Chapter 2: Waking up
When Gilgamesh woke up, the first thing he noticed was the burning smell and the dry air that come with a fire. High flames were slowly and noiselessly consuming the scattered remains of the desolated place around him.
The second thing he noticed was his lack of clothing. He was completely naked.
And the third thing he noticed was the woman he had been shielding within his arms, still lying in his lap, lacking clothes as well.
Keeping the unconscious King of Knights in his grasp, he looked around. Everything was burnt and surrounded by flames, and it appeared that not only the building in which they had been before had exploded, but also quite a few nearby places.
Gilgamesh shook his head lightly. What had the black mud done to him, except for taking his clothes – and his valuable golden armour, he thought in irritation?
Or maybe, something had been done after all. He seemed… to be alive.
He had… a real body.
He was no longer dependent on someone else’s mana.
Intrigued by the unexpected development, he felt for Saber’s pulse.
She was alive as well, it appeared… and they both had real bodies – who cared if they were naked.
Gilgamesh stood up, with his usual haughtiness. He looked around – there was nothing suitable to be used as a piece of clothing, except for some half-burnt curtains in one corner of the former room that had miraculously escaped the fire.
Those were hardly appropriate to cover someone such as himself and the woman he had taken the trouble to hold in his arms while the black mud surrounded them. But they would do – for the time being. He went to take them, and put one around the king on the floor. He didn’t bother to avoid looking at her naked body – after all, she was going to be his wife, whether she wanted it or not – but he did not touch her more than what was strictly necessary to cover her. Even if she was his, and therefore his to do whatever he pleased, by carrying the weight of her burdens until the very end she had earned the right to at least that little form of respect on his part.
Once Gilgamesh had put the other curtain around his sculptured body to cover himself as well, he picked up the sleeping King of Knights in his arms. He took notice that Saber was surprisingly light.
Thinking about her, it occurred to him that it was better to stop calling her with her Servant’s Class title. Her name was Arturia – a strange name, he mused – and he would now begin to use it.
He walked across the desolation left by the Grail’s dark substance, caring little for the destroyed building and looking at it with contempt.
To his mild surprise, he found another living person amongst the rubble – Kotomine Kirei.
For some inexplicable reason, the priest was alive without having his heart beating. He had been drenched in the Grail’s strange mud, too, and had apparently been granted life. He had seen Kiritsugu earlier as well, but the man had been completely mentally broken and was wandering around senselessly, looking for other survivors. He had found a young boy, and had then cried in relief while taking him to safety. Kirei had not found it interesting to kill either him or the child, so he had simply watched them go.
The priest related those facts to the King of Heroes, wondering at him now having a real body.
However, as soon as he saw Arturia, he raised an eyebrow and swiftly took out a dagger. Gilgamesh raised an eyebrow as well, held the woman more tightly against his chest and coldly stared the priest down.
“What do you think you are doing, Kirei?”
The dark-hearted man looked at the King of Heroes with incredulity.
“Gilgamesh, Saber is too dangerous to be kept alive. You know that as well as I do.” His eyes flashed. “And now that the war has ended, she is nothing but a leftover to get rid of.”
That comment made Gilgamesh instinctively open his Gate of Babylon.
Hmm, so apparently he could still use his powers, even though he had become human. That was good to know.
The King of Heroes pointed a golden sword at his second Master from the Fourth Holy Grail War and coldly glared at him. “Arturia is mine to do whatever I please.”
Kirei was not impressed. “Now of all times you wish to have a new form of amusement, Gilgamesh? And of all the people of interest who are in this world, you have chosen this foolish and childish woman? I thought this was not worthy of the King of Heroes.”
Gilgamesh stared him down. Normally, if anyone talked to him like that, they would die. But this time the mongrel’s insult and ridicule were too beneath him to take them seriously.
“As everything in this world belongs to me, she does too. And you will not lay a finger on what belongs to the King of Heroes, Kotomine Kirei.”
The priest looked at his former Servant, assessing him. He knew that Gilgamesh was incredibly powerful and cunning, and if he wanted to keep the woman, he probably had a good reason for it. As long as she didn’t become a threat… and he doubted she would, if she was supposed to amuse the King of Heroes.
Therefore he gave a dismissing nod and then turned around. He was going to go to the Tohsaka residence – now that the Church was destroyed, he didn’t have other places to go. Legally, he was Rin’s guardian after all… he had the right to stay there. His lips formed a slight smirk. The girl still didn’t know about her father and mother.
He would enjoy telling her and secretly relish in her misery.
Before he left, he noticed that the King of Heroes wasn’t following him. Kirei arched an eyebrow at him.
