In Flight: Taking Wing
Author's Notes: Will be included at the end of the fic.
It was dark.
No. Darkness wasn't the word for it. Darkness implied an existence that lacked definition due to the absence of light.
This was emptiness. A void. An abyss. The kind of thing you didn't look at, because if you did, it might just look back at you.
But only where I was. My consciousness, aching and spun out and wrong in how it was working, could not see, or hear, or smell, or feel, or taste but still somehow discern, that there was something before me. I knew it, not with my senses but simply as a function of my consciousness.
And if I could feel pain, I think that knowing would have been agony. As it was, it was simply overwhelming. The thing before me was too much, too much knowledge and feeling, too much expression and impulse, too much…
No. Not too much. It was just enough. It was everything.
And then, between one second that didn't exist in a place where time had no meaning and the next, there was something else before me, between me and the thing which dwarfed me.
It was just as impossible to explain the new thing as it was to express the previous thing. It was vast, but somehow more contained, something primal and at least recognizable.
The presence was familiar, and if I could think, if I could express my thoughts, I would have scowled and cursed to myself.
The presence… knew me. Just like I knew the thing behind it, and knew it as well. For a moment, I could feel it's consideration as it regarded me.
Then, with an action that felt equal parts amused as it did satisfied, it rejected me, and everything became real again…
"Stupid Archer," I growled, blinking as I opened my eyes. I wasn't at that strange place. I might never have been there at all, it might have all been my imagination, might have all been just a fever dream that resulted in using the most powerful Noble Phantasm in existence on an incomprehensible alien artifact.
But if it was, true, if it really had happened, even to this day, years later, Archer was still finding ways to piss me off.
"Did you have that dream again?" a voice mumbled, and I yawned, rubbing my eyes as I sleepily tried to identify it.
"Yeah," I glanced around, taking in my room. It was too lavish for my taste, but then again, considering that it was only nominally my personal room it made sense that everyone else who spent time here had a bit of a say in its designing. The bed, for instance, was huge, big enough to fit a dozen people easily. Or a smaller number than that with plenty of space for movement.
It had played host to both possibilities before, so I guess it was the right choice, but I still felt awkward when it was just me there. It felt weird to sleep in the middle with that much space on either side, and if I just slept on the side where I could easily reach the edge when I woke up it felt kind of lonely.
Not that I slept alone all that often, but sometimes it happened.
But besides its size, it was always sigh provoking to see the lacy curtains as well. And honestly, the mirror above the mattress was just too much. This was my personal room, not a love inn.
Even as I contemplated that ridiculous over the top touch, I used it to find the bump that was beside me, buried completely under the sheets. It gave me a reference, and when the lump started to wiggle it was warning enough for when I felt something heavy press against my stomach, the warm touch of someone's breath on my bare skin. It was enough for me to place the voice, and as the breath on my skin started going lower I pulled up the sheets so I could look in on the person venturing to Dangerous territory.
"Stop that, Kuu," I told her with a sigh. I was greeted by an impish pout, and the girl jabbed my side slightly.
"I told you. Start calling me Kusano," she grumbled, though she relented on her attempt to stray into naughty territory. "Kuu's what you called me when I was a child, and I'm not a kid anymore!" She grinned, and started to resume her attempt to go to wiggle lower on my body. "And if you'd like, I can show you that right now…"
"We all agreed none of that until you turn eighteen," I scolded her with a sigh, throwing the blanket off both of us as I pulled away, kicking my legs over the edge of the bed. "For my own sanity as much as for the legality of it."
"'We?'" Kuu, Kusano I suppose I should start making more of an effort to use her preferred form of address. "I don't recall ever agreeing to something like that. Actually, if I remember correctly, and I'm pretty sure I do, I think I had some nasty things to say about that in the past."
"Well, tough," I told her, yawning as I checked the clock. It was a little later than I normally slept, but still early enough not to interfere with my day. "We, and by that I mean, me, every other member of my flock, my mother, and your brother, all agreed: no funny business until you're legal by human law."
"And I still say that human law is for humans," Kusano grumbled, though she obediently stopped attempting to seduce me. "It's the law of Sekirei to love, and do you have any idea how much I've been looking forward to a little of that lovin'?" She threw her hands up in the air and flopped on the bed until she was laying on her back with her head towards me, idly kicking her legs up in the air. "Besides. I turn eighteen in a week. What's wrong with flubbing the dates a little?"
"Oh? A week? Well, then, in that case…" I started seductively, turning to lean over her, and her eyes widened in delight. They were hidden a moment later when I hit her softly in the face with one of the pillows. "I guess we'll just have to wait a week."
"Tyranny! Oppression! I call on all my Sekirei sisters to rise up against the humans and over throw their cruel dictatorship! We shall turn the world into a utopia of free love!" Kusano cried out, tossing the pillow back at me as she rolled onto her stomach and started punching and kicking the bed childishly. "I should just bite you like the old days. At least back then you'd give me what I wanted!"
I smiled slightly. Even if things change, and yes, things had most definitely changed when it came to my youngest bird, some things at least stayed the same.
It had been nearly a decade, at this point. Nearly ten years since the threat of the Sekirei Plan ended. Ten years since Minaka was stopped. A lot changes, in ten years.
Kuu-chan, for instance. She wasn't just a little girl anymore that much was for certain.
The former little pixie had grown; almost overnight it seems in my memories, once she was firmly into her species puberty. I had initially wondered if maybe the Sekirei had some sort of advanced aging characteristic when she had started to sprout, but Takami had just sighed and told me you didn't need to be an alien to grow that quick.
