A couple words before we start. Fate/Stay Night is one of the best pieces of literature I have ever read, and Nasuverse is one of the most interesting fantasy worlds out there, so naturally I was tempted to play with it at some point (seriously, if you've only watched the anime, consider reading the visual novel—it's awesome). This is my first fic on , so don't be too harsh. Don't be too lenient either, though, because this is far from the first thing I have ever written.
First things first—acknowledgements. I was inspired to write this by ThirdFang's "From Fake Dreams". It's a great story based on the premise of Kiritsugu getting premonitions of all the possible routes of Fate/Stay Night before he dies. Check it out if you haven't read it yet for some reason. Some of the ideas introduced by ThirdFang are so awesome, I'm almost bound to use them. I will acknowledge when I do so.
This story is based on a different premise, though. What if Shirou was more distorted in the fire than he was in the original? What if he had gained more power in exchange for less remaining humanity and realized what he had become much sooner? And what if the boy turned sword fought not only to help others but to learn what it meant to be human again? As much as he could, in any case.
This is a story of Shirou, Destiny of Blades, Infinite Forge, Broken Soulshard and a lot of other pretentious Capital Letter Words he could have been called. This is a story of others, attempting to wield him as they would a sword or treat him as they would an ordinary human. Above all, this will hopefully become a story of someone lost, in search of a purpose.
A word regarding the magic system. I have read the original novel two times (plus a fair bit of Hollow Ataraxia), and I look things up on wiki when I need to, but my knowledge of Nasuverse is by no means perfect or complete. If you think you see something in here that is simply impossible, please mention it in a review or send a private message. I do bend the rules, however, when I need to.
I don't own Nasuverse or Fate/Stay Night, and this is written purely for my—and hopefully your—enjoyment. If you want to find the people who do own Fate, look up Kinoko Nasu and Type-Moon.
Anyway, enough of the foreword, let's get to the story.
UPD 2/23/17: I have gone through the entire story to fix typos and edit stuff where I found the text sagging. It should be a smoother ride now, especially in the later chapters.
The boy was no more. Memories remained: of a raging inferno, of black, cloying smoke scorching and flaying him alive from inside out, killing his lungs with each forced, rasping breath. But the pain barely registered anymore. It was more like acknowledging damage, he supposed. Yes, damage was a good word. He could still feel this much at least and avoid enough of it to continue to perform his function.
There was no leeway in his rescue, no extra minute or two that he would have lived had he not been saved by the exhausted man with a relieved, rugged face. The boy had burned everything inside without reserve. Everything he could. His memories. His emotions. His sense of self. And he kept on walking and let what was probably his entire family and all his friends burn in that fire too.
So now, for all intents and purposes, he shouldn't have counted as a sentient being. Most of what we will ever be forms long before the age of five which is why having all of it wiped out should leave a person broken beyond all hope of repair. All hope of ever rejoining society.
But, against all odds, something was forged or maybe simply bared in that fire, and so the boy drifted for quite a while in a dream in an endless sea of clouds occasionally pierced by distant lightning; thunder continuing to lazily echo through the slowly rolling vapor. For the longest time there was no thought, just a vague sense of belonging.
In this strange, mist-filled world one thing stood out against the background, a patch of clear and sharply defined existence among the things that didn't yet develop a form. A doctor's scalpel that Shirou had seen when he was admitted into the hospital in half-delirium. It was a simple tool, highly carbonated steel that had been used only in a couple operations, but it had probably saved quite a few lives. In his dream the boy turned his attention away from the blade and looked at his body.
He wasn't there. There was no flesh, just a barely visible metallic flicker where the master of the dream should have been standing.
Bewildered by the image, the boy tried to get his bearings but was able to recall only two things. First, his name, 'Shirou', was the only legacy left from his past life. And second, he and the scalpel were the same. Somehow they have become or always had been kin. He was a blade or an ingot of metal that still needed to be forged into one.
