Know that I admire your commitment to your family and to doing what is right. I…I do not understand why I am irritated nonetheless, and I ask for forgiveness for seeming so.’

                Rin finally looked up from beneath the blanket, her eyes adjusting to the light and taking in Saber’s form outlined by the window. It…was an impossibility, right? She was being delusional at best. Her emotions were completely out of configuration.

                Yet, Saber turned to look at her master from across the room, an uncanny gaze locking both women into a perplexing consideration that could disappear in but an instant.

                Rin’s phone rung suddenly, making both individuals jump and return to earth, the vibrating on the table seeming more obnoxious than usual. Rin answered it instinctively, needing a distraction.

                ‘Hello…?’

                “Tohsaka-san. Glad you answered. Archer and I were thinking tonight would be a good time to deal with Caster and Assassin. Have you seen the news? We can’t keep letting more victims be created by this war.”

                ‘Right. Tonight…’

                “Tohsaka-san? Are you okay?”

                ‘I-I’m fine. I’m fine. Yes. Tonight. I agree. We will meet you at your place an hour before it gets dark to formulate the best course of action. Rest up and prepare to earn your keep as my partner, understand? I will not be at school today. I’m sorry.’

                “Yeah. Got it. I’m not sure I’ll be there either. Sakura-chan’s not feeling well, so I might check in on her. Keep in touch.”

                ‘Please take care of her and contact me should you need to. I will see you later, Emiya-kun.’

                “Great. Later.”

                Rin stood up, throwing down her blanket and finding herself renewed. She had a focus. She had a task yet unfulfilled. Sakura was safe. Better yet, Sakura had a guardian now. Rin could focus on the other masters and deal with her sister accordingly when the time came. It would be fine. It would all work out. She had Saber.

                ‘You look better, Master.’

                ‘I am. Thank-you, Saber. I don’t have time to mope. I will get cleaned up, and then you and I are going to go over some strategies together for tonight.’

                ‘Very good. But are you sure it is wise to jump into the fray so quickly? You were…rather affected -- ’

                ‘I’m fine. I’ll be fine. We don’t have time for me to be a crybaby. There’s a war to win; for both of us.’ Rin’s eyes narrowed, and she ascended her staircase, not waiting for a response from her servant who could only watch and pray her master wouldn’t self-destruct by denying her weaknesses for too long.

Chapter Text

 

 

                Rin sat upon a stone curb at the side of the pavement leading to the main entrance of Ryuudou Temple. It was where Shirou had insisted they meet. Night had fallen over Fuyuki City more than an hour ago, and Rin had put on her comfortable “mage” outfit that consisted of her red sweater and black skirt. She had also decided to wear her brown coat to keep the potential of a nightly autumn chill at bay.

                ‘He’s late. Of course he’s late.’ Rin sighed, knowing anyone passing by would think her crazy since Saber remained somewhat hidden in the shadows. Thankfully, Ryuudou temple wasn’t housing any sort of festival or ceremony in the near future, so the surrounding area was desolate save for a scarce few elderly souls enjoying the brisk night air.

                ‘Perhaps he has run into another servant on his way over here.’ Saber offered, her voice caressing Rin’s mind. It was ever the soothing sound, encasing her in a realm of calm for knowing that Saber was with her.

                ‘If that’s the case then we will have to tackle Assassin and Caster on our own. It shouldn’t be too difficult, right?’

                ‘Hm. I doubt I would have much trouble.’

                Rin grinned to herself. It would be nice to see Saber go all out for once. It would be nice to be in another battle. It would be nice to lose herself over something so the depressing thoughts would go away.

                ‘Tohsaka-san!’ Shirou’s voice reached across the street as he ran to Rin’s side, breathing a little heavily, but displaying his natural fitness all the same. ‘Sorry. Fuji-nee was on my case about going out so late by myself and everything, so it took a little longer than expected to deal with her.’

                ‘It’s fine.’ Rin pushed off her seat and crossed her arms, looking up the long staircase that seemed to disappear into the forest and within heaven.

                ‘It’s good to see you again, Saber.’ Shirou smiled, noting the servant with a sparkle in his eyes.

                ‘Indeed. Where is Archer?’ Saber deflected the pleasantry, always wanting to be aware of a potential threat’s placement.

                ‘Here.’ The deep voice of the intimidating individual sounded as he landed from the trees just at the perimeter of the forest. ‘Don’t worry, Saber. If I planned on sniping your little master, I would have attempted as much by now. Besides, I have strict orders not to harm either of you until no other masters and servants remain.’

                Rin’s brow twitched. She then took Shirou’s hand and observed his command seals. Sure enough, he was down to one.

                ‘Are you an idiot? Why would you waste one of your command seals on something like that? And what happened to the first part of your symbol?’

                Shirou hesitated to extract his hand, enjoying the touch of the girl he admired much more than the idea of explaining himself.

                ‘I had to. Archer is a bit of a…loose cannon.’

                ‘Hmph.’ Archer distanced himself from the conversation, observing the surrounding area a little bit to keep his focus occupied while the masters talked of things he couldn’t care less about.

                ‘Unbelievable.’ Rin shook her head, thanking her good fortune for ending up with Saber over a stubborn mule like Archer. She couldn’t imagine the idea of working alongside a servant that would rather off her than fight for a unified goal. She edged a little closer to Saber, feeling the presence of her servant like a warm blanket as their magical circuits played off one another.

                ‘Am I to assume that Caster has manifested a barrier around the entirety of the temple grounds save for this main entrance?’ Rin went on, knowing she was very likely correct in her evaluation.

                ‘Yeah. Caster has Assassin as her guard so that she can drain people all around the city to make herself stronger. If she has much more time to gather power, we could be in big trouble.’

                Rin cupped her chin and ran through some of the numbers.

                ‘It’s a little off though. She’s draining at a rather slow pace, if you think about it. If her end goal was to gain more strength as a mage, she would need quite a bit more mana to accomplish that. Her rate is too minimal; especially for that of a Caster class.’

                ‘Regardless, she will be put down tonight.’ Archer sighed.

                ‘Is Assassin truly that skilled, Archer? Emiya-kun claimed you both retreated from a confrontation with him.’ Saber asked, attempting to gauge her opponent before clashing with him.

                ‘The boy doesn’t supply me with enough mana to bring about my full potential, I’ll have you know. He is managing the basics when it comes to projection and reinforcement, but he’s still a far cry from a true mage, like your master.’

                ‘So, what you’re saying is Assassin isn’t as skilled as Saber.’ Rin added, somewhat hopefully.

                Archer scoffed, looking down at Saber with contempt.

                ‘How would I know? I have not yet seen this prideful warrior at work yet.’

                ‘Ready yourself then, Archer, for you may miss something if you blink.’ Saber replied with the confidence that made Rin nearly burst with admiration.

                ‘Archer is certain he can handle Caster once we get past Assassin, so the plan is to have Saber hold down Assassin while we deal with Caster.’ Shirou shrugged.

                ‘That is fine. I doubt Saber will take long with Assassin anyway.’ Rin watched as something passed over Archer’s eyes. She knew he was hiding information about Assassin. Typically, the Assassin class was among the weakest of the servants, yet Archer didn’t finish him off. This worried Rin. Despite what the arrogant individual said, he was powerful enough, even with a handicap. The duel between him and Lancer was proof of that. No. There was more to this infiltration, and Rin would be ready for when the rest of the scenario projected by Archer revealed itself.

                ‘Let us go, then.’ Saber stepped into a golden light, her armour placing itself upon her small frame and her invisible sword swirling within the air, warping the very matter around it.

                The group jogged up the mountain, more than 100 stairs climbed over before a clearing could be seen that marked the midway point to the temple upon the mound of world. Instinctively, they all stopped, Rin and Saber more than aware that this was likely where Assassin waited. The moon was high in the sky, a white pearl in an abyss as the trees all about danced for but a moment before stopping. Dead silence enveloped the small, circular opening, and Saber strode forward, sword in hand and battle instincts at their fullest capacity.

                ‘So, yet another worthy opponent steps into my realm.’ It was a male’s voice that ran like silver, the sounds escaping his lips so smooth and precise that it was difficult not to become mesmerized by his speech patterns alone. Soon, a figure stepped out of the darkness, as if a shadow taking form. He was dressed like a samurai from ages past, his tall, humbly clothed body betraying a defined and capable killer. Saber could feel it immediately. She could see it in his sharp eyes and pointed features. Despite his handsome domineer and overly relaxed movements, she could sense the perfectly honed swordsmanship from a land she had only read about in the past.

                ‘Assassin, I presume?’ Saber relaxed her stance, knowing that any chance for a “true” assassination disappeared the moment this man stepped into the ring.

                ‘That is what I am called, for now, yes.’ Assassin’s ridiculously long katana glowed in the night, its razor sharp edge gleaming as though it was merely an extension of the samurai who held it.

                Rin was fascinated, watching both Saber and Assassin inch around the opening like two animals stalking their prey. This was a true clash between legendary warriors, and Rin assumed it wouldn’t last long. She wanted to see what Saber was capable of.

                ‘You are the guardian to Ryuudou Temple then? Where is your master?’

                ‘That’s rather rude to ask of your opponent. Best me in battle, and perhaps you will find your answers. After all…that is all I am capable of doing now. This is my beginning and end.’ Assassin looked up at the night’s sky, a deep sorrow etched into each word that slipped through his thin lips.

                ‘Then allow me to challenge you to a duel proper, Assassin.’ Saber readied herself, taking up her invisible sword and shifting her weight into a stance that allowed her maximum mobility at the least bit of notice. Rin actually recognized the position, seeing the difference between her and her servant in that instant.

                ‘Good luck, Saber.’ She uttered under her breath.

                ‘Offer accepted, fair knight.’ Assassin closed his eyes, lifting his blade so that it was parallel to the earth and horizontal to his face. His stance was completely different from Saber’s, the west and east sword styles on full display in an abnormal duel across the ages.

                ‘This is insane…’ Shirou concluded. Rin couldn’t deny that. What they were all about to witness would be the pinnacle of two masters at combat. Her heart raced, anticipating the first clash.

                Rin was far from disappointed. A leaf landed between both servants, and the clash happened almost ahead of the inanimate object’s contact with the holy stone. Assassin’s blade flickered in the light, multiple parries and defensive maneuvers executed within the span of seconds. Both Saber and Assassin parted, regaining their footing and creating just enough distance to plan their next move.

                ‘Whoa…’ Shirou breathed. ‘I couldn’t even follow most of that.’

                ‘The weapons clanged exactly 6 times.’ Archer grinned widely, his teeth showing and his eyes widening just a bit. ‘That was simply a method of evaluation. Now the true battle begins.’

                Rin’s nails dug into her palm. She couldn’t feel the pain. All she could do was provide Saber with as much mana as possible. She knew Saber wouldn’t want any sort of interference, but it was hard not to, at least, cast some sort of protective spell.

                ‘Brilliant.’ Assassin nodded, sincerely impressed. ‘You have the grace of an angel, but the destructive force of a beast. This is what I have longed for.’

                ‘You are a talented swordsman yourself, Assassin. I am in awe of the abilities you possess considering your class.’

                ‘Hm.’ Assassin took up his blade once more, now a completely new attack stance on display. His sword was held on more of an angle, his feet further apart and his grip nearly resting against his long cheek. ‘Your concealed sword is troublesome, however…’

                And again, the lightening quick attacks disturbed the night, echoes of steel on steel sparking throughout the forest and vibrating between mountains. Saber could feel the intensity of Assassin’s play pushing her back, forcing her skills out of hibernation in order to counter and parry the strikes that had nothing but murderous intent behind them. Rin held her breath, waiting for Saber to finish the fight so that she could taste air again.

                Nonetheless, Saber grunted loudly after dozens of successful deflections, and soon, she held Assassin’s blade down for a couple of seconds longer than usual, her eyes crazed and mouth gritting desperately.

                ‘Go…!’ She managed.

                Archer didn’t hesitate whatsoever. He hoisted Shirou over his shoulder and burst up the stairs, not looking back even once before his shape disappeared into the dark forest, Shirou’s reluctant voice fading alongside him.

                Assassin huffed, breaking away from Saber’s pin and managing to slice her across the cheek, fresh blood dripping down her neck into her blue and white dress beneath shining armour.

                ‘You let them leave.’ She stated, fury making its way into her expression.

                ‘Yes. I am performing my task, one would say. Far be it for me to manage two capable servants at once.’

                Rin wouldn’t leave until the fight was over. The plan was in motion, and she couldn’t move forward until she knew Saber was okay. Archer hid his strength; she knew this. He would be fine against Caster. Assassin was, by far, the bigger threat at the moment.

                ‘I know the length of your sword now, Saber; may as well reveal it so that this duel can proceed honourably for both of us.’ Assassin’s words could be misconstrued as arrogant, but he was nothing of the sort. All he desired, evidently, was a fair and fulfilling fight.

                ‘So it would appear.’ Saber relented, knowing by their most recent interaction that Assassin wasn’t bluffing. What skill he possessed, to be able to adjust his style to her blade’s shape and size so quickly and in the heat of combat.

                ‘Now that we are alone, shall we begin this properly?’ Assassin stood up straight, holding his blade at his side and bowing low. ‘I am known as Sasaki Kojirou, an imaginary samurai legend created by the people to fight for the people.’

                ‘Imaginary…legend?’ Saber uttered.

                ‘My summoning was a disgrace, one might say. I am bound to this temple due to Caster herself being my master.’

                Rin gasped.

                ‘A servant becoming a master?’ She blinked, her intelligent mind piecing together the variances and possibilities immediately. ‘I suppose if any servant could do it, Caster would be the one.’

                ‘And her need for draining civilians becomes clearer.’ Saber also noted. She then held her own invisible blade next to her side and bowed slightly. ‘I am -- ’

                ‘Although your duty as a knight likely dictates that you reveal your name, I would ask that you do not, fair lady. Prying eyes could be lurking.’

                ‘You honour me.’ Saber nodded once more. ‘However, in that case, my physical blade is not yet required. Its glory cannot be contained, and to reveal it would be to reveal myself to potential onlookers.’

                Rin held her chest. The way Saber conducted herself and faced such extreme danger always reminded her that Saber was, indeed, a king in her past.

                ‘Then I was correct to be wary of such a weapon. Mine would truly bend should it make direct contact following one of your strikes. But let us discuss the matter further with our steel, shall we?’

                The servants began their dance of death once more, the intensity of their strikes shaking the very air around them and creating vibrations in the stones Rin stood on. She relocated some of her sensory magic to her eyes, straining them still to follow exactly what was happening. Saber’s strikes were like a snake’s, never extending beyond two, nearly simultaneous, blows before she drew back and did a millisecond of reading followed by redirecting her targeted area. Assassin was a master of parrying such slashes, but he had barely any time to follow through with a counter, the third clash eventually leading to another stalemate no matter how extravagant both fighters began to act, slides and jumps throughout the circular arena making for a spectacle above and far from anything imaginable.

                Saber slowed her breathing, taking up her tried and true stance once more as she waited for the fourth round. Rin could feel the toll this fight was taking on Saber’s body, the mana free-flowing from Rin into her servant at a constant rate to make up for the immense amount of energy exerted.

                ‘It would appear that you have forced my hand, King of Knights.’ Assassin hummed, stepping into the moonlight and slowly raising his blade. Either the light was playing with Rin’s eyes, or Assassin’s blade moved throughout space at multiple levels, creating an illusionary effect that made it seem as though he had three swords in one.

                Saber reacted instantly, her feet spreading apart in preparation for what was to come.

                ‘I claim fame to nothing and am known by none, yet here I stand with but my one, original technique. Can you withstand it, fair lady?’

                ‘Be careful, Saber…’ Rin offered, wondering if her servant could even hear her. Something wasn’t right. Assassin was preparing his noble phantasm. Rin was positive. There was no shift in magic at all, but there was no mistaking that something incredible was coming.

                ‘This move was created through natural inspiration. We over evaluate ourselves, us humans.’ Assassin went on, his eye gleaming behind his sword. ‘Do not blink.’

                Saber’s entire body tightened, and Rin couldn’t even follow what happened next. One second both servants stood poised to attack, the next half a second Assassin was on the other side of Saber, his sword extended and his entire body stretched out. Saber turned, a piece of her chest’s armour cracked and her right arm shaking.

                ‘What on earth…?’ Rin whispered.

                ‘Hm.’ Assassin mumbled, turning to face Saber once more. ‘The footing was off. I suppose that’s what I get for acting arrogant in the face of such raw beauty and talent.’

                ‘Two simultaneous strikes. I didn’t think it possible…’ Saber spoke aloud. ‘Never before have I faced a person of your ability.’

                ‘I could say the same, Knight. I can defend this pathway with no regrets now. You are the one I have been seeking. Everything has been worth it. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.’

                An explosion erupted from Ryuudou Temple, flashing lights and waves of magic pulsating through the forest and surrounding area. Rin’s eyes ran rampant, her focus split between what Shirou was facing and the threat before her and Saber.

                ‘You can go.’ Assassin urged. ‘I hold no pleasure in serving such a troublesome vixen.’

                ‘It is true, Master. I will finish this battle soon.’

                The offer was tempting to Rin, but she bit at her lip and steadied her breathing.

                ‘No. I won’t leave you, Saber. Finish him.’

                Assassin raised a brow.

                ‘If only I was summoned by a master of your regard. Perhaps this life would have held more meaning. Come, honourable knight. Let us end this so that your task at hand can be fulfilled properly.’

                ‘I thank you, Kojirou-san. It has been a pleasure.’ Saber smiled, and for a moment Rin thought it was all over. But Assassin took up his dangerous stance once more, and a repeat of the last clash threatened to take place.

                ‘You said there were two simultaneous strikes, correct, Saber?’

                Saber tightened her grip on her blade and shifted her left foot slightly, preparing to move.

                ‘There will be three this time. Prepare yourself for the true Turning Swallow Strike.’

                It was a brilliant tactic. The moment Assassin completed his claim, he made his move. Rin took the moment and manipulated her magic as much as she could, shifting her perception so that time slowed just enough for her to see Assassin and Saber’s brief collision. Nonetheless, she could only make out a single strike as Saber seemed to parry two blows at once while evading perhaps a third. It was too fast, even with Rin’s attempt to witness the interaction.

                Both swordsmen paused, their positions switched to what they were initially.

                ‘I may have mistaken you for the purest flower; a lily perhaps.’ Assassin grunted, taking one knee to the ground and grinning as he held his stomach, a deep crimson soaking through his layers of cloth. ‘It is now clear you are nothing less than the most fearsome of lions.’

                Saber exhaled slowly, blood oozing from both sides of her neck.

                ‘Well met, Kojirou-san.’ She uttered slowly, going to her opponent while covering one of her wounds; presumably the deeper of the two.

                ‘Leave me. Do what you must. This was all I could ever hope for truly.’

                Saber hesitated, but then turned to Rin, nodding. Her eyes were as convicted as ever, but even Rin could tell she was troubled by the end results.

                ‘Let’s go, Saber.’ Rin took control, approaching her servant and standing at her side. ‘We’re not done yet.’

                ‘Yes.’ Saber agreed, doing Assassin the honour of not looking back as she ascended the holy stairs to yet another battle.

Chapter Text

 

 

                Running up the stairs with Saber, Rin had a completely new perspective in relation to her servant. She had seen Saber fight before, and knew her to be impressive, but this was the first battle where Rin actually felt the weight of the opponent’s abilities. Assassin was an enigma for his class, likely due to his butchered summoning by another servant. For an Assassin to be so skilled at close combat was unheard of. For Saber to be able to match and overthrow that talent was something that Rin would keep in mind for future confrontations. Additionally, Saber hadn’t even used her noble phantasm yet, which Rin could only imagine was beyond fearsome. She suddenly began to understand that winning the Grail War wasn’t completely out of grasp, and this inching reality was both terrifying and exciting at once.

                ‘How are you feeling, Saber?’ Rin decided to ask, just barely keeping pace with the servant’s run up the stairs by using a bit of magic in her legs.

                ‘I am fine. Assassin was an honourable foe. He purposely refused to know my name or even tempt my noble phantasm. We were fortunate.’

                ‘You were amazing back there. I feel all the more privileged to be working alongside you.’

                ‘I could not have performed the way I had if not for your consistent supply of mana. Any less, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have the reaction speed necessary to deal with that final strike. It was truly marvelous.’

                ‘Will you be okay?’

                ‘I will admit some discomfort, since he, indeed, was aiming to kill, but I should be fine. For now, I am more concerned for Archer and Emiya-kun.’

                Another flash of light and explosion erupted over top of Ryuudou Temple, this time so close that Rin nearly lost her footing, just barely recovering in time to prevent a harsh fall down the stairs.

                ‘Come.’ Saber took her master’s hand, and soon, both women stood at the very entrance, craters and smoke rising from everywhere, stones and wood tossed about as though a minor tornado had swept through the area. It had been a warzone.

                ‘Archer! Emiya-kun!’ Rin called out, searching the wreckage for the other master and servant.

                A red blur appeared beside Saber, Archer standing tall, if a little battered. Shinji came stumbling over from behind some debris, holding his arm which was torn up and bloody.

                ‘The witch is a coward through and through.’ Archer stated, dismissing everyone in his rage.

                ‘Hey, guys.’ Shirou tried to smile, but his cut up lip and bruised cheek made it much more distorted than intended.

                ‘Is she gone?’ Saber asked, still surveying the area.

                ‘Yes. Illusions and cheap tricks; it’s all she knows.’ Archer grunted. ‘If not for this boy’s poor supply of mana, I may have been able to perform a more adequate means of combat, but I suppose that would be asking for too much. She even had the gall to ask me to join her and her merry band. With Assassin’s fate on the brink, I’m glad I refused her.’

                ‘She’s not strong, per se, but she’s got a lot of magic, and she can fire off spells with barely saying anything.’ Shirou added. He must have just gotten used to the constant chastising. If it were Rin, she wouldn’t tolerate it a second longer, but Shirou was Shirou, and there was no changing him.

                ‘Did you find out anything else? Perhaps who her master is?’ Saber went on, unfazed.

                ‘No. There was no master visibly present. Her base of operations has been destroyed though.’ Archer sounded more annoyed than usual, and Rin could imagine why. ‘Did you finish off Assassin?’

                Saber hesitated, but then nodded slowly, her eyes closing a little longer than usual.

                ‘He has been subdued.’

                ‘Did you kill him?’

                ‘I won the duel, and have provided him with a warrior’s death.’

                Archer seemed genuinely impressed, his eyes widening slightly and his mouth hesitating to speak for but a moment.

                ‘…I see. Well done.’

                There was a pause, some pieces of wood collapsing and the smell of smoke becoming more prominent as the small fires were distinguished naturally.

                ‘So, what’s the plan from here?’ Shirou decided to try and ease the tension between his servant and Rin’s.

                ‘With Caster back into hiding, we’re somewhat at a standstill. Shinji is no longer in the war, so at least that’s one participant we don’t have to worry about anymore.’

                ‘Whoa! What?’ Shirou couldn’t hide his surprise. Even Archer turned with interest.

                ‘Saber and I handled him the night before. His servant was Rider, and he is no longer her master.’

                ‘Wow…’

                ‘Perhaps I underestimated your abilities, Rin Tohsaka.’ Archer raised a brow, his tone somewhat sincere. ‘You may win the Grail War yet.’

                ‘Enough, Archer.’ Shirou stepped in, perhaps mistaking his servant’s compliment for mockery.

                ‘It’s fine. We may need to do a little investigative work to figure out our next move. Berserker can wait, as far as I’m concerned. If we can discern who the masters are of Caster or Lancer, we can make our move from there. They have to be in this city somewhere. Caster’s master is our best bet. If she was staying at the Ryuudou Temple, then the natural thing to do is interrogate Ryuudou-kun.’

                ‘Issei? I don’t think he knows anything, but I can try.’ Shirou shrugged.

                ‘Contact him tonight, if you can, and then get back to me as soon as possible.’ Rin demanded.

                ‘Okay. Consider it done.’

                ‘Allowing women to dictate your life must be pleasant.’ Archer sighed.

                ‘Will you be at school tomorrow, Tohsaka-san?’ Shiro ignored his servant once more.

                ‘Yes. I would like to confirm a couple of things before moving into the next phase of the war; especially depending on what Ryuudou-kun has to say.’

                ‘You maybe want to have lunch together and hash some stuff out?’

                ‘That may or may not be necessary. We will be in touch. Careful on your way home.’ And Rin turned, allowing Saber to pick her up and blitz to the bottom of the stairs, no Assassin in sight anymore. A cab was hailed, and it wasn’t long until Rin and Saber both welcomed the warmth of the Tohsaka manor.

 

                ‘That was at least a productive day.’ Saber had changed into her comfortable, everyday clothing, sitting on Rin’s bed and facing away as her master also changed into her sleepwear which consisted of a loose, but rather expensive, frilly tank-top and shorts.

                ‘Yes. I feel a little better now about everything.’ Rin sat in front of her vanity desk and brushed her hair out, the twin tails always causing her grief by the end of the day. ‘Although I would like to check on Sakura. The fact she hasn’t contacted me is a little worrisome.’

                ‘Ah…Yes.’ Saber stumbled, cursing herself.

                ‘It’s fine, Saber. I’ve distanced myself from what had to be done. My sister is safe, and that’s all that matters.’

                Saber couldn’t reply to her master’s words right away, the lump in her throat preventing any coherent words from forming. Rin was such a strong girl, but she was also so very frail and innocent at the same time. There was something about these strange contrasts in Rin’s personality that made Saber want to protect her from anything and everything.

                ‘If you are troubled, there is no weakness in seeking guidance.’ Saber finally said, wondering how much of a hypocrite she could possibly be.

                ‘…Thanks, Saber. I suppose I am turning away from the truth, but it’s the only way I can cope at the moment. I’m sorry. It’s sort of pathetic, isn’t it?’

                ‘No. It’s very honest. I appreciate such pure sincerity.’

                ‘I wish she didn’t become a participant though. It makes sense, since Shinji had no magical talent whatsoever, and that was the purpose of the Matous taking her in, but…I can’t fight her. I can handle Emiya-kun, but I won’t be able to deal with Sakura the same. She’s my weakness, and I have to strike down my own vulnerability if I want to win…’

                Saber paused, but then went to Rin, taking the brush from her and holding her master’s hair in the other hand.

                ‘What are you…?’

                ‘Allow me, Master.’

                ‘Y-you don’t have to.’

                ‘I fully understand that, but I want to.’

                Rin could see her own flushed face in the reflection, and it forced her to turn her eyes away. Saber’s touch sent chills throughout her whole body, and the moment her servant began combing, Rin’s toes curled and she had to do everything in her power to snuff the growing feeling in her chest.

                ‘Well…thank-you.’ Rin mumbled.

                ‘I want to tell you something in relation to the situation regarding Sakura-san.’

                Rin held her breath, not sure why panic was causing her to nearly choke.

                ‘I knew of Lancelot and Guinevere’s relationship for a very long time. I was socially inept, truly, but even I could tell something was amiss. It was somewhat of a joke, really, how obvious it eventually became. However, Lancelot was my best knight and also a very good friend of mine. I might even go as far as to call him my best friend.’ A pain shot through Saber’s mind, a brief image of Lancelot losing himself and attacking her amidst burning cars and an underground building. It was a bizarre scene that made little sense.

                ‘Your…best friend.’

                ‘Yes. However, once word spread that Guinevere was having an affair, I was forced to make a decision as a king. I could no longer feign ignorance. Judgement had to be passed.’

                ‘What did you do?’ Rin looked at Saber through the mirror, seeing the anguish renewed in her servant’s face.

                ‘I banished him forever for the betrayal. The punishment had to be merciless. Soon thereafter, Guinevere abandoned me for the nunnery, and I was left to lead my kingdom to ruin. They were the darkest days of my life. I was falling apart at the seams and only found relief in the form of combat. I was a foolish king, and because of me, my country suffered.’

                Rin’s heart caved. She wanted to hold Saber, but she knew it wasn’t the time. The pieces fit suddenly. Her mind subconsciously did the work without her even trying.

                ‘You want to use the grail to change history…’ Rin breathed.

                Saber simply nodded, a sad smile making her look more hopeless than ever.

                ‘Yes. It can be my only redemption. It is the only path I have. I will never sleep until I know I lead my people to victory.’

                ‘But…you were so young. You can’t bear all of the blame. You weren’t the only person involved.’

                ‘I was the king. I am a king. All blame, rightfully, belongs to me. I wasn’t strong enough. I wasn’t smart enough. I didn’t understand the people well enough.’

                ‘That’s not right.’

                ‘Right or not,’ Saber wasn’t asking for discussion. Her mind had been made. ‘It is the reason I fight. It…was…the only reason I fought.’

                ‘Was…?’ Rin blinked, feeling Saber’s hand move through her hair and then resting on her right cheek. Her skin was so soft, but the callouses upon her palms were abundantly evident as well. Rin’s body temperature rose at the sudden movement of intimacy, wondering if there was something being lost in translation.

                ‘You…have changed my outlook somewhat, Rin Tohsaka. I see myself in you in so many ways, yet we are also so very, very different. I have never felt such a connection with someone else. I…value your presence. It’s calming, despite your fiery persona.’

                Rin’s throat tightened. Words seemed impossible. Was Saber aware of the effect she was having? If not for the touch to Rin’s cheek, everything would be fine, yet…

                ‘I know what you mean.’ Rin tried to not squeak. ‘At first I thought you were a bit stubborn and arrogant, but maybe it’s because I also saw myself in you. Now, I can’t imagine life without you, and it’s barely been a week. I don’t want the war to end, and that’s possibly why I’ve been somewhat lackluster with my moves.’

                ‘I see.’ Saber smiled a little more, her hands moving down unto Rin’s shoulders, rubbing them softly. Rin’s knees pressed together, her body trembling with false anticipation.

                ‘I grew up alone after my parents both left me. I’ve always been alone. I have friends, but I hold them at an arm’s length. Emiya-kun wants more, but I can’t do that to Sakura. Nobody knows the real me. Nobody…but you.’

                ‘I doubt the world would be capable of handling a being such as yourself.’

                ‘Stop it.’ Rin hummed, her skin prickling under Saber’s touch and her circuits opening up.

                ‘Rin-san…’

                ‘Just Rin. Please.’

                ‘Rin…’

                Rin held her breath and finally looked up, noticing that Saber’s intense, emerald green eyes were bearing down into her soul.

                ‘A-anyway, we should probably get some rest for now. Tomorrow will likely be busy as well.’ Rin found herself on the defensive suddenly, shuffling on the spot and standing up, out of Saber’s touch. What was she doing? Why was Saber making that face?

                ‘…Of course. I must apologize…Master. I forgot my place. Forgive me.’

                Rin couldn’t find her voice. She heard Saber leave, but it still wouldn’t work. The door closed with barely a sound, yet the hand around her throat gripped tighter.

                Why…?

                Rin curled into a ball on her chair, holding her legs close, wet marks forming on her thighs.

                Why…?

                Her phone rang. It rang again. Then again. Then again. Finally, a message was left. Rin stayed as she was for nearly an hour, scenes playing through her mind from the past and present, recreating red marks under her eyes. Frustration, betrayal, anger, isolation, fear, and confusion.

                Eventually, checking the message on her phone was all Rin could do. It was the first step to regaining some semblance of normality.

                “Hey, Tohsaka-san. Issei said that there was someone visiting his place a lot lately having long talks with his special guest (Caster). You’ll never guess who her master might be. You ready? Kuzuki-sensei. Yep. The World History and Ethics teacher. Guess we got some work to do. Let me know how you want to figure this out. It’s a solid lead!”

                Rin dropped her phone to the floor and flopped into her bed, hugging a pillow and making her body take up as little space as physically possible.

                ‘Damn it.’ She uttered to herself.

Chapter Text

 

 

                Rin struggled to get out of bed the next day. Waking up meant dealing with Saber, and that meant confronting her intense cowardice from the day before. It wasn’t a pleasant situation; mostly because she had no idea what her exact thoughts on the matter were. She didn’t want to know. She didn’t want to think about it too much.

                Rin sighed and stumbled her way down the stairs, leaving her hair in disarray and plopping onto her favourite chair before clicking on the television to check the current status of Caster’s influence over the city.

                “Yet another five victims have been found collapsed due to the mysterious virus spreading through Fuyuki City. Citizens are encouraged to wear masks and use hand sanitizers when necessary. Although previous victims show signs of recovery, older individuals and children are more susceptible to severe reactions that cause longer periods of recovery.”

                Rin pushed her hand through her hair and sighed. If only Caster had been dealt with the night before, these five victims would be able to go about their days without worry. It was frustrating, but Rin told herself that the Grail War wasn’t supposed to be easy either.

                ‘Tea, Master?’ Saber’s voice cooed, and Rin flinched in response, the sudden presence of her servant startling her for a number of reasons.

                ‘Oh. Yes. Thank-you.’ Rin took the warm beverage, avoiding eye contact.

                “In breaking news, a murder took place last night between 2:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m., according to specialists. The victim was found on the side of the road with their throat slit, face slashed, and chest caved in. No pictures or footage have been released yet, and the victim’s identity is undiscernible as of the present. Reports state that the victim’s skin was a bizarre shade of grey upon discovery. Truly a heinous and mysterious act that has forced the police to begin a very intense investigation.”

                ‘Oh, my God…!’ Rin covered her mouth.

                ‘The work of a servant?’ Saber asked, not believing any of the other heroic spirits capable of such brutality.

                ‘It might not be related to the war, but best keep our eyes and ears open. The skin tone change suggests possible mana disruption, but we can’t be sure.’

                ‘It would be preferable to end the war sooner than later at this rate.’

                ‘Agreed. Emiya-kun has a lead on Caster’s master. I’ll be confirming his identity today, and then we’ll likely make our move tonight or tomorrow depending on the plan of action.’

                ‘Very well. In the meantime, shall I do what I can to gather information potentially related to Lancer while you are at school? Should you need me, you can always use a command seal.’ Saber’s voice had lost all the intimacy it had the night before. It was business as usual, and Rin supposed she had asked for as much.

                ‘That’s true. Best not waste more time.’ Rin turned off the television after determining that little more useful information would be displayed. She couldn’t care less about sports or the latest celebrity gossip at this point. She brought her half-finished tea to the kitchen and began organizing some of her dishes.

                ‘Master…I want you to know that I understand having stepped out of line last night. I truly lost myself, and apologize for even hinting such lunacy. I still consider you a valuable friend, and I would do nothing to compromise that. I hope you do not feel the need to handle me any differently because of my foolishness.’

                So, Rin had been right in her presumptions. She gripped at the counter, sensing the damage that had already been done. Her heart was aching, and she knew it wasn’t because she was upset toward Saber’s near-proposal. If anything…

                ‘I was just…caught off guard. I should apologize as well. If anything, I’ve been cruel; practically leading you into such a realm of consideration. I’ve teased you a few times, mostly because your reactions are amusing. It wasn’t right to mock your inexperience.’ Rin went back into the living room, finding Saber by the window and not facing her. ‘I’m sorry.’

                ‘…Thank-you, Master. That means a lot more to me than I expected it would.’

                The fact Saber wouldn’t call Rin by her name solidified the damage done. Nonetheless, Rin tightened her hands into fists and approached her servant, grabbing her from behind and holding her tight. Saber was like a board, stiffened and shocked by the unexpected contact.

                ‘This is an act of friendship?’ Saber wanted clarification. Rin’s jaw clenched, and she simply nodded before breaking away.

                ‘…Yes. You are very precious to me.’

 

                ‘Good morning, Rin-san!’ Sakura called out just as Rin was about to enter the school building. With her sister was Shirou, seeming a little sheepish about the whole interaction for some reason. The fact Sakura was being so outgoing was abnormal as well.

                ‘Good morning, Sakura-san. How are you feeling this morning?’

                ‘Oh, fine! Thank-you for asking.’ Sakura smiled brightly, taking Rin’s arm suddenly. ‘Heh. Shirou wants to know if you’d like to join us for lunch to talk about some things.’

                Rin gave the boy in question a glance, simply getting a shrug and awkward grin in return. No honorifics? Something had changed dramatically in very little time.

                ‘Sure. I don’t see a problem with that. Meet on the roof?’

                ‘Sounds good.’ Shirou nodded.

                Sakura finally released Rin once the group all had to go their separate ways, waving excitedly before falling back into stride with Shirou. Once Rin made it into her classroom, she was instantly ambushed by Kaede and Yukika (a quieter girl who had been sick for the last week or so).

                ‘Have you heard the latest buzz around school? It’s all over our school’s social media.’ Kaede took out her phone without waiting for a reply from Rin, poking and sliding at the thing until she found that which she sought and stuck it in Rin’s face. It was Sakura Matou’s profile on a social network of some kind, and her relationship status had been changed to dating Shirou Emiya the night before.

                ‘Isn’t that insane? I totally thought Emiya-kun had the hots for you. I guess we were all completely off base. Kane-chan is livid, but Sakura-chan has been gunning for Emiya-kun for forever, so it’s about damn time, in my opinion, you know?’

                Rin smiled softly, a wave of relief passing over her until she allowed her mind to dissect everything a little further. Did Sakura remember the night before? Was she aware of the Grail War now? Was she expecting to join up with Shirou and Rin from here on out? It was all becoming much more complicated than Rin wanted.

                ‘Not only that, but Shinji-kun updated his profile and has moved to America to study abroad. Random, huh? He’s going to get a rude awakening with those amazons, I tell you. Oh, well. Guess he won’t be bothering you anymore, huh, Rin-chan?’ Kaede showed Rin the post, rightfully a little perplexed by it all.

                It wasn’t out of Zoken Matou’s reach to hire a professional hacker and hide the death of his incompetent grandson. Still, no matter how horrible Shinji was, Rin felt a tinge of sympathy for the boy. He was raised with no expectations and no love. He was pitiful, but that didn’t mean he should be cast aside like a piece of trash.

                ‘They’re not all bad. I have an American pen pal online…’ Yukika claimed, her quiet and squeaky voice making her sound even smaller than she already was.

                ‘Seriously? Is he as real as that samurai cosplayer you’ve been going on about?’ Kaede nudged her friend, grinning devilishly.

                ‘Samurai cosplayer?’ Rin inquired.

                ‘I…made a trip to Ryuudou Temple a few times to ask for a blessing to heal my flu recently. I met a strange man dressed in a samurai outfit who hung around the middle of the stairs. He was really kind and…handsome. He talked to me for a really long time about things.’

                ‘Like what?’ Rin raised a brow, likely surprising Kaede by zeroing in on this particular piece of information when so many other interesting topics were up for grabs.

                ‘Oh, um, nature, birds, and going to school. I don’t know…’ Yukika blushed, obviously smitten.

                ‘You should be careful around strangers.’ Rin decided to say simply, doubting the samurai would ever be seen again by her friend.

                ‘Huh? You believe her?’ Kaede grunted.

                ‘Why would she make something like that up?’

                ‘Whatever…’

                The bell rang, disrupting further conversation and leaving Rin to toil through a couple of periods alone; truly alone. Saber was nowhere to be found, and Rin’s most prevalent thoughts echoed without someone else chiming in. It was much more isolating than Rin anticipated, and she found she missed Saber desperately, as though a piece of herself had been lost. Rin couldn’t help contemplating what Saber had wanted to say last night, her supposed budding fancy for Rin too much for the young master to possibly imagine or consider seriously. Did Saber have her emotions mixed up? She was a king, after all, and Rin was just…nobody, really. Comparatively speaking, Saber was heavenly, while Rin could only dwell on earth like another piece of sand with a little more sparkle than most because of her status as a renowned family of mages.

                Besides, even if Rin had a moment of insanity and allowed her mind to play through a different scenario regarding Saber’s emotional claim, the servant would eventually disappear, and if the thought of that already made Rin horribly depressed, then…

                Rin sighed over and over as she processed these things. The Grail War took priority right now; not these childish thoughts full of nonsensical consideration of impossibilities.

 

                Finally, lunch-hour came, and Rin bought a quick lunch before making her way to the rooftop where Shirou and Sakura were already waiting. They both had amazing looking bento boxes, likely curtesy of Sakura, who seemed like she would be a great cook.

                ‘Hi, Rin-san! Thanks for coming.’ Sakura waved as she did that morning. Rin had never seen her look so bright and cheerful before. It was beautiful, yet shame enveloped the older sister, memories of a sinful yet, admittedly, somewhat pleasurable night constantly flickering through Rin’s mind. She couldn’t make the images of Sakura’s naked body sprawled upon her bed disappear. She kept seeing Sakura’s shapely breasts being fondled by Rider. She could taste her sister’s skin and lewd juices. She could feel their nipples teasing one another.

                ‘You okay, Tohsaka-san?’ Shiro asked, breaking Rin out of her momentary daze. Thank God he couldn’t read minds. What would Shirou think if he knew? He didn’t even have to know that they were actually sisters to be revolted by how perverted Rin had acted that night. No matter what the reasons, Rin couldn’t shake the embarrassment.

                ‘Y-yes. Fine. Now, shall we begin this meeting?’

                ‘Let’s.’ Sakura slapped her hands together, inching a little closer to Shirou.

                ‘Shinji’s ownership of Rider has been passed on to Sakura. Apparently he didn’t want to be involved in the war anymore after you and Saber interrogated him at Cloud Nine. I guess you guys made a big impression.’

                Rin breathed out, eyeing Sakura and trying to get a read on everything.

                ‘And thus, Shinji-kun was shipped off to America to better his chances of making it out of all this alive. No doubt he’ll return when the smoke settles.’ She supported the story, knowing it was for the best.

                ‘Yeah.’ Shirou mumbled. ‘It’s a little odd, but I guess that’s how it went down.’

                ‘Odd?’ Rin decided to press.

                ‘It’s just…Shinji is definitely a coward and inconsiderate womanizer, but he’s also ridiculously stubborn and selfish. I have a hard time believing that he just up and left.’ Shirou crossed his arms, indicating that he truly found it all difficult to process.

                Rin saw the panic wash over Sakura’s face, and her sisterly instincts took over immediately.

                ‘Zoken Matou is capable of many things. Shinji-kun likely had no say in the matter.’

                Understanding took over Shirou’s expression now, and Sakura also appeared relieved.

                ‘That makes sense. Sakura is staying with me and Fuji-nee now because her grandfather is away on business as well. Guy doesn’t stick around long, does he?’

                ‘I recommend never digging too much into his business, Emiya-kun. Zoken Matou has been around for a very long time, and has always been the most devious of all the great families.’

                ‘Oh…’ Shirou put the pieces into place himself, surprising Rin once more. ‘I hope Shinji is actually okay then.’

                ‘He is. He said he’ll text me when his plane lands. Grandfather may be a little…mysterious, but he wouldn’t let harm come to his own family needlessly.’ Sakura added, strangely enough. Rin would leave that up to her then.

                ‘Good.’ Shirou was satisfied.

                ‘Saber is currently trying to find more information on Lancer and his master, so we should focus on Caster and Kuzuki-sensei. I’m fairly confident he’s our man, but I’ll confirm as much myself after school.’ Rin decided it was best to change the subject. The last thing Sakura likely wanted Shirou to know was that she had actually killed Shinji Matou; a reality that Rin couldn’t allow to occupy too much of her attention. She could understand Sakura’s desperation, and perhaps Rider had truthfully been involved more than she would ever admit, but the fact of the matter was that Sakura thought she had done the killing, and that meant something upstairs was certainly corrupted in some way. Close observation would have to be put into play, but beyond that, Rin wasn’t sure for now.

                ‘Then we’ll come with you.’ Shirou said a matter-of-factly.

                ‘No. A large group would only risk our lives more. I don’t need help. When I confront Kuzuki-sensei, that’s when I’ll want help.’

                ‘O-okay…’ Sakura nodded, her eyes growing a little wider.

                ‘You don’t have to fight if you don’t want to, Sakura-san. It’s dangerous, and -- ’

                ‘I know. I want to. Rider says I have lots of dormant magic in me. I can be helpful.’

                Rin didn’t doubt it. Not only did Zoken Matou likely alter Sakura in some way that Rin didn’t want to think about, but she was also a Tohsaka, at the end of the day, and that meant something all on its own. The fact Rin had merged some of their magical circuits and transferred some of her own power was icing on an already loaded cake.

                ‘Still, I don’t like the idea of you getting too involved. We just need to survive this war, and that will be that.’ Shirou sounded sincere, but Rin hoped he wasn’t so foolish.

                ‘The war doesn’t end until one servant remains. Saber, Archer, and Rider will not sit idle while the opportunity to win the Holy Grail remains so close to them; that’s assuming all three of us even make it that far. There are still three pairs of masters and servants to contend with other than us. This war has barely started. Assassin is the only servant defeated at this point.’ Rin’s information was sobering, and she was pleased to see the true weight of their situation sinking into Sakura and Shirou. They were a team of inexperienced mages plus one semi-serious master. Illyasviel was no joke whatsoever, Kuzuki-sensei was a big question mark of capability, and Lancer’s master has been smart enough to remain hidden while he waits for the perfect time to strike. The situation was far from ideal, and Rin needed her sister and Shiro to understand that so they both didn’t end up dead.

                ‘I see. Then we better stick together until we do get to the point where only three of us remain.’ Shirou sounded confident, but he was being overly optimistic, as always, and it was grating on Rin’s nerves. She missed Saber even more.

                ‘Honestly, I have concerns with our team. True, we have numbers, but numbers mean nothing if the capabilities are minimal. Archer is handicapped because of Shirou’s lack of talent as a mage, Rider is, by nature, somewhat average statistically all around, and your both terribly unprepared and lack the correct training as well as mindset for this war.’ Rin knew she was being somewhat hypocritical, since she considered herself to be failing at the war, but she really needed Shirou and Sakura to understand just how serious all this was.

                ‘Right…’ Sakura relented, sounding much more hurt than Rin wanted her to be.

                ‘I’ve been training. Sakura and I will do some more work tonight. If you could,’ Shirou hesitated, but pressed forward regardless. ‘Would you be able to come by my place to help us with some of the basics?’

                Rin’s knee-jerk reaction was to soundly decline, but there were more than a few benefits of spending a little time with Shirou and, more importantly, Sakura. There was something off about her sister, and Rin needed to discern precisely where they stood as friends.

                ‘I suppose that makes a degree of sense. We will hold off on bringing down Caster and her master until tomorrow night. Tonight we will prepare ourselves fully for the confrontation. I’ll contact you, Emiya-kun, after I find out what I need to know about Kuzuki-sensei.’

                Sakura and Shirou met one another’s eyes, smiling brightly at the unexpected response.

                ‘Great!’ Shirou exclaimed, sounding much more relaxed than ever before. It was nice to see, really. He and Sakura were good together. Speaking of which…

                ‘So, is it true?’ Rin found she was exhausted from doing all the thinking, making the call to return the conversation to some bit of normalcy. ‘Are you two dating?’

                Sakura blushed, smiling wider now while diverting her eyes.

                ‘Heheh. I guess so.’ Shirou answered for them humbly.

                ‘That’s very good to hear. You both seem quite happy.’ Rin would be lying if she claimed not to be annoyed by Shirou’s ability to flip from his fixation on her to her sister, but the joy on Sakura’s face was something that couldn’t be denied for now. Rin would be keeping a close eye on Shirou regardless.

                ‘Thank-you, Rin-san.’

                The bell to declare lunchtime over sounded, leaving Sakura, Shirou, and Rin to hastily clean up their food and go back to their final two classes.

                ‘What is your plan for tonight?’ Shirou asked as the three descended the school’s top floor stairs to the third floor.

                ‘Don’t worry about it. I’ll be fine.’

                ‘You should be careful though.’ Shirou spoke a little lower.

                ‘Really, Rin-san. Who knows what sensei is really like? He always keeps to himself and is a little scary. If something happens to you…’

                ‘I have Saber. There’s nothing to worry about.’ Rin lied, knowing full well that Saber wouldn’t be with her. In a way, she wanted to take on this challenge alone. She wanted to prove to herself that she still could take care of things when it came down to it. No matter how much she missed Saber as every minute passed, she also didn’t want to come to rely completely and utterly on another person. She had already learned her lesson regarding that sort of weakness.

                She wasn’t a little girl anymore. She was a young woman stepping into the realm of the great magi her family helped represent. She wouldn’t falter any longer. It was time to enter the second phase of this Holy Grail War.

Chapter Text

 

 

                Saber claimed that she would do her best to find out more information about Lancer and his master, but without Rin to help her navigate Fuyuki, the task was a little more than daunting. Still, Saber needed just a little bit of space from her master in order to sort herself out and refocus on the primary goal.

                The grail. That was all Saber needed. Once she obtained the grail, history, as she had unfortunately shaped it, could be changed, and her honour could finally rest.

                Rin’s words continued to haunt her even in this moment. Try as she might, Saber couldn’t shake the part of herself that agreed with her master’s words. Yet, without the grail and the wish it provided, how would Saber continue to fight?

                The answer was so simple, but Rin had made it abundantly clear that the strange emotions Saber was harbouring had misled her. It made sense, truly. Rin was right. Saber was being immature and foolish. She was living out a past that had been stripped from her in place of ruling a kingdom. Her life had been full of majesty, glory, and obedience. Her life had been grand in every regard…save for relationally.

                In Saber’s heart, there was a hole that she was never interested in exploring or dissecting. No. There was no time to occupy her mind with thoughts of true love and unbiased commitment. There was a kingdom to rule. There is a grail to win. There is a past to remedy.

                Saber walked down a fairly busy street in Fuyuki City, her plain white shirt and blue skirt seeming very out of place compared to what everyone else wore; which came in all shapes and sizes. It was incredible, now that Saber had time to take it all in. At Rin’s school, all the students were forced to act and dress fairly uniformly. However, once outside of school and work, the people of Fuyuki City appeared to go completely out of their way to individualize themselves. Such persons would be considered quite eccentric or even sick in Saber’s time, but the differences in this period were aplenty. Uniqueness, when handled correctly, helped humans thrive, yet could just as easily isolate them from the main crowd. It was a fine line to balance.

                ‘Come see the newly opened cat café! Dine while enjoying the relaxing warmth of a cute feline on your lap! Me-ow!’ A woman dressed in what Saber knew to be a French maid’s attire and fake cat ears beamed, handing her a small packet of tissues with directions and a decently done graphic.

                ‘Oh, um, thank-you.’ Saber responded, although the woman moved right along to the next person passing by, not missing a single beat. A similar occurrence took place multiple times with slight variations in the presentations. By about midway down the strip of shops and high-rise buildings, Saber had accumulated more than 7 different types of cards and tissues, all inviting her to places of entertainment. It quickly became apparent that this was an effective, if a slightly annoying, way of bringing awareness to the sheer number of spots to spend money.

                Saber tried not to let herself be overwhelmed by the amount of streets, side streets, and side-side streets she could explore, but without Rin, she was quite ignorant as to where would be a decent area to start searching efficiently for Lancer. Realistically, she doubted progress would actually be made, and decided just creating some space between her and Rin would be for the best for now.

                Why had she begun to make such a bold claim in the first place? What was she hoping to gain? This existence was utterly temporary. It wouldn’t matter in a few days.

                Saber stopped and pulled off the main street, seeking refuge from the crowd for a moment while she slowed her heart rate. The idea of being without Rin was much more painful than she anticipated. Air felt heavy. Her chest was collapsing. She had found her soulmate as a person. Be it romantically or strictly through a friendship, Saber longed for Rin more than she ever wanted to. The only way she could move forward would be to isolate her emotions like she had as king. Saber was a professional at such navigation of her mind. It would be simple.

                Saber shuffled along through the crowd of a main street in Fuyuki City only long enough until she found another sidewalk that extended following the river close by. It’s not as though she was going to find Lancer and his master amongst a mass of people like that anyway.

                The quiet of the riverbank immediately put Saber at a little more ease. She had disposed of most of the handouts she had been given except the cat café one, stashing it in her skirt pocket without thinking much about the reasons why. Eventually, the path opened up to more grass and various art displays that only added to the level of tranquility found in this slice of Japan. Children ran about with balls, laughing and giggling as their parents watched from afar, drinks or cameras in hand. Elderly couples strolled on past Saber, nodding to her kindly with sincere smiles of acceptance. A jogger stepped off onto the grass in the effort to not disturb others enjoying the sunny, yet slightly overcast day. Birds flew overhead. A family of ducks swam nearby. This was peace. This was prosperity. The past Saber regretted so led to this moment of unhindered pleasure.

                Perhaps I’m wrong. Saber mused, still unable to give up her mindset yet softening more to her master’s arguments.

                A soccer ball bounced off of Saber’s leg as she lost herself, the impact causing her to leap back as though an assault was being carried out against her. Two little boys, dirty from rolling around on the ground, cautiously observed the woman who seemed to stand between them and more hours of fun.

                Saber collected herself, knelt down, and brought the ball up, smiling as best she could.

                ‘Is this yours?’ She asked, trying to sound kind.

                The braver of the two boys stepped forward, rubbing his nose and nodding vigorously.

                ‘Here you are.’ She passed the thing, both boys nodding a little haphazardly prior to running off, laughing after a comment was made. Saber smiled a little wider now, the sun beating against the back of her neck and reminding her that this was all so extremely brief. She had her chance to live. It was time to move on…

                Saber sighed, walking further down the path and revelling in the world as it changed. She walked for more than an hour, travelling throughout a part of Fuyuki City and seeing more people soaking up the day. Mothers walking with strollers, chatting feverously. Men off to the side with fishing poles and cigarettes, guffawing at what was sure to be a hilarious joke. School boys cutting class and looking proud of their mischievousness. It was all so beautiful.

                Saber reflected on the outings with Rin. This was her master’s life. This war was but a fraction of what Rin hoped to accomplish. This wonderful world was the world Rin knew. Saber was not a part of it. She could never, realistically, be a part of it all.

                ‘Vulgar, is it not?’ A voice broke Saber’s tranquility. She hadn’t even payed much attention to the individual sitting on his own upon a bench just a little into the side of the path. She looked about for someone else that he may have been speaking to, but saw nobody. Saber could only presume it was she who was being engaged.

                ‘I beg your pardon?’

                ‘This world; it’s repulsive.’

                ‘I see…’ Saber decided to let it slide, knowing it was pointless to interact much with a soul who had such polarizing views to her own.

                ‘I doubt it. Only a true king would see the rot that envelopes this planet. Frivolity and sloth; it’s all repelling.’

