Epilogue 1: Fixing
Arturia was a physically strong woman, and in battle that had been proven more than once.
But that did not mean that she was able to carry a sleeping thirteen-year-old girl on her own, especially when she was very low on mana and therefore unable to use magic to ease her task.
The King of Heroes suppressed a sigh as he made those considerations, and then looked at Sakura. The girl had proven her courage by offering herself as a vessel, even if it had been her means of welcoming death. Arturia had given up her most powerful Noble Phantasm for her… that meant something. And as much as he wished to feel again the very pleasing contact of his lips on hers, right then, they needed to leave. There were going to be a lot of – tedious, Gilgamesh mentally added – bureaucratic forms to fill out about the half-destroyed Church, and that was going to take time… time they did not intend to waste in that moment.
He went next to the King of Knights, bent over a little and picked up the girl himself. As he stood up again, he indicated for Arturia to take his arm.
Immediately understanding that he intended to dematerialize with them both, she frowned, looking at the sleeping Sakura.
“But, we don’t know about the effects of dematerialization on the girl…”
His reply was cool, calm, collected…, and logical.
“She has Avalon,” he said. “She has survived the Grail’s destruction with it, she can handle dematerialization.”
The woman still seemed a little worried, but she came closer to take his arm. Before touching him – and he could not wait for that contact between them, however small it was –, she asked where he intended to go.
His reply was immediate.
Her eyes widened.
“That is halfway across the planet, Gilgamesh. You don’t have enough mana–”
He almost narrowed his eyes at her, and she sighed, knowing that it was useless to discuss with him.
“Very well. I suppose it’s best to take Sakura somewhere safe and among friends, where she will be properly taken care of.”
She put her small hand on his and, with the sleeping girl in his arms, they disappeared.
As soon as they arrived, her hand left his – to his obvious disappointment – and they were welcomed at the shiny new Einzbern Hotel.
The homunculi instantly made sure that they were seen inside, and Arturia entrusted Sakura to their care, giving them firm instructions to let the tired girl rest.
Illya and Rin were immediately informed of the arrival of their legal guardians and, knowing what it meant, rushed to meet them. The two kings were still in their armours – Arturia had made her own reappear as soon as they had left the inside of the Church, in case there were other dangers –, but that did not stop the two girls from jumping towards them, happy and relieved. Illya embraced Arturia tightly and Rin almost – almost – hugged Gilgamesh, barely managing to stop herself in time.
Shirou and Taiga had been told about their presence as well, but they tactfully gave them some space, at least for a while. Besides… it was not as if the boy was looking forward to being in the company of a tall, arrogant man who very evidently detested him.
As the two former Heroic Spirits were eating a meal the homunculi had prepared from them, Illya and Rin noticed how tired Arturia really was. They could not determine anything from Gilgamesh because his expression and his mana levels were guarded, but it was quite apparent that both of them were fatigued by the events of the day, which they had briefly summarized for them.
So, right after they had finished eating, the two girls invited them to go get some rest, indicating them where their adjacent rooms were and left them on their own.
Before they separated in the hallway, Gilgamesh grabbed her arm, quite gently. She turned to face him, and found herself pulled into his arms, his eyes staring into hers intently.
His question did not come entirely unexpected.
“Do you think that Illya, who loves you dearly, would have ever forgiven you, had you truly decided to give up on your life a few hours ago?”
His expression was challenging, and she knew he was being rhetorical.
She slowly shook her head. There was no need for her answer… they both knew the truth.
The hand that was not holding her around the waist went up to go behind her head and pull her even closer.
His words were a whisper, barely audible.
“Don’t ever think about leaving.”
And his lips were on hers again, harsh, impatient, ardent, conquering… like the king he was.
Who had ever known that so many emotions could be transmitted through a kiss, through a simple touch of each other’s lips…
It was no longer a simple touch.
A warm tongue had begun its eager assault as well.
She moaned as his hungry mouth feverishly explored and devoured hers, and her arms automatically went around his shoulders to press him against her. One of his hands opened her severe chignon to sink into her cascading locks, while the other hand enveloped her more securely around the waist.
