Chapter 1: An Altered Fate
September 2010, Homurahara High School
Taiga Fujimura was many things: she was a teacher of English composition and could be counted on to arrive late to her class each morning. She was a woman in her mid-twenties but insisted (and acted) that she was younger than that. She was a feminine and outgoing person and hated being considered otherwise. She was the granddaughter of a yakuza lord and never had to worry about traveling alone at night. She was a champion at kendo and wielded her lucky kendo blade, Torashinai, which for some reason scared everyone whenever she carried it, even going so far as to call it "cursed." She had many nicknames such as "human jet coaster," "yakuza princess," and her most infamous and unfeminine one, "tiger."
Taiga was all of these things, but she was also an observant older sister even when she didn't act like it. So, while she was rinsing herself in the ladies' restroom at her school during a quiet September morning, she thought long about what she had noticed.
She had been close with her student, Shirou Emiya, for nearly a decade…
-Not that way though! More like siblings!
Anyway, since she knew him for so long, she could read a good number of Shirou's social cues and ticks. She could tell when he was angry, when he was happy, but most of all, when he was sad.
The first two were easy to read. He always had a short temper and used to get into fights with bullies when he was younger. He also tended to have a big smile on his face whenever he finished a hard maintenance job, or when he was thanked for doing said job.
As for his sadness, that was far more obscure, and she almost missed it at times, but after a while she began to detect a pattern. It started roughly five years ago; around the time his adoptive father, Kiritsugu Emiya, died.
Her grandfather personally knew Kiritsugu, though he never stated the specifics of their meeting or friendship. She was fond of the older man though, more like a crush and had often come over to see him while she was still in high school. He in turn allowed her to visit, eat with them, and basically be the sister figure/baby sitter for Shirou whenever he left on his world travels. She was more engrossed in spending time with Kiritsugu at the time, but she recalled that while growing up, Shirou was an excitable and carefree child that had a thing for sports like kendo and archery. He never did win a match against her, but it was all in good fun for both of them.
Then Kiritsugu died. It wasn't a car crash or gunshot or old age, it just sort of happened without explanation. He passed away while sitting on his porch one night with a melancholy smile. The only people that knew about it were her grandfather's yakuza branch and, of course, Shirou. He was never quite the same after that night.
He refused to stay after school for things other than 'helping out.' He would work hours at part time jobs just to make ends meet. As long as she and her grandfather had anything to say about that, there was no need for Shirou to work at his age just to cover his living expenses, but the boy wouldn't ease up no matter how many times they told him. Even when he had free time, Shirou would spend hours at end in his shed fixing old appliances, only coming out for school or to cook meals.
He had a small handful of friends, but even then he didn't go out and see them outside of school and work. He would even let himself be strung along by his friends Issei and Shinji unconditionally to take up random maintenance chores. Students his age should be partying with other guys, trying to date girls and finding more ways to enjoy themselves, not tinkering with tools and odd jobs day in and day out!
The worst part from Taiga's perspective was that Shirou himself didn't seem aware of any of this. He would just distract himself with his work, his studies, or by fixing things. Whenever he did come into the house for food, he would pass something like a photo of Kiritsugu or the spot on the porch they both sat before he died. Every time he would pause and frown, if only briefly, and then resume what he was doing as if nothing had happened.
He was still coping with the loss of his father. Or rather, now that she thought about it, the loss of his family.
It never occurred to Taiga before how much Shirou must have been hurting until now. He was saved and adopted by his step-father, and the two were as close as any father and son of real blood. But now Shirou was alone again, experiencing the loss of family twice, even if he couldn't remember his biological parents.
Taiga and Shirou's junior high school friend, Sakura Matou, came by every day, at least for breakfast and dinner, and helped with the household chores like they lived there, but at the end of the day only Shirou slept there. They were all close, sort of like siblings, but it wasn't the same.
Okay, so she just sat and watched as Sakura and Shirou did the cleaning and ate their food because it was delicious and free, but that was beside the point!
Shirou needed familial connections, legit ones. Like a mother or another father, or even a younger sibling to take care of. The only problem was that both of his birth parents died when Shinto burned down and he had no recollection of who he was prior. It was Kiritsugu who gave him the name Shirou Emiya and he had embraced it. If he had any still living relatives, they wouldn't know if he was alive at all.
