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Thread: Matou Shinji and the Broken Chains (HP/FSN CYOA)

  1. #3281
    [x] Attend the get together

    Let's do this.

  2. #3282
    Guess I'll go with the flow. [x] Attend.

  3. #3283
    Ok change my vote to:
    [x] Attend the get together

    Hope we get the next chapter soon.

  4. #3284
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    [x] Attend




    Chapter 65. Sic Itur Ad Astra

    Far to the West, George Weasley found himself carrying out his part in an ancient tradition that had begun during the days of Ancient Rome, and had been fleshed out in German and English folklore. Like the first dream of the New Year in Japan, and the first Shrine visit, this longstanding custom was said to set the tone for the year to come, though it could be considerably more pleasant – or awkward – than either of the others, depending on who one’s partner was for the purposes of the…ritual.

    This was, of course, the tradition of the kiss at midnight, a modern day – rather less debauched – interpretation of the revels of Saturnalia, something he found himself rather enjoying, as he was kissing the lovely Fleur Delacour under a beautiful starry sky.

    And she, for her part, was moaning into the kiss, as she found herself within his strong arms, enjoying the warmth and solidity of her fellow Champion.

    “I…I suppose I cannot refuse if it iz…tradition,”
    she’d said shyly, as he’d looked into her eyes and drawn her close as the old year died and a new year was born, standing together atop the high walls of the Durmstrang Institute.

    The part-veela had come up to the crenellations of the castle to be alone with her thoughts, as there was much that had happened in the last few months that deserved some reflection, now that there was finally a quiet moment.

    She had taken lives in an attempt to save not just her own, but that of another. She had been accused of the vilest, rankest practices – of using her wiles to gain an unfair advantage – when she’d gone out of her way not to do so. She had proven herself as a Champion, having – somehow – cast a Patronus in the First Task and impressing the judges to no end. She had survived her ordeal in the wilderness.

    And sometime during all that, she had met a gallant little boy who had defied his country not once but thrice to defend her and her honor, volunteering to be her personal garde du corps, setting off into the frozen wastes of Svalbard to deal with whoever – or whatever – had started the rumors about her, and accompanying her at the Yule Ball, to spare her the attentions of would-be suitors…despite the fact that the Potions Champion of Hogwarts was not at all attracted to her, but was (very obviously) interested in Rachelle, if how he gazed at the Alchemist like a love-sick puppy when he thought no one was looking was any indication.

    This had been a source of some amusement for both her and Rachelle, helping to defuse the tension that had lingered between them ever since she and the Etoile Noire had been required to spend much time in each other’s company. She’d known that the other was a remorseless killer, after all, who had claimed the position of Potions Champion not just because of her formidable brewing skills, but because every other possible contender for the title was dead.

    Fleur had, of course, thought there was more to the story than had been shared in the version that had been circulated in the gossip of Beauxbatons, but hadn’t really asked, since she had been rather intimidated by the petite blonde, and feared that what she had heard about her would simply be confirmed if she did. Instead, she’d taken pains to be polite – even pleasant – to the other girl in their appearances together for the media or other such, hiding her unease behind a pleasant enough mask, as so many others did at Beauxbatons.

    …but then she too had taken lives, and la belle dame sans merci had been the only one who really understood what that was like. Who had tried to comfort her, albeit not particularly well, given that she didn’t want to be a killer, and had stood beside her, despite the rumors about her, despite the terrible things others said and did.

    They’d spent much time in each other’s company, with the tension kept at bay by Matou’s antics, more than she’d even spent with a single other person at Beauxbatons, given that she’d needed to be careful about the messages she was sending others, the unconscious signals she was giving, especially to boys, and now…now perhaps they were friends.

    ‘I never would have thought I would be friends with the one they called the Butcher of Beauxbatons. But Rachelle is surprisingly…gentil.’


    Yet, though she now understood Rachelle Lestrange after spending time with her, there was someone who confused her more and more the more she learned about him.

    George Weasley.

    He should have hated her for killing his comrades, but he spoke up for her.

    He should have ignored her during the Second Task, or pressed his claim to the cave he had occupied, not…made her feel so wonderful.

    He should have said something about what had happened between them, as most boys would have – and some were all too quick to claim what they had not – but he had kept quiet.

    She
    should have known he was trouble, should have recognized the danger he represented, but every time he touched her, she felt her loins tighten, and a powerful warmth blossoming in her chest.

