A/n: I own neither of these stories.
Thanks to J .Zinkan, F. Ebering, Ummy, Auntee Monica, Manic, Lastmanstanding, Adam, R. Baer ChauDavis, Biktur
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Written in the Stars
Shirou glanced around the dungeon, waiting for any monsters to emerge from the light blue walls. Nothing had for the past few minutes. A factor that had been increasingly more common over the course of the last week. He tapped the pouch at his side, it was all but brimming with small magic stones.
A scream rippled through the passage, one glance was all Shirou needed to know that it was likely coming from the fifth floor. A place he promised he'd avoid going to unless he had one of the other's with him, which meant due to all of their busy schedules, he hadn't actually made it that far down.
Not even a moment later he was in motion rushing through the corridor. He could see the stone bulge and hear it creak and crack before two kobolds and a goblin fell to the dungeon floor, their eyes fixed on Shirou. He pulled the blades from his scabbards and pushed himself to move faster.
The kobolds being faster, he reached them first. The first he slammed the sword into the creature's sternum and pressed upwards creating a spurting geyser of blood. The second fell to the ground, its blood spilling out around its fingers.
All that was left was the chunky green monster, it screeched its challenge and trundled forward at a fast walk. The edge of Shirou's sword bit into its neck, it was dead before when it hit the ground, its blood pooling around it. Ahead of him, the dungeon rumbled again but this time it wasn't a Kobold or Goblin. It wasn't even a dungeon lizard. Instead, it was a small rooster-looking creature with feathers of yellow and green.
He'd heard stories about it but had never seen it. A jack bird. A non-aggressive monster that was faster than most would expect. Its drop item, the jack bird's golden egg, was supposedly worth a good million at the very least.
Another scream echoed off the tunnel walls.
Without another look at the rare creature, Shirou spread his magical energy throughout his body, strengthening his bones and muscles, and pushed his senses to their absolute maximum. He then sprinted off and rounded the corner, rushing down the stairs. The walls once a light blue transitioned into green as he descended and as he reached the lower floor, he bolted down the hall. It opened into a circular room where a horde of ants surrounded three men who brandished blood-coated weapons at the ants whenever one came closer.
Shirou could see a length of an arm being devoured at the edge of the crowd. He crashed his swords together as he ran into the group gathering the majority of the creature's attention. He stomped on their knees as he moved between them as he cleaved the heads from bodies, abdomens from thoraxes.
"Are you guys all right?" He called to the group, his answer came as the three charged skewering ants on their spears. They didn't say a word to Shirou, even as they moved past him, leaving him amidst the attacking army of ants, alone.
He hacked and sliced and chopped, body parts sailed through the air but when he felt something bite into his leg he knew he'd have to fight harder.
"Trace on." The blueprints of a dozen identical longswords filled his mind and in the air above him, they formed. He kicked an ant that had gotten too close and sheared the mandibles off another as the swords finished forming. As soon as they had, however, they sped forward as if launched from crossbows spearing an ant or two apiece before burying themselves into the dungeon floor.
On the upside, it formed a blockade no matter how temporary, alternatively when they finally managed to rise over them which would, they'd have some measure of high ground.
Twisting, Shirou went to impale another ant when he found the weapon pulled from his hand. It didn't change his course, if anything he moved all the faster. The image of a sword so bright and silver it could act as a mirror popped into his head and he began his projection. Not a moment later, he was holding the hilt of Bakuya as the blade grew outwards, with the slightest movement of his wrist, the ant's head fell from its body.
One look to his side showed that the killer ants were already climbing over their brethren in their bid to get to him. He wiped the images from his mind and the blades flickered and dissipated into motes of light to vanish into the ether. Their footholds now lacking, the ants bounced and tumbled into the hoard. Whipping Bakuya around, he heaved it into the hoard, continuing into the motion he turned, a sword dark as midnight could be etched with the red pattern of a tortoiseshell, filled his now empty hand and he chucked it into the group.
Like magnets drawn together, the weapons arced around cutting a swathe through the pack of killer ants before they clashed and spun apart onto a different path only to draw together again when they'd reached the apex of their parting. Still, even with the dozens killed, it didn't seem to diminish their number overly much.
To make matters worse, the viscous yellow fluid that spilled from the multitude of ant corpses spread across the dungeon floor toward him. A few more bodies and would flow about his feet making his footing far more unstable.
He needed to move. The question was where? The ants still had enough numbers to be seven rows deep between him and either of the exits.
"Filthy Vermin! Begone! Gateway!" Came a haughty voice somewhere behind Shirou as all around him golden ripples appeared through the air. Very familiar golden ripples. A horrid feeling began filling Shirou's stomach and it only got worse when the ripples began spewing weapons in a rain across the ants.
Their screeches filled the air only for a moment before they all stilled.
Shirou turned searching for the one that launched the attack on the killer ants hoping that it wasn't who he thought it was. He found them standing beside an outcropping of stalagmites, in resplendent golden armor, wearing a grin like a cat who'd caught the canary was Gilgamesh, his red eyes looking over the carnage he had wrought in mere moments.
