This Balance Of Time
Disclaimer: I don't own... Fate/StayNight, Fate/Zero, Harry Potter, and Katekyo Hitman Reborn, nor their characters. What a sad, sad world.
Shout Out: Well. This is … quad-over, as it's basically a crossover of four different universes. I am posting it here because a special person has a birthday and I celebrate it as such.
Warnings: AU on a multiple scales, SLASH, because really, I can't seem to help myself in this regard – and ... you know what? Just read it. (A generous helping of chibi-protagonists, if that counts as a warning)
A thousand years, a thousand more,
A thousand times a million doors to eternity
I may have lived a thousand lives, a thousand times
An endless turning stairway climbs
To a tower of souls
('A Thousand Years' by Sting)
The balance of time is something both infinitely strong and extremely fragile. Infinitely strong, because the branches of possibilities were usually interrupted by any of the happenings, and also extremely fragile because it took only a small chance, an intersection, if you will, and the tapestry of fate was changed irreversibly, with the changes - be that good or bad - bleeding in the nearby universes by default.
Wizarding Marshal Zelretch knew that all too well, but for once, he wasn't culprit who caused those little things to happen nearly as often as he was accused to be. Because insane or not, even Zelretch knew that there existed some things even he, with his power over Kaleidoscope shouldn't touch with a hundred feet long pole. He may have toed the rules more often than not, and even outright broke some, but even he wasn't as insane as to take the lynchpins of the change in four different universes and bring them together.
This was the kind of thing that usually went kaboom, and took along a whole dimension and a good chunk of ones surrounding it into nothingness.
But suppose there was a freak accident. Nothing more, nothing less. And certainly having to do nothing with the old troll of a vampire. It simply was, and before Zelretch Kischur Schweinorg noticed the consequences, the wheel of fate had already been spinning and weaving a new story. While Zelretch was irked at first, the sheer potential for an unbridled chaos the meeting of the four lynchpins of three different universes together amused him enough to kick back and enjoy the proceedings with a tall chilled glass of tequila mixed with re-em blood and decorated with a tiny blue umbrella with golden polka dots in his hand.
Kuzuki Soichiro was a quiet kid. He didn't cry or laugh. He didn't react like other children did. The ten and a half-year old was a prodigy in martial arts and a loner. While the other children, when the teachings were over for a day went out to play and laugh, Soichiro went back to the small clearing near the waterfall he had discovered one winter day and continued practicing Snake style. If you have seen him, you would have mistaken him for an ordinary kid - black hair, dark grey eyes, somewhat tall for his age, with slender muscles showing on his body as a result of his training. He was clad in drab grey loose cotton trousers and a similar sleeveless shirt, his feet smudged with dirt.
But this day, instead of going into forest to his usual training spot, he decided to do something else.
The sweltering heat was shimmering in the air as the sun was slowly climbing to its zenith. Even birds, usually almost tirelessly singing their songs, were now tired enough to manage only a cheep or a chirp or two here and there while hiding in the tree branched under the blessed shades. The dust in the small village was sticking uncomfortably to inhabitants' skin while the hustle and bustle of a tiny market was keeping its upbeat rhythm for a little bit longer, with the women chatting and laughing over their wares while the men were exchanging both opinions and news over shots of a homemade alcoholic brew as they were waiting for dinner to be finished. The children were playing around with a homemade ball, kicking it around, laughing and calling out to each other.
People here were poor. They only had the barest of amenities, living a hard life, what with farming the fields of rice the old way still, and there were very few that were lucky enough to have a cow or two. The few chickens roaming around were clucking and cheeping among the people's legs, scratching at the ground to find a worm or bug to stuff into their always hungry beaks. A pair of stray mutts was sitting in the shade - one sleeping, and another was craftily eyeing the pot with the food for the day.
The buildings were simple, made out of red clay with the both window and door openings covered with hand woven cloth as to prevent the entrance to the mosquitoes and other annoying flying critters. There was no electricity to speak of, and the water had to be drawn from the well and brought in the clay pots into the houses. It was epitome of extremely rustic conditions to live in.
But to one little boy, this little village was a place for new adventures. Even if he was still tired from the walk through the forest – it had been a long walk, and the barely visible path was extremely treacherous, what with the slippery slopes - to one messy haired, black-eyed boy, this place was like something out of those adventure novels he so loved to read. As soon as he and his father had settled in a tiny room his father had hired, the boy had zipped out, barely taking a time to drink a little of the water beforehand.
For him, it was nothing new to visit such a place. He had been in Siberia with its bitter cold and unforgiving tundra, and rode through the plains on the horse back day in and day out, and braved eating raw meat and drinking kefir their guide had provided as sustenance. The civilization always chafed at him because he had to be careful then - not that he wanted to be, but his father demanded of him so, and being a dutiful son, he obeyed.
Because if nothing else, Emiya Kiritsugu supposed this would be a good beginning for a hero like him.
'He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.' Chocolate brown eyes looked from the too-big book in their owner's small hands at the small village that was their next stop in the course of this strange pilgrimage Father Kotomine had led their owner through. The air was sweltering hot, causing to stick his long-sleeved white shirt to his skin. Aside from now sweat-soaked and slightly-dirty-from-dust white shirt, the boy was clad in black shorts with knee-high black stockings and black shoes. A small golden cross glinted on his small chest, hanging from a simple brown cord. The small bead of sweat rolled on the right side of the child's face, but the boy ignored the tickling feeling like he usually did. Those small discomforts meant nothing to the devoted, anyway.
He was a small, boy-shaped shadow to the Father Kotomine, being present, listening but not speaking, and when he wasn't needed as altar boy, he usually read Bible. The 23rd Psalm was his favorite, and even if he knew it by heart already, he still liked to trace over the words written in the thick book that had been his constant companion ever since he was able to walk.
Still, the heat was beating down his body mercilessly, making him want to twitch to alleviate his discomfort. Instead of that, he closed his book and looked out of the window. The room, despite of its semi-darkness, was a little less heated than the outside, and its sole redeeming feature was a big bowl of fresh water in the left corner. They were settled at the chief's house, something about it having the best accommodations for the honored guests, while in truth, it was more like two separate cots on the ground, covered with a hand-made carpet, depicting some geometrical motiff and with a small chest for their belongings at the wall opposite the door.
