"Kiritsugu… Have I become a Hero?"
Emiya Shirou woke up confused.
Was that it?
Was that truly the end of the Holy Grail War? Had he… won?
His memories of the last week were kind of a blur, so he decided to sit back and think it all through for a minute to get things straight.
It had started with his attempt to take three beautiful women out on three separate dates, all on the same day and at the same time.
In hindsight, not his smartest move ever, but he almost had gotten away with it – no, uh, that made it sound like he had done something wrong. He hadn't almost gotten away with it, he had almost made everyone happy. Yeah, that sounded better.
It hadn't worked, however, and considering that one of his three sort-of-girlfriends was King Arthur, it had ended up with him taking a full powered blast from Excalibur to the face. Oops. Well, she forgave him in the end, as had they all, and, you know. Live and learn, right? Next time, he would make them happy for sure!
Then there was the first battle for the Grail, a grand prix featuring seven Servants and one golden jerk. He had actually won that battle, by projecting a legendary holy sword for the mundane purpose of extending his reach and crossing the finish line faster – he could have ended it right there, and realized his wish of becoming a hero, but his damn vehicle had eaten all his money!
No, he went with the more immediate priority, and instead used the omnipotent wish-granting device that was his prize to refill his pocket change. Good call, Shirou, he mentally congratulated himself with a nod.
Apparently, that wish wasn't enough to fully satisfy the Grail. The battles had continued. The second round, he hadn't even had a chance – he and Saber were eliminated by some sort of Berserker-Lancer team up (though Lancer definitely seemed to be getting the worse end of that deal) as they were leaving a restaurant. Unfair, he thought.
Luckily for him though, Illya also used the wish she won for something completely reasonable and practical – a battery for her video game controller. The Grail, for some reason, still demanded a greater wish.
Which had led to the final round.
What had begun as a friendly game show quickly became an all-out brawl. Eight Heroic Spirits and the powerful magi that had summoned them did battle, and somehow, at the end of it, he was the last one standing. Implausible, perhaps, but he had to fulfill his dream and become a hero to make people happy! He wasn't going to let anyone stand in the way of that goal, not even monsters like Heracles and Gilgamesh! On the bright side, the King of Heroes seemed to use his Gate of Babylon as the answer to pretty much everything he dealt with, and when Archer had started summoning weapons as well, in a suspiciously similar way to how Shirou himself did, his reality marble (which he had recently discovered he apparently possessed, thanks to hanging around with Archer so much) had been filled with all sorts of fun new toys.
So, exhausted and badly beaten after fighting his way through a gaggle of legendary heroes, he casually once more projected Caliburn, an incredibly powerful Noble Phantasm, completely ignored the protests of two of his (badly injured) girlfriends and his little sister, and used it to destroy the Holy Grail!
That would serve it right for making everybody fight over it, and definitely wouldn't invalidate the sacrifices of everybody who had striven for it so earnestly! Everybody including, to clarify once more, his girlfriend and partner Saber, and his girlfriend and classmate Rin, and his adorable little sister Illya.
Who needed wishes, anyways? Probably not them.
Right. All of that made perfect sense. But what was really confusing was what had happened next, and directly led to his current circumstances. Rather than have the good graces to explode, like most things would when hit with Caliburn, the holy cup split in two and released a strange anthropomorphic cat woman thing.
Shirou narrowed his eyes a bit as he remembered. Yeah, that was pretty weird, even for him.
He'd asked the cat thing what it was, which he thought was a fairly polite response given the circumstances. It had responded by letting out an unholy screech, and then the two halves of the Grail began to glow and immediately transformed into a giant purple rocket ship, and then a horde of hundreds more little cat women appeared out of nowhere and swept him up in a stampede before he could react, depositing him inside the rocket.
The shock, combined with his shortage of prana finally catching up to him, had caused him to pass out. His last thought before oblivion took him was whether he had finally fulfilled his old man's dream and become a hero.
Still lying on his back in said rocket, he reached up and scratched his head in thought. He tried thinking about what had happened from other angles, tried to rationalize everything. He took a look around the interior of the ship, and noted that the cat women were nowhere to be found.
Nope, everything still made no sense. Oh well, guess the world had just gone crazy.
Well, there was nothing for it, he supposed. When he'd woken up, the rocket was no longer moving, so… time to find out where he was.
He slowly pulled himself to his feet, stretched a bit, took off the ridiculous yellow helmet he had still been wearing from playing the Balloon game, and finally made his way out of the Super Flying Holy Grail Rocket.
Headmaster Ozpin, of Beacon Academy, took a sip of his hot chocolate.
He stood next to Glynda Goodwitch, his deputy headmistress, before one of the giant windows framing his office at the top of Beacon's tallest tower.
Far in the distance, but still easily visible from his tower, somewhere in the middle of the Emerald Forest, a thin plume of smoke rose into the air.
Ozpin presumed that the source of the smoke was, in fact, the garishly painted rocket that he had just seen plummet from the sky before crashing into the woods.
He took another sip.
"Well. You don't see that every day."
Glynda looked more concerned. "You don't think that… thing… was manned, do you? It looked like a pretty rough landing."
She was putting it lightly. It hadn't even slowed down as it approached the ground, and had vanished into the trees still pointed nose down. Still, there hadn't been any visible explosion, which ruled out some kind of missile attack. Perhaps it was manned after all?
Ozpin let out a hum as he considered. "Well, it couldn't hurt to go take a look. At the very least, we'll need to clean up the wreckage before the initiation test next week. Might as well take the excuse to start planting the hidden cameras for it as well."
With a nod from Glynda, the two professors began to make their way to the Bullhead docks.
Everything was green.
Huge trees towered above him, a mixture of evergreens and more deciduous looking ones. None that he immediately recognized, but he'd never really studied botany. All were the exact same color, however, regardless of species – a rich, dark green, matching the thick grass and the plentiful shrubs dotting the ground.
The surrounding area appeared to be somewhat clear from the shockwave of his crash landing, providing a limited view through the canopy of the trees, but aside from some cliffs a fair distance away, there were no real landmarks he could see.
Behind him, there was a soft sound, like the tinkle of shattering glass. It was accompanied by a blinding radiance. Shirou spun around, hand shielding his eyes.
When the glow faded, the rocket was gone. In the small crater where it had landed, instead, was a strange looking creature composed of a sludge so purple it was almost black – or perhaps so black that he perceived it as purple. It had a head crested with several strange protrusions, set atop an amorphous blob of a body with more small tendrils branching off, which occasionally belched out small puffs of purple smoke. From its almost cartoonish mouth, set in a too-wide smile, a steady flow of a lighter purple sludge continuously poured out, dribbling down the creature's front before being reabsorbed into its body. Above its head floated what appeared to be a miniaturized black hole, a void in space that seemed to devour all light, with a luminous violet event horizon.
Shirou nodded in recognition. "Oh, hey, Grail-kun. Where am I?"
The creature spoke, if it could be called speaking. Its mouth didn't move at all, but it bobbed its head up and down rapidly and somehow emanated a voice that was far too childish, high pitched, and happy sounding for such a vile-looking abomination.
"You're so hopeless, Shirou-kun. Fufufufu," it chuckled. "Isn't it obvious? Your wish has been granted, Emiya Shirou. Of course, if you're unhappy with this world, there's always… the other way. Fufufufu."
Shirou grimaced, thinking back to his last conversation with the manifestation of all the world's evil, and more specifically the knife it had given him. The one his reality marble had catalogued under the name "Hero Creation Kit," a blade that promised to make him a hero for the low price of killing one million people.
His grimace lasted only a moment, before he suddenly realized the implication in the sludge monster's statement. His eyes widened.
"My wish… you mean, here, I can become a hero?"
The creature just stared back at him with the unblinking, beady little black voids it used as eyes. If anything, its unholy smirk grew slightly wider. After a brief, awkward moment of silence, Grail-kun suddenly dissolved into a puddle that rapidly sank into the ground.
Shirou shrugged off the strangeness of the creature, his eyes shining. He'd done it! He was finally going to become a real hero!
And all it took to get here was his own forceful abduction away from everyone he knew and loved, to what was implied to be a different world entirely, with nothing but the tattered clothes on his back to his name and no guarantee that there were even people here, let alone that he would be able to communicate with them!
He then paled slightly. Perhaps his wish was a little too vague after all. Some of those worries were probably unfounded, the Grail wouldn't screw him over that badly, but – oh God.
Saber was going to kill him. Rin was going to kill him. Sakura would probably forgive him outwardly, and then leave giant phallic worms in all his food for the rest of his life. Which would be short, because Saber and Rin were going to kill him.
Unless Illya got to him first, chopped his arms and legs off so he could never leave her again, and/or transferred his soul into an inanimate teddy bear that she would never let go of again.