He pressed her against the wall as he deepened the kiss.
Was she going to let him dominate her like that? Was she just going to surrender to him?
Not on that day, not ever.
She was a king, too.
And she replied to the attack with one of her own – pressing herself closer to him and responding to his touch, almost making him stumble backwards – and never breaking the passionate kiss they were sharing.
Illya, very carefully, closed the door of her room and took a deep breath, exhaling slowly.
And then she beamed.
She could hardly contain her excitement. It had been incredibly difficult to stay still and then sneak away quietly after accidentally witnessing a glimpse of the scene in the hallway. She had just seen a fraction of a second… but it had been enough to see that the kings’ lips were touching.
The girl briefly wondered what specifically had happened after the destruction of the Grail to make the two of them end up so comfortable with each other, but it was no use pondering over something she was very unlikely to find answers on.
Illya shared the room with Rin, who was momentarily taking a shower; luckily for her, right in that second the Tohsaka heir came out of the bathroom in her pyjamas. And without giving her enough time to notice her elated look, the white-haired girl jumped towards her to embrace her.
Then she released her and, not caring about her frown and confused expression, enthusiastically exclaimed, “You won’t believe what I just saw! Oh Rin, I’m so happy!”
Knowing her friend, Rin waited patiently for an explanation.
Thrilled, Illya continued, “I just saw Arturia together with Gilgamesh in the hall outside… and they were kissing!”
The questioning look on Rin’s face turned into one of delight and the two girls squealed in excitement, overjoyed, while the Einzbern heir described the short scene she had assisted to, lingering on the few details with glee.
They were both very happy because what they had been hoping for had finally happened. That Gilgamesh had a thing for Arturia had become more and more evident during the previous years, but the woman’s thoughts had been more difficult to discern. She had been warming up to him, that was beyond a shadow of a doubt, and perhaps she had even begun to hold some affection for him but, because of how reserved she was, it was hard to determine whether there was actually something deeper.
However… witnessing them kiss, both of them passionately kiss each other…
…was better than what the two wards had ever hoped for.
During the following days, as Arturia and Gilgamesh told the two girls how the Grail had finally been destroyed, Sakura rested in bed, still feeling quite weak. She spent a lot of time sleeping, because she had gotten a slight fever as she needed to regain her strength, and she had let Shirou and Taiga know that she was simply very tired and a little sick because of the jet lag.
She also had a long conversation with Rin, because both knew that they could now acknowledge their status as biological sisters, and the Tohsaka heir was able to inform her of Zouken and Shinji’s deaths.
When her fever had come down, Sakura asked to speak to Arturia alone. Gilgamesh, of course, ignored that request and made sure to be present in the room as well. The King of Knights was slightly exasperated at his behaviour, but the girl did not seem to mind.
When Arturia sat down next to her bed, Sakura put her hands on her stomach, making them glow, and she slowly extracted Avalon from herself.
The woman, alarmed, tried to stop her, but the girl shook her head and simply handed her the sheath with a smile.
“I don’t know what this is, but I can guess that you used it to help me survive. You respected my wishes and at the same time freed me from what I considered an endless nightmare. I am now able to live my life…”
There were tears were in her eyes as her voice almost cracked.
“Thank you for what you did… both of you…”
And she extended her arms towards Arturia, wordlessly asking her consent. The King of Knights sealed Avalon inside herself and then leaned forward to envelop the young girl in a sincere embrace, allowing herself to express as much warmth as possible with that gesture. Gilgamesh was seated behind them, and he acknowledged the Matou girl’s words with a nonthreatening nod.
The woman could feel Sakura’s body shaking in silent tears, and she held her firmly, letting her know that she was not alone…
…and that she never would be, ever again.
About a fortnight had passed, and they were still in Germany. Taiga and the children had just gone out to do some ‘sightseeing’, even if it was actually an excuse to go to an amusement park in a nearby city. The hotel’s business was going quite smoothly, and the homunculi enjoyed being in contact with other humans.
