Kyugan: Okay, seriously last one people, that's it.
Heavy: If little girl dies, I break your spine like I did Blue soldier's.
Herwald: Dude, have you READ any of my past stories? You know how I feel about pointless Character death.
Sniper: What about that Shirley sheila in-?
Kyugan: POINTLESS Character Death. As much as I disliked it, I needed an excuse for him to go Berserk.
Demoman: Ye couldn't a' given him nip o the irish?
Kyugan: One, he's technically French-American. Two, I'm a teetotaller, no alcohol purchased using MY money.
Spy: Where'd you get the firewhiskey then?
Kyugan: Christmas Present, now the Wheel of Fate is Turning, let us see what ending the Shift in the Continuum has wrought...
Epilogue and new beginings.
Shirou sighed, the redheaded Emiya closing the sliding door to the room behind him before making his way back to the living room, here the rest of his makeshift 'family', with the exception of Fuji-nee, were gathered for an emergency meeting. "Sempai?" Sakura greeted, looking up at her crush/lover/potential-brother-in-law/spouse in concern along with Rin, Rider, Sella and Leysritt "How are they?"
"I don't know…" the redhead sighed, sinking onto the floor between the two siblings, a concerned look in his ochre eyes, which were looking rather drawn "Ilya SEEMS fine, just very weak, and Herwald refuses to leave her side, even when I offered to keep watch he refused to leave the room."
"It's understandable." Rin muttered, though she looked troubled as well "The last time they were separated, her personality changed completely, now he comes back from almost a year abroad, only to find out she'd fallen ill?"
Shirou grimaced, recalling the shock they'd all had when, one day, Illyasviel had just suddenly collapsed without any warning. It had been the day before Herwald was to come home, and they were in the middle of planning his welcome-back party, which Taiga, predictably, had gone overboard with, which sparked another one of her, by now, routine spats with her charge's elder, despite her appearance, step sister, the others ignoring them for the most part, right up until Taiga's cry of alarm drew them to the yard, where the terrified woman was holding a frighteningly still Illyasviel in her arms.
When Shirou had rushed to check on the homunculus, he'd found her forehead blistering to the touch, her normally flawless white skin flushed and dripping with sweat, as if she'd been running a fever for weeks, despite only a few seconds passing between her bickering with Fuji-nee and her collapsing on the ground.
Needless to say, Stella and Leysritt had been in hysterics, the normally reserved of the pair running around in a panic while Leysritt fretted endlessly, having to be comforted by Sakura even as Shirou carried his sister to his room, wrapping her up in warm clothing and tucking her in.
When Taiga FINALLY left to contact the Fujimura family's private doctor, a surprisingly skilled man who was sadly only still in business thanks to the Fujimura Group due to his unfortunate name 'Seriously, who gives their kid a name that spells 'Death' viewed horizontally?', Stella had managed to recover enough to attempt contacting Jubstacheit via the two-way-mirror, in case the old man had any ideas.
He did, and not one of them was pretty, apparently he'd been expecting this for some time now, if anything, according to the old man, it should have happened SOONER.
What followed next was a lesson in one of the more archaic branches of Mage craft that, on any other occasion, Shirou would've traded an arm and a leg to be privy to, albeit a lesson that was horribly abridged, as Jubstacheit wasn't about to pass on his family's knowledge to Kiritsugu's 'adopted brat'.
The process of constructing a Homunculus, known as 'Coining', involved using Alchemy to combine human genetic material with several special substances, Jubstacheit seemed to take great pleasure in denying Shirou the knowledge of said materials, and making the resulting embryo develop without the use of a womb, accelerating their development to adult form, whilst ensuring that they do not grow any older from that point on.
It came as a surprise to Shirou to learn that Sella and Leysritt, despite their appearance, mannerism and formidable power (Leysritt's halberd alone was too heavy for him to lift without reinforcement) were actually YOUNGER than Ilya, having only lived for little more than two years each. However this PALED to the horror he felt as Jubstacheit went on to explain how the price of being given life through such artificial means led to all Homunculi, regardless of their chemical make-up, to possess some sort of physical defect, including, but not limited to: Personality flaws, lack of individuality or reproductive capabilities and, worst of all, short lifespans.
