Tabula Rasa

Chapter III



DISCLAIMER Fate/stay night and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Nasu Kinoko and Type-Moon. This is FANFICTION.

SUMMARY In a single outlying universe, Shirou's fate takes an unexpected turn when while running to escape from the inferno that erupted around him, he is drenched in black mud falling from a slowly disappearing hole in the sky.

NOTE Sorry about the delay; this chapter was very difficult for me to write. Things are going to start picking up now with the war looming in the horizon. I've already written some scenes that I especially liked, and found a pitfall in my writing style in the process—I get bored with the current chapter when I plan ahead in too much detail because I want to go ahead and write the interesting parts first. Well anyway, here is Chapter 3.


December 2000

"So, did you understand that, Emiya-kun?" Tohsaka asked. "Emiya-kun?"

However, Shirou was not listening. He was too engrossed in the fact that his idle examination of the jewel in his hand had resulted in him tracing it into his inner world. He had been doing it with everything lately; it had become an unconscious habit. He was sure that if he ever found himself within his soul again, it would be covered in all sorts of ridiculous junk.

Nevertheless, he had not meant to do this—he had promised himself not to copy something of his friend's when she took so much hard work and pride in her magecraft. Ordinarily he had no opportunity to do so at all, as Tohsaka did not allow him to touch her precious Mystic Codes. However, this particular one had been labeled as a failure. It was one of her father's jewels and while it possessed years worth of prana, it was highly unstable and would explode spontaneously if it were overloaded further.

Tohsaka said she had planned to transfer the vast prana it contained into another jewel and had allowed him touch it as if it was a great honor. Unfortunately, he had violated her confidence and not only corrected and improved the flaws in her Mystic Code within his mind, but also stolen a copy of the perfected version. An ancient red jewel sat inside him, containing a great amount of magical energy and stained with the power of a nature spirit, and it could be used as a single use explosive projectile equal to A Rank High Thaumaturgy.

Another terrible issue from this mess was that his Tracing ignored important laws such as conservation of energy, allowing him to produce a jewel containing this much prana at the same cost as any piece of gravel he lifted off the roadside. He had literally taken something that both she and her father had spent many hard years making and could now use it casually as if it were nothing to him, and as many times as he chose. The worst part of all this was that he could not even say that he would never use it because he was a hero of justice and could not force himself not to use it if something that might save someone's life.

Shirou had given Gil a brief and incomplete rundown of his ability the first time Gil had given something from Gate of Babylon. He told his golden-haired friend that he could make quasi-imitations of imperfect things and that he would take whatever opportunity Gil gave him to copy his treasures. Gil had reprimanded him for his openness and then said that if he wanted to find an imperfect object within the Gate of Babylon then he could keep searching as long as he wanted.

That had not been an arrogant statement either—the Gate of Babylon contained the prototypes of thousands of magical treasures. As prototypes, they were the first of the kind, and hence inherently flawless, as they had nothing to be compared with when they were created. No matter how useless the first sword might have been, as it was the definition that spawned the creation of other swords, Shirou could only consider it perfect. Seeing that Shirou's belief influenced every facet of his inner world, only the few items whose inventors had been aiming for something greater and failed could be traced, and the vast majority of those were not weapons.

But this was not the case here. Tohsaka had no idea about Shirou's ability and she would never have allowed him near her jewels if she knew of it. He had never told her because he knew it was not ordinary, and the Mage's Association had banned research into one's inner world or Reality Marble. It was too late. He had made a mistake and would feel guilty about it for the rest of his life but he could not reverse it and would have to live with it.

Something heavy slammed into the side of Shirou's head, sending him reeling.

"Were you dreaming the whole time I was lecturing?" Tohsaka asked angrily. She was holding a thick book in her hand that seemed to be straining her arm to even hold. Had she picked it up specifically to hit him with?

"It was about Alteration, right?" Shirou said, hoping to avoid a second hit. "You said it was the process of adding something to an object."

"Huh, you actually heard something," Tohsaka said, crossing her arms and glaring down at him from her standing position. "That doesn't excuse the fact that you were thinking of something else while I have been wasting my time teaching an amateur like you magecraft for over four years."

Shirou frowned. Being reminded of the fact that she was wasting her time teaching him really struck him deeply after what he had done. He needed a break. He needed to do something else to take it off his mind. He needed to get out of this workshop. He glanced at his watch; it was time anyway. But Tohsaka looked really angry and would probably not like it if he bailed on her right now.

"Hey Tohsaka," Shirou began, "do you want to go out with me?"

"What?" Tohsaka said loudly. It seemed that she was still angry. Her face had turned red; she was also probably tired after holding the heavy book for so long.

"I asked if you wanted to go out with me, Tohsaka."

