"Well, this place will have to do." I inwardly comment to myself as I looked at the small tavern before me. The constant shouts of profanity and slurred singing echoing from inside it pretty much assured that this was the last place that anyone would expect a rather weary traveler to be spending his late afternoon in.
"I guess it can't be helped."
I slowly enter the bar. The smell of alcohol was rather strong, invading my nostrils the very moment that I stepped inside. I looked around and I could see a collage of activity from everywhere, people arguing, fighting, gambling and especially drinking. There were close to a dozen unconscious bodies lying on the floor. The poor waitresses themselves were having a hard time navigating through the throng of drunken patrons whilst enduring the countless groping hands around them. In many ways this place somewhat reminded me of Auntie Agnes' favorite tavern back in Tristania, though the people around seemed less friendly and more chauvinistic compared to the ones back home.
A couple of the men seated near the entrance gave me a probing look. This wasn't much of a surprise to me though since I had experienced this in every tavern that I had entered from the start of this journey that began six months ago. I really couldn't blame them though since I've been told that I looked like a noble from some foreign land in more than one occasion. My neatly combed reddish hair was the first thing that they notice. It was quite understandable since someone who would put enough attention to their hair to make sure that it wasn't sticking out everywhere like wild grass was not the kind of person that you'd expect to see in a tavern getting drunk late in the afternoon. Also the fact that certain features of my face did not conform to what was considered the norm in this place was probably a main factor as to why they would think of me as a foreigner, which I technically was although even back home I would still be sometimes mistaken as one. As to why people would ask me if I was a noble or related to one off the record, well lets just say that having sapphire tinted eyes which was usually a trait reserved for the nobility will do that to you.
Of course, I can't tell them just how accurate their statement really was…
After spending a full minute staring at me, some of them give out a slight snort. If I were to wager a guess, they were now probably dismissing any chance of me being of noble birth or that even if I was really related to a noble then I most likely was some Duke's bastard son. Such stories were not unheard off and were actually quite common much to the dismay of most noble housewives. The ghoulish attire that I was wearing may have greatly contributed to that dismissal as well. My tight sleeveless shirt, loose black trousers and pair of short black boots was a far cry from the immaculate wardrobes and dignified cloaks that most nobles chose to wear.
And if that wasn't enough to convince them, then the fact that I had two and a half feet of cold steel stowed behind my back instead of eleven inches of polished wood gripped in my hand would do it. As a rule, most mages considered the wielding of a sword to be a barbaric notion that was below those of their station. Even earth mages, who were excused from this rule would not carry a sword and would rather craft one through magic when needed. The only exemption that I could really think of were the Undine Knights who considered the mastery of the sword to be a prerequisite in joining their ranks. Right now I highly doubt that I resembled someone who was a member of the most feared order in Tristain that had been trained by the most infamous swordsman in the history of the continent.
Pushing those thoughts aside I make my way to the counter, stepping over an unconscious body who seemed to have soiled himself, and called the attention of the barkeep.
"So what will it be then?" He asked, not even looking at me whilst continuing to wipe clean a dirtied cup which looked to have been just recently used. He was a rather large man who had very big meaty arms. He gave off a very intimidating presence which I guess he had to possess to make sure that his customers didn't try to cause too much trouble. I'm guessing that his tactics of keeping them in line was the complete opposite of what Uncle Scarron usually did.
I tried to hide the small shiver that I felt as I recalled the first time I visited the Charming Faeries inn. To think that a place that housed so many flirtatious and scantily clad women would also be the home of one of my most traumatic childhood experiences
I look at the array of bottles displayed on the shelf behind the counter. There were quite a number of selections to choose from but there was one that quickly caught my attention.
"You serve Rice wine here, Mister?" I asked as I stared at the small porcelain bottle inconspicuously hidden at the top of the shelf.
My question immediately draws the attention of the slightly surprised barkeep as he stops his monotonous wiping to look at me.
"You drink rice wine?"
"Yup." I answered and quickly flash him a sincere smile. "One order please. I'd prefer if it was served hot."
Upon seeing that gesture the burly barkeep's pissed off expression immediately softens as I see a smug grin appear on his face. Moving to oblige my request, he ducks under the table as I start to hear the sound of cabinets under the counter being opened. Before long he brings out a small box containing a number of porcelain bottles.
"Don't meet a lot of people that like Rice wine in these parts."
He pulls out one of the bottles stored inside the box as I quickly raise my cup to the barkeep, prompting him to go ahead and pour me my share.
"Well, I guess they don't know what they're missing then."
As I quickly down my share, I notice the barkeep start to jovially laugh at me. It was an act that immediately drew the attention of everyone around us. Seeing this usually sour faced man laughing so innocently must have been enough to unnerve them since the whole place suddenly became silent for a full minute before everyone went back to what they were doing.
"So where you from, young'un?" trying to start a conversation, he pulls out a cup of his own and begins to pour himself his own share.
"Tristain. I've been traveling around for the past six months. I got here just about a week ago."
"You travelin' alone then?"
I shook my head as I ask for my cup to be refilled. "I'm with my Uncle."
"Ain't that dangerous though." He immediately voices his concern as he starts to pour both of us another round. "Travelin' around these parts with only the two of you is jus' askin for trouble. It's a miracle that you got here in one piece."
I give him a more confident smile. "Thank you for worrying but I think we can take care of ourselves."
He glances at the handle of the sword peeking behind my back and slightly chuckles.
"You a swordsman, eh? Me as well, back in my younger days." He starts to puff out his chest. "Was a mercenary back when I was a young'un. Wasn't too shabby either if I say so myself."
"Really?" I asked, not out of curiosity but merely for the sake of continuing our conversation.
"Had my share of battles, even participated in a bunch of wars. Last one I joined was the one between Tristain and Albion. Last battle I fought in was the one in Saxe-Gotha"
Upon hearing this bit of information, my interest is immediately peaked.
"Wait, are you talking about THE battle in the Hills of Saxe-Gotha?"
"Of course I am! Was a member of the seventh infantry!"
"So then, you fought against him, didn't you?" I asked for confirmation. At this point even I couldn't fully hide the curiosity lacing my voice. "…The King of Swords."
