Been a while, apologies on the delay. Please enjoy the new chapter

How to Train a Sword of Life 5: Heat and Pressure

Ryouzanpaku dojo- 1 week later

Fuurinji Mui dodged around the punch thrown at her face, before she gracefully spiraled around the limb trying to hit her. Her strong limbs trapped the arm and leveraged the connected body up and over her position to slam in the floor. Releasing the appendage, she gazed down at her defeated opponent.

"Sorry, Onii-chan."

"Ssahkaymuchen."

Miu Fuurinji crouched near her surrogate big brother as he tried to push himself off the ground. His face, flush with the floor, didn't allow the girl to understand what he tried to say. Likely forgiveness, as Shirou wouldn't hold a grudge over this. He had, after all, asked her to take him seriously.

He'd improved while they sparred, if only in learning the hard way how to fall properly. It seemed to hurt him a lot less this time than the first… though he now seemed to have trouble getting his face off the floor. The tremor in his limbs showed both weariness and pain.

She looked over at Koetsuji-san, who had monitored the spar. They'd been going for nearly an hour, with Shirou-nii-chan taking longer to recover between each take down. His stamina and durability had grown, as it used to take ten minutes to get to this stage. He also didn't overextend his blows quite as much as he had when they first sparred. Well, except for that last match, but she graciously attributed that to exhaustion rather than to a lack of skill.

"One more match, then Miu has to start preparing dinner," Koetsuji-san ordered.

The older man used a wash bucket full of tepid water to splash Shirou-nii-chan. This shocked him enough to force him back to his feet, stomach and chest heaving in sequence to get more oxygen to his lungs. He valiantly put up as strong a guard as he could manage. Miu felt guilty for proceeding to tear through it so quickly. He recovered nicely (considering his state), only stumbling a little, and, rather impressively, managing to stay on his feet. He regained his balance and adopted a relaxed stance, allowing his shoulders and arms to rest a bit. Then he charged her.

While novel, the spinning lariats missed his much smaller opponent after she faked him out. A leg sweep later and he landed again, this time on his back. He didn't get up this time.

"That's good for now. Miu, you can go now, I'll get Shirou-kun healed up for the next part of his training."

"Please refill the bucket Akisame-san," she asked before skipping her way to her room to change out of her training clothes and into regular day clothes. She then got to the kitchen to prepare dinner, likely alone, if Shirou's earlier exhaustion kept him from it. Miu nervously chewed her thumbnail, 'Maybe I should have gone a bit easier on him.'

xxxxx

"You were distracted quite a bit in there. Is this due to the question I asked last week?"

Shirou cracked an eyelid at his sensei, "Mmmhmmm."

Koetsuji nodded, "I'm guessing that means you have not yet reached a conclusion. Be sure to ask others as well. Many perspectives could help you learn what you need for your future plans."

Shirou grunted in agreement. He didn't have the energy for anything else.

Xxxxx

After dinner, while Shirou and Miu stretched out under the stars with Shigure and Apachai, the four older men in Ryouzanpaku shared drinks inside. Kiritsugu and Koetsuji silently signaled each other with a glance and Ma kept an eye on the window allowing him to see the group outside.

"Elder, we had a question regarding Miu's training, now that Shirou is getting a handle on our level of intensity." Koetsuji gave the statement with all the calmness of commenting on the weather and got no more than an inquisitive raise of an eyebrow from the old master. The Jujitsu Master continued, "Do you intend to give Miu the opportunity to learn magecraft, or anything using her magical circuits?"

The Elder heaved a heavy sigh, "No, I didn't want her involved in that world. Magi and the various other groups that run in those circles are cruel and I could not stand to think of them taking Miu's smile away forever."

Kiritsugu nodded, "You believe that something similar happened to your son, so you don't want history to repeat."

Hayato chuckled bitterly, "Even dying, you are perceptive, Emiya-san."

"Only because I had similar reasons for keeping Shirou from truly learning magecraft before our discussion."

"Shirou knew about magecraft and that you, his hero, could teach him. Miu doesn't know anything about that part of the world, or the downright malignant people who make it up." His scowl made it easy to tell that his memories of magi haunted him.

