A/N: Something for anyone who'll be reading this story to keep in mind at all times. Shirou in this story is an unreliable narrator, so not everything he narrates is completely correct, be it from the stand point of the Nasuverse lore or the DxD lore. He's also prone to make assumptions when he shouldn't, even when he himself thinks he isn't making them.
An Unwilling Traveler
Kuoh Academy, where I had enrolled as a third year, after a series of events that involved the Clock Tower, Rin, the Second Magic and a Mystic Code said to use a form of the Fifth Magic that she received for helping out The Blue at some point in the past. After Zelretch had taken her under his wing, to the horror of the Mage Association, especially the Lords at the Clock Tower, and Rin had enlisted me as a test subject without leaving me enough time to bolt out the door.
After all the pretty lights disappeared and I could finally get my bearings back, I realized pretty easily that I wasn't inside my erstwhile girlfriend's and mine's shared workshop anymore. I wasn't inside anything anymore to be exact. For a second I almost thought that she had destroyed everything that wasn't inside the Formalcraft circle that I was in, but I cast that thought away immediately since instead of destruction, all around me there was a forest. Looking down, I realized that the Formalcraft circle wasn't there anymore also, only grass that was overgrown almost to my knees.
After looking at my surroundings for a few minutes I took a few steps in the direction where my house was supposed to be but didn't find anything there. To my horror, even the Bounded Field around my house wasn't there anymore. I picked a direction and started walking, my nerves on edge, trying to find something about where I was, when I realized that maybe Rin had sent me to a parallel universe. That was the domain of the Second Magic, after all. What's worse, she may have sent me to a parallel universe where at the very least my house didn't exist. But the truth was worse than that, not only my house didn't exist anymore. The entire city didn't exist anymore. At least, not the Fuyuki City that I knew of. After walking for what seemed like forever but in reality maybe took only a few minutes, I came to a fence with a street on the other side.
And a different city as well. I had jumped over the fence and started walking around. Long story short, I came to the conclusion that the landmarks around the city, correction, the 'natural' landmarks of Fuyuki City, the rivers, mountains, depressions and so on, were the same, but the streets, buildings and other man-made structures were completely different. Another thing that I came to realize chagrined me to end. My body was back to my teen years. Externally, I was a highschool aged kid again.
After mounting a vigil during the first week over the place were I had appeared on what I now know was a private property, I came to the conclusion that wherever Rin had sent me, she didn't know how to reverse the process or worse. I really didn't want to think about the worst case scenarios, so I left it at that.
After a whole week without taking a shower, or eating anything other than what I could forage from the forest I was in, I made my way back to civilization. I had few options at this point. First, I needed information, but who knew if in this dimension the Clock Tower existed, or if Magecraft itself existed. I knew my Magecraft worked better here, the levels of prana in the air were saturated, so I imagined that maybe the Age of the Gods hadn't ended here yet, or at least, the Age of the Heroes. And if it hadn't ended, with my luck, there was good chance that I would come across some jerkass God who would try and make me into his plaything.
But after living on the streets for a few days, I came to realize that there wasn't much supernatural activity around the world. The newspapers didn't talk about dragons and other mythological beasts, the streets weren't covered with creatures that weren't human. There were a few that I couldn't pinpoint the exact nature, but they seemingly lived as humans. I even trailed one or two of these creatures, but after a few hours, found nothing out of the ordinary. They were simply living as humans do.
With my primary fear assuaged somewhat, I started to try and look for work, but without identification, no one wanted to hire a highschooler that reeked of sweat. Until one day I was sitting on a park thinking what would I do for dinner and heard a cry for help.
Without thinking I jumped up and ran in the direction of the cry and found a girl about to be molested by a man wearing a sky mask. I kicked the guy from the girl, Reinforced my fist and punched him in the face. He fell against a tree and I pulled a few dozen blueprints in my mind of swords and aimed all of them at the guy, without tracing them yet. I knew there were creatures that I didn't know roaming around this city, but this wasn't one of them, or at least, this signature was new. It wasn't just a human. It could be a magus, but if it was, it was worse at it than me. The man crumpled down without moving. So without turning around I said to the girl to call the Police, that I would stay and keep an eye on the man.
A few minutes later, I was the one that was almost arrested by the cops, until the girl that I rescued came to my rescue this time, saying that I was the one who saved her. The cops wanted a statement from me, and I accompanied them without thinking. I only realized my blunder when they asked my name and ID. I had no identification. I was homeless. And Japan isn't a very kind place for homeless people.
End result? I was on a cell.
It was a blessing in disguise, since for the first time in the few weeks I had been here, I could take a decent shower, wear clean clothes and had a decent meal. Prison food wasn't the most pleasant but at least it wasn't something that I had picked from trash cans or foraged in the forest.
The next day came the second break I had because of that act. A girl that I had never seen before appeared on the Police Station to bail me out. The story she told the officers was that I was her brother, had amnesia and had disappeared from the house. Worse, she actually had documents that proved my supposed identity and my medical records. It even had my photo on it, I think.
The change of clothes she brought me also gave credence for the officers that I was what she was claiming me to be, and I had no way of proving myself against it. The clothes fitted perfectly, even the shoes, and only after wearing it, I realized that they were a male uniform that I had seen around the city, the same ones that the girl was wearing too, but I didn't know which school it belonged to at the time.
The girl, that introduced herself as Himejima Akeno, had long black hair tied on a ponytail that reached down almost to her ankles, violet eyes and... lets just say that it was hard to notice the color of her eyes when just below her neckline there was a bulge too great to not give her backpains, and leave it at that. The other thing that was apparent, was that the girl was not entirely human, but I couldn't place her in any category that I was accostumed to. She wasn't a Dead Apostle, at least of that I was sure of. Her signature had a tint of holy inside a whole lot of dark energy, but it didn't quite reach demonic level. It was mind boggling to try and decypher what she was.
After she bailed me out, she directed me to a honest to Akasha limousine and signaled for me to enter it. Since we were still in front of the Police Station, I couldn't deny her over the risk of the Officers hearing, so I entered it. After my 'sister' entered behind me and closed the door, her features that until that point was almost set on a comforting smile, turned cold and calculating and that set me on edge. Immediately my mind began to trace the best weapons to use in close quarters that was the limo, but she didn't made any move or said anything, only studying me. Then after she seemed satisfied with what she saw, the smile came back.