"Sure did!" he answers with an amused smirk. "…though to be completely honest, it was more like a slaughter than an actual fight." My host suddenly had an expression of grim nostalgia on his face. It was a look that I had seen a couple of times before, worn by mercenaries and soldiers alike as they remembered a life and death encounter. "Was night time when he appeared. We were marching toward the port of Rosais, trying to catch up to the remaining Alliance forces, when out of nowhere this huge wall of fire erupts in front of the army. We started hearing explosions left, right, and center. Next thing we knew, someone - or something - was mowing through our ranks like a hurricane of steel."
"Were you able to cross swords with him?"
"Yeah, for a split second I did. Was able to block his first strike." He declares proudly at me. "Of course another second later I was lying on the ground and bleeding like a pig. I lost consciousness and woke up inside a tent chuck full of limbless soldiers and water mages running around all over the place like headless chickens. I also found out that the King of Swords was kind enough to leave me a parting gift."
He then raised his right hand in front of me. I had already noticed earlier that the index and pinky finger had been severed off it but not knowing the history behind it I didn't really pay it any attention. The barkeep then sat down and heaves one of his legs onto the counter to show me a wooden peg in place of where flesh and bone should've been. In all honesty this person looked like someone who belonged at the helm of a pirate ship, a patch covering his left eye as he continuously barks orders to his crewmen. It was a bit disconcerting, partially because I never really liked Pirates to begin with… but mainly because I somewhat felt guilty. A part of me wondered if this person would still be this accommodating if he knew exactly who he was talking to right now.
"What? You feelin' bad for me now?" the barkeep jokes. He probably noticed how uncomfortable I was while we were discussing the subject of his lost limb. He starts to fill both our cups, making sure to fill mine to the brim. "I'm actually happy how the whole thing turned out."
"Huh? But you ended up losing a limb… How could you possibly be happy about how things turned out?"
"Ah, kids these days." He chuckles a bit before drinking from his cup. "Here's a bit of advice from one swords-person to another. Back when I was a youn'un, I was one of the most arrogant people that you'd ever meet. I chose to be a mercenary not just cause it put food on the table but also cause it was the best way for me to meet and fight other guys." He looks at me with a stern expression on his face, like he was about to impart one of life's great mysteries to me. "Listen to me young'un, I'm not sure if you've gone though this stage yet or not but there will come a time when you'll think of yourself as invincible. And when that happens you'll start hunting down opponents just to prove it to yourself and everyone around you. And one day, the same way that I found out on the hills of Saxe-gotha, you're gonna end up biting more than you can chew. I was lucky that I escaped with my life back then, but you can't count on luck to save your neck every damn time! What I'm tryin' to say is there's more to life than just swinging a sword." I nod out of respect, although I wasn't sure if that advice was applicable to me yet. "As for me, after being unlucky enough to face the King I quit being a mercenary. There was really no point in continuing knowing the fact that no matter how much I sweat or trained I would never come close to his level. So I settled down, set up shop here in Albion, and raised a family of my own. I'm pretty happy right now with my life. I mean sure I have an annoying gimp every time I walk and I have a slightly hard time handling things with just eight fingers, but at least I ain't dead."
His words bring a smile to my face as I raise my cup to acknowledge his statement.
"So what's your business here in Albion?"
"Just going on a little field trip, that's all. I'm actually on my way to Westwood to meet a friend of my father."
"Anyone I might know?'' he ask again as he pours the last contents of the bottle of rice wine onto both of our cups while at the same time pulling out another one from the box. Inwardly, I hoped that I wouldn't have to pay for the new bottle since I was on a tight budget at the moment.
"I'm not sure. I don't really know her name. My uncle whose met her before when he was traveling with my father has completely forgotten it as well so I don't really have any leads to go by."
"Your uncle must be really old then to forget something like that!"
"Old? More like ancient." I quip. My host begins to laugh out loud, drawing a few more stares from some of his patrons. His amusement however was cut short when he suddenly hears the faint sound of shaking steel on its sheath. It seems that this man's time away from the battlefield hadn't dulled his senses as he begins to look around trying to see if anyone was trying to cause more trouble than they were allowed to. I tried my best to suppress a laugh. For someone who prided himself for being six thousand years old, my Uncle gets easily offended whenever I point out to him that his age could also be a factor as to why he was becoming more and more forgetful. I'm sure to get a very long lecture from him once we left this tavern.
"Sorry about that." The embarrassed barkeep apologizes to me as he scratches the back of his head. "My customers ain't exactly the most civilized bunch around. Most of them are just drunks trying to drown their worries away and have a good time, but there are some really bad apples that end up lounging in here from time to time." A small scowl was slowly forming on his face as he continued. "Mercenaries, thieves, murderers, and some other folk who are usually up to no good end up spending the evening here for a drink. With so many hot heads gathered in one place, I try my best to stop any quarrel turning into a stabbing contest. Not to mention scrubbing blood off the floor is a real pain in the ass."
"That's for sure." I add with a slight chuckle which immediately eases the tension. "Do you have any more stories about your days being a mercenary."
"Well, there was this one time when I went to Germania and met this fox of a Duchess. Let me tell you, she was really into some weird shit like-…"
"YOU SAW THE KING OF SWORDS WHERE!"
Our conversation was immediately cut short by that loud declaration. The merry making noises quickly halted and were replaced by a grim silence. Though he had been dead for two decades now, the mere mention of the king's name was still enough to inspire abject terror to those who heard it. I could only assume that the effect would be even more pronounced here in this land, the once great kingdom of Albion, where his legend started.
I stared at the man who shouted and the 3 people that he was sharing his table with. He was a lanky looking male with rather long limbs. His head was covered by a bandanna and he and his companions were wearing gruff looking clothing that had stains of blood in some parts. All of them were carrying large swords. The largest of the four who was about the same size as my host and was equally intimidating began to scowl at everyone looking in their direction. It was a not so subtle way of telling those around them to 'mind your own fucking business'. Most of the patrons in the bar were more than happy to oblige, as for me and the barkeep who was now eying the rugged quartet with suspicion, we were not as accommodating. I turn my gaze away from the four and resume drinking. Of course that didn't mean that I would simply leave it at that. Now normally I wouldn't bother to listen into someone's conversation since I felt that it was a rude thing to do, but the fact that one of them mentioned the King of Swords… I guess I could make an exemption just this one time.
