Sword of Origin: Zero
How am I still alive?
The nuclear strike should have ended him.
After a brief moment of thought, the Sword shook his head. Then, he opened his eyes.
Smoke shrouded his surroundings. It was thick and gray, preventing anything from being seen. Despite that, there was a distinct lack of the usual smell accompanying smoke.
The Sword's eyes flashed gold, and he was able to see everything around him.
A field of grass, stretching for miles around. A slight breeze in the air caused waves in the grass, making it appear like an emerald sea. And in the distance, past it all, there was a castle. Unlike those in the modern era, that stone building was in its prime, well-maintained and dignified.
Peaceful. A clear blue sky and warm sunlight. Completely contrary to the bloody and ruined wasteland he had been in moments prior. Not only that, but...
I'm not alone. The Sword turned his gaze away from the distant view and to his immediate surroundings. More specifically, to the ones surrounding him.
A crowd of children- no, teenagers. Youths barely out of childhood and in their adolescence. They surrounded him, dressed in a strange attire. Dark blue cloaks fastened by a brass button, engraved with a pentagram. Dress shirts made of a fine, white material. Pants for the males and pleated skirts for the females. But more importantly, each and every one of them held a wooden stick in their hands. Wands.
Just where am I?
A strange mixture of fantasy and modern attire. While the Sword had come across more eccentric attire in his existence, and while there were often those of similar attire at the Clock Tower, this was the first time the Sword found himself amidst a crowd of young teenagers wearing such an attire out in the open.
He decided to observe a while longer.
The smoke continued to linger. Most of the teenagers were in a state of confusion, fanning the air, narrowing their eyes, or otherwise trying to look through their obscured surroundings. A few, however, did not.
The first was a voluptuous female with long crimson hair and bronze-colored skin wearing an all-too-small uniform. She stood with a red salamander by her side and kept her gaze focused directly ahead, expectant.
Another was a shorter female with blue-green hair. She stood beside a similarly colored dragon and maintained a neutral expression, calmly flipping through a large worn tome.
Yet another was a male with blond curled hair. He smiled with white teeth, completely ignored the smoke and spoke to the few girls next to him. All the while, he made gestures towards the mole in his arms, though they went unseen in the dense smoke.
The last was a young female with blonde hair tinted pink. Out of all the youths in the crowd, she stood the closest to him. Her eyes were the color of garnet and amber, brilliant, and yet were betrayed by the dim expression she held.
They don't seem to be preparing for war or an attack. Then... what happened?
A flash of white light had filled the Sword's field of view. Then, there had been the searing sensation of overwhelming energy from the bomb corroding his body. All signs that he had been moments away from vanishing along with everything in at least a ten mile radius.
But instead, he was here. A scenic setting that remained untouched by the ravages of modern warfare. A crowd of youths without a shred of fear or worry in their eyes.
The smoke suddenly cleared. In an instant, the air was filled with the sound of youthful chatter. A vibrant cacophony of voices and overlapping words. Much of it was meaningless idle chatter, but a few words continued to echo: Louise, and Summon Servant.
So that's how it is.
The Sword had been summoned. Whether through chance, fate, or design, 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.
He traced it to its other end and found his gaze resting upon the young girl standing the closest to him. The one with blonde hair tinted pink.
She met his gaze and frowned.
A facade. The Sword saw that there was more to her expression than simple disappointment.
The girl turned around and said, "Mr. Colbert!"
The crowd parted at her words, revealing the man who had been standing at the rear.
Balding and middle-aged. Like the crowd of youths, he wore a dark cloak over a buttoned shirt and pants. Unlike the youths, he carried a large wooden staff in his hands, one that could be easily mistaken for a club.
The man smiled, a warm expression, and walked forwards.
But like how he saw through the girl's mask, the Sword also saw through the man's.
The wooden staff in the man's hands bore signs of wear and tear, slight scars that could only be gained through clashing with steel. In addition, the man's right hand was callused in a manner that could only come from swinging a heavy object.
The Sword's eyes flashed gold.
