Chapter 8: Family Bonds
A man seated in the living room of a house watched two little girls playing happily with each other. One had silver hair with blue eyes and wore a beautiful white dress. The second was a near identical copy of the first, the only difference being that she had on a black dress.
The man wore a black leather coat with a crown of feathers adorning the neck. He didn't know why he was even watching the two girls. They could be mistaken by twins, but he knew they weren't. To his horror the little girl was a Master, her Servant a clone. He wasn't sure about her class, as they would always refer to themselves by a single name, Alice.
"Mister Julius!" the two girls called as they walked up to him. "Please play with us."
The petite girls both wore a smile.
Julius flinched at their words. He didn't know what to say. No, that would be a lie, he knew he could have said "yes" or "no" and, as he continued to look at those eyes full of expectancy, he found himself about to surrender and play with them. And then he stopped himself. He couldn't do that. It would mean acting like a human, and he had stopped being one a long time ago. He was only a tool, one for Leo to use to become the perfect king.
"Mister Julius, you don't want to play?" the white-dressed Alice asked him.
The man in black didn't answer her.
As the girls began to lower their heads in disappointment, Rider of White appeared atop the staircase that led to the second floor.
"Hey there little girls, there's a boy here crying like crazy, so come and cheer him up, would ya?" she said with a smirk.
"I'm not crying!" The voice of Shinji could be heard from upstairs. "Also, I'm just doing this because I promised, alright!"
The girls giggled before climbing the stairs toward the blue-haired boy. Julius sighed in relief as he saw the girls leave and even blocked out the glare of distrust coming from Rider.
As the pirate disappeared, he felt another presence behind him.
"You could play with them, you know."
"Assassin. Not now," he said simply, ignoring the person behind him.
"Why not? Come on Julius, there is no one here. I'm sure you can satisfy my curiosity a little."
"Just tell me."
"Come on, let me guess. You don't want to play?"
"I told you to shut up!"
"Is it because you hate them?"
"SHUT UP!" Julius snapped as he stood and turned to the man behind him. "It is not that."
"Then tell me."
He murmured something Assassin couldn't hear.
"What was that?"
"I… I don't… want to taint them."
Assassin understood, as he, just like Julius, had the blood of many people on his hands, yet he didn't regret it. It was true he had gone astray and brought shame to the school that taught him how to fight, but he couldn't feel regret, as that would mean regretting the fights he had with many people he respected. Assassin, though a murderer, believed that those people he met and fought to the death were at the same time his closest friends. As they exchanged fists, they learned everything about the other. At the same time he understood Julius' words. Those girls were pure, or at least the human was, so it was better to not let them associate themselves with murderers. He knew what his Master wished and chose to remain silent.
When Rider of Black had almost reached Caules' room, he came across a girl in a wheelchair and a man with long green hair wearing brown Greek armor behind her.
"Hey there, Archer!" the paladin called to the bowman before turning to the girl with a small bow. "Bonjour, Mademoiselle Fiore."
"Good morning, Rider," she said with a weak smile.
"Rider, I thought you went to go wander the city."
"My Master called me back. I was about to go out again, but I decided to check on Berserker and her Master. It seems I wasn't the only one," Rider said with his usual grin.
But at his words the young girl lowered her head, as if saying that he was wrong. Rider's smile faded the moment he saw that and before he could speak, Archer grabbed his arm and moved a little down the hallway.
"Rider, please don't."
"Archer, tell me one reason she could possibly have to ignore her brother," the paladin said. He was completely serious, his cheerfulness gone.
"There are two reasons, actually," the bowman said, trying to calm him down.
"She doesn't feel she has the right. She told me that last night she asked him before he left what his wish would be, and he said that he didn't have one, but if she were to die he would use it to bring her back."
Rider's eyes widened. He didn't expect that at all. It wasn't the fact that he was a magus who didn't search for the Root like the others, not the fact he didn't have any desire when he could ask the Grail, but the fact that his sister would mean so much to him that he would try to save her.
