He had lost.
Eight years. Eight years of diligent study and analysis into the mystery involved in creation and functioning of the construct known as the Holy Grail had yielded nothing. Regardless of its design and mystery involved, the superficial procedure was remarkably simple. Summon the servants. Kill the servants. On their demise, the heroic spirits would change into pure mana and enter the Grail system, activating its main function as a wish-granter, based on the powers and abilities of one Justeaze Lizrich von Einzbern, who had sacrificed herself to become the core of the Greater Grail. Once enough servants had been killed, the Grail would be able to grant two wishes—one for the master, and one for the servant. That was the official statement. The real thing though, was slightly more complicated.
As far as wish-granting was concerned, they belonged to two types. The first were wishes that were within the span and powers of the world in general, and did not involve evocation of a mystery greater than Gaia or Alaya. On sacrificing six servants, the Grail was able to grant two such wishes—one for the servant, and one for the master, bringing the war to a successful completion.
The second type of wishes, well, they fell into the esoteric category, and involved mysteries that were greater than what Gaia or Alaya could perform, or even allow. Reaching the Akashic Records, or Root, as magi generally called it—fell into this category. The Reactivation of the lost Third Magic too, fell into this category. Should all seven servants be killed in the war, only then could the Grail fulfil a single wish—for the master of course. The general idea for this was that the last command seal remaining, could be used to ask the servant to commit suicide, using the chance to have this unlimited wish fulfilled.
Ever since he had come to know about these intricate details of the Grail system, he had imagined two possible outcomes.
The first was that he would have to eliminate six masters and their servants, and activate the Greater Grail. It would not allow for the activation of the Third Magic—an unfortunate thing really, but it would be enough to allow his own quest for salvation of humanity. Yes, that would involve betraying the Einzbern, but hey, he was being completely serious when he had stated that he would be willing to accept all the evils of humanity if it meant that humanity would be saved.
The second option was using his two remaining command seals to force Saber into committing suicide, something that would automatically trigger the Greater Grail, and open up a path to Akasha—a little too brutish for his tastes but Magi were what they were, and revive the Third Magic—Heaven's Feel. It would not fulfil Kiritsugu's own desire, nor provide any meaning to Irisviel's and Maiya's deaths, but the Einzbern would get their long-wished achievement.
Bottom line—there had always been one option. The first one, and nothing else. There was betrayal involved, but the scales were too high to be considered.
Now though, there was a third option, and ironically, it would lead to nothing but defeat for both of them. He Kiritsugu would not get his desires granted, Humanity would not attain salvation, the path to the Third Magic would be lost forever, and Irisviel and Maiya's deaths would have gone in absolute vain. Everything that the other masters, the summoned heroic spirits had endured and fought for, would be meaningless. Saber's thoughts about Kiritsugu's nature as a monster would be proved correct.
But everyone else on the planet would survive.
The irony! He had entered the war, and endured losses, one after another, in hope for the prize at the end of the road. And here it was, the end—the prize, wanting to be claimed by him, and he had rejected it. It had cursed him with its dying breath, but it didn't matter. There were more important things to deal with right now. Angra Mainyu's curse could wait.
Kiritsugu Emiya let out a sigh.
He had left Kirei Kotomine fallen in the basement, a .30-06 Springfield bullet through the head, the body drenched amidst the hideous black substance that had poured out of the Holy Grail, and was possibly part of Avenger's aborted state. The fool had demanded to be given the Grail, and allow Angra Mainyu to be reborn into the world, and had turned outright hysterical at the end. Come to think of it, he should have taken care of Kotomine earlier into the war. It would have certainly prevented a lot of bad things from happening.
Tokiomi Tohsaka was dead, killed using a dagger. Kiritsugu was no genius, but there was an off-chance that Kotomine had been the one to form a pact with Archer after Tokiomi's death. There was no need to go deeper into the issue. It was meaningless and over, and by the look of things, Archer should fade away very soon.
He breathed in deeply. Only one operation left unfinished.
He entered into the theatre room of the Shinto City Hall, only to overhear Archer's narcissistic remarks, offering Saber to be his queen. Even from the distance, he could see the Gate of Babylon opened, with several noble phantasms held out, ready to be projected out at tremendous velocity. Gilgamesh was, Kiritsugu mused, an unfairly overpowered heroic spirit. He took another look at Saber, who had fallen down on top of the stairs, with two swords impaling her knees, her own sword shining with all its glory.
There is a good chance that Gilgamesh will take me out at first sight. I will have to make it as quick as possible. Time Alter can only do so much against someone like that.
He raised his right hand, as the strange red sigils glowed with an ethereal power.
Saber felt the power surging through the command spells and looked up, her eyes filled with hope, despite the weapons from the Gate of Babylon tearing into her. "Kirit…sugu…" she murmured in hope.
