Fate: Reach Out

Chapter 13: Awakening


TV World – Shopping District

After getting acquainted, Teddie made his first show of sincerity by taking them to where he claimed to have detected the last human appearing. A bit of cross-referencing revealed that the creepy inn room they found had appeared a few days before that, further suggesting that it was connected to Miss Yamano. What the room itself symbolized no one wanted to speculate.

As Teddie led them to the newest area, Shirou noticed that the place was oddly familiar. The ground beneath him was concrete, and he could see the silhouettes of buildings through the fog that reminded him of the shopping district.

Wait… this is exactly what the Shopping District looks like…

Stepping closer to the buildings, he recognized the Marukyu Tofu shop, though the colors were too dark and muddled. The street lights were on and he could see some kind of light through a few of the windows, but the place was completely devoid of human life and every building was closed up tight. Now as he listened, he realized that the place was unnaturally silent aside from the muted conversation between Teddie and his classmates.

"Now Teddie," Hanamura asked as they passed the old pharmacy. "Are you sure this is where you saw Saki-sempai?"

"I don't know the person's name," Teddie corrected, "But I do know that the last person that came into this world ended up around here."

"Is it just me or does this place look like the Shopping District?" Shirou asked when he rejoined the group. "It's hard to tell in this fog, though."

His classmates and Teddie looked at him for a moment, and the teens looked around, reminding the magus that he was the only one aside from Teddie that could see any reasonable distance through the haze.

"Oh, I knew I forgot something! Give me a second…" How a creature with hands like mittens could snap their fingers like he did baffled Shirou, especially now that he knew Teddie didn't have actual fingers to begin with.

It clapped its hands twice, and a puff of smoke appeared when he cupped them together. Stacked on top of each other in his paws were several pairs of glasses, each with different color and designed frames: white, green, and orange. Each pair was actually well-made, and looked somewhat stylish in their own way.

"Projection magecraft?" Shirou muttered, slightly awed by the casual use of the technique.

"Here, take your pick and put 'em on!" Teddie offered. "They'll help you see through the fog."

The trio of students exchanged perplexed glances, but Shirou shrugged and chose first. The bear was being helpful in their search so far, and it had promised its guidance and support. There was no reason to doubt its word yet. Besides, if it really wanted their help, it was best not to antagonize them given that the creature was almost comically weak.

When he put the robust-looking white pair on, Emiya blinked in surprise at seeing the fog completely filtered out of his vision. This feeling must be like when people wore prescription glasses for the first time: everything was so clear!

…Though, given the eerie warping background of black and red bands covering the sky and the subtly distorted, dark scenery of the imitation shopping district, he almost wished he couldn't see quite that far.

"Amazing," he said simply, prompting the other two to take their own glasses; Hanamura picked the orange pair and Satonaka the green one. They were just as surprised by the results.

"The difference is like night and day!" Hanamura breathed, testing between flipping the lenses over and away from his eyes.

"Yeah! It's like the fog isn't even there anymore!" Satonaka added. "How did you do that?"

"It's sort of a talent I got," Teddie beamed. "I like making things, and I make all kinds of things! Balloons, toys, costumes, the whole shebang!"

"Is it like magecraft?" Shirou asked, genuinely curious of how he was able to create three pairs of glasses. "Does the mana in this place make them last longer?"

Teddie blinked again, and crossed his arms in thought. "Magecraft? Mana? Sounds familiar, but that's it. I've always done this sort of thing so I can't quite help you there."

Yosuke gave a quick cough, drawing their attention. "Ahem! As much as I would like to know what the heck you're both talking about, we still have a job to do." He reached for his phone and pulled up a picture of her. Konishi was in her Junes uniform and serving drinks, glancing at the camera and giving her familiar tired smile. "This is the girl who was… found dead… earlier. Just to be sure; Teddie, was this girl the one around here?"

The short mascot gave the picture a quick look and nodded as firmly as his strange body allowed. "That's her all right." He turned and pointed further up the road as Yosuke pocketed his phone. "She disappeared into that flat building up ahead."

"That's the way to the Konishi liquor store if this place is anything like the real world," Hanamura noted. He rushed ahead, and the rest jogged in place to catch up until they were all together.

