How to Train a Sword of Life
Chapter 1: A Meeting of Humans and Blades
Emiya Kiritsugu leaned on his cane as he made his way to the clinics that might be able to at least lessen the agony he endured every day. Depending on the day, a different area or system of his body was affected by the curse Agra Mainyu had unleashed on him at the end of the Fourth Grail War. Today, his leg bones felt like they were smoldering. The two that ran these clinics were renowned for their prowess, and it looked like they were ignorant of the supernatural world, meaning they likely had never heard of his alias, the Magus Killer. A name Kiritsugu despaired at now given the mockery it made his life.
He wanted to be a superhero and save the world. After failing to save his home by putting down his first crush, who had been diseased at the time, he had resolved to do whatever it took to stop such tragedies. To save the many by killing the few, that had been his mantra for most of his life. It cost him everything, and the one to point out the fallacy in his thinking took his health as well.
He looked down at the only life he'd ever saved without taking another. His adopted son, Emiya Shirou, was his salvation. The boy couldn't take the place of his dear Illyasviel, but he gave Kiritsugu a reason to live, even though the boy wanted to follow in his father's footsteps as a magecraft user and a hero. Despite their lack of talent as teacher and student, Shirou was at least able to activate his circuits and perform Structural Analysis.
As they got closer to their destination, a heavy presence weighed on Kiritsugu, the familiar sensation of someone watching him. Without interrupting his cane assisted stagger, he looked around as best he could without giving away his knowledge of being watched. Nothing in the alleyways that he could sense, though when his search went to the rooftops, he saw what at first reminded him of a fierce gargoyle on the many gothic cathedrals he had passed in his travels.
Kiritsugu stopped when he caught that image out of the corner of his eye. He angled himself to get a better look without being obvious about it. He quickly realized the imposing sight was a man, a giant, with muscular arms crossed and shadowed gaze stuck on Kiritsugu.
"You doing okay, Dad?" Shirou asked, breaking the tense staring match.
Kiritsugu glanced down and smiled, "Nothing to worry about." He looked back up and saw that the giant was gone. "Everything's fine."
When they arrived at the first clinic, they were greeted by a short Chinese man in a green long shirt with a wide brimmed, round hat concealing his head. His long, pointed mustache grew over a wide, white grin drew the eye as well.
"Welcome to my humble clinic! How might I help you, good sir?" The manager's voice, while energetic, was not loud.
Kiritsugu nodded deeply in greeting, "Thank you for having me. I have an illness that puts me in a lot pain. I was hoping you might be able to help. You came highly recommended." That was putting it lightly. This man before him was said to be part of a medical team that had scared off the Shinigami. Kiritsugu knew that to be hyperbole, but he would take all the help he could get.
The man bowed, "Oh ho! Seems my humble shop is doing better than I thought. Even though I've been here only a short time. Now what kind of illness are you suffering from?"
As Kiritsugu and the man continued talking, young Shirou looked around the shop, first from his spot next to his dad, and then slowly making his way around looking at various tools and jars. As he wondered around, he noticed a glint of metal under a desk. Child curiosity drove him to reach down and carefully pull out a small piece of metal with four sharp points.
Shirou, while not well versed in many forms of lore, could still recognize a stereotypical shuriken. Taking care not to cut himself, Shirou turned it over in his hands. Something about the weapon fascinated him, and looking over at his father and the doctor still deep in discussion, Shirou found a chair and settled in it. He relaxed as best he could and muttered, "Trace on."
Pain and power flowed into him. The sensation of a hot poker jabbing into his back burned with pain, but he endured and used Structural Grasp to see what there was in the throwing star. The composition was a steel alloy that made other steel items he'd analyzed, mostly tools, look third or fourth rate in comparison. The edges were all razor sharp, something Shirou had seemed to know when he first caught sight of it. Now he knew that they could and had penetrated… glass? Shirou paused in confusion. A camera lens? Why would someone throw this at a camera? And why could he sense that they were furious when they did?
Shirou dived deeper into his analysis, and saw more history: the forging, training, and battling this little throwing star had gone through. He could feel a connection building between him and the blade the longer he held it.
