Chapter 2: Butterfly effect
December 2nd 2010, Warehouse
"…and that crosses out the Sakatori family, too." Taiga frowned before setting aside another folder on a pile to her left. While a moderately tall stack, it paled in comparison to the box full of files to her right that she reached into, and she pulled out another one to skim through. It was one of a thousand such boxes cluttered all throughout the building.
"Taiga," one of her grandfather's men called from his own pile across the room. "Maybe we should take a break?"
He and three others were rummaging through all past records of Shinto up to the fire, from the family records to the hotels to the citizen identifications. One of the pros of having connections with the yakuza was that there were no limits on how to get information. However, unlike the yakuza princess, they weren't as skilled at speed-reading as she was. They were hired by her grandfather for their muscle, intimidating looks and to have more gun hands. All four of them would rather face a gang war than be forced to read any day.
Taiga leveled a fierce scowl at them and they all winced. "You already had your break five minutes ago! Keep looking!"
"But it's impossible!" another whined. "We'll never find anything on Shirou's family!"
"So you just want to give up on finding who his parents are and maybe figuring out if he has living relatives at all?!"
"Of course not! Shirou's like family to us too! Isn't that enough?"
Taiga sighed. "I wish it was…"
"It's been months since we've started, though," one of the thugs reasoned. "It'll take years to go through all the people that died in that fire and who they were related to, and even then we might not find anything. Some records could have been burned away too."
Taiga considered this fact bitterly. The fire ten years ago still left its mark in the new central park. No one went near it because the atmosphere around it was just suffocating, like it was still haunted by the event. Central Shinto was gutted, and the fire took hundreds of lives. That Shirou survived in the middle of it all was nothing short of a miracle, really. Kiritsugu used to imply that much as well.
"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it!" she huffed while paging through another file, hoping to find something about a son or a picture that looked like Shirou. No such luck.
"All I'm saying is that we might not-"
"We will find something!" she snapped. "Uncle, grandpa, twice removed cousin, evil twin, WHATEVER! He's just got to have more family members than his deceased parents, everyone does! And the sooner we find something on Shirou's past, the sooner we can solve that mystery!"
The men wisely kept quiet as they continued their search, moving all the piles of folders and documents to one side of the room as they continued going through the rest. The process continued as it had the previous times: the men would leave first, being mentally unenthusiastic and drained from the thirty or so files they each dug through, while Taiga would stay behind and try to read one file after another hoping something would come up. They would also tell her not to make a mess of the place, but she ignored them.
Eventually, even the Tiger of Fuyuki's seemingly unbreakable spirit faltered from the constant failure. No matter how many files she poured through, not so much as a single clue that didn't end in the words 'confirmed deceased.' "Argggh!" with a frustrated growl, she tossed aside her 139th file into the air, disregarding the scattering sheets of paper falling out around her. She fell down to the floor on her back, starring at the ceiling lights listlessly.
A part of her wanted to give up and cut her losses, maybe even admit that this was a waste of time. She was starting to slip behind in grading her students, losing hours of sleep and even Shirou, bless his dense soul, was beginning to suspect she was doing something haphazard to her health. But another part, which kept her going through the last few months since her decision, wanted nothing more than to make Shirou happy again and not end up some emotionless robot.
"Oh, God," she sighed, raising her hands up in questioning. She wanted something, anything,to prove Shirou really wasn't alone in the world. "Give me a sign…"
"Do you search for truth?"
Taiga snapped back up, looking around to where the voice came from. "Eh?"
"Then you must reach for it."
Fully alert, Taiga stood up and looked for where the voice had come from. It didn't sound like any of her grandfather's regular flunkies, and she assumed everyone else had gone home already. Her eyes caught sight of a sparkling blue light dancing in a corner of the warehouse. Curious, she slowly walked towards it, stepping over and around any boxes and containers of still untouched material as if in a trance. The light danced further away like a fish lure, tempting the young woman to venture further into the building.
Taiga continued to stare as she finally got close to the light. It was a glowing blue and white butterfly, no bigger than any other of its kind, yet the way it flew was slow and deliberate… almost majestic actually. It was as if the blue butterfly was leading her to what she was looking for.
When she started her search, Taiga's plan was to scan through the files in the front of the warehouse and work her way deeper into the warehouse. So far only a fraction of it was done, and it was simply overwhelming to continue forward for everyone involved. The chance of anyone finding anything on Shirou's past within the back was just as likely as it was in the front. It was for that reason Raiga suggested a slow and steady approach despite his granddaughter's eagerness.
And here she was, following some blue butterfly through a warehouse as if expecting an answer. Just as she was questioning the ridiculousness of it all, the butterfly landed on a specific folder sticking slightly outward in the middle of a particularly towering stack. She paused and waited to see if the butterfly would move, but it stayed there for three whole minutes, lightly fanning its wings. Taiga edged closer, wary of scaring it off after it took her this far. She now stood in front of the stack, reaching for the butterfly tentatively.
