Disclaimer: I do not own Fate Stay Night or anything from the Lyrical Nanoha franchise.


Mahou Senki: Lyrical Days

Chapter Eight:

Limits


Emiya Shirou ran forward.

The walls quaked from the sheer intensity of the battles within the Garden. Another tremble hit the building and shook the entire hallway sending bits of dust into the air as the walls broke down all around him.

Shirou choked on the dust and paused to catch his breathe. His breathing was ragged and he could barely think with the alarm that was been blaring. It had been on since the beginning of their assault.

The flashing lights in the hallway didn't make things better. The only bright side was that none of the golems that littered the hallway had been a problem.

Not a single golem moved to intercept him.

Shirou pushed it all out of his mind. He needed all of his focus on his goal. Everything else was unimportant.

His body had long since been pushed past its limit. The Projection magic that he was using was taxing and he had torn several muscles using the strength his Projection granted him. If he gave his aching body an ounce of attention it would give out.

Even worse was the pulsing energy that was pouring out of his body. Chrono had said that the Sealing Device was not working correctly and Shirou had to agree with him. There was no other explanation for the overflowing energy that was burning him slowly from the inside out.

There was something still holding it back, but there was too much to be contained. It poured out the excess into Shirou's body. His body filled up before it spilled out into the air around him.

It hurt so much.

But Shirou couldn't let that stop him.

He had to keep going.

He had to move forward.

He had to get Precia to take back those words.

He had to save that girl.

It didn't matter if his body burned.

If it would stop that girl's tears than it would be more than fair.

So Shirou pushed the pain and the power that he couldn't begin to control out of his mind.

Precia Testarossa waited impatiently with Alicia.

The entire plan had fallen apart long ago for her. The initial experiment had started it all. Her plans to save Alicia, the Fate Project and finally her plan with the Jewel Seeds had fallen apart too.

But the final plan wasn't beyond repair. It would be difficult to create a portal to Al Hazard with so few Jewel Seeds, but it wasn't impossible. She was already starting to tear through the dimensional space.

However, just to be safe, there was one last Jewel Seed that needed to be collected.

She didn't understand why the Lost Logia was sealed within the red headed boy. She doubted that the TSAB would just let such an experiment run around, but it didn't really matter.

She had commanded her golems to let the boy pass and so far the boy was heading straight down for her while the others were held back by the numerous robot guards in the Garden.

Precia leaned against the cylinder that held her daughter and caressed it gently. "Soon Alicia, we'll have the final piece we need… and then…" Her body shook as another round of coughing attacked her body. "Then… we'll be on our way."

She whispered more sweet promises to her daughter that waited for her to save her until the room shook with a great crash.

The doors that lead to the room were blown open. Slowly, she took her eyes off her precious Alicia and turned to towards the interruption.

Ah, excellent. The key to her future stood panting at the entrance. All she needed to do was pry it out of its wrapping.

Shirou dropped the giant sword and walked past the rubble that had been the door to the room a minute ago. His eyes darted across the dark room and lingered for a moment on the green tube that held the slumbering Alicia Testarossa before they focused on his target.

Precia Testarossa stood leaning against the tube and was looking at him.

"You…" Shirou's eyes sharpened and the haze that had filled his vision as he ran through the hallways disappeared. "Take it back!"

Shirou blinked as Precia bent forward and shook a little. He wondered if she was having another attack before he heard it. Laughter, a low mocking laughter that soon grew and filled the room.

She was laughing again. That same laughter that mocked Fate's pain, her struggles. Shirou hated that laughter.

There was a vicious grin on Precia's face as she finally faced him. "Idiot boy."

A raised palm was the only warning that Shirou got. A flash of blue preceded the impacted that knocked him back out through the door he had just entered.

Shirou hit the ground hard and struggled to figure out how he had gotten back into the hallway. His ribs protested a bit as he pushed himself back to his feet and stumbled back into the room.

"Stupid, but durable." Precia's mocking insults managed to pierce through the ringing in his ears.

Despite Precia's words, Shirou wasn't stupid. When Precia had raised her hand for the knock out blow he had already Projected Kyouya's swords. The world blurred as his body was pulled out of the way of the blast.

And the second.

And third.

And several more.

It turns out whatever talent Fate held she had inherited from her mother.

Shirou was pushing his body to the full speed that these swords would allow. He was moving in several directions and even bounding up the walls to avoid the magical blasts that seemed to engulf the room.

It was like one of those games that Alisa and Suzuka played with the Shrine Maiden and witch. There were magical bullets everywhere and he needed to find the gaps in between them.

The room became a blur of green and blue as Shirou dashed in between the magical blasts that filled the room. He appeared in front of Precia and swung both of his swords at the staff in her hands.

The one weakness that he found with Mid Children magic was the need for a Device. Yuuno had mentioned that doing magic without a Device was still possibly but it was much harder to cast combat spells without one to do the complex calculations needed for their spells.

If he could separate Precia from her staff he would have a much better chance at winning.

The twin swords were halted by a thin wall of blue light just in front of Precia. Shirou's eyes widened for the briefest moment before he was pulled away by the instincts within the swords.

Shirou gasped for breathe as he was forced to move faster and faster. The explosions echoing right behind him told Shirou he was only a moment away from defeat as he darted around Precia poking for a hole in her defense.

But it was a futile effort. No matter how fast he moved, he couldn't catch her off guard. It was like she had eyes in the back of her head.

