(A/N: Despite being very busy with my novel at the moment, I decided to slap out another chapter, if only to annihilate another chunk of the plot so that I could get back to the awesome parts again. That, and I had fun with this one and the various references within, I really did. So love it or hate it, this one's a bit of a hefty read. But be reassured, the juicy conflicts and even new servants are coming up soon. This one was pumped out in a couple of hours, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless. I'm so busy I keep missing meals.)
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the following characters, materials or plot, only the creative arrangement of the aforementioned.
The plot and characters of Fate as well as those of any other series referenced here are the property of their respective owners.
Day 2, Part 1
"What the hell were you thinking?"
Shirou leaned back, resisting the urge to clamp his hands over his ears to defend from Rin's shrill voice.
Sitting next to him once again was Erza, looking less like she'd just been in a deadly battle and more like she'd just come back from a day shopping, having switched into a casual white blouse with her normal blue skirt. In front of her was a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
Cake which she'd been delighted to find in Shirou's kitchen. In Shirou's house. Which is where they'd somehow ended up... again.
"You're going to have to elaborate on that one." Shirou was as reluctant to face another lecture today as he was to have Rin in his house. Again.
Behind the seething girl stood Archer, not comfortable enough to sit with them, but relaxed enough to remain in the room. Somehow, his white outfit was spotless, despite all the dust and dirt that had been flying about earlier. Shirou wondered if he carried a spare clothes too...
"You know exactly what I'm talking about!" Rin practically roared, getting right up in his face.
Absently he noted the boundary field twinging in reaction to a lethal intent, but he ignored it.
The cause was pretty obvious.
"You're out of my sight for five minutes and you immediately run headlong into not only another servant, but one that you couldn't possibly handle alone!"
Shirou cringed inwardly. That was hardly his fault though, it was more bad luck really.
"You then went ahead to FIGHT said servant despite being outmatched," Shirou actually flinched at this one, "and if that weren't enough you ran straight into their battle without thinking!
If Saber weren't as fast as she was," she shot an approving look at Erza, who simply nodded back, "you could have been a smear on the pavement."
Here, she paused, before glowering at him again.
"If it were just all that though, I would only be angry at your ineptitude. As it is..."
Shirou suddenly realized what she was getting to as the whole temperature of the room seemed to drop.
"WHY did you stop me from eliminating the enemy master."
A deathly silence descended.
Shirou laughed nervously. "Well, um, it was just a little girl, and you see-"
"That 'little girl' just tried to kill you, not to mention the rest of us. If a master is killed, the servant loses its source of prana and will eventually disappear."
Rin brought a hand up to massage her twitching temple, glaring heatedly at him seemingly in an attempt to turn him to stone.
"So tell me, why did you place the life of your opponent over that of yourself, myself, and by extension both Saber and Archer. Tell me what possible reason you could have had to do something so stupid, because I'm a hair's breadth away from killing you just to save myself the hassle."
Shirou remained silent for a while. No amount of bluster would get him out of this one, and to tell the truth was going to be difficult.
Saying something as shallow as "because it would be wrong" would not placate her now, not now that he had effectively put her in danger too, he knew that.
So he mumbled it.
"What was that?" Rin blinked. "I couldn't hear you, speak up."
He repeated himself.
"Stop mumbling, hurry up and spit it ou-"
"Because letting someone die isn't something a hero would do."
Rin looked flabbergasted. Then she burst out laughing.
"You can't be serious. For something as shallow as...?"
She stopped altogether when she noticed the look Shirou was giving her. Though embarrassed, he was deadly serious.
"It's not shallow. I want to be a hero of justice. I want to protect everyone."
"You've got to be kidding me. You actually mean that? Is this why you go around helping everyone at school?" Rin spat. "How is sacrificing his allies something a hero would do?"
Shirou winced. "I made a mistake, alright? You tell me what I should have done differently. Tell me what I should have done to ensure everyone survives."
