Chapter 9: Reunions and Revelations

With a fierce yawn, Shirou dragged himself back into the land of the living, draped in pyjamas dishevelled from the tossing and turning he had done in the night. He stretched out his arms as he kicked himself out of his bed, sighing in relief as bones cracked during the motion.

He dressed himself in his school uniform slowly on instinct, not even blinking as he did so. With the edges of his vision blurring ever so little, the red-head tried to recall something that was bothering him.

"Something happened last night…" he muttered as he peered at his reflection in his mirror. Bags laid thick under his eyes, and his hair was more like a lion's mane than anything. "What was it…"

He ran a frantic hand through his locks, bringing them into some form of style. It wasn't enough though, and privately the boy believed he looked like some kind of crazy person. But he didn't have enough time to worry about that, he was going to be—

"Late?" the boy spoke at last, shooting a glance at his clock. "Wait a minute."

He picked it up and narrowed his eyes at the clock. His alarm was still set at the usual time, but he'd woken up a full half-hour before he usually got out of bed! That never happened at all, not since he was younger.

He was briefly puzzled by the coincidence before shrugging and replacing the clock next to his bed. "Weird. Might as well get some breakfast."

And more importantly, coffee.

Ambling down the stairs like a zombie, bumping into the bannister like a person out of their own body, the boy reached the kitchen in the blink of an eye. He reached a hand out to flip the light switch on—only to…turn the light off?

"What the heck?" he whispered, flipping the light back on instantly. "What's going on?"

Regardless, it wasn't important enough to worry about so he quickly made himself a cup of steaming coffee. As he leaned against the kitchen sink, sipping and letting the energy flow through him, he eyed the two people sitting at the table drinking from their own cups.

"Hey dad, Iri," he mumbled the greeting, nodding in acknowledgement.

His brain screeched to a halt.

"Hello Shirou!" Iri waved at him, swathed in a dressing gown and with a pleasant smile plastered across her face. "My, do you usually get up so early? What a hard-working son we have!"

Kiritsugu Emiya said nothing in response, only giving his adopted son a very slight upward tug of the lips as an indication of his amusement as he drank his coffee silently.

"Iri?! Dad?!" Shirou squawked at the top of his lungs.

He gagged as he swallowed too much coffee, scalding the top of his mouth. The boy grunted as he ran for a glass and filled it with ice cold water, drowning his throat as he gulped it down and swirled it around.

There would be a blister, he was sure, but he could be forgiven for this one.

For her part Iri held a dainty hand over her mouth, not even attempting to hide the devilish smirk. To his chagrin it was the very same one he had seen on Illya numerous times, and only a day or so ago.

"You really should be more careful~" the pale woman sang as the boy stood in a stupor staring at them. "Is it really so surprising to see us?"

With a jolt like a generator starting the gears in Shirou's head worked overtime, burning away any remaining tiredness. He was as awake as if an electric current ran through his body, as was his memory.

He remembered clearly now. He and Illya had been discussing something last night, some details about school before their parents had entered the house uneventfully – like it was normal to do so.

They had spotted them, they had cried in surprise, and the two siblings had hugged their parents with open arms.

Damn, how could I forget that?! Shirou lashed himself in his mind. Who even forgets that sort of thing?

Smoothly, and somehow managing to keep his mug at his lips, his father pointed at the two unoccupied seats at the table. "Have a seat, Shirou. You don't have school for a while, right?"

He nodded wordlessly and slinked into the proffered seat. His forgotten water clasped in his hands, he fidgeted under the dual gazes of his adopted parents. The silence that stretched between them wasn't…painful, per se, but the red-head was unused to it after months of his parents not being at home.

It was a…relief.

In the next minute tiny feet thundered down the stairs, roused by his own shock. Like a miniature Tazmanian Devil Illya rounded into the kitchen, cheeks flush from the movement and eyes wide.

"Mama? Papa?" she parroted his own question, voice full of disbelief. "You're still here?!"

Shirou did his best to drown himself in his coffee to avoid any looks or reminders that he hadn't remembered their appearance. But he glanced up as Illya walked to the table and sat down beside him as if in a trance.

"We're still here," Kiritsugu affirmed, sitting calmly in his seat. "It's nothing to worry about."

Shirou swallowed the lump that was lodged in his throat before looking directly into his father's eyes. Kiritsugu's dark, almost blank gaze stared back into his and the boy did his best to keep eye contact.