The shrieks and laughter of the children's playing attracted his gaze toward the commotion here. It seemed that the tanned, messy-haired boy was laughing when he stole the ball from his opponent, running toward the makeshift goal, and then scoring, prompting whoops of delight from his teammates and good-natured grumblings from his opponents.
"Do you want to join them, Kirei?" A kind voice asked him, prompting the boy's head to turn to the source of the voice.
"Father?" The boy's voice was soft and serious as he blinked with confusion at the question. The elderly man standing at the door wore the black-colored cassock despite the heat, his shoulder-length silver hair damp and hanging limply around his austere face with sharp dark brown eyes. He chuckled at his cute little son's look of confounded incomprehension as he crossed the small room in order to ruffle his charge's hair. "It's all good and well of you to study, but don't forget to have fun once in a while, too." The priest chided the child, causing him to scrunch his nose in distaste. "But – " Kirei wanted to protest, only to find himself being pushed toward the exit none-too gently, while finding himself lacking his precious book. "Go out. Have fun. And don't let me see you here before the evening falls!"
And with that, one Kirei Kotomine found himself pushed out of his little sanctuary and prompted to do the activity that was completely alien to him.
Having a fun.
But… How does anyone have fun, anyway?
Eye to eye with the newest dilemma, Kirei slowly trudged down the stairs, contemplating the newest riddle his crazy guardian threw at him.
The green-eyed, bespectacled boy stumbled onward, dragging behind him a suitcase that was almost as tall as he was, and at least three times as heavy. He was clad in dark red shorts and yellow T-shirt that was at least three sizes too big for his skinny frame, plodding onward in the too big pair of running shoes that used to belong to his cousin. Messy black hair stuck at odd angles from his head, looking even worse in the clogging heat that pervaded the air as he tried to follow the complaining trio consisting of a too fat, mustachioed man with ruddy face, a woman with a horse face that was screeching about her butter yellow dress being ruined from the climate and their piggy offspring with a blonde wig who complained about being hungry yet again, even if it had been barely five minutes since his last 'snack'. His horse-necked mother cooed at him, promising him yet another sweet if he would be good boy for just five minutes -
"Boy! Hurry up or no dinner for you!" The human walrus' voice bellowed, causing the boy to duck his head and attempting to hurry, only for him to lose his balance and begin to fall." Green eyes widening, the tiny boy resigned himself to getting more bruises and no more food for the day, when he felt someone grab the back of his shirt and yank him backward, causing to yelp as he was abruptly straightened out by the help of unknown Samaritan.
It took only a small moment when he turned back, but green eyes behind dirt-smeared lenses caught the dark grey orbs of the boy that was at least a head and a half taller than him. His savior let go off his yellow shirt and a moment later – the bespectacled boy had to blink – he vanished as if he wasn't ever there, leaving the messy-haired boy to the confusion on whether or not this really happened.
Harry James Potter was used to strange, freaky things happening around him. Maybe this was one of those, too. Shrugging, he began to drag the unreasonably big suitcase onward once again.
No rest for the freaks.
The dark grey eyes watched the strange group attentively, switching their focus from the rude foreigner to their bespectacled little helper.
He wasn't one of those do-gooders everywhere, but when he had seen the red and yellow clad little boy struggle with the enormous suitcase trip and about to lose his balance, his body just moved.
His hand had caught the soft, thin yellow fabric of the oversized shirt, yanking the kid back upright, before he made himself fade back in the crowd. Just like he had been taught.
Only - his eyes met the viridian orbs of the little boy - for this moment, he was paralyzed, causing something like lightning and warm sunlight roar through his veins.
Something clicked shut in his heart this precise moment - he didn't know what this something was yet, but it was something he instinctively knew to be infinitely precious.
Like those little kittens mama kitty was feeding behind their building. He had discovered the small litter and every evening managed to sneak some scrapes off his meagre portion to feed them… in secret, of course. Heaven knows that if they would be discovered, the tiny animals would've been used as a learning tool for the children on how to kill.
This little boy had green eyes - even greener than mama kitty and much greener than the leaves of trees. He had never seen such a rich color - rainbow came close, but its depth just wasn't the same.
Inhale. Exhale. Tomorrow would be another day.
With that in mind, the lanky boy vanished among the foliage of the trees, bounding back to the training quarters, his mind still on those green eyes.
How was one supposed to have fun?
Kirei was completely lost on the issue. Of course, there were kids playing with the ball, but he was utterly befuddled on how should he join them. He was always uncomfortable with children, mainly because he didn't spend many times in their company, and when he did it was when they participated at the mass or they had catechesis. Kirei was used to the children being calm, not the rambunctious balls of energy flying to and fro, giggling, laughing and shouting about some game like demented, kid-shaped meteors. He preferred the quiet and intelligent conversations, and the children were lacking at both accounts. Of course he remembered girls giggling at him, some even blushing for some weird reason and boys were just… boys.
He was just standing there, watching the ball roll and bounce from one pair of running dirty feet to the another.
It would be impolite to interrupt…
But how else to get into the game?
A shout later - too-late - and Kirei felt something round, dusty and vaguely leather-y and hard hit his face, snapping it back and causing him to fall back on his back as the pain bloomed through his nose like a poisonous flower, further spreading across his face. On the pain's heels followed something slick sliding down his nostrils to his lips and crossing them, followed its trek down to his chin.
Slowly, he lifted his hand to assess the damage, wincing at the new, sharper spike of pain racing from his nose to his brain. His eyesight - Kirei blinked stupidly - was blurry for some reason.
The kids were silent, looking at the strange newcomer in spiffy and too clean clothes warily. Of course, right now, he was still sprawled on the ground, with his nose bleeding from the ball's impact with his face, his eyes tearing up from both shock and pain up as he looked at his hand, dirtied with the blood he had unknowingly swiped off his face.
"Oi. Ya alright?" The culprit stepped forward, his dark, glittering eyes concerned under the furrow of his eyebrows as he crouched beside the spiffy-clothed kid.
"Wad do ya dink?" Kirei warbled out, glaring at the sheepish boy beside himself as he tried to stand up, only to sway and almost fall back on his ass.