It turned out Homunculi created by the Einzbern, even those regarded as failures, were designed from an early stage to be capable of tremendous magical power, enough so that they were considered a credible threat to the Enforcers of the Magus Association, enough that they knew well enough to stay the hell away from Einzbern affairs, within reason of course.
The reason for this was because of their Magic Circuits. Regardless of their physical limitations, a Homunculus' Magic Circuits made it possible for them to achieve powers that are beyond human Mage Craft. Jubstacheit even went so far as to describe them as 'Magic Circuits with a human form', or rather that every Homunculi created by the Einzbern's was 'made to be a Magic Circuit', rather than a 'mage'.
Sella and Leysritt, along with almost every other Homunculus at the Einzbern home, were the result of this process. However, Illyasviel and her mother Irisviel, were different, in that they were designed for a deeper, more 'auspicious' purpose, that of becoming a vessel for the Holy Grail during the Heaven's Feel, essentially clones of the FIRST vessel: Lizleihi Justica von Einzbern, the Homunculus that was the FIRST Vessel for the very first Heaven's Feel.
While Ilya was considered a 'special case', as Jubstacheit so delicately put it, as she was 'born' normally through conventional means by Irisviel after being impregnated by Kiritsugu, she was put through several magical treatments while still in the womb, and it was here that the problems began.
Apparently, due to the intensive modifications, Ilya's body had become even more unlike that of a human being than other homunculi, which caused her magical power and potential to skyrocket, perfect for controlling a monster like Berserker and for becoming the Vessel for the Grail, though on the downside, her growth had been frozen in a prepubescent state, and her lifespan being dramatically shortened that the odds of her living past the 5th Heaven's Feel were nil.
Of course, as the old man pointed out bitterly, had things proceeded as planned, Illyasviel would never have had to worry about her lack of a future. So far as Jubstacheit was concerned, the girl had been born for one purpose, a purpose that, thanks to the actions of Shirou and the others, had been rendered obsolete. In other words, Jubstacheit had no further use for the 'failed' vessel of the Holy Grail, so far as he was concerned, she was a failure, as even Irisviel had succeeded in becoming the vessel before Kiritsugu betrayed them all.
Shirou had snapped then, punching his reinforced fist through the mirror, sending shards flying in all directions and scaring the bejeezus out of Sella, which he apologized for, even as Rin berated him, not for insulting the Einzbern head, but for passing up whatever chance they had of helping Ilya.
Needless to say, Herwald's welcome home party had NOT been carried out. The boy had no sooner gotten home than he'd raced to his sister's side, only Sakura and Shirou's constant attention keeping him from going without meals.
"Isn't there ANYTHING we can do?" Rin demanded, looking across the table at Sella, who was comforting a distraught Leysritt "I mean, you're both Homunculi too right? Don't you know how to take care of yourselves?"
"We do." Sella confirmed, nodding her head as she rubbed her sister's back "All Homunculi in the Einzbern estate know how to maintain one another, it's part of our 'knowledge' after being Coined." She shook her head sadly "If Lady Illyasviel were the same type as Sella and I we could have probably been able to do something, but all the research notes pertaining to those based on Lady Justica are restricted to the head of the family, Homunculi aren't even allowed to ask about them."
"So we're stumped…" Rin muttered, biting her nail, an action she did whenever stressed out and nervous, her other arm gripping her elbow tightly "Dammit, I always knew the Einzberns were sore losers but this takes the cake…" she looked up at Sella "So how long does she have?"
"I don't know…" the 'older' of the two maids countered, her features strained "According to Lord Einzbern, the fact she's even lasted THIS long is a miracle in and of itself, which can probably be attributed to Mr. Kiritsugu's DNA mixing with Lady Irisviel's." she shook her head "However, it seems she more than likely won't live through the year."