Had Shirou been paying more attention, he would have noticed the blue orb floating above Precia's head. Wide Area Search was a spell that Nanoha had not used in front of Shirou. The blue orb granted awareness to its caster's Device and through it Precia was able to keep track of Shirou even if he attacked from her blind spot.

A sword hung in air for a moment before launching itself like a bullet towards Precia as Shirou moved to strike Precia at the same time from behind. But the sword was consumed by a magical blast and his strikes were stopped by another barrier.

Shirou broke away from Precia once more and restarted their dangerous game of cat and mouse. Magical blasts rained down attempted to smite the agile swordsman.

The fight, if it could be called that, took all of a few minutes, but it had quickly taken its toll on both combatants. After all, both of them were fighting on borrowed time.

Precia Testarossa's body was ravaged by a disease. It had eaten away at her body and even her mind, and while casting this much magic would have been easy in the past in her current condition it was a hardship.

And Emiya Shirou. He had been fighting beyond his own limits the entire time. Ever since that first Projection against the golem he had pushed past what his body could handle. His Magic Circuits protested violently and it was only by chance that they had not crippled him.

His left arm had almost completely gone numb. His body screamed in protest from every moment and not only because of torn muscles. Tiny interwoven blades were locked in random places both under and pushing through his skin. Every movement tore more and more of his body apart.

And yet it wouldn't stop him. A foreign presence was healing the damage. It was not consistent, no, it would slow and rise at random intervals, but it was keeping him going none the less.

It was a race for time. For Precia, it was against the disease that was harming her body.

For Shirou, it was how much longer his body could handle the strain of his abilities.

And the first one to fall was Emiya Shirou.

Another attempt at striking Precia had shattered the sword in his right hand.

Shirou danced backwards through the magical blasts and opened his hand to call another sword but nothing appeared. Emiya Shirou had finally hit empty.

The final sword in his left hand didn't last much longer as it was smashed by a stray magical blast that had gotten a little too close.

And that was it. Without the speed granted by the swords' abilities Emiya Shirou may as well had been a sitting duck. Even at his very best, he could not hope to match Precia Testarossa without magic and Emiya Shirou was far from his best at the moment.

Shirou managed to dodge one more attack before another caught him in the leg. He cried out as his leg was knocked out from under him. Shirou hung in air for a moment before the second shot slammed into him and sent him crashing into the wall of the room. Before he could even leave the crater he made against the wall another blast slammed into him and deepened it.

Completely dazed from the attack, Shirou fell. He could hear Precia mocking him from across the room, but he was too tired to understand anything the woman said.

Damnit. Was this as far as he could go?

That was the thought that went through Emiya Shirou's mind.

He had made it this far. He had gotten to Precia Testaroosa. All he needed to do was make her take her words back. That was all he needed to do to save Fate. She was going to get away. She was going to get away with those words and Fate was going to lay there broken hearted.

Fate's face flashed before Shirou's mind. The girl's dead eyes and broken heart as her world was shattered around her. All by Precia's words.

Flash

This girl stood before him hurt and desperate. Something was hurting her. Even hurt and without his memories Emiya Shirou knew what he had to do.

"I swear I will save you."

Flash

No, he wouldn't let that happen. He couldn't let that happen.

Desperation erupted within Shirou. It filled him completely. And those that are desperate simply desire something more than life itself.

Fire erupted in his body. Magic, more magic that he knew what to do with was coursing through and out of his body. The Jewel Seed had awoken to Emiya Shirou's wish.

"What is this?" Precia was surprised when the boy pushed himself to his feet. He had been hit hard enough to put an adult mage with a Barrier Jacket down, and here was this boy standing up.

Haze seemed to pour out of the boy and distorted the air around him. Through the haze, small bits of metal glinted as they pushed out from under the boy's skin. Like armored scales, they covered portions of his skin.

His eyes rose up and caught her own. Precia took a step back at the cold grey eyes that stared back at her. Hadn't the boy's eyes been amber?

That moment of surprise would cost her as Shirou moved forward. A giant sword was instantly Projected and swung down at Precia. The large blade fell down with crushing force only to shatter as it met an immovable barrier. Precia had recovered fast enough to cast a Shield spell that even the golem's sword could not break.

But that was fine. Shirou hadn't meant for that blade to hit at all.

The fragments of the swords scattered and hit the ground. They kicked up a cloud of dust that obscured the entire room. Precia growled at the deception and sent out a pulse of magic that blasted the dust away from her and would keep the boy from trying to sucker punch her.

But the cloud was blown back to reveal an empty room. The boy was nowhere to be found.

"Over here!" Shirou roared from above as he kicked off the ceiling of the room. He fell down onto the surprised Precia and slashed out with both of his swords.

Both swords were blocked by a hastily raised staff and a small smirk made its way onto Shirou's face.

The swords were twisted and ripped the staff away from Precia's hands.

Shirou broke away from Precia for a brief breather. He had done it. He had taken away her Device. All he needed to do now was subdue her.

Precia stumbled back as she tried to catch up on what had just happened. Shirou stepped forward and Precia stared at the steel grey eyes that were trained on her.

His focus was only on her. Without her staff to aid her he could shatter her Barrier and defeat her.

Her focus divided between the boy and her staff. He was fast, but surely she could reach her staff before he could pierce through her Barrier. Then it was only a matter of binding him long enough for the extraction.

Their tactics decided the two combatants moved forward. Or, at least one of them did.

Shirou tried to move forward, but time had finally caught up to him.

