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    Another Day At the Office Riven's Avatar
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    Riven's Drabble Vault

    So after a long period of consideration, I decided to make a drabble thread. Most of my work isn't on Beast's Lair, but I wanted to try to get started here as well. So, I made a snippit along an idea that I introduced in the Fanfic Ideas thread and decided to make it my formal introduction to this community. Hope you like it!

    Disclaimer: I in no way own any TypeMOON intellectual material. The characters and conventions here are property of TypeMOON and Kinoku Nasu.

    Index:



    On a Sunny Day
    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    Shirou Emiya was a man who lived his life for a dream. He wanted to be a hero. Plain and simple.

    It wasn’t like he had no other choice, nor was it some childhood fancy. It was just the reason he had chosen for living life.

    When he was young, he spent all of his time trying to help others in whatever way he could. Carrying groceries for people he barely knew, doing chores for neighbors who never even asked, defending other children from bullies years older than him, and never taking any thanks for any of it. To him, it was all its own reward. He was going to be a hero, one step at a time.

    One day, that simplicity was shot beyond repair.

    He had been stabbed in the heart, saved from death’s door, and eventually cornered by a spear wielding maniac in his own shed, wielding nothing to defend himself but a reinforced poster. It had looked like he was really done for that time.

    …Then, out of nowhere, she came.

    She had been beautiful, radiant, majestic, noble, strong, glorious, saintlike, he could describe her for hours. She saved him that night, and from there, they embarked on a battle together that few in the history of the world could claim to match.

    Together, they struck down monsters and dethroned kings. Together, they saved lives and defended justice. Together, they struggled…and suffered, but overcame.

    Together, they shared a love deeper than any ocean and stronger than any army.

    Together, they made the choice to part.

    It was saddening, heartbreaking even, but they both knew that if they truly loved each other, then they had to let go. She had her duty, and he had his ideal. In this life at least, there would be no idyllic peace for them to share together.

    However, he swore never to forget her. He swore that for as long as he had strength, he would pursue her, and if that meant carrying his ideal to the ends of the Earth at the same time, so be it. Her memory would be honored and immortalized through his work, and that would bring him just as much happiness as the ideal itself.

    Whatever obstacle stood in his way, whatever hardship was laid upon him, he would not falter or desist. He told himself that he would save all that he could, and believe that he could one day find her again, throughout the rest of his days.



    If only things were always that straightforward…

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    “No”

    Shirou winced at the remark. Not so much for the rejection, but rather because he had been down this road before, and didn’t really like where it was going.

    “Are you sure?” he asked insistently, lowering himself a bit so as to not seem so intimidating, “Because I think I can be of help.”

    The girl clenched her jaw and puffed up her cheeks as she continued her defiant stance. “No. I’m fine. I don’t need any help” she declared, albeit shakily.

    Ok, helpful citizen not working, time to switch to wise adult mode.

    “It’s not good to go around without directions if you’re lost, little girl” he said sagely. “I’m pretty familiar with this city so far, so I could help you look for your parents—“

    “I’M NOT LOST!” she shouted defiantly, balling her fists. Despite this, her eyes were getting watery. Not good. Little girls crying was never, ever good.

    People around them stopped to stare at the proceedings, no doubt already wondering if there was an abduction going on. Shirou did his best to look innocent, and fortunately, they were both speaking Japanese, so people were most likely inferring that they were somehow connected. Probably because Europeans thought all Asians looked the same, the bystanders just shrugged it off and told themselves that it was a parental issue.

    Seeing that nobody seemed to be calling the police, Shirou continued on his quest to help the girl. Silently, he pondered the turn of events that led to this situation. Tosaka had dragged him to Paris for some sightseeing once she was free from the work the Clocktower had her doing. He had just gone off for a quick photo excursion through the historic district while she was having a spa treatment when he came across this young Japanese girl on her own, looking rather agitated. Truly there was no rest from the duties of a hero.

    Now if only she’d let him help…

    “Here, how about this” he said soothingly, “My name is Shirou, what’s yours?”

    “…”

    “Ok, how about I just call you Ojou—“

    “Mana”

    “Excuse me?”

    “My name is Mana” she said softly, not looking him in the eyes. He suspected she was trying to hide the water from earlier.

    “Well then Mana,” he said with a smile, “How about this. I’ll take you to the police station and you can wait for your parents there? How does that sound?”

    The glare she gave him said it all. “No. I don’t need the police. I’m not lost!”

    Shirou sighed. Well, there went another idea. “Do you live around here Mana?”

    She looked away. “No.”

    “Do you know where you are?”

    “Of course!” she said proudly. “I’m—! I’m…!” she stumbled, her smile fading with each aborted attempt to orient herself.

    “You’re where?”

    “I…don’t know” she finally admitted after a lengthy pause, dropping her hands to her side and looking down glumly.

    “Then—“

    “But I still don’t need someone to help me!”

    “…Ok.” Thankfully for Mana, Shirou was blessed with patience and was accustomed to dealing with women who were a little on the bratty side. He suddenly slammed his fist into his palm in inception. “How about this? You can continue going wherever you’re going, but I’ll go with you, just for company. It’s got to be lonely going around by yourself in a foreign city, right?”

    The girl was taken aback by this offer and stopped to consider it for a few moments. On one hand, she understood that this guy was just using it as an excuse to help her look for her parents, and she really didn’t like having to be saved by some stranger. On the other…she really needed to find her parents. Her own anxiety aside, Mama would probably be close to killing someone right about now.

    “Fine,” she accepted, deciding that she could salvage enough of her pride with this excuse, “But you walk behind me.”

    Shirou nodded and smiled. “Whatever you say Mana. Lead on.”

    “Ok!” she shouted, recovering some enthusiasm now that she actually had a companion. “You better keep up!”

    “Oh, don’t worry. I’ll be right behind you” Shirou chuckled.

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    They wandered around the city for a while, occasionally stopping to admire a particular sight, try to ask for directions from a local, or even stop for some ice cream. During that time, Mana became very chatty, mostly talking to Shirou about things she liked to do or asking him questions about his own life. He was more than happy to oblige her, telling her funny stories about his friends and family. Of course, some things were kept close abreast, but he could tell that she was the same way, not talking about her family at all, even though they were supposed to be looking for them.

    Speaking of which, that little quest wasn’t going very well. Mana vaguely remembered that she was supposed to meet up with her parents somewhere if she got lost, but she didn’t remember where that place was for the life of her. Therefore, they had just meandered about the general district she remembered being in until they could find something that looked halfway familiar to her.

    “Hey Shirou?”

    “Yes Mana?”

    “Do you have a girlfriend?”

    Shirou nearly choked on his ice cream. Why was it whenever he met a new girl that they always asked that?

    “How old are you Mana?” he asked, clearing his throat. Who knew, she might be older than she—

    “Me? I just turned ten.”

    Nope, never mind.

    “Well, um…What brought this up?” he continued lamely. It was probably just a kid thing, but either way, he’d rather not have a girl almost a decade younger than him developing a crush in the space of about an hour.

    Mana thought about that for a second. “Hmm, Mama says I’m not allowed to have a boyfriend until I’m old enough to beat them up on my own, but I’ve always wondered what having one would be like” she said absentmindedly.

    “Uhunh” murmured Shirou as he debated his response. “I did come here with a female friend of mine, but I wouldn’t say she’s my girlfriend.” He was obviously too dense to catch the billion and one hints that Rin dropped every day, but even then, he didn’t like her that way and would probably have kept the friendly distance between them that he always had. “I did have one though…a long time ago.”

    “Really?” asked Mana, “What was she like?”

    Shirou didn’t answer right away. Instead, he looked up towards the evening sun and tried to recall every part of her. Even as the years took their toll on memory, she was one thing that he would never forget, not to the end of time. All it took was the right moment, and everything would come rushing back.

    “Knightly. Angelic. Radiant. Pure. Proud” he stated, each with a kind of reverence in his voice. “I could go on, but I think you get my drift. She was everything I could have ever asked for and more. Even with all the trials we faced together, the days I spent with her were some of the happiest I’ve ever had.”

    Mana made a face. “You sound like Papa whenever he talks about how he and Mama met.”

    “Sorry” Shirou apologized sheepishly, realizing how sappy he sounded right now, “but that’s how she really was.”

    “Ok, why isn’t she your girlfriend anymore then?”

    The memories continued to cloud up Shirou’s mind, making his face grow distant once more. “She…had to go. We still loved each other and all, more than ever even, but we knew…it wasn’t the right time.”

