DISCLAIMER Fate/stay night and all related characters and concepts are the creation and property of Nasu Kinoko and Type-Moon. This is FANFICTION.
SUMMARY In a single outlying universe, Shirou's fate takes an unexpected turn when while running to escape from the inferno that erupted around him, he is drenched in black mud falling from a slowly disappearing hole in the sky.
Emiya Kiritsugu watched in horror as a young boy stepped unaware below the last of the black mud falling from the closing vortex that was the Holy Grail. The fire had already spread far past this building and was consuming the city. There was nothing he could do about it. However, he could not let someone die before his eyes. Not after he had caused this massacre. Running desperately, his heart twisted in anguish and despair, he removed Avalon from his body. It was almost filled with Saber's magical energy that he had drawn from her during the fight with Kotomine Kirei. He could save the boy—Avalon should prevent his body from disintegrating.
With a lunge, he pulled on the boy's hand that was the only part he could see, and dragged the body out from under the mud and into a safer part of the ruined building. It was disgusting. The boy could not have been within the black mud for more than a few seconds. Yet his skin had been eaten away and parts of his ribs were poking through the blackened decayed remains of his flesh. However, what was worse was that the boy's rotted eyes were open and staring at him—he had not passed out from the pain. Ignoring the gruesome sight, Kiritsugu implanted Avalon into the boy's body.
The wounds were without a doubt fatal, but Kiritsugu knew that fatal injuries did not hinder Avalon. However, whether the awe-inspiring Conceptual Weapon contained enough mana to fight off the presence of the cursed mud from the grail and heal the numerous fatal wounds that covered the boy's body from head to toe was unknown.
Suddenly, Kiritsugu sensed a vast magical energy gathering behind him. In a single movement, he turned with the Thompson Contender in his hand. There was a flash of steel and he felt himself collapse to the ground. Stretching his neck to look upward, Kiritsugu saw the golden armored King of Heroes. Despite the enormous mana that the weapons in his Noble Phantasm emanated, he himself seemed different… mortal.
"Why?" Kiritsugu asked, coughing blood. A steel sword had pierced through his abdomen. Without Avalon, it was impossible that he would survive a mortal wound from a Noble Phantasm. However, he was not concerned about his life. After his sins, it would only be natural if he died miserably like this. But the boy… he should not have to die.
"You trash. Do you think a mongrel like him can survive the corruption of that thing?" Gilgamesh asked, his red gaze piercing into the Magus Killer.
"Don't touch hi…" Kiritsugu began, before blood gushed out of his mouth and silenced him.
"Humph," Gilgamesh said, noticing that the boy was still alive and watching them, unable to move.
Kiritsugu watched hopelessly, desperate thoughts running through his mind. The boy's wounds had stopped healing. Avalon's remaining mana had been exhausted and many fatal injuries still remained. It appeared that the child remained alive only by sheer force of will and the still lingering curse from the Grail.
"Very well," the Golden King said, beginning to chuckle in a distorted, sadistic manner. "I will grant the mongrel one chance to live."
Reaching through the gaps of the numerous weapons, he inserted his arm into his Noble Phantasm and pulled out a glowing golden amphora, its delicate and beautiful engravings interspersed with a profusion of precious stones.
"Ambrosia," Gilgamesh said, "also called Amrita, it is a nectar so scarce and valuable that even the gods sought it with fervor. A divine substance that is born from the breath of the planet, it does not heal the body but reconstructs it from its image within the soul, that eternal and indestructible blueprint of one's existence, with an immeasurable amount of mana. Not only that, it will change the consumer himself, sublimating him into an existence beyond human. In this manner, the ambrosia can treat any injury and even bestow immortality. Its purifying nature dispels any discoloration—the heavy curse within the mud cannot hope to match it."
Stepping over Kiritsugu's fallen body, Gilgamesh upturned the entire contents of the amphora into the boys open mouth. A viscous rosy-red liquid streamed from it and forced itself down the boy's throat, and the King of Heroes stepped back, dismissing the empty amphora. A blinding golden light erupted from the boy's body and to Kiritsugu's surprise, Gilgamesh began howling in a cruel and barbarous laughter while screams of agony erupted from the boy's melted and shredded lips.
"How unfortunate that ambrosia is only meant for the gods! Even I would probably be incinerated with that quantity of the divine nectar—and humans could not bear its touch at all! Now die by the instant cremation of your soul, you arrogant trash. To be killed so quickly instead of dying slowly from the cursed mud of the grail—this is the mercy of the King."
White-hot fury erupted within Kiritsugu. How could a personality like this be called heroic? He attempted to move but only managed to hasten his death. Then the fiendish laughter stopped abruptly.
