Chapter 17: A song and a new encounter
Going to meet Emiya Shirou was one of the last occasions in which the two kings were together – and with Illya, Arturia reminded herself – for several weeks of time.
They had to be more careful after that and only communicate through phone calls, mainly because of Kirei. It was true that the man, who had become a great deal more arrogant, was no longer as threatening a menace as he had been in the past, but it was best if he did not find out about Illya’s presence in Fuyuki nonetheless. And, even if he had other duties to tend to and would not monitor the King of Heroes constantly, he might get suspicious if he left too often.
The priest, though, did not seem to have any interest in Kiritsugu’s adoptive son, and that made sure that Illya and Shirou’s friendship, which had tentatively started the first afternoon in which they had met, could continue to grow.
The two children wanted to get to know each other, because they were siblings, at least in the eyes of the law, and they both had memories of their father to share.
Arturia, after always confirming that Kirei was otherwise occupied during her evening phone calls with Gilgamesh, often brought Illya at Shirou’s. To her mild amusement, she noticed how the boy did his best to avoid even looking at her, and she mentally rolled her eyes each time, thinking that the King of Heroes had exaggerated a bit in terrifying the kid.
The first times she brought Illya to the Emiya residence, Arturia remained there as well, conversing with Taiga – well, mainly letting Taiga talk while she listened – and sometimes to what the two children told each other, too. But after a while, the King of Knights began to give more space to the young girl, for several reasons.
For one, around Kiritsugu’s house there was still a strong protective field, therefore the place was not unguarded. Illya had become very skilled in magic, and Arturia knew she could trust the girl to take care of herself. Her ward was growing up, after all, and she could not continue to be shielded by her the whole time. Another important factor that influenced Arturia’s decision was the fact that neither Taiga nor Shirou could use magic in any form and way. Both she and Illya had been able to confirm that, and it was something that reassured the blonde woman. In addition, during her initial stay, she had come to see that Taiga, in spite of her playfulness, apparent air-headedness and constant chatter, was a reliable person when it came down to it. Arturia exchanged phone numbers with the woman, knowing she could put enough faith in her, at least when it came to Illya’s safety inside the house where the Fujimura woman lived with the boy.
Arturia talked about all that on the phone with Gilgamesh. As she had promised, she called him every evening, usually summarizing the day’s events and asking how it was going with Kirei. He scoffed and made snide remarks on the mongrel’s arrogance, manifesting his irritation with him very clearly.
One evening, Arturia was sitting on her bed, talking on the phone with Gilgamesh and explaining worriedly that Illya had been in a very pensive mood the whole day.
There was a sudden knock on the door and a soft, “Arturia?” coming from the other side.
Recognizing Illya’s voice and knowing that Gilgamesh had heard her, too, she quickly murmured, “Forgive me, Gilgamesh. I will call you back in a while.”
She pressed a button and put the phone on her bedside table.
Illya came inside, dressed in her pyjamas. She seemed a bit sheepish and kept playing with her hair.
“I don’t mean to disturb you, Arturia. I’m just thinking… about mommy.”
After a short silence, she added, “She would have loved to live here in Japan… with me.”
Without making a sound, Arturia moved slightly from her sitting position on the bed and opened her arms to welcome the girl. There was a carpet made of wool on the floor, and that was where Illya seated herself, putting her head into the woman’s lap.
Silence followed, as the former King of Britain quietly and softly caressed the girl’s white hair. She knew her ward needed some comfort.
Illya began to speak again.
“You know, mommy sometimes sang to me in the evenings. I know that this is a bit much to ask but… just for tonight… would you sing me a song?”
That was something the woman had not expected her to ask. It was a very surprising request… and a difficult one.
Arturia was not the type to refuse when Illya’s wish was a fair one, especially not when the girl was feeling sad, but… she did not really know any songs. She had spent too much time on the battlefield to know much about lullabies and tunes. She had never had the occasion to…
… but she suddenly remembered. After a very gruesome battle, she had once heard a woeful song from a mother to her fatherless child… and she had been impressed by the lyrics. She could still recall them.
So the King of Knights cautiously cleared her throat.
“It will not be anything special, Illya, and it won’t be even close to what Irisviel was capable of. But I will try.”
Softly, voice slightly trembling but quickly gaining confidence, Arturia sang a mournful, sad melody, allowing her voice to carry the pain and sorrow that she had known herself during her life in the past.
“You are my moon,
You are my sun,
You are the stars in my eyes.
I am alive only for you,
You are the hope of this broken heart.
You are my beautiful dream,
To whom all my hopes are bound.
The wind blows through the forest and birds fly through the garden,
Someday you too will fly in the sky like a cloud.
You are so tiny, and so beautiful,
You are so little, so precious.
You are my moon,
You are my sun,
You are the stars in my eyes.”
She was grateful that no one else but Illya was ever going to hear that, because she would have otherwise felt very, very embarrassed.
She noticed that the girl was crying by the end of the short song, so she took a handkerchief from her bedside table and tenderly dried her cheeks.
