Disclaimer: Fate/Stay Night and all of its spin-offs and supplementary materials are properties of Type-Moon. I own nothing of it. This work is purely for personal enjoyment.
It was an unforgettable afternoon for one boy named Shirou Emiya.
It was the time where he, led by a sudden impulse of challenge, he ran on the schoolyard, trying to jump over a bar left unattended by irresponsible students.
Meanwhile, there was an unexplainable weight in his back which was also disturbingly hot. He might be a bit under weather that day.
Forget jumping the bar in his current condition, even in his best it would still very difficult. The bar was set too high for a middle school student like him to jump over it. Actually, judging by his height, it was pretty much impossible.
Yet, the boy tried to jump. The idea of doing the impossible suddenly seemed to be very appealing to him. Keep trying his best to not losing in spite of all odds are against him, doesn't that sound like something a hero would do?
A hero, which Kiritsugu Emiya once tried to become. An ideal which Shirou Emiya succeeded as his son.
He ran and jumped as high as he could. That uneasiness in his back felt like disappearing the moment he put my mind into that bar. If he couldn't even answer this challenge, then he didn't deserve to even try to become a hero.
And he failed. The bar fell from its props. He put it back, and he tried again. And he failed again.
He tried, and he failed. He tried, and he failed. He lost count as time passed by. Sun was on its way to the horizon.
And then, disaster commenced.
The moment he landed on his feet for God knows for the many times, his sense of balance was lost. He fell to his knees as the world spun around in his vision. His back hurt. Really, really hurt to the bones. He couldn't even scream since the command to do so failed to reach his mouth.
"I am going to die."
"I'm so stupid."
He realized that death was looming over him as his vision blurred out. He was going to die, alone with nobody to see. Died a worthless death, without accomplishing anything.
With those depressing thoughts, Shirou Emiya collapsed on the ground. Everything turn black at that instant.
Some moment had passed with Shirou being completely unable to move any part of his body. He was dying and couldn't do anything about it. In what he assumed to be his last moment, he thought that maybe that was the end of time he had borrowed ever since that great fire years ago.
Will another person save me, now?
A question popped out of the corner of his mind.
As if answering that question, a hope sparked out.
"Hey! What happened to you? Can you hear me?"
A girl's voice. Loud, but full of concern. A hand hesitantly touched Shirou's shoulder. Her hand.
"Oh, God! You are burning!" she exclaimed as she quickly pulled her hand back.
With the last bit of his strength, Shirou said: "Help."
After that, his consciousness was completely gone.
Heart of a Hero
A Fate/Stay Night fanfiction by Aqualian
Chapter 1: The Beginning of a Relationship
Slowly, the boy opened his eyes after two days of deep slumber. He was disoriented at first as his mind was in the border of dream and reality. He vaguely remembered the great fire surrounding him when he walked on his ruined hometown. Thick smoke choked his respiratory system. He didn't care any longer about keeping alive as rain started pouring down.
Oh, wait. It was years ago, he reminded himself.
His vision got clearer as his brain started to regain its function. A familiar white ceiling silently greeted his return from Morpheus' realm – a hospital?
And why was he naked? ...Still wearing his boxer, though.
He tried to turn his head to see his surrounding and quickly found out how hard it was for him to do it. Slight movements caused sharp pain to assault his back, making him winced. Still, he could deduce that he was not in a hospital by the interior of the room he was in. The room was small with only one door on his left and a small window refracting sunlight on the wall directly above him. Furnitures were minimalist at best with only the bed he currently lied on and a small table full of jars not unlike those found in traditional Chinese medic. The room belonged to someone who knew thaumaturgy.
When he tried to move his hands, Shirou found out that something would lightly stab his skin the moment he tried to move. There were needles. Needles were stuck within his skin, all the way to his muscles. Each joint was embedded with needle, so was his belly button, his shoulders, and his neck.
Afraid that he might disrupt some important healing process, Shirou chose to remain silent. He would wait for someone to come.
No longer than an hour he waited, the door of the room was opened, allowing a tall man to enter the room. The man was dressed in black priest clothing and had shoulder-length hair and eyes as empty in expression as a deep void hole.
"Ah, good morning, you've regained consciousness, I see."
No joy or any kind of emotion could be found in his voice, he only stated a fact he just saw. Chill crept up Shirou's back as the priest stared at him. Somewhat not willing to lose, Shirou stared back at the man, enduring his instinctive fear. The man smiled slightly in response as he walked towards him.
"Can you speak, young man?"
A husky growl was his answer. Two days sleeping made people's throat dried out, it seemed.
