Bad End 22: Sword and Magic…
Shirou breathed quietly, making his way down the stairs by the faint light and coming across a big stone room – a chamber in the catacombs, with stairs leading further down past the balcony.
And in that room, the person he was looking for. Tohsaka Rin, confronting the enemies before her with Archer at her side.
Before an altar, two more figures. The magus in a purple robe, Caster, and her Master, Kuzuki. On the altar itself…
Saber. Hunched over, panting in pain.
His heart jumped, beating faster than normal, and then yet faster. His brain pounded in his skull, and his wounded shoulder – injured by Kuzuki the last time they met – ached as if seared by a hot iron. Seeing Saber in that state, seeing the people who hurt her like this…
He couldn't keep his presence hidden forever. If either one of them looked up just a bit, they would notice him – and there would hardly be a better chance in the future, not with Rin and Archer already squaring off against them.
Two Masters, two Servants. If their powers were equal, even someone like Shirou might be able to make a difference.
He jumped down.
"Shirou?!" Tohsaka yelled in surprise as he landed beside them. Archer, Caster, and Kuzuki stared, momentarily shocked into silence.
He pushed prana into his wooden sword, strengthening it, and suppressed the pain in his shoulder.
"Are you out of your mind?! Why are you here?" Rin demanded.
"What do you mean?" he answered, still staring down his enemies. "You were the one who told me to come to the church. I'm going to help you."
Ready to protect Rin, he leveled his sword towards Kuzuki, all too aware of how fast his former teacher could move.
"You idiot," Archer sighed. "You and Rin would have survived if you hadn't come out." His tone was resigned, as if already defeated.
What? But now, instead of two against two, it was…
"Caster." Kuzuki's voice, cold as ever, sliced through the cool air of the crypt. "This makes three against three. You should have no complaints. Get Saber."
Caster scowled, and her hand flashed with red light. Saber's bindings disappeared, and she fell to the ground.
Rin's face paled. "What? But… Saber shouldn't be under her control yet!"
Caster's lips twisted up into a smirk. "You're right. I didn't want to use another Command Spell for it, but since it was my Master's order… I had to order her to kill you."
Saber stood up. With a shimmer of light, her armor appeared over her slender form, and in her hands shone the most beautiful golden sword Shirou had ever seen.
"Without that Command Spell," Caster continued, "I have only one left. For my own protection, I can no longer use it to order Saber by force. You've cost me the Grail, boy. For that, for spoiling my wish… I can at least have some fun here. Saber! Show them your true power!"
Saber, her expression locked in a rictus of despair and disgust, stepped towards them, sword raised.
Archer remained silent. He should have been telling them to run, to escape, but instead… he simply stood in front of Rin protectively.
It was the final duty of a loyal knight that understood he couldn't protect his Master, no matter what.
Saber and Caster attacked in unison as Kuzuki sprinted towards Rin and Shirou. No time to run away, no time to counter-attack.
Archer began to chant. "I am the bone of my sword."
Shirou's arm was nearly torn off by Kuzuki's first strike. Somehow, again, despite how much it had almost cost him last time, he had once again managed to hastily Project Archer's swords, and had once again managed to block the assassin's deadly fist. His wound reopened, blood soaking his shirt.
Archer barely managed to weather the storm that was Saber, each and every strike of hers battering him back. She was aided by Caster's violet lances of magical energy – and for each he dodged, another would find it's mark, carving violent gashes through the Servant's armor. Despite his wounds, he continued to chant, too fast to understand. "Steel is my...I have… Unknown… yet…" His voice almost seemed to blur over itself, as if he was saying many things all at once
Rin launched one of her black curses towards Kuzuki, but the man flowed around it like it wasn't even there as he lunged at Shirou again. Shirou could do nothing else, so he raised his arms again and gritted his teeth.
There was a loud crunch as his arm tore its way out of his shoulder socket, and what muscles and tendons were left weren't enough to keep it attached to his body. His arm flew off, a spray of blood arcing across Rin's shocked face.
Shirou dropped to his knees with a cry of pain, barely fighting through the pain enough to shakily raise his other arm, keeping his copy of Archer's black blade between Rin and Kuzuki.
Archer threw his blades at Saber, buying himself just an instant as she batted them away effortlessly. It was suicide, a surrender – he wouldn't be able to Project another pair soon enough to deflect her next attack.
"So, as I pray, Unlimited Blade Works."
There was a flash of light.
Shirou was vaguely aware of the fact that his surroundings changed from a dark basement to a barren red field, but his immediate attention was on Kuzuki's approaching fist.
It shattered through his weak guard like it wasn't even there, cracking Shirou's sword apart into motes of blue light and breaking every bone in his remaining arm.
Shirou fell onto his side as Kuzuki rushed past him, dodging another curse before brutally dispatching Rin. He only dimly heard her cry of pain, which abruptly cut off into silence, over his own agony.
The last thing he saw was a world filled with countless blades. They were… beautiful. Some distance away, swords fell like rain around Caster as she rapidly teleported around, but eventually she was caught. She fluttered down to the ground, impaled by a dozen blades, like a giant purple butterfly. Below her, Saber stood, her own brilliant sword buried through Archer's chest.
The world began to fade away, and Shirou closed his eyes.
He woke with a shout, shooting up from the ground in panic. He grabbed for his left arm, and was shocked to find it attached to his body, and then shocked again when he realized that he could still move his right. In fact, it was like they'd never been injured at all. Even his clothes were intact.
His left hand was grasping a strange bow.
His breathing was rapid, his heart still pounding. Just a moment ago, hadn't…?
Nearby were three others. Three other guys, all in the process of waking up, albeit a little less violently than he had. They appeared to be a little older than him. One held a sword, another a spear, and the third a shield.
The four of them were lying upon a large stone altar, inscribed with a large, glowing magical circle of some kind. They were in a large stone room, not too dissimilar from the one he'd just been fighting in, before he was suddenly transported to –
He clutched his head, brain pounding. All those swords. What had even happened?
"Oh, honorable Heroes! Please save our world!"
"…Huh?" was the eloquent reply from the other three. Shirou couldn't respond, still focused on the phantom pains in his arms, his headache, and the collective histories of thousands, hundreds of thousands of weapons that he suddenly knew.
The old man wearing a strange robe that had first called out to them continued. "You must have many questions, but time is short. You are the chosen Heroes, summoned here by an ancient ritual."
This… all sounded strangely familiar.
"Currently, this world is teetering on the edge of destruction. We pray of you, please, lend us your power!"
"Man, so much talking," one of the others said. The black-haired boy holding a sword.
"This sucks," the blonde said, leaning on his spear as he stood up. "Can we go now?"
The third boy, a small shield strapped to his arm, shared a startled look with Shirou, who returned a hesitant shrug. At least this one seemed about as confused as Shirou did, although the other two seemed strangely smug, almost expectant. Like they already knew what they were here for.
"Don't you have any shame, dragging us here without your permission?" the first boy said, lowering his sword towards the speaker. Shirou's subconscious mind automatically analyzed the weapon and stored it… within him, somewhere, amongst the other multitudes that he was still trying to process.
