July 14th, 2011, 09:06 PM
Mystic Eyes of Tree Hugging
I guess I can get off my lazy ass and actually put this up here like everyone else so people don't have to go to stupid buggy FFN that messes with my formatting and doesn't do double exclamation points for some reason. And I can stop using the rec page for responding to comments.
...But now I get to curse my use of italics. This may take a while.
Table of Contents
Prologue, Chapter 1 (Bowman and Bow), Chapter 2 (The Addition) and Omake 1
Chapter 3 (The Peaceful Noise), Chapter 4 (Altered Life), Interlude 4-1 (Nocking the Bow)
Chapter 5 (Seven of Swords), Chapter 6 (Dead Apostle Apostle) and Omake 2
Interlude 6-1 (Disassociation), Interlude 6-2 (The Average One)
Chapter 7 (Henshin), Chapter 8 (Shores of a Distant Land) and Omake 3
Chapter 9 (Unlimited Blades, Endless Addition), Chapter 10 (Change), Interlude 10-1 (Star of Darkness) and Omake 4
Chapter 11 (Crucified), Chapter 12 (Heaven's Feeling)
Chapter 13: Hell's Desire
Chapter 14: Connection
--Chapter 14-1: Back to Back and Omake 5
--Chapter 14-2: Embracing You and Omake 6
Chapter 15: Ortensia Bloom
Interlude 15-1: The Philosopher's Stone
Chapter 16: Shooting Hundred Heads
Chapter 17: Strategy Meeting
Chapter 18: Garden of Sins
Chapter 19: Place of Victory
Chapter 20: This Body...
Chapter 21: Diablos Ex Machina
Chapter 22: Reaching Fate
She had to be strong.
Even if the anesthetic didn’t help. Even if the pain was terrible. Even if every moment felt like dying would be better.
When he cut into her body, it wasn’t a physical pain. It wasn’t like a person was stabbing into her with steel and cutting up her organs. It wasn’t like he was penetrating her from every direction and flooding her with illness.
Even though he was.
Every incision, no matter how careful and delicate, felt like it split her in two. Like her body was being bent in ways it could never achieve even if she were hit by a train. The steel slipped into her body and it took nothing from her, but left behind the sensation that it had taken everything.
He did it again, and again, and again, and again, until she was sure he had cut every inch of her skin.
But she had to be strong.
If she wasn’t strong, he would move on to the next one. She had seen it before, seen her senpai taken under his wing and never return. Sometimes, it would take weeks. Other times, a single day. Until nobody older than she was left. And then she was next.
And if she wasn’t strong, he would move on.
So she waited, soundlessly screaming, unable to escape, unwilling to escape.
She wanted to last longer...
She hoped to die faster...
The boundary was broken.
Setsuka Yuushi dropped the scalpel and glanced around. The boundary field he had placed around the facility had been breached and he could feel the magic disperse like raindrops around him. He looked to the northern wall and thought he could detect the intrusion from that direction.
Growling, the man removed the blood-stained gloves and apron he wore and went to wash his hands, considering the situation and his options. It took more than the average magus to penetrate his wards and the fact that he had not even been aware that anyone was attempting to break them in the first place had him worried. A magus killer? I haven’t offended anyone to warrant such an enemy. The Association does not observe me, of that I’m sure...nobody wants to come all the way out to this backwater. He rinsed the lab sink clean, absently willing his work station clean in preparation for the next use.
Looking back at the operating table and the tiny figure still bleeding atop it, he thought of the answer. It must be that local brat, thinking I’m intruding on her territory. He had overheard a conversation from an Edelfelt, however, that the local family’s riches were dwindling, and considering the breakthrough he was about to make, he thought he might have a chance to solve any challenge peacefully. And if not, well, she should not have intruded upon my home ground. He made sure to retrieve the scalpel, however, and placed it in the protective pocket in his shirt breast.
Exiting the lab, he had to navigate an intricate path of halls and doorways, eventually climbing up a flight of stairs and into the garage. Locking the door behind him and activating the ward over it, he wove past the parked vehicles and came out into the open world to find the sun blocked by an overcast sky. He peered into the second story window of the main house and was pleased to see no disruption in the daily classes going on in the orphanage. The new specimen is certainly interesting and shows promise, but I would hazard a guess that she is on her last twelve hours. It is good to have so many spares.
It took Yuushi a good twenty minutes to remove himself from the laboratory and circumvent the main house, doubly difficult in the dim light provided by the weather. The grove where he had built the orphanage lent the location a great deal of privacy, though it also meant that he had to be extra cautious of ambush since the intruders had penetrated the main defense. Upon reaching the border of the boundary field and looking around, Yuushi had second thoughts of his enemy. No signs of interruption via incantation, nor curse-breaking. It just looks...broken. Like a fence being pried open. He considered what could create such a disruption in his field, but came up with no answers.
The murmur of multiple voices caught Yuushi’s attention and he turned back toward the main house. He could not see through the tree line, but after reinforcing his ears, he could make out a distinctive feminine voice and the annoying chatter of excited children. “Everyone, follow me please, and keep a hand on the person in front of you!”
What is this, some kind of naïve rescue operation? Yuushi started toward the house at a good chip and wondered at the intelligence of whoever the intruder was. Perhaps I will thank you for giving me such a strategic advantage, if you are really here to save those kids.
“The look on your face tells me everything I need to know.”
Yuushi dove behind the largest tree the moment he heard the voice ahead of him, pulling the scalpel out and readying it. No attack came, however, and doubly confusing was the voice: that of a young man. Wasn’t Tohsaka a girl? He fed the necessary prana into the scalpel and readied it. “And just who am I addressing?”
He honed in on the reply and Reinforced his ears to find the exact location. Far away, wary of a line-of-sight curse no doubt. Fine with me. The words from the unknown enemy, however, took a moment to sink in. “Nothing but a mere archer, you could say.” There was mirth in the voice, like letting a person in on a joke amidst friends.
“What is it you want?” Yuushi asked.
The intruder said, “If you thought your experiments would go unnoticed, then I have to wonder at your intelligence as a magus, setting up so close to a leyline closely observed by even magi of the Association.”
“My boundary fields are second to none,” Yuushi said. He estimated the distance between them and thought of the different approaches to strike, all without sacrificing any cover. “You seem to be knowledgeable of the Association, so you ought to know my teacher was the best at barriers. Araya Souren.”
“Eh,” the voice said, and it began a slow approach. “I don’t actually know that much, and I don’t actually care one way or the other about the Association or its members.”
“Then what do you care about? Why are you here?”
“Those lives aren’t your playthings, and I’m here to save them.”
Yuushi readied the scalpel. “And I suppose nothing I could say will convince you to just go away and leave me alone?”
“Not unless you give me a magical contract stating you will cease your experiments. You might as well, anyway, because if it isn’t me, you know you’ll call the Counter Force down on you eventually.”
Not with my barriers as they are, Yuushi sighed. “I do hate bloodshed, but if that is your ultimatum...”
Though he could not make out the intruder’s location visually, he knew where the target stood. Reaching out like a conductor to an orchestra, Yuushi mimed a cut at three different tree branches. “Secare.”
He heard the scrambling of the intruder’s feet as he leapt to avoid the first falling branch. Right where I want you. The second branch started to fall, and as the intruder started forward to avoid it, Yuushi halted the motion of that branch mid-air with a bounded field and let the third drive the target right back into it at head-level. Simple as that.
The sound of the intruder striking the branch was louder than it should have been, and not accompanied by the crash of a body hitting the ground. Yuushi dared to peek out from behind his cover and finally laid his eyes on his opponent: a young man, no older than twenty, in nothing more than street clothing, still standing. The hovering branch was right against his head, though he looked completely unfazed.
I really do hate the bloody option, Yuushi thought, raising his scalpel. It would have been less troublesome to alter the target’s memories and send him back to the city in a cab. Now, he would be disposing of body parts, and not those of some nobody orphan. “Secare.”
The cut struck the boy along his left shoulder and should have bisected him at a perfect 45 degree angle. Instead, it halted mere millimeters into his body, a bit of blood the only sign that it had penetrated at all.
“Your element is centered around steel, isn’t it?” the boy said. He had a grim look on his face, one much better suited for a person three times his age in cynicism. “You use some kind of barrier extension to project that scalpel beyond the actual reach it can achieve physically.” When Yuushi took another swing, again the cut barely penetrated the boy at his ribcage, a small darkening on his white shirt signifying the blood seeping up beneath. “But when metal meets metal, the better material wins out.”
Yuushi ducked back behind the tree and prepared a longer incantation. I have no idea what you’ve done to your body, but you have no weapon. You won’t be able to cover this distance in time! Even so, he immediately activated his secondary personal barrier with the tree as a center, Reinforcing it and the air around him to intercept any elemental manipulation. If you manipulate steel, nothing you can do will pierce this barrier.
“My bone twists into madness,” the boy said, and Yuushi felt compelled to glance back out at him. Though the boy had been empty handed before, now a bow was present, and with it was a terrifying sight: a strange device that appeared like a large drill.
Gradiation Air...Projection Magic? What is he going to—
The drill narrowed into the shape of an arrow, and before Yuushi could do anything, the bow twanged and the shot flew.
And when the explosion was finished, when the sound of wood breaking apart and the not-sound of his barrier collapsing ended, when Yuushi’s body stopped grinding from the pressure and came to rest on the forest floor, the boy continued speaking.
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to bring a knife to a sword fight?”
He had stopped.
She could hardly breathe.
She could hardly breathe because it was only a matter of time and he would return with even more agony, like he delighted in the reprieve she had to endure even more.
She had to be strong, but, in reality, she was at her limit.
“Senpai, in here!”
The voice was one she had never heard before, and though it was like a thunderclap next to her overworked ears, there was something infinitely gentle about it, like the wash of the tides striking against the bay she remembered from long ago...
“Please, hurry, senpai! She’s bleeding all over and...and...”
Though it pained her to do so, her eyes so used to being set upon by needles and knives once open, she could not help but open them to seek out this intruding voice she did not recognize.
The figure over her was not a woman, like the voice should have belonged to, but a young man. A young man that looked horrified, scared, angry, sad—
And above all else, elated.
She thought, ah, if only I could have such an expression...
Escaping Fate, Prologue, End
AN: If you’re confused by the change in literary style from the prologue, I’m mimicking the format from the original visual novel. Chapters are from Shirou’s first-person perspective. Secondary characters like in the prologue are from third-person limited. I’ll attempt to maintain some of the terminology from the Mirror Moon translation of the game, but some things I just won’t be keeping, like seigi no mikata being called “superhero.”
This whole thing arose out of over-Nasuverse stimulation. Between some good fanfiction reading, attending Sakura Con 2011 and meeting a bunch of other FSN fans, the excitement of Unlimited Blade Works having come out and the approach of Witch on the Holy Night, Carnival Phantasm and Fate/Zero is overwhelming. This plot bunny started jumping around in my head without mercy. Dammit, I should be working on my original stuff, not fanfiction! Oh well.
I have not played hollow ataraxia as my Japanese is nowhere near the ability to read such a complex story, so my knowledge of Caren is fairly limited. I felt like including her, though, so, there you have it. I’m completely to blame for OOCness.
Bowman and Bow
“Caren is here to pick them up,” Tohsaka said.
Sighing, I poked my head out of the bedroom and felt my lips involuntarily purse. “Uh, could you take care of that? She really gives me the creeps, you know.”
Rin Tohsaka stared back at me, hands on her hips in that same who-do-you-think-I-am pose that generally preceded a verbal beating directed at me. “Would you man up for once and face her in earnest? She honestly is not at all bad.” The Tohsaka-smirk then followed, and though a good five meters separated us, the way she leaned in felt like she was somehow looming over me. “And just what makes you think you can get me to do all the dirty work, anyway? This was all your idea.”
When Tohsaka had returned this past weekend from her latest excursion to London, she had brought with her a rumor on “breakthrough research” that had her concerned; she had explained that such words often accompanied some form of tragedy or another, and that the source had supposedly been from a magus operating out of Japan. Further asking around had discovered this Setsuka Yuushi and his orphanage outside Fuyuki City, not terribly far from the Einzbern mansion where we currently stood. Tohsaka had looked into the orphanage, stating that mages in the past had used isolated locations to carry out experiments that would otherwise get them in trouble, and eventually found altered police records with a magus’s handprints all over it.
Ever since the Grail War’s end, the Einzberns had apparently decided to abandon their property as it was no use to them now that the Great Grail was out of their reach for good, and Illya had become the technical owner. She had shown me around the place once, but ultimately the girl had no use for it either once she had settled in with Taiga. Since Illya’s death, I had not returned to the place, though it still stood, and had eventually settled on it as a staging ground for our rescue mission since it was close to the orphanage and still maintained a boundary field.
When we had found the orphanage and the field surrounding it, the plan was simple: Tohsaka and Sakura would gather up the children and subdue any of the local workers, and I would wait for Yuushi to investigate the intrusion of his boundary field . It had taken a bit of trial and error, but I eventually found the right sword to pierce the field, and it had apparently ripped the entire thing down instead of just creating a hole. Not that I minded.
I did, however, mind dealing with that Church representative. And the constant sexual harassment. “Then…I’ll see if Sakura is willing to deal with her?”
Pushing past Tohsaka—who watched me with that annoying Cheshire cat expression—I went for the second floor landing and circled one of the back halls in an attempt to avoid the main foyer where Caren Ortensia waited to pounce like a lion on a wounded gazelle. That woman seriously made me shiver, like she had killed me in a past life or something.
Sakura was still with the girl we had found inside the laboratory and I couldn’t blame her for it. Although so small in comparison, the feeling one had upon venturing into that room and seeing the steadily bleeding form atop the table was like a vague taste of that horror flowing out of the Grail. Looking at the girl up close had been like looking at all of man’s sins, since it took only the most terrible of them and shoved them in your face.
I’m not sure how much I liked the fact that Tohsaka had seemed more horrified by it than Sakura had.
We had taken the injured girl into one of the bedrooms to recover and Sakura had not left her side the entire time. Although I had managed to keep the girl from dying and Tohsaka’s first aid had sealed the wounds, it was pretty clear that the girl’s wounds were beyond just the physical. Some of the scars suggested she had been tortured for a long enough time for some to heal and talk from some of the kids still in the orphanage made it clear they thought she had been adopted three or four weeks ago.
Finding her had been like finding a medical research cadaver still alive.
I wonder if I looked like her, once upon a time…
I’m not sure what Illya had intended for the room we were using, but it was exactly what we needed. With oak walls and a bedspread in dark blue, it had absolutely no resemblance to the laboratory we had found the girl in and would hopefully be a rest on her mind in that respect.
Not surprisingly, the girl had not said a thing since we had found her, and she was silent as I entered the room.
Sakura was at the bedside, holding the girl’s hand—possibly the only part of her left undamaged by Yuushi’s work. “Anything?”
Sakura shook her head. Now a third year in high school, she looked every bit the senior idol. It was fairly apparent now how much she resembled Tohsaka in that respect. Actually, it was even more apparent in how fierce she could look when truly mad. “I wish you had hit that man harder.”
The Church would be looking after Yuushi until a representative from the Clock Tower came to assess the case. Until then, they had restrained him with a conceptual weapon and Tohsaka had been sure to strip him of any metallurgy he might be carrying. His injuries were not bad, though, since I had purposely missed hitting him directly.
Even Sakura had seemed a little disappointed I hadn’t shot him.
But…that really wasn’t why I was here.
“Ortensia-san is here and rounding up everyone. Do you think you could help her with the head count? I’ll stay with this one until they’re ready to depart.”
Sakura looked surprised, then her head tilted. “Can’t you do that, senpai?”
“I, uh, can…” of course, Sakura had never met Caren before. Nor had Sakura seen Caren’s…oddness. “I just can’t deal with the new overseer from the Church. She treats me strangely.”
“You will stay here, then?” Sakura asked, though she was vacating her seat.
I nodded and sat where she had been.
Sakura brushed her hand along my arm, and she gave me a look that I had become quite familiar with in the last year. Though it had taken me some months to come clean with my participation in the Grail War with her and explained who Saber was, Sakura had been able to figure out everything to begin with and had realized what it really meant when I had told her and Fuji-nee that Saber had returned home. Ever since, her silent touches had always sought to reaffirm that she was in fact still here to support me, and although I never openly acknowledged them, it was not unappreciated.
They had become nearly second nature since Illya had passed on.
Actually, there was an additional sadness to it ever since. Though her relationship with Illya had not been as openly vocal and energetic as Fuji-nee’s was, Sakura had clearly come to like Illya. Her loss probably affected Sakura more than she would openly admit and I wondered if that influenced how she felt about this victim before us.
Well, it was better to think about that than the various other reasons Sakura had to feel sympathetic to such a terrible ordeal.
“Just be sure to watch carefully,” Sakura said. “She’s been staring off at nothing for a while now.”
The girl really had been a sight, more like the raw meat on a butcher’s block than a living person. Tohsaka said that Yuushi’s research had something to do with the magical circuit, meaning that what appeared physically was hardly touching the surface.
If the pain was like what I was doing when first training my magical circuit, I can’t begin to imagine what it was like to have it inflicted upon you by another. At the very least, I knew what to expect for myself.
We weren’t even sure if this girl still had the mental capacity to live, how pained she looked.
And I didn’t know to what extent my Tracing had helped. I knew what it felt like for me, but I couldn’t be sure how much my time with Saber had influenced how I associated perfection with all things related to Saber. I had the feeling of being freed from Angra Mainyu to base it on, but going from negative infinity to positive infinity in a single moment probably skews how I perceive the state of euphoria.
The girl turned her head slightly and stared at me. Despite the intensity, it was not unnerving like it probably should have been, though that may be due to the fact that she now actually looked like a girl and less like Sadako Yamamura about to crawl out of my television.
She watched me without blinking for a long while. I thought maybe she was waiting for me to pull out a scalpel and continue her torture. But then she surprised me. “Bow,” she said, her voice scratchy.
I thought about when I had first entered the lab where we found her and could not remember if I still had the Traced bow in hand at the time. It might take some explaining why some random guy with a bow was one of those responsible for rescuing her…
Or I’m an idiot.
“Your name is Yumi?” I asked.*
Her head moved faintly with a nod.
Sakura had said she had not reacted much, and in the hours while we waited for word from the Church I had not seen her do anything but lay quietly wherever we put her. I was glad to see she still had command of her mind enough to communicate, though why to me and not someone generally more approachable like Sakura confused me.
“I’m Shirou,” I said to her.
She nodded again, very slowly.
“I know it must hurt a lot, but you’ll being picked up by members of a local church in a little bit. Another short trip and you should be able to rest all you want.”
Yumi’s eyes drooped. “Another orphanage?”
I hadn’t thought about it like that, but it would essentially be the same as before for her. Just, without the torture.
“Yeah. The people at the church aren’t going to hurt you though,” I said with confidence. Caren may be odd, but she most definitely wasn’t like Kotomine. Her evil side was certainly plain to see…whenever men were around, anyway. “Everyone there is nice.”
It did make me think, though, of what that would be like. I’m not sure anyone could quite go back to their normal life after something like this. Seeing something so selfish and terrifying behind the actions of one single person…how could you trust others after that? At least, without getting to know them first.
I thought of my own rescue over ten years ago and the other orphans that had survived. Though now resting beyond the pain of Kotomine and Gilgamesh, I know that their lives would still have been a hardship had they even been given a good chance. My life…at least I was given choices. Even if they were never a choice to begin with for me.
Standing up, I said, “I’ll be right back. I need to go talk to someone.”
I guess, maybe, I liked trying to pick up strays.
The main hall foyer still looked beat up; Illya had not been inclined to fix it after the damage sustained in the battle between Berserker and Archer. It worked in our favor, though, since the other kids from Yuushi’s orphanage were less inclined to think about why they were all suddenly being disrupted of their everyday activities and now had a mysterious ruin to look around. I suppose if that magus could be thanked for anything, it was that he decided to carry out his experiments one at a time rather than all at once. Tohsaka had mentioned other magi that were prone to doing some fairly terrible things on a scale large enough that if not dealt with by the Association, it was believed the Counter Force had actually appeared to wipe them out.
Or, you know, me.
But not me. Ugh, I’m making my own head hurt.
Sakura was already grouping kids together in pairs to keep them all orderly. Tohsaka silently watched from the side, though she glanced my way when I descended the stairs and raised an eyebrow. I couldn’t actually find Caren amidst the masses—
Which should have been a warning sign to begin with.
Pulling my ear hard enough to twirl me around a hundred and eighty degrees, Caren Ortensia’s white hair and black dress flew into view. She smiled at me like she was prodding a baby to coo. “You finally show yourself, young man.”
She let go and I clutched my head. In another world, she could probably sneak up and kill me no matter what I did. “Ortensia-san, could you please not do that for a greeting? Won’t a handshake do?”
Smiling, Caren motioned up the stairs. “So, am I correct in assuming you are here to request something?”
Completely ignoring my plea. And perfectly seeing through my desires.
I really can’t stand her, even if she is cute.
Sakura and Tohsaka converged on us; Sakura looked curious, while Rin looked like she knew what was coming. I could only be glad the latter did not have her hand in her face, like it was a stupid idea.
“Yeah, the girl we found, Yumi, I’m not sure she’d readjust so well if we just sent her right back with the others. If nothing else, there’d be questions,” I said.
Tohsaka and Caren both nodded, probably because they had already come to the same conclusion. Sakura looked contemplative, and could probably see where this was going.
“So, what do you plan on doing, Shirou Emiya?” Caren sing-songed my name in a manner suspiciously similar to her predecessor. “Will the mere bowman be taking on a new bow?”
It’s like she knows how stupid I am down to how I could mix up a name, dammit. Praise be to all higher powers that Tohsaka isn’t that…well, never mind.
“Well, it would be alright for her to stay unless I hear some objections?” I looked at Sakura and Tohsaka. I didn’t quite understand how it came to be myself, but even though both still had full houses all to themselves, both pretty much lived at my place now. Sakura kept the Matou home I think for appearances—she really hated that place otherwise—and Tohsaka, when she wasn’t traveling or in London, generally stayed with us. We were adults now, and Fuji-nee had little to argue with in that case.
Plus, you know, Tohsaka…
“I couldn’t say no after seeing her like that,” Sakura said. I wasn’t sure what she was thinking about, though Illya was probably a good guess.
Tohsaka shrugged. “It really isn’t my place to say.”
“Well, you do live with us,” I told her point-blank. “Official or not, I’m not going to force you to live with a situation you don’t want.”
Tohsaka’s eyes widened and for a split second I thought I might have seen a blush, but she waved off any further reaction. “W-well, anyway, I don’t have a problem with it. Really.”
Wait, must relish in ambushing Tohsaka. They’re such rare moments.
“Then, do you think you could make the arrangements?” I asked Caren. “I’m not really sure what the legal proceeding is here.”
Caren put a hand over her mouth and shook with laughter. “You are a magus, Shirou Emiya. Legal proceedings can be overwritten, as you might have noticed.”
“Well, not that good a magus,” I said. “I certainly can’t do something so skillful.” I looked to Tohsaka again.
She stared back at me, until she realized why I was singling her out. “Oh, and I suppose I’m doing all the work again?”
“You are the one always on top,” I said absently.
Sakura immediately took a step back.
“WHAT WAS THAT?!” Tohsaka screamed, now in my face and somehow managing to transmute her teeth into a chainsaw.
“I meant on top of things, things!”
It was after dark by the time we settled in, though I had to open doors and set a fan out to chase away the humid warmth inside. Summer was in full swing and even with the sun down, the heat was still fairly oppressive.
Sakura readied the room next to hers for Yumi, while Tohsaka and I argued over who would be making dinner—really, just an extension on the previous argument about who was going to get all the documents in order. Caren had taken Yumi with the others to make sure her wounds would heal first before we would go pick her up in the morning.
“I’ll cook,” I said to Tohsaka. “You need to come up with an explanation to Fuji-nee once she returns from her sabbatical.”
“Again, why am I responsible for that?”
I grinned at her. “Nobody is nearly smart enough to handle it with the grace you do.”
“Somehow, that doesn’t make me happy when it comes from you.”
Not that it was much, but, maybe a taste of what you put me through. Devil woman.
We ate slowly, talking about what to do now that we would have an additional person in the house. Yumi was apparently fourteen years old, so she would have to be enrolled in high school pretty soon, and depending on how up to it she was, we thought we could swing it past Fuji-nee to pull strings to get her into Homuraba.
It was nice to have people in high places. Or Fuji-nee.
“We should also get this out of the way now, since it is sure to come up,” Tohsaka said after she finished her meal. “How are you going to handle being a magus with her?”
I blinked. “Uh…come again?”
Tohsaka crossed her arms. “You’re a practicing magus and a lot of your time is spent perfecting what we know of your skills so far. You forget that Illya was a magus herself, so it wasn’t necessary to hide it from her, and I think you’ve become comfortable now with the fact that Sakura is one as well.”
I glanced at Sakura, who blushed at the scrutiny. She always tried to draw attention away from that fact, but every once in a while she would make observations about how I operated my own magic that revealed how much longer she had lived with it. Even if she did not practice herself, Sakura was a magus far and away from what I could ever achieve.
“I had assumed that with how Yuushi was pulling off his experiments, we couldn’t exactly hide from Yumi what was going on. She had to have some suspicion anyway. I thought it would, you know, kind of come out naturally as she became curious.”
“Did it come naturally when your father explained it to you?” Tohsaka asked.
Well…now that she mentions it. “I guess not. He just randomly told me one day. But I didn’t know until the Grail War began that the fire was anything more than some terrible accident or natural disaster. I kind of doubt anyone could explain away what Yuushi did, even if the excuse is ‘serial killer’ or something like that.”
“So, no hiding it from her? Or do you think you’ll just tell her up front?”
Sakura raised her hand. I mean, like you might in a classroom. Probably because Tohsaka sounded like a lecturer from school when she asked questions like this. “Although I don’t think we should tell her right away and give her time to adjust, it probably would be better sooner than later. It will clear up any chances for miscommunication later on.”
Tohsaka flushed a little at that, and I smiled. While it had taken the two of them some time—though with Shinji gone and Zouken Matou nowhere to be found, there were fewer hurdles to overcome—the two of them had slowly started to repair their relationship. Every once in a while Sakura would say something innocuous like this that made Tohsaka trip up, clearly a thought shared between the two of them that neither had voiced. I’m not really sure of the specifics, but it was all the clearer why Sakura had always seemed to be a little jealous of the school’s admiration of Tohsaka.
“That sounds about right,” I said. And while I trusted Tohsaka implicitly with her observations and her skills as a magus, I think even Tohsaka felt she was a little deficient in empathizing with the average person. Sakura, on the other hand, tended to be a little more accurate in guessing one’s emotional reactions.