    “That’s silly.”

    The bluntness of Mana’s statement snapped Shirou out of his memory trip. “Hunh?”

    Mana shrugged. “If you liked her, you should have gone with her. That’s what Papa did, and he said that’s what got him and Mama together.”

    Shirou was silent for a moment, standing still with a blank look on his face. It took Mana a couple seconds to realize that her companion had stopped moving, and when she did, she ran back and worriedly waved her hand in front of him.

    “Mister!” she called out.
    He didn’t respond.

    “Shirou…?” she tried, a bit softer.

    Then, without warning, he started laughing.

    “Hahahaha!” he bellowed, ruffling her hair affectionately, “Yes, I should have, shouldn’t I!? I should have just jumped forward, taken her hand, and just let fate throw us to whatever course it would. It would have been so simple…”

    Mana was quite honestly confused at this point. This guy had actually been kind of cool up until about a minute ago. Now he was…odd.

    “Sometimes, I wish it could have been that simple” Shirou sighed, continuing forward once more. “You’re lucky, Mana. You know that?”

    “I am?”

    “Everything for you is so simple and easy. No troubles, no worries, no fears, just you, your world, and the smallest, but most precious, things in life.” He looked down at her with a wide grin. “Never pass up these days, ok? They’re the best you can have.”

    Mana stuck out her tongue and looked away. “Now you sound like an old man” she complained. “Besides, it’s not as if I don’t have things that I think about all the time. I still have to find a way to beat Mama.”

    “That’s certainly an interesting goal” remarked Shirou. He made a mental note about that earlier comment. If some girl he just met was saying that, there was a good chance that Rin was going to be deriding him about it soon enough. “Why would you want to beat your mom though?”

    “So I don’t have to share Papa’s time!” she declared like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

    Shirou, fortunately, was not someone who delved into psychology that often, so his mind didn’t find itself hooked onto Electra complexes and whatnot. He just laughed a bit and patted her on the head. “I’m sure you will someday. Just don’t let it get in the way of having fun with your mom though.”

    “Hmpf. Papa’s way better than Mama” she declared confidently

    “Really? What’s he like?”

    The confidence disappeared pretty quickly. “Uhh…” she deadpanned

    Despite being so hooked onto her father, Mana didn’t exactly gush about him that much, so she had trouble putting the exact description of him into words. Deciding to look around for inspiration, she swept the plaza they had walked into, and her eyes eventually fell onto a small scene nearby. As it so happened, a very striking representation of what she was trying to convey happened to be standing in the middle of it.

    “He’s kinda like that guy!” Mana shouted, pointing at said individual, who was trying to calm down a woman he was with, who in turn was shouting at a confused French police officer.

    Shirou quickly locked onto the subject. At the same time, the man, probably reacting to a sudden outburst in his native language nearby, turned towards them as well. It took about a minute for them to come to the correct conclusion.
    Unfortunately, the woman also happened to turn and look…and then came to the absolute worst conclusion.

    “Mana!”

    “Papa!”

    “BASTARD!”

    “Sacre Bleu!”

    “Hunh…?”

    Shirou stood around rather dumbstruck while Mana dashed towards her father, her father dashed towards her, the French policeman tried to figure out what the fuck was going on, and a Japanese woman in a red jacket and a kimono charged towards him. It was through stern self-discipline that he didn’t trace swords in broad daylight, but he did retain enough combat awareness to stop her from jabbing him in the gut with her hand. It probably would have continued from there had two voices suddenly shouted out over the hustle and bustle of the city.

    “Shiki!”/“Mama!”

    The woman turned toward them, but didn’t drop her stance. The immense amount of bloodlust that Shirou felt emanating from her was chilling. If he had to guess, most of it was from protective instinct, but underneath that was something almost…demonic. Like an insane desire to kill that was contained, but still present.

    “What is it Mikiya?” she demanded. “I’m in the middle of killing this child-kidnapping son of a bitch.”

    “Let’s all take a step back, Shiki” said the man, Mikiya, soothingly, his arm around his daughter. “I’m sure that this is a big misunderstanding.” He looked down to the girl at his waist. “Did this man hurt you in any way Mana?”

    Mana shook her head and smiled at him. “No, Shirou kept me company while I found you! He’s really nice. He even bought me ice cream on the way back.”

    The woman, Shiki, snorted and reached one hand behind her threateningly. “Keh. Trying to lure my daughter in with sweets are we? I don’t really feel like handing you over to the police then—“

    “He wasn’t luring me in, or helping me, or anything!” protested Mana. “He just gave me someone to talk to while I tried to find this place!”

    “That’s what they all say, right before they—Hey!”

    Shiki’s response was cut short by Mikiya grabbing her hand away from her concealed knife. “Please act more reasonable, Dear. I’m sure that he meant no harm and just wanted to help.” He looked over at Shirou. “Isn’t that right Mr…”

    “—Emiya” Shirou informed him with a sheepish smile. “And yes, I found your daughter wandering near the Seine and decided to accompany her on her search for you.” He looked at where they were. “I must say that we would have been faster if I knew this is where we would be meeting.”

    Mikiya blinked. “She didn’t tell you?”

    “Her exact words were ‘somewhere over there’ while pointing to this area” Shirou clarified.

    The confused father looked down at Mana. “How could you forget the Arc de Triomphe?” he asked.

    “…I’m not good with stuffy old buildings” she admitted, embarrassed.

    “Mana…” her father sighed.

    There was an awkward pause in the proceedings.

    “Has the situation been…resolved?” asked the French policeman whom everyone had forgotten about in very accented English.

    Mikiya turned and nodded appreciatively. “Yes, thank you for your time” he replied in English. The man nodded back and left, thankful to be free of the tourists screaming in some Asian language. He really needed a coffee break now.

    “Hmpf. Guy was completely useless” scoffed Shiki in Japanese once he was a fair distance off. She then jammed her thumb towards Shirou. “Oi, Mikiya, pay this guy already so we can head back to the hotel for dinner.”
    Her husband got out his wallet, but Shirou held up his hands defensively. “Oh no, I don’t need money. I’m just happy I was able to help.”

    Shiki gave him a glare that pretty much promised pain if he didn’t just accept the damn payment. Hunh. Rage over not taking someone’s money? That was a first. “Hurry up and take it. I can’t stand being in debt to people. You did technically save my daughter.” The last part was said in the same vein as someone else would say ‘saw a UFO.’

    “Well, yes, but helping people in need is just something I do” Shirou explained, trying to get through to her. “I really need no payment except for the satisfaction that your daughter is safe now.”

    Now she was looking at him like he was some kind of alien lifeform that she couldn’t decide if he was hostile or only weird. In the end, she turned and began walking away, calling back, “Fine, have it your way then! Just try not to kidnap any more children.”

    “She still doesn’t believe me entirely then…” Shirou sighed regretfully. He was surprised however, when Mana and her father came up towards him. Mikiya extended a hand and gave him a thankful smile.

    “I appreciate you finding my daughter for me. Shiki does too, even if she isn’t good at conveying it. Sorry about that.”

    “It’s no problem” said Shirou, shaking his hand. “It was actually a fun experience.”

    “I’ll take your word for it” Mikiya laughed before motioning to his daughter. “Say thank you, Mana.”

    Mana grabbed Shirou’s hand and shook it enthusiastically. “Thank you Shirou! I hope you find your girlfriend again!”

    “Bweh!?” he blubbered, taken aback by the violent jerking of his hand and her statement. Before he could get an answer though, she bounded after her mother, and after bowing in thanks one last time, Mikiya followed her.

    He stood there in silence for a few minutes, pondering what just happened. It was certainly a strange experience. Not exactly what he was guessing would be his experience when he came to Paris. Sure, the thought of stopping a street mugging, or helping someone find a particular landmark, or even finding a child normally crossed his mind, but there was something about this meeting that struck him as far different. Was it that feeling he got from the woman? Or how calm the man seemed? Or maybe it was Ma—

    *Ring!*

    Shirou grabbed at his jacket pocket, fishing for his cell phone in a panic. His subconscious had already figured out what this would be about even if his conscious mind hadn’t. Dreading the inevitable, he lifted the receiver a safe distance from his eardrum and said timidly, “Hello?”

    “SHIROU! WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU!? YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO MEET ME HALF AN HOUR AGO!”

