A/N: Don't own anything.
An Unwilling Present
When I came to again, I was inside my own bedroom, on the human world, and the light coming from the window told me that it was around sunset already. My eyes traveled to the ceiling and traced all the way back to the ground, then to the side, taking in the scenery as if for the first time. After seeing all of that during my trip down several conflicting memory lanes, now I was even more unsure of why I had those memories.
When I tried to move to sit up, I realized that I had a bundle of blonde hair on my stomach and had to smile. Asia was sleeping soundly, despite the hour, using my body as a pillow. I patted her head while cradling her enough to let me sit up, but let her continue to sleep on my legs. The slightly pained expression she had before, turned back to a more comfortable one when I began patting her head, filled with calm and innocence.
Trying to make sense of all those memories was hard. There was an undercurrent to all those memories that I didn't like at all.
I always lost someone in the end.
Saber would disappear at the end of the War, when not, it would be Sakura that would die from the strain of the Shards of the Grail, when not, Rin would sacrifice herself to save Sakura, when not, she would be sacrificed as the container for the Grail, when not, Illya would die having her heart carved out, when not, I would have to kill Sakura, when not... There was never a path where everyone lived... There was always at least one sacrifice.
Kill one to save ten. Sacrifice a son so the rest of the family can continue living. Sacrifice a family so the village can continue. Destroy a village for the town, a town for the prefecture, a city for the country. Always something had to be sacrificed.
A branch for the tree.
That was my whole way of life in all those lives. The same as Archer's.
"Onii...chan...?" The voice of the little blonde broke me out of my thoughts as I looked down back at her. She blinked twice and, I don't know how, without even setting herself or brace against the ground, she tackled me, sending me to hit my back hard against the wall. "ONII-CHAAAAAN!" The cry was hard and loud, as was the emotion on her voice.
"A-Asia...?" I asked, a little winded by the sudden effusiveness from the former Sister. "What's wrong?" She had began crying on my chest, while using all her Devil strength to grab my torso. Granted, a Bishop didn't receive anymore strength than a simple Pawn, but it was still greater than a normal human.
"Onii-chan! Onii-chan! Onii-chan!" The girl kept repeating herself at the same time that I heard a stampede in the hallway. Literally.
A few moments later my door burst open and Akeno, Margareth, Giselle, Astrid, Ravel, Xuelan and Mihae appeared on the doorway. I lifted my hand awkwardly. "Hummm... Hi?"
It was like a bomb had destroyed the floodgates and they simply poured inside the room, Akeno flinging herself over Asia to tackle me, while the others were happy with just coming near. "Idiot!" The Shrine Maiden said while she squeezed the my face into her chest. "Idiot! Idiot! Idiot! Idiot!" She kept repeating herself, sometimes punctuating the exclamation with a slap on the back of my head.
"Lord Emiya..." Even Ravel had unshed tears in her eyes. She knelt beside us while calling me.
"Wha-What's going on?" I asked.
"You've been sleeping for three days, you idiot!" Xuelan was the one who answered with a frown on her face, while she crossed her arms still standing, but I could see that even she was moist eyed.
"Three days?" My thought process screeched to a halt. "What? How?" I shook my head. "I was on the Underworld..."
"You were brought back to the human realm. You weren't waking up and Beelzebub-sama thought that maybe it was because of the air on the Underworld..." Ravel explained. "So they used a teleportation circle and brought you here."
"Asia-chan and Akeno-san were supposed to stay on the Underworld with Lady Rias, but..." Mihae completed the thought. "With these three feeling all that at the same time it was hard to make sure they would be okay alone with you." She said signaling to the three girls still linked to me.
"It was... overwhelming, Shirou-sama." Giselle began, unease clear on her tone. "You know how we receive impressions of your emotions, right?" I nodded.
"Well... It wasn't like that..." Margareth continued. "It was more raw, more vivid, more..." She tried to find a word to explain and when she couldn't she simply said. "More."
"And it changed by the second." Giselle continued. "Anger, to happiness, to sadness, to love, to hurt, to hate, to serenity, to disgust, to terror, to admiration... it was all a jumble."
"Beelzebub-sama, once he discovered about that, tried to remove the King Piece from you but couldn't, so he removed the Pieces from us. Even he didn't know that it was so strong for us." Astrid finished.
That made me sit upright... or as upright as I could managed with both Akeno and Asia all over me. "What?!" I reached inside myself for the King Piece and couldn't find my connection with them and my eyes widened. "What happened to you guys? And what about the Pieces?"
"They're okay. The Pieces are inside the case." Xuelan pointed to the corner.
"But the mana-" I asked dumbly.
"We signed a temporary Contract with Marlianna-sama." Giselle explained.
"She said to call her as soon as you woke up too." I was staring dumbly at the trio who were looking at me apologetically, as if they did something wrong.
"No... It's okay." I sighed relieved. "I was just got worried there for a second..."
"You're... not mad at us?" Margareth asked, with her head down.
"No. Why would I? You did what you needed to do in order to continue surviving. Don't worry about it. If I was the one doing that to you guys then all the more reason." I looked back down at Asia, pulled her tighter in the hug and kissed the top of her head, signaling for her to let go so I could get up. The girl stopped crying at some point, but didn't want to let me go. Well, the same could be said about Akeno, who hid her face on the crook of my neck and was sobbing softly. "If you three still want to stay with me, then bring me your Pieces here."
The smile that blossomed on the trio's face was something that I was only accustomed to see on Asia. It made me a little surprised by the way the three were acting, but before they could even move I heard a rumble coming from my lower region.
At first I thought that it was Asia's stomach growling again, but to my surprise it was actually from myself. "I... I think I'm a little hungry."
"""I'll prepare dinner!""" The three girls said at the same time, almost darting out of the room while bickering between them who would do what, apparently having forgotten about the Pieces still inside the case. Ravel and Xuelan stared wide eyed at the three, before sighing themselves and smiling fondly.
"Shirou..." Akeno's first words after they left was soft and worried. "Are you alright now?"
I looked at the girl who had moved her head away from my shoulder and mulled over her words. "No. I'm not." I answered to hers and the others occupants shock. "We'll talk about it another time, but at least for now I think I won't flip out anymore."
"Flip out?" Ravel asked confused and Xuelan pulled her aside, probably to explain what that meant.
"Why are so certain?" Mihae asked while kneeling down in front of me, behind Asia.
"Because..." I frowned. "It's hard to explain. Just a feeling I have..."
"Shirou-san..." Ravel's Bishop said, disappointed.
"Sorry for not being more clear. I don't actually understand myself..." I gave the girl a wry smile before turning back to Asia. "Can I get up now?"
She nuzzled herself once more in my chest and let go, getting up. Akeno too got up and when I tried to, I almost stumbled. "Shirou!" Akeno said, quickly coming to my side, and holding me up.
"Whoa." I said, shaking my head quickly. "How long have I been asleep again?"
"Three days." She answered.
I felt my clothes clamp themselves to my body. I must have sweated profusely at some point. "I'll take a bath now, okay?"
"Are you sure?" She said. "Then I'll-"
"Alone." I amended hastily. She giggled quietly before releasing me. I half walked, half stumbled out of the room and to the bathroom. After taking a quick shower, I was leaving the bathroom only to find that everyone was there in the hallway, waiting for me. "Humm..." I began uneasily. "I'm okay, girls." I tried to reassure everyone.
"You should have called one of us, Shirou-sama." Margareth said. "We could have helped."
"Or you should at least had let Akeno-sama help you." Giselle said, pouting.
"There was no need." I smiled. "I'm okay now. See?" I said making a movement with my arms as if to indicate my whole body, but since I was wearing just the robes from the bathroom, it didn't actually let them see much. I began walking back to my room. "I'm going to change now-" My stomach began to rumble again and I had to smile sheepishly. "And eat something afterwards."
The eyes of three girls shot wide open again and they began to scramble down the hallway in direction of the kitchen by the sound of it. I chuckled despite myself and went to my room. I was almost reaching for the knot on the belt of the robe when I realized something. Akeno, Asia, Ravel, Xuelan and Mihae were still shadowing me, as in, they were inside my room before I realized.
"A little privacy, please?" I asked the quintet.
Asia and Ravel were the firsts to realize what was going to happen and shot out of the room like a bat out of hell. Xuelan began to laugh and Mihae to giggle, before following the other two, leaving only Akeno in the room and the brunette looked at me with mirth in her eyes. "Oh, Onii-sama? Since when were you so shy?"
I growled at the girl. "Akeeeeno..." She laughed a little but then her face went set.
"Shirou... There's something I need to tell you..." Then she sighed. "But it can wait until you eat something."
I nodded at her, surprised a little by her change in demeanor and she left.
After putting on a pair of pants and a black T-shirt, that I'm sure I never bought it and was wondering when it appeared on my wardrobe, I walked out into the hallway and to the living room. All the girls with the exception of the trio of Margareth, Giselle and Astrid were seating there. The aforementioned trio quickly ushered me to the dining room table and I had to gape at what I saw. They had prepared a full course meal and were eyeing me expectantly. I didn't have the heart to tell them that something a little less... heavy... would be better since I hadn't eaten anything in days, but decided against it in the end. I sat down and began to eat.
I began to eat, and to my astonishment, I couldn't stop eating. It was like my stomach kept processing the food faster than I could eat and the hunger didn't subside until after I had already finished eating everything that was on the table. The girls looked at me with their eyes shining, but I didn't have the heart to tell them that I didn't even taste their food. In the end I only smiled and thanked them for the meal.
After that little ordeal, the girls appeared each with their Pieces on hand, and I sighed and conceptualized them into the girls. One thing I noticed though was that all of them were now mutated as well. That brought my total of mutated Pieces to seven.
I went back to the living room and sat on the couch. Both Akeno and Asia sat at both my sides. I began to try and process everything that happened. According to the girls, not even Ajuka could remove the King Piece from me. I put a hand to my chest and felt that if I wanted I could do it. That was one less worry. When the time come, I would be able to transfer the girls to someone else.
My introspection didn't take long tough, because out of nowhere I felt another scent appear in the courtyard, and just as quickly as I began to get up, the woman was entering the house through the door to the yard. A woman wearing a yukata and flanked by two Devil Nekomatas. "Marlianna-san?" I asked, before turning to Akeno with a questioning look that she returned. The worst part was that the Nekomata seemed to be in her regal attitude, not the airhead one. That can't be good.
"Good evening, Emiya-dono." She said with a half bow to me. "I've been requested in the name of the Senri Clan to escort you to an audience with Tamamo Yasaka-hime, the leader of the Youkai Faction of Kyoto." She straightened herself again. "Your presence in Inner Kyoto is required."
"Why so suddenly?" I asked. "I literally just woke up from what was for all intents and purposes a three day coma."
"We haven't received much information about the reasons, just that you need to be there as soon as possible." Nirlianna and Lirnianna were oddly quiet bracketing their mother. She looked at Akeno. "Himejima-dono, could you gather the rest of the family?"
"Do they need to come too, Marlianna-san? I'm... I just woke up, and not that I don't appreciate the way you treated the three of them, but I'm still reeling from some things that..."
"I'm sorry, but a summons by Amaterasu's Avatar takes precedence for every Youkai." She said, stony faced. "I have permission to bring you by any means necessary."
My eyebrows shot up. That's the first time I really felt Marlianna-san's power being unleashed in full. I knew she was at least on par with Grayfia Lucifuge in question of presence, but this was the first time I really felt it directed at me. "I didn't say I wouldn't go, but..." I tried to explain to her when I realized something. "Wait, I thought that the Senri Clan was from Hokuriku."
"Yes. But as it was a call from Amaterasu-sama, we can't ignore it." She answered.
"Marlianna-san... I don't think you understand... I-"
"Shirou, I'll call the girls." Akeno said before I could even complete my thought.
That's when the door bell rang at the gate and I almost sighed in relief. I looked down at Marlianna-san. "Could you wait for a moment? I have to see who it is." She nodded and was back at her normal pleasant presence.
What the leader of the Youkai Faction wants to talk to me anyway?
When I looked at the gate, I almost cursed. Two figures were waiting for me there. "Shidou. Gabriel. Good evening." I said nodding to them. "What do I owe the pleasure of the visit?" It wasn't that weird to see Gabriel here, but today, if my math is right, isn't one of the days that she would come normally.
"Good evening, Emiya-san." Shidou bowed to me. "Is good to see that you are back in good health."
"Good evening, Emiya Shirou." The woman curtsied. "I have come to deliver a message from Michael."
"Did he finally decided to answer me about the Owners?" I asked the woman, but before I let her answer I waved them in. "Come on in. Though I have to warn you, I have other guests already waiting for me."
"No problems. If you prefer to finish with the other guests first, I think it would be better." The Angel said as we made our way to the house.
"Well, the other guest is about to escort me to Inner Kyoto, so I don't know if it'll take more time than your business or not." I said and, as I entered the house, I saw that Asia was accompanying the three Nekomatas. "Marlianna-san, I don't know if you know each other or not, but these two are from the Heaven Faction, Shidou Irina and..."
"Gabriel-sama!" The older Nekomata got up from her seat and bowed deeply to the Archangel, before righting herself. "It's been so long."
"Marli-chan~!" The Archangel said with smile that rivaled the lights of fireworks on New Year's Eve. "How have you been?"
"Quite well, Gabriel-sama. Thank you for your concern." The woman said without moving her head.
"Please, take a seat and..." I was about to move to the kitchen to prepare tea, but Akeno was already coming from there with a tray. She saw Gabriel and Shidou and sighed, going back to the kitchen. I sat on the couch across from the two, Shidou stood at attention behind Gabriel, while both Devil-Nekomatas stood behind Marlianna-san. I was going to call them on being on their feet, but decided against it. "So, Gabriel said she had a message for me from Michael and-"
I didn't get to finish my sentence when the door bell rang again.
"I'll get it, Onii-chan." Asia said, scurrying away from the room.
I sighed, looking at Marlianna-san. "Okay, as I was saying, Gabriel here was saying that she had a message from Michael for me, so if you don't mind waiting a little more?"
"No. It's okay. I'm sure Yasaka-sama will understand." The woman said, with a polite smile.
"Oh, Yasaka-chan is calling for him?" Gabriel said. "It's been so long since I last saw her. How is she doing?"
