Archer of Black

Chapter 1: It begins

(Spoilers)

This story began as a "What If?" fic. What if Kiritsugu trained him properly? What if he had magi-heritage? What if he received proper education as a magus? A lot of these questions popped up as I watched and read about Fate/Stay Night. There was so much potential about these questions that I had to write a story about it.

I can say that the Shirou in this story will be different than the one in canon, not only powers, but in other aspects as well. His magic crest will play a role as will the choices he makes early on. I want to make him into a different version of Counter Guardian EMIYA and at the same time turn him into an arch-enemy of said Counter Guardian. He won't be a hero or an ignorant third rate wannabe magus. He'll be a force to be reckoned with, but that won't happen for several chapters in the future. There's going to be a lot of building of the character called Emiya Shirou.

I'd also like to establish a few issues in timeline. So far they have been small issues, but I'd still like to sort them out before I get into the story too far. Fate/Stay Night takes place in 2004 and at that point Shirou is 16-17 years old. For convenience sake let us assume that he is 17 years old at that point. Ten years earlier he lost his memories in the Fuyuki fire. Two years after that he starts learning Magecraft. 3 years after that Kiritsugu dies from the curses from Angra Mainyu. 5 years after that the next grail war takes place.

So here's the timeline so far in canon:

1994, January Fifth (Fate/Zero). Fuyuki Fire occurred on January Fifth, the date that later became his birthday. Shirou is 6 years old.

1995, December Eleventh (Kiritsugu starts teaching Shirou Magecraft.) Shirou is 7 years old.

1996, January Fifth (a few weeks after Kiritsugu starts to teach him Magecraft, he realizes his mistake and starts to really teach him) Shirou is 8 years old.

1999 (Kiritsugu dies in canon) Shirou is 11 years old.

2004 (The fifth Holy Grail War) Shirou is 17 years old.

That's what I'm basing AOB on. If you'd like to correct it, please leave a review or PM me.

The main focus of the story won't be the Holy Grail War. Depending on how I let the story fold out I might not even include it. So Enjoy…


His body was tired. Despite his relatively young age he felt like his bones had exceeded their physical limits decades ago. His muscles felt like they had been used without rest for years and were finally beginning to show their tears and wears. His mind, once sharp, possessed probably less than a fifth of its former deadliness. His vision was cloudy and he had to focus more than he wanted to just to read the news each day.

Was the curse from Angra Mainyu to blame or was it the monstrosity in his hands?

He focused his eyes once more. In his hands was a weapon capable of agony beyond human comprehension. It was a danger to any and all who near it, even its user if careless. He had seen it used time and time again, leaving victims in its wake. Tears of pain and sorrow usually followed soon after. Careers had been ruined, lives had been destroyed and traditions had been shamelessly broken as this abomination of a tool left its mark on the world. In a sense it was even worse than his Thompson Contender. At least he knew it was used for destroying lives. He doubted the owner of this piece of demonic equipment knew what she was doing to her unfortunate victims. How horrible the weapon in his hands was.

It was the terrifying Torashinai.

He had asked Fujimura Taiga, the granddaughter of his neighbor Fujimura Raiga, if he could borrow it to find out why it was cursed. He thought he would have to convince her or maybe even use hypnotism on her, but the moment he asked her she just gave it away with a smile. He was baffled. Normally owners of cursed objects tend to be possessive of said objects, but Taiga seemed happy to help him. Maybe the curse was only active in battle.

Despite the ease he had acquired it with it seemed his luck had run out. No matter what he did he couldn't make heads or tails of it. It was a phenomenon clearly out of his abilities and he was not in the best position to contact the magus association for assistance of any kind since the grail war and the Einzberns refused to talk to him even going so far as to activate the barriers around the property.

They wouldn't even let him see Illya, his own daughter.

"What are you doing with that, dad? I thought Fuji-nee took that thing with her when she left…" asked a voice from the door. It was Emiya Shirou, his son.

Shirou was the only person he had managed to save on that day 2 years ago. He had been so glad that he had found the small child amongst the flames and the dead that he hadn't wasted a second implanting Avalon inside the small and severely burnt child.

During the immediate aftermath of the grail war he had been filled with despair. He had searched for someone to save in that sea of flames and every second he spent in the searing heat made his goal seem less and less likely to succeed. When he had finally seen the boy collapsed on the ground covered in burns and blood he had almost lost his will to live. He had been the reason that this innocent boy had died, along with hundreds of others. When he saw the nameless youth's chest rise and fall as if he was breathing, he had rushed to his side.

In the few short moments it took for him to confirm that, yes the child was indeed alive and breathing, he was like a machine. He had not dared hope. If he had hope then it meant that he could lose it as well. When he had realized that he might be able to save just this one child, he was filled with a religious fever. Tears streamed down his face and a smile erupted from his otherwise grief-filled features.

`He's alive! He's alive!' he remembered chanting, as if nothing else mattered. To him though, nothing else was nearly as important as reaffirming himself that he had been able to save at least one person.

He had never been able to gather the courage to reveal anything about the war to Shirou though. He had sealed away that part of his life for two years and he would hopefully be able to keep it sealed until his death.

"Ah, this? I asked the girl if I could borrow it to `practice my swordsmanship with'. Though now that you are here, you think could give your structural grasp a shot? It should be good practice for you." And it would be good training for him. The apprentice had a good number of circuits in him for a first generation magus and they were high quality as well. If his children followed the same pattern then he would need only a few generations to catch up to the magi at the Clock Tower in terms of a magic crest. Even less depending on whom he married…

He threw the aforementioned weapon of mass horror to the young boy and watched as he fumbled with the shinai. It wasn't that heavy, but the child's small size made it a little too big for him to use. Or maybe it was the curse making him a little clumsy?

He watched as Shirou muttered his aria ("Trace on") and looked at the cursed object. Normally when you look at a cursed object you would feel a small discomfort, like a small headache, but that was only if you possessed enough skill to go that far. For a child without any training to see enough to feel hurt would be impossible.

That's why he was surprised when he saw the magus-in-training wince in pain.

"Shirou? Are you hurt? How much did you see?" he asked in a worried tone.

"Uh, I haven't started yet. It just hurts when I create a circuit," the child responded.

Create a circuit? What was he talking about? Normally you activate your circuits and then focus on the object. There is no part where you create new circuits. If you tried to do that then…

…Shit

"Shirou, tell me. How do you normally use your magecraft?" If this was as bad as he expected then it was good that he just started training learning magecraft. If he had continued with this method then he might end up crippled or worse, dead.

"Well, first I imagine a new circuit and I imagine flooding it with magic and then it feels like burning pipe is shoved in my back. It used to hurt a lot when I started, but now it just hurts," Shirou said, not knowing the true meaning of what he just said.

Kiritsugu wanted to kick himself. How could he have missed so obvious? He already knew that Shirou's sense of pain and discomfort was warped. The kid's first memory is walking through a field of death and flames. There's no way he could have recovered from that without any consequences. To him the pain of converting one's nerves to magic circuits wouldn't even compare as important.

Still he needed to set things straight and do a damage control. He might look fine, but nerve damage could manifest later on. The earlier he knows to what extent the damage has spread the sooner he can try and find some kind of treatment for it.

"Listen Shirou, when you use Magecraft you don't create magic circuits. You use those you already have. What you're doing is basically cannibalizing your nerves and turning them into makeshift circuits. That's only possible once or twice before you have to see a doctor," he said, trying to instill a sense of urgency in the youth.

It worked to a certain extent.

"Cannibalizing? What does that mean?" the child asked.

Kiritsugu sighed. He forgot he was dealing with an eight year old.

"That's not important right now, but you need to know that what you're doing is dangerous. It looks like I'm going have to go through the basics with you."

Motioning for the boy to come to him, they both sat on the floor. The sliding screens were open and the cool autumn wind made their breaths turn into mist.

"Shirou, Magecraft is powered by out prana. Prana comes in two forms; Mana, which is the world's own supply, and Od, which is our own energy supply. We activate our circuits once in order to use them later in life. There is no safe way to create circuits and the way you were doing wouldn't actually create circuits since you just substitute your nerves for them," he explained to his apprentice. He really should have done this when he started teaching him.

"A magus walks with death. That's the sad truth. There are so many ways to be killed when you are a magus that your entire life can be summed up in that sentence. Your experiments may go out of control, your mystery may fail, you may overclock your magic circuits and gives yourself a stroke or a jealous magus might kill you for your research. If I had taken teaching you seriously this would have been made clear to you already, but you know what they say. It's better late than never."

"So what's going to happen to me now? Am I going to die?" For the first time in the conversation Shirou's voice gained a slight hint of fear. No wonder though, he had heard that he had been doing something extraordinarily dangerous. Any kid would be crying with fear at this point.

"No, you're not. I'm just going to use a little magic and see how much damage you've got so far and we'll see what happens," he said as he put a hand on Shirou's shoulder and applied some prana.

Avalon was resting inside him, the noble phantasm still in its pure gold and blue. His original circuits were there, still in good shape and high-quality and his nerves were all there, mostly. It seemed as if a few of them had changed into… real magic circuits?

That wasn't possible. It was inconceivable that his nerves had actually become real, functional (although low quality) magic circuits. No wait. They were still functional as nerves, but magic circuits had appeared inside them. And they weren't his circuits either. They felt as if they had no connection to his alignment or origin. But that would mean…

He had a root-damned magic crest!

Now he knew why he hadn't noticed it before. In the fire 2 years ago he had sustained damage to his circuits and for a long time had had trouble using them. It was like they were hidden by a veil which made his circuits slow and sluggish. Even now he couldn't use them to the same degree as he was once capable of. He couldn't make it past the Einzberns barrier because of this. Now that he thought about it, Shirou must have acquired the same problem, only his magic crest and circuits had been completely hidden and when he tried to use them crest was forced to manifest them inside his nerves.

"Magic crest? Shirou, this may be a stupid question, but do you think your parents were magi?"

The boy's eyes flashed open and he stared at him. "N-no, I don't think so. I don't remember anything so they might have been, but I don't know," he said. He suddenly started smiling and asked him with a hopeful look in his eyes. "Is there a chance they were? Could we find out?"

Kiritsugu didn't know what to do. Could it be possible that his adopted son was the heir to a family of magi? It might be possible. He had more than average amount of circuits and a crest, but he didn't think that any magus not connected to the grail war would stay in Fuyuki city with their heir during the war. It went against common sense. Any magus in Fuyuki City would be a possible target as nobody would want to take chances. And if you didn't have a servant to protect yourself odds were you would be killed. So why…?

The only choice was to inspect the crest in hopes of finding what sort of magus the previous owners were.

"There's a chance that it's possible, but I wouldn't jump to any conclusions." There was more than a chance. It was more than likely. "Shirou, when I used structural grasp I saw a magic crest. I didn't see how many circuits you have, but you forced a few of them to manifest as your own instead of staying in the crest. This is very important! Don't ever tell anyone about this!" he told Shirou.

He looked taken back at this. Kiritsugu was normally laid back, but now he looked serious, more so than he had ever seen him.

"What, why? Did I do something wrong? I won't use my nerve-thingies ever again-OW!" he answered back. In his rush he had fallen over his kimono and face-planted on the floor.

Kiritsugu lost most of the seriousness his face had a moment ago and had gained a smile. The cartoonish way he fell over drained the room of it former tension. "It's not that you did something wrong, but you did something no other person had ever managed before. I haven't explained it to you yet, but there's an organization out there called the Mage's Association. They focus on research and magical science. If they found out what you did, even if it didn't do that much for the average magus, they will hunt you down and experiment on you."

The look on Shirou's face told him what was going through the boy's mind. "Yeah, most of them aren't very nice."

He continued. "Anyway, before we make any speculations I will need to inspect your crest. Are you ready?" he asked as he once more put his hand on Shirou's shoulder.

What he found inside the crest was quite impressive in terms of amount of circuits: fifteen magic circuits were still inside the crest. Combine that with the ones Shirou extracted as his own and the total amount of circuits he received from his biological family were twenty-three. As a result he possessed fifty magic circuits.

Despite the seemingly impossibility, it wasn't the most surprising thing he had found. There were two other mysteries left.

Shirou's Origin and Alignment had been shifted to Sword. He knew for a fact that when he first met Shirou neither had been sword. He hadn't bothered to check the origin, but he knew Shirou's alignment not been sword. As a magus skilled in inspection and investigation, Kiritsugu had been sure of what he had found out that day. Shirou's alignment had been Fire, an element Kiritsugu also possessed. When he had found him the boy had a single element. Even if he had missed the Sword, he knew he had found Fire. He knew he couldn't have missed Shirou having an element except the one he shared with himself.

