Many stories begins during thunderous storms or raging blizzards, as if the weather itself reflect humanity's plights. In those stories the sky would rumble and cry in forewarning of the coming events.
What a load of crap. Things, both good and bad, usually happens when you'd least expect them and the weather couldn't care less either way.
Shinobu Maehara could attest as much.
The events that brought a change in her unremarkable life happened on an unremarkable day, triggered by an equally unremarkable apple.
It was the morning of a early summer day.
Sunny and warm, maybe even a little too much for the first days of July but otherwise completely unremarkable.
Sixteen years old Shinobu Maehara was returning home after shopping for groceries. A particular bout of hunger of one of her dorm-mates left the pantry completely void of anything edible.
In all honesty, Shinobu couldn't understand how the little foreign girl Kaolla Su could eat even raw ingredients in such quantities without even the slightest stomachache afterward, but the fact remained that she was indeed capable of such feats and the rest of the residents had to suffer from the sudden void of food.
As the person in charge of the kitchen it fell upon her to solve the predicament and save the residents of the Hinata-sou from starvation. It was a chore but she didn't mind it. Cooking was one of the few things she was naturally good at and she took great pleasure in preparing better meals for her dorm-mates every day.
She was caught in such thoughts when she stopped at a crossroad, waiting for the light to turn green. Thinking about the other girls living at the Hinata a sigh escaped her lips.
She considered herself to be rather talentless individual with no remarkable feature especially in the feminine department. You could say she was rather petite and with very soft forms, which only served to make her feel underdeveloped. All the more so if compared to the other girls at her dorm. Even the hyperactive Kaolla could pull off being more womanly when she cut her childish antics and behaved.
Only Shinobu was constantly mistaken for a middle school girl, even if she was already a high school sophomore.
School. That was another touchy subject for the girl. She wasn't a bad or problematic student, far from that in fact, but her grades were average at best and socially speaking she was even worse. She didn't have any friend in her class or in the whole school for that matter. Her shy and soft spoken disposition prevented her from speaking her mind around her peers and she ended being all by herself every single day.
Her family instead... Well her family was something she preferred not to think about at all. They were the reason why she lived at the Hinata-sou by herself.
By herself, yes. Even if there were four other girls living under the same roof, who where friendly and gentle in her regards, she couldn't really connect with them. Mostly because each one of them had at least a trait she herself would have liked to have. Ever the sake loving, gambling addicted Mitsune – Kitsune - Konno had more social skills than she did.
Kaolla playfulness and devil-may-care attitude made her being liked immediately by everyone despite her odd quirks.
Motoko Aoyama, the kendo practitioner girl heir to a school of sword in Kyoto, was the embodiment of the Japanese traditional beauty.
Finally, Naru Narusegawa was the national first at cram school for college and a beauty above average on top of that. Scratch that, she actually had to go to cram school disguised as a nerd to discourage the constant attempts from suitors and train molester. What sort of woman had to downplay her natural beauty?
They were all extraordinary women compared to which Shinobu felt… dull for lack of better words.
For her, life was neither good nor bad. Even her plights were insignificant to the point of not being worth of attention nor pity from someone.
A dull person in a very dull day. Shinobu was certain that she would grow up alone in a life caught between happy and sad without ever truly achieving either. Try as she might she couldn't imagine things changing anytime soon.
But changes, as it happens, never had the custom of forewarning, and more often than not they are triggered by seemingly meaningless things.
In Shinobu's instance it only took an apple.
It was at the top of the paper bag she held in her arms, stuffed with groceries to the brim. It was half-leaning against the paper surface in a seemingly stable position.
Perhaps Shinobu shifted her arms a little, perhaps the frail balance between two strengths was already as it limits, perhaps it was fate, but the fact remained that the bag gave in under the tiny weight and the apple toppled out.
She caught the movement with the corner of her eye and her hand shoot forward to catch the falling fruit, only for it to bounce on her fingers and spin forward.