"Ah", Gilgamesh responded, unaware of Kiritsugu's presence. Either that, or he had plain disregarded the man. "So, you have finally made your decision."
Kiritsugu didn't bother with it. He had never really been one to put his own life on a higher pedestal than others. It was now or never. He lifted his hand upward, the command spells shining brightly, and he spoke. "In the name of Kiritsugu Emiya, and by my command spells-"
Saber lurched a little closer, anticipating and wishing for a command to win. A command to grant her master, the Holy Grail.
"—I order you, use your Noble Phantasm. Destroy the Grail."
Saber lurched back, incomprehension and disbelief latched onto her face. The winds around her blade began to swirl with new-found sense of purpose, gathering a golden light as her noble phantasm—the sword of promised victory, empowered her to achieve the same for her master.
"What?" Archer yelled, seemingly shocked at such a turn of events. There was no way that Saber, who wanted the Grail so badly that she was ready to die for it, would ever-"What are you doing, Saber?"
And then, the King of Heroes heard the command flow in, this time, with a more distinct sense of purpose.
"By my third command spell," Kiritsugu enforced, "I order you again." He ignored the repeated, hysterical 'NO' from his servant. "Saber. Destroy, the Holy Grail-"
"You dare disrupt my nuptials, mongrel?" Gilgamesh snarled, the Gates firing multiple noble phantasms at Kiritsugu, only for the latter to use Time manipulation to pull himself out of the way.
"Why Kiritsugu?" Saber begged, her hands automatically moving up, lifting Excalibur as it shone with the brightest light. "Why you? You of all people? Why this?"
The blade came down, and with it, the power of the most destructive anti-fortress noble phantasm in existence. In a matter of seconds, the entire city hall had collapsed into a mountain of rubble, with Kiritsugu barely able to get out of in time. If not for the Time Alteration, he would have perished inside.
He sighed. His heart beat valiantly, he had survived the crash, and by the looks of it, no one had survived. With the use of all three command spells, Saber had likely faded away from existence, as had the Archer-class servant, and the manifested Grail vessel. It was over. The End… was over.
And then, he looked up, and his eyes stuck, shocked at the sight in front of his very eyes. No words came out of his throat, and he could only gape at the horrifying monstrosity that had just appeared, tearing through the heavens above him.
This… this is impossible. This is… How is this POSSIBLE?
The clouds had parted, revealing a monstrous hole in the centre, pulsing with an alien, malevolent presence, and despite the distance, Kiritsugu could feel the utter wrongness it was filled with. Tearing through the heavens, the entity pulsed for the last time, before propelling out a wave of energy outward, as if some mystical seal had been broken.
And all the evils of humanity rained down to the Earth, manifested in the form of hot, corrosive, cursed mud—down into the rubble that was the City Hall, pouring out of it, burning every inch of matter it touched. It was almost like watching a volcano shoot out hellfire from underneath, only this time, the hellfire was being belched out through the hell-hole in the sky.
"This… how is this even possible?" Kiritsugu yelled out in frustration. He had refused Angra Mainyu, killed its prenatal form inside the Grail, and destroyed the vessel. There was no way that-
THEN GIVE THE DAMN THING TO ME! YOU MAY THINK YOU MIGHT NOT NEED IT! BUT I MOST CERTAINLY DO! IF IT IS GIVEN THE LIFE IT IS SEEKING, THEN IT MAY SURELY ANSWER MY EVERY DOUBT, AND FINALLY BRING EVERYTHING TO CLARITY! THE GRAIL LONGS FOR A LIFE OF ITS OWN! LONGS FOR ITS OWN BIRTH! PLEASE, DON'T KILL IT! DON'T-
The answer revealed itself to his eyes. Kotomine… He had been the other victor of the Grail war, and while Angra Mainyu had chosen Kiritsugu as its optimum vessel, it had turned to Kirei upon rejection. After all, hadn't Kirei stated how he had been through the same dream-cycle he himself had?
He looked down at the fallen rubble, now drenched and burning amidst the black mud pouring out of the hell-hole. This was what Kotomine had asked for. The Executor had died at his hands, but had been the victor nevertheless. If that wasn't irony, then what is?
And now this… this was the result.
Kiritsugu Emiya let out a howl of despair, as the world around him, burned.
And he jumped off the bridge, past the burning buildings, past the scorched lawns, past the streets and the cries of people dissolving into the corrosion that only expanded outward. Surely there was someone, anyone… anyone that was still alive and could be saved, saved from this monstrosity… someone in the entire dead zone that might have survived this annihilation… someone….
