Chapter 15: Kiritsugu
The following day, after making sure that both she and Illya had slept enough to adjust to the different time and allowing her thoughts to stay on the King of Heroes long enough to admit to herself that she already missed his presence, Arturia kept her promise to the girl.
The two, both wearing matching blue summer dresses because of the hot weather, went around Fuyuki to see everything the city had to offer.
The King of Knights guided the child firmly and kindly, holding her by the hand as they walked around. Illya’s excitement was stellar, especially when they came near the river. She asked Arturia for permission and then, same as her mother Irisviel, took off her shoes to go with her feet inside the water.
Those sensations were completely unknown to the little girl, and the entire day was spent in making new experiences, one after another, all under Arturia’s gentle guidance.
When they went to a cliff to see the landscape, the woman gave her bag to Illya for a short while as she pushed away a few rocks, and she didn’t notice the girl taking out the mobile phone. It was one of the most recent models, with a photo camera in it, and when they were on top of the cliff, Illya used it.
Arturia looked down at the city, observing the buildings and the river, and a nostalgic smile came over her face. Without her knowledge, the girl used the modern device to take a picture of her, and with a devious little smile, sent an MMS to the number saved, which she knew belonged to Gilgamesh. Then, to make sure he did not get the wrong idea, she also sent him a brief text message.
Hi, this is Illya. Arturia took me around the city today, and I took this picture of her. Isn’t she pretty?
She then put the phone back in the bag and gave it to Arturia.
The woman had not noticed it, because she had felt the presence of a bound field in the air around them. A field that originated from a residence in the middle of the town, in which she, Irisviel and Maiya had gone during the war. Since it was not the church, where Kirei was – and Gilgamesh, too, her mind supplied –, but a former Einzbern house, Arturia knew that that was where Kiritsugu was living.
From the cliff, while Illya was happily looking around, the King of Knights studied the road to reach the place from the mansion in which they were staying. She had requested, the evening before, to have a small car at her disposal, which she would drive personally. She did not like the idea of others knowing where she went.
She was also thinking of moving out from the Einzbern mansion during the following days, mainly because the house was too large for two people, and there were too many servants. The manor was going to be Illya’s inheritance, therefore Arturia would not sell it, but while they lived in Fuyuki, it was best to stay in a smaller apartment, since it was going to be only the two of them.
She had noticed several small places up for sale, and she thought it the best course of action. If anyone wanted something from the Einzberns, the mansion was going to be a perfect decoy, but they were going to live a bit away from it.
Later that evening, Arturia discussed her idea with Illya. The girl had no objections at all; in fact, she seemed intrigued and enthusiastic, even after the woman warned her that there were going to be household chores to do regularly. The girl went to bed tired but happy, exactly as Arturia had hoped she would.
Before going to sleep, the King of Knights took up her mobile. It was time to call the arrogant yet observant King of Heroes.
He answered after just one ring. She would have raised an eyebrow at that, but she had finally learned to accept some strange facts when it came to his behaviour towards her.
She had to stop herself from smiling at the tone of his voice. Or was it just hearing his voice that made her smile…?
It was probably for the best if she did not ask herself such questions.
Her voice was more pleased than what she meant it to be, and she mentally berated herself… even if only half-heartedly. She had to be honest with herself: she was happy to hear from him.
“Gone around the city today?” he asked, his voice seeming to be bored.
She nodded, before remembering that she was on the phone and he could not see her.
“Illya and I went to see Fuyuki.”
“Must have been a short trip, considering all there is to see in this place.”
His reply was as biting as she had expected, and she rolled her eyes, for once glad he could not see her, even though she was sure he could guess what she was doing.
“We were out the whole day, King of Heroes. Illya deserves to have the time to see the world outside from what she knows.”
“This city of all places in the world? If her father wasn’t here, I would expect you to choose better, King of Knights.”
Arturia decided it was already time to change the subject.
“What about you, King of Heroes? How is it going with Kirei?”
He scoffed again, evidently irritated.
