Notes up here, to make it look less ugly at the end.
*If you join an Archery club in Japan, a lot of the first year is often just spent flexing with oversized rubber bands to build up the arm strength necessary to pull a bowstring.
**Northern China had a slave ring busted in 2007…
The blade that formed in his hands appeared as if identical to the naked eye as the one held by the woman in blue. It had the same shape, the same inner light, the same sharp edge and strong, thick grip.
"What a bad reproduction," the young man said, shaking his head ruefully.
The sword was hollow, not just within the image itself, but missing everything that made up the heart of its power. He knew, after trying it out so many times now, that he would never be able to remake it, never be able to come even anywhere close. It was not just the elemental forging that the blade had undergone originally, but something in him incapable of filling in the missing holes his Tracing created.
He thought, too, that perhaps he was just not meant to be able to reforge it. It was not like Caliburn, now lost forever to the world, or any number of the other Phantasms he had seen inside Gate of Babylon.
It still existed, still lay with those that forged it, along with the one who wielded it.
"Something is missing, huh?"
Shirou looked up to find Yumi watching him from the porch. The flickering light from the television had gone out, and he wondered as he often did when she caught him, how long he had an audience. He waved the Excalibur reproduction around. "Yeah. If I hit something with it, I think it would probably crumple like paper."
He regarded Yumi as she continued to watch the weapon he had made. In the days since her demon possession and the attack from Yuushi, he had finally noticed a unity in her that had been missing before. With the curses within her cast off and the one who had caused her so much grief irrevocably gone, she seemed to have found a bit more focus than before and had not demonstrated the same flash of multiple emotions. They were certainly still present, but he could watch as she went from one to another rather than wonder if her head would explode from feeling too many things all in a single instant.
Even if it had nearly cost them all their lives, Shirou thought, if she had gained some measure of peace, it had been worth it.
"SHIROU! I FEEL LIKE A SNACK! PEEL ME SOME FRUIT!"
Even if he had been Rin Tohsaka's personal manslave while she recovered from her wounds.
He sighed, glancing over to the guest house. The burns she had suffered now merely looked like very bad sunburn that would eventually heal, though the first few days had kept her bedridden for the most part. Now, though, he thought she was probably doing it just because she could.
Shirou turned back to Yumi, who held her hands out in supplication. He grinned ruefully, putting the sword in her hands. "Be right back."
When Yumi could hear the sound of Shirou gathering some plates from the kitchen, she carefully held out the weapon he had brought forth.
It was beautiful, though it lacked everything that made up the one Yumi had caught a glimpse of before. Unlike Caliburn, this sword was something Shirou still had no ability to call a part of him, and Yumi thought she understood why.
When you stare forever at the light ahead of you, you become blind to the light within you.
Without others, Shirou was an absence; he had to be in the process of saving others that he could actually show through.
Saving others like her.
Then…light of humanity, I'll show you. What he is to people like me.
Days passed, and life returned to normal.
Without the darkness of curses within her, Yumi's life returned to something as it had been encroaching upon before. In the face of the bullying she had received before, she had risen to face the whispers and the glares by risking even more.
She had dyed her hair blond and pulled it up into an intricate braid.
"Wow, that looks just like this one person Shirou and I used to know," Taiga had said upon the first day of class she had worn it.
Of course, it had attracted attention, positive and negative. But when some of the same girls that had pushed her buttons before had approached her, Takumi Hoshino had interrupted. "The blond does look more natural," he had said, carefully sliding up next to her with his bento box as if it had been their plan the entire day to eat together, "And thanks for braiding your hair; I wish everybody else did something to keep it out of the way for club practice."
Which had sent the other girls scurrying away to choose a different battle.
"Speaking of that, do you want to try shooting today, just to see how it feels?" he asked.
"Really?" Yumi beamed. "No more pulling the rubber bands?"*
He shrugged. "I thought I'd let all the first years try, just this week, to get a taste of what they're actually building up to. And to measure how far along they've come on the pull."
So, after school…
Takumi stared at the target. He then looked to where the arrow had embedded itself in the wall many hand spans away. "Ah…arm strength is good, but…you really…aren't very good at aiming, are you?"