He let out a small, frightened whimper, and sat down heavily on the soft forest grass as he contemplated the numerous ways all the women in his life would express their displeasure with him for abandoning them, even if it was technically not entirely his fault. Maybe it was a good thing that he was trapped a world away from them; it might spare him their ire.
A few moments later, he was distracted from imagining all the different tortures a sufficiently imaginative magus like Illya could inflict upon him by a rustling in the bushes surrounding his little impromptu clearing.
For a minute, he thought it was Grail-kun coming back to talk to him again, due to the similar pitch-blackness of the thing that pushed its way into the clearing, but the differences became quickly apparent as it came into view.
The overall shape of the beast was somewhat lupine, especially the head and tail, but strangely humanoid as well, giving the impression that the beast was able to operate equally well either on all-fours or as a biped. From most of its joints, bone-white spikes protruded, and all four limbs were equipped with vicious looking claws. Perhaps its most prominent feature, however, was the bony faceplate that covered its wolf-like head, marked with blood red streaks and surrounding a pair of eyes that glowed a baleful orangish-red.
It sniffed heavily at the air as it entered the clearing, its maw falling open into a doggy grin as it apparently found what it had been scenting for.
Shirou, who'd always had a strong nose for magecraft, smelled the creature in turn. It smelled – of mold and rot, of the acrid scent left over after an explosion, of spilled blood – of death, or destruction.
The appearance of the monster, for it could only be called a monster, instantly snapped Shirou out of his funk. Of course, this must be why he was sent here!
He knew the Grail wouldn't let him down! If the alternative was killing a million people, he would gladly become a hero by killing monsters instead! His eyes once more shone with idealism.
Interestingly enough, as if in response to his shifting mood, the monster halted in its slow stalk towards him. It sniffed at the air again as if confused.
The beast's hesitation meant nothing to Shirou.
"Trace, On!" he uttered, cycling od through his magic circuits to convert it into prana and then flooding that prana throughout his body to perform the mystery "Reinforcement," – or whatever complicated words Rin liked to use when she was trying to impress him by acting smart.
Basically, he turned on his superpowers.
His strength, durability, and speed were all augmented by the spell, one of the only spells he'd ever been very good at. His right arm lit up with a neon green glow, his circuits shining through his skin and the remains of his clothing, as he performed his second spell, the one that truly distinguished him as a magus – something that only he was capable of, thanks to the unique nature of his soul: Tracing.
In his hands, coalescing from a shower of blue sparks and pure white light, appeared Caliburn. One of his favorite swords, once pulled from a mighty stone by King Arthur herself. The Sword of Selection, the Golden Sword of the Victorious, meant to be wielded only by the rightful king of England. For some reason, perhaps his close bond with Saber, it resonated with his soul like few other swords did.
It was basically his go-to projection at this point. Overkill in most cases, yeah, and perhaps a little disrespectful to the sword itself to be used for such mundane purposes as, say, extending his reach a little bit, but to be fair that was a pretty important race that he really needed to win.
And if anyone asked, no, he had never projected it just to be able to reach over and flick off a light switch from the comfort of his bed.
But anyways, needless to say, it should be more than enough to deal with the monster in front of him.
It snarled at him, shying away slightly from the soft holy light given off by the sword, but chose to charge forward in an attempt to cut the light off at the source.
Shirou thought back to his training with Saber, which in hindsight had never included lessons on how to deal with angry giant wolf monsters, but that fact didn't really bother him. After all, if the charge it was currently performing was indicative of its top speed, it didn't hold a candle to the King of Knights.
When added to the years of accumulated history and skill that the sword had been through, skill that Shirou was able to tap into and utilize for himself… Shirou when using Caliburn could fight like an admittedly very pale, fake imitation of Saber herself. But when the original was as amazing as Saber was, an imitation with even a small fraction of that majesty was still a force to be reckoned with in its own right.
The monster didn't stand a chance.
It lunged forward, claws outstretched. Shirou easily slipped down and to the side in a smooth dodge, bringing the sword up into a draw cut against the monster's hide just under its outstretched forelimb as he did so.
He wasn't sure how effective he expected the attack to be against the monster, but he wasn't really surprised when the beautiful sword sliced into the creature like a hot knife through… not even butter. Perhaps a better analogy would be like a knife, hot or otherwise, through smoke.
The creature was nearly bisected, only the fact that Shirou had held off on fully committing to a swing saving it from that fate, but still. Sliced three quarters of the way in half, the monster fell dead to the ground at the end of its lunge.
Shirou noted idly that its insides were a uniform, vibrant red, with no discernable bones or other vital features visible, before its corpse started to give off a black smoke – also not so dissimilar from that produced by Grail-kun – as its body slowly began to dissolve.
He looked down on the corpse in triumph. One monster down. One step closer to being a hero.
Another rustling from the bushes caught his attention, however. Again, he wasn't really surprised. Wolves did tend to hunt in packs, after all.
The creatures appeared in a steady trickle over the next minute or so. The total number that had chosen to investigate his small clearing numbered perhaps twenty, in the end, but none of them showed restraint enough to wait for all of their pack-mates to finish arriving before they chose to attack.
It was honestly trivial. Every few seconds, one or two more monsters would charge at him, each one easily dispatched by a single dodge and swing. His greatest difficulty was in maneuvering around the clearing such that he didn't become bogged down in the slowly growing amount of dissolving corpses.
It helped that he was using a Noble Phantasm to cut them down, of course, but he couldn't help but feel at his current level of training and conditioning, combined with his reinforcement, he could have held his own with even a mundane blade if he reinforced that as well. If he'd withheld from the reinforcement of his own body, however, he would have certainly been in trouble. Was that why he was here? Was the local populace incapable of fighting back against these monsters?
You couldn't be a hero without someone to save, after all, someone to make happy, so there must have been people here somewhere, if the grail had truly granted his wish.
The lack of snarling was what tipped him off to the fact that there were no monsters remaining, and none of his senses picked up any clues that more were approaching. He smiled earnestly. Every one of his instincts told him that putting down these creatures was a good thing.
It was then that his ears picked up the sound of turbines rapidly approaching. Well, the things he'd just fought certainly didn't have the opposable thumbs he figured it would take to build and operate aircraft, so he assumed that whatever approached would be some of the people of this world that he was here to save.
He dismissed his projection of Caliburn, not wanting to appear threatening or dangerous to whoever he might meet – and then waited, in the middle of the clearing filled with the bodies of the giant wolf monsters he'd just disemboweled, for them to arrive.
It didn't take long.
The aircraft, like the trees, and the monsters – alright, everything he'd seen here so far except for Grail-kun – was unfamiliar to him. Like a mix between a helicopter and a plane, with a bulbous forward cabin and a thin rear tail, but propelled by huge jet engines that, as he watched, rotated to point down vertically, supporting the vehicle in a hover above his own landing site.
A door on the side of the aircraft swung open, and two people jumped out, landing nimbly on the ground without even a hint of a stumble. And they were people, easily recognizable as such. Humans.
Shirou raised his eyebrows slightly at their landing. The aircraft was still hovering around ten meters in the air, just above the canopy. The fall would have been possible for someone like him, someone using magecraft to reinforce their body, but a normal human would have shattered most of their bones on impact. Well, there went his theory about the locals being incapable.
He stood casually as they approached him, still slightly worried about the language barrier, and observed the pair.
The one that initially drew his attention was a woman, no older than his caretaker, Taiga, and with the same youthful good looks that made guessing an exact age impossible. She had light blonde hair, green eyes, and a stern expression on her face, the combination sending a thrill of panic through him as he once more thought of Saber and how mad she must be at him.
On the other hand, she had on a pair of thin glasses, wore a white top and a black pencil skirt with black stockings, was noticeably… curvier than Saber was, and carried a riding crop in one hand. The ensemble was completed with a black and purple cape. Another involuntary shudder went through him as he realized the similarities to Rider, who would no doubt act as a very capable agent in making Sakura's own displeasure with him known. A quick analysis of her weapon told him it was collapsible, somehow without compromising structural integrity.
To his nose, even from a distance, she smelled faintly… spicy. There was something about her, or something she carried on her, that somehow smelled distinctly like cinnamon, mint, salt, and many others that he couldn't quickly distinguish. Underlying it all was a hint of ozone. It was actually quite interesting – he normally didn't pick up such a variety of scents around someone unless they carried around a large variety of different mystic codes, like when Rin chose to walk around with a full arsenal of prana-infused jewels.
