Archer glanced warily at the other Guild members that littered their hall. Dressed in the same white and crimson robes that their fearless leader had decreed their uniform, Archer merely stood quietly near a pillar. Tohsaka was nowhere in sight, off speaking with the council as he was left to stand idly by as a guard.
Everything was stained in white, white walls, white pillars and white paintings. It felt like a man trying to make a bold statement, or an idiot hoping to turn people blind. He supposed he was not one to judge, what with his white hair. It wasn't like he had a choice in its coloring, that had been the fault of a man he had considered ally. Not friend, neither then nor now.
The doors by his side open and Tohsaka stepped out, a displeased frown on her face as she glanced at Archer. He still did not know what were her true thoughts on him, though he knew she had grown comfortable to his presence. There was trust in her eyes and Archer wondered if he could ever tell her who he was. Perhaps some day but not today.
"Archer," She muttered, "were you standing there the entire time?" She scrunched her face up though he was unable to tell if it was for concern or annoyance. He liked to think it was for concern and he responded in the way he had grown accustomed to.
"It is my duty to watch over you, unless of course you would rather your bodyguard defending you to leave?" Tohsaka scowled at the perceived insult and jab at her rather average sword skills and stomped on his foot. Archer had no reaction to it but he realised with growing concern how she refused to remove her foot.
He grew curious now, he felt the system compensate for the sudden shift of weight and sent the proper pain messages to his body.
Now he wondered if the sound of pixels dispersing was coming from him. The floors in the guild house had been known to be dastardly creaky, especially on level 30. My how strange, oh dear now half his foot had suddenly dissolved into the color red with his health gradually dropping, something impossible to do in a guild hall which was a protected zone.
Tohsaka finally relented when a group of high-ranking guild members passed hy, chatting idly and waving to the both of them as they passed. Neither one acknowledged the wave, with Archer crossing his arms in a gruff manner to further dissuade their interaction. The members quickly understood and went off on their way, not looking back at them.
"Your popularity among the guild is started to grow tiresome," Archer commented. Sometimes he wished he had the ability to turn invisible and just follow Tohsaka from behind, the attention he got from being near her was not something he reveled him.
"It is not like I wanted to be popular, people just understand greatness," She said, turning around and flipping her hair in an exaggerate gesture.
"Clearly they have low standards," Archer said snidely. He was about to have his foot stomped on again when the doors to the council chambers opened. The council members slowly trickled out, silent and resolute. The grim faces of what you would expect the premiere guild in Aincrad should look like.
One of them however paused to look at the two of them, who has since returned to a neutral state with the arrival of people outside of their pair. "Saka, Archer. Good to see you," he said with a wide smile. A fatherly tone and the man looked no older than twenty-five, Archer allowed a moment of sympathy for his family who were no doubt suffering their loss and uncertainty. "That was a fine report you gave in there, I was impressed. Archer, Heathcliffe wishes to speak to you."
Archer allowed a frown to show, masking the feelings festering deep inside him. Tohsaka seemed confused by what the councilman had said but before she could question him, he had already turned and left.
"Why would Heathcliffe want to see you?" Tohsaka asked but silence answered her. She glanced at Archer who had balled his hands into fists and was staring at the still opened doors to the chambers.
"Archer?" Tohsaka wondered out loud but Archer merely stepped around her and shook his head. Satisfied that she understood he then turned and entered the chamber, closing the door behind him at the same time. The doors slammed shut, a loud bang that gave way to an oppressive silence.
Heathcliffe was standing at the end of the room, arms folded onto his back and staring out the window. "You asked for me, Heathcliffe," Archer asked. The leader of the Knights of Blood didn't acknowledge his presence, instead he merely moved around the central table and stood in front of Archer.
"Please Archer, there is no one nearby, nor will anyone overheard our conversation. You may call me by my name, Emiya." Archer clenched his fist, a silent snarl ripping through his face as he stared at Heathcliffe.
