The King and Her Queen

Chapter 16:  Ties that Bind


The roar in her mind shook her awake.

"DEARIE, it's dinner time!!!!!"

Her hand flew to her ear before she realized that it was a mind link spell.

"Please don't shout..."  she replied.  "We'll be down in a moment."

"See you then."  Eileen's voice faded away.

Rin looked down at Arturia's sleeping face.  With her golden hair and ruddy cheeks, she seemed so angelic.  She kissed the top of her head and nudged her gently.  The movement only caused Arturia to snuggle into her.  With a naughty smile, her hand wandered to her chest and attempted to wake her up in a special way.

Arturia gasped and her eyes fluttered open.

"It's time for dinner."

Arturia looked up and smiled ferally.  She leaned in to catch Rin's lips. 

Rin giggled between kisses when she realized how Arturia interpreted 'dinner'.  "Silly... you can... have me... later.  They're... waiting."

"Let them wait..."  Arturia continued kissing her.

"I'm their... host..."

Arturia sighed, her breath tickling Rin's face.  "Oh, all right..."   She stole a few more kisses before rising from bed.

Rin stretched and turned on the lights.  For a few moments, she watched Arturia pull on her white long-sleeved shirt.  Then she threw the covers off, stood up and picked up her watch from the bedside table.  It read 7:39.  They had spent most of the afternoon in bed.  She blushed at her new and wonderful memories before shyly glancing back at the bed.  Her eyes grew wide when she noticed two sets of small red stains on the cream colored sheets.

"Rin... here's your clothes..."  Arturia walked over, but Rin did not meet her gaze.  Curious, her eyes traced where Rin was staring.  Then she saw it as well and blushed.  "Is... that..." 

"I... think so..."

Arturia reached over and held her hand.  Rin moved closer and embraced her.  Once again, she glanced at those stains.  She felt a twinge of loss, but she was glad that Arturia was the one who took it.  But in return, Arturia had given her something so glorious and sacred. 

Memories of their joining flashed in Arturia's mind.  As she remembered the moment when Rin entered her, she recalled Bedivere's last lesson.  It was so true.  They had given and taken freely of each other and in the process, had bared each other's heart and soul.  She relished that moment knowing that she was loved despite all her faults and all her sins.  She was glad to have given herself to Rin.

When Rin returned her gaze to Arturia's eyes, she was not surprised to see that Arturia felt the same way.  She leaned in and kissed her gently.  Arturia kissed her back with equal tenderness.

"Shall I help you dress up?" asked Arturia with an eager note in her voice.

"Sure... if you can dress me up as fast as you can undress me."

Arturia clucked her tongue.  "Then I better start practicing..."


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Since Eileen seemed eager to experience things Japanese, Rin ordered the chefs to make a traditional Japanese dinner.  And so they did with outstanding results.  Eileen and Michelle voiced their compliments during the meal and after.  As Rin wondered what they planned to do after dinner, Eileen seemed to read her mind.

"Dearie, are you busy?"

"No, not really."

"Can we talk to both of you for a bit?"

"Sure."

After they finished, they went to Arturia's room and sat at the small table there.  Eileen cleared her throat. 

"It occurred to us that you might not know what to do in bed."  She intertwined her hand with Michelle's.  "We've been married for over ninety years.  We have a lot of... experience in bed.  So... feel free to ask us.  We could even do a demonstration if you want."

Rin was not expecting this, so she just sat there dumbfounded.  A few moments later, Arturia cleared her throat.

"Thank you for the offer.  But that won't be necessary."  She grinned wolfishly.

Eileen stared at them.  "Oh?"  Meanwhile, Michelle blinked her eyes several times and looked down.

"Mon Dieu!  They've done it!  I think..."

"What!?"  exclaimed Eileen.  "You have...?"  Then she pinched Michelle's arm.  "Stop peeking!"

"I thought you wanted me to check?"

"YOU wanted to check!"  Eileen faced them.  "I guess we were worried for nothing.  Anyway, if you ever want some advice, just ask."

"Thanks.  We'll keep it in mind."  replied Rin with an embarrassed smile.

"Well, since that's settled, I guess we'll turn in for the night.  I'm sure all of us need a spot of rest from traveling and jet lag.  If you don't mind, dearie, we'll go on ahead."

"I don't mind at all.  Good night."

"Good night."

After they left, Arturia stifled a yawn.  She felt comfortably content and warm after that nice meal.  "Sleep sounds like a good idea."

Rin laughed softly.  "You too?"  She stood up.  "Well, let's get ready for bed, just in case."

Rin went back to her room and changed.  She waited for Arturia, but she did not come.  Concerned, Rin hurriedly went to her room and found her lying under the covers.  She sat down on the bed.

"Arturia... are you asleep?"

"No."

"Then come to bed."

"I'm already in bed." came Arturia's tart reply.

Rin's heart tore and she bit her lip.  She should not have done this.  She touched her shoulder gently.  "This may be your room... but this isn't our bed."  Rin stood up and held out her hand.  "Come to bed."

Arturia sat up slowly and took her hand.  She let Rin lead her into her bedroom.  In her mind, Arturia knew that she was childish to try something like this.  However, part of her wanted to hear what Rin would say.  And what Rin said helped subdue the doubt that formed in her heart when she announced their room arrangements. 

Once in bed, Rin turned off the lights with a wave of her hand.  A few rustling moments later, their nightgowns were pushed off to the side.  Then Rin remarked with her characteristic dry wit that she had come to enjoy.

"Why do I even bother to change?"

"So I can undress you?" came Arturia's mischievous reply.

"Oh, yeah..."

With their initial hunger sated, they sought to play and to explore each other rather than to pleasure.  But the day had been long and the bed was too comfortable.  Eventually, they snuggled into each others arms and surrendered to the lulling embrace of sleep. 


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Once again, Eileen's wake up call rattled her mind.  Rin woke Arturia and convinced her to have breakfast with them.  They adjourned in the dining room where the chefs had prepared a western breakfast of omelet, pastries and fruit.  After they were done, they went to Arturia's room.  Rin secured the room with silentium before they began their discussion. 