"Eh-heh… Sorry?" The messy-haired kid chuckled, rubbing the back of his hand sheepishly. "I really didn't mean ta. Honest!" His expression of a shamefaced puppy made the girls want to coo at him, but the victim was unmoved.
"Zure you din't." Kirei quipped back. "De ball juz got my bace by acciden'." The previously shamefaced puppy in human guise bristled.
"That was uncalled for!" The messy-haired boy glared. "Appo-glo-ize!" He demanded of the downed victim who returned a deadpan look back.
"Idz ab-bo-lo-gize." Kirei tensed as the messy-haired boy seemed ready to murder him this second. But this wasn't his fault, Kirei was just bad with making contact with kids! (And for some reason, he really liked to ruffle the ruffian's feathers.)
"Humph. " Instead, the boy sniffled and stood up, as he crossed his arms on his chest imperiously. "Heroes don't appo-glo-ize. There, I said it!" He looked almost comically superior for someone who had just accidentally floored a kid with one measly aimed ball.
"Brong." Finally, Kirei could stand up; relishing the boy's dropped jaw as he realized that his 'victim' had at least five inches of height over him, the self-proclaimed 'hero'.
Oh, that just wasn't fair.
Lively dark eyes narrowed into twin pissed-off slits. "Then ya do it if ya are soo very smart." He jeered and Kirei felt an irrational (-and all too familiar, something in sub consciousness whispered gleefully, before he choked its tiny voice down-) feeling of wanting to hurt the little gnat.
But it wouldn't be fair, what with Kirei's knowledge of baijiquan, and Father Risei would be rather furious with him if he mauled the idiot just because of one measly ball.
Still - one hit wouldn't hurt, surely? Plastering a pleasant smile on his face – because it was always the best thing when opponents didn't know they had it coming - he clenched his right hand in preparation to punch some divine retribution into the thick skull of the heathen in front of him.
But before he could raise his arm, his wrist was caught in a grip of a small hand, causing him to look to his side, while his face automatically blanked out.
It was a small kid, clad in the ensemble of sunny yellow shirt and bright red shorts, for some reason reminding Kirei of the circus tents he had once seen, what with how loose the clothes were on the kid. Green eyes were hidden behind those bottleneck thick glasses and messy black hair was plastered to his forehead with some of the bangs sticking up from his head in weird angles.
The kid looked scared, but he still firmly shook his head, before attempting to tug Kirei away from the confrontation with the rude little urchin who called himself a hero.
Brown eyes blinked with confusion at the feeling that small tug caused within him. He knew he could've broken the fragile grip easily – just a fraction of his strength, and the small interloper would've been unceremoniously rolled into the dust.
Instead, he allowed the tug to lead him away and to where the small one was leading him, disregarding a rather rude jeer the 'hero' threw in his direction.
He was led into the shade of the nearby forest, with the kid motioning him to wait here, before he stumbled away, leaving him to sit down and lean his back against the tree's trunk. It would be pointless to go back to his room, and he didn't want to play or 'have fun' like the other kids did at the moment.
Brown eyes were watching the football game resuming, with the messy-haired 'hero' once again leading one of the teams, loud and messy and serving no other purpose than mindlessly running after the makeshift ball in order to get it into one or the other of the two improvised goals.
He exhaled through nose and winced at the flare of pain the action caused, only for his attention to be diverted by a hesitant tap on his shoulder. Carefully, Kirei turned his head, blinking as he saw the same red and yellow clad boy, only this time he had in his hands a wet piece of fabric.
A small work-calloused hand gently pressed his head back and then the boy carefully began to dab the blood away, the feather light touches causing Kirei to lightly lean into the caresses, disregarding the previously cool moisture steadily becoming sickeningly warm by his skin. Previously sky blue cloth was now blooming with the smudged blotches of red and Kirei scented the iron of his blood and the boy's own unique scent of grass and furniture polish that overlapped with the underlying fragrance of ripened apples. Fresh, juicy and just sour and sweet enough to tingle ones own tongue when they bit in its succulent meat.
He didn't know when, but Kirei's eyes slid down to a half-mast, barely staying open enough to see his unusual attendee as he lost himself in the fragrance of iron and apples. The boy didn't speak the whole time he was taking care of the wound, leaving them to bask in a comfortable silence. When the boy finished his self-appointed task, he made a move to get away, only for Kirei's hand to shot out and tug him down beside him, causing him to yelp slightly. Kirei didn't relent. Instead, he held onto the small one, keeping the fragile wrist in a firm hold, firm enough for his captive not to flee and yet loose enough not to cause bruises.
Green eyes behind those bottle lenses glared at him before the boy huffed in resignation and settled on Kirei's right side, unconsciously leaning against him and causing Kirei to feel a small spot of warmth in his hollow heart.
It wasn't the sickly sweet heat that pervaded the air, but more like something tiny, an ember in the hearth, waiting to be prodded into a bonfire to warm up someone in the bitterly cold winter day. Kirei didn't know why it happened only now, and why him - those questions could wait for another time. But for now, he would have fun his own way, sitting in the tree shade and feeling the heartbeat of the strange boy he didn't know the name of (yet,) under his fingertips.
Kiritsugu frowned as he trudged back to the room his father had rented for the month.
It just wasn't fair.
He didn't know why, but it irked him to see that the snobby church boy snagged the tiny one for himself. The small boy in question was clad in oversized clothes of red and yellow, almost drowning in the fabric, with wild back hair poking around his head and the bottle glasses sitting askew on his nose.
Definitely not a cool kid, and to top it all off, he didn't even speak!
So it was a wonder how did he stop that stuffy jerk with only his touch, and what was more, the jerk in question actually allowed himself to be stopped that way, even going so far as to letting himself being lead under the nearest shade and tended to, as if he were some kind of a royalty!
Bah! It wasn't important! Kiritsugu huffed, turning his attention back to the game, but something in the back of his brain nagged insistently, flaring all kinds of ugly when he spotted the two cuddling together underneath the feeble shade of the nearby tree.
From then on, despite his best efforts, the game kinda lost its' flair for Kiritsugu.
The dark-haired, black-eyed boy frowned with discontent. He was a hero, so he didn't need anybody… Right?
Especially not one dorky glasses-wearing boy in silly flappy clothes.
But something within - a tiny kernel on the very bottom of his heart - knew otherwise.