He'd never known his father to be cruel or intimidating—he was always cordial—but sometimes Shirou could swear his father could just see things. Could know things like knowledge came naturally to him.

But he needed to ask this question; he needed to brave the sudden shivers that went up his spine at that moment.

"So…" the boy began, "you'll be staying?"

His father froze before looking at Iri. His adopted mother smiled at him and laid a hand onto his before the older man looked back into Shirou's eyes.

"Yeah," he confirmed with a firm nod to drive it home, "we'll be staying here from now on."

A breath Shirou didn't know he was holding left him, and his body slumped in relief at the confirmation. Illya bounced up in her seat, eyes sparkling with excitement and love, pumping her fist.

"Really?!" she questioned shrilly, no doubt waking up Sella and Leys. "That's awesome!"

"Yes it is," Iri responded, that sly look coming over her features once more. In unison, both father and son shuddered out of sight. "We have a lot to catch up on. School, hobbies…"

Her crimson eyes practically flashed as she fixed them onto Shirou, Kiritsugu sending him a subdued glance of complete and utter sympathy. The kind only afforded when two people share the exact same hell.

"And what girls you are involved with, Shirou~" Iri finished with a silky tone that did not hide her intentions whatsoever. "You're a big boy now, I imagine they're crawling all over you!"

Like it was a signal, something went off in Illya's own eyes. A crimson beacon, not as mischievous as her mother but no doubt as focused as the child-like woman was in the turn of conversation.

"I haven't got anyone like that," Shirou grumbled, tapping his finger against his cup as a self-distraction. "There's no point digging, Iri."

"But surely you have admirers, right?" the woman pressed. "You exercise a lot, you're helpful around your school from what Sella's gossiped. Surely there's someone."

Just as Shirou made to talk over that question he really didn't want to get into, his sister decided to answer for him. In the worst way possible.

"He's got two girls at school!" Illya confessed without a shred of regret. "Well, they're not going out, but they have a crush on him!"

She ignored the look of scandalised betrayal he shot her way, instead furrowing her brow in concentration.

"They're Luvia...err…her name's really complicated, but it ends in Edelfelt. She's a transfer student and she's been really crushing on Shirou since she came to the school!" Illya gossiped, relieved to release her bottled up Iri gene.

His father leaned forward, as did his mother– both of them in sync, Shirou grumbled, naturally when it came to poking into his personal life. The sun's light shone into his eyes and he groaned as he blinked them away.

The boy just shrugged to himself and tried to ignore the circus his life always seemed to turn into whenever Iri was around. She had that effect on everything.

"What's she like?" Kiritsugu inquired, his interest peaked.

"Um, she's a bit…overbearing," Shirou admitted, rubbing his hair awkwardly. "She's not really bad, but she gets into a ton of fistfights with Tohsaka. Illya could tell you more though, she's getting some lessons from her."

"Oh, are you failing in school Illya?" Iri teased, maybe a little too hard, leaning over the table to poke her daughter in the forehead. "I know it's only middle school, but we can't have you getting any bad habits!"

"Ow!" Illya complained, rubbing at the red spot that began to bubble on her marble-coloured skin. "It's not like that! Rin's just…helping me understand a few things."

Iri hummed as she eyed his father, undoubtedly another of those married couple invisible conversations taking place. Shirou had to admit he hated it, how an entire conversation could be conveyed with a single glance. He couldn't hide anything from them as a kid, and he sure as hell couldn't do so now.

So he blanked his thoughts, forced everything about the cards down into the deepest pits of his brain, and hoped.

Kiritsugu placed his cup down onto the saucer, a cough rattling his chest. He rubbed his torso a little as they rapidly escalated, the coughs became haggard and rib-breaking, but they eased away soon enough.

"Well, as long as she's a responsible tutor," he commented, voice joking but, curiously, lacking any inflection.

Illya recoiled as if she was scorched. "She's a demon teacher! I mean, I learn a lot, but she's a fire breathing demon!"

"She's not that bad Illya," Shirou consoled her, as he had before. "I mean…she's at her worst when she meets Luvia...and me...and a few other people…"

His sister groaned and slumped forward, her head falling into her crossed arms. Shirou sighed from experience before remembering something he needed to do. Getting swiftly to his feet, he pushed a few cookbooks into his bag, sealing it tight.

"What are you doing with those cookbooks, Shirou?" Iri questioned with that self-same teasing smirk. "Nothing that would tarnish your reputation, I hope."