Instinct followed and the girl stepped after the rogue apple. It bounced again in her palm before her small hand could catch it. Another step forward and this time she managed to hold it her grip.
She smiled at the small victory when another movement caught her attention to her left. She turned her head and her smile disappeared, her eyes widened and time began slowing down.
A truck was coming her way, too close and too fast to stop or dodge her. She was too unbalanced to jump forward or jump back.
She saw it coming her way.
She saw the terrified expression in the eyes of the driver, a mirror of her own.
She saw her life flash before her eyes.
Not a real friend, not a boyfriend, not a kiss.
'I don't want to die.'
Dull days in the dull life of dull person.
'I don't want die.'
Nobody would miss her. Nobody would cry for her loss.
'I want to live.'
Nobody would remember her. The world would go on without nobody even noticing she wasn't there anymore.
'I want to live!'
In those two shorts second she saw all that, then she shut her eyes bracing for the incoming impact. An impact that never came.
What she didn't see was the bike behind her coming in her direction at breakneck speed.
What she didn't see was the red haired rider whose attention was focused solely on her.
What she didn't see was the outstretched arm that grabbed her in the nick of time and whisked her away from certain death.
Instead of pain and the cold feeling of metal she heard the sound screeching tires and a firm hold around her waist. A sudden burst of acceleration and a mad spin accompanied by the angered honking of the truck. Then the madness finally stopped and all that remained was her hammering heartbeat, the warm feeling around her waist and the low rumble of an engine beneath her.
"Whew!" a male voice exclaimed in relief. "That was close. All you all right miss?"
Shinobu opened her eyes and found herself seated on a motorbike at a side of the road.
She blinked and a few tears streamed down her cheeks. "Miss, are you all right?" The voice called again. She finally looked up and found herself staring from a short distance into a pair of golden eyes, owned by a red haired man who was looking down at her in concern.
"Oh!" Was all that Shinobu could say, still too shocked to form coherent sentences. "I… I'm… fine I guess…"
"You aren't hurt anywhere, are you?"
"N.. no. I… don't think so."
"Thank goodness," he exhaled. "You should really pay more attention when you cross the road."
"Ah. Yes. Thank you," she whispered. "I… I… Uwhaaaa….!" The entirety of the events finally sunk into her mind and her body shook in fear. She clutched the man's shirt and cried her heart out. "Whaaaaa…!"
All the red haired driver could do was awkwardly hold her a little tighter and rub her back in reassurance. Apparently dealing with crying girls wasn't his forte.
It took Shinobu five minutes to finally stop crying.
"Feeling better now?" He asked when the sobbing finally subsided. She nodded in response.
"Yes. Yes I'm fine now. I…" her eyes widened as she finally realized that she was being held in the arms of a complete, if well-intending, stranger. The blush on her face could have lit a room and threatened to set her face ablaze. "Ah.. Ah.. Ah.." she stuttered unintelligibly. Her shyness, now no longer forgotten, returned in full swing and her brain, too high on sudden emotions, dealt with the situation in the only way it knew.
Shinobu promptly fainted in the man's embrace.
"Oh, man," the biker with a now unconscious girl in his arms sighed. Definitely not his forte.
Shinobu came to her senses around half an hour later. Opening her eyes she found herself staring at the clear sky and promptly pulled herself to a sitting position. She had been laying on a bench in a park not too far from the dormitory. How did she end up there again?
"Are you feeling better now, miss?" A voice called from behind her. Startled, she turned around and met once again those golden eyes. The memories of the recent events returned and she yelped both in surprise and embarrassment.
She looked at the stranger who saved her life. He was looking at her with a gentle and sincerely concerned expression. He was dressed simply enough. A pair of jeans, sneakers, a white shirt underneath a black leather jacket. He had nothing out of the ordinary from the neck below.
