Hello everyone! I'm back here (July 2021) to let you know that the following chapters (up to chapter 16) have been updated with minor adjustments. If you've already read this story up to that point, no need to worry. Changes are minor and are mostly grammar and syntax corrections.
(A/N) This story comes from the heart, but also a place of salt and anger. In a way, this is a way for me to cope with the fact that I just blew 2100 saint quartz on the fgo Jalter banner, and not a single Jalter in sight. Instead, I got Lobo (did it ever hurt my soul to see that gold avenger card flip into a headless horseman), three miscellaneous SSRs (not terrible, but what are the odds!?) and twelve (TWELVE) Emiyas.
Now, I don't hate Emiya, but I didn't need twelve of him.
I'm hoping that if I write a Shirou-centric story, it'll be enough for fgo to stop sending me copies of him.
Fuck you Jalter. Please come home.
Nonetheless, I hope you enjoy the read since I do have things planned for this.
The longer his head of red hair remained in my line of sight, the more I felt like driving a sword through his gut.
It wasn't that I hated him, or anything. Really, it was more like euthanizing an animal to put it out of its misery– my misery, rather. The way I saw it, if he kicked the bucket then either I died too, or at least he would have been shut up for good.
A cold shiver ran down my spine. It seemed like my troublesome master was aware of my intentions, on some level.
I turned to face Rin, who had her attention split between yelling at my moronic younger self and making sure that I didn't go off and do something that wasn't part of her game plan.
I frowned as I remembered that particular incident. When the witch died, that should have been it for me. Relying on my Independent Action class skill, I would've kidnapped Rin in a last-ditch effort to confront the red-haired idiot.
It didn't go that way for me, though.
The idiot was able to hold on to Saber, somehow, and Rin did something so stupid, I was actually quite surprised that the idea came from someone as smart as her.
She formed another contract with me.
And so, here I was. Back at the old man's place, in my astral form overseeing my young charge discussing how to finish off the grail and Gilgamesh with Saber and the idiot.
"Tohsaka, Saber, you two should deal with Grail," proposed the idiot. "I'll go with Archer to deal with–"
"Hold on," I interjected. I took a physical form and sat at the kotatsu with the rest of them, so great was the affront. Rin's piercing glare told me that she didn't like where this was going. "What makes you think that I'd help you?"
To his credit, the idiot didn't miss a beat. "You and I have the best odds of beating the eighth servant. For whatever reason, our magecraft is pretty similar, and as much as I hate to admit it, I feel like mine improves the longer I'm near you.
Heh. And I wonder why that is.
I made myself comfortable. Leaning back on my elbows, I retorted, "So what? Kill him yourself. If I'm lucky, maybe you'll both die."
"Jackass…" he snarled.
What. Was he angry at me or something? Good. Maybe he would actually try to do it if only to prove me wrong.
That was the problem with him; the problem with me. Emiya Shirouwants to be the hero, no matter the cost.
What did that mean, exactly? If I knew that, then I probably wouldn't be in this shitty predicament, now would I?
"Fine then," he huffed. "I'll–"
All of us stared dumbly at Rin. I don't think any of us expected an outburst like that from her.
I stared down at the kotatsu and noted the thin crack caused by Rin's palm in an act of fury. She didn't use reinforcement, did she?
What a frightening master I had.
"Archer. Come with me."
Her tone of voice left no room for argument.
Resigned, I closed my eyes and sighed. "Yes, Master."
Sluggishly, I lifted myself from the floor. I doubt that she appreciated me dragging it out.
Before I could find my footing, I was already being pulled into the hallway. I saw Saber purposely ignoring my hardship and the idiot looking at me smugly.
"What is it, Master?" I asked once we were alone.
"Why, Shirou…" she whispered.
"Hey. Don't call me–"
"Why. I'm trying so hard to make sure that he doesn't end up like you, so why is it that you're doing everything in your power to destroy him like that? To destroy all of us like that?"
I pointedly ignored her question. It was a pretty stupid one, after all.
He couldn't be like me if he was dead.
"Destroy you? This has nothing to do with you."
She was stunned. Her silence was kind of unnerving, to be frank.
Eventually, though, she did speak.
"Nothing to do with me?" she sounded incredulous. "You have the audacity to say this has nothing to do with me?"
"Of course not." I was merely deflecting, but I was in too deep to back out now.
She chuckled. It wasn't a happy chuckle, rather one that promised pain.
"It hurts, you know? My dreams are terrorized by visions of your life. But… what frightens me more than the things you had to live through... We..." Her shoulders drooped. "We all left, one by one."
What was her point? "Then that just proves it, right? There's nothing you can do about it, and eventually, you'll realize that."