Now, Kusano was taller. Not as tall as me, but taller than most of my flock. The only one that still had a height advantage on her was Kazehana. She was thin, though I'd hesitate to call her something like 'lithe', considering she had inherited a bust and hips that also was in the upper limits of my flock.
More than just her body had changed in her appearance. Her hair, for instance, had been dyed an electric blue, though she still kept it long. And gone were the days of innocent orange pajamas. I wasn't sure when she had snuck into bed with me, but she had done so wearing a cut off white tank top and thin white thong.
It made it very easy to see that she had grown, and where she had grown as well. It was enough to make me very nervous around her at times, and I was a little worried about what would happen next week when I finally ran out of excuses.
I had always known there would come a day when she'd join the rest of my flock as more than just a little sister. It was hard to look at this young, seductive creature and think of the tiny charming little girl she used to be. But I didn't think she was going to take 'no' for an answer much longer. It didn't help that the rest of my harem was coming down on her side more and more when it came to that kind of thing. Stupid Sekirei and their willingness to band together in the name of their brethren.
I still felt like something right out of 'The Tales of Genji' though.
"Oh? Does onii-chan see something he likes?" she cooed, grinning seductively, and I realized that while I had been staring she had adopted a seductive pose, leaning backwards as she fiddled with the hem of her tank top, and spreading her legs slightly to reveal…
"I'm going to go take a shower now," I gulped, and even as I saw her eyes light up I continued. "Alone."
"Onii-chan is a big meanie!" she called after me as I made my inglorious escape. "A meanie with a great ass though!" she added with a catcall as I made it to the door.
Oh, what had happened to my sweet innocent Kuu-chan?
It was after I finished my shower, and turned it over to Kusano, who had inappropriately decided to follow Akitsu's frequent example of just stripping in the room so to save time when she reached the bathroom and then made sure to be waiting to greet me when I was done, that I found myself typing briefly at the computer that made its home on the desk near my bed.
I would have preferred having my office further away from where I slept, but since Matsu had never stopped with her completely inappropriate hobby of turning my time in bed into raunchy productions, and since some of my flock liked to watch them while we were together…
Ten years was a lot of time for Matsu to corrupt her fellow Sekirei, and the number of kinks I'd been forced to endure over the years was starting to get ridiculous.
That aside, as was something of a habit for me, I found myself once more pulling up one particular video.
This one had absolutely nothing to do with bedroom games.
"Hello, Minato Sahashi," Hiroto Minaka began, smiling slightly at the screen. "No, I suppose it's best to use your given name. Hello, Shirou Emiya. If you're watching this, then I'm dead. Congratulations. You won."
This one was the will Minaka had spoken of, before he died.
"Though," the long dead face smirked at me slightly. "If I'm dead, then you've probably discovered my other use for the Jinki. If you're watching this, then I suppose I can safely say that my final experiment was a success.
"Congratulations, Emiya-kun. You've the first step in the salvation of humanity. Enjoy it."
It had taken me years to fully understand what he meant when he said those words.
"Long ago," Minaka continued, leaning backwards and gesturing briefly with one hand, "Humanity was far different from what it is today. I'm sure you know how the strength of humanity had been diminishing, petering out as less and less people become capable of becoming heroes, as we grow weaker and weaker. It's well documented, and even the magi of today have accepted it.
"Those same magi still haven't learned how much time they could save if they traded in their abacuses for a calculator, so I'm sure you'll forgive me if I disagree with their acceptance.
"Before I was ever joined the Clock Tower, I was a member of Atlas, you see. Atlas isn't like the Clock Tower, as I'm sure you're aware. It focuses instead on preventing the end of the world. And it was while I was there, that I actually discovered the Sekirei. And with them, I saw my chance. Since no research in Atlas is allowed to leave its premise, I destroyed all my previous research, and instead joined the Clock Tower. If it wasn't for their resources, I wouldn't be where I am now.
"You see, Emiya-kun, it is my belief even from my time in Atlas that the world's end is inevitable. However, that doesn't mean that humanity has to end with it. All it needs to do is to find a way to survive. And to do that, humanity needs to be stronger. Stronger like it was during the Age of Gods. But the thing is, what if humanity doesn't want to be strong anymore? What if it prefers to be weak?
"It should be no secret to you, who have already displayed your familiarity with the Counter Force. Why were they always stopping events and things that could make humanity stronger as a whole? It's because humanity prefers to be weak, I think. It prefers not to have to struggle. It prefers peace, not having to be strong, to have those with some unbelievable power that could stand over them to be done with. They want everyone to be equal, to be just as powerless as them."
Minaka paused, idly pushing his hair back. "At least, according to my theory that was the case before. However, things change.
"Do you know what the biggest cause of fear is, Emiya-kun? It's ignorance. Centuries ago, you never knew what was beyond the valley or mountain that you lived in. You never knew just what could be out there. In that situation, wouldn't you want for whatever and whoever might be beyond your sight not to be strong? Not to have the power to oppress you? But now, things are changing. Ignorance is disappearing, and knowledge is spreading.
"If you want to know the state of the world, you can find out what is going on anywhere with only a few moments. You can learn of the advancements easily, and understand how they affect your life. Everything that was once frightening can now be understood, analyzed, and reacted to.
"So tell me, Emiya-kun. What if the will of humanity started to change? What if Alaya would someday no longer move to stop potential changes, because humanity had started to hope for those changes?"