                Saber’s mouth twitched. Was it just a coincidence this person had mentioned the concept of a king so quickly, or was he somehow involved in the war? The young man had blonde hair that fell just above his eyes before shaping the rest of his face. His black jacket and fitted pants made him almost seem like a model. He had his arms outstretched behind the bench, and barely opened his eyes as he clearly watched Saber slow.

                ‘I happen to believe the opposite, so I am sorry, but I cannot entertain your statement much further.’

                The man finally opened his eyes, a crimson iris locking Saber in place. He had to be part of the Grail War somehow. Either that, or he was just a freak that enjoyed creeping others out with bizarre, but artificial, physical attributes.

                ‘You surely jest. The planet wreathes and wails; raped of its natural providence for the most arbitrary ends. If those ends included the joy of a worthy ruler, I would potentially be willing to listen to your argument, yet that is not the case, and thus, futility only tests my patience.’

                Saber lowered her gaze, spacing her feet part just slightly.

                ‘Who are you?’

                ‘Who am…?’ The man’s sharp eyes blinked with confusion before his arrogance found itself once more. ‘I see. You have lost your memory, my fierce lion.’

                ‘You know me?’

                ‘I do, although it is too soon for our paths to cross beyond the transfer of some words.’

                ‘Are you a servant?’

                ‘I serve nobody.’ The man growled, looking to the sky briefly before smirking and relaxing again.

                ‘Then a master.’

                ‘Of sorts, one may say.’

                Saber glanced around, seeing the multitude of civilians enjoying their afternoon, oblivious to the war happening underground. She couldn’t do anything in this moment.

                ‘Lancer’s master?’

                ‘Not quite.’

                ‘Then…’

                ‘This topic bores me. I’m the one who performs the inquisitions; not my subjects.’ The man leaned his cheek on his fist, eyeing Saber mercilessly, causing her to cross her arms and adjust her mind. ‘You remain worthy enough, I suppose.’

                ‘I am more than worthy of anything you may appraise.’ Saber hissed back.

                ‘Oh?’ The man mocked, standing finally and leaning in close to Saber. ‘You would dare make such a bold claim in the face of Gilgamesh, the one true king and first hero?’

                ‘Gilgamesh…’ Saber breathed, sparks of memories stabbing at her brain. ‘So, you are a servant…somehow…’

                ‘Understandably you do not comprehend everything just yet. That is fine. Just be aware that I exist and that I think you will do nicely. I have observed you enough to know that this desire is not just a passing notion.’

                ‘Whatever do you mean?’ Saber didn’t want to ask, but any information on this mysterious player was worth it. At least she had found something to report.

                ‘My wife, naturally. The ruler of the new world desires company, as it were. Of course, I expect your mouth to do a little less talking, but even the proudest beasts submit to a more powerful being. I deserve everything this crumbling planet can offer that is good, and you should consider yourself fortunate that I wish to count you among my collection.’ Gilgamesh went to touch Saber’s cheek with the back of his hand, but she flinched away, her mouth tightened and eyes glaring.

                ‘I think not.’ She responded quite simply. This appeared to be amusing to Gilgamesh, his deep laughter not the reaction Saber predicted considering everything she knew about the man thus far. The enigma walked away, more than less dismissing Saber over bidding her farewell.

                ‘Oh, I was hardly asking.’ Gilgamesh let the claim float in the air, Saber’s enjoyable afternoon, which was hastily becoming early evening all too quickly, suddenly tainted by this idiot of a man.

                ‘When the time comes, you will regret speaking to me in that way.’ Saber said eventually, looking around to make sure she was alone again. If this individual was actually Gilgamesh, and some sort of hybrid servant/master, Saber would have to inform Rin immediately. He didn’t seem completely insane, which was the only other alternative.

                ‘Ridiculous.’ Saber huffed once more. She continued back the way she came, eventually leaning over the metal fence that protected anyone from falling into the river. The very idea of marrying that man left the most revolting of tastes in Saber’s mouth. He was everything she hated in a person and more. He didn’t look at Saber as a person; he looked at her as a thing to possess. It had always been that way wherever Saber was. She was an idea. She was a thing. She was a concept.

                Yet, Rin treated her like another girl. Rin looked at her with respect, admiration, and acceptance. Rin understood Saber’s faults and strengths. Rin complimented her. Rin believed in her. Rin talked to her, not at her. Saber closed her eyes and squeezed the blouse covering her heart. She supposed she had allowed herself to take this true relationship too far. Perhaps she was overstepping her boundaries due to the foreign practise of friendship.

                I was being naïve. It is the friendship between Master and I that I love.

                Saber sighed in relief. That made much more sense. She would have to explain herself to Rin the next time they spoke. She longed for it so, despite only a couple of hours having passed.

                As if in response to Saber’s lamenting, a tug at her soul took place, warping the very plain of existence around her, Rin’s voice uttering her name in desperation. She was being summoned via a command seal. Something was happening. Her master needed her.

                Saber equipped her armour and entered the grail’s opened door feverishly so that she could protect Rin from whatever threatened their success. She wouldn’t lose. She wouldn’t lose anything again.

Chapter Text

 

 

                Getting away from Kaede, Yukika, and Kane was hard enough without seeming too suspicious, but waiting around for Souichirou Kuzuki wasn’t exactly a simple task either. Rin tried to keep a low profile outside the school gates, knowing that Souichirou walked home most days and didn’t have a need to go to the parking lot. Still, the sun was setting, and Rin wasn’t someone that got away with standing around much without being forced to engage in random pleasantries with club goers and other teachers. Eventually, Rin moved herself more to the side of the entrance, hiding her presence so that she could still see anyone leaving the school, but they would have to be actively seeking her out to know she was there.

                As Rin continued to stake out Souichirou’s departure, she noticed how fast the sun was already beginning to set overhead, and wondered if Saber was doing alright. Their little confrontation the night before weighed heavily on Rin’s mind, and she didn’t want to think anything of it, but knew she had hurt Saber more than she ever wanted to. As she dwelled on it further, and as the separation from her servant lengthened in time, Rin had difficulty denying a rising emotion in her chest.

                Had she denied Saber because of the reasons she had relayed? No; of course not. Rin had been attracted to Saber the moment she had been summoned. The attraction was mostly due to admiration and a strange sort of jealous longing, but as time went on, and as Rin spent more time with her servant, she knew the initial attraction was morphing into something much more intimate. It was difficult to ignore with every passing day, and the mana transfer ritual just convinced Rin of a truth about herself that she didn’t know, or perhaps, wanted to believe.

                Rin had been in love with a boy once. She recalled it as though it were a week ago when it was years prior. She had stayed after school to do the classroom cleaning, and became fixated on a boy with pure determination and truth in his eyes attempting to do high jump and failing miserably over and over and over again. She had watched him jump, fail, and set himself back up for almost ten minutes. She couldn’t look away. Rin never did anything with these emotions, content with letting them fade with her stubborn reluctance to act on anything that may hurt her in the future.

                And now, Rin found she could also draw pleasure from girls. She could admire and even love her own sex, and that admittance was difficult for the “perfect” Tohsaka heir picture she had painted of herself. It was a piece that didn’t fit.

                Rin snapped up from her inner evaluation the moment she saw Souichirou exiting the school. It was a little ungraceful in execution, no matter how she approached, but Rin kept her distance and followed her teacher, trying not to seem like a stalker without losing her prey.

                Rin didn’t have any idea where Souichirou Kuzuki actually lived, but she had a feeling he was, perhaps, taking a bit of a detour. He was eventually on the outskirts of the city, the weather having progressively gotten more overcast as they moved in beside the mountains and to an area that was, for the most part, somewhat deserted. An old gas station here, an abandoned building there. Pieces of a past that had turned grey.

                So far, nothing about Souichirou’s behaviour indicated that he was a mage. Rin had, about midway to their current location, shot him with the smallest dose of mana that was meant to disable a minor section of magical circuit nerves, but his reaction was nonexistent. Even Shirou would have reacted which, theoretically, meant Souichirou was in the clear. However, Rin’s instincts told her that there was something certainly off about this particular teacher, and she needed to find out what before moving on to another phase of combating some of the other masters.

                Suddenly, Souichirou stopped in a small clearing, only collapsed buildings and a dead-end road ahead save for a little path that wove deep into the mountains. Rin’s whole body went tense as she understood what this likely meant.

                ‘You can come out now.’ He muttered, his tone deader than it was even in class. Souichirou was known for his cold, uncaring method of teaching, but most took him as just overly serious about his job. Rin had always suspected something beyond that, having seen enough men with incredible power to know where his perfect composure and seeming confidence stemmed from.

                Rin hoped he was speaking to someone else, but when her teacher turned and looked directly at the cover that Rin could hardly peep through to keep track of Souichirou, she knew the chase was over. She had been lured here, and that meant she would have to be prepared to summon Saber at a moment’s notice. Unflinching, Rin stepped out from behind the large piece of building, just noticing how chilly and dismal the surrounding area had become. The wind was picking up, and the clouds filled out ominously. The lights were beginning to come on alongside the fading dusk, a flickering lamp obviously present.

                ‘Rin Tohsaka. I see. So, she was correct.’ The man spoke perfectly levelled, his eyes lacking any light or care whatsoever. He was the definition of stoic, his statuesque presentation unnerving at best.

                ‘Souichirou Kuzuki. You are Caster’s master?’ Rin had to put effort into steadying her voice.

                The teacher took off his glasses, sliding them into his suit’s chest pocket and closing his eyes for a moment.

                ‘I am.’

                That was it. Rin had completed her task, but something told her she wasn’t going to be allowed to leave just yet.

                ‘Caster is draining innocent people of their mana. That’s against the rules.’

                ‘And?’ Souichirou barely moved his mouth.

                ‘You can’t involve the general public in the Grail Wars.’

                ‘…I am insufficient as a master. There is no other choice.’

                Rin knew it. Souichirou had practically no magical circuits. He couldn’t use any sort of mage craft, and thus, Caster had to drain Fuyuki City to sustain herself. That didn’t make sense though. How did Souichirou get selected as a master in the first place?

                ‘The goal of this war is to eliminate the other masters and servants, correct?’ Souichirou spoke just a little lower than before. Rin could tell that something was coming, and she began calling out to Saber, the first couple of words passing through her lips before a gust of wind pushed her off balance, a blow like being hit by a car slamming into her stomach and sending her across the ground for almost ten metres until she collided with a piece of debris, the pain pulsating in multiple areas from just the first strike.

                ‘S-Saber…come to me…!’ She just managed, tasting blood as her hand emitted a red light and one piece of her command seal evaporated into the desolate air. Saber exploded onto the scene, ripping through time and space and glowing a brilliant gold all the while as she emerged and stopped another blow from Souichirou, his fist ricocheting off Saber’s invisible blade and being parried off to the side.

                ‘I am here, Master.’ Saber announced, taking her stance once more and eyeing her new opponent.

                ‘Immobilize him…’ Rin wheezed. She was doing emergency recovery within, circulating her magic around her stomach and within, praying that no permanent damage had been dealt. Souichirou’s attack was incredible. The pain Rin felt was unlike anything she had ever experienced. She could barely breathe, the air around her seemingly resisting passing through her lungs.

                ‘Should we seek medical attention for you first, Master?’

                ‘No…’

                Saber didn’t have time to converse further with Souichirou lunging toward her, apparently done with waiting. Was he insane? He was fighting a heroic spirit. He may have had decent combative skills, but that would only get him so far against a legend. Saber reacted in turn, her blade slicing at the man and drawing blood as he evaded back, creating distance from himself and the master swordswoman.

                ‘I suppose that was to be expected. Your abilities are nothing to underestimate.’ He commented, loosening his jacket’s buttons and eventually discarding it altogether.

                ‘For a mere human, I must admit to being impressed. Those movements are unprecedented.’ Saber acknowledged, to Rin’s frustration. For once, Saber’s chivalry was an annoyance. Rin knew Souichirou held no honour; his first blow indicated as much. Yet, Saber always sought a fair and ritualistic fight. It was perhaps her greatest weakness, Rin realized.

                ‘Just…finish him…’ Rin urged, her voice barely coming out as a whisper.

                ‘You should have listened to your master, Saber.’ A seductively demeaning voice encapsulated the whole area. A woman cloaked in a dark robe stepped out from what appeared to be a miniature black hole, a deep violet dress and half her face hidden by her majestic cloth. Her mouth twisted into a wide smile as she giggled to herself, the whole area influenced by her sudden presence.

                ‘Caster, I presume.’ Saber spoke slowly.

                ‘Indeed. And you are Saber, so it would seem. You’re as angelic and powerful as I have deduced. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to add you to our collection.’

                ‘Alive, then?’ Souichirou asked simply.

                ‘Alive.’ Caster confirmed, waving her hand with a trace of visible magic tracing where her fingers went.

                ‘Saber…!’ Rin urged, her sound cracking. It was as she feared. If Rin, as a decently talented mage, could enhance her physical attributes with magic, then Caster, a master at manipulating mana, could do the same for not only herself, but someone else. In this case, Souichirou was obviously incredibly skilled at hand-to-hand combat, and to have those honed techniques amplified further meant trouble for even a heroic spirit.

                It was too late.

                Instantly, Souichirou entered Saber’s attack zone, his arms and legs emitting a glow as his speed displayed the effects Caster’s support had upon his already fearsome punches, a flurry of exchanges happening in a blur as Saber grunted and compensated for the disadvantage she was forced into by how close Souichirou insisted on fighting. Saber’s blade helped and hindered her, Caster’s master showing a level of caution since even his fists had trouble when making direct contact with the holy sword, yet the way in which Saber tried to manoeuver proving challenging with such limited space.

                Saber also struggled with the emotionless expression her opponent expertly wore. Even Assassin showed a hint of his intent with his eyes, yet this man was a clean slate, only ruthless precision and complete disregard for anything but his victory transferred.

                Saber managed to push Souichirou back, but he hardly looked fazed save for the cuts in his clothes and the blood seeping from said wounds.

                ‘She is good.’ Caster grinned.

                ‘To struggle against a master as such; I am disgraced.’ Saber muttered. She was frustrated but not defeated.

                ‘I want you, Saber. Archer was foolish enough to decline my offer, but I’ll extend it to you in the event that you prove more intelligent than that man. Join us. With you by our side, the grail is within reach. No servant would stand in our way.’

                ‘I decline. This is your final battle.’ Saber readied her blade, spacing her feet apart perfectly, the sound of her armour grinding against the various plates.

                ‘Oh, that is a bold claim. We women need to stick together. Souichirou-sama…’ Caster touched Souichirou’s back almost lovingly before he dashed toward Saber once more. This time, however, Saber was prepared, and she dealt with her assailant’s need to get closer than preferred for the swordswoman. She kept the brawler at bay, yet his multiple angles of attack were difficult, a couple of blows landing just where Saber’s armour was weakest or nonexistent. To be able to pinpoint such chinks amidst the speed at which the individuals fought was a feat in and of itself. Saber was impressed yet annoyed.

                As Rin watched, she wished she could interfere somehow. All she needed to do was create the right opening for Saber and it would be over. Fortunately, Caster hadn’t had the same idea. The sadistic servant appeared to be content to simply watch as her master fought for her sake. It was a strange role reversal, but one that made sense, given Caster’s overall weakness at close combat. Nonetheless, Rin refocussed her efforts on regaining some sense of herself since she felt her consciousness fading. She had been fighting blacking out since Souichirou’s blow into her stomach, and as time progressed, she only grew more likely to pass out.

                Saber pushed Souichirou back once more, this time managing to take a larger chunk out of his shoulder than any connection before, the master’s white undershirt completely soaked in crimson within seconds. A green aura shone overtop of the wound as Caster worked its damage as best she could, yet magic couldn’t heal anything completely; it could only expedite the body’s natural abilities.

                Rin knew a tactful retreat made the most sense, but her notion of failure and incapability throughout the entirety of the Grail War was gnawing at her more than anything. Even the damage inflicted to her bowels was nothing compared to the shame and embarrassment of how she had conducted herself until this moment. Her family’s name was tarnished in her mind, and she had to make some form of positive progress here and now, with a master and servant challenging her to a classic duel.

                ‘Your decision, Master?’ Saber asked, as if she were reading Rin’s mind.

                ‘Defeat them…Saber.’ Rin muttered angrily.

                Although she hesitated, Saber, nonetheless, initiated the fight this time, launching off the ground and spinning midair as she clashed with Souichirou, his evasive techniques saving his life but not a piece of his leg.

                ‘Naughty. Naughty.’ Caster reprimanded, a flash of light exploding from her outstretched hands as something much more deadly than Rin’s gandr shot toward Saber. The worst case scenario had come to pass. Saber was now dealing with a two on one pincer attack.

                ‘Shit…!’ Rin gasped, struggling to take out her cell and dial Shirou. It was the last thing she wanted to do, but it was either that or lose Saber completely, and she couldn’t even imagine. Rin knew it was nearly futile, but with Archer’s airborne abilities, he might make in time before Saber was beat. Additionally, Rin decided it was time to remove another sheath.

                ‘Use your noble phantasm, Saber. Obliterate them.’ She projected into her servant’s mind.

                ‘Master…? It isn’t a technique for a battle such as this. I need time to prepare it, and these opponents will not--

                Saber was struck down by a monstrous blow from Souichirou, his amplified power practically breaking Saber’s amazing armour. The stubborn servant spat out some blood, pushing herself up from the ground and launching yet another attack. She was performing brilliantly, successfully deflecting Caster’s montage of spells while simultaneously defending against Souichirou. Nonetheless, Rin could feel her mana draining more rapidly than ever before. Saber was using every ounce of strength she had to survive the onslaught, and she wasn’t making any headway beyond living just a little longer.

                ‘Such incredible talent. The Saber class truly lives up to its name.’ Caster licked her lips provocatively. ‘I want you all the more now, Saber.’

                Options. Rin needed options. The more the better. Work through the possibilities. Defeat wasn’t a choice.

                ‘Shirou…’ Rin breathed into her phone. ‘Help me…Outskirts…Old town…’

                ‘Rin…? You’re serious, aren’t you? Damn it…! Wait for me! Just wait!’

                The line went dead. Shirou knew. He could tell. Rin was relieved he wasn’t as thick as he let on. When push came to shove, he was reliable enough. He would jump as many times as it took to succeed, but if someone’s accomplishment came at the price of his own, he would help them over any hurdle. Now, if only Saber survived long enough…

                ‘Shirou and Archer are on their way, Saber. Just hold them off a little longer…

                ‘I shall finish them before then, Master.’

                Rin grinned slightly, her chest light suddenly despite the massive pounding in her gut. She wasn’t out yet. Rin pointed her finger toward the area of combat and steadied her nerves, hoping her aim could be true even though her focus was wavering alongside her consciousness.

                ‘Leave me an opening, Saber.’ Rin projected once more.

                ‘Done.’

                It was overly impressive the way Saber commanded the zone of attack even at a disadvantage. Granted, Caster had to be careful about friendly fire, but the fact two opponents struggled to bring down one servant filled Rin with pride. Saber ducked and parried, pivoting and shifting her stance perfectly. She nodded just ever so slightly, and Rin hesitated no further. She fired a gandr, knowing it would just be enough to allow Saber time to finish Souichirou. Yet, Souichirou proved his innate talent for fighting, easily stepping out of the shot’s way and clipping Saber’s face with his spinning back fist.

                Rin cursed herself for being so useless once more, doing everything in her power to stand and fight alongside her servant. It was the way it needed to be, yet here she lay, her innards potentially damaged and preventing her from helping the most important entity in her life.

                The most important…!

                Saber batted away more enchantments from Caster and lunged forward, throwing Souichirou for a second at her abrupt change in pace. She held Excalibur differently now, switching the grip and leading with her free gauntlet. Souichirou instinctively grabbed hold of the king’s fist, but he couldn’t do much more against the inevitable side slash brought in from an awkward angle. Rin’s teacher brought his arm up, fully knowing he could lose it, and lose it he would have if not for Caster’s sudden interference.

                Rin felt a glimmer of hope at the unconventional tactics her servant forced herself to apply in order to win, but Caster’s teleportation and random close quarter’s initiative were just as unexpected. Saber’s whole body froze, Souichirou’s blood caking overtop of the warping air about Excalibur’s hidden form.

                ‘Rule Breaker…’ Caster hissed, plunging an oddly shaped dagger deep into Saber’s back.

                ‘S-Saber…!’ Rin croaked. Her analysis of the situation was filled with off variables. There was no way such a flimsy looking blade would be able to pierce Saber’s holy armour. And even if the weapon could, Caster had nowhere near enough strength to pull of such a feat regardless. It didn’t make sense.

                ‘W-what…on earth…?’ Saber grunted, her whole body shaking as she was transfixed in place, unable to move. Souichirou withdrew his arm from Saber’s sword and struck her once in the face with an open palm strike, the blow knocking Saber’s head back and bringing her to her knees as she struggled to breathe properly.

                Rin’s hand burned, and her last two command seals faded into her skin, leaving hardly a mark where once they seethed.

                ‘N-no…! No! No!’ Rin begged, looking all around for an answer to this impossible equation.

                ‘Yes, Rin Tohsaka. Saber now belongs to me, thanks to my lovely noble phantasm.’ Caster held her toxic looking dagger fondly, new marks of command forming overtop of her hand. ‘Ah. I had to replace Assassin, didn’t I? I would say there has been an upgrade.’

                ‘Impossible…’ Rin breathed with a rasping throat. This wasn’t happening. This couldn’t be happening.

                ‘You foolish girl. Why on earth would you challenge an opponent you knew nothing about? Intel is key to winning the Grail Wars. Why, just look at me; the weakest of all the servants, yet I hold the most power as of now.’

                Souichirou moved in beside his servant, staring coldly at Rin as if he had never actually looked at her in his life.

                ‘Saber.’ Caster lowered her tone, her face ever concealed from giving away too much via her eyes. ‘Put this sad girl out of her misery and kill her.’ A piece of the newly formed command seal faded away, and Saber stood, her mouth distorted in agony and her eyes already filled with water.

Chapter Text

 

 

                Saber’s whole neck tensed, the veins within protruding as she used every ounce of energy she had available to her so that she could resist the soul crushing command given to her by Caster, her new master. It was the absolute worst case scenario in Saber’s mind. She could handle losing. She understood what defeat meant. But to be utterly dishonoured in the process to the extent of forcing her own hand against the person she cared for most? It was maddening, and Saber would rather kill herself than allow this crude charade to continue on further.

                Nonetheless, her body moved on its own, pulled by the supreme force of the grail, the very object that had summoned Saber in the first place. Her will was strong, but the ethereal power of the holy object proved she was still under its command. Saber would resist the entire way. She would make it difficult. She would make it painful. She wouldn’t do it willingly. She couldn’t. Her eyes burned and her teeth chipped, the energy it took for her to resist draining quickly.

                Rin tried to get up once again, and she just managed to get onto her shaky feet, having to lean on a large chunk of cement in order to steady her balance. She met Saber’s water-filled eyes, the agony in her servant’s expression stabbing her in the chest.

                ‘Run, Master!’ Saber demanded, her voice cracking uncharacteristically.

                Rin couldn’t stop herself from smiling. She could hardly stand let alone run. All she could do was meet death with dignity. It was the Tohsaka way. Her father surely embraced the end, knowing he had done everything in his power to win the Grail War.

                ‘To resist a command seal; what strength. She will completely shift the war into our favour, Souichirou-sama.’ Caster swooned, looking to the teacher for approval. The man simply huffed, rubbing the wound that was covered in a green aura of healing capabilities.

                ‘It’s okay, Saber. It’s fine. I knew what I was getting into. I wasn’t…strong enough.’ Rin tried to shoulder some of the responsibility, but she couldn’t possibly understand the anguish Saber felt.

                ‘Master…!’ Saber screamed, shaking her head and barely a few feet away now. Excalibur was lifted over her head, its form still concealed, and she howled once again, her cry bloodcurdling and echoing through the mountains.

                Rin closed her eyes, surprisingly calm, a small piece of her almost happy that her life would end at the hand of someone she cared about so. She wasn’t joyous, but the inevitability of the situation placed a hand of comfort on her shoulder. Perhaps she would see her father again. Maybe her mother and her could go to the park and catch butterflies. There was another; there was someone else she knew that was close with the family. He was a little odd, but so kind. She…

                A red flash of light landed between Saber and Rin, a black arrow exploding upon impact and sending the late master and servant in opposite directions. Rin felt a pair of arms swing in under her and lift her up, taking her high into the air to the point that her stomach flopped and she almost fainted. It all happened so quickly. She landed, and then was in the air again, as though she were flying, until she landed once more and everything fell into darkness.

 

                ‘Saber didn’t follow…but she also…’

                ‘…wounds aren’t fatal…’

                ‘I wonder…but how did it…?’

    

                An open field with grass greener than she thought possible. Wild flowers blowing in the wind. A perfect sky with beautiful, white clouds. A small village. A blonde girl in a white blouse and blue skirt tending to a field. Her eyes were green. She was very pretty. She wiped her forehead and looked up to a man without a face. He told her something, and she seemed excited.

                Blink.

                A crowd of people in an open square. A blurred out sword within a stone pedestal. One after another fail at pulling the blade from its mount.

                ‘She…fool…’

                ‘Did she…but then how will…?’

                ‘She doesn’t seem…’

                The man tries his hand, the little girl cheering him on enthusiastically. She was bright and happy. The man failed, and the crowd laughed in unison as the little girl stepped up, seeking revenge for her friend. All laughter and sound stopped the instant the sword slid out of the stone with seeming ease. The girl was most shocked of all. Her face was a mystery.

 

                Rin rubbed her eyes and breathed out deeply, a pinch in her stomach causing her to catch her breath and wince at the lingering discomfort.

                ‘You’re awake…?’ Sakura appeared startled. ‘Shirou! Shirou, she’s awake!’

                The sound of footsteps barrelling through a very old Japanese house drew closer, and soon, Shirou slid back a door and rushed into the spare room.

                ‘Tohsaka-san! Thank God! You were in rough shape. Where does it hurt?’

                ‘…Everywhere…’ Rin mumbled, her brow furrowing and her recollection of the events forcing her body to shake against her will. She had almost died. Saber was going to kill her. She thought she was seconds away from death. The reality of it all, now that she had lived, terrified her. Rin covered her eyes with her sleeve, biting at her lip and quivering in the effort to not openly bawl.

                ‘Shirou…’ Sakura whispered.

                There was a silent pause, but in seconds, the door slid closed again and it was just Sakura. She placed her hands on her sister’s shoulders and held her close, resting her head on Rin’s own and holding tight.

                ‘It’s just you and me, Rin-san.’

                This made it worse. Rin didn’t make any noise, save for a slight whimper, but her sleeve was getting soaked, and her chest was concaving. Saber looked so devastated. Saber had been nearly forced to…after everything she had been…

                ‘It’s okay. It’s okay to cry…’ Sakura soothed, petting Rin’s head softly.

                Rin never wanted to be babied. Since her father and mother had left her, she wanted to stand on her own two feet and fight with the power she herself had achieved through hard work and study. However, pride meant nothing in this very moment. What really mattered was getting Saber back. What really mattered was saving Saber from that wench’s clutches. Rin couldn’t stop shaking. The fear of dying, the despair of seeing Saber so tormented, and the anger at being so soundly defeated all welled up within her, vying for attention and getting none.

                ‘I’ll kill her…’ Rin hissed, rarely being so sincerely venomous.

                ‘Just rest for now, Rin-san. Just sleep for a little longer.’

                Rin had no intention of going back under, but an irresistible soothing caressed her soul, and she no longer had a choice in the matter.

 

                The next time Rin found her consciousness, it was dark, and she panicked slightly at the unfamiliar room. Rice paper walls. Ancient, traditional flooring. A roll out bed and a single window that exposed the star-filled night sky. Rin had been changed into pajamas that weren’t hers, and as she processed this fact, the pieces began to make sense.

                Archer and Shirou had saved her. Sakura was now practically living with Shirou, and thus, she likely nursed Rin back to health. Rin’s stomach still felt severely bruised, but her healing arts had done enough to prevent long-lasting injuries hopefully.

                There wasn’t a moment to lose. Rin pushed herself up and stood, twisting her arm and checking her magical circuits. Everything was in order mostly. The comfortable tug of Saber utilizing her mana was gone, leaving a pain in Rin’s heart, and the blank canvas upon the back of her hand was a merciless reminder of her failure, but the fight wasn’t over yet. Rin wasn’t useless. She knew enough magic to at least contend with servants to a degree. If push came to shove, she was willing to use her heirloom dagger to end Caster and bring Saber back to her where she belonged.

                Rin went to the sliding door and placed her fingers within the handle, pausing and closing her eyes in frustration. What did she hope to accomplish on her own? She could perhaps, with enough strategic planning, beat Caster, but Souichirou and Saber were entirely different matters. Rin didn’t stand a chance against those two. She couldn’t do it on her own. She needed Shirou and maybe even Sakura’s help. Did she want to involve her sister in a battle like this? No. Could she perhaps utilize her servant? Yes. Shirou wasn’t entirely incompetent in a fight either. He was nothing compared to Saber and Soichiro, however, and that had to be taken into consideration.

                Rin wanted to leave right away, but she couldn’t awaken Shirou and Sakura so late at night. It would be incredibly rude for the hospitality they had provided.

                Suddenly, Rin’s door flew open, startling Rin to the point of stumbling backward and almost tripping over her bed. Her eyes took a moment to adjust to the figure before her now, and before she could understand who it was completely, the being approached her, taking her hand and easing her back into bed.

                ‘W-what…?’ Rin grunted, a weight falling over her body and her mind becoming dizzy. She couldn’t feel anything, as if her limbs were made of lead, and her eyes faded in and out, blackness threatening to take hold of her.

                ‘Who the hell…are…?’ Rin struggled, a hand creeping up her shirt and pushing through her bra, massaging her small breasts until they became hard.

                ‘S-stop…!’ Rin fought against the tempting urge to submit, aware that her mind was being influenced by very powerful magic of some kind.

                ‘Why are you resisting?’ A familiar voice hummed into Rin’s ear. It was Sakura, but it wasn’t. Why was she doing this? Why was Rin so weak? Had Sakura learned to use magic? No. This felt…different. Everything was melding together. It was all taking on a dream-like quality. Rin’s clarity became compromised, her logical reasoning falling into madness.

                ‘I don’t…want…’ Rin’s mouth went limp, words now difficult to think of let alone form. A hand went between her legs, reaching into her pajamas and touching her without reserve. Rin’s body quivered, a sensation of pleasure pulsating over her skin.

                ‘I don’t believe that.’ Sakura licked her sister’s ear and then nibbled on it, goosebumps prickling everywhere. ‘Just relax. None of this matters. None of this is real. Dream away. Dream into oblivion. Dream into the grail.’

                Rin’s mind was blank. Her consciousness had left, only an observer rather than a contributor to all action. The magic being used on her was on a whole other level. It was reshaping what was happening and what wasn’t. It was something of a reality marble. The room had shifted into another plain. The colours were having a disagreement. The moon had turned red, and the stars black against a yellow-tinged night sky.

                Fingers crept into Rin’s black panties and traced her crevice, teasing her and making her hips sway slightly.

                ‘A-ah…’ Rin heard her voice breathe out, watching her own body react to Sakura’s vandalism. She wanted to scream at herself. She wanted to push Sakura off. But she could only watch. She was outside her physical form, an entity among the nothingness.

                ‘See? You do like it.’ Sakura hiked her own shirt up and pushed her bare breasts into Rin’s face. ‘Here. Make me feel good too.’

                Rin couldn’t refuse. She wasn’t herself anymore. She was a seeker of pleasure; giving and receiving. She tasted Sakura once again, licking tentatively at first, but then gripping the large mound of flesh above her face and sucking it hard, nibbling and twisting her tongue around the stiffened nipple in her mouth as Sakura’s fingers stroked within Rin’s underwear, making her lower half sway in eager lust.

                ‘H-hah…Yes…Yes…That’s really good…’ Sakura sighed, breaking away from her sister now and stripping completely naked. Rin felt strange, still being dressed in borrowed sleepwear, but then lazily stared as Sakura slid the door back once more, revealing Shirou, fully nude and completely erect. Sakura pulled at Shirou’s leg, guiding him to herself and Rin, his shuffling movement like that of a zombie. He didn’t make a sound, and didn’t look around. He simply stared at the wall as Sakura crawled in close and wrapped her mouth around him, starting slow, but then quickly building momentum, sounds as if she were kissing him sloppily filling the room.

                Rin had a momentary lapse of awareness, her body pulsating in disgust with herself and the situation. She had never seen a man before, and to have Shirou as her first brought her intense discomfort for many reasons she dared not dwell on. Yet, she was quickly shunned, the drugged-like state taking over once again while she felt Sakura’s grip pull her next to her sister, offering the moist, throbbing piece of Shirou Rin had convinced herself she never wanted to see or be involved with in any way.

                Sakura began licking once again, but her eyes locked on Rin’s, wrapping her fingers around her sister’s waist and easing her closer and closer. Sakura broke away from her desire and tried to kiss Rin, but she willed herself to refuse, trying with all her might not to give in to this shameful set of circumstances. Evidently annoyed, Sakura gripped at the back of Rin’s head angrily, forcing her lips to Shirou’s tip before rubbing the stubbornly locked mouth along the length of the young man while Sakura lathered her tongue over the rest. Rin’s eyes squinted, trying to create some semblance of focus. Everything could no longer be denied, and Rin lost herself completely, incapable of caring whether she was trapped in a dream or not anymore.

                An eruption of bitter, clear, creamy liquid was the last thing Rin could somewhat recall happening with a vaguely clear mind. Sakura may or may not have cleaned every last bit of it off of Rin with her tongue, and Rin may or may not have somehow restricted herself to simply elevating Sakura further as Shirou entered her and thrust mercilessly, his dead eyes and mute voice bizarre amidst Sakura’s groans, moans, and screams of ecstasy.

                It all faded into a mishmash of colours, shapes, and sounds, and Rin found the soothing darkness more than welcome once it finally embraced her restricted subconscious.

 

                ‘You stubborn bitch…’

 

                The smell of eggs and bacon was the next thing Rin could concretely register. When she awoke, she noticed that her panties were completely soaked with the bottoms of her pajamas bunched at her heels, but otherwise, the room was utterly normal.

                ‘An erotic dream despite everything that’s happened?’ Rin cursed herself, biting at her lip and slapping herself within. Not only an erotic dream, but one that didn’t involve – Rin stopped herself, her cheeks flaring and her brow wrinkling.

                ‘Ridiculous…’ She huffed, crossing her arms and relieved to find that, other than slight discomfort in her stomach, she felt fairly good physically.

                Rin heard voices in the building. Fortunately, she recognized all three. Sakura, Shirou, and Taiga Fujimura, Shirou’s homeroom teacher. Rin had no desire to go to school again today, but getting out of that particular situation may be more trouble than it was worth with Taiga around. She couldn’t waste any more time. She needed to find out where Saber was so she could save her. Even if it meant lying to Taiga-sensei, Rin was willing to do everything in her power to save her friend…

Chapter Text

 

 

                Once Saber came to, she was mortified to find her hands chained to the ceiling of a very dark, grey, cold, and secluded chamber that almost resembled something like a church. Her arms were essentially forcibly positioned above her head in extreme discomfort, forcing her to take up a pose that was less than flattering in order to maintain a stance (since resting on her knees was just impossible) with minimal effort at the cost of having her lower half thrust out toward the wall as though inviting punishment.

                Not only that, but Saber found that she had been changed into a white dress with blue ribbons and lace. Truthfully, it was a beautiful piece of cloth, but Saber was more irritated with the fact Caster took it upon herself to treat a king of knights like some typical damsel in distress. She couldn’t recall precisely how she had been transported to such a place, but Saber presumed either command seals were involved, or Souichirou’s monstrous strength had forced her unwillingly into a brief bout of unconsciousness.

                Saber didn’t struggle, knowing it was pointless, and was more interested in saving her strength for when she could find an opportunity to escape. She was obviously bound by some form of mana locking mechanism which continued to siphon Saber at regular intervals in an attempt to weaken her into submission. Saber’s mind, as well as her body, was under attack, this bizarre form of torture promising a quick break to the weak-willed.

                Saber was anything but weak-willed, but even she knew she wouldn’t last longer than 24-hours at best.

                The king of knights tried desperately not to think about the injury she had caused Rin, but every moment her master crossed her mind, a familiar pain threatened to disable Saber further. Was Rin okay? Would she keep fighting in the Grail War without her servant? Would she get a new one?

                Saber shifted her feet, wondering how long she would be waiting for…something; anything. She didn’t like being left to her own devices. It was too easy to dwell on the past and present in none too pleasing ways.

                ‘I see you have awoken.’ Caster’s arrogant voice echoed in the dark and dismal chamber. The woman’s footsteps clacked along the floor, the sound irritating deliberately. Caster was soon standing near Saber, barely a foot away.

                ‘You have the will of a lion.’ She complimented, circling Saber and eyeing her without any sort of restraint. Saber did her best to hide her embarrassment. The dress exposed her more than she would ever prefer, her cleavage fully amplified due to her position, her back feeling a strong draft of some kind, and the sides of her upper legs nearly completely revealed save for the near see-through stockings held up by a garter belt.

                ‘Breaking that will shall be…rather satisfying.’

                ‘I will never bend to your desires.’ Saber managed, the words forming sluggishly.

                Caster drew a line on Saber’s back, the king squirming and crying out unnaturally at the touch. Her whole body reacted, goosebumps pervading over every inch of skin.

                ‘A-ah…!’

                ‘I find that hard to imagine. As more of your mana drains, more of your defenses will crumble. By the time I’m done with you, you will beg me for some form of stabilization. I have nothing but time now that Souichirou-sama and I have ascertained this new stronghold. Berserker is the only threat that remains, but once you’re ready, even he will fall at our hands.’

                ‘I…will not…!’ Saber said through grit teeth.

                A slap reoccurred between the walls, bouncing alongside the stone until finally escaping above. Saber’s face stun, the physical sensitivity extending to pain as well as pleasure. She felt as though Berserker’s sword had provided a similar impact.

                ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’ Caster cooed, taking Saber’s face gently between her hands and pulling her hood back so she could stare at the servant more easily. Caster was, surprisingly, very beautiful. She had light, grey hair mixed with a hint of blue, and her ears showed a heritage that included elven blood potentially. It made much more sense how she became so adept at magic. Her features were soft and majestic, completely undermining Saber’s mental image.

                ‘I sometimes lose myself. Allow me to make it up to you.’ Caster’s hands left Saber’s face and found her breasts, kneading them roughly so that Saber couldn’t stop her voice from escaping her throat again in a mixture of discomfort and slight arousal.

                ‘S-stop it!’ Saber hissed, swinging her body around and attempting to head-butt the opposing servant. Saber’s movements were sloppy by this point though, and even Caster easily evaded her aggressive motions.

                ‘Still so much energy, hm?’ Caster giggled. ‘I cannot wait until you’re serving me wholeheartedly.’

                ‘These methods…have no honour…’ Saber couldn’t say she thought Caster would care, but it held so much value to her that it was all she could think to utter.

                ‘If you knew who I have killed, you would also know I care nothing for something as artificial and convenient as “honour”.’ Caster answered, her tone losing its tease and becoming much more vicious. ‘What you now know is only a fraction of the shame I’ve experienced.’

                Saber felt the tale-end piece of the dress shift to the side, her whole backside revealed and contained within a skimpy piece of lacy, white fabric.

                ‘If you think this Grail War is to be fought with even a hint of honour,’ Caster went on, stroking Saber’s freshly exposed skin and lining the thin material that hardly covered her. ‘Then you are pitifully mistaken.’

                Saber’s whole body lunged forward and convulsed as Caster gripped in between her legs, pressing roughly while ravaging without any hint of gentility. Every nerve in Saber’s body reacted, screaming at the vandalism in an attempt to repel the overabundance of sensitivity flowing through to a craze-inducing degree.

                ‘A-ahhh…! Hah…! A-ah…!’ Saber gasped, choking on her own spit and the waves of bizarre pain/pleasure soaking into her groin. ‘M-Master…! I-I’m…!’

                Caster stopped abruptly, only the fragments of Saber’s final syllables remaining in the chamber.

                ‘What was that?’ The sadistic woman asked, circling in front of Saber and noting the trail of saliva dripping from either side of the proud girl’s mouth. ‘What about your master? Are you speaking of me, perhaps?’

                Saber’s eyes were dazed, making the whole world blurry. She managed to shake her head stubbornly, and her mixed up mind forced out a singular clarity to her.

                ‘Rin…Tohsaka…’ She uttered, practically tripping over the heavy words.

                ‘That foolish child? She was nothing compared to whom you shall serve now. Unless…’ Caster smiled cruelly. ‘Did you care about her a little more than what the pact between a master and servant demanded? Might I chance a thought related to unholy longing on your part? Well, that’s something even I can respect to a degree. Hm. Respect might be a strong word; it’s more akin to knowing what I can use against you to break your mind. I’ll defile you until there’s no honour or pointless hope left, Saber. You’re mine now; best understand that.’

                Caster circled back behind Saber, preparing to make good on her promise until the main door to the area creaked open and Souichirou Kuzuki entered, his heavy footsteps overly obvious upon the old stone flooring.

                ‘Souichirou-sama…!’ Caster called out, her entire tone and physical rhetoric changing. She went to the man and stood close to him, looking upon his expressionless face with fierce loyalty and care. Saber dropped her head, trying to regain her strength but feeling much more defeated for a number of reasons.

                ‘How fares the new servant?’ Souichirou finally spoke, although he was ever a man of very few words.

                ‘Stubborn, but there is still time.’

                ‘The master was saved by another pair. There is a chance that they will find us.’

                ‘I still have some command seals for Saber. Her own will shall be compromised by then, disallowing further rebellion from the grail.’

                ‘Hm.’

                ‘They can fight that ridiculous war until their hearts are content. I’m fine for now. When the time comes to make our move, we will. It will not be long now, Souichirou-sama.’

                ‘I see. That priest’s body has yet to be found.’

                ‘My puppets may have torn him apart.’ Caster dismissed the concern, going to a pedestal that had an incredibly ornate cup upon it. ‘Although the land surrounding the church suggests he put up a fair struggle, there is no way he could do very much on his own; he was just a man of the cloth, after all. The barrier I erected will keep us informed of any intruders. Even if that girl decides to try and infiltrate this place, I will just use her as a vessel for my own grail.’ Caster waved her hand over the cup, a mist of strange condensed magic following her movement.

                ‘Very well. I will scout the area nonetheless.’

                ‘Be careful, Souichirou-sama.’

                ‘Hm.’

                Caster lingered where she stood for some time, but then went back to Saber, bringing her semi-conscious face to meet her own.

                ‘No sleeping yet, princess. I’ve hardly even started with you…’

                Saber allowed better recent memories of Rin to engulf her rather than imagining the demeaning treatment that was surely coming her way until she willingly submitted to the witch.  

Chapter Text

 

 

                ‘Wha…! Another one!? What the hell is going on here, Shirou-kun!’ Taiga pointed shakily at Rin as she finally stepped out from the bedroom.

                ‘Oh! Um…well…’

                Rin rolled her eyes. Shirou had all night to think of an excuse, and this was the best he could do? She took a seat next to Sakura upon the floor and composed herself into the perfect position before levelling her voice and addressing one of her teachers.

                ‘Emiya-kun discovered that my father and mother have left the city on a business trip and that my manor is currently under renovation. His concern for my well-being, both mentally and physically, with near-strangers coming in and out of the house as they please, encouraged him to offer me to stay here for a couple of nights. If that is deemed inconvenient or, perhaps, inappropriate, I shall make due with a hotel of some kind since I would very much be putting my other friends out considering the size of their own apartments.’

                Taiga was obviously taken aback, not having the pleasure of teaching Rin, but having heard enough office gossip to know that she was far above and beyond the normal student’s intellect. Her beauty, grace, and seamless maturity just made her presence that much more daunting, forcing Taiga to stutter slightly as she tried to justify her own panic.

                ‘B-but what about Sakura-chan?’

                ‘My grandfather isn’t a very big fan of guests. He’s quite shy.’ Sakura responded quickly enough.

                ‘Oh…Well…it’s…it’s…’

                ‘It’s fine, Fuji-nee. This place is way too big for just me anyway, so I wanted to help a friend out.’ Shirou brought over some breakfast, placing the various dishes on the table with Sakura adding bowls, plates, and chopsticks.

                ‘I-it’s not right! A girl and boy shouldn’t be sleeping under the same roof unless they’re family!’

                Rin huffed, filling her bowl up with a little bit of rice and an egg. She had trouble enjoying the delicious smelling food knowing that Saber was possibly suffering. She needed to find Caster immediately. There wasn’t time for this silliness.

                ‘I must apologize for making you uncomfortable, Fujimura-sensei. I hardly see Emiya-kun as anything more than a considerate classmate. Additionally, he is currently dating Sakura-san, which simply means that his eyes are much more fixated upon her than myself. The possibility of anything impure taking place between us simply does not exist. However, I will certainly make arrangements with a hotel, as previously planned, if there continues to be an issue.’

                Taiga seemed to be much calmer now that she had some food in her. She sighed, pointing her chopsticks at Shirou and speaking with her mouth full.

                ‘You just watch it, mister! I was asked to look after you, and I intend on doing it! Don’t be taking in any more strays! Speaking of which…’ Taiga glanced around sheepishly, lowering her voice. ‘Where’s tall, dark, and brooding this morning?’

                ‘He’s out for a run.’ Shirou mumbled, looking a little flustered.

                ‘Hm. Too bad.’ Taiga checked her phone and then hastily stacked her plate and bowl together, rushing to the kitchen. ‘Yipe! Gotta get to school to prepare for first period! I have nothing ready! Make sure you’re all not late!’

                ‘Be careful on your way there, Fuji-nee!’

                ‘We’ll see you later!’

                ‘Goodbye, Fujimura-sensei.’ Rin finished her own breakfast, clapping her hands together. ‘Thank-you very much for the meal, Emiya-kun. I will be going now.’

                ‘What’s that?’ Shirou was alarmed, Sakura also placing her things down in surprise.

                ‘Y-you can’t! You still need to rest!’

                ‘No. Saber’s master is now Caster, and I need to get her back.’

                Shirou took a moment to process this piece of information, his expression becoming much more serious.

                ‘So, that’s what happened.’

                ‘Yes. There isn’t a moment to lose. I imagine Saber is putting up a good fight against Caster, but with those command seals and Caster’s sadistic nature, I doubt even Saber will last long before she doesn’t have a say in anything anymore. I can’t have that.’

                Sakura was the first to speak up, her words biting at Rin.

                ‘You…really care about her, don’t you?’

                ‘Of course.’ Rin tried to conceal her embarrassment. ‘She’s my servant. I need her in order to win the grail war.’

                ‘No, but…’ Sakura almost went on, but took the cue contained within Rin’s glare and shut her mouth.

                ‘What do we need to do?’ Shirou asked, sincerely invested in helping Rin. She found it appealing, this level of dedication and selflessness, but also irritating. How were they supposed to fight a war while being “friends”? How did they think this was going to end?

                ‘I need to find out where Caster has set up her new base. Once I know that, I can formulate a proper plan.’

                ‘Fine. I’ll ask Archer to do what he can since he has the best recon ability of all the servants now.’

                ‘I refuse.’ Archer stepped into the kitchen, his presence ever the intimidating factor. ‘I’d sooner kill the woman than allow her and Saber to team up once more. Together, they were formidable, apart, they are manageable.’

                ‘Wrong. You aren’t able to do that, remember?’ Shirou rubbed his hand, acting surprisingly aggressive.

                ‘That’s fine, but use that final command seal and you won’t live long to regret it. I will not assist one of our greatest threats. This is not a game, and I refuse to be involved with you children much longer. Best be rid of Berserker so that Caster doesn’t have the chance to capture him as well. Her group is now one of the most powerful contenders in this war. The shift has occurred, and we are in a tight position.’

                Rin bit at the inside of her mouth. She didn’t like Archer’s arrogance, but she had to agree with his logic and frustration.

                ‘I’ll help her then.’ Sakura volunteered, placing a hand on her chest.

                ‘You really don’t have to.’ Rin sighed, hating involving Sakura more.

                ‘I know, Rin-san, but I want to. I owe you.’

                Rin’s cheeks flushed, unsure how to take that comment exactly.

                ‘You won’t last five minutes against Caster and her master, let alone Saber among them. From what I witnessed, Caster’s master is almost as deadly as a real servant when his abilities are amplified. I would recommend disposing of either pair individually, but that will likely be impossible now that this girl has made the first move needlessly.’ Archer made point after brutally honest point, figuratively jabbing at Rin all the while.

                ‘Nonetheless, I have to try.’ Rin began to the room she had been sleeping in, her arm being tugged at by an outreached Shirou.

                ‘Don’t do this alone. It’s too dangerous.’

                ‘I don’t care.’ Rin shrugged the boy off angrily. ‘Saber deserves better than the treatment Caster is likely giving her. I won’t stand by and do nothing. My family name won’t allow it.’

                ‘Pride is pointless when you’re dead!’

                ‘I know you don’t understand, Emiya-kun, and I don’t expect you to, but you are not obligated to help me. We have a truce, and I will honour that, but you and Archer need to make a decision that both of you can agree with. The war is entering a very crucial point, with almost all masters and servants on the board now. Time is no longer on our side. I need my servant. I won’t abandon her while I still draw breath.’

                Shirou made a sound to protest further, but Rin wouldn’t give him the chance by hesitating. She shut the sliding door behind her and gripped her hands at her side. She wanted to speak with Saber. She wanted to feel Saber’s quiet presence nearby. She wanted to…

                The thought of her servant suffering was too much. She had to do something; anything. She would find Caster by any means, even if it meant swallowing a bit of her stubbornness and consulting with that man. Indeed, he was the only one that may provide her with a hint of some kind. It was the best starting point, regardless.

                Rin found a pile of her clothes in the corner of the room. They were folded neatly and smelled clean. She knew she was being harsh with Shirou for reasons that were much more personal than she would ever admit, but it was a necessary evil that could make one of the many potential futures more bearable. She would have to thank him for everything though, and the thought of that was annoying, to say the least. He had saved her, after all.

                Rin finished changing and did a quick inventory of the jewels in her small side bag. She had a decent stash still; but was unsure if it would be enough to deal with Caster or Souichirou. Honestly, she would have preferred if Archer and Shirou could come, but she would have to deal with the fact Sakura and Rider would be her companions. She didn’t have a choice. She couldn’t handle Caster’s group on her own. The thought of combating Souichirou again was nauseating, to say the least, and Rider would be the best opponent for him while Rin handled Caster, assuming Saber could still resist the forced bond between herself and the witch. It was brutally risky, but Rin could only formulate such a plan.

                A small knock on her door notified Rin that she had been pondering for quite some time while hushed conversations and shuffling occurred in the rest of the house.

                ‘Come in.’ Rin answered, knowing it to be Sakura somehow.

                The shy girl slid the door open and snuck in quietly, sitting closer to Rin than the older sister expected.

                ‘I’m coming with you.’

                ‘I know. I…appreciate it.’

                Sakura smiled, likely anticipating much more resistance.

                ‘I know I’m not much as a mage but…I think I can help.’

                ‘Just stay in a support role and let Rider and I deal with the other master and servant.’

                Sakura opened her mouth, but then simply nodded with a sound of affirmation. The sisters sat in silence for a moment, and Rin nearly wanted to breach the subject that kept them so distant from one another for so long, but she stopped herself short. It wasn’t the time. Perhaps after the war was over…assuming they were both alive. A chill ran up Rin’s back, and she shook her head, trying to look stronger than she felt for Sakura.

                ‘Are you okay, Sakura-san, after what happened with Shinji-kun?’ Rin kept her voice to barely a whisper.

                Sakura appeared confused, tilting her head to the side just slightly, although still adorable.

                ‘He’s just on a trip. It won’t be long until my brother returns. Maybe he’ll come back a little nicer. One can always hope, right?’

                ‘Sakura-san…’ Rin raised a brow, gauging her sister’s sincerity and, to her horror, realizing that Sakura was completely sure of what she was saying. Had she blocked it all out? Was she mentally sound to begin with after being left in the care of an infamous monster like Zoken Matou? Rin blinked a few times rapidly, trying to compose herself enough to not give anything away.

                ‘Yes?’

                ‘N-nothing. Sorry.’

                ‘Oh. Okay.’ Sakura smiled soundly, inching just a little closer to Rin. ‘This is going to sound kind of silly, but I’m a little excited about spending some time with you today. I really enjoyed going out with you and Saber the other night. I had a feeling something was a little strange about her, but I never would have guessed…’

                Rin tried to allow herself to enjoy the moment with her sister, but the fact Saber was likely suffering made her very anxious, and every minute that passed without her servant was agonizing.

                ‘We need to go.’ Rin hated cutting Sakura off, but she couldn’t function without making some progress.

                ‘R-right. I’ll get changed into something a bit more comfortable. Is that okay?’

                ‘Yes. It’s fine.’ Rin hoped she didn’t sound too angry. She knew her mind was in a very short-tempered state, and she tried to keep it in check, but the task wasn’t a simple one. Sakura left, and Rin followed her out the sliding door, finding Shirou in some everyday clothes.

                ‘I’m going to get some more information on Berserker and his master. Archer knows they’re in the mountains, past the forest where it gets pretty cold. It’s the only thing he’s willing to do right now.’ Shirou gazed at Rin, his eyes overly apologetic. He shouldn’t be staring at her like that; not if he was dating Sakura.

                ‘Here are the pajamas you let me borrow.’ Rin pursed her lips, struggling to find her voice. ‘And…thank-you…for everything. I do appreciate your kindness, Emiya-kun.’

                Shirou smiled wide, his moderately handsome features amplified by the expression.

                ‘You’re welcome, Tohsaka-san.’ He paused, crossing his arms. ‘You know you can call me Shirou if you’d like. I wouldn’t mind.’

                ‘I’m aware.’ Rin prevented herself from outright glaring. ‘But not right now.’

                ‘We’re just friends.’ Shirou replied, surprisingly so.

                ‘I know that as well, I suppose.’

                Shirou slung a bag over his shoulder and made his way to the door, getting his shoes on. Archer must’ve been waiting outside. He didn’t have much patience for the mortals his master dealt with on occasion obviously. Finally, Sakura also entered the main area of the house. She had changed into a light sweater and fitted pants. At least she was using her head. She could move easily enough in such an outfit. The fact Sakura had clothes, including pajamas, at Shirou’s made Rin wonder how often she was over. She knew Shirou had helped look after Sakura for quite some time, but Rin didn’t like the idea of them potentially sleeping together. Then again, there was that dream…

                Rin cleared her throat, also going to the doorway with the other two masters.

