I don't own FSN or HSK.
How to Train a Sword of Life
Chapter Two: First Day of the Rest of His Life
Emiya Kiritsugu sipped his tea as he sat across from Furiniji Hayato, who did the same. Shirou had been sent out to get evaluated to see what level he was and how best to start his training. Ma and Kosaka had taken him, leaving Kiritsugu with the bearded giant whose presence weighed on the dying mercenary. Kiritsugu looked at the man glowering at him, and tried to keep himself casual, "This is good tea, Furinji-san."
The man nodded slightly, "My granddaughter is a good cook, and takes great care in her preparations."
Kiritsugu smiled, "Shirou is the same. Of course, I doubt you setting the kitchen on fire was what made her want to learn."
An eyebrow raised slowly, "Self deprecation doesn't become you, Magus Killer."
Kiritsugu's entire being felt cold as ice, and as stiff at the temperature of such would suggest. He fell back into the old, unfeeling mask, "You are well informed, Furinji." Kiritsugu knew he had no way of defending himself against this giant martial artist with power reminiscent of Heroic Spirits. The use of his moniker let Kiritsugu know that this man was even more dangerous than he already thought. He had heard of a Furinji in passing among his contact in the magus community, and if this was the same man, Kiritsugu wondered if he'd be allowed to walk out of this.
Furinji nodded, "I travel the world, answering calls for help. On more than one occasion, I've found the people who called slaughtered, or others hurt by an explosion that took out the one tormenting them. I have contacts all over the world and found that on those occasions, you had often been the one to kill them, Magus Killer." The giant glared, his eyes shadowed now, giving him an even more menacing appearance. "I learned that you also murdered your own teacher to complete a job."
Kiritsugu closed his eyes as that old guilt came up again, that pain at Natalia's death. His strength waned and his ghosts stayed strong. He opened his eyes and looked into Furinji's. Despite himself, he valued what this man thought of him, and wanted to give the whole truth of the matter. It was a charisma he'd felt before from some of the Heroic Spirits in the Grail War, charisma he'd denied then, partly because of how he viewed the hypocrisy of Heroes and to see through his plan to end conflict and suffering.
Maybe this time he'd let it push him. To just give in for once and not worry about what comes next. If this man killed him, Shirou should still be safe. The boy was an innocent, and this man obviously detested the harming of innocents. Kiritsugu had nothing to lose here.
"I wanted to be superhero when I was a boy."
He took a longer drink of his tea to wet his suddenly dry throat. "I wanted to save everyone. Then my father turned the people on our island into dead apostles, and I killed him so it wouldn't happen again. The woman who took me in, trained me, was a mother to me, got caught on a plane full of undead that could have devastated New York if it had landed. All to save more..."
A flicker of something akin to pity swept that bearded face and Kiritsugu pressed on. If he stopped, he might not be able to finish this confession.
"Eventually I married a woman I sacrificed to save the world... had a daughter I'll never see again... adopted a boy that survived a terrible fire I inadvertently started." Kiritsugu's damaged body failed him as the emotions leaked out and he started coughing harshly. As he got himself under control, he gasped, "And the worst thing about it is he wants to be like me. I don't want this-" he gestured to his sickly body, "-for him."
The glare melted into pity and contemplation. "The road to Hell is truly paved with good intentions. You're not what I feared you to be Emiya."
"I'm worse, I assure you," Kiritsugu whispered. Much of his pent up pain had been released, but he had more than enough left to be burden. He worked to get his harsh breathing under control, sipping the tea occasionally to help.
"Only in your own mind, Emiya. I can read people better than you'd think, and I see a tired, good man who learned one way of thinking without any others. You're not the first to get stuck on a path that led to destruction." The man grinned that manic grin again and declared, "And we will help your son from sharing the same fate."
Kiritsugu stared in shocked silence at the giant. He'd never received that kind of absolution. Maiya and Iri ignored his worse traits because they believed and followed him. Shirou didn't know his past, and so only saw his father as a hero. The rest of the world, both magical and mundane, regarded him with fear, anger, and/or disgust. Kindness from a stranger who knew what he'd done was a novel experience for him. And to offer to help Shirou, the boy connected to the man's will to live, brought a small sense of peace.
But the giant hadn't finished, "And your part isn't over yet. Magus."
