Actions

Work Header

the unequal struggle

Work Text:

Tokiomi Tohsaka was an easy man to read. Gilgamesh knew who he was within five minutes of being summoned, or at least, he knew who this man might be back in Uruk if their roles were reversed. Tokiomi would be be one of the palace scribes, the learned men who were keen to show their intelligence but having gotten their education and achieved their lofty position, thought only of preserving it and ensuring their sons would follow after them. Their son would be the one with ambition, hoping to become someone who could whisper into the king’s ear.

Not that the king would listen, but they could lie through their teeth to their wives and children when a decision they liked was made and say that they were responsible for it. All the while, their ancestor might be old and infirm and proud or else dead and proud in the realm of Ereshkigal.

Gilgamesh knew what his mother thought of such men as well. She called them vital, told him that so long as their work was recognized for its importance - and it was important, it took education to learn to read and write and time to write things into clay - then they would never complain. The continuation of Uruk’s good fortune and trade rested on their shoulders, she would say when Gilgamesh was small and willing to listen to her talk about how to rule. To ignore that fact would be deadly.

 

The other man who stood at Tokiomi’s side though, he was impossible to get a read on. Gilgamesh knew whose time and company for conversation would yield more interesting results.

***

To withdraw from battle was the act of a coward. This was not the opinion of a single, stubborn king; it was a simple fact. Never mind that Tokiomi Tohsaka’s use of a command seal had caused Gilgamesh to lose face in front of other kings and pretenders. He had proven himself to be precisely what Gilgamesh knew his type of person was - too comfy in his own position and too cowardly to take risks.

“Explain yourself,” were the first words Gilgamesh uttered upon his return to the Tohsaka household. Tokiomi’s basement workshop was hardly the sort of venue that Gilgamesh would enter willingly, never mind have a serious conversation in, but his master was clearly intent on using such a dimly lit place as his fortress.

Gilgamesh expected a measured response. He was given precisely that when Tokiomi replied, “To have you show off the Gate’s bounty so quickly is not in anyone’s best interest. There are also others who can see to the so-called mad dog you just encountered.”

They were flattering enough words. Certainly words that were carefully chosen. The King of Heroes let out a little disdainful noise. “You mean showing off the Gate’s bounty isn’t in your best interest, and the longer those in competition for this Holy Grail are in the dark about it, the better.”

Tokiomi’s nod was simple, with a note of reconciliation in it. “I know that the matter of keeping one’s identity hidden has already been dashed by several of the other Heroic Spirits. As strange as it is that none recognized you immediately, that simple failure on their end is an advantage on ours.”

There was no agreeing with a statement like that, even if it was true. So Gilgamesh offered an elegant shrug, before heading towards the door. “Such an advantage will not hold for long, and I will not restrain myself for much longer either. Make all of your plans with that simple fact in mind.”

“Of course, King of Heroes.”

A response from a scribe.

***

Speaking with Kirei Kotomine always required some moments alone after the fact to make sense of the man. Gilgamesh was not proud that he needed actual time to respond to such a person, someone who could not be categorized, but the novelty of failure counterbalanced his anger. Besides, he always took himself to Fuyuki’s seaside to make sense of Kirei Kotomine. It was the only part of Fuyuki that wasn’t painfully ugly to look at.

He knew why, of course. It was a natural area, with precious few people and no pointless buildings. It was functional, and the roaring waves of the ocean drowned out the noise pollution of the rest of the city behind him. To call it a refuge would be overdramatic, but it served a purpose far more than all of the buildings in Fuyuki put together.

 

Besides. Heroic Spirits needed no sleep, and there was precious little to do within the Tohsaka home beyond question Kirei and comment on Tokiomi’s taste in wine. Not that not sleeping was different from Uruk, really. Gilgamesh could go for days without sleeping. He and Enkidu could walk for three days and three nights without needing to rest. And what a fine thing it might be for Enkidu to see Gilgamesh finally puzzling over a single person rather than what the next adventure ought to be.

Gods below, Enkidu would laugh to hear of what occupied Gilgamesh’s mind. He’d remark that such a man incapable of joy should be outside of a city, where living in the wilderness might keep his mind on survival and ensure such a strange mind remained occupied. Then he’d go and tell Shamhat, who would then tell the entire Temple of Inanna, and then all of Uruk would know of the king’s concerns within a week. Such a spread of information had caused GIlgamesh to institute a “don’t tell Shamhat” rule, and even then such restrictions worked only half the time.

Uruk would shrug the whole thing off though, in the end. It was certainly something Gilgamesh would do if ruling a kingdom was what demanded his time.

But the Holy Grail War was a trifle of a thing, and so Kirei Kotomine’s abnormal mind was the only thing that was remotely interesting to explore. That would deserve commentary from Enkidu too.

***

Outside of the Tohsaka home, Gilgamesh stood on the roof. It was the same vantage point he had used to falsely destroy Assassin, a vantage point that provided what to some might be a glorious view of the Tohsaka garden, but for him was simply a boring collection of plants that tried their best to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye of those who Tokiomi wanted to impress. All artifice, and dreadfully dull artifice at that.

