Homura took a deep breath of sea air as he looked back out towards Shin Tokyo from the ocean. The day was clear and bright (something he was most thankful for considering recent events), and it gave him an excellent view of the city as well as the bay's new island upon which he was standing. Well, it wasn't exactly new in the traditional sense, but Kouten certainly hadn't been a feature of the area until recently. When the thing had first started to come down on top of all of their heads', Homura had feared that it would destroy a large section of the city. Luckily enough Miya had regained control of it fast enough to guide the landmass towards the ocean, though after her own battle she could do little more than that. He had wondered why she hadn't brought back into orbit yet.
Then again, it probably had something to do with all of the helicopters and battleships that he could just make out towards the horizon.
"Honestly, you would think that they learned their lesson the last two times they tried this." He heard Kazehana say airily. He turned his head to glance at her along with the rest of the Disciplinary Squad (minus a member) standing nearby, staring solemnly at the encroaching army. Or was it several armies? His knowledge on the previous conflicts the Sekirei had been in prior to the Plan was shaky, but he vaguely recalled that the assaults had been an international effort. Regardless, he was more than a little annoyed at them for giving him and the rest of the city only a day of respite after their last ordeal before they tried to invade.
From right next to him, Tsukiumi let out a huff. "If they wish for a fight, then let them come. Not only are we stronger than ever, but now I will join the fight." Homura rolled his eyes a bit at that, but the woman had a point. It seemed that loss of limters was not temporary, and even now the man felt like he could take on the world. Combine that with the fact that before the armies of man had lost to just the Disciplinary Squad, well, he found himself surprisingly unworried.
Still, it wasn't like he particularly cared to get involved in another war. "Do they really have to do this? I feel like this going to be a huge waste of time and life." He said. Tsukiumi shot him a questioning glance, and he turned to her. "They are beneath us." She consider this moment before she nodded in agreement and relaxed slightly. Good know that that he was getting better at understanding how the woman thought.
Perched on top of a nearby rock, Matsu spoke as she fiddled with a portable satellite dish. "Well, they certainly seem to think so. And I guess giant city covering dome of darkness and orbital laser tend to require some investigation. From what I'm picking up their primary object is intelligence gathering for what happened and threat assessment. To be honest if they don't like what they find, they'll probably try to blow us all to bits rather than attempt capture again."
Homura let out a weary sigh as he felt his body tense. "I guess there's no helping it then. We're going to have to fight."
"Nope!" Matsu said cheerfully, and her wings of orange light spread wide from her back. "The last time this happened I was merely able to mess with their communications. Now? I have total control. Right now I have the whole fleet parked where it is awaiting further orders. Trust me, we can spin this however we want."
"Oh." Homura said in relief. "So, what are we going to tell them?"
"That, unfortunately, is a bit problematic." Homura turned his head to look the lone non-Sekirei with them, and found the boyish Dead Apostle Ancestor looking back from his seat on a different nearby rock. "As much as we would like to cover this up, we have an entire city of people who saw Kouten, the curtain of darkness, and the plague of Dead. With Matsu's help and a few magical suggestions in the right places, we're hoping to cast this as an attack from a terrorist cell, using technology and research gained from decades of infiltration in MBI to create everything."
Homura arched an eyebrow at the vampire, both at what he said and how the boy seemed perfectly comfortable in the day with only a thick umbrella over his head. "And you really think the public going to buy that?"
"Only for a little while." Merem admitted. "But we hope that it will be long enough to you all to prepare. While the secret of magic must be kept, I am afraid that we cannot do the same for yourselves. Sooner or later, the world will learn of the Sekirei."
The man let out a breath at that. "I suppose that was always inevitable, even before all of this vampire nonsense. It's not like the Sekirei Plan was the best kept secret in the city."
Mutsu grunted. "Alright, so we prepare. What do we do?"
"We need to present a strong, but approachable front." Matsu answered. "We need to let people know that we're here for peace and to integrate, not to conquer. I'm pretty sure that I can take care of that with footage of the battle showing us fighting off monsters. We also need to regain all of MBI's Sekirei data which Minaka shot into orbit." The woman started to grumble in irritation. "I know he was trying to keep it safe, but we need it if we have any hope of bringing back the terminated."
