Sword of Origin: Zero
The Sword opened his eyes. The fact that he was able to brought a thought to mind. Strange. The nuclear strike should have ended him. How am I still alive?
After a brief moment of thought, he shook his head. Irrelevant. He was alive, despite all expectations otherwise. It seems that He still has plans for me yet.
With the matter of his continued existence cleared up for the time being, he decided to examine his surroundings.
Smoke shrouded his immediate surroundings, enough to prevent an ordinary person from seeing anything.
But the Sword was far from ordinary.
His eyes flashed gold for an instant. In that instant, the Sword was able to see through the smoke and take in everything around him.
He was standing upon a field of grass stretching for miles around. In the distance, a castle could be seen.
It was a scenery that the Sword had not encountered for a long, long time. One of peace, an atmosphere magnified by the clear blue sky above and the warm sunlight. A setting completely contrary to the chaotic events prior to his arrival in this unknown place. Different.
And also different was the fact that he wasn't alone.
-Children. Or rather, teenagers, but to one with an existence as extended as his, the distinction between the two wasn't much.
A crowd of children surrounded him, accompanied by a man standing at the back of them. They were oddly dressed, wearing clothing similar to wizards and witches in fantasy novels and games. A cloak held by a brass pentagram thrown over their clothes, a dress shirt and pants for the boys, a dress shirt and skirt for the girls. Wands kept in their hands. The only part of the outfit missing was a large pointed hat.
Unlike the Sword, they couldn't see through the smoke, and so were looking around in confusion. A majority of them, at least.
He noted a few that reacted differently from the crowd. A voluptuous girl with crimson hair and darker skin stood nearby with a red salamander, staring expectantly in the center of the smoke.
Another, a shorter girl with blue-green hair standing beside a similarly colored dragon, carried an apathetic expression. In the midst of the confused crowd, she maintained a calm demeanor, casually reading from a thick tome.
Yet another was a blond male with an arrogant air. Completely ignoring the reactions of everyone else, he was focused on chatting with a few girls next to him, all while gesturing towards a mole that he was holding in his arms.
The last person of note was a girl with blonde hair tinted pink, the closest of the crowd to him. Her eyes were the color of garnet and amber, though the dim expression she held betrayed their brilliance.
The Sword frowned after he finished examining the crowd.
This... where am I?
He had been facing the descent of a nuclear war head. And in doing so, he knew that it was his end.
A flash of white light had filled his field of view, followed by the sensation of overwhelming energy unleashed by the bomb corroding his body. All signs that he had been fated to vanish along with his immediate surroundings in the aftermath of the weapon of mass destruction.
But instead, he was in this area, one the antithesis of nuclear fallout, and surrounded by children who should be nowhere near the area he had faced his demise.
The smoke cleared, and in doing so, his presence was revealed to the crowd. Countless chattering and a din from the overlapping voices filled the air. Much of it was meaningless, but the Sword heard a few phrases repeated in the conversations. A person's name, Louise, and a spell's name, Summon Servant.
With those, the Sword understood. Ah... so that's how it is.
He was summoned. That was the only explanation for how he was still existing. Whether through chance or fate, he had been called through the void after his end.
Then this foreign presence in my system... yes. That must be it. The bond between a Servant and a Master. Between him and his summoner.
Now that he realized the bond's existence, it took him no time at all to trace it to the other end, to his Master.
The Sword shifted his gaze towards the girl nearby, the one with blonde hair tinted pink.
Upon seeing his gaze, the girl frowned, a slight expression but one that the Sword could sense held depths of emotion deeper than simple disappointment.
She turned around and said, "Mr. Colbert!"
At her call, the crowd parted for the man that the Sword had seen earlier.
-Harmless. He appeared nothing more than a balding and middle-aged man, one with a kind expression and scholarly demeanor.
Like the children, he too wore a cloak over his clothes. Unlike them, he carried no wand, but rather a large wooden staff that appeared to be more of a battle mace than a simple magical tool.
He strode towards the Sword with a warm smile on his face, but that was merely a facade, one easily seen through by the Sword.
The man was far from harmless. The wooden staff he carried bore marks of wear and tear, the like gained only from clashing with steel. His right hand, the one holding his staff, though slight, was callused in the way it would be from swinging that staff.
That in and of itself was telling. But what was more telling was the fact that he didn't possess any visible scars or wounds hindering his movement despite the fact that his staff had seen countless battles.
Either the man was an excellent fighter, or he was a lucky retiree who had survived through serendipity.
The Sword's eyes flashed gold and he understood which the man was.
-Fire. The man held an alignment towards it and possessed enough skill in its use to harm, perhaps even kill a weak Servant. A warrior that was every bit as skilled as the Enforcers that the Sword had faced in his battles against the Clock Tower.