"B-but it's too sudden!" Tohsaka really shouted this time. She turned away with her face becoming even redder and was muttering to herself. Was she chanting a spell?

Shirou took her hand and pulled the heavy book from it, hoping to ease the strain on her hand and simultaneously break her concentration if she was going to cast something against him. He placed it on the table and turned back to Tohsaka. For some reason, she was staring very hard at her hand.

"You're not making any sense, Tohsaka. Are you coming with me or not?"

"You—!" She was breathing harshly and could not seem to find the words she wanted to use. Was she that angry? Why? Perhaps… had she realized what he had done?

"Tohsaka, it's not… I didn't mean…" his own words jumbled in his mouth. How could he explain that it had been a mistake?

"You didn't mean it?" Tohsaka's voice broke into his thoughts. "What did you mean then—where do you intend to take me?"

She had not discovered his violation? Then what was she asking about? Never mind, it did not matter. Shirou almost grinned with relief.

"To the kendo dojo, of course. I want to introduce you to my instructor and another friend of mine."

Tohsaka made a complicated expression. The redness in her face had receded but Shirou somehow felt that she was emitting a more dangerous aura than before. And why was the book back in her hands?

"Emiya-kun," Tohsaka said, drawing his name out and pasting a wide smile on her face that made Shirou shiver. "Don't you know that it is a very bad thing to be playing with a girl's feelings?"

"Eh? How do you play with—urk!"

Tohsaka smashed the retrieved book down on his head.

"Don't ask silly questions," Tohsaka said. "Now, are we going to meet your friends or not? I do hope they are not as foolish as you are."

Shirou felt a sudden temptation to lament about his misfortune but he suppressed it.

"Right, umm… are you going to come wearing that?" Shirou asked, pointing at her attire.

It was Saturday morning and Tohsaka was a late sleeper when there was no school. As such she woke up only when Shirou came for his lessons. She was still wearing pajamas.

"I'm going to change!" Tohsaka said, her face turning red again. For some reason, she had a tendency to become red around him. He wondered if it was safe for him to be around her. If she stayed this angry all the time, she was obviously going to burst. "And stay in the living room!"

"Okay…" Shirou replied, wondering where else he could be. Did Tohsaka think he would leave the house when she was changing?

Shirou watched Tohsaka lock the door to the basement and run away before he moved to the living room.

A few minutes later, Tohsaka appeared again, now dressed casually in a red top and white skirt.

"Well?" she asked, her hands folded, looking at Shirou as if he was supposed to say something about her appearance.

"You change really fast, Tohsaka," Shirou said.

An enraged expression crossed Tohsaka's visage before it faded into a rather pitying one. Shirou thought about running but he would pay for it later if he ran now.

"You really don't know anything, do you?" Tohsaka asked before making an irritated sound. "Boys!"

"I'm sorry Tohsaka, but what do you mean?" Shirou asked before realizing that it would be safer for him to change the topic. "Umm… should we go then?"


Shirou headed toward the "reserved" section of Miyami belonging to Fujimura Raiga and the Fujimura Group, the local yakuza clan in Fuyuki City. Tohsaka followed him closely, apparently having not been to the location before.

"Shirou," she said suddenly, interrupting the peaceful silence.


"Why are we going to the area where that bouryokudan occupies?"

A bouryokudan, literally "violence group," was the way officials and police classified the yakuza. Shirou was not surprised that Tohsaka did the same, considering her disapproval of organized crime in Fuyuki city, especially as she considered it her domain as Second Owner. Shirou himself did not have any bad opinion of the Fujimura Group, as the few people belonging to it that he had met were nice enough people. According to Kirei, they actually reduced the amount of crime by organizing it, and they made sure not to harm innocents and civilians.

"Ah, I've never told you, have I?" Shirou asked rhetorically. "I study kendo at the Fujimura dojo. It's not really a place to learn kendo but a few years ago, someone saw me practicing kendo at school and told me to come here for personal instruction."

"Eh, you are taught by a member of a yakuza!" Tohsaka said, her voice a little higher than usual. "Are you sure its safe for someone like you?"

Shirou could understand her worries. From Tohsaka's point of view, Shirou was an amateur and untalented magus. She knew he was a talented martial artist but physical fighting could only go so far against a great number of opponents. She was not aware that he could instantly produce and use several different types of weaponry.

"It's fine, they are very nice people."

Tohsaka looked at him doubtfully but did not say anything in response. She often told him he was too trusting of people but he knew that doubting people until they had proven trustworthy would reduce his capacity as a hero of justice.

"Ah, we're here!" Shirou said, turning into a large open gate. A long path leading to the traditional dojo parted a beautiful Zen garden. The dojo was large and had several sections where members of the Fujimura Group practiced martial arts and kendo. The main hall was always empty when he came, probably because of his affiliation with Fuji-nee who was the daughter of the yakuza boss.