"My apologies, I'm afraid I cannot allow you to drink anything until this whole procedure is over. Then-"
"Shirou Emiya," the boy spoke in a hoarse voice. He disliked the fact that the priest currently looked down on him just dismissed his attempt to talk back as a demand for water to drink. "My name is Shirou Emiya."
The tall priest raised his eyebrows for a second before smiled wider than before. It sent shivers down Shirou's spine. He winced at the flashing pain.
"Don't be so tense, Shirou Emiya. You are currently undergoing treatment in Fuyuki church for your damaged nerves due to errors in your magic circuits' processing."
Despite the priest told him not to, Shirou couldn't help but tense up. The priest knew magic circuits term, which meant he was a practitioner, or at the very least knew the existence of magic. He couldn't be an ordinary man of church.
"Who are you?"
"I am Kirei Kotomine, a representative of the Holy Church and also a magus affiliated with the Second Owner of this land. You are currently undergoing treatment in my church."
"...Holy Church? Second Owner?"
"Don't you understand those terms? Aren't you a magus yourself?"
Shirou was silent, not knowing how to response despite actually knew the jargon. His father once told him to keep his practicing of magic craft to himself. Other magi would not approve his way of life where he learned magic for the benefit of living and not to reach the Spiral of Origin. Had those people found him, he wouldn't be able to live a normal life ever again.
His silence however, was enough for Kirei to deduce his circumstance.
"I see. Your magic is self-trained. Did you obtain knowledge of the art by chance? Who was responsible for it?"
Hesitantly, Shirou replied, "My father was a magus. He-I learned it secretly, without his consent."
It was surprising for Shirou himself that he was able to create such a lie so quickly. He quickly regretted it though, as Kirei Kotomine intently stared at him with his hollow eyes. The preacher knew that he was keeping a secret, Shirou could tell.
Yet, "Who is this father of yours?" for some reason, he chose to ignore it.
"He died a year ago. I started learning magic two years before his passing."
Despite Shirou not answering his question directly, Kirei was satisfied enough by it. He had learned enough clues from the boy that he was able to correctly deduce the magus' identity. "I'm sorry for your loss, then. May your father receive Lord's blessing and mercy," he said without any hint of either empathy or enmity.
The fact that he did nothing to hide his lack of sentiment unsettled Shirou even more.
The day passed by. Kirei had pulled all acupuncture needles out of Shirou's body and gave the boy a glass of water and a pair of clothes. Shirou hadn't said a word the whole time, only obediently did anything Kirei had instructed.
"This will be a disservice for you after what you have gone through, but considering how important this matter is, I need to address this as quickly as possible for your own sake. It is about your status as a magus, Shirou Emiya."
Despite already prepared himself for this inevitable matter, Shirou's heart still skipped a bit upon hearing it. Cold sweats began to form on his skin.
"In a spiritually strategic land like this city, a magus needs permission from the Second Owner to construct his workshop and practicing the art. The way you have been till now is falling within illegal act under Magic Confederation's rules."
That was the very same thing his father had warned him about. Magic Confederation is an institution that gathers magi and organizes them. Their main purpose is to preserve the secrecy of magic and improving it until they find the spiral of origin with no regard to the world at large. Definitely a people Shirou shouldn't have anything to do with.
"Then... what will happen to me?"
"Normally, a liaison officers from the Confederation will come to investigate. If your practice is contravening the rules, harsh measure might be taken. You will either taken custody until God-knows when, or killed."
"And I need to remind you that due to your own clumsiness, you collapsed two days ago because of malfunction in your circuits and prana depletion. If a normal doctor was to examine you, there is a probability of him to find some sort of oddity within you, endangering the basic concept of thaumaturgical practice: absolute secrecy from normal society."
Shirou's shoulders slumped as Kirei's words sunk in. His head was a mess of confusion and panic. He had screwed up a big time, and he doubted he would be able to fix things as they were now.
What about his school?
What about his life?
Seeing the boy he just treated back to health was about to cry, a smirk formed itself on Kirei's stoic face.
"But, you are quite lucky, Shirou Emiya. For the one who found you collapsing and brought you to me was the Second Owner herself who happens to be currently under my apprenticeship. She is also of the same age as you."
Shirou quickly looked up to Kirei, his eyes wide as he processed that information down in his brain.
"Does that mean she will be my... judge?"
"Hm, you are actually quite fast to pick it up. Yes, it means, your fate is within her hands. Whether you will be let free or not depends on your negotiation with her. Convince her to let you go, or have her take you as an apprentice. Though I suggest not picking the first choice, you may risk having your memories erased that way. But if it's what you actually want, I won't interfere."
