Chapter 1:

First Contact

It was a sunny day. The birds were chirping, the trees swayed in the wind, and the sound of children laughing could be heard echoing all around.

All in all, a good day to sit back, relax and sip a cup of that tea that Rin had always liked. Chamomile if he remembered correctly.

Well, he would have done exactly that...Now only if the compulsion to clean up the mess in front of him had not made itself known. Shirou let out a silent sigh, closing the door behind the group of children that bulldozed their way into the dining room. He silently contemplated on letting the kids starve to teach them a lesson, all the while trudging into a closet and grabbing a mop and a bucket.

The sound of footsteps made itself known. A portly aged woman made herself known, dressed in the garbs of a nun, peeking from the corner of a door.

"Oh, you're back Shirou. Thank you fo-..Oh." Her voice trailed off when her eyes met the trails of mud and grime on the floor, some of which had already begun to dry on the carpet covering the wooden planks beneath. The former Heroic Spirit sent her a dry look.

"You think letting them starve a day or two would teach them how to take their shoes off before entering?"

"They'd cause a riot. God knows I'll finally snap if they manage to break another door frame again."

Shirou smirked. "Then I'd best get going then. Lunch isn't going to cook itself Marie"

Marie let a small smile flit across her lips. "Honestly, I'll pry those secrets out of you one day kiddo. Just so I can get my kitchen back."

Shirou let out a bark of laughter. "You have your church as your holy place, and as long as I live here, the kitchen is mine."

With that last exchange, the reincarnated man-turned-child walked out of the door of the almost-dilapidated building.. A small cobblestone path wound it's way past the overgrown grass of the lawn in front of the orphanage, all the way to a low-level stone boundary with fences separating it from the street. He turned, back facing the open gates while raking his eyes across the building and mentally counted the number of repairs and repainting it would take.

With a huff, Shirou walked beyond the gates and into the streets.

"One thing at a time, Shirou. Baby steps, baby steps." He muttered to myself, absentmindedly fiddling with the list of ingredients that the former Counter Guardian had written beforehand. Even as the man-turned-child thought about today's lunch, his hands itched to get started on cleaning up the orphanage.

The building itself was made around fifty years ago, around a decade after World War II ended. At the time, the orphanage and church had received donations generously, but as time passed and other areas of the city grew, the church was abandoned and the orphanage forgotten by donors. Nowadays they barely got by with a few former adoptees from the place itself sending funds whenever they could.

Even then, most of the money went to clothing and feeding the children there, which left the orphanage with zero maintenance or replacement of furniture, items or the building itself. It left Mother Marie almost permanently permanently as she tried fixing anything that broke.

Until Shirou moved in, that is. It was rather fascinating seeing the nun visibly age in reverse as stress gradually left her over the weeks.

The sounds of chatter grew louder, he found himself drawn back from reminiscing about the first days in his new residence.

Can't believe it's been a month already. Shirou thought while plucking a tomato from the street vendor. The man gave a glance at his direction before giving a friendly smile in recognition before haggling prices with the man in front of him.

It was a pleasant surprise finding a genuine market in this place considering the number of supermarkets and grocery stores Shirou had come across during his time at the nightclub. Hell, there was one a few streets closer to the orphanage, but he preferred coming to the makeshift street market since they tended to have fresher produce.

The vendor in front of him, Astok, as Shirou had learned during his third visit to his stall, wordlessly placed the selected foodstuffs in a plastic bag while he handed over the money. It was a strange sight to some, but after the first time Shirou had dropped by to get ingredients, all of the vendors learned something that would stick with them for the rest of their lives.

One does not simply haggle with Shirou Emiya.

The first time Astok had tried bartering the price, he was systematically torn down to the point of tears. The idea of fear was further cemented when the devilish boy with red hair proceeded to rip through three more stall owners with an infuriating smirk on his face.

Of course, that had come with consequences, namely in the form of awed and jealous housewives, and occasionally the househusband, approaching him for advice. He wasn't against sharing tips, but a group of vendors dragged him away and begged him not to teach the others his haggling techniques. And of course, the Emiya milked the opportunity for all it was worth, namely in the form of discounts and best picks..

"Oh, it's you. Getting food for the people at the orphanage again?" A gruff voice called out. Shirou turned towards its source, another vendor who had his arms crossed while looking down at me.

"No Emanuel, it's for the stray puppies that shat on your porch last night." Shirou replied with a deadpan set on his face.

The man in question snorts.

"Still no respect I see." He grumbles. " Anyway, I got a fresh haul today. Wanna take a look kid?" He says while throwing a thumb behind him at the row of ice boxes filled with fish. A shrug later, the red head found himself in front of the selection of fish available, only to freeze at the smell.