Minaka smiled. "I suppose, someone had to try and see, didn't they? Like any hypothesis, it had to be tested. And with the opportunity that the Sekirei presented me, I suppose it fell to me to do that testing.
"All this was something I pondered for a long time, while I was initially studying the Sekirei. When I first stumbled across a potential method to uncover Akasha, I hesitated. My family had never aspired as much to Akasha as those who had been in the Clock Tower for generations, but even still the thought of it was tempting. But my other research, into preserving humanity through the end of the world, that too was progressing swiftly. It was then, when I still wasn't certain what path to take, that you stopped being my son, and started being the son of the Magus Killer. Like I said before, it was as though the hand of fate was touching my life.
"So I made my choice. Rather than try to aspire to Akasha or save humanity, I decided that I would try to do both. And that I would gamble everything, my pride as a magus, my ancestry, and even my life on either one."
Minaka smiled slightly, shrugging and raising a hand in a careless gesture, as though to say 'what else was there to do?'
"However, when I gamble, I do like to stack the deck a bit. I only had a one in three chance of succeeding with Akasha, and if that had worked I would have done my best to return, with the knowledge I needed for my other goals. But if I were to fail, than I would rather my failure result in its own success. If I were to die, then at least I would make humanity into something new, something better. I would guide them to Ascension."
Even now, so many years later, the words still gave me a chill. For all his unconventionality, for all that some of his actions would have made his fellow magi cringe and decry him, the man himself was a magus every bit as thorough and ruthless, probably more so, than Rin was.
"And so, if you're watching this, Emiya-kun, then I am already dead, but my work was a success. I leave my research into magecraft to you. I do hope you study it and continue it, but if you choose to destroy it, at least it has already found root in you personally. As for my business, I also leave it to you. Rather, to you, Takami-kun, and Yukari-chan. My private shares will be divided among the three of you, and you can do what you wish with the company, and the technology that I've accumulated. I rather hope that you will continue to look after the Sekirei, but considering what I know of all three of you, I think that I can rest assured in that department at least.
"I, Hiroto Minaka, wish you luck, Shirou Emiya. You'll need it for what is to come."
"Watching that stupid thing again?" a voice in my ear nearly made me jump, and I felt a warm breath on my ear as something soft pressed against my back. Kusano leaned forward, the blue of her dyed hair at the edges of my sight as she spoke in my ear. "Really, you should stop obsessing over that. What's done is done, and you should be focusing on the future. Namely, the future one week from now…"
"Kusano," I sighed, already identifying the state of the softness on my back. "Go put your clothes on."
"But Onii-chan," she whined, just hugging me tighter. "The upper levels are private, and everyone who comes up here either already seen it or has their own pair. I was thinking…"
"No, we're not changing the private level to a nudist zone," I told her firmly. "No matter how big the list of reasons Matsu and Kazehana have managed to scrounge up.
"Tyranny and oppression," Kusano pouted, backing off with reluctant obedience. "One day, we will rise. You have been warned, Onii-chan."
"I thought I told you to get dressed," I grumbled as the two of us made our way out of the room. I was trying to focus on my tablet as I pulled up the day's schedule, but with Kusano walking beside me, fiddling with her own tablet in kind, I couldn't help but stealing glances at the feminine form beside me.
"But I am dressed, Onii-chan," she protested innocently.
"Is that what they call it these days?" I sighed again.
Just like with her hair, Kusano had made some changes in her clothing preferences. While she still preferred white when it came to undergarments, which was easy to tell considering how much of her thong was visible above her low cut shorts, the rest of outfit had started straying into something which was either leather or latex given its shine, and black as well. The hot pants at least covered the important bits, and the thigh high boots covered most of her legs, so I should be happy with that I suppose. Her halter top had more coverage than some of the things I'd seen Sekirei wear, and she showed off less cleavage than some of my flock like Akitsu or Kazehana.
I think the most disturbing element of her outfit was what was wrapped loosely around her stomach and hips. At first glance, most people would think it just some sort of decorative belt or something similar.
Having seen her unwind it to its proper shape, that of a long, braided whip made out of vines, I knew better. And considering that I'd seen her use it, both in combat and at home, every time I saw it I found myself suppressing a shiver.
And that laugh whenever she started using it only made the shivers harder.
I'd always wondered what Kuu would end up like, growing up in the situation she did. And now I fear I knew. I fear I knew all too well.
"How can one girl change so much?" I found myself muttering again, shaking my head at the disparity between Kuu of the past and this new Kusano.
"Actually, Matsu recommended it," Kusano admitted, sounding slightly shy at the confession. She spun in place, showing off the changes. "She thought it would make it easier on Onii-chan when the time came, make it easier to separate me as a girl and me as a woman. Like the difference between Onii-chan when he's fighting and when he's not."
"Really?" I blinked, considering her words. I'd heard of using image changes to help change the way people interact with you, and if what she was saying was true than I had to admit it was working. It was far easier on my conscious to look at this new Kusano and not think of the old one. "Then what about with you calling me 'Onii-chan'?" I ventured, wondering if that title would also be set aside in time.
"No," Kusano instantly declared, shaking her head with an evil grin. "I think that kind of thing is hot!"
"I blame the internet for that," I sighed again. "You've been having way too much of it lately."
"Hmmm, you're right," Kusano nodded seriously. "If only there was something I could do to take my mind of it and keep me to busy. Something that involved hours upon hours of sweaty, fumbling, erotic…"
"Wait for your birthday."
