The command echoed inside of Shirou's head, forcing him to consciousness. Eyes shot open and a breath was held as he scanned his surrounds. There was no light at all and he found himself in pitch darkness, his face pressed up against bare rock. But even if there was no light, he could still tell that he was not alone. He could hear the breathing of others, steady breaths that quickly grow more panicked. The slight sounds of bodies moving around, hands sliding on dusty floors. It was hard to judge how many sources there were, but he guessed it had to be a least a half dozen, probably more.
Making sure to make as little noise as possible, Shirou pushed himself up onto the balls of his feet. His instincts were telling him to move towards the edge of the party and put a wall to his back, but before he could act on said instincts, one of the others in the room spoke up.
"Is someone else there?" It was the voice of a young man somewhere off to his right. The young man seemed confused and lost.
Several voices answered. Eight answered in total, but some didn't reply. "It's so dark in here. Does anyone have a match?" Another boy asked the group.
"A match? What's… a match?" A girl asked in response.
"Are you kidding me? It's a… It's a… I… I don't remember." The entire party paused all of them thinking. They all felt like they should have known what a match was, but that they didn't. Then they all started to notice something else. "I can't remember anything. The only thing I remember is my name."
"Same here. And it's Riku, by the way."
"I'm… Sara… I think."
Shirou didn't say his own name. He was gathering his thoughts, trying to recall anything that might have been of use.
"What's going on. I'm scared." A younger female voice cried. It sounded like a child's.
"This isn't a time to panic or ask questions." A calm female voice said from somewhere in the darkness. A slight sting flicked through Shirou head as he heard her voice. "I've found a wall. We can use the maze solving technique of just keeping your right hand on the wall and find our way out of here. Questions can be saved for once we have more to work with."
Some people hesitated, not sure whether or not to move, so Shirou stepped up. "She's right. We won't figure anything out just sitting here in the dark. We should keep moving." Shirou said as he walked towards where he had heard the girl speak from and put his own right hand against the cave wall.
No one wanted to be left alone in the dark, and soon they were all at the wall, walking along with a hand pressed against the smoother stones, but it wasn't long before faint light started to filter into their surroundings. They were candles, small ones that didn't give off much light at all, but still they seemed to act as a guide in the darkness.
"These candles…" The girl from before mumbled, but then stopped, shaking her head of black hair and continuing to move.
Shirou wondered if there had been something strange about the candles, beyond that anyone had bothered to light them at all, when he took a closer look and saw what he could only assume the other girl saw. There were no wax drippings on the candles that would usually occur while you were burning one. Nor did they seem to give off any heat at all. These weren't normal candles.
She had probably not mentioned them in order to keep from spooking those in the group who were already scared.
The cave slowly turned into a manmade passageway lined with stone bricks and the unnatural candles were replaced with oil lamps, which gave off more light, though still less than one would expect. Shirou doubted that the lamps were any more ordinary than the candles had been. The slight ascent of the cave's flooring was replaced by a staircase, which they all climbed without compliant until they arrived at a large iron door.
Like before, the calm girl was the first one to approach it, grabbing onto the handles and pushing and pulling as hard as she could. "Either is locked or just too heavy." She turned her head around and looked at the group before her eyes locked on Shirou. "You, try to open this door."
Shirou nodded and moved forward to grab the iron handle before pulling on it with all his strength and weight behind it. The door shifted a bit, but seemed to rebound back into place. "Definitely locked." Shirou said before looking around and grabbing one of the oil lamps to hold it close to the door, searching for a keyhole. "It's an old fashion tumbler lock. Heavy, but not too solid. It's the kind of thing we can trip with a solid enough hairclip, unfortunately it doesn't look like we have one here. Have to improvise." Shirou got to work, opening up the lamp and removing the oil flask and still lit wick before smashing the frame, startling the others. Taking two of the brass wire rods that had made up the frame of the lamp, he got to work on the door's lock.
"So, you know how to pick locks then?" The black haired girl asked, seeming a little interested in that.
Shirou hands continued to work even as his mind pondered the question over. "Not sure. I'm familiar with how locks work, but I don't feel I've ever picked one before. I can't remember having ever done it before."
