"Von meinem Befehl, loslassen!"

Shots of white light in multitudes stormed down on the demons, purging through their darkness and whispering tendrils of evil. Aqua-blue eyes narrowed as the woman who had released the bullets stared over at her enemies. Growling softly, she gazed down at the last remaining jewel in her hand into which she had painstakingly transferred her own prana for the past seven years. The woman grimaced slightly. It was her last jewel, and it had cost a year of boring evenings with someone she wished she had never needed to speak to. However, she frowned, looking up at the oncoming demons, she didn't really have a choice. Especially if a certain someone wasn't going to get his butt in gear and help her out.

"Shirou!" Tohsaka Rin shouted out, her patience waning. "Emiya Shirou, I swear, if all you were going to do was sit there and play with your bow, then I should never have brought you along in the first place."

Frustrated golden-brown eyes fixated on the raven-haired woman far away from him. Disgruntled, the young man fell down to one knee, bending down as low to the ground as he could to further stabilize his aim. He narrowed his eyes, drew back the several projected swords in his drawstring, and released swiftly. He grunted slightly as he made sure to maintain the energy required for each sword, and followed the arrows with eyes as they neared their targets.

Rin, having already seen the arrows whizzing straight towards her position, had quickly created a small, but strong barrier around her to protect herself from the blast. She watched the five arrows, or swords, split into multiples and slammed straight into the head of every single existing demon. Shielding her eyes from the resulting blast, Rin stood up to her full height, right hand on her waist as the barrier dissipated. Hearing oncoming footsteps, she peered back her partner as he came jogging up.

"Sorry for the delay, Rin," he said, crossing his arms over his chest. "Every time I lined up my sights, you always killed off a few more, so I was waiting until you ran out of juice."

His partner sighed, shoulders drooping as she realized she couldn't blame him for absolutely everything. "No, it's partially my fault, I guess. We should've made up some kind of code system, or something. But, then again, I figured you might take your sweet time. Again."

"Can't save the world every day," Shirou joked, shrugging his shoulders.

"Mm, yes."

Rin reached into her pocket to pull out her smartphone, and scrolled down the contents of one particular application. Shirou edged closer to her to check their mission list alongside of her. As Rin continued scrolling, she realized there weren't any more outstanding missions for them to complete. While she felt that to be a bit annoying – she was still in battle mode after all – she felt the tension ease out of her shoulders.

"Hm," Shirou muttered. "Nothing left that the Association wants us to do then?"

"It certainly seems that way," Rin drawled out, speaking while simultaneously thinking about what to do from that point. A message from another application popped up on her screen, slightly surprising her. Looking at what was written, she turned to Shirou:

"It says we have a month of leave. They want to keep track of the going-ons of an evil presence somewhere in Prague, but until they have a firm grasp of what's going on, they don't want us taking unnecessary risks."

"You mean they don't want their investments dying and leaving them high and dry," Shirou remarked sarcastically. "They'd hate to lose their precious wonders."

"Well, I can't say I blame them. We haven't failed a single mission since we were signed on a couple of years ago."

"We're not even demonologists or anything. I didn't come all the way to Europe with you just to be their dog."

Rin glared at him. "This again, Shirou? What do you think is paying our bills? What's paying for your lessons? What's paying for our equipment? Our transportation? Our emergency funds? Everything?"

She sighed again as Shirou turned away, running a hand through his auburn hair. "Look, I know you hate them, but that's why I take care of all of the communication relays, remember? That's why you stay at home like a good boy while I go out and deal with all idiots in control of our financial situation, although it is in bad taste for you to never go to see them at least every once and a while. I don't like seeing them any more than you do, you know."

"I don't hate them. I think that they're possessive and complete control freaks, but I don't hate them."

Rin's annoyed expression softened as she gave him a small smile. "Well, we won't have to see them for another month, until they give us our next mission. What do you want to do in the meantime?"

"First, I want to go home and take a real shower!" Shirou exclaimed, noticing the oncoming helicopter heading for their position. "This place freaks the hell out of me, and I think I've had enough of Russia to last me for a while."

"It's better here in Siberia than it was in Kuwait, at least."

"Oh, geez, don't bring up that place. I still have nightmares about that thing."

The two of them looked over at the helicopter, and started walking over towards their gateway back home.

