This chapter is dedicated to Obiki Doragon, whose father just passed away.
Stay strong, man.
Black Cat's Luck (I)
The black-haired girl tripped, nearly falling face-first. She managed to catch herself and kept running almost without losing any speed.
Her lungs burned from the effort of drawing in more air than they were used to and her legs hurt from the prolonged exertion she had put them through.
She was almost there. A little more and she would be arrived. One last push and she could finally see him.
She had long since passed the point where she would have usually collapsed, but she kept going undeterred. Even when the flat road turned into a steep stone stair she didn't slow down in the least. Her mind didn't register all those things, focused solely on the reason for which she put herself through them.
After what felt like an eternity, she made it to the last step and finally stood on the top of the hill overlooking the city.
He was here, in this place. He had to be.
Even though she was already desperately gasping for breath, she couldn't help but call out for him.
Slender fingers moved across the keyboard with a soft clattering noise, interrupted only when the person stopped to read the results of her search and resuming as soon as it proved to be yet another waste of time.
"God damnit!" Kitsune cried, throwing up her hands in frustration. "What the hell is with this guy?"
Ever since she had taken an interest in her landlord beyond him being a potential ticket to a rent-free life, Kitsune had slowly started investigating his life, devoting more and more time as her interest in him grew.
However, an increase in invested time didn't equal to an increase in available information.
There was little next to nothing about him to be found online.
For starters, he didn't have a profile on any of the popular social medias. Knowing him it wasn't surprising, seeing how he was always busy doing something, whether that was studying for the exams, working out, training Motoko, keeping the inn functional and cooking almost every meal.
The guy looked like he couldn't stand being unproductive even a single minute and social media were some of the most renown time-wasters of all.
Still, it was pretty odd. This day and age having a social media profile had more uses than just hanging around digitally. The best she found about him was an email address… and he had given it to her.
Beyond that, there was no mentions of Emiya Shirou online other than some old articles from local newspapers about his time in the archery club back in high school and some photos from people whom she figured where his old schoolmates.
Beyond that, nada, nil, zero, nothing.
Even delving into his adoptive family bore no tangible fruit. There was even less to be found about Emiya Kiritsugu than there was about his son. Then again, he had passed away long before internet had become an intrinsic aspect of everyday life, so it was to be expected.
The only thing she found about him was an obituary with his picture and nothing less.
Well, she had expected it wouldn't be easy. Shirou was anything if not reserved. However, that only made him more interesting to the freelance reporter. Interesting enough that for the first time in a long while, she felt like doing some actual legwork to get what she wanted.
And what better place to start, if not the city where he had spent over ten years of his life?
"Are you leaving Konno-san?" he asked as the resident-fox passed him on the way to the exit with a stuffed backpack on her shoulders.
"Yep," she grinned at him from behind her shoulder as she slipped into her shoes. "I've got some work to do. I probably won't be back for a few days so don't wait for me."
"I understand," he nodded. "Have a safe trip then. Please to call every now and then to let us know you're fine."
"Aw, you are so sweet, Shirou. I'll do that since it's you who's asking."
Shirou made a face between amused and frustrated. "I'll take what I can get."
"See? That's good attitude to have. Well, I'm off. See ya soon."
With one last goodbye, she was out of the door, wondering if he'd he so cheerful if he had known she was going to look into his life.
Her feet carried her down the long stone stairs all the way down to the hill. On the way down, she greeted Haruka, who was having a smoke break in front of the teahouse. The older woman waved lazily at her before throwing the butt of the cigarette in the ashtray and returning to her job.
At the foot of the hill, Kitsune had to walk several minutes to get to the closest bus stop and waited about ten minutes for the first ride to the train station to arrive. When the door opened, a young woman with short black hair, wearing jeans shorts and a black strap shirt nearly crashed into her.
Muttering a quick apology, she took off at high speed in the direction Kitsune had come from. The brunette regarded the strange girl oddly but climbed into the bus without paying her any further thoughts, taking off toward the train station.
