The S.S. Uzume sailed across the metaphorical waters of the forums, it being the first ship of the new created Satire Swift Fleet to brave this sea. The grizzled sea captain (because it's impossible to find one of the non-grizzled variety) stared off the bow of the ship, towards the choppy waters of their destination. The Shipping Sea.
The first mate always found this practice of his superior odd, mostly because his right eye was covered with an eye patch, and his left was made of glass. Honestly, he wasn't sure how the captain made it around the ship in the first place. It was probably some secret know to all grizzled sea captains.
"Do you see it, lad?" the captain asked. "There lies our first true battle."
Resisting the urge to ask if the captain could see anything, the first mate instead asked "Captain, exactly why are we doing this? Satire Swift's main export is hilarity, along with some drama on the side when he's in the mood. Why did he feel the need to make a Shipping omake?"
The captain whirled on his first mate with a grimace on his face. "Damn it boy, haven't you been paying attention? The world is clamoring for a good Shirou/Uzume omake, and after the incredibly depressing (if well written) one, Satire decide it was up to him."
"But Gabriel Blessing already made a happy one. It was pretty good, too."
The captain dismissively waved his hand. "Bah, Satire had already promised he would do so. And Satire Swift always delivers!"
"What about that time he failed to deliver for the Badass category of the Olympiads?"
"Doesn't count! Nobody delivered anything for that!" The captain shouted angrily. He calmed down a bit before continuing. "Anyway, you shouldn't worry about it. This will be one little omake and then he's back to his usual thing of coming up with clever little ideas and then trying desperately to figure out how to make them into a narrative."
The first mate looked off to the side nervously. "Actually, there's going to be a few installments."
"What? I thought this was supposed to be a one-shot!"
"He did too, sir. Unfortunately, he remembered that the reason he doesn't like most shipping fics is that they fail to setup any meaningful interaction, history, or chemistry between the characters, instead just throwing them together because the author has already justified it in their mind. As such, he feels compelled to do the necessary setup to make the pairing work."
The captain gave him a flat look. "He is aware that this is just an omake and most people won't care in the slightest, isn't he?"
"He is, sir. However, he can't help himself."
The captain growled in frustration. "Damn it man! People don't want to waste time with that! They want to vicariously live through this boy for whatever girl they have a thing for (possible several at once) and they want to do it now!"
The first mate gave a frown of his own. "That's a dangerous path, sir. In fact, I think that's how the Emiya Clan came into existence."
The captain paused for a moment before sagging his shoulders. "Aye, maybe your right." He looked back out to the meta-fictional water. "Well, no time to worry about it now. We're almost at the Zone of Engagement. Get ready for battle, and raise the mizenmast!"
The first mate face palmed. "Sir, I keep telling you, the metaphor for this vessel is a twentieth century warship. We don't have a mizenmast, and furthermore, raising it is not something you do when you're about to go into battle."
The captain glared at the first mate (an impressive feat considering that he had no functioning eyes) and said "Then build a mizenmast, raise it, and find some way to make it useful in battle!"
The first mate was about to respond before thinking better of it, choosing to walk away and trying to figure out how to follow his captain's inane command.
The captain smiled to himself, and turned back to the sea. "Now then," he said to himself and the ship crossed that line between written and unwritten. "Battle stations!"
Uzume gave a brief sigh as she stepped over the threshold of the Izumo House before she announced "I'm back!" She had just gotten back from seeing Chiho is the hospital and would normally be in a good mood, but unfortunately things had just become rather complicated for the cloth Sekirei. The man who runs the hospital and in effect controls Chiho's treatment had recently become an Ashikabi himself, and had somehow learned of her relationship with the girl. That in itself would be bad enough, but the man (named Higa Izumi) had causally remarked to Uzume that his company was the only one that could treat Chiho and it would be a shame if he found himself unable to kept giving the young woman her treatment. After much useless threatening and yelling, he made it clear that he expected Uzume's services in the future.
Uzume bit her lip as she walked further into the house, wracking her brain trying to think of a way out of this. She briefly considered asking Mastsu, as the perverted hacker did owe her a favor for helping her sneak away from MBI recently, but she quickly discarded the idea. Once the Sekirei Plan got completely underway, there was no grantee that Matsu wouldn't use her knowledge of Chiho against her, especially if her Ashikabi ordered her to do so. Miya was also out, given that the No. 1 had adopted a strict neutrality policy in regards to all things MBI.
I guess that just leaves me, Uzume thought to herself. Even if her list of friends was short, she had come to the conclusion that she couldn't rely on anyone else in the matter. Her fist clenched by her side resolutely. It doesn't matter what happens to me. I will do anything to keep Chiho safe, even if that means dealing with the devil.
The cloth Sekirei was snapped out of her musings when Miya approached her. "Ara, you're just in time for diner. I was beginning to worry that you'd be too lazy to show up on time." The innkeeper prodded with her usually crinkled eyes expression.