And yet now he had Sword for alignment instead of Fire. Was that possible? Kiritsugu had Dual Origins, but that was supposedly rare. He knew several people had dual alignments and he had met an Average One once, but to shift from an elemental alignment to an alignment out of the ordinary? And not doing it on purpose and not feeling any pain at the same time? No, there must have been an underlying reason for it.

He sighed. This was getting a little too much for him.

And finally his origin… if Shirou wouldn't be getting a sealing designation for manifesting magic circuits then he would surely receive a one-way ticket to Clock Tower for that. Sword was unheard as an element from what he knew, but to have it as his Origin too? It was rare, even rarer than an Average One. If Shirou intended to become a magus he would need to be able to deal with the pressure of keeping everything a secret and protect himself.

Well, his plans of letting Shirou live an ordinary life looked impossible now. Since there were magi in this town who lost their heirs there would most likely search for them in hopes of locating their workshops and research. If Shirou was found and carried the name Emiya then it was more than likely they would kill him on sight.

No, maybe torture him for information first and then use him as a research subject. Not that that was any better.

It looked like he had to take Shirou's Magecraft education a little more seriously. He would also have to brush up on his basics.

Even he had to admit he had forgotten half of the Beginner's Guide to All Things Magecraft.

AOB

It was Saturday and it was time for Shirou's lessons on Magecraft. They were inside Kiritsugu's workshop, the old shed with stone walls that Irisviel had used when recovering from the strain from being the Lesser Grail's vessel.

"So every person has an Origin and Alignment and the Origin define a major trait in a person. The alignment is usually an element or elements but that just most cases, not a rule? Some people are also born with dual origins?" Shirou summed up the lecture. They had been going over the basics, something Shirou had been severely lacking in.

He had already told Shirou his Origin and Element and that he wasn't allowed to tell anyone since they were unusual and Clock Tower would slap a seal designation on him before he could blink.

"That's right, but just because you don't have an affinity for a spell doesn't mean you can't use it. There are several ways to effectively use a spell you aren't suited for; for example, the use of magic crests. When a person has achieved a spell and he adds a circuit to the crest he may choose to add the spell for it. This way makes it possible to inherit a sorcery trait and other elements to a lesser degree. Since your inherited circuits from magi with of all four elements you will be able to use them far better than if you didn't. Of course this does not mean you will be able to use it with the same degree of skill as the predecessor, it just gives you a slight ability. If all you needed to manipulate the elements was to inherit a magic crest then The Magus Association wouldn't treasure Average Ones so much. Remember; an Average One will always be able to manipulate elements better than you and a magus with a fire alignment will always be able to manipulate fire better than you." He paused and considered what to say. "Other ways are to store the spell in a medium and then release it in battle, but that leaves you with limited space for reserves. This method is preferred when you practice Formalcraft and Alchemy since using an active spell could disrupt the delicate calculations you'll be making at the same time," he explained.

"Runes are a good alternative for those who are not capable of standard Magecraft. Runes originated from Scandinavian scripts and tablets and each hold a meaning and effect, but skilled practitioners can combine several runes into arrays capable of far more than their individual effects. Ansuz for example is used for flames and Sowilo is for fire. Using them alone creates fire and using for example two Ansuz creates a larger fire, but combining Ansuz with Sowilo creates a more intense flame which spreads a larger area. Adding a rune for wind would increase the effect, but fire is normally a violent element so you probably wouldn't want to let it go too out of control unless you're using scorched earth-tactics."

Contrary to popular belief, Kiritsugu was a capable teacher when he wanted to. Note the emphasis on the` when he wanted to'. When he first started teaching Shirou he didn't actually want him to learn Magecraft. He simply wanted him to get bored and give up and live a normal life. It's safe to say that didn't happen.

When he had been teaching Irisviel how to drive she had been so happy at driving her new car that he hadn't had the heart to tell her she had been awful. He didn't want to risk breaking her heart after the fiasco with the tea ceremony. That was something he had not wanted to repeat.

So when he finally decided to take his training seriously he found that he was actually quite the competent teacher. Maybe that's why Taiga kept coming over in order to learn english? Was he really that good?

"The Origins are also capable of being used. As you know my Origins are `To sever' and `To bind'. By using my bones as my bullets I can use them in order destroy my opponent's magic circuits. If you experiment then maybe you could find a way to combine your alignment and origin." He saw the wince escape from Shirou's mouth when he mentioned his ribs being turned into bullets. "Yeah, it hurts. A lot. But almost nothing in the world of Magecraft can stand up against it. But speaking of Origins and alignments, how are you doing in your new club?"

That had been one of the first steps after finding out that Shirou had sword as origin and element. If he was a sword then he should learn how to use one. When Taiga had heard about Shirou wanting to join a kendo or fencing club she had volunteered to introduce him to her club.

It sounded like a good plan at first only he didn't realize taiga would be practicing there as well. When she emerged in her training clothes and armour he suddenly realized he had given her Torashinai back just the other day. And now he would pay for his blunder.

After having several bruises treated and the coach gave her a proper scolding for going all-out on a junior member, he decided to join and learn how to use a real sword. Nevertheless, many of the members who had expected him to drop out and never return stared at him like he was mad.

"It's going great! I finally learned how to enter a match using the correct stance without falling over from the weight of the armour!" the youth replied with joy evident on his face. Apparently just making it to the start of the spar was a challenge to the small child. Not a bad achievement for such a short amount of time though, especially considering that the armour was made for people several years older than him.

Kiritsugu laughed. "Well isn't that great! Maybe in a few decades you might be able to land a strike on Taiga." he teased, though Taiga was famous for her skill and temperament. He wouldn't be surprised if it took Shirou that long to land a hit on her, if he was raised by a normal person that is. "But since we have had the lecture already, why don't you show me what you can do with Gradation Air."

He put a hammer on the table and sat back. "Try to project this as precise as possible."

One of the problems when it came to teaching Shirou Magecraft was his limited talent. His Origins and Alignment made it harder for him to use Magecraft in general. The Magic Crest he possessed allowed him to learn other spells, but not enough to excel in any branch of Magecraft except Projection.

He had after days of research found out where Shirou's `sword' affinity came from.

Avalon.

Since he had embedded Avalon in a child, the powerful Noble Phantasm had exerted its influence over the significantly smaller existence. Changing his origins and alignment had probably not been all. It might even have removed his magic rest if he hadn't found it time.

By making Shirou practice with small time spells using the crest, his connection to it would stabilize. The same would be said about his Sword-affinity. By practicing swordsmanship, even with wooden swords, he would be able to draw on the power of Sword.

That still left Shirou with a very limited repertoire of spells. One of the few he would be able to cast without problem was Gradation Air, or Projection. It was a good beginner's spell with little harm of overclocking his circuits as amateurs tended to do. Shirou was exceptionally proficient in the use of Structural Grasp despite his age and limited training.

Due to his limitations Shirou had apparently taken a habit of helping Raiga with his motorcycle. The old thing was an antique and almost nobody knew how to fix it anymore due to the development of the technology used in motorcycles. In fact, Kiritsugu wouldn't be surprised if the thing was primitive enough for some of the more conservative magi in Clock Tower to consider it a worthy piece of equipment.

So after Shirou's use of Structural Grasp, he knew exactly what the problem was after a little application of the otherwise considered useless magic. Replacing broken parts with new ones was a bit too advanced for him at the moment, but old man Raiga still insisted on paying him for it. Though to be honest, Raiga was probably saving more than Shirou was earning. If he wanted a professional to fix the bike, then he would have to send it to a specialist who would charge ten times more than what he paid Shirou. So it was a win-win situation.

"Okidoki, watch this!" he exclaimed in confident voice. He took a pose with his legs spread and hands to one side, like a superhero from some cartoon. "Trace on!"

Nothing happened.

"It looks like projection is still a bit too much for you. Which ones were you using? Your own circuits or your crest?" he asked.

Despite the fact that Shirou was skilled at structural Grasp and was capable of projecting knives and small swords, he was still a child and he would be surprised if he had managed to project anything other than a bladed weapon in a long time. Normally a child wouldn't be able to project anything with just a few weeks of practice. Despite the fact that Shirou started learning quite late for a magus, his projection was quite good actually when it came to blades. He had asked Shirou to project a kitchen knife, which he succeeded in doing, and he found out that there was little difference between the real thing and copy, an extraordinary feat for someone so young. Though there seemed to be little else he could project at this point, he was sure he would be able to use projection for more advanced weaponry. Maybe a bow would be a good substitute for a sniper rifle? The bow used arrows which had a bladed arrowhead and could be considered a blade. Maybe he could add a bladed edge on a gun and call it a sword?

"My crest, but even when I use my own circuits it's hard to project something that's not a sword or knife. Projecting swords is like walking, but projecting anything else is like running uphill," he said as his shoulders fell.

"Don't worry about it; you just need to practice a bit more. However remember…" he was interrupted by Shirou.

"…Never, ever use more prana than you circuits can handle and never, ever tell anyone what you are and who your father is. I know, dad. But why don't we ever meet any magicians normally? You're the only magus I know, but you said there are entire groups of them. Why can't we go to them for help?" asked the adopted Emiya.

"I told you a little of what I did before I found you, right? Well, all of it was true, but when I told you that I was a little disliked I might have tweaked the truth a little. I'm hated in some very powerful places and if I were to reveal you to them then people would target you in order to get revenge against me. Understand?"

Shirou nodded, but continued. "So why can't we just hide you? I don't look like you and I don't have your crest so people wouldn't think I'm related to you unless I they meet you. Can I go?" the child asked, childish curiosity and hope evident on his face.

Kiritsugu chuckled, something he found he did rather often after he started teaching Shirou. The boy's sense for heroism and adventure was reminding him of himself before his father… No, he was not going there. Too many bad memories.

"No Shirou, it's too dangerous. You're just a child and it would be suspicious if you went to Clock Tower alone without a guardian. I'm not sending you into a pit filled with hungry snakes like that."

The boy's face fell and it was clear he was disappointed.

Still it was a valid tactic and in a few years it might work. An eight year old would look to out of place, but a twelve or thirteen year old might be able to pass of as an eager magus-in-training or heir to a declining family. The second one would actually be true in two cases. The Emiya family was disgraced after Kiritsugu's father had started his research on dead apostles and Shirou's original family was most likely dead or had lost a large part of their crest if alive. A family of magi depended largely on the crest to show their pedigree and age. Another reason he wasn't liked in the Magus Association. He had done a fair deal of damage to a large number of nobles.

Now that he thought about it, letting Shirou go to a magical institute was the best option. Even though Kiritsugu was a good teacher, he was a specialized magus and he didn't have the material to teach Shirou enough about Magecraft beyond the foundation and Formalcraft, though if he used the books Irisviel brought with them about alchemy then he could teach him the basics, but that was it. Add the fact that they had already stumbled upon the problem of his limitations and add the fact that he had an unidentified magic crest then he would have to get some real instruction soon. Since he already had a magic crest which wasn't the Emiya's tragic excuse he wouldn't have as much suspicion on him even if he might reveal his name. Almost nobody in the association knew much about Asia. Telling people it was a common name wouldn't be too much of a lie.

Still, he wouldn't be able to send Shirou to the Magus Association for years to come. Formalcraft, runes, alchemy and projection would take quite some time for him to learn. There was simply no point in worrying about the distant future, even if it did look grim at the moment. All he could do was to arm his son to the best of his ability so for now he would drill the basics of Magecraft into the boy.

April 1, 1996

The gun was on the table, its black sheen giving the viewer a deadly glare as if asking him: `You think you've got the guts to use me? What's wrong, punk?! You gonna pick me up o' what?!' Contrary to what he might have thought when he first heard of the new subject he was going to be learning, he was now filled with dread.

Earlier that day Kiritsugu and Shirou were standing in the yard and Shirou was inspecting the younger Emiya's swordsmanship. He had an ability to instantly know where was the best place to grip the sword and the best place to guard and attack. It might have had something to do with his origin since so far it only worked with swords. They had tried to do the same with spears and though he had shown more knowledge about it than the average novice, it was nowhere near the same intuition as when he held a sword. It seemed his affinity applied for all bladed weapons, but was best suited for swords in the end.