His mind had already jammed shut, his eyes drowsy, as he walked past the melting furnace that was Shinto District, amidst all the pain, all the loss, all the curses Angra Mainyu had wrought upon the very world that created it. He turned to his right and-
And he stood still, unable to comprehend the sight in front of his eyes.
The hell-hole had stopped pouring out the corrosive mud into the world, and now, standing right below it, was Kirei Kotomine. Clean and healed, like the events of the past hour hadn't even happened in the first place.
And Kotomine laughed. Heartily. It was the laugh of the man who had discovered the meaning of the most hilarious joke he had ever heard. It was the laugh of a man who had just been hit by good news he had never even expected. It was the laugh of a man who had finally, found something of worth in his own life.
Kiritsugu felt his arms droop, as he mindlessly turned away. He had lost everything, he had failed everyone—Irisviel, Maiya, the inhabitants of the city… everyone. It was only fitting that Kirei Kotomine would stay on, and he, Kiritsugu Emiya, fall and die in the very mud that had taken the lives of so many people he had failed to save. Yes, that looked incredibly fitting for a man who had done nothing but kill and kill and kill and kill all his life. It was better than-
In hindsight, Kiritsugu would wonder how he had heard the soft sound from his distance, when the rest of the world felt muted from his ears. Perhaps it was destiny, perhaps some cruel twist of the world, or perhaps Angra Mainyu's curse, he did not know. All he knew was that there was someone out there… someone alive, and that was all that mattered.
He climbed atop the broken wall, jumping off into the charred grass beneath, only to find a little child—his hair just as crimson as the raging flames—a child of mere seven or eight, barely managing to keep his eyes open. There was a massive dash just above his left eye, with blood pouring down, inundating half of his face with a crimson hue, though it was his right eye that concerned Kiritsugu more. There were no bruises or gashes as far as Kiritsugu could notice, but blood seemed to trickle from the right eye, probably from a case of haemorrhage, though of course, the location was rather peculiar. As if in recognition, the boy raised his hand, using every inch of his remaining effort, towards Kiritsugu, begging him to help him get up.
And help him he did. It was wrong, it felt wrong! It was utterly wrong to feel that overwhelming sense of joy in his heart, but that was the only emotion Kiritsugu Emiya could feel. He, who had killed all his life to save humanity, was now crying tears of happiness at the simple chance of saving a single soul when an entire community had perished. His mouth opened on his own, laughing hysterically as he did, pulling the boy's hands into his chest, crying out. "You are alive… you are alive… Thank you!" He rubbed the boy's hand into his cheeks. "I'm so glad that I found you... I'm so glad that I found you."
The child coughed out blood, splattering the crimson liquid all over his face, but nothing could diminish Kiritsugu's new found hope. This boy, this single soul, this he would save. He would protect him with all his might.
And he dug his fingers into his own chest, and what he pulled out… was Hope.
The fabled scabbard of King Arthur. The scabbard that had saved Irisviel once, and had been instrumental in keeping Kiritsugu alive up till now. The same healing artefact that had regenerated his skewed heart, and was still perpetually healing his body from the effects of the battle. The gold and blue scabbard shone brightly in his hands, as he extracted it out from himself, feeling the effects of Angra Mainyu's curse sink in, but he did not pay it any mind. He disassembled the scabbard, implanting it into the boy. It hadn't been long since Saber had faded away, so the Scabbard must at least have some power left. He hoped it would be enough to save the little child.
The moment Avalon was inserted into the child, his entire body seemed to glow for a second, before a massive flux of mana registered in the Magus Killer's eyes, who placed his palms onto the boy's chest, supplying him with mana to increase Avalon's efficiency. The wounds slowly stopped oozing blood, his heart rate turned to normal, and the bruises began to slowly rejuvenate, as fresh skin clotted the existing contusions.
Kiritsugu laughed. It was ironic that he would find his atonement in saving a single kid when he had been partly responsible for doing whatever happened to him in the first place. But… but it was almost like… in saving the boy, he himself had been saved that night.
Three days later.
Kiritsugu walked into the hospital ward, ignoring the phantom pains all over his person. Come to think of it, he had registered the pains immediately after pulling Avalon out of his person, to embed it inside the boy. He wasn't a traditional magus, and even then, he would at best qualify as a second-rate one, and a spellcaster at best. There weren't many disciplines of magecraft that he had acquired over his years under Natalia's tutelage. He had few skills, but whatever he knew, he knew them best.
"Structural analysis. Set."
The moment he muttered the little aria, his magic circuits heated up, and with them, came a searing pain flitting through his nerves, that nearly made him lose control of all his senses and fall down to the ground, but he managed to hold himself straight by latching the wall to his right. The spell didn't fully achieve what he wanted it to, but at least, it hadn't been a complete waste. He had gotten a couple of inferences out of the experiment.