"Still doesn't make sense. In any case, it should be a reason…" At that moment he understood. "You can't be serious."
"She isn't sure if she would bring him back. There are other things she desires." Archer sighed. "She is conflicted that if it ended up coming between getting her legs back and her brother's life, she may not choose him."
Rider remained serious. He had to use all his will to stop himself from pushing Archer aside and confronting Fiore.
"You told me there was another reason."
"Berserker didn't let her in."
"How does she know if she didn't even try?"
"She doesn't, Berserker only told that to me."
"She can talk?" The paladin was really surprised. "Then why she didn't answer me after the summoning?"
"She is shy, but that's it."
"I don't approve, Archer, and I'm sure you don't either."
"I don't, but it's her choice to make."
The paladin began to walk to the room and stopped in front of Fiore.
"I will visit your brother if it doesn't bother you, Mademoiselle Fiore."
The girl just nodded.
It was now midday. At the mansion of the Blue Faction, Sakura found herself in her room not knowing what to do. She was scared, scared of her grandfather, scared to fight, scared that Shirou and Rin would end up going against her.
After all she couldn't disobey him. Even though Antares had kicked him out of the house, it didn't change anything. He was still alive and he would come back for her.
"It seems you are thinking about me, Sakura," a voice said.
She felt a shiver go up her spine, unable to move.
"Grand… father?" Fear filled her voice.
"I'm disappointed in you, Sakura. I thought my little granddaughter would give her support when that dog of Alaya decided to attack me."
The girl didn't answer. She continued to tremble in fear and she could feel that the worm magus was smiling, looking at her.
"Well, the past is the past. I want to know how you are going to make it up to me for that."
"I hope you haven't forgotten, you need to help me get the Grail. That is your duty as a member of the Matou House."
"I … I don't want to fight nee-san or senpai."
"You don't have a choice, my girl. What would they think when they see the real you, when they know you have been lying to them all this time. The Tohsaka will hate you and the son of Emiya will abandon you."
"NO! Anything but that!" she yelled as she began to cry.
"Then there is only one thing you can do, Sakura."
"I… I... I…"
"Come on—" The voice was stopped by a nail-like dagger thrust into the wall.
Sakura raised her head and saw Rider standing at the door. The Servant looked concerned and the moment she walked over, Sakura hugged her and sobbed.
"Don't worry, I will protect you," Rider said softly, stroking her hair.
In a nearby building, Zouken stood smiling. He didn't care that she hadn't yet accepted or that Rider killed the worm he used to talk with Sakura. After all, it fulfilled its mission. A seed had been planted inside of her mind: the seed of doubt.
Back at the house of the sixth faction, Atosaki found herself a little worried. In the morning all went well. They met the maids Zelretch had put in charge of housework. Apparently they were red-headed twin sisters, one wearing a crimson maid outfit, the other a crimson kimono with a white apron on the front. Surprisingly, Sakura had shown discomfort at their appearance, palming her face and asking Zelretch if they were from her world. When he'd answered no, she calmed down, and later called everyone to the living room except for Kirsche and introduced them as Kohaku and Hisui. Atosaki was glad to meet new people, but she was concerned that being with those two put them in danger.
"Don't worry. In any case, it's safer for them to be here where we can protect them, instead of outside at the aim of any master," Leo had reassured her.
She wondered why Leo acted kind to her while with both Edward and Kousuke he seemed a little cold. The day started normally and without problems. Kohaku made lunch even though they all ate at different times. Atosaki expected the same for dinner but was surprised when she found that Leo, Breno, Kousuke and Edward were in the living room helping set the table. She let herself smile a little as Sakura of Colchis appeared and sat down beside her.
The moment she seated herself she noticed a few people were missing.
"Where are Kage-san and Kirsche-san?" Atosaki asked.
"Well, Kage said he would eat later, and Kirsche left early this morning," Edward answered, giving her a piece of paper with a message written on it
"I will go out, don't even think of bothering me until I get back."
She laughed nervously. At that moment, the two maids came and served the five Masters as everyone took their seats.