"So... Where is she?" Shirou asked carefully.
"I called her half an hour ago, so I assume she will be here by-"
A loud squeaking sound like heavy thing on a floor being forcefully pushed resounded from outside the room. A few quick steps on the floor later, the voice of a girl loudly declared.
"Kireei! I'm here! Where are you?!"
"-now," Kirei finished his sentence accordingly. "Get ready for it, young man," he said to Shirou, still in that heavy tone of his. He then left the room, presumably to greet the Second Owner of Fuyuki City.
"Oh, man..." Shirou sighed heavily.
This chain of events was too sudden for Shirou who had been left alone and confused. Too many things needed consideration and planning he didn't know where to start. Being a smooth talker simply wasn't his virtue, since he didn't talk much with anyone other than his tenant. Oh, how he regretted many things today.
The only thing he sincerely hoped was that this Second Owner was a pleasant person.
That girl was of the same age and slightly shorter than him, yet no matter what, Shirou didn't dare to look at her straight in the eyes.
Firstly, those aquamarine eyes were now as sharp as dagger, glared at him accusingly although to be fair he was indeed the wrongdoer in this mess. Secondly, the girl, Rin Tohsaka was her name, was an incredibly attractive girl. Shirou feared that should he steal a look, he would unconsciously make an improper face which would anger her even more.
Furthermore, that scary priest was standing silently behind her like a guardian statue. His empty eyes stared down at Shirou, sent shivers in his spine any time they made eye contact.
But he must endure this mental torture. His fate was basically on the palm of the girl's hands. He absolutely mustn't screw this up.
"So, what is your name?" the girl asked coldly from her elegant sitting position. But as much coldness as she tried to fuse in her tone, her still shrilly voice made it hard for Shirou to take her seriously.
"Hmpf! It's Sh-Shirou E-Emiya, ...ma'am."
Rin's cheeks flushed red in an instant. Anger and embarrassment filled her mind as she snapped.
"Hey! Don't you know how serious this matter is?! And look at me when you are talking!"
Actually, her being all snippy put Shirou more at ease than before. Thus, he could now properly appraise the image of the Second Owner of Fuyuki City in his mind. She most possibly had just come back home from school, evident by her still wearing school uniform. And it was not the same school Shirou attended, which brought a question: why was she the one who found him?
"Tell me your name again; I couldn't hear you the last time."
Shirou breathed out before answering, "I am Shirou Emiya. It's nice to meet you, Tohsaka-san. I am very grateful of you for saving my life the other day. I am very indebted to you and I will do any way I can to repay it."
Rin Tohsaka's facial expression relaxed a bit. It lifted up Shirou's hope.
"Now explain to me everything about you and your family's history. Explain how you people ended up in my territory and decided to keep quiet about it!"
It sunk his hope down. Ugh, the biggest obstacle already?
"Well... to be honest, I don't know anything about Emiya family's history since I am only a foster child. What my dad- I mean, what I secretly learned from my dad is very basic. And... I've decided myself to be a mere magic user... not... a... magus..."
The reason there were pauses in Shirou's sentence was that Rin's brows furrowed deeper and deeper the more word he let out.
"And you thought it was alright for a 'mere magic user' to let their magic circuits stayed open for a whole day? In public?" that coldness was back in her voice, this time it was genuine tranquil anger. It was no less silly than before, but Shirou didn't react to it by laughing.
"Huh?" he was dumbfounded instead. "Magic circuits?"
"Yes! You kept leaking out prana that whole afternoon! Yet, you kept stressing yourself by doing high-jumps! Are you an idiot?! Did you really know what you were doing?!"
Not that he didn't find being called an idiot offensive, it was just that Shirou's mind focus was currently jumbled. "I have magic circuits? Wait, did you watch me jumping?"
Has been remained silence since their conversation started, Kirei Kotomine suddenly interrupted. His big hand held Rin's small shoulder, stopping her from throwing out her tirade.
"Excuse me, Rin. I believe this is partially my fault, so I will explain here."
"It seemed some kind of malpractice in his making of temporary circuits accidentally force-opened his dormant circuits in addition mild nerves damage. To-"
"You didn't tell me anything about that!"
Silence ensued as that retort turned out louder than one would expect. Rin and Shirou looked at each other awkwardly as they realized that they both had just shouted out an exactly same sentence at the same time. Now they blushed as they tried to avert their eyes from meeting.
Kirei coughed to get the teens paid him attention before continuing, his attention mainly directed toward Shirou. "Your pain was caused by minor necrosis, but your cause of collapsing was prana depletion of high quantity in sudden time. There are originally twenty-seven dormant magic circuits inside you, but for a better chance of saving your nerves, I had to disable two of them. You'd be unable to walk properly and your left hand will lose its strength if I left them intact."