Of course, the only reason Tohsaka was slow on the uptake there was because I think her own emotional reactions surprised her more often than not.
“Then we’ll do it that way,” Tohsaka said, like she was passing judgment and the decision was final. I shook my head and started taking dishes into the kitchen.
If I wasn’t sure how it came to be that Tohsaka and Sakura started living with me, I’m extremely not sure how Tohsaka became the father of the household.
…Or how I had become the mother, for that matter.
Tohsaka and I went to the church in the morning; though there was a week left of summer break, Sakura had club activities at school to oversee and could not go with us.
The church was unchanged since the war, at least on the outside. After the plottings of Kotomine were revealed, the basement had been cleansed and the dying souls there were laid to rest. Although I had seen the empty room for myself, I still could not get over the sense of dread I felt when I caught sight of the top of the hill.
I think Caren had it turned into a storeroom for an herb garden she now maintained in the back. Maybe her definition of irony?
We did not have to enter the church proper, though, upon arrival; Caren waited with Yumi right out front—no doubt predicting that I would be here right on time—and she had with her a small satchel. “You should try brewing tea out of this,” Caren said, handing it to me. “It’ll help with any aches from injury.”
Though she said it clearly in reference to Yumi, I had no doubt she was jabbing at me. Well, fine. When you impale yourself from the inside out automatically when danger is about, you let me know.
“She doesn’t have anything else?” Tohsaka asked.
I looked at her funny.
“She is officially adopted and moved away from the orphanage records,” Caren said. “All of her possessions were probably destroyed then.”
I regarded Yumi carefully. It was fairly amazing that she was already moving on her own power, even if her wounds had healed. I think anybody else would be jumping at shadows and hiding in the closet after what she suffered. It was apparent, though, that the injuries were going to have long-term repercussions: I could make out a couple of scars where her neck met her collar and the very roots of her hair were starting to turn cat-whisker white. Her nervous system must still be going haywire too.
I said, “We could go shopping for her once we’ve settled in,” partially addressing the girl before me in hopes she would respond.
It was barely perceptible, but she nodded at my words.
“Well then!” Caren said, grinning. “Good luck to you. Let me know if you need…anything.” She added the last bit with a breathy tone.
I think Tohsaka’s eyebrow twitched.
As we walked back home, I considered calling a taxi or suggesting the bus, since I wasn’t sure how good a long walk would be for Yumi. But when I reached for my phone, the girl’s hand came up and took mine, like, well, a child to their parent.
I’m not sure why, but I felt the heat rise in my face.
Yumi then reached to take her hand as well.
Tohsaka stopped laughing and stared like a deer-in-headlights.
Yeah, take that.
“So, um, how do you spell your name?” Tohsaka stuttered, trying to cover up her awkward reaction. Brilliant maneuver, captain.
“’Bow’ and ‘beautiful,’” Yumi said, her voice slightly stronger than yesterday.
Tohsaka’s eyes tracked back up at me, and although her tone still had a sense of sarcasm to it, it was one of the few genuine smiles she occasionally gave me. “That’s a wonderful name.”
Escaping Fate, Bowman and Bow, End
*Yumi’s name is 弓美 which literally means “beautiful bow.” The first kanji can itself be read Yumi and is the kanji for bow. Her name is also a homonym for a variety of very fitting words regarding her place in this story. I loves me my Japanese puns.
AN: With regards to pairings, I’ll just say that this follows the Fate scenario, but in great Nasuverse tradition, there will be ways to incorporate other relationships without breaking the whole true love idea. I’m a fan of all three scenarios and heroines for extremely different reasons, so don’t be expecting any hate from this corner. I absolutely love everything in this game and every character that appeared, period.
It’s winter now.*
February, to be more specific. Two years since the Holy Grail War. We celebrated Tohsaka’s birthday a few days ago, combined with a welcome home dinner after an extended trip to London. Although she had been gone for a good four months, I was glad to see that Yumi, still so quiet, smiled when Tohsaka first came through the door.
We had adjusted to our new ward for the most part, perhaps better than could be expected. It hadn’t taken long for Yumi to recover physically and after that she had shown interest in exploring the city. Sakura took it upon herself to show the girl around after school, and each time they returned for the evening, the more Yumi appeared to relax.
And while Sakura didn’t show any outward signs of it, the cloud of sorrow that hung over her since Illya passed had begun to dissipate.
I’m not sure, though, if it would be possible to look at this girl and not think of Illya, though.
The damage to Yumi’s nervous system had been extensive. It was something Tohsaka had pointed out, as she now believed that Archer’s appearance had been due to an overworked magical circuit; Yumi’s hair had lost all pigmentation and gone stark white, while her skin had taken on a splotchy, unhealthy pallor. It was an odd similarity to Illya’s albino appearance and Archer’s severe look, and no amount of healing looked like it would fix it.
A few weeks after taking her in, the three of us sat Yumi down and explained just what had happened to her after it was apparent her hair would not be regaining its original brown color. Though we skirted the Grail War issue, we explained how the three of us were magi and that Yuushi had been one as well. We told her the general idea of what he might have been doing to her and how we never intended to do anything of the sort. Through it all, Yumi had been silent, though she had nodded when Tohsaka and Sakura explained some of their complicated history, clearly having picked up on their familial relationship despite the different names.
So we were magi, and she had been a magus’ experiment.
And the girl quietly accepted her fate.
Maybe I finally started to understand why Tohsaka was so angry when she had learned of my past. If my lack of concern over what had happened was like Yumi’s lack of concern over why she had been tortured, I got it.
I really should have shot that guy between the eyes.
Tohsaka flicked me between the eyes.
“Are you paying any attention at all?” she complained.
I blinked and shook my head. “None whatsoever. Sorry.”
We were attempting to discern how to rework some of my Traced items and see how far we could modify them; ever since I had first used Caladbolg on Yuushi, Tohsaka had been interested in seeing if it was possible to do more than break the Phantasm and overload it for additional kick. She had apparently attended some lecture on advanced Alteration theory when in London and wanted to apply the ideas to what I did.
Of course, she forgot that I was absolutely useless as a magus.
Tohsaka crossed her arms and shook her head at me. “I’m telling you, if you only concentrated more, we could have this down!”
I shook my head in return. Every once in a while, I had to agree with a certain Servant in his assessment with his Master: Tohsaka just couldn’t quite identify with a dropout type like me. “I was concentrating earlier. But nothing I did could change it. The blueprint is clear in my mind and I can’t force myself to change it in any fashion.”
“You should be trying harder!”
Every once in a while, I thought of pinching her nose when she got like this. Just to see what she would do.
Of course, I never had the courage to. Because chances were, what she would do probably included a maiming.
“Sorry,” I said. “It just doesn’t seem to be working tonight.”
Tohsaka sighed, crossed her arms, and leaned back in her seat. Her expression lost its heat, though. “You’re thinking about Saber, aren’t you?”
I blinked at her and went to shake my head, but in bringing it up, I couldn’t help but do so.
And the hope that maybe, in her dream, I had a place.
“You’re hopeless,” Tohsaka said. “Well, just…try to imagine it, anyway. You’re good at that much.”
Tohsaka gathered the sword images and blueprints she had brought from London—apparently they were documents on sword-shaped Mystic Codes—and piled them back onto her desk.
It still confused me to this day why she seemed to prefer this place to her own house. Although by square feet my house was just as large, Tohsaka’s was more to her style and already equipped with the various tools and measures for her work. Every so often, she had to bring a large bundle over to continue her work; it was often enough that I questioned why she didn’t just work out of her home to begin with.
Unlike the reasons Sakura didn’t like returning to the Matou house, I couldn’t fathom any kind of idea why Tohsaka felt better here.
“So,” Tohsaka started, and she looked askance, “is there anything I can do?”
I grinned at her.
No matter what, Tohsaka was never as ruthless as she thought. Even if they were awkward, whenever she let herself be sympathetic, it always made me smile. It was, after all, absolutely adorable.
“W-w-what are you thinking, with that kind of look?”
She was also awkward at receiving gratitude.
“Just being here is fine,” I said. Whatever her reasons for staying, I was glad to have her here.
The red that shot through her face almost managed to reach critical levels and match her ubiquitous shirt.
“Anyway, let me go practice with everything you’ve just shown me, at least. Maybe I’ll find something I just can’t do when you’re watching over my shoulder.” I climbed to my feet and made for the door.
I thought I heard her mutter “idiot” under her breath. Yet another thing to treasure.
So preferable to when she screamed it, anyway.
The cold evening air helped counter the burning sensation whenever I Traced, so I stood in the middle of the back yard to practice. I tried not to think about how another magus had done so before in a similar manner, warming up by conjuring a bow and stretching with it in the same exact spot.
Unfortunately, my bow was not yet up to the standards of whatever it was he had created. Though I had the perfect image in my mind of what he had done, the composition of the material was still off; whatever odd metal he had created both his bow and armor out of was still out of my reach. It managed the purpose I needed it for—firing off Traced weapons—though my effective range was still terrible.
I brought the Orichalcum sword to mind and reconstructed it perfectly. It was a nice addition to the lengthy catalogue of weaponry I could bring to mind and was different from most of the other pieces. Like the Azoth sword, its composition was different to the forged and folded steel of many weapons and instead was constructed to feed prana into. If I could figure out how to actually make modifications to a weapon, it was a perfect candidate to start with, since it would take much more than I could possibly inject into it to break.
My body is made of swords.
“I am the bone of my sword.”**
The blade shifted in shape, like taking the image on a computer and stretching it lengthwise. I pulled until it was the exact length of an arrow, nocked the sword, and let it fly.
It struck the tatami I had set out as a target in the same place the human neck would be.
I sighed. It was not Alteration that occurred when I manipulated the blade into an arrow shape. Alteration involved the addition of properties that an item did not already have to begin with, like adding an additional ingredient to a dish. I could not do such a skillful thing; for me, it was more like rearranging the ingredients the original had to work better for what I needed it to do.
I thought that following the process of “arrow-izing” the blade might help, but that was a bust.
Letting the bow dissipate, I considered my options. Ultimately, it wasn’t important to me to figure out ways to Alter my arsenal if I could manage to safely make Broken Phantasms. The only problem on that issue was my inadequate bow, since I didn’t particularly want to risk using most Broken Phantasms while still holding them.
Tracing Kanshou and Bakuya, I thought about practicing that instead; the twin scimitars were about the only weapons I had successfully Broken in hand without causing major bodily harm to myself in the process.
I glanced at the porch and found Yumi watching me.
While I had never hidden my magic away from her, it occurred to me that Yumi had never seen me do anything more than Reinforce some household items for practice. And to be honest, I had wondered if the sight of a sharp object suddenly appearing in my hands would be cause for the girl to be upset.
Instead, I found her looking at the blades curiously.
I couldn’t think of an appropriate response though. “What?”
“Why are you holding swords?”
Well…that would take a while to explain. But since she wasn’t upset over it, I guess it didn’t matter if I showed her a little. “It’s the only magic I’m fairly practiced at. We mentioned ‘Projection’ before, right?”
Nodding, Yumi sat at the edge of the porch and watched me intently.
“This is kind of like that, something I specialize at. I call it ‘Tracing.’ I copy swords and other weapons I’ve seen before.”
I thought about how to word my response. I didn’t like explaining things in detail because I often got confused as to where I was. I can’t imagine what other people would feel. How Tohsaka managed it was a mystery to me. “You know in manga or a sentai series, how heroes always seem to have swords? I mean, if they have any kind of weapon at all, it’s usually a sword.”
“I specialize in swords because I want to be that kind of hero. The one that saves everyone.”
Yumi’s eyes fell into her lap. She stared at her own hands, perhaps the only part of her body that had been left untouched by experimentation. No scars adorned them and they did not have the splotchy complexion the rest of her skin had. “Nobody can save everyone.”
Again, I de-Traced the weapons in my hands and sat next to her. I always felt inadequate at being able to comfort her, but the whole point of taking her in had been to give it a try. “That’s true,” I said. “I’m only human, after all.”
I thought of sitting on this porch years ago with a person just as cynical. Yet, for his cynicism, his ideal had always been such a beautiful one.
“But wouldn’t it be a good thing if someone could save everyone?” I asked.
Yumi’s hands fisted as if clutching something. She nodded.
“I think so too. So, even if it is impossible, I want to aim for that dream.” I smiled at her. “So I make swords in the hopes that one day, they will be used for that purpose.” My smile probably went a little funny then. “Even if I’m pretty terrible at it.”
Though she listened to every word, Yumi remained quiet. For a moment, I thought that I had gone too far, told her too much. There was an extreme loneliness in her body language, the way she hunched in on herself that was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Sakura, when I had first met her, came close, but Sakura always had a sense that she was still trying to reach out to others in everything she did, even if she was scared. Yumi seemed to reach inward instead.
And now that Tohsaka had brought it up, I couldn’t help but think about it.
Saber reached inward as well.
I reached outward, to people like Yumi, the people I could possibly save.
“When…will you know?” Yumi asked, though her gaze remained in her lap. “If you reach it?”
I gave a helpless shrug. “I don’t know. I may never know.”
Yumi was silent after that, though the lost expression had faded. Now she just seemed confused.
Not that I blame her. My dream is a pretty foolish one, after all.
She didn’t understand.
Why pursue something impossible?
Why pursue something when you will never even know if you have achieved it?
She didn’t understand his dream at all.
She didn’t understand why, deep inside of herself, she felt comforted by those words.
She knew he had told her something important. Something so necessary that he could not exist without it. She knew, at least, for that, she would hold his goals dear.
When she had first caught a glimpse of him, when she had first looked upon her savior from the world of pain, of endless removal and addition…
He had seemed so happy.
Happy to find her. Happy to save her.
She had been happy to find relief, to find escape. But he…he had not been happy just to see that she could be relieved and escape. He was happy just to have reached her.
She thought, even then, she wanted to have that same expression.
Not one of having the results of a deed be worth it…
But to have reached the deed in the first place.
Maybe…maybe then she could understand.
Why she felt, his confusing dream, his happy expression…
Why they seemed to trod on her very soul.
I retired to bed that night tired.
Tired and alone.
It was a very different feeling to me than the others, I’m sure.
When Sakura looked lonely, it broke my heart, that she could still be so distrustful of the world that had harmed her so. Even now, she would occasionally let that sad smile appear, despite everything that had improved between her and her sister, despite everything I did to remind her that I would give my left arm to make sure no harm came to her. I would try my best to be there for her, would push past her polite denials and find something to do with her, even if it was to just watch a movie or talk about school. And it was great to feel the extra strength behind an embrace of her hands to his at those times, the only sign that she understood.
When Tohsaka looked lonely, it made me a little angry, that a part of her may still feel a little unwelcome. It was often apparent on the day before her regular excursions to London: she would look at the daily scene of dinner in the house and her eyebrows would fall in a self-deprecating way. So I always tried to remind her to bring us souvenirs from her trip, that I expected such gifts, because I looked forward to them. And it was great to see her glare and hear her complain that she was not made of money and threaten that I would get nothing.
I feel alone…because she isn’t here.
The one person that could understand.
Nothing in me can replace you, I had said.
There was no fake I could replicate to do that.
Nor was there anything real that could stand there either.
Nothing but a memory, and everything of my dream.
I slept, and I dreamed. Of my sword, the one that most certainly, was not made of me.
Escaping Fate, The Addition, End
*Be glad I didn’t start with, “It’s spring now,” people that have played Heaven’s Feel.
**For those unfamiliar with the original visual novel: Shirou and Archer will on occasion literally think of one thing but say something completely different when invoking their spells. The entire UBW aria is in fact thought one way and said another quite often, and the translations are not meant to be exactly the same. Both literally think, “Karada wa tsurugi de dekite iru” for the first line of UBW, which translates as “His body is made of swords” while at the same time saying aloud, in English, “I am the bone of my sword.” This is not absolute, though, as occasionally, they will say the Japanese line over the English…so you’ll see Shirou zig-zag about in this story.
Shirou glared at the computer. “We live in the information age, and yet still, I can’t find any signs of a suitable battle to join?”
“Shut up,” Rin said, pushing back so he stopped leaning so close over her shoulder. “I can’t concentrate with you so close.” She returned to hunching over the keyboard and leaning in to look at the screen.
After all, stupid technology would never be important enough to break out the glasses.
“Japanese Psychics in conflict with Magi of the Roman Catholic Church?” Rin asked, checking one news report.
“I think I’ve had enough fighting magic-wielding priests, thanks.”
Rin passed the mouse slowly over another. “Color gangs in Ikebukuro district of Tokyo?”
Shirou leaned in right where she had pushed him away from to begin with, but this time to clearly read the full text from the story. He sighed after a few moments. “I’m not exactly sure who I’d be saving. Though internet memes could boost my level of infamy.”
Rin scanned the article again. “What’s an internet meme?”
Impatiently, Shirou grabbed for the mouse, though Rin attempted to wrestle his hand away. “Anyway,” he said, when she had regained control, “go on.”
“Heroic Spirits fighting creatures from a place called the Crimson Realm…wait, no, that sounds like it’s made up.”
Shirou snickered. “You’re a witch, Tohsaka.”
Glare. “Your point being?”
“Well, then, mister smarty-pants, why don’t you look for something that might work? I don’t really know how to use this google-thingy anyway.” She crossed her arms and allowed Shirou to monopolize the mouse.
“Let’s see…Psychopomp swordsmen in conflict with Holy Quincy Family? They even have a picture of the latter…hey! The guy is using a bow!”
Rin squinted at the image. “I don’t know. Even in Eastern Thaumaturgical teaching, there is no kind of afterlife spirit. We return to Akasha when we die, period.” She paused, her head tilting in consideration. “But…that news report…there’s something familiar about him.”
“Must be all the crosses on his clothing. You have weird tastes, Tohsaka.”
“Says the guy drooling over the latest issue of Jump.”
Shirou glared right back at her. “They released an image of that author, Aoki Ko…I think I have a thing for blondes.”
Rin sighed. “Of course you do…”
Shirou ignored her “Though I really hate that new one by Fukuda…”
Rin flung her head back and connected with Shirou’s nose.
See if she went out of her way to learn a sophisticated modern technological device for anyone ever again. Even if he was someone special.
“Thanks, Tohsaka. I never knew you considered me special.” He grinned at her widening eyes. “Oh, no, you didn’t say anything. Just, you know, I can tell exactly what you’re thinking whenever you go tsun-tsun.”
“What the hell is that?!”
“Tsun-tsun. You do know that you’re a Grade-S Tsunde—”
And while she may not have known it, Shirou certainly did, and remembered to flee the room upon this proclamation, when the average Tsundere began the violent tear through the building.
Last edited by Arashi_Leonhart; July 6th, 2013 at 01:10 PM.
July 14th, 2011, 09:07 PM
Ah, it is here~!
Also I write all my chapters these days with FFN's format in mind.
There is nothing greater than a loli.
LIKE A KING
Everything I say is a lie.
LIKE A KING
Butt-windows are the portal to the soul.
LIKE A KING
Originally Posted by Komrade Kwestions
July 14th, 2011, 09:17 PM
...............I are happiness right now.
Spinach: Tina is my spirit animal.
Mcjon01: [Fate/EXTRA]'s still a rock paper scissors simulator. The skills simulate the part of rock paper scissors where you get mad at your friend for obviously cheating all the time because you know it's impossible for you to just be that bad at rock paper scissors so you punch him in his stupid cheating mouth.
July 14th, 2011, 09:24 PM
Mystic Eyes of Tree Hugging
AN: Is it just me, or does a dojikko woman apt to pulling wooden swords out of nowhere named Taiga making a boy do all of the traditional housewife chores for her sound familiar? Good thing the visual novel predates Toradora! by two years…
The Peaceful Noise
I hit the floor.
It had occurred to me in hindsight that my house’s dojo was a traditional Kendo setup, meaning it used a hardwood floor. The idea of converting it to padding like a modern dojo had occurred when Saber had been beating the stuffing out of me, but since the War it really hadn’t been an issue I needed to pursue.
And then Tohsaka started training me in Kenpo.*
Like she needed to point out yet another thing she was superior at.
It was important, though, to keep myself in that mindset if I were to ever reach my dream. Tohsaka knew this and had brought up her knowledge of hand-to-hand, supposedly passed down with her magecraft for generations. It made a nice supplement to the brief bit of swordsmanship Saber had beaten into me and the archery I already knew.**
I just wish that someday, Tohsaka would offer help that didn’t involve pain and humiliation.
The blow had caught me dead center of the diaphragm, leaving me winded for a lot longer than normal. Tohsaka, unlike Saber, gave me time to recover though, and I staggered up after a moment. “I thought I missed that last one,” I said.
Tohsaka nodded. “You did, actually. I was aiming for the kidneys and you twisted out of the way, just in the wrong direction.” Thankfully, also unlike Saber, Tohsaka actually worked up a sweat as well instead of staring me down like an implacable sentinel. “I think your instinct was right, it just backfired on you this time.” Unfairly, she was not breathing hard like I was. “What?”
“Don’t tell me you aren’t even a little winded from this?”
“Oh.” Tohsaka’s surprised expression gave way to that damned Cheshire look that made me feel like I was about to hand over my life savings, or else. “Reinforce your lungs.”
No wonder I was a failure as a magus.
“Well, that’s not important for now,” she continued, shrugging. “It’s getting close to dinnertime and I’m guessing Fujimura-sensei will be over soon?”
I nodded. “She didn’t have work to do, but since she is the advisor for the Archery Club, she felt she had to check in on everything, especially now that Sakura has passed the captaincy on. Doesn’t trust the newbie captain, or so I hear.”
Sakura would be graduating from Homurabara in two weeks. She had no plans for college, so she had started working a secretarial job recommended to her by Mitsuzuri, saying she was “determined to not be a freeloader.”
I only hope she didn’t hear that from me.
“So, last bout? Winner makes dinner?” Tohsaka grinned at me.
Underhanded play, you’re still so much better at this than I am…
“Fine,” I said. “You’re going down this time.”
We both took a ready stance and started circling some imaginary point between the two of us. Tohsaka usually waited for me to make a move when she was not teaching me defensive maneuvers, as she apparently wanted to test the choices I made in combat. Still, I kept watch for a surprise move before closing in for a strike.
I usually led with a punching strike, so I tried moving in with a low right kick this time. Tohsaka deflected it aside, though she had to use both arms to do so, which is what I had hoped for. The moment my foot touched ground again, I brought my right arm up and shoved, grabbing hold of her shoulder and throwing her over my leg. If I could get her to ground—
Tohsaka fell faster than I thought, pivoted even while her rear hit the floor, and struck the side of my left leg. Her palm hit in that perfectly balanced fashion that the strike did not hurt nor did it even fully register: instead, it caused my knee to involuntarily bend, throwing my balance completely and bringing me tumbling down after her.
My arms flailed in a not-so-graceful fashion and I tried to twist in order to face my opponent, but the angle was just bad. I felt Tohsaka rise up behind me and, too close for a strike, wrap her arms around my neck for a choke hold.
I managed to get an arm up next to my neck and block her from completely encircling it, then got enough of my weight behind my knees again to pull forward with my shoulders, swinging her around my side and onto her back. Simultaneously, I grabbed both her arms and when she hit the floor, pinned them flat.
It was the stupidest, most fleeting idea, but for a moment, looking at her under me, her shirt clinging to her body from the workout, I couldn’t help but think of other activities.
“Thinking naughty thoughts, Shirou-kun?” Tohsaka nearly purred.
I could literally feel the blush shoot up my neck.
Tohsaka of course didn’t let that go to waste and like a professional contortionist, managed to swing a leg up enough to hook around my shoulder and send me crashing onto my back. Before I could raise any sort of defense, her kneesock-clad legs had me in a complete scissor hold at the neck. It wasn’t very Kenpo-like, but it certainly did the trick.
A little red in the face too, Tohsaka was nonetheless grinning as she sat up to look me in the eyes. “You’d better hope you never face a cute girl as an enemy,” she said. “Especially if they know they’re cute.”
“Agh, you know I know you’re good looking, so no fair using that,” I complained. “And I could’ve fought back! I just…well…”
Tohsaka always argued that we should wear normal clothes when sparring like this. It wasn’t like we’d encounter an enemy while wearing specially prepared training outfits. But it was highly distracting sometimes, since Tohsaka usually used the red shirt and black skirt she had worn through much of her off time in high school. If my hand slipped when trying to break her grapple, I’m pretty sure the excuse “your skirt is too short” wouldn’t fly.
Climbing back up, I watched as Tohsaka straightened her clothing and pulled her socks back up fully. It was all very innocuous, but for some reason I found myself smiling at the familiarity.
Two years ago, Tohsaka had been the school idol, in some ways as unapproachable and unobtainable as Saber had been at first. Now, with the harmless jokes she threw my way and her presence here, even if it was inconsistent with her trips to London, sometimes…
I shook my head ruefully.
If I had wanted Saber to live out a life, to be proud of her accomplishments and then allow herself to have human wants and desires…
I had the sneaking suspicion that Tohsaka was jabbing me in the same exact place I had once pestered Saber over. And while I wasn’t sure where that was supposed to fit into my life, or even if it had a place in my life—
“So, my turn to cook tonight!” Tohsaka declared, crossing her arms in victory. She then gave me a hilarious expression of confusion. “I wonder when that became something to be proud of.”
If you don’t understand, then just let me do it!
“Tohsaka-san, make twice as much! This girl is all skin and bones!”
Finally back from her sabbatical—in which she supposedly was at an English program in America but I had a feeling was really sampling all the local cuisine—Fuji-nee had been much easier to reason with than I had expected regarding Yumi’s presence. Initially, of course, she had been ready to hammer me into the floor with her stuffed-full luggage, but after taking one look at the girl, she caved.
Saber, of course, had been stoic and self-assured. Illya acted cheerful. It was easier to outright pity Yumi, who looked like she was just waiting for someone to come up and knife her at any given moment even when she was relaxed. Had it been possible, I think Fuji-nee would have melted right into the floor the moment her eyes met Yumi’s.
So Tohsaka’s argument became a simple logistical description of how we would be caring for Yumi as something of a ward. Fuji-nee agreed, though she kept eying Tohsaka every once in a while in a hurt manner.
Probably thinking something along the lines of, I’m the one that’s supposed to be the boss in Shirou’s life, not you! The day had finally come: I was emancipated from my overbearing caretaker.
Too bad she had me whipped into feeding her anyway. “Don’t listen to her, Tohsaka, she’ll just eat the excess herself.”
Fuji-nee’s cheeks puffed and eyes glazed over, like she couldn’t decide whether to be angry or hurt. “You’ve become such a bully, Shirou. Where did your nice attitude go while I was gone?”
