The bag was placed over his head, the platform disappeared from underneath his feet, and the cord pulled tight around his neck. The cheers of the crowd who had come to see him die slowly faded away as Shirou's brain died.
The idea of fighting back didn't even occur to him. He had the strength required to get away, he could have at any point in the last few days leading up to his execution. However, Shirou couldn't gather up the will required to go on, not after the betrayal he had experienced.
He had always thought that Archer was an idiot, saying that his ideals betrayed him. Now at the end of the road, Shirou was questioning the Counter Guardian's memory. Perhaps the real betrayal was so painful that he forced himself to forget its origin. It was a lot easier to accept that the idea of justice abandoned him than his own love. Shirou wished he could forget how Sakura had used her magecraft on him while they were making love and his defenses were down.
He had trusted her, loved her with all his heart, and yet she…
Sakura had only ever loved him while he was hers. When he had left home in order to risk his life to save the lives of others, she had resented him for it. He hadn't been able to see it at the time, but looking back, it was obvious. He had laughed at one point in time, in his prison cell as he awaited his sentence. This was just how Hercules had died, wasn't it? Poisoned by his own wife out of some paranoid fear that he might one day cheat on her.
He had fallen in love with the wrong girl, and for it, he lost his life. How many heroes suffered the same fate?
The only conciliation he had was that he at least never made his deal with Alaya. Knowledge of the event that required such a sacrifice gave him the chance to prevent it from ever happening. So there would be no eternity to think about his shortcomings for him. He wondered how long it would take for the cycle of reincarnation to break down his soul entirely. Or maybe there was some kind of heaven that the Heroic Spirits didn't know about and he would be able to see his loved ones again, have another chance to show them he did care.
The sounds of flames echoed within Shirou's mind, soon followed by the screams.
Ah, so it was to be hell for the foolish want-to-be hero. Makes sense. He was already starting to feel that old sensation of fire burning away his skin, the smoke filling his lungs and blood dripping down from a wound on his head. He was back in that very same hell he had been born from all those years ago.
"Hold on! Don't die now!" A familiar voice shouted at him and Shirou felt his body being lifted up out of the flames. His eyes pushed open and as his vision cleared, he saw a face leaning over him, a face he would never forget. "Thank goodness, you're alive."
Kiritsugu… was he in hell too?
Kiritsugu placed his large left hand on Shirou's body… a body that was much smaller than it should have been. Golden yellow flames seeped out of the man's hand from one of three rings that Shirou never remembered seeing before, filling Shirou's body with a gentle warmth as the pain went away. "You are going to be alright, kid."
With the pain gone, Shirou's eyes drifted close again and he fell into a light sleep.
Shirou sat up in bed at the hospital, not really sure what to do or think. It was as if the hands of time had been turned back for him. Though he noticed differences. The fire he had just came out of was a much smaller one, only killing a dozen people rather than five hundred.
The doctors had come around, asking him questions about what he could remember and concluded that he had amnesia and was delusional. Just like before, even with so few deaths, no one came forward to claim Shirou as their own. And again Kiritsugu came around and sat by his bedside.
Shirou stared blankly at the man who had been his father, not entirely sure that what he was experiencing was real, or his life flashing before his eyes.
Kiritsugu looked younger than he remembered. Less woeful. Granted even a less woeful Kiritsugu had a face that could win an award for best actor just by showing up, since the man still sported eyes so dark you could get lost in them.
Then there were the rings on his hands, while one of the three rings on his left hand seemed to be a normal wedding ring, the other two were mystic codes of some kind… though different from any mystic code that Shirou had seen before, which considering the size of his Unlimited Blade Works was really saying something.
If he had to take a guess as to their purpose, he'd call them amplifiers of some kind. The one that Kiritsugu had used to heal him had a canary yellow gem in the center and gave off residual energy that reminded Shirou of a sunbaked stone. The other ring was cyan blue and felt like slow moving water.
On his right hand were three more rings, one a dark crimson that smelled of destruction, another a deep indigo blue that had an allusive aura to it, and the last a ring that had a demon-like horn growing out of its face and possessed a demonic energy.
"Your name is Shirou, right?" Kiritsugu asked Shirou who nodded. "My name is Emiya Kiritsugu… From what I've heard, you don't seem to have a family… If you would like, you could be part of mine."