Reinforcement… a type of magecraft unknown to most of the magus of Halkegnia. A spell that pushes the basis of something to the utmost. When applied to an external object it enhances its purpose of existence. A reinforced sword or knife becomes sharper and reinforced armor becomes more durable. Applying it to a living thing is quite difficult but the result is nothing less than extraordinary. A human who reinforces his limbs would be able to run at speeds that would rival the fastest horses while a reinforced body would enable one to survive a fall that most men would die from. Reinforcement of the senses if done correctly proved even more useful. Though simple in form, it's a formidable skill to have and is quite handy in many situations. But with that said it's actually very hard to do. In fact, only three people have been known to be able to use this type of magecraft: my father, my teacher the Duchess of emptiness, and myself.
Reinforcing my sense of hearing I home in on their voices and what seemed to most as inaudible whispers to me became loud and very clear statements. It was like the four of them were sitting next to me and speaking directly into my ear.
"How many times do I have to tell you to keep your trap shut..! You always do this when we're outside! Do you really want me to cut your tongue out!"
"S-sorry boss. Just couldn't help myself."
"So Nico, where'd you see him then?"
"I didn't see him per se. It came from a friend of a friend of mine who knew a merchant who did see him."
"Hogwash! Just a bunch of rumors and tall tales, nothing more!"
"But Boss, don't you remember another rumor that we heard in Rosais of how most of the orcs were leavin' their villages and movin' to the mountains. Maybe that rumor is connected to this one? We all know how much the King despised them orcs."
"I don't know about this boss. You think we should lay low for a while? Maybe even postpone the raid of that Orphanage in Westwood?"
Orphanage… in Westwood? They couldn't be referring to the same orphanage that I was heading to, could they?
"Stop it you yellow-skinned pussies! We're not postponing anything, especially not because you idiots are so easy to scare! Rodney's been scouting that place for a week and from the messages that he's been sending me that place is loaded. No guards and only a big breasted woman as the caretaker. The place is practically begging to be looted so pull yourselves together and shut up!"
"…Wait Boss, what's this about a big breasted wench?"
"The caretaker? Yeah. From what Rodney tells me, the woman has got a pair as big as an adult man's head. The moron's been begging for a go at her but I keep telling him to wait for us. Besides, if anyone's going to have the first turn then it definitely WILL BE ME."
"Course Boss! But you'll be sure to leave some for us, right?"
"I'll think about it. And besides, I thought you were infatuated with that Queen of yours?"
"Still am. I even have this small sketch that I stole in a shop in Tristania."
I slightly turn my head just enough to get a glimpse of the object that they were talking about, dreading what I might end up seeing. And sure enough I almost dropped my cup as my reinforced sight saw a piece of parchment with a nude charcoal drawing of the Queen of Tristain, Henrietta de Tristain, on it. Objectively speaking, it was a very well drawn sketch though the artist did take certain liberties when it came to the Queen's figure, particularly the chest area. Also the waist was a bit too thin, and the hair was half an inch too long. I guess having very little reference to go by (I highly doubt that the Queen would willingly pose for something like this), the artist simply let his or rather his patron's taste dictate how the sketch would come out.
"You alright, young'un?" the barkeep asked with concern. He must've noticed the abrupt change in my facial expression. "You look like you've swallowed a lemon there."
"…I'm okay. T-Thank you." I replied, stuttering a bit. I couldn't really help it since it's not everyday that you see a naked (but fake) sketch of your mother being lusted over by a rather unscrupulous bunch.
"Look at those breast!" the man holding the sketch sounded off. "I wouldn't mind falling asleep on those melons after a dishonest days work"'
"Keep dreamin' cause the closest that you'd ever get to touchin em would be through that piece of paper. And 'sides, I doubt you'd have the balls to even lust over the Queen if the King was still alive..!"
"Well it's a good thing his dead then cause that means that I can have my Queenie all to myself!"
My hand was shaking now, so much so that I had to put down my cup momentarily so that I wouldn't spill my drink. I always hated those who tried to take a pass on my mother, even those Nobles who tried to hide their intentions through the use of flowery rhetoric and cheesy lines. It's probably no great wonder why I was so pissed off right now being in the same room as this perverted bastard who was getting off using her image."
"Hey, you think if I dress up all tough carrying a bunch'o swords with me then Queenie might mistake me as the King?"
"Doubt it. From what I heard before. the King's suppose to be one hell of a ladies man so I'm guessin that he was somewhat good lookin' and you're the furthest thing to goodlookin' this side of Albion."
"Shut your trap!" The man holding the picture blurts out. "So what if I ain't the handsomest guy around. What matters is I come up big in the places that actually count." he then proceeds to grab his crotch suggestively and starts licking my mother's sketch. "Ain't that right, Queenie. I bet your sheaths been empty for so long that you'd like me to fill it with my sword right!"
The whole table erupts in laughter. I, on the other hand, was ready to kill.
A faint shattering noise is heard through the tavern. I looked at my hand and see that the cup that I had just put down and picked up again had broken due to the tightness of my grip. Some of the sharp glass pieces had dug into the flesh of my hand, but the pain was being blocked out by the anger that I was feeling.
"Oi, young'un! Is somethin' wrong?"
"Sorry about that. I just spaced out and gripped it tighter than I should've." I apologize, trying to mask my loss of composure with a genial smile. "I'll be sure to pay for it before I leave so-...|
"No worries, young'un." My host quickly brushes the incident off. "Shit happens. And besides, you were patient enough to listen to this ex-mercenary's babblin' so let's just call it even then."
"Thank you. I really appreciate this" I thanked him though I still made sure to listen in on the four men seated on the table.
"It's best that we get out of here." the leader of the four orders. "We've drawn to much attention already. I don't want any rogue mercenary overhearing any of you three idiots talking about our plan and stealing our prize away from us."
They quickly nod and stand up. They stop by the counter to drop the payment for their drinks. The leader of their group seemed to have taken notice of me as he begins to stare me down like a manticore about to devour its prey. I, however, quickly turn my head away to avoid direct eye contact with him. I did that not because I was intimidated or scared of him... No, I did it because if he had seen my face then he would've no doubt felt the great animosity and blood lust that I had for him and his lackeys.
"Hmph!" I heard him snort as he and his minions left the bar; I however made sure to get one last good look at all of them before turning back to the barkeep.
