"Yes, Taiga. No, no, really. I know I called in sick, my head's been… feeling off, ever since this morning."
He couldn't help but briefly smile at her unveiled concern as the voice on the other side of the phone burst into loud rebukes.
With a few last reassurances, he bid her adieu, hoping that and his statements that his head was clear enough to easily make it to the clinic if the need arose to be enough to calm her for now.
Calm, that was an idea. The moment he dropped the phone into its usual position, Shirou too dropped to the ground, far more unceremoniously.
From his new impromptu sitting position, he lifted a hand to his face, finally noticing just how shaky it was. "It all… felt so real."
Taking a few breaths, the first of which nearly hitched in his throat, he finally felt his beating heart calm some.
"A dream. It was just a dream." He reinstated that fact.
He had had strange, different than usual dreams before. Never one so vivid, however. Never one that he'd remember as clearly after waking. Not that it didn't have plenty more he had yet to take in from it.
It was a long dream, after all. A lifetime's worth?
Dreams had a way with how they seemed far longer than they'd have possibly had the time to be. Until, that is, one would think of how much details were actually skimmed.
Was it really so much one not remembering it, or was it that there were no in betweens to even remember?
At least, that was sort of how a random study considered them, one he'd read some time back in a particularly boring and uneventful afternoon.
So then, why did he remember so much from this one?
His head felt dizzy as he kept thinking back, and thinking back, and thinking back…
He remembered it. Not all clear as day, more so as if the events and happenings were at the tip of his tongue, but it was not vague like any other dream he'd ever had.
Thinking back, slowly, piece by piece he recalled events from it. Where he saw one scene, it slowly and logically filtered to the next. Some more blurred than others, rare ones missing, but so many regardless.
What he hadn't seen was an endpoint.
Remember as long as he did, he didn't run out of memories from his dream. It'd been what he'd been doing for an hour now right until calling Taiga.
It had been like magic, like it was more than just any regular dream. But magic? That was preposterous.
Yet among the many who were blessed with that blissful ignorance, he was not one of them.
Magic was a thing, and it had been a thing for him as well, if not to quite the most vast of degrees.
That truth, the possibilities it could open, left him struggling and failing to escape the iron grip of his current unease.
He stood up, the sudden rush to his feet causing the world to spin for a few moments as he leaned on the wall. Low blood pressure wasn't a common issue for him, and he assumed it more due to the drain from taking in all of the memor-no, dreams.
Not many moments after, he found himself before the small shed in his house's yard.
He felt his legs threaten to give out as he tried to step forward. It felt alarming, unnerving, this risk of confirming what he'd seen in his dreams.
"Just a dream… It was just a dream." With a deep breath, he stepped into the shed, taking a moment to take in its interior.
What there was to take in, anyway. There was little of note, it being filled with relics of the past that were treasure to no one, or even some things that couldn't be argued as being anything other than junk. He couldn't complain about his financial status, his house was testament to that, but this little shack was nothing but the opposite.
He looked to several crates and boxes stacked at one of its sides. He couldn't for the life of him tell if they actually even had anything in them or were empty. They were just there ever since he could remember.
Slow, heavy steps took him to them, until finally he began pushing them aside. With each one moved aside, he felt his dread rise, but he had to know.
As he finally finished, he couldn't deny the truth of what was before him. Slightly faded, yes, not glowing as in that moment… memory from his dreams, yet otherwise the exact same as he'd seen.
But perhaps it was not foresight. Maybe he'd seen it when he was younger, unable to recall it simply. Maybe that was the only reason he dreamt it, his dreams most definitely no more than just that, dreams.
He reached out, slowly, and as he did he recalled another dream, he recalled her.
His hand shook before he frantically pulled away from it. In another moment, he found himself stepping back, in a few more, locking the shed.
Upon entering his house, he surrendered his back to the wall, eyes closed as he tried and failed to take several consecutive, deep breaths.
"This… This is ridiculous. It was just a dream… a dream."