Reflex took over as he heard an oddly familiar giggling nearby, his eyes snapped open and he launched the shuriken with practiced precision at the peeping tom. Once his hand let go, his mind caught up and Shirou tried to shout a warning, though both men were looking at him already. 'Too late', he thought, as he saw the shuriken fly right at the man he and his father had come to see. Horror built up in him at the idea that he was about to kill an innocent man, a healer.
Horror faded to amazement as the man caught the blade seemingly on reflex, given the surprise on his face. All three people stared at the weapon in shock.
Kiritsugu recovered first. "Shirou, why did you throw that?" His tone held both exasperation and reproach, with a hint of curiosity. Shirou had never been given to attack, even when defending kids from schoolyard bullies.
Shirou, trying to pull himself together, stammered, "I-I'm s-s-sorry. I-I didn't m-mean to. I j-just was studying it and reacted." Shirou managed a deep, if shuddering, breath. "When I heard him giggling like when he takes his perverted pictures, I just reacted."
The man raised an eyebrow, "And how did you know about my photography?"
Shirou opened his mouth and stopped, because even he knew that the answer didn't make sense. 'The shuriken told me? But that doesn't make sense!' Shirou thought. His jaw worked, but no sound came out. Finally he just whispered, "The shuriken told me."
Kiritsugu tilted his head, "Shirou, did you…?" He trailed off, but his eyes continued the question to Shirou.
The boy nodded guiltily.
The doctor looked back and forth, and finally asked, "Did he what?"
Kiritsugu sighed, "My apologies, it is something private, which he shouldn't have been doing without my permission." He leveled a scolding stare onto Shirou, making the boy cringe.
The doctor nodded, "Ah, so a family art of some kind. I'll not pry then, though I take it throwing things at people isn't the secret?" The doctor's good-humored smile came back.
Kiritsugu bowed slightly, "Thank you, and no, it isn't. Not something I taught him. Taiga?"
Shirou shrugged, "First time throwing one."
Both men widened their eyes at that. The doctor walked over to Shirou and studied him closely. "You mean no one ever taught you how to throw these? Anything similar?"
Shirou just shook his head.
The doctor studied him some more, then ordered, "Wait here." He walked to the back of the clinic, and disappeared from view.
Kiritsugu shuffled over to his son. "A little more explanation."
Shirou looked up at his father and explained what he'd done. Kiritsugu listened, making sure to pay attention for the doctor's return. Shirou's explanation caused him to wonder just what could cause such a thing. It made him regret his lack of ability and resources in training his son Magecraft. Maybe knowing Shirou's element and origin would help in understanding this.
Ma Kensei, Master of Chinese Martial Arts, Acupuncture, and Medicine, shut the back door of his clinic and walked into the main area of the Ryouzanpaku. Making his way swiftly and obviously over to the room of the owner of the shuriken that tried to pierce him a second time. She'd be very interested to know about this new development.
As Kiritsugu pondered what he should or even could do for Shirou in this, the doctor returned with a young woman in her late teens. Blank faced and dressed in a brief pink kimono with bandages covering anything missed by the scant attire, the young woman had a nodachi strapped to her back. She spared Kiritsugu a glance, but the experienced mercenary could tell she put his threat level as below her notice. When she laid eyes on Shirou, though, her expression became more focused while her body language relaxed slightly. Kiritsugu marveled at how Shirou seemed to match her expression and body language in studying her with equal focus.
Ma Kensei moved to Kiritsugu's side and they watched the two young people, "This is Kosaka Shigure, our resident weapon master."
Kiritsugu wondered about the master title. He'd seen Heroic Spirits in combat and nothing he'd seen mortal men or women do came close. Maybe it was just his jaded mindset. A demonstration would be needed. He glanced at the shorter man, and seeing the leering smile on his face, a bigger picture formed in his mind. "I take it she was the owner of the shuriken, who threw it at you while you were taking pictures of her?"
The comment deflated Kensei's attitude a bit, but the man quickly recovered. "Just keeping her on her toes. One must always train to keep their skills sharp."