Homura felt a bit morose at being reminded of that. Though many Sekirei died over the course of the Plan and in the battle, there was still about two dozen or so terminated, that may be able to be brought back. Even Karasuba, he thought sourly. The woman's body had been found after Kouten fell, and though she was in bad shape it was possible to bring her back if they could the others. That said, there was a good chance that Miya could bring them all back with Kouten, but no one was quite sure what would happen to them, if they would be the same people. Takami and the remaining MBI employees wanted to see if they could do it their way first, but it was sounding like they wouldn't have a choice.
"Not to mention the more supernatural elements in the world." Merem added. "The Church may declare you a protected species, but there are plenty of things out there that don't listen to us, as I think has just been proven. As well, Magi are not known for their scruples, and some may find you too tempting a target to resist. The Sekirei must have a position of strength in the supernatural world as well."
Matsu hummed. "Shirou will probably be a lot of help in that regard, but he's… busy right now." Homura almost didn't notice the small hitch in her voice, but he knew why it was there. Shirou had only seen Matsu briefly after the fight was over, after which he went to rest. And Homura knew that Nero, Rin, and Sakura had followed after him while Matsu had work to do. He knew the poor woman had to find it a small, painful reminder of her current status with her Ashikabi. Kazehana knew it as well, and she moved in to put a comforting hand on Matsu's shoulder. The two shared a small, solidarity smile.
Still, Homura bit back a curse as he realized that his fight wasn't over yet. He glanced over at Miya. "Well, at least we'll know we'll have the strength part don't with you leading from the front."
The woman didn't respond at first, continuing to look out over the waters. To be honest she hadn't really said much of anything since it ended since she learned of Blackmore's death. He had thought she would have flown into a rage at having not been the one to end him, but she had been silent. The look of intensity and fury she had carried was gone, and in its place as she walked past the bodies of the fallen was something… else. Homura wasn't sure what to make of it.
He certainly wasn't expecting what she said when she finally spoke. "No."
Homura blinked. "Wait, what?"
Miya sighed as she gazed out over the water. "I… don't feel that I am best suited to lead my people anymore. Perhaps I was before, but now…" she paused before continuing. "The Sekirei need something other than a figure of power to lead them if we are to survive. The first thing I did upon reasserting my authority was to order my people to war out of rage."
"Had to be done." Mutsu said with a shrug. "Wouldn't have won without everyone. Plus they had to learn to fight for their own survival."
Miya shifted. "Perhaps, but that's not why I made that order. I didn't care if every single one of them died so long I could make Blackmore pay for what he had done. I… I think it best if I step down as leader of the Sekirei."
"What?" Homura said in shock, the idea almost unthinkable to him. "But… if you're not going to lead us then…" He trailed off as he looked at Matsu.
However, the woman shook her head. "Nah, I'm not really the leading type. I'm more of a 'power behind the throne' kind of woman!" She said before she started giggling.
Miya ignored her before she continued. "It will have to be someone with certain qualities. Someone who has always looked out for and protected the Sekirei. Someone that has their respect and they'll listen to. Someone that has shown them great power in battle."
"Alright, but who's that?" Homura asked.
Miya finally turned around to look at him fully, a flat expression on her face. It took Homura several long seconds for it to finally click. "M-Me?!" He said incredulously. "What- but- I can't-I don't know how to lead!"
"I am sure you'll do at least as well as I did." Miya said, the ghost of a smile crossing her lips.
"But, but…" Homura stammered, trying to explain why he was so unqualified for the position. "I'm not Sekirei leader material! We've always followed you because it's natural for us to follow the strongest! Not to mention the fact that they're not used to being led by a male!"
Miya gave him a look he couldn't decipher before her expression turned thoughtful and she let out a hum. "Hmm, I suppose you have a point. In spite of our small number we do have something akin to cultural norms, and having the strongest in charge is one of them. And the… gender preference is something to consider. Why, you can't even be mistaken for a woman like you use to."
"It wasn't that bad…" Homura grumbled.
"Yes it was." Miya said with a smirk before she continued. "But as I was saying, as the Sekirei may be reluctant to follow one such as you, you will need a partner to… legitimize your rule. You will need the Strongest Sekirei."
Tsukiumi scoffed. "I don't know who you have in mind, but the Strongest Sekirei is-" she cut herself off as she noticed a look equally as flat as the one she had given Homura pointed in her direction. "Oh." She said weakly.