His face was another matter altogether. He had the oddest pair of eyes under the most vivid tinge of red hairs ,save of a white fringe right above the middle of his forehead. He was slightly tanned and the color of his skin complemented his eyes giving him a roguish look.
From where he was seated Shinobu could guess that her head had been resting on his legs until moments before and a new wave of embarrassment washed over her.
"I.. I… I'm fine," She forced herself to answer. "Y… You saved my life. T-thank you."
"Ah, yes. You're welcome," he replied scratching his cheek sheepishly, apparently embarrassed by having his deed acknowledged. "It was nothing, really."
"I-it isn't nothing. I- I would have died if you… if you…," her voice died in her throat, fear returned as she remembered the incident.
"Well fortunately nothing happened. So it's ok, right?" He placed an hand on her shoulder to reassure her and to Shinobu's surprise the fear faded immediately. Her embarrassment however did not.
"R… Right," Shinobu agreed shyly. She didn't think that was the case but it wasn't like she had reason or even the strength of character to argue with him. "I… I should go back now. I.. have to go and buy everything again."
"Do you need any help?" He asked. "I can give you a ride if you want."
"I… there's no need. T-thank you. I l-live nearby."
"All right then," he said standing up and stretching his arms. "Make sure to watch your step this time around, alright?"
"I-I will be careful. I p-promise."
"Good. I guess this is goodbye then," he said, gathering his things and returning to his bike.
"Ano… w-w-what's your name?" She asked in a barely audible whisper.
"Oh, right. I haven't introduced myself yet, have I? I'm Emiya Shirou. Pleased to met you," he smiled. Shinobu couldn't help herself and blushed. He had a very nice smile.
"I-I-I… I'm M-M-Maehara Shinobu. P-P-Pleased to make your acquaintance."
With the introductions done, they walked together out of the park in silence.
"T-thank you again for helping me. I-I-I'm in your debt."
"Don't mind it. Just be careful, ok?"
"I will. G-Goodbye then."
She turned around and run in the direction of the shops, almost tripping on her own foot at some point. When she was at the end of the road she turned around and waved her hand at him and he responded in kind. He watched her until she disappeared behind a corner.
"What a strange girl. I hope she'll be ok by herself," then he realized something and smacked his hand on his forehead. "Damn. I should have asked her for directions since she's from around here," he sighed. "How am I going to find that place now?"
He pulled a card from his jacket's pocket and read the address wrote on it.
"Hinata-sou, uh? Well, I'll better get moving if I want to find this place before tomorrow or I'll end up sleeping in the tent again."
He put the card back into his pocked, started the engine and rode off, his mind already drifting away from the clumsy girl he just met.
Shinobu was back home over an hour later. Retuning to all the shops took her a lot of time she it was still early enough to make lunch. As she prepared pots and pans her hands kept trembling. The emotions of the day still lingered inside her. She never felt so scared her entire life, and at the same time she never felt her heart beating so hard as it did when she was with Emiya Shirou.
She just couldn't clear her mind of the man that rescued her from a very painful if extremely rapid death. He came like the storm and snatched her from her unavoidable demise, just like a knight out of a fairy tale. She knew it was silly and that she wasn't going to see him ever again, but a girl could at least dream. Even better actually. If she didn't see him again she could indulge in this little fantasy of hers without making a fool out of herself around him. Yes, even if a romance like that would never become real for her, she could still dream about it.
"What are you doing Shinobu-san?" A voice behind her asked.
"KYAAA!" Shinobu screamed, nearly jumping out of her skin. "M-M-Motoko-senpai. You startled me."
"My apologies. I did not mean to scare you. Are you preparing lunch already?"
"Ah. Yes, that's what I'm doing," she explained, a little too eager to move the conversation away from the reason of her thoughts.
"Hm? You appear to be quite agitated today. Did something happen while you were out shopping?" There was no particular meaning in her question but Shinobu's mind was already down a particular lane and Motoko's question sounded like a specific accusation.