He had no internal physiological damage, no bones broken, no mana deprivation. And yet, using even a single magic circuit made his nerves to flare up in pain. That had just one single inference—the curse would create phantom pains even at the slightest usage of his circuits.
Wonderful. Kiritsugu cursed inwardly. Performing magecraft at the price of withstanding physical pain. My trophy for winning the war.
"At least I still have my Od to go ahead with the most basics of tasks." He murmured to himself, walking towards the last cubicle adjacent to the wall. Without any preamble, he entered past the curtains, catching the little redheaded resident off-guard, who let out a sudden ACK at his sudden entrance.
"Hi," Kiritsugu spoke in a throaty tone. "You must be—you must be Shirou."
The redhead, now that he had a closer look, seemed to be heterochromatic, with the left eye having a bright silver pupil, while the right one held an unholy crimson hue to it. He suppressed the strange feeling of violation at staring at those eyes, a sensation that quickly vanished as the boy turned to look away, drooping his eyelids slightly as if out of exhaustion. Sitting against the wall on the four-poster hospital bed, with his hands covered up with bandages and two ligatures on the left side of his forehead, the redhead nodded his head slowly. Had Kiritsugu been more alert, he would have noticed that the kid seemed to do his best not to stare at him.
Or at anything else in general.
"You might not remember me, but I found you back at the—well, in the rubble, and got you here. The doctors told me that you're Shirou, though they didn't give me a family name."
The redhead—Shirou, continued to look down at the white covers of the bed, covering him up to the waist, and then shifting to look at the condition of his bandages and then to something else. It was almost like he had the attention span of a goldfish, only that such a thing would be incredibly unsuited to the present situation. His lips twisted slightly, and though Kiritsugu could not see his eyes, the boy's countenance held an expression that was part-curiosity and part-confusion.
Is there something wrong with my attire? Kiritsugu wondered. He was dressed in his usual black suit, with his equally black trench coats and boots, and carried a black suitcase, in which he had a copy of discharge papers. Adding a little more sense of purpose in his tone, he continued. "I suppose I'll go straight ahead and ask you, if you'd prefer, being sent off to an orphanage."
That provoked a reaction from the redhead, as he widened his eyes, before shaking his head vigorously. His lips opened and closed several times, before turning away towards the wall, as if in disappointment.
Can he even talk? For that matter, how did the medics even know his name?
"Well, the other option is for you to be adopted by a man you just met."
Another momentary blank stare.
Kiritsugu rubbed the tip of his nose in slight exasperation. Not even Illyasviel was this difficult to deal with, and she was rather… flighty, for lack of a better word.
"I meant, me, that is. I'd like to adopt you myself. Though well, I live alone, so it would be just the two of us. Would you prefer that?"
The redhead seemed to give his proposition a little thought this time, which was better than another blank stare in Kiritsugu's opinion. After blinking several times and humming to himself, the boy raised his right hand, pointing towards Kiritsugu with his index finger.
The simple, crude display of faith in him moved Kiritsugu, who stepped back, a weak chuckle escaping his throat, as he slowly dropped his suitcase down on the ground.
"I'm glad." He finally admitted, allowing another chuckle to escape him. "In that case, let's get you dressed up right away. You need to get acclimated to your new home as soon as possible, and oh, I nearly forgot. There's something very important I want to tell you."
He closed his eyes, reinforcing his decision to go ahead with it. After all, the name Emiya had baggage, and he knew very well that the person in front of him, was a magus as well, one with active magic circuits. The deeper details were still not privy to him, but the presence of active magic circuits in the boy was something he had come to know while supplying him with prana for Avalon to act out its mystery. Adopting a magus child into one's household came with its own share of complications, and it was his job to get that bit settled with in the first place.
"Yes," Kiritsugu told himself softly. "I have to do this right now."
"What?" The redhead muttered, apparently puzzled by the strange, scrunched up expression that the man in front of him was making. His glance flickered towards Kiritsugu before settling back onto his own bandaged arms.
"So, you can talk after all." Kiritsugu almost chuckled, wondering if the boy's shenanigans were simply childish antics after all. "You see Shirou, I'm a mage."
Apparently, no matter the quality of his circuits, putting up a quick response was not one of this boy's talents.
"…I know." The redhead replied quietly, his attention preoccupied with the bandages in his arm, making Kiritsugu feel an irrepressible urge to unbind those and look for himself what was so damned interesting about them in the first place.
Kiritsugu arched an eyebrow at that. "You knew? How?" He was no expert but he wouldn't expect a child to develop magical sensing abilities. Certainly not one not more than eight years of age.
"How did you know that I'm a mage?"
Shirou considered his reply. He was merely an eight-year-old, and an amnesiac one at that, but telling a stranger that he looked like he was coated with a dark red and black hue all over didn't seem like a good thing to his young mind. So, he settled on the next best thing. "You smell."
