before you raised your hand, someone should have told you, child war is rarely just even ares was just a liar
he says he doesn't remember a life gone by, of grail wars past, or the sajyou family tragedy. he claims that memories grow fuzzy the longer you've been in the greater grail; aged and eroded by the harsh winds of time. life spent in a void until being called upon is bleak and endless, eternal.
he is lying.
it is a partial truth that arthur has convinced himself of, time and time again. he can't bring himself to look at her face and tell her that he's the reason her sister has died. he can't look at sajyou ayaka, mousy and scared, timid and bitter, and tell her that the sword that pierced her sister's back, the reason she still feels the soak of blood on her skin, is because of him.
when he is summoned of ayaka's desire, her plea to her late father, he is done so from the relic sitting inside her breast. from the catalyst embedded under her skin, the mark of his blade, of excalibur, emblazoned on her sternum. that day back then, eight years ago, he belonged to her sister. and that day, eight years ago, her sister is slaughtered by his hand to protect her. betrayed by her own servant.
and it plays out in his mind, that he could have done something differently. a servant without a master will eventually fall back to the greater grail, back to the darkness of a sleepy void, to be recalled at a later date. without the mana to support himself, he watches ayaka sob and sob and sob, covered in blood and the soupy remnants of the holy grail, and he wishes he could have done something different. he wishes he could have spared her from this terrible fate.
she is plain, ordinary, and average, but she did not deserve this. she would hate him if he told her.
so he does not.
that is to say: we have only ourselves to blame for the monsters that haunt our footsteps
"oh? the holy sword wielder is certainly arrogant."
his words are something like acid, dripping down arthur's skin, peeling back folds as it goes. he hates the way that archer talks, a high-minded man with a touch of insanity that is seen in his eyes, in his mannerisms, in his very soul covered in blackened gold.
"the man whose home country was destroyed dares to confront one who can destroy an entire world."
what would a tyrannical demigod know of the challenges a knight had to face? the challenges arthur, personally, had to face. being born in a war-torn kingdom, facing the plague of barbarians. what would the golden king of uruk, blessed and created by gods, know what he had to face? it was a fate that was laid out for him before he was born, just as the fate of arthur; blonde, blue-eyed, like his mother. beautiful and innocent, dragged down into the pity of loss by the tragedy of war.
his parents, loving as they were, tried to shield him and to no avail. war caught up eventually in all its terrible, blood-stained glory. it was only by perhaps luck alone, or guidance from merlin maybe, that he even took the sword from the stone. he always knew that becoming king meant no longer being human. unlike the shameless king of uruk, who bathed himself in gold and jewels and caused his people suffering, arthur tried to lead his people to victory. he tried to take the crown, to take the very thing that he was born to do, and save his world. and through bloodshed he tried.
his failure was destined from the start.
he'd worked tirelessly to be the king his people needed. to take a wife, produce an heir, all the things a king should do. so how dare such a frivolous man parading as a king judge him for it. he regrets his life as king, knows his shortcomings, is fully aware of his inability to rule. so let gilgamesh destroy the world, but arthur won't let him do it without a fight. an arrogant selfish king couldn't hope to even understand what it meant to want to protect others. what would happen to them, as servants, if the world were to be destroyed?
what is it that gilgamesh wishes for?
because my heart contains more love than my head can handle the blood rushing through my veins pounds away at this cage inside my chest just aching to drift into another person’s undeserving bones
ayaka protects him more than he's ever protected her. she's had to find her courage, buried deep inside of her. she is plain, ordinary, he recalls her sister's words (someone so average is only good for ingredients!) and he disagrees. she's learned to fight for herself, she's learned to use him, but she is too weak. he can't reach his full potential.
it takes his being stolen, his being corrupted and blackened, for her to reach for the stars. he knew she could do it. and as he stands there, watches his sick master, knowing that gilgamesh has the cure, stashed away in his vault--he doesn't even know what its for--there is no mistaking that she was meant to be his master. she's taken down the other masters and servants until now, she has forged a second contract with her former rival's lancer. sajyou ayaka may be plain, but she is a better master than her sister ever was.
the corruption leaves him touched by it, the disgusting darkness that seeps from the grail itself. he can feel it crawling on his skin, but he will overcome. to fight gilgamesh for the grail itself, to protect this world, to protect ayaka. he faces the golden king alone, darting through the skyline on a dark, grey clouded night. it is determination that drives him; a sense of justice that cannot let evil prevail.
excalibur comes to him, unlocked and unleashed, as gilgamesh's sword pierces the very ground he lays upon. weak and tired, he hears the king laugh, as though he's won before he's even confirmed his kill. it seems so characteristically gilgamesh. he thinks arthur dead and it is something like vindication when excalibur's power cleaves the very sword that started the prophetic flood that noah fled from and the arrogant god-king of uruk.
and now they look up at the night sky and they talk about the one who died to light it up and they call you guardian, protector, sentinel
he claims that his memories of past grail wars are fuzzy at best. that his memories of growing up in a war-torn britain and the moments until his death are fuzzier still. he looks at his new master, all dark hair and blue eyes; tall and lithe and not the least bit mousy, and is not reminded of ayaka. he says that he remembers no other master, and only vague details from his time in the second holy grail war.
this time, he is only half lying.
he remembers ayaka but the details of the end of the war are fuzzy. he remembers treating her with gentle kindness, and she calls him her prince, and she is alive, and everything is safe. he doesn't remember what she wishes for, remembers he wished only for the safety of her world. looking at this new world, this chaldea, he wonders if that wish ever came true.
fujimaru ritsuka is plucky and kind, he is generous and lovable. he is the kind of master that can be trusted from the start. but, he is also inexperienced, like ayaka. and unlike ayaka, he is fully prepared to change, to accept this, and fight for the continuation of his species on this planet. he is someone to look up to. so arthur does and he follows him into the midst of battles against anomalous disasters in the midst of a grail war that seems familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. but there is no denying that all the servants are familiar to him and, above them all, lies a victor that he recognizes.
seeing gilgamesh is enough to awaken in arthur the need to protect the good of mankind.
people, he thinks, are inherently good. and, to save them, to keep innocence alive, and keep this world from ending in the same tragic way his own did, he will put his life on the line for a just cause because that is what a knight does. arthur is a knight before he is anything else--not king, not mage, but a protector of the righteous.
"i am saber. a servant who will protect you, protect the world."