"Gah!" Shirou gasped for breathe as his body locked up. His body was wracked with pain but that was not what stopped him. Red lightning ran across his body and shackled it from moving any farther.

"What?" Shirou struggled to move his body forward, but the lightning seemed to grow in intensity and seized up his body. A glance down showed Shirou what was causing this to happen.

The Sealing Device on his wrist was glowing bright red. Now that his attention was on the Device he felt it, it was burning hot. The final measure programmed into the Device, in case the Lost Logia activated again, had been triggered. All energy left in the Device was to be used for an emergency Sealing.

That fire that both seemed to burn Shirou body from the inside out and fuel him forward slowly seemed to drain away from him. It crawled slowly away across his body until it was gone.

The Jewel Seed and all of the power that had come with it had once again been sealed back into Shirou's body.

"W-wha…" Once relying on his own power, Shirou stumbled. His body was too worn out to move without any support. Like a rubber band snapping back, all the trauma and damage that had accumulated from the battle finally started to take their toll on Shirou.

"I…" He fell to his knees as his legs refused to support his body for another step. He could no longer breathe and his entire body was trembling like a leaf caught in the wind. "My body…"

"It seems like you've finally lost your steam, boy." Blue bands of light snapped around Shirou's limbs and pulled him into the air. Precia had not taken the reprieve from attack for granted and had retrieved her Device.

"N-no…" He weakly struggled against the bonds but it was pointless. He couldn't even stand let alone break the Binding spell.

"You've wasted enough of my time." Precia coughed up more blood before shaking off the pain. She had the final piece she needed.

The Garden of Time shook once more as it slowly destabilized in the pocket between dimensions. The rift between the dimensions was slowly consuming the Garden. Precia only had a little time before her window to Al Hazard was closed.

"Extraction."

"Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh !" Lightning coursed over and into Shirou's body. It surged through his body as it quickly found the object it was looking for.

It felt like someone was reaching into his body and trying to rip out his organs with a hand made of lightning. More and more energy was poured into his body until he felt like he was going to break.

Finally it seemed to end. Shirou's body fell limp and once again was only held up by the binds around his wrist. His vision swam and his mind was filled with cotton. His body felt like it was on fire and his throat was hoarse from screaming.

It took Shirou a few moments to realize why Precia had stopped. Another voice was speaking. "-cer is heading this way right now."

In a herculean effort, Shirou managed to raise his head and look across the room to see Lindy floating on the other side of the room with wings coming out of her back. Shirou had the briefest moment where he thought he was hallucinating from the pain before he discarded it. Even his mind wouldn't imagine Lindy as a guardian angel.

Still, the battle with Precia had taken everything he had. He could only hang there and watch.

The entire situation had finally been controlled. The Garden of Time would soon be sealed and all that was left was to bring in the criminal. And yet, Lindy could not restrain her curiosity.

"The lost capital, Al Hazard. We don't know if the hidden technology that lays there even exists. It's nothing more than a legend."

"You're wrong. Al Hazard exists within the gaps in dimensions." Precia scoffed at this woman's ignorance. "Once I shatter the dimensional space, a brilliant light will shine from that gap."

"The path to Al Hazard is certainly through that light!"

"That's an unlikely chance you're betting on." Lindy closed her eyes and shook her head lightly. She couldn't believe that Precia was causing this entire incident on finding a legend. "What do you even plan to do there?"

"You say you want to reclaim your lost time and rectify the mistakes of your past?"

"That's right. I will take it all back. The past and future that belongs to Alicia and I."

Precia turned back to the tube holding Alicia and pressed a hand against it. "It was never meant to be this way… not any bit of this world I am living in!"

"The world is always filled with things that were never meant to be!"

A ray of blue light pierced through one of the room's walls and out of the hole it created stood Chrono. The boy looked worse for wear. His outfit covered in rips and tears and a rather bad head wound was pouring blood over one of his eyes forcing it closed. Yet, even with the wounds covering his body, Chrono stood strong. His words cutting through the air aimed at the woman standing there that denied the world.

"Since long ago, at any time, or whoever's involved, that's how the world is!"

Precia stared back at the boy's words until another crash from the ceiling of the room. She watched as both Fate Testarossa and Arf fell into the room. More and more, her plans seemed to fall apart.

"Do you plan to run away from the reality that wasn't supposed to be, or will you face it? That is up to you. But no one has the right to interfere with other people's lives just because of their own selfish sadness!"

Silence reigned over the room. Chrono had said his piece but Precia Testarossa was silent. Finally, another hacking cough escaped her mouth as her body continued to fail.

"Mother!" Fate Testarossa moved forward.

Shirou groaned lightly as he shifted on the ground. It took him a moment to realize that the binds holding him in the air had run out and he had been dropped to the floor.

He tried to push himself back to his feet, but his arms wouldn't hold his own weight.

No, it wasn't that they wouldn't support his weight. It was that they couldn't.

He had swung swords the size of small buildings and had fought a mage at dizzying speed. None of these things are something that a child can do. His body had finally given out from the supernatural feats he had done.

His vision was half gone and his left eye is filled with blurs rather than images. He could feel his right arm trembling from the strain of pushing his body, but his left arm was numb.

He could hear the entire building groan as it was falling apart. The dimensional rift had finally grown to the point where the building could no longer hold itself together. It would fall apart and sink into the border between the realms.

Trembling arms continued to push against the floor. His body convulsed as it tried to maneuver into a position where he could stand. There is no more energy in his body. The magic that had been sustaining him, that power of desire had long been sealed. Every instinct in his body was screaming at him to lie down and rest.

