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Thread: Skipping all the Steps [Exalted/FSN]

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    Lightbulb Skipping all the Steps [Exalted/FSN]

    New story. Ten years after UBW Good End, Shirou is shunted into Exalted's Creation after a tragedy.

    We start with narrator intro, then a Creation perspective, then finally to Fuyuki City (for how long that lasts).

    Apparently I can't double post at the start of a new thread. SO BE IT!


    Part 1 below

    Part 2

    Part 3

    Part 4

    Part 5

    Part 6

    [************************************]

    Never let it be said that he didn’t try his best.

    Before I begin, before the story starts, I must make one thing very clear. I am not writing this to defend his actions. This is not a manifesto or a carefully censored revision. As befits him, it is the truth as far as we are aware of it. I fulfill my purpose by simply collecting that truth and rendering it into a consumable form. That I came to be at all in this capacity is evidence enough of his regard for the facts-as-best-known.

    I can be wrong.

    I can be biased.

    However, the one thing that must be absolutely clear is that he did not compromise. He was granted the opportunity to achieve all of his ideals and his desires, albeit that was not the intention at the time. Instead of grinding to a halt when presented with two conflicting priorities, he took the path that would grant him everything.
    No matter what he had to suffer through for it.

    No matter how little of ‘him’ was left to receive it at the end.

    Even the Chosen of the Sun or the True Magicians merely have the power to make the choice they want and achieve it, damning the obstacles and the consequences. Not even they had the power to take two or more conflicting options at the same time.

    He twisted worlds to allow his various goals to co-exist, even if he had to counter-twist himself to compensate.

    I am merely here to organize and present. I am, incarnate, the antithesis of “Never once being understood.” He shall not walk that path so long as I am.

    Now read, and comprehend. Validate my existence, and perhaps become enriched for it.

    -Coelica, the Frozen-Light Chronicle, seventh soul-progeny of the Unlimited Bladeworks

    [*****]

    Our story begins in two places. The second place is Fuyuki City of Japan, ten years after the conclusion of the fifth Holy Grail War. While those events are more important, the first place has narrative relevance and chronological precedence. I shall speak of the Noss Fens.

    The Noss Fens are a large area of swamp, within a shadowland to the far East of Creation. For the uninitiated, this means that it is a swamp where the Essence of raw life mingles freely with the Essence of death; a stagnant place where nothing truly lives or dies. A magical haunted swamp, to distill down to the level of children’s tales.

    This swamp has a ruler, a long dead ghost queen of foul power and fouler goals. In her dread citadel at the center of her domain lies a strange well; a black tunnel into infinity that leads elsewhere and anywhere, depending on the time. Well-informed readers have already concluded that this construct is our bridge between the two worlds of Creation and Gaia’s Earth.

    That isn’t the important part.

    The important part is that our deuteragonist has never before seen a swamp with his own eyes, let alone a magically haunted one. Never mind dread citadels, ghost queens, or mystic wells. I daresay he hadn’t yet so much as set foot on an unpaved road before his current task.

    So, pity him. Pity the Blood Ape, Senbrek, because any sin of his pales compared to the most likely fate of those who foolishly approach his destination. Pity him, and bear witness to the final hours of his life.

    -Coelica, the Frozen-Light Chronicle, seventh soul-progeny of the Unlimited Bladeworks

    [*****]

    A five hundred pound gorilla crested the last green hill before grasslands gave way to wetlands, turned his head, and spit.

    It had become a habit, in the last few weeks. His homeland, the Demon City, only had abundant plant life in clearly delineated and easily avoidable areas that no Blood Ape with any sense would set foot. Since he set foot into the wider world on his current task, he had been rapidly introduced to the twin horrors of pollen, and allergies.

    Still, he didn’t need clear sinuses to inform him that what laid ahead of him was far worse.

    Moonlight still showed him his path, for now. Rolling green hills faded into dead brown and gray, then descended into muck. The droning buzz of insects was absent. There was no birdsong or chitter of other animals. No cold-blooded creatures lurked in those depths.

    The only bones he could smell were long dead, and any marrow within would be rotten beyond any salvation. That those bones would likely be holding together animated undead didn’t help, either.

    He sighed. Undead. It was a doubly alien concept; in the Demon City normal demons like himself simply dissolved into nothing a while after being killed; the truly unlucky were harvested by their betters and used as components in artifice while not being allowed to die. Even being eaten alive was usually a better fate.

    Mortal humans left their material husks behind, their tiny and deceptively weak souls fleeing for their next destination. Those husks could be reanimated with forces that churned Senbrek’s rather hardy stomach to contemplate.