"Shouldn't we… hear him out?" the boy with the shield offered.
"I suppose," the spear-wielder responded with a wide smile. "But depending on the answers you give us, we might just become your enemies," he casually threatened.
The old man gulped. "P-please, Heroes, follow me and have an audience with the king…"
Shirou followed the other three numbly, a short walk through what Shirou could only describe as some sort of medieval castle, into what was clearly a throne room.
"So, these are the heroes of old." Another old man, with a stern-looking face and long white hair, clad in expensive looking indigo robes and sitting on a gilded throne addressed the four of them with an appraising glare. "I am the king of this country, Aultcray Melromarc the 32nd. Raise your heads, Heroes. I have much to explain to you. This country – nay, the very world, is on the path to ruin."
"So…" Iwatani Naofumi, the apparent Hero of the Shield, awkwardly attempted to make small talk after the four Heroes had been brought to their chambers for the night. "Pretty heavy stuff, huh? Waves of Calamity, Legendary Weapons, Status Screens… it's hard to believe this is even real, huh?"
Kitamura Motoyasu, the Hero of the Spear, scoffed. "It seems real to me. Besides, this is almost exactly the plot of a game I used to play, called Emerald Online."
"Really?" Naofumi asked. "I've never heard of a game like this."
"Probably because he got the name wrong," Amaki Ren said with a roll of his eyes. "It's called Bravestar Online, a VRMMO."
"What's that?" Shirou spoke up for the first time.
The Hero of the Sword looked at him like he was an idiot. "What are you, a caveman? It's a Virtual Reality video game, massively multiplayer."
"Ah, sorry, I never really played any video games," Shirou said with a shrug.
Naofumi looked equally confused. "I've only ever heard about those in science fiction light novels."
"Same," Motoyasu pitched in. "Emerald Online was a normal computer MMO."
The four stared at each other for a moment, all confused. Further 'common knowledge' quizzes between them all ended the same, with wildly different answers from each.
"So… you mean to say that we're all from different versions of Japan? Like, parallel worlds?" Motoyasu concluded with a frown.
"That… seems likely," agreed Ren. "So, does that mean we all ended up here under different circumstances as well? Because, at least for me… I think I died."
Shirou's eyes widened. "Really? How?"
"Well, I was on my way home from school when I stumbled across an attempted murder. I remember up until I tackled the murderer, the flash of a knife, and then…" He rubbed his side with a grimace of remembered pain.
"Well, it's something similar for me," Motoyasu said with a laugh. "You see, before I came here, I had a lot of girlfriends, you know? And when they found out about each other…"
"They stabbed you?" Ren said, his voice flat. Motoyasu nodded without a hint of shame.
The two of them looked towards Naofumi, who was sitting closest to them.
"Oh, me?" he asked, startled. "Uh, well, the last thing I remember I was reading a book at the library, and the next thing I knew I was here. I guess it's possible I had a heart attack or something?" he asked uncertainly.
Motoyasu snorted, and turned to Shirou, who was somewhat isolated from the rest of them in one of the room's corners. "Well, what about you, then? We all shared."
Shirou answered automatically, still a little in shock even hours after his 'death.' "Well, it turned out that one of the teachers at my school was a professional assassin, and he attacked me in the abandoned crypt under my town's church. He ripped off one of my arms, shattered the other, and then murdered my friend while I bled out."
For a moment, the room was completely quiet, before Motoyasu shattered the silence. "Ha! Good one, you almost had me for a second." He stared at Shirou's blank face for a moment. "Holy shit, you're serious," he said, his mouth dropping open.
Shirou nodded soberly.
"What the fuck…" Naofumi muttered.
Shirou nodded again, more emphatically.
"Welcome, Heroes. As promised, we have gathered companions to follow you on your journeys. They are all eager to make your acquaintance."
The Heroes stood in the throne room once again, the king and his retinue the same as the previous day. This time, however, an assortment of twelve additional individuals, dressed in an assortment of armors and robes and wielding a variety of weapons, stood before the king.
"Now, future heroes of this country," the king continued, "Choose the one you wish to serve."
The assorted adventurers rapidly made their way across the room, three of them flocking towards Shirou, who watched them uncomfortably as they approached. He scanned the room to see how the other Heroes were handling it, and saw that Ren had attracted five followers, and Motoyasu had four, and both of them looked quite pleased. He figured that in Motoyasu's case, it was because all four that had approached him were women. But…
He turned and locked eyes with Naofumi, who looked more than a little distressed. Understandable, considering not one person had gone to join his party.
Shirou sent a sympathetic frown his way. Compared to the other two, who apparently had in-depth knowledge of the world already from their gaming habits, both of them were clearly at a distinct disadvantage in information. Ren and Motoyasu had also spent a fair amount of time the previous night letting Naofumi know that in the games they played, the 'Shielder' class was distinctly underpowered compared to the others. Shirou assumed that this fact, if it was true, might have had something to do with both the king's less than warm welcome of Naofumi the day before as well as his lack of companions.
"W-wait a minute, your majesty!" Naofumi called out.
The king didn't seem quite sure how to respond – though he didn't look very displeased, either. "Hrm. To be frank, I never imagined something like this could happen…"
"Your majesty?" Shirou spoke up as well. The king gestured, granting him permission to speak. "If it's all the same to you… I actually think that I would rather be alone for a while?"
"For what reason, Hero of the Bow?" the man asked suspiciously.
Shirou glanced again at the three who had chosen to follow him. A man in heavy, knightly armor, a woman lightly armored in leather, and a woman in a dark robe wielding some sort of staff. "Well, um, no offense to you all… but…"
He couldn't help but remember Saber, Archer, and Rin. "The last three people I was allies with ended up being kidnapped and mind controlled, stabbed through the heart, and… well, punched so hard that I'm pretty sure her entire head exploded," he finished weakly.
Suddenly, none of the three seemed all too keen on partying with him anymore.
"Dude… your life sucked…" Motoyasu muttered, still quite audible over the sudden silence that filled the chamber.
"So…" Shirou continued. "Maybe some of you could go help Naofumi instead…?"
The three of them hustled away from Shirou – and from Naofumi. Both women shuffled over to Motoyasu, who looked only too pleased to have them, and the knightly man joined Ren.
Shirou sighed and shrugged at Naofumi, who sighed back. "At least you tried," the Hero of the Shield said sullenly.
Naofumi sent pleading glances towards the two Heroes that still had companions.
"Well, it's not really our decision to make…" Motoyasu said with a shrug of his own.
"Is there nobody who will travel with the Shield Hero?" the king asked.
A few moments passed in silence, but – "I will, my Lord." One of Motoyasu's subordinates raised her hand to volunteer, a beautiful woman with red hair. She walked over to join him, and he broke out into a grateful smile.
Shirou sent him an encouraging thumbs up, which was met by a heartfelt nod. Nobody else volunteered to join him, but he seemed infinitely more pleased to have even one companion.
One of the king's attendants brought each of them a small sack of money, silver coins. Shirou and Naofumi were allotted a slightly higher amount, which seemed to further placate the Shield hero.