With Mitsune's departure, Shirou returned to his managerial tasks, namely cleaning the floors in the common areas of the inn.
It was a mindless enough duty, one that let allowed his mind to wander to more complex topics, among which were several of his Magecraft-related projects. As a first-generation Magus, his repertoire of Mysteries was on the thin side, but on the other hand the vast array of Noble Phantasms in his Reality Marble made up for that.
Currently, his primary focus was trying to extract a given Mystery from a pre-recorded Noble Phantasm and inject it, for a lack of better terms, into a different object. It was theoretically possible as far as he knew, but in practice he really didn't know where to begin.
It would have been different had he found a Mystic Code maker to teach him, but even among Magi they were considered extremely reclusive. The only way he could have garnered their interests was revealing details of his Reality Marble and that could have risked him a Sealing Designation and Shirou didn't fancy spending the rest of his years strapped to a table as a living specimen.
He liked being helpful, but not that much.
He was musing over some possible applications of certain metal compounds when he heard a ruckus downstairs. Several voices that he recognized as that of his tenants were arguing with someone his hearing didn't know. Wondering what the problem was about, he put his mop against a wall and went to see what was happening.
Shinobu was hiding behind Motoko, while Narusegawa was talking animatedly with someone.
A woman, possibly in her twenties, with short black hair and wearing jeans shorts under a black strap shirt.
"Let me see him already," she demanded. "I know he's here."
"Yes, but we still don't know who you are and what you want with him," Narusegawa objected. "You can't just come here uninvited and demand to see someone like… Are you even listening to me?"
She wasn't. Her eyes had caught a glimpse of Shirou and zeroed on him, widening as she recognized him.
"Onii-sama…?" she asked, sounding almost afraid that he would vanish the moment she called for him. Shirou blinked at her.
Who was this person? He was somewhat sure he didn't know her. And the way he addressed him was-
Statics flashed in front of Shirou's vision and a sudden stab of pain went through his head, right behind his eyes. He winced and grabbed his head.
"Who…?" he mumbled as the pain intensified.
"Onii-sama? Is that really you?" she asked stepping past the girls and getting closer to him.
The pain tripled and Shirou's knees buckled. Before he even realized it, he was kneeling on the floor.
"... you are…"
"Onii-sama, are you alright?"
They were all calling out for him, but the woman's voice made the pain behind his eyes throb and claw at his vision, making it swim in ways that he had experienced only when pushing his mind and body beyond human limits.
His field of vision became progressively darker. The floor grew closer and his head hit the ground just a moment before he lost consciousness entirely.
Shirou opened his eyes to the ceiling of his room at the Hinata-sou.
For a moment, he felt disoriented. Disconnected. Then his field of vision was filled by several faces that looked down at him. Narusegawa, Shinobu, Motoko, Suu and…
"Emiya-san, are you alright?" Shinobu asked. In lieu of answering he pulled himself up, eyes fixed on the new arrival, who was staring at him wide-eyed.
"Onii-sama?" she asked hopefully.
"... Kanako?" he replied tentatively.
"You… remember? They said you wouldn't. Aunt Haruka said you forgot everything."
He nodded. "I don't really remember. Just… when I saw you earlier I recalled something about… a promise I made?"
Her face split in a dazzling smile and she threw her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly.
"It's you. It's really you. I knew it! You knew it! I knew you were alive."
"Huh," was all that Shirou could say in his flabbergasted state.
"Err… I don't mean to interrupt this reunion but this is a bit awkward," Narusegawa said eventually.
"Hem… yeah," Shirou agreed. "Kanako-chan, could you please let me go?"
"No," she replied firmly, tightening her hold around him. "I'm not letting you go ever again."
"Ahh… that would probably be a problem in the long run," he observed.
"I don't care," she insisted.
"Look, I won't disappear suddenly again, alright?"
"Do you promise?" she asked, hopefully.
"Of course, I do," he answered without missing a beat.
Reluctantly, Kanako pulled back and released him. "Alright."
"Thank you. So… I'm glad to meet you again, little sister," he smiled.