“Compared to this mongrel’s company, I can almost come to regret that that inexpressibly boring flight wasn’t longer.”
That meant that Kirei had not done anything worthy of notice, but she had to make sure.
“He did not question your sudden reappearance? As he didn’t last time?”
She could hear his annoyance.
“There is a reason why I say he is no longer an interesting person, Arturia. It was quite entertaining to observe him during the war, but he has grown in arrogance… clouding his judgement, and proving that he is in reality nothing special among the mongrels.”
He paused for a second. “The only thing that mildly interested him was the passport. And he still had enough sense to probe on your whereabouts… Not that he was worthy of an answer.”
Arturia exhaled. It appeared that Kirei was less of a menace than what she had thought earlier… but she could not let her guard down nonetheless. She had to ask for a more specific favour from the King of Heroes, however reluctant she was, especially considering his current irritated mood.
“Gilgamesh… I have a request.”
She did not give him the time to reply, because she knew that he would say something contemptuous.
“I need you to make sure to keep Kotomine Kirei occupied for a few hours tomorrow, while I take Illya to see her father.”
It was essential that Kirei didn’t know about Illya and Kiritsugu meeting. However, Arturia knew that Gilgamesh would not be happy with that, and would most certainly protest vehemently.
“Hmph. This had better be one of the last things you ask from me, King of Knights. But you have kept your part of the agreement by calling tonight… make sure you call the next evenings as well.”
Suspicious of his quick acquiescence, she enquired about it.
“Why are you assenting without too much protest?” Her mind reflected rapidly. “Is Kirei already busy tomorrow?”
She could almost feel him smirking on the other side.
“Oh, very good, Arturia. You catch on fast.” The compliment was not what she wanted to hear, and he was well aware of it. “Tomorrow Kirei is having a long meeting with some legal executives from London, who are coming here on behalf of the Tohsaka family. Apparently, it took them quite some time to look through all the possessions of Tokiomi, and they are now going to completely legalize his guardianship of the little brat.”
It took Arturia a few seconds to remember that Tokiomi Tohsaka had had a daughter, who had been entrusted to Kirei’s care. She suddenly felt a wave of sadness towards the girl. She had to be about Illya’s age… and she was in the care of that monstrous man.
“It’s fortunate that Kirei will be occupied, then… but I fear for Tokiomi’s daughter. Wasn’t her mother still alive?”
He was silent for a second, a silence that seemed strangely heavy to Arturia.
“The woman passed away two weeks ago.”
Again, Arturia felt sadness towards the young girl. But she also felt that something was amiss in what he was telling her. Gilgamesh knew more than what he was saying… but for some reason, he was not willing to talk about it.
She narrowed her eyes. She sincerely hoped it wasn’t anything that could put Illya in danger. If that was the case, no matter how much the sensation of his hand on her cheek and around her waist still occupied her mind, she was going to give him a piece of her mind… or rather, her sword.
She sighed and looked at the clock. It was late.
“I will call you tomorrow then. Goodnight, Gilgamesh.”
She felt him pause for a second, before he added, “You look very nice in that picture.”
And he hung up, leaving her completely confused.
What was he talking about?
Frowning, she looked at the phone, her call with him just over.
That was when she noticed that messages had been sent… messages she had not written.
She found the MMS sent that afternoon, together with the text mail with Illya’s question in it (Hi, this is Illya. Arturia took me around the city today, and I took this picture of her. Isn’t she pretty?), and narrowed her eyes.
The quality of the photo was not the best, but she could see herself in the summer dress, smiling at the landscape. And the young girl seemed to have quite the sly mind… such a behaviour was probably a result of Gilgamesh’s influence.
She made a mental note to explain more clearly to Illya the concept of personal property – and another mental note to put a password in the phone.
She was about to turn off the lights when she heard the sound of a message alert. Flipping the phone open, she blushed when she read his one-word reply text… an answer to what the girl had written.
The following morning, Arturia helped Illya practice Magecraft.