"Good morning. I'm Himejima Akeno." The girl said with a small bow of her head. "As you must have figure it out by now, I'm not your real sister, but there's someone who wants to talk with you, and the location where you were at the moment prevented her from doing so."
Her words were delivered in a pleasant, if slightly edgy, tone. So I answered in kind. "Emiya Shirou. Thank you for bailing me out. If you know that I'm not your brother, then how-"
She cut me off before I could continue. "As I said, someone wants to talk with you, and I was the only one available to take you to her. Please, direct all the questions to her when we arrive."
I only nodded at the girl, and she closed her eyes, seemingly dismissing my presence. With nothing else to do, I changed my attention to outside, looking for landmarks so that I could know where we were going.
I noticed that the incline that we were going up was the same that would house the Ryuudou Temple in Fuyuki City, but as I came to realize during the last few days, the name of this city was Kuoh Town. Not really a problem, since some parallel worlds had different names for cities in the same region, but they usually had the same layout, if only barely. At least, that was what Rin said. I had never traveled between different worlds, so maybe Rin was the one who only had traveled to parallel worlds that were similar, or maybe Zelretch had only taken her to such worlds.
Either way, at that moment, I was in front of where was supposed to be the Ryuudou Temple, but it was actually an school. Kuoh Academy. The girl, Himejima, climbed down before me and gestured for me to come with her. It was still early, and from the clocktower I could read that it wasn't even seven in the morning yet. She entered the school grounds without waiting for me, so I took the three steps that would bring me to the place as well, only to pause again when I crossed a Bounded Field. I stopped immediately.
My nerves were on edge again. One of two scenarios were the most likely in this situation. One, the Second Owner or another powerful Magus had discovered me, and had bailed me out so I could explain myself to him. It was a likely scenario, since the girl that was leading him seemed to be not human, she could be a familiar, or a Servant. That was enough to get me nervous. A Magi powerful enough to command a familiar that could take human form wasn't someone that I wanted to be on bad terms with. The other scenario was that I had invaded the lair of a powerfull being, a Dead Apostle, an Elemental, or something worse. Now that I had already crossed the threshold of the Bounded Field, there was no turning back.
The girl continued to walk, seemingly without noticing that I had hitched my step. The number of blueprints of weapons that I had brought to the forefront of my mind doubled. One of the things that I realized was that in this world, I could hold my blueprints and my traced weapons for far longer than normal. They didn't disappear without I activelly ordering them to. The knife I traced as a test at the beginning of the first week I was here, continued existing for almost that entire week and only disappeared when I willed it to. I still don't know if they would disappear on their own after a set amount of time, but for now, I knew that a simple blade without mystical properties could hold for at least a week without disappearing on me.
I caught up to her and continued to walk two steps back and one step left from her. She brought me around the main buildings the place had, and into the woods on the back. When we crossed the treeline, we crossed another Bounded Field. I still didn't had enough information, but a second line of defense usually meant that there was a Magus workshop there. If that was good or bad, it remained to be seen. So far the girl hadn't acknowledged anything about Magecraft, or about me, at all.
After a while we reached a white three story building, with a clocktower and a black roof. Himejima entered the building and signaled for me to follow and that's when I noticed the third Bounded Field. This is getting ridiculuous. What kind of research required three boundary fields. Or worse, what kind of Magus created three fields that, as far as I could identify, only served to alert against intruders. I followed the girl to the second floor of the building and into a room, after she knocked on it two times and entered without waiting for anyone to answer.
When I entered the room my face almost fell in disbelief. Not because of the decoration, or the Formalcraft circle in the corner, or the honest to Akasha shower cubicle on the other corner. No, there's another Bounded Field in the room. This had just jumped from ridiculous to downright insane. Who in their right mind sets up so many alarm fields, without primary defenses on them?
Some of the dismay I was feeling must have appeared on my face, because a cough from my right made me realize that the room wasn't empty and there was someone else sitting behind a desk on the other side of the room. Well, someone was putting lightly. The girl sitting there was downright beautiful, as in a otherwordly kind. She clearly wasn't human, my senses screamed as much, but she was still beautiful, with crimson hair and blue eyes, framed behind glasses. She was holding a stack of papers before lifting her head and looking at us.
"Good morning, Buchou." Himejima said, from my side. "Allow me to introduce Emiya Shirou. He was the one who dealt with our little problem last night."
"Good morning. Emiya Shirou." I said bowing to the girl. "Himejima-san said that someone wanted to talk with me, and refused to answer any questions. May I presume that someone is you?"
The crismon haired girl looked at me for a few moments, before smiling and nodding her head. "Rias Gremory. Nice to meet you, Emiya Shirou. Can I call you Shirou?" She asked, still smiling.
I nodded, not too sure what else to do. She didn't seem like she would attack me for now at least, but I still held the blueprints I had pretraced in my mind. "No problem. It's easier for me as well."
"Very well, Shrirou. I imagine you have some questions, but please, take a seat." She turned to the black haired girl. "Akeno, could you prepare us some tea?" The girl nodded and started to move inside the room in another direction from where the crimson haired was signaling for me to sit.
The way the couches where designed seemed to be better placed on a museum or an antique store, but they were well preserved. "Thank you, Rias-san."
"Please, just Rias is fine." She said and sat in front of me, on the couch on the other side of the center table. If I thought that Himejima had a bustline that could cause back pains, this girl had one that clearly defied the laws of gravity, but since she wasn't human, of that at least I was certain, I could ignore that.
After making myself more comfortable, I looked at her again. "Then, Rias, could you explain to me what is going on? Himejima-san said that I was her brother or some sort to take me out of the station, but we both know that wasn't true."
"Yes." The girl removed her glasses, folded them and put them on the table between us. If I was slightly less on edge, I would have blushed on the way her bossom bounced with the action. "Yesterday you helped a girl that was being molested by a pervert in the middle of the park." I only nodded signaling for her to continue. "Well, the girl in question was Akeno. She was the bait for us to catch that creature that had started hunting around the city."
I frowned. Why use a girl as bait to catch a pervert? Even after all my time around countless powerful women, be it during the Grail War or after, I still had some compunctions about putting women in unnecessary danger. Then I remembered that the girl in question wasn't completely human and nodded.
