Written for Alex Kellar's Contest.
Shout out to J. Zinkan, F. Ebering, and T. Arambula
Title: Written in the Stars
A thick mist swirled around his feet as a full moon hung in the sky, giving off a luminous red glow, and the air saturated with the scent of blood. Strike after strike, he redirected, parried, evaded, and avoided; it was all he could do to stay in the fight. The rest of his team had already fallen, whether to the horde or the monster he faced. He'd been sure that he was going to die saving people; that was a fact he'd never once doubted his entire life.
Of course, it was his reality marble that he thought he'd die in. It almost seemed fitting in a twisted poetic way, to breathe his last breath as his reality marble faded for the last time that he'd spend his final moments surrounded by the countless blades he'd contained for so long.
Instead, he was going to die in this monster's Reality Marble: Grave Manger.
He raised Bakuya and slashed through another of the phantasmal beings that made the Apostles' soul its home.
They were ghoulish beings like humans whose skin was slowly slipping from their muscles or their muscles from their bones, and with every step, they would groan just two words. "Help me,"
It'd only taken Shirou a moment to figure out that these people, or that's what they were, had only one connection to the Apostle. They were his victims, forever clawing their way out of the abyss in the ground, begging anyone to slay their tormentor, even as they did his bidding.
"Trace Bullet," Shirou chanted, dozens of blades with every one of them lacking a name, without anything more than a dull existence in the hand of someone who never accomplished anything truly significant. But they were sharp, filling the air around him. He batted another of the ghouls to the side and bisected another from shoulder to hip.
Their numbers were mounting for every one slain. It was replaced by another two or three or five. Already they fought atop a mound of corpses, and there seemed to be a fence of them forming around him.
"Continuous Fire," Shirou snapped, and the blades shot off, skewering the ghouls around him and pushing them and all the others back to fall unmoving to the ground.
The sound of many bodies splattering like a bug against a windshield broke their chanting. Shirou twisted as quickly as he could manage to spin to cut down those close to him; he knew what was coming, who was coming. The twenty-fifth dead apostle ancestor, Nlth Evet Louse.
He crossed his swords and raced to meet his enemy. His heart beat with all the speed of a hummingbird's wings, muscles screamed, begging for him just to stop, His swords met Nlth's daggers, and he was thrown back, feet skidding across the ground, throwing dust to mix into the mist. His arms shook, and he knew without even looking, his swords broke, just like they had after every one of their exchanges. He dropped them with a new set filling his hands.
"I am the bone of my sword." He chanted as he threw the first of his swords and created another set, they followed the first, and then the third followed suit. It wouldn't slow him down more than a few seconds, but he hoped that would be enough. It had to be enough.
"Steel is my body, and fire is my blood." He could feel his circuits heating as power flowed through eleven, sixteen, twenty of them.
Shirou held out his hand as pain lanced through his head. What he was doing was stupid, he knew. The chances of his reality being strong enough to overcome that of a being that had lived for at least a thousand years was nil. Still, he knew there was a way, and if there weren't, he'd create it.
"I have created over a thousand blades." Magical energy buzzed through all twenty-seven of his circuits. Two of Kansho he'd traced and thrown had been destroyed, leaving all the Bakuya to chase after the single one.
Shirou charged his reinforced fist crushing the skull of the dead in front of him before slinging his body into another. "Unaware of loss,"
"Nor aware of gain." Too many who looked upon him would look like he was successfully fighting a war against a horde that had to number in the thousands when the simple fact was he wasn't fighting thousands, just one a thousand times. Still, he knew enough to know his reinforced strength and ability were not endless.
"Withstood pain to create weapons, waiting for one's arrival." Another pair of Kanshou and Bakuya filled his hands as the crowd to his side was torn to pieces. Their body parts flung through the air as if they'd been on top of a bomb as it detonated.
He caught the ancestor's clawed fingers on the edge of the phantasmal swords and slid back several feet. "I have no regrets. This is the only path."
He smirked at the surprised look on the ancestor's face as it realized what he was doing. "My whole life was... Unlimited Blade Works!"
Usually, the dome of fire would spread from him like wildfire to render his world atop the one he stood I It wasn't so quick, like that same fire passing through molasses.
It spread around Shirou, leaving him standing atop a hill covered in long golden yellow grasses. And like a macabre grave marker, weapons of all sorts extended their handles skyward, waiting for a hand to take them up and bring them purpose once more, Waiting for him.
The ancestor and his ghoulish court had spread through the fields beneath him. Shirou extended a hand, a single blade lifted into the air, rotating once, stopping once the tip was pointed at the ancestor and shot off like a bullet. The ancestor just knocked it from its path and narrowed his eyes at Shirou.
Shirou started walking down the hill, all the weapons behind him, and each and everyone he passed drifted into the air slowly at first but gaining speed with each passing moment.
"I cannot wait to add you to the ranks of my minions. I must wonder if a being such as yourself will manage to keep your marble." Nlth stated, the golden field around his feet giving way to ruined and split earth from where the dead began to pour frantically out.
Shirou raised a hand, his attention locked on the ancestor; outside of his marble, the action of tracing so many weapons would be nearly impossible, let alone the countless phantasms amongst the projectiles. Here within his world, his reality was as natural as breathing.
He brought his arm down. The swords raced forward, and amongst the setting sun's final rays, they looked like a near infinite storm of streaking light.
He reached beside him, where he found a hilt waiting. It was always there within his reach, even if she wasn't. The last vestige he had remaining. Holding it tight, he felt it almost come to life in his grip, and leaning forward, Shirou kicked off the ground hard enough to send shards of stone, chunks of soil, and particles of dust into the air.
As he entered the onslaught of weapons, they curved around him, their target set. He cut through two of the ghouls just rising to their feet in front of him and found himself face to face with the ancestor who would be called if Shirou had the time to waste coming up with a witty quip more akin to a dead porcupine ancestor rather than an apostle.
