Chapter 2

A Scam Through and Through

It was a cold night. A chill clung to the streets in the form of a mist. The eerie setting was only emphasized by the surprising lack of traffic and noise. As a growing city, the commercial districts were often still bustling at this time, either with workers burning the midnight oil, or construction workers slaving away at building new infrastructure.

But tonight's temperature dropped to frigid levels. No person would be caught dead at this time of the night. Much less stay on the rooftop of one of the highest buildings built as of yet in that district.

"Trace, on."

Twang

No sane person anyways.

Shirou weathered the cold winds that bit at his skin through several layers of warm clothing. If he hadn't been circulating Od through his circuits, he would be shivering then and there, with a possible case of hypothermia.

Amber eyes traced the arrow's path. Despite the arrow curving mid flight, he was not worried at all. Shirou knew it was going to hit, yet he projected another sword. The blade twisted in a silent screech of metal, elongating into what looked like an arrow.

It never hurts to have another shot ready, in case his target survives. He knows how many times that's happened already, a lesson learned from his mistake of underestimation or lack of knowledge on his target's capabilities.

In his defense, half of the targets had some form of secret Thaumaturgy that protected them. More often than not, they were at the levels of something from the Age of the Gods. The other times, he had been facing off against Legends, Apostles, Apostle Ancestors or Servants.

You can see why he's built a habit of precautionary overkill.

In the span of a second, three more arrows were let loose. All followed different flight patterns but ended up at a single target a moment later.

With his reinforced eyes, the Archer easily kept track of each arrow traveling towards a nondescript building. Or to be more specific, he kept track of how long it would take to reach the man he aimed to kill.

His eyes narrowed as his target's lips parted. The victim-to-be struggled harder, fists pounding and legs flailing, but nothing fazed the man. Elongated canines glistened and blood red eyes sparkled in delight, drinking in the terror of his meal.

Then, the window shattered.

An arrow shot towards the vampire. He barely managed to twist in place, the vampire's grip loosened and the woman in his hands was thrown to the other side of the room. In the end, the first arrow missed.

The vampire dodged, but…

WRAAAAGH!

..it did not matter.

The first was a distraction, the second arrow hit. The altered Black Key dug deep into the vampire, making the monster howl in pain. The wound steamed, the innate properties of Black Keys worked against the vampire's existence.

Even as he reached to dislodge the twisted arrow in his shoulder, three more glints of steel struck him. His hands were disabled, his throat pierced and mangled and his knees shattered by the arrow-swords protruding from it.

Shirou traced two more swords, one that had a legend of being bathed in Holy Water and a practice blade made from Aspen wood. They were altered and subsequently shot. A resounding crack was heard. Despite the reinforcement, the bow he had in hand had a jagged line running through it.

Even without using Structural Analysis, he'd have known that it had at least one more shot left in it. The bow he was using was not his signature weapon, rather it was a wooden bow twice his current height and had a mystery of being used to fire javelins woven into it.

Another sword was traced, but remained unchanged in his hand. Instead of shooting the last blade, he waited.

The whistle of an arrow cutting through the air resounded in the silent night. The gurgling coughs of the vampire were stomped out. The blessed blade-arrow lodged in his head, burning away at the Lesser Vampire's skull while the Aspen arrow pierced the heart.

The vampire froze. Despite its throat being pierced, it managed to let out an ear-piercing wail before crumbling into dust and embers.

Through the distance of around one and a half kilometers, he noted the effect of Black Keys on the vampire and compared it to the Dead Apostles of his world. It seemed the age old story of wooden stakes through the heart rang true in cases of Vampires in this world. He would have preferred experimenting a bit more, but the Vampire had already done enough damage tonight.

Moreso, dulled rage drove him to let the being suffer a bit before dying. The vampire known as David Gasgleif had posed as a Professor from a local University and lured people with magic. He had already been responsible for the death of several people.

One of the victims was a child adopted from the orphanage a week ago. The girl and her new family wer found rotting in a ditch outside of the city.

Needless to say, it became very personal.

The frown on Shirou's face settled to a more stony look. His reinforced eyes swept the perimeter, looking out for any more abnormalities in the immediate area. A good minute later, he returned his gaze towards where the vampire was while altering the blade at hand.

