Chapter 9: Discoveries
After the argument, contrary to what they both had expected, the relationship between Gilgamesh and Arturia had become more… relaxed.
When they thought about it, they acknowledged that it actually made sense. They had told each other what they truly thought, and by doing that, they had created a deep connection between them. And that allowed them to be more comfortable in each other’s presence.
That showed especially in the evenings, when Arturia usually took a book from the library and read aloud for them both in the living room.
She had decided it was best to know more about the Holy Grail War, and therefore had begun to read aloud quite a few historical books. From those, they had discovered that only after the chaotic Second War the Church, deciding to give the conflict some semblance of rightness, had introduced a few precise rules.
Other much more shocking pieces of information came up… things Arturia had not been aware of. She discovered, to her dismay, that in order to complete the summoning ritual of the Grail all seven Servants were supposed to die… and that was the actual reason the Command Spells existed in the first place, so that the Masters could force their Servants to commit suicide.
That went against everything they had known previously… According to what they had thought to be true, a couple formed by a Master and a Servant was supposed to win the war, and each of them would be able to make a wish on the Grail.
The King of Knights was not exactly livid, but she wasn’t happy in discovering that she had merely been a pawn, and that she had never had any hope of winning the Grail from the very beginning. That was when Gilgamesh spoke up.
“I found out about the real rules of the war… and that was part of the reason I accepted to change Master.” He played with his ever-present wine glass. “I knew that Tokiomi would sacrifice me in the end.”
Arturia raised an eyebrow at him. Snide remarks were not her type of thing, but this time she could not stop herself.
“And you don’t suppose that in the end Kirei would have killed you as well, do you?”
He retorted, “I had been analysing the mongrel long enough to understand what his true priorities were.”
Such little exchanges of sarcasm became increasingly common between them.
After having read about the Second War, Arturia looked for books about the Third War… and was surprised to find out that there were very few, and all very vaguely detailed. It was strange… especially because the shelves with those books were almost empty. The woman was suspicious, mainly because she knew that Jubstacheit von Einzbern had seen her often go to the library to consult historical books… but she had no reason to ask questions about the apparent absence of some books.
A few days after finding out about the required death of the Servants, Arturia was reading yet another book of Magecraft with Illya when she made a startling discovery.
According to the lessons they were going through in that moment, if a magical object released energy after having supposedly been destroyed, it meant that the process had been imperfect – and the latent energy would remain inside the item.
That could mean…
Arturia avoided talking about her suspicions in front of the girl, and waited until she went to sleep that evening before bringing up the subject with Gilgamesh. She wouldn’t have talked to him if he hadn’t been the only one to know what she was talking about.
Re-reading the passage that had made her suspicions arise, she related them to the King of Heroes.
“Gilgamesh, if this is true, then it could mean… that the Grail has not been destroyed.”
Her face almost contorted in anxiety. If the Grail had indeed not been destroyed, then there would be another Holy Grail War. And if another Grail War was going to take place…
Illya, was the first thought her mind screamed.
Gilgamesh appeared to be very calm as he observed her various reactions. As soon as she seemed to have quieted down a little, he sat up from his lying position on the couch and casually handed her two books that had been under his feet but she had not noticed before.
Arturia took them with a frown, slightly confused, but it quickly turned into a shocked gasp when she realized what those two volumes were.
They appeared to be the Einzbern secret books about the Third Grail War – the ones she had been unable to find in the library!
She looked at the golden king in wonder. He simply shrugged.
“You were looking for them, weren’t you?”
He had seen her look in vain for the books that had mysteriously disappeared from the library’s shelves, and he had immediately known that Jubstacheit von Einzbern had something to do with that. So he had simply followed the old mongrel on the day he had made his appearance again, and had seen him put some volumes in a small room contiguous to the library. He had mentally snorted at the man’s less-than-smart hiding place and simply taken the books with him.
Arturia immediately opened the first tome and began to read aloud. That evening they did not manage to read a lot of it, because it was already late, but they found out something that neither of them expected: the Einzbern family had been at fault for the corruption of the Grail.
That meant – everything that had happened during the Fourth War had been meaningless, because the cup was already tainted.