    Enemies were to be killed, their blood sipped, their bones cracked, their marrow consumed. Puppeting their corpses, rotting what sustenance they might provide, and using them as mindless soldiers that couldn’t even appreciate the battles they fought in? It didn’t sit well with him.

    It didn’t sit well with him at all.

    He called on his power as he made his way down the hill. Just as he crossed the threshold into the shadowland, the moon above vanished and the stars changed, as he had been told would happen. If he turned back now he would wander the Underworld instead of Creation. He had to wait until sunrise for Creation to take primacy again and allow him escape from the half-dead zone.

    A greater concern, however, was the unknown number of undead between himself and his goal. Had this been a better situation, these sentinels would have been alive, full of blood, and a wonderful challenge to crush one by one. As it stood, they were mindless, fearless, and weren’t even worth his time.

    He drew up his power and shifted into a dematerialized form. The world took on a slight blur, and previously invisible spirits shifted into focus before him.

    He blinked once.

    At least, they would have, had he been anywhere but the edge of the Noss Fens.

    No one wanted to be in the Noss Fens.

    He lumbered forward, trying not to think about the uncomfortable spiritual non-weight he now lacked. Blood Apes do not dematerialize lightly. Everything they have the capacity to enjoy about their lot in life requires physical stimulation. That said, Senbrek was not here for enjoyment.

    Considering the bright side, he figured he’d at least not likely encounter any cats.

    [***]

    Swamps were much less of an obstacle when one was more or less invisible and intangible and unable to sink into them and die horribly. Animated skeletons couldn’t notice you to stick you with swords, and zombies were much the same. One hungry ghost approached, but even after life and mind left it, mere human souls knew better than to challenge a Demon of the First Circle. It took one sniff at him and bolted.

    Smart, that.

    Eventually he reached relatively solid ground again, and was face to face with a relatively underwhelming structure. The Mound of Forsaken Seeds, if his reluctant ‘travel agent’ was at all trustworthy. He touched the solid soulsteel double door with a dematerialized claw and was not surprised to feel the unnaturally cold metal block his path. Spirits could not pass through a barrier of one of the Magical Materials even while dematerialized.

    He sidestepped the door and just passed through the wall next to it instead.

    Whatever the walls were made of probably stopped ghosts, but not other spirits. Why would they?

    No one wanted to come to the Noss Fens.

    There was something distinctly unsatisfying about infiltrating an enemy stronghold like this. He made his way down deeper into the sprawling underground complex, the tug from his heart guiding his path. When he finally came into what seemed to be a throne room, he laid eyes on what had to be the Well of Udr that he had been told about.

    There were six other living humans in this fortress. Very young. Any one of them could have been his target, but he had been informed the chances were not zero that he’d be after someone passing through the well.

    When the Unquestionable inform you of something, you don’t ask questions.

    It’s implied, you see.

    Regardless, he was now alone in a Deathlord’s throne room being urged by the burning power recently invested in him to approach the Well of Udr. At this point he began to feel a conflict of interest. His memory drifted back to almost a month prior.

    “Now, Senbrek, was it? Right. You’ve been given an extremely important duty; one that will stretch the limits of your experience. Your primary enemies are your instincts and your nature. That you have lived long enough for your hair to turn white is testament enough to your ability to suppress both of those things. Erymanthoi rarely survive long enough to gain a single gray hair, let alone all of it.

    “In any case, you will be seeking out candidates. The shard inside you will pull you towards them, however far away. You will arrive at precisely the correct moment. At that point it is up to you to persuade the subject to accept the bargain.”

    The green-skinned, four armed figure turned to face him. Senbrek clamped down on his fight-or-flight instincts with all of his being. The green man smiled.

    “Your control serves you well. Use it at the appropriate time. Know that I hereby grant you, Senbrek, the full authority to promise the support, resources, and military might of Malfeas in my name to any valid candidate. While those things are too vast to list out individually, I can give you my personal word that if the candidate asks if we could assist him in any particular task at all, the answer is an unequivocal yes. The pettiness and scope of the request matter not. If they accept the offer and have any questions beyond that which you cannot answer in your new role, then direct them to me.”

    Senbrek nodded. He didn’t dare say a word.

    “I will have agents meet you and escort you on parts of your journey. They will be the ones to anticipate your destination based on your heading and brief you on potential items of note. If they lack the information, they will forward the queries up to me. I will follow up and get you the necessary guidance.


    The Fetich of the Demon City was as good as his word. After the first two aborted attempts to imbue a candidate, Senbrek was directed towards the Noss Fens, and within a week had been given a dreamstone dossier to absorb, narrated by the Green Sun himself.

    It was the final time he would have reason or opportunity to sleep on his journey.