He brought up the blade intending to send it deep into the flesh of his enemy, and found it blocked by a curved dagger of the jagged black diamond. A copy of the weapon foul as it was formed a short ways off buried in the ground waiting for his call.
It had no name yet when it had a place in the world before its time had faded to history. It was a blade that had bathed deep in the blood of the innocent and naive, and all who saw it knew their end had come. All who saw it feared it.
The blade of the Toltec priest, Topiltzin. History had all but wiped the man from existence with the man turns of the hourglass. His weapon, however, amidst the fear it had generated had become a mystery unto itself.
The blade absorbed the blood of the innocent for power, and at the hands of Nlth, it had never run dry. Even then, as Shirou cleaved at the blade with a sword that drew naught but awe from any who knew its name, only small gouges formed on the blade's edge.
"I truly want you, boy! Fight, fight to your last breath." Nlth said and cackled as he pulled a sword that impaled his leg free to bat away the few blades that flew through the air seeking his death.
It was a mistake, a moment Shirou had been waiting for. The moment the blades would have clashed, Shirou acted. The sword vanished from the ancestor's hand, leaving him surprised, off-balance, and open. He brought the sacrificial blade to defend against the sword Joyuese, the holy sword, and Shirou slammed the sword into Nlth's stomach and invoked its name.
"Caliburn!" He roared as a blast of radiating light erupted from the blade into a beam that seemed to set the world around him ablaze.
The ghouls, still pulling themselves from the ground, howled as they vaporized. Shirou's eyes went wide as a feeling of danger-filled him, and he threw himself back to avoid five dagger-like claws that tore their way out of the beam.
The beam stopped, and there was Nlth's looking charred and missing a chunk of his face but definitely alive; the reason became apparent as he followed Nlth's other arm, which had impaled a number of his ghouls that looked far less like ghouls and more like average human beings each of them dripping blood down the length of the blade which was quickly taking on a red hue.
"Will your toys be mine when I claim you, little one?" He asked, and Shirou narrowed his eyes. A plan began to form based on priorities. The beam had taken a decent chunk of his reserves.
Number one, remove healing as a possibility, whether through the weapon's removal or by using weapons that dealt with wounds that could not be healed.
Planting Caliburn once more into the ground, Shirou readied himself. Magical energy fluxed around his hands, and as he closed them, he held a yellow spear, its shaft etched in coiling vines—the weapon of Diarmuid Ua Duibhine.
As Shirou charged again, blades began ripping themselves from the ground and swept towards his enemy. Using a ghoul as a springboard, Shirou took to the air and reared back with the spear, heaving it down so that it would impact as the last of the blades he sent would tear their way through the space he stood in.
"Spirit and Technique, Flawless and Firm" Shirou murmured.
He wasn't foolish to think it would work, raising his hands as he descended, blue energy surged in his hands, and he held a pair of the twin married blades then hurled them down towards Nlth. The almost magnetic attraction of the weapons pulled them together. Like buzzsaws, they zeroed in on the Dead Apostle Ancestor's neck. Both e batted away.
"Our strength rips the mountains."
A second pair burst into existence, and they followed the first pair. As the second Kanshou closed the distance, it shattered against the ancestor's fist. Then came the second Bakuya, and he ducked beneath it. Like a flash, he caught the first Kanshou against its flat, sending it away.
"Our swords split the water."
Kanshou sped through the air, whirled towards the first Bakuya and with the second Bakuya towards them, sending the three weapons scattering in different directions.
"Our names reach the Imperial villa."
A final copy of the blades filled his hands, and he pumped them full with energy while they drew the three thrown weapons back toward the dead apostle ancestor. The creature roared as he shattered the first Bakuya and diverted the blades, but his attention was now in a different direction than Shirou himself.
He was wide open. All around Shirou, time slowed to a crawl.
"The two of us cannot hold the Heavens together."
The weapons fractured, lengthening into longswords, the metal shunting until Shirou looked as if he had a pair of glowing wings in his hands. "Trace... Overedge."
"Two great men, sharing a life!"
"Crane Wing Three Realm!" Shirou rushed forward, holding the two weapons aglow with energy behind him, and as he twisted, he brought them around to cleave through Nlth in an x pattern rendering the undead being into four oozing pieces.
Or he thought he had. In fact, he was reasonably sure he'd done just that. But the ringing laughter of Nlth said otherwise.
His whole body ached, and his magical energy had nearly run dry. Still, he scrambled for the first weapon he could think of even as the shadowed form of Nlth towered above him. "I did enjoy your struggle." He gasped as Shirou slammed Gae Buidhe into his chest and cleaved upwards until it carved a path up through his heart and deep into his neck before falling onto his knees as the Unlimited Blade Works faded from around him. Still, he held the lance in his hands for all he was worth, refusing to let it return to its slumber just yet.
He was once again on the marshy grass of the Grave Manger; Nlth lay just feet away, black blood spurted and oozed from his body as he scrambled to hold the wound closed while stabbing at a few more remarkably human ghouls.
Struggling to his feet, Shirou stumbled towards the ancestor who glared at him furiously. He'd realized his wound wasn't going to be healing as he had stopped trying, instead opting to crawl closer to Shirou, looking ready to spit nails.
Once more, a sense of danger-filled Shirou and Nlth's mutterings confirmed it, but he found that he had no time to get away no matter what he wanted.
"Die with me, you pathetic worm!" He rolled over onto his back and plunged his dagger into his chest. The weapon turned red, then black, its hilt warped in a very familiar way, then it exploded while Nlth laughed.
Shirou landed on his back some distance away, looking up at a suburban house, the blood moon gone along with the presence it brought, and Shirou wanted to laugh. The ancestor was dead by his attack, or he had used the explosion to flee, but there he was alone, still holding Gae Buidhe. The only issue was Avalon. He'd no energy for the sheath to work with.
