Epilogue 2: Understanding
When the two former Heroic Spirits returned to Japan, they went to the Emiya residence, to see their wards again. As they were talking with them, they addressed something they had already discussed among each other.
They – especially Arturia – didn’t want to be too near Fuyuki, in Kumamoto’s Prefecture, and wished to live elsewhere, at least for a while.
The girls loved Japan, but they agreed with their guardians – they desired to be away from that city as well. Too much from their past was connected to it to quit the place entirely; but some time away from it would only be beneficial.
Therefore, the four of them moved to Tokyo, where they intended to stay for about two years. Taiga, Shirou and Sakura remained in Fuyuki, because the brown-haired woman had her job as a teacher and a – well-defended – house there. Rin and Illya weren’t too happy about living far from their respective siblings, even if only for a determined period of time, but they all needed a break from the lives they had led until that moment.
In the documents they had, Arturia was registered as twenty-one and Gilgamesh as twenty-four, but they cared little about it, if not for legal reasons. They bought a small but comfortable house in Japan’s capital, while the King of Knights’s apartment in Fuyuki was given away and the Tohsaka mansion closed – and remodelled, as the King of Heroes had demanded, because he did not like its gloomy appearance.
For the education of their wards, the former Servants looked for private schools in Tokyo, and the two girls found a good one that was near their new house. They began to attend, making new friends and cautiously opening up to other people.
One day, Illya and Rin came home from school very quiet.
Rin seemed to try to cover it up smoothly, but both seemed shaken and out of spirits. Arturia observed them with worry and, when they remained mute during dinner and even ate very little, she addressed them, asking what had happened.
The two girls exchanged a glance and muttered something unintelligible, clearly trying to avoid the subject. The King of Knights’s expression became the closest thing to stern she usually directed towards them, and they caved immediately, while Gilgamesh hid a smirk at the scene.
They explained that many boys and girls in school did not like the two of them, and that day they had cornered them and accused them of cheating because they always got the highest grades. They had also heavily insulted their appearance, as Illya added uncomfortably. Rin said that they both knew that such bullying events were childish and stupid, but they were hurtful… and it wasn’t possible to defend themselves, because magic could not be used against normal humans.
Arturia stood up without a word and made tea for them, to help them feel better, at least minimally. Gilgamesh could see, however, from the tight hold the woman’s hands had on the kettle, that she was quite angered. Then she sat down again and caressed the girls’ cheeks, in a silent and soothing gesture, and the two promised that they would do their best to try to ignore those bullies.
The King of Heroes did not like to see Arturia frustrated about some mongrels. And he probably knew who those specific mongrels were. A few times, he had been with Arturia when she had gone to pick up the girls from school, and he had seen a group of six or seven individuals, both girls and boys, who, by modern standards, would have been considered dodgy.
He narrowed his eyes. If those rabid dogs were the ones who had dared make his Arturia so cross… then they would have to pay.
He glanced at the clock. It was a little after seven in the evening. Good.
He stood up from the table abruptly, with an undecipherable expression on his face, and he swiftly dematerialized.
There was a huge park nearby, and that was where he appeared again.
He looked around. And sure enough, the group he remembered was there, cutting off some bushes and vandalizing the benches.
The King of Heroes smirked evilly, hidden in the shadows.
It was dark enough to teach those mongrels a lesson they would not forget.
He had not given an explanation for his absence when he had come back that night, and only when Illya and Rin were home from school the following day did Arturia realize that he had been up to something, because he was listening to them more intently than usual. The girls seemed much happier than the day before, and reported that the intimidators had not only stopped in their offensive behaviour, they had also come to them to apologize for what they had done.
The woman, even though pleased by that turn of events, could not help noticing how the King of Heroes was hiding a very satisfied smirk. She narrowed her eyes at him. His disappearance the previous evening had to be related to the bullies’ different attitude in some way or another.
As soon as the girls went to the bathroom to wash their hands before the meal, she addressed him with a frown.
“Gilgamesh, what did you do?”
Feigning innocence was something he would never do, and in such an occasion he didn’t, either. His smirk was no longer hidden.
“I simply made sure that those filthy excuses for human beings learned their place.”
Arturia almost glared at him.
“Their behaviour was undoubtedly wrong, but what did you do to them?”
His expression was vaguely smug.
“I did not hurt them… not physically, anyway.”
Her hard stare intensified.
“I hope you did not break them.”
He huffed, unconcerned.
“They are still alive, aren’t they? And that is much more than what they deserve.”
