Five years later.
Homurahara Academy was one of the largest schools in the entirety of Fuyuki city, the only one to have all three schooling divisions packed in one. The closest to something like that was Jounan Academy in Mifune city, and that was quite far. Then again, considering the incidents that tended to happen in Mifune city, most people usually stayed away from that place, choosing to deviate towards Misaki and Fuyuki instead.
It had been five years since he had first encountered Kiritsugu Emiya amidst the flames, and witnessed the teary-eyed man save him from the fires of hell itself, before adopting him into his family. Back then, Shirou had been hardly capable of speaking in full-sentences, forget holding long conversations with people he knew. As far as strangers were concerned, little Shirou was perfectly happy to consider them non-existent.
His only remorse was that he had not considered putting Taiga Fujimura under the same category.
Because of his amnesia and his somewhat anti-social behaviour, Kiritsugu had decided to keep him away from general schooling, believing it better to simply teach him by himself, and with aid from privately-hired tutors. Private education was hardly an uncommon thing in Japan, and it was perfectly natural for kids—usually the more sheltered types—to be introduced to schooling later when they were in their teens. For most people belonging to this category, Middle School was the first step to a formal academic education.
And that was how Shirou Emiya found himself facing a life of academic education at Homurahara Academy, his first day of Middle School. It was completely natural for him to hesitate being in the presence of so many people—strangers, a part of his mind told him—all day long, for the next several years of his life. Almost instinctively, a trace amount of prana was beginning to be moulded between his fingers, shaping into a pointed end with a long—
"Come now Shirou-chan, your classmates aren't going to eat you, you know?" The gentle yet teasing feminine voice behind him proceeded to laugh at his sudden hesitation.
Shirou almost rolled his eyes. Right, how had he forgotten? Otoko Hotaruzuka, a senpai who just graduated from High School, a friend and rival of Taiga Fujimura, and most importantly, one of his tutors for the last five years. Otoko's father ran an Izakaya called Copenhagen, though as far as most people were concerned, it was just an overrated pub. Shirou disliked the man, plain and simple. It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that his culinary skills were almost on par with him.
"Otoko-nee-san, I am not afraid of school." The young teen asserted.
"Right, so the tales of how you haven't slept for two days fearing about school and deranged and rabid strangers?" The brown-haired girl challenged, raising her brow.
"All rumours, I promise." Shirou emphasized.
"Of course. And the dark spots below your eyes are?"
"Bruises from the practice the other day."
"Of course, and your stopping after every three steps?"
"Umm... enjoying nature?"
Otoko snorted at that. "I didn't take you as a lover of nature all this while?"
"I'm not, but it seems my body is." Shirou replied straight-faced. It had to work. Miracles did exist. Right?
"It is a unique situation." Otoko deadpanned, before hitting him on the head with a classic Aikido-style jab. Otoko and Taiga were somewhat of a rival when it comes to martial arts, but Taiga always overwhelmed her at Kendo, while she stomped the Fujimura at Aikido. It was a long story, and completely out of present context.
"Oww. Oww." Shirou cried comically. "What was that for?"
"For delaying me. Now get going."
"You are a witch." The teen growled.
"I love you too."
Shirou could easily accept that the past few years had almost felt like a part cut out of someone else's life. Then again, he had absolutely no memories of his lifer prior to the burning flames and that feeling of helplessness, regret, pain, burn, curse—
He shook his head. It would not do to think back about it all over again. His mind had this tendency to just drown into the insanity that had been there, and it was from within that monstrosity, that Kiritsugu had saved him. Of course, on his second meet with the man, he had immediately discerned that the man was a magus, though he wasn't exactly sure what the term Magus even meant, at least not until Kiritsugu had taken the time to explain it to him in excruciating detail.
A Magus was a practitioner of magecraft, someone who used energy—Mana and Od—to create prana out of his circuits to perform magical feats. More importantly, a Magus was someone who walked with Death. A Magus was someone who lived in the modern world, but followed the ways of magecraft. And that was what he had been trained in, over the last five years.
He shook his head again. Kiritsugu had pounded it deep inside his mind—everything at its own time. He was in school, and thus, it would not do to let his mind wander into other things. There was enough time to do that later when he got home. Besides, it was not like he knew no one here. There was the reedy Issei Ryuudou, his only friend of his own age, and a really wise one at that, if albeit a little pushy at times. Shirou had been acquaintances, then friends with the monk-in-training for the last three years, ever since Kiritsugu had hired Issei's elder brother Reikan to train Shirou in hand-to-hand combat. His father had been extremely clear about Reikan not treating Shirou as a kid, something that had gotten him several broken bones amongst other things, but that was the story for another day.
And there he went all tangent for the third time. He really needed to bring some semblance of control on this annoying habit.
It will get you killed in the most insufferable way. A voice in his head, that sounded eerily-similar to his adopted father, spoke to him.
As if I already didn't know that.
"Hey Emiya, is that you?"
Shirou turned wide-eyed at the familiar voice, only to instantly shoot his gaze down at the floor, closing his eyes, as his fingers trembled for a second, before relaxing. "Yeah… it—it's me."
Issei Ryuudou, who had been standing behind him, with an entire group of students just entering the corridor from the sides right that moment, ran up to the redhead. "Emiya, are you alright?"