He shuddered, and it wasn't hard to figure out why considering the gaping hole in his chest. It was almost nostalgic. His eyes fluttered closed.
His breathing faltered, then stopped.
On his face, a small relieved smile remained.
Shirou jerked awake as the smell of rot filled his nose and pain filled his mind, sadly he couldn't figure out which was worse to deal with. With his eyes feeling like someone had weighted them with anvil's, he only managed to open them a crack and found himself sitting in some back alley in a pile of trash but coated in a fresh layer of wriggling maggots.
Shirou shifted, and surprise sent a shock rippling through him as he fell end over end to the cobblestone below. Reaching for a cobblestone, he inched himself forward, grimacing with each movement at it pulled at the long wounds spread across his chest and stomach
'Huh,' he thought, looking at his hands, 'I swear my hands are bigger than this.'
He found himself inches from feet as his stomach roiled. And he heaved the bile and blood in his stomach across the man's brown shoes. Shirou tried to look up but found he only succeeded in rolling himself over onto his back, a gurgle of pain rippling out his throat.
The shadowed man was suddenly above him, his eyes filled with concern and brimming with joy. "You're alive," He whispered the words in absolute disbelief.
It was so surreal. For a moment, Shirou couldn't help but overlay Kiritsugu's face, his voice, and his extreme joy onto the man. Shirou tried to speak but hacked as he coughed out blood.
"Hold on, boy." The man said, and Shirou found himself jostled about, as his eyes grew foggy again.
The next time he woke up, he found himself on a soft bed in a dimly lit room painted in various shades of brown. A candle burned on the small bedside table, and the air smelled strongly of herbs and medicine.
Shirou groaned. He had been in enough hospitals to know that he wasn't in a traditional one. Which, while didn't mean the worse, did tell usually obnoxious and self-assured people, and the minor boost he received from Avalon would be something they saw as done by their medicine. He'd, of course, agree if allowing them their faith was what they needed, he would oblige.
That thought had him looking down at his body. It seemed like just about everywhere he looked, bandages had been someone wrapped, and his body ached. Which, as far as Shirou was concerned, meant that the healing hadn't been completed.
The door on the opposite side of the room creaked open, allowing a small girl with canine ears and a bushy brown tail into the room. She carried a tray holding a single goblet. "Lord Miach said you'd be up." She said.
Shirou watched warily; the ears could be cosplay, as far as he could tell, he hadn't fallen under the effects of an illusion. That wasn't to say he was great at spotting them.
"You've been asleep for the last three days, but you seem much better now." She placed the tray on the side of the bed and began going over Shirou's bandages.
"Where am I?" Shirou asked, wincing at the raspiness of his voice; from the sandpaper-like feel of it, he hadn't spoken or had anything to drink in days.
"You are in the guest quarters of Lord Miach's Familia."
Lord Miach, which he assumed was the man who sandal's he threw-up on, but what by Type-Moon was a Familia? It sounded vaguely Italian, and a small part of him said that it was probably family, but at that point, why not call it a family?
Shirou pushed himself up in his bed and pulled the covers back, and fought back a scream. It looked like somehow he'd tiny legs!.
'Wait,' he thought, 'the blast, did it blow my legs off, and Avalon is regrowing them?' He wondered.
It was a good enough reason, but it meant his balance, as well as his center of gravity, was officially shot. His chances of making it anywhere on foot had dropped to zero.
She glanced at the door, almost as if expecting someone to enter. When no one did after a moment, she seemed. "So, can you tell me just how you ended up in the alley?" She asked.
Shirou could only shake his head; it was the truth, and considering the girl wasn't human, she knew of the moonlit world.
"Lord Miach said you probably wouldn't. Something about large scale trauma's often inaccessible to the victim."
Large scale trauma? It was at the very least a very apt way of talking about the state he found himself in. The door swung open, allowing a young man with dark hair that seemed almost blue though not as blue as lancer's in the candle's light.
" %*^& (*& %* ^&% *^*," He said, looking at the girl, and she responded just as quickly. It wasn't a language Shirou heard before.
The girl huffed and turned to Shirou, "De Marsial wants to know if you're able to eat?" She asked.
His stomach all but roared in approval at the very thought, and while Shirou blushed, the other two laughed, and in short order, a bowl of creamy soup was in front of him. It smelled beautiful, but Shirou noted a distinct lack of solids in the dish. A shiver ran up his spine. How long had he been out that they were going to be weaning him on to solid foods?
"So what?" Shirou paused to clear his throat, "What language is your friend speaking?"
The girl tilted her head, "I guess you can only speak the language of the far east." She said. "He was using Koin, our native tongue in Orario."
The way she said that told Shirou that he wasn't in Japan, he'd been hoping since the girl could speak Japanese reasonably well, but when the boy walked in, well, his certainty was cleaved in two. Of which the second option turned out to be true. Add in the two facts that those with animal features, the nonhumans were primarily half-demons or elementals, not some form of beast human hybrid, more or less it painted a sign that said, 'Not one of the planets you know.' Not to mention, he had never heard of Orario either.
It was safe to say he was no longer on earth. Or at least not his earth.
Shirou's mind raced as he outwardly focused on the soup. He would need a job, lodgings, food, and access to the arcane tomes they had available. That way, he could research just how he got where he was and find out how to get back. He had someone to find, after all.
So considering he had the broader strokes.
The question was how to get back.
He could search for Zelretch.
Try and find someone who could manipulate the kaleidoscope on this side.
He could try to recreate whatever happened to send him here in the first place. The problem came with finding another apostle with the same skill set at Nlth in the first place. An impossibility.
Or he could give up on getting back and continue his search for her from where he was.
He sighed. His options were limited, and to be honest, he didn't like any of them.
"Still, even with Lord Miach's assistance with his potions, your rate of healing has been remarkable." The dog girl said.