"Well said, Kensei." A deep rumbling voice spoke from the doorway. Kiritsugu leaned to see who was there, and saw a green robed chest at the top of the doorway. The figure bent low and the rest of the massive frame squeezed into the clinic. Kiritsugu was fleetingly reminded of a bedtime story he'd read Ilya so long ago regarding three ghosts showing up for Christmas, one of which would be well represented by the giant in front of him.
It was when this giant's brow shadowed eyes met his that Kiritsugu realized that this was who he'd seen earlier. Worry built up in Kiritsugu as he kept the giant in sight and turned his eyes towards Shirou. The boy and teen girl seemed to be having a quiet conversation centered more in body language than a verbal sort. It was then that he noticed the mouse with a bow on its tail perched on the young woman's shoulder. Its behavior made him wonder if the young woman had a familiar, and, if so, if she was Magus or just an independent like him and Shirou.
Shigure and Shirou studied each other and wondered at what they were seeing. Shigure wondered how the boy could feel like a sword. She was able to "hear" the feelings of blades, and recognized the sensation around this boy. Something both comforting and alien sang with him.
Shirou puzzled at the young woman, similar to his Fuji-nee, but calmer and much more powerful. He could feel that power, the skill in weapons coming from all the weapons she somehow hid on her person. Then he wondered how he knew about all those weapons he couldn't see. He got his answer when the woman—Shigure—pulled out the shuriken he'd thrown out of her kimono. He hadn't realized just how much he'd learned from his brief inspection of the weapon.
They both looked at it, as she started flipping it as a coin. She could hear pain in the boy; he saw loneliness in her. He felt hollow but with a dream. She stood apart, but surrounded by friends, both of flesh and of metal. What started as a silent conversation started to deepen, forging a bond in steel between the two. They both knew that the person if front of them understood in ways no one else could. It pierced them, it comforted them, and it bewildered them. A myriad of emotions conveyed without words through senses that most people denied.
Shigure felt a small smile form, and she saw the boy with on to match. He walked up and help out a hand. He silently asked, and she nodded and gently handed him the shurken.
Tochumaru climbed up to his human friend's shoulder and looked at the boy who was causing a stir. Physically, his red hair and gold eyes were odd for a Japanese, but given they lived with a twenty year old Thai with electric white hair, it wasn't that big a deal. Then the mouse realized that the boy had a similar feel to him as his human. Someone with steel in them, though the mouse knew the differences. This boy didn't have the refinement and tempering that his human had, though it seemed some forging had occurred.
The unusual trio traded glances and Shirou politely bowed, "Emiya Shirou."
Shigure regarded him a moment before replying in a flat though airy tone, "Kosaka…Shigure." She looked at her little friend, "…Tochumaru."
Shirou smiled, "Nice to meet you Kosaka-san, Tochumaru-san."
Shigure's small smile grew more pronounced and she gave nod. Tochumaru waved.
They'd been ignoring the conversation the two older men were having, content in their growing acquaintance, when a low and powerful voice rumbled past them. Shigure turned and saw the Elder of Ryouzanpaku carefully make his way into the now crowded clinic. "…Elder."
Kiritsugu felt his body stiffen in reaction to the presence of this giant man making his way into the clinic. His size alone would have put him on edge, not seeing someone so massive since the Holy Grail War and Rider. A descendant, maybe? And the feeling from earlier, it came from this man, made worse by proximity and the odd gleam in the heavy browed eyes. Kiritsugu's danger sense flared around the giant, and Kiritsugu wondered if he would be able to do anything, with his body in its deteriorated condition.
While his father was going over options and discarding dozens of plans in his mind, Shirou looked up to the giant and smiled. "Hi, giant Oji-san."
The man looked down at the boy and genuinely smiled, "Hello, young Shirou-chan. Getting to know Shigure I see."
Kiritsugu started to relax. Any hostility the giant felt towards himself, apparently didn't carry over to his son. The menacing gleam switched to jovial light, and Shirou obviously didn't fear the giant man. Kiritsugu forced himself to relax, especially when the master of the clinic started looking at him from under his hat's brim. No malice, just curiosity, but still not a welcome sight for someone with the mercenary's past.