    He winced as Rin’s screams still managed to terrify, even through a cellular device. “Sorry about that Tosaka” he apologized. “I’ll head over right away. I was just helping someone who was in trouble so—“

    “OH SOMEONE’S ALWAYS IN TROUBLE AREN’T THEY!? WE NEARLY MISSED OUR FLIGHT HERE BECAUSE YOU HAD TO HELP SOMEONE CHANGE A TIRE!” she screeched angrily, no doubt angering, or frightening, everyone within a block radius of wherever she was. “IF YOU WANT TO HELP SOMEONE SO BAD, THEN MAKE UP FOR IT BY BOOKING YOUR ASS OVER HERE!!”

    “Right, right. I’ll get right on that” Shirou responded, “just wait right there.”

    “Fine, but you better hurry” growled Rin’s voice, somewhat calmer. “Our reservations aren’t in danger… yet, but—“

    “Yes, I understand Tosaka” Shirou assured her. “See you soon.”

    *Beep*

    And with that, he ended the call, wished a silent ‘Good Luck’ in the direction that the girl and her family had gone, and headed towards where his seething travelling companion was no doubt preparing to punish him severely for his tardiness…

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
    “Hey Papa?”

    “Hmm?”

    “How do you think Shirou is doing?” asked Mana while her family ate dinner.

    “Well, I’m sure he’s fine” he assured her. “He looked like he was not lost in any way.”

    “I wasn’t lost!” Mana protested for the umpteenth time that day. She then continued her line of thought. “Do you think we’ll ever see him again?”

    Mikiya thought about that for a moment. “Perhaps. It’s not likely, but I wouldn’t rule it out completely. It’s a wide world out there, but sometimes it isn’t as big as we think.”

    Mana nodded as she chewed her food. Shiki, however, added her own two cents.

    “Just hope we don’t. People like that are just troublesome, always helping others for no reason” she griped. “Eventually, they all end up helping the wrong person and the next day, they’re face up in the gutter.”

    “Ahh? But Shirou was a really nice person” said Mana.

    “’Nice’ and ‘stupid’ are often used in the same vein.” She pointed her fork towards her daughter. “Listen Mana. That’s the kind of guy you’re never allowed to date. He’ll end up being nothing but trouble, and you’ll always be saving his ass from some kind of danger because he always wants to jump face first into the fire and—“

    “Do note, Mana” Mikiya interjected with a sly smile, “that your mother never followed this advice herself.”

    Shiki grimaced, defeated, as Mana burst into giggles. “And I’ve been paying for it ever since” Shiki concluded, trying to regain some dignity.

    “Well, I’ll keep helping you, for as long as you have to” Mikiya promised her. Shiki blushed and hastily turned back towards her food.

    As her parents continued their usual banter, Mana looked out the window and wondered if she would ever meet that strange man again. He seemed like such an interesting person, but she felt that there was far more to him than she could get from their little adventure. She felt something. An attraction, but not in the romantic sense. It was like a sense for a place where something amazing could happen to her if she ever found it again. For now, she would have to put it out of her mind, but someday maybe, she would find that strange man again, and who knew where her life could go from there.

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX



    Well, that's pretty much my first drabble here. Kind of a starter story for an idea that might blossom into something more. Tell me what you think. I'm always up for constructive criticism.
    Last edited by Riven; June 22nd, 2013 at 03:41 PM.

  2. #2
    吸血鬼 Vampire Olive's Avatar
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    That was very sweet, please continue.

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    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six mangafreak7793's Avatar
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    Pretty interesting.

    Edit: Sorry, Was a bit busy so my comment was rather short. I really like this snippet of yours due to the fact I was attracted to the notion of a possible Mana/Shirou but instead I got a bit of a slice of life setting which was a pleasant surprised the only real complaint was the notion of Shiki the mama bear and almost killing Shirou due to the assumption of him be a child kidnapper....while justified, I personally can't really see her in that light at least a vocal sense.
    Last edited by mangafreak7793; October 9th, 2012 at 07:09 PM.


    Teasing the Penguin God!

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    *Starts a slow clap*

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    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six lethum's Avatar
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    Very nice Riven. It stands well on its own, though it can also be the set up for a tale set up later down the road (of time).

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    Another Day At the Office Riven's Avatar
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    Thanks for the responses guys. Let me know if there's anything you feel that could be made better. I really am considering continuing this idea onwards.

    Quote Originally Posted by mangafreak7793 View Post
    Pretty interesting.

    Edit: Sorry, Was a bit busy so my comment was rather short. I really like this snippet of yours due to the fact I was attracted to the notion of a possible Mana/Shirou but instead I got a bit of a slice of life setting which was a pleasant surprised the only real complaint was the notion of Shiki the mama bear and almost killing Shirou due to the assumption of him be a child kidnapper....while justified, I personally can't really see her in that light at least a vocal sense.
    Women typically become several times more protective when any children, not just their own, get involved. I'd imagine that Shiki, while certainly still an oddity, would be no different. Her version of protecting might be a tad more aggressive than most, but it'd still be pretty strange if she wasn't reactive when her daughter got involved.

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    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six mangafreak7793's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riven View Post
    Thanks for the responses guys. Let me know if there's anything you feel that could be made better. I really am considering continuing this idea onwards.



    Women typically become several times more protective when any children, not just their own, get involved. I'd imagine that Shiki, while certainly still an oddity, would be no different. Her version of protecting might be a tad more aggressive than most, but it'd still be pretty strange if she wasn't reactive when her daughter got involved.

    True, I guess so but I feel she will be a bit more silent as she will take down Shirou in a quick notion with a sharp object behind his back.

    Also...though this may be influenced by Alf's Mana stories, I feel that she should have been more coy or slightly less childish maybe playful (in a teasing sense) or something, it is hard to point out but again that was due to other influences and I not properly knowing the reason.


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    Another Day At the Office Riven's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mangafreak7793 View Post
    True, I guess so but I feel she will be a bit more silent as she will take down Shirou in a quick notion with a sharp object behind his back.

    Also...though this may be influenced by Alf's Mana stories, I feel that she should have been more coy or slightly less childish maybe playful (in a teasing sense) or something, it is hard to point out but again that was due to other influences and I not properly knowing the reason.
    I was considering having her rush him with a knife, but that caused two problems:

    1, Shirou would have responded with swords, which leads to 2, they're in the middle of one of the most crowded areas in Paris, with a police officer right nearby. That would have made a whole mess of problems.

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    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six mangafreak7793's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riven View Post
    I was considering having her rush him with a knife, but that caused two problems:

    1, Shirou would have responded with swords, which leads to 2, they're in the middle of one of the most crowded areas in Paris, with a police officer right nearby. That would have made a whole mess of problems.
    True, I forgot about that but I felt she could have done it without anyone noticing almost like a hostage stick-up, like 'step away from my kid' or something like this.


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    Dapper Deathwing YeOfLittleFaith's Avatar
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    Pretty enjoyable little drabble! :>

    Well, not little as in small, but it's a neat drabble. You get what I mean.
    Last edited by YeOfLittleFaith; October 10th, 2012 at 12:53 PM.



    Quote Originally Posted by RadiantBeam View Post
    Not my fault Shirou is an awesome bro to lesbians.

  11. #11
    Another Day At the Office Riven's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the feedback everyone! So, owning to the fact that people seemed to like the idea, more inspiration hit me. This one's a bit darker in tone, but it's not going to stay all despairing and gloomy, I promise. Didn't want to make this too long, as it's just a prologue and I'm trying to set Shirou's opening mood, but I hope it's still nice!

    Taking Chance

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    It was time to go.

    For over a month now, he had prepared himself for his departure. Not physically. The acquisition of supplies and packing only took a couple days. Putting his affairs in order only took another week. No, what took the most time was wrapping his head around this whole affair. He was leaving Fuyuki.

    Truthfully, he had always known that his life as a hero would take him throughout the four corners of the Earth. He had even awaited it excitedly…

    …But not like this.

    He was supposed to be leaving as a man who had saved so many in his hometown that they no longer needed him, that he was prepared to save lives anytime and anywhere, a man who would always be able to protect someone in need.

    This. This was nothing like that. It wasn’t a triumphal send off. It was more like exile.

    All because of one catastrophe.

    He had failed. Was he not strong enough? Was he too slow? Maybe he had been indecisive. It could have been panic, or blind stupidity at any point that caused it all. Was it…Was it…ARRRRGGHHHH!!!

    Shirou slammed his fists into kitchen wall in frustration. No! It hadn’t been the wrong choice! It was just…he couldn’t carry it out all the way. The only other option was guaranteed failure. At least the way he had chosen there existed a chance…a chance that he had blown.