"Master showed me a copy of the letter that Shiro wrote before we cast the ritual.  It's a good thing that she did, since the actual one is hidden somewhere in his boxes in storage.  That idiot expected me to paw through his stuff!  Like I'm going to do that..."

She drew a deep breath.  "Anyway, he asked me to take care of Sakura.  He said that I'd find her at his house, except that he sort of put a seal on her room and I'm supposed to break the seal."

"Did he give any hints?"  asked Eileen.

"He said I just needed to knock and call his name.  Then the door will open."

Eileen tapped the kotatsu with her fingers.  "It seems to me... that he worded his message so that only you would know how to decipher it.  Well, best of British to you!  Don't worry about Michelle and me.  We'll just explore until you're finished with what you need to do."

"Well... I promised to treat both of you, and the Takarazuka only has a few shows left before they go to their next venue."

Eileen smiled.  "Thanks for keeping us in mind.  And I do look forward to it."  She patted her shoulder.  "I have utmost faith in you."

"Thanks..."  said Rin dryly.


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Rin and Arturia stood at the gate in disbelief.  Shiro's house was being rented out.  A quick conversation with one of the boarders revealed that Taiga-sensei was managing the house for Shiro.  Since Taiga-sensei would probably ask about Shiro, Rin decided not to see her.  Instead, she thanked the boarder and led Arturia around the block to the back of the house. 

Once out of sight, she cast Cloak of Shadows over her and Arturia before sneaking through the back gate.  They stealthily made their way to the Shiro's room which, strangely enough, was where Shiro told Sakura to stay in.  Rin pinned up some seals to force people to avoid this corridor.  Then she stared at the sliding door before knocking on it.

"Shiro."

She knocked again.  "Emiya."

She frowned and knocked.  "Emiya Shiro."

Then she tried various honorifics combined with his name.  Unfortunately, none of them seemed to have any effect.  Exasperated, she hammered her fist on the wood panel of the door and yelled.

"Dammit Shiro!  You stupid ass!"

Frustrated, Rin leaned on the doors as she tried to think of other ways to interpret his message.  Then, without warning, the door slid open.  Rin stumbled in while someone blithely dodged her fall.

"Onee-sama!"

Rin looked up from where she was kneeling on the floor.  "Sakura!  I mean... Matou-san..."

Sakura embraced her.  "Call me Sakura, onee-sama.  And... it's not Matou anymore.  It's Emiya."

"What?"

Sakura drew away and held her hand.  "I'm legally Shiro's wife."

"No way!!!!!"

Sakura stood up and helped Rin stand.  She was wearing an apron that a housewife would wear and the fresh splatter on it indicated that she was cooking.  "It's a long story.  Have a seat while I get you some tea."  Her eyes fell on Arturia.  "Oh... Saber-san... are you her servant?"

"No."  Arturia's lips tugged upward into a sly grin.  "I'm her fiancée."

"What?"  This time, Sakura's facial expression matched Rin's.

"It's a long story."

"Onee-sama...?"

Rin proudly held up her hand to show her engagement ring.  "She is."

"No way!!!!!"

Arturia chuckled at the sight of Sakura's incredulous face.  As her gaze wandered between the two sisters, she thought, "It's easy to tell that they're sisters like this..."

After their initial shocks were over, Sakura finished her cooking and they sat down at the kotatsu for some tea.  Rin idly picked out a rice cracker and bit it.

"By the way, please don't call me onee-sama.  It sounds so old fashioned.  You can call me Rin or nee-san.  And Saber was just a designation of Arturia's servant class.  Please call her Arturia from now on.  So... how in the world did you become Shiro's wife?"

"Shiro met me secretly last summer.  He didn't want grandfather to find out.  He told me that he wanted to take me away from the Matou.  He said that I didn't belong there and that he couldn't stand the idea of me being at their mercy.  I told him that it was too late, and that grandfather planned to marry me to one of his nephews since Shinji died.  He said that he didn't want them to use me anymore.  So he proposed that I should marry him."

Sakura gripped her apron.  "I know that he didn't love me.  I'm sure that he loved someone else."  She glanced over at Rin and spoke with a slight note of relief in her voice.  "I guess you'll have to let him know, nee-san.  Please let him down gently."

Rin snorted.  "Me?  And Shiro?  No, no, no... I'm not his type."  Suddenly, Rin regretted her answer.  "I mean... I don't think he's interested in anyone."

But even as she said it, she knew that she was too late for Sakura fixed narrowed eyes at Arturia.  However, instead of meeting Sakura's gaze, Arturia focused her attention on the teacup in her hands.  A sinking feeling crept into her belly.  Her quick mind was already assessing the possibilities of Arturia's reaction, but her heart refused to listen to what her brain had to say.  In the end, those thoughts were ignored.

Sakura sighed and continued.  "It doesn't matter.  All that mattered to me at the time was that he cared.  He came back all the way from England just for me.  Together, we planned on how I could run away from the Matou without them expecting it.  After I ran away, he married me before a magistrate.  Then he used all his magic to hide me here until his return."  Sakura held Rin's eyes with doubtful hope.  "But... he's not coming back, is he?"

Rin swallowed.  "Why... why do you think so?"

"Because... because he said that... if he doesn't come back, you'll return to take care of me."

Damn Shiro.  Sakura's story revealed why Shiro suddenly returned to Japan before they cast the ritual. 

"Nee-san... what happened?"

Rin drew a deep breath.  "It's a very long story..."  She gave a summary of their trip to the past up to Shiro's disappearance.  "I'm really sorry, Sakura.  I tried my best to save him."  The memory of those rising specks of red and white light stirred her hidden sorrow and tears began to flow down her cheeks. 

Sakura was crying as well.  "It's okay, nee-san.  You did what you could."

"I see... so that's how it started."  said Arturia calmly.  "Don't worry.  One way or another, we'll get him back."

Rin and Sakura stared at her.  "What?"  They exclaimed in unison.