Indeed, a dream. Perhaps that would help, fire with fire and all that. Rising up, he dragged himself to his futon.
He crashed onto it quickly enough, uncaring of the sunlight that filtered through open curtains, nor of the too many clothes still on his back. Even his unease could only taunt him for oh so long before he'd escaped the grasp of the waking world.
To be seen as he marched through an open plain. Vast, forlorn and empty.
He had nothing.
But the clothes on his back, and as far as the eye could see, there was but dirt and monuments.
For everything he'd gained, equally he'd lost, and thus, he now had nothing.
Only this memento of days past, of people passed. That's all they now were, each sword but a monument.
How he knew this he could not tell. Why he still walked forward he could not decide. He could only follow each step with another.
Morbid curiosity drove him more than any wonderlust as his head would refuse to stop turning, studying the vast abyss he now found himself in.
Doing so, he glimpsed at himself. Not in any deep, philosophical way, no. He simply looked at his own hand as his confusion grew further.
A tan? Since when did he have one of those?
He then focused on things more imminent, even closer.
He grasped and tugged on a few hairs from his bang, realizing the dim world around him wasn't bright enough to give them a brighter hue.
The pull he felt was proof enough that it was no hat or such, indeed his hair, and in contrast to its vibrant red it was now snow white.
Panic struck him, and after several moments of distress he recollected himself enough to decide and move to one of the blades, and then another as he found the first one unable to give him a proper reflection.
From one to the other, some more rust strucken, others chipped or even broken to certain degrees, some similar or practically the same and others unique and distinct.
Though to him, even those that seemed a perfect match he could differentiate. Not by any proper sense, more so by some sort of feeling, one he could not for the life of him put a finger on.
After several handfuls of them he finally found one in pristine enough condition to allow him as clear an image as he'd probably hope to get.
The man he saw - and it was most definitely a man and not the boy he was - was none that he knew of. Perhaps if he focused more so on his own face whenever he'd seen a mirror, he'd have been able to see a resemblance of sorts.
As it stood now, however, hair, skin, even his eyes, nothing matched. This man that he was shouldn't have been him, yet…
He rose up, only to quickly stumble back, barely holding his footing. Vision began to darken as he felt his whole body grow heavy.
Moments later, his eyelids could not endure anymore as his whole body went slack.
The world became mute yet again.
"...rou…" came a fragmented voice.
He felt his body stir.
"Shi… are you… ke?" came a familiar voice.
A groggy eye slowly opened, vying for dominance against the awful light trying to force it out of its illustrious domain.
Soon enough it relented and dancing lights in his vision finally began to take proper shape.
Even before he could see her, however, her voice had already reached him proper.
"Shirou, you're awake!"
"That's right. You didn't think I'd just let you off after playing hooky now, did you?"
"A-Ah, no, I-" Recollection of what had happened assaulted him as he finally stepped back into the waking world.
His sights raced over the room, his room, everything seeming in place.
Then he looked at his hand. His hand. The same one that steadied his aim every time. Then he brought up the other, the one which would always draw the shot.
"Shirou." Finally finding solace in his reinstated familiarity, he once again paid heed to the other resident of the room.
"S-Sorry! I, uh… had a nightmare?"
"Shirou," her usually jovial expression had instead made way for concern. "I'm sorry, I was hoping to lighten the mood, but… is everything alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just some cold, probably. And really, I just had a nightmare just now. Sorry to have worried you."
"...Alright, but you're still coming to the clinic with me for a check up."
"Really, there's no-"
"And have you even eaten anything today? I can't remember when I last saw your kitchen looking untouched for so long."
"Is that where you'd gone first when you came here?"
"Don't change the subject," she grabbed him by the hand. "Now come on, I left my bike out front." Dragging him along before he could make any more protests.
Half an hour or so later they found themselves already exiting the clinic.
"Shirou, you know that both as your guardian, teacher and friend, you can come talk to me if there's ever anything, alright?"
