Chapter 37: Through Sakura's Cracks
In the dead of night...
I continue my chase until the church is before me. I hesitate to take a step because I knew who resided there. I grip the card in the breast pocket of my jacket. I knew the power he possessed because I was a counterfeit.
"You are alive because you still have a role to play. Saber has terrible taste in company, but she still insists herself to be a king. For now, you are still my gardener; for whom is closer to the earth than one raised by worms. The people of this world have yet to be judged by their own sins."
If I appeared to him by my own will, he would surely kill me on the spot. I have only personally met him twice and the latter was just a few days ago outside the Matou Manor. I wanted to believe I was someone in control and that I changed from who I was back then. Even if I was only half awake back then, I was able to take his card with my own ugly power, but that was why I knew he wouldn't hesitate to end me if needed. With the power of all of humanity's tools, one only needs the resolve to push forward which meant my resolve was lacking.
My legs won't move.
As I muster whatever courage I had, descending down from the hill from which the church sat was Miyu and Saber. Neither of them was talking to the other. The both of them registered my presence, but they had no words for me. I simply stood as they got closer. Saber stares at me for a moment before placing her hand on my shoulder to reassure me. They did not question why I was here or why Rider wasn't.
They were too kind, but the world wasn't kind to kind people. They were certainly hiding something from me.
Miyu's gaze was fixed to the ground and her once brilliant eyes were now as bright as the night. I wanted to say something, but my heart told me that I made a mistake. She was unable to find her brother and I told myself that this was the best outcome to keep both of them safe. Shirou wouldn't be getting into fights with Servants as long as he was under Tohsaka's thumb and I could watch over Miyu myself, but I knew for a fact that such an impasse wouldn't last. The Holy Grail War has to end and I hoped that Tohsaka's Archer would help me, but it was naïve of me to rely on others.
We walk down the streets without saying anything. Even if we had said anything, it would have been drowned out by the roar of panicked bystanders and ambulance sirens. I was too sloppy, but it was grandfather's fault for not teaching me anything. When the morning comes, there may be people who recall my face, but none of them mattered. Nothing more than hallucinations caused by the gas leaks. There are people who want to pursue the truth, but if the truth is uncomfortable, their voices will be drowned out by the majority under the pretense of rationality. We aimlessly wandered the panicked streets of Miyama for half an hour until...
"Sakura!" someone in the distance yells.
It was Fujimura-sensei. With the windows rolled down and standing from the backseat of her grandfather's custom Hummer Limousine she continued to holler. The flamboyant tiger patterned stripes in black and yellow made it easy to mistake it for a school bus from a distance, but any local would know it was property of yakuza. As the doors of the all terrain luxury vehicle open, the sea of people naturally part as they catch a glimpse of an old man's tiger striped vest.
We were like celebrities.
I meet the old man's gaze. Despite being the head of a less than legal organization, he was a family friend of the Emiya's. I have met him from time to time, but we were strangers, so it was only natural for him to look at me with suspicions. Whenever he showed up at school to meet with his granddaughter, the students would be worked up into a fuss over an ordinary old man. There were fools who could only stare, but I paid them no heed. It's funny how no one shows the same sense in front of my grandfather during school PA meetings. The three of us enter the vehicle and our live in school teacher certainly wasn't happy. She was all too eager to scold us as we drove away.
"Miyu, I know you were trying to find your missing brother, but this is something you need to rely on adults for. Dragging in Saber and Sakura into this...are you even listening?" Taiga yells at an unresponsive Miyu.
I shoot Taiga a glare and Raiga glares at Taiga to remind her of her place. Raiga was just an ordinary old man who was involved in a less than legal business, but to have lived this long in his work, it was a given that he had a few brushings with the other world. Unlike his granddaughter, he understood clearly when it was inappropriate to pry. No one lives long in-between two worlds by prying.
"I'm guessing whatever's happening has something to do with your late father. I won't ask questions. I am grateful for what your family has done for mine, but that is why I hope you remember to take care of yourself. The men in your family certainly don't," were his words of advice for the 10 year old.
The old man shifts his gaze towards me before turning to Saber. In the corner of his eyes, it seemed like he had recognized her from somewhere, but people do not live to his age by prying too much. The kindest people in the world have the most to lie about.
The rest of the ride home was silent and uneventful.
The Fujimura's see us off at the entrance of our home as they drive away. Though the nameplate read "Emiya", it was not the home we knew because he wasn't there. We open the lights to an empty home to an empty kitchen. Miyu doesn't say anything as she alone walks towards the backyard veranda and takes her usual seat. When Miyu was sad, her eyes would glisten with tears, but right now she had none more to shed. With those hollow eyes, she simply stared up at the night sky.