For the longest instant he could recall, the redhead had no answer. Nothing came to mind, no words breathed out of his lips in an easily believable lie. But it passed and as he did so he hefted his bag onto his shoulder.

"It's just that a…" he drew it out, struggling to figure out how to describe Gray, "a classmate needs some help and I promised a few cookbooks. I'll get them back after a few days, though."

He nudged Illya awake and pointed at the clock. The talk had gone on for longer than either of them thought: what felt like five minutes had very much become a half-hour of comfortable silence and chit-chat from parents to children.

It was…well, Shirou had missed it.

"We're gonna be late!" Illya shrieked, gathering her things and bolting out of the door like a child possessed. "C'mon Shirou!"

He chuckled to himself, following after his wayward sister. "I'm right behind you Illya."

As he put his foot onto the threshold the sound of his father's coughs reached his ears. He turned, and standing there like an oppressive shade was Kiritsugu, having followed him from the kitchen.

The intensity of his father's gaze had Shirou's brow furrowed in confusion. Why was he so serious all of a sudden? Was it how Illya described Rin? He was sure she wasn't as bad as his sister made it out to be.

"Shirou…" his father began, drawing himself up like a commander drilling troops, "make sure to take care of your sister."

There was meaning in that simple request. Something that Shirou couldn't identify even as he turned it over in his head. It felt as if he should know what his father was trying to say, but he just didn't understand.

He was just a teenager.

The boy smiled at his father. "I'll do my best, dad."

And against the beating winds and searing sun, Shirou walked to school with Illya, hand in hand, the image of his father making that request always present in his mind's eye.

Later on the two siblings ambled home, comfortable silence between them. The birds chirped and the wind blew through their hair. It was a perfect and relaxing experience, as they had had so many times before.

Except…there was something they had to talk about rather than ignore.

Illya looked up at her brother, her mouth falling in contemplation. "So…mama and papa are back."

Shirou stopped walking for a moment before continuing onwards, moving closer to his sister as he did so. "Y-yeah. They're back."

The awkward silence that stretched between the siblings was too painful and too long.

Illya bit at her lip and fiddled with her tiny fingers as Shirou rubbed the back of his head with a twitching hand. For a few minutes they didn't talk or make a sound, just kept on walking down the street.

"Do you think they'll leave again?" Illya asked, her voice full of hesitation. "They've left before."

This time Shirou stopped. A weight kept his shoulders down, locked around his lungs. Illya looked back at him from in front, her eyes wide and innocent as if she hadn't just gotten to the heart of the matter.

Their parents had left before, sometimes after staying at home for days or sometimes, if they were lucky, weeks or months. He didn't have a clue how long this had been going on, but it was long enough that he couldn't really remember when it started.

So. When would their parents leave again?

Shirou found, among the way his heart pounded against his chest, that he didn't want to even think about that. He wanted to believe them when they said they would be staying this time, but that old familiar voice wormed its way into his brain.

He coughed to drown out the doubts and smiled at his sister. "They wouldn't have a reason to lie, right? So we take them at their word."

Illya didn't seem convinced, but he wasn't convinced by his words either. He peered down at his watch and shifted his bag on his shoulder. At the same time, in a flash the red-head was reminded of the cookbooks he had packed earlier. And with a greater jolt, remembered what he wanted to do with them.

"Listen, Illya," he started, already moving away, "I've got somewhere to be. Forgot the time. Let Iri and dad know I won't be too late home, okay?"

"Okay!" Illya declared with puffed out cheeks and a focused frown, stabbing her arm into the air for a signal. "You better not meet with any strange women, Shirou!"

"Oi!" the boy shouted as his sister ran on, blowing a raspberry back. "Ugh…it's not like that Illya. I don't meet strange girls."

He avoided thinking about Tohsaka and Edelfelt with every fibre of his being. Nope. Shirou didn't meet strange girls, and he didn't meet explosive ones. His social life was ordinary, pure and simple.

Drowned in his thoughts, the boy journeyed toward Gray's house. The sunlight drained to a dull orange, bathing everything in the sunset. It didn't take as long as he'd noted before, even if he was feeling a spring in his step, but he didn't quite care.

He was looking forward to helping Gray out like this, after all she'd done for him so far.

The weight of his bag kept niggling at his head as he reached the door to the house. Taking a second to rub his hair into something that could be called a tidy mess and straightening his school uniform, he rapped his knuckles against the door.