    They had told him it wasn’t his fault. Nobody could have seen it coming they said. Maybe that was true, but he should have. If he had, it would have ended differently. For weeks, they had tried to console him, telling him that his actions had stopped disaster, that he had saved as many lives as he could, almost all of them in fact, but for him that was still one too little.

    And so here he was, alone, in an empty house. A case full of only the most essential of supplies awaited in the dining room behind him. To think, up until recently, that place had been one of friendship and smiles. Now it was haunted by the ghosts of those who would never return to it. His own, no doubt, among them.

    He suddenly felt a small splash on the back of his hand. Was he…crying? He hadn’t cried since the funeral. Some things must just come and go, he thought as more drops began dotting the counter. Heh, look at him now. The would be hero, defeated, broken, and now crying helplessly as a life that had been entrusted to him now rested in the Earth.

    His knees buckled from under him as he let it all go one last time. There was nothing he wanted to do more than go back and apologize to the headstone again, but even in this state, he knew that wouldn’t help anything. The culprit was dead, never going to stand trial, and the fact that it had all started with magic had destroyed any chance of the truth getting out. All that struggle and sacrifice, and nobody would ever even know why it had come to such an end.

    Time probably would have passed him by countless times had the doorbell not rang.

    Sluggishly, he got up and shouted “Be right there!” in as normal a voice as he could manage. It was probably Mitsuzuri, here to take a look at the house before he left. She had been the obvious choice of to leave it to. The closest person he had left after all this tragedy, plus the fact that she was married and expecting a child weighed in heavily on that decision. Everyone else he knew was gone in one way or another, by distance, by feeling, or by death.

    He grabbed a towel and wiped both his eyes and the counter. The last thing he needed was her to know that he had been crying. She was probably going to beg him to stay anyways, and turning her down was going to be hard enough as it was.

    Satisfied that his appearance was sound, he rushed over to the door and prepared to greet his friend in a way that wouldn’t cause her any concern.

    …But when he opened it, it wasn’t Mitsuzuri.

    “Yo!” shouted the girl standing on his porch with a wide grin. “How ya been Shirou!?”

    Shirou blinked.

    “Man, you think a place this big would be easy to find, but noooooo. Lemme tell ya. I had to hit up a lot of shady looking Yakuza goons just to get directions” the girl complained.

    Shirou blinked again.

    “I mean, sure, I live around the underworld, so it isn’t that big of a shock, but it’s not like I like having to root through bars and brothels to find someone who knows where the Emiya residence is” she continued, scanning the exterior of the compound.

    Shirou blinked a third time.

    “I would have tried using my phone’s GPS to find you buuuuuut that ran out of battery on the way here and it was a pain finding an outlet” she admitted sheepishly.

    Shirou blin—No, that was enough. Time to figure out what was going on.

    First came the girl herself. From what he could tell, she was in her mid-teens, pretty tall for her age at about five foot eight, with raven black hair and ivory skin. Her hair was up in a loose ponytail, and a pair of mirrored sunglasses were nestled above her brow. She was clad in tight jeans, a black tanktop and a navy blue denim jacket with the sleeves rolled up. Also on her were a couple pieces of jewelry, mainly a pair of earrings and a locket, but nothing too extravagant.

    Most noticeable though was her wide grin, one that Shirou recognized, but couldn’t quite put a name to.

    “Excuse me” he choked out, trying to be polite despite this strange girl suddenly popping out of the folds of his life and onto his doorstep, uninvited, “but um, who are you?”

    The girl was taken aback by this lack of acknowledgment. “Hah? You mean you don’t remember me!? It wasn’t that long ago was it?” she asked before thinking that last part through a bit. “Ok, maybe it was over five years ago, but that isn’t out of memory!”

    Shirou tried to think back to the last time he had met anyone this exuberant, but that only brought up memories of Fuji-nee, who was in America right now and most definitely did not look like this. Probably sensing that he was drawing a blank, the girl grabbed him by the shoulders and jabbed her thumb back towards her chest.

    “It’s me! Mana! Remember now!? Lost-in-Paris Mana? Psycho-Mom Mana? Hot-Ass-Dad Mana?”

    Suddenly, everything came rushing back to Shirou. The little girl by the Seine. The search for her parents. The strange conversations they struck up. That weird scene at the end. It was all clear as day in a single moment.

    “Mana!” he shouted, more in realization than in greeting before grabbing her by the shoulders and shaking her roughly. She smiled even wider nonetheless. “How did you—? Why are you—?” He shook his head to clear his thoughts. “What are you doing here?”

    She pursed her lips and thought this over. How should this be phrased as to not freak him out that much? She could say that her parents had just been taken hostage by terrorists and she needed to raise money for their release by running a top secret briefcase across the Chinese border into Siberia, all the while making both the Japanese and American governments think that she was cooperating with their attempts to—

    …Ah fuck it.

    “I ran away” she said.

    The early autumn air whistled in the ensuing silence.

    “Beg pardon?”

    Without warning, she bowed low and looked up at him with an embarrassed expression.

    “Got a place I could crash for a while?”

    Half an hour ago, he would have refused without hesitation. Given her money for a hotel or called her parents, something other than this house. He didn’t want to stay here. He just wanted out. Away from the memories, a place to try again, try to redeem himself.

    But something about her had changed that feeling. The pain hadn’t lifted entirely, but it was easier, bearable even. The self-hatred and impotent sorrow he felt seemed to wash away. Was it her smile? Or the way she reminded him of a happier time? He couldn’t be certain, but he could swear that just her being there was more than he could ever ask for right now. There mere thought that he wasn’t going to be alone tonight made him stay his denial.

    So Shirou, bringing forth a Grail War, several smaller incidents, and an entire school life worth of unexpected problems appearing on his doorstep, gave her the answer that he had pretty much drilled into his head for this situation.

    “Uhhhhh…sure?”

    Her face brightened considerably, and without warning, she threw her arms around him and squeezed him into a hug.

    “THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU SO MUCH SHIROU!” she squealed.

    Between trying to recover his oxygen supply and figuring out where she should sleep in an empty house, Shirou managed to squeak in reply, “…No problem kiddo…Now could you let me breathe by any chance…?”

    It looked like heading out would have to wait a day…

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    Well, that should do it for the reunion. The more I type this out, the more I really like the possible direction it could take.

    Hope I didn't make things too grim at the beginning. I tried keeping Shirou in character while giving him enough growth in the nearly ten years since the grail war, but I still wanted a realistic portrayal of grief and guilt.
    Last edited by Riven; October 11th, 2012 at 12:19 AM.

  12. #12
    吸血鬼 Vampire Olive's Avatar
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    I anxiously await any further developments on this front, this is looking really good. Its an interesting take on post-Grail War Shirou that isn't already in a relationship or MoS. It also has a nice ambiguity over who died, and I can't seem to shake the feeling that it was Ilya. Anyway, carry on!

  13. #13
    闇色の六王権 The Dark Six mangafreak7793's Avatar
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    I feel a sort of Usagi Drop like feeling to this, not sure why though that's not a bad thing however.

    Though I feel Mitsuzuri is going to have a whole supply cache of interesting to say once she comes to visit, not to mention the fact when Shiki does find her and Shirou.


    Teasing the Penguin God!

  14. #14
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors Flere821's Avatar
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    *snerk* If the scene of R.Shiki asking Shirou in a deathly quiet voice "What have you been doing with my daughter" ever comes up I am going to enjoy every moment of it. Will keep a eye on this thread now.

    *resumes lurking*
    Quote Originally Posted by Elf View Post
    Elf, dealing fanfic crack for Beast Lair since 2007.
    Quote Originally Posted by Radiantbeam View Post
    Elf: Crack Dealer. Story at eleven.
    'Fae is Foul' - My SAO/ZnT Crossover fanfic (SB Thread) (FFN Link)

  15. #15
    Dapper Deathwing YeOfLittleFaith's Avatar
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    I'm really liking this. Seems like it's going to be a fun cohabiting with Mana.



    Quote Originally Posted by RadiantBeam View Post
    Not my fault Shirou is an awesome bro to lesbians.

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    Another Day At the Office Riven's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by YeOfLittleFaith View Post
    I'm really liking this. Seems like it's going to be a fun cohabiting with Mana.
    I'm not sure you could call what's about to happen "cohabiting." It's more like co-wandering.

  17. #17
    Dapper Deathwing YeOfLittleFaith's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riven View Post
    I'm not sure you could call what's about to happen "cohabiting." It's more like co-wandering.
    Home is where the heart is. :P



    Quote Originally Posted by RadiantBeam View Post
    Not my fault Shirou is an awesome bro to lesbians.