"You sure it's alright to leave her alone, Edward-san?"
"She is a grown girl, and I think she would get mad if I followed her."
"Don't talk as if you aren't doing it," Leo interjected.
"Hey, she's free to destroy the ghost fire if she wants to," he answered as he began to eat.
Atosaki realized that there was a small crimson sphere stuck to the back of her sky-blue dress.
"Edward-san!" she said, standing up, a little embarrassed.
"What's wrong?" He seemed confused.
"You've been watching us all this time?!"
"Uh? No, I just forgot to take them off last night. I remembered this morning and decided to leave them as a way to keep in touch."
"Is that all?" Her face now had a flush of red.
"Yeah, I know it may be uncomfortable, but I can only use it to talk through and sense other presences. I don't really get what else bothers you so much."
Both Caster and Saber appeared.
"Praetor, you must treat a lady better than that. God, what have I taught you?"
"That's right, a girl needs her privacy."
None of the boys understood what they were talking about but still decided to apologize and Edward made the ghost fire disappear, Sakura giggling at this all the while.
In that moment Kirsche returned and saw all the boys saying sorry and couldn't help but smirk at the scene.
"Hey there, Kirsche." She was greeted by Edward. "Want to eat something?"
"No need, Hellhound. I ate outside."
"About that. Where did you go?"
"I was exploring. I must admit, Zelretch did some great work. No one would think this place isn't a real city."
"Is that so?" Breno said as he stood from the table. "Well, I'm going out."
He started walking away.
"Wait, Breno-san. I must say something to all of you," Sakura said.
The six Masters look at her.
"Shouldn't we wait for Kage?" Leo asked.
"He is already here," Sakura said with a smile.
All of them looked to the table and found a young man wearing a gray shirt with black jeans sitting and eating. They realized it was Kage.
"What?" He finally noticed that they were all looking at him.
"How did you do it?" asked Breno.
"He's good. Right, Kousuke?" Edward added, amused.
"Can't deny it."
"It seems the most normal of us is Atosaki," Leo said, smiling.
Sakura brought back order.
"Alright, as I was saying, I would like to ask all of you to call me Ginevra du Lac when introducing me to other people."
"Sakura…" Edward said.
"I don't mind, but why?" Kousuke asked while looking at the sorceress.
"Mostly to avoid problems with the other Masters that, like Edward-san, know another version of me. Also, I like the name."
"That's all?" Breno asked and Sakura nodded. "As I was saying I will be going."
"Alright, we'll see you later."
"Where are you going, Breno-san?" Atosaki asked.
Breno stopped and looked at her for a second and continued to walk, leaving Atosaki confused.
"Fights for the Grail are at night, so we also need to leave for a while," Edward said as he stood along with the others. "See ya, Atosaki-san."
On the other side of the city, Kayneth, who had decided to act alone, was feeling impatient. He hadn't found a single Master.
"Is it that all? The Masters in this War are cowards!" He was about to lose it.
A green-outfitted man holding two spears wrapped in cloth appeared at his side. He was undeniably handsome, with a beauty mark at the corner of his right eye.
"My lord, I beg you to have more patience."
"Shut up! This is all your fault Lancer, your presence is so weak that none of the other Masters notice it."
"I ask of you your forgiveness," he said, bowing slightly.
He didn't know he was being watched by the Assassin of his very faction.
"You sure we should let him go alone, master?" Kirei asked.
"It can't be helped Kirei-kun." Tokiomi sighed.
"Kirei, go with him. I will also send Saber along with you." Kiritsugu said, lighting a smoke.
"Emiya-san, are you sure?" Tokiomi asked.
The flame magus didn't trust the magus killer at all. His tactics were an insult to magi in general. He resorted to modern equipment and he didn't have any pride. But at the same time, his techniques would be an advantage and as they worked together Tokiomi could learn more and create a strategy to beat them.