Gilgamesh glared downwards, replaying the events of the past several hours in his mind. Assassin was dead. Rider had finally discovered the man who lay behind the title of Archer, and had seemed quite pleased about it. Tokiomi’s attempts to win this war were still boring, but Kirei.

Well, at least Kirei was still interesting. An evolving thing, changing under stress and pressure much like the forces that create diamonds. He had finally cited something that sparked his interest, Kariya Matou, but there was no way to tell if such an interest would hold.

“Tch,” he said out loud, letting his voice be carried on the wind. The world around Gilgamesh was asleep, and there was precious little else to do. He ought to have asked Rider how he bided his time while the world around him slept. The man might have been able to spark even a fraction of Gilgamesh’s interest.

***

Vimana shook as Berserker flew by, and Gilgamesh did note that Tokiomi maintained his balance in spite of the sudden movement. It was a little impressive for someone who had hitherto lurked in a basement for the duration of the Grail War, but hardly something worth commenting on. Berserker had reappeared, and that was much, much more interesting than a little scribe with decent balance.

As Gilgamesh settled into his chair properly, far more of a pilot ready for combat than a king holding an audience with a subject, he noted that Tokiomi was looking over the side. Evaluating the battlefield actively, rather than relying on reports from others. The King of Heroes’ gaze lingered, as if trying to divine the thought process of his Master.

Whatever strategy Tokiomi was to come up with, it was no matter. Gilgamesh knew that his own concern was Berserker and Berserker alone, and the needs of anyone else would be secondary. So when the next words out of Tokiomi’s mouth were, “Let me be the Master’s opponent,” Gilgamesh hated that he was surprised. For a scribe to fight was painfully out of character but--

--No, it made sense. Kirei had explained Berserker’s master’s grudge against the Tohsaka. This was personal, and about family business as much as the Grail War. It was just the first time that Tokiomi would actually engage in combat.

With all the grace of a king, Gilgamesh nodded assent. “Very well. You can have your fun.”

The location of Berserker’s master was a simple thing for Tokiomi define, and the descent from Vimana to the ground was on him, not Gilgamesh. That Tokiomi insisted on smoothing down his clothes before leaping was simply a part and parcel of a man who loved his own appearance, and who forgot that a jump would ruffle all precautions.

His master gone, Gilgamesh relaxed and turned his focus back to Berserker. No distractions or protests meant that the mad dog could have all of the king’s attention.

***

His mother would have called his behaviour petulant. Gilgamesh knew that as surely as he knew that he could not come near the Kotomine church while negotiations were set out with the Einzbern. But petulant or not, it was insulting to be excluded. Beyond the title of Heroic Spirit, he was a king, and there was a second king in the building. Who was the Einzbern homunculus to bar him? And why would anyone listen?

Gilgamesh paced in front of the church, invisible to the eye but known to Tokiomi. Could Tokiomi feel the anger from their shared connection? Be aware of the pacing? Gilgamesh hoped so, even though his independent action likely prevented it, if only so he could save his breath from having to express himself whenever Tokiomi and Kirei exited the building.

The whenever dragged for an eternity. When Tokiomi did exit, Gilgamesh made no show of taking physical form. He simply willed himself into being, making a point of ignoring the figures of Saber and her master watching Tokiomi leave the church grounds.

“My apologies, King of Heroes,” were the first words out of Tokiomi’s mouth once he left the church grounds. “I did not wish to exclude you.”

“Hn,” Gilgamesh said in response, making it clear he had his doubts. “Don’t do it again.”

“I will not.”

***

"Gilgamesh, let me tell you the truth of the Heaven’s Feel that you don’t know about."

It had been a long time since Gilgamesh had felt his heart drop into his feet. Millenia, with a few odd centuries tacked on. But as Kirei continued to speak, explaining the technical aspects of the Holy Grail War that had been so graciously omitted from Tokiomi’s mouth, Gilgamesh could feel that same heart burrow into the ground, threaten to descend into the underworld. Seven servants had to die for the ritual. Tokiomi’s limited use of command seals was a tactic. All of the bowing and politeness had been strategic, had made him seem like someone who Gilgamesh would never have to worry about. A scribe.

Not a god.

For a single mad moment, Gilgamesh could only think of all of the deities that had ruined all he held dear. Inanna and her stupid bull that nearly destroyed her city. Enlil who took advantage of Inanna’s anger to get his revenge for Humbaba’s death. Ereshkigal for holding steadfast to Enkidu’s spirit. Forces with one-third more god in them and thus one-third more power than him.

And that was where the difference was between Tokiomi Tohsaka and Inanna. Both presented themselves as patrons and figures to please - a master, a city’s god - but one was three-thirds man. Gilgamesh caught the comment about illusions towards idols, and as the man finished, a wicked smile crept up Gilgamesh’s face.

 

“Tokiomi,” he said, the tone the same sort he’d use for the other gods. “Today I’ve finally discovered your worth. Even that boring man can make me so delighted.”