Walking ahead of the woman, ever so slightly, was a middle-aged man with silvery-grey hair and a pair of dark spectacles resting low on his face. He had sharp features, and wore an ensemble of all dark green, including pants, coat, vest, shirt, and a scarf. He smelled – well, he smelled like chocolate, but that was a more mundane type of smell, and beneath that his prana smelled deep, like a deep well or an ancient ruin, but without any of the dankness, moisture, or dustiness one might expect from such a place. He carried a cane, which was actually more interesting to Shirou than the man himself was.
The cane was old. Perhaps not compared to some of the Noble Phantasms he'd recorded in his vast spiritual collection, but it was centuries old, and had been passed down in a line unbroken for its entire history, each man to have wielded it bearing a suspiciously similar name and using a nearly identical style – a style that incorporated heavy, diverse use of magecraft – until falling into the hands of its current wielder. Ozpin. It was an incredibly potent mystic code, and even beyond that, he could see that it had been crafted from the pieces of another, far older weapon – a staff with a lineage much like the cane's own. While he couldn't quite grasp the full history of the weapon the cane no longer was, it certainly was much older than the cane itself by millennia.
"Well, I can't say this is quite what I expected to find. Impressive showing, young man," said the man in green, Ozpin, as he surveyed the still rapidly decomposing corpses. "Combat ability aside, however, you wouldn't happen to have seen any purple rockets lying around, have you?"
Shirou noted that the man wasn't speaking Japanese, but that he could understand the language just fine, and felt he could speak it equally well. Huh, this must be what Saber felt like when she had been summoned to Japan – she had mentioned in the past that the Grail typically accommodated for such needs. He supposed it had done the same for him. It was a weird sensation, one that took place almost entirely in his subconscious.
He thought for a moment before responding. To what degree of honesty should he answer? If this was his own world, and the magi in front of him were anything like the clock tower Rin sometimes spoke of, they wouldn't take kindly to a traveler from another dimension. That wasn't to say they wouldn't be pleased, just that they would be really enthusiastic about dissecting him. Literally.
He wasn't picking up any of that type of casual ruthlessness from either of them, though. They seemed curious, certainly, but not in the way of a mad scientist. If anything, they looked a little concerned for him. He must have looked a mess, after all.
He decided to tell the truth. "Ah, yeah. That's actually how I ended up here."
Ozpin took a moment to blatantly look around the clearing, giving an especially sharp glance towards the impact crater, before returning his gaze to Shirou and raising an eyebrow questioningly.
"Ah, well… it, uh, was completely disintegrated on impact?" Hmm. Perhaps not the whole truth after all. He somehow had a feeling that telling the man "Oh, it turned into an evil mud monster and then left" probably wouldn't make for a good first impression. Unfortunately, he also couldn't think of a very good lie.
The man seemed to accept the answer, miraculously. "Hmm, I see. Well then, might I ask your name? And perhaps a little more detail as to the circumstances that led you to our forest?"
Shirou gave a small, polite bow. "Of course. My name is Emiya Shirou. I'm sorry for any inconvenience I might have caused you. As for how I arrived here… well, it was an accident, I suppose? Or at least, it wasn't necessarily intended."
Ozpin waved a hand dismissively. "No inconvenience at all, Mr. Shirou. Any Grimm-slaying near Vale is, in fact, appreciated. To dispatch such a sizable pack of Beowolves, especially, is impressive for a man of your age, though they look to have done a number on you as well." He gestured to Shirou's badly torn and soot-stained clothing. "Do you require medical attention?"
Shirou looked down at his own appearance and took in just how disheveled he really was. "Oh, no. Actually, all of this was from before I landed here. And Emiya is actually my surname."
The woman's face, which seemed to have a resting state of "disciplinarian," shifted slightly towards more concern. "Mr. Emiya, then. My name is Glynda Goodwitch, and this is Headmaster Ozpin of Beacon Academy. Might I ask what could have caused such damage, then? And inquire as to where exactly you're from? If your home is in danger, we might be able to dispatch Huntsmen to assist."
Shirou shook his head. He considered the state of his hometown at the time of his departure – after being subjected to an all-out offensive between eight of Humanity's most powerful heroes, it was pretty much completely destroyed. "I… don't think that will be necessary. Fuyuki… there isn't much of it left."
Her expression grew even softer. "I'm sorry for your loss, Mr. Emiya. It's always a sad day when a village falls to the Grimm. Fuyuki… that sounds Mistralian, am I right? You certainly are a long way from home."
Ozpin nodded. "It's a miracle your rocket managed to get here in one piece, especially if it was so fragile. And another miracle that you managed to survive the landing." His tone was probing, inviting Shirou to offer more details without outright asking for them.
"A miracle… Yeah, that's one way to put it." How else would you describe the wishes granted by the Grail? "It was kind of thrown together at the last second…" Literally. The rocket had existed for all of a few seconds before he'd been swept into it.
He could practically see his excuse coming together. They certainly were feeding him enough hooks to craft a story around. "I had just been fighting… nearly everyone was already defeated, including my partner. Fuyuki was completely destroyed… the last thing I remember, someone had shoved me into the rocket, and I was shooting off into the sky. And then I woke up here."
Glynda looked positively heartbroken at this point. Ozpin hid it better, but he was clearly feeling something along the same lines. If he looked deep enough, Shirou thought he could see a little anger there as well, like the man had a personal grudge to settle.
"And besides," Shirou added, his amber eyes glinting with determination and zeal, "I'm the kind of guy who wouldn't die even if I was killed."
Ozpin blinked at that statement, before continuing. "Yes, apparently so. I've not heard of Fuyuki, but you must certainly be strong to have survived such an ordeal. I can easily see how waking up to such fresh bad memories would generate enough negativity to attract a pack of Grimm of this size, as well. To have defeated them even in such a state speaks even more to your ability."
Shirou let out a small hum that could be construed as agreement, though it was really one of understanding. So, him imagining all the ways his little sister could murder him was what had attracted the monsters – no, the Grimm.
"Still," Ozpin said, "You seem to be remarkably composed for someone who has just been through such a tragedy."
"I'm… trying not to think about it too much, sir." Not to think about how angry everyone back home must be, at least.
What with him having tried to destroy the Grail, and then accidentally using its wish, and also abandoning them.
"Impressive mental fortitude then, as well. Mr. Emiya, might I ask… how old are you? And at which combat school did you study?"
"I've never been to a combat school, sir," he replied honestly. Homurahara academy was just a normal Japanese high school. "I had to learn through experience. And, um, I don't know exactly how old I am. I have no memories from before another tragedy that happened when I was young, but I should be around sixteen."
"I see." Ozpin shared a glance with Glynda before turning back to Shirou. "Well, then, one more question, Mr. Emiya. What are you going to do now?"
"Well, I was going to try to find a way out of this forest…"
"No, no, that's not what I meant." Ozpin chuckled despite himself. "Naturally, we'll be happy to assist you on that front. It's the least we could do after the loss of your home. I meant, Mr. Emiya, what are your long term plans? What do you plan to do with your life?"
"Oh. I'm going to become a hero." The answer came easily. It was the entire purpose of his being here, after all.
Ozpin leaned forward curiously. "A… hero, hmm? Not a Huntsman?"
Shirou hesitated a bit at the unfamiliar terminology, but shook his head. It seemed similar to how he'd made Kiritsugu teach him how to become a magus. Becoming a magus wasn't the end goal itself, but it was certainly easier to become a hero when you had magical superpowers. "A hero, certainly. If becoming a Huntsman is something that will help me towards that goal, then I'll become a Huntsman as well. But first and foremost, I want to become a hero."
A deep curiosity and interest was visible in Ozpin's deep brown eyes. "And what, exactly, does being a hero mean to you, Emiya Shirou?"
In turn, Shirou's own eyes seemed to glint in the sunlight as he looked off into the distance. He thought back to a certain smiling face, a smile that had saved his life and defined it from that point onwards. His own face bore a pale imitation of that same smile. "A hero is someone who saves everyone. A hero is someone who makes everyone happy."
Ozpin smiled back at the young man who seemed more genuinely happy than he had for their entire encounter thus far, but it was a slightly jaded smile. Slightly bitter. "I see. And you believe you will be able to save everyone?"
Shirou nodded back with zeal. "I know it."
Ozpin finally leaned back a bit, satisfied. "Well then, I can think of no better aid to that goal than to become a Huntsman. I would be hard pressed to think of anyone that I consider to be a hero that was not Huntsman trained. To that end, Mr. Emiya, would you be interested in a position in my academy? Beacon is one of the finest schools for Huntsmen and Huntresses in all of Remnant, and the new term happens to start in just a week. At sixteen, you would perhaps be a bit younger than your classmates, but it isn't so unusual for exceptionally talented students to be moved up a year."