"It isn't fair!" Shirou snapped, slamming his fists on the table top with a look of helpless fury in his ochre eyes "We went through all that together, risked our lives, and now all we can do is sit back and watch her die?"
"Sempai…" Sakura uttered, looking at the redhead in concern, one hand coming out to touch his, his trembling halting at her soft touch, though his look of anguish remained "We'll think of something…" she assured him, turning to Rin earnestly "Won't we, Nee-san?"
"We will." Rin muttered, her brow set in a determined frown, even as she was wracking her brain to figure out what to do. The Tohsaka's speciality was Jewel-Based Magic, an expensive practice, not exactly cost-effective, but perfect for storing vast quantities of prana for later use in augmenting certain spells, like the one she used to revive Shirou after his heart had been pierced by Gae Bolg.
While her father had a passing interest in Alchemy, purely scholarly of course, Rin herself had no interest in the subject, and had passed on all her books on the subject to Herwald, or was intending to anyways. After all, there were a LOT of books in her father's private study, going through them all to find the alchemical ones would take time. And this way she wouldn't have to worry about buying presents for the kid all the time. Jewel-based magic was expensive enough without having to go around spending money on others.
At that moment the doorbell rang, catching the group by surprise, Shirou getting up to answer it, only for Rider to offer to do so, stating that the redhead was in no condition t be greeting anyone and needed to lie down before he did anything.
Leaving the boy arguing with Sakura, a losing battle if there ever was one, the younger Tohsaka sibling being VERY stubborn when it came to the boy's health, the youngest of the Gorgon siblings crossed to the front door, slipping on her slippers before opening it. "Can I help you…" she began, only to blink, looking up in surprise at the, imposing figure standing before her.
He was tall, taller than Kiritsugu had been, and broad, his frame and height causing him to tower over the Servant, his features shadowed by the sun shining behind him, though she detected a glint of light reflecting of glass that signified spectacles.
"Excuse me…" the man greeted in perfect Japanese, startling Rider out of her shock, the shadows around him fading as he smiled at her uncertainly "Is this, by any chance, the Emiya Residence?"
Rider blinked, internally berating herself for letting the sudden shock unhinge her, such a mistake could have gotten her killed during the Grail War, looking the man up and down as her vision cleared. He was indeed tall and broad-shouldered, and judging by his features appeared to be a man of relatively healthy middle-age, going by his build and healthy complexion. He wore his long, golden-blond hair in a loose, shoulder-length ponytail with two loose strands of hair falling over his brow, and sported a full donegal-style beard over his strong chin.
Rider had to admit, as far as humans went, the man standing before her would be considered 'very handsome', if a little imposing, a feeling that was only enhanced by the stylish spectacles which he wore over his eyes, which were, she noted with interest, golden in colour.
The man was dressed in clothing that, while normal, were of a style considered out-dated by most, though not as bad as some of the things she'd seen in Wizarding London during their brief stop-overs. Who the hell wore a Kilt and a Poncho in public? Certainly not this fine specimen, who'd opted for a white dress shirt and tie under a black waistcoat and matching casual slacks and a brown overcoat. Stylish black shoes that while of a style that was out-dated, were still clean and well-cared for, adorned his feet, and what appeared to be a pocket-watch chain extended from one pocket on his waistcoat.
"Ano…is this NOT the Emiya residence?" the man asked, looking suddenly nervous as e rubbed the back of his neck, all hints of his imposing presence vanishing in an instant. If anything he looked like a schoolboy caught doing something he shouldn't "I'm sorry, I'm not from around here, as you can tell, so I'd appreciate it if you could direct me t the nearest police-box…"
"This is the Emiya residence." Rider assured the man, her eyes taking in his form warily, assessing him for any potential threats, and was rather surprised when her preliminary checks turned up nothing, which only set her further on edge "What business do you have here."
"Ah, thank goodness…" the man sighed, looking relieved as he spoke "I've been walking around town all morning trying to find this place, Japan sure has changed from the last time I was here. I kept getting lost in those back-streets!"