With that, and a goodbye to the other three Heroes, Shirou set off into the world.
He might have failed in his previous life, but… If he was being given a chance to live again, it was certainly convenient that he be reborn in a world where his dream of becoming a Hero of Justice could stay alive.
Shirou hurriedly pulled back his hand from the sword he'd reached for at a quaint little blacksmith's stall he'd found. The Legendary Holy Bow, which still remained stubbornly stuck to his left hand – as it had been ever since his awakening the previous day, even when he slept, which was annoying – had somehow sent a jolt of pain through his arm the instant he touched the weapon.
He'd decided to spend some of the money he'd been granted on a backup weapon. After all, it was only common sense that an archer should have a secondary weapon for ranges too close to use a bow. Hell, Archer himself had used swords more than his actual bow.
But now, upon trying to touch one… what could only be described as a floating text box popped up in his field of vision.
[Legendary Weapon Rule Violation: Contact with Unauthorized Weapon]
Shirou shook his head, trying to clear the message from his view. He still found the whole status screen thing weird, and frankly a little annoying. He'd only glanced through it briefly after Ren and Motoyasu had been kind enough to describe how to access it – by staring intently at a little button-like thing that was always present in the corner of his vision – and had quickly decided it wasn't really for him.
Between the two gamers and what knowledge they were willing to share, and the legends that the king had told them about how they would have to somehow strengthen their Legendary Weapons somehow, he'd had a lot of other stuff to take in besides exploring the 'help' menu.
Besides, he reminded himself with a smile, he was pretty sure he had an advantage over the other three there – he'd practiced strengthening things since he'd first learned about magecraft, and after he'd accidentally forced open his magic circuits and Archer explained that you were born with them and didn't have to forcibly create them from your own nervous system, it had only gotten easier. He was pretty sure he had the whole 'strengthening' bit covered.
He wasn't really sure what 'just strengthen it like you would in a game' meant anyways, which was what Motoyasu had offhandedly told him to do, so he was glad he had practice with a real-world alternative.
Still, though, with a sigh, he decided that he would have to use the menu in this case to figure out what rule he'd apparently broken. After a brief time spent navigating menus, he eventually learned that apparently, Heroes couldn't fight with anything other than the legendary weapons in their possession.
"That's stupid," he muttered to himself. There went the one other advantage he'd thought he had, Projection. Or… "Wonder if it applies to fake weapons I make myself?"
With a moment of concentration, he pushed prana through his circuits, and in his right hand, Projected a copy of the sword he'd tried to pick up.
He shook out his hand angrily as the sword clattered away, and he dismissed the Projection. He noted that one of the bars floating in the top left of his vision decreased slightly as he'd cast his magecraft, the blue one marked 'MP.' He hadn't figured out what the other two bars, 'HP' and 'SP' were for, but apparently the blue one was some sort of visual representation of his prana reserves.
That was a shame. And he'd just learned that he was capable of Projection, too. He'd been looking forward to practicing with it.
"But then how am I supposed to do anything? If I can't touch any weapons but this bow, what am I supposed to shoot from it?" he wondered.
"Is there a problem here, son?" the blacksmith asked, finally wandering over after finishing with a previous customer.
"Kind of, yeah. I just learned that I can't use any weapons besides this bow itself," he explained sheepishly. "What am I supposed to do, bludgeon things with it?"
It did seem rather sturdy.
"Oh, my, you're one of the Heroes! I'm so sorry, if I'd realized sooner…"
"Oh, don't worry. I don't mean to impose," Shirou said with a small bow.
"And polite, too! Well, that certainly would seem to be a problem…" the wizened old man agreed. "I don't mean to pry, of course, and it might seem obvious, but… have you tried arrows?"
"I guess I didn't," Shirou admitted with a frown. "But arrows are weapons too, and this thing clearly says no other weapons. Still, couldn't hurt to try." Or, well, it could, but it was only a minor shock-like sensation.
He thanked the man for his help, and wandered off to find a fletcher. A short while later, he found himself hesitantly reaching towards a full quiver.
He sighed in relief as he drew an arrow from a quiver without pain. Well, that was one big problem solved, at least.
Unlike the sword he'd tried to touch earlier, just glancing at the arrows was enough to bring up another text box.
[Basic Steel Arrows: Base Power 1]
He waved his hand through the message, which did nothing, and then sighed and deliberately unfocused his eyes to get rid of it.
"I'll take one of these," he said, holding out a quiver to the lady running the shop.
"Oh, but… for a Hero such as yourself, are you sure you're satisfied with such mundane arrows? Those are made of normal wood and steel," she pointed out.
"What else would you make arrows out of?" Shirou asked.
"Well, I'm glad you asked! This shop prides itself on our wide variety of arrows to choose from! We have arrows of iron, steel, magic iron, magic steel, mithril, silver, gold, and even platinum!" She listed her wares with a wide smile.
"Mithril?" Shirou asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Oh, are you unfamiliar with the material? It's a miraculous metal – as hard as steel, half the weight, resistant to corrosion, and it shines like bright silver!" she explained eagerly.
"Ah, you mean Aluminum," Shirou said with a smile and a nod of understanding. "No thank you. These will be fine."
He paid the woman and walked off. He hadn't had the heart to tell her that most of those choices sounded like they would certainly disrupt the weight of the arrow mid-flight, be less effective than normal arrows due to softness of the metals, or both. Magic steel sounded interesting, but he also hadn't wanted to tell her that he was probably just going to Project more arrows when he ran out of these ones anyways, denying her his repeat service – which would probably count as magic arrows anyways, right?
He spent the next few hours wandering around, trying to familiarize himself with the town. It wasn't easy, since apparently the written language used here was different from what he was used to.
Eventually, he stumbled across one of the town's largest buildings, an elaborate church with a tall clock tower. A shudder went down his spine, and he turned to leave, but a woman standing outside in religious robes noticed him and rushed towards him with a smile.
"Hero of the Bow! Have you come to synchronize with the Hourglass of the Dragon's Era? The Hero of the Sword and Spear were already here hours ago, and we were beginning to think you might not be coming!"
"... The what?" Shirou asked. "I'm sorry, the king didn't say anything about having to visit the church."
Her face fell slightly. "Is that so? We were told that the Heroes would have some knowledge of our world before their summoning. After synchronizing with the Hourglass, you will automatically be transported to the location of the next Wave of Calamity."
Begrudgingly admitting that that sounded useful, he followed her into the building. Enshrined in the center of the church was a massive hourglass, giving off an incredible aura of divinity. Red grains of sand slowly dropped into the bottom chamber.
Almost immediately upon seeing it, a small timer appeared in yet another corner of his vision, seemingly counting down to about a month from now.
"Great, more pop-ups…"
If this kept up, was his entire vision going to be filled with strange translucent information boxes? Really, what if one of them appeared in the middle of combat?
He thanked the nun, or priestess, or whatever she was, and wandered away while focusing on opening up his menu again.
Aha! Finally, he found it! After searching through the various menus and help messages for a while, he mentally poked at the little button marked [HUD: ON].
A warning message appeared directly in the center of his vision.
