A youth of eighteen sat crouched on the ground in the midst of an early morning, the smell of dew in the wind travelling far out.
His hands clasped together in a silent sign of respect towards the gravestones in front of him, the stones neither too lavish nor too poor, but simply ordinary. Then again, this was the kind of grave the people now buried would have had wanted, and that alone was enough. Other than the carvings in which he had meticulously laboured by hand, the rest of the granite-like stone remained untouched, the edges of the stone naturally smoothened by the wind and rain. It was why he didn't hesitate to use them the moment had had found them.
A breeze blew past, the sounds of birds chirping in the trees and the arrival of strong rays of sunlight alerting him that he no longer had much time remaining before he had to uphold his other responsibilities.
Therefore, it was time to go.
Shirou sighed while standing up from his crouched position, the dampness of the soil beneath him having stained his pant-legs to a moderate shade of brown with the dirt that clung to them.
He didn't particularly mind it as he simply brushed the grime off with his hands, but the aide behind him very much cared for the state of his appearance.
She was young, just barely passed seventeen and wearing leather-bound trousers held together by lace and a matching blouse whose colour was already fading. Her hair was cropped to one side, and the length of her bangs was long enough to cover a side of her face, giving her a certain allure that emphasized her eyes. They were the distinct colour of blue.
"Lord," she called out pensively. "You really should maintain your appearance. The village ceremony to acknowledge you as the village head is tonight."
He nodded to her words but could only smile wryly at her.
Her name was Elaine Bukerfield, the only daughter amongst a family filled with boys that had always served as a close companion with the previous Lord of the village. Now her family's loyalty lied with him, the next successor.
"It'll be fine Elaine, and besides you know I'm not too much for formal events," he reasoned.
"Which is why I was reminding you so that you can better yourself." Elaine crossed her arms and snorted before her expression grew somber. "It's what I promised your father before his passing."
A silence filled the area, both of their gazes fixed onto the two gravestones.
They were the graves for his father and mother, or at least the ones that had born him into this current world. To be honest, he wasn't certain about what happened to somehow end up in his current position, but what he did know was that he had died once before. Perhaps then, some higher power had deemed him fit to be reborn as the young Lord of a small village in the woods, but then again, the situation was filled with its own troubles.
Both of his parents had died just recently of old age, the two birthing children too far into their thirties. It was a miracle that they had been able to live until forty-eight with the current age of the world which appeared to be in a renaissance-like time period. Current life expectancy itself was only estimated to be at forty years. Regardless of any miracles though, they had still died; leaving him to deal with the workings of the village and at the same time care for his two siblings barely five years old.
He closed his eyes and reviewed the information he knew before setting his resolve.
In this new world, the village he was raised in was located at the very boundary of a country known as the Empire, and the twenty-two Nations of Wakoku. Food was barely getting by, and money was even worse.
If he couldn't find any alternatives soon, then he may have to consider heading to the capital of the Empire for work. Yet he couldn't leave his siblings behind either.
He opened his eyes, looking at the graves in front of him, at the parents who had cared for him.
They had only asked of him one request before their deaths.
Take care of his two siblings, and to do that, he needed to solve his current predicament.
His fists clenched together, a sword given purpose.
He would find a way.
It was a promise.
"It's time to leave," he called to Elaine. "There's preparations to be done."
By the time the village inauguration had completed, it was nearing the late hours of the evening. Bonfires were still lit from the distant reception hall, and the glowing flames created a dull orange hue in the darkness of the nights, the stars above an idyllic backdrop to what he considered a long day.
Elaine was no longer attending to him as he had already persuaded her to head home; knowing how protective her older brothers and father were about her mingling too late in the night, she had no choice. To be honest though, her family had no problems if it were just him that she was in the company of, but after the recent ceremony, many of the single-men who had attended were loitering.
Therefore, it was too dangerous in the eyes of the Bukerfield family.