Kiritsugu's eyes almost bulged at that. He might have been a cold-blooded killer for the rest of the world, but as far as personal hygiene was concerned, he had always been—
"What do you mean I—I mean, what do I smell like?"
Shirou scrunched up his face, still looking away. "Like… burning paper."
Almost instinctively, Kiritsugu made it a point to smell his trench coat, and check into his suitcase. No, there were no burning smells in the vicinity. Surely the boy had made a mistake and—
"Magi always smell."
It was not a justification, but just, a simple observation.
"Do you know any other magi?"
Shirou looked confounded at that, before shrugging in denial.
Kiritsugu clenched his jaw. All right, this little kid was a magus alright, and had some kind of strange magical sensitivity associated with his olfactory senses. A rather weird ability, but he could see certain uses of it in the future. He would need to look into it later.
"Do you know who you are?"
Shirou paused for a moment. "…Shirou."
"And your family?" Kiritsugu stressed, pushing himself towards the boy in attention. He had of course, questioned the medic in charge of his treatment. The physician had told him that it wasn't unnatural for young people to suffer from amnesia as a way to ignore trauma. The flames and the burning city, not to mention the probable loss of his family members in the fire, would obviously classify as severe trauma. Of course, he had been through the list of survivors caught in the flames, said list small enough to be counted on a single hand, and have fingers left over. There hadn't been a single person that could be linked to the boy. Still… "Maybe I can aid in finding them?"
Gone? Does that—His family perished? In the flame perhaps?
"Your family's name?"
A blank stare was the only response he got in return. A momentary one, before he looked away.
Kiritsugu leaned back, his hands resting on his hips. Now if only the aftereffects of the pains could lessen a bit. The boy's odd behaviour and that strange heterochromatic stare was starting to get to him. Then again, what experience did he have in dealing with children suffering from PTSD?
He considered the boy. Obviously, he was from a magi lineage, and possibly even had some amount of training before the—the accident. From the bright red hair and the obviously-Japanese features, there was no mistaking that the kid belonged to one of the magi lineages in Japan. Besides, Japan already had an incredibly high number of human hybrids, so it is quite possible that this child was from one of them. Between the Oni kind, the mixed blood, the hybrids, the psychics, the magi and then some, trying to find the boy's parents would take eternity.
He glanced at the boy again, ignoring the recurring pain shooting up his spine as he performed a quick structural analysis. Twenty-seven circuits. A surprisingly large number, and quite well-developed too. And that odd sensing ability, a sorcery trait perhaps? It would require looking into, but that was for later.
"Well," Kiritsugu grasped for words to say, "now that, that is cleared, how would you like to get dressed up for your new home?"
Shirou quickly nodded.
The newly renovated and christened Emiya Residence, was a large Japanese-styled mansion in the north-end of Miyama, encompassing a pretty large plot of land purchased by Kiritsugu through shady deals with the Fujimura Group, a year before the Grail War was supposed to begin. The finances were provided for, by the Einzbern, in Kiritsugu's name, to serve as a secret Headquarters during the war. With it being in the absolute vicinity of both Tohsaka and Matou families, it was a dangerous choice, and yet, provided much advantage because of its unpredictability. The entire residence had two separate guest wings, and an immensely old, stone-walled storehouse that served as Irisviel's temporary workshop after the Einzbern mansion in Fuyuki had been demolished during the battle with Kayneth Archibald.
Knowing how conniving and downright obstinate the Einzbern could be, the very first thing Kiritsugu had done was to transfer whatever fortune he had in his official bank accounts into smaller ratholes, a practice he had employed from his very early days during the war. Besides, his profession as a Freelancer had fetched him quite a significant fortune, enough for him to continue living the rest of his life without work easily, and leave something for the future. He had sold over half of his ammunition and equipment to Raiga Fujimura, something that had gone quite a long way in establishing a good rapport with the Yakuza Boss, his new neighbour and friend.
Turns out it wasn't that bad of a deal. With Raiga's connections, he had been able to get workers at affordable rates to get the renovation done quickly. It would still take a week or so to complete, but for now, the house was more than habitable.
"Am I going to live here?"
Turns out that Shirou—the fascinating, little redhead, wasn't as silent as he had previously imagined. A few hours of semi-awkward conversation, some ice-creams and a trip to the residence on one of Fujimura's cars, and little Shirou had already progressed from speaking in words to full sentences.
"Yeah," Kiritsugu answered. "Do you like it?"
Shirou scrunched his face, his blank stare zooming and flickering all over the place, almost like he was afraid to hold a steady gaze. Apparently, it was something the boy had a habit of doing, or so the Emiya inferred. "Dusty."