"Can I help you, sir?" Rider demanded, though she had to admit it was hard to keep up her cold, serpentine visage in the face of the man's affable nature. If anything, she found herself fighting the urge to smile.
"Ah, yes, forgive me." The man offered, chuckling weakly as he patted his head "I tend to ramble on, my wife's always getting on my case about that." He smiled charmingly "Lovely woman, wish you could meet her, I think I have a photo on me somewhere..."
"Your reason for being here, sir?" Rider demanded, suppressing the urge to chuckle at the man's antics. Why was she feeling so amused? She should be feeling annoyed! But the man just seemed to exhibit an air of natural good nature she just couldn't bring herself to dislike him.
"Rider?" Sakura called out, the Servant tensing as her master appeared behind her, the plum haired younger Tohsaka and adopted Matou looking between her and the blonde man in confusion "Oh hello, can I help you sir?"
"Ah, yes." The man smiled, a charming smile that caused Sakura to flush despite herself, even Rider finding herself hard-pressed to avoid a slight shiver, resisting the urge to sigh in relief as the man reached into his overcoat and pulled out an envelope "If you don't mind young lad, could you tell me if a Harry Potter…" he paused briefly, glancing at the envelope once more before looking up again "Forgive me, a Herwald von Einzbern, is currently living here?"
"Do you know Herwald-kun?" Sakura asked, looking at the man carefully, a lifetime of mistreatment in the Matou house making her wary around strangers, though she somehow felt the man before her wasn't a threat. If he was, she was certain Rider would have turned him to stone by now. Rider, on the other hand, had tensed at the mention of Herwald's old name, as the only people that had used it had been British Wizards, and from what she'd seen, and heard from Herwald, a certain 'twinkle-eyed Schwein-Hund' had been taking a little TOO much interest in the boy's life.
"Not personally, no." the man countered, smiling apologetically, "You see, a while ago, I entrusted something to an associate of mine, something that was later destroyed during an incident involving young Herwald." He held up the envelope "It seems the boy felt it was HIS fault the item in question was destroyed, and asked my acquaintance to pass on this letter of apology. After reading it, I felt it might be a good idea to see the boy in person to assure him everything was alright."
Rider's eyes widened at the man's story, having garnered some understanding of what happened to the boy from his dreams, which she routinely infiltrated to ensure he got a decent night's sleep. If what this man was saying was true…
"I'm afraid you've come at a bad time sir." Sakura admitted, looking confused but polite as she shook her head "I'm afraid Herwald-kun can't see anyone right now…" she tailed off as Rider placed a hand on her shoulder "Rider?"
"Come in." the Gorgon instructed, sending a reassuring glance her Master's way as she gestured for the man in the doorway to enter with a nod "Sakura, could you see him to the living room? I'll fetch Herwald-kun."
"Rider?" Sakura exclaimed, looking after her Servant as she left, before turning to the golden haired Gentleman in the doorway in concern "Ano…would you care to come in?"
"Pardon the intrusion." The man offered, smiling apologetically, stepping through the doorway, pausing only to remove his shoes, and a rather fine pair they were, even from Sakura's limited experience, before following her through the halls, his feet making almost no sound as he padded along behind her, moving with a steady, gentle pace that belied his size.
"Who was at the door, Sakura?" Shirou asked, the redhead looking up from his spot at the kitchen, where he was working off his agitation chopping vegetables, only to blink at the sight of the blonde man "A guest?"
"Yes, he's here to see Herwald-kun." Sakura assured the boy, who paused briefly, his ochre eyes shifting from hers to the Golden haired man in understandable suspicion "He says he's come about the letter Herwald sent him."
"What the heck? The kid's got a pen-pal now?" Rin wondered, the elder Tohsaka sibling eyeing the man before her warily, ready for anything.
"Actually I'm merely here about an apology young Herwald sent me regarding the destruction of something belonging to me." The man replied genially "I'm merely here to assure him that everything is alright." He looked around in concern "Though if you don't mind my asking, has something happened? You all look very…put out."