"Looks like that guy doesn't like you for some reason." the barkeep in front of me comments. I didn't really care though since the feeling was mutual. "Anyway, about that wound of yours..." he looks at the small cuts in my hand. "I have some bandages and medicine here somewhere, so just sit there while I go look for them. Okay."
"Thank you, but that won't be necessary." I tell him. Being a water mage (though I never did go beyond dot level), wounds like these wouldn't be much of a problem to heal. I slowly get up from my seat and hand my host the payment for the rice wine that I drank. "It was nice talking to you, sir."
"You really are very polite." the barkeep laughs. "A shame that I don't see many young'uns like you here."
I slowly walk out the door, making sure to avoid the unconscious drunkards lying on the floor.
"Hey young'un!" the barkeep yells out to me. "Can you at least tell me your name before you go?"
I turn my gaze towards him and answer-
"It's Kiritsugu... Kiritsugu Emiya."
It was close to midnight now. With the twin moons hiding behind a blanket of clouds most people wouldn't have been able to see their hand in front of their faces, but that wasn't much of a problem for me. Even in the darkness I could still see the outline of the four figures that I had seen in the tavern earlier today. A fifth shadow had joined them and was walking behind the leader of the group. They were roughly thirty meters away from where I was standing, still unaware of my presence. With my reinforced sense of hearing, I listened in on their conversation.
"Rodney, are you sure there's no one beside the wench in that orphanage?"
"Well Boss, there was this guy who arrived a day go. But aside from that one, its really only the wench staying in the place."
The distance between me and the band of mercenaries was closing. They were only twenty meters away from me now.
"So is this guy gonna be trouble for us or what?"
"Doubt it. It's just one guy and there are five of us here so he shouldn't be much of a problem. Besides, boss is with us so there's no way that we can lose to just some random guy"
Only fifteen meters now...
"Of course. After all, Boss is one of the best swordsman this side of Albion. Hell, when it comes to fighting his probably as good as the King of Swords."
I smirk as I hear that particular statement. Ten meter left...
"Damn straight. That's why you pussies just have to follow what I tell you because if you don't then I'll-... Who's there!"
He shouts at me, finally noticing the person standing in front of them. I remain silent.
"Goddammit! Who the hell are you!"
All five of them pull out their swords, adjusting their stance as they prepared to engage me in battle.
"Are you mute or something! If you don't answer or get outta the way after three seconds then I'm gonna gut you like a fish!"
I simply stay as I was, standing quietly like a statue. That gesture alone was enough to irritate the hell out of all five of them.
"So you're gonna keep acting like some tough guy, huh!"
I reply with what would be my first and last words of the battle: "His Body is made out of Swords."
"You asked for it, you son of a Bi-...W-What in Brimir's name!"
Shock was etched in every inch of their faces as two swords appeared out of thin air and was now held in both of my hands.
Tracing... a magecraft that projects the Prana from my circuits into any shape I chose. And like my father before me, I used it to trace weapons, especially swords. With tracing I could recreate almost every sword, halberd, spear, shield, axe, arrow... Every weapon that both me and my father had ever laid our eyes on is mine. And it wasn't just merely copying there shape and form. When we trace a weapon we recreate every aspect of its existence. We recreate the materials that was used to make it, its forging process, the battle experience that it had accumulated, its history... Everything that had made it what it was is taken into consideration. It is a superior form of recreation, something that was comparable to the firstborn magic of the elves.
In my left hand was Kanshou, the black falchion style chinese blade. And on my right was its white twin, Byakuya. This dual swords was forged centuries ago by a nameless husband and wife blacksmith duo. Among my father's armory of Noble Phantasms, the twin swords were one of the lowest ranked in his arsenal. But be that as it may they were still formidable and, along with Uncle Derflinger, were probably the weapons most associated with the King of Swords' legend.
I launch myself at all five of them, the speed of my charge comparable to a gust of wind thanks to my reinforced limbs. My first strike was immediately aimed at their leader, a swift diagonal slash by Kanshou aimed at his neck. He ,however, was somewhat able to get over his initial shock and block my attack with his sword. Unfortunately for him, the force of my swing was enough to dislodge him from his stance. It would take at least a second to recover his composure, but looking into his frightened eyes I think he knew that the second that he had was in fact a second too late. Aiming low this time, the sword in my other hand - Byakuya, slashes his leg. The severed limb flew through the air like a piece of bloody meat thrown non nonchalantly to the side. The man's body begins to fall but before he could even hit the ground I quickly reverse my grip on Kanshou so that its tip was now pointing downwards. In one fluid motion, the tip of the black short sword is brought down right on the man's chest where his heart lay hidden. As he lay there on the ground, his chest stabbed straight through, his gaze rest on the blade in my hand. His eyes widen in terror, he must've recognized the twin swords that I was currently wielding.
"T-Those s-s-swords... You c-can't be..! K-K-King of S-swords!"
I twist the blade in his chest a bit, just for good measure, before taking it out and staring back at the four that remained. It seemed that quite a bit of spunk had been drained from them since I could notice their legs visibly shaking as their grip on their sword loosened. Whether this was caused by that brief display of skill that I showed them, seeing their leader slaughtered like cattle right before their eyes, or maybe hearing the now dead man calling me the King of Swords, I didn't really know though.
"Y-You! Y-You're the K-King of Swo-!"
I immediately cut his words short by cutting his entire arm off. As one of my mentors, Captain Guiche de Gramont of the Undine Knights, always told me: 'In battle, there is no need for words'. The spray of blood that gushed out of the great wound practically dyed his clothes crimson as he convulsed in pain on the ground. Turning my attention to the person closest to where I was standing, I swing my swords at both of my target's hand. In an instant, two more limbs fly through the air. By this time, the two who were left finally manage to pull themselves together and start making a run for it. A wise decision if I may say so myself, but it would serve them no good in the end. With the help of my reinforced legs I was easily able to catch up to them. As I passed each of them like a breeze of impending death, I swung the swords that I held in my hand against my remaining enemies. I swift strike by Byakuya perfectly aimed at the man's knee stops one them on his tracks as its blade cut away at flesh and bone. A second later and another strike - this time a vertical slash coming from Kanshou aimed at the last remaining target's eyes, followed suit. He rolls on the ground, writhing in pain as blood from his now empty eye sockets bathe his face red.
