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KL ~Chapter 3~

Chapter 3: Sakura Matou, Sister

Outskirts of Fuyuki

Sakura Matou watched as her brother continued what must’ve been a daily ritual at this point.

Thonk. Ever since he told her he joined the Archery Club, he had come out here every evening on school days and stayed until he felt satisfied with his progress in practicing archery and his mysteries.

Thonk. Thonk. He would take a bundle of newspaper that he got from around easily and freely, and work them into the shape of arrows before reinforcing them to become harder. At first he did it by hand, but he seemed to have found a way to do it by alteration now.

Thonk. Thonk-thonk. It started at twenty arrows a day, and now he was up to sixty. The process of refining the shape and strength was becoming easier and easier, until he would most likely be able to do it by second nature with any type of paper, no matter the composition.

Thunk. It was the same thing as the bow and string, both made of paper spun tight and altered. Analyze the materials, strengthen the base, alter the form, and utilize it to its fullest ability. Over and over, he did it until he ran out of strength.

Thwamp! Shinji would practice thoroughly after school and in the archery club, complaining that he could never match up with Emiya or Mitsuzuri. But that drove him forward, all to reach a goal that he would fire a thousand arrows at and then a thousand-and-one more to reach.

Sakura could only watch as he moved and shot arrow after arrow, touching the hair decoration that he gave her. It had a charm cast on it, supposedly working into his divination tracking spell that he had gotten working. Just one of the many leaps and bounds he grew by, next to working on a new Mystic Code and getting in touch with a craftsman who could make it—someone he called an opium smelling geezer.

A part of her recognized a change in his demeanor and actions. He was getting ready to fight an enemy and Sakura instinctively knew that it was her sister. The battle would likely kill one of them and leave the other near death or soon to follow.

His shikigami were becoming more deadly through the improving of their single-use curses and resistance to elements as he layered on fuwen after fuwen to deal with perceived weaknesses, making sure the overlapping didn’t cause unexpected results through miscalculations by trial-and-error. His medicines were designed to enhance his prowess in battle rather than keep him healthy and he seemed to be turning his body into a weapon. His tactics were designed to be harder to hit at a closer range, controlling the distance between him and his opponent.

Sakura didn’t want them to fight.

Haa…hah…ha…” Shinji panted as he reached for a different arrow than before. He filled it with his prana, sending it to the tip in a way to delay the activation until it hit. Drawing the paper-spun string back, he let it fly towards the log that had been pierced by dozens of arrows that night.

Snap! The ‘Snare Arrow’ instantly unfurled and then took on a claw shape as it came around and clamped down on the log like a bear trap, the addition of the ‘Seal of Restriction’ shenfu that was melded into the alteration and reinforcement at the blunt tip of the arrow. Taking a deep breath, he drew a final arrow and nocked it, lining up the shot and letting the arrow fly…

BLAM! And the ‘Explosive Arrow’ turned the log into splinters, rupturing it in a sudden expansion of pressure rather than heat.

Shinji staggered, clutching his chest and wheezing for the moment at the strain of using prana the entire time to strengthen his eyes and muscles after forming the arrows. It was done incrementally, so as to improve but not risk breaking his body apart. Progress was made, but his stamina was nowhere near enough to keep it up as long as he did.

Gack—” Blood escaped his mouth as he coughed violently, and the veins in his neck and temple became pronounced as the circuits appeared just under his skin, glowing with a luminous hue. He wavered on his feet, dropping the makeshift equipment carelessly.

“Nii-sama!” Sakura ran over and caught him before his legs gave out. He was looking paler again and blood was trickling down his lips. “Nii-sama, let’s go home. Your body can’t take anymore tonight.”

And so, Sakura escorted her brother back to their home. The elder was nowhere to be seen, perhaps off killing and pilfering someone else’s body for his own use. The pair made their way up to his Workshop, where a futon had been set up for him to lay on since he had begun spending more and more time there.