The group blinked, looking at the man in surprise at how quickly he'd deduced their current state of mood. Sakura wasn't her usual cheerful self, Rin was almost constantly biting her thumbnail, and Shirou was attacking the vegetables with almost as much savagery as he had Gilgamesh. Before any of them could comment however, the sound of running feet caught their attention, the group looking u just in time for the porch door to slam open, a haggard looking Herwald standing framed in the doorway, his emerald eyes wide as they glanced around the room wildly.
"Herwald-kun?" Sakura exclaimed, looking at the boy in surprise, as she'd never seen him THIS frantic since he'd come back, as he spent most of his time at Illyasviel's side "What's wrong?"
Herwald turned, panting from the force of his run, only to tense as he caught sight of the golden haired man standing alongside the girl, his emerald eyes locking onto the man's gold, a look of stunned wonderment, tinged with hope visible in them. "You're…here?"
"Ah, yes, how remiss of me." The man chuckled, getting over his shock at the boy' sudden appearance before offering a polite, professional bow "Permit me to introduce myself: My name is Nicholas Flamel."
Emiya sitting Room...
Silence fell over the Emiya living room, the occupants gaping at the golden haired man in shock, Sakura's hands clapped over her mouth, Rin's mouth hanging open, while Shirou came dangerously close to dropping a knife on his foot. You'd think having Epic Heroes living with them might have granted them an immunity to the surreal, but even Shirou had heard of Nicholas Flamel, the most famed alchemist in history, and the awe he felt was, while not on the same level he'd felt the first time he laid eyes on Arturia, close enough to make him feel weak at the knees. The man was a living legend after all.
Herwald recovered his wits first, though that wasn't surprising, considering his upbringing, the boy's features shifting back into their usual calm mask as he shook himself, smoothing himself down to make himself look more presentable. "My apologies, Monsieur Flamel." He offered in perfect French, earning a quirked brow from Rin and a look of confusion from Sakura and Shirou "If I'd known you were coming I'd have prepared a welcome for you."
"No need, young man." Flamel assured the boy in Japanese, clearly not wanting to alienate the other members of the house "I'd prefer you didn't, actually, one of the reasons for my coming unannounced." His glasses glinted slightly "The other is to avoid a certain…mutual acquaintance of ours catching wind of the meeting."
"I assume you are referring to Albus Dumbledore?" Herwald asked, his tone clipped, though he was pleased to note that Flamel was as wary of the Supreme Mugwump as he was of Jubstacheit, even if he HAD entrusted the old meddler with the stone.
"Indeed." Flamel noted, holding up th envelope containing Herwald's missive to him "He placed a tracking spell on this envelope, no doubt wanting to keep tabs on my movements in case something cropped up later." He smiled "He really does worry too much, however, fortunately for ME, my wife screens all the mail personally, she noticed and removed the spell before any of us laid a finger on it."
"I would expect no less of a seventh daughter of a seventh daughter." Herwald noted approvingly, a small smile crossing his lips at how easily the old twinkler had been thwarted. Dumbledore might be considered the greatest wizard alive, but Perenelle Flamel had been regarded as THE Sorceress even BEFORE her husband had crafted the Stone, and had since had centuries to refine her already formidable skill. He doubted very much there was a witch or wizard alive that could match Perenelle Flamel in a duel of Magic, the woman was surely in the same class as a Caster Servant by now. "Though it begs the question: Why come at all?"
"Well, partially to thank you for your concerns regarding the Stone's destruction." Flamel admitted, his tone gentle "I'm sure Albus told you it was for the greater good."
"He did, and quite frankly I think the acid in those lemon drops he inhales has rotted his already decrepit brain." Herwald replied, shocking Sakura and Shirou with his words, though Rin quirked a brow, intrigued "I highly doubt you'd come all the way here to reassure me you think no ill of me for destroying that glorified paperweight."