"The dust will be gone in a few days." Kiritsugu answered, pointing towards the sweaty workmen who were pulling up old planks from the floor, and inserting newer ones. Apparently, they were going to use fibre-glass for the outer doors instead of wood—Raiga's choice, not his. Personally, he had grown somewhat comfortable with the European beds and comforts in Germany, but he supposed that he could try and survive this as well.
"This house is big." Shirou mumbled.
"Is that so?" The retired assassin questioned. "Bigger than your previous house?"
Shirou shrugged. He looked up, staring at Kiritsugu for a quick second, before pointing out towards the doors. "Aren't those things supposed to be made of wood?"
"Generally, yes." The older man agreed, observing the little kid. "Old man Raiga decided to go with fibreglass when I asked for his input. Says its more modern and provides better insulation."
Kiritsugu chuckled. "It will be more comfortable living inside them with those instead of wood."
"Where have you seen houses like this one with wooden doors?"
Shirou scrunched up his face. "I… don't know."
Well, it was worth an attempt. Kiritsugu sighed inwardly. Even the doctor hadn't been able to put his finger on anything that could determine the boy's origins, and Kiritsugu wasn't a mage talented enough to use the boy's blood to scry for relatives. The only ones who could probably do that were shut-ins in the Department of Spiritual Evocation at the Clock Tower in London, and frankly, Kiritsugu wasn't sure if he wanted that in the first place. Call him selfish, but he had kind of, found a support-system in the kid, even if said kid was slightly strange and amnesiac. As soon as he could get the adoption dealt with, he could work on an attempt to get back to Germany and get his daughter back. He had of course, made an international call to the Einzbern Mansion, but Jubstacheit hadn't sounded remotely pleased with the way the events had turned out, and seemed to treat the apparent tainted nature of the Grail as something inconsequential. He had requested to be allowed to speak to his daughter, only for the phone to be slammed down on the other end.
"We will be having lunch at the Fujimura's today. You can meet them over there."
The boy shrugged, as if he had registered his words and then decided them to be of no significance. Not that Kiritsugu could blame him. Either way, the boy seemed awfully interested in the workmen renovating the house.
"Umm, old man, what do I call you?"
Said old man laughed at that. "I'm hardly thirty-two, Shirou. But you can call me Kiritsugu, for now at least."
"Much better." The man grinned. "Well, welcome to your new home."
Five weeks later.
Seated on the edge of the porch, Kiritsugu smiled down at the moon's reflection on his sake cup. The white orb always did remind of his wife and their tinkling laughter. The same wife whom he had known would die with her participation in the war, and yet, he had brought her there anyway. The same daughter who was currently trapped somewhere inside the Einzbern mansion, waiting for her father to return to her. Though, from their last telephone conversation, it was pretty much clear that Jubstacheit would go out of his way to prevent that out of sheer animosity.
Kerry, did you know that a sect in Asia believe that they can pass on messages to their family through the moon? Doesn't that seem so silly?
How the mighty have fallen! He mused. Here he stood, sitting over the porch with a cigarette, his mind lost in nostalgia and second thoughts. He, who was literally the King of Freelancers at one time, was now having to suffer pain just for using a single magic circuit. But even so, he knew very well that he would have to keep doing that, or else, his circuits would get atrophied over time. Wilfully go through mind-numbing pain to keep his ability to use magecraft. If this wasn't irony, what was?
Kiritsugu sighed and placed the cup to the side, ignoring the ache in his wrist. A gift from the Holy Grail for his defiance, his body had begun to ache in every piece of skin, muscle and bone that had sustained injury over the course of his career. Of course, his medical reports said otherwise and the doctor was very careful in not calling him a crazy old man and had left him with a placebo subscription that proved to be as useful as a handgun against a dead apostle. Then again, what good was normal medicine against an ancient curse?
In the grand scheme of things, the pain mattered little when compared to the fallout of the Fourth Holy Grail War.
According to every single asset he was contact with, the Clock Tower had come down hard on the Triumvirate of the Einzbern, Matou and Tohsaka lineages. The Tohsaka had been spared the brunt of the punishment due to their low position on the magi's social strata, the loss of the Lord and Lady and despite-
Taken by surprise, Kiritsugu instinctively drew on prana to prepare an attack before the identity of the voice broke through the haze. He had almost learnt to ignore the searing pain now, after a month of consistent exposure to it. Turning to the right, he found Shirou sitting beside him, legs dangling off the porch. Kiritsugu's lips curved into a smile. Lost in his thoughts, he had missed the arrival of his son. "It's a good night to be lazy, Shirou."
Shirou frowned. "Did Fuji-nee teach you that?"