She's just in heat, I reminded myself. She's a Sekirei, it's what they do. And she has been forced to wait nearly ten years. It's only natural that she would start to get like this by the end of it, with the end so close and in sight. Just… just put up with it for now, Shirou. Remember, Not Human.
"So what's today's agenda?" I changed the subject, turning my attention back to the tablet. I could pull it up myself, but I thought it might help get Kusano's mind out of the gutter if she had something else to focus on.
"Well," Kusano began, looking through the list. "First off is Homura and Akitsu's proposal."
"Tell them I'll think about it," I shook my head, but Kusano pushed onward.
"I have to say, they raise some nice points. A dungeon really would spruce up the upper floors," she nodded seriously.
I had well and truly gotten used to Akitsu's particular preferences. They were actually practical, considering her strength, even if that wasn't as much a factor as it once had. I had even taken the shibari courses she had wanted me to, and if she wanted to add a few other toys, well, I still had a tendency to indulge the former scrap.
It was Homura's own leanings in that direction which were still a little uncomfortable to me. It had taken years before she had grown comfortable enough with her new gender for us to cross that line. However, I don't think either of us anticipated the side effect of her unusual biology that lingered.
Homura had been right, in that if I made something an order there was no way she could resist it. But neither of us had any clue that she would find following those orders so enjoyable. From there, things escalated, mostly due to Matsu and Akitsu, and nowadays…
She was still the diligent and serious fighter on the battlefield she had always been, was still the calm and reasonable figure in day to day life, but once we were in the bedroom…
"I'll," I began, before wincing and giving in. "I'll see about the budget for next quarter. We might be able to squeeze it in."
"Excellent!" Kusano chirped, and I purposefully did not notice the way her hand stroked her whip unconsciously. "I'll give them the good news after breakfast! The two have been researching prices, so I'm sure they can put something together quick enough!"
"I'm sure they will too," I muttered, flipping through the files my tablet provided so I could check that research. Some of the gear seemed basic enough, if by basic you mean 'extremely kinky', but some of them were also reaching 'deranged', 'this is supposed to be fun?', and 'okay, I had enough, I'm going home now'.
Though one of the items seemed particularly familiar. I think I had Musubi throw it out back when I had first moved to Izumo House. Now I even knew what it was used for too.
I resented myself for that knowledge.
"Okay, next up is my own proposal…" Kusano began and I interrupted her immediately.
"Not that proposal, the other one," she elaborated patiently.
"Oh," I frowned, feeling somber. "Has… has there been any word? About them?"
"Two possible sightings, mostly in the Mideast, and another site that has Shii-chan's trademarks all over it in Indonesia," Kusano listed seriously, scowling herself. "Mou! 'That woman'! Dragging my other onii-chan all over. When is she just going to get over herself?"
Kusano never used her name, but I knew who she was talking about.
My sister, Yukari.
It had been years ago, almost immediately after I killed Minaka, that she had disappeared. I don't think she ever forgave me for killing our father. Even after Takami had revealed some of the things he had been up to, even after I had explained to both of them some of the secret parts of the world, it didn't change the fact that in her eyes, it was me who had forever ruined the chance of us, all of us, one day coming together as a family, and living together happily ever after.
At first I had been worried, when she disappeared, but also relieved in my own way. I had hoped that she had vanished with Shiina to live together with her partner a life away from MBI and the dangers of associating with a corporation owned by a Sealing Designee that specialized in alien research.
That lasted until the first time I heard about a young woman and a young man with strange powers appearing in the middle of a war zone. It was with equal parts worry and déjà vu that I had taken in the piecemeal reports of the pair defeating a local warlord before disappearing before the populace could thank them.
I wonder. Was it really my distortion that had caused an alternative me to live a similar life until he died a broken end, or was it the Minaka blood? Or maybe the Sahashi blood?
All attempts to contact Yukari or Shiina, or to find them, so far even after ten years have ended in failure. I wasn't sure how she had grown crafty enough to dodge the resources of an international conglomerate, or if she maybe had some organization of her own backing her. All I knew, was that I desperately wanted to find her, to sit her down, and tell her just how a life like that one ends.
Preferably before she found herself on some hopeless battlefield, listening to the offer of a representation of Alaya…
Maybe I was worrying too much. Maybe my own experience was causing me to overreact.
Maybe it was already too late…
"The proposal to break her legs and keep her chained in the basement while you take Shiina to a park is rejected," I told Kusano finally. Grimly, I continued. "The proposal to locate, contact, and hopefully bring her in on the other hand is already underway."
It might be hopeless. Yukari, she had always had more spirit than most. She had always believed more strongly in justice, in adventures, and in heroes than others. Archer, nothing had ever been able to dissuade him from living his life as he had: just like I wasn't one to turn away from my ideals.
It didn't mean I wouldn't make the effort to try to save my sister.
"Hmph," Kusano grunted, still glowering. She peaked at her tablet, and brightened a bit. "Oh, Miya-san was here yesterday. She wanted to talk to you about our next visit, but since you weren't here she stayed for tea."
"Oh? That's good to hear," I smiled, letting the topic get changed to one more cheerful.
Miya had done well for herself, over the years. That is to say, she had hardly changed at all. She still ran that inn left to her by her husband. It was still hardly a quiet place, considering a good number of Sekirei Ashikabi partners tended to make use of it. Now that they no lingered needed to fight, many took advantage of MBI's continued willingness to foot their bills and protect them, and had stayed in Shin Tokyo. The clientele rarely stayed long, so there was a pretty high turnabout in residents, but most came back after they'd been away for a while.