Shirou paused; apparently, he was in the house of a noble who created healing potions. "I heal pretty fast, always have." He said as he scraped the last of the soup from the bowl. It was pretty good, 'I guess Waver was right; there's a lot of potion-making and cooking have in common.' Shirou thought before looking at the young woman realizing he'd missed an essential fact.
"I'm Emiya Shirou," he said and inclined his head as best he could, "thank you for all of your help."
She blinked at him in surprise and scratched the back of her head. "Right, I'm Naaza Erisuis, part of the Miach Familia."
"*&^% %&*^ #%$%&^$$," The boy said as he left the room.
"Yeah, yeah," Naaza said, waving him off, "I've got to get back to work though, someone will be by to see you soon. Oh, and be sure to finish your medicine." She said, pointing at the goblet she'd brought in.
She stood and made her way from the room, closing the door behind her, leaving him alone in the room. Taking the goblet into his hands, he looked at the clear liquid that could have passed for water. Only the bitter smell and no doubt taste would have told him it wasn't plain water. While he wanted to set it aside as he was sure Avalon had already taken care of his wounds and any infections that may have found their way into his body, they had made it for him, and if they'd wanted to poison him, they'd ample time to do so already.
After another moment of hesitation, he tipped the goblet and poured it into his mouth. His face pinched. Bitterness hardly began to cover it. As he looked about the room, trying to get his thoughts to a task that became progressively harder, sleep claimed him.
He woke with a start. The room was dark. It was apparent he'd slept the day away. Shirou threw the blankets off of himself and swung his feet to the floor. As far as he could tell, Avalon had done its work, and Shirou was as healed as humanly possible. He padded his way to the opposite side of the room, to a full-length mirror settled against the wall. As soon as he caught sight of his reflection, Shirou's jaw dropped.
Not only was he a mess of bandages, but he looked like he had when he was a child of all things! A shiver ran up his spine as a secondary consideration made its way into his mind.
Had he died? It wouldn't surprise him, everything dies eventually, and that was one massive explosion Nlth had made. So how did it work? Since he'd denied the deal Alaya offered, did she just make sure his soul just got shunted somewhere else?
It would explain why he wasn't reincarnated more traditionally but did she even have that power? In theory, the counter guardians defended akasha. Of course, even after meeting a counter guardian, he didn't have that answer.
No matter, where did that leave him? His needs hadn't changed, but Shirou's goals had been narrowed to continue his search from here.
Step one, get out of the building. He may have been reborn into another world, and Magi in this one might not do the things those in his world would have, but it was still best to err on the side of caution. If he was wrong, he could just come back and apologize.
Step two, subset, clothing, the stuff they had him was nothing more than a pair of shorts and the layers of bandages around his chest. There was no way he'd get very far unnoticed.
Step three, find out as much about the world as he possibly could. He couldn't put his finger on it, but something about the world felt off, wrong, and the ambient mana dwarfed his previous life by nearly three times.
Step four, food lodgings, and shelter, none of what he'd find would matter if he couldn't get the things necessary to survive.
As he opened the window to see if there was an alternative for clothing rather than going about the Magus's home, the creaking of the door alerted him he wasn't alone.
"I don't think you should be moving yet, young one." A pale man with long dark blue hair in black robes with a tanned stole said as he stepped into the room. No one would ever guess the man was a lord with subjects from the way he carried himself. However, Shirou couldn't ignore the fact the man's accent was perfect.
Shirou couldn't help it; he inclined his head. Everything about the man screamed of peace of healing. "Sorry," he said, and Shirou found he truly was. He remembered the voice, the joyous smile, even the shoes he'd coated with his bile.
"None of that now. I'm just here to see how you're doing." He smiled and gestured to the bed.
Shirou complied. Though as much as seemed to be average, something about him was off as if there was something more. Something Shirou couldn't quite put his finger on.
As he began unbinding Shirou's bandages, he spoke. "Naaza tells me you don't remember how you got into the alley?"
Shirou found that he didn't want to lie to the man; he'd been pleasant enough. "No, I woke up there a moment before I threw up on your shoes. Sorry about that."
Miach nodded, "Such things are normal. The memories may come back on their own over time or all at once, or even not at all. Now, where might I find your parents? I'd like to take you to them as soon as I can."
He shrugged, "My parents died in a fire a long time ago," Shirou said.
Miach grew stone-faced as he finished removing the bandages. "Well, how did you get to Orario then?"
Again Shirou shrugged. He didn't have the slightest clue to the exact method of his arrival, sure he had a few theories, but at best, they were as half baked as his skills as a magus.
"So you're an orphan then." That's when Shirou realized there was some form of compulsion there, something compelling him to answer the man truthfully. A sneaky tactic.
Shirou nodded. It was the truth and twice over to boot. If there was anything he'd learned from watching Rin's dealings, the truth was subjective, and the more you allowed the other person to think they knew the truth, the less they asked. People liked to supply their own answers.
"Well, I have already gotten in touch with the Astraea Familia." Miach said, "I'm sure they will find out who left you in such a state." He indeed seemed to believe that.
Still, Shirou was starting to understand things a bit better, at least a little bit. The Astraea Familia seems to be investigators or a police force of some type. From the faint smell in the air and the medicines they'd brought him earlier, it appeared Miach's Familia were either healers or alchemists. Though he still had to wonder if Astraea was just as different as Miach.
"May I ask if you're doing all right? Something seems to be bothering you." Miach said.
Shirou froze, frantically trying to come up with some way around the question even as his mouth began to move. "What are you? You feel different. What kind of Magus are you?"
Of all the things Miach expected him to say, that wasn't on the list as he stared at Shirou with no small amount of astonishment.
"I suppose I haven't introduced myself, have I? I'm Miach, patron god of this Familia. However, I don't know what a magus is."
A god, a GOD, that otherworldly feeling made so much sense with that information. But a god? Shirou's heart was racing in his chest. Gods were fickle beings, ruling humanity and ruining lives as the people were nothing more than dolls. It explained the compulsion too.