"Impossible…" the voice of the King of Heroes was soft, and simultaneously incredulous and furious. "A mere human mongrel… and that amount… even I, the King and two-thirds god…"
He whipped around to face Kiritsugu, his expression incensed. The atmosphere was saturated with a tangible presence of death. However, Kiritsugu felt no fear from it, feeling no need to prolong his life after all his failures. Instead a sense of elation filled him that the boy remained alive through the Servant's horrific treatment. Kiritsugu knew of course, why the boy had survived—Gilgamesh had not known that Avalon was inside him. The legendary scabbard must have interfered somehow to prevent the boy's death.
"Ch-chance," Kiritsugu stuttered, blood forcing its way up his throat and expelling itself through his mouth, nostrils and ears.
"You!" Gilgamesh almost screamed, remembering that he had promised the boy a chance, not even considering that he might live. "Who is he? How did a mortal survive? What did you do?"
However, Kiritsugu had exhausted his energy and was past the ability to hear what Gilgamesh was saying. The last thing he said before his soul dispersed into Akasha was—"I finally became… a hero of justice."
Fire roared in the background as Shirou ran. He had been cornered by the flaming wreckage of fallen buildings and forced to find another route. Unfortunately, he seemed to be going in the wrong direction. There was no end in sight. He had already seen what seemed like hundreds of people burning to death in the flames, pleading for someone to rescue them. Yet, he had never stopped. He could not stop. If he stopped, he would die. He would become like those people, waiting for a savior that would not come. So he selfishly ran, his body breaking down from exertion and wounds where burning debris had struck him.
As Shirou continued stumbling through the ruined city, he noticed that had not seen people for a while now, and an ominous black substance seemed to cover the ground, igniting any material it touched. He carefully avoided it, wondering whether it was the source of the fire.
And then it happened.
He had been avoiding looking upward to prevent himself from seeing that yawning black hole. Just a glance at it told him that staring at it for too long would drive him insane. Unfortunately, because he had been avoiding it, he did not know that he was approaching it with every step.
Until now, that is.
A dense black viscous substance like a black mud swallowed his body, pushing him to the ground forcefully. It soaked into him, penetrating him in inexplicable ways, eroding his mind and body.
A living hell stabbed into his mind.
The starting penalty is five. Life penalty, body penalty, freedom penalty, fame penalty, fortune penalty. Give the penalty that extends so much punishment, mud, darkness, and malice. Elimination of human rights by castration, exile, and execution. Torture and sadism inflicted upon the human body through digestion. Denial by consensus of the colony that eliminates all honor.
Scorn from judgment and selfishness that takes away men's fortunes. Death penalty, penal servitude, imprisonment, custody, fine penalty, crime from a grudge, crime from self-interest, unconscious crime, self-conscious crime, civil war, inducement, false statement, theft, robbery, kidnap, suicide, rape, arson, bombing, violation, negligent homicide, mass violence, death at work, overconfident accident.
DIE DIE DIE
Misdiagnosis, concealment, violation for benefit, violation for self-protection, violation for love, violation for respect, selfish . Stealing, fraudulent, fraud, concealment, murder, theft, crime, crime, personal grudge, attack, attack, attack, attack, dirty, dirty, dirty, you are dirty, atone, atone, atone, atone, every violence, every crime, every victim, atone for everything. This world is ruled by something not human. Know the conscience to reform crimes.
DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE
Know the penalty to reform crimes. People's kindness is here. There is so much it cannot be noticed. Know the violence to hide crimes. Know the power to hide crimes. People's malignance is here. It is so rare that it is noticed. A hundred kindnesses and one malignance. Malignance shines bright to keep the balance and exists as a great EVIL to compete with the masses of kindness. The starting penalty is five.
DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE
███ for self, for self, for self, for self, for self, for self, for self, for self, for self, for self, for self,for self,for self,for self,for self, inducement, false statement, theft, robbery, kidnap, suicide, rape, arson, infringement, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, dirty, you are dirty, atone, atone, atone, atone, atone, atone, every violence, every crime, every victim, atone, atone, atone with death!
DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE
"███████—!" Shirou could not breathe. His brain was exploding. The black mud stole his warmth and consumed all five of his senses. Darkness and ugliness flooded his mind, he did not want to see it or acknowledge it. Yet sin and crimes continued to pour into him. Every single sin committed by every single person in the world. All the world's evil.
He needed to atone. He needed to do something but he could not. There was nothing that could atone for this much sin. He was trapped in the darkness. Pain and hatred engulfed him from every direction. He was going to die. The darkness that trapped him would devour every bit of him until there was nothing left.
A burst of light pierced through the darkness. The darkness fled, reversing itself. The devastating pain still remained, but Shirou was so relieved by the removal of the cursed black mud that he only felt numbness. Yet he could still feel its effects burrowing within his soul. He had been tainted irreversibly. Cursed to spend a life of misery, rotting while unable to atone for the sins of mankind that he had witnessed.