  18. #18
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    I'm liking the set up. Off to save the world, with a straggler behind him.

    Digging this.

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    吸血鬼 Vampire Olive's Avatar
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    Cue the worlds greatest/most terrifying manhunt, as Shirou and Mana try to stay one step ahead of Ryougi. Its just like hide-and-seek, but more extreme. I forsee much shenanigans and heartwarming in the future for these two.

  20. #20
    Another Day At the Office Riven's Avatar
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    This idea is a lot of fun. I really like what comes out. Maybe I should get a beta for it though...

    Where This Ocean Goes

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    Shirou looked over the bounds of the Pacific Ocean, letting the fresh, salty breeze flow across his face. From here, the world seemed so pure, so clean. The sun on the water, the cry of the gulls in the air, and a cold bottle of Coke in the hand. Under any other circumstances, this would be the ideal vacation.

    However, the fact that he was heading for Davao City on a freighter with a bunch of hard drinking, hard swearing sailors, taking a route that ran the danger of typhoons and pirates somewhat dulled the experience. Honestly, what was he—

    “Oi! Shirou! You just going to stand there like an idiot for the entire trip!?”

    Oh yes, and the “extra help” he had picked up.

    Shirou turned around to be greeted with the beaming face of Mana, who tossed him a bottle. It was an expert throw, one that he caught without even looking, but when he read the label, he sighed in exasperation.

    “Mana, this is beer” he told her like it was some kind of revelation.

    Rather than act surprised, she just nodded happily. “Yep! Some of the guys on deck gave me these and told me to bring one to you” she informed him, holding up a bottle of her own.

    Before she could open it, he walked over and snatched it right out of her hands. “I’m grateful to them for the gift and all, but first of all, I already have something to drink, second of all, I’m not a big fan of alcohol, and lastly…” He gave her a level stare. “I’m absolutely positive that you’re underage.”

    Between failed attempts to get her beer back, Mana shouted, “I’ve had beer before and I was fine afterwards! It’s only one drink and besides, it’s not like there are any cops out here!”

    Shirou grimaced, continuing to hold the beer out of her reach and taking sips of his Coke in between. Absentmindedly, he wondered why he had company on this trip in the first place.

    Fortunately for time’s sake, the turn of events that had led to this weren’t that hard to recall.

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    “So let me get this straight” Shirou said, trying to keep a straight face despite the migraine he had right now. “After losing to your mother for the umpteenth time in God-knows-how long, you and her got into a verbal…disagreement, where you said multiple things that may or may not have implied that she used the hilt of a katana for…purposes other than gripping. She then told you that she didn’t raise girls with so little respect in her house, to which you told her that you didn’t even think you belonged to the house, to which she told you that if that was how you felt then you could leave, to which you told her that you just might, to which she told you that she didn’t care either way, to which you stomped out of the room, grabbed your belongings, and bolted out of the house—“

    Shirou took a deep breath.

    “—To which your father just told you to be careful in a knowing kind of voice.”

    Mana shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “It sounded better when I said it.”

    “Of course it did” Shirou sighed, rubbing his forehead. “Did you stop for even a moment to think this through?”

    “Yes!” she insisted, “I mean, I brought my stuff didn’t I?”

    “You brought one bag full of a few clothes, some hygiene items, and a knife. Not exactly a survival kit.”

    “Hey, I wasn’t planning on going into the jungle or anything. I just needed to get by until I could find you.”

    “What would have happened if you couldn’t!? Your hometown…Minfune City was it? That’s hours from here!”

    Mana crossed her arms and glared at him challengingly. “Now you sound like Mom! Always, ‘Mana, you can’t do this!’ ‘Mana, you’re not ready!’ ‘Mana! Don’t even think about it!’”

    “Sounds like sound advice to me…” Shirou grumbled.

    “Well, it isn’t! I think I just proved I can handle life on my own” she declared proudly.

    Shirou’s eyes narrowed on her. “If that’s so, then why do you need to stay at my place?”

    Her ego deflated so fast that one could practically hear it hissing out. “Umm…I…didn’t have anywhere else to go” she said softly.

    “No family, cousins, relatives?”

    “None that are outside of Mifune City but still in Japan. Closest is Aunt Azaka, and she’s in Seoul.”

    “How about friends from school? I’m sure they could let you stay at their place until this all blew over.”

    Mana muttered something.

    “Hunh? I didn’t catch that.”

    “I…ve…any…”

    “What? You’re going to have to speak up.”

    “I DON’T HAVE ANY FRIENDS ALRIGHT!?”

    Shirou had to back up in a hurry as the girl pretty much launched herself across the table with that last outburst, her hands coming to a rest at the opposite edge. Quite obviously, she was no longer smiling. Between biting her lip and giving him the evil eye, Shirou thought she looked kind of…ashamed.

    “I mean, for Heaven’s sake, can’t anyone just keep their nose in their own business?” she seethed, falling back to her place at the table. “Everyone always has to ask why I don’t associate with people. Why don’t they try going to a school where everyone is either trying to suck up to you, get it on with you, or thinks you’re the devil incarnate. Idiots think because you’re last name is ‘Ryougi’ that you’re obviously on the other side of the sanity divide.”

    “Well, I just meant—“

    “Oh and don’t get me started on the posers that look like they’re friendly while they eye your purse. Those are the worst. I just want them dead sometimes, and the kitchen knives look REALLY tempting when I run into them. ‘Hime-sama!’ ‘Hime-sama’” she mimicked before falling back to a disgusted face; “Bastards made me sick.”

    “Not all of them can be like that—“

    “Of course they’re not” she said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “Because after that fall the idiots who think they’re total love machines and assume that you’re just waiting for them to say they’re free for a booty call or whatever they have planned. It gets even worse when they convince themselves that your refusal is “Tsun” and then proceed to try even harder. All they really want is to see you dance in your underwear for them!”

    Her rant subsided, and she seemed to lose her energy. For what it was worth, she didn’t seem at all happy with anything she had just told him. In fact, it only seemed to make her mood worse.

    Shirou realized that this was probably a side of herself that next to nobody outside of her immediate family, and even then maybe not, had ever seen. He knew the type. Always thrown out into the world, crushed with expectations and societal stereotypes. They put up an act, trying to conform to it all, fulfill expectations, and if they were suited to it or lucky enough, they got to live most of their lives like that. If they weren’t, well, they snapped. Given his experience, this was actually a relatively tame breakdown. Sure, teenage girl ran away from home, yada yada yada, tried to room up with someone outside of the bubble of her life up until that point, blah blah blah. Happened all the time.

    The only difference here was that she was on his porch, and he really couldn’t afford to accommodate her right now.

    “Ok,” he sighed, “But why me? I haven’t seen you in five years, and it wasn’t exactly the most lasting of impressions I think I’ve created.”

    Mana looked at him with tired eyes and leaned back onto her palms. “It wasn’t like I left intending to hit up the guy I met in Paris” she said, throwing her head back to stare at the ceiling. “I needed somewhere to go, and for some reason you popped into my mind. Honestly, you’re really the only person I could actually see myself staying with. I remember you saying that you lived in Fuyuki so I jumped on the first train over this way and asked around until I found the compound.”

    “…So what you’re saying is that you’re so low on options that the only person you could think of is the random stranger you met once five years and half a world ago?”

    Mana nodded.

    “There’s really nobody else?”

    She nodded again.

    Great. Now he really couldn’t turn her down.

    “Here, let me set up a room for you. I can help you out for a little while, but I’m going on a trip, so this isn’t going to be an extended arrangement. I’m just throwing that out there so you aren’t shocked later.”

    Her face brightened immensely. “Thanks again Shirou!” she shouted, grabbing his hands in joy. “I knew you were a great guy! I’ll be sure to be the best guest I can!”

    “Yea, um…no problem” he stuttered between the shaking.

    She let go of him and grabbed her bag, dashing towards the door, “So, when are we leaving?”

    “Well,” he began absentmindedly, following to show her to a guest room, “I’m thinking about leaving…” Suddenly, he blinked. “Wait…what do you mean ‘we?’

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    Just this once” Shirou finally relented, allowing one bottle into the stubborn teen’s hand.

    “Best. Travel Buddy. Ever” Mana grinned, happily popping it open with her knife and taking a chug that was indicative of someone who had never touched alcohol before. “Phew, this stuff is pretty interesting!”