The bow shattered, not before letting the altered arrow fly. The path deviated from its intended path by a small margin, but that did not matter to Shirou. He didn't intend for the arrow to hit anything specific anyways.

The explosion of Prana above the buildings lit up the sky for a brief moment. The light hit the woman's face along with a quick warm breeze before fading away, not that she would remember it. The woman was already unconscious at that time, her head having collided with the wall, temple first. .

By the time she woke up, she would be lying down on a hospital bed. In a television nearby, an image of a familiar building surrounded by police officers and what seemed like priests, could be seen on the news channel.


For the umpteenth time since he was reincarnated, Shirou was thankful to ALAYA for allowing him access to all, if not most, of his memories. His lessons from the Clock Tower were proving to be a lifesaver, his experience and impromptu lessons during his summonings even more so.

If not for those, he would still be third rate magus who could not even make simple Bounded Fields.

Of course, it had taken him an obscenely large time compared to other people to get it right, owing to his Origin and Element, but he managed to do it. Namely in the form of rune etched daggers to serve as anchors for the bounded fields, as well as to denote its purpose. He also managed to pick up some of the basics for formal craft since his early days as an Ally of Justice required proper knowledge of magecraft in order to hunt down his targets.

As for Alchemy? He did know some basics to create certain potions and antidotes. A significant amount of his attention was spent on learning Metallurgy. But that all stopped after two years into his studies at the Clock Tower, when Illya had fallen ill.

…Illya..

"How long has it been since I last thought of her?"

No one was there to hear him whisper that thought out aloud. The mist clung to him, like claws of an ephemeral wraith that was trying to drag him into that ocean of depression. His memories with his little (big?) sister were few, but he held them close to his heart.

Shirou's shoulders sagged, almost as if the weight in his mind was made real. But he did not stop walking. He had promised Rin that he would try his best, and so he would remember. He would feel. He would remind himself that he was not a machine, but a person.

He was pulled from his thoughts by the buzz of his phone. Pulling it out, he realized that it was three in the morning, and the buzzing was his alarm to go to sleep.

Shirou frowned. He usually never put an alarm on his phone, unless he had something absolutely important. A few seconds later, he pounded a fist into his palm in realization, eyes wide at his forgetfulness.

"Ah, right! Gabriel's coming to the orphanage today, isn't she?"

His feet moved a tad bit faster. Since his body was still growing, the lack of sleep hit him rather hard, which made it all the more easier for the Seraph to notice the subtle signs of sleep deprivation and fatigue. He had already been chewed out for his unhealthy work several times by Gabriel and he definitely did not want to get another session today.

Last time she heard about how much sleep I got, she- Shirou shuddered. Not because of the cold, but because the memory that resurfaced.

She threatened to ban him from the kitchen.

HIm.

Banned from the kitchen.

In his own home.

Who knew Angels had an evil side to them?

In a matter of minutes, he had reached his apartment complex. The stairs were rusted at places, but his footsteps made no sound while walking up. A combination of Structural Analysis and impeccable balance from years of training, in his new body that is, allowed him to minimize the chances of creaking.

A silent clack of the doors lock later, Shirou basked in the warmth that was saturating his apartment for a split second. Several layers of clothing were shrugged off, leaving him in a gray T-shirt and black sweatpants and his feet carried him to the miniature kitchen, swiping the treats he had left to cool and putting them in the fridge.

Running through his mental checklist once more while running routine inspection on the rune covered swords that he imbued into the walls of his apartment, he found no degradation. And with that all of his tasks for the day were complete. A second was spared to alter the concrete back into place, covering the swords.

One could ask why swords, of all things, were used. In answer, Shirou would have ignored them outright. But if he were to give anyone a proper answer, he would have mentioned his utterly disastrous talent for everything aside from a proficiency at things remotely related to swords.

This happened to extend to runeworks covering said swords, and their applications. Granted, it was supplemented by a bare understanding of runes and formalcraft, but it worked well for his purposes.

Shirou's eye drifted towards the clock ticking away on top of his dresser.

"Four A.M…", he buried his face into his palms, rubbing his eyes to stave off the sleepiness.

"There's no way she'll find not out that I haven't slept properly again." Shirou groaned out in worry. It was one thing to not want others to worry. Sure, it felt nice and all to have someone care so deeply, but Gabriel's chiding was too much like Sakura's for comfort.