                ‘Fuji-nee is going to be pretty mad that all three of us skipped today.’ Shirou went on, waiting around as Rin and Sakura put on their shoes.

                ‘I’ve never skipped before; it’s a little exciting.’ Sakura added to the comment.

                ‘School is hardly our concern right now. Let’s go.’ Rin stood up, finding the closeness of everyone in the front hall a little too tight. The three masters exited the house, and once outside, Sakura leaned in to Shirou, giving him a small kiss on the cheek which was endearing in its own way. As long as Sakura was happy…

                ‘Be careful, everyone. I need to go to the shed for some things, so go ahead without waiting for me.’ Shirou clearly didn’t want to leave, but he gave both Rin and Sakura one last glance before hearing their farewells and being on his way.

                ‘He treats you well?’ Rin noticed the question after she asked, the inquiry of concern slipping out.

                ‘Better than anyone I’ve ever known.’ Sakura answered quite simply.

                ‘…Good.’

Chapter Text

 

 

                The ride through Fuyuki City just made Rin more anxious than before. She tried to engage with Sakura about everyday topics so that the cab driver didn’t think anything of two “college” students going to a church in the middle of the day, but her mind was unfocussed, falling to Saber every chance it was given. Rin felt more empty than ever before. Empty and alone. She hated lying to Sakura, but there was no point in complicating matters more. Not only that, but she held Shirou at arm’s length just like everyone else in her life. Saber was the only individual that had somewhat closed the gap Rin projected around herself, and now that very woman was in danger because of a prideful and foolish split-second decision.

                ‘We’re here.’ The cab driver huffed, pushing his hand into the back for his pay. He was certainly one of the ruder drivers Rin had encountered, but she let it slide considering he wasn’t very nosey either.

                ‘Thank-you very much, sir.’ Rin beamed, tipping the man handsomely regardless.

                ‘Oh. Er…Thanks. Take it easy out there.’

                Rin had given herself the last laugh at least. A petty victory, but it had been a while. Once the cab was gone, Rin and Sakura approached the church and, instantly, Rin knew she was on to something. This barrier hadn’t been here before, and there was a completely different air about the place.

                ‘What was that?’ Sakura commented, holding her chest as though it were hard to breathe.

                ‘A mana wall erected by someone who wanted to be notified the moment we entered a certain area. It could be just the priest being paranoid, but this isn’t his style. Kirie Kotomine embraces any and all; it’s his job.’

                ‘So…?’

                ‘We’ll find out soon enough.’ Rin took another step forward, but Rider’s chain flung from beside her, the servant suddenly manifesting and attacking someone Rin hadn’t sensed whatsoever. It was the Lancer servant she had seen what felt like so long ago. He easily deflected the death strike, his red spear handled with the utmost of precision.

                ‘Whoa now! That’s no way to greet someone who comes in peace.’ He sneered, the arrogance in his voice irritating instantly.

                ‘Why would a competing servant come in peace?’ Rin asked, one hand in her packet of jewels and preparing for any kind of assault. Lancer was among the fastest of the servants while being quite deadly in close quarters combat. This sudden presence wasn’t any sort of slouch, from what Rin had seen of his skills.

                ‘I was ordered to, why else? My master isn’t too keen on the idea of Caster holding all the marbles. Chicky there is obviously pretty inexperienced, and Rider isn’t known to be super powerful. You’re basically taking on two servant-level enemies, and to do that, having two servants makes the most sense, yeah?’

                Sakura made a small sound with her voice, but otherwise, she stayed behind Rider, who appeared to be more than willing to fight, if necessary.

                ‘How do we know we can trust you?’ Rin was cautious, but had a feeling this man wasn’t one to lie despite his appearance and mannerisms. His fighting style was too well honed, and he seemed to carry himself with the same kind of pride as Saber. Archer and Rider would lie without breaking a sweat, but this servant was in the leagues of heroes like Saber and even Assassin.

                ‘You’ll just have to believe me. Caster and her playthings are in a secret chamber deep in the church. They assaulted the place and maybe even killed the priest. Shitty luck for him.’

                Rin was thrown by this piece of news. She didn’t like Kirei Kotomine; perhaps even loathed him, but she didn’t want him dead. He had been a friend of her father’s, and his existence as her guardian maintained the idea that Rin’s father had lived and fought in a Grail War. Now, Tokiomi Tohsaka’s mark on the earth had diminished further.

                ‘They’ll…send a new member of the church to facilitate the rest of the war.’ Rin stuttered.

                ‘Hell if I care. Either way, I’ve already done the leg work, so now that we have the manpower, we should head on in and be done with the annoying witch.’

                Rin had to catch her breath. Saber was near. Saber was so close and could be saved. It had barely been a night yet Rin’s heart raced so hard in her chest that she thought it might erupt.

                ‘So,’ Lancer approached the two masters, Rider’s chains jingling in protest. ‘Do we have a truce until Caster and her master are out of the picture?’ The man extended his hand to Rin, knowing she was the leader of the little operation.

                Rin weighed the pros and cons of the union in her mind within seconds, knowing she didn’t have much of a choice. She would save Saber, and this companionship with Lancer would only increase her chances of success. The fact Lancer’s master wasn’t showing himself was a minor annoyance, but Rin would have to take this risk in order to have Saber at her side once again.

                ‘Fine. I’ll trust you, Lancer.’ She took his hand, and the servant gripped tightly.

                ‘Impressive. You have guts; I like that.’

                Rin wretched her hand free, giving Lancer a scornful look.

                ‘Do not mock me.’

                ‘I wasn’t. Honest.’ Lancer turned to Sakura and Rider, bowing slightly, although everything he did seemed like sarcasm to a degree. ‘My ladies, do not fret, for I shall wield my spear to the best of my abilities to ensure your safety.’

                Rider only widened her stance, but Sakura gave Lancer a slight nod.

                ‘T-thank-you.’

                ‘Well, good. That’s that! Follow my lead then, people. Caster won’t know what hit her soon enough.’ Lancer walked in front, his swagger undeniable as he pushed the front doors of the church open, the sunlight from outside completely locked out the moment the last person in the group had made it in. Benches were overturned, and there were still remnants of magic where destruction had been left in its wake. Pieces of the walls were missing, tapestry had been burned, and smudges of darkness rested on the ground as though shadows of the fallen.

                ‘Caster knows we’re here, so there could be some grunts on the way, but I doubt she’ll waste too much mana on that kind of thing. Those skeletons might be trouble for humans, but they’re nothing to us servants, right, Rider?’

                There was no response, and Sakura laughed nervously in her servant’s place.

                ‘Keep it down, eh? A guy can’t get a word in edge-wise with a chatter box like you around. Jeez…’ Lancer shrugged, going to the back of the church and pushing open the somewhat hidden door. The group found a closed off area of the church grounds, the new area being something like a courtyard. Rin had no idea it existed. This section too was demolished. Kirei was her father’s apprentice, after all, so it was a small wonder that he went down with quite the fight. Rin had her doubts that the man had even been defeated. There was always the very real possibility that Kirei had simply retreated until he could return to the church.

                ‘Caster is breaking every rule possible…’ Rin muttered under her breath.

                ‘Those rules are just guidelines, missy. For the grail, any real contender would do just about anything, you know? It’s basically a second chance at life if you win. Why else would us heroic spirits willingly join in such a stupid ritual?’

                ‘And you were who again, Lancer?’

                ‘Hahah! Nice one, my lady. I ain’t falling for something that obvious.’

                ‘Oh, it was worth a try.’ Rin glanced to her sister, attempting to ease her into the threatening situation with a little more confidence. Sakura smiled back, but her eyes were distant; almost disconnected from the reality around her.

                ‘You’re a funny one.’ Lancer grinned back, manifesting his blood-red spear and shouldering it as though it were the most innocent piece of equipment rather than a legendary weapon capable of striking down hundreds in a single go. ‘Here it is. After this door, we got ourselves into Caster’s little haunt. Best be ready with a plan, yeah?’

                ‘I will contend with Caster. I have an idea as to how to best her.’ Rin knew she sounded decently sure, but her inner dialogue certainly made her wonder.

                ‘You serious? You wanna mess around with that crazy bitch?’ Lancer sounded impressed, his red eyes examining Rin to the point of making her a little uncomfortable.

                ‘Yes. It only makes sense. I have the best magic out of all of us. Additionally, you and Rider will be holding Kuzuki-sensei and Saber down for me.’

                ‘That so?’ Lancer raised a brow, seeming more excited than before. ‘Who’s my playmate?’

                ‘Saber. Your range makes it simpler for you to keep her at bay until I reclaim her as my own.’

                ‘What makes you think I won’t kill her once Caster and her master are done and dead?’

                ‘I think you’ll be too concerned with keeping yourself alive against Saber, to be honest.’

                Lancer whistled loudly, amusement in his whole demeanor.

                ‘We’ll have to see about that, won’t we?’

                ‘So be it.’

                ‘Then Rider will be fighting Kuzuki-sensei?’ Sakura asked, her voice much smaller than her companions’.

                ‘That’s correct. Are you okay with that, Rider?’ Rin directed her attention to the quiet servant. Rider nodded, ever hiding her true thoughts; if she had any.

                ‘D-don’t kill him though.’ Sakura added.

                ‘Yes. Once Caster is defeated, then Kuzuki-sensei will also likely submit. If not, then bind him long enough for us to determine his threat level.’

                Rider nodded again.

                ‘Are we done?’ Lancer gripped at the door, his focus shifting to what may lay beyond the hidden passageway and chamber. ‘And behind door #1 we have…!’

                Rin could hear the sounds of thousands of bones grinding against bone before she could actually see anything beyond Lancer.

                ‘Ah-ha! Clever girl! I can’t even see the stairs!’ Lancer laughed, drawing his spear and charging forward, puncturing and then tossing aside multiple bodies of animated monstrous skeletons. Rider also dove in, leaping over Lancer and causing chaos where she landed, spinning and slashing all around herself as though dancing.

                ‘Oh, my gosh!’ Sakura gasped, a couple of skeletons breaking free through the corridor and stumble-running toward the sisters.

                ‘These things are nothing.’ Rin pointed her finger and fired off four rounds of her gandr spell, connecting with three and halting any further progress by her attackers. Sounds of blade against bone and groaning undead beings filled the air, Sakura and Rin cautiously moving into the doorway and following the destruction left in the servants’ wake.

                ‘This is…pretty crazy…’ Sakura spoke in a low voice, holding Rin’s sleeve and staying very close.

                ‘Just keep out of the way and you’ll be fine. Rider is drawing mana from you with every move she makes, and the closer you are, the quicker that mana gets transferred.’

                ‘I-I see. What about Lancer, then?’

                ‘His master may have sent him in with a surplus of mana, or he might even be following us. It’s hard to say. Either way, Lancer is fine. Don’t worry about him.’

                Sakura shrieked, pressing up against Rin and flailing her leg. Rin didn’t even hesitate before firing off another round of gandr at a partially destroyed skeleton that had enough life and pieces of its limbs to take hold of the first thing that came by.

                ‘Thank-you…’

                ‘Come on. We have to keep up.’

                Moving through the corridors was torturous. The sounds of combat and death echoed over and over, ricocheting off the walls in a seemingly endless cycle before finally fading only to be replaced by more of the same pain. Rin and Sakura covered their ears, relieved when they finally made it to the bottom to find both Lancer and Rider waiting for them. Lancer’s spear was perched overtop of his shoulders, both arms hooked over it, while Rider had knives in either hand, a long chain keeping them connected.

                ‘That’s it for the warm up, ladies.’ Lancer’s smile was wide and slightly crazed. ‘Ready for the main event?’

                Rin eyed the door that she presumed led to the chamber where Caster, Souichirou, and Saber hopefully waited. She had made her move quickly, not allowing Caster too much time to break Saber. This was the best she could do. She had two servants with her and was a competent mage in her own right. She could win this. She could save Saber. She could win the Grail War still.

                ‘Right. Let’s defeat Caster.’

Chapter Text

 

 

                No sooner did Lancer have the heavy looking door open did he lift his spear and block an oncoming attack, the servant bursting with unsuppressed giddiness at the immediate threat on his life.

                ‘Is that so, little master? You wanna tussle with a heroic spirit? Yeah? That’s gotta be the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard!’ Lancer dashed into the room, meeting with Souichirou once again, the teacher trading blows with the blood-red spear, pivoting in and out accordingly to barely dodge and knock away the somewhat lackluster attempts by Lancer.

                ‘He’s toying with him…’ Rin grunted, entering the room with Sakura and Rider nearby. The chamber was much larger than anticipated, and a chill ran Rin’s spine as she looked onward to the front of the area where Saber knelt at Caster’s feet, the strangely alluring white dress on her servant distracting Rin for a moment before she regained her purpose and evaluated the surrounding area further.

                ‘Good to see you again, little girl!’ Caster yelled overtop of the clash between her master and Lancer. She reached down and grabbed Saber by her golden hair, thrusting her dead-eyed face forward so that Rin could see her previous servant’s emotionless expression. ‘She was…a challenge, I will admit, but not even this proud warrior could stand against my methods of persuasion.’

                Rin’s eyes travelled to the smooth skin that revealed itself between the white thigh-highs and side of Saber’s dress. She shook her head and narrowed her focus.

                ‘Your master will die if this goes on much longer. Give me back Saber, and we will leave you in peace.’

                Caster laughed heartily at this, her cackle finally forcing Souichirou and Lancer to part and wait, never letting one another’s gaze leave the opponent locked within it.

                ‘You truly believe me to be foolish enough to fall for such a promise? I’ll let you in on a little secret, girl: I trust nobody…’ Caster shifted a little bit, apparently making herself uncomfortable. ‘Saber…kill them all.’

                The command seal on Caster’s hand became illuminated and then disappeared. Saber stood up, slowly drawing her blade and stumbling into a stance that followed her new master’s wish. Without a second thought, Rider leapt into the scene, circling around the room and revealing her own weapons just prior to meeting Saber head-on, the powerful servant switching from a zombified state to the master swordswoman that she was. Rider did her best to use her dual-weapon advantage, but her struggle was in vain, Saber’s swordplay making the lesser servant appear as though she were merely a child. Blood was drawn, and Rider leapt back, flipping over a few times in an impressive display of acrobatics. Saber, meanwhile, remained, her sword raised into the air, seemingly, although it remained hidden.

                ‘I hope you have more to offer than that pathetic servant and an arrogant boy with an oversized stick.’ Caster taunted, placing both hands on Saber and resting her head on the brilliant woman’s shoulder in an almost motherly fashion. The act made Rin’s blood boil, but she maintained her composure, surprisingly. It was the Tohsaka way, after all.

                ‘Rider isn’t pathetic…’ Sakura breathed out harshly.

                ‘Hahahah! You’re a real piece of work, Caster. Care to try your hand?’

                ‘Oh, please, boy. I only play with real men.’ Caster flicked her hands and sprayed Lancer with a barrage of what seemed to be gandrs, her sheer command of spells making Rin reconsider her confidence. Lancer easily evaded the attacks, but Souichirou was on him again, the teacher actually connecting with a couple of blows as Caster laid another rain of spells on her opponent.

                Saber, on the other hand, exploded from her spot, forcing Rider into the defensive immediately, her flurry of sword strikes drawing out a sound of desperation from the blind servant.

                ‘This isn’t happening the way I envisioned.’ Rin’s jaw tightened, and she forced her body to step closer to the battle royal. She needed to enter the fray, yet she was becoming squeamish at the last second, knowing how outclassed she was.

                ‘Can I do anything to help?’ Sakura asked, not even blinking as she watched Rider barely survive the opponent she had been forced against.

                ‘Don’t die. Rider needs you to draw out her maximum strength. The moment her mana supply suffers, she’s finished. I…need to get rid of Caster, and then we can win.’ Rin nodded, more to herself than anyone else, and then was about to proceed when Sakura’s grip kept her in place.

                ‘Be careful.’ Sakura said, yet her voice sounded just a little bit off for some reason.

                ‘I will.’ Rin decided to reply simply.

                It wasn’t the easiest thing she’s ever done, but Rin could feel the pure concentration of magic all around her as she stepped down from the doorway and eyed the playing field. Souichirou and Lancer continued to battle, and Caster’s interference made the fight all the more unreasonable.

                ‘Just hold on a little while longer, Rider.’ Rin mumbled, building up the mana in her legs and hands as she reached into her pouch and clasped a number of magic-infused jewels. ‘I’m going to save Saber right here and right now.’

                Caster turned her attention to Rin suddenly, a wide smile creeping across her half-hidden face.

                ‘You would dare approach me, whelp? How pitiful. Desperation makes for fools, I suppose.’

                ‘I won’t let you have her.’ Rin stated clearly, hiding the tremble in her voice.

                ‘Then take her from me!’ Caster flicked her wrist, a ray of magic pulsating through the air and aimed directly at Rin’s person. Rin reacted just in time, tossing up a couple of her jewels, a variety of colours reflecting the approaching light and reacting in kind. A barrier erected, a blue trail of light indicating where Caster’s magic had been absorbed and retransferred into the mana veins all around.

                ‘Hah!’ Rin threw more crystals, red being the main source of colour from these ones as multiple gandrs launched at once, the collection of crimson attack power a sight to behold.

                ‘You can’t be serious…’ Caster simply produced her own, far superior form of defense, the gandrs disappearing the moment they made contact with the rune-infused shield. ‘I pray, for your sake, you have more to offer than that.’

                Rin didn’t give Caster the pleasure of a reaction, choosing to continue her assault, knowing her time was precious as the sounds of Lancer and Rider’s battles grew fiercer by the second. Rider hardly made any noise under normal circumstances, but her grunts of frustration and effort were more than enough evidence that Saber was putting her through the wringer.

                Rin took another attack from Caster, her barrier cracking under the strain of the mage’s incredible magical talent. There wasn’t much more Rin could do. The time was now. She used the smoke kicked up from the clash of elements and burst through the natural source of concealment, propelling herself forward through her mana-infused muscles and limbs. Caster didn’t even know what hit her. More than likely, the woman had suspected Rin capable of only offensive magic, like gandr. Unfortunately for her, Rin had been trained rigorously by Kirei, a master at hand-to-hand combat on many levels.

                Rin felt the satisfying sensation of her elbow digging into Caster’s stomach, just high enough to potentially fracture a rib or two. Before the woman was sent flying, Rin released the magic within her arm and forced it out of her point of contact to add insult to injury. Rin burst forward once again, landing upon Caster and grabbing her throat, gripping tightly and seeing the face beneath the hood for the first time. She was gorgeous. She was a descendant of an elven race, more than likely, and this only pushed Rin deeper into the unfamiliar territory she now tread daily.

                ‘Impressive…’ Caster grunted, blood trickling down either side of her mouth. ‘To think…you were capable…of such a maneuver.’

                ‘Release Saber. Relinquish the command seals to me.’

                Caster grunted.

                ‘Why should I? Either way, I have lost.’

                ‘Because I’ll spare you if you do.’

                Caster’s squinted eyes dug into Rin’s own, trying to decipher truth from lies.

                ‘You’re a fool…’ Caster grinned. Rin could feel the draft just before she turned, finding Souichirou upon her, his fist raised and purple magic glowing within every muscle and fibre within him. His cold, dead stare couldn’t care less about crushing one of his own students. Killing was second nature for this man, and Rin knew she could be dead in seconds.

                However, just as Rin heard Sakura’s voice scream in horror, a pair of hands wrapped around Rin and dragged her out from between the master and servant, tumbling around on the ground just before an explosion with multiple moments of detonation erupted where Caster and Souichirou had been. None of it made sense. Saber was still fighting Rider, and Sakura couldn’t use any sort of offensive technique, so then…?

                ‘Stay down, little lady…’ Lancer heaved, his taxed body breathing heavily overtop of Rin. She squinted, trying to make out what had happened, just barely able to see between Lancer’s side and arm as the dust and destroyed granite cleared.

                ‘What is going on?’ She uttered, scared of what she would find soon enough.

                ‘Just be quiet.’ Lancer urged, his voice, for once, sounding unsure.

                Souichirou remained standing, his arms outstretched and more than ten various weapons sticking out of and through him, his dress shirt and pants covered in blood and his whole being trembling under the weight of death. Caster was sobbing, reaching up to the man’s face and touching it gently. Her mouth was tightened in dismay as well as anguish, her mind still processing the instantaneous shift in her personal war.

                ‘N-no…’ She wheezed, tears pouring from her light eyes. ‘No…No…No…!’

                Souichirou’s face only showed a hint of discomfort, his stoic expression chiselled on until the very end. He wouldn’t budge, but Rin could only imagine that his gaze was directing Caster away from him to safety.

                ‘Saber…’ Caster muttered, her teeth gritting and her whole body shaking. She looked past Souichirou and pointed, her voice screeching all throughout the chamber. ‘Kill him! Kill him! Kill him!

                On a balcony that Rin hadn’t even noticed above the main entrance, a man in golden armour stood with his arms crossed, the light coming off of his very presence like that of the sun. He didn’t look concerned even as Saber twisted her attention from Rider to the new contender. She leapt up to the wall and then launched off of the stone, bringing her sword up and ready to strike. Meanwhile, Caster dashed around Souichirou, elevating herself so that her cape opened up on either side of her and multiple sources of raw magical force manifested in the forms of ruins lit up and charged.

                The man in armour drew a glorious one-handed sword from behind himself, a wall of golden water seemingly present to provide him with whatever weapon he needed, and he met with Saber, easily casting the tired and resistant servant to the ground where she slightly collapsed the earth and gasped in agony.

                Caster had bought herself enough time, however, and she released what appeared to be the greatest of her mage craft, hundreds of beams exploding from her body and darting around before meeting the golden foe, an explosion causing the balcony to collapse under a siege of smoke and rubble. Rider had grabbed Sakura almost before it all transpired, apparently more than aware how troublesome things were about to become.

                Caster fell to the floor as well now, the last of her reserves spent in an attempt to avenge her master. She crawled to Rin’s teacher, kneeling in front of him and reaching up with both hands to hold his face. The fact Souichirou remained alive, let alone standing, was a testament to his resolve and commitment, if nothing else.

                ‘Who the hell is that? We’ve met all the servants!’ Rin struggled under Lancer’s grip, but the spear wielder wouldn’t let her move. He was surprisingly protective in the moment.

                ‘Better close your eyes, missy.’ He said simply.

                Rin could only do the opposite, the smoke clearing and the golden knight discarding two enormous and ornate shields to either side of himself before approaching the downed master and struggling servant. Caster continued to hold Souichirou’s face, her devastated expression held back by the urge to smile for him.

                ‘Don’t look, Souichirou-sama. Don’t look.’ She soothed, reaching behind his glasses with her thumbs and closing his eyes gently. ‘Thank-you. Thank-you so much. My wish has already been granted.’

                The golden knight was upon the couple now, reaching behind himself once again to draw forth an enormous halberd with jewels and only the most masterful of craftsmanship about it.

                ‘No…!’ Rin flailed to no avail. ‘Help them, Lancer! Lancer!’

                Lancer shook his head, yet it was Rider who leapt courageously at the mysterious intruder, Sakura standing safely a ways with her hand extended and determined, but tear-filled, eyes hatefully focussed.

                The powerful man used his free hand to bring forth a five pronged dragon blade, swinging it across his body so that it gashed Rider thrice before she managed to evade and slide backward, her stomach narrowly intact.

                ‘Don’t interfere, slave. Be grateful I don’t gut you here and now. I harbour a taste for amusement before dining, I’ll have you aware.’

                ‘Let me go, Lancer…’ Rin spoke dangerously low. ‘Let me go now.’

                ‘No can do. You’re too damn attractive to let run to your grave.’

                Rin felt her whole body tighten as the golden warrior drew back his halberd and easily struck through Souichirou and Caster, the two individuals joined for one last moment before the weapon was extracted, blood spurting from the gashing wounds inflicted.

                Souichirou finally moved once more, grabbing hold of Caster’s hands as she lost the last of her strength, her eyes wide open and her mouth twitching as death embraced her once more.

                ‘Thank-you.’ He mumbled, but somehow his voice reverberated all throughout the chamber.

                Caster smiled, her head falling into her master’s lap, and then the mana that held her together disintegrated, no longer capable of maintaining flesh and blood without the will of a servant to manifest the grail’s offering.

                At that, Souichirou spun, pulling out a weapon from his body with either hand and going for this new opponent’s head. Even the executor seemed surprised, but Rin could tell Souichirou’s abilities had been reduced to that of a human; a nearly-dead human. He didn’t stand a chance. His neck was sliced open, and the man died, not even gripping at the wound before lying still on the cold-stone floor, his blood seeping through the cracks sadly.

Chapter Text

 

 

                ‘Exterminating vermin is truly beneath a king. I’ll have his head for this…’

                ‘Who are you?’ Rin screamed, Lancer finally getting off of her so that she could stand and confront this beast.

                ‘One should bow when speaking to me, let alone demand any semblance of conversation.’

                ‘I refuse. No man deserves to be bowed to who has no qualms with executing already defeated souls like cattle.’

                Rin saw the individual’s expression shift into amusement.

                ‘Oh? You dare utter such treason against Gilgamesh, the first hero and king of all who stand before him?’

                Rin blinked. She knew of the legend, and this servant’s presence and power seemed to support his claim, but the servant count was already at its maximum capacity. What could this even mean?

                ‘Master.’ Saber’s voice made Rin’s heart almost stop. She stood next to her partner once again, and Rin felt as though a warm blanket had been wrapped about her. It was too early to celebrate, however. ‘Make the pact once more.’

                ‘We’ll keep it simple. If you’ll be mine, I’ll be yours.’ Rin extended her hand, the command seal revealing itself anew, its faded design clear for all to see. A flash of red light enveloped both she and Saber for an instant, the link between former master and servant established a second time. Saber’s armour reinvented itself upon her form, and she stood proud once more in silver, blue, and gold.

                ‘I am yours to command.’ Saber didn’t even hesitate stepping forward, knowing how powerful this Gilgamesh figure was. Rin felt the strain of mana demand instantly, but it was familiar and soothing. She held on tight for a moment longer, enjoying the sensation of Saber’s need for her support, and then released, more mana than ever before draining from her and causing her other circuits to fluctuate in compensation. An enormous golden light collected around Saber’s sword, inverting the atoms surrounding it as though a miniature black hole had formed before the most gorgeous of blades revealed itself, a holy aura of light pulsating around every perfectly crafted edge and detail.

                ‘Come forth, Excalibur.’

                Gilgamesh pointed at the beautiful Excalibur, his lip curling in annoyance.

                ‘That appears to be mine.’ He claimed quite simply. He seemed to think about the statement a little further, eyeing Saber carefully before crossing his arms and nodding a few times to himself, an inward dialogue processing, evidently. ‘Yet, in your hands, I must say that I would prefer both pieces be added to my collection.’

                ‘Both pieces…?’ Rin wondered, her eyes transfixed on Excalibur’s brilliance. It truly was one of the greatest swords ever created. Its appearance alone demanded unparalleled attention, never mind the destructive capabilities.

                ‘The girl and the blade, obviously. A king would have a queen, as it were. Makes for a better portrait. The blade belongs in my vault…with all the others.’

                ‘Disgusting…!’ Rin snarled.

                ‘Trouble yourself not; you’re hardly invited, child.’

                ‘I am a king, and I bow to nobody.’ Saber added.

                ‘You are my disciple, and you represent a small portion of my power over the world. Your time has passed, King Arthur; best select a viable future rather than a fairy tale that can never be.’

                ‘Rin-san…’ Sakura asked, but her sister wouldn’t turn. This enemy could be too much, and she couldn’t allow her focus to change for even a moment. Saber knew she had to be smart about how she handled this threat, and Rin would act accordingly.

                Lancer stepped forward at this point, going to Gilgamesh and placing a hand on his golden shoulder.

                ‘It’s done. Let’s go for now.’

                ‘Off, dog.’ Gilgamesh shrugged the other servant away, turning from the group. ‘I am well aware. I don’t take orders from either of you; this is the best direction that I’ve seen fit for a ruler.’

                ‘Back, Gilgamesh. Let us duel here and now.’ Saber spoke out once again, her voice course.

                ‘I’d rather not lay a hand on my future bride. Continue to radiate that aura of hopeless splendor for me, would you? It’s dazzling in a way that I have yet to encounter in my time on this earth.’

                ‘Turn and fight!’ Saber hissed now, desperation in her tone.

                ‘Saber…’ Rin warned, feeling as though they were getting off lucky, but her servant pushed her back mentally.

                Gilgamesh paused, and Lancer shook his head, pushing his hand through his short hair in frustration.

                ‘I suppose it’s never too soon to enforce unquestioning loyalty from one’s wife.’ Gilgamesh sighed, facing Saber once more. The golden pool of energy developed behind him, this time taking up much more space than before. More than 30 blades poked through, entire weapons eventually blanketing the reality marble, all elevating around Gilgamesh so that his red eyes glowed thanks to the artificial light.

                ‘Can you make it to me?’

                Saber pushed Rin aside and pressed forward, spears, swords, and anything else with a deadly edge in every variation coming at her with varying degrees of speed and force. The projectiles flew with incredible precision and might, the sheer weight of the weapons making them five times more deadly than ever. Saber could dodge and deflect, her own sword capable of parrying the best of them, but the numbers weren’t decreasing, and her mana wasn’t as stabilized as before because of the torture at Caster’s hand and the new pact. She wheezed angrily, screaming as she beat away axes and halberds, spears and broad swords.

                ‘Gorgeous…’ Gilgamesh breathed, his appraisal reaching only Lancer’s ears.

                Saber did well, closing the gap between herself and Gilgamesh, her abilities ever compromised yet not to the extent of making her less impressive than she truly was. However, few could weather the storm of weapons Gilgamesh commanded with hardly any effort at all, and soon, black portals opened up around Saber, golden chains shooting from within to grab hold of her. Even such crude forms of attack took multiple angles in order to work, for Saber used her honed instincts to successfully evade the first couple of chains. Yet, Gilgamesh’s sheer volume of assaults were more than Saber could defeat with such a handicap, and soon, she was disabled, her arms and legs pulled at from various sides until she was stretched out completely, her neck grappled so that her throat felt as though it would collapse with the slightest resistance.

                ‘Let her go…!’ Rin leapt forward, using her magic to propel her like she had with Caster, her speed and combative abilities sending a moment of disbelief through Gilgamesh’s confidence before he blocked the attack with one armoured arm and knocked Rin away with the other, her entire body flying across the granite floor and smashing through some wooden pews.

                ‘These humans will never cease to amaze me with their arrogance, hm, Arthur?’

                ‘Hng…!’

                ‘At least you know your place, little one. Best continue the charade.’ Gilgamesh acknowledged Sakura, nodding in her general direction and then just as quickly dismissing her. Sakura’s fists held tight next to her sides, but she couldn’t do a thing. She was completely outclassed/ She knew Rider would be hurt even more if she decided to interfere further. The only thing Sakura could do was contact Shirou somehow, yet even that seemed hopeless with this servant completely capable of attacking from almost anywhere.

                ‘We will live.’ Rider claimed, standing close to her master as if to reinforce the decision to remain still.

                ‘But Rin-san…and Saber…’

                ‘Live for Rin.’ Rider repeated.

                Sakura’s mouth tightened, a contrast of emotions filling her as always. Rage, hurt, betrayal, jealousy. It was so much simpler when they just ignored one another…

                Saber could only flex and un-flex her arms, movement completely impossible in the face of such adversity. Her eyes were full of rage, the constant helplessness driving her mad. Veins protruded from her neck, and her mouth was sore from her savage bite.

                ‘Understand that you will live tonight because I permit it, my queen. You belong to me, and although I find your defiance alluring in its own right,’ Gilgamesh extracted a silver rapier from the golden pool behind him and slowly pushed it through a small opening in the side of Saber’s armour, the deliberately sluggish movement forcing Saber’s muffled scream to intensify to the point of insanity as the blade found its way through the back of the girl’s skin. ‘You best learn your place.’ Gilgamesh withdrew the sword, discarding it to the floor, the blood trail flowing freely as the chains faded away into golden dust and Saber was left to the hard ground.

                ‘There. That’s a far more fitting position for you.’ Gilgamesh crossed his arms and turned away, stepping over the rubble and exiting the chamber with one final sentence.

                ‘I shall be returning to claim what is mine very soon. This pitiful war is nearly over, and I will collect that which I am due. Until then, remember the events of this night when you consider defying your king once again, foolish slaves.’

                And he was gone alongside a slower moving Lancer.

                Saber willed herself to her feet once again, Excalibur gone, yet the invisible presence of the blade barely visible by its distortion of the wind around it.

                ‘Hgg…!’ Saber grunted, nearly dragging herself across the chamber in pursuit of her enemy. ‘You…!’ She hissed. ‘How…dare you…!’

                ‘S-Saber…’ Rin called out, shaking away the urge to sleep, and stumbling to her servant’s side. Sakura and Rider also reunited with the group; Sakura helping her sister, and Rider blocking Saber’s path. Rin allowed Sakura’s assistance until she made it to her servant, hugging her tightly and pressing her face into the nape of Saber’s neck. Sakura watched the unification with stoicism.

                ‘Not now…Saber. We will pay him back…but…let’s recover from this confrontation first…’ Rin’s voice was soft, her mental capacity at its limit and her body drained for too many reasons. She watched Saber stubbornly want to refuse, but the moment Rin cut down the mana supply, the proud warrior had no choice. She fell once more, and Rin could only beg Sakura and Rider to get them back to her manor.

Chapter Text

 

 

                Saber knew she was lucky to be alive. Gilgamesh had mocked her until the very end. He had punctured her mind and body while ensuring she lived through both attacks. First Caster, and now this? The frustration Saber felt made her sick. She was of the Saber class; she was revered as the mightiest of all servants, yet how many other opponents had she truly beaten? She had a competent master, and her skills were capable enough, but her cunning and ruthlessness were sorely lacking. Perhaps that was where her faults lay. She sought honour and redemption, where many of these servants, like Caster, cared for none of those things. Victory by any means. She couldn’t be that sort of fighter.

                Saber pushed off the covers and sat upon a bed she didn’t recognize. It was larger than Rin’s, and smelled a little musty, but the comfort couldn’t be denied. Saber noted that she was wearing a thin nightgown that was strangely reminiscent of her own time period’s style as she made her way to the large window that opened up to another patio much like Rin’s. She stared out into the night, the full moon casting a pale light all about the manor’s slightly overgrown backyard filled with a former sort of glory with its stone statues and artificial fountain.

                A pinch in her stomach reminded Saber of her downfall and injury that continued to heal; draining Rin of her mana in order to hasten the grail and cell reproduction. Just the thought of Gilgamesh made Saber turn to embarrassment and fury. She wanted to face him again. She wanted to face him at full capacity. She had been mocked and ashamed to her breaking point, and now Saber struggled to hold her head high, something she placed nearly all her value in.

                There was a soft knock at her door, and Saber knew who it was, her body tensing for reasons she didn’t want to acknowledge or consider further. She was here for a war; nothing else.

                ‘You needn’t knock, Master. This is your home. I am merely a guest…’ A servant. Saber thought, suddenly feeling bitter about the situation.

                A soft creak of aged construct gave Rin’s entrance away. She wore a red and black, baby-doll style nightgown with shorts. Saber blinked and turned, her cheeks burning and her side pulsating once again.

                ‘How do you feel, Saber?’

                ‘I will be fine.’

                Rin knew it was the exact opposite. Saber’s whole demeanor had changed. The king, who had once stood with an unparalleled sense of confidence and skill, was now nothing more than a girl. It had been nearly impossible to imagine, even when they ventured into the city at night and did normal schoolgirl activities, but now Rin could see what was beneath the true armour Saber dawned every single day of her life since drawing the holy blade.

                ‘You have nothing to be ashamed of. The circumstances were unnatural and -- ’

                ‘And when will they not be as such? This is a war that does not cater to honour or chivalry. Indeed, this battle is fit for snakes and rats. Those who are willing to slit an opponent’s throat at night whilst they sleep are far more likely to come out the victor than those foolish enough to desire a fair and proper duel. I am more aware of that than ever now. I have been the greatest of clowns. I am not a king; I am a court jester, waving a flag of honour that can only be mocked…’ Saber’s words shook, her whole body refusing to turn to Rin.

                The master controlled her breaths, the sight of Saber seeming so defeated crushing her more than she imagined it would.

                ‘You bested Assassin in a proper battle, did you not? His skill was beyond human, yet you won. I was so proud of you in that moment. I’m proud of you still. The way you live and fight is a pillar of strength for me. I’ve never been in a war before, but I agree with your line of thinking.’

                Saber didn’t respond, and Rin considered going to her now, but held herself back. She had to consider her servant’s feelings more than her own. What she wanted didn’t matter in this moment. The future of the Grail War for the Tohsaka household waited for this confrontation’s conclusion to be determined.

                ‘We have met all of the other servants. Do you suspect that they will be so willing to participate in an honourable battle? I think not.’ Saber snapped, her tone low and almost a whisper. ‘I have been humiliated. I must defeat them all, no matter what the cost or circumstance. I will place chivalry and honour away, closing my heart to everything I know in order to bring us victory. Why should I give a damn if nobody else does?’

                Rin bit at the side of her lower lip and then hesitated no further. She stepped across the room and wrapped her arms around Saber from behind, holding her tight so that she could feel her servant’s back against her own body.

                ‘I give a damn.’ Rin uttered into Saber’s ear, her voice trembling. ‘When I thought I lost you…’

                Saber had gone as stiff as a board, unmoving under Rin’s grip. She would have to somehow convince her servant that she was sincere.

                ‘When I thought I had lost you…it was as though I had lost a piece of myself.’

                ‘…Our mana link was disabled.’

                Rin nearly laughed, but instead, just held tighter.

                ‘Right. But it was more than that. You’ve become a part of my life that I didn’t even know I was missing. Your thirst for honour. Your consideration to those around you. Your strength. Your kindness. Your gentility. You’re a contrast of appeals. A day without you felt like a year. You are a magnificent woman that I can’t help but admire in so many ways.’ Rin sucked in some air quickly, knowing she was being selfish, considering what Saber was struggling with. She could only think to convince Saber of her value another way. Her servant still seemed doubtful, unmoving in reaction to Rin’s bold claims.

‘I…’ Rin’s voice was trapped. What did she want to say now?

                ‘What is it, Master?’ Saber had cooled some, but her words still held an edge that intimidated Rin. Was this the right time for such frivolity? No. Caster had made it clear that every day contained unknown danger. Rin couldn’t live with herself if she allowed any more regrets. She had learned her lesson with inaction through Sakura; a link that was so corrupted it may never be the same again.

                ‘I…I’m just going to do this.’ Rin reconfigured her world, ensuring she wasn’t going to wake up in a moment. The night was making her drunk. The events of the past week were tricking her mind. She allowed her hands to do what they willed. ‘Stop me if need be.’

                ‘Pardon…?’ Saber questioned almost cutely just prior to Rin’s touch moving from wrapped about Saber’s neck to lightly touching her arms, the skin instantly reacting and bumping beneath the contact. Saber’s breath came out sharply then, her head leaning back into the side of Rin’s face. It was a good sign. Rin relaxed some, allowing her hands to move to Saber’s stomach, being careful not to irritate the nearly healed injury. She moved up and down, just shy of any inappropriate areas, but not unwilling to shift Saber’s nightgown to the point that most of her legs were exposed.

                ‘Master…’ Saber sighed, her body becoming rigid once more. ‘What are you doing?’

                ‘I-I’m not really sure.’ Rin confessed.

                ‘The mana transfer ritual?’ Saber offered. ‘This will amplify our point of contact, will it not?’

                Her sounds were soft, the simple effects of Rin’s touch doing more than the master could have expected. Seeing this as opportunity to fulfill her growing desires, Rin almost took the easy way out and went along with Saber’s logical conclusion. However, Rin couldn’t lie to her friend. She couldn’t lie to this individual that had broken into her life with such extreme results.

                Rin led Saber to the bed, holding her hand as they both sat and finally looked at one another closely after what had felt like eons.

                ‘I think…I think I simply want to make love to you, Arturia-san.’

                Saber couldn’t respond. The bluntness of the unfiltered claim caught her off guard.

                ‘Sorry…?’ She managed, the confusion plain on her face.

                Rin knew there was no going back now, and her body was already warming in anticipation, so she figured there was no harm in pushing for broke. She had said something absurd that she couldn’t take reverse anymore.

                ‘Just let me kiss you.’ Rin returned to her old, commanding tone, taking Saber’s face into her hands and bringing their lips together. Saber clearly resisted, which made the kiss awkward and clumsy at first, but something in the servant submitted after a couple of seconds, her mouth easing into Rin’s own before she began moving in time with her master, the contact enabling her into a sense of intimacy that she had never truly known save for being an outside observer.

                Rin groaned, separating from Saber for a moment, further aroused by the sight of the normally stern and serious girl slack-mouthed and almost pleading for more.

                ‘Use your tongue.’ Rin hummed, kissing Saber once again and building to opening their jaws wider to allow for their tongues to entangle and fill the other. Saber’s inexperience showed, but she was quick to learn, taking Rin’s lead and mirroring it while adding her own personality to the movement. The two girls switched sides, kissed deeply, and sucked on one another, their voices progressively becoming more and more amplified as the interaction carried on.

                Unable to contain herself any longer, Rin moved the strap of Saber’s nightgown so that it hung to the side of her arm, and then gripped at her servant’s breast, the hardness of the tip obvious through the thin cloth. Rin broke away from the kiss in that moment to pull down the top of Saber’s nightgown completely, the moonlight revealing a pair of supple, but well-rounded, pale breasts. Saber went to cover herself with her arms, but Rin’s natural aggression came forth, and she nearly yanked the cover away so that she could gaze upon the gorgeous spectacle.

                ‘You’re beautiful, Saber…’ Rin sighed, massaging the mounds of flesh and teasing the hardened points between her fingers.

                Saber’s arms snapped out of Rin’s hands with her superior strength and crossed them over her chest, breaking her master’s physical connection to her abruptly.

                ‘W-what are we doing…?’ Saber asked suddenly, her face red but serious.

                Rin hated how caught off guard she felt by the inquiry. Her hesitation wouldn’t help the situation. The most problematic part of Saber’s question was that Rin herself wasn’t sure of the exact answer.

                ‘You wish to become stronger, right? This is similar to the ritual I performed to save Sakura, but in this case, because we are master and servant, there will be more beneficial effects.’

                Saber’s gaze didn’t waver, her fixation on reading Rin’s truest intents stopping her from responding immediately.

                ‘I am not comfortable with this.’ She finally said, creating just a little distance between herself and Rin on the bed. ‘Sakura-san’s case was an emergency, and I understand that, but I am plenty powerful enough as I am. Before Excalibur’s true might, Berserker and Gilgamesh will fall alongside any other barriers between us and the grail.’

                Rin breathed out slowly, trying to control her heart.

                ‘If you’re not comfortable with this then we can stop. The mana transfer ritual is a boon, I suppose, but honestly…’ Rin eyed Saber, recalling the agony she felt when her servant had been taken from her. The loneliness was real; not just physically, but psychologically as well. She couldn’t handle it. Come what may, she needed this for some form of affirmation. She couldn’t run away any longer. Her life could end the very next day. Rin wasn’t invincible. She knew this now more than ever.

                ‘Honestly…I…I am fairly sure I am more than a little infatuated with you, as ridiculous as it may sound.’ Rin blinked for a long time, her intake of air deep and controlled. She then covered her face, her words becoming muffled. ‘God. I sound absurd. What am I even doing? This is so bizarre and…wrong!’

                Rin couldn’t look at Saber anymore. She had said it. She had said it and the repercussions could affect her very position in the fifth Grail War. How petty could she be? How pathetic of a Tohsaka candidate? Love? Falling in love with a servant? Falling in love with a servant of the same sex? Unbelievable. Inconceivable. Disgusting. Lewd. Filthy.

                A soft touch to Rin’s wrist forced her to face reality once more. Saber’s expression wasn’t anything close to what Rin had been expecting. There was warmth and understanding behind the servant’s green eyes.

                ‘I still do not understand how consensual love could be deemed “wrong”, but know that…despite my best efforts, the feelings are still quite…er…mutual.’ Saber’s cheeks flushed, and she closed the gap between herself and her master once again. She hadn’t adjusted her nightgown top yet, but continued to hide her exposed form with her free arm.

                ‘Really…?’ Rin asked dumbly, her pitch higher in her mind.

                ‘Yes.’ Saber glanced down to the bed, eventually drawing on the covers with her index finger before bringing the invisible piece to Rin’s leg. ‘I-if we are to continue this endeavour, I must preface any further development with the fact that I lack the experience likely required to provide the best level of pleasure for myself and, more importantly, you, Master.’

                Rin smiled brightly, the fact Saber began rambling due to her own insecurities blatantly adorable.

                ‘That really doesn’t matter to me in the slightest…’ She pushed Saber onto her back and pulled her arms away from her body, the moonlight and shadows shaping the small mounds of flesh in a pleasing way.

                ‘M-Master…’ Saber gasped, her laboured breaths of anxiety making her chest heave up and down hypnotically. Rin didn’t even think about correcting her name-wise. The idea of Saber, a proud and powerful king, calling Rin “Master” set a fire off within Rin’s blood. It was a role-reversal that she could take pleasure in now.

                ‘Just relax,’ Rin blew on Saber’s nipple and then lightly bit down upon the hardened point on the right. ‘And enjoy this. I’m going to make you scream in pure ecstasy.’ Rin surprised herself with what she was saying. The mood of the event was overtaking her. Deep desires buried far, far away had surfaced finally, and she had no intention of holding herself back any longer. She would relish this lusted-after moment for all that she was worth.

                Rin took the lead willingly, listening to the varying intensity of Saber’s groans in order to gauge where the slightly smaller woman enjoyed being touched the most. She was personally drawn to everything about Saber, kissing and stroking all visible trace of skin available.  Saber’s neck, her collar, her armpit, her breasts, her naval, and eventually, Rin reached up into her servant’s nightgown in order to tease between Saber’s legs and through a thin piece of fabric that was already quite damp. Saber’s back arched, and her whole body convulsed as Rin moved aside her panties and licked with a new sense of urgency. She could taste the slightly salty and sweet piece of Saber, and although her servant gripped at Rin’s head in apparent protest, she did little else to stop the oral act of sexual stimulation. Eventually, Rin introduced her hand to assist with the task, and she was challenged to even get a single finger inside despite the lubrication.

                ‘A-ah…! Master…! T-that’s…!’ Saber moaned, digging her grip through Rin’s hair, her whole form tightening up further.

                ‘Does it feel good?’ Hummed Rin, going back to licking and sucking on Saber’s stiff bud as she increased the rhythm of her insertions.

                Saber’s response came in the form of her gasping in between breaths of voiced, yet restrained, pleasure. She nodded meekly, her eyes squinted shut and mouth tightened as though she hesitated to let go completely. Rin took it as a challenge, and was shocked by the difference in purpose she felt providing sexual fulfillment to Saber compared to her own sister.

                Despite having drawn some sense of physical release from performing the mana transfer ritual with Sakura, at the end of the day, Rin had done it out of a notion of commitment, debt, and familial obligation. Not only that, but the guilt she harboured over the act of the ritual still hung over Rin as a veil of shame.

                Now, however, Rin was having true, unadulterated sex with someone she honestly cared for in this exact moment in time. With that knowledge, Rin pursued a different means to the end, savoring each and every wave of joy she was capable of sending through Arturia Pendragon. She loved the taste of Saber. She loved the feel of Saber’s skin. She gazed openly at the fairly bare part of Saber that likely few had witnessed before. She loved her voice, her personality, her values, her loyalty, and her chivalry. She couldn’t stop thinking about the powerful lion that had become a kitten within Rin’s grasp. She was losing herself in the moment, but in a wonderfully perfect and unfiltered way.

                Rin reached into her own shorts and instantly began playing with herself, her hand sliding in and out easily as she continued to work Saber wildly. The servant reeled in the bed, the covers becoming as dishevelled as Saber, her mouth wide and her cries reaching a fever pitch before Rin felt her servant’s innards squeeze around her single finger and twitch rapidly, the tightness almost hurting Rin as the tremors produced vocal confirmation of an achieved orgasmic release.

                ‘O-oh, God…! G-God…! A-ah…! Ah…!’ Saber whined, saliva dripping down the side of her mouth while her eyes rolled upward and her vision blurred. She had never, ever experienced something so incredible before. She was at the complete mercy of the sensations coursing throughout her entire body, originating within her groin and pulsating into every sensitive nerve she had.

                Once Saber’s form had relaxed finally, Rin extracted her finger and began licking it erotically, her tongue extending long and hard over the combination of substances on her skin. She continued to massage within her underwear, which was soaked with lust hardly satisfied. Rin had every intention of finishing herself off with the mere thoughts of Saber’s submission, but she was surprised to find Saber moving seconds later, if tentatively, and crawling to the end of the bed, quickly reaching for Rin’s occupied arm and pulling the hand out of its active territory.

                ‘It…would be my honour, Master…’ Saber claimed, stroking her tongue along Rin’s hand and soon taking the entirety of her first three fingers into her mouth, working the parts of her master in a somewhat sloppy, but dedicated oral act of seduction.

                ‘Hm…mm…mm…’ Saber was awkward, as if a child discovering her own body for the first time, but she found her own rhythm, and adjusted to Rin’s rhetorical cues. 

                The sight of Saber treating Rin’s hand like some sort of stiffened phallic symbol set Rin off even more, and she had trouble breathing properly, her eyes fixated on Saber’s face and mouth. Unable to sit idle any longer, Rin joined her servant, the combined effort between the two of them bizarre yet brutally arousing to all involved. Rin found Saber’s lips once again amidst the imaginary act, and she kissed her even more deeply than before, pushing into her servant and ascending to the bed alongside her, gripping Saber’s face and eventually shifting it upward as she plunged her tongue down, both of the girls’ mouths opening wide and nearly breaching the limits of their capabilities.

                ‘Master…’ Saber breathed, feeling Rin’s breath on her moist lips.

                ‘We’re not done yet; not even close…’ Rin encouraged, lining Saber’s mouth with her tongue and then making out with her further, saliva building and creating trails of glistening connections. She pushed Saber down once again onto her back, but the servant responded by kicking at Rin’s shorts and underwear until her foot caught onto the rims of both and successfully tugged them down to Rin’s knees.

                ‘Allow me, Master…’ Saber sighed, shuffling lower on the bed so that she could easily enter Rin with her own hand and feel within at mimicked intervals of insertion. Saber also pulled Rin’s shirt straps off messily, sucking at her small breasts as they hung over her teasingly.

                ‘A-ah…!’ Rin released, taken by surprise from the sudden assault on her senses. She swayed her hips with approval, however, her body already reacting quickly to the touch of her servant. Perhaps it was due to the natural interaction of the magical circuits between master and servant, but Rin wasn’t even thinking about the mana transfer ritual. She wanted Saber. She lusted for Saber. She was in ecstasy with the simple thought of Saber vandalising her. She couldn’t ask for more. She was enraptured. Rin filtered through the various positions she wanted to take up with Saber, but she also knew she wouldn’t last much longer and didn’t want to overstay her welcome.

                ‘Is that good, Master?’ Saber’s soft voice asked.

                Rin took her servant’s wrist, pulling the two fingers out of herself before sitting down on the bed and taking off her shirt. She smiled at Saber, not wanting to make her think she wasn’t pleased.

                ‘I’m so close to cumming already it’s not even funny.’

                ‘Master?’

                Rin just shook her head and shimmied in closer to Saber, noting the sudden nervousness present on her servant’s beautiful facial features.

                ‘We’re going to cum together, okay?’

                ‘O-okay…’ Saber nodded, although she still seemed unsure.

                ‘Remember what you felt before? This is going to be even better. Trust me.’

                ‘I trust you, Master.’ Saber didn’t hesitate.

                That was enough for Rin. She raised up her hand and felt Saber’s own clasp within it, the touch of her servant’s skin sending a wave of calm through Rin. She then lifted her left leg overtop of Saber’s right while putting her other under Saber’s opposite limb.

                ‘Oh…’ Saber breathed in sharply, imagining what came next.

                ‘You ready?’

                ‘…I am. Please.’

                Rin shuddered, but then closed the miniscule gap between her servant and herself, the feeling of their clitorises touching, and then, grinding against one another instantly unbelievable, upheavals of pleasure shocking senses both girls were unaware of having. Their voices merged together as one, their breasts rubbing and then parting for various positions of symmetric merging.

                ‘M-Master…! Master…!’

                ‘I know…! M-me too…!’

                It had barely been three minutes, yet Saber and Rin could hold back no more. Both reached a climax of aroused stimulation nearly simultaneously before screaming in harmonized completion, a tiny pool of clear liquid forming between the girls who couldn’t care less for they were together, and that was all that could possibly matter in that present moment.

                Saber released Rin’s hands and placed her own on her Master’s chest, kissing Rin gently once more and then hugging her tightly, her release and exit from the room so abrupt that Rin had to take a second to process what had just taken place. Without missing another beat, Rin followed her servant, her naked body bothering her not in the slightest.

Chapter Text

 

 

                Rin found Saber in her room with the white night robe on she had leant her. Rin hadn’t even noticed the young woman picking up the discarded nightwear she was so confused by Saber’s sudden retreat. The curtains at Rin’s balcony hadn’t been drawn, so the fading moonlight from outside cast an ethereal outline about Saber which made her even brighter to the Tohsaka master.

                ‘Saber…?’ Rin called out. She had also put on her own housecoat, although it seemed like cheap fabric compared to how Saber looked now.

                ‘I’m sorry. I…just needed a moment.’ Saber didn’t quite turn, but she directed her voice Rin’s way.

                ‘That’s fine.’ Rin’s heart started hammering in her chest. Had she done something wrong? Had she forced Saber into a situation her servant didn’t want to be in? Saber seemed receptive enough. This reaction to their sexual act wasn’t ideal, that was for certain. Rin didn’t want to think about it for too long, but she herself had apprehensions she wasn’t sure what to do with.

                ‘Are you upset?’ Rin asked after a heavy pause. She couldn’t take this. She needed answers now.

                Saber sighed deeply, her whole frame falling some.

                ‘No. Not in the least. I am…melancholic, I suppose.’

                ‘Melancholic?’