All the people who had died… everything had been in vain.
Families had been torn apart… and it had all been for nothing.
The following evenings, Arturia continued to read aloud from the two books, and both former Servants were interested in what they found out.
They read about the nature of Angra Mainyu… the incarnation of ‘all the world’s evils’. It had apparently tainted the Grail and managed to corrupt it fully by the time the Fourth Grail War had begun. Both Gilgamesh and Arturia remembered the dark entity they had met inside the Grail.
The woman considered what she had read in the Magecraft book and what she was learning from those history volumes.
“I hit the Grail with a direct blast. It should have been enough to tear it apart for good. But that black mud that came out of it… signifies that it wasn’t destroyed.”
She read more about the nature of the Grail the following evenings, and that was when they discovered how it was truly composed.
The Grail was a supernatural entity, and as such, it needed something physical – a vessel – to manifest in the world of the living. The process of manifestation was gradual… it received the energy of every Servant that died, and that began to bind the vessel and the Grail together.
Arturia was struck with a thought. That was the reason why Irisviel had kept becoming weaker and weaker. After Assassin’s death, she had had to shut her sense of touch to be able to still go around. After Caster’s death, she had barely moved. And after Lancer’s forced suicide… the white-haired homunculus had collapsed. She had been the Grail vessel… and with every Servant’s death, her bond with the Grail had become stronger, weakening her life as a human.
The King of Knights forced herself to concentrate on the book she was reading and set aside the thoughts about her friend.
What really caught her attention – and she pointed it out to the King of Heroes, who had been listening attentively every evening – was again the Grail’s double nature. Its true form was intertwined with the vessel, but they truly became one only once all the Servants, or at least six of them, died, and therefore put their energy inside it.
However, the fact that two Servants had still been alive when Excalibur’s blast had hit it meant that the vessel and the true form of the Grail had not been together… and therefore Excalibur’s light had only destroyed the physical vessel. Proof of it was the black mud that had erupted from it, which was manifestation of latent energy.
That meant… that not only did the Grail still exist… but also the energy from the five Servants who had died was still inside it.
Arturia went back in the book to re-read a passage and make sure they had gotten the facts straight.
It said that there was a period of sixty years between each Holy Grail War because the Grail needed to gather and store enough energy to manifest itself in Fuyuki.
But… the energy of five Servants had remained inside the Grail after the Fourth War. That meant that the next war was going to take place in much, much less than sixty years!
And that meant that Illya would without a doubt be involved in that, too…
Arturia closed the last book. After more than ten days of reading every evening, she had finished the two volumes that Gilgamesh had given her.
She had to think.
She had discussed about all those discoveries with Gilgamesh… well, she had talked and explained while he had simply sat there and listened.
She thought hard, weighing all the facts carefully. The reason why Excalibur had failed to destroy the Grail was clear enough – the vessel and the true nature had not been bound together sufficiently to be destroyed in one blast… and that was also why a part of the darkness of Angra Mainyu had been able to flow out. A double blast would have been necessary to destroy the Grail in the conditions in which it had been at the end of the Fourth War. A weapon as strong as Excalibur – if not stronger – to destroy the vessel and the Grail through the connection they shared, and then Excalibur… to use its brightness to purify and vanquish all that tried to escape from it… or even the other way round could work.
It made sense. The full form of the Grail was made of both the physical container and the true essence… it had a double nature. A double blast was therefore necessary to completely remove it from existence.
Arturia stood up and walked to the window. Her eyes looked outside without seeing anything. She spoke after a long pause.
“The Grail has to be destroyed… and it has to be done while its energy is still a bit dormant, or it will become strong enough to start another war.”
Her gaze became resolute. She had to find a way – the Grail had to be stopped. Those wars had already caused too many unnecessary and useless deaths.
The King of Knights made her decision. She would do it. She would have to destroy the Grail. That would be her new objective.
The King of Heroes felt amused at witnessing her decisiveness.
“This is… interesting. You intend to get rid of a mystical but corrupt object that you tried to obtain for so long… Very interesting.” He looked at her form, standing next to the window. “How do you aim to do such a thing, Arturia?”
