Chapter 5: The Einzbern family
Arturia had indicated the location of the place she wanted to go to, and Gilgamesh had dematerialized them a few hundred meters away from it.
Landing in the snow-covered property that surrounded the Einzbern residence, Gilgamesh changed his clothes with a wave of his hand and saw Arturia do the same. They were however using their magic to create their wardrobe – and having human bodies, that meant they were slowly draining their own energy. That would prove to be a problem if they didn’t find a more adequate solution in a relatively brief amount of time.
While they were walking towards the entrance gates of the Einzbern Castle, Gilgamesh looked at Arturia from the corner of his eye. She had apparently decided what to do, and it involved the Einzberns. He was quite interested in finding out what she was going to do.
When they reached the gates, Arturia stopped him with a motion of her hand.
“There is a protective field surrounding the Einzbern Castle. We have reached the entrance, someone should come soon.”
As soon as she had said that, she had to jump back because a spear landed in the place she had been half-a-second before. Other projectiles were thrown at her, but she easily dodged them without breaking a sweat. Gilgamesh raised an eyebrow at her.
She merely glanced back.
“The Einzberns are not known for being overly friendly people.”
Suddenly a tall woman with white hair – clearly a homunculus – appeared from nowhere, with a spear in her hand, and tried to stab Gilgamesh. Without even turning around, the King of Heroes extracted a sword from his Gate of Babylon and blocked the hit with such force as to throw the woman several meters away.
Another woman with a similar spear came out of nowhere, and together with the other homunculus readied herself for battle. Both eyed Gilgamesh warily.
“Who are you?” the two homunculi yelled at the two visitors, raising their spears.
Gilgamesh scoffed and dismissively put his sword back into his vault.
“I am appalled at your ignorance, you filthy creatures.”
Arturia couldn’t help closing her eyes for a second, to gather her patience. Then she started to speak.
“I am Arturia Pendragon, King of Britain and former Servant of Emiya Kiritsugu. And this is–..”
The King of Heroes interrupted her in a haughty voice.
“I am Gilgamesh, King of Babylon – the fact that you don’t know who we are is proof of how low your status as mongrels is.”
Arturia did her best to keep her temper in check. Must he really be so arrogant the whole time? She was beginning to think that defying his temper and leaving without him would have been a much wiser choice.
But it was too late by then. Therefore, with her best calming voice, she continued, “I would like to speak with Jubstacheit von Einzbern – he knows who I am.”
The two homunculi concentrated their attention on her and tried to evaluate her with their eyes. Arturia stared back at them with such a firm gaze to make them uncomfortable. They lowered their weapons and nodded.
“This way,” they said simultaneously.
With a warning glance directed at Gilgamesh, Arturia was about to follow the homunculi through the gates, when she remembered something, and said to him in a low voice, “The protective shield will prevent the use of dematerialization.”
His eyes narrowed in obvious displeasure, but he did not comment. Relieved about that, Arturia crossed the gates with him right behind her.
They were led to some rooms Arturia had never seen when she had last been there. They were underground and much darker than the rest of the castle. As soon as they were in what appeared to be a sitting room, the two homunculi left them.
After both he and Arturia made their warmer magic clothes disappear, Gilgamesh looked around, noting that the room’s décor was more refined than the one he had had to endure at the Tohsaka residence. He took possession of one of the three elegant couches and lay down, making a glass of his favourite red wine appear in his hands.
Arturia sat down on another couch, waiting for the head of the Einzbern family to make his appearance.
It had been fairly easy to enter the residence, but she knew that convincing Jubstacheit to allow them to stay was another matter entirely. The best way to make the man agree was to avoid being direct – and unfortunately, that was not what she was good at. She would have to be as vague as possible and let him make his assumptions, because that was one of his main defects.
He had no honour – and to make him give in, she would have to use that against him.
All of a sudden, an almost invisible door on the other side of the room opened and Jubstacheit von Einzbern made his appearance.
The old man was dressed in white as usual and his hair and beard, of the same colour, trembled synchronized with every step he took. His dark but empty eyes landed on the woman sitting on the couch and he raised an eyebrow.