A black-haired man with dead-looking eyes stared down at Shirou as he inserted a golden something into Shirou's body. The something had driven the darkness away. And the look on the man's face—it was happiness, happiness that he had arrived in time, happiness that he could save Shirou.
Only Shirou could not be saved. He could feel the brilliant energy within the something reversing the effect of the black mud in his body but it would not be enough. He was not worried about himself. However, Shirou did not want to disappoint the black-haired man who had tried his best to save Shirou. Shirou did not want to burst his happiness. He wanted to live, he wanted to be saved, he wanted the curse to leave him, and he wanted to be forgiven for humanity's evil ways—if only to let the man retain that expression on his face.
Shirou's contemplation was abruptly interrupted by a vast presence behind his savior. The man had noticed it too and spun around with a gun appearing in his hand only to be pierced by a silver blade. Unable to act or speak, Shirou simply watched, hoping that the man's wound was not fatal.
"Why?" the black-haired man asked as he coughed out blood.
"You trash. Do you think a mongrel like him can survive the corruption of that thing?" said a voice beyond him. Shirou could not see whom the voice belonged to from his position but it sounded overwhelmingly arrogant as if the man who spoke was looking down on Shirou's savior like he was an ant.
"Don't touch hi…" Shirou's savior began but Shirou knew that it was getting harder for him to speak with the sword pierced through his chest. It had probably missed his heart but one of his lungs instead. The man would be alive if he had not put that something in Shirou. Unlike Shirou's wounds, the sword wound was small enough to be restored by the something. But he did not have it. And Shirou was still going to die. The man's sacrifice would be in vain and he was still trying to defend Shirou from the newly arrived interloper.
"Humph," the arrogant voice said and its owner stepped forward, allowing Shirou to receive a glimpse of him for the first time.
He was awe-inspiring.
A golden-haired, red-eyed man clad in a gleaming set of golden armor. His expression was haughty and self-assured. There was nothing that could stand before him. Shirou now understood the meaning behind his arrogance. The man seemed human, but he was not. He was a presence beyond humanity, someone whose existence could not be measured in human lives. Behind him, jutting out from ripples of space, were countless weapons ready to be launched at his will. The sword embedded in the black-haired man was one of those.
As Shirou watched him, he felt the presence of the something inside him dissipate. Fatal wounds still littered his body. The something had blown away the black mud and even begun repairing some of the more serious injuries but it was not enough. He was going to die. He was going to die along with his savior who had sacrificed his life for no reason. Knowing this, Shirou guiltily hoped that the black-haired man would die before him so that he would not know that Shirou died in spite of his efforts.
"Very well," the golden-clad man said, as he began to laugh eerily. "I will grant the mongrel one chance to live."
The sensation of pain was returning now without the regenerative effect of the something preventing it. The brief respite and numbness only proceeded to compound the torturous agony spreading through his body, and Shirou regretted that he had not been in pain all along. At least then this would not be so shockingly painful. Through the flood of agony, Shirou saw the gold-armored non-human reach behind him creating another ripple in space and bring out a golden jug-like container.
"Ambrosia," Shirou heard him say distantly, "also called Amrita, it is a nectar so scarce and valuable that even the gods sought it with fervor. A divine substance that is born from the breath of the planet, it does not heal the body but reconstructs it from its image within the soul, that eternal and indestructible blueprint of one's existence, with an immeasurable amount of mana. Not only that, it will change the consumer himself, sublimating him into an existence beyond human. In this manner, the ambrosia can treat any injury and even bestow immortality. Its purifying nature dispels any discoloration—the heavy curse within the mud cannot hope to match it."
And with that convoluted explanation for the contents of the jug-thing, he poured it into Shirou's open mouth. The rosy-red fluid had the consistency of honey yet it was not cloyingly sweet. As it forced itself down Shirou's throat, Shirou knew that even if he lived for a thousand more years, he would never taste something this delicious again in his life. It was truly the pinnacle of last meals, yet it was not something fit for a human.
Finally succumbing to his injuries, Shirou closed his eyes.
For a moment, nothing happened.
Then the world exploded.
Shirou opened his eyes to find himself in a burning wasteland with a black hole in the sky—his image of the catastrophe that had destroyed his life.
Instinctively, Shirou understood where he was. This burning plain was his soul. As he stood alone on the arid and cracked red soil, a thundering sound reached his ears. From all directions came a deluge of the same rosy-red liquid—ambrosia, he recalled vaguely—that had been poured into his mouth. Shirou felt an odd urge to laugh as he recognized this scene. His memories were fragmented and he could no longer remember any part of his past apart from his name and abstract information, but the scene before him could not be mistaken.