"Wriggling grubs like you should stay where you belong." He said as he walked forward, "Kidu, gather the magic stones," he said.
The other one, as to be truly honest, Shirou wasn't quite sure if it was a man or woman sighed and slipped their hands into the large pouches they carried and chains like silver snakes worked their way out to move along the ground. Whenever one reached a corpse it would rear up and lunge forward using the pointed weight at the end to skewer the body before emerging on the other side wrapped about a small magical stone. The monsters no longer containing their stones burst into clouds of black dust, the vile yellow of their fluids however remained.
"Gil, do ya have to treat me like a supporter?" They asked with a sigh "I'm going to have to clean and oil my chains again."
"You're not a supporter! I'd never trust any of those filthy vermin with anything that might affect our Familia!"
Shirou was hardly paying attention to the conversation they were having, too caught up in staring at the older blonde as he went about directing the gateway he created to encompass each individual blade. His voice was different, lighter, not nearly as smooth but just as haughty. Not to mention his ability, it wasn't the same. But still, something told him that the young man in front of him was none other than the king of heroes.
He snapped from his staring when the Gilgamesh look alike's red eyes turned to him. "I don't want your adoration, be grateful all you want, just do it far away from me."
He made a shoo-ing gesture and Shirou twitched. 'He's only a jerk, he's not him.' He chanted the words in his mind, "I'll keep that in mind, take care."
With no reason to stay, Shirou beat a hasty retreat up to the upper levels.
Every few steps, he couldn't help but glance over his shoulder just to make sure the doppelganger wasn't following him on his way up. He'd just reached the landing when the tiny yellow-green jack bird he'd seen earlier ran straight toward him. Growing up a storm, half a dozen feet behind it was a group of five adventurers each bearing the mark of a goblet settled within a crescent moon somewhere on their armor came rushing toward him, their weapons were drawn. A moment later a copy of each was recorded into his reality marble.
"Give us the bird, kid." The biggest one said as he brandished his axe. "We need it you know?"
Shirou looked down at the bird he'd absently caught in his hands. Technically it was a monster, but according to Lyra, the creatures were about as harmless as does a normal bird. Which was another reason so many found it annoying when they couldn't end it to gather the golden egg it always dropped upon death.
It wasn't difficult to tell the adventurer wasn't being totally honest. Their armor was well made and in good repair as were the weapons they carried. All of them looked healthy enough, the dagger-wielding adventurer that was slowly trying to skirt around to his other side was even chewing on something so they weren't starving. Finally, they weren't straight out begging or attacking, but demanding which meant they weren't that desperate.
Shirou shook his head, "Sorry, I'm sure there's a number of people who could use the gold better than you." To emphasize his point he flicked open his pouch and dropped the bird into it and pulled one of the swords from his back.
"Daven, we'd have to kill the kid." A spearman said, looking over at Shirou. "I don't want to deal with whatever Familia he's in hounding us if we don't."
"Shut it Byr. I'm not gonna kill a kid." The axeman, Daven snarled back.
"But…" the dagger wielder said, "I'm not gonna be able to hang on Dav-"
The axe crashed into the floor in between Shirou and the dagger carrier. "I said, SHUT IT!" Daven snarled. "Look kid, give us the Jack Bird...please." He spoke with a strain that wasn't present before.
Again Shirou shook his head. "Don't worry about it boy, just go." The lone swordsman, oldest of the bunch, and the lone werewolf in the party said and gestured down the hall they'd come from.
"Thanks," Shirou said. He moved through the group slowly, it wasn't that he didn't trust the axeman or the swordsman, but the other members of their party looked almost obsessed. Like they were craving the monster or at least the gold it would bring.
The walls around them began to crack and the cries of goblins echoed through the stone corridor. They wouldn't be a threat to the party and Shirou knew they wouldn't appreciate his interference, those parts of him demanded he does just that. The other much larger part screamed at him of the wrongness that it would cause. That they wouldn't appreciate him getting in the way of their leveling, so he made his way to the net room, far enough he wouldn't get in their way but close enough that he could intervene if there was a problem and waited until they'd dispatched all of the green creatures before he moved on.
It was as he was making his way up the winding staircase that Byr caught up with him, the spearman almost glaring at him. "Y-You need to give me that kid! I-I n-n-need that bird." He snapped as he spoke he pulled his spear from the strap on his back.
Shirou narrowed his eyes and pulled his other sword into his free hand. "Let me by," he said quietly.
The man began to twirl his spear through his fingers in response, the weapon moving so fast that it began to whistle through the air.
With nothing left to be said, Shirou charged. The ceiling of the dungeon creaked for a moment and burst open dropping a large bipedal reptilian monster on either side of them. Their eyes glowing a bright red in the dim light just a few shades lighter than their hide. They reared back and roared.
He could hear the steps of the one behind him, less than three meters and closing, the one behind Byr had two meters to bridge before reaching the man and Shirou had a meter and a half before reaching the other man.