I decided to ignore her and glanced at Yumi. Though she had demonstrated no problem with Fuji-nee, it was pretty clear she still had no idea how to handle the loud schoolteacher. While I’m sure Yumi had known rather energetic people at the orphanage and possibly even before she had ended up there, I don’t know whether she had ever met someone who could manage zero enthusiasm to absolute insanity in an instant. Fuji-nee was a rather weird person.
Let me reiterate that: Sakura can seal away faeries, Tohsaka can make jewelry explode, and my body spontaneously sprouts swords in battle, yet Fuji-nee was the weird one.
Yumi was quiet, though it wasn’t a morose kind of quiet. Here and there, her eyes would wander, like they say how your eyes will look up and to one side to access part of your mind. Though she rarely spoke up, I always had the impression that she was considering a lot and thinking much more than she ever voiced, but for some reason decided not to bring up. It was subtle, but it reminded me of an extreme case of the sort of thing Tohsaka did every once in a while when she would be conjuring up a brilliant and/or crazy scheme.
Sakura was watching her too, probably noticing the same thing. I knew Sakura kept a lot to herself, but she was better at hiding it.
“Senpai has always been polite to me,” Sakura said absently. “I think he still has the same relationship with sensei as before too.”
“And what of your relationship, hmmm?” Fuji-nee leaned in at Sakura, taking that same dime-turn in mood. “Anything I should know of?”
I wasn’t blind to what Fuji-nee wanted for us, but at this point it was rather impossible. In the past year Sakura had really, well, blossomed into an elegant beauty and I knew she got love confessions at least monthly; she was, after all, more approachable than Tohsaka had been. I really wanted the world for her, but…
I didn’t exactly have anything in me to give.
The way I had decided to shape my life really didn’t allow for that kind of selfish want. It would be rather stupid of me to accept someone’s love and then disappear to some foreign country and possibly get myself killed. Taking care of Yumi was one thing, since if I died tomorrow the others would be here to care for her, and eventually she would be old enough to be on her own anyway.
I really didn’t want to hurt Sakura like that, no matter how prepared for what could happen she was.
Tohsaka saved her sister from further teasing, bringing out a meal of Korean beef that was sure to quiet Fuji-nee.
If only for a little bit.
When Fujimura-san left for the evening, Sakura had started to clean up and gently dismissed Shirou and Rin. Shirou had wandered off somewhere, while Rin had gone to her house to retrieve something.
Yumi found herself before the shed.
It was not sneaking, since there was nothing to hide from. Shirou had not hidden the fact that his workspace was in the shed, but he had also pointed out that there was nothing resembling a real functioning magus’ workshop there. But for some reason, Yumi had not wanted him here when she first opened it up.
The doors were creaky and slow-moving, and when she found the lights they really did nothing for the space. It was open and rather vacant; a sheet on the ground to one side and various electronics stacked next to it, a queue of the odd jobs Shirou did for people. Yumi had glimpsed some of Rin’s things and they were closer to the image she had in her mind of a witch: beakers, measures, various bottles of exotic-looking things. Shirou’s space looked just like the garage of a part-time mechanic or electrician.
Except for the wooden swords.
There were only a few, next to the door, and though nonchalantly leaning against the doorframe, something about them spoke to her more than the other items in the room.
They felt like him.
Taking one, she sat on the sheet and set the wooden length across her lap, regarding it carefully. They looked identical to the few that were in the dojo, only Yumi could tell they had been magicked in some way. She wasn’t sure how she could tell, but it was there.
Rin had once explained, very briefly, that magicians had circuits in their bodies to flow magic through. Though it was only glossed over, Yumi understood that the things that had been done to her had something to do with forcing circuits into her body that did not belong. Though she had hidden it well, Rin had shown some kind of surprise that Yumi was even still alive right now.
But because of all of that, Yumi thought she understood. Not on an intellectual level, but intuitively.
She understood that Shirou, lately, had been trying to add things to his magic. She knew he wasn’t very good at it.
She knew she could. Just like things had been changed inside her, she could change other things.
If only she could teach herself how.
“Hey. Fuji-nee is back home.”
The graveyard was quiet.
Sometimes, I’m not really sure why I regularly trekked here. It was far, far out of the way and far, far too close to being within range of Caren Ortensia, but the compulsion hit me frequently enough. It was right next to where I had truly been introduced to her, after all, and was now the location of her remains.
Legally, she had technically been given Fuji-nee’s name. But nobody argued when I had that placed on her grave.
I’m not sure if she had ever forgiven our father. I’m not sure if she would have approved of the name.
But I know she was okay with the other part, at least.
“She’s noisy as ever, not that I think you’d be surprised.” But even if she was no longer alive, I still felt like reminding her of the lives she left behind. And that, unlike the von Einzberns that had so easily abandoned her when she could no longer win the war, she was always here with us.
Another life I wanted to carry with me.
“Anyway, just thought you’d like to know. That she’s okay and didn’t get hit by a crazy American driver or something. Or elope with someone there.”
Although the latter one would’ve been funny.
I sought to escape the graveyard before Caren’s Shirou-sense went off and she came looking to victimize me, so I left with that. Even though I had the urge to come, I also kept every visit short, like everything I said were just something I’d relay to her in passing. Plus, I didn’t want to leave Sakura and Yumi alone in the house too long in case Tohsaka took a while gathering whatever it was she was going to torture me with next.
Humming, I returned home.
Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
Daß ich so traurig bin…
Escaping Fate, The Peaceful Noise, End
*Romanizing it Kenpo, though it should be Kenpō or Kenpou…both of which just look wrong to me. Just saying, I’m lazy, not neglectfully inconsistent.
**It’s mentioned in source material that Archer was equally proficient with weaponry as he was bare-handed. Since Shirou did not join a hand-to-hand Martial Arts club in high school and it seems unlikely that Kiritsugu, even if he knew any formally, was capable of teaching Shirou, I always thought that Rin might have been the one responsible for instructing him in that aspect. Or maybe he just got good at barehand-blocking Taiga.
AN: I know that the chapters are slow-going and short right now. I promise that there will be some action soon. I do hope the little themes I’m laying in now will resonate more later and you can forgive me for the slow start.
The cherry blossoms were in full bloom and Sakura positively glowed with excitement as we walked down the street toward Homurabara. I had to admit to some understanding: the odd nostalgia of walking toward school conflicting with the knowledge of being an adult and growing out of that daily routine made one feel excited.
We walked Yumi to her first day of high school. The girl was silent between us, wearing one of Tohsaka’s uniforms; Yumi had grown since moving in with us, and though her skin still had an unhealthy pallor to it, it was readily apparent that she had a growth spurt somewhere along the line. She fit Tohsaka’s uniform fairly well, and when we had brought up the option of buying a completely new one, she had refused.
“I like Rin’s feeling in it,” she had said.
I do believe the bashful look Tohsaka had produced was once-in-a-lifetime-only. Damn my hands not being fast enough at grabbing my phone and taking a picture of her for future blackmail. Doubly, because Tohsaka was a dunce with technology and would never be able to delete it.
A few students would wave to Sakura as we neared school grounds, and amusingly some boys would make to wave or call out only to stop when they realized I was with her. It was something I had grown accustomed to: in our senior year, few people really knew who I was other than Issei’s friend, but they all whispered regularly when it became clear that Tohsaka and I had something of a relationship. The fact that it was non-romantic never managed to reach their imagination, so I was just “the enemy.” Considering Sakura’s own popularity in her senior year, I wasn’t at all surprised to see a number of admirers.
Yumi watched everything with a sort of quiet suspicion. It wasn’t outright distrust in everyone, but there was definitely a sense that she understood that everyone could potentially have private sides to themselves that they did not show the world under the full sun.
I just hoped she learned that some of those people’s private sides were still outright harmless.
Sakura seemed to be in tune with that as well, as she had a specific reason to accompany Yumi to the school grounds. A few paces from the main gate, she caught sight of her intended. “Hoshino-san!”
A boy not much taller than Sakura stopped at the gates and looked around. He spotted Sakura and smiled, and while I could tell he was one of her admirers, the understated body language he kept to meant he was a little more comfortable around her. Huh.
“Senpai, good morning,” he said, bowing slightly.
“I’m not your senpai anymore,” Sakura said. “You don’t have to call me that.
I probably didn’t quite manage it, but, I tried to give Sakura the same you hypocrite look that Tohsaka shot my way frequently.
Sakura didn’t notice—or was ignoring me—and instead put her hands on Yumi’s shoulders. “Hoshino-san, this is Yumi Emiya. She’s new to town and just beginning classes here, so could you help show her around and watch out for her?”
The boy smiled again and nodded, and he bowed to Yumi as well. “I’m Takumi Hoshino. Good to meet you.”
Yumi did that thing again where her eyes moved and various options seemed to present themselves to her. She nodded slightly and said, “You too.”
If Sakura was glowing before, she was suffering supernova now.
“Thank you, Hoshino-kun!” Sakura said, and I’m not even sure she noticed the switch in address she gave him. “Yumi, be sure to ask him for anything. You know the way home, right?”
I finally decided to pitch in. “Call me if you need anything.”
Yumi nodded again.
Hoshino gave a tilt of his head and, without any further communication, Yumi followed after him into the school. We watched silently until they passed through the entry doors before turning back.
“Nice boy,” I said.
Sakura smiled. “He’s a second year now and joined the Archery Club last year.” She paused, and her voice fell a little, not quite to a sad register. “He makes me think of everything I wished nii-san would have been.”
I nodded, quiet. I had never gotten around to telling Sakura how Shinji met his demise, though I think she had come to the conclusion herself. She was aware that both Tohsaka and I would have given him every chance, but after meeting Illya, I think she had understood the full weight of what the other Masters could have been like. Illya, for all her apparent innocence, had a straightforward sense about her that was dangerous. Sakura had probably figured if not Illya, one of the other Masters had done Shinji in.
I don’t think she has decided whether she was happy or sad about the revelation.
“Well then, should I walk you to your work? I know it’s still early, but we could grab a snack on the way or something.”
Sakura’s smile returned, and I hoped it would stay that way for at least the rest of the day.
She was different.
It didn’t take much to notice. The people in class were each individualistic: some were loud, some were quiet, some had problems and others were carefree.
Fujimura-sensei and Hoshino-san both checked in with her at lunch, and to keep them from worrying she said she had no problems. It truly was an honest assessment, as nobody seemed interested in bullying her, nor did anyone seem put off by her odd appearance.
But she could sense it.
Akari and Nozomi were nervous, speaking in stutters when they introduced themselves to the class. Natsuki was as well, though she covered it up by being boastful and energetic. Seiji was rebellious, saying the least he could get away with in the most informal manner he could. Tamaki and Eri were collected, always smiling to put others at ease. Hiroshi was shy and hardly said a word.
Each one of them had varying emotions from time to time, as they were comfortable or surprised, disturbed or having fun.
Each one of them had these feelings and emotions one at a time.
Yumi was different.
It was something she had noticed before but had not been able to arrange clearly in her head. Before the experiments, before the torture, she had felt as they did. Sequences of thoughts and feelings, complex arrangements from one to the other. She thought of that as “normal.”
It didn’t feel like that anymore.
It was something like herself she could detect in Rin, in Sakura, in Shirou, with varying intensity.
Rin was like two “normals” put together, with the same sequence and arrangement of emotions and feelings, but sometimes in conflict with one another. Yumi thought it was like putting a “Rin of the world” together with a “Rin of magic.” They were similar, but occasionally rubbed each other the wrong way.
Sakura was like three “normals” put together. Yumi thought it was the “Sakura of the world” with the “Sakura of danger” and “Sakura of determination.” One was like everyone else. The second seemed to view the world like a dangerous entity, one that had to be defended against. The third tried to balance the two, protecting itself from the outside with the face of the first.
Shirou…was like none of that. An absence. Yumi wasn’t quite sure why she thought of it like that, but, it was something she had come to realize almost immediately. Shirou hardly had any “normal” within him any longer.
Yumi thought she and Shirou were both the most alike. But it was at the same time completely different.
She was not a lack of “normal.” She was overflowing with it.
So many emotions, so many thoughts and feelings…together. Not balanced like Sakura, nor at odds like Rin. Not lacking like Shirou. But full. So completely full, she couldn’t tell where one began and the other ended.
Angry, happy, scared, thrilled, sad, awed…all at once. So much that it took her a moment to even decide on one.
Yumi could only recall once in which they all lined up. She thought maybe, just maybe, if she could reach that again, she might understand.
It was why, still so full, she thought she was the most like Shirou.
His expression, that day.
The day she was saved.
One look. It took one look from her, one look from him, and she had it. One singular line, thread, direction.
I made sure that today, I was the one to cook.
Three days kept from it. Tohsaka, Sakura, I will return this imprisonment a hundredfold! You could not stop my advance today!
Well, really, Sakura was at work and Tohsaka was inspecting the boundary field up at Ryuudou Temple. Win by default, I suppose.
As it was Yumi’s first day in high school and Fuji-nee’s first day fully back to work, I wanted to make a big, full meal and went with teppanyaki. It also served as a counter to all of the Chinese and Western-styled food Tohsaka and Sakura had been making lately, what with the local Kobe beef* and fresh cabbage. I spent the rest of the morning after walking Sakura to work on shopping, then did all the pre-preparation I could.
It was an almost perfect arrangement. Tohsaka would teach me magic and Kenpo three days out of the week, and I would usually spend three more days trying to perfect what I had come to know those days. It left one day in which I could try playing around with what little sword work I knew and practice with a few of the weapons in my arsenal.
The unfortunate thing, of course, was that I was never going to be a master swordsman. It was readily apparent as I started switching between the different weapons I had. The little I knew before the War had of course centered on Kendo, and the way one swung a Japanese sword was completely different to, say, how one used a European sword like Caliburn. You swung with your left hand and guided right in Kendo, but swung right and balanced left with the heavier European blade. And neither were at all similar to the short scimitars like Kanshou and Bakuya, nor the extremely heavy longsword like Moralltach. I hadn’t even begun to try using non-swords.
And I was willing to bet, even if I dedicated years to mastering one, I’d never reach Fuji-nee’s level of expertise. Much less someone like Saber or Lancer.
I spent the afternoon practicing footwork and swings for a Japanese-style weapon, but retired early to get dinner started. I was just donning the apron when I heard the slide of the front door and the silent entry that had to be Yumi; Sakura, Tohsaka, and Fuji-nee all announced themselves regularly. I poked my head out of the kitchen and caught Yumi as she entered. “Hey. Welcome home. How was the first day?”
It was the expression of overwhelmed thoughts that came to Yumi’s face, the same one I had seen her regularly don when addressing Fuji-nee. She looked both ready to burst from information overload and ready to just ignore everything and not even answer. “It was…busy,” she said finally.
I didn’t want to be that kind of parent you see in manga or on television and ask something asinine like, “did you make any friends?” I figured if she had anything she really wanted to discuss, she would do so on her own time. Considering the way Tohsaka demanded everyone speak up in this house, I don’t think Yumi had any issue with bringing something up with me or anyone else.
So, instead, I said, “We’ll have dinner once everyone is back. And I promise it’ll be good enough that Fuji-nee will be too busy to get a word in edgewise this time around.”
This earned a slight smile from Yumi. While uncommon, it did seem like she was doing it a little more often than when she first came here.
Without further comment, the girl went to turn the television on, politely dismissing me back to my work. It was actually something I kind of liked that was different about everyone else in this house, but Yumi regularly watched television. While Fuji-nee often zoned out in front of a variety show, nobody else in this house particularly used it—save when Sakura and I would trap Tohsaka into watching something and amusing ourselves with how she reacted to watching something like Star Wars or the latest Gundam anime.
I think we sufficiently scared her into believing robots would destroy the world…or at least come for her in the middle of the night.
Yumi though tended to watch various different things, from comedy gameshows to old yakuza films to Doraemon. A part of me hoped that it was one of her own little ways of making up for the innocence she had lost, engaging in something mundane and amusing.
Hopefully, she would find something at school equally as everyday.
Escaping Fate, Altered Life, End
*The location of Fuyuki City in Japan is never given, though the visual basis is the city of Kobe. Tohsaka’s house is in fact a fairly well-known location in Kobe’s Kitano-chou area, and there are a fair number of sites online where you can see the bridge, road to the church, Emiya household, and the like.
Nocking the Bow
When she got past the initial jealousy, Sakura had to admit that it was adorable.
Shirou had apparently spent all afternoon training and Rin had spent most of the day inspecting the boundary field surrounding Ryuudou Temple for an anomaly that both had come to the dinner table tired and sore. Usually they were up and about after such activities, but today everyone had opted to join Yumi in front of the television and watch a movie.
Taiga had been the first to submit—unsurprisingly—and was to one side, sprawled in a fashion that looked completely uncomfortable and lightly snoring. Rin had been next, lulling into Shirou’s shoulder even as he poked her a couple of times in the ribs to keep her up. Then Shirou had succumbed an hour later.
Now they lay there in a pile in what looked like a very intimate position, Rin half sprawled atop Shirou like a blanket. Sakura wasn’t sure she wanted to wake them, though, if they were so tired.
Looking at it made her sad.
She was aware of the chemistry between her sister and Shirou. There was attraction there, both ways, and Sakura had for the longest time felt so jealous of her sister for it. For many things.
But there was also an awareness there, on her sister’s part, that Sakura herself knew, and the both of them had come to the realization.
Shirou was far away from the both of them.
It was an inscrutable sense. Shirou was certainly there, laughed and smiled and got angry and everything else with them. But his eyes were always on the horizon, always off to the distance. The same feeling had permeated Saber’s presence when she had been here, and now it was beginning to fully form within Shirou as well.
It made her sad because it was a sign of their parting.
Surely, Shirou would live his life. It might even fill Rin and Sakura’s life as well, may be a part of them until they died as well. But already, something had formed that said he was beyond this existence, that he was going to reach for someplace they could not follow.
That sense was beautiful, but it was lonely too.
She wanted Shirou to reach it, but she was going to be sad when he did.
Sad that he would leave them both behind.
So Sakura watched, and she hoped that in the meantime, she could fill his life as much as possible. She hoped her sister would do the same. Even if that meant she had to watch them be so comfortable with each other, she would do so, and hope these adorable moments would be good memories for him.
Yumi had left the television since the movie ended, though a new film was playing and keeping the lull of energy the same. Sakura wondered if Yumi, tired from the day’s activities as well, had gone to bed already.
The way Yumi had acted, though, once the film was done…really hadn’t been tired, though.
When she was done replacing the dishes into their places in cupboards and drawers, Sakura went to check on Yumi. Her room, however, was empty when she knocked, and none of the rooms nearby were occupied either.
“The dojo, perhaps?” Sakura could not think of a reason why their charge would be there, unless Takumi Hoshino had already convinced Yumi to join the Archery Club. Still, even that was no reason, since Shirou and Sakura’s archery gear were both stowed in their rooms and Sakura was certain Yumi would not borrow them without permission first.
When Sakura made her way to the dojo, though, she spotted the open door to the shed.
Sakura was not a practicing magus. But she still had the awareness, even if it was distant in her consciousness. When confronted with the absolute truth of the matter, she could bring it up and it would become plainly obvious.
She remembered years ago, coming across the same insurmountable proof.
There was no flow of prana, but there was a circulation. When Sakura stepped into the shed and saw Yumi’s hunched-over form, she could see the magic willing itself to escape, like a caged animal within a container.
Like worms crawling through her body.
Pushing that thought aside, Sakura said, “Yumi?”
The girl startled, and from her lap one of Shirou’s bokutou fell. The wooden sword clattered like the gong Sakura imagined going off now in Yumi’s head. “S-S-Sakura-nee.”
It was the first time Yumi had addressed her as such. For a moment, Sakura could not even respond, because it both made her heart soar and broke it at the exact same time.
“I, um…” Yumi stuttered and Sakura could not help but note it was the most animate she had ever seen the girl. “Well, um…yes.”
Sakura tilted her head. “Yes what?”
“Uh…well. I…don’t know.” Yumi seemed to realize she was not making any sense. “Is there something you, um, wanted?”
Sakura wondered at that. She thought she knew why Yumi was doing what she was. Sakura was terribly familiar with it, after all, and now that she knew Shirou’s motives, she thought it was not a far leap to apply them to Yumi as well.
Shirou’s dream, to save. To be an ally of justice.
“Why are you doing this?” Sakura asked.
Yumi was silent for a long time, her eyes darting about, almost as frantically as a REM state sleeper.
It was enough to make Sakura a little dizzy.
“To help,” Yumi said, finally. “I just…don’t know how.”
Sakura watched the girl carefully and considered. She understood the implications and reasoning. It was not too far from what Sakura herself felt like, though unlike Rin, she was aware she could only support Shirou from the sidelines. It made her feel helpless, but…
Her magic was unsuited to help. It was merely a tool of sealing and destruction.
“You know why you can’t do anything, right?” Sakura asked.
Yumi blinked at her.
“You have a closed circuit.”
Yumi nodded, slowly. “Nothing comes out, no matter what I do. I can see what I want to do, but I can’t get there.”
It was probably wrong. Dangerous.
It was also selfish. To help Shirou. Yumi might even harm herself in the process.
She was reminded of high-jumps. And never reaching them, no matter how much one tried.
Yumi blinked again.
Sakura settled down next to the girl and picked up the dropped wooden sword. “Magic flows through my circuit when I count down from a number. Like how you think of kanji in your head when someone brings up words?”
Yumi nodded, sitting down as well.
“You will learn about it in math class, but, I imagine, um, imaginary numbers. Numbers that only really exist in theory. I shape them. That’s how I start the flow of magic out.”
So, she decided, if Shirou was going to reach an imaginary place and Yumi was going to pursue it…
She had no right to stop them.
If she loved them…
She would help them surpass it all. That high and far away bar.
Interlude 4-1, Out
Last edited by Arashi_Leonhart; July 4th, 2012 at 11:29 AM.
July 14th, 2011, 09:28 PM
Mystic Eyes of Tree Hugging
I'm pretty idiosyncratic about how I write nowadays and format stuff for possible publication. Once upon a time, I formatted stuff with FFN in mind, but, no longer. I aim for a greater goal! BWAHAHAHAHA!
Originally Posted by Alulim
July 14th, 2011, 09:29 PM
All I really do is the single punctuation. I have no other major problems from the site.
There is nothing greater than a loli.
LIKE A KING
Everything I say is a lie.
LIKE A KING
Butt-windows are the portal to the soul.
LIKE A KING
Originally Posted by Komrade Kwestions
July 14th, 2011, 09:49 PM
Mystic Eyes of Tree Hugging
AN: Okay, getting this out before people decide my story is too slow and boring.
Although in general, I may scream “DEEEEEEEN!!!!!!!!!” like anyone else that compares the FSN game to the anime, there were a few things I really liked about the anime. One was the lion plushie. So that comes up here, even though it doesn’t appear in the same way in the game.
Maybe I should just be happy FSN didn’t get the same treatment as Tsukihime. And that the Unlimited Blade Works movie was comparatively awesome.
I highly recommend rocking to a version of “Emiya” for this one. Not one of the louder remixes, as things are not sufficiently epic quite yet for that, but, maybe this Battle Moon Wars version. Afterward, try this song. You game players will know when.
Seven of Swords
“I think a vampire is in town.”
The only thing I could be pleased with was that Tohsaka said this before I had taken a drink. There was no telling what she would do if I spit tea right into her face.
Instead, I gaped at her. “What?”
“That’s the only conclusion I can think of,” Tohsaka said, finger in the air. She often assumed this position as the Tohsaka-sensei Lecture™ began. “I’ve been inspecting both the field around Ryuudou Temple and the various points on the leyline and can detect a distortion in the magical energy. That sort of thing occurs when a presence that doesn’t belong is present.”
Tohsaka had spent the last week running around the city, coming home exhausted and annoyed. Though she didn’t let it show when Fuji-nee and Yumi were around, it became more and more obvious that she was building up to some kind of problem like the magus that had been operating near her territory and experimenting on Yumi.
I just, well, didn’t quite expect this.
“Doesn’t belong? Wouldn’t anything intruding on Ryuudou’s field be like that?”
Nodding, Tohsaka said, “True, but it was specifically awakening due to a property that was not supposed to be here. Shirou, what do you know about Dead Apostles?”
I’d heard the name, though I really couldn’t say with regards to what. “I know they’re like vampires, but that’s about it.”
Tohsaka nodded. “So, then, we’ll start from what you do know. The boundary field around the temple disrupts anything that doesn’t enter by the front gate, though normal humans would merely get lost or feel uneasy.”
I nodded. We’d covered that much before, at least.
“For Servants, it lowered their fighting capacity significantly.”
I nodded again.
“Why do you suppose that is?”
I had to think about it, and decided to safely sip my tea while I had the chance. I guess I could only be grateful that there was plenty of time until dinner when everyone would be returning home—I’m not sure I could pay attention to making a meal at this point.
The boundary field at Ryuudou was not one created by a magus. From what I had learned, monks there had set the field up in a fashion similar to magic, though using different properties. Magic was essentially the creation of miracles; what the monks did was more akin to the enhancement of the natural state of things. Much like the principles behind the difference from a Reality Marble and a Marble Phantasm.
Something Tohsaka had drilled into me until I thought my ears might bleed. Something Illya, in fact, had tuned us onto.
“The barrier repels things not naturally-born by the world, which included Servants,” I said.
Tohsaka smiled. “Exactly. So why then would it react stronger to a vampire?”
“I follow. The vampire extends its life through unnatural means and is constantly trying to be ‘defeated’ by the natural course of things. The field around Ryuudou does so even more.” The reason Servants were weakened if they passed through the field was the world constantly trying to deny them existence, since they were heroic figures of times past that no longer existed in the modern world.
“Right. The intrusion I detected was beyond just a person or creature that didn’t belong. It was a full-blown attack on something that defied the natural course of things.” Tohsaka reassumed her teacher position and I resisted the urge to shake my head. “Between that, and the other disturbances in the leyline that I’ve come across, that’s my conclusion. We haven’t heard anything about attacks yet, but, vampires have to feed, and there aren’t many animals around here because of the magic leyline. If there is one here, it’ll strike eventually.”
I had to wonder, though. “But isn’t it a bit of a leap to go the vampire route? I mean, I know there are other creatures out there.”
Tohsaka looked away, and I had a sense that she might be covering up a blush. “The sense I have from the leyline is very specific. I’m kind of familiar with the presence of a Dead Apostle, and it’s very similar.”
I frowned, considering. She had never told me that she knew what such a thing was like, but I had a feeling she wasn’t going to answer if I asked how she knew. So instead, I went with the more immediate concern. “Why do you keep switching between ‘vampire’ and ‘Dead Apostle’ anyway?”