It had been around seven years since the end of the Fifth Holy Grail War. After Saber, Shirou's Servant, had vanished at the dawn of a new morn, Shirou had almost felt as if he was living on borrowed time. It seemed more like, his life was no longer solely his to live; that if he wanted to see his ideals through to the end, he needed to stand up and take charge and forge his own path. That didn't mean that he wasn't sad, or upset – far from it, Shirou had been ready to crawl into a ball and stay there until the hurt vanished. Of course, she would never have desired for him to sulk around, so he put up a good front for when he returned to school. Tohsaka Rin, who was questionably more than likely his best friend, was probably the only one who had seen through his façade, but she played along to make him happy.

Ever since that war had ended though, Shirou knew, more than anyone else, how insufficient his knowledge of magic and the world around him was. He knew, and so he trained with Rin on a regular basis up until the two graduated from high school. It became easier to shut down his emotions and focus more on specific tasks, and while it was difficult for him to change his views, – he couldn't help his stubborn nature – Shirou had gradually become able to differentiate between a woman living a normal life and when she was fighting to pursue her own goals or ideals. It wasn't necessarily wrong that she take up that role, but because she had a cause worth fighting for, that only made it fitting that she do so.

Then again, he had to admit that as of the start of his third, and last year in high school, he never once considered Rin to be a woman. No, she was a demon. Shirou knew as much when she constantly picked on him and poked at this wounds, but no. No, no, no. She got even worse when she trained him as her apprentice. She set up situations in which he was only doomed to fail. She would give him mental tasks that would cause a normal magus to falter, and when he did mess up, Rin would simply smile gently, with an evil twinkle in her eyes, and make him do it again. And again, and again, and again, and when he didn't manage to pass on the tenth time, she shoved him in her basement and forbade him food.

"Perhaps staying down there will help you think more clearly next time you try," she had said with a wide grin. "I'm not here simply to feed you, you know."

"Don't you think this is a little counterproductive? How am I supposed to think when I'm hungry?"

"Hm, that's not my problem though. Saber managed well enough, as I recall."

"She didn't even need food!" Shirou had protested, though to no avail.

Though, thinking back on it, he realized that his desperation had made him a bit stronger. No, she was still a demon. A maniacal demon who thought of him as a toy to play around with. Yes, his last year of high school had been hell.

After high school, Rin had gone off to London to the Mages' Association, after having received an admission recommendation. While she had originally invited Shirou to go with her, he'd had to turn her proposition down. While she could have taught him a great deal her first year, Shirou had preferred that she get used to her surroundings first instead. He also hadn't been particular interested in dealing with the Association yet either, considering it was partially their fault he'd been dragged into the war in the first place. As such, he had chosen to try refining his abilities on his own for that year after graduation.

Shirou hadn't bothered looking for a real job for stable income, but had instead picked up a few part-time ones here and there to support himself while he continuously trained. Saber had taught him how to survive, so what needed to focus on was how to take the initiative. Unfortunately, the only person who would have been a match for him was Fujimura Taiga, and while there hadn't been anything particularly wrong with sparring her, she'd demanded a bit too much of him outside of the battle – like three-course meals, for every meal. He hadn't had the income for that, so he'd had to pass on her assistance.

Well, if he couldn't work on his fighting, he would work on his aim, Shirou had surmised. It would have been impossible for him to visit the archery club at his alma mater, so he had to join a resident archery range in Shinto. When he hadn't been training his aim, or working, he would train his body. Pushups, sit-ups, running – anything that could possibly give him more stamina and a possibly stronger resistance to oncoming magic was precisely what he'd wanted to achieve. Every night before bed, he had also attempted to create a Reality Marble, just to see how long he would last each time. When that one year had ended, Shirou had managed to hold out for nearly two hours, if he did nothing but stand or sit around. When he'd attempted to move around, attack the air, rely on a massive number of swords to attack for him, and push himself to his limits, he had barely lasted half an hour.

When the next September had rolled around, a good two and a half years after the Holy Grail War had ended, the wannabe magus found himself in the capital of England, having packed his bags, and locked his house until he next returned. Saying good-bye to Taiga hadn't been nearly as difficult as he'd imagined it might be, but that might have been because he was just ready to move on to a new chapter in his life.