Dudley Dursley was an ordinary boy, who was extraordinarily spoiled by his parents. This little adventure, however, didn't agree with him - everything was too hot, too dusty and his Nintendo had broken last night when he had thrown it on the ground when he did a temper tantrum because there were no sweets like he was used to in the room his parents had rented for the night.
For some reason, this 'wild adventure', as it was advertised the media and romanticized through the neighborhood gossips of the Privet Drive, Surrey, was shaping to be less than exciting. Mosquitoes, the unbearable heat, and to Dudley's horror, no electricity and no potato chips or sweets. His dad was trying, and even gave him a pep talk of becoming a man through this little trial, but Dudley didn't care for that - he wanted his soft bed, his friends, his ice cream and his games back! It didn't help that the kids everywhere didn't want to play with him for some reason - and even worse, they chattered in some other language, like the monkeys in a zoo he had once visited for his birthday.
But at least there was a freak to alleviate his boredom a little. And the best thing was, freak didn't have anywhere to hide, because otherwise he would be left behind and eaten by the jungle monsters. Dudley's overly pudgy face widened in a malicious smirk when he imagined the scene when some wild tiger would maul the freak who would then cry and beg for mercy and Dudley would laugh and call him all the mean names the freak deserved.
Because he was a freak. As simple as that.
This morning the Dursley family had received an unwelcome news that the jeep they had ordered to pick them up today had malfunctioned and they were to be stranded in that dinky little village for a week before they would be able to move forward to their destination. This prompted a whole new lot of grumbling and complaints from the esteemed Dursley family, with one Vernon Dursley purpling a dangerous shade of red before he marginally calmed down - they were in the presence of a priest, after all - and one Petunia Dursley nearly fainted at the thought of having to endure another seven days in dirt, heat and bacteria of the small village they were currently residing in. And oh the horrors, of her little Duddykins having to be forced to eat the bland, nourishment-poor excuse for a food the locals were serving to them!
(For Harry, the small bowl of the rice soup he had been served for a breakfast was almost divine, what with the spices and the rich taste of chicken - he even got a chicken wing under the rice, he was truly lucky that morning, never mind the fact the Dursleys had been served both soup, a whole chicken and a pair of mangoes with some other fruit Harry had never seen before in his life.)
Truly, this adventuring trip was shaping to be one of the worst experiences in the young Dudley's life. Especially because the mellow coolness of the morning quickly began to fled in the wake of the days' heat wave. Grumbling, Dudley looked at the boy sitting beside the priest his Dad was talking to.
The boy in question was… pretty. Blank-faced, like a doll, with slightly messy brown hair and equally brown eyes, clad in the white short-sleeved shirt with dark blue shorts he was sitting beside his guardian like a statue, having already eaten his share of the food, while Dudley was still munching on the part of the chicken breast him mum has given him from her plate.
Of course, his mum had cooed at the doll-face, which made Dudley scoff - the guy was too girly for his own good – but when she offered Dudley as his teammate, Dudley agreed, because having at least one playmate was better than nothing. The freak didn't count.
"Hey wanna go play?" He asked the boy, smiling his most mischievous grin which his mum insisted was pretty much irresistible.
Only for the boy - Kirei or something – to look at him and Dudley almost blushed because damn, the guy was pretty, what with his long eyelashes and eyes like chocolate, along with pretty pink lips –
"Sorry. I still have to pray to God. Maybe later." The pretty boy answered, making Dudley blink with bewilderment and Petunia coo with how adorable he was.
"Oh, that's so cute!" She squealed, clasping her hands in delight. "You wouldn't mind if our Dudley joins, would you?"
Dudley eyed his mum incredulously. Was she daft or what? Praying when it wasn't Sunday? Dudley wasn't big on praying or Sunday masses - he went into the church because he had to, and Christmas we awesome because then he got many gifts while freak got nothing, but otherwise, Dursley junior didn't see any sense in praying to something that wasn't seen, heard or felt and still demanded of him to apologize for whatever sin he had done that week.
"Of course he can! What about the young man here?" The priest asked good-naturedly as he smiled at the freak, causing Dudley to automatically scowl.
"Oh. Of course, Harry can join too. Won't you, Harry?" Petunia's sickly-sweet smile betrayed just how discomforted was with the notion of leaving two innocent boys with the freak, but she would be a greater person and maybe that kind little Kirei boy would teach him that freakishness was a no-no.
Dudley only made a face.
Harry couldn't believe his luck. Or better, the lack of it. Just when he had thought that there would be something good, Aunt Petunia just had to go and ruin it… again.
Not that it was her fault. Really. Oh, okay, it was kind of her fault. Because three little boys bonding over doing the morning prayers to God was just her absolutely worst idea ever. Harry didn't know why had she thought this activity would made them buddies - Dudley absolutely loathed religious praying of any kind, and Harry, while knowing how to pray, didn't really put a lot of stock in it, because if God really existed, then he surely hated Harry because Harry was a freak, and God hated freaks, like the Bible said.
Biting his lips, he ducked his head, fearing the moment Dudley would tell Kirei that Harry was a freak, and then Kirei would leave too. Because freaks didn't deserve someone as good as Kirei was.
"Come?" Green eyes behind the bottle glasses blinked as his musings were interrupted by the subject of his thought.
"Y-Yeah." He whispered his cheeks heating as he timidly clutched the offered palm, prompting Kirei to pull him up from his sitting position.
Something in those dark brown eyes glinted, before they dulled in their usual blank stare.
Harry. The boy's name was Harry.
This time, Kirei's mind was divided between praying to God and munching on this little fact. The overly pudgy – and that was saying it kindly - kid - Dudley or something - was not important, though it did raise Kirei's alarm when he noted the unrestricted hostility in the blond boy's eyes at the sight of his tiny, messy-haired cousin.
"Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come."
His lips were speaking the hallowed prayer with the same care as usual, but something in it was different.
"Thy will be done in earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread."
The small, susurrating voice that joined his, was more like wind whispering across the tree's leaves than an actual voice, but Kirei's sharp ears still caught it and committed it to his memory. Without looking, he felt the small boy kneeling at his right side, clasping his hands together and bowing his head, as if he weren't worthy to look up to even a simple cross.
"And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us."