When the magus killer nodded and Kirei left the house along with Saber of Zero, Tokiomi decided to go back to his room. He expected to found an annoyed King of Heroes who couldn't tolerate the idea of many mongrels fighting for a treasure he assumed was his possession. He actually found the room empty, making his confusion grow as he wondered where his Servant possibly could have gone. It was such a surprise that he didn't notice Aldebaran wasn't around either.
On the top of a nearby building, the golden Servant stood looking at the sky. Anger filled his entire being. It wasn't because of the thieves trying to steal his treasure or the fact that he, being a king, needed to side with other Heroic Spirits.
No, it was that even after all these centuries he saw Gaia continuing to play with the lives of humans. The very moment he was summoned, he could feel Gaia's influence and knew this charade was just a game created by her.
"Even after all this time, you continue to play with others, Gaia, and keep using these dogs for that."
"Please, King of Heroes, you don't need to be so rude," Aldebaran said, showing up behind him.
"You dare to stand as an equal to me? Mongrel!"
In that instant a golden portal appeared at his side and a gilded axe went flying toward the butler. It didn't reach him. Aldebaran grabbed the axe with ease once it came a few centimeters away.
"Not bad. I can't believe you'd forsaken a life with the blessing of the gods. Maybe in that case your weapon would have reached me."
"Mongrel, I am a king. No king kneels before anyone, not even the gods. If I did, I wouldn't have any pride and end up a mere slave just like you."
The Counter Guardian smiled.
"So tell me, the reason you called me here is to insult me?"
"No, I think I should use you to punish the World for making me participate is such an absurd game."
"I see. But King of Heroes, do you really expect to be a match for me?"
"Are you calling me weak, mongrel?!" Gilgamesh demanded as many portals began to open behind him.
Aldebaran just smirked in anticipation. After all, an opportunity where the observer could partake in the show was rare.
"Well, I can't harm participants, but if it's in self-defense, I guess I could play a little with you, golden boy," Aldebaran said as a silver aura began to surround him. "Please try not to die so fast!"
The butler dashed at him.
"Insolent fool!" Gilgamesh roared as the weapons stored inside the Gate of Babylon were shot at the Counter Guardian.
Explosions burst on the top of the building. Far away they were being watched by a female Archer with green hair, cat ears and a tail, wearing a green and yellow dress with black leggings. She was the only witness of the battle that was happening.
"So it begins," she whispered.
At the entrance of the house, Edward, now sporting a black long sleeve t-shirt with a red vest and black pants, was waiting for someone.
"Praetor." Saber sounded annoyed. "How long do we need to wait? I mean that guy who had the black coat and the one with a tie already left."
"Saber, they have names. Also, since when do you care about what others do?"
"Well…" She didn't know how to answer.
"Just tell me you're bored," he said, making her blush.
"I… how dare…"
At her struggle he just laughed and put his hand on her cheek.
"Stupid Praetor," she said in a whisper.
"So the great emperor is reduced to a schoolgirl, I can't believe it," Caster said with a grin while appearing in the room.
"Caster, please don't be like that," said Kousuke, who was now wearing a black kimono with a red haori, while leaning against the wall, his sword at his right side.
"But Goshujin-sama, it's so fun!" she said with smile.
"Well, leaving all that aside, I wonder why Atosaki-san I taking so long."
"By the way, Edward-kun, why do I need to tag along with you?" Kousuke asked with no other reason than curiosity.
"I think the same, Hellhound," Leo said, entering the room. He was now wearing a silver jacket with a white shirt.
"I have a first name, Leo, and to answer your question, I don't know. Atosaki just told me to wait for her."
The two Masters look at him doubtfully.
"Guys, I'm ready, sorry for making you wait!" Atosaki's voice was heard and the moment she entered the room, all the boys were left speechless.
She was now wearing a plaid red and black dress with a gray turtleneck as innerwear along with a pink scarf. The three boys agreed she looked pretty. Both Edward and Kousuke felt the glares of their Servants the moment they looked at her, forcing them to quickly turn away.
"You look nice Atosaki, so why do we need to wait?" Leo asked.