"Is it like our world?" Shirou asked himself. This place still had too many unanswered questions for them to run off like this, and he was hoping the friendly bear could shed some light on the subject. "Kuma, what exactly is this place?"

"I told you, this world is what it is," the bear replied between breaths as it struggled to keep up. "And feel free to call me Teddie."

"Well, what about the shopping district?" Satonaka offered. "Has this always been here?"

"No, it just appeared recently, like that one place that looks like an inn."

"Well, why are they so different then? Why make an inn room and then recreate the shopping district?" Satonaka tried, growing frustrated.

Teddie frowned. "How should I know? They're both realities for the people who've been there."

The two of them sighed, disappointed. He's being vague again. Shirou bitterly thought. Worst part is he probably doesn't even know he's doing it. Either that or, worse case scenario, he's a devious little bear and likes talking in circles around us. Still, was he always this content with everything before?

"Well, what about that place you found us at?" Satonaka asked. "It looks like a TV studio. Is the Midnight Channel filmed from there?"

Teddie blinked. "Filmed? Midnight Channel?"

"What she means is," Shirou explained for the mascot's benefit. "Have there been any people using cameras and stuff around here?"

The bear looked more confused than ever. "I don't know filming or cameras, but this world has always been like this."

"What do mean 'like this'?"

Teddie scowled a bit at them. "I told you already! The only ones that live here are me and-!"

A gargled growl echoed through the air, and Teddie immediately froze in his tracks. The students didn't like the sound of it either; both Satonaka and Shirou staggered to a stop the moment they heard the ominous sound, but they couldn't tell what it was or where it came from.

"W-what was that?" Shirou gulped, levering the golf club into a basic kendo stance.

"-Shadows," Teddie finished with a whimper. The sheer terror he laced his word with managed to send goose bumps down their spines. They could all hear strange sounds dancing around the edges of their senses: groans, burbling laughter, slopping fluids, and insect-like skittering.

Satonaka started bouncing from foot to foot, waiting for the cue whether to fight or flee. She was confident in her reflexes, but wasn't stupid enough to pick a fight with unknown monsters without good reason.

Shirou held the golf club in his hand, sending prana into it and trying to Reinforce it as much as he dared. He had used Structural Analysis back in their world, and it looked like the precaution helped: the magic settled into the weaknesses in the club, strengthening it until it could hit like a sledgehammer with a fraction of the weight.

Teddie cowered between them, whimpering and holding his head in his hands.

Hanamura….

"Wait, where's Hanamura?" Shirou asked, eyes widening when he realized that his taller classmate was nowhere to be seen.

"WAAAAAAAAAH!"

Satonaka recognized the screamer and paled. "HANAMURA!"

"The Shadows are after him!" Teddie cried.

Shirou didn't bother thinking about what he might be getting into. He bolted ahead, sending prana through his struggling Magic Circuit tentatively as he ran. Reinforcement of the body was difficult at best and suicidal at worst, but every second he spent hesitating left Hanamura in danger. Strangely, the spell came easily, and every step was a little faster, a little more efficient. Despite this, Shirou made sure not to enhance his body too recklessly, wary of blowing out his legs before even reaching Hanamura.

At least the mana of this place wasn't causing any issues with his magecraft so far. If anything, it readily responded to his need. That was one less thing to worry about.

With his enhanced speed, he reached the base of the small hill leading by the shrine in seconds and spotted Hanamura falling back on his hands, narrowly evading the… thing… that was attempting to tear him apart with its teeth.

That's a Shadow?

Three hovering creatures unlike any in the real world bobbed through the air before him. Each was a bloated sphere almost as wide as a car and colored in wavy stripes of black and pink. A mouth that cut almost halfway into the sphere, framed by bizarrely large and full red lips hung open and tongues as long as a man was tall lolled out from between rows of flat, brick-like teeth. One floated and turned away from Shirou, revealing a small, blue, frowning mask staring lifelessly outward from the back of it. The mask was small enough to fit a human's face, looking tiny compared to the floating mouth's bulk.

Despite their comical appearance, the creatures violently tore at anything they got their mouths around. One tore a chunk out of a nearby lamppost when Yosuke dove away from its charge, biting into the metal with a shrieking groan. The thing spat out the ruined metal and turned its slavering jaws back towards Yosuke.