The woman could feel the unspoken challenge in his words – he was testing her. He was asking her to prove that she wasn’t just talking, but that she meant to do what she had said she would.
She reflected. To destroy the Grail, the first thing she needed was more detailed information – information she could not find at the Einzbern Castle. She needed to learn much, much more about Magecraft and summoning rituals… and the best place to learn more about those…
“I will have to leave,” she said, thoughtfully. Before he could interrupt her, she continued, “I need to go to London, to the main headquarters of the Mage’s Association. There I can find the information I require to summon the Grail properly.”
She didn’t add that she suspected that a human physical vessel was necessary… she could not be sure until she researched more about it. A vessel was unavoidable… but she hoped it was possible to use something that wasn’t an alive person.
Her reasoning concluded, she turned around to face Gilgamesh. Looking at the clock on the wall, she realized it was already past three in the morning, but she ignored the thought to concentrate on the man in front of her.
Her eyes met his, firmly. “Now that you know what I’ve decided to do, what will you do, King of Heroes? Do you intend to support, observe, stop me? What do you aim to do, Gilgamesh?”
He was silent. Suddenly a glass of wine appeared in his hand and he took a sip from it. Twirling the glass in his fingers, he smirked slowly.
“I give you an opportunity, King of Knights. Since you have exceeded my expectations in terms of entertainment, I ask you to try and make me decide.” He leaned back on the couch, with a satisfied expression on his face.
Arturia remained silent for a moment. She knew she could use his help. Therefore she began slowly, “…You should probably help me, Gilgamesh.”
She looked out of the window again, deep in thought.
“There are several reasons for doing so. For one, we are not aging… and that means that that’s something that has to do with the Grail.”
They had realized they were not aging only a few weeks before.
“Then, if the Grail is not destroyed, there will be another war; I’m well aware,” she continued immediately, noticing that he was about to say something, “that you do not exactly care about that. However, I would like to bring your attention on a consequence of this fact. A new war means new Servants – and new Servants means that there could be other Heroic Spirits, who might get soaked in the Grail’s black substance… and they might survive, too. Do you really want others to be in your same position, King of Heroes?” Her expression was the closest to sarcastic that he had ever seen on her. She taunted him, “It’s bad enough that I was given the same honour, but what if others were to receive that as well?”
As soon as she finished talking, Gilgamesh made his glass disappear and clapped lightly, smirking.
“I’m impressed, Arturia… you managed to make some very good points. No other mongrels are worthy of the same honour we have.”
His expression, aside from his smug smile, was impossible to read.
Arturia frowned slightly. He had not said that she wasn’t worthy… that was strange. Before she could enquire about his words, however, he stood up and came towards her.
“I will come with you then, Arturia, and lend you my help… but one thing must be clear.” He narrowed his eyes slightly. “I will not lower myself to go through dusty books – I have already had to touch these filthy Einzbern ones.”
For the first time, Arturia allowed herself to roll her eyes physically instead of mentally in front of him, and smiled.
They were not going to leave immediately – but in a very short while.
The following day, even if she had not had enough sleep, Arturia talked with Illya. Without going into details, she seriously explained to the girl that she and Gilgamesh needed to go to London for a while, and then they would come back. The young girl did not take the news very well – Arturia had been living with her for more than two years by then, and she had become a constant and reliable presence in her life. The King of Knights reassured her that she was leaving only temporarily, and she would be back. After searching the woman’s green eyes with her dark red ones, Illya relented and nodded, even if sadly.
After telling her about the imminent departure, Arturia also talked with her about her family. She told the little girl to be very careful while they were gone, and not to trust anyone, not even her most dependable servants with whom she was going to continue her studies. The woman told her that in complete earnestness – she knew that the child was bright enough to understand, and she was also proficient enough in magic to defend herself if needed. The King of Knights doubted that the Einzberns would try to do anything to her in the period of time she was not there, but she wasn’t going to take any chances.
Before going to speak with the Einzbern leader, Arturia asked Gilgamesh to put the secret Einzbern books back in the place where he had taken them from, in order not to raise any suspicions. His expression had been almost offended at the request but, even if quite annoyed, he had complied.