"Yeah!" Shirou replied again, his voice now losing the tension previously lining it.
"I thought you got rid of that problem of yours." The monk-in-training questioned, remembering his friend's strange issues at looking at strangers. He didn't exactly know what the problem was, only that it was genetic and that the young Emiya usually avoided staring directly at almost everything. Of course, his friend had slowly gained a level of comfortability over the issue, but right now, it seemed like that had been a temporary thing at best.
"I did," Shirou muttered, relaxing himself further as he slowly opened his eyes, before meeting his friend with an indirect gaze. "It's just, everything is kinda' new, so it caught me off guard, that's all."
"So you say." The other boy replied, flinching slightly at the young Emiya's stare. Over the time he had known Emiya, aside from his unnatural affinity with Kyudo and Kendo, and his equally-unnatural diligence towards learning Aikido from Reikan, the redhead was almost a flower-loving pacifist, going out of his way to help anyone, even if it is a random stranger he met on the street. While some people would consider it helpfulness, Issei always suspected something, though he could never put a finger on it. That said, that heterochromatic stare of his always made Issei feel funny, and though he couldn't exactly put it down into words, he instinctively felt that it was alien, and wrong. In fact, back in the early days of their acquaintance, Issei had run to his father, asking if it was possible to check the redhead for symptoms of possession.
"You were saying something?"
"Uh… yeah right." Said boy gathered his thoughts. "So, you are finally in school, huh? I should tell you that as Class President, I'm supposed to be fair towards everyone, and that includes you, Shirou-chan. Don't think that our mutual friendship will curry you any favours?"
"…sure thing." Shirou didn't know what to say about it, as his gaze met the floor, randomly observing how there were seven hundred vitrified tiles on the very corridor he was currently on, with sixteen of them developed major splinters. Two tiles on the left of Issei's left shoe was the only one to have developed a single splinter that arched diagonally, and made creaking sounds every now and then if either end got a little loose. The thirteenth tile to his right was actually loose and used by a certain caretaker to hide a half-filled bottle of single-malt whiskey from the—
"Stop thinking about something else when I'm talking to you."
Issei scowled. "I hate when you do that."
"Sorry. It comes and goes." Shirou apologized.
"Don't just apologize so much. It's kind of unnerving at times." The fellow monk-in-training refuted with a frown. "Anyway, you are in Class 1 B, I think, same as me. There's this girl called Mitsuzuri Ayako, and she's like a devout follower of that Fujimura girl who graduated last year. She's gonna force you to sign up for the clubs. So, stay sharp."
"Uhuh!" Shirou replied offhandedly, wondering why his friend was so stingy about the clubs. Then again, what did he know about school rules and systems anyway? His father and his tutors had taught him for five years, and he had also passed the entrance exams, and placed in the first year of Middle School. Surely, he would survive the experience without major difficulties.
"I hate school."
Kiritsugu Emiya observed his son with an amused expression floating on his lips. The first day of Shirou's schooling had hardly been over, and yet, the boy had already given up, and declared his ultimatum.
"I don't mind practicing the same disciplines for the next five years, but I'm not gonna return back to that devilish place." Shirou stomped the ground with his feet, putting up an infuriated expression.
"Shirou, what have I taught you about pouting?"
"I'm not pouting." Shirou pouted.
"Of course." His father drawled. "Either way, you do not really have a choice in that matter. If you do not go to Middle School now, you'll be totally incompatible with High School too. Besides, didn't you say that you wanted to make new friends?"
"I said that when I was nine." The redhead refuted back. "It was just one time. Besides," he turned away, his eyes dimming a little. "It felt like my head would burst over and over."
Kiritsugu frowned. "So, it is still not enough huh? I had thought that the experience of all these years would have been enough, especially with Avalon working to heal you."
"Avalon is a Fae-construct that barely heals my injuries. Stop treating it like your replacement for Aspirin."
Kiritsugu arched an eyebrow. Whatever had happened to make his usually introverted son to be this… frank, must have been significant. Either that, or he was simply underestimating the amount of information that could be gathered from a school building with class in session.
"Right. We'll talk about it later. Go get yourself freshened up before we get down to training. Or are you too excited to train after your first day of school?"
Without preamble, Shirou picked up his bag from the floor, before dragging it all the way to his room, leaving his father to his thoughts.
"We'll start in thirty minutes. Have your lunch first. I made some ramen for you."
"Cooked food made by Kiritsugu Emiya doesn't count as lunch." A yell shot out from the living room, causing the elder man to flinch. Surely, he had nearly burned the kitchen once while trying to make noodles, but that didn't mean that his ability was that bad. He had even undergone some training on the subject from a certain someone, and he'd like to believe that he made half-decent ramen at least.
Well, at least he thought he did.
Oh well, given how obstinate the kid could be, it was a given that Shirou would just cook something up instead. Well, that wasn't bad. It would give him some time to consider the change in situation.
