In Flight; The First Wing
Author's notes: Well, it seems like I've managed to patch together a new idea that won't leave me alone. While I'm sure many readers were rather hoping that this was a sequel of some sort to Hill of Swords, I instead finding myself once more instead crossing Fate/Stay Night with a series that really someone should have crossed it with before. I mean a poor unsuspecting sap suddenly being drawn into a mysterious tournament with some kind of amazing life altering prize at the end of it, a tournament that involves hunting down and fighting other members in secret at that.
I'd like to say that was what inspired me to start plotting this story, but instead I will admit that the reason I got this idea stuck in my head was hair. I mean, Takami and Minaka both had unusually white hair for being so young, and then I realized that Archer also had white hair, and I gotta to wondering what if there was some kind of connection behind it? Silly, I know, but the more I thought about it the more I realized just how much potential the two stories had if you were willing to work it right.
I'm sure that many of my readers who were disgusted by the fact that I had applied off camera character development to Shirou and then used the story to explain what had happened to him gradually will be relieved to note that in this one Shirou hadn't had too much life altering things happen to him so I'm planning on his personality being more like it was originally. Others who couldn't enjoy the story because they couldn't figure out what path HoS's Shirou came from can also rest easy; this Shirou is pure Unlimited Blade Works. The good ending, by the way, so if you don't like Saber, which I was surprised to realize a good number of F/sn-ers don't, then oh well because yes Shirou has been spending the last two years in a three way relationship with Rin and Arturia while serving as Rin's apprentice in the Clock Tower.
Also, though I've unfortunately come to realize just how rabid some Nasu fans can be, the ones who once before sang their outrage to the sky's over the fact that I wasn't perfect in using Nasuverse mechanics in HoS you can be assured that when I wrote HoS I was dealing solely with my knowledge from having watched and played F/sn and Tsukihime. Now I've officially added Kara no Kyoukai to my watched list, and spent a few days trolling around in the Nasu-wiki to try and figure out just what some of the things that were mentioned actually meant, so I'm a bit more confident in my ability to represent the workings of the nasuverse more accurately. I'm sure that I'll still manage to mess up a few of the more esoteric aspects of the nasuverse, and I'll probably end up using them in ways that I'm sure someone out there will want to scream outrage at, but so far my plans for In Flight will involve a lot more of the Nasuverse then HoS's did.
Now, as for the chapter. I'm interested in seeing how this goes over, because quite frankly I think I just did something that I've never seen once in any other F/sn fic ever: actually suggested the fact that maybe Shirou's parents weren't actually dead. I have no idea how that's going to go over, and I hope that I manage to attract enough attention to this fic by the time the next chapter is ready that I'll start getting feedback on the idea.
Let me know what you think of my latest venture in to the Fanfiction world.
I jolted awake when the plane landed in the Shin Tokyo airport. The first thing that crossed through my mind when I transitioned from being asleep to being awake was where the nearest sword was.
The nearest sword was very nearly in my hand when the passenger sitting next to me spoke up, reminding me that airplanes are rarely a good idea to spontaneously conjure four feet of sharpened steel if you want to maintain a low profile while traveling. These days, after all the terrorist threats and high publicity failures of security, sometimes even having a pair of nail clippers or a bottle of shampoo wasn't the wisest things to have in an airport for that matter.
"Easy there, son," the passenger next to me cautioned when he saw me glance around with wide eyes. "It's just the plane landing," he assured me. He'd been in the chair next to me for nearly sixteen hours by this point, having boarded the plane at the same time as I did back in Belfast International. When our plane had a brief layover in Bangladesh for refueling and passenger on loading and offloading he had been one of the other flyers that hadn't left. So far he had spent at least twelve of those sixteen hours trying to talk to me. I'm not sure if he had spent the last four of them trying as well, seeing as I had been asleep for them, but it seemed a definite possibility. "First time flying?" he asked me with an easy grin, speaking in English.
"Second," I admitted in the same language, giving him the best smile back I could in the circumstances. My fellow passenger was a well dressed gentleman with a very professional looking briefcase tucked beneath his chair and a tendency to ramble on about anything. During the first twelve hours of the flight he had covered everything from his kids to his job, and managed to somehow touch on spiritualism, obscure cultural practices of the indigenous tribes of New Zealand, and the current state of the economy now that Mid Bio Informatics was releasing its newest string of mind bogglingly complex and groundbreaking inventions. I'd heard stories in the past about having neighbors like that during flights, and only two things kept me from being annoyed by how distracting it was. The first was the fact that it was naturally against my nature to let things like that get to me so easily. If I could endure Shinji's self absorbed antics during high school, than I could certainly endure a man who was simply trying to hold a conversation.
The second thing that kept me from being annoyed was being distracted helped keep my mind off just how close a thing it was me getting out of the Britain safely. And I really didn't want to think too much about how close a thing it had really been.
"Well, don't worry," the gentleman next to me assured me. "It gets easier after the first few times."
"Thank you," I told him in response, giving him a weak smile at his awkward but well meaning attempt to put me at ease. "I don't think I'll be flying much, but I'll keep that in mind."
The man nodded, and then spoke up, sounding a little apologetic. "I'm sorry if I wasn't the best person to sit next to. I know it tends to annoy people when I talk so much like that, but honestly," and here he paused to give me a sheepish look, "I have to admit flying makes me a little nervous myself. I apologize if I was a little chatty…"
When he trailed off looking slightly ashamed at his admittance to having used me as a way to keep his mind off whatever personal fears an airplane represented to him I gave him another smile in return, and this one managed to be stronger than my last one. "Don't worry about it," I assured him. "I was happy to have helped."