Naturally, Hanamura cowered and tried protecting his head in a blind panic. "WHAAAAAAAAA!"

Shirou slid to a stop and smashed the Reinforced golf club into the floating mouth's side, the Shadow's spongy bulk catapulting away and dragging a trail of drool along the road down the hill. The other mouths turned to their fallen kin swiftly despite the lack of eyes or any sensory organ aside from their tongues. With a gurgling growl, the Shadows refocused on the two boys. The third used its long tongue to push itself back into the air and released a watery cackle, floating back up to join its fellows.

Not taking his eyes off the monsters, Shirou hauled Yosuke to his feet with one hand, keeping his weapon ready. Yosuke gained a little bravado with the added help and steadied himself.

"Thanks for the save, partner. Ready?" The boy pulled out the wrenches he had brought with him and held them out like they were a pair of short swords. He only just kept his hands from shaking with a white-knuckle grip on them.

The magus shook his head. "Hanamura, we need to get back to the others."

Completely caught by surprise at the decision, Yosuke nearly stumbled where he stood before regaining his footing. He gestured past the three killer mouths at the squat building all but looming over them. "B-but Saki-senpai's store-"

"-isn't going anywhere. Those Shadows, however, mean to kill us. So move!" Shirou shouted, falling back at his normal speed, keeping pace with Hanamura. The taller boy was naturally quicker than Shirou, but Reinforcement compensated easily.

As Shirou expected, the floating mouths pursued them at a relentless pace. Hanamura pushed himself to run faster and faster, desperately trying to keep ahead of the Shadows and their impossible flight, stumbling at times, only just keeping his balance. Shirou surreptitiously fell back slightly behind him. If Hanamura was only able to get away while he held the Shadows off, he would stop and fight. Thankfully, it looked like the creatures were not quite fast enough to close the gap.

With the Shadows almost literally gnashing at the sprinting teens' heels, Emiya and Hanamura spotted their classmate waving to them from a dark doorway. Satonaka and Teddie had opened one of the look-alike buildings for shelter: the abandoned toy store, to be specific. "Come on!" she called out, "Hurry up!"

"Don't let the Shadows get you!" Teddie encouraged, his arm waving in the window.

"No need to tell us twice!" Yosuke gasped as he dove through the door, with Shirou right behind him.

They ended up bowling over Teddie and all three took a tumble on the floor. Satonaka had wisely stepped aside long enough to let them fly by before she slammed the door shut and flipped the deadbolt. She didn't have time to even breathe a sigh of relief before the three mouths slammed into the door hard enough to send her staggering back. The watery babble and slavering tongues slapping at the door had the four teens holding their breath.

Finally, the sounds retreated from the door before going entirely silent. As one, the humans and the bear released a long sigh of relief and all but collapsed where they stood, panting like dogs. Shirou and Chie recovered fastest; the former thanks to his magus training and archery breathing exercises taking over, and the latter with her self-taught kung fu breathing techniques. During this moment of calm, Shirou took in the room before them.

The toy store was small, only consisting of three aisles of toys ranging from building sets to dolls and balls. The entryway was the only open space, and even that was interspersed with small tables and the cashier's desk. The entire thing was only about five meters wide but over fifteen deep, half of that the aisles.

Shirou turned towards Hanamura. "Are you alright?"

In hindsight it was a stupid question: they were stuck in some magus's sick amusement park that took the form of a parody of Inaba while under siege by monsters with only a pair of wrenches and a golf club between them. They were screwed if they couldn't escape. Shirou knew that a magus walked with death, and Shirou used that truth to keep his mind clear… or at least clearer than the clearly panicking Kuma.

Hanamura ignored him, staring at the door with wide, twitching eyes. From the look of it, the auburn-haired teen was running on almost pure adrenaline right now. He was shaking in terror by this point, and probably soiled himself more easily than their last venture. Shirou couldn't blame him. "What were those things?!" he cried.

To everyone's surprise, their guide had an answer for them. "Slipping Hableries," Teddie shivered. "They're one of the weaker Shadows, but I didn't expect to find any around here yet!"

"Those mouths have names?!" Satonaka gawked. "And there're stronger ones?!"