“Well, they’re slightly different. A Dead Apostle is a vampire, but a vampire isn’t a Dead Apostle. I’ll explain more some other time*, but I keep thinking that this is probably more like a vampire, which is a lesser threat. Dead Apostles usually only get to the point they are by learning to avoid places like Ryuudou Temple. Vampires might still just stumble across it or even test it out just to try.”
“So are we going to go look for it, stop it before it victimizes someone?”
Tohsaka paused and gave me an even stare. I wondered for a moment if she was going to say something along the lines of, who do you think you are, inviting yourself along? This is my thing. Instead, she asked, “Do you have something that would work against a creature that may be centuries older than you?”
I considered that. Really, Caliburn was the only thing I had ever used to fight a vastly superior figure, and that hadn’t exactly turned out well when I didn’t have Saber guiding me. I had practiced a lot with Kanshou and Bakuya, but never used them in battle. Caladbolg had done well against the magus Setsuka Yuushi, but I had used it as a Broken Phantasm and Yuushi had been a human. Against a creature that may have years of experience in close-quarters combat, I was still a rank amateur.
I had a couple of swords that I thought would work, but, on the battlefield…
“Yes,” I said. No point in bouncing back and forth theoretical ideas in my head. Tohsaka knew as well as I did anyway, and she was likely just testing my determination.
“Fine. We’re going to go out tomorrow night, so you might get to practicing tonight.”
I sighed and went to replace the tea Tohsaka was ignoring. I didn’t particularly feel like any myself now either.
Something was up.
It was a growing sense in Yumi’s mind. Ever since she had started wearing Rin’s school uniform, it had felt like Rin was closer to her, always with her. She knew that there was nothing magical about the uniform, but the sense that was there left Yumi with an impression. An intuition.
Hoshino-san had convinced Yumi to join the Archery Club and although Yumi was far from starting the use of a bow herself, Sakura had immediately offered the use of her gear. Though she didn’t use it in club—she was still merely pulling the bands to build up the arm strength—Yumi carried the bow and equipment to school for the exact same reason she wore Rin’s uniform. It felt like Sakura.
Here too, she started feeling as if Sakura went with her.
Because of that, when she made it home that evening and sat down to dinner, she could tell. She could sense that Rin was not telling her something, that Sakura was aware of something and not speaking of it.
Of Shirou, she couldn’t tell, though she wondered if carrying that lion plushie he had in his room would work.
Dinner was just like any other day, though it being a Friday, Yumi did not have to worry about waking early for school the next day. When everything was finished and put away, Shirou went to the dojo to practice with something.
Yumi decided she would get plenty of sleep tonight. She had a feeling she would need to be well-rested for tomorrow.
“Cyrus the Great was the Persian, right? The one that conquered Babylon?”
“Hmm. Caster, perhaps? He had some sort of law-making cylinder as opposed to a sword or spear associated with him, right?”
Tohsaka and I wandered the city that Saturday evening, staying toward the quieter and less-traveled regions in an attempt to either catch this vampire or draw it in ourselves. After four solid hours of wandering, it had devolved into a conversation about other mythic figures and what it might have been like to summon them as Servants.
I wonder if Tohsaka ever felt disappointed that instead of summoning a renowned figure from the past, she got someone like me instead.
“True, and he wasn’t known for riding things into battle like Genghis Khan or the like. He doesn’t particularly fit any of the classes, though he’s assuredly a Heroic Spirit.” Tohsaka shrugged. “I guess I would have liked to see what his presence would’ve done to that Goldie, since Cyrus the Great was known as the King of Sumer, where Gilgamesh’s story originates from.”
I shrugged too. Though as a point of interest, the different figures in history and myth being Servants was thought-provoking, I didn’t really know as much as Tohsaka seemed to. Most of the historical figures I did pay attention to generally, well, had swords to their name.
Miyama-chou** at this time of the night was extremely quiet, though you could see a person about here and there. Saturdays were bereft of uniformed kids, though many teenagers were out and about, in transit between visits with friends or the like. Some adults were heading back home from late weekend work. I suppose Tohsaka and I looked like a young couple on their way from a date, maybe carousing for some privacy.
Tohsaka made me wonder what exactly she intended to do. Upon her first return from London, she had declared that it really wasn’t for her and that she would not stay there long-term and made arrangements with her teachers there. When she was here, she was fairly insular and I’m certain people like Mitsuzuri were not even aware when she was and was not in town. I always thought that considering her popularity at school, if not here, she would be raking in the confessions from guys in London.
Not that I was familiar with how Western magi thought, but, an exotic beauty like Tohsaka plus the magical lineage to guarantee a talented heir…
Maybe she didn’t even notice. That would make sense.
“You think any Americans qualify?” Tohsaka asked.
“Only if there were a ‘Gunslinger’ class available. And I bet a lot of them would be Anti-Heroes, like Butch Cassidy or John Wilkes Booth.”
“You’re forgetting Buffalo Bill or Annie Oakley,” Tohsaka pointed out. “I don’t think they’d qualify as Anti-Heroes.”
I wonder if any vampires stalking us decided we weren’t lovers but a pair of extremely odd academics.
We stayed in Miyama-chou though because boundaries of water did repel vampires just like in the myths, acting as pseudo-Boundary Fields. Since Tohsaka had detected the vampire on the Ryuudou Temple-side of the city, it was highly unlikely that it had found a way to cross to Shinto without completely circumventing the city in some fashion.
It was, however, getting late. Passing one in the morning meant that we were well past the halfway mark through the night, and I had the feeling that a vampire would not feed too late and risk getting caught out in the sun away from wherever it had holed up. If we didn’t encounter anything suspicious in the next half hour or so, I think the consensus was we would return home.
We passed a different kind of suspicious—the kind that included the rustling of bushes, a female giggle and a male grunt—and I shook my head. Oh how little the world knew.
Tohsaka’s reaction was funnier. “Hey!” she shouted into the bush. “Do your parents know where you are?! Don’t make me call the cops!”
A couple of “eeps!” and some more rustling later, a very red pair—probably teenagers still—climbed out from behind the pseudo-park area that lined one street. The girl’s blouse was off-center and the collar fell off one side of her shoulder, while the boy was hastily zipping himself up. It was just about as cliché as I could imagine.
Yes, children, a blood-sucking demon was out and could possibly get you. Time to have sex like your life depended on it!
Well, not that they knew about the demon part.
Actually, that sounded more like my history. Tohsaka’s and mine.
I guess I really am a hypocrite.
“I could’ve been a mugger or rapist, and you’d have been helpless with your pants down!” Tohsaka was scolding the two as they hastily ran in the opposite direction from us.
Tohsaka’s even more of a hypocrite.
“Geez, you’d think they’d have more sense than to do it in an area right next to a road,” Tohsaka said. “Anyone could walk in on them!”
Was it just me, or was there a fleeting sense of jealousy I heard? “We need to get you a boyfriend, Tohsaka.”
“Only if we get you a girl first,” she countered immediately. “That way you’ll not get distracted in the middle of training!” Ah, so she had prepared this argument before hand.
“You’re the one that sounds like an old, grumpy adult, seeing those two—”
Unlike the cliché expectation of films and television, villains do not often announce their presences and go on like a windbag while their opponent comes up with a plan, unless their name is Kirei Kotomine, anyway.
Whoever leapt from the shadows beyond where the two lovers had been wasted no time in drop-kicking Tohsaka right where she stood. The meaty sound of his foot connecting with her diaphragm was impossibly loud in the open air, and she flew out of my peripheral sight.
Kanshou and Bakuya appeared in my hands, and I knew I would never manage a strike in time. So as the vampire honed in on me, I flung my arms out sideways and sent the blades skyward.
The vampire hit me with a hard punch right into my abs, hard enough to send my feet out from under me, tipping me head-first into the ground while I flew back a few meters. I felt something tear in my body, but managed to get my arms beneath me so I didn’t face-plant into the ground.
I forced my head up to watch for its next move. The vampire—a tall man in a black coat and blue jeans—was not watching me, however, and instead was looking down at a red-colored jewel at his feet.
I ducked my head beneath my arms.
The explosion was like a grenade and thankfully had the properties like one. My head was only a couple of meters from it, but nothing struck me while I was pressed flat to the ground. The vampire, on the other hand, got a face full of magical fire.
I didn’t have time to waste.
I traced a new pair of Kanshou and Bakuya, glanced up at the first pair, now falling down toward me, and threw the pair in my hands like boomerangs to either side of the vampire.
The first pair arched toward the second pair, and both pairs pulled at each other. Forming a circuit on the x and y axis surrounding the vampire, they closed in.
The smoke cleared, and the vampire, singed and looking mightily angry, caught sight of the steel incoming toward him.
It was a vampire. It was death reanimated, a thing that all that was sacred on this earth would expel if given the chance.
It was a stain on this world.
“Admit to all your unholy sins.”
A new sword formed in my hand, a large hilt and grip with a blade hardly longer than Kanshou and Bakuya. Though a broadsword, the end was angled like a single-edged slashing weapon, unnaturally so.
Curtana, the broken sword of mercy, the weapon of Ogire the Dane.***
I threw the blade—no time for the bow—and so intent on the flying Kanshous and Bakuyas, the vampire had no room to avoid all five weapons even if he had the reflexes. He smacked one Kanshou aside, twisted into a shallow cut from its partnered Bakuya, but leapt right into the path of Curtana as the original pair came at him from the sides. With a response surpassing anything I could do, he caught Curtana mid-air.
By the blade, cutting his hand.
Which was enough.
The vampire froze in place, hand dripping from the cut made by Curtana. He seemed to have control of his arms, though the hand gripping Curtana was stuck holding the blade. His feet, though, were locked in place. The look on his face screamed one question: Why?
Because you must confess.
A third pair of Kanshou and Bakuya formed in my hands and I closed in on my target. I remembered what Tohsaka said about vampires being killable by normal means, so I didn’t bother attempting to Reinforce them. I just charged in and swung both blades as he flailed his free hand at me.
A head hit the ground, followed by a splatter of blood.
I glanced at Tohsaka, brushing herself off like she hadn’t just been drop-kicked by an enemy out for blood. She caught my eye. “Shirou, your side.”
Looking down, I finally noticed the tear in my shirt and the wound beneath. I’m not even sure when it had been inflicted, from the initial hit or his arm managing to connect before I beheaded him, but it looked like I had just barely managed to avoid being impaled. “Oh.”
This time, Tohsaka screamed, and I glanced back to the defeated body of my opponent—
Whose head had returned to its shoulders.
The vampire thrust his hand at me like a talon, and I dove out of the way, rolling down the slope of the street. Thankfully, the vampire did not come in pursuit and looked to still be locked in place by Curtana.
Tohsaka started pumping Gandr shots into him to keep him from managing to pull Curtana, giving me the time I needed.
Nothing for it.
“Spirit and technique, flawless and firm.”
If Kanshou and Bakuya couldn’t kill this thing, then I would need something stronger. But I was starting to run low on prana and didn’t know what else might work. So I would just have to go stronger with what I had.
“Our strength rips the mountains, our swords split the water, our names reach the Imperial Palace.”
I Reinforced the blades in hand, pulling out the utmost of their abilities. Sharpness, speed, balance, power. The blades cracked under the strain and screamed as their steel became brittle.
The vampire managed to put his shoulder in the way of Tohsaka’s shots and used his free hand to pull at Curtana, still cutting into the hand that had grabbed it.
“The two of us cannot hold heavens together.”
I strengthened Kanshou and Bakuya until they broke, then charged back up at the vampire.
The blades cut the vampire, me, the concrete beneath our feet, and themselves.
This time, the blood that hit the ground was mine; when Kanshou and Bakuya dissipated, they left my cut and broken hands to splatter red all over. But the vampire’s body was not far behind, also painting the street red.
And then the vampire’s body hit the ground.
The x-pattern cut I made had sent the creature into four pieces. My hands looked like they wanted to be in four pieces but had been left whole on accident. I heard myself groan and felt my circuit close since there was hardly any od left in it.
Tohsaka was next to me faster than I could have expected, catching me before I collapsed face-first into the bloody pile I had made. “Hey, don’t give out on me here, I can’t carry your heavy ass all the way home!”
I groaned again, though I put all my remaining strength into my legs. They felt like metal, though, slow to respond and reverberating like I’d been tapping against them rhythmically. I had practiced overedging Kanshou and Bakuya before and knew that it would essentially blow up in my face, but I’d done it at full prana stock before. Now I felt like my body was a steel skeleton, like the frame of a building, and someone was hammering away on one end and arc wielding on the other.
Maybe I’ll not try that again for a while.
“Maybe you better not do that one again for a while,” Tohsaka said.
Also, my building frame was apparently echoing.
“What was up with its head?” I complained.
Tohsaka was looking up at the sky. “I had a feeling it would be tonight, because there’s a full moon out. Dead Apostles are stronger with the moon full, though I didn’t expect it to be strong enough to return to its state before it was headless.”
I’m not really sure what she was talking about, though I often felt that way with Tohsaka. I would probably get a further explanation sometime later, after I didn’t feel like laying where I was and sleeping for a week.
“What do we do about that?” I asked, motioning to what remained of the vampire’s body.
Tohsaka shrugged. “I’m pretty sure it’s dead now,” though the tone of her voice seemed a little unsure, considering it had put itself back together after a beheading. “Vampires turn to ash after they die and the world ‘resets’ their presence, but I’ll light it up after we get you out of the way first.”
I managed a grin at her. “You’re always cleaning up after my messes.”
“Yeah, well, until we get you a wife, I suppose it falls on me.”
For some reason, I suddenly had this image of Tohsaka in a maid outfit flash through my mind. I made sure to place my tongue between my teeth and hold it there.
If I uttered so much as a word of that, I was pretty sure Tohsaka would erase any evidence of my existence too.
Sometimes, she dreamed.
It was common to dream about her pain. She didn’t exactly nightmare about it, but it was unpleasant and left her feeling hopeless. Like nothing in the world could be right when such a thing occurred.
It was becoming more common to dream about life. School life, daily life. Whimsical things, like grocery shopping, or actually getting the chance to shoot a bow in club, or riding the train to Kyoto. Sometimes they were colored by things she watched on television, like a love triangle between club members or a zombie apocalypse happening in the middle of school.
Whenever she watched Shirou and his swords, she dreamed of distant shores.
Before she had been an orphan, she had once traveled with her mother. She had seen numerous beaches and various shorelines. She couldn’t place the name of a country with each image, but she knew she had been to Sydney, to Vancouver, to Venice. She had seen parts of America, India, England, Russia.
She thought maybe, she dreamed of those places after seeing Shirou and his swords…
Because of his happy face.
She couldn’t recall the emotions she felt before the pain had begun. She wasn’t sure what was her own and what had been added. But looking at Shirou, seeing his happiness at saving her, she thought that emotion fit best with what she could remember of her innocence.
Tonight, it was not so dissimilar.
She had followed after the two of them. She knew that was logically unsound, that if they were going after something, following them would place both herself and them in danger. But an impulsive side of her, a side that certainly was not of her own making, insisted that she go.
For some reason, she had the feeling she would not be attacked anyway. It was an impression she got from that sense of Rin she had with her, like Rin was fully aware that whatever they were after was threatened by them, and would attack them. Not Yumi, not anyone else.
So she followed, and in the shadow of a tree’s overhang, she watched.
When she saw Shirou do battle for the first time, it had been like before. It was vaguer, more distant, not so apparent. But when Shirou had defeated that thing, had cut it to pieces, there was a distant sense of satisfaction on his face.
A distant sense that he may have saved someone.
Yumi quickly returned home after that, so Shirou and Rin would not notice she had been gone. She prepared for bed in record time and was down before they had even made it back to the residence.
That night, after seeing Shirou and his swords, she dreamed of her perfect, untouched past.
She dreamed of escaping the hand fate had dealt her.
Escaping Fate, Seven of Swords, End
*Getting into the Tsukihime arena a bit. If you’re unfamiliar with the Nasuverse, here’s the gist: vampires are fairly similar to vampires of other fiction, though the reason they would “burn to ash” is touched on here. Much like Shirou’s Traced weapons, which would disappear over time as reality seeks out the contradiction of a “sword that was not here a moment ago” and dissolves them, vampires are creatures that are the contradiction, “a life that should have died long ago” that the world is constantly trying to fix. A Dead Apostle is a long-lived vampire that has broken free of any connection to its sire and established itself.
**Miyama-chou is the residential district of Fuyuki City, compared to Shinto, the city-side.
***Shirou only ever saw Black Keys in Heaven’s Feel, and as they’re mere conceptual weapons with a specific purpose, not a Noble Phantasm, I really doubt he ever saw one from Gate of Babylon. Though, considering everything else he sees in Gate of Babylon, it wouldn’t be a stretch that he saw a weapon with a similar purpose.
AN: Random bit of nonsense: Rin needs to join Ouran Academy, marry Kyouya Ohtori, and together they will rule the world as Sorceress and Shadow King. That is, if they aren’t already related, considering their similar sleeping habits and personalities. That’s all I could think when writing one of the scenes here.
Dead Apostle Apostle
I woke up to the throbbing of my hands.
It was actually the surprise of sensation that woke me. After returning home, Tohsaka had dipped bandages in some kind of solution and wrapped them around my palms and wrists; the sensation I felt then had instantly numbed. After applying the same to my stomach wound, we had both retired to our rooms and I found sleep to be easy after that.
My side was a little sore, but my hands felt rather prickly, so I carefully climbed out of my futon and decided I would roll it up later.
Unfortunately, the exertions from the night before caused me to sleep in, and although still fairly early in the morning, I could smell food already being prepared. After changing clothes—I hadn’t bothered to change from the night before—I went out into the living room to seek the purple-haired witch that had beat me to the kitchen.
Tohsaka, of course, was not a morning person. Yumi was somewhere in what I thought to be the “normal” range, as she did not wake up first thing in the morning, nor did she laze about if given the chance like Tohsaka. While it was after when Yumi normally awoke, considering it was the weekend I figured she would sleep in to make up for anything she had missed while school was in.
Sakura, of course, was just as much of an early-riser as I was and was well on her way toward finishing preparations for breakfast when I made it out. I poked my head into the kitchen, though she didn’t seem to notice, her back turned and humming slightly as she rolled fresh nori.
To save people so they could be happy was my warped happiness, but I don’t think anyone could begrudge me when I say that Sakura’s happiness was also mine.
“Morning, Sakura,” I said.
The humming ceased and she glanced over her shoulder, blushing slightly. “Good morning, senpai. Breakfast is almost ready.”
“I can see. Sorry I didn’t make it up before you.” I gave her an exaggerated frown. “I wish you would let me at least handle your weekend breakfast since you always insist on doing it for the rest of the week.”
This time, Sakura leveled an even stare at me. “Senpai, do you think I would let you bleed all over the food you wanted to make?”
I blinked, then glanced down at my hands. “I don’t think they’re that bad…”
Rolling her eyes, Sakura turned back to finish the nori she was preparing. “At least go replace them first, and wake nee-san. I’m certain neither of you have eaten since you left last night.”
“Okay, okay…” I grumbled. Whenever Sakura asserted herself like this, I also couldn’t help but listen. Compared to the person I had first met, one even more introverted and closed down than Yumi, I thought this forceful personality was probably more than a good thing.
On the flip side, sometimes I wish Tohsaka would lighten up.
My morning greeting of a pillow to the face was not exactly enjoyable, especially considering it was forceful enough to topple me floorward.
When the morning demon had been awoken and convinced to help me replace my bandages, she followed me back into the living room like a lost specter, a spirit of malice who couldn’t kill me because they wavered to and fro far too much.
Yumi was still absent, and when I popped my head into her room to check on her, found her still fast asleep. I tried waking her, though she merely mumbled in her sleep and rolled over, even after some prodding and promises of food. I decided she could afford to be lazy one day out of the week at least and didn’t press her further.
“So you wake me but leave her? I definitely got less sleep!” Tohsaka grumbled.
Yes, but the tradeoff of getting to see you in your morning glory is enough equivalent exchange where any beating I gain is paid for and more.
“Well, maybe this is a good opportunity anyway,” Tohsaka continued, sipping at the tea Sakura provided for her. “We can decide what we’re gonna do about a Dead Apostle showing up.”
Sakura paused halfway in putting the miso soup on the table. She looked as confused as I felt. “What do you mean, nee-san? Didn’t you and senpai defeat what you set out to?”
I started to answer, but Tohsaka raised a finger. “Shirou, did you notice anything strange about the vampire’s actions?”
“Besides its head reattaching itself?”
Sakura gaped at me.
Tohsaka shook her head. “I don’t mean its abilities. Last night was close to a full moon, so that much was possible in the first place…I’ll explain that later. No, I mean, how it behaved.”
There really wasn’t much to consider. It popped out of nowhere, staggered the both of us, and probably could’ve killed us if Curtana hadn’t held it in place. Tohsaka’s jewel magic was still suffering from the Grail War and even the explosion she had caused last night had been far short of the ones she had blasted Berserker with. I had a feeling she might have been holding back a little bit, to see if I could come up with something that would work, but, well, that was certainly a gamble…
“I can’t really think of anything,” I admitted.
Tohsaka leveled me with a stare. “You didn’t think it attacking us without provocation was strange? Or that it hadn’t attempted to feed on those kids we found in the park?”
Sakura gave us a bit of a wide-eyed look, and nodded. “It just attacked you? Like that?”
I shrugged. “Isn’t that what they do? I mean, the whole ‘lure in a target with sex appeal’ doesn’t happen in real life, right?”
Both sisters shook their heads, though it was Sakura that spoke up. “But if a vampire was looking for prey, it would have still tried to isolate you. They don’t live as long as they do without being cautious.”
“You sure seem to know a lot about their behavior,” I said, surprised. Sakura rarely seemed to care much about magical concerns, even after ousting herself as a magus.
“All of my skills revolve around the sealing of elementals and the like,” Sakura admitted. “I’ve never had any reason to use it, but, a lot of information was provided for me on creatures it would work on, including living dead.”
Tohsaka had closed her eyes and crossed her arms, a sullen look on her face. “Anyway, Sakura is right in that just attacking us like that was uncharacteristic. Even though it wasn’t a full Dead Apostle, they’re usually smarter than that…and so I had to wonder, as it wasn’t a full Dead Apostle, whether it was commanded to do so.”
The Tohsaka-sensei Lecture™ was back in full force, and I tried to refrain from rolling my eyes. And grinning. “There are a lot of inconsistencies about that vampire’s actions if it was old and strong enough to regain its head last night. That means it was certainly a vampire that bordered on the strength of a Dead Apostle. But if that were true, it probably wouldn’t have accidentally stumbled across the Ryuudou boundary field. And it certainly wouldn’t have just leapt into a brawl with us. A vampire of that age would have been able to detect the former and know better than to be sloppy enough for the latter.”
I nodded at that much. A hundred year old creature that would have had to avoid Church Executors and the like certainly would have to know its magical lore. And know not to attract undue attention with its attacks; if it were playing smart, it could have had those two lovers we had run across without us any the wiser.
“But then, I had to wonder too, it struck me first. Seems odd, if it were picking a fight, to go for the girl first, right? Unless it knew I was a magus.” Tohsaka gave a thin-lipped smile. “In certain cases, you’re certainly more dangerous, Shirou, but to a creature that can detect od or magical circuits, I probably seem like the bigger threat.”
“Well, in most ways, you are the bigger threat,” I said, and I had to revise my earlier thought. Though Tohsaka had not recovered all of her jewel magic since the war, I had no idea what she had learned from the Association. She could’ve gleaned any number of things to compensate for the slow process of jewel creation in the meantime.
“So again, we’re back to an inconsistence in the vampire’s actions. But what if it were being controlled? Vampires not yet Dead Apostles still are bent to the will of their sires. Rather like a Servant that takes stupid actions because their Master is stupid…or because the Master is purposefully using them in a reckless way. Like Kirei using Lancer, since he never intended for Lancer to win the war.”
She covered it up pretty well, but I think the Master-is-stupid comment was directed my way.
Well, I wasn’t the one that had to use a Command Spell just to make my Servant listen to me, miss perfect.
“So you think a full Dead Apostle was controlling its actions just to test us out?” I asked.
Tohsaka nodded. “It makes sense to me. And what scares me is that it could have such control over an older vampire, one that can regenerate under the moon.”
“Again with the moon. What was that?”
“It’d take a lot to explain, but all Dead Apostles and their offspring are modeled after a power source from the moon. Those closer to Dead Apostle Ancestors—the oldest and best of the lot—are prone to being stronger under the light of the full moon. In most living dead, it doesn’t particularly mean anything since they haven’t been around long enough to resemble that power source, but one that has lived a long time…well, you saw it.”
Ugh. “So if all that is true, the Dead Apostle master is going to be even stronger than the guy last night. But why? Why here, now, us?”
“I’m not sure. Since they attacked me first, and not you, though, I also want to think that it has something to do with my family’s reputation. They might just be after me, period, and didn’t expect someone like you.”
While we had been talking, Sakura had absently been setting the table and was finished by this point. Tohsaka started in on her meal after a quick acknowledgement, and I had a feeling she welcomed the distraction. Or the excuse not to continue on that train of thought while she ate.
That dull throbbing from my hands earlier now struck my brain.
Stronger than the one we fought.
I glanced down at my hands. I could certainly heal them faster if I Traced a certain scabbard, but the constant reliance on that would just earn me a faster death, really. That vampire was certainly not on the level of a Servant, but its master…
If I was going to do anything, I would have to surpass what happened last night.
“Assuming my theory is correct,” Tohsaka said, as if she couldn’t help herself, “The Dead Apostle will come for the next full moon, when its powers are peaking.”
And if I was going to surpass what happened, I’d have to do it fast.
That night, I went to Ryuudou Temple.
While the rest of the day was spent uneventfully fretting over the possibility Tohsaka had posed and trying to keep it from showing in front of Yumi, I decided I was going to clear my head and get started on that next hurdle-mountain in my way.
I went late enough that Issei and the others living there would be if not turning in for bed, unlikely to come out to do anything. The grounds were silent and peaceful with none of the sense of foreboding that had permeated the place during the war. Damage from Saber and Gilgamesh’s battle had long since been repaired, and the boundary field had also done its job in purging the mutation of evil that Angra Mainyu had created in the soil and lake.
But it was not hard to imagine that night.
Here, I had saved Illya’s life. Here, I had taken Kotomine’s life.
Here, I had set my eyes on the most beautiful sunrise.
All of my dreams were embodied here. To save, to sacrifice, and to see it all reflected in one who was like me, like everything I wanted. A brandished sword.
This body is certainly made of swords, and I needed to find a way to brandish them.
“I am the bone of my sword.”
I had to find a way to make real what was within me.
Escaping Fate, Dead Apostle Apostle, End
“I guess I never did thank you for being the one to kill it, and saving my life,” Rin said.