Arturia was sitting at the dining room table, a book open in front of her, looking through Illya’s future lessons. Fully recovered from the weakness the Grail’s destruction had left behind for a few days, she did not intend to disregard the girl’s education… and she knew Rin would probably be interested in the lesson as well.
Gilgamesh was standing behind her and, as soon as she turned her head to the side to look up at him, one of his hands went to catch a strand of her hair, absently playing with it.
His expression was oddly thoughtful.
“When the guests go back to Japan… we are not required to go with them.”
She raised an eyebrow, seeming a little startled… and sceptical.
“You are Rin’s guardian and I am Illya’s. Of course we are required to go with them.”
A slight annoyance could be heard in his voice.
“We are not required to go with them immediately, though. Those girls are level-headed enough, and the woman is adequately capable of keeping an eye on them.”
Arturia frowned. Such a speech was not quite like him.
“Where are you getting at, Gilgamesh?”
He smirked, glad that she had been able to see that he was hinting at something else.
“You have no longer a mission to accomplish, and you enjoyed visiting your homeland when we were in England. Therefore… we might as well go around for a while, and see what the mongrels’ world has become like. But I refuse to take the kids from place to place as well – I intend to use the lowly transport systems as little as possible, if at all.”
Arturia was surprised at the idea, and even more surprised that it came from him.
But she was not against it.
It would be interesting to see more of what had changed through the centuries, especially now that there was no war going on and no mission to complete. Even if they had obtained knowledge of that time period as soon as they had been summoned, knowing in theory and knowing through experience were two different things. Gilgamesh was the one suggesting to learn more about it… and he wanted her to come with him.
Quite unexpected… but pleasant.
She smiled, and he knew she was accepting. However, she had still something to ask.
“But… why do you care so much about it?”
His smirk widened and he leaned forward, his lips ghosting over hers.
“I hold some curiosity about the modern world… and, even though we do have other obligations… for at least a while, my love… I want you completely for myself.”
In the end, they could not leave on their own – at least not immediately –, they had to go to Japan with the children.
On a plane.
Only thanks to Arturia’s patience were they able to avoid a scandal at the airport, because they were quite a large group – three adults and four children – and Gilgamesh was quite annoyed at being among mongrels… again. Only the King of Knights’s whispered threat of not going with him in the future kept his temper in check.
They also had quite a few formalities to settle before they could leave. The entire Tohsaka heritage, after Kirei’s death, was in Gilgamesh’s hands, and together with Arturia he swiftly completed the tedious paperwork.
There were also some matters to tend to – regarding Sakura. Shinji’s parents were both dead, and Zouken had legally adopted her, so she couldn’t just go back to being a Tohsaka. From both Arturia and Gilgamesh came the suggestion to have Taiga become her legal guardian. Sakura, contrary to Rin, had no wish to expand her knowledge about magic, because she had only known suffering through it, and solely desired to live her life peacefully from then on. Kiritsugu had wished the same thing for Shirou, and therefore had entrusted him to the care of someone who was as normal as possible.
Taiga was probably the best solution, and she immediately agreed. The girl already came often to their house; she would simply move in to live with them. The woman was also aware of the fact that the Matou heir had a crush on Shirou, therefore being both their wards would certainly justify an increase of their interactions.
Having made sure that Sakura was entirely safe, the King of Heroes and the King of Knights, legal guardians of Illya and Rin respectively, made the two girls stay at the Emiya residence as well – knowing that Taiga, even if young, was more than reliable enough – and left, promising they would be back in a few weeks time.
The two kings first dematerialized back to Germany, where they were now at leisure to see all the places they wanted. Even though Gilgamesh’s expression was still mildly disgusted when they had to be among other humans, he did not complain when Arturia chose the cities she wished to explore. He found little that he could truly admire, but being alone in her company and able to focus on her reactions more than made up for that.
From Germany they travelled to many other places, giving preference to those that somehow were connected to their past… and to the past of the other Servants they had known.