The day Rin had met him at the airport, with her flowing, long, black tresses tied up in a single ponytail hanging across her left shoulder, Shirou had felt his heart pound hard. Her aqua-blue eyes had looked him up and down, apparently appraising his build or whatever. She had been wearing a short-sleeve black t-shirt that, he recalled, had hugged every part of her curves. Her blue jeans had been simple, but looked wonderful on her. Honestly, it wasn't as if her outfit had been particularly stellar – it had actually been rather peasant-like for someone of her disposition – but the two crystal earrings (how much had those cost her?) enriched her image a bit. Yes, for a moment, he had been reminded of why he had idolized Tohsaka Rin in the first place, but then she'd opened her mouth and said:

"You seem like even more of a bum than you did in high school, Shirou. I hope you at least brought me a gift."

Was that the kind of thing people were supposed to say when they reunited? That their friend looked like a bum or a hobo? No normal person would say something so devoid of kindness! And, what gift? Buy your own damn gift!

Shirou had grunted, his pride wounded a bit. "Tohsaka, that's the first thing you say to me after a year of not seeing each other? I hadn't known I was supposed to dress up to ride on an airplane. It took me nearly a day to even get here, you know."

"That's what you get when you don't tell me when your flight is until the second you land. Ridiculous. I don't exactly live near here, I hope you realize. I could have paid for your flight myself."

And put himself even more into her debt? Nah, that just would have been asking for trouble, and he had enough to deal with.

Despite their rocky reunion, Rin had lived up to her promise of helping him get into the academy and getting him the quality teaching he needed. However, as he simply wasn't aligned with the main five elements, many of his teachers hadn't known what to do with him. Rin had warned him not to tell them about his Reality Marble, or ability to project, unless he'd wanted to become a lab rat. As such, most of what they taught him was how to protect himself against outer magical influences, and to strengthen his own abilities during enacted combat. Rin was the one who pushed his projection abilities to their limits – his alignment may have been swords, but he was more than capable of projecting everyday objects, and a few other types of weapons like spears, lances, war hammers, and the like. Shirou honestly just feel better dealing solely with swords, though.

In Rin's fifth year, six years after the end of the Holy Grail War, she had been invited to take part in missions as a representative of the Association. As there were many different kinds of evils out in the world, not all entirely related to magic, of course, that meant there was also always trouble to be found in every corner of the globe. However, since whenever trouble appeared to the fantastical degree, there was always doubt amongst those involved in magic that perhaps the Association was somehow involved. Even were the Association not involved in the least, discussions over why it was complacent in allowing these issues to crop up would start making headway among the people, to the point where even those who knew nothing of the magic world would begin making their own assumptions.

The second the normal citizens began getting involved was the moment the Magus' Association resolved to stamp down the abnormalities themselves by sending out accomplished magi and having them take care of the issues. In accordance, Rin, recognized as an official magus and of an upstanding quality, was invited – read: commanded – to assist in the cleansing process. The cleansing would take act as her fifth year studies, where she would use everything she had learned up to that point for the benefit of mankind.

Of course, she hadn't wanted to. She was still technically in training – why couldn't they send more accomplished magi to take care of the issue? Rin wasn't their dog, existing solely to take care of their issues for them. When they decided she would either do so or have to stay another year for further training, she, undaunted, agreed under the condition that her apprentice be her partner, and none other than him.

Her apprentice, a boy who could hardly even restore broken glass to its former self? How laughable a condition for her to place on the table. If the boy happened to somehow die during a mission, though, that would take away the shame of a such a low-level magus attending the best academy known to magi across the world. Yes, that would take care of two birds with a single stone. So, they did indeed agree to her terms, and that is how Shirou ended up becoming Rin's partner to eliminate undesirable fantastical events from the world as they knew it.

"Ah, geez. Every time I talk to those geezers, I feel like they're all just copies of Kotomine come back from the dead to haunt me," Rin had said, coming home to their shared apartment and lazing on the couch in an unladylike manner. "Those morons don't have a clue of how amazing your abilities are. Taking care of a few demons or whatever here and there won't take up much of my time at all with this."

"I don't know, Rin," Shirou had muttered, his arms crossed over his chest. "I'm kind of perplexed myself. I don' t know the first thing about taking down demons. I don't have light magic or anything."

After living in such close quarters together for the past four years, what wariness or hesitation they may have demonstrated earlier on in their friendship steadily dissipated into a feeling of comfortable ease. With all of their arguments, reconcilements, and happy days of learning magic together, they had surely grown to have a strong, unbreakable bond with one another. Shirou wasn't even sure when he started calling her "Rin", but it had come out as naturally as breathing. Rin hadn't seemed to mind in the least, either.

