Story: The Sword and the Staff (chapter 18)

Authors: bleeding.blade

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Chapter 18

Title: Chapter 17

"You can decipher it, can't you?"

Rin looked up from where she'd been observing the Unbinding and saw the Lady peering intently at her. She hesitated briefly.

"It's different from any kind of magic I've seen before, and it's been mostly opaque to me these last few days. But, yes, I think I'm beginning to read it now."

The Sorceress nodded. "It's True Magic, child. And if you can read it, then you have the Gift for it as well."

Rin shook her head firmly. "Impossible. In my world, only fragments of True Magic remain—no one exists with the capacity to generate it anymore."

"It's in your blood, child, and your blood's beginning to awaken." The Lady looked at her again for a long moment. "Are you aware of your lineage, Mage Rin?"

Rin nodded. "I come from a long line of distinguished mages. The Tohsakas have practiced magic for generations and we've continuously expanded our capabilities and refined our techniques."

"I see," the Lady smiled. "In any case," she sighed, "that was the last of the Seals holding Excalibur to Avalon. When it fully vanishes, you and Arturia will be able to leave."

Rin nodded and rose to her feet. She was surprised by the pang of disappointment that lanced through her chest. Over the last few days, she had grown considerably attached to the older woman. For some reason, she reminded Rin of the Council Master.

"I should tell Arturia then," she told the Sorceress. "I think she'll want as much time as possible to say her goodbyes."

"True enough," the Lady conceded, "though by taking the Sword, she's taking Avalon's soul with her. Meaning—there's far less for her to say goodbye to than there was when you first arrived."

Rin smiled. "I think that'll comfort her immensely." She was already at the doorway when the Sorceress called her back.

"Mage Rin?"

"Yes, my Lady?"

"If Arturia needs additional comforting," the Sorceress said with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, "I'm sure that it's something within the bounds of your ‘capabilities' and ‘techniques' to provide."

It took a long time after she'd left for the flush on her cheeks to vanish. "She definitely reminds me of the Council Master," Rin muttered. Then she shook her head and hastened her search for Saber. The time to return to the future had finally come.


She was on the balcony, looking at the constellations above the Lake for the final time, when a quiet voice interrupted her thoughts.

"You know, when the Council sent me on this mission, I never expected that its most difficult task would be finding the will to return."

Saber turned to look at the raven-haired girl who had joined her at the railing. The wistfulness of the Mage's admission was surprising—and touching. Saber smiled.

"You feel at home here, don't you?"

"I do," Rin admitted. "Though I can't explain why or how. And if it's hard for me, a stranger, how much harder should it be for you?"

Saber only smiled in response, though the tearing sensation in her chest had hardly abated since Rin had first told her that they could now leave. They spent a few moments in companionable silence before the Mage spoke again.

"Anyway, Lady Viviane gave us both a parting gift." She withdrew to their room and returned a few moments later with a flagon and two goblets.

Saber recognized the liquid immediately and laughed. "The apple cider of Avalon...I haven't had any since I was a child."

"Legend has it that it has miraculous properties," Rin nodded with a smile. "Though, come to think of it, the legends tend to ascribe miraculous properties to anything that comes from Avalon."

"It was always very good," Saber conceded. "Avalon is the Isle of Apples after all. And," she added with a wistful smile, "all the times I had it were happy times, when there was just me, Viviane and Merlin..."

Rin smiled gently and handed her a glass. "Well, here's to one more memory then."

They must have sat there on the balcony for over an hour, slowly consuming the flagon's contents, when the Mage spoke again.

"Is it just me and my lack of tolerance, or is the cider here particularly strong?"

Saber shook her head and smiled. "No...It is much stronger than I remember it to be." She looked at the Mage then, and without quite realizing what she was doing, reached out and ran a thumb over the raven-haired beauty's lips.

"So soft..." she whispered.

Then without quite knowing how it happened, they were suddenly in each other's arms, and it shocked Saber to realize how badly she'd wanted it to happen. She didn't understand where the sudden, blinding, desperate need had come from and why she only felt it in the Mage's presence. She was drowning in a sea of sensations and her only coherent thought was the urge to touch Rin's flesh.

Looking up, she could see her own confusion mirrored in the Mage's sapphire eyes; see her bewilderment—and her desire. She watched Rin raise a slender hand and place it on the collar of her dress. That hand, always so firm and steady, trembled. Those eyes, always so firm and commanding, asked her a question.

Saber responded by dropping her cloak. She had no need of its warmth for the rest of that cold British night.

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