Chapter 21: Darkness of the past
As he had begun to do in the past weeks, Gilgamesh spent more and more time at the Tohsaka mansion, finding the couches better suited to his tastes and Tokiomi’s daughter a less boring company than Kirei’s.
Even when the girl was not there, the furnishing of the place, while not on the same level as the Einzberns’, was far more adequate than the Church’s simple and essential décor.
Since it was summer break, Rin was either at Illya’s, Shirou’s or home practising Magecraft. Even though Gilgamesh observed her progresses, he rarely intervened, except for pointing out a detail she might have missed.
The rest of the time, the King of Heroes remained sitting on a couch, sipping on his trademark glass of red wine, and when he left, it was to go to a café or a teashop with Arturia.
One day, he was just back from one such meeting – neither of them would ever call them dates –, when he found all the lights off and the house strangely silent. He could however sense Rin’s presence inside.
He raised an eyebrow.
As usual, he went to the large living room to lie down on one of the couches. There he found the black-haired girl sitting on the floor on her legs, with a very sad expression on her face.
His face did not betray his thoughts, but he had been quite convinced that she was at Emiya’s.
Although, to be fair, Arturia had told him that Illya was going to spend the afternoon at her brother’s… she had not mentioned Rin’s presence.
But the reason why she was currently slumped on the carpet of the living room in such a miserable mood escaped him.
The girl looked up when she heard him approach. He sat down on a couch, and noticed the hollow expression of her eyes, quite uncharacteristic for her. When he did not say anything, she spoke up quietly.
“Today it has been one year since my mother died.”
There was no emotion in her voice, except for a very deep but well-hidden grief.
Gilgamesh was well aware of the mental condition her mother had been in after the war, since he had been present when it had been inflicted upon her.
Rin, however, did not know that. She only knew that he had been a Servant during the Fourth Grail War, but since she had understood that it was best to stay away from anything connected to it, she had not enquired more… and she was unaware of the role either he or Arturia had had in the conflict.
The King of Heroes chose to stay silent.
Rin looked away from his eyes to stare into the empty fireplace, her expression not changing.
Suddenly, she started crying.
Not simple sobbing or whining, but true sorrowful tears began to stream down her face, and she buried her face in her hands.
The moments before her features were hidden, Gilgamesh saw such a mature anguish on her young face – similar to the one he had once seen on Arturia – that he was at a loss.
He knew that the girl was strong and dedicated, but there seemed to be moments like the current one in which she was very unhappy. He also knew he was partially responsible for her sadness… she obviously missed her parents, and the King of Heroes had been witness to both their demise, one physical and the other mental.
For the first time since he could remember, he was not sure what to do.
There was his former Master’s daughter crying her eyes out on the floor in front of him, and he was simply looking at her. He had never been in such a situation…
Well, that was not true. There had been another similar matter… the white-haired one, Illya, had once been very sad about the same reasons – her parents –, starting to cry, too.
But back then Arturia had been present, and she had comforted the girl with gentleness, until she had fallen asleep.
Perhaps it would work for the Tohsaka heir, too.
Gilgamesh decided he could try to do the same.
With uncharacteristic cautiousness for him, and continually wondering at how difficult and unusual it felt, the King of Heroes leaned forward – and he put his hand on the girl’s head.
At first, she did not react to his touch, but then her crying increased in volume and she allowed his hold to become a little firmer. She seemed to be less repressed in her distress, and let it all flow out, comforted by the hand touching her head.
Looking at her cry, Gilgamesh came to a startling realization – that such a simple motion was much, much harder than what he had thought.
He marvelled at Arturia.
She had done the exact same gesture, seemingly without effort, and with a very ancient look on her face. The fact that she knew how to do something like that did not displease him… it made him admire her.
He could now see how difficult it was – and yet she had done it easily.
Shortly after, Rin’s crying became softer as her strength began to leave her, and she slowly fell asleep. Her eyelids, heavy from the tears, drifted close, and she let her head fall forward in slumber.
Before the King of Heroes could stop it from happening, the young girl was fast asleep with her head resting on his knees.
He narrowed his eyes at the sight. That was not the outcome he had foreseen when he had decided to do something to comfort her.
He thought back on what Arturia had done when Illya had fallen asleep. She had taken the girl up in her arms and had brought her in her bedroom to allow her to rest comfortably.
Well, he was certainly not going to do the same.
But since she had fallen asleep on his knees, to at least free himself without making her fall on the floor he supposed he could put her on the couch.
When the black-haired girl was on the sofa in his place, he left the room, closing the door behind himself, and took out his mobile phone.
Just then, it began to ring. It was Arturia. Quite surprisingly, since they had already met in person that day.
Smirking at her remarkable timing, he answered. When she asked him if he was busy, he gave her a startling reply.
“Not anymore. Until a few moments ago, I had a snotty brat asleep on my knees.”
There were exactly three seconds of complete silence, before Arturia cleared her throat.
