Chapter 24: Kirei and Sakura
The following day, Gilgamesh was lying down on a couch, a red wine glass in hand, while Kirei was looking through some documents he needed to fill in.
The King of Heroes was thinking. He wanted some information from the priest… but there was no need to be particularly subtle with that arrogant man.
Swirling his glass, he spoke up.
“I was under the impression that the Matous were supposed to be clever people.”
Kirei’s interest was awakened. It was very rare for Gilgamesh to address him, and it was even rarer for him to bring up subjects connected with the Fourth Grail War.
Unperturbed, the king continued.
“Kariya Matou was nothing more than a puppet manoeuvred from the shadows during the war… Things were said to have changed for the family. Even if their lineage is dying and the direct descendant, that blue-haired brat, has indescribably little magic prowess… since Zouken adopted Tokiomi’s daughter, the Matous were supposed to have gained new power.”
“They have. The magical energy that the girl, Sakura, has… is enormous. Adopting her has strengthened the family.”
Gilgamesh did not seem impressed.
“It certainly does not appear to be the case. She is nothing but a timid and submissive child. And her adopted brother, who is supposed to be much less powerful, does nothing but verbally and physically abuse her.” He gave a scoff. “And you are telling me that that girl is strong? Your ability to get information has deplorably worsened.”
The King of Heroes knew that such a sentence would trigger Kirei… and he would walk straight into his net and be entangled in it, telling him everything he wanted to know about Sakura and Zouken.
As expected, the priest’s dark eyes narrowed.
“I said she had strong magic powers, not that she was strong as a person.” His expression became more derisive. “Not that one could actually blame the girl. She spends her days in the dungeon, with the worms feeding on her body’s energy, and with Zouken’s ruthless and sadistic training. Her adoptive brother, Shinji, is unaware of this… he only sees his ‘Grandfather’ spending more time with his younger sister than with him, and he hates her for it. And after hours and hours of torture with that old man, it’s no wonder she can’t defend herself against Shinji… and is completely at his mercy.”
Gilgamesh considered that information. Arturia would be horrified to find out about it, and he could not avoid being a little disgusted himself at what was being done to Rin’s innocent sister.
However, from what Kirei had said, it was highly unlikely for Zouken to ever let Sakura go abroad as they had planned, and it would be quite difficult to save her from the abusive, dysfunctional family she was trapped in.
The only way to free her would be killing Zouken, but that was close to impossible.
The old man was a master magician, and he would not be broken as easily as Jubstacheit. His very nature, for one, was strong enough to have allowed him to live for centuries.
However, there could be a way to get rid of that immortal parasite… even if he would have to mention it to Arturia first, to make sure she agreed. For the moment, he would keep his thoughts to himself and focus again on Kirei.
Right on cue, the priest’s phone rang and he answered, walking out of the room to not be disturbed.
Gilgamesh took a sip of wine, knowing perfectly who was on the other end of the line, and waited for a dissatisfied Kirei to come back.
The dark-haired man looked at him with a suspicious expression, and the King of Heroes did not bother to suppress his smirk.
The priest’s voice was cold. The King of Heroes would have been annoyed if he had not been waiting for the following part of the conversation.
“Rin was on the phone. Completely out of nowhere, she asked permission to go visit a friend of hers in Germany. A friend whose surname is Einzbern.”
His eyes scrutinized the man on the couch distrustfully.
“And she said that if I was against it – which I definitely am – I should talk with you.”
Very elegantly, Gilgamesh sat up, facing Kirei. His smirk was more pronounced than usual, and his blood red eyes had a menacing glint in them. Even if the priest did not change expression, he was internally very guarded.
“What right do you have to deny the girl’s desire, Kirei?”
The man in question could not hide his wariness any longer and his gaze became circumspective. His answer was stony, but with a hint of tension and defiance in it.
“I am Rin’s legal guardian and responsible for her–..”
He was interrupted by Gilgamesh’s short, humourless hard laugh.
“Oh, you would like that to be true. But it is – unfortunately – not the case.”
The very slight uneasiness from before became more apparent in the priest’s usually empty eyes.
“As much as you could hope for the contrary, you are not Rin’s legal guardian. The Tohsaka insurance lawyers, as it happens, are not completely incompetent, and they did not trust you as the sole person with power over both the family’s heir and fortune. You had to indicate someone else as tutor for the girl… and the day you had ‘meetings with some attorneys’, I had just come here as well, with my legal documents. So… having no better option, you indicated me as the legal guardian of Rin Tohsaka – without mentioning a word about it.”
Kirei’s expression had not changed, but his complexion had paled considerably.
Complying with Arturia’s earnest request, the King of Heroes had indeed looked into the matter of Tokiomi’s heritage.
Gilgamesh’s menacing grin only widened.
“Did you honestly think that you would get away with trying to control and manipulate me, Kirei?”