"Shirou, listen to me, it's impossible to save everyone. You should give up this pointless obsession, it's just going to get you killed."
Shirou stubbornly looked away.
"Shirou..." Rin growled in warning. "You-"
Rin gave a start, as she realized that Erza had interrupted her.
"While I understand your reasoning, I don't agree with the conclusion."
Rin was somewhat derailed by this, while Archer merely looked interested. Shirou blinked in surprise at his unlikely supporter.
"It is true that it is impossible to save everyone." She started.
Shirou sagged in his seat to hear that from a real hero.
"But that does not mean that you should never try."
"Huh?" Shirou sat back up in surprise.
"Where I came from, the world was filled with magic and magic guilds. The number one rule of all registered guilds was not to kill, or let people die. You would have liked it there Shirou." She smiled at the memory.
"But death was not unknown. Death is a natural end to human life, and thus it exists wherever humans do. Natural or not.
Dark guilds were so called because they were illegally formed and followed no such rule, and I myself have lived a life where I saw my important people die before my eyes.
Granted, I was luckier than most. Most of my friends lived long and fulfilling lives. But even they eventually died. Such is the way of things."
Turning serious again, she glared at Rin.
"But I cannot forgive anyone who says that just because they would die anyway, ever saving them was pointless. I myself was saved at a very young age, and I lived a long and amazing life as a direct result.
There's no way that was pointless.
Many times I have failed to save people, but my regret is not that I tried to save them, but that I did not manage to. Given the same choice in the same circumstance, I would try again." She ended fiercely.
Rin looked ready to argue, but seemed to be tripping over any attempt to refute her. Anything she could say back to that was being heavily influenced by the fact that Erza had been summoned as a heroic spirit, and thus had a strong backing for her belief being right.
"She's got a point."
"Wha- Archer? Not you too!" Rin wailed.
"Don't give me that look. I knew plenty of people who thought the same way you two do, but there's a couple of flaws here that need to be addressed."
Turning his eyes on Shirou, his lenses flared, making eye contact awkward for Shirou.
"First is that you need to remember to think smaller scale. One person can only do so much. I think in that respect, one of my comrades had the right idea.
He strived to protect everything before his eyes. Everyone in his reach. You'll only depress yourself if you try to take on everyone's problems."
Shirou awkwardly looked away, not wanting to admit it but knowing there was some truth to what he said.
"The second is more of a issue. You said you want to be a hero of justice, and that's why you want to protect people. That's the wrong way around."
Shirou's head whipped back around so fast he nearly gave himself whiplash.
"If you said that you wanted to be able to protect people, and that's why you wanted to be a hero, then that would mean that you want the power to protect. By saying you want to be a hero, and that's why you want to protect people, that means you need them to be in trouble in the first place."
Shirou's eyes went wide as saucers, and even Erza grimaced slightly, shooting him a concerned look.
"That is fundamentally flawed. There's only two reasons for you to have picked this up so wrong. The first is that you're a selfish person. However, from what I've seen that doesn't fit. You don't necessarily gain anything from helping people, and convincing yourself to protect both sides of every fight is sort of like being stuck in an endless self-destructive loop."
By now, Shirou looked like someone had shot his puppy, brought it back to life, then shot it again. Repeatedly. In his kitchen.
Even Rin was beginning to look sorry for him.
"The second... is that you got this idea from someone else."
Shirou went rigid.
Archer's eyes narrowed. "That's what I thought. That would explain your determination to achieve it, but lack of understanding of what it entailed."
"Who was it?" Erza asked quietly but curiously. "You don't have to answer if you don't want to."
Shirou felt like a cornered animal, but if they'd come this far...
"It was my dad." He whispered. "It was his dream. But he never achieved it. So I promised I'd do it for him. And then he died."
Despite his expectation of how Rin would react to his admitting to having effectively inherited his ideal, Rin's eyes were now downcast, as though remembering something.