It was the Great Flood—an act of Divine Retribution against Shirou who had dared to attain something reserved for the gods. Indeed, what the golden-clad man said was right—his soul was being purified and sublimated. However, it seemed that the ambrosia deemed anything human as an imperfection. And he was entirely human. His inner world would be swept away and destroyed, and his soul would disintegrate as it traversed back to the Spiral of Origin.
As Shirou watched the approaching tsunami in a hopeless sense of awe, something stirred within him. The endless prana supplied to his soul by the flood had restored the power of the something—Avalon, came a whisper in his mind—implanted in him. With an explosion of golden radiance that matched the sun, the torrents of ambrosia were halted in their progress and slowly began to recede. Golden particles drifted through the air, saturating in the sky where the black hole was located. As small waves of ambrosia surged over Shirou's feet, Shirou noticed that the golden light from Avalon had covered the hole entirely and now resembled a representation of the sun lighting up his soul.
The red waves finally stilled and sunk into the ground, disappearing into the now-moist earth. Slowly, grass began to spread upon the arid soil like a rolling carpet and the smoldering desert was converted into an infinitely extending lawn. Flora from every region and period dotted the landscape with the fires that had once consumed it quelled forcefully by the ambrosia. The formerly black sky, now lit up by the sun, turned blue, and Shirou subconsciously recognized that this was the result of Avalon's nature being carved into his soul.
Gargantuan golden gears spread across the sky from the horizon, meshing with each other as they spun in a synchronistical fashion. Clouds blew across them, showing that while they were the foundation of this world, they existed beyond it. Shirou did not know what this world symbolized or what its function was. Even so, this was his world. It was his deepest, innermost self. It was his soul. Shirou smiled, knowing that despite the horrible curse, and despite this horrible day, he had finally been saved. The beauty of this world clearly showed that. Yet, the world felt empty, reminding him that he himself was empty. However, he had his whole life ahead of him to change that.
As Shirou opened his eyes again to see the world beyond his soul, he was suddenly bombarded with memories of the last few minutes since the fire erupted in Fuyuki City. He could not remember experiencing emotions before this day but he could clearly recall the feelings of intense fear as the fire blazed around him and consumed everything, desperation as he walked among the bodies pleading to be saved, hope as the black-haired man attempted to save his life, despair as he saw that the attempt would be futile, and helplessness as he saw both him and his savior being preyed upon by the blond non-human.
"Ch-chance," the black-haired man stuttered. Shirou turned to him, his wounds fully healed. He looked desperate, and he was clearly on the verge of death, yet his desperation was not directed toward a will to extend his own life but to protect Shirou's.
"You!" the golden armored man said in a barely controlled voice. "Who is he? How did a mortal survive? What did you do?"
However, those questions would not be answered. As the black-haired man understood that the red-eyed man was not going to kill Shirou, his desperate visage turned into a blinding happiness that shook Shirou's very being. He wondered if he could also experience the same thing. The happiness of saving someone—this was not something Shirou could understand. However, he could see it, had seen it. Perhaps it would be a way to lift the weight of the innumerable sins of humanity that had taken a toll on his mind. He had been absolved of the curse that came from the black mud but the memories of that seething mass of evil would remain forever within him.
Shirou looked toward his savior, wondering whether he could remove Avalon from within him and give it back in time. Unfortunately, he did not know how to do it.
"I finally became," the black-haired man said, pausing as he gasped for a breath, "a hero of justice."
Then he closed his eyes and his harsh breathing faded into silence. He was dead.
Shirou spoke his first words since his world had come crashing down around him.
"A 'hero of justice,'" he murmured, rolling the words off his tongue. He once again stared into the black-haired man's face, remembering his own happiness at being saved, and the black-haired man's expression when he understood that he had succeeded in saving Shirou. Shirou's image of the incident seared itself into his mind, forcefully usurping the memories of the curse. A purpose and a path to redemption—perhaps he could also obtain happiness in that way. "Then I too will become a 'hero of justice.'"
"We will be going to see someone today, Shirou," Kirei said. "Take a break from your reading and clean up."
Shirou looked up from the book he was reading. It was Momotarou, a rather famous Japanese folktale. Shirou loved reading folktales, legends and modern fiction that involved heroes. He had even made efforts to learn other languages to read ones not translated into Japanese. He often spent his time writing out different ways that the heroes could have acted in order to create a better ending. They were nothing but fantasies of a child yet Kirei could tell that Shirou was very serious about it.