Words could not describe the frustration that had ignited in Elaine's eyes when he had sent her off. All he knew was that the Bukerfield family would inevitably be having a sleepless night.
As for him, he had his own situation to deal with.
Upon passing down the paved streets and brick homes leading to his parent's manor, he paused right outside of its door before relaxing himself and entering.
Inside was a warm living room with furnished chairs and recliners huddled around a warm fireplace.
Near the hearth were two children, his siblings he had obtained in his new life.
Artus and Anna, the both of them twins named by their mother.
They were rather short, just barely passed his knees and both dressed in soft fabrics that he had once worn when he was younger. They were coloured blue and red respectively, coloured string used to hold the garments together.
The two noticed him from the moment he opened the door, their gold-coloured eyes widening in excitement as they rushed over.
"You're back!" They called, clinging onto his legs.
He had left them for most of the day, but they were rather reserved for their age and he trusted them not to get into trouble.
"I'm back, but I won't be going anywhere until the both of you let go," he said, ruffling their heads of red hair. "Besides, even if I'm back, the both of you know that we can't play right now. It's almost time for the two of you to sleep."
Artus grumbled at his response, but Artus's attention shifted away when Artus's eyes landed on the small wooden sword he had gotten for Artus.
"M-Mine?" Artus asked.
He simply nodded his head and gave the gift he had prepared at the end of the ceremony. With their parents gone, he had to impart some skill to his siblings so that they could better protect themselves. Starting early was for the best.
The two children watched in a daze as he coaxed himself out of their grips and gently placed the wooden swords in their palms. "My gift," was all he said.
In the end, it was enough of an offering to take the attention of two five-year old's away from him long enough for him to change and get comfortable.
It was then however, that a knock echoed at the front door.
His brows furrowed together, lips thinning as he couldn't think of any person he knew that would visit him at this time of the night.
Subsequently, Artus and Anna ceased in their playing when the knocking continued, their eyes falling on him and watching what he would do.
Of course, he stood up and walked towards the door, a soft azure glow suffusing his eyes as he readied his magic at a moment's notice. It was his biggest trump card, and something he knew that no inhabitant of this new world possessed. Generally, he wouldn't be this cautious as he had always been a trusting person, but he had children he had to watch out for in his current life.
He opened the door, only to see a man he was familiar with.
The man's appearance was particularly menacing, scars running across a chiseled and tanned face, while the trench-coat-like military garments worn over a vest hid his other features.
The man didn't speak, merely stood there, his intentions already known.
This man was his father's acquaintance. Someone his father had described as a passed friend, but incessantly warned Shirou and his siblings to stay away from, no matter how much the man wanted to meet Shirou.
After all, Shirou was famous for another reason other than being the village head's son.
He was called a Miracle Healer, someone who could even aid an individual on the verge of death.
Then again, this title was one Shirou had never intended on obtaining. It was just that when his mother had fallen drastically sick after Artus and Anna's birth, he had no choice but to act. Thus, without anyone noticing how he had done it, he had traced a mystic code with the simple property of healing; leading to his mother's recovery and his hailing as a Miracle Healer for curing a woman other doctors procured by his father had deemed incurable.
For this very reason, his expertise was sought out by this acquaintance of his father.
Yet his father had never allowed a meeting. After all, even if Shirou didn't know the name of the man in front of him, he knew by experience that this man was a Killer.
A man who'd spilled enough blood to stain his hands for an eternity.
There was an aura of death that exuded from him with a silent ferocity that inadvertently terrified Artus and Anna, the two sticking to Shirou's legs, wooden swords left forgotten.
Shirou however was more experienced. He looked past the man's chaotic aura and instead detected weariness and exhaustion, something he realized was all too similar to the disposition of a step-father he once knew.
A cold-blooded killer, yet one with the purest of motivation and dreams.
Someone who had grown tired after long, long years, and had only then seen the error of his ways.
Yet there was no longer any turning back, the events of the past unable to be changed.