He wanted nothing more than to turn to his headboard and see which lasted longer, the wood or his skull. The only thing stopping him was knowing that there was nothing he could do about it; he'd just have to accept it. His world was still firmly entrenched in the age of gods.
"A magus is a Magecraft user," Shirou said. What else could he say? A magus was a cloud that gained intelligence? Something told him even if he could lie and he might be able to know that he knew what was going on, the god would see right through it.
Miach nodded, his eyes crinkling at their sides, "It would explain your shock, I imagine." Again he nodded.
"Well, young Emiya, I recommend you to rest here for the night. Tomorrow as you seemed to have mostly healed, we'll set you up in your new lodgings." He paused, looking more than a little apprehensive before continuing, "Unless, of course, you'd like to join my Familia?"
Shirou jerked, taken aback, joining the family of a god, it was probably something that happened fairly often in this world, but Shirou, he had no idea how even to begin to answer. There were some perks. His body was on the verge of death when he found himself there, so someone had done it to him; joining a Familia might help keep it from happening again, at least until he was able to defend himself. Plus, he'd be able to learn how to heal.
On the other hand, just because there was an option in front of him didn't mean that it was the only one, and he'd be a fool to think it was. For all he knew, he might be better suited to say healing over fighting.
"I appreciate the offer Miach-sama." Shirou said, inclining his head, "But I would like some time before I can answer if you're alright with that?"
The god smiled, "Of course, of course. Take all the time you need."
He looked ready to continue but was interrupted by a soft knock on the door before a head peeked in, revealing it to be the dog girl Naaza. "Lord Miach, a Ryuu Lion, is here to see the boy."
"They weren't supposed to be coming until tomorrow," Miach murmured.
The door swung open, revealing a blond elf girl with sky-blue eyes, she looked young, but Shirou wasn't sure if that was the case. Elves in myths were ageless after all. She wore a green cloak with a flower looking hood, a white shirt, and short green shorts. "Apologies, Lord Miach, our exploration date has moved up, so the rest of our appointments had to as well."
"I see." Miach said and stood, "I have no issues with that as long as the boy doesn't."
Shirou pushed himself to his feet; there was no point in putting it off. "If I could get some clothes."
He had a pair of white pants and a flowing white shirt that was almost too big in short order. They'd gotten to the door when Naaza came running up holding a small covered basket.
"A few potions if you start feeling ill, and a few snacks." She said in the way of explanation.
After saying their goodbyes, the elf led Shirou out of the house and into the streets. She asked him the usual questions, did he know who he was? Did he know who attacked him? Did he know how he got to Orario? Shirou answered them all to the best of his ability. His name was Shirou Emiya, no he didn't know who attacked him, and he had no clue how he even got here.
"Well, a few of us are remaining here during the expedition. It's not often a child is nearly murdered." She paused, a hand flying to her mouth, her eyes wide. "My apologies Emiya."
Shirou shook his head. "It's not worth being bothered by." He said
"You are a strange child."
Oddly, Shirou couldn't help but take it as a compliment. Strange wasn't a bad thing as far as he was concerned. Plenty of people in Fuyuki had something similar to that before. Helpful but strange. Good-hearted but strange. And so on.
She led them through the streets, pointing out important locations, Daedalus street, where the best croquettes were in the city, and anything else she deemed important. In the end, they came to a halt outside the gates of a ramshackle building.
"This is where you'll be staying." She said before taking him by the shoulder and guiding him further down the street toward the end of the block, speaking the entire way. The home was under investigation due to the high number of turnarounds they had. They wanted him to keep an eye on things and help keep the other children calm when the raid happened. It was dangerous. If anyone caught him watching them or anything of the sort, they could all be in danger. Shirou nodded.
"I'll help." He said.
Shirou had taken his new life pretty well. Sure he was in an orphanage, but he had a job that paid well enough that he was able to begin meager savings. It's what he is doing right now.
He moved through the woods, keeping low, while he wasn't hunting for anything specifically. He'd be a fool to wander cold footed and miss out on a chance to gather some actual food. Added to the fact that the herb he was looking for smelled like a mint variation, he wouldn't be surprised if the animals in the forest like it as much as humans.
Shirou found the wild-growing herb on the opposite side of a tree growing along the riverbank, and with a deft pinch just below the bottom-most leaves, he plucked. Slowly but surely, the small basket at his side began to fill.
He didn't see any deers or wild pigs, but he did skewer a few fish with branches he used alteration on.
The shuffling of grasses behind him had Shirou turn to level his altered spear. There wasn't one but three of them, each man being heavily scarred and with at least a few grey hairs. Each held a roughshod wooden club.
The history of the weapons was nothing fantastic. The goons had only carved them the night before. The only fight they had under their proverbial belt was a wounded faun, which each took a turn clubbing to 'making sure the others had done the job right.'
Their owners? Ex-adventurers. Kicked out from the Ganesha Familia. Gliant Mott, Torek Bazendite, and Crass Vandiroot.
"It's not safe for little ones like you to be wandering around in the woods." The one on the right grunted
"Not safe for no one, in fact, not 'round here." The middle one added with a broad smile showing he was missing a number of his teeth.
The third man, Crass, just clenched his teeth and laughed.
Shirou almost winced. Without their Falna, these men wouldn't be a problem for even the weakest of adventurers. Worse, they weren't going to let him go without a fight. Their body language, more or less, shouted 'FIGHT.'
Even though some of his magic circuits' units have not been unlocked after his rebirth, they were no threat.
Though Shirou didn't lower his spear, he smiled at them. "I'm just gathering herbs for the Miach Familia. I assure you I'm going to be fine on the trip back," he said.
"The Miach Familia, is it? Well, we'd be happy to deliver those for you. Just hand them right over." The first man who spoke said. "Or we could just take them, right boys?"
