Chapter 14: Arrival in Japan
Seated in three adjacent places in the luxurious first class of the plane, Arturia, Illya and Gilgamesh tranquilly waited for the long flight to be over.
The homunculi of the Einzbern Castle had advised the two former Heroic Spirits to change their appearance slightly for the journey, in order to look a bit older when being the sole escorts of a young girl. That was to be done regardless of their ages in the passports, because the display of maturity was more important. Using their powers, the two kings had done so: Arturia appeared to be in her mid-twenties and Gilgamesh just a few years older than her.
The few people in the first class stared at them with mild curiosity, because the regal countenance of the two kings did not go unnoticed. But the person who got the most attention was Illya, for her unusual features and her seemingly very young age.
The girl was polite, calm and quiet, something unusual in a child, and she unwillingly caught the attention of the other passengers because of that. After all, the flight was long, and anything that stood out a little bit was bound to attract attention.
For a few hours, she read through a book of Japanese literature, often talking about some passages with Arturia, in a low murmur that wouldn’t disturb others and was heard only by the woman and by Gilgamesh, who sipped on the champagne the hostess had offered. He wasn’t impressed by the taste at all, but the King of Knights had asked him to avoid making his own wine appear from nowhere while on the plane.
Towards the end of the long flight, Illya yawned, closing her finished book. She climbed into Arturia’s lap, put her head on her shoulder and quietly drifted off to sleep. Arturia held the girl securely and, in a low voice, continued to exchange words with Gilgamesh, commenting the literary work they had gone through.
Suddenly, an elderly woman who was in the row in front of them spoke up.
“Excuse me,” she said.
Arturia’s arm imperceptibly tightened around Illya in instinct, even if the woman seemed innocuous and had a benevolent expression on her face.
“I just wanted to compliment you… You have a beautiful and well-mannered daughter.”
Gilgamesh almost smirked at those words, while Arturia managed to maintain a neutral expression, even though the comment had been unexpected.
“Thank you for your kind words, but she’s not my daughter. I am just her legal guardian.” Her tone was quite low, in order not to disturb the girl who was embracing her, fast asleep.
The elderly woman smiled a little more widely.
“Oh, so you and your boyfriend are taking care of her! How sweet of you!”
The King of Knights raised an eyebrow. Where had that idea come from?
“I’m afraid there has been a misunderstanding, because that is not the nature of our relation–”
The older woman, with a politely confused expression, interrupted her.
“But I have not seen a ring on your finger so I assumed you weren’t married yet…”
That comment made Arturia’s neutral façade crumble as incredulity took over. Only Illya’s presence and the fact that they were currently in the middle of the sky made sure that she kept her irritation from rising.
Keeping her voice calm and collected, she said, “Please do not make assumptions. What you are suggesting is not the nature of our relationship at all.”
The elderly woman seemed slightly intimidated and gave a civil nod before turning away. She had probably realized she had said something wrong.
Arturia, without anyone noticing, took a deep breath. She then turned her head towards Gilgamesh, who was looking at her with a very entertained expression.
Her eyes narrowed and she glared at him.
Making sure that only he could hear her, she hissed, “I am surprised that you did not say anything, King of Heroes.”
He shrugged – or rather, he elegantly lifted his shoulders for a second.
“What the mongrels think does not concern me.”
She rolled her eyes and turned away from him, unaware of the direction of his thoughts.
She had not noticed, but he had been conflicted with himself.
He knew that, not a very long time before, he would have probably corrected that elderly woman himself – and he would have rectified that Arturia was in fact not his mere girlfriend, but his wife.
However, he was not going to say such a thing… because he had already done that in the past, and he had come to see that there was something wrong in that. Perhaps not wrong… but he did not feel it to be right nonetheless.
He had ordered her to become his wife, trying to coerce her to accept. Even then, he had unconsciously been aware of the fact that, in reality, he needed her consent.
He felt a tad… displeased with himself. He had told her that her opinion did not matter… but he had learned, against his will, that Arturia’s opinion did matter.
If she had just been someone he could order around, then she would have been no better than all those lowly, worthless, filthy mongrels.
He could admit, even if only to himself, that he had made a mistake in demeaning her like that… but it was a mistake he was not going to repeat.
What made Arturia so special was… everything about her. She was much more worthy than any other person he had met in a very long time, and simply giving her orders was not a wise choice. Her entire being was probably one of the most precious treasures he had ever come across… and such a treasure did not belong to him. He had learned enough about her to see that.
She was a woman who had the possibility to make her choices… and it would be a true fulfilment of his dreams if she chose to become his wife. Her willing consent would… mean so much more if it were not forced. If she consciously accepted of her own free will.
His red eyes were on her the whole time during his musings, but the rest of the flight was spent in silence.
When they landed in Tokyo, in Narita Airport, they had one hour of time before taking another plane that would take them to the island of Kyushu. Arturia, after debating with herself, briefly left Illya alone with Gilgamesh while she ran a few errands around the airport. After a slight problem at immigration because of his complicated surname, he had calmed down and she had decided she could allow the girl to be with him for a while.
