BGM: Trevor Morris - The Tudors OST - A Queen's Loneliness
"It... it seems we have much to discuss, senpai
." Sakura had taken a seat opposite from Shirou - she wanted to face him directly when talking about the matters at hand... and yet, neither of them had said much of anything for the last short while. Perhaps there was just too much to cover for either of them to know exactly where to start.
Nevertheless, she knew that there was something she had to say - something which she herself was not quite yet at the finish line of understanding - but that she wanted him to hear.
"I'm sorry, Sakura", he answered, morosely. "I... I really don't know what to say.. about any of this."
She reached over and took his hand, and held it gently. "In that case, senpai
, please let me try to say something."
"Un," he nodded, looking over at her, intently, almost as if he was looking at her for the first time, despite the years they had known each other.
But then, he had learned recently that he did not know her nearly as well as he ought to have done.
," she started, trying not to fumble the words, taking a deep breath before continuing. "Y... you know that I did not have a very positive time at the Makiri-tei
when growing up."
He was stunned at the sheer level of understatement in her words, and once again felt the grief at not knowing - or not even thinking to ask properly.
"So, I did not have many ways to be away from that... place. However, I did not wish to impose myself on anyone - no-one needed to see the side of the Matou that I..." she stopped this time, her hand slightly trembling, and Shirou tried to reassure her.
"I'm here, Sakura," he said, trying to sound as assured as he could, "I... I'm here."
"Hai," she replied, squeezing onto his hand. "And that... for such a long time, that was all I could have wished for. Even... being able to eat with you, and with Fujimura-sensei... to spend time with you at the Emiya-tei
and at school... the times when no-one else was there with us, while we washed dishes in the kitchen... it was so much more than I could have ever hoped for."
"And yet," he said, sadly, "I was too blind, too stupid to see anything. I've never been good at even imagining anyone would like me, least of all..."
"It's not something I blame you for, senpai," she continued. "If I had said or done anything to you, even if you had any kind of feelings for me, I could not bear to think of what ooji-sama
would have done to you, or what nii-san
Being reminded of that wakame
bastard made Shirou feel like retching, not least when he thought of how many times he had paraded around like a fool in front of him, and Shirou had not for a microsecond suspected the terrible things he had done. Had he known, he would have smashed his face into a pulp a long time ago...
"But... then the seihai sensou
came, and so did Saber-san, and you and nee-san
..." she was trying to build up some momentum in her train of thought, so that it would be able to carry her words through, but it kept veering on the edge of de-railment.
Shirou looked down when he thought of Rin. "Tohsaka..."
"I... I was happy for you, senpai
. At least... I wanted to be. More than anyone, I wanted you to be happy, to find the kind of love and kindness that you deserve - that you in turn can give so freely to all of those around you. And nee-san..." she breathed in and out once more, before continuing, "nee-san is like no other woman, so much more than I ever could be - and she deserves a man like you too."
"Sakura," Shirou said, unwilling to let that second-last comment slide. "Tohsaka is Tohsaka - indeed, sometimes she can be a little too much Tohsaka, if you know what I mean - but you shouldn't feel second place to any woman, even though I..."
Sakura nodded, and smiled, as she remembered what she was trying to build up to. "You're skipping ahead in my story, senpai
"Oh, sorry," Shirou said, before double-taking and asking "Wait - what do you mean? You ...you lost me."
With that, Sakura chuckled slightly, holding her other hand to her mouth, as she started to feel a lot less nervous than she had when talking about the story so far.
"After you, Saber-san and nee-san
left to come here, I fell into a kind of routine. Ever since the seihai sensou
had acted differently, and ooji-sama
did not speak to me often - and I spent time with Fujimura-sensei, meeting her at the Emiya-tei
, which I tried to look after in your absence."
"Sakura, you didn't..." he tried to say, before she raised her hand.
"It's fine, senpai
. I felt better there than anywhere else, and I wanted you and nee-san-tachi
to be comfortable during your visits back to Fuyuki-shi."
"I understand, Sakura," he said, almost grateful that even the residence had been a boon for her, although he himself was half a world away - though bitterly regretting even that line of reasoning.
"Not yet, senpai
," she added, "but we are starting to get there."
"We are? I... didn't think there was anything good about my being in London while you were here, alone." Every day he had spent here, at the Association, in this country - was it all a terrible mistake?
"Ah, but you see," she continued, "there was
something - something wonderful, though at the time I did not know it."
"Wonderful?" he asked, still nonplussed.
"Hai," she said. "something that, when I discovered it, changed my life forever, and helped me realise what I wish I had known all along."
Shirou felt a renewed sense of hope with her words, but he still didn't know what she meant. "What is that, Sakura?"
She took her hand back, the one that had been holding his, and held it over her heart.
"That I am never alone."
Almost as if on cue, she felt an alarm in her mind - no, not quite an alarm, a connection, bursting through the wards in the walls and showing her visions of...
"We have to go to nee-san's room now
, senpai!" she suddenly said, bolting up and pressing her hand to the side of her head.
Shirou jumped up in turn, ready to go, but as he went for the door, he asked "Hai - but what is it you..."
"...just go, now!