The three of them laughed.
Taking a deep breath, Shirou began. Magical energy spread through his body, pushing his muscles, bones, organs, and his senses to the max of their capacity. He knew what was coming; it was as clear as day.
He adjusted his leg, ready to lunge, and ducked as the first man, Gliant, swung for his head, leaped back to avoid a downward swing, and slammed the but of his spear into the chest of the third who'd moved around behind him. Whipping his spear around, Shirou slammed it into Crass's chin, sending him to the ground with a loud moan of pain.
The other two didn't stop in surprise; if nothing else, they kept the priorities they'd gained from adventuring. Unless your team is in mortal peril, prioritize the enemy and try to draw the confrontation elsewhere, so they are not a liability.
They came, and Shirou attacked. He drove the spear's point into Torek's shoulder; the man grunted but grabbed the spear, trying to hold it and, by extension, Shirou in place. Shirou had other plans, however. He kept pushing the spear forward, sending the bandit backward and allowing the club that Gilant swung down at his head to miss entirely.
Taking a half step forward, Shirou broke through the branch as close to Torek as he was willing to get with his palm and snapped the piece he had left-over his knee leaving him two pieces of wood a little larger than his forearm and continued his attack.
The length in his right hand crashed against Torek's leg, and from the 'crack,' he knew he'd broken the leg; he'd know even if he hadn't heard it considering the white protrusion lifting from his enemy's leg.
Finally, it was just him and Gliant, who, to his credit, though he looked between his downed comrades, looked ready to continue.
"What are you, boy? Did some puny god allow you to enter their Familia?" He spat the word like a curse.
Shirou could see how he would think that, by all rights, what he accomplished as well and above what other ten-year-olds even with training could manage. So having a Falna of his own would explain a lot. Still, two things kept him from answering the man. Shirou wasn't much one for lying in the first place and two, to talk while in the middle of a fight is a sin.
His answer came as a charge and was met by Gliant's desperate rush, screaming and looking ready to attempt to cleave him in two even if all he carried was a club. Shirou pushed himself faster, appearing in the man's guard, and swung his makeshift swords. One met with Gilant's groin, the other his temple. He was out cold before his body even hit the ground.
Shirou took a moment to gather the herbs that had leaped free from the baskets during the skirmish and looked at the fallen men. Once, the ordinary people of Orario looked upon them as heroes, braving the dungeon and hunting monsters, now they were thieves, taking from any they could.
He spat on the ground. There was nothing worse than a fouled hero. Searching the vegetation, he found he was looking for a bush of brambles and set to work. Hand to foot and foot to foot, he bound them. Tight enough that if they moved, the thorns would puncture, but just loose enough, they only put pressure on the skin. The downside? Well, it added another stop before he could head over the Miach Familia to sell off his herbs. As soon as he was sure they wouldn't be going anywhere anytime soon, he nodded to himself.
Then he was off again.
He all but ran back to Orario and was waved through the gates without the slightest question. A perk of heading into the forest for the herbs, he guessed.
Three streets in, he stopped at an old house of wood. To most, it was a ramshackle building; boards were coming away from the building, glass panes shattered, it had no doubt seen better days. He'd managed a small section surrounding the door, and Shirou planned to do a bit more repairs as soon as he was able.
"Ms. Kanes, I have some fish for you!" Shirou called as he knocked firmly on the door. Ms. Kanes was a curmudgeonly liver-spotted older woman, who spent all of her time at her loom creating tapestries and rugs. On more than one occasion, Shirou had sat with her as she worked telling tales of Orario fifty years prior.
The knowledge, that at the very least to Shirou, was priceless.
Of course, she had lost her husband to the dungeon years prior and wasn't able to work as fast as she once did, so for the years until profits became slimmer until she barely had enough to eat at times. So when Shirou managed to get something, he would give at least a portion of it to her and do some repairs when he could.
Thunderous steps and the sharp cracking of wood on wood combined into a sound that was uniquely Ms. Kanes walked. She opened the door and peered out at him, her frown growing more profound and her forehead more wrinkled.
"Back again, are you?" She grunted before wandering back the way she'd come. Shirou smiled. She had work; it was the only reason she wouldn't pick him over at the door. "Put whatever you've got in the kitchen and begone with you."
Shirou said nothing, knowing that if he did, then she might actually tell him to leave, and just ignored her, or at least partially ignored her. He placed the fish in the kitchen and moved on after preparing it until it only needed actual cooking. After which, he checked her wood stock, her weaving spools, and went over the first and last bits of the interior work he'd managed. Mostly replaced flooring.
"I'll see you in a day or two, Ms. Kanes!" Shirou called as he firmly closed the door behind him.
Next was the Miach Familia. After knocking on the door, he found himself greeted not by the friendly face of Naaza as he expected, but by a young man, he'd never bet before. He had a brown bowl cut, narrowed green eyes, and a frown that was perpetual according to the lines on his mouth. "I'm guessing you're the one Naaza said would be by?" He asked and rubbed at his eyes.
Shirou held out the bag of herbs. They weren't valuable, not like the ones Familias gathered in the dungeon, but someone needed to collect them, and Shirou needed the income. Besides, even herbs used for tea had their uses. "I am."
"Right." He took the pouch from Shirou, pulled a bag from somewhere just inside the door, and shoved it into Shirou's hands. "Count it if you like."
Shirou tied the pouch to his belt, "No need. Lord Miach and his Familia wouldn't cheat anyone."
With a polite wave, Shirou moved on down the street.
Glancing at the sun, Shirou winced. He had been there a bit longer than he'd intended and took off in a run. Through alleys, up over walls until he reached the main offices of the Astraea Familia. It was mostly empty with a set of cells on one side to house genuinely violent offenders before someone judged them. A group of desks sat in the back above which hung a tapestry depicting the Astraea Familia sigil (the fulcrum of a balance scale surrounded by four wings). A desk in the center of the room was a desk occupied by a Pallum with pink hair.