A breath later and that distance vanished, Shirou ducked beneath the jabbing of the spear, and reversing the blade he slammed the blunted edge into Byr's knee. A quick step returned him to a run, only losing the barest bit of his momentum, and thrust the blade upwards skewering the lizard's snout. Raising a foot, he planted it in the humanoid lizard's sternum and shot back the way he came, pulling the sword along with him. Blood sprayed like a bloody geyser behind him.
Byr had caught himself and was swinging the spear towards the lizard's chest, something he'd already done twice if the red liquid seeping from gouges spread across its chest were any form of proof. Shirou skid to a halt more than a touch conflicted.
Everyone knew that attacking another adventurer's target was taboo and it wasn't like Byr was having a difficult time, but it felt wrong leaving another person fighting for their life even if they had every advantage.
Huffing out a sigh, Shirou turned on his heel and began making his way back toward the surface, wanting to spend a little longer gathering magic stones but that would have to wait considering his cargo. He tapped on the pouch to make sure the miniature rooster was still in place before he leaned down and wiped the blood-coated weapons onto the lizard before moving on.
He managed to make it to the surface before catching sight of Byr again, a bulky redhead with what looked to be leather armor shoulder checked him spinning him about. Byr was standing at the top of the stairs peering into the crowd. Though Shirou wasn't sure what the man was planning on doing, attacking another adventurer in the dungeon could be swept under the rug, if there was nobody to be found at least. Attacking anyone on the surface, however, would fly about as well as a boulder with a running start off a cliff.
Never got far.
Not with Alise and the others patrolling.
He made his way through town well away from the many glances he drew for the splatters of blood that littered his clothing. In response, he would smile before laughing sheepishly and scratching at the back of his head as he passed by. Twice he spotted Byr's lanky form moving through the streets out of the corner of his eye.
As he passed the next street, he found Byr had picked up his pace vanishing behind the cover of the buildings ahead. Shirou could almost see what the man was doing. The coming block had two blind alleys, Byr was no doubt on his way to the first, it had a better getaway. When passing the alley Byr would step out, knock into him, grab his pouch and take off running, if he was smart. Thieving was difficult to prove. If he wasn't, he'd pull Shirou into the alley and try to take the money.
With the design of a dagger forefront in his mind, his free hand on his pouch, and a walk that would allow him to brace himself as he passed the alley. He was prepared for either option. Not that he needed it.
Passing the alley, he did find Byr waiting for him and beside him was the old werewolf smiling at him as he leaned Byr against him and casually waved the unconscious man's hand as he passed by. Shirou snorted and nodded.
The rest of his journey to the guild was made in peace.
That changed as soon as he walked through the door, however.
"Shirou!" Sophie cried as she rushed across the lobby toward him, though with the hurry she seemed to be in, Shirou was honestly surprised she didn't jump the counter to get to him faster. As she neared him she started to slow and then tumbled forward. Her heel snapped.
Shirou lunged forward, grabbed her by her shoulders, and hauled her upwards. Though the results weren't the ones he'd been expecting. Instead of stopping her momentum and righting her as he'd been intended, he only managed to raise her up far enough her face rammed into his stomach and sent them both tumbling to the ground.
"I'm so glad you're alive! I had no idea what I was going to tell Alise! Or Lyra! That girl would face down a pantry full of monsters for you!"
Shirou scratched the back of his head, she knew he was in danger, and not just the first-floor danger but the kind that even the smallest of misstep was more than likely going to end his life. Which meant, they were in the guild recently or still were.
Looking about, he found the two of them had become the center of attention for many. Sophie laying on top of him clutching at his clothes, her face a tomato red. He was willing to bet that a few of the onlookers were getting the wrong idea about the situation. Against the wall nearest the private booths, he found them. The three who'd passed paraded him, however with their helms off there was something Shirou noticed that he failed to do before. They were triplets.
"Sophie," Shirou said, "Can I use one of your booths please?"
She looked over at the triplets and back at Shirou and nodded as she pushed herself up and off of him like it was a common occurrence. "Of course, booth three just opened up a few minutes ago!"
As he stood, Shiou motioned for the three to join him and followed after Sophie. As Shirou slid onto the seat he noticed that it wasn't nearly as comfortable as the one Sophie had led him and Lyra to when she'd first brought him in. The triplets joined him a moment later.
"Are you three okay?" Shirou asked as they reached the table
At the same time as one of the three began speaking.
"I'm sorry." The one standing in the middle said as he inclined his head. As soon as he heard Shirou's words he jerked back.
"You're not angry at us?" He asked tentatively.
Shirou shook his head, "I'm just glad you guys are okay." The relief was evident in his voice.
"You should be! We left you there and ran. We're so sorry!" The triplet on the left said and bowed at the waist.
"I'm not! I'll value your life after mine and my brothers every time." The other on the right said and glared down at Shirou in a challenge.
But Shirou didn't rise to meet it, there was no point, as far as he was concerned the three in front of him did exactly what they needed to do. There was nothing wrong with what they did.
"I'm just glad you three are alright, and everything turned out fine didn't it?" Though they didn't seem to be sure that Shirou was being honest, two of the three nodded.