"…I'd like that." Shirou said to this man who was like his father.
Kiritsugu nodded, then he said a few things that threw Shirou for a loop. "I've already spoken to my wife, I'll fill out the adoption forms."
"Your wife!?" Shirou said, more than a little surprised.
"Yes. You'll be living with me, my wife, Irisviel, and our newborn daughter, Illyasviel. We will be your new family."
…Alright, so maybe this life will be more different that Shirou originally expected.
"Leysritt, Sella, breakfast is going to be ready in a few." Shirou said, knocking on the door of the two women's office, which was really just one of the vacant rooms that they claimed upstairs. While in his previous life, the two had been Illya's loyal maids and homunculus, they were now Irisviel's 'cousins' who were part of the family business and watched after Shirou and Illya when their parents when on extended business trips. The family business was apparently some kind of freelance investigators/law firm or something.
Considering the amount of tapping equipment they had, Shirou guessed that what they were doing wasn't strictly legal, but didn't really care either way. Since Kiritsugu, Irisviel, Leysritt and Sella all had those magic rings and had experience using them, the family was definitely not normal, even if you didn't include the things that Shirou did in his shed. They never shared with Shirou what the family business really was, and he didn't press. It wasn't like he was telling them everything.
"Oh, is it morning… already?" Sella mumbled while trying to hold down a yawn. "Sorry for making you do the housework by yourself again, Shirou-kun."
"Damn that lazy asshole… slacks off on his job and then dumps all the paperwork on us at the last minute." Leysritt said through gritted teeth as she lifted up her hands to try to push her eyes back into their sockets. "And the person we are writing it for is 'that guy', he would chew our asses if we gave him anything short of a full goddamn report."
"If he only chews our asses, I'd count it as a blessing. You know how much of a sadist that guy is." Sella said before starting to break down into tears.
Shirou didn't know who 'that guy' was but considering Leysritt's usual mode of operation when someone asks for a full written report was to tell them to fuck themselves and go and watch TV while Sella does it, seeing her working an all-nighter meant that she was legitimately terrified of the guy. And when your normal clientele are members of the Yakuza, and you live with Emiya Kiritsugu, it took a lot to scare you.
As the two 'sisters' cried into each other's shoulders, Shirou gingerly closed the door and when back down stairs.
"Can you two walk yourselves to school?" Sella asked as she washed the dishes after breakfast. "I'd take you myself but…"
"Don't worry Sella, we know that you and Leysritt are busy." Illya said, as she pulled on her shoes.
"Thank you for being so understanding, you're such a good girl." Sella said as she reached down and patted the nine-year-old girl's head.
"Good girl huh? She isn't doing it because she cares about us, she just wants some alone time with her precious onii-chan." Leysritt teased.
"Wha!? That… that's not it at all!" Illya denied, completely flustered by the accusation. She glanced at Shirou, who was standing there, waiting for her to be ready, before closing her eyes and shaking her head. "Don't say things that people will misunderstand!" She then grabbed Shirou's hand and started for the door. "We're going!"
"Have a nice day!" Leysritt called after them in a singsong voice as the door closed behind them.
"Mgh… Why is it that she's always got to be saying things like that?" Illya mumbled under her breath.
"It's just how she shows how much she cares about you. You know that she thinks of you as a little sister, don't you?" Shirou said with a good-natured smile. "Family just teases each other from time to time. It's not like you're her only victim. Remember that frilly pink apron she gave me last Christmas? The one you and mom always insist I wear." Illya shut her mouth as an embarrassed and childish smile spread across her face, no matter how hard she tried to keep her face straight. She probably wanted to deny his accusations but didn't trust herself to open her mouth. Shirou let the pseudo silence pass for a few moments longer before delivering the bullet. "By the way, how long are you planning on holding onto my hand?"
"Eep!" Illya let out a squeak as she let go of Shirou's hand staggered back a bit before blubbing unintelligibly, turning around and starting down the street by herself.
Shirou chuckled a bit to himself. "This is why people keep teasing you. Your reactions are just too funny." Shirou was about to follow after her when he passed the Sawada residence, the house just next door to their own, and suddenly felt like he was being watched.