“Sakura,” Shinji pointed to the table that had his Chinese Alchemy materials. There were a variety of gourds, all hollowed out and corked off to be filled with his concoctions. She didn’t know what was in them, only that they would help him. “Hand me the yellow gourd.”

Sakura did just that and watched as he drank the contents down before sighing. His complexion still looked horrible and he seemed weary, all the excessive practice catching up to him. “You aren’t well. Should we have grandfather tell the school you won’t be coming tomorrow?”

“No, I’m going…” Shinji told her, taking another drink from the yellow gourd. “I’ve already missed more days than I’d like and being in this place alone all the time with the old worm would leave me feeling worse than before. Besides, Ayako needs me to help out with a couple of things.”

Sakura tilted her head at that. “Ayako…?”

“Mitsuzuri, I mean. Another member of the Archery Club from the same class as me and Emiya,” he said, his eyes going unfocused as the medicine took effect. “She’s a bit of a tomboy, but she helps out a lot. I owe her quite a bit. When you come to our school, you should join so that you can get know her and Emiya better.”

“He wouldn’t be interested in me,” Sakura said with her lowered, plum-colored hair hiding her eyes from his view. “Even if he was, I would only stain him like I did you.”

Sakura…” Shinji lowered his voice in a warning tone. He was tired of hearing her tear herself down.

“I’m so sorry, Nii-sama…” Sakura said, her hands tensing as teardrops started to stain her blouse. “Everything is my fault. I made you take on the Magic Circuit and your body suffered. I defiled you in order to maintain my own sanity. I—”

“ENOUGH!” Shinji barked, making her flinch. Taking a deep breath, he rubbed the bridge between his eyes. “Sakura, from the very beginning, none of this was your fault. I knew the consequences of my actions and still went through with it. I’m not doing this because I have to—I’m doing this because I want to.”

That’s right. This was the path that Shinji Matou decided to walk on. His uncle only told him to look after her, Shinji decided to free her. Even if he died, he would have no regrets as long as he accomplished his goal.

“And never let the old worm see you cry,” he said, before turning away from her on the futon and closing his eyes. “It’s what he wants.”

The Next Morning, Archery Club

What do you mean you’re putting two of the three freshmen in our place!?” One of two second-years exclaimed. They were meeting with the club president, who dropped this bombshell on them all of a sudden.

“They’re skilled enough,” the current club president said with a shrug. “I mean look at them. Emiya-kun hasn’t missed besides one time, which he called. Mitsuzuri-chan helps the other freshmen and is a natural. Matou-san has improved leaps and bounds, and from the muscle he’s building on his arms I can assume he’s been practicing in private as well, meaning he’s serious about this.”

Pointing an arrow at the gathered pair, she narrowed her eyes. “You two, on the other hand, are lazy. You take advantage of Emiya-kun whenever I assign you to clean up and haven’t even tried to improve. Those three are in here the earliest and leave the latest, making me grateful it’s a school competition with no grade-limit. My only regret is that Emiya turned me down because of he claimed to be busy that day.”

As the club captain walked off, the pair furrowed their eyes. The duo, Shinoa and Matsuri proceeded to hang back and discuss this turn of events.

“We got to get rid of them,” Shinoa said, fingering the bangs of her hair roughly to deal with the agitation. “I’m not going to deal with being known as the one who got replaced by newbies.”

“And how do you suggest we do that?” Matsuri asked with her voice flat. “If we touch them, we’ll be the ones in trouble. The sick one will probably keel over and the tomboy can probably take us both.”

“We just need to set them up,” Shinoa muttered as she looked at the pair. They seemed awfully close, the both of them practicing side-by-side. “The regulations say that if you get caught in a fight, break school propriety, or get caught doing something indecent then you’re suspended from club activities, meaning no competition.”

“You should know that last one,” Matsuri pointed out. “Didn’t you and your boyfriend get slapped with that penalty last year?”

