She did not know what material this shirt was made from. The Grail had told her much, but it was a mess of concepts and ideas that she could occasionally associate with a word that Anchin-sama spoke. Yet, it wasn't uncommon for her to just let something she didn't understand pass by. He would tell her if something was truly important. But whatever this fabric was... she wished that he had told her about it before. The texture was reminiscent of the silk robes that she used to be clothed in, except that where silk was cold, his shirt was warm. Part of that might have been that it was Anchin-sama's shirt, but the other part was definitely the mysterious fiber it had been woven from.
It felt very nice to her. It was just too bad that Anchin-sama's beautifully-textured shirt was marred by the large bloodstain splashed across both the front and the back.
Her thoughts grew dark as she remembered the other night. Anchin-sama had asked her to forgive Archer, because he was their ally and his attack on the graveyard was likely just an accident that her Master had been caught in the periphery of. But she knew what it meant. She saw it in that man's gray eyes—a burning hatred all too similar to the one that had once consumed her.
This man wanted to kill Anchin-sama.
She grit her teeth and clenched the shirt tightly, nearly tearing it to pieces as anger surged through her. This disgusting creature who had absolutely no right to even be within fifty feet of her Anchin-sama wanted to extinguish him from the face of this world. She had to put on a pretty smile around him because her Master asked, but deep down she knew that she would flay his skin and crucify him with his own skeleton before burning him alive if he ever touched a single hair on her Anchin-sama.
I hate him I hate him I hate him I hate him I HATE HIM
She let the fury run its course through her, imagining ever-darker ways of killing the man before she finally was able to release it. She sighed as her entire body untensed. The storm of rage gave way to the waters of peace, and she reacquainted herself with the calm dignity that she normally kept. Anchin-sama didn't deserve to see that side of her...
Unless he lies.
She shook her head clear from those thoughts. They were like little ants that tried to dig tunnels through the bedrock of her trust. She believed in him, she trusted him, she needed him like nothing else in her life. She had to take good care of him, so he would stay with her always. So she placed the blood-stained shirt in the washer and turned it on, having already loaded it with all of his other clothes. Now...
...she needed to refresh herself.
She ran to his bedroom, lifting the robes of her kimono to allow her to move faster. The screen door opened smoothly, indicative of how much care Anchin-sama took to make his house as clean and presentable as possible despite being its only resident. Kiyohime swooned as she entered his room, her eyes searching every corner for signs of his presence. He was not at home, so she was not expecting to see her Master in body, but it was his spirit that she sought.
The room could have been generously called sparse, but reminiscent of a monk's cell was closer to the mark. No decorations hung on the walls, and the the only personal touch was a bookshelf with a few books on Japanese law and what was likely some shounen manga. Her heart warmed however when she saw there was enough space on the floor for a futon that could easily hold the two of them inside, an idea that made her hug herself in delight. Just the thought of being able to spend the night in her Anchin's arms...
The fantasy distracted her for a moment before she refocused herself. Long locks of turquoise hair fluttered behind her as she rushed to the closet, opening it as delicately as if it was the case of a priceless artifact. As she hoped, it was filled with Anchin-sama's clothes. There wasn't much that caught her eye apart from a dark pinstripe jacket, something which she quickly took. It was large; the coattails reached down to just above the backs of her knees, and the sleeves dangled long past her hands. But as she put it on, she couldn't help but smile brightly.
She could smell him in it.
It was faint, as it had been washed many times and the scent of detergent and fabric softener permeated every stitch, but it was there. He smelled like, of all things, iron. It was very peculiar to her, but who was she to question her Anchin-sama's natural body odor? It was just another quality of his that made him so attractive, just another item on the list of reasons that she loved him.
She wrapped herself in the jacket tightly, taking its scent in as well as the shadow of his anima left behind in it. It was so warm to her, like he was right there, wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close. She needed this so badly. He was kind to her, but he wasn't very good at showing affection so far. She was hesitant to get a little more aggressive, as their relationship had only just started, but as the days passed and he continued to feel so far away... she was reconsidering that.
She softly closed the closet door and wrapped the jacket even tighter around her so that it was in as much contact with her as possible. She did up a few of the buttons so that it wouldn't fall off of her, and then walked out of his room, closing the door behind her. He would probably want something when he got home, right? Perhaps it was time for her to get started on dinner. He was definitely the better cook between them, but she could at least begin the preparations, no?