"I believe she's doing quite well, Gabriel-sama." Marlianna-san's voice was overly polite, but not quite cold. In fact it had some fondness to it, but she was still in her regal persona.
"Oh, that's good to hear." Then she turned to me. "Now, as I was saying-"
"Onii-chan." Asia's voice came from the foyer and another presence appeared behind her. The unmistakable figure of a Magical Girl, or in this case, Levia-tan with her usual cosplay.
"Shirou-chan!" She jumped inside the room. "Why didn't you-" Then she realized who else was there. "What is she doing here?!" The horror on her voice was something so out of character that I was taken aback.
"Ah! Sera-chan! How are you?" Gabriel smiled beatifically at the Maou while getting up from the couch.
"Geh!" Levia-tan jumped aside with both hands up, as if to protect herself, and I raised an eyebrow at the reaction. "I'm not Sera-chan! I'm the Magical Girl Miracle Levia-tan! Don't confuse it you... you... you... Angel!" She said the last word so scathingly that one would think that it was a insult of the most damnable.
"But that's not cute." Gabriel said putting a finger on her cheek while tilting her head to the side. "Serafall-chan is not too, so Sera-chan." She smiled brightly at the Maou who seemed cowed by that.
"Don't call me that!" Levia-tan shouted at the Angel and I sighed, sitting back down on the couch to watch the show. Akeno came a moment later and served me, herself and Marlianna-san a cup of tea, then sat down beside me. Asia was caught in the middle of both women. confused about what should she do, trying to both calm Levia-tan and stop Gabriel from egging her on.
"But then what would I call you?" Gabriel asked. "Calling you from your full name of Serafall Leviathan isn't something you should do to your friends."
"You're not my friend!" Levia-tan shrieked. "You're my rival! My enemy!" Then it seemed like a fire was lit up on the Maou's violet eyes. "I'll bring you down!" She growled.
"This tea tastes delicious, Himejima-dono." Marlianna-san complimented Akeno as if the discussion six feet from her wasn't happening. "Have you been taken lessons from Emiya-dono?"
"Why, thank you, Senri-sama." Akeno bowed to the woman with a smile on her face. "I still have much to learn from Onii-sama in that regard but I'll get there someday."
"Good, good." She nodded knowingly. "A good wi-"
A shriek from Levia-tan cut my attention from the woman and back at the discussion between the Archangel and the Maou. It didn't even had any words in it, just a high pitched yell.
"You really should think about that habit of yours of yelling, Sera-chan." Gabriel was still smiling gently, but with a tinge of concern. "It can't be good for your health."
"You are not good for my health, Angel!" She screamed and I grimaced because it left my ears ringing. Levia-tan for her part was panting after that.
"-then you stir the leaves at exactly seventy five degrees celsius," Akeno was continuing her conversation with the Nekomata as if they didn't even hear the Maou. "not one above or below, otherwise the taste gets too sour or too sweet."
"Hmmm..." The woman nodded. "I see. I see. I'll try next time I have free reign of the kitchen. Souichirou sometimes gets a little too nervous when I enter the kitchen, I don't know why-"
"See, that's what you get for screaming so loudly, Sera-chan." My attention was brought back to other conversation, but my hand was already going to my temple to stave off the headache.
Levia-tan stopped panting and looked directly at the eyes of the Angel. "You are the reason because I'm screaming, you dumb blonde."
"But Sera-chan-" Whatever she was going to say was cut off when the door bell rang yet again.
"I'll go get it!" Asia shouted from where she was, and darted outside, fleeing from the position she found herself in. I almost envied her for being able to do that, while I had to wait here.
"Then I think you should talk to him, ask him to teach you how is the best way to learn." The Shrine Maiden beside me continued the conversation with the Nekomata without paying any heed to the maelstrom that was forming itself on my living room. It was then that I realized that both Ravel and her Pieces along with Margareth, Giselle and Astrid weren't in the house. Had Akeno already called for them already?
"I did try that once, but he denied my request." She shook her head. "Said that it would take his position away or some such." She sighed. "Ahh, how would I like to like is a small house such as this one, with only my kittens and my mate, but no. I'm the Heiress, I have to live in the Main House."
"Is it such a bother?" Akeno asked. "I would imagine that a big house would be-"
"Onii-chan. There's more guests..." Asia was bewildered. I don't blame her, I was too.
"Good evening, Lord Emiya." The Valkyrie that fought with us against Loki appeared behind Asia, then looked at the bickering Levia-tan and Gabriel and frowned. Well, bickering from Levia-tan's part, Gabriel had a innocent smile on her face the whole time. I don't even know at this point if it was real or fake, but I was trying to imagine it was the former, since she would Fall if it wasn't. I think.
"Good evening, erm... I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name." I answered the silver haired woman.
"Rossweisse, Lord Emiya. We haven't been formally introduced, but fought together against Loki." She explained.
"Right, then Rossweisse, could you wait a moment." I asked her, over the two women who hadn't stop their 'conversation'.
"No problem." She nodded then frowned again at the two women.
"So the best temperature to pour isn't boiling then?" Marlianna-san asked Akeno.
"No. That will burn the leaves." The girl answered. "As I said before, the best temperature is-"
"But you let people call you Sera-chan on your show, don't you?" Gabriel was confused while looking up.
"Th-That's- Wait, YOU watch my show?" Levia-tan asked disbelieving. Her eyes widened comically, finger pointed in the direction of the Archangel, and her jaw slackened, gaping at the blonde.
"Let's see, Angel, check. Youkai, check. Devils, check. Valkyrie, check. I'm just a Fallen away from-" I didn't even finish my sentence and the door bell rang again and I hung my head.
"I'll go get it, Onii-chan." Asia again scurried away through the front door, while Rossweisse moved past Levia-tan who had been stock still since the moment Gabriel had mentioned that she watched her show. Shidou was doing her best impression of a life sized statue of herself, Nirlianna and Lirnianna were trying and failing to not watch the ruckus beside them with curiosity.
"If it's a Fallen, then I'll lock myself inside the Panic Room." I muttered to myself.
At this point I tuned out the conversations going around me, just waiting Asia to come back with whoever had appeared this time. However who appeared first from the hallway coming from the dorm was Ravel. "Lord Emiya." She then did a double take at the sheer presence of the people in the room.
I waved at her nonchalantly. "Hey, came to join the party?"
She looked wide eyed at everyone, only Rossweisse beside myself seemed to realize that they had another newcomer. "The... The girls want to know if they are required to attend the meeting with Yasaka-sama, as well. The ones in my Peerage, I mean."
I frowned. "You know, I have no idea." I looked at Marlianna-san to see if she got the hint or not, but she was in a heated discussion with Akeno. I sighed, then looked back at Ravel. "Tell them that if they want to come, they should prepare their baggage to stay at least a day. I have no idea how much time we'll spend there. You can come too, if you want."
"Onii-chan." Asia again from the doorway. If I see a black feather behind her I'll run away screaming.
To my surprise it was a young man with brown hair, somewhat lithe figure, wearing a white shirt, jeans and a headphone in his neck. He also was carrying a shoulder bag. All in all, he seemed like the typical university student.
I made a move with my hand to Rossweisse. "Please take a sit. Whatever you want to talk will take a while before you get your turn." Then I moved to the foyer and got to the young man. "Good evening. What can I help you?"
The guy looked me up and down, then reached on his bag. "Good evening, Emiya Shirou. I'm Hermes, Son of Zeus, messenger of Olympus. I came to deliver a message at the behest of Artemis and Apollo. Both want to talk with you, and clarify some things that happened recently."
I blinked at him, and he handed me a scroll. I looked at it, then back at the boy. "What?"
"I'm just the messenger. I don't know the contents of the message." He put both hands in a surrender position in front of him. "The scroll has a summon ritual attached." He looked at the rest of the house, or better saying the ruckus coming from the living room. "Dyonisius would love the place. Though he would say there's not enough wine. Anyway, since I can see that you are occupied, I'll not take more of your time. Have a good night."
He turned heel and got out of the house without waiting for me to even say goodbye. His presence simply disappeared from my senses, and if it wasn't for the scroll in my hand I would think that I was seeing things. I continued to stare dumbly at the door, then looked at the rolled up scroll on my hand. What does Artemis and Apollo want with me?
The answer came in a flash. Tauropolos. I used Atalanta's bow during the fight against Loki. "By the Root, what else will happen?" I muttered to myself.
The door bell rang one more time, and I didn't even move. Asia too didn't for a moment as we stared at each other, then she nodded to herself. "Right, let me get it, Onii-chan."
A minute later a bespectacled woman with black eyes and long flowing black hair appeared on the doorway. When I felt her power I didn't even greet her, just turned to the wall and started banging my head on it.
On the fifth time I did that, I realized that the house was oddly silent. I almost thought that I had perforated my eardrums somehow. Turns out that was not the case. Everyone was looking directly at me, even Shidou and Ravel, who for some reason was still in the room. "Right, sorry." Then I turned to the newcomer. "Good evening."
"Good... evening?" The woman answered me confused. She didn't seem to know what to make of my reaction, but rallied herself enough to get past that. "I'm Penemue, Chief Secretary of the Grigori. I came to-"
"Pene-chan!" Gabriel jumped over me somehow and tackled the newcomer. "It's been forever!"
"Onee-sama?!" The Fallen squeaked out.
"It's Pene-chan! Pene-chan!" The Angel began to rub her face on Penemue's head.
I looked at both of them rolling on the ground for a moment and sighed, coming back into the room.
I sat down on the one seater couch at the head of the table, then turned to Akeno. "Can you please make some tea for everyone?" Then I looked at the hallway that connected with the dorm. "If anyone else appears, I'll have to move this to the lobby of the dorm."
"Certainly, Onii-sama." The girl answered me with a bit of an edge to her voice and got up from her place.
"Shidou, can you bring Gabriel back inside, please?" Then I turned to Asia. "And tell... Penemue, was it? For her to enter and sit as well."
It took some doing, but there were five women sitting on both my couches, Marlianna-san, Gabriel and Penemue on my left, Levia-tan and Rossweisse on my right. Shidou and the two Nekomatas stood behind their respective charges. Ravel had taken that time to flee back to the dorm.
"Okay. Now," I looked at Asia. "if anyone else appear on the gate, give my phone number and send them away. There's too much happening at the same time here, and I already am having quite the day, considering that I woke up an hour ago." I sighed. "Okay, by order then. Marlianna-san, did you wanted to talk about anything else, or its just the summons to talk with Yasaka-sama and-or Amaterasu-sama?" Rossweisse and Penemue pulled sharp breaths at the mention of the names.
"No." The Nekomata shook her head. "I'm just waiting for you. I don't want to have to force you to come with me, Emiya-dono."
"Okay. Then... Gabriel. You had a message from Michael, right?" I asked the blonde Angel.
"Right." She smiled brightly, made a gesture with her left hand and a scroll appeared in front of her. But when she was about to open the scroll, she paused, looking at everyone in the room. "Hmmm... Are you sure you want to receive the message now?"
"How worse can my day get? Wait. Stop. Don't answer that." I looked up and shouted to the air. "You hear that Fate, I'm not making it a challenge. Please. Let this be the end."
The others looked at me bewildered. Akeno who was coming back from the kitchen behind me began to giggle. When no other supernatural creature appeared to crawl out of the woodwork I nodded to myself.
"Okay. Continue, Gabriel. I don't care if they hear or not." I said to the woman, who was still confused by my reaction.
"I'm sorry, Emiya Shirou, but I have to ask." She said, tilting her head. "What was that?"
"In less than an hour that I have been awake I already received visits from other pantheons, summons by Youkai, plus whatever you, Rossweisse, Penemue and Levia-tan came to talk, so forgive me for being a little on edge right now." Then I muttered. "Seriously, how did you all know that I just woke up?"
"If you're certain..." She nodded to herself and opened the scroll. "To Emiya Shirou. We received the request about the other Owners and Partners from you but unfortunately we can't pinpoint their positions because the system was not designed to be that way. We know when a Part was awakened and when it was sent to and from the cycle of Reincarnation, but can't correlate them directly about where they are at any given time. The system was designed for the last Partner to receive all the necessary information to be able to locate all the other Owners. Something must have gone wrong when you were chosen to be the last Partner and did not receive the information. My apologies but I cannot help you with anything more than this. From Michael."
As usual, the woman read the whole message without taking a single breath. It still amazes me, but the contents of the message is the problem. So they can't help me finding the other Owners, even though they were supposedly calling to each other. Even with all that information that was dumped into my head I still have no idea how I'll proceed. Should I hire a private investigator? Or cash in a favor with the Maous?
"Thanks, Gabriel." I said to the Angel as I took the scroll she was offering me. "Was that all?"
"Actually, no. I've been instructed by Michael to help you locate the other Owners and to bring them together. If you could provide me with a list of names or characteristics of the individuals, I could send them to the Church Officials and ask them to start an investigation immediately." The woman smiled brightly.
"I see. So Heaven can't help but humans can?" I asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Well, Heaven can't keep track of the Souls once they are already on the human realm, unless we keep watching them all the time, which wouldn't be conducive for our other duties. Unfortunately, we are heavily understaffed." The woman said without any hint of bitterness, just stating a fact.
I frowned anyway. "I see. Well, I'll see what I can do."
"Sure!" She smiled again at me then dropped the bomb. "So, where I'll be sleeping?"
If there was background music going on, I think I would hear the needle scratch on the surface of the vinyl. "Sorry. Care to repeat that again?"
"Where I'll be staying?" She asked again innocently and I began to feel a glacial aura from behind me, where Akeno had positioned herself since earlier.
"If you don't mind staying in the dorm with the rest of the girls..." I said almost reflexively.
"I'll help prepare her room, Shirou." Akeno said, pulling my attention back to her.
I half turned to the Shrine Maiden and she had that look that hid the three popped veins on the back of her head. "Sure then..."
"Great!" The Archangel didn't even seem to notice our little interplay.
I sighed and then turned to the others, willing myself to enter denial about the situation with the brunette. "Now, who was next? I lost track."
"Me!" Levia-tan jumped from her seat. "Me! Me! Me!"
"Yeah, okay. Go ahead." I waved my hand defeated.