Shirou was certainly intrigued. With the mention of combat schools, Ozpin seemed to be implying that this Beacon was an academy that trained heroes, presumably to fight monsters like the ones he had just slain – monsters that, based on their response to his story, seemed to be a fairly constant threat to the people of this world.
He thought of all the experience he'd gained in the short time since he'd summoned Saber – not just the personal combat training with one of the best swordswomen of all time, but also the valuable magecraft lessons from Rin, and the multitudes of different weapons he had picked up from Gilgamesh and Archer. How much more experience could he gain from attending a school designed to train heroes instead of just picking up what techniques he could amidst the chaos of the Holy Grail War and his love life? There was just one problem.
"I would… but I'm afraid I don't have any money to my name. I wouldn't be able to afford tuition. I'd be willing to work for my keep, however. I'm fairly skilled at cleaning, and at mechanical work, and I can cook—"
"That won't be necessary, young man. Given the circumstances of your arrival to Vale, I'm sure we would be able to put together a scholarship fund for you – if Beacon even required a tuition. It's good to see such firm head on your shoulders, and a willingness to accept responsibility, but rest assured, it is in humanity's best interests to have as many skilled Huntsmen and Huntresses as possible. Beacon is an exclusive school, to be sure, but for those who qualify to attend, the benefits gained from having more defenders of humanity are far greater than any amount of money we might charge. There isn't anyone who can doubt the necessity of Huntsmen to humanity's survival, and as such all major Huntsmen academies are heavily subsidized. You'll need to complete our initiation test, but it takes place in this very forest – and given your performance just now, I have no doubts that you will easily pass."
Shirou nodded. That made sense, and was even better. He'd still probably help out with odd jobs anyways – he just liked making people happy. "Then… yes. I'll do it, gladly. Thank you, Headmaster Ozpin."
Glynda smiled at his decision as well, though it was still tinged with sadness, and spoke up once more. "I can imagine you don't have anywhere to stay here in Vale. We would be happy to put you up in the dorms for the week, if you wish, though I'm afraid it might be a bit lonely for a while. The students won't be arriving until the beginning of next week."
He nodded once more. "Thank you very much. That would be extremely appreciated."
"Excellent. If you have any questions, or simply wish to talk, I will try my best to always be available. As, I'm sure, will the other professors at Beacon, once I explain to them the circumstances. Now, shall we leave this place?"
Ozpin looked at Shirou again, and upon receiving no signs to the contrary, nodded at his deputy.
With a wave of her riding crop, accompanied by a pulse of prana that Shirou smelled rather than felt, he felt himself be slowly lifted into the air. Seeing the same happening to Glynda and Ozpin, he let the spell carry the three of them into the air, and through the open door of the still hovering aircraft above them.
Such a powerful display of telekinesis was certainly impressive. According to Rin, telekinesis was a notoriously finicky branch of magecraft – it was far, far easier to simply reinforce oneself to be able to jump to such a height than to manually levitate yourself the same distance. That said, the accompanying smell of prana was far less than he would have expected was necessary to lift three people like that. Was Glynda ridiculously efficient? Was she hyper-specialized, like he was? Most people would be flabbergasted at how easily tracing Noble Phantasms came to him, after all. Well, it was something to look into.
Come to think of it, was magecraft even a secret here? As the aircraft began to pull away from the forest and head towards the nearby cliffs, he thought about that issue. Ozpin had mentioned that everybody valued Huntsmen. He and Glynda were trainers of Huntsmen, and therefore presumably powerful Huntsmen in their own right. Both of them had displayed – or at least smelled of – superhuman abilities and prana. Ergo, were all Huntsmen and Huntresses actually magi? The pilot of the aircraft they were currently inside, for example, did not in fact smell of prana – although the engines of the aircraft itself did, strangely enough. The same cinnamon scent he'd gotten from Glynda. The pilot obviously hadn't balked at the idea of dropping his passengers out of the aircraft from meters up, either.
Put together, every clue was leading towards the conclusion that magecraft was not only public knowledge, but that those who wielded it – people like him – were highly respected members of society. Heroes who put their lives on the line to defend humanity against literal monsters that were attracted to negativity. He once more considered how much the Grimm – Ozpin had also called them Beowolves, he noted – reminded him of the material Grail-kun was composed of. It was like fighting anthropomorphic – zoomorphic, rather – entities composed of corrupted Grail mud, entities that threatened the entire world.
It was almost like this world had been designed with him in mind! An entire social caste of superhero magi, defending people from irredeemable monsters composed of pure evil.
He couldn't help but smile a little bit. He knew it was hypocritical – that bastard priest that acted as a judge for the Grail War competitions had made sure he was aware of that. In order to save someone, there had to be someone who needed to be saved, which naturally had to involve some sort of danger to them. In wishing to be a hero, he was wishing for people to be unhappy, so that he might rescue them from that unhappiness.
In that sense, if this world had been created by the omnipotent power of the grail just so that he could live out his dream of being a hero, then he was the one responsible for all of the suffering in the world through his selfish wish.
Rin had explained to him the Kaleidoscope theory. He knew that there were other dimensions, other worlds that existed. Worlds completely different from his own. He also knew that as the Grail was a device created by magi, it would no doubt operate efficiently, efficiency being an integral part of any self-respecting magus' creative process.
Which was more likely, that the Grail had performed the third magic – materialization of the soul, Heaven's Feel – an incredibly huge number of times, enough to populate an entire world with real people, for the sole purpose of letting them suffer? Not to mention the costs involved in creating this entire world and/or universe from scratch in the first place?
Or that the Grail had performed the second magic – Kaleidoscope – once, to seek out the one dimension that his dream was most suited towards, and send him there?
He nodded to himself, and his smile grew a little wider. These people had been suffering before he arrived. He had not caused their pain. It had existed here for a long time, and that was a tragedy, but he had made a wish and a promise to remove it, and that was exactly what he was going to do.
He was going to make everyone happy.
But first things first. He needed more information on this world and how it worked.
He spoke up for the first time since entering the vehicle.
"Does your academy have a library?"
Glynda smiled at him.
Beacon Academy did in fact have a library.
A library bigger than a football stadium.
Shirou had spent the majority of his first week there, "brushing up" on his worldly knowledge, i.e. learning it all for the first time. He only left the place to eat, sleep, help out around the school, and keep up his physical conditioning, because apparently there was a lot that he would need to know, especially if he was to be a student here.
Despite being marketed to him as a combat school, he would still have to take classes like History. He could see the reasoning for it, of course – those who don't learn history are destined to repeat it, etc. etc. The only problem was that he would be assumed to have a baseline of knowledge about the world to work off of going into this level of classes, a baseline that he obviously didn't have.
Would it have been too much work for the Grail to shoot him some history lessons when it was rewiring his brain to use the local language?
Glynda had been happy to see his desire to study. He was pretty sure she'd interpreted it as nerves over being a first time student at a Huntsmen academy, combined with a desire to impress his professors early in the semester.
Well, history had taken up much of his focus over the past few days – one especially interesting tidbit was that apparently a race of people with animal features existed, called Faunus, and much of the important recent historical events involved their fight for equal rights – but he'd had the time to learn some other interesting things as well that he thought were slightly more pertinent and important.
What Shirou knew as "prana," along with the spell he called "reinforcement," the people of this world, Remnant, referred to under the broad purview of something called "Aura." They thought it was the manifestation of the soul, a force that powered their abilities and protected them from harm, as well as granting them superhuman strength and speed, not to mention helping them heal faster from injuries.
Where he had had to have his magic circuits forcibly ripped open, to give him channels in his body through which to circulate prana, an extremely painful process – the people of Remnant had discovered a method of "unlocking" an individual's Aura, involving a pain free ritual lasting only a few seconds and an aria.
That was another thing. Anybody could have their Aura unlocked. It didn't require the good luck to be born with magic circuits.
In fact, it kind of completely invalidated the fact that before he'd known that he had any magic circuits, he'd performed the magical equivalent of shoving a molten rod of steel all the way down his spine in an excruciatingly painful ritual designed to cannibalize his own nervous system, which at any time could have completely backfired and killed him, every time he'd wanted to perform even the most rudimentary basics of magecraft.
Well, even then, he couldn't bring himself to be envious over it. He'd eventually learned to do things the right way, thanks to Rin, and in the process, he'd trained up a pretty legendary pain resistance, if he did say so himself. Not to mention that the ease of Remnant's process meant that more people would be able to protect themselves, which meant less people that needed to be saved.
There were some differences, of course, between having an unlocked Aura and having active magic circuits.
Aura was slightly more intuitive. It was completely possible to become so used to using it that one could instinctively and nearly instantaneously use it to protect oneself, although some degree of awareness that an attack was coming was still required. Additionally, the projection of the soul throughout the entire body emanated out a short distance past the skin and whatever equipment one was using, which meant that when one was using their aura, they would be practically immune to harm until their entire reserves of aura went empty. Finally, it provided a small healing factor that magic circuits did not, and it never turned completely off.