As if to emphasize her shock, the entire building rattled from the creatures making another attack. Instead of backing away again, though, they could see small wedges dig through the door and wood groan and splinter, bits of the wall and door coming away in sections.

The damn things are chewing their way in! Shirou realized, sorely wishing he had something with a point or an edge to use. "We can worry about that later! Teddie, how do we stop these things?!"

"They should go away if you hurt them enough, but the only thing that can defeat a Shadow for good is another Shadow or something related!" the bear blurted out, cowering behind a shelf.

"You're meaning to tell me we're all dead unless those things decide to resort to cannibalism?!" Hanamura's voice cracked as that sank in.

More chunks of wood fell away from the door, enough for one of the now-identified Slipping Hableries to stick its two-meter tongue into the building, groping for them while the others continued to tear through the walls. Their gurgling cries grew more incensed with every inch of progress they made.

Shirou's mind reeled. Teddie's too scared to fight, and Hanamura and Satonaka are defenseless against them. If I can at least distract them for a chance to escape…!

Shirou stepped forward, hefting the golf club into the stance Taiga had all but beaten into him. "Everyone, head to the back of the store; I'll hold them off!" With his enhanced club in hand and his self-Reinforcement, he was certain he could buy them a little time and work something out.

"Way ahead of you!" Teddie declared as his squeaky shoes retreated towards the back of the building before he realized the students weren't following him.

Both students, however, hesitated. "Are you nuts, Emiya?! We can't just leave you here!" Satonaka shouted.

"She's right partner, I got your back!" Hanamura declared shakily while he braced for a fight.

"You're both out of your minds! We have to-" Satonaka's words were interrupted by the cacophony of the Shadows finally ripping their way through the walls and door, screeching as they homed in on the trio.

Shirou moved immediately forward while the others staggered back in terror. With people to protect behind him, the magus refused to hesitate, strengthening himself further and smashing the lead Hablerie with a sweeping strike that threw the orb-like Shadow into the second, sending both crashing into a pile of building blocks. He barely reacted in time to avoid the third taking a bite out of him as it launched its own attack.

"There's no more time! RUN!" Shirou roared to his classmates as he tracked the last Shadow's movements.

The Shadows recovered far too quickly for getting hit like they did, their tongues pushing them back into the air. They faced each other briefly as if surprised and then swept outward to surround the magus, gurgling all the while. Two launched themselves at Shirou at the same time while the last suddenly turned and charged Satonaka and Hanamura, mouth wide.

Shirou didn't even bother to think. He spun on his heel and pumped more prana into his legs, putting himself between his classmates and the Shadow's open maw and jabbing the club into the thing's chin, completely ignoring the other Slipping Hableries as the swooped after him. The Shadow yelped in pain as it bit its own tongue before floating back… revealing the other two Shadows.

The first slapped him with its tongue with enough power to throw him to the ground and the second slipped behind it to make another attempt at Satonaka and Hanamura. It barely made it an inch past Shirou before he seized its trailing tongue and pulled with all of his Reinforced strength, slamming the thing back into the floor. The third Shadow dove back into the fray with a cackle, gnashing its teeth while Shirou struggled to keep up with the tangle of teeth and tongues. Several times his arms were caught by the edges of those teeth, tearing at his sleeves and leaving him with small cuts, and his shirt was soaked by their saliva. It was a dirty and almost feral struggle.

To Yosuke and Chie, the sight was a whirlwind. Shirou was all over the place, somehow diving, spinning, striking, jumping and grappling the Shadows every time they made a move. In fact, the speed and strength he was displaying exceeded anything they had seen before. He seemed unstoppable and kept the Shadows tenaciously occupied, but it was three on one. The strain was starting to show in his face and eyes. They couldn't move to help though, entranced by the insanity before them.

Yosuke's hands were shaking from holding the wrenches so tightly, and he seemed to be fighting with himself for each inch he made himself move. He wanted to leap into the fray, but was too scared to. He didn't want to abandon Shirou after everything he was doing for him. Despite that, he was stuck rigid in the back with Satonaka and Kuma, feeling an unsettling combination of fear, dread, and humiliation. Move god damn it! MOVE! Why can't I move?!

