Part 332: Cute girl / Distant twilight (I}
The shed is the only spot that has a good view of Sakura's room, is concealed, and is unoccupied.
"Are you here, Rider?"
I call out to the empty shed.
"I am standing by. Do you need something, Shirou?"
Rider must've been in spirit form, as she suddenly appears.
Music: Tender Scenery
I came to greet her, but I get tense when I actually stand face to face with her.
I don't care about Rider's personality to keep everyone distant from her, but as a guy, her overexposing outfit is troublesome.
" I asked you if you had any business."
"Oh, no. I really don't have any. I haven't greeted you today, so I just wanted to say good morning."
"I see. You must have a lot of free time."
Her response is direct.
But this is within my expectations. This is actually easier for me to handle because this is what I expect from Rider.
"Yeah, I'm bored. I have some free time, so I'm just walking around. Are you guarding Sakura from here?"
"Yes. I am Sakura's Servant.
I will not protect you or Tohsaka Rin unless she gives me an order to do so."
"Really? I'm glad to hear you say that."
I sigh with relief.
I was worried, but it seems Sakura isn't pushing herself.
"No, this is about you, so you should be able to answer.
Emiya Shirou. I do not understand your previous statement.
I refused to be your guard. How can you call that a good thing?"
"Huh? Oh, that's your question?
I'm sure I'd sleep better with knowing you were guarding me, but I'm a guy, and guys are supposed to protect themselves.
Tohsaka is well, I'm sure she would deal with anything that came her way."
" You are going to protect yourself with that body of yours? It only sounds like a bluff to me."
"It is. We're the weaker ones, so we'll lose unless we bluff.
Well, to be honest, I can't help but feel uneasy. But I still want you to keep this stance. It will tire Sakura if you move around. I don't want Sakura to use any more magical energy."
"I see. Moving about will certainly burden her.
I burden her just by taking form. So you do not want me to take on excess work?"
"Right. I just want you to protect Sakura.
And if I ever get killed, can you protect Ilya as well?"
" How convenient of you. You know I am a burden, but you want to rely on me in the worst case?"
"Yeah Is that asking too much?"
Rider doesn't answer.
Her blindfolded eyes stare directly at me.
"Um why not make a deal? I'll definitely help you if you're in danger. It's give and take, so can you take Ilya into account as well?"
"I cannot respond to that. There is a high probability that you would already be dead if I were in danger. Your proposal is not attractive."
"Gah. You're right. It's meaningless if I'm dead before you're in danger. Oh, I'm sorry. I was really being convenient."
"Geez. You really are unreliable."
"Huh? Did you say something, Rider?"
"Yes. I said I will consider your proposal. If you save me when I am in danger, I shall definitely do as you wish. Is that all right, Shirou?"
"Ohreally !? I was being really convenient, you know!?"
"This is reasonable. It is only if you save me first."
Um, I'm glad that Rider accepted my proposal, but, more than that
"No. There was nothing to be happy about, so there is no reason to smile."
"But you were smiling, even if there wasn't a reason. It was really subtle, so I almost didn't catch it."
"That is not possible. You are mistaken as I am denying the fact."
Hmm, now that she mentions it, maybe she's right.
Hm The air is getting strangely tense now.
I was going to go back to the main building, but I'm concerned about Rider.
She's silent and cold like always, but it seems like she has something she wants to say.
The air gets tense as if we're facing off.
I know this is abrupt, but Rider is tall.
Long hair, slender limbs
I've only seen it once, but her face under the mask was beautiful.
Tohsaka and Sakura are beautiful too, but Rider has an entirely different sort of beauty.
"Do you have a question, Shirou?"
"Huh? Oh, it's not much of a question, but can I ask it?"
"I do not mind. What is it?"
"Okay. You're tall, Rider. Exactly how tall are you?"
I ask her straight-out.
Why is she backing up?
" All right. So, how tall are you? You're taller than me, so you must be over 170."
"I-I will not answer that question. Please ask me something different."
"You won't answer? You don't know how tall you are?"
"N-No, that is not the case. Regardless, please ask me something different. I will be angry if you persist in this."
Rider is obviously disturbed.
The usually cool Rider is flustered, so could it mean that
"Rider. Are you self-conscious about your height?"
It seems I guessed right.
We both shut our mouths.
She must not be able to bear the silence
"Huh? No, I was just wondering why, and not because I found it strange. Why does it bother you?"
" Is it not obvious? A tall woman like me is unsightly, unattractive"
"Why? It's good-looking."
Actually, she's asking too much.
I want her height. Really.
And silence again.