As he took my reassurance as a reason to start up another conversation, I let my mind wander as the plane taxied its way to the gate. The primary focus of what I was thinking about was exactly what I was going to do next. I might have made it out of Britain, but that didn't change the fact that they were going to be after me. Yes, the Clock Tower wasn't likely to have many resources now that I was back in Japan, but that didn't change the fact that I was still a target in their eyes. The fact that the stronghold of their power was now half a world away and that the majority of those who were in charge back there tended to think of Japanese magi as backwards semi-literate hedge mages were both strong advantages for me. The lack of Asian members combined with their tendency to favor either overly elaborate or completely out of style clothing also most likely meant that even if they did come after me I would be able to spot them long before they spotted me. But that didn't change the fact that if they did manage to find me, and decided to send the Enforcers after me, then I would be facing some serious power when they did.
Well, whatever the case might be, it didn't change the fact that they weren't very likely to be able to ambush me in the airport, seeing how public that would be. They'd wait till I was somewhere a little more private before they did something like that.
That meant I probably wouldn't have to fight me way out of the terminal in some kind of fast pace running battle which would devastate the surroundings around me till I managed to defeat my enemies or escape into the population at large. Which was kind of a pity I suppose. If that had happened I would have been able to avoid the inevitably long and crowded lines for immigration.
It must be some kind of unwritten law of the universe that if technology managed to advance to a level that provided some new form of privacy invading technology it would inevitably be found in an airport. I had little doubt that somewhere out there was some kind of secret organization of sadistic old men rubbing their hands together in glee and conspiring to find new ways to make the process of getting on and off a plane as painful and embarrassing as possible. As I stood as patiently as I could in the line for immigration, trying not to tap my foot in impatience while glancing around in paranoia at the world around me, I contemplated the newest way to make flying a pain in the rear.
It might have seemed like coincidence that the source of the current delay in my traveling plans had been a topic of discussion between me and the man who I had been seated with on the flight were similar, but in truth it really wasn't. Mid Bio Informatics, or MBI as it was known as colloquially, was the leading developer of all kinds of medical and medically related technology. Since the multi-national super corporation had its roots here in Shin Tokyo it was no surprise that you'd often find some of the company's newest technology here first. The one that was currently keeping me from picking up my luggage and finding a cheap hotel to stay in for a night while I contemplated my next move was the newest outrage inspiring piece of security that the airport had gotten straight from the company's vaults. I don't know what its actual name was but it was supposed to be some kind of DNA analyzer. It seemed a little unreal to be looking at one myself, even if it was from the back of a line that would probably take another hour at least to be worked through. Whenever I thought of DNA analysis it was always in relation to crime dramas, and usually involved needles and a weird machine that spun in circles for a few hours. I had no idea how accurate those preconceptions were, seeing as I rarely watched television for more than news, but it was probably a testament to MBI's genius that the analyzer was no bigger than a suitcase and didn't need anything more than for the tester to breath onto a small screen for it to start running its tests.
There had been a lot of outcry from people when the instatement of the DNA thingy in airports was announced, but as usual the airline industry was capable of getting away with far more invasive technology than pretty much any other industry when it came to the name of safety. It had taken months of respected scientists and overly apologetic industry figures explaining on news broadcasts and talk shows explaining that no, they weren't going to use the machines to start compiling enormous databanks on travelers and that the machines themselves would only be for identification purposes before the public had grumbled enough before they finally gave in to the inevitable. Apparently the machines would be listed with a set database of individuals, criminals and terrorists and things like that, and the machines would only be able to determine if the person being tested was on INTERPOL's most wanted list and wouldn't be able to store information at all on the person who was being tested. The idea was that if a person being tested did come up the official responsible would be able to double check the identified person's passport and see if it was fake or not.
It might sound like a good idea on paper, but in practice the only thing it was serving to do at the moment was make me more and more nervous as the line slowly crept forward. Shin Tokyo was the first city to have the machine installed, and it was serving more as a beta test for the technology than as an actual safety measure. The machine was buggy at times, and from what I could tell there were frequent false alarms and glitches as the line shrank. Most of the time if it did go off the attendant would just wave the supposed offender through. Other times the individual would be escorted to a small door to the side and would appear a few minutes later looking irritated at having been delayed even further by the wretched appliance.
When it was finally my turn to try the new machine out I handed my passport to the clerk behind the desk, breathed into the machine, and then spoke my name.
"Shirou Emiya," I announced, trying my best to speak clearly so the machine and the attendant would both hurry up and wave me through.
Naturally, considering how my last week had been, instead of the machine emitting a soft 'beep' which would indicate I could move on ahead it instead started to emit a series of shrill chirping noises. The man behind the desk glanced at me, then my passport, then the machine's display. He looked at it closely, and then sighed the sigh of a man who had been forced to put up with far too many shrill chirping noises.
"Please excuse me, Emiya-san," he announced, bowing in his chair as he did so. I could barely make out his wince as he did so, and I had the impression that he had been bowing a great deal since his shift started. "The analyzer is experiencing some technical difficulties. While I'm sure that it is of no importance, I'm afraid that new airport policy requires that I ask you to follow one of our security personnel to the side while our tech support analyzes the problem."
I couldn't quite suppress a sigh, but I gave the man an understanding smile back and a small bow of my own. "I understand," I assured him kindly. He looked relieved that I wasn't going to repeat some of the earlier explosions from similarly delayed travelers had erupted with at being held up yet again. "I'll be happy to do so." The man bowed again, and when a security agent stepped up he too bowed. The security personnel looked almost as hassled as the clerk did and not much older than me as well. As he led me to the door that I had seen so many other passengers go through over the last half hour or so I could make out the faces of the family that had been standing behind me. A young man and what I assumed was his wife and child looked very grateful that I had at least been quick in my inconvenience. While a good number of the Japanese travelers had reacted in the same way as I had, some of the western travelers hadn't reacted with quite the same amount of acceptance for the situations as I had and had served to hold the line up even longer.