    The guide might have been dry or boring, but Ligier did nothing by half measures. Even a lowly Blood Ape was capable of being enthralled by the details and analysis of an odd spot of Creation’s geography that had been around since the beginning of Time itself. Details that he might have forgotten in minutes floated back to the forefront of his mind as he passed what few landmarks were visible.

    The final landmark on the list was the Well of Udr itself, and the warning he got rang loudly in his mind.

    In the unfortunate and improbable circumstance that your target is to emerge from the Well of Udr, it would serve you well to not get too close. I have personally gazed down its depths in an earlier era, and I can say without shame that it was a profoundly uncomfortable experience. For you, it would likely shred your mind into scraps, then swallow the rest of you whole. This would, of course, prevent you from fulfilling your duty, so it is not advisable. Don’t look down the Well.

    If only his progenitor’s progenitor could tell that to the incessantly straining mote of fire in his chest. He sat, at the far end of the room, waiting for something to happen. The straining in his chest took on a new level of intensity.

    Did he just glow green for a second?

    He blinked, and was suddenly halfway to the Well. Shaking his head, he threw himself to the ground, and was shocked to find his body forcing itself upright and walking without his control.

    Ah. This must be how they get the idiotic and unruly ones to complete their task.

    By the time he was at the lip of the Well, he had closed his eyes. When he felt himself stop, he realized he wasn’t going to throw himself bodily into the thing. He didn’t open his eyes. He felt the pulse of green light again, but didn’t give in. A third pulse was like fire in his gut. A fourth had his skin burning. A fifth made thought painful.

    Eyes still shut, he roared defiance to the empty chamber, heedless of who might hear. Better to burn in green flames or be impaled on rusty blades than face that void. He accepted his death.

    The pulse of flame paused, then suddenly he felt very small. A searing bolt of pain wrenched his mind, and his eyes snapped open as he screamed at the ceiling again.

    LOOK, AND FEAR NOT.

    He was . . . no. Impossible. Unthinkable. And yet, who was he to doubt?

    He turned his head down and stared into the unfathomable black of the Well of Udr directly. What shapes and sights that pierced his mind were annihilated by green fire before they could twist his existence. In seconds or days or hours he saw what he was looking for as the package he held almost sang with intensity.

    The target was visible. Now two sets of eyes watched and waited for him to fall.

    [*****]

    It wasn’t quite a Mexican standoff.

    A mexican standoff implies three parties ready to open fire on each other, with the typical tactic of the first one to shoot being the second one to die. No one wishes to be shot, and so no one fires.

    This was a more conventional standoff, at first glance.

    On one side were Matou Zouken, Matou Sakura, Matou Shinji, and a rather large number of insects. On the other side were the Lord El-Melloi II, Tohsaka Rin, Emiya Shirou, and the Servant Saber. Pooled at the feet of this second group was a rather large quantity of what seemed to be plain liquid mercury; such a misconception vanished as soon as an errant insect crawled or flew too close, causing a pinpoint needle-strike arm of metal to snap up and impale it, then dragging it back in to divest it of energy.

    The line had been drawn. The diplomacy had failed, and the two sides of the issue at hand had taken up arms. All that was left was to choose the battlefield and open fire.

    That they currently stood in the middle of a residential street in a nicer part of Fuyuki City was not lost on them, however.

    The shriveled, shrunken old head of the Matou family spoke first.

    “Ah, Lord El-Melloi, would it not be wise for us to move our little conflict to a less conspicuous location? It would be a shame if we brought the Association’s wrath down on us for our little argument.”

    The regal-looking man on the other side of the conflict brought his hand to his face and sighed, shattering his composed image for a moment. Long brown hair was pushed back out of sharp eyes as he gazed down on his opponent.

    “Zouken. I am the Association’s wrath. Being brought down. On you. Even if we lose today, more will come. The ones here are trying to stop the ritual peacefully. Our successors will likely either destroy it and half this city with it, or poke it until the Counter Force shows up. No one will be interested in playing through the ritual with you again save the Einzberns, and they have lost enough face over this farce of a ritual so as to not even cooperate with you in protecting it. You were offered a chance to help us take it apart and an equal place with Miss Tohsaka to analyze the workings of the ritual for the sake of perhaps designing an alternative.”

    He waved a hand off to the north.

    “We’ll fight in the memorial park. It serves to scare off bystanders well enough anyway, and neither of us is likely to do anything so chaotic as to affect the city around it.”

    He eyed the man and woman standing with Zouken.

    “Can I assume your puppets will behave, or are you going to have them attack as soon as we are out of sight?”

    A rough chuckle escaped the ancient man’s throat.