She knew what he meant. If he had truly wanted to take some form of revenge, nothing would have remained of those bullies. He had most likely scared them half to death – which was still a wrong thing to do –, but nothing more than that.
The King of Knights could not condone his actions, though, and she stood up, perhaps to continue to voice her disapproval. His expression, however, made her stop.
He was serious, and looked her in the eye as he spoke.
“Arturia. You were angry about their behaviour towards the girls, especially because they could not defend themselves against non-magical enemies. I simply decided to do something about it before you could… and because you should not be tainted by such disgustingly filthy mongrels.”
Her eyes seemed to widen slightly, but she didn’t have time to say anything, because the girls were back for dinner.
For the rest of the meal, she did not say a word to him, and only concentrated on Illya and Rin. She was apparently still angry for what he had done.
He frowned. That was not what he had expected.
She was in the bathroom next to their room, taking a shower. He was sitting on the bed, leaning against the pillows on one end of it, with a frown on his face.
He… was displeased by the fact that she was mad. He had gotten involved in the matter for her sake, after all. He had not liked seeing her troubled about the girls and, irritated himself at the unpleasant mongrels whose behaviour had dared make her so – and who had dared harm Illya and Rin –, he had set out for some… castigation from the shadows. The two girls had become part of his precious treasure as well… and no one touched his treasure.
His thoughts went back to the most precious treasure of his life to linger on her.
Come to think about it… Arturia had been inside the shower for quite a while now.
Right then, the bathroom door opened and she walked out. Uncharacteristically for her, she was wearing a bathrobe and her hair, slightly damp, was down.
His frown deepened. She always came out fully dressed and with hair impeccably tied in her chignon.
Arturia knew that he had noticed that there was something out of the ordinary, but she had meant for him to detect it.
She came closer to the bed, slowly… and smiled a little.
“It was very… nice of you, to look out for the girls the way you did. I may not approve of your methods… but what you did has protected Rin and Illya.”
Her smile became more pronounced.
“I appreciate that… Thank you.”
He was taken aback… but he was not going to complain about her thanking him.
He lifted his back from the pillows and stared at her intently as she came even closer to him, regal as always. She seemed… friendly.
And… her smile was warm.
Her bathrobe… it was becoming a distraction for him.
Searching her eyes for permission, he reached forward. He had already learned the hard way that he needed to have her consent before touching her. She was no possession he could simply claim… she was so much, much more than that.
But right then, she seemed to be welcoming him, with nothing but affection in her eyes… and trust. He was not going to refuse the implicit invitation.
His fingers began to unfasten the knot that was keeping her robe in place. She simply smiled again… and he tugged at it one last time.
The bathrobe fell on the floor… and his jaw almost dropped.
Standing right in front of him, with long blonde locks framing her face and with a light dust of pink on her cheeks - betraying her self-consciousness –, Arturia was wearing only lace lingerie.
But it was not the delicate, elegant and refined soft fabric that hugged all the curves of her small body perfectly that truly caught his attention… it was its colour.
The lace was in a vibrant red, with streaks of gold all over it.
Those were his colours.
She was wearing his colours.
He pulled her to him, eagerly, to kiss her deeply, and her arms went around his neck to be even closer and respond to the kiss with the same amount of fervour.
As his fingers began to trace the straps on her shoulders to push them down, his lips tilted upwards.
Perhaps it was time to try blue for himself… just to see what her reaction would be.
The following day, when it was Illya’s turn to clean the rooms, Gilgamesh did not even attempt to hide his smug grin at the girl’s startled words.
“Arturia? Why are there strange red clothes on the floor that seem to have been completely torn to pieces?”
While they were living in Tokyo, they spent a lot of time together, as a family. At the two girls’ eager yet cautious request, Arturia agreed to begin to tell some stories about the past. Not about the Grail War – Illya and Rin would hopefully never know how deeply horrible it was –, but about Britain.
Now that she was no longer fully focused on changing her previous life, the King of Knights was able to remember the true beauties of her time… and gradually talk about them.
She would probably always look back on her kingdom with some amount of regret… but she could also see the many things that she had actually done well. She noticed that when she described the positive aspects of her reign and the people in it, Gilgamesh listened intently, and seemed to like it when she spoke passionately about her time as a king to the two girls.
Only for him, because she knew he liked it, she recounted those good times more and more, and realized… how happy that made her.
Recalling the best moments with her loyal knights and in her kingdom… was truly wonderful.