A threat. The man had survived countless battles without severe wounds or battle scars. His main weapon was his control over fire, control that had been honed for usage in war. He was a warrior every bit as skilled as the Enforcers of the Clock Tower the Sword had once faced. A threat... but not one that could endanger his life.
Colbert met the Sword's eyes. Like how the Sword examined him, Colbert too surveyed the Sword. But then Colbert turned his attention to the girl with blonde-pink hair and said, "What is it, Ms. Valliere?"
"Please! Allow me another try at summoning my familiar!"
The Sword frowned. With the bond in place, it was clear that she was his Master. And from the lack of a catalyst nearby, it meant that she had managed to summon him through their compatibility. It meant that the summoning was unintentional. And most of all, it meant that she was someone worthy of his protection, a status that countless others would have killed for, had killed for.
Even so, she seemed disappointed.
The Sword suppressed 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 of the ritual, you must summon a familiar upon your graduation to second year. This is a sacred rite of passage every student must undergo to determine their elemental specialty and progress in their magical studies-"
"But he's a commoner! Maybe one good at fighting, but he's a commoner! Please, just allow me one more try, Mr. Colbert! I promise, this time-"
Colbert sighed. "I am truly sorry, Ms. Valliere. While you have summoned a... unique familiar, the fact remains that you have summoned a familiar. Were it like your previous failed attempts, I would have allowed you another try. But this time, you have succeeded, albeit in an unexpected way."
The girl lowered her gaze. "...I understand, Mr. Colbert." She then turned towards the Sword.
He stared at her, the one who was now his Master. At the girl who summoned him not to fight in a Holy Grail War, but through a ritual to determine her alignment. At the one who must possess a power rivaling the Creator to have summoned him from the myriad possibilities.
Her eyes stared back into his own and, for a brief moment, her expression became one of utter despair. The face of one whose last thread of hope had shattered. However, a haughty expression soon took its place, and the girl said, "Kneel."
The Sword remained standing.
The girl narrowed her eyes and raised her wand. "Didn't you hear me, familiar?! I said kneel!"
The Sword didn't reply and instead stared into the girl's eyes.
The crowd gradually became noisy. At first, it was soft whispers and muttering. But before long, those had become shouts of ridicule.
"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 become a maid, Zero!"
Jeers, taunts, insults. Countless voices blended into a vicious mass, lambasting the girl standing before the Sword.
He continued staring into her eyes. Louise. That was her name. The name of his Master, and the name of the one he would now protect.
She stood facing him. It must have been because of that, because her back was to that crowd, that Louise could bear it. Because her face was hidden away, she could remain standing tall and domineering. And from the view of the crowd, it must have seemed like that. Her figure was firm, unyielding.
But the Sword saw the truth.
Unshed tears shimmered in the corners of her eyes. Her crimson lips quivered, despite a determined attempt to keep them in a firm line. And her raised right arm, still holding her wand, began to tremble, ever so slightly.
The Sword closed his eyes.
A young girl who put on a brave face, but possessed a heart as fragile as glass. One who buried her fear with false bravado in order to withstand the weight of the world. A young girl with no one at her side. A young girl who had never succeeded and had placed all her hopes on this final attempt to silence the taunts, the jeers, the insults.
That was what he saw in her, what the Sword witnessed within his Master's eyes.
Louise was a weak, feeble girl who wished for a miracle with this ritual, knew she likely would not succeed, and yet continued to desperately pray for a way out of the nightmare she called her life.
The Sword opened his eyes. He didn't move, and yet, in an instant, the insults and jeers had died down.
Louise blinked, staring at the one she had summoned.
A young man with spiky silver hair. He was tall, enough that when he stood, she only reached the middle of his chest.
That was, in part, the reason she ordered him to kneel.
His body was toned, the kind belonging to those who had seen countless battles, and protected by form fitting silver armor. That, coupled with a white cloak around his shoulders were what made Louise think he was a commoner. Though of fine make, they weren't uncommon amongst the more skilled sellswords.
But... he's no simple sellsword, is he? Louise turned her gaze to what was behind the young man.
Thousands of swords, all unique in form and make. A Square-class mage could replicate the quantity, but even one skilled enough to produce gold would have found it impossible to duplicate the sight behind the young man.