    “Puppets? I assure you, Lord El-Melloi, that Sakura and Shinji are both here of their own free will, with no magecraft affecting their judgement in the slightest,” he smiled before continuing, “As such, any aggressive move they make can’t be held against me.”

    “Tch.”

    A scroll was pulled from a suit pocket and tossed at Zouken. A pair of rather large bugs snatched it up and flew it to him.

    “Hmm. No bystanders, no leyline antics. You really thought this through, didn’t you, Waver-kun?”

    El-Melloi didn’t flinch on hearing his old name or the rudeness of its invocation.

    Cackling, the old man pricked a finger and signed the binding contract in blood. Both men flinched as the seal bound itself to their souls, and both the liquid metal and the bugs withdrew to their primary controller.

    El-Melloi turned to his companions.

    “I’ve done my part. I’ll hold him off and keep his bugs off of you two. I don’t know about those two with him, but Zouken himself cannot interfere with you until our match is finished. Go, like we planned.”

    With that, the great magus was lifted onto a platform of liquid metal, and was whisked towards his chosen battlefield. His opponent laughed one more time and collapsed into a swarm of bugs that flew off after him.

    After all traces of the two were beyond senses, the remaining five figures sized each other up. Or at least, one of them sized the other four up.

    Matou Shinji took a rattling breath and adjusted his shirt. He had done rather well for himself in the ten years since the 5th Holy Grail War when he last faced down his current opponents. A local businessman, he owned a chain of clubs and restaurants that was slowly spreading out of the city into greater Japan. What had driven him to face his old rivals once again in supernatural conflict was a mystery to all present.

    Especially since those rivals had gone out of their way to save his life that ten years prior, after he had been defeated, then almost used as a sacrifice by infinitely more villainous characters than himself. Rin had suffered serious burns getting him out of that situation.

    Rin. Beautiful Rin.

    Ten years had simply crystallized her potential from back then. Long black hair framed pale skin and crystal-blue eyes. A Yamato Nadeshiko in the flesh.

    If one only saw her from a distance.

    When she was in a good mood.

    As for the present situation, she was in some riff on her classic personal style, a red sleeveless vest-top and shorts that showed her very defined arms and legs. On one shoulder was tattooed her family crest; on the other arm her remaining Command Seal showed. In her youth she had gone out of her way to hide how well she kept herself in shape, but as an adult she’d stopped bothering with things like that, saving her energy for more important deceptions. Even her hairstyle had been simplified, a single ponytail in place of her fancier rich-girl pigtail spread. Flat Chinese-style shoes rounded out her ensemble- a no nonsense outfit that gave her the ability to use her martial arts to their fullest.

    Had the situation been different, Shinji would have had plenty of complements to make. As it was, the woman was trying to kill him with the expression on her face alone, and he would have been close to a heart attack even had he seen such a woman that was in no way a magus. Seeing as she had every reason to despise him at the moment, he let her hatred slide off of him and looked to his former friend.

    Emiya Shirou was a monster now.

    He had been tall back in high school. He had been strong. Now he was bigger, and stronger. His red-brown hair and amber eyes were about the only things that hadn’t changed.

    However, that’s not why he was a monster.

    Shinji had few good memories about the fifth Holy Grail War. Virtually none, to be frank. Of those countless hours of excitement and terror, he had only vaguely recalled his encounters with Tohsaka’s erstwhile Servant a decade ago.

    That is, until roughly five years back when Shirou had been seen in town wearing that same Servant’s get-up while talking with some of old man Fujimura’s men. At the time, he was not on awful terms with Rin. At the time, his curiosity completely overrode his fear and shame, and he had visited her with a photograph and questions. After a slight delay, Tohsaka shrugged, and confirmed that she had indeed summoned Emiya Shirou as Archer in the War, and he had been the one that betrayed her and abandoned her to Shinji’s crazed mercies towards the end of the conflict.

    He thanked her, apologized for the intrusion, and left.

    Now he was staring at the living body of a man who had manifested on the Throne of Heroes. He always thought Emiya had some screws loose; he had also realized Emiya was going to be used by anyone and everyone that got to know him. That’s why he had befriended the off-kilter boy so long ago in the first place; a way to direct the guy, keep his incessant drive to be helpful pointed in safe directions, like the school. That he got his fair share of free labor in the process was something he could freely admit, now. On some level he didn’t want to see Emiya’s innocence ruined. There was far too much of that going around in this town back then. He should know. No scheming woman got their claws into him, and no one manipulated him into a fight that had an unambiguous good and evil side.

    In a better world, Shinji would have cheerfully let him take away Sakura.

    Shirou stood there, hands akimbo and empty. He wasn’t quite as tall as the Servant Archer had been, yet. He also wasn’t wearing the red parts of said Servant’s outfit. Shinji couldn’t say if that was significant at all. All he knew is Shirou, like Rin, could easily kill him where he stood.