                ‘Yes. I held myself in such high esteem that I never considered letting anyone get close to me emotionally. I was too proud. I had the expectations of the Gods. How foolish I was. How much of my life did I waste attempting to be the exemplification of perfection?’

                Rin couldn’t answer Saber, and she had a feeling she wasn’t meant to.

                ‘Making love with you…’ Saber’s voice was barely a whisper. ‘I’ve never felt so exposed yet safe at the same time. It felt good both physical and mentally. It felt…so good being so close to you.’ Saber finally turned, her eyes briefly reflecting what little light there was.

                ‘Rin-san. Thank-you.’ She smiled, and Rin’s knees became weak.

                ‘No.’ Rin shook her head, closing the gap between herself and her servant. ‘I should be thanking you. Familial duty, a superiority complex, stubborn to a fault, and foolish; I was all these things. I still am, in a way. Seeing how you live. Seeing what sort of woman you are…I’ve become a better person because of you, and we’ve hardly known one another for more than a week. It’s as though I’ve found my soulmate in life.’ Rin caught herself, covering her mouth and diverting her gaze. ‘I know I sound idiotic.’

                ‘Nay.’ Saber took her master’s hands and held them with her own, dipping her head so that she could force Rin to look at her. ‘We both have been inspired by one another, it seems.’

                ‘Yeah…’ Rin admitted. ‘But…where do we go from here?’

                ‘What do you mean?’

                Rin could feel her face burning, yet she pressed onward, knowing she’d curse herself if she didn’t.

                ‘The mana transfer ritual was a success, but I truly only cared about being with you, Saber…’

                Saber seemed to understand then, nodding slowly.

                ‘Oh. Yes.’

                ‘I’m pretty sure I love you…’ Rin mumbled in the smallest of voices, a slight tinge of anger in her tone as if she were annoyed with herself.

                Saber smiled softly, although there was sadness in her expression. She kissed Rin once again, the familiarity of the touch immediately stimulating.

                ‘And I am in love with you.’

                Rin grit her teeth, hating how observant she could be. It would be so much easier to just ignorantly believe everything she heard, but the rhetoric behind Saber’s words and actions stabbed at her chest, leaving a feeling of intense discomfort and fear.

                ‘Then what is bothering you?’

                ‘I am a servant. You are a master. We are participants in the fifth Holy Grail War. Our time together is…fleeting. I have had the opportunity to contemplate my emotions, and we both know what I say to be true. I do not want to admit it, but we cannot be together. It would be…too painful to try. Tonight will be our last night of intimacy. From this point forward, we fight in a war as comrades in arms.’

                Rin’s eyes were burning, but she refused to shed a tear. How could one person provide such fulfillment and emptiness within the span of an hour? It was too much. Saber was right; it was too painful.

                ‘I would ask the grail for you to stay…’ She muttered angrily, knowing what the response would be.

                ‘My desire is to return to my time period and right the wrongs I have committed.’

                Rin watched Saber from the corner of her eye when she said this. It wasn’t the truth. It couldn’t be. Saber didn’t want that. She felt as though she had to “fix” the past. Her loyalty and pride as a king continued to dictate her life even after it was over. Saber had begun to see the world differently, but she was utterly trapped still.

                ‘I won’t beg you to be with me. I’ve lived this long alone; I can keep doing it.’ Rin finally said, her words level, but her head spinning. She was hurt and insulted. Her pride was all she had, and Saber had managed to damage it so easily. Rin was infuriated. She was mad at herself more than Saber, to be honest. The flash of hurt she saw pass over Saber’s eyes was enough to make the master regret her words immediately.

                ‘I see. That is good.’

                Rin chewed on the inside of her mouth savagely, drawing blood and tasting it. She was going to lose her mind at any moment. She had to leave. She wanted to leave. She began to escape, abandoning Saber to solitude. Rin almost made it too, willing to sleep anywhere but near such a heartless human, but memories of Saber stopped her. The feelings she had couldn’t be discarded so easily. Rin stomped on the floor and whirled, her well-guarded composure dishevelled to expose her raw agony and desperation.

                ‘So, that’s it! What was the point then? Why bother with me tonight? Why bother with us?’

                ‘I thought you weren’t going to beg?’

                ‘I lied!’ Rin screamed, her words cracking alongside her. ‘You’re too important to me for something like my ridiculous pride to stop me from trying to make you see that…that we’re…special…’

                Saber didn’t respond. Her gaze was downcast, and she held her lips tight.

                ‘We will win the war, and I’ll go with you to your time period if I damn well have to!’

                ‘That’s absurd…’ Saber breathed.

                ‘It’s no more absurd than a master falling in love with a servant! I’ve tarnished my family name, and it’s something I’m willing to live with for the rest of my life. I have nothing else to lose.’

                ‘You would…go so far?’

                Rin shook her head, chuckling pathetically.

                ‘I know it’s beyond foolish, but yes, I would.’

                Saber wiped her face with her hands, sniffing into them and wiping her lower lid. Rin didn’t want to stare, but she couldn’t imagine her servant was crying, was she?

                ‘You couldn’t make this simple, could you?’

                Sensing the ray of hope, Rin had to reel herself back in.

                ‘I’ve always been a bit troublesome.’

                Saber sighed deeply, but then made her way to Rin, taking her hand gently and guiding her to bed.

                ‘May I contemplate everything a little further, Master? I’ve seen your resolve, and it begs me to re-evaluate my entire outlook at this point.’

                ‘You may.’ Rin answered. It was better than nothing. She could live with this sliver of possibility.

                ‘Then I wish you a good night.’ Saber bowed, beginning to exit the room as though gliding across the floor.

                ‘No.’ Rin interrupted the moment, watching her servant turn slowly.

                ‘Pardon, Master?’

                ‘You will lay with your master tonight. I require your presence.’

                ‘Is that a command?’

                ‘I am willing to make it one.’

                Saber grinned slightly, disrobing while Rin did the same, and then slid under the covers with her master. She could feel Rin’s body warmth instantly, and found great comfort in the closeness and contact of skin. Saber felt her master’s hands stroking her body softly, the touch so brilliant she could do little else but sigh.

                ‘This is…nice.’ Saber admitted.

                ‘It is, isn’t it?’ Rin found Saber’s hand and held it, thankful that the grip was returned. ‘My mother and father used to allow me and Sakura into their bed when either of us had a bad dream. It was usually Sakura, but I think I did it more so she didn’t feel bad…’

                ‘You would never admit to being afraid, I’m sure.’ Saber teased.

                ‘Nor would you.’

                ‘…You’re right.’

                A comfortable silence filled the room. There was darkness, but the streetlights from outside paired with the moon made the bedroom much more illuminated than usual. Rin moved her thumb around Saber’s hand, a quick tightening displaying a level of contentment.

                ‘I was afraid when my father died. I was afraid when my mother became a stranger. I was afraid when I lost my sister. I was afraid when this war started and I had almost no guidance beyond the books and notes my father left me. I was most recently afraid when I thought I had lost you.’

                Saber turned, mirroring Rin’s movements so that their bodies were facing one another. She could see the water in her master’s eyes, but she wouldn’t say anything. Instead, she would support Rin, as she always desired to do now.

                ‘I was afraid when I drew the sword from the stone. I shook at night at what it all meant. I was frightened at the prospect of leading a country. I was terrified alongside any decision I made sitting upon a throne crafted using blood. I was devastated by the betrayals among my knights. I tormented myself over Guinevere’s sacrifice and nearly forced adultery. I was afraid, during my dying breath, that I never truly got to live my life. I appealed to the world before I died, and thus, the servant before you who is more real yet fake than any of the others.’ Saber touched Rin’s face gently, stroking her cheek and holding her placement. ‘You have given me a second chance, and I will forever be grateful for that.’

                Rin swallowed, holding her breath and still biting back every emotion she had flowing through her.

                ‘Don’t go…’ She said, surprising herself.

                ‘I’m not going anywhere until the war is won.’

                ‘Even then, don’t go.’

                Saber hesitated, but then simply kissed Rin, much more conscious of the action now. 

                ‘Again…’ Rin whispered, shifting her leg between Saber’s. ‘One more time, just in case.’

                ‘I shan’t start disobeying you now.’ Saber was happy to oblige, and even more thankful that the previous command hadn’t been followed up for a more concrete answer.


 

                Rin lay awake long after Saber’s breaths had become deep and even, the slumber coming easy to her due to the strain her body had been through recently. Their second session was even more fulfilling than the first; Saber finding enhanced comfort in exploring Rin’s body and allowing her own to be touched. Fearing that the night would end and this was her final chance to be with Saber in such a way, Rin held nothing back, not wanting any regrets.

                Yet she remained filled with longing. The war was nearing its final stages. There wouldn’t be any more time to dawdle about the town and show Saber more of the country. Rin wanted to travel with her servant. She wanted to do everything with the girl named Arturia. She wanted to achieve their dreams together. If only Saber could understand the folly of returning to her time to have a redo. Rin doubted she understood the motive completely, and it was easy for her to dismiss it as silly, but Saber had to be smarter than that. She had to know how unnatural it would be to change history so drastically.

                Rin also had to re-evaluate her own motives. She wasn’t being too selfish, was she? Saber loved her too, so that shouldn’t be a problem, really. Rin wanted to win the Grail War for her father and for her family name. Her goal was to rise in the ranks of the magi and reclaim the Tohsaka’s relevance in the magical society. She wanted influence. She wanted power. She wanted recognition. Her father had called her an intellectual prodigy as well as a natural when it came to mage craft. She couldn’t push away those expectations so readily. Perhaps her father would look down on the way Rin handled her servant, but this particular Grail War was a bit of an anomaly itself.

                The contenders, first of all, were bizarre. Shirou Emiya? That didn’t make sense. Sakura was an extension of the Tohsaka household, truthfully, so that was slightly odd as well. A little girl represented the Einzberns? Although homunculi were known to grow slowly physically, so it was hard to say what her real age was. Souichirou-sensei didn’t have a lick of magic within him. Caster was the master of Assassin? Gilgamesh acted completely on his own as a wildcard or was potentially linked with Lancer? Lancer’s master hadn’t even shown himself yet. Half the masters were children with little to no real combat experience. From what Rin knew of the previous war, almost all the contenders were adults, and rather deadly ones at that; capable of displaying battles of epic proportions, saying nothing for the servants they commanded.

                This Grail War just felt…juvenile in comparison. The servants’ abilities were no joke, but some of the masters…

                Rin forced her eyes closed and tried to shut off her brain.

                There was no point in thinking about it further. Berserker was next. There was no other choice. It was time for the hidden giant to fall. Now that Saber had received the benefits of a mana transfer ritual, she would more than likely stand a better chance of defeating the titan; especially if Archer helped as well.

                Tomorrow, we’ll begin the final battles of this war. Rin decided. She was done having her life tossed around by this display of greed and power. It was time to get completely serious and fight with everything she had.

Chapter Text

 

 

                The morning after.

                Rin covered her face and flipped from side to side in her bed. She had sex with Saber. She had sex with her servant. What on earth was she thinking? How was she supposed to function in the war after pouring out her feelings like some love-struck schoolgirl? Rin wasn’t sure she could even get up and going with her day. How would she act around Saber? How would Saber act around her?

                That’s it; she could just base her actions around her servant’s. React rather than initiate. Perfect.

                There was a war to win. If Rin stayed focussed on that, she would be fine. She could deal with handling Saber later. If Saber said anything, which Rin doubted but she liked to go through all the scenarios possible, she could just claim that the mana transfer ritual was performed in preparation for Berserker. It was partially true anyway.

                Rin procrastinated by taking longer in the shower and with doing her hair than usual. Her mind was aflutter, hardly allowing her any peace when it came to bombarding her with thoughts of Saber. She had fallen for another girl. While Rin had never denied the possibilities, she thought surely such a turn of events weren’t in her own future. After all, she had been in love once in the distant past with a male she knew all too well now. Perhaps if things were different, she could have pursued such a distanced notion. However, now she had no interest. She was enraptured by a woman who stood beside her. Saber was similar but different from her. They were both so proud and powerful, yet could be sensitive and receptive to protection and being treated like princesses.

                Rin finished preparing herself for the day, throwing on some warmer clothes since she imagined her and Saber would be making a move on Berserker now. It was a frightening thought, and it nearly brought Rin’s priorities back into place; that is, until she descended her own stairs, finding Saber in her living room with a steaming cup of tea in her regular white and blue everyday clothes.

                Rin’s heart clawed its way to her throat, and she tried to sound natural without much success.

                ‘G-good morning.’ She stuttered, damning herself.

                ‘Good morning, Master. I attempted to prepare some tea. I hope it is to your liking. Allow me to pour you a cup.’

                Saber smiled, yet her eyes wandered, barely making contact with Rin’s own. Rin could’ve just been imagining it also, projecting her own insecurities.

                ‘It’s fine. I don’t mind.’

                ‘Nor do I. You stirred a lot in your sleep. I doubt you’re feeling overly well rested. Perhaps it would be best if you sleep at night alone moving forward. I…I may have disturbed you.’

                Rin tried to keep the blood from rushing to her face.

                ‘I’m just used to sleeping on my own. I’m sure I can adapt.’

                ‘…Very well. I suppose the same could be said for myself.’

                Saber disappeared into the kitchen while Rin eased herself into a chair, turning on the television as a means to distract her overly active mind and check up on the news around Fuyuki City.

                “…and despite the police’s best efforts, there are no clues to help determine the whereabouts of this, now infamous, serial killer.”

                Rin’s eyes narrowed, the words “BREAKING NEWS” scrolling at the bottom of her older television screen. This had to involve the Grail War somehow. Fuyuki City was generally fairly peaceful, yet the moment the war started, so many bizarre incidents had been reported. She turned up the volume slightly as a middle-aged officer was asked to give any details available.

                “With so little to go on, it’s advised that all residents travel in groups and try not to stay out too late at night. We are doing the best we can to make this city safe again. Trust in your police force, and please provide our information centre with any and all details you may have to assist us. Thank-you very much. No other questions.”

                Various reporters seemed keen on getting some more juicy tidbits, but the rest of the workers were tight-lipped, a tinge of horror and shellshock evident in their eyes and general movements. Whatever the state of the victims, it wasn’t anything the force had seen before.

                ‘God…’ Rin breathed, wondering who could possibly be involved. Perhaps Gilgamesh? It didn’t really seem his style. Lancer had enough honour it appeared as well. None of the other candidates matched up either. Rin had a sickening feeling about it all, but she flicked off the television the moment Saber returned, the servant handing her master the hot mug with a level of delicacy she rarely displayed.

                ‘I cannot discern who could be committing such atrocities. I would like to believe that no heroic spirit would be capable, but…’

                ‘It could also be a master.’ Rin suspected that, more than anything. The motive was unclear, but it was a possibility, certainly.

                ‘This could very well be true…’

                Rin blew on her drink, chancing a glance to Saber and quickly diverting her gaze the moment she realized she had gotten lucky and wouldn’t be caught. Her phone suddenly began ringing, and Rin picked it up from the table a little haphazardly.

                ‘It’s Emiya.’ She told Saber, the servant nodding in understanding. Rin tapped the answer button and then tapped the speaker command before placing the phone on the arm of her chair, closer to Saber.

                ‘Hello, Emiya-kun. You’re on speaker phone.’

                “Oh! Oh, okay. Good morning, Tohsaka-san. How are you, Saber?”

                ‘I am well, thank-you.’ Saber spoke loudly, leaning over to better project her voice.

                ‘You’re alive; that’s good.’ Rin responded.

                “Yeah. Hahah. I’m glad you guys are okay too. It wasn’t easy on this end though, trust me. Archer tried to assassinate Illya-chan, which was definitely not the plan, but there was a crazy strong barrier around the castle. Also, talk about chilly! What a difference between the city and the mountains!”

                ‘What happened after that?’ Rin rolled her eyes.

                “Berserker came after us, of course. We could’ve made it out no problem, but Archer wanted to see how strong the guy was.”

                Saber scoffed.

                ‘A fool’s errand.’

                “He actually did pretty well. I mean, he didn’t win, but there was definitely some pressure. I think, between our two teams, we can beat Berserker.”

                ‘The problem comes from his regenerative properties. I’m assuming his ability to recover is his noble phantasm, and if that’s the case, there are not very many heroes he could represent. Based on my research, one could deduce that his true identity could come from a pool of individuals that include Prometheus, but I suspect, based on the sheer power of this particular servant, that we are dealing with one of the most famous of the Greek Gods: Hercules. If that’s the case, then he has a pool of 12 lives that may or may not be refilled after rest. Saber’s blow should have killed him, and even Archer’s attack could have finished him, but they both didn’t.’

                “Right. Even if he’s not Hercules, the fact he can revive himself is a major problem considering how strong he is.”

                ‘We could utilize Rider as well, I suppose…’

                “Uh…”

                Rin noted Shirou’s hesitation, not able to ignore it given the situation.

                ‘What?’

                “Sakura’s with you, right? I mean, is she sleeping in, or…?”

                ‘No. I assumed she was with you.’

                “I haven’t been able to contact her since she left with you guys yesterday. I texted her a couple of times and called, but…”

                ‘She’s not responding?’ Rin’s stomach turned.

                “No. Damn…”

                ‘You have no idea where she could be?’

                “I had Archer check out the Matou’s place, but he said it was empty.”

                A sickening feeling fell over Rin. She didn’t want to consider the possibilities her brain was filtering through. One thing at a time. Berserker wouldn’t wait forever, but there was something obviously bizarre about Sakura over the past few days as well that couldn’t be ignored.

                “What should we do?”

                ‘We should…focus on what can be done right now. Is Archer capable of making another move tonight?’

                “He wanted to either way.”

                ‘Does he have a death wish?’ Saber mumbled.

                “I wonder about that too sometimes.” Shirou laughed.

                Rin cupped her face, but then huffed and leaned back into the phone’s area.

                ‘I’m going to spend today looking into Sakura-san’s whereabouts. You’re going to school, correct?’

                “Uh, no. I’ll come with you. I want to make sure Sakura is okay as well.”

                Rin approved of that response. Perhaps Shirou wasn’t a complete idiot when it came to relational matters. As long as he sincerely cared about Rin’s sister, that’s all she could ask for.

                ‘…Fine. We’ll meet at the 7/11 near your place in about an hour.’

                “Good. Thanks.”

                ‘It’s nothing.’ Rin tapped the phone off and leaned back in her chair, sighing loudly.

                ‘I worry about Sakura-san.’ Saber decided to say. Rin nodded.

                ‘You have a bad feeling as well?’

                ‘Forgive me for saying as much, Master, but she has been slightly unstable since the moment I was introduced to her. She is aware that you are sisters, isn’t she?’

                ‘…Yes.’

                ‘Yet she hardly acknowledges you beyond pleasantries.’

                ‘There’s a reason for that.’

                ‘Such as…?’

                Rin’s knee-jerk reaction was to withhold the information from her servant, but she instead offered the knowledge willingly considering the relationship she wanted to foster.

                ‘The Matou’s are known for having grotesque methods for cultivating magical prowess. I don’t know the details, but Zoken Matou shouldn’t even be alive, yet he lurks in the shadows, ever watching for an opportunity to strike in the most sinister ways. I loathe his family, and I loathe my own for offering Sakura as a bargaining tool. But most of all, I loathe myself for being powerless to helping her.’

                ‘I see. How much and how little the times have changed.’ Saber mused.

                ‘Right…’ Rin caught herself, realizing she was alone with Saber finally, which naturally allowed some anxiety into her mind. ‘A-anyway, we should get ready to go. Are you all set?’

                ‘Always. We need only wait for you, Master. Shall I brush your hair?’

                ‘No.’ Rin answered quickly, regretting the denial immediately. ‘I’m fine. I’m pretty well ready as I am.’

                ‘Oh, good.’

                ‘Yes. Ahem. Well…’

                ‘Yes?’

                ‘Um…’ Rin’s eyes shifted back and forth.

                ‘I’m listening.’

                Rin sucked in some air; too quickly, in fact, and then began coughing. At first, Saber showed panic, but once Rin started laughing, her servant did the same. It was a fit that lasted a few minutes before Rin finally calmed herself down, wiping the water forming at the edges of her eyes. It was a simple moment, but it was one that Rin felt as though she would remember for quite some time for some reason.

                ‘Sorry. I’m being strange.’

                ‘Well, yes. But it’s understandable. I feel as awkward as you do, I’m sure.’

                ‘Really?’

                ‘Yes. I made proper love for the first time, after all. I feel more disconnected from my body than usual, I’ll have you aware.’

                ‘Oh…’ Rin wasn’t sure how to take anything Saber said.

                ‘That being said, I admit to feeling a level of embarrassment around you. I’ve exposed myself both mentally and physically, and the vulnerability is uncomfortable, at best. I’m sorry. I’m trying not to be overly odd in my behaviour.’

                ‘Ah. I see. Me too.’

                ‘We will have to act normal around Emiya-kun, for I suspect you would rather he not know about us.’

                Rin liked how Saber said that. It felt like a very special, private secret. As much as she was proud to be with Saber in any capacity, she knew it would only complicate everything during the war if anyone found out about their intimacy. It wasn’t anybody’s business anyway.

                ‘That’s right. It will just simplify things for now.’

                ‘Yes.’

                ‘Okay.’ Rin smiled again, her muscles relaxing at the sight of Saber’s visage. She picked up her phone again, tapping at an icon that she should use more, now that she thought about it. ‘Can I ask you a favour, Saber?’

                ‘Of course.’

                ‘You’ll have to get sort of close for this one.’

                ‘With pleasure.’

                Rin pressed a button and then a timer appeared on screen. She held the device away from her, adjusting it a little bit to focus the image.

                ‘A mirror?’ Saber questioned, seeing her and Rin’s faces on the phone’s screen.

                ‘Sort of. It’s going to take a picture. Smile.’

                ‘Er…That is somewhat difficult to do on command.’

                ‘Oh, please. Come on, we have 2 seconds!’

                ‘T-then I will not refuse this challenge!’

Chapter Text

 

 

                ‘He’s late. Of course he’s late. Why would he be anything but late?’ Rin huffed, shifting her weight from side to side with her arms crossed in front of her.

                ‘There’s still time, Master. I’m fairly certain we have arrived a little early, after all.’

                Rin checked her phone, the now overcast day doing nothing for her mood. It felt ominous, and her instincts told her that the memorable night before was the calm before a rather foreboding storm.

                ‘Hmph. He should’ve been early.’

                ‘If you don’t mind me saying, Master, but I notice that you’re quite a bit harsher with your words and expectations when it comes to Emiya-kun. Is there a reason for that?’

                Rin nearly choked, clearing her throat and shaking her head at Saber.

                ‘S-some individuals just irritate more than others.’

                ‘Hm. I suppose I can understand that. The same could be said for my feelings toward Archer. There is something obviously threatening and unpredictable about that individual.’

                ‘I agree. He wants to win this war no matter what it takes, and I know he’ll stab us in the back when we least expect it. I can imagine that Emiya-kun has wasted a command seal keeping him in check.’

                ‘Yes. There can be no doubt.’

                Saber and Rin had dressed quite casually for the outing. Both young women were unwilling to draw too much attention to themselves, so they were outfitted as though they were university students; not too fashionable, but conscious enough of their natural appeal. Rin wore a light fall jacket with shorts and leggings, while Saber had a long sweater with black pants. She looked like just any other girl (except for the obviously foreign blonde hair), and Rin couldn’t stop making excuses to take a quick peek at her phone where she had stored the picture of herself and her servant taken not that long ago.

                ‘That being said, Rin-san, I cannot fathom why, but Archer chances a glance in your direction a little more frequently than I would prefer.’

                A shiver ran Rin’s spine. She loved it when Saber addressed her with so much familiarity. She suspected it was done by accident, but it just proved how intimate Rin’s place in Saber’s mind was becoming.

                ‘Maybe he’s sizing me up for when he and Emiya-kun have to duel us.’ Rin puffed her chest. ‘Either that, or I’ve bewitched him mind, body, and soul.’

                Saber’s face went sour, and her cheeks inflamed for a moment.

                ‘That is an elaborate phrase.’

                ‘It’s from a book. Anyway, I’m joking, of course. Archer seems completely incapable of that sort of emotion. If anything, it has something to do with that bizarre pull I felt from him when I first saw him fighting Lancer. It was really odd, and I try to ignore it, but it’s there.’

                ‘Pull?’ Saber’s annoyance was barely compressed.

                ‘A mana pull. I can feel it in my circuits. It makes no sense whatsoever, but it’s too obvious to just claim as random.’

                ‘Hm. If I might ask, Master, what did you use as a catalyst for my summoning?’

                Rin’s cheeks flushed red as she searched for an answer that didn’t make her look too careless.

                ‘N-nothing. I didn’t want any influence on who I summoned, so I banked on my abilities as a magus at their core. Obviously it turned out for the better.’

                ‘Hm. Odd…’

                ‘What is?’

                ‘The supposed pull you feel from Archer is just…somewhat confusing. His identity as a servant remains quite unclear, no matter how many individuals I attempt to filter through my mind. Perhaps if we asked the Shirou boy for more information, we could make more educated guesses.’

                ‘I know. I’ve tried to determine his weaknesses as well, but nothing clicks. I doubt even Emiya-kun would be foolish enough to reveal his servant’s identity though. Hm. Archer is just somewhat of an anomaly, if you ask me.’

                ‘Quite.’ Saber shifted on the spot, seeming a little uncomfortable. ‘Still, I do not appreciate this “pull” you have mentioned.’

                Rin grinned, inching closer to Saber before wrapping one arm around her and leaning in with her face so that their cheeks were touching.

                ‘Jealous?’

                ‘Do not tease me, Master…’ Saber’s face reddened, and her gaze became shifty.

                ‘But it’s so easy, and I like to see you all flustered.’ Rin moved her lips to Saber’s right ear and nearly kissed it as she kept talking in a low whisper. ‘You look too cute. I can’t help myself.’

                ‘M-Master…!’ Saber gasped.

                ‘You two have become really close, haven’t you?’ Shirou’s observation startled Rin and Saber, both of them flinching out of the alluring canvas of relational intimacy.

                ‘It’s about time you got here, Emiya-kun! We’ve been waiting!’ Rin attempted to divert.

                Shirou checked his phone for the hour and then shrugged.

                ‘I’m only a minute off. Sorry about that.’

                ‘It is fine.’ Saber ensured.

                ‘I have Archer canvasing the city for now since he has amazing eyes. If Sakura is out and about, he’ll find her.’

                ‘I have a feeling it will not be that easy.’ Rin went on, scanning the fairly busy streets around them.

                ‘Do you have an idea as to where she might be?’

                ‘I have some areas we can check, yes.’

                ‘…Is it bad?’ Shirou asked finally, concern in his normally easygoing tone.

                ‘I doubt it’s good.’

                Shirou waited, but Rin wouldn’t offer any more information. She decided it was time to move.

                ‘Let’s go. I want to check the Matou’s place first. The likelihood of Zoken Matou being involved is extremely high. With the war shifting into its final stages, I can’t see him sitting back and watching as Sakura-san fails. I didn’t expect him to play a hand so early, but…’

                ‘Zoken Matou? He’s not even in the country, is he?’

                ‘I don’t have time to explain, Emiya-kun.’ Rin started off, Saber following behind with a quick glance back to Shirou who also pressed forward. ‘Zoken Matou is dangerous. Although I only have vague memories of him from childhood, I know that my father always spoke of the man with ill-regard. He is a powerful mage that is far past his expiration date, yet he will stop at nothing to win the war. If we encounter him, we kill him on the spot, Saber.’

                ‘Understood, Master.’

                Shirou, Rin, and Saber walked for nearly half an hour, Rin gathering her thoughts and plans for the upcoming battles. Berserker, Gilgamesh, Lancer, and now whatever Zoken Matou had in store. It likely involved Sakura, and this troubled Rin nearly more than she could bear.

                ‘Isn’t he just an old man? I can’t say I support that decision.’ Shirou rounded a corner with Rin, the trio making their way into a nearby subdivision that contained many larger than average houses. Near the middle of the street was the Matou’s manor. Perhaps it was due to the overcast sky threatening to rain at any moment, but Rin felt a sense of dread at approaching the place. She had always been wary of it, but now she was being forced to confront a young girl’s fear.

                ‘He is not just any old man. He’s a threat to the mage’s society no matter how much he contributed to its development.’

                ‘I’ll take your word for it, then.’

                ‘Good.’

                Rin pushed through the elaborate gated entrance and made her way to the front door. She knocked a couple of times and then waited, well aware of the fact that there would be no answer.

                ‘I guess we’ll have to come back later.’ Shirou sighed, obviously frustrated.

                Rin almost laughed, but then simply used a minor gandr spell to break the lock and allow herself in. The fact there was no magical barrier was telling. The place was vacated, but it could perhaps lead to some clues regarding Sakura’s current whereabouts.

                ‘Are you serious?’ Shirou looked hesitant, but he wasn’t exactly vetoing the idea either.

                ‘Come on. We don’t have a lot of time.’

                ‘Master.’ Saber said simply.

                ‘I know. This place reeks.’

                ‘It just smells musty to me.’ Shirou said upon entering.

                ‘No. The air’s heavy. Don’t you feel it? It wasn’t like this the last time we were here. Something’s changed.’ Rin’s chest tightened, and she forced herself forward. The front hall stabbed at something in the deep alcoves of her memory. Was this where they had parted? Was it a nightmare Rin had conjured in desperation? She hadn’t seen Sakura for years after. Her hair had turned a different shade of brown, an abnormal tone of violet found within more than a few strands. Rin swallowed, unwilling to show any sort of fear with Shirou so close.

                ‘I guess something is definitely off with this place…’ Shirou admitted.

                Rin passed through the shaded main hall and ascended the stairs. It was dark, but the light from outside seeping through the mostly drawn curtains was enough. The house was empty, but it hadn’t been for too long.

                ‘Has Sakura-san been acting odd at all lately, Emiya-kun?’

                Shirou hesitated to answer, and that was nearly enough for Rin.

                ‘She’s been…mostly fine.’

                ‘What do you mean by “mostly”?

                Shirou glanced around the hall of the second floor, noting candlelight coming from one of the rooms. Rin entered the area, but only found an office completely cleared out save for some books, an empty desk, and a chair. Everything was expensive. The fact a candle had been left lit was odd, but Rin saw nothing of value otherwise.

                ‘She’s been having mood swings over the last couple of days. It mostly happens at night, near bedtime. Sometimes she’s feverish, and other times she’s…er…’

                Rin nodded to herself.

                ‘She, perhaps, demands sexual stimulation from you?’

                Shirou laughed, clearly unsettled by discussing as much.

                ‘That’s kind of a weird way of putting it, but yeah.’

                ‘She doesn’t seem like herself?’

                ‘A bit, but she’s still definitely Sakura, just…projecting her emotions a lot more than usual.’

                ‘Do Rider or Archer say anything about it?’

                ‘Rider doesn’t say a word, as always, but Archer seems to be on edge. He keeps his distance from her, which is a little strange for him. I mean, he’s pretty reclusive, but…’

                Rin pushed open the door that was clearly marked as Sakura’s room only to find a completely dishevelled bed covered in blood and surrounded by ash. The smell hit the group’s noses first, but then Saber entered ahead of everyone else, observing every nook and cranny as closely as she could undaunted.

                ‘W-what is all of this?’ Shirou stammered. His voice was strained, as though his throat was being crushed.

                ‘This…is what I was afraid of.’ Rin barely spoke above a whisper. These were the remains of Shinji Matou, but Shirou didn’t need to know that. She could spare him that one mortification. The ashes of Shinji were due to his own lust and crazed jealousy, more than likely. Sakura had finally snapped under his pressure, and it hadn’t ended well for the arrogant boy. Zoken was surely the one who disposed of the body completely.

                ‘What happened here?’ Shirou pressed.

                ‘Something is very wrong with Sakura-san.’ Rin finished her analysis. She saw nothing worth observing further. ‘This room…does not feel right.’

                ‘Well, I don’t think any room would feel right with blood everywhere.’

                ‘True enough.’ Saber returned to the entrance. ‘I believe it is time to go.’

                ‘Yes.’ Rin agreed. The bedroom was a perfect reflection of her sister’s mind, more than likely. From a distance, it might be normal enough, but upon further prying, it could be very easily discerned that insanity loomed close.

                ‘Where to now?’ Shirou seemed hesitant to ask.

                ‘The basement.’

                ‘This place has one?’

                ‘I can only assume.’ Rin swallowed, hoping she was wrong. She hardly knew anything about the Matou’s, but she was aware of a couple of truly heinous practises the family was capable of. She prayed her sister had been spared, but knew deep in her heart that such optimistic thinking was foolish at best.

                It didn’t take Rin long to find a somewhat out of place door on the first floor. Granted, it was likely concealed by a barrier in the past, but such precautions were long abandoned. Zoken Matou had been preparing for this war since the last, surely. Rin knew he was quickly becoming her most lethal opponent, and he wasn’t even a direct participant. If Rin’s fears were realized, the Grail Wars could become tainted by one man’s unending quest for supremacy and immortality.

                Rin hesitated at the door, feeling Saber’s hand touch her shoulder.

                ‘I am with you, Rin-san.’ She spoke so that only her master could hear. It helped enough for Rin to turn the handle and push. Immediately, all party members covered their noses and mouths, the stench was so strong. The air itself had a mist of green circulating within it, while the remnants of a very old and deadly ritual oozed from the pores of the construct.

                ‘God…’ Shirou gasped.

                Rin felt her eyes burning, but she pressed on, carefully descending the stone stairs until she reached the main area of the gruesome chamber. Covering nearly the entirety of the enormous floor space was a crude glyph that was fading, yet still somehow contained flickers of dark magic.

                ‘Be careful, Master.’ Saber urged.

                Rin could hear her servant, yet she was focused on the various dead carcasses of what looked like oversized leeches, but far more malevolent in appearance. Guck from the said mana syphons stuck to Rin’s shoes, and she inched closer to the middle of the glyph where she found a practically invisible outline of a small humanoid shape. There was no concrete evidence, but Rin was certain this was where her sister had been held captive and…

                Rin covered her mouth, forcing back the urge to vomit. Her mind was too detailed at times. The images that flickered through her brain made her gut wretch. Her sister…! Her poor, poor sister…! She had been through a living hell.

                ‘This is horrible…’ Shirou claimed, following Rin to where she knelt. ‘You’re not going to tell me this has to do with Sakura-san as well, are you?’

                Rin stood up, crossing her arms. She wouldn’t lie to herself. Sakura was more involved with the current war than she would ever hope her to be. Whatever Zoken was planning, it was going to shift everything onto a dark and dangerous path. Sakura needed to be found immediately.

                ‘What is this, Master?’ Saber breathed, the disgust on her gorgeous visage obvious.

                ‘The worst sort of tampering. Sakura-san was forced to become an individual with magical circuits far exceeding her original design. She was already born with better than average talent, but this…this only sought to guarantee her potential as a vessel for the grail.’

                ‘Pardon…?’ Saber questioned, a blip of agony filling her heart.

                ‘A vessel? But…isn’t the grail just some kind of cup?’ Shirou laughed nervously. Even with his limited knowledge, he seemed to understand that this was very bad news.

                ‘The grail as a cup is only figurative. Essentially, the Einzberns create a homunculus that is destined to fulfill the role of a vessel, but Zoken Matou clearly had his own plans. The grail is an entity without form. Every war offers up an individual to house the omniscient force of the grail. Sakura-san has been artificially manipulated to be among the contenders for the honour.’

                ‘Zoken Matou…He’s Sakura’s grandfather though, so -- ’

                “I hate to interrupt, but I have a visual on our target, potentially.”

                ‘Wait.’ Shirou lifted up his hand, causing both Saber and Rin to pause. ‘Archer says he sees something.’

                Rin held her breath. She prayed it was her sister and that she was unharmed.

                “A battle has begun, and it is in the forest near the Einzbern’s castle. I recommend we waste little time getting there if our purpose remains to secure the Matou girl.”

                ‘He says Sakura is in the forest and is fighting someone. We need to move.’

                ‘Understood.’ Rin nodded to Saber.

                It was time. The final days of the fifth Holy Grail War were here. Rin could feel it. If Zoken Matou was making a move, it meant there was little risk involved anymore. Rin steadied her nerves, and prepared for the brutal battles ahead.

Chapter Text

 

 

                Archer and Saber both leapt through the city as fast as they could with their masters in tow. It was just after midday, but the overcast helped conceal the bizarre movement of the masters and their servants. Rooftops and high altitudes remained the main point of contact before the servants displayed their ability to traverse the sky with amplified physical prowess. Archer, in particular, seemed capable of nearly gliding, while Saber required far more jumps than the air-based fighter.

                ‘You are nervous, Master.’ Saber spoke quietly, feeling the tight grip on her clothes.

                ‘Is it that obvious?’ Rin admitted.

                ‘No, but I pride myself in knowing you rather well, so it is clear to me.’

                ‘I’m scared of what we’ll find.’

                ‘That is a valid concern.’

                ‘I’m scared I won’t be able to save her.’

                ‘You command the most powerful of servants. There is little that I shouldn’t be able to overpower, especially considering the ritual we enacted last night…multiple times.’

                ‘Saber…!’ Rin hid her face in the bosom of the other woman.

                ‘I’m sorry. It was an unfair method of teasing to ease your mind. I am sincere in my claim of increased strength, however. I think you will be pleasantry surprised.’

                Rin looked up at her servant, seeing that it was no bluff. Naturally, the mana transfer ritual generally resulted in some form of energy boon for the receiving party member, but Rin hadn’t consciously forced anything like she had with Sakura, so she wondered what sort of benefits Saber may enjoy from the act.

                ‘We are getting close. Drop down here.’ Archer commanded, easing back to Saber’s pace in order to facilitate properly. ‘We travel by foot from here on out. Caution should be put into place, considering the malicious aura I can already sense.’

                ‘I don’t feel anything.’ Shirou zipped up his jacket, the cold of heading up and into the forest near the mountains encasing the Einzbern’s palace taking effect.

                Rin also did up her longer jacket, extracting the fingerless gloves from her pockets and equipping them.

                ‘I can only sense something vaguely…’ She noted as well.

                ‘Other than Assassin, I am the most capable servant when it comes to sensory and stealth. Believe me when I say we are approaching what appears to be a vicious confrontation.’

                As if responding to Archer’s claims, the ground shook, and a monstrous howl echoed through the forest a fair distance away. It could only have been Berserker.

                ‘Someone’s fighting Berserker and Illya…!’ Rin claimed, already beginning to enter the forest. Archer stepped in front of her though, extending his lean but muscular arm across Rin’s body.

                ‘Follow my lead.’ He said quietly.

                ‘You’re being rather helpful today, Archer.’ Rin grinned. She didn’t appreciate being told what to do, but the change in Archer’s character was intriguing enough for a moment.

                ‘With the grail so close, I know where to place my allegiance and how to use those around me appropriately.’

                ‘Quite the statement.’

                Archer turned slightly so that his eerily familiar eyes could work into Rin’s own vision. He opened his mouth to say something else, but then closed it, staring for a moment longer prior to turning once more at the approach of Saber.

                ‘Lead on, then, Archer.’ Saber spoke up, irritation in her tone.

                ‘A question first, proud knight.’ Archer went on.

                ‘We don’t have time for that.’ Shirou grunted, surprisingly reckless for one who normally resisted any form of violence.

                ‘Do you feel any form of displacement with your current master?’ Archer asked regardless.

                ‘Sorry…?’

                Rin swallowed.

                ‘Perhaps I should reword my question: Do you sometimes feel a strange pull toward Shirou, as if he were meant to be your master and not this girl?’

                Saber hesitated, and Archer was content with that.

                ‘Saber?’ Shirou asked now.

                ‘…I do not. Rin-san is my master, and that is that.’

                ‘Indeed. So it would seem.’ Archer looked to the sky through the trees for but a moment, and then, without another word, began a light jog through the woods.

                ‘What did he mean by that, Tohsaka-san?’ Shirou asked of his classmate.

                Rin flicked her head, touching Saber’s shoulder lightly before jogging on herself.

                ‘It doesn’t matter.’ She uttered under her breath.


 

                The rumbling of the earth and the howls of an angered monster of a man became more and more prominent as the group maneuvered the forest. Not only did the temperature continue to drop, but Rin’s own worries increased as she knew what sort of fight likely awaited her at the end of this all. Not only that, but Archer’s uncanny words; they practically voiced the feeling she had the moment she saw the white-haired individual clad in red. It wasn’t something she wanted to think about in the moment exactly, but she simply couldn’t forget about the possibilities that existed if their mutual discomfort around one another persisted.

                Rin stopped and covered her ears, the roar of Berserker intensifying further. Archer and Shirou also halted their advance, keeping close to the trees and just barely getting within range to see the massive form of Illya’s servant.

                ‘I will fire an arrow from here and take out Zoken. I can only assume he’s the hunched over old man there, correct?’ Archer’s bow projected itself, and he drew an arrow back, his defined form stretching the crimson fabric wrapped about it.

                ‘Yes. Is that…Sakura-san?’ Rin squinted, seeing Rider clash with Berserker once again, a thick, black aura oozing off of the slower moving servant.

                ‘She’s on the ground…’ Shirou noted, edging away from the tree. Rin grabbed his arm, pulling him toward her tightly.

                ‘Don’t even think about it, Emiya-kun.’

                ‘But Sakura…!’

                ‘Which is why we are leaving it to Archer and Saber. I don’t know Zoken’s abilities well enough to rush in blindly. We have to be cautious.’

                ‘Well put, woman.’ Archer released his arrow, and it struck true, the body of Zoken slumping to the ground in a nearly anti-climatic ending to his long life.

                ‘It can’t be that easy…’ Rin mused.

                ‘Simple or not, this is where we join the battle and defeat Berserker. Saber?’ Archer projected his duel blades and nodded to the other servant. Saber returned the affirmation, stepping into her golden light and cloaking herself in raw, mana-filled energy before her garments were changed.

                ‘I see…’ Saber observed herself, seemingly pleased. She emanated even more power than before, her very aura nearly glowing. ‘So, this newfound strength I feel is thanks to the mana transfer ritual. Interesting…although slightly embarrassing considering the method enacted.’ Nonetheless, Saber approved of the change she could feel internally as well, and could already sense the ease to which she could maintain her defensive aura and regenerative abilities. The link with Rin had been thrice fortified, and that fact alone was enough to hone Saber’s blade and skill. 

                ‘Amazing…!’ Rin blinked. She could feel it too now that her servant was readying for battle.

                ‘Focus. We move.’ Archer went forward first, his ambition oddly out of character alongside his inquisitive talkativeness.

                ‘Certainly. Provide support, Master. We will save Sakura-san.’ Saber quickly followed.

                ‘F-fine!’ Rin also moved, hearing Shirou near her. He manifested his own copies of Archer’s blades, and his normally calm expression had escalated to worry mixed with intense commitment to the cause.

                Once Archer and Saber had made it to the small clearing, it became apparent that the fight was anything but normal. Berserker held his ground, but the bizarre air about him was distorting the very physical matter around his massive size. Stranger yet, there was no immediate sign of Illya, the beast’s master.

                ‘And now we end another servant’s opportunity to claim the grail.’ Archer readied his blades, but the moment he did, Berserker released one final, shrill scream, and retreated, his mere footsteps shaking the surrounding area.

                ‘Should we pursue?’ Saber asked, more out of courtesy as she edged ahead still.

                ‘No. Something is off. Why would Berserker run away? And where is his master?’ Rin’s eyes darted about the area. Her lungs were tightening, and the oxygen felt thick. ‘I don’t like this. What could possibly frighten even Berserker like that?’

                Shirou already had Sakura in his arms. She was unconscious, but her voice groaned through slightly parted lips.

                ‘Are you okay, Sakura? I’m here now. Tohsaka-san and I are going to take care of you.’

                ‘With Berserker in that state, I suggest we do not waste this opportunity. Three servants on one are good odds.’ Archer insisted.

                ‘We have Sakura; there’s no reason to keep fighting.’ Shirou refused.

                ‘Idiot. The Grail War isn’t over because we’ve obtained one girl.’

                ‘Master?’ Saber looked to Rin. She agreed with the other servant, Rin could tell, but there were risks. Too much was yet unknown about the situation. Rin’s unease wasn’t ill-placed. She knew when Zoken was involved, nothing was as it seemed. Yet…

                ‘Fine. Finish him off quickly. I need to take care of Sakura-san immediately.’

                ‘Understood.’

                ‘That’s more like it. At least the girl has some sense.’

                Archer and Saber burst from the scene, and the moment they did, Rin turned to Zoken’s body, still impaled by one of Archer’s arrows. Dark crimson blood seeped into the earth, and Rin knelt down next to the crippled, old body. She examined Zoken’s wrinkled features, and blinked, noting a twitch in the man’s lips.

                ‘What the hell…?’ Rin gasped before the collapsed form in front of her erupted into thousands of locusts, leaving only the traditional kimono and various clothes behind as they scattered and flew off into the sky.

                ‘What’s happening?’ Shirou gripped Sakura tighter, but she began to have a spasm, her eyes stretching open and her groans escalating to strained screams of agony. She wreathed in her boyfriend’s grip, her strength incredible enough to easily shake Shirou off.

                ‘Sakura…!?’ Shirou said in disbelief.

                Rin grit her teeth, standing up and canvasing the area with her eyes. Berserker’s howl shook the forest once again, but there was something much more tormented about it than before. He sounded as though his throat was being throttled, and Rin had a hard time believing that Archer or Saber would be foolish enough to try and strangle the bestial man in such a way.

                Suddenly, something forced the nearby trees to stir unnaturally, and Rin could only instinctively twitch in another direction before a flash of black and white struck into her side, narrowly missing her back where the intended blow meant to puncture her in the heart.

                ‘Ugh…! Shit…!’ Rin grunted, readying her arm to fire a rapid succession of gandr should her target reveal him or herself.

                ‘Tohsaka-san! Are you okay?’

                Sakura mumbled something in between her fits, Rider leaping into an offensive stance before another strike came, this one yet again aimed for Rin. She managed to barely deflect it with a defensive spell initiated by one of her gems, but Rin couldn’t keep track of the positioning of her opponent amongst the trees. Shirou reluctantly put Sakura down, trusting her to Rider, and joined Rin in the small clearing, creating his swords anew and standing back to back with the other mage.

                ‘Another servant?’ He asked, keeping his focus on the trees overhead.

                ‘I can only assume, but who now? All the servants are accounted for…and then some.’

                Rin thought about abandoning Shirou for a second, knowing she could propel herself away from the situation by modifying her concentration of mana into her legs, but she also knew saving just her own skin was an impossibility. This was a fight she wouldn’t run from.

                ‘Rin Tohsaka, wasn’t it?’ An old and decrepit voice breathed into the wind, it’s specter-like qualities sending chills down Rin’s spine. ‘The preferred Tohsaka whelp.’

                Rin’s whole body ached, and she could hear Shirou notice the shift in his mana circuits as well.

                A loud buzzing almost overrode the sounds of combat deeper in the forest, an enormous swarm of insects collecting into a bundled form before developing into a newly revived Zoken Matou. His beady eyes nearly protruded completely out of his face as his wrinkled features chipped and cracked into a malicious smile of mocking amusement. His disgusting, naked form picked up the black kimono, delicately placing it on as though it were any other form of housecoat.  

                Sakura’s fit intensified at the sound of her “grandfather’s” voice, and Rider held her tight, brandishing her chained knife with what appeared to be focussed fury upon her normally expressionless, yet beautiful, appearance.

                ‘You’ve developed into a capable mage, although nothing compared to your late father. The blood is weakening with every generation. Pitiful. Truly pitiful.’

                A black blur landed beside Zoken from the trees. A dark cloak was wrapped about the being, although a white skull mask was prominent among the servant’s otherwise abyss of presence. From out of the cloak’s right side, a grotesque, abnormally long claw rested upon the ground, some of Rin’s blood still fresh upon its grossly long nails.

                ‘You look confused; as well you should.’ Zoken voice continued to hiss. ‘This is True Assassin. He was born from that fake Assassin’s flesh during his final moments. That imaginary samurai was pathetic until the end; his use stemming only from death.’

                Rin had vague memories of this man, and the discomfort she felt from every syllable released reaffirmed her gut instinct regarding the head of the Matou clan: This man was dangerous in every way possible. His calculations extended beyond the realm of regular human understanding. With just herself, Shirou, and Rider, Rin questioned their chances of victory.

                ‘What are you planning, Matou-san?’ Rin forced the words out, yet her vocal cords trembled, and it was obvious she was being overwhelmed with terror.

                ‘What else? I desire the grail. Be it black or not, I truly don’t care anymore.’ Zoken’s dark eyes wandered to Sakura, her wreathing seeming to disgust him. ‘I had my doubts, but she…may prove a valuable investment yet.’

                ‘Don’t talk about Sakura-san as if she’s nothing but an object! You destroyed her! You…!’ Rin’s eyes watered, and she could feel Shirou’s confused gaze.

                ‘Yes. Yes. I defiled her mind, body, and soul. I filled her with poison and watched as her infant form adapted to an eternal nightmare while you enjoyed the comfort of a privileged daughter. Her survival was…doubtable, yet she continues to struggle. I may have my grail yet,’ Zoken’s face clouded over. ‘So long as that creature doesn’t wreck everything…’

                ‘Damn you…!’ Rin screamed, pointing her hand at the Matou mage and firing her gandr in rapid succession. The blasts passed through Zoken, merely pulling apart swarms of bugs before they reformed into the image of an old and feeble man.

                Zoken’s horrid laugh filled the void, and he leaned on his cane with amusement.

                ‘You can do better than that, can’t you? Your father would have encased me in an infernal prison ten times over by now. The results, nonetheless, would have been the same, unfortunately.’

                ‘Are you done?’ Shirou started suddenly. This snapped Rin out of her panic, her blood draining.

                Zoken lifted a brow, his forehead wrinkling hundreds of lines.

                ‘You best learn your place, boy. We both know you are the least threatening of all the masters. Do not test my patience. You live as a source of purpose and pleasure for the grail; nothing more.’

                Shirou grinned, tightening the grip on his blades.

                ‘I guess that means I can take the offensive then, right?’

                ‘Oh?’ Zoken also smiled, yellow, crooked teeth gleaming. ‘What can you do?’

                Shirou’s answer came in the form of him sprinting at Zoken, brandishing his copycat twin blades and attacking with much more accuracy and grace than Rin was expecting to see. Clearly, Archer was attempting to make his master a little more useful in combat through training on the side, but Rin knew Zoken couldn’t be taken down by such normal means.

                Sure enough, the head of the Matou clan simply cackled, Assassin seemingly teleporting to meet Shirou and deflect the attack. Shirou switched to a criss-cross assault, utilizing the fact he had two small swords, but both were shattered in an instant by the far more capable heroic spirit. Assassin easily pushed Shirou back with merely a dagger and his enormous clawed hand.

                Zoken’s laughter increased.

                ‘Oh, child. Is that all you have to offer? If the assassin class can hold you at bay, you have nothing to provide me beyond spirit, and even that could be mistaken for utter idiocy.’

                ‘I’m not done yet!’ Shirou projected the twin swords once again, and this time, Rin committed herself to assisting. She readied her mana circuits, and tried to ignore the fact Berserker’s cries continued, meaning Saber was still in a life or death struggle herself.

                ‘I’ll provide support. Rider, please help us.’ It was a gamble, but it proved worthwhile. Rider understood that Sakura was safe as well, based on what Zoken said, and there was enough distance between Sakura’s agonized form and Zoken to merit an attempt on the crazed man’s life.

                ‘Strategy? I suppose that would be your only hope.’

                ‘Now!’ Rin fired off multiple gandr as she extracted a couple of her jewels from her pouch, watching carefully as Shirou and Rider closed in on the other master and servant, the rider class proving quicker than Shirou by miles. Soon, Assassin was pressed by the pressure, his cloak forced off for better mobility as his skeletal frame stretched and bent unnaturally to block and parry the flurry of attacks. Rider twisted and turned like the most graceful of dancers, while Shirou’s much less refined form served as more of a distraction to offer opportunities for the servant at his side.

                Rin tossed four multi-coloured jewels into the air and then thrust her palm against them, the resonance of mana connecting the circuits midair before projecting the condensed collection of magic into a beam of raw energy. Zoken simply raised his cane to fend off the attack, but he smiled at Rin, as if revaluating his assumptions about her.

                Suddenly, Shirou grunted in pain, blood being pulled out of his mauled left arm by Assassin, his claw bent at a 90-degree angle overtop of the two combatants. Rider seized the opportunity, but Zoken’s powerful and ancient magic deflected her back. The fighting stopped for a moment, and Rin knew Rider was still hesitant to go all out with her master in so much pain.

                It was during this pause that Rin noted the lack of sound in the forest now. In another instant, the world shook, the white noise filling Rin’s ears as she covered them and tried to keep her balance. What had happened?

                ‘So, it is over. The results should prove…interesting.’ Zoken looked to Sakura with eyes that did not befit a “grandfather”. Impatience, lust, and disgust, all rolled into a glance of dominance over everything else.

                ‘Saber…’ Rin breathed.

                ‘Go. Relish your final days.’ Zoken sneered before he evaporated in the form of bugs, his servant cloaking itself in its midnight garb and shrinking into nothingness.

                ‘I don’t like the sound of that.’ Shirou held his gruesomely bloody arm, trying to seem fine, but looking anything but. He had forced too much projection, and Assassin’s claws could have been caked in toxins of some kind. He needed medical attention as soon as possible. Rin had merely been scratched, her healing abilities competent enough to dissuade any hint of ongoing damage, but Shirou had no defenses whatsoever.

                ‘Let’s go.’ Rin demanded. She needed to see the results of the other battle first and foremost.

Chapter Text

 

 

                Saber and Archer had to move as fast as their capabilities allowed. They whirled through the forest, propelling off of trees and bursting through the thick mist that began to settle all around. The air itself nearly cut at the servants’ faces they moved so quickly.

Saber knew something had changed in regards to Berserker. He would never run from a fight unless Illya had commanded him to. The fact the young master was nowhere in sight led Saber to believe something was quite amiss. Nonetheless, this opportunity would be difficult to recapture, and thus, Saber went on, trusting that Archer would support her rather than allow Berserker and herself to cripple one another in order to finish off two servants at once.

The sounds of Berserker’s heavy breathing and stomping run neared, and Archer made an incredible acrobatic movement, spinning off of one tree into a side leap while simultaneously materializing his bow and firing off three rounds of shots, all of which connecting with the hulking beast of a servant and alerting him of his pursuers.