Shinoa ignored her comment. “I happen to know that the tomboy has an overprotective younger brother since my little sister goes to school with him. If we work the angle right, we can get them both involved on all three accounts by the end of the day.”

After School Practice

“Line up the shot and focus on piercing through it,” Shinji told another freshman who joined up and still sucked. “Get it right this time or I’ll bring over a bunch of girls and have them laugh at you until you hit.”

“That had better not have been a legitimate threat,” Ayako warned. It was half-hearted, but she was addressing Shinji after all.

Shinji shrugged and pointed to the kid, who let the arrow fly. It hit the target near the edges. “It works. Besides, I wouldn’t waste the time and effort trying to corral enough people to humiliate him anyway. ”

Wiping the sweat from his brow, he took a deep breath and noted the change in Ayako’s expression as she looked at him closely. It was like she was inspecting glasswork, fragile enough to break apart with a touch. “See something you like? Look, but don’t touch.”

“You’re looking a bit pale today,” she said with concern, ignoring the obvious bait for a reaction. He often did that when he felt that someone was going to pity him for his heath. “You could have simply have skipped coming today. I could have gotten Emiya-kun to help.”

Shinji shook his head. “Emiya keeps himself busy and can’t really explain or motivate others in Archery. You said it yourself. He’s surpassed you from the beginning since it comes as naturally to him as breathing. You can’t teach someone something that comes so naturally, as you can’t teach a normal person to become a genius.

“Besides, how could I refuse a request for help from a woman like yourself?” Shinji said, laying on the charm. “Speaking of which, would you care to join me sometime for a meal at this lovely Italian restaurant?”

“Careful Matou-kun,” Ayako said with a raised eyebrow. “Your choice of words makes it sound like you’re trying to go on a date?”

“Well, I merely see it as taking you out for a nice dinner to repay all the help you’ve given me over the last few months.” He then gave her a small smug smirk. “But if you want it to be a date, then I’d accept. Not many could resist my charm for long, so it was only a matter of time anyway.”

She crossed her arms and leaned against a wall. “A wise guy, huh?”

“Only if you want me to be,” he replied. “I am serious about repaying you for everything. If eating out makes you uncomfortable it can be something else. Being in debt never sits well for me.”

“No, it might be good to eat out at a decent place every now and again…” Ayako scratched her head in thought. “But let’s focus on helping the others and winning the competition before anything else.”

“Agreed,” Shinji stated, before making his rounds. The duo continued until it was time for everyone to leave and stayed late to finish making the targets for the next day…

They were unaware that Shinoa made a certain call and Matsuri tampered with the lock to the door, jamming it. They left the school grounds and let things fall into motion, confident that the next day their positions would be secure.

So when Ayako tried to leave the club while Shinji was getting dressed in the changing room, she was surprised to learn it wouldn’t budge. She began beating against the door, hoping for someone to hear her. “Can someone out there hear me!?”

Luckily, one hero-in-the making was passing by. “What’s wrong?”

“The door won’t open!” Ayako told him.

The hammer of a gun went off as Shirou opened a circuit and used Structural Grasping to see the problem before closing it. Had Shinji been more sensitive to magic, a little closer, and less ill, he would have heard it rather than an almost non-existent buzz. “I see, something is jammed inside of it. I’ll need to run and get some supplies to undo the lock.”

As Shirou ran off to get his tools, another person had just entered the school grounds and made a beeline for the archery range, just as Shinji had approached her and learned the gist of everything.

“Nee-san, are you in there!?” the newcomer yelled.

Ayako blinked in confusion. “Minori?”

“Who?” Shinji asked.

“My younger brother,” she clarified. “He’s going to be attending next year.”

“Hold on, I got your message!” Minori said. “I’ll save you!”

“What message?” Ayako asked.

WHAM! The sound of wood starting to splinter came as Minori slammed his shoulder into the door. When it didn’t give, he got ready to take a running start for another one.

“Hey! Don’t break down the door!” Shirou said, reappearing with the needed tools and glaring at the split wood and damage.