He glanced around, throwing his senses into overdrive. He enhanced his sight and hearing to their utmost, and reached out with his magecraft, checking for anything that would be classified as a 'weapon' anywhere nearby and searched for any magical signatures. Though less effective than line of sight, if the wielder of the weapon had intentions directed towards Shirou, he'd be able to detect weapon's exact positioning and type through the energy carried in those intentions.
Sight and sound gave him nothing, but his other senses picked up things that he had never noticed before. Shirou was struggling in trying to grasp where or what the weapon actually was, which in itself was odd, but he could identify that it existed and that it was definitely mystic in origin. While its own was watching them, there was no hostile intent. Curiosity?
There was also a distinct energy in the air, that of the yellow flames, a vibrant energy that caused the air to come alive. They were much more pure than they were with his father, and they were coming from the Sawada residence. Shirou couldn't think of a reason why. The only people who lived there were Nana, a young single mother, and her daughter Natsumi. The two were nice and completely ordinary people. Why would anyone unusual go there?
"Onii-chan, why are you just standing there!?" Illya called back to Shirou from just before the crosswalk at the end of the street.
"Sorry, just thought I saw something!" Shirou called back before starting to walk briskly after her. Nothing he could do about it now. He'd check in with Natsumi at school and make sure she was alright.
He hoped nothing would happen before then.
Reborn watched the two children walking to school with mild curiosity as Leon shapeshifted out of his ninja-camouflage sheet form. "So, those are Kiri and Iris's kids, huh." He said, slowly petting the chameleon as it rested on his left arm. "Thought for a second there that the boy noticed me. Curious."
Kiritsugu and Irisviel had said that they weren't going to tell their kids about the darker side of the world, and they were going to hide the existence of the Dying Will Flames until little Illya awakened to their existence on her own. So how was it that the boy had noticed him? Perhaps it was just a coincidence that he looked up while he passed and something else caught his attention, but the Sun Arcobaleno didn't believe in those kinds of coincidences.
"I'll have to keep a close eye on that one, if he's anything like his father, perhaps he would make a good Guardian." Reborn hummed to himself before just shrugging his shoulders. "Well, I'm getting ahead of myself. Come on Leon, let's introduce ourselves to this No-Good Natsumi girl."
"Have a good day at school." Shirou said as he ruffled his little sister's hair, silently chuckling to himself at the annoyed expression on her face as he did so.
"I'm off." Illya said, giving Shirou a quick hug before ducking away and running towards the elementary school gates. Shirou smiled as he watched her go, but as she entered the school building and disappeared from sight, the smile slowly disappeared.
Just like her mother, Illya put off a soothing energy that was connected to the white flames. While not as strong as their mother's, Illya's passive energy seemed to counteract Shirou's mental trauma from his previous life. They felt like someone was putting an ice pack on his soul. It was like a strong antidepressant, and both Shirou and Kiritsugu were practically dependent on that soothing energy in order to function properly, to the point where if anything were to happen to the two girls, the Emiya men would likely go berserk.
Shirou had a lot of chances to study the rings and their flames over the last nine years, though he hadn't seen them in action since that first night in the fire.
The flames were made from the excess life force energy produced by souls, similar to Shirou's own Od. The flames also had different 'elements' for lack of a better term, which was based on the wavelength of the energy contained by the flame. Each person naturally produced different wavelengths and could use different flames. Some people could use multiple types, while others could only access one.
Kiritsugu could call on the red, light blue, dark blue, and yellow flames, while Sella and Leysritt could only use green and purple flames respectively.
Irisviel's flames were different though, as the orange flame and the white flame possessed the exact same wavelength, with the difference between the two being structure. The white flame was more rigid than the orange, which had a more fluid property to it, that could turn chaotic as the intensity of the flame increased. The best comparison between them would be ice and steam. Both of these flame types had the same soothing properties to them.
Illya had inherited her mother's white flames and the red flames from her father, not that she knew that. Illya had been kept completely oblivious to the existence of the flames, though hers were growing stronger by the day. Even without a ring to amplify their power, Shirou could still feel their presence.