I stare at him for a good a five seconds as he hauled in pain, shouting and cursing incoherently on the dirt floor. This man was the same one that had lusted over my mother's image in the tavern. I had made sure to remember his face before they had left and had saved him for last so that I could appropriately teach him a lesson without having to worry about nuisances getting in the way. Standing over him like some sort of grim reaper, I bring down the twin blades in my hand, cutting both of his arms clean off. Stepping back slightly, I then move my gaze down and cut his ankles off. I kneel at the man's side and begin to rummage around his pockets. Finally finding what I was looking for, I take out the charcoal sketch of my mother and rip it apart. It was better that it be destroyed rather than be in the possession of men like this.
As the twin moons slowly came out of their hiding, their lunar light now revealing the scene of carnage that I left, I look back at my handy work. One dead, three gravely injured, and one maimed to the point that he'll need the assistance of a square class water mage if he ever wanted to live past this day.
Yup, just another day in my life.
I continue to walk through this winding road. Having asked around the previous town that I had just left, it seemed that it would take another day's worth of walking before I reached the village of Westwood. And even then I'd still have to ask for directions to find that Orphanage.
So why was I doing this?
What reason could Kiritsugu Emiya, son of Henrietta de Tristain and Shirou Emiya, crown prince and heir to the throne of Tristain (though only a select few actually knew about those two facts), have in traveling around the continent of Halkegnia like some hermit in the first place?
Two reasons, one political and the other personal.
The first reason was due to the current unrest surfacing both from external forces like Germania and Romalia and internal conflicts within the nobility itself.
Two decades ago my father,The King of Swords Shirou Emiya, together with her partner and master, the Duchess of Emptiness Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière, heralded what would be known as the military golden age of Tristain. Being one of the smaller countries in the continent, not to mention having a rather weak military force, Tristain had always been among first on the list of Kingdoms to be raided whenever a war broke out. Historically, it was one of the main reasons why the royal family had focused on forging alliances with its neighbors via marriage. But that all changed with the emergence of my father and the Duchess. Having performed neigh impossible feats which included the Battle of Saxe-Gotha where he stopped the advance of an army of 70,000 by himself, defeating and even killing a number of elves in one-on-one combat, the one man invasion of the Kingdom of Galia, the purging of the orc settlements in Romalia, and scaring the living hell out of the the entire Royal family of Germania; my father's reputation and legend had reached a point wherein entire countries themselves went out of their way to not incur his wrath. And because the King was romantically linked to my mother, the current reagent, it was widely perceived that any slight or challenge aimed towards Tristain or its Queen would be considered as an indirect insult towards the King himself. For a time, the once small and defenseless country of Tristain was actually considered as the most feared out of the four nations that Brimir had established. No one wanted to cross that line of disrespect and end up having their entire royal family beheaded while their guards and soldiers lay on the floor maimed and bloodied.
But along with that fear came resentment. After my father died, many of the nobility from both outside and within Tristain became uneasy. Now that the King was gone then they should've been free to do as they wish, and they would've too had it not been for three reasons.
The first was the strong relationship between Tristain and Galia. After the death of the former King Joseph (in the hands of the King of Swords no less), the new Queen who also happened to be a close friend of my father established an alliance with my mother, as both nations promised to aid one another during times of crisis. Galia being one of the more military oriented nations in the continent was no pushover. So a declaration of war against Tristain would also end up being one against Galia.
The second was the Undine Knights, led by Captain Guiche de Gramont. They were a special order whose top officers were trained by my father himself. And though their main purpose was to guard and serve the Queen, they too were equally skilled in infiltration, information gathering, and -if needed- assassination. Though none of their current members were anywhere near my father's level, they were still great in their own right and they could easily match and repel an attacking force three times their number. To join their ranks was to vow to live and die by the rule of steel.
And the third and biggest reason why no one still dared to wage war against Tristain even after my father's death... was the Duchess.
The Duchess of Emptiness, Louise Françoise le Blanc de la Vallière. Daughter of the legendary Karin the Heavywind, the former master of the King of Swords, childhood friend of the Queen of Tristain and second-in-line to the throne. During her time with the King she too had made a name for herself and even until now is still one of the most feared mages in all of Halkegnia. When it comes to reputation and infamy, only my father and her mother could be ranked above her. Her mere existence was enough to deter any noble from doing something foolish. But as effective as the Duchess was, a deterrent could only be effective if it was constantly present at all times. The Duchess had a rather bad habit of disappearing and reappearing as she wished. There were times when not a word would be heard about her for months before showing herself in the court. The longest period that she had gone was two years and during that time both Germania and Romalia were all but ready to go to war against Tristain due to the long harbored grudge that they had for my father.
And so, one of my goals in this little field trip of mine was to serve as another kind of deterrent to calm that unrest. And it turned out that I was the perfect guy for the job. No one, aside from a select few, knows about the fact that the Queen of Tristain and the King of Swords were able to conceive a child. Nor are they aware that the said child is able to duplicate some of the abilities of his infamous father. So for the past six months, I've ended up fighting, maiming, and or killing a number of orcs, mercenaries, thieves, criminals, and even elves. All the while I made sure to copy his known tendencies as well as using his most famous swords. Thus why I would rather cut off the limbs of my opponents instead of killing them. Judging from the rumors swirling around, it seemed that I was doing a fairly good job in meeting my first goal.
But as much as I was relieved by that fact, I still couldn't shake the feeling that I was more like some creepy mass murderer, and thinking about it right now I wondered what my father would've thought in regards to the course of action that I took. I wouldn't really know though since he died before I was even born. And that's where my second reason for going on this journey comes in.
Since I was born after his death, everything that I know about my father came from his legends that have now become a part of the Lore of Halkegnia, and the stories that were told to me by the people who were closest to him. After hearing both accounts, two different images of him surfaced in my mind. One was a blood thirsty warrior, ruthless and fierce. An immaculate sword that had been forged to cut down all those who stood against him. A demi-god who walked amongst mortal men and made the impossible possible. The other was an image of a simple man who was able to derive joy from the most mundane chores like cooking and brewing tea. A reliable and trustworthy person who loved his friends and would die if needed if it meant that he would be able to save as many lives as he could. Those were the two irreconcilable images of my father. From the very moment that I conjured up those two images, I couldn't help but wonder which one was closest to his true nature, of how one man could be so many things to so many people.