Ever since Kiritsugu had reached a decision to train Shirou in magecraft, he had actively tried to mould the boy using the very arts that Natalia Kaminski once drilled into him, with the object of shaping the boy into someone better than Kiritsugu himself back in his prime. Of course, given Angra Mainyu's curse, he found it nigh unbearable to use his magic circuits—not without accepting a hell lot of pain that is. For that reason, he had visited some of his shadier contacts in Japan that had been instrumental in providing him with commercially-available prana batteries. These batteries were, per se, a way for the less fortunate magi out there with more power than they could utilize to earn some raw cash. Stored prana was usually a good way for using rituals, and as far as Kiritsugu was concerned, he needed some for the same reason. Case in point—a ritual to identify his adopted son's Origin and Alignment, or as the younger generations liked to call it—Elemental Affinity.
He might have gone slightly overboard when he had spent a little over seventy thousand yen on it, but it had been worth it. Of course, that much quantity of prana was hardly required for a simple origin-identification, but given that he had taken upon himself the duties of a teacher, he assumed that he would sooner or later, require more prana for future rituals. The stored prana had worked perfectly—well, satisfactorily, if one was being more truthful—and gave him a good idea of his strange situation. Somehow, his adopted son—the ever-intriguing Shirou Emiya had an identical Alignment and Origin, and that too, of a completely unheard-of element.
A Magus with matching Alignment and Origin was unheard-of, even for someone of Kiritsugu's status. Of course, it was not from a Magi-standpoint but from an Enforcer-based one. If anyone would have a matching Origin and Affinity, it would obviously be enough for the Clock Tower bastards to put a Sealing Designate on them, and send the hunting dogs out in the wild. But even if something so unique like that had escaped his eye, he had yet to find someone with an element as peculiar as Sword. Usually, Alignments were either element-based, or esoteric for the more peculiar Magi lineages. But for a person's Origin and Alignment to manifest as something so physical as Sword was downright unprecedented and fascinating.
Bottom line—One single whisper about his son's status, and the Clock Tower would have him captured, gagged, chained, and delivered at the Tower. After that, they would probably vivisect, and experiment on him for the rest of his life trying to understand the secrets within. After he served his purpose, they wouldn't even leave him intact, dissecting him for any further information. Such was the brutality of the clock tower. He blamed Natalia for telling him all the horror stories about the ultimate fate of certain sealing designates at the hands of the Tower magi.
It was a very, very troubling thought.
His freshly adopted son had twenty-seven high-quality magic circuits, had significant amount of prior close-combat experience, and had identical Origin and Alignment of Sword. And that was without that heterochromia of his, even a single glance at it made him feel all weirded and downright uncomfortable.
Yep. Chained, bound, petrified. And then vivisected and experimented for life for sure.
The revelation had been heart-wrenching, making him instantly want to choose the former option of keeping Shirou ignorant of magecraft, force him to lead a natural life, and as for himself, try to get Illya out of the Einzbern fortress, despite the more cynical part of him calmly pointing out how impossibly ludicrous it was. He had then remembered about his son's other abilities, and come to a logical decision that forcing him to lead a natural life wouldn't be a proper solution and thus, he would need to think the matter through, to figure out a way to make ends meet.
It had taken him over a month, but the Magus Killer had diligently prepared a regimen specifically geared towards development of his son's abilities, while keeping in mind of his extraordinary situation.
He was hardly an expert at the more esoteric aspects of magecraft. However, his knowledge of what he did know was expansive, and fortunately, the disciplines related to Magical Energy, Circuits, Origin, Alignment and the flow of mana were something he liked to think he had an authority about.
Case in point. His Origin Bullets. Kiritsugu knew more than anyone else, just how dangerous one's Origin could be, if geared in the right way. The dual Origin of Severing and Binding had allowed him the usage of what was possibly an A-rank Anti-magus weapon. One single shot using those bullets and he was able to perfectly destroy a Magi's magic circuits. Just ask the Archibald family. They'd tell you.
Shirou's Origin of Sword was restrictive in many ways, and yet, flexible in others. The objective was to weave through the restrictions and utilize the flexibility to create a congregation of disciplines that would fit Shirou—Sword Incarnate—best.
His son already knew Structural Grasping, or at least a variant of it, using those eyes. Kiritsugu taught him how to grasp objects using the sense of touch instead.
The boy already knew self-reinforcement. Kiritsugu taught him how to take it to greater heights and reinforce others.
For the better part of the year, Shirou's training had been limited to structural grasping and reinforcement—seven hours a day, seven days a week, over and over. It was only when the young boy, barely eight or nine—had been able to display skill that was head and shoulders above what Kiritsugu himself was capable of that he decided to add a third thing into the dish.
Gradation Air, or as otherwise known, Projection.
The art of creation of a substance out of the creator's imagination, using prana as the source material. Regarded as an incomplete discipline by most, projection was a somewhat useless technique for most magi, with its applications limited to the creation of daggers or vessels for rituals. Kiritsugu himself, used projection at times to create plain knives or bullets when he lacked ammunition in a fight. It was a relatively easy way to both kill an opponent, and yet, leave no clues behind. From what Kiritsugu had hypothesized, Shirou's ability to project bladed items should be far superior than anything Kiritsugu could even imagine.
And he had been right.
Projecting a normal .30 bullet took the Magus Killer approximately 20 units of prana. Projecting a dagger, no less than 3 inches took around 35 units. For Shirou though, projecting the same bullet took around 25 units of prana—which Kiritsugu determined to Shirou's lack of previous exposure to the discipline. Projecting the dagger though, took the boy 8 units at best.