"Uh. I… I'm so glad you're back, Onii-sama!"
Tears started falling from her eyes, while she hiccupped softly.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Shirou scrambled uselessly. "There's no need to cry!"
"I'm sorry. It's just that I… Waaah!"
She threw herself at him again and once more dragged him into a hug.
Unable to do anything but awkwardly pat her back, Shirou threw panicked glances at his tenants, all of which smiled and refused to meet his eyes.
"Well," Narusegawa said eventually. "This is a private moment and we've been intruding far too long. Let's go girls."
They all murmured in agreement and stood up to leave.
'You're all a bunch of traitors!' Shirou mouthed silently at them. That only made her smiles widen even more. Only Shinobu appeared to be mildly apologetic, but she too was smiling and gave no impression of wanting to stay back and help him out.
Thus, he was left on his own with the wreck of a girl crying her eyes out in his arms.
It took Shirou close to an hour to calm down Kanako and when she finally pried himself off him she was considerably quiet.
"I'm sorry. That must have been embarrassing for you," she said after she had let him go. "Having someone you barely remember cry on you like that."
"Ahhh. Don't worry about it. I'm sorry to have given you cause to cry in the first place."
"That wasn't exactly your decision, was it? You had no part in the incident that separated you from us."
"Still, a brother should never make his little sister cry. I'll gladly take a few awkward moments as a punishment for that."
Kanako let out a small, tired giggle. "You haven't changed at all, Onii-sama."
"I'll take your word for it. So, why don't you tell me a little about yourself. What has my little sister been up to in my absence?"
"I should be the one asking that question," Kanako pouted. "I've heard you've been living with strange women for years before coming back."
"Eh. That's not something you should be asking about, don't you think?"
Kanako sniffed haughtily. "It's a little sister's duty to screen out unsuitable partners for their older brothers."
"No," Shirou held up his hand in all seriousness. "I think you got the order wrong and it should be the other way around."
"Maybe it would be so under ordinary circumstances, but I also heard that you dropped your studies and went gallivanting around the world doing who knows what. It is clear you need a minder to keep you on the right track."
"Not you too, please," he sighed. "I get enough of that as it is."
But his plea fell on deaf hears. His newfound little sister wanted to know every detail of his life until that moment.
Shirou regaled her with his story, starting with being found by Kiritsugu, to growing up around Taiga. He kept out the supernatural details and he skirted around the topic of his girlfriends. Kanako was clearly dissatisfied with his vagueness, but she seemed to accept that she couldn't needle out all his secrets. Not in one sitting, anyway.
The morning passed in amiable company, as the two long lost siblings got to know each other all over again.
The train reached a halt and Kitsune dropped off with a bounce to her steps.
Fuyuki City. This was the place where the walking mystery that was Emiya Shirou hailed from and it was from here that she would have to retrace his steps.
The City Hall would be the first place to start, to dig through the documents that had yet to be digitized. If there was something odd with his adoption, it would be there.
Incidentally, this was the new City Hall, since the old one burned down in the fire from fifteen years before, the same fire in which Shirou allegedly lost his memory.
It was way too convenient for it not to sound like a cheap conspiracy theory. Losing your memory and all your records at the same time sounds like a good excuse to pull a vanishing act.
If this was about anyone else it would be just too absurd an idea, but when the victim of this chain of events was one of the heirs to a multimillionaire industrial conglomerate, one couldn't help but think there was at least some degree of planification by someone to make little Shirou disappear from view.
Adding the fact that he basically had no digital footprint, it gave her the impression that he didn't want to be found until now that he was a first-rate badass, who could take several trained warriors on his own. The oh-so-accidental run in with Granny Hina at the airport fifteen years later only added validity to that theory.
Kitsune wasn't one to believe in coincidences and in the case of Keitaro Urashima AKA Emiya Shirou there were just so many that she couldn't help but call bullshit on them.
It would take some time, but she would get to the bottom of it eventually.
Showing her press pass, which she managed to have issued with the help of an unscrupulous director who had a thing for her, Kitsune managed to access the Fuyuki's Civil Registry.