"I'm trying to do something about it, but you won't let me!" she all but screamed. "After all this time, you still don't realize why everyone left, do you?"
Stupid girl. I'd lived for eternity and longer. Did she really think that I wouldn't have figured it out by now? "They left because of my own mistakes. They realized there was no helping a man too absorbed in his own ideals. Don't worry, Rin. I've long since come to peace with that. Soon enough, you will too."
She looked at me with… pity? "You're wrong."
I narrowed my eyes. "Oh? Is that so?"
"You're wrong Shirou. None of them… none of us stopped caring. Seeing someone we love so much destroy themselves like that… it hurt us more than we could ever bear."
Despite myself, I became defensive. "What occurred was simply the result of isolating myself. Not the other way around."
"Was it, really?" she retorted.
It was. It was.
"You'll never make anyone happy as long as you can't make yourself happy first, Shirou. My father died when I was young, but even I know that's one of the first words of wisdom a parent imparts to a child."
"My happiness was brought by a dream that could only bring misery!" Before I knew it, I was yelling too.
Her brow, which had long since pulled itself taught into a distressed snarl, relaxed. She took a deep breath, then much to my surprise, settled on a serene smile that I'd very rarely seen on her face.
Never on this Rin's face.
"Then it didn't really make you happy, now did it?"
I'd like to say that the words were caught in my mouth, but that would be a lie. I hadn't thought of a single thing to say in return.
I was speechless.
"…Rin, are… are you…"
She walked right by me, intending on getting back to the others. Before she turned the corner, she stopped with her back facing me.
"Of course not, dummy."
Once I was sure no one could see me, I smiled. A single tear ran down my cheek.
"Yeah, of course not. Thank you."
I didn't know who I was speaking to, but I was happy that I said it, for whatever reason.
I took to my astral form once again and followed my master back into the room. To my surprise, rather than the scene I was expecting –a servant and two masters discussing plans to end the Grail War– I found three friends sitting at a kotatsu, plates of food being the only thing between them.
"Yo, Tohsaka. You were away for a while so I made us a light snack."
"My thanks, Emiya." Rin smiled. "However, I don't believe that either one of us will get to eat much of it."
Saber tuned both of them out, happily eating as much of the idiot's food as she could before it was all gone.
What was it that she would say? Hunger is the enemy, was it?
I stared at the trio, noting that the mood had lightened considerably. It was evident to me that they'd moved on from the topic at hand.
…But who was I to say anything? It wasn't my problem whether or not they succeeded.
From where I was, I continued to watch over them for the rest of the night. As an outsider, I could see how much they were enjoying themselves.
Part of me was happy for them, I couldn't deny. The other part was fuming, cursing my younger self for all it was worth as Rin's earlier words came back to me.
You'll never make anyone happy as long as you can't make yourself happy first
You idiot. You absolute idiot.
It didn't really make you happy, now did it?
Admittedly, I was still an idiot now if Rin's words were to be believed.
I had sights locked in on the group. After their meal, Saber and the idiot washed the dishes while Rin made tea. Not being used to each other at first, they kept getting in the way of each other's tasks. However, it didn't take them long to find a comfortable balance, and before I knew it, they'd fallen into a rhythm.
They looked happy.
Emiya Shirou looked happy.
Why was it that I had never been able to understand it before? Was it because this is the first time I've seen my life from a perspective other than my own?
It couldn't be. I've been chasing after others by the name of Emiya Shirou for countless years.
…Then again, maybe it's because I've been chasing, rather than observing.
Rin was always right about me. I was unobservant to the bone.
I watched from a distance as the idiot put up an admirable fight against the King of Heroes. As prolonged exposure to me had not only awakened his circuits but had also accelerated the progression of his reality marble, my younger self was able to counter every Noble Phantasm with a copy almost instantly.
A voice in my head whispered that this was my chance to take out one of the two, if not both of them, while they were distracted. My issues with that, however, were twofold.
On one hand, I could never be sure that I'd actually manage to take out Gilgamesh. Arrogant he may be, but I would never underestimate him enough to write off any attempt on his life as a sure thing.
On the other hand, I could no longer kill Emiya Shirou. Rin seemed convinced that she'd be able to pull him off the wretched path that would lead him straight to me. Who was I to deny her the challenge?
My jaw clenched. I had great difficulty admitting it or –understanding the true magnitude of it– but the death of my younger, moronic self would mean that I would hurt Rin greatly. Her, Saber, and others whose names I could no longer remember– hurting them would be akin to hurting my "happiness".
I had yet to fully grasp the concept.
And so, I kept my distance. I didn't help –as Rin hadn't given me any instructions since the previous night– yet I didn't interfere, either.
I was stuck in every sense.