Remembering the happy face of the man who had saved him and thinking of how great it would be to have the same expression someday, Shirou vowed to gain one thing that the scalpel had—to become sharp enough to help people. Acting on instinct, he reached towards the blade and tried to pull it out, whatever 'out' meant. Instead, he woke with a sharp burning pain running through his body.
Emiya Kiritsugu was confused. Most of his power had been lost due to the abuse the former Magus Killer had subjected his body and Circuits to. What he hadn't managed to destroy himself was now thoroughly ravaged by the Grail's curse. If he weren't quite shaken up still, he would have laughed at the bitter irony of having been able to save a mere one person after a lifetime of attempting to bring peace to a world incurably poisoned by war and conflict.
If it could even be called saving. Kiritsugu was sitting in the living room and looking toward the kitchen, where the tiny existence now known as Shirou Emiya was standing on a stool and chopping vegetables while checking the simple recipe that Kiritsugu had transcribed into hiragana.
The boy had taken over the kitchen completely on their first day together, right after the Flaming Bacon From Hell fiasco. The Mage had long since discovered that he wasn't good with food unless it came in the form of military rations, but he forgot the exact extent of how bad he was. If there ever had been a person with E- Rank Cooking Skill, it was him.
He had reservations about letting a five-year old anywhere near sharp objects, but Shirou looked at him with those empty light-brown eyes, tilting his head in an unnatural mechanical-looking motion, and asked.
"You almost burned down the house. Why won't you let me in the kitchen until I do too?"
Cold, hard logic. Brutal honesty. Jaded, sharp perception. All of those didn't belong in a boy his age, and yet they were there, clear to see for everyone who talked to Shirou for more than a minute. When Kiritsugu asked him whether he'd like to go with him or go into the government system for orphans, the boy asked, "Can you help me grow better than they can?"
The Mage had no idea how to raise a child. To be honest, Irisviel and the Einzberns had been doing most of the job for him where Illya was concerned... still, he was quite sure he would be able to do better than the government would. At the very least, the boy would probably avoid the stigma that tended to follow anyone who could be labeled as 'different' in Japanese society. Plus, there was that fact that the child had quite a bit of potential for Thaumaturgy for a first-generation Magus and it would lead to nothing but trouble down the road if he was placed in a mundane family. So the former Magus Killed said "yes". Shirou nodded, and that was that.
Kiritsugu was jutted out of his reverie when the boy placed a towering heap of salad overlaid with cold beef on the low table before him, slightly panting from all the cooking and carrying.
They ate in companionable silence for a few minutes before Shirou looked up from his plate and fixed Kiritsugu with a gaze that had no business belonging to a five-year-old.
"I can cook; the damage is gone. Strange, too fast, I think."
The child cocked his head with that mechanical motion of his, "You promised to help me grow. Can we start?"
To be honest with himself, Kiritsugu had to admit that he was still more than a little shaken up from the shitstorm that the Grail War culminated in, and yet the boy must have had it far worse.
"Any reason to wait?"
The boy's eyes remained lifeless and unblinking.
The adult facepalmed as a quiet growl escaped his chest. Shirou just raised an eyebrow, continuing to wait for a response.
"Look, I'm still not in good enough shape to help with anything. Just let me rest for a few days."
The boy looked lost in thought more than normal for a few seconds before evidently reaching some sort of conclusion and nodding in acceptance.
"Okay. But maybe you have a friend who can help? Like those Fujimura people?"
After a moment's hesitation Kiritsugu smiled. He didn't know what to do with the kid, not yet, but he knew that he wanted to keep his newly adopted son as far away from his former lifestyle as possible. Therein lay the problem, because he had precious few things to teach him outside of said lifestyle. Kiritsugu was not a conventional Magus himself, so giving Shirou a chance at a more or less normal life couldn't hurt before he had to face all the things that Thaumaturgy entailed.
"Yes, that could be good. Old man Fujimura has a daughter too, maybe she can teach you something."
