Fate Reach Out
Fuyuki Gaiden 1: The Sunny Days are over
My name is Taiga Fujimua. I've been called many things, from teacher to Yakuza Princess to human rocket to even… that word. I always strive to be a role model for my students and peers. It's not my fault they don't know how to have fun most of the time.
My little protégé-slash-student-slash-cook-slash-brother Shirou is always a handful, getting riled up at the most harmless of my pranks, but we get along well. I worry sometimes that I can never quite help him or reach that level of closeness to do it, but I suppose that's the downside of not being related by blood.
I admit that I wasn't the best older sister figure most of the time, but I believe I finally came through for him with the chance to reconcile with his extended family. This fact alone is what keeps me sleeping soundly (and with a slightly smaller stomach) for the first few nights.
But I still feel… uneasy. I haven't forgotten about the blue butterfly that night. I tried doing a bit of research, but nothing I found came even close to what I saw. If I was a little more paranoid and wary, I would think that the butterfly spoke to me that same night.
Right, and Homurahara High School is secretly teaching students magic. Like I said, "If I was a little more paranoid and wary."
That aside, I still wonder if there was some warning of things to come that would happen to Shirou. Something that might happen to his family after all the time and effort I went into looking for them. It was part of the reason I pushed him along to his school year transfer. I didn't like it any more than Sakura (and I might have backpedalled into reeling him to cook for me again) but I knew he needed this. I just wished I thought of this sooner. Like, five years sooner.
When Shirou called me two days after he left (despite interrupting my beauty sleep), I was thankful he didn't automatically forget about me. The last thing I would want is to be forgotten because he didn't have me mooching off his food anymore. But it still reminded me that he might get back to his old habits of being helpful.
I would also find myself watching the news every day just wondering how he's doing. My… intuition (which is clearly NOT the same as paranoia, which I already explained) told me to keep an ear low to the ground on whatever could happen to Shirou and/or Inaba. It wasn't easy because that town is literally in the middle of nowhere, but it wasn't hard to pick up how hard they were milking the "Yamano Love Scandal" for days.
Some days I wished I hadn't.
Days after it went public, said scandal had an unexpected and startling twist that resulted in the former news anchor's death; hanging off a telephone pole no less. It was almost as unexplainable as the string of child killings in Fuyuki a decade ago. To this day, it's still a somber topic for high school students who were children at the time because of the terror they felt and the friends they lost. I think I also heard rumors that Rin Tohsaka miraculously survived the encounter with the serial killer.
Instead of grieving though, the Inaba newscast team was ecstatic; going over the mysterious death and anything else relating to the scandal like they had found a way to kill Gojira. A part of me was angry at how careless they were all being, but I had other concerns on my mind. I tried to keep myself calm, thinking that it was just an unfortunate coincidence that happened just as Shirou moved over. The murder topic would eventually die out, and then he'd enjoy the rest of the trip with his family.
The next day I dialed Shirou's home phone to Ryotaro Dojima's cell. He picked up after two rings. "Dojima spea-"
"I want Shirou to move back in Fuyuki City right now."
I was never one for tact, but Dojima-san was smart and caught on to things quick. True to my theory, he sighed in a way that indicated he knew who I was and what I was calling for. "You heard about the announcer's death?"
I turned back to the house TV. "I'm watching the news right now about a student's death."
Saki Konishi, a third year student from Yasogami High. As usual, the news media was effectively grave-robbing her identity for a story in a complete 180 of doctrine and hiding her face and voice from the public only a day ago. The only details I cared to get were her name and school, especially how close this was all coming to Shirou.
Dojima wasn't happy either, but he seemed more annoyed and muttering about the news for some reason. Not that I cared at this point.
"When I agreed to send him over for his yearlong stay, I expected him to be in a nice, quiet environment to study and get to know you and Nanako-chan better," I explained calmly. I can't help but to feel a bit vindictive after the pause. "Not to be caught in the middle of some Western crime drama!"
"You can't blame me for how and when these perps act up in this town!" Dojima argued. "Besides, he's in no more danger than the rest of his friends are."