The man could not avoid taking a step back and subtly prepare himself to summon his weapons. He knew better than to underestimate the king in front of him… especially if he was angry.
But Gilgamesh did not seem inclined to attack him. He simply took another sip from his glass.
“Oh, do not fear. I will not do anything to you… for now.”
He studied the colour of the wine.
“But you were a fool if you thought I would never know of your actions, Kirei. So, as punishment for not telling me… since the girl wishes to go to visit her friend in Germany, and since that is something you oppose… you will let her accept the invitation.”
The priest’s eyes narrowed, but he was still very pale. Gilgamesh didn’t even look at him as he continued to taste the wine, unperturbed.
Stiffly, Kirei exited the room to call the Tohsaka mansion and give Rin permission to leave. He knew he had no other choice.
He had known the day he had chosen Gilgamesh as Rin’s tutor that the king would not be pleased if he found out. Of course, he had found out – and apparently, he had made the documents official.
There was nothing Kirei could do to change things as they were at the moment.
When he was finished, he came back to the living room, where Gilgamesh was now standing. He opened his Gate of Babylon and threw the glass inside it, before looking at the dark-haired man again.
“There is something else you might be interested in knowing. Arturia will come here at the Church in a few days… and she will perform the ritual to summon the Grail.”
Kirei was completely taken aback.
Arturia…? Saber from the war?
She was going to come to the Church to do what?
But, after thinking about it, his perspective changed.
Of course… it made sense.
That childlike woman… she had desired the Grail so much. Even if she was unbelievably naïve, she was not completely stupid, and if she intended to summon the cup, it meant she had the actual means to do so, and there was even the possibility of her succeeding.
Interesting. Meeting the Grail again… it would be a very thrilling experience. And it wouldn’t be too much of a problem to get rid of Saber. After doing the ritual, she was going to be out of energy.
He almost smirked.
“So that woman has still not given up on her desire for the Grail? Hoping that the cup can grant her a wish… what stupidity.”
Gilgamesh did not bother commenting. In the end, he would not even have to manipulate Kirei… that fool of a mongrel was doing all on his own. And his arrogance seemed to already be back, even if only minutes before he was as pale as a sheet.
“What astonishes me the most, Gilgamesh, is that you, with all your treasures, seem endlessly fascinated with Saber. She was nothing but a dreamer… a strong warrior doubtlessly, but too immersed in her nonsensical ideals.”
Gilgamesh felt his irritation begin to rise at those words, but he knew that the priest didn’t even know what he was talking about.
So he calmly said, “You never tried to see, much less understand, what kind of person she really is, Kirei. It’s not surprising for you to make such assumptions.”
The dark-haired man snorted.
“I don’t care about her as a person. She is going to summon the Grail for her stupid wish, and that is enough to think low of her. And besides, the energy required for the ritual is going to drain her… and if that is not enough to kill her, then I will be present to finish the job.”
Gilgamesh could literally see everything around him becoming red, his anger growing out of proportion.
Only the thought of Arturia managed to keep his self-control from slipping.
He briefly considered opening his Gate of Babylon to teach Kirei a lesson… but he decided against it. The man was not worth using his treasures on.
Therefore, he looked at the priest, allowing the full extent of his maliciousness to be visible in his mana level and his eyes.
A dangerous smirk appeared on his face.
“You would be wise to watch your tongue and not get cocky, mongrel. You will not speak of her like that. And make sure to remember this.”
His eyes narrowed, and in that instant his expression was so death-defying that Kirei became white. The King of Heroes repeated the words he had already pronounced many years before.
“Even though there is an incredible amount of heavenly treasures in my domain, she is by far superior to all of them put together… and you will not lay a finger on her, Kotomine Kirei.”
With a last terrifying glare, the golden King dematerialized.
While Gilgamesh was talking with Kirei, Arturia had gone to the Emiya residence to speak with both Illya and Rin.
She took her ward aside, to have a very honest talk with her.
She explained that the time had come for her and Gilgamesh to destroy the Grail, and that meant that it was going to be very dangerous. Not only that, but when the cup was going to be in the world of the living, it might try to pull other people inside as well… other people with the potential to be Masters. And since Illya had that kind of potential, Arturia told her that it was best if she went to Germany, where the hotel’s construction had just been completed and she could therefore examine the place and check if everything was proceeding as it should.
Another thing she could do was invite Rin to stay with her. Aside from the fact that they were friends, the Tohsaka heir was another potential candidate as a Master, and having her stay away from Fuyuki would be for the best. To be fair, it was not strictly necessary to be in the city to become Masters, but the Grail was still building up its strength, and therefore would not be able to reach people far away from there.
Arturia added that of course her adoptive brother and Taiga were welcome to come as well, so that there would be the rest of the family and an adult to look over them.
