AlienWonton: This story is an expansion on my oneshot Look Out the Window, but there's no need to read it to understand anything. Just know that this takes place in Fate/Extra, but with Fate/Prototype protagonists and maybe appearances from other characters.
This first part's rather dull, but I promise it'll pick up in the next few chapters!
[Insert generic disclaimer here]
There was something strange about her school. Ayaka was sure of it...and yet whenever she tried to determine exactly what made the school so strange...well, it was rather like struggling to climb a slippery wall where the top was right there, and if she could just reach a few more centimeters...
But no matter how much she strained, her fingers always fell short.
Ayaka wasn't entirely sure when she began to notice something was off, but once she did it was like a mosquito buzzing around her head.
As usual Ayaka began the day by walking to school. Theoretically she must have slept at some point, either at home or at a dorm. Whenever she wondered exactly where this house or dorm was located, however, it was as though the mosquito had multiplied into a full-fledged swarm taking up residence in her head. It was yet another mystery in this strange, mechanical life.
Upon reaching the gate Ayaka glanced at her watch. It was 7:30 AM...as usual. A pair of girls walked by, chattering about so-and-so cheating on so-and-so with so-and-so...Ayaka blinked slowly and wondered how many times she had overheard that particular conversation. Almost immediately she winced and tripped over a particularly large crack in the sidewalk as her vision turned fuzzy.
Her fellow students walked around her as if they were aware of her presence but at the same time didn't truly see the girl kneeling on the pavement, scrambling for the contents of her bag.
After stuffing the last item into her bag Ayaka glanced at the sidewalk. There was nothing but smooth, unblemished concrete as far as her eye could see.
Issei Ryuudo stood in front of the school gate, a spot of black among a sea of brown uniforms. As Ayaka approached him he waved and motioned her over.
"Good morning! Lovely weather we're having, don't you think?"
Lovely. Well, that was one way to describe it. Ayaka glanced at the clear blue sky and briefly wondered if it had always been so...fake. Surreal. Perfect.
"Hm? Why do you look so surprised? We announced at last week's assembly that this month the student council would strictly enforce school rules."
Last week. Ayaka was pretty sure a week was the equivalent of seven days. She was also pretty sure that she should have been able to remember attending something like an assembly sometime within the past seven days.
...Why was she so surprised? This was how Issei always greeted her. Every. Single. Morning.
"First, let me check your student ID..."
As Issei went through his usual spiel Ayaka glanced at the ID held loosely in her hand. Ayaka Sajyou. It was the one constant in this confusing, unchanging life. If there was one thing she could be sure about, it was that her name had always been and will always be Ayaka Sajyou. It was something reassuring, especially considering the fact that she had recently discovered that she had completely forgotten her birthday.
Ayaka shook her head as a headache threatened to rise up again and ran through the gate, accidentally knocking Issei to the side as she did so. She glanced back to see him stagger a little before straightening up and continuing to talk to the now empty space before him, as though he had never been interrupted.
"...You're a model Tsukumihara Academy student."
Tsukumihara Academy. Something in Ayaka's head was stubbornly insisting that this was the school she had always attended. Ayaka's instinct, however, was screaming that she had never heard of this school before, and it certainly wasn't the school she normally attended.
Was she trapped in a dream?
If she was...
She'd wake up eventually, right?
No...she will wake up. Soon.
If she didn't...
The morning passed in a pain-filled haze of headaches and frustration. Ayaka sat near the front of the room, but somehow - unsurprisingly - no one, not even the teacher, noticed her complete lack of attention.
No one except Leo, that disconcerting new kid, who glanced her way and shot her a sympathetic smile. Any person who annoyed Shinji Matou was a person to be respected, in Ayaka's opinion, so she nodded politely and attempted to return the smile.
Soon afterwards Leo disappeared in the middle of class, and no one batted an eyelid at his departure.
Leo made her feel inferior, like she was a peasant in the presence of nobility. But perhaps he would have the answers to the myriad questions pounding away at the interior of her skull.
"I wish you the best of luck."
It said a lot about her state of mind when Ayaka didn't even gape as Leo walked straight through what should have been a completely solid wall. Or maybe it was simply because it was Leo, who seemed to excel at being unrealistic.
If the situation hadn't been so surreal Ayaka might have admired the simple beauty of her surroundings. It was as though she was in an area apart from reality, and the pixelated road beneath her feet was the only thing preventing her from vanishing into the vacuum - a bit scary, but at the same time it brought with it a sense of excitement and anticipation.
"...Please proceed to the final room."
Ayaka watched as the red orb faded from existence before walking forward. The 'final room', the voice had said. Was this what she had been waiting for all this time?
There was only one way to find out.
The corridor ended at what looked like a wall of water. The obstruction shimmered prettily, casting a soft blue glow over her vision as she walked through it. She felt no resistance at all.
She found herself on a circular platform that seemed to be floating in the middle of a completely black space. Three identical doorways stood before her, and she could practically see the power they exuded. Whatever was behind those doorways was unlike anything she had ever encountered so far.