It had been about a year since Kirei had become Shirou's guardian, something he still was not used to. Gilgamesh had forced the boy upon him and ordered him not to include Shirou among the other orphans of the war who were being used as fuel to gain mana. Honestly, Kirei could not understand what Gilgamesh was thinking. Shirou had no noticeable attributes that might make him interesting to Gilgamesh. Apart from his obviously foreign ancestry, he did not seem any different from an ordinary Japanese child. The most aggravating part of this task was that Gilgamesh offered no support in taking care of the boy.
It was obvious that Gilgamesh had his own reasons and would not talk about them. Nevertheless, Kirei had taken Shirou in, though he was not so much a father as a caretaker. He did not know why Gilgamesh was so intrigued by Shirou—perhaps it was the mysterious artifact embedded within him that Kirei had removed—but anything that drew the Golden King's attention was certainly bound to be interesting. Kirei was certainly not disappointed that he had become Shirou's pseudo-guardian. The boy was the source of unending entertainment to Kirei, with his idealistic and hypocritical views.
Despite Shirou's unusual affinity for violence that Kirei soon picked up upon, he wanted to be a hero that would cut down evil and serve justice, even sacrificing himself if he could save one person. It was such a childish ideal that Kirei did not know how he should treat it. He assumed this desire came from how his own rescue by Kiritsugu after the fire. When he had first heard of Shirou's ideal, Kirei had considered revealing the truth of Kiritsugu's way of life but ultimately decided not to in order for Shirou's idealism to grow until the point that shattering it would cause incredible agony to Shirou. To intensify his entertainment, Kirei had allowed Shirou to take Kiritsugu's last name, falsified documents proving their relation, and even used the Church's authority to acquire all Kiritsugu's properties in Fuyuki City for Shirou. It was akin to fattening up livestock for slaughter.
"I'm ready, Kirei," Shirou said as he stepped into the nave of the church, bathed and clad in casual jeans and a t-shirt. "Where are we going? Is… Gilgamesh coming too?"
Kirei smirked inwardly at Shirou's condescending tone for Gilgamesh. Shirou never spoke of the Golden King in that manner when the Servant was present but at times like this, his true feelings about Gilgamesh were plain. Nevertheless, Shirou had adopted numerous traits from the King of Heroes including a sense of authority, an absolute conviction about the righteousness of his own ideals, a strong will to uphold his laws, and a firm denial toward anything that opposed his way of thinking. It was strange and fascinating that two individuals so different could be so similar.
Kirei began walking out of the church, Shirou following him steadily. He then recalled that Shirou asked him a question.
"I've told you—do not mention Gilgamesh to anyone except myself. He will not be coming, of course. We are going to visit the daughter of my deceased Master, who trained me in the use of magecraft. She is about your age, I should think. She was living with her maternal grandparents after her father died and her mother became a vegetable in the Holy Grail War but she wanted to return to Fuyuki City to take over her estate and attend school. She will be starting her fourth year in April, the same as you, though you will be attending different institutions. I am her guardian."
There was a period of silence and Kirei knew that Shirou was thinking over what had been said. He was undoubtedly speculating about the reasons for Kirei to bring him along. While Kirei did not abuse Shirou excluding the sadistic pleasure he took when training Shirou in Bajiquan, Gilgamesh had no tolerance for those who questioned his actions. After several rather savage physical beatings that left Shirou broken up on the floor, the boy seemed to have gotten the hint and restrained his curiosity in Gilgamesh's presence. Fortunately, Gilgamesh allowed Shirou the use of his miraculous collection of healing elixirs to restore his health but apparently Shirou now instinctively curbed his desire to ask questions. Kirei wondered how long it would last, knowing Shirou's innate inquisitiveness could not be suppressed indefinitely.
"This route is… are we going to the southern end where the western style houses are?" Shirou asked.
They had turned to the left after crossing the Fuyuki Bridge to Miyama. Shirou had indeed made an accurate conjecture, probably based on the fact that prominent magi tended to be rich.
"Yes," Kirei replied. "The Tohsaka residence is a large mansion in the upper-class neighborhood where foreigners settled some time ago. It seems to have received the reputation of a haunted house recently, probably because of the lack of occupants."
"A haunted house?" Shirou repeated. He knew about the existence of spirits of course—it was one of the fields of Kirei's expertise and hence part of Shirou's education about the supernatural elements of the world.
"No, it is not really haunted."
They approached the house. Shirou looked around curiously, admiring the different architecture. The church was quite beautiful, but it was not what a child envisioned as a home.
Kirei rang the doorbell.
"Coming!" came a voice from inside. The door was pulled open forcefully and it swung to the extent its hinges allowed, causing a loud thud.
"Are you going to break the house apart on your first day, Rin?" Kirei asked.