Ma broke into the conversation, not even looking away from the window, "You are aware that ignorance doesn't equal bliss for the moonlit world, correct? They aren't as honorable as the dark portions of our own Underworld, and would use her to their own whims. She'll be a beautiful young woman, that much is certain already. We all know that would be enough, not even mentioning her combat potential."

"Keeping her away from them is why I haven't told her. She's… too much like me to stand for abuse of people or animals."

Hayato's pained gaze caused Koetsuji to offer a grim smile. "Forewarned and forearmed would be best to secure her safety. She is close to us and to Shirou, and she is an incredibly bright child. She'll realize something is going on and might just try to find answers on her own. Something I believe you helped cultivate to sharpen that bright mind."

The pain faded to a sheepish chuckle. "Magecraft has brought safety to me, but usually destroys those around me when I use it."

Ma laughed, "From what I've heard, that's because you become an almost literal force of nature when you unleash your magical side, as opposed to a figurative one the rest of the time."

Kiritsugu contributed as well, "I believe there are at least three battle sites you've left with the public thinking large meteors had hit there."

Ma offered some hope to the powerful, caring grandfather, "You do know that healing and protection are also things she could learn. Just depends on what she wants. We're not a mage clan, after all, shoving as much information and expectations onto the next generation to recover what was lost. We just think she should have the choice and chance to grow."

"Plus, I'm sure that Shirou could use a place to return to after he starts going on quests."

Hayato didn't answer for several seconds as he mulled over their words. Then he gave a huff. "Fine, we'll let her know about it, though it will need to be handled softly. Otherwise she might have an army of cat familiars before the month is out."

They enjoyed a good laugh at the idea of a cute little cat army commanded by a starry eyed Miu, though some nervousness did creep into their chuckling. Cute it may be, but it would still be an army in more than name.

Kiritsugu looked over to Ma, deciding to change the subject. "How did it go with the staff master?"

Ma gave a beaming smile, which showed it went well, but it had enough of an "I-know-something-you-don't-know" tint to make the others curious and a little wary.

"He'll agree, but we need Shigure-dono to go in person to ask nicely. Then the two will just work out a schedule."

Koetsuji nodded, "That should be fine, as Shigure did want to talk to another Katsujinken weapon master."

Kiritsugu narrowed his eyes at the Kung Fu Master. "Is he a pervert or a weapons fanatic?"

Ma laughed softly. "A bit of both, though he would be far more agreeable to a beautiful young woman than any on us old men. He isn't a pervert in my league, however." The short man puffed his chest in pride at this declaration of libidinous superiority.

"Given he's around ninety years old, that isn't hard to believe," deadpanned Kiritsugu.

Hayato laughed at Ma Kensei's injured look.

Xxxx

The following Wednesday- Shirou's Elementary School

A boy with brown hair placed a tile down and looked at his newly defeated opponent. "For a beginner at the game, you play very well Carter-san." He gave a calm smile and a fractional nod of respect to his brightly grinning, blonde opponent, a girl the boy's age. That naturally golden hair, tied back in a ponytail, showed she did not hail from any Eastern country.

She nodded a bit more deeply than he had, "Thank you for teaching game." Her halting Japanese had improved since he first met her in the Mathematics club. He glanced down at the board, thinking ov0er their recent game. Her loss hadn't dampened her spirit any, which the boy could respect, along with her impressive intellectual and athletic abilities. They had a kendo match scheduled for tomorrow, which he eagerly looked forward to. Had she picked up a bokken or shinai before? He didn't know, but somehow he didn't think she'd make for an easy opponent either way.

"Wow, she really kept up with you! Haven't seen that in a while," the third member of their little group chimed in. Quiet, yet friendly, the thin boy had been another Mathematics club acquaintance. He lacked the other two's athletic skills, but was superior in the realm of their club. Working with the both of them brought a great deal of contentment to the boy.

Especially in their hobby projects. His passion.

He still dreamed of seeing that floating steel castle in the sky. And with his friends' help, his dream castle looked more and more possible.

