Published: Aug. 30, 2020.
Kiritsugu takes her to the sea.
september 17, 2020.
hello! i normally do not edit my fics after posting, but i felt i should have spent more time editing on this one, and so, i have made some changes, primarily to the latter half (and especially the final scene). nothing major, but enough i felt i should leave a note!
Winter snow below and grey sky above, it is in this monochrome world Kiritsugu promises her. His ungloved hand shivers in hers from the wind's chilly bite, and she soothes a temperature-regulated thumb over his skin, lets a nail catch on his wedding band. Shadowed enigma finds a home in the forest encircling the castle and stretches out far beyond her sight.
Irisviel von Einzbern is a terribly minor existence. An entire globe, a grand scale, and what she knows is this winter-locked castle.
He expands her, sketches in the edges of her knowledge with his stories until she dwells on a wholly novel plane. How she wishes she might see it: her shoulder jostled in a crowded city street, her toes dipped in saltwater, her flesh scabbed over in a sunburn.
A beautiful dream. To be beside him is enough, more than she ever imagined.
One day, he tells her. One day, he'll take her to see it all. Not to endure a slow degradation and die, but to see and feel and experience--purely for her pleasure.
She smiles, only smiles in her response.
She loves him for his kind intent.
It comes together slow, behind-her-back preparations and negotiations, and even once the curtain draws up on his act, he doesn't speak his plan to her face and nor does she ask him. She leaves it be and relishes simply in what a beautiful dream he desires.
Yes. A beautiful dream.
Illuminated by the gentle glow of sunrise, Kiritsugu awakens her with a nudge of the shoulder and a whisper of her name. He smoothes a palm over Illya's hair as she whines in her mother's arms. Irisviel smiles to herself, murmurs calm to Illya, and closes her eyes to absorb the moment, almost picturesque in its sweetness.
An obvious conclusion sits before Irisviel as her husband ushers her and their daughter up and dressed, yet she dampens any aroused hopes. The very concept of "more" tantalizes her; sanity would be the sacrifice were she to embrace it rather than content herself with what she has. She possesses more than she ever had any right to ask.
Kiritsugu takes her to the sea.
Disbelief floods her, overloads her so that she laughs as she weeps and her husband regards her with concern. Nothing is wrong, she assures him and pulls him after her, so hasty that he stumbles to keep apace. The air outside tastes brisk, and Irisviel gulps it down, mouth beginning to hurt from her smile. She wants to go, leave before this too-lovely reality crumbles to ash because it will, it can, it could at any possible moment.
No one stops them.
Her grandfather begrudgingly passes a set of keys to Kiritsugu, and the borrowed car thrums beneath her. The castle looms large then shrinks and shrinks as they drive, a pinprick so insignificant Irisviel could block it with a closed eye and a well-positioned thumb, then--nothing. No matter how she angles herself, she can't catch a glimpse of even its highest point. The horizon spreads out ahead, and she smiles.
Illya's curiosity matches her mother's. Her handprints cover the window she sits buckled beside. Her commentary flows free and constant: "Kiritsugu, what is that?" "Whoooa, so short! Do they not all grow like at home?" "Open the window, Kiritsugu! Kiritsugu! Mama, make him!"
A sigh, a look aside, and oh, her, wonderful husband succeeds only in opening himself to an assault rather than aid. Her stare, pointed. Her references, blunt. Irisviel is an unexpected ally in her daughter's quest to stop and sightsee every little thing, from gas stations to that one peculiarly garbed individual. Mother to daughter, neither's piqued interest is lesser, but Irisviel underlines her with an ulterior motive.
The combined pressure nets a win. Kiritsugu pulls them over well before lunch, and Illya, struggling with her seatbelt, demands to roam what Kiritsugu swears is the most dull and average downtown sidewalk. Irisviel remains in the car as Illya charges over to gawk at televisions in a window display. Her rebellion meets its defeat against the ultimate defense: her father's advantage in size. He scoops her up in a single arm and endures her counterattack of tiny fists and complaints. The seatbelt, that foe of foes, imprisons Illya once more, her father playing along with grave apologies.
And he looks up from the back to Irisviel smiling in the driver's seat. The resignation he wears makes Irisviel's heart swollen. She loves him--ah, she loves him so much.