In contrast, Shirou needed to actively concentrate to switch on his magic circuits, and using them still came with a small amount of pain, though nothing like his early attempts at magecraft. Aura use was instead said to be an extremely comforting experience. Once his reinforcement was active, however, he didn't need to actively focus on using it to shield against individual attacks. Even if Aura use could become instinctive, it would never be as fast as him just always maintaining a reinforcement for the duration of a fight.
Also, his prana would saturate his skin, but no further. He was more durable when reinforced, but he could still be damaged by a sufficiently powerful attack regardless. It meant he would take more wounds, but it wouldn't incur the additional power drain that completely shielding against attacks using Aura did, and he'd always been a really fast healer for some reason anyways.
Aura usage also typically involved something called a "Semblance." Someone's semblance was like a superpower unique to them, an intensely personal power based on the character of one's own soul. Every person only had one semblance, and while they could be loosely passed down through families, each member of a family would still apply their own personal twist to the power granted. The closest analogue Shirou could come up with was that everybody who had an aura unlocked instinctively knew one mystery, or spell.
In theory, that meant that a magus using magic circuits would be far more versatile than an Aura user, capable of using any mystery that they had the elemental affinity for and knowledge of. Not to mention the fact that magi could draw in mana from the outside world to create more prana, rather than just relying on their own internal od reserves like Aura users seemed to.
In practice, Shirou only really knew Projection/Tracing anyways, negating that advantage. His reality marble was still absurdly versatile by the standards of most semblances, especially after he'd copied so many weapons during the War, but it was still just one ability. From what he could tell, the Aura cost to activate a semblance was typically a fraction of what it would cost a magus to recreate the same ability using prana, in a similar way to how his combined Element and Origin of "Sword" made his tracing incredibly cheap compared to most magi using gradation air, which made him think that there might be some truth to the 'manifestation of the soul' theory – but rather than soul, he would have perhaps said 'manifestation of the element and origin.' Personally, he was also incompetent at using mana, having always preferred to use od instead.
He really was more similar to the Aura users of Remnant than he was to most magi. Similar enough, in fact, that the device he'd been given called a "Scroll," reminiscent of a smartphone back on Earth, was able to read his prana reserves the same way he'd been assured it could read a normal Huntsman's Aura. He wasn't really sure how the tiny machine managed such a feat.
He'd been told he had a reserve of Aura a fair bit larger than average, and when he considered the way his reinforcement worked compared to Aura, i.e. allowing himself to be lightly injured rather than waste energy trying to completely negate attacks, he felt confident that he would have more staying power in a fight than most of his classmates.
There was, however, one more crucial component to this world that was unfamiliar to him, one that explained the whiffs of cinnamon he'd gotten from the aircraft's – called a Bullhead, he now knew – engines.
A material that he was sure would cause Rin to either collapse in ecstasy or fall into a coma from jealousy and frustration, or both, if she ever found out such an amazing mineral existed.
He'd been true to his word, and when he took breaks from his studying, he did his best to help out with anything and everything the school needed.
He cleaned floors, organized classrooms, and even helped out with mechanical repairs of damaged equipment, of which there was a fair amount. Apparently being a school that catered to super-powered teens led to a lot of property damage, and while Glynda's Semblance of telekinesis had no doubt saved the school millions of the local currency, called lien, in repair costs, there were some more fine-scale applications of fixing things that she wasn't as skilled with.
It was while examining one such broken device, early in the week, that Shirou first found out about the miracle substance called Dust.
He'd assumed that the obviously modern amenities he was used to from his home were powered the same way here in Remnant – for example, burning natural gas on a stovetop, converting fossil fuels into electricity to power lightbulbs, using gasoline and jet fuel to propel vehicles, and using pumps to draw up water from wells to supply faucets.
Everything was powered by something called Dust. Stoves produced a flame, and the scent of cinnamon, because the burner included small crystals of red Dust, the same way the engines of most vehicles did. Lightbulbs contained small amounts of yellow Dust that smelled like lemons and ozone. Faucets were basically just metal pipes connected to dark blue Dust crystals that produced water when the faucet was turned, and gave off a scent of petrichor.
Apparently, everything in this world was powered by Dust in its myriad of forms. But what was Dust, and why did it smell like prana?
Naturally, he'd immediately gone off to research this wonder-mineral.
Apparently, this world had huge, naturally occurring deposits of crystals that were filled to the brim with high quality prana, pre-altered to match the elemental affinity of the gems that housed it, and easy enough to use that almost anyone could do it.
Using Dust crystals like Rin did, as glorified grenades, was child's play. Skilled Aura users went even further beyond such basic uses, able to use Dust to give their Aura and Semblances elemental effects.
Once he stopped to think about it, he noticed how there was incredibly little mana in the air. He hadn't even thought about it before, given his reliance on od. Apparently the reason for this was that the world had decided to take all the mana that would normally pervade it, and concentrate it into minable crystals. On its own!
One barely trained miner with a pickaxe could mine out a high quality crystal in a few minutes. That crystal would be equivalent in power to months of Rin pouring prana into an equally sized gemstone.
And the gem from Remnant, the one that came pre-filled with mana, would cost her relatively less.
Apparently, Dust was so affordable that literally everyone used it to power even the most basic of appliances.
The entire world ran on concentrated magical power.
It had taken Shirou a little while to get that through his head.
He mused once more on how perfectly tailored this world seemed to be for him. Yes, it would certainly be easy for him to become a hero here.
Someone like Rin, an incredibly powerful and versatile magus, and a natural-born prodigy in the art of Jewel Magecraft?
She could have become a god.
Well, anyways. He'd managed to fix the radiator he'd been working on. It was still just as easy as using Structural Grasp to gain knowledge of the object he was working with and then using a mixture of reinforcement and good old fashioned mechanical skills to fix whatever the spell told him was wrong with it.
Importantly, Ozpin had insisted on compensating him a little bit for his "services to the school above and beyond the call of duty," and at the end of the week, only a day before the prospective students were due to arrive, he'd been given a small stipend of lien for school supplies in addition to a bonus for his hard work.
That was how he found himself for the first time exploring the city of Vale. Alongside some not-so-subtle hints from Glynda that he should spend some time out on the town, both as a form of stress relief and to help him acclimate to the city that would become his new home, he'd decided that it was as good a time as any for him to try and get his hands on some Dust.
He had given a good effort to just have a nice day, as well. It just… was a little bittersweet. This world was pretty much everything he'd dreamed of, and he had a chance to make a real difference here, to save people, but he still missed the people he'd left behind.
He'd wandered around, seen the sights, and had eaten a huge lunch in honor of Saber, reasoning that she would have loved to try out the different extradimensional cuisines of Remnant. They were surprisingly similar to the foods from Earth. Vale's cuisine reminded him of western food from back home.
He'd made a stop to buy some new clothes as well, having been relegated to wearing a Beacon Academy uniform for the past week. The uniform was a little too similar to a suit for his liking, slightly more formal than the old uniforms of Homurahara. He bought a couple pairs of familiar casual clothes – blue jeans, white and blue shirts, and a white jacket with dark sleeves – as well as a teal and grey tracksuit for exercising in and sleeping. He then considered shopping around for armor.
Most of the people he'd seen on the street so far were civilians, but every once in a while, he would pass someone who was clearly a Huntsman or Huntress. They stood out like the illustrations of a pop-out book compared to the flat pages that made up the rest of the populace, in nearly every way. The colors they wore were more vibrant, the clothes themselves each unique in design, their personalities and presence seemed larger than life, and each of them bore the rich scent of prana, especially those that carried around Dust. Shirou supposed literally wearing your soul on your sleeve was probably responsible for the increased gravitas they bore.
Some of them wore normal, albeit flashy clothes, and some of them wore armor, and he was trying to figure out which was the more practical choice.
On the one hand, forgoing armor would make you lighter and more maneuverable, and tire you out less quickly, and Aura was enough to protect against all attacks that did land until you were completely out of it.
On the other, armor could provide some protection even against attacks you were unaware of, and would continue to protect you even if you were out of Aura – but then again, at that point you were probably dead to rights anyways. He'd heard, however, that even though Aura blocked all actual harm, attacks still hurt, so perhaps the armor was a way to mitigate that pain as a way to maintain concentration in battle – getting punched in the chest with and without a breastplate would remove the same amount of Aura, but with the armor the force of the blow would be diffused across the surface and less pain would get through to the user.