"Herwald-kun?" Sakura blinked, looking at the boy in confusion, only to turn at Flamel's sigh, the ancient alchemist looking both relieved and saddened by the boy's words.
"I see Albus was right…" he noted, his tone laced with good-natured approval "It would seem you are indeed an exceptionally gifted young man." He quirked a brow "If you don't mind my asking, how could you tell? Not even Albus suspected a thing."
"Other than the fact the destruction of the REAL Stone would have killed me and everything within the confines of Hogwarts?" Herwald countered, earning a sharp look from Shirou and Rin, while Sakura squeaked in alarm "The Stone is your Magnum Opus, the culmination of your life's work towards Akasha, I highly doubt you'd entrust the real thing to someone you kicked out for suspecting his motives."
"Albus always was a little TOO obsessed with the concept of a 'greater good'." Flamel admitted with a sigh, shaking his head sadly "A shame really, were it not for he and Jubstacheit's motives, they'd have made fine disciples."
"Wait, hold up." Rin stammered, looking between the two alchemists in confusion "Are you saying…the stone Herwald-kun risked his life to destroy was a FAKE?"
"Be glad it was, Rin-san." Herwald countered, never taking his eyes of Flamel, though it was more from awe than suspicion, going by his relaxed stance "If it hadn't been, I wouldn't be here, nor would Hogwarts for that matter."
"And such a waste that would be." Flamel chuckled, shaking his head in amusement, only to clear his throat and straighten up "Indeed, the stone I entrusted to Albus was a forgery, an imitation of the REAL stone." His eyes were serious "While a powerful alchemical amplifier in its own right, it possesses only a fraction of the true stone's power."
He reached into his pocket, pulling out, much to the others' shock, an egg-shaped, fist-sized ruby gem that seemed to glow with an inner light. All of them held their breath, instinctively knowing what it was without him saying it's name.
"This is the TRUE stone." Flamel declared, his features as if they'd been cut from living stone as he continued t lock gazes with Herwald "The culmination of my life's work, a Crystalized Fragment of Akasha."
"Akasha…?" Rin gasped, backing away from the stone in alarm "You mean…no, you can't possibly mean-!"
"So that's the reason behind the stone's power." Herwald interrupted, his tone tight, laced with an excitement that couldn't be defined "That's how it's able to bypass all the laws of the natural world…"
"Indeed." Flamel agreed, nodding his head, the stone still held in one hand "Akasha is the origin of all things, the source of all, if one understands the base of something, he can alter it and make it his own…" he closed his eyes reverently "However, it's still far from perfect. The human mind cannot fully incorporate the Truth, and so my mind only grasped a fragment of it, a fragment which I crafted into solid form."
"And thus the stone was born." Herwald revealed, his eyes glancing to the legendary Alchemical Enhancer reverently "And that's why you and Perenelle went into hiding. If word got out you'd gotten a glimpse of Akasha, those vultures at the Magus Association wouldn't have stopped with a Sealing Designation."
"I still have some powerful friends in the association." Flamel assured the boy, a wry smile on his face as he glanced at Rin "A mutual acquaintance if I'm not mistaken, it was HE who told me where to find your current residence by the way."
"Bloody Vampire…" Rin muttered, grimacing at some uncomfortable memory, even as Sakura blinked at her in confusion "Still, that doesn't explain why you're here? If Dumbledore believes the stone was destroyed, then you could disappear and no-one would bother to look for you!"
"That was my intention until I received Herwald's letter." Flamel admitted, glancing back at the boy, his features firm yet concerned "When I read what REALLY happened to the false stone I set out to find you immediately. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about."
"I do." Herwald admitted, smiling softly, a grim, self-mocking little smirk even as he gripped his right arm with his left, the others looking at him in concern "At first I thought it was just the restrictions Dumbledore placed on me, but even after Rin-san unblocked them, my control's been shot to hell, to the point I don't dare attempt transmutation or activating my arrays." He smiled grimly "Hell, I don't dare risk reinforcement."