    ‘…and ‘e…saved me?’


    Why? Why had he stood against his own countrymen to save her life? It couldn’t have been her allure – he had proven himself to be quite immune to her Veela charms, though not perhaps to her feminine wiles. It couldn’t have been mere physical attraction, as the warm, thoughtful person she’d met didn’t seem the type to assault his peers for the sake of a pretty face. It couldn’t have been something deeper than that, because they’d never even met, and she certainly did not believe in love at first sight.

    (Lust, yes, but love was a whole other matter.)

    …she didn’t know.

    Just as she didn’t know why she had agreed to his company when he, too, had come up beside her, ostensibly having come up to the battlements to seek a moment away from the revels below.

    ‘Perhaps ‘e is simply not fond of most people?’


    “I didn’t expect to see anyone else here,” he’d said, looking out at the frozen lands below, where they had spent so much time as Champions. “Do you mind if I join you?”

    “C’est un monde libre,” she’d replied simply, even as her heart began to beat faster at the nearness of him. “Faites ce que vous voulez.”

    Perhaps he wouldn’t understand, and would think that her speaking in her mother tongue meant she wished to be alone.

    Yes. She rather thought that might be the case, given that Britain didn’t seem especially fond of learning about the outside—

    “Don’t mind if I do then,” he’d murmured, with Fleur looking over in surprise to see him meet her gaze with a smile.

    Flushing, she turned back to the magnificent vista she’d been contemplating, the pale, snowy fields set against the jet-black raiment of the sky.

    “Parlez-vous francais?” she’d asked after several moments had gone by.

    “Not really,” he’d answered with a shrug that had seemed almost gallic. “But I have a gift for meanings.”

    “Meanings?” she’d echoed, arching a slim eyebrow.

    “Among other things,” he’d said, the corners of his lips tugging upwards in mischief. “Unexpected encounters, for one.”

    The two had lapsed into silence for some time after that, simply standing beside each other. The Champion of Hogwarts had seemed content just to enjoy the scenery, without pressing her or making her feel ill at ease, and it was clear to her that if she wanted answers, she would have to ask.

    “Why…why did you…save me?” she’d asked at last, noting with some satisfaction how surprise seemed to flicker across the young man’s features, before she noticed him noticing her study of him out of the corner of his eye, and once more, pretended fascination with the stars, instead.

    “Ah, Lestrange told you, did she?” the boy had chuckled good-naturedly. “I might have known she’d do that eventually.”

    “…you admit zit vas you?”

    “No sense denying it,” George had murmured softly. “Not here, at least, when it’s just the two of us.”

    “You are so sure zere iz no other?”

    “Well, one of the Serpent Commander’s men, some distance away, but that hardly counts, since he’s invisible and quite out of earshot,” the boy had quipped, with Fleur looking about despite herself to see if she could see some trace of another person on the battlements.

    She couldn’t, of course.

    “Invisible? But zen…’ow can you tell?”

    “One of my…gifts, you could say,” he had said enigmatically. “One shared by your colleague. Lestrange, I mean.”

    “Ah.” One of his gifts, he’d said? That suggested that he had quite a few that he had not revealed. ‘ ‘As he been ‘olding back?’ Whatever the case, that had not been the issue at hand, and with this opportunity available at long last, Fleur had refused to be distracted. “Merci beaucoup, then, but…vy?”

    “…I live in a cage, you know,” the boy had replied, seemingly a non-sequitur. But then he continued. “Britain. The system as it stands. The layers upon layers of lies and falsehoods, and the rules that arise from them. A cage with bars woven from the expectations of others, and a lock crafted from my own. From what I thought was my own, but was really just what I had learned should be mine.”

    There had been an odd look in his eye as he spoke, his tone almost wistful.

    “But then there are cages and there…cages,” he’d said meaningfully, lifting a hand and looking at his fingers as if they were some alien appendage. “Flesh itself is one such. Clothes are another. The words we use. The masks we wear. All of it.” He’d turned to look at Fleur, his gaze…intense.

    “All of it?” someone had echoed, with Fleur realizing after a moment that the one who had spoken was her.

    “All of it. The trouble is, one becomes used to the cage, believes that to be all life is, comes to see those outside the cage not as free, but as alien, wrong, inhuman,” he’d continued, his smile growing brittle. “Like my comrades in Hufflepuff. Poor, deluded fools who believed they acted out of righteousness, yet whose guilt is all the greater for it.”

    “…guilt?”