"I may be a doll that you created. However, I, Fate Testarossa, was born by you and raised by you. I am your daughter!"

He could hear them talking, that precious blonde girl that needed saving, and that horrible mother that needed to be defeated.

"So what?" Precia laughs at the heartfelt words spoken by Fate. "You expect me to think of you as my daughter now?"

Anger flashes weakly through Shirou's body. Again and again, she denies Fate.

"If you wish, I will protect you from anyone and anything in this world. Not because I am your daughter, but because you are my mother."

"I'm not interested."

Shirou poured more and more strength into his arms. His knees nearly buckled as he pushed himself to a standing position. The shaking and crumbling ground wasn't making this any easier.

Shirou's eyes scanned the entire room. In the center was Precia, standing by Alicia's tube glaring defiantly at everyone else in the room. In front of her was Fate and Arf, Fate's expression was once again heartbroken.

Behind her, Shirou could faintly see Lindy and Chrono.

The room crumbled away and larger pieces of the ceiling crashed down all around him. The trembling He could hear Chrono and Lindy yelling out orders, calling out to both him and Fate.

"I am going to Al Hazard." Precia declared out to all of them. "I will regain everything. I will take back the single bit of happiness in my life."

Time seemed to slow down as the ground beneath Precia finally gave. Both she and the tube holding Alicia tilted as they started to fall.

No.

Not yet.

Precia still hadn't acknowledged Fate. He couldn't let her get away.

Shirou moved forward. He reached out to grab the falling woman. He could still reach her.

If he could just draw just a bit more magic he could reach her and jump back. He just needed a bit more!

But there was nothing left.

Shirou had just barely been able to stand. He could only stumble forward and reach desperately for the falling two as his legs refused to move any further.

Shirou screamed as he reached for the falling Precia.

They were right there!

Just a few more steps!

But those few steps made all the difference.

Precia Testarossa as well as Alicia Testarossa fell into the void between the dimensions.

Shirou lay on the ground stunned. Time seemed to slow down as he watched the woman and daughter fall. His mind had locked down at the sight.

"No…Nononono…" Shirou shook as he searched into the colorful chaos that was the dimensional void for any sight of Precia and Alicia. "No!"

Tears slowly made their way down Shirou's face as he realized the truth. That he had failed completely.

"Shirou!"

It was too much. It was all too much.

"Fate-chan!"

He couldn't stay conscious any longer. Too tired from everything that had just occurred, Emiya Shirou collapsed.

"Shirou!"

The air was thick and heavy with smoke. All the buildings around him were ablaze, the people lying around him had been reduced to kindling as their bodies crumbled away into black ash.

He walked forward, past it all.

It was an aimless walk, but he knew that he needed to move forward to survive.

But…

By going forwards he was abandoning those behind him. He had heard their cries. The desperate sounds growing silent the further he went

Eventually, he realized where he was. This was hell. A place where there was nobody to save them and a place where he could not save anyone.

He moved forward, hoping to escape, to survive.

He kept walking, one step after another.

But it was not enough.

He fell down. His body could no longer move forward. He had given it his all. He had used up everything. He couldn't even stand anymore.

So he laid there, waiting for death to arrive. A single hand rose up into the air reaching for something that wasn't there.

Then a miracle happened.

A hand reached out and grasped his own.

A man was leaning over him. His hand was burnt and bleeding, but it was there, he was there.

The words poured in. The man was thanking him. Thanking him for holding on long enough. Thankful that there was someone still here.

He looked up at the man that had grabbed his hand. This man that had appeared in this hell, and saw…

Happiness.

A pure joy. All from finding someone to save.

He had nothing. Everything was lost in the fire.

The man was smiling. Even in this hell, he was smiling because he saved someone.

Was it so wrong then, that he envied that happiness?

The Garden of Time had been set to fall into the dimensional space and the stress the building was put under was tearing it apart.

Fate watched her mother fall before her eyes and just as Shirou had, ignoring everything in the hope of finding her mother in the chaos that was below them.

None of the calls from the people around them reached them. They were frozen, separated by more than just space.

But time restarted as Nanoha blasted her way through the Garden into the throne room and called out for her friends.

Fate Testarossa heard the call. That girl that had been fighting her and trying to save her was calling out to her. She saw that same girl reaching out to her.

No, not only to her. She looked to her side at the boy that had fought so hard for her, to help her and save her. He was lying unconscious on the crumbling floor, exhausted from his own ordeal. She rushed over to his side and pulled him along with her.

That hand was reaching out to her. She took that hand, her salvation.

The mission had been a success. Though it had been a terribly close call, Chrono raised a hand to the bandage wrapped around his head. The head wound was rather shallow despite the amount of blood that had poured out of it, and the rest of the crew had mostly received similar wounds. They would need a bit of time to recover, but there was little permanent damage to anyone.

Well, almost anyone.

Chrono grimaced as he read through the preliminary diagnostic on Emiya Shirou. The boy was covered in bruises and small lacerations from shrapnel, there was plenty of damage to the boy's muscular system and his temperature would simply not drop no matter what they tried.

They had taken him into the infirmary and had the ship doctor set up a healing array around the boy. They would fix as much of the physical damage as they could.

The damage that they could not fix was the magical one.

The Jewel Seed was supposed to be contained by the Device that hung around Shirou's wrist. It was supposed to keep the Lost Logia from activating and maintain it in stasis. However, it was put together hastily and was a temporary solution at best.