[Warning: Turning off the Heads Up Display is recommended only for experienced Heroes. You will be unable to track HP, MP, and SP, and Status Messages will be disabled.]
Perfect. He pressed 'yes' with no hesitation.
Well, the little circular icon was still there in the corner, but at least the rest of the useless information was gone! He could always turn it back on later to check how much time he had left before the Wave.
His final stop was to pick up a general map of the area and its surrounding villages from an all-purpose general store. Finally prepared, he set off from the town to do what Emiya Shirou did best: help people.
It didn't take him long to realize that this really was a world unlike his own.
Barely a few steps outside the city gates, he'd been attacked by some strange sort of monster, a floating orange ball-shaped thing with a wide mouth filled with rubbery teeth.
They popped like balloons when he shot them, leaving only scraps of a rubber-like substance behind.
They didn't seem particularly dangerous, but he supposed they made good target practice, and they were fairly aggressive, so he continued to idly pop them as he continued on his way towards a nearby village. On the way there, he'd been attacked by several other harmless monsters, ranging from balloons of other colors to some kind of sentient egg, which smelled terrible when it burst. Really, how did anyone normally travel unless they were heavily armed? The number of random things attacking him was ridiculous.
Eventually, he became aware that omnipresent icon was blinking. Focusing on it brought up a new message.
[You have reached Level 2!]
Below that was some sort of arbitrary spread of letters, numbers, and arrows that Shirou couldn't make much sense of. Most of the arrows seemed to point from lower numbers to higher ones, so… it was probably a good thing. He begrudgingly opened up his full menu again and skimmed through it until he found the 'Disable Level Up Alerts' option, and then happily continued on his way.
The next type of monster he found actually seemed to be at least loosely based on a real animal. Staring at the body of the first rabbit-thing he'd killed, he couldn't help but think it would be a shame if the meat went to waste. Besides, he had forgotten to buy provisions in town.
Hesitantly, he Projected a skinning knife, expecting another shock, but to his pleasant surprise, it apparently didn't count as a weapon.
The instant he thought about using it as one, of course, it jumped out of his hand with another painful jolt. He set to harvesting the rabbit's meat, grumbling about arbitrary restrictions the whole time. Dinner was meat stir-fried over an open fire in a Projected skillet, alongside some local vegetables he'd been able to forage for that were surprisingly tasty.
After a couple of days, as the monsters attacking him grew slowly but steadily more dangerous, he noticed that his bow seemed to be losing some of its draw strength. Upon further investigation, including Structural Analysis, he determined that it wasn't the bow that was getting weaker – he was simply getting stronger. It was a gradual thing that seemed to come in brief spurts, now that he knew what to look for, and it only took him a short while to figure out that it must be connected to 'Leveling Up.'
As a result, he started to Reinforce his bow in combat, increasing the strength of the metal and the tension of the bowstring, until the draw weight was back up to a comfortable level.
Most objects, when Reinforced with prana, had a limited capacity for improvement before they were essentially perfect, or at least as good as they could hope to be. Adding more beyond that usually resulted in the item breaking apart violently – something that Shirou was intimately familiar with from his years of learning the process.
Miraculously, however, the Legendary Bow seemed to soak up prana like a sponge, seemingly capable of being Reinforced far beyond what Shirou was capable of drawing back. Upon this discovery, he was greeted by another blinking alert that he had to manually open.
[A Legendary Weapon can be infused with MP to temporarily enhance its performance.]
Shirou dismissed the message with a snort. Of course it would be a useless message telling him something he already knew.
He idly wondered if this was what it meant to 'strengthen a weapon like in a game,' and whether or not video games were actually advanced enough to simulate Magecraft so well.
After all, the only thing that could loosely be called a 'game' that he'd been in before was the Holy Grail War, which was a kind of tournament. It even came with Legendary Heroes as well, he noted with a small laugh to himself.
Well, Reinforcement was how he had strengthened his weapons during the War, so he supposed he must be on the right track – even though he'd barely been of any use. After all, that 'game' had involved strengthening yourself by summoning a Legendary Hero of your own, although now he supposed he was the Archer.
As if in response to his thought, the icon started flashing again.
Shirou froze, almost afraid to open the alert.
Surely, it couldn't be…
He focused on the blinking icon.
[New Game +]
[Due to your previous real-life adventures before being summoned to this world, the unique circumstances of your previous death, and your ideas regarding Legendary Heroes being summoned to fight alongside partners, you have been granted a companion to aid you on your quest!]
[Tohsaka Rin has been added to your party!]
Shirou had to suddenly shield his eyes from a blinding flash of light off to his left. He heard a familiar high-pitched shriek that quickly cut off, and when his vision cleared…
Rin, just as he'd seen her last, was standing in the middle of another magic circle that had been seared into the grass a few meters away, breathing heavily, hand outstretched like she was holding an imaginary gun, and looking like she was about to have a heart attack.
"...Shirou?" she asked, staring at him incredulously.
"Tohsaka!" he exclaimed happily. "You're not dead!"
"You… what happened?" Her voice was shaky. "I saw Kuzuki blow you away, and the last thing I saw, he was coming right for me…"
"Well…" He scratched the back of his head. "It's kind of a long story?"
"Let me get this straight one more time," Rin said. She was sitting on the ground, cradling her head in her hands.
"You were somehow summoned to another world."
"In this world, you're some kind of pseudo Heroic Spirit Archer."
"The kingdom is relying on you to save the world."
She let out a soft groan, and then continued. "You somehow found a way to bring me here too?"
Another nod, and a happy smile.
"Ok, here are some of the parts I'm having more trouble with. You can't read the language. You didn't read the help menu the world helpfully provided for you. You refused the help of others when the king offered them to you, you have no idea how to get home, and you set off from the town with barely any preparation and no goals except to vaguely help people?!" she ranted, staring daggers at him.
The smile slowly faded as he gave yet another, more hesitant nod.
"Are there any other stupid things that you have yet to confess to?" she demanded.
Shirou hesitated. "Well… did I mention yet that I think before I died, I somehow mentally recorded all of Archer's swords somehow?"
She stood up, stalked angrily towards him, and began to shout at him, punctuating each point with a slap to his head. "You what?! Stupid! Idiot! You have no idea what you're even supposed to be doing! Are you even a Magus?! Knowledge is power! How do you expect to save the world like this, dummy?!"
"Ow, hey, stop! Rin, that hurts!" he protested, half-heartedly trying to shield himself from her slaps.
She ran out of steam, panting and glaring at him for a moment in silence, before her shoulders suddenly slumped. She took a slow half-step forward and hugged him.
"H-hey, Tohsaka, what's this?" he asked as he hesitantly wrapped his arms around her as well.
She looked down and to the side, cheek pressed against his chest. "I'm… glad you're not dead, stupid. And… thank you, I guess. I'm glad I'm not dead too."
Before he could respond, she pulled away and crossed her arms over her chest, not looking directly at him. She sniffed. "Still, that doesn't excuse all your stupid decisions."
He smiled at her. "Well, I did have at least some plan. I heard a rumor in town that one of the neighboring towns, to the north, was being governed by a rotten nobleman who'd been making money through evil means. I thought I'd head over and see if there was anything I could do to help."