When I finally got to see precisely what was behind the mysterious door I found myself being led into a small service corridor with a number of doors lined up down one of the sides. The security personal led me to one apparently at random and opened the door. "This way please," he intoned, bowing again as he did so. With a slight bow in response I entered the room. "I apologize for the delay. In a few minutes one of our service representatives will arrive to discuss the situation. Until then, please help yourself to the provided refreshments." With another quick bow the man left the room. My eyes drifted to the aforementioned refreshments. There was a small fridge with a pot of what looked like cheap coffee resting on top of it. When I opened the fridge I found a severely depleted stock of juice boxes and cans of tea waiting inside. Deciding on a small can of oolong, I noticed a small basket near the coffee pot that held a few packets of biscuits, the kind that usually got served during flights between meals. With a sigh I grabbed one and took a seat at the table in the middle of the room to wait.
It took nearly twenty more minutes, but finally just as I was finishing my tea the door to my small room opened and a much hassled looking middle aged man entered. Before I even had a chance to speak he bowed and spoke an introduction. "Good afternoon, Sir. My name is Kouji Suzuki. On behalf of Asian Air, I apologize for the delay. If you will please cooperate we will be able to quickly discover the nature of the error that has caused us to delay you and we will be able to allow you to complete your trip."
The speech sounded mechanical and well rehearsed, and I found it easy to believe that he had probably had to give it a number of times already, and most likely not been well received when he did so. Standing, I bowed as well. "I understand, and I hope that we can quickly discover the source of the problem so that we might both be on our way," I answered politely. When we both raised our heads I saw what was most definitely relief in the poor man's eyes. I gave him a reassuring smile and he had to stop himself from breaking his professional demeanor by returning it. When he fully entered the room I saw that he had three more men behind him, all dressed in security uniforms. When Suzuki entered he was followed by only one of the security personnel, a different man than the one who had led me here and who was pushing a squeaky cart into the room. On the cart was what appeared to be a portable version of the same machine that had put me in this mess in the first place. I had to keep myself from glaring at it. I was trying to be polite to the personnel that was obviously as equally put off by the whole procedure as I was, but that didn't mean I had to extend this contraption the same respect.
"Due to the newness of the technology, I'm afraid that several errors have not yet been corrected," Suzuki continued, once more sounding like he was reciting a well rehearsed speech. "Fortunately, most of those errors have already been documented. If you will please once more breath into the apparatus," he indicated the small screen that was the machine's receptacle, "then we will most likely be able to determine precisely which error has occurred. Once that is done we will be able to quickly finish your processing. Asian Air will be happy to assist you in whatever fashion is required to make up for this delay." I had little doubt that Asian Air was receiving a great number of complaints and that it had found the fastest way of dealing with them was to throw money at whoever was whining.
"I understand," I assured Suzuki. "Shall I do so now?" I indicated the small screen as I asked if we could hurry up and get this over with.
"Yes," Suzuki nodded as he gestured to the machine. "Please."
Without wasting any more time I leaned in and once more breathed on the receptacle so it could get my information. Again the machine began emitting chirping noises. No one in the room seemed surprised by that, and Suzuki began reading the small screen that displayed the results immediately, his expression bored while he did so. For the first few seconds that is. Then his eyebrows narrowed and he leaned in to read the display more closely.
That was as good an indication as any that this wouldn't be as cut and dry as we both had hoped it would be.
My own eyebrows narrowed and I began to get concerned. If this wasn't a simple new tech error, then maybe it was something more serious. I suppressed a swallow of nervousness. There was no way. The Clock Tower wasn't exactly renowned for being incredibly tech savvy, nor was it likely that they had the connections with a relatively new firm like MBI to get my name on the databanks, not this fast anyway. But then again, they might just have the resources as well…
"Is there a problem?" I asked, keeping my voice carefully bland as I did so. Beneath the table, in my lap, my right hand opened slightly, prepared to grip a sword that wasn't there yet.
I might just get my running battle after all…
"I'm not sure," Suzuki admitted, and his earlier tone of put out upon routine was gone as he began to push various buttons on the contraption which was causing me so much trouble. "I've never seen a response like this…" he trailed off, and his fingers continued to tap and press as his eyes darted up and down as the display presented whatever data he was having trouble understanding. I leaned over the table to see whatever it was that was distracting him so much, the anxiety in my stomach not exactly growing as I did so, but not going away by a long shot. It was incredibly unlikely that the Clock Tower had managed to arrange this, yeah, but it was still a possibility. But then again, it was a much great possibility that this was all just some giant fluke caused by using an airport to beta test new technology.
Suzuki didn't even seem to notice me trying to glance over his shoulder, too caught up in trying to make sense of whatever it was that was showing up on the screen. A minute turned into two, then three, then five. From what I could see the display, a small flat high definition screen, was showing nothing more than random numbers, roman characters, and random symbols. Finally, starting to sweat, Suzuki managed to pull his eyes away, only just seeming to realize that I was leaning across the table to see what he was seeing. When his head darted to the side I realized that at some point the single present guard had leaned over his shoulder as well. It looks like this really was some kind of random event. If the machine had been actually announcing me as a terrorist or criminal like the kind that it was supposed to detect I think that Suzuki would have probably said some kind of safe word and ran like hell while the guard tried to put me down. If it had just been a simple error he would have most likely already waved me out of here.
I suppressed a sigh. It looks like the computer was genuinely malfunctioning in an unexpected way. That would most likely not be good for my schedule.