Surprise covered Kiritsugu's face as he got dragged out of his reflection, "Huh?" Surprise quickly leapt to realization, "But-"
"A little knowledge is a most dangerous thing, especially for a child. I am suggesting," with a look in his eyes that it was more than a suggestion, "that you complete the training that you started and make sure at least his basics are solid. He won't stop practicing what he knows, because it is a link to you."
Kiritsugu understood. A part of him had held back in Shirou's training, not wanting him to be a magus like him, but Furinji had a point. Shirou was stubborn, and adored Kiritsugu, so sticking with the limited magic he knew should have been a given to him. Dying apparently let him blind himself to the full situation.
He nodded his understanding to the Elder of Ryouzanpaku. They had some plans to make.
Stumbling back into the courtyard of Ryouzanpaku, Shirou gasped for breath after his run. The two Masters had easily kept up with him and their air of casual speed pushed him to go faster. He never got them to look even a little strained, so while part of him resented how easily they kept up with him, he wondered how long until he could move like that.
"Keep walking, Emiya-kun. It's best not to suddenly stop moving after running like that," instructed Ma.
Shirou nodded and obediently started pacing around to give his body sufficient time to cool down. Once he got his breathing under control, he looked to where his new teachers had set up a target. Shigure had a basic wooden circle with a red dot in the middle.
"Show me your... throwing skill," ordered the young woman.
Shirou nodded and took the shuriken she offered. He looked at the target and tried to remember how to throw these. He grabbed one of the shuriken, and held it between thumb and forefinger, taking care to not cut himself. His first throw didn't even hit the target less than ten feet away. Shigure caught it between two fingers with an upraised eyebrow. Shirou gulped and tried harder. His following four throws hit the target, but none of them close to the center.
Ma rubbed his moustache absently, "I wonder what changed from before. Shigure-don, any ideas?"
Shigure studied the boy and said, "No... connection." She pulled the shuriken from the target and handed them and the one she'd caught back.
"Hmm," thoughtfully mumbled the Chinese Master. "He did study the first one before throwing it. Emiya-kun, please try to repeat what you did before. Then throw."
Shirou used the circuit he'd made earlier to Grasp the five shuriken in his hands. He gazed into them and found their history, the points where Shigure had used these herself to great affect. He focused on that, and connected with those moments of impressed skill, imposing them on himself. Copying them.
He threw the five shuriken in rapid succession, all of them inside the 6 inch dot on the target. He noticed the way Ma was looking at him. "Was that right?"
"Hmm, yes, that level of skill was much better, though I wonder how long you'll continue to mimic Shirgure-don after that."
Shirou tilted his head slightly and looked up at Shirgure. Her head tilted to the side, a faint look of surprise and curiosity on her face. They both regarded the other and were surprised by similarities that hadn't been there less than an hour ago. Shirou felt the knowledge of weapons fade, slowly but steadily, from his mind. Another ten to fifteen minutes, and he'd be back to his normal level.
"Very strange skill you have, Emiya-kun. To copy a skill from the weapon itself isn't something I've ever heard of, even from weapon masters. What do you think, Shigure-don?" Ma asked with a grin.
She seemed to plumb the depths of the boy's mind with her gaze. Then abruptly turned and plucked the shuriken from the target. She gave these the same grave consideration as Shirou, and eventually turned back to the two awaiting an answer. She pointed at Shirou and said, "Sword... spirit." Then folded her arms and gave a nod.
Ma's eyes flickered back and forth between the two. Shigure seemed certain of her claim and the boy did not object. In fact, the boy looked contemplative, if anything. The man wondered at how two people, having never met before, had gained so deep an understanding of each other. He looked back to the weapon mistress, "A little more explanation, please."
She looked at him for a few moments and said, "He has the... spirit of a sword... inside him."
Ma considered the interactions of the two and wondered if the weapon mistress had a sword spirit in her as well. That would explain quite a few things about the enigmatic young woman. Breaking away from his musings, Ma turned to his newest student, "Now let's see how far this skill of yours goes, Emiya-kun."
Seeing the gleam in the short master's eyes in that moment, Emiya Shirou felt an emotion that would be a companion for the next few years of his life. The feeling of facing a tidal wave with a bucket, that bone deep dread of facing impossible tasks.
Oddly enough, he welcomed it with a smile.
Koetsuji Akisame had many talents and hobbies, and honed his body and mind extensively. A jujitsu master, superb doctor, artist of various mediums, and possessing a body with all muscle converted into pink fiber, with both stamina and explosive strength, showed his dedication to maximizing his skills and potential in the physical arts.