The following flight was much shorter, and at their arrival, there was a car waiting for them, a limousine owned by the Einzberns with a professional driver. It would take the three of them to Fuyuki.
Illya’s face seemed to be glued to the car’s windows. Arturia would have normally told her to behave a little better, but not on that day.
The girl had been in the Einzbern Castle her whole life, only knowing about the world what she read in books… and she was still so young. Her enthusiasm about Japan was genuine… and it reminded the woman of Irisviel.
Observing her, the King of Knights was happy however to see that Illya did not possess her mother’s submissiveness; that didn’t mean that she was arrogant or bossy, but she simply had grown enough to learn not to meekly accept her destiny.
To be fair, Irisviel had not had the possibility to make a choice… Arturia was glad that not only did Illya have the choice, she was also making one.
The excited squeals of the girl brought her out of her musings.
“That building is immense!”
“Look at that! I have never seen such colours!”
“Oh, that is beautiful!”
Arturia had a content hint of a smile on her face, pleased that Illya was enjoying her time there. The King of Knights’s expression was tender, and she did her best to avoid the red eyes of Gilgamesh that she could feel on her.
Illya’s excitement became more apparent than ever with the request she made after a while. The girl was no longer afraid of asking things, because she knew that Arturia would usually say yes if it was a sensible wish, and if she said no she always gave valid reasons for it.
“Please, Arturia, can we go around the city and visit all those strange places? Please?”
Her dark red eyes were imploring and hopeful. Arturia gave her a little smile, one she reserved only for the young girl.
“Not today, Illya. We have to take care of the Einzbern residence and adjust to the jet lag. But I promise we will go around seeing the city during the next few days.”
Illya gave a wide, happy smile and moved closer to her. She grabbed a pillow from the seats in the car and settled her head comfortably on it, in Arturia’s lap.
Her words were spoken softly but earnestly.
“I’m so glad you came to Germany for me, Arturia.”
A rare expression of pleased surprise crossed the woman’s face, before disappearing again. She began to slowly caress the girl’s hair until she was sleeping. It didn’t take a long time, because Illya had not realized how tired she was, and soon she was fast asleep.
As they passed by various landscapes, Arturia thought about the Einzbern homunculi.
They had become loyal to Illya, and they had done a lot for her. Not only did they create regular documents for Gilgamesh and for herself, they also made sure that Jubstacheit would no longer hold any power over the young girl, by giving her her tutelage. But they had not stopped at that. Arturia had been reluctant at the beginning, but had ultimately agreed to become Illya’s legal guardian… and therefore the one in control of her whole heritage, too. Most of the Einzbern residences and money were now entitled to her.
Arturia had however made a few changes to the documents: she was only the ‘temporary custodian’, and as soon as Illya would be of age, everything was going to be given back to her, the rightful owner.
For the time being, therefore, Arturia Pendragon was in control of most of the Einzberns’ fortune. And that included a Fuyuki estate they had newly built in Japan. The Einzberns no longer took the house that Gilgamesh and Arturia had used when they had become humans into consideration; she made a mental note to go there eventually, to decide what to do with it. It was going to be a part of Illya’s inheritance, after all.
Recognizing Fuyuki from the windows, Arturia’s thoughts and considerations became more serious.
There was a person in that town who could be a very dangerous threat, and that person was Kotomine Kirei. He was ruthless and cruel, and if he found out that Illya, Kiritsugu’s daughter, was in the city, there was no telling what he would do, except from the fact that he would indeed do something.
Together with the fact that she was in control of the Einzberns’ fortune, the thought of Kirei made Arturia realize that there was a good course of actions to take.
It was for the best if Gilgamesh did not live with them.
He was not an Einzbern, and Kirei knew him quite well. He could not stay in Fuyuki together with her and Illya; it was best if he lived elsewhere… and there was only one place where he could stay.
Arturia knew that he was not going to be… happy about what she was going to suggest.
And even if she was wary of ever saying it aloud, she wasn’t happy about it, either.
She was a bit irritated with him. When had he, with all his arrogance and his scathing remarks, managed to make her care about him?
Among the many examples that her mind was ready to give her as answers, one in particular stood out, the image of a scene in the living room of the Einzbern Castle, in which she had been in his arms and one of his hands had been on her cheek… neck… shoulder…
Arturia, taking a deep breath, firmly forced herself to push those thoughts aside and focused on the task at hand.
She had to speak with the man who was sitting in front of her and whose eyes had not left her for a second, but she was inexplicably feeling reluctant.
However, it was for Illya’s safety… she must disregard her personal desires.
Her mind came to another halt. When had his staying become a desire of hers?
Pushing those thoughts away, Arturia forced herself to focus again. And to her surprise, she found out that she was feeling… nervous about what she was going to do.
She became annoyed at herself. She had fought so many battles without ever feeling anxiety even when all the odds were against her, and yet, a little thing such as the matter at hand was making her uneasy?