    “They attacked an innocent, after all,” George had replied, exhaling a long puff of frosty white in the cold. “Two innocents, really.”

    “…I am not so…innocent,” Fleur had protested. “I…I killed…”

    “You slew beasts lost to their delusions,” the young man had whispered.

    ‘What?’


    “Beasts…? Is zat ‘how you…?”

    “They surrendered to their mad desires and called it justice,” George had answered, shaking his head. “What other word is there for that, but beast?

    “And you don’t mind that I…I killed zem?” Fleur had asked, her voice barely a whisper as she caught his gaze, dark blue eyes looking into gold. “That I…”

    “You did what you had to do,” the young man murmured, taking a step closer. “How could I mind that, when I simply did the same, ma chérie?”
    The way his voice all but growled those last words sent a shiver down her spine, and as she swallowed, she found herself almost leaning against him, with a surprisingly delicate hand cupping her alabaster cheek.

    “So when you…when you…”

    “I simply let them see the bars of the cage, showed them the truth – and against it, they could not stand,” he had whispered, a hairbreadth from her lips, as she found herself leaning towards him, as—

    Cheers could be heard from far below, signaling the passing of the old year and the birth of the new.

    “Ah, minuit…” Fleur had realized.

    “Ah, so it is,” George had answered, leaning his forehead against hers. “Well. It is simply tradition, and tradition itself is a cage, but…”

    “I…I suppose I cannot refuse if it iz…tradition,” the part-Veela had cut him off, closing the distance between their lips, as his arms wrapped around her, and hers found their way to the nape of his neck, pulling him close in a passionate, soul-searing kiss.

    And as shooting stars fell from the heavens, streaking across the sky in lines of silver flame, so too did the rest of the world fall away for the two lovers, lost in a moment in time.




    On the long walk under the torii on the path leading up to the Fushimi Inari shrine, Matou Shinji had thought hard about his wish for the coming year. A wish for Hatsumode set the tone for the year, after all, so it was important to pick a good one. Sometimes, people chose a fairly general wish, like success in their endeavours or for good health. Sometimes, they wished for something more specific, asking the gods to grant them success in some specific endeavor – like finding a job or helping them with university entrance exams, or to help a family member recover from an illness.

    The question continued to plague him as he reached the fountain at the threshold of the shrine and took one of the available ladles from where it sat. He went through the standard ritual to purify himself before entering, scooping some water from the fountain and using it to wash his left hand, switching the ladle to his other hand and scooping water to wash his right, switching the ladle back to his right, pouring water into his left hand and finally bringing that hand to his mouth.

    That accomplished, he filled up the ladle again and tilted it to let water run down the handle, purifying it of his touch as he placed it back where he found it.

    Cleansed and refreshed, he entered the shrine to pray, though he hadn’t really come up with anything he considered appropriate yet, given how thoughts of the impending Potions Championship loomed large in his mind.

    ‘And if I fall…what will happen to those I care about?’


    He decided, then, that he would make their well-being his wish for the coming year.

    ‘I mean, I already gave up a big favor from the Fujou to help Tohsaka – what’s a simple wish in comparison? I could wish for success in the Potions Championship, but what I do there, I want to do under my own power.’


    That was what Sokaris would want of him, after all – to see what his best efforts could do, not those of another, so that was what he would do.
    He went through the ritual needed to make his wish, and afterwards, felt a vague sense of relief – enough so that while the others went to make their wishes, he stopped by the stall selling omamori and picked up two.

    Luna seemed quite happy when he presented one – a gankake omamori in the shape of a fox – to her, both because it looked nice, and because she appreciated the thought that it was something she could use to ensure a single wish came to pass.

    Shiroe, however, to who he presented the other – an en-musubi omamori bound by red threads – was considerably less amused, given that such a talisman meant that Shinji was wishing him every success in finding an ideal partner, and as he had just asked if Tohsaka could come to Mahoutokoro, seemed like an attempt to foist the girl off onto him.

    “…thank you. I suppose,” Shiroe said after several long moments. “Even if I’m not really looking for love at the moment, since I have much to catch up on in terms of learning my family arts.”

    “Well, you may not be looking for it, but who is to say it isn’t looking for you?” Shinji quipped with a sly smile, as the redhead shot him a reproving glare. “Besides, if you end up finding a lover, then you can’t exactly make fun of me anymore, can you?”