"Emiya-san," Suzuki finally spoke up, rubbing his forehead as he did so, "I'm afraid that this problem is a bit more serious than I had originally anticipated." When he rapidly stood up, I couldn't stop myself from starting backwards, falling back into the chair I had been sitting in earlier. This time when he bowed to me it was a much deeper than before. It looks like since I had officially departed from the normal routine I no longer warranted a merely routine bow. "Given the nature of the technology, I am required to report this error to MBI directly. As this machine will become one of the security measures for this airport, any potential errors must be immediately dealt with in order to ensure the safety of our customers."
I suppressed a sigh, and wondered if it was too late for me to stop acting so polite. Maybe if I threw a temper tantrum like some of the other travelers earlier I might be able to get my way out of this.
"I understand," I found myself responding, and cursed myself for being so helpful. "Do you have any idea how long this will take?"
"I apologize again for any delays that you will endure," Suzuki responded, still bowing. "Please rest assured that both MBI and Asian Air will be willing to compensate you for any inconvenience this situation presents you."
Which meant that this was probably going to take a while, but at least they were going to pay me for it.
I suppressed another sigh. "I understand. Would it be possible for my luggage to be collected for me?" I asked, not wanting my belongings to be circling on the luggage carousal for however many hours this was going to take unattended. "Or that I might have some more refreshments delivered?"
"I will have one of the attendants see to it at once," Suzuki promised me.
Ten minutes after he had left Suzuki made good on his promise. A female employee showed up with my luggage in tow and a stack of menus for me to choose a meal from, free of charge for the inconvenience. Fifteen minutes later I had a slightly overdone steak in front of me along with some rather well steamed asparagus and some really first class french-fries.
Unfortunately, that seemed like the end of the prompt attention for me, because it wasn't until two hours later that something in relation to my delay happened.
And when it did, I very nearly killed them.
I had been flipping through a small collection of magazines that had been supplied to me in order to kill time when my nose was quite suddenly assaulted by a nearly overpowering scent. If it was a normal smell I would have been able to gradually start detecting it, or at least have been more likely to be able to identify it before it overwhelmed me. Instead, one second I had been glancing through a four month old copy of Shonen Jump and the next I was trying to suppress my wretch instinct as my nostrils were invaded by two overpowering odors.
The first scent was sweat, almost cloying. It was like honey, but more overpowering. I would have described it as rotting almost, but it was like something had managed to put a plate of something sweet out in the hot sun, something that should have started to decompose and go foul, but somehow managed to combine decay's overwhelming stench with the original sweetness of its fresh scent.
The second scent was equally overpowering, but both a great deal more obvious and a great deal more ominous: blood.
For a second as I struggled against the sudden sensation I had trouble identifying what was causing it. Sadly, that confusion didn't last long. Rin had always been amazed by my sensitivity when it came to magic. She had never forgotten the ease with which I had hunted down the sigils that Rider had placed over our school when she had been seeking to activate her phantasm. When I had been officially apprenticed to her she had made it one of the points she had evaluated me on. All mages had a certain sensitivity to other magic being cast nearby, though the sensitivity was made known in different ways. Some magi might experience it as a sound, or a taste, or even a physical sensation. For me it was always scent, and after some experimentation Rin had finally had to shake her head in disbelief and announce in that teasing tone of hers that I was probably half bloodhound. The range and accuracy with which I could pick up on nearby magic was bordering on the unreal according to my tiny magi friend.
After a second I managed to gain control of myself, and just like that the strength of the odor diminished. But it was still there, and despite the fact that my mind had managed to adapt to it enough not to get overwhelmed it was still getting stronger.
I put the magazines to the side, and gathered my single piece of luggage till it rested on the table leg beside my chair in easy reach, put my hands on the table in a way which would look as though I was simply sitting but actually allowed me to trace a sword into them in a heartbeat poised to attack, and then tried not to tense myself too much.
I might have been wrong about the Clock Tower not being able to locate me this fast, because right now something was coming. Whatever it was, it was magical. Judging from the strength of the scent, it was probably powerful as well. And judging from the iron tang of spilled blood that lingered in it, it was dangerous.
When the door to my little room opened, I was somehow not surprised when it was revealed to be female too.
She was tall, for a Japanese woman. I was still taller than her, but I was already growing into a height where I would probably be taller than a great number of my fellow countrymen. Her hair, while long and pulled into a ponytail, wasn't the typical shade that would be found in Japan though. It was light, but not shaded. It looked more like she was going prematurely gray. If I didn't know she wasn't human I would have suspected it of being dyed. She was wearing what looked like an extremely abbreviated kimono, reaching only to her upper thighs and bordering on indecently high. She had on long black socks that closed nearly to the hem of the rest of her outfit but leaving a rather appealing absolute zone in there as well. On her shoulders rested a long grey coat, though she hadn't apparently bothered to put her arms through the sleeves and instead chose to wear it like a cape of some type.
The most defining feature of hers though, at least in my eyes, was the fact that she was carrying a long sword, nearly five feet of steel long, sheathed at her side, and she was smiling while she did so. It wasn't a particularly threatening smile. Instead, it seemed benevolent, almost cheerful. The smile crinkled her eyes till they were merely slits, and she beamed at me when she entered the room.
With the scent of blood hanging in the air so thick I was surprised the walls hadn't started bleeding my eyes tracked her as she moved to the corner to perch herself idly.
Whatever the hell she was, she wasn't human. And for all her smiles, she was definitely not friendly either. My mind began racing as I tried to figure the best way to defend myself against her if she chose to attack, as well as the best way to kill her while doing so.
I almost didn't notice the second figure that was following the inhuman thing into my small room. They were also female, and whoever they were they were at least human. A bit shorter than the first female to enter, this woman had a lab coat that was being worn properly on, not like the coat of whatever it was standing in the corner. Beneath it was a pants, button up shirt, and tie combo that could be found on any office worker in the city. She looked like any other middle aged career woman that could be found in any office in Shin Tokyo. The most noticeable things about was the fact that around her neck was a lanyard holding an MBI identification card, and the fact that her hair was snow white.