Talking nonchalantly about the complexity of her past was still difficult, though. Even if she began to share more and more tales with Illya and Rin, there were some things… that she only told him, when he held her close in his embrace in their bed at night.
And realizing how good it felt to be able to open herself about her former life with someone she trusted, made her find the right moment to ask him about his as well.
It was not in his nature to talk about himself in such a way, but he did not want to refuse to answer when she was the one asking. She was the person he had learned to treasure the most in the world, the one who was the most precious to him. And because he loved her… he began to open about his past with her and speak about his kingdom, too.
He shared tales about Uruk, about the adventures he had as a young warrior, his time as a king and eventually talked about Enkidu… but only with her. Even though he knew that he had come to care about their two wards, it was nothing compared to the bond he had with Arturia, which was too deep and unique to be matched by anything else.
She was the only one worthy of listening to his past, for she alone among humanity had had incredibly heavy burdens on her shoulders… and had almost been completely broken by them. She had however managed to rise above them, proving to be more than just a human… and therefore worthy of hearing about his own burdens as a partly divine being.
Unlike him, who had been born as a half-god, she had chosen to give up a part of her humanity by pulling the sword from the stone. She had done such a thing because she had known that some burdens were not for humans – and she had chosen that path nonetheless, accepting to be the one to carry them.
As a half-god, he knew what it meant to have terrible weights on one’s shoulders… and during his life as the true first hero, he had gained much wisdom and had probably seen everything the world had to offer. He had also lost his most precious friend, and seen immortality slip from him fingers… he had thought that nothing else could ever surprise him.
But through a time-paradox type of war, the two of them had met… and she had not only proven to be someone new and unexpected for him, but she had also managed to remain truly special in his eyes.
The connection he had formed with her was the deepest and strongest he had ever felt.
He was holding her firmly against his chest, not leaving her any room for movement. She knew he enjoyed embracing her from behind and keeping her close like that, especially when they fell asleep, and she could not say that she disliked it.
They were still both in bed, even if it was well past nine in the morning. But they needed to get up.
“Gilgamesh. We have visitors coming.”
He nuzzled her neck, tracing his lips on her skin, and she could not suppress a slight shiver.
“Let them wait,” were his muffled words.
Arturia sighed. “Gilgamesh…” Her patience was thinning, and her voice held traces of it.
“Let the brats wait.”
It was Arturia’s turn to growl.
“Gilgamesh. Do not refer to Rin and Illya as brats.”
His hold on her tightened. He knew they still had some time. The two girls had gone to sleep at a friend’s, and they were supposed to be back in the late morning.
“Continue to repeat my name with that tone of yours, and know that we will not leave this bed until noon.”
She could not suppress a blush, and fervently hoped he would not notice…
…but of course, he did.
His assault on her neck became more insistent, leaving a trail of kisses from her ear to her collarbone, only to stop and let his tongue work its magic on her pulse point.
She could feel her mind beginning to get lost in the sensations he was provoking in her… and she knew he was well aware of that.
His hands did not stay still, either, and began their exploration, making her lean into his touch even further.
With a little grin, his mouth left her neck to go upwards again and, turning her head slightly, he passionately captured her lips with his own.
About three hours later, a very satisfied Gilgamesh was leaning down on the couch, with a wine glass in hand, and was observing the scene in front of him.
Two girls in their late teens were lying on the thick rug in front of the empty fireplace, each with a recorded movie in their hands, and were arguing about which one should be watched first. Arturia was sitting on an armchair, pointedly avoiding looking at him, and reading through a cinema magazine, deciding where to take the girls later in the afternoon.
Gilgamesh frowned. He did not like it when she was irritated with him, and when it happened for a reason like the one at present, he liked it even less. He knew that Arturia was a very private person and not eager to let what went on between the two of them interfere with the other things in their lives, but seriously.
He had just kept them… pleasurably occupied in the time before the two girls arrived. Sure, she disliked having to rush, and maybe their activities had left only five minutes for her to shower and get dressed, but she was the King of Knights after all, and she had been able to do it in record time. There was no reason for her to be vexed at him.
She had been much angrier other times.
For example, when they had gone to Fuyuki a short while before to have the girls see their siblings and to attend Taiga’s engagement ceremony, she had been furious with him after he had possessively kissed her senseless in front of Shirou. Who cared if the brat had asked Sakura out and had begun to date her, in Gilgamesh’s opinion he still stole glances at Arturia a bit too often. It had truly not been his fault that the boy had walked in while their lips were locked, but for some reason she had been quite angry with him. And the way she had ignored him had brought him almost to the point of apologizing. Almost. Even if he had done nothing wrong.