The young girl hugged her around the waist.
“Thank you so much, Arturia… You are too good to me.”
The woman returned the hug.
“Don’t say such a thing, Illya,” she kindly chided.
The girl finished wiping away the rest of her tears, thanked her again and reluctantly stood up to go to sleep. Arturia accompanied her to her room, affectionately tucking her to bed, turning off the lights and wishing her a goodnight.
Back to her own room, the King of Knights took the phone that she had left next to her bed, intending to call Gilgamesh.
But, to her initial confusion and then dismay, she realized that the phone call had not been ended… she had instead put the phone on speaker.
She heard a soft chuckle, slightly distorted because it was coming from the phone.
“Oh yes, King of Knights,” came his voice through the device, “you didn’t end the call, so I could listen to everything.”
There was a short pause full of tension. Arturia, who had turned crimson and was thanking every deity in the universe for the fact that he could not see her face, forced herself to speak.
“You… you heard.”
His tone was quite casual, as if he was commenting the weather – not that he would ever do such a mundane thing.
“When you called tonight, I did not expect the evening to become this entertaining. Such a performance was definitely worth coming to live with the mongrel.”
Time to change the subject, Arturia decided. Doing her best to push aside her embarrassment, she quickly reflected to find something that would divert his attention… and she steered the conversation towards Taiga. She knew that he did not care about the woman, but he was still disgruntled whenever anything about the ‘bratty mongrel’ came up, so it was the safest course of action to distract him.
Her mentioning the woman earned her a non-committal scoff on his part, and she mentally sighed in relief. She had no intention of talking about the scene that had just taken place between Illya and her.
However, there was only so much she could say about Taiga, and then she found herself at a loss for words. Deciding it was time to really end the call, she was about to break the short silence by saying goodbye, when he prevented her from doing that.
His voice was low and thoughtful.
“You know, Arturia… Having you to take care of her is the best thing that could have happened to that girl. She should be more grateful for it.”
Eyes wide, the King of Knights did not even have the time to say a word before he ended the call himself.
Arturia stared at the device in her hands. She hoped he would stop with his strange behaviour towards her soon, or she would seriously begin to question her sanity.
In the past, he had made it quite clear that he found her dedication to Illya… interesting. He had told her that it was quite fascinating to see her try to change the girl’s destiny.
However, he had never explicitly approved what she was doing… at least not the way he had done that evening.
Gilgamesh was leaning on a couch in the newly built Church, a glass of red wine in hand. He was bored out of his mind.
Living with the priest was much more tedious than what he had told Arturia. Not only did Kirei never do anything interesting, he was also convinced that he was instead doing just that, and therefore there was no hope of him becoming intriguing in any way.
The King of Heroes could admit privately that perhaps being together with someone as captivating as Arturia during the former five years had a bit influenced his point of view, but Kirei had really dulled as a human being.
For example, when Gilgamesh had come back with legal documents for himself and only offered a very vague explanation on how he had procured them, the priest had not showed to be particularly suspicious and had seemingly accepted his word, only irritating him further.
Kirei had not been like that during the war. He had been a calculating, manipulative and distrustful man. He still was, in some ways, but he had become arrogant. That in itself was very uninteresting, but the fact remained: Gilgamesh enjoyed being around people who could catch his interest and perhaps even challenge him, regardless of them having good or bad intentions.
Kirei had been interesting to observe during the war, but he had become so arrogant that he no longer had the traits that had made him such. He was purely evil, simply enjoying inflicting pain on others without them knowing it. Eventually, Gilgamesh knew that he was going to be so irritated by the mongrel that he would have to dispose of him.
Again, he wondered if perhaps being around Arturia so much had changed his perspective of interesting people. Whatever the case, he did not care. As it was, he found Kirei to be one of the most annoying people to have nearby, and he was very displeased at not having the King of Knights with him.
He had rarely been away from her for more than five years. He was aware of the reason why she had suggested he go live with the priest and found it quite a reasonable decision to protect the girl she was legally responsible for, but he did not like to have to be apart from her.
At least he had been able to make sure she called him every evening. After another unbearable day with that mongrel, he admitted it was a relief to hear her voice, even if it was coming through an infernal device created by modern humans.
And some unexpected surprises had come along as well… like when he had had the chance to listen to her singing to Illya. That had been quite… astounding, coming from the King of Knights. He could honestly not judge the quality of her singing because of the device that did not do justice to the voice, but he had found it very interesting to hear the specific words and the maternal way in which she comforted the young girl.
Thinking of young girls reminded him of the child entrusted to Kirei’s care. He almost rolled his eyes.
The girl, Rin Tohsaka, from what he had briefly been able to see, had a little more resemblance to her mother than her father, but that was all he knew about her. And he did not wish to know anything else, even if he was aware of the fact that Arturia would have disagreed with him.
He almost groaned aloud.
That woman seemed to have found a place for herself in his every thought.