"N-N-No! N-N-Nothing happened. What could have ever happened? I didn't meet anyone. I didn't… ops," realizing she said too much she bit her tongue, but it was already too late. Motoko's eyes narrowed and her hand instinctively reached of the sword at her side.
"Have you been approached by someone? Have you been harassed? Shinobu-san, tell me who is the fiend that dared to touch you and will remove his head from his shoulders."
"M-Motoko-san!" she shrieked. She didn't want the swordswoman to after the man that saved her life, but she didn't want to tell her that her clumsiness almost got her killed. "N-nothing like that happened. I swear. I-I-I just met a man that helped me with my… my bags. He… he didn't do anything to me."
That didn't seem to calm the raven haired girl in the slightest.
"Shinobu-san. You should know better than to trust strangers. You might have got away safely this time but there's no telling what kind of hideous intents the scoundrel had for you."
"T.. That can't be. He was so nice to me…"
"I don't doubt he was," she nearly hissed. "That is the way they act, making you believe they have the best of intentions until you lower your guard. Shinobu-san!"
"You must keep your guard up around men at all time. Is that clear?"
"Yes! I will!"
"Good, then…" Motoko trailed off as she sniffed the air. "Is something burning?"
"Waaah!" Shinobu shouted as she turned back to the food. "Oh noooo," she wailed. Another trip to the market was in order.
Needless to say, lunch was consumed much later than usual and there was no keeping the reason from the rest of the girls. Soon everyone knew that Shinobu had been apparently assaulted by a molester and no amount of (feeble) denial from the girl dissuaded Motoko and Naru from their opinion.
It didn't help that Kitsune kept teasing her about it, tying her tongue with embarrassment.
'Aauuuu. I'm sorry Emiya-san,' she thought as the girls discussed the pervert's punishment if he ever got close to Shinobu or any other girl. 'It's my fault if they think you are a bad person.'
"Ne, Is a pervert good to eat?" Kaolla asked out of the blue.
"No!" was the unanimous answer. The last thing anyone wanted was for Kaolla to set herself on a quest to get her piece of a man to taste. Literally. Even Kitsune with all her jokes wasn't that bad.
With lunch out of the way the Hinata-sou seemed to return to its peaceful self. The girls went about their businesses and the events of the morning were put aside as the one time occurrence they were supposed to be.
Too bad that the day was far from over and the figurative storm still hadn't hit them with the full power of its might.
The bike spluttered as the engine stopped. The red haired man pulled the key out of the ignition and stared at the flight of stairs at his left.
"It should be up there," he said to himself. "Took me half a day to find this place. This part of the city it's a maze."
After securing the bike to a nearby pole he began climbing toward his destination, blissfully unaware of the chaos he was about to stir.
"Kaolla! Stop right there!" Naru shouted at the blonde girl. "Give back our clothes."
Naru, Motoko and Kaolla decide to take a dip in the hot springs while Shinobu and Kitsune went out for a stroll. They had just left the hot water when the foreign student decided to pull a prank by stealing everyone's clothes from the changing room. Now they were chasing the youngest girl about the dorm clad only in the towels from the hot spring. In different circumstances they would have gone back to their room and got dressed but being in a exclusively female dorm they didn't bother. Besides if they didn't get those clothes back soon there was the chance they might not find them anymore.
"You gotta catch me if you want them back!"
"Kaolla-san! Enough with this charade," shouted an equally upset Motoko. "If you do not stop as of this moment I shall be forced to use my family techniques."
"You'd have to hit me!" she sing-sang challengingly.
"Is that so?" the raven haired swordswoman asked with false sweetness. "Then I suppose we have to find out if I really can or not."
"Wait Motoko-san!" Naru pleaded as she watched the girl behind her brandish her bokuto into a very familiar stance .
"Shinmei-ryu! Zanganken!" Motoko shouted swinging her blade. The air rippled in front of her like sending a wave of pressure in Naru's and Kaolla's direction.