"Well, your... timely... intervention prevented us from catching that beast, but since you manage to deal with it, we tought that at least congratulations were in order." Himejima put a tea cup for me and another for the redhead, before sitting herself to her left.
"It was what any normal person would do." It was all I said.
"Yes. Any 'normal' person would do that, wouldn't they?" Himejima said, stressing the word 'normal' a little too much.
I wasn't going to take that bait. Either these two hadn't realized that I already knew that they weren't human, or they did and were playing games. "Yes. When you hear a cry for help, are you going to simply ignore it?"
"Not everyone would try and do something about it, though." The black haired pointed out.
I scratched the back of my head, trying to appear humble. "As you said. Not everyone, but there always a chance that somebody would." Then looked at her in the eyes. "Otherwise, why would you cry for help?"
"Good point." Himejima conceded.
"What I don't get it is, why are you going after perverts and not the Police?" I asked, not sure anymore if what I kicked last night even was a pervert or some sort of demon anymore. Things were so frantic that I didn't even realize that Himejima was the girl I had 'saved', after all. Either that, or I was more debilitated than I imagined.
Both girls looked at each other, Rias clearly uncomfortable, while Himejima wore a serene smile. "Let's just say that that particular pervert was on our watch list."
"Watch list? What are you, some kind of vigilante group of teenagers?" I had to ask. If that... creature... last night wasn't just a random pervert. These two had to have some connection with him, but weren't revealing just yet.
"Not... quite." Rias said after a few moments. "I can't say anymore because we don't know what are your allegiances, but we couldn't just leave the person who helped us to be imprisoned, so we took the liberty of releasing you and bringing you here." I nodded. Just for the fact that they somehow had my measurements and my photo, and a lot of documents to prove their point to bail me out of prison told me they had a lot of connections inside the city. But since they were not sure if they could trust me, they too didn't know if I was aware of Magecraft or if I was an Esper, a natural in using some kinds of Magecraft without realizing. "Let me ask you. Are you a Stray?"
"Stray?" I frowned, rolling the word in my head. Stray usually meant someone lost, homeless, but few people would put it like that. "I guess I am. I haven't had a roof over my head in almost a month."
The smile on Rias' face that started to grow wider when I said I was a stray, seemed strain when I finished my sentence, but she still held it in place. Maybe stray in this dimension meant something that I wasn't aware of. I didn't know what so I kept it for the definition on the dictionary. "I see..." It was all she said, before sighing. "Well, how old are you?" She changed topics.
"I'm..." I stopped almost saying my real age. They wouldn't believe me, after all, my body was that of a teenager now, so I lied. "Nineteen."
"And you aren't going to school because...?" Himejima asked, stretching the end of the sentence. They were probing for answers that weren't actually all that damning for me, so I had no real reason to lie to them, aside from my age. I took a deep breath. Even if these questions were inoquous in and of themselves, they weren't the questions I expected. I had to play this out as if I was in enemy territory being interrogated. Which wasn't that far off from the truth.
At least my interrogators were pleasing to look at. I took the teacup that was placed in front of me and had been ignored until that point. At the same moment that I focused my Structural Analysis on it to discover the composition of the tea, just to make sure it wasn't any type of truth serum, a knock came from the door.
My head immediatelly swivelled to it, and Rias voice came a moment later. "Come in." At least the interruption seemed to mask my intention of analysing the contents of the cup. Structural Analysis was something that I did uncounsciouly nowadays, without the need to focus, but when I wanted to read something completely, I still needed to concentrate a little. The only things that I could analyse completely without concentration were bladed weapons, but that was a side effect of my Reality Marble. The door opened to reveal two people, one white haired petite girl and a platinum blonde boy, just behind her.
The girl took one look at me, then looked at Rias, then stepped inside without as much as a greeting. The boy on the other hand bowed to the redhead. "Good morning, Buchou."
Both of them entered the room, the girl going to the same corner Himejima had gone earlier to prepare the tea and the boy sitting on the couch beside the table. "This here is Kiba Yuuto and the girl there" Rias signaled to the white haired girl that was coming back from the corner to sit beside Himejima. "is Toujou Koneko. Yuuto, Koneko, this here is Emiya Shirou-san. He's the one who helped us last night."
That drew a sharp response from the now named Kiba, who looked at me, but didn't say anything for a moment, before bowing. "It's a pleasure Emiya-san. And thank you for your help last night."
Toujou, who had one hand inside a packet of snacks, looked at me. "...pleasure." She sat beside Himejima and went back to her snack.
"It was the least I could do." I answered him.
"Shirou-san, you didn't answer my question." The black haired girl insisted.
"I don't..." I started then frowned. What could I say to these people. "Let's make it this way. You answer one question I have, and I answer one question you have. It's the least I can do for someone who bailed me out and gave me clean clothes. But for every question you can't answer I reserve the right to not answer one from you as well, deal?"
Rias too frowned a little, but nodded. "Very well, then are you going to school or not?"
"I'm not." And left it there, before they could follow up the question I posited one of my own. "Where did you get my picture to put on the documents you took to the station?" I hadn't seen the picture, but it was easy to imagine that there was one, seeing as the Officer looked several times between the paper and my face.
Rias frowned, looked at Himejima then back at me. "Very well, one question for you." She said, then asked. "Why aren't you in school. Did you stop after middle school?"
"That's two questions disguised in one." I said. "And the answer is 'no'. Where did you get the measurements for this uniform?" I asked.
"I have good eye for measurements. I only need a look to know the sizes of a person." Himejima answered, with a glint of something that I could only describe as mischief on her eyes. Well, at least I could buy that for now, after all, I too only needed one look to know everything there was to know about a sword. I just hoped that she didn't have a Reality Marble based around clothes. That would be weird. Well, weirder than a Magus in a parallel universe. The smile on her face diminished a little and her eyes opened to look sharply at me. Either she expected me to call her out on her comment about measurements, or something along those lines. "And you are not being very forthcoming with your answers."
Before I could say anything, Rias took control of the conversation again. "Why are you in Kuoh Town?"
The answer flashed in my head immediately. Because I was teleported from my and my ex-girlfriend's shared workshop to another dimension where this town was known as Fuyuki City during an experiment using the Second and Fifth Magic, but that didn't seem like a good answer. "That's... complicated. I don't know, would be the correct answer in this case. I have no idea how I ended up here. I didn't even know the name of this city until a few days ago." I frowned. "Who was that person yesterday?"