A threat, but not one that could endanger his life.
The man noticed the Sword's gaze, for a fraction of a second meeting it with a surveying one of his own, but then turned his attention to the girl who had called out.
"What is it, Ms. Valliere?"
Matching his facade, the voice of the man was that of an educated gentleman. Though tinged with annoyance, it was that of a teacher facing a student rather than hostility.
The girl must have heard that annoyance, but even so she said, "Please! Allow me another try at summoning my familiar!"
Hearing those words, the Sword frowned. With the bond in place, he could tell that the girl was his Master. And upon the lack of a catalyst nearby, it meant that she had managed to summon him due to their compatibility.
It meant that she was worthy of his protection, a status that countless others would have killed for, had killed for.
...But even so, she seemed disappointed.
He resisted the urge to let out a weary sigh. Even now, those I am to protect do not wish for it.
"I'm afraid not," Mr. Colbert said. "As I said at the start, you must summon a familar upon your graduation to second year. This is both a test to determine your elemental specialty and a sacred rite of passage every student goes through to progress in their magical studies."
The girl looked crest-fallen, likely realizing that it was impossible to persuade Mr. Colbert. Still, she said, "But he's a commoner! Maybe one good at fighting from his armor, but he's just a commoner! Please, just allow me one more try, Mr. Colbert! I promise, this time I'll succeed!"
Upon hearing the exchange between his Master and that Mr. Colbert, the Sword revised his analysis of the situation.
The girl was his Master. There was no mistake about that. And yet, it seemed that he was summoned not to fight in a Holy Grail War, like that Emiya Shirou had participated in, but rather... to determine his Master's magical Origin and Alignment.
If any of the Clock Tower magi heard that, the Sword was sure they would have been irritated beyond belief, as well as fearful.
The reason for that was simple. If his Master had managed to summon him as a test for their Origin and Aligmment, it meant that she should possess a power rivaling the Creator. How interesting.
Oblivious of the Sword's musings, Mr. Colbert sighed. "I am truly sorry, Ms. Valliere. Had this been like your previous failed attempts, I would have allowed it. But as you see, though possessing a... unique outcome, the ritual has succeeded."
The girl slumped upon hearing that and said, "I understand, Mr. Colbert." She then turned towards the Sword.
For a brief moment, he caught of glimpse of utter defeat on her face, the sight of one whose last ray of hope had been shattered, but it was swiftly replaced by a haughty expression. When it was, the girl said, "Kneel."
The Sword remained standing, quietly contemplating the girl before him. The one who was now his Master. Her expression and that shift... He had seen it before. A defense mechanism, one adopted by those with nobody to rely on. A means to guard one's heart as they faced the world alone.
His Master didn't take kindly to being ignored. She narrowed her eyes and pointed her wand at him. "Didn't you hear me, familiar?! I said kneel!"
A forceful command, one that would seem domineering on the outset. That would have incited irritation in any other person that had been summoned, if not outright rebellion.
But the Sword had no such thoughts in his mind. That was because, beneath the harsh words and tone, even though it was well hidden, he could feel the fragile heart the words tried to protect.
The interaction between the Sword and his Master wasn't ignored. After all, they were doing so before a crowd of children- no, a crowd of teenagers. Those in the time of life where they would push someone down to raise their own self up.
One of them called out. An average boy with shaggy brown hair and matching eyes. "Ha! Looks like Louise didn't just summon a commoner, she summoned an idiot!"
"Right! I knew it was a fluke! There's no way Louise the Zero could have succeeded in a spell!"
"You should just give up on magic and go be a maid, Zero!"
Jeers, insults, taunts. Countless voices joined in after the first, lambasting the girl before the Sword.
From them, he learned the name of the girl who had summoned him. Louise. The name of his Master, and the name of the one he would now protect.
-She was facing him. It was only because she was doing so, with her back to the crowd, that Louise could bear it. Because they could not see her face, the truth she was desperately trying to restrain with a haughty expression, she was able to remain strong.
A skilled deception and mask, but one crumbling with every word from the crowd.
Unshed tears shimmered in the corners of her eyes. Her lips quivered despite her attempts to keep them in a firm line. And her right arm, still holding her wand and raised at him, trembled ever so slightly.
Seeing it all, the Sword realized who his Master was.
A girl who put on a brave face, but who held a heart as fragile as glass. One who buried her fear with false bravado so that she doesn't break beneath the weight of the world. A young girl with no one by her side, who had never succeeded and placed all her hopes in this final attempt so as to belay the taunts, the jeers, the insults.
A weak, feeble girl who wished for a miracle in this ritual, knew she might not succeed but even so prayed for a way to escape that nightmare called her life...
For a brief moment, the Sword considered what his Master must have gone through to become the girl before him, one who tried and failed to guard her frail heart with a steely visage.