Shirou stared at her. “Uh, you’re welcome, but you don’t need to thank me.”
Rin slid up next to where he sat on the porch. “But I still need to thank you properly for us to be even. So, Shirou, is there anything you want me to do? Just this once, I’ll do anything.”
Shirou turned red.
“Anything at all, just this once. I’ll carry out any order or wish you make. Whether it’s world domination or eternal life or defeating Saiyajin sent to destroy the world, I’ll do it.”
Blinking, Shirou raked his mind for where that sounded familiar…
“After all, I’m a tsundere character.”
Shirou sighed. “Yumi never should’ve shown you anime.”
Rin dramatically put her hand to her forehead and swooned into Shirou’s lap. “Should I wear only an apron and make you breakfast? Isn’t it the desire of all men to view that from behind?”
“I’m going to throw the tv out next chance I get.”
Last edited by Arashi_Leonhart; July 4th, 2012 at 11:34 AM.
July 14th, 2011, 09:50 PM
The latest chap on FFN was badass.
Good choice for music too.
July 14th, 2011, 09:58 PM
Mystic Eyes of Tree Hugging
AN: Despite the references to Dead Apostles, we won’t be seeing the Tsukihime cast in this story. Except perhaps in an omake. I’ve tossed around the idea of possibly doing a story after this on that topic regarding a throwaway mention I’ve read about in F/HA about Shirou hunting Dead Apostles and I’m considering going with a UBW good end Shirou + Satsujinki setting since I want to actually feature Saber and make fun of the fact that Shirou/Saber and Shiki/Arc are complete opposites of one another…anyway. That won’t be for a while, since I’ve got another fifteen or so chapters and a handful of interludes to go.
Now that she had seen it, returning was out of the question.
Yumi knew the option was there. Since coming into the family, since Shirou and Rin and Sakura had opened their house to her, Yumi had come to realize she could find peace. That the painful and terrible days before could be, if not forgotten, distanced and set aside, a part of her but no longer all she knew. She could regain a semblance of normality and live like she had dreamed of while in the orphanage, with a new life, a life resembling what she had with her long-gone mother.
She couldn’t any longer.
The world was not that place for her, not a safe haven of adventure and intrigue. It was dark and scary and had beings that would do terrible things. There were nightmares in the world that no human could hope to face, and there were nightmares made up even of humans that no human should hope to comprehend.
It seemed like there was Shirou, and there were the evils of the world.
The look on his face made sense to her, as hopeless as she felt it was.
In the darkness, one light was all the more apparent.
When Yumi returned to school that week, she could no longer look at it through the same frame. It was certainly reality, a carefree and positive one, even with the negativity of fights and feuds and jealousy and misunderstandings. But it was no longer the world she could wholly immerse herself in. It was like those countries she had visited before, a real and tangible location, but different. It was like Sidney or Dublin or LA, real, but separate from where she called home.
It was just another land amidst many.
School was merely a visit, not a home. Yumi would answer questions when asked—a part of her at least was certainly good at most academia—but would default to staring out the window from her second-to-corner seat* and her thoughts drift off to what was out there.
And that earned her some hostility.
A couple of the girls in class thought it arrogant and aloof that she would answer so precisely and then stare off out the window like she were bored. It didn’t help that she already stood out, her pale hair and unhealthy complexion. Perhaps that week before seeing Shirou and Rin fight, she had not seemed so distant, but now…
It didn’t help that Takumi Hoshino would check in on her more than just for club activities, as he seemed to have taken Sakura’s request to heart. It wasn’t frequent, but once or twice a week he might stop in and ask if she wanted to have lunch with him and a couple of friends from the club. Hoshino was not the most popular boy in school, but he was kind and well-liked, and the added attention she got only served to give those unhappy with Yumi a little more fuel.
So some of the girls would smile at her, present her with a polite face, but say things. Passive-aggressive things, like, “We would invite you to lunch, but you obviously are too busy for us.” They were the lashings of small girls that knew nothing but to return hurt with hurt, even insignificant hurt.
She couldn’t return, and some people didn’t want her there anyway.
Yumi was fine with it, though a little disappointed. Rin and Shirou had both told her that they had lived relatively normal lives at school and that the everyday they encountered there helped ground them. Though they never explicitly said so, it was implied that the everyday they had there kept them from becoming the kind of terror that Yuushi had become. She very much had hoped to have that as well, regardless of what direction she took her life in.
The feelings inside her swelled up instead.
Though she was fine with it, there were urges. Not her own, again, not fully from the person she considered herself. Echoes of different additions, of things not of her making. A violent urge sometimes presented itself, to hit those girls that scoffed at her, or even suicidal urges, that she didn’t belong and never would. They floated up into her head and she could peer at them as if she were outside herself, curious as to why things not of her own nature appeared.
She had certainly wanted to die while on that table.
She had certainly wanted to live longer on that table.
Here, though, darker thoughts really had no place. Yumi had no reason to think about life or death, or even have a real reason to be angry or jealous or negative in any fashion.
Yet another reason she couldn’t go back. If she had these unnatural thoughts and feelings at such a peaceful location, there really wasn’t much for her there.
So, she went to school, went through the motions. She exercised her arm muscles for Archery Club and enjoyed a little interaction with Hoshino and a couple of his friends, and she went home.
And at home, she practiced.
Shirou would often go out—he didn’t say where—and Rin had left shortly after the fight, traveling to London. Why, she hadn’t told Yumi, though Yumi suspected that it was to prepare for something bigger, as Rin’s trip was rushed in creation but was not to be long. With Rin gone and Shirou often wandering off by himself, Yumi was free.
It had not worked out at first, not at all. When she had first turned her circuit on, when she had finally figured out her own trigger, it had been erratic and overwhelming. Even Sakura, present at the time, had looked on in worry. The cycle of energy inside Yumi was fine, but when it came out, when it was released, it was jumbled and overwhelming. It felt like too much water trying to come out of too small a hose, or eating an entire meal when you were already full.
And with that flow, came the irregular feelings. Even more than normal, the opening of her circuit felt like too much, a mixture of anger, ecstasy, fear, happiness, pain, sorrow, contentment. All at once, all trying, like a din of voices, to be heard louder than the other.
The first item she tried to Reinforce, an old unused mop, had shattered into splinters.
She was irregular at school and irregular at magic.
Sakura, though, had solved the problem. Merely two days later, she had come to Yumi with a bolt of red cloth. “A present from Caren Ortensia-san, the woman at the church.”
“Why?” Yumi had asked.
Sakura’s eyes had fallen, though her lips had flattened into a determined line. “To help seal off what you don’t need.”
Yumi understood immediately what she meant, but not the reasoning. “Why are you helping? I thought…you didn’t like magic.”
“Yes,” Sakura said. Her lips fell to match her eyes. “I don’t. But…it is a part of me, and a part of us. This family.” The mention of family, though, seemed to set something off behind her expression, and Yumi could see her jaw set. “I want to help you the way I was not. So you can do what you have to, if that’s the way you decide to go.” She gave a shaky smile. “And if I help you, maybe I can understand. Senp—Shirou saved your life, and, though he doesn’t really realize it, mine too. If you’re going to help him someday…I want to help too.”
Yumi understood then.
Sakura was like her.
Saved. But desiring to be more than saved. To save the one that saved her.
Yumi took the offered cloth. “What is it called?”
Sakura took Yumi’s left arm, extended it, pulled back her sleeve. “The Shroud of Martin.”
Escaping Fate, Interlude, Out
*Pay attention to this the next time you watch an anime set at school: the location of the hero protagonists are often the same spot, second-to-last next to the window. Though generally the domain of characters voiced by Tomokazu Sugita—Kyon (Haruhi Suzumiya), Yuuichi Aisawa (Kanon), and Rin Tsuchimi (Shuffle!) all sit there—it also houses pretty much half of the school-born protagonists, including Alto Saotome (Macross Frontier), Touma Kamijou (Magical Index), Light Yagami (Death Note), Sawako Kuronuma (Kimi ni Todoke), Junichi Tachibana (Amagami), Mikado Ryuugamine (Durarara!!)…the list goes on. The game implies both Shirou and Rin’s desks to be in the general vicinity in their respective classes, though the anime shows Shirou in the middle of the back row.
AN: I’ve received a few comments that asked whether I based the plot or Yumi off of other sources. For the record, I don’t visit forums—I just don’t have time—and don’t tend to base plots off of other people’s suggestions or challenges. The plot to this story came primarily from watching an AMV. Yumi came from thinking about the fact that in a post-Fate scenario, Illya would be dead or dying and leave a void in the family life of the characters. Ideas about Yumi’s abilities in the story were somewhat derived from Satsuki from Tsukihime, which may become apparent as the story continues. Isn’t it sad, Sacchin? I’m stealing all your thunder.
The Average One
“So, what is it you want to know?”
It truly was equivalent exchange.
Rin was always a little baffled by Lord El-Melloi the 2nd, also known as Waver. Though he was generally kind and helpful to her as an instructor—even when most magi at the Clock Tower thought her family lineage too backwater to acknowledge—he always demanded gifts be brought from Japan whenever she traveled between the two locations. Always the gifts had to be entertaining of some kind, and he specifically cited video games as his favorite.
Shirou had helped her buy a Playstation and two of the latest games to bring with her, picking them up on their way to Narita Airport. It always occurred to Rin at the last moment, and she hated to admit the fact that she had no idea what she was looking at when they ventured into the department store’s electronics section.
So Rin had brought the gift, flew hours to Europe, and had gone straight to her teacher.
Who had promptly locked himself in his lab for forty-eight hours to delve into Virtual Fighter 5.
Rin set up lodging in the local apartment she used when making her visits, though instead of unloading material for her stay, started gathering up items she had left behind the last time: books on Mystic Codes, old scrolls with ancient spell theories written out, the three jewels she charged with prana while visiting, another Azoth sword that had been gifted to her by Waver for her accomplishments in the Grail War. She had left all such things behind because they were somewhat useful on the occasion she studied in London, but with a Dead Apostle ready to spring up in Fuyuki, she might need any or all of them.
Now, she stood in the El-Melloi lab, books and tomes surrounding her, papers stacked on the ground high enough to reach her waist. Waver sat behind his desk, thumbing through a paper that must be from one of his students, as he would shake his head now and then.
“I ran into a Living Dead intruding Fuyuki City, and I wanted to know if there was any information circling about recently,” Rin said. Though the Church was probably going to have more information on such things, they did not like magi attempting to involve themselves. “I have reason to believe it was at the behest of a Dead Apostle, and its master might have specific interest in me.”
Waver looked up from the paper briefly to meet her eyes, then returned to reading. “No information coming from that Church Executor stationed there?”
“I left someone else to ask them.”
“The boy who won the War.”
“Correct.” Rin had never fully explained to anyone the full circumstances behind the Holy Grail War’s ending, though she had confided in Waver the general facts and that Shirou was an amateur magus. Waver had seemed less concerned with Shirou than she had thought he would be, as Western magi tended to be very biased toward those without lineage. Though Waver himself was regarded somewhat of an oddity even if he was respected. “I didn’t know if there might have been random inquiries about me around here lately.”
“Nothing more than the usual. The Edelfelt girl complains as usual.” Waver looked up again from the paper, and this time kept eye contact. “The only other issue was indirectly related to you. You remember Setsuka Yuushi, correct?”
Rin’s face darkened, and that seemed to be enough of a response.
“He escaped custody from the Church when they made to hand him over to us. The Church didn’t seem to think it necessary to have anyone of particular skill transport him to London, and they lost him during a flight turnover. They did everything to cover up their asses, of course, but had to inform us since he technically is ‘our problem.’”
Rin almost bit her tongue in the process of clenching her teeth. “Lost him? Brilliant, just…brilliant.” She fumed for a moment, trying to arrange her thoughts. “And what did the higher-ups have to say about it?”
“Officially, we’ve declared a Sealing Designation on him. He’s to be brought back here and monitored. His research is of interest to some around here, and they want their hands on it. But there hasn’t been any active search declared yet for him, no hunters hired.” Waver tapped a finger on his desk. “Next time, have that Emiya boy decapitate him. Save everyone the trouble.”
“If he even comes back my way,” Rin grumbled. On the one hand, it made sense, as all of his research materials had been confiscated and stored in the Tohsaka house, though Rin had personally destroyed much of his notes. If he wanted to continue without starting from scratch, he would have to come back to Fuyuki. On the other hand, common sense suggested that Rin and whoever had defeated the magus to begin with would be on the lookout, so he should at least wait and bide his time. “Unrelated to Dead Apostles, but thank you for the heads up.”
“As for Dead Apostles,” Waver shrugged, returning his attention to the paper, “You would know more than I on the topic.”
“Thanks anyway.” Giving a quick bow, Rin considered the dangers. Yuushi was dangerous, as he had personal investment in returning to Fuyuki and reclaiming his materials, plus if he was worth his salt in magecraft, he might have figured out something to counteract Shirou’s abilities. This theoretical Dead Apostle, on the other hand, was dangerous, not only because of the abilities of the undead, but because its motives were completely unknown. If she was going to clear this all up, it was going to take a lot of work.
“Tohsaka,” Waver called before she could reach the door. “Are you sure that you do not want to study here full-time? I understand that it is not the best fit for your lifestyle, but even I have to wonder if you are wasted in faraway Japan, practicing on your own.”
Rin paused, her head lulling to one side. She had always thought that this would be her goal, that studying and proving herself in the forum of magi amidst magi was her calling. She would blaze past all those that studied for years, even though she was nothing but a country bumpkin to them. And she would take the Tohsaka expertise with jewel magecraft to the limit, and finish what her ancestors had been given. With a little help from Shirou, she thought she might even get there within an acceptable amount of normal human time. But whenever she was here, all she ever did was think of home.
And not the house she had grown up in, either.
“There’s…something I feel I have to support, there. Maybe this will sound bizarre, but, I learned something from my Servant during the war. Something terrible that might happen. For his sake, I want to try everything I can to make sure it does not happen.” Despite herself, she felt her lips quirking up. “Don’t ever let anyone else know, but…I think it might just be the greatest thing I could do with my life.”
There came a chuckle from behind the desk. “Funny, how film or television or the like very frequently use the term ‘risk one’s life’ for somebody or some higher purpose, yet they always seem to miss that ‘living one’s life’ for somebody may be just as great.” Waver paused, and Rin could hear him throw the paper onto his desk, finished or forgotten. “What was your Servant’s identity, anyway?”
Rin sighed, shrugged, and reached for the door. “Just an idiot.” She shook her head. “Just an idiot.”
Escaping Fate, Interlude 6-2, Out
Last edited by Arashi_Leonhart; August 11th, 2011 at 03:37 AM.
July 14th, 2011, 10:00 PM
Mystic Eyes of Tree Hugging
Yeah, my play count on that song went from like 14 to 38 while I wrote it.
Originally Posted by Techlology
July 14th, 2011, 10:06 PM
It's one of my favourites from CC, Light and Darkness with This Illusion spliced into it = eargasm.
Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart
July 14th, 2011, 10:34 PM
Mystic Eyes of Tree Hugging
A late spring shower brought me home early from my latest attempt at training, which I had relocated to Ryuudou after dinner when nobody would take notice. From everything Illya had once said and Tohsaka kept stressing, the idea of visualizing my internal world was important, and doing so in the shed at home was sometimes a little off. The shed now reminded me of when I first met Saber, and I like to think that I’ve changed since then, changed in those few days she was here.
Outside the temple was closer to what I was now.
Without an umbrella, I was rather soaked by the time I made it home into the genkan* and under cover. I picked up my shoes, though, and decided I would go close up the shed now before I changed into dry clothing.
The house was quiet; Sakura had probably already retired to bed. Yumi was probably doing homework, as the television was not on when I passed by the living room on my way back out to the porch.
I thought about the training, about trying to create something I only had the vaguest of ideas of how. Seeing where I wanted to go was easy—the concept itself made perfect sense to me—but reaching it was another matter. I had a hard time producing more than seven or eight swords in a day, and the couple of times I had tried a shield Tohsaka had borrowed, it sapped everything I had in one go. The idea of completely ripping time-space asunder and planting my own reality on top of the world was way more than I could even think of doing right now, even if I could envision it perfectly.
The rain was coming down harder even still, and I had to dash from the rear porch to the shed in one go. But when I reached the doorway, I had to pause when I saw light from within.
Yumi was sitting next to my workspace, hands on one of my wooden swords.
The girl startled and turned to face me, backing up on her haunches in what looked like guilt. I stepped in and caught her gaze.** “What are you doing?”
This time, I think Yumi was not struggling to find what emotion to settle on. It was more like catching a kid red-handed sneaking candy or extra desserts before dinner. She stared up at me with wide eyes and no processing was going on behind them.
“I’m not angry, Yumi, just curious,” I said. I moved in and crouched next to her, wishing that Tohsaka were here. She would probably know what to do.
Yumi calmed down, taking a few deep breaths. When her breathing was even, she stared back at me with a scary intensity and from there, I could tell.
Fate was being ironic and letting me be in Kiritsugu’s shoes for a little while.
“I’m practicing magic,” she said.
I sighed, settling down completely next to her. I was pretty sure Tohsaka would have been against teaching her—at the very least, she would have talked with me about it first—and I don’t think Yumi could have learned much by watching me Trace swords. I’m pretty sure no magus, no matter how talented, could ever learn anything by watching me, since everything I did was so idiosyncratic. I regarded the girl as evenly as I could. “Why?”
“Because you’re doing it wrong.”
Whatever I had expected her to say, that certainly wasn’t it.
“I mean,” Yumi amended, and she looked abashed at her blunt words, “when I was watching you try and change your swords around, I could tell why it wasn’t working.”
I watched as she picked up the wooden sword from her lap. She stood up, holding the practice weapon at the hilt with her left hand, then reached into the collar of her shirt with her right. I heard a snap sound and Yumi closed her eyes.
I could feel the prana flow in her elevate, and suddenly, the wood in her hand was glowing.
Staring, I tried to make sense of what I was seeing. It looked like the glow of a thousand fireflies crawling about every inch of the wooden length; it was not bright as a light bulb, for instance, but it certainly was more than any amount of reflection from polish could manage. “How are you doing that?”
This certainly wasn’t Reinforcement, enhancing the properties of an item, or Projection, the creation of an object out of nothing. It looked a lot more like one of the techniques I had been trying to achieve but failing terribly at: Alteration.
“I’m not really sure,” Yumi admitted. “When I look at the magic I’ve seen you and Rin do, I just…know, I guess.” She waved the sword around, now looking vaguely like a lightsaber, and handed it over to me. “When I look at something like this, I can imagine adding something to it, something completely unrelated.”
I took the sword, admittedly filing the idea away that if I ever needed a torch, I now had a sword in mind that could do just as well. “You’re doing Alteration magic.”
A wry grin made its way on my face. I was alright at Reinforcement, though even Tohsaka was more skilled at it than I was except in certain cases. After realizing that what I did was not full Projection magic, it became apparent that except for my own brand of specialized skills, I would not be progressing much further than I already had in everything else. I’m not sure how long Yumi had been working on this, but it could not have been very long. “Have you tried other things?”
Yumi returned to looking abashed, though she added to it a blush that was apparent even by the dim light. “Reinforcement. I tried a couple other things, but haven’t had any success.”
“Well, that already puts you way beyond what I’ve managed,” I said. “So, I’m doing Alteration wrong. But why, besides showing me the error of my ways, are you doing this?” I watched the blush fade from her skin and her eyes draw into what almost looked like a glare. “You’ve seen what magic can do to people. Even if you’re lucky like Tohsaka, it’s a hard life to take up.”
Instead of answering, Yumi once again deflected the question. “What was Saber like?”
I stared at her blankly for a moment. We had never completely discussed the Grail War with her, at least as a family, so either she had picked it up from little things mentioned here and there…
Or I really had to discuss things with Sakura.
Hmm, perhaps it’s a good thing Tohsaka isn’t here. She’d probably be completely useless by now and doing that backpedaling-brain-freeze thing she did when sneak attacked.
Yumi continued to watch me with that almost-glare expression and I decided that her own question was going to be connected to mine. Somehow. “Saber was…well, I’m not sure what you want to know.”
“When you were together, you had something to accomplish, right?” Yumi asked, though it was more like a rhetorical question. “And you knew that it would end with you parting?”
I nodded. “Yeah. She had to return…home.”
“And you accepted her decision?”
Scratching the back of my head, I glanced over at the alchemy circle still vaguely discernable in the dust of the shed. “It was pretty mutual, once we understood—” I didn’t know how much she knew about the Grail, so I decided I’d be vague, “—that the goals we had earlier on were unobtainable. We had to stop a Master and his Servant from causing rampant destruction, and it would force the end of Saber’s time here. But neither one of us would stand by and let the two of them get away with what they had planned.”
“Were you happy with her?”
I looked at Yumi a little funny; getting lectured about my romantic life by a girl barely into high school was amusing. “Yeah, I was.”
I blinked at her, baffled. There was no answer in that for her actions that I could make out. “I don’t understand.”
I’m being punished, aren’t I? For recklessly charging after Kiritsugu first, and now Saber.
Handing the sword back to Yumi, I glanced around where she had been sitting. Now it became clear why things had all been just a little off whenever I came in here recently: though everything was where I had left it, occasionally it seemed as if they had been moved just so or somehow disturbed in a small fashion. It seemed, though, that she hadn’t attempted Alteration on anything I might work on in the future, since two magi pumping prana into the same object would cause it to break down.
I gave up on trying to nail down her motivation for now—it didn’t seem like I would be understanding anytime soon anyway—and motioned to the workspace. “So, what is it you have found you can do? You just made wood light up like a glowstick, are you going to throw an exploding radio at me now?”
Yumi shook her head, though she smiled a little. “I think that would actually be impossible, because the electrical wiring in a radio could possibly cause a spark large enough to read as an ‘explosion.’ So it’s already possible with a radio. I’ve found that all I can do is add aspects to something that they have no possibility of actually achieving.”
She picked up a steel pipe from the workspace against the wall. I couldn’t recall what the pipe was originally from, though I remembered that I’d salvaged it on the odd chance that it would be usable elsewhere. Walking to the door, she once again took the object in her left hand and reached under the collar of her shirt, though this time I heard no noise from beneath.
No visible change came from the pipe, though I watched intently. Yumi then planted her feet, raised the pipe, and threw it out the door.
Oh, so she was going to pipe-bomb the house instead.
I followed the path of the pipe out into the rain, twisting end-over-end…
And then it took a sharp turn to the right.
I’m not talking about an arc, like a boomerang. The pipe was flying on a course in the general direction of the house, but then veered at a ninety-degree angle as if the world’s most powerful magnet had just been turned on. It fell a few meters after making the turn and did not move from where it fell, nor did it explode as was my first thought.
“What just happened?” I asked.
Yumi nodded, as if satisfied. “I know you’ve been trying to work on making little changes to the swords you make. I think I can help.”
Sighing, I put my hand on her head and mussed through her hair. “You really should answer the questions you’re given directly. If you answer obliquely like this to a teacher at school, you’re gonna get in trouble.”
A grin came up at me through strands of random white hair. “I Altered the pipe to have the property ‘turn at a right angle after six meters of movement.’ Like how you can program a machine to do automated actions.”
Something about that leapt up to the forefront of my mind, and I asked, “What was it you thought of when you made the sword glow?”
“I thought of a firefly. You know, we saw a bunch of them a few weeks ago along the riverbank?” I nodded. We had taken Yumi to get her school supplies and had taken a long walk from Shinto on the way back. It was starting to darken a bit when we crossed the bridge, and along the way we had wandered along the riverbank chatting about school and had seen some fireflies. “I can imagine their glow in lots of inanimate objects.”
So, if I imagine a weapon that can defeat another weapon, she imagines an aspect that is inherently not a part of another object…
“I thought if maybe, you wanted to try, we could see if I couldn’t do something to one of your swords.”
I really wish Tohsaka were here now. The thought of another person trying to mess around with one of the weapons I knew of seemed like a disaster waiting to happen: if two magi pumping prana into one object meant the object would fail…
Illya had said that my magic was not Projection. Tohsaka was convinced that I was imagining the wrong things when I was Tracing. We were convinced that what I had was instead an internalized world.
If that was true, the actual prana discharge was not within the weapon itself, but in the process of moving it from one place to another and localizing it in a world that denies its existence. Not in the object itself…
I really had to call Tohsaka before we tried any of this, though, because I would absolutely refuse to do something that could literally blow up in our faces and hurt Yumi. Reckless I may be, I was not going to let her follow those kind of footsteps.
“Maybe tomorrow, then. I’ll need to talk to Tohsaka about it first.”
Yumi gave me this grin that I had to pause and take in slowly. It was the kind of grin Tohsaka was much more used to wearing, though occasionally Sakura could manage it if she had managed to somehow convince me not to do something…
…I get it.
Yumi no longer had to convince Tohsaka that she wanted to and was capable of learning magecraft, because I would be bringing the topic up first. And would get the blunt of the assault.
Before I could recant my decision, Yumi said, “Thanks, Shirou!” and bounded out of the shed.
Maybe it wasn’t my footsteps Yumi needed to avoid. At least, for my sanity.
Escaping Fate, Chapter 7, End
*A genkan is the recessed entryway to a Japanese house, like a mix of a foyer and mudroom. It is where a person removes their shoes as one does not enter a Japanese house with their shoes on. The Emiya household makes this especially true, as it is a traditional Japanese house.
**Servant, Archer, has come forth in answer to your summons. I ask of you, are you my Master?
***変身is read “henshin” and means “transformation.” Yumi, not bilingual, would need to stick to Japanese for her spell stanzas. Additionally, “henshin suru” would literally mean “transform oneself” which is thematically appropriate, and “henshin” itself is very commonly heard if you watch sentai shows like she does.
“Shirou, I do not understand. What is this place?”
Shirou grinned. “This is called the Tokyo Big Sight. It’s a convention center.”
Saber blinked as a variety of cameras went off in her face. She regarded the crowd surrounding them with the same suspicion she might an enemy force. “Is there supposed to be a Master here?”
Scratching the back of his head, Shirou gave a weak chuckle. “It is possible.”
“Should we not clear these people out, then?” Members of the crowd were calling out to her to try and gain her attention. “And why is it they know my name?”
“Er, this is called Comiket,” Shirou explained. “These are all fans of manga and anime.” Shirou shrugged. “I thought we might find some entertainment here, some manga and doujinshi to take home and enjoy.”
“I still do not understand this obsession you have with treating me like this. I am a Servant, and my purpose is battle,” Saber said.
A variety of the cameramen were whispering and murmuring to one another, words such as, “She’s even in character!” and “What dedication!” Shirou regarded them with a quickly-fading smile as Saber’s glare drilled into the side of his head.