Rias frowned and seemed like she wouldn't answer then Himejima took over. "A pervert." And didn't elaborate anything else, but her smile seemed to say that she was pleased that she found an answer equal to my replies that answered the question but didn't at the same time.
"Why were you on the streets?" The crimson haired girl asked.
"I'm homeless." I answered thruthfully. Actually, hadn't I already answered that question before? Well, since she asked that, I at least now knew that 'stray' meant something else in this universe, aside from the dictionary definition. What, I still didn't know, but it was a start. "While I understand that someone needed to do something about that pervert, I still don't understand why did you guys didn't call the Police before luring him with that trap."
"Because no one else could do anything." To my surprise it was Kiba who answered. He and Toujou had been so quiet until now that I almost forgot that they were there. Perharps more telling was the wording he used, 'could' instead of 'would'. They were the ones that 'could' do something about it.
The redhead looked pensive for a moment, then she seemed to come to some kind of conclusion herself, then looked at me right in the eye and asked. "Which Faction do you belong to?"
I didn't understand the question. The Mage Association was divided in three branchs, the Clock Tower, Atlas and the Wandering Sea. There was also the Church. But all these were primarily human associations with the odd Apostle here and there, and these people were all not human. Another thing was that these branches of the Mage Association didn't refer themselves as Factions. A Faction had a connotation of dispute inside an organization. In that sense there were factions inside each of the three branches, but they weren't big enough to be known here in Japan. With that in mind, I got the feeling that Faction refered to something different in this universe, but I answered anyway. "None. I am..." I paused, then frowned. "Or was, actually is a better word, a Bounty Hunter affiliated with the Clock Tower, but I don't answer to them." I paid carefull attention to the crimson haired girl in front of me, to see if she would show a spark of recognition at the name. Anyone that knew anything about Magecraft would know about the Clock Tower, even if it was to flee from it.
Instead of recognition I only received a look of confusion from the girl. Himejima too didn't seem to know what I was talking about, since she didn't move a single muscle.
I didn't pay enough attention on Kiba or Toujou to see if they recognized the name, so I moved on. "What would happen if I didn't interfered last night?"
"We would have dealt with that... creature." Again, the wording that Himejima used was more telling than the answer itself. She didn't refer to the man as a creature because he was a pervert. The feeling I got was that she had fished the word and used in an almost literal sense. I couldn't be sure what was what just yet, though.
Maybe that man last night was another not-human like these four and they attacked it because it was prowling on their hunting grounds? It was a possibility. I didn't get the feeling of hostility from any of them yet, so I shelved this doubt to another time. All of them had the same feeling to them. It was dark, but not outright hostile, which puzzled me to no end.
That seemed to be enough for Rias, since she looked to the side, and I realized that she was looking at the wall clock placed above the door. "We have to go to class for now, but I still want to talk to you some more." Then she smiled as she thought of something. "Excuse me for a moment."
She got up and walked around the desk she was sitting at earlier, retrieved a small cellphone and dialed. Before I could say or do anything, Himejima called my attention. "You are pretty strong. To be able to knock a person out with only one punch. Do you work out a lot or did you use something to help you?"
The way she phrased the question was weird. It could either mean that I used a brass knuckle or something to that effect to power up my punch or that I used Magecraft to enhance my body. After weeks of living on the street, it was obvious that I was malnourished. I still retained some of my muscle mass, but I couldn't be called strong by any definition of the word. "I used something to help me." I answered truthfully again, without actually answering. "And now I have two questions." I smiled at the girl, before turning to Kiba. "What do you mean no one could do anything. If you reported to the Police they would have caught the man in the act, wouldn't they?"
I was sure that these weren't just some do gooder kids, since all four of them weren't human, but I couldn't be sure that they weren't Espers who had awakened to their skills, as well. This world is weird. Himejima frowned, but answered. "No. They couldn't have done anything." She too answered without answering. It was my turn to frown. Maybe that was a Dead Apostle, or a thrall of one? It was the only reason I could come up with, that would make these people risk themselves. The Esper theory I had about them didn't hold much water though, since the magical signatures all four of them held were too similar. It is rare to find a single Esper not already affiliated with a Magi Family. Four of them at the same time was unheard of. Four with the same type of abilities? I can't even calculate the probability of that. But again, another universe. Some rules may be different.
Rias came back and sat again. "Well, Shirou. I just spoke with a friend of mine, and I would like to ask if you are interested in a scholarship."
"Scholarship?" Wait, what?
All that happened months ago. I almost declined the offer. Rias, as it turns out, was a well to-do girl that practically owned Kuoh Town, but she wasn't a Second Owner. No, her family was actually the owner of so many establishments and properties in city that she was in all practical ways the owner of the town. The Shitori family, the family of the Student President on Kuoh Academy was the owner of another chunk of the city. These two combined owned over fourty percent of the city. I didn't know all of this at the time, but I ended up accepting the offer in the next day. After thinking about it, too much time had passed and if Rin hadn't found me yet, I would need to make provisions to survive in this dimension, and since I was still a highschooler, or at least looked like one, I was expected to attend school.
And here was another favor that I ended up owing the Gremory family, or at least Rias, since I never met anyone else from her family. Or Shitori's for that matter. I don't know how, but they took care of all the paperwork necessary to create a person out of thin air. If I didn't knew that they weren't human, I would think that they were the Yakuza of this dimension. Thinking about it now, that comparison wasn't that far off. Anyway, after enrolling on Kuoh Academy and taking the placement test that would make me a third year, I had to wait until the school year began in Spring, since it was late October when they found me.
In the meantime I actually got a part-time job at the school cafeteria as one of the cooks, and, if the rumormill was right, the cafeteria began to have more of a turnout after I began to work there. No idea if it was true or not, but I always enjoyed cooking, and after falling in love with the kitchen of the Academy, I didn't care about anything else.
It was unfortunate that I had to quit once the school year began, but what could I do. At least I saved up enough money to not need to rely on Rias for some time. It would take some more time for me to pay the bond I had took with her, but the rates were unreasonably low. Almost nothing actually. I still couldn't quite understand why the redhead, or Shitori Sona, for that matter, put up with me. They clearly knew that I wasn't a normal kid, but they didn't seem to know anymore than that. Once or twice I overheard they talking about inviting me to something, but they never actually got around to it.