The young girl was quite worried about her guardian, but Arturia calmed her concerns swiftly and asked her if she agreed with her idea. Illya nodded, and they went back to the others, where she kindly made her invitation.
Taiga and Shirou immediately accepted, eager to go to a foreign country, while Rin was hesitant, clarifying that she needed her guardian’s permission first. As she was about to go home to call Kirei, Arturia addressed her with a few words, saying to her that if the man was going to refuse – as he was no doubt going to do – she should tell him to talk with Gilgamesh.
Rin was surprised but, reassured by Arturia’s small smile, nodded.
Arturia also briefly talked with Taiga, explaining that neither she nor Gilgamesh would be coming along, and therefore she was going to have the responsibility – if not legally, at least morally – for Illya and Rin as well. The brown-haired woman did not seem too concerned about it and accepted easily.
Illya and Shirou played in the park as the two women talked, and Rin – who for some reason looked particularly satisfied when she said she had permission to come – and Sakura – who was promptly invited to come with them to Germany – later joined them. The shy purple-haired girl seemed very dubious about coming along, but did not decline the offer.
They all spent the day in various games and chatting excitedly about the upcoming trip. The flight was scheduled to depart two days later.
After a while, Gilgamesh came as well. He silently let Arturia know with just one look that he had had no problems with the priest, and then casually sat down next to her, grudgingly accepting a teacup from the brown-haired woman, but only because he could not use his Gate of Babylon in front of a non-magic person as she was.
They were invited to stay over for the night by Taiga, who insisted it was the least she could do to repay them for the generous trip they had been offered. More out of politeness than else, Arturia accepted for both of them.
As soon as the brown-haired woman left to bring more biscuits to go with the tea, Gilgamesh’s mouth was on Arturia’s ear and he murmured, “Why did you accept the invitation in my name as well, King of Knights?”
She did her best to appear unaffected by his behaviour… and by his arm, who had just enveloped her waist to pull her closer.
“Oh. I was not aware of the fact that you would rather go back to Kirei’s.”
He had to suppress a laugh. She was becoming good at making him agree with her.
He gave her a short kiss on the ear before pulling away slightly because Taiga was back, but his arm did not leave her waist. Arturia could not subdue a slight shiver at the feeling of his lips on her skin.
That evening, long after they had eaten, the children were sent to their bedrooms. Taiga had just retired for the night as well, and Arturia, after having been told everything that had happened with Kirei, was standing up from the couch to do the same – while Gilgamesh seemed displeased to see her leave his arms –, when there was a hesitant knock on the living room door.
They briefly exchanged a glance and checked the mana of the person outside.
Recognizing Sakura, Arturia frowned, but called for her to come in.
The girl was in her bedclothes, and fidgeted slightly. She looked up at the woman in front of her, only to look away again.
Then she seemed to gather her courage and came forward to sit on an armchair. Arturia sat back on the couch next to Gilgamesh, who pulled her closer by the waist, and they both looked at the girl intently.
Her fists were clenched, and she kept them on her knees. She seemed to be conflicted with herself, and the two kings gave her the time she needed to come to a decision.
Eventually, she looked up. She seemed to be much more determined than usual, even if she didn’t completely meet their gaze when she addressed them.
She cleared her throat.
“I… well… have heard that…” She took a deep breath. “Tonight, before going to sleep, Illya was explaining to Rin why you invited us to go to Germany, and why you adults are not coming. I did not mean to eavesdrop, and I would have immediately tuned out the conversation… if I had not heard the word ‘Grail’.”
She took another deep breath, without looking up.
“Well, you will probably wonder why I was interested in it…”
Arturia’s voice was calm.
“I’m afraid we already know.”
Sakura looked up in shock.
The green eyes of the former King of Britain were firm on her purple ones.
“You are Rin’s biological sister, adopted by the Matou family to be their heir. And… we are aware of the kind of tortures that are inflicted upon you.”
Sakura was silent for a few minutes, her eyes downcast. Without looking up, she continued, “Then I don’t need to explain why I’m here.”
Arturia raised an eyebrow. Even if Gilgamesh’s expression did not change, she knew that he was mildly curious as well.
Sensing their questioning gazes on her, Sakura bit her lip before continuing.
“I… I heard… that you intend to destroy the Grail. I think that is the best thing that can be done… but I also know that it will not be an easy feat. I have to ask you a question: do you already have a vessel for the summoning?”
Arturia looked at Gilgamesh, and in their exchanged glance, they debated whether to tell her or not. She decided they could be honest with the girl, who seemed to be much more informed about the ritual than Illya and Rin, and he approved with his eyes.
“We don’t. But…”
Sakura’s voice, now with a hint of hysteria in it, interrupted her.
“You have it now. You can use my body.”
A short, stunned silence followed, in which even Gilgamesh lifted an eyebrow.