"Shiro is trapped in the Throne of Heroes.  Since the Throne has been damaged, Marlen said that summoning him might be easier now."

Rin caught her head between her hands and stared at the surface of the kotatsu.  "Oh great.  I'll try, but I don't think I can control who I summon."

"Why not?"

"Well... I wanted to summon Saber... I mean, you... but Archer showed up instead.  Chances are, I'll probably summon that jerk again."

"The chances are good then.  Marlen recommends that you should try on the anniversary of his summoning."

Rin was confused.  "Why do you think that my chances are good?"

Arturia raised her eyebrows.  "Haven't you realized it yet?  Shiro is Archer."

"Eh?!!!!!"

"It's true.  When I was in the Throne, I felt his presence there.  I wanted to bring him with me, but I wasn't sure if he could even leave.  So I waited until I could talk to Marlen about it."

It seemed hard to believe, but if it was true, then she might be able to get Shiro back.  "Let me see if I understand.  Shiro was absorbed into the Throne, and can be summoned as Archer."

"Yes."

Rin whistled.  "Damn.  I bet something happened to him in Gwent to cause him to be absorbed."

"We'll have to ask him when we get him back."

"Nee-san, can you do it?"

"I hope so.  But I swear I'll get him back even if I have to do the summon ritual over and over again."

"Nee-san!"  Sakura embraced her sister tightly.  "Thank you..."

Rin hugged back.  They held each other for a few moments before Sakura withdrew.

Then they exchanged news of what had transpired during their years of separation.  As Rin recounted stories of her academic mishaps, Sakura noted how close they sat together.  She did not need to guess that they were probably holding hands underneath the kotatsu. 

"You fooled us, nee-san."  she thought.  "You made us think that you wanted a Saber class servant for power."  She remembered all those moments when Rin would rant about how events could have happened differently if she summoned Saber instead of Archer.  Since Rin hated to lose, she automatically assumed that she was bitter over losing in the war. 

"How I misunderstood you...  winning wasn't really your goal..."  Arturia's movement of refilling the teacups caught her eye.  Small sparkles reflected off the facets of the ring's diamond when she moved.  "I'm glad, nee-san... that you finally got what you really wanted."  she thought with a smile.

"By the way, something puzzles me."  said Rin.  "Shiro's created some sort of pocket dimension to hide you.  But since he's not here right now, how is mana being supplied to power it?"

Sakura stood up.  "I don't know the details, but I feel something over here."

They followed Sakura to an adjoining room.  A small shrine was on top of a small drawer.  Kiritsugu's picture, incense and a bowl of rice indicated that it was a memorial for his father.  Rin opened her magesight.  Trails of mana flowed from the drawer.  She followed the trail and removed the second drawer.  She sat at a nearby desk and emptied its contents on it.  Her magesight showed her various seals and that something was just behind the bottom of the drawer.  She smirked when she recognized Shiro's seals.  She wrote the corresponding seal breakers on paper and tossed them at the seals.  The seals dissolved.

Rin examined the drawer for a way to remove the bottom without breaking it.  A tug on the front panel indicated that it was not nailed to the sides.  She eased the panel off the retaining pegs.  The drawer showed a compartment about an inch high.  She slid the false bottom out. 

She felt her breath catch when she saw its contents.  Held in place by straps on a glyph-ridden mat was a mage's dagger.  Behind her, Arturia inhaled sharply.  Rin looked up at her.

"Is this what I think it is?"

"Rin, I don't know how to tell you without causing you pain.  But I think you need to know, so please forgive my bluntness.  This is Kiritsugu's dagger.  Within it is the soul and core magic circuit of Tohsaka Tokiomi, your father."

Blood drained from her face.  For several moments, she stared at the dagger.  Arturia put a hand on her shoulder. 

"I have to tell you that I am partially responsible for getting him in this state.  Kiritsugu wanted me to kill him, but since he was my master, all I could do was convince him not to make me kill him.  The result is what you see before you.  He was supposed to return his soul and circuit to his body."

Rin's voice choked with the memory.  "But he didn't, because Father's body died.  Someone broke into the hospital and stabbed him in the heart."

"One of the other servants found him, no doubt."

Rin shook her head.  "It doesn't matter who did it.  It's in the past, and nothing can be done about it." 

She started to slide the bottom back but Sakura stopped her.

"Just a minute, nee-san."

Sakura reached out and touched the dagger.  Her hand twitched, but she kept in contact with the dagger.  Her fingertips swept over it in a slow caress.  With her magesight, Rin saw a stream of mana leap from the dagger to envelop Sakura's fingers.  The mana stayed on her fingers until Sakura moved her hand away.  It lingered in the air for a second before settling over the surface of the dagger.

Emboldened by Sakura's action, Rin did the same.  The mana was cold and her hand shivered from the sensation.  But as the mana probed her, she felt a sense of calm wash over her.  And when she began to pull away, she felt a slight opposing force as if she was pulling her hand out of something sticky.  "Do you recognize me, Father?"  she thought.  It would be nice if he did.

She restored the false bottom and reattached the front panel.  Then she rose to return the drawer to its proper place.  She pressed her palms in prayer.  Beside her, Sakura and Arturia imitated her.  "Rest in peace, dear Father, and protect Sakura."

Internally, Rin smiled sadly at the irony of her request.  She just asked him to protect the daughter that he had given up.  Now, it seemed strange that he would protect her in death.

She faced Sakura.  "I have some guests that I have to show around town.  But after that, I want you to come with us to England.  Shiro was right in hiding you from the Matou.  However, I think it's too risky to hide you here when they're so close."

Sakura nodded.  "All right, I trust your judgment since I don't know much about magic except for the few occasions when grandfather would accidentally leave spell books lying around."

Rin hissed sharply.  "You shouldn't read spell books without proper training.  There might be a trap on the book, or you might try to unconsciously cast a spell just by reading it."

Sakura's hand flew to her mouth.  "Oh... I didn't know that."

Rin patted her shoulder.  "It's ok.  I'll teach you, so you won't get yourself into trouble."