    Shinji glanced at Saber. The Servant, Saber. Shirou’s improbably lucky draw for his game piece in the Grail War, now attached to Rin due to a complicated series of events he was not totally clear on. She was something of a local celebrity, the cute little blonde foreign girl that was attached to Rin or Shirou or both of them when they were out and about in town.

    She hadn’t aged a day or changed in any observable fashion to Shinji’s eyes.

    One word resounded in his head when looking at her. Pure.

    Pure, pure, pure.

    He had zero doubt that she had been summoned by Emiya Shirou. Not one iota. Her identity, her abilities, her personality, he knew nothing.

    She stood there, invisible sword in hand, dressed in archaic knight’s armor. Expression neutral. A perfect sentinel.

    Shinji idly wondered how much of that purity was just a mask, by now. He knew more about prana costs and transfers than many men alive, and he understood precisely how much energy it would take to support a Servant for all these years without the Grail System supplementing the effort during an active War session. He also knew precisely what activities and rituals were most effective in those efforts, in damnable detail.

    However, that wasn’t the issue, here.

    The issue here was that his sister ALSO knew about those activities and rituals. In far greater detail than Shinji.

    That his sister once had completely legitimate (if not completely transparent) designs on Shirou’s heart (and body) was not lost on anyone present.

    That in the chaos of the War ten years ago those designs had been shattered was also known.

    That Matou Sakura was born Tohsaka Sakura, and had been stripped of her home, her name, her family, her lineage, and finally her love in favor of her blood sister, well . . .

    There was a reason Saber and Shirou were locking their gazes on her.

    Rin was glaring at Shinji because she couldn’t bear to look Sakura in the eyes. This was quite possibly their first encounter as fellow magi since the War. Shinji knew self loathing. He personified it. He could almost smell it, these days.

    Sakura stood calmly, her long deep-violet hair flowing down to her knees behind her. A rather uncharacteristic one-piece dress wrapped around her; not exactly an evening gown but not at all practical for battle, either. It was rather expensive, and Shinji didn’t even try to figure out what cruel game Zouken had been playing with his ‘granddaughter’ when he gave it to her that morning.

    She stared directly at Shirou, hands folded together in front of her. He might not have even spoken to her in the better part of these ten years. Shinji wouldn’t know.

    After Rin had saved him, he had been hospitalized. Once he got out, he had cleared up what he needed to get get his diploma and went out into the city. He gained financial independence rapidly, and used every ounce of his charm and personality to build his businesses. He gave little thought to his wicked grandfather, and even less to his pitiful victim of a sister.

    For ten solid years of his life, there was literally nothing he could do for her.

    He didn’t go to Rin or Shirou about her plight or her ‘training,’ partly because he feared their judgement on his involvement in the latter. Mostly though (at least he wanted to believe it so), he was convinced that Tohsaka, Emiya, and Saber could not defeat Zouken and save Sakura.

    Defeat Zouken, maybe. But not cleanly, not without sacrifice. Sakura’s will had worn down more and more over the years, once it was clear to her that her sister had ‘won.’ Shinji had only seen from a safe distance, but her existence seemed to consist of taking care of Zouken’s needs in the city, and her training. No job, no further education, and no dreams or aspirations to speak of.

    She had sought him out once during those ten years, for a request he could not refuse. At that time he learned precisely how damned she was.

    Shinji looked at a puddle on the side of the road, and tired blue eyes looked back at him.

    What was he doing here?

    Why had he reached out to his grandfather after almost ten years, and volunteered to help?

    Why had his grandfather simply laughed and said he was welcome to participate, without the slightest concern?

    Matou Shinji had all of these answers.

    They were all the same.

    He was useless. He was worthless. He was utterly and completely without redeeming quality, threat level, or practical value. He was scum, through-and-through.

    That’s why no one cared if he showed up, and why his grandfather didn’t care if he lived or died.

    That’s why his sister tolerated his presence by her side; he was but one more senseless bit of suffering in her past filled with such things.

    That’s why Saber and Shirou weren’t even factoring him into the battle, and Tohsaka was looking at him without really looking at him.

    Because he might as well have been invisible or even absent.

    Because not a single god-damned one of them was going to see what was coming in time to stop it.

    Because he had finally, finally found an answer that paid all of his outstanding debts and gave him a way to cheerfully die.

    [***]

    Emiya Shirou was frozen with indecision.

    El-Melloi and Sakura’s grandfather left the area rapidly, and he was left in a terrible situation.

    Sakura was a magus.

    Sakura was apparently here, standing before them, of her own free will, in the capacity of a member of the Matou House.