The golden pig's peeved, whiny voice petulantly disturbed the silent tranquility like a rock thrown into a priceless stained glass window, casing Kirei's eyebrow to twitch with irritation.
'Calm. Be calm, my son. They know not what they are doing.' Risei's voice floated in his mind, stalling his violent inclinations.
So he took a breath and began again.
"And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil."
If this was temptation, he thought sourly, then it was one of the sorest ones. Like a thorn in the wanderer's heel, one cannot but stop and pull it out to lessen the pain and irritation.
Would it really be evil to stop this charade and tell the pig that he wasn't welcome here?
Sure, it wouldn't be exactly polite, but evil?
"For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,"
Harry's voice was a balsam to his ears, and Kirei concentrated solely to that gentle sound, the tiny inhales and exhales, the pauses and inflections of the spoken words, stumbling as they were.
"-forever and ever.
The three of them concluded, making for an interesting sight, Kirei being all prim and proper kneeling in the middle, with Harry on his right side, clad in garish red and blue this time, and baggy as always, while on Kirei's left side, the overly chubby kid fidgeted in a purple and black ensemble of short-sleeved shirt and shorts, obviously uncomfortable with kneeling on the bare ground.
"Are we done yet?" Dudley immediately complained, flopping on the ground and huffily massaging his knees.
Kirei looked at him. "Of course not. We have to pray a rosary too."
"I don't wanna!" Dudley growled out, peeved as he pursed his lips in an approximation of a pout.
"You don't need to. But it's a part of my morning prayers." Kirei replied back calmly. Harry was quiet, still silhouette on his right, not saying anything, but Kirei was acutely aware of his presence for some reason. Dudley's face fell and he wrinkled his nose with distaste.
"But can't we just skip it and go play?" Dudley beseeched. "Just this once?"
"Once is one time too many." Kirei's flat reply was unyielding, causing Dudley to scoff and scramble on his feet. "Fine! Babble away, if you want!" He spat out and waddled out of the room, the fat around his body jiggling with the each step he took. "See if I care!"
"You don't." Kirei quipped back, blinking as he heard a muffled giggle on his side.
Harry laughed. The quiet boy honest to God giggled, even if he bit his lips to muffle the happy sound when Kirei looked at him. "Sorry." He whispered, ducking his head in embarrassment, his pale cheeks flushed pink.
Kirei blinked. "You have nothing to be sorry for. Want to pray?" He offered awkwardly, confused at the warmth that seemingly grew in his heart as the small boy raised his head and sent him a shy smile.
Kirei could only nod mutely before pulling a simple black rosary out of his trouser pocket. "Of course."
And the two boys' voices intertwined together in the next circle of prayers in the stillness of the morning.
This was... awkward. After they finished the prayers, the boys were at a loss what to do next. Kirei because his favorite book was still confiscated by Father Risei, and Harry because he, for once, wasn't Dudley's unwilling playmate, and he didn't exactly know how to play. Neither of them wanted to stick in the small room. Kirei had assured Harry that it was impossible, what with Father Risei's idea of 'fun' and Harry doubted that Dursleys would have allowed him to stay at the same place for so long without exacting some sort of retribution on his person later on. He was lucky as it were that he didn't have to do his usual amount of chores he had been tasked to do at Privet Drive.
Neither of them had any wish to play with the other kids, so the only other option that remained was… the forest.
It had been a dumb idea, what with both of them being in an unfamiliar place, but Kirei had assured his hesitant playmate that everything would be alright and besides, it was way better option that staying on the one place and being harassed by either of their guardians.
They had successfully sneaked out, with Kirei snatching two mangoes for them to snack on later, while Harry had filled a bottle with water for them to quench their thirst. And with that, the intrepid duo was ready for the next adventure.
The forest here was not so different from the ones at home, aside from an occasional chirp and cheep above their heads. The dried leaves rustled under their feet as they were walking among the trees slowly, taking care not to tumble down the steep hills or trip under the concealed stump. They didn't talk much, as they didn't know what they would want to talk about. Instead of that, their talk was in the shape of eye contact, linked hands and helping each other across the occasional troublesome trunk or root that laid on their path.
They finally came to a small clearing with a small brook babbling by.
Harry gratefully plopped on the ground, while Kirei leaned on the nearby three trunk, both boys panting with heat and exertion.
"So what now?" Kirei asked as he looked at his messy companion. Harry just shrugged, looking at him helplessly. For some reason the smaller boy didn't talk much and aside for speaking the prayers Kirei had yet to hear him speak in an ordinary situation.
"Tell me about yourself?" The same whispery voice came out, prompting Kirei to blink.
"What about me?" He asked, bewildered. He didn't think that anything he knew would be a good topic of conversation, and for some reason, he wanted to do a good impression on the small boy in front of him.
"What you like. Dislike. And do." Harry explained, nibbling his lower lip while his fingers unconsciously began smoothing out the strand of the grass between his fingers. Involuntarily, Kirei remembered the boy's small, but already roughened hands, a complete opposition to his smooth ones.
"I am Kirei. I like to read Bible and learn. I dislike not knowing why I don't want to be beautiful like Father Risei wants me to be." He spoke out, immediately clamming down after he had spoken the last sentence. Of course he was weird and Harry would laugh at him and –
"Why?" Instead, his little companion asked, the glasses glinting in the daylight slightly.
"I… don't know. I just do." Kirei hesitated. "Am I wrong? For thinking that?"
Harry tilted his head. "Why? You are your own person." The bespectacled eyes blinked, confused. "Why should you have the same opinions than somebody else?"
It was like ice-cold thunderbolt cracking down his spine.
Kirei stared at the tiny waif beside him, dumbfounded.
'Why should you have the same opinions than somebody else?'
"But… I don't understand. How can I be beautiful if I don't have the same opinion as Father?" Kirei's voice was lost as he implored for answer.
Harry tilted his head.
"Aren't there many kinds of beauty?" He volleyed back, waving at the spider lily beside himself. "This flower has different kind of a beauty than for example…" He looked around, before his eyes lightened out "This!" He pointed at the waterfall of tiny white and blue and purple flowers cascading from the nearby tree down to the ground.