Rin had popped her head back up from where it rest on the back of the couch and fixed him with a solid glare. "If you were that ridiculous idiot filled to the brim with unattainable ideals and no sense of self or magic, I wouldn't have bothered even arguing. I probably would've just settled with the extra year of tutelage and told them to shove it. Luckily, even you aren't that stupid anymore and besides, I know you. There's no way I could work with a Kotomine imitation. I'd kill him and have to go into hiding."

"Yeah, but, I don't have any holy water or anything. And I'm not a priest, either."

"Don't be ridiculous. Manifested demons will die with a bullet to the head just as easily as any other corporeal matter. We aren't talking about some fictional demon that can't be touched except by everything good and holy. Even if we were, the Association wouldn't bother sending us out for something that preposterous. There are actual demonologists and people involved with that line of work to do all of that."

"Still, it seems kind of dangerous."

"Says the guy who pushed a magical being out of the way so he could be nearly blown up by a barrage of arrows and a noble phantasm," Rin had countered dryly, waving him away to get her some tea. "Right, being put against monsters we can actually beat is so much more dangerous. Let me go retract the statement solidifying my participation right now."

Shirou hadn't been able to mask his disgruntlement. "You are never going to let me live that down, are you?"

"And miss out on that face? Hah."

From that day forward, Shirou had been roped into going on every single mission presented to the two. At first, they had been restricted to just the United Kingdom area – they were still in training, after all. When their number of successful endeavors began to increase, the two began to receive more and more missions leading out of the UK into mainland Europe, and then into the Americas, Africa, Asia, and there was even a mission down near the South Pole. That one was an oddity though.

Shirou leaned back on the couch, taking in a deep breath as he looked out the front windows to his left. It was hard to believe it had already been seven years since all that mess back when he was in high school. He and Rin were no longer students at the academy – she had officially graduated back in July, and it was currently October. Without a doubt, Rin was unquestionably a genius. Her English had been spectacular, her grades were top-notch, she managed everything with flair, and still somehow made time to kill Shirou's ego at least three times a day.

He, on the other hand, had trouble figuring out heads or tails of English when he first got there. He could tell out simple things, certainly, but discussions about magic had been far beyond him. Now, he could more or less manage a normal conversation with other magi, and led a fairly carefree life outside of the walls of the Association. It made things a bit easier on him, too, being able to understand a different language. He also had the means to show up his older sister in the language she was supposed to know well enough to teach. Hah, he finally beat her in something outside of chores.

Shirou leaned forward and rolled back up his sleeves to above his elbows. At night, it got pretty chilly in London the closer it got to winter, – far more so than Fuyuki City had been – but the sunny days were still warm enough to not need a jacket. As he heard footsteps coming down the stairs, Shirou stood up, adjusting his light-blue buttoned shirt. He shifted the belt holding his jeans up a bit more and fixed his shirt collar before Rin made it down to the first floor. They locked eyes the second she came into view, and she took one glance at him before snorting.

"I'm sorry, are you going on a date or something? What's up with the shirt?"

Shirou frowned, crossing his now toned, muscular arms over his chest. "Well, I'm wearing this because you said the other one was too shabby."

Rin flipped her ponytail off her shoulder, and frowned herself. She wore a red cashmere sweater over a thin, laced long-sleeved shirt, with a sleek pair of black jeans to accompany the outfit. He had to admit: she looked good. Really good. He had known she would, too, so he tried to dress to impress. It seemed to have had the opposite effect though, he supposed.

"Shall I go buy you a horse and some boots with spurs to go with your look there, Shirou?" she teased with a slightly evil grin. "How about a ten-gallon hat?"

"Hah, tease all you like. If you haven't stormed into my room to get me a new outfit by now, then I must look pretty damn good."

"Eh, don't get too full of yourself, Emiya."

Shirou shrugged his shoulders, a gesture that reminded Rin an awful lot of Archer, her Servant from the war. Shirou may not have turned into a Counter Guardian like Archer had, but his mannerisms were starting to assimilate with what Archer's had been. It was actually a bit unnerving the more she saw and recognized them. When Shirou grinned at her, Rin felt her heart begin to pound slightly.