It was not the fishy smell that had gotten his attention.

No, it was the sickly sweet scent of magic in the air.

Moreover, it was the same smell he had come across that night. Not the one of sulfur, but the other one. One that smelt of feathers, something that he could only describe as pure Light and scent that Counter Guardian EMIYA, not Shirou, was intimately familiar with. After all, it smelt like that Exorcist that had visited him during my time at the hospital, as well as the Holy Shroud he had always worn with his old armor. The scent of Holiness.

His head snapped towards the source, eyes wide and heart pumping. The intensity of the smell was no joke, it permeated the air but felt faint, as if it was being suppressed. Flight or fight instincts were awoken, adrenaline rushing through his veins. When golden-brown fell on the source, Shirou felt his mind slow and his chest tighten. The plastic bags slipped out of his grasp.

"Saber?"

His voice came out as a whisper, strangled with surprise and a myriad of emotions. Hope welled in the Emiya's chest at the sight of a familiar face after all those years, both as a Counter Guardian and as the Shirou Emiya of this world. Yet even that was dashed away when a sudden calm settled in his mind.

No.. her face is too soft. Her eyes are too expressive, too innocent. Her hair was longer than Saber's. Moreover, she looks way older than her and- Something bounced at the edge at the corner of his tunneled vision. .. And Saber definitely did NOT have..I glanced down once again for a split second to reconfirm what he had seen. …those.. that large.

Aside from that, Shirou noticed another peculiar thing. No one in the marketplace noticed the blatantly beautiful lady standing in front of them as she wandered around and peered at everything with innocent curiosity, as if it was the first time she had seen them.

Almost like how Illya had been.

In his nostalgia, Shirou hadn't noticed the fact that the suspicious woman had in fact realized that a child saw her despite the magic around her compelling the mundane people around her to ignore her presence.

He was snapped from his reverie when the smell turned suffocating. Shirou flinched and took a step backwards when green eyes peered into his own, the woman's face inches from his own.

A pause. Seconds go by as they stare at each other in the eye.

"...Didn't anyone teach you about personal space, lady?"

The lady blinked.

"Ah! I'm sorry. It's just that you're so cute!" She says with an innocent smile. "But a child shouldn't be alone out here. Do you know where your parents are?"

Her aura was radiating pure innocence and naiveness, despite the bone chilling sense of power that saturated the air around her. Shirou pinched his nose as she inched even closer. The overpowering smell of her prana made his face scrunch up.

"I live in an orphanage. Now if you'll move out of the way, I still need to get my work done".

The blond woman's face changed from a bubbly cheerful look to a somber one, one that Shirou identified as genuine sadness, and looked down at her feet. It nearly made him feel guilty for being blunt as he was.

Nearly.

Making his way past her, Shirou walked to a particular stall that he remembered selling quality potatoes. What came next was a relatively peaceful trip to the market. Usually, he would allow himself to relax at the age-old action of selecting foodstuffs, bartering the price and enjoy the feel of well bought food weighing his arms down. Instead, all he felt was ramping tension..

As for why...

"Go away lady. Go bother someone else".

She pouted at Shirou's harsh response. The woman had been trailing him for a good portion of his shopping time, and now was walking in step alongside him. At this point, he would have been halfway to the orphanage by now, but the former Counter Guardian wasn't exactly keen on letting the innocent looking blonde know where he lived.

"Now that's rather rude of you. I just wanted to know what a child as young as you was doing here."

Shirou stopped and slowly turned towards her. He gave her a dry look before lifting the bags of groceries as an answer. She didn't even have the decency to look embarrassed and instead had an 'o' expression.

"Well what brought you to the marketplace lady? You're clearly not here for the food." He snarked. He had already lured her to several secluded places that were perfect for a person to stage an ambush or be assassinated. Despite those openings, he was still alive and in one piece, so Shirou let the mysterious woman have the benefit of doubt.

Abandoning his delaying tactic, Shirou resumed his walk towards the orphanage, fully expecting to be followed.

The barely-Saber-look alike didn't disappoint.

"Mouuuu, stop calling me lady! I have a name you know?!" She pouted. Only the years of dealing with cuteness coming in numerous, deadly forms ranging from regular Illya to a Demi-Servant Illya to various other Servants and people he had met as a Heroic Spirit allowed his heart to remain strong.

"Have you considered the fact that I would use your name if I'd known it?" The woman pauses. A finger comes up to her lip as she gets lost in thought.

The action made him want to facepalm. How could someone be this naive? She didn't even try hiding the fact she forgot to introduce herself.

A cheerful smile made its way across her face once more.

"My name is Gabriel!"

He really didn't want to overthink it. He truly didn't. Hell, Shirou did not even want to consider the possibility that the being walking next to him was NOT the same being that shared its name from religious texts. His stride definitely did not falter for a split second when he heard that name. He definitely did not have a minor panic attack.