Rin scowled rather ungracefully. Kirei admired the expression, knowing that she did not show it to anyone apart from himself. She had been raised to be a stoic magus after all, and it was unbecoming of a magus of the Tohsaka line to openly express their emotions. She was also a perfectionist who prided herself in her princess-like demeanor. Despite that, Rin could not keep her composure in his presence, often making angry outbursts that had surprised her parents.
"Do not make such a face in front of a guest, Rin," Kirei said, pulling Shirou from behind him where the boy had been observing their interaction.
Rin's face went through a delightful range of expressions from shock to anger to impassiveness. Kirei silently clapped himself on the back for his ingenious idea to bring Shirou with him. It was, after all, a tremendous source of entertainment. He enjoyed seeing Rin so unsettled.
"Who is he?" Rin asked, a sharp edge in her voice. "Why did you bring someone else here?"
"I would never dream of bringing another person here without reason, Rin," Kirei said, ignoring her rudeness. "I simply want you to meet my apprentice, one who I picked up after the Holy Grail War a year ago."
Rin's querulous expression morphed abruptly into shock.
"Your apprentice? What are you talking about?"
Laughing silently in his mind while maintaining his stoic outward appearance, Kirei continued, "His name is Emiya Shirou. He is an orphan of the last war, and has been staying with me since then."
"Last war… you mean…"
"Yes, his parents died in the fire created at the end of the war."
Rin looked disconcerted with the sudden influx of new information but she quickly regained herself and looked suspiciously at Kirei.
"Why did you not tell me about him? You said apprentice—does that mean you taught a boy with no magus history magecraft when he cannot hope to succeed? And…"
"Ah, you assume wrongly, Rin. Firstly, your father never taught me the deepest secrets of the Tohsaka family, and I do not have any talent for your family's brand of magecraft, so I could not teach it. Secondly, I do not have the faintest idea how to begin teaching a child how to learn magecraft. Instead, I have been teaching him the ways of an Executor. He was baptized with the Purification Sacrament soon after he came here and is slowly becoming adept at Bajiquan."
"Another fake priest like you? How useless."
"Do you really have to be so rude when you haven't heard him say a word yet? Let me introduce you. Rin, this is Emiya Shirou, my apprentice." Kirei said as he turned to Shirou. "This rude girl here is Tohsaka Rin, my former Master's daughter."
"Nice to meet you, Tohsaka-san," Shirou said as he offered a hand for Rin to shake, but she just stared at him as if he were an alien.
"What are you doing, getting adopted by someone like him?" she shouted, glaring at Shirou.
"What?" Shirou was obviously flummoxed by the question and Rin's change in attitude. His hand dropped to his side limply and his forehead crinkled into a frown.
"Never mind," she said, making a sound of exasperation, before realizing that the three of them were still standing in the doorway. "Come in."
Kirei proceeded inside and Shirou followed him. They took a seat on the comfortable chairs in the living room.
"Well, whatever," Rin continued. "So, you're training to be an Executor, huh? Are you that devoted to the Holy Church and its doctrines?"
"No, not really," Shirou replied. "I'm going to be a hero of justice."
Rin adopted an incredulous expression before turning to Kirei. Kirei just looked back at her, indicating that Shirou was serious.
"Huh, you really are a kid. I'm surprised Kirei of all people adopted someone like you."
"You—!" Shirou stood from his seat.
Now this was a topic Kirei hoped to avoid. Shirou was well aware that it was not Kirei's idea to keep him. He was also aware that Kirei was not his legal guardian. It was essentially a kidnapping orchestrated by Gilgamesh, where Shirou played the part of abducted child who would be killed if he tried to run and Kirei played the servant who was forced to take care of the trapped child despite his lack of desire to do so. Neither of them could change their situation because of Gilgamesh's authority, so they just lived with it.
However, Shirou's protest in this case was not about their circumstances but about Rin's dismissal of his ambition. It would be better if he intervened before it escalated.
"I'm surprised that you are being so combative against someone you have just met, Rin," Kirei said, interrupting the rising tension. "Are you jealous? Did you want to be the sole bearer of my affections?"
"That's not—!" Rin paused, realizing that she was being baited. "KIREI!"
"How about you show me your progress in magecraft?" Kirei said, quickly switching tack. "You haven't been able to practice much at your grandparents', is that not so?"
"Humph! Okay, come to the workshop then." She glanced at Shirou, who was sitting patiently. "You can come too if you want. I won't be displaying anything secret to Kirei anyway and you can hardly be less trustworthy than him."
"Oh, inviting a boy to your room already? Aren't you a little young, Rin?" Kirei asked, the corner of his lips twitching as he observed Rin's rising blush and Shirou's bewilderment.
"Aren't you showing us to your workshop?"
Kirei and Shirou followed Rin to the basement, carrying a torch. Unlike the rest of the house, which was decorated in classic western fashion, the workshop was rather bare. While it had remained unchanged since the time of Tokiomi's death, with bookshelves and odd devices all over the place, a thin layer of dust had gathered in the past year.