She looked back to him warily. "When we get there, you're buying me books."
Shirou nodded along contentedly. "Say, Tohsaka…"
She sniffed again, cutting him off. "Rin."
"I-it's the least I can do, I suppose. You did save me, somehow, after all. You can call me Rin," she said, averting her eyes again.
Shirou smiled. "Sure. Rin, then. Thanks."
"...Why'd you try to help me?" she asked faintly. "You had to know that jumping between Servants fighting wasn't going to end well…"
Shirou shrugged. "I barely thought about it. I jumped down before I even knew what I was doing. I didn't want you to die, and I thought I might be able to help."
Her cheeks took on a slight rosy tint as she continued to avoid his eyes. "Idiot… you might cause misunderstandings, saying things like that, you know?"
Shirou shook his head. "No misunderstandings. I really do care about you, you know?"
He noticed her blush deepen before she spun around completely, arms still crossed, and refused to answer him.
Shirou smiled. "Rin. Have you noticed that little icon in the bottom left of your vision…?"
Rin might not have come with any Command Spells, but it was quickly determined that, Legendary Hero or no, she was definitely the Master, and Shirou was definitely the Servant.
Shirou was quite pleased with the development. After all, it was any good Master's duty to understand a Servant fully, and Rin seemed simultaneously enthralled with and confused by the status menu available to her.
Luckily, through whichever magic had brought her here – Rin not-so-helpfully explained that it was definitely a variant on the Second Magic, Kaleidoscope, using a lot of complicated terminology he didn't really understand – she'd been granted all the same options and help screens that he had.
The journey was fairly straightforward. As they walked, Shirou would shoot the multitudes of monsters that approached them, which Rin pointed out split 'exp' between the two of them, and Rin would follow along behind him as if in a trance as she read through all the material available to her.
Already, she'd been quite helpful, with 'exp' being only the first of many concepts she explained. Apparently, every time he killed something, some arbitrary counter would increase, and when it hit certain milestones, they would 'level up' and all sorts of characteristics would increase – also arbitrarily. This concept in particular stunned Rin, who launched into yet another long-winded explanation, which he mostly ignored, about how the concept made no sense.
She'd also reasoned out that 'HP' stood for Health Points, which went down when one took damage – which hadn't happened yet to Shirou – and 'MP' stood for Magecraft Points, which went down when one used magecraft. She'd gone through a couple theories as to what 'SP' might be, but the tests she'd run while they were camping at night were inconclusive.
The help screen said it would be depleted as a Hero used their skills, so it should have been 'Skill Points,' but even after she'd made him turn back on his HUD and put his all into cooking, something he was genuinely skilled at, nothing seemed to change. Sprinting back and forth across the campsite until he was exhausted ruled out 'Stamina Points' and 'Speed Points,' and it obviously wasn't 'Spell Points.' Nothing really seemed to fit, so they tabled the mystery for now.
The real breakthrough was that apparently, by feeding different things into his bow somehow, he would be able to shift his weapon into new forms.
"Come on, Shirou, don't be a coward." Rin tapped her foot impatiently from the other side of their small campfire.
"You're sure it says it needs to be fed?" he asked, holding the bow in one hand and a skewer of freshly cooked rabbit monster meat in the other.
"Of course I'm sure," she asserted with a roll of her eyes. "Now go ahead!"
He hesitantly pressed the skewer up against the front of the bow, feeling a little silly. He almost fell off the log he was sitting on in shock when the gem set into its center suddenly began to glow, and greedily sucked the meat into it.
It was fairly disgusting to watch the hunks of meat being squeezed down into a funnel-like shape before being sucked inside the weapon.
"Well? Did it do anything?" Rin asked, looking a little squeamish herself.
"Oh, yeah, the icon is blinking again," Shirou said as he opened up his latest alert.
[The Requirement for Usa Meat Bow has been unsealed.]
[Usa Meat Bow]
[Equipment bonus: Dismantling Techniques 1 Unmastered]
He stared at the message for a long moment in silence, trying to come to terms with the information in front of him, before he finally looked up at Rin with a grimace.
"I am not using a bow made of meat."
At Rin's insistence, he continued to feed it with a variety of other food they'd scavenged, both from monsters and the local flora.
"Surely at least one of them is useful?" she argued weakly, half an hour later.
"Rin, whatever this bow is made of, it seems to be practically indestructible, and if it has a limit on the amount of prana I can use to Reinforce it, I haven't reached it yet," he pointed out. "So no, I don't see any reason to use a mushroom bow, or a leaf bow, or any kind of meat bow, even if they do make me slightly better at gathering plants or butchering dead animals."
Rin grumbled for a while about how Archer was a better Archer than Shirou was before going to sleep. He couldn't help but privately agree with her – what was the point of having so many swords recorded inside himself if he couldn't use them?
"You can use a knife to skin animals, right?" Rin asked a few nights later, only a day or so away from their destination. "So, it's all about intent. If you don't mean to use a sword as a sword, you should still be able to Project one," she reasoned.
Shirou frowned. "But a knife can be used to stab a person or to skin an animal. A sword is a tool for war, right? How can you hold one without thinking about using it to fight?"
Rin scoffed. "Honestly, Shirou, are you a magus or not? Self-hypnosis is the fundament of magecraft. Besides, just because you can't help but think about using swords to fight, that isn't true for everyone. Surely you've seen those poorly-made katana sold to tourists, meant to be used for nothing more than decorating a wall?"
Shirou shuddered. Those cheap stainless-steel pieces of garbage were an insult to the very concept of swords.
"Try to project one of those," Rin suggested with a smirk, reading his expression correctly.
With a grimace of disgust, he complied, conjuring up a useless wall-hanger piece he'd seen once. A moment later, his eyes widened – he hadn't been shocked, and he was still holding it!
"See? Because you would never in your right mind even think about hitting someone with a piece of garbage like that, you can hold it!" she exclaimed triumphantly.
"But how does this help me? I can't use this to fight," he said, dismissively causing it to scatter apart into light again.
"You really are an idiot," Rin said affectionately. She pulled a stick from the small pile of firewood they'd collected for the night, and sketched a crude drawing of a sword in the dirt in front of herself. "What is this?" she asked him, jabbing with the stick towards the drawing.
Shirou looked at it in confusion. "It's a sword," he said.
Rin smacked him with the stick. "Wrong! That's an arrow!"
"Ow! No, look, it's a sword–"
Thwack! "It's an arrow, stupid!"
Thwack! "I said it's an arrow!"
"Alright, alright, it's an arrow," Shirou grumbled, rubbing his arm.
"Good!" Rin beamed. "Now, Project me an arrow."
Eyeing the stick warily, Shirou created a replica of a random sword that fit the same general proportions of Rin's sketch.
"See?" she asked, grinning again.
He looked down at the sword still in his hand, sans shock. "Huh. Ok, but Rin, this arrow isn't exactly the same shape as a normal arrow," he pointed out. "I don't think it'll fly very well."
"Just change its shape with your magecraft, then," she answered with a wave of her hand. "Reinforcement and Alteration, the basic mysteries of Material Transmutation magecraft."
