Kiritsugu Emiya stared at the beautiful moon. Though the curse that plagued his body had robbed most of his vision, he could still make out the shining loveliness of the pale moonlight. It held the same ethereal beauty as his beloved wife, Irisviel. No matter how much of his vision was claimed by the darkness, Kiritsugu would always know this light.
"Dad," his adopted son asked, "is something wrong?"
"No, Shirou," he responded. "Just thinking of my wife."
"Your wife?" the boy asked in confusion. In the five years since Shirou had been adopted, his father had never mentioned having a wife. Sometimes Shirou heard the man talk in his sleep, half-delirious from his fever dreams. He would mumble what seemed to be a barely understandable apology to someone named Iri.
Shirou, contrary to popular belief, was not an idiot. He could tell that his father was getting worse. The twelve year old was scared that Kiritsugu didn't have much time left.
The former Magus Killer smiled fondly as memories filled his head. "Her name was Irisviel von Einzbern and I lost her in my quest to be a hero."
"You wanted to be a hero?" the redheaded boy asked, intrigued.
Kiritsugu nodded weakly. "I did. But being a hero's tough. Once you become an adult, you learn how hard it is to save everyone."
The boy smiled at his sick father. "Well, I'm still a kid, so if you're too old, I'll become a Hero of Justice in your place!"
He meant it too. Shirou had always admired his father for saving him. He knew that he should have died in that fire five years ago. It only seemed to right to he young boy that he dedicate himself to others. He wanted nothing more than to feel the joy he saw on his father's face when he pulled Shirou from the ashes of the Great Fuyuki Fire.
Kiritsugu wanted to say something, tell his son how impossible it was to save everyone and keep your ideals. But he couldn't. Shirou seemed so hopeful and happy. He couldn't take that away from the boy. Instead, he thought of all the good Shirou could try to do in his lifetime; it was only natural. All parents envision the amazing things their children could someday do.
Unfortunately, it was also natural for a parent to wonder what could go wrong. The Holy Grail War would never happen again, he'd seen to it himself. The explosive charges he'd placed along the city's leylines would destroy the Greater Grail system before the 60 years needed to recharge its mana. But if anything went wrong, Shirou could be caught unprepared. Kiritsugu prided himself as a man who was always prepared for the worst. Which meant it would hypocritical to not worry about this plan failing as well.
Shirou needed to know, no matter how unlikely another war was, the boy needed to know.
With a wheezing cough, Kiritsugu put his hand on his son's shoulder. "Shirou," he said, his voice growing weaker by the moment. "If you want to be a hero, then you might need to be prepared for a war someday."
"Huh?" was all the young magus could respond with.
"Someday, when you're older," he said. "You may need to participate in a war between mages and their Servants. If you want to be a true Hero, then you'll need to summon a Servant as well."
"How do I do that, Dad?" Shirou asked, worried. "I'm not a very good magus."
Kiritsugu smiled at Shirou and placed his palm against the boy's chest, feeling the strength and warmth of his pulse. "Shirou, you've got everything you need, right in here." He smiled at his son, his vision growing dark.
Shirou, touched by his father's encouragement nodded enthusiastically as placed his hand on Kiritsugu's. "I'll do it dad. You don't have to worry. I'll be the hero Fuyuki needs if a war happens."
"That's good, son," the Magus Killer smiled. He looked back up at the moon, which he could no longer see. "Your father's very tired, Shirou. I think I'll take a rest."
He lowered his head and closed his eyes, a smile on his face. The last thing the man would ever see was the look of hope and determination in his son's eyes as he inherited the man's ideals. Kiritsugu died, finally at peace.
Four years later, an interesting mental debate was being held in a certain castle in a frozen German forest.
Jubstacheit von Einzbern, the eighth head of the Noble Einzbern Family, sat in his grand workshop, deep in thought. The old man knew a Grail War was coming, he could feel it for years now. Illyasviel had been selected to be their representative in the rapidly approaching Fifth Grail War. The only question left was what Hero she should summon as her servant.
Their last two choices had failed them. Neither Angra Mainyu, the God of Darkness, nor the legendary King Arthur had been able to attain the Grail for the Einzberns.
Though perhaps in the last case, the problem was the Master, not the Servant. After all, most accounts they had gathered indicated that Saber had in fact been one of the last Servants standing before Kiritsugu betrayed them all.