Harry bit his lip, embarrassed at his little outburst. He felt his cheeks burning with mortification. Ducking his head, he tried to hurriedly explain his reasoning once again. "Someone once told me, that all beautiful things have their dark, ugly side. " He began slowly, unconsciously nibbling his lower lip, worried that Kirei would misunderstand his words. "And that even the ugliest things have something beautiful within." Shy green eyes looked back into the blank brown ones. "If you are unsatisfied with his definition of beauty, why don't you find your own?"
Closing his eyes, Kirei pondered the question.
Yes, why not? What actually held him back from not forming his own opinions on the issue? Like Harry had said, there were different kinds of beauty. Even ugly things…like Kirei himself... could be beautiful.
"You don't mind?" For some reason, Kirei felt compelled to ask the green eyed boy, as if his answer was needed to validate his exploration in the unknown.
He was gifted with a small smile. "No. If the people thought the same all the time, the world would be a very boring place."
Kirei found himself looking at the small waif in awe. He had been struggling with this question for so long, trying to be the kind of beautiful that his Father had thought - expected - him to be, but this little boy just accepted him like he was.
Smiled at him like it was no big thing, even with his cheeks still dusted with the flush of embarrassment and looking like he wanted to bolt at any given moment, as if instead of solving Kirei's little dilemma, he had somehow managed to mortally offend him.
In that moment, something deep within had clicked from its previous wrong position to right one, as if his little companion had managed to pull some kind of hidden lever Kirei himself couldn't, and in the process gift him with the warmth Kirei didn't know he missed until it flooded his chest cavity and continued to flow through it to the farthest parts of his body until he felt he was enveloped in a cocoon of warmth.
"Hey." Green eyes looked at his own brown orbs questioningly, and Kirei felt the warmth spear through his body again. Impulsively, he reached forward, offering the boy his own hand. "We haven't been introduced yet. My name is Kotomine Kirei and I would like to be your friend." He would be his first friend, actually.
He held his breath as those green eyes grew even bigger behind those bottle glasses, his heart skipping a beat.
If Harry rejected him, then this wonderful warmth would disappear, leaving him even hollower than before –
But the small, calloused hand found his own, and Kirei's brain flash-catalogued the tiny scratches and thickened pads, marking it so different from his ow long-fingered and smooth one, committing it to the memory to never, ever forget it –
A small, shy smile and Kirei's temporarily anticipation-suspended heart leapt onward in a huge leap, as if it wanted to get out of his chest and hole itself in the other boy's ribcage, right beside his own when the bespectacled boy introduced himself.
"I am Harry. And I would like that very much."
From the corner of his eye, Kirei saw golden and violet shaded thread mix with the most beautiful orange one in a beautiful, unbreakable ribbon tied to their pinky fingers.
The warmth in his chest multiplied, and maybe it was alright if he didn't have his own heart anymore, if he had that beautiful, wholesome warmth nestling in its place.
Harry's awed gaze mutely stated the same.
Above them, dark grey eyes narrowed in confusion and discontent. It was strange thing, to see the boy he had helped a day before getting so friendly with that socially awkward son of a priest.
It should have been him that should be down here and bask in the little boy's attentions to his person.
He shook his head.
This was absurd. Why should he care for some strange waif that was obviously here only for a short time and he may have not meet him again once his family departs from the village?
He didn't even know just why he had helped the little one when he and his family arrived in the village.
Any other person and he would have left them to flop ungracefully in the dust.
But when he looked down at the little one struggling with the heavy load he had been ordered to cart around that kind of action just didn't sit well with him.
His body moved before he even knew what was happening.
Late in the night, when everyone was sleeping, the sleep eluded him.
Those green eyes intrigued him.
No - if he had been honest with himself, the feelings that those green eyes evoked within him were more concerning.
Being trained as an assassin meant that they were also taught how to shut down the emotions - he had seen kids cry and scream, some even threw up when they had to do their first kill, which was a natural reaction, considering the first kill was always a small animal they were taking care of for an extended period of time. After that, they shut themselves down for a time, and even if they came back, smiling, laughing and playing, in the back of their eyes, there was now a kind of a cold distance. Even if they adored playing with kittens, they wouldn't have any reserves to choke the tiny animals if the order was given in the midst of the game.
This boy was like a kitten - tiny, scruffy, all big green eyes and innocent. All too easy to kill. It wouldn't take much from him - to choke him, until he stopped breathing, or to slice his throat or to push him off the nearby cliff, or break his ribs and leave him suffocating in his own blood.
He was a weakness.
Assassins didn't have weaknesses. If they did, they were dead assassins.
And Soichiro was one of the best, slated, if the rumors were to be believed, to inherit the mantle of the leader of the sect.
He should have killed the boy. He was helpless now, an easy target, and the priest's boy could be exterminated just as easily.
Kerry huffed and puffed with disgruntlement. He had been traipsing through the forest in an attempt to find something to alleviate his boredom. Football was all good and well, but the game could hold his attention only for so long.
He didn't see that rude little bastard either, but he spotted his bespectacled little helper sneaking out of the house and head toward the forest.
And Kerry's interest was piqued.
His mood soured when he saw that bastard holding the boy's hand when they sneaked into the forest.
It just wasn't fair. He didn't know why it wasn't, but Kerry just knew it. The heat made the messy-haired child's mood even worse, causing him to frown rather grumpily.
He followed them in the forest as stealthily as he could, pouting all the way.
This was not what the heroes were supposed to be doing!
He came to the small meadow just in time to see the bastard look at the small green-eyed boy with the stupidest expression ever - dopey, blushing and like nothing else aside him mattered.
Ick. Kerry bravely resisted the urge to gag. It was just like in those romance movies his occasional nanny had watched, minus the obsessive kissing and declarations of love for ever and ever.
But something in Kerry's gut twisted uncomfortably. He didn't know exactly what it was, but he recognized that this preppy little …snot shouldn't be so familiar with the little one. It should have been him talking with the boy, never mind his pitiful knowledge of that strange English language. It should have been him that the boy should smile at and Kerry should be the one to play with him!
There was a shadow above the duo, and it only took a time for Kerry to blink for it to descend on the duo like some kind of a prey, and then, Kerry was moving. Until now, he never felt the need to access the power he had been born with – he much preferred his carefree life, and dreaming about being a hero someday.
One moment, Kirei had the strangest feeling of synchronicity between him and Harry, and in the next instance, there was a dark shadow pouncing down on Harry, intent on killing him.