    As of late, the Potions Champion of Hogwarts had grown tired of the Fujou head – or would he be the head of the Fujou much longer, given that Fujou Kirie had recovered and was the elder of the two siblings? – teasing him about his “Shiroi Koibito.”

    “…if you say so, Matou,” Shiroe replied after a beat. “How are things back in Britain?”

    “Not as well as I’d hoped. Not as badly as I’d feared,” Shinji noted mildly.

    “So – everything is normal, then?”

    Matou Shinji chuckled.

    “If you can call any part of my life normal.

    “…well, that’s true.”




    All in all, the day passed peacefully, with Shinji, Luna, and the Fujou family spending a good of time in and around Kyoto. Part of it was spent on Mount Inari, visiting the minor shrines and stalls, enjoying the food and atmosphere of New Year’s Day. Part of it was spent in the City Under the Earth, where they shared a traditional New Year meal of ozoni cooked from a fire lit by embers from the Yaskasa Shrine, met with members of the Japanese Council of Magic to offer their wishes for a prosperous year ahead, and did a bit of shopping, with Shinji buying a set of self-geass scrolls, which he thought might be useful in the future, and Luna buying a fan depicting a silver kirin on black silk, with ribs made of a strange shimmering metal that the proprietor of the shop called seija sekiei, or some such.

    Soon enough though, it was time to head to Osaka, where the performance of Daiku that Shiroe had arranged for the party to be part of would take place.

    Where it took place every year, in fact.

    Shinji, on recognizing that there was only about an hour and a half left before the performance, and that it would take about an hour by train to simply get from one city to another, almost flew into panic, but soon found that Shiroe had made other arrangements.

    Since the young head of the Fujou was was one of Kaiduka’s trainees, the group had been granted use of one of the portals, which deposited them in a safehouse in Osaka an easy ten-minute walk from the venue.

    ‘He could have told me that ahead of time…’


    Not that Shinji had any room to complain about people not telling him things, given that he was far from generous with information, partially as a result of his upbringing in a magus family, and partially because he knew that knowledge was power.

    Still…

    ‘Wait. What’s that?’


    As they walked towards the grand stadium where the performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony would be held, among the throngs of people converging on the location, he thought he saw a lithe form with long white hair out of the corner of his eye.

    'An Einzbern...?'
    he wondered, feeling a chill go down his spine at the thought. Surely it couldn't be...could it? They couldn’t have found him…could they? ‘Unless Tohsaka - or Master, said something inopportune, they should still think I’m dead, so why…?’

    His thoughts – and gaze – fell on the boy who invited him to join them for the evening: Fujou Shiroe, who for some time had been the adopted son of the Magus Killer?

    Could they have discovered the link between those two identities, and come to track down the one who was undoubtedly Kiritsugu’s heir?

    ‘No, that doesn’t make sense either. Ilya told me they lost track of him when he left Fuyuki, and they frankly have no reason to connect “Emiya Shirou” to the head of the Fujou family,’
    he mused, shaking his head.

    “Is something wrong?” Luna asked him, noticing that he seemed a bit tense.

    'If I had Zelkova here with me, things would be easier,'
    he thought, regretting the absence of his kodama familiar. 'At least then, I'd have access to fusion, and to certain stealth abilities that I don't as my human self.'

    Sadly, Zelkova had stayed behind to spend time with Shiroe's familiar, the great wolf Shiranui, so fusing wasn’t an option…

    “…no. I’m pretty sure things are fine,” he answered, shaking his head. “Just…had something on my mind, that’s all.”

    He didn’t want to worry Luna, after all, and in any case, he was probably worrying for nothing, given that even if the Einzbern had tracked him down – somehow – they wouldn’t dare to launch an attack with so many mundanes about.

    At least, they wouldn’t if they were wise, as the Tower would be quite unhappy with them.

    'Not that I'm one to talk about wisdom, as I’ve never been known for mine.’


    Wisdom, as Helena Ravenclaw herself was quick to note, was not the same as intellect or wit, after all. And while he prided himself on having a healthy mind, he knew he could often be impulsive, driven more by emotion or the needs of the moment than by the big picture.

    And thus, while it was tempting - sorely so - to drop everything else and go after the white-haired person, to discover whether or not there was someone after him, the boy decided against it.

    If there was indeed a hostile magus present, and he chased after him or her without some sort of support, he would probably end up dying – or wishing he was dead. If he asked Luna, he was sure she would come with him, but the knowledge that she would probably accompany him even into the depths of hell itself made him more cautious, not less. She’d already nearly given her life for his sake once – he wasn’t about to let her do it again.