I didn't know much about the late Kiritsugu whom I never met, but senpai and Taiga told me that he often liked to gaze up at the stars. When Miyu took up the same hobby I was tempted to give her my old telescope, but I was against it and bought her a new one for her birthday instead. She would use it from time to time trying to understand the meaning behind the stars, but that wasn't what she was doing now. It was probably collecting dust right now in the shed.
I stare at Saber and she simply lowers her head along with her guard. We were always at odds with each other. We both had our own agendas pertaining to this house. She always had her guard against me up until now...
"I don't deserve your apology, but you're the one my Master needs right now. When Rider wasn't able to catch up to us, I should have come to your aid. I failed my duty as a knight not only to my Master, but to you as well. If there is anything you need to ask of me, I will grant it," she says.
It must have been frustrating for her, but leaving her Master alone was what she believed was the right course of action. In the end, even if she once ruled a country, Saber knew herself to be a stranger. There were lines she could not cross. Unlike Rider, Saber knew her place. I stare at the back of my hand.
The single petal still remains.
I wanted to make Rider disappear, but those recorded on the throne are already dead. Rider had no life for me to take and I wasn't so stupid to throw away a useful tool. We both inflicted injuries on each other, but they too contributed to my ends as a passable alibi.
"You don't need to be so hard on yourself because you'll only worry the ones around you in the end," I say.
Saber stares at me for a moment as if to tell me that she knew I was still hiding things from her before going off to prepare the futons. Either she trusts me or she doesn't even register me as a threat. With Miyu as she was right now, it was the perfect opportunity to rid myself of Saber, but I would surely lose something more valuable. Miyu doesn't see Saber as a stranger and losing someone else is the last thing she needs. I slide the doors close, separating the inside and the outside air. Miyu makes no reaction to the sliding door or my presence. Miyu continued to sulk under the night sky and it was a sight that grated on me. She always tried to put on a strong front in front of others, but we were now alone.
She was a child that deserved to be happy, but I was the one who allowed her to fall into such a state. The unpalatable silence was unnerving. All I could hear was the sound of my own breathing and the dripping water from the garden faucet. Even if Shirou wasn't here, she needed to know that I was.
I kneel down and embrace her. She doesn't say anything. She doesn't say anything at all, but she was still warm. I acted all high and mighty with Saber, but I was probably as lost as she was. Her safety was all that mattered I tell myself, but just because someone is alive does not mean they are living. My memories of the first few months at the Matou Manor were indistinguishable from the months that came after, but there was once a man who...
"I guess I'm not as strong as you."
I swore to myself I wouldn't end up the same as that man. I was strong. I swore to myself that I would be stronger than anyone else. I swore to myself that I would be able to protect a small girl's smile. In the end, my promises were just as empty as his.
I stare up at the stars that Miyu was watching. When I first became a Matou, there was only a ceiling for me to see and maggots for me to touch. I screamed and screamed, wishing that I would wake up soon, but I never did. The nightmare simply transitioned into a blissful dream I wanted to protect. The world was the vast place and the sky seems to stretch endlessly. There was nothing more cruel in this world than kindness, but to allow something to have wings entertains the possibility of falling.
Just because someone falls does not mean they can't rise again, but a part of me never wanted her to fall.
I didn't want my words to be empty; sweet lies without substance. I was no longer a child that needed protection. Right now, there was a child I needed to protect, but my efforts in doing so have only caused her to suffer.
The boy I loved had been protecting her on his own all this time and he resolved to face down Servants if need be; even if it killed him. Lancer almost did if it wasn't for Tohsaka; which is why I trust her with his safety in her hands over his. The more you wish to protect someone, the less you trust them to protect themselves. I didn't think I made the wrong choice, but Miyu's hollow eyes disagree because I wasn't aware of everything he was protecting her from. I truthfully didn't know everything about those I cared about or rather I always tried to look away when what I saw didn't match what I wanted to see.
"I won't pry about what you have seen today, but remember there is tomorrow," I whisper hollow words with all of my sincerity, but I wasn't sure if she knew I was there.
"Do I deserve such a thing?" Miyu whispers beneath her breath, not to me, but to herself.
Her eyes were towards the sky, but she wasn't looking at anything. Even if she was in front of me, even as I was hugging her, she wasn't with me.
"If there is something you wish for, then I'll grant it for you," I say as I make another promise. Miyu was...
"I wish I was never born, but what I wish for doesn't matter. I don't need wishes for myself. I don't need wishes for myself. I don't need wishes for myself...," as the small girl cracks.