The boy stepped back, still smiling. The seconds stretched into several minutes, and with the last rays of the sun beaming down at his back Shirou's smile dropped just a little and his eyebrow raised just a little.

"Huh? Is she out?" he wondered to himself before knocking again. "Weird."

He stood alone again for a few minutes, the air beginning to weigh him down. Sweat dripped down his forehead and he wiped it with his sleeve. His heart began to pump as an engine in his chest, starting and stopping every time he heard a noise. He snapped his gaze to the left at such a sound, only to see a white…cat? Dog? The boy couldn't tell from that distance.

The sound of bolts and locks being undone reached his ears and he turned back in time to see Gray's door open just enough that he could see her. Swathed in her usual cloak, even in this light she was a shadow that drowned it all out.

She eyed him before waving politely. "Hello, Shirou."

"Hey Gray." Shirou perked up his smile as he raised a hand in greeting. "Um, I said I'd bring around some cookbooks. I've been carrying them all day, so should we…"

The door didn't so much close as it began to drift shut, pulling Gray back into the darkness.

He couldn't stop himself from moving forward and leaning against the door, face pulled into concern. Even as Gray grasped at the door to try and push it closed.

"Gray?" Shirou asked, his voice small and curious. "Is everything okay?"

Up close, even though he couldn't really make out her face, he could tell she was more fidgety than normal. Her gunmetal eyes did everything in their power to avoid his own.

Something frightening held his throat. Had he done something wrong?

"I'm…" Gray began, stopping and starting, while biting her lip, "I'm busy. Maybe another day."

She made another effort to shut the door in his face but the stubborn boy was stronger than his frame would suggest. Even as the cloaked girl made to close it, his foot stayed in the gap, determined and anchored.

Shirou's bag felt all too much like a cinder block at that point.

"I mean, yeah, another day…" His voice tapered off, desperately trying to keep disappointment out of it. "But we still have to hunt Class Cards right? We need to talk a little about them."

"Tomorrow," Gray tried to interrupt, pulling at the door a little more strongly now, to the point he could feel it on his foot. "Um… I'm sorry, but something…something's come up."

Shirou blinked through the aching, but he shoved everything down as he withdrew his foot. The door didn't slam shut though; it stayed ajar, Gray's steeled gaze staring into his own, unblinking.

If Gray was busy today, what was to say she wouldn't be busy tomorrow? It hadn't been an issue up to now because despite everything, they'd known each other for only a few days. Shirou's hands drifted into his pockets, fingering his phone as a metaphorical light bulb lit up.

"Cool," he responded, looking out at the sun, "sure, that works. But…maybe we should swap numbers? I mean, I'll be a little busy with looking for a job, so it'd make things easier?"

He almost cringed at the question and near-plea in his proposition. Immediately he berated himself. Why did he ask her for that? And phrase it like that? He'd never actually asked for a girl's number before, so were the embers of gut-swallowing shame meant to happen?

Gray stared at him with hawk-like eyes. She didn't blink or emote except for her cloak ruffling and biting her lip a little. For a few minutes, they stayed in that awkward hell between conversation and silence, each of them shifting on their feet.

Just as it seemed to Shirou he should give up and go home, Gray reached for something—a slip of paper—and passed it into his hand.

After a second he unfurled it, revealing a phone number. He looked back up at Gray, who avoided his wide-eyed stare like it was the plague.

"There…" she muttered, her voice fading as she began to step back, "that should make it easier."

Shirou nodded and fell back, unable to stop himself from perceiving a newly forged barrier standing between him and…his ally would be the best term right? But it was an invisible barrier, yet impregnable.

"Sure," he replied as the door finally began to shut completely. "I'll call you tonight! Just so you know my number!"

It didn't feel right imposing his number then and there, when Gray didn't seem to want to see him. So Shirou would do as he always did – give her time to work things out, and maybe get that business done.

The door shut with a small click, but one that echoed in Shirou's ears. It was an airhorn, symbolising something had changed. What was that change? He had no idea.

For a few more minutes Shirou stood, silhouetted against the sun, before with a defeated sigh he began the journey home.

The journey that had been not even a half-hour before so short, was now miles upon miles long.

Later that night, Shirou couldn't help but frit about in his bed laying awake. No matter how he tossed and turned, it always stayed the same. He just couldn't get the thoughts out of his head.

Why did Gray act like that?