No, no, no. This wasn't going to happen. This was Shirou, her best friend. Damn it. Evil thoughts, be gone! Besides, he was still very much in love with Saber, and that was something that she never wanted to intrude upon. Rin smiled wistfully, and shook her head.

"Whatever. If we're going to go shopping, we'd best hurry. I hate walking around this neighborhood when it gets dark."

"We could've moved," started Shirou, opening the front door for Rin as she walked outside and down the three steps, "but no, that would've been too much work. Let's not mention that this area has one of the highest crime rates and that we're just waiting to get mobbed."

"You think I care about some petty thief?" she asked him as he locked the door. As soon as he slipped the key into his pocket and checked to make sure he had his wallet, she began to complain again.

"Even if we weren't magi," she whispered, before continuing in a normal volume, "I could handle any thief who is dumb enough to come at me. No, I wish we'd moved because this area reeks. I don't know who's practicing in this area, but they must not be the brightest bulb in the lot."

"I believe you'd be referring to Kristoff," Shirou said, pointing down the street at a light-blue house. "He uses various combinations to put that bit of oomph into his dishes. They actually taste pretty good."

"Not that guy, I know about him," she scoffed. "He makes a mean curry, considering he's from Russia. No, there's some amateur that moved into the area, but I've been too busy to check with Ana to find out who it is. Well, as long as the smell doesn't permeate through our house, I suppose it's not that big an issue. It's just a pain."

"I'll bet that if the place smelled like roses everywhere, you'd still find some way to complain about it."

"I am of the opinion that roses aren't as wonderful as everyone makes them out to be."

Shirou sighed, and slipped his hands into his jean pockets. "There's just no pleasing you, my lady."

"As long as we're clear."

After walking another couple of blocks, Shirou noticed one of the houses that used to be chockfull of gadgets everywhere was now empty and devoid of life. Tapping Rin on the shoulder, he gestured for her to look over at the house. "Hey, that guy moved out."

Rin hesitated and cleared her throat. "No, he was...disposed of."


Shirou knew what that meant, but had never thought the nerdy-looking old man would've, or could've, done anything bad enough to get himself marked by the Association. Usually people who have pursued witchcraft or something with less than noble intentions, they could still work within the good graces of the Association, so long as their research led to inventions or abilities that would benefit the world of magi as a whole, or lead to more or better awareness of the world in general. To be marked and killed, however, would require something a bit more dire, like killing people in the Association's name, or... He was actually having some trouble coming up with possible reasons, since even a coup d'état wouldn't make the Magus' Association flinch, so long as it ended up bettering everything in the end. "The end fits the means" – something he didn't necessarily agree with, but recognized as being a pretty common trend in the real world.

"I wonder who's going to take his place."

"Who cares? Let me see that shopping list again."

Shirou gave the empty house one last glance before turning away from it for good.

A little over a couple of weeks had passed since their mission in Russia, and Shirou was left lying on his bed at home, staring at the ceiling while he thought over what to do that day. Rin was in Los Angeles, having been called over for an emergency, which meant their vacation would be extended by another week to make up for her lost time.

"I'll be gone for one week, just one!" she had said, pinning him with another one of her glares. "Do you think you can keep from causing trouble with the Association this time? If I'm asking for too much, just let me know. I'll tie you up and throw you up into the attic."

"Ugh, Tohsaka," referring to her like he'd used to back in high school to show his irritation, "everything will be fine. I won't blow up anything."

"And damn it, Emiya, if you're going to do projection, would you mind doing it when you aren't in a position to be seen by every single person in the whole city? I don't exist just to clean up your messes."

He hadn't projected intentionally, but he'd needed a wrench to help fix a kid's bike. Projecting something that small and handy had been like breathing to him – he hadn't even realized he'd done it until a crowd had gathered. Rin hadn't exactly been pleased. Shirou supposed he should've been thanking her for all her work behind the scenes, but it really annoyed him. It had been a mistake, and he could've attributed it to some kind of make-believe magic trick. In fact, that's what he did, and the crowd loved it, but Rin had been pissed. No, not just pissed, but absolutely furious. Rin had worked very hard to make sure the Association would never discover his true abilities, and he had nearly tossed her efforts of the past four years out the window within a single moment. It had practically been a year since then, but Rin seemed to still be fuming over the matter.