“Saber,” he said. “Seeing you here is quite unexpected. I had been informed that the Grail War had ended.”
With a deliberately steady and void tone, Arturia replied, “It has.”
She noticed from the corner of her eye that her words had piqued Gilgamesh’s interest. He was aware of the fact that she was a very direct person, therefore seeing her acting differently had made him curious.
Good. That was exactly what she wanted: to make him curious enough to stay silent.
Jubstacheit was not used to not having his indirect questions answered. “Where is Kiritsugu, then?”
Again, Arturia’s reply remained deliberately neutral. “He failed.”
Both men in the room were now completely concentrated on her. Jubstacheit came forward to seat himself on the only unoccupied couch, and that was when he noticed the King of Heroes’s presence. His inquisitive eyes widened slightly as he recognized him. His gaze darted back to Arturia.
“What is the meaning of this…?”
Arturia inclined her head slightly and decided it was time to begin to explain… just a little.
“Irisviel became the Grail vessel, as you had anticipated. But Kiritsugu failed in winning the Grail.”
Jubstacheit looked at her intently.
“Saber. Having failed, Kiritsugu is of course not welcome here anymore. You are Kiritsugu’s Servant and–”
Normally, she would have never interrupted anyone who was talking, but she forced herself to do it that one time.
“Was,” she said, with the same detached tone. “I am no longer his Servant.”
She allowed him a second to absorb that information, and then asked, with a very deliberate tone, “How is Illyasviel?”
Jubstacheit’s expression was the closest thing to confusion that he was able to show. He weighed her with his gaze, thinking. She was no longer a Servant… Kiritsugu had failed in his mission to win the Grail… and she wanted to know how Illyasviel was. His eyes became calculating. Could it be…?
In that moment, when she saw that Jubstacheit had assumed the wrong thing, Arturia detested her own actions. Deceiving was wrong… even if she had not explicitly done it – she had been more… contriving than truly deceiving –, she had said the right things at the right time to make sure that Jubstacheit’s thoughts went where she wanted them to.
She also noticed that the King of Heroes was looking at her with amusement in his eyes – he had understood much more than Jubstacheit.
She ignored him and instead continued, with a very carefully blank tone, “I would like to stay here and… watch over Illyasviel… if you allow it, of course.” And her eyes pierced the ones of the Old Man Acht, leader of the Einzbern family.
She had made sure to make it look like he had a choice in the matter.
Jubstacheit would not give in easily, she knew that, because he was not stupid – he was just a bit too quick in making assumptions.
The old man knew who the woman in front of him was… he was aware of how strong she was, and how beneficial it would be to have her near Illyasviel to help train the child as the future Grail vessel. He was going to see the benefits of her presence there… and not consider the possibility of her having different intentions. However, he still didn’t know how and why she was no longer a Servant. He had noticed that she seemed to be a human, not a spirit.
“How come that you are no longer a Heroic Spirit?” he asked her.
Arturia held his gaze firmly.
“That is a rather… interesting question.”
Her tone was blank as usual, but it clearly said that she was not going to tell him anything else.
Jubstacheit’s eyes narrowed and his gaze landed on the King of Heroes, who was still silently sipping his wine on the couch.
“How is the Heroic Spirit Gilgamesh alive and together with you?”
Arturia gave an almost imperceptible sigh and very nearly smiled.
“That is an even more interesting question.”
She knew that she had said enough; Jubstacheit would make his – wrong – assumptions based on her vague words. He would probably think that, since she and Gilgamesh apparently got along, they had the same goals. She honestly didn’t care about what he thought, as long as he didn’t try to interfere with what she had in mind.
Even if he was not like Kiritsugu, Arturia was under no illusions: Jubstacheit von Einzbern was a heartless and cruel man, who had done many, many terrible things. However, since he was currently in control of Illyasviel’s life, she had to make sure not to let him realize her true intentions.
The old white-haired man weighed her with his eyes for a while longer. Then he stood up. Looking between her and the other king, he said slowly, “You are welcome to stay here, Saber… and Gilgamesh, of course, too.”