She had made it clear to Irisviel’s daughter that being in Japan didn’t mean that they were in vacation, because Jubstacheit von Einzbern was still a threat and Illya, while talented, was still young and inexperienced when it came to magic abilities. The girl had understood and agreed with her.
In the afternoon, the King of Knights took the car and made her way towards the house where Kiritsugu lived, which was labelled ‘Emiya’ on the outside.
Illya, in the seat next to her, was trying to contain her nervousness to see her father again. The two had talked about it, and the girl knew that it was probably going to be only one meeting, because according to the information coming from Kirei, Kiritsugu had very little time left.
When she stopped the car in the road in front of the house, Arturia could feel her former Master’s presence inside. She was quite certain that, because of the protective field that he had placed in town, he was aware of the presence of the two of them outside, but she wasn’t sure whether he knew their identities or not.
She sharpened her senses for a moment – it appeared that Kiritsugu was alone.
She gave Illya a gentle caress on the cheek, indicating the door with a nod of her head. She had already told her that she would not go with her, because she had the right to meet her father alone.
The girl returned her nod, appearing slightly scared but determined. The second before she could leave the car, however, Arturia remembered an important recommendation.
The girl turned back to look at her.
“When you are with your father, do not mention Gilgamesh’s name. Do not lie, just don’t bring him up. It would create unnecessary complications.”
The girl frowned for a second, but then nodded in partial understanding. Gilgamesh had been an adversary during the Holy Grail War – it was best not to talk about him in front of her father.
Arturia did not tell her anything more about that, and simply smiled at the girl.
“Go see your father. I will wait for you in the car.”
Illya returned the smile and stepped out of the vehicle.
Reaching the entrance door, Illya was about to ring the doorbell of the Emiya residence, but found out that everything was open.
Deciding to take the risk, she entered, keeping her magic senses on alert.
She found herself in the yard of the house. Suddenly, the Japanese doors on one side opened and a man with dark hair and dark eyes stepped out, looking at her incredulously.
An immense happiness invaded Illya’s chest, and a bright smiled appeared on her lips.
Without thinking, she ran towards the man, opening her arms and screaming, “Daddy!”
Kiritsugu caught his daughter in his arms, unable to believe what was happening.
He had felt a very powerful magical entity approaching the house, and had become immediately wary. Luckily that day nineteen-year-old Taiga, the granddaughter of the yakuza chief he knew, had decided to accompany Shirou to an entertainment park, therefore his adopted son was not there.
But he would never have imagined to see his biological daughter appear on his doorstep. He had tried to go and see her in Germany, but the protective shields around the Einzbern Castle had made it impossible for him to go anywhere near her.
Illya held her father tightly, knowing it was probably the last time she would see him. But her smile didn’t seem to be going to disappear any time soon.
No one was ever going to know the exact words that father and daughter exchanged after five years of not seeing each other. They confessed they wished that things had gone differently, and then mentioned the past years.
Illya, very happy to see him, asked Kiritsugu how he was, letting him know that she was aware of the fact that he didn’t have much time left, something that surprised him. She then enquired about her brother – surprising him even more; not only did she know about Shirou’s existence, she also seemingly accepted him as her adoptive brother.
In response to his questioning look, the girl giggled and explained that she had learned to create the crystal ball, saying she had seen the two of them in there sometimes. She then talked about the many things she had learned about magic and in the rest of her studies, with great enthusiasm, astonishing her father.
When he asked her how she had been able to progress so much and so fast, Illya smiled widely and began to talk about Arturia.
The girl did not know that Kiritsugu had been very cold towards his former Servant, hardly ever even addressing her directly. Completely unaware of this, she described the woman’s kindness and patience and the way Arturia taught her to become strong and prepared enough to defy the head of the Einzbern family, or Grandfather, as she still called him.
Kiritsugu was at first very confused to hear her say ‘Arturia’ with such familiarity. He realized that she was talking about his former Servant, Saber, but that… did not make much sense.
He had given Saber two last orders, using all his Command Spells, and then she had disappeared.
Although… it was true that he had seen her disappear inside the black substance pouring out of the Grail, and it was also true that the contract between them had ended when he had used the last seal on his hand.
