First Night (2)
"It's...quainter than I expected."
"Oto-san preferred something more subdued and under the radar. The only bounded field is a warning system, rather than any real protections. Less chance of drawing attention that way. Can you alter bounded fields, Illya-san?"
Giving the taller male a strange look as they briefly stopped outside of the front gate the Homunculus slowly replied, "Yes, obviously I can...any worthwhile Magus can, especially if they're accepted by the field to make changes. Can't you do that, Onii-chan?"
He shook his head.
"I'm not a very good Magus. I can only do a few things very well and that's it. Bounded Fields aren't one of them."
Illya tried not to let her jaw hang open in disbelief and failed miserably, stammering, "H-how can you know about the Grail War, practice Magecraft and use Prana but not be able to alter bounded fields?! Especially if they're yours to begin with?!"
Hazel eyes merely met her crimson own with an even stare, calmly replying, "By being me."
Dully glaring at the taller male Illya bluntly stated, "Onii-chan is stupid and weird."
What might have been a tick of emotion briefly flitted across Shirou's features before he shrugged, stating, "Either way, let's head inside."
Sighing quietly to herself Illya followed, briefly feeling the slightest of brushes across her mind as the bounded field noted and accepted her presence, Berserker following suit with no adverse effects.
Following her brother's example she took off her shoes before entering, immediately noting how...clean everything was, almost obsessively so. Even the castle with Sella and Leysritt working around the clock wasn't this tidy, and they were tireless Homunculi.
...Then again, her brother didn't seem to be all that Human himself.
"Would you like anything to eat, Illya-san?"
She opened her mouth to reply that she was fine-
-and a light gurgling noise chose that moment to betray her, the tiny Homunculus glaring down at her stomach as if it had personally wronged her. Which it had.
So her time spent wandering around the city trying to find her brother had taken quite a while and she hadn't thought to bring a snack, so what?! It's not like she could have asked her handmaidens to prepare anything, otherwise they would have known she was going to sneak out and demanded to come along!
Come to think of it, she was going to have to send word to them that she wouldn't be returning anytime soon. She'd need a good excuse so they would stay put and not come running after her...probably ask them to take inventory of the available reagents and supplies she had on hand, make it seem like she was planning an assault…
"In that case I'll make something for you. Here, let me take those."
Before she could find it in herself to state that she was perfectly capable of handling her own needs Illya felt her coat and hat being expertly removed, hung up on a nearby rack as she blinked at Shirou's pristine and regimented actions.
"This will take me some time, would you like to see the room Oto-san set aside for you? He left something in there that he said was for you only, I never read it."
Glad for the sudden distraction from what would no doubt be a great deal of awkward staring as she watched her brother cook-he didn't seem like the greatest of conversation partners-Illya quickly nodded, also eager to satiate her curiosity about the circumstances of this strange, broken little family she seemed to be a part of.
"Down that hallway, second door to the left."
Following his instructions Illya padded out of the room, glancing curiously at the rest of the house and raising an eyebrow at the small veranda that overlooked a traditional garden and fountain. It was a pleasant bit of aesthetics that she wouldn't have attributed to either her father or newly discovered brother. What little she remembered of Kiritsugu was that he was funny, spoiled her, couldn't cook and had no taste in décor whatsoever, something that caused mother no shortage of amused grief.
And Shirou...well she got the distinct impression you could put him in a plain white box and he would call it excessive.
Arriving at her destination she hesitated briefly, feeling that opening the door to this room-her room-was like some kind of final test, a decision that once made couldn't be undone.
Pursing her lips and casting doubt aside the Homunculus boldly slid the door open...and was left admittedly underwhelmed.
The room was simple and small, at least in comparison to her quarters back at the Einzbern castle. A few meters long and wide, with a plain desk and actual bed-not the sleeping mats common to Japanese culture-with freshly laundered sheets on it of white and purple coloration, a dresser with what looked like a picture frame and books on it alongside a closet.
Slowly stepping over the entryway-acting as if it could come alive and attack her at any moment-Illya ran a critical eye over everything, inspecting and testing as if each item held some kind of great mystery that had to be uncovered.
No such events occurred, leaving her brow furrowed as she realized this room was...just that. A room.
Sliding open the closet she was left blinking at the sight that greeted her. A variety of dresses and more casual clothing in varying designs and patterns, all clearly unworn with the tags still attached to them.
As if someone had wanted her to be comfortable and fashionable but had no idea how old or tall she actually was.
Closing the door with a bit more vehemence than was perhaps necessary she moved to the dresser, sliding open drawers and finding that it was very similar to the closet. All kinds of underclothes of different sizes and colors alongside a smattering of jewelry and hair ornaments, as if purchased by a desperate man for his hitherto unknown woman.