He mentally sighed. It was best to settle the situation before it worsened. In his opinion, her irritation was unwarranted, but he had to try to see things from her perspective… and she seemed to consider the matter differently.
He stood up from the couch and walked around the two still arguing girls to go stand behind Arturia’s armchair. She had been upset enough to not put an end to Illya and Rin’s quarrel. He felt a little annoyed and his gaze landed on the two girls resting on the carpet.
“We are taking you to the cinema this evening, and we are not watching more than one movie today. So cease your discussion.”
Illya and Rin looked up, eyes wide in surprise. And they quieted immediately.
It was very, very rare for Gilgamesh to intervene in arguments or do some scolding. It was usually Arturia who, with a few words, put things right; but she had apparently been too occupied ignoring him to be her usual self. She knew he had noticed her mood, and had gotten involved for that reason.
That was… more than just considerate of him.
He was still standing behind her. Knowing she would not push him away even if she was still aggravated, he put a hand on her shoulder.
She turned to look at him, her gaze inquisitive. He didn’t say a word, simply opening his Gate of Babylon and taking out a steaming teacup with the hand that wasn’t on her shoulder, offering it to her.
It was rose tea, her favourite.
She took it hesitantly, and then looked at him in wonder. His hand on her shoulder tightened its hold on her for a second, the closest thing to an apology she would get from him. She knew how difficult such an action was for him.
Slowly, she smiled, and brought the teacup to her lips, taking a sip of her favourite tea flavour. He would understand that she accepted his gesture.
She mentally frowned. He had better not try anything when they would go to the cinema in the evening. Perhaps… perhaps she would make sure that the two girls sat between them… just in case.
It would be his punishment, and Illya and Rin would delight in sitting in the middle.
But for the time being… she was going to enjoy her tea.
Gilgamesh inwardly exhaled. Knowing her, she had not forgiven him completely. He suppressed a small sigh. The things he had to do for that woman…
Yet strangely, he didn’t feel like such a small gesture had cost him much.
Mmm. Perhaps he should consider doing them a little more often… especially if he could see her smile like that.
And make her forgive him more easily if he felt inclined to… irritate her the same way again.
Going to the cinema became a weekly habit for the four of them. They had to choose the classiest places, of course, to satisfy Gilgamesh, but it was something they all enjoyed, because they could watch a movie together and then discuss it at length. Their points of view, especially considering what their lives had been like, were very different, but that only made the conversations livelier and more interesting.
One week, the girls asked to see a new movie that had just come out, about King Arthur. Arturia did not intend to go see that particular film about her former life, and declined the invitation, while Gilgamesh agreed to accompany Illya and Rin.
The King of Heroes was much quieter and more thoughtful than usual after that.
Completely out of the blue, when he was alone with the King of Knights again that evening, he said, “You were a great king, Arturia. You were able to do so much… even as a woman.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. Was he mocking her? Was he actually looking down on her because of her sex?
He seemed to sense her suspicion, and raised an eyebrow.
“Even if you had to conceal it and even if you tried hard to ignore it, that doesn't mean you can change your gender. You are a woman, Arturia, whether you like it or not.”
She did not break his gaze. She was still unconvinced about the true meaning of his former words.
“I am a woman, yes. But that doesn't mean I can't – and couldn’t – be a King.”
Unexpectedly, Gilgamesh almost smiled.
“Yes… And that's what makes you more incredible than anyone else. You, as a woman, concealed your true gender and took up the incredibly heavy burden of kingship.”
His next words were completely unexpected.
“How many men would have been able to pose as a woman and take on the same weights you carried?”
He came closer to her, and stared into her green orbs deeply. The look in his eyes was strange… so intense that it made her almost unable to hold his gaze.
“You have done more than most people could ever dream of doing… and you have done everything with all your heart.”
He put his hand exactly over her heart, touching her tenderly.
“This is such a wonderful treasure … and no one can conquer or claim it. Only you can choose to whom to give it.”
Truly, her heart was the greatest of all treasures… and it was a treasure the King of Heroes could not obtain, unless she chose to give it him. He would never have imagined that such a thing actually existed – but she had proven it.
She was actually… the living proof of it.
Such a great woman, with such a great heart… and she had accepted to stay with him, of her own free will.
He leaned forward to press his lips against hers, kissing her softly, slowly, gently, caringly, lovingly…
…because now that she was with him… he would never let her go.