But all the clues led Shirou to believe that his luck truly was shit. The raw power that was barely restrained, the scent of light and feathers and the overwhelming feeling of Holiness that emitted from her deceptively soft stature along with her name all pointed to one conclusion.

He was walking next a genuine, Root-fucking-damned, Seraph.

This is one of the times I wished Mind's Eye was inactive outside of battle. Shirou mused while suppressing a twitch in his eyebrow.

Despite being born into a human body, his mind and soul still retained the experience and memories of countless battles. And with that came a Eye of Mind (True) that acted up the moment he felt that something was even remotely wrong.

And even then, an occupied mind did not stop the mannerisms engraved into him oh-so long ago.

"Shirou Emiya", he grunted.

Of course, she responded with that same blinding smile.

"Nice to meet you Shirou!"

The conversation lulled into a comfortable silence with a touch of caution exhibited from Shirou. It did not take them long to reach the orphanage, gates still rusted and wide open.

"Wha-what happened here? An orphanage should not be in this state at all!"

Her previous cheer was drained in an instant, replaced with horror at the failing conditions of the building itself. Green eyes drank in the sight, tracing each flaw, every crack and patch of peeled and moldy paint.

"The orphanage runs on donations", Shirou calmly explains while walking past the gates. Gabriel trailed behind him almost unconsciously while looking at the orphanage, her gaze drawn to the occasional hint of children playing behind the many windows. "Ever since the commercial and residential district developed, people slowly forgot that this place exists."

He stills for a moment and shrugs.

"Can't blame them. Not exactly the nicest of places around here."

Gabriel frowns. Whether it be in disapproval or contemplation, he could not tell. The woman looked innocent and even acted naive enough, but she gave away almost no hint from her bodily actions nor expressions at this point.

"I.. I'm sorry to hear that." Her expression brightens suddenly. He could see the metaphorical light bulb over her head as she excitedly turned towards him.

"I know! I can get Michael and the others from the Chu- err, I mean my home to make s-"

Shirou cut her off with a sigh.

He already showed Gabriel where he lived. She already knew that Shirou was rather different from normal kids his age, and he already figured out that Gabriel noticed how different he actually was. So he thought, might as well get it done with. He knew that he could not face her. A child's body with only a few circuits available for use, less than a fraction of weapons traceable against an actual Seraphim from the Bible?

"You know, you're not fooling anyone with that act. I know you're not human."

Yeah, not a chance in hell. So he might as well come clean and be as forward as possible. It was a terrible idea if he was being honest, gambling on the possibility that if even half the notions that Gabriel made were genuine, then he could probably strike a deal to live in peace.

"Now tell me." His eyes turned cold, his posture turned weary and hostile even as he leaned forward while facing the Angel. "What do you want from me?"

The lady known as Gabriel stilled for a second, not panicking in the slightest as she regarded Shirou with a worryingly blank look.

Gabriel responded to Shirou's hostility with an action that fried his brain from disbelief. In the blink of an eye, she appeared right next to him. In all the potential responses he predicted, nothing could have prepared him for her unexpected move.

She hugged him.

Shirou's sight suddenly went dark, his face pulled into someplace soft and warm. It took his brain a while to reboot and realized that he was pulled into Gabriel's chest, her arms wrapped around his head with her cheek resting on the top of his skull. He was hit by a wave of comfort and relaxation that he hadn't felt in years, even after his birth as Farran. His will wavered in front of the assault, the urge to give in goaded him.

Only for a single train of thought to snap him back to his senses.

"After all…If I don't remember.. Who will?"

His burden would not allow him to give in, to break down and shed tears over all that he had suffered over the years. The memories imbued within countless blades inside his soul would remain crystalized as long as he existed. He would not cheapen the lives he had burnt away in his foolish chase to reach a dream by cracking under the pressure, to even momentarily forget what he had done in exchange for comfort.

A vacation he may be on, but it only meant reprieve. Not freedom.

"Gabriel, I understand you were sheltered for most of your life, but could you pl-"

"I do not know what happened to you Shirou, but eyes like that should not belong to a child that young."

She pulled away after interrupting him.

"Whatever you went through, you don't have to suffer it alone."

Her words brought a flash of anger, but it was quelled immediately.

Despite his initial weariness against the woman, he noticed something his paranoia had completely discarded the possibility of. That she never lied to him, or was exceptionally good at doing so. Every word was warm and filled with concern and a caring that he had not felt in a long, long time with a sentiment that he could never get angry at.

That she was just trying to help the person in front of her.