His eyes landed on a table. To be precise, it landed on the recently bought bag of coffee beans sitting innocently on said table..

"...Unless…" Amber eyes narrowed, the teen's gaze intensified with a hint of mad desperation.

The bag of coffee beans broke out into sweat.


"Gabriel, tell me something."

The woman in question jumped in her seat. It was afternoon. The only people in the room were Shirou and Gabriel, the rest of the children were playing outside or simply doing whatever they did while waiting for lunch.

"Of-Of course Shirou. What do you want to know?" Ah, she's stuttering. A dead giveaway that something is bothering her. She never did manage to stop that habit of hers, he thought while setting down a cup of tea in front of her.

"I'm the one who had three cups of black coffee this morning." He looked up from his spectacles, an eyebrow quirked upwards with his signature smirk plastered on his face.

"So why is it that you're the jittery one instead?"

"What do y-you mean I'm jittery? I'm perfectly fine! See?" Shirou had to resist the urge to snort at her frantic dismissal. Considering the years they had known each other, he learned her tells overtime. Of course, Gabriel could have clamped down on those tells, but she never could put her guard up near Shirou.

He sighed in fond exasperation. She must be really bothered by something. She usually would have asked why I had that much coffee.

"I swear Gabriel, if this is about one of your "friends" from the Church-"

"No! No, no. It's not that. You know I would never break our promise." The truth behind that statement brought a small smile to his face. He turned and resumed cooking.

"I don't know Gabriel. It seemed rather easy to bribe you with food"

"Preposterous!" Oh? Interesting. She took up a haughty-looking pose. "How dare you assume an elegant young lady like me is easily persuaded by that delicious, mesmerizing, heavenly smelli-"

"You've been watching those 18th century based dramas again, haven't you."

She deflated. "Was it that obvious?"

"No" She perked up.

"It was worse." She sank once more, a light blush on her face. He smirked at her angry pout, the cuteness was almost enough to make him feel bad.

Almost.

"Alright, teasing aside. You know you can tell me what's bothering you Gabriel".

Her mood shifted immediately. Gone was her annoyance, instead it was replaced by an expression that was more fitting on a child trying desperately to hide something. Then again, considering how Gabriel acted around him half the time, that expression fit her perfectly.

An awkward silence, well.. awkward for Gabriel considering Shirou kept at his unnatural pace in the kitchen, stretched on for what felt like forever. The Seraph's fidgeting got worse, to the point he actually had to tune her out in order to fully concentrate on his work.

"I'm an Angel!" She finally shouted out, fully expected him to be shocked, maybe yell in disbelief or outright deny her.

"I already know that", he replied mid stride, setting a hotpot down before returning to the kitchen.

Gabriel froze. Her mouth was agape, eyes wide and staring at Emiya's back.

"Eh?"

"I also know you're responsible for those mysterious donations for the last seven years."

"Hu-EH?!"

Shirou felt a wry grin spreading over his face. After all, how many people could say they could stupify someone on par with a Divine Spirit?

"C'mon Gabriel. You should give me more credit. You really thought I wouldn't know if a person is lying to me?' He said with a chuckle. The food was ready, he began setting it down on the table. Setting it down, he faced towards Gabriel again, his hip leaning on the wall.

"Besides, I said it on the first day, 'I know you're not human'. Remember?"

"But-But I thought you meant it in another way!"

"Oh? And what would said 'another way' be?"

She clamped up immediately. Gabriel had been teased enough to recognize that tone in Shirou's voice, not that it was enough to stop him.

"If it makes you feel better, you do have that Angelic radiance. Makes it hard for people NOT to admire you."

He knew. Any other day she would have taken that sentence as a compliment and given him a smile in return. But now? He knew. It was just confirmation on his part that he indeed knew that she was an Angel all along. The realization struck Gabriel like an arrow through the chest. All her attempts at lying and giving excuses suddenly flooded her mind, along with the sight of Shirou's blank face during each occasion.

He knew and he..

Except it wasn't a blank face at all. It was just him trying to hold in his amusement. How did she know? The man in question was doing it right now, and failed to hold in a snigger.