"I'm Heath, these are my brothers, Hudson'' He gestured to the one on the left, "and Hayes." He indicated the one on his right, "We're members of the Dellingr Familia."
Shirou stood, "Shirou Emiya, I'm in the Astraea Familia," he waved to the bench opposite him but Heath shook his head.
"Afraid we can't, our captain is probably already waiting for us," Heath said and bowed again. "We don't forget our debts Emiya, if you need us we'll do all we can."
Hayes and Hudson both followed suit though one more readily than the other as they walked away Shirou found himself face to face with an irate Sophie.
"You shouldn't let them go as easily as that." She said quietly, "You got lucky, someone else might not."
Shirou rubbed at the back of his head, "Maybe not," he admitted, "But, it's not like it was their first choice, I'm sure many would have made the exact decision they did."
His words only seemed to enrage her. She leaned across the table until her forehead was pressed against his. "Which is wrong! Adventurers aren't supposed to fight each other, the dungeon is the enemy!"
"That's like asking people to stop valuing their own lives," Shirou said,
Sophie pulled back as if he'd just struck her and looked at him oddly. "Are you sure you're ten? That answer seems like it would come straight from the mouth of an old man."
Shirou shrugged, "Something like that, I mean it's not like I remember. Anyways, I've got to get back, so if there's nothing else..."
She continued looking at him oddly for a moment longer before she perked up as if she'd just had a eureka moment. "I've got a message for Lady Astraea!" She said holding up a folded letter embossed with the elephant of the Ganesha Familia.
As he took the message into his hand, a crowing erupted and Shirou jumped as did Sophie.
"Shirou, can you tell me what you've got hidden down there?" Sophie asked slowly as her gaze dropped to his abdomen where the table cut off her view.
Instead of answering her right away, he pulled his pouch from his side and set the wriggling container onto the table. "Heh, I didn't just come to exchange stones," he explained and pulled the strap free before reaching in and pulling out the small fluffy yellow-green rooster.
The color drained from Sophie's face at the sight of it. "Y-Y-Y-You b-b-b-brought a m-m-m-monster out of the dungeon?!" She squeaked and slid to the far side of the booth as if expecting the struggling bird to suddenly start spewing flame.
Shirou turned the bird to face it and inspected it as it angrily began pecking at his hand.
"It's just a Jack Bird... Or at least I think it is." Shirou prodded the miniature monster's beak, it squawked in defiance and pecked his finger. It barely hurt at all.
"That's a Jack Bird?" Any fear she had vanished as she moved closer to inspect the fowl. "I've seen their eggs but never the monster."
Shirou sighed and squinted his eyes at the creature, "I just didn't think killing it was necessary. It's not like it's dangerous."
She looked at him oddly again. "It's egg is worth a million Valis on a bad day. Most would find that pretty necessary."
"I don't make a habit of killing things that don't hurt anyone." Shirou responded, "Now I just have to figure out what to do with it."
Sophie deadpanned, "Kill it, or take it to someone who will, which would be basically anybody but you apparently."
With a wry smile, Shirou put the bird back into the sack. "I guess I'll ask lady Astraea, she'll decide."
"You do that, but make sure you exchange out your magic stones before you go and that your Goddess gets that message," Sophie said and raised herself to her feet.
Shirou nodded, "Have a good night Sophie."
After trading his stones in, Shirou made a beeline to the Stardust Garden.
As he opened the door, he found himself a few feet from Ryuu. "Ah, Shirou, welcome back," she said.
He nodded, "Good to be back, you're out on patrol?" He asked and gestured to her adventurers' outfit, not that he needed the answer. Ryuu always partnered up when heading into the dungeon.
She nodded, "There have been rumors of children being abducted near the south gate. I'm meeting with Alise, and a few of the others will be relieving us later tonight. We'll let you know if we need the help." She said cutting off the offer they both knew he was about to make to render aid.
He'd even gone so far as to sneak off after them once, they caught him three blocks from the house and told him that if they could catch him so easily then their enemy would have no trouble either. They then escorted him home.
Shirou frowned, "Do you know where the Goddess is? I have a message." He pulled the missive from his pocket and held it up for her inspection.
"I believe she's in her study right now, updating Neze's status."
Shirou inclined his head and stepped out of the doorway, "Thanks, good luck on your hunt."
Ryuu nodded and started off, only to pause a few steps from the house. "Shirou, you're doing well. It won't be long before you're joining us."
Shirou forced a grin, "I'm looking forward to it."
He headed into the house and took the hall on the right leading to Astraea's office. Oddly, no one guarded the door as it had become the custom when she was updating any of their statuses. At least after he walked in on her updating Iska and got an eyeful.
Raising a hand he knocked on the door, "Lady Astraea." He called.
"Don't come in!" Neze yelled at the same time as Astraea called.
"I'll be with you in a moment Shirou."
It didn't take long before Neze was on her way out of the room. She patted Shirou on his shoulder as she passed. "She's waiting for you, oh and avoid dinner tonight. Maryuu is on cooking detail." She said with a yawn.