As Shirou and Rin walked in, Shirou noticed that Sakura was already present, talking enthusiastically with Fuji-nee. She did not practice kendo, but instead learned archery from Fuji-nee on other days. Shirou himself had turned out to be a prodigy in archery, to the point where he really could not improve any further than he had in dojo conditions. This had resulted in him taking Sakura's lessons with a little encouragement from Fuji-nee, who always forced them together when she was could. Shirou did not mind as Sakura was one of his only friends apart from Tohsaka, and the one he was the most comfortable with.

"Is that—?" Tohsaka said in a half-whisper, staring at Sakura who had not yet noticed their presence.

"What, you know Sakura, Tohsaka?" Shirou asked. He had suspected that Tohsaka knew something about the Matou family because they had been a magus family. However, he did not think he knew Sakura specifically because according to Kirei, the Matous had declined and stopped producing magi since the last generation.

"…" Tohsaka did not reply for a moment, simply staring at Sakura and Fuji-nee. "Your instructor is a woman? Your friend is a girl? And why do you address her as Sakura?"

Shirou looked at Tohsaka curiously. Her tone seemed to indicate anger and worry but he could not find a reason for it.

"Yeah, Sakura practices archery with me. We both learned from Fuji-nee, who was the one who taught me kendo. Sakura's even at the archery club at our school."

"Matou-san attends your school?"

Tohsaka's voice was worrying Shirou now. He should alert the still unaware occupants of the dojo to their presence to forestall an explosion. He only wished he could understand why Tohsaka became so angry with him all the time.

"Fuji-nee! Sakura!"

Shirou's pseudo-elder sister and his best friend turned and smiled, only for both their expressions to adopt the same complicated mix of emotions that Tohsaka often wore. What was going on?

"Who's your friend, Shirou?" Fuji-nee asked frostily.

"Ah, this is Tohsaka Rin," Shirou said, trying to blow away the growing tension. "We both have the same guardian and knew each other for a long time."

"Hmm…" Fuji-nee made a sound of consideration.

The two of them were staring at Tohsaka so carefully that Shirou was afraid that they would bore a hole in her.

What had he gotten himself into?


Matou Sakura could not believe what she was seeing or hearing. Both she and Shirou had a practice of coming at the Fujimura dojo every vacation ever since their fateful meeting during the summer two years ago. She also saw him at school and at the archery club but now she found that nee-san had known him for far longer. Also, Shirou said they shared the same guardian, but Sakura knew for a fact that Shirou stayed at the church while nee-san stayed alone in the Tohsaka residence.

Did they share a sibling relationship? Why was it that nee-san got Shirou as a sibling when she had someone like Shinji-nii-san? But such a relationship might mean that she would not be an obstacle if she pursued a relationship with Shirou. However, if they did not share a sibling relationship, then did that mean that nee-san was much closer to Shirou because he was her childhood friend? Why was nee-san even here? Did she come to take him away? Was she going to keep Shirou to herself just like she had kept everything else that they once shared?

More importantly, did Shirou know about magecraft? Did he know that she was the heir to the Matou family and had hidden that from him all these years? Sakura knew that Shirou did not possess Magic Circuits but nee-san's entire life was focused around her status as a magus. There was no way for them to be close if nee-san had hid everything from him. Moreover, if they shared the same guardian, it was likely that Shirou always knew about it.

"So you're that girl he's told me about…" Fujimura-sensei said, her voice breaking Sakura's mental process. Then she ran over to Shirou and pulled him away from nee-san, squeezing him tightly to her. "I won't hand him over to you! Shirou's mine! And maybe Sakura-chan's in the future, but for now he's mine!"

Nee-san looked at Fujimura-sensei angrily, obviously not expecting such a reaction.

"Shirou-kun," Sakura said. "You came to practice with Fujimura-sensei, right? Why don't you start off then? I'll keep Tohsaka-san company and we can eat lunch together afterward."

"Err… yeah, sure," Shirou conceded, looking between nee-san and her from Fujimura-sensei's grasp. Despite his inability to correctly interpret what girls were thinking, Shirou possessed a keen sense of danger and probably sensed something off about her relationship with nee-san. Fortunately, he had not made a big deal of it because she really wanted to talk to nee-san about her relationship with Shirou.

"Tohsaka-san," Sakura said as soon as Shirou was out of audible range.

"Yes, Matou-san?" nee-san asked coldly. It didn't sound like she was happy about this arrangement, but Sakura was not going to let her be with Shirou and corrupt him with her magus attitude and beliefs any longer.

"What is your relationship with Shirou-kun?"

"Didn't Emiya-kun explain it to you clearly enough, Matou-san? He's my childhood friend. We've known each other since forever."