Despite the summer months' extension on days, it was nearing sundown when Shirou, Rin, and Sakura had come to the school grounds, looking for Yumi. They had called her phone before dinner, but after not hearing back, had decided to go looking for her.
And upon peeking into the Archery Club's training hall, had retreated quickly, grinning the entire time.
"So—" Rin had started.
"Adorable!" Sakura had finished.
Shirou gave them an exaggerated frown. "You guys aren't going to badger her about that, are you? I mean, won't it embarrass her?"
"It is a parent or guardian's duty to mess with the child when they catch her in an older boy's arms," Rin said.
"He was showing her how to aim," Shirou defended.
Sakura gave something between a smile and a Tohsaka-esque smirk. "Isn't the father of the house supposed to be even more about rattling said older boy? Just think of what Fujimura-sensei tried to do to Saber-san, only reverse the genders."
"Yes," Shirou said dryly, "I default upon Fuji-nee's wisdom when thinking of how to raise children. The next one will also do my laundry and cook my breakfast and dinner."
They had wandered onto the sports field while talking, the girls for the express purpose of killing time until they absolutely had to call Yumi home—Shirou only because he was following their lead. When Sakura almost tripped over a soccer ball left out, she picked it up and noted the variety of other equipment left out. "Someone hasn't been doing their cleaning job." Shirou had already grabbed two more when she turned to look at him.
"Geez, what're they teaching kids nowadays?" Rin grumbled, though she joined in helping gather the wayward things.
It looked as if some kids, perhaps in preparation for the sports festivals that would be coming in the near future, had been out practicing late and then not bothered to clean up. And when they came to the track equipment—
There. Rin saw the thought as it passed through Shirou's mind.
There. Sakura saw the thought as it passed through Shirou's mind.
The highjumps he once had done, a lifetime ago. Striving to do something he was incapable of.
It was useless now, of course. With magic, by Reinforcing his legs, he could easily manage to leap beyond the height it was set for. With that kind of trick, he could make it effortless. It was no longer the same unattainable goal.
With a grin, Shirou took a quick dash up to the bar, leapt up, and gracefully arced over it onto the mat below.
Rin raised her eyebrow. Sakura tilted her head.
Shirou rolled back up to his feet, his hair now a mess—more of a mess. He laughed, and that laugh sounded like a mere child at play.
"That was cheating, you know," Rin said.
Shirou smiled at the girls, and shrugged. "Yeah. I'm not good enough without rigging the system." He glanced back up at the jump bar, then stood himself up and went to take it down, along with the rest of the equipment. "But I never really believed in a no-win situation anyway, so, why should I start now?"
The air was cold enough that frost could form about lips simply by breathing.
He stood on the hill overlooking the facility, eyeing the points of entry and the occasional bout of movement his Reinforced eyes could make out. The factory surround, so out of the way, was yet still busy with the lights from inside the factory as the slave ring within kept people cracking with the proverbial whip.**
The white-haired priestess beside him peered through a normal set of binoculars. "And you're sure about this? I mean, the Agency still has an operative in Japan that we can call on."
"I need to make up for all the help you've given me, right? Besides, it doesn't matter to me who asks for help, whether the Church or the Magic Association or anyone else," he said. "And it isn't like I could go back, now that I've seen the people here."
Caren sighed. "The demon warping the area here has already erected a form of boundary field. I can't even look into the windows without getting a 'look in the other direction, everything is fine here' sensation." She put the binoculars away. "You sure you can piece such a strong illusion?"
"Yeah," he said, reading his bow. "I think I can."
"Well then," Caren said, readying sets of Black Keys.
He raised the curved weapon before him, his voice becoming solemn. "Fate had finally found me."
He took aim at the generator atop the roof of the building.
"Her voice was enough to assure victory."
"May the lord have mercy on your souls," Caren said, clasping her hands before her chest in prayer.
"May this reach the king that cannot be reached—"
The golden sword formed in hand, still a mere illusion itself. Yet, even so, even a mere fraction of the power one not named "Arturia" could create…
It still had the hopes of many behind it, to exalt the man now facing a battlefield of his own.