Shirou winced. Maryuu may be a great healer but as a cook, she left something to be desired. Not to say she somehow killed whatever she was cooking again and turned it into a rot cocktail like he'd heard a few other adventurers had. But the girl never managed to get the spice proportions right. To the point that most of the time it was like he was eating salt with a meat spice. "Thanks for the heads up."
The goddess's study was cozy. It had several lanterns spread through the room, a few shelves were filled to the brim with books. Astraea sat in a straight back chair beside a plush stool where she motioned Shirou to take a seat.
Instead, Shirou opened the sack revealing the fluffy yellow-green rooster monster. Astraea stared at it with a frown on her face.
"I know you meant well Shirou, and I don't believe anyone would really consider it a monster but it still is." She said and frowned. Rising from her seat, she began to pace. "Ganesha has his Monsterphilia but the city has them pay for certain licenses to help cover damages and the like if they ever get away or damage anything."
Shirou nodded, it made sense, even if most of the monsters didn't manage to make it through the festivity the Familia would likely attempt to cover their financial bases. If the city was smart, they'd make sure to keep a substantial amount set aside for emergencies.
"So that's what you'll need if you plan to keep it."
He blanched and bolted upright, "Keep it? I can't keep it!" Shirou exclaimed as he returned his attention to the bird that was biting at its foot and trying to shake it as if it were a worm.
"Now Shirou you did save its life but you could have just as easily as let it down in the dungeon and let it run while you stalled for a moment."
Shirou chuckled and scratched his cheek. "Yes ma'am, but I've never had to do something like this."
His goddess smiled at him and Shirou began to pace himself. "You must feed it, walk it, make sure it has all its daily needs and what more is there to know besides the reminder you'll need a license," Astraea said as she moved to stand in front of him and looked down to meet his eyes.
"Yes, my Lady," Shirou said, inclining his head.
"Now why don't you sit back on the stool and we'll update your status."
Shirou pulled his shirt up revealing his back and he could hear the soft scratch of the metal blade being pulled off the desk. As she slipped a finger down his spine he saw even in the dimly lit room the strength of the glow his updates gave off bathing the world.
He could hear the slow ticking of the clock, the scratching the rooster made at the side of the satchel, even his and Astraea's near imperceptible breathing as he waited for the numbers to become fixed.
"Well let's see, you've managed to rise in rank across the board, especially in magic." He heard her whisper as the sound of fluttering paper met his ears.
The jump in his magic was a bit of a surprise, it seemed that the swords he had been projecting were having more effect than he thought.
A minute passed and he was holding a piece of paper. The one thing is, all of his stats had in common was that they were all G bordering on F or F itself.
Shirou was pulling down on his shirt when he felt something knock into his side and remembered the message. "OH!" He pulled the missive out and offered it to his goddess. "Sorry, I nearly forgot."
"Ganesha," Astraea murmured as she began looking it over.
"Shirou, why don't you go ahead to dinner? I'm sure Noin will have something delicious prepared."
His face tightened, Shirou nodded. Though after sneaking in for a bowl of rice, Shirou all but ran for his room.
The next morning came and Shirou made his way toward the dining hall and found the entirety of the house had gathered in the entryway.
"-ling you, all they want is to spread fear."
"Does it matter why? I'm more curious as to how!"
"How and why aren't important, only that it's working!"
The girls were all talking at once and Shirou was finding it a little hard to keep up with everything, let alone all the side conversations going on.
Astraea cleared her throat and silence swept through the room. "Now I understand it's a despicable sight, however, we cannot become bogged down. We must protect the people. Alise do you have the patrols ready for the day?"
Alise nodded, "We've received word that the Loki Familia has already begun with clean up, aided by the guild. We will be moving on with our patrols. Lyra, you'll be taking Shirou to Babel, as we discussed. Everyone else, gear up and meet me back here for your patrol."
Shirou was about to protest when Lyra grabbed him by the arm and pulled him out of the house.
The foul scent of rotting flesh met Shirou's nose and there was no need to guess why. Nailed to walls, doors, awnings, and signs were the decaying pieces of a body. A foot here, an ear there, maggots wriggling and writhing as they devoured the pungent flesh. The multitude of hands and feet spoke of the number of victims or at least more specifically that all the feet were left feet. Shirou counted six.
The streets normally quiet but not silent as the non-adventurers readied and moved about trying to avoid any real notice were barren save for the 'clack, clack, clack' echoing somewhere in the distance. A motion in the corner of his eye had Shirou turning just in time to see the shutters slam shut.
"The people are scared. I can't say I blame them but we're going to fix it."
Shirou quirk an eyebrow at Lyra, "How do you plan to do that? It's not like we can force happiness into them."
"And I thought you were intelligent, an emergency meeting has been called by the gods, I'm pretty sure that's the main topic."
"Then why are you here? Why are we here?"