Sakura felt a surge of pleasure at nee-san's address for Shirou, knowing that they were not on first name terms despite their long relationship. They probably did not see each other very much and nee-san would have insisted on formality because of the difference in their status.

"And what else is he? What does he mean to you?"

"Aren't those strange questions to ask someone unaffiliated with you? It's none of your business."

Nee-san's words stung and Sakura had to fight the urge to physically show her hurt. However, she would ignore it and forge on as she always had. The days of hoping and praying that nee-san would come save her from the Matous had long disappeared. Shirou was her only savior.

"I'm asking because I'm concerned about Shirou-kun. Someone like you…"

Nee-san smirked. "Oh? It's strange that you would say something like that. Actually, I am the one who's the most surprised. When Emiya-kun invited me to see his instructor and friend, I assumed it would be some thug and a pathetic schoolboy. Instead I see that both are female, one is the daughter of a Yakuza boss and the other a magus from a despicable lineage. How dare you scorn my relationship with him when it is much more dangerous that you associate with him? Have you forgotten your grandfather—what will that old man do if he knows you are friends someone related to me?"

For a moment, Sakura could not speak. Nee-san's words had struck a chord within her. She had worried about the same thing ever since the first meeting with Shirou. She had been selfish and decided not to end her friendship with him. That did not mean that she was being callous with his life, however. She took great pains to hide their relationship.

"Does Shirou-kun know… about magecraft?"

"Hmm…" nee-san made a mocking sound, purposely evading the question.

"Answer me," Sakura demanded, her voice higher than it usually was.

"I was going to, but aren't you being unusually rude? I've noticed it since the start of our conversation. Surely you don't think that you're entitled to anything from me?"

With difficulty, Sakura restrained her growing impatience and nervousness. It would do her no good to anger her source of information. Nee-san seemed to delight at Sakura's weaker position and was milking it for all it was worth but Sakura could do nothing but wait and hope that nee-san would reveal what she wanted to know.

"I'm sorry, Tohsaka-san. I'm just…" worried about Shirou-kun, the words went unsaid.

Nee-san shrugged, and even the casual gesture seemed to Sakura as if her former sister was looking down on her.

"Well, whatever," nee-san said. "It was not as if I hiding it or anything. Emiya-kun is my apprentice."

Shirou was nee-san's apprentice? But Shirou did not seem to have any magical energy, and he was an orphan from the last Holy Grail War. Why would nee-san take someone without any magical heritage as her apprentice, and even if she could, why had Shirou associated with the kind that destroyed his previous life?

"Shirou-kun… but he's not a magus," Sakura insisted. "I've never sensed anything out of the ordinary from him."

Nee-san nodded, frowning. "Yes, he has some special technique that allows him to completely hide his Magic Circuits. I have no idea how he learned it or what it is and he won't tell me anything about it, but I wouldn't be surprised if he learned it from Kirei."

"Kirei—isn't that Shirou-kun's guardian's name? Why would he know something like that? And why were you entrusted to him as well?"

"Matou-san… Kirei was my father's apprentice. You've met him before, but you might have been too young to remember. He is an Executor, and a pretty high-ranked one too. He achieved the rank when he was barely in his teens."

"You don't mean—Kotomine-san?" Sakura said, vaguely recalling a stoic man who had stayed at the Tohsaka mansion for about a year before Sakura had been given away to the Matou family. It was such a long time ago. "He was an Executor?"

Executors formed the most dangerous and bloodiest element of the Holy Church. They were tasked with the killing of demons and other heretical beings, and often worked with Enforcers to hunt heretical magi. Their department was called the Shura's Den, and just achieving the title of Executor signified that one had passed brutal training to become mankind's weapon, a first-rate murderer in other words.

Such a person was Shirou's guardian? And if he had become an Executor so early, there was no way that he would not be dangerous. As a demon, vampire and magus hunter, he certainly would have methods to hide from magi. But how had Shirou turned out the way he had with someone like that as his guardian and father figure? Perhaps he was a good person after all? He was probably a religious man who also fought for what he believed in just like Shirou did.

"He was an Executor, but whatever you're thinking, it's wrong," nee-san replied. "From your expression, it seems that you are getting the wrong impression of Kirei. He's just a fake priest. Even I don't know where Emiya-kun got his ridiculous ambition."

"Shirou-kun's ambition is not ridiculous!" Sakura almost shouted. She quickly glanced at Shirou sparring, and felt relieved that he had not heard her statement.

"Oh?" nee-san said, smiling mockingly. "Well, it doesn't matter. Are you happy now that I've answered your questions?"

"Does he… does he know about me?" Sakura asked hesitantly. This was the root of her problem. She honestly did not know whether she wanted Shirou to know that she was a magus or not. On one hand, it meant that she could talk to him more freely and be less afraid of his reactions to certain things, but on the other hand her past as a magus was abnormal and she really never wanted him to know the specifics.