Doing the shopping was something that had been done by the servants for a long time, but since they had gone to live in an apartment, Arturia and Illya usually went together to buy everything that they needed. Also, it was best not to have any servants, homunculi or not, to go around the city on their behalf.
One afternoon, Arturia left Illya at Shirou’s and went to the huge shopping mall in Fuyuki. She did not go often, because it always made her feel strange; it was something so… domestic.
She had to buy new summer clothes and shoes, because spring was almost over and summer was beginning to make its presence known. She had gone to buy clothes with Illya a few days before, and had focused on finding proper sizes for the girl; therefore, she needed something to wear herself.
Knowing that it was best to adapt to the way the local people dressed in order to avoid standing out too much, she found several dresses that would suit her, choosing different colours and designs and matching sandals, and as few accessories as possible beside handbags.
As she was patiently waiting in line to pay for her articles, she saw a young girl with long black hair partially tied up in two ponytails, who was looking at two coats with a very indecisive expression on her face. The coats had the same tailored cut, but one was blue while the other was red. Arturia looked around discreetly, noticing that the girl – whose appearance gave the impression to have something familiar or at least, something she recognized from before – seemed to be alone.
More importantly, and Arturia was certain of it, the girl was able to use magic… the mana that surrounded her was quite strong, even if it appeared to be a bit untrained.
Right then, the King of Knights spotted a sales clerk going swiftly towards the girl, with the obvious intention of ‘helping’ her out. She knew from her experience there with Illya that that shop assistant was a very insistent person, and it had taken her a great deal of her personality to drive her away.
Arturia found herself taking action before thinking. She left the line and went up to the girl, who eyed her warily but not with real alarm. The shop assistant, noticing the blonde woman, stopped in her tracks and turned around to leave, disappointed.
Arturia gave a kind smile to the girl, who in turn noticed the saleswoman who was leaving and shuddered slightly. Quickly understanding the situation, she directed a grateful expression to Arturia, not seeming shy or afraid in front of her.
“Thank you, ma’am. That shop assistant can be a nuisance.”
Arturia raised an eyebrow at the girl’s blunt way of saying things, but nodded at her.
She hesitated for a split second.
“If I may… I would recommend the red coat. It suits you better than the blue one.”
The girl seemed to be taken aback, and observed Arturia keenly. Realizing that the woman’s kindness was genuine, she seemed even more surprised. Her suspicions seemed to disappear and she smiled with more warmth.
“Thank you, ma’am. I will follow your advice.”
Even if the thanking words were the same as before, there was now a little more than just politeness. She was evidently a girl who wanted to be alone, and was used to it.
The line in front of the checkout had already dispersed, and the girl went to pay for the red coat she was holding. Arturia got in line behind her, waiting for her turn.
The girl put the coat on the counter and determinedly said, “Put this on my card.”
The woman in front of her, however, smiled apologetically.
“I’m very sorry, miss Tohsaka, but Father Kirei called to block your credit in the shop. He said he doesn’t have the possibility to cover new expenses for a while.”
The black-haired girl was dismayed, and completely failed to notice Arturia slightly tensing up behind her.
“But… but that’s idiotic! Of course he can pay! I will need this coat!”
The woman seemed positively contrite. “I’m very, very sorry, miss Tohsaka, but there is nothing I can do.”
Arturia observed the scene, thinking quickly. So, it appeared that that girl was Tokiomi’s daughter, of whom Gilgamesh had briefly talked about… Rin Tohsaka. And from what she had just heard, it appeared she was being closely controlled by Kirei.
The woman was reminded of Illya’s situation… not being able to anything on her own… not even something minor as buying her own clothes.
The impulse was immediate and she decided to follow it. She briefly checked to have enough money.
Arturia took a few steps forward, calmly putting her own purchases on the counter and looking at the shop assistant.
“Please add the red coat to these articles.”
The girl was too surprised by the unexpected turn of events to do anything, and the saleswoman was too intimidated by Arturia’s royal countenance to question her. The King of Knights paid for everything, took her own bags and handed the neatly folded coat to the girl.
Rin seemed to be conflicted, looking between the blonde woman and the coat, but she was smart enough to understand Arturia’s warning glance towards the shop assistant. It wasn’t wise to discuss anything or start a scene there. So the girl simply murmured her thanks and took her brand new piece of clothing, following the woman outside.
As soon as they left the shop, however, Rin immediately challenged her.
“It was very kind of you, ma’am, but you should not have interfered. This is a personal family issue you should not get involved in.”
Arturia simply looked at her, deciding it was best to let her know that she had more knowledge about her than what would appear at first glance.
“Kirei may be your legal guardian, but he has no right to prevent you from using your family’s money, especially for everyday needs.”
The girl’s eyes widened and she looked at the woman in wonder, before becoming suspicious once again. Not allowing her the time to say anything, however, Arturia gave her a kind smile.
“I am sure we will meet again, Rin Tohsaka. Please take good care of your new coat… and be careful around the priest. Have a nice day.”
She turned around and walked away, leaving a dumbfounded black-haired girl behind.