"The gods are allowed to bring two members of their Familia each. One must be a level one"
Shirou didn't miss the long sideways looks Lyra shot at him at that moment and he had the sudden feeling he knew where the topic was heading. He was, after all, the singular level one currently in the Familia. Shirou sighed as Lyra patted him on the back.
"I'm glad you gave in so easily!"
"So they want everyone to be protected and have a weak link? It's clever I guess but it's not like we know which Familias are actually involved with Evilus, and it's not like they won't take advantage of the fact." Shirou said.
Lyra began to laugh, "I knew you were smart! Now let's go shopping!"
Against his better judgment, Shirou allowed himself to be dragged along.
Later that evening, after allowing Lyra to drag him through several of the shops in Babel, one after another, Shirou found himself standing outside of the tower in a black suit with a blue dress shirt as Astraea and Alise walked up to the tower.
With one hand, Shirou scratched the back of his head while the other pulled at the collar of the dress shirt. It wasn't that it was uncomfortable, the tailor had made certain of that but when he wasn't pulling at his collar he was moving to run a hand across the hilt of the swords he normally held. A fact that became impossible considering he hadn't been allowed to bring them.
"Stop fidgeting kiddo. You look fine." Alise said and ruffled his hair.
When they arrived in the hall, the dancing was already underway. Just sectioned away from the dance floor were several banquet tables laden with rich food. Against one wall, a small orchestra played a steady rhythm egging the dancers on.
"Astraea, I'm so glad you came!" The words came from a Goddess so slender, Shirou wasn't quite sure if he would've been able to tell if she was a Goddess rather than a very effeminate God, with hair as red as Shirou's own. "Little Alise I recognize and this must be the first boy you've allowed in your Familia, Shidou was it?"
There was a subtle shift in the way Astraea stood, she held herself a little stiffer and the lines in her jaw bulged ever so slightly before she gave the other Goddess a bright smile. "Loki, it's a pleasure to see you again, and yes this is my Shirou. How about you? Where's that Finn of yours and the young one you chose to accompany you?"
The way the red-headed goddess smiled sent a shiver running down Shirou's spine. "Oh, Finn is out on the dance floor with dear Aki, the two of them are just so adorable!"
She gestured out to the dance floor where a young blond man was dancing with a catgirl. The two looked like they were having a blast.
"I want my Aisy-poo," the goddess continued with a pout, "She couldn't come, Ganesha wouldn't budge. She's probably training right now." She whined.
"Now, now Loki, I'm sure that Ganesha called us here for a reason. It probably won't take long." Astraea said.
Loki snorted, "I'm sure he'll wait a bit longer, Freya hasn't arrived yet."
Shirou began looking around. While the adventurers outnumbered the gods, it wasn't by the two-to-one ratio Shirou was expecting. Whether they only brought the one to avoid a potential weak point or decided that as many hands were required at home as possible or they possibly had only one member in their Familia, though Shirou doubted that as there were many people desperate to enter a Familia no matter which it was.
A dark-looking god with long raven black hair tied into a braided tail, a strong nose, jaw, and carried a scar diagonally down the side of his face caught Shirou's attention. He looked extremely proud as he spoke animatedly to another god, a redhead with an eyepatch that Shirou recognized as Hephaestus, at least if Lyra's description was right. Shirou was willing to bet he was.
Beside him stood a very familiar young man. Klaus. Apparently, he had found a god that would take him into the Familia.
"Is that the boy from the orphanage?" Alise asked as she leaned forward following Shirou's gaze. "Wonder when he met lord Deimos?"
Shirou shrugged, "I don't really know."
"There's Freya now," Loki said before bolting off toward the stairs, the two adventurers that had been dancing just a moment ago darted after her. Shirou looked up the stairs to see Loki conversing with what had to be one of the, if not the most beautiful beings that he'd ever seen. So much so it was almost disgusting.
The lights dimmed and spotlights moved across the walls to focus on a man wearing a red and yellow elephant mask, an orange sash that came over his shoulder bound by a golden plate and white pants. His aura screamed of divinity. "My friends, I am Ganesha, and I have called you all here so that we might band together and help our city!" He said.
Murmurings spread through the crowd and Shirou prepared himself as people began to move and shift. Any one of the gods and their children could be part of Evilus and could use the gathering for an attack. Even their host was a threat. No, as far as Shirou was concerned, their host was the biggest threat, he set the meeting location after all. A hand landed on his shoulder and he turned to find Astraea looking down at him with a smile on her face.
"It's fine Shirou, Ganesha only wants what is best for Orario."
Shirou nodded, "What about the rest?" He scanned the gathered crowd picking out anyone that gave off the feeling of divinity and memorizing each of their faces as well as those who traveled with them. He spotted the Gilgamesh doppelganger, Gil, standing with a god who wore what looked to be the average European butler's uniform and kept his immaculate blond hair tied beneath a headscarf. Heath, the leader of the level one triplets that had passed paraded him, stood beside a God with strawberry blonde hair and a well-trimmed goatee that must have been Dellingr. A girl he didn't recognize stood beside Demeter, a goddess Alise pointed out as the goddess made her way to her daily bath. Even Loki and her two diminutive companions weren't to be trusted, not even when something about the girl screamed of familiarity.