So when I went on this journey, I decided to visit all the people that had come into contact with him. I wanted to know more about him, about the person who helped bring me into this world, about the hero whom I had idolized and respected from the time that I was a boy playing around with a wooden sword and even up to now that I have grown into adulthood and swung real swords.
I wanted to know him, even if only through second-hand accounts. I wanted to know what my father, Shirou Emiya, was like.
"Uncle Derf, it's been half a day now. Are you still made about what I said about you back in the tavern?"
No answer at all, huh?
"Jeez, how many times do I have to say I'm sorry? You know, for someone who keeps reiterating the fact that he's not human, you're seriously acting like one right now." and a really stubborn one at that.
Still no answer, huh? Now, if anyone were to walk by and hear what I was saying then they'd probably think that I was simply talking to myself and/or was crazy. I wouldn't really be able to blame them though since the thing that I was apologizing to was being really difficult right now. I sighed, I guess I'll have to bribe him with oil again and from what I heard items like that are a bit more expensive here than they would be in Tristain.
The path was getting darker now. If I were to take a guess then I'd say it was probably two hours past midnight. I debated whether it would be better to continue walking until I could reach a nearby town or simply sleep under one of the trees by the roadside. The first option was nice since I haven't slept on a real bed for a week now but I don't think that my current budget would allow me to do that. The second option was okay since I've slept outside in more than one occasion so I've gotten used to it. But sleeping outside did have its own draw backs, namely roaming bandits who try to rob and/or kill you while you slept. They weren't really much trouble though since they quickly find out how bad of an idea it is to disturb me while I'm sleeping. It's just that having to wake up every time does get on your nerves.
"I guess I'll walk for another hour to see if i can get to another... what in the root?"
A bright emerald light suddenly interrupts my quiet contemplation. I look in front of me and notice a large green ovaloid hanging in the air, shining like a miniature sun.
"Well would you look at that." a disembodied voice echoes from behind me, as the quillon of my sword started to move on its own as if it were a mouth. But instead of surprise or curiosity, there was amusement in the tone of its speech. It was like seeing this mysterious green ovaloid was the funniest thing in the world.
"Good to hear you talking again, Uncle Derf." I greeted the sword stowed behind my back.
"Hmph! Don't think that you're off the hook yet, kiddo! I still haven't forgotten that Ancient crap that you called me!"
"Seriously, Uncle. You really are one vindictive sword. Anyway, do you know what in the name of the five true magics is that thing?" I ask.
"Of course I do." the sword declared proudly. "I've seen that thing a handful of times already so I know exactly what it is."
"So... what is it then?"
"A summoning circle." he answers. "And it looks to me like whoever is on the other side wants you to be his or her servant."
"Servant?" I scrunch my eyebrows together. The word sounded familiar to me for some reason. And then it hit me like one of Miss Eleonore's lightning spells. Servant, a term used to describe human familiars. And from what I've been told, human familiars we're exclusive only to... "Wait, don't tell me that the person on the other side is a void mage."
"That's right" my Uncle happily points out. "So what's it gonna be, kid? Are you gonna keep the person on the other side waiting or what?"
I remain silent for the longest time, simply standing there and staring at the portal floating before me as I went through my options.
"Are you just gonna stand there like an idiot?" the sword chastises me for my indecision.
I closed my eyes and sighed. "No. I think I'll pass."
"Hmm... And here I thought that you'd jump on an opportunity like this since you always wanted to be like partner."
"Don't get me wrong, Uncle. If I didn't have to worry about a few things then I probably wouldn't even hesitate."
"Worry..? About what?" the sword asks again.
"Well, since we know that the person on the other side is more than likely a void mage, let's review all the facts that we know about them shall we." If I had a pointy object nearby then I would've started doing the infamous Louise Vallière lecture position number one which would include using said pointy object to 'point out the most obvious facts that even an idiot would know', and also punish said idiots if they retorted with something stupid. I always did want to try out the Duchess' lecture positions if I had the chance. "For one thing, we know that only four void mages can exist at any given time. Another would be that these four are spread out across the four nations that Brimir established in a one is to one ratio. So that means that we really only have four possible candidates available." I raise my hand and begin ticking my fingers up one by one as I discussed my four possible would-be masters. "Candidate number one would be the Duchess, but I highly doubt that it's her. And I'm sure that you know why that is, Uncle Derf."
After my father died the Duchess never again tried to summon another servant by her side. It didn't really matter though since she was strong enough to fend for herself. She probably wouldn't need a Servant in the first place since only someone who had a death wish would even think of attacking her.
"You're probably right, Kid. So what about candidate number two?"
"We're heading to her orphanage right now, aren't we?" I point out the obvious to my Uncle since it seemed that he was suffering from his chronic bouts of forgetfulness again. The fairy of Westwood. From what Uncle Derf tells me, she was suppose to be a half elf who nursed my father back to health after the battle in the hills of Saxe-Gotha. While recuperating from his wounds, he was able to discover the fact that she was a void mage. However, my father decided to keep this fact a secret. The reason being that since she had a naive and pure outlook of the world, he didn't want to taint that innocence and have her be used like some tool. Unlike the Duchess, the fairy of Westwood didn't have the luxury of having a war veteran for a mother. Of course, if it really was her then that would save me the trouble of having to look for her which is great. "...But I don't think it's her either."
"Oh? And why is that?"
"Well, if you think about it, she's never attended a magic academy. And since I doubt that there is any literature about magical theory available outside academic institutions then she probably wouldn't even know how to perform a summon servant ritual to begin with."
"You got me there." the sword states, agreeing with me on that one as well. "So who's next?"
My voice quickly took on a much colder tone as I described my next possible master.
"The exiled princess of Galia, Josette." She is Queen Charlotte's twin sister. After the former King Joseph's death, the power of the Void was transferred to her. Two decades ago she had instigated a coup d'etat against the current Queen and was able to usurp the throne with the backing of the Church of Romalia. Her reign, however, was a short lived one, only lasting less than a year. Be that as it may, she was still one of the main reasons for my father's death. Out of my four possible masters, she was the last one that I'd want. I would most likely end up just stabbing her where she stood before she could even attempt to form a contract with me.
"But she's been imprisoned in Alhambra Castle for over twenty years now." my Uncle points out. "Not to mention she's a top level prisoner so the chances of her escaping, especially without a staff or wand, is slim to none."