She faked a cough on her hand and pulled a scroll out of nowhere the same way Gabriel had done. I raised an eyebrow at that. That wasn't her usual M.O. "To Emiya Shirou. It came to our knowledge that you used powers that were supposed to have other owners in other pantheons during your defense of our world from Loki's attack. We request your presence on the Underworld at your convenience to explain the events that happened during the day of the signing of the Peace Treaty with the Norse Pantheon and for debriefing about the same events. From: Sirzechs Lucifer, Ajuka Beelzebub, Serafall Leviathan and Falbium Asmodeus."
I looked at her until she rolled again the scroll, but contrary to Gabriel, she didn't hand it to me. I cocked my head to the side. "You just recited that from memory, right? There wasn't a single word in that scroll, right?" She blushed but didn't answer. "Right, forget it. When I arrange some time..." Then I looked at Marlianna-san. "If I survive the night and arrange some time I'll ask Shitori, Ravel or Rias to contact one of you guys. Anything else?"
"Yes." She said and her whole persona changed, albeit still on the magical girl costume. She was somber and serious. "Thank you for helping my sister during her time in the battlefield. If it wasn't for you, we don't know what would have happened during the attack."
I sighed. "You give her too little credit. Even if I wasn't there, they would be able to survive through. Loki..." I eyed Rossweisse for a moment before continuing. "Loki wasn't that strong to begin with."
"Even then, according to the debriefings, the timely use of your spells was the key to the victory achieved during the battle, so again, I thank you, Emiya Shirou." She bowed to me, before sitting down again.
"Alright, alright." I sighed. So now I have summons by the Youkai, Greek Gods, the Maous. Thank the Root that should be only a few more days of school. Wait. Why am I going to school again? That place seems to be a hotspot for all kinds of shenanigans in this world. Must be the leyline nexus there or something in the air. Even with all the Devils there, it's the only other reason I can think of. If I continue to attend I'll mess up things even more in this world. "Is there anything else?"
"Yes. Ajuka told me that you should contact him within the week to make sure the Seal wasn't deteriorating and to answer a few questions so that he could either correct it or reinforce it."
"Seal? What Seal?" I asked bewildered.
"The Seal you have on you." She answered then cocked her head. "You didn't know?"
"No. I have no idea what you are talking about."
"I'm not sure of the specifics, only that there was a Seal on you that was leaking and he along with Azazel and Uriel managed to create a stopgap."
I took a deep breath. Okay, there's a Seal on me, but what does it do? Seal has the prerogative of sealing something, but what? No, not necessarily. I looked at the back of my hand. Could it be that they detected the Command Seals from the Grail War and thought that they were something that was necessary for me? But she qualified as leaking something, so the first assumption that it was holding something back was more likely correct. But holding what?
"Shirou?" Akeno's voice brought me out of my thoughts. I took another deep breath.
"It's nothing." Another thing for me to puzzle out later. "Anything else?" I asked, looking at the Maou.
"No. That was all." She shook her head.
"Well, alright." I sat back on the couch. "Would you like to stay for dinner?" I asked her just to be polite, but her her stomach gurgled. She blushed, clamped up and didn't answer or moved.
I sighed and was about to move on when Akeno asked. "Shirou. Want me to start the preparations?"
"Hmmm... Sure." I nodded at the girl.
"What's on the menu for today, then?" My own stomach gurgled just at the thought of food and I felt my face get warm. Why am I still hungry after stuffing myself full with the meal the girls prepared me?
"You know... I have no idea." Let's see I have a Nekomata, a Maou, an Angel, plus a Valkyrie and a Fallen if those two will stay too, aside from the escorts...
It happened the moment I was scanning them trying to think of a main dish that would appease all their palates. The Valkyrie pulled a hammer from out of nowhere and then I froze. It was Mjölnir. Thor's Hammer. Different than the one I knew too. No. It wasn't the original. It was a copy. Different from the ones I had in my Marble.
I had more than one in my marble? How?
Oh, right. Something to do with the memories.
Anyway, it was a copy. But it had history. It had already been used in combat several times. Against beasts and frost giants, against elves and evil gods, against dragons and other mythological creatures. It had seen the battlefield in the hands of warriors that Odin deemed that the hammer would be necessary to be used against. It was used mainly to seal away enemies that weren't supposed to be killed, just imprisoned, but it has all the other properties the original has, albeit in a lesser scale. Its massive weight needs a similar strength to be able to be wielded and it was balanced so it could be used as both a melee weapon or thrown weapon with equal-
A hand covered my eyes and the analysis of the hammer ceased. "Put that thing away." I heard Akeno's harsh voice through the haze my mind was going. I hadn't consciously disabled my Structural Analysis since I woke up. Furthermore, that was a Divine Weapon and I shouldn't even be able to analyze the thing. I couldn't analyze Sacred Gears, why could I do it with Divine Weapons?
Oh, right. Again, something to do with the memories. Damn, I need to talk to Ajuka fast. Both Shitori and Rias as soon as possible too. Better yet, I need to talk to Rin.
"What happened with Lord Emiya?" Rossweisse's voice. Concerned. Did I do something during the analysis?
"Nothing." Akeno answered. "It's just that he can't help but analyze the properties of any weapon he sees. It's something he can't control. Any weapon that isn't a bladed weapon takes time to be analyzed and in the state he's in right now..."
"State?" The Valkyrie again. "Is this about his behavior after the battle?"
"Something like that but not exactly it." I answered, pulling a hand to my head to stave off the migraine that was forming. "Anyway, is the hammer out of view now?"
"Yes, Shirou. She already hid it away again." Akeno said removing her hand from my face and I opened my eyes to see the other occupants of the room looking at me with wide eyes.
"Can I ask you why did you pull Mjölnir out in the middle of my living room?" I eyed the Valkyrie with a little more forcefulness than I intended.
She seemed sheepish as she answered. "I thought it would expedite the conversation, since you seem to have other concerns at the moment. My apologies."
I slumped. "Okay. We already saw it, now what does it mean?"
"Well, for services rendered to Asgard, Odin offers for you to take a place in our Pantheon, in the now vacant seat that Loki's demise has opened up." She said something so outrageous as if she was talking about the weather. "Mjölnir would be yours if you accepted that offer, along with this copy. Lord Thor has said that he's willing part with it, as long as Mjölnir deems you worthy of wielding it and you win against him in single combat."
I kept gaping at the woman for quite some time after that and only stopped when someone, Akeno probably, slapped me in the back of the head. And even then all that it came out was "What?"
"Lord Odin offers you to take the place Loki's demise opened up in-" She began to repeat the same sentence, worded differently, so I cut her off.
"Is that old man out of his mind? Or is he going senile?" I couldn't reboot my brain enough to be respectful with the leader of the Norse Gods. And to think I was kind of looking forward to meet him...
Rossweisse visibly deflated with my shout. "Well... He did say that you could keep this copy even if you denied the request..."
"I don't want it. By Zelretch's fake beard, why is every single Pantheon I come across in this world full of lunatics?" I asked to no one in particular, then turned to Marlianna-san. "Please, tell me that Amaterasu isn't like this too. If she offers me a place on Takamagahara I swear I'll find a way to the Root and begin trying different branches." The woman didn't answer me. She was just as taken aback by the sudden proposal as I was. Then I shook my head, turning back to the Valkyrie. "Tell me, if I already denied wanting to be a Devil, and an Angel, why does he think I would want to become a Norse God? Heck, I don't even know the Norse Mythology all that well, even more in this world."
"Shirou..." Akeno put a hand on my shoulder and only then I realized what I had blurted out. It could be misconstrued as several things, but it could also tell them that I wasn't from this world, so I reigned in my temper and took a deep breath.
"Thanks. I'm alright now, Akeno. What were we talking again, before we were sidetracked?" I asked the Shrine Maiden. "Oh, right. The menu." I frowned again.
"Nevermind. I'll think of something." She said smiling at me, before turning to Asia who was still on the limit in between the foyer and the living room. "Asia-chan, can you help me?"
"Humm... S-Sure." The blonde stuttered, before coasting the room and going after Akeno.
I looked at both of them for a moment longer. "Okay." Then I turned back to the Valkyrie. "So... Was that all?"
"Actually, no." She said and then knelt down in front of me, bowing her head. "Even if you have no ties with Asgard, Lord Odin deemed that you should receive protection from Valhalla against Loki's followers." She produced a scroll from the ether like the rest. "Although he was an Evil God, he still had worshipers, so some of them might target you. Lord Odin sent this for you to create a mark that will call upon the help of Asgard in case there's an attack on your person."
Again, I could only gape at the woman. What's with this whole day? I mean, I'm getting clobbered over the head with all these pantheon hijinks out of nowhere and no one told me how in the name of the Root they all knew that I had woken up.
It took until Marlianna-san copied Akeno and slapped me in the back of the head for me to be able to say anything. "Okay... I..." I sighed and sat back on the couch, rubbing both hands over my face. What she said was true too. I would be targeted if Loki had worshipers. Problem was... I wasn't planning in staying in this world much longer, and if they knew much about me they could target my friends when they couldn't find me. "Get up, and by the Root, stop calling me Lord Emiya. Shirou is just fine. Now sit down and I'll continue with you later."
She nodded and went back to her seat. "As you wish, Lord Shirou." She sat again and I again had to rub my eyes with the way she complied without complying.
"Alright, now your turn... Penemue, right?" The Fallen had been surprisingly accommodating so far, without saying anything. That was actually worrying. I don't trust Fallen as a rule. None of them have been shown to be trustworthy enough for me. Her just being here this whole time was a big concession on my part.
Before she could say anything we heard a high pitched scream from the hallway that connects to the dorm. I was on my feet a second later, but before I could run in that direction a trenchcoated woman barreled through and looked at me wide eyed for a second before narrowing her eyes. "You!"
I almost jumped to the conclusion that this was my Rin, from my world, but the woman was stopped a moment later by her sister with a hand on her shoulder. "Nee-sama. He has guests."
The woman's bloodshot eyes turned to the people on the living room for a moment, scanning their faces, before turning to me. "You- You- You- You really are a bane of women everywhere!" And she wrenched herself away from the hand on her shoulder and jumped at me. "Killing you now will solve all my problems!"
I swated her hands away from me and in the next second I was holding her in a full nelson. My mind caught up with my actions only after I was already holding the woman. "What-"
"Shirou." Akeno's voice came from somewhere on my back.
"Emiya-san, I'm sorry about this." Sakura-san said and only then I realized. How in the world were they inside the perimeter without my alarms blaring?
"Let me go you two bit womanizer!" The woman screamed. "I'll not let you do the same thing again!"
"Nee-sama." Sakura-san's voice was more forcefull now. "These people are not what you think they are."
That made the woman in my arms freeze. "What do you mean, Sakura?"
The woman turned to the people present. "Good evening. I'm Tohsaka Sakura, Guardian of the Heiress of the Tohsaka Family, Seventh Seat of the Grauzauberer."
A flick of recognition came over the women's faces, then Akeno came to my ear and whispered. "They are part of the things I need to talk to you about."
Great. More shenanigans. Rin-san stopped struggling. "Let me go." She ordered with the same authoritarian voice I heard from her the first time she came into this house. I did as asked and she turned to me for a moment, before looking at the others present. "Tohsaka Rin, Heiress of the Tohsaka Family, Seventh Seat of the Grauzauberer." Then she turned to Sakura-san. "Are they all Devils too?"
The woman shook her head. "No. Only three of them are." She said, before looking at me. "I'm sorry Emiya-san, but it appears that we came at a bad time. We'll come again at a later date."
I could only nod. Grauzauberer? What in the Root was that? "A-Alright..." I stammered, watching the two nod and say their goodbyes to the others in the room, before they left the house entirely.
What just happened?
I heard someone clear their throat then looked at the Fallen Angel still sitting on the couch and sighed. Right, there's still her to hear from. But now I need to talk to Akeno about the two women too. I walked back to the couch and sat down while both Akeno and Asia went back to the kitchen. "Okay, your turn."
"Thank you, Sir Emiya." She nodded and I cringed. Can these people be a little less formal? "One of Azazel's last requests before he resigned from his position as the Head of the Grigori was for Shemhazai to introduce himself to you, seen as you are one of the major forces inside Kuoh Town." She looked at the others in the room. "Unfortunately, Shemhazai was occupied all this time, and couldn't come, so it was decided that I would come alone."
"Since when I'm one of the forces of Kuoh?" I asked disbelieving. Seriously, the way this day is going I'll have an aneurysm... That Avalon will heal in short order. Damn it.
"To be honest I was doubtful of his claims myself, but I have to recant that sentiment." She again passed her eyes meaningfully over all the other representatives in the room. "It seems that you really do hold power here, so we of the Grigori, look forward to form a working relationship with you in the future." She adjusted her glasses in a way eerily similar to Shitori. "We also would like to offer you a position of consultant on the Grigori, but as you already stated that you don't want to take places on none of the other Factions, I'll abstain of talking more about it. Another item on my agenda was to talk to you about your Sacred Gear, if you don't mind exposing it to the people present."
I looked at her, furrowing my brows. "I don't have a Sacred Gear." At least, not... Well, Azazel thought that Avalon was something similar to a Sacred Gear...
"It came to our knowledge that you had one in fact." She said without flinching. "Something similar to the lost Avalon."
I put both hands on my face and rubbed hard. "Look, I already had this conversation with Azazel directly. If he didn't pass the information to you guys, then let me be the most clear I can be." I removed my hands from my face and stared down the Fallen. "I don't care what he thinks it is, I already said that my... what was that he called again? Artificial Sacred Gear...? Right, that. No, it's not. It's something intrinsic to my craft and no one will experiment with it. End of discussion."
Whatever she saw on my face made her gulp and I could feel the rest of the room tense up. "No. It wasn't my intention. I'm sorry if I gave offense."
"Then what?" I asked her, sitting back again on the couch, from where I had got halfway up to loom over the Fallen.
"I apologize again." She adjusted her glasses again. "Its not that we wanted to experiment with it. We just wanted to study your-" I punched the center table and cut her off, while glaring at the Fallen female.
I took a deep breath to get my nerves under control then asked. "Are all the Fallen Angels like this?"
The woman looked at me quizzically from my non-sequitur. "Like what, Sir Emiya?"
"Don't listen to other people when they say 'No' until they receive three feet of steel in their gut." I answered her. "Study in this case requires experiment, which I already said that I would not submit myself to. So, if you don't have anything else to say..."