Erza still looked curious, but Archer was more understanding.
"A vow to a deceased relative is indeed important." He pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose. "But you've got to decide how far to go. Because any caring relative would want you to live your own life."
Rin shifted uncomfortably.
"So let me get this straight." Erza broke in. "You want to be a hero, like your father would have wanted."
"Y-yeah." Shirou mumbled, now thoroughly shaken and heavily embarrassed.
She thumped one fist into an open palm, nodding to herself as though making an important decision.
"Well we'd better get to work then. We've got a lot to do, and only the duration of this war in which to do it!"
"...Huh?" Shirou blinked.
"... HUAAAAH?" He let loose an incoherent noise as the gravity of her offer sunk in.
Rin was no better off, jaw hanging loosely as she tried and failed to understand what she had just heard, her brain busy rebooting entirely.
When she turned to exchange a look with Archer however, he actually looked... distracted.
"It's probably nothing, but... Please continue, I'm going to scout the grounds just in case."
Glancing at his master for affirmation, and with a meaningful look in his eye, he received a snort and a wave in response.
As Archer left, Shirou shook himself off and asked something that had been bothering him.
"Ah, So are you communicating with Archer telepathically, or...?"
Rin rolled her eyes. "The thing about having a proper contract with your servant is that you can communicate with one another without speaking aloud. Clearly you haven't managed this."
Ignoring the obvious jab at his accidental summoning, he asked "then what did he say just now?"
Instead of ignoring the question as he expected her to, she snorted.
"Just that if I was dumb enough to cause trouble here while he was gone, I'd have to use two command seals in one go. One to bring him here, and another to actually help."
"Just as well." Erza said, standing up. "That means there will be no interruptions for our training."
"Now hold up!" Shirou waved his arms frantically, shakily getting to his feet too.
"I don't know how you still have the stamina to keep going tonight, but I for one need to sleep sometime today! Not that there's much time left even for that..."
Erza looked surprised for a moment, before hitting a fist into her hand.
"Ah, yes, of course. I had forgotten you would require sleep. Being a spirit makes these things easy to overlook."
Shirou sweat-dropped. "I don't think that's the reason..."
Shaking himself, he pressed on. "Besides, I have school tomorrow and-"
"School?" Erza interrupted. "I'm not sure it's safe for you to be going to school... though I suppose it's important too."
Rin palmed her face.
"Shirou, we are not going to school during the war. What if you're attacked while you're there?"
Shirou cringed for what felt like the millionth time. "But Fujimura Sensei..."
Rin waved it off. "You're going to have to work around it. What if you got the students involved because you were there?"
"What if they get involved anyway?"
Archer walked back in, looking annoyed.
"What do you mean by that?" Rin asked worriedly.
Archer frowned, then surprised everyone by sitting down next to Rin.
"That's twice now I think I felt a prana signature die down to almost nothing."
Rin almost fell over in alarm.
"Relax master, not a significant prana signature. I'm picking up on normal people too. As a consequence of paying attention to the broad area around us I'm aware of even slight changes in insignificant sources. It just happens that whatever happened to these two, they wandered out of my range, then back into it at a dangerously low level. I barely noticed it as it is."
"Are you saying they were drained? That's horrible!" Shirou was held back from rushing out to find them by Erza, who looked similarly incensed.
Rin's eyebrows furrowed. "You think it could be a servant's doing?"
"It's hard to say, though a definite possibility. Servants can gain prana from the souls of the living, but this one seems to be taking pains to leave them alive. They'll recover, so calm down." He deadpanned at Shirou.
"Both instances occurred in the north, and despite extending my range by moving a little closer, I didn't find anything. It's likely that whoever it is was already done for the night."
Sighing, he turned back to Rin.
"What I'm getting at, is that if you truly don't want your school to be targeted in any way, you're going to have to do two things.