Miya had never let up on the 'lewd activities are prohibited' rule, and there was only so long that a Sekirei and Ashikabi duo could stay in a place like that regardless of how low the prices were or how good the meals before they needed a little more leniency in their private lives.
I think it did Miya good, to have company like that. Even if most of her species had never found out what she was, by this point most of the Sekirei thought of her as something of an unofficial big sister. Having so many people around was good for her. Even if it was the place left for her by her husband, it didn't change the fact that her husband had been gone for a long time now. Even we, me and my flock who had once called Izumo home, had gone eventually.
But even if we had left, moving into MBI tower, we still regularly scheduled stays at Izumo House. Usually just a week or two, every couple of months, but it was still a place we all looked at fondly, the place where we had all come together, where we had fought and struggled, and where we had eventually triumphed.
I think the company kept Miya from being lonely. That, and the fact that she frequently made trips to visit my flock and I. She and Musubi had also kept up with their lessons, though with Musubi's progress they were more like spars at this point. With Minaka gone and the Sekirei plan over, Miya had finally relented a bit on her anti-MBI stance.
"Honestly," Kusano sighed, looking aggrieved. "Onii-chan, when are you just going to give in and screw her?"
"Kuu!" I yelped, turning to glare at her. I was not blushing. I was definitely not blushing! "What are you saying! Miya and I are just friends!"
"'Miya'?" Kusano smirked. "So you've finally started to just use her name. You know, it's been a long time since her husband passed. A lonely widow, frequently calling on a strapping younger man, a dear friend who had helped heal her heart, who has started to wake her womanly urges once more…"
"You've been spending way too much time around Kazehana," I interrupted. Damnit, I really wasn't blushing! It wasn't like that, it wasn't like that at all!
"You can deny all you like, but it doesn't change the fact that every time we leave the two of you alone, you always end up with such a nice atmosphere," Kusano sang teasingly. "What was it last time? Watching cotton fall as you sipped tea beneath the full moon, your hands brushing lightly as you reach for the tea, both of you looking away as you blushed…"
"And Matsu has got to hurry up and get rid of those cameras," I added, finding something else in the hallway very interesting to look at. That that thing happened to be in the opposite direction from the teasing alien was just coincidence. Miya and I were just friends. We enjoyed being alone together, talking about inconsequential things, savoring the hard earned peace and quiet. Why, it was so peaceful that even the smell of blood and regret that had once hung around her had started to ease. I could hardly smell the iron tang of blood anymore, just a lingering shadow, and the regret had all but disappeared. In fact, I was starting to sense something new in her, something I couldn't quite place…
"Oh, by the way," Kusano continued with an uncharacteristic sigh. "During the visit, it looked like Karasuba ended up returning early…"
"How bad was it?" I sighed as well, rubbing my forehead.
"We should be able to fix up the sitting room in a week or so, but when it spilled over to the gym, things got ugly," Kusano reported. "At least this time they managed to avoid the kitchen. Then again, considering what happened last time they got too enthusiastic…"
I'd had many years now to explore just what I could do with my Asura. And I don't care how long we'd been friends or lovers, depending on whether we were talking about Miya or Karasuba, it didn't matter when my kitchen was involved.
It had taken a long time, but every electrical appliance in it had been fully converted to run off runes and magecraft. I was rather proud of that, though I doubt the 'Mystic Kitchen' would ever gain mainstream popularity among magi anywhere.
While Miya continued to enjoy her retirement running an inn, Karasuba had retained her position as chief enforcer of MBI, but with her introduction to the world of magecraft she had found other hobbies as well, some of which I enjoyed too.
When it was her turn to have me to herself, we liked to go Apostle hunting. It was what we did on our honeymoon, after all. It wasn't something the others enjoyed, so it was usually just the two of us for those trips.
So long as Karasuba got her battles, she was happy. She usually got pretty frisky afterwards too. I put my foot down on no mattresses of corpses though. I'd gotten pretty open minded over the years, but there were some kinks that were just wrong.
"It's too much to hope that those two would remain civil," I sighed, already pulling up the damage estimates. I think, that the two were just too similar in some ways and too different in others. If Karasuba was a warrior born in the wrong age, than Miya was a soldier perfect for these times of peace, perfectly willing to do her duty no matter how heartless and then retire to a peaceful life when the job was done. It was the complete opposite of Karasuba, who will no doubt someday die with a sword in her hand and a grin on her lips.
"Those two should just screw as well," Kusano added helpfully.
"Kusano, your theory of their animosity being unresolved sexual tension is the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard," I told her flatly. "Also, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but sex is not the answer to everything."
"That's not what vast amounts of empirical evidence gathered by my sisters indicate!" Kusano chirped brightly.
"Let's just move on to the next subject," I sighed again. If my hair wasn't already completely white at this point, I think dealing with Kusano in heat might have made it that way naturally.
"Right, right," Kusano began, before her tone changed to something more serious. "Takami and Matsu have finished analyzing their latest tests. They've been reviewing it with Rin and Saber-nee, and they think they've made some progress. However, they're worried of sharing the results with the rest of the Clock Tower. They still don't think we're ready for human experimentation, and you know the Mage Association doesn't agree with those reservations…"
"Damn magi," I sighed, also growing serious as I started studying the report my mother and Matsu had put together.
I wasn't able to understand some of the more technical parts, but since I was the test subject it did help a lot.
So far, the results were still inconclusive. We still haven't figured out if I was human or not anymore.
Hell, we still weren't sure my flock even counted as 'Sekirei' anymore either.