"So long as you are putting your talents to good use, I'm not going to complain." The girl said with a shrug of her shoulders. "I'm Rin. What's your name?"
"Shirou." The boy responded, feeling a little smug that he was the only one the girl had introduced herself to. He gave the wires one final twist. There was a dull click as the lock was successfully picked and Shirou pulled the door open.
"It opened! Oh thank kami!" One of the boys said, rushing out before stumbling on a loose brick and nearly falling down. Others were also hurrying forward, trying to get out of the dark stone tower that they had woken up in.
Shirou wasn't in so much of a rush. Something was odd about the light coming through the door. It had a distinct tint of red to it.
When they all finally did get out of the building, Shirou found that he had been right. Up in the sky was a blood red moon. The crimson sphere glowed bright and as Shirou looked at it, he swore he could see some kind of design on it, far too symmetrical and meaningful to be natural.
"That moon. I might not remember much, but I know that moon isn't right. I can say for sure that the world I was in before didn't have a red moon." Rin said, thinking the same thing that Shirou did.
Now that they were outside in the light of the moon, Shirou got to get his first good look at her. She was dressed in a long-sleeved red shirt with a cross design on the front, a short black skirt, and long black stockings. Some of her long black hair was tied up into twin ponytails on either side of her head while the rest fell down over her shoulders.
Rin stood out from the rest of the group. While the rest of the group was working itself into a panic from confusion, she held herself with a cool confidence, as if she was in complete control of the situation.
"Everyone, calm down." Rin said, her voice loud but not sharp, a call to attention, not a criticism of others for their weaknesses. "If we want to figure out what is going on then we have to keep moving. This tower didn't build itself. Some kind of civilization probably exists nearby. For now, the night is cold, so we should make whatever camp we can and explore in the morning. Gather wood from nearby and use the oil lamp to make a proper fire."
Listening to her speak, people started to calm down. Some even eyed the woods around the edge of the clearing that the tower they had came out of sat.
"I wouldn't do that." Someone said from out in the woods, causing a few people to jump. From a small path, nearly completely hidden by brush and shadows came a man clad all in armor. The man had a pair of round rimmed glasses that looked kind of ridiculous on his face with his crew cut hair. He smiled at them in a nervous, but reassuring manner. "While this part of the forest is relatively peaceful, you don't want to be staying out here for long if you don't have to."
Shirou's eyed the man, or more particularly the massive sword on his back. It looked too broad and heavy to even be called a claymore. Not a practical weapon for your average fight and should be nearly unwieldable with normal human strength.
'Judging the concept of…'
Pain shot through Shirou's eyes and into his skull, causing him to flinch and look away. Every time he opened his eyes and looked at the weapon the pain returned. It wasn't like when he had tried to remember what a match was. It was a hundred times worse.
He kept his eyes off of the man's weapon, focusing instead on his chest and shoulders. Part of him wondered what it was that was causing the pain, but the other part registered one thing and one thing only.
This man had a weapon, and they didn't.
That was not a circumstance that Shirou liked, and his mind worked on a way to rectify this problem. He was still holding onto the oil flask with its lit wick still inside of it. There wasn't enough lamp oil in there to cause seriously injure the man, but if he threw it at the guy and it caught fire, it might be enough to distract him till Shirou could disarm him.
Apparently, his plan showed in his face and stance, because the man put up his hands in the universal sign of surrender. "Hold on now. No need to go throwing anything at anybody. I'm a friend here." He said earnestly, holding out a large iron key. "My name's Kimura, I'm with the Crimson Moon Reserve Forces, a militia group that works from the nearby city of Alterna. I was sent here to unlock the tower door and let you all out… which you seem to have done yourselves."
The group who came out of the tower whispered amongst themselves, all finding it weird that anyone would be walking around in full armor and carrying a sword, though just like before, it was Rin who was focused and took the lead. "You were sent to get us. Then you were expecting us to be here? Why is that?" Rin questioned the man.