He didn't know the rest but he wasn't about to trust them either.
His vision was suddenly filled with Alise's face. "Calm down kid, if there's anyone here that gets out of hand we'll take care of it. It's our job after all." Alise said as she winked at him.
"How do you plan to help Ganesha? Did you see the scene this morning? Parts of people were nailed to buildings." Asked a rather pompous-looking blond god wearing a laurel wreath with a grimace. "Truly ghastly!"
Shirou watched as Ganesha jumped down a few stares landing in a cranes pose. "Dear Apollo! I am Ganesha! It is our duty to lift the citizens of Orario out of this tragedy! We can do this by lifting their spirits!"
"So you want to set up a carnival? Or games?" Loki said and Shirou watched as one of the goddesses perpetually squinting eyes opened quite a bit more. "I think our efforts are best used in catching Evilus, don't ya think?"
There were a number of agreeing words spreading through the group but it wasn't Ganesha who answered. It was Demeter. She pressed a porcelain hand to her face.
"But we're losing people ya know? Some leave, some die. Orario won't function if we lose all the non-adventurers."
"Indeed!" Ganesha excelled as he moved into a different pose, pointing diagonally at the ceiling. "We shall hold a festival, games, food, and competitions where all of us here will show our mettle or I am not Ganesha, but I am!"
"Wooo! Party!" Shouted a god pumping a hand into the air.
A gentle hand tugged gently on Shirou's sleeve and when he looked over he found Astraea looking at him and at Alise who also looked to their goddess. "Raise your hand please."
Shirou raised his hand though he watched his goddess curiously.
"We'll help however we can!" Astraea said drawing a spotlight over to her. "We cannot just ignore those who need help!"
"At least it'll be fun." A blond wavy-haired god said as he adjusted his feathered cap. "Ganesha has a gift for bashes like this."
A lone adventurer stepped away from a god with hair the color of wheat and bent at the waist. "What you're asking for almost guarantees a logistical nightmare."
"Teutates Familia, money-grubbers," Alise said without any prompting.
"Now Alise. Teutates is a demanding god but one who will demand as much from himself as he does his children." Astraea gently chided.
Alise lost a little of her pep in that moment and Shirou raised an eyebrow, he'd never seen the Familia's Captain get a chiding from their goddess.
"Worry not Tor, child of Teutates! My Familia shall supply the needed capital to begin!" Ganesha said pounding his fist to his chest over his heart. "I ask all of you to ask your Familia's to participate! This is a chance to prove the strength of your family in front of any who may choose to see!"
Another wave of mutterings passed through the crowd, but this time they were filled with excitement.
"Yeah." Loki said as she took a drink of her wine, "We'll help." She added though Shirou didn't like the way the woman was eyeing Astraea.
Almost as one, four figures launched themselves forward, one toward Ganesha, two toward a woman with silvery blonde hair who looked bored and the last heaved a knife towards Loki while rushing Astraea.
"Trace... on!" Shirou snapped as he rushed forward pulling his preferred weapons from the ether. He could already see his opponent was faster than he was but that was fine, he adjusted his grip on his swords and altered their positions creating two openings. Either would leave him mortally wounded if it landed, chances were that even with Lord Miach's aid, he wouldn't survive.
A moment passed and they'd reached one another. Just as Shirou expected, the first blow was launched to end him. He knocked the blade aside and found that for as much as he moved the blade, he altered his own course as well as throwing his counterattack off.
He buried the sword's tip into the floor and quickly reversed his direction but even as he raised Kanshou as the attacker was falling to the ground, Alise hastened his descent with her foot against his chest and sword at his neck.
Similarly, the other three attackers had been taken care of. Gil sneered at the one beneath the foot he slowly grounded downward. A burly beast human had broken half a dozen bones between the two who had attacked the Goddess with silver-blonde hair, leaving them breathing shallowly to the point that Shirou wasn't sure how much longer the pair would survive.
The lights originally dimmed for ambiance flared to life bathing the room in a bright glow, allowing Shirou to get his first good look at the assailant he'd engaged. It was a grey-haired youth covered in numerous scars that spanned his face. All of them nearly glowed with how red they were. It wasn't monsters that had done it, but adventurers followed by potions that were of poor quality.
"Poor bastard, I doubt even his own mother would recognize him now," Alise said quietly. Her response was a wad of spit that struck him in the forehead.
"This," Ganesha intoned as he walked down the stairs, "This is why we need this festival my friends. To show the people that while these misguided adventurers may slip by us they are not in charge."
A loud cheer followed his statement but Shirou was in no mood to be cheery. Not when the moment of a failed attack often created a path for another one and one that's usually more successful. Just as he expected another attacker appeared, though he didn't rush any of the gods, instead he leapt into the air, in his hand, he held a longbow which he used to begin rapid-firing dozens of arrows all over the room.
Kanshou and Bakuya swept through the air in a blur cutting one arrow after another, he cut through each one, no projectile within his reach would ever reach his target. But a spurt of blood from the now falling assailant caught Shirou's attention and a cold realization struck him.