And therein, had he struck gold.
As far as the Magus Killer had been able to hypothesize, the matching Origin and Alignment would render him nearly incapable of performing any standard magecraft except the mere fundamental ones. However, the same match-up would allow Shirou to take the skills he was good at, to a level most of the stuck-up bastards at the Tower would only hypothesize.
After almost a year delving into Gradation Air, Kiritsugu had added Alteration to the mix. Structural Grasping, Reinforcement, Projection and Alteration—four disciplines were all that he taught to the young magus-in-training. Of course, his initial idea was to combine Shirou's unusual speed and accuracy, his ability with reinforcement, and his uncanny ability to create blades with trace amounts of prana, into a deadly fighting technique. And then, the boy just had to go and break all his plans and estimations into dust.
Tracing. Such a ridiculous term, and yet, it was an apt name for what it did. The little redhead had taken Gradation Air to a ridiculous level, by combining structural grasping into it, adding not only the outer and inner structures, but also the concept of creation, the mysteries within, and the personal history, tying them together to create a perfect replica of the target. He had used Reinforcement to further strengthen the object, getting rid of its vulnerabilities. He'd used Alteration to further twist the projected object into a more idealized state of existence, surpassing the original. As far as Kiritsugu was concerned, had he not known that these objects were ultimately prana-constructs, he'd have sworn they were originals, and better versions than the one at hand.
Of course, that went double if the traced item was a bladed weapon—a reflection of how Shirou's Origin and Alignment contributed to his specific skillset. This was—the Magus inside Kiritsugu had realized—the true potential of the Sword Incarnate that was his son.
That was over two years ago.
"I'm ready Dad."
The familiar voice shook Kiritsugu out of his reveries, as he turned right, looking at his son, ready in his training uniform—a thick, dull-grey apron tied above his clothes, and two wrist-bands of the same colour, each extending up to the elbow. The material was reinforced leather, altered to make it near-immune to fire, and yet, having enough tensile strength to survive a direct slash from one of Shirou's more dangerous experiments.
"Let's start with the usual then. And don't forget your five steps." The Magus Killer ordered, casually ignoring the frown on his son's face as he did. The five steps, as he referred to, were in themselves, individual additions which when used together, allow Shirou to project, or as he liked to call it—trace objects at superlative levels.
"I know dad. Jeez, one'd think that after two years of repeated practice, you'd have more trust in me."
"Trust gets you killed."
"Right. Forget I said anything." The redhead scowled, before spreading his hands outward, palms wide open. "How many?"
"Let's start with thirty for now. Fire Element. We'll change that appropriately."
"Right." The redhead closed his eyes, as he began to mutter, thinking of the type of sword he wanted to trace. The Fire element was something he comprehended very well. Then again, fire as a whole, and the concepts within it, were something deeply ingrained in him, and was part of his earliest memories. The blazes, the heat, the burning, sweltering feeling, the pain, the illusion, the—
"Are you ready?"
Shirou shook himself off. "Yes. Judging the concept of creation."
It was the easiest part of the five-step process. With his own comprehension of the Fire Element, he simply had to incorporate it into a random steel sword, in such a fashion that the steel would be altered to assimilate the concepts of Fire inside it, without turning unstable and brittle in the process. Of course, he knew that deep within his mind, he already had a perfect blueprint of a Flame-sword ready to be used and projected in a split-second, but since his father always asked him to do it from scratch, he just ignored the hundreds of blueprints in his mindscape, preferring to just redesign a sword from scratch instead. On the plus side, it allowed him to create newer and altered designs for the same weapon, giving him the feel of sword-smiths he watched in the anime on television.
"Altering the structure and composition."
Initially, it had been 'hypothesizing the basic structure, followed by 'duplicating the composition material' but after years of constant honing of his craft, he had been able to mould it into the new version. The concept of the Flame-sword was ready, and thanks to the innumerable substances he had comprehended over the years, that gave him a litany of substances to choose from. It had only taken some months of rigorous practice with Alteration to realize that he could just alter these mental blueprints at will, to give rise to an amalgamation perfect for his needs.
"Imitating the skill of its making."
This was a by-product of structural grasping, though as Shirou liked to think of it, his ability to comprehend. His eyes, or more precisely, his left Eye, allowed him to easily delve into the history of whatever gained his attraction. Of course, at a mere glance, it was just structural analysis, but on channelling prana, it turned into something else.
Retro-cognizance. The ability to delve into his target's structural, functional and conceptual analysis. That quickly followed with the item's history, its construction, the way it was used since its creation and so on. While the ability was a godsend, it was also the source of a near-constant migraine for the young boy, and the reason why he could afford prolonged direct eye contact with nearly almost anything.
With his ability to comprehend the personal history of objects he saw—something that went double if the item in question was a bladed weapon, he was able to retain the memory of how said weapon had been crafted, only to replicate that inside his mind. For all he knew, it was like having a large iron forge inside his head, though of course, he hadn't really spoken about it to his father, unsure of his reaction. The point was—he could utilize these histories of metal-crafting to forge the blades he wished, like the present one for instance.