At Shirou's blank expression, she sighed. "What is it?"
She sighed again and settled in for another impromptu magecraft lesson.
An hour later, Shirou settled down to concentrate. Reinforcement could be used to change the shape of an object, obviously, but Alteration apparently would be able to even add traits or effects to an existing object. It was an intermediary step between Reinforcement and Projection – he could change a stick into the shape of an arrow with Reinforcement, or simply create an arrow out of magical energy using Projection, but Alteration would allow himself to add the metaphysical trait of "being an arrow" to an already existing object. Using all three together…
He Projected another generic sword, once again convincing himself that it was going to be used as an arrow. He Altered the base traits of the sword, adding the concept of 'Arrow' alongside the pre-existing concept of 'Sword.' Finally, using Reinforcement, he changed the shape of the 'arrow' until it was suitably aerodynamic – shortening the blade until it resembled a large arrowhead, lengthening and thinning the hilt to form the shaft, and stretching the pommel into fins…
When he was finished, anybody looking at the final product would have been able to recognize it as an arrow, albeit a strange one. And yet, the features that made it a sword were also recognizable… a perfect hybrid of the two concepts.
"Go on, try it out," Rin said from where she'd been observing his progress.
It was quite a bit heavier than a normal arrow, so he found himself pumping even more prana than normal into the bow, until it was Reinforced to the point where he could barely pull it back fully.
He took aim at a tree a few dozen meters away, and loosed the arrow.
The sound of the arrow impacting the trunk was almost as loud as a gunshot, and caused the whole tree to shake. When they walked over to investigate the target, they found the arrow buried nearly to the fletching in the solid wood.
Rin turned to Shirou with a wide, almost predatory smile.
Shirou chuckled nervously. "Guess it worked pretty well, huh?"
"Shirou? Remember when you told me you'd recorded Archer's entire collection of swords?" she asked, sickeningly sweetly.
"Yeees?" Shirou answered.
"Great!" she exclaimed. "Because from now on, you're going to be practicing turning those into arrows as well!"
The next day, they finally reached their destination. They stood on the edge of the tree line on a small ridge, overlooking the small town in its entirety.
"I have to say, it's one thing to be told you're in a medieval-type world, but even with the constant monster attacks… This is really something else," Rin said.
"It's certainly no Fuyuki," Shirou agreed. The capital, at least, had been filled with massive stone buildings, and elaborate structures like the church and the castle. The overall feeling was closer to a fantasy city than a historical one. This town, however, even aside from being much smaller, seemed more… gritty.
There was only one large building, something larger than a mansion, but smaller than a castle. It was surrounded by a tall metal wall, and the rest of the town was somewhat dilapidated looking. Cheap houses, practically hovels, were made of basic materials like wood and straw. The roads were made of dirt rather than cobblestone, and the only protection surrounding the town itself was little more than a wooden fence.
A rough looking guard stopped them at the entrance to the town and taxed them a few silver coins each. It was no trouble for Shirou to pay him, as he'd spent only a small fraction of the eight-hundred silver stipend the king had given him back in the capital, but he had a feeling that to someone less well-off than himself, it was an exorbitant fee.
Those suspicions were reinforced as they walked through the town. The people seemed unhappy, and unwell. Where the capital had been filled with friendly faces and exuberant merchants, the people here – which could really only be called peasants – wore dirty, rustic clothing, and watched the newcomers and their colorful garb with suspicion and fear. Many were skinny to the point of emaciation.
"I'm beginning to think your rumors might have been right," Rin said as she eyed her surroundings with distaste. "No responsible nobleman would let his people live like this."
Shirou nodded sadly. "I suppose we'll have to step in after all. Good thing we came this way, I suppose."
They came to a stop in front of the manor's gate, which was manned by another pair of guards that eyed them warily. Rin looked at Shirou, who shrugged, before turning towards the guards. "Hey, um, can we talk to whoever's in charge?"
"And who are you, to seek an audience with our lord?" one of the men answered with a sneer.
Shirou opened his left hand and shook it, demonstrating the fact that his bow remained stuck to his palm. "Hero of the Bow and his companion," he said, feeling a little silly.
The guard's eyes widened.
"Of course, I can't even begin to express what an honor it is to be able to entertain one of the Legendary Heroes," the nobleman simpered. He was a somewhat portly man with a thick beard, and wore robes that nearly rivaled those of the king himself in extravagance.
They'd been escorted into the manor and brought to a lavish banquet hall, the two of them and the nobleman seated at a table that could have comfortably fit dozens. The table was practically covered in food, although the lord was the only one eating. A half-dozen guards stood sentinel around the room.
"Yes, yes," Rin said impatiently, tapping her foot. "So you've said."
Shirou put his hand on her shoulder to calm her down. "Sir, you're kind of avoiding the point."
"Bah!" The man let out a loud scoff. "Yes, you've made your point. I'm sure all manner of undesirables are spreading all sorts of unsavory rumors about me. But what do peasants know about ruling? What do you? I've been a nobleman since birth, and Hero or no, I would think I know a bit more about how to run a town than children like you."
"As a matter of fact," Rin cut in with a scowl, "my family held claim to the noble title of Second Owner of the land we hail from. I am experienced with governorship, and I can tell you with certainty that you are doing it wrong."
"Your people are suffering," Shirou said softly. "They're starving, while you waste food on displays like this." He gestured at the feast before him. "And the unfair tax you've put on the gate has stifled trade and trapped them here."
The man's face was beginning to redden with anger. "You know nothing, boy! That tax is for their own good, their own protection! If my guards don't have the funding for equipment, the food to keep morale high, then who will protect the people you pretend to care so much about?" He shook his head. "More wine!" he called out forcefully.
A serving girl, a rather young-looking woman with long green hair tied into twin braids, rushed forward towards the table with a silver pitcher. Shirou noticed that her hands were shaking, and that she involuntarily flinched as she drew close to the nobleman. She stole a quick, nervous glance over towards Shirou's end of the table – and on top of her general anxiety, that was all it took for her hands to slip.
"Gah!" the nobleman thundered as she shot to his feet, his expensive robes dripping with red wine.
The girl let out a shriek as she stumbled back and fell to the floor, almost immediately curling up into a ball in fear and shame. "Please, I'm sorry! I'm sorr–"
"Pain," the man growled, slicing his hand down towards her. Immediately, a glowing purple crest of some kind appeared on her chest, visible even above her clothes, and her pleading cut off. She began to convulse on the ground, teeth tightly clenched, with only weak whimpers of pain escaping her mouth.
A moment later, the nobleman became aware that Shirou had jumped onto the table and crossed its length in an instant, and was standing less than a meter away with his bow drawn and leveled at the man's eye.
"Stop this," Shirou demanded, pulling back the bowstring a fraction further.
With a growl, and another slash of his hand, the purple crest disappeared, and the girl was left gasping silently on the ground as tears ran down her face. "You dare threaten me in my own home, boy?"
"You'd be dead before they take another step," Shirou warned him with a sharp glance towards the guards, which had only just finished drawing their own weapons.