Just like the thing that had entered before her, if the situation were any different I would have suspected the hair to be dyed, but instead it just seemed natural on her. I couldn't make out any change in color towards the roots, and I doubted that anyone as professionally dressed as the woman glancing casually down at the clipboard in her hand would just go out and dye their hair for fun.
Strangely enough, it was the MBI identification that caused me to let out the breath that I hadn't been aware I was holding. I was almost positive that the Clock Tower didn't have any fingers in MBI, not yet anyway. For the most part the Clock Tower was old money, and rather stuck on their aristocratic image. It didn't seem likely that they would have the foresight to try and get in on what they would consider an upstart organization like MBI. Old money always looked down on new money. It would probably take a generation or two before the wannabe aristocrats would deign to even talk to an organization which was developed in only a two decade time period regardless of how profitable the organization was.
"Are you the ones here to diagnose the mechanical error?" I spoke up, keeping my voice polite as I did so and trying very hard not to sweat. Regardless of whether or not they were associated with the Clock Tower, whatever it was that was standing in the corner was definitely not human and most certainly not benign, not with my magical sensitivity reeking of blood anyway. The only other creature I had ever come across that had smelt so strongly of the life fluid had been the Fifth Grail War's Rider, and she hadn't exactly been a shining example of benevolence and compassion.
"Cut the crap," the white haired woman said, snorting as she did so. "Who are you and what were you trying to pull with this little stunt?" She pulled the chair opposite me away from the table and plunked herself down without hesitation and began pinking away at the machine without giving me a second glance.
I could only blink in surprise at the abrupt tone. You'd think that a company whose malfunctioning machine was delaying innocent travelers for hours on end would be more polite. After so many apologetic airport officials I had been anticipating a more formal meeting. Well, I had been until I had caught wind of the grey haired thing in the corner.
"Excuse me?" I managed to get out, nonplussed by her bluntness. She snorted in response, still typing away at the machine. I could make out her looking at the same data that Suzuki had earlier, though it appeared as though she was getting more out of it than the airport official had.
"I said, 'Cut the crap'," the white haired woman repeated, her tone dry and disdainful. "I want to know who you are, who you're working for, and just what the hell you thought this little stunt would have gotten you. Now," she looked up to give me a glare that would have been frightening if my girlfriends hadn't both been much better at it then her, "are you going to cooperate or not?"
I looked at her for a moment, trying to figure out just what the hell she was talking about, before cocking my head to the side. Alright, if that's the way she wants it to go. She sounded more annoyed by having to waste her time coming out her than anything else. Well, if she wanted annoyed for having her time wasted, she wasn't the one who had spent bordering on four hours stuck in an airport due to a mechanical error.
"My name is Shirou Emiya," I told her in a flat tone. "Right now I'm unemployed. And so far the only thing this stunt has gotten me is a headache, a second rate steak, and massive inconvenience due to the fact that your little machine is a piece of junk. What I want now is for you to hurry up and figure out what the hell is wrong with it so I can get on with the rest of my day before it's completely wasted."
The thing in the corner snorted, and looked genuinely amused by my response if the smile was anything to judge by. The white haired woman also snorted, though her humor seemed laced with a great deal more cynicism. "Right," she drawled, still typing away at the computer, before she paused and her eyes narrowed at whatever it was she had managed to uncover. The look she sent me a second later lacked her earlier almost sardonic tone. "I don't know who you are, or how you managed to find this flaw, but I'm going to enjoy having Karasuba get those answers out of you," she growled at me. The thing in the corner, whose name I now assumed to be Karasuba, widened her smile and put her hands on the hilt of the blade she was carrying.
"And I'm sure I'll enjoy getting them, Assistant Director Takami," the grey haired female said, her voice jovial and pleasant to hear. Well, it would have been pleasant if it hadn't been accented by the soft whisper of drawn steel. I had only a moment to focus my attention on her before she moved. With a motion that would have made Saber raise an eyebrow at its speed the sword in her hand flashed and a portion of a second later I felt the kiss of steel on my throat.
For a moment I sat still, my eyes flickering to the thing in black as she casually sauntered behind me, keeping the blade steady as she did so. When the thing, Karasuba, finally left my field of vision I focused my attention back on the white haired lady in front of me and sighed. The movement caused the flesh at my throat to move against the blade being held there, and I suddenly understood why so many people throughout the world preferred straight razors. That portion of my skin had probably just received the smoothest shave it ever would. I leaned backwards in my chair and folded my arms with another sigh.
"Did you just pull a sword on me in a public place because your stupid machine is malfunctioning?" I asked, though the question was mostly rhetorical. The blade at my throat followed my movement as the thing behind me kept it against me despite my movement. The white haired woman in front of me raised an eyebrow, her expression still angry but apparently taking in my nonchalance at the situation as well.
"If you're still trying to convince me that you're some kind of innocent bystander and not an attempted infiltration plot by a foreign country or one of our competitors than ignoring death threats isn't the smartest way to go about it," she informed me with a scowl.
"It's not the first time I've had a blade pulled on me," I informed her, "I've even got a few scars from some of them. Legacy of a misspent youth I guess." Despite the flippancy that I was displaying it was taking everything I had to keep from sweating. Given the position of the female behind me it was unlikely that she'd have the torque or the angle to give me a beheading blow, and if she tried to cut my throat, well, she'd be surprised at just how hard that could be. Even back before I had started getting serious training from Rin on how to develop my magecraft I had been far tougher than I had any right to be. Even if the blade managed to open a vein I had ways to get around that. The problem was exactly just what the thing behind me was. I knew it wasn't human and that it was probably stronger than a normal woman her size, but the question was just how much stronger? "Hurry up and start your interrogation so I can prove myself innocent and collect a nice fat check of hush money from you afterwards."