As they began resetting for his two companions to play a round against each other, he glanced over to a curious sight. Emiya Shirou, quintessential Nice Guy, had been pestering their classmates who had been trying to enjoy their lunches. Right now, Shirou reminded the boy of a reporter, asking questions and writing down notes. Usually he didn't come out for lunch, eating in whatever room he last fixed/cleaned something in. Emiya's body language also showed a mix of entreaty as well as defense. The boy's eyes sharpened as he noticed how strong Emiya's defense was. He thought he saw an opening and waited until the red haired boy walked over, into his own range.

The boy flicked a pebble he grabbed off the ground at Emiya, who deftly deflected it to the ground with his pad of paper. Emiya glanced around and locked onto their group. His question upon arriving, however, had nothing to do with the pebble.

"Would any of you mind contributing to research poll?"

The three math friends exchanged quick glances before shrugging or giving polite nods. They obviously all had some curiosity in what he had been doing. They sought to observe him, to understand their atypical classmate.

"First, could I get your names?"

Sam smiled, "I am Carter Samantha."

Kenji answered, "Koiso Kenji."

The final member of the group stared at Shirou for a bit, before giving his name. "Kayaba Akihiko."

XXxxXX

When Samantha Carter heard she'd be attending school in Japan, she was thrilled. She'd known she'd do well in Japanese Schools.

Young Samantha was mistaken. She hadn't merely done well, the girl had thrived.

The rigorous schedule and workload just pushed the young girl, sharpening an already prodigious intellect. Her parents beamed with pride at how well she did academically, though they did notice a lack of mentioning actual friends. Her brother Mark's more balanced approach to school kept them from worrying too much.

Her exotic blond hair and blue eyes attracted more than her fair share of admirers, though few actually approached her. The other girls stopped coming around when her passable Japanese language skills didn't meet their rapid standards and her desire to work made her a little odd to them.

Then she found the Mathematics Club. The only other two members were boys, but socially awkward in their own ways. Kenchi's shyness took a bit of coaxing, and Akihiko's bluntness took getting used to, but she found them both rather delightful company that enjoyed hers in turn. Their conversations helped improve her language skills, and she found she could help with their other hobbies, making for some truly fun and fascinating afternoons.

Despite her newness, she, like most of the students, knew about Emiya Shirou's odd hobbies. He helped everyone that he could, to the point that she suspected he may have a medical condition causing it. Most of her classmates just thought he was weird, but she had been around too many traumatized soldiers with her dad to not recognize some signs.

She'd never really spoken to him before, too busy carving out her own niche in the school. Feeling more secure in her position now, Sam decided she'd like to get to know this damaged boy more. Perhaps she could help being him into her odd circle of friends. Some mutual helpfulness would do them all some good. She could even use the American reputation for forwardness to her advantage in this case. Didn't mean she'd recklessly blurt her ideas out just yet, but it was an idea.

She studied Shirou as the boy as he looked back down at his paper and kept making plans to help him as he smiled and asked his questions.

"Who is your hero? What does it mean to be a Hero?"

The Akihiko and Kenji took their time in answering, thinking it over. Sam, on the other hand, had her response ready, "My Dad. A Hero willing to help others when it's hard to help, difficulty whatever." From their expressions, she hadn't been as eloquent as she'd hoped.

Akihiko nodded, moving the conversation along. "That, more or less, matches what I see as Hero, though I'd add that Heroes also inspire people to be greatness. The Knights of the Round Table are my heroes."

Kenchi scratched his head. "I guess their answers work for me, though I don't really have any heroes. Not definite like them. I do look up to Takahata-sensei, though. He really got me hooked on Math."

Shirou quickly scratched something out on his notepad. Then he looked back at them, smiling brightly, "Thank you. This should help with my project."

Akihiko raised an eyebrow and asked, "May I ask just what kind of project that is?"

Shirou shrugged, "I want to become a Hero. My teachers said if that is what I want to do, then I'd better learn as much about it as possible. I've gotten good ideas on just where to look and put my focus."

Samantha had a quizzical look on her face, "Hero? Like Batman or like a fireman or a lawyer?"

Shirou blinked of a moment, "Batman? He's in the American comics, right? I don't know much about him. I just want to save people like I was saved."

