AN: This is only the prologue, and I'm not going to devote any further attention to it until I have Escaping Fate finished. This is more like incentive to get me to keep the momentum going when I'm done with that.
It was raining.
Kohaku sighed, wishing she had a free hand to clear her hair from her eyes. The sudden storm had come out of nowhere and caught her as she did the shopping and she had not bothered to bring an umbrella. Now, she was sure the rice package was wet, the cabbage inundated with the faintly saline rain taste, and the plastic around the fish would be clingy and annoying to remove. Makihisa-sama gets angry when his food is not perfectly to his liking…
She moved as fast as her kimono-hindered legs and bag-laden arms would allow, trying desperately to find a place to shield her from the weather. The occasional tree helped some, though the fall weather had scattered many leaves already, leaving only minimal canopy to protect her. The cold breeze that accompanied the rain did not help much either.
The young maid finally found a building with enough of an overhang that protected her from further assault. She put the groceries down and wiped at her eyes and forehead, brushing hair out of her vision, before reaching up and taking the ribbon out of her hair. It had already taken the brunt of the damage and was both uncomfortable against her head and not helping to hold her hair up any longer anyway.
Double-checking the groceries and finding them about as she expected—moist but not yet untenable—Kohaku leaned against the building and sighed. If this keeps up, I hope Hisui-chan doesn't decide that I'm going to be late and feel she needs to make dinner herself.
Absently watching the few people that passed by, comfortable under their umbrellas, Kohaku considered whether she would just return with soggy clothing and food and use the extra time to work harder on the food preparation, or risk waiting for the weather to abate and not have to worry so much. She spotted a young boy about her age glance her way, look at her sympathetically, then tug on the sleeve of his father as they passed by.
That sympathetic look could not but help to remind her of another distant glance of similar make, of a boy wondering why she was still inside when everyone else in the house was out to play.
How I hate that look…
Shoving the thought aside, Kohaku poked her head out from the overhang of the building sheltering her. Though she could spot a location in the sky where the clouds were absent, she could see the faint breeze moving them away from her position. The other direction was completely overcast and even darker than the clouds that hung overhead now.
Always with the lack of choices. Kohaku crouched down, tied the ends of the grocery bags together to keep the moisture out as much as possible, and—
Paused when she caught sight of a pair of sneakers in front of her.
She looked up and found the boy from earlier before her, umbrella in hand.
Kohaku blinked up at him vacantly, and he looked a little embarrassed. "Um," he said, "can I walk you to wherever you're going?"
Kohaku blinked at him again. She did not know what to make of this random Samaritan. "It's a little far," she said.
The boy shrugged but said nothing, waiting for an answer.
"…Okay." Kohaku picked the groceries up and motioned in the direction of the Tohno estate. "This way."
Smiling, the stranger held the umbrella over her head as she stepped back out into the rain.
They started down the road and Kohaku huddled underneath the provided shelter. She did not have to move too close, however, as he politely held the umbrella over her instead of himself, keeping her completely dry but taking the full wash of water.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Kohaku asked. "You're getting wet now."
The boy shrugged again, but was silent, his smile still apparent.
Kohaku could not help but think that in the dimness of the overcast sky, the way he beamed at her was all the more out-of-place. She noted that he had amber eyes like her own, though unlike hers they danced to accompany the pleased look on his face.
So intent on trying to work out what felt so odd about this boy, she did not walk as fast as she could and they took a good thirty minutes to make it to her destination. Kohaku frowned as she approached the gates, both at not having explained this irregularity to herself sufficiently by then as well as what awaited her when she stepped back through those doors.
The boy accompanied her to the doors of the mansion, where the eaves of the house shielded them from the rain. Kohaku put the groceries down and turned to address the boy. "Thank you. I'm sorry to have inconvenienced you."
"It wasn't an inconvenience," the boy said. "I like helping out." He closed the umbrella and put it down next to the groceries. "Next time, though, maybe you should take it with you," he said, grinning. With a bow and seemingly without any need for further complements from Kohaku, he darted back out into the rain and the gate.
The weird thing that Kohaku suddenly perceived was how, as he had left the umbrella and turned away, it was like he was leaving all the happiness she had seen with her and was walking away empty-handed. It was a weird dichotomy, like he was absolutely happy just helping some stranger but now was an absence of any feeling once he was no longer needed.
Something about that made Kohaku call out, "What's your name, anyway?"
The boy stopped at the gate, glanced back at her and said, "Shirou Emiya" like it was an afterthought, and crossed the boundaries of the estate and back out into the world.
Kohaku eventually lost sight of the odd boy, and, turning back to the groceries, picked up the umbrella first.
It was not one of those cheap plastic umbrellas one could find at a convenience store, but a custom design of red that seemed to be out of treated cloth of some kind instead of polyester or nylon. It was not exactly a cheap item, and Kohaku wondered why he would so casually leave such a thing to a stranger.
The doors opened, and Makihisa Tohno stepped out of the house. He looked down at Kohaku, his eyes not-quite-glaring at her. "What kept you?"
"It was raining, Makihisa-sama. I did not want the food to get wet."
Makihisa peered out at the sky, then turned his eyes back down at Kohaku.
"A passerby walked me here so I could keep dry," Kohaku answered his unasked question. "It will not happen again."
"See that it does not."
Quietly picking up the umbrella and groceries, Kohaku silently followed her master back into the mansion.
Fate/Far Side, Prologue, Out