"I'm not sure actually," nee-san said, looking to the side as she thought about it. "I've told Emiya-kun that the Matou family's Magic Circuits died out in the previous generation but I don't know what Kirei knows or might have told Emiya-kun."

"I…" Sakura stopped and swallowed the rest of her sentence. She had almost blurted out her problem, hoping that her once-upon-a-time sister would help her solve it. But that was impossible. Not only was Sakura not a part of the Tohsaka family anymore, nee-san did not even consider her a sister.

"I don't think it matters whether you tell him or not," nee-san said, surprisingly insightful about Sakura's doubts. "Emiya-kun is not the type of person who would care or judge someone based on something like that. He's pretty much useless as a magus but like Kirei, his strength is as anti-magus tactics. Even though I'm worried about him being friends with you because of Zouken, Emiya-kun is not defenseless."

Was nee-san… helping her? Was she saying things to comfort Sakura out of her own volition? Sakura could not understand it.

"Don't get me wrong," nee-san continued. "I still don't think it's a good idea, but Emiya-kun seems to treasure your friendship. If all three of us know magecraft, there's no reason for me to interfere, right? He knows what it means to be a magus, even if he wants nothing to do with the rules of orthodox magi."

"What kind of magecraft does Shirou-kun know? He's not from a magus lineage, right?" Sakura asked curiously, wondering how much of a "magus" Shirou was. Being a magus was a lifestyle after all. One could not be a magus and a hero of justice at the same time.

"He has no magical history, and he does not even have any of the conventional elemental alignments. As I mentioned, he's pretty useless as a magus. But he's also someone who can actually land blows on Kirei at a physical fight despite their age difference. I can't understand his body at all."

Sakura blushed at nee-san's words. She had enjoyed glimpses of Shirou's body a few times after training when they used the facilities at the dojo to freshen up. Nee-san was right—Shirou did a lot of physical training, but his body seemed unnaturally strong… perfect. Even parts of his body that he did not exercise seemed unusually conditioned, and Sakura had speculated to herself that he might have possessed the same physique naturally, even without any of the hard work he did. It was as if he never got stronger or faster apart from changes from growth, because he was always at his peak physical ability.

"Stop that," nee-san said, halting her perverted strain of thought. "Maybe I was wrong after all. I should not let Emiya-kun meet up with you."

"Shirou-kun will definitely not stop just because you tell him to."

"Are you sure about that?" nee-san said, smiling suspiciously.

"Huh?" Sakura said confusedly.

"Emiya-kun," nee-san called out, interrupting the conversing Shirou and Fujimura-sensei, who had completed their practice. Shirou looked barely winded, while sensei was sweating profusely. Despite that, it appeared as if he was the one who had lost every spar. Slowly fading bruises covered every visible part of his body. "Do you mind if we go back earlier?"

"Eh, why?" Shirou asked. "Weren't we going to eat lunch with Fuji-nee and Sakura?"

"Don't forget that I'm wasting my precious time for you, Emiya-kun," nee-san said, a glint in her eye.

Shirou looked contrite and quickly folded to nee-san's demand. "Sure, Tohsaka. I'm sorry about that, Sakura, Fuji-nee. Is tomorrow okay? I'll make lunch."

Sakura stared at him, wondering what exactly nee-san did that she could influence Shirou in this manner. Nee-san noticed the face she was making and smirked superiorly.

"I'll be taking him," she said.

Sakura said nothing in response, but vowed to herself that she would not lose another precious thing to her sister. No, she would never lose Shirou.

Not even if she had to do something drastic to make sure of it.


April 2001

Kotomine Kirei stared down at the mangled body before him. It was difficult to tell at the current time but the body had once belonged to a boy. He was one of the children who had been orphaned by the fire caused by the Holy Grail after the war. Soaked in preservative and their forms decaying as they was converted into prana for Gilgamesh, the orphans' bodies were hardly recognizable as human. However, they were still alive, their eyes open and twitching, pleading for Kirei to end their lives.

In Kirei's hands was a beautiful scabbard. In fact, it looked more like an ornament than a weapon sheath at first glance. Merely being in its presence filled you with awe. It's delicate appearance and aesthetics as well as the golden lettering emblazoned on its surface belied its true nature. It was a conceptual armament that surpassed all things of this world. Kirei had researched it for seven years now, and even though he was not a very competent magus, he had been able to discern some of its properties.

That was why he had brought it here. The scabbard had a fantastic amount of mana within it, but only its true user could extract that magical energy. However, it could still be used as a healing device, regenerating all wounds instantly. Shirou had a degraded form of this ability that he needed to consciously activate but the sheath itself was peerless. If he employed it on one of the orphans lying before him, they would be restored to pristine condition within a few days.