Rolling up her sleeves, she prepared to dive headfirst into a mountain of paperwork.
Shirou noticed the hour only when Shinobu came calling them for lunch.
A lunch that he was supposed to prepare.
"I'm sorry, Shinobu-san. It completely slipped my mind," he apologized, bowing at the younger girl.
"You don't have to worry, Emiya-san. It's perfectly understandable. I would have taken over the task anyway after your sister arrived. It's only natural."
"Thank you, then. I couldn't run this place without your help."
Shinobu blushed prettily and looked down.
"No, no. I'm more than happy to help. Honestly. Now, please go take a seat and don't worry about anything for the rest of the day."
"I will take advantage of your kindness then," he bowed before leaving the kitchen.
Kanako was sitting at the table in the adjacent room chatting with Narusegawa and Motoko. Particularly with Motoko.
"So, you have taken the name of Emiya?" his sister asked to the swordswoman.
"Yes," she nodded. "A small revenge from my father for the humiliation my clan suffered."
"And you have no problems with that?" Kanako inquired further.
"I would be lying if I said that losing my family name wasn't upsetting, but I could not have found a better replacement for it."
"Hmm," Kanako hummed with narrowed eyes. "Very well. It seems that Onii-sama also has fondness for that name, seeing that he doesn't want to take back the mantle of Urashima. I trust that you will do nothing to sully it."
Motoko seemed to bristle, but rapidly calmed down.
"I shall endeavor to honor it. With my life if I must," she promised.
"Please don't," Shirou intervened firmly as he took a seat. "I don't particularly care about the reputation of the name and neither did my adoptive father. Don't go out of your way trying to keep it in good standing. Particularly not with your life. Thank you."
"I thought the name of Emiya was important to you," Narusegawa said.
"It's complicated, but it's not about reputation. It's about a promise. Well, lots of promises actually."
"What sort of promises, Onii-sama?"
"Private ones," he replied curtly, making it clear that it wasn't a topic up for discussion.
Kanako pouted cutely, but did not push it.
"What about you, Urashima-san?" Narusegawa asked. "I recall Haruka-san saying you were studying abroad."
"Yes. I attend school in the UK..."
Shirou stiffened at her words.
"Really?" Narusegawa asked, intrigued. "You must know English very well then. Which school do you go to?"
"Oh, it's a small, private boarding school up in Scotland, really. I don't think it's known to most of the country, much less out of it."
"That's still pretty awesome," Narusegawa gushed. "So, you have come back for the summer and you're going back come September?"
"That was the plan until I found out that my Onii-sama was alive and well. I'm definitely going to change school and move back to Japan."
"What?" Shirou asked. "You shouldn't do that. Your education takes precedence."
"I object. Being close to my future husband is much more important."
"Your future husband?" Narusegawa asked, taken aback. "You are engaged? But what does it have to do with Emiya being back?"
"Well, it has everything to do with him since he's my betrothed."
There was a moment of silence, shattered only by the sound of plates falling and breaking in the next room. It seemed that Shinobu was listening in on the conversation after all.
With the wisdom that came with repeated trauma, Shirou did the only sensible thing and quickly covered his ears.
Outside of the Hinata-sou, somewhat halfway down the long stone staircase leading up to the inn-turned-dormitory, there was a small and humble teahouse.
In front of it, the owner Urashima Haruka was calmly sweeping the leaves as she smoked her favorite brand of cigarettes.
It was a quiet day, with the chirping of birds as a calm soundtrack and without a single cloud marring the azure sky. If there was one thing that the [redacted]-years-old woman loved about her job, was the peace and quiet it provided.
'And there it fucking goes,' Haruka lamented inwardly, as the birds scattered in fright in every direction at once. She took a long, soothing drag of nicotine from her cigarette before blowing out a cloud of smoke. 'Looks like Kanako finally dropped the bombshell. Let's see you get out of this one, Keitaro.'
"What do you mean betrothed?" Narusegawa asked, jumping up from her chair.