Despite his age Shirou was quite observant, eerily so even. He was sure that Kiritsugu was trying to pile his education on anybody else as much as possible, and it made the boy pause. Why? If Kiritsugu taught something that wouldn't be useful for his purpose to be sharp and wield himself to help others, then Shirou would simply discard it. Otherwise, it would help.
Admittedly, his thoughts were a bit simpler than that, what with him being a child and all, but the deeply ingrained desire wouldn't be denied. Since the fire he had seen many blades: mostly surgical tools and kitchenware. All of them had some purpose or another, and now that they resided inside the boy's mind, he could see them clearly in his dreams. They whispered of their experiences before they were recorded and of what they could become. The blades weren't unchanging and neither was he.
Falling asleep after the meal, Shirou focused on the only non-mundane object inside his mindscape: a golden sheath, brilliant like the sun. So bright, in fact, that it appeared to slowly bring clarity to that fog-filled world of his. It was difficult to tell after just a few days, but the boy was sure that he could glimpse just a bit more in his dreams now than before.
Fujimura Taiga wasn't one of those people with an overcomplicated outlook on life. She liked food, kendo, English, and teaching kids. She hated losing and seeing her precious people hurt. She wanted to be a teacher when she grew up. Her dad's yakuza rarely bothered her, and she had long since learned to go with the flow and simply enjoy things as they came her way.
She hadn't had much of a chance to bestow her would-be-teacher affections on anyone before this strange acquaintance of her father's moved into town along with his son. Kiritsugu and Shirou. She naturally gravitated towards them, as it was a chance to get some distance from the criminal background of her family, which she honestly had never liked. They were all nice and protective towards her, sure, but the ambition to help cute little children on their way to college one day didn't mix well with hurting people as a profession. So when Kiritsugu invited her to his new place in order to 'help his son acclimatize', Taiga jumped at the opportunity.
But the boy in front of her was weird. This Shirou had seemed kind of empty when she had talked to him before. As they were standing in the front yard, he looked lost. Lost, yet eager.
"I want to learn to fight with a sword," the child said with a deadpan expression on his face. Taiga thought he looked cute at that moment: all serious with those puffy cheeks of his and bright-red hair.
"Sure, Fujimura-sensei will help you. You'll start by running a hundred laps around the house to build up endurance!"
In all honesty, it was a line she had picked up out of a stupid manga or some such. Surprisingly enough, it helped stop the pestering from the small club of fans she'd gained at school with her known kendo prowess. When she suggested some crazy training regimen, even children understood Taiga had absolutely no idea what the hell she was doing and gave up on asking her for lessons.
Shirou nodded and set out at a jog without a moment's hesitation.
With a twitch in her brow Taiga understood that instead of a cute younger brother she had somehow got a mini-training maniac. Well, children were excitable like that. Surely, he would give up on the stupid idea of becoming some sort of modern samurai after a few days and they would be able to do something fun like shopping.
After two weeks Shirou still showed no sign of giving up.
When Kiritsugu got a bit better, he joined in training Shirou mostly to keep the crazy yakuza girl from killing the child with an insane physical regimen. Well, with Avalon inside the boy, that was unlikely, but even Taiga could catch on that Shirou's energy and endurance couldn't be explained by mere stubbornness and talent.
Though, to be perfectly honest with himself, Emiya wasn't sure that it was just Avalon. He watched as the boy trained, and his adopted son's Circuits showed signs of constant strain as if he kept trying to use Thaumaturgy but couldn't quite pull it off. Hell, with Shirou's obsessive tendencies that might have been exactly what was happening.
Most Magi needed to be pushed to realize their potential at this age. With Shirou it was the opposite: the boy needed to slow the hell down, or he would burn out long before puberty.
With the hope of refocusing his son's attention on something less physically dangerous, Kiritsugu started to teach the kid basic Od and Prana manipulation and the fundamentals of conceptual Mysteries, beginning with Reinforcement. He called on some of his remaining contacts to get a rudimentary library on the topic. Surely, there was nothing less likely to lead Shirou to anything dangerous, right?
If only he had known where that path would eventually lead.
Shirou was five and he dreamed of fog and blades.