However, that was not Kirei's objective. Why on earth would he want to save the ones he had condemned? He was here to perform a little experiment. The mana in the sheath could not be used directly. However, Gilgamesh had formed a connection with this chamber, sucking the life out of these children to regain his own magical energy. Would he benefit from the healing? Most probably the answer was yes. So, doing this would increase the speed at which Gilgamesh was restored to full strength.

However, that was not Kirei's true objective either. It was but a side effect of what he really wanted.

Kirei had come here to heal the children.

Not to heal them totally but to heal them until they began to hope for a chance of being saved from the unending torture—a sparkle of hope like finding an oasis after a week without water in the desert.

And then he would stop the process. The sparkle of hope would disappear like a mirage of an oasis, leaving its viewer sobbing and broken in the sand.

Despite the unpleasant odor of chemicals, dust and decayed flesh in this underground crypt, Kirei could smell and taste the pain the orphans would feel once he carried out his experiment.

It was, quite frankly, delicious.


Gil watched as Shirou performed his magecraft training, not saying a word to make sure Shirou was not distracted from his concentration. They had a strange relationship—both that of friends and that of teacher-student. Gil could still remember Shirou's honest words when he had first lent him something from the Gate of Babylon—"I have a strange ability to somewhat project any flawed object I examine with magecraft, and because of my goals as a hero of justice, I will take whatever opportunity to improve my arsenal." Gil could not imagine someone who would bluntly reveal something as important as that and even told Shirou it was a mistake, but Shirou had been adamant that a true hero would never lie and steal from those who were helping him.

Most of those who knew who Gil was often did not really understand him. While it was true that he did not share many of his elder self's behavioral traits, he did share all his knowledge. He knew every deed he would do in the future, whether it was virtuous or sinful. Without the emotions that should have come with this knowledge, he could not put any significance to any of events in his future but he knew them all without a doubt.

The Potion of Youth was an extremely powerful substance but it was also highly impractical. While it did make one younger, its incomplete memory transference caused the younger self to be a completely different person, a snapshot of the drinker when he was at that age. So, when Gilgamesh drank the potion, he was effectively removing himself from the present and replacing himself with the him that existed when he was ten-years-old.

Due to the transient nature of Gil's life, he could not truly see it as living. He was not a nihilist, but he knew that his own life did not have any great importance. He knew his fate and he could not do anything to change it, much less now when he had died and become a Heroic Spirit. He had no future and while he spouted goals and dreams, the one who was most aware that they were impossible was he himself. He only existed when his older self was bored with his current situation or had a task for him that Gilgamesh could not perform—in this case it was to examine Shirou.

Gil was a fantastic actor; in fact, he had always been great at anything he attempted. From the moment he was born, he was worshipped by men and held in high regard by the gods—this was not only due to his nature as two-thirds god but also due to their instinctive understanding of his greatness. Unfortunately Gil himself had been affected by the way others treated him. Eventually, his respect for his people would dwindle and he would consider them his possessions, which he could treat in any manner of his choosing.

He would take anything he liked from his subjects and he would rape women on their marriage beds. For him, there would be no bars, as the King, he was entitled to the world. When he would finally find a friend and equal, he would lose him to the whimsical gods, causing Gilgamesh to hate them more than anything.

Those memories pertained to Gilgamesh, not Gil. Nevertheless, Gil possessed them. He knew of his doomed fate and he could not really respect his elder self despite the fact that he understood how Gilgamesh had become who he was. As the king, he should have been uncolored and non-influenceable but he had fallen to the actions of those around him. If Gil knew that he was going to become someone like that, what did it mean to his current circumstances?

He was always aware that his existence was transient so he lived in the present, trying his best to ignore his fate. The moment he reverted to Gilgamesh, he would disappear—and he did not reappear when Gilgamesh drank the Potion of Youth again; rather, a new Gil was created. Gilgamesh knew all of this, yet he drank the potion—in essence, even his younger self was his to use as he pleased.

This time, Gil knew that he was here both to alleviate Gilgamesh's boredom and to unravel the mysteries of Shirou's existence. Since the fourth Holy Grail War, Gilgamesh had wanted to know the secrets behind Shirou's survival of the ambrosia. To facilitate this, Gil had instantly won over Shirou's confidence by appearing to support his dreams. However, now that he had spent three years in Shirou's presence, he felt like a completely different person.

For the first time after drinking the Potion of Youth, Gil felt that he possessed some form of identity. In the end, his act of winning over Shirou had caused Shirou to win over him. He wanted to believe that Shirou could truly become a hero of justice—for a king, there was no such things as childish and irrational dreams.