The sisters stared at each other for a few seconds before pulling each other into a hug.

"Welcome back, Sakura."

"I'm back, nee-san."


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They returned in time for dinner.  Before they left for Shiro's house, Rin asked the head chef to hire a regional chef to cook special dishes.  He managed to find an Osakan chef.  The food was exotic and a bit strange to the palate, but overall, it was a delightful meal.

After dinner, they adjourned to the library to plan their activities for the week.  About forty-five minutes later, the butler came in.

"Miss, Kurogami-sama is here to see you."

Rin paled and stood up slowly.  "I'll see him right away."  She turned to her guests.  "Please pick whatever you like and fill out the time sheet.  I'll be back in a while."

"Take your time, dearie."

Rin nodded and left with the butler.  Out of sight, she slipped off her ring and pocketed it.  He led her to the main living room.  An elderly gentleman wearing traditional japanese clothing smiled at her entrance.  Rin smiled back and bowed before him.

"Good evening, godfather."

"Good evening, Rin.  Let me look at you." 

They regarded each other for a few moments.  "You look well, Rin.  In fact, you resemble your mother quite a bit.  But your eyes... are just like your father's."

"You look good, too, godfather.  I can see that age hasn't caught up to you yet."

"And I hope it never will."  He sat down on the couch and Rin sat on the couch opposite him.  "But you know, I don't want to take my chances.  I have to accept the fact that my wife and I are getting old, and I have to enjoy what I can before my legs give out.  I know that you've just returned, so forgive me for imposing.  You see, I'll be retiring soon.  It's been my dream to circumnavigate the world on my yacht with my wife.  To prepare for that, I'm trying to tie up as many loose ends as possible."

He opened a folder on coffee table.  "Your father's will states that formal transfer of his estate can only occur when you come of age and when you graduate from the Academy.  Both conditions have been met.  All that's left is for a bunch of documents to be signed by you and me to legalize the transfer."

He grinned at her proudly.  "I've spoken with the headmaster and he has nothing but nice things to say about you, Rin.  Because of that, my mind will be at ease when I turn the estate over to you.  But don't worry.  I'll help you adjust to the role.  There's much more to the estate than property.  You'll inherit the duties of the Tohsaka to the Association and its allies.  In fact, I'll be meeting with the Einzbern this week.  You should come with me to meet their representative."

"Umm... godfather... I'm really honored that you think I'm ready to be the head, but I think I need some more training.  In fact, I'm thinking... er... planning to do graduate studies."

"Oh... well, that's fine too.  Like I said, I won't go away until you've adjusted to the role.  Based on the conversation that I had with the headmaster, you're very talented, so I'm sure that doing some of the duties of the head won't interfere with your studies."

"I see..."  As Rin glanced over the small stack of papers on the table, a sinking feeling swept into her stomach.  "Where should I sign?"

Kurogami slid the first sheet and a pen towards Rin.  "By the X."

When they were halfway through the documents, Kurogami asked, "I don't want to pry into your private affairs, but I have to ask to ensure the legacy of your father.  Have you given any thought to marriage?"

Rin's hand stopped in midstroke.  What did her godfather have in mind?  "No... not really."  She completed her signature.

He slid another sheet to Rin.  "Rin, I know I'm not your real father, but allow me to say that you should consider it to preserve the continuity of the Tohsaka line.  A mage would be best for a husband.  Even better if he's japanese.  I could introduce you to several eligible young men.  Rest assured that I will only recommend those that are suitable for your position and personality." 

Rin nibbled the inside of her cheek.  She had a vague notion of where this was going.  "I understand, godfather.  But do I have to meet them so soon?"

"Well... if you're going back to England, you should at least meet some of them so you can establish a relationship before you leave.  I assume that you'll resume your studies in January."

Rin returned the signed sheet.  "Are any of them willing to meet me?"  She hoped that none of them were interested.

He slid the next sheet over.  "I'm sure they will be when they meet you.  Oh, that reminds me... my nephew seemed interested when I told him about you.  In fact, he's interning at a local shrine.  He can meet you when you're available."

"So that's it."  thought Rin.  "Let me check my schedule first.  Shall I call you?"

"No.  I'll have him call you and let both of you work it out.  It's best if the man calls first, right?"  He winked at her.

Rin laughed softly.  "Yes, you're right."

Her godfather mentioned a few more young men before she signed the last sheet.  He gathered them up and put them in the folder.  "That's done.  I'll have a magistrate look them over first.  I'll let you know if there are any mistakes.  If there isn't, I'll submit them."

"Thank you, godfather.  I really don't know how the estate would have managed without you."

Kurogami stood up.  "Don't worry about it.  Your father and I grew up together.  Besides, your mother's great grandmother was Kurogami."  He patted her gently on her shoulder.  "You're like family to me."

"Thank you... that means a lot."

He glanced at his watch.  "Gotta go back.  Suzumi is waiting for me."

"I'll walk you out."

Rin escorted her godfather all the way to the gate.  She watched as he got into a waiting car and waved as the car drove away.  Then she shuddered and exhaled a deep breath to release the stress within her.  She felt that she had signed her life away.  She closed the gate and went back in.


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At her entry, she was greeted with several smiles.  Rin put her worries away and smiled back.  She reviewed the schedule that they put together and made some suggestions to make better use of their time.  When the schedule was finalized, she ordered their tickets online.  It was almost midnight by the time she was done.  She yawned and felt warm hands massaging her shoulders.

"Mmmm... that feels good."  Rin closed her eyes and relaxed into the massage.

"Thanks for working so hard."  said Arturia.

After a few minutes of massaging, Arturia leaned down and whispered.  "Rin, is something bothering you?"

Rin's eyes flew open and she tried to speak as calmly as possible.  "No.  Why do you think so?"

Arturia shrugged.  "You seemed... a bit preoccupied at times."  Her arms wrapped around her shoulders.  "I was a bit worried."

Her heart warmed over Arturia's concern.  She stroked the top of her hand.  "There's nothing to worry about."