Keep an eye on it, which is only possible if at least one of you is in attendance, and find and defeat the servant who is preying on people.
Even then you can't be sure they'll be safe, but taking at least this much action is necessary."
Rin nodded slowly. "Alright then. I guess it's time to turn in then, we're not going to get anything else done tonight."
"I agree." Erza replied. "We should sort rooms out and rest up till tomorrow. Archer and I will take turns keeping watch."
"There is no need." Archer said, "my sensory ability is more proficient, and my proper connection combined with a personal skill affords me a constant supply of prana. I have less need for sleep.
You however," he said, looking pointedly at Erza, "have used a chunk of your prana and have not been regaining any. And until we can remedy that, it is best you regulate what you have left."
"You didn't tell me that..." Shirou breathed.
Erza shrugged. "I apologize, but it was not something that bothered me. But I suppose you are right Archer, very well then."
"Wait..." Shirou paused, suddenly suspicious. "Why is Archer staying here if-"
He stared at Rin, then at Archer, then at Rin again. They both had deadpan expressions.
"Now hold on, no way, you can't-!"
"So where are the guest rooms Saber?" Rin queried.
"Over here I think," Saber led the pair out and into the hallway, leaving Shirou stood there gaping in shock.
"I- it- they- gah!"
Finally giving up, the insanity of the day piling up on his fatigue, Shirou slumped to his room, not bothering to tell Erza that she was going the wrong way.
In the morning, Shirou woke to the sound of his alarm clock ringing.
Groaning, he rolled over and smacked the button to turn it off.
With a rush of memory, he confirmed that he was in fact awake, and that yesterday had not been a dream. The bruise on his arm from where he'd hit the ground when thrown proved that much.
Turning back onto his face and lamenting that he couldn't sleep any longer...
Wait, why couldn't he sleep any longer? That's right, because Sakura would soon be here to-
Shirou sat bolt upright. Sakura. He'd forgotten she and Fujimura would be here in the morning!
He'd have to quickly get the other three out to hide, or out of the house or something. It was a good thing his alarm clock had woken him up on time, or he would have.
"I... don't own an alarm clock." Stiffly he turned to stare at the alarm clock in confusion. A bright pink clock with familiar ornate decorative wings.
Beside him, a figure rolled over into his side, breathing quietly, red hair splayed out.
"And that's why you've got to stay out of sight this morning." Shirou finished.
Rin, looking for the life of her like a zombie, yawned gracelessly, scratching her head and rubbing sleep from her eyes.
"Yeah, that's great Shirou, but why do you look like someone explained the birds and the bees to you?" She ground out, clearly not happy at being woken up, much less by a crimson faced and near hyperventilating Shirou.
She knew she didn't look all that great in the mornings, but somehow she doubted it was this bad.
And then Erza walked out of Shirou's room, clad in pink pajamas with a pattern of crosses on them, stretching smoothly and heading straight for the bathroom.
Rin's hackles went up.
"What happened to you?" Archer asked, as Shirou trudged into the kitchen sporting a black eye.
"Don't ask..." Shirou grumbled, muttering something about crazy women.
Archer shrugged, taking an apple. "You don't mind if I have this, do you?"
"Knock yourself out." Shirou replied, setting about preparing the ingredients for breakfast.
Archer nodded, taking a bite and walking past him.
"Oh, by the way. Rin has just told me we need to be out of the way this morning, so we're going out to do a bit of scouting, then we'll head to your school. Feel free to join us if you're up for it, or we can always take it in turns to give more time for training."
"Yeah, thanks." Shirou responded, slowly regaining his enthusiasm. "Saber will probably prefer it that way."
At the mention of his servant, he went scarlet again and clammed up. By the time he'd unstuck his jaw, Archer was already gone.
Walking back into the living room, about to tell Saber that she should probably head back to bed for a while (preferably a different bed...), he froze mid step.
There on one side of the table sat Erza, staring with surprise at the third occupant of the room.