With a shake of his head, the nobleman brought them to a halt. "What do you want, boy?" he growled again.
"What we want," Rin called over as she casually strolled towards the pair at the other end of the table, "is for your disgusting little reign of tyranny to be over, and for amends to be made for your crimes. That was some sort of slavery binding, wasn't it?"
The man glowered, but said nothing.
"Well, the way I see it," Rin continued, coming to a stop next to where Shirou stood on the table and placing a hand on her hip with a smirk, "we can do this one of two ways – the easy way, or the hard way. One way is that Shirou here kills you, and then we deal with your little private army and free your slaves."
The man's eyes flickered towards the arrowhead pointed right at them before refocusing on Rin. "And the easy way?" he asked with angry resignation.
Shirou laughed. "That is the easy way – my way. The hard way is that I let her get at you."
Rin smiled sweetly.
Rin pouted. "I never get to do things my way."
Shirou chuckled nervously. "It just seemed too cruel and unusual, even for someone like him…"
They stood just outside the manor walls, watching the remnants of the noble's guard force – those who had been smart enough to surrender – hauling out carts of food and coin towards the rest of the town. Already, people were hesitantly approaching and receiving their shares.
"This is going to create a power vacuum," Rin noted. "And the people are going to need protection, for the immediate future at least."
"You want to make this town our base," Shirou stated.
Rin blushed. "W-well, the monsters around here seem to be tougher than those we fought closer to the capital, so it would be a good place to train, and we wouldn't be doing these people any favors if we just left them leaderless…"
Shirou smiled and nodded. "I see. You want to plunder the manor's personal library."
Rin's blush deepened and she smacked him lightly. She remained silent for a moment before answering. "That would be another benefit, yes," she admitted.
"Umm… Mr. Legendary Hero, sir?" a timid voice came from behind them.
They turned to see the girl that they'd saved, apparently one of only a small few in the manor that had been branded with a slave crest. Shirou smiled at her. "Please, just Shirou is fine."
"Fueeee…" the girl let out a small sigh of amazement. "S-Shirou…" She suddenly blushed and shook her head before hastily dropping down to one knee. "M-my name is Rishia Ivyred, the daughter of the nobles that run the town south of here. I was kidnapped by that man… My family – n-no, I owe you a debt for rescuing me."
Shirou smiled. "I only did what was right. Anyone would have done the same, after seeing the way he was treating you, and the town."
She shook her head again, looking concerned. "P-please! Let me repay you! I'll do anything you ask, just… please! Let me travel with you! I promise I'll be worth your while – I'll carry your equipment, cook, clean, whatever you need – I know some magic as well!"
Shirou looked to Rin, who shrugged, before turning back to Rishia. "Are you sure? What we do can be very dangerous."
"I'm sure! Just being near you already makes me feel safe!" she blurted out with a look of pure devotion, before realizing what she was saying and clapping a hand over her mouth and blushing furiously.
Rin put her hand to her chin with an appraising hum. "I suppose it could be useful to have someone around who knows this world's magic," she pointed out. "And, as the daughter of a noble family… can you read?"
"Y-yes!" the girl said with an excited bob of her head. "I studied at a prestigious academy in Faubley before the Waves appeared, and I was one of the top students in my class!"
Rin smiled, and gave Shirou another, smaller shrug and a nod. He extended a hand to the girl and pulled her back up to her feet. "Welcome aboard, Rishia."
The rest of the month passed by swiftly. During the day, their small party would venture outside the town and hunt, gaining 'exp' as well as culling the monster population nearby the town and supplementing the town's stockpiles with whatever monster parts they managed to carry back.
Rishia quickly proved that when she'd claimed to know 'some' magic, she was vastly understating her own abilities. Rin was pleasantly surprised and impressed to discover that Rishia was also an Average One, or this world's equivalent, meaning that she was equally attuned to each element and could essentially use any spell that she cared to study efficiently.
At night, even beyond the tutoring in the country's written language that Rishia was happy to provide, the two girls would spend hours comparing their styles of magic and studying how effectively they could learn from each other. Rin quickly managed to master some basic spells, proving that her elemental affinity carried over – which was good for her, but less useful for Shirou, as Rishia apologetically admitted she'd never heard of any spells focused on swords. Rishia, for her part, was found by Rin to have a high amount of dormant good-quality magic circuits, proving that humans even in this world were capable of learning magecraft. The opening of her circuits had been a painful affair, but Rishia's study under the senior magus was progressing well.
Managing the town itself to ensure that it didn't fall into chaos after the untimely demise of its lord had been easier than expected. The populace was generally quite pleased to hear that one of the Legendary Heroes themselves had their best interests in mind. A council of elected citizens was quickly formed, which handled most of the day-to-day management, and an emissary had already been sent to Rishia's family bearing news of her safe rescue, and the first traders arrived from their town a week later with her tearful parents in tow. They'd been honored that their daughter had been accepted as a member of Shirou's party, and had happily agreed to a mutually beneficial alliance between the two towns for as long as it remained their base.
Nobody was really sure where the Wave was to eventually appear, so the detachment of guardsmen from Rishia's town that arrived with the traders remained to help train some of the citizens into a militia, just in case it should arrive nearby.
Before long, the time for preparations was up. Shirou turned on his HUD, just to confirm that the timer was in its final minutes, before dismissing it once again.
"Are you both ready?" he asked again, for what must have been the third time. It was less that he was nervous for himself, and more that he was worried about his companions.
Rin nodded sharply as she stretched, making sure she was limber and ready for the coming battle.
"Y-yes! I won't let you down!" Rishia squeaked, clutching the simple wooden staff she'd taken to using as a focus for her spells. She also wore a long green mage's robe that had been reinforced with some simple metal armor plates over her chest and shoulders.
"Don't worry, you'll do great," Shirou reassured her with a smile.
"Just stay by Shirou, and you'll be perfectly fine," Rin chipped in as well. "He can be a dolt about some things, but in a fight… well, you've seen him yourself."
Rishia nodded, eyes bright. After all, she'd been hunting monsters with him for the past few weeks – and she'd even had a chance to watch Rin work with him on some of their 'experiments'. "S-shirou's not a dolt," she added with a small smile a moment later almost as an afterthought.
"Alright, this is it! Everyone get ready!" Shirou called out.
A deafening sound echoed throughout the world, and a moment later, Shirou's vision faded away rapidly to pure white. When his sight cleared, his surroundings were different, and the sky…
The sky was dyed wine-red, and even as he watched, it almost seemed to crack, tendrils of miasma cutting jagged lines across the heavens – and from the cracks, dark forms slowly began to drip.
Rin and Rishia appeared to either side of him, and for a moment, the three of them stared at the spectacle before them in stunned silence. A short distance away, with small flashes of light, the other Heroes and their parties blinked into being.
Motoyasu, wearing an elaborate set of chainmail armor with red and gold embellishments, was the first to get over the sight. "Alright, everyone, let's– wait. Shirou?"
The Hero of the Spear, about to dash off towards the largest of the cracks, suddenly froze as he noticed his fellow Hero. Attention drawn by his exclamation, Naofumi and Ren turned to stare in shock at Shirou as well.