A rush of heat and pure embarrassment ran up her cheeks.

"W-Wah-Wait. So all this time when I made excu-". "Yup"

"Even when I-" "Uh huh"

". . ."

Gabriel, for the first time in her life, allowed herself to groan out of mortification, head in hand as she tried burrowing her face into her palms. Shirou felt his smirk grow larger, feeling rather accomplished. This was not the first time he had managed to fully let her relax around him, as proved by her breaking her "perfect-pure" persona, but this level of embarrassment displayed by Gabriel surpassed all other times. Proof that Angels were capable of developing and expressing emotions outside of their directives.

The sound of footsteps were heard, but Gabriel didn't bother looking up from her palms. That is until a small but warm hand patted her head and slowly stroked her hair. The action alone made her jerk in surprise, letting her see the affectionate smile that Shirou gave her.

"This won't change anything Gabriel. You're still the Big Sis that everyone in this orphanage looks up to and you're still an Angel. You may be a being born of Light, but here? You're just the girl named Gabriel whom everyone here cares for dearly."

The Seraph looked on with an expression of wonder and hope. Wonder that a human of all people brushed aside the fact that he was speaking to one of the most powerful as if she were a child.

And, weirdly enough, she hoped that he would continue to treat her like this..

"...You're also that insatiable blackhole when it comes to fo-Ouch ouch ouch! Okay okay I'm sorry!"

The warmth in her chest was dimmed by the jab, but still remained there. It spread all across Gabriel's body with a pleasant tingly feeling, something she could only define as happiness. But not even that prevented her from grabbing Shirou by the ear with an adorable pout.

A brilliant green stared at amber. Seconds passed before Gabriel broke into a giggle. Shirou let his faux scowl melt away into a genuine smile, his left eye closed while taking in the sight with his right.

"Anything you want for dessert?"

Gabriel's giggling calmed down. She gave him a dejected look.

"I can't. I have to go to the Vatican in a while. A wielder of a Longinus was discovered."

That caught Shirou's attention. A Longinus user was a person wielding a Sacred Gear with the potential to slay a god, something that he definitely put high up on his priority list.

"A Longinus user? Did they say which?"

Gabriel nodded, reaching out for the cup of tea Shirou had made. A sip later, she responded.

"Zenith Tempest. It belongs to a young boy named Dulio Gesualdo."

Shirou froze. A feeling of dread crept up his spine.

Please don't let it be what I think it is.

He turned around and cautiously asked Gabriel a question.

"..How young?"

Her expression turned downcast.

"He's barely six."

..God damnit..

It was at this moment Shirou felt his true age weigh down on him. He had seen scenarios like this too many times to count. An orphaned child awakening what was regarded as the second strongest Sacred Gear in history? He was going to get eaten alive by politics and power hungry people before hitting puberty. Not to mention, he probably would end up being turned into a weapon.

That thought did not sit well with Shirou.

If he was that same foolish teen that carried that sparkly, over-glorified dream of saving everyone, then he probably would have been part of the Church already. He would have tried his best to be a shield for Dulio, a boy he had never met.. Hell, he probably would have ended up in some secret laboratory because someone tricked him with the notion of helping others.

But now?

Shirou let out a heavy sigh. He straightened his back, catching Gabriel's gaze and returned it with a seriousness that she never saw before. Amber eyes dulled, turning into a steely look that locked the Seraph in place. The facade of Shirou Emiya faded away, revealing what was beneath. For the first time, Gabriel was in the presence of the Counter Guardian himself.

"..Protect him Gabriel. And at least.. At least let him have some semblance of a childhood before he gets thrown into this world."

The Seraph smiled in response.

That was all the assurance EMIYA needed.


It was silent.

There was no wind. No rustling of trees.

Even the heat from the evening sun felt fake.

Then again, considering where he was, Shirou supposed that it would be fitting. But that was not his main concern

No, today's reason for stress was unlike any other. It was beyond the time when Gabriel told him about the Three Factions and their fragile peace. It surpassed the days where she talked to him about inter-Pantheon politics. Each of those discussions brought a bout of headache inducing paranoia that altered his plans for the future by significant margins.

But this?

EMIYA stared up at the sky.