Their relationship made Gil wonder—was this how Gilgamesh had felt in the presence of Enkidu? If so, he could understand Gilgamesh's sorrow at their separation. Shirou was certainly living up to Enkidu as Gil's equal—he could match Gil physically and possessed an equal bearing due to Gilgamesh's influence. However, the two were also fundamentally different from Gilgamesh and Enkidu. The younger Gil had not yet been corrupted by his privileges as king and Shirou was not uncivilized or wild—in fact, Shirou was more similar to Gilgamesh than Gil himself was. This of course really annoyed Gil, and caused him to feel a fierce sense of jealousy over his elder self, as he had been much closer to Shirou and wanted to live on in his friend when he disappeared.

It was because of their closeness that Gil could see it—the downward spiral Shirou was on ever since he had begun researching his strange ability to correct the flaws in items. Rather than conventional Alteration, Shirou read the record of the item he examined limited to its physical and mystical characteristics and changed it in a manner that corrected the flaws in its structure. While he could not trace something living, Shirou had been able to use this Trace Alteration even on human beings. Once he accidentally learned of this, his first attempt had been on himself.

It was an act very characteristic of Shirou that would never occur to another person. After all, who uses his own body as his first test subject? However for Shirou, whose goal was to become a hero of justice, the thought of risking another person's life was so inconceivable that the possibility may as well not have existed. Unfortunately, Shirou had not achieved the desired results from the process.

He had wanted to regain his memories from before the fourth Holy Grail War but his Tracing ability focused only on the part of the record related to one's physical and spiritual attributes. It could not retrieve memories that did not pertain to one's ability. For Shirou, a human whose body and soul had already been refined by the ambrosia, there was no way for him to become even more perfect than he already was.

However, Shirou's self-examination had made him realize the true extent of his ability. His Trace Alteration was not based on the property of Multi-Dimensional Refraction Phenomenon. It did not reverse time on its subject or transform it into the form it possessed in another dimension but changed it in the present to mimic what it could have been. It was a limited ability based on Shirou's skill and belief. Additionally, it could alter the body but not bring the mind along with it.

Shirou had discussed the implications of such a skill with Gil at length. Personally, Gil was amazed that he had gained such ability from his survival of the ambrosia. It was not an ordinary effect, and even if one was in a position where there Origin could be changed when they drank the divine nectar, they had to be pure enough to survive consuming it and hence, there was no dramatic purification that could trigger such an event. Shirou was an anomaly among anomalies.

Despite his innate good nature and fervent desire to be a hero of justice, Shirou had begun thinking about ways he could possibly change the people around him so that they would be better protected. While Gil could understand the spirit of Shirou's desire, the method he was choosing undermined what he truly wanted. But Gil could not command Shirou on what to do. Rather, Gil did not want to command him. Shirou was his friend, and using his power to overwhelm and force Shirou to accept what he said was not something he sought.

So Gil advised him. Shirou was young and frightfully overconfident but Gil was well aware of the fact that Shirou had seen the depths of human darkness when he was drenched in the black mud that spilled from the corrupted Holy Grail. That was not an experience that could be washed away or forgotten. At least some of Shirou's obsession with saving people had to have come from it. The same thing confused Gil—if Shirou knew the extent of humanity's evil, how could he dream of being a hero of justice? Gil could not understand it but he wanted to believe that Shirou could do it.

He wanted to believe that Gilgamesh could have part in something good in this world.

He wanted to believe that he would leave behind something that would wash away the many sins that he had committed in his future.

But most of all, he wanted to help his friend who had changed him and given him an existence worth living, even if it was a fleeting one.

As Gil smiled at Shirou without his notice, a prickling sensation told him that he needed to be elsewhere.

"Shirou," Gil said, making Shirou look up from the necklace he was holding. "I will be leaving you to your work for sometime."

"Sure," Shirou replied, nodding his head.

Gil left the room.


"Kotomine-san," Gil said, walking into the underground crypt where Kirei stood with an oddly fascinated expression. "What was that?"

"Ah, so it worked?" Kirei asked, his excitement elevating.

Kirei suddenly realized that this situation would not have been nearly as fun with the adult Gilgamesh, who took pleasure in much of the things Kirei did. He watched as Gil looked helplessly at the ravaged flesh of his victims.

"What are you doing? Why am I receiving a heightened amount of prana?"

"I'm healing them," Kirei replied, watching confusion form on Gil's face in anticipation.

"Healing them?"

"Yes, I found a mysterious object containing a vast reservoir of mana but it could only be used to heal."

"That's not what I was asking," Gil said, his expression clearly showing annoyance. "Why are you healing them?"

"Are you saying that you do not want them to heal?" Kirei asked, his enjoyment at Gil's frustration heightening his pleasure.

"Kotomine-san," Gil said deceptively pleasantly. "Are you going to answer my question?"