"Thanks, Sis, but really, I know the doctor said it might be stress related, but I'm fine. Maybe people just have days like this sometimes."
"He also noted how it could be due to overworking yourself, Shirou." She got on her bike, then motioned for him to get on. "It's nice to lend a hand where you can every once in a while, but you need to make sure you don't overwork yourself. That could cause stress too you know."
The rest of their short trip to the Emiya residence remained somberly silent.
That changed with the echo of a familiar voice as they'd just stopped in front of his home. "Shirou, Miss Fujimura." A moment later, a girl ran up to them.
"Sakura? Did archery practice end early?"
"Actually, I decided to skip it for today. Ah, and Issei gave me some notes to pass on to you from today's classes."
"Sakura, you shouldn't have, and even skip-gah!" He glanced to his side, meeting Taiga's stern gaze just as she was pulling back the elbow she'd jabbed in him.
"Sakura, please come in. We'll be right there in a moment too." She smiled, then pulled Shirou to the side as Sakura nodded in understanding.
"In these cases, you say 'thank you', and also," Her voice lowered to a whisper. "Be more considerate. Look at her hand, she obviously couldn't do archery right now whether you were at school or not."
At her words he looked to Sakura, her back now to him, though that did little to obstruct her hands, and one of them, he could see, was bandaged up.
Her left hand...
He could remember it, a mark. Fading, fading, and fading...
Remember a world that bloomed scarlet red as far as the eye could see.
He could feel his innards burn with every breath, his-
Lost eyes snapped back into focus as the image before him was once again his home and Taiga, Sakura already having disappeared into the house.
"Are you alright? You went so pale," She pushed an arm under his shoulder. "Come on, you're going back to bed."
"Wa-Wait, I can walk on my own. And Sakura-"
"No you don't, you're obviously not feeling well. And don't worry, Sakura said she'd just cut herself while cooking. It should be fine in a week or so. I'll help her if she is being too careless."
"Don't you mean stop her?"
"That's what I said."
Before he knew it, he was already in his room, reassuring Taiga he could change on his own as she went to check on Sakura, hurrying him to change till then.
Sleep. Somehow he felt like it'd give him anything but a good rest. Regardless, he was in his sleepwear within the next few minutes.
Some time after Taiga had come back, Sakura arriving shortly after her as well, Miso soup in hand.
Shirou's anxiety mostly subsided after that, as concern finally turned to calm with Taiga and Sakura not seeing any further signs of him being unwell. Taiga had suggesting Sakura feed him since he still seemed somewhat out of it to her also helped to lighten the mood some. 'Dang it, Sis….'
Eventually he found himself alone again as Sakura had left, wishing him fast recovery as she did, Taiga in toe to see her off.
Things had been somewhat more hectic than usual these past few hours, but they were nice. And distracting. Left to his thoughts, they could only wander again.
The dreams, they were here, and there, and everywhere. Were they even following any pattern, any chronological path? He couldn't tell. He wasn't even sure if they'd repeated themselves or not. But perhaps, whether these were mere dreams, an omen or magic, seeing them through to the end would have him find what truth they held.
He let his eyes drift shut as shortly, darkness consumed him.
The moon had already come to give its greeting by the time Shirou next awakened. While fatigue had hardly been the issue of his day, he'd also lacked the restlessness of earlier as he came to.
A dreamless sleep, well welcomed.
Looking out the window was enough to tell that it was already evening, and upon turning to go and get dressed he noticed a small note by his bedside he'd missed.
Aside from some instructions Taiga had effectively written it as one would a get well card. She'd even gotten Sakura and… when had she even gotten Issei to sign it, had he been over too?
Even though he couldn't help but shake his head in amusement, he couldn't deny her… unique character made everything she did leave one with a smile though.
She'd also seemingly been adamant in him calling her if there should be the need, regardless of the family meeting she'd complained about having to attend tonight, a few days ago.
Then again, he couldn't help but snicker at the thought that that may have been what she'd hoped for.