I was starting to think that I had a clue that would help me break away from my father's "gift" to a broken child; that thing that had sealed my fate since the day I was reborn. Unfortunately, that fate of mine had come and gone countless years ago.
It was too late for me.
From where I stood, I could clearly make out the form of the King of Heroes' most cherished possession, the Divine Chain Enkidu, as it ensnared the idiot. Axes, spears, swords, and other such weapons of great renown hung ominously behind the golden servant.
"Enough!" shouted Gilgamesh, loud enough to be heard as far away as I was. "This is the end, Faker!"
It was almost a casual observation of mine that the idiot would have no chance of surviving. Another was that I already had my bowstring in hand, ready to intercept the attack.
Returning to my previous thought, all my hopes had been dashed. For the boy, however, as long as I was willing to put my faith in Rin…
Hrunting shot from my bow, its target in its sight.
"It's not too late for you, Emiya Shirou."
With those words, I let my bow disperse. I watched as Gilgamesh was forced to release his target in order to defend against the impromptu slight on his person.
I materialized at the side of my younger self. "Boy, go find my master. She'll need your help to destroy the grail."
A lie, of course. Rin didn't need help. Not his, at least.
He looked at me strangely, as if to ask if I would be fine on my own. It sickened me to be the object of his worry.
"Go," I ordered.
Thankfully, he didn't need to be told a third time. As Enkidu was no longer holding him in place, he was free to do just that.
I was alone with the eighth servant, now. I couldn't tell if his look was wrathful or inquisitive.
"Oh? Another one, is it?"
I didn't know what he was talking about, but I didn't want to waste time finding out.
Kanshou and Bakuya, the married twin swords, were my preferred blades. Far from my strongest, they more than made up for their downsides with the versatility they brought.
A shower of weapons, each greater than the last, came crashing down on me. While my younger self was content to match the firepower, I knew better. My tools would never truly match his, but his prowess in combat would not match my own. I chose instead to stick to two simple projections brought upon the world by my supposed "Noble Phantasm".
Acting every bit the trained warrior that I was, I deflected blades where I could and weaved through them where I couldn't. My opponent remained impassive, simply increasing his firepower.
To my dismay, it worked. My advance had slowed. I was in no position to leech any more mana from Rin than I had to, so I figured I should end things as quickly as I could.
I took a deep breath. I would end the King of Heroes before he could find a need to bring out his Sword of Rupture.
"I am the bone of my sword."
I felt the mystery of my craft empower me. As my reality marble began to manifest, Gaia's influence lessened, giving me access to part of my heavier arsenal.
I barely scraped by the agile grasp of Enkidu. I knew that my only choice at this point was to fully manifest my trump card.
For less than a moment, my mind stopped working. Unfortunately for me, a moment was all the time Gilgamesh needed to capture me with his chains.
Why!? Why couldn't I find the right words for my aria? I knew them: steel is my body, and fire is my blood. That was the next part, right?
And yet, I couldn't say them. I was incapable of invoking the full might of my Unlimited Blade Works.
What did that mean?
I was as upset and frustrated as I was confused. I had spent decades mastering my craft. It was the one thing unique to me, Emiya Shi–
It didn't really make you happy, now did it?
The Archer class servant before me stared down at me with disinterest, bringing down a golden axe on my neck with a mighty swing.
I needed to focus.
Four nameless Noble Phantasms intercepted the golden weapon. The distraction gave me enough time to prepare something I didn't do too often.
The modified sword of the King of Ulster, Caladbolg II, hung in the air between us with the help of magecraft. Rather than strung on a bow –my hands were tied, quite literally– I'd use it as a projectile of a different sort.
Caladbolg II, along with many other swords I made on the spot, hummed with energy mere inches away from their target. There was no chance for my opponent to react in time, servant or not.
I gritted my teeth. This would probably hurt me just as much as it hurt him.
A large explosion enveloped our surroundings. It was far from the first thing on my mind, but I did feel Enkidu release me from its grasp.
The first thing on my mind was actually trying to figure out if I still had limbs.
The smoke cleared, and I then had a clear sight of what remained of my surroundings.
…There wasn't much.
Movement was caught in the corner of my eye.
I could ascertain that I did, at least, still have my legs. If I didn't, I wouldn't have been able to jump out of the way of the obscenely large sword that pierced the piece of land I previously occupied.
"You're a persistent one, aren't you?"
Despite sounding nonchalant, I knew for a fact that Gilgamesh was far from it right now. He did a terrible job of masking the snarl on his lips.
Giving him a once over, I couldn't say that I blamed him.
His arm– no, the entire left side of his torso was blown clean off. I congratulated myself, knowing that he would've been dead if he wasn't a heroic spirit.
