A miracle is only considered a miracle when something unable to be achieved, is achieved. Along the way, the route is never easy. Numerous times, one may doubt their way, give up, or maybe even turn back and try another path, but Shirou Emiya could never do that. His was a miracle that would only ever by actualized by one who continually searches, and one who was willing to wait for what may be an eternity.
"Yes, yes, how sad."
Shirou made a face, a hand running through his red hair in frustration while the bronze hue of his eyes was beyond lacking patience. His mouth twitched while staring at the confines of some dark cave he had no clue where it was located on a map. He didn't even bother trying as it was unlikely that he'd recognize anything on the map anyway.
A portal closed behind him, signalling his arrival to what could only be another world. In front of him was an older man with greying hair and a trimmed beard that was dark near the ends, but white closer to the center.
Shirou did not rise to the man's jab knowing it would only make his headache worse. This wasn't the first time the man had been able to accurately read his thoughts, and it wasn't for lack of trying. In a sense, the man just knew him too well...as in several variations of him that Shirou did not bother to dig information about. It wasn't as if the older man who'd brought him to wherever here was, was one to speak straight when questioned.
A tired sigh escaped Shirou's mouth, not the least of which had to do with the fact that this wasn't his first time being moved by this man's whims.
The older man's name was Zelretch, the Wizard Marshal of the Mage Association's Clock Tower. He was the owner of the Second Magic, the Kaleidoscope, able to harness the power to freely wander across parallel dimensions and tap into their power.
Shirou got to know the man after Rin apprenticed under him during her tutelage in London, and that story wasn't one he was particularly fond of. With Zelretch, it started rather whimsical. While Rin was busy, Zelretch would drop him off in far off parallel worlds to bide his time in until Zelretch fetched him back.
This cycle repeated, but Shirou never actually put a stop to it when Zelretch teased him about the possibility that a certain world may lead to his ultimate goal.
It wasn't something Shirou took lightly. It was like dangling a piece of meat to a starving man willing to do anything to obtain it.
If Zelretch thought Shirou would be discouraged by pestering him to 'elaborate' on that remark, then Zelretch would be wrong. Or, perhaps he'd already anticipated such a result? It was hard to say with how eccentric the man was, but Shirou was persistent.
Shirou didn't care what world he was tossed into; he'd be right back to annoying Zelretch. In the process, he picked up several skills from other world's that could prove useful to him, all for the purpose of reuniting with Saber.
In the end, Shirou's efforts led him here when Zelretch finally had enough of it.
"This plane is separated into higher and lower worlds," Zelretch muttered offhandedly, crossing his arms while Shirou waited for Zelretch to get to the point. "The higher world is known as Tenkai, and the lower world is where the other races exist. Here, the Age of the Gods have yet to end, and several walk among the residents of the lower world."
Shirou listened while frowning, trying to wrap his mind about how this was relevant to him, but coming up short.
"Your goal lies at the end of what's known as a Dungeon located in a city called Orario. The tower of Babel was built over the entrance, not dissimilar to how the Clock Tower was built over the remains of a Dragon." Zelretch explained, staring at Shirou and realizing that nothing beyond 'your goal lies at the end,' had processed through Shirou's mind yet.
For his part, Shirou's expression hardened, his heart beat speeding up at the prospect of his goal being so close. However, he was no longer as naïve as before and felt that there was more to this than what Zelretch was letting on.
"How?" The obvious question was asked.
Zelretch chuckled, amused but not unwilling to answer. "What you seek is a miracle that transcends time and space, facilitating a meeting that was never meant to be. The means to do this depend on the fated pair, but sometimes, you just need enough power and a connection. With normal means, you would never reach that place until a life of endless searching, but here, it could be different. The Age of the Gods exist along with the very fabric that reveals the way to what's known as the Reverse Side. The place where mystics and Phantasmals have returned to. The fairies of this world are an example of those that had already traversed, but whose connection with the world lingers. A secret lies at the end of the Dungeon, and with it, lies the way to your ever distant Utopia. One can traverse to the Reverse Side, but the Avalon you seek is beyond any coordinate. Fortunately, you have your sheath."
Shirou swallowed, processing through the information he'd been given with pursed lips.
Zelretch stepped forward further into the cave they appeared in before snapping his fingers.
A crisp sound echoed from the action, and soon the dark cave was illuminated by dim magic light, revealing an array of magic inscriptions and circles Shirou recognized as a summoning ritual.
Shirou eyed the spectacle, but soon returned his attention back to Zelretch.
"I'll offer you a proposal," Zelretch said, straightening his back and adjusting the tie over his high-collared dress shirt. "Clear this world's dungeon as an adventurer without disclosing the nature of your existence, and I'll support you in clearing the dungeon and achieving your goal. I will provide the energy and the means to let you summon and provide for seven Servants. Don't think I'm just laying some arbitrary condition, in this world, if you and I were Servants, we'd fall into a class called Foreigner. Something this world would inherently reject. In this case, what you want to be designated as, is a Pretender to fool the world and utilize the reward of clearing the dungeon. Before you say its underhanded or misleading, you'd be a doing a favour for all the people who died in this world through the Dungeon, and even achieve their goals of clearing it for them. So? Do the terms sound reasonable?"
"Understood," Shirou thought it over, but in the end his answer didn't change. "I accept your terms."
"Good! Jolly!" Zelretch clapped his hands and a Geis formed into a contract that Shirou eyed warily.
It was one thing to have a verbal promise, and it was another for a magus to sign a Geis that enforced the terms through fear of a detrimental punishment.
Nonetheless, spurred by his emotions, and his own impulsive nature, Shirou ended up signing the Geis which quickly vanished upon the agreement of both parties.