"Well... if you're ever worried about something, talk to me.  I would gladly share your burden."

Her fingers slipped around her hand and buried themselves in the warmth of her palm.  "Thank you."

Arturia noted the absence of the ring on her left hand.  Although she wanted to know why she was not wearing it, she trusted Rin to tell her in due time.  She put her own worries aside and whispered close to her ear.  "By the way... shall I continue your massage in our bed?"

Rin blushed.  Massage plus bed equaled less sleep tonight.  Her heartbeat sped up in anticipation of a correct answer to the equation.  "Sure."

After completing their preparations for bed, they met in Rin's room.  Rin locked the doors.  She decided not cast silentium until she had the right answer.  Once in bed, she turned off the lights.  With practiced ease, their nightgowns were discarded.  Arturia turned Rin over and began to massage her shoulders and back.

Rin sighed contentedly as her shoulders, back, arms and legs were massaged.  Then Arturia turned her over.  Her hands cupped her breasts.

"You should cast silentium now."  With gentle strokes, she massaged her nipples.

Rin gasped sharply.  "Si--- ah... silentium!"

One thing lead to another, and before she knew it, she was caught in the throes of passion.  However, unlike the first time, her climax came with quick intensity. 

After her third set, she croaked hoarsely between breaths.  "What... have you done to me?"

Arturia kissed her tenderly.  "I gave you a massage."  she replied as if that explained everything.  "Did you like it?"

"It was... incredible..."  She gathered her wits and pulled mana to clear the fog in her head.  She chanted the strength spell silently.  "My turn..."

She flipped Arturia over and began loving her.  When she sensed Arturia's need, she slipped her hand between her legs to stroke that moist flesh.  After teasing her a little, she found her entrance and slowly went in.

Arturia gasped sharply.  She did not expect to feel it again.

Rin pulled out.  "Did I hurt you?" she asked with concern.

"Can you turn on the lamp?"

The lamp flickered on.  Arturia lifted Rin's hand to the light and saw the bloody smear on her finger.  She laughed bitterly.

"What's wrong?"

"I never thought I would have a wound that I wouldn't want to heal." 

Understanding crept into Rin's mind.  "Oh... it's Avalon, isn't it?"

"Sadly, yes."

Rin's face fell.  "Then that means that... every time I..." 

Arturia caressed her cheek.  "Don't worry.  There's a solution.  I just need to take it out for a while.  Will you help me?"

Rin nodded.  Arturia closed her eyes and imagined Avalon leaving her body.  When Arturia opened her eyes, Avalon was shining in Rin's hands.

Arturia took Avalon and deposited it in a nearby drawer.  Then she crawled under the covers.  "Unfortunately, there's still a lot of mana stored in me which may be used to cure my wounds."

"Do you have a way to drain it?"

Arturia held Rin's left hand and grinned evilly.  "Yes..."

Rin swallowed as her heart sped up again.  She really was not going to get much sleep tonight.  "we'd better get started then..."


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Last night took its toll.  By mid afternoon, they could barely keep their eyes open.  Rin tried to sip at her sugary shake and hoped that it would keep her awake. 

"Too much fun last night?" asked Eileen with a sly smile.

"Yes... I mean... no... it must be the jet lag."

"If you say so."  Eileen watched their drooping eyes.  "Dearie, if you're that tired, you should go back.  Michelle and I can go on our own."

Rin rubbed her eye a little.  "I'm not that tired.  Besides, we have good seats for the Kabuki show."

"In that case, ma cherie... let me help."  Michelle took their milkshakes and stirred them with the straws.  She sang something in French.  When she was done, she gave it back to them.  "Drink about half of that.  It should 'energize' you a bit."

Eileen frowned.  "No, just a third... maybe even less."

Rin was too sleepy to ask why.  "Okay."

She finished a little over a third of the shake when she suddenly felt more alert.

"Hmmm... I do feel a bit better."  She glanced at Arturia who was sitting up straighter.

"I don't feel sleepy anymore."  She slurped some of her shake and looked at Michelle.  "What did you do?"

"Oh, just a little recipe ma mere taught me.  Since you both feel better now, shall we go?"

"Okay."

They filed out of coffee shop and took a cab to the theatre.  About halfway through the show, Rin felt a bit warm.  Arturia's equally warm hand slipped on top of hers.  Her touch felt good, really good.  Throughout the rest of the show, Rin tried her best not to do more than hold her hand because if she did, she felt that she would not be able to restrain herself.

Unwilling to let go, they held hands till the end of the show and until they got back to the house.  Rin walked quickly to her room and Arturia kept pace with her.  Once the door was closed, she reached for Arturia and met her lips halfway.

Their kisses were hot and urgent.  It was as if they had developed a thirst for each other and they sought desperately to quench that thirst.  Rin felt a great longing for closeness and her hands clutched at Arturia's clothing.  Arturia did the same, undressing her as they made their way to the bed. 

Once there, they did not bother going under the covers.  Their hands and lips wandered over each other's skin as if trying to touch and taste as much as they can.

"Rin... take me..."  Arturia moved Rin's hand between her legs. 

"Then take me with you..."

They entered each other.  Arturia repositioned her legs to interleave with Rin's.  Then she laid on her side and straddled Rin's leg between her own.  Her hands grabbed Rin's waist to keep her in place and her hips rocked against her leg.

Their bodies rocked back and forth to answer their own need and eventually, they managed to satisfy their thirst.

"Rin... this feels good... but... somehow I feel strange."  breathed Arturia as she continued to slide against Rin.

"Yeah... me too..."

Arturia raised her hand.  "Avalon."

The drawer shot out and crashed on the floor.  Avalon floated toward Arturia who took it and let it melt into her. 

Arturia stopped and tensed up as Avalon's mana began to fill her.  Soon, the strange urge of desire began to ebb away.  She took several deep breaths to clear her mind. 

"That seemed to help.  Here... maybe it will work for you too..."  Arturia interlaced her right hand with Rin's.  Then she heard footsteps in the corridor.  Did Rin lock the door?  She leapt out of bed despite Rin's soft protest and sprinted toward the door.  She clicked a bolt into place.