She twirled in happiness, the jacket lifting up like a skirt around her kimono. She was so happy to have been incarnated in this fashion, and she definitely knew what she was going to wish for on the Grail when they won. She could already see it: a beautiful honeymoon in a hot spring resort, a private outdoor bath reserved for the two of them, the moonlight reflecting in his amber eyes, the way that he would whisper her name—
She was fantasizing so strongly that she failed to notice how she had drifted off to the side. She unceremoniously hit the side of a door, accidentally slamming it open as she fell, holding her forehead in pain. Well, it didn't really hurt, but the shock of the impact made her stop. She quickly checked that nothing on the jacket had torn, and sighed in relief when she found its condition preserved. Then she looked up and noticed the room she had stumbled into.
It was plain, even moreso than Anchin-sama's room. There was only a single object that decorated the room at the far end: a small shrine. It made her stop in her tracks. Anchin-sama never mentioned anything like this, and he never gave her the impression of a religious man, like—
She squeezed her eyes shut, trying to suppress the thunder that rang inside her mind. It took her a few moments, but she eventually got her train of thought got back on its proper rails. She forced herself to focus on the shrine, taking a few steps towards it. It definitely had all the features of a simple butsudan, something dedicated to family members that had passed away. There were only a few decorations: a few agarwood incense sticks in a small porcelain cup, a larger porcelain bowl filled with sand, a tiny empty cup with a matchbook next to it, a small gong, two candles the color of absinthe, and a framed picture on the upper shelf of a man she didn't recognize. The man had spiky black hair, and though his gray eyes weren't pointed in the direction of the camera, she could see that they did not hold much of a spark of life in them.
He might have been handsome had he been smiling, but unlike the brightness that radiated from Anchin-sama, everything about this man felt like a black hole. Something designed to drain its surroundings of life and joy. Her impression solidified; the world was better off without—
No, no, no! He's important to Anchin-sama! This isn't right! He deserves all of the respect that I give to Anchin-sama...
Kiyohime settled her fears and self-recriminations. She had been raised to be a proper woman, and she had been carefully trained in paying her respects at a shrine. She kneeled in front of the butsudan, taking care to properly arrange her kimono to not slip off as she sat, and bowed to the shrine.
There was a matchbook next to the incense sticks, from which she removed and struck a single match aflame. She lit the two candles, then blew the matchstick out and placed it in the small cup next to the incense. Taking two incense sticks out, she lit each one of them with the handles, then took both in one hand and summoned her fan to dampen the flame on the end to an ember. The faint spark emitted equally faint smoke, and its scent reminded her of an endless forest hanging on the edge of winter. But its light spoke to her of the light in Anchin-sama's eyes, and she let his imaginary gaze wash away the cold.
Placing both incense sticks in the larger pot of sand, she rang the gong with her knuckle, then started to bow repeatedly as she murmured the appropriate prayers for the deceased under her breath. It had been a long time since she had mourned or even paid respects to any of the deceased. She had a faint memory from her early childhood of a funeral held for a great-uncle, and not understanding why some of her family members were crying. The shrine they made for him in their home was where she had been taught to perform this ceremony, one of the only times her parents would ever touch her.
Why doesn't Anchin-sama touch me why why why
Her hands grew tight as they interlaced with each other, and she tensed with the thought. It hurt like spikes were growing out of her veins and arteries, but she had to let that go because if she held onto it she would turn ugly and Anchin-sama shouldn't have to see her in her ugly form because he's a good person he's so good so kind so warm so warm
Breathe in. Breathe out.
She thought back to when he had taught her that, holding her hand gently in his larger one, and smiled. He was so patient with her. Every day she thanked the gods for having brought them together. A few more sets of prayers, one clap of her hands, and one last bow, and she was finished. She exhaled deeply, all the way from her core, letting the emotions run out from her. Then she opened her eyes to stare once more at the framed picture.
He was important to Anchin-sama somehow. She wondered how. She wondered why. She never questioned anything he told her because he did not seem like the kind of man to lie to her. He couldn't hide anything. He could barely give an excuse to his guardian (cursed intrusive annoying fly leave us) on why she had suddenly appeared in his life. But she wondered why he didn't tell her about this man.
A footstep, a thump right next to her. She turned, and he had dropped his bag and kneeled right next to her. Her eyes widened.