    Involving the Fujou…well, that was foolishness, for while Shiroe might be willing to lend him some assistance, if anything happened to the family head or a member of their family because of his actions, that would probably spell the end of any favorable treatment for him and any of his associates at Mahoutokoro.

    ‘And since being forced to leave Britain is a real possibility, I don’t want to burn any bridges I don’t have to.’


    ...not to mention that he thought their retainer, Asa Drake, already considered him a possible threat, and he had the distinct feeling that he didn't want to get on her bad side.

    ‘…I guess I might as well talk to her? I know we didn’t hit it off the first time, but maybe if I talk about something she can relate to?’


    He turned to find the blonde swordswoman in a quiet conversation with Fujou Shiroe about the merits of various types of weapons, and their wielders.

    Whether sword wielders could beat archers, and in what conditions.

    How naginatas compared to western lances.

    How katanas related to broadswords, and how difficult a one hand style was as opposed to a two-hand style.

    “No, I don’t think it would be wise to throw a sword at an enemy, unless it has some magic that allowed you to manipulate it after it left your hand,” Asa Drake was saying with some animation. “A knife, perhaps, but even that takes a good of practice.”

    “…I suppose you have a point,” Shiroe allowed reluctantly. “I’m more used to fighting at a distance, with my bow and my…other abilities.”

    “Yes, but an archer should not be helpless at close range either,” Asa chided, looking at the redhead imperiously. “And with your ability, you should never be without a weapon in hand.”

    “True enough.”

    As there was no reply immediately forthcoming, Matou Shinji took the opportunity to inject himself into conversation.

    He was a bit curious about how things were going for Shiroe, especially with regards to how the magus was doing with his familiar, what he had chosen as his weapon style, and whether his friend would continue to be the head of family now that Fujou Kirie had been healed, since she was, well, older, and seemed to have more training than he did.

    As for Asa Drake, the boy found her quite curious too – and not because, as George would no doubt say, he had a weakness for petite blondes!

    Was she a travelling mercenary of some sort? A freelancer born of a magus family, much like Emiya Kiritsugu had been? A defector from the Church?
    She called herself a knight, after all, and there were few organisations in the moonlit world, who had any practical use for knights, save for the Church, which actively used knight squadrons as the backbone of their military might, in addition to the Executors and…Templars which served as special forces.

    'The last of which I have heard quite a few unsavory things about from Lockhart, though I don't think he's the most objective source.'

    Though now that he thought about it, his grandfather had once mentioned that the Templars had been responsible for driving him out of Old Rus, and given that his grandfather had been an Archmagus, well, that implied a certain level of power, competence, and sheer ruthlessness.

    In any case, for most, knighthood – or membership in a Chivalric Order – was simply an honor granted for service to a country or government – much as he was part of the Order of Merlin.

    If Asa Drake strongly identified as a knight, and was a swordswoman though, indicating that she had the training to be part of a military order, what did that mean?

    ‘Might as well get the answer directly.’


    “Miss Drake,” Shinji interjected, giving her his most charming smile.

    “Yes?” the warrior replied evenly.

    “I’m curious – you mentioned you were a knight, but what does that mean exactly?” he asked simply. “How did you come to be in Japan, and where were you trained, if I might be so bold?”

    The blonde swordswoman raised a slim eyebrow.

    “Before I answer that, I have a question for you,” she said simply. “If you do not wish to answer, so be it, but neither will answer you.”

    “Ask.”

    "Very well,” Asa noted, the iron in her expression quite at odds with the elegance of her formal furisode. “Since you mention that you are called...a modern Lancelot," she noted, with the last three words said particularly gingerly, "I take it you are familiar with Arthurian legend. The Matter of Britain, as it is sometimes called."

    Shinji nodded, as it was hard not to be at least passingly acquainted with it – especially living in Britain as he was.

    "It is a simple question. Which of the characters is your favorite?" the swordswoman inquired, her green eyes looking at him searchingly. "Lancelot, since you mention him? Or some other?” She paused for a moment, before continuing. "Oh, and which do you see yourself as?"

    “That’s two questions, not just one,” Shinji noted mildly.

    “Do you not wish to answer, then?”

    Shinji sighed, shaking his head.

    He had no idea what the motivation behind this line of questioning was or what she hoped to learn, but he supposed it would be better to indulge her curiosity, as it seemed harmless enough.