Ayaka took a deep breath and tore her eyes from the doorways, instead examining the platform she was on. It was ornate, decorated with a large mystic circle of some sort and engraved with indecipherable symbols. A few yards away lay the black-haired classmate that had entered before her, looking deathly pale.
"Um..." Ayaka winced as her voice, normally all but inaudible compared to the noise of her classmates, echoed eerily in the silence. "Hey, are you alright?" She knelt by the boy and reached out, intending to shake him awake.
He wasn't breathing.
Ayaka froze and stared down at the pale face before her. Just a few minutes ago she had seen him talking with Leo, followed him into this world beyond reality...
He was dead.
There was a clattering sound from nearby. Ayaka jumped to her feet and stumbled backwards as the effigy lying on the floor suddenly came to life and stalked forward, its intent clear. Ayaka backpedaled and frowned in concentration; her own effigy jumped in front of her and slashed at the thing with a spindly arm.
Ayaka flinched as her effigy took a particularly vicious hit and tumbled onto the floor. It was as though she was the one who had received that blow, straight through her heart...
With that cheerful thought her legs gave way and she collapsed onto the cold platform, feeling oddly numb.
"...Hmph. You seem to be lacking as well."
Ayaka winced at the words. Despite the numbness of her limbs her head had cleared considerably, and suddenly she could remember a voice from the past, degrading her skills even as it heaped compliments onto the skills of another.
"...Farewell. I pray you'll find peace in your annihilation."
Ayaka stared at the gemstone-like quality of the floor as the voice faded away. Was she going to die here? It appeared that the boy hadn't been the first one to die...was she going to be one corpse among many, in this place that was trapped outside of reality?
Your skills are sorely lacking.
What a disappointment.
She couldn't die here.
Ayaka gritted her teeth as waves of pain assaulted her, but eventually she managed to roll over so that she lay on her stomach. Directly in front of her was one of the three doorways, its ethereal glow almost mocking in its beauty. A creation of the heavens overlooking a field of hopelessness and death...
Ayaka scowled as the image of a young girl flashed through her mind. Ayaka Sajyou bowed to many things, true...but fate was the one thing she had sworn to never embrace. If she was fated to die in this forsaken place, alone among a pile of corpses, so be it.
It wouldn't be the first time she had cheated fate, and she didn't intend for it to be the last either.
Suddenly she felt something brush lightly against her face, like the faint touch of a soft feather. As she struggled to her knees there was the sound of shattering glass and Ayaka looked up, wondering what was coming next.
Of the three doorways only the one in front of her remained. As she watched it began to glow...no, there was a strange light beaming down on it from somewhere high above. The light solidified slowly, taking on a recognizable shape...
...and suddenly there was a young man standing before her. He was handsome - Ayaka could feel her face heating up as she realized she was sprawled on the ground in a most ungainly manner - with blond hair and green eyes. He was wearing some sort of silver armor over dark blue clothes with gold trim, and there was a friendly smile on his face. Unlike Leo's smile, which had seemed like the front to something darker, this person's smile practically radiated sincerity and Ayaka found herself relaxing just looking at him. Even the obvious aura of power which swirled around him did nothing to detract from his approachability - the hurricane was there, but somehow Ayaka just knew that she had nothing to fear from it.
"Did you know...that there is nothing more beautiful than a human's soul once it has been given a goal it must reach?" The man walked closer; Ayaka craned her head to keep his face in view. "Forgive me if I sound strange, but although you are silent, your soul screams to mine in its determination. It would be an honor if you would allow me to aid you in your quest...so I ask of you: are you my Master?"
The words rang hollow in her ears, but somehow Ayaka found herself nodding in response. For a moment the stranger looked as though he was torn between adopting a solemn face and keeping up his friendly attitude; eventually he gave up on the former and simply grinned, shaking his head. "I have to wonder...is it my fate to forever dance with the expectations of ritual and formality? Oh well...I look forward to working with you, Master!"
He reached out and gently pulled Ayaka to her feet with a gauntleted hand. As he released her hand Ayaka felt a sharp pain; she looked down and watched as a red mark shimmered into existence. She blinked and stared at it, then looked curiously at the armored man, who met her gaze calmly.
Suddenly there was an all too familiar clattering noise. Ayaka jumped and whirled around, watching as the effigy began to stalk forward again. Unlike before, this time it had taken a fighting stance - had it been simply toying with her the first time around? Ayaka gulped and took a step back.
"So this is our first opponent? Interesting..." Her new companion walked forward, placing himself squarely between Ayaka and the advancing effigy. "Master, there is no need to be afraid. I will allow no harm to come to you, so please watch carefully."
Ayaka tried to watch - she really did - but she did so with the thought that the battle would take more than one second. As far as she could tell the man had simply swung his arm and sliced the effigy cleanly in half. The two pieces tumbled onto the ground; the man tilted his head and looked at the pieces curiously before glancing at Ayaka, who was pretty much speechless at this point.
"Ah...was that too fast? I apologize."
Ayaka smiled weakly. She had a feeling that her life was about to get very interesting, and this was just the tip of the iceberg.