Her rambling becomes a pained mantra and my squeeze gets tighter. There were no more tears for her eyes to shed. Her eyes were swollen red, through and through. The amber light from her eyes had been snuffed out. Bright red eyes scorn the stars as they close on a dreary night.
The next day...
Breakfast and lunch went by, but Miyu didn't wake up even as the afternoon burned away. She simply continued to sleep with Saber standing guard at her side. I wasn't sure if I had it in me to disturb her. The congee I had made for her had gone cold. She did not respond to Saber or my voice. She simply slept and I was at a loss. I didn't know how to make people happy. The people who raised me certainly didn't. At the very least, sleep was a luxury I sometimes wasn't allowed to have when I became a Matou.
Swish, swish, swish.
I cut the cabbage in uniform lengths along with the radishes and the carrots. I shred ginger and garlic as I dice the green onions. I had placed the long wedges of eggplant onto a plate.
All I could do was cook. There was nothing I could do to comfort Miyu and such was a lesson I should have learned from my foolish uncle 10 years ago. Pretty sounding words meant nothing in front of results. What I had to do was simple from the start; win the Holy Grail War.
Kill the Einzbern Master.
Mincemeat was putty in my hands as I mix in spices and herbs. I knead, I knead and I knead the meat as I place them in slices of bell pepper.
I shouldn't have hesitated. I shouldn't have hesitated from the start when I raided that castle. I let her off easy because she had some connection to Miyu and according to grandfather she was but a rabbit that would die by itself if left alone. I deluded myself into thinking the war would pass with all of us going our separate ways because that was what my connection to Tohsaka had amounted to. If I could put aside my hatred for over 10 years, then anyone could do the same.
I won't pry about what you have seen today, but remember there is tomorrow.
I remember those thoughtless words of mine last night and accept my own bias. If grandfather's words were correct, then Illya has no tomorrow to speak of and no chance to find happiness after so much suffering like I had. There was no saving someone when there is nothing there to save.
I scoop up the lightly boiled cubes of potato from the simmering pot and mix them with freshly cubed apples. In a bowl of imitation crab, I mix apples of the branch and apples of the earth with mayonnaise.
Fujimura-sensei had already notified the school of our absences, which weren't rare with the rampant proliferation of "gas leaks". I had no illusions that Fujimura-sensei was using her familial connections to search for senpai. Regardless of how magi choose to cover things up, ordinary people were no fools. The Third Holy Grail War was overshadowed by an even greater war fought in the mundane world, but the magi in the Fourth had no such luxury. The scars from 10 years ago still remain and haven't faded. The will of those old fools who started it all hundreds of years ago still remain in this city right down to the ley lines underneath and the vessel of primordial desire.
Kill them. Kill them all.
I stop and think. What was I doing, preparing dinner in advance?
Rider had mostly recovered and was watching me from a distance. I hope she had learned what it meant to cross me. I hope she understood that she had no right to deal in things she knew nothing about. By my Command Seal, I had ordered her to protect Miyu and somehow she was able to rationalize that order by doing the complete opposite. For things devised by my grandfather, I should have expected them to be worthless.
I wash and dry my hands. In the sink, I stare at my own reflection. I run my hand through the face in the water and crush it with a squelch, but she returns just the same with those same hollowed out eyes. Regardless of how much time has passed since then, everything continues to slip past my fingers.
I divert my eyes into the kitchen around me which was once my sanctuary. In this place, I was able to forget all my worries, but that was only because "he" was always here with me. Miyu wasn't the only one who desperately missed him. I needed to set things right.
I grab my coat off the rack and begin to leave, but before I could, Saber stops me by the doorway.
"The fridge and pantry have been stocked. For what purpose are you going out alone?" Saber asks of me.
"I know you feel a bit guilty for leaving me alone last night, but it's not something you need to stress yourself for. I just need some air," I say.
Saber closes the distance.
"I was led to believe that a pious knight like yourself knows better than to invade a lady's personal space."
She reaches into my jacket pocket and I desperately try to stop her.
"What are you,.."
In Saber's view was my card. I grip the card in my hands tightly as the edges dig into my hands. Saber had already known what I was hiding from the start. Her perception was even more annoying than senpai's.
My shadow boils, but before it boils over, Saber releases her grip.
"I see you have confidence in the weapon you carry, but don't push yourself," Saber tells me.
She was being serious. Saber was much like Miyu in the way they weren't the type to joke around. It was a sincerity that was easy for strangers to doubt because real people couldn't possibly be so pure.
"You should be aware of how the Einzbern Master is, Saber. The moment you leave Miyu's side is when she'll strike. You're worrying for the wrong person right now."