While his talent for swords was impressive, he still had to work on his technique though. His speed and strength were sub-par and he had no idea on a proper stance aside from the one taught in kendo. This wouldn't be a problem if he relied only on a Japanese bokken, but a wooden sword wouldn't do on the battlefield. As such they had practiced with several kinds of blades, ranging from a Japanese katana to the Scottish claymore to the gladius, rapier, falchion and Viking sword. Each sword required a different formand technique, making Shirou rely on a varied stance.

When they were done Kiritsugu had commented on Shirou's reluctance to attack his opponent's openings. Shirou's response had been less than what he had hoped for.

"If I do that, then you might get hurt."

While his concern was appreciated, it was nonetheless frustrating.

Kiritsugu had then told Shirou that in order to survive on a fight against magi; you would have to use every single advantage to the maximum. Every opportunity must be utilized. A magus from a noble family might follow rules of honorable combat, but the enforcers and executioners most certainly wouldn't. If anyone find out about Shirou, both might come at him at the same time. Under those circumstances, holding back because of chivalry would get you killed.

Normally Shirou would say chivalry is important, but he also knew his father had experienced battle almost his entire life and knew far more about the subject than he did. So he listened to his father/teacher.

"The most important tools I had at my disposal were not mysteries, but modern firearms. That's why most considered me to be a heretic. You see, a gun can't store prana very well. Even if you tried the effect would be almost nonexistent. This has mostly to do with the materials and design. A pistol has many small parts made of metal. Most metals are capable of storing prana; many famous swords are made from enchanted steel or engraved with runes afterwards to make them enchanted. But most swords and lances are single large pieces of metal. A gun is made from many small, complex parts. So in order to make a gun function as a mystic code, every part would have to be engraved with runes or altered with alchemy. Even then the amount of prana the gun can store would be minimal since the bullets could detonate inside the weapon if the excess prana made contact and interacted with them." He paused and took a swig from the coffee he had in his hands.

After quenching his thirst, he continued. "So most of my weapons were not enchanted, except for some of my larger tools like my sniper rifle or assault rifle since they were made of pieces of steel large enough to hold an acceptable amount of Prana. Even then I wasn't able to do any major things to them. I carved runes into them so the rounds wouldn't get blown off course or the incendiary rounds wouldn't detonate before they hit the target." He stood up and walked across the yard. When he reached the shed which functioned as his workshop he opened it.

He and Shirou walked inside and Kiritsugu showed him a box. It was two meters in length and a meter in width. It was almost as high as Shirou so he didn't see everything inside it, but he saw what his father took out.

It was a gun, black with a slightly worn out barrel. It was too big for Shirou's hands, but it seemed to fit perfectly in the older man's hands.

"Shirou, I want you to use structural grasp on this gun and tell me what you find out." He put the gun on the table and walked over to the couch on the other side of the room, a grim expression was the only thing he showed to his son.

Shirou did as he was told and used his Magecraft on the deadly weapon.

"Trace on," he said, his magic circuits flaring up in response. "It is a Beretta 92SB. It was made in 1980 in Italy. It uses 9x19 Parabellum caliber rounds and it can hold fifteen rounds in a clip inserted in the grip. It has been assembled and disassembled over two-hundred times. The first time it was used was in 1983 when Emiya Kiritsugu used to shoot Emiya Norikata. Since then it has shot more than 800 hundred times…" He trailed off as he understood what he had just said. He looked at his father, the man he had just, without meaning to, accused of committing patricide.

His father saw his expression of shock and nodded, confirming his son's accusations. He held up his hand to stop the other when it looked like he was going to ask a question. He motioned to the worn-out sofa to his left, telling the child to sit before he continued.

"My father was a magus. In fact he was talented to the point that the Association put a sealing designation on him, despite the fact that our family was just four generations old. When he found out he was going to be sealed inside the Clock Tower for the rest of his life, he ran. He took my mother and they ran from the association. Somewhere along the line, I was born." He looked out the window, as if not sure where to continue. After a while he continued.

"From what my father told me, my mother was killed just moments after in an attempt to get to him. It didn't work and Norikata took me away from there and raised me on the road. When I was twelve, we settled on an island called Alimango Island and we lived there for about a year. I had a crush on a girl a few years older than me called Shirley. She was kind of like Taiga, only without a cursed weapon and with tanned skin." A shallow smile appeared on his father's lips. "She was also my father's assistant. From what he told me, Shirley had even more talent than I had and might even had a future in Clock Tower if she was allowed to follow the path of a magus."

He sighed and Shirou could see a slight tremble in his father's frame. "Life was great. I could play with my friends all day and then I could spend time Shirley and father. But then… then Shirley let her curiosity get the best of her. She drank one of my father's experimental concoctions in order to find out what it did, but she had no idea of what my father had been researching." He stopped, as the pain of reliving the events became too much for him. Tears were now visible in Kiritsugu's eyes and his lip was trembling. His shoulders were shaking and he covered his face with his hands, as if not seeing anything would make it go away. Even though Shirou couldn't see his face, he could hear his father, the strongest superman of all, start sobbing from all the repressed emotions.

"He was researching ways to become a dead apostle," he said after the long pause was over. "He said that it was impossible to find root with a mortal body and that he needed the longevity of a vampire. He couldn't afford to wait hundreds of years to regain his mind from the zombie-state they enter. He wanted to skip that phase altogether. So when Shirley drank the potion she was turned into a vampire and she infected the entire island. Soon after that the enforcers and executioners arrived. They started burning the town and killing the undead and they would have surely killed me too if I hadn't been saved by a woman called Natalia. She was a freelancer who would hunt down sealing designates and sell their magic crest. When she found out what happened and that there was a barrier around our house she allowed me to go and stop my father." A bitter smile appeared on his face. "Did you know that he hadn't even gone out to look for me? He only thought about his research and how Shirley had shown him the answer. He was going to bolt the second he could. He thought I was going to just listen to him after he had been responsible for killing the entire island. I… I didn't know what I was supposed to do when I found him, I hadn't thought that far, but I had expected him to say it was a lie. That he hadn't been responsible for the outbreak and that someone had framed him, but when he admitted it I lost it. I stabbed him with a knife and when he was bleeding out I shot him with a gun he kept in his study. The same gun that is on the table," he said as he stared at it. The expression that Kiritsugu showed that day was one Shirou would never forget. It was the look of someone who had been betrayed by the ones he loved and could never go back to who he was before. Like an irreversible change had occurred in him, breaking him…. Distorting him. It was the same look he had the first days after the fire.

Maybe they were more like each other than both were willing to admit.

"The reason I'm telling you this is because I want you to remember that as long as there are people alive, there will be those who might betray you. Chivalry relies on the principle of everyone trusting in eachother to uphold their honour. But those who don't care about honour will always win since they can cheat, lie, kill and betray all they want. The gun you just saw is proof of that. The association betrayed fathe… Norikata who in turn betrayed Alimango Island. I just used that gun to betray my father in order to end the chain of betrayal, but that doesn't mean I am not guilty of the sin of treachery." It was just pouring out from him, every word felt like the ocean that had been on his shoulders disappeared and he could breath. He would have continued to tell his son about his actions if he hadn't been hugged by the aforementioned son.

"It's okay, dad. It's not your fault. You did what you had to do and I don't blame. But I won't be betrayed nor will I betray anyone. You don't have to worry about me," he said. He said all those things a nine year old shouldn't say, but he said it with such a smile that Kiritsugu couldn't help but to believe him.

The strangest thing of all: he wanted to believe him.

"Thanks. I needed to get that of my chest for a while." He sniffed. "Where did you hear those words though? I've never heard of child talk like that, not even the heirs of nobles would be able to talk like that at your age," he asked his adopted son. Thinking about it, it did sound a little creepy.

"I heard the rangers say it last Sunday, when they fought The Evil Chimera-lord Girugamesshu," he answered back with honest-to-root smile on his face, as if the fact that it came from a show meant for kids didn't change the value of the statement.

Kiritsugu's face went through several stages. First shock, then wonder and finally joy as he let out a loud laugh. His laughter was enough to echo in the building and the crows, who had taken the roof as their nest, took flight in order to get away from the possible predator that they considered Kiritsugu.

Shirou looked at his father in puzzlement, not understanding enough to realize why his father was laughing. To him, the words of heroes like his father and the Rangers of Justice (Shirou thought it was a fantastic name) might as well be as basic to understand as basic rights. It was LAW. He tilted his head to the side, an action he often did when not knowing what happened, in confusion. That along with the look in his eyes gave Kiritsugu the impression of a puppy.

The thought gave another fit of laughter.

AOB

After that Kiritsugu had told him to keep the gun. He wouldn't be able to use it since his very existence clashed with it, but it was still an advanced piece of equipment. Understanding the mechanics behind it would enable him to understand advanced physics better… or something along those lines. Shirou had not understood what Kiritsugu had said, but he figured using structural analysis would help him in the long run. As a result, he was sitting and was using structural grasp on it, letting the Magecraft analyze it to its fundamentals. From the metal used in its construction to the gunpowder in the in the Parabellum rounds, all of it was being downloaded. He was seeing the very essence of it and its history.

He saw how his father had been given the gun in order to practice maintenance and marksmanship. He saw his father disassemble it time and time and time again, only to assemble it time and time and time again. It was a tiring effort, trying to learn the blueprints of it. When it came to swords all he had to do was look at it and he would learn it without effort. But when it came to guns it was different.

Guns and Swords were incompatible for the most part. It was only under a short period of time that they existed together before humans discarded the bladed weapon in favour of the ranged. Swords were made for close-range combat, when the enemy was less than two meters from you. They were honourable, glorious and proud. Most sword masters followed the way of knights or kings. Very few wielders of swords were known to be cowards.

Guns, on the other hand, were made for long-range and had little honour attached to their names. It was a supreme murdering tool and was capable of more destruction than any tool a singular person could wield. They were not like an archer with a bow and arrow. Archers could still follow a code of honour and several could be knighted. It took years of training to learn how to wield a bow properly, while a gun only took a fraction of that time. No, guns were not like swords or bows.

And yet in Shirou's mind he was slowly accepting this pistol as more than a simple tool of death. It carried more than simple thirst for blood. This gun had been used for justice when it killed Emiya Norikata. It had been used for peace when it killed the sealing designates threatening innocent lives. It had been used for protection when killing dead apostles who had been terrorizing innocent towns for pleasure. It had been used for killing, but it had been used for saving even more.

Yes, Shirou could definitely see this as a worthy weapon for a hero.

He reached for the firearm, almost flinching when he felt the cold metal touch his skin. He held it in his right hand and used his left hand to slide the clip out. He put the clip down and started to pick the gun apart, like his father did before him. For every part, he separated he saw how his father showed his ideals, how he followed the Path of the Magus Killer.

He might never be able to wield it, but he was still capable of respecting its history.

It was indeed a worthy weapon.

AOB

May 3, 1996 Fuyuki City

The sun was bathing Fuyuki city in its scorching rays. The large sphere of gas in the sky was unhindered by bad weather as there was not a single cloud in sight no matter where you looked. In every direction the sky was as blue as blue could be. In fact it was the warmest day in over twenty years, a fact Shirou was horrified to find out. Why would he be horrified to know it was a hot day? Most people would like this kind of weather. Sunlight provided vitamin D which made people active and gave them a more active personality during the time the sun was up.

Most people, on the other hand, didn't have to deal with Fujimura Taiga.

Emiya Shirou and Fujimura Taiga were in the dojo practicing swordsmanship, just like Shirou and Kiritsugu had been doing almost every day for the last three months. He had progressed to the point of being able to last five minutes in an open spar against Taiga if they removed the armour. His reflexes and speed along with his affinity for Sword were good enough for him to fight on even ground with the more experienced fighter. Of course this only applied in an open spar. The armour used in real kendo spars was too heavy for him to use without being turned into a big bruise called Shirou.

Thanks to the intense training with Taiga however, his sword-projection had gotten better. In fact his skill took leaps if she used the Torashinai. Though he didn't want her to use it if he wasn't wearing the armour.

Block, push, stab, defend, counter, slash.

His strength didn't have the same effect like someone who weighed more than twice his weight, but he was able to make her take a step back. This allowed him to extend his shinai in a straight path towards her gut, but the older fighter parried the blow while using her momentum to deliver a fast strike towards his chest. He was just barely able to retract his sword in time to guide Taiga's shinai away from his body and then strike her chest with an upward strike, which failed, and then bring his shinai down again. It was blocked once again and the older girl's shinai descended down onto his shoulder.

A whistle blew, signifying the end of the spar. They both looked the side to Kiritsugu who had blown the whistle.