The elementary school was a good distance away from Shirou's middle school, but he didn't mind the extra walk. He still had a good thirty minutes before school started, and if he was late, Hibari would turn a blind eye. While he and Hibari weren't what you would call friends, the Disciplinary Committee Leader recognized that if you were going to wear black jackets in the middle of summer, then you shouldn't go beating up the guy who fixes the air-conditions. He learned that lesson the hard way after he broke the bones of the last janitor to dare enter 'his' room while he was sleeping. Now none of the other faculty members were willing to go there. If requested, they usually just quit and left town for a few days. Shirou was the only one who would venture into the Disciplinary Committee's territory to fix their equipment when it broke, either from wear or as collateral damage. He had also done some more personal jobs for many of its members, who were now all in his debt.
Hibari had taken to calling Shirou 'Chidori' after the birds that brave the alligator's jaws in order to clean their teeth. So long as Shirou continued to fix their things and represents the school in archery tournaments, Hibari didn't care if he went to classes at all. Wasn't like Hibari went to class either. He only went when he felt like it, and not always to the same classroom.
Shirou had a sneaking suspicion that Hibari wasn't even actually enrolled in any class. Not that he cared about the Yakuza-like Disciplinary Committee Leader, or his brutal methods. He might have cared if it was someone he knew personally getting beaten up, but Shirou didn't really have any friends at school. The closest thing he did have to friends were the Disciplinary Committee members who he did favors for, and Sasagawa Ryohei, who he occasionally saw on morning jogs. Even they were more like enthusiastic acquaintances than friends.
In the end, so long as no one's life was in danger, Shirou didn't care if a couple of bullies and street gangs got their shit kicked in for whatever it was that they did to get on the Disciplinary Committee's bad side. Shirou hadn't cared about the operations of the real Yakuza in the past, so he wasn't too concerned about the middle school Yakuza now. Hell, the Yakuza had been some of his best contacts in his previous life. More morally upstanding than most magus.
Not that he was going to participate in that anymore. The closest this Shirou ever got to the underworld was repairing the broken bikes of the local Yakuza. As innocent a thing as mowing their lawns, though it paid better. The Wrought Iron Magus had put his hitman days behind him… or so he thought.
"Goodmorning, Emiya-senpai." Kusakabe Tetsuya said with a serious nod as he saw Shirou walking towards the gate.
"Goodmorning, Kusakabe-san. Did you need me for something?" Shirou replied, stopping to chat with the Disciplinary Committee's Second in Command.
Even though he was only a first year in middle school, Kusakabe had a face that could have belonged to a man in his late twenties, with a strong square jaw and sharp eyes. His discipline nature and his good manners had earned him a place as Hibari's yes-man, a job that he filled with great gusto. He acted as Hibari's mouthpiece, so that Hibari himself didn't have to interact with people.
"Yes. We've got a report here about the school's energy consumption over the last week and we have a lot of unexplained spikes. No problems yet, but from what I have been told, we nearly blew one of the circuits. Hibari-sama wishes for you to take a look at things and make sure that whatever is going on isn't a fire hazard, and if you could fix whatever is causing the trouble in the first place, it would be much appreciated." Kusakabe said, handing over the files.
"Unexplained power consumption?" Shirou mumbled as he looked the thing over. "It's not just on one circuit either. I can't think of any single thing that would cause something like this. Shouldn't a professional be called in?"
Kusakabe looked around before leaning in to talk with Shirou more quietly. "One was, however the estimates given from looking over the school's entire power grid were too high for the school's budget. If the problem isn't fixed, they are thinking of closing down the school until a solution could be found. ...Hibari-sama is not happy about this and is doing everything he can to keep the school open. So he would be more than willing to overlook you skipping your classes for the next week to find a solution. We will even persuade teachers to give you full marks for anything missed."
"A week? Hibari-san asks for a miracle and gives me a week to do it?" Shirou said with a sigh. "Honestly, the school should be shut down for safety's sake."
"You know Hibari-sama won't allow that. And if you want us to stop asking you for miracles, you should probably stop delivering them." Kusakabe said with a small smile.
Shirou could only sigh in response. "I'll take a look and see if it's even doable."
"Thank you, Emiya-senpai." Kusakabe said, giving Shirou another bow.