It finally occurs to me that I could be distracting her from guard duty.
"Um. Am I bothering you, Rider?"
" Yes. I am hiding in preparation for Matou Zouken's surprise attack. However, it will do little good if you are talking to me like this."
"Right. Then I'll be going back now. I'm sorry I bothered you."
"Ohhold on, Shirou."
She stops me, and I turn around for a second time.
Rider bites her lip in annoyance, then
"If you have free time, please go nurse Sakura. It really matters to Sakura if you are there with her or not."
"Oh you're right, I'll go right away. Sakura pushes herself when I'm not watching. I'll go see if she's really resting or not."
"Oh. That's right. I remember why I came here."
I turn to Rider for the third time.
"W-What is it, Shirou?"
"Good morning, Rider. I haven't greeted you yet, right?"
It'd just be stupid if I forgot to greet her when this is the whole reason I came here.
Rider regains her composure and looks down at me coldly.
"You waste effort on useless matters. It is too late for a morning greeting. It is already after noon."
"Ugh, I'm sorry. I honestly forgot about you until just now."
"I thought as much. Please take better care in the future.
And please forget what I said earlier."
" ? What do you mean?"
"How you must think I am a nuisance. I misunderstood you, so I take it back."
"I don't think you're a nuisance."
"I understand that. I would expect no less from a person who comes out to greet me."
"Oh, Senpai ?"
I hear a sluggish voice.
"Oh, please hold on. I'll get changed right away !"
She must've been sleeping, and now she's scrambling to meet me.
After two minutes
Music: Tender Scenery
"Oh okay, excuse me."
I suddenly get nervous that I'm about to enter a girl's room.
I've been here before, but the situation is different.
Sakura wasn't conscious back then, but now she's opening the door and inviting me in.
"So, is anything wrong, Senpai? I was sleeping, so I don't know if anything went on."
"Oh, it's nothing like that. I didn't come here because something happened. I just came because I was worried that you weren't resting properly but"
It seems I woke her up as a result.
"Yeah. I'm sorry for waking you up. You should know about your own body. You wouldn't push yourself and move around if you're sick. It seems I was caring excessively."
I contemplate my actions.
But Sakura starts laughing.
" Ugh. I'm worrying too much?"
"No, that's not true. You're pretty sharp.
To be honest, I wanted to continue cleaning.
I was thinking about sneaking out if you didn't come."
"Whoa sneak out?"
"Yes. I didn't want to rest when I feel fine because it makes me feel like I'm sick. So I wanted to act normal, in spite of what you told me.
But Nee-san got mad and told me not to be foolish.
She said it's a bother to you two if I push myself and collapse."
We stopped Sakura from doing the laundry after lunch.
She wouldn't listen to me, but when I was wondering how to convince her, Tohsaka came to help.
But it wasn't anything nice
"If you collapse, we'll have to kill you."
As her harsh words would indicate.
"Aw, she threatened to kill me. How precious."
Sakura sounds happy.
She knows that Tohsaka cares about her, no matter what she said.
She only gives death threats to people she likes.
"Then you have to rest.
No matter what you may think, your body's tired. Tohsaka and I can go outside without worries if you're resting like this."
" You're right. But I'm really healthy. I'm just not feeling well right now, and I'll be back to normal tomorrow. This is just like that cold, and I'll get over it in a day."
" You idiot. I know I'm not one to talk after I woke you up, but you should rest. Sleep, if you can.
I'll come wake you up for dinner, so you just relax until then."
I get up to leave.
Sakura grabs my shirt.
"UmI'm going to sleep like you told me to, but
Um, It'll make me happy if you're by my side."
Sakura rarely demands something.
She must not want to burden others, so she tries to do most things by herself.
But Sakura is asking something from me right now.
Well, this is nothing, but it must be the most selfish thing she can think of.
That's why she looks so uneasy.
I'll do any favor she asks of me, but she only asks trivial things like this.
"Okay. Then I'll stay here a bit longer."
I suppress my urge to embrace Sakura and manage to tell her.
"All right! Then I'm going to go brew some tea! I'll treat you the best Chinese tea!"
Sakura heads to the door in a hurry.
"Hold on. I'll brew the tea, so you stay in bed. You're putting the cart before the horse."
"Oh Y-You're right. I'm acting strange."
Sakura hurries back to her bed.
I pat her head as I pass by and go to brew us some tea.
Music: Gentle Everyday
This situation is more nerve-wracking than I thought.
I'm alone with Sakura.
She's right before my eyes, and I can see her bare neck and her captivating breasts.
That alone, umreminds me of what happened that night, and I don't know where to look.