"Hey, pipsqueak! Don't tell me you've been playing as an Astraea member again?" She didn't even look up from where she sat, cleaning her fingernails with a small dagger.
Shirou nodded, "But it's not like I go looking for these people..." He said with a groan.
"Except that guy from the Soma Familia, the thief who stabbed the child he was using as a shield. The nut who would pin squirrels to people's doors." The list went on with at least eight more items over the next minute.
"Well, I didn't this time. The thugs came to me." He went through what happened in the forest, and throughout the story, a small vein throbbed on her head, growing ever larger as time went on. When Shirou finished, she pulled out a map and had him mark the location.
"Brat, next time this happens, take it to the guards. We don't have the manpower to start hunting down bandits outside the city, even if they are tied up."
Shirou nodded. It made sense, with only eleven members, on the smaller side as far as the Familia was concerned, and they could hardly be all over Orario even if a good chunk of their members weren't exploring the dungeon. "I'll keep that in mind, Lyra."
"You'd be real useful to have around ya know pipsqueak? At least if we had a dozen extra members and a few more of you." The pink-haired Pallum as she passed away from the desk. "Anyway, I'll send a message to the guard so someone can go take care of the bandits."
At one point, Shirou would have pressed for more information, specifically what 'take care of' entailed. It was a habit that had lessened over the last few months as he got to know the Familia. They didn't act like children with a bit of power, which shouldn't have surprised him. They were the Familia of a goddess of justice.
"Thanks, Lyra, I owe you."
"Please shrimpy, you owe me more like twenty by now," Lyra said with a laugh and shooed him from the office.
Shirou's last stop of the day, a fenced building with a small section of the roof has caved in; watchers spread through the yard, its red door adorned with a metal bird skull as a knocker. It was his home. The Gendham Hirk home for children. A place that, if any luck were in the world, would have been shut down as soon as it had opened.
With four rooms, six children, and three adults to watch over them, there wasn't enough room for anybody. Money was always tighter than not, and what they grew in the meager garden they had was almost rotting on the vine.
Shirou glanced toward the sun noting its position half hidden by the horizon, and sighed. Dinner was at sunset; if one was late, they didn't get fed. Not that there was any room at the table for all of them to eat at once anyway.
"Shirou Emiya!" The Matron, Cress Hirk, a hefty woman with forearms of solid muscle from her constant hauling children about or swinging about the massive rolling pin like a madwoman every time she saw a mouse. Which was pretty often. She grabbed Shirou by the ear as soon as he stepped through the gate and dragged him to the stairs. "I don't know why we bother to put up with you! Late to wake up most mornings, late to most every meal you don't cook, the other children have to work harder to pick up the slack you leave."
He said nothing. The matron was right, even if he did have his reasons. Late at night, he would head to the most remote place on the property he had access to, the roof, and work on his Magecraft. It was explicitly getting his circuits open without turning his nerves into them. It was a slow process, and he'd only managed five.
He was late to meals because he was working a lot of the time, which usually meant the others had to pick up some slack though Shirou made sure to set aside enough time to do most of them. By the end of her tirade, Shirou resolved to get all of his chores done. Not because she yelled at him, which happened plenty often no matter how polite he was, but because he was sure the others would have gotten an earful as well. Probably even punishments they didn't deserve.
"For your constant unwillingness to fulfill your obligations, the entirety of the children here will be giving up their dinner." Like that one.
Shirou nodded, "Yes, ma'am." He said even as he began trying to figure out how much of the fish he snared each of the children would get. The woman was always trying to get the children to turn on one another and save for a single instance. She'd failed.
She all but shoved Shirou inside, and Shirou made his way into his room filled with four bunks, a single table in the center of the room, and a window. It was filled with a teen in full wooden armor through the glass window opposite him swinging a wood sword, continually repeating the same attack without ceasing. Klause Lainer, the boy that was so interested in entering the Loki Familia. Because as he would put it, the Loki Familia is the best. Though Shirou was pretty confident, Klause would accept any Familia that would take him.
All kids in Hirk home wanted to join a Familia as soon as they could as a Familia often had rooms and such for the members. Usually, if they weren't accepted by thirteen, they'd just run off and find whatever place was hiring. Some even go so far as to go to Belit Babili and other locations in the entertainment district.
Life in this world was a bit harder than his old one.
That night the rumblings of his fellow's stomach groaned well into the dark when Shirou was certain the minders were asleep, and then he moved to the kitchen and got to work.
As Shirou began to cook, he noted out of the corner of his eye, a slender woman with long purple hair in a plain grey wool nightgown. Although she always chuckled when she spoke her own name, Lady Gale was a kind woman and always looked the other way when he cooked for the children after hours, especially if he left her a portion of her own. He gave her a small nod and returned to his duties. It was nothing fancy, a slice of bread and fish stew and a mug of water each, but his fellows took and ate it gratefully.
Within two hours of starting, everyone had finished the meal, once Shirou had returned the kitchen to its pristine state, and everyone had gone to bed. The only evidence that remained was a bowl of stew, a slice of buttered bread, and a mug of water left on the counter.
None of which would remain there in the morning.
A/N: I hope you folks enjoyed the chapter. It was a blast to write! Now, this is the story I'm going to be replacing Force of Will within the rotation in the coming months. Don't like it? Join my Pat-reon and let me know!
At the end of each rotation of my stories, my patrons will now be able to dictate which chapter/story is updated next. The exception being this story, at least until the end of the competition.
Omake: Suggested by a friend one night when working late.
Title: The Many Deaths of Shirou Emiya. Scene 1.
The night was warm, almost unreasonably, it'd been a week since he'd slain Nlth, and still, he hadn't managed to get himself back into fighting shape. Avalon had managed to heal all the damage he'd sustained, but there almost seemed to be something else, something left behind by that final blast of energy that messed his circuits up—leaving each and every one of them damaged, fractured, broken.