The regressed Emiya allowed himself a moment to enjoy the moment. He pulled away, Gabriel's arms falling down to her sides once more. Shirou ignored the compassionate, yet worried look in her eyes peering at him from above.

"I'll be fine Gabriel."

He turns again to enter the orphanage. The door opens with a whine, it's hinges rather rusty from lack of maintenance over the years shining through despite the recent greasing he had given it.

Halfway through the door, Shirou stops. An old compulsion causes him to look back at the Seraph standing a few feet away. He looks back inside the building, noticing the time on the clock hanging at the end of the hallway. An internal debate later, he sighs again.

Might as well I suppose. Hmm.. Now that I think of it, I've been sighing a lot lately, haven't I.

"Hey."

Gabriel had already turned around and started to leave when she heard Shirou call out to her again. She turns back, greeted by golden-brown eyes and a small smirk.

"Come on in. Since you're already here, might as well join for lunch. It'd make me feel bad if I let you go hungry."

Gabriel's eyes widened at the sudden offer. A small smile, different from the ones she had shown so far, was set upon her visage as she approached Shirou. He ushered her into the orphanage and closed the door behind them.

It was the first of her many visits over the years to that place, and the first of many meals she enjoyed thoroughly along with the presence of children, old and young, in awe of her beauty. Unironically, Marie had often called her an Angel during her visits since Gabriel always managed to calm down even the rowdiest of orphans there during her visits.

Weirdly enough, the start of her visits also coincided with the large sums of money from anonymous donors left at their doorstep.

With that, Shirou enjoyed his days. The unvoiced promise of maintaining his peaceful life was maintained by Gabriel, which may or may have not been enforced by how much she adored Shirou's cooking.

It was like seeing another Saber all over again honestly.

By the time he was fifteen, the orphanage looked brand new with one less room occupied.

Shirou had, at that point, started living alone at a rented apartment, paid for by a combination of the stipend received from the orphanage along with several part time jobs.

He even managed to worm his way into an archery range, gaining access to his old hobby at the cost of a membership at a reduced rate, which he earned in exchange for handling most of the repairs for the bows after he showed off his skills at one point.

But even then, he still made time to visit that old orphanage on weekends, keeping his promise and cooking a meal for the children he grew up with over there. He even taught lessons from the material he got from his school to the younger children over there.

Despite being burdened with trauma and guilt, Shirou Emiya could say with confidence that so far, that he enjoyed his new life..

His only regret was going through puberty.

Again.


Tiring.

That's all that Michael could say about piloting God's System. Aside from the overflowing amount of prayers that flow through it, the System was also responsible for granting miracles and wishes, along with governing the "Laws" of the Christian pantheon..

Despite his efforts, the System was no longer functioning at its original splendor. Miracles were few and far in between, a vast majority of the prayers went unanswered, some of the more fundamental "Laws" were barely applied and functional. He thanked his Father's good graces that the Selection process of Souls allowed into Heaven was unchanged and working at full capacity despite His demise.

Then there was the entire mess known as the Sacred Gear System.

Michael hesitated to even touch the System in question with how many malfunctions it had over the years, yet it remained working for the most part, so he decided to leave it be.

HIs descent into Zebel was a quiet affair. It was empty for the most part despite being the residence of the Seraphs. The location itself was somewhat like a vast plain of Light, remnants of when their Father had created the first Angels. But to Michael, it was different. Very much so.

Ever since he took over the place of his Father at the head of God's System, the intricacies within the Light had slowly revealed itself over time. In a human's terms, it would be like looking at the uncountable gears of a machine, tuned to perfection with a precision beyond comprehension. Fragile, yet sturdy beyond reason, a Creation that used the basis of Faith of the humans that his Lord had adored. Prayers the fuel, Miracles the products, all for his Love for mankind so that they may grow.

Michael pondered the awe-inspiring machine of Miracles when a certain presence made itself known. One that he loved dearly and always found comfort in.

Gabriel was back.

He noticed her in the distance, a slight skip in her step, a hum in her throat and a smile that set his heart at ease. Gabriel generally was a cheerful person, but this? She was happy, which was also normal. But she came from the Human World feeling happy, which was a rarity nowadays.

Yet, Michael set aside his curiosity, his want to know the reason behind her happiness, and settled for enjoying the fact that his dearest sister was happy.

After all, surely something that Gabriel deemed good was harmless. Right?

With that, he set off to work once more to answer the prayers flowing through God's System, wholly ignorant of the fragment of a foreign entity that latched onto Gabriel.

You know, I really wasn't expecting the whole lot of you to explode out of the woodworks and start following and favoriting the story like crazy. I suppose I did something right with that first chapter. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Do review and let me know how I can improve.

I'll try my best to match my initial quality as I write this story. I've been told I tend to be inconsistent.

Again. Thanks for reading!