The priest's gaze then shifted to a clearly annoyed Rin Tohsaka. "And I would have told you this in detail had a certain prideful student of mine not rushed things so much." His smirk was wide the whole time he said that.
"Hmph!" Rin turned her face away from her guardian. As her eyes were back to Shirou, however, they turned serious. "But it really is a waste. You could have become slightly better than average. Just what kind of training have you been doing? You didn't even know that you have magic circuits before opening it!"
"Well, yeah." Shirou looked away uncomfortably. He had a bad feeling about saying the truth, but he had no reason to lie either. "Since I never knew that I have those ... I always make temporary circuits to do magic. It rarely succeeds though ... maybe, I really lack in talent, huh?"
Had he not realized how astonished Rin looked, Shirou would have added a dry laugh at the end. Behind the girl, Kirei Kotomine sighed quietly.
"Temporary circuits?" a rhetorical question from Rin.
"Using a part of your body as an alternative to do magic circuits' purpose of channeling prana. It can be blood vessels or nerves. Actually, it is a method to switch open a circuit, not something you do every time you need to use magic," Kirei helpfully explained.
Shirou was stunned as he realized the meaning of it. "I've been wrong all along?" he mumbled.
"That's your own fault for trying to do something you don't know anything about," said Rin coldly. "Your father must have been really inept magus to have a fool like you found out his secrets."
"Hey! Don't insult my father! It's my fault alone!"
"Rin, don't speak ill of the dead," Kirei admonished his apprentice.
Rin didn't seem to care.
That being the first time Rin called him by name, Shirou was a bit startled. "Why what?"
"Why do you need to learn magic? What do you want to accomplish by learning it?"
Was this a test? Shirou asked himself in mind. Still a bit annoyed by Rin's apathy, he decided to make a boast out of his honest and purest desire.
"I want to be a hero. That's why I need more power and knowledge so that I can do everything to uphold justice for everyone!"
Silence once again enveloped the atmosphere before Rin blurted out her thought of Shirou's reasoning.
"...That's … stupid."
Rin Tohsaka was once again left astounded by the boy, Shirou Emiya's, action. How could someone say such ridiculous thing with utter seriousness? But then again, she had seen how much this boy was willing to do to accomplish something. That jumping bar, his damaged circuits... all of those efforts done by this novice were on the level she would call crazy.
He shouldn't have tried to jump a bar that tall in the first place. It had been simply impossible for a kid his height to be able to leap over it. But he had kept trying. And trying. And trying again.
He should have just given up learning magic once he realized (albeit falsely) that he had no talent, she knew how painful making magic circuits for the first time was. Yet, he kept that foolishly dangerous method for years. Despite his self-admittedly constant failures, he just kept trying.
For the heiress of Tohsaka's logic, the existence of Shirou Emiya was completely alien.
She couldn't stand that. To have something she couldn't comprehend. She hated that.
"Shirou Emiya. You are too dangerous to be set free. You lack even the most basic knowledge, you are reckless in doing pretty much anything, and your stupidly innocent look pisses me off. It will be very irresponsible for the administrator of this land to just let you do as you please."
Shirou on the other hand was silent. Rin Tohsaka's judgement didn't make him flinch like he had expected before. He was determined instead to keep his stance. He would not let this haughty girl did as she pleased with his life. Owing his life to her would be paid by him as an equal person, not as someone below her in any term of hierarchy.
He would respect Tohsaka as a person who had saved his life, but he would not let her messing with his life and ideal. He had firmly decided it.
Meanwhile, the Second Owner finally dropped her hammer as she stood from her couch. She pointed her index finger to Shirou's face, forcing the boy to pull his head back in surprise.
"Therefore, starting from now, you will be my servant! I had saved your life, so becoming my follower for life is the only payment I accept! Instead, you are actually very blessed! I don't want to hear any objection! Got it?!"
"What?" Shirou was rendered speechless. Even Kirei had his mouth opened in surprise.
"You don't understand? Then I will make it so your thick head can understand it clearly! Shirou Emiya, starting from now, you are Rin Tohsaka's servant for life! And I'll teach you what a real magic is while we are at it!"
That afternoon, Shirou Emiya's life changed forever. To where this sharply turning flow of fate would bring him, Shirou didn't have the slightest idea.
"This is ... strange," Shirou said absent-mindedly as he watched the late afternoon scenery passed by through the window. He was in a car now, being taken home.
Beside him, concentrating on the road behind the steering wheel, Kirei Kotomine inquired in a deep tone. "What is strange?"