Shirou finally managed to regain his feet, teeth bared in a snarl as he braced himself against the Slipping Hableries' relentless attempts to get past him. The Hableries made another attack, two tearing towards him while the third tried to hover outside Shirou's range.

Shirou jumped over the flailing Shadows and let them collide with each other. He turned towards the third, raising the club into a perfect head strike Taiga had beaten into him during their lessons. And then, a sensation like magma roared through his spine, his strength vanishing mid-stride.

His Magic Circuit, pushed well beyond its limits, had finally broken down completely, taking with it his body's Reinforcement.

He stumbled, his muscles suddenly feeling like boiling liquid inside his skin. Then, without warning, his throat constricted itself, choking him, and he quickly covered his mouth and what felt like a cough… or regurgitation. He knew what was in his hand without even looking at it: it was blood. Dammit! Not now!

The Slipping Hableries circled him during his pause before they charged him again. Shirou could still react quickly enough to defend himself, but he lacked the strength to repel the Shadows on his own. The first bit down on the club, unable to quite break the rapidly-weakening haft, but wrenching the magus to the side while the second bowled him over, twisting the club out of his grip. The first Shadow then simply spit the club out and left Shirou to its fellow, aiming for the other two teens.

The last Shadow dove towards Hanamura and Satonaka unmolested, and Hanamura finally moved as self-preservation instincts kicked in. He desperately backpedaled into an aisle while the Shadow pursued him. "Crap, crap, crap, crap!" he repeated as he tried to fend the Shadow's swooping dives with his wrenches with mixed success. Apparently, getting bashed with a golf club had made the Shadow wary of being hit with them even if its mindless aggression kept it from leaving. "Emiya! Now would be a REALLY good time to use some magic on these dentures!"

Satonaka fell back on her training as the last Slipping Hablerie reached her. Her foot shot up in an axe kick that slammed the Shadow's mouth shut, and it screeched with pain. The Shadow's long tongue wrapped around her ankle and yanked her into a spin, tossing the tomboy into a table before diving in for another bite. "Aaaaah! Someone HELP ME!"

Further back, Teddie crouched under a table; his eyes squeezed shut and mitten-like hands covering his ears. "Oooooooh, I don't wanna be eaten!"

It was happening too fast: Shirou could barely hold the Shadow on him from ripping him open, but he needed to save his classmates! Is this all I can do?! Think! I can't let this happen! I WON'T!

As if answering his plea, his sense of time and perception slowed. He was suddenly alone in his thoughts… before a strong, defiant voice echoed in mind. "I am thou… thou art I…"

…! That voice!

"The time has come… open thine eyes, and call forth what is within!"

A brief spike of pain shot through his temples, coupled with images blurring by so fast he could make them out. The ones that stood out most vividly to him were of Igor and Margaret in the Velvet Room, a glowing sheath surrounded in darkness, and a girl standing in an open green meadow. As soon as they had appeared, the images were gone, as was the pain.

In the duration of that flash, something had appeared in his left hand. Glancing warily at it, the magus saw that he was now grasping a blue card. The face side was blank, but the bottom of the frame held a single number: zero. It looked eerily familiar to the Tarot cards that Igor used in his dream.

Except… it wasn't a dream after all, was it? The Shadows all paused and looked at him, Shirou found the strength to rise back up to his feet and hold the blue card up. Without his Magic Circuit, he couldn't even perform Structural Analysis on it, but his sensitivity to magic all but screamed at him with the intensity of its untapped power.

This… power…!

It was warm and welcoming like a flame, barely more than a small ember. But even he, an incompetent magus, knew that it was so much more, and could grow into that of an inferno in time. It was complex, yet simple. It was mysterious, yet lucid. It was weak, but full of potential. And it was all his.

He remembered this feeling. It was just like in his dream battle with the Ghoul, but even stronger.

Teddie Kuma, watching this all safely behind an aisle, was dazzled by the glowing aura of the red-haired teen. The bear couldn't place its paw on it, but it felt very familiar… Perhaps it was one of those magic things he told him about earlier? "Woah…"

A small smile graced Shirou's lips, as he said the one word that suddenly entered his mind and demanded it be spoken aloud. His lips moved slowly. "Per…"

The Shadow before him seemed to panic, shaking and releasing a wild cackle. The other two ignored their helpless prey and rallied to its call.