The passive containment had failed completely and it was only thanks to the magical charge they had set in the Device to seal the Jewel Seed that they all weren't thrown into the gap between the dimensions that Precia had torn.

Even though the Jewel Seed had been sealed back into a dormant state, they were unsure of what it had done to Shirou. His magical talents were already a mystery and it seemed that the Jewel Seed had changed them after the initial reaction. They had no idea what a second reaction could cause.

Fire and steel. That was how the ferret and Takamachi described Emiya's reaction to the Jewel Seed.

It had responded by amplifying Emiya's magic. Projection, or shaping of magical energy into a false copy. Where it usually made an inert copy that was fragile and useless, Emiya was able to create weapons.

It was a baffling response, but they did not truly know much about the Jewel Seeds and their abilities. So far all of the other reactions had been from mundane objects or people and animals with little magic to no magical talent. The Lost Logia could simply react differently to magical energy like that. Especially to an unknown magic like Earth's Magecraft.

Chrono sighed and rubbed a hand against his temples. This was going to hell to report back at Headquarters.

The chart was thrown down into the piles of information that Chrono had requested for his report. S2U was picked up and slid into it's holder as he pushed himself away from his desk.

There would be time to finish the report later. For now, he had another shift in the infirmary with the ferret.

The land was on fire.

The world was wavering. It had not yet been solidified. Its existence was there and not there. A paradox.

A desolate land. A graveyard for those that had been lost.

A monument. A land worth chasing.

It could not be both yet it was both.

But there was something else. The land was not empty. The uneven land made of iron and blood, it was holding on to something.

Those things wavering in the flames.

Imperfect things. They were worth nothing

But they still had meaning…

Didn't they?

He wondered

That wavering existence…

What worth did it have?

The first thing that Emiya Shirou saw when he woke up was the dim ceiling of the Arthra infirmary.

The first thought that went through Emiya Shirou's mind was, 'God my head hurts.'

It wasn't an elegant thought or a poignant statement that will be repeated decades after his story was done being told, but it fit his mindset.

"Ugh…"

A groggy check of his body told him that he was in one piece. Dressed in a thin hospital gown, he could feel several bandages on his body as well as a few stitches and there was an IV sticking out of his left arm. His body felt heavy too. It was like someone had pored lead into every one of his limbs.

He tried to push himself into a sitting position, but his right arm wouldn't budge. A quick look over showed Shirou the reason why.

Takamachi Nanoha had fallen asleep on it. The girl was sitting in a chair with half of her body collapsed onto the bed that he was laying on. Shirou blinked in complete confusion for a moment before the entire scene fell into place.

He had been hurt and Nanoha had stayed in the room. Judging from the pajamas that she was in, she had snuck into the room and fallen asleep there.

It took him another moment before he could recall why he was recovering in the infirmary again.

The building was falling apart all around them. His limbs were torn and broken from pushing them beyond the limits of his body. It felt like someone had replaced the blood flowing in his veins with fire, he could not see straight and the tremendous pounding of his heart hurt his head, driving all thought from it.

But through the haze and fire, he could still see them. The two people falling into the rift.

One trapped in a capsule, a girl with an incurable disease. She looked so much Fate. He did not know her at all. He had not known she existed before today.

The other was a mad woman, a raving parent that was trapped in the past. A woman that had just tortured him to get the Jewel Seed in him. A woman that tortured the girl next to him because she was a reminder of what she lost.

He knew it was stupid to want to save them. He did not know the girl and the woman had tried to kill him. But he couldn't help it. He wanted to save them.

More than the torture that Precia had put him through, more than the metal that was slowly pushing the way through his body and more than the fire that was coursing through his body, not being able to save them was too painful.

"Ugh." Nausea seeped into his body.

There are people you can save and people you cannot save. Kiritsugu had taught him that.

But those words sounded so hollow to him.

Shirou slowly pulled his hand out from under the sleeping Nanoha and shook it to return feeling to it. The girl moaned and shifted as her pillow was taken away from her. Shirou paused and for a moment he smiled softly at the girl below him. This probably wasn't the first time she did this either.

She shouldn't worry about him so much.

Then, the smile was gone. Shirou leaned back against the headboard of his bed.

It was too much, he realized. It was really too much.

He did not deserve that kind of worry. He did not deserve this girl losing sleep over him.

"What a waste." The bitter words tasted like ash in his mouth.

Shirou stared at Nanoha and wondered. What did she see?

What did she see that was worth worrying over?

"I'm fine, I'm fine."

"No matter how many times you say it, we're still not letting you go Shirou."

"Come on, I'm just going to stretch my legs."

"No." Nanoha's rejection was quick and firm. "You need to rest. If I let my eyes off of you you're going to disappear again."

Yuuno shook his head as he heard them arguing again.

"Hey Yuuno." Shirou greeted him as he entered the room before turning back to Nanoha. "You don't know that."

Nanoha pouted at Shirou and turned to Yuuno for support.

Yuuno walked over to the free chair next to Nanoha. "You said that last time and we found you holding pieces of machinery to help out one of the engineers, and the time before that when you went to use the bathroom we found you helping Amy out in the kitchen."

Really, was the term bed rest that hard to understand? "Your injuries were pretty severe, Shirou. You can't just do whatever you feel like."

"But I'm fine!" Shirou whined. He felt okay. There were still some aches and pains from his wounds but nothing life threatening. "I don't need to sit around and rest. I need to get out of this stupid room!"

