It was a sunny spring day, flowers blooming everywhere and chatter of others forming a calming background noise. Such a peaceful atmosphere almost promised for a lovely afternoon.
Suddenly, the harsh sound of a slap echoed in the courtyard.
Arturia Pendragon, student in her last year of college, had just slapped Gilgamesh Uruk, high-class businessman and richest man in the country.
And she had done so in the middle of a shopping mall in New York. In front of everyone, in a public place where everyone could see them – and everyone had seen them.
It had been quite the good slap, too.
Level-headed Arturia would never have done such a thing–… well, had he not provoked her.
And it really had started out as such a nice day…
It wasn’t a normal and boring day, but in fact quite a splendid one.
Arturia didn’t have work, and she was on campus – of course – to study. It was her last trimester before graduation, and even if she did not have any more lessons to follow, she had to write her thesis. To be fair, all she had to do was finish writing her thesis, since she was luckily quite ahead with her work.
That meant that she had to continue working on it diligently until she completed it. That meant that she had to study. A lot.
However, that had apparently not concerned the oblivious man, Iskandar. He had decided that, on that very specific day, the group of people he insisted upon calling ‘friends’ would go with him around a new, large shopping mall.
And, since in that group of ‘friends’ there was her boss as well, Arturia had had no choice but to go as well.
At the very least, she could tolerate some of the people in the group. Enkidu, for example, while scarily energetic, was nice, open and friendly with everyone. He was a good person, even though his sense of mischief was something to be wary of. She would probably never understand how he could be Gilgamesh’s best friend.
Then there were a few other work associates of Gilgamesh and Enkidu’s aside from Iskandar, and then a couple of her own friends from university. All considered, the day out wasn’t going to be a complete waste of time.
The fact that she was sacrificing an entire day of studying was nothing compared to what happened next, though.
Because nothing could have prepared her for what her boss would say to her.
It was the right moment, Gilgamesh decided. She was going to need to be told eventually, and it might as well be right then.
She was wearing one of her usual outfits: prim, proper and normal. Nothing showy, nothing extravagant, nothing expensive, just a quietly elegant look. It suited her, he thought, but it was an extremely fleeting thought. The matter he had to deal with was much more important, and bothersome, he added mentally.
He got her attention by grabbing her wrist, staring at her intently as he made her turn towards him.
All the others from their group were scattered around in the shopping mall’s various stores, and there wasn’t exactly a copious amount of attention directed at them.
Arturia’s expression, even though quite guarded – since she was around the man who had decision-making power over her job – still betrayed her confusion.
Inwardly smirking, he kept his face expressionless. She had no idea what honour he was about to bestow on her.
“Arturia. I have an important matter to address.”
Even though her expression did not give away what she was thinking, Arturia privately considered that he could very well let go of her arm. And, to her surprise – as if he guessed what had just gone through her mind – he released her wrist.
Those blood red eyes she had become familiar with during the past months of working at his company remained firmly glued to her face.
When he spoke, every word came out as haughty and unwavering as his personality was.
“You satisfy most of the requirements I have for what I seek in a wife. You are by no means perfect for the role, but you do have sufficient qualities.” His tone became commanding, and it was clear that he was completely serious in his following words. “Become my wife.”
There was silence.
On Gilgamesh’s side, it was an impatient one: she just had to accept and they could get this annoying problem out of the way.
On Arturia’s part, it was a stunned and disbelieving silence. The conviction that was making its way into her mind was that she had to be in the midst of a very weird dream.
There was no way Gilgamesh Uruk had just walked up to her to address her with the most arrogant and self-centred speech she had ever heard him speak – and that was saying a lot – that happened to be a proposal as well.
As far as she could see, he was being perfectly serious. Arturia felt incredulity and disgust, in equal measures, fill her completely, pushing out any other thought.
She blinked, several times. Upon realizing that she was indeed awake and that the more than surreal speech had happened for real, she reacted the only instinctual way a sane human being would have in her situation.
Before she could even think about controlling herself, she took an abrupt step forward and her right hand acted on its own.
She hit the man in front of her with all her strength, straight in the face, inadvertently making the loud, dry sound resonate.
The deafening silence that had previously been only between the two of them seemed to have suddenly stretched around the place.
People around them were staring, people neither of them knew, yet they still stared, in a shocked muteness.
And that was without counting their group; those who were there were jaw-slacked, openly gawking at what had just transpired in front of their eyes. Even Enkidu was stunned; for once, the impossibly cheerful and chatty man was silent, without words, gaping at the scene.
But Arturia didn’t care. In that moment she did not care about any of them. Nor did she care about the fact that she had just slapped the most powerful man in the country – if not in the world – in a public place. Nor about the fact that it was also very likely that she had just lost her job with that action.