Shirou groaned and turned onto his side, still wondering how to go about his day. The sun was high and bright in the sky – it was really nice, considering how most of what he would be seeing during winter would be grey skies all the time.

"Hmph. I should go out and enjoy the day while I can. I don't have any orders to take care of right now, either."

Shirou rolled back, lifting up his legs as he coiled into a tight ball. Then, pushing off of hands, he leapt off of the bed and landed softly on the hardwood floor. After running a hand through his hair, he patted his lean, muscular stomach with a grin, murmuring, "I'd better get dressed if I'm going to head out."

He grabbed a pair of trousers and a long-sleeved shirt, dressed quickly, and dashed down the hallway, passing Rin's room along the way. Racing down the stairs, he jumped off from the third step and upon landing, threw his hands up in the air as if he had made an amazing Telemark.

"And the crowd cheers!" he exclaimed, turning back and forth and bowing all the while. "Emiya Shirou has just made the landing of a lifetime. Jim, I think he just made a new record! I think you're right, Bob – that was quite the landing!"

Scoffing at himself, Shirou shook his head and headed into the kitchen. He grabbed an apple out of their fruit bowl, rotating it in his hand as he opened the refrigerator door. As he'd expected, Rin had made a dish for every one of her scheduled cooking days. There was more food stored in there than there were raw materials.

"Geez," he muttered, reaching for a Ziploc container filled with nikujyaga, "I told her she didn't have to take the schedule so seriously. There's no point in me cooking anything if there's this much food around."

After taking out the container and shutting the refrigerator door, Shirou lifted up the top a bit before tossing the bowl into the microwave. While watching the container rotating around on the microwave plate, he crossed his arms and thought back to when he'd first moved in with Rin.

It had been tough at the start, to be sure. Both of them were far more used to living alone, and suddenly living together in the small apartment provided her by the Association had been train wreck. Naturally, Shirou was a morning person with Rin being the very opposite. He also liked to do things by the book, while she preferred to cut corners to save time if she could. The one thing they could agree on was that they both needed their own space, but Shirou wasn't in a position to go out and live in London on his own. For one, he couldn't speak English all that well yet. For two, an apprentice wasn't supposed to be living separately from the magus residing over them, anyway. The last matter was while Rin hadn't apparently cared about living with someone of the opposite sex, Shirou had felt like he was walking on eggshells the entire time.

The microwave beeped, indicating his food had been warmed up, so he took the container out and moseyed into living room with a pair of chopsticks in hand. Opening up the container fully, Shirou grinned.

"Wow, this looks great. She really outdid herself this time."

Taking a bite, he realized it was as good as it looked. Rin hadn't lost her touch at all.

So, upon deciding that they needed a bigger place, Shirou reminisced, both had set out together to find a decent sized apartment. With as much money as Shirou had saved up, and with Rin's trust fund, it would've been simple enough to rent something big enough for the both of them. However, since they were magi, there was always the risk of there being an accident occurring, so condos and apartments were out of the question. The only option left would have been to buy a house, but neither of them had ever dealt with mortgage paperwork before, so they had needed help from the Association to get everything taken care of.

After all of the big issues were settled, then came the small, pointless ones that continuously seemed to build up into big ones. Shirou wasn't an interior decorator by any means, but even he had his limits with the things Rin had wanted to hang up or buy. He wanted simplicity, and she wanted comfortable luxuriousness. He had ended up choosing the furniture types and she'd dealt with the comfort and intricacy levels. Then there was the wallpaper versus painting issue, and the real versus fake plants issue, and then the workshop size issue, and the chore rotation issue, and...

Shirou groaned as all of the memories from years before came flooding into his mind. Then there was the main problem for him, where he couldn't sleep well for the first few weeks knowing that Rin was sleeping in the room next to his, only a few meters away. He clung to the idea that he wasn't attracted to her at all, and even forced himself to recall Saber and the two weeks or so he had been with her. Then, one day, he'd woken up, gone to cook breakfast, had turned around to see Rin glaring at him (as she normally tended to each morning) while still in her nightgown, and had felt absolutely nothing. It had felt like a typical day, where Rin wasn't quite awake yet, and the fact that she was in a nightgown did nothing to him. It was like he'd forgotten what had made him anxious in the first place. When he had realized his ease, he'd burst out laughing as he'd handed Rin a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast. Shirou recalled that she had been rather bewildered by his sudden outburst, but had ended up smiling a bit herself.