"I prefer to call you Heathcliffe rather than dog," Archer countered. The other man didn't show any outward emotion, instead he inclined his head as though he had expected it.
"Of course, if you so wish to call me by any other name would suffice as well," he replied as he moved around Archer. The man in red was starting to feel his blood boil, a feeling he had only felt once before back when he was nothing more than a man who could not perform his duties properly.
"What do you wish of me Heathcliffe, is it bad enough that you made me your Counter Guardian?" Archer shot, narrowing his eyes at the man.
"Yet you refuse to use the gift I gave you, a bow of unimaginable power should be respected," Heathcliffe replied but Archer knew the man was playing him. A bow in an old swordsman game was painting a target on his back, same as him using the system to increase his reflexes.
"You know why I refrain from using it," Archer replied.
"Is it because you would rather save lives at your own hand, facing your own actions as the merit of your own work rather than mind. Saving lives to the best of your ability, as many as you can with as many as you have," Heathcliffe challenged.
"Better than a man merely wishing to see a castle float, with no goal or purpose, now he seeks to see his world crumble before him," Archer sent it right back. A deadlock, two minds both brilliant in their own way now locked in a battle of wits that Rin would have problems in coming to terms with.
"What is it like, to have an older brother who sought to make the world a better place alongside, except the both of you failed continuously, never reaching the place of your sole desire?" Heathcliffe circled Archer, hands still neatly at his back,"You, sharing a surname with Kiritsugu Emiya who became renowned as a policeman all across Japan. His methods were calculative but he had no qualms with going to extremes, risking lives to save lives. Then it blew up in his face and he lost his will. Now a simple craftsmen with a foreign wife and children, rebuilding his world where you failed."
Archer frowned viciously, twisting to stare at Heathcliffe and stopping his predatory walk. "Kiritsugu was a fool," Archer said matter-of-factly.
"Yet you believed in the teachings he taught, but you did not believe in his saying. 'A hundred lives for a thousand,' those were words of metal but you sought to save everyone and realised that the goal was unattainable. Emiya the great surgeon found his clinic filled to the brim with cancer patients, disastrous diseases and tumors, all out of his hand for saving. Where your brother realised he had failed, you merely changed your ways, now accepting death but still you seek the naive goal of saving everyone," Heathcliffe muttered, poking at Archer like he was a toy. Calmly and coldly, not emotion but the simple gait of his walk. Kayaba was bleeding through the SAO avatar now.
"What do you wish? My older brother has nothing to do with this situation," Archer demanded.
Heathcliffe paused and cupped his chin contemplatively, "You were a brilliant surgeon, one who found use in my FullDive Gear for the future of medical technology. You were willing to risk everything for this, only now here you stand. Binded by my will and Aincrad. You are now as much as this floating castle as I am, you are my Counter Guardian." Archer had had enough and turned around to leave only for Kayaba's voice to cut through the thin veil.
"Aincrad, has a story. I designed the story of my downfall, or my rise, it is as how Aincrad wishes it to be. This floating castle has its dreams, its tales and its stories. It is alive as the world these swordsman left behind," Heathcliffe said stoically, "someone has entered the Cave again, Aincrad's story past mine. Another tale has begun Archer, another story for this old castle to tell. I feel as though this time, it would finally end and another swordsman would rise alongside mine."
Archer frowned, "How does this concern me?"
Heathcliffe glanced at Archer, his face still calm. "Because it is why I had brought you here. You are Aincrad and your story is binded to this castle. Your destiny is and always will be out of my control, only Aincrad knows."
Archer had enough and left, passing by Tohsaka as she squaked at the sudden opening. He ignored her and kept walking, utterly confused and lost at the exchange.
It's been awhile since I updated this and I still feel a little bit strange at the idea of writing this slow bending story that started out as fluff, which would probably remain. The story hadn't received that much attention and with school having started back up I'm more concentrated on ROTUNSC.
Again, anybody that wants to use this as inspiration or maybe even continue is given complete free reign, you don't have to ask, just inform me.