"But to be honest I knew you liked Nee-san. Because you're always so happy in front of her."
So everything Sakura says goes over my head.
I'll lose control if I look at her too closely.
I'm a man, you know?
Recalling what happened that night makes me want to push her down and get a taste of her body again.
Um, do you not like girls with big breasts?"
I take a deep breath and calm myself down.
I can't push her down when she's not feeling wellwait, having sex with her will help her.
Then it's not bad.
It's not bad, but
That's right! Tohsaka is next door, first of all!
They'll notice right away if I do such a thing, so I'm sure they'll look down on me for doing it so early in the day
" Wait, Sakura ? Um, did I do something to make you angry?"
Realizing that Sakura is unhappy, I come back to the real world.
" Um, I said something very suggestive. You weren't listening, though."
"Ugh I'm sorry. I was spaced out. Um, I think we were talking about Tohsaka "
Disappointment so potent you could bottle it.
"Yes. We were talking about Nee-san. I was asking if you're happy now that Nee-san's staying here."
I was asking Sakura about our situation.
"So how is it? You like Tohsaka, right? So doesn't this make you happy?"
" Yes, it is delightful. But I'm also feeling uneasy. Nee-san is my ideal, and she has many things I could not obtain. That's why I want to look away when she's near me, and I can't be honestly delighted.
It feels like I'm being condemned by Nee-san and myself for what I'm doing."
I can understand Sakura's point.
It's painful to have your ideal in front of you because it makes you feel inferior.
Well, I do understand, but
I ask timidly.
Tohsaka might punch me if she was here.
"Yes. I've always wanted to be like Nee-san. Oh, it's not as a magus, but as a girl.
Nee-san can do anything, and she's always dignified. I want to be as cool as her."
Sakura sounds happy.
I hate to admit it, but Tohsaka certainly is cool.
She's really manly in the sense that she takes responsibility for what she says.
" I see. But you couldn't see Tohsaka until now, right? Something about the agreement between the two families. So how do you know about her?"
"You can't help but wonder.
Nee-san and I don't remember about when we were small.
It was so long ago.
But we both knew that we were sisters."
"That's why we were more interested, and we watched each other from afar.
We never sat down and talked, but I heard a lot of rumors about Tohsaka-Senpai, who was a year ahead of me."
"Oh. You must mean the rumor that she's a perfect honor student.
Now that you mention it, you never run out of things to talk about her since she's famous."
She would often greet me at school and come watch the archery club."
" And I would always think at those times. That I'm content that she's watching me. I'm happy that she's worried about me, and I knew she would hate me if I ask for more."
" ? Why would she hate you?"
" My magic is not like Nee-san's. There is no set limitation on how you use your magic.
Senpai's magic is to accomplish something and to create a phenomenon. There is no restricted goal set from the start."
"Hm You're right. Strengthening is one of the only things I can do, but you can use a strengthened object to do all sorts of things."
" But the Matou magic is different. Matou's magic is limited to 'stealing away from others'.
There is no other use for it. It only feeds on other people's pain, and there is no teaching to return their happiness."
I can't just nod in response to that.
I don't know what kind of magic she was taught at the Matou household.
The magic she was taught is a heresy, and Sakura is ashamed of it.
The problem between Sakura and Tohsaka is the difference in their family's magic.
The more Sakura hates the magic of Matou, the more self-loathing she feels
Sakura looks up and starts talking like Tohsaka.
"I don't like it or hate it. I just couldn't live without it.
I was adopted by the Matou family for that reason alone. If I hadn't been able to succeed them, I would have died."
Music: Madder Red Town
"Oh, please don't make a face like that. The teaching was certainly strict, but it wasn't as tough as you may think."
Phh, it's just death. No big deal.
"And if you want to talk about strictness, it's not even close to your training.
I'm fine with getting hurt by others, but I'm scared of hurting myself.
I want to live, so I can't end it myself.
I don't mind other people cutting my wrist, but I'm scared to cut it myself."
That explains a lot.
"But you can do either. Um, I've seen your nightly training.
I-It was only once, though. I forgot something here, came back, heard something in the shed, and went to check it out."
Sakura bows her head in apology.
But I don't want her apologizing for something like that.
"No, you don't have to apologize. That's carelessness on my side. I'm a failure as a magus if I can't notice the presence around me."
"More importantly, when was that? Was it right after you started coming here?"
I really hope so.
I'm improving, even though it may be really slowly.
If I didn't notice Sakura's presence recently, that means I haven't improved at all.
"I see, that's good."
I sigh with relief.