                Berserker’s howl of rage shook the very earth and everything upon it within an incredible radius, Saber having to land and maintain her footing in order to brace herself properly. Berserker swung his immense sword instinctively, easily downing every tree that crossed its path. He had somehow become even stronger, and as Saber recalled her last bout with him, that seemed impossible considering his prowess in that particular battle. But Saber had changed as well. Her fight with Berserker was one of her first battles in the war, and she knew she was stronger than ever in this moment. She quickly appraised the newfound strength she had. It represented her bond and the importance she had placed in Rin as her master, friend, and…

                ‘Come at us, Beast!’ Archer’s challenge was met with one more roar, and Saber knew, without having to communicate with her comrade, that she would be taking the forefront of the fight. She readied her blade and exploded from her spot, meeting Berserker’s own enormous weapon and trading blows with it in a flurry before separating and moving about the forest, Berserker’s rage destroying everything around him until the field was level save for mutilated stumps and downed trees that would make precise footwork difficult. Saber could feel the difference in her strength, speed, and defense immediately. The mana transfer ritual was not to be underestimated. It was a small wonder it required such precise timing and…trust.

                Despite Saber’s approval of her heightened statistics, Berserker was clearly on another level now as well. He seemed irritated, a black aura burning his skin and causing a faint smoke to emanate off of his very being. He had always been borderline rabid, but when Saber traded blows with him before, there was an obvious form of intelligence alongside his otherwise ravenous nature. It was as though he had reverted to his intended state, or…

                Saber had little time to focus on anything else but defending her own life. Berserker’s sword swung at her once more, his giant form closing the gap between the two combatants in a single leap. Saber easily blocked the attack, but the sheer strength behind its force knocked her airborne, throwing her balance off and sending her into an unwanted air battle as Berserker pursued. Archer’s arrows connected with the monster once more, but they may as well have been bee stings for all the good they did to the opponent’s momentum.

                ‘Hyaa…!’ Saber countered Berserker’s slash in the air, using its direction to get her back on the ground before she pivoted and spun, cutting into the servant’s side, but feeling resistance even with Excalibur’s superior craftsmanship and magic-unfused finishing. Saber knew she would have to reveal her blade in all its splendor, and saw little point in hiding her identity as it was. It took her a moment to pour her mana into the weapon, however, and she prayed she wouldn’t drain Rin with a moment of need.

                In a flash of red, Archer pushed Berserker back, his blades slashing with perfect precision, and his skill so very prevalent in the face of such a foe. He was so incredibly strange for the Archer class, considering how effective he could be in close range combat. Saber knew he would be a worthy opponent when the time came.

                ‘Use your sword, Saber! Show the power you keep hidden so adamantly’

                Saber wouldn’t be told twice. A golden aura encircled her, its radiance like something blessed from heaven itself. Saber poured her mana into her blade, and soon enough, in all its gold and silver glory, Excalibur was swung at her side, the mere presence of the holy blade causing anything its light touched to quiver in obedience.

                Archer relented the pressure he applied, allowing Saber to break into the fight once more, her sword easily taking on Berserker’s own blade, cutting into the hard material and threatening to shatter it completely given enough time. Berserker screamed in frustration and irritation, his movements becoming more frantic with every exchange he participated in.

                ‘Hold him, Saber. It’s time we end this.’

                ‘Archer…!?’ Saber grunted, parrying Berserker’s blade once more and then evading a backward somersault kick. It was consistently unbelievable what the hulking mass of muscle could enact even in his further crazed state.

 

                ‘I am the bone of my sword…

 

                Archer’s words echoed, the air shifting all around him as he took on a focussed stance. Saber knew what he was doing now. He needed her to hold Berserker with Excalibur in order to finish him with his noble phantasm. Archer must’ve held his power in high esteem if he was placing his all into this final blow. Saber cursed herself for doubting the fellow servant. Archer was crass, and possibly even arrogant to an annoying extent, but he had a level of honour that Saber couldn’t fully understand yet tried to appreciate all the same.

 

                ‘Steel is my body, and fire is my blood

                I have created over a thousand blades

                Unknown to Death, nor known to Life…’

 

                Saber felt the pull on her soul. Berserker seemed to instinctively become aware of what was happening as well, for he desperately attempted to shrug off Saber in an attempt to flee whatever he had been running from in the first place. The king of knights wouldn’t allow that, however. Although she hated the idea of teaming up against this impressive servant, Saber relished the idea of losing Rin amidst the finale of this war more. She would swallow her pride in order to protect her master.

 

                ‘Have withstood pain to create many weapons

                Yet, those hands will never hold anything…

 

                Saber’s heart tugged at the words as they reverberated all around, the trees, mist, and grass converging with a desolate landscape that stretched for miles, an eternal fiery sunset burning in the distance within splitting clouds of darkness that threatened to rain at any moment.

 

                ‘So as I pray, unlimited blade works.

 

                Swords everywhere. Swords of all shapes and sizes. Hundreds, perhaps thousands like grave markers scattered throughout the reality marble Archer had created. This was his most powerful hand available, and what power it was. With but a glance, Saber could feel the presence of this man within each and every weapon surrounding the three servants. They were all authentic and brilliant, yet isolated and forlorn.

                Archer opened his eyes, a sorrowful look passing over him before he returned to the unyielding, mysterious hero that he was.

                ‘This is the end, Berserker.’

                Berserker quickly glanced around, understanding that he was trapped in an arena. He cried in fury, the sounds of the swords shaking in the ground jingling morbidly.

                ‘Challenge accepted, I presume.’ And Archer vanished, reappearing before his foe with two new blades in hand. He initiated a flurry of attacks, Berserker’s focus renewed and his anger beyond maximum capacity. Archer was incredible as he wove through his land, easily sliding, leaping, countering, parrying, and slashing while simultaneously swapping out blades in order to throw Berserker’s timing off. Saber joined the fray herself, her golden sword warping the reality marble with every swing. She and Archer coordinated their attacks perfectly, both exemplifying their prowess as honed fighters of the highest calibre. It was a pincer attack that constantly shifted, and the black steam that oozed from Berserker’s pores hissed as he took progressively more lethal damage.

                Saber and Archer were winning. This would be the end soon enough. They could both feel it.

                Nonetheless, Berserker wouldn’t go down without struggle. He began to act more frantically, but his sheer strength, size, and durability presented brutal challenges. Berserker finally did a complete circle with his enormous sword, clearing the zone for a brief second before reaching out and taking hold of whoever happened to remain near. Saber felt the grip around her sides prior to fully understanding what had just captured her. Berserker flung the girl far across the field and then switched his focus to Archer, using what must’ve been the last burst of his strength to perform one final rebellion. His blade crushed Archer’s, and the stunned servant barely brought up his defenses and a spare pair of swords in time to minimize the damage that soon came from a perfectly placed side slash.

                ‘Damn it…!’ Archer cursed, knowing that Berserker’s lives were nearly spent.

                ‘One final row, then?’ Saber wiped some blood from her eye, her face messy and the source of the cut originating from her head, more than likely.

                ‘I haven’t much mana left to spare. Containing all of us and this marble is taxing, to say the least, especially considering the boy’s pathetic supply of energy.’

                ‘I understand. Let us finish this.’ Saber patted Archer on the shoulder, new respect for the man ensuring her that this battle could be won.

                Yet suddenly, the world blipped, and Archer went down to one knee, gripping at his chest and gasping with laboured breaths.

                ‘Archer…!’ Saber attended him, but then diverted her attention to Berserker as he screamed, desperate to escape and searching for the nearest tear in the sad land.

                A horrible ripping sound pierced everything in another moment, Saber covering her ears and squinting in an attempt to comprehend what was happening. Archer’s reality marble crumbled, pieces of the plain fusing with the forest that surrounded the Einzbern castle. She felt it before she saw anything, a terrible and ominous presence cutting into her soul and crushing her very spirit with its awakening tangibility. Berserker howled and disappeared, and Saber barely witnessed a black mass of pure malice take shape before Archer covered her, knowing more than she did somehow.

                And then…

                Saber’s own reality shattered, and everything went black. It was all silent. The king thought she was dead, for a moment, but then knew her thoughts couldn’t possibly be so clear. She tore her eyes open, her heart hammering in agony as she managed to arise out from under a mass that had been concealing her. Saber’s eyes watered, and she shut the one in an attempt to prevent her own blood from soaking into it. She braced herself with her sword, reacquainting her brain with the events minutes before.

                ‘Archer…’ She gasped, seeing the damage that had been done. He wouldn’t live. Half his body had been utterly mangled, burnt and practically already turning into ash alongside a large parameter of earth. Despite all this, the man smiled, possibly even cockily.

                ‘You live…to fight again, King.’

                ‘Thanks to you. But…why?’ Saber needed to know.

                ‘Because…you’re important to her.’

                ‘Her…? Meaning…?’

                ‘Yes. Of course. Who else?’

                ‘But…’

                ‘This is but another place…in time. I have failed…finally…’

                ‘Archer.’

                ‘Tell me…Saber…Where is your sheath?’

                Both servants could hear the sounds of their masters coming.

                ‘You speak of Avalon?’

                Archer closed his eyes, saving his strength, it seemed.

                ‘How are you with her…when…? Never mind. Just…wait. Time and spirit…ever perplexing. I am but a default for what should have been, yet why do I dream of…crimson?’

Chapter Text

 

 

                Rin feared the worst upon running to where the sounds of Saber, Archer, and Berserker’s battle was, but the scene before her in the clearing amongst the darkening sky still made her stomach turn with displeasure. Saber held herself up by planting a fully revealed Excalibur into the ground, while Archer lay on his back, more than half of his body disfigured, dark, and bloody. It looked as though a bomb had gone off.  

                ‘Archer…!’ Shirou screamed, dashing to his servant and kneeling down before him trembling. The fact Shirou himself had been injured by Assassin didn’t seem to matter anymore. Shirou’s own pain meant nothing to him, as per usual.

                ‘What happened?’ Rin maintained her composure, but her insides continued to buck.

                ‘Master…’ Saber almost smiled, blood dripping down her right eye and forcing it shut. She had removed her armour, only her blue and white, gold-trimmed dress present. ‘I am still discerning as much. Berserker was acting…odd. Archer and I, nonetheless managed to hold our own, reducing his lives by a fair amount prior to some…black mass presenting itself and…before we both knew it, a massive explosion…’ Saber clearly struggled forming her words. Her armour naturally protected her better than most, but Archer seemed to take on the brunt of the random combustion.

                ‘Berserker is gone?’ Rin stared off into the distance toward the castle.

                ‘He retreated…just before the black mass fully appeared. I believe it’s what caused his frantic actions in the first place. He…somehow knew instinctually that danger approached. I knew…I knew fear the moment it appeared, as though my very soul was at risk.’

                Rin presumed Zoken was involved, and talk of a new grail and Sakura had her panicking momentarily.

                ‘We cannot allow your and Archer’s efforts to go to waste. Are you up to pursuing Berserker?’ Rin wasn’t sure it was the best course of action, but it made sense. Running away now would only make the entire endeavour fruitless other then saving Sakura and…

                ‘He’s dying…’ Shirou stated.

                ‘Don’t look at me…like that, boy; it’s pathetic.’ Archer’s coarse words reinforced Shirou’s dramatic claim. The sky, fittingly, began spitting. ‘Call…that girl over.’

                ‘…He’s asking for you, Tohsaka-san.’ Shirou murmured.

                Rin didn’t need to be told, but she acted as though she listened all the same. She knelt next to Archer, her throat tightening at his brutal appearance.

                ‘Yes. It’s as I thought.’ The white-haired man rasped. ‘You are…the proper fit.’

                ‘What?’

                ‘…Nothing. Finish Berserker while you can. There’s something…much, much worse coming. That girl…’ Archer’s eyes wandered to the unconscious Sakura in Rider’s arms. ‘She…will bring calamity to this war if she’s not dealt with.’

                ‘I can’t kill her.’ Rin whispered.

                ‘Lose her or your servant. You decide.’ Archer breathed out.

                Rin brought her mouth to Archer’s ear, her lips brushing his skin.

                ‘She’s my sister.’ She said so only the man could hear. Archer’s eyes cracked open for but a second, and then his expression relaxed.

                ‘Then you’re the only one who should do it. She’s your responsibility.’

                ‘You…’

                Archer’s good side moved its arm to touch Rin’s face. Everything about him softened, right down to his normally severe and intimidating eyes. There was a sense of familiarity that Rin couldn’t shake even in this moment.

                ‘I need to…burden you with one more task. I am going to give the boy my left arm.’

                ‘What? Why?’

                ‘See the way he holds that wound? He should have healed by now.’

                ‘Healed…?’

                ‘Poison, I assume? I can tell. He is terrible at hiding his thoughts from me. That arm will be useless by morning. Mine will help…overcome the battles ahead. I suspect it will be the key to taking down Zoken.’

                ‘How do you know all of this?’

                ‘I don’t. But when you’ve seen all that I have…you learn things about war.’ Archer’s breaths became more inconsistent. He didn’t have long, but he pushed on anyway. ‘He will need your help to contain the power. It will hurt him. It will torment him. But…in the end, he will save many. That’s his goal, after all.’

                Rin bit at her lip, nodding stubbornly. Archer closed his eyes, his arm falling back down to his side.

                ‘Have him go…to a practitioner in the healing arts while you deal with Berserker. No further dawdling.’

                More rain began to fall, the dampness instantly sending a chill through all that were present. Archer’s voice was a low mumble to everyone but Rin. She found herself perplexed by the comfort she felt in the man’s presence. It was unbearably uncanny in every way. What was it about this particular heroic spirit?

                ‘Who are you?’ Rin finally allowed the question to be asked.

                ‘I had vague memories, at best, up until this moment. Looking at you now, I know…’

                ‘Know what?’

                ‘…It’s no longer relevant. There’s…no more time. Please. Go. Give my life…meaning…’

                Rin placed her hand on Archer’s chest and pumped some of her mana into him as best she could in a cumbersome manner. It barely took, and it would only add an hour of life at best, but it was all she could do. It was all she allowed herself to do. She stood and turned back to Shirou.

                ‘Can we save him?’ Shirou asked, the concern obvious.

                ‘Take him to the church.’ Rin’s stomach turned at the thought of relying on any sort of holy man. ‘Even if Kirei Kotomine is no longer the facilitator, he would have been replaced by now. Ask the priest there to help you with Archer’s final request.’

                Shirou nodded slowly.

                ‘What about you?’

                Rin turned, feeling Saber’s presence beside her. The woman was already standing up straight. Rin’s mana was healing her adequately.

                ‘We’re going to finish off Berserker.’

                ‘Then I’m going with -- ’

                ‘I wasn’t asking you, Emiya-kun. Take care of Sakura-san, yourself, and your servant. Go.’

                Fortunately, Shirou didn’t argue about it further. He couldn’t. Archer faded, and Rin made one last connection with the man before he smiled just slightly upon his disintegration.

                ‘He’s still with you, Emiya-kun. He’s using the mana I gave him to survive a little longer while he temporarily turns into his spiritual form. Get to the church as fast as possible to have your arm looked at. Take Sakura-san to your place after she’s taken care of as well.’

                ‘Okay. Just…be careful.’

                ‘You too…’ Rin said, not looking back. She had to follow through. The war promised misfortune and pain, but Rin never expected to be so emotionally invested in her competitors. Did the grail orchestrate the battles in such a way on purpose?


 

                ‘I will not lose this fight, Master.’ Saber marched forth through the forest, Illya’s incredible castle slowly coming into view. The tame rain made the approach akin to the most ancient of fairy tales, and for a moment, Rin lost herself in the spectacle of it all. Then, she remembered the great burden that was being placed on her shoulders. As she drew closer to the end, the weight she bore only became more trying. The grail was no small thing; this much she knew. But as the mosaic of what the grail truly was came into view, Rin’s apprehensions and fears rose.

                Rin took Saber’s hand, holding it tight in a lapse of strength.

                Surprisingly, her servant returned the grip, bringing Rin in close and holding her as though she were a fair maiden from Saber’s original time line.

                ‘Trust me, Rin-san. I will be victorious for you.’

                ‘Thanks…’ Rin managed, fortunate to be able to have such a moment of weakness without reprimanding.

                The two women stood at the bottom of a great staircase leading to the entrance of the Einzbern’s castle. Saber shouldered her weapon to break in, but Rin stopped her with a wave of her hand.

                ‘Do you hear that?’

                Saber listened, aware of the sound.

                ‘It’s Berserker. He’s still losing it. He’s more than likely confined in the depths of this castle. Something’s very wrong. Illya-san had him totally under her control when we first encountered her.’

                ‘What are you thinking, Rin-san?’

                Rin cupped her chin, filtering through the information she had.

                ‘The variable here is that shadow entity. There is a high probability that it’s related to Sakura and this secondary grail being developed. Berserker could be affected in some way. We need to speak with Illya-san.’

                ‘Speak with her? Pardon me, Master, but the girl hardly seems willing to have a civil chat.’

                ‘No. She might be now. The time is coming. She’ll be having different emotions running through her. Illya-san is the intended grail. The counterfeit grail could be causing her some form of discomfort. She could also be valuable in the final stages of the war. I don’t want to hurt her if I can prevent it.’

                Saber seemed doubtful, but she was wise enough to trust her master in these matters.

                ‘So be it.’

                Rin smiled, giving her servant a playful nudge.

                ‘Be ready, nonetheless.’ And then Rin knocked on the enormous double doors. She didn’t expect an immediate answer, but soon enough, both doors creaked open, and behind them were two servants dressed almost like old clergy women. They were undoubtedly homunculi, like Illya, due to their pale complexion and, more notably, their red eyes. Rin got the immediate impression that, should she give the two young women enough reason to, they would do everything in their power to kill her. The frightening thing was, Rin suspected they could very well pull off the feat.

                ‘I need to speak with Illya-san.’ Rin tried to sound desperate enough. The bowels of the castle shook after she made her demand, the echoes of Berserker’s howls erupting even from deep in the ground.

                ‘She is expecting you. Come.’ The slightly sterner looking of the two maids said quite simply.

                ‘This is unprecedented…’ Saber spoke under her breath.

                ‘I know. But such twists are sure to occur during something like the Grail War. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’

                ‘You will propose a truce?’

                ‘I’m not sure what I’ll be proposing just yet.’

                Rin marvelled at the Einzbern’s castle as she and Saber followed the maids up a grand set of stairs to the second floor, the red and gold carpet and overly elaborate carvings of various humans and beasts adding an element of humanity to an otherwise alien and cold residence. Such an incredible and enormous castle that housed so few people. The head of the Einzbern family was surely nowhere to be found, yet Rin couldn’t help but wonder what Illya did when she wasn’t hunting other servants and succumbing to the pressures of her own ill-fated future.

                Rin swallowed, her throat tight. They weren’t so dissimilar, it would seem, but once again, Rin’s own issues seemed trivial by comparison.

                ‘I suspect this castle is even grander than my own…’ Saber said in a partial gasp.

                ‘Really?’

                ‘My memories are hazy, but it could very well be.’

                ‘Does it seem…sort of familiar?’

                ‘It does.’

                ‘That’s amazing.’

                Saber smiled in Rin’s direction unbeknownst to the master.

                ‘I would have liked to show you it. I think you would have been quite impressed.’

                ‘Maybe we can make a trip to England someday and take a look at the ruins. I would actually really enjoy that.’

                ‘Such a journey would be expensive, would it not?’

                ‘I think that kind of cost is trivial compared to the value of our experience.’

                ‘Oh…I would very much look forward to it…’

                Rin didn’t think about the distance in Saber’s voice. The Grail War wasn’t over yet. There was still time for change.

                Finally, after making their way down a magnificent hall lined with expensive art of every fashion, Rin and Saber watched as one of the maids knocked on the door and listened for a response.

                ‘Leysritt…? Stella…?’

                ‘Yes, Illyasviel-sama. Your guests have arrived.’ The seemingly lead maid announced.

                ‘…Let them in.’

                Both maids bowed, and then simultaneously opened the smaller set of double doors. Rin and Saber went inside the room, the two maids following them before closing the doors and remaining on either side of the entranceway like the sentinels they were.

                Rin observed that the room was, surprisingly, very plain. Not a single stuffed animal or item of pleasure to occupy the heir to the Einzbern name. Illya sat upon a grand, king-sized bed, its sheets perfectly made, and only wrinkled where her small body rested.

                ‘Rin Tohsaka. Saber.’ Illya giggled, but Rin could tell something weighed heavily on the young girl. It would obviously be Berserker, but Illya refused to acknowledge the chaos deep in the pits of her basement.

                ‘Archer is dead.’ Rin began. She felt such news would work in her favour on multiple levels.

                ‘I see.’ Illya chimed, playing with her hair. ‘That leaves only a few servants. Lancer, Saber, Berserker, and Rider. Still too many.’

                ‘There also exists another two servants that shouldn’t technically be in the war.’

                ‘Gilgamesh and True Assassin.’ Illya grinned childishly. ‘I can see things from this castle. I was hoping most of you would kill one another, but I suppose Berserker and I will have to play soon.’

                ‘What is wrong with him?’ Rin pushed. She could feel the blood-red eyes of the maids stabbing into her back, but she wouldn’t relent. This was a pivotal conversation.

                ‘…No point in hiding it. He’s lost all reason.’

                ‘Does that not come with the name?’ Saber offered, not meaning to sound belittling.

                ‘You’re wrong!’ Illya whipped her face so she could meet Saber’s eyes. ‘I controlled him. He listened to me and…cared about me. Now…something’s frightened him.’

                ‘The shadow…’ Rin affirmed.

                ‘I think you’re right. That…thing is wrecking the whole war. If it scares Berserker, then -- ’

                ‘It’s something worth hiding from for now.’ Rin understood in that moment. Berserker was being locked away so that he wouldn’t get himself hurt. Illya was playing a defensive game she wanted no part of. The restlessness made it clear.

                ‘Berserker is the strongest of all the servants in this war. The shadow wants to eat him. That’s not going to happen. A piece got him, and that’s why he’s angry.’ Illya kicked her feet and approached Rin, her miniature form only becoming more obvious as she got closer. ‘If you make a truce with me, then we will win the war. Lancer, Gilgamesh, Rider, and Assassin won’t stand a chance. We both have daddy complexes, so that should be okay, huh?’

                The side of Rin’s mouth twitched. How did this girl…? No. It had to be some sort of analytical mage craft. Illya’s mere existence proved how powerful magic could be. The fact she had tamed Berserker was further proof.

                ‘That’s what I came for.’

                ‘Heh. You’re playing a smart game, aren’t you, Rin Tohsaka?’ Illya was still smiling, wider if anything, but Rin knew this was a mutually beneficial move. Rider wasn’t much of an issue, but Gilgamesh and the shadow were definitely problems.

                Rin was just about to reply, but a sudden explosion that sounded as though it originated from the main hall of the castle shook the entire structure. Illya nodded to her servants, who both burst from the room and escaped to the source of the sound.

                ‘A visitor? I wonder who would be so stupid.’ Illya jested. She was a strong little girl.

                ‘We should see who it is.’ Rin urged. All she had to do was look at Saber to send the instructions her way. It was time to fight again.

                ‘Leysritt and Stella are actually very strong. A normal servant will have trouble handling both of them at once. There’s no rush.’

                The castle shook again, and this time, Illya had no false arrogance to spare. Her face dropped, and she exited her room hastily, eventually making it to the entrance hall where Rin and Saber had entered not that long ago.

                What awaited the three girls made Rin cover her mouth and Illya’s ruby eyes stretch open with tears lining the bottom of them. Leysritt’s head had been cut clean off, her two halves metres away from one another with blood splattered all about, while Stella was elevated by multiple spears, her body still ever so slowly descending toward the tips of the weapons, white hair dyed crimson and utterly dishevelled.

                ‘That is no way to greet a king, Doll.’ Gilgamesh’s arrogant voice cut through the great hall with unblemished pride and perfect clarity.

                ‘How dare you…!’ Illya had no act for this. Rin knew that the two maids, beyond Berserker, were all the child had. It would be equivalent to losing family. Considering that, Illya steadied her breathing, her magical circuits practically buzzing with fluctuation. Rin knew that this little girl housed incredible abilities, and she felt she was about to witness the power at Illya’s command any moment.

Chapter Text

 

                A sort of magical webbing surrounded Illya, the shimmering threads of silver tightening and morphing into shapes. Illya’s mental capacity was incredible, the way she manipulated the string with but her mind

                ‘I’ll kill you.’ Illya hissed, the various threads snapping into multiple blade-like imitations. The swords flew forward at an amazing speed, hurtling down from the balcony that surrounded the main part of the entrance hall to meet Gilgamesh. Predictably, the servant merely shrugged, the golden pool of endless weapons taking form behind him before no less than 10 swords countered Illya’s attack, snapping her thread into pieces. Explosions erupted where the swords ended up colliding with the interior of the castle, and Berserker’s howl reminded everyone of his deadly presence below.

                ‘Really? A master shouldn’t even look upon me let alone challenge me to any form of combat; especially a master that hardly even counts as human.’

                Rin saw how Gilgamesh’s words cut deeply into Illya, but the girl had a will of iron, her unwavering determination prominent still.

                ‘What do you want?’ She went on.

                ‘No. That is not how you address me. Bow first, and then ask, “What is your command, my lord?”.’ Gilgamesh seemed to finally notice Saber and Rin for the first time, his venomous eyes taking in Saber longingly. ‘Is that you, my queen-to-be? I will admit, I am pleased with your prowess thus far, and that attire is…appealing.’ Gilgamesh’s gaze focused upon Saber cruelly, slowly shifting to her barely revealed cleavage at the rim of the white piece in her attire.

                ‘She is not yours. She is my servant.’ Rin felt her blood boil. Nobody was permitted to lust after Saber while she was right there. It wasn’t going to happen, even if Gilgamesh was quickly proving to be more than formidable.

                ‘In due time, child.’ The gold-clad man waved Rin off as though she were nothing to him but a nuisance akin to a fly buzzing about.

                ‘The war is entering dangerous territory with the emergence of a black grail of some description. We recommend you take heed of the shadow that seeks to disrupt everything.’ Saber declared.

                ‘Excuse me?’

                ‘Whatever your reasons for being here, we must not -- ’

                ‘Silence, woman. You do not tell your king to do anything. Whatever this “shadow” may be, it presents no danger to me. I’ve come for the little girl’s heart. It is past time to cultivate it proper.’

                Rin blinked, looking to Illya and seeing that she wasn’t fazed by this whatsoever.

                ‘The Grail War isn’t even half over. What would be the point?’ Rin demanded to know, telling Saber mentally to prepare for a fight.

                ‘After tonight, it may as well be. Summon your monster, little girl. Do so, or die here and now.’

                Rin saw the opportunity and hastily decided to seize it.

                ‘No.’ She interrupted.

                ‘What…?’ Illya turned.

                ‘You’ll fight me here and now, Gilgamesh. Saber is your opponent.’

                Gilgamesh humoured the notion for a split second, but then flicked his head to the side as though he were cracking his neck.

                ‘I refuse. I prefer my bride-to-be in one piece for the night of consummation.’

                ‘Then I must apologize in advance,’ Saber leapt down from the balcony, her armour taking shape over her body as she landed in a brilliant display of grace and beauty. ‘I have given myself to Rin Tohsaka already, mind, body, and soul.’

                As the words sunk in, Gilgamesh’s eyes widened and his mouth scrunched into a twitching scowl.

                ‘You don’t mean…!?’

                ‘I do. She is not only my master, but also my lover.’ Saber finished the announcement without a hint of regret or shame, which only made Rin’s face flush worse and worse. She covered everything but her blue, flickering eyes.

                ‘You…a king…would lower yourself to such filth?’ Gilgamesh huffed, fury overtaking his entire demeanor.

                ‘I hardly see it as such.’ Saber brandished her invisible blade, preparing for what was to come.

                ‘Then I best put you out of your delusional misery, for you are evidently mad.’ Gilgamesh shook his head as his pool of golden power expanded behind him to the extent of covering the entire entrance. ‘Survive, and I may reconsider your worth.’

                Saber absorbed everything Rin offered mana-wise, and honed her senses to perfection before the onslaught began. Fortunately, she had witnessed Gilgamesh’s attack at least once, so she had an idea as to what was to come, but still, the sheer power behind each and every weapon that blasted into her was immense, her body pushed back with every parry and thrown off balance by the very gusts of wind that followed the swords, axes, spears and all other type of weapon.

                ‘Can your servant win?’ Illya asked, the doubt thick in every syllable.

                ‘Saber is incredibly power. I don’t see her losing.’

                ‘Hm. I don’t know about that…’

                Saber saw her path after deflecting a particular large broadsword, side-stepping and then lunging a couple of feet before having to take on a defensive stance once more. The grand entrance hall was littered with glorious weapons in no time, the rate at which Gilgamesh unleashed his projectiles and coordinated their onslaught unbelievable in its sheer destructive power. Small craters and demolished walls formed with every second, and Saber felt herself exhausting Rin’s supply of mana simply from embracing an attack and directing its force elsewhere.

                ‘You move well…for a whore.’ Gilgamesh uncrossed his arms and drew a particularly ornate sword from behind his left shoulder, his treasury continuing to display an endless reserve.

                ‘I am no whore.’ Saber uttered, stepping forward once more, closing the gap between herself and her opponent ever so.

                ‘Your claims say otherwise.’ Gilgamesh responded, surprisingly, leaping into the fray himself and making contact with Saber as his dancing blades poured out at such close range that only Saber’s S-class abilities could save her from being utterly disfigured instantly.

                ‘Still think she’ll be okay? He’s not playing anymore. Saber won’t last.’

                Rin bit at her lower lip and then pushed a hand through her hair, breathing out slowly.

                ‘This opponent is special. Can you summon Berserker?’

                Illya simply smiled.

                ‘I thought you’d never ask.’ The little girl paused, taking a couple of steps forward, and then closed her eyes before screaming at the top of her lungs, her body glowing red briefly. ‘Berserker! Come to me!

                The howl caused Saber and Gilgamesh to break apart and listen, the entire castle shaking as though an earthquake was erupting all around them. The ground itself rose, swelling for a second before breaking apart and revealing the incredible hulking form of Berserker, his crimson, glowing eyes crazed even more so as he arched his back so that every massive muscle on his body swelled and he let out yet another blood curdling yell.

                ‘Come, monster. You are yet another subject that must learn his place.’ Gilgamesh’s gaze narrowed, and he leapt back, allowing his golden pool to lead the offensive. Berserker’s enormous blade easily crushed any of Gilgamesh’s weapons that would cause him harm with but a single swing, the beast springing toward the golden king with dexterity belying the servant’s size. Contact was made, and Gilgamesh obviously struggled with the brute strength of his assailant prior to spinning out of the lock down and grimacing in frustration.

                ‘Berserker won’t lose. He’s the strongest there is.’ Illya said proudly.

                Rin took a look at her own servant, seeing the frustration in Saber’s proud, green eyes. She was doing well, but Rin simply couldn’t risk her getting mortally wounded. There was still much to do.

                ‘You are forcing my hand. I’ll commend you for that, at the very least.’

                What Gilgamesh was about to release was never seen though, for the arena soon filled with malice, a dark, purplish mist suddenly leaking through the front doorway and seeping all around.

                ‘The shadow…’ Illya gasped.

                Sure enough, an intangible presence had somehow made its way into the hall, its mass of transparent darkness crawling every which way without any definitive placement. Its shape varied alongside the very danger it presented.

                Berserker screeched in panic, jumping away from where he was fighting and preparing to retreat further until he looked up and huffed at the sight of his master.

                ‘Go…!’ Illya urged, but Berserker, despite his insanity, hesitated, the true hero that he was shining through in a split second of uncertainty and affection.

                The partial humanity that remained was his ultimate downfall.

                The shadow struck without remorse, entering into Berserker and causing the beast of a man immediate agony, the servant collapsing to the floor and wreathing as though millions of bugs infested his body and were borrowing into his internal structure.

                ‘What on earth…?’ Gilgamesh grinned mischievously.

                ‘Berserker…!’ Saber yelled, going to the fellow servant’s side and observing as the once seemingly brown skin became charred and began peeling away, revealing a fiery undercoat that looked anything but natural. Berserker screamed inhumanely, his pain and torment cycling through nothing less than hellish endurance.

                ‘No…! No…! Berserker!’ Illya sobbed at the sight of her servant’s torture.

                ‘Hmph. Nothing but a rabid dog after all.’ Gilgamesh mocked, but the final word had hardly left his mouth before Berserker appeared barely an inch from his face, the impact of the blackened servant sending the golden king flying hundreds of metres out of the castle, his trailing voice of disbelief disappearing alongside him.

                Berserker clutched his face within his steaming hands, his grunts and groans quivering in sync with his body.

                ‘The shadow has overtaken him…’ Rin decided.

                ‘Master…’ Saber thrust her arm outward, a golden vortex of raw power encircling her invisible blade and revealing Excalibur. Its beauty was unparalleled, and the magnitude of holy energy dispelled even the toxic mist that covered the first floor.

                ‘Put him out of his misery…’ Rin agreed.

                ‘No…!’ Illya screamed once more.

                Berserker twitched at her voice, turned to see his master one last time, his being resisting every step of the way, and then forced himself out of the castle, sprinting into the forest very suddenly.

                ‘He doesn’t want to hurt you.’ Rin said softly.

                ‘He’s…gone, isn’t he?’

                ‘From what I could see…it’s only a matter of time before the shadow overtakes him completely. It defies all logic and rules. That shadow is an anomaly that shouldn’t exist in this war.’

                Illya’s hands clutched into tiny fists. She seemed to take in the destruction all around her and then wiped her eyes, staying her face and equipping an expression of iron befitting that of a true heir to such a prestigious name.

                ‘Can Saber defeat him?’ She asked finally. Rin could see it was taking everything Illya had to imply such a thing.

                ‘If I use my noble phantasm…then yes.’ Saber was being completely honest. Rin hadn’t seen it yet, so it was hard to imagine, but she trusted her servant.

                ‘We’ll give you the opening you need.’ Rin promised.

                ‘Then we best not dawdle any longer. Let us go, Master.’

                ‘I’m coming too.’ Illya committed. There was nothing left for her anyway.


 

                Saber took the lead into the forest, the rain only having gotten stronger and the world darker. The whole area surrounding the Einzbern castle was now covered in a murky mist, and Rin’s nostrils flared at the stench of the raw, tainted mana that trailed after the shadow.

                ‘Go on. We will catch up.’ Rin told her servant. There was no time to lose. Berserker was distancing himself from Illya out of concern for her safety. He would run to the ends of the earth, if he could. However, Rin knew it was only a matter of time. The shadow was absorbing Berserker’s mana and, alongside it, his will. The proud warrior was being infested by a foreign and dangerous beast that promised only agony and the collapse of anything beautiful. Rin feared she was sending Saber to her doom, but she had to trust her servant’s abilities.

                Saber confirmed the order, bursting from her place in front of the small party and launching off of nearby trees to propel herself forward at a breakneck speed.

                ‘Can you use your mana to enhance your physical abilities for a little bit?’ Rin asked between breaths as she ran.

                ‘I-it’s something I never thought would be very useful for me, so no.’ Illya gasped. She said it with a certain amount of stubbornness, which irked Rin, but now wasn’t the time to get hung up on something so trivial.

                ‘I should be able to carry you and speed myself up. We need to close the gap as soon as possible.’

                ‘Is what Saber said about you and her true?’ Illya finally asked. Rin would be lying if she claimed to not be expecting such an inquiry, but the timing was a little off. Why now? Why when Berserker was so close to losing himself and wreaking havoc completely?

                ‘That’s not important at the moment.’

                ‘Oh! So it’s true?’

‘Ugh! Are we going or not?’ Rin scooped Illya up, facilitating her mana appropriately into her arms and legs. Splitting the distribution of power was always a chore, but knowing Saber’s life was at risk otherwise provided enough inspiration to level the task.

                ‘Eep!’

                Rin immediately realized she needed to enhance her eyes as well considering the terrain she was attempting to navigate at a faster than normal speed. A triple enhancement wasn’t something she preferred to perform, but she managed somehow, weaving through the Einzbern forest with enough success. Rin lost her footing when the ground suddenly shook, however, and Berserker’s roar literally made every tree within the area tremble.

                ‘He’s in pain…’ Illya admitted, gripping at her chest. ‘I can feel it. He’s losing himself…’

                Rin nodded, chancing a glance at the smaller master.

                ‘You have to be there for him. I know you two share a special bond. Berserker is a class that cannot be tamed without incredible talent and trust. You and Berserker share both.’

                ‘He is the strongest…’ Illya smiled sadly.

                Rin took the girl’s hand, Illya’s piercing red eyes looking up at her with surprise.

                ‘Come on. We’ll see this through.’

                Illya didn’t respond. She knew what the conclusion to this fight would have to be.

                It didn’t take long for Rin and Illya to see Saber and Berserker’s clash. The beast of a man was oozing black, tangible mana from every pore in his body as though his skin was burning. His breath was visible, and his eyes shone a twisted yellow and orange. His movements were unrefined, compared to his previous state, but his speed and power had easily been doubled. Saber was sent flying with every connection the two servants’ swords made, and Rin could feel the exhaustion flooding her servant’s mind.

                ‘Berserker becoming even more formidable? That’s ridiculous…’ Rin rolled up her sleeve, revealing the markings of a condensed and ancient form of magic prepared ahead of time for advanced spell casting without the time slot required to perform such feats.

                ‘That’s not Berserker anymore.’ Illya said wisely.

                She was right. Berserker was being driven mad, and Saber would suffer because of the ruthless shadow. Rin prepared her most advanced spell, her arm glowing and her other hand reaching into her pouch of gems. She uttered a couple of words under her breath and then tossed the coloured jewels into the air, stopping them mid-flight by thrusting her hand against them and pumping her magic into each one until they exploded and reformed into a myriad beam of luminescence. The technique travelled faster than light, making contact with Berserker and downing him.

                ‘Now, Saber!’ Rin screamed, knowing her attack was as good as a shove to the massive, raging being that was Illya’s servant now.

                Saber shouldered her sword, a collection of golden mist and raw, earthly energy swirling about its blade. The glow of Excalibur reached heavenly heights, the simple act of looking upon the ancient weapon proving to be impossible without temporary blindness.

                Berserker pushed himself up from the ground, hacking away until it sounded as though he spat up a pile of wet, mucus-filled vomit. His agony was apparent, and Rin heard Illya sniff back what were surely tears.

                ‘We’ll save him.’ Rin assured her.

                ‘I need more time!’ Saber’s voice cut into Rin and Illya, revealing the sudden moment of panic. Berserker was up, and he had little issue with whatever Saber now urged her everything to prepare.

                Rin knew she couldn’t initiate another blast that would be effective enough without her own allotted amount of preparation, and panic set into her soul, the idea of Saber being downed by this rampaging servant becoming more and more of a reality with every second that passed.

                ‘J-just…!’ Rin began. She would command a retreat. She would apologize later. She couldn’t lose her. She wouldn’t let Saber die just yet. Not just yet, but never. She never wanted to see her servant leave her.

                Illya rushed past Rin suddenly, and before the older master could say anything, the little girl was standing in the middle of Berserker and Saber, her arms outstretched and her bravery on display for all to witness. This was the courage of a single, lonely, little girl. Rin’s chest tightened, and she almost went straight to Illya as well until she saw Berserker stumble, his reason rising up one final time to stop his crazed form from harming the little girl who had tamed his raging heart.

                ‘You are the greatest servant there ever will be!’ Illya screamed, tears streaming down her pale face. ‘You are mine and mine alone, Berserker! You…are…you are…!’

                Berserker howled, a sad, gurgling scream.

                Saber clutched Excalibur tightly and took a couple of steps back with the utmost of elegance, her blade held high over her head.

                ‘EX…’ She breathed, the king’s commandment in her tone.

                ‘G-goodbye…Berserker…’ Illya was pulled by Rin away from what would likely be an extreme amount of power. Berserker’s flickering eyes followed his master, and her own line of sight never left his no matter how clouded it became.

                ‘…CALIBUR!

Chapter Text

 

 

                The pillar of light that followed Saber’s execution of her noble phantasm reached high into the sky, piercing through the clouds that brought rain and revealing the remnants of the red and purple evening. For some moments, the rain over top of the Einzbern forest ceased completely, a strange sort of peace being artificially represented in the wake of Saber’s ultimate attack. It was a sight to behold, although looking directly at the after-effects of Excalibur proved to be nearly impossible without squinting in some manner.

                Once the light finally diminished, only Saber remained, her sword glowing at her side, pulsating with renewed glory at having revealed its true power. Saber, on the other hand, seemed less than pleased. Her green eyes were sorrowful as she went back to Rin and Illya, the rain slowly starting up again as the clouds recovered from the disruption.

                ‘Are you okay, Saber?’ Rin asked, honestly concerned for the other woman.

                Saber shook her head, and fixed her attention on Illya. She was just a little girl now. She could still use magic, but in the presence of a being like Arthur Pendragon, that hardly seemed comparable. She was just a little girl, indeed.

                ‘Berserker welcomed the end to his nightmare. He allowed Excalibur to land. He was…watching you until the moment his life ended, Illya-san.’

                Rin could see the struggle in Illya’s whole body. She wouldn’t allow herself to cry. She wanted to be stronger than that. She had to be, in her mind, for her servant, who willingly sacrificed everything for her to live on.

                ‘Very well.’ Illya turned away, hiding her growingly wetter eyes. ‘I will stay with you two now. The Grail War lost its only competition against you, Saber. For Excalibur to diminish all of Berserker’s remaining lives with a single noble phantasm, I can’t imagine anyone standing against such power. It won’t be long now…’

                Rin understood that to be true. The charging time was problematic, but Rin thought herself capable enough to provide Saber with the preparation she needed. On top of that, if Illya cooperated, they were more than a powerful twosome as mages.

                ‘Rin…!’ Saber gasped suddenly, pushing her master to the side before being restrained by four chains that emerged from the void. Saber’s arms and legs were instantly grappled, her neck soon choked as well. Illya reacted quickly, casting a minor attack spell on the chains, but the attempt proved worthless, as though a bug would be just as worthy.

                ‘Again…?’ Saber grunted stubbornly, her neck gripped tightly. ‘C-coward…!’

                ‘Really? Berserker was the only servant worthy to put down this woman? I beg to differ, little girl.’ Gilgamesh appeared from golden dust, his armour dented in various places, but his overall demeanor unaffected. It was the worst case scenario. It would have been better to defeat this particular threat with the aid of Berserker, but now…

                Rin pushed herself up off the ground and prepared her exhausted mana supply for combat, her arm tingling with the strain it was forced to carry as mana flowed through the ancient ruins etched into it.

                ‘Try it and die, girl. I’d rather not taint my hands with your pathetic blood. It was pitiful enough to watch your foolish father allow himself to be deceived right before my all seeing eyes, let alone his offspring willingly committing suicide on my time as well.’

                ‘W-what…!?’ Rin grunted, her skin prickling.

                ‘Hm? You weren’t told yet?’

                ‘Told…?’

                ‘Don’t listen to him, Rin-san…!’ Illya urged.

                ‘Quiet, mannequin.’ Gilgamesh flicked his hand and sent a blade through Illya’s shoulder, propelling her into a tree and pinning her in place while she let out a restrained whimper. She quickly began healing the injury as best she could, but she simply lacked the strength to dislodge herself.

                ‘No…!’ Rin couldn’t focus. Her head was pounding. Too much emotion. She was losing herself.

                ‘Ung…R-Rin…!’ Saber gurgled.

                ‘Typical woman; look at that confusion in your eyes. Perhaps you should be aware of your own worth before you consider yourself a candidate for winning this ridiculous war, no? Although I fail to recall the more trivial matters, I do know that, in the previous war, I was Tokiomi Tohsaka’s servant.’

                Rin blinked, her heart stopping and beginning irregularly. She removed any intent to attack from her mana circuits and redirected them to maintaining her mandatory bodily functions.

                ‘He was a boorish man. He held all the pieces in his hand and conducted the war like a master chess player. He would have won, easily, had he not been so utterly cowardly, not to mention disrespectful of his rightful king.’

                ‘What are you…?’ Rin managed, but her throat was dry and her tongue barely moved.

                Gilgamesh smirked, stomping through the mist and grabbing hold of Rin’s hair, redirecting her attention into his malicious and uncaring face.

                ‘A master should never feel threatened so long as their servant is around, correct? How, then, was your father stabbed in the back by the very dagger you feel such attachment to?’

                Rin could hear her own breaths becoming rapid, her eyes wide and staring at whiteness.

                ‘Kirei is a much more intriguing individual. He was worth my time. He provided a dance that could amuse the king of kings. He amuses still, for who with a shred of sanity would give a little girl the weapon that had killed her father as a new guardian’s gift?’

                ‘N-no…! Your lying…!’

                Gilgamesh shoved Rin down, his lip upturning in disgust.

                ‘Hiding from the truth? I thought you better. Truly filth.’

                ‘Hng…! Hgg…!’ Saber’s voice scratched within her neck.

                ‘Don’t bother, whore. Those chains cannot be broken even by a heroic spirit. Your time will come, worry not. You may be somewhat blemished, but it’s not as though another man has taken you from me. My servants trained amongst themselves to provide me with the greatest of pleasures during my original time; why should I think your transgressions any different? Certainly, you will be mine still, I have decided.’ Gilgamesh snickered to himself, and it became quite clear why he and Kirei Kotomine found such comfort in one another: they were both insane.

                ‘You, on the other hand, can simply die now. Your eyes remind me too much of that cretin. Farewell, sad, sad, girl.’ Gilgamesh allowed a single sword to fly through his golden pool of countless treasures, but even he expressed a notion of surprise when his attack was deflected by a blue shield erected impressively fast by Rin Tohsaka.

                ‘You dare…insult the Tohsaka name?’ Rin grit her teeth, flashes of her father passing through her mind. The expectations were heavy, and the lineage often felt like an unwanted burden, but more than any of that, Rin’s magic was a reminder of where she had come from and who her father was. He had loved her and trained her. He was kind. He had flaws, of course, but the position he held demanded too much from a single man.

                ‘Oh? Perhaps you deserve another appraisal.’ Gilgamesh nodded, expanding his pool of weapons, hundreds of blades slipping out and hovering behind him in anticipation.

                ‘You were his servant! You call yourself a king, but you’re nothing but a traitor!’ Rin launched her own series of gandr, combining it with a minor spell of fire that she hadn’t perfected yet. Her mind raced with calculations and formulas, the chants and advanced level commands coming more easily than ever before. Her mana swelled with fury, and she found herself flinging higher and higher spells of hellfire, her coat’s sleeves burning by the inexperience with control.

                Gilgamesh allowed the spells to connect, shrugging them off without much of a fuss, but once the fire elemental techniques began striking, he was forced to draw forth a shield from his treasury, even that melting and cracking after Rin began integrating ice moves.

                ‘I am no one’s servant.’ Gilgamesh uttered angrily, his patience drained.

                The golden king’s counterattack began with a vengeance, his multitude of weapons shooting toward Rin as though she were as capable as a fellow heroic spirit. She came to her senses in time to understand that she had no hope of deflecting all the weapons at once. The single sword that came before nearly broke through her barrier, let alone twenty times that. Rin’s movements slowed in her mind, her thoughts processing her final moments with a surprising amount of calm.

 

                Saber…

                Arturia…

                Regret.

                What about Sakura?

                She couldn’t die yet…!

 

                ‘Hey, hey, hey! That’s no way to treat a lady!’ A familiar yet haughty voice penetrated the air. In a flash of deep purple and red, another figure leapt in front of Rin and managed to carry her out of harm’s way as it smacked away the blades with the deadliest trajectory.

                ‘You can’t possibly be serious.’ Gilgamesh sighed, rubbing his forehead.

                Rin recognized her savior to be Lancer, his skin tight armour, blood-red spear, and expansive grin unmistakable. Relief fell over her like cool water on a summer day, and she held him tight for a moment, not caring why he had decided to rescue her.

                ‘The master told you not to kill her, you know. She’s sort of necessary for the end of the war and all.’ Lancer put Rin down, holding her behind him protectively.

                ‘I have deemed his judgement delusional. All this war needs is for me to drink from the grail and bestow upon this world a new order under its rightful king.’

                ‘And you’re calling the master delusional? Yeah, okay.’ Lancer flung his spear about his body and then got low, side-stepping out of Rin’s immediate radius and allowing a red aura to begin building around him. ‘Don’t take your eyes off me, pretty boy, because if you do, you know this spear is going right through your heart.’

                Rin could see that Gilgamesh took this threat very seriously. He certainly didn’t mind leaving Rin from his focus and narrowing all attention on this new advisory. Was Lancer’s noble phantasm that deadly? It was likely a ranged and furiously quick attack, which would make any efforts by Gilgamesh worthless by the end of it all.

                ‘I doubt you were given permission to honestly fight me with everything you have.’ Gilgamesh felt out the situation.

                ‘Only one way to find out.’ Lancer winked, the red aura surrounding him intensifying and veins beginning to pop in his temples.

                ‘Which is faster, I wonder, your Gae Bolg, or my Gate of Babylon?’

                ‘Heh. Of course he told you. No wonder you’re being so cautious.’

                ‘Your noble phantasm is perfect for this scenario, yet it does require a moment of vulnerability. Present that to me, and you die.’

                Lancer laughed to himself once again, crouching even lower.

                ‘Hey, missy.’ He started suddenly, addressing Rin. ‘The way you fought just now; it made me do this. Keep your chin up, yeah?’

                Rin wasn’t completely sure what Lancer was getting at, but she couldn’t dismiss the way he looked at her. A crush? Admiration? Longing? Whatever the case, Rin simply nodded.

                ‘I-I will.’ She stuttered, belying the brave front she was putting on.

                ‘If I could’ve had you as a master, maybe things would’ve been different. Heh. Oh, well. Us Lancers have a pretty terrible “luck” stat as it is.’

                ‘Enough rabble. Show me what you can do, dog.’ Gilgamesh’s blades were at ready, floating behind him with hundreds more likely in wait. Rin was tired of the trick. It was overpowered and lazy. Gilgamesh wasn’t particularly skilled, as far as she could see, beyond his noble phantasm.

                ‘With the name calling again. You really piss me off, buddy.’ Lancer exploded with power then, the very ground encircling him collapsing under the weight of his noble phantasm at its maximum capacity. ‘Watch this, missy!’ Lancer grunted, veins now protruding from his neck as well.

                It happened instantaneously. Lancer burst from the ground, leaping high into the air, the light emanating from his spear painting the forest red. Gilgamesh reacted in kind, hesitating for but a second to redirect his weapons toward his opponent. He hadn’t been expecting an airborne attack. The extra second was all Lancer had needed. He felt no less than eight weapons puncture his body and bring him to the ground, but Gae Bolg was gone, its tip absorbing more blood as it stuck out of Gilgamesh’s back, his armour shattered right where his black heart should have been.

                Both fighters were down, but unlike Lancer, who had collapsed completely, Gilgamesh merely plummeted to his knees, his expression of doubt twitching over every normally stoic feature.

                ‘No…no…Don’t bow to me, great king…’ Lancer wheezed, coughing violently and choking on his own blood.

                Saber had been finally freed in that moment, and she wasted no time releasing an unconscious Illya to tend to the little girl’s wounded shoulder while Rin knelt next to Lancer.

                ‘You servants…are such incredible beings.’ She said, her soul overflowing with emotions.

                ‘Well…yeah. We’re heroic spirits…for a reason, you know?’

                ‘Thank-you.’ Rin managed a small smile, her eyes watering.

                Lancer’s own line of sight became hazy. His time had come. He had knowingly given up his life in order to save another’s master. It felt good. It was really sticking it to that corrupt priest.

                ‘Seeing that smile…makes it all worth it. Keep at it…Missy.’ Lancer finally breathed his last, his body falling still and then disappearing, fading into particles of mana to return to the grail from whence he came.

                ‘Shall I end you?’ Saber placed Illya down gently beside Rin for her master to hold as she addressed Gilgamesh. He was standing now, although he barely held himself together as blood pumped out of his chest and back.

                ‘Fool. Foolish creatures. This is…nothing. A king can’t be…taken down by…’

                ‘A mercy kill it is, then.’ Saber drew Excalibur, her movements shaky due to the pains created from being so tightly chained. She had enough energy for this though. She had enough power to finish another servant this night.

                However, before any more could be done, the shadow returned, quickly overtaking Gilgamesh and consuming him whole. The golden king’s disbelief immediately shifted to unrestrained panic as he seemed to understand what was happening.

                ‘What is this madness…! I am your king…! Your king…! How dare you…! How…! N…!’

                It was like watching someone sink into quicksand, except this lethal anomaly of condensed magic seemed to have a will all its own, and it could turn its unformed focus onto Saber, Rin, and Illya at any moment.

Chapter Text

 

 

                Rin was aware how quickly the Grail War could end once the true fighting began. The first few days were almost always the master and servants feeling one another out. There may be a few scrimmages here and there, but the primary function of the early stages of the war was master getting acquainted with servant, servant getting acquainted with master, and every other pairing attempting to understand the abilities of one another through strategic espionage.

                Nonetheless, the way no fewer than four servants were removed from the war within hours still astounded Rin. Gilgamesh, Lancer, Berserker, and Archer. All that remained were Assassin, Rider, and Saber. Under normal circumstances, Rin would deduce that she was the inevitable winner. Assassin was rarely an incredibly powerful opponent save for his stealth techniques. Rider was generally a jack of all trades, specializing in nothing, type of servant; although Rin seemed to recall something about an overly capable Rider class from her father’s war based on some of his scribblings. Either way, Rin knew the proficiencies of both servants, and after witnessing what her Saber was capable of, she also knew she could beat them both, simultaneously, if need be.

                Yet Rin couldn’t relax as Saber guided her and Illya out of the Einzbern forest and back into Fuyuki City. Zoken Matou had corrupted the war, and he had done so using Sakura. This fact alone had driven Rin into a corner. If the old man’s words even had a hint of truth to them, and Rin’s own recent experiences with her sister seemed to support his claims, then Rin was in for a very difficult battle ahead.

                The shadow was a mysterious entity as well. There was little doubt it had something to do with the false grail that Zoken had mentioned, considering its change in mass and aggression after Archer, Lancer, and Berserker had been defeated. It had literally absorbed Gilgamesh whole, likely resorting to doing so rather than possessing him, as it did Berserker, due to Gilgamesh’s own malice. How Rin and Saber were supposed to deal with such a presence was beyond even Rin, and she knew she would have to seek guidance, and perhaps even protection, from the church if she were to face the creature. Presuming Zoken controlled the shadow, to a degree, would likely prove correct.