“And why do they know my name?” Saber repeated.
“Um, you sound exactly like a very popular seiyuu?”
“Shirou, I am beginning to feel very unnecessary anger. I cannot help but think you are making fun of me.”
At that moment, a cosplayer passed by them, and the crowd of cameramen all crooned in excitement as another woman passed by. She was dressed not in blue and white like Saber, but a black tank top, short plaid-patterned skirt, and zettai ryouiki over-knee socks, though she had a wig identical to Saber’s hairstyle. She smiled at Saber, then her smile widened at Shirou. “Wow, you look just like him! Can I get a picture with you?”
The cameramen cheered in excitement as suddenly the naturally-blond woman before them somehow produced a glowing golden sword.
Shirou achieved his dream that day of saving lives. By picking up the stylish cosplayer and running in the opposite direction of the crowd as an earth-scorching blast was fired.
AN: For those that, like me, tend to hear seiyuu in their head when characters are talking, I imagine that Yumi would be voiced by Kana Hanazawa (Kanade Tachibana in Angel Beats!, Suou Pavlichenko in Darker Than Black 2, Anri Sonohara in Durarara!!), magus Setsuka Yuushi sounds like Takahiro Sakurai (Cloud Strife in Compilation FFVII, Yuu Kanda in D.Gray-man, Suzaku Kururugi in Code Geass), and Yumi’s senpai Takumi Hoshino sounds like Yuuichi Nakamura (Tomoya Okazaki in Clannad, Alto Saotome in Macross Frontier, Ryuu Sanada in Kimi ni Todoke). Though Caren is officially voiced by Ami Koshimizu in Fate/tiger colosseum, I tend to hear Eri Kitamura (Ami Kawashima in Toradora!, Sayaka Miki in Madoka Magica, Saya Otonashi in Blood+) for some reason.
Yes, I am enough of a seiyuu geek to recall that off the top of my head. Just imagine: for my own original literary work, I even have it in my head what I would suggest if my books were, for some impossible reason, turned into an anime. My body is made of trivia. Seiyuu is in my blood and unimportant factoids make my heart.
Shores of a Distant Land
I had to remind Yumi to focus on her schoolwork and not mage arts; the orphanage she had grown up in had left her with a spotty academic history and I wanted to make sure she could handle everyday life if she decided to forego the magical. Though I had a feeling that wouldn’t happen, if nothing else than Tohsaka and I being a bad influence.
As the days ticked on I kept an eye out on the news, watching for any signs that a possible undead was stalking the city and feeding on its population. Meanwhile, Yumi and I settled into a new routine, dedicating one hour to tinkering with her magic as she experimented with showing me what she could do.
Admittedly after just under a week of observing her abilities, I had to admire her talent. Though she had no particular abilities outside of Alteration in the same way I had none outside of Reinforcement and Projection, it was apparent she had a significantly larger well to draw from. I could only manage a handful of blades or a dozen Reinforcements before tiring; Yumi had yet to even reach a threshold. She had apparently been wearing some kind of magical limiter her arm under her sleeve that helped regulate the amount of prana flowing through her body at any one time, otherwise it overwhelmed her.
It must be nice to have excess energy to spare, instead of groping for every tiny bit from every corner of my body.
Yumi’s abilities were providing immediate results. After a few tests, I felt comfortable allowing her to try Alteration on some Traced weapons, and it was readily apparent that the theories behind my magic were correct: what I did resembled Projection, but wasn’t actual Projection at all. If I actually had Projection magic, the items I created were essentially transmuted air, given shape by my prana. As such, no other magus should be able to pour any kind of their own spellwork into it without the spell breaking, since the object was made out of my od.
But Yumi was successful, and we had tried a variety of weapons.
The theory, of course, was that with a Reality Marble, everything was within my own soul. If I could deploy the spell, reality itself would warp to reflect what was within me; it wasn’t a matter of prana being used to create weapons, but prana being used to create the world with weapons in it. The weapons themselves were just concepts within my mind, and in Tracing them, I was merely transporting them from within my world to the physical world. So, in essence, she was able to use Alteration on them as if they were untouched by another magus’ hands. In fact, that might be how I managed to Reinforce Kanshou and Bakuya myself, since doing two separate magics—Projection and then Reinforcement—on a single object should be either difficult if not downright impossible for me.
I phoned Tohsaka about the whole situation as well, and after the ringing in my ears cleared we decided to sit everyone down and talk about it once she was back. She grumbled over having to bring additional equipment and how much of a pain it would be to clear customs with it—I didn’t ask—and surprised both at Yumi’s apparent talent and that Sakura would have so clearly gone behind our backs on helping Yumi out. Though with the latter issue, I had the sneaking suspicion that Tohsaka seemed happy rather than upset.
To that, I had to agree. Anytime Sakura showed initiative, I felt I had to support her. Even if it was initiative that might make things complicated.
“Just make sure neither of them feel like they have to join in on this Dead Apostle hunt,” Tohsaka had said. “I’m not sure even I want to get involved with it. No way should they even consider it.”
Tohsaka then arranged a return flight the day before the full moon so we could prepare for a potential attack.
Yumi had spent the weekend and first day of her Golden Week break getting all of her homework done and out of the way so neither Sakura nor I had the ability to complain that she should be concentrating on her normal life. Afterward, she had spent most of Tuesday testing various items and the sometimes bizarre effects she could give them, like making a hubcap to a tire fly through the air completely unaerodynamically or making a solid wooden sword bend like rubber. Upon this discovery, she decided she wanted to try that with a sword, and really, swinging a claymore with the tensile traits of a wet noodle really was something to behold. By the time Tohsaka was due home that evening*, we had any number of absolutely hilarious things to show her and earn that look of complete bafflement at what we were doing.
Yeah, I should probably have been trying harder on the Reality Marble. Although it really seemed like no matter what I did, I was years away from having the control necessary to deploy it. The fact that I now had it cemented in my mind that what I was doing had little to do with Projection, though, had helped, and already I was producing weapons more efficiently. I could probably handle two dozen now, if I was completely in the zone.
I braved town earlier that afternoon to get some extra food for dinner; I assumed that Tohsaka would be hungry when she returned home and probably didn’t want to deal with any crowds with the things she was bringing here. I decided on unagi since I’m sure she was tired of Western fare and would go for something purely Japanese.
Sakura got home early—her work was doing half-days for the holiday—and was apparently determined to help with dinner, so we compromised that I would get everything cut and prepared while she would do the actual cooking and serving.
“It’s after seven. Shouldn’t she have landed a while ago?” Yumi asked from the living room, watching the latest Juuken Sentai Gekiranger she had recorded. She really did love television, probably stemming from not having one in her time at the orphanage.
“I’m guessing the trains from the airport to Fuyuki are swamped. I’d honestly be surprised if she made it home before eight,” I said, fighting with the eel. It was sometimes quite difficult to slice just right.
Sakura was washing her hands, getting ready to take over. “If you need a snack, I can bring you some mandarin oranges,” she offered.
Yumi shook her head, apparently unwilling to turn away from the show. “Just wondering. Taiga said she was going to come by later to double-check my homework, though if dinner is going to be so late…” She drifted off and I grinned. There would be no homework check, just food mooching, and Yumi seemed to know it. I wonder if it really would have been better sometimes for Yumi to have been adopted elsewhere; the lack of responsible adults she had as role-models was probably going to doom her post-school career. And I’m including myself and Tohsaka in that count, since Sakura was the only one with an actual job, after all.
After cutting the eel and checking to make sure the sauce it was to be grilled with was just right, I handed the kitchen over to Sakura, hung my apron aside, and took a seat next to Yumi.
“Please don’t tell me you’re getting ideas from this,” I said.
Yumi grinned, that same Tohsaka-esque expression. I’m beginning to wonder if Archer’s sneer evolved out of too much time spent with Tohsaka in his actual life.
Well, I’d just have to hope I didn’t start doing it too.
We sat watching the show for a while, one of the sentai heroes apparently learning to use a hammer in battle and conversely discover that one had to enjoy themselves to fight at full potential**. I glanced at Yumi as the battle started to escalate, and not for the first time hoped that she, in fact, took something away from her attachment to these shows.
The world isn’t as terrible as you’ve experienced…
The boundary field surrounding the house clattered in alarm, and the power went out, sending the house into the faint illumination of the moonlit evening.
“Senpai!” Sakura was out of the kitchen in a hurry, and I jumped to my feet. I could recall the last time I heard that noise, and it was not a pleasant memory.
Yumi was looking around too, though she had yet to rise. Instead, she said, “What is that noise?”
“A spell that alerts us to danger,” I explained, grabbing underneath her arms and hauling her up from her seat.
“No,” Yumi said, looking even more confused. “I mean, listen carefully.”
Both Sakura and I froze in place, trying to listen for whatever it was Yumi was talking about. And after shunting out my own beating heart, I could hear it:
I could not help but think of the last time the field was activated and the bone-clattering that had followed when Caster had sent her golems in for an attack. This time, instead of golems, I had a feeling I understood what it was that surrounded us in a disturbingly similar fashion.
If I ever could convince someone that my life was in fact real, I would now get to explain that on top of falling in love with an ancient reverse-gendered British King, surviving a stabbing from the Hound of Ulster, fighting the greatest of Greek Heroes, and stopping an evil priest bent on unleashing literal hell on our city, I had faced a zombie apocalypse.
“Get into the shed and close the door,” I said, looking to Sakura. “Everything else is way too exposed.”
Once again, she did not know what she was supposed to feel.
Excitement. Fear. Determination. Unease. Anger.
Sakura took her by the hand and was running before she could process it all. Out of the living room, past the deck, out into the yard.
Between us and the shed, a figure.
It was human, but not. It had human shape, stood like a human, wore clothing and everything. But its eyes were glassy, its movements animalistic, its presence…full of death.
She did not even think about it. With the same command she had perfected over these weeks, she loosed her blouse ribbon and flung it at the not-human.
The ribbon struck right at neck level. It continued right past the figure without stopping, and in its wake left a gash suited to a razor-sharp knife.
And as the not-human creature flinched, Sakura brought her leg up, skirt and all, and kicked.
The lack of musculature connection at the wound caused the creature’s head to fly right off.
Sakura pulled Yumi past the body into the shed, though instead of closing the door, they both looked out, watching.
The yard was now starting to crowd with more not-humans, and Shirou came out after a moment, bow in hand. He ignored the figures starting to surround him, however, ducking past swinging arms and body-checking them if they closed in on him, his attention focused to something out of sight from the shed.
This time, I was ready.
The bow I traced was reminiscent of the bow I had shot at Berserker with. Though improvised at the time, it was still better than the practice bow Sakura had used for Archery Club and was generally better suited for shooting my peculiar ammunition. I had Traced it some time ago and Yumi had gone about Altering it, giving it some form of metallic durability it never had in reality. It was like the magical equivalent to the carbon fibers and laminate that modern bows used compared to the wood of ancient times.
Tracing the end result of what Yumi had done resulted in a bow closer to what Archer had used.
Curtana was in hand almost in the same moment, already narrowed and significantly lengthened for firing. The undead swarming me were of no consequence; I was a good shot.
The target stood on the deck between the house and guest house, figures weaving between us. I sidestepped a charging living dead, saw my chance, and let fly.
My target disappeared.
That wasn’t quite right—he was in sight again almost instantly, but a good six meters to the left. It did look like he had disappeared, like watching right down the starting line of an Olympic sprint and refusing to track the runners’ progress beyond the initial take-off.
Estimating the speed from the vampire earlier, I had thought that any difference between master and sired would be offset by shooting the Phantasm from a bow. But I was wrong, and this Dead Apostle was the real thing: a being truly taken to the ends of human reflexes and skill.
This guy, whoever he was, started casually walking my way, as if to mock me.
Fine. Mock away. I’ve still got a few things up my sleeve.
If a shot holy sword was not going to work, then I would have to try something completely different.
All I had to do was get close enough.
I did what I could to Reinforce my legs, charging across the yard as fast as I could, zigzagging past the dead this monster had brought as meat shields. The Dead Apostle regarded me carefully, though he halted his own movement. He steadied his stance and I thought he could probably avoid anything I swung at him and would blow me apart with the counterattack while I was still suffering tunnel-vision from the charge.
He could avoid anything I swung at him.
So I would have to thrust instead.
No sword appeared in my free hand, and when I was within a sure range, I flung myself headlong into the fastest, hardest center-mass thrust I could manage.
Causality reversed: the spear caught him through the heart first, and my spear thrust went second. Arrogant as he was, the Dead Apostle merely “dodged” to the right into the blind spot over my shoulder.
“Guh!” the Dead Apostle grunted.
I managed a tight smile—
And then the Dead Apostle grabbed the spear, lifted it, and before I could let go, pulled it out and flung me across the entire yard.
Twisting in midair, I tried to take the impact on my Reinforced legs as I crashed into the dojo wall. I hit hips first, shoulders second, probably throwing my spine completely out of alignment but lessening the impact to my upper body and head enough that I only wanted to throw up instead of roll over and die.
When I hacked out a cough, it felt like I was spitting broken ribs out along with the rest of the air in my lungs.
“Do not think, little magus, that your faker weapons are enough to kill me,” the Dead Apostle said in a pompous voice with only the faintest hint of an accent. “While your presence certainly was a surprise when I first observed this city, it is comparable to the presence of an irritating bug one does not expect to buzz in one’s face.”
So, maybe I was wrong. Maybe villains do like to talk long and eloquently, and the vampire we killed earlier was the exception.
“I am the Knave of the Ancestors, one who serves many of the Apostle Ancestors directly. Know that even the Hound of Ulster Cú Chulainn’s spear is useless against Dmitri Alkaev!” He raised his arms like crucified, and even from across the yard I could see the wound over his heart healing. “The Servant of a magus has nothing on the servant of the oldest beasts of the world!”
Or villains were contractually obligated to be giant hams.
The good thing was it gave me a moment to catch my breath and collect my thoughts. Gaé Bolg hadn’t worked, though it had pierced his heart. Tohsaka had told me that destroying Dead Apostles was not unlike killing humans, as they technically functioned on similar rules, but this one apparently was different.
I glanced up at the evening sky; the moon was up, nearly full. Maybe his strength was still enhanced by near-full moons and normally it would have worked.
Knave of the Ancestors…
A knave was comparable to the Jack in a deck of cards, a court servant to royalty. The Dead Apostle Ancestors were essentially vampire royalty. If he was what he claimed, I suppose he would be stronger than average, probably gunning for a position in their ranks himself…
Two of the living dead charged, and I stumbled to try and get up.
Tohsaka’s voice cut through the haze of pain and I hit the ground just as a wave of her Gandr shots smashed into the undead from behind. The both of them groaned, crashed into the same wall I hit, and I rolled forward to avoid being buried under them.
The Dead Apostle stopped and turned in a way that reminded me like a wind-up toy, over-dramatizing like he were part of some kind of melodrama.
Tohsaka stood on the perimeter wall in almost the same exact place Gilgamesh had once upon a time, holding jewels between her knuckles and staring down the Dead Apostle.
Climbing to my feet, I glanced about to check the rest of the living dead, but all of them also had their attention on Tohsaka. Their ambient moans grew in pitch and turned disturbingly desperate, a little like…
Must not think about it.
“Rin Tohsaka,” the Dead Apostle said, his own voice taking on a different tone. “I am disappointed. I had intended to kill everyone here before you returned, so you would have a welcoming gift. It seems I underestimated the transit crowds today.”
“What do you want?” Tohsaka asked.
If he was going to kill us here, I hoped to every god I knew that he wasn’t going to quote a movie right now.
“Honestly? Just to see what you were hiding here,” the Dead Apostle replied. He took a pose that melodramatically told anyone looking that he was thinking, one arm crossed and the other bent at the elbow and stroking his chin in consideration. “It is said that you won the Holy Grail War between magi and my child, the one you so unceremoniously slaughtered, detected a great presence here. I wanted it.”
Though they had closed the shed door, they had cracked the window open and were watching from within.
And what the attacker said…
Somehow felt ominous to Yumi.
Never let anyone call me unpractical.
While the Dead Apostle’s attention was on Tohsaka, I readied my bow and started Tracing again. I slowly crept to my left to get a better shot on him. If I could get him maneuvered into just the right spot, I might manage to corner him.
Like an expert card shark, Tohsaka never once gave me any kind of attention. She continued to address the Dead Apostle. “I don’t know where you got your information, but I wasn’t the winner of the Grail, nor was any kind of wish made.”
“You cannot hide it, young one. I can smell it with you even now.”
There. His back was still turned, and that would give me the time I needed.
“The celestial court sends this mandate of rule.”
What formed looked more like an oversized Kanshou, long and curved, though the pommel had jade inlay. I nocked the blade and it narrowed and straightened, ready to fire, and I took a deep breath. I’d never used this weapon before, though I understood its history. This was either going to work perfectly, or I was going to literally eat my own words—
By the time the aria was complete, the Dead Apostle had glanced back at me and was smirking. If he’s dodged the first, there’s no reason to think he can’t dodge the next.
There really was no reason to doubt, as this Dmitri guy proved. He sidestepped the shot just as he had Curtana, grinned my way, and turned back to Tohsaka.
That might have saved his un-life.
Thuân Thiên was not unlike a Vietnamese sword-in-the-stone, but that wasn’t why I thought of it. The anecdote of the story centered around the fisherman who found it tossing the blade back out into the sea, only to have it return to him three times.
Dmitri turned to face Tohsaka, and barely had time to see the blade flying right back at him. Faster than I had seen even Saber move, the vampire jerked aside.
Not fast enough.
The sword cut him right across the face, from the bridge of the nose right beneath his eye and all the way to his ear, and then came flying back my way. It halted right before me, ready to be taken, and I grabbed and nocked it once more.
“You!” the Dead Apostle screamed, his attention fully on me now.
Tohsaka’s jewels went his way, her German chant drowned out by the groaning of the living dead around us. Fire exploded in the Dead Apostle’s place, though I didn’t wait to see whether that was enough to even incapacitate him.
I shot Thuân Thiên again, Traced a new blade the color of obsidian, and used it to cut down a charging living dead before moving to a different position.
“Go into the red plains, scarlet hound.”
The black blade twisted, elongated, started to shake as if alive. As if the bow were only a secondary matter, it shot much faster than the poundage on my weapon would ever manage and darted at the smoke cloud.
Finally, he started treating us like a danger. There was a billow of smoke that flew out from the center of the blast, leaping up at the perimeter wall in Tohsaka’s direction and completely avoiding Thuân Thiên. From what I could see, it looked like a great deal of his face had been burnt, confounded by the initial cut I made.
Tohsaka had already leapt clear, running in the direction of the house and Gandr spelling the undead in her way.
Hrunting curved up toward the Dead Apostle, who had turned to chase after Tohsaka but had his attention on the magical ammunition tracking him. With half his face partially ripped right off, the snarl he shot my way looked monstrous.
With a leap like a cat, Dmitri avoided Hrunting by tumbling through the air, the sword-arrow flying past and arcing up toward the evening sky. Upon landing, he made another, stronger leap and completely cleared the distance between himself and Tohsaka, landing on the edge of the roof of the house right above where she was skidding to make a change of direction.
“I—what?!” he cried.
Hrunting had completely circled around and was charging right after the Dead Apostle once again, like a rabid animal determined to catch its prey. At the same time, Thuân Thiên had returned once more to me, and I readied the blade for another shot.
Tohsaka dove back out into the middle of the yard, hitting the ground and rolling along the ground hard. Yet another jewel went flying from her hand, one I recognized the magical signature to, and though much further from the vampire this time, he was so preoccupied with Hrunting, he merely raised an arm to block.
Ice formed around his limb in the exact same way it had formed around Berserker’s limb and arm.
The vampire roared, used the extra weight on his arm to pull himself down to avoid the next Hrunting drive, and hit the ground. I let loose Thuân Thiên, and he immediately inverted and leapt back up to avoid both shots—
He hit the lip of the rooftop, and like a trapeze artist, used it to fling himself back.
Tohsaka made it up to a crouch, but even with Reinforcement, this guy was going to be faster. Hrunting was going to take another moment to circle around—
I moved laterally to their position. If I could box the thing in with Hrunting flying at it from the right angle—
Tohsaka seemed to realize her predicament, and, trusting me to do my part, moved parallel to me but in the opposite direction to give me a clear shot.
I had to hurry. This guy moved like a bullet and it was going to get to Tohsaka if I didn’t do something now—
I had to discard tactics. Specialized swords weren’t working. I needed something better than what I had already used, just better.
The Dead Apostle hit the ground running, literally running, and was already almost on top of Tohsaka.
I’ve done this before. I can do it faster—
“Her will sought eternity and found hope…”
Hrunting started to circle back around, but even it would not be fast enough: the Dead Apostle would reach Tohsaka before the next strike reached it. That was fine, that was within the scope, I just needed him at the right angle—
“Its fate was promised victory…”
Gold formed in my hand, a blade of perfect shape. It was the most beautiful of anything I could make, the kind of thing a sculptor dreams of, a painter imagines, a storyteller describes.
But never once lays eyes on.
It nocked my bowstring, flashed from the elegant shape of blade and guard and grip and pommel to something like an arrow.
“Imitation sword of the ruler—”
Tohsaka hit the ground, clearing my line of sight completely. The Dead Apostle had almost straddled her already, this was going to be so close. “Cancel your seeking arr—” he started, reaching for her throat.
Knave of the Ancestors, I’ll see your bet and raise you a King.
There before her, she saw something.
Something she understood intrinsically, something she knew the others could not perceive. Or if they could perceive it, the perception was different somehow, like the difference between a foreign language student and a native speaker.
The blade Shirou made.
It had more.
Certainly, it looked more elegant than the curved scimitar, or the thorny broadsword, or anything else Yumi had seen Shirou create. It seemed to glow with an inner light as well, almost tangible, though no actual glow could be seen. It was like a glow from the heart.
But that wasn’t all.
Yumi could see the Addition there, even if it was non-magical in nature. There was just something more to it, something she knew Shirou would not replicate in the production of the other weapons he used.
There was a sense of perfection from it. Aspiration. Dedication. Love. Yumi thought, for the first time, she had something physical to represent what she felt within Shirou when she looked at him. Though she thought of Rin as two people and Sakura as three, Shirou was not…
And in his place, she felt, for the first time, something like him was finally there, making the world, her world, complete.
It wasn’t him, but…it was close.
He wasn’t justice itself, but an ally of justice…
He wasn’t the blade itself, but its ally…
And it made up every part of him.
The Dead Apostle wasn’t dead, but it certainly wasn’t alive, either.
It looked both pretty and pretty horrific. Caliburn had embedded itself right into the man’s neck and had reformed into the original shape of a sword. This Dmitri had taken it by the grip and was attempting to pull it out, but…
Even if I embedded Caliburn into something, I would never be able to pull it out either.
No living person could. Nor un-living, I suppose.
The vampire looked like he was in so much pain he wanted to scratch his own throat out, but at the same time so absolutely staggered by the pain that he could do nothing but pathetically grip the weapon in shock. He had not even seemed to notice that Hrunting had skewered him from behind.
Caliburn was a holy weapon, after all, and probably had enough of the properties of a conceptual weapon meant to harm undead like him that it was more painful than—
Well, not that I’ve ever had my throat and spine pierced by a sword.
Tohsaka had crawled out from beneath the creature and I glanced around. The living dead around us were screaming in agony as well, reflecting whatever psychic link they had with their sire. I moved to the closest ones and, with the once-again-returned Thuân Thiên, started beheading them.
When I had finished clearing them out, Yumi and Sakura had come out from the shed and had joined Tohsaka in looking the Dead Apostle over, though Sakura had tried to ward Yumi from the sight. The vampire, though, writhed in place, hunched over, hands still grasping Caliburn, ignorant of everything else.
“Why isn’t he dying?” Yumi asked.
…Something about that statement really sounded wrong coming from her. I suppose, even though Illya might have said something similarly callous, I had never gotten used to that either.
“The older something is, the longer its life takes to unravel,” Tohsaka said absently, as if expecting this. “And I’m not sure I can destroy the body myself, this time. We might seriously have to think about leaving him like this until the sun comes out.”
I felt my eyebrow twitch, and though it pained me, said, “No, we should call Caren. She’s probably appreciate it, even.”
Sakura nodded. “Oh, right. Um, I’ll go do that.”
Something completely inane in me thought of more mundane tasks. “You should actually go check food. It’s probably done by now. I’ll call her.”
All three girls stared at me.
“What? Perfectly good food like that shouldn’t go to waste!”
…It would probably help to de-Trace the bloody sword in my hand before talking about food.
Yumi really did not pay attention much after that. She was aware that Caren Ortensia and others came to help dispose of the Dead Apostle. She was vaguely reminded to eat shortly afterward when Taiga showed up and the four of them had to pretend nothing was amiss and make light over Rin’s return home. She only mechanically went through the nightly rituals of bathing and readying for bed, as everyone turned in early citing tiredness. She did remember that Shirou had teased Taiga over getting out of helping with homework like promised.
She had her thoughts only on that sword.
The sword that was both Shirou’s sword, and not his sword. That was Shirou, but not him.
The fact that, now with the sword gone and dissipated like all of Shirou’s other weapons, the world somehow felt…
Like it was missing something.
Missing Shirou, or a part of him.
Before she realized it, she was dreaming.
She had this dream sometimes before. Of shores, of the surf pounding away at earth, of the wash of water up a coast, depositing sand, washing out, and repeating the process.
An endless shoreline, with an endless tide.
Wash, add, wash, add.
Yumi understood, somehow, this was hers. This dream. It made sense, after all. She added things to the world, like the sea added to the shoreline. She had seen many shorelines as a child, traveling, and she thought maybe the beaches of her dreams were composed of every land she had ever seen.
Tonight, though, she saw a new one.
A new addition.
One she had never seen before.
One that, with its addition, she felt, completed her world. Completed that endless shoreline.
A shore, with lands beyond…
Green fields, blue skies—
And an eternal sunrise…
Escaping Fate, Shores of a Distant Land, End
*I’m fudging a little bit, as the full moons of 2007 would not fall on the exact dates we’re working with. The previous full moon when they fought the vampire would have been just before Yumi started school, not the weekend following. This full moon is right on, though, as it fell on Wednesday of Golden Week. Oh well. And for the uninitiated, Golden Week is a series of consecutive national holidays in Japan that are so close together schools and some businesses just close down for the entire week.
**Episode 11, which aired on Showa Day at the start of Golden Week. Yes, I’m an obsessive fact-checker. Shut up.
Last edited by Arashi_Leonhart; July 4th, 2012 at 11:39 AM.
July 14th, 2011, 10:37 PM
Mystic Eyes of Tree Hugging
I'll post the rest later...I've stared at text too much today and my eyes are tired.