There was a knock on the door.  "Miss... is everything all right?" came the head maid's muffled voice.

She glanced at Rin who just stared blankly at her.  A few seconds later, the doorknob rotated and the door rattled as an attempt was made to open it.  Assured that the door was locked, Arturia returned and quickly applied mana into Rin's left palm.  The glaze in Rin's eyes disappeared. 

"Miss... are you all right?"

Arturia whispered next to her ear.  "Rin!  Say something!"

Rin swallowed and tried to think.  She spoke loudly.  "Uh... I dropped some books.  I'm fine.  Sorry for troubling you."

"It's no trouble, Miss.  If you need to move heavy things, please ask."  There was a pause.  "Do you need any help, Miss?"

"Uh... no... I'm fine."

"Please excuse me."

The maid's steps echoed in the corridor and faded with distance.  Arturia flopped next to Rin. 

"I feel so tired."

"Yeah... me too."  She reached for Arturia and cuddled her.  They held each other for a few moments before Arturia spoke.

"That strange feeling... I don't like it.  It seemed so unnatural."

"I agree."  Rin frowned as she guessed that Michelle's 'energy' drink was the cause.  She kissed Arturia gently.  "I don't want to make love to you like that."

Arturia kissed her back.  "And me as well."  She yawned.  "Can we sleep now?"

Rin laughed softly and kissed the top of her nose.  "Last one awake is a rotten egg..."

Arturia caressed her cheek.  "Don't worry, I'll still love you even if you're rotten."

"Hey!"

Giggling and lightheaded, they slipped under the covers and cuddled.  Rin waved her hand to lock the rest of the bolts on the door and to turn off the lights.  Then they closed their eyes to get much needed sleep.


--------------------------


Unfortunately, Eileen did not do her wake up call so Rin did not get an opportunity to snap at her over the 'energy' drink incident.  Her watch read 9:43.  They were allowed to sleep late.  About thirty minutes later, they got ready and went down to have some brunch.  Today was packed:  several sightseeing trips, Takarazuka in early evening and a late dinner with her godfather's nephew.  Rin hoped that all would go well.

After brunch, they met Eileen and Michelle in the greenhouse.  They were pruning the plants. 

"Good morning."

"Ohayo." replied Eileen.

Rin was surprised at her Japanese.  She had a slight accent, but it was good.  She decided to test her and spoke to her in Japanese.

"How are you?"

"I'm fine, and you?"

"Okay, somehow.  What did Michelle put in that shake?"

"She activated the sugar in the shake to make it easier to absorb.  But..."

"But...?"

"It creates an unusual side-effect."  

"What kind?"

"It becomes a mild aphrodisiac."

"And you let us drink it?!"  asked Arturia in Japanese.

"Your highness has Avalon and could get rid of it easily."

Arturia scowled at them.  "In the future, you will inform us of such effects before we consume magically enhanced food."

"Yes, of course.  And we ask forgiveness for neglecting to tell you.  We didn't think it would be an inconvenience."

A trap.  Rin grabbed Arturia's hand before she mentioned anything embarrassing.   "If we want to do everything as planned, we have to follow the schedule.  Will you be ready by eleven?"

"Yes."

"Please meet us at the driveway.  My chauffeur will drive us to the shrine."

She and Arturia left the greenhouse and headed back to her room to prepare.  Once in her room, Rin remarked, "Avalon sure is useful."

"Yes.  It can heal and protect."

"By the way... I was wondering.  How did Shiro end up with Avalon?"

"Before I left, I gave it to Shiro so that he can heal you."

So that explained it.  When she woke up in Shiro's house, she was surprised by the progress of her healing.  Shiro was there, but he did not mention Avalon until they started researching the reverse summoning ritual.

Nonetheless, she was happy that Arturia was thinking of her at that time.  "Thank you.  That's kind of you.  But... what if you needed it?"

Arturia laughed softly.  "The other reason why I gave it to Shiro was to use its other power."

"What other power?"

"After Avalon was stolen, Merlyn assured me that it will eventually return to me."  Her face grew dark.  "Unfortunately, it didn't return in time.  But when I gave it to Shiro, I felt that I had nothing to lose."  She looked into Rin's eyes and smiled gently.  "If it returned to me, I hoped that you and Shiro would be its instrument."

Suddenly, Rin remembered how Shiro managed to find her after they arrived in the lake.  She smiled widely.  "And it did!  When we arrived near Camlann, Shiro sensed you somehow.  That's how we were able to find you."

Arturia's eyes brightened up.  "I see.  It makes sense now."  She held Rin's hands in hers.  "I'm so happy that you found me."

"Me too."

They leaned forward in unison and kissed.  After they exchanged several kisses, Rin drew back.  "We better get ready to meet them."

Arturia stole a quick kiss.  "All right."

As they gathered their things, Rin prayed that nothing unusual would happen.


--------------------------


The gods must have blessed her.  The day went rather smoothly.  By the time they left the Takarazuka theatre, everyone was in good spirits.

"Truly a classic!"  exclaimed Eileen.  "I love their costumes!"

"Moi aussi!  But... their French is horrible."

"It's passable... for a non-French speaker."

"It could be better!  They should..."

Rin's ears drowned out their banter as she thought of her impending meeting with the nephew.  About fifteen minutes later, the chauffeur pulled up at the corner a few blocks away from the restaurant.

Rin opened the door.  "I'm sorry.  I have a business meeting tonight.  My chefs will make an attempt at French cuisine.  Please try it.  I'll be back later.  Until then, please enjoy yourselves."  Since the Takarazuka show had a French theme, Rin decided to follow it up with a French style dinner.  She hoped that her chefs were up to the challenge.

"Take care, dearie."  Everyone waved goodbye.  Arturia's eyes locked onto hers with an unspoken question.  Rin dropped her eyes.

She watched the car drive off before walking to the restaurant.  When she got there, she found the nephew waiting for her in the lobby. 