They went to Greece, Turkey, Egypt and the Middle East, mainly to see the lands that had been Rider’s domain. Since they were already in Europe, they went to France, Italy and Spain as well. And after Arturia gently insisted on it, Gilgamesh reluctantly agreed to dematerialize them to Ireland – Lancer’s homeland. The King of Heroes would have been angry at the way she ‘manipulated’ him into accepting, if he hadn’t been content to be with her… and if he hadn’t been able to see with certainty that she loved him being with her, too.
Everywhere they went, he knew that she liked to observe everything, and he also knew that whenever she saw places that were especially beautiful, she planned to take the children they were guarding there, too – one day, perhaps when they would become of age. She very evidently wanted them to see those places as well, to experience the same things as them. And the thought did not displease him. She was always thinking about the good things she could do for their wards… and she did it so genuinely, it was beautiful to observe.
After seeing other countries, the King of Heroes knew that Arturia longed to be in her home again… and therefore brought them to England, in London.
When they were there, even if she was very happy, the King of Knights pushed aside her personal feelings to discuss something with Gilgamesh. She had thought that perhaps it was best to seek out Waver Velvet, the former Master of Rider during the war, to let him know that the Grail no longer existed. She didn’t know what his status inside the Mage’s Association was, but he might also be able to slowly let other Magi know that there was no possibility of ever starting another war in Fuyuki City.
To the woman’s surprise, Gilgamesh did not oppose her idea; he instead commented that the boy – who had presumably grown in those seven years – was very likely to be the best individual to address, since he was the last person from the war who was still alive.
So they went to a place they had visited several times, the Mage’s Association’s library, which was still reachable through the British Museum. For once, they were lucky: Waver was there, reading through some very difficult manuals.
The two kings did not bother with disguises in that occasion and, when Arturia appeared in front of him, with a firm expression on her face and Gilgamesh behind her, Waver almost jumped up in shock.
But he had very obviously grown, and observed them carefully after recognizing them, noticing that they did not seem inclined to fight. Therefore, he composed himself and formally invited them to follow him to his study. In over seven years, he had become someone at the Association.
He would never have expected, however, to see those two Servants again, and he fleetingly wondered if perhaps Rider was there as well. But he quickly dismissed the thought; there had to be a logical explanation to everything, and if Rider had been present, he would have come in person.
His study was very private, and he assured the two kings that no one could overhear. Therefore Arturia, very concisely, related to him how they had remained in the world of the living and what had happened after the end of the Fourth Grail War, and concluded by explaining what the two of them had done just a few weeks before.
To say that Waver was stunned was an understatement. The fact that the Grail was gone was not something he could digest so easily. What surprised him the most, however, was the fact that Saber and Archer were… on the same side. There did not seem to be any hostility between them and, according to what she had told him, they had destroyed the Grail together. Moreover, in spite of that, they appeared to still have their powers, if Archer sipping on the wine coming from his Gate of Babylon was enough to confirm it.
The grown-up Magus observed the people in front of him carefully, and couldn’t help saying, “You two have changed.”
Saber did not comment on it, instead smiled gently, looking him in the eye.
“So have you, Waver Velvet.”
He looked at her… and he was reminded of the fact that, even if they were dressed normally and were conversing graciously with him, they were actually two kings… from very ancient times.
Bringing back the main topic, she concluded by explaining that they had thought it correct to inform him, since he was the last survivor of the Fourth War; and since he was in London, he could communicate the news to the other specialists of Magecraft.
Waver turned pensive. After reflecting briefly, he said that he had the means to let the other Magi know that there was no Grail in Fuyuki to fight for anymore… but there was a problem.
Some people, entire families, were already preparing for the future war. Therefore the black-haired man asked if the two former Heroic Spirits were going to stay around for a few days, as he disclosed the news and observed the other Magi’s reactions.
Arturia and Gilgamesh agreed, knowing that the former Master of Rider had asked such a thing because he was aware of the fact that he might need their assistance. They settled to meet at the library again in three days’ time.
In the meantime, Arturia had the wish to go to Wales, because there were many landscapes she loved there. Gilgamesh simply enjoyed looking at her, as she was so open and at ease in her homeland.