That day, in the Unlimited Blade Works when we destroyed the Jinki, something changed in us. Even now, after years of research by Takami, joined by Matsu and a dozen other trusted researchers, we didn't know if that change was the result of the destruction of the Jinki, or if it was the result of the machinations of Minaka.
Was this what he had meant, when he had spoken of Ascension? Even using his notes and studying his research, he had been vague in the details of what the conclusion of his research would be like. Maybe, even he hadn't been sure, simply arranging the necessary situation and resources to allow for a change to occur even if the change was unguided.
Whatever his intentions, he apparently succeeded. I was stronger now, my physical capabilities on par with a power type Sekirei, and the abilities of my flock, already on par with what even the best of magi could accomplish, had grown as well.
It was frightening, just how much stronger we were now. It was even more frightening not knowing why we had changed that way.
We had gotten so desperate that we even had turned to the Mage Association for assistance.
And what a mess that was, let me tell you.
The Clock Tower hadn't been happy when a Sealing Designee actively contacted them, requesting their assistance with research done by a member of their association that I had recently killed. They had been even less happy when their enforcers discovered that attempting to capture or kill a Designee with a fully mastered Reality Marble, a body altered to be able to perform superhuman feats, and who had inherited one of the largest corporations in the world and their standing army as well just wasn't going to happen.
They also hadn't been happy to learn that an entire new species of aliens had been kept from them. They were similarly dissatisfied when they found that all of the species had already ended up bonded, mostly with simple ordinary humans. And they were positively livid when they discovered that those aliens also enjoyed the enthusiastic protection of aforementioned Designee as well.
So, after a few months of posturing, the deployment of Karasuba against some overeager magi who weren't correct at all when they thought that they might be able to kidnap a few without me noticing, and a small scale military conflict that ended up with me accidently ending yet another magus lineage, a tentative solution was formed.
I was now, for the first time in the history of the Clock Tower, officially regarded as a multiple Sealing Designee, for research into Reality Marbles as well as research into human enhancement through extraterrestrial means. In order to save face, the Clock Tower had officially declared that due to my contributions to magecraft I would be allowed to maintain an administrative post and not be summarily dissected.
It was all a farce, of course. They simply didn't have the power to take me anymore, not without a large scale operation that would threaten the secrecy of magecraft itself. So rather than admit that, they announced my administrative post as the new Director of the new 'Alien Physiology' department and Second Owner to Shin Tokyo. I was to be officially bound to the city, never to leave.
Naturally, I didn't let that stop me from going where I felt I was needed. And just as naturally, when I did, it didn't stop the Clock Tower from sending a few enforcers, or for a few free lancers, to try and kill me. But for the sake of formality, we both pretended not to notice the other side's little deceits.
Actually, it was nearly a year after things had tentatively settled down that I received a third Designation for the advancement of the electronic workshop. In fact, MBI had an exclusive contract for maintaining the Mage Association's servers. Some of the older bloodlines still declined to use it, but I hear the new Lord El-Melloi the second of the Archibalds was a user, and many first generation magi had started to take advantage of it as well.
"I should mention," Kusano added, her tone lightening slightly, "that Rin has announced that she wanted to have a conference to 'discuss' these findings with your personally. In fact, her and Saber-nee have already booked tickets sometime next week…"
"I see," I said, doing my best to maintain a straight face. Kusano nodded seriously.
"I'll talk to the others about adjusting the whiteboard," she added innocently, and I suppressed a twitch.
It had been natural that when we reached out for the Mage Association, it would be to Rin, breaking the Geas I had put on us. The resulting explosion had also been natural. When explanations over just why I had done something so foolish concluded, the subsequent assault by both Gandr and Noble Phantasm was similarly expected and dealt with.
The make-up sex that occurred afterward was, on the other hand, unexpected, albeit welcomed, considering how things had ended between us before.
It was difficult to quantify my relation these days with Rin and Saber. We weren't the same as we were before I received my first Designation. Too much time had passed and too many things had changed. But similarly, too much had occurred before, too much had passed between the three of us during the Grail War for us to ever truly separate.
Nowadays, I spoke with the two frequently, either through exchanging research or just to check up on each other. I think we were more in the lines of good friends, coworkers and research partners as well. I knew for a fact that Musubi hadn't given up her attempt to get the two to join my harem, but Rin was still adamant about not doing something so demeaning.
The pride of a magus was not something to be appeased so easily, I suppose. Despite that, whenever we ended up meeting in person, it usually ended with me spending the night with the two. My flock knew, and pretended not to notice the infidelity. Rin and Saber knew that they knew, but pretended that they were being discreet.
The capacity of a magus for overly complicated scenarios was also not something to be underestimated, I suppose.
Still, they hadn't found out about Matsu's hobby of recording them yet, so I still drew breath. I lived in fear of the day they discovered.
"Oh, I nearly forgot to mention," Kusano continued, perking up slightly as she focused on her tablet. "It looks like Takami-san and the rest have at least come to a conclusion on us Sekirei, at least."
"So they made some progress? What is it?" I asked eagerly. Even if research on what happened to me was slow, MBI had had considerably more information on the Sekirei in general, so it stood to reason that they might make better progress researching what had happened to my flock.
"They decided on a name," Kusano deadpanned, and I felt like palming my face.
"That's it?" I deadpanned back, and Kusano giggled.
"Don't underestimate the need for eggheads to make things overly complicated," she tittered. "Officially, we're now being refered to as the 'A-type Sekirei subspecies'. They shortened it to 'Eirei' for short."