"It will only cause more trouble if you leave my Master's side when she needs it most," she tells me.
"You know Saber, I think you believe I'm more important to Miyu than I actually am."
"Too many people don't know their own value," Saber has the gall to say to me.
With the Gilgamesh card in my hand, I run. As I reach the gate it is apparent that Saber wasn't following me. I hated that look. I hated that look in those pure green emerald eyes; that look of pity. I hated them so much that I was tempted to gouge them out and that's why I had to run.
I ran through the streets, but there was no sign of Saber trying to catch up to me. Through Rider's eyes, Saber was still standing by the gate before returning to Miyu's side. She wanted to chase me, but she could not leave her Master's side because then she would truly be alone. Even with the wind at her beck and call, Saber could not be everywhere at once. People needed to choose their battles wisely which was easy to forget with the card in my hands.
Within it contained all of humanity's tools, but they were all useless to me. They were not enough to bring me what I wanted. They alone could not restore what I had treasured. I could not make things go back to the way they were. To be perfectly honest, I had no clue how restore the world to the way I wanted.
I walk my frustrations off as the red sky was giving way to black as night falls once again.
I wade across the sea of cars...
as I cross the Fuyuki Bridge to the other side as the moon watches me. On the tallest building, Archer must have been watching. On the very first day that he was summoned, I could imagine Tohsaka taking him there to scope out the city. It was the ideal defensive move in her position, but that simply meant that she was cornered.
She was afraid of me as she should be.
I was the natural enemy of spiritual beings and the Gilgamesh Card in my pocket was of the strongest one. The only one I had to fear was Gilgamesh himself. The names Tohsaka, Einzbern and Matou are all meaningless to me, but certain people are still hung up on those names. People are too hung up on the past.
I stretch out my arms to signal those who might have been watching me. If no one was watching, then that simply cemented me as a fool. Power alone was not enough to bring me what I wanted, but power was always nothing more than a tool of negotiation. I had plenty of power to negotiate with. The only question was if the other party was willing to negotiate with me.
No arrows came for me, but in the distance on that highest peak were sparks. It couldn't be.
Before I could process my thoughts, Tohsaka was already standing before me. In a red coat with her hair done up into twin tails; while I was still in my school uniform. I honestly must have looked terrible in comparison to her. Her eyes were trained on me and no one else. I look around her and there was no one else, but I'm sure that little Einzbern brat wasn't too far away.
"It's been a long time, Sakura," she tells me.
I feel my locks of unkempt hair. It is now that I realize that I'm not all the way here. I try to speak, but no words come out of my mouth. In response, she simply stretches out her hand as if she was asking me to give her something.
"The card Sakura; hand it over along with your Command Spells," was the order she gives me.
"After all these years, that's the first thing you bring up? Following that little Einzbern doll around, don't you have any pride as a Tohsaka?"
"You don't realize it yourself do you? You're not yourself. I know you've had it hard. I know you want nothing to do with the Holy Grail, so I'm giving you the option to give up now before anyone else gets hurt," were words that made no sense.
They made no sense at all.
"I'll hand it over if you hand over that Einzbern girl's corpse."
"Right now, Emiya and Shinji are stuck on top of that building with my Archer. There isn't any room for negotiation," she tells me.
"You were the one who allowed them to fall into my hands in the first place. I'm sorry I'm not as good of a person you think I am," was the truth Tohsaka confesses.
I look around and I notice on this busy street that we were alone. She must have set up a bounded field in advance to clear the bystanders away. That must mean on some level that she entertained the possibility of fighting. Ridiculous.
Wreathed in gold and primordial power, with Enkidu as my fingers, I reach out. Wrapping around her figure, her image shatters like diamond as the chains converge. I should have expected such a thing from the start. Of course she wouldn't have the guts to face me personally. My eyes dart around and behind me was the giant the Einzbern girl had enslaved with his crudely made gardening tool bearing down on me.
He could not break the golden chains. If they could hold down the bull of heaven, then some mongrel demi-god was nothing.
I wrap my fingers around the statue as the chains converge, but he was a slippery mongrel. In spite of his size, Heracles has no issue altering his mid-air momentum. He was a graceful and magnificent sight to behold, but I was tired of looking at him.
"You can escape the chains, but can you escape your own shadow?"
At the peak of night, nothing can escape the shadows. The night was my ally and the mongrel was utterly alone with darkness all around him. Before I could envelope him into the imaginary world, a beam of rainbow light disrupts the wave of my imaginary axis.
"Es läßt frei. Eilesalve."