"A-Anchin-sama!" She had to smile for him, she should have been starting dinner already, she should have greeted him when he came in, no, no! "W-Welcome home! Did you want to take a bath while I—"
His serious expression made her stop, and she let the forced smile go. He went through his own process of lighting the incense sticks and paying his respects, and she was silent and restrained as he did so. He was elegant and graceful, his movements were precise, and his voice set her heart aflutter, but she kept her desires for him discreet.
He finished in a few minutes, and after he bowed one last time, he remained kneeling with his eyes closed for some silent moments. She almost reached out to touch him, just to feel his skin on hers, but again she resisted the urge. He would take her when he needed her, and she believed that he would need her in that way one day.
"Thank you," his voice was soft, but it felt like it filled the room. "I hadn't come here in a long time. I'm glad that you reminded me to visit the old man."
"Who was he, Anchin-sama?" She felt blind for the first time. This man that she had admired, that she had obsessed over, that she dreamed of... he was human too. He was so wonderful, and yet he had things that he regretted and cried over. She never asked, she never thought to, because Anchin was perfect! But...
"He was..." he started, "well, he was my adopted father. He was my hero. The man who taught me so much... I wouldn't be the person I am without him."
"Then he must have been a wonderful person," she replied, shuffling closer to him.
"Not really," he said disdainfully. "He couldn't cook to save his life, he wasn't here half of the year, and most of the time he just sat around reading. Nothing interesting either, nothing like a satisfying mystery novel, just books on philosophy. I look at them occasionally now, and they're very thick and he scribbled notes all over them. They..."
Anchin-sama stared even deeper at the framed picture of the man, then sighed.
"Well, anyway, he wasn't that great, but I admire him a lot for the person he tried to be. I got my dream from him."
"What do you dream of, Anchin-sama?" It felt like an obvious reply, like he had been asking for her to say that question, but he hadn't. He just sighed again.
"I want to become an Ally of Justice," the words fell out of his mouth like a derailing train. "I want to save everyone I can. I want to make everyone that I can smile."
The statement hung in the air, accompanied by a pregnant silence.
"That's beautiful," she finally said.
"Most people just laugh at it." It felt like he was trying to brush her compliment off, but she persisted.
"No, Anchin-sama, I mean it," she moved a little closer to him, almost tempted to touch his shoulder. "It's so... meaningful. To me, anyone who truly believes in something like that is a wonderful person. I..."
She wiped at her eyes. She hadn't realized she had started to tear up, but somehow that ideal touched her heart. She had never thought of anyone besides Anchin-sama as important, and she still believed in that. But the fact that he did, that he was such a good person...
"Thank you," he said, and put his hand over hers. His touch was electrifying, and she almost gasped at it, but she had to savor it for every second that she could. His skin reminded her of the feeling of her lone silk scarf, a treasure she had been gifted as a young girl. It was warm and comforting and, though she could smell iron, she felt safe.
When he frowned, though, an icy terror leapt through her. His hand moved from hers to brush the sleeve of his jacket. He asked her, "Are you cold? Should I take you out shopping for more clothes? I'm sorry, I never thought about how you must feel alone all day here."
Her sense of his warmth returned, redoubled. He was so absolutely perfect.
I love you, Anchin-sama.
The following is the original author's note from when this was published in The Saga of Shirou's Summons on November 3rd, 2019.
I've been thinking about writing her for a while, like always trying to dig through the shallow pond of a person that Nasu, TYPE-MOON, and DelightWorks gives us to find the reservoir of personality hidden beneath. She's gonna get an arc, and one thing I will spoil for you is that she is not going to have a romantic relationship with Shirou. It's going to be a lot more wholesome. This will be one of the less dark arcs.
I accidentally made a Discord fanserver. The invite code is GkXXAYE. As this website doesn't allow links, I assume you know what to do with that.
Once more, my deepest thanks goes out to Aberron, TungstenCat, and Exstarsis. Have I plugged them enough by now? No? Got it. Abe writes a wonderful Mass Effect story and is actually working on a Fate/stay night fanfiction right now. TungstenCat and Exstarsis both recently published more new works, including (and I'm deeply and extremely honored by this), fanfiction of my Kiara arc. They each wrote a smutfic around her, and you can actually read them in a story order. Start with TungstenCat's A Long Night, Short Lived, and finish with Exstarsis's The Mermaid. They are excellent, and the fact that they haven't gotten enough attention before I plugged them is sad. Go check them out.
The ending theme for this chapter is Houkou Kaiki by Morrigan.
Thanks for reading.