                Thus, Saber successfully escaped with Rin and Illya out of the forest without further sighting of the nightmare. Rin hated to think they were simply “released”, rather than having retreated. A cab was hailed, and soon enough, the trio of girls were on their way to the church to check on Shirou, Sakura, and Rider. It should’ve been a joyous trip, considering the victories won, but Illya had lost her Berserker, and Rin couldn’t dismiss Lancer’s chivalry toward her and Archer’s strange bond as easily as she would have liked.

                ‘How are you feeling, Illya-san?’ Rin decided to ask in an attempt to divert her own contemplative mind for a little while.

                ‘Fine. My arm is a little sore, but I should be okay.’ The smaller girl kept her voice low, not wanting to distract the cab driver more than she already had with her pale skin, white hair, and red eyes.

                ‘You ladies come from some sort of convention or something?’ The driver asked suddenly, looking at Saber’s somewhat out of place, yet obviously detailed and well crafted, under-dress.

                ‘Something like that.’ Rin decided to answer.

                The rest of the drive was fairly quiet. Rin was left to her own mind, and that was sometimes her worst fear.


 

                Finally, the cab pulled up to the church. The driver was evidently a little cautious about the strange point of interest so late at night, but he gracefully accepted a fairly generous tip from Rin, and was eventually on his way.

                ‘I’m sorry that we have to come here instead of rest, but this seems to be a very dangerous time, and we best prepare ourselves properly. I need to make some inquiries of the church.’ Rin organized her objectives as she, Saber, and Illya approached the intimidating structure. It stood tall and dark, its ancient presence exuding an odd sort of aura that Rin hadn’t noticed prior to this moment.

                ‘That is fine, Master, but…’ Saber hesitated, glancing at Illya.

                ‘I’m out of the war now, Saber. I will be helping Rin-chan from here on. It’s the least I can do.’ The girl shrugged. She had, at once, such an air of maturity yet adolescent mischievousness sometimes.

                ‘Very well. I’m also concerned about your mental health, Master. Gilgamesh’s words regarding your father -- ’

                ‘Are irrelevant at the moment. Kirei Kotomine is likely dead by Caster’s hand, and my father is long gone. How he died and who deceived him do not matter or change the fact that he’s gone.’

                Rin’s words were stern, and her tone would send the most courageous of peers the other way, but Saber simply took her Master’s hand, holding it tight without another utterance.

                ‘So, it’s really true…?’ Illya observed, the group standing before the church’s large doors now.

                ‘W-what?’ Rin felt her face burning, the mere touch from Saber easing her mind.

                ‘You two are lovers?’

                ‘Yes.’ Saber smiled gently.

                ‘Saber!’ Rin flushed further.

                ‘Ohhhh…!’ Illya’s eyes wandered over Rin and then Saber respectively.

                ‘I-it doesn’t matter! Let’s go!’

                Rin didn’t even knock, she was so thrown by Illya’s inquisitive eyes and Saber’s bold claims. The moment the mage stepped into the building, however, her heart sunk into her stomach and her chest tightened until she thought it would collapse. Shirou was seated at the head of the pews, Sakura likely resting near where Rider remained her sentinel, and working on her classmate’s arm, wrapping it in a red cloth that was painfully reminiscent of Archer’s own clothing, was Kirei Kotomine.

                Rin’s knee-jerk reaction was to tear into the man, demanding answers and beating him senseless until he told her everything she wanted to know. She knew such an approach would be pointless. Kirei was more useful alive than dead at this particular time. Besides, logically, Rin knew she might not be able to actually compete against the priest if they were to come to blows. He was the one who had trained her, after all, and he was known to be an incredible fighter in every regard. It was now a small wonder that he had survived Caster’s invasion.

No. For now, Rin would use Kirei Kotomine. He had knowledge beyond Rin’s, and it would prove utterly priceless in these final hours.

                ‘Tohsaka-san! Saber! And…Illya?’ Shirou beamed, although he suddenly grunted and winced as Kirei tightened the red cloth over his shoulder.

                ‘Be still, Emiya-kun.’ The priest spoke in his low, dangerous voice. He then turned his attention to Rin and her group while they approached the front of the church, his cold eyes lingering on Illya almost hungrily. ‘You survived. I must say, I am somewhat surprised. Then again, you do have Saber with you.’

                ‘I could say the same thing, Kotomine-san.’ Rin swallowed, and it was as though she were attempting to push sand paper down her throat. This man had killed her father in cold blood. It was affecting her more than she wanted it to. Her hand shook, and she had to will it consciously to remain by her side rather than throttling the passive expression of this murderer before her.

                ‘Hm. I have a role to fulfill yet.’

                ‘I’m sure.’ Rin couldn’t help it. She felt Saber’s touch and immediately breathed out the bottled up stress enough to function somewhat normally.

                ‘Thank God you guys are okay.’ Shirou smiled, rubbing his arm.

                ‘Is that…?’ Rin ventured.

                ‘Yeah…’ The boy glanced sideways, clearly thinking about his lost servant. ‘Archer left it for me, I guess. It’s ridiculously painful, but apparently it’s a miracle that I’m still alive. I definitely wasn’t expecting a transplant though! The healing arts are incredible. Heheh.’

                Kirei sighed.

                ‘It’s true. I honestly am still taken aback by the match. Even twins, for all their genetic similarities, only have a 10% survival rate after such a procedure. Never mind that it’s a servant’s limb; a being that transcends modern understanding and earthly qualities of life.’

                ‘And yet, you still went ahead with the procedure knowing full well that Emiya-kun could die.’

                Kirei’s stoic face gave little away.

                ‘I provided him with the risks. He still made the final decision.’

                Rin huffed, staring at Shirou strangely. He has always been an anomaly in her life. Now that she thought about it, she got the same strange, almost uncanny feeling from Archer. If only that fool of a servant had survived, she could have pried him for more information. Shirou didn’t even know his origin, which was bizarre, but believable considering how they didn’t get along from the beginning. Yet, the arm…and the same sort of projection magic…

                ‘Fine. And what of Sakura-san?’ Rin nodded toward her sister, seeing that she was, at least, wrapped in a comfortable looking blanket. She slept soundly, for the most part, although her brow was furrowed slightly.

                ‘That…is another matter entirely. I performed a biological analysis followed by a mage-exclusive physical. You may not like what you hear.’

                Rin already didn’t like what she heard. This man’s voice was driving her mad. He was a cancer to everyone he came in contact with. Shirou’s life was likely now at risk because of Archer’s selfishness, and could Rin even believe him when it came to her own sister? The same sister that this man had turned his back on?

                ‘I don’t have time to be emotional.’ Rin answered proudly.

                This reaction brought a small grin to Kirei’s face.

                ‘Very well. Zoken Matou cannot be defeated by normal means. He has elevated his lust for eternal life into a grotesque and unseemly realm in a way that only his namesake is capable of.’

                Rin held her breath, feeling Saber’s hand brush hers.

                ‘Sakura-san is infested with mana worms. They traverse her mana circulatory system similar to that of parasites in a normal human’s blood. Practically encircling her heart, rather stubbornly I’ll add, is a somewhat larger worm that I can only assume is a piece of Zoken Matou, based on the foreign, but slight, hints of an entirely different mana line. This is a common practice for the Matou family in order to achieve an artificial competence and edge in the wars. Sakura-san was likely cultivated at a young age for this very war. She has been given the same attributes as the fake human next to you in order to serve as a vessel for the grail.’

                Rin could barely hold back the tears in her eyes. Her sister…Why…?

                ‘Can anything be done to remove the worms?’ Saber asked innocently.

                ‘I tried what I could, but they are as part of her as that arm is to the boy now.’

                ‘S-she’ll be okay though, right?’ Shirou smiled, not believing his ears, surely.

                ‘No. That is a delusion you shouldn’t have, child. The closer the war gets to its conclusion, the closer she draws to death or…perhaps something worse. She will become a false grail; a Black Grail, if you will. She will become akin to a minor god momentarily before fulfilling the wish of the victor of the war and…well…it is hard to say. Many will die during the process; of that I can assure you.’

                ‘…But something can be done.’ Rin almost demanded. She could tell. Kirei was holding back.

                ‘Well…yes. To a degree.’

                ‘Tell me.’ Rin almost wanted to add “You owe me”, for with a word, she could have Saber kill the priest and barely feel any remorse about it.

                ‘The Gem Sword of Zelretch.’ Kirei uttered deeply.

                Something in Rin’s brain sparked, an uncomfortable sort of buzz passing over her right side.

                ‘You can’t be serious…’

                ‘It will allow you to defeat Zoken Matou. He conducts the abnormalities within this war, but not even that man couldn’t escape the Gem Sword’s rumoured dimensional dominance. Your father has the blueprints, correct? It was a task assigned to his of few other families. You’ve surely seen it at some point.’

                ‘But…’

                ‘You have the projection abilities of Archer’s remnants, the ancient memories of the Einzbern homunculus, and your brilliance as my student. Rin...it is your only hope if you wish to save Sakura-san from Zoken and the shadow that insists on corrupting everything. Save Sakura-san and then finish the war by allowing the doll to fulfill her role proper. Have Rider and Saber perform an honourable duel and be done with it after the threat of the Black Grail is dealt with.’

                Rin understood in that moment. Kirei wasn’t lying, but he wasn’t being entirely selfless either. He wanted to see the grail. He wanted to witness its majesty and succeed as the priest overseer of this war. Whatever his reasons, Rin had been correct in not killing him. With this knowledge, no matter how daunting the task, Rin could potentially save her sister. It was worth a shot.

                ‘I want to try.’ Shirou affirmed ignorantly. ‘I absolutely have to try to save Sakura.’

                ‘Me too.’ Illya looked up at Rin, her focussed gaze chilling. She wanted revenge for Berserker.

                ‘Fine.’ Rin nodded.

                ‘Good.’ Kirei stood up, pacing next to Sakura for a moment before placing his hand on her chest. ‘I have stabilized her and prolonged her life. She has an additional two days before her body begins to deteriorate as it started doing today. That is all I was capable of. I wish you both luck.’

                ‘One last thing.’ Rin started, catching her old mentor’s eyes. ‘Zoken Matou has Assassin now. He’s dangerous, and -- ’

                Kirei nodded, but it was more mocking than not.

                ‘He will not have that creature for long. Just focus on the sword.’

                The words were laced with bloodlust, and Rin knew that Kirei would be hunting soon. She almost hoped the man lost to either the shadow or Assassin, but more of her knew it was better for Sakura and her if Assassin was removed from the picture first.

                The night already felt like five merged into one, and it didn’t seem as though it would get quieter any time soon.

Chapter Text

 

 

                Rin practically collapsed into the bed that had been laid out for her. After some convincing, she realized that Shirou’s insistence on having her, Saber, and Illya stay with him in his relatively large estate wasn’t a horrible idea. They needed to be together for these last couple of days of the Grail War, especially with that shadow still on the prowl and killing. Rin was convinced that it was responsible for the murders that happened over night, and she was sure to erect a barrier using a five-point reinforcement in order to at least delay the monstrosity should it come after her or anyone else on the Emiya grounds. With Illya’s personal touch, the barrier was even more dependable.

                Sakura slept in the same room as Shirou. When Rin had questioned this, her classmate simply shrugged with a stupid, restrained smile on his face.

                “She needs me a lot these days.” He had said.

                “Needs you?”

                “Yeah. She’s been having trouble sleeping.”

                The conversation irked Rin. She wasn’t jealous, necessarily; she just didn’t like the idea of her sister being sexually active. Rin supposed that made her a horrible hypocrite, but it was just too easy.

Illya was in one room over. She didn’t want to be far from Rin, but she also wanted her own space. Rin could understand that. Illya was proud; a vice Rin knew too well. The little girl wanted time to deal with everything that had happened. If it came down to it, Rin would do all within her power to make sure the girl was taken care of after the Grail War ended. Illya seemed to have a weird fixation on Shirou as well. Rin couldn’t place it exactly, but she kept staring at the young man, seemingly wanting to say something but restraining herself every occasion.

                It was now nighttime, and Rin needed to get as much sleep as possible. The following day would be mentally taxing in the worst way. She would have to somehow decipher her father’s blueprints for the Gem Sword and successfully interpret them where many a Tohsaka had failed. Shirou, being the inexperienced projector that he was with a foreign limb, and a little girl that may or may not have ancient magic knowledge, were what made up Rin’s team. It would be a challenge, but the fact Rin could save Sakura from Zoken drove her into anxious commitment to the task at hand.

                Saber slipped into the room after doing a circle check of the entire Emiya land. She tried to be careful, it seemed, not to disturb her master, slowly disrobing into only the undergarments she had purchased with Rin recently, the light blue colour and touch of lace tantalizing in every way. Rin took in the sight of her servant stripping, the slight light from the distant street being the only source of hinted illumination. She felt her hand slipping down over her stomach and between her legs, her fingers lingering at potentially easing herself into a lull at the expense of leering eyes.

                Rin had to remind herself that this was her reality, no matter how disconnected she was from it at times. How powerful the notion of lust could be, even amongst such terror, rage, and heartache. Perhaps the familiarity of her own body brought Rin some solace, for she longed to feel something other than the fear of the final moments in this brutal war and the hate she harboured for Kirei Kotomine.

                ‘It’s okay, Saber; I’m awake.’ Rin whispered. The angelic woman turned with a start, but then seemed to smile, easing herself into the bed beside her master.

                ‘I’m sorry if I disturbed you, Rin-san.’ Saber said with a bounty of affection. She deliberately said her master’s name, and Rin’s fingers continued to stroke ever so gently beneath her own covers.

                ‘I’m not upset. I doubt I’ll be able to get a lot of sleep anyway no matter how much I need it.’

                ‘That isn’t good. It sounds as though you have a difficult battle ahead of you that I cannot help with tomorrow.’ Saber’s tone was touched with frustration. Rin reached over to her servant with her free hand, pausing any further ridiculous self-pleasuring in order to comfort the woman she found more alluring than any other human.

                ‘You’ve done enough. Your prowess and courage today were truly something I took great pride in.’

                ‘Ah. You honour me…’

                ‘It’s the truth. To stand your ground against Berserker in the state that we found him in, to duel Gilgamesh the way you did; I couldn’t ask for a better servant and friend. Your Excalibur was breathtaking, and I just…couldn’t stop marvelling at you despite everything that happened.’

                ‘Yes…’ Saber lowered her voice. ‘I am…so sorry about your father. The way you handled yourself amidst that priest’s arrogance…I too am beyond proud.’

                ‘…Thanks, Arturia-san.’ Rin’s words trembled.

                Saber shifted in her bed.

                ‘I was always known as Arthur in my time. To have you call me that…I cannot deny the joy it gives me.’

                ‘Such a simple thing, but I know exactly what you mean.’

                There was a pause in the pillow talk, Saber taking Rin’s hand into her own before facing her Master, their lips not far from one another’s.

                ‘It is almost over.’ Saber spoke softly.

                ‘Yes. It’s hard to believe.’

                ‘I understand. As trying as this experience has been, I don’t want it to end, oddly enough.’

                Rin swallowed, tightening her grip on Saber’s hand.

                ‘Have you thought about what you’re going to do after the war yet?’

                ‘…Not entirely. I know I want to travel to my home country with you and…’

                ‘And…?’ Rin couldn’t stop herself from becoming hopeful.

                ‘I’d like…to go to school with you one day…as a normal classmate. I-I know it sounds foolish, but it has intrigued me since arriving. If it’s impossible, I understand, but…’

                ‘No!’ Rin covered her mouth. She had spoken out too enthusiastically. ‘No. That sounds amazing. I would really like that.’

                ‘…Truly?’

                Rin rested her forehead against Saber’s and smiled.

                ‘Really.’

                And she kissed her servant, at first quickly, but then lingering until their mouths opened wide enough to engage in an even deeper form of intimacy. Her servant moaned just before they parted, her breaths quickened.

                ‘I have been thinking about us even considering how difficult our day was.’

                ‘Hm. Me too.’ Rin agreed. It was strange since she had a particularly challenging turn of events mentally. Still, perhaps it was the fact that she would sleep next to a girl named Arturia that Rin could find some comfort before the final, most brutal part of the war began. There was tranquility in being with someone that seemed to know you inside and out in so little time.

                ‘It is strange that we love one another, isn’t it?’

                ‘Well…yes. I guess it still is.’

                Saber sighed sadly.

                ‘I don’t think it’s wrong to the same extent as in your time, but it’s still something that’s not completely accepted by a majority.’

                ‘How sad…’

                ‘I know.’

                ‘But…you love me?’

                ‘Y-yes!’

                ‘But you could also love a man, should the correct individual happen by.’

                Rin’s eye twitched. Images of Archer, Lancer, and even that ridiculous Shirou Emiya flickered through her mind. She had once had a crush on Shirou, a far time ago, she would admit, but that was long over. It wasn’t allowed. She wouldn’t allow it.

                ‘…If he was somehow better than you, then I would consider him, I guess.’

                Saber laughed in a small way.

                ‘Well, that would be impossible, so there it shall be.’

                Rin was glad she avoided that rather deadly subject. Saber had the right to know though. Rin considered herself bisexual at this point, if she were to be perfectly honest. She found both men and women attractive, given the right circumstances. It was a fact she had a notion of ever since she and Kaede had kissed in a fit of adolescent curiosity. Kaede had claimed something felt sort of off, even though she complimented Rin’s soft lips. Rin, on the other hand, desired to try more, but couldn’t get past the obvious repulsion her friend felt. Then, not long after, Rin had fallen for Shirou. His focussed determination while attempting a jump in track and field had caught her eye. Ever since, she has always watched him from afar. She could understand why he was fairly popular with a certain set of girls. Rin tried not to think about it more than that.

                ‘What about you?’ Rin went on, trying to stop her feverish mind.

                ‘I have never loved a man, and I don’t believe I ever will, so to speak.’

                ‘That’s an easy enough answer.’

                ‘Gender is a strange beast to me. I was forced to act the part of a man for the better part of my life, so I find myself believing that the concept of “man” is simply a form of identification biologically. Otherwise, there is no true difference. I know this, but still…’

                ‘Oh!’ Rin grinned slyly. ‘That’s pretty progressive of you.’

                ‘It is? I once said as much to Guinevere, but she, of course, mocked me.’

                Rin caught the hint of Saber’s private life as king. She wanted more, but she held herself back, knowing Saber was quite guarded about such details. As time went on, hopefully…

                ‘I would never mock you. I think the world of you.’ Rin’s chest felt full, and she realized Saber had somehow gotten out of answering the true question about their futures together. It was fine. Ignorance was bliss for this night.

                ‘And I, you, Rin Tohsaka.’

                Rin inched a little closer, her knees touching Saber’s under the covers. She breathed in deeply, and then exhaled, her hand moving from her servant’s face down to her breast, where it cupped the small mound and traced the nipple beneath until it hardened at the tender touch.

                ‘Hm…’ Saber hummed, not refusing the advance in any way.

                A wave of anticipation passed over Rin’s entire body, but then a small knock on the sliding door separating Rin and Saber from Illya alerted the two young women, both quickly turning their attention to the source of the sound.

                ‘Hello?’ Rin inquired quietly.

                The door slid open tentatively, and Illya’s small shape was found. Rin’s eyes had adjusted fairly well to the darkness by now, so she was able to make out slight features on everything around her. She could tell that Illya was being somewhat shy, uncharacteristically so.

                ‘What is wrong, Illya-san?’ Saber pressed, addressing the former master with respect that was surely noticed by the child.

                ‘I’m…hearing things.’ Illya whispered.

                ‘Hearing things?’ Rin patted a spot between herself and Saber. The girl hastily found her place there, shuffling under the covers with the other master. Rin felt bad for Illya. Even though the Einzbern homunculus gave off rather creepy vibes here and there, she was, at heart, a young girl…in looks at least.

                ‘In the room next to me. I hear muffled voices. I think they’re having sex.’

                Rin and Saber exchanged looks. Sakura and Shirou? Really? Now? That seemed a little much. Rin’s stomach turned at the thought. Her dream involving the other two masters made her wretch, and she felt Illya push her nose into her chest, her legs tangling in with Rin’s. She was wearing an oversized shirt provided by Shirou, while Rin and Saber had resorted to simply their underwear.

                ‘Well…Sakura-san has been through a lot, so I’m sure it’s just their way of relieving some stress.’ Rin tried to reason, getting a nod of confirmation from Saber.

                ‘…I’m stressed too.’ Illya said, a thin lacing of mischievousness attached to her words.

                ‘I know. We all are. This wasn’t an easy day.’ Rin stroked Illya’s white hair, shocked by how incredibly thin and smooth it was. ‘You can stay with us, if you’d like.’

                Saber nodded, although Rin thought she caught a glimpse of longing from the king.

                ‘But…I don’t want to stop you two from having sex.’ Illya said, her pitch higher. It was the same voice she had used when Rin had first met her; cold, calculating, and frighteningly mature somehow.

                ‘I-it’s fine. We weren’t going to anyway.’ Rin managed her composure.

                ‘But aren’t you stressed as well?’

                ‘Yes. I guess. But sleep should help.’

                Silence fell over the room. Rin saw Saber shrug slightly, but she kept her eyes quite fixed on Illya, just in case.

                ‘I want to have sex.’ Illya stated suddenly, pushing away from Rin and staring at her with a fixed and determined eye. It was unsettling, to say the least.

                ‘Y-you’re a little young, Illya-san.’ Rin reacted as normally as she could, given the bizarre circumstances.

                ‘You know homunculi physically grow up slower. I’m 18, and I won’t get older. My chances of surviving this war are low. I was created to be the grail, just like mommy; you don’t come back from that. No Einzbern comes back. I’ll be alone again. I’ll always be alone.’

                Rin almost refuted the facts being thrown at her so confidently, but she knew as well as any mage with some knowledge of the great families that Illya was right. She would never grow up. She would never experience so many things because she was created with a clear and selfish purpose. If Sakura became the grail instead, Illya might have hope, but that meant willingly handing Rin’s sister over to hell.

                She was left speechless.

                ‘See? You know it’s true. Don’t worry; I’ve accepted it. It’s fine. But I still want to try sex at least once before I die. It’s what so many humans ruin their lives for, isn’t it?’

                Rin blinked back the tears. This poor girl; she was so used to the idea of death that she could talk about it like plans she had made with a friend. There was no way Rin could give the child what she wanted, however. It was wrong on so many levels. Then again, having seven mages fight to the death over a cup wasn’t exactly brimming with righteousness either.

                ‘S-stop saying “sex” so much…’ Rin stuttered.

                ‘Huh? Why? That’s what it is, isn’t it?’

                ‘Well, yes, but you’re being a little blunt.’

                ‘Ah. I’m unsettling you because I’m so honest, right? You’re becoming more like an adult every day, Rin-chan.’

                ‘I’m older than you, you know.’ Rin bit back, but her fangs were dull, and Illya was merciless.

                ‘Physically, maybe, but not age or maturity-wise, although I definitely look up to you, which is why I can only ask you this.’

                ‘You tried to kill Saber and I…’

                ‘Stop making excuses. That was then, this is now. Things have changed and you know it.’

                Rin bit at her lip, the silence in the room making it easier to just barely hear Sakura’s fairly audible moans of pleasure. They were still going at it? The thought was both revolting and stimulating. Small wonder Illya’s desires had been heightened to this point of desperation. Damn that Shirou.

                ‘I cannot -- ’

                ‘I do not disagree with Illya-san’s logic.’ Saber interrupted suddenly, having been quiet for the entire conversation until now. Rin expected her servant to interject sooner rather than later, but she certainly didn’t anticipate this reaction.

                ‘Saber…! You can’t be serious…!’

                ‘I am.’ Saber sat up in her bed, her covers hanging off one of her small shoulders seductively. ‘Let me explain: as a young woman, I was exposed to a world that practically forbade me from sexual relations with another man. That was fine, mostly, since I had little interest.’ Saber paused, her mouth forming into a small grin as she took in her master’s stunned expression. ‘However, even with Guinevere as a wife, I had no true experience leading up to my death. Guinevere and I didn’t get along, but that didn’t mean I lacked…urges on the rare occasion. That being said, I died with many regrets, one of them, albeit minor, being that I never made love with anyone.’

                Saber paused, allowing her thoughts to collect and her previous words to sink in.

                ‘Now, I made those decisions in my life. Should I have chosen as much, I could have had any man or woman lay in bed with me at my own discretion. I was, and still am, proud, so that, obviously, was not an option. Nonetheless, Illya-san is being given no choice. Her life could very well end tomorrow, and she has accepted this with such commitment to her role that I marvel, as a king, at her. Illya-san is asking a small request of us, Rin-san, to assist her in making her final days just a little more fulfilling. She asks us because she not only trusts us, but she also respects you and I. For a girl of her calibre to admit as much, I will honestly consider her request, and I would like you to, as well, Master.’

                Once again, Rin couldn’t find words.

                ‘T-that’s not all of it…but…you might be on to something…’ Illya stubbornly agreed, not liking but loving the fact someone understood her so well.

                ‘Are you serious, Saber? I -- ’

                ‘If we perform the act together, it will not be traitorous to our relationship, correct?’ Saber moved in closer to Rin, kissing her neck softly but instantly forcing goosebumps all about her master’s skin.

                ‘T-that’s true…but…’ Rin still hesitated. Her body was heating up by the second the closer such a bizarre scenario came to passing. Was she just a pervert? Was that it? No. Rin was making a rational decision. Saber was right. If even Saber was willing, then why shouldn’t Rin be? This might be her last night to live as well. Who knew what the war had in store yet? At least she could make love with Saber one final time.

                With the proper convincing and reasoning with herself, Rin nodded slowly.

                ‘Fine. Illya-san, if this is what you truly want, t-then Saber and I will help you.’

Chapter Text

 

 

                Rin may have confirmed her intention to fulfill Illya’s unbelievable request, but that didn’t mean she was sure precisely how to go about giving the girl one of her dying wishes. This was...illegal, wasn’t it? But there was mutual consent, so that helped, and Illya, as she claimed, was technically older than Rin even. Nonetheless, Illya would be handled as a minor, regardless, potentially incapable of making rational decisions while influenced by scheming “adults”.

                Rin’s mouth tightened, and she sat up straight, glancing all over the room for some sort of support that she knew she wouldn’t find. She wanted to help Illya. She understood the girl’s desires, but she couldn’t fully commit to such an act. Her moral compass wouldn’t allow her to. Illya looked hardly older than ten years old. It didn’t matter how old she was in reality. She looked underage.

                ‘Um…That being said, I can honestly say I don’t know how to begin.’

                Saber smiled, almost chuckling at the comment, while Illya pouted quite audibly.

                ‘Wow. Way to kill the mood, Rin-chan.’

                ‘I-I’m sorry, okay? This is so unnatural!’

                ‘I grew up in a world of unnatural practises, so I guess this would be normal for me.’ Illya teased. She looked from Rin’s flustered expression to Saber’s stoic, somewhat anxious face, grinning to herself devilishly. ‘Let’s do this then: you two start, and I’ll watch for a bit. How’s that?’

                ‘I see.’ Saber nodded. ‘A sound plan of action.’

                ‘Saber, are you serious? You know what she’s asking, right?’

                ‘I do.’ Saber placed both hands on Rin’s shoulders, rubbing them slightly and instantly easing the girl into some form of security and safety. ‘I would have to blame you, Rin-san, for this change in me. I value my life more than ever before. You have given me purpose, strangely enough. I’ve learned to live for myself, for once, and this is yet another show of a selfishness I lacked in my previous life.’

                ‘But…’ Rin diverted her gaze before feeling Saber’s hand cup her face and bring it to her own, kissing her softly but with a hint of contained passion. Rin’s throat hummed at the contact, Saber’s lips bringing her even deeper into an aroused state.

                ‘Oooh…!’ Illya was heard ogling, creeping in closer. Rin could feel the bed sheets shifting near her, a small body’s warmth residing overly near as she kissed another girl.

                ‘Release your barriers, Master. This could very well be our last night together.’ Saber uttered quietly into Rin’s ear, the word’s blatant rhetoric stabbing Rin and instantly forming rims of water along her eyes. She responded by kissing Saber more deeply than ever, elevating herself higher onto her knees so that she took her servant from the top, opening her mouth wide and entangling her tongue with that of a king.

                Rin could feel Saber’s breasts pressing against her stomach, the bra’s material soft but hindering. She reached down, touching Saber’s head, neck, and shoulders prior to unclasping the piece, Saber’s own arms moving in a quick motion to do away with the support altogether. She helped Rin enjoy the same liberation, soon kneading her master’s modest chest and feeling the hardening tips between her fingers.

                Rin then felt a hand reach between her legs, forcing her to spread them slightly while she continued to passionately kiss Saber. The hand rubbed her gently at first, causing Rin to groan in between moments of intimacy. Saber, too, started to mirror her master’s tones of lust, and when both women chanced a glance down, expecting to find one another performing the act of play with their soaked panties, they simultaneously started at the sight of Illya being the source of the sudden heightened pleasure.

                ‘Wow…! You’re both so wet!’ Illya exclaimed, licking her fingers. ‘You should probably take those off, huh? You might ruin them.’

                ‘T-that’s…’ Rin hesitated once more, even though her heart was beating miles a minute and her switch had been very flipped to the point of no return for quite some time.

                ‘Indeed.’ Saber wasted no effort, a line of liquid trailed after her underwear even as she had pulled it off. Not wanting her servant to be alone in embarrassment, Rin soon followed her lead, discarding her black panties to the side so that she and Saber were now completely naked.

                ‘Ah…! Rin-san, you shave? That’s really naughty, you know?’ Illya inched in uncomfortably close to the point that Rin tightened her legs closed.

                ‘N-no…! I just get really itchy, so…!’

                ‘You too, Saber?’

                ‘Not quite. I have very fine and thin hair, so it is light and scarce, I’m afraid.’

                ‘Pretty…’ Illya confirmed, nodding to herself.

                ‘Y-you need not stare…’ Saber finally cracked.

                ‘But at least we all match, right?’ Illya hastily stripped off Shirou’s shirt and removed her own white panties so that she was no longer the only girl clothed. Rin could see, even with the limited light, that the Einzbern heir’s legs were covered in her own state of desire. It was strangely distracting.

                ‘Okay. I’m ready now. I can’t watch anymore. My heart’s thumping and my stomach hurts. I want to join.’

                Rin and Saber exchanged looks. This was the final point of no return. Saber nodded, but Rin hesitated again, looking to Illya’s small, naked body. Her stomach turned, and a sickening feeling came over her as if her soul was being dowsed in acid.

                ‘I…’ She began, glancing about and chewing on the inside of her mouth nervously. ‘I…can’t. I’m sorry, Illya-san, but…I can’t.’

                ‘…Why not?’ Illya said in a deep voice, irritation very evident.

                ‘Because…It’s not right.’

                ‘I’m old enough.’

                ‘I know you are, but you don’t look it, and even with your consent, and even though part of me wants to, more of me knows I shouldn’t.’

                ‘Master…’ Saber said softly. Rin couldn’t tell if her servant was disappointed or relieved or a mixture of both. Nonetheless, Rin knew, by the cleanse she felt internally, that this was the right decision.

                Illya sighed long and hard, grabbing at Shirou’s shirt and stretching it over her tiny frame once more.

                ‘…Interesting. You’re an interesting one, Rin-chan.’

                Rin didn’t know what that meant, and at this point, she didn’t want to know. She needed a break. She needed to separate herself from this situation before she let the throbbing lust that had been agitated within her convince her sounder mind otherwise.  

                ‘I…I need to use the washroom.’ Rin whispered, standing up and pulling her discarded panties back up and haphazardly taking a shirt that she had noted being left for her the last time she had stayed at Shirou’s place. This room obviously wasn’t used often. Rin gave Saber one final glance, apologizing with her eyes, and then slid the door open.


                Rin crept out of the room as quietly as she could and snuck across the main living area of Shirou’s house. She had memorized where the washroom was earlier, and she prayed she could make it there and back to her room without tripping on anything. Fortunately, Shirou was neat enough, and her eyes had adjusted quite well to the lack of light. Rin could hear the soft sound of rain hitting the roof, and it brought her a strange sense of calm. It made her forget about the war and what sort of woman she was becoming when she found reasoning in giving sexual pleasure to a girl that looked like a minor.

                Rin rubbed her forehead, a sickening feeling overtaking her stomach again.

                That calm hadn’t lasted long. Night was a cruel reality shaper, as always. Rin felt the walls and managed to locate the washroom, but she noticed the light barely emanating from below the door, and before she could take cover in panic, the same door swung open, and a very naked Sakura stood within its frame, her voluptuous body claiming Rin’s eyes for a second before she took the reins once more and diverted her gaze politely.

                ‘Rin-san…’ Sakura hummed, although her voice sounded distant.

                ‘S-sorry.’ Rin stammered, trying not to allow herself to be too flustered and failing. Seeing Sakura like this…it brought back a memory Rin would sooner force out of her mind.

                ‘It’s fine.’ The cold reply came back. ‘Shirou filled me up again…’ She cocked her head slightly, a smile cracking in the night.

                ‘With food…?’ Rin answered, purposefully ignorant.

                ‘Heheh. No, silly.’ Sakura edged closer, touching Rin’s stomach with her index finger and tracing it upward toward her breasts. ‘With. His. S…’

                Sakura leaned in close and hushed the final word in Rin’s ear, forcing her to twitch away.

                ‘I think you’re tired, Sakura-san.’

                ‘I don’t. I’m not tired at all.’

                Sakura stepped to the side and leaned against the wall, her hands moving over her large chest and rubbing it progressively more adamantly.

                ‘I-I just can’t get enough. I need more.’

                ‘I see.’ Rin didn’t know how to respond anymore. This was her sister? No. This was the aftermath of artificially tampering with someone’s natural biological circuit make-up. Sakura was losing herself again. It hurt Rin to watch, and she wanted to begin working on the Gem Sword at that very moment. Instead, she touched Sakura’s shoulder gently in an effort to snap her out of her lustful daze.

                ‘You should go back to bed, Sakura-san. Emiya-kun might be worried.’

                Sakura appeared to regain herself for a moment, but her eyes then twisted into a fit of rage before she slapped Rin’s hand away and scowled even further.

                ‘Take that shirt off. It’s not yours.’ She hissed prior to disappearing into the darkness from whence she came.

                Rin caught her breath, used the facilities, and washed her hands and face. She made her way back to her room, her heart threatening to break out of her chest at any given moment. Was that really Sakura? Were the shadows whispering to her? Was she herself beginning to lose it?


 

                ‘Ah! She’s back!’ Illya’s voice sounded excited surprisingly, but she then covered her mouth and swung her head from Saber to Rin. Rin noted that Saber sat in a much more comfortable way, but had her blanket covering her bottom half assuredly.

                ‘T-this is too much…’ Saber pronounced, leading Rin into more confusion. What had happened in the short time she was gone? Wasn’t Illya mad? Where had the change in attitude come from?

                ‘No, it’s not! It’s perfect!’

                ‘Um…Saber?’ Rin inquired.

                ‘Saber and I figured out a way for me to sort of kind of get my wish.’

                ‘Okay, but you need to keep your voice down, Illya-san.’ Rin gestured for the younger girl to tame her excitement, whatever the cause of it may be.

                ‘Show her, Saber.’ Illya urged suddenly, tugging at the servant’s covers.

                ‘I-I cannot. It is…too uncanny.’

                ‘You said you would!’

                ‘I understand what I said in a moment of…a-arousal, but…’

                ‘Saber…?’ Rin grinned nervously.

                ‘Oh, enough! Just show her!’ Illya gave a hard pull to Saber’s blanket and successfully revealed what the servant had been concealing so hesitantly. Rin’s eyes widened in utter denial, questioning whether or not she was dreaming once again. Her life was tumbling onto a level of absurdity that could only be crafted by a ridiculous and twisted mind.

                Upon Saber’s lower abdomen was a phallic manifestation made up of the pure magical thread that Illya had displayed her abilities capable of manipulating into whatever shape she desired. The mana that resided inside caused the extension of Saber to glow a peaceful hue of silver, slightly illuminating Rin’s servant as she covered her face and slowly shook her head back and forth.

                ‘I-I am sorry, Master. T-this…is an insult, I’m aware. Make it disappear, Illya-san! Please!’

                Illya ignored Saber, simply staring at Rin with curious, red eyes, daring her to deny the woman she claimed to have deep and intense feelings for. This was all a game to the girl. Life had little meaning anymore. She wanted to push the boundaries as much as possible. She wanted to play out this experiment.

                Somehow, Rin couldn’t find fault in that, but it didn’t mean she was prepared for this particular scenario. Saber’s fuming face and Rin’s own lingering dissatisfaction allowed her to competently push away the fear of what was happening to her sister. She couldn’t solve that puzzle now anyway. What lay before her was what mattered in the dim hours of the night. Rin swallowed, willing her legs forward until she could sit gracefully across from her servant, Saber doing everything in her power to conceal her embarrassment.

                ‘Heheh…’ Illya giggled, covering her mouth with one hand and resting another between her legs while she sat on her knees. ‘If you’re too self-righteous to have sex with me, then at least let me see some real life sex. Everybody wins, right?’

                Considering the alternative, Rin supposed this was an…interesting compromise. Why she had to compromise in the first place bewildered Rin’s more logical mind, but part of her continued to sympathize with the Einzbern heir.

                ‘…That’s a pretty impressive reconstruction, although it lacks some details.’ Rin stalled, her mouth dry and her thoughts progressively becoming more and more foreign to her.

                ‘Boo! It’s fine!’ Illya grumbled, likely only having a vague idea as to what a man’s privates looked like.

                Rin could see that beneath the collection of magical nerves Saber’s original womanhood remained, causing Rin’s pulse to quicken and her teasing notions to manifest closer to reality.

                ‘Can you feel anything through that thing?’ Rin managed to touch Saber’s new extension briefly before her servant gasped erotically, latching onto Rin’s wrist and holding her in place. ‘S-seriously…?’ Rin marvelled.

                ‘Heheh. I connected the mana nerves around that area so that her sensitivity to any kind of stimulation is as realistic as possible.’ Illya bragged.

                ‘E-enough.’ Saber stood, scanning the room for her underwear. ‘I refuse to be a spectacle any longer.’

                ‘You agreed to this, Saber?’ Rin interrogated suddenly, looking up at her servant and feeling her lower body heating as she continued to process her anticipated movements.

                ‘I-in a fit of madness, perhaps, b-but…!’

                That was enough for Rin. She was done being held back by her worries. They meant nothing if she died the next day. Illya had made it very clear that life could end without warning. With the final battles so close, Rin didn’t want regrets. She didn’t want to think that she should’ve embraced a moment of frivolous gallivanting because of contemporarily contrived expectations. No. She would live until her dying breath. She would love whoever she wanted. What else mattered? Nothing. Nothing now.

                Rin held in some air and shuffled toward Saber, grabbing her legs and ignoring the squeak of surprise from the king of old. Rin felt her servant’s hand press upon her head in refusal, holding her back as if knowing what her master may have been thinking.

                ‘D-don’t, Master…! I-it is too lewd!’

                ‘Oooh!’ Illya practically sang, her hand moving more between her thighs.

                Rin began at the base, breaking through Saber’s meek resistance with relative ease. She allowed her tongue to line the phallic creation, sparks of mana tingling her nerves but doing little else. The manifestation was rougher than Rin expected, and it tasted like a mixture of earth and a bizarre sort of light perfume.

                ‘A-ah…! M-Master…!’ Saber moaned, her stance immediately giving out and allowing Rin more ease to do her work. Saber lay back, her legs on either side of Rin as she stroked her servant in between tastes. Rin had absolutely no experience with oral sexual practises involving a male, but she could understand the basics and implement enough stimulation to break Saber fairly easily, it seemed. It was somewhat baffling, however, that Rin’s past self had very little desire to perform any form of fellatio, yet she couldn’t say she minded doing so for Saber whatsoever. In fact, Rin was enjoying the exchange of submission. On her end, Rin was lowering herself to an act that demanded a sort of humbling demeanor, while Saber had to allow complete trust into her partner’s hands, giving Rin total power over her most vulnerable space.

                Preparing herself mentally, Rin finally moved into the next phase and wrapped her mouth around Saber’s member, taking it as deeply as she could before withdrawing and repeating the motion. Saber’s hands dug into her master’s hair, her moans and breaths of exasperation unknowingly encouraging Rin with every involuntary spasm. Rin sped up, stroking Saber with one hand at her base while teasing the tip with the inside of her mouth and tongue. She dared to gaze upon her servant, her mind going into a frenzy at the sight of Saber’s squinted eyes, heaving mouth, and self-pleasuring in the form of massaging her own breasts.

                Saber was enjoying this. It brought more confidence than Rin could think possible to her current state. This was okay. This was fine. It was mutual. There weren’t any underlying motives. Rin was giving herself over to a sexual situation that may as well have been her most creative fantasy.

                Rin felt tiny hands strip her underwear off once again, a trail of her own passion stretching between the fabric and her person. She ceased her oral play to find Illya behind her, yanking the black panties off of her ankles and grinning wickedly. The girl then boldly fondled Rin’s trembling crevice, her fingers easily sliding in and out of the young woman’s body.

                ‘S-stop…’ Rin moaned, but Illya only giggled, knowing the command was done out of obligation.

                ‘Okay! Okay! Next step! She’s ready, Saber!’

                ‘W-wait a minute…!’ Rin reacted without thinking. ‘That might be a bit…’

                ‘No way! I want to see sex now!’

                Saber responded by getting to her knees, her eyes glazed over and saliva lining her mouth.

                ‘Master…’ She sighed gently, placing her hands on Rin’s shoulders and easing her down onto her back now. ‘May I…?’

                Again, Rin almost denied that which she wanted so very desperately despite being terrified. This was different from making love to another woman. This was much more exotic and unknown. Rin held Saber in place at the waist, her legs shifting back and forth on the bed and her face grimacing in hesitation.

                ‘Oh, Rin-san…’ Saber sounded desperate. She kissed her master’s neck and allowed her erect form’s body to stroke the outside of Rin’s lubricated and swollen bud. Rin gasped in unexpected longing, her hands trembling and her mouth twitching to say something.

                Saber pressed herself up and stared with unrestrained affection into her master’s shiny, ocean-blue eyes. She smiled sincerely, and then began kissing Rin with such devotion and near aggression that Rin’s thoughts and mana circuits collided with that of her servant’s. She held Saber’s back, stroking the soft skin and revelling in the contact between the two women.

                It was perfect. It was more perfect than she could have ever asked.

                Without another thought to humour, Rin reached down, took hold of Saber, and eased the piece just slightly into herself. The wetness shared by both bodies helped, but Rin winced when Saber tried to go deeper almost instantly.

                ‘S-slowly…!’ Rin hissed between her teeth. It was painful, but the foreplay had helped a degree.

                ‘Sorry, Master. You are…rather tight…’

                ‘H-hah…J-just…go slow…’ Rin repeated, the sensation of Saber’s tip entering her and exiting somehow so very, very different from any combination of fingers. Rin’s entire face tightened, her eyes lining with water again and her mouth gritting in anticipation of more pain.

                ‘T-there…’ Saber sighed. She had noticed at the same time as Rin. Rin was opening up to her servant, and the sensations that followed escalated Rin’s already heightened nerves into overdrive.

                ‘Yes…’ Rin moaned, her legs wrapping around Saber’s hips and resting on her bare bottom. ‘Yes…’ Rin repeated, her voice rising in pitch so that she sounded almost in torment. Saber seemed to be fueled by the reaction, her motions becoming more intense and full. Rin forgot all about Illya. She nearly forgot about the Grail War and her sister. The fact Saber was making love to her in such a way was the dominant factor in her entire being. Saber, whom she had known for just over a week. Such a short-lived encounter yet it was everything to Rin. How quickly two souls could meld into each other. Rin always found the notion of “soulmates” absolutely ridiculous, but she couldn’t deny how perfectly compatible she was with Saber. She had considered herself fairly open sexually, but Rin could never have imagined falling so terribly for another woman. She simply couldn’t picture life without Saber, and the thought of the Grail War ending and Saber disappearing made Rin’s legs tighten around her servant even more so.

                ‘Oh…Rin-san…’

                Rin heard Saber’s voice. She opened her eyes and cupped the king’s cheeks in her hands like they were her most precious of treasures. The proud woman’s flushed face and taxed breaths made the moment even more unbelievable. Rin kissed Saber deeply, both women’s bodies fusing together as their voices hummed between the locked lips, flowing into rapture nearly as one. It was a perfectly executed mana transfer ritual without even being intentionally created.

                Saber’s body twitched within Rin, the magical wiring turning cool, giving the false illusion that something was lining Rin’s womb without actual exertion. Rin and Saber parted from their kiss, tiredly staring into one another’s visage until Saber’s eyes darted about and her troubled expression sought escape. Rin would have none of that, however, and she held her servant in a tight embrace, logging this moment of Saber filling her in the most intimate of fashions in her safe of memories forever.

                ‘Not yet.’ Rin mumbled into Saber’s burning ears. ‘Just stay like this for a second more.’

                ‘I…’

                ‘I know what you’re going to say, Saber, and I don’t want to hear it. There is only shame in what we did if you don’t care about me whatsoever. Are you going to tell me that?’

                ‘…No.’

                ‘Then just enjoy this moment.’

                Saber nodded, her head shifting against Rin’s. She soon returned the embrace, and Rin smiled so wide and truthfully that her face hurt.

Chapter Text

                Rin found sleep a little easier than she expected, given the circumstances of the day before. Perhaps it was because of the events that had shaken her very foundation that Rin’s body welcomed rest that much more willingly than one would presume. Rin awoke to the smell of eggs, bacon, toast, and rice. She also woke up alone, which was somewhat unsettling, to say the least.

                Rin sat up, her covers slipping off her bare shoulder to reveal her naked upper half. It was a reminder of what had transpired the night before, and it was both bitter and wonderfully sweet. She didn’t regret her actions as much as she anticipated, which was good. A sort of throbbing occurred between her legs, however, and she imagined that every girl’s first time likely brought such discomfort. Still, the thought of Saber filling her and holding her tight as she thrust more and more desperately was an image that instantly flushed Rin’s face and made her desire her servant almost immediately.

                ‘I’ve become somewhat lewd…’ Rin muttered comically to herself. She knew it wasn’t the case, really. She cared for Saber and valued their limited time together so terribly that it made her rash. Yet, she was thankful for this. Rin felt more alive over this last week than ever before. She had no regrets.

                Rin listened to the sounds of Illya seemingly ordering Shirou around with Sakura giggling in the background. It was nostalgic, almost. Rin could barely recall her and her sister playing in a park where their mother watched over them and a man they knew promised to protect them both. Who was that man? Why did he look so sad? Whatever happened to him? A relative?

                Of course, thinking about family made Rin reflect more on her father’s death and the circumstances surrounding it. Gilgamesh and Kirei Kotomine; the bastards. Gilgamesh had met a fitting end thanks to the shadow, but Kirei had the spirit of a cockroach. If Rin did successfully create the Gem Sword, she would have to restrain herself from ripping through Kirei’s bowels with it as soon as the chance presented itself.

                Rin’s eyes burned, her father’s kind but sad smile flickering through her mind and making her chest ache. Would he be proud of her? Would he be disgusted? What would Rin say to him if she had the chance now?

                The commotion within the main area of the house and kitchen became even more rambunctious suddenly at the arrival of Fujimura-sensei. The normalcy of her existence soothed Rin, to a degree, but she was more worried about the complexity the teacher’s presence introduced to the morning. Taiga would likely be very upset that Rin, Shirou, and even Sakura had skipped school so much lately, but there was absolutely no way Rin could waste a day there. She had an enormous task ahead of her that would require all of her intellect to accomplish.

                Footsteps pounded through the main area and eventually erupted at Rin’s door.

                ‘I better not find another girl in here, Shirou-kun! I swear!’

                ‘W-wait…! Fuji-nee…!’

                ‘Y-you shouldn’t, Fujimura-sensei!’

                ‘Uh-oh! Heheh!’

                Rin tried to gather her blanket as quickly as possible, but her door slid open abruptly, sending her hands into a frenzy which led to a clumsy attempt at covering herself. Taiga, Shirou, and Illya got a momentary glimpse of Rin’s half-nude form before she concealed herself and felt her eye twitch and stomach exploding.

                ‘Close that damn door now!’ She screamed, all tact discarded out of pure embarrassment.

 


 

                Breakfast was somewhat of an awkward affair in the beginning. Rin’s (seemingly) uncharacteristic outburst made even the ferocious Taiga tame for a spell until she got some food in her and began prattling on.

                ‘I was told to ensure that you three make it to school today. There is concern amongst the faculty regarding your unexplained absences. My job could be on the line if I don’t do something about it since I’m technically your guardian, Shirou-kun.’

                Rin sighed inwardly, trying to enjoy her breakfast while combating her own irritation at the same time. She was seated next to Saber, who was being a little quieter than Rin would have liked. The two girls were in their casual clothes from the day before, but Rin was looking forward to a shower and a change of outfit once she made it back to her manor.

                ‘I know, Fuji-nee, but we probably won’t be able to make it back to class until next week, by the looks of things.’ Shirou tried, sounding apologetic.

                ‘That’s unacceptable! Why? You all look healthy enough to me!’

                It was a fair question, but one that was nearly impossible to answer honestly. Shirou and Sakura looked to Rin for help, and she shook her head in frustration. Of course it was up to her.

                ‘There are circumstances involving the Matou and Tohsaka family that require our attention for a few more days. I apologize, Fujimura-sensei, but it is unavoidable.’ Rin tried half-heartedly.

                ‘Then I should have heard something from either set of guardians, but I have not. Shirou-kun, you’ve lied to me about coming to school over the last few days, and it’s not okay! I’m supposed to be looking after you!’

                ‘I’m sorry, Fuji-nee, but I have to help Tohsaka-san and Sakura…’

                Taiga huffed, scooping herself some more rice and layering it with another egg before glancing at Sakura and then Shirou, her eyes sharp but caring.

                ‘I understand that you all may be concerned about the strange things happening in Fuyuki City, what with the serial murders and Kuzuki-sensei’s sudden leave of absence, but your education is still important.’ Taiga must’ve been more observant than Rin was giving her credit for. She took in the situation with a surprising amount of compromise, perhaps knowing a little more than she let on. After all, she hadn’t raised an issue regarding Illya in the slightest. ‘I…I can only vouch for you for a couple more days, okay?’

                Rin blinked at the sudden shift in Taiga’s tone.

                ‘Pardon?’

                ‘Shirou’s father was a mysterious guy, and he told me some things that may or may not be related to what’s happening with you four. Either way, I’m no dummy, and I know the Matou and Tohsaka clans are a big deal. I do have a history with the Yakuza, I’ll have you know.’ Taiga’s cheeks went red as she quickly shovelled more food in in an attempt to diminish what she had just said somehow. ‘T-that’s a secret, get me?’

                ‘Got you, Fuji-nee. Thank-you.’ Shirou sounded more than a little relieved.

                ‘Yes. Thank-you.’ Sakura added.

                ‘Just promise me one thing, all of you – Arturia-san included: be safe. Do what you have to do, but do it together.’

 


 

                ‘She really cares about you.’ Rin said to Shirou as she and the boy did the dishes quickly while Sakura helped Illya clean up and Saber remained on guard outside.

                ‘Yeah. She lives here most of the time, but does have her own place now that I’m getting older. She’s basically my big sister, you know?’

                ‘I can tell. She didn’t want to let you off the hook so easily, but I think her instincts told her it was a losing battle. She’s wiser than she lets anyone know.’

                ‘If only she showed that side to more people, she might have a boyfriend.’

                Rin laughed a little bit at this.

                ‘Maybe she doesn’t want one.’

                ‘I don’t know about that. She seems pretty convinced she should be married by now.’

                ‘Only because that’s what’s expected of her. She appears quite happy to me.’

                Shirou grinned, but suddenly dropped a plate back into the sink, the water, thankfully, breaking its fall. Rin saw the fellow mage grimace, and her heart sunk.

                ‘Your arm.’ Rin stated, not looking for argument.

                ‘Yeah. It was a bit of a pain last night. Couldn’t sleep well. It’s…not really comfortable. Heh.’

                ‘Don’t laugh this off, Emiya-kun. What Archer has placed upon you is an unnatural burden. Beyond the pain, what else do you feel?’

                ‘Tired. Really tired. Kind of weak, too.’

                ‘You need to facilitate your mana better. The arm is demanding more than it should. I…I may be able to help you manage the pain a bit, although I’m sure Kotomine-san expected I’d do as much, and that irritates me.’

                ‘I would definitely appreciate it…’ Shirou spoke quietly, the weariness on his visage apparent.

                ‘Shirou, look! What do you think of this hairstyle for Illya-chan?’ Sakura presented the smaller girl, her hair in pigtails.

                ‘Don’t ogle too much, Onii-chan. You’ll make Onee-chan jealous!’

                ‘Not bad! We’re almost done here, so be ready soon, okay?’

                ‘Okay.’ Sakura gave Shirou a lingering smile, and then glanced at Rin fore a moment before disappearing with Illya back into the washroom.

                ‘…She really loves you, doesn’t she?’

                Shirou’s face reddened, and he couldn’t hold back a goofy grin. It was nice to see a very human side of the normally robotic boy.

                ‘Yeah. She’s…definitely incredible. It was weird, but something sort of changed about her, and I realized how much I cared for Sakura, you know? Maybe she got a little louder, or just a bit pushier. I don’t know. It was like having the blinds taken down around my eyes. I still don’t get it, but I do know that I want to protect her no matter what. We have to make the Gem Sword and save her from Zouken.’

                Rin nodded, glad Shirou was happy, but feeling a tinge of annoyance at the same time.

                ‘I hope you don’t mind me asking, Emiya-kun, but how was Sakura-san last night? What’s her condition?’

                ‘Honestly? It’s gotten pretty bad at night. Last night, for some reason, she was more demanding than ever.’ Shirou’s ears flushed again as he went on. ‘I think something was really bothering her, because…well…’

                ‘I know.’ Rin tried to keep her own embarrassment in check, but the heat was rising inside her. ‘Illya-san ended up sleeping with Saber and me. It…was getting a little noisy for her.’

                Shirou’s whole body tensed, and Rin patted him on the shoulder knowingly.