They make it fifteen minutes before Kiritsugu all but pleads to take back over, Illya clapping and her hat askew from the whiplash. Irisviel laughs. It might have been a bit close there, but her reflexes are good, right? Kiritsugu should be proud to have taught her so well. (They agree to disagree on her driving technique over a meal at a restaurant full of curious locals while Illya amuses herself with a growing hoard of brochures.)
Germany fades into memory. The road winds and weaves through the Alps, and Illya bemoans how much more exciting it could be if Mama drove. Irisviel rolls down a window and leans out to meet the onrush of wind, her curtain of white hair blown back. She whoops to Kiritsugu's bemusement and Illya's imitation, and she laughs. The wind hides her tears well.
Excitement tempers itself for the remainder of the drive. Illya drifts off, a hint of drool dripping from the corner of her mouth. Kiritsugu fiddles with the radio and drums along on the steering wheel to an unfamiliar song. Irisviel amuses herself doing this and that, and anxiety coils tighter and tighter in her.
It's the culmination of her dreams, and it hurts her to admit that even now, she fears it will all dissipate before her. It should be inevitable. She is Irisviel von Einzbern, a vessel for the Holy Grail created with sufficient survival instincts to protect her precious cargo. She shouldn't have left her home for anything other than the tolling of her death knell.
Yet, here she sits. In a vehicle driven by her husband. Far over the border from even her birth nation.
The castle disappeared into the dark, but the sea emerges in a glittering sprawl in the late-day sun. She bites her tongue; she won't cry again and worry Kiritsugu.
They park in a lot beside the beach. Kiritsugu unbuckles Illya and pursues her at a casual pace as she sprints forward to the water's edge. Irisviel sits for a long moment, then quietly exits the car. Illya toes at the Mediterranean, experimental, and cries aloud before throwing her shoes aside to run into its cool waters up to her knees. She yelps then laughs when she sights a fish, and Kiritsugu sighs fond and calls for her to be careful.
The sand yields soft under her shoes, and Irisviel's eyes are wide in absorption of the sunset. Kiritsugu greets her with an arm snaked around her waist, anchoring her to his side, and the pressure to cry weighs on her. He quirks an eyebrow, and she leans in too hard against him.
She loves them. Kiritsugu gave her purpose. Illya gave her hope.
But a dream cannot last forever.
The sky dims, darker and darker, and the sun retreats to hover high above, an afternoon constellation in a nighttime sky. It is a terrible, portentous white portal against a black heaven. Irisviel closes her eyes, feels Kiritsugu's warmth and hears Illya's playtime.
Kiritsugu did promise her once. She loves him for it.
Kiritsugu gave her everything he could. She loves him for it.
Kiritsugu and she made Illya. And she loves nothing more than her daughter.
Irisviel understands that the purpose of life is in the meaning imbued. Kiritsugu taught her that. She feels it more than ever in this extended moment, in having her family alive and smiling and near.
She opens herself back to how things are. Illya is gone, Kiritsugu is gone, and Irisviel stands alone on a stark beach. The white sun reflects on an inky sea.
The black tide washes out.
It's a beautiful dream.
Irisviel lies on cold concrete. Her tired eyes creak open to parse the darkness, and there, in the faint light, is a hastily scrawled magic circle enclosing her body, preserving the dregs of her strength as she slips in and out of consciousness.
The grail in her is awakened, and it hooks its claws into her flesh, ready to fashion a skin from her existence. She can feel its heavy presence imposed on the back of her eyes. It lurks deep in her, a trap just about ready to be sprung.
The Holy Grail will manifest, and Irisviel von Einzbern will cease.
Yet, still, she finds it in her to condescend the fool that is Kotomine Kirei. He thinks he can comprehend Emiya Kiritsugu? He thinks he might know her husband better than she? She smiles in pained malice and laughs at his burgeoning fury. Violence waits with desperation under his flesh; this man cannot conceive of the gentleness of her husband, of the sweetness he shows her and Illya, of the deep empathy that cripples him even now.
Kotomine snaps her neck. Irisviel dies so the grail can take her.
But, she laughs the last laugh. Kiritsugu will walk away the victor, and it shall be his beautiful dream the world inherits. He cannot show Irisviel the sea, but he will show Illya.