"Thanks," she said with a slight blush, but then turned serious. "Please hold out your hands."
The three did as they were told and she put in each of them a smooth rock with a B written on it.
"What is this?" Edward asked.
"Berkano, the tracking rune," Caster said.
"Yep, another one of the runes Lance taught me," she said happily. "It works like your ghost fire, Edward-san, so we can know where everyone is."
They nodded and the four left the house. They asked Kirsche to come along, but she decided she would remain at home. Before they split, Edward give Kousuke the black gem that contained Cerberus and Leo the red one that contained Kyrph.
"In case you need them," he added, and the four split up, Leo with Kousuke and Edward with Atosaki.
Both Leo and Kousuke summoned the beasts and after looking at their master, they let the two ride them.
He saw them fly into the sky and turned to the black-haired girl. Lance suddenly appeared and lifted her bridal style.
"La… Lance!" Atosaki said, a little embarrassed.
Edward watched him begin to the roof of a nearby building and then leap to the others. As he was about to follow, Saber appeared nearby.
"Praetor, me too," she said.
He knew that objecting now would only be a waste of time, and that sometimes he needed to make his emperor happy. He lifted her as his legs were surrounded by flames and he flew to follow the other pair.
Kayneth had completely lost his patience. He had been wandering for hours in the streets of the city and there was no sign of any Servants. He'd even made Lancer materialize to lure them out, but he failed to notice that this was a war and not simply a competition of magi. No one would just blindly attack since there were so many competitors, moreover because it seemed like a trap.
He reached his breaking point and stopped hiding in the shadows. The very moment he did, a pillar of flames came at him before he could even think of dodging.
If it weren't for Lancer of Zero, he would have been reduced to a pile of ashes.
"You're too noisy. Remember, a magus must remain calm at any moment," Breno said as he made himself visible.
"Couldn't you choose a better target?" Rider complained as he looked at the spearman.
"Don't worry, he is weak." Breno reassured him, causing Kayneth to completely lose his cool.
"Me, weak?!" he yelled as he took a vial of Volumen Hydrargyrum from his pocket. "It seems I need to teach you some manners, you piece of trash. Take care of his Servant, Lancer. The boy is mine."
Lancer nodded and dashed at Rider. The pharaoh summoned his blade and clashed in the middle of the streets with the spearman.
Breno wrapped flames around his arms from the wrists to elbows and got ready for Kayneth's attack.
Shirou Emiya arrived along with Saber to a park in the middle of the city. He and Rin had decided to go out, but after a while Saber felt a very familiar presence. When she began to run, Shirou followed her.
"Saber," he panted, tired from going so fast. "What's wrong?"
"He is here," Saber said with a smile.
"An old friend."
Gawain then appeared in front of them with Leo at his side. The moment she saw him, Saber couldn't express her happiness over how one of her fellow knights had been summoned. She walked over to greet him, but when she was a few steps away, Gawain drew his sword and pointed it at Saber.
"Gawain?" She couldn't understand.
"Arturia, you are my former king, and I respect you for that. But at present you are a threat to my current one, so get ready," he said coldly.
"You can't be serious! You're a member of the Knights of the Round Table!" Shirou yelled at the silver knight.
"I was, but right now I am the Saber of the White Faction," he said as he dashed at Saber of Blue.
The moment the two sister swords clashed, Saber could feel her heart begin to ache. She was being forced to fight her own relative, her friend, her knight. No one could stop this fight. That was the fate of the silver knight who had sworn that if he received another chance he would protect his king at all costs, even if that meant slaying a person very important to him. The battle between Sabers had begun.
"What are you doing, my lady?" Hisui asked as Ginevra poured water into a bronze basin with one hand, clutching a jar with her other.
"Preparing for tonight's entertainment," she replied, sitting in a nearby chair and fishing out a cookie from the jar, her free hand used to activate the water mirror. She bit into the cookie as she skimmed across the city, and then promptly spat it out at the sight of Gilgamesh fighting a Counter Guardian. "Your Majesty…!"