It fluttered off just before her fingers brushed its shining wings, somehow faster than she thought possible. Following its path, she saw the butterfly fly straight towards the moon peeking through the window above and seemingly disappear from her sight like a mirage. Taiga craned her head all about, but couldn't make out where the blue butterfly could have gone.
Deciding that it was long gone, she turned back to where it had landed prior. It seemed too strange, led by some blue bug to a specific spot in the warehouse, to a specific folder among all the other piles. Not to mention that weird voice. What was that again about 'truth?' There were too many coincidences and not enough convenient explanations.
'Then again, I did ask for a sign,' she mentally chuckled. At this point, Taiga Fujimura would take anything she could get.
Shrugging to herself, Taiga took a chance and almost hesitantly, she plucked out the file… just before realizing she caused a tower of information to topple onto her. She briefly glanced up to said teetering tower and comically screamed.
A wave of paper sheets, boxes, and folders swallowed her whole. The tower continued to fall even beyond where she stood, papers spreading out thin and wide on the floor while boxes floated on top them like small boats. A few moments passed, and the energetic woman flailed her way out from under the pile with a strangled gasp. Luckily she didn't lose or drop the folder she pulled out, or she might never have found it again from the mess she had just made.
"Stupid butterfly!" she yelled. "Had to get me to pick some random folder out of everything else?!" Annoyed, she slapped the flap open and skimmed through the pages. "I bet this doesn't have anything either, just ano…ther…"
She stopped mid-rant, features morphing from rage to shock. In disbelief, she flipped through the contents more deftly and thoroughly. Against all odds, it was right here in her hand.
She had found it.
Proof of Shirou's birth family.
December 20th, 2010
The following few weeks since that fateful night were nearly a blur to Taiga, but she was so engrossed in her search that she barely noticed.
The file she found was on the Narukami family. Seta and Miya Narukami were hard-working graduates in business and finance, known for traveling abroad constantly to different branches of their company: Harwey Enterprises, a family owned and run corporation with a lot of power in the western half of Europe, and a heavy taste for the medieval lore of knights and chivalry. Their job at the time was to try and help expand the Shinto district. They had brought their son along to live with them after the project was complete.
A fat lot of good that did them; they were among the five hundred or so people killed when the fire broke out a decade ago.
She would have discredited the folder as just another dead end if it weren't for a family photo that she was staring at. Three people gazed back at her: Seta, Miya and their son. The father was tall and dressed in a light gray suit, topped with light red hair and thin-framed glasses. His wife wore business clothes as well, but also had a coat over her shoulders offered by her husband behind her. Held lovingly in her arms and sitting on her lap was a little bundle of joy. The little boy was wearing a green jacket and jeans, had bright brown eyes and topped with bright red hair of a familiar shade.
She had found the late family of Shirou Emiya. And they had never looked so happy. It both relieved and depressed Taiga beyond measure, but she still had work to do.
After finding the family name, it was a simple matter of looking into connections or relatives of either parent. She tried phoning Harwey Enterprises first about the couple, but it turned out to be a long dull process of playing phone tag with the various offices and automated operators. When she had finally gone over all their hurdles and redirected calls, all they said was: "We're sorry, but the person or persons you are trying to call is not registered in our databanks. If you wish to try again, press 1."
So much for chivalry. The whole process was enough to make Taiga want to pull her hair out. She slammed the phone and went to Plan B.
Luckily, the folder also included a copy of Shirou's birth certificate under the name of Yu Narukami. Records said he was missing and presumed dead along with his parents, but Kiritsugu had saved a boy with no memory of his past life. Because of the certificate, she was able to get Miya's maiden name: Dojima.
Using her connections with the yakuza (which was mostly her begging to her grandfather like any toddler would) she started an underground search for anything on the Narukami and Dojima families (She would have tried for Emiya as well, but her grandfather had assured her that Kiritsugu had no living relatives). After that it was just the waiting game and going on with daily life pretending like nothing was happening. On the outside, she was still the overly energetic teacher people loved to tease but feared to anger. On the inside, she was constantly forcing herself to be distracted else she check up on the others and hear them say various grunts and refusals all meaning "No."
She was starting to understand Shirou's habit of staying busy. Any time she was simply waiting with nothing to do was driving her insane!
But again, between the seemingly endless hours of worry and anxiety, it was hard to keep her real feelings in check. At least she was starting to go to sleep on time… minus the tossing and turning.
Just as she was starting to assume the worst, Raiga called her over and shared what his men had found. It took Taiga five minutes before she pulled herself away from hugging her grandfather, and another five before she finally managed to stop crying. She couldn't help but laugh a bit with her grandfather from the irony of their search once it set in, though.
Seriously, it's usually the cops finding a yakuza, not the other way around!
The next few days were just planning now: planning what to say to Shirou, to Ryotaro Dojima, and how to arrange for their meeting. She wasn't exactly sure how Shirou would react to this; there was an equal chance of it being good or bad.