Right. Taiga Fujimura. Raiga Fujimura's only grandchild and possible successor to the Yakuza dynasty the man had built over the decades. Then again, considering everything, he might just forget the last part, considering that Taiga was the last person on earth one would suspect of being from a Yakuza lineage. The hyperactive girl did not have one conniving bone in her body, and acted way too much like a fusion of both Iri and Illya for Kiritsugu's liking. Shirou's first meeting with Taiga had been an epic one, one that had taken place the very day Shirou had stepped inside the Emiya residence.
Shirou had been loitering around near the inner gates of the rather spacious Fujimura Residence, when Taiga, freshly returned from her school, and somewhat frustrated because of things best known to herself, had spotted the little redhead and instantly decided his intentions as malicious, attacking him with one of her bokkens.
It had not been a good sight.
On second thought, had Kiritsugu not witnessed it with his own eyes, he would perhaps, have doubted the authenticity of the entire event. He had watched Shirou move with near impossible swiftness, reminding Kiritsugu about his own branch of Time Alteration spells—shifting his footing to the right, enough to take hold of Taiga's right arm—the same one that held the bokken—pulling it ahead of him, before pushing her with a soft tap at the back of her neck.
The so-named Tiger of Fuyuki had literally smashed her face into the ground. And then, Shirou turned around, madly muttering apologies, as he tried to get the girl up and offer help.
It must therefore, be not at all surprising, that Taiga Fujimura decided to lay claim on the little kid, claiming him as her little brother.
It drove his adopted son crazy. Of course, as far as Kiritsugu himself was concerned, the entire event was a stunning revelation. His amnesiac kid, whoever he might have been, had had extreme practice at close-combat, and excellent reaction-time, if that sudden subconscious response was of any clue.
"Hah!" He laughed. "Now why would you say that?"
Shirou's face twisted into a deep scowl as he thought about the brown-haired menace, as his lips moved almost automatically to express his emotions. "So Lazy!"
Oh, right. Taiga had taken his reflexes to be good enough to start indoctrinating the kid in Kendo. After over two days of constant exposition and practice, Taiga had left the slightly impressionable kid alone inside one of the sitting rooms of the Emiya Residence. The boy had, as far as Kiritsugu knew, not even ventured out for the rest of the day except for dinner.
The next day, Taiga had literally dragged him into her self-proclaimed dojo, to properly train him to become a proper Kendoka. Kiritsugu did not know what exactly transpired within the wooden walls of the dojo, but Taiga had the eyes of a war-veteran, and Shirou had a small smile on his lips. Unfortunately, this was Taiga Fujimura he was dealing with—the Tiger of Fuyuki who was a sore loser, for lack of a better word. She had gotten her legendary Torashinai to quell the rise of her future opponent, and the results were not… good to look at.
"Did she take out the Torashinai today as well?" Kiritsugu asked generally, knowing the girl's newly found obsession of coming at Shirou with the cursed bokken.
As if in confirmation, Shirou turned to him with wide eyes, nodding his head furiously. "That bokken is… wrong."
"Wrong?" Kiritsugu arched an eyebrow.
"Yeah!" Shirou emphasized. "Smells like blood. So, so wrong!" Then as if to reinforce his point, he shuddered, probably thinking of it.
He was able to sense the curse in it, huh? Kiritsugu's lips twisted in curiosity. A part of him had been ready to throw away that little observation about Shirou's magical sensing as a fluke, but the recurrence of a similar event so soon only managed to reinforce it. And therein lay the problem.
After everything he had been through, Kiritsugu had been all too ready to forget the existence of the moonlit world. He had a decent residence for himself, and had built up enough fortune to last his remaining years, and yet, have more than enough left for Shirou and Illyasviel to live up a decent lifestyle for the next three decades or so. Had Shirou been another ordinary child, it would have been oh-so-easy to go with the plan. Unfortunately, Shirou was hardly what he would call ordinary, not even by Magi standards.
It hadn't been all that conspicuous from the beginning, but the symptoms were always there.
Of course, the boy demonstrated all symptoms of retrograde amnesia, and suffered from an extreme version of memory loss. He knew next to nothing about his family, his prior living conditions, and by the looks of it, did not even receive a formal education at schools, which was extreme, even for magi standards. But even with the amnesia, there were certain things that he retained.
Extremely high physical tuning, with reflexes comparable to someone with an Enforcer background, or perhaps, an assassin. Extreme magical sensitivity in the form of smell, and—if he was right, forms of colour as well, though the latter was still subject to future experimentation before he could rightfully determine it to be true. Previous exposure to physical training in self-reinforcement magecraft. No determined sorcery traits. Twenty-seven, B ranked magic circuits. Extreme affinity towards sword-based combat.
And he was heterochromatic, did not make prolonged eye contact with anything or anyone, and had red hair.