The element of Fire brought with itself several concepts. Heat, light, Pain, illusion, temperature. The material was reinforced steel, with an addition of duralumin for additional tensile strength. The alloy had been beaten into shape, the blade was restricted to the shape of a Dao, with the upper edges curved, not unlike a falchion. The hilt was created of the same metal, beaten into a ring around the main blade, and the grips made of reinforced leather, the same one used in his apron. The blade was dyed in with a gradient of red going back, with silver at the edges. This was a one-handed sword, just like the ones he had created the previous week. Of course, Shirou was hardly capable to use a two-sword style yet, but it was something he wanted to pursue in the future.
"Amalgamating growth and accumulated history."
Once again, he used the traced histories of some of the past swords he had crafted, as well as adding from the ones he had witnessed at the Fujimura household. This was the tricky part, since reproducing growth and personal history was one thing, but amalgamating multiple histories into one was something else. There was always a chance of two contradicting histories to cause an unexpected flaw in his creation, and while Shirou had no pride in himself, the same didn't hold true for his swords. For someone who had known himself to be a sword Incarnate, and held swords for as long as he remembered, and had the ability to create new swords every day, he found immense pride at every single of his creations. After all, he wasn't a faker, but a swordsmith that used prana as source material instead of metal.
The sword was ready, already formed inside his mindscape. All that was needed was to give it form in the real world, in the form of a prana-construct. That led to the last step.
"Excelling production processes."
Five circuits warmed up, as pure prana rushed out of them, fuelling the manufacturing process.
"And Trace… On."
Thirty flame-swords hovered above him, all of them pin-pointed towards the northern end of the Emiya residence, at the stone wall separating the mansion from the Fujimura household. It was a good thing that Kiritsugu had deployed several layers of bounded fields—at the cost of excruciating pain no less—but the fields were damn good at what they were did—they kept any and all noises and magecraft from radiating out of the property. They also served as a proximity alert, custom-designed for informing the household if an intrusion took place, and if said intruder was a normal person or a magus, and if the intruder had any hostile intentions.
Thock. Thock. Thock.
All thirty swords slammed into the stone wall, driving an inch into the frontage in quick succession, before unleashing bright, powerful flames enough to scorch a thick tree thick to black soot from within. Of course, the target being stone, the flames could hardly do more than discolour the area into a faded white at best.
"Four seconds this time. We need to make it faster." Kiritsugu checked his watch, jerking his head, and calmly walking towards the wall, He pulled out a sword at random. "Hmm. The edges didn't break this time. Not bad, though you might need to work on the design a bit. The edge is smooth, but perhaps a straight edge would be better. A sword needs to go deeper and severe, not impress the victim with its craftsmanship."
"…sorry." Shirou muttered. For some reason, he was extremely captivated by the design he had tried to impress upon the sword. "I created them on the basis of a two-sword style and—"
"The material is good, but even I can see gaps within the molecular layers. Surely it could be reinforced in-between cross-layers?" The Magus Killer scrutinized.
"It would break the mould. Further reinforcing makes it brittle and—"
"You did craft this material previously." It was a statement, not a question.
Shirou easily bobbed his head. The truth was, he had simply performed the metalwork inside his head, and finalized the alloy inside the iron forge he could visualize inside his mind. For some reason, he did not feel like informing his father about it. After all, it might just be related to his eyes, and his father had allowed him carte blanche to experiment at will.
"I tried to infuse more prana, but it only makes it more brittle. The sword would just explode post-construction. Maybe a couple of seconds later if I'm being a little more careful."
"Let us work on that then." His father declared. "Try to craft blades that would be rendered unstable upon hitting the target, not before."
"You mean like missiles?" The little teen asked, his tone filled with curiosity.
"Something like that." Kiritsugu replied with amusement.
That night, Kiritsugu Emiya and his son were sitting in the dining room, serving themselves on the delicacies Shirou had prepared for supper. Beside them, Taiga Fujimura was hungrily gorging herself on a mountain of food enough to any self-respecting heroic spirit jealous. Then again, Taiga was a walking box of contradictions. The granddaughter and sole descendant of Raiga's fortune, Taiga was the last person one would suspect of being the next in line to take over the Yakuza group. Then again, nobody would expect the hyperactive nutjob of being a national-level Kendo expert as well, but that didn't stop her from winning that title for two consecutive years.
"Come now Taiga-chan," The elder man advised. "The food isn't going anywhere you know."
"Buha-buha-ha" Said girl replied earnestly, or at least that's what it sounded like.
"English." Kiritsugu deadpanned.
"Buha—I'm gonna go late!" Taiga finished with a gulp. "I need to leave early today so that I can start early tomorrow."
"I thought your practice sessions were over, Taiga-chan."
"Ha—yes. But old Mister Rocco asked me to visit the clubs to pick out candidates for the next junior Kendo and Kyudo tournament."
Shirou instinctively tried to slowly get up from his position. Surely Taiga would forget about him should he—
"And I want to introduce Shirou-chan to the club by myself."
Shirou sighed, apparently miracles did not occur as far as his luck with Taiga was concerned.
"I—I don't want to participate in the club. They're for High School, not middle school." He defended. It wasn't that he was afraid of joining the group. For someone who usually preferred to stay in an extremely limited social company, joining a group was the last thing in his mind. Barely attending the class, while keeping a low-profile had been a pain in the ass. He didn't know what he'd do if he had to put in time for clubs as well. Besides, time wasted on clubs could be used in training himself in magecraft, or practicing Aikido.