Another thing that I wasn't quite clear was why the school had been built on this hill. Anyone with a minimum of mystical awareness knew that there was a leyline nexus on campus, or to be more precise, below the old school building, where the Occult Research Club had their base. It was interesting to know that the nexus was right below the clubroom, and it was a real club as well, with club activities and everything else expected from them. More than once I found the members roaming the city at night when I was out tailing a magical signature different from the ones I was used to.
Those times both the member I came across and me made excuses on why we were there so late at night, but while mine ranged from taking a walk to looking for a store for a late night snack, they invariably always said club activities. Even Toujou, in her usual taciturn way, only said that.
After the school year began, I quickly regained my old adage as the fake janitor, because I was always fixing things and helping people out. It was strange, actually. After so many years living on either battlefields or on the workshop, to be passing the days so peacefully. Nowadays I spent most of my free time doing oddjobs around the school.
Which circles around at my current predicament.
"C'mon man, help us out! All you have to do is drill a hole on the wall next time you go in there." Matsuda, one of the infamous 'Perverted Trio' had burst inside the third year classroom and dragged me out to the hallway during recess. Behind him, both Motohama and Hyoudou nodded fervently.
Hyoudou Issei was a name that almost gave a heart attack the first time I heard it. Issei was one of my best friends during highschool, but after the Grail War I lost all contact with him. To this day I don't know if he died when Caster took over Ryuudou Temple or not. Fact of the matter is, when I heard of Hyoudou's name, I leapt at the offchance that it was my friend, before the memory that I was in another universe kicked in and I stopped. Good thing too, since this Issei had absolutely nothing in common with my old friend aside from their first names.
"And why should I do that?" I asked the bald boy. Annoyed that they were still cornering me. Not that I couldn't simply walk out of there, but if there was one thing I didn't like was to be impolite. I was trying to build a reputation around campus, after all.
"C'mon, man! Where is your spirit of fraternity to the other guys? You are in position to create a holy land for all guys out there! You should be ashamed that we even have to come here and tell you about it!" The boy said fervently, as if chiding a child about washing hands before eating.
"Yeah!" The other two nodded and said in unison. If they had said 'Amen' I wouldn't find it weird with the tone of their voices.
The headache that was coming it was almost a palpable thing. Why should I have to deal with hormonal teenagers? Worse, perverted hormonal teenagers? Worse still, perverted hormonal teenagers that somehow managed to not be kicked out of the school yet?
A throat clearing from the corner of the stairs signaled that my savior had appeared yet again. I don't know how, nor do I care to know, but Shitori always appears out of nowhere when I'm being accosted by these three when they hatch their latest plan that involve somehow tampering with school property and need me to do something for them.
Not that I have ever done or would do, but that doesn't seem to diminish their enthusiasm any.
The three looked like the proverbial deer looking into the oncoming eighteen wheeler's headlights. Before Shitori even came completely into view, the three had already bolted to in the direction of the other end of the corridor. "Geez. What a bunch of troublemakers." The bespectacled girl said.
"I would gone with perverts myself." I answered while watching their retreating backs. If there was one thing to say about these three was that they were fast. If they were part of the track and field club, they could have some good results in the hundred meter dash.
"Yeah, that too." Then she turned to me. "Anyway, Emiya-san, I would like for you to come to the Student Council Room after school today."
"Don't tell me the heater broke again?" I asked. That thing is ancient. With all the money being thrown about on this school, it was a small wonder that several appliances and structures were so old, or seemed to be falling apart.
"No. It was not the heater, though I can't say if its still working since we aren't using it much." Shitori sighed. "Anyway, just come after school, okay?"
"Sure." The girl looked one more time in the direction where the Perverted Trio had gone with an annoyed face, then was about to retreat back to the second floor when I decided to ask. "How come those three havent received at least a suspension so far with the amount of mayhem they manage to create on a daily basis?"
The girl stopped before looking at me, like she was studying me, before she bit her lip. "Extenuating circumstancies."
I only nodded in understanding. The three or at least one of them may have the favor of Rias, the other power in control of the school from behind the scenes. At first Shitori too didn't like me much, since Rias was bailing me out of trouble to... well, I still am not too sure about why Rias did that. Anyway, at first the Student Council as a whole didn't like me, but after I started pulling my weight in the kitchen during the time I was only an employee, and now during the school year that I started to help people without asking for anything, inclusive the Student Council, most of them have come around to at least tolerate me, but the majority I can say that are casual acquantacies. The only one still hostile to me is the only boy on the council, Saji. He, on contrary of the others, seems more hostile now that I'm on good terms with Shitori than at the beginning. I'm not blind to not see what this means, but what can I do? I'll not go out of my way to ostracize myself because of a jealous boyfriend, if they are a couple at all. Kuoh has a rumor mill that is worse than an cross between a gossip show on TV and a group of busybody housewifes, school girls are scary like that, and never once I heard a rumor about them being together. And that's not even mentioning that not one of them were completely human.
I have yet to discover what that means, though. If I somehow stumbled upon a congregation of otherwordly beings or if they were that common in this dimension anyway.
But back on topic, the Perverted Trio must have some pull with Rias, so Shitori and the school staff had their hands tied. "I see." I answered finally. "I'll see you after school then." She nodded and I went back to class.
The classes weren't difficult, but there were several things that I had forgotten after years of not practicing them. At least I was still current in Math and Physics, and had a good grasp on History, specially when they concerned past wars, but when it came to abstract things, I was stumped. Fortunatelly, most of those things, like philosophy, and I still can't believe they teach that in highschool, and Japanese, mostly required memorization and interpretation, so it wasn't too bad.
Another windfall that came with accepting the scholarship here I only discovered later. The school library put several public libraries I had seen in my time to shame, and they had so many different books that I was constantly there. I was, of course, trying to find a way to at least create a beacon for Rin to find me across the multiverse, and since Kuoh Academy had a leyline nexus inside the campus, I could use the fact that I was a student here to play around a little with the energies. I hadn't had the time to yet, but once I discovered a book that talked about Thaumaturgy, even if wrong by every concept of the word, I could still use the ideas they brought. The library, however extensive it was, it was still mundane after all, except for the corner where there was Bounded Field. I almost missed it, since it was a field of disinterest, that mostly used to hide things in plain sight. I would like to say that I found it because I noticed it, but I actually came across it by accident. I was putting several books on the shelves when my arm brushed the limit of the field. After that it was just a matter of cross it and investigate what was behind it, but even then there was nothing that I could use there, and several of the Tomes I found were in a language that seemed a cross between Ancient Arabic and Fuji-nee's handwriting in English, if those smudges of ink were letters at all.