"Unlikely, yes... but not impossible." I answer back, not willing to let go of my paranoia. "But you're right, the chances of it being her on the other side of the portal is relatively small."
"Okay, we have the Duchess, the half-elf, and the ex-princess of Galia. So who's the last one?"
I shrugged my shoulders, "Sorry, no idea."
A full minute of utter silence follows before my Uncle was finally able to shout at me. "Just what kind of stupid answer is that!" my Uncle protested in outrage. "What do you mean you have no idea? Didn't you just say that you had four possible masters? Who's the last one then?"
"Like I said, Uncle. I really don't know. But we do have some clues about him or her?"
"Clues? Like what"
I start to ticking my finger one by one again as I enumerated my deductions in regards to my fourth would-be master. "Well, for starters we know that out of the four nations, only Romalia lacks a void user at present." the previous void mage of Romalia, the 32nd Pope of the Church - Vettorio Serevare, had died in the war that had also killed my father. "So he or she would probably be from Romalia or at least someone who was born there. Also, you remember the rumor that we heard back in the port of La Rochelle?"
"Oh, you mean the one about how Romalia has been sending out priests and priestesses in every village to conduct a census of all mages or people descended from mages?"
"Yup." I nod. "It's just a guess but it looks to me like they're growing impatient in their search for Romalia's void user. I wouldn't be surprised if they're forcing all the mages who don't have familiars yet to perform the summon servant spell." After all, the easiest way to identify a void mage is through their servants.
"So, we know who your four possible masters could be. But I still don't get what this has to do with you passing up the chance of being a servant?"
"Well, if my master ended up being one of the first two, then I would've been fine with it." although the thought of becoming the Duchess' servant sent a rather cold chill down my spine. "But as I said earlier, they're the least likely of the four that I mentioned. If it turned out to be Josette then..." the tone of my voice once again took on an icy aura. "Let's just say that I'd simply end up shoving three feet of cold steel down her throat the moment that I saw her on the other side."
"Well, what if it's the one from Romalia?" the sword inquires one more time. He was probably curious as to what I thought of this whole situation.
"All the more reason for me not to go then." I answered honestly.
"Is it because it'd end up being someone from Romalia?"
I shook my head.
I could understood why my Uncle would think that since the relationship between Romalia and Tristain has been unstable for quite some time now. The church had declared my father as a heretic. The duchess told me that it was due to how he viewed the founder, treating him as nothing more than another mage rather than hailing Brimir as some messenger from God. Also, the fact that it was my father who took the life of the former Pope Vettorio during the last great war simply added wood to an already blazing fire. Had it not been for the fact that Tristain was one of the four nations founded by Brimir and that the Royal family were the direct descendents of the founder himself, then the whole country would've been excommunicated by the church. But my reasons, although they still had something to do with the politics of the two countries, had nothing to do with such things like patriotism or racism.
"No it's not that. It's just that I'd rather not drag an innocent into the complicated world that I live in." If my would be master ended up being some fledgeling magus who had simply been forced to perform a summoning, then answering his or her call would mean trapping that person inside this web of politics and deceit. Also, if they ever found out about my true identity, then Tristain could be put in a bad situation.
"But aren't you worried that the mage on the other side might be called a failure if the summoning failed."
"It's for the best." I argued back. "It's better to be regarded as a failure than end up being a tool of the conniving few. Putting that aside..." I glanced back at my Uncle. "Why are you being so persistent about this anyway?"
"Heh, no reason. I guess I was just curious about how you would react to a situation like this."
Thought so. "Well since I've decided, I hope you won't mind if I take a small detour then." Hopefully, this thing didn't end up following me like an abandoned puppy. I'd be hard-pressed trying to explain to anyone as to why a green portal floating in midair was tailing me.
"Sure, knock yourself out." my uncle chuckled
As I was about to step to the side and walk past the emerald ovaloid. I hear a faint voice from the other side of it.
"Please, help him!"
I turn my gaze back to the summoning circle before me. The voice was feminine in tone and no doubt belonged to a young woman.
"If anyone can hear me! Please, help him. I beg of you!"
There was a sense of urgency in her voice. As if the person whose salvation she was pleading for was in the midst of a life or death struggle.
"Someone..! Anyone..? Please help us!"
I sighed. "I guess it can't be helped."
After hearing something like that, there's no way that I could just walk away now.
"Oi, Kid! What are you doing?" he asked confused as I started heading straight to the green portal. "I thought you said that you were gonna pass on this?"
"Didn't you hear her, Uncle Derf. Whoever is on the other side is in trouble. I have to help. I don't have choice."
"But what about all that stuff that you spouted about earlier?"
"I know but..." I stare intently at the portal in front of me. "I just can't ignore someone who's asking for help. And besides, I don' think that my father would've thought twice about about saving people who were in need."
The Duchess once told me that 'saving people' was the ideal that my father held onto and believed in through out his life. It was what made Shirou Emiya who he was. And as his son, I felt that it was only right for me to uphold that ideal as well.
As Shirou Emiya's son, I had to answer the call. It was my responsibility to do so.
The sword resting against my back sighs. "You really are partner's kid. Well, if this is what you want to do then I won't stop you."
"Thanks, Uncle. Oh, and one more thing. Try to not talk for the mean time. I'm pretty sure that you're the only sword in Halkegnia capable of talking so it would be troublesome if they figured out who you are before we can decide if they are trustworthy or not."
"Aye. But don't expect me to keep my trap shut for too long if I ever see you do anything stupid."
"Fair enough. Well then..." putting my full attention to the green oval before me I inhale deeply before running through the portal.
After I entered the gateway, a blank inky void sweeps over me as the feeling of oil covering my whole body begins to dominate my sense of touch. The time that I spent in there was slightly longer than what I expected. For a summoning spell that was supposedly able to defy the laws of distance, I felt that it should've taken no more than a couple of seconds to reach my destination. But nonetheless I still am able to finally see the end of the inky void that I was inside of, a small light serving like an exit to a tunnel. I reach for that light, my floating body slowly inching towards it until my fingers were finally able to grasp it at last.
The void that had temporarily housed me quickly dissipates, and before I knew it my eyes once again are greeted by the sight of the twin moons as my body that reappeared twenty-four feet above the ground starts hurtling downwards. Quickly, I reinforce my body, readjust my position in mid air and fall on my feet like a cat. As I raise my head to look at my surroundings, my sight is immediately met by the image of a golden haired girl with elf-like ears, and possessing the largest pair of breast that I have ever seen in my life.