Yosuke Hanamura followed his would-be eater to the light show ahead, and his classmate standing dead center in it. If this was some sort of magic trick he was pulling off, it was big, and made Emiya look like some shouen hero or something. Needless to say, he was shocked. And jealous. "What in the-?"

"-…so…"

Chie Satonaka, briefly rubbing her bruised and possibly swollen ankle for relief, watched with a mix of horror and awe as Emiya simply glowed with some fighter's aura. The horror set in when she realized that he was about to face the triple threat of piranha faces. She prayed to god that he knew what he was doing… she didn't want to lose him. "Emiya…!"

The Shadows, daring not to take any changes, lunged as one.

"-…na!"

He crushed the card in his hands, the sound of glass shattering echoing throughout the room. Blue flames roared from between Shirou's fingers, wrapping around him without harming him and causing the Shadows to hover away in surprise.

Something inside Shirou fell into place, sending out a torrent of power from deep within him, a power he had felt only once before, finally released from its resting place. His classmates saw something phase into existence like an illusion becoming real from within the blue fire. When the flames receded, the phantom was clear for all to see.

The towering entity hovered over him like a ghost, yet it was obviously solid and tangible. Almost seven feet tall and hovering a foot off the ground, its body was clad in a long, high-collared black and gray jacket lined with silver buckles. The jacket was closed at the torso, but flared open at the waist and around its neck. The figure's legs were clad in armored greaves that ended in skate-like blades under its feet, and the tips of each of its gloved fingers were covered by steel talons. In one of those clawed hands it held a weapon like a wide-bladed naginata as long as it was tall, its hollowed handle wrapped in white bandages along most of its length. It stared down upon the Shadows with glowing golden eyes, the rest of its face concealed by an ornate, sectioned mask of steel. Two belt-like tails of red cloth that matched Shirou's hair clipped into the back of the matching band it wore around its head and fluttered slowly in its turbulent aura. Its appearance and posture granted it a regal, powerful and dangerous air.

Shirou stood in front of it as the flames receded, his hand still clenched before him. Somewhere along the way his jacket had been torn open completely and it flared outward almost to match the giant behind him. Despite his battered state, he looked no less powerful and intimidating than the masked being… and he certainly felt heroic right about now. I hope you're watching this, old man.

"Wh-what is that?" Chie whispered.

"I don't know," Teddie admitted from his hiding spot, staring at the giant in awe. "But it feels the same as the Shadows!"

Yosuke gulped uneasily at that. "Well… it's on our side… right?"

The Shadows were only still for another second before they lunged forward again. These Shadows seemed so small now, partly because of the power he felt coursing through him and his guardian, and partly because he could see through the giant's eyes as easily as his own. His protector was quite a bit bigger than the Slipping Hableries. Shirou narrowed his eyes contemptuously behind his glasses and swept his hand out. "Get out of my way!"

The astral figure behind him clasped its weapon in both hands and flew over Shirou's head, sweeping the long blade with immense strength. Unlike Shirou's golf club, the giant's blade cleaved through the Shadow's body like a hot knife through butter, splitting it in two. Almost instantly it exploded into a cloud of black and red muck that dissolved on the spot. That's one…

The three spectators gawked at awe at the display of power. "Yeah, it's on our side," Hanamura decided.

The remaining Shadows released enraged gurgling shrieks and charged the giant, one attempting to bite its head with bone-crushing force, and the second locked its jaw around its sword arm. Shirou winched, blood suddenly bursting from his arm and the pressure of the Shadow's bite squeezing his arm and head and forcing his head to tilt back like the giant's. So we're connected… we share senses, pain and injury in exchange for this power. No… it's deeper than that. We're…

"Emiya!" Satonaka screamed when she saw blood starting to peek through his skin.

The red-haired teen didn't falter though; if anything, the attack only made him angry, and he reached towards his head, clawing at the air in front of him. "Damn you!"

The swordsman repeated his action, digging metal talons into the Shadow's flesh and ripping it from its face and hurling into a shelf hard enough to shake the entire aisle. The second was flung away with similar power straight down, right next to Shirou. Even though the golf club was across the room, Shirou could feel his protector- his Persona- solve his need for a weapon with a snap of its fingers. "Tarukaja."