"Noooo!" was all that Naru could say as the shockwave hit her sending her flying right into Kaolla's back. The two girls were thrown into the air all the way to the dorm's entrance door.
A door that slid open in that very moment.
"Hello? Is there any-OMPH!" Shirou words were cut as two very naked female bodies crashed against him sending the three of them to the ground.
They remained there for a few seconds before Shirou tried to pull himself up and assets the situation.
"Ow. What the -UGH?" His eyes widened as he realized what had hit him. In that moment a brunette looked up and locked her eyes with the red haired man. A few seconds of uncomfortable silence passed between them. "Er… Hi?" He said awkwardly.
The girl's scream shook the entire building, almost deafening the man beneath her. Shirou's torture didn't last long as a powerful uppercut propelled him in the air and away from her. "PERVERT!" She shouted after him.
"A pervert?" a raven haired girl, naked like the others asked as she reached the scene, just in time for Shirou's body to crash into her.
"Ow, ow, ow." He said pulling himself up. "What the hell just.. uh?" Something soft squirmed beneath his hands. He looked down and saw what looked extremely like a naked breast, encased by his fingers. His eyes snapped up the meet the owner of said mammal glands.
"Shinmei-ryu," the young woman growled " Zanganken!" A powerful wave hit his stomach, sending him flying one more time. This time his landing wasn't as soft and his head hit violently against a wall, robbing him of his consciousness.
Shirou opened his eyes a few minutes later only to find himself tied up with his hands behind his back.
"Uhg? What the hell happened?" he asked to no one in particular. Judging by his current headache whatever had hit him would have killed any other man. He looked up and found himself staring at the pointed end of a very sharp katana. Following the blade all the way to the hilt he found the swordswoman, now dressed in a tradition hakama glaring down at him.
Behind her a brunette dressed in jeans and a white shirt was looking at him in the same manner with her arms crossed in front of her. At her side another girl, younger than the other two was looking at him with an amused expression.
"Justice happened, you fiend," the sword-wielding woman replied.
"Justice? Fiend?" Shirou blinked, not really sure of what was going on. It appeared that he had done something bad, but he couldn't understand what. The only thing he knew was that at some point a bunch of girls started beating him for no reason.
"Justice, indeed. Now, do you have any last words before I remove your presence from this world?" The swordswoman answered, lifting her sword to deliver the fatal blow.
"Whoa! Whoa! Hold on a minute!" He fidgeted. "Before beheading me could you at least explain me why I'm going to die?"
"You dare claim ignorance? Not only you try to force your perverted ways upon us, but you also try to escape from your just punishment by feigning ignorance?"
Now, Shirou was renowned for being a very polite person, more so toward the opposite gender, but that didn't mean he was going to let people accusing him of being some sort of molester.
"Now wait a minute. I came here looking for someone and I soon as I opened the door you girls started beating the shit out me."
"A likely story," the swordswoman scoffed. "Do you expect us to believe that you came to a female dorm looking for a friend of yours?"
"Exac –wait. A female dorm?" He asked. "Isn't this the Hinata-sou?"
"Yeah. So?" the brunette with long hair asked disdainfully.
"Uh. Isn't this Granny Hina's Inn?"
"You know Granny Hina?" The swordswoman and the brunette asked at the same time. "Just who the hell are you?"
He was about to respond when another voice cut in.
"What's going on here?" A tall woman with short dark hair walked in. She had a cigarette in her mouth and she was wearing an apron.
"Haruka-san. This pervert tried to molest us," the brunette said.
"I most certainly did not do such a thing," Shirou protested indignantly.
The woman turned her head to the man seated on the ground. Her eyes widened, seemingly in recognition.
"K… Keitaro?" She stuttered.
"Actually I go by the name of Emiya Shirou, but I've been told that's what how I was called before I was adopted. And you would you be?"