And so she stares at the young man that had fallen from the sky and now stood before her, strands from his neatly combed reddish hair being softly caressed by the gentle breeze of the outside air. The ghoulish black attire that he wore was in complete conflict with the clean and almost regal look on his face. His sapphire blue eyes whose full attention was now completely on her was beautiful to behold. His confident stature, the calm yet serious look on his face, and eyes that burned like blue fire all contributed into creating the breath-taking image that she now viewed. It was almost enough to make her forget the small battle transpiring in the rooftops above them.
Even before this, many surprises had already happened to her today...
She had just found out that she was one of the four bearers of the void. That she along with the Pope, King Joseph of Galia, and her friend Louise and Saito-san must work together to save the world from an impending danger. Such a revelation was quite the shock to her but still she was happy that she would be able to work together with everyone and be able to help them save as many people as they could. For the longest time she had viewed herself as nothing more than a burden to her friends, especially Saito-san, which is why she had always tried to be of as much help as she could. And now that she knows that she too was a user of the void she had to do her best to be of help to everyone. It was the reason why when she happened to bump into Mr. Colbert she had immediately asked the knowledgeable professor to teach her how to perform the summoning ritual for familiars. She was sure that if she had a familiar - someone like Saito-san - she'd definitely be able to help.
And so, closing her eyes she had chanted and said the words that would summon her familiar...
"My name is Tiffania Westwood, Pentagon of the five-elemental powers, heed my summoning and bring forth... my familiar!"
But before she could reopen her sight so that she could gaze upon her familiar, the noise of shattering roof tiles draws both hers and the bald-headed instructors attention. Above them, she saw Saito-san fighting a hooded figure wielding a spiked chain-ball in his hand. The man was also summoning a number of golems as to both out number and corner Saito-san. Though she knew that Saito-san was strong, she couldn't help but worry and in her panic she begun to shout at the portal, pleading for help. She didn't want to be just a spectator anymore, she had enough of just standing there while her friends risked their lives and fought.
"Someone..! Anyone..? Please help us!" she begged.
And now, standing before her was the answer to her prayers.
"-I ask of you. Are you my Master?" the young man in front of her asked in a tone that was simple yet powerful at the same time.
He stares at her with a quiet tension. This person wasn't doing this because he wanted to scare her, he was simply waiting for her confirmation. It was like he was an overzealous sword waiting to be unsheathed from his scabbard and unleashed upon her foes. Somehow, deep in her heart and soul, she knew that the moment that she answered yes then this person would fight and die for her sake. It was something that made her feel happy and sad at the same time.
That's right, if she wanted to be able to help, if she wanted to save her friends, then she had to answer 'yes'.
And so this is where it all begins
The path has been set.
The first step of a thousand mile journey has been taken.
A journey that will be filled with swords and battles.
Hey guyz, sorry for my really long hiatus. Had to do lots of stuff for work and I kind of lost my muse in writing fanfics due to the stress of dealing with real life shit. Anyway, thanks to a certain fanfiction -cough-HILLOFSWORDS-cough- written by an absolute genius, I got my muse back. So this mean I'm back to writing fanfics... HEll Yeah! Does it mean I'll be updating and maybe writing some fanfics as well... NOT QUITE! First off, the last two fanfics that I was working on will probably be on hiatus until I can get my urge to write their updates AGAIN! You see, we ended up moving house and I kind of left my draft for the completed chapters of those two in my previous house. It's going to be a bit awkward if I asked the new owners of the house if I can search their place for my drafts (assuming that they haven't thrown it out yet.) Also, I'm a bit rusty with writing fanfics so I decided to brush up by writing a fanfic dedicated to the fanfic that got me out of my funk. I'm not sure if I'm back up to par yet but hopefully I get back on track. If I do decide to update or write fanfics its going to be sporadic updates since I'm working graveyard shifts for my job but I will try to do at least semi-regular updates if I can manage (a few reviews won't hurt either).
So about this fic. I've said before that it's something dedicated to Hill of Swords. Like a thank you to gabriel blessing for writing such a good fanfic and was INITIALLY intended as a oneshot. If you noticed, majority of the fic was dedicated to giving out clues as to what happened to the cast after Shirou died. It also dealt with the cliffhanger mystery babymama that Shirou Knocked up at the last chapter. But while having the idea for this fic. I suddenly found out that ZnT actually was given a final 4th season. So I waited and watched said season and after finishing the show, ideas about what Shirou's would be son could do in that world started flooding my head. So I'm considering (and I do stress the word "considering") about making this whole thing into a full blown multi chapter fic that follows the events of ZnT F. I'll still be including certain info and tidbits from the novels (e.g. Josette) but the main core would most likely still be based on ZnT F. And a few more things that you might be asking right now.
(1) Why Kiritsugu? Well, I just figured that if Shirou ever had a son then he would probably name it after his father since he idolized him so much. Also I wanted to do some sort of parallel with how Shirou's son idolizes him sort of the same way that he idolized Kiritsugu. Also if you're debating that the name wouldn't really fit because there's a chance that Shirou never knew that Henrietta (and yes, my bet for Shirou's baby mama is Henrietta) was pregnant, although I'm not GB so I can't confirm or disapprove shit. Since Derf somewhat alluded to the fact that he kinda knew that the baby coming then chances are Shirou did too. And who's to say that before he died, shirou didn't tell Derf to ask Henrietta to name their child after Kiritsugu. Again, just speculation in my part but even if I'm wrong then Kiritsugu I believe is still a valid name since she did hear Shirou mention him and his influence during the Faeries Inn arc and who's to say that she didn't name their child after Kiritsugu to honor the man whom Shirou idolized.
(2) So how can Kiritsugu perform tracing? my answer would be via dreams (aka: shared memories of swords). Think of it as something like a magic crest although not really. I'll explain the other details in possible future chapters. You can give me feedback as well, especially if your a type moon fan since depending on the translated VN's and Type moon wiki sometimes gets confusing.
Anyway, hope to see you guyz soon. RnR... AND GO LAKERS! LORD GAWD-BE PLEASE LEAD US TO THE PROMISED LAND!