It took a slice of the second for him to snatch Harry by his wrist toward him and behind his back when he prepared himself to deliver a lethal response to the assailant.
His instincts screamed the warning and the bond between the two of them immediately felt unbearably hot, but then, the strange shadow was toppled down on the dusty ground via one seething, messy-haired kid that glared at the culprit venomously, while he kneed him in the small of his back painfully, knocking the momentum out of their attacker.
"You really shouldn't attack innocent people." Kerry growled out. He clutched his hands on the taller boy's back into unyielding fists, full of fabric, and then, his world shifted.
Yelping, he was now the one to be tumbled down into the ground, barely avoiding the strike that would have done more than just bloodied his nose.
Kirei didn't stay still either - as soon as the older boy shook off his unexpected burden into the dirt, he strode forward, swinging his own leg at the attacker's head.
The kick didn't connect- instead, it was swept aside, as if it didn't even matter, but Kirei was undeterred, immediately launching the offensive of fast kicks and punches, forcing the other boy to go on the defensive with dodging and occasional blocking of the hits.
Now the both of them, including Harry, saw the attacker.
It was a boy, a head and a half taller than them, lanky and clad in drab grey cotton trousers with sleeveless shirt that was loose on his slender frame, giving him an ample room for movements. He was barefoot and with short cropped black hair, with calculating grey eyes flickering from one person to another, but neither Kirei nor Kerry overlooked the minute fact that his eyes seemed to linger on the green-eyed boy the most.
"Why are you attacking us?" Kirei's question turned the attacker's attention from the green-eyed waif to him, and for some inexplicable reason, Kirei felt very satisfied with the result.
As long as this stranger's attention would be on him, then his new friend was safe.
"He is a liability." The answer came in Japanese, making both Kirei and Kerry glare, but Harry eyed the stranger with innocent, if hurt confusion in his eyes.
"That doesn't mean you had to attack him! He didn't do anything to you!" Kerry burst out as he hurled forward, intent on kicking the taller boy in the stomach, only to fail as his hit was deflected, causing him to sail through the air as his opponent used his momentum to both deflect his kick and pile-drive him into the dirt once more.
Gray eyes flickered to the trembling form, clad in too-big clothed on the side momentarily, before they diverted back to Kirei, catching the boy's fist into his own palm, and just in a moment, he would deliver the hit that would rupture the boy's spleen -
Never before had Kerry's blood boiled like this. Of course, he had seen his fair share of injustice in the world (and he would fix all of them someday,) but this, this was something so very wrong he couldn't find any words to express just how wrong it was.
Nobody deserved to be killed just because they existed!
Clenching his teeth, he ignored the fiery pit of inferno in his gut as he prepared to kick the back of the bastards' legs in retaliation.
The single shout froze all three of the combatants in their tracks, causing them to look at the cause of their dispute.
Harry was not a happy camper. The brawl had happened out of the blue, with the three speaking in that foreign language and leaving him behind. Usually, he would have fled from the brawl, but with his friend being involved in it, there was no way in heaven or hell anyone could convince him to just leave right now.
And so, he clenched his hands, disregarded his heart's will to just flee and survive (it was hammering in his ears like some kind of a crazed drum,), straightened out his tiny form in the most intimidating posture he knew (it wasn't much, but it would have to do), and shouted, hoping against hope the three of them would listen to him.
He never screamed. His voice was too weak for it and besides, Dursleys didn't like the loud sounds if they weren't their makers. It had resulted in Harry being particularly quiet individual who never raised his voice to the shouting level.
As a consequence, his vocal cords didn't take kindly to that kind of abuse, causing Harry to feel as if he had taken a very serrated see-saw to his throat as he promptly choked on both the unpleasant sensation, feeling something wet forcing itself up to his mouth.
But at least the three of them stopped, Harry noted grimly as a trickle of blood managed to slip from the left corner of his mouth.
Three wide sets of eyes zeroed on the tiny trail that beaded itself like a small ruby and then attempted to slide down the pallid skin, only for Harry to wipe it away hurriedly, ashamed of his weakness as he hunched into himself.
All three of the boys reached for him, causing the bespectacled waif to flinch and prompting their movements to freeze.
Kirei asked tentatively, his blank eyes wide and vulnerable, but Harry wasn't looking at them, but to his side as he wrung his hands nervously.
"Please… s-stop it." He managed to choke it out, unintentionally letting the small amount of crimson liquid escape past his lower lip as he clutched to his throat. "O-Onegai shimashou."
The broken Japanese phrase could as well be a whip, with what how the wild-haired boy and the gray-eyed one flinched away from him.
"S-Sorry!" the wild-haired one squeaked, scrambling away from his opponent, his dark eyes huge and vulnerable as he bit his lips. "I – We didn't mean to…" He trailed off, embarrassed and uncomfortable as he shifted from the foot to foot, barely holding himself back from checking the bespectacled boy for himself. Awkwardly, he rummaged through his shorts and with a small sound of triumph, pulled out a blue and white-checkered tissue which he thrust to Harry with a sheepish expression on his face, heedless of Kirei's glare at his person.
"Are you sick?" Kirei's question caused Harry to blink with confusion, as he gratefully accepted the tissue, shooting the messy-haired troublemaker a small, grateful smile. He shook his head slowly. "Just not u-used to shouting." He offered, a tentative smile on his lips more of a grimace than anything else.
The tall boy made a jerking motion, causing both Kirei and his messy-haired ally to glare at him harshly. Frowning slightly, gray eyes looked into glasses covered ones as he spoke for the second time, this time in English.
"Help you." Kirei immediately bristled. There was no way in heaven and hell he would allow someone who was intent to kill his heart to help!
"No." He bit out. "You wanted to kill him. You don't get to help him. What gives that you won't change your mind and kill him for real?"
Soichiro couldn't help but wince at the accusation that came from the priest's boy. It was true. He would have killed the boy without any regrets, but that was… before.
Before he heard that voice.
Before those unusual green eyes glared at him through those bottle glasses.
Before there was a blood on those all too pale lips.
Before the little one flinched away from him as if Soichiro would kick the shit out of him just because he existed, causing him to feel like lowest scum on the Earth.
Children should never, ever be scared, especially not this little one.