His stomach rumbled and roiled, begging for food but warning him from eating that if he did, he wouldn't keep it down no matter how hard he tried. Honestly, it had to be similar to what people who had a cold felt like. Or at least he guessed not having a good memory of a comparison to draw upon.
He pushed himself off his bed, which, while nice, was far softer than his futon and made sleep all but impossible. Still, it was better than nothing, considering he'd spent two days crawling to get there. Opening the door, he saw his target, the place that would provide him the sustenance he'd need to pass the time until he'd fully recovered.
A vending machine. It's most significant downside was that even amidst a summer like the one they were in, it served nothing but hot options. Hot porridge, Tomato Soup, Coffee, and so on, nothing Shirou particularly wanted.
He took a step and clicked his teeth together at just how oddly uncomfortable it felt, Like a chunk of his foot, which was most assuredly so, he'd checked, twice, was gone.
He clutched at the railing as he made his way down the stairs, step by step, the odd feeling growing, almost like a cloud of certain death had been draped over him.
The problem came when he had to make his order, had no coin on him, and it wasn't like the vending machines were in any position to give him a deal, what with them being machines. Reeling back, he slapped the side of the device and pressed the button of his choice. Instead of the tomato soup, he ordered however, he got cream of mushroom soup. Hitting the machine wasn't the most honest of options, but he did his best to pay any loss that might have occurred from fixing the room he was staying in: loose floorboards, a bit of electricity, and the like.
As he took his first step after a long pull on soup, Shirou made his way back towards the stairs, intent on sleeping at least a bit more. So focused was he on the thought of getting back to his room, finishing his soup, and curling into a ball until the world around him once more felt like things were once more in the right place, he didn't notice the marble that it had been playing with earlier in the day.
His heel caught the marble, and Shirou slipped and rotated as he attempted to get his balance again. To no avail. He tried to focus on the swords with his reality marble as gravity took its toll and once more failed. His back hit the sidewalk, his head striking pavement and the world around him began to spin.
Aval he knew would take care of the damage to his body. As much as he wasn't nervous, he was worried, which only grew as Shirou found he couldn't move.
A loud rumbling caught his attention, directing Shirou to an incoming street sweeper. Shirou willed himself to move, even if only slightly, to get his head out of the way. It didn't work; he couldn't move a thing.
The minutes cut down to seconds, and Shirou closed his eyes, focusing on his own origin best he could as the street sweeper drove past him. Shirou breathed a sigh of relief as the driver slowed to a stop a few feet passed him.
A moment later, a shadow emerged from the running lights' right red lights and knelt next to him. "Well, I didn't hit you." He seemed annoyed at the fact. "Still, orders are orders, and we have our quotas as well. Sorry about this."
He got up and wandered back over to the street sweeper, stepped in, and proceeded to back up his lights flashing and horn blaring its annoying warming beak. The sweeper began to rotate. It was then Shirou knew he was going to die.
His sight faded, the briefest deep scratch of pain struck his nose, and he knew no more.
He had no idea how long he remained in the pitch blackness that became his reality. A mere second could have passed or millennia. Either way, it ended as a bright spark like the first star flickering in the evening appeared in the distance. It was all he could see, and it was growing.
Faster and faster, it approached until it seemed as if a freight train was barreling for him, and yet no matter how he tried, Shirou couldn't move. However, the closer it got, the more confident he became. It wasn't a train at all. It looked like a sitting room.
And then he was inside, and the lights were nigh upon blinding, a summer's heat permeated the room, a television playing some laughable cartoon featuring a character with a football-shaped head was playing on an old clunker of tv. In front of it was an old man with a long white beard in gold piped white robes sat watching and laughing.
Shirou cleared his throat, and the man looked up from his television, at Shirou, then at his watch, and back at Shirou. "You're a touch early," He said in a chipper tone that seemed to crackle.
He waved his hand and the t.v. Froze. So," he picked up a file and glanced it over. "This might be a bit odd, son, but you've been chosen to be isekai'd."
A ball appeared above his head and burst open, dropping a massive congratulations sign and an enormous amount of confetti.
Shirou blinked. "He'd seen a bit of Anime while he and Shinji were still something Shirou would call acquaintances. The term isekai came up a few times. Which made the driver's words of doing his job make an odd amount of sense. One fact stood above the others, something that had to happen ninety percent of the time before all isekai to happen.
"So, I'm dead, huh?" It wasn't as problematic as he was expecting, and Shirou realized he hadn't made nearly the progress the girls had been hoping for. At least it was one argument he'd avoid. He hated arguing with the two. Frankly, they'd gang up on him until he caved, and between them, Shirou always surrendered.
"Well, yes, it makes it a bit simpler when the subject, in this case, you know what's going on. You'll be getting reborn into a world where mana is vast, beasts of ages long past roam, and many call for help."
He'd said the magic word at the end. "Help," the word was like kryptonite to Shirou, and he found he'd no problem once again joining the fight.
"I'll do whatever I can," Shirou said. "Just wave your hand or flip whatever switch or click a button on your gizmo and let's get going."
Kami-sam seemed surprised by Shirou's words, and after a moment of staring at him, he moved the file aside and slammed his fist down into the big red button there.
"Have fun, Shirou Emiya!" He called as the world seemed to slip. The next thing he knew, he was jerking forward out of the chair he'd been nodding in, and his stomach rumbled. He stood opening the door to find that he was dreaming. It was still sweltering outside, and he found himself with a remarkable case of deja vu.
He shook it off and began making his way down the stairs.
I hope you'll continue reading. The coming chapter will be a blast!
In other news, this story will be replacing Force of Will in the rotation for the time being. Though it will be the next chapter coming out.
Patrons will now be able to vote what story comes next in the rotation. Or if the rotation doesn't change.
Btw, if you read A True Titan there's a poll up, check it out!