A Noble. I've summoned a Noble.
To perform such a feat of instant production required at the least Square-class proficiency in Earth Magic. To do so while having the swords remain in the air and aimed at different individuals simultaneously... it was unthinkable.
Louise felt faint.
Summoning a commoner in the Springtime Summoning Ritual was already unheard of. Summoning another Noble, one with a specialty and ability far surpassing her own talents... it was more than impossible. It was unthinkable. Blasphemous.
Louise felt as if a cold hand clenched her heart. Then her mind went blank.
Not only had Louise failed the summoning ritual three times, but the one time she thought she had succeeded, she had performed the sacrilegious act of summoning another Noble.
She wanted to run from the spot. To leave, hide her face, and pretend that this had never happened. That it was all just some terrible nightmare.
...But she couldn't. Despite how much she wished it wasn't, that it was all some terrible dream and that she was still fast asleep, this was reality.
A soft pat on her head.
Louise blinked and then realized that the young man was before her.
He knelt on the ground, the act bringing them to eye-level, and smiled.
Unthinkable. The young man's expression had been cold when she first saw him. A steely expression that reminded Louise all too much of the one her mother carried. One that drew up anger in her heart and made her try to force him into submission. But now...
"Do not worry, Master."
His voice was soft, and yet lacking. Just a touch more emphatic than a golem's and far from being human.
Louise looked at him, and found herself staring into his eyes.
They were silver. A cold color like steel. Yet, unlike steel, they shone with a soft warm light; as if believing in her, as if encouraging her.
Louise's chest hurt. It's an illusion. He's just like all the rest.
Rationale overruled the heart's wish and she started to look away. To find an excuse to leave and end this farce of a summoning ritual. But before she could...
"From now on, this Sword shall protect you."
Words spoken with a conviction to challenge the world if needed.
Faced with such resolve, all Louise could do was nod and complete the ritual.
A stabbing pain in his chest. The foreign energy in his body gathered and seared his flesh, a sensation that confirmed the finalization of their bond. Though the pain reached a level that would send a normal man raving mad, the Sword showed no signs, only remaining knelt before Louise like a loyal knight.
The crowd of students remained silent. Whether in wide-eyed fear or quiet caution, no one moved.
Of course. The first to move will be the first to die. Ridiculing his Master to such an extent... he had destroyed countries for lesser slights.
The pain vanished as swiftly as it arrived. Perhaps serving as an unseen signal, Colbert began approaching. The man smiled, but a keen eye could see how his hand held his staff in a way that allowed him to move it in any direction at once. It could also see how the man's gaze never left the Sword as he drew closer.
The Sword met Colbert's gaze, pondered, and then returned the blades behind him into his inner world.
Colbert relaxed, and then turned towards Louise. "Congratulations, Ms. Valliere."
She gave a short nod.
Colbert let out a small sigh and then walked back towards the crowd of teenagers. "Well students, let's return to class." He stopped, turning briefly to glance at the Sword, and then added, "And remember to keep your opinions to yourself."
With those words spoken, he took to the air and flew towards the castle in the distance. Not long after, the crowd of students followed.
Soon, only the Sword and Louise remained on the open fields.
He remained silent and waited for Louise to speak.
Eventually, she said, "Who are you?"
"I am the Sword of Akasha, Master." He smiled and said, "I will protect you, for now and for always."
Louise frowned. After some time, she sighed and shook her head. "Not that. I mean your actual name, not your runic one."
"Ah." His expression faltered, and his smile dimmed. "...I have no name, but this person was once known as Emiya Shirou, Master. Does that answer your question?"
Louise frowned again. "I see." She was silent once more, and then she nodded. "Emiya, then." She turned around and began walking towards the castle. "Come, Emiya. We may discuss our... partnership on the way back."
"As you wish, Master."
Emiya rose to his feet and began following her, keeping a steady pace directly left and behind Louise.
She glanced at him and then shook her head, muttering, "I hope mother won't see this as too much of a scandal..."
This is the Tiger Dojo. Would you like to continue?
Note. The Tiger Dojo is a strange hint corner. If you would like to discover the story by yourself, or remain in suspense, 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 09/04/17