    “Be careful. Take small sips and don’t wander near the guard rails. I doubt that you’ll get that hammered off of just one beer, but it helps to be—

    “Oh yea, that hit the spot” said the not even slightly reddened Mana, tossing the bottle into the ocean and extending her hand towards Shirou. “If you aren’t going to drink that, give it here.”

    Shirou’s eyes fell on the remaining beer in his hand. After a moment’s deliberation, he made a decision. With a flick of his wrist, he simultaneously reinforced his hand and slapped the bottle’s top, dislodging the cap with a single movement. Then, without further ado, he imitated what Mana had just done earlier until that bottle was gone too.

    “Meanie.”

    “Sorry, but no more beer for the underage girl.”

    Mana pouted, but soon turned to admiration. “Still, that move you just pulled off was pretty cool. Using your hand as a bottle opener. Was that magic?”

    Shirou almost had a start when he heard her talk about thaumaturgy, but soon he remembered a conversation they had had before they left…

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    “For the last time no! There is no reason for you to come with me on this!”

    It had been a week since this girl had shown up on his doorstep. A week filled with more delays, misunderstandings, and awkwardness.

    For one, he didn’t even make it an entire day before he accidentally walked in on her in the bath, causing a knife fight on the tile floor (only one of them had a knife, the other just reinforced his hands and tried to calm her down) which they tripped over and fell into an exceedingly uncomfortable position. How many times had this happened in his life? It was a bad cliché that was probably used as a stand in when causality couldn’t figure out anything else for him to do.

    They were fine the next day (despite all appearances, Mana was extremely forgiving and not one to dwell on past mistakes) until Mitsuzuri actually swung by, surprised to find Shirou still around and now living under the same roof as a girl almost ten years younger than him. After explaining multiple times that even though she was technically walking around his house in a t shirt and underwear, nothing was happening between them (to which Mana displayed such an apathy towards it became almost impossible to believe anything was), Shirou showed her the house and made arrangements to have her take care of Mana when he left.

    Unfortunately, when Mana found out about this, she renewed the quest she had started on day one, convincing him to let her tag along. He tried explaining that it was dangerous, to which she showed more excitement. He tried reasoning that she would get homesick soon, to which she just laughed. He tried saying that it was contract work that he couldn’t have outsiders on, to which she proved him to be lying within hours. He had even tried threatening to clock her over the head and leave her on her parents’ doorstep, to which she showed all willingness to fight it out.

    Right when he was about to just go with this, she made a simple statement.

    “You’re associated with that world, aren’t you?”

    The air in the room seemed to freeze. From that simple question, everything fell together, and Shirou realized that he wasn’t as alone in this house as he thought he was.

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    “Yea, that was magecraft” Shirou told her, albeit a bit softer just in case one of the sailors was trying to listen in.

    “That’s pretty badass. Think I could do it sometime?” asked Mana apprehensively.

    “Probably not. Even if you do have latent magic circuits, odds are that they would be barely usable or high enough quality to do anything besides the most basic of tasks.”

    “Wow, you really know how to shoot a girl down, don’t you?”

    “It’s preferable to you injuring yourself trying to do something you’re incapable of.”

    “Haha!” Mana cackled, amused, “Right right! It’s not like I need the extra help anyways. I’m badass enough as it is!” With that statement, she flexed her bicep in a kind of display of strength. It wasn’t exactly awe inspiring, but she did show that she was better built than most Japanese teens of either gender.

    Shirou shrugged. “Remind me, little Miss Badass, how many times did your ass hit the floor during our spars?”

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    The argument lasted throughout the rest of the week, taking breaks for meals and sleep of course. The fact that Mana was not only aware of the world of the moon, but deeply embroiled in it, gave her an advantage over Shirou for about five minutes before he fell back to a more defensible rationale.

    She wasn’t strong enough.

    “Tell me Mana, who is the strongest person you’ve ever fought?” Shirou asked as they entered the dojo. Dust kicked up from the floor and spiders scurried away as someone entered the old building for the first time in months.

    “My mom” she said proudly.

    Shirou recalled Mana’s stories about the lady demon hunter named Shiki Ryougi. They were fascinating, thrilling, intense, and most of them probably made up, but all stories had basis in truth. There was little doubt in Shirou’s mind that Mana’s mother was a formidable woman. However…

    “Was she ever serious?”

    “……No” Mana growled, her multiple failures to even once force her mother to fight her for real lurking in her mind.

    “Ok then. Strongest person you’ve ever fought seriously.”

    Coming up with an answer took some time for Mana, as most of her opponents fell on about the same level. While she stopped to think, Shirou got busy pulling out a couple of old training swords. They needed some restorative work, but simple reinforcing should make them usable for now.

    “This summer I took down five members of the martial arts team of our rival school who rushed me at once” Mana finally told him.

    Shirou gave her a look. “Why would they do that?”

    Mana shrugged. “They were pissed off about losing to our team, and I was feeling particularly bitchy that day. Made fun of them when I saw them at the mall later in the day. They were a bunch of punks really, tried to make me apologize and when I said no, they waited until I left and tried to jump me afterwards. One little girl against five big, trained guys. I probably looked like candy.” Her grin turned sly. “It was so fun stomping the balls of that one guy who kept saying how they were going to violate me—“

    *THWACK!*

    The crack of the wooden sword against her head sent Mana sprawling to the ground, shouting, “HEY!”

    Shirou didn’t bother trying to explain himself. “I get the point, and I’m not liking this any more than I used to. If I had to choose someone to go on this trip with, it wouldn’t be a moody teenager who picks fights with people for fun.”

    “Oh come on! It was one time!” Mana protested. “I even called the ambulance for them, and it wasn’t like my mom didn’t completely chew me out for it later. I’ve never even tried since! You shouldn’t just—“

    *THWACK!*

    The thrown object impacted expertly on Mana’s forehead. “OH COME ON, AGAIN!?” she yelled out from the floor.

    “Enough” said Shirou tiredly. “I’ll judge you the most foolproof way I know of. Through combat.” He brought his own sword to a modified defensive stance that he had made for himself. “Come on. Stand. I need to see this for myself.”

    The girl blinked dumbly. The guy was appraising her through a spar? It’s not like the concept was unfamiliar to her, but it sounded seriously old fashioned. The whole thing reminded her of her mother.

    …And right now she really hated her mom.

    “Fine then” she sighed, rolling her shoulders and grabbing the wooded sword on the floor next to her, “I’ll prove to you that I’m not some damsel in distress.”

    Adopting the stance her mother often had during training, she recalled every part of her form, her strikes, and her spirit. Channeling her focus the way she had been instructed, she mapped every step in her mind and anticipated everything that her opponent could throw at her. Becoming a sword master was an integral part of the Ryougi heritage, a tradition that counted its legacy in eras rather than generations. Her mother’s greatest battle with a sword had been a magnificent fight against the rogue monk/mage Araya Souren, and that was not even the bottom half of her potential with a blade on display that day. Mana knew from the moment she could walk that being defeated in the way of the sword was unthinkable for a Ryougi.

    And so, with all that in mind, she brought her first foot forward, and leaped into her assault…



    …It was so sloppy, Shirou didn’t even have to move to knock her to the floor.

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    “Those don’t count!” Mana protested through gritted teeth. “You have ten years of experience and skill on me!”

    “So are a lot of people we’re probably going to have to deal with.”

    “…I can still get better” Mana muttered. “Isn’t that why you agreed to this? Because I had that potential?”

    Shirou didn’t look her in the eye. “Well…I wouldn’t put it that way.”

    “Hah? After all that whining about how weak I was and that I should be trying harder to be a good kid rather than a good fighter, and you didn’t even care!?” Mana demanded, somewhat insulted.

    Shirou held up his hands defensively. “I didn’t say that it didn’t matter! I really did care! I can’t have a defenseless girl being put in danger by my actions!”

    “Then why did you let me come!?”

    “I…” Shirou stuttered, trying to frame his mindset but drawing a blank, “I just…”

    The lap of the water against the ship’s hull and the splashes of birds grabbing shallowly swimming fish from the sea provided the perfect intermission for Shirou to put his reasons into words. Watching him stare up at the sky in contemplation made Mana realize once again how…uncanny this guy felt. It was like he was there, but at the same time he wasn’t. You could look at the same scenery, speak the same words, listen to the same sounds, but you could always feel that you weren’t actually seeing the same things, saying the same things, or hearing the same things.