"Just don't blame me if you start smelling something burn…" Shirou started, but then stopped as he realized that he did smell something burning. An intense, chaotic, unpleasant smell. It was the orange verent of the flames, only it was so unstable as to be almost unrecognizable. He also could sense the yellow flames from earlier that morning, barely perceptible underneath the more active mystical signature.
A highly active mystic signature… in a school full of children.
"Emiya-senpai!? Where are you going!?" Kusakabe shouted as Shirou bolted in the direction of the gymnasium.
Shirou ignored him and kept running towards the gym, his worry growing as he heard the sounds of panic coming from within… but along with the panic was laughter. Spiteful laughter of cruel children. Bursting through the door, Shirou saw something that made him stop in his tracks, though not for the reason he had expected.
In the middle of a massive ring of children was his neighbor, Sawada Natsumi, stripped down to nothing but her underwear and brutally attacking one of the boys from the Kendo team as a large crowd watched some cheering, others gasping in horror, still others just too shocked to make a sound. But what none of the normal people could see, the thing that shocked Shirou the most, was the mystical energy that was surrounding Natsumi, making the girl's thin body practically glow.
Something had happened to the girl to make her go completely berserk. Her eyes were wide and unblinking, she was panting rapidly through clenched teeth, and a bright orange flame was pulsating out of control on her forehead.
Shirou was about to react. To go and save the boy and help to get Natsumi under control before she could hurt anyone. But before he could move, his eyes started to take in more details.
Scraps and welts along the girl's small body. Spots that would soon become hafty bruises if unattended. A bleeding noses. And a discarded weapon from the boy, which told Shirou a story of a one sided beating.
That bastard had dragged the girl in here and forced her to fight, without giving her proper protective equipment for her face and arms. Though it didn't explain why. Or why Natsumi was now nearly naked. Or where she had suddenly gained this power from.
As Shirou tried to decide how to act, the flame on Natsumi's head started to die down and she began to regain control over her breathing. She looked down at the messed up face of the boy she had been beating and to the handful of hair that she had ripped out of his scalp. The noise of the crowd brought her head up and she looked at everyone as they pointed at her and her exposed body. Some of them even holding cameras and phones out.
Then, she girl burst into tears and started running as best she could, stumbling as she went. "Natsumi, wait!" Shirou shouted, trying to get to her, but the crowd was too thick and stopped him, though they let Natsumi through into the main building.
They were laughing and gossiping. Calling the girl a crazy freak, looking at their recording of what had just happened. They had been there throughout the entire incident, and had done nothing.
...They disgusted him.
Shirou's hand snapped out, ripping the camera out of the hand of the boy standing next to him. "Hey, give that back!?" The kid shouted, trying to reach for it.
Shirou gave him a glare that sent him stumbling back. "I'll be taking this. Got a problem with that?"
"Good." Shirou started to move towards the door that Natsumi just went through.
As he went, he traced thin iron needles and shot them through any device he saw, breaking them, before dissolving the weapons before anyone could get a good look at them. Using his magecraft in such a manner was dangerous, as information could be leaked, but it was far safer than if people had a recorded incident. The idea of some of these bastards putting up pictures of the girl in such a state on the internet was also completely intolerable.
Shirou moved through the halls, following the quickly dying scent of that fire that had been coming out of Natsumi just moments before. Now it was barely even detectable, and fading by the moment.
People he passed were still making noise, letting him know he was on the right track. He still destroyed any device he saw, for good measure.
Finally, the trail came to an end outside of a locked janitor's closet. She must have seen it open and rushed inside to escape. Some people were looking, but a quick glare from Shirou convinced them all to move on.
He brought out the key Hibari had given him to the janitor's closet and quickly entered, closing the door behind him.
Natsumi hadn't even noticed when Shirou entered. The small brown-haired girl was sobbing into her hands. Shirou didn't say anything. He just took off his blazer and draped it over her shoulders. The action caused Natsumi to jump and turn around.
"Sh...Shirou-senpai! What are you doing here!?" She said, seeming surprised to see him there. Though after her jump she immediately grabbed onto the blazer and tried to cover as much of herself as she could with it.
"I have a key to all the equipment rooms on campus." Shirou said as he opened up his back, putting the confiscated camera away while pulling out medkit, complete with bandages and ointments. "I know this is embarrassing, but I'm going to have to take care of your bruises. It might feel bad now, but it will feel a lot worse later if they start to swell."