"Let me see." Flamel insisted, his tone firm yet kind, like a parent asking a child to reveal an injury, Herwald stepping forward and partially removing his shirt, allowing the aged Alchemist to place his hand on his back, a feeling of warmth spreading through him as the man's prana entered his body. "Quite the ingenious array formation…" he applauded, his brow furrowing in scholarly intrigue "VERY complex, though I don't approve of it being applied for combat purposes."
"They were created so that I could protect someone precious to me." Herwald replied, refusing to acknowledge the Einzbern's intentions for the arrays even if he knew the truth "Not being able to use them has been…terrible."
"I assume it would." Flamel agreed, his tone understanding, only to frown as he pushed his prana a litte deeper into the boy's body, the warmth suddenly encountering a counter that caused Herwald to jump at the contact "It's as I feared…" Flamel sighed, looking at the boy sadly "When you used your array to destroy the false stone's physical form, it was reduced to a liquid base, which then entered your body through the wounds you received in the explosion."
"The stone's…inside him?" Rin exclaimed, looking alarmed at the prospect, a sentiment she shared with Sakura and Shirou, the latter of whom's fists clenched in alarm as they eyed the younger boy "Is it dangerous?"
"If left unchecked? Yes." Flamel admitted, his tone grim as he gripped the REAL stone in his free hand, the gem lighting up as he pumped prana into it "Don't move, Herwald, this might sting a little but you'll be alright."
Before Herwald could respond, there was a flash of light behind his eyeballs and then he was spiralling into darkness, the other's cries of alarm fading as he fell. When he awoke, it was to find his head in Sakura's lap, the plum haired girl stroking his long black bangs out of his face. "Welcome back." Flamel's voice greeted, the alchemist sitting seiza style, sipping a cup of green tea offered by Shirou, his brown overcoat gone and the sleeves of his dress-shirt rolled up to the elbow "Glad to see you're still with us, how do you feel?"
"Like Scheiße…" Herwald muttered, earning a chuckle from the man as he sat up, surprised to find his whole body felt like it had been filled with lead. "The Hölle?"
"Don't worry about the stiffness, it should wear off in a while." Flamel assured him "I had to alter your blood vessels and internal organ somewhat to better accommodate the power of the liquefied stone remains that integrated with your bloodstream."
"Explains why my insides feel like someone moved them around…" Herwald noted, chuckling weakly until he coughed from the strain "Couldn't you have removed it?"
"That would've been too risky." Flamel countered grimly "Even if it WAS a forgery, it was still possessed a fraction of the real Stone's power. If I'd attempted to remove it with Alchemy, the chain reaction…" he paused with a grimace "Needless to say it wouldn't have been a pleasant experience."
"I can imagine…" Herwald muttered, looking uncomfortable as he imagined going through ANOTHER explosion, only this time he doubted he'd survive it, seeing as HE'D be the one blowing up, even as he looked at his hands "So what now? Will I be able to use Alchemy again?"
"In time, yes." Flamel admitted, pushing his glasses up as he spoke "Though it will be harder to control thanks to the enhancing properties of the false stone in your blood. Even simple transmutations will have a greater effect than what you intended, it could take a lifetime to gain complete control…on your own."
Herwald blinked, looking up at the older alchemist as he set his teacup aside, turning to face the boy head on, with a serious expression on his face. "I have seen many things in my time, Herwald von Einzbern." He declared "I've seen the rise and fall of empires, wars that tore the world apart. I've watched Magus and Mundanes alike slaughter themselves for something as insignificant as material wealth and power." He looked at the boy, only to smile "So when I see something that catches me by surprise, I think you can understand why I can't just leave it alone. I would like to offer you a position as my apprentice."
Rin choked, Shirou's eyes widening while Sakura gasped in shock, Herwald simply staring at the ancient alchemist in disbelief. To be chosen by Nicholas Flamel himself, even for something as simple as catching the man's interest, was something any Alchemical student DREAMT of, a dream Herwald had never entertained because he doubted the man would be interested in a 'stray'.