In the next, he decided it didn't matter.
The Sword didn't move, and yet, in an instant, the insults and jeers from the students behind his Master stopped.
The reason was the thousands of swords appearing in the air behind him, each pointed at a student in the crowd and carrying murderous intent.
Seeing that the crowd had gone silent, the Sword stepped forward and knelt on the ground before his master, a calm smile on his face. He raised his right hand and gave her a gentle pat on the head, as he used to do for Ilya and the children of the ones Emiya Shirou had given his life to save.
Louise stared at the person she had summoned.
A young man with silver hair. He was tall, enough that when he stood, she was only up to the middle of his chest. It was, in part, why she had ordered him to kneel.
His body was well-toned, and protected by form fitting silver armor. That, coupled with a white cloak around his arms and legs were what made Louise think he was a commoner. Though they were of fine make, the lack of a wand or other magical instrument made her believe that she had summoned an ordinary mercenary. A commoner.
-But he was far from a simple commoner.
Louise turned her attention to the countless blades floating in the air behind him. Thousands of swords, all unique in form and shape. It was still within the realm of belief counting the number alone, but for each blade to be different in appearance and yet be formed with a single thought...
A square-class mage could replicate the quantity, but even one capable of producing gold would be hardpressed to duplicate the feat of the one standing before her.
A Noble. There were no doubts about it. Louise had summoned a Noble, a square-class mage possessing at the least, a peerless aptitude for Earth Magic.
The very thought of it made her feel faint.
A Noble. Summoning a commoner was already unheard of, but summoning another Noble, one with his own specialty and ability far surpassing her own... Not only had Louise failed the summoning ritual three times, but the one time she thought she had succeeded, she had still failed. And what a big failure it was to have summoned a Noble despite the fact that it was impossible to do so from the countless restrictions inherent in the Summon Servant spell.
Louise wanted to run from the spot. She wanted to leave, hide her face from everyone and pretend this had never happened.
...But she couldn't. After all, this wasn't some nightmare, despite the fact that she wanted it to be. No matter how much she wished that she was still asleep, she knew that she was awake and that this was reality.
The man turned his eyes towards her after looking at the crowd. They were silver, the color of his hair, and shone with a strange, entrancing light. Even so, it didn't stop Louise from flinching as that intense gaze settled on her person.
Cold- no, steely. His expression was cool and harsh, one that reminded Louise all too much of the one her mother carried. A cool look of anger that promised not rage, but wrath.
But unlike her mother, upon facing her, that expression softened. The man smiled and then knelt before her, placing a firm yet gentle hand on her head. "Do not worry, Master."
The voice was soft, and yet lacking. Just a touch more emphatic than a golem's and yet far from being human. Even so, Louise could sense the sincerity in those words.
"From now on, this Sword shall protect you."
He spoke the words with such conviction that all Louise could do was nod and complete the ritual.
With a wave of her wand, a brief incantation, and a swift brush of their lips, it was over.
The Sword felt a stab of pain in his chest as the foreign energy in his body gathered there. A sensation indicating the confirmation and finalization of their bond. Though the pain quickly elevated to the level of a searing burn, he didn't allow any signs of it to show.
The crowd was quiet, the majority watching him and his swords with wide-eyed fear. The only ones who weren't were the students he had taken note of previously, as well as that Mr. Colbert.
Before he could contemplate why, the pain was over, and Mr. Colbert approached him and his Master.
Though a smile was on the man's face, the Sword could sense hostility beneath it, as well as a buildup of mana in the air, no doubt ready to be used against the Sword if he decided to follow through on attacking the students.
After a moment of thought, the Sword returned his swords to his inner world. It wasn't the time or place to get into a conflict, not while he was still unfamiliar with this new world and the strengths of his possible opponents.
When he did, Mr. Colbert relaxed and turned towards Louise. "Congratulations, Ms. Valliere."
She gave him a short nod in reply, an unreadable expression on her face.
Mr. Colbert turned back to the crowd and said, "Well students, let's return to class." He cast a quick glance at the Sword and then added, "And remember to keep your opinions to yourself."
A noble sentiment, or it would have been had it not been prompted by the Sword's actions to protect his Master.
With those words, he took to the air and headed towards the castle, an action mimicked by everyone save for his Master.
Upon their departure, Louise was quiet, lost in thought.
The Sword respected her silence and did not speak.
Eventually, she said, "Who are you?"
He smiled. "I am the Sword of Akasha, Master. I will protect you, for now and for always."
Louise frowned, seemingly mulling over his words, but then shook her head. "Not that. I meant your actual name, not your runic one."
"Ah." His expression faltered, and his calm smile turned into a bitter one. "...I have no name, but this person was once known as Emiya Shirou, Master. Does that answer your question?"