Still… there had to be someone out there that knew his birth parents, maybe even Kiritsugu, out there, right? The trick would be to find them.
Before he died, Kiritsugu entrusted her to watch over his son. She'd be damned before she failed to live up that promise in any way she could.
"Leave it to me, Kiritsugu," she smiled to the mirror. "Shirou'll be happy again before you know it!"
It was at that time the morning bell to class rang throughout the building. The calm before the storm…
To anyone in the hallway at that time, they would see a frantic brown-haired teacher with a tiger striped shirt under a light green dress bolt out of the restroom and kick up dust in a mad beeline dash to her classroom. Her speed was said to rival a bullet train that day.
"So this is where you've been hiding."
"More like lodging. You'd be surprised how spacious and homey this 'Grail' thing is."
"This is not what we agreed upon."
"As usual, I can't take all the blame: I act on the wishes of mankind, after all. A little over a decade ago, this thing happened to be stirring and made a wish to bring together all the evils in the world. It was subtle at first, but as the days went on, it would grow exponentially stronger and louder, as if begging to be realized. So I thought, 'what else could I do but answer that request?' And… here we are. While the wish interfered with my banishment, it didn't outright violate it either… though to be honest, I didn't struggle a whole lot out of it."
"And yet you caused the fire ten years ago."
"Guilty as charged, but again, I was merely working on one of mankind's truest wishes. I AM the Holy Grail now, for all intents and purposes. Or rather, I'm Holy Grail number 726, but you get the idea. I'm to create an all-powerful wish to one of seven magi. Of course, why just settle with one wish when I can grant ALL of them? Free of charge, no less!"
"…It appears our war game is once again in motion, then."
"You could say that, but we're playing by a new set of rules now, one set by the humans no less! I'm sure Servants could count as Persona as well for our purposes, just more human than a projection of the human heart."
"Which reminds me: that boy there, one of your contestants for your next war... I wish to borrow him."
"…That one? Eh, feel free. Perhaps having your gift bag thrown in will make this war more interesting."
"You misunderstand: he is needed elsewhere, and I want you to postpone your war game until after his business there is complete."
"Asking for favors, eh? What's so important about him, anyway? Any other kid should do just fine, especially a mute one."
"There is another game brewing in a small rural town. This one is not unlike Tatsumi Port Island a few years prior. This boy has a personal connection to that town even if he doesn't know it yet."
"Sounds more like you're stealing and condemning the brat like that last one who fought Nyx. Afraid I can't allow that: the boy already has a death sentence here, and having him killed over there would be no fun. Neither is acting like a living seal for all eternity."
"What if I can assure you he'll not only survive, but be able to partake in your game afterwards at a higher level? What if I can prove that his potential can exceed that of what is thought impossible, even amongst magi?"
"Ooooh? Another wager, is it? Name your terms, then."
"The boy is to be escorted to Yasoinaba for one full school year, up to the spring of 2012. His power, growth, and decisions will be overseen by the gods of fog, where they may or may not serve as the crucial factor to Inaba's fate. Should he succeed, he will be more than certified as a contestant in your war and return to Fuyuki."
"Interesting… And if he fails?"
"The turning point of his arrival would be removed, and he would continue life unaware of his previous actions. In turn, you would still have your contestant and be free to act on this war regardless of his success or failure."
"…heheheheh. Hehehehehehe! Hahahahaha! HOOHAHAHAHAHA! You certainly know how to make things interesting! Very well, I accept your terms."
A/N: Happy belated New Year! I suppose readers are surprised I came up with another story, but I have high hopes for this one too. See, this story actually came to be in the planning forum of Spacebattles (as some of the other stories not in fanfiction are made, as it turns out). I once thought of this plot bunny on a whim, not expecting to do this, but when a whole bunch of other forum readers showed interest, I thought that yeah, this could work. So I spend last year's NaNoWriMo writing up a good chunk of it and fellow co-worker/beta reader Nameless Flame Wielder clean up the errors. Thanks again, man.
Nothing much to say here other than things will be very different for Shirou very soon.