Natsumi opened her mouth, but then just closed it and nodded her head weakly. "Do you always carrying around a medkit?"
"My dad taught all of us battlefield medicine during a camping trip. Said it might come in handy one day." Shirou said as he slipped on a canary yellow ring that he had made himself in secret. He hoped that she wouldn't notice the unusual warmth of the ointment and bandages he was applying. The yellow flames would greatly increase the recovery speed of her injuries.
"Yeah. I remember that." Natsumi mumbled awkwardly as she kept herself facing away from Shirou. Being so close in age and living next door to one and other, they had seen a lot of each other over the years.
When her father had up and disappeared, presumed to be dead, Kiritsugu and Irisviel had made a habit of inviting Nana and Natsumi to celebrations and camping trips, though Shirou didn't see much of her outside of that. They hadn't gone to the same elementary schools, and they were only into Natsumi's three month at middle school. And with them being in different years, and Shirou often being more of a mechanic than a student, they had only seen each other in passing.
She was clumsy and had a few memory and anxiety problems, but she was a good, normal girl. Nothing had ever suggested that she had anything to do with the other side. Even now, sitting right next to her with his hands on her skin, Shirou couldn't sense any of the flames from before.
"Natsumi, what happened?" Shirou asked. The girl didn't say anything at first. She just sniffled and rubbed at her eyes. "You don't need to tell me anything if you don't want to. But know that if you don't tell me, I will go and find my answers from someone else. I'm not going to just let this drop."
"...You wouldn't won't believe me even if I told you."
"Really!? You would believe me if I told you that a baby showed up at my house this morning claiming to be my home tutor and that he was part of the mafia and then shot me in the head!?" Natsumi snapped in her frustration.
"...If you say that is what happened, then believe you." Shirou said, earning a look of surprise from the girl.
"You… believe me? Even though it sounds so crazy?"
"Yes. I believe you." Shirou confirmed. "So, an unnatural baby shot you with something. What happened after that?"
"...I'm not entirely sure. One moment I was being shot in the face with some kind of bright yellow light. After that, I found myself at school in nothing but my… underwear, begging Kyoko too…" Natsumi stopped before covering her face with her hands again. "Oh god. I made such a fool of myself in front of her. Now she's never want to be my friend."
...What exactly was she begging this 'Kyoko' girl to do? Granted, it wasn't Shirou's place to question Natsumi's sexual preferences, and he wouldn't dream of shaming her, but…
"When I saw that flash of light, the only thing I could think was how I would die without ever having had a classmate for a friend. I just wanted to have someone I could call a friend. Just one. I was so focused on that thought that my body just moved on its own." Natsumi said, tears running down her cheeks.
"You've been having problems making friends at school?" Shirou asked, a little surprised.
"Mm. No one wants to be friends with... 'No-Good Natsumi'." Natsumi said through a sob, trying to wipe the tears from her head against.
"What the? Is that what those assholes have been calling you?"
"Ev… Everyone calls me that. My classmates, my teachers, even… sometimes even mama. It's because I'm no good at anything. I can never do anything right." The poor girl said mersibly.
"I… I had no idea." Shirou said, his mind racing as his hands went through the motions of treating the girl's injures. How long had this been going on? How long had people been treating her like this? Shirou should have noticed before.
A memory of a young girl with dark blue hair, about the same age as Natsumi was now, standing on the doorstep in the rain, came back to Shirou's mind. The memory brought with it all the shame that it always brought. A cry for help, left unanswered because of Shirou's own blindness.
His frustration caused him to pull a little too tightly on one of the bandages.
"Oh, sorry." Shirou said as he gently tied the last of the bandages in place. "Why didn't you tell me? I could have done something."
"...I didn't want you to know." Her response was barely more than a whisper, though it became louder. "Your family was always nice to me. I didn't want you to think that I was no good too."
Shirou closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Then, he raised a hand up, and gave Natsumi a flick to her forehead.
"Eep!" She jumped in surprise and covered her forehead with her hands.
"You've always been one to worry over silly things." Shirou said giving her a small smile and shake of the head.
"Shirou-senpai." Natsumi said, flushing with embarrassment.