But, assuming that Illya was talking about the same person, how could she still be alive? Had she somehow been summoned again?
He pushed those thoughts aside for the moment, going back to listening to his daughter. He was truly happy to see her again, and he soon learned from her that it was because of Arturia that she was there in the first place. Illya explained that, since the blonde woman had agreed to become her legal guardian, the two of them had been able to leave Germany and come to Japan. It was only thanks to Arturia that it had been possible – none of the homunculi would have been able to be strong enough to risk so much for her sake. She continued to talk a lot about Arturia, telling Kiritsugu how she would always be by her side and continually help and support her… but without sheltering her too much at the same time. Arturia was doing much more than just taking care of her.
Several hours of talk later, Illya looked at a clock on the wall and her expression turned sad. Both knew that it was time for her to go.
Her dark red eyes stared into her father’s black ones.
“I am very happy to have been able to see you again, daddy. I promise… I promise that I will behave to the best of my abilities and will be good and–”
She could not continue, because she found herself enveloped in her father’s loving embrace.
He kept his beloved daughter close, holding her tightly. His eyes were clouded in sadness.
“I… I’m sorry, Illya…”
His voice was little above a whisper.
“I wish… things had turned out differently…”
He held her even closer.
“I… am sorry…”
Illya returned his embrace, her head on his shoulder, a few tears running down her cheeks.
Enveloped in her father’s arms, she murmured, “Daddy… I love you. Thank you… for everything you have tried to do.”
Then she smiled in his jacket.
“Don’t apologize, daddy… I understand.”
Those words, unexpected as they were, helped Kiritsugu feel slightly better.
His precious daughter understood… and that was much more than what he had ever hoped for.
When their embrace ended, he looked at her intently. One of his hands went to pat her head softly, and a small smile appeared on his face.
“You are so much like your mother… Kind, calm, cleverer than what your age would suggest… and more beautiful than ever.”
Illya smiled, grateful for those words coming from her father. Kiritsugu thought that he could also see Saber’s influence in his daughter’s mature behaviour… even if he had to admit to himself that he never really knew much about Saber.
They left the Emiya residence together, and outside the man could see a car, evidently waiting for his daughter.
It was then that the former Magus Killer realized that the powerful magical entity he had felt approaching the house earlier had not been his daughter… it was the person in the car, who was just then stepping out of it.
Kiritsugu’s dark eyes could not help widening when he saw the blonde woman.
Illya, with one last wave of her hand at him, ran out of the Emiya grounds and went to the car. The King of Knights was standing beside it, following the girl’s movements with her eyes until she was safely inside the vehicle. Her steady gaze then landed on the dark-haired man who had been in the house talking with Illya.
The one who was her former Master.
Kiritsugu stared at the simply yet tastefully dressed woman who had been his Servant. They seemed to measure each other, neither of them breaking one of the rare glances they were exchanging.
The former Magus Killer had always avoided as much contact as possible with his Servant, making his wife interact with her in his place. Now, long after the war had ended and long after Irisviel had died, the Servant was still alive and had apparently not only looked after his daughter, but had even brought her to him, allowing him to see her one last time.
After a long silence, Kiritsugu finally spoke.
“Saber,” he simply said.
Pronouncing her name was something he was not used to – especially not to her directly. And she was well aware of that. She gave him a brief nod, acknowledging him – something he had never done with her, he knew.
“You allowed me to see my daughter.”
His tone was not questioning, but he did want to know why she had done such a thing for him.
Arturia’s gaze remained firm.
“Illya deserved to see her father one last time.”
Her sentence was short, but Kiritsugu understood the look she was giving him. She had not done it for him – it had been for Illya.
He had expected as much.
He had another question to ask her.
“How are you still in this world?”
A reasonable question, since he knew for a fact that he wasn’t supplying her with mana and no one else had a catalyst to summon her – the only known relic was Avalon, and he was the only one to know that he had put it inside Shirou to save his life five years earlier.
She shook her head slightly.
“You are no longer my Master, Kiritsugu.”