Akihiko elaborated, "The premise of Batman is a rich man who saw his parents murdered as a child going out and fighting crime as a martial arts detective with lots of gadgets. He is considered by many to be an example of what a non-superpowered hero can accomplish."

Shirou looked intrigued, "He uses martial arts? What style?"

The three shrugged, "A mix of as many as he can learn, generally. He learns as much as he can about anything that can help him fight crime."

"Are there any other heroes like him?" Shirou asked, still taking notes.

Kenchi took up the explanation here, "Well, there's lots of Western comic book heroes that have a lot of money that use it to help fight crimes. He's trained a bunch of sidekicks to be heroes like him. There's also Iron Man, Green Arrow, some more of the Avengers. There are jokes how money is their real super power. That combined with ridiculous educations and trainings, and they become superheroes." After he finished, he flushed a bitwhen he saw Sam and Akahiko staring at him. "I do read a few American comics."

Shirou nodded, "So it's easier to be a Hero if you have lots of money… But not a necessity, right?"

Akihito looked amused by the idea, "To be a superhero requires power, the ability to do things. Money is a common form of power. Strength, like for a knight, or magic for a wizard, are others." Samantha noted her friend looked increasingly more interested in this line of questioning. She followed along, but wasn't able to keep up with their much faster speaking skills just yet.

Shirou kept making notes, now needing to turn to a new page to keep up with the information they'd provided. He frowned, "Did most of them simply have the money through inheritance, or did they earn it through their own means?"

Kenchi shrugged, "Inheritance mostly, makes it easier to get started when you already have money to play with. Really easy to get or make stuff when you simply can buy anything."

"Hmm," grunted Shirou, "Well, at least I have some more ideas, but now I have to research how to make a fortune. Any ideas on that?"

Samantha cocked her head to the side and narrowed her eyes in focus, causing the red-haired boy to blink owlishly at her. She inquired, "Make fortune? Just like that?"

Shirou blinked again. He nodded slowly, as if unsure of the question. "I told you I want to be a hero, someone who helps everyone. Having a fortune would help with that wouldn't it?"

Akihiko had that smirk that Samantha learned meant that he had an idea that would likely work, but her hand and face would get reacquainted very soon.

"Indeed, Emiya, having a fortune offers many opportunities, both good and bad. I do have an idea on how you could start that fortune."

Samantha's hand cradled her face as she knew what was coming.

"You could help finance a startup venture in the in the commercial sectors of electronic entertainment."

Shirou seemed to puzzle that out for a few moments before he deadpanned back, "I'm not buying you video games."

Akihiko's smirk grew, "I'm asking you to help us build our own video games to sell."

Samantha noticed Shirou's eye brows go up. "You three are making your own video games? Would that even make much money?"

Akihiko pressed forward in his pitch, "If our current project is completed, I have contracted with a major publisher to pay us 5 million yen up front, as well as 5% of after sale's profits. More than enough capital to get high quality equipment for both research and production. Which means even more money coming in from other games and related sales."

Shirou looked deep in thought. He stared into Akihiko's eyes for several long moments, before he blinked and asked, "Would you be willing to pitch that to my dad? He'd be the one paying anyway, and he knows more about that kind of thing."

Akihiko's smirk, now deeply engraved into his childish face, told of the confidence he had as he nodded.

XxXxX

Emiya residence, that afternoon

"And with the money guaranteed from this game sale, we will purchase better equipment and start on releasing our own games online or as a third party to major consoles. We will be able to achieve manufacturing ability in five years, given the current trends in the market, shown here." Young Akihiko gestured to his laptop screen, which gave a line graph of several companies' profits and losses for the past five years. "While your support would not prevent this, it would give us a leg up on the competition as well as advance our predicted time table by a number of years. This would in turn provide a stable and growing income to Shirou as he works towards his dream."

Kiritsugu would give the nearly smug brat his due, he put on a good presentation. The brat even tried to make it seem like he was doing Shirou a favor by requesting money, while pretended that they didn't want it desperately. The confidence Akihiko had, in his partners' abilities as much as his own, did paint a compelling argument. They prepared for this meeting well, even showing parts of the game that they'd already completed.