Making his way to the kitchen, he noted the takeout she'd left for him. Left outside of any fridge on a warm day, but it was the thought that counted.
Antsy as he was about everything, things had finally calmed a good sum, so he sat down and turned on the television.
"A man was found stabbed to death in his apartment this morning. This is the second case in a week and police are speculating it may be a serial murderer due to that. The tragic news sadly doesn't end there, as a gas leak has led to the deaths of two more-" The television flickered off with a click of his remote.
Gas leaks, murders? That was vague but familiar.
Against his better judgement, he threw back his head, took a deep breath and began thinking. Five minutes. Ten. He shuffled through them, though the memories of dreams.
He finally recalled it. Family of four, only the child survived, another in several cases of serial killings. All with many supposed gas leaks happening all around.
The wounds seemed to all be stab weapons, longer than knives, seemingly to be from sword or-
He inhaled a sharp breath as red flashed before his eyes. A red spear, one he was sure he could already feel burrow into his-
He shook his head again, agitation returning along with memories. Memories that didn't happen… that… wouldn't happen?
He rose up to his feet, and then he simply halted.
He thought, and thought, and thought.
How exactly could he confirm this? Whether it would or would not be.
Then he remembered again. He searched for it, for the hand behind that spear.
Patrols? Staying on high ground, out of sight. He had to know.
Quickly getting ready, in moments he was already locking the door behind himself as he ventured out into the night.
Hopefully he'd get back home before Taiga, and she wouldn't be mad if otherwise. Hopefully, he'd find closure with this.
Fuyuki was, by all means, never a small town. That's what the title of 'city' it held signified.
Shirou definitely got a feel for exactly how expansive it felt as he turned another street corner, sights set on high places rather than his imminent surroundings.
'What am I even doing?' And what was he even searching for? A single person? A needle in a haystack would've been an understatement. 'How long have I even been out for?'
Exactly what kind of ungodly luck did he need to happen upon an exact person at random, what odds were these? Or perhaps that was what he was subconsciously after? Would finding nothing be a show of the nothing his dreams really were? Just coincidences? A leap of logic to think so perhaps, but maybe this nothing was a show of his good fortune.
However, then it flashed at the edge of his eye. He could see the faintest silhouette at the top of a building, from one roof to another. One that had a fire escape, metal stairs at its building side going up all the way to its roof included.
He could feel his heartbeat quicken, yet his steps didn't stop. At first quickly, reaching past its third floor, the building only standing at five. Then, he slowed to a crawl.
Quietly as he could on metal that could reverberate at the slightest misstep, he finally reached the top in another minute.
Luckily for him, the figure at the top seemed even more concentrated than he.
Crouched low, he seemed to be gazing at the other building he'd leapt down from to this one.
Shirou followed his gaze. One thing was most of note. A window ajar, the room within a dining hall by the looks of it.
Two people, both likely in their thirties, enthusiastically chattering away as if on a date, a young girl there too, probably not much younger than him, joining in their silent cacophony that was simply too far to reach his ears. And a small boy, possibly not even ten, pouting at his food, an empty plate that only had its vegetables left, by what Shirou could discern.
'A family of four…' He then looked at the man spying on them again. Took him in properly. Blue full body jumpsuit, relatively distinctive blue hair styled in a pretty standard style, fancy earrings. Then his eyes widened.
That spear. That red spear at his back, at the ready to…
"You're the murderer!" What drove him to yell that out he did not know. Perhaps shock? Regardless, it was too late.
The man turned instantly, eyes narrowed. Whether he said anything, Shirou did not know.
He couldn't know. All he knew was the man who had his eyes on him. The spear that would shatter whatever he reinforced in a single blow.
So he ran. As soon as a moment after his yell, he'd turned to run.
He descended one floor, two, three, and by then the man in blue had had ample time to recompose himself if he'd at all been any bit flustered to begin with and was already dropping, all the way from the roof with another leap.