He concluded that for a Huntsman of sufficient mental fortitude, someone able to instinctively react to danger and to ignore pain, going unarmored was the superior choice. For someone like him, however, who didn't have the benefit of complete damage nullification, armor would probably give him a bit more of an edge, even if he did have the mental strength to ignore pain. And besides, he would probably look more like a hero that way too.
Thus, he'd gone to visit the shops that catered to Huntsmen, and immediately completely forgotten what he went there for.
They were ridiculous. It wasn't quite like walking into a shop full of noble phantasms, but such a thing would never exist anyways, so this was basically the next best thing.
His structural analysis was going wild as he stood in the middle of a weapons shop, eyes flitting over the wares. Every single piece on display was incredibly complicated, with detailed internal mechanisms allowing them to shift into completely different shapes, somehow without compromising their structural integrity as weapons. Some of them, his reality marble was able to replicate, the ones that were closest to swords, and he relished the opportunity, even if he wouldn't be able to trace the Dust rounds that the firearm portions of the weapons seemed to universally use.
There were swords that turned into axes, swords that turned into spears, swords that turned into guns.
There were staves that turned into nunchaku that turned into guns, there were katar that turned into shields that turned into guns.
There was a Glaive-Guisarme that turned into a Bohemian Earspoon that turned into a Lucerne Hammer that turned into a Brandistock that turned into a gun.
There were guns that turned into bigger guns.
"Amazing…" He let out the word in a soft sigh.
"I know, right?" A similarly breathy tone came from directly to his left.
He looked over and saw a short girl with black, neck length hair that shifted towards a dark red at the tips. Her outfit, a black dress with a poofy skirt and a red cloak, continued the color scheme. He saw in her bright silver eyes what must have been the same sense of wonder that he probably had borne just seconds ago. She smelled like fresh roses, carried in a warm summer breeze.
She then suddenly froze, and jerked her head to the side to notice him standing there and staring at her, before disappearing in a flash of movement so fast he could barely follow it. She reappeared a meter away, surrounded by a flutter of rose petals. "Ack! Sorry, I didn't mean – sorry for disturbing you – I just really like weapons –" She stammered out. He noticed her cheeks were slightly flushed with embarrassment.
"Whoa, calm down," Shirou said with a slight smile, raising his hands placatingly. "My bad, I got lost in the weapons too. I was just a little surprised. I hadn't noticed you standing there."
She gave a hesitant smile back. "Heh, uhh, me too. I didn't even see you when I came in."
She seemed to be struggling to find anything else to say to him, but she also clearly wasn't willing to let the brief conversation end so awkwardly, so Shirou gave her an easy out. "So, you like weapons too, then?"
Her eyes seemed to sparkle at the question. "I love weapons! They're like an extension of ourselves! They're a part of us! Oh, they're so cool, I sometimes come to weapon shops and just look around for hours and oh, now I'm rambling…"
Shirou let out a friendly laugh. "No, no, I know what you mean. I actually have no idea how long I've even been in here. I agree with everything you said." In his case, weapons being a part of himself was quite literally true.
The girl seemed shocked to have met such a kindred soul, and walked back closer before offering a hand to shake a little awkwardly. "Hi, I'm, uh, Ruby. Nice to meet you!"
He took it. She had a shockingly firm and strong grip considering her size, but then again, he supposed she, like all people with unlocked Auras, had hers constantly active. "Shirou. Pleasure to meet you as well."
She seemed to look him up and down for the first real time. "So, do you have a weapon of your own? Or are you just an enthusiast?" She asked eagerly.
Shirou chuckled. "Oh, I have a few. I don't always carry them on me, though. I notice you have me at a disadvantage there," he said, gesturing at the blocky contraption holstered at the small of her back.
Ruby reached back and ran a hand over it lovingly. "Yeah, this is my baby, Crescent Rose. I built her myself!"
"It's a… High-Caliber Sniper-Scythe, right?" He asked with an appraising glance. Of course, with Structural Grasp, he didn't really need to ask for confirmation. He probably currently knew more about the weapon than anybody else on Remnant besides its creator, who the Scythe recognized as Ruby Rose. From what he'd picked up from the weapon, she was incredibly skilled in its use, especially for somebody as young as her.
Her mouth dropped open in shock. "Wow! You were able to tell that even from just seeing her collapsed? That's incredible! You must be a real expert!"
He rubbed the back of his head at such earnest praise. He was a cheater, after all. "No, not an expert, just… an enthusiast, like you said. So, are you training to be a Huntress, then?"
Ruby nodded happily. "That's right! My older sister's joining Beacon this year, and I will be too in a couple more, as soon as I graduate Signal."
Signal was, if he remembered correctly, something of a feeder-school for Beacon. "Ah, maybe I'll meet her, then. I start there tomorrow as well."
And now the shock was back. "What?!"
She then quickly slammed her own hand over her mouth as her cheeks flushed heavily again. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean to be rude! It's just… you didn't, umm, you don't look like most trainee Huntsmen I've met, and you looked a little younger than Yang, and I figured I would have seen you at Signal…"
"Don't worry about it. I understand I don't look the part right now. I only arrived in Vale a week ago, after my hometown was destroyed," he told her, sticking to the semi-true story he'd made up for Ozpin. "I'm being allowed to take the initiation test for Beacon a little younger than normal under special circumstances. I didn't have anything when I got here, which reminds me, I was actually supposed to be buying some armor here instead of staring at the weapons," he finished with a sheepish chuckle.
He then realized that at this point she looked horrified. Not only had she insulted him, basically telling him that he didn't look strong enough to be a Huntsman, but she'd said it to someone who owned nothing and had just lost his home. The regret was clear on her face. "Oh my god, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to bring up bad memories!" she babbled. "Please, forget I said anything, I'm sure you'll do great at Beacon… Oh, man, I should probably go, I'm so sorry…"
She made as if to hurry off, but he called out before she could. "Wait, Ruby! It's alright. You couldn't have known." She still looked conflicted when she turned back to him, and now it was making him feel bad for having made her feel guilty. "If you wanted to make it up to me, uh, maybe you could help me pick out some armor?"
It seemed like he made the right choice. Her silver eyes shone with zeal and gratitude. "Yes! You won't regret it! I promise, I'll help you find the best, coolest armor ever!"
It was getting late in the evening by the time they finally left the shop.
First, the two of them had gone over pretty much every single piece of armor in the store, giving each one a pretty in depth cost/benefit analysis. Ruby had wanted to focus more on speed and aesthetics, like she did, but Shirou was pretty adamant on having at least some armor over his most vital areas. In the end, he'd gotten a lightweight gunmetal-grey cuirass that covered his chest and back, but left his arms bare – he reasoned that he could probably heal fast enough to avoid death by bleeding out even if he happened to have a vein or artery sliced in his arm, but being stabbed in the heart was another matter.
As well as a pair of durable black pants and matching steel-toed combat boots, Ruby convinced him to purchase a pair of greaves that tapered outwards slightly along the centerline of his shins, providing what she reasoned to be a boost to the damage of any kicks he might deliver without sacrificing any mobility.
Finally, to complete the outfit, Ruby had absolutely insisted that he needed some color. In the end, he came out with a kind of asymmetrical half-cape that wrapped around his neck like a scarf, draped over one shoulder, and was secured by a brooch, ending just above the small of his back. He could also pull it up over his head like a hood.
He'd wanted to get it in blue, as an homage to Saber, but Ruby had told him he would look better in red. As he finished fastening it in the changing room, he sighed as he looked in the mirror. There was no mistaking it – the ensemble bore a faint resemblance to Archer's gear, which Shirou wasn't too enthused about. There was some other part of his brain, however, that made him think it kind of looked like something Kiritsugu would have worn, if he'd been a hero. He could accept that.
Ruby practically squealed at him when he left the room to show her. "Shirou, you look awesome! It's like a blend of 'I'm here to save the day!' and 'I could beat you with one hand behind my back!' It looks so practical, with just enough individuality and flare to make it unmistakable that you're a Huntsman! All we have left is to do something about that," she finished, pointing at the plain round brooch securing his cloak.
"Hmm? Did I fasten it wrong?"
"No, silly," she laughed. "That's just a placeholder. Most people prefer to put their emblem somewhere on their combat uniform." She tapped her own belt buckle, which sat on her right side – a stylized rose in full bloom.
"An emblem, huh?" He considered the proposition for a moment, before muttering "Trace, On," under his breath. In a brief sparkle of light, he projected a small, stylized sword, framed pointing upwards within a diamond. The symbol of the Saber class – if he couldn't have blue, he would remember Saber another way. His Tracing wasn't really limited by material, but he felt gold would be a little too ostentatious, so he made it out of orichalcum, a copper-zinc alloy with a similar color, and added a pin to the back. He removed the placeholder brooch and replaced it with his projection.