"Too bad." Nanoha was tired of chasing down Shirou and making sure he rested. She was just one incident away from taking out Raising Heart and binding Shirou to his bed.

Yuuno sighed but ended up smiling at the duo. They had all been scared to death when Shirou had been pulled into the Arthra. He looked so pale and he was covered in wounds. Various pieces of metal were sticking out of his body and he would not react to anything they did.

They had immediately pulled him into surgery, but even after stabilizing the boy, he did not wake up. The entire ordeal had finally taken its toll on Shirou and now he had to deal with the damage, both physical and mental.

Fate and Arf were pulled into a cell for holding. Nanoha was taken in along with Chrono to have their wounds healed while Yuuno ran around helping as many soldiers as he could with his own healing spells.

Eventually, after the immediately crisis was taken care of, they had still gone their separate ways for the time being.

Chrono had to write up the report for the incident as well as manage the repairs to the Arthra. Yuuno was helping out in the infirmary. Finally, Nanoha simply waited for any news about Fate or kept an eye on the recovering Shirou.

It seemed like they were all drifting along in separate worlds despite the fact that they were all on the same ship. That had all changed once Shirou had woken up.

Like a spark that lit up a wildfire, he had once again pulled the ship into chaos as a routine check up on the comatose boy revealed an empty room and a missing patient.

Lindy had nearly turned the entire ship upside down ordering everyone to find Shirou. They had worried about what Shirou would do when he woke up and they expected the worst.

They did not expect him to be sitting in the core of the ship, bringing out tools for the engineers that were repairing the engine.

They had dragged him back to the infirmary and gave him a physical. While there were still some injuries that were lingering, he was in surprisingly good shape. They wanted him to rest however, as they were worried about his mental state.

Shirou would have none of that. He attempted to sneak out of his room everyday and they found him helping out around the ship more times than seeing him resting in his bed. It had gotten to the point where the crew had started a betting pool on how long Shirou could work around the ship without getting dragged back into his room by Nanoha.

"Hey Yuuno." Shirou's voice broke the silence once again. His voice was quiet, but Yuuno could hear the hesitation in it.

"What are you planning to do after all this?"

"What do you mean?" Yuuno was surprised by the question.

"I mean. We solved the whole Jewel Seed thing, right?" Shirou scratched his cheek as he tried to explain his own question. "So what are you going to do now?"

Yuuno quickly realized what Shirou was trying to ask. He had originally come to Earth to seal the Lost Logia that he had found. It was really to appease his sense of responsibility. But, the problem was taken care of now.

"I'm going to stay on Earth for a bit." Yuuno smiled at the delighted surprise from both Nanoha and Shirou. "There are still some things that I need to finish, so I'm not going to leave just yet."

"So I guess its back to the ferret bed for you, huh?" Shirou chuckled lightly.

"I… I guess." Yuuno had actually forgotten to ask Nanoha if he could still stay with her. It had slipped his mind with everything that had happened to them. "I hadn't actually asked Nanoha yet, but-"

"It's fine." Nanoha smiled brightly at Yuuno. "Yuuno-kun is welcome at my house. I'm sure everyone would be sad if you disappeared suddenly."

"Ah. Thank you." Yuuno returned the smile.

"I guess Miyuki-san would be pretty sad if Yuuno disappeared, huh?" Shirou tilted his head as he recalled how taken the older girl was with Yuuno's ferret form.

"Gee, thanks." Yuuno glowered at Shirou.

"What? She would." Shirou defended himself. "She tries to take you everywhere."

"Um!" Nanoha agreed with him. "I'm sure Alisa-chan and Suzuka-chan would be sad too."

"That doesn't exactly make me feel better, Nanoha." Yuuno hung his head. It wasn't that he disliked his ferret form, but the attention it got him got old rather quickly.

"Ah!" Nanoha waved her hands in front of her quickly, "I mean, we would miss Yuuno-kun a lot too."

The room was filled with laughter as the children talked, the looming worries forgotten, if only for a moment.

"So I guess this is goodbye." Shirou stood next to Nanoha on the Arthra's gate as they said their goodbyes.

"Yes. Once more, thank you for all you've done during this incident." Lindy smiled at all of them.

"We're grateful for your cooperation." Chrono shook both of their hands before backing up.

"I'll contact you when Fate's verdict is in. I'm sure it'll be fine, though. I promise nothing bad will happen to her." Chrono reassured them both.

"Right." Nanoha smiled and thanked Chrono.

"And Yuuno-kun. If you want to head back to your home world, just let us know." Lindy added.

"Of course. Thank you." Yuuno had already reverted to his ferret form and thanked Lindy from Nanoha's shoulder.

Amy finished setting up the gate and smiled sadly at the three of them. "Then I guess it's time."

"Right. I'll see you all soon, Chrono-san, Lindy-san, Amy-san." Nanoha smiled brightly at each of them.

Shirou caught Chrono's eye and they shared a look before nodding to each other.

The light of the gate forced them to close their eyes as the transportation magic returned them back home.

When Shirou opened his eyes he found them in the park by Nanoha's house. Shirou smiled at the familiar sight. This was the same park they had that first conversation with Yuuno just a few weeks ago.

"It's been a while." Shirou smiled at the familiar sight.

"Yes." Nanoha nodded while looking around at the park along with him. The Arthra was nice, but there was something refreshing about being back home.

"Now, let's go home." Nanoha smiled at Shirou. It had taken a while but they were almost home.