He could fix it with magecraft later on, but the entire thing was starting to draw a crowd and if it was suddenly fixed there would be questions. He dropped his tools in order to stop him from doing any further damage. It devolved fairly quickly in Shirou having to avoid the boy’s panicked fist.

About five minutes later—after a struggle and a threat from Ayako—everyone was out and answers were needed.

“Minori!” Ayako barked, her tone serious as she crossed her arms and looked at her brother with a gaze that could petrify a gorgon. “What were you thinking trying to break down the door? Not to mention trying to fight Emiya when he attempted to stop you—in fact, why are you here now?”

“I got a message from Nee-san telling me that some guy named Shinji Matou was forcing her to do…things…”

Ayako was taken aback in disbelief. Composing herself and ridding her face of a subtle blush, she pointed to Shinji. “Does he look like he could force me into doing something like that?”

The boy took in the pale and blue-haired with white strands sprinkled about individual who looked as though a strong breeze could knock him over. He had no idea what this Shinji had looked like originally. His mind simply created false images of a beast ravaging his sister that made him drop his normally impassive face around her.

“Not physically…” he admitted a few seconds later. “But he could be taking advantage of your caring nature and guilting you into doing something…”

“Isn’t that a bit too much of a coincidence?” Shinji pointed out to the boy, ignoring the last response between the siblings. He could probably take them both and he knew it.

After all, since when was Shinji Matou known to fight fair if he had to? “I was locked into the club room with Mitsuzuri after hours with no one around, leaving people to wonder what happened. At the same time, you received a text from her phone claiming I was abusing her when she could just call the police or manhandle me herself.

“So you ran over to confront me on school grounds, where she would get into trouble by proxy because of you being aggressive, breaking school property, and attacking a student. If you broke the door open to get in or we broke it down to get out, then there was no way to prove that the lock malfunctioned before it was opened and at the very least the two of us would have been kicked out the club and forced to pay for damages. You probably wouldn’t be accepted to the school next year either.”

Shirou crossed his arms in thought. “You think it’s a set-up? That’s stretching it a bit…”

Shinji shook his head. “Mitsuzuri, check your phone to see the last time you texted your brother…”

She did just that. “It says about an hour ago. Roughly the same time the club let out and the others were changing while I was still practicing…I didn’t write any of this—it doesn’t even sound like something I’d write! Who would do this?”

“Probably those two we replaced for the upcoming tournament,” Shinji said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “Admittingly, there’s no way to prove this short of a confession.”

“I’ll confront them tomorrow about it,” Mitsuzuri sighed in annoyance. Being immature was one thing, but getting her brother involved was another.

“No, there’s no need for that,” Shinji stated. “I have a feeling they’ll both apologize to us and drop out of the club afterwards. As for the fact that there were damages to the school’s property, though negligible, I’ll speak with the principal about it and make sure no one here was to blame.”

“Shinji, you make it sound like you’re going to do some arm twisting behind the scenes…” Shirou looked at him carefully. “You should go home and rest so you get better. You’ll worry your sister otherwise.”

“I’d be more concerned about myself if I were you,” Shinji told him…before putting on a smug smile. “Taiga would have finished her work some time ago and be expecting dinner. Added to the fact that the Archery Club is under her supervision, this will most likely leave her unhappy and hungry. From what you’ve told me, you know what happens to those who deny a tiger their meal.”

“Crap…” Shirou sighed.

“Well, I’d better take this knucklehead home,” Ayako said while pointing her thumb to her brother. “I need to have a long to talk with him about picking fights and damaging property. As for what we’ll do tomorrow, we’ll see. Sorry for the trouble, Emiya-kun. Take care of yourself, Matou-kun.”

“Same, Mitsuzuri,” he said.

Then, once Shirou left, Shinji’s eyes narrowed and he went back inside the Archery Club. Since the uniforms were kept there, finding some stray strands of hair from the pair he was certain orchestrated this would be easy. From there, a simple tracking spell to find them and little chat would be in order…and hypnotism…and blackmail.