"Match over. Winner: Taiga!" he declared. He wore his grey yukata unlike the two combatants. In his left hand was a paper fan which he was using to cool himself with, a logical solution given the temperature.

Shirou stumbled into the wind from the fan, panting and sweating. The shirt and shorts he was wearing were drenched in sweat, proof of the amount of time they had spent in the sun. The moment he reached the cool shade under the roof he collapsed in a heap. His muscles were aching; the results of having to endure a training regimen no nine year old should go through. His limbs were trembling to the point that even his toes were twitching. He was so relieved to be in the shade that he was actively rubbing his cheek against the cold, polished wood floor and then seeking a new cold place after his current spot had been warmed by the temperature of his body.

If Kiritsugu didn't feel sorry for the boy he would have laughed at the sight of the boy slowly crawling across the floor with an almost delirious expression.

Actually he did laugh a little.

Taiga on the other hand, looked like she had just a walk at a brisk pace. Her forehead was starting to show signs of sweat, but it wasn't dripping down her face like on Shirou. She had gained a tan from being in the sun and she had her hair in a shirt ponytail. She almost looked exactly like Shirley did twenty years ago, before the vampirification. She had a grinning from ear to ear, as if she hadn't been hit with a shinai. She walked over to the wall while humming a tune Kiritsugu was sure he had heard before.

"What's got you such a good mood? It's not often you come over here to spar," he asked the female kendoka. "You usually practice with your teammates."

"Well, I was going to practice in the club, but when they heard how hot it was they decided to make it an early holiday. And it's such nice weather today so you just want to do something with your friends. So I thought, as a good senior, I should make sure Shirou practices, instead of lying around like he always does," she said sweetly. Both of them ignored the groan coming from the floor next to them.

Looking back at the boy he answered: "You sure that it's not because you get hyperactive when the sun is out?" Poor boy, he and Shirou had just finished their own training, which involved sparring and exercising, so the kid was probably not going to be of much use any time soon.

"What are you talking about, Kiritsugu-san? Everyone gets like this on sunny days. It's common knowledge. Besides it's not like he's hurt or anything. We both used foam covers on our shinais."

Indeed, over the wooden shinai was a large piece of blue foam covering the `blade' of the practice sword. They wouldn't use real bokken in a duel between unarmoured opponents, but this made sure that even if the hit there wouldn't be broken bones or concussions. It would still bruise and make you wince if it hit though.

"Yes, but as he is now, he won't be able to make food, you know," he pointed out with a bit of teasing in his voice.

That certainly got her attention. She ran over to Shirou and started shaking him. Cries of `Shirou! Shirou, are you okay?' filled the air. It was at times like this that he was able to remind himself that Taiga was not Shirley. Shirley had been fun, yes but not hyperactive. Shirley was more mellowed, not as prone to comical outbursts. It was a good contrast.

One that brought back memories of her death.

"Taiga, maybe he'll feel better if you'll get him some water. He's been sweating a lot so he'll be thirsty enough to drink straight from the river if you don't hurry. Then we'll have a Shirou with indigestion who can't cook at all." She took his advice with enthusiasm. She ran to the kitchen, knocking over a dresser in the process.

"She wouldn't be so glad to use this place as practice if you didn't spoil her so much," said Shirou from his place at the floor. He was looking at his father with a slight glare.

"She would still come over here to get rid of her excess energy on sunny day, no matter what I say. You know what she's like when the sun is out, she turns into a juggernaut even berserker would hesitate to face," he joked. He was almost sure she was part alien. The superman comics said kryptonians derived their strength from the sun. Could Taiga be a descendant of Type Krypton?

"Berserker doesn't have to fight her for hours in the sun so he can't complain. Why am I always the one to spar with her? You're the Magus Killer, right? You should be able to take a few bruises instead of me next time," Shirou grumbled. He had apparently recovered enough to sit up by now, as he was slowly pushing himself into a sitting position. Whether this was the result from the countless hours he had spent training or from the noble phantasm inside of him Kiritsugu couldn't tell, but he knew that it would have been impossible for an ordinary human to bounce back so quickly for an ordinary human. It would have required inhuman conditioning, something the training under a magus killer included.

"I'm retired remember? I don't have the energy to keep up with you youngsters. My role is to tell you to train and then pit you against a superior opponent you're not supposed to win against. If you lose then I tell you to train harder, if you win then I tell you I knew you could do it even if I didn't." He gave his apprentice/son a smile filled with mischief. "Speaking of which…" He coughed and started speaking in a voice you'd hear an old man use. "You need more training, Grasshopper." He said. "But now that you can hold your ground against the normal Taiga, I think it's time for you to try your hand against Taiga with Torashinai." He laughed at the youth's face filled with despair.

"No, you can't! I'm having a hard time against normal Taiga without Magecraft. How am I supposed to handle Toraiga?!" The reply came, this time using the second nickname the boy had for his senior. Toraiga; the personality which came out when Taiga wielded Torashinai.

"Don't worry; I won't make you do that. Not when I still need you to be able to continue with our project," he answered with apologetic smile. Really he had not been able to tease someone like this since he had Illya. Shirou was not like his elder sister at all, but they tended to respond the same way to his teasing.

"You mean, I can finally learn how to use mystic codes?" Shirou asked hopefully.

"Only when you show me you can use your swords good enough. It wouldn't do if you finished it only to not know how use it," he told him, his smile fading away as he settled into his teaching persona.

"But dad, please can I start learning know! I promise I won't end like last time," he assured his dad, trying not to think about the previous incident when he had tried to project a sword beyond his limits.

"Only when you know how to use them. I'm not budging on this. You still can't beat Taiga with a shinai, what do you think is going to happen when you use a mystic code with abilities you have never used? First thing to using a code is being able to wield the item without Magecraft, " he said.

Shirou looked irritated at being reminded if his loss. "That's not my fault, you know," he grumbled. "Fuji-nee is faster and stronger than me. How am I supposed to beat her?" he asked.

Kiritsugu sighed. "You know, that not actually true." At his son's flabbergasted look he continued. "If we're talking strength then you're both equally strong. Taiga only has the advantage of size and weight, but you're physically just as strong as she is. And when it comes to speed, I would say you're actually a tiny bit faster. Despite this, why do you think you lost?"

Shirou started to answer, but nothing came out. He thought, but when he realized he didn't know he looked to his father. "I don't know, why?"

"There are two reasons. The first is skill. Taiga is better at using a sword because she is accustomed to it. Unlike you, she doesn't use more energy than she has to and makes no unnecessary movements. She is simply more used to handling a sword. You on the other hand, are quicker, but you put all your energy in your strikes and when you miss or get blocked that energy is wasted. So she will outlast you by nine times out of ten," he explained.

"The second is experience. When you attack you make it obvious where you will strike. You have a `tell' so to speak. This can be the bending of knees, twisting of hips or simply looking at the place you'll strike. Taiga has enough experience to see through you attack and counter it. You in particular possess many openings. I have made you lose many of them without you knowing during our spars since it's easier to lose something you don't know you have. The tells you still have are your shuffling of your left leg to forward and that fact that you like to attack your opponents left side. These are very basic tells, but they are very hard to get rid of." He stopped when he thought of something. "By the way, when you shuffle your left leg forward, Taiga tends to strike your shoulders," he added before Taiga returned with a water bottle.

"Okay, here's the water. Shirou, you still have enough energy to cook, right? Right?" she asked in a pleading voice. She almost had tears in her eyes. No, she did have tears in her eyes.

"Of course I do, Fuji-nee. If I didn't, who would make dinner? Need I remind you of what happened last time you or dad cooked? The fire department had to show up because the neighbors thought the yakuza had burned our house down." He didn't need to say that Taiga was technically part of yakuza and she had caused a fire when she left the oatmeal to boil for too long. They had to replace a large part of the kitchen that day.

"Yeah you're right. Haha, I knew you wouldn't get beaten by something so little," She laughed. She let out a small sigh of relief when she realized she wouldn't lose a chance to eat another one of Shirou's meals.

"Something little? We've been practicing for hours now! How come you never bother anyone else in the club this much?" Shirou asked, a frown appearing on his sweat covered face.

"None of them have a dojo in their homes and none of them can cook for me after a workout?" the elder child answered weakly.

Shirou sighed, knowing it was a uphill struggle to make sense of what Taiga said. He drank a few mouthfuls of water before looking back at the center of the dojo.

`Taiga tends to strike your shoulders' that's what Kiritsugu had said.

"Hey, Fuji-nee!"

"Yeah?"

"Want to spar one more time?"

AOB

"I'd like to make a toast, for my son on his first victory!" Kiritsugu raised his glass of whiskey above his head, the other occupants at the table doing the same.

With the exception of Shirou, who started to make himself as small as possible in embarrassment, and Taiga, who grumbled about something that sounded like "So what if I lost? I lose all the time to Kiritsugu-san!"

They were eating dinner and taiga had asked if she could invite her family. Shirou had said yes, with his father's approval, as he would be the one to cook. They had not anticipated on Taiga's definition of family would be her Grandfather and his ten most loyal yakuza henchmen, or elderly care-assistants as he called them. Though Shirou doubted anyone would ever believe the second description, if the scars, suits and sunglasses were any indication.

Though they didn't look top intimidating right now, stuffing their faces with hamburgers and drinking soda like a bunch of children. It was almost enough for Shirou to let out a laugh, though he didn't as even he knew that laughing at a yakuza was enough to get people killed. There were a lot of people with scars and on their faces which meant they probably lived through more conflicts than the average man in their lifetimes. Though technically he was a child so he could ask some questions about how they got their scars. Scars were always a good way to get a conversation going.

As Kiritsugu sat down after the toast Shirou started talking to the yakuza to his left. It was a man with shaven head which showed his giant scar that stretched from his eyebrow to the top of his head.

"So where did you get that scar over your eye?" he asked innocently.

The thug in a suit almost choked on his food and reached for his glass to flush it down. After taking a few gulps of air, he looked down at the kid and glared. Most of the conversations around them had stopped and the occupants were looking at what might soon develop into a hostile situation.

The thug looked at Raiga, the leader of yakuza and Taiga's grandfather. There was a moment of silence as a silent conversation was held between them. At Raiga's nod, the yakuza looked back at Shirou.

"It's considered polite to introduce yourself before asking something like that, kid," he said.

Shirou blinked, but then he gave an innocent smile.

"Oh, sorry about that. My name's Shirou, Emiya Shirou," He introduced himself.

The thug nodded. "Name's Yoshida, kid. And an' why you interested in mah scar, an'way? It's not sumthin' you ask like tat'," Yoshida said in a slight growl.

"`Cause scars are interesting. They show what you've been through and what kind of life you've had. So where did you get it?" he asked one more, curiosity evident on his face.

The yakuza had never had this kind of experience though. Normally people would glance at him and whisper to eachother, silently judging him for his appearance. It was a startling experience for the thug.

He started explaining: "Well, I was doin' my job one day when I received word from the boss. T'ere was a large shipment of… Uh, well of…" He paused; trying to think of a good excuse that didn't entail the kid knowing of the illegal activities his friend's family was involved with. "FLOUR, t'at's right. A large shipment of flour was arrivin' so I was suppose' to make sure it was delivered. So I was at the checkpoint, when a rival yaku… I mean, a rival bakery showed and started ta argue ova' who's flour it was. Then one o' ta bakers hit me with a… what do ya call 'em? Rollin' pin? Only the one side was broken so one of ta handles was sharp. Tat's how I got the scar, kid." He finished, feeling proud of his quick thinking.

"I didn't think you worked as a baker. I thought you were yakuza." Was Shirou honest reply.

The dinner guests all burst into laughter at the look of shock in Yoshida's face. He had gone through the trouble of making up a story so the kid wouldn't know what they did, only for the kid to know exactly what they had been doing from the start. He grumbled to himself in embarrassment, before he turned to Shirou.

"So kid, you interested in scars, right? You got any stories of your own?" Yoshida asked. Most of the people around just took it as a joke, a way to introduce the boy to the family of yakuza. And there's nothing like an introduction through intimidation. Nobody noticed how Kiritsugu and Raiga froze as if they had wanted to avoid this particular topic.

"Yeah, I've got a few. Though the story isn't half as interesting as yours," Shirou said, still wearing the innocent smile of a nine year old.

"Come one, tell us already! We won't laugh, no matter how boring it is," They thought it was like a scar on the knee or elbow. The kind any child would have. But if any of them had paid attention they would have noticed that by now Kiritsugu was trying to motion Shirou to stop, waving his fingers in front of his throat as he desperately pleaded for Shirou to notice. Shirou didn't.

