The King and Her Queen


Chapter 1:  One long summer


A summer breeze played with her hair as she gazed down at the green valley below.  There was a farmstead here and there, and she could see workers milling about as they drove their orange harvesters in neat horizontal stripes across the field.  Just beyond, mountains circled the valley protectively, and their peaks reaching, but not quite touching the sapphire blue sky.  Patches of white dots graced the lower mountain slopes like white lichen on tree roots.  As usual, the shepherds have let their flocks out to graze. 

As she gazed down at the valley below, a sigh escaped her lips.  If only she had more free time, she could have enjoyed this moment more often.  Living here in this green valley had been peaceful and refreshing compared to her chaotic high school years.  But today marked the end of her time in this place of learning.  "One must always move toward the future."  she said to herself.  She raised her face to meet the rays of the shining sun.  "Isn't that right, Father?"  The question was left unanswered as her eyes followed a brown speck that soared across the sky. 

"Hey, Rin..."  A young man's voice jolted her out of her reverie.  "So this is where you are."   The wind played with his reddish hair as he sauntered over to stand next to her.  His eyes followed the landscape.  "It's too bad, isn't it?  We can't take this with us."

"Since you're here, dear apprentice, I take it that you're ready to start packing?"  Her eyes twinkled with mischief as she glanced at Emiya Shiro.  Due to his amazing growth spurt, the gangly teenager had grown into a nicely built young man.  But for a magician, size mattered not;  only skill.  She watched with amusement as his face broke into that familiar grimace whenever she pulled rank. 

"I'm not your apprentice anymore, Rin.  That was a long time ago.  Besides, I graduated too, didn't I?"

She had to give him credit for that.  The boy spent many hours to catch up to students who had studied magic since they learned to read.  Although he managed to achieve passing marks, Rin could not resist teasing him about the time he slaved under her tutelage.  She flicked her hand toward the dorms with an air of mock solemnity.  "Couldn't you at least help a lady in need?"

Shiro sighed.  "Do you really want me touching YOUR stuff, Rin?" 

"You can pack the books."

Shiro groaned.  Rin had a lot of books.  "All right, fine."  His broad shoulders drooped as he turned toward the dorms. 

"Let's get started then."  said Rin as she fell in step with Shiro.  After a few steps, she paused and looked back at the valley below.  "Shiro was right... we can't take this with us."  she thought.  As she walked back to the dorms, she realized that she already missed the valley.

People swarmed about the dorms like bees around a beehive.  Various luggage and furniture were being moved from the dorms into cars, trucks and even curiously antique carriages that were no doubt enchanted by someone with an archaic sense of style.  Rin and Shiro dodged their way through the quadrangle and made it safely to her room.  She opened the door and Shiro groaned again.  He went looking for her because he wanted to treat her out to brunch to thank her for all her help last semester.  Brunch would have to wait.  Sullenly, he accepted the boxes that Rin handed him and set out to accomplish his task. 

Meanwhile, Rin began to sort her closet and to empty its contents into several chests.  The chests began to fill up, and soon, her eyebrows knitted with consternation when she realized that the closet's content gauge mislead her to believe she had less stuff.  "Shiro."

"Yeah?"

"I need three more chests from Tayson's."  She held out several bills to Shiro. 

"Three?  How am I supposed to carry them back?"

"Oh, very well..."  She glanced over her chests and grabbed a pair of bracers.  "Wear these.  You can stack three of them and carry them."

He took the money and bracers.  He looked at the bracers doubtfully.  "Gee, Rin, you should've started packing earlier, you know..."

She glared at him and the air around him seemed to warm up.  "Ok, ok... I'm going."

Rin watched Shiro leave and continued to sort her things.  She pulled out a brown box and opened it to view its contents.  Underneath the tissue wrap was a blue ribbon, a white shirt and a blue skirt.  Her eyes widened with nostalgia as she remembered.  Her mouth formed a name as she held the shirt on her lap.

"Saber..."

-------

Shiro struggled up the steps of the dorm towards Rin's room.  The bracers had begun to disintegrate since he entered the quadrangle.  With a last burst of strength he sprinted up the steps and let go of the chests when he reached the platform of the fifth floor.  The bracers turned into ash and spilled onto the floor.  "Dammit, she coulda warned me about the time limit."  He pushed the chests to Rin's room and opened the door.  He found her staring out the window.  "Hey, I got the chests... you can keep packing now." 

She appeared not to hear him.  Shiro took a few steps forward.  "Umm... Rin... I got the chests..."

"I've decided..."

"Huh?"

"I think I'll stay here for the summer."

"What!?  But isn't our flight at 9 pm tonight?"

"I'll change my departure date."  Rin looked at him with a smile that curved up the right side of her face only.  Shiro felt a prickling at the back of his neck.  "You might want to do the same too... after you hear me out."

He swallowed visibly.  That smile can only mean one thing.  She was up to something, and it was very possible that he would be involved.  His shoulders drooped again as he settled himself on one of the many boxes of packed books.  "What is it?"

-------

"That's crazy!"  exclaimed Shiro.  The entire idea was just too insane to fathom.