"Right." Shirou took a step forward before a hand grabbed the back of his collar and started dragging him back. "Ack, Nanoha!"

"We can have a celebration at my house. I'm sure my mom'll cook your favorite and we can even have some cake afterwards." She paused for a moment before turning to the ferret that was on her shoulder. Yuuno watched Shirou struggle with a sweat drop developing on the back of his head. "Ah, and I'll be sure to sneak you a lot of food Yuuno-kun."

"Ah, thank you." Yuuno shook his head and ignored Shirou's cries for help.

"Nanoha!" Shirou tried to wriggle out of her grasp but the girl just continued to drag him along while chatting with Yuuno.

The days passed by and Shirou fell back into his daily routine. It was amazing how little had changed.

Kiritsugu had been home the day he got back and received Shirou with a smile. He was as tired and unkempt as always. Shirou had grilled his old man on where he had disappeared to, but the man had simply given him a sad smile and gave him the same answer he always did; business.

Shirou didn't believe him but accepted the answer as always.

The next morning had come and Shirou headed back to school for the first time in weeks. He slipped quietly into class and settled into his seat.

"I'm back." Nanoha called out as she entered the class room.

Shirou smiled as Alisa and Suzuka enthusiastically greeted Nanoha. The trio chattered for a moment before Nanoha smiled and pointed straight at him. Shirou waved as the trio moved over to him.

"Well, don't we get an 'I'm back?'" Shirou was surprised when Alisa loomed over him.

"W-what?" Shirou stuttered as he scooted his chair back to get some room in between them.

"Hmph. We've been worried about the both of you, you know." Alisa crossed her arms as Suzuka slid behind her and nodded. "You and Nanoha disappear for days again and you don't even say a word to us when you get back?"

"I… Well, I just didn't think that, well, you would miss me." Shirou scratched his cheek. "I mean, we don't really-"

"Grr." That seemed to be the wrong thing to say. Alisa growled at him before throwing her arms into the air. "Forget it!"

Suzuka giggled as Alisa ran over to Nanoha ranting. "She was worried about you when you went missing, you know."

"Really?" Shirou rubbed the back of his head. Alisa and Suzuka were more of Nanoha's friends than his. He was a little surprised that they had worried about him.

"Really. Welcome back, Shirou-san." Suzuka smiled brightly at him before disappearing to chase after Nanoha and Alisa.

"I'm back…" Shirou muttered to himself with a small smile. He closed his eyes before turning to look out the window into the clear blue sky.

It was a new day. He had to make the most of it. The memories of this experience would follow him. And even if the regrets made him want to cry, he had to push them aside and step forward.

For right now, the sky was still out of reach.

But that didn't mean they would be forever. If he stepped forward, there should be a day where he could reach out and grab it.

"Shirou!" Nanoha called out and waved at him to come over.

"I'll be right there." He gave the blue sky a last glance before going to join his friends.

"So it's all settled." Shirou leaned against the railing as he watched Nanoha and Fate speak to each other from the other side of the pier. He smiled at the happy duo.

"Fate will be taken into the TSAB's main office and undergo a trial, but we're sure that she'll receive a light sentence." Chrono summarized. "There should be no problems after that."

"Good." Shirou was relieved that Fate was going to be okay. "If you guys need any thing for the trial..."

"We'll be fine." Chrono turned back to Shirou who recognized the transition. "But we also have another problem."

"Eh?" Shirou's eyes widened before narrowing. "What do you need?"

"Nothing serious." Chrono shook his head before continuing. "There's still the issue of the Jewel Seed inside of you."

"Ah." Shirou raised the bracer that was attached to his arm to eye level. "This thing."

Chrono nodded. "Yes. The Lost Logia is a dangerous and volatile artifact that needs to be contained. That Device is doing that job, but it's inadequate."

Shirou nodded as he recalled both the hazy recollection of fire and steel from the first activation as well as the Garden of Time. "So what are you going to do?"

"Right now, nothing." Seeing the look of surprise on Shirou's face, Chrono explained. "We don't have the tools or the resources to build anything more sophisticated and extraction doesn't seem to be an option right now. So we're going to return to base and report. We should be able to get a team to look at the problem. The best case scenario is that they get the Jewel Seed out of your body."

"And the worst?" Shirou couldn't help but ask.

"We don't know. The Lost Logia are unpredictable."

"Right." That was reassuring. Shirou looked down at the white bracer on his arm. It was hard to believe that such a small thing was holding back the Jewel Seed.

"But back to the matter at hand." Chrono looked Shirou straight in the eye who gulped at the serious look on the older boy's face. "I want you to keep from using magic until we get back."

"What?" Shirou shouted in dismay.

"We're unsure of what affects the Jewel Seed but your magic may be one of those things. Until we have a better idea of what is going on inside of you, do not use magic. I don't particularly like it, but we are trusting you to keep the Lost Logia contained."

"Right." Shirou could understand the concern, even if it did not feel right to him. He had used Magecraft before and nothing had happened. There had to have been something else there.

"Shirou." Shirou looked up and swallowed at the sight of Chrono glaring at him. "The TSAB is placing a lot of trust in you. Do not betray that trust."

There was a promise in that statement. If the Jewel Seed did activate again, Shirou doubted he would get off as easy as he was now. He had no doubt that Chrono himself would make sure that he was no longer a threat.

"R-right." Shirou swallowed hard as he recalled just how easily Chrono dispatched an entire army of giant attack robots.