Shinji Matou was the worst person to have as your enemy, as they would soon learn.

At Shirou’s Home

Typically speaking, bad things happened when Shirou was late making Taiga dinner. And he was late tonight. On top of that, when she learned he was in a one-sided fight and there was damage to the club she was the supervisor of—meaning she’d get an earful later from the principal—she was less than pleased.

Which is why he found himself in the dojo at his home, holding a shinai and facing off against the angry tiger who wielding her favored weapon that craved blood. He’d heal quickly enough, sure. But pain was pain, dammit!

“Fuji-nee, you’re overdoing it tonight! Have mercy!” Shirou winced as he tried to stop the flurry of blows that rained down. “You’re a national-level kendoka! Isn’t going at it this hard a bit overkill?”

“Liar!” she yelled, delivering a blow to his side, thigh, and shoulder in short order. “You were holding back on me until now! I saw you copying me during that time at the Kendo Club!”

He narrowly blocked a blow and wheezed, “I was?”

“It was a little off, but otherwise fine!” Taiga let her blade do the rest of the talking, catching him in the ribs again and then the inner thigh to hit the soft meat there. She’d avoid the hands and arms; he needed those afterwards to cook for her.

“Ow! Seriously, Fuji-nee, at least use a normal shinai!” Shirou screamed without thinking. In his defense, pain loosened lips. “That thing has been cursed since you beat down an armed gunman with it!”

Taiga froze at hearing that, the blade just barely not striking his head. The sudden change from Tiger to suspicious was almost immediate and sudden enough to catch Shirou’s attention. “Fuji-nee?”

“Shirou,” she said in an eerily quiet manner. “How do you know that?”

“Huh?” Shirou said. His mind, on the other hand realized he let something important slip. That really happened?

“That I used this shinai against someone who shot my grandpa and…” Taiga shook her head at recalling what happened afterwards. There was a reason that her grandfather didn’t have her around during Yakuza business. “Did Kiritsugu tell you?”

“Y-yeah…” Shirou lied, seeing no way out of it without hypnotizing her.

Taiga…looked sad. “He promised he wouldn’t tell anyone…”

“Well, Dad was sick and knew he didn’t have long,” Shirou continued the lie, feeling worse and worse about dragging it out. “I was scared of only having you to watch over me, so he said that you were dependable, even if someone were to point a gun at me…”

“But what happened afterwards…” Taiga looked at the ground, tears starting to come out as she recalled her grandfather’s men opening fire and the blood that followed. So much blood, covering her from head to toe as she stared wide-eyed and froze. “He promised me…”

“Fuji-nee, look at me,” Shirou said, activating the circuits in his eyes to put her to sleep when she did. He caught her before she hit the floor and prepared to wipe the last few minutes from her memories. She would wake up feeling hungry and demanding dinner without thinking that Kiritsugu betrayed her trust. “Sorry about reminding you of something terrible.”

It was an honest mistake. He had thought the vivid images that flowed into him when he wielded the sword had just been a figment of his imagination. But it was actually in the history of it instead and he had been drawing from it on a subconscious level…

You were copying me fine during that match,” were the words Taiga said. He didn’t notice that either. Had he been drawing from the experience of the blade itself as well? Looking at Tora-Shinai, he decided to try a little experiment once Taiga had been fed and rested.

A Few Weeks Later…

Shinji frowned as he got dressed out of his archery clothing and made his way back to the crowd that had gathered in the aftermath of the tournament. He was aiming for top three at least, but barely made it past the top fifteen instead. In retrospect, he should have cheated and used his magecraft, but Rin Tohsaka was there to support Ayako and he couldn’t tip his hand just yet.

“Nii-sama, you did well,” Sakura consoled her brother after being allowed on the grounds to watch the match.