The thing behind me snorted in amusement. "Well well," she drawled. "It looks like someone's rather sure of themselves." Judging from the tone of her words it sounded like she was actually enjoying seeing someone she was holding a sword against back talking. Given how strong the sense of blood from her was I had the impression that she was more used to people begging or screaming.
The white haired woman didn't seem anywhere near as amused by my confidence. "Name?" she snapped, pulling a compact little laptop from somewhere beneath her lab coat. It was a thin looking piece of electronics, one of the newer ones that had started to become more and more available as technology advanced. It seemed to consist of nothing more than a touch screen. Judging by the speed of the white haired woman's fingers as they moved across it the woman was well versed in its usage.
"Shirou Emiya," I answered without elaboration.
"Purpose of visiting Japan?" she continued, snapping her question the moment I finished talking. It looked like she was going to try and keep me answering fast, an interrogation technique designed to help make the one being questioned slip up.
"Returning. I'm a resident not a visitor," I answered just as quickly.
"Original purpose of leaving Japan?" she snapped back, not missing a beat.
"Going to school in London with my girlfriends."
"Reason for return?"
"My girlfriends broke up with me after I got kicked out of school." I suppressed a wince. That was still rather sore memory, seeing as it only happened a week ago and most of the last week had involved me running and fighting for my life as I desperately tried to escape the country.
"Ah, poor thing," the thing behind me cut in, her voice still sounding more amused than her words would indicate. Both me and my white haired interrogator ignored her.
"Name of parents?" the woman said instead, surprising me. I would have thought she'd have focused more on the circumstances that l just described. So far from what I understood she thought I was some kind of government infiltrator or espionage agent or something that was targeting her company. If she was trying to oust me on something like that wouldn't it have been easier if she focused instead on things as noticeable as me having been kicked out of school, or even the fact that every time I mentioned my girlfriends I was using plurals?
"Adopted or biological?" I responded to her question, trying not to let my confusion at the direction of the questioning. The white haired woman's eyes narrowed even further as she continued typing away at her laptop.
"Adopted," she informed me.
"Kiritsugu Emiya," I answered. She paused, glancing up to give me a hard glare.
"Then Emiya is an assumed family name?" It seemed like an obvious question to me so I gave her a flat look back as I responded.
"Yes, it is."
"Biological family name?" Without a second thought she turned back to her previous line of questions.
Here I could do nothing but shrug. "I don't remember."
For the first time since the interrogation started she seemed at a loss for words.
"You expect us to believe you don't remember your own name?" the thing behind me asked, sounding like she found the idea that they would believe me to be even more incredulous then my response itself was.
For the first time since she put a blade to my throat I turned to face her. I could feel my flesh drag against the edge of her sword lightly as I glared at the laughing face behind me. "I was five years old when they died in the fire. I was in the hospital for my own injuries for weeks afterwards, and I was lucky enough to be adopted immediately afterwards. I don't remember anything about the time before that, something the therapists at the hospital assured me was quite normal after that level of trauma. Is it that hard to believe that I would forget?"
I had meant the words to be a chastisement, but instead the grinning face remained unchanged. "Hmmm," she drawled. "I suppose if you put it that way," she allowed as though she were a queen deigning me with a pardon for some minor misdemeanor that would have otherwise resulted in my beheading. From the way she was holding the sword against my neck the comparison might not have been that off. I scowled at her before sitting back in my seat to face the white haired woman again.
The scowl that the woman had been wearing since she had first read my reading on the stupid machine that had gotten me into this mess was still there, but now it was much smaller. Rather than glare at me she seemed to be studying me intensely.
"Where was the location of the fire?" she asked, speaking much slower then she had been earlier as she focused on my face.
"Fuyuki City," I told her, settling in for more invasive questioning.
"What was your address during the incident?" she dug deeper, her fingers darting over the board in front of her even faster now, though her eyes only barely flickered down to it as though she could only just bring herself to stop studying my face.
"I don't remember," I admitted honestly. "I know it was only a block from ground zero where the fire started." Her eyes darted down to the screen and she typed furiously for a few moments. Finally she seemed to find exactly what it was she was looking for, and her face unexpectedly began to pale as she froze in her seat.
I waited for her next question. And waited. And waited. Finally the thing holding a sword to my throat spoke up. "Takami?" she asked, sounding curious instead of just amused.
The white haired woman, Takami I suppose, seemed to wake up and glanced over at the thing, Karasuba, in response to her question. Takami's eyes seemed to widen as they locked on to the blade still resting at my throat. "Enough, Karasuba," she said suddenly, and I felt the blade saw against me as the thing behind me shifted in what I assume was surprise at the tone of her superior.
"Oh? So I won't be killing him after all?" Karasuba asked, sounding disappointed at the thought of not being able to open my throat.
"Looks that way," I told her, my voice entirely too smug. "Since it seems that this whole little screw up has finally been revealed as not my fault, when they start talking about the hush money to keep me from mentioning how a corporation threatened to kill an innocent man because of their own equipment's failure, part of the compensation I'm gonna demand is that you apologize and beg for forgiveness while sitting seiza position." A bit vindictive of me, I'm sure, but you don't make it through a two year relationship with Rin Touhsaka without picking up a little of that.
The sword next to my throat stilled for a moment, and then the thing behind me began to laugh as the blade was finally taken from my neck. "Well," Karasuba murmured as she walked into my line of sight, rubbing her chin thoughtfully as she smiled at me. "Aren't you a brave one?"
"So I've been told," I returned. Actually, I think the phrase 'suicidal' is more usually thrown around when describing my willingness to confront danger, but I don't think that would be an appropriate thing to mention in the company. "So have you figured out what the problem with the machine is yet? I would like to be able to get a hotel and some sleep, preferably before it's tomorrow morning." All this drama aside, I still had to figure out just what I was going to do in order to stay one step ahead of the Clock Tower.