    Shinji was an afterthought, though an unusually quiet one.

    He was aware of Sakura’s potential as a magus, from Rin’s warning earlier. He hadn’t actually thought she would be present; he had chosen not to wear his Shroud-overcoat because he felt no justice in killing his friend’s grandfather. The old man had a wish and the desire to see it granted, and to his knowledge hadn’t courted disaster in the course of his ambition.

    That he was now facing his former best friend and his former de facto family member did not settle his moral compass at all.

    Still, Zouken was possibly out of play. This situation did not have to degenerate.

    Everyone could still be saved.

    Diplomacy.

    “Shinji, Sakura.”

    He spoke without breaking his gaze from Sakura’s haunted violet eyes. Shinji was not a magus. The worst thing he could do was pull out a gun. The likely thing he could do was pull out a knife. No one present would have a problem neutralizing any threat he presented.

    Sakura was now an utterly unknown quantity, and the unfathomable malice by which some of Zouken’s former allies’ families had spoken of him had place a new and terrible concern in Shirou’s heart shortly before he had returned to Japan with Rin and her (their, unofficially) master in thaumaturgy.

    Saber was most useful as a human shield here, and she was perfectly content with this. Her immunity to modern magecraft was a perfect trump card. Rin was confident she could counter or at least comprehend anything her sister pulled off, and probably come up with a way to non-lethally neutralize her.

    Shirou was there to kill her if that was what would save the most people.

    He had come ready to fight Zouken, but during the plane trip Lord El-Melloi had cast doubt on his likelyhood of doing so. He took the possibility of Sakura’s involvement the most in stride and was the least surprised to see her on their initial confrontation with the family.

    Rin was melting down mentally and emotionally, despite earlier prideful assertions that she would do no such thing.

    Shirou had anticipated this result, and didn’t hold it against her.

    “We can end this peacefully. Stay here with me, and Rin will deal with the Greater Grail.”

    And by that he meant Saber would simply wreck it with Excalibur. He understood the precise wording of the contract with Zouken and knew that he and Rin were still free to act in fashions Lord El-Melloi was not.

    Shinji offered no taunt, no snark, and no disparaging comments. Apparently he’d grown a bit since the last time that they’d faced off.

    “S-senpai, please tell me why.”

    Sakura’s words caused Rin to make a slight choking sound.

    “Why what, Sakura?” Shirou replied.

    “Why you chose Nee-san over me.”

    Chose. Nee-san. Rin? Sister?

    He glanced at Saber. The swordswoman’s head shook the slightest bit. No idea, there.

    He looked to Rin, who was looking at the ground.

    “Rin-”

    “She’s my sister by blood, adopted by the Matou when my father decided to keep me for the Tohsaka crest,” Rin said.

    What?

    Sakura trembled and spoke again.

    “Nee-san got everything. I got nothing. Worse than nothing. Then I got you. Then she t-took you away.”

    Rin had stood up halfway through that and glared at Sakura. She spoke next.

    “Less than nothing? That’s Shinji. You’re the heir of an ancient and powerful magus house! What, did you cry from the training? Did you decide to become a magus only after Shirou chose me so you could kill me and take him back?”

    Shirou couldn’t comment, but he wasn’t exactly thrilled with Tohsaka’s tone. Your timing for family drama revelations is crap, Tohsaka. Trying to make Sakura cry for distraction value? A valid tactic, if a cruel one. Shinji was still . . . wait, he was glaring at Tohsaka. No smirking, either. Saber is still-

    Uh oh.


    Saber’s face was now beaded with sweat. Shirou was perfectly certain no magecraft had been invoked yet, but Saber’s instincts were never wrong. That she was not dodging or attacking meant that something else was going badly.

    “SENPAI!”

    Shirou flinched and looked back to Sakura.

    “B-be mine. That’s all I want. Take the grail, take Grandfather, take everything else away, but take me with you. Leave Nee-san.” Tears ran down her face.

    Impossible.

    He was with Rin and Saber, now and forever.

    He began to shake his head as he responded-

    “I’m sorry, Saku-”

    “I’ll even make it easier for you to choose!”

    Sakura threw an arm forward. A pool of shadow opened up underneath her feet, and tendrils shot along the ground towards Rin and Saber. Both women dodged and jumped backwards, leaving Shirou clearly within range of Sakura’s magecraft.

    Sakura reeled in place, more writhing arms of shadow whipping out from the pool at her feet along the ground, then stopping abruptly and shuddering as they were pulled back in.

    “Grandfather isn’t helping me hold them back anymore since he signed the contract and they are getting hungry . . .” Sakura said as her voice took on an odd, manic quality.