More slowly closing the drawers this time Ilya carefully reached for the picture frame, angling it so the moonlight caught it's surface-
-and her body froze, eyes wide and unblinking at the image captured within.
It...it was of her. With Mama and Papa.
But...but she knew this picture was fake. The events within had never actually happened.
Her and her family, sitting on the very veranda she had just walked past, smiling and happy with no Shirou in sight. But that meant...that Papa had wished for this sight to be true so much he was able to mentally project the image and preserve it, a skill Magi occasionally employed but had little practical use. The difficulty of crafting an unformed base of pigments to take on the appearance of a mentally formed image was a feat of great concentration and desire that was by no means easy to perform, even thought Magecraft itself operated on the principles of confidence and varieties of self-hypnosis.
Illya found her fingers trembling as she set the photo back where it was, shakily taking the journal in her small hands.
She had to gather what remnants of her courage still existed in order to flip back the cover.
The Grail is corrupted. Maia, Irisviel, Saber and most of everyone else are dead. The fire took care of everyone else for kilometers on end. I managed to rescue one child, a boy named Shirou, from the remains with Avalon but he seems to have lost all memories of his past life, no doubt some self-defense mechanism to cope with having seen everything he knew and cared about consumed by a cursed fire caused by All The World's Evils. I managed to successfully adopt the boy, make contact with the Fujimuras and obtain permanent housing but there is still much to do.
Illya is still in the grasp of those bastards that caused this whole mess and I need to get her back...or else she'll suffer the same fate as Iri, having to play host to that damn monster of a cup.
Illya felt a sudden tightness in her throat, knowing just what this book was.
A record. From her Papa during the years when she had been stuck with the Einzberns...and it was huge, consisting of hundreds of pages. Rapidly flicking to the next entry she continued to read.
I waited too long. It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I realized Angra Mainyu's last words had been more than thwarted ramblings, they were an actual threat, a real curse of mystical nature. My body-starting with my magic circuits-has begun to atrophy and I immediately set out to free Illya.
Once, I might have been able to break past the Einzbern bounded fields and potentially fight my way past the guard Homunculi...but now?
I couldn't do it.
I tried calling in favors, tried collecting old debts...but few debts are as expensive as invading the Einzbern home base and fighting against their creations.
I...I couldn't even rescue my daughter. I rescued a stranger, an amnesiac boy and spent almost a month playing at being a father...when my flesh and blood daughter was suffering under who knows what manipulations and experiments her 'family' subjected her to?
Fighting to keep her jaw from trembling Ilya rapidly flicked through the pages, racing towards the last entry and finding it to be written in messy scrawl, a few splotches of dried something dotting the paper.
I can feel it. My time is fast approaching and no potions, elixirs or placebos can halt the effects of the curse any longer. I have perhaps a few days, if that.
All I have left to say is...Illya?
If you read this by some miracle...please. Listen to what few things I have to say and indulge this pathetic, twisted old man's last wishes.
The previous entries detail how we may be able to save you, to give you the semblance of a normal life after all that has happened. Hopefully Shirou will be able to rescue you before long.
Illya, if there's one singular request I would make of you other than to be happy, to find a life that brings you joy after the pain and struggles I consigned you to...it would be to save that poor boy.
What I did to him is inexcusable and cruel, turning a child with no memory or sense of purpose into a twisted mirror of myself, merely to fulfill an ambition that I was no longer able to carry out due to my foolishness.
Please...help him. It was only in the closing months of my life that I came to realize what I had done in a fit of grief at being unable to save you, what travesty I had created.
Yet again my mistakes outweigh my original intent and it falls to my progeny to fix them...I am sorry, Illya.
Sorry that all this foolish, foolish old man can offer you is the hope of a real future once the nightmare is over, rather than an assured salvation.
I love you, Illyasviel.
The Magus part of her brain sneered at the journal, the picture, the house, her brother...it was all a trap, a ruse, a lie. There existed no people out there that actually cared about her, about Illyasviel Emiya. No...they just wanted her power, her station, her Berserker.
But how could she argue against her Papa's last tears, as one of her own fell to join them? How could she deny the truth of what he wrote when she knew he was telling the truth, when every nightmare she had ever had was of a putrid evil cloying and grasping at her?
She...she hadn't been betrayed. She had just been the recipient of a cruel twist of fate alongside her family. Nothing more, nothing less.
Furiously wiping away a tear Ilya took a deep, shaky breath, drawing herself upright as she set her face in a stern expression, marching back to join her step-sibling and resolving to carefully peruse the journal at the earliest convenience.
...There were still some things she had to make sure of.