After so much time had passed I was fairly certain that Rias wasn't the Second Owner of Kuoh Town, and I was actually almost certain that the Clock Tower didn't exist in this universe. After discovering that what I knew about the internet in this universe was either outdated or, at very least, different from mine, seeing as here internet wasn't synonymous with porn, even if it had porn also, I discovered that I could get overviews of almost anywhere in the world using maps that were uploaded through sattelite photos. After that I painstakingly searched every inch of where I knew the Clock Tower was placed, and where the Wandering Sea should be passing through from what I remembered of the place. The only thing that existed, and it was vastly different from my memories, was the grounds of the Holy Church on the Vatican, but as far I could discover, Christianity was also a major religion on this world, so it shouldn't be surprising.
Point being, the Mage Association didn't exist in this universe, but it was clear that there were supernatural beings roaming around, that weren't directly hostile to human society. There was a lot more accounts of supernatural sightings on the internet and on the news, but nothing concrete or at least nothing too damning. The Church and the Mage Association would have dealt with these things far more swiftly, before they made the news. But even if the Association didn't exist, it was clear that some parallel equivalent existed, since the land had so much prana that even my third rate creations continued around for months before disappearing. The meat knife that I traced when I was still on working on the cafeteria didn't disappear for at least three months. Actually, I don't even know if I dismissed it by mistake or not.
Back around the library, aside from those tomes hidden in that corner, it had a great collection of other, more mundane titles, but sadly nothing that could be realisticly used. Most of them were conjectures and fiction. I expected the Occult Research Club to have some books about the Occult in their clubhouse as well, but they had nothing. If wasn't for the fact that I knew every member of the club wasn't human and that they had club activities, I would have thought that the club was a front for Rias.
It was an interesting game that I was playing with the two leading powers in Kuoh Academy. Both of them had the same general feel, so whatever they were, they were equals, or at the very least similar enough. Their closest allies too were similar in a way, with Shitori's studdent council members feeling more homogeneous, and Rias' members feeling almost all slightly different. Kiba was the only one of the Occult Research Club that had the same feeling as the rest of the student council. Toujou reminded of a cat for some reason, and Himejima felt like a thunderstorm. It gave me a weird feeling seeing one of the Onee-samas of Kuoh Academy with that smile on her face while feeling her energy signature. It wasn't unpleasant. It was actually quite nice, but it was... different. At least Kiba felt like a sword, and the way he acted around the others that weren't part of the club made me think of a Knight of old, born in the wrong century. I imagine Saber would be delighted to have met him.
After school, and after going through another round of fixing equipment for the Student Council, I was going in the direction of the Archery Dojo. I wasn't a member of the club but had received permission from the club Advisor to use it when the club wasn't there or had already finished activities, to use it myself. Archery was practiced on Kuoh as a sport aiming for competitions, but after the Grail War I used only for the meditation. I have never missed a target that I didn't want to miss in my life. I had done just well enough for the Advisor to give the go ahead to continue using the dojo, 'missing' three of my ten test arrows. Nowadays, I came here to relax and meditate while going through the kata of Kyudo.
I was just about to enter the dojo when I heard a series of shrieks coming from the dojo next to the archery one, the Kendo Dojo, if I'm not mistaken. After a series of screams and high pitched yells of 'get them' or some variation thereof, I saw the Perverted Trio running like their life depended on it. A few moments later I realized that maybe their lives really depended on it, since the girls of the Kendo Club, in varying states of undress, were running after them with bokutous and shinais on hand and screaming bloody murder.
Just seeing that image made me give up on entering the archery dojo. If my estimations were right, in about fifteen minutes, someone of the Student Council will track me down and ask me to fix whatever gap the trio was using to spy on the girls of the Kendo Club, and I didn't want to do it right now. I changed directions and started walking home.
Home, yes, home. I actually rented a small apartment fifteen minutes from school. The rent was low, and the landlord actually waived the rent for me most of the time, because I fixed problems that appeared around the other apartments. For him it was like he had a living-in handyman, and I didn't care so much about it, as long as I could help and he didn't try to make me do work that would make another person lose their jobs. I can say that at least my one room apartment was the first thing I managed to get on this city by myself without the help from either Rias or Shitori.
After making myself a small dinner and finished eating, I changed my clothes to what could be considered work out clothes. Sweatpants, a jacket and running shoes, and got out into the night. That was my routine. Everyone in the apartment must think that I go around for a run around this time of the day. I do go for a run, but it isn't the jogging itself that I use this time of the day for. Its to track down more of those magical signatures. The school has several of them, but they were all catalogued in my mind, and were at least initially marked as non-hostile.
But lately I have been catching different scents around, that I haven't been able to pin them down yet. At least I wasn't been observed by Rias' or Shitori's club/council members like I was in the beginning. They had spent more than a month following me around and I had made a point to appear as non-threatening as a normal human could be. They did saw me stopping a mugger that had attacked a kid a few meters in front of me one time but I had dealt with the culprit the same way a good samaritan would. With a roundhouse kick to his midsection and a punch to his face, before calling the cops. Whoever was watching that time, who was either Kiba or Meguri, didn't intervene even when the cops appeared and arrested the man. Back on topic, these new signatures that I have been feeling were mostly different from the rest, and I still didn't know if they were hostile. The only thing I could be sure was that they weren't the same as any that I have felt before, be it in this universe or my own.
But after spending every night the past week running around the city in random directions, I still haven't been able to locate exactly who or what they were. After another night running around for about two hours, and coming up empty again I returned home.
On the next day, a Saturday, I only had halfday of school so I didn't bother in packing a lunchbox. Worse come to worse, I could always pilfer, err, help out at the Cooking Club, and get some free meals out of it. On the road to school, I felt my nerves on edge. Not because I saw a girl I never seen before talking with one of the Perverted Trio, Hyoudou. What it set me on edge was that the 'girl' had the same magical signature that I had been hunting all last week. I Reinforced my hearing so I could eavesdrop on their conversation, even while I was walking in their direction, but it seemed that I was too late as the girl turned heel and started going in the other direction at the same speed as I was closing in on them.