    Shirou’s reinforced eyes traced the vectors of the various tentacles beyond their stopping points, and on two of the six paths he easily spotted innocent civilians aimlessly going about their business outside of the privacy-granting Bounded Field the five of them currently stood in.

    It was safe to assume the rest of the shadow limbs had been reaching for uninvolved humans as well. None of them seemed to target Shinji.

    Shirou’s mind whirled with options. Rin would not be able to harm Sakura. Saber was not fit to interfere with this type of magecraft indirectly. That left it up to him.

    Did he have a sword for this situation, or would he have to kill Sakura?

    A glowing line of red creeped its way up from the neckline of Sakura’s dress to her left cheek. Her skin tone and hair color began to shift and she stumbled left, then right, as if in great pain.

    Before Shirou could react Shinji stepped between his opponents and his sister, pulled out a knife, grabbed her by the shoulder and plunged it deep into her right kidney from behind. She fell to her knees and her mouth opened in a soundless scream. He pressed her down to the street without hesitation. The shadow tendrils all began swirling towards him but couldn’t get within a foot of him. He turned to Shirou and Saber.

    “FINISH HER!” he shouted.

    Shirou was frozen.

    Saber stepped forward, but Shinji threw up a hand to stop her.

    “Not you! If you touch those shadows you’re fucked! I overheard that much!”

    Rin had gems in a trembling hand, and was trying to mouth an incantation.

    Shinji shook his head.

    “Tohsaka’s useless! Sakura needs to be ANNIHILATED, Emiya! Not a scrap of flesh left! I don’t know what he put in her but it comes back from anything! She couldn’t even kill herself, Emiya! I saw her try!

    [***]

    Sakura’s body jerked and Shinji threw his entire weight down on her. The tendrils quivered but still failed to find purchase on him.

    Shinji waited, but when his end didn’t come he realized he’d need his trump card.

    “Damn you, Emiya! If she throws me off then these tentacles will go out of control and everyone in this neighborhood, no, in this whole damned city is going to die!”

    He had convinced his grandfather to face down his opponents in this spot for precisely that reason. He knew that Emiya would do what it took if the right bait was in front of him.

    He knew it. The guy was a machine. From the very start he was a machine. Everything he had found out over the years since Emiya started travelling pointed to it. He killed when it was necessary. He killed when it was merciful. Shinji prepared a perfect scenario. Emiya would end their farcical little family tragedy cleanly, and ride off into the sunset with his personal magic harem.

    So he’d do it without wasting time.

    Right?

    Right?

    He could feel a pulse of energy like a heartbeat below him. He tried not to think about it. A second one. A third one.

    By the time he realized the pool of darkness was growing underneath him despite his warding amulet it was too late. With one last burst he was thrown off, and while he was in mid-air he saw Emiya, a bow in his hands, with a ridiculous-looking arrow nocked and aimed at Sakura.

    He saw Emiya, unable to take the shot, with tears in his eyes.

    The only spiteful solace Shinji had before the blackness swallowed him whole was seeing that Emiya’s hesitating idiotic ass was falling in too.

    [***]

    Shirou couldn’t see, but he could hear.

    Screams. Flesh being ripped.

    “SABER! DO IT!”

    “But, Rin-”

    “BETTER FROM YOU THAN FROM THAT!”

    “EX-”

    Oh, no.

    “-CALIBUR!”

    A horrific crash, then silence . . . then the screaming resumed.

    When the thick blackness suspending him went limp and he entered free-fall, he was too stricken with grief to even notice.




    Last edited by Golden Lark; November 6th, 2014 at 07:55 PM.

  2. #2
    The Warrior of the Shadows kinlyki's Avatar
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    What happened to Remember?
    With each day, one draws closer to death,


    With each day, one expends more of one's life,


    With each day, one obtains more memories,


    With each day, one gets closer to losing them all.

  3. #3
    First Priest of the Urobutcher Golden Lark's Avatar
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    Lots and lots of author's regret, complete change of job and lifestyle, etc etc. I've produced a bunch more stories on SB since then too.

    I need to be in the right mindset for a given story, and each new one I've popped out matches a mood I'm in.

    Remember did get an update or two on SB that wasn't on FFN, at least. Most recently at the beginning of this year.

  4. #4
    死徒二十七祖 The Twenty Seven Dead Apostle Ancestors Flere821's Avatar
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    I remember this idea being brought up once, nice to see this being fleshed out I know next to nothing about Exalted, but this looks to be a good replacement reading material even if this updates instead of Remember for a while.
    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)

  5. #5
    Lookin' pretty good, I'll be keeping an eye on this both here and on SB/SV.