    ‘Perhaps as a knight, she is fond of the stories of Camelot, given that it – and the Knights of the Round – are fairly iconic in the lore of knights.


    Indeed, the Round Table might be said to be the embodied concept of ‘a place where heroes gathered’ – even if most of them had, in some way, shape or form, been tragically flawed.

    ‘So, my favorite, huh? And which one I see myself as?’


    For a moment, he was inclined to say Mordred, given the treacherous knight’s low cunning, and ability to fight on equal terms with the King of Knights, though somehow, he didn’t think that Miss Drake would exactly approve. Galahad, perhaps?

    ‘No, that doesn’t work – I tend to prefer characters that are powerful but flawed. Who seek the best for the people of the land, and who would be willing to give their all – even giving their lives – for what they believe in, and what they’ve sworn to protect.’


    Which left only one choice, really.

    "To answer your question, I've always been fond of Arthur Pendragon, the one styled the King of Knights," Shinji replied airily, though as he said that, an odd memory from several months back came to mind. This one involved a conversation with the oddly named “Fou-kun” and a rather shocking revelation about the identity of the Once and Future King. "Or is it Arturia? I can’t help but recall a conversation I had with someone about how King Arthur was actually a woman, simply one who hid her identity." He tilted his head. “It would explain Lancelot’s affair with Guinevere, especially if she wasn’t interested in women,” he mused aloud.

    There was a long, pregnant silence.

    "...oh? And who might have given you this odd idea?" Drake inquired coolly, raising a slender eyebrow.

    "An ancient beast I had the chance to meet," Shinji remarked with a shrug. "A certain Cath Palug, who claimed to be the familiar of Merlin.”

    “…I don’t remember the Magus of Flowers ever having such a familiar in any tale I’m aware of,” the swordwoman replied.

    “That may be so, but…”

    He was inclined to believe Fou's claim, since the King of Heroes himself had deferred to the small animal, treating it as a being worth of respect.

    “Well, that aside, you wanted to know who I see myself as? Or perhaps who I would like to see myself as?” Shinji asked in confirmation, to which the other nodded. “Well, that's simple - I see myself as something like Merlin," he continued, a small smile stealing across his lips. "After all, I am part of the Order named in his honor."

    "Oh? So, like Merlin, may I assume that while you may be capable as a practitioner, you are also someone who could be described as a grandstander, a showman, the cause of many troubles, and, of course...excessively full of love?" Asa inquired slyly.

    Shinji winced. That...that hit a little closer to home than he would have preferred.

    "I don't know about being the cause of every trouble, but Matou always did seem to enjoy attention - and he does seem excessively full of love,” Fujou Shiroe supplied, “what with him enjoying the company of one beautiful woman after another, be it Miss Lovegood, or his childhood friend, Tohsaka Rin."

    Shinji shot his friend a baleful glare, but Shiroe simply smirked.

    "What? It's not as if I'm wrong, am I?"

    "..."

    Matou Shinji did not dignify the Fujou head’s comment with a response, mostly because it was – in every particular – true.

    "As to your question of what being a Knight means to me," Asa Drake spoke up, "it means more than simply being a warrior. It means abiding by the standards of chivalry, and holding the needs of the many above the needs of the few...or the one. My identity as a Knight comes before my gender or nationality." Her face looked troubled for a moment as she looked away. "Unfortunately, my last...the last man who held my contract, was not quite so honorable, and the last conflict I participated in ended...poorly for most concerned. I am here in Japan as I wish to make amends."

    "And where you were trained?"

    "That is a not a matter I wish to discuss," the woman replied flatly. “I asked two questions and answered two. You wish a third, when as a magus, you should be aware of equivalent exchange.”

    "...understood. I apologize for my lack of tact," the Matou scion said simply.

    He still didn’t know much about the woman, but he was coming to realize that he didn’t want her angry at him.

    Little was said after that, and before long, they reached the venue and were ushered through the doors leading to the field, where a series of elevated platforms had been erected. There, they were split up, assigned to different sections of the field by vocal range, with the ten thousand standing behind the orchestra and the four soloists – one of which was the individual he’d seen earlier, with hair so white and lustrous it almost glowed.

    Luna had been assigned a spot close to the front, just behind the white-haired young woman, while Shinji was a good deal further back and to the right, next to Fujou Shiroe, of all people.

    "...so, you did practice, right, Matou?" the redhead asked quietly.