Kimura's eyes went from Shirou who was still holding the oil flask, ready to fling it at him to Rin and swallowed hard. "Well, this isn't exactly a rare occurrence." Kimura admitted, scratching the back of his head with a gauntleted hand. Shirou thought he might have seen a flush on the man's face, but that could have been the light from the red moon playing tricks on his eyes. "That tower behind you spits out somewhere between six and twenty people every full moon. Every time no one has any memories of where they came from and only can remember their names. I myself came out of that tower around eight months ago."
"I see. Considering the fact that you are standing before us, it seems safe to assume you don't know of any way for us to return to where we came from." Rin said calmly with a nod of understanding.
"Afraid not, Miss." Kimura said. "Welcome to the world of Grimgar, not the nicest place out there, but it grows on you. I'll be guiding you to the Commander of the Red Moon Reserves, he'll help you all get on your feet."
"Get on our feet?" One of the girls who had came out of the tower with them asked. Looking at the group as a whole, it seemed to be comprised of twelve people, seven girls and five boys. All of their ages seemed to be somewhere between fifteen and eighteen, save for the smallest girl who looked as though she was ten.
"I presume he means money. I guess this world has its own currency, and since we are new here, we have none." Rin said, one of her eyebrows twitching slightly. "So, since we are broke and in a strange land with no means to support ourselves, we have no choice but to take whatever sort of work we can get. Is that the basic idea?"
"Unfortunately." Kimura nodded in conformation. "You won't be able to find much better jobs than you will get working for the Reserve Forces. Unless you want to starve, I suggest you hear the Commander out."
Rin gave a long sigh. "I suppose we don't have any better option. Lead the way."
"Alright, just let me lock the Forbidden Tower back up so that kids don't try to play in it, and then we will be on our way. The sun will be up in a few minutes but be careful to stick together anyways." Kimura said with a smile, walking forward towards the door in the side of the tower. He paused and looked towards Shirou. "Would you mind leaving that oil flask here? I'd rather you not freak out in town and start a fire somewhere."
Shirou didn't react, wondering if there would be a way for him to keep the impromptu weapon without agitating the guide. "Shirou-kun." Rin said sharply, giving him a look. Her arms were crossed, and she was tapping one foot. The scowl on her face caused a bead of sweat to form on the back of the boy's neck.
Finally, Shirou gave a sigh of defeat and dropped the flask to the ground before stomping out the wick. Satisfied, Kimura went and locked up the tower before showing them the path back towards the town.
Somewhere along the way, Shirou saw Rin trying to hide a rock up her sleeve, only to discard the idea. With the narrow sleeves, skirt and stockings, she didn't have many options when it came to hiding weapons.
Moving closer to her side, Shirou discretely poked her in the side before offering her one of the brass wires he had used to pick the door lock. She gave him a look before taking it and sliding it up her sleeve. The thin wire wouldn't be good for much, but if she stabbed hard enough it could probably break the skin and give an attacker pause. If she got someone in their eye, it could definitely take them down for the count.
"You're unusually calm about everything, don't you think." Rin said to him.
"I could say the same thing about you." Shirou countered. He hadn't realized that he himself had also been so relaxed until she had mentioned it. "I guess we are both unusual."
"No, you're unusual. I'm just pragmatic." Rin said with a sly smile before breaking away from him.
Shirou found himself smiling too, until one of the other girls in the group gasped. "Are… are those graves!?" She said, pointing towards a large number of small stone markers that barely reached Shirou's knee. Some of them had flowers placed at them, so they were clearly graves.
"I told you, Grimgar isn't exactly the nicest place. Right now, we are at the Frontier settlement called Alterna, which marks the boundary between the human kingdoms and the hostile territory controlled by the monster races that have made human's their enemies. People die out here all the time." Kimura informed them.
"Monsters!?" The girl squealed.
"Which races?" Shirou asked.
"All that can wait till later." Kimura said, seeming not to want to answer a hundred questions. Either way, the information about monsters living in the land made everyone speed up a little. Though that didn't them from mumbling about how monsters didn't really exist.
They arrived at the city gates just as the sun was rising and were ushered through by a few guards who looked annoyed to having been up all night doing the night shift and were looking forward to a well-deserved sleep as soon as the morning shift people got there.