"Yes, they usually are." Taiga replied sagely. "But I remembered how good Shirou-chan is, and referred his name to Mister Rocco, and he asked me to ensure that you and the other middle-schoolers got their chance to demonstrate your skills. Isn't that great?"
"No." Shirou deadpanned.
"I can't hear you." Taiga subtly unsheathed the dangerous Torashinai hanging on her waist.
"…Yes." The redhead resigned.
"See?" The mad woman gleefully accepted her strong-armed victory over the redhead, before finishing up the last bit of her supper, before jumping up and leaving past the door. "—re long, need to go, see ya!"
"She should really stop and take a breath." Kiritsugu addressed a much more silent room, before turning to face his son, his tone softer than before. "Is it really that much of an issue, being in school?"
Shirou looked away. "I can manage, I suppose."
"It feels… odd." His son replied, his voice somewhat reluctant. "I mean, it's not like my eyes are beyond control anymore." As if to confirm, his left hand automatically moved up to his eyes, the silver one on the left instantly comprehending and performing a quick analysis, before rejecting the information as duplicate. His right eye however…
"Then?" His father prodded.
Kiritsugu frowned. Most days, he hated the existence of the Mage Association and the Magus-line of thinking. Other days, he wished that he had paid a little more attention to magecraft theory and become a better mage. And then, there were some days when he couldn't just understand what was wrong with himself.
Shirou's eyes. Initially, they were just something that unsettled Kiritsugu out of nowhere, for reasons he failed to comprehend. However, after extensive theorizing and experimental observation, he had gathered a modicum of information about the nature of his heterochromia.
His son had manifested Pure Eyes, or perhaps Mystic Eyes, he didn't know for sure,and for the life of him, Kiritsugu could not fathom if Shirou was born with them, or simply gained them after that…heinous experience in the aftermath of the fourth Grail War. Then again, it wasn't so much as to the nature of those eyes but the heterochromia that made it unsettling.
Shirou's left eye, the one with the Silver pupil, childishly christened as the piercing eye by the redhead, had a passive ability of performing instant structural analysis on the target that met its glance. However, on passing prana through it, the ability would morph into a form of retro-cognizance—the ability to see the structure, function, concept and history of the target. The implications made him both marvel in awe and step back in horror.
One single glance at anything, and information would flow through the twisted silver eye into Shirou's brain, feeding it with information regardless of their use. Of course, it was a handy thing to have from a Magus point of view, but there was only so far one could go, with having to deal with a near-constant migraine because of endless information overload. If not for Avalon's healing ability, Kiritsugu feared that his son would have had a more difficult life ahead of him.
Because of the nature of his left eye, Shirou avoided prolonged gazes with anything and anyone, and if he could help it, kept away from establishing direct eye contact as well. Sure, it gave the impression of extreme introvert nature, but anything was better than having to deal with the acute pain he received from the information overload.
Of course, that didn't mean that the eye came without benefits. With the aid of his piercing eye, Shirou was easily able to take structural grasping to a whole other level, even without Kiritsugu having to teach him the normal way of performing it. It wasn't grasping, it was absolute comprehension, to the extent that even books could merely theorize. The applications of such a feat were easily discerned in Tracing, but Kiritsugu believed his son could take it to even greater heights.
The Right Eye, the one with crimson pupil, had been christened the discerning eye by the young redhead, which had been a step-up from judging eye or distorting eye, Kiritsugu mused fondly with slight amusement, remembering the kind of names the little redhead had made-up for his fancy ocular powers. Come to think of it, it was hardly unnatural for a kid to do so in the first place. Shirou had been strangely vague about the details, but from what Kiritsugu understood, it had something to do with the comprehension of the idealized and altered existences of objects. Not that it made very much sense to him, and to be frank, he had yet to see any application of the right eye in any form of magecraft. Perhaps something would show up when he progressed to teaching the kid about bounded fields and runes, perhaps not. He had merely put it down as a form of sixth sense that allowed his son to comprehend a target through some kind of colour-based scheme.
"We can work on your ocular techniques again, if that would help. I thought after all this time, you would be ready to have a somewhat normal life."
"Hah!" Shirou chuckled in bitter amusement. "I'm not normal. I'm a sword, only good for cutting and tearing things."
Kiritsugu arched an eyebrow. "A sword is used for parrying and defending as well."
"You don't cut, parry and defend in school. It's… I just cannot explain. You told me not to get myself into fights, but when I see those students, and their natures, and them bullying others, I cannot help but feel like-"
"Hmm." His son admitted, looking away. "I don't mind getting hurt, that's nothing if I end up saving someone, just like you saved me."
And there it was. Kiritsugu frowned. It was something that had become vivid about Shirou's innate nature, over the last five years. Come to think of it, the symptoms had always been there, but somehow, they had become more prominent the moment he had passed onto Shirou the knowledge of his Origin and Affinity.