Miya walked over to the two of the as she addressed the water Sekirei. "Don't think this is just because of your power, though it may seem that way to the others. I… was consumed by my need for vengeance, to the point where I didn't care about anything else. You on the other hand turned away from your revenge to come to the aid of your sisters. That was strength I did not have."
She reached the two of them and took Tsukiumi's hand. "Congratulations, Strongest." She took Homura's hand. "Congratulations, Guardian." She joined their hands together. "I always stood alone when I ruled, but you will not suffer that fate. Together, you will lead the Sekirei to their future."
The two of them looked at the 01, stunned at what had just happened. Then Homura coughed awkwardly. "Ah, Miya, when you say 'together', it sounds like you mean-"
"Homura, it's obvious." She interrupted, a small smirk creeping up on her face.
"Matsu-tan was honestly wondering how it was taking you guys so long to figure it out and hook up." Matsu said with a giggle.
"A love between two, whose society would never had accepted it. Kaaai, so forbidden!" Kazehana said as she cradled her face.
"I've know you guys for, like, 13 hours total and even I could see it from a mile away." Mutsu remarked dryly.
Homura felt himself blush violently, and from the way Tsukiumi shifted next to him he could tell she was too without even looking. He decided to change the topic. "But… what about you?" He asked Miya. "What are you doing to do?"
The woman turned and walked away from them, and Homura could detect a hint of sadness in her tone as she said "I had originally thought that the source of all of Earth's legends had come from our Sekirei brethren who had been active hundreds of years ago, but it's clear now that's not the case. In truth, MBI doesn't know how many of the other ships survived or activated." She took a breath. "Since… there is now nothing left for me in this city, I'm going journey across this world to see if I can find these lost ships, if for no other reason than to confirm their demise. But, if fate is with us, perhaps I can do my part for our species and find a few more of our sisters still sleeping."
"And I am coming with." Merem said cheerfully as he hopped down off of his perch. "A chance to revitalize an alien species, with who knows how many technological wonders lying in wait? I wouldn't miss this for anything."
Miya gave the boy a small smile as she returned her gaze to the distance. As Homura looked back out at the open waters and all of the ships amassed, he felt a sudden nervousness and the weight of responsibility on his shoulder. Then with a start he realized that Tsukiumi was looking at him, a resolute expression on her face. He looked back at her, and as their fingers intertwined a smile crossed his face as he nodded.
It was a new world, but he wasn't going to face it alone.
I blinked a few times upon waking and proceeded to sit up, stretching and yawning as I did so. Some unhappy murmurings and three sets of grabby hands quickly brought me back down to the futon again, and I found myself lying next to my sleeping...
Oh right, I thought to myself as my gaze shifted between Nero, Sakura, and Rin, all three of which were cuddled up in their sleep wear next to me. I… am going to have to deal with this now, aren't I?
Given everything that had happened and how exhausted I was when I finally got to bed it was no surprise that I hadn't noticed those three piling on top of me. Or how it felt so damn great feeling their body heat replenish my own. If this was going to become a common occurrence I was quickly going to lose both the ability and the desire to get out of bed in the morning.
That said, I was thinking about how to deal with a more long term issue than getting out of bed. Namely, now that the city was finally safe, I had to untangle the mess that was my feelings for Rin and Sakura, and how I was going to deal with it. I gave it a few moments of though before I decided to deal with the short term problem first- getting up.
It was looking like it was going to be even more difficult than normal, with Sakura latched onto my right side and Nero pretty much in top of me. Fortunately, I had a moment of brilliance, and after a few minutes of some very careful movement and positioning I managed to get the two women hugging each other and myself free. Rin was sleeping to my right, so I just had to carefully get over her and-
Unfortunately, I had not been as gentle as I thought with my previous movements, for as I moved over her Rin's eyes fluttered open and I froze, ending up with the two of us staring at each other from inches away.
"Uh…" I said softly.
"Umm…" She hummed as her cheeks started to turn red.
The two of us stayed like that for a moment longer before we moved, our lips meeting in a kiss. I don't know which one of us started it, but given how her hand griped the back of my head and how my hand found its way to her waist, neither of us cared. We stayed like that for several long seconds before we finally broke apart, our eyes locked.
Then Rin made a face. "Ah, damn it."