"Well then, now that that's settled, I will watch with bated breath." Zelretch nodded far too enthusiastically for Shirou's liking before Zelretch gave him a summoning incantation to recite. No sooner, Zelretch was opening a portal and leisurely leaving through it. "Goodluck."
When Shirou could no longer see Zelretch's face, Zelretch's expression suddenly became more serious. The dungeon beneath Babel had a secret, and was powerful enough to deter the intrusion of Gods who could only contend by giving up their life in the Lower World. Perhaps it was even the reason why the Gods could not foster children that would have run abundant in other parallel worlds. The dungeon's hate for the Gods was all too well known to shrug off as coincidence.
Just like that, Zelretch was gone, and Shirou was left to brood on his own while staring blankly at the preparation Zelretch had clearly made before hand. The cave itself was situated in a remote area near Orario some ways away from the main gate where humans, elves, and beastmen constantly milled through under the supervision of the guards.
Humming in consternation, Shirou inspected the ritual site in front of him, and started moving things according to Zelretch's arrangement. It was in doing so that he began to second guess the entire situation.
He'd be a hero for clearing the dungeon in the eyes of the people in this world, but how difficult could it be with Servants at his side?
No. That question in and of itself was a trap.
With the preparations Zelretch had left him, and a power source that detailed the use of the Second Magic to tap into the energy of Parallel worlds, Shirou's doubts intensified.
He was certainly grateful that Rin's teacher was willing to help him reunite with Saber, but something about this was just too convenient and didn't fall in line with how Zelretch operated. There had to be some sort of catch, something hidden in fine print on a long clause that he wasn't seeing.
Would Zelretch really just arbitrarily let him summon Servants to aid him? Even going as far as to fuel the summoning and provide him and the Servants adequate upkeep?
Shirou's gut was warning him that there was definitely something amiss with the arrangement, but Zelretch had also stated that his search would reach its end upon reaching the bottom the dungeon and clearing it. This, just by itself, was worth the risk.
Zelretch may be playful, but be wasn't a liar.
Hesitant, but determined, Shirou raised his hand and soon invoked the magic circle he'd just drawn out with the incantation Zelretch had provided him.
Tendrils of magic energy arced in crackling bolts that singed the ground before his inner circuits began to thrum.
"Let silver and steel be the essence. Let stone and the archduke of contracts be the foundation."
The magic circle flashed, the patterns drawn lifting from the ground and revolving in place. Azure light began to shine, filling the chamber with mystic ambience that created motes of blue light glittering like fireflies.
The fingers of his outstretched hand twitched as the beginnings of the connection were established. The ritual would commence with the continuation of the spell words of power that grant the basis of a bridge to the throne beyond time and space.
Yet this was a direct intrusion.
The magic circle was built over the basis of a system of sequences that didn't belong to this world. In a sense, it was a natural disruption, something that would normally not work, but did so based on similarity.
Parallel worlds run tangent to each other, in that only certain aspects differed while the world remained at its root. The theory itself denotes the varying branches of a tree that break off and start new variation. The closer these branches are from each other, the more similar those branches are to the point that convergence could occur as an anomaly, but what was the Second Magic?
The scope of Parallel Worlds was within the bounds of the user's understanding. He who could make comparisons about what magic systems would or would not mix, could effectively create one that functioned on a loophole.
Circuit like patterns flared over Shirou's skin, creeping up over his chest, down his arms, and around his face.
The impossible became possible.
Establishing a fleeting sentiment that would reach beyond eternity.
The way was open upon the throne.
"Let the light of the stars, sky, and earth be the color I pay tribute to. Let rise a wall against the wind that shall fall. Let the four cardinal gates close."
Stars guide the way to the hopes of mankind, and earth represents the bounty of mystic treasure wielded by man, but the great sky was different. It represented wisdom, omnipotence, and power beyond human standard. The vastness of the sky and its heaven encompass beings of the divine and even those who break the rules of this world...demigods.
The proof of love between God and Man.
Like a bolt of lightning from out of the blue, numerous Gods residing in the Lower World felt it at once, their heads snapping up, some knitting their brows, others swallowing in stunned bafflement. It was a power and presence so familiar and yet so different. The divinities that stemmed from the same source and legend resonated and connected for the briefest of moments through this incantation, but it was enough to spread doubt among the divine that walked the lower world.
A woman with stunning blue hair froze while speaking with her Familia, sudden memories of love and affection she had for a cherished child who called her 'mother,' freezing her in place. For him, she pleaded with Hephaestus for armour. For him, she bathed him in the river Styx for a body of indestructability. For him, she had wept at his passing. It was so vivid, yet impossible as if she were seeing a bitter sweet dream.
Elsewhere, a man whose presence was like that of the hottest star, frowned in consternation. Who? Who was it that called his name? Who was that figure bathed in the glow of that sun?
['O Surya...bear witness! Father, forgive me. This will be my first and likely last strike...!']
The man's fiery gaze turned to Orario, the Dungeon city where a crackle of lightning illuminated an old man in a white toga living in seclusion in the tallest mountain.
What was once set in stone had been shattered.
The preconception that defined what could or could not be no longer mattered.
"Let the three-forked road form the crown reaching unto the Kingdom."
Shirou began to focus, feeling the connection with the magic circle intensify.
"I who shall attain all virtues of all Heaven and have dominion over all evils of all Hell beseech thee!"
The foundation was laid, the intent all that remained. Call upon it. Draw it from the pool of noble souls clad in myth and legend!
"From the Seventh Heaven, attended to by three great words of power, come forth from the ring of restraint, protectors of the holy balance!"
Thunder roared, clapping with a furor that shook the entirety of Orario.
The wings of a butterfly flapped upon the horizon, rippling across the lower world.
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