"Don't worry. I'll fix everything." Shirou promised. And he would. He didn't care how many favors he had to call in and how many arms he would have to twist, or possibly break, this would not continue. Natsumi might not have been in control of her actions, but those other students had been.
There was also the matter of the strange baby that the girl mentioned before.
"What happened after that?" Shirou asked.
"Kensuke-senpai thought it would be funny to give me a 'trial' about what happened. He and the rest of the Kendo team dragged me to the gym, putting me in a uniform, without any body or head protection… then he beat me as everyone watched." Natsumi said with a bit of detachment. "I just wanted him to stop hitting me. I didn't want to hurt him. I just… couldn't control myself. Now, everyone is going to think I'm some kind of violent, crazy person, on top of being useless."
...Kensuke. The name sounded familiar. Wasn't he in one of Shirou's classes? He didn't really have a face to go with the name.
Regardless, Shirou would be paying him and the rest of the Kendo team a visit so that they could have a nice, friendly talk about their behavior.
"Maybe I should… should ask mama about changing schools." Natsumi said weakly. "After today, I don't think I will ever be able to show my face around here again."
Shirou tried to think of something to say. Something to make her feel better, but she might have been right. It might be better for her to simply change schools and try to make a fresh start.
"Natsumi-chan? Natsumi-chan, are you in there?" A young girl's voice came from outside of the janitor's closet.
"K...Kyoko-chan!?" Natsumi said in surprise before covering her own mouth. Though it was too late. The girl outside knew she was in there.
"Natsumi-chan, I'm so sorry. I never realized that it was so bad, and I never did anything to help." Kyoko said. "I know it might be too late, but… if you still want to be friends, I would like to have another chance."
"Kyoko-chan." Natsumi said softly, her eyes widening.
Shirou glanced at the door and then to Natsumi. "Want me to let her in?"
"Ah… yes." Natsumi said, pulling Shirou's blazer tighter around her.
Shirou opened the door enough for the girl outside to squeeze in, before shutting the door again.
It surprised to Shirou when he actually did recognize the girl as being Ryohei's little sister. The hyperactive boxer was someone that was hard to overlook, and his appearance made him even more attention grabbing to Shirou. White hair, silver eyes, and darker skin, even though the rest of his family members all had lighter skin and chestnut brown hair. Even without checking, Shirou already knew that the boy was one of the rare cases in which a child is magically active from birth, as the appearance was a sign of having dealt with more mana than one's body could handle.
"You're hurt." Kyoko said with a gasp as she saw Natsumi.
"Ah, no. I'm alright. Shirou-senpai already took care of me." Natsumi said, nervously averting her eyes. Though she jumped when Kyoko went and gave her a hug.
"I'm sorry I couldn't help you." Kyoko said, while Natsumi was too stunned to move. After breaking the hug, Kyoko lifted up a bag and presented it to Natsumi. "Oh, I was told to give you this."
"Huh, this is… my spare uniform!?" Natsumi shouted as she pulled out the clothes, noting her name on the tag. "How? Where did you get these?"
"Well, this strange baby gave me them. He also told me that I'd be able to find you here." Kyoko said, causing Natsumi to freeze up. "He was really cute, what with his little suit and hat."
"Natsumi." Shirou said, getting the girl's attention. "It might be best if you take the day off. Do you want me to call your mother?"
"Ah… well…" Natsumi mumbled, but didn't say anything coherent.
"You don't want your mother to know?" Shirou asked, to which the girl shook her head. "...Alright. I'll call Sella instead and you can hang around our house until school is out. Now, I'll get out of your hair so you can get dressed."
"Thank you." Natsumi said with an embarrassed nod.
Ducking out into the hallway, all kindness drained out of Shirou's face as he started to head towards the Disciplinary Committee's room. He had some favors to call in, some addresses to get, and some teachers to remove.
He had told Natsumi that he would take care of everything, and he planned on it.
Reborn watched Natsumi as the girl moved about her room, trying to get ready for bed.
He wanted to say that all's well that ends well. Natsumi ended up getting that friend at school that she wanted so bad as to refuse to die before she got it… but he couldn't convince himself that it had been anything other than a disaster.