" she insisted, in a far more commanding tone than normal.
They ran out of the apartment, down the hallway, and burst through Rin's front door...
BGM: Trevor Morris - The Tudors OST - Murder in Urbino
I was in the vision-scape - floating on what seemed to be the surface of a sea, or lake - but given how dark it was, perhaps it was an underground one.
Somehow, I was floating quite easily, and I didn't have any kind of buoyancy aids on - though I declined to test the salinity of the water, just in case it had Dead Sea-like properties.
In any event, I was not in the water alone.
Shoals of electric fish were gathering around me - apparently forming circuits they stuck to diligently, three concentric circles, and a thin ellipse at the top of the outer circle, all with myself in the centre.
Each seemed to 'hum' at a unique frequency, but rather than producing a deafening cacophony of sound, were perfectly harmonized in synchronicity.
It was quite something.
I looked upwards, and I could see the roof of what looked like a massive underground cave - and an immense plume of flame emanating from one of the side entrances.
What rode in after that flame was even more astounding - a ferocious-looking dragon, riding the air currents it seemed to generate by its very presence.
It banked to one side, as it flew in a circuit overhead, flying between the second and third circles of fish, and revealing two minute - or perhaps they were simply minute compared to the impossibly large frame of the dragon itself - figures riding on its back.
"Banzai!" shouted one, the person in front - and as I tried to focus on who it was, I was somewhat confused as to why it looked like... Rin, wearing some elaborate
mahou shoujo outfit, waving a star-tipped wand in her hand.
And who was that behind her?
Let me say that when you see a miniature version of Saber wearing a lion-suit and waving a giant chunk of meat in her paw, the first thing that comes to mind is not whether or not the meat is really a soya alternative.
Odd that I would think of that, though.
"I hope this isn't the same vision they are seeing," I said, to no-one in particular, "there'd be too many really odd questions to answer."
"Hai," said a cheerful voice, from somewhere very close...
I looked to one side, and saw a tiny version of Sakura, dressed in an immaculate pink Western-style dress,
and with a crown resting on her head.
And yet, she seemed the most normal thing in this whole experience.
"Fancy seeing you here,
hime-sama," I said to her, as she smiled and curtesyed in response.
"He-he," the mini-Sakura chuckled.
"Oi, oi!" I could hear being shouted down from the mini-Rin riding on the dragon above. "Let's go. FIGHTO!"
"GAO GAOOOO!" gao-gao-ed the lion-ey Saber, and any thoughts of how staggeringly cute the three mini-ones were paled as the drake shifted course, diving down towards me, with claws and teeth bared...
...until its descent was blown off-course, by the sudden formation of an aethyric vortex in the centre of the cave.
The anomaly grew and increased in power, churning the waves and shaking the surrounding formations of rock, and before long a massive new object emerged from within - or rather, the vortex itself seemed to solidify and assume the shape of something I had only seen before in the deciding moments against Zouken, months before.
There was a slight crack in the corner of the iris blocking the gate, the one which had been formed in that last encounter - but this time, cracks were forming all across the rest of the inner surface. With each new rupture, I could glimpse an impossible other-world beyond, one which no human being was supposed to know...
...and yet, one which seemed to call me onwards, ever-increasingly.
The force assailing the iris dramatically increased, and its surface glowed with an alien light before bursting into a million fragments, each falling around me and into the water.
The dragon was gone - the fish were gone - the mini-ones were gone, yet I did not know whether I simply could not see them, or if they had vanished altogether.
All I was focussed on was the raging portal above, the intense pulsing of energy as I felt myself being lifted out of the water and into the event horizon...
...and when I crossed the threshold, I briefly wondered if I would ever return.
BGM: Trevor Morris - The Tudors OST - The War Room
Rin called over to the two arrivals, as she and Saber were trying frantically to cast... something
that would undo what was going on.
The Irish magus was floating in mid-air, his back arched, arms at sixty-degree angles from his body, palms outstretched, his head facing the ceiling, and his eyes aglow with an alien green fire.
His entire body was wreathed in bands of the same type of energy, with pulses of some kind of metallic flash travelling along his skin every three or four seconds - but not like any metal any of them knew.
His mouth was gaping open, and none of them knew what was happening to his mind.
"We..." Rin tried to explain, "we were in the midst of a circuit-bonding ceremony, and in the midst of the vision-scape we saw this... this thing
Sakura nodded, and understood. She had seen glimpses of the unearthly gate, and the terrible vortex, in her own mind - a result of the mental link she retained.
Then, the pulses accelerated, and the bands concentrated a his eyes, before a sudden flash, followed by a loud thump, as he hit the ground hard.
Rin rushed over to check his pulse, as Saber and Sakura knelt beside him, and Shirou went to get a first aid kit.
He got back just in time to see his friend wake up.
"I understand..." was all he said at first, until he reached over and took one of Sakura's hands, and looked at her eyes intently.
"I saw them, Sakura."
With that, she gasped in shock, covering her mouth once more, as tears began to roll down her cheeks.
"Y... you mean..." she stuttered.
He answered, as the others in the room stared in utter disbelief.
I saw them.
And they are alive."