I debated going after her, but when I saw Hyoudou swoon in place, like he was about to fall on his face, I decided it was better to make sure he was okay first, before running after whatever that girl was, that managed to make the boy this way. So, I ran the few steps that separated us, and tapped on the his shoulder. "Good morning, Hyoudou."
He didn't seem to even acknowledge my presence. Maybe that girl had placed a geas on him, or something this parallel universe had comparable? I was about to leave him there when the boy turned to me. "Emiya-sempai?" He asked me weakly.
I stopped. "Yes."
"Emiya-senpai. Please, pinch me." The boy said, still seemingly dazed.
"What?" Was the only thing that came out after a total brain lock I was under.
"Please pinch me. I think I'm still dreaming." He repeated.
I frowned. "What? Why?"
"That girl," He said pointing. "Her name is Amano Yuuma." I looked at the retreating back of the creature that was moving. What kind of enchantment has she put Hyoudou through? "And she just confessed to me."
I had another brain lock. "Wait, back up. From the beginning."
He was still dazed, but repeated. "Her name is Amano Yuuma, she confessed to me, asked me to be her boyfriend and we set up a date for tomorrow. Now please, pinch me!" He told me, almost desperately.
So I pinched.
Myself that is.
I had lived on this city for less than a year and I already knew that this boy here was a famous pervert. There's no way that someone that knew him enough to confess to him wouldn't know about it. But it seemed to be real. Whatever was happening, Hyoudou was the center of it. That... whatever it was... was going after him. Her intentions were still clouded in mystery.
"Not you, Sempai! Me, pinch me!" He pleaded.
So I did.
Punched him, that is. Right in the middle of his skull.
"Owww!" He crouched down immediately lifting both hands to his head. "I said pinch, not punch!" He whined but a moment after he said that, he started giggling. It was a disturbing thing to hear, and I backed away two steps. "It's true. I'm not dreaming!" He jumped up in the air. "Whoohooo!"
"Okay. I'm gonna leave you alone now." I said cautiously. Whatever the kid was imagining I had no idea what it could be. Correction, I had a good idea, but wanted no part of it.
He didn't even seem to hear me, as he looked at me pumping a fist in the air. "Thank you, Sempai. Motohama and Matsuda aren't going to believe me."
I almost said that I saw the girl and didn't believe myself, but held my tongue. One, because I knew that the girl wasn't human, and two because I still wasn't sure in which side of the spectrum she laid. Hostile, neutral or friendly.
Going by the members of the Student Council and the Occult Research Club as samples, I could place the majority of them at least on neutral territory edging on friendly, with the exception of Saji, but with him it was more about a teenager hostility against someone aparently getting close to his crush and less about a supernatural hostility because I was a Magus. This girl, Amano, I still couldn't place her anywhere on the scale, so she defaulted to hostile until proven wrong.
I shouldn't continue to mess up with things on this world, even minor things, like me enrolling on Kuoh, or fixing appliances and other things around. The butterfly effect was very real, but I couldn't let a supernatural creature prey on a human on my watch as well. So with a sigh, I resolved myself to lose my Sunday tailing a date.
I really needed to create that beacon for Rin to find me.
Sunday afternoon, and here I was, window shopping in the Kuoh's mall. A new saw and another set of screwdrivers would be good to have. Not that I couldn't just trace them, since they took weeks to disappear in this universe, if at all, but it wouldn't do for me to not have the tools on hand when there was people around watching me.
The real reason I was looking at the window of the hardware store was three stores down the street, a café of some sort, where a uncommon couple was having a date. Not uncommon for most people, since they couldn't really realize who and what they were. Uncommon for me, because I was following them, at the maximum range that I could afford without giving myself away.
After an entire afternoon without anything happening that was too out of the ordinary for a couple on a date, and I use that definition as loosely as possible, since if this was a date between two normal people it would have been a disaster, but nothing supernatural at least happening, I was almost giving up on the tail when I noticed that they were entering a park.
What set me on edge wasn't the park itself. It was the Bounded Field that was set up around the park. It wasn't a hostile one, or an alarm one. It was a disinterest field, designed to make people turn away from the place, similar to the one in library at the Academy, and if I wasn't so intent on going after the couple, I too would have turned around when I came in contact with it.
A few minutes later, the couple sat on a bench, and I Reinforced my hearing to eavesdrop on their conversation. Now that we were inside a field that would turn people away, and the park itself was empty, there wouldn't be too much ambient noise. I had the least risk right now that Reinforcing my hearing would cause me to being startled by a car honking on the street or someone calling loudly for someone else too near me. But what I heard from the 'girl' froze my veins.
"Would you die for me?" The girls voice was silky, almost seductive. For me at least, for Hyoudou it must have been Lust incarnate.
It didn't wait for him to answer but even then I reacted too late. Whatever he said must have been the wrong thing, because whatever the creature was, it pulled a spear of pure light out of nowhere and stabbed Hyoudou with it. Take it from one person who knows what been stabbed in the chest feels like. You don't want to know. The creature seemed to relish in the feeling of whatever face Hyoudou was making because from my perspective all I could see was his back, the tip of the spear passing through and her face.
I picked up a rock from the ground and Reinforced to the limit and threw at the thing's head. I nailed it, but the impact was just enough for it to turn to me and jump backwards, away from the boy's dying body. I called half a dozen blueprints of swords in my mind while I turned to the boy.
"Sem...pai...?" His eyes were open, but there was gaping hole on his chest. Whatever that spear was, it wasn't a normal weapon. It was pure prana given form. It wasn't something I could trace.
"How dare you, human!" The creature was a few paces away from me, and my blood was already cold. Whatever it saw on my face it liked, because it sneered at me. "Yes. Those are the eyes. Those are the eyes of the lowly creatures in fear of a blessed, higher being."
It created another of those spears and threw at me. A quick round of Reinforcement on my sleeve and I batted it aside. It wasn't enough, though. I still didn't want to use my Magecraft in any clearly visible form, but this creature was pushing me. The spear that I batted aside managed to pierce through the clothes that I Reinforced to the level of a chainmail.
That wasn't good.