"Shirou!" Both Shirou and Chrono turned to see Nanoha waving at them. "Come over here and say goodbye to Fate-chan!"

"Ah, I'll be right there." Shirou called back. He turned back to Chrono and nodded to show his understanding before running towards Nanoha and Fate. He stopped next to them and gave them an odd look as they both had their hair down. The ribbons that held their hair were absent.

He looked closer and noticed both Fate and Nanoha had puffy red eyes. They had been crying. Shirou felt a bit uncomfortable, but reassured himself that they were smiling right now.

"This is Emiya Shirou, you can just call him Shirou." Nanoha cheerfully introduced him to Fate.

"Eh? Doesn't she already know my name?" Shirou had only just entered the conversation and he was confused. "And don't give other people permission to use my name like that. It's rude."

Nanoha playfully stuck out her tongue at him. Shirou sighed before turning to face Fate and swallowed as a flood of memories hit him. Everything from the first time he saw her, the promise he made and her final confrontation with Precia.

"I'm sorry." Whispered the crestfallen Shirou.

"Eh?" Fate's own introduction and request for friendship like Nanoha taught her fell short at the odd interruption. "Sorry?"

"Yes. I promised you something and I…" Shirou closed his eyes and pressed on. "I could not help you. For that I'm sorry."

He finished the heartfelt apology with a deep bow. A little startled by the display and confused by the act, Fate looked at Nanoha for advice. The brunette however was no help at all as she stared at Shirou's bowed head with a look of sadness in them.

"Ah…" Fate felt even more confusion about this boy. He promised her that he would save her when they were enemies, he cries for her before and now he was apologizing for something he had no control over. "Shirou-san?"

Shirou raised his head slightly to look at Fate.

"I… then let's be friends." Fate smiled at him.

"Eh?" Shirou straightened up and stared at Fate in confusion.

"I will come back and when I do, I want us to be friends." Fate wanted to know more about this enigma of a boy. "Please."

"Of course!" Shirou agreed instantly. "I'll definitely be your friend."

"Then you don't need to apologize." Shirou wanted to protest, but the smile on Fate's face stopped him. It was such a beautiful and stunning smile that it left him breathless for just a moment.

"Okay." Shirou relented and smiled back at her. If such a simple thing would make her happy, then he had no right to deny her that.

The three of them chatted for a few moments before the time to say goodbye had finally come. Chrono, Arf and Yuuno moved to join them.

"Take care of yourself, boy." Said Arf as she dropped Yuuno on top of Shirou's head, causing him to squawk in surprise.

"Arf-san!" Nanoha greeted the familiar. "You are going to take care of yourself too, right?"

"Of course." Arf ruffled Nanoha's hair before smiling down at the girl that had allowed Fate to smile. "Once again, thank you. All of you."

Shirou just shrugged off the thanks but smiled at the happiness on Arf's face.

"Then, we'll be going." Their goodbyes over with, Chrono was the first to move to the sigil that held their Transport spell. Fate and Arf moved next to him and waved as the magic warped them back to the Arthra.

They had to part for now, but they would see each other again. He could only hope that it would be on happier terms.

He couldn't sleep. It was the night after Fate had left and Shirou found himself wide awake.

Shirou waited until the house was completely silent before he carefully slipped out of his bed and snuck out of the room. He made his way through the dark house and headed out to the backyard.

Standing in the center of the room he closed his eyes and exhaled. He had plenty of time to reflect when he was trapped in the infirmary of the Arthra. The transition back to his daily life had distracted him momentarily, but it was time to get back on track.

He was still weak.

He had fought Precia. It was a blurry memory. Flashes of light and steel. But he recalled that he could not harm the woman.

The twin swords were halted by a thin wall of blue light just in front of Precia. Shirou's eyes widened for the briefest moment before he was pulled away by the instincts within the swords.

It wasn't enough just to get stronger. There was no amount of physical strength that could have helped him in that moment. He had pushed himself to the limits of the human body.

"Trace on." Shirou whispered the spell and focused within him.

The twin swords appeared into Shirou's empty hands. They were a perfect copy of the originals.

They were weapons that were beyond him. Even now he could see it. The history behind the sword was beautiful. A blur of steel and blood. An assassin of the highest quality wielded these swords once, and now Shirou could imitate that same skill.

But it wasn't enough.

The two swords faded away into nothing.

He needed a weapon that was beyond even those swords. He needed a flawless weapon that would not yield to anything, not to magic nor to steel.

Shirou closed his eyes.

He could see them. Countless possibilities all embedded in the ground.

He looked past them. Each one was powerful, but they were not the right one. A weapon that would fit him, that was what he was seeking.

He could almost see it.

It was right there, the concept, the structure, the materials, the process, the-

*PSSSSSHHHHHHH*

"Argh!" A crushing pressure erupted inside his brain. His eyes swam with static as his brain could no longer keep up with the information flooding his mind. His body fell to the floor as it tore itself from the inside out.

Another failure. That was the thought that passed through Emiya Shirou's mind as he lay on the floor.

But that was fine. He was used to failure. He would keep trying over and over again, until it was perfect.

Shirou slowly pushed his trembling body back up. He closed his eyes and whispered, "Projection… Start."

The night sky was silent in Uminari City. But if you listened closely you could almost hear the sound of a hammer. Forging alone in a world yet to come.


AN: Arc one of the Mahou Senki Saga, Lyrical Days, is done.

Look forward to the next arc, War of the Knight Sky.