"Well, strange is not exactly how to put it, but ... Tohsaka-san is letting me go home."
"Did you expect her to lock you down in a basement?"
Was that the priest's attempt at humor? He sounded like it was completely plausible, though. Shirou shuddered at that thought.
"No, not that extreme. I just never expected a magus treating me so ... kindly."
Forcing him to be her servant might be ridiculously unkind of her, but promising to teach him magic was too contradictory. What was the point? Not that he would prefer it this way, but why hadn't she made him her slave and only her slave?
And the fact that he gained her favor without him realizing it made him felt an unexplainable uneasiness. It was ... really strange.
"I don't know, but then again, you do have potential. It's safe to assume that no magus is willing to not exploit it."
"You are a magus yourself, aren't you, Kotomine-san?"
"I am. But I've been affiliated with Tohsaka family for more than ten years. Rin's father was my teacher and before his death, he gave me responsibility to teach his daughter. I have no interest in the way of magical craft, I merely do my duty."
Shirou's eyes widened slightly. "She also has no father..."
"Hmm, now that you mention it, it is possible that something about your backstory makes her sympathizing about you. Yes, this might be her way of showing her soft side. She is just a girl, after all."
Again, Kirei's lack of emotion in stating anything resembling an opinion unnerved Shirou. Was it fondness he felt when he spoke about his student? Was it annoyance? Disappointment? Shirou couldn't tell. Encountering Kirei Kotomine was like facing a black void that showed nothing but truth.
But then again, it made sense if kindness being her motive was true.
Shirou just couldn't comprehend why that girl would be kind to him in the first place.
"This way, right?" Kirei asked as their car reached an intersection in Miyama District. Shirou nodded. A few turns later, they reached a wide Japanese-style household in which Shirou beckoned Kirei to stop the car.
"Nice house," Kirei commented, obviously an attempt of platitude.
"Thanks. Um... by the way, she really said that she would be here, right?" Shirou asked. Hesitation was evident in his expression.
For some reason, Kirei was quiet for a moment before confirming, "Yes, she did."
Shirou exhaled before reaching the front gate of the house he had left for two days without excuse. It was not locked. He entered the yard, Kirei followed him a few paces behind. The magus preacher looked around before muttering in understanding, "Bounded field..."
"Fuji-Nee! It's me! I am home!" he yelled out after he rang the bell on the front door.
Loud footfalls echoed from inside the house before the door was opened and a yellow blur shot out from it, enveloping Shirou in a tight hug. Even Kirei widened his eyes slightly at its speed.
"You are home! Shirou!" Fujimura Taiga, a young woman who acted as Shirou Emiya's guardian cried out in joy and relief. She then caressed Shirou's head longingly, rubbing her face on his hair like a feline.
"A-ah! Fuji-Nee! Stop! It's embarrassing! There is Kotomine-san here!"
Taiga stopped her childish act, yet she kept Shirou in her embrace as she softly sobbed.
"...Fuji-Nee? Are you crying?"
"Why? You don't need to."
"I need to! ...I'm glad to see you well. I... I thought you were in danger! I thought... I'd never see you again!"
"Oh..." Shirou said. "I see... I really make you worried..."
Taiga quickly pulled back, her tearful eyes stared right at Shirou's regretful pair. With a frown, she said loudly, "Of course I am worried! We've known each other for years! We are a family! You are like a little brother for me!"
Shirou was again rendered speechless for a moment before smiled softly. "Thank you, Fuji-Nee. I'm sorry for worrying you, but ... I am home."
"Yes, welcome back, Shirou."
They both hugged each other once more like any family would. At the spectacle before him, Kirei Kotomine could only watch with his lifeless gaze. Quietly, without knowing how he actually felt himself, he whispered, "Family ... huh?"
To be continued
Author's Note: This is my first ever published fanfiction, and this is an alternate reality (For Want of a Nail, in tvtropes term) story of Fate/Stay Night where Shirou become Rin's apprentice years before the Fifth Heaven's Feel commences. Updated irregularly. I've taken many liberties to canon and popular reiteration of it, but I hope you can still enjoy it. If you find this story appealing enough or having so many glaring flaws, feel free to review it.
And, you might have heard it for countless times, but English really is not my mother tongue. Hope you will kindly explain any mistake in structure, spelling, or diction if you find any. I'm doing this to improve my English too, after all. I've done my best to proofread this by myself, but of course, nobody is perfect. See ya!
On the next chapter:
"...Now switch it on!"
"This is not your ordinary self-defense training."
"I'm ready for it."
Chapter 2: Training Begins