She did not care about any of those things.
All she cared about was the man still standing in front of her, whose expression was a mix of shock, anger, incredulity and – quite uncharacteristically – confusion.
How dare he insult her in such a way. Who did he even think he was?
Her voice was low, but most people there could hear her anyway.
“You are the most arrogant man I’ve ever come across, Gilgamesh Uruk.”
With that, she turned on her heels and walked away.
No one dared follow her.
Arturia marched towards her apartment, furious.
In her state of mind, she did not want to go to campus any longer, as she wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on her studies anyway. Besides, her sister was waiting for her at home.
A calming smile appeared on her lips at the thought, momentarily forgetting her anger towards Gilgamesh. Iri was feeling much better those days, and she had even gotten up from bed a couple of times during the previous week. The blonde woman looked forward to spending some time with her sister and her nephew, little Shirou.
Yes, it was much better to think about her family than about that vexatious boss of hers.
Perhaps, probably, certainly, she was going to be fired… well, after all, who cared.
He was a jerk.
The more she thought about what had occurred, the more it all seemed absurd. And yet, it had happened.
How dare he. Arrogant and selfish, he had come up to her to ask her–
No, he had not even asked, he had demanded. Ordered. Stated, as if it was some kind of fact. As if he controlled her.
He was one of the richest people on the planet, owner and runner of the greatest business in existence, and he was still in his twenties; because of that, he was at the centre of a considerable amount of media attention, being one of the ‘most eligible bachelors’.
That more or less explained his actions from earlier in the day.
He obviously did not want a wife. Or, at least, not really – not in the strictest sense of the word. She had been on enough of those evenings out in their little group’s company to know as much. Most likely, he wanted someone he could present and feed to the press, to get them off his back.
He wanted to make his position more solid by appearing as a ‘family man’, a ‘married man’, who settled down and cared about someone. He wanted a wife to make sure people thought he cared about family and those that were considered the social values.
So, Arturia cynically thought, since he didn’t have a heart, he wanted to make it look like he had one?
That tall, arrogant, jerk of a man… and he was her boss too!
Well, not really her boss, since after all, it was just a part-time job – a part-time job she desperately needed – but seriously! Did he even have a brain? Did he?
Closing her green eyes briefly, she took a deep breath. She could not let her emotions control her. She had to remain calm and analyze the situation rationally.
And her rational conclusion was that Gilgamesh had certainly more than enough reasons in his life to be a conceited jerk, but that did not mean that he couldn’t behave like. A. Decent. Human. Being.
After those unforgivably arrogant words from him, she had acted on impulse, but she did not regret what she had done.
She did not regret slapping the most powerful man in the country, because that imbecile had most certainly deserved it.
As she neared the apartment, Arturia dismissed all and every thought about Gilgamesh. She was going to spend the evening with her beloved family, and nothing else mattered.
As she was nearing the place and looking at the dark windows from afar, it was quite odd to see that the lights were all off at that time in the afternoon.
Arturia frowned. Something was not right.
In that moment, her old mobile phone rang.
Stifling the sudden feeling of uneasiness that was threatening to invade her, Arturia answered. It was a call from an unknown number.
“Is this Arturia Pendragon?”
The voice seemed quite calm and professional, but Arturia could not stop her apprehension from increasing.
“Yes, this is she. Who is this?”
“Ms. Pendragon, this is Central Hospital.”
The apprehension turned into horrified dread.
“We are calling to inform you that your relative, Irisviel von Einzbern, has been admitted into the Emergency Room following a sudden worsening of her already unstable conditions. Her son, Shirou Emiya, is with her as well, and is quite distraught, so we need you or another close relative to come here immediately.”
Arturia could not speak, at least not right away. She tried to swallow, but her throat was utterly dry. Her mind had gone completely blank.
She attempted to swallow, and the second time, she succeeded.
“Yes, I… of course. We… have no other close relatives. I will be there as soon as I can.”
“Thank you, Ms. Pendragon. Ms. von Einzbern is in…”
Instructions on where to find Iri followed, and Arturia mechanically memorized them before hanging up and abruptly turning around to start to quickly walk towards the hospital.
In a rare case of luck, it happened to be not too far from there. She would have probably reached it faster with a bus, but she didn’t have the money for it, and she wouldn’t have had the patience to walk back to the stop and wait for the right one anyway.
Struck with a thought, she halted in her steps, only to resume her running immediately. In her panic, she had forgotten to ask what her sister’s conditions actually were…
As she hurried towards the building, her eyes glued to the neon signs indicating its location, she felt her heart pounding in her ears.