But before Arturia could begin to say anything, Sakura continued, still looking at her knees, “Please listen to me. My body has been prepared to be an adequate container for the Grail’s power by Zouken. Aside from the insects, which enforce my strength, he has given me a few fragments he collected from the former war’s Grail. With those, I am a very suitable candidate as a vessel.”
There was another silence.
Then Arturia slowly began, “Even if you are a ‘suitable vessel’, as you say, you cannot ask us such a thing. If you become the Grail’s physical form… you will die.”
Sakura’s head shot up and she finally met Arturia’s eyes directly.
“But don’t you see that that is exactly what I’m asking for? I know that I am going to die if I become the vessel… and that is the very reason I want to do it!”
Her breath had become faster, and she was almost panting, her usual shyness gone.
“The Grail has to be destroyed, and you are willing to do that. To destroy it, it has to be materialized in this world through a vessel, and you need a vessel. I have all the requisites of a proper container, and I am asking you to please use me as the vessel!”
Suddenly, a few tears escaped her eyes, and she hastily wiped them away. Her voice cracked.
“Please. I only ask to die, and for my death to be useful.”
The look in her purple eyes was so full of grief that Arturia found herself unable to look away.
She knew what the girl was asking for. Her life had been so miserable that all she wanted was death… and she was even altruistic enough to want to make sure that her passing would be of use.
The King of Knights stood up and went to the thirteen-year-old girl, kneeling in front of her and putting her hands on her shoulders.
Sakura looked up at her. Purple met green, and in that instant the two understood each other.
And for the first time, Sakura gave a small, honest and truthful smile.
Arturia spoke softly.
“Very well, then. Sakura… I accept your offer. You will be the Grail vessel in the summoning.”
Uncontrolled tears started to stream down the girl’s cheeks as she began to sob. She fell forward into Arturia’s embrace, holding the woman close as her relief poured out.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you…” she continued to repeat between the sniffles.
Gilgamesh observed the scene silently.
The girl had certainly proved to have more courage than he had expected. Her life must have been worse than hell itself if she wished for death so badly. And he knew that Arturia would see Sakura as a warrior who asked for an honourable death after a long time of fighting… and, being the noble person she was, she would respect her wishes.
It did not take long for the girl to fall asleep, and Arturia, after glancing at Gilgamesh to silently ask for a hand, gently put her down on the couch with his help. Such an action was expected of her.
However, the next thing she did was completely unexpected. She put her hands, surrounded by mana, over her breasts – and Gilgamesh could not stop himself from staring, admiring how perfectly proportioned they were for her body –; however, her actions soon brought his attention away from them.
Slowly, the blue and golden sheath of Excalibur was extracted from her chest, and the King of Knights carefully placed it over Sakura’s sleeping form, letting it disappear inside her.
Gilgamesh frowned. But putting Avalon inside the girl…
Before he could say anything, Arturia softly whispered, “Becoming the vessel is a definite way to die. Sakura has asked to be freed from her terrible life, and I will respect her wish. But… I can’t help hoping… that there could be a form of salvation for her as well. And if anything can save her… Avalon is the best option.”
The King of Heroes took a few steps forward, to stand next to Arturia, and he embraced her from behind, his arms going around her waist to pull her close to him.
She had given up her strongest Noble Phantasm for a girl whose only desire was to die… because, even if her life had been so tragic, Arturia still hoped against hope that there was something she could do for Sakura.
There was a reason why he was so captivated by her, after all… and she kept surprising him with her choices and decisions. Each and every time.
His arms around her waist made her rest her body against his, and his lips went to her ear. Slowly, very slowly, they traced the skin of her cheek, going to her chin and very close to her lips… only to abruptly change direction and go down her neck.
She was motionless in his embrace, but slowly one of her arms went to rest on his around her waist, and the other tentatively reached up to his face, which was still on her neck and kissing her skin with more and more intensity.
Her fingers cautiously managed to touch his head, and as soon as contact was made, it was as if she could not stop. Her hand sank into his hair, involuntarily pulling him closer to her neck where his lips were by then nibbling more than just kissing.
When he reached her collarbone, as suddenly as it had started, it ended.
They both pulled away. They had sensed Taiga approaching, and they would never tolerate to be found in the position they had been in just mere seconds before. Arturia because she was not keen on letting anyone know what was going on between Gilgamesh and her – at least, not until she was sure what it was herself –, and Gilgamesh because he would never allow anyone to see her in the wonderful state she had been, enveloped in his arms and with his lips on her neck.
Composing herself quickly, Arturia explained to the brown-haired woman that Sakura had fallen asleep on the couch and asked if she could have a blanket to cover her. Taiga, already in a half slumber, nodded absentmindedly and indicated where they could find one.
After covering the girl, the two kings retired for the night… but not before Gilgamesh managed to briefly and fleetingly caress Arturia’s cheek one last time.