One could only live in redemption, and this was the very feeling Shirou was able to understand from the man before him.
"Come in," he said, his sudden invitation causing the man to visibly startle. "I'll treat the wound."
Experienced as the man was, the man was quick to compose himself, stepping into the warm home and staring blankly at Shirou who merely placed a hand over the man's chest.
Closing his eyes, Shirou accessed his magecraft. A magic that could recreate any number of sword or weapons he had ever seen including the special properties that may belong to them. Mystic codes and Noble Phantasms for example that each possessed unique powers could be traced.
In this case, from the moment Shirou had stretched his hand forward, he had already traced the particular mystic code he needed for healing. It was a mystic code that healed old scars and injuries generally impossible to recover from. After all, the problem with most old injuries wasn't that they didn't heal, it was that some may not have healed properly.
After first scrutinizing the man, Shirou had already understood that the root of the problem lay exactly in an old injury. Therefore, he simply got to work before the man's prompting and explanation.
This inadvertently, solidified the man's belief in Shirou's title of a mysterious Miracle Healer whose means were impossible to discern. To begin with, the man had assumed that Shirou was in possession of something called a Teigu, but clearly this wasn't the case.
It was almost magical how the man could feel a steady and pleasant flow of energy pour into him.
Yet on another point, the man was inwardly moved. He was a sinner, a man who had killed so many individuals that he couldn't even count, and only just recently did he realize the weight of his actions. Still, from his demeanor, to his reputation, none should have had so openly placed their faith in him to heal a man of his character without question. Thinking further on the fact that Shirou and the siblings behind him were children of his past comrade, he made an oath to himself.
"You have my gratitude," the man said deeply as Shirou retracted his hand.
Shirou only nodded his head, watching as the man got up to leave, yet paused at the door.
"Your father," the man said softly, almost regretfully. "He was a good man, and I swear that none will be able to make your lives difficult with his absence. I swear it."
Following the man's words was an air of murderousness that stifled the surroundings, but through it, Shirou could sense the purpose the man now seemed to carry; the weariness and exhaustion replaced by a new-found resolve.
He would protect them.
As the audible sound of the door clicking closed echoed in the house, Shirou silently led his siblings into bed, realizing that the two may have had had enough for the night.
Clearly though, he was wrong.
The two stared at him blankly after he tucked them into bed, Anna fidgeting every so often and bumping into Artus who glowered in response.
"Why did you help him?" Anna asked curiously, gaining Artus's attention as well. "Daddy said that he was a bad man."
He paused just as he was about to leave the room. Anna's question was indeed valid and he couldn't just not answer her especially when it concerned something so important. As he deliberated on an answer, he realized something fundamental while staring at the innocent gazes of the five-year-old's in front of him.
Not only did he have to take care of them, but he also had to raise them.
To teach them not to walk upon the wrong path.
"You help those who need help," he began, expression somber. "And you save those who need saving even if they offer you nothing in return."
Even if the people saved weren't innocent, he believed in the fact that people could change. Death shouldn't have to solve anything. More than that though, there was a larger reason.
One that was the most important.
"But why?" Anna asked, the confusion on her face evident as she knit her brows together.
He smiled, knowing that what he said would take time for his sibling to truly understand.
For now, he would give them a simpler answer.
"Because little ones," he said, walking closer and patting their heads.
"That's what Heroes do."
Elsewhere, a figure dashed through the shadows of the trees before stopping near the borders of the village described in her intelligence report, her red eyes scanning the image of her target.
Her expression was emotionless, a calm mask of indifference that could frighten even the most hardened of men. It didn't help that the sword she carried at her side shone in an ominous light.
To begin with, she wasn't meant to be sent to this remote location as her field of operation was located in the heart of the Capital of the Empire, but her strength was necessary in this case. The target ranked too highly to be handled by the other team.
Thus, it was up to her.
Her gaze shifted to the moon, she the owl that hunts in the night.
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Next update will be Fate in time
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