Violet haired Sakura Matou stood stock still at the sight of another girl in her senpai's house.
Her whole world came crashing down around her ears, and she couldn't even manage a squeak, one hand clamped over her mouth in shock.
Shirou floundered, but it was Erza who spoke up first.
"Hi there, who might you be?" She asked cheerfully, flashing a genuine smile.
Shirou nearly swore. It had to be illegal to be that chipper in the morning...
"Ah, Sakura." He finally managed. "This is..."
"Erza. Erza Scarlet." She leaned over the table and outstretched a hand to shake.
For a moment, it looked like Sakura was going to remain still, but then she shakily moved forward and shook her hand.
"Sakura Matou." She murmured.
For a moment, Erza thought she felt something draining her prana, but then the moment passed, and she shrugged it off.
Sakura on the other hand looked like she had come to a conclusion, and both looked relieved and simultaneously even more on edge.
"Nice to meet you Sakura. How do you know Shirou?"
Sakura inwardly seethed at how familiar this girl was being with her senpai, but maintained her facade carefully.
"I'm sempai's underclassman. I help him cook sometimes. How do you know sempai?" She returned, somewhat unnerved by Erza's calculating but cheerful look.
Before Erza could spout a blatant lie and ruin their cover, Shirou stepped in. "Erza is a family friend of my father's actually, from abroad. She's staying here for a little while on business before she moves on. I offered to let her stay here in the meantime."
"I see." Sakura replied, looking unconvinced.
Before any more could be said, a proverbial hurricane swept in.
Taiga Fujimura burst into the living room like a wild animal.
"I'm starving, where's breakfast?" She roared.
Shirou groaned, but as he turned towards the kitchen, all hell broke lose.
"Who is this?" Taiga and Erza pointed simultaneously.
"Senpai, what happened to your face?" Sakura panicked.
It was going to be a long day.
Somehow, Shirou managed to straighten everything out with Sakura and Taiga.
Though somehow he doubted the "I fell on a rock" excuse for his black eye was believable. They both looked like they'd come to the conclusion that he was being bullied, and that Erza might be the culprit.
Thankfully, Erza's demeanour combined with her own confusion at his newly acquired shiner meant that they had concluded that she was not responsible. God help him if they ever found out who was.
On the flip side, Taiga was reluctant to let him go to school looking like he'd been beaten up, but just as reluctant to leave him on his own.
Erza had countered that he was perfectly safe with her, to which Taiga took offence and challenged her to a duel in the dojo with bokken.
That... hadn't ended well.
Although Erza was obviously holding back tremendously, even complimenting taiga on her form and strength, the difference was overwhelmingly obvious, and within a few rounds of Erza casually disarming her opponent without hurting her, Taiga had thrown a strop, crying profusely about how Shirou was being stolen from her.
It took a while to calm her down, but thankfully a combination of food and how late she was got her moving in the end, leaving Shirou strict instruction to remain home and rest. Sakura chose this time to bow out too, insisting she would be back later that evening to check on him.
Despite their concerns, as soon as they left Erza changed. Immediately in her basic armour, which she explained was her "Heart Kruz" custom made armour, she proceeded to run Shirou ragged with basic exercises and sparring.
"Come on, try again!"
Shirou grunted and swung the bokken at Erza only for it to be deflected easily and to be struck on the head.
Stumbling back clutching at his cranium, he decided he'd had enough.
"Erza, this isn't going to work. I'm nowhere near close enough to your level for this kind of training to help."
"On the contrary." Erza spoke up, her bokken conspicuously vanishing from sight. "It's already helping. Now I have a good grasp of your level, and you understand what is expected of you. If you can't even defend yourself against one opponent, you'll struggle to protect anyone else."
Shirou went quiet again, looking thoughtful.
"In order to protect people, you must first be capable of preserving yourself. Because if all you can manage is a heroic sacrifice, then you can only save people once. And usually, not for very long either. Understanding self defence is paramount. Do you understand?"