July 14th, 2011, 10:44 PM
There is nothing greater than a loli.
LIKE A KING
Everything I say is a lie.
LIKE A KING
Butt-windows are the portal to the soul.
LIKE A KING
Originally Posted by Komrade Kwestions
July 15th, 2011, 12:51 AM
Butt Stallion says hello
I've been reading this on ff.net... and I love it.
||Nii san ! Grab my penis ! ADVENTURE !!!!
Originally Posted by lantzblades
[18:00] Spinach: Because I don't like Saber's personality but boy oh boy does she make my dick turn to diamonds when I see her getting tentacled.
[18:01] Leo: feeling superior to EU makes me hard
[16:16] <Bloble> Drakengard? Is that a rhythm game?
July 15th, 2011, 01:12 AM
Just so you know, I recommended this story since chapter one. :3
July 15th, 2011, 03:28 AM
Mystic Eyes of Tree Hugging
That's...actually kinda scary. I'd never recommend anything by chapter one...gotta know if they can handle releasing it. I've got too many stories saved on my computer of people who only got out of the gate that I loved and wanted more but will never have and now I've made myself sad just thinking about it ;_;
Originally Posted by DreamsRequiem
July 15th, 2011, 03:45 AM
Mystic Eyes of Tree Hugging
Unlimited Blades, Endless Addition
I did not sleep well that night.
It had little to do with the undead and their demise. Cutting them down had been sickening, but their second deaths were nothing more than returning the world to its natural state. Tohsaka had pointed out that they were bereft of human souls and destroying them was no longer an affront to humanity. Even I could sense that in them, though, looking at them still reminded me that they were once truly human.
The gruesome death of the Dead Apostle also had nothing to do with it. Dead Apostles were somewhat like Servants in that they no longer existed as humans. Though I felt like I had to respect what they once were, a Dead Apostle no longer resembled who they were as a mortal. That was unlike a Servant, and again, while watching him grope around and try to pull a sword out of his throat was disturbing, in the end it was all I could do to return something to what was natural.
It wasn’t even letting Yumi and Sakura see what had happened, though that was perhaps the most upsetting out of it. The both of them had very disturbing things happen to them in the past, but it was on the receiving end, not the observer’s end. I’m pretty sure that even a victim of domestic violence would be appalled to see another suffer the exact same fate. What’s more, Yumi seemed to take it all in with an expression that seemed too clinical even to me. It…well, reminded me of him. Facing down Berserker, knowing death was imminent, and yet still capable of watching everything with an objective eye. I could only be glad she never once looked ready to crack a joke.
No, it was how much it took to get the Dead Apostle.
The Dead Apostle was with abilities taken to human extreme. Though he had experience and practice, everything he did was within the scope of an extremely experienced and practiced human being. He wasn’t like a Servant, with power that becomes legend and with abilities enhanced by the status as a praised being.
Though the numbers of weapons I’d Traced were even fewer than the fight with the vampire last month, this had still managed to take a lot out of me. Gaé Bolg was not a sword and, though familiar enough, it was both more tiresome to generate and required additional prana to use its abilities. Hrunting, though a sword, felt like a greater strain on my mind, possibly because I was no berserker-esque fighter like the original user Beowulf was.
Caliburn was easy, but…
Maybe it was difficult for a different reason.
Even if I was exhausted and my back hurt like, well, I had been thrown into a building, my mind would not shut down. I kept reviewing the fight in my mind, kept thinking about how I could have done better, could have managed uninjured, could have done it all without Tohsaka nearly getting her head twisted off. I thought about how Archer had apparently depleted Berserker’s God Hand multiple times himself, and compared that to how much it had taken me to stop a Dead Apostle even once.
I still had a long way to go.
Sleep came in fits, always circling around these facts, and coming back to one question:
Even with the hard work, with perfect aim…would I ever reach her?
Because of my inability to sleep, I ended up heading to the kitchen before Sakura was awake. The thing, though, upon reaching the living room was that Tohsaka was already up, tea already made and in hand.
“Morning,” I said, surprised. “I didn’t expect you to be up.”
“Jetlag,” Tohsaka said.
She was otherwise silent as I went about starting breakfast, staring off at nothing while I got the rice started and getting some omelets prepared. When I settled down across from her at the table with my own cup of tea while I waited for the rice to steam, she didn’t seem to take any notice.
Sakura was up and greeted us just as I got back up to start cooking everything and she too seemed a little distant, not even offering to take over the kitchen duties as was her habit. Not that I minded, but, it was a little odd.
By the time Yumi was up, I had already finished setting the table. Yumi, too, looked at Tohsaka and Sakura, confusion evident, possibly picking up on the weird vibe that was in the air. “What’s going on?” she asked.
When her eyes turned to me, I shrugged, then jabbed Tohsaka with my elbow. The witch hardly seemed to register it, though she slowly turned to look at me. “Okay,” I said, “You’re creeping me out too. What’s wrong?”
Tohsaka blinked at me, then sighed. “Just…well, thinking about what that guy said last night. Something isn’t really adding up.”
I glanced over my shoulder in the direction of the yard, though there was nothing left there besides some burnt grass where Tohsaka’s spell had exploded. Caren Ortensia had visited quickly after the battle and, one by one, had carted off with the bodies of the zombie-like living dead that had accompanied the Dead Apostle. She took that Dmitri guy last, swords and all, praying all the while, as the guy helplessly clawed at Caliburn’s intrusion. How she managed it all before Fuji-nee had come was something of a miracle, as I don’t think the truck Caren had brought was even around the corner when Fuji-nee burst through the genkan.
“Like the fact that he talked way too much for someone who should know better?” I asked.
Tohsaka’s flat eyes and are-you-really-that-dumb eyebrow convergence was the response I got.
Well, geez, get some sleep if you’re going to be crabby after one joke.
“No, I mean the part where he mentioned the Holy Grail and that I had ‘it’ with me. He implied that it was the prize from the war.” Tohsaka absently poked at her omelet. “He said he could sense its presence here.”
“Oh, yes, the ‘prize.’ I’m sure I kept a pocket-full of All the Evils of the World and stored it in the refrigerator.” I shook my head. “Kotomine said that it was pure power and malice wrapped into one, and I’d imagine a Dead Apostle can intuit that feeling, but still here? It isn’t even present at Ryuudou Temple any longer.”
Tohsaka gave a nearly imperceptible tilt of the head to acknowledge that, but it was Sakura who spoke up. “I don’t really know what senpai and nee-san are talking about, but, I could make out a connection between the Dead Apostle and here.”
I decided I would not even try to attempt any tea anytime soon. It just seemed like one of those kind of days when the moment I put any liquid in my mouth, I might just spit it all back up. “You what?” Even Tohsaka looked surprised, as well as a little wary.
“Um.” Sakura sighed. “Well, it wasn’t anything magical. Just…uh, attitude, I suppose?”
“I don’t understand,” I said.
Sakura nodded. “I know, which is absolutely a good thing.” She gave a little smile, but it was offset by the droop of her eyebrows in a way that made her look very much like her sister when Tohsaka was apologetic. On the rare occasion, anyway. “But the way he moved, his posture, it reminded me of…him. As the Grail War came closer and closer.”
I felt my hand twitch. Specifically the fingers I used for bow-drawing.
When Tohsaka had finally pulled the whole story out of Sakura, of what had happened in the years since they had been separated…
The Matou mansion had inexplicably experienced an explosion that blasted a hole from their basement all the way up to street level.
The first time I had tried a Broken Phantasm.
“So he reminded you of Zouken Matou,” Tohsaka said, more aloud than to her sister. I think she was trying to use that frame of reference to put the pieces together in her head and see what came out. “Illya said once that Zouken had been there from the beginning, somehow preserving his life, and that he had lost his way with the Grail. That he couldn’t even remember the initial reason he wanted to use it and had just been consumed with the idea of gaining it.”
I remembered that as well. Illya had come with me when I had gone to pick a fight with Zouken; the Broken Phantasm I’d used hadn’t actually killed him, according to her, but she said that he was cowed. I gathered it had nothing to do with me, but Illya had never explained further. I’m not even sure what happened after that, really, because I had been so angry all I could do was storm right back out of the house and hope to god that someone else was going to explain how a five meter-diameter hole had shown up right outside the Matou estate’s main gate.
Pushing the memory aside, I considered what Tohsaka just said. The Dead Apostle had been prideful and superbly confident, but I hadn’t noticed anything like what they were describing. And I didn’t know Zouken Matou well enough to compare the brief moment I had with him. I would just have to assume and trust that they knew what they were talking about. “So he was just intuitively drawn here by something. Still doesn’t give us any real clues, because none of us keep magical artifacts here.” I paused, a new thought coming. “Although maybe I should double-check Illya’s grave and make sure it hasn’t been disturbed. If there was any residual presence of the Grail…”
Tohsaka smacked her forehead. “I never would have thought of that. Maybe you should go do that now, Shirou, while it’s still early.”
I nodded, already on my feet. “Be back in a bit, then.”
While Shirou was out, she had to ask: “What was this Grail that man mentioned and you keep talking about?”
Rin looked a little abashed, like she had completely forgotten that Yumi was even at the table. “A…magical device. It was believed to grant wishes, but from everything Shirou said, it was nothing more than a weapon.”
“Shirou was the only one to see it?”
Rin nodded. “Anyway, it was highly evil. And Shirou destroyed it.”
“Ryuudou Temple,” Rin said, shrugging. “Nothing is left up there, though.”
When I made it back home, Sakura had cleared the table except for my own untouched meal. Yumi was right back to watching television, and I was thankful that the events of the night had not changed that kind of habit. I settled back down and started in on my food in earnest. “Nothing, though. It was still there.”
Tohsaka sighed. “Well, not that I wanted someone grave digging, but it might have given us a lead or something. Oh well. No point in worrying, I guess.”
I nodded and accepted fresh tea that Sakura had prepared for me.
“So, then, what is this about Yumi learning magic?”
I coughed in an attempt to not choke when the tea went down the wrong way. Thanks, Tohsaka, and I had managed to convince myself it was safe to go ahead and drink.
“Just little things,” Sakura explained. “So far she has only demonstrated a slight skill in it, not anywhere even near senpai.”
Tohsaka glanced over at where Yumi sat watching television. It was readily apparent the girl could hear everything, though she seemed content to let us do the arguing for her while she watched a penalty game show. The laughter on the screen managed to offset the glare Tohsaka was giving us just enough that it diffused whatever tension came with it.
Hmm, I wonder if the show choice was on purpose.
“Still, dangerous,” Tohsaka said. “You said she performed it last night?”
I nodded. “In a rather clever way. I think I’m just a little too straightforward a thinker to have utilized magic in that sort of fashion.” I’m not really sure why I felt like praising her, though it might be another attempt to offset the more practical reasoning: magic was just a dangerous prospect for anyone to pick up. And Yumi already had enough done to her.
“Besides,” Sakura said, “in this family, what else is she going to do? She felt the connection, watches nee-san and senpai practice with their magic, and because of what has happened before…shouldn’t she be able to make the choice?”
Tohsaka looked ready to devolve into a rant, but the determined look on Sakura’s face seemed to ward her. When it came to it, I think Tohsaka’s thoughts paralleled mine: Sakura just intuitively understood Yumi much better than either of us for obvious reasons. It seemed like this was an attempt to empower a victim, which was not really something I quite comprehended from an outside perspective and Tohsaka, while she could sympathize, couldn’t quite draw on personal experience.
The elder sister sighed, leaning her elbows on the table, chin in her hands, and looked away. It was just about as close to a pout as Tohsaka ever got. “I guess there is something to it. Her prana flow does seem more regulated and safer. She even seems a little more focused.”
Sakura: 1, Tohsaka: 0.
Tohsaka whipped her hair over her shoulder and turned a glare my way. “But next time, you don’t drop a bomb on me like this. We discuss it first; no more unilateral decisions to support whatever comes up.”
Tohsaka: 1, me: 0.
Why was I the subordinate to everyone in my own house?
That night, once more, I returned to Ryuudou Temple.
The fight had given me some insight; watching Yumi do Alteration had given me more.
Magic was Equivalent Exchange. One cannot create something out of nothing, nor put into existence something that never was and never will be.
Projection, of course, was technically turning air into something else. But what I did wasn’t really even that, else Yumi would never have been able to manipulate what I did.
Alteration, on the other hand, was changing an item to gain attributes. But those attributes still had to be within the realm of possibility, or else magic would not be where it was right now. Tohsaka harked on the fact that magic was losing its place in the world because technology could replicate most of what modern magi did, and that the difference between modern magic and True Magic was that distinction. So, it follows that no matter what Yumi did, Alteration shouldn’t put completely different concepts onto items that absolutely change their intended purpose to something only limited by imagination.
I had thought before that the impossibility of deploying my internal world on top of this one was what was so difficult to overcome. But in reality, perhaps…
That was the answer.
It was impossible. Logically, it defied everything even modern magi were taught. It defied reality, it defied the rules, and because of it all, it was so exceedingly dangerous and considered off-limits.
So even if I was good at it, my body resisted it when I made those swords. Curtana, Thuân Thiên, Caladbolg, Hrunting, Kanshou and Bakuya…
I hadn’t even ever seen Caliburn in reality. Just an image. A memory. One not even my own.
It didn’t even have anything to do with Avalon, either. As far as I understood, Saber had gained both Avalon and Excalibur after losing Caliburn, so, it wasn’t my body’s knowledge of that item in particular.
It had to do with the one it belonged to.
Caliburn came so easy because—
You were my sheath…
I wasn’t a magus. I was too much of a failure to even be considered one. Even the most basic things had me beaten. This, though—
If it was my own world, it was not a world as a magus.
How does the magus with no magus abilities summon a power sometimes considered the greatest a magus could aspire to do?
How is a person with a mind full of swords a sheath to someone else?
I had to reconsider how I was going about this. Not as a magus, but…
Who I was. Who I had become.
Determined to reach her…
This place had been where I had perhaps, for the only time in my life, I had done so. As her equal. We had parted here, not Servant and Master, but…
A Heroic Spirit, proud of what her life had come to, and…
“I am the bone of my sword.”
Escaping Fate, Unlimited Blades, Endless Addition, End
“And you, my son, what reason do you believe you have to pass through these gates and enter the pantheon of Heroic Spirits?” Saint Peter asked.
Shirou paused to consider. “Well, I survived being impaled by the Hound of Ulster. I saved my schoolmates from having their souls sucked out by the Gorgon Medusa. I fought my way out of All the Evils of the World to Falcon Punch an evil priest bent on world destruction. I fought the King of Heroes to a standstill with the very arsenal he tried to kill me with. I stole the weapon of Hercules and shot him with it. And I did it all while banging the founder of Camelot, my class idol, and childhood friend, two of them at the same time.”
“I do not think the latter is a reason to pass,” Saint Peter said.
“Are you kidding me? I don’t care about that, I’m telling everyone I can!”
Saint Peter sighed. “I will consider your application. Please wait in the foyer. Next!”
Shirou sighed, but did as he was told.
“And you, my son,” Saint Peter said to the next in line, “what reason do you believe you have to pass through these gates?”
“Well…” Shiki Tohno started.
We remained alert for weeks, wondering if anything would crop up after that, like more Dead Apostles coming to call. But it passed into the summer months with no further issues springing up—and by the end of June, it seemed like a fairly suicidal idea for a vampire to make any kind of move when they only had maybe six or seven hours of safe operational time before the sun rose.
Everything turned to heat and humidity for the season and I managed many a job repairing broken air conditioners and fans for the various people I knew. Sakura continued her secretarial work, Yumi switched to summer uniforms for school, and Tohsaka continued cracking the whip on my training when I wasn’t doing odd jobs.
It seemed as if life would continue as normal.
It didn’t, of course. Tohsaka constantly tried puzzling out the odd words the Dead Apostle had left behind, constantly referring to the materials she had drafted up in the wake of the Grail War for a clue. She examined me more than once for traces that Angra Mainyu might have left behind. Every once in a while, I would gather her for dinner to hear her cursing behind her bedroom door, a testament to how well she felt she was doing with the riddle.
Sakura seemed uneasy as well, though she certainly hid it better. She would speak of her work, of how annoying the latest computer software was or how Mitsuzuri would continue to tease her about her seriousness or any number of mundane things. It actually felt like she was deliberately leading the subject away, and now that I was aware of it, it was all I could do to keep from just smothering the girl with a hug. Before, when Sakura had come to the house and helped with chores, I had thought I understood why she avoided her abusive brother and lonely house. Now, all I wanted to do was kick myself in the teeth for thinking I understood. The way she would guide the conversation away was probably part and parcel to just how she thought and dealt with everything, smothering it away like I probably thought a hug would make her feel better.*
Not that things were ever that simple, of course, but it was a nice dream.
I was beginning to wonder if we shouldn’t have let Yumi continue exploring magecraft.
It wasn’t a large issue at first, and besides the continuation of what we had done before—little improvements to things I already had, or even silly effects that would never come up in battle but seemed funny at the time—she didn’t seem like she felt the necessity to try harder or delve much deeper.
It started to affect her school life.
They were minor complaints at first. Fuji-nee said she was occasionally cited for not paying attention in class, which, well, I couldn’t exactly fault her for as I was not the most splendid student to grace high school either. Takumi Hoshino, the boy that Sakura had introduced to Yumi, had once mailed** Sakura with concerns that Yumi was being vocally critical to others in the Archery Club in a way that a first year was certainly not supposed to. That, once more, I couldn’t exactly fault her for, if she somehow had it in mind to compare what I was doing in battle to the ways kids goofed off in clubs sometimes, and to someone like Yumi who has stared at death, it might rub her the wrong way.
Then, on the second-to-last day of June, she returned home drenched head-to-toe on a completely sunny day.
As she had been due to bring home groceries for dinner that night, both Tohsaka and I went to greet her. She stood in the genkan, dripping wet, clutching her archery gear in one hand and a plastic bag in the other.
“What happened?” Tohsaka asked.
“Girls from school,” Yumi said, handing me the groceries, and then replacing her shoes to their spot next to the door.
Tohsaka looked aghast at the statement as the girl brushed past us for her room, dripping on the floor all the while. I’m not sure Tohsaka had any concept of school bullying, though, since she was well-liked and none of the girls there would have dared raise a finger in her direction. Even boys…well, if Shinji were any indication, would have just ended up with a face full of knuckles.
After taking the groceries to the kitchen and putting them in the refrigerator, I first went to the bath and started to fill the tub***. When I returned to the hall, it was to find Tohsaka talking in front of Yumi’s room. “While you had your hands full?”
“So I couldn’t do anything in retaliation,” Yumi’s voice drifted clearly through the door. “And on a Friday, so I could not return the favor tomorrow at school.”
I could hazard a guess as to how that went down, and something in me felt a little disturbed by what she said. Not in the words themselves—Yumi always sounded distant and analytical about things—but in the tone behind them. Yumi was usually quiet enough that her voice would be difficult to hear through the door, but she actually sounded angry enough that it rose.
Before Tohsaka could respond, I said, “I’m starting a bath early so you can clean up. I’ll let you know when it’s ready.”
No response came.
I took motioned to Tohsaka and we retreated to the living room. “That both makes me a little happy and a little worried,” I said.
“What?” Tohsaka crossed her arms.
“Well, being emotional. Obviously bad that it’s a negative feeling, but, you could actually tell she was angry back there. Sometimes I have a hard time telling what she’s feeling at all.”
Tohsaka sighed. “Practically the opposite of Sakura, though similar in reasoning. She puts on a stoic mask while Sakura always tried to smile through everything.”
I nodded. I hoped Sakura would be home soon, because I had a feeling anything Yumi felt like commiserating would only be to Sakura. “It is worrisome, though, that she’d be emotional with classmates and not, you know, like that when we were attacked.”
“Yeah, I thought that odd too. Being frightened or angry after that fight would have been natural, but she just sat and calmly watched television the next day. Some girls at school pulling a mean prank seems…well, I’ve never seen her storm to her room like this, though, even if it was to change clothes.”
We resolved to keep a closer eye on her, especially if it looked like she might retaliate. Considering some of the bizarre things she could do, any retaliation might range from very little and hilarious to absolutely dangerous. With how warped her exposure to magecraft has been so far, that could cause a lot of problems, not just for Yumi, but for Tohsaka as well if the Magic Association caught wind of this.
Yumi wasn’t sure, herself.
As she soaked in the bath, she tried sorting it all out. But what made her good at sorting out the myriad of feelings she often felt seemed to make her terrible at explaining or understanding one overwhelming feeling.
She was angry.
Over something completely pointless.
Even more than the flashes of emotions she had all at once, it seemed, though…
As if this weren’t even her own.
Not hers, nor belonging to the additions within her.
She just couldn’t explain it.
That…made her feel a variety of things. Fear, sadness, wonder, amusement, anger—
She felt anger at her anger.
She wished she didn’t feel this way. Something in her told her, though…
Her wish would be granted, and would not be granted at the same time.
When Sakura made it home, Yumi had come out of the bath and changed clothes, though she still carried a storm cloud over her head****. Sakura tried once or twice to get her to open up, but all attempts were shot down with a very teenage “it’s nothing” or “I’m fine” sort of lines.
After dinner, she even declined to watch television.
That set off some alarm bells, I think, in everyone.
As had become my ritual, late at night, I made my way to Ryuudou Temple. Visits here had to be much shorter, though, considering the time of year, as dusk would not have set if I went too early and dawn would threaten to come if I visited too late.
Each time, I felt closer to it, to reaching what I needed, piece by piece, though still far from the finish line. It did not feel like I was standing in place any longer, though now was more like a crawl on my belly than a good clip on my feet.
Still, better than nothing.
My body is made of swords.
That made it kind of difficult to get up to a decent speed anyway.
I had this distant, unshakable thought, though…
If my body was made of swords, how else was I going to make my world a reality, except with violence?
Battle had certainly sped up my Tracing processes before. And I was grateful to them, for that much—
But I didn’t want to invite further battles to my doorstep.
She watched him that night, following him to the temple, doing her best to avoid being seen.
Shirou, though, always seemed preoccupied when he left.
And as she watched him release his prana, attempt to create his world…
Some part of her felt his wish—
And within her, she felt a paradox of division.
One that wanted to fulfill that wish.
Another that wanted to fulfill that wish.
One that wanted to find the salvation she felt in that wish.
Another that wanted to find the pain in that wish—
Like that cursed scalpel piercing her flesh, Yumi felt it fully cut into her.
She clutched the Shroud of Martin beneath her shirt, though she did not remove the seal. In fact, it felt as if that may have been the one thing…
Keeping that Addition in.
Escaping Fate, Change, End
*I’ll touch on it later, but I think it’s an important visual theme, of Shirou embracing Sakura.
**As in, keitai cell phone email. Rin: What is…this…fandangled…GAH! *German word followed by the sound of an explosion*
***Japanese furo are oversized bathtubs filled with steaming hot water. The actual cleaning is done separately; the bathtub is more like a process of purification like you would do in a sauna.
****This isn’t UBW, so no comparison can be made, but…well, think stoic storm cloud of danger. Like Kuzuki.
AN: Continuing with pun names, Takumi’s surname Hoshino is “star field.”
Star of Darkness
Takumi Hoshino* could not quite put it to words, but something had changed.
Of course, he had been waiting for change to occur for a while now. Back when Matou-san had introduced him to Yumi, Takumi had been able to tell the difference in the girl. She was fragile and wounded in a way that only stemmed from intense pain and trauma, both physical and mental. Takumi thought, after seeing the way Yumi had glanced about the school and fifty emotions seemed to vie for dominance, he had known that even without the introduction, he would have gravitated in her direction.**
The same way he had to Matou-san.
It was something he never voiced to her in any fashion, but watched carefully. It had nothing to do with romantic yearning, as many in the Archery Club thought whenever they had caught him staring at Matou-san. It was more…concern for her wellbeing. Because everything about her screamed that she seemed to hate the world in almost Biblical fashion, yet kept a tether on sanity only due to the genuine smiles of those around her.
So Takumi had smiled at her whenever he could.
For the most part, it was a useless thing. His grandmother had once told him his family had ancestors that were renowned for exorcising demons, surpassing even the monks of the land at detecting their presence amidst the people. Takumi figured whatever feeling he had of people and their ills was just some far-removed sense like that, no more than some recessive blue eyed gene.
Whatever the case, he was sadly aware of how broken Matou-san was.
To him, it was like a flickering star. The light was barely perceptible and easily mixed up amidst the thousands of other lights in the night sky, just like the feelings and emotions of people at school blurred into one another. If he concentrated hard enough, he could see it, and notice how unlike the healthy lights surrounding it that single star was. If he concentrated hard enough, he could see how Matou-san flinched ever-so-slightly at unexpected intrusions into her personal space, or how she kept most boys at an arm’s length. It was not difficult to add the pieces together and understand that some kind of abuse was or had been a part of her life.
Yumi was like that too, though in a different way. She mainly set up a sense of distance in herself, like viewing oneself from the outside objectively. Takumi noticed how she never seemed pleased at positive things that happened to her—good grades, teacher praise, laughter on the occasion she made a joke or witty comment—nor upset at bad things—like the passive-aggressive vibe from some of her female classmates. It was more like she took pleasure or took pain from the experience of seeing these things play out and being around them, not the action itself.
It bizarrely reminded Takumi of his grandfather, how the old man would watch his grandchildren play during a festival or get in trouble with their parents, likely thinking something along the lines of, “Ah, those were the days.”
That, though, confused him. If Yumi was akin to an old person looking back on life, he wasn’t sure what could have happened to bring that on.
As Wednesday lunch rolled around, Takumi split from his regular clique of friends and headed to the first year classes***.
“I know you feel sorry for ‘er, but man, isn’t she a little, I dunno, weird-looking?” Kozuki said. “She looks like she needs more sun.”
Takumi grinned back at him. “I guess I could take her out on a date, and then she’d get plenty of sun.”
Kozuki gaped at his forward statement and Takumi laughed, taking the stairs before his friend made a comeback.
1-A was right next to the stairs, so Takumi only had to round the corner once on the first-year floor. When he entered, however, he immediately froze to take in the picture presented before him.
Yumi stood at her desk, though she had turned in place and had her hands on the desk behind her. In the corner beyond were three girls that Takumi did not know, huddled together in abject terror.
Glancing about, Takumi found those still in the classroom also frozen in place. “Everyone out. Someone get a sensei,” he said, jabbing the nearest one in the shoulder to pull them out of their daze.
Some people in the room complied, while others continued to watch. Takumi cautiously made his way over to the corner of the room and his eye caught sight of what seemed to have the girls’ attention.
Yumi’s right arm was purple.