A rushing volley of light banishes my domain of night. For the smallest moment, the streets were indistinguishable from hours ago when the sun was still shining. I stare at the source of light, a sword brimming with all the colours of the rainbow in Tohsaka's hands. I could not discount the possibility that this twin haired girl was also an illusion, but I could not underestimate the strange treasure she wielded; a treasure divorced from humanity. Something not produced by human hands, but a creature that was no longer human; if human from the start. She was nothing but a smug smile as she was fully aware of what she had in her possession. Any fear of me that she possessed had long since evaporated for this moment.
"To think you have only gathered this much power when the hospital is full. I overestimated you," she mocks me.
I bring to bear my own rainbow sword that would not lose to hers in radiance. A sword that was more akin to a lance compared to the dainty little dagger she had in her hands. I stab it into the concrete below.
The ground fractures as I aim for her blind spot, but the light never reaches her. She does not pay any head to the crash of rainbow lights as Heracles stands in the way bearing it all with his body. Even if he had no ability to hurt me, I needed to commend his talent as a meat shield. The slippery devil would not fall to such a half hearted attack, but I had an endless supply of variety. Holy swords and demon blades respond to my summons as if they were my own fingers. I issue my decree:
"Durandal, Caledfwlch, Joyeuse, Balisarda, Chandrahrasa, Coreiseuse, Dainsleif! Spill his blood for me."
At my command, they pelt every inch of his skin with a veracity that couldn't be compared to the blender I kept the kitchen. If it bleeds then it can be killed. He does not move unlike a slab of meat in a grinder as he commits to his role as a meat shield for someone who wasn't even his Master. How foolish, unsightly and incomprehensible just like Rider. The wall is saturated with a paint of blades, but I failed to see any red.
No blood was drawn?
Shields intercept the ball of pink light. As the ball dissipates, the fibres hidden within unravel, wrapping me.
Before the threads could cut my skin, they rot away as I shift them across the imaginary axis. All around me were wire frame birds that could barely be seen, but nothing escapes the shadows, but Tohsaka was ever vigilant with her little sword.
I look behind me and I see that Einzbern brat wearing an outfit that was too cute for her horrid personality armed with a magical wand that wouldn't be out of place in the hands of that character of a certain show that shared the same name as me. Her Servant stood opposite to her with me in the middle. This foolish pair of mongrels weren't worth worrying about before and yet they were countering me? They couldn't possibly have gotten this much stronger overnight. This level of resilience wasn't like anything from before. How? Did Berserker hone his hide upon Archer's broken blades? I did not have the luxury to think...
I wanted to collect my thoughts, but a seizure inducing train of pink light was fast approaching me. Like a deer caught in the headlights I couldn't help but stare at it as the pavement below it disappears.
"Vimana. To the Sky."
I narrowly escape before...
A second seizure inducing train of golden light approaches from the opposite direction crashing into the first, spiraling around each other like neutron stars. There was no question that such brazen attacks had no issues levelling ordinary buildings. It burns my eyes and pierces my ears. I couldn't think of anything but the stinging pain that was assaulting every inch of me. I reach out to the skyline to save myself from the pain like I did 11 years ago.
The miniature stars merge, but the separation of heaven and earth is absolute. It towers among the surrounding buildings. The skyscraper of a sword will not be broken by a mongrel's scratch. For this moment I was safe, but the two must have exhausted all of their magical energy for this one moment. They were taking no chances or thinking of mercy, but such are mongrels.
"Quint...," the Einzbern casually prepares another earth levelling attack.
"Time out! Collateral damage and concealment of the mystics!" Tohsaka yells for everything to stop.
"I lowered my output to match your maximum. See, you were able to cancel it, so I think we're pretty in sync Rin," is the casual joke the doll makes as the air disappears.
The pavement was ruined, but the buildings remained unharmed. Tohsaka's attack wasn't planned so much as something she had to unleash to cancel out Einzbern's. The girl in my youth who was always meticulous about saving and about the value of gems was throwing around year's worth of magical energy like it was tap water. There was no way they collected more magical energy than me through legitimate means especially with the Servants they had to...
A pressure converges on all of my sides, compressing my ribs and emptying out my lungs. I was too slow. I was too arrogant. I hesitated. I...I...
"Berserker!" Illya yells.
"Careful!" was Tohsaka's distraught voice.
Mongrels! Mongrels! Mongrels! Mongrels! Without breath, I call upon everything, my shadows, my chains and my trea...my ribs crack and on the pavement floor was my card?!...my...
The doll casually hoses my shadows away like dirt off a doorstep and my vision blacks as Berserker takes no chances with me as he squeezes my lungs out like squeak toy.