Reading his unspoken question, Gilgamesh gave him a haughty look. “I’m not going to be around while you babysit a brat, Kirei. I will spend my time with more interesting things.”
The priest looked at the woman in his arms with a bored expression, and then shrugged. “Do not let Saber see me, Gilgamesh. Make sure she doesn’t know about the latest events of the war.”
Gilgamesh narrowed his eyes but didn’t trouble himself with a reply. The mongrel’s audacity had increased a great deal since he had become aware and had accepted his true dark nature – but instead of having that trait making him shine among the other rabid dogs, he had failed to become interesting. His growing arrogance only proved that he was quickly becoming too full of himself and, in a short while, he might end up similarly to Tokiomi, becoming unable to see the reality in front of his own eyes.
But it wasn’t his problem what Kirei was going to do with his life. He had provided him adequate entertainment for quite a while – the fact that he was now uninteresting didn’t faze the King of Heroes. There was no mongrel capable of amusing him for more than a short while – and even if those capable of such a feat were rare, they also quickly reverted to the role of commoners.
Kirei was such an example.
Looking at the woman in his arms, Gilgamesh had to pause in his reasoning.
What he had seen inside the Grail was still fresh in his memory. He could not dismiss her as quickly as everyone else. He would have to wait and see… if she was truly worthy as he expected her to be.
He narrowed his eyes at her, as an unwanted thought suddenly crossed his mind. She had been drenched in the Grail’s darkness, too – it was highly likely that the filthy cup had tried to corrupt her and shatter her soul.
And he didn’t know whether it had succeeded or not.
Did he still want her as his wife, as he had wanted before the end of the war? Yes, he did.
But from her he wanted what made the former Saber so Saber, nothing less. He had to make sure that Arturia, the one who would wake up, was no different from Saber… Or, if she was, that she was equally, if not more, interesting in his eyes. He needed to observe her before deciding whether to make her his wife or not… he only wanted someone worthy as his companion, no one else.
And if Arturia had lost against the Grail… then that would mean that she had been broken beyond repair, and she was no longer worthy of a second glance of his. What made the woman so fascinating was who she was; if the dark entity of the Grail had taken over… it meant that she as a person didn’t exist anymore. That meant that the woman in front of him was merely a doll, a puppet manipulated by the corrupted cup. And if that was truly the case, he would have to dispose of such a nuisance.
That meant that he would have to observe her carefully.
The priority at the moment was to find a place to stay. He refused to be with the priest any longer – not only was Tokiomi’s offspring around, he also wanted to be able to focus on Arturia without interference.
A good place to go might be somewhere she was familiar with… but also a place her former Master was unlikely to show up.
There was an Einzbern Castle outside of Fuyuki… and according to Kirei, it had been partially destroyed by Lancer’s Master. It was improbable for anyone to go back there.
Turning around, Gilgamesh briefly wondered if, having still his powers, he could dematerialize as well…
He had his answer when both he and the King of Knights in his arms vanished.
Pain. The first thing Arturia felt when her awareness began to come back was an excruciating pain.
And, even if she hated herself for that moment of weakness, she cried out in utter agony.
She groggily opened her eyes, without managing to see anything, not completely aware of the last things that had happened before she had lost consciousness.
The feeling of the dry air against her skin awoke her other senses as well – and Arturia realized she was naked. She was covered by what seemed to be a blanket and lying on a bed, but she was without clothes. Her hands went up in a rare moment of feminine bashfulness to cover her breasts more securely.
A deep, short chuckle made her aware of the fact that there was someone else there with her – someone she was unfortunate enough to recognize. Arturia pushed her back off the mattress of the bed – making sure to keep the blanket high enough to hide her chest – and looked around herself.
She was in a simple bedroom. There were some golden and red elements decorating both the walls and the furniture here and there, but it wasn’t anything overwhelming. Strange, considering what the King of Heroes’s tastes were usually like.
Speaking of which, his eyes were the next thing she saw when she glanced to her right. On her left there was a wall against which her bed was leaning.
The room seemed familiar, but she didn’t ponder over it, because right then Archer’s red eyes were boring into her soul.
There was something… different about him, though.
His eyes were definitely amused – but there was also something else. If she hadn’t known any better, Arturia would have thought that there was some concern and a little satisfaction. On second thought – the satisfaction was definitely there.
Suddenly, all the former events came crashing down on her – and her hands left the blanket to grab her own head.
Her having to fight him in his mad condition and ultimately pierce her blade through him…
Archer’s completely random proposal…
His last Command, repeated twice in order to fully enforce it upon her, to completely extinguish any kind of foolish last hope she had had…
Her sword taking form and her arms lifting it for the final blow, acting against her wishes…
The bright light of Excalibur, surrounding everything and destroying the Grail…