So far, Kiritsugu was of opinion that his adopted son was either from one of the magical lineages devoted towards the physical side of magical combat, perhaps from the Enforcer-background like the Edelfelt family, or a general psychic lineage, or worse, from one of those groups that stole away children to be inducted and trained to become a ruthless assassin.
Just like he was. The only difference—he had chosen it for himself to save the world, and this boy… he had been forced into it, and had now lost his memory, though not his talents. The question was—what to do with him? Kiritsugu had an incredible urge to simply ignore it all and make the boy live a normal life, even at the cost of not teaching him magecraft at all. A normal life, like any other.
There was a second option, and the Magus Killer hated it. Scratch that, he absolutely loathed it, but that didn't make it's potential any less true.
Jubstacheit Von Einzbern had made his call. As far as the old lion was concerned, Kiritsugu betrayed the Einzbern by destroying the Grail vessel, losing them their chance at reclaiming the lost Third Magic. Of course, the Einzbern had instantly tried to cease all of Kiritsugu's assets (or whatever remained of them anyway) and had made it very clear that any sightings of the man within a one-acre radius of the Einzbern property would be dealt with lethal force. With his present condition and Angra Mainyu's curse, there was no way that he could be able to break through the Einzbern bounded fields, after helping make them over the years. Not in his current state anyway.
Kiritsugu glanced at the redhead sitting right next to him.
He could not, but Shirou could. Shirou Emiya, his adopted child, held significant potential, and with correct tutelage, Shirou could be instrumental in getting Illya out of the Einzbern's hands. He had promised her that he would return, and return he would. Of course, Shirou's tutelage could take years. There was a pretty high chance that he would not even make it before the actual event happened. But… but did that mean that he wouldn't even try? But would it be fair to the little kid to be trained to become a ruthless Magus Killer like himself? Was this a price little Shirou would have to pay for being rescued by the lethal machine that was Kiritsugu Emiya?
"Iri…" Kiritsugu closed his eyes. "What would you have done in my place?"
"Old man," Shirou spoke up again. "Are you sleepy?"
"No… just thinking about the past, about how things have changed." The Magus Killer replied in a nostalgic tone. "I'm not sure if that was for the good or the bad."
The redhead seemed to comprehend what he was trying to say, and nodded his head softly. "Hey old man?"
"Yes, Shirou?" He answered, eyes still closed.
"What is a mage?"
Kiritsugu's eyes shot open, before shooting a skeptical glance at his adopted son. "I thought you told me that Magi always smell of something." He was still a little skeptical about how magical sensitivity being some form of olfactory signals, but that was neither here nor there.
"And you do not know what Magi are?"
"Then how do you know they smell?"
Shirou scrunched up his face again, thinking hard. After five strenuous seconds, he looked back with an adorably helpless stare. "I can't remember."
The Magus Killer watched his son dumbly for a moment, before giving up. "Well, a mage or magus if you prefer, Magi in plural, is someone who uses magecraft."
"Magecraft." The man repeated.
"Is that like… magic?" Shirou asked, curiosity evident in his tone.
"…Yes. I would have phrased it differently, but yes." Kiritsugu answered.
"Hmmm." Shirou frowned. "You can do magic, right?"
"I can… mostly." Kiritsugu did not like the direction the conversation was going on, but decided to humour the boy's curiosity. Perhaps he would come across some other talents that the boy had.
Shirou turned his glance towards his own hands, as if they were the most interesting things on the planet. It was something of a recurring theme, Kiritsugu was learning. The boy would keep away from staring at anything except his own body parts—hands, fingers, legs, or perhaps his clothes. He would not stare away, not stare at the ground, or at a person, and even if he did, it wouldn't be for long. Kiritsugu had asked him the reason for that once, only to get an ephemeral and not at all helpful answer.
The boy had told him that it pained to look elsewhere for long.
"What's wrong, Shirou?"
"I just…" the little boy murmured. "Wish I could do magic."
Like—the hell? What kind of magus develops so many magical talents without recognizing that they-? -Kiritsugu shut off the mental rant, suppressing a sudden choke, before answering in a throaty voice. "Tell me Shirou, would you like to learn magic?"
The endearing smile he received was bright enough to light up the corridor.
AN: Yeah, I was slightly disappointed in myself with the first chapter of Fate Resurgence and did a complete overhaul with the storyline, creating something different from scratch. Updates on this story will of course, depend upon the reactions I get from my audience. Well, there are two things I'd like to clear out right off the bat.
First, this is a complete AU and that means I will be ignoring Canon whenever I like if it suits my story plotline. Second, Shirou here is not exactly canon-Shirou, though I suppose that bit was pretty clear right off the bat.
Anyway, what do you think of this first chapter? Please review.