He also possessed two magic circuits that he'd discovered later in life through his martial arts meditation training. With no formal magus training, and only his own intuition guiding him, he'd learned how to activate, improve, and use those two circuits to great affect in his martial arts and medicinal training. He'd even been able to find a book on basic spiritual healing and incorporated that knowledge into his already impressive skills.
So, he'd felt the magic used in the Ryouzanpaku and wondered who was using magic on the property. Given who else was in that area, he didn't worry about it at first, but feeling the mystic power light up once again tugged at his curiosity.
He made his way out to investigate. A young boy turned out to be the source of magic he'd felt, with one circuit, by the amount of prana he was sensing. The boy was staring at one of the many weapons Shigure had on her person at any given time, a chain sickle the man believed. He thought it an odd weapon for a young boy, who he'd never seen here before, to be studying.
The jujitsu master felt his curiosity deepen as he noticed the empty bottles, likely taken from Sakaki's last binge, arrayed on a variety of items, from wooden posts to stone statues. He watched in silence as the boy used the weapon in his hands to take out all the bottles in a maneuver he felt he'd seen Shirgure use in the past. Now that he looked closer, the boy's posture, movements, and even expression mimicked those of the young woman.
Deciding to reveal himself, "And who is this young weapon master?"
Kensei answered with a laugh, "Only a master copycat for being able to so copy a master."
Akisame raised an eyebrow, "Oh, and how many times did he need to see the techniques to copy them?"
Kensei smirked knowingly, "Never. He studies the weapon itself to pull the skill out. Shigure-don thinks that he has a sword spirit inside him."
Akisame rocked back on his metaphorical heels at this, though his face betrayed little of his surprise. The young woman he'd brought down from the mountains knew more about weapons than anyone else he knew. Dozens of other weapon masters coveted her weapons and skills the world over. If she said something like that, then he'd need to investigate for himself. "Hmm, that sounds interesting. Mind if I give him a look over to see what I can find?"
Kensei's eyes betrayed his surprise at that, as he glanced quickly between his old friend and their new student. In the end, he shrugged, "You might want to talk to his father first, but it wouldn't hurt and I can go talk to his father and the Elder about what I've found out about his level. Shigure-don will likely stay with Emiya-kun."
Akisame felt a bit of worry worm its way into his calm. A magic using child, gifted with weapons, and bearing the family name of one of the most infamous magical killers of the modern age? Akisame was not a believer in coincidences, but the boy shouldn't be judged for a relative. "How are you today, Emiya-kun?"
The boy flashed a wide smile, "It's been great! Shigure-nee-san and Ma-sensei have been showing me lots of weapons and I think I'm learning a bit from each one!" The boy's smile fell slightly at this point, "Though I can just copy what Shirgure-nee-san has done with it, and only for a little while."
Akisame studied this child and came to the conclusion that he was remarkably straightforward, even for a child. No trace of guile or misdirection showed to the master's keen senses. He smiled, "All martial arts begin with imitation. Those who started watching animals and mimicking their movements were the first martial artists. It takes time, study, and practice to move past the imitation stage. So don't despair, Emiya-kun."
The boy looked the man in his odd, pupil-less eyes. "Who are you, oji-san?"
Akisame chuckled, "Ah, my apologies, my name is Koetsuji Akisame. I practice jujitsu. Pleased to meet you, Emiya-kun."
Shirou bowed to this new master, "Thank you for having me, and for your encouragment."
Akisame smiled at the boy. It felt nice to have a polite boy as a potential student. "I take it you will be studying here?"
Shirou's eyes gleamed, his grin restored to full strength, "I hope so! Furinji-oji-san said he would help me become a Hero of Justice! I want to be strong enough to save everyone."
Akisame's smile deepened and a glow started coming from his eyes, "That is a most noble goal, Emiya-kun. One I will do my best to help you reach. With that said, how about a spar to see your physical level?"
Shirou tilted his head toward Shigure, "A spar?"
Shigure answered, "Practice... fight."
Shirou, "Oh, like a match with Fuji-nee. Does that mean you're going to chase me around with a wooden sword, Shigure-nee-san?"
Shigure almost smiled, "I'd... use steel."
Shirou's eyes widened before he focused on her and relaxed after a few moments of study. "That wasn't funny nee-san, even if you wouldn't actually cut me."