"Well, the first thing I remember is fire. It's everywhere, no matter where you looked. There were people burning and screaming, running as they were trying to put out the flames. I saw families who had been crushed and children who tried to wake their parents. I also remember an opera house and how the fire kept flowing from there. I started walking from the fire, but it managed to catch up to me wherever I went. It would burn me if I slowed down, but if I started running the flames would grow larger around until I stopped. So I walked and walked and walked. When I couldn't move I stopped caring about moving. When it hurt I stopped caring about pain. When I saw a fire-fighter collapse I stopped hoping for rescue. When I saw a mother hold her child I stopped caring about life. So I decided to just lie down. There wasn't anything left, but a sea of flames and a mountain of fire. It was when I gave up that I didn't feel anything at all anymore. There wasn't anything exciting about living, I thought. It was just the same. I had been a living corpse from when the fire started so it wouldn't change if the fire started burning me ashes. As long as I didn't care anymore," he said.

The whole room had gone quiet. Unlike before, when he had asked Yoshida about his scar, this silence was filled with shock. Before they had been watching with cautious eyes, ready to act on a moment's notice.

This silence was horrifying. Nobody moved, as if the person to move first would find themselves in the nightmare the child had just described. Their eyes kept glancing between the kid and eachother, not knowing what they should do in the current situation. They had all realized what he had been telling them of. The Fuyuki fire, the fire which claimed over five hundred lives and demolished every single building around. The fire had started at the opera house, so the kid would have been at the center of it. How he survived was a mystery to all present, but two.

"But then Dad found me and brought me to the hospital. After the burns healed, he adopted me and we got this house. Now I can play with dad and Taiga all day!" he said, as if the pain was worth the time he had with his current makeshift family.

The yakuza stared at him, not believing their ears. If an adult had said that then they would have thought he was insane. But the kid had managed to say it in such a way that it made sense. The sky was blue, water was wet, chocolate was tasty and the kid walking through a field of death was worth it in order to become neighbors with yakuza.

"Well Shirou, thank you for telling us. There won't be any more questions about scars for the rest of the evening, will there?" asked Raiga over the table. It was a question, but everyone except for Shirou could tell that it was a statement. The case was closed.

Yoshida laughed. "Yeah, sure." He clapped the boy on the back. "You's not bad kid. You's creepy, but definitely not bad," he let out a loud barking laugh as the child tilted his head to the side in confusion, looking more like a puppy than a child. When the other guests saw what he was laughing at they also burst into laughter.

Shirou on the other hand, didn't realize what was so funny, or why Yoshida thought he was creepy. He chalked it up to the weird stuff adults did, like laughing when a girl in the club gave him chocolates on valentine last year, or giggling when she kissed him on the cheek.

He also didn't notice Taiga blushing and giggling when she saw him doing his best in imitating a puppy.

AOB

May 4, 1996

Kiritsugu and Shirou were in the workshop. Kiritsugu was in teacher-mode and was standing next to an old blackboard and holding a piece of chalk. He was writing on the board while talking at the same time, forcing Shirou to split his attention between the board and his teacher. It was the same pace all the lessons had been during the last month so the youth had little trouble catching everything Kiritsugu said.

"So Shirou," Kiritsugu said. "Name the three branches you've have been studying for." He told his son.

"Projection, also known as Gradation Air, Reinforcement and Alteration," Shirou answered, thankful for the brief pause in the lecture.

"And the properties of each branch?" Kiritsugu continued, not wasting a second of the lesson.

"Gradation air is the act of replicating an object, using your prana as the payment. Due to Gaia sensing the object is an abnormality it starts to reject the object. It gradually decays and is destroyed by the will of the planet. Alteration is giving an already existing object a property it didn't have before. Like water resistance to objects capable of absorbing water. Unlike projection, the world does not see the object as an abnormality and the object will retain the property until destruction of said object's definition. Reinforcement enhances the objects natural properties, like speed, sharpness or durability. Using alteration and reinforcement together is difficult, but with enough practice it is possible to create a different object than the original," Shirou recited, not thinking about what he said while writing down from the board.

Kiritsugu nodded. "Good, but what happens if you apply projection, alteration and reinforcement at the same time?

"That depends on the skill of the user. If the magus is skilled enough to succeed he will create an object, add a property and reinforce said property at the same time, creating a different object straight from his prana. This would have less presence than a simple projection, lessening the deterioration Gaia would impose on it, but due to the skill required and what little use magi have for projections, no magus would waste the prana for it," h e answered offhandedly. At the same time he was writing down what Kiritsugu had written earlier.

"You forgot that the prana required is less than if you would do all three spells on separate objects. Since the projection is made from your own prana the total amount is less than what the individual spells require." Kiritsugu explained. "It seems that you have a good grasp on the basics for now. I believe it's time to begin on your next project. Do you think you are ready to make your first mystic code?"

"Does that mean I can create a new sword? Like a fire blade or a lightning sword?"

"Who said your first mystic code will be a sword? I've got something else planned for you." Kiritsugu smiled, knowing the reaction shirou would have. He walked over to the garage door. During the renovation, Kiritsugu had decided to add a garage to the storehouse. It was a large square room which held several large objects hidden by dusty covers. He entered the garage and removed one of them.

When Shirou saw what was under the dusty covers his jaw fell.

"Dad, is that a…?"

"Yup."

"And I'm supposed to…?"

"Yup."

"But won't I need education in…?"

"Nope."

"So that is my first mystic…?"

"Yup."

"Dad… You're awesome!"

Kiritsugu smiled.

"Yup."

Shirou started walking to his future Mystic Code, but paused when he realized: He had no idea what to do with it. When he turned his attention to his father to ask for advice he saw the books in his father's hands.

Using structural grasp to see what the books were about, he smiled when he knew what they were meant for and what the titles were.

Runes, Engravings and Alchemy: How you create a Mystic Code.

In all the time Kiritsugu had known his adopted son, he had never seen him read something so eagerly. Nor had he seen anyone get so excited about receiving a broken stove and oven as research project.

He decided to just leave it to Shirou being Shirou.

AOB

June 13, 1996

Kiritsugu was watching Shirou trace his swords. They were training his speed in tracing. There had been a significant improvement since the start. What previously took five seconds to trace, now took little more than 2.

Though despite the improvement it was still a rather boring task, even if he thought Shirou's use of Tracing was quite impressive. While Shirou seemed to be able to read the history of a sword just by looking at it, it was when he traced it that it was showing the fruits of his labor.

The reason he thought it was boring was simply because that was what it was: boring. Kiritsugu was used to being on long, tiresome missions involving stakeouts that turned out to be completely useless so he had the discipline to hold back his yawn, but there was no denying that watching Shirou trace the same blade time after time after damnable time again was not getting any more interesting.

He remembered how Shirou had managed to make a breakthrough on his projections. Kiritsugu had honestly felt like kicking himself. He had been so focused on getting Shirou strong enough that by the time he died, Shirou would be capable enough to take on the enforcers, but as a result he had neglected the basics again. He had assumed that Shirou knew enough projection and had decided to focus on Shirou's physical skill with the swords before starting with reinforcement, but as it turned out, Shirou had not mastered projection enough it seemed. Or it was not projection he had mastered would probably be closer to the truth.

When a magus used projection, they followed a preordained order of commands. The first command was `Visualizing the structure´. This was followed with `copying the material´. The last command was `projecting the finished product´. These were the three basic steps that all magi follow when using projection, without exception.

So why was it that Shirou had been getting gradually better results when not using the three commands? Simple, he had created other commands from scratch. Instead of three steps to an incomplete copy, Shirou used seven commands to a complete replica.

However, even the description complete replica cannot be a suitable description. He replicated the entire history of the object, even the abilities. That was not something a simple projection was capable of doing.

It had made him dizzy, trying to wrap his mind about the fact that his adopted son, a child who had been practicing Magecraft, real Magecraft, for less than six months had basically created an entirely new branch of magic.

When Shirou had traced his five-hundredth sword he stopped. He was covered in sweat from the heat produced from his circuits, but since he was tracing a nameless short sword less than a month old without any magical properties, the prana consumption was practically nonexistent. The only effects were the aforementioned heat and a slight headache which Avalon was capable of removing.

Shirou turned to his father. "I've traced it over five-hundred times now, dad. Can I please start learning reinforcement now?" he asked.

That had been the condition for the next step. Reinforcement was normally looked down upon by the majority of magi, but when someone of Kiritsugu's caliber used reinforcement then it was a deadly weapon. The only problem was knowing how to use it and how much to use. Using too much prana would result in crippling the user. Likewise, to reinforce only certain parts of ones physique and neglect the rest would harm the rest of the body. For example, if someone reinforced his arm muscles, but forgot to reinforce the bones in his arm he would break his arm into several sharp fragments which would start cutting into his muscles. There several other ways to harm oneself with this Magecraft, but that was the one most often used as an example.

The other reasons he had waited until now to teach him was his body's own physical form. Reinforcement could only enhance one's body to a certain degree based on the basic status on the body itself. If the body was on a scale from one to ten, with one being overweight and ten being Olympic medalist, then a one could become a ten with reinforcement. A ten on the other hand could, theoretically, become a hundred. Shirou would have needed more muscles on his body to utilize his Magecraft since more muscles gave more room for prana, thus increasing the overall limit.

"All right, let's start then." He motioned for the sword-magus to come closer. He picked up a box from his desk and set it in front of Shirou. He opened the box, revealing it to be filled with pencils. Several yellow, round, wooden pencils with an eraser on the top had been sharpened and were lying in the box on top of eachother. He picked one up and threw it to Shirou, who caught it on reflex without looking away from the box with confusion on his face.

"Inside this box is over a hundred pencils. You are not allowed to use reinforcement on yourself until you've managed to reinforce the pencils without breaking them. Just managing one is not enough. Until you can manage at least twenty perfectly reinforced pencils in a row, you are not leaving this stage, understand?" he asked. Shirou nodded and he continued with his explanation.

"Reinforcement is when pour prana into an object. This object can be anything, but certain materials are better at storing and conducting prana than others. By pouring prana into it you strengthen the imperfections and flaws of said object, but add too much and it will break due to overload of prana. That's why you need a balance for how much you use. Most magi see the flaws as cracks which need to be filled. This helps for visualization for the amount, but you also need to know how to strengthen it, like how many flaws each object has and how large each flaw is. The best way to do this is by using structural grasp on it. You don't get a very accurate reading on it, but it gives you an estimate. The last thing you need to know is how a reinforced object affects a mundane object. Like your bones for example. How do you think a reinforced arm is going to affect a mundane shoulder? The arm will tear itself from the shoulder within seconds." He continued for several minutes before showing Shirou by reinforcing a pencil which he later tried to break, and failed to do." He paused and adapted a thoughtful look. He then continued with whatever had made him stop.

"One of the tricks to becoming skilled at reinforcement is being able to pour more prana into an object without breaking it. This sounds ridiculously obvious, but in practice it's not. Most magi simply pour enough prana to fill seventy or eighty percent of the flaws or cracks, but with enough practice a magus can fill up to ninety. Train even more and it's possible to reach ninety-nine percent. When you've reached this level you will start seeing cracks inside the cracks which can be filled. This can go on and on, but a vast majority only goes for the bare minimum. Only those who focus on combat really use advanced reinforcement."

"Now, your lesson will be to try and reinforce all of these pencils without breaking any of them. You have three hours to before Taiga arrives and wants dinner, which gives you approximately two and a half hour before you have to start cooking for her. If you need anything or have any questions, just ask." With that he turned around and started to assemble his guns again as he heard Shirou pick a pencil from the box.

A few seconds after that he heard a crack and a wince. It looked like it was not going to be a very exciting day after all. He might have to stock up on pencils when he went out next time though…

AOB

June 22, 1996

Despite his earlier assumptions, Shirou had managed to master reinforcement quite quickly. Nine days ago he had cracked every pencil he tried, but now he had cleared the stage of wooden pencils and had mastered other objects as well. He was looking at the other projects right now.

In front of him were several boxes, similar to the ones with wooden pencils, but they had different contents. One was filled with mechanical pencils. These were similar to their wooden counterparts, but were made with plastic (A material known for its low prana conductivity and thus easily breakable) and were made up of several parts, increasing the difficulty by several levels. Shirou had managed to reinforce them to an unbelievable degree despite his inexperience. He doubted he could break any of them without reinforcing himself.