Never mind that this particular child was his weakness whom he should have eliminated with extreme prejudice instead of woolgathering time in the fight against the child's unintentional protectors.
"Help you? Please?" He tried again, hoping against hope that his eyes would express his regret and sincerity of his offer.
He watched greedily, as the small one bit his lip uncertainly, green eyes perusing him as he deliberated the right course of action. The smell of blood wafted in the air, iron and copper, sickeningly familiar and causing Soichiro to gulp with trepidation.
He held out his hand in supplication, showing that he was unarmed (not that it meant much), and that he was willing to do anything to take care of the little one.
He felt a movement when the wild child made a movement to knock his outstretched arm away - because he wasn't worthy - but to his surprise, the priest child stopped him. The wind rustled in the tree branches, causing them to sway carelessly and throw their light and shadows on the forest floor in a complicated, ever changing dance.
Slowly, hesitantly, a small hand reached out to his, placing the fragile, work-roughened palm into his own, weapon-callused one and Kuzuki Soichiro smiled.
Kerry looked at the scene in front of him mulishly. Harry, as he found out the small boy's name was, was too soft-hearted for his own good. Even knowing that the taller boy wanted to kill him, he trusted him.
But Kerry was no fool. No matter how sincere the tall one's - and wasn't that a kick, to be the second shortest in the group – intentions were, sooner than later, he would try and attempt to kill Harry once again.
But this time, Kerry would be prepared. He scowled at the random aches and bruises that throbbed with pain, causing him to shift uncomfortably from his sitting position. He crossed his arms on his chest mulishly as he kept a sharp eye on the duo.
The assassin was preparing some kind of a paste from the violet flowers and leaves in an improvised leaf-made bowl, while the priest boy was doing some kind of a glowing mojo on Harry's throat.
The glow emitting from his hand was soft whitish blue color and Kerry supposed he should have been impressed the bastard managed to use such a technique - healing with mana was a tough business, after all, but all he felt was contempt and resentment with a grudging smidge of unwilling respect.
He was still an uppity, know-it-all berk. Kerry scoffed.
The preach boy finally managed to finish his portion, a faint sheen of sweat on his forehead. The taller boy finished his portion, too, approaching the duo with the leaf-bowl in his hands. The paste, Kerry noted, was an unappetizing gray mush, causing him to shoot a suspicious look at its maker.
"Take it. The taste may not be the best, but it should help with the soreness and inflammation." The grey-eyed boy spoke out as he offered it to the green-eyed boy smoothly, patiently waiting for the preach boy to translate.
"How can we know it's like you said it is?" Kerry snapped out as he bounced up on the soles of his feet, suppressing a wince when his body protested at the sudden movement sharply. The assassin's gray eyes swiveled to him, cold and hard as granite, but Kerry wouldn't be cowed. Not when lives were at stake. That was what heroes did, after all.
"Taste it, then." The assassin snapped, offering Kerry the mulch and causing him to blanch, but Kerry was a hero, so he bravely stuck a pointer finger in the mass and then carried it to his mouth.
"Blech – !" He gagged, as he stuck his tongue out comically. The freaking thing was so - so disgusting and tingly and gross he couldn't even describe it in words!
"Mah tongue ifs gettin' numb. Grooosss!" He managed to lisp out, causing the assassin smirk at him and Harry grinned with amusement, green eyes sparkling with mirth.
Kerry felt his cheeks and tips of his ears getting warm, and this didn't have any connection to the weather.
His heart felt warm, too.
Hurriedly, he turned around, as to not let the other two look at his face, but it was already too late.
He was blushing!
In an effort to preserve his dignity, he scrambled to the small brook. Maybe some water would get that disgustingly gross taste off his tongue.
Thoroughly confused and a little bit entertained, Harry watched the messy-haired boy blush a cherry pink from his cheeks to the tips of his ears before he hurriedly took off in the search of water to the nearby brook.
He apprehensively turned his gaze to the confirmed disgusting grey mass in the leaf before he scooped a small amount of it on his pointer and middle fingers.
The thing was lukewarm and – Harry grimaced - appropriately gross. It caused his tongue to tingle and involuntarily twitch in the protest of the horrible taste, but when he swallowed it down, he immediately felt the blessed, refreshing coolness settle within his throat. Encouraged, he scooped another bite and continued one after another, until his tongue was thoroughly numb and the leaf clean of the paste, offering a small, shy smile to the gray-eyed boy when he finished.
From the corner of his eye, he saw the messy-haired boy approach them again, dark eyes glaring at the maker of the foul medicine before he plopped down beside him carelessly.
"No killing anyone here, yeah?" He offered, with a bright grin on his lips. Harry felt the grin would not be amiss on the white shark's face, so toothy it was, and just as threatening. Even if the dark-eyed boy couldn't compete with the other two in martial arts, he was fast enough to do at least some damage, and with the way he positioned himself - a little bit ahead Harry - guaranteed that if the gray-eyed assassin tried anything, he would have to go through him first. "Me. I am Emiya Kerry." He addressed Harry when he spoke his name, prompting Harry to nod in assent and offer him a small smile. "You two are?"
"Kotomine Kirei." Kirei spoke next, brown eyes zeroed on the assassin in front of them steadfastly, but Harry didn't begrudge him. He felt the bond between them twist and wriggle in anxious loops that made his tummy feel a little bit seasick.
"Kuzuki Soichiro." The assassin finally offered his name, ducking his head slightly. "Sorry for before." He offered, his shoulders sloped in the way Harry felt denoted an apology. He didn't really know how he knew that, but he just… knew.
He opened his mouth and made a soundless hacking sound.
"No speaking yet. It will wear off in half an hour." Soichiro offered as he gazed at Harry with those strange steel grey eyes. Harry shot his a disgruntled glare, causing the assassin's mouth to twitch with amusement.
"He is Harry." Kirei spoke out. "And he is my best friend."
The glares Kirei received from both Kerry and Soichiro caused Harry to want to be far, far away from the trio.
He had a feeling that World War III would be appropriate title for what would be going between the three of them very, very soon.
… Especially when Kerry added something very uncomplimentary in Japanese as he addressed Kirei, causing the priest boy to clench his fists with murderous intent.
Unknowingly to the three of them, this was the beginning of a very strange friendship between people who would, in ordinary circumstances, be each others' most bitter enemies.