Perhaps the King of the Britons would fare better under the control of a pawn Jubstacheit could control. After all, Ilya had more mana than any magus alive. A Saber under her command would be unbeatable.
The old man of winter smiled; he had an artifact to find.
Bazett Fraga McRemitz stared in a combination of confusion and awe at the sight before her. When the Irish magus received her Command Seals, her old acquaintance Kirei Kotomine recommended that she summon her servant as soon as possible and come meet him.
Without further ado, the young Enforcer performed the ritual without a catalyst. Her family was descended from Celtic Divinity, there was no catalyst better than the blood in her veins. Her goal had been to summon her hero and idol, Cú Chulainn so she could save him from the tragedy that was his legend.
Standing before her was a tall, red-eyed, wild looking man with dark blue hair pulled back into a ponytail. He wore tight, blue leathery armor, but something seemed off about the way he wore it. It seemed that the outfit was designed to be as aerodynamic as possible, yet the Servant's muscles seemed to twitch beneath the fabric in a strained manner, as if eager to explode in a wild frenzy of motion.
The Servant locked eyes with her, a barely contained sense of chaos and excitement in his crimson eyes. He flashed a positively feral smile as he said in a growling voice, "Servant Berserker. Are you my Master?"
Bazett smiled. She had summoned her beloved Cú Chulainn. There was no way she could lose now.
If only the poor woman knew what she had just gotten herself into.
Kirei Kotomine was not happy. Granted, this was hardly a new thing for the "Fake Priest" considering the bulk of his life had been spent miserable and empty. Though that had changed ten years ago when he discovered the joy that could be had by making others as miserable as he was.
But tonight, the priest was not a happy man. Nor was he a particularly uninjured man for that matter.
His attempt at killing Bazett had not gone as planned. The moment Kirei began materializing his Black Keys, Bazett's Berserker materialized from his astral form and attacked. It was all he could do to survive long enough for the Irishwoman to call off her Servant. Thankfully the foolishly trusting girl hadn't seen him do anything to provoke Berserker and thus blamed it on the mild Mad Enhancement placed upon her Servant. Thus Kotomine left the girl alive, her trust in him mostly intact.
Kirei limped back to his parish, his badly broken arm in a sling and probably suffering from a concussion. He entered his private study in the back where the glorious form of a man in golden armor stood, looking at him expectantly.
"I'll take it things didn't go well," said Gilgamesh, the legendary King of Heroes, in a condescending and bored tone. The arrogant, mocking smirk he gave the priest would have frustrated anyone but Kotomine, who was so empty inside that insults and condescension had little to no effect on the man.
"It seems we will need a different Servant if we wish to proceed," the priest said, straightening himself as he addressed the golden king.
Gilgamesh sighed, already somewhat disappointed at how quickly the priest's plan was unraveling. "Fine," the former servant said with a bored sigh, "I shall help you, this time."
Kirei smiled. There were still other Masters he could exploit and steal from. Being the moderator of the Holy Grail War had its benefits after all.
Shirou Emiya stared in wonder at the sight before his eyes. On the school grounds, two men battled at speeds unheard of. To say he could see the men would be a bit of an exaggeration, since they appeared to be nothing more than a blur of red and black clashing with a blur of purple.
Shirou, not wanting to die, tried to slowly back away before these monstrous warriors noticed him effectively spying on their battle. Unfortunately, his foot took that wonderful opportunity to crush a twig with a loud snap.
The combatants stopped, giving the boy his first clear look at the two men. One was a tall, tanned man clad in black and red armor. The other was an man dressed in an elegant purple samurai-like garb. The warriors stared at him with witheringly intense gazes. Under the pressure of those stares, Shirou did what any Hero of Justice would. He turned and ran with everything he had.
It was not enough. After only about a minute, a purple clad samurai appeared in front of the high school student. He held an incredibly long, beautiful katana in his hands.
"Sorry," the samurai said with a polite smile. "But this war is to have no witnesses."
Before Shirou could even react, the young magus had been sliced across the chest by the man in purple. His vision grew dark as his assassin vanished into thin air.
Ilyasviel von Einzbern frowned. The homunculus had been living in her family's secret Japanese castle for nearly a month now. Considering how excited she had been to be out from under her grandfather's watchful gaze for the first time in her life, Ilya was disappointed in how little of the foreign country she had seen so far.