"Aw, don't be like that Miya," Uzume said before sniffing the air. "What'ca making? Cause it smells great!" She then blinked in surprise when she noticed that the landlady wasn't wearing her customary apron which she used for cooking, nor had she come from the kitchen where the delectable smell was coming from. "Wait, if you're already done, then why…"
Miya simply tilted her head to the side. "Ah, a new tenant arrived while you were out, and he was most adamant on being able to prepare dinner tonight."
"Whoa, my new housemate happens to be a chief?" Uzume asked. And a damn good one at that if the smell was anything to go by.
"Actually, I'm thinking of getting a job as a repairman." The new voice belonged to a tall, red headed young man, emerging from the kitchen with an apron on his front and plate of food in each hand. "Cooking is just something I like to do." The man proceeded to give Uzume a short bow. "My name is Shirou Emiya. Pleasure to meet you."
"Minato, why is it that she gets to sit next to you and I don't? As the legal wife-"
"Musubi is legal wife too!"
Uzume chucked to herself as she saw the familiar chaotic scene play out before her once again. Things sure had gotten lively at the inn ever since Minato and Musubi showed up. While the cloth Sekirei thought he was kinda wimpy, he somehow managed to wing a whole bunch of Sekirei in the few short weeks he had been here, including Matsu. Unfortunately for him, his aforementioned wimpyness caused him to be pretty much useless at reining his flock's shenanigans. Fortunately for Uzume, his flock's shenanigans were hilarious.
Still, she couldn't help but feel the smallest pang of loneliness as she watched the rest of her housemates interact. Uzume always made sure to keep herself at a distance from the rest of them, not only because she may have to fight them one day, but also she felt they would never understand the things she had done to keep Chiho safe. She certainly wasn't proud of the things Higa made her do, but so long it allowed her Ashikabi to live, Uzume was willing carry whatever burden necessary. And so, the cloth Sekirei held herself back, never really getting close to any of her housemates.
"Enjoying the meal?" Shirou asked as he sat down next to her.
"Umm!" She replied happily as she chewed the deliciously prepared fish in her mouth. "I've gotta say bro, your cooking is something else." She pointed to Minato, who was current trying to calm down Tsukiumi. "And with him around, I get dinner and a show!"
Shirou frowned at her delighted expression. "It's not very nice to make fun of him for this. It must be very hard for Minato to adjust to his new circumstances."
She gave the red head a knowing wink. "Speaking from experience, bro?"
Uzume giggled as he rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. She wasn't quite sure why, but she had taken to spending a lot more time with Shriou than anyone else in the household. It had started when he had come to her for help repairing some of his cloths that had gotten damaged while on the job as a repairman. He had heard from Homura that she was a talented seamstress, and so went to her to ask her to patch some things up. She was a little surprised at first, but when he promised to make her some dango in return, she quickly agreed as Shriou's treats were to die for. From there, the two of them just started talking, and found they enjoyed each other's company (even if Uzume liked to tease him for being so domestic).
Oddly enough, they had plenty of chances to interact as well considering how often he came to her with torn or singed clothing. Honestly, if she didn't know that Shirou wasn't the type of guy to do something so pathetic, she would have suspected that he was doing it himself just to talk to her. Of course, the real answer was that he was probably just really clumsy when working with sharp and electrical appliances. He had come back from his workshop more than once with a comically blackened face due to an explosion.
Nevertheless, she still would talk to him even if he wasn't accident prone. Uzume felt that he was the one person she didn't have to worry about being friends with. Shirou wasn't an Ashikabi (Though he still knew about the Sekirei Plan, partly because it's the worst kept secret inside Shin Tokyo, partly because Mubusi was terrible at keeping her mouth shut), so she didn't have to worry about needing to fight him later. Also, he tended to keep his distance from the rest of the household like her, which gave her an odd sort of feeling of kinship was the red head. Granted, it was somewhat strange to find common ground in being self imposed outsiders, but she couldn't shake the feeling that there was a reason for it. She sometime managed to catch a glimpse of him when he though no one was looking, a melancholic look crossing his face as he stared at nothing. She never asked about it, just like he never asked her why she kept herself apart from the rest, but just being there was enough.
She was snapped out of her musings by an unfortunately familiar phrase. "Ara ara. It seems I must remind you all that violence is forbidden in the Izumo House." With the landlady's words, that terrible, terrible mask appeared over her shoulder, surrounded by darkness that Uzume swore was materialized out of pure malice. Uzume shuddered at the sight along with the rest of the household.
Well, all except Shriou anyway, who had quickly taken out a notepad and started rapidly jotting down notes while muttering "Yes, kept going, just like that…" Uzume shook her head at his unsettling interest in Miya's technique. After all, who in their right mind sees something like… THAT and thinks he wants to learn how to do it.