    "...practice?" Shinji echoed.

    He’d been so busy.

    The head of the Fujou family sighed, shaking his head.

    "...let's just hope you have good pitch. And a good ear," Shiroe grumbled, but said no more, thinking that Shinji would inevitably find some way to come through smelling of roses.

    “Hey, Fujou?”

    “Yes?”

    “Who’s the girl with the white hair?” Shinji inquired, noting the curves of her slender form.

    Fujou Shiroe groaned.

    “…why do you want to know, Matou?” the redhead wondered. “Don’t tell me she’s caught your eye?”

    “…no?”

    “It’s not good to lie on the New Year, you know…”

    “…fine. It’s…unusual for me to see someone with hair like this. Especially in Japan.”

    Outside of Ilya, the only one he’d seen with hair that color was Nymphadora Tonks when she was particularly upset, and that had only been once.

    “Her name is Chloe Ainsworth, and she’s from Europe,” Shiroe supplied, sensing that Shinji was simply not going to let this drop. “We do have a tradition of inviting a singer from Germany to participate in this event each year, since they were the ones who brought us Number Nine.”

    “I see. Germany, huh?”

    ‘…could it? No…an Einzbern wouldn’t participate in this.’


    “…if you want to meet her, I’m sure you’ll have a chance at the meet and greet tonight, if you want to go” Shiroe mentioned quietly. “Since the Fujou family helped sponsor this event, we were given some tickets to a small get-together with the soloists and orchestra after this. You’re welcome to come, if you want. If not, I think Kohaku will be going back to Mahoutokoro with her sister, and you’re welcome to join them.”

    “No, I mean, yes – yes, I’ll go,” Shinji answered. “I’m – I’m sure Luna would like to meet her.”

    Shiroe smiled thinly.

    “Right. We’ll just pretend that’s actually why you want to go.”

    There was no more time for talking after that, as warmups and a last rehearsal began, and then the doors of the venue opened, with tens of thousands – perhaps over a hundred thousand filling the seats in the stadium, all gathered in one place for the night of music.

    The conductor took the stage, the first notes rose into the air, and the power of the music took over, as the performance began in earnest.
    Surprisingly enough - or not so surprisingly - Shinji did indeed manage well enough.

    (Though if he’d done horribly, the voices of the 9999 others would have drowned his out, so it was something of a moot point).

    Certainly, his was not a voice that could rival those of professionals that trained every day, but among a group mostly made of people from the community, it fit well enough. Strands of song poured from every mouth, from each set of lips, the efforts of soloists, orchestra, and chorus coming together in a riveting whole that was nothing short of electric.

    They gave their all to the music, and the music filled them with a power all its own, a joy – a sense of wonder greater than the transient glory of the world – evoking a sense of elegance, grandeur, warmth, passion, as if each one, through their singing, was helping to bring light into the world, illuminating even the darkest places with hope.

    Until at last, the final notes were sung.

    The music stilled

    And in the silence, a young boy with blond hair and red eyes stood and began to clap, alone at first, before one after another, the people around him rose up, filling the air with thunderous applause.

    The message had been heard.

    The souls of those watching had been touched.

    And this night, this first night of the new year, everyone – whether musician or audience, man or woman, child or adult, all stood as one, firm in courage, believing that tomorrow would be better than today, the new year better than the year before.

    But only if they stood together, reaching out their hands to bring into being the future they wished to see.




    Choice 227: A Fred Interlude is coming next chapter, but I am inclined to be generous, and offer one more. Who else should get an interlude?

    [ ] Draco Malfoy
    [ ] Harry Potter
    [ ] Pansy Parkinson
    [ ] Rachelle Lestrange
    [ ] (write-in)
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

  5. #3285
    [x] (write-in) Tohsaka Rin.

    Because I want see how things are going in Fuyuki now than Kirei have a new mission outside of the city.
    Last edited by skulkidcachi90; Yesterday at 10:30 PM.

  6. #3286
    [x] Harry Potter

    Let's check our first friend.

  7. #3287
    リビングデッド Living Dead Haunter's Avatar
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    [X] Harry Potter

  8. #3288
    [X] Harry Potter

  9. #3289
    [X] Harry Potter

  10. #3290
    [x] Draco Malfoy

  11. #3291
    The Dread Nekomancer alfheimwanderer's Avatar
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    I am on #fatehg, as per usual
    "The palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise." - Thomas Paine

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