Just like before, when Shirou saw the swords strapped to their waists, his eyes burned and he heard a hollow, recorded voice play in his head before being abruptly stopped.
'Judging the concept of…'
The pain repeated again and again as they walked down the streets, passing several dozens of armed men and women who seemed to be going about their daily routines. Shirou could barely concentrate on keeping up with the group because everywhere he looked there were swords, swords and more swords. The words kept playing again and again in his head, and every time it was cut off by another surge of pain.
'Judging the concept of…'
'Judging the concept of…'
'Judging the concept of…'
The world around him blurred and he found himself walking in a flat plain covered in grass with swords sticking out of the ground like grave markers, only for another flash of intense pain to pull him back to reality, causing him to stumble.
What was this? Shirou had no idea, but he could feel like it was something he should know. Something that was a part of who he was, perhaps even more than his own name was. It was something that whatever power that had brought them there was desperately trying to force him to forget.
"Alright we're here." Kimura said as they stopped in front of a two-story building. The white flag that bore a red crescent moon was worn down and some of the letters on the sign appeared to be missing. The place didn't look to be all that well cared for. Meaning the organization either didn't hold much value, or it was simply so focused on other work that it didn't have time to bother with appearances.
They entered the building and found themselves in a large room with a long bar table on one side, and various other tables scattered around the room. It seemed as though the place wasn't just the office of the local militia, it was also a drinking establishment of some kind, thought it was abandoned in the earlier hours of the day.
"That's odd. The Commander was supposed to meet us here." Kimura said with a worried glance at the stairs. "Don't tell me he forgot what day it was and slept in again." The man looked conflicted as his eyes went from the stairs to the group and back to the stairs, as if trying to decide which was worse, trying to go wake up this 'commander', or sticking around and having to answer questions. Finally, he made his choice and went towards the stairs, telling the kids he had just picked up to sit down and wait for him to get the guy in charge, muttering something about never filling in for Hiyuma ever again.
Shirou looked around the room, until his eyes fell on a sheathed sword that was displayed on a nearby wall.
'Judging the concept of…'
Again the pain came, but this time, Shirou tried to endure it and push forward. He wouldn't simply let whatever it was that was trying to block him win. Even if it hurt, he would force his way through. He walked up towards the sword's display, keeping his eyes locked on the sword hilts as he went.
'Judging the concept…'
'Judging the concept of c…'
'Judging the concept of crea…'
Again and again his mind tried to do something and was stopped. Finally, Shirou reached up and grabbed the sword, and his world exploded. If felt as if hot fire was shutting up and down his spine and the entire world started to fade out of focus around him.
'Error: unable to reach storage space. Solution: establishing new storage space. New space established. Rebooting: Unlimited Blade Works.'
Shirou found himself on a narrow beach, with the sea on one side and an impenetrably thick forest on the other. The beach stretched out in either direction out farther than the eye could see, but still had a strangely small feel to it. The sky was a dark grey color with a solitary red disc floating in it. A gear. Shirou couldn't recall what exactly a gear was, but that was it.
'Judging the concept of creation'
'Hypothesizing the basic structure'
'Duplicating the composition material'
'Imitating the skill of its making'
'Sympathizing with the experience of its growth'
'Reproducing the accumulated years'
'Excelling every manufacturing process'
Stuck in the sand on this strange beach, right in front of Shirou, was a single solitary sword. The same sword he had just been holding. He knew this sword. He knew its every scratch and imperfection. He knew every hand that had held it and every monster that it had slain. He knew the processes that had been used in its forging and the ones used later on in order to repair and strengthen the blade. He knew this blade better than he knew himself. This was what the world had been trying to make him forget, this fundamental aspect of his own identity.
Shirou was a sword.
Wrote this because I am something of a fan of the two crossovers of this type that are out there, and the two of them seem to have this thing were if one updates the other quickly pushes out a chapter. So I thought I would publish something and see if I could get a reaction out of them.
If not, oh well.
Kimura was a character in the later parts of the Light Novel, and an aggressive defender of the attractiveness of flat chested women. It seems like half the cast is aware of Yume's status as best girl and the other half is in denial... except for Renji who seems to want Bri-chan to try to 'take him'.