The King of Heroes stood up from the couch, with the glass of wine in hand and a very arrogant look on his face. “I expect the rest of the castle to be decent, if the Einzberns’ reputation is to be believed… but I have my doubts.”
Arturia would have rolled her eyes if she hadn’t been controlling her facial expression so hard. She decided to let his comment slide, since Jubstacheit did not seem to be angry about it. So she stood up from the couch as well and gave a slight nod to the old man.
“Thank you for your hospitality.”
Then she added, “May I see Illyasviel? I am not sure whether she remembers me or not.”
Jubstacheit nodded to her and stood up.
“The servants will take you to her.” Then he looked at Gilgamesh. “If you agree, I will have them show you your rooms, too.”
After receiving a disdainful expression from the King of Heroes, Jubstacheit left from the same door he had come from, assuring them that the servants were about to come.
Before anyone arrived, Gilgamesh gave a short laugh. His blood-red eyes were fixed on the King of Knights.
“I must say that I am astonished, Arturia. I would not have expected something so… artful from a righteous person like you.”
Her look of contempt only made him lift an eyebrow in amusement, and he continued, “That was done rather impressively, though… to simply let the supposedly astute head of the Einzbern reach the wrong conclusions… I commend you on your cleverness, King of Knights.”
Luckily, the task of having to find an adequate answer was successfully dodged thanks to the arrival of two servants. One of them addressed Arturia and the other one Gilgamesh.
The two kings went on their separate ways.
After leaving the underground chambers, Arturia was led to what appeared to be a comfortable living room, with two elegant couches, a table next to the window and a few chairs around it. Sitting on one of them, with a book in front of her, was a young girl with long white hair and dark red eyes – Irisviel’s spitting image.
The servant who had accompanied her left with a bow, and Arturia acknowledged her with a slight tilt of her head. As soon as the door was closed again, she brought her attention to the girl.
The little girl had looked up from her book and set it aside as soon as she had heard the door of the room open, and was now staring at her with a curious look in her eyes. Arturia took a deep breath – but made sure it wasn’t noticeable. It wasn’t the time to beat around the bush.
“Hi, Illyasviel. I am Arturia Pendragon. It’s nice to see you again.”
A light of recognition appeared in her eyes, and the girl stood up beaming at her.
“I remember you, Arturia! Mommy told me that you were going to help her and daddy on their mission!”
The King of Knights almost flinched at those words. She was not used to having to tell anyone that their loved ones were no more – especially not to a child.
But Illyasviel was a very perceptive girl, as she immediately found out. Her dark red eyes filled with sadness as she looked at Arturia.
“Mommy and daddy… are not going to come back, are they?”
Arturia, for the first time, found it very difficult to tell the truth. But she would not lie – and especially not to Illyasviel. So she slowly shook her head.
The girl looked down at the floor and remained silent for a few minutes. Then she went back to her chair and sat down again. Arturia followed her and took out a chair for herself, silently sitting down.
Illyasviel’s eyes landed on her once more.
“Are they dead?” she asked, with her voice slightly wavering.
Arturia looked her in the eye.
“Your father is alive, Illyasviel. But… I’m afraid he is not going to be able to come and visit you.”
The girl’s expression was a bit puzzled, therefore Arturia elaborated, “I will explain another day… but, even if the… mission… has ended, he is not allowed to come back here.”
The girl’s expression seemed to be less confused at that statement.
“It has something to do with Grandfather, right?”
Hiding a surprised look at the girl’s acuity, Arturia gave her a short nod. It wasn’t the time to explain the matter between Jubstacheit and Kiritsugu to Illyasviel… but the girl was unusually bright for her young age.
Her eyes turned sad again. “You said that daddy is alive. But that means that mommy…?”
Arturia closed her eyes, and that was already answer enough for her.
“I’m sorry, Illyasviel.”
The girl’s dark red eyes looked at her with a confused expression.
“Why are you apologizing? It’s kind of you to come and see me… and it’s kind of you to not treat me like a little child. Thank you, Arturia.”
Of all the things she expected from the girl, gratitude was not one of them.