The second was filled with metal tent pegs. They were thin pieces of metal which had no magical properties whatsoever. The only reason he bought them was because he didn't want Shirou to jump from pencils to other projects too fast. They were made of steel, which had a high level of prana conductivity, but steel was hard to reinforce for a beginner due to the focus required. Once more, it had barely taken a day for him to reinforce them all except for the first ten that showed hairline cracks here and there before he was able to adjust his input.

The last box was larger, due to the contents, and he had high hopes for Shirou if he could reinforce what was inside.

So far Shirou had managed to reinforce the pencils and metal pegs, but the last box was his current subject of experimentation. Seeing Shirou successfully build a miniature version of the Eiffel tower using the pegs and pencils, he decided it was time to increase the difficulty. Though when he saw the tower he thought Shirou might possess a talent for design. He could bend the pegs with little difficulty and despite the fact that Shirou had never seen the real Eiffel tower, the model he was building looked almost like an exact copy.

"Shirou, come here," he said. Shirou added the last peg, the one supposed to represent the broadcast antennae, then stood up and walked over to Kiritsugu. Kiritsugu took the last box and opened it up, revealing its contents. Inside were not pencils, pegs or anything of that sort. Instead several arrows filled the inside of the metal container. The arrows were made of wood with steel tips and synthetic feathers. The tips were the broadhead-variant and made of steel. The arrowhead itself was hollow as the three edges met at the point. The moment Shirou saw them he knew that they weren't practice arrows, these were made for killing. The large arrowhead was unsuited for target practice as they would damage the target too much, but if the target was a human… A normal human wouldn't be getting up if they were hit with one of these.

"These will be the last test before you attempt human reinforcement. As you already know from personal experience, attempting magic beyond your grasp will hurt or kill you. That's why I made these arrows to reinforce. They are made with several metals that have high conductivity, but have magical properties. Each have runes on them to increase durability and sharpness, but this will be the first time you attempt magic on a mystic code so take your time before you reinforce them. Use structural grasp as much as you can before attempting to do anything. You don't have an accurate grasp on tracing mystic codes so I don't expect you to do anything anytime soon." His tone was like metal, sharp and cold. Or maybe not cold, emotionless would probably a better choice of words. Up until now he had worn the mask of a teacher, but during his lecture he had slipped into the role of the Magus Killer. Efficiency to the outmost limit.

Shirou flinched. He had seen his father wear that same expression in their spars countless times. Every time he made a mistake that would have killed him in real combat Kiritsugu would lose all emotions in order to correct that mistake. Usually by leaving bruises the size of his hand.

"So I'm supposed to grasp it until I get the most accurate read on the cracks and the prana consumption, then reinforce the individual parts without canceling the properties they already have?" His tone was careful, still wary of his father's voice and the deadly purpose of the projectiles he was holding.

Kiritsugu didn't answer. He just put the box on the floor and started walking to the door. When he reached it, he opened it, but stopped before he left. He turned around and said:

"Shirou, this is your last chance. If anyone finds out about you and the fact that you are studying combat magic, they won't leave you alone. By now, you know the purpose of those arrows. They are not the ones you use in the archery club, comparing accuracy with your friends. They are deadly and are used for gruesome purposes. Take this final step and you've passed the point of no return. After this, you're studying to become the next Magus Killer, do you understand?"

Shirou nodded.

Kiritsugu sighed.

"Then if you want to study under me, talk to me when those arrows are capable of piercing steel. If you don't want to study more, just leave them in this room and we won't ever speak of this again." With that he left the storehouse, leaving his son with a choice that would determine his future.

AOB

Several hours later…

Kiritsugu was sipping on his scotch, thinking about what Shirou would do. He was sure that Shirou would continue, but he had actually been hoping Shirou would say no, to be happy with his current life, going to school and having fun with friends. It was what Kiritsugu had wanted him to do ever since he found him. But despite whatever he said, the boy would still hold onto his belief of being a superhero. And if he needed Magecraft to be one, he would hold onto that chance no matter what hardships he went through.

In a way, Shirou resembled himself when he was younger. Not their appearance or mannerisms, but by their single-mindedness. Kiritsugu had been trapped in his hope of saving the world, just like Shirou is trapped in his dream of heroes. It had taken Kiritsugu almost causing an apocalypse to wake him from his bindings and even now he is hoping that there might be a way to save the world from suffering and war.

Would Shirou suffer the same way he did? Would Shirou be stuck in his cycle of death of a few for the lives of the many? How could Kiritsugu prepare him for that? Could he even prepare him for a life of assassinations and backstabbing? These questions plagued Kiritsugu as he time and time again though about the advantages and disadvantages of letting Shirou learn Magecraft. Every time he thought about Shirou clashing with the Einzberns, he wanted to increase Shirou's training just so he would have a slightly higher chance at winning, but what would the cost be? Shirou was already spending most of his time training, anymore and what little social life the boy had with his classmates and Taiga would be replaced with spars and lectures. What kind of life was that? Kiritsugu had lived that life with Natalia, moving from place to place in order to train for the next target. He would not let Shirou live that way.

But despite his wishes of letting Shirou live an ordinary life, he could not let his adopted son go, if only so his real daughter could be saved. Kiritsugu had lost his ability to destroy bounded fields long ago and as a result, Illya was still inside the barrier of the Einzbern family. He could not save her, not with his slowly weakening body and magic circuits. But Shirou could. Shirou could infiltrate the barrier and rescue Illya. Shirou could stop them from turning her into a political tool for their own benefit. She possessed the DNA of the Emiya family and when Kiritsugu died she could be used to demand the magic crest from the association. It might not be the type of Magecraft the Einzberns specialize in, but a magus would never miss a chance like that. She would become more of a puppet than her mother had beento them. He could not leave her in that place, not when Iri had died thinking that he would take care of her like a father would, like he would have had the plan worked.

No, as much as he despised himself for doing it, he would have to turn Shirou into the next Magus Killer, only better. Shirou wouldn't hunt apostles, sealing designates or terrorists for the sake of world peace. Shirou would save as many people as he could, yes, but Shirou would save those closest to him first.

…And who was closer to you than your family? Even if you have never met them before?

He gulped down the last of his drink, the alcohol burning as it flowed down his throat. At the same time, the door opened and Shirou entered. The appearance of his son set his earlier thoughts on alert. Had Shirou given up? Had all of Kiritsugu's plans been for nothing and would Illya spend the rest of her miserable life inside the Einzbern barrier? Did Shirou not want to be a magus, and therefore not the Magus killer?

Kiritsugu did not know whether to be filled with dread or hope as he waited for Shirou to speak. To give any indication of what he wanted to do. If he wanted to stay as a normal kid in Fuyuki city with a few scars or if he wanted to become one of the most feared magi in the world. Shirou's face gave no indication of what he had chosen either. Those were not the eyes of someone who had succeeded at a difficult task after hours of work. Nor were they the eyes of someone who was ashamed of failing a task others had hoped would he would accomplish. He was serious, not like when you out your mind to something, but not unlike it either. He looked… resigned? He had accepted something and was prepared for the consequences now, whether it was a reward or punishment. It was not the expression an eight year old should have, no matter what he had to do.

His expression tightened when he saw Shirou trace something in his hand. It was an arrow, just like the ones in the shed. His structural grasp told him that this was not a reinforced arrow, but it still possessed magical qualities. Interesting, but he did not understand what the point was. While tracing mystic codes was an impressive feat, Kiritsugu already knew that particular fact. There was no point in showing it to him, if it wasn't reinforced or…

"Trace on!" The arrow was pumped with prana to the point that Kiritsugu thought it would break from overload, but it didn't. The projectile that had been nothing, but a piece of wood and some metal had been reinforced until he doubted anything other than a mystic code could destroy it.

Kiritsugu held his hands out and took the arrow. This could definitely pierce metal, even steel might be ripped into with the right firing mechanism. He glanced up at Shirou. The resigned look was gone and had been replaced with a smile, a true smile.

Kiritsugu spoke. "Does this mean you accept becoming my pupil? Not as a magus, but as the Magus Killer?" He gestured to the deadly arrow in his hands.

"Yup." Shirou said. "Teach me everything you know! Though with you getting old and senile there might not be that much left, old man." He laughed. After a few seconds Kiritsugu joined him.

"Haha, perhaps, but I know enough to beat you to the ground with the Torashinai next time we spar." Shirou's paling face would be remembered for the rest of his life.

AOB

June 27, 1996

Shirou had known this would happen. He had known that something like this would happen. He should have expected something like this to happen.

In front of him were several books, all about a single subject: Archery.

To explain what he meant when he thought that he should have expected it, we have to go back to before Kiritsugu had decided to teach the ways of the Magus Killer. They had decided to test the limits of Shirou's tracing by replicating as many weapons as possible. Swords, lances, shields, spears, knives, axes and maces had all been replicated almost perfectly, especially swords. It was when they came to more modern weaponry that they encountered a problem.

Shirou couldn't use guns.

He couldn't use them. Whatsoever, at all, end of story. He could hold them and pull the trigger, but his very being made it impossible to aim and shoot. The feeling of trying to aim a gun was like trying to focus on your own blind spot while drunk. Even holding it and pulling the trigger was difficult for him. All he could do was fire it in the general direction of the target and hope he didn't hit an innocent person.

It was the same for all modern firearms. Handguns, carbines, assault rifles, sniper rifles and shotguns, they were all pretty much useless even if he used structural grasp until his head pounded from overexertion. So far he had managed to use two guns (the Beretta his father had shown him and a shotgun) in total and both of them had been used by his father who had poured plenty of time and effort into the firearms and even then his aim had been horrible and his handling horrendous at best. The only reason he could use them was probably because they were closely tied to his father, the man who raised him.

Of course this brought forth questions that needed to be answered. Why couldn't he use normal guns? Any normal human being could use one, it was one of the reasons why it was almost impossible to become a heroic spirit these days so why couldn't Shirou? The answer had come from Kiritsugu who had likened it to the problem he had with fixing machinery. Kiritsugu couldn't, due to his origin, handle delicate machinery like a car or a motorcycle. Sure he could drive them, but he couldn't fix them or upgrade them personally. His origin made it impossible due to its cut and bind-methods. As soon as he had said that they both realized it. Shirou's origin was sword, the antithesis to gun. For a sword to wield a pistol or a weapon similar to it, would the same as wolf being hunted by the rabbit or the eagle being devoured by the mouse; inconceivable and utterly ridiculous. The fact that Shirou had managed to utilize two modern firearms was a smaller miracle, but considering the fact that both were made for medium range and one had little power in the rounds while the other had limited ammunition might have had something to do with it. There had been duels under similar circumstances when flintlock pistols had just been introduced that actually had honour in them so that made his two exceptions slightly more understandable though no less useless.

But this still left a large hole in Shirou's arsenal. How would Shirou take down an enemy several hundred meters away from him if his opponent could outrun him? A handgun had limited range even if he could turn it into a mystic code, something which was practically impossible and wasteful to the point of idiocy considering the lack of any real potential, and that was if he could actually aim with them. Larger rifles might make it possible, but Shirou could not use them beyond bashing his opponents head in with them. In the end, both of them had been slightly disappointed in the results at the end of day. Shirou had wanted to emulate his father in his use of weaponry, but his very soul had made it impossible.

Kiritsugu had spent most of the time he had available to think of a way to overcome this gap in weaponry when Shirou had mentioned offhand that he had joined the archery club in school since Taiga had been in charge of the kendo club. This had apparently reminded him of the time when he had discovered Shirou's Origin and Element. How he had thought a bow would fit Shirou better than a sword since they are fired from a distance, something Kiritsugu preferred over close-combat any day.

That might have been one of the reason his last test had been reinforcing arrows. Firing normal arrows with a mystic code would have been less effective than using an ordinary sniper so arrows with mystical properties would bridge that gap, with the reinforcement just being the tip of the iceberg.

While Shirou was glad he had a weapon meant for long-distance fighting now, it also meant he had to learn how to use it effectively. While Japanese archery, also known as Kyudo, was well-established across japan and it did help his form and accuracy, most of it was based on Zen meditation and didn't have very much in combat training. Add the fact that the traditional Japanese bow used in clubs was the Yumi, a bow over two meters tall, and the training received from the Kyudo club didn't seem as helpful as it used to. That meant he had to improvise in order to overcome that weakness. Hence the books Kiritsugu had given him to read instead of sparring as they usually did on their weekends. The book he had picked up first had the title "The English longbow: Origins, creation and uses." It described the first time the western bow had been recorded and how to make one. In Shirou's opinion, the English bow suited his size better than the Japanese bow. While he had more experience with the yumi, he also knew he could not use one correctly in a combat situation. The shorter Hankyu might work for him, but he had no idea on how to make one and it didn't give him the `punch´ his dad wanted.