"I don't make this offer lightly, Herwald." Flamel assured the boy "You have a sharp mind, and judging from what Albus has told me, a desire to use Alchemy for good, though you had no desire to use the stone to do so." He smiled at the boy "That alone tells me you're different from Albus and Jubstacheit, Albus would have used it for the 'greater good' while Jubstacheit would ave used it to further his own agendas. To find someone who WASN'T interested in the stone outside of scholarly intrigue in these times is…heartening."
Herwald blushed, unable to say anything in the face of the Flamel's words. Truth be told he couldn't have cared less about the stone, outside the usual, scholarly interest any Alchemist would possess, but that was because he had other priorities than eternal life and wealth. What was the point of living forever if you had to watch your loved ones die…
"Ilya!" he exclaimed, his emerald eyes widening in alarm as he tried to stand, only for his treacherous legs to give out half-way, only Shirou catching him before he fell saving him from crashing face-first into the floor "Mr Flamel, could you possibly-!"
"He already did." Shirou interrupted, and for the first time Herwald noted the look of stress on the elder boy's face was gone, his ochre eyes swimming with unshed tears of joy "He took a look at her while you were recovering…I don't know what he did, but he fixed her, Ilya's going to be okay."
Herwald blinked, unable to believe, yet wanting nothing more than to do so, turning to look at the Tohsaka siblings, who nodded, Sakura's eyes bright with relieved tears, even Rin looking a little shook up as she nodded in confirmation. He turned his attention to Flamel, who smiled kindly.
"All life is precious, regardless of its origin." The ancient Alchemist replied kindly, his golden eyes shining "Human or homunculus it doesn't matter, all things deserve the chance to live without needing someone else to define their existence for them."
Herwald couldn't help it, all the pent up anger and frustration at his inability to do anything just suddenly chose that moment to release itself, the boy-who-lived choking as tears of joy streamed down his cheeks, hugging an equally moved Shirou with his leaden arms, looking up at Flamel in gratitude "Can I see her?"
"She's sleeping at the moment." The Ancient Alchemist assured the boy "A night's rest and she'll be as good as new, better even, now that whatever was draining her soul has been removed." He smiled kindly "However, I see no reason why you can't join her…you've had a long day yourself. We can continue our discussion later."
Herwald thanked the older Alchemist, a weak, grateful smile on his face as he asked Shirou to help him up, the redhead escorting him down the hall to the room Ilya occupied, Flamel asking for another cup of tea from an all-to-eager Sakura.
They passed Rider on the way, the Gorgon smiling at the pair kindly, opening the door to the room where a joyfully sobbing Sella was being comforted by a beaming Leysritt, the two maids bowing politely as the brothers made their way to their sister's side, smiling down at her gentle sleeping features, her complexion already turning to its normal snow-white, and her breathing slow and easy once again. "I thought we'd lost her…" Herwald croaked, reaching out to touch one smooth cheek, running the backs of his knuckles softly against her once again flawless pale skin "I never felt so helpless…"
"I have…" Shirou replied, his tone grim, though laced with pride "But it's because of people like Dad and Flamel-san that we're still here, people who know when to do the right thing."
"A hero." Herwald finished, an honest smile tracing his features as he gazed down at the slumbering form of his sister, once again thankful for whatever twist of fate crossed his path with Emiya Kiritsugu's that fateful November night.
And somewhere out there, beyond the Root of the World and the Throne of Heroes, a lonely man whose beliefs had caused him nothing but despair, smiled along with the sons he'd left behind.
Kyugan: And that is that.
Heavy: WAAAAAAAH UWAAAAH!
Medic: There, there mein friend...here, blow your nose.
Heavy: Thank you doktor... *blows nose, LOUDLY*
Sniper: I tip my 'at to you mate, that was...that was a beauty that was...
Demoman: Och, now thas how a fable ends.
Scout: It was cool, for something written by a lamebrain.
Engineer: Now that right there, is a thing of beauty.
Kyugan: I know, I know, here's hoping the Sequel's as well liked.