Arturia had not given him an answer – and she had made it clear that he was not going to receive one from her. She turned away from him and walked to the driver’s seat of the car.
Before opening the door, without looking at him, she added, “I will watch over Illya. She will not share Irisviel’s destiny.”
Kiritsugu did not show it, but he felt both surprised and relieved at the woman’s words. He did not understand most of her actions, but it was apparent that he was not going to get any more information.
He was about to turn around to leave as well, when his former Servant suddenly looked up at him.
Her green eyes held his gaze firmly.
“Make no mistake, Kiritsugu. I have come to understand many choices you made in your life, and I now know why you gave me that last order. But that doesn’t mean I have forgiven you – or that I ever will.”
The limpid, yet heavy, look of the former King of Britain struck Kiritsugu – it was very, very ancient.
He realized then… he had never understood her.
But not only had he never understood her… he had never even tried.
He had judged and condemned her, and had never seen her as anything more than a tool.
And yet that ‘tool’ had understood him. She had given him the opportunity to see his precious daughter one last time – and was making sure that his daughter had a good life… the one thing he had always wished for her. Yes, Kiritsugu had never understood Saber, but he knew that if anyone was entrusted to her care, she would ensure their safety.
He closed his eyes for a second – he had done everything wrong with his Servant. He had not even acknowledged her as anything more than his Servant… and now it was too late.
As the King of Knights opened the door of the car, Kiritsugu allowed his regret to show in his eyes. He was… thankful for what the woman had done and was doing for Illya… not to mention her unwavering loyalty during the war, which he had always taken for granted.
“Thank you… Arturia Pendragon.”
Her movements, as she was stepping into the car, did not stop. She seated herself, closed the door, fastened her seatbelt, started the engine and drove off with his daughter.
But he knew that she had heard him. He had acknowledged her – for the first time – as a person.
The fact that she had not paused in her movements proved to him that it was too late to miraculously restore a bond that he himself had made sure never existed between them… but Kiritsugu had had to say those words. As much as it could appear insincere on his part to thank her and call her by her name after everything that had happened, he had needed to express her his gratitude – because he knew it was the last time he would ever see her.
He could not change his past actions… and he did not know if he actually would, if given the chance. But to be at peace with himself, he knew he had to acknowledge her – if for just one, single last time.
Less than a week later, Emiya Kiritsugu died during his sleep.
A small but regal blonde woman with striking green eyes and dressed in a black suit came on the day of the funeral, accompanying a young girl with white hair and dark red eyes, equally dressed in black. The girl was surrounded by a very melancholic aura, but it wasn’t one of desperation. She was obviously sad, but accepting.
They caught the eye of more than one person who was present. No one knew what their connection to Kiritsugu was, but they had both evidently known him quite well. No one, however, dared approach them. The dignity and silence of their behaviour was enough to keep people at respectful distance.
When it was time to say the final goodbye to the man, the young girl seemed close to tears, alarming the people around her; but the blonde woman, without a word, placed a hand on her shoulder in comfort. The girl smiled at her through tear-filled eyes, and buried her face into the woman’s welcoming arms.
Many who witnessed the scene began to wonder if, in spite of the differences in their appearance, the two were mother and daughter.
Towards the end of the funeral, a tall, lean, blond man dressed in dark clothes joined the woman and the girl. If the woman alone had not had enough of a royal appearance, seeing her next to the equally majestic man had more than one head turn in their direction.
The power the two of them were emanating, with the young girl in the middle of them, was so intense that they could not possibly go unnoticed.
The woman talked briefly with the man in a low voice, making it impossible for others to hear what they were saying. Many saw the man quietly tucking one of the woman’s strands of hair behind her ear, and she had no apparent reaction to the intimacy of the gesture.
By the end of the day, when people left after the last rituals had been completed, everyone was convinced that those three people had been a family of foreign royals who had known the dead man in some way or another.
It was ironic, actually.
It took Kiritsugu his own funeral to obtain the respect of his social-status-caring neighbours in Fuyuki.