Ayako pitched in her opinion as well. “In a competition that size it’s amazing for someone who only started out so soon to score so high. Not many people could have managed that, so cheer up.”

He gave her a look of disbelief. “I don’t want to hear that from the person who got 5th place.”

“Well, it’s not like I wasn’t aiming for 1st,” she responded. There was a note of discontent since she really hated being not being on top during a competition. “Anyway, let’s just celebrate that we made a good showing.”

“Agreed!” Taiga jumped in unannounced. “Shirou will cook a celebration dinner for us doing so well!”

Shirou blinked. “Wait, what?”

Shinji saw and opportunity and took it. “Thanks for volunteering Emiya. You wouldn’t mind if Sakura joined us as well, would you?”

“No, but—”

Sakura fidgeted a bit. “I couldn’t impose on you all…”

“That’s fine, isn’t it?” Shinji nudged his sister. “You should get to know your future school mates better.”

Shirou scratched his head and sighed in defeat. Well, it wasn’t like he didn’t like cooking. “He’s right. Please come eat with us, Sakura-chan.”

Sakura felt as though her heart could stop in secretive delight. “Th-then I’ll look forward to your cooking, Emiya-senpai.”

“Senpai?” Shirou looked at Shinji at the term.

“Sakura will be coming here next term, so you’re her Senpai,” he told him, stating the obvious.

“Calling me Shirou would be fine as well,” he said without thinking.

“I can’t do such a thing!” Sakura said with a blush.

Shirou only noticed the red hue and asked if she was feeling well. His skull was so thick he failed to put together that it would be considered something intimate to call him by his first name.

Shinji only shook his head and sighed. He had pegged his friend as, well, an idiot and had long since grown used to it. Well, either way, it was a chance for him to try to get them closer.

With Rin

“Congratulations on your position,” Rin Tohsaka said to Ayako. But, while her mouth was moving, her eyes went passed her friend and instead darted to the plum-haired girl who was next to Shinji and the Fake Janitor.

As Rin watched her sister for the first time in years, she was filled with various emotions:

Guilt for abandoning her in the path of the Magi. Sorrow for losing a sister to share her now empty life with. Relief that she had a loving brother and happiness…and just a shade of envy that she lacked someone to confide in and cheer her as he did.

Not that she needed it. She was a Magus and walked the path of death. She didn’t need someone holding her hand, not even that fake priest.

She took the time to note the differences, such as how her hair was closer to Shinji’s palette, a plum-color to go with the blue of his family, minus the white in his hair. She supposed it was from their family craft, but she lacked intimate knowledge of the Matou arts.

As Ayako left to join the others at Taiga’s insistence, Rin walked the path alone to her home.

It had been enough to see her sister in good health.

At Shirou’s Home

Kiritsugu knew his way around bounded fields. He knew how to make them and how to break them. It was somewhat of a specialty of his.

So it was no surprise that despite the two Matou entering the one around his home they felt nothing.

As everyone else took a seat while Shirou cooked, Shinji arranged it so that Sakura had a seat to the left of where Shirou would be, while Taiga occupied the right side. He himself sat between Ayako and Issei, who came along for some reason or another at Shirou’s insistence.

Once in the kitchen, the knives sung a beautiful song as he worked his culinary magic and prepared a feast fit of a king. He had pride in his cooking. It was a pride so strong it would transcend death, he was sure.

It only took one bite to have everyone acknowledge his skills.

“Emiya-kun’s as good at cooking as he is Archery,” Ayako stated as she took a bite out of the food gathered onto her plate.

“His diligence shows,” Issei agreed.

Sakura covered her mouth in amazement. “Senpai, this is amazing…”

He’s moving in when he and Sakura gets together, Shinji thought. Even he couldn’t deny the workings of Emiya’s skill in the kitchen. He’s handy with a wrench and a knife, some formal training and he’d be the perfect butler.