On the downside, it brought an itch to his long unused trigger finger to think some enterprising genius-brat wanted to take advantage of his son's good nature. He felt it fortunate for all their sakes that his attitude had mellowed greatly from suffering his curse, with him nearly relaxed now with how much better he felt from the treatments at Ryouzanpaku. Still didn't stop him from wanting to make the kid think twice before trying to swindle his son.

The former mercenary grinned. He might as well get some solid compensation on top of the promised payoff. Just good business after all.

"I'll agree to this on one additional condition," he gravely stated.

Akihiko nodded, "What would that be?"

Kiritsugu smirked, "You and your team will be working with Shirou on this. Knowledge of computers will come in very handy for his future. You probably know how hard he works, so no worries on teaching a lazy student."

The three bright entrepreneurs glanced at each other and gave various non-verbal agreements.

Akihiko grinned, "We have a deal."

XxXxX

'What are we doing?' Samantha asked herself and couldn't, for the life of her, come up with a satisfactory answer. She stood, panting, in the Emiya's dojo, standing panting next to Akihiko, with Shirou waiting patiently, still looking fresh after their thirty minute spar. 'What is he?'

They had met with Emiya Kiritsugu, Shirou's father. The man looked too much like some of her father's wounded soldiers. She wondered if the younger Emiya had gotten his mannerisms from something that had happened to his father. It made her theory of PTSD all that more plausible.

Akihiko had won over Shirou's father on the idea of raising money to support his son's Hero dream. The young developers even had some samples of the game to show off, which impressed both Emiyas. Then Akihiko had challenged Shirou to a sparring match, even offering the leadership as an incentive when Shirou seemed reluctant. Shirou's father accepted on his behalf.

Which had led to this situation. Samantha wondered just what she'd been thinking when she agreed to fight for the leadership role. She hadn't really cared who was in charge, as long as they'd seriously take her opinions and advice. She didn't even really want to lead, that took time from actual research and projects. So why had she jumped into this match for leadership with Akihiko and Emiya-san?

'My pride really chose a bad time to show itself!' She angrily thought as she pulled herself up, taking a stance next to her friend.

The two exhausted friends slowly advanced, as much due to the lack of energy as to caution, and tried to attach him using team tactics. The initial free-for-all had lasted right up until Shirou casually disarmed Akihiko and Samantha rushed in to try and strike at the red haired boy. Shirou jumped away faster than she'd thought was humanly possible, although she could almost feel him regard her more cautiously than he had Akihiko, surprising her. Boys tended to look down on girls in fight, something she'd used to her advantage a few times with her brother and his friends.

That had given Akihiko time to retrieve his bokken and he'd tried again to go after Shirou. This time Samantha attacked at the same time, and the rest of the match had been a two on one light curb-stomping of Akihiko and her pride.

Their latest attempt failed when his arm, again, seemed to blur as he smoothly deflected their blows. She could only compare it to something from fiction. She'd seen elite soldiers train and spar, but few could have matched this boy's speed, grace, and power. Movie stunts weren't usually at this level, and he didn't even look winded! She made a note to ask about his workout regimen. It had to be insane.

Ten seconds later, Emiya seemed to decide it was time to stop humoring them and disarmed both of his opponents after locking all three swords together and twisting the two of theirs away. They landed with a clatter, while Sam dropped to the tatami mats and gulped for air, trying to sate the burning hunger in her lungs.

"So, I take it Shirou will be taking leadership over this little ploy to make money off his desire to be Hero?" Emiya Kiritsugu asked dryly. "I'm guessing you're not aware of just how much he actually wants to do that. You really will need to help him be a real life Bruce Wayne with his dreams."

"Who?" asked Shirou.

Kenchi choked on a laugh, "Your dad knows who Batman is, but you don't? How does that happen?"

Shirou shrugged, "Action comics never really got my interest. More of a comedy and documentary kind of guy. Now that it might help out with my dream, I'll get on that for research."

His father grinned, "I wonder what your Masters will think when you tell them you're going to be Batman?"

XxXxX

A/N: Next time is the building match with the Kaname Kugatachi. Have a wonderful day, all!