                ‘It’s fine, Emiya-kun. It’s natural enough, but I worry about the circumstances. I am under the impression that the manifesting grail within her and the surrounding mysteries regarding Sakura-san’s situation are contributing to making her much more…needy than she would be normally. In a sense, you are helping by taming her carnal desires that would run rampant otherwise.’

                ‘I guess. But I’m still sorry for disturbing you guys last night.’

                ‘Don’t think anything of it. She’s doing better today, and that’s thanks to you. As long as we can hold off the grail from taking her over completely then we will be fine. Having Sakura-san nearby will help us monitor her state of mind, so please do not let her out of your sight, if at all possible.’

                ‘Right. I won’t.’  

                Rin could see the resolve Shirou carried for her sister. She had her apprehensions, at first, considering how quickly Shirou flipped from Rin to Sakura, but now Rin could see that Sakura’s efforts hadn’t been in vain. Rin’s sister had been cultivating something beautiful with the broken Shirou for quite some time, and it brought Rin more joy than anything else to know that her poor sister would be cared for by this young man.

                ‘Look after her, Emiya-kun.’ Rin said finally, trying to hold back the threat she wanted to place on the boy.

                ‘I promise. I’ll protect her.’

 


 

                Returning to Rin’s manor was a quick enough trip. Part of Rin worried that Zouken would lay a trap for her or something equally distasteful, but upon entering the decently-sized building, Rin was relieved to find that all was as she had left it. There was comfort in seeing her living room and warm-hued layout. Despite the lonely upbringing after her father’s death, Rin still found solace in this home that wasn’t home.

                ‘Whoa. I think this is my first time at your place, Tohsaka-san.’ Shirou marvelled at the western-influenced furniture and layout. Kirei hadn’t done away with everything that Rin’s father had held dear, fortunately.

                ‘We’ll be working in the basement, where most of my father’s belongings are. However, first, I need a bath. Please, make yourselves at home. The television works, and I have a record player as well.’

                Illya was already trying to find her favourite couch to sit on while Sakura, Rider, and Shirou looked about the place a little more thoroughly. Sakura seemed the most comfortable, naturally, pointing out a few things to Shirou she must have found interesting during her first visit.

                ‘What do you mean “the television works”?’ Shirou asked with a chuckle.

                ‘N-nothing. I just had difficulty with it at first, so…it’s…Nothing! It doesn’t matter!’ Rin stormed off with Saber close by, making her way to the washroom where she could bathe. Rin may have been a genius when it came to academics and magic, but electronics had always given her trouble for some reason. She had to read multiple books to learn her own cell phone, for goodness sake. It was a weakness she didn’t like anyone to know about.

                ‘Would it be a bother if I have a bath as well, Master? I wouldn’t mind using such a means to cleanse myself before the final battles ahead. It is ritualistic, is it not?’

                ‘Well, yes. I suppose you could say that.’ Rin admitted, shutting the door behind her and Saber. They had barely spoken since the night before, and once again, Rin wasn’t sure how to handle the young woman after their rather obscene act together.

                Saber began by running the water, feeling the temperature and then competently adding some soap. The sound of the water running and sight of steam rising calmed Rin as she looked into the mirror and undid her hair from the clips that held her twin tails in place.

                ‘Allow me, Master.’ Saber stepped in behind Rin, reaching around her front and undoing her shirt before lifting the piece of clothing up and over Rin’s head, causing her hair to become more dishevelled. Rin’s face coloured at the sudden exposure, but she found she wasn’t as shy as before. It felt more natural to be so vulnerable around Saber.           

                ‘Ah. Beautiful.’ Saber complimented, leaning down and kissing Rin’s collar affectionately. The contact sent chills through Rin’s whole body, and she shivered outwardly. ‘I may have been keeping my distance from you this morning, Master, and I apologize.’

                ‘I did notice…’ Rin admitted, feeling Saber’s hands take hold of her skirt and leggings just as she stripped them down as well.

                ‘I did it for selfish reasons, I’m afraid.’ Saber traced the curves of Rin’s sides, feeling the way her waist dipped inward before her hips drastically cut out in an ideal fashion. ‘I feared that I would not be able to hold back should we find ourselves alone once more. I dreamt of our intimate relations all night, and I find myself…distracted with thoughts of you too often this day.’

                ‘I can understand that.’ Rin turned and helped Saber with her white shirt, unbuttoning it until the piece hung open and revealed the pale skin beneath. Rin couldn’t believe how easily she was aroused by the sight of Saber’s body, and she willed herself down from the heightened sense of longing that threatened to consume her once more.

                ‘Perhaps this is a foolish idea. It would be rude of us to engage in any form of play while guests await you.’

                ‘We’re just taking a bath, Saber. That’s all.’ Rin told herself the same, over and over as she unfastened Saber’s skirt and allowed it to the floor, watching the girl step out of the thing so that only her black stockings and underwear remained.

                ‘I know that is the goal, but I fear my own desires may prevail yet.’ Saber pressed her body into Rin’s, stroking her arms softly and then kissing her neck with excessive gentility.

                ‘O-okay. I know what you mean now.’ Rin stepped back, removing the last of her clothes and stepping over to the bath so that she could stop the water from running. Saber soon joined her in her nakedness, and both women entered the generously sized tub, the warm water and bubbles welcoming them.

                ‘Oh…!’ Saber smiled, leaning back so that only her head was still exposed. ‘This is heavenly. It feels like so long since I took a real bath that I forgot the simple pleasure it provides!’

                ‘I know. Sometimes, I’ll light some candles, put on some mellow music, and just relax in here for as long as my body can handle it.’

                ‘That truly sounds like the pinnacle of indulgence.’

                ‘I’ll get you set up once we win the war, Saber.’ Rin felt her legs tangling with her servant’s, enjoying the contact being made. What she didn’t like was the face Saber made at the mention of the war being over. It was a reality that was rapidly approaching, and one Rin didn’t want to be distracted by just yet.

                Rin shifted and sprayed some soap into her hand, shuffling over to Saber while lathering the cleaning agent in front of her.

                ‘Sit up a bit for me, Saber.’

                ‘N-no. We shouldn’t.’

                ‘I’m only going to help you wash. It’s traditional.’

                ‘But Master…!’ Despite her objections, Saber eventually listened, allowing Rin to begin the process to the master’s pleasure. It was nice being able to explore every inch of her servant’s body. Saber’s arms, neck, chest, hips, stomach, legs, and even feet were at the tips of Rin’s fingers. Saber hummed in submission, her breaths slow and levelled in between voices of approval. Rin marvelled at the perfection before her, wondering how she had gotten so lucky.

                ‘There. How’s that?’

                ‘Glorious, Master.’

                ‘Good.’ Rin beamed, loving the sensation of Saber’s hidden muscles within her grasp. She wanted the moment to last forever. She wanted to keep feeling Saber’s skin oozing through her fingers. Rin bit at her lip, deciding it best to distract herself from the imaginative thoughts encircling her mind.

                ‘…Tell me more about your past, Saber.’

                ‘My past?’

                ‘Yes. I’m interested in what sort of upbringing the King of Britain had. The history books don’t say much save for the fact Merlin practically orchestrated your rise to the throne.’

                ‘Orchestrated would be a strong word, but I suppose it is not that far off.’ Saber paused for a moment, closing her eyes and leaning into Rin’s touch lovingly. ‘Hm. Let’s me think…As you are obviously aware, being born a female made my natural ascension to the throne difficult. You see, I am truly a princess, when all is said and done since my father was, indeed, Uther Pendragon. However, I was adopted by a knight within my father’s ranks, named Sir Ector, and raised by him until the promised day that a new king would be decided.’

                ‘Did Sir Ector…take care of you well?’

                ‘Oh, yes. He was very good to me. He had a son, Sir Kay, who eventually became one of my most loyal knights. He was as much a brother to me as any and, although stubborn to a near fault, is one of my most cherished memories.’

                ‘You had a brother? That’s interesting.’

                ‘Not related by blood, but yes.’

                ‘Did you fight or anything?’

                ‘Only with our practise swords. Kay would constantly make excuses for his losses, but I was always the victor regardless.’

                Rin almost swooned. So, even then, Saber’s prowess with a blade persisted.

                ‘I can’t believe I’m having a conversation with such a legend. It sort of takes me aback sometimes, you know?’

                ‘I wouldn’t, but I’ll try and imagine. Merlin had somewhat of a similar effect on me, I suppose.’

                ‘Amazing…’ Rin sighed, working Saber’s legs and toes thoroughly into the massage she provided. ‘Tell me something else. Something secret.’

                ‘A secret? Well…I don’t know.’

                Rin playfully pinched one of Saber’s nipples, making the king gasp loudly. Saber quickly covered her face, glaring at her master but seeming somewhat amused at the same time.

                ‘Don’t start a battle you cannot win.’

                ‘Come on. You can trust me.’

                Saber sighed, but nodded slowly, smiling in such a sincere and almost peaceful way.

                ‘Now that is true enough. Prepare yourself, then, Master, for this is a fairly bizarre chain of events. The details somewhat escape me, but there was a time that producing an heir was a focus as the king. It would be interesting to note that, as a woman, it was not proper for me, personally, to be the one to birth said heir.’

                ‘What…?’

                ‘It was a place in history. I understand it sounds ludicrous but that was the reality of my world. Thus, Merlin made it possible for me to act as a male sexually for a time in an attempt to possibly create an heir.’

                ‘O-oh, my God…’ Rin paused in the tub, her vision going blurry briefly. ‘Last night wasn’t your first time as…as a pseudo-male?’

                ‘No.’ Saber’s face reflected an image of pain for a brief moment, but she continued nonetheless. ‘To say I was troubled by the change would be barely scratching the surface. I was afraid and…I felt unnatural. My true sister, Morgan le Fay, took it upon herself to create the much sought-after heir, lulling me into an enchanted sleep in order to extract the sperm within me and artificially impregnate her womb. Due to the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy, a false human was born; that is, a homunculus. Her name was Mordred, and…well…you must know the rest, as I’m sure my failures from that point onward have been chronicled, more than less, accurately.’

                Rin knew Saber was holding her emotions in. What she had just revealed were the preliminaries to the darkest days of her life. Saber didn’t want to go on. The details regarding Mordred in textbooks were scarce, to say the least. Arthur as a man, as it was, rang false, let alone Mordred and various other key plot points. How skewed the legend had become, yet the tragic core elements remained, only amplified due to Rin’s investment in the main character of it all.

                ‘I’m sorry. That must have been…so horrible.’ Rin uttered sheepishly.

                ‘Don’t be. I wanted you to know. I am a failure as a king and as a father, no matter how alien Mordred was to me. She loved me; worshipped me even, yet I disregarded her as little more than tainted remains of what should have never been in the first place. I was destined to die alone, the battle at Badon Hill won and my existence as an emotionless, inhuman king over. It wasn’t long until I made a pact with the world, and that is how I became the unique heroic spirit before you.’

                ‘I see…’ Rin couldn’t find any other words. She doubted Saber had even told her everything, yet now Rin knew so very well why Saber wanted to wish for a redo at life. The moment she pulled the sword from the stone, her destiny was shaped only by sadness and pain. All Rin could do was hug the woman before her, the water splashing over the edges from the sudden movement. Tears lined Rin’s eyes, and she gripped as tightly as she could.

                ‘I’m so, so sorry…!’ Rin repeated.

                ‘I-it’s fine.’ Saber’s voice quivered. ‘To think…I would meet someone like you now. I can…only thank the heavens to be so fortunate. Your heart…is truly magnificent.’

                ‘I’m not. I-I’m really nothing compared to you.’

                ‘Do not sell yourself short, Master.’ Saber brought control back to her speech. She truly was a king.

                ‘…Okay. I’ll try.’

                ‘Thank-you. Now, allow me to return the favour. Please, turn and sit with your back facing me.’

                ‘You really don’t have to. We shouldn’t make everyone wait much longer.’

                ‘The day is still but an enfant. Allow me this one pleasure before you are taken away to decode the Gem Sword documents or…whatever…’

                ‘Did you just say “whatever”?’

                Saber smirked, shrugging.

                ‘You told me to try and be slightly less formal, so it seemed appropriate.’

                Rin giggled, honestly having no problem listening to the Saber’s earlier demand, soon sighing under the touch of her servant’s strong but focussed hands. It was easily the best bath Rin had ever had, despite the devastating truths about Saber’s past. The fact the guarded king had revealed so much still made Rin naïvely happy. Saber’s attention soon moved to Rin’s breasts, kneading them and pinching until they were covered in soap foam.

                ‘A-ah…’ Rin exhaled, her back pressed against Saber’s own modest chest.

                ‘Now, it is your turn, Rin-san.’

                ‘Anything I have to say can’t possibly compare to that story.’

                ‘Perhaps, in a sense, but knowing more about you and your past would be a boon for me, regardless. That being said, I would rather you not have gone through anything nearly as traumatic.’ Saber kissed Rin’s neck gently, her lips so soft and meaningful. ‘Please. Anything would do. If it’s not too painful, perhaps tell me about your parents, or school, or your future aspirations.’

                Rin thought about it, wondering what she had to divulge, really. Saber’s touch made her willing, but she wasn’t sure where to begin.

                ‘Well, my father was a very talented mage. He was incredibly smart and patient. I’ve always looked up to him. I…wish he was still here, honestly.’

                ‘Of course. Although I am aware that he was involved in the previous war, I have no memory of him whatsoever. I may have seen a picture of him downstairs, but what did he look like?’

                ‘My own memories are a little hazy, but he had the same hair colour as me with striking blue eyes. I’ll never forget those eyes as long as I live.’

                ‘Ah. Your eyes are one of my favourite features about you.’

                ‘O-oh…’ Rin tried not to blush or smile, but she failed miserably at both.

                ‘Go on.’ Saber’s hands lathered more soap into them before she began working Rin’s neck and shoulders.

                ‘Our family has deep ties with the development of the Fuyuki City Grail Wars. My name, essentially, is included amongst the founders of the mage network and development within this region. I’m particularly proud of that…even if it’s somewhat of a burden at times.’

                ‘I can imagine. What of your mother?’

                ‘Her…?’ Rin bit at her lip. ‘She was kind…but somewhat distant at the same time. I think…being married into the Tohsaka family caused her incredible strain. After the fourth war, she was mentally ill. I helped take care of her for a while, but then…she died. She just…wouldn’t wake up one day. She was terribly depressed and damaged.’

                ‘I’m sorry, Rin-san.’

                ‘There’s no reason for you to be sorry.’

                ‘Still…’

                ‘I worry about Sakura. I don’t want her to be in more pain. I don’t want a repeat of what happened to my mother or father. I can’t betray her like Kirei betrayed our family. I would do almost anything for her. I…you see…’

                ‘Yes…?’

                ‘Honestly,’ Rin sighed deeply, unsure if she should go on. ‘I “liked” Emiya-kun for a while before meeting you. I always pushed my feelings away because I knew how Sakura felt, but that’s the truth…and I’ve never said it out loud before.’

                ‘Hm.’ Saber replied sternly, obviously jealous. This made Rin happy, but she wondered if admitting such past affections was worth it. ‘I see. That is why you couldn’t kill him; nay, why you saved him.’

                ‘Partially. I also couldn’t allow him to die because of Sakura. That was the primary reason.’

                ‘I see.’

                Rin giggled, snuggling into Saber and feeling the water wrap around the two of them as a single mass.

                ‘You say “I see” when you’re irritated sometimes, did you know that?’

                ‘…No.’

                Rin reached behind herself and pushed her hands through Saber’s hair, tickling around her ears and tracing her collar. Saber shivered, and used the opportunity to rub Rin’s arched front.

                ‘It’s in the past, Saber, just as your relations.’

                ‘I suppose that’s true.’ Saber paused, shifting a bit in the tub and listening to the sporadic drips coming from the faucet. ‘We both have unfortunate circumstances in our family, but I can only thank such circumstances, to a degree, for bringing me here to you.’

                ‘That’s right.’ Rin had to agree. She didn’t want to dwell on her family further. She had to focus on the present now. She only had so much more time before the most critical part of the war.

                ‘Nonetheless, I must reclaim my confidence.’

                ‘What do you mean…?’

                Saber bit at Rin’s ear, encircling the inside with her tongue so that Rin’s groans escalated without her willing them to.

                ‘You find pleasure in that?’

                ‘O-obviously. You’ve become quite the aggressor…’ Rin whispered, looking back so she could kiss Saber deeply, their mouths opening wide and wet.

                ‘You have charmed me, it would seem.’ The servant replied, slipping her hand between Rin’s legs and massaging the final part left untouched until this moment. Rin’s body jerked, but she didn’t refuse Saber’s advances further. She couldn’t. She was too far gone. The bond she felt with Saber had only been strengthened. She truly felt invincible with this woman by her side. She would save Sakura. She would win the Grail War. She would value each and every minute with this amazing woman that had been king.

                A chill ran Rin’s spine, and she concluded it was merely the water cooling some.

                ‘I guess…’ Rin gasped, Saber’s fingers slowly entering her now, sliding within the girl’s body and stroking her anticipating innards. ‘I-I guess Sakura and the rest…can wait another five minutes…’

Chapter Text

               ‘Sorry for the wait, everyone.’ Rin’s hair was still damp, even with the quick blow dry she had done for herself and Saber. She decided to simply wear a t-shirt and loose sweatpants, despite her normally regal judgement. If she were to be attempting something as difficult as constructing the legendary Gem Sword, Rin wanted to be comfortable. Checking the large grandfather clock, it was clear that only about forty-five minutes had passed. It felt longer.

                ‘Oh, it’s fine.’ Shirou waved the imaginary inconvenience off. ‘Sakura and I were just checking out all the expensive china and furniture you have. I mean, there’s even a record player. This is a ridiculously Western-influenced place. Mine is way the opposite, so it’s all pretty interesting.’

                Sakura nodded, seeming a little tentative.

                ‘Did you two take a bath together?’ Illya asked suddenly, seated on Rin’s favourite chair and swinging her legs.

                ‘We helped one another bathe, yes.’ Rin tried to feign composure as best as possible. There was no use in denying anything when it was so obvious.

                ‘Heheh.’ The little girl seemed happy with the answer.

                ‘Time is of the essence, no?’ Saber interjected, beginning to make her way to the stairs that led to the basement.

                ‘Yes. Rider, do you and Saber mind keeping an eye out for any threats? We cannot be disturbed once the process begins. I have no idea how long it will take, but assume that we will be occupied for a few hours, at least.’

                Rider nodded slowly, moving to the window and brushing the blinds away to seemingly peer outside. How she did so was somewhat lost to Rin, and she wondered if the servant could see at all at times.

                ‘You want me to remain here, Master?’ Saber wasn’t delighted, and Rin couldn’t blame her.

                ‘Please. I need to focus.’ Rin sounded stern, but she exchanged a look with her servant that said more than words could in that moment. Saber appeared to understand, a small grin twitching at the corners of her mouth.

                ‘So be it.’

                ‘S-should I stay up here as well? I’m not sure I’ll be able to help.’ Sakura offered. Truth be told, Rin preferred that idea, but she wouldn’t be the one to make the final decision.

                ‘Hm. What do you think, Tohsaka-san? Is it going to be grueling work down there?’ Shirou asked. Rin couldn’t be sure whether or not he was brilliantly avoiding the obvious response or if he sincerely misunderstood the complexity of what they were about to attempt.

                ‘You…should probably stay up here, Sakura-san.’ Rin finally relayed, seeing the brief moment of hurt in Sakura’s eyes before she nodded with a small sound of agreement. ‘It’s not very big down in my basement, and Emiya-kun might have difficulty concentrating with his beautiful girlfriend present.’

                ‘Oh. Now that’s true.’ Shirou smiled at Sakura, causing her to blush and beam.

                ‘I-I see. Well, I will keep Rider and Saber company, then. Please let me know when you all need refreshments or snacks. I can at least do that much.’

                ‘Thanks. That’d be great.’ Shirou put his arm around Sakura for a moment before giving her a light squeeze. It was a somewhat awkward movement, but Rin could tell that he was being nothing but honest with the girl. He really did care about her. Rin was happy. She was also selfish and quite competitive, so she had to willfully dismiss any negative emotions that poked at her brain.

                ‘Let’s go.’

 


 

                Descending into her basement was an act of déjà vu for Rin. It wasn’t so long ago that she had been nearly hyperventilating at the thought of summoning a servant in order to enter the Holy Grail War and now, here she was, preparing to create a sword that had been a project left to her family by one of the most infamous mages ever to come into existence. Rin’s knowledge of Zelretch was limited, but she knew he commanded kaleidoscope magic, which enabled him to deconstruct dimensions, fundamentally. If the man’s weapon was anything like that sort of magic, Rin had confidence that her team would be in a better place to take out Zouken Matou.

                ‘What happened down here? Is this where you summoned Saber?’ Shirou must’ve seen the glyph that remained and the signs of a miniature earthquake that was caused from Saber’s sudden presence from another realm entirely.

                ‘Yes. I used this to do so.’ Rin extracted her Azoth Dagger from her garter, the weapon gleaming in the dimly lit room.

                ‘That’s an impressive looking dagger.’ Shirou took hold of the artifact. Even with all his inexperience, Rin could tell that he recognized not only the blade’s beauty, but the power it held within it.

                ‘This summoning circle is poorly drawn. How you summoned Saber is beyond me.’ Illya critiqued, observing the room with more curiosity than she likely wanted to reveal openly.

                ‘I suppose it was meant to be.’ Rin shrugged.

                ‘Or an anomaly of the greatest kind.’

                ‘What do you mean by that?’

                ‘I wonder…’ Illya giggled.

                Rin huffed, going to a small chest and lifting it with a great deal of effort onto the study desk. She uttered a single phrase under her breath, a latch coming loose and the chest opening under Rin’s guidance. Illya ran next to the master, her big, red eyes glowing at the sight within.

                ‘That’s a whole lot of jewelry.’ Shirou remarked.

                ‘Yes. And I’ll be transferring all of this condensed magic into that dagger.’

                Illya nodded with approval as Rin went to her father’s bookshelves and filtered through some files until she extracted a particularly old collection of parchments that had more than yellowed over the course of time. She plopped the pile down, a cloud of dust welcoming the new development. It didn’t take Rin much longer to locate the blueprints Zelretch had left and the notes her father had begun scribbling alongside the somewhat cryptic outlines.

                ‘Is this…another language?’ Shirou squinted.

                ‘It may as well be to you. These are written out mystic codes, mana formulas, and potential creative graphs for a tool that functions on a level beyond any form of scientific explanation. I’ve glanced through these pages a couple of times, but it was a project for another day, in my mind. I never imagined I would put some of my crude theories into practise today.’ Rin sighed, straightening out the primary sheets she intended to work with.

                ‘It sounds like you have an idea as to how to produce the sword.’ Illya grinned mischievously.

                ‘Not…really. I know I want to use my reinforced Azoth Dagger as the base for Emiya-kun to project through Archer’s arm, but beyond that…I’m missing pieces of the formula. Creating the original Gem Sword is nearly impossible in such a short amount of time, but even if we manage a tenth of its power through projection we’ll be in good shape.’

                ‘I don’t know about using Archer’s arm, first off. It’s unbelievably numb, and not exactly the most comfortable. I have my doubts about demanding much out of it.’

                ‘I know, Emiya-kun. I’ll be assisting you with that. I’ll help stabilize the mana circuits with a minor form of mana transference.’

                ‘O-oh, my!’ Illya gushed.

                ‘It’s nothing like that! L-like I said, it’s an improvised form that doesn’t require…anything more than physical contact.’ Rin’s face flushed, thinking about Saber and the mere idea of doing anything sexual with her sister’s lover. That dream was bad enough. Rin didn’t want to think about it further. She had to retain her focus.

                ‘Boo.’ Illya pouted.

                ‘In any case, the first step is to transfer my gems into the Azoth Dagger. It’s not particularly difficult, but there are many to infuse, so the process could be time consuming. Is there any way you can help, Illya-san?’

                ‘Of course.’ The little girl picked up one of the gems and easily integrated it into the dagger. Her command of magic was as incredible as ever. For Rin to work so hard for her competence while Illya was seemingly born with natural talent, Rin wondered about the fairness of life at times. That being said, Illya’s fate was far crueler than Rin’s, and the Tohsaka heir had to stay her bitter thought pattern in an effort for maturity’s sake.

                ‘I’ll just…go over these papers a bit.’ Shirou hummed, taking a seat in a small chair near the bookshelves and trying to figure out a language he couldn’t possibly comprehend. Still, his efforts were endearing.

                There were nearly two hundred gems to infuse, and a piece of Rin broke with every disappearance from her treasury. In the worst case scenario, at least, she would have a very powerful dagger, although managing its mana output could prove difficult. Still, watching a stockpile that was supposed to last well into her lifetime diminish within half an hour was heartbreaking. Rin would have to spend the better part of her adulthood re-creating what her lineage took pride in.

                ‘Are you actually kind of frugal, Tohsaka-san?’ Shirou asked once he saw that only a couple of gems remained and Rin had sealed the chest once more.

                ‘That’s irrelevant. Thank-you, Illya-san.’

                ‘Nooooo problem.’

                ‘Oh! What about this one?’ Shirou poked around his pant pocket for a moment and then withdrew the unique, red jewel on a chain that Rin had used to save him. Her eyes flickered at the sight of the precious heirloom, and something told her to leave it in the boy’s hands for reasons beyond her understanding. However, she was ever stubborn, and if Shirou Emiya belonged to her sister, Rin had no reason to give up the beautiful piece. In fact, she would rather Saber hold on to it, if she were to be perfectly honest with herself. Yes. She preferred that idea much more.

                As if reaching through water, Rin stretched her hand out and took hold of the dangling necklace, bringing it into her grasp and breathing sharply for a moment.

                ‘W-what…?’ Rin gasped, her chest heaving.

                ‘You okay?’ Shirou touched the girl’s shoulder, but she flinched it off and took a couple of steps back.

                ‘I-I’m fine. Fine. We don’t have time to dawdle. Let’s stabilize your mana circuits now, Emiya-kun.’

                ‘Okay. As long as you’re good. What do you need me to do?’

                ‘Take off your shirt.’ Rin thought she would get away with the demand without turning red, but she failed, as always. It was just completely different when a male was involved. She was so much more relaxed with Saber. She allowed her mind to wander to the image of her king of knight’s naked form, and it did little to slow Rin’s heart rate.

                ‘My shirt?’

                Illya catcalled in the background, but Rin simply nodded.

                ‘It’s easier to make the circulatory connection in a vulnerable state. That is, when you feel exposed and embarrassed.’

                ‘Hm. I guess that makes sense. Okay.’ Shirou unzipped the first layer of his upper wear, discarding the light jacket before pulling his long-sleeved shirt up and over his head, his defined form not exactly unappealing in its own way, to Rin’s annoyance.

                ‘Yep. This is a bit embarrassing.’ Shirou grinned sheepishly, although he didn’t seem too taken aback. ‘Now what?’

                ‘J-just hold on a second.’ Rin glanced to Illya, knowing the little pervert wouldn’t leave no matter what she said. Rin couldn’t risk being confrontational either, because her gut told her that Illya was the missing piece in her formula to create the Gem Sword. Kirei had said she was required as well.

                ‘Hmph. D-don’t stare.’ And Rin took off the light t-shirt she had thrown on after her bath. She used her arms to cover her bare breasts, the way she pressed against her chest forming alluring mounds that were difficult for even Shirou to dismiss entirely.

                ‘W-whoa…! Tohsaka-san…!’

                Rin bit at her lip, her cheeks burning but her resolve stronger than any of that. She would save Sakura. She would win the fifth Grail War proper. This was nothing. She stepped into Shirou’s space and placed one hand on his chest. He was hot. She could feel his mana circuits immediately. Was Rin having such an effect on him still? She was nothing compared to her sister physically, so she didn’t expect to cause such stimulus. It was a compliment, she supposed.

                ‘Please remove the seal, Illya-chan.’

                ‘With pleasure.’

                As the Einzbern child undid the red shroud, Rin knew Archer’s incredible power as a servant was oozing into her connection with Shirou immediately. The boy grunted in discomfort, but resisted the urge to do much more, likely feeling a sense of machismo in the presence of Rin and Illya. Rin did everything she could to link herself even more intimately with Shirou, closing her eyes until she could visibly see his circuits within her mind, his mana overflowing with foreign, untapped power that could drive any person insane; Shirou’s inexperience as a mage omitted.

                ‘Ghh…’ Shirou huffed again, his body quivering in a natural attempt to compensate.

                ‘You’re doing well. Focus.’ Rin soothed, injecting her own mana as delicately as she could without throwing off the balance being attempted between the similar forms of power. Her mind was filled with a brief touch of infinite knowledge regarding projection and manifestation, a blur of images that rejected her filtering through Rin’s brain. A fire. A sad, dark man. A promise. Death. Death. Death. Blood. Red. Gold. It was like a dream she had little control over, and regardless of her curiosity, Rin was forced to disengage the transference once she felt she had lent Shirou enough of her latent and developed force.

                Rin stepped back, her pulse beating in her temple and her hand trembling. Servants really were on an entirely different plain of existence. She knew this after her mana transfer ritual with Saber, but she was overly aroused and intimately invested, more capable of overlooking the wealth of difference between herself and Saber.

                A symbol took shape upon Shirou’s new limb, and he rubbed it tenderly, pain still clear in his eyes, but a touch of relief also passing over his face.

                ‘Thank-you, Tohsaka-san. That…really helped.’

                Rin kept her hands over her body, gingerly reaching for her shirt and sliding it on with as little movement as possible. Shirou, fortunately, had the decency to look away. It was likely that he saw pieces of Rin’s mind as well, but if the connection was as static as hers, she could safely assume Shirou got little out of it.

                ‘Not bad, Rin-chan.’ Illya giggled. ‘I guess it’s my turn now. Hope you enjoyed the mental trip, Onii-chan, because we’re not done yet.’

                ‘You have a plan?’ Rin asked hopefully.

                ‘Of course, but you have to either leave or stand in the corner, because this will require a lot more focus than what you just did.’

                ‘Do I have to do anything?’ Shirou asked, bags forming under his eyes.

                ‘Everything! But don’t worry, I’ll guide you.’ Illya took Shirou’s hand and pressed it against her chest, smiling devilishly at the boy’s flustered reaction. ‘Don’t worry! As you know, I’m a homunculus, and as such, I get knowledge passed on to me through my creation. Deep in the depths of my memory you should be able to find the Gem Sword, and thus, project it. Simple, right?’

                ‘Uh…’

                ‘Brilliant, Illya-san.’ Rin nodded, feeling confident suddenly.

                ‘Obviously. But, Onii-chan, it’s up to you to stay focussed and not get distracted by the other noise. I can help show you the way, but you must walk the path and take what you need in order to project and manifest a copy of the Gem Sword.’

                Shirou looked unsure, but he nodded regardless, cracking his neck and twisting his left shoulder slightly in preparation. Archer’s limb was likely still causing him some discomfort, but it was indispensable with what came next.

                ‘Good luck, Emiya-kun.’ Rin decided to say, noting the slight relief in the boy’s sombre eyes.

                ‘Thanks. I’ll do my best.’

                ‘Okay, Rin-chan. Go. Go.’

                Rin bit at the inside of her mouth angrily, but listened regardless, knowing her pride had no place in these preparations. She gave her Azoth Dagger to Shirou, gripping it for a second longer than necessary before relinquishing the precious blade to a boy that had caught her eye not that long ago. She still loved the family heirloom, perhaps in a very different way than before now that she knew what it had done. If the Gem Sword manifested through the Azoth Dagger as its base, Rin would have difficulty not using it to wipe out Kirei Kotomine. Saber would never approve of such savage behaviour, and Rin counted on the servant to act as a sheath for her fury when the time came.

                ‘Close your eyes, Onii-chan. Place your hand on my chest until you can feel my heart.’

                ‘Er…’ Shirou obviously hesitated, not a fan of molesting a girl that seemed much younger than him.

                ‘Oh, for Pete’s sake!’ Illya forced Shirou’s hand, adjusting it for a moment before it was evident that the right spot was found. Shirou immediately appeared to be in further agony, his neck tightening and his eyes fluctuating between focus and disconnect.

                ‘Now…release all your inhibitions. Give yourself up to me completely. Dream my dreams and live the past that brought us here. Go. Go. Go.’ Illya’s voice softened, and Rin felt as though she were witnessing a hypnotist at work. Shirou’s shoulders slouched, and his whole body relaxed, his legs giving out as both he and Illya collapsed to the floor, the little girl holding his hand still to her and a faint white aura with hints of red filtering around their bodies.

                 Illya continued to murmur things to Shirou, but Rin could no longer understand the words. She felt out of place in her own home suddenly, wondering if she really should have gone upstairs…where Saber was. Rin had been trying not to think about the young woman too much, and she had been, for the most part, successful, but now that the fruits of her labour were in place, she couldn’t divert her imagination much more. Her heart swelled, and her mind was filled with longing. She wanted to win the war, but she was fairly certain Saber still intended on using the Holy Grail to return to her past to fix all her perceived failures. The reality of that fact tore at Rin’s soul, and she couldn’t think of a viable solution. She had considered going with Saber, but it was too bizarre, and the repercussions to her existence in time could cause a chaos effect not worth tempting. That being said, having Saber remain with Rin in a world that was still so foreign to the king of knights wasn’t a fair expectation either.

                Rin grimaced, the joy she extracted from anything to do with Arturia Pendragon poisoned by the cruel, approaching end. She needed to distract herself.

                The aura encircling Illya and Shirou intensified, and Shirou’s whole body was now trembling under extreme strain. Archer’s arm was manipulating mana far beyond Shirou’s normal capacity, and Rin could see, by the fluctuating pulsation of her dagger, that something was happening. The Gem Sword could very well manifest at any moment.

                Illya’s words became more coherent, the stress in her intonation reverberating with Shirou’s pain. Rin felt bad for placing so much on the boy, but his and Archer’s projection power was all they had to rely on.

                The mana particles all about the room warped and collected into the Azoth Dagger in Shirou’s grip suddenly, veins protruding from his temple and sparks flying from where his mana circuits convulsed. It was now or never. Illya gripped Shirou’s hand upon her chest with all her might and said a part of a chant that Rin didn’t recognize, the effect forcing Shirou to scream with his mouth grit shut and an explosion of light to erupt where he and the Einzbern homunculus attempted what was thought to be an impossible task.

                When the light faded, Rin saw it; she saw her Azoth Dagger transformed. She knew, somehow, that a copy of the Gem Sword had been successfully created. Shirou had done it. The three of them had done it.

                ‘Oh, my God…’ Rin couldn’t help but marvel at the prism-esque formation of the blade. It hardly looked lethal aesthetically, but Rin could comprehend the power it held, even if it was hardly a quarter of what the original would be capable of. The Gem Sword of Zelretch was real.

                ‘Here…’ Shirou held the weapon out, practically dropping it into Rin’s shaking hands before collapsing into Illya’s lap, his laboured breaths a cause for concern.

                ‘Well done, Onii-chan.’ Illya pet Shirou’s burnt orange hair, showing her real age with the affection she held. ‘Well done.’

Chapter Text

                Rin cradled the Gem Sword in her hands as though it were the most delicate of artifacts. She could feel the power resonating from the weapon conflicting with her own mana circuits. Even at partial strength, this dimensional magic was on a whole other level. With the sword in her possession, Rin had little to fear. It was game-breaking, although she assumed its uses would be limited before it shattered. Thanks to her gems and the Azoth Dagger as a base, Rin knew it had more durability than most things Shirou could produce with Archer’s help, but that didn’t stop her from wanting to be careful with Zelretch’s weapon.

                ‘Onii-chan will need to rest for quite some time.’ Illya commented, still brushing Shirou’s hair in a strangely affectionate manner. Rin didn’t know the homunculus held such regard for the boy. How did Shirou draw so many unique individuals into his life?

                ‘How long do you estimate?’ Rin took the red shroud and knelt beside Shirou, placing her newly formed weapon upon her father’s old study table before beginning to encase Archer’s arm in the remedial holy cloth.

                ‘A few hours, more than likely. We can make our final move come night time, if you’d like. Zouken Matou, Assassin, and even the shadow will struggle against all of us and that sword.’ Illya made it sound overly simple.

                ‘What about you?’

                ‘I will fulfill my role once the shadow is destroyed and Onee-chan is safe. The Holy Grail War will be completed and all shall end as necessary.’

                ‘But…’

                ‘Don’t pretend to care about me, Rin-chan. It won’t help.’

                ‘I’m not pretending.’

                ‘…I know.’ Illya smiled distantly, never diverting her gaze from Shirou. ‘You’re a good girl. You are a good sister.’

                Rin swallowed, having finished Shirou’s containment.

‘You know…?’

                ‘How couldn’t I? It’s obvious enough with even the slightest pieces of information.’

                ‘Oh.’

                There was a quiet pause, and Rin took a moment to collect herself proper. She needed to transport Shirou to a bed so he could rest and be ready for the battles ahead. However, Illya suddenly started speaking again, her voice partially riled.

                ‘Do you think if I asked Onii-chan and Onee-chan to have sex with me they would?’

                ‘O-oh, my God, Illya-chan! Why would you – ?’

                ‘I’m joking.’ The girl smiled widely, her eyes glistening.

                No matter how much intellect Rin had, she couldn’t understand the mind of IIlyasviel von Einzbern. Her existence was on another plain altogether, not unlike the servants that fought against all odds for a single wish.

                ‘Come on. Let’s get Emiya-kun to bed.’

                ‘Of course. Heh.’

 


 

                Rin tried not to notice the stare she got from Sakura upon emerging from the basement with Shirou in tow, his shirtless form limp and his face drained of too much colour. She made it clear that rest would help him, but Sakura’s practised kindness felt painfully forced, and Rider quickly collected the boy from Rin’s grasp, relieving her mana circuits of their strength enhancing demands.

                ‘The second room on the right, please.’ Rin directed, seeing that Illya also followed the two other women to monitor Shirou’s recovery.

                Saber was already in the living room at the slightest hint of Rin’s emergence, and her wondering eyes found the Gem Sword Illya had left on the dining room table, its prism, crystal-like blade reflecting patches of rainbow luminescence all over the Tohsaka manor.

                ‘You have done it.’ Saber smiled proudly, taking Rin’s hand into both of hers and holding it affectionately.

                ‘Yes. It is very powerful; even for a blade that is barely a credible copy of the original.’

                ‘Unbelievable.’ Saber eyed the weapon one last time prior to focussing on Rin’s fatigued face. ‘I had little doubt you would succeed. You have made me proud once more, Master.’

                ‘I didn’t do that much. Without Illya-san, it would have been impossible.’

                ‘…Nonetheless, you had a hand in the crafting process, and thus, allow me to compliment you proper.’

                ‘Thank-you, Saber.’ Rin tried to sound happy, but her mind felt heavy, and her heart, for some reason, weighed even more.

                ‘Master…?’

                Saber’s touch hurt. Saber’s eyes hurt. Her beautiful blonde hair and smooth skin hurt. The memories hurt the most. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Rin bit down hard, shifting her gaze all about her manor. It would soon be empty again. It would be more than empty, because now Rin would, once again, long for a presence that no longer could be there.

                ‘Master…’ Saber cooed softly, stepping closer to Rin now and forcing her kingly visage into her master’s sight. ‘What is wrong? Was the process so taxing?’

                ‘N-no.’ Rin tried, but simply speaking threatened to break her. She pulled her hand away from Saber’s own, hating the emptiness of their touch. Why was it hitting her so hard suddenly? Perhaps because the Gem Sword shook the war in Rin’s favour that much. The end could be seen. The end…

                ‘Master. Please. Tell me that which is bothering you. I can feel your despair.’

                Rin breathed in deeply and held the air inside, practically stumbling into her couch and picturing the quiet her house would soon know.

                ‘I am sorry, Saber. I am not acting like myself.’

                ‘All of man acts as such when threatened by the sadness I see in your eyes. It is like a dagger to my chest, Master. What can I do to help? Victory is so close. I suspected more joy to accompany this occasion.’

                ‘…That’s it though, isn’t it?’ Rin managed, the sounds coming from her mouth shaking. ‘It’s almost over. You…and I…will be…’ Rin covered her face, her body convulsing with infrequent but intense spats. ‘I’m sorry. This is not fair of me.’

                Saber could only watch as Rin tried, with all her might, to collect herself. It was ever impressive how much willpower the young woman had. Saber heard her own breath exhale deeply.

                ‘I see…’ The king of knights could only offer.

                ‘I just…care about you…so much. The thought of you not being here…God. I’m ridiculous.’

                Saber couldn’t deny the pleasure she derived from the agony overcoming her master. It was sick of her, but to be so very loved by such a competent and stunning individual was almost difficult to comprehend. Saber understood Rin’s sentiments quite well, for she herself had to constantly combat the depression that consistently attempted to infiltrate her mind. Saber had more practice containing her feelings though, and Rin, for all her humanity, had done well up until this point as well.

                ‘I know not what to say, Master. I am here now; you see?’

                ‘Yes. Yes, you are.’

                ‘And once the battle is won, I shall be capable of retaining my form here for some time thereafter, so we shall visit my home country and I shall accompany you to school. There are still opportunities to be had.’

                ‘…I’m aware.’ Rin had settled herself. There was truth in what Saber was saying. Why torment herself over the future when the present was just that? ‘You’re absolutely right.’

                ‘…Still.’ Saber knelt beside her master, placing her hands on Rin’s exposed legs. She finally maintained eye contact with the younger girl, mesmerized by the ocean-blue irises as always. ‘You honour me with your affection. I have never known such honest and sincere commitment. I…I am so very blessed.’

                Rin closed her eyes for a moment once more, fighting back the tears with a fierce stubbornness. She then leaned in and kissed Saber, the meeting of their lips intense and holding little back. Saber’s voice slipped through her breaths, and she took hold of Rin’s sides, the loose shirt lifting up easily to expose the tempting curves beneath.

                ‘Ah…’ Rin sighed, parting from her servant and wiping her cheeks. ‘You’re a strong kisser these days, Saber.’

                ‘I blame your unparalleled appeal, Master.’

                Rin giggled in a small way and then adjusted her motives accordingly, considering her immediate instinct was to make love with Saber right there on the spot.

                ‘A-ahem. The plan is to move out tonight once Emiya-kun has the opportunity to recover. The targets are Zouken Matou, his servant, Assassin, and the shadow.’

                ‘…Understood.’ Saber nodded, her gaze narrowed in conjunction with the need to prepare for battle. ‘I am ready to do combat at a moment’s notice.’

                ‘Good. Use these final hours before night to rest. I’ll do the same. I don’t want any of us to move without being completely rejuvenated.’

                ‘Dinner time approaches as well. Shall we begin its planning?’ Saber inched toward the kitchen, her love of food evident considering she didn’t necessarily require it.

                ‘I think I want to order something. In the mean time,’ Rin glanced about the quiet living space one last time, taking in the sight of Saber within it. ‘Would you be interested in giving me another lesson on swordsmanship? Then, after dinner, we can watch that movie we rented before heading out.’

                Saber nodded alongside everything Rin said, stepping in very close to the master and opening her mouth for a moment before closing it and breathing out in slight exasperation.

                ‘I would truly enjoy such a chain of events, Rin-san.’

 


 

                Rin committed everything Saber taught her to memory as best as she could. She absorbed the woman’s touch and the breath on her neck when intimate direction was given. She watched closely as Saber thrust and swiped the practise swords around, and Rin even managed to take a quick video with her phone, shocked that it was so simple for her to figure out in desperation. Saber was the most gallant when holding a blade in her hand, and Rin tried to keep herself from swooning verbally. Rin had never really had an interest in swordplay before, but she could see herself getting into it with Saber as her instructor. How perfect that would be, for her and Saber to live together and train every so often in the evenings. They could go to the hot springs to help heal their muscles, and then they could fall asleep in the same bed and…

                ‘Master?’ Saber asked, noting Rin’s mental absence easily.

                ‘Ah! Oh. Sorry. Where were we?’

                Rin’s face burned, and she slapped her cheeks in frustration, knowing she was only setting herself up for disappointment and despair. Such fantasies…made no sense. She could only enjoy what she had in the moment. Value each and every second…no matter how forcefully they slipped through Rin’s gripping fingers.

 


 

                Dinner was had successfully, with a portion of the take-out food set aside for Shirou should he need it when he came around. Despite Rin’s efforts to welcome Sakura into any of the conversations that were had, she could feel an obvious shift in Sakura’s warmth toward anyone but Shirou. She smiled and was agreeable, as usual, but it was as though Rin and her sister had reverted back to the way they were prior to Rin making any meaningful advances in reconciling with Sakura. A wall had been erected once more, and as before, Rin couldn’t fathom scaling it immediately. The guilt was too much. The shame and embarrassment was overwhelming. Sakura didn’t need her. Sakura hated her, and she had every right to. Even though Rin had deliberately subdued her emotions for the sake of her sister, and even though Rin had saved Shirou as a master with Sakura in mind, so little progress had been made.

                Sakura ended up excusing herself from the table after she couldn’t bear to be away from her boyfriend any longer, Rider likely remaining as a sentinel during her absence since the silent woman was nowhere to be found.

                ‘How is Emiya-kun, Illya-san?’ Rin asked, just finishing with the last bit of her Chinese take-out. The much smaller girl contorted her face and shoved an entire chicken ball lathered in sweet and sour sauce into her mouth, the red substance oozing out of the right side of her lips.

                ‘Hm. Onii-chan is sound asleep. I was resting with him too, to be honest. When I woke up, Onee-chan was just staring at him creepily. Something’s wrong with that one, but I still like her. She reminds me of myself a little bit.’

                ‘How do you mean?’ Saber inquired further.

                Illya simply smiled, her front teeth perfectly crafted.

                ‘She’s empty inside.’

 


 

                Rin struggled briefly with her DVD player, not remembering how to change the television over to the correct output so that she could see or hear anything. She ended up contacting Kaede, gracefully dealing with the chastising that came alongside the humbling phone call but benefiting from the other girl’s much more tech-savvy capabilities. Once the main menu of “The First Knight” was displayed, Rin sighed in relief, taking a seat on the couch. It was just her and Saber once more, with Illya quite taken by Sakura and Shirou, it seemed. The lights were dimmed, and the television was left responsible for illuminating much of Rin’s first floor. It was another hint of what could be, and Rin did her best not to become bitter by her romanticised fantasies. 

                ‘What do you think Illya-san meant by what she said about Sakura?’

                Saber was temporarily stunned by the menu screen before her, images of knights and a Hollywood-style Camelot displayed in a collage of scenes.

                ‘Er…Perhaps the parallel can be drawn along the fact that both individuals are burdened with the potential to become the grail? That is, a cup waiting to be filled. I do not agree with the statement either way, really. Illya-san evidently has emotions and desires, while Sakura, mayhap more so, does as well.’

                ‘That’s what I thought too…’ Rin agreed, quickly grabbing the throw from behind her on the couch and fluffing it over herself and Saber.

                ‘Oh. This is pleasant.’ Saber edged in closer until she could feel Rin’s leg pressing up against her own.

                ‘I think so. Now, are you ready for a peek at what people thought your history was like?’

                ‘Y-yes. Let us bear witness to the imaginations responsible for this film.’

                ‘This particular movie was created in the West, so there will be subtitles, but you’d probably understand the English anyway, right?’

                ‘Indeed. The grail provides many benefits for those who fight in its name.’

                ‘I wouldn’t mind learning more English. I have the basics down, but I’m sure I still sound pretty silly.’

                ‘Rin Tohsaka speaking in a derivative of my native tongue? I doubt my heart could take it.’

                ‘Now I have to master it.’ Rin sighed teasingly.

                ‘Say something, would you?’

                ‘I-I’d rather not. It’s embarrassing.’

                ‘All the more reason to.’ Saber leaned in close, her nose practically touching Rin’s. The master’s heart sped up to the point that she could feel her chest throbbing. Her lips quivered, and she took a quick breath in, her eyes burning.

                “H-hello. How are you?

                ‘Oh!’ Saber gasped. ‘You have caught me off guard! Say more!’

                “Er…My name is Rin Tohsaka.

                ‘So it is!’ Saber’s face beamed. “How very clever you are, Rin Tohsaka.”

                ‘Um…I think I understood that.’

                ‘Alas, I will torment you no longer after one more exemplification of your talent. If you will…’

                Saber waited, and Rin diverted her eyes, her cheeks burning bright red as she hesitantly began speaking again.

                “I…l-love…you.” Rin’s intonation was a little off, primarily during the ending of her sentence, but it hardly mattered to Saber. She was stunned into silence, her expression that of shock and adoration.

                ‘My goodness…’ Saber breathed, backing away in order to compose herself. ‘You truly have enslaved me beyond the demands initially placed upon my soul through the grail.’

                ‘You humour me.’ Rin covered her cheeks, looking away once more. Saber would have none of it though. She turned her master’s face toward her own and stared deep into the other girl’s ocean-blue eyes, her lips practically brushing Rin’s own. Then, the king of knights spoke in the softest but sincerest form of the language Rin attempted to display.

                “And I love you, fair maiden. My love for thee stretches further than the most distant star, and remains just as mysterious that I should have discovered such love during the most bewildering of circumstance.

                Rin smiled, giggling a little bit and making a face of self-conscious effort.

                ‘I heard “love” a couple of times, so that’s good enough for me, I guess.’ She tried to joke, seeing that Saber also smiled before kissing her fully, their lips finding soothing familiarity that allowed for a manifestation of affection that could only occur when a deep level of trust has already been established. Rin didn’t think a kiss was supposed to hurt though. She didn’t think a kiss was supposed to tear at her heart.

                ‘Now, I suggest you begin the movie before I make a rather poor decision based on my carnal desires that may place us in a compromising position should one of your guests descend back to our level.’ Saber spoke quickly, an internal battle clearly happening in her mind.

                ‘Agreed.’ Rin nodded, finding the remote and managing to hit “play” despite the somewhat dim lighting in the room.

                Rin enjoyed listening to Saber nitpick at the various inconsistencies she found with “The First Knight”. Lancelot was much moodier, apparently, and Guinevere far more attractive. Camelot itself was foreign to Saber, and she eventually just resorted to clicking her tongue every time something didn’t line up properly. Still, Rin could tell her servant was enjoying the film quite a bit. She could see a glimmer in Arturia Pendragon’s emerald eyes that indicated a sort of longing that both excited and depressed Rin. It was the last thought the master had before somehow allowing herself to fall into a brief slumber, the feeling of Saber’s body breathing lulling her into a rest she didn’t think possible during the final days of the war.

Chapter Text

                A grudge is a difficult thing. Left unchecked, grudges are capable of two things: explosive destruction, or internally false therapy. Both results cause anguish; one just takes much longer to manifest. In order to prevent either tragedies from occurring, a form of closure is needed for reconciliation. The grudge will only grow more powerful by the day, and a remedy that could have worked earlier may only delay the inevitable pain.

 


 

                Sakura knew she had a problem. She held a grudge, and she held it tightly to her chest. It was one of the few things she owned anymore. Willingly given up as a child to be subjected to mental and sexual vandalism of the worst kind planted a seed within Sakura that had become the most corrupt of florae. She could feel the jagged vines full of thorns wrapping about her body and puncturing her skin. She knew she was sick. She also knew she could hide the monster within.

                Smile. Smile. Smile.

                Agree. Agree. Agree.

                Nod. Nod. Nod.

                Okay. Okay. Okay.

                It was too easy. People were such idiots. They didn’t see a girl that screamed in her own mind. They didn’t see the tears that stained her pillow. They didn’t see the blood she spat. They didn’t know how many bugs crawled under her skin and into her body.

                Yes. Yes. Yes.

                Smile. Smile. Smile.

                Laugh. Laugh. Laugh.

                It was harder when she was younger. Sakura was avoided as a child. She was too happy. Even when she got hurt or bullied, she smiled and claimed fault where there was none. Instructors were confused. Children could sense the nightmare hiding in a shadow. Zouken Matou sneered.

                Sakura had so much hate in her tiny body she didn’t know what to do with it. She could only direct her hate toward three individuals, primarily: Zouken Matou, naturally, for raping her mind and body, Tokiomi Tohsaka, for giving her up in the first place, and Rin Tohsaka, for not rescuing her and…

                Heh. Heh. Heh.

                Gasp. Gasp. Gasp.

                Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

                Sakura’s grudge grew within her like the leeches feeding on her mana. She distanced herself emotionally from everyone. She got better, as time went on, at blending in. She got better, as time went on, at playing a role. She was drowning in a river of black, but at least nobody knew any better. She couldn’t take the looks. She couldn’t take the pity. It just made everything worse. Sakura didn’t even know what she herself wanted anymore. She just had to smile. It was the only way to survive the next day.

                Then, she met Shirou Emiya. She looked at him from afar, and eventually, somehow, he began looking back. He didn’t look through her; he looked at Sakura. He looked at her soul, and although the tainted girl wanted to scream and run, she let him keep looking. It was as though she had applied a salve to a festering, pulsating wound. She had found her salvation, and through Shirou’s friendship, she could smile a little more convincingly.

                Eventually, a fondness for the boy developed into love, or something like love. Sakura wasn’t entirely sure she knew anything about the word, but she allowed her presumptions to persist based on the effect Shirou had on her body the moment she even thought of him. Sakura had inserted herself into Shirou’s life to the point that she frequently walked with him to school and even had breakfast with him and Fujimura-sensei on a regular basis. It was nearly blissful. It was a life Sakura didn’t think possible.

                “You know Tohsaka-san, right? She gave Shinji another lashing today. I hope your brother’s ego is okay. She’s something, I tell you.”

                “The school idol…”

                “That’s what some people say, yeah.”

                “Do you think…she’s pretty?”

                “Hm. I think – ”

                Sakura’s grudge only grew. Of course. Of course it would turn out this way. Her sister had taken everything else; why wouldn’t she take Shirou as well? It was so easy to hate her more and more. It was so easy to imagine the worst possible scenarios taking the perfect Rin Tohsaka’s life.

                But then the tears would come all over again. Sakura would cover her face and let the black seep through her fingers. Why did she keep putting the ribbon back in her hair? Why? Why? Why? Why couldn’t she hate her with all her heart and being? Why couldn’t Rin keep playing the game of pretend? Why did she have to invite Sakura in that day? Why did they have to pretend not to know one another? Why was it like this? What had Sakura done?

 

                There was a fourth person Sakura hated more than the other three combined…

 


 

                “Sakura…!?”

                “Shirou…”

                “W-we should go to sleep. It’s getting late, and…”

                “Do you love me?”

                “…I do.”