"As a matter of fact, yes, there is something that we would like your help with." She switched gears again and pulled a bundle of papers from her briefcase. "You claim to be a freelancer and Bounty Hunter, correct?" I just nodded, signaling for her to continue. "The Grigori would like to hire your services to retrieve an allotment of Artificial Sacred Gears that were stolen from one of our development facilities. Several of them were used during the attack to the site of the Peace Conference, but not all of them are accounted for. After investigating, we discovered some disturbing issues." She handed me a bundle of papers. "If you're interested, here's the briefing on the items stolen and their location."
I was about to reach for the papers, but stopped. "If you know their location, why can't you retrieve them?"
"Unfortunately, the Peace Treaty is still somewhat new, even if our leaders had been working on them for years. Some splinters groups in every one of our Factions still exist." She put the papers on the center table and I noticed peripherally that Levia-tan grimaced and Gabriel looked downhearted at that statement. "In this case, it was a group of Exorcists from the Church, that weren't excommunicated yet because they are seen as one of their most condecorated groups, the Knights Templar."
I heard Shidou hitch a breath and I immediately looked at her. Her eyes were wide with shock and disbelief. I think only the fact that Gabriel was sitting beside the Fallen was holding her back from saying anything. "The Knights Templar... huh..." In my universe, the Knights Templar were an order that was disbanded on the fourteenth century. Several weapons of my Marble were used during their most famous engagement, the Crusades, but there were others, including the Siege of Ascalon and the Battle of Marj Ayyun where they were defeated by Saladin in a rout.
"As such, we don't want to endanger the Peace Treaty with this so it was decided to hire an unaffiliated party to retrieve them for us, since going through the proper channels would take too much time and who knows what they'll do with them in the meantime. Everything you need to know about them is on this dossier." She slid the bundle to me. "If you do decide to accept our offer, you can contact either me or Azazel on Kuoh Academy and talk numbers with either of us."
I nodded at her, taking the bundle of papers and leafing through it. It was highly detailed, with satellite photos, maps, escape routes, sniping positions, timetables on their movements. It must have taken them time to get everything together. I closed the dossier again and put on the table. "Can I ask all of you a question now?" I asked rhetorically. "How did all of you knew I would be awake now?"
"Humm... I... didn't..." Levia-tan said, lifting her hand meekly. "I only came because Ajuka came to my office and said that I had to come immediately."
"It was informed to us during the debriefing after the fight with Loki on the Underworld." Rossweisse said. "Apparently there was a geas placed on you that would alert all the four leaders present when you woke up. I assumed the others knew about it too."
Gabriel and Penemue nodded, but Levia-tan looked sheepish. I turned to Marlianna-san but she didn't even bat an eye. "I came as soon as the girls contacted me." That still didn't explain how Hermes had come too, so I'll chalk that one to coincidence. I sighed, then looked back at the Fallen.
"Anything else?" She shook her head. "Very well, I'll read about this later." I said getting up, then turned to the Valkyrie. "That scroll... How does that work?"
"I need to prepare the ritual to imprint the mark on you, but that will take a few hours." She explained and I hung my head. Should I even bother?
"Look, if that's what is needed for that lunatic of a God to get out of my hair..." I turned to Marlianna-san then back to the Valkyrie. "But as you can see I have other prior commitments that can't be delayed, so if you could wait until I come back..."
She nodded. "Of course, no problem."
"Very well, then if you all could wait here for a moment, I need to make dinner." I turned my back when she began to sputter something, but I was already gone from the room without hearing what she had to say and walked inside the kitchen where, unsurprisingly, both Asia and Akeno had been eavesdropping. They tried to make it seem like they were cutting vegetables, but it was clear that the counter was too clean for them to be doing anything in it for more time than the few seconds that it took for them to rush from the door to it.
I sighed in frustration as soon as I entered the kitchen, turned a corner and knocked my head against the wall. I must have spent almost thirty seconds in that position, before turning and sliding down, with my back to the wall, hanging my head. The whole slew requests and offers I received today would be enough to give me pause in a normal day, but today I had just woken up and still hadn't even the time to process what had happened that day.
Just the thought of that brought back the memories of the feelings I felt during that time. I... I was nothing. Just an automaton. My life didn't matter, the world didn't matter. Only the people I had classified internally as under my protection and the enemies. That sensation... It was like someone was reaching inside my gut and twisting my heart in every direction. The feeling brought tears to my eyes and they began to flow down my face. I only realized that they were there, when I felt Asia hugging my head. "Onii-chan... What happened?"
I smiled at the floor. Right. I still have to be strong for her. I can't break down now. I still have much work to do. I pulled a deep breath, then smiled at the blonde, pulling her into an one armed hug. "Nothing. Just... Today it has been too much... Nothing that your older brother can't handle, okay?" I kissed the top of her head and mussed her hair with one hand while drying my tears with the other hand.
"Onii-chan..." It was clear that she didn't believe in me for a second, but I would not let her keep thinking about it.
"Don't worry, okay?" I pulled a deep breath. "Some kitchen time will do me wonders." I smiled at her again. "Can I ask you to keep our guests company?" When she was about to say something, I just patted her head again. "Please?"
She looked at me, trying to think something to say, but when nothing came to her she nodded and began to walk in the direction of the dining room and from there to the living room.
I turned to the counter where Akeno was still cutting vegetables. I walked to her and embraced her with an arm through the waist and the other through the shoulders, mimicking the position she liked to be, just reversed, with my face on the crook of her neck. She squeaked at the contact. "Just let me be like this for a moment." Our situation was still in thin ice, what with the Part and the Dream Cycle and everything that's happening in between, but right now I need this. I still don't understand why I feel so at peace when I'm near the brunette, but I am not ashamed to use it. Maybe because I saw who she really was on her memories? Either way, I really need this right now. "This day... It hasn't been even two hours since I woke up, and I'm already drained... It just keeps getting more and more..." I didn't know how to actually finish that sentence, so I lapsed into a silence.
She didn't answer anything, just put a hand over the arm it was holding over her waist, and leaning her head over mine. It was nice to feel her like that, and I think I can understand why she does so often. It's like it clears the head of all the worries of my mind, my whole body feel lighter as if the burden of the whole situation is just an afterthought. I don't know how long we stood like that before I heard a high pitched yell coming from the living room. Probably Levia-tan and Gabriel again. I almost didn't want to move, but I had to. I sighed heavily and pulled my head away from her, releasing her from the embrace. I was about to turn when she simply pulled my arm to her again and hugged me tightly.
"Leave it to me. Finish up here for us. After dinner we continue these conversations." She said, and I felt grateful to her, but I still had to deal with a bipolar Maou who was discussing with an Archangel being accompanied by a Nekomata, a Fallen and a Valkyrie. I have no idea where, but there's got to be a joke in there somewhere. Probably a dirty one too.
"I can't. I have to-" She put a finger on my lips, smiling tenderly.
"After dinner, alright?" Her eyes were filled with sympathy, but her words were resolute, so I gave up.
"...alright." I answered after taking a deep breath. She pulled me into another hug then gave me a small brush on the lips with hers, before letting go, moving to the living room, and to the ruckus Levia-tan was raising. I turned back to the vegetables on the cutting board, then looked at the pantry.
Yeah. Some brainless task like this would be good right about now.
It was a weird sight for anyone who wasn't used to the situation on my dinner table. We had bought a bigger table to be able to sit with guests when they came to have a meal with us, back when Karlamine, Mihae, Xuelan and Marion were still living with us in the main house, and thankfully it was enough for all my guests to sit this time around, even if the space was a little overcrowded. Instead of the usual three, there were eleven now.
At least they enjoyed the food, so that was something for me to feel good about. I always enjoyed when others liked the food I cooked, and the compliments, even if undeserving, were nice to receive. Cooking was my way to relieve stress, and since I had prepared a full course meal, I was more centered right now.
After dinner, they still sat and chatted like women are won't to do, even if they are supernaturals of some species or other, apparently. Shidou had called me aside, and I was thankful for the distraction because I couldn't even follow most of the conversations going on. They weren't talking with me directly, just between them... Well, in case of Levia-tan and Gabriel, not so much talking and more like barbs being launched from one side and flying over the head of the other. Gabriel spent most of her time with Penemue, actually. Marlianna-san, Akeno and, surprisingly, Rossweisse made an odd combination that somehow maintained a conversation in between them. About what, I have no idea.
Shidou wanted to know if I would accept the offer to go after the Knight Templars who had stolen the Artificial Sacred Gears. Another concept that still gave me pause. As far as I knew, Sacred Gears had souls inside them, and that was what gave them power. What was used on the Artificial ones? Penemue had said that everything I would need to know was on the dossier, so I was hoping that was one of the questions that would be answered then. I had said to the Reincarnated Angel that I would first read it and then decide, to which she simply stated that if I was going after them, she wanted to go with me. I didn't promise her anything, but I have a feeling that if I decide to accept the job, she would find someway to barge in and go with me anyway.
At the moment, I was sitting on the oddly silent living room, waiting for the girls to finish their preparations. Asia and Akeno wouldn't be going, since they weren't part of the branch family, but all the other girls would, Ravel included. I don't know why the Phenex Heir wanted to accompany us, even after I invited her. I mean, she could be going just to maintain appearances since most of, or more like all of, her Peerage would go with me.
Marlianna-san had gone to the totem in the yard to prepare the mass teleportation and was just waiting for us to come. I had no idea what I would see once we got there, so I just kept replaying the recent events in my mind. I almost attacked Ise that day. Thinking about it, the pervert had always looked up to me for some reason. Even when we weren't exactly friends, he always had some degree of respect for me. I always assumed it was because I was an upperclassman, but after interacting with the boy, he still held me to a higher regard, even if I consider him one of my few friends here in this world.
Saji too seemed to have gotten over his initial distrust, even if he isn't as friendly as Ise, he seems to respect me more these days. After Kusaka and Meguri explained themselves to me, they too became more friendly with me. Or better saying, they returned to the way they treated me before the whole problem with the rumors had made them distance themselves. Shinra and Reya seemed to have gone in the other direction though. Not exactly distrusting, but distancing themselves. I couldn't understand exactly why. I don't know if maybe if it was because of the rumors too or if it was something I did, so I would need to have a talk with them.
Koneko had been more open with her whims around me, often times she appeared out of nowhere with some kind of candy, or just left them on my shoelocker. When she comes to eat breakfast too, sometimes she only moves from her place after I pat her head and ask her to. I'd like to think that its something I did, but its hard to tell with the normally taciturn Nekomata.
Quarta and Kiba hadn't changed much, except for Quarta's being more respectful of me, ever since she discovered that I wasn't just all talk and had the skills to back it up. Our sparring sessions had become something of she trying again and again to get one over me. Kiba said that he would introduce his Swords Master when we were on the Underworld, but with the whole incident with Loki, we didn't had the chance.
"We're ready, Shirou-sama." Margareth appeared on the doorway, a backpack over her shoulders. Looking closely, not all of them were carrying backpacks, but the ones who had were all bulging.
I raised an eyebrow. "Guess the draw?"
She looked down, embarrassed. "Scrabble." Then she added with a small voice. "I lost."
"Oh, okay then." I smiled at the girl, then looked behind her. "You can't win all of them, right?" Looking at the others I could see that Karlamine, Carlota and Tomoko also had apparently lost, from the ones I could see. "Where's the others?" Only Ravel's Peerage was here along with the three from my group, not the rest of the girls from the dorm.
"They are still on the Underworld, Shirou." Akeno said from behind me. "Rias and Kaichou decided to have a joint training exercise over there and kept their Peerages with them, except for me and Asia-chan." Then she sighed. "Though now that you are awake we have to go back too."
"Oh..." I sighed. "I see." I felt a twinge of disappointment, but I couldn't say anything against it. After all, the Youth Devil's Tournament was just around the corner. In two weeks if I'm not mistaken... actually less than that, since I have spent three days basically comatose. Ravel wouldn't participate this year because she still didn't meet the age requirement.
I sighed again, then said. "Well, lets get going then."
"Have a safe trip." I heard Akeno's voice from the doorway to the kitchen.
"I'll be right back." She preferred that I didn't act any different with her when there was company, so I just smiled at her. "Akeno, could you tell Rias and Shitori that I want to talk with them as soon as they get back? Or before, if I go to the Underworld before you guys return."
She cocked her head to the side, confused, but nodded anyway. "Sure."
I smiled at her and then went to the yard, where a massive teleportation circle, that occupied every inch of available space was waiting for us. I turned to the Valkyrie who had been watching the proceedings so far. "Please, wait in the house until I get back. If there's anything else you need, just ask Akeno, alright?"
"But, Lord Emiya-"
"Shirou." I said to her, then turned to the Shrine Maiden. "Akeno, can you show her my workshop so she can prepare whatever it is that she has to prepare?" I turned back to the Valkyrie when she was about to object again and put my hand up. "It's the only place in the house that I allow these kinds of things to be done."
She was ready to say something else, but then nodded. "Very well. I'll prepare everything." The woman said, standing at attention. I had to sigh at that. This one was way too strict, or at least presented herself that way for me.
I looked down again at the prana circle, trying to understand the runes on them, but couldn't actually recognize any of them. "Is everything in order, Emiya-dono?" Marlianna-san asked and forced me to tear my eyes from my observations and to her.
I did one last check over the girls and the nodded at the Nekomata. There wasn't even an Aria or a Chant or anything. One second we were on my yard, the next we were inside what I could only describe as a Japanese Castle's yard from the Meiji Restoration era. It looked like time had stopped and I was standing on the old Imperial Capital itself.
And it was a place of power. The leyline nexus on Kuoh Academy had nothing on the leylines here. It felt like I was standing on pure raw prana instead of ground. It took me a moment to regain my senses, since the sweet smell of pure raw mana was overpowering everything, and I could barely make out the scent of Ravel who was standing two feet from me. After inhaling normally, I finally managed to regain my balance and began to watch just exactly where we were. In front of a gate big enough for a jetliner to pass through be it with its wings horizontally or vertically. The gate itself had engravings of golden flowers that reminded of the sun and was painted a sunset red.