Akisame looked between the two and wondered how the boy had learned to read Shigure so well, it had taken him most of her life to get a good understanding of her minute showings of emotion, not to mention her sense of humor. Putting his curiosity regarding that subject to the back of his mind, he smiled faintly, "Actually, I want you to spar with me. That would help me understand your physical skill and aptitude."
Shirou nodded. "Can I use weapons?" he eagerly asked.
Akisame shook his head, "It isn't your skill I'm assessing, but your physical health and ability. As a doctor, this is important to know these in a pupil. And as a doctor as well as a martial artist, I can determine your level of health through a quick spar."
Shirou nodded and charged the man, belting out a battle cry as he threw a haymaker at the jujitsu master. Said master barely moved and merely brushed aside the child's attack. This process repeated itself several times over until Akisame used a simple throw to gently toss the boy across the grass. Shirou hit and tumbled a few times, gasping for breath as he pushed himself back to his feet.
Akisame glanced at Shigure, "How long have you been testing him today?"
Shigure stared back blankly, a faint echo of pride in her eyes, "Little over... an hour."
Akisame nodded, "Not bad for a healthy young man with no formal training. We can use that. Good determination as well." Seeing the boy continue his assault, Akisame put enough effort into his defense to make sure neither got hurt, and focused the majority of his senses, both physical and mystical, on Shirou.
Physically, he was above average in health and fitness, and had calluses speaking of hard work. Those senses were satisfied with that level of diagnosis, but his spiritual senses seemed to fail him. Akisame held up a hand, "One moment, I need to check something else, Emiya-kun."
Shirou nodded, "What do you want me to do?"
"Just stand still, please."
Akisame tried scanning Shirou's spiritual health and kept coming up with disturbingly little. If he guessed right, some trauma had scoured this boy of his spiritual self, leaving barely enough to survive as a living being. Healing had occurred, but not nearly enough for the devout physician's liking, especially with this faint sense of corruption hanging inside the boy. Conversely, a great power nurtured the boy and helped him along, a large part of how the boy was even functional. . He resolved do all he could to help this unfortunate child.
"That is everything. Let's go speak with your father about the details of your training here."
The three walked to the main building with Akisame in the lead, where he found the Elder, Kensei, and a stranger in a rumpled suit being served tea by Miu. The young girl's eyes lit up at seeing a potential new friend. She set the cups of fresh tea down and bounced over to Shirou with a brilliant smile on her face. The smile hid her nervousness from Shirou, who got caught off guard by the happy girl.
"Hello, I'm Miu. Are you going to be training here? Do you want to be friends?" Miu blurted out out the last part and blushed, covering her mouth in embarrassment.
Shirou didn't understand why she got red and just grinned, "Yep, they're going to help me become a Hero of Justice!"
Miu's eyes widened at that declaration, "You mean like Ojii-sama?"
Both of them turned to look at the oldest one present, who glanced down at them while enjoying his fresh cup of tea. He grinned and laughed, "Well, I did travel around helping those in need after all. That count, Shirou-chan?"
Shirou beamed, "Yeah! Now I really want to train here."
Kiritsugu laughed, "We've been taking care of the details on that Shirou. Given the travel time, it might be best to keep it to weekends and school breaks. You do have to keep up with school after all. If you show you can get your homework done while coming here to train, we'll take another look. Ok?"
Shirou gave a little pout, "Alright Dad."
Kiritsugu noticed the look the new arrival, "Pardon me, I am Emiya Kiritsugu, thank you for looking after Shirou." He didn't miss the pause in the man's breathing, or the question in his oddly pupil less eyes as they went to the Elder. Furinji just shook his head and the man relaxed slightly.
"Nice to meet you, Emiya-san. I am Koetsuji Akisame," he replied with a cordial tone, though his posture remained guarded.
Kiritsugu nodded politely from his seat, "Nice to meet you Koestsuji-sensei. You are half the reason I first came here."
Akisame raised an eyebrow in curiosity. "Really, and what reason was that?"
"I was looking for a doctor."
Akisame's stance softened a bit more and he joined the other men at the table. "I see we have a number of things to discuss."
Miu looked back at Shirou, "Um, so did you want to be friends?"
Shirou looked at the slightly younger girl and smiled, "Sure."
Thank you all for the great responses I've gotten for this story. Hope you enjoyed the new chapter. Have a great day!