"Would you please breathe into the apparatus one more time for confirmation?" Takamai said instead, still staring at me with a pale expression on her face. With a sigh I leaned in and did so. Once more, just like before I was greeted with the chirping noise the machine emitted. The white haired woman let out another shaky breath as it did so.
"Can I go now?" I asked, tired from this whole escapade and eager to get on with my life.
"Not…" the woman started, and then paused, swallowing as she continued to stare at me, her face now nearly as pale as her hair. "Not precisely. Shirou, wasn't it?" she began, sounding hesitant.
I frowned at the informal way she addressed me. If she was about to start apologizing and trying to bribe me I would expect her to be a little more polite. "Yes, that's my name," I answered her, studying her carefully in response.
"Well, Shirou," she began, licking her lips as though her mouth was dry. "We've never encountered an error like this before, which was part of the reason that I was called down here. You see, this machine analyzes microscopic traces of dead cells or exhaled saliva in order to analyze the DNA of the tester and compare it to a set database," she began, speaking slowly and carefully as she did so.
"So I've been told. So precisely why was it going off for me? Was it just a false read?" I asked. I didn't really care for the specifics of it, but if they thought I was some kind of international criminal then I suppose it would make sense that the lady in front of me would have brought some muscle like the thing that had once more resumed her post in the corner. Though that made me wonder just how a company like MBI had managed to get something inhuman like that Karasuba to work for them.
"Not precisely," Takami hemmed, sounding nervous. "You see, when you were tested you ended up reading as a partial match for two different people on the database."
"Partial match?" I asked, now feeling confused. I suppose that something like that would be odd enough for the airline to warrant them calling in tech support.
"Yes," Takami admitted, glancing at the result screen on the machine that was rapidly becoming the bane of my existence. "It seems that you read close enough to two individuals that it couldn't rightly determine if you were either one."
"My DNA was close enough to…." I got out, before than long distant memories of biology class in high school suddenly sprang to mind. I nearly jumped out of my seat, both my hands slamming onto the table with a loud noise. Takami flinched at the sudden noise and Karasuba's hand drifted towards the hilt of her sword once more as she eyed me speculatively. "Wait," I managed to get out in a strangled tone. "Wait. Partial matches? You mean….?"
"Yes," Takami admitted, sounding a little sheepish. "It seems as though the machine just inadvertently performed a paternity/maternity test."
I gaped at her. No way. That was impossible. My parents, my biological parents and my adopted father as well, were dead. They died in a fire years ago, during the horrible last moments of the Fourth Grail War, and a few years after that from injuries received in the same war respectively. I didn't remember my biological family. Honestly, I didn't care to remember them for that matter. I am an Emiya, the only parent I need is Kiritsugu who taught me more about how to live my life then I honestly could believe anyone else in the world could, regardless of whether or not they were partial donators of my genetic code.
Hold on a second. The database I was being compared to…
I groaned, sinking back into my seat. "So what, both my biological parents were international criminals?" I managed to get out, rubbing my forehead as I did so. That's great. That's just great. Karasuba seemed to think that the situation was every bit as amusing as I found it ridiculous. She had one hand up to cover her mouth as her body shook slightly with repressed laughter.
"That's," Takami began, and swallowed hard, still staring at me, "that's not entirely accurate." I glanced up at her, studying her carefully. She sounded hesitant, as though she knew something else and was too nervous to come out and say it. I said nothing and simply braced myself for whatever shock I was about to get. "You see," the whiteh haired woman continued, "since this was unofficially nothing more than a testing ground for the viability of the machine as a future safety device, the database for international criminals wasn't the only one in its memory. The machine was originally developed at MBI, and many of the scientists there were used as test subjects while it was being developed. Since the machine is still in the experimental phase during this trial period, it still had the MBI scientist database loaded in it."
For a long second I was simply unable to process precisely what that little tidbit of information truly meant. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks and if I hadn't already been sitting I would have been afterwards as I felt the strength flow out of my legs in shock.
"What?" was the only thing I could manage to get out, gaping at Takami and feeling the blood drain out of my face. I must have been as pale as she was at this point.
"Your parents are alive," the white haired woman said carefully. "And they're working for MBI."
Despite the clarity of the words, I still couldn't bring myself to completely understand them. My biological parents, the man and the woman responsible for conceiving and birthing me, the long forgotten entities of my past that were in some way responsible for me being alive were also alive.
"Who are they?" I heard myself asking as I struggled to keep the world around me from spinning. This, this was unreal. Who ever heard of something as crazy as this happening? Learning that something I had accepted my entire life as fact was in truth not? That thanks to a computer error in an airport and an improbable, no incredible, series of coincidences I was suddenly confronted by the fact that I wasn't really an orphan? That was like one of those insane rumors someone might read about in a newspaper about child that was put up for adoption finding their real parents in line at a coffee shop, or two babies that were accidently switched in their cradles at a hospital ended up being next door neighbors.
Takami took a deep breath, opened her mouth, and then closed it with an audible swallow. She tried again, and still couldn't manage to get anything out. Finally she simply took out her cell phone, pressed a button on it, glanced at the screen, and then held it out to me.
It took me a moment to comprehend what I was looking at. The woman in the picture was probably Takami, though apparently at a much younger age. In the picture her hair was still mostly black but liberally streaked with white. It looked like she had some kind of condition that resulted in early graying or something. There were two children being snuggled in the younger Takami's arms. One was an infant, presumably a girl from the pink blanket covered in cute little princess print. The other was a very young boy, perhaps four or five years old, with light auburn hair. He was smiling up at the camera, snuggled against Takami, probably her son…
Wait. Wait wait wait. Wait.