Naofumi wore a strange suit of mismatched armor adorned with feathers and quills, as well as a forest green cape. Behind him stood a young woman in light armor, with a pair of animal ears on top of her head and a bushy tail. Shirou noticed that it wasn't the woman who'd volunteered to go with the Hero of the Shield a month ago, and a quick scan of the crowd revealed that she was back with Motoyasu. Ren wore a suit of dark plate armor with a blue and white overcoat, and his party of six remained unchanged.
Naofumi was the first to break the silence, frowning uncomfortably. "Shirou… is that… still the base form of your bow?"
Motoyasu took a moment to turn and scowl at Naofumi for some reason, who returned the glare with one of his own, before turning back to Shirou. "And… you're still wearing the clothes you were summoned in."
Shirou looked down at his familiar white and blue shirt. For someone like him, who could just make new copies of his clothes with Projection if they were dirty or damaged, he hadn't seen a reason to change his style. Besides, Rin knew plenty of spells to repair and clean things.
"Ah, yeah. I didn't want to use the meat bow I unlocked or whatever, so I've just been sticking with the base form. It works well enough. And is this really the time to be commenting on my wardrobe? We kind of have a job to do," he said with a pointed glance towards the cracks in the sky.
"Are you even taking this seriously?" Ren demanded with a scowl. "What have you even been doing this past month while the rest of us have been hard at work preparing, sitting on your ass? What level are you, one? Two?"
"I'm not sure," Shirou answered honestly with a frown. "I turned off my hud."
"Your… HUD? Why would you do that?" Motoyasu asked, utterly perplexed.
"Can we talk about this later? I think we're supposed to be killing the monster's employer, right?" Shirou asked in exasperation.
"You mean the boss?" Naofumi asked, his voice deadpan.
"Yeah, that," Shirou replied with a nod before squinting off into the distance. "Is that it?"
The other Heroes turned in the direction he was looking. Ren spun back to face him and lowered his sword in his direction. "Do you think this is a joke?!" he yelled. "Stop fucking with us!"
Rishia opened her mouth angrily, and made to step in front of Shirou, but Rin put a hand on her shoulder to hold her back. "This is what I meant about him being a dolt," she explained softly. "Just wait and see."
Shirou sighed and continued to squint. "It looks like a chimera, I think. Two heads, a lion and a goat? Long snake tail?"
Motoyasu continued to look as well. "Well… that does sound like the first Wave boss… but I don't see anything…"
"Enough of this," Rin declared, her voice imperious. "Shirou, do it."
Shirou nodded. "Trace, On," he intoned solemnly.
The other heroes watched, surprised, as a second weapon appeared in Shirou's right hand – one that they could instinctively tell was legendary in its own right.
He took up an archery stance, concentrating deeply. There was a lot to keep track of. Reinforcing himself, making his arms as strong as possible, Reinforcing the bow, so it would be able to withstand the forces he was applying to it, Reinforcing and Altering the 'arrow' in his hand to better fit the concept he'd tricked himself into believing was true – and pumping it full to the point of overflowing in the process.
"I am the bone of my sword," he muttered, his voice nonetheless seeming to echo across the barren hilltop that the Heroes and their companions stood upon. The 'arrow' stretched, lengthening and slimming, crimson light from the bloody sky above glinting off of its spiral blade. This was what he and Rin had trained for, the surviving legacy of a knight that had thrown down his life for his Master.
He released the arrow. There was a crack of thunder as the projectile instantly shattered the sound barrier, streaking off in a flash of light towards the distant hilltop beneath the largest of the cracks in the sky – well over two kilometers away.
The hilltop exploded, engulfed in a sphere of fire bright enough to leave a blind spot in the vision of those watching. The light around the edges of the explosion seemed to glimmer with the multi-hued colors of the rainbow.
The other three Heroes and their companions stood in stunned silence as the cracks in reality visibly halted their slow crawl across the sky, and then started to recede. Ren fell over backwards, landing on his bottom in shock.
"Woohoo!" Rishia cheered. "Shirou's the best!"
Rin squinted out at the explosion and sighed. "I give it a C, at best," she determined.
Shirou nodded with a small frown. "Yeah, I've got a long way to go before I'm as good as him…"
Rin glanced around at the other Heroes, who were still staring, either at Shirou or at his target – which was now a lightly smoldering small mesa, the top of the hill completely annihilated. "Alright, people, there are still a lot of monsters around! Split up and protect the countryside!"
The girl with Naofumi nodded. "This is nearby Riyuuto village!" she said urgently.
"Let's go, Raphtalia!" Naofumi agreed, shaking his head in an attempt to ignore the impossibility he'd just been witness to. The two of them sprinted off down one side of the hill.
Motoyasu mentally commanded his jaw to close after realizing it had been dangling open. He swallowed once, upon finding his mouth dry. "Wait, Shirou, before we go…"
"Wha…?" Ren mumbled confusedly from where he'd fallen.
"Yeah, pretty much that," Motoyasu agreed. "What… what the hell, man? What Skill was that?"
Shirou turned to Motoyasu and offered him a small smile, furrowing his eyebrows before answering.
"What's a Skill?"
AN: Hey everybody, thanks for reading! Something a little different from what I usually post! I've played with the idea of a Shield Hero crossover for a while now, but my preferred writing style for Shirou – which portrays him as a bit more naive and whimsical than a lot of other authors, who prefer a more serious, slightly 'edgy' Shirou – seemed like it wouldn't necessarily be best for a Shield Hero crossover, most of which tend to involve a lot of number crunching and 'the Gamer-esque' elements. However, when somebody from the ff dot net community reached out to me with an idea for a story already conceived, and offered to commission me to write it for them, it seemed too interesting for me to pass up!
The person whose idea this was specifically told me they would rather remain anonymous, but I would just like to point out explicitly that this story and most of the major plot elements within it are not entirely my original ideas, as I wrote this within the framework provided to me by another. For the record, that framework consisted of the points that Shirou suffered a Bad End that led to his appearance in the Shield Hero world, that Rin would join his party somehow, and that at least Rishia would be involved by the end of it.
Now, I'm posting this as a one-shot, because I feel like it's a fairly self-contained little story with an alright stopping point. I understand that a lot of stuff might feel rushed or glossed over, but that's because I wanted to make sure it could stand alone as a one-shot. What you lose in detail, you make up for in completeness. I have no immediate plans to continue this story, especially considering that I'm about to go on a two month or so forced hiatus from writing due to a lack of technology. That said, if it's possible to almost declare this story as a part of the public domain, I'd like to do something like that. Essentially what I'm trying to say is that if anyone else wants to pick up where this left off and write a continuation, or to revisit these story elements and write any kind of spin-off or something like that, I (and the person whose idea this story was) are completely in favor of that happening.
For the record, if you want to make the person whose idea this was happy, any continuation including Atlas and/or Eclair Seaetto would be awesome!
Thanks to KyonSmith13 for being a great beta, as usual!
Anyways, thanks again to everyone who read this silly little story, and I hope you enjoyed it! As always, follows, favorites, reviews, and private messages are all super appreciated!