She steeled herself.
“Gilgamesh,” she said, looking up at him and keeping her voice low so not to wake the girl sleeping in her lap.
His eyes, on her since the beginning of the car ride, flashed for a second. She had his attention.
“I… have a favour to ask.”
Arturia hated her weakness for the slight hesitance in her words.
He didn’t seem to take offence at her words – he mainly seemed interested. Slightly emboldened, she continued.
“I think it’s best if you go live with Kotomine Kirei during the time of our stay in Fuyuki.”
Well. That was not how she had meant to say it. She saw him raise an eyebrow and frown slightly.
Knowing that he was about to talk, she immediately went on, “You are the only person who has some power over the priest, Gilgamesh. We need him to be unaware of Illya’s existence – or rather, her presence here in Fuyuki… otherwise, he will probably try to use her against Kiritsugu.”
She paused, before adding, “You can’t stay with Illya and me because you are not legally tied to the Einzbern family. Staying with Kirei is the best option.”
Gilgamesh looked at her intently, and there was something in his eyes that made her vacillate mentally. She never had had problems in looking people in the eye – in fact, she considered it disrespectful not to look people in the eye while talking to them – but for some reason, in that moment, looking at him was difficult.
She did not know that his thoughts were on the last few words she had pronounced. The King of Heroes knew that he was not legally connected to Arturia and Illya… but he couldn’t help thinking that there might be a way of doing just that. If she accepted to be his wife… No. He had already thought about that, too many times for him to remember.
He could not force her; he would not manipulate her by telling her it was for the girl’s sake. If she did not give her consent freely and willingly, then the marriage would not have the meaning he wanted it to have. So that possibility was not an option.
After a short silence, his expression turned pensive.
“It’s quite… unexpected of you to ask me for a favour, Arturia. What you are asking is not a small sacrifice, either. I will have you know, King of Knights, that if, and only if, I decide to do you this favour, it will have to be repaid in full. Are you prepared for that?”
She narrowed her eyes at him.
She agreed with him partially – she was an honourable and fair knight, and she intended to repay the favour she was asking of him… but he had not told her what he actually wanted from her in return, and she was not going to fall in that kind of trap.
Therefore, she replied, “What you ask should be a fair exchange for the favour I requested.”
He narrowed his eyes at her as well.
“What you ask is not something light, Arturia. Do you think I look forward to being under the same roof as that mongrel again?”
Arturia frowned. Her tone became slightly harsher.
“It’s not the time to be selfish, King of Heroes.”
His narrowed eyes were suddenly serious as he weighed her with his gaze.
“I wonder, King of Knights, if, according to your point of view, there will ever be a time to be selfish.”
Again. He had done it again.
His remarks had the power to both irritate and unsettle her… by being so direct and, often, correct.
But that was not the time to let herself be distracted. Carefully leaning over Illya’s fast asleep form, Arturia picked up her personal bag from the car’s floor. She took out two items she had bought at the airport, and handed one to Gilgamesh.
The King of Heroes took the silvery object with a raised eyebrow. He knew what it was – a device called mobile phone.
Arturia began to speak again.
“These are mobile phones. We each have one – they will be extremely useful to communicate, mainly because it will be the only way to do so… if you agree to go live with Kirei. They can be used for phone calls and text messages… even though I would avoid those in case someone else reads them in our place.”
The King of Heroes stared at her. She was certain that he was making a decision, and she waited, trying to hide her edginess.
Finally, he gave her a slight nod and flipped the mobile phone open. It took him less than a few seconds to understand its functioning. The number of her phone was already saved in it, and his was presumably saved in hers, too.
He gave her a slightly smirk.
“Very well then, Arturia. I will do you the favour you asked for… I will go stay with Kirei. But to repay me, you will make sure to give me a phone call every evening before night – to keep a regular update on our situation.”
She frowned slightly, feeling a bit confused.
What kind of repayment was that?
A call every evening? He had asked only that minor thing… which was no sacrifice on her part at all, contrary to what he was doing for her and for Illya.
However… things were complicated as it was, and if that was his choice, she would not question it.
Only a few minutes later, the car stopped in front of the Einzbern mansion in Fuyuki.
Arturia gently shook Illya awake, and the girl sleepily made her way to the entrance of the house, but not before saying goodbye to Gilgamesh; Arturia was making sure that this time he would not leave without a word.
The King of Heroes was going to dematerialize; therefore, he exited the vehicle as well.
Arturia was the last one to step out of the car, with her bag and mobile phone in hand. She gave a short nod in parting to Gilgamesh, before following the girl inside. The driver was present as well, and she wished to avoid any other somehow different… goodbye that he might have in mind.
She did not notice his eyes suddenly widen and him almost stumble when he saw her phone.
There was a keychain attached to it… and it was not just any key-holder.
He recognized it instantly – it was the keychain with the lion that he had given her as a gift in London.
Not only did she still have it… she had even attached it to her mobile phone.
Unexpected warmth filled his chest.
And the King of Heroes smiled before disappearing....