"Right this way, please." Marlianna-san said, and walked to the middle of the gate were two... Fallen Angels? Actually, going by the fact that we were in Youkai Central, these were probably Tengu, and the masks over their heads weren't masks at all, just their faces. "I'm Senri Marlianna, Heir apparent of Hokuriku's Senri Clan and this is Emiya Shirou-dono, Head of the Emiya branch family of the Senri Clan. We've been requested for an audience with Yasaka-sama." She presented a scroll to them and the man on the right received it, pulled back and unrolled.
The Tengu on the left, during all this, kept his hand on the pommel of the sword he had on his waist, eyeing all the newcomers, but when Marlianna mentioned me, he kept his eyes on me the rest of the time. At set intervals I saw him readjust his grip on the sword, but his muscles weren't tensing to draw it. I frowned inwardly at that. What was he doing?
It came to me when I felt a power source move directly to our left. It had been synchronized with the movements of his hand, so I could only assume that these two weren't the only guards at the gate. There were more guards hidden and that Tengu was giving them silent cues. I had to admit, it was a clever way to keep the person it was your main focus on yourself and at the same time move your allies into a more advantageous position. I did teach about hand signs to the Peerages that trained with me, but the way he was doing it was way more subtle than mine.
I was brought out of my reverie when I heard the first winged man say. "Very well, it's all in order. Welcome to the Palace, Senri-dono, Emiya-dono." He didn't make any move himself aside from bowing to us, but the gates opened inwardly behind him. And just like that my respect for the security of this place was shattered. A gate so unwieldy like that wouldn't be able to be closed quickly enough in case of an attack.
"Thank you." The woman bowed to them and turned to me, nodding, before setting a foot inside the palace. And once I crossed the Boundary of the gate I had to reassess once again. The Boundary Field had almost a physical presence to it, making me feel like I had entered water instead of just taken a step forward. The raw prana in air was so sweet that I felt like that if it was physical and not mystical, I would suffer from cavities in short order. The Nekomata must have realized my predicament, when I hitched in my step, because she began to explain. "Yasaka-sama regulates the leyline in Inner Kyoto in order to not have it run rampant on the human world. If not for her, we would have several cataclysms happening outside, and Inner Kyoto itself would be destroyed in less than a day."
"I see." I grimaced. A woman capable of control this much raw prana must be on a whole other level.
Once we reached another massive chamber inside the palace two Kitsunes with five tails appeared, literally, in a cloud of smoke, wearing a loose red yukata over their voluptuous bodies. "Senri-dono, Emiya-dono." They bowed to us. "If you could accompany us. Your entourage will have to wait here in the meantime."
"Of course." Marlianna-san turned to her daughters and nodded, both of whom nodded back and took three steps back before bowing. I looked from Margareth to Sophie to Ravel and nodded too.
Another puff of smoke and another Kitsune appeared. "Please, come with me to the antechamber." She said to the girls.
The two who had appeared in front of me and the Nekomata turned on their heels and walked to another doorway. Marlianna-san fell into step just behind, so I continued with them. We walked through a hallway lined with white pillars with bindweeds carved into them, each pillar with a torch that lit up the way between the pillars but cast a gloom so dark behind them that it was hard to decide if there was even a wall there or was just darkness. It felt eerily like I was in a bridge instead of a corridor.
It took about five minutes of walking in that monstruous hallway, but we reached another massive double door, that had another two Tengu guarding it. Though these two didn't even blink, as they slid to the sides and put a hand each on the doorway and opened them for us to cross. To my surprise though, the other three simply stepped aside and ushered me inside the room. I looked at Marlianna-san for a moment, but she only bowed again and then stood there.
"Through here, Emiya-dono." One of the Kitsune said, stepping aside and continued to practically throw me inside the room without actually laying a finger on me.
When I entered the room the double door was closed behind me and what greeted me was something ethereal and at the same time not. I say something, because no way I'll call that a woman-err, female. The room itself seemed too dim for the brightness she exuded, that only accentuated the gold of the fur on the nine tails she had behind her, sitting in a throne of gold and ebony on top of a raised dais, smiling pleasantly yet at the same time knowingly. "We greet you, Emiya-dono. I'm Tamamo Yasaka, Leader of Kyoto Youkai Faction and Avatar of Amaterasu-sama." She got up from her seat, folded both hands together and made a half bow, somehow showing more cleavage through her red and gold yukata. I think I said before that I was inured to beautiful people in this world, but this one is pushing it.
I looked at her for another second dumbfounded. "Greetings, Tamamo-sama. I..." I bowed to her, then straightened and shook my head. "I'll be honest. I suck at all these pleasantries and protocols, so can we get right to the subject at hand."
She eyed me with something different in her eyes for a moment, before her smile turned more natural, different from the regal one she had been sporting until that moment. "Of course. To be honest with you, I too am not too fond of these, but they make a good show for the ones who expect it." She nodded to herself and moved from her throne and began to walk down the steps of the dais. "Since you wish it so, I'll be blunt with you. Amaterasu-sama wants to speak directly with the person who somehow managed to call on her powers without making contract with her, worse, through a Regalia that not even my ancestor had received full control over."
Finally someone who didn't beat around the bush. Though that could be a problem since generally people who didn't do that were trying to kill me. "And how will I speak with Amaterasu-sama?"
The woman just smiled and closed her eyes. Out of nowhere I could feel her whole presence change, instead of the powerful yet recognizable Kitsune that had been talking with me, I could feel as if the sun itself had descended from the sky and had condensed in her body, such was the brightness that her form began to exude, her scent overpowering even the sweetness of mana inside the castle, with things that I could hardly describe. It was like feeling the purification of fire without being burned and the cleansing of water without drowning, both at the same time.
Then she opened her eyes again, and I felt like she was trying to grasp my Soul with just those golden orbs. It sent me on edge and at the same time set me at ease. I wanted to shout out loud and pray silently. I wanted to cry and laugh. I wanted to run and stay still. Be sad and happy. Be strong and weak. It was a jumble of conflicting emotions just for being looked at by that presence that I couldn't actually understand myself, and ended up shutting down everything and entered battle mode.
"Amaterasu-sama, I presume." My voice was colder than I expected it to sound.
"That is Us." Her voice back to regal, but now had more depth to it, as if there were several tones of the same voice talking at the same time. "Emiya Shirou, Son of Our Land, We Greet You."
"It's a pleasure." I answered, my body primed to move. If to flee or to attack, I have no idea. I was just ready. "As I said to Tamamo-hime, I'm not someone who knows pleasantries and protocol and, so far, every God I came across had their own quirks, and I'm sure you too have them, so could we finish this fast, before you have time to shatter my image of yourself."
The Goddess seemed to be entertained by my bluntness. I wasn't kidding. I didn't want to start thinking differently from the Shinto Goddess of the Sun. "Yes. We Admire Your Directness, Emiya Shirou." She smiled and I think that if there was a Dead Apostle in the room he would turn to ash with just that. Assuming it survived her opening her eyes. "Very Well. Three Cycles Of The Sun Ago, We Received A Request To Use Our Power From Someone We Had No Contract With. What Puzzles Us Was That You Managed To Use Our Power Even Without We Granting You That Boon. Care To Explain Yourself?"
"No." I said bluntly. "I didn't use your power, only a copy of a Regalia, that wasn't yours either."
She narrowed her eyes. "Care To Show Me That Regalia Then?"
I sighed. Great, I'll have to start already lying to a Goddess. "I don't think that would be a good idea." I said, shaking my head. "The Regalia I used was a gift from another Amaterasu to Tamamo-no-Mae on another world. I have no idea how it will react being in the presence of another Amaterasu."
Her eyes narrowed further. "Another Amaterasu?"
"Right, sorry." I rubbed the back of my neck. "I'm not from this world, Amaterasu-sama." I answered her truthfully. I have no idea why. I fully intended to lie and bullshit her. "I don't know how it'll react to your presence."
"We Understand." She nodded. "If Its For Our Safety You Fear, There Is No Need." She opened her arms as if to embrace the whole space we were in. "We Are Not Here Physically."
"Yes, but Tamamo-hime is." I frowned at the goddess. "It will be her who'll receive the full brunt of whatever is going to happen."
Her smile widened. "We See That Our Acessment Of Your Will Was Not Faulty. But As We Said, There Is No Need."
My frown deepened. "Alright." I turned my back to her and walked three steps, before turning again. Then closed my eyes. I put a hand forward and projected the Yata-no-Kagami, or the Eighfold Blessing of Amaterasu, the mirror used by Tamamo-no-Mae, one of the three Regalias of the Japanese Imperial Family, together with Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi and Yasakani-no-Magatama. After I finished the projection it began to hover between us.
Amaterasu's smile disappeared as she eyed the projection with a clinical eye. "That Is Not The Real Mirror."
"No. As I said, it's just a copy." I agreed with the Goddess. "But I can access all its properties."
"Even Properties That Should Have Been Sealed When We Conceded It As A Boon To The Tamamo Matriarch?" She asked.
"Yes. Those are harder to access, but with enough willpower its possible." I answered while looking at the hovering mirror that continued its lazily float around me.
"So That Was How You Stole A Soul From Izanami-No-Mikoto?" The way she said it didn't sit down well with me, so I met her eyes evenly.
"Stole? No. Pulled it back from the Yomi-no-Kuni, the land of the dead? Yes." I answered her, then sighed, letting the tension on my shoulders disappear. "You have to understand that when I did that, I was completely out of my mind. To be honest, I shouldn't even be able to use a Divine Weapon, much less a Regalia that isn't even that, even if Tamamo-no-Mae used it as such." Then another thing struck me. "Also... How does that even work? I mean, Akeno is a Devil. How in the name of the Root of the world did Izanami-no-Mikoto had any claim on her Soul?"
"It Does Not Matter What She Is Right Now. Her Soul Was Ours From The Moment She Was Created From Our Design. The Denizens Of The Underworld Have No Claim On It. Once She Is Taken From The World Of The Living She Is Destined To Be Sent To The Care Of Izanami-No-Mikoto Before Her Soul Is Sent To Be Cleansed. No One Should Be Able To Interfere. And Yet You Did. Both Retrieved A Soul From The Yomi-No-Kuni And Has The Regalia. Or A Copy Of It." She began to scrutinize me. "Yet, I See No Ill Will On Your Character." I didn't know what to make of that. "But There Is Something Different About That Regalia, Aside From The Fact That It Is A Copy. I Can Feel It As Mine, But Also Not."
"That's because it isn't. I already said that was a gift from another Amaterasu from another world." I said and she raised an eyebrow. "Can I dismiss it now? It takes a lot out of me to keep it active, even here." I finally managed to tell a lie. What the hell? What's the criteria here? One thing I'm sure though as that if I was a Shinto follower I would be sent directly to Yomi-no-kuni. It was surprisingly easy to maintain the Projection of the Divine Artifact. When she didn't made any mention in either way, I dismissed it. "As I was saying. It isn't your Mirror, its from your counterpart from where I'm from."
"Where You Are From?" She raised an eyebrow. "Your Hair And Eyes May Be Odd, But You Are A Son Of Our Land." That made me pause, and I raised an eyebrow. Is Amaterasu, the Goddess of the Sun, cracking a joke with me?
I gave her a crooked smile anyway. "Yeah. I am, just not from this Land." I answered. Why isn't the Goddess hearing what I'm saying? I had already told her that, so in for a penny in for a pound. I decided to be truthful with her for now. "I'm from another world, Amaterasu-sama. Anyway, I came here after an accident that I'm not entirely sure how it happened yet."
She continued to scrutinize me for some time until she nodded. "So In The Other Land You Had Contact With Another Of Us Who Conceded You That Boon?"
"Not... Exactly." I faltered. "Part of my craft grants me the ability to copy a range of weaponry and other artifacts that I wouldn't come across otherwise."
Again her eyes narrowed and flared red. "How Many Weapons? What Do You Intend To Do With Them?"
"How many is something I have no idea. Hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands." I felt her power flare once but she didn't say anything. "As for what I intend to do with them... Protect me, mine and the innocents, not necessarily in that order. More like backwards, actually."
Her eyes went back to the normal tinge of gold, though still narrowed. "You Do Not Intend To Conquer Others With That Many Weapons?"
I smiled ruefully, showing her my hands. "I have only these. What good does it make me having that many weapons, if all I have to use them are these?"
Her eyes turned to my hands for a moment, then back at my face. "We Know That You Can Call Weapons Without Needing To Touch Them, But We See That Your Reasoning Still Stands. One Person Is Nothing Without An Army. Which Brings Us To The Other Topic That We Would Like To Discuss." I felt a wave of power wash over me and I couldn't discern what it meant to do, but it didn't seem harmful, so I stayed quiet.
Her eyes widened minutely, before she settled again in a impassive mask. That made me frown.
"We See That You Are Also Shielded Against Even Our Power To Scrutinize Your Mind."
I almost called Kanshou and Bakuya reflexively at the end of her sentence. "What do you mean?"
"Few Sons Of Our Land Are Even Able To Talk With Us For Such A Long Time Without Succumbing To Our Presence." She nodded. "You Are Indeed Special, Emiya Shirou. Though There Is Something You Should Know. You Are A Son Of Our Land, Stolen From Us Young, Returned An Adult, But Still A Son Of Ours."
My eyes narrowed. "Be specific please, because I'm getting confused here."
Her smile came back. "Your Soul Belongs To Us, Emiya Shirou. You Were Designed For Greatness In This World, But Was Stolen From Our Land. Stolen From Your Bid To A Rightful Place In Takamagahara."
"What?!" I asked dumbfounded. "I'm human! Not a Kami."
"No. Most Certainly Not." Her smile didn't fade. "You Were Designed For Greatness. You Were Born From Our Design, Given Life Through Our Wish, And Would Live Through Our Trials, Until It Came The Time That You Would Lead Our People."
"Wait, wait wait." I said, bewildered, slipping out of battle mode. "I just said I'm not a Kami, not even a drop of blood of mine is from-"
"All Children Of This Land Is Ours, Emiya Shirou. And All Of Them Have A Great Destiny." Amaterasu expression turned motherly at that, then saddened. "Unfortunately, Most Of Them Don't Live Through The Trials And Give Up Halfway And Even More Don't Even Begin Their Trials." Then her smile came back. "But We Had High Hopes For You, And Now That You Are Back, We Can Be Relieved To Know That Even Out Of Our Reach You Managed To Arrive At The End Of Your Trial."