After the horrifying vision faded, Miya said with an amused smile "Ah, Minato-kun, your girls are just so lively! Perhaps you should ask Emiya-kun for advice as he had dealt with this kind of thing."
"Miya-san," Shriou said with an embarrassed look. "I'm not that experienced…" he said with a grumble, to both Miya and Uzume's delight. When the red head had accidently brought up that he used to have two girlfriends before moving to the city, Uzume figured she had hit teasing gold considering how shy he could be about intimate things. However, it had quickly become clear that the subject of his two former girlfriends was not something he wanted to talk about. Ever. Uzume figured that things must have ended pretty badly between them, so she never pressed the issue. Still didn't stop her from getting the occasional jab in every now and then.
"Could you also teach Minato-san how to cook?" Musubi asked with stars in her eyes. The rather excitable girl had taken a real shine to Shirou's cooking.
"He can learn about cooking later," Tsukiumi declared. "Right now, we need to prepare for the Sekirei Plan!"
"Awww…" the girl in the shrine maiden outfit moaned, her dreams of delicious food left unfulfilled.
"She's right, Musubi-tan," Matsu said. "We need to start preparing for conflict. There are a number of mysterious characters in the Sekirei Plan that we need to look out for. For example, there's one called the Veiled Sekirei."
Uzume's body tensed ever so slightly at the mention of her alias, but no one seemed to notice, and Matsu continued. "From the information I've gathered, this underhanded Sekirei attacks without giving her name and number, keeps her face concealed, and is responsible for some of the more high level terminations. Also, she leaves as soon as she has beaten her opponent, not waiting for MBI to arrive."
"Hmm, how shameless." The water Sekirei declared. "How dare she sully the honor of the Sekirei Plan!"
Uzume looked down at her lap, trying to not let her frustration show with proud woman. She had half mind to tell the tsundere just where she could shove her previous Sekirei Plan. Uzume didn't give a damn about any of it so long as Chiho was safe. She didn't expect anyone to understand.
Which is why she was a little surprised when Shirou said "Maybe she thinks that winning the plan is more important than doing so fairly."
"What?" Tsukiumi replied indignantly. "Winning by such underhanded means would make the victory worthless! What's more important than battling with honor?"
"The chance to stay with her loved one." He replied quietly.
The whole table was silent for a moment while the table thought about what he said. Uzume looked at the young man in surprise, and felt the bond with him grow just a little bit more.
"W-well, it's still dishonorable." Tsukiumi finally said. "A Sekirei should announce her name and number before combat. Any that don't cannot have honorable intentions!"
"Well, I'm not sure about that…" Mastu said somewhat sheepishly. "The Veiled Sekirei isn't the only mysterious unknown in the game. There's also the Kensei Sekirei."
Homura frowned at this. "A sword saint? What does she do, go around and defend the weak?" He asked with some skepticism.
"'He', actually. And yes, he does." Mastsu responded to everyone's surprise. "The Kensei Sekirei has often been seen defending Ashikabi and Sekirei who don't want to be part of the plan from those that see them as easy prey. No one knows who he is because he disappears as quickly as he arrives and keeps completely covered. In any case, he has caused no terminations that I'm aware of, instead just driving the offending party of or letting the others escape."
"Why is he called the Kensei Sekirei?" Miya Asked with some interest.
"All information indicates that he is an extremely proficient sword user, frequently seen using a two sword style. Not only that, there are rumors that he can create blades out of nothing."
Homura gave the hacker flat look. "Sounds pretty farfetched to me."
Matsu shrugged. "Like I said, there's not much known about him. For all we know, he could be friendly."
Tsukiumi gave a snort. "It doesn't matter. Whatever his intentions, I shall defeat him!"
Uzume saw Minato give a sigh at this. "Tsukiumi-san…" he said pathetically. He turned to Shirou. "Ano, I don't suppose Miya-san was serious when she said you could help me with…" he trailed off.
Shirou, who had been silent for a while now, gave a groan of his own. "Ok, fine, I tell you what I can, but I really don't feel like an expert on this." His gaze turned to Musubi, who was looking at him with big hopeful eyes and her fists curled underneath her chin. Shirou sighed again. "And yes, I'll teach him how to cook, too."
"Yay! Thank you, Shriou-san!" Musbui cried out, and proceeded to jump at the red head in an effort to thank him. Unfortunately for him, Musubi's breasts had a scientifically unexplained attraction to young men's heads, so he only had a moment to blush in embarrassed panic before he soon found himself desperately lacking oxygen.
Uzume stared down at the now squirming Shriou, as small smile on her face as the chaos stared once again. All thing considered, he could be kinda boring, but he always surprised her when she least expected it. She should probably help him up before he suffocates.
Well, in a minute, anyway. This was pretty damn funny after all.