"Ooooh," Ruby exclaimed,leaning forwards to get a better look at the intricate details of the miniature sword. "How did you do that?"
"Semblance," he explained casually. "It's not permanent, but it's so small and easy for me to make that it'll be easy to make it last whenever I'm in my combat gear, and I can just make a new one every time I put it on."
Ruby nodded in understanding. "Ah, that's really cool. What else can it do? I-if you don't mind me asking, that is. I know a lot of people like to keep their Semblance a secret," she asked, a slight rosy tint to her cheeks, with a shy smile.
"To put it simply?" He smiled back. "I can make swords. Other stuff too, but mostly swords."
Ruby beamed. "Wow! You must really like weapons, if even your soul agrees that the power most suited to you is making swords!" She paused for a second, and then pouted cutely. "I just can run really fast."
He couldn't help but laugh again. "That's really cool too, Ruby. I'm sure super-speed is really useful for a lot of different situations. Anyways, thanks a ton for helping me pick out my armor. I really appreciate you taking so much time out of your day to help me." And there was that shy smile again. She sure was expressive, wasn't she?
Speaking of spending the whole day, by the way, what time was it? He spared a glance outside, and his eyes widened when he realized just how dark it already was. "Oh, crap. It's gotten late. I was supposed to stop by a Dust shop and try to pick up a few crystals to practice with before I went back to Beacon for the night."
"Y-yeah?" Ruby asked, nervous for some reason, but still smiling. "I still have to go pick up some Dust rounds for Crescent Rose, too, and, um… I know a Dust shop not far from here that's usually open late, and, um, we could… go together? If you want to?"
He smiled right back at her. "That sounds great. I'll be in your debt again. Thank you."
She spun around and tugged her hood over her head, before awkwardly marching over to the counter, but she couldn't spin fast enough for Shirou to miss her ruby-red cheeks, nor her wide smile. He followed her up and paid for his purchases before they left the shop side by side.
"…understand how you can say that! Guns are so much faster and easier to use than any other ranged option available, not to even mention how recoil on heavier weapons can offer boosts to maneuverability and strength, if you use them right," Ruby exclaimed with playful anger and a light punch to Shirou's arm as they walked through the entrance of the Dust shop, 'From Dust til Dawn.'
"Hey, hey, I'm not saying guns aren't useful. In fact, I think they're really cool," Shirou defended himself. "I'm just saying they don't click with me the same way bladed weapons do, especially swords. Plus, other ranged options have benefits too. Sure, the consistency of guns is an admirable quality in and of itself, but it has its disadvantages too. Every time you shoot, the bullet is going to come out with the exact same power and speed, both of which are determined by the gun itself. Compare that to throwing a weapon using your Aura to determine the strength of the projectile – most guns are going to fall way short in terms of power compared to the strength of trained huntsmen, not to even mention weapons like bows that can enhance that strength even further, and when you get a gun that can, what if you want to use an option that's a little less lethal? If your enemy doesn't have any Aura, would you really be ok shooting them with a high-caliber sniper bullet?"
"Hmph," Ruby snorted as she failed to immediately refute his arguments. "This isn't over, mister!" she declared, poking a finger into his still armored chest before heading over to the counter to negotiate with the elderly shopkeeper. The smile on her face belied her true feelings, however. He could tell she enjoyed a good argument over the merits of different weapons as much as he did.
While she bought her ammo, he wandered around the store noting the prices of the various products. He basically had the run of the whole place – there were no other customers there besides Ruby and himself. After some mental calculations, he figured he had enough lien left to buy a few fair sized vials of various colors of powdered Dust, and a few of the smaller crystals as well.
He headed to the back of the store, where he took a small vial from a rack and plugged it into one of the Dust tubes set against the wall. Over the futuristic-sounding pneumatic hum of the tube pumping the vial full and then applying an airtight cover, he heard the tinkle of the store's door opening, and several pairs of feet entering. Even over the spicy scent of the prana in the Dust surrounding him, he caught a whiff of cigar smoke that made him wrinkle his nose.
"Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a Dust shop open this late?" A smooth voice echoed around the shelves. It was followed by a pair of ominous, very familiar clicks.
Shirou's eyes narrowed immediately. "Trace, On," he whispered, reinforcing himself in preparation before sneaking a peek around a shelf stocked with some kind of bagged Dust product. Even despite the tenseness of the situation, he noted that it appeared to be some kind of food ingredient, and made a mental note to look into that later.
Standing by the counter was a man in a white overcoat and black bowler hat, from under which peeked a shock of vibrantly orange hair. He held a fairly nondescript looking cane that Shirou's instinctive Structural Grasp recognized as Melodic Cudgel, which actually could shoot out highly explosive flares and act as a grappling hook, wielded by one Mr. Roman Torchwick.
He was flanked by four men that could only be described as "goons." Big men in black suits with red ties, all with nameless red machetes sheathed at their sides, and two with drawn pistols. One was leveled at the shopkeeper, who was cowering back with his hands in the air. The other was pointed right at Ruby's head.
The man, Roman, barked an order to the other two men, who were holding large, empty Dust cases. "Grab the Dust."
"Are you robbing me?" Ruby asked loudly, with a hint of incredulity, but no fear.
The goon holding her up looked at her like she was stupid. "Yes!"
"Ohhh," she replied with a small smirk.
Shirou, who had been about to trace something not very flashy, maybe Kanshou or Bakuya, which he would then throw at the gun to slice it in half and render it safe, couldn't even follow Ruby as she moved. Her super-speed was apparently really fast.
All he saw was a black and red blur that crashed through the window, leaving fluttering rose petals in its wake, before Ruby became visible again a split second later in the street outside, riding on the back of the henchman she'd taken with her like he was a skateboard, the man's face skidding across the pavement.
Shirou winced. The man deserved it for having pulled a gun on a fifteen year old girl, but still, that had to hurt.
She casually stepped off him and drew her weapon, the massive scythe unfurling and being drawn into a complicated flourish before slamming into the ground, leveled back at the robbers.
All four remaining men stood in front of the shattered window, staring out at the little girl who'd just taken out a man twice her size in the time it would have taken them to blink. Shirou supposed that was pretty much his cue.
"Okayyy…" was all Roman had time to say before Shirou made his move. Considering that he was currently surrounded by extremely volatile magical crystals, he was restricted to his more mundane swords, and he also needed one big enough to hit all four men. The answer to this problem was clear.
The only warning the men received was a faint teal glow from behind them as the circuits in Shirou's arm lit up, and the only one who was fast enough to react was Roman, who spun around just in time to interpose his cane between himself and the oncoming attack.
Shirou had begun a swing not unlike a baseball player's, waiting until he was already mostly through the action before projecting a sword into his hands – that was the only way the thing would have fit inside the store.
The enormous axe-sword he traced was hewn from a single block of stone, and could only really be called a weapon by virtue of its mass. It was only usable by Shirou through a combination of extreme reinforcement and by drawing upon the strength of its original wielder, the Greek hero Heracles.
He used the blunt backside of the blade, but it still hit like a speeding school bus. It left a visible dent in Melodic Cudgel, and swept all four men along with the swing without any appreciable decrease in momentum. The second all four were airborne, Shirou released the projection before his swing could continue and completely destroy the front walls of the shop.
Two of the three goons flew off into the distance, slamming into storefronts on the opposite side of the street before falling prone. Shirou was lucky they all smelled of an unlocked Aura, or he would have never dared to use such a mighty weapon against them.
The third, Ruby hooked with her scythe as he flew past, beginning to spin around rapidly.
Roman, impressively, managed to twist and flip in midair to increase wind resistance, and then shot a flare backwards out of his cane to reduce his momentum further. An impressive weapon, Shirou thought, if it could fire successfully even after the damage it had taken.
The orange-haired thief landed with a slight stagger, and then immediately was heavily impacted by the body of his final henchman as Ruby finished her spin and launched him. The human missile knocked Roman back again and sent him sliding back another few meters. Shirou hopped through the window and moved to stand beside Ruby as Roman shoved the unconscious body off him and gingerly tried to stand.
"Damn, what are they feeding you kids nowadays?" Roman grumbled as he regained his feet and brushed himself off.
Ruby seemed torn between keeping an eye on the thief and at turning to interrogate Shirou, but her curiosity overcame her. "What was that?! All I saw was a flash of blue light and then all four of them were flying! Was that a Dust technique?"
Shirou smiled and shook his head. "I'll show you later, I promise. For now, he's getting away," he said, tilting his head towards Roman, who was now rapidly ascending a ladder on the side of a nearby building.
"Crap!" Ruby exclaimed and shot off after him.