"Tohsaka Rin?"  he asked smiling.

"Yes.  I'm Tohsaka Rin."  She bowed.

"Matsuo Shintaro."  He bowed back.

To her great chagrin, the waiter led them to a somewhat secluded corner of the restaurant.  At least one row of tables separated them from the other guests.   He asked what she wanted and ordered two more expensive dishes in addition.  After she ordered her drink, he asked for a bottle of champagne.

Rin did her best to make conversation.  They talked about school and magic.  When their food came, the piano player at the opposite corner of the room, began to play Rachmaninoff.  Rin shifted uneasily in her seat.  The boy was trying his best to be romantic.

About halfway through the dinner, someone unexpected came in.  Rin turned away but it was too late.  They had locked eyes for an instant.  She chanced quick glances to see a waiter hand Arturia a nicely wrapped take-out package.  Rin bit her lip when she saw Arturia glance back in her direction before leaving the restaurant.

With the patience of a snail, she weathered through the dinner.  They finished around 10:30.  He escorted her to the door where her chauffeur waited. 

"Umm... thank you for having dinner with me."

"You're welcome.  Good night."  Rin smiled and darted inside before he could reply.  To her dismay, he grabbed the door before it could close. 

"Umm... do you want to go out again?"

"Hmmm... maybe.  I have to look at my schedule first."

"Okay.  Can I call you later?"

"Sure."

He closed the door for her and waved as the car drove away.  Rin waved back and then rubbed her forehead in consternation when they were far enough.  When they got home, she hoped that Arturia was not angry.

She found her with Eileen and Michelle in the den.  They were watching the anime version of the Rose of Versailles. 

"I'm back..."

"Welcome back."  chimed everyone.

Eileen patted the couch.  "Have a seat dearie.  We're watching episode three."

"And try some escargot."  Michelle moved the plate in front of her.  "One of the local restaurants makes it quite well.  I hope you don't mind that I took the liberty in showing your chefs how it should be done."

"Thanks."  She selected a skewered escargot and sat next to Arturia who seemed engrossed in the show.  They watched several episodes until the clock struck midnight.  Eileen put the remote in front of Rin. 

"Michelle and I are going to bed.  You can keep watching if you want."

"Do you want to watch more, Arturia?"

"No." came Arturia's flat response.

Rin turned off the projector and DVD player and tried to gage Arturia's mood.  "I'm kinda tired, so I'll turn in too."

Arturia stood up.  "Me too."

They all went back upstairs and prepared for bed.  On their way back to their rooms, Rin held Arturia's hand to assure herself that Arturia would come to bed with her.  Arturia said nothing.

Rin locked the door behind them.  "You seem quiet tonight.  Are you all right?"

"Rin... where's your ring?"

Rin paled.  "Ummm... it's in my purse."  She quickly went to her purse and extracted the ring.  She put it on.  "I... was thinking of going to bed after I got home, so I put it aside so it wouldn't get wet in the shower."

"I see."  Arturia slipped under the covers to her side of the bed.  She laid on her side with her back toward her.

Rin fidgeted in place as she stared at her back.  She was not sure what to do.  She slipped under the covers and turned off the lights.  She stared at the ceiling helplessly.  Finally, she could not stand the distance between them.  She cupped her back and slipped her arms around her waist.  The silence between them was deafening.  After a few minutes, Rin gathered her courage.

"About the restaurant..."

She felt Arturia tense up, but she did not say anything.  Rin continued.  "...about that... my companion was the one who picked the restaurant.  I didn't know how fancy it was."  Somehow, she had to explain that she had no choice.  "Because I'm the head of the Tohsaka, it was my duty to meet with him."

"I see." 

Arturia shifted slightly and seemed to lean back into her.  Rin hoped that this was a good sign.  She sighed theatrically.  "In fact... I have to meet with the Einzbern tomorrow."

"What?!"  This time, Arturia turned around to look at her.

"It's true.  My godfather and I are meeting them after lunch."

"Oh... so that's why you shuffled things around in the schedule."

"Yes.  In addition to that, I have to meet several mages this week."

"Why are you meeting?"

"I don't know.  But the Einzbern requested a meeting.  The Matou were also asked to come."

"Rin... this is dangerous."  Arturia's eyes filled with concern. 

"I know... but to refuse would arouse suspicion.  Don't worry.  I have a great mind block spell from Merlyn."

"Thank God."  Arturia hugged her close and Rin was so relieved.  "I don't want the Einzbern to find out.  I'm confident that I can keep you safe, but I want to live peacefully with you without looking over my shoulder."

Tears formed at the edge of Rin's eyes.  "M--me too."

Arturia drew back and caressed her face.  The pad of her thumb traced the outline of her lips.  "Rin..."

She closed her eyes as Arturia's lips touched hers.  If she played her cards right, she could maintain the peace they had now.  Her worries slipped away with every gentle kiss.  Arturia pulled away and they gazed at each other affectionately.  Then Rin snuggled into her bosom and prayed for good luck.


--------------------------------


Rin followed her godfather into an ornate meeting room.  They sat down at one side of a long table.  A portly German foreigner sat at the head of the table.  He twirled the tips of his mustache as he waited for the Matou representative to sit.  The Matou did not have the characteristic purple hair and eyes of Shinji, but his hair shone a twinge of dark purple.  His pockmarked face indicated a harsh life and his slanted eyes only added to his brooding manner.

Introductions were made and Rin attached the name Rikhart Lemstein to the German and Matou Hachiro to the Matou.  She listened idly as the men exchanged pleasantries and news.  Then Lemstein cleared his throat and spoke with a serious tone.

"Gentlemen... and lady, I have asked you to come today to request your assistance.  About three weeks ago, the Throne of Heroes was accessed."

Matou whistled.  "Who did it?"

"We think that it's the Refliech, but we're not sure.  We're still investigating."  He ran his hand through his thinning gray hair.  "Our spies in their manor report that they don't seem to know about it."

"So... what assistance can we offer?"  asked Kurogami. 