Rin whispered something and swept her arm around her. A gentle breeze blew across the room, clearing away the gathered dust. With another wave, the candlesticks lit up, throwing shadows across the room. Kirei switched off his torch and watched Shirou's expression—it showed curiosity and a smidgen of envy. Yes, Shirou was well aware of his weakness as Gilgamesh demonstrated them often enough. He had no experience with conventional magecraft but a girl his age showing skills that he did not possess especially after she dismissed his grand dreams would definitely make him envious. It was so delicious that Kirei wanted to laugh.
"So what is it that you want, exactly? My father taught us both so you already know the extent of my abilities. There is no real reason for you to come to my workshop, especially bringing your apprentice along. If you wanted to talk about martial arts lessons or the estate, we could have done so upstairs. I'll say it again clearly—what do you want, Kirei?"
Sharp. Despite the fact that she was only eight-years-old, Tohsaka Rin possessed all the qualities of a genius. Kirei could not afford to beat around the bush in this case.
"You're right," Kirei replied. "I want you to forcefully open Shirou's Magic Circuits and create a switch."
"What?" Shirou and Rin exclaimed together.
Kirei smirked internally. He had purposely left Shirou unaware of the fact that he possessed Magic Circuits. Despite not being interested in magecraft, Gilgamesh had a vast knowledge of its workings. Magic Circuits were not in existence in his time but he could easily detect their presence if he looked for them. He was also extremely curious about anything to do with Shirou. He had told Kirei about it, as he had no way of awakening Shirou's Magic Circuits without experimentation that might destroy them.
Unfortunately, Kirei himself did not know the right procedure and he did not have the right equipment and drugs. He could not even tell the quantity and quality of Shirou's Magic Circuits, though he did not have great expectations of someone with probably no magus lineage or Thaumaturgical Crest. However, Gilgamesh wanted it done, and Kirei had seen the opportunity when Rin moved back to Fuyuki, as she could do what he could not, even as young as she was.
"Ah, it seems that I forgot to inform you about this, Shirou," Kirei said, calmly ignoring Shirou's outrage. "So can you do it, Rin?"
"Is he from a magus lineage?" Rin asked as she fidgeted on her feet. Perhaps Kirei was not that far wrong when he suggested that Rin was jealous after all.
"I do not know for sure as he does not possess memories from before the fire, but the fact that he was in Fuyuki City during the Grail War yet none of his parents were Masters as well as the lack of Thaumaturgical Crest leads me to believe that he is not from a magus family."
"O-okay," Rin stuttered. "I'll do it. Give me a second."
She turned to the shelves, searching for what she needed. Kirei looked at Shirou, who was staring at him with an odd expression.
"You… it was not you who found out that I had Magic Circuits, am I right?" Shirou said softly but authoritatively, making sure that Rin could not hear his words.
Despite the questioning end to his words, it was obvious that Shirou had already found the answer he was seeking. It was then that Kirei remembered that expression—it was the same one that Gilgamesh possessed when he had come to a conclusion. And it was the same arrogant manner of speaking. Kirei was struck once again with the realization that the two were extremely similar despite their opposing ideals. Perhaps Gilgamesh was having more of an influence than he thought regardless of their mutual antipathy.
"You are right," Kirei replied. "I saw the opportunity when Rin came back and took it. You do want to learn magecraft, is that not so?"
"I do," Shirou said. "Next time, please tell me beforehand instead of springing it on me in such a situation."
Rin came back as they finished their brief conversation with a can in her hand. She unscrewed the lid, revealing a number of small jewels in different colors.
"Here, take one," she told Shirou.
Shirou confusedly dipped his hand into the can and pulled out a red jewel. He stared it and then at Rin.
"Swallow it," Rin said.
Shirou's confusion increased and he glanced at Kirei before popping it into his mouth.
"It's not sweet… it has no taste actually… and this sensation… it's more like rock than candy," he said before swallowing it whole. "Ouch! That hurt my throat. What was it?"
"It was a jewel, of course. Couldn't you tell just by looking at it?"
Kirei wanted to laugh at the horrified expression Shirou was wearing.
"Why would you make me swallow a jewel?" he almost shouted. "How will I digest that? Am I going to die?"
"Eh, I could have prepared some medicine instead but it would be too time consuming. So I decided to use the strongest method I have to open the switch. I'll force Kirei to pay me back for that jewel anyway."
Kirei knew he should have expected something like this to happen. It seemed that Rin's sadistic streak had not dulled at all even after a year with her grandparents.
"Rin," he said, looking at her sternly.
"Alright, alright. What I gave you now was just an enforcement tool that will tell you everything about your Magic Circuits. It's not a normal jewel and it will start melting now. Be prepared."