From the very beginning, Shirou had displayed a strange form of survivor's guilt, wanting to help people to the point that he was ready to do other people's jobs by himself if that made him happy. The boy would get into fights almost every single time he was allowed to venture out of the house, fighting off against the other kids his age. On asking why the redhead had jumped into the fight, he'd say—because I could see them wanting to do bad things to the kid. It had been a hard time trying to explain to the redhead that he couldn't just attack people because they held bad intentions, unless they carried out those intentions in reality. For someone obsessed with Kiritsugu's own dream of becoming a Hero of Justice, and the repetitive self-reinforcement of his nature as a sword, Shirou was an extremely difficult kid to take care of. It had gotten the boy a negative reputation, enough for Kiritsugu to ground the boy and overwhelm him with magecraft training if that was what it took to keep him from violence.
"Shirou, you know that you cannot just go ahead and deal with other kids because of their intentions, right?"
"I know." Shirou growled, as if forcefully shackling his primal self. "But it feels… it feels wrong, to hold back, when I want to set it free and swing—" He paused, his eyes drooping, as he looked away. "I don't think it's a good idea for me to be in school. It's just better to be at home and train and—"
"Shirou, there are other ways to stop people from bullying others." Kiritsugu answered. "You can threaten to tell the teachers about it, you know, or ask some upperclassmen to help."
"And what if I'm the one being bullied?" Shirou ground out. "You told me not to jump into fights at all."
"Then… then," Kiritsugu paused, before an idea lit up in his mind. "Then you demonstrate subtler forms of strength, without resorting to violence."
"Like?" Shirou's ears perked up at that.
"Like outperforming others in Kendo and Kyudo."
Kiritsugu sighed. "Just think of Taiga-chan. Everyone knows about her family background and everything, but even so, people are also scared of picking up fights with her. Do you know why?"
Shirou knew. It was because Taiga Fujimura would kick the crap out of anyone and everyone. Just give her a bokken. You'll see. But that meant—
"This isn't your way to make me join the clubs, is it?" He asked, arching an eyebrow.
The redhead sat silently, comprehending the discussion that had just taken place. "I understand. But wouldn't it be better if I just kept it to magecraft and learning from you, Fuji-nee and Otoko-nee-san?"
The Magus Killer chuckled. His son had a one-track mind for sure. Shirou's adorable behaviour was only complemented with his downright stubbornness. It had been the reason of more than one of Kiritsugu's headaches in the past.
"Why are you so obsessed with escaping school and focussing on magecraft? I have waited all this time. I can wait a while longer." The man ruthlessly suppressed the urge to snarl inwardly as he was suddenly reminded of his own repeated failures.
"Dad, about that promise between us, about my family—"
"What of it?" Kiritsugu asked, his voice slightly strained. "Are you having second thoughts about it now?"
"No… I'm just—I'm just wondering why I need to go through this entire charade with school and everything. We could just focus on the more important things like getting stronger and taking care of the job and I could start— "
"Shirou," Kiritsugu replied with a slightly broken voice. "Do you really see yourself as someone bound to me via a contract? That I do not care about you anymore than a pawn needed to fulfil my desires?"
"Then we need not speak of this any further." The man pushed his plate away, wiping his face with a kerchief. "I suggest you go get some sleep now."
"Dad, you cannot keep avoiding things forever. You and I had a deal, and now you want to pretend that it didn't happen at all?"
"What brought this on?" The Magus Killer asked. "Is there something that happened today that you aren't telling me?"
"…no." Shirou got up from the floor. "I'm sorry for wasting your time on that. I'll go get some practice in the workshop." He turned away. "good night, dad."
"Shi-", The words barely left his lips, before the redhead deserted the room. Kiritsugu sighed. "Good night, Shirou." He muttered to the empty room.
Three years ago.
"So, you had a wife and a daughter. And your wife, she—she died in the fire?" The young redhead questioned, both curious and flummoxed at hearing about his adopted father's life prior to the Fuyuki fire. "And your daughter is kidnapped by the Ice-burn?"
"Einzbern." Kiritsugu was almost amused. "Einzbern family."
"Yeah, that." Shirou looked away, still trying to cope up with his ocular problems. "Where's that anyway?"
"Germany." The man answered, a slight amount of frustration seeping into his tone at the word.
"Isn't that—wait, that's where you go when you are away for months, right?"
Kiritsugu looked away. Truth be told, while he had initially started teaching the redhead about magecraft in hopes of turning him into a useful tool that could get him recover Illya from the Einzbern, he hadn't really been able to go through with his actions. He didn't know why, but with the experience of the war, the disastrous aftermath, and his finding the boy amidst the rubble followed by his adoption—something had changed in his feelings about the boy. He had of course, started to teach the little kid about magecraft, but only because Shirou wanted to learn it. Of course, learning about his son's status as a Sword Incarnate had only strengthened his resolve to teach him to control his magic better, since otherwise, he'd only be a puppet bound to the Clock Tower if they got their hands onto him.
Two years had passed since then.
Of course, Kiritsugu hadn't forgotten about Illya at all. But instead of sharpening his tool that was the Sword Incarnate, the Magus Killer had taken it upon himself to try rescue Illya from the German mage family, even at the cost of excruciating pain, leaving Shirou back in Fuyuki to develop his craft at a relaxed rate. Over the past two years, he had made five attempts to rescue Illya, and every single time, it had resulted in nothing but humiliation. Not just that, the constant failures had begun to take its toll about his mind, turning him bitter and angry with time. Even the redhead had noticed the changes.