I gaped while watching the goddess. "End of what now? Wait, stop. Time out. I'm not from this world!"
"You Obtained The Right To Use The First Regalia." She said, ignoring me completely. "Even If It Was Not By Our Hand That You Received Such Fortune, You Are A Blessed Of Amaterasu All The Same, As Such, We Grant You The Right To Use The Eightfold Blessings Of Amaterasu On The Weight Stone Under The Sunlit Watery Heaven." She made a motion with her hand and another mirror appeared out of nowhere and began to float down from the center of the room and hover around me. It looked almost like the same mirror I traced. "We Expect Great Things From You From Now On, Emiya Shirou. One Day You Will Claim Your Rightful Place On Takamagahara."
Before I could process what just happened, the presence of the Goddess disappeared, the Yata-no-Kagami still hovering around me, when the woman in front of me, still with her eyes closed brought my attention back to her. "Whatever Amaterasu-sama said was for you and you onl-EEEEK!" The shriek happened when she opened her eyes and looked at the mirror floating around me. It was loud enough that a second later the room flooded with Tengu from everywhere, carrying spears, five kitsune appeared in a cloud of smoke in front of Tamamo-hime, each wielding a metal tessen fanned out in a protective position in front of their leader, eyes scanning the whole room for danger.
I remained completely still in the middle of the room, Yata-no-Kagami still hovering around me. "Did they not hear the conversation we just had or they are that good at faking it?" I asked the woman with a raised eyebrow. I knew this wasn't Amaterasu anymore, but it was the best way deflect their questions to the nine tailed Kitsune and, hopefully, explain to me the reason of her shriek.
The woman kept watching the mirror, then looked at me blankly, then back at the mirror. Then my instincts told me to sidestep quickly. I did just that, a moment before a gold furred bullet fell from the ceiling on the exact position where I had been. "Leave Okaa-sama alone, you brute!" I grabbed it by the scruff of the yukata as it passed through and held it at arm lenght. The bundle of fur also had nine tails, so I looked at the woman still being defended by the other Kitsune.
"I take it this is yours?" The room tensed even more, because the situation now seemed to be that I had a hostage.
"Kunou! What are you doing here?" The woman forgot that there were five other Kitsune in front of her and tried to barrel through them. The Tengu around were all primed for action, but didn't actually attack.
"Unhand me, you beast!" Funny, a Youkai calling a human a beast. I almost smiled at that.
"So you are Kunou-hime, huh?" I said to the girl, letting her down on the ground. She turned to me, with her cheeks puffed. Now that I could see her face, I could see the resemblance. She was like a miniature version of Tamamo-hime. I crouched to be at her eye level and began to pat her head. "You shouldn't attack a person without reason, you know?"
She meant to bat my hand away, but I dodged it and continued patting her. "You were harming Okaa-sama."
I raised an eyebrow, then looked at adult nine tailed fox. "Did I attack you, Tamamo-hime?"
She was almost barreling me at this point, but the mirror kept her two steps away. She looked at me bewildered for a moment, then at Kunou then at the mirror and blinked. Only then she realized that there was what was probably all her personal guard was inside the room. "Uh- N-No. Y-You didn't." She traced the mirror with her eyes making its trip around me bobbing up and down lazily. At this point some of the Tengu too were looking at the mirror with wide eyes.
"Then could you tell this little bundle of energy that she shouldn't attack just about anyone?" I smiled at the little girl who was still trying to bat my hand away instead of actually stepping away. Maybe because I began to scratch behind her ears and her attempts to bat away my hand were become more and more half hearted.
The woman finally seemed to come back to herself. "Kunou!" The girl jumped in place and began to turn slowly to her mother. "What are you doing here? It's past your bedtime!" As fast as her legs allowed her to, she dashed and hid behind me. I chuckled and got up, trying to edge her from there to the front but she grabbed my left leg and hid her face there. "Kunou!" The woman was getting histeric.
"That was our fault, Yasaka-sama!" A female Tengu entered the room accompanied by another Kitsune. "We lost track of Kunou-hime when we were preparing her bed."
I looked at the cowering little kitsune on my leg then at the woman, then at her babysitters then crouched again, making her let go of me and turned to her. "Kunou-hime, you shouldn't do that. If you want something you should say that clearly, otherwise you'll get in trouble." I said smiling at the girl and again scratching behind her ear. "What one has to say when they do something wrong?"
"I'm sorry." It was what her voice said, but her eyes were glazed over, as if she didn't even care about the rest of the world. "I'll not do it again."
"Good." I said, mussing her head then picking her up. "Now, go with your caretakers because I still have to talk with your mother, okay?"
"...okay." She was almost sleeping already on my arms. I took two steps in the direction of the Tengu and Kitsune combo, but had to stop, because the mirror accompanied my movement.
"Oh, right." I put the almost sleeping girl on the floor, patting her again until she was breathing evenly, then took three steps back. "Here, take her."
The two looked at me with wide eyes, then to their charge, then to my back, presumably to Tamamo-hime, then went and picked the little girl up. I sighed and turned back to the Leader of the Youkai Faction who seemed to have defaulted to keep looking at me dumbstruck.
"Now," I took one step forward and had to hastily take one back again, lest the mirror hit the kitsunes that were protecting her. "Sorry."
"No..." She answered automatically, jaw still agape. "It's... It's okay." I looked from her to the other Kitsunes then to the Tengus who at this point had stopped posing with their spears to attack and were just holding them. "Oh, right." She coughed once on her hand. "I'm sorry for my unbecoming display." Then she looked at the others in the room. "There's no need for this. I was just surprised by something Amaterasu-sama had done. No need for you all to be worried." She looked at one specific point in the room, probably the leader of the Tengu, but I didn't turn to confirm it. All at once I heard several wings flapping and the Youkai disappeared into the ceiling. Either they have a perch up there, or there's some entrance for them.
The kitsunes kept watching me for a moment more, before turning to Tamamo-hime, bowing and disappearing in a puff of smoke again. I looked at the empty room again then turned to the red faced woman. "So... You were saying?"
She had the decency of looking embarrassed at least. "Again, I'm sorry for my display." Then she eyed the mirror again. "Did... No. What Amaterasu-sama does is not to be questioned. You received a great treasure. Congratulations."
"Yeeaaah... About that..." I said scratching my cheek. "Not that I'm not grateful or anything, but..." I looked at it as it passed in front of me. "Do you know how do I make it stop doing that?"
She blinked, then chuckled. "If Amaterasu-sama gave you, its yours, part of your body, like a arm, a leg or a tail. You just have to control it as you would any other limb."
"Greeeeeaaat. Thanks for the explanation..." Not. I never had three arms or legs. Or a tail for that matter. Still, I closed my eyes and concentrated on it, willing it to stop in front of me then to come closer. I finally took it in my hands and decided to look at the mirror more closely. Without realizing I began to analyse the Regalia and immediately started reeling because of it.
This was worse than Mjölnir because this was the original, not a copy. The Eight Hand Mirror, representing wisdom and honesty. It was forged by Ishikoridome, and left on a cave to lure Amaterasu out of it, then was given, along with Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, to Ningi-no-Mikoto, Amaterasu's grandson. Both Sword and Mirror were used to pacify Japan in a age were mirrors were rare and considered Divine Blessings. It was granted to Tamamo-no-Mae during the period the Kitsune had been living on the Imperial Palace but after she was killed by the Army it was retrieved and locked inside the Palace. Its container was burned in a fire, but the Mirror itself was discovered amidst the debris completely unscathed. After that, Amaterasu gave the Imperial Family a replica of the three Regalia and reclaimed them back to Takamagahara and they have been by her side ever since.
But the revelation that came as the most shocking was the fact that this was the exact same mirror I projected. It was identical. This meant that the Tamamo-no-Mae from whom the Yata-no-Kagami in my Marble came from was this world.
"Emiya-dono?" The analysis ended when Tamamo-hime called me, with a voice that made it seem like she had been doing that for quite some time.
"Sorry." I said, lifting a hand to my temple to stave off the headache. "This usually only happens with bladed weapons, not... Regalias." I frowned. If this is going to happen everytime I see a Divine Artifact I'll be in trouble because I'll need to counsciously keep my Analysis disabled. "Still, thank you, Tamamo-hime."
"No, thank you, Emiya-dono. And please, call me Yasaka. Tamamo was our Matriarch." She gave me a hearty laugh. "It feels weird to be called that even though I'm the head of the Clan." The woman bowed deeply to me. "Also, I had never seen Yata-no-Kagami myself, and to have the opportunity to gaze at it is quite enough for me."
"Er... No problem? You also can call me Shirou." I said, sounding both sheepish and confused. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it. Or with the copy of Mjölnir. Or with the Brave Saint Deck. Or with the set of Evil Pieces after the girls are released. All these supernatural Factions are trying to cull favor with me and keep forcing these artifacts on me like they are going out of style.
"Still, I would ask you-" Whatever she was going to say was cut off, as the group of Tengu reappeared on the room again and the Kitsunes again teleported in a puff of smoke.
"We have problems, Yasaka-sama!" A Tengu dressed differently from the others appeared. "Inner Kyoto is under attack." I hung my head. I'm a trouble magnet, aren't I? Seriously. What other explanation would it have for this to happen at the same time that I'm here.
"How are the people outside the palace?" The Kitsune asked, already back at her regal attitude and trying to take control of the situation.
"They are being evacuated as we speak, but there's a Dragon with the invaders. They must have help from inside. There's a barrier blocking all outbound communications and we can't contact any of the other Clans." The Tengu said.
The woman's eyes narrowed. "Someone from our side?"
"I'm affraid so, Yasaka-sama." The Tengu said, and I felt like they were accusing me without saying anything, so I scowled.
"Tamamo-hime." I called out loud, addressing her with the same name I had before, just because of the unspoken accusation, my voice harsh along with it. "Does the palace has defenses that can whitstand a Dragon attack?"
She was taken aback by my tone of voice, but nodded. "Y-Yes. The walls are sturdy and the Fields would whitstand an attack from Yamata-no-Orochi itself." The pride on her voice was clear.
"Then use all your forces to evacuate your people to the Palace, but not the inner areas, only the yards." I said, my switch already flipped into battle mode again. "This attack can be only a diversion for someone to infiltrate the Palace, but even then it can create enough damage on the populace that you can't ignore it."
She nodded at my assessment so far. "What do you intend to do, Emiya-dono." I noticed that she too didn't address me with my name as I said, but at the moment I didn't care.
I tapped the mirror. "Let's see if the Blessing of Amaterasu isn't just for show." I looked at the Tengu who had been talking until now. "I need wings, the fastest one you have."
He didn't answer me, just looked at nine tailed fox. "Give him your fastest people as escorts, then-"
I cut her off. "Get my family on the gateways, tell them I said 'School Siege, Priority Defend Non-Combatants'. They'll understand what they have to do." Having said that I began to run in the direction of the doorway, but I didn't make three steps, before I was scooped up below the arms by two Tengu who began to carry me to the ceiling then through a passage and out the palace throuhg the roof. Once outside, even in the gloominess, I could see the lines of flame a freaking dragon left every time it used its breath attack. "Get me as close as you can, then leave the grounds and start evacuating the non-combatants."
I swear that I almost heard these Tengu say "Yes, sir." I'll chalk that one up to my mind being in overdrive. They took me directly above a Shrine at the top of a hill then dropped me in its grounds. Then moved to obey the orders I just gave them. The Dragon was down below the torii lined staircase, at the street level, and there were several Tengu and Nue fighting it. I think I saw an Oni or two in there too, before a swipe of the Dragon's wing sent them flying out of my field of vision. I let go of the Mirror and it began to hover around me again.
I thought that I was close to it, but I kept running and running and it kept getting bigger and bigger. When I got to the last torii of the staircase of the Shrine I jumped atop it and analysed the battlefield. The Dragon was attacking alone, and, contrary to Niðhöggr, this one didn't seem one for banter. Either that or it subscribed to the same vein of thought as me, every breath wasted on talking should be wasted with attacking the enemy.
I didn't wait anymore. If Amaterasu wants me to use the Regalia, then I'll use it.
"God who resides in Izumo." I began to chant as I closed my eyes. "Aesthetically certain, Breath of the soul." I kept hearing the sounds of the battle in front of me, so the Dragon must still be there. "Residing in the mountains and watery heavens, Amaterasu." I finally felt a pull from the Mirror. Until now it was acting without me doing anything. Eight ofuda talismans formed in my hand and I threw them up. "Let this freely become the proof of purification." I felt the talismans began to encircle me, as the Mirror began to spin above my head. "Thy name is Weighted Stone of Tamamo." I opened my eyes and the Dragon must have felt the sudden shift in the mana, because it looked directly at me. "Become the sacred treasure, Mirror of Uka!" I finished the chant as the talismans all surrounding me shot outwards, encircling the whole battlefield with projections of several torii but didn't actually did any damage to anyone.
The Dragon opened its jaws and a gout of fire came directly at me and I called. "Svalinn!" The Shield that defended the world against the sun appeared in front of me and I realized with some shock and not at the same time that it didn't consumed any of my Od to form it. The flame kept hitting on the shield but nothing passed through it. As soon as the flame stopped, I traced Archer's Bow and this world's version of Dáinsleaf. Again, not a single trickle of my Od was spent.
I altered the sword into an arrow and began to charge it.
"Freeze the Underworld with your bared fangs, Icicle Death." I chanted and the prana explosion around the arrow was something I wasn't expecting. Last time I used, I only altered it, and didn't charge it. When the Dragon opened its maw again in my direction I fired.
I had to gape at the power of my own attack. The arrow shot through the Dragon's mouth, then exploded into icicles from inside it, freezing even the flames that would be shot out in its throat, perforating it in so many ice spikes that that someone who hadn't seen it would be hard pressed to discover if the pieces of the dragon were dropped all over the icicle formation or if it really grew from inside the beast.
Then I remembered about the Ophis' Snakes that Niðhöggr had and jumped close to the Dragon, Reinforcing my legs in order to get there faster. It was faint but it was really regenerating, so I traced Drachenloch and stabbed it in the head and yelled for the gaping Youkai all around. "Find the Snakes and destroy them. The Dragon is trying to regenerate because of them." The Youkai only looked dumbly at me so I put as much authority as I could in my voice and shouted. "Now! Go!" And began to follow my own instruction, searching for the Snakes.