He turned his attention to those they'd caught, those he could see looked like nothing less than pincushions. Doubtless, they were all dead.
With a sigh, Shirou took a few steps needed to stand beside Astraea. As he was about to dismiss his blades, she caught his eye. "Shirou, do not dismiss your blades." She whispered and a shiver ran down his spine.
The number of people staring at him was more than enough of an explanation. Hephaestus and her Familia members looked at him with no small amount of suspicion. Gil with disdain, but it was the silver-blonde and how she seemed to look through him while flushing red. There was something truly wrong with that goddess.
He felt something in him stir and pressed the feeling down.
"Well, that was unexpected!" Ganesha said with a boisterous laugh that seemed laced with anxiety. "However as no one has been injured I believe we can end this evening on a high note. I'll be sending messengers to each of you in the morning so that we may begin the setup of the festival as early as possible."
Shirou's stats after the most recent update of Falna:
Strength G 277
Endurance F 302
Dexterity G 269
Agility G 299
Magic G 216
Omake: The many deaths of Shirou Emiya
Shirou couldn't believe he was doing this. To be sure the clocktower had received several reports of the sealing Designee continuing their research in the area, going so far as to use their magecraft to steal away numerous children. Considering no one bothered covering up the tracks that led to the cave, he was fairly certain, Leslane Ver Duat was inside.
Taking a deep breath he stalked into the cave, his way illuminated by several torches lining the walls until he came to a wooden door. Shaking the handle he found it shut tight.
"You don't want to go in there you know." The words spread through the room in a creaky voice that drew his attention downward. There he saw it, the doorknob had a face. "Waiting beyond these doors will only lead to your demise."
Shirou said nothing, choosing instead to rear back and slam his foot into the knob. "Don't say I didn't warn you." The knob called.
However Shirou didn't notice, all of his attention was locked on to the pole dancing clown man with wild red hair and extremely sharp teeth as it spun about the rod upside down while by the looks of it a foursome made up of 'the chipmunks' plushies sang with a wax copy of Michael Jackson. The song? Doncha by Gwen Steffani.
As he moved into the room, he was expecting all of their attention would move to him, they didn't. So none noticed as Shirou skirted around the edge of the room until he reached the other side.
"You fools don't just dance there! Penboy, he's your second favorite target, a young man!"
Shirou watched as the clown dropped to the floor, its creepy golden eyes already focused on him.
He'd only just backed into the next room when all the room's inhabitants stopped at the edge of the room.
"Don't you want to play with a funny clown like me?" The clown breathed as it traced a finger down the barrier separating the rooms eliciting a shower of sparks.
Shirou shuddered, but the scampering of tiny feet behind him caught his attention. Turning about, a few dozen lit eyes focused on him,
The first popped its hat off, ripped out its own arm, and heaved it all at Shirou with a shout of,
Another followed and then another, and as the attacks came so did the toy's extreme whining. "Get over here!" "I am, subzero!" "Thunderbolt!" "Pigs eye beams!" "HAAAAA" "Kamehameha!" "Eat my shorts!"
No assault turned out to be any worse than the throwing of their pieces. Sadly the only effect was Shirou beginning to get annoyed at being hit by small moving parts. Ignoring the insults, shouts of attacks, Shirou moved through the mess, arm struck him in the cheek, a nose, and his eye.
"KYAAAA" one yelled as it flung its still screaming lips. With the flat of Kanshou, he batted his lips aside.
The floor was covered in toy parts, lips that continued to curse him, fingers that grasped at his feet. He took another step and leaped back as a scream emanated from beneath his feet and grit his teeth a moment later as he spotted he'd broken a pair of lips.
"Everyone together!" One yelled as he lifted the unadorned body of one of his compatriots. All along the walls, the potato head army lifted whatever they could and threw it all at Shirou.
"FINAL FLASH!" They yelled.
Snorting, Shirou moved into the hall leading to the next room and found himself alone in a plain room that had a single rubber duck in the middle of the room. At that moment Shirou made a decision.
"This guy is nuts."
The duck squeaked and began spraying water from its beak as the ground began to rumble. His eyes wide, Shirou turned back the way he'd come and found the roof giving way.
The spray of water struck at Shirou and he glanced down at the duck that had moved itself a mere foot from him.
"I thought he was supposed to be dangerous…"
That all changed as the duck slammed itself into his foot and Shirou found its strength far surpassed its form as he tumbled to the ground. Before he could even begin to rise however he found his mouth filled by what he suspected was the ducks head.
He tightened his throat and fought to dislodge the weaponized bath toy even going so far as to bisect the monstrosity at the neck to no avail. The water kept coming.
Finally, despite his best efforts, blackness took over Shirou's vision and he knew no more.
A/N: So this chapter took me a bit longer due to personal reasons. I do hope you enjoyed it. I am really looking forward to the coming chapters, I don't have any more surprise characters up my sleeve at this moment really I don't. Anyway you shook look forward to it, it'll be a blast.
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