A burst of orange light surrounded him, and he felt new strength suffuse his entire body and his muscles seethed with energy. It was like Reinforcement, but without the guesswork that spell had. Better yet, it didn't require a Magic Circuit; it drew from a different well of strength, and his Persona had its own powers for him to call upon. He didn't need a weapon for this anymore; that one mystery had turned him into a weapon. "HIYAAAAH!"

His empowered fist plowed straight down into the Hablerie's body, bursting the body like a water balloon, dousing Shirou in the strange sludge that filled it. Just like the other Hablerie, the sludge dissolved into nothing, not even a stain left on Shirou's clothes or skin in a second. His Persona turned its golden gaze towards the final Shadow, gripping its naginata like a long-handled sword at its side. Two down, one to go.

The last Slipping Hablerie apparently decided to not charge mindlessly at the giant and turned towards easier prey: Hanamura and Satonaka. The Persona raised a single hand in sync with Shirou, blue fire once more burning around them.

"I am thou…"

"Thou art I…"

As one, they opened their outstretched hands, and the fire dissipated at the unison of power. "Zio!"

A single blue bolt of lightning fell from above with a roar despite being inside a building. The Shadow convulsed in agony and dropped to the floor, twitching as it continued to spark. Unlike the Ghoul he had used that spell on in that fog-filled dream, the Slipping Hablerie was far more vulnerable to the lightning blast, and it couldn't so much as scream when the Persona lunged and impaled it cleanly, leaving it to burst and dissolve.

And that makes three.

Shirou took a single cleansing breath and allowed the Tarukaja to drain out of him, leaving him with a burn not unlike a good workout. He looked up to the towering swordsman as it glided to his side. It-no, he, hovered before him and gazed back down. He nodded to him and Shirou returned the gesture. Then, with a whoosh of a flame being snuffed, the Persona faded away in a wave of blue light, leaving behind only a flittering card caught by his outstretched hand. The once blank face of the Tarot card displayed a holographic image. One image showed a black figure of a man carrying a bundle-tied stick over his back, followed by a dog, and was stepping outside of a small box proportionally smaller to the card outline. When exposed to light at a certain angle, as he just tested, the image changed to reveal the astral being that just fought alongside him a few moments ago.

With the Shadows dealt with, Shirou refocused on his friends. He completely ignored the wounds scattered on his body and was more concerned with the fact that they were frozen and gawking at him. "Is everyone alright?" he asked politely. They all nodded mutely.

It took a few attempts of gaping like a fish, but Satonaka found her voice first. "Th-that was… amazing!"

"Yeah…" Hanamura agreed. "But who -or what- was that?!"

"Izanagi," Shirou answered with a slight smile on his face. The card in his hands, to the surprise of his friends, faded away in a blue flame, and his body emitted a dull blue hue: a sign to him that his Persona was returning into a sea of the unconscious within his mind. "He's one of the creator gods of Japan, as well as my Persona. We're one and the same: I'm him, and he is me."


A/N: Replace all the Penalty Cards with Level 10 Coins because this fight just scored BIG on Shuffle Time! Izanagi's finally here!

Fun jokes aside, Izanagi is slightly altered to share the connection with Shirou (again, the headband over the silver-white mask, and belt-tail things attached to it are red instead of white), but he's still the same Persona we know and love. As usual, Shirou Emiya tends to get roughed up a bit before Fate decides to give him something to tip the odds. Like, when he had a run in with Lancer twice in succession and almost died both times before summoning Saber. It would have been too simple to come out relatively unscathed until summoning a means to fight back, like in the anime and game of P4, so that's why the fight was extended. Shirou probably would have handled it all on his own too, if not for his faulty Magic Circuit failing on him.

Of course, knowing Shirou's luck, he'll probably have a harder time fighting Shadow Yosuke than Yu Narukami ever did (in game and in the anime). Sure, he's the starter boss, but so was Lancer. And Berserker. And Rider. And... well, you get the idea. At least he has a better chance against a Shadow instead of a Heroic Spirit at this point. See you guys then.