It took some time but we managed to do it before the Eighfold Blessing of Amaterasu disappeared and the Mirror began to hover around me once again, and I had to back away from them in order to not hurt the other Youkai in the clearing. I began to walk up the stairs back in the direction of the Shrine, trying to understand what happened. I willed the Mirror to stop again and I looked at it, when nothing came, I closed my eyes, going over the blueprint and the history of the Artifact. Something was not right here. It reduced my prana usage to absolute nothing. I felt like I could have called even several Excaliburs and I wouldn't strain in the slightest. Dáinsleaf too, it charged so fast and so much that it actually startled me a little. Was that the difference between the two Mirrors? No, the blueprint still had other six properties, four of them were already active just by me being recognized as its rightful owner. They-
A explosion happened to my right, cutting my line of thought. I turned in that direction instantly but could only see the smoke billowing into the semi-darkness of the night sky, so I jumped on top of the Shrine to have a better look. I thought for a moment that it was maybe some gas exploding because of the fire from the Dragon, but it turns out I was wrong. There were more fights happening in that direction.
I narrowed my eyes and jumped down from the Shrine, Reinforcing my legs again. It took me a full minute of running full tilt down the hill to realize that I was running faster than I was used to, even with Reinforcement. It was another property of the Mirror, it augmented my physical capabilites, on top of any other type of previous augmentation. It basically meant that without using any Od, I was always reinforcing my body. In that state it took me less than five minutes to reach the skirmish happening in the street, but that was when I hit a snag. It was Youkai against Youkai. Worse, there were Tengu and Kitsune, Nekomata and Oni, Kappa and Nue, all fighting down there in all out brawl. I couldn't pick a side based on their types.
I jumped on a rooftop and started analysing the situation, trying to discover what was going on, until I felt a spell trying to get to me as well, and I turned to the figure that was with its arms open above another rooftop across the street. The figure didn't seem to realize that I had made its position, and was looking at the combat down below. I traced Archer's Bow and Hrunting.
I have no idea who it was, but if attacked me, I would retaliate. I could be wrong, and that could be a Youkai thinking I was one of the attackers, but at the moment it was the best bet I had. The scents were all a jumble and I couldn't make out who was what for a good portion of the fight, but the figure seemed human, and didn't demonstrated any traits of any Youkai I knew, so I decided to risk the attack.
This time I felt the Od draining, but it didn't matter. It was just a trickle, compared to normal. I altered the sword into an arrow and began to pour mana on it. It charged faster than normal too. "Go to the red plains, Scarlet Hound." I chanted and released the arrow. The figure looked in my direction in the last second, raising his arm, but it was too late. Hrunting pierced through their heart, then there was a flash of light and a second later I had to reaccess. Hrunting hadn't pierced through the heart, it had vaporized the entire ribcage of whoever it was.
All at once the Youkai stopped fighting, a few of them still with their swords, spears, tessens and claws poised to strike, but all of them seemed confused. I jumped down to the street level, drawing several startled yelps and more than one of the Youkai tried to attack me, but I just sprung up again to the other rooftop on the other side of the street and looked down at the body. It was a human man. A Magician more likely. A moment later two Tengu floated to the rooftop, and were about to attack me but then stopped in midair when they saw the body.
"Spread the word. There are Magicians with the ability to cloud minds. They may try and infiltrate the palace." Both Youkai kept looking at me dumbly, but I continued. "You." I said pointing to the one on the right. "Go to the palace and inform the Devil girls on the gate. 'Do not trust your eyes'. Say exactly that to them. They'll understand what is happening."
"Who are you?" The Tengu snarled, then retreated back when the Mirror floated in front of me and stood there, as if to shield me.
"Someone Amaterasu sent to help." I answered him and immediately began to look in the distance. There were still skirmishes happening all around, but there should be someone in charge of this attack. There should be a powerful scent somewhere. The Dragon wasn't the only attacker. He was probably the muscle. There should be-
I felt a power flare in the direction of the palace, midway from my position to there. I began to run in as straight a line as the rooftops alowed me. Whoever it was, it was a Devil. Worse, a Pureblood too. Why were Devils attacking the Youkai? No. It wasn't an attack by Devils. There was a Dragon and a human Magician in the midst, so it was probably the Khaos Brigade, or at least someone from the Old Satan Faction with a Pact with a Magician. Would CaoCao use this attack to try and attack as well? Had he somehow got wind that I would be here and decided to come at a time where I wouldn't be prepared?
It took me maybe three minutes to reach the position where the power had flared earlier, but I couldn't find anyone who matched. There were only Youkai injured along the street, some of them seemed to be smashed by a giant hand, others had their appendages ripped off. Most were already dead or dying. I was still looking at the destruction when I heard a high pitched laugh from up ahead.
Immediately I took off again. Jumping down to the street level, running in its direction as soon as my feet touched the ground. I could hear another laugh that could only be described as a derisive way a noblewoman who had poor upbringing would laugh at someone on a lower social standing. I turned a corner and that's when I saw a... I don't know how to describe well. It's main body was of a woman with brown hair tied in a bun, using glasses and had a pair of Devil wings on her back. Her outfit seemed more fit for a stripper than for someone walking outside, though. What unsettled me was the fact that both her arms couldn't be described as such. They were moving as if they didn't have bones in them, extending themselves several feet away from her body, and the fingers on the hands too seemed to extend further still.
"Pitiful. You were supposed to treat the humans as the cattle they are, but you are too happy in indulge in their own measly passtimes." Her voice was screechy, like what I imagine a banshee would sound like. "Let me put you out of your misery." Then I saw one of her 'fingers' wiggle its way in the direction of a terrified Yuki-Onna that was trying to retreat on the corner.
I shot forward, Kanshou and Bakuya flaring to life in my hands. The finger-tentacle-thing had already encircled itself around the terrified Youkai's neck, beginning to constrict, when I got close enough to slice it off. There was an agonizing scream from the side, where the Devil was. It looked at me with narrowed eyes. "What? Who are yo-"
Whatever she was going to say was cut off by another scream when I sliced another of the finger-tentacles that were sneaking around behind me. "Trace. Overedge." I called and began to dance around the vicinity, slicing finger and appendages as soon as I saw them.
"Graaahh..." The Devil screamed. "I know who you are. You are Sirzechs' new pet." She sneered. "Good. You'll die tonight along with-" Again I cut her off when I threw both married swords at her, tracing another pair in my hands. "You lowly cattle!" She snarled at me and jumped away. To my surprise, all the appendages that I had cut began to regenerate. I narrowed my eyes and tried again to feel her scent. It was faint but it was there. Ophis' Snakes. This Devil too had them. Great.
I threw both Kanshou and Bakuya to the sides. Thankfully we were in a open space. "Spirit and technique, flawless and firm." I began chanting and dodged another tentacle-thing. Tracing another pair of the married swords. "Our strength rips the mountains." I rushed in and slashed with both falchions on my hands, while It was preocuppied with deflecting the first pair. I slashed again sideways and the first pair closed on the main body of the Devil from behind, slashing as they passed through its sides. "Our swords split the water." I threw the second set, jumping back and tracing a third pair of Kanshou and Bakuya, and began to pour mana on them. They went from their Overedge form to their Broken form, resembling a pair of light wings. "Our names reach the imperial villa."
I began to race at the Devil, putting both married swords behind me, mimicking wings. "You're just a lowly magician." She sneered at me. "Not even a good one." Her hands retreated to a more normal form and began to gather demonic energy on her hands. "Take this."
Several things happened all at one time. The demonic energy the Devil used against me was reflected by the Yata-no-Kagami who intercepted the attack and sent it right back at the same time I chanted. "The two of us cannot hold heavens together". And jumped, pulling both married swords above my head for a overhead strike. The Devil tried to move but it had been rooted in place by a layer of ice that had formed on the ground, trapping its legs in place. "—Two great men, sharing a life." I finished the chant at the same time as the other four swords I had thrown earlier converged on the Devil and I struck her main body with the swords in my hands.
The effect was momentous to say the least. The demonic energy she had sent my way exploded on her body at the same time the mana gathered on both married sword exploded and the other two pairs too embebbed themselves on her two lungs and both sides of her ribcage. I was thrown back by the sheer power of the explosion and fell in a three point landing, with my left hand and both feet skidding backwards as I traced another Kanshou on my right hand. I eyed the explosion of prana and the raw scream from the Devil, then looked to the side when the brightness was too much.
Once I did that I realized that there were three Yuki-Onna hiden in the corner with their hands on the ground, looking in the direction of the Devil. They must have been the ones who froze the Devil's legs. I waited the sound of the explosion diminish, before addressing them. "Go to the Palace. It's safe there." The seemingly older of the three Youkai looked at me for a moment, before nodding and started to run in that direction while I turned my head to the remains of the Devil. If it was Ophis power I felt earlier on her, I doubt that was enough to kill her.
And I hate to be right in these cases. She was bleeding freely from several slashes all around her body, but still maintained it upright with both mangled arms extended over their normal lenght, as if they were canes. "You-*cough* You dare." Another cough, this time with blood. "I'm the descendant of the Leviathan. I'm the true-"
Whatever she was going to say, I didn't want to hear, so I tuned her out. I don't care what she was, but I doubt I'll be able to kill it without destroying the body completely. Thankfully, I had just received the tool for it. "God who resides in Izumo." I began to chant again. "Aesthetically certain, Breath of the soul." The Devil began to regenerate. "Residing in the mountains and watery heavens, Amaterasu." The Mirror stopped in front of me, but the ofuda talismans didn't appear in my hand this time, instead they formed a circle around me. "Let this freely become the proof of purification." The Mirror began to float up slowly, together with the ofuda. "Thy name is Weighted Stone of Tamamo." The circle of talismans created a pillar of light with the mirror at its center, all around the mirror eight balls of pure prana gathered, when I raised my arm. "Become the blessed force, Scourge of Amaterasu!" I waved my arm down, and the balls of prana shot in sequence in the direction of the Devil.
Each ball created a explosion, until the the mirror itself shot in the direction of the Devil gathering the leftover mana from the earlier explosions and destroying everything in that area. Ten seconds after the explosions ended, the Mirror reappeared floating around me. The last and most powerful ability of this Noble Phantasm, the Scourge of Amaterasu. This ability alone is why this Mirror is considered an Anti-World Noble Phantasm. With time to gather enough Prana, it can destroy a whole continent with black flames that are impossible to be extinguished by normal means. The flames will burn for seven days and seven nights. Worse still, it can be stacked with the fifth hability, Blessing of Amaterasu, which negates the need to gather mana for anything the wielder desires, meaning it can destroy the whole world, being limited only by the time it takes to travel from place to place. This thing is too powerful to simply give away.
Case in point, the Devil vanished from the center of the attack, including the area around it and the crater that it formed in the middle of the street, with black flames at the bottom of it. Some houses were damaged as well, and I can only hope that there were no one inside them. It seemed that the whole of Inner Kyoto came to stop at that point. I couldn't hear anything from anywhere in any direction. No sounds of fighting anywhere, no signs of people fleeing. Nothing.
I almost thought that I had punctured my eardrums again, but that wasn't the case. I could still hear my own steps and the rustle of the wind. I took a deep breath, willing the Mirror to come back to my hand. What was Amaterasu thinking when she gave so many blessings to this thing? Tamamo-no-Mae herself had used it when the last three habilities on it were sealed, and even then she was known for destroying half of the Imperial Capital in a night using it. And the Goddess just handed me this thing completely without those restrictions.
I felt a presence land beside me, and turned. It was the Tengu that was guarding Tamamo-hime a few minutes ago, or hours ago, I don't even know anymore. I spent so much time scrutinizing the Mirror that I could already see the first rays of sunlight appearing on the horizon. "Emiya-dono. Your presence is required in the Palace." I didn't even acknowledged the man, or when two other Tengus caught me by the arms and started flying. I noticed that there were still spots of fire all around the city, people rushing from place to place, a few Kappa trying to put the fires out, other flying Youkai carrying others from the areas where the fight had been more intense, but what struck me the most was the number of bodies strewn about the streets.
Inside five minutes I was being deposited inside the same room I was before, as if nothing had happened. Tamamo-hime wasn't in the room, but the girls from the dorm were. "Shirou-sama." Sophie and Sylvi were the firsts to realize that I was there.
The Tengu was about to leave again when I caught him by the arm. "How are the losses?"
"The Castle and Yasaka-sama are safe. Your family kept the gates protected during the evacuation-" The birdman started to recite and I interrupted him.
"How are the losses inside the city? How many innocents died?" I asked again, looking at him with narrowed eyes.
He was taken aback by the ferociousness on my voice. The girls that were coming closer too narrowed their eyes at the Youkai. "Inner Kyoto is big, and there are still fires running rampant-"
"How many?" I repeated again.
"...we expect the losses to be in the hundreds, maybe a thousand." He finally relented.
I let go of his arm and walked to the nearest pillar. Then punched it hard, without Reinforcing my hands. Even then it shook. The Bestial Sky, the second gift of the Mirror was still active. Actually, I don't even know yet if I can deactivate it. But that was just an afterthought that came to me in a instant and was gone again. The bulk of my mind wasn't on that. It was on the loss of life. I don't care if they are all supposed to be monsters, as long as they didn't do anything against others, they are innocent.
And the innocent are always the ones that suffer during these things. Why its always the people who had nothing to do with the machinations of beings more powerful than them that have to suffer? Why was always them the first to die? This attack didn't take too long, an hour maybe two. Three at most, and even then a thousand will have died because of it. A thousand lives lost without knowing why.
I sighed, sagging my shoulders and lowering my head against the pillar. "I'm going home." I announced and the man was still eyeing me with a mix of awe, curiosity and fear. "Tell Yasaka-hime that if she or Amaterasu-sama want to talk to me again, they know where I live." I was tired and sore, and considering the fact that I haven't been awake for even twelve hours yet, after sleeping for three days, that was quite the accomplishment.
"B-But-" The Tengu tried to rally himself, but I cut him off.
"I'm going home." I glared at him. "Either send me home now, or you will discover what this can do." I showed him the Mirror and he gulped.