Arturia was reminded of the fact that she was Irisviel’s daughter… and she seemed to be as kind-hearted as her mother was.
Trying to find something meaningful to say, she looked around the room. Observing the couches, she absent-mindedly noted that Gilgamesh would have appreciated them – and she silently reprimanded herself for letting her thoughts wander to him –, and then her attention landed on the vast library in the corner.
“I believe you are not taking your studies lightly,” she said, noticing several books about Magecraft piled up and full of bookmarks.
The girl nodded.
“Grandfather, when he visits, always explains how important it is to know how to use magic properly, and I have to learn quickly.”
“You were studying this?” Arturia asked her, looking at the book on the table between them.
Illyasviel followed her gaze and grimaced slightly.
“I was, but it’s very difficult to understand… with many words I don’t know, and I don’t have a dictionary… nor anyone to ask questions to.”
And the child looked down in sadness.
Arturia’s eyes landed on the book again, weighing her chances. She was no Magus – and the book was obviously about Magecraft. But she knew quite a bit about it… and she could at least offer to explain the difficult terms to the girl. Therefore she looked at her, mentally preparing for the suggestion she was going to make.
“Would you like to go through it again with me?”
Surprised, the white-haired girl looked up and her dark red eyes met Arturia’s steady green ones. As soon as she realized that the offer was a genuine one, Illyasviel smiled – the first real smile the former King of Britain had seen on her face.
“Yes, please, Arturia!” she answered with enthusiasm. She put the book between them and her expression betrayed her eagerness to learn.
Before beginning, though, she raised her eyes in a more shy expression than before.
“Arturia?” she said timidly. The King of Knights gave her a slightly questioning look. “I would like for you to call me Illya.”
And that was how the two girls’ friendship began.
When mealtime came that evening, a good part of the Magecraft book had already been seen through… and Illya was happy and proud at having learned so much. When the servants summoned them for dinner, the little girl grasped Arturia’s hand – surprising her – and escorted her to a large dining hall.
There they found a person waiting for them. Arturia shortly introduced him to Illya.
“This is Gilgamesh. He came here with me. Gilgamesh, this is Illyasviel von Einzbern.”
The King of Heroes did not speak much – he simply looked the girl over and said, “Daughter of the vessel, I presume.”
Arturia glared at him. Illya had luckily not heard him… and as they sat down, she looked between him and the woman with interest.
With curiosity, she said, “Are you two related?”
Green and red eyes landed on her, a bit surprised and curious about what had originated such a question.
She candidly explained, “You have both something regal in your countenance, in the way you walk, sit and talk.”
Arturia was slightly taken aback, but she had already realized the girl’s cleverness hours before. She did not look at Gilgamesh to see his reaction.
“We are not related, Illya. But we were both kings at some point.”
After that sentence, she changed the subject. She and Illya started to talk about the things they had studied together that day, and the little girl’s words implied that she hoped for her help again in the future.
While they were eating dinner – for once not coming from his Gate of Babylon – Gilgamesh didn’t take his eyes off the woman he had accompanied there.
He could not deny it – he was very fascinated by her.
She had apparently decided to look after the little girl and presumably change her destiny – it was something he hadn’t really expected, but it wasn’t surprising considering the kind of person she was.
He found it a bit ironic. Only some weeks before he had dismissed Kirei, who was going to babysit the Tohsaka brat, because he wanted to follow Arturia… and Arturia was apparently going to babysit the Einzbern brat.
What he found even more ironic was the fact that, in her case, he did not think it was boring to observe.
What he now wanted to do was to see if she would succeed in the mission she had apparently set for herself. She was a woman who was always taking on burdens… he wanted to see if a time would come in which she would eventually break under their weight.
He had to admit, however, that he was mildly impressed with the amount of burdens she was already carrying – and she didn’t appear to vacillate underneath them.
That trait of hers was what made her so interesting. Everything she did, as mundane and simple as it was, caught his eye – because she was doing it, and she had her own way of thinking, acting, doing everything…
He was incredibly interested in seeing what she was going to do, especially now that she had a life to live… a life she had actually not wanted....