Of course, Kiritsugu had deflected the topic away, refusing to talk about it, even to Shirou. It was only when Shirou—in his own adorable form, had put his foot down, that the older man had been forced to bite down his ego and talk about it.
That is how they ended up having this conversation.
Shirou scrunched his face in thought. "These Einzbern, are they bad people? Why don't they allow you to see your daughter?"
Because I destroyed their chance of claiming the Third Magic to prevent world destruction. Kiritsugu didn't say.
"Because we had a deal between us. I'd do something for them, but I failed, and they kept my daughter away from me ever since."
"That's wrong. Did you apologize, try saying sorry?"
Kiritsugu fought a conundrum inside his mind, stuck between both laughing at the mental image created by the childish thoughts of his son, and marvelling at how simply the same words described the cruel truth of the scenario.
"I—I tried. They didn't listen."
"Then I'll help you get her back."
Kiritsugu felt Time pause around him for a moment. "You will?"
"Yeah? Remember how I promised you that I'll be a Hero for you? Well, Heroes fight for what is right, isn't it?" Shirou looked at him with a earnest expression on his face. "You are an old man so you cannot do it anymore. I'll do it for you." He looked away. "I sometimes wonder what happened to my own father and mother. Maybe I'll start looking for them when I grow up."
It was cruel, Kiritsugu realized. In his selfish desire to get Illya back, he had deliberately abstained from making any attempts at finding Shirou's true lineage. No, that wasn't correct. Part of the reason was that somewhere inside his heart, he had accepted that he had lost Illya for good, and Shirou was all he had left, and for that reason, hadn't wanted to let him go. And now this little child, he was declaring that he would put Kiritsugu's own needs first, and his own wish to find his real family afterwards?
Kiritsugu Emiya did not cry. But the lone tear that dropped from his right eye didn't really take that into consideration.
But this was not the time to break. He had just gained a new reason to keep striving for his daughter, and he would be damned if he missed that chance. "Tell me Shirou, how would you like to have a deal?"
"A deal?" Shirou tilted his head.
"A deal." Kiritsugu repeated. "You know I'm already teaching you magecraft, but if you agree to help me get Illya back, no matter the cost, then I'll teach you to become the strongest. The absolute strongest."
"More than you?" The child's eyes had widened like saucers. In his little mind, Kiritsugu was the real deal—strong, powerful and capable of performing magic.
"Much more than me. Much, much more than me." Kiritsugu promised. "We will make you the best you can be. It will be difficult, and a lot of hard work. You'll get hurt, but you'll get stronger as well. And when we have gotten Illya back, then I'll help you find what happened to your family."
The bright smile on the child's face was comparable to the sunset outside. That however, didn't diminish the tiny shred of darkness and regret in the older man's heart.
The large storehouse along the edge of the yard was unlike the rest of the mansion. For one, it was stone-walled, unlike the rest of the building which was constructed out of wood with fibre-glass walls and doors. Second, unlike the rest of the mansion that had been renovated, the storehouse had been left to what it was, except a newer, steel door had been constructed in place of the older, rustier one. The area inside the storehouse was pretty much left empty, except two thin tables along the north wall, and a large magic circle drawn in the centre with something akin to mercury, drawn by a certain blonde-haired non-human around five years ago, and used by Irisviel Von Einzbern on three occasions, all three within the span of a single week. Incidentally, the storehouse was built on a single ley line, one of the few that later converged to meet somewhere beneath Mount Enzou, and thus, the magic circle was a good medium for one Shirou Emiya to draw out mana for his more private experiments. Of course, he didn't quite comprehend how the magic circle aided in the process, but he did know how. That much was clear on analysing the circle with his eyes.
Shirou Emiya sat in the centre of the magic circle, closed his eyes, his palms wide open, as large, powerful gears in a distant land began to slowly rotate.
It would be wrong to describe them as flashes of light. Rather, the more apt description for them would be a congregation of sand-like luminescent particulates, slowly condensing into separate existences, each of them in the form of a single bladed weapon. His eyes were closed, and yet, he could comprehend what he was creating just from his position—falchions, broadswords, dao, spears, halberds and arrows of several designs. The basic versions of the melee weapons were set, and the next ones upcoming were the elemental weapons—Fire, Water, Wind, Earth, and Ether, the last one being considerably tricky due to its innate instability in present environment. He had to be doubly sure that the inner substance had been doubly reinforced and insulated from the outer shell just in case.
He had no affinity for any element, neither natural nor esoteric. The only thing he could do, was to create swords, and imbue them with concepts. Concepts that he comprehended using his left eye. Concepts he combined in patterns, altering them to produce deviations different from their idealized state of existences using his right eye, and finally, provide prana from his circuits to give them shape as a real mystic code.
The original blueprints were already, and now he needed to just focus on something else, something more fundamental to his own state of existence. Something he had been working on for the past couple of months. Progress had been definite, albeit slower than he had expected. That however, didn't matter at all.
Twenty-seven magic circuits flared, as mana from the ley line was drawn out into them, manufacturing prana for the magus seated right above the magic circle. His lips separated, as he began.
"I am… the bone of my sword."
AN: And this is the second chapter. Hope you guys like it. Also, flamingsword108 is helping me out with beta-ing the chapter. Please post a review if you like it.
The next chapter of Legend will be posted by March 25, 2019.