    Maybe that’s why she felt that he was someone worth following. No matter who she told him she was, he never treated her like anyone else did. No pretention, expectations, or lies. Just a guy talking to a girl that he believed was like everyone else, someone worth saving. It was so simple, but so powerful at the same time.

    “I realized that some things are more important than physical ability.”

    Mana cocked her head at him in confusion. “Hunh?”

    Shirou took a deep breath of ocean breeze. “You reminded me of something that I had forgotten, something important.”

    Rather than look flattered, Mana just rolled her eyes. “Are you determined to sound like my dad whenever he gets drunk in the company of my mom? I swear you are the second most sentimental person I’ve ever met.”

    “…HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!” Shirou suddenly burst out laughing, taking her by surprise and no doubt making the sailors below wonder if they had given him the rum instead of lager. “Really!? I can’t deny it! I really am the world’s biggest idiot, right!?”

    The only response from the girl was a beleaguered stare. She was already used to him acting weird.

    Eventually, his laughing died down, but now he looked at her with an appreciative smile. “But there are times when things like that mean the world.”

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    There was still no victor. While Mana had never even so much as touched him, Shirou had been unsuccessful in making her stop either. Her face was puffy, her lip was bleeding, and her body was bruised, but she kept giving him that challenging look that absolutely refused to take No for an answer.

    “We’ve been at this for over an hour. Just stop already” sighed Shirou in a tired voice.

    Using the wooden sword as a ladder, Mana struggled to her feet again. “Screw you! I said I’m coming along! If that means I have to go on crutches, then fine!”

    She turned to lock eyes with him again, but instead of even bothering to engage, Shirou just kicked the sword out from under her, causing her to crash to the floor in a heartbeat.

    Shirou shook his head sadly. “And you can’t even manage to fight decently? What point would there be in taking you?”

    Like a volcano, frustration was bubbling up within the girl at Shirou’s dismissive attitude. However, as much as she hated to admit it, he was right. She had always hated swordsmanship with a passion. It was just one other thing that her mom was far better than her at. It took all the patience, expectations, and tradition that she hated, bundled it up into an exercise, and forced it down her throat. Every opportunity that arrived to escape practice, she took, thus resulting in her being as terrible a swordswoman as she was an heiress to an old family.

    That wasn’t to say she didn’t have a weapon of choice she was proficient in however, she just hadn’t found an opportunity to use it yet.

    “Just go home. I’m sure that your mother has calmed down by now” said Shirou, walking towards the door. “I’ll even call you a ride. If she hasn’t, then you can come back and stay with Ayako. I’ll talk to her so she knows.”

    Mana didn’t respond, mainly because she was too busy watching his steps.

    “I’ll probably be going to a whole bunch of warzones and disaster areas, staying in slums and badlands, risking my life daily. It’s no place for a little girl.”

    He could see her tense up. Probably over the insult. He didn’t mean it as one, but people found the truth to be insulting a lot of times.

    “Try to live life and enjoy it while you have the chance” he continued, turning away. “Remember what I told you in Paris all those years ago? About not losing these days? Well…follow it. You’ve still got some time left. I don’t.”
    And on that note, Mana struck.

    At first it looked like she was just going in with her wooden sword again, rising off the floor and swinging it forward at the same time. It was more of a lurch than a charge, on account of her being somewhat beat up, but the intent was still there. However, as sudden as it was, Shirou was still a far more capable swordsman, and he merely pivoted and smacked it away like it was a toy.

    As he felt the impact of wood against wood though, he noticed something. First of all, there was far too little resistance from his opponent. The sword didn’t seem to be so much knocked out of her hand as just let go. Also, she had shifted herself downwards just as he swung so that the shinai passed over her. While this certainly did prevent her from getting smacked in the face, it didn’t make any sense from a sparring perspective unless…

    …Oh.

    As the swing went above her head, Mana drew her knife from her jacket. It was her favorite possession, bartered off an American marine on vacation that she had run across a couple years ago. Her mother hadn’t approved of her using a western made weapon, but that was just an added bonus in Mana’s mind, just another way to piss her off. Nonetheless, after seeing how pathetic her daughter was with a sword, Shiki had helped her learn how to use the knife instead.
    Mana adored how versatile and precise the knife was. There was no style to confine herself to, no code of honor that went with it, and no end to its practical applications in a fight.

    She swung the knife up, not bothering to turn it around, so that the handle hit Shirou’s wrist, causing him to lose his grip on his sword and sent it flying. Now they were both swordless, and she was the one with the knife.

    “Hah! Gotcha!” she shouted triumphantly, flicking her wrist horizontally and preparing to bring the knife across to force him to surrender—

    Until, of course, he ducked under her guard, slammed his shoulder into her chest, and sent her flying.

    The knife flipped through the air in the opposite direction, finally coming to a stop when it stuck into the floor near the wall of the dojo. Mana didn’t land so gracefully, bouncing off the floor a couple times before rolling and skidding a few more feet. When she finally stopped moving, she lay face up on the mats in a daze while Shirou slowly walked over.

    “I suppose you think that was clever?” he asked, standing over her.

    She didn’t say anything, merely staring at the ceiling.

    “I’ll applaud your resourcefulness. However, any sane person would never have done something so reckless with a real weapon in a practice fight” he continued. “Any number of things could have gone wrong. You could have missed and actually injured me, I could have reacted thinking it was a fake weapon and injured either of us, or I could have even taken it as a threat and accidentally inflict serious harm on you out of pure reflex.”

    Despite her silence, he could see that she was conscious, so he kept on.

    “Why is it that you want to come so much? Adventure? Boredom? Kicks? Just trying to beat your mother in something? There’s none of that where I’m going. So go home” he said, turning around and walking towards the door again. “I’m sure you’ll find your own story sooner or later.”

    Truthfully, he felt kind of bad about leaving her there. He could remember always wanting to go be a hero when he was her age. Sure, the reasons were different, but the mindsets were the same. Full of confidence, full of passion. All drive, no direction. So innocent and naïve, but in a way that was somehow endearing to others.

    He shook his head. Honestly, he was only twenty four but he already felt like he was an old, shell shocked soldier. Ah well, she’d be fine. Eventually, she’d find her own happiness in life—

    “You ever had one of those days?” Mana suddenly spoke, still staring at the ceiling, “The ones were you just feel that you’re made for more than this?”

    Shirou stopped, taken aback by how she said that. She wasn’t being sarcastic, playful, or stubborn. She actually sounded…tired.

    “Maybe” he said, not quite sure what she was asking.

    She raised her hand above her face and looked at the back of it. “I say that I ran away from home because I couldn’t beat my mom and show my dad how great I was, but I think…that might not have even been it” she continued. “I think I was angry.”

    “Angry?” Shirou asked, turning back towards her, “At what? Your mother?”

    Mana shook her head on the floor. “No, not just her. I was just kind of pissed off at my life. My mom, for being so demanding. My dad, for being so nice. My extended family, for being so self-absorbed. My school, for being so normal. My classmates, for being so boring. My city, for being so pathetically simple. Everything was just…pointless. What was I going to do? Succeed the family? They already had problems with my mom. They dislike me even more since I don’t have their little psycho disorder. Maybe if I actually worked like the rest of the sheep, I could get some cushy company job, blow my money on hookers and booze, and maybe start a family eventually if I don’t go insane from the triviality of it all.”

    She paused to take a breath, dropping her hand to her side again.

    “So one day, I just said fuck it all and decided to escape. Maybe it was my mom’s stories, or maybe it was too many movies, or maybe I’m just insane. I don’t care, but the moment I hopped out on that train, I thought of you and something that you told me that day in Paris. Do remember what it was?” she asked, turning her head to look at him.

    Shirou tried to think back, but five years ago wasn’t exactly the clearest timeframe for memories. There were a few things he could pick out, but nothing that he could be sure of. “Not exactly” he admitted.

    Mana sighed and closed her eyes. “When you came back from the ice cream place, I asked you why you kept helping me. You said ‘Because that’s what makes me happy.” I, being a ten year old, asked why that made you happy. You said, “Because when I do, you smile, and when you smile, I think that my life has meaning. That’s the greatest happiness I could ask for.’”

    “I really said that?”

    “Yea, like a total dumbass” she smirked, “But at least you were a cool dumbass, so I didn’t forget it. When I decided to come here, yea it was because I didn’t really know anywhere else to go, but I was also kind of excited. I could only imagine what your life was like, one with purpose, and I wanted to see if I could find one of my own.” There was a creak as she started getting up off the floor. “So, now you’re going on a trip, and it sounds like that trip has all the answers I’m looking for on it. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t, but no matter what, I want to see the world like you do, because that’s way better than sitting on my ass at home, waiting for life to swallow me whole.”