I let out something that was partway between a sigh and a snort, lowering myself back down so that I was laying on her other side. "So, I guess this is a thing now..." I said.
Rin was silent for a long moment, though if anything she looked a little annoyed as she stared at the ceiling. Finally, she said "Why do you get to have the harem?"
I blinked. "What?"
She rolled over to look at me. "I'm the beautiful, charming and talented magus from a prestigious family. If one of us should get multiple lovers it should be me."
I chuckled at that. "It is a cruel and unfair world. Also, it's not my fault that everyone you met in London is a dick."
She rolled her eyes at that, but when she spoke again her tone was soft. "I… wish I knew how deal with what I'm feeling. I don't know if it's real, or it's just because I've never known anyone else that can make me feel the way you do."
I reached out my hand and cradled her face. "It's real for me." I said. "If you don't want it… or you find someone else… I'll understand, but right now I want you here with me."
She blushed again as her hand reached up to touch mine. "I don't know… how would this even work? Would we take turns?"
"Eh, Nero's really more of a 'everyone in the pile' kind of woman, and I've picked up a few things from her." I remarked.
Rin looked at me flatly before she sighed and sat up, folding her arms in front of her chest. "You clearly have no idea what you're doing. This is going to be mess and I can't believe you're getting my sister involved in." She took a breath before she said "Thus, I shall have to be around as the guiding force of wisdom for this nonsense. Love is a battle ground as they say, and I intend to win!"
I… had no idea what she was talking about, but it looked like she was justifying it to herself, so I assumed that was a yes. A smile split my face as I said "Glad to hear it, but I think you may have made a bit of a tactical error there."
"Oh, and what could that possibly be?" She said as she looked down at me imperiously.
"You gained the attention of a sleepy Nero." I said, pointing behind her.
"Eh?" She turned just in time to see my wife, her eyes half lidded and her arms wide, come crashing down on her on her with a sleepy 'fuuuu'. It was too late for her to get away, and Rin gave an indignant yelp as she quickly found herself ensnared as Nero's new teddy bear.
A warm smile crossed my face as I watched, but I was quickly distracted by a knock at the door to the hotel room. I frowned as got up and walked to the door, wondering who it would be. Only the Church knew I was here, and they wouldn't disturb me unless it was important. I slid the door open-
"Hello Shirou." The woman on the other side of the doorway said placidly.
I felt my eyebrow twitch. "Hello… Caren."
As always, my step-sister showed no reaction to my response other than her usual calm demeanor, her golden eyes never looking anywhere other than my own. "It is good to see you, dear brother." She swept her long grey hair away from her face as she leaned to the side to peer past me. "Ah, I see that you are once again indulging in sins of the flesh outside the bonds of your marriage. I had hoped that you would have found the strength to be more faithful, but it seems I have more work ahead of me to fix your sinful ways."
I pinched the bridge of my nose. She can clearly see Nero, she's just doing it to needle me, I thought wearily. "What are you doing here?" I said, ignoring her last statement.
"Why congratulating you on a job well done." She said with a smile. "You have killed one of the Dead Apostle Ancestors, a feat that would surly make you one of the Burial Agency proper if the Church didn't already consider the other 7 members better than you. And you did it in a heavily urban area causing only a few hundred million dollars in collateral, doing far better than my expectations. I am proud of you Shirou."
As yes, I had forgotten what praise from my step-sister was like. I could stand to forget it again. "I meant what are you doing in this city." I managed to say.
"Managing things." She replied. "With everything that has happened there are a number of things that need to be done to prepare the Sekirei for integration. Forms need to signed, information and materials need to be moved, people need to be… persuaded. The Church has assigned me this task. And there is a lot of work for you to do as well."
I grunted, but it was plausible. While Caren was officially an Exorcist, people had noticed that she was a very… effective administrator. She would frequently get assigned to large, complicated jobs like this, and she was very good at getting people to do what she wanted. That said, I really didn't want to have to deal with things at the moment, so I said "Look, I'm kind beat, can we do this later?"
To my surprise, she merely hummed and said "If you find yourself too weak, then by all means gather your strength." She paused for a moment before she continued. "However, I would like to ask, how is your father doing? Your biological father."