"We won't know unless we try."  Rin leaned back in her armchair and interlaced her fingers.  Her smile faded as her face grew serious.  "At least, I want to try."

Shiro stood up and walked over to the window.  He turned his back to her and gazed outside.  Rin watched his back in silence.  She had thought that he would agree with her immediately, but this time, she might be wrong.

"Shiro... I don't need an answer right now.  I'm not even sure how to proceed, so I'll be doing some research first."  She paused as she ran through some estimates in her head.  "I need at least two weeks to make a plan.  You can let me know by then."

Shiro remained silent as he crossed his arms.  She watched him silently as she twiddled her thumbs. 

Finally, he spoke, "You're really serious about this, aren't you?"

Her lips tugged to a crooked smile.  "And since when haven't I been serious about this stuff?"

"What's your real goal, Rin?"  He turned his head enough to see her out of the corner of his eye.  "If you're gonna change history, I won't let you."

"I'm not going to do that!  All sorts of repercussion could happen."  Rin glared at Shiro. 

Shiro turned to fully face Rin.  "Then why do it?  You don't know how to do it.  And even if you do, all sorts of things could go wrong."

"Right now, I admit that I don't know how.  But I still want to try.  I just feel... that I have to try.  No, if I don't try it, I just know that I'm going to regret not trying it."

"That doesn't sound like you.  You always weigh the risks and rewards.  Your idea just now... it just sounds too plain risky."  Shiro turned to the window again.  "Besides... I thought we put all of that behind us."

Rin considered for a moment.  "Is it really?"  While she waited for a reply, her eyes rested on the white shirt and blue skirt lying on top of the chest.  A feeling of nostalgia swept over her again.

"If we pull this off, what are you going to do when we get there?" 

She tilted her head sideways.  Her usually fast thinking mind drew a blank.  She smiled sheepishly.  "Good question.  I'm not sure..."

"Eh?"

"I'll decide when I get there."

"Geez, if you're not gonna do anything, why bother doing it?  You should just give up the idea.  Besides, weren't you supposed to look at that internship at Furisame?  They seemed real interested in..."

Shiro's words were filtered out when her mind latched on to what he said earlier.  "You said 'we'.  So you're in, right?"

"and it seems like a nice pl-... what?"  stalled Shiro.

Rin wagged her forefinger at Shiro.  "You said, 'If WE pull this off...'"

"I did, but I didn't say I'd do it!"

She smiled winsomely.  "Then why say 'we'?  It already means that you've decided, right?"

"Well, if you're really serious, you'd do it even if I don't help.  What if you get into trouble, or even worse, get hurt?  How am I supposed to live with that?"

Rin stood up and patted his cheek.  "You're such a nice boy."  She quickly turned about and began to sort things again.  "Well then, now that that's settled, I gotta finish packing."

Shiro sighed.  "You really are serious."  His eyes fell on the white shirt and blue skirt on top of the chest.  He went over and knelt down to hold the shirt up.  "This... is hers, right?"

"Yeah..."  replied Rin.  "I must've packed it when I left your house."

Shiro ran his hand on the fabric.  "It was tough back then.  But I..."  He fell silent.

"Miss it?" 

"... yeah... a bit."

"Me too."  She paused her sorting.  "Y'know, you got to say goodbye to her.  I didn't get a chance to."

He looked up.  "Is that why you're gonna do this?"

"Hmmm.  Maybe... I really am not sure why...  I'll figure it out along the way.  Besides..."  Rin deposited a pair of scales in a nearby chest.  "Do you have other plans?"

"No... not really...  Do you?"

"Nothing that interests me more than this.  I figure, since we're here, we might as well use the school's library.  And it'll be easy to investigate historical sites.  Unfortunately, new students will be assigned to these dorms this summer.  We'll have to apply for graduate housing.  And you'll have to get a job with a professor so they'll approve our request."

"Me?  What'll you be doing?"

"Research, of course."  Rin said solemnly and then broke into raucous laughter.  "The look on your face is too much!"  She composed herself.  "Don't worry.  I'll help too.  Master Wilter needs some help creating a new batch of potions for next semester's class.  And Master Grynberg needs help with his fields.  The roving mandrakes are out of control.  You like the outdoors, right?"

Shiro covered his face with his hands.  "Not enough to work with Grynberg!  There must be something else!"

"I'm sure of it.  But it's a fallback job, if you can't find anything."  Rin closed a chest and locked it.  "After I send these to storage, I'll ask the Housing Director if there's anything open in graduate housing."

She picked up a box and checked its contents.  Her eyes light up with delight.  "Now, for an impromptu celebration..."  She brought out two goblets from the box.  "Instant toast goblets."  She handed one to Shiro.  "Here's to our graduation!"

They clicked their goblets once and the enchanted globets filled with liquid.  Rin downed hers in an instant.  Shiro took a quick gulp and spat the liquid back into the goblet. 

"Rin!  This tastes like vinegar!"

"Oh..." said Rin.  And then she rubbed the back of her head with her hand and sheepishly said, "Sorry... it was on sale."

Shiro hung his head down in exasperation.  He had a bad feeling that his was going to be one long summer.



Chapter 2
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