    She finally stood up again, albeit shakily and hunched over to support her smarting ribcage. Taking each step carefully, she limped past a stock still Shirou towards her knife. A minute later, it was once again pointed towards him challengingly, clutched in the hand of her good arm.

    “Even if you leave me here, I’ll still find a way to follow you. I’d rather spend my life doing something stupid and impossible than waste it doing the mundane and meaningless. I’m a rebellious, irrational, disrespectful, crass, and reckless teenager. And I’m goddamn tired of it. I want to find what you found. I want to live for something more.”

    One foot forward at a time, she advanced on Shirou, still holding the knife. He had been silent since she had wound down her explanation, but the look in his eyes told her that his mind was a whirl, trying to choose what to say. With every step she took towards him, his eyes narrowed even more, scrutinizing her both in body and spirit. She wasn’t daunted before. No matter how scary people thought their looks were, nobody in history could ever match her mom when it came to the evil eye.

    “So I’ll ask you again…” she gritted out, trying to keep her breath steady.

    She stopped about five paces from Shirou, lowered the knife, and extended her hand.

    “…Will you let me come with you?”

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    “—And I said yes” Shirou concluded the story. “Now I’m just counting the days until I start regretting giving you this chance.”

    Unsurprisingly, this comment was followed by him getting smacked in the head by an apple core.

    “Ok, there’s no need to be childish” he sighed, picking up the litter and tossing it into the ocean. “What’s the problem now?”

    “First of all, you’re being a douche” Mana said in an annoyed tone. “Second of all, I did not get thrashed that badly. I might not like swordsmanship, but I couldn’t have sucked that much—“

    “The amount of hits I got on your head is probably messing with your memory” Shirou smirked.

    “—See point one. Thirdly, the way you remember me fawning over you like I’m lovestruck is really not in any way how I see you. Is that some kind of secret desire, dirty old man?”

    “Hey, hey! I’m definitely not into that, and I’m only nine years older than you!” Shirou protested in mock outrage, even though he was finding her complaints amusing. “You’re just kind of a snarky sidekick to me.”

    Mana looked for something else to throw at him, but she was out, so she stuck to jibes instead. “I’m not your sidekick, and that brings me to my final problem with that whole recollection!” Mana shouted, “Why does it sound like some cheap superhero movie? Seriously, it’s like I could turn on some stupid kid’s anime and find a line almost exactly like that one.”

    “I take it you don’t like superheroes?” laughed Shirou.

    “Well…I…” Mana stuttered, somewhat ashamed to admit that she had watched every single one of those new American movies that had come out recently on their Japanese release date. Batman was awesome, and Mom could take her annoying sentiments on western films and shove them up her—…Anyways, the point was irrelevant! “I just don’t like how you’re the one in the hero role! It should be me! You’re the creepy old guy who’s secretly a total badass and trains me until I can save the world or something. I’m like…83.7% sure that the whole thing didn’t happen like the way you remember!”

    “Glad you’re dedicated to my casting” Shirou chuckled. “But honestly, what would you rather have? I’ve always kind of seen things in terms of what it means to be a hero. It’s just kind of how I think.”

    Mana looked away in a huff. “Next time, just make it sound less clichéd. When my life flashes before my eyes in my final moments, I’d like a good show.”

    Shirou couldn’t help but think that bringing this girl along for the ride was a far better idea than he even thought when he originally said yes to her request. He was actually, sincerely laughing for the first time in weeks. What was it about her that made him feel so at home? Her attitude had some serious defects, and she wasn’t the most amicable of individuals, but despite that, he felt closer to her than he had felt to anyone in a long time.

    Why was that? He’d probably have to figure that out later. Now really wasn’t the time for a drawn out moment of self-analysis, not when a moody teenager was stewing in frustration across the deck from him. Might as well soothe her mind with part of the truth.

    “How about this then” he said, walking over to her. “I didn’t take you up because you were strongly convicted either.”

    Mana snapped her head back to look at him with a confused expression. “Hunh? What does that mean?”

    “The fact that you were willing to face anything to follow me wasn’t the reason I took you. Nor was it because you were looking for what I had. In fact, I don’t think it was for your sake at all that I made that choice” he said honestly, resting on the rail next to her and staring out over the ocean. “I took you with me because you remind me of something.”

    “What’s that?”

    He turned towards her, and for a moment, she was transfixed. He looked almost like two people in one. For some reason, the light made one of his eyes and half of his hair look the color of steel while his face seemed to darken by a few shades. His expression was distant, tired, cynical even. It was definitely not something she expected from this guy of all people. The whole thing made her to just want to grab him and shake him until he returned to normal. After only a couple seconds, the image burned itself into her brain…

    …And then, just as easily as it came, it vanished as his face lit up in a smile.

    “What it was that I was fighting for” he said happily, grasping one of her hands.

    “Bweh!?” she tried to ask, but was too surprised by the hand squeeze. Her face told him everything though.

    “Before you came, something happened in my city” he explained, “And by the end of it, somebody that I cared for, someone who I was supposed to protect, was dead. What’s worse is that I could have saved her. All it would have taken was me to make a different decision, prioritize her life over those of so many more, who would have almost certainly died if I did so. I decided to go to them first though, telling myself that I could save both if I worked fast enough. In the end though, I couldn’t. I saved all those people from certain death, but when I came back, it was already too late.” He looked out over the horizon. “I’ve failed before, but back during those there was nothing I could have done. I didn’t even see their faces. This one though, I saw her face very clearly. Her eyes glazed over and her face with a look of despair and pain still present on it. I had to bury her too. It was…hard. Nothing made sense anymore. I had gone through the entire thing, believing I had done the right thing, but now, someone important to me was dead, and not one of the thanks or smiles from those I saved made a difference.”

    He shook his head, trying to dislodge the images. “The worst part was I couldn’t tell myself I had been wrong. I followed my beliefs to the letter. Everything made sense up until I reached that point. I couldn’t find where I screwed up. The only answer was that I had to either be unfit to save anyone, or everything I believed in was wrong from the start. In reality, that’s…why I left. I thought that if I went across the world, tried again and again to save everyone, I might find some answers. I might see if it was even worth it anymore. The ideal didn’t even matter to me at that point. I was trapped in a spiritual prison I had built for myself.”

    Just when Mana was starting to get depressed, he lifted his hand and ruffled her hair comfortingly. “But then you came along, and reminded me that there still was a reason to believe. Even if I can’t find the answers about why she died, I still have the answers on why I help people, standing right there inside you” he said. “Right? Wrong? It doesn’t matter. Saving people, it gives my life meaning, and I can spread that meaning to the world around me. I can give people a reason to believe again, like you. That’s the greatest happiness I could ask for.”

    Mana gave him a look. “Well, I see that five years hasn’t cured you of being a sappy bastard” she grumbled, shoving his hand off her head.

    “Haha! Guilty as charged I guess” Shirou admitted. Then, he extended his hand. “So, there’s my reason for bringing you here” he said. “It’s selfish, silly, and strange, but will you accept it?”

    For a full minute, Mana just stared at him, trying to decide if he was serious or not. No matter how hard she tried though, she couldn’t figure out any time she remembered him lying like that. Reluctantly, she took his hand and shook it, even though she looked away while she did.

    “Fine, fine” she sighed, “But don’t call me your sidekick, or I’ll give you a damn side kick. Also, try to cut down on the sentimentality. It’s like when you talk about your old girlfriend.”

    “Oh! I’m glad you reminded me of that” Shirou said, trying to look like he just realized something. “I have an excellent story about she and I spent this one day in town…”

    Mana was already halfway across the deck, her hands over her ears. “LALALALA! NOT LISTENING!” she yelled, wondering why older guys had to fawn over their lovers all the time. Seriously, it’s like dad was still with her.

    Shirou called out over the wind, “Tomorrow I can tell you about the cute noises she made in bed!” This unfortunately managed to reach Mana’s ears, and the girl ran screaming back to their cabin, probably going to lock the door behind her. Shirou let all his laughter slide out of his system. This boat ride was actually pretty entertaining. He only hoped the rest of his days would be just as good, even if they were laced with hardship.

    Years later, he would wonder how on Earth he would have managed to do all he was about to on his own. For by then, travelling and fighting without his erstwhile comrade and companion would be unthinkable.

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
    Last edited by Riven; October 13th, 2012 at 06:28 PM.

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