"Eirei?" I repeated, frowning. I knew it was just an abbreviation of the letter 'A' and the ending of 'Sekirei', but in Japanese the word 'Eirei' could have the meaning 'Heroic Spirit'. "I think Saber might take offense to that…"
"Well, that's how it's being pronounced," Kusano shrugged. "The eggheads are using romanji for it." She spelled it out for me briefly, pronouncing the romantic letters individually.
"A-ray, then," I nodded, tasting the words. "Well, hopefully with that difficult and no doubt immensely constraining hurdle finished, they can start working on the less important things, like making sure you all will be alright," I muttered.
"Yup! The hard part is over, Onii-chan," Kusano smirked, before the smile briefly faded. "There is, well, there's something else that Rin said she wanted to talk to you about. Recently, it looks like the Ort is starting to become more active. Since we happen to be the literal experts on aliens, she wanted to see if we had any insight. And there's one more thing..." she touched her screen, and my own tablet blinked as she sent me a particular file. "This is from our space research department. It was taken recently, and, well, take a look, Onii-san."
Frowning at her serious tone, I opened the file, only for a music clip to start playing. It took me a second to recognize the theme from the old movie '2001', before I was distracted by the image itself.
"Is that, Jupiter?" I narrowed my eyes. There were several pictures, most likely taken from a satellite, probably from a project I didn't have any active involvement in. They were focused on Jupiter's spot, the planet's most noticeable and defining physical feature, the great red swirl that marked the enormous planet's southern hemisphere. The magnification of the picture made it grainy, but…
"They think that they found something," Kusano continued softly, completely serious for probably the first time this conversation. "They can't know for sure, but it looks…"
"Yeah," I frowned, eyes narrowing further. It might only be a shadow, but if almost looked like there was something humanoid there, something immensely huge to be visible even from the distances the satellite had taken these pictures from. I could see a part, in what would be the torso of the shape that looked like some sort of black sphere. "Whatever project this came from, double their funding and reprioritize their original goals. I want proof, even if it's proof that this is just a bad picture."
"On it," Kusano tapped her screen quickly with one hand. "We can go over the details later. I just thought it should be brought to your attention sooner rather than later."
"Good call," I told her. She gave me a brief half grin, before she spoke up again, in a deliberately cheerful tone.
"Well, now that that's out of the way, Kazehana, Tsukiumi, and Musubi all have something they want to talk to you about," I could just tell from her leer that whatever she was bringing up would most likely complicate my life endlessly.
"And that is?" I began carefully.
"Babies," she told me with a nod.
"Babies?" I repeated, blinking.
"Babies," she confirmed.
"Kazehana wants another one?" I couldn't help but ask, seeking clarification. "That would be her third… wait," I cut myself off abruptly, pulling up short as I stopped walking. "Tsukiumi and Musubi too?" I repeated slowly.
It didn't take a particularly observant person to see just how much Kazehana treasured romance, how much she longed for the joys of a relationship. Even before, when the Plan had still been active and I hadn't winged her, that much had been obvious.
What hadn't been so obvious back then was how it wasn't just lovey-dovey stuff that motivated Kazehana, but the thought of having a family as well. I wasn't sure if she saw it as simply the proof of that love, or if it was some secret wish of hers, or if it was just a manifestation of a Sekirei's typical devotion being displayed by her. Whatever the case, Kazehana hadn't waited long after the Plan was stopped before she approached me about the next step.
Well, more like she gleefully boasted of it after announcing that she was pregnant quite unexpectedly at breakfast, while Takami was over, and then went on to describe the encounter she was sure had caused it in gushing details, once more, still while Takami was over.
I still wasn't sure if that was Kazehana just being overwhelmed with joy, or if she was doing it on purpose as some sort of revenge on Takami for having been chosen over her in the case of her first love. Either way, there were some things my mother didn't need to know about my sex life.
My daughter was born nine months later, in the typical fashion as human children, secretly relieving me of a silly fear that there might be an egg involved somewhere in the process.
She was beautiful.
I honestly had no idea how I felt about children until the first time I held her. My life, all of our lives, were complicated. The mysteries surrounding our physical conditions, the very real dangers that might befall us at any time, even just how I would function as a father, whether or not I would be able to care for children appropriately given how distorted I was, had lingered in me the entire length of her pregnancy.
All that disappeared when I looked down into my firstborn's eyes.
I still don't know how I rate as a father. I did my best to try to care for her like I should, and at least we had the finances to make sure that she wouldn't want for anything. I'm sure there are times I screw up, but my flock, and even my mother, were there as well to cover for any mistakes. At least I would ensure that unlike with my dad, my child would only have to learn to cook if she wanted too rather than for the need to escape fast food and takeout, unlike with me.
I had even thought I'd started to get the hang of it, when Kazehana announced that she was pregnant again only a year and a half later, still glowing, and still going on to describe the encounter she was sure we had conceived in, this time going so far as to bring up the recording of it.
I think Takami might never forgive me for that particular trauma.
When I held my son for the first time, I fell in love all over again.
I still wasn't sure if I was going to train them in magecraft. Minaka had destroyed our bloodline's Crest, and I didn't really have any mysteries to share with them, no family specialty or skill to pass on. Well, none except what was left to me by Kiritsugu, and Kazehana had already put the foot down on teaching them how to be Magus Killers.
I suppose I'm still waiting to see if they're interested. If they are, I might be able to talk to Rin about an apprenticeship. If not, they can grow up as they will, and I'll be happy to support them.