And he knew that she didn’t just want to see the places she treasured again… she wanted to show them to him, too. In some ways, she wanted to share those memories she had with him.
And that… that gave him a warm feeling in his chest – a feeling he was becoming more and more familiar with and that he actually appreciated.
When the three days were over, they returned to London and found Waver at the library entrance, already waiting for them. He brought them to his study, appearing to be tense and somehow worried.
He explained to them that he had had no problems in informing people of the Grail’s annihilation, but he had come across a piece of information that highly troubled him. It was about a man, Atram Galiast, whose family had been established very recently in the Association.
Waver knew he sought recognition and prestige, and he had set his eyes on the Grail.
Rider’s former Master had no proof… but he knew that the man had been using a considerable amount of his capital to do something shady, and he suspected it was something cruel and heartless that involved innocent people… something similar to what Caster had done during the war.
At those words, Arturia had been indignant. Both kings were aware of the fact that Waver hoped that they would intervene in the matter, because his hands were tied, and they both knew that he had purposely insisted on the facts that were not going to be tolerated by the woman.
Gilgamesh, knowing perfectly that the boy fervidly wished and needed them to act since he could not, placed his hand on Arturia’s, calming her anger, and then dematerialized with her.
Waver had told them the location of Atram’s manor, and that was where they reappeared later that night.
It wasn’t hard to find a terrible workshop… the laboratory of death. There was a huge amount of children, all young girls, held captive in there and, by studying the place, it became evident that their lives were going to be sacrificed in order to produce magical energy. That was how Atram prepared for a future Holy Grail War.
Arturia was livid about the inhumanity of that lab. She immediately set the prisoners free, helping their escape from that horrible place.
Gilgamesh observed the room in pure disgust. Human lives had been sacrificed meaninglessly in that location, and the rabid dog who had done that would face Arturia’s wrath, he was certain of it. And perhaps… he entertained the notion of lending her a hand as well.
After the last captive had been released, her voice spoke up, laced in rage.
“Gilgamesh, look at those girls. There were signs of awful tortures on their bodies. Illya, Rin, Sakura… they could have been in their place.”
That possibility did not sit well with him. As he was thinking about it, his gaze landed on Arturia. And a very unwelcome thought struck him.
Arturia was a young woman – she could have been among those innocent victims as well.
He knew that, rationally, she was too strong for such a thing to happen… but the mere thought of her in the same situation as those girls…
For the first time since he had entered the room, he felt true fury coming over him. The mongrel was definitely going to pay.
In that moment, the doors of the laboratory opened, and a tall blond man came inside, with a woman who was obviously his assistant – or rather, his accomplice. They stared at the two kings in a mixture of shock and disbelief.
Recognizing the man as Atram Galiast from the description Waver had given them, and after asking him to make sure – he didn’t seem to have the bravery to avoid answering –, Arturia took a few menacing steps forward, ignoring the man’s loud protests and demands for an explanation.
Before she could summon her Excalibur, however, a Gate of Babylon portal opened next to her right hand, and the hilt of a golden sword appeared.
Not giving her the time to question him, he said in a low voice, so that only she could hear him, “My treasury contains many good close-range fighting weapons… and I can spare one for you, Arturia. This place is not worthy of Excalibur… you may use this.”
Appreciative of his offer, she grabbed the golden hilt of the sword he was presenting her and took another step forward. Her voice was ice-cold as she looked at Atram and his assistant with revulsion.
“You are nothing but monsters.”
And she raised Gilgamesh’s sword.
After the two despicable humans had been taken care of, the two kings made sure there were no other prisoners before leaving the place.
They informed Waver of Atram’s brutal laboratory, because they knew he was smart enough to use that knowledge and the news of the man’s murder to make things better for the future. He would make sure that people within the Mage’s Association realized that who used magic in wicked ways would be punished.
They took their leave from the former Master of Rider, but they remained in London for another short while, to make sure there were not going to be any alarming consequences after what had happened. And Arturia had the desire to be in her country a while longer.
When everything seemed to be normal and back under control, they left London.
Enough time had passed… It was time to go back to Japan, to their wards.