Shirou nodded. "I get it. But how am I supposed to progress fast enough to be of any use at all if we have so little time?"
"Don't worry so much about progress as much as understanding the basics. A good grasp of the basics will lay the foundation for further progress."
Sitting cross legged on the floor, she waved him over to join her. As he did so, she pointed at him.
"So here comes the important part. You," she jabbed him lightly in the chest, "are a mage."
"Not a very good one," he groused.
"But you are a mage nevertheless." She maintained. I'm sure you've noticed, but aside from being a heroic spirit I am also a mage."
Blinking repeatedly, a look of comprehension dawned on his face.
"Oh, so that's how you're able to switch magic armour like that!"
Erza looked disapproving. "You didn't notice? Detecting magic use is a pretty basic skill..."
Shirou stared back blankly, so she groaned in frustration.
"I see we're going to have to start from the beginning then..."
Grasping Shirou by the shoulders, she declared. "I may not be the ideal person to do so, but I am going to teach you magic."
Elsewhere, in a castle surrounded by forest, Ilyasviel Von Einzburn paced restlessly.
No matter how much she thought about it, she couldn't make head or tail of Shirou Emiya's actions.
And all these servants... she'd seen their skills and classes, yet there was still no clue as to their identities.
It was bad enough that her own servant was an anomaly, and certainly not the mighty Heracles she'd been aiming for, but she could only handle so much confusion before she snapped.
Pushing all unnecessary thoughts about the war out of her head, she focused on her target.
Emiya Shirou did not know who she was. Of that, she was certain.
But why? Surely Kiritsugu would have warned him about the Einzburns. But he hadn't reacted at all to her name.
Maybe it was just an act, but if that weren't confusing enough he'd then stepped in to stop the Tohsaka heir, his ally in the fight, from striking her.
Sure, there was a chance Berserker could have done so himself, but with two servants bearing down on him like that, there was a chance that neither of them would have survived, which was very much in Shirou's favor in the war.
Yet he'd stopped her.
Halting, Ilya snarled. She wanted to break something. Her big brother wasn't turning out to be a very satisfying target for her vengeance.
Dealing with him could wait till later, when she had a clear head.
"Leysritt." She barked at her maid, "I'm going out. Berserker, let's go."
If the maid had intended any objection to Ilya's behavior, her voice was immediately drowned out by the feral growl and resounding bang of Berserker materializing and slamming the door open, master and servant marching out into the daylight.
True Name - **************
Alignment - Chaotic Evil
Strength - A
Endurance - A
Agility - A
Mana - A+
Luck - A+
Mad Enhancement - C~A (variable)
Monstrous Strength - C~A
Redacted/Mana Beam - A+ Anti Fortress
Redacted/Crimson Cloak - C~A
(Note: Most of Berserker's skills are variable, and are directly proportional to how much power he is drawing on at any one time. Drawing on more prana results in an increase in Mad Enhancement, and thus an increase in other effected skills.)
(I was actually going to restrict the themes to the series of characters that have already been revealed... but seeing as how anyone who searched for these themes is probably just as likely to either a) already know who's who, b) have searched who's who, or c) not know the significance anyway, I changed my mind. That gives me a much broader pool to draw from. Enjoy.)
~Explanations~ Bleach OST - Nothing Can be Explained (instrumental)
~Erza interrupts~ Fairy Tail OST - Inishie no Mahou
~Archer's analysis~ Bleach OST - Soundscape to Ardor
~Moving on~ Fate OST - Eien no Toga
~Wake-up call~ Bleach OST - Oh so Tired
~Good Morning... Sort of~ Bleach OST - Head in the Clouds
~Chaos~ Bleach OST - Ditty for Daddy
~Training~ Fairy Tail OST - Slow Theme
~Seething White~ Fate Zero OST - The Berserker