I guess I can excuse myself if it was half a year ago.
" So, um, Sakura. Well, what did you think?"
She's the first person besides Kiritsugu who saw me training in magic.
I practiced in front of Tohsaka these past few days, but that's different from the training I do in the shed.
So Sakura's opinion is like a test.
Sakura is Matou's magus, so I might be able to get a good score
"Umm. I guess I'll use my right to remain silent. I'm not Nee-san, but it'd be terrible if I put a score on it."
"Ughdoes that mean I got a failing score?"
"Ahaha, you can say it's a really bad failing score."
Fail? No, that would be a compliment for what you did.
Sakura doesn't seem similar to her sister, but she actually is.
"But Senpai. That's the only time I saw it. No, I couldn't see it again because I was too scared."
" ? Too scared ?"
Your training isn't normal. It looked to me like you were stabbing your own throat. It's not that I imagined it, but it really did look that way. Your training was that dangerous."
I understand what Sakura wants to say.
Creating a Magic Circuit is close to death for me.
My body would explode if the concentration in me is off by a few millimeters.
But isn't that an ordinary compensation for a magus?
Kiritsugu was the one who told me that death is a magus' constant companion.
"Really? I hear that it's like that for all magi. Maybe it looks dangerous for me because I'm unskilled."
"You're wrong. It's not a question of skill. First of all, you're special in that you can use magic when you don't have the talent.
Magic is not something you use, but something you teach the body. No magus creates a new Magic Circuit for each spell the way you do."
"I'm talking about the final result.
Every night, you did something that could kill you. Nobody forced you, and you didn't get anything out of it. But you stubbornly continued."
That's our boy.
" I think that's something even Nee-san can't do.
You follow through on what you've decided until the very end, regardless of whether it's right or not. So you're probably the strongest one out of all of us."
I-It's really embarrassing if you say something like that with a straight face.
"YYou idiot, I'm not giving you anything, not even if you flatter me!
F-First of all, Tohsaka's the strong one! A-And I don't know what kind of a magus you are, but you're the successor of Matou, and you also have Rider !"
"No, you are strong, Senpai. It's not because of your Magic Circuit or your talent, but because your mind is pure.
"Unlike my filthy, tainted- oh god end iiiiit!"
I knew that from the very first time I met you.
I knew you would never betray anyone."
I don't know how to respond when she talks seriously like that.
" Thanks. I'm glad you said that, even if you're just flattering me."
I'm embarrassed, but I tell her how I feel.
Smiles happily and looks straight at me.
This is bad.
The distracting thoughts I shook off earlier will return if she makes a face like that.
" Um, I guess I'll get going now. You're sleepy too, right? There's always tonight, so you should rest well in the afternoon."
I cough intentionally.
"Tonight. You know sports night."
I look to the wall to Tohsaka and Ilya on the other side.
She must understand how I feel, as she blushes and starts muttering.
I bet I look like that too.
"Then I'm going back to my room. I'll come get you when it's dinnertime."
"Ohplease hold on, Senpai !"
" ? What is it?"
"U-Um I'd be really happy if you could stay here until I fall asleep "
I bitterly smile at her intermittent words.
Actually, it's something I want to ask her if I can.
She's so timid that she probably doesn't even know how much I've fallen for her.
"Okay. I'll stay here if I'm not a bother. I'll go after you fall asleep. Is that fine?"
"O-Of course! I'll do my best to stay up!"
I'm glad you're saying that, but that defeats the whole point.
Sakura suddenly falls silent once she lies down.
She must've been tired. It looks like she suddenly got sleepy once she laid down.
"But Senpai. I'll get well if I rest today, but what about your arm?"
She must have no intention of going to sleep, as Sakura keeps talking.
It's just a flesh wound.
"My arm is doing fine. It doesn't hurt as long as I keep this cloth on, and it's slowly starting to move. At this pace, I'm sure it'll move fine by tomorrow."
"That's good. It's been a while since Nee-san treated it, right? It looked like it was just first-aid, so I thought the effect might've worn off."
Sakura smiles with relief.
". What do you mean, it's been a while?"
"Nee-san's at fault too. She's free to transfer her crest, but the Tohsaka's Magic Crest will never familiarize itself with anyone not from the Tohsaka family. She should know it was just a makeshift that won't even last seven days."
Sakura says it like it's nothing.
"Won't even last seven days ?"
It sounds very out of place.
"Yeah. It's about to wear off, so you have to get properly treated. My magic can't solve the root problem, so I'll ask Rider if she has any good ideas"
Sakura looks sleepy.
So pleasekeep watch and be on your guard against me.