He knew from her tone that she did not believe him. And his attitude darkened.
“You heard me.”
Another brief silence followed. Then, her voice wary, she spoke again.
“Would you mind elaborating?”
He did not mind.
“It’s been one year since the girl’s mother died. She was in tears, and cried until she fell asleep on me.”
Arturia, on the other side of the line, knew there was a little more to it than that.
She knew he would never have allowed such closeness in the first place… so something else had to have happened to make Rin be near enough for such a scene to take place. However, she knew that Gilgamesh would not tell her more… at least, not through the phone. She made a mental note to ask the Tohsaka heir when they would meet again.
Speaking of the Tohsaka family… that was the reason she had actually called him in the first place. It was perhaps the right moment to ask him about a matter that had always made it impossible for her to ever truly consider Gilgamesh trustable.
“Gilgamesh… I have been meaning to ask this for a while now.”
He recognized the seriousness of her tone, and sat down on an armchair near the entrance of the house.
“What – exactly – was your involvement in Tokiomi’s death?”
They had already talked about the man in the past, particularly in Germany, when they had found out about the real rules of the war, and she knew from experience that Tokiomi was not someone to be trusted. She also knew that Gilgamesh considered him quite the boring person.
The King of Heroes would have narrowed his eyes at her if she had been present.
He understood the reason for such a question, even if she had not told him explicitly. She was still wary of him, because she did not know what his exact relationship with his Master had been.
Well. If she wanted clarifications on that, he would give them to her.
“I believe I have made it abundantly clear that I did not have fondness for the first Master I had during the war,” he began slowly. “He was a very conceited man, and acted in questionable manners in spite of being a powerful Magus. As his Servant, I can say that his behaviour and decisions when it came to me were boring, when not offensive, at best.”
He paused for a second, knowing that Arturia was listening attentively.
“When I was informed by Kirei about the real rules of the war and saw that Tokiomi was only waiting for the right moment to order me to commit suicide, I stopped even considering him my Master. But I did not do anything… because I wanted to see if he was still worthy of any consideration from my part since he did, after all, summon me.”
He shook his head slightly.
“However, Tokiomi only proved how much of a mongrel he was. He ended up gifting Kirei with the same weapon that the priest used to kill him.”
There was a very soft intake of breath from Arturia’s side.
“I was an observer to that scene… Had Tokiomi opened his eyes in time and realized Kirei’s true nature, I would have deemed him worthy enough of respect to intervene. But until his end, he remained convinced that everything was as he wanted to see it. So, when I was without a Master, to be able to continue to exist in the world, I agreed to make a contract with Kirei.”
He knew that Arturia would be able to understand his reasoning. His respect had to be earned; simply being his Master was not enough.
He continued, “Tokiomi was not an entirely stupid man, perhaps, but he was naïve, in the sense that he was unable to see the truth right in front of him… which, by the way, is what he taught his daughter as well. But at least the girl seems to have enough sense to be growing out of it.”
There was a long silence after his speech.
Arturia thought about what he had told her, knowing he had not lied.
That information certainly made her feel very bad on young Rin’s behalf… being under the tutelage of the man who had killed her father in cold-blood was absolutely terrible.
The other thing that made Arturia think was the fact that Gilgamesh was not exactly responsible for Tokiomi’s death. As his Servant, he should have probably protected his Master, that was true; but Arturia knew that the King of Heroes was different from people like her or Lancer or even Rider, who had pledged their loyalty to their Masters more or less openly. He would not be loyal to his Master, be it Tokiomi or Kirei, because they had not earned his loyalty or, at least, his respect.
Considering all the facts she knew, Arturia could see that Gilgamesh had not, as she had previously suspected, assisted Kirei in killing his Master. Even though he did not like Tokiomi, he had not taken part in his murder, instead observing the events unfold and therefore giving the man the possibility to still redeem himself in his opinion… something the Tohsaka head had not done.
The King of Knights’s thoughts went back to his daughter. It was a relief that Rin was not going down the same path as her father… she had opened her eyes in time. And Gilgamesh had been the one to help her in that.
She knew that that made her appear more worthy than her father in his eyes.
She frowned. She had been told the girl’s father destiny. But what about her mother? She had passed away a year before, as Gilgamesh had told her, but she suspected there was more to it. And it was probably the right moment to ask, considering that he seemed inclined to share details of the past.
“Thank you for telling me this, Gilgamesh. But I would like to know… why was Rin under Kirei’s guardianship after the war? Her mother passed away a year ago, she should have been able to look after her daughter herself…”
She heard him give a slow sigh.
“It seems, Arturia, that you are unaware of many of the dark secrets of the Tohsaka family.”
He made a glass of wine appear in the hand that was not holding the phone and took a sip before continuing.
“Tokiomi had two daughters.”
Arturia’s eyes narrowed in confusion. She had not known such a thing.