Standing behind her, ever vigilant, was a blonde young woman in an armored blue dress. In her hands was an ornate silvery lance that gleamed in the moonlight.
"Lancer," Ilya sighed, "what is it, now?"
Lancer straightened herself as she addressed her diminutive Master. "Master, I know you want to explore, but it far too dangerous."
Ilya had heard this speech dozens of times over the past month. "Please get to the point," she said with some annoyance. She was not happy with Lancer. Neither was her grandfather for that matter. It seemed that because of the artifact used to summon the knight, the Servant wound up as a Lancer instead of the Saber the family wanted.
"You could go exploring if you allowed me to go with you," Lancer stated simply. "The Servants are being summoned. It is only a matter of time until the war officially starts."
"I know," the white haired girl responded. "But I couldn't care less about the Grail. There's someone I want to meet first.
Lancer nodded reluctantly. It was her duty as a knight to help her Master, even if the girl wouldn't share her goals or thoughts with the Servant. But this was nothing new to Arthuria Pendragon. It was amazing how similar Ilya could be to her father.
Pain. That was the only thought going through Shirou Emiya's head as he entered his home. He had awoken on the ground, dazed, confused and feeling as if heart had been torn to shreds. A discarded gem lay on the ground near him when his eyes opened. The young magus pocketed it, intending to find its owner and return something so clearly valuable.
The words of his would-be killer echoed in Shirou's head.
'Sorry, but this war is to have no witnesses.'
Shirou knew this could be no ordinary war. As unlikely as it was it seemed, it was clear to Shirou that the war his father had spent his last breaths warning him about was finally happening. He had to do something to protect the thousands of non-magical citizens in Fuyuki City. How could he claim to be a Hero of Justice if he did nothing to stop a war happening in his own backyard.
Knowing he had to do something, but not knowing what, Shirou went the shed in his backyard where he kept his workshop as a magus. He stared at the incredibly limited number of supplies at his disposal, some old power-tools, a toolbox, a few objects he had tried to Reinforce, and a small collection of notes he had written about his attempts at Reinforcement and Structural Grasping.
Really, Shirou had no idea how to "summon a Servant" yet alone know what that even precisely meant. The teen knew that some skilled magi had various familiars under their control, but he had never heard of them being used for a war.
Shirou knew that he was a third rate magus at best, but a part of him had always hoped that if and when the time came, he'd know what to do. Kiritsugu had encouraged and believed in the boy and now he couldn't even figure out how to keep his city safe.
"How odd. It seems master was right, you are alive."
A voice behind the redheaded teen snapped him out of his thoughts. Thinking fast, Shirou grabbed the Reinforced crowbar off his workbench and spun around, deflecting what would have been a lethal sword strike.
The purple clad samurai smiled at him. "I'm impressed you blocked that. You may become a fine swordsman someday. Or at least you could have."
He slashed at Shirou, the force of the blow knocking the crowbar from his hands and slamming the teen into the wall.
'So, this is how it ends,' the teen thought as the samurai closed in on him. He was going to die without ever saving a single person or fulfilling his father's dying wish. 'No,' he thought. 'I can't die yet!'
In a fit of desperation, every magic circuit in the teen's body flared as the sword came down. Suddenly, a blinding light filled the room. Shirou clutched his hand in pain as he felt the skin on the back of hand split open and start to bleed.
One of the truly interesting things about Shirou that neither he nor his attacker knew was that he did indeed have everything he needed inside himself to summon a servant. The entirety of his magecraft was focused around swords. They were a part of his very soul. Even within his body itself, was a potential summoning catalyst; it too was sword related. If only the hero associated with the artifact hadn't already been summoned. As if sensing the call of the artifact within Shirou's body, but unable to answer it, the Holy Grail responded by pulling a similar hero from the Legendary Throne of Heroes instead.
When the light cleared, a beautiful blonde girl in a red and white military style dress stood in the fading light of a summoning circle. In her hand was an oddly shaped, overly-large dark crimson sword. Shirou and the samurai stared at the girl in confusion, too stunned by the sudden change of events to move.
The blonde opened her bright green eyes and locked gazes with the cornered magus. She smiled haughtily at Shirou and said "It seems I shall be granting you the privilege of being my Master."
Somehow, Shirou knew his life would never be the same.