  6. #6
    Powered by infinite rage Comartemis's Avatar
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    Why is it that every UBW Good End continuation I've ever seen always starts with something fucking up the Good End beyond repair? It's like people hate Shirou having healthy relationships and go out of their way to kill them off or split them up for one reason or another.
    Last edited by Comartemis; May 9th, 2014 at 10:00 PM.

  7. #7
    First Priest of the Urobutcher Golden Lark's Avatar
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    I adore the UBW good ending, but Shirou + Rin + Saber is more or less unstoppable for storytelling purposes.

    I will promise this much:

    They still love him, and will be coming for him, and when they get to him they are not being sent away.

    The reunion should be CATHARTIC, not a fucking cockblock (damn you GB!)

  8. #8
    Gläubig müssen die nicht sein, daran glauben müssen sie I3uster's Avatar
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    I saw an Exalted crossover and for a second I thought I might have misclicked and landed on SB/SV
    [04:55] Lianru: i3uster is actuallly quite cute

  9. #9
    Never quacked for this Kyte's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I3uster View Post
    I saw an Exalted crossover and for a second I thought I might have misclicked and landed on SB/SV
    If it were I'd've given you a like for that post.
    (And it's also on SV so yeah. :V)

  10. #10
    Never quacked for this Kyte's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Comartemis View Post
    Why is it that every UBW Good End continuation I've ever seen always starts with something fucking up the Good End beyond repair? It's like people hate Shirou having healthy relationships and go out of their way to kill them off or split them up for one reason or another.
    It's just addressing the massive elephant in the room that is Sakura. Also having the three together is too unbalanced a protagonist team.

  11. #11

  12. #12
    Powered by infinite rage Comartemis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Golden Lark View Post
    I adore the UBW good ending, but Shirou + Rin + Saber is more or less unstoppable for storytelling purposes.

    I will promise this much:

    They still love him, and will be coming for him, and when they get to him they are not being sent away.
    Oh, somehow I got from that last scene that Rin was being eaten by the Shadow and ordered Saber to nuke them both.

    Quote Originally Posted by Arashi_Leonhart View Post
    UBW Good: The threesome/powerup wank fantasy. Who wouldn't want to fuck that shit up?
    People who think Shirou deserves nice things given all the crap he puts himself through and will continue to put himself through for the rest of his life.
    Last edited by Comartemis; May 9th, 2014 at 10:44 PM.

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  14. #14
    Never quacked for this Kyte's Avatar
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    That's what nice simple happy ends are for.

    Threesome powerup wank fantasies are for destroying.

  15. #15
    Whew! About to slip down. VelspertheCat's Avatar
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    Yeah, but what about Sakura? She's a fucking important character.
    Spoiler:
    Is it pimping myself out if it's hidden?
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  16. #16
    Preformance Pertension SeiKeo's Avatar
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    Trigger warning.
    Quote Originally Posted by asterism42 View Post
    That time they checked out that hot guy they were just admiring his watch, yeah?


  17. #17
    Powered by infinite rage Comartemis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kyte View Post
    That's what nice simple happy ends are for.

    Threesome powerup wank fantasies are for destroying.
    Sure, but this is the Nasuverse. You can't call it a wank fantasy when about 70% of the setting can kick your ass even with your two girlfriends helping you out.

    Rather than overpowered, given everything that Shirou is up against the UBW Good End feels more like the only ending where he has anything resembling a fighting chance of making a difference (barring the one he just made by stopping the Grail from blowing everything up).
    Last edited by Comartemis; May 9th, 2014 at 11:13 PM.

  18. #18
    First Priest of the Urobutcher Golden Lark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VelspertheCat View Post
    Yeah, but what about Sakura? She's a fucking important character.
    Sakura may or may not have a nice long chat over coffee with this nice fellow on the other side of the shadow named 'The Abhorrence of Life."

    This will probably have important consequences down the line. Maybe.

    Her importance is directly proportional to the route, after all.

    :V

  19. #19
    Whew! About to slip down. VelspertheCat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Comartemis View Post
    Sure, but this is the Nasuverse. You can't call it a wank fantasy when about 70% of the setting can kick your ass even with your two girlfriends helping you out.

    Rather than overpowered, given everything that Shirou is up against the UBW Good End feels more like the only ending where he has anything resembling a fighting chance of making a difference (barring the one he just made by stopping the Grail from blowing everything up).
    So you want Shirou to be closer to everyone's personal idol and savior Gilgamesh? I think he had a harem. And overpowered pew pew swords. He also made a difference in the world and saved mankind.
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  20. #20
    Never quacked for this Kyte's Avatar
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    The way you phrased it made it sound like Gil is the Nasuverse's spiritual liege.

    Then again that's not too far off...

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