Louise's frown deepened. "I see." She was silent for a few more moments, and then nodded. "Emiya, then." She sighed and started walking towards the castle. "Come, Emiya. We may discuss our... partnership on the way back." There was another sigh and then she said, "I hope mother won't see this as too much of a scandal..."
"As you wish, Master."
This is the Tiger Dojo. Take the advice?
Note. Tiger Dojo is a strange hint corner. If you would like to complete the story by yourself, or if you would like to keep the characters' images, please be warned.
In a place reminiscent of the Emiya Dojo, a voice echoed.
Taiga, dressed in a white kimono and black hakama, clapped her hands together. "I bet you weren't expecting this now, were you, Readers?"
"Hi everyone!" Ilya, dressed in a white t-shirt and purple bloomers, waved. "Osu! Welcome to the first Tiger Dojo of this story, the continuation of 'Horizon' from 'A Different Path'!"
"Yes, yes. Good job, student." Taiga nodded. "Now, Readers, you're probably wondering what happened here, or why this wasn't in the main story."
"Yeah," Ilya said. "What's going on, Sensei? Shouldn't this be in the other story?"
The boisterous brown-haired woman nodded. "Yes. Yes it should. But the path leading to this ending hasn't occurred yet, so the Wizard can't show it yet."
"Oh, I see! So you mean that this Onii-chan is from one of those three endings where-"
"O-oi, Ilya!" Taiga ran up to Ilya and clamped a hand over her mouth. "You can't say that! Any more and the Wizard will do something to you that even the Third Magic can't fix!"
Ilya nodded, making Taiga back off, and then frowned. "Hey, how do you know about that?"
"Teehee." Taiga grinned. "This is the Tiger Dojo! I know everything! Like how Shirou has to-"
This time Ilya clamped Taiga's mouth shut. "Hypocrite! Don't say anything else!"
"Mmph! Mmph!" Taiga nodded, and Ilya stepped back.
"Phew. That was scary, Ilya-chan." She looked at Ilya with wide-eyes. "you went straight for my throat."
"Wait," Ilya said. "Don't we have to tell the Readers how this story happened? Won't that mean we have to tell how 'that' path ends?"
Taiga froze. "That's right…"
For a moment, the two looked at the dojo's door with fearful eyes, as if it would open any moment to reveal a demon.
"…Well, it looks like he won't smite us," Taiga said.
"Yeah. Looks like the Wizard's accepted this outcome after all."
"Well, Readers. Since we've gotten the okay from the Wizard, let's get into the meat of this story!" Taiga clapped. "So, you're probably wondering what's wrong with Shirou here."
"Un." Ilya nodded. "Onii-chan's acting really weird. And why is he calling himself the 'Sword'? Even Archer didn't act like that when he was being a Hero."
"Well, pupil number one. The reason for that's simple. It's not Shirou."
"Eeh?! B-but he's Onii-chan!" Ilya frowned. "I mean, he looks a lot like Archer, but he's Onii-chan, right?"
Taiga sighed. "That idiot did something stupidly noble in 'that' path. Since his Magic lets him act like God, when he used its full power he had to 'become' God. The soul of Emiya Shirou left the body, and what's left is just a Sword that wields itself in the name of the one it once was."
There was a moment of silence.
"Idiot." Ilya clenched her hands to her side, red eyes blurred with tears.
"I know. Idiot."
"…So then this Onii-chan isn't really Onii-chan, Sensei?"
"Un." Taiga nodded. "This 'Sword' has Shirou's memories and desires, but he's not the same person. He's like how that idiot was when Kiritsugu first found him."
"Wait," Ilya said. "So does that mean he can become someone like Shirou used to be?"
"Oho, you're quite smart, aren't you my pupil? Yes, he will, especially with those runes he got. He's not the 'Left hand of God', but the 'Heart of God'."
Ilya smiled. "Then he'll get a happy ending, won't he? He's not just a sword, right?"
"Well," Taiga said. "Who knows?"
"Mou- that's not fair, Sensei! You're leaving the Readers here in suspense!"
Taiga sighed. "I know, but the Wizard's saying that we've said enough." She shivered. "And he said that he'd make Shirou leave me in that hospital until the end of the story if I say anything else."
Ilya frowned. "Tyranny! I won't let this-"
A note card appeared in front of her. "What's this?"
'If you keep talking, I'll make Archer die protecting you.'
Ilya froze and then turned towards the front with a thin smile. "Well, that's all for this Tiger Dojo!"
Taiga gave a stiff nod. "Until next time, Readers! Try to keep Shirou out of trouble! And don't let him make a heroic sacrifice in A Different Path to bring-"
The door slammed shut, and the dojo faded back into the darkness from which it came.
A/N: Revised on 12/29/2016