It was not the kind of purple from being bruised. It looked bizarre, like a malformed mole, only it covered a good portion of her forearm. Takumi looked to her other arm, but it as always sported the rather odd red bandage Yumi regularly wore, covering the portion of her left that would correspond to her right.
“Get her away from me,” one of the girls pleaded.
Takumi reached out to put his hand on Yumi’s shoulder. “Emiya-san, maybe we—”
Yumi’s right arm came up, and moved.
What moved, Takumi could not explain. It was like a giant panther leapt from Yumi’s arm and charged headlong into the girls clustered together. All three shrieked at the visage, black and nightmarish, before it collided into them like a bowling ball into pins. The three girls collapsed, and the black creature swerved around to do the same to him.
Takumi charged right into Yumi, a full body-check that crashed them both into the wall, then into a sprawled mess between desks. He thought maybe he heard bells ringing in his ears, but didn’t know if that was just the shouts and screams coming from those that had remained in the classroom.
Grabbing his head to try and control the throbbing, he first looked to Yumi, who now appeared out cold. Quickly, he glanced over his shoulder, but found no sight of the dark thing that had come out to play.
What the hell was that?
Escaping Fate, Interlude, Out
*I swear, this is the only chapter that will feature this OC. I just needed an outside perspective for this.
**It’s regularly suggested in the Nasuverse that weirdness attracts weirdness. This is implied in Tsukihime, where Arihiko is friends with Shiki because they both have become much more aware of death in a way the average person does not, while in FSN Masters often seem to summon Servants that have similar issues or warped personalities, and is even a fairly major plot point in Kara no Kyoukai by the wraith spirit that attacks Shiki in the hospital. Takumi is meant to be a stand in for an Arihiko character in that way and is not meant to be a magician or anything else like that, just someone with “normal” experiences that lend to understanding others that have supernatural-badness follow them around.
***…I should have just been funny and named him Koyomi Araragi (sorry, I stuttered) or Touma Kamijou (with this right hand…) what with the nice-guy thing. Actually, I think it’d be pretty funny if Shirou, Koyomi, and Touma teamed up and saved the world one girl at a time. Team Martyr-Without-A-Cause!
Last edited by Arashi_Leonhart; July 4th, 2012 at 11:42 AM.
July 15th, 2011, 03:46 AM
Well, technically, I first read this when it already had two chapters, and recommended it immediately after reading. So you can you I was with since chapter one in spirit .
July 15th, 2011, 04:04 AM
Mystic Eyes of Tree Hugging
AN: I’m going to probably be making some liberal uses of Nasuverse material in the issue that appears here. One of the problems with the verse is that it makes very specific references to various things but does not always explain exactly how they work. So, hopefully any discrepancy isn’t enough that it turns you off to the story. Thanks for reading!
“Senpai, do it harder.”
I stared blankly at Sakura.
Taking the knife and mallet from my hands, Sakura half-crowded, half-pushed me out of the way and took my place at the cutting board. She replaced the knife in the area where I had been attempting to cut the squash and then firmly slammed the mallet into the back end of the blade.
The squash cut neatly into two pieces.
I sighed. Despite all of my best efforts to keep Sakura from knowing every secret I had in the kitchen, it was becoming more and more common for her to be doing things better and more efficiently than I ever could. And acorn squash just happened to be one thing that I found myself incapable with; as it resisted the more delicate attempts I tried with it, too many years of carefully cutting various other fruits and vegetables working against me.
Sakura worked on removing the seeds and I retreated to the living room in defeat.
“Ah, Shirou,” Tohsaka said, giving me that thin-lipped smirk, “Not only do you not wear the pants in the house, but Sakura has it so you can’t wear the skirt either. Obviously, you were always meant for the menial position of butler…or maid.”
I glared and sat at the table, putting my chin in my hands. “The uniform chafes.”
Tohsaka didn’t bat an eyelash. “The butler or maid uniform?”
The phone rang, saving me from answering. Unfortunately, it also kept the comment in play, as if I jumped up to get it I would be proving her point. I tried to ignore the ringing, keeping my eyes on Tohsaka, who kept staring me down in return.
“Will someone get the phone, please?” Sakura said from the kitchen.
Tohsaka jumped up and headed into the hall. “I’ll get it,” she said, grinning over her shoulder at me.
I sighed and raised my voice so Sakura could hear. “I’m telling you, you’re the one that works. I should be making food at least. You shouldn’t have to do this after taking days off from work.” Because Yumi had been acting up, Sakura had taken the rest of the week off in hopes that Yumi would open up to her. Thankfully, Sakura had covered for Mitsuzuri some weeks ago and the two had simply traded off a few days.
“If senpai did not look so vexed today, maybe I would have let you,” Sakura said.
I glared in her direction, though I couldn’t see her from where I sat. I resent the word let.
Tohsaka ran back in. “Something happened at the school.”
Fire department and EMT vehicles crowded the entryway to the school when we arrived. We had to identify ourselves to a police officer and were told not to enter the building, which was under quarantine until they could figure out what had happened.
Kids were being ushered about by firefighters and checked by the EMTs; some had parents crowding in to see them. Since the fight with Shinji and Rider had knocked me out immediately after the two had moved to escape, I didn’t know exactly what the scene at school had been like then, but it was probably very similar. I could only hope whatever had happened had not been as bad as Rider’s boundary field.
We caught one of the firefighters, who explained: “We think there was a gas leak in one of the classrooms. A few students are unconscious and others are hallucinating. Please, if you are parents or guardians to a student, I would direct you to their homeroom teacher.”
I nodded and glanced back at the girls. Tohsaka was looking around already, since that explanation suggested magical interference. Sakura looked worried, probably recalling Rider’s attack as well and what she had seen of the victims.
With Yumi not in immediate evidence, we headed in the direction of Fuji-nee, who was grouped together with a class of students looking fairly bewildered.
A hand grabbed the back of my shirt.
I spun to find Caren Ortensia standing there, a serious look on her face. “Shirou Emiya. You must come with me.”
I blinked, and glanced over at Tohsaka and Sakura. Tohsaka looked mightily disturbed to see Caren and was now scanning the area for any obvious magical threat. I looked back to Caren. “What’s going on?”
“Your young one is not present, and we must go after her,” Caren said.
“What do you know about Yumi?” Sakura asked.
Caren pulled us back out toward the gate, and after glancing at the others for confirmation, we followed after her. Students were starting to be ferried off the grounds; they must have announced the closure of classes for the remainder of the day. She led us past the throngs of teenagers and concerned parents, paused for a moment, then distinctively took down one street.
When we were clear of onlookers, Caren turned to face us. She pulled back the flowy sleeve of her nun-like gown and presented her right hand.
It looked like someone had taken a lit cigarette and stabbed it into the palm of Caren’s hand, and then from there a spider web of black spread from that center point and sent jagged lines of ash up her arm. But unlike a burn or a drawn pattern, it looked as if the black had dug into her skin and was slowly eroding away her flesh as opposed to seared atop her limb.
“I’m sorry,” Caren said, “but I believe she is possessed by a demon.”
Caren led us in the general direction of the house, though she would pause momentarily to look about.
“How do you know it’s even Yumi?” Sakura was asking.
“I can feel the pain,” Caren said. We came to the main intersection between my house and the school, but instead of turning toward home, Caren led us down another route. “And it is very specific to a person like her, who has been tortured over a long period of time.”
I winced at the thought of literal empathy toward that kind of emotion.
“And demon possession?” Sakura continued.
I briefly glanced at Tohsaka, surprised she was not hounding questions as well. Instead, I found a look of profound sadness on her face. It was something I had caught her doing a few times before, though I had absolutely no idea what brought them on—but melancholy was an easy emotion to read on the otherwise animate witch.
“My body resonates when possession is occurring nearby,” Caren was explaining. “Additionally, what those people at the school described sounded like the actions of one possessed.”
“All they told us was they thought there was a gas leak,” I said.
Caren nodded. “Students, however, stated they saw nightmare incarnate. My hand spouted these stigmata merely an hour ago. Yumi was missing already when I arrived. It isn’t difficult to add these things up.” She glanced upward and when I followed her line of sight, found that she had been leading us in the direction of Ryuudou Temple.
“Still,” I hedged.
“Has she been acting up lately? More emotional or tempestuous than usual?”
I frowned and glanced at Sakura, finding the younger sister looking my way at the same time. We had known something was up, but…
Caren sighed. “Then I fear we may be too late.”
We rounded the corner to the street that ran along the base of the hill, and at the foot of the stairs leading up to the temple we could see a figure. Caren paused to grab her hand in pain and I felt the prana flow from Tohsaka before the witch said, “That’s her!”
The figure darted up the stairs and we ran after.
Just as we reached the base of the stairs where we had seen the figure, Caren grabbed me by the collar and Tohsaka grabbed Sakura at the same. I think Tohsaka was a little gentler with Sakura, who merely flinched and stopped in place; I fell on my ass, and had to wonder what this priestess-nun-whatever ate for breakfast.
“No, you cannot run in blindly like this,” Caren said.
I glanced back up at her, scowling. “If that is Yumi, we need to get her before she hurts herself or someone else further. And if it is demon possession, isn’t that something you’re capable of exorcising? I’m aware that they can’t fully affect the natural world, so we’re safe from everything but localized distortions—”
Tohsaka was the one to answer. “Demons that can appear to normal people like at the school are…Shirou, I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
I stared at her blankly, feeling like my stomach was inverting in my body. The way she said that was so…
“If you will wait here,” Caren said, “I will go and deal with this. I do not believe you would want to see—”
Springing up to my feet, I cocked the hammer. Prana flowed from my circuits into my legs and lungs, and I charged up the stairs before she could finish.
No. You’re not going to tell me something stupid like, “I’ll go finish her off, you wait here so you don’t have to crush your hearts.” This was too sudden, too random…
There was no way I was going to see Yumi off to school in the morning and return home in the afternoon with her gone.
This kind of thing was not going to happen again.
I heard the others behind me, though I was confident that even Tohsaka would only be able to match my speed. And even if she agreed with whatever Caren seemed to be implying—like it was too late for Yumi—I’m certain she would not feel right in just letting it all go by without at least trying first.
A black dragon charged down the stairs at us.
“Shirou!/Senpai!/Shirou Emiya!” came cries from below.
It wasn’t really a black dragon, but it sure looked something like it. In the shade from the trees surrounding us, it looked more like a trick of the light, like the shadows dancing due to the movement of the foliage to look briefly horrific. But it had an odd kind of form, like running fire taken shape that clearly screamed dragon to me, and it was certainly charging down toward us.
This was no localized distortion. This really was more like…
It reminded me like the inverse beauty of Rider’s Pegasus, the moving shadow the direct opposite of the brilliant light of that Phantasmal Race.
I planted myself as best as I could on the stone steps. “I am the bone of my sword.”
The shaded creature bounded down another tier of stairs, took a leap from one landing, and came down at me like a raptor.
A blood-red cross three times my size formed.
Evelake Aegis. Painted with the blood of the Saint Joseph of Arimathea, the shield was carried by Galahad of Camelot, the perfect knight and supposed bearer of the Holy Grail.* I braced the cross-shaped device against my shoulder and the ground as the shadow struck.
Whereas Rho Aias was renowned for blocking great lances, the Evelake Aegis was known for protecting one against the toils of chasing after the Holy Grail and facing down God’s Enemies.
The dragon smashed face-first into the cross and then fled back up the stairs as fast as it had come, moving along the earth like a snake and moving through the air like a bird. I waited to see if it would about-face and try for another attack, but it seemed content to stay away.
“Shirou Emiya, that is not your cross to bear.”
I had to pause and look back at Caren; the three of them had caught up. I wasn’t certain if that was meant to be a joke, sarcasm, or completely taken straight.
“Please wait, senpai, I don’t think you should go after her yourself alone either,” Sakura said, panting a little. This excursion was probably going to be the most aerobic activity she had done since school gym.
“You saw that thing,” I said. “If that’s possessing her, I don’t want to waste anymore time here.”
“Shirou, if that’s the form it’s taking,” Tohsaka said, “then do you know, at minimum, what we’re going to have to do?”
“Demons are formless,” Caren said, “until they are in full possession of the host body. A demon cannot affect the natural world in any fashion until it is already symbiotic with the body it has attached itself to.”
“So, we remove it,” I said.
Tohsaka leveled me with an even stare. “That’s what I mean. You do understand…if it is inhabiting even just her arm, you have to completely remove the arm.”
“But I do not believe that the case,” Caren said, sighing. She pulled at the collar of her robe and exposed her collarbone. The same web-like form of stigmata was encroaching on her neck and it was clear they continued from the little she was showing. “Some Dead Apostle Ancestors are known to contain demons within specific portions of their bodies, but to a relatively normal human, that is impossible. I believe that her left arm may be the only part of her not contaminated already.”
I held off on asking why the left arm—it had something to do with that red bandage Yumi wore along the upper portion of her arm, I could guess that much—but I still couldn’t comprehend it all. “But ‘contamination’ can be cleansed, and I thought that’s what an exorcism was.”
“Correct,” Caren said, “but I misspoke. With possession, if it is already at the point where physical changes are manifesting, where the spirit can affect the natural world, it has already damaged the body irreparably. Like a cancerous tumor that is beyond therapy, the body may remain behind but the damage is too far to cleanse.”
I growled and hefted my shield. Though bulky and oversized, it was not terribly heavy. “This isn’t getting us anywhere.”
“No, it isn’t.” Caren pulled long, thin sword-like weapons from her robes. “Shirou Emiya, you must be prepared. If this demon has corrupted her body fully, I must exorcise it. And that includes the destruction of the original body. If left unchecked, a demon is capable of warping this entire city with its malice, not unlike Angra Mainyu.”
The image of Kirei Kotomine before the black that spilled out of the Grail, Illya floating helpless just below…
Replaced by yet another tragedy—
Don’t tell me that it’s like that…
Kiritsugu hit this wall.
Saber hit this wall.
“If you wish to be who you claim your aim is, then understand that this is a part of that. An ally of justice does not stand by emotions, but by what is right and fair. Even if it means cursing God,” Caren said, looking at me sadly, “though God will certainly understand.”
One cannot protect the people with human emotion.
“Then I’ll achieve it. If you can’t do it because you’re an adult, then I’ll do it for you in your place.”
How was this going to work?
I looked at the swords in Caren’s hand, looked to the marks beneath those blades, to the hole in her palm.
Like it was mocking me.
Escaping Fate, Crucified, End
*…You know, making up Noble Phantasms is hard. At least, ones that don’t glaringly stand out compared to canonical ones.
AN: Comments for recent chapters have filled me with joy. The kind of joy Kotomine gets from suffering. Rejoice, readers!
We ascended the stairs, but Yumi was not in the front courtyard. Tohsaka immediately started erecting a boundary field herself in the vague chance of warding people who would come to the temple away at least temporarily. I hoped nothing had happened to the handful of monks that lived here with the Ryuudou family.
“Do you think she went inside?” Sakura asked.
“I have a sneaking suspicion not,” I said. Taking a quick look around, I started for the lake off to one side of the grounds. I didn’t know if she had, but, considering how sneaky she’d been before…
We rounded the temple proper and indeed, found her in the place I had been trying to exercise the Reality Marble out of my mind. Yumi stood right where Kirei Kotomine had met his end. She stared up into space, in the general direction of where the Grail had once hovered, and wavered in place as if in a trance.
I cringed at the way she moved.
If we get you out of this, I’m never letting you watch horror movies ever again.
The shadowy-something that had tried jumping me earlier was not in evidence. Instead, it was clear, if Caren’s demon detection was a kind of sympathetic effect, why it emanated from her right hand, as Yumi’s right arm was flickering with what looked like a haze of black. It grew and receded, and though it currently had no discernable anatomy, I could just feel the fact that it was watching us, like a black cat in the crook of her arm.
“Yumi-chan!” Sakura called out.
No response. Yumi just stood there, no different from the trees swaying in the breeze.
Caren brandished the throwing swords she had called Black Keys. “In nomini patri—”
That provoked a reaction, and Yumi’s arm, moving on what looked like its own accord, shot up and seemed to rip open. Instead of blood, shadow oozed out of her, gathering on the ground and swirling into the shape of the beast. It opened something like a mouth, but instead of a roar, it was like all the sounds in the air were sucked into its gullet, leaving the air feeling dry and stagnate.
And then charged.
Foregoing the remainder of the prayer, Caren sent her swords flying.
Making a very human-like choice, the dragon dove laterally and rolled over its shoulder to both avoid the weapons and keep its momentum going. With barely a change in gait, it charged straight for the priestess, who tried reaching for more of her swords, stored who-knows-where.
Not enough time.
I took a step out in front of her, hefted the Evelake Aegis by one end, and tried hitting the thing across the face with the cross.
The thing ducked low beneath the swing, then jumped right up at me, bounded off my shoulders, over my head, and landed behind us. With a dime-turn that would be impossible for an actual animal to replicate without snapping its spine, it spun around and leapt maw-first for Caren.
Tohsaka tackled Caren and Sakura tackled me, leaving the beast to jump right over both of us. While I could hear Tohsaka distantly shout at Caren to watch herself, my attention went to Sakura, who came up in a crouch before me.
Something that resembled a ribbon of cloth—because it flexed—but also a lance—because it shot out like a javelin—went flying from Sakura’s hand. It nicked the creature’s hind leg, and for the first time the beast seemed to flinch, pausing to regard Sakura like it might another predator.
“Matou-san,” Caren said; I could hear her slowly rising behind me. “If you attempt to seal it away, it will do the exact same as exorcising it, killing the host.”
Although she sounded like this was the last place she wanted to be, Sakura had enough conviction in her voice that she sounded prepared, at least. “I don’t want to seal it away. Just hold it in place until senpai or nee-san can figure out a way to rescue Yumi-chan.”
I chanced taking my eyes off of the creature to look Yumi’s way, but the girl had not moved, still staring up at the sky in a daze. I had to wonder what, if anything, was going through her mind and whether she even realized what was going on around her.
My stare turned back to the dragon just in time, as it decided to charge once more, this time going toward Sakura. The same lance-shaped flurry of magic shot from Sakura’s hand, though this time in a rapid-fire succession that, for the briefest of seconds, made her look extremely like Tohsaka.
Tohsaka herself had raised her left arm, and, with the crest on it glowing, started chanting.
Small explosions started ripping at the feet of the beast, first to its right, then left, and I realized Tohsaka was attempting to box it in while Sakura shot her own spells. Caren began throwing more of her swords in—where were they coming from?—and the creature slowly moved in a straighter and narrower channel as it charged.
I planted the shield before Sakura, though enough out of the way to not obscure her vision. If we could seal its movement and stun it like Sakura suggested, Curtana might be able to hold it completely until we figured out what to do—
Finally, one shot from Tohsaka sent the dragon stumbling hard onto its left legs, right into the path of Sakura’s spell. The lance skewered the beast in the left shoulder and even I could feel the flow of energy from it begin to reverse, the feeling of stagnation in the air receding as mana spewed out of its body.
I Traced Curtana and brought it down on the creature’s head.
It passed through with the same kind of resistance one might get when thrusting a fork into a cake or other light confections—resistance was present, but only at a level where it read as resistance and not much else. The thing seemed to break apart like a gust of wind might break apart a fog cloud, and before I knew it, there was nothing at my feet.
The shadow reformed identical as before, now with one on either side of me.
Both pounced, and I unceremoniously dropped where I was to avoid being hit.
Lances and explosions started to sound again, and I rolled up to my feet just as Caren swept past me, swords in hand, prayers on her lips. She charged right past the creatures and—
“Senpai!” Sakura shouted again, though this time I could hear more than just words. Trusting Sakura to hold these things and Tohsaka to look after her sister, I slashed at the nearest one as it tried to crowd me and ran after the priestess.
Caren had too much of a lead, and the distance to Yumi was not great. As she raised her hands to throw her weapons, I could think of little else, dropping Curtana. “Trace, on!”
Kanshou and Bakuya.
The triplet swords left Caren’s hands.
I threw Kanshou and Bakuya harder than Caren had the capacity for, crossing my arms as I did. The paired weapons flew out, crossed right behind Caren’s flowing robe, then helixed back to intercept the Black Keys. All five weapons clattered against one another, then against the ground not a meter in front of Yumi.
Caren spun to face me, and before I could think of what to do next, her hand whipped out a red cloth that snaked its way toward me. Although there was no malice behind the move, for some reason, in this place, I could not help but think of Kotomine throwing Angra Mainyu my way.
I tried ducking out of the way, but the cloth seemed to have its own mind as well, circling around behind me and grabbing me by the shoulder. The moment it had a grip on me, I felt it cling to me like a leech and the rest of the length swirled about me until my hands were tight to my hips. I fell to my knees before the cloth snaked down and around my legs, locking me in place.
Caren paused to regard me as I pushed as hard as possible, trying to even wiggle my hands. The cloth not only held me tight, but I could feel a disruption in my magical circuit, interference from whatever conceptual weapon this was. The moment I tried bringing a blade to hand, I felt feedback in my prana flow and the weapon refused to appear.
“Shirou, those creatures are going to continue to multiply and start to warp the environment,” Caren said, softly and sadly. “Your…friends can fight them now, but if this continues on much longer, the mutation you see on Yumi will spread not only from her body, but into the very existence of this city.”
I tried another blade, but it failed once again. Digging my knees as hard against the ground as I could, I tried using the friction to pry the cloth off, but that too did nothing.
“Demons are born from wishes,” Caren said. “I fear the souls of the victims before her cry out for salvation, and that wish has now consumed her.”
Victims before her?
“If you wish to blame me for this act, then so be it,” Caren continued. “But I can hear the pleas now, the agony, and the desire for release. Even the demon born here understands, though it fears its own demise. At this point…there is nothing that can be done.”
Turning back, she drew three more of those Black Keys.
Tohsaka had said the magus that had experimented on her was researching souls. Researching the viability of transferring magical circuits from one body to the next, and why bodies rejected that normally. As magical circuits are a reflection of the soul…
Sakura had said Yumi had needed a seal on her circuits because they were irregular. That the prana flow had been wrong and only after that cloth on her arm had been put there could she focus enough to manage her Alteration.
And her Alteration…
“Look away, Shirou Emiya. I would not want to watch this either,” Caren said.
At this point…there is nothing that can be done.
Fire had once surrounded me, like the fires of hell. Nothing but destruction, nothing but pain, nothing but despair and horror and the conclusion that all is suffering and then death. There was nothing else there but the screams of tortured souls desiring rescue or the release of an end to it all…
And one boy who was saved, and his savior.
Nothing was absolute.
In that fire, I was saved. It was tiny, absolutely insignificant to the lives that were lost, but…
I thought of those tortured souls that had been kept in the basement of the church.
They too, had accepted it.
Even if they desired release…
I pushed until I felt my bones dislodge, my muscles tear.
“You are just going to hurt yourself,” Caren said, sighing, looking back my way again. “If you continue to struggle against that cloth, it—”
—will just tear itself apart.
Prana, unable to escape the circuit, found elsewhere to escape my body.
Blades ripped out of my nerves, around my broken bones, through my torn muscles, and pierced my skin, my clothing, and the cloth surrounding it.
It was not enough to tear the bounds completely open, nor even enough to give me any further room to move. But I could feel the concept behind the weapon fail, feel the presence of magic break about me, and through the haze of pain as I was impaled from within, managed to pull myself out of the wrapping.
Caren looked on in horror and I charged past her.
Shadow leapt from Yumi’s body and at me.
Between the pain staggering me, the lack of prana now still running through my circuit, and the single target in my mind’s eye, there was little else I could do. I swung at the creatures that charged me with my limbs, now resembling something more like a ball mace, blades protruding from my arms and fists. It was enough to dissipate the creatures before me, though each swing felt heavier and heavier as these things sucked the life right out of the air before them.
It didn’t matter.
All I could do…
It really didn’t matter.
Saber was gone, so it was hardly anything. A replication of an image, something my body still remembered like a phantom limb, something my eyes would never forget. Without Saber, it had nothing resembling the power it could. If Angra Mainyu were to spring out of the air right now, it would have been more than useless.
It was all I could do.
Within Angra Mainyu, I was saved. The faint spark of hope from her voice, reminding me of what I was to her…
No despair or evil or darkness was absolute. If you looked hard enough—
I smashed past the last creature, grabbed Yumi while trying not to skewer her, and remembered.
I had no healing abilities. No sealing abilities. Nothing like a real magus, nothing like an Executor of the Church, nothing like a Heroic Spirit. But I had this image, this perfect image, and though I was not Saber, I had energy, and I had a wish.
I fed every last ounce of prana into it, fed every last thought and desire for this girl into it—
I had done so once before, when we had first found her. I wasn’t even sure it had done anything, but as Tohsaka was not present when we found Yumi, and Sakura had no knowledge of healing magic as well, it was all I had in me to do.
Whether it was by this act, or by some other miracle…
Here, it was all I could bet on.
That my feelings, and that perfect image, would somehow work.
Darkness and light both formed, and for the briefest of moments, darkness was expelled.
Like animals fleeing a fire, the shadows crawled out of Yumi, crawled out onto the ground, writhing in agony.
It wasn’t going to be enough.
Avalon’s image was gone, and while expelled, the shadows remained, and looked to simply reattach to Yumi like a lost mother.
My body burned and moving felt like dragging a whet stone over a sword, harsh and scraping every nerve in my body to rawness.
The image was enough to have expelled it, but not enough to have purged it.
My body burned, and every nerve screamed at me to stop, but…
My body wasn’t made out of swords for nothing.
“The horned demon’s fang cries out in agony.”
Shamshir-e Zomorrodnegar was an anti-demonic sword of Persia. Encrusted with emeralds on the hilt and at the base of the blade, the mere sign of light glinting from it caused the shadow to halt.
I heard a series of consecutive clangs, and Black Keys appeared, embedded in the shadow of the shadow. The dragonish thing once more reared its head and looked like it was to roar, but the air thickened instead.
Ripping itself away from the conceptual blades, and warded by my weapon, it turned on its tail and ran.
I managed to see Caren’s white hair pass by my peripheral vision and chase after it, but a sudden coughing fit kept me from anything more. I hacked, my lungs trying to expel the blades piercing them from within. Blood came, and I tried, but failed, to turn away from Yumi’s prone body beneath me, speckling her with red.
Yumi stared up at me, breathing shallowly, though aware. “Shirou?” she muttered.
I probably looked vaguely horrific to her, half-human, half-sword porcupine. Still, I forced a smile despite it all. “You are so grounded,” I told her.
Escaping Fate, Heaven’s Feeling, End
Actually, one is not “grounded” in Japanese culture, but “kicked out” and forced to wait outside. But the equivalent in Western culture is grounding, and presumably it wouldn’t sound quite as right to a reader otherwise.
Last edited by Arashi_Leonhart; July 4th, 2012 at 11:46 AM.
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