It was not the colorful canvas that he had grown used to seeing in his new life, nor was it the star littered darkness that brought him nostalgia

No, it was the cog-wheel ridden skies of his Reality Marble.

It had been around eighteen full years since he last saw this scenery, not for a lack of trying though. Whenever he had attempted to enter the World inside his soul, he was rebuffed by a barrier of sorts.

The best way to put it was to envision him running straight into a doorway, only to find that there was military grade, anti-ballistic glass in the way.

But during his Magecraft practice, he encountered an abnormality in his circuits. HIs control over his Od slipped randomly, disrupted by the random surges of Prana. At first he had assumed that it was another one of his circuits finally being unbound from acting as ALAYA's anchor, but the disruption continued.

This eventually led to him using Structural Analysis on himself to check up on his body.

Which somehow, led to him appearing inside his Unlimited Blade Works again.

So by all means, seeing his Reality Marble again should have filled him with a sense of relief and security. And he would have.

If it were not for the oversized, futuristic glowing orb dangling from several thousand circuit-like chains behind the cog-wheels that is.

This tops every single headache in my admittedly short life.

"Don't remember seeing that ever." EMIYA mutters to himself, scratching the back of his head

Twenty seven cog-wheels remained suspended overhead. Of those, thirteen were still bound to ALAYA. They were physical representations of his circuits. The world's environment was a representation of his mental state. So what was that orb representing?.

"Hm.. Might as well, I suppose."

EMIYA kneeled. His eyes were shut and his palm was flat against the dry, cracked soil.

"Trace, on."

Circuits glowed teal beneath his skin. Structural Analysis was underway, though the range did not encompass the entire Reality Marble. Instead, it was focused on the physical representation of his circuits, and what was behind them.

Familiar knowledge entered his mind. Twenty seven circuits of once low quality. Instead they were polished and burnt beyond recognition, but remained functional, in order to adapt to the overuse of Projection. His circuits did not change after his rebirth. EMIYA's soul was unchanged at it's fundamentals.

The Prana fueling Structural Analysis reached the orb.

The Counter Guardian's eyes snapped open. The man stumbled backward in shock, head whipping towards where the mysterious object remained.

But the shock was not the type he got when analyzing a Divine Construct like Ea or Excalibur. This one came from recognition of what it was.

After all, he had allies that had it. Hell, he got blasted away by enemies that had it. How could he not know what that damned thing in the sky was? And now? He, of all people, had that accursed thing inside him.

What was said, accursed, thing?

Well.. it was a genuine, God-fucking-damned, Magic CORE!

Ordinarily a Magic Core would be a type of metaphysical organ that produced Prana similar to how a nuclear reactor would produce energy. Ordinarily, a Heroic Spirit that was a normal human should NOT have such an organ in the first place, considering that he didn't have one when alive nor did he have the blood of Phantasmal Beasts.

Ordinarily, this would mean that he would eventually leak mana in amounts that would paint a permanent target behind his back.

The implications were not lost to EMIYA, nor were the reasons for its appearance. His eyes followed the circuit-like chains connected to the Magic Core where ALAYA's fragment was at work, beyond his sights and senses.

A sense of blood boiling, skin peeling, bone melting rage welled up behind him. The pressure of daily paranoia and stress finally caught up. Any notions of thanking ALAYA he previously had were razed to hell. Even his Reality Marble responded to the deep-seated anger, the ground around him cracking further.

The temperature rose, a glow of molten iron seeped from the cracks.

A voice in his mind, the traitorous and cynical part of him that refused to enjoy his new life, made itself known.

Truly, this "vacation" was a scam from the start.

The dam broke.

The World of Countless Blades echoed with a wroth aged over a thousand years.


Meanwhile,

In another dimension, far far away, a certain Marmot perked up. Feeling the unintentional interdimensional challenge issued, it screamed.

The zookeeper fell from his ladder.


Right. Yes. Welcome back to another chapter. I hope you guys enjoyed the read. And if it feels like the writing style changes as you go down the chapter… well… I have no clue how that happened. Feels like I messed something up this chapter honestly. Lemme know what you all think.

Also I'm still rather new to the entire Fate and DxD franchise, so if I do get some technicalities and/or lore wrong, please bear with me. I'd appreciate it if you correct me when I'm wrong.

Love you guys( and gals). Thank you.