He slurped the last bit of konnyaku down before standing and going to wash the dish immediately. Rin had been good to him – that much he could definitely admit. She had taken care of him, and seen to all of his immediate needs, though she did complain some along the way. Honestly, Shirou thought, casting his gaze down at the sink, he wished he could love her, the way he knew that she loved him. It wasn't right, and he knew it wasn't, but try as he might, he could never forget Saber. After only two weeks of being together, she occupied his thoughts for the better of nearly ten years. Shirou had considered moving out a number of times after Rin had finished her studies, but after all she had done for him, he could never abandon her in that matter.

He shook his head back and forth, as if to clear away his thoughts. No, he'd already made up his mind about that. The only thing left to do was keep moving forward, just as he had been. If he couldn't give Rin what she desired most from him, then the best he could do was only become the best magus possible. Providing that wasn't possible, then he could at least master his Reality Marble and projection skills.

"Ugh, I'm thinking about stupid things again," Shirou murmured, walking out of the kitchen towards the front door.

Grabbing his keys from an end table along the way, Shirou walked out of the front door, and after locking it, starting walking down the street towards the main market area. He scratched the back of his head, ruffling his auburn hair. As he walked down the same street he and Rin always walked down, memory after memory from the years past kept popping up in his mind.

"I kind of wish we had a mission in Mexico or something. I could definitely go for some Mexican food," he said to himself, looking around at all the houses. "Or maybe even some of Kristoff's curry. Yeah, that sounds good right about now. I just ate though," he continued with a grimace, patting his belly.

Shirou sighed and lifted his eyes up look down the street, only to notice a large van on the curb near the empty house. Eyebrows raised, he watched as a single man attempted to move large pieces of furniture by himself.

"Hey, need some help?" he called out, jogging over towards the moving van.

The mover in question jumped slightly, and set the couch back down gently. Turning around, his pure, crystalline, cerulean-blue eyes caught Shirou by surprise. The other man peered down at him from the edge of the truck before jumping down. Waving his midnight-black bangs out of his eyes, the man made a large grin.

"Dude, that'd be great. This stuff is heavy as hell, and I'm too poor to hire people to help."

The man grabbed Shirou's hand, shaking it readily. "Name's Myrus! Nice to meet another mage that doesn't look like a complete stiff."

Shirou, taken aback, made a grin of his own after only a bit of hesitation. "I'm Shirou. People around here aren't as bad as you think though."

"Hah, sure they are," Myrus said loftily, waving a hand back and forth. "With that ridiculous Association right here in town, there's no way they wouldn't be that bad."

"Uh, okay," Shirou replied, deciding that Myrus didn't seem like all that bad a person. "But, how did you know I was a magus anyway?"

Myrus laughed again, jumping back on the truck. "Bro, do you even know how much magic's roaring around you? You're like a giant beacon, making it so even a blind men would be able to see you. You should probably learn to keep that energy bottled up."

Shirou crossed his arms, smirking a bit. Rin had actually told him something quite similar, years before. She, however, had known why he didn't bother to hide himself – why hide when what he wanted was to be found? Admittedly, it seemed like he was turning into a mimicry of Archer more and more as time passed. His reasons were simple though: he needed to become stronger to protect the ideals he had always boasted of, but he was in no position to seek out evils of his own accord. Rather, he did not possess the ability to do so. However, he was not averse to the idea of broadcasting an invitation big enough to draw every evil towards him. If evil was willing to go far enough to seek him out, then he needed only to bring about its end. That was the outlook he had developed over the recent years – not a reluctance to hunt down those that would hurt others, but a passiveness that would simply force them to come to him, if only to clear their path.

"I'm just here to exterminate those who would cause me, or anyone else, harm," Shirou replied in a soft tone, his golden-brown eyes narrowing. "Are you one of those gnats I'm looking to squash?"

The other man squared his shoulders, hands clenching into fists.

"Them be fightin' words, pardna."

The two men faced each other, each one staring the other down. Seconds soon turned into minutes, and any bystanders who happened to pass by somehow instinctively knew not to pay the two any attention.

"So, can you grab that end of the couch for me?" Myrus said with a grin, pointing back into the truck, quickly dissolving the tension.

Shirou shrugged, smiling himself. "Yeah, I've got you."

So. Yeah. Enjoy?