The conversation with Jubstacheit von Einzbern had been very brief and formal. Arturia had truthfully told him that she intended to go to the Mage’s Association to deepen her knowledge about Magecraft, and Jubstacheit had not had any objections. He had actually made sure that the servants provided both her and Gilgamesh with travelling clothes, and even gave her an Einzbern seal, engraved on a ring that was hanging from a chain, so that she could wear it around her neck and make use of the Einzbern privileges in London. Arturia reluctantly thanked him for his gift – knowing that he only had his egotistic interests in mind – and took her leave from him.
Arturia and Gilgamesh were at the gates of the Einzbern Castle, ready to leave.
As soon as they would be outside of the magical barrier, Gilgamesh was going to dematerialize them once again, because even if Arturia’s description of the first class of an airplane had caught his attention for a while, he still refused to travel “the way the mongrels do”.
Arturia suspected he just wanted a private jet, and she was not going that far.
Illya had insisted on accompanying them to the gate herself. She had a very sad expression and even looked worried.
Before going, Arturia gave the girl a smile.
“I will come back to see you as soon as I can, Illya.”
The little girl nodded, looking at her with glistening eyes. Then, suddenly, as the woman was about to turn around to leave, Illya ran up to her and hugged her fiercely around her waist, bursting into tears against her blue coat.
Arturia was paralyzed with surprise, her hands automatically landing on the girl’s shoulders in instinct. Shocked at her actions, she did not notice how the King of Heroes was giving the two of them a knowing look.
The little girl, between sobs and while still clinging to Arturia’s clothes for dear life, chocked out, “P-promise me, A-arturia… P-p-promise you-you will c-come back…!”
The woman, still stunned at the girl’s actions, kneeled down on her level, not caring about the snow around her. She gently unfastened Illya’s clenched hands and took them in hers. She gave her another smile and looked her directly in the eye.
“I promise, Illya. I will come back. And you promise me,” her grip became a little more firm, “that you will continue your studies and you will be careful.”
The white-haired girl sniffled and nodded, looking at her with still tear-filled eyes. And then she threw her arms around the woman’s shoulders and embraced her.
“I’ll miss you,” she sobbed.
Having someone hug her was something completely new for Arturia. It was with hesitance that her arms went around the little girl’s form to embrace her back. But, as soon as she was holding her close, she realized how much comfort that action could give, and she caressed Illya’s hair lightly.
With the child in her warm embrace, Arturia smiled.
“I will miss you too, Illya.”
She did not know, but in that moment, her expression was the sweetest and loveliest that Gilgamesh had ever seen on her face.
And he could do nothing but stare in something very close to amazement while the two girls were hugging each other. Not even while asleep had Arturia had such a tender appearance…
He wondered briefly if she would ever direct such an expression to anyone else. He also had to wonder… such a pure expression was surprisingly more beautiful than her anguished one he had seen in the past… and he found out that such a realization was not unwelcome.
Arturia then slowly broke the embrace, softly wiping Illya’s tears away with her sleeve.
The girl hiccupped.
“I-I hope nothing happens to you…”
At that, Gilgamesh almost scoffed. He frowned at the white-haired girl.
“As if anything would happen to Arturia while she is travelling with me.”
Illya looked at him, and her eyes filled with tears again.
“What if something happens to you?”
Gilgamesh did scoff this time.
The little girl however didn’t give him the time to finish the sentence, because she jumped towards him and hugged his legs. For the first time in a very long while, the King of Heroes was completely taken aback.
His expression was so entertaining, and having a girl clinging to his legs was so bizarre, that Arturia could not suppress a smile, even if she tried to cover it with her hand.
He noticed, though – of course he did –, and glared at her.
Then he broke free from Illya’s embrace, even if not harshly, and took a few steps towards the gate. He gave a nod to Arturia, indicating that it was time to go. The woman waved at Illya with a smile and followed him, still trying to suppress her amusement.
The little girl was left watching them walk across the gate, and then she saw him grab her hand to dematerialize.
The last thing she heard before they both disappeared was the slightly annoyed tone of the King of Heroes as he said, “Wipe that smile off your face, woman.”...