Everything that had happened that day was not supposed to have happened. It was outside of even the master of chaos's wildest expectations and went against everything he had been told about the girl.
According to all of the data he had been given, Natsumi was an entirely unremarkable girl. If anything, she was only remarkable in just how weak, stupid and pathetic she was. She was supposed to have even less aptitude for the Dying Will Flames than even the average random Joe. So even with the Dying Will Bullet to draw out her flames, the reaction should have been small.
So why was it that her flames had been so strong? Even Xanxus's flames hadn't been so strong at such a young age, and he had gained the ability to freely call on them. The flames had been so intense as to destroy her clothes. It was only a miracle that she had kept even a scrap of decency.
And it hadn't happened just once, but twice.
How in the world was that possible? Reborn himself couldn't sense anything from the girl. She should have been lacking all talent. And what was he going to do now?
He was hired to try to make a passable mafia boss out of the girl by causing problems in her life and then using those problems and the Dying Will Bullets to draw out her flames. After doing this for a year or so of shooting her almost every single day, she would become conditioned to call on the flames all on her own whenever the need arose. Because of this, the first thing that Reborn did when he arrived was give the girl a taste of the Dying Will Bullets. It was also to give him a good look into who the girl was, as you could tell a lot about a person by the things they would regret if they had died. He hadn't expected it to strip her, or that the effect would have lasted long enough for her to run across the entire town and into her school.
If his student was a boy, Reborn might have just shrugged his shoulders and just let the kid get stripped in public day after day, but with Natsumi being a twelve-year-old girl, Reborn couldn't keep doing that. Not with how emotionally damaged she was already. After reading Sella and Leysritt's report, Reborn started to get an understanding of just how extreme the bullying was, and just how low Natsumi's self-esteem.
If he wanted to keep using his Dying Will Bullets without stripping her, he would need to get flame resistant clothing for her. But such things were expensive. Even with calling in favors, it would cost him a good three million USD just to get one full set for her. Such things were had to come by, and those Familia's who knew how to make them guarded that knowledge with their lives. Sure, he had the money, but he doubted he would get reimbursed for such a massive expense. He could use Leon's threads, but that could take weeks for him to make, and he wouldn't be capable of producing bullets for a while after doing so. It would be a serious time investment and set back her training by as much as another month.
There was nothing else he could do. The training would have to be set back. ...Only he couldn't do that, because Hayato was already on his way and the boy wasn't likely to be easy to deal with. Given his chauvinistic nature, he might even be a lost cause. But the boy was intelligent, and had the natural advantage of possessing multiple flame types, meaning that he could be slotted in to become any Guardian they had the need for, save for Mist.
He was also an emotionally unstable mess, to the point were even a weak Sky might be able to get him hooked. And if that Sky wasn't someone who would treat him kindly, his future was going to be hell. He was already being treated like crap wherever he went, and Shamal was getting worried. He needed Natsumi perhaps more than she needed him.
No, Reborn couldn't have Natsumi attempting to gain the boy's support without her Flames. It would be futile. Worse, it could easily get her killed. She would need Hayato as her guardian as soon as possible in order to start nurturing her own flames.
Speaking of guardians, Reborn had been impressed by the Emiya boy. His instincts were sharp. He was quick to action. He never doubted Natsumi for a moment. He had been kind, strong and forceful during her time of need. Qualities of a good Sun Guardian.
However, it was his actions after leaving her that were the most surprising. Actions that made him wonder if he was really Kiritsugu's biological son, rather than just adopted.
Using the Disciplinary Committee in order to gain access to the Kendo Club's registry, getting their contact information, school schedules and addresses. Hunting each of them down and placing the fear of god into them with a tiger striped practice sword. Investigating Natsumi's teachers and black mailing the school board into releasing any of them that he concluded were involved in maliciously bullying her, on top of the immediate expulsion of the entire Kendo team.
He had been calm, kind and supportive in front of Natsumi, but as soon as he was out of sight, he had turned into a raging storm to destroy her enemies. The boy would make an exceptional Storm Guardian, especially with his unparalleled skill with the bow, the weapon of choice for the first generation Storm Guardian. Though his family wasn't happy when Reborn showed his interest. They seemed to be wanting to keep young Shirou in the dark about the darker side of things.
Pity. The boy had talent for it.