Still, all things considered, maybe it was a bit surprising that so far only Kazehana had been pregnant. I was with all of my flock quite frequently, save for Kusano. Homura had already declared that she didn't want any for a long time, but that didn't stop her from adoring the children just as much as all the others did.
Even Karasuba, surprisingly enough, though her adoration seemed to stray towards giving them weapons on the sly, and occasionally trying to slip them completely inappropriate spoils of war.
I don't care how much effort she put into it, a mounted head of a Dead Apostle is not an appropriate birthday present for a five year old girl.
"Yup," Kusano giggled devilishly. "Is it any surprise that it's those two? Or that they want to have them together?"
"Actually, no, it isn't," I admitted. Tsukiumi and Musubi did everything together. Despite their rocky beginning, those two were probably the closest friends I had ever seen. Even if they still argued over who was the official wife and the concubine. Or that they competed over everything from doing shopping to cleaning. Or who gets to go first when it's their turn to sleep with me, something they almost without exception shared while giving as much attention to the other as they did me…
I'd seen weirder friendships, I suppose. And Musubi really had come a long way from the slightly clueless battle maniac she had been at the beginning. Nowadays, you could hardly tell she was distorted as all.
Just like me, for that matter.
"So," Kusano drawled. "Babies?"
"I'll talk to the three of them privately later," I blushed, not wanting to talk about babies or how they came about with someone who was still too young for the process. "I'm not against it, but I want to make sure they're sure…"
"Great!" Kusano cheered happily. "Oh, I can't wait to see them! They're so adorable! Oh, wouldn't it be great if Musubi and Tsukiumi had twins or something?"
"Er, right. Great," I broke into a sweat at the thought. I love my children, but that didn't mean that I couldn't also acknowledge how hard it can be to raise them. Especially when they're that young.
At least pregnant Sekirei are nowhere near as temperamental as pregnant humans, something I had learned to my immense relief through Kazehana's two pregnancies. Though the cravings they get can also be pretty bizarre.
I better start stocking up on pistachios, spinach, and ketchup. And ask them to let me know when they're going to snack so I can make sure I'm not around and thus not see the resulting mix. I didn't care if they loved it, it still looked disgusting.
We were closing in on the conference room by this point, Kusano's morning briefing wrapping to a close as we neared it. It was the highest floor of MBI's headquarter that normal personal can come to, all the floors higher being either my flock and I's personal quarters, or my workshop or other labs dedicated to mystic research. Probably because it was meant to be impressive, the corridor leading up to the conference room had wide floor to ceiling windows that let you stare out over the city from high above.
We generally used it as a dining room when it wasn't serving as a reception area to visiting VIPs.
As was my usual habit, I paused before entering the room, turning to face the city proper.
It had been years, and even now, I was still struck by how small everything looked from this height, how different. The things I interacted with, the people and objects which littered everyday life, all seemed different up here, and even though that would change when I exited the building back on their level, up here, even after so many years, an overlooking view still unsettled me.
Not just the things, either. A decade ago, I would never have imagined how my life would have turned out. No, I suppose I could imagine, a future on a hill of swords. This new, different life though… It was something I had come to love and treasure.
Still not something I ever would have predicted, even if the Minaka Sorcery trait ended up being…
"Feeling the urge to jump?" Kusano's voice from behind me was unexpected, but it was warning enough that I didn't start when she wrapped her arms around me, looking from over my shoulder with me.
"Only a little," I admitted. It was a familiar old impulse, just a passing one, and I dismissed it easily.
"Maybe you should," Kusano's voice was teasing, and I turned my head a little to give her a curious look. She flashed me an impish smile. "Jumping isn't bad, you know. Did you know, there are two things that might happen when you jump from up high?"
"Hm?" I hummed at her, wondering what she meant and encouraging her to continue.
"The first is that you fall," Kusano admitted, shrugging a bit. "But that doesn't happen to everyone. After all, sometimes, the second option happens."
"And that is?"
"You fly," Kusano nuzzled her face against my back, her breath warm. "And with us as your wings, how could you do anything else, Onii-chan?"
"Hmm," I simply grunted at her, considering her words. It wasn't like Kusano to go around using strange metaphors. That was typically a magus job. Still, maybe she was on to something. I turned to make my way to the conference room, Kusano letting go of me reluctantly but following. "Let's go join the others."
I suppose the day Kiritsugu had taken me from the fire, that had been the day I had jumped, or perhaps been thrown, off the precipice between a normal life and this one that I was living. And since I was still here, I must not have hit the ground yet.
I suppose, I'd been flying for quite some time then.
Author's Conclusion: Three years, plus a few weeks. That's how long its been since I began "In Flight".
It was quite a journey, that much was for sure.
With this conclusion, I hoped to let people get a glimpse, if only that, of how the rest of the cast besides Shirou had spent the time. Also, though it was only a bit, I thought I'd offer glimpses into the future as well, possibilities that I'll allow you to imagine for yourselves.
Enough of that for now.
Just like with "Hill of Swords", it's hard to recall precisely what it was that prompted "In Flight". It was originally an idol thought comparing to completely dissimilar characters' hair color. From there, it lingered, more and more ideas starting to generate, ways the two worlds could end up being blended, ways that might change things for the worlds in general.
In the end, I discovered I had planned out a whole story, and then it was just time to put it down on paper, so to speak.
And so things come to an end. Some will like it, others may not, but in the end, it is still the end.
So, for the final time in "In Flight' I invite you to read, and if you want to comment on it, please, use the reviews. If you wanted to speak about it in more detail, the forum awaits.
And as always, dear reader, enjoy.