I knew that if I wanted to finish this, it would have be now or never.
I traced my bow, a tool strong enough to fire Noble Phantasms consecutively. In one swift motion I–
I looked to my opposite shoulder and grimaced. It would appear as though the golden servant wasn't the only one missing half an upper body.
A certain red spear materialized in my remaining hand. While its wielder would use it quite famously as a war tool for slashing and stabbing, it functioned splendidly when thrown.
There would be no mistakes here.
The spear of Cu Chulainn left my grip, thrown as if by a man who'd been throwing javelins for a time eternal.
Gilgamesh tried to parry the weapon, but it was a futile attempt.
The spear was thrown, and so the heart was pierced.
I couldn't help my smug grin when I saw the bastard's incredulous glare pointed right at me, right as globs of blood came pumping out of his mouth.
The King of Heroes was strong, but he underestimated me to his last breath. I didn't know if that deserved to be admired or ridiculed.
I fell to my knees, the laughter being too much for my body to bear. As the golden servant scattered in motes of light, I had a feeling that I would be joining him soon.
Weakly, I turned to face my back. Running towards me was my master, Saber, and the idiot.
"Why are you yelling, master? You're too loud," I joked. Hopefully, some humour would distract her from the fact that my imminent death meant that she had lost the war.
"Shut up, idiot! Look at you! You're a mess!"
…No such luck.
I felt a tingle of amusement seeing one of the people closest to my heart try their best to save a dying dead person. "Your energy is best spent elsewhere."
"…Put a sock in it."
Truly, what was one to do with a master like her?
"Do you think you'll be able to do it?" I asked her while looking at my younger self. "Do you think you'll be able to save him from himself?"
I felt her hands clench over my torn cloak, then relax. She pulled away with a resigned, yet determined look in her eyes.
For the first time in… ever, maybe, I addressed the idiot without purposely antagonizing him. "You should thank her, boy. Because of her, you might actually have a chance at finding true happiness."
"What do you mean?" he asked in an uncertain tone. Why he didn't outright contradict me out of principle, I didn't know.
I pointed to my master, then to Saber. As I spoke, I felt as though I was affirming something to myself, rather than to him. "They're your happiness, and you should put your happiness before all else."
…I probably should've phrased that in a way a dumbass like him would understand– accept, even. He didn't look convinced at all. On the other hand, both Rin and Saber were red in the face.
"I don't know what you're saying, but I'll definitely keep them safe."
I smiled brightly. I couldn't remember the last time I felt so… free.
"Of course you don't. I know bricks less thick-headed than you. If you're lucky, though, maybe one day you will."
The Heaven's Feel ceased to anchor my soul to the world. I disappeared like I was never there to begin with.
It was time for me to resume my duty. One would think that I'd be bitter at the thought –that my place was among the counterforce and not the throne of heroes– but I'd long since moved past that. All that remained was resignation.
Besides. I couldn't say things ended on too terrible a note. I would return to Alaya's side with a different perspective, though it could be argued that I never truly left her to begin with.
…Something was wrong.
The state I was in could best be described as "limbo", but I shouldn't have been in it for this long. Where once I would have been recalled by a higher power, I was now trying to find my own way back.
A man cloaked in red appeared before me.
I appeared before me.
You don't belong here.
What? But it's my duty! I've formed a contract.
Our contract was with another. He wished to save as many as he could in exchange for his very existence.
But that's– I'm the one! I don't understand!
I don't understand.
I… don't understand.
Our contract was with another.
Rin's words cycled in my head, over, and over, and over, and–
I woke up to fire.
Weakly, my head turned to the left, then to the right. My neck felt strained on my shoulders; I couldn't remember the last time my body felt so heavy.
People were screaming as they were burned alive.
Buildings crumbled, crushed, and destroyed.
Nothing was safe from this hell.
It was a hell I remembered clearly.
Once, I abandoned those around me for the sake of my own survival. Now, I did nothing because I couldn't escape the paralysis of my own incredulity.
I looked down at whatever I could see of myself. Rather than a tall frame, hardened by the throes of combat, I found the arms and legs of a child.
Said arms and legs were trembling. I couldn't move from the pile of corpses that lay under me.
With my terribly degraded hearing, I could barely make out the sound of debris being thrown close by. The shadow of a man loomed over me.
I hadn't felt this much shock in ages.
I was sure he had died years ago, yet his eyes at this moment looked deader than a corpse's ever could. He smiled at me, his expression one that I'd remembered through thick and thin; one that shaped me into the cursed existence that I'd become.
Once, I thought it was a beautiful smile. I wanted that smile.
Now, all that I felt was pity.
Perhaps even a little confusion.