“However, according to his beliefs, even if both girls had apparently great magic potential, only one could be educated to become the family’s future leader and receive a proper training in such a sense. Therefore, he allowed his younger daughter to be adopted by the Matou family.”
The King of Knights closed her eyes. Irisviel had told her about the ruthlessness of that household… and she knew that Berserker’s Master – Lancelot’s Master – had been from there.
And Tokiomi had consciously sent his own child to that place?
She heard Gilgamesh’s voice again, bringing her out of her musings.
“I can feel your indignation from here, Arturia. But that is not all.”
He took another sip from his wine.
“There was a man from the Matou family, Kariya… who apparently was a childhood friend of Tokiomi’s wife. He was horrified at Tokiomi’s actions and the brutality that was inflicted upon the young girl, who was being… prepared to compete in the Grail War. Kariya offered to take her place to save her… and became a Master, summoning your friend Berserker.”
Arturia decided to ignore the allusion of those last words, and waited for him to continue.
“After Kirei killed Tokiomi, he arranged for Kariya to find his body at the same time his wife came to the place. Kariya lost control when she accused him of the homicide, and tried to strangle her. She survived but, because of that, she suffered mental damage, losing her reason.”
Arturia was silent.
She was deeply disgusted at Tokiomi and Kirei for their actions during the war, and she felt even more disgust when she thought about the fact that they had been training Rin to do the same.
Luckily, the girl was no longer their unknowing pawn, even if she was still in danger of being used in the future… unless she and Gilgamesh managed to destroy the Grail.
It was sickening to think that the black-haired girl’s guardian was the person who was responsible for her parents’ deaths. Arturia was not sure if she would let Rin know the truth right away – the girl had already been through enough –, but she promised herself that she would free her from the priest’s control.
Another thought struck her. Rin’s younger sister… the one who had been adopted by the Matou family…
“Gilgamesh… what was the name of Tokiomi’s younger daughter?”
He was slightly curious at her question.
Could it be…
There was a girl named Sakura who Taiga had been tutoring some time before. She was one year younger than Shirou and Rin, if Arturia remembered correctly. If she was indeed Tokiomi’s daughter… then there was perhaps the possibility to do something for the two separated sisters.
It was too early, however, to make such assumptions. She would have to meet the girl first.
Arturia then realized that Gilgamesh was still waiting for her to say something. She cleared her throat.
“Thank you, Gilgamesh, for telling me all of this. I… had no idea that the Tohsaka family had such a tragic history.”
He seemed to take no notice of her thanks and to be concentrated on something else.
“I am looking forward to seeing what you will do now, Arturia. With all this information, I have no doubt that you will set out to do something for the two daughters of Tokiomi.”
She almost smiled.
He could read her well… and for some reason, that did not bother her.
The King of Heroes had been right when he had predicted that Arturia would want to do something about the Tohsaka sisters. And in that occasion, fate decided to give her the opening she needed.
She brought Illya to the Emiya residence one afternoon, only to be greeted by Taiga and a purple-haired girl who were cooking together. Shirou was helping in the kitchen as well.
They welcomed them happily, and the unknown girl timidly introduced herself as Sakura Matou, and explained that she was one year younger than Shirou.
Hardly believing her luck, Arturia spent the afternoon with them, closely but discreetly observing the shy girl.
She could feel her great magic potential and, from everything else she could get to know from her, she was fairly certain she was Rin’s sister. She seemed to be a kind-hearted girl, even if her self-esteem was obviously quite low. She also seemed to have somehow a crush on Shirou.
That evening, while on the phone with Gilgamesh, Arturia mentioned that fact to him; and she was amused by his scoff. He said that the girl’s traumatic past had obviously ruined her capability to see people clearly, because otherwise she would never have entertained the notion of fancying that mongrel boy. Arturia did not reprimand the King of Heroes for his words; she personally found Sakura’s affection for Shirou to be quite cute.
During the following days, Arturia made sure to encourage Illya’s friendship with the purple-haired girl. A few times, when her ward accompanied both her brother and Sakura to school the days she was free from her own classes, the King of Knights observed them from a distance.
She noticed a blue-haired boy of Shirou’s age who seemed quite rude towards Sakura. After asking Illya, she discovered that he was the girl’s older brother, Shinji Matou.
More than once, Arturia noticed him being quite tyrannical towards his sister, and she also perceived that he probably did much worse at home.
Sakura was always kind to everyone, but the King of Knights could see glimpses of the fact that she was most likely being abused terribly at the Matou’s.
And observing that boy, Shinji, who was very obviously a bullying coward, mistreat her in public after all she had already been through, Arturia could hardly contain her anger.
However, there was nothing she could do at the moment, aside from welcoming Sakura with warm friendliness and supporting her relationship with Shirou, Illya and even Rin, when she came to the Emiya’s.
Arturia could not speak to the girl directly, because she did not know how her situation at home was… talking to her about her past could put her in danger.
But she would not let the situation remain the way it was… about that, she was absolutely certain.