His thoughts drifted back to his lessons. A mystic code was said to be more powerful if the user had created it himself. It was a theory that had drifted down the centuries from when heroes used their weapons with pride and told everyone how they were made. Some heroes had been gifted with their weapons, making the point slightly mute, but several legends told of how weapons forged by the hero's own hands were powerful enough to smite armies. And while the stories would be nothing but just stories alone, there were several proofs that supported it. One was the "growth ring"-method. It stated that doing something over and over again would eventually add up to something more than just the added amount. In other words, a simple act, performed several times, had mystical effects. That's one of the reasons why such a theory was still being considered and it was one of the reasons Shirou did not simply go out and buy a compound or composite bow.

Unlike Kiritsugu, Shirou possessed pride in his work. When his father was working, he would lose all emotions and fall into a robotic routine. Shirou on the other hand, took pride in his cooking, martial arts, designing and repair work. He felt a joy helping people and seeing their gratitude on their faces. It was that pride that stopped him from taking the easy way out and buying his new mystic code. His first code had already been built and he had just repaired and modified it. This would be a project on a whole other scale and dimension. He would have to craft a mystic code from scratch, using his tools to create the parts to begin with.

He would use all he knew to do it.

…but he would have to know how to do it first. Realizing that, he opened the book and searched for the part that showed how to make a bow. Finding it, his eyes widened at the large text written with extremely small letters. It looked like it was going to take a while…

AOB

August 25, 1996

It was finally time! Despite the pile of books he had to read and the practice required, the wait was finally over. It was time for him to build his own bow.

He had read the documents and books Kiritsugu had bought over on his request. They were about the legendary weapons and how they were made. How the methods had strengthened the material and the symbolism they represented had enchanted the tools they forged. The magi who wrote them had all agreed that there was a mystical quality to a code a magus had spent a large amount of effort and time in crafting, like the saying of blood, sweat and tears.

Unfortunately Kiritsugu had not seen it that way. For Kiritsugu, a tool was a tool. No matter how efficient or effective, a tool for murder could never elevate itself above that level. Even humans could be tools for furthering a man's goals. Therefore he could not understand how a weapon could be more than a simple object. He could never view his Thompson Contender more than a convenient weapon.

In fact, for the first time since Kiritsugu had adopted him they finally had an argument. Kiritsugu thought he was wasting his time trying to craft a bow that would be significantly weaker than a modern compound bow. Shirou had disagreed and actually stood up to his father, a first in his known lifetime. Shirou thought the mystical properties of the weapon would overcome the technological advances while Kiritsugu argued that if the weapon even did acquire blessed or cursed properties its performance would still be weaker than a compound bow or even a composite bow since Shirou didn't know how to use horns or sinew in the bow. In the end, they had to compromise. Shirou would make his own bow as he wanted, but if it didn't carry any effects as he thought he would, they would buy a professional bow and he would reinforce it with runes. Shirou was less than happy at the insinuation that his own father doubted the skills Shirou had honed with tireless effort.

So he had created a plan to ensure that his bow would be a mystical code all on its own without runes. A weapon blessed by effort would be great, but he decided to take it to the next level.

That was why he was in the forest and looking for a yew tree. Why yew? The traditional English longbow was made out of either elm or yew, though they also used ash when yew became scarce in the fourteenth and the fifteenth century. But coming across the same trees as the ones used in England and northern Europe was almost impossible, unless you knew where to look.

Fuyuki city was divided into two smaller towns. The older part is called Miyama City and the new city is called Shinto. However, the older city is also separated into parts. When the immigrants from other countries settled in Fuyuki the majority gathered together in one part. That part is comprised of western-style houses and mansions, though the architectural design was not the only thing they brought across the waters. When they deforested the area they replaced the Japanese forests with European plants and trees. Apparently they had thought the flora was to Japanese for them, despite the fact that they used it to build their homes and warm their houses. For Shirou though, it worked to his advantage. A large part of the settlers were English and had brought elm and yew with them and the forest surrounding the western section was crawling with European trees. The only problem was finding one with the right requirements.

In order to craft a good bow, the wood would have to be without deformations. This included scars from weather and falling trees, branches, termite infestations and curves. This meant that despite the large quantity of yew, finding the right tree was becoming quite the task. Most of the trees he had found bore scars of wind and wildlife; he even saw a clearing which had been destroyed from something like a thunderstorm. His patience was running thin and he had to keep himself from swearing. He felt that if he did, then the blessing of the bow would be lessened or undone. He didn't know why he felt that, he just did.

He had prepared for such an event of course. The forest was large and he knew it might take time. That was why he had waited until a long weekend before he went out. In his duffle bag he had borrowed from his dad was enough food and water for five days and he had spare clothes with him. For a normal person this wouldn't be enough to go camping in the woods, but for a magus specializing in projection and tracing, it was more than enough. Anything else, such as map, compass, tent, sleeping bag, knives, axes and other equipment could simply be traced or in worst case scenario, manufactured on the spot.

He had been in the woods for over three hours when it started to rain. He had projected an umbrella and a waterproof poncho as a precaution. Even if he never got sick, the feeling of being utterly wet to the bone was not pleasant. The sun was setting behind the mountain when he found the perfect bow material. It was a yew tree with a large trunk that sprouted into several smaller branches. Though to simply call it large would be an understatement. The trunk itself could fit a medium-sized car with room to spare. He didn't think it was possible for a tree to grow so large in merely three-hundred years. He had to walk around it several times before he could find a proper piece for a bow. He was about to cut one of the branches on the outside off when he noticed an opening in the trunk, revealing it to be hollow. He wouldn't have paid it any attention if he hadn't all of a sudden smelled an incredible aroma coming from the small opening.

Shirou was a magus, but in his heart he would always be a man of taste and cuisine. His automatic response to something had always been cooking ever since he discovered the joys of blending several ingredients together in order to find the great prize that was food. In the two and a half years he had been alive, he had prepared meals delicious enough that Raiga, a man wealthy enough to own several cooks, had suggested he become a professional chef. He was proud of his accomplishments in the kitchen and anybody who had tasted anything from his menu would say he had every right to be.

That was why the scent that was making his stomach growl and mouth water almost drove him insane enough to jump straight into the dark hole which was hiding the source of such otherworldly fragrance. As it was, he merely hurried to the spot in order to peer down the hole. It was dark, too dark to see anything. Fortunately, he could remedy that in a second. He used a firespell to create a small flame in his hands to illuminate the small wooden cavern and aimed it down the crevice.

Despite the new light he could not see the soured of the mouthwatering fragrance. He decided to climb up the tree in order to stick his head in. He was slightly more successful in looking down the darkness as he could view the sides more than he could before, but he couldn't see what was beneath him. Considering he couldn't see anything that could be so appetizing in the corners he climbed even higher on the trunk on the tree in order to stick his chest inside.

Though now that he thought about it, sticking most of his body inside a dark hole when he was holding onto nothing, but wet bark might not be such a bright idea. It was too late though as he lost his grip and he fell through the opening and was knocked out when the back of his head hit the ground.

AOB

When he woke up, the rain had stopped. It was quiet, almost too quiet for a late summer evening. Though considering that the sun was shining through the hole he had fallen through, it might not be evening anymore.

He was up on his feet in seconds, two nameless daggers in his hands. He took in his surroundings and checked his back to ensure no enemies were around. It was a strange action for a child, but when you're raised by the Magus Killer your entire life is strange.

When he had assured himself that he was alone and safe, he lowered his guard and let the swords disappear. He didn't feel threatened by the place, but his pounding head made his Magecraft tricky to use. He checked his watch. The date said half past twelve, August twenty-sixth, four hundred fifty-seven. Good, he had only been out for a day. He had been worried that the impact had knocked him out for more. It was strange though, he had never been unconscious for more than a few hours from hits to the head so how could he have been asleep for so long?

He decided to put such thoughts away while he ate some breakfast. He hadn't eaten in over a day so he was quite hungry. He was about to take out his lunchbox when the same smell comes back. He took one look at his own homemade food before putting it back in his bag and following the scent.

It seemed that whatever it was that had smelled so deliciously had been taken out of the tree trunk while he had been unconscious because the fragrance was no longer inside the tree. Instead it was coming from the outside through the hole he had fallen through. He glared at the opening, as if it was its fault that he had slipped. He climbed out of the hole and saw the sun shine down on him.

But it didn't feel like it normally did. When the sun was out he would get a warm feeling on his skin where the beams hit, but this sun was different. It shone, yes, but it was a cold light. As if the wind had frozen the warmth in the bright beams and only brought frost with it. He shivered; there was something wrong with this place. He should leave as soon as possible and forget about the scent.

Yeah, that's what he would do, he would inhale the scent some more then leave. Even if the smell he had found unlike any other…

All right, it would be for the best if he just found the scent and left it alone. No point in bringing it with him, it was too dangerous. No matter how good the fragrance was…

He had made up his mind; he would find the delicious scent and bring it with him. It was the least he could do after coming this far and getting knocked out.

He jumped off the tree and took a deep whiff, but shivered when the icy air entered his nostrils. Where was it coming from? He had never encountered something like this before. Was it the result of planting a European forest in Japanese soil? Nah, couldn't be, there were plenty trees from other countries in Fuyuki. Was it global warming? Nope, it was getting colder, not warmer. Was he having a nightmare? He pinched himself and felt the pain, so no…

Did he fall down a rabbit hole and enter a world where the land is ruled by a queen wearing red who ordered everyone to be executed by decapitation?

He hoped not…

He followed that mesmerizing scent into a clearing and laid eyes on a woman. She was sitting by a tree, the roots rising from the ground serving as a perfect bench. At her side was a large black dog. It was sleeping with its head on her feet. In her lap was a weave basket, the kind you have when having a picnic. She was petting the dog with one hand and picking something up from the inside of the basket with the other.

When he came closer he managed to see her face, but was too stunned to move when he saw her beauty. She had dark red hair, as red as blood, that flowed down her back. Her hair was straight and reached her hips. Her eyes were a bright green and made Shirou think she had a very strong will, the way they sparkled with untold wisdom. Though they also gave him the impression hiding a sad past, a feeling he could not relate to. She wore a black dress that covered her assets, which were quite voluptuous, not that Shirou would think of that. The dress was made of some kind of black silk and lace as it cloaked most of her body in complete darkness, but her arms, legs and cleavage were covered with black lace. Around her neck was an elegant necklace. It was the kind you'd expect a queen to wear as it covered her neck in a weblike pattern. Though it did not look like silver. The dull colour reminded him more of iron.

When she noticed him standing there, her eyes widened. They both stared at eachother, both not knowing what to do. Shirou had no idea why the otherworldly beauty was surprised by him, but it probably had something to do with the sun and its icy warmth. He tried to move, but his body told him that if he did then he would break the standoff and the chance to admire her exquisite features.

The moment was broken when the dog nudged her leg. She turned her head towards the canine and stared at it. The dog stared back. A moment passed as message was passed from the dog to the woman. `Why did you stop scratching me? ´ It seemed to ask.

She turned back towards Shirou, though her hand had resumed scratching the black wolf-like dog behind the ears. This time Shirou had been prepared for it. When the allure of the woman hit him, he was able to shrug most of it off and wasn't completely frozen by her stare. He did feel a shiver going down his spine though when their eyes locked. Like someone was slowly tracing his spine with their fingers, but only the tips were touching his skin.

The woman finally opened her mouth and spoke.

"W-who might you be, young traveler?"

Her voice, while graceful and refined, wavered when she spoke, as if she had used it in a long time. Her eyes were focused on him, as if he left her sight he would disappear forever. Whenever made the slightest movement her body trembled, giving her the impression a desperate predator, pouncing on her unsuspecting prey. Shirou did not like that look, but found the expression on her face lovely nonetheless.

"I'm Shirou, Emiya Shirou. Umm, what's your name?" he asked timidly. She was looking at him with eyes far too eager for having just met him.

When he responded to her question and said his name, her expression changed. From a shocked appearance to a hopeful smile, but there was something hidden in her features. There was pleasure in her smile; some kind of sad delight was evident on her visage.