"You seem to quite talented, Shirou-chan. Have you trained in martial arts?" the large man asked. The beaming grin he had held more than a little bit of insanity in it. Again, this man was reminding him of Rider from the War, with his size and overflowing, direct personality. Now Kiritsugu got worried for Shirou's safety in a different way.
Shirou shook his head, "Not really. Fuji-nee tried to teach me Kendo once, but she didn't really explain anything, just kept attacking." The boy shrugged, "I am thinking of joining a club when I get old enough, maybe martial arts related."
The man smirked, "Well, why don't just come here to study! We have quite a few masters here, including Shigure. And I'm sure little Mui-chan would like having someone around a bit closer to her in age."
Shirou blinked, "Can you help me be a Hero of Justice?"
The old man stared down at the boy before laughing, "Ho ho ho! Of course we can! We of Ryouzanpaku are master of the philosophy of Katsujinken. We value even the lives of our enemies. Our strength is built to save everyone!"
Kiritsugu caught sight of Shirou's upturned eyes as he looked up at this boast. The mercenary, too jaded to truly believe that, was hard pressed not to snort. It somewhat matched the ideal of childhood, before the world and his own choices ruined it. He wouldn't deny his son the ideal, but Emiya Kiritsugu didn't have much faith that it could be accomplished.
Shirou, ignorant of his father's inner musings, beamed in anticipation.
"How strong are you?"
The man laughed, "Ho ho ho, I've never lost a fight, and in the martial arts I am known as 'The Invincible Superman'!" He started to rise from the floor with his brightly shining with his fighting spirit being kindled. He stopped when his head met the average ceiling and caused it to be cracked.
Kiritsugu raised a brow at that; he had thought that the clinic constructed better than that. That nostalgic hope began to rise again. He fought against it, but couldn't stop himself from issuing a challenge. "Well, could we see a demonstration from 'The Invincible Superman'? Sounds interesting."
The giant man looked at Kiritsugu with a fierce smile full of teeth, "Oh, I can think of a few things that would impress even you."
Kiritsugu felt a cold sweat make its way down his spine. 'Who is this man? His size alone is unusual for Japan, and he seems to know me. A runaway from the magus community? No, something different, and very dangerous.' His thoughts didn't show on his face and he gave an easy smile. "Looking forward to it."
Shirou happily bounced as they all filed out of the clinic's back door into a large yard area, with stone statues and old style buildings. It reminded him of his own home. Though he could tell that by the condition of the buildings that they weren't as well maintained. Something to look into later, now is the time to see how he could take over his father's ideal and save people. He also realized that he didn't know the actual name of the giant he was following. "Um, Superman-ojisan, what's your name?"
The man paused and looked at the boy before chuckling sheepishly, "I guess I did skip that, didn't I? My name is Furinji Hayato. Good to meet you, young Shirou-chan."
Shirou smiled, "Nice to meet you too, Furinji-ojisan."
Hayato looked over, and signaled a tall, muscular man with dark skin and white, spiky hair. "Apachai, I could use your help with something."
"Apa?" the man asked in a surprisingly childlike voice that matched his innocent expression.
Hayato grinned, "We're going to demonstrate the power of Ryouzanpaku with a little spar, ok?"
Apachai smiled wide and punched his wrapped hands together. "Apa! Apachai will show the power of Muy Thai!"
Kiritsugu looked between the two and wondered how people this large could not cause a stir in Japan, both were well over six feet tall with wide, powerful musculatures. His thoughts on their size fled when at the first exchange of blows. Shockwaves of force from blows being blocked and countered. He could barely make out the blurs their limbs had become. It wasn't quite on Servant level, but either one could have taken Kotomine Kirei in a pure fistfight, by his estimation.
He sensed no prana in their blows, nothing to suggest that magic was being used, and they were fighting at the level of the best magically-enhanced melee fighters he'd ever seen from the modern age. He looked at Shirou and saw wonder in those young eyes. Kiritsugu started to smile himself. To the sounds of two superhuman fighters bashing away at each other, he started believing again.
A new story that has been bugging me. I've also been working on the next chapter of Tri-World Adventure for those who follow that. Just recently got back into the habit of writing. New jobs can do that. Let me know what you think.
Also wanted to thank all the great Fate/Stay Night writers that I drew from to help flesh this out.