I blinked, standing up straighter at the unexpected question. I wasn't sure what anyone else had told her (or just how she knew), but I said "He's… not in good condition. We managed to get him to a cryogenic pod and put him in stasis, but the damage is severe. And it's not just his injures. Whatever he did to augment himself seriously damaged him on a cellular level, resulting in the start of some tissue degeneration and cancer. Even worse is that the augmentation actually made him something not quite human, altering his soul and metaphysic. At this point I'm not even sure the doll-maker can help him."
I sighed. "Mom… Takami isn't giving up hope though. She's determined to find a way to save him."
Caren titled her head, "I see. Though I do wonder, why did you spare him?"
I was silent for a long moment as I looked back at her, trying to gauge my step-sister. Finally, I replied "Because I don't frequently meet men who truly regret what they've done. I've killed plenty monsters in my life… and Minaka was not a monster. Just a man that made a mistake and paid everything to fix it."
Caren didn't say anything for a long moment, her eyes staring through me as if she was trying to see my soul. Finally, the hint of a smile crossed her face before she turned and started to walk away. "Find me when you're ready to get to work. There is much to be done, and I will be ready to absolve you of your sins for your latest decent into debauchery."
I let out a groan at that as I looked after her. Part of me wondered if I should have just headed out right then. She wasn't wrong when she said I had a lot of work to do.
But then, I turned and looked back to see Nero, Rin and Sakura all looking back at me from their position on the futon. Nero, a smirk on her face and her arms wrapped around the other two. Sakura, looking mildly annoyed with Nero but staring at me expectantly. And Rin, her head tiled and lips parted slight.
I paused for a moment before I said "Ah, it can wait," walking back into the room and shutting the door behind me.
A/N: Wow. Four and a half years and 270k words. All this because I had an idea for Shirou Kotomine back when I was browsing The Mechanics of In Flight, and I decided to make an omake that mirrored that fic's opening to introduce him. I have to say, though I never expected it to become as big, and in spite of the few misgivings I have for it, I'm proud with what I've done with it.
And make no mistake, I'm sure this story could be better. This whole thing, from beginning to end, was a whole enterprise in me going "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if…?" I didn't know how this thing would end until I was through 3/4ths of it. Hell, I didn't think of adding the DAA until I had written a third of it. There's a lot I would have done differently or set up better had I known beforehand. My point is that it could have been better paced at the least. I also learned that I despise writing multiple concurrent fight scenes, often with participants switching location and opponents. Impressive though it may have been, I probably would have written the end differently had I know how long it would have taken me.
Another thing I'm not completely satisfied with is Shirou's relationships with the various women around him. I started out by giving Shirou a realistic response as possible, but partway through I realized that I didn't have a solution that satisfied me, which is why the conclusion of that is a little subdued. I had a few times wondered if I should have written him as only having one love interest among the original three, Sakura in particular, but I couldn't give up Nero. And once you have two, well, you might as well have all three.
That said, I did accomplish a lot of what I set out to do. I did fuse the two setting in a way I felt wasn't just one tacked on to the other. I also got to explore a few plot points that I had never seen before, like Takehito becoming an undead minion, Homura remaining a man and his relationship with Tsukiumi, Minaka striving for redemption, and Karasuba winging herself on Shirou (again, I thought of that before In Fight did it). I also got to explore the Sekirei as a species a bit, and their relationships. I had intended to make it a bigger focus than I did, but I kind lost interest and mostly kept it to the side. That said, there was something I set out to do, and though I'm not quite sure if I managed it, I hope I did something to that effect.
I wanted to give the Sekirei some dignity.
Let's face it, Sekirei as a series is a step above harem trash. Their existence as a species, narratively speaking, seems to be little more than a justification for the various harem tropes that pop up. There are some interesting ideas and potentials because of this, which keeps things from being too terrible, but I don't feel like they're explored. I hope that this story served to give them at least a little more depth and worth as people and a species, rather than a glorified game of Pokegirls (don't look that up).
(Sidenote: there is actually a secret involving Karasuba's termination, which I couldn't find a good way to write in. Ask if you want to know the details.)
Anyway, I'm fine with letting this lie as a standalone piece, and I'm not strictly concerned with this fic dictating the future of Birth by Fire. Let's just consider this a possible future to that fic, and any future to this one will be its own continuity. Given the tone I set with this one, I'd probably just cross it over with some other piece of harem trash, like, I don't know, Infinite Stratos or some shit.
Thank you everyone for reading.