The boy pushed his pillow over his ears, knitting his eyebrows together with confusion and frustration. He had thought he and Gray were becoming friends, but the episode with the cookbooks didn't turn out like he had planned. It had just been awkward, especially towards the end.

After a moment he tossed his pillow to the side with a sigh, rubbing at his face. He wasn't going to get any sleep like this. His eyes swept to the side instinctively, latching onto the drawer that contained the items that had started this whole mess.

He opened the drawer and looked down at them. The Cards sat innocuously on the bottom, the swordsman and the skull-masked shadow looking back up. For things that had wreaked such havoc in his life so far, they didn't seem as malicious as he'd thought.

He picked up the Saber card, looking hard at it as his mouth twisted into a straight line. The power he had like that, it was like he was a childhood superhero – like those cartoons. Maybe that was why he was looking at it now, with all the changes going on in his life.

Finding comfort in something familiar, even if it was for a deathmatch.

Not for the first time he looked at the Assassin card, remembering in vivid detail that battle. It happened a few days ago now, but that time seemed like an eternity. But he couldn't get it out of his head. How Assassin had gone for Shirou's heart only to stab himself.

"Why…" he mumbled, picking at the card, replacing it with the Saber. "Why did you do that?"

The Card stayed silent, refusing to give him an answer.

With another sigh—those were becoming too common for his liking—he closed the drawer and leaned against it. The boy turned his gaze to the window, head still clouded with considerations.

The steam drifted away as he began thinking, tapping his finger against the cabinet. It was too odd for Assassin to have a sudden change of heart. He'd been trying to kill Gray and himself and was going to succeed at that point. All he had had to do was move the knife into Shirou's heart and it'd be easy to do the rest.

But Assassin hadn't. Why, when Lancer had been eager to kill him?

Static brewed up in his head, low and buzzing but the pondering boy ignored it.

Had something been different about Assassin, maybe? That made him distinct enough from Lancer that he could do things differently to just killing people? It reminded the boy of his old Sentai cartoons, where the lower mooks had less autonomy or intelligence than the higher rank ones. Some had even become good guys in the end

He hissed and rubbed at his face, pushing everything back down. He needed to focus and unravel this mystery. If he did, something told Shirou he would find the answer to most of this mess.

But all that greeted him was the sound of crickets in the night and wind blowing through his opened window.

Shirou pushed off of the drawer and walked over to the window. He opened it enough he could stick his face and arms out, leaning forward on the windowsill. He peered up at the moon that shone through the clouds, a giant pale dot.

His shoulders eased as he looked at it, old memories brewing up. Countless nights of sitting outside in the garden and looking up at it with his father, meaningful yet meaningless words shared between them.

How long would it be before those times came back? When all of his bottled up resentment faded away? Shirou didn't have an answer for those questions, and he couldn't deny it terrified him.

As the evening washed over him, drenching those doubts away for a little while, he moved to close the window and make a token effort to go to sleep. He didn't get far, his hand exposed to the cool night, before voices reached his ears from around the corner of the house.

Muffled voices and sounds…and he could tell, he could tell

Shock held his stomach and his throat, stopping him from crying out. He heard a window open, and he heard steps against the wood. His heart hammered in his chest, praying that he was wrong. Praying that of all things, that—

"Rubyyyyy! I wanted to sleep in!" a girl's voice complained into the night. "Why do we have to go?"

"Because Miyu passed you the note, remember? And Rin was chomping at the bit for it!" a mechanical voice chided, as childish as the first. "Now c'mon!"


A girl flew through the sky, her back to him. Yet, it was a sight Shirou could not and would not forget. Dressed in pink and white, with a starred stick clasped in her hand. Her white hair flew in a river, yelps echoing from her mouth as she soared as a bird.

She didn't notice him, didn't turn to him, but if she did…she would undoubtedly have red eyes.


And she was heading towards the bridge. The bridge that was one of the spots he and Gray had picked out.

Without conscious thought, his veins pumping madly, Shirou grabbed the Class Cards and without halting hurled himself out of the open window. As he fell, his heart beat in tune with the Saber Card.

Not Illya. Not Illya. Not my sister.

Static rumbled, static burned. A girl without eyes on the ground. A girl dressed in white facing him with a smile. A girl…a girl whom he wanted to survive more than anything else.

In a burst of white he crashed to the ground, shrouded in his Install. The next second he began bounding after the speck that was his sister. Ice drenched his heart as he pulled out his phone.

He didn't even hesitate as he dialled Gray's number, hoping beyond hope that nothing would happen.