As the meal went mostly silent from then on until everyone had cleaned their plates and had seconds, Ayako looked around at the Japanese-style mansion and made small talk. “I’ve gotta say I’m surprised Emiya-kun has such a big home. I always imagined you were the hard working type that dwelled in a more modest abode.”

Shirou snorted. “You should see where Shinji and Sakura live. Fuji-nee had me bring his homework over one night he was sick and I saw they had a manor in the foreign homes district. Besides, I’m not wealthy or anything and I make my own money from working, this was my father’s before he passed away.”

You’re lucky the old worm was away at the time, Shinji thought. The last thing he wanted was for someone like Emiya to meet his grandfather. He had a feeling Sakura felt the same way.

“It is lucky you did not meet that fox woman along the way,” Issei stated while thinking on the subject. “Their residence is listed close to the Tohsaka residence as well.”

“We’re one of the oldest families in Fuyuki along with the Tohsaka, so naturally we’d live close to one another,” Shinji said, his tone hiding his emotions when Rin’s family was mentioned. Suddenly he felt a kinship with the man who seemed to be wary of her. “Anyway, it’s true we have some wealth, but we don’t see the need to flaunt it. Carelessly wasting money will only leave debt and regrets.”

Issei nodded. “You’re surprisingly frugal. It is refreshing that one of such a background would think like that.”

“I have my aunt to thank for that,” Shinji stated. Fang Yin had started out from nothing and pounded it into him that wasteful spending wasn’t tolerated in the time he lived there. “I won’t make the same mistakes my father did…that being said, I do allow myself to indulge a little occasionally for company or to repay favors.”

Ayako noticed his eyes wandering over to her. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

Issei gave him a look of warning. “Then you should be cautious. There are many who would take advantage of someone with such standing. I have heard whispers after your donation to the Archery Club.”

Sakura tilted her head slighty in confusion. “What donation?”

“It’s nothing,” Shinji said.

Taiga begged to differ. “Shinji-kun, you’re so modest. I thought you would have at least told Ayako-chan and Shirou that you paid to have the equipment replaced.”

Shinji shook his head. To be honest, he had done it so that the incident involving her brother would be swept under the rug. Money had its own magic after all. “Like I said, it was nothing.”

He then returned a gaze to Issei. “Anyway, I’m not foolish enough to let myself fall for the fake charms being doled out by the girls in class.” As an afterthought he mentally added, Mind you, I’m not above taking advantage of it.

The after-dinner chat continued on after that, the conversation light as they exchanged pleasantries…blissfully unaware of the wheels that were turning the background.

This would be one of the few times everything was peaceful as the Greater Grail beneath the city began to awaken and the die of fate was cast. Even now, despite the oddity of the war itself starting soon, a call was being made to secure the Matou’s place in the war.

In China

Fang Yin frowned as she answered her phone, only to learn who was on the other end. “What do you want, you old worm.”

“Now, now, is that anyway to speak to your nephew’s grandfather?” Zouken’s voice made her skin crawl. “You should be more grateful. After all, you were only able to carve out a living thanks to the money the Matou contributed to you.”

“Get to the point or I will hang up,” she snarled.

“The Holy Grail War will be starting sooner than before,” Zouken said, skipping to the point. “The summoning catalyst I need resides in your country, and I have no doubt you would have some contacts capable of finding it.”

Fang Yin scoffed. “Why should I help you?”

“The grail will choose a Matou, as it always has, and while the girl will be the most likely choice I know that the boy will fight in her place regardless,” he stated. “Considering he will take to the battlefield, I merely wish to secure a higher chance of their continued survival by ensuring he has a Servant capable of lasting in battle…unless you wish to lose your last link to your sister.”

Fang Yin growled silently in agreement. That year together had given her a soft spot for the brat. She should have known he would take advantage of it. “State your terms.”

“You will retrieve the artifact I require,” Zouken continued. “I am willing to pay any price and you shall be compensated as well. Get in touch with whomever you need, but tell no one of why you are seeking it. You have a year at the longest…”

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