Dinner was becoming increasingly tense for all parties present. Shirou wasn't one to initiate conversation at dinner most nights, and Sakura was a shy person by nature. Taiga was usually the one bringing the discussion and energy to the table during their shared meals, but now she always looked deep in thought and increasingly frustrated. It was becoming apparent to both students that Taiga was hiding something and they were starting to feel uneasy. Taiga being quiet and contemplative was not normal.
It all came to a head one breakfast at the Emiya household. "Uh, Fuji-nee?" Shirou started a touch nervously. "Are you alright?"
"Never better," Taiga quickly blurted out, taking a few bites of the food in front of her. The lobster was well cooked and presented, served with a side of fried rice and miso soup. Most would never see such an extravagant meal outside of an expensive, fancy restaurant, but here it was just another handmade dish by her little brother figure. "Delicious as always, Shirou."
Both students glanced at each other. Taiga usually could tell who cooked just by taste. "Actually, Fujimura-sensei," the purple haired girl murmured shyly, "I made dinner."
Taiga blinked. "Oh! I'm impressed, Sakura. You've come a long way." The English teacher could still remember when the Matou girl made daily visits to the house a year and a half ago. She came by originally to help around the house cook while Shirou recovered from a shoulder injury. Sakura had become a regular part of the "family" ever since.
Between cooking, cleaning and laundry, Sakura would make a great housewife one day. She obviously had her eye on Shirou, and the attraction seemed to be mutual at least to an extent. Taiga would even catch the boy looking away from the plum-haired maiden suddenly from time, probably embarrassed by her beauty a few times before. It made plenty of sense: on top of physically blossoming into gorgeous young woman, Sakura had started smiling more and opening up over the time she had started regularly visiting. Taiga said nothing though. The two of them were either too shy or too humble to really pursue a relationship. Frankly, what Shirou needed in his life most was storge, not eros.
"Fuji-nee," Shirou tried again, "you said those exact words the other day too. And you're eating faster than you usually do."
"It's just that good!" Taiga reasoned. She loved meal time at the Emiya household, since it was delicious and free. But she was still trying to figure out how to best explain her findings. She wanted to do it when they were alone, but he's always at work, school, or cooking with Sakura. Kiritsugu was still a sensitive topic after all, and bringing it up at the dining table would kill the mood on the spot.
"Fujimura-sensei, please," Sakura reasoned. "We just want to help."
"I told you I'm fine!"
Taiga glared; this was getting ridiculous. "Don't make me get my shinai out again!" If people feared her practice sword for whatever reason, she might as well exploit it whenever she could. Both students flinched at the threat, especially Shirou. The two of them exchanged nervous glances and almost relented to her demand.
But Taiga had been wrestling with her conscience ever since she had started the search. By now she was dangerously close to the breaking point. Shirou's innocent probing and his now slightly hurt expression just happened to push her over the edge.
"GAAAAAAAAAH!" she suddenly screamed and threw her hands up, further worrying her students. They wondered if it really was better not to have asked!
And then, like a deflating balloon, Taiga seemed to collapse, slumping over the table. "I give up! I can't hold it in any longer! I keep trying and trying to put it off, thinking of what to say, but damn it it's hard!" Taiga then looked square at Shirou with an intensity in her expression she rarely showed. "That's it! I'm just gonna say it now!"
She stood up from the table, pointing at the red-haired teen. "Listen Shirou, what I'm going to say tonight is very important, and I worked my ass off just to find this information! I understand you have a lot of questions as I get into this, but you are to remain silent until your teacher finishes her lecture! Is that understood!?"
Shirou just sat and stared at her, unsure what to think. All he could manage was the obvious question. "What are you talking about?"
Taiga took a soft, calming breath and then smiled slightly. "Let's just say I found you an early Christmas present." She then reached into her dress pocket and pulled out a photo, the one she found in the folder weeks ago. "I found your family!"
A/N: Things are picking up, but it's still going to be quite a few chapters that go into the already long prologue of the original game. For now, it's just the cause and effect that will lead Shirou to Inaba... if he even wants to go that is.
Technically Shirou and Yu/Souji/P4 Protagonist are easily distinguishable by the color of their hair, but when you get right down to it, they're very much alike. Affinity to swords and cooking, natural helper to those around them, attracts women like a magnet, starts out weak before growing very competent, ect. Not to mention that Yu was actually a composite 'make-it-yourself' character that only grew in popularity of having his own voice through spinoffs of the game. The Manga played his name off of a rather polite Rurouni Kenshin villain (Soujiro Seta, anyone?), the anime named him Yu, and the fighting game ran with it, all giving him a deadpan snarky brand of humor. And funny enough, Shirou's a bit like that as well. He's just polite about it and makes remarks in his head.
We could just say that Shirou is an alternate Yu whose mother married a different father, to settle with the hair distinction. For those wondering of the small bits around, like the blue butterfly and the name Harwey, well, the former is kind of symbolic to the Persona half of the series. As for the company name, that won't come up for a while, but thought it worked best into getting the business-like-traveling-abroad Narukami's some sort of connection. Might be important later.