"Be prepared for what?" Shirou asked nervously, apparently getting a grasp on Rin's true personality.
"It's going to be so painful that you might faint."
Abruptly Shirou faltered, and he steadied himself by placing his hand against the wall. His eyes were closed and he breathed deeply.
"Yes, maintain that connection and it will gradually get better," Rin said before adding a callous remark. "Well, in a week or two, I suppose."
"It seems he has Magic Circuits," Kirei said, watching Shirou's slouched posture.
"Eh, you weren't sure about that? If so I did something really dangerous, you know?"
Kirei stared at her, knowing that she would have used the extreme method on purpose anyway. She turned away to lecture Shirou.
"If you can bear the pain, try and grasp some understanding of your Magic Circuits. You're an amateur, but you definitely have them. Once they have been opened, all you need is to force them closed by toggling the switch. After that you will be able to freely activate and deactivate your Magic Circuits even without the jewel."
"Switch?" Shirou said hazily. He seemed to be following Rin's instructions if the concentration on his face was any indicator.
"Amazing, you can speak already?" Rin asked. She really did look amazed. "Then you must be good at controlling yourself. The switch will automatically turn off when you gain an understanding of your Magic Circuits and your body calms down. You will eventually get a clear image of it in your head."
"I see… thank you, Rin-san."
"D-don't address me so informally!" Rin exploded while a deep blush covered her face.
"Ah, I'm sorry. Thanks for everything, Tohsaka-san."
"It's fine!" she replied, turning away with her arms folded. "I'm just helping you because Kirei asked me to! It has nothing to do with you at all!"
In spite of her words, Kirei could see that she was very pleased by Shirou's words—who knew that even Rin could make such an expression? And it seemed that Shirou could see it as well, judging by his low chuckle.
"What is it?" Rin asked embarrassedly. "Why are you laughing while staring at my face?"
Shirou chuckled again before speaking. "It's nothing important. I just thought that the embarrassed Tohsaka-san was cute."
"E-embarrassed! Who's embarrassed?" Rin picked up an old rag from a rack next to her and vigorously thrust it into Shirou's mouth. "Bite on that if you're in so much pain that you are getting delusions!"
"Guh!" Shirou tried to remove the gag but Rin was holding his jaw shut.
"It seems that the two of you get along well," Kirei said, interrupting their one-sided altercation. He did not show his feelings on his face but he could not help but feel amused at the entertainment the two children were providing.
"Shut up, Kirei!" Rin responded, her hands quickly moving away from Shirou's face. "Anyway, he's got talent. Even if he doesn't show aptitude in magecraft, he should attempt to go to the Clock Tower. There will definitely be something he can do that you could not teach him."
Shirou pulled the rag from his mouth and threw it to the floor.
"I'll never join the Mage's Association," he said. "I cannot agree with their policies."
"What's wrong with their policies?" Rin asked. She was clearly angered at Shirou's apparent dislike of the Clock Tower, which she considered the pinnacle of magical organizations.
"They don't care what happens to any bystanders in a magical ritual as long as the existence of magecraft is not compromised. That's why the casualties of the Holy Grail War could happen. I would never join an organization that allowed that."
"The Church is not much better," Rin said, apparently annoyed at his hypocrisy.
"I told you—I don't want to be an Executor. I'm going to become a hero of justice!"
"You're still on about that?" Rin asked as she turned away. "Humph. Well, it's not like someone without a Thaumaturgical Crest could become a good magus anyway. Unless you have a child with someone like me who has a Thaumaturgical Crest from a long lineage, your descendants would gain almost nothing from your studies and efforts."
There was a silence as Kirei critically analyzed Rin's last sentence.
"Rin…" he began.
"No! I didn't mean it like that! Why would I ma-marry someone like him?" Rin stammered loudly.
"You have to be married to have a child? How do I have a child with you anyway?" Shirou asked innocently.
"It seems that there is a talk I have neglected to have with you, Shirou. Please reserve some time this evening and come to my room. I will procure the required material by then."
"Required material?" Shirou asked.
"It is best explained with diagrams. Also, I have never taught something like this before, you see. I will need some form of reference."
"Don't ask! Don't ask!" Rin screamed at Shirou in a high-pitched voice. "And you, Kirei! How does he not know this? You adopted him right? This is your role!"
"Know what?" Shirou questioned, bewildered by the perplexing conversation that he could not make head or tail of.
"That's it! Kirei, just get out of here! And Emiya-kun, make sure you are not corrupted by that fake priest!"
With that, Rin turned on her heel and practically ran out of the basement.
"Why was she so red?" Shirou asked as her silhouette disappeared up the stairs.
Kirei just laughed joyfully.