"How many meaning are there for the term?" Kanako asked back, entirely unfazed.
"He's your brother!"
"We're not related by blood and seeing as he's currently Emiya and not Urashima there are not even legal or bureaucratic issues."
Seeing that she couldn't get through to Kanako, Narusegawa rounded on Shirou instead.
"You knew about this?"
"I am as shocked at the rest of you," Shirou answered, sporting the face you'd expect from a man who had seen and heard more absurdities than he could deal with and had long since resigned himself to roll with them as they came.
Incidentally, that was pretty much the case.
"Kanako, are you being serious?" he asked, turning to her.
"Absolutely. It's the thing you promised me before you disappeared on me."
"I see. Kanako, I'm sorry, but as I lost all memories of my childhood I can't really say that I know you as a person. Before marrying, we should get to know each other better."
"That's right!" Narusegawa nodded, before slamming her hands on the table. "NOT! You shouldn't be agreeing to it a all. What wrong with you? She's your sister!"
"She's a woman who's not related to me by blood or even on paper as of this moment. A woman whom I had promised to marry, apparently. A woman who waited for me fifteen years while everyone else thought me dead. Don't you think it would be callous of me to simply reject her without giving her a chance?"
"That's it. I give up," Narusegawa declared. "It's not even my business to begin with. I'm going back to my room, where everyone is sane and normal."
"But what about lunch?" he asked after her.
"I'm not hungry anymore."
Shirou sighed, but didn't make to stop of chase after her. Motoko instead didn't move an inch. Kanako turned an inquisitive gaze toward her.
"It is not my place to judge," the swordswoman said. "I've done plenty of that already when I had no right to. Also, while I don't necessarily agree with sensei on this matter, I can respect that he wishes to honor his word."
"Thank you, Motoko," Shirou nodded his head. Motoko regaled him with a thin smile.
"Think nothing of it. Now, then, I shall go bring Shinobu back to consciousness, so that we may get started on lunch."
A few minutes after she had done exactly that, Shinobu came carrying the meal she had been preparing. A few things were slightly burned, but of course no one commented on that.
As they ate, they didn't touch the topic of marriage again, instead Shirou asked questions about Kanako's time abroad and the people she had met.
It was a jovial moment, marred only from the feeling Shirou harbored in his heart.
Kanako had lied about the promise, there was no doubt about that. He didn't recall what it was about but he recalled the feeling it had caused in his younger self.
Pure, unadulterated dread.
Seeing that she had lied about it already, Shirou didn't think she'd tell him if he called her out on it. Not without some sort of proof backing him up. He assumed it was because she wanted to keep him from it.
He would have to look into it himself while pretending to go along with the ruse she had put up. Still, he hoped this didn't somehow make its way back to Fuyuki or there would be hell to pay.
Elsewhere, a private jet slowly descended toward the land of Japan, like an elegant bird of prey made of steel. It landed smoothly without so much as a bump. A testament to the skills of the pilots and to the wealth of their employer who could afford to have them on their payroll.
Following the instruction from the Flight Tower, it taxied toward a private hangar where it finally shut off its engines. Only then did the smooth surface open, letting down the staircase.
Only one person came out, momentarily standing on the doorway and gazing at the distant horizon visible through the open gates of the hangar.
Long, white hair fluttered in the wind. Immaculate like perpetual snow in an uninhabited forest.
"I'm finally back, Onii-chan."
Thus, Illyasviel von Einzbern set foot again on the soil of Japan.
AN: Alright, the battle of the little sisters is almost upon us. All hell is going to break loose very soon. Kanako finally got into the picture. Her story is deeply tied to the main arc of this fic and we will soon see a common thread linking most of the girls together in way that they can't possibly imagine.
As usual, thank you all for reading and reviewing and an even bigger thank you to those who have chosen to support me via my p atreon page. If anyone is interested in contributing, make sure to visit my page at - p atreon [dotCOM] / neoalfa
Lastly, a huge thank you to Obiki Doragon, my beta, for his continued help and support even in these difficult times. You're the best, man.