"Oh, you have some skill, huh?" It said, and in that moment wings as dark as a moonless night appeared behind it and the creature started to hover a few feet from the ground. "Let's see how long can you survive" It created two more spears. "THIS!" And threw both of them at me. They weren't exactly slow, but they weren't the fastest things I ever saw either. I jumped away from Hyoudou's body and traced Kanshou and Byakuya on my hands, batting away two more of the spears that it had created and thrown at me. "Sword Birth?! How!?" It looked at me in disbelief for a moment before rage set in and it started to create more and more spears around it and shooting them at me.
They were thrown haphazardly, and didn't have any of the finness, or aim, they should have. Only a half dozen had even a chance of hitting me, and that was if I didn't move. "Trace bullet-" I chanted, while pulling the blueprints of several swords in my mind at the edge of the range for my projections, aiming them from behind the beast that was attacking me.
It stopped attacking and dismay seemed to take its place. "How?! Wasn't the owner of Sword Birth part of Gremory's Peerage?! How can you have it as well?" I didn't answer. My mind was locked in battle mode, but I registered what it said for later use. "It doesn't matter, I'll kill you now as well!"
"Fire!" I said almost placidly. All the simple swords I created on its blind spot, shot in its direction. The creature must have sensed the change in the prana, because it tried to turn around to see what it was, but it was too late to do anything about it as several feet of cold steel used its body as a pincushion. It looked at me in disbelief for a moment, before the last sword pierced its head from behind, sprouting between its eyes.
When it fell down on the ground again, I rushed to it, waiting to see if it would disappear, as some phantasmal species did, or would leave a winged body on the ground. I didn't know what would happen with the body, or if it was even still alive. A moment later I felt a change in the prana around me and immediately felt on edge. I detraced all the swords that were in and around the things body and jumped in the underbrush. If this thing had friends and they came to check on the progress of whatever it was trying to do, this time I would get the drop on them.
A red magic circle appeared a few inches from the ground and someone stepped out of it. It was my turn to look dismayed. Spatial Transportation!? Someone had created a mystery for teleportation in this universe?! In my universe the only teleportation that I was aware of happened when you used a command seal to summon a Servant to your side during the Grail War. And here was someone using teleportation? Still mostly hidden on the shrubbery, I saw the circle disappear and on the back light I saw a figure that there was no way I would forget.
It was Rias.
She didn't even noticed me or the creature's body a few yards away, and went directly to Hyoudou's body. When I tried to Reinforce my hearing to hear whatever she was saying, I realized that I couldn't understand the words. But the prana comsumption was there, and I couldn't understand what it was doing. A few moments later, she got up and left Hyoudou's body laying down on the bench he had died in and looked around, finally seeing the body of the creature that had killed him.
I heard her gasping, and a few moments later she frowned and closed her eyes. Seconds later Himejima, Kiba and Toujou all appeared around her, as if summoned by her. No. Not as if. They were summoned. I started to inch myself away from them, but still kept my focus on the group of newcomers. Himejima was the first to speak. "What happened?! Did he refuse you?"
"No." The crimson haired answered. "But someone killed Raynare." She pointed to the creature. Kiba immediatelly went to check the corpse, grimacing as he did so.
"She was stabbed." Was his veredict. "Repeatedly. And I think by more than one person. The cuts are different from each stab, but I'm certain that they were swords. And they must have been expertly made, because they cut through her bones like a hot knife on butter."
At this point I was almost out of the park. I got behind one of the trees and got up, pressing my back against it to catch my breath. Whatever these creatures were, Rias and her group knew about them.
And I needed information.
"Steel." I heard Toujou's reticent voice. "Bronze. Steel. Iron. Steel. Steel. Bronze." She started listing, and I realized that was the main composition of each of the swords that I was used on the creature.
"Several different swords." Himejima said. "But there are no footprints. All of the stabs came from the back. Maybe the other Fallen that came with her double-crossed her and they killed her while she was in the air, or maybe she was dropped here after being killed elsewhere." Fallen. The creature was a Fallen. It was a name out of context, but I could research about it later.
"She was killed here." Toujou said.
"I agree." Kiba concurred. "The blood still fresh and pooling."
"Any sign of other people around." Rias asked.
"At least another person was here. Look." Himejima said. "There was someone standing here, and judging by the number of holes on the ground, Raynare was firing Light Spears at whoever it was. By the size of the footprint it was male or a very tall female."
"Whoever it was, it wasn't a Devil. At least, not a Stray Devil. They wouldn't have enough power to do something like this." Stray Devil? Did Rias think that I was a Devil? That's why she asked me if I was a Stray? But why the qualifier then? Are there other types of Strays? Or they just asked me if I was a Stray to keep the question vague? Too many questions, but another thing to research later.
"Maybe one of them stayed on the ground and the others attacked Raynare from the back?" Kiba posited.
"Not likely. An old Fallen Angel like her would have noticed if there was several other enemies around." Fallen Angel? Like in the Bible? Angels that sinned and were kicked out of heaven? Do they really exist in this universe or is that only a name for that creature's group? And she qualified it as old? How old exactly? The creature's appearance even after it manifested its powers was still of a young girl. Granted Dead Apostles could shapeshift but this creature wasn't one. "She would never leave her back unguarded against, what, a dozen oponents?" Rias asked.
"If every stab wound is from a single individual, and no one was dual wielding, then that sounds about right." The blonde answered.
"It doesn't make sense." Himejima said.
"Koneko, can you track anyone else that was here?" Rias again.
After a few moments the girls voice came again. "Sempai." I felt my blood run cold a second time in the last fifteen minutes. The word was only an honorific that could refer to any upperclassmen, but Toujou always refered to me as that. Coupled with her usual reticence, I had no doubt that she was talking about me.
After a few moments, the president of the Occult Research Club's voice came again. "We'll not discover anything here anymore. Yuuto, get Raynare's body and bring it to the clubroom. Seal it carefully. We'll have to send it to the Grigori. Akeno go with him."
"Yes, Buchou." Both answered simultaneously.
"Koneko, fix the damage around the park the best you can."
"I'm going to bring Ise home."
I took that as my cue to leave, as well. Still keeping the tree between me and the group for as long as possible, I made my way to the street and then realized that the Bounded Field that was around the park had disappeared at some point, probably when I killed the creature, Raynare, a Fallen Angel. Another name had came up at the end there, but I was too frantic to commit it to memory.
I ducked in an alley and made my way back to my apartment. I had much to think about.