                “Then…”

                “W-what are you doing, Sakura?”

                “Look. Look at me. Look at what you do to me. I can’t wait anymore. I want you. I want you so terribly, Shirou. I need you inside me. I need to feel something.”

 


 

                Her mind was disconnecting itself. Sakura couldn’t tell anyone, but there were moments where she forgot where she was or what she was doing. Static. A dream. A nightmare. Her mind suffocated. It was full of every vice. Lust, envy, pride, sloth, greed, gluttony, and wrath. She was having trouble controlling herself. She practically forced Shirou to make love to her. She couldn’t look at Rin without a jealousy throttling her throat. She flaunted her boyfriend, practically forcing Rin to see what she could never have now. She did nothing about her damaged relations. She wanted more, and more, and more from Shirou. She consumed his selfless emotions, convincing herself it was love. And now…

                Now…

                Now…

                She had trouble smiling, because even now she couldn’t control her mind. She was sharing it. She had been sharing it for almost a week now. The blood wouldn’t wash away. The blood was part of her.

 


 

                The sun was now set. Sakura allowed time to slip away, the shades of Rin’s father’s room shifting alongside the frozen hued light. Illya had long since fallen into a deep slumber beside Shirou. She wasn’t a threat. If anything, Sakura felt as though she and Shirou were parents to the little girl. It was a nice feeling. Sakura leaned in over Shirou and brushed his bangs away from his face, kissing his forehead and loving the taste of his skin.

                ‘You’re my everything…’ She whispered.

                ‘Such weakness.’ A crackling voice splintered into Sakura’s mind. She winced and gripped at her head, her brain snapping and her face contorting in agony. Another fit. It was happening again. The other shade. No. Not the shade. The worst entity.

                As if rising from the darkness itself, a form of Zouken Matou stood now behind Sakura, placing one bony hand on her shoulder and fixing her in place. She couldn’t move. Her throat was broken. Nothing worked. She was paralyzed.

                ‘He will leave you. The selfless boy doesn’t need you as you need him.

                ‘H-he…loves…me.’ Sakura whimpered, the sounds coming out just barely.

                ‘No. You are much more aware of what kind of individual he is. He only cares about helping those in need. He cares not for you as you care for him. You know this as truth. You know he reluctantly has intercourse with you solely out of pity and a self-righteous need to help others.

                ‘No…! N-no…!’

                ‘You understand that he confessed to your sister days prior to accepting you, correct?

                ‘W-what…?’

                ‘You suspected as much. Now you know it to be the truth. Shirou Emiya has loved Rin for much longer than he could ever love you. Indeed, the boy’s passion is to fix broken things, no? Naturally, he would fixate upon that quality of yours and use it as a means to endure your tyrannical demands.

                ‘Lies…’ Sakura hissed, trying to recall a memory that didn’t support the creature’s claims.

                ‘Take as long as you need. Provide a convincing rebuttal and I will concede defeat.

                Sakura’s eyes darted back and forth, her thoughts failing her, and a white pain stabbing into her soul. Something was crawling within, and it wasn’t the familiar anxiety caused by the worms.

                ‘He…l-loves…’

                ‘He loves your sister, and your sister enjoys dominance over you. Why else would he jump at the chance to be with her? Where was he for half of the day today? She was required to transfer a portion of her power to him in order to tame his new arm. You are more than aware of how mana is transferred in the most efficient way, yes? You lewd girl. You filthy slut. You manipulative whore. Ignorance cannot save you this time. I will force you to see the truth. You’re a murderer. You’re a killer. You’re a…

                ‘S-stop…! No…! No…!’ Sakura felt another crack in her skull. Millions of hands grabbed at her body, pulling at her from every direction. Black hands. Red faces. Screaming. Dying. Begging.

                ‘Best be rid of them all. Best be rid of everything. This world has always rejected you. Why not push back with the strength you’ve restricted all along? Use your grudge. Use your agony. Use your pain. Use your vice.

                ‘Master…?’

                ‘Hmph. Naturally, a servant with such optical prowess would suspect something. But you are ready now. I can see it. Your eyes tell me the despair has taken hold. Yes. When there are so many cracks, it only takes the right point of contact to break such a sorry state.

                Sakura collapsed in her chair, stumbling onto the floor and quivering spastically as a darkness enveloped her. It was a shadow. It was the shadow. It never truly left her side. It was always with her. It was her.

                ‘Master…!’

                ‘Protect…him…’ Sakura mumbled, the black oozing from her mouth and taking over her body completely. The manor shook, and a mass of intangible power erupted, shattering the nearby window and destroying the wall next to Shirou and Illya, both stirring from their sleep. Rider immediately pursued her master, a flash of light shattering the darkness in the heavens and a bestial cry of majestic transcendence piercing through to the stars.

Chapter Text

               ‘A-ah…! Hah…Hah…! T-that’s good…!’ Rin’s voice squeaked, her hands gripping her backside and stretching it open as her body was pushed up against a familiar wall. She was naked. She could feel her insides filling with another person’s being, and it made her mind crazed. This intimacy. This contact. She knew now why some longed for it so. There was nothing like such a convergence of souls.

                A tug at her breasts made Rin gasp, her back arching naturally and the penetration reaching even deeper so that her nerves screamed in confusion. A shiver ran her spine, and Rin’s hips began moving again on their own. She relaxed her legs, intending to lay upon the soft bed beneath her, but what she found was another body; this one much more malleable than her own.

                It didn’t seem to matter.

                Rin kissed the other body, her lips wet and her lower groin sloshing almost unpleasantly.

                There was a click, and Rin suddenly wondered who she was making love to. A sense of panic and dread overtook her, and her heart leapt, the young woman’s head snapping back to see Shirou mounting her body, thrusting with characterized passion. Rin tried to command him to stop, but the boy only pushed her down where the other individual wrapped their arms around her and pressed in tight.

                ‘N-no…!’ Rin managed, but it was just a whisper. Her eyes full of water, Rin found Sakura’s face before her own, a dreadful and near-creepy smile welcoming her sister into the lewd threesome. Rin felt her body becoming more and more vandalized, Shirou’s form clawing further and further into her private depths.

                After minutes of paralyzed eroticism, Shirou finally stopped, and Rin prayed it was over only to witness Sakura cackling and experience a cold, burning sensation explode within her bowels. Rin howled as loud as the silent world would let her, and she was alone in a dark room with blood and ash. A shadow seeped from her lower body, and then the windows all shattered into millions of pieces.

 


 

                ‘Master…!’

                The hands on her shoulders, the forcing down, the agonized pressing. Rin shrugged off the touch and pushed away to the other side of the couch. It took her a moment to understand that she had come to from a very troubling nightmare. It was an escalated form of the last experience, although this one felt much more dreamlike in quality. Rin knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that her stimulated mind had created a horrific scenario based on her concerns. However, what did that say about the previous sexual deviation? Saber’s next words prevented Rin from humouring the notion any further.

                ‘There has been a disturbance upstairs. I fear it may involve your sister.’

                Rin rubbed her eyes and blinked, gathering her thoughts and looking up at Saber, her chest almost crumbling at the sight of the beautiful, blonde woman.

                ‘Let’s go – ’ Rin began, but Shirou’s presence sounded as he barrelled down the stairs, his shirt still discarded and his covered arm gripped with obvious discomfort. Illya wasn’t far behind the boy, her expression solemn, which never meant anything good.

                ‘Sakura’s gone. She’s…’

                Rin had almost never seen Shirou display so much outward panic. His face looked as though it had aged ten years, and his breaths came out in rasps of desperation. He knew something was very wrong. He knew the instability that Sakura battled for days now. It was only a matter of time. He had likely been hoping to finish the war before whatever had begun to destroy his girlfriend completely manifested.

                ‘Damn it…’ Rin cursed, knowing she was partially to blame. She should’ve had her sister under better surveillance. Illya should have been enough, but that was no excuse. Sakura was in danger now, and action had to be taken immediately.

                ‘We have to find her. Rider must’ve followed her, but without Archer, how can we know where they went?’ Shirou went on, his panic becoming clearer by the minute.

                ‘Be calm, Emiya-kun. We will locate Sakura-san.’ Saber tried, but she knew Rin was panicking, sorting through every possibility that could help identify where her sister could have gone.

                ‘But…!’

                ‘Please be quiet, everyone.’ Illya’s tiny voice hushed any other from interrupting. ‘The war is coming to a close, and with its conclusion comes the appearance of the grail. Onee-chan will naturally go to the most fitting place to harness the incredible power growing within her, right? What does that mean?’

                Rin’s eyes shifted and she looked up, noting the grating mischievous smile on the Einzbern girl’s lips.

                ‘Mount Enzo…’ Rin uttered.

                ‘Uh-huh. The Chamber of the Greater Holy Grail. It is one of the main reasons Fuyuki City is used for these particular wars. I would assume that’s where you’ll find Onee-chan.’

                ‘Do you know how to get there, Tohsaka-san?’ Shirou asked quickly, practically pacing on the spot.

                ‘…I do.’ Rin managed, trying not to recall the vivid dream she had just endured when Shirou looked at her so intently.

                ‘Then there isn’t a moment to lose. Lead the way, Master.’ Saber claimed, her resolve strong and anxiety toward the end of her war likely escalating. Rin didn’t have time to consider the consequences of finishing the battles ahead. She had to save Sakura first. There wasn’t a moment to devote to being selfish anymore.

                ‘Yes. Emiya-kun and I will quickly change and then we go.’ Rin took hold of the beautiful Gem Sword and proceeded upstairs. As far as she knew, it could very well be the last time she saw her bedroom. She was well aware that this was the final battle she would be entering. With Zouken Matou, Assassin, and that shadow monster likely to be present, Rin had to place her faith in her newly acquired trump card and her powerful servant.

 


 

                There was something ridiculous about taking a taxi to the foot of Mount Enzo. Rin, Shirou, Saber, and Illya were about to engage in a battle of supernatural proportions, yet the chariot that was most capable of transporting them all was that of the most basic nature. Once the engine from the yellow vehicle could be heard no more, Rin let out a deep sigh, her mana circuits already responding to the massive outpour of energy seeping from deep within the mountain. She had decided to wear the most comfortable outfit (both physically and mentally) in her closet; that is, her red, thin turtleneck sweater and black skirt with thigh-highs. She needed to have mobility, and thankfully, the night wasn’t cool enough to necessarily demand a jacket.

                ‘This is where we part for now.’ Illya said suddenly, her nonchalant proclamation taking everyone by surprise.

                ‘Where could you possibly be going?’ Rin asked, hating to admit that she preferred the little girl to be with them. She had an air of invincibility and infinite knowledge that Rin had begun to appreciate having around. Entering such unknown danger would only be that much more stressful without the benefit of the Einzbern homunculus.

                ‘With the war coming to a close, there’s something I need to prepare. We’ll see each other again; don’t worry.’

                Rin knew there was no arguing with this decision. Illya was already making her way out of the area.

                ‘Illya-chan.’ Shirou’s voice still sounded on edge. ‘Be careful.’

                The white-haired child turned and smiled wide, her expression hiding the burden she had carried for so long.

                ‘Of course, Onii-chan. What would you do without me?’ And she was gone.

                Saber stepped forward, her armour embracing her within the golden light. She was ever majestic no matter how many times Rin witnessed the dawning of protection.

                ‘This is undoubtedly the place we need to be. The malice resonating from the cave could only belong to that shadow and evil man. We must steel our minds and prepare for a trying battle.’

                ‘Agreed. When I start unleashing the Gem Sword’s dimensional magic, please stay clear, both of you. I doubt I will be able to use it overly often, since simply having the blade in my possession causes some discomfort, so I will be relying on both of you for support.’

                ‘Guess us mages weren’t meant to have this kind of power…’ Shirou rubbed his left arm, the red shroud reminding Rin of the strangely familiar Archer.

                ‘If we find Sakura-san, Emiya-kun, it is your job to protect her so that Saber and I can clean up.’ Rin could see she was barely keeping Shirou’s attention now. For the normally righteous individual to be so hasty to enter a fight, he must be concerned about Sakura. So long as he didn’t do anything overly foolish, Shirou could hopefully be relied on.

                ‘Okay.’ The boy replied simply.

                ‘Come what may, the fifth Holy Grail War will end tonight. Let’s all survive this.’ Rin exhaled sharply, taking one last look at Saber who returned her gaze with a small nod.

                ‘I will protect you, Master. Do not worry.’

                ‘Thank-you, Saber.’

 


 

                Rin thought the outside of Mount Enzo was affecting her mana circuits, but the moment she and her group stepped down and into the incredible mountain she could feel the pressure as though gravity had been increased twofold. Something amazing was taking place deep in the gouged natural construct, and Rin knew she was nervous as her heart hammered rapidly within her chest.

                A touch to her shoulder assured her that she wasn’t alone, and Saber’s golden blade soon took form, the king of knights clearly wanting to be ready for what came.

                ‘This sensation…is not completely foreign to me. The grail, at some level, is being born. What shape it will take, I know not, but best be ready for any form of assault.’

                ‘Okay…’ Rin muttered, irritated by Shirou’s pace. ‘Slow down, Emiya-kun. We don’t know what’s ahead.’

                ‘Sakura’s ahead, isn’t she? That’s all that matters. I need to save her.’

                ‘Which you cannot do if you are killed trying to get to her.’

                ‘She needs me. I can hear her voice.’

                ‘What…?’ Rin heard nothing, and she began to wonder about her companion. Was he losing it too?

                The more the group traversed within the cave, the more an unnatural, reddish-pink hued light mixed with black smog illuminated the granite structure that sheltered the path. Rin’s circuits screamed in strain, and she gripped at the Gem Sword within the sheath slung about her hips for support. Claustrophobia was nearly beginning to settle in when the cave finally opened up to a much larger chamber, the magic all around a thick blanket of warmth and discomfort at once. There was something painfully tragic about whatever was being created even further in. Rin could feel it in her very soul, and she assumed Shirou could as well, for even his pace slowed until he came to a stop.

                ‘No…’ He uttered under his breath. It took Rin a moment, but she soon understood what had alerted her classmate.

                At the end of the large cavern, where another opening presumably led to the final, most elaborate part of the mountain’s depth, stood Assassin and Rider. Rider’s presence alone wouldn’t have been too problematic, but Assassin’s added a flurry of circumstantial evidence that brought more bad news than good.

                ‘Where’s Sakura?’ Shirou took a few steps forward, his voice echoing within the confines of the bizarrely coloured cave.

                Both servants weren’t ones for conversation, and Rin was more than aware of this. What she observed, upon closer inspection, however, disturbed her even further. While Rider appeared normal enough, Assassin was oozing the same black malevolence that Berserker had under the influence of the shadow, although Assassin’s condition seemed much tamer by comparison. Was he actually utilizing the benefits of the shadow’s stat boosts without the side effects of lunacy somehow? It didn’t matter, truly. What mattered was how to overcome this sudden obstacle. Clearly Kirei Kotomine hadn’t been successful at killing Assassin. Rin harboured mixed feelings regarding the assumptions she made in that regard.

                ‘They’re guarding Sakura-san. Beyond them we will find her…and likely Zouken Matou as well.’

                ‘This would be the proper strategy for our enemy.’ Saber entered the middle of the cavern, taking form with her sword, Excalibur, and displaying her bravery for all to see once more. ‘Yet it shall remain an act of futility.’

                 Rin considered simply using the Gem Sword, but if she could only bring forth its power once, she wanted to save it for Zouken at all costs. His seeming immortality would finally kneel to the dimensional magic mastered by Zelretch.

                ‘When the opening presents itself, Master, you and Emiya-kun best proceed to the final room where your sister awaits.’ Saber projected to Rin, who understood the strategy, but hated what it meant. She would have to leave Saber to do battle against incredible odds once again. It wasn’t her first choice, but it made the most sense. Saber could likely deal with Rider and Assassin at her current level, but the variable of the shadow’s influence concerned Rin. She could only trust her servant’s ability.

                ‘Fine. But you better come back to me or I won’t be pleased.’

                ‘Far be it for me to upset my master.’

                Rin grinned, stepping in next to Shirou and taking his shoulder to prevent his inevitable outburst.

                ‘Saber will give us a path to Sakura-san. Be patient and wait for it.’

                Shirou breathed out slowly, using all the willpower within him to be reasonable.

                ‘Yeah. Okay. That makes sense.’

                ‘Good. We will save Sakura-san. Trust me; I want to help her as much as you do.’

                Shirou’s eyes glanced at Rin questioningly for a moment, but then he simply nodded, his mouth tight.

                ‘Although the loyalty you display for your master is admirable, I must recommend that you lay down your weapon, Rider. This will not end well for you should we do battle.’

                Rider simply drew her chained knives, the clinking of the metal against the floor eerie as she begun to sway slightly, almost seductively.

                ‘Then you have been warned. Have at thee!’ Saber exploded from her spot, the sudden burst of speed and force never failing to amaze Rin. Rider met with Saber, but immediately slipped away from the zone of combat, her mobility proving ever the asset to the otherwise unimpressive servant class. Meanwhile, Rin observed with horror as Assassin disappeared into the shadows, his natural abilities coming into play and making Rin wonder why he hadn’t simply begun the confrontation in hiding. Perhaps it was too taxing on his master? That didn’t seem likely.

                Nonetheless, Rin knew that Assassin’s strategy could proceed in one of two ways: take out the masters, namely Rin herself as Saber’s master, or use Rider as a sound distraction in order to stealth-kill Saber.

                ‘Assassin has taken to hiding. Be aware, Saber.’ Rin informed her servant, not expecting a reply considering the aggression Saber was forcing upon Rider. The violet-haired woman had already endured more than a couple of well placed slashes from Saber’s blade, and blood could be seen seeping through the injuries, her skin-tight black dress becoming even more revealing by the second. Saber was constantly forced into the offensive, with Rider cleverly avoiding close quarter confrontations as diligently as possible and reacting efficiently rather than starting any exchange. Was the goal to tire Saber?

                ‘Emiya-kun, it is possible Assassin will come after us. Prepare a weapon, if you would, while we edge along the perimeter. Saber will adjust the battle as best she can for us.’

                Shirou instantly projected one of Archer’s swords in his right hand, hesitant, evidently, to use the late servant’s arm considering the toll it took on his body.

                ‘Let’s move. Sakura’s waiting.’

                Did he sense it as well? Rin didn’t doubt the possibility. The mana influence within Mount Enzo was only escalating. The pressure all around would just get worse as the grail neared completion. It was as though Rin was being plunged deeper and deeper into water, her ears popping and her breaths coming in shorter bursts.

                Rin chanced a glance at Saber’s battle, seeing that Rider likely had moments before being finished, as she began to navigate the outer rim of the cavern, keeping her back against the wall and glancing every which way to avoid a surprise attack. Shirou kept pace, and even sort of rushed Rin without meaning to, surely, since his foot nudged hers more than a couple of times within steps.

                Rin felt it before she saw it, however, as a sharp pain dug deep into her right collar. Shirou reacted far quicker than Rin would ever give him credit for, quickly slashing at other projectiles and shoving Rin down, the boy grunting in discomfort as he took a dirk to his arm as well. Assassin crawled along the top of the wall like a spider, more dirks flying from his grotesque hands as he circled, waiting for the perfect time to crush his prey. Shirou managed to defend himself and Rin, but using one arm proved inefficient, and he sustained more injuries as a result.

                Rin bit at her lip, filtering through the options available and praying she could make the right call. If she didn’t use the Gem Sword now, then what were the chances she would survive long enough to confront Zouken?

                ‘Go!’ Shirou commanded, ripping the red shroud off of his arm savagely and lifting the exposed arm up, the limb shaking and sparking with projection magic. ‘Save Sakura!’

                ‘Emiya-kun…!’

                Assassin launched more dirks, but this time, Shirou had created two fully realized swords, and he easily deflected the minor distraction. The foreign mana poured into his natural circuits, and Shirou winced in pain, but his resolve was strong, and as long as Sakura was saved, he would be content.

                ‘Please!’ Shirou begged, dashing toward Assassin but simply swiping at air as the stealthy servant slipped away, avoiding close combat even with a regular magus until the perfect opportunity presented itself.

                Rin knew there was no room for hesitation. She had to make use of the opportunity being presented to her and not look back. She boosted her mobility with her redirected mana and dashed around the cavern, keeping track of Assassin and Rider’s movements all the while in case one of them decided to pursue her. Fortunately, Saber had Rider on the run, and as Rin neared the exit that would hopefully lead her to Sakura, she observed that Saber kept her back to her, as if reassuring her master that none would pass.

                ‘Be careful, Saber…’ Rin projected, static interfering with the telepathic means of communicating with her servant. It could only be the grail, and Rin’s heart sunk at the thought of confronting such an entity on her own. She prayed the Gem Sword would be enough to ward off any further threats.

                ‘I pray for your safety as well, Mas –

                Saber’s thoughts were abruptly cut off, a grotesque sound of metal puncturing skin echoing within the open part of the cave. Frightened it was Saber being injured, Rin stopped and diverted her attention only to find Rider with one of her own blades stabbed into her neck, blood spraying from the self-inflicted wound.

                ‘Go, Master! This must be a Noble Phantasm!’

                Rin’s legs became lead, and she wanted to stay with her servant no matter what. A Noble Phantasm could be a game changer for any duel, no matter what the power differences were between the base stats of the combatants. If Rin used the Gem Sword, she could end Rider right here and save Saber.

                But then…what of Sakura?

                ‘Go…!’ Saber urged once more, her voice buzzing in and out of Rin’s mind, but the desperation obvious enough. Rin understood that she would only be a nuisance in the presence of such power, and thus, reluctantly, she left her comrades to their individual struggles, placing faith in both of their abilities. It tore at Rin’s soul, but she knew she would regret it even more so if she didn’t save Sakura and all of this was for naught.

Chapter Text

                A beast cried and then the whole mountain shook as Rin traversed a narrow alcove all on her own, only the eerie, mana illuminated, magenta-hued walls to guide her. She chewed on her lip, begging whatever higher power that would listen to protect Saber…and even Shirou. The Noble Phantasm Rider had just released was enough to stir the very earth itself, and although Rin had the utmost of faith in Saber’s power, a Noble Phantasm was the last thing a servant wanted to underestimate; Lancer being a prime example of this. Perhaps he wasn’t outstanding statistic-wise when compared to the more powerful classes, but his Noble Phantasm was deadly when used properly, such as against Gilgamesh, a seeming tower of fortitude.

                ‘Please be okay.’ Rin said aloud. It didn’t help as much as she thought it would.

                The opening deeper within the mountain hardly appeared inviting. A toxic-looking mist seethed from the rims of the entrance, and Rin gripped onto the Gem Sword tightly, feeling its ancient and top-tier magic flowing into her circuits. It was immediately conflicting with her capabilities, the true form of magic like nothing Rin had ever experienced before. She knew she would be able to use the Gem Sword, but the side effects of wielding such power concerned Rin.

                Rin snuck in close to the opening before her, peeking around the edge only to see a scene straight from the most grotesque of nightmares. The chamber of the Greater Holy Grail was enormous and painted red with black masses of shadows seemingly part of the structural make-up. A titan of some form of organ had been erected deep within the pool of fleshy substance, its sheer size measuring almost as high as an apartment building. The mass pulsated and oozed, it’s uncanny life emitting a notion of power that could barely be comprehended. At the tip of the monstrosity, the material appeared to split and open, as if a mouth or multi-clawed beast reaching toward a condensed black ball of pure energy that, even from such a distance, Rin could tell contained so much influence over all matter that getting closer would only cause her further anxiety and discomfort.

                Was this the Black Grail? Was this what Sakura would become a part of? It was hideous. It was nothing like Rin had imagined. She didn’t expect to see an actual cup, but she also wasn’t predicting to witness a scene from hell. 

                Rin pushed her back against the side of the cavern, trying to control her breaths as her heart hammered and her lungs tightened. Everything in her told Rin to run and run far. This was something a mere magus of her calibre should not even think of confronting on her own. If she waited, Saber could be back at her side within moments. It wasn’t worth rushing.

                No.

                She wouldn’t retreat. Her father wouldn’t be a coward. Saber absolutely wouldn’t back down from a challenge. Even Shirou rose to the occasion against impossible odds. Rin was better than that. She cursed herself for even considering the option.

                Rin peeked around the corner once more and surveyed the area more thoroughly now that she wasn’t awestruck by the revolting tower of tainted flesh. Although it was hard to make out, she did see two figures standing somewhat near what she could only assume to be the final stages of the Black Grail. Rin moved the mana trembling in her body to her eyes, and made out a hunched form that was unmistakably Zouken Matou. The other figure, however, stumped Rin for a moment longer before she understood that it couldn’t be anyone other than her sister, Sakura. Rin covered her mouth in shock, however, at the sight of her. Sakura’s hair had turned dead-white, it’s colour contrasting sharply with the bizarre black dress-like substance she wore, lined with the same red, pulsating circuits that seemed to resonate within the entirety of the chamber.

                Sakura had been overtaken completely. She had been doing battle with a false grail’s creation for too long and had finally broke. Rin hated that it was always her sister. Sakura had done nothing to deserve such a merciless fate. Rin thought she herself was burdened by the Tohsaka name, but at least she was allowed to keep her birthright. Sakura, by comparison, had it much worse, and it was about time for Rin to shirk any sense of apprehension and pride. She needed to save Sakura, and with the Gem Sword in hand, Rin felt she had a chance. She couldn’t rely on Saber forever. No. Saber wouldn’t be with her forever…

                Rin took a second to gather her thoughts and mana, noting the stress her body repelled her with for forcing it into a situation all the instincts within her vied against. Without another thought, Rin stepped out and into the chamber, gripping the Gem Sword tight and walking with an unfaltering sense of purpose. The ground itself felt different in this part of the mountain, everything within the grail’s touch at this point alive and flowing with incredible energy.

                Sakura and Zouken both turned away from the lofty, black mass almost simultaneously, the elderly man chuckling deeply at first and then cackling to the point of sounding as though he would have some sort of spasm should he go on. Sakura, on the other hand, simply stared, her expression too far away for Rin to make out what her sister said without words. Rin could only imagine. It would all come to the forefront of reality now.

                ‘That’s as far as you go, little girl.’ Zouken commanded.

                Rin felt the power of the Gem Sword pushing against her nerves. It was ready. It would tear through everything, including Rin, if she allowed it. Ignoring Zouken’s words, Rin persisted, stepping forward as though sinking deeper into the ocean. Her body was heavy, but her mind was clear. The pain wouldn’t stop her. The fear would have to wait.

                ‘Enough.’ Sakura’s single utterance caused massive shadows to erupt from the ground. More than four black, omamori-like beings stretched high into the ceiling, their flimsy, oversized arms whipping about their sides as if waiting for the command to crush Rin where she stood. Only a randomized number of light purple, glowing orbs upon the upper parts of the unnerving creatures gave any indication of facial presence.

                Rin finally stopped, her aquamarine eyes glancing from side to side.

                ‘I’ve come to save you, Sakura-san.’ She spoke finally, projecting her voice as much as possible.

                Zouken chuckled obnoxiously once more, while Sakura’s face may have shifted slightly, but Rin couldn’t be certain.

                ‘Save me…?’ The voice that escaped Sakura’s lips was completely different. It was more of a hiss laced with venomous implication. She was dangerous. Rin knew she had become incredibly dangerous in such a short amount of time. While this realization took Rin aback, she had steeled herself before committing to this confrontation, prepared for any number of scenarios. Regardless, Rin couldn’t shake the hurt that coursed through her, prickling her skin.

                ‘Yes. That’s why I’m here.’

                A pause, only Zoken’s muffled amusement and the bubbling of toxic growth breaking the silence.

                ‘You’re not here to save me.’ Sakura muttered, her red eyes cold and uncaring while her lip upturned in disgust and irritation. ‘As always, you’re here for yourself and yourself alone, Rin Tohsaka. You desire the grail? Then take it from me as you’ve taken everything else without a hint of remorse. Although, I will promise, I will not back down this time.’

                Sakura waved her hand with the smallest of motions, the very space of reality morphing within its movement. The shadow creatures began their assault, all of them projecting their arms at once, the sound of a whip cracking signalling the brutally fast attack. Rin had already manipulated her magic to her legs, launching into evasive manoeuvres and immediately switching into countering the anticipated pre-emptive. She felt the power of the Gem Sword itching into her, and Rin managed to make progress toward Zouken and Sakura, the shadows, while tenacious, fairly predictable in their movements.

                Just a little closer. Just a little closer and she would unleash the Gem Sword on Zouken Matou, freeing Sakura from his curse.

                Rin closed the gap between herself and her goal even more, and just as she readied her blade, Zouken’s beady eyes seemingly analyzing her threat level with skepticism, two more shadow monsters burst from the floor, their arms slapping Rin back with more than enough force to knock the air completely out of her and possibly bruise some of her innards.

                Rin toppled to the ground, its sharp edges and rough surface dishevelling her clothes as she redirected some of her magic to prepare for minor first aid. Six shadows now closed in on Rin, and she knew there was no more time to hesitate.

                ‘Please work…’

                Rin swung the Gem Sword with all the energy she had, the ancient magic tearing at her muscles and mana circuits prior to forming within the tip of the sword, temporarily causing it to shimmer in a myriad of colours and explode with dimensional magic, the beam of light so dense and so powerful that a deep, almost otherworldly sound shook everything within its reach. The magic produced by a mere copy of the Gem Sword was enough to rip apart anything it touched, 3/6 of the shadow monsters sliced nearly in half and no longer a threat.

                ‘Incredible...!’ Rin breathed, recognizing the toll the sword’s use had on her body but suddenly gaining back her confidence. She steadied her aim and adjusted her position, quickly evading more brutal attacks before slashing once more, her shirt’s sleeve ripping apart and her skin literally scrapping off as the Gem Sword’s recoil threatened to destroy her on top of the three remaining shadows that toppled apart, their paper-like make-up crumbling back into the pit of raw mana and filth from whence they came.

                Rin controlled her breathing, the pressure all around her still weighing her down alongside the exhaustion produced from utilizing the Gem Sword. The good news was that Rin suspected she still had one or two uses out of the weapon. Zouken Matou would fall.

                ‘You little vixen; you actually produced such a relic? What trickery did you aspire to enact to perform such a feat a millennium beyond your time?’ Zouken’s tone had lost all humour, his bent over form and cracking face morbidly curious, but ultimately thrown. All the hardship was worth it to at least see such an expression upon the decrepit old lunatic.

                ‘I hardly feel compelled to answer that question, Zouken Matou. All you need to know is that this is the sword that will sever all your ties with Sakura-san. Your venomous presence will no longer bind her to your will. As I stated in the very beginning, I will save my sister!’

                Sakura blinked, her face flinching just barely. Rin wondered if she perhaps imagined it even. Now that Rin had gotten closer, she could see that Sakura almost seemed to wear the shadow as a dress, the hem of the bizarre garment reaching out and splitting into multiple tendrils, twisting as though alive.

                ‘Arrogant child! You dare speak to me in such a manner when I hold the grail within my grasp? I have worked far too long and have been painstakingly patient for this moment. A trinket will hardly change the course this world has been set upon – ’

                ‘You are wrong, Rin-san.’ Sakura spoke up once more, her whisper somehow reaching all throughout the chamber as if she were a part of the very infrastructure itself.

                ‘Do not listen to her, child. She is nothing – ’

                ‘I no longer need anybody.’ Sakura went on, overlapping her “grandfather”.

                ‘What are you say – ?’

                ‘Why would I need anybody…when I am everything.’ Sakura’s arm lunged out suddenly, gripping at Zouken’s throat and throttling him into the air, his body flailing as a dark mist embraced him, restraining any sort of utterance beyond a gurgle of dismay.

                ‘I-Imposs…I-impossi…!’ Zouken squealed pathetically.

                Sakura’s gaze narrowed as she stared Rin down, her free arm extending outward and then over her chest. Her body convulsed for a moment, and then something was forced out of the girl’s bosom, blood spurting from the injury as a mana worm wriggled within the girl’s grasp. She stared at the disgusting thing almost affectionately for a moment, a partial smile creeping over her sadistic visage.

                ‘W-without me…! Youish…nushin…! I crshiated oog…! Ysh bsh…!’

                ‘Goodbye, Matou. You stepped into a realm you certainly don’t belong.’

                Rin’s eyes widened at the sight of Sakura thrusting the worm into Zoken’s face, crushing his mouth and shattering his teeth forcibly until he consumed his own parasite. The ancient man screamed in broken agony, but even that was cut short when his head exploded, brain matter and blood erupting everywhere where Sakura’s hand remained, the body slumping down, more innards and life fluid spilling from the mutilated stump of a neck.

                Sakura wiped the blood on her face, licking the substance provocatively while eyeing her sister the entire time.

                ‘You see, Rin-san? You’ve wasted your time.’

                ‘Y-you…k-killed…’

                ‘Yes. He is dead. He deserved far worse. I was merciful. You were going to do the same, were you not? Now you may remain perfect…for your final moments, at least.’

                Rin brandished her Gem Sword, her whole body shaking. This wasn’t Sakura before her anymore. It had to be the grail’s influence. If Rin could somehow bring Sakura’s consciousness back, there was a chance she could figure out how to remove the grail. Her mind couldn’t process everything quick enough, but she knew the priority was convincing Sakura to come back.

                ‘Sakura…’ Rin began. She couldn’t believe that even in the dire situation she found herself that her pride and shame could hold her back. She reverted to the ignorance and eventual frustration. She recalled the first time she and Sakura passed one another in the school’s hallway without a word. Rin had wanted to say something so badly, and even looked up to do so, but Sakura was a blank slate. She wanted nothing to do with Rin anymore, and Rin steadily understood that she had wronged her sister through inaction. Then, of course, a boy appeared and created an even larger gulf.

                ‘There’s nothing left to say, Rin-san. Nothing.’

                ‘Wait…! I…!’

                Sakura flicked her wrist as if dismissing Rin completely, four more shadow beings growing from the depths of the chamber’s bowels. Rin readied the Gem Sword, knowing she had little time left with its strength before she wouldn’t be able to wield it without destroying herself. A shadow crushed the ground around Rin, rubble flying and the impact causing her to lose balance. Rin slashed horizontally at the monster, the dimensional rift notably smaller, but still capable of cutting the darkness down.

                ‘I’m sorry, Sakura! I’m so sorry! I’ve failed you as a sister!’ Rin yelled, her voice strained as she attempted to evade Sakura’s giants.

                ‘Don’t call yourself that. We are not sisters. That ended long ago.’ Sakura’s words vibrated throughout the chamber, its vocalization almost sounding as though it came from all over; even from the shadow servants.

                ‘We are! You are so precious to me, and yet…and yet somehow, I’ve let our lives slip by! It’s my greatest regret, and hardly a day goes by that I don’t wallow in a moment of despair with the knowledge that – ’ Rin took a hit to the side of her body, her form tumbling to the ground before she used the Gem Sword once again, downing yet another shadow. Her muscles and tendons screamed, her whole arm exposed now, the torn fabric revealing her damaged and mangled limb. She had hardly anything left.

                ‘You abandoned me to be raped and abused at the hands of a monster! You, and father, and mother! Not one of you visited me! Not one of you tried to save me! Not one of you loved me! I was discarded like trash! How dare you…! How dare you try and reconcile years of torture now!’

                The words Sakura screamed hit Rin harder than any physical attack. Yet, despite the pain, she could hear Sakura’s voice amongst it all. Her sister was crying. Her sister was crying for help. This was the least Rin deserved.

                ‘I-I know! I know and I hate myself for all of it!’ Rin jumped back from the two remaining shadows’ pincer attack and countered with a beam of magic that easily tore through the assailants. The tears in the shadows’ towering shapes brought them down, crumbling beneath the might of the Gem Sword. Rin’s arm slumped to her side, and she took hold of the weapon with her other hand to sheath it once more. Any further use and she doubted she would be capable of recovering. Even now…

                ‘You have everything! You have everything! I find something worth living for and you take even him! He loved you! He wanted you!’

                Rin stumbled toward her sister, her vision wavering and the effects of utilizing the Gem Sword in succession breaking her body apart. Her will was iron though, and it kept her up and moving. She couldn’t break now. Too much was on the line.

                ‘He loves you, Sakura. He chooses you.’

                ‘He settled for me…! If he could, he would take you without even thinking about it!’

                ‘No. That’s not true.’ Rin’s eyes blurred, but she was only a handful of feet away from Sakura now. The pulsating mass of raw energy behind her grew agitated as Sakura’s mood deteriorated. The glowing abyss at the tip fluctuated, bulging with impatience.

                ‘It is true…! I’m a thing to be used by everyone around me! I don’t need anyone! I don’t need anything! I’ll wipe the world clean! And then…and then…!’

                ‘Sakura…’ Rin gasped, the gap closing.

                ‘Get away…! G-get away from me…!’

                Rin could hear her sister. She could hear her voice. Sakura was scared. She’s always been scared. Rin hadn’t protected her from the fear. Rin had allowed her to deal with her despair all on her own. This…was Rin’s responsibility. No more pride. No more discomfort. No more baseless jealousy. It was time to grow up.

                ‘Get away…!’ Sakura screeched as Rin slumped into her, holding the girl tight with her good arm and pressing the side of her face against the cool skin that had become Sakura’s cheek.

                ‘I love you, sister. I love you so much and I’m…so, so sorry I’ve been such a coward.’

                ‘A-ah…! U-u-uh…!’ Sakura’s lip trembled, her eyes dilating and the grail behind her pressing down on all. Her hands reached up, shaking all the while, as if to hold Rin back, but then a crazed smile morphed onto her lips and her head snapped to the side in a spastic twitch. A madness filled her, black and red, hundreds of a shared despair embracing her own misfortune. This was her redemption.

                An enormous black, misshapen blade punctured through Rin’s stomach and out of her back, her innards instantly crushed and her blood dripping down her body from the brutal weapon that had gouged her. Rin didn’t know pain until the black fire burned every nerve in her body. It was so instant and so mentally defying that Rin hardly whimpered before everything within her shut down, the last sight her thoughts could process being a mixture of shock and crazed accomplishment on her sister’s blood-splattered soul.

Chapter Text

                Saber readied her blade and awaited what came next after Rider’s self-inflicted injury. The amount of blood that spewed from her neck was unsettling at best, and although Saber considered charging forward to end the fight, she needed to practise a level of caution when handling something so uncertain; especially a Noble Phantasm of any kind. It could very well be activated the moment she entered the ring of red encircling the other servant.

                Meanwhile, Shirou grunted in discouragement, his battle against Assassin fairing poorly, the shadow-enhanced servant too fast and evasive to allow any form of combat that Shirou could measure up against competently even with Archer’s arm projecting weapons of all shapes and sizes. They were useless when Assassin stubbornly maintained such impressive range between himself and his opponent.

                ‘Have at thee…’ Saber gripped Excalibur, her patience waning with every second separated from Rin. Their mana connection grew weaker than usual, the effects of being in such a bizarre setting obviously influencing anything that contained magic in all its forms.

                The blood surrounding Rider finally enveloped the servant, a mortifying, reddened eye appearing before Rider just prior to it bursting and a holy light of incredible magnitude glowing in its destruction. Saber recognized the beast of legend instantly. A white horse with wings and the presence akin to that of a God: A Pegasus! Saber steeled herself and prepared for the worst, knowing even she would have difficulty once the beast began attacking in earnest. Rider’s namesake had finally become clear, and the tides of battle shifted in her favour within an instant. Saber cursed her carelessness, knowing it was pointless to regret her previous precaution but frustrated nonetheless. Rin made her so careful. Rin made her want to live so much more.

                The superior howl of the Pegasus pierced the air, and in another instant, the beast took off, Rider atop of it and its immense speed a blur of light not unlike a dimensional beam. Saber felt the wind pass her by, and she was shocked by the near miss. She had taken evasive action, obviously, but she doubted she would come away from the charge unscathed.

                Indeed, the mountain shook and the Pegasus whimpered, its power used to crush Assassin where he thought he hung about safely. The black skeletal being twitched on the ground, a flash of light indicating the famed horse’s retreat, and Rider hastily stabbed Assassin through the neck with her chained dagger, the servant gurgling wisps of its final breath. With the shadow’s assistance, Assassin countered, his grotesquely long limb stabbing through Rider’s side, the slippery woman barely dodging in time to avoid her heart being ripped out.

                Black steam rose from the stealth killer as he resurrected, the extension of the Black Grail manipulating his movements as though controlling a puppet. He should have been dead, yet here one of the weakest of servants at close combat stood.

                Shirou prepared to strike once more, but before he could do that, and before Assassin’s hand could extend to finish what he started with Rider, Saber’s golden blade severed the arm clean off before it was redirected in midair and beheaded the influenced Assassin. It was over in a flash of pure light, and Saber knew she had Rider to thank for creating the perfect opening.

                ‘What happened…?’ Shirou gasped, leaning against the cavern’s wall and gripping at his arm as it continued to spasm.

                ‘Go…’ Rider grunted, her whole body shaking.

                ‘I see. You were forced to guard this place.’ Saber appraised, respect for such a devoted servant immediately filling her.

                ‘Save her…’ The injured woman went on, her voice finally lending itself to emotion.

                ‘You have my word. Come, Emiya-kun. She will only be capable of resisting the command for little more time’

                Shirou nodded, pushing off his support and almost stumbling to the other side of the cavern with Saber.

                ‘Thank-you.’ He said softly on his way, knowing Rider would do anything for Sakura. He had seen the way the seemingly stoic servant hardly ever left his girlfriend’s side. He knew she would rather die than hurt her in any way.

                Once Shirou and Saber entered the long cave that connected to where Rin hopefully awaited, Saber felt the pressure her master had endured prior. Shirou himself struggled to move forward, and Saber almost left him despite herself.

                ‘Allow me, Emiya-kun.’ Saber offered her shoulder, and the boy took it without hesitation. The moment Saber felt Shirou’s contact, something within her resonated, and she blinked in sudden melancholy. Her homeland. War. Excalibur. Avalon.

                Impossible! No. Improbable. Not impossible.

                The king of knights stopped, turning to Shirou with uncontrollable perplexity. Was this what Archer had been referring to? This sensation was impossible to deny. She knew in that instant what Shirou had within him.

                ‘You…can heal?’ Saber whispered, shock littering her words.

                ‘Slowly…Yeah. I guess it’s one of my abilities that I don’t know how to control. I feel like my strength is coming back way faster all of a sudden though.’

                ‘Naturally…’ Saber uttered. There was no time for further contemplation. She had wasted enough of the precious advance she had given Rin. This mystery would have to wait. Saber’s master needed her. The Gem Sword would only do so much on its own. Rin was hesitant to use it to begin with, considering the toll such amazing magic would have on her.

                It took longer than Saber would have preferred, but she finally made it to the end of the cave, an opening indicating what Saber could only hope to be the final chamber. Her prayers were answered, and she knew almost immediately upon entering the enormous, densely mana-laced room that this was the final location of the fifth Holy Grail War. She felt the mass of thick energy pressing down on her soul, and the view of the towering black mass of raw organic material tugged at inherited knowledge no matter how skewed.

                ‘The grail…’ Saber nearly hushed herself. Her wish was so close. Her bittersweet wish was within grasp.

                ‘Saber…! Look…!’ Shirou’s voice snapped the king back to her senses, and it didn’t take her long to take in the sight that had put Shirou into sudden panic. Indeed, Saber’s blood ran cold, her spirit instantly disconnecting from her physical form. She had thought the interference in her mana supply could be blamed on the grail’s manifestation and the seeming chaos of conflicting power within the mountain, but Saber wasn’t prepared for this. She had placed too much faith in the Gem Sword. She had sent her master into a fight in the worst way.

                A chill ran Saber’s spine, and she took two steps back, her legs threatening to give out. She had seen death so many, many times that she thought it would never affect her again, and yet…yet…

                Her world was shattering before Saber’s eyes. Black spotted her vision. Her mind was aflame. Everything within the king of knights tried to create an alternative scenario where the current reality could be explained logically.

                Nothing.

                Nothing.

                This was the truth. She had failed again.

                ‘M-Master…’ Saber’s voice cracked as she dragged her feet forward.

 

                It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real.

 

                Shadows erupted from all around, their attacks knocking the heroic spirit onto her back. She haphazardly drew Excalibur in all its golden glory, the mana stored inside her draining with every action she made.

 

                It wasn’t real. It wasn’t real.

 

                Shirou screamed something, his projections fending off the lanky black masses that paid him almost no mind. Saber, meanwhile, moved on instinct, even her most ungraceful and misdirected attacks enough to down the monsters that would have her dead. Wave after wave. She couldn’t feel anything. Numbness.

                ‘S-Shirou…!’ Another voice shrieked in familiar anguish.

                Saber couldn’t hear anything more. Was she already fading? Would she come so close…again? The grail? Her master? Which one mattered more? Saber knelt next to Rin, her master’s eyes still wide but so very gone. Saber’s armour faded into majestic dust, and the servant gripped at her chest, her royal clothes dishevelling within her fierce grasp.

                ‘My heart…’ Saber sobbed, her eyes lined with tears and her mouth grimacing in barely restrained misery. She exhaled forcibly twice and tightened her hold on her bosom. ‘Ah…! My heart is breaking…! I…I…!’

                The voices tried to reach her; one pleading and delirious, another trying to be reasonable but also full of disbelief as well as sadness.

                Saber couldn’t stop herself from staring as the tears streaked her cheeks and a quiet storm overtook her. As a king, she had been trained to perfection in keeping her emotions in check. Nothing should shake the very foundation of the country. If the king falters, the people falter with him. Saber had mastered the craft of putting her feelings last; they meant nothing in relation to the grander scope of her ruling. Years of tutorage and discipline until she would barely bat an eye at the news of a fellow knight’s death or worse.

                But it all came undone in this very moment at the sight of Rin’s mutilated torso. Saber dislodged the last of her impenetrable armour and broke; damaged in a way she had never felt in the entirety of her legendary life. No sword could pierce her like this. Not even the blade of her own “daughter” tore into her like the cruel reality of Rin Tohsaka’s death.

                Saber howled in despair, her voice going coarse and her hands holding Rin tightly to her body as crimson seeped into pure azure. She rejected everything with her voice, an inhuman scream to the heaven’s ripping apart her throat over and over.

                And then, naturally, the memories came.

 


 

                Saber’s first encounter with Rin and the tension both prideful women exerted upon one another.

                The maiden battle master and servant engaged in against Berserker.

                Rin’s first attempt at breaking down the wall when she thanked Saber for saving her.

                Saber’s first experience with modern frivolity in the form of an arcade.

 

                Getting closer and closer…

 

                Successfully winning against Assassin and the pride Rin had for her servant.

                Shopping, training, and watching a movie together.

                Permanently capturing a moment upon Rin’s mobile device.

                Saber’s growing emotions becoming undeniable.

 

                Closer and closer…

 

                Being saved by her own master and doing battle in her name.

                Making love with another human being without any other motive than mutual affection.

                Lingering longings.

                Untouchable fixation.

 

                Closer than she ever thought worthy of.

 

                Unruly brown hair.

                Confident and kind.

                Soul-piercingly blue eyes.

                Considerate but stern.

 


 

                Saber stopped herself. It was an abyss that would only lead her into madness. She placed Rin gently down and rose sharply, drawing Excalibur in all its golden glory and aiming it directly at Sakura who remained on the ground, her legs sprawled out and her face a conflict of emotion ranging from psychotic joy to miserable acknowledgment.

                ‘Provide me a sound enough reason as to why I should not execute you here and now!’ Saber hissed, her eyes wide and full of water.

                ‘Saber! No! That’s not what we promised Rider!’ Shirou tried to intervene but the broken knight would have none of it, her sword held inches from Sakura’s crazed face.

                ‘She killed my master! She killed...!’ Saber couldn’t finish. Her coarse voice was failing her.

                ‘Ehah…ah…I…killed her…M-my sister…!’ Sakura whimpered. ‘I-I killed…so many…The shadow…it rules me…’

                ‘There’s something obviously wrong here! Sakura isn’t herself…and neither are you! We need to think this through! I-I’m not happy that Tohsaka-san is hurt either but – ’

                ‘Hurt!? Hurt!? She is dead, Emiya-kun!’

                Shirou’s face dropped, and he shook his head stubbornly.

                ‘Ah…aha…Murderer…I…’ Sakura mumbled on, holding her temples and rocking slightly even with Shirou’s hand on her back.

                ‘We might be able to save her still. There’s always hope. I knew I was dying, but my dad saved me and…’

                ‘Emiya-kun, while your ignorant support is meant to help, I cannot fathom – ’

                ‘Wait! Saber! I-I might have an idea!’ 

Chapter Text

                ‘I pray you do not toy with me, Emiya-kun, for any semblance of humour in these circumstances would prompt action that, even now, I am struggling to prevent.’

                ‘I know. I know you care about Tohsaka-san, Saber. We all do.’

                ‘Not like I!’

                This took Shirou aback, the young male hardly being used to such outward emotion from the normally collected Saber. He knelt beside Sakura, placing an arm around her trembling, deliriously mumbling form, and Saber followed suit, taking one knee on the other side of Rin. The sight made the proud king reel all over again, yet she steadied her emotions and waited to hear what Shirou would say.

                ‘There isn’t a lot of time, considering what’s growing back there, but you mentioned Avalon, or something, Saber?’

                Saber’s eyes widened, and she gripped at Shirou’s shoulder, her strength so severe that the boy grunted through the sudden contact.

                ‘Emiya-kun! Of course! We must use Avalon! Surely it’s healing properties would be enough to bring Rin back! Hastily, Emiya-kun! While there’s still a chance!’ Saber wasn’t sure that it would work, but she couldn’t dismiss the possibility. No. It wasn’t even an option to her. With Saber so close to the sheath, and with Rin connected to the king as master and servant, it was the only option without relying on an imperfect grail that may or may not be even capable of granting wishes.

                ‘I-I’m just not sure what it looks like, and I’m trying to tap into Archer’s memories, but they’re hazy at best.’ Shirou stammered, Sakura’s head shaking and her eyes watering, the words she kept whispering incoherent.

                ‘Worry not. It shall not be a complicated procedure considering the owner, and the relic itself, is right here.’ Saber exhaled deeply, staring down at Rin’s fading colour and immediately finding her resolve once more. She held Shirou tighter, and pushed her memories and mana into the boy as much as she could. Because of her nature as a heroic spirit, it was a possibility that became a reality. Although the process was clumsily enacted at best, Saber felt the necessary connections being made, potentially thanks to Shirou’s mixture of heroic and mortal status. 

                Archer’s arm sparked, and Shirou pressed it against his chest, his voice escaping between grit teeth and foreign spurts of power. For a mage that struggled with the basics hardly more than a week ago, Shirou marvelled at the progress he had made. Surely he had those around him to thank, but he felt that much closer to becoming a hero for, at least, those closest to him, like Sakura and…Rin Tohsaka. Shirou bit back the pain, telling himself it was nothing compared to what his girlfriend and the school’s idol had endured.

                ‘Come on…!’ Shirou begged in anger. He needed to do this. And then…he needed to save Sakura!

                ‘Please! Please!’ Saber’s voice rang alongside the former master. She didn’t filter her thoughts. She allowed everything to move that may prove useful to Shirou. Her ancient memories and moments of splendour and defeat were at the forefront. Intimate conversations and even more intimate acts with Rin couldn’t be stopped, considering the end goal, but Saber kept such private matters in check as much as she could, exerting her glory days of wielding Excalibur and Avalon as the ultimate destructive yet defensive combination.

                ‘Rin…! Master…! Stay with me…!’

                Sparks of yellow and green surged through Shirou, and he took hold of Avalon, the brilliantly golden and blue scabbard of universal acclaim. He could almost read the ancient elven language etched into the expertly crafted base. Archer’s limb easily processed the necessary information, the fact the legendary piece of equipment already resided within Shirou expediting the extraction of Saber’s other Noble Phantasm.

                ‘I…I think…it’s…!’ Shirou’s whole face contorted at the manifestation of the holy relic. Saber took hold of the long-lost piece of herself and looked upon it yearningly for but a second before fusing it into her master, the fact she hesitated so little exemplifying her unparalleled dedication and affection.

                ‘Please…’ Saber breathed, resting her head on Rin’s chest and waiting, feeling her own mana moving, and praying Avalon had begun the process of reconstructing Rin’s damaged torso.

                ‘Avalon…The Ever Distant Utopia…Do not fail me now. I beg of you.’

                Shirou collapsed onto his buttocks, holding the shivering Sakura tight and reaffirming how bizarre the current setting was. The Black Grail, which was nearly complete behind them, could activate at any moment…if that’s what it did. Shirou had no idea, really. He could only know what his mana circuits told him, and he was confident that remaining in such a densely influenced and breathing place wasn’t advisable for much longer.

                Shirou glanced down to Sakura, stroking her shaking white head.

                ‘You dye your hair, Sakura?’

                ‘I…I killed her…My sister…I…I’m a murder…murderer…’

                ‘No. You’re not a killer. The shadow’s a killer. Zouken Matou’s a killer. You’re just a victim.’ Shirou tried, but his encouragement fell on deaf ears.

                ‘I…darkness…Envious…I killed her…I’m glad…but…I’m so sorry…U-uh…’

                ‘Saber. We should go. Bring Tohsaka-san with you and let’s go…’

                ‘No!’ Sakura pushed off Shirou and stumbled up, back-stepping toward the edge of the cavern’s floor that looked over bubbling organic material similar to that of the breathing, black grail tower. ‘K-kill me…! K-kill me before…I…A-ah…!’

                ‘Sakura! It’s fine! We’re going to save Tohsaka-san!’

                ‘Noooo! I-I…My head…! It’s…I can’t…! Just…g-go…!’

                ‘I won’t leave you, Sakura. I love you. I would never abandon you.’ Shirou took another step toward his crazed girlfriend. Her hands were up to her mouth and she bit at them spastically in between fits of near incoherence.

                ‘I can’t…hold it…I…don’t know…See…!’

                The chamber shook, a deep rumbling signalling some sort of change in the already unsettling atmosphere. Time was running out. Staying any longer would only heighten the chances of being caught up in something beyond human understanding. The black tower behind Sakura seemed more agitated than ever, and more shadow giants emerged from the pool of festering flesh. Sakura held her head and screamed, her voice reverberating deep into the bowels of the ancient mountain.

                Shirou tapped into Archer’s remnants as best he could, searching for an answer; searching for anything that could possibly help him heal Sakura’s mind. A spell, a procedure, a piece of ancient knowledge related to the grail that could be transferred to this mock version of the thing.

                The chamb