"There's no need for you to be so hasty, Shirou-dono." A feminine voice came from behind the throne, seconds before the Kitsune appeared. "We still need to thank you properly for-"
"Yasaka-hime." I cut her off without even care about the possibility of retaliation. "I'm going home. If you want to thank me properly, then send me home. That's all the thanks I need at the moment."
"Yasaka-hime." I repeated, my voice tired as I slumped. "This day just keeps getting worse and worse. I just want it to be over." I felt two of the girls pulling me into one armed hugs and another two putting their hands on my shoulders. I don't even know who was doing what.
"Very well." The woman nodded finally. "I'll have to summon you again-"
"No." I cut her yet again. "I've come this time just because I was in error." My face came up to look at the Leader of the Kyoto Youkai Faction. "Next time, if either you or Amaterasu-sama, or any other Kami wants to talk to me, you all know where I live. Now, can you send me home, or will I have to find my way out?"
"Finding my way out it is, then." I turned to the girls. "Let's go."
"Wait. You win. Please, just wait for us to locate Senri-dono so she can accompany you back." The woman said in the end.
"She's inside the room behind the throne." I told her and her eyes widened. "The same one you just came from." She blushed crimson with my statement. It didn't even had any accusation in it, just stating the fact. "Now, either call her out, or I'm going to find my way out of here, Tamamo-hime." I adressed her the same way I was doing at the beginning, in order for her understand that I was serious. "I'm tired of games."
"O-Of course." Before she could even turn, Marlianna-san came from the room, accompanied by her daughters.
"I told you that hiding from him is impossible, Yasaka-sama." The Nekomata had a small smile on her lips, then turned to me. "I'm sorry to have put you through that, Emiya-dono. We didn't expect this to happen at all." She turned again to the Kitsune. "If you excuse us, Yasaka-sama." The Nekomata began to chant and a massive circle appeared on our feet.
A moment later we were back on my yard and it was almost dawn. I turned to the girls who were carrying backpacks. "Sorry if you thought that we would be spending the night away, but I simply needed to get home. Next time we go somewhere, I promise it'll be overnight, alright?" They didn't protest as much as I thought they would, that is to say, they didn't protest at all. "Marlianna-san, Nirlianna, Lirnianna. I would bid you three good night, but it seems wrong to do in the morning, so have a good day, alright?"
"No problem, Shi-chan~ Nyaa~~" Apparently the regal Marlianna had expired. "I just hope that proposal for an overnight trip includes us as well, nya?"
I had to chuckle at the older Nekomata. "Sure. Why not?"
"Woohoo~~" The three said at the same time and my eyes widened when they barreled me into the wall of the workshop, rubbing their cheeks on my face, bicep and chest. "Nyaa~ Nyaaaa~~"
I looked at the three of them puzzled, before I felt them being picked off of me, as if they were really cats themselves. Marlianna-san by a red eyed Valkyrie no less, while both Nirlianna and Lirnianna were picked by Xuelan and Marion. Rossweisse was clearly hoping for some sleep. I really hope she hadn't spent the night awake preparing for that ritual while we were away.
The three of them were deposited on the ground and the older Youkai turned to me. "Bye, Shi-chan~" And the three disappeared.
I sighed and turned to the girls. "I want reports of your accounts of the events this night by tomorrow... well, I guess it's today... Anyway, I want reports by evening. Any questions?" When none of the girls said anything, I smiled at them. "Don't think I didn't hear that you performed the duties I asked of you in a optimal manner." I began to walk in between them, patting them on their heads. "Congratulations. Everyone deserves a well earned rest."
They began to fill into the house and from there to the dorm, until it was just me and Rossweisse on the yard and she looked at me curiously. "Lord- Shirou. What is that?" She said pointing to the Mirror on my hand. "It feels like..."
"A divine artifact?" I asked and she nodded. "That's because it is." I shook my head, walking in the direction of the house. "I swear. Every single one of them..." Will I not meet a God, or a Maou, or a Kami, or a Divinity that doesn't have its quirks? I'm starting to doubt my sanity here. "Anyway, how were things on the home front?"
"The ritual is prepared but..." The Valkyrie then looked me over and decided to change the subject. "Also, both Miss Akeno and Miss Asia were called away during the course of the night. Miss Akeno said that they would be gone at least until tomorrow... today, actually, morning."
I hitched my step a little but then continued inside the house. Right, Akeno and Asia would need to go back to the Underworld, but I didn't expect them to be called in the middle of the night. It did made me feel a little disapointed.
Today was supposed to be a school day, but... Wait, no. We're in middle of summer vacation... I think. I honestly have no idea which day of the week it is anymore. I sat on my couch and leaned my head back on it, closing my eyes.
I needed to think.
Maybe it wasn't the best idea to have left Inner Kyoto without getting answers about the attack, but I just couldn't continue there. It was just another battlefield. Another war that I got in the middle of. Not even here I can be free from them, it seemed. Thinking like that wasn't good, I knew it was the path Archer had walked and I didn't want to go down the same road.
Well, I guess with all that happened I already deviated from him.
Amaterasu gave me the mirror for some reason that I couldn't discern just yet. She simply said that I had obtained the right to use the first Regalia, but didn't actually explain if that meant I had a bid to use the other two or they simply were waiting for their respective owners to finish their trials. Which is making me completely unnerved by what in the hell that would mean. I am having half a mind to simply ignore these politicking between factions and pantheons and just hope it blows over, and not on my face, but thinking about it, that was what I did with the rumors and look at what happened.
And I'm going in circles. I sighed, passing a hand over my face. How did that saying go again? Fix what you can fix first, then try to fix what you can't. What I can do immediately?
Finish whatever Rossweisse's ritual will do. Call those two greek gods. Read the dossier about the stolen Artificial Sacred Gears. And I still haven't received word from Tokiomi-san or Sakura-san about the DNA test too. What am I going to do about that... Maybe that's why they are taking so much time to come back to talk to me? They are redoing the tests... again...
I think the best thing I can do at the moment is try and understand this mirror better, but also... try to catch some sleep. Even if I spent days asleep, this night was draining.
Deciding that as a course of action, I opened my eyes and saw that the Valkyrie was still standing in front of me. I sighed. "Rossweisse, about that ritual..."
"Is already prepared, Lo-... Shirou." The woman stuttered again. "All you have to do is accompany me." Her face tinged pink, but didn't actually change expressions. Odd.
"I see." I let out another sigh. I have been doing that a lot lately. "Will it take too much time?"
"I..." She looked away. "I don't think so."
I raised an eyebrow. "Alright." I got up again. "Let's get this over with." We moved to the workshop, and I did a double take when I looked over the place. "By Zelretch's fake beard. What the hell is this?"
"The ritual was prepared precisely by the specifications instructed to me by Lord Odin." The woman said and I continued to watch gobsmacked at the scene in front of me.
"Rossweisse..." I slapped my face, hard. "Tell me exactly what this... ritual... entails. Don't leave out any of the details."
She looked down and her face apparently invented a new shade of red. "Well, first we have to remove our clothes, then procceed with the exchange of vows that you're going to read before we continue with..." Her blush deepened before she said. "intercourse... then after I receive a sample of your... seed... I chant the ritual to place the mark on you..."
I looked over at what was supposed to be my workshop. At the moment it was more correct to call it a love hotel's room or maybe a nuptial suite. Seriously. The only thing missing on the place is the mirror on the ceiling. There was a queen sized bed with red sheets, candles lit all around, rose petals on the ground and the clear smell of incense. I turned back to the woman. "Tell me. How many times have you performed this... 'ritual'?"
She looked somewhat offended. "Never!" Then realized what she said. "This is a great honor that few others have received in history!"
I looked over the place once again, before once more at her. "So... Who was the last person who received this... honor?"
She looked down. "I don't actually know. According to Lord Odin, this ritual is used very rarely."
I sighed. "Okay... Does it always have to be... performed this way?"
"Well... I don't know." She finally said. "But Odin said that it has to be..."
I put my hand up to stall her while the other pinched the bridge of my nose. I took a deep breath and looked her in the eye. "And are you alright with it?" She looked embarrassed and didn't answer. "Does it need to have some kind of mana exchange?"
She continued embarassed but shook her head. "No. There's no need to."
"Then why...?" My hand made its way to my face again and I sighed. "Look, do you mind if I cut out the rest of the ritual and go directly to the part where you place the mark?"
"But I need some of your..." Her voice grew small when she squeaked out. "semen." Before it returned to the normal pitch. "In order for it to work."
"Why semen?" I asked.
"Because of your mystical signature it has to come from-" I cut her off.
"Can't it be with blood instead?" I asked.
"I don't... think so?" Then she frowned. "I don't... actually know..."
"Do you think that maybe Odin tried to make you do something embarrassing just for shits and giggles?" I couldn't actually say that I thought that damn old coot was pimping the woman out.
"How could you...!" She began to shout indignant, but then stopped a moment and began to think over what I said. "Lord Odin would never..." Then frowned herself. "do something like this..." Then her face flushed something fierce, before her eyes began to water and she began to cry. "Waaahhh... Why!? WHY?!"
I took a step back. Clearly I wasn't wrong in assuming that this girl was naive beyond belief.
"Why, Lord Odin! I did everything you asked of me! Why do you do these things with me!?" She began to wail and I felt bad about the whole situation.
"Look." I tried to calm the valkyrie down. "Let's forget about this whole thing, alright?" She looked at me with a somewhat hopeful expression on her face. "It's not like I need protection in the first place. I mean, I did defeated one of your Gods, right?" I tried to soothe her. "And it's not like I'll even be-" I almost blurted out something that I shouldn't. "Anyway, there's no need alright?"
She looked down for a moment before she looked at me again, her face morphing slowly from the crying one into a more neutral one. "Very well." She tried to say with a hard voice, but it still cracked a little. "I'll inform Odin that you didn't want the ritual."
"Can we stop calling this a ritual?" I asked. "I mean, its clear that you were pranked, and a mean prank at that."
She blushed once more. "Yes." Then she shook her head. "But we still can do the marking if you are interested." She rallied herself, before realizing what she said and added. "With blood! I think it works too... I mean, it should..."
"Alright." I sighed, then an idea hit me. "Look, why don't you turn the joke on him?" I asked her.
"What? How?" She tilted her head to the side.
"He'll probably ask how was the ritual performed and ask for details. You tell him the most sordid tale you can. Get a book at a store and retell it, add your own details, that kind of thing. I'm sure he'll either be on the floor gobsmacked by the time you finish it, laughing his ass off or coming for my head at end of it. But it all comes down in the delivery. Ask Akeno for pointers when she comes back. She's a master of bullshitting people with a straight face."
She began to think about it but I could see that she was conflicted about something. "But to lie to Lord Odin..." Then she looked at the bed and the rest of the workshop and her face began to change from the crestfallen one, then she looked at me smiling at her and little by little her eyes began to lit up with excitement. "I'll do that!"
In the end we finish the damn 'ritual' which consisted of a single rune being placed on the back of my hand using my blood as a catalyst, in the same place where the Command Seals were during the Grail War, but it faded and only appeared when I sent a small trickle of Od to it.
"I see." I heard a voice from the doorway and wanted to curse myself once more. "That's what you are into, Onii-sama?" Akeno's voice betrayed nothing but the chilling aura I felt from behind me was enough for me to realize that I fell into another misunderstanding.
"Ah, Lady Akeno!" Rossweisse on the other hand didn't seem to realize the landmine we were in. I mean, we were both sitting down on the bed with petals and candles all over the workshop. Even my haystack targets were being used to prop up candlesticks. She got up and walked to the door and asked the girl directly. "Lor- I mean, Shirou said that you would be the person to ask... Lady Akeno? What's wrong?" The girl asked and it was only then that I turned to look at the Shrine Maiden.
"It's not what you think!" I yelled then my hand meet my face once more. That's got to be a new record. "Remember what I said about you and Ise!"
The girl was about to bolt out again and I could see that her eyes were lined with unshed tears but that made her change expressions to a confused one for a moment and I capitalized on the moment.
"Rossweisse was tricked into doing something stupid and she did all this" I waved around my hand to show the... desecration... that she did to my workshop. "while I was away."
"Yes." The silver haired concurred. "And L- Shirou said that you could help me get revenge."
The silverhaired Valkyrie began to explain what her revenge entailed to the Shrine Maiden and as the discussion began to get more heated, I saw the glint of impishness beginning to crept on Akeno's face. That was something that made me scared for Odin.
I shivered as the brunette guided the other woman in the direction of the house and I turned back to the inside of the workshop, wincing. This will take a lot of time to clean up. I sighed, getting a broom in the corner.
Properties of the Yata-no-Kagami
1 - Aphotic Cave
Target: Anti-Unit (Self) (Always Active)¹
Power: Auto-Defense (Think Gaara's Sand Shield in Naruto)
2 - Bestial Sky
Target: Anti-Unit (Self) (Always Active)¹
Power: Augments Physical Capabilities (Same as a normal Reinforcement but active all the time)
3 - Merciful Sky
Target: Anti-Unit (Self) (Always Active)¹
Power: Augments Magical Capabilities (Same as Bestial Sky but for mystic properties)
4 - Breath of the Soul
Target: Anti-Unit (Self) (Always Active)¹
Power: Restores Od faster (A few minutes of rest is the same as a full night's sleep)
5 - Land of Eternal Bane
Power: Inflicts wounds on the enemy on the same magnitude as the user received. Only works if the wounds are life-threatening.
6 - Return of the Soul
Target: Anti-Unit (Ally)
Power: Revives an ally as long as it hasn't been more than a minute since death. Can only be used once every thirty days.
7 - Blessing of Amaterasu (Mirror of Uka)
Target: Anti-Unit (Self)
Power: Cuts the cost of Od to zero for any skill the user uses during the time is active. Can be used once every six hours.
8 - Scourge of Amaterasu
Target: Anti-World (Can be scaled down to be Anti-Team)
Power: When used at full power, it can tear the fabric of reality making whatever was hit with it cease to exist, destroying even the Soul of living beings. When scaled down, it creates a explosion of black flame that burns for seven days and seven nights. Can be used thrice a day scaled down. Once a week at full power.
¹ - Powers designated as 'Always Active' means that they are active the moment the Mirror is called from the Hammerspace that he's in normally.
Six of the names were pulled from Fate/Extra, and their powers based loosely on them. The other two, 'Return of the Soul' and 'Scourge of Amaterasu' are originals.