"Shirou? That's not a very common name, is it? Where are you from, Shi-i-ro-u?" She dragged out his name, relishing in the very act of pronouncing it. Her breaths had become fine mist in the cold air, but she did not show any reaction to the icy wind blowing, despite her lack of decent clothes. Shirou was not an expert when it came to expensive fabrics, but he knew enough to tell that silk and lace are not ideal for autumn and winter temperatures.

"It's not THAT common, but it's not uncommon. I know at least two other kids who have the same name in my school. And it's common knowledge that when someone gives you their name, you give your own," Shirou said, feeling a little annoyed that she didn't even introduce herself. Just because she was really, really, REALLY pretty didn't give her the right to be rude. Yoshida had taught him taught that much at least.

The woman, who had looked positively euphoric until now, looked stunned. She had looked as if she had expected total control, but had instead gotten a polite demand instead. From a child no less. She sputtered a reply.

"M- my name? would you- I mean , w-why would you want to know that? It's not something, I mean I-GURKLE!…" It seemed she had been unable to construct an answer for the boy. She stammered over her own words and, in her haste, she had bitten her own tongue. It was a strong contrast from the woman she had formerly appeared as. Before she had held herself as a queen, elegant and charismatic, though a little rusty it appeared. No though she looked like a child who had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

Shirou fought down his giggle. The woman may appear cute, but there was no denying the allure she possessed.

"Because it manners? Why wouldn't you give your name when you're having a conversation?" he asked, as if it was common sense.

…wait, it WAS common sense.

She looked uncomfortable for a second, squirming in her seat by the tree, her face in a cute frown. Then she finally gave in.

"It's… No, okay, it's… Wyrda, my name that is…" She finished weakly. For someone who acted like an almighty queen desired by all just a few minutes ago, she sure looked meek now. Thinking that, Shirou decided to take pity on her.

"Okay, Wyrda. But is it alright if I call you that? Don't you have a family name I can call you by? Though I actually prefer if I can use your given name. It's easier to talk to you that way." he said. All she did was to nod slowly, a smile shining brightly on her face. He continued.

"Anyway, since you asked what I'm doing here I might as well answer. I'm here to build a bow. Well, I was supposed to build a bow, but I was looking for a yew tree to make one of. I found a good branch, but there was this really nice scent so I decided to find what smelled so good. Then I tripped and passed out. Next thing I know, I'm in this place with that weird sunlight. That reminds me, how are you not cold? I'm wearing normal clothes with a poncho over that, but I'm still freezing!" He held his arms around him to get his point across that it was really cold.

Wyrda, for her part, looked even more shocked. She gestured to the field, indicating that she meant the air. "You feel it too? The cold, I mean," she asked.

He gave her his best `Duh! ´-impression.

"Of course I do. It's freezing out here. Can we make a fire or something? Can I make my tent here?" he asked. Now he was really starting to shiver. The wind was picking up speed and rain was starting to fall.

She snapped out of her moment of puzzlement and quickly answered. "YES, YES... I mean, of course you may." She had forced her enthusiasm down at the end, but he could still see her eagerness for shelter.

Shirou started activating his circuits when he realized he was about to show a woman he never met before his Magecraft. What if she doesn't know about magic? He couldn't reveal it like that, his father would kill him! Then he realized that the woman he was with was most likely not human to begin with and she probably already knew what Magecraft was, if her mystical allure and the icy sun was any indication.

"Trace on!" He said as he felt the gun in his head fire. From nowhere, a tent kit appeared. The red and orange synthetic fabric clashing horribly against the green of the forest around them. He hurried to the bag containing the tent and ripped it open. When he had gone to the store to buy the tent he had used structural grasp in order to determine the best model to be used, but as it turned out, his tracing could create a copy that would last for days. As such there wouldn't be any reason for him to lug around a heavy tent. The only problem was erecting the tent once traced. If it had been just him who would be inside he would have chosen a small tent made only for sleeping in order to change time, but now that he had a guest that was no longer an option. So he had opted for a larger tent. The one he traced looked more like a small shed actually. It had high walls and could fit a family inside.

The larger a tent was, the harder it was to set it up. That was the rule for tents, but when someone can use structural grasp and instantly know the way it's meant to be used, it doesn't take that mush time. That was why within five minutes, a large tent stood beside the tree. They both hurried inside to get away from the pouring rain, though thankfully the trees around them protected the tent from the strongest winds.

Once inside he took a look around. There were no imperfections or flaws in his projection, but he had hurried the spell so it wouldn't hold for the maximum four days he currently had, but would disappear somewhere on the second day. That was still acceptable though. He wouldn't need it for more than a night so the extra time was unnecessary.

Wyrda was still looking around, staring at his simple use of Magecraft. He was pretty sure she was aware of magic since she had one a powerful magic trait, but her reaction was odd for someone who was just looking at one of the most basic of spells. It made him wonder what she was…

She focused on him again.

"You're a magus?" She asked him. Yep, she was definitely aware of magic.

"Yes?" He was unsure on how to answer. He had assumed she knew more than he did about it, but she was just as surprised as he was. It unsettled him.

"For a child you are quite interesting. When did you start learning magic? What are your specialties? What's your Origin? Or Alignment? What's your most advanced spell?" She started firing off question after question, as if she had been deprived of a conversation with a magus for years and this was making up for lost time. He had to wave his hands in front of her to stop the onslaught of inquiries.

"Wait, wait, wait! I can't answer if you won't let me!" It was as if he was the adult and she was the child. A child telling a grown woman to behave, what has the world come to? "I've been learning magic for little more eight months now and I can use projection and a few elemental spells like fire and wind. But shouldn't you tell me how you know about magic? And how come you're here in this place? What is this place to begin with?" he asked her in turn. He needed some answers. This weather was not natural and even Shirou, with his less than perfect sense of danger, knew that this place was not safe for normal humans.

"I know about magic because I'm a magic user too. Or I was before. I can't use the arts anymore so I can't call myself that now." Her face lowered as she hung her head shamefully. For some reason Shirou could tell that she was suffering for what she did, but he thought that leaving her in a place like this was too much.

"Then do you want to come with me? I'm going to go back home after I found the stave for my bow, but you can come as well if you want," he told her. Her eyes snapped to focus on his. There it was again, the sad, hopeful look that told him she had spent more time here than her age suggested. He didn't know how he knew that, only that he could somehow tell the woman's feelings through her expressions. But as soon as the hope had entered her eyes, it disappeared. Instead she showed him a regretful smile.

"Unfortunately, I can't. I'm stuck here until I've paid my debt and that will probably take a long time. Longer than it will take for you to make your bow and leave, I'm afraid," she responded.

He sighed. Whatever she was, she was too stunning to wear a sad expression like that. To be honest, even as her sorrow filled her eyes, she was still the most bewitching creature he had ever met. He had little doubt there was any way her figure could ever be described as anything, but breathtaking.

"Then… how about I show you how to cook? I'm really good at cooking and I brought a lot of ingredients with me. My dad said I was wasting space with how much food I brought, but I said that it's impossible to waste space with good cuisine! Then he laughed and said I didn't know what cuisine meant. I said it meant good food and then he laughed even more!" His face developed a frown as he thought about it, but snapped out of it when he focused on Wyrda again. "So do you want to? I can get the supplies out right now." Wyrda was surprised by his enthusiasm it seemed as she froze and slowly nodded. She recovered from her shock before she smiled.

"If you want to, you're welcome to try. I've never had the talent for cooking nor did it interest me in the past so don't expect me to learn anything right away. Unless it's related to witchcraft or akin to it, then I'm afraid it's a wasted effort, Shirou," she informed him, reverting back to her noble persona. Though he could tell she was eager to try his cooking, if her cautious glances to his duffle bag were any indication.

He set down his bag on the ground and walked towards the middle of the tent. Larger tents like tipis were capable of having a fire inside thanks to the design. This was a good idea for Shirou as he liked the idea of cooking indoors when it rained. As such when Shirou had chosen a tent, he made sure that it had an opening in the middle where he could start a fire. He pulled away the synthetic fabric to reveal slightly moist grass, excellent for starting a fire over. The water ensured the fire didn't spread and cause a forest fire. If the grass had been dry, he would have had to use a water spell to dampen it. Now for some firewood.

He went out of the tent, tracing a new raincoat as his old one was dirty and the smell was less than pleasant. The tree Wyrda had been sitting next to was old and large, with plenty of branches that would make excellent firewood. It would be slightly damp, due to the fact that it was still attached to the tree, but if it had been lying on the ground it would have started rotting and wouldn't burn unless it was under extreme heat. He traced a battle axe, since he never took the time to look at a hatchet or fire axe, and started chopping the wood off from the tree. Once he had a small pile of logs at his feet he started chopping the logs into smaller pieces which he brought inside.

Wyrda had sat herself in the corner, watching him with an intense stare. She was drinking in his appearance with his every movement. The dog, who had once more put its head on her lap, was staring at him as well, but unlike before, now it was staring at him with caution and hostility. Was the dog intelligent enough to understand Magecraft? If so, he should be extra careful around the beast. The fangs on that thing could do some serious damage.

He put the smallest pieces of wood on the grass and uttered a small spell "Ignis" under his breath. The small wooden sticks ignited in a bright red and yellow flame and Shirou felt the heat emanating from it. He was also aware of the dog shuffling on the other side of the flame, as if it was preparing itself for an attack.

As he waited for the flames to grow hot enough he traced a large pot and a matching tripod to hold it over the flames. While doing it he watched Wyrda out of the corner of his eye. She was staring at his use of magic, a longing expression on her face. Every time he traced something, her eyes would sparkle and she would give an almost inaudible sigh. She looked mesmerizing with her crimson hair locks falling in front her face, giving her a wild beauty.

He shook his head. What was going on with him? He had never had these kind of thoughts before, so why now? She was beautiful yes, but this was getting ridiculous. He was eight years old, for Pete's sake! Why was he saying things about a woman no eighth year old should say and how did he even know what they meant?

He opened his duffle bag and brought out the ingredients. Oil, meat, vegetables, water, flour and other various substances used in food. He poured the some oil from a small bottle into the pot and was about to add the meat when Wyrda's shout of "Wait!" stopped him. He looked at her as she was picking something up from the picnic basket she had been holding all along. What she brought out made his stomach rumble.

It was the tantalizing scent he had been searching for. It had been inside the basked all this time, taunting him with its fragrance, but in the presence of Wyrda he had forgotten all about it. Now though he could appreciate the ingredient for what it was. It was some kind of smoked meat, capable of being eaten as it was or cooked even further. It was wrapped in a large leaf, larger than Shirou had ever seen on a tree in Fuyuki. The gloriously prepared ingredient had been sliced into several smaller slices, like the ones you put on a sandwich, but slightly larger.

"If you want to you can use this instead of what you brought with you. It's from a special kind of creature around here. If you eat it you're said to experience a taste so divine you'll never forget it," she said with a bright smile. Unlike the ones before this was the bewitching type of smile, the one lesser men would fall trap to in less than a second.

Although Shirou was no lesser man (technically he wasn't even a man yet), he had never come across such a rare A-rank ingredient before in his life. It took all of his might not to swipe the meat from her hands and throw it into the pot. In the end all he did was to give his innocent puppy-imitation and ask "Really? Are you sure?" Her confident and charismatic smile was the only response he needed before he took the aforementioned meat and dropped it into the oil. The sound of sizzling meat filled the tent as the delicious scent he had been chasing was transformed into a meal fit for a king. The end result was a stew made with carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, onions, meat and spices. Shirou had to admit he would have a hard time topping this dish even with his kitchen back home.

He started serving the stew into two bowls he had traced, but changed his mind and added another bowl. Ha kept one and gave the second to Wyrda and the third to the dog. If the dog was intelligent enough to recognize Magecraft then it was intelligent enough to appreciate good food. The dog took one look at the bowl then looked at Shirou. Shirou stared back. Then the dog dug into the food with surprising ferocity. Shirou smiled and ate his own food.

Wyrda on the other hand had been watching him. When he had been serving the food, she hadn't even registered taking her own serving. All she had been thinking about had been seeing him eat. When he took the first bite, she gained a large smile on her face. This was not the bewitching smile, or the seductive smile, but the smile you got when a plan is successful. She then turned her attention to her own bowl and took a small bite with her spoon that Shirou had thoughtfully supplied.

Shirou saw her eyes widen and a small blush spread across her face. It lasted a second before she tore into her dinner with glee. It seemed his plan to overwhelm her with his cooking had gone off without a hitch.

Unknown to the two of them, they had both thought their plan had succeeded.

They didn't know that only one had been a real success.