Shirou knew that wouldn't phase him. He leapt from the second floor side rail as well, instinctively rolling as he met the ground. It proved far more difficult than the movies.
Regardless, he knew he couldn't halt, not even for a moment, not against this man.
He rushed out of the alleyway, out into the open.
On any other day he may have thought of it, of how he'd' endanger other people by bringing him here and how that would never be worth it. Except he knew this man would not act here.
Somehow, he just- no, as per the dreams, he knew, this man would avoid endangering them too. Thus he also knew he'd follow him. He'd not let him just leave.
Could he lose him? It was late into the evening, soon to be night. What crowds there were were already thinning. How long could he hope to be able to stall for with that, nonetheless how unlikely losing him seemed as a possibility.
No bike on hand, having been on foot all this time, though mostly going in circles, he was still close enough. To home, to his shed, to…
He grimaced. The thought of that choice, of… but even it aside, his home was the only place he could think to go.
He moved quick, aiming to be within at least several people's sights at all times. He knew it wouldn't be enough to lose him. Not him. Even at his home, it'd be just a matter of time. It would all come down to do or die.
Shortly, he already found himself at the gate of his home. His few moments were running out and people were more than scarce at this point.
It wasn't his house he rushed towards first, but his shed. A stick and a stone had been all he'd picked up along the way. And as his hurried steps turned into a full blown dash, he turned for a moment, stone hardened by magic and tossed back at full force.
It was shredded mid air, perfectly bisected as the blue man came into being again, appearing from nothingness.
Did he need to? Shirou felt like it was unnecessary, like the stone would simply pass through and not matter, yet he knew that the man would react if on simple instinct and reflex.
The man had seemingly said some words in what might've been surprise, though Shirou had not bothered to lend an ear to that. Not halting his sprint for a moment, he reinforced the stick in his hand.
He'd left the key for the shed in the house, not thinking to take it. Not believing there to be enough time if he was up against this man right now. Using his magic might have been able to unlock it, but it would take time, not to mention the uncertainty of whether it'd even work.
Rather than door, unlikely to budge as easily, he went for the small window, more than low enough for him to reach.
Barreling through it, he felt several nicks at his skin. They'd bleed badly since it was glass, but they were lighter, and luckily, none of the shards seemed to have lodged themselves in him.
He moved to the circle, the one no longer buried under boxes, just as the door of his shed exploded inward.
Having seemingly decided to share his sentiments, and seeing the circle behind him, the man in blue lunged in, spear aimed at his heart, Shirou knew.
That knowledge, that expectation of where it would land might've been what allowed him to live as he managed to intercept the blow on point, the reinforced stick exploding a moment after as he was shot back and onto the circle.
He could already feel it, its warm glow returning, shimmering brighter and brighter. He knew what it would allow him to do.
Then he thought of her. Foreign yet familiar, a want to see someone who he'd not even known to begin with.
Then he remembered her standing before the darkness. Being ended by the darkness.
'No…' bringing her back to that.
"No!" he roared, and that coupled with the glow of the circle was enough to catch the blue man off guard.
"A summoning…?" He retreated a step back at the sight.
"No!" Shirou remembered it. A misbegotten future. A man in an endless field of blades.
The circle was deff to his protests, however, and after a final bright spark, the light finally receded.
He remembered this feeling, the feel of his mana now, the feel of summoning.
As he turned, however, what met him was not the swordswoman from the dreams.
"Are you my mas-" Eyes widened a moment after they'd lazily began to open.
"You… You're…" White hair, tanned skin, gray eyes, the reflection in the swords. "You're… me?"
Wide gray eyes widened even further.
This development was… new.
Released a day later than intended, but close enough.
A big thanks to several mates who are a tad to a lot more adept with Fate's rather vast lore than I, including Imperator's slave, a fellow writer on the site who writes Fate, Code Geass and RWBY stories.
Well yeah, that's bout it. Hope you enjoyed the first chapter!