"We're ashamed to say that our defenses have been breached.  We've added more defenses and traps.  But we'd like to blend some eastern magic in them."

Matou drew himself up and crossed his arms.  "I see... you want to make it more difficult to break.  The intruder would have to know both eastern and western magic."

Lemstein smiled.  "You catch on quick, my friend.  Yes.  That's what we want.   It will be a challenge though, to blend it well.  Do you think you can do it?"

"Not a problem."  said Matou confidently. 

"Rin may be a recent graduate, but she has studied with the priestess of Ise.  She's well versed in both western and eastern magic.  She and I can offer our help."

Lemstein rubbed his hands happily.  "Splendid!  We will, of course, provide lodging and meals, as well as tour guides if you wish to do sightseeing while you're in Germany.  When can you come?"

"I'm sure I can go in about two weeks.  But I have to clear everything with our head."  replied Matou.

Kurogami laughed heartily.  "I'll have a much harder time."  He winked.  "I have to clear it with my wife."

They all laughed with Kurogami.  Then Kurogami cleared his throat.  "Chances are, she will probably want to come.  Give us about two or three weeks.  Rin is on break until January.  You can come, right Rin?"

"Yes." answered Rin tonelessly.  Right now, she felt like a trapped mouse.

"Your wives are welcome to come.  We will take care of them while you're busy."  Lemstein's hand slipped under the table.  A few moments later, the door opened, and a servant wheeled in some appetizers and wine.  "It's been a while since we've gathered together like this.  Care to share a drink with me?"

"Of course."  The servant poured a glass for Matou.

"Anytime."  replied Kurogami.

They raised their glasses in a toast and drank.  The rest of the meeting went by with the exchange of old stories between the men.  Rin was glad when it was finally over.


-----------------------------


Later that night, they met in Arturia's room to talk about the meeting.  Eileen drummed her fingers on the table.

"It would be best that you don't go at all.  There's no reason for your involvement."

"I know, but I can't seem to figure out how to get out of it."  said Rin with a note of exasperation.

"When do you have to go?"

"Probably in two or three weeks.  It's godfather's call."

Eileen ticked off her fingers.  "Three more days of sightseeing, then about three days to help your sister.  That leaves one or two weeks to teach you protective and counter spells.  Can you handle that?"

Rin nodded.  "I think so."

"Good.  Anything else?"

"No."  She was not going to discuss her meeting with another suitor two hours ago.

Eileen and Michelle stood up.  "Since you've had an exciting day, you should rest.  If you want to talk some more, Michelle and I will be watching Rose of Versailles downstairs."

"Thanks."

After they left, Rin asked Arturia.  "What do you want to do?"

"Well, since you have to rest, we should go to bed."

Her lips drew into a sly smile.  "That assumes that we'll be able to rest."

Arturia's lips matched her own.  "Then we'll just have to try, won't we?"

Hand in hand, they exited the room to prepare for bed.


-----------------------------


The days passed without incident.  Rin zipped her luggage and checked her purse for their tickets and passports.  Then she wheeled her luggage to the door.  She stopped at the threshold of her room to take one last look before closing the door.  Arturia was waiting at the driveway.  Eileen and Michelle left the day before with Sakura in tow.  They should be arriving in London this afternoon.

The chauffeur loaded her luggage.  The creak of the gate announced the arrival of a guest.  Rin turned to see who it was.

"Godfather!"  She paled and quickly put her hands behind her back.  She went to him and bowed deeply.

"Rin."  He bowed slightly.  "I heard you were going back already.  So I came to say goodbye."

"Thank you for coming all the way here."

"Before you go, can you tell me where you're staying?  I need to know so I can  contact you about the estate paperwork and the Germany trip."

"Of course."  Rin took out her address book and scribbled her address and number at the academy on a blank sheet.  She tore off the sheet and gave it to him. 

"Thanks."  Kurogami gave her a light hug.  "Oh, you have a guest?"

Rin stiffened slightly.  "Yes, she's a friend that I met in England.  I invited her to see Japan."  She dropped her voice and whispered.  "But she's not a mage."

"Oh.  I see.  Well, I don't want you to miss your flight, so you better run along."

"Thank you.  Please take care."

"You too.  Have a good trip."

Rin walked back to the car and opened the door for Arturia.  Arturia wore a puzzled look on her face when she went inside.  Rin followed her in.  As the car drove away, she waved to her godfather.

Rin waited until they were in the waiting area in the airport before telling Arturia about her godfather.

"So he's the one who'll come with you to Germany?"

"Yes."

"He seems like a nice man."

"He is.  He's my father's best friend."  On the word 'father', the image of the dagger that was stored in her checked-in luggage flashed in her mind.  At her pause, Arturia seemed to sense her thoughts.  Her hand held hers reassuringly.

"At least, your father is with you."

"Yes."  Her fingers curled against the warmth of her hand.  Her eyes stared beyond the horizon of the airfield.  Her thoughts went to her sister and her father.  It was good to have them back.  Then her eyes wandered to Arturia's smiling face.  It was even better to have Arturia back.  As she looked at her, those emerald green eyes stared back in bewilderment.

"Is there something on my face?"

"No, my dearest.  I just feel like the luckiest girl in the world."

Arturia blushed and Rin's heart leapt at the sight.  She looked forward to many more moments like this.  Then the stewardess announced their boarding, and they stood up to get in line.  As she took her seat in first class, she stared at Arturia again, and she blushed at her close attention.  She reached over and intertwined their fingers together.  No matter what, she would do everything in her power to keep them together:  her sister, her father and most of all, Arturia.




Chapter 17 Omake

Arturia:  Rin... why are you dressed like a cat?
Rin:  Meow...nya nya... meow... nya...
Arturia:  So we won't be recognized at the masquerade?
Eileen:  Screech.... reee reee scree reee....
Arturia:  No, I don't want the pig costume, nor the ass.  And definitely not the cock.
Michelle:  Ruff.... graa-rufff... rrrufff...
Arturia:  Oh, fine.  Give me the panda.


Chapter 17
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