Swallowing a knot in her throat she answered shakily. "You… might not remember me after all this time but I… I'm Urashima Haruka and I'm your aunt.
Shirou eyes widened. It was one surprise after another.
The girls reluctantly agreed to untie him but the swordswoman Motoko kept him under her gaze at all times.
They sat around a table and Naru served tea for everyone, though she made it quite clear she didn't like the newcomer one bit.
"So… you're my aunt, Haruka-san?"
"Actually I'm your cousin, but the Urashima's family tree is a little contorted." She stared at him for a long moment. "My god you look so much like you mother," she breathed.
"You knew her? I have no memories of her."
"You… you don't remember her? You weren't that little when it happened."
"How can you possibly not remember your own mother?" Naru asked with disdain. Shirou leveled a glare at her that made her stand straighter against the back of her chair.
"There was a fire in Fuyuki city fifteen years ago. My parents died along with over five hundred other people. I have no memories from before then because of the trauma. I didn't even remember my real name. I had no ID on me and I've been adopted immediately after the incident. Until very recently I didn't even know I still had living relatives."
"That is quite unfortunate," Motoko stated sincerely, "but it still doesn't explain your presence here nor your despicable behavior."
Shirou frowned at her choice of words but chose not to address it.
"A month ago I was returning from London when I accidentally run in a old lady at the Narita Airport. It was Granny Hina as you may imagine. Apparently she immediately recognized me as her grandson from the resemblance to her dead son and his wife. Of course I didn't actually believe that I was actually her long lost relative but she insisted she couldn't be mistaken. She asked to run a DNA test and I indulged her, mostly so that I could give her some peace of mind. I mean, it's not like there was any harm in it." They all nodded and he continued. "Imagine my surprise when it actually turned out that I was indeed her grandson."
"I think I can imagine. When she phoned me to tell me she had found you, Keitaro, I thought she had finally lost it, but she was adamant that you were alive. A few days ago she called me again to tell me you were coming over, but I still didn't believe her. She even sent me an envelope to give you once you arrived. I have it in my bag in the other room."
"Right. She mentioned something like that last I've heard her. … Did you know she was just leaving for a worldwide trip to the most famous hot-springs?"
"Yes," Haruka sighed. "She's quite lively for a woman in her seventies. Her mental health was my only concern as of late, but I can see now that I had no reason to worry."
"Anyway I mentioned her that I was trying to get into Tokyo U and that I was looking for a place to stay and a part-time job. My place back in Fuyuki is way too far to commute so I couldn't stay there. That's when she mentioned she had an Inn and told me that I could stay here. She never said anything it being a female dorm, though."
"That's strange," Haruka commented. "It's not like her to forget something like that. Maybe she wanted to pull a prank on you. And on the girls as well."
"Are you sure she isn't just getting senile?" Shirou offered a tad bitterly.
"That… might also be the case," Haruka admitted. "Maybe we will know more once you open the envelope she left you. I'll go get it."
"Thank you." She left and returned a few moments later with a manila envelope that she passed to him. He quickly opened it and scanned its contents. "Well I'll be damned," he finally said.
"What? What does it say?" Haruka asked. Shirou answer was to pass her the papers so that she could read them herself. Her eyes widened as run them on the word, then a faint smirk formed on her lips "Hmm. Looks like the old bat can still pull out a few tricks."
Shirou answer was to rub his eyes wearily.
"What?" Naru asked. "What does it says?"
Haruka answered with a shrug and gestured at Shirou. "Girls. Meet the Hinata new manager and landlord, Urashima Keitaro."
In the ensuing they could have heard a pin drop. Then all hell broke loose.
Shinobu and Kitsune, who were just returning from their stroll, heard it long before the building was even in sight.
Really, Shirou didn't expect the day to become so troublesome. For some reason, he didn't think it was going to get much better over time.
First published: 02.02.2012
Last Edited: 05.11.2015
Author Notes removed.