Shirou sprinted after them as well, but in speed at least, Ruby completely outclassed him, even when he was fully reinforced. Ahead of him, Roman crested the ladder, and a moment later Ruby disappeared onto the roof as well, having bypassed the ladder entirely by taking a huge leap and firing her sniper rifle once behind her as she did, riding the recoil to the top of the building.
Hmm, maybe she had a point about using guns as a propulsion system after all, Shirou thought as he made his own reinforced leap at the ladder. He made it perhaps two-thirds of the way up and began to climb the rest of the way as he heard the telltale whine of a Bullhead's engines approaching.
Shirou mantled the wall just in time to see Roman, now standing inside the doors of a bullhead hovering a few meters above the opposite edge of the rooftop, lob something shiny underhandedly towards Ruby.
He was already sprinting towards them as Ruby looked down at the object that had landed softly near her feet, causing her to miss the fact that Roman had raised his cane and was now pointing it at her.
He tackled her forwards, over the object and incoming projectile, a split-second before the explosive flare hit and detonated the red Dust crystal. He felt the incredible heat and force at his back, propelling them further forwards than his tackle alone would have taken them. He spun around at the last moment, just as the explosion faded, his back impacting the small lip surrounding the roof with a crunch of stone. Ruby came to a marginally softer stop against his chest.
"You alright?" He asked with a small cough as she rolled off him and staggered back to her feet. She looked at him with determination and only a slight hint of fear, offered him a nod, and then began to squeeze off shots from her sniper-scythe at the Bullhead.
Rolling out of her line of fire, Shirou stood in time to see a well-placed shot impact one of the Bullhead's engines, causing the aircraft to dip and buck wildly and sending Roman stumbling forward towards the cockpit.
Well, Shirou supposed he did in fact need a ranged weapon if he wanted to help bring the ship down. Sighing to himself, his arm lit up once more as he projected one of the best ranged weapons he knew of – a huge, matte black bow taller than he was. He might not have liked the red-mantled Archer, but the man knew quality weapons.
As Ruby continued to fire semi-inaccurately – that is to say, she wasn't missing the Bullhead at all, but she also wasn't taking the time to line up her shots to hit anything vital – he also projected a mundane steel arrow, using his reinforced muscles to draw the bow back and taking careful aim.
The bullhead leveled out and began to spin, facing towards the south-east and providing a clear shot into the cockpit. He released his arrow, firing it out at least as fast as one of Ruby's bullets, and it pierced through the reinforced glass of the cockpit like it was made of paper. He'd aimed it directly at where a pilot's head would be, but through the hole of shattered glass, he could see that Roman had managed to jerk his head just barely out of the way.
Another figure, presumably the previous pilot before Roman had taken over, now stood silhouetted in the still open doorway.
Only her pale legs and the hem of a crimson dress were visible, her upper body hidden in the shadows, though her arms and bodice glowed with a pale orange pattern reminiscent of flames that allowed Shirou to track the elaborate movements she was making – almost like she was dancing. The graceful movements ended with a forcefully thrust forward palm, out of which a concentrated ball of fire was rapidly launched towards Ruby.
She had just fired, caught in the hefty recoil of her weapon. She wouldn't be able to dodge. There was no real time for anything else, so Shirou unhesitatingly pushed off heavily with his right foot, shattering the concrete below it and sending himself hurtling into the path of the projectile. Even so, he barely managed to get into the way in time, and it impacted his unarmored left shoulder.
Despite himself, he couldn't help but let out an involuntary "Hrk!" noise as he felt the heat of the attack. The fireball was so concentrated, in fact, that on impact it acted more like a liquid than the pure energy it was – almost like a plasma. A few droplets even splashed off and landed on the roof behind him, luckily none on Ruby, where they began to melt the concrete. Meanwhile, the majority of the attack's power flash-burnt off the skin of the impact area, as well as a centimeter or so of the muscle below it, even despite his reinforcement, and continued to smolder afterwards.
He supposed, through the haze of pain, that this was one of those times where having Aura instead of reinforcement might have been useful, and he sank down to one knee. He briefly wondered why the floor underneath him was glowing like a white-hot bar of steel when an incredible force just under his navel jerked him suddenly back.
He was sent sprawling across the ground. The ceiling where he'd been kneeling erupted into a pillar of flame that he was sure would have incinerated him instantly. Next to him was Ruby – she'd apparently somehow retracted the sharp blade of her scythe, hooked him with the then blunt weapon, and fired forward to use the recoil to launch them back and out of harm's way. Clever.
He did his best to ignore the pain and stood up. Those glowing orange arms were dancing again. He stepped in front of Ruby and wondered what to project – should he go for an offensive Noble Phantasm, to try to knock the Bullhead out of the air before the woman in the red dress fired? Better not, there might be collateral damage in that case as the aircraft crashed. Maybe Rho Aias to defend the two of them? Could he win a war of attrition behind the prana-expensive shield if it came to that? Probably not, he answered himself honestly.
He was spared the need to make the decision by a flutter of purple touching down in front of him. He blinked blearily through the pain and saw a pair of black tights on some really nice, shapely legs. Ah, good. Rider was here to save them.
He pitched forward and landed face-down on the pavement with a smile. He'd stopped a robbery, and his new friend Ruby was safe. All was right in the world.
Ruby sat in a dark room at a table lit by a single beam of light, her face streaked with tears. Opposite her stood Glynda Goodwitch, deputy headmistress of Beacon.
The blonde woman let out a long sigh before she began to speak. "I'm not going to lecture you over this, young lady. I think you've already learned any lessons I would have hoped to teach you from this encounter. On the one hand, you acted honorably and swiftly to stop a criminal. You also, however, put yourself and others in great danger, and Emiya Shirou paid the price for that rashness."
Ruby looked up and sniffled. "Is he going to be okay?"
Glynda sighed again and nodded. "He is stable, and is reported to be healing extremely quickly, even more so than most Huntsmen. He's expected to make a full recovery."
The young girl let out a strangled sob of relief.
"If it were up to me, I would leave it at that, and have you sent home. However… there is someone here who would like to meet you." She stepped aside, and from the shadowy doorway behind her stepped Headmaster Ozpin.
"Ruby Rose. You… have silver eyes."
Ruby only sniffled again in response. Ozpin slid a plate of cookies towards her. She timidly took one and began to nibble on it.
"Impressive skill with a scythe, young lady. I do believe I've only ever seen such skill with one of the most dangerous weapons ever designed in one man before. A dusty old crow."
Ruby nodded. "My uncle. He's a teacher at Signal. He trained me."
"I see." Ozpin nodded back. "I take it, then, as a student of Signal, that you wish to become a Huntress."
She bobbed her head once more, and began to nibble on a second cookie.
"Miss Rose, do you know who I am?"
"Yes. You're Professor Ozpin. The headmaster of Beacon."
"And what would you say, Miss Rose, if I told you that I was impressed with your skill, your quick wit in saving your friend, and your sense of justice, and that I would be willing to train you such that the next time you encounter such an opponent as you did tonight, you would not be outclassed?"
Ruby stared at him with wide silver eyes, not daring to believe what she thought she was hearing.
He leaned forward across the table almost conspiratorially. "Would you like to come to my school?"
One final nod, more forceful than any of those previous. "More than anything."
Ozpin leaned back with a satisfied smile. "Well, ok."
Fic assumes familiarity with Fate franchise, with focus given to Carnival Phantasm. At least passing familiarity with RWBY would be useful as well. I'll try to maintain some of the humorous tone of Carnival Phantasm mixed with the seriousness of RWBY and Fate in general.
You'll probably eventually notice that even though Carnival Shirou is explicitly the protagonist, I will definitely be mentioning things that occurred in the three main game routes as if they've canonically happened, not necessarily in the context that they actually happened. Treat this like an expanded universe extra-crack version of Fate where anything is fair game.
Expect a Shirou overpowered in many ways, underpowered in others. Hopefully the early summary of the events of Carnival Phantasm explains what aspects of the show I thought hinted at a powerful Shirou. I'd write a harem route if I knew how (to stay true to the source material, of course), but I doubt I can. We'll see.
As always, I'm just writing for my own enjoyment. I like Shirou, and after trying once again to watch through RWBY (I always typically fall off around the time Monty Oum died, RIP) and binging Carnival Phantasm again, I decided it would be nice to throw the RWBY cast a bone in the form of a pretty powerful dude who just wants to be a hero, minus a lot of the edginess he usually comes along with. Hope you enjoy my semi-serious take on a pretty silly concept.
I'll try to answer any questions I get at the end of the next chapter. I am my own beta; please lodge any complaints with me.
Sorry about how I've sort of abandoned my other story, but I just wasn't feeling as inspired to keep working on it. We'll see in the future if I end up going back to it.
Thanks for reading.