Kirei held in his smirk. Gil rarely became so aggressive. The situation was obviously taking its toll on him. He hated this place, probably because he did not support the method his elder self used to collect mana but he could do nothing about it.

"Of course," Kirei replied, his voice truly filled with a priestly benevolence.



Ripples began forming in the air behind Gil. He was obviously at the end of his rope.

"Healing them using this artifact allows their life force to be replenished instantaneously," Kirei said, forestalling Gil's attack. "By doing this your mana absorption rate will also increase, further accelerating their healing. The one who is being treated is left in an endless cycle of pain and regeneration. Is it not wonderful?"

Gil looked disgusted. Kirei stared avidly at his face, capturing the impression of the young king's emotions.

"Stop this, Kotomine-san."



"I am doing this for your sake," Kirei said, before adding mockingly. "You don't have a problem with the fact that you are draining these orphan's lives but you have a problem with me healing them? How hypocritical of you."

"I don't really care what you think of my hypocrisy, Kotomine," Gil said, dropping his polite tone. "I am not going to allow you to torture them any further than they already are."

"I wonder… how would Shirou feel if he knew of this room? How would he feel if he knew of its purpose? How would he feel if he knew that you knew of its purpose? How would he feel if he knew that you were consuming the souls of living beings? How would he feel if he knew that they were all orphans from the Grail War like him?"

Gil was silent. Kirei enjoyed the subdued look that spread across his face. It was not an expression one expected or even imagined the King of Heroes to adopt. However, Shirou was a very sensitive subject for this king.

"You're not going to tell Shirou anything. My older self would not tolerate your obstruction of his plan."

"That brings me to another point—why are you trying to stop me when you know that your older self would approve of what I am doing now?"

"That does not matter as long as I am here."

"But I can call him here at any moment. You know that I am not short on Command Spells."

"Do you really think a Command Spell could dominate me?"

"It does not matter whether it would. If I word the command correctly, you would not be fighting against the Command Spell but yourself—a version of you with much more experience and ego. You would lose."

Kirei almost laughed at Gil's cornered countenance. It was simply delightful. Who would have thought that Kirei could torture the Golden King in this manner? Today was really shaping up to be a good day.

"Kotomine, are you really going to play games like this with me? Have you perhaps forgotten who I am?"

"Not at all," Kirei said in an almost deferential manner. "My every action is in the service of the king. It was you who advised me to walk on this path after all."

Gil's expression contorted, not out of hatred for Kirei but for himself—or to be precise, his older self. The internal dilemma he must be feeling… Kirei wished he could hear the young king's convoluted thoughts. He had really stirred up a hornet's nest—torturing the tortured orphans to Gil's benefit, trapping Gil into a corner with Shirou's morality, showing Gil his powerlessness to stop Kirei's actions, and forcing Gil to acknowledge the cruel nature of the person he would become.

It was an orgasmic—no, better than orgasmic—feeling. It made Kirei wonder why people sought pleasure from sex when they could do this. It was more long lasting and much easier in execution. He just could not get enough of it. He loved it—the awareness that he held these lives in his hands. It was especially satisfying when the subject was someone as strong willed and powerful as Gil, a person he knew could crush him in a fraction of an instant if he so chose.

However, Gil could not attempt that here because his elder self would not overlook such an action. Kirei knew that he would not take the risk of Kirei's survival, or that Kirei might successfully use the Command Spell before he died. His hands were tied in knots so jumbled that they would have to be cut to let him escape. Unfortunately, he could not cut Kirei out of the picture either.

"Kotomine… you will regret this."

It was at times like this that Kirei saw the man that Gil would become. The ominous tone and suggestion his words carried spoke not of speculation but of fact. In Gil's mind, Kirei's fate had been unquestionably sealed. In any ordinary person, those words would make him fear for his very life and backtrack on all his actions in order to appease Gil.

Kirei just luxuriated in the surety of great entertainment to come.


It began almost as soon as the room's other occupant left.

It was like being trapped in an iron maiden filled with white hot needles that ripped and sliced his body to zillions of pieces; simultaneously his every cell was on fire, he was suffocating and choking as if he were being held underwater and drowning. Then his suffering escalated; it was as if his soul was shredding while he was still alive. The agony was unimaginable; seconds stretched to eons as his body and mind shuddered and writhed under the onslaught. A jagged spear lanced through the very core of his existence and his soul stretched as if it were being pulled apart before exploding.

He breathed hard, wondering what had just happened to him. His chest still throbbed from the pain he had endured. Entering the bathroom, he lifted his shirt; it was soaked heavily in his sweat. Then he stared into the mirror, half turned as he inspected himself for damage. There was something different about his appearance; something that should not have existed.

Etched over his heart was a trisected black lotus.