"You don't mean…" I gaped at the pale woman who suddenly looked a lot less intimidating and genuinely scared.
"You had the chicken pox," the woman said, her voice soft and on the edge of breaking into tears by the sound of it. "I was worried that Yukari was too young to catch them, so you were going to stay with your grandmother for a week or two while you got over them while I kept an eye on Yukari. Then," she broke off, her voice hitching and she paused, apparently mastering herself, " then I got word from the city officials about the fire. I had every hospital in a two hundred mile radius checking for your name among them, but there was nothing. And my mother's house was so close to the center of the fire that I, I thought…" She trailed off, taking a gulp and closing her eyes as painful memories that she had probably long thought were done and gone were no doubt once more made fresh in her mind.
"But," I managed to get out, "but if you were looking for me why didn't you find me? I gave my name, shouldn't they have found me?"
In the corner Karasaba was alternating between looking back and forth between me and the white haired woman, my mother I thought to myself in disbelief, and looked like she was one step away from bursting out into laughter. She had both her arms wrapped around her stomach and was shaking as she tried to keep herself from bursting out into guffaws. I was suddenly inexplicably angry with the thing in the corner. Here I was, having one of the greatest foundations of my life ripped out from underneath me and she was treating it like a joke. Takami didn't seem to notice, and shook her head, her eyes still closed.
"Shirou isn't your name," she told me, and I gaped again. What? "That was back when my hair was first beginning to go white," she held a lock of her hair out as though in explanation and I glanced once more at the picture where she still had mostly black hair. "I use to spend hours in the mirror trying to find if there were any new white hairs, and you use to think it was a game. You would help and whenever you found a new hair you would start yelling, 'White! White!'. You had so much fun with it that I started calling you 'Shiro-chan'."
"But I don't spell my name with the character for 'white'," I pointed out, though it was a useless attempt to defend my apparently false name. "I use the characters for 'professional' and 'department'."
Takami shook her head in response. "You were five back then. You were still learning hiragana and katakana, much less kanji. When you were found they probably asked your name, and you told them your nickname instead." She closed her eyes again and started to take deep breaths, no doubt running through her mind at the insanity of the situation. How many years must my death have haunted her? And now to find out that I was alive, and that the only reason that she hadn't found me was because of a nickname?
In the corner it looked like this latest revelation was driving Karabasa even further into the depths of hilarity, and that overwhelming surge of anger got hotter at her for it. Nearby were the remains of the steak dinner I had been served, and without realizing what I was doing I found the steak knife in my hand. With a trace of magic I used Alteration on it, the step between Gradation Air and Reinforcement on the scale of transformation magecraft. Using Alteration allowed the magi to add a property or effect to an item that would normally not have to it. With the small spell the otherwise unremarkable cutlery in my hand obtained a new degree of keenness that it would probably never have been able to obtain through any amount of sharpening.
And then I threw it.
Takami didn't notice my action, her eyes still shut as she no doubt recalled what it was like when she had thought I had died, and Karasaba was apparently so wrapped up in finding humor in the scene before that she nearly missed it, but the female thing in the corner caught my movement half way through. She tensed, her eyes widening in sudden concentration, but didn't move as the knife I had thrown at the wall next to her head struck the bricks there. If it had been a normal knife it would have probably have bounced off, but with its unnatural keenness my impromptu projectile sank up to its hilt instead.
It certainly stopped her laughing. Instead, she now turned to study me her normally half lidded eyes completely open and her hand resting on her sword's hilt. This entire meeting she had been regarding me as nothing more than an interesting specimen, one that she might have to kill, but was no real threat to her at all despite the apparent flippancy with which I treated her and her sword even when it had been at my throat. Now it appeared as though she realized that maybe my confidence had been more than simple arrogance.
It probably wasn't the smartest thing to do, but at least it shut her up so that I could focus on the fact that apparently my whole life had been altered by the fact that I had had the chicken pox in the wrong place and had told a paramedic my childhood nickname rather than my real one.
As Karasuba lifted one hand away from her blade to slowly pull the knife I had thrown at her out of the concrete I realized something.
"So what was my real name?" I asked, staring at the woman who was apparently my mother as she opened her eyes to look at me again.
"Minato Sahashi," she told me. My eyes narrowed. Minato Sahashi. It didn't ring any bells, but it wasn't a completely strange set of syllables. Instead it seemed to hum familiarly in my head, like a secret I had long ago forgotten, which wasn't far from the truth considering it was a secret that I had long ago forgotten.
"This," I finally managed to get out after a long moment of silence. "This is unreal." Across from me Takami could do nothing more than nod her head in agreement as the two of us stared at each other awkwardly. As the silence grew longer and more awkward I had to keep myself from fidgeting. What on earth are you supposed to do after discovering that everything you thought you knew about yourself was in fact wrong and you were suddenly confronted with a mother that you had always thought long dead? Takami seemed to be facing a similar dilemma.
Finally, I broke the silence. "So," I began awkwardly. "I have a sister?"
"Yes," the white haired woman nodded her head, apparently glad that I had taken the initiative. "Yukari. She's eighteen now. And you're about twenty, right?"
"Yeah," I nodded, scratching my head awkwardly. "Yeah, that would be the right age."
Relaxing slightly as she grew more comfortable with the thought that the person sitting in front of her was really her long lost son, her expression grew suspicions the way that it had when she had first seen the results of her machine's test and thought I had been some kind of saboteur. "What was that you mentioned about having been kicked out of school? Or about your girlfriends?" and here she drew out and emphasized the plural form of the word as her eyes narrowed.
I swallowed, suddenly a great deal more worried than I had been even when I had Karasuba's sword against my throat earlier. This, this can't be a good way to start of getting to know your long lost mother.