I wanted to believe him, and if it was anyone else I probably would, but I knew that bonehead better than he did. "This is Shirou we're talking about. If there's one thing he won't tolerate, it is injustice. And maybe bad cooking." Oddly enough, his passion for food was probably one of the more normal tidbits of his personality and what he'd be open with.
"I still don't see how this is a problem."
"Tell me; are you anywhere close to knowing who did this?"
"The bastard knows how to cover his tracks," the detective sighed.
"Then it's only a matter of time before Shirou gets the brilliant idea to go try chasing the maniac himself or die trying!"
The line was quiet as my words slowly sunk in, and I realized just how scared I was for Shirou. I knew I was ever since the first killing, but it just hit me like a ton of bricks in my own argument.
"You're kidding," Dojima replied, as if trying to convince both of us that it was a bad joke. And I honestly wish it was.
"He got into a lot of fights with bullies growing up," I frowned, recalling those memories. "And he lost. A lot. Had bandages over his arms and legs every other week, and tried brushing it off like it's no big deal until the next injury would happen."
Why else would I want him to rethink the whole "Ally of Justice" nonsense? It was a cute dream for him as a kid, but it's only that; a dream. If he was a bit clearer as to why or how he'd go about it, I'd be more than welcoming of his attitude to change the world, but he's either always vague or half-hearted in explaining what it means. The only person who could probably explain it (since it was his dream to begin with) was Kiritsugu Emiya, and he's dead (God rest his soul). Not to mention that Shirou would still act so immaturely that I wonder if he even knows how much Sakura-chan really cares about him. In hindsight, I should have pushed them together a bit more.
But despite this, Dojima gave a small chuckle. I was about ready to snap at him that it was no laughing matter, but his next words stopped me. "He'd make one hell of a cop, then, if he could take a beating."
Shirou, a cop? The thought honestly hadn't occurred to me before. Still, it helped cheer me up a bit. "I fancy him as a part time chef with a food truck."
That got Dojima laughing harder, as it did with me. A traveling chef might suit him, really. Making fine cuisine dishes and ending world hunger in all the small European countries too poor for anything else.
"In any case," he said after we calmed down. "I'll let him know you called and see how he feels about moving back."
"Thanks. Good luck on the case."
I hung up, left once again alone in the empty house. A big, fancy rich house that according to my grandpa's records was bought by Kiritsugu a few days before the Shinto district fire. It had a lot of rooms, lot of space, classic sliding doors, and a large open yard space with its own storage annex that Shirou has a strange fixation towards for some reason. But it was missing people to fill in that void, and two to three people was never quite enough to fill that space.
This must have been what Shirou felt every time Sakura-chan and I left for our own homes each night. A constant reminder for five years that there was no family or friends around when sleeping-
Wait a minute.
I hurriedly dialed the phone again. Three rings this time. "What is-"
"What was that you said about Shirou's friends?"
The talk following that was mostly short, as Dojima-san stressed he needed to get back to work before complying. My head was still ringing. Two girls. First day of Yasogami High and he was socializing with two girls his same year.
Dojima-san only knew this because they were walking home from school while he was on duty, looking over the announcer's dead body. This is all well and dandy but WHAT THE HELL?! The first day in a new school and he's already got two girls walking with him?!
I could seriously count on one hand the number of people Shirou knew personally in Homorahara, and they weren't at all instant made friendships! First was Issei Ryuudou, Reikan's younger brother and current student body president. Problem is he tends to look a gift horse in the mouth concerning Shirou. Not that I blame him, since he's probably the closest semblance Shirou has to a friend worried for him.
Then there was the archery team captain, Ayako Mitsuzuri. From what I know, Shirou used to be in the club before some accident convinced him to drop out last year. She's been pestering him to join back ever since, but they get along like former acquaintances at best.
Then there's Sakura's brother, Shinji Matou. Enough said.
Adding Sakura and myself, that's a whole hand! So why would he suddenly get attention from girls?!
Wait… THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE HE PERSONALLY KNOWS ARE GIRLS! OH MY GOD HE'S GOING TO GROW UP TO BE A WOMANIZER!
I lifted my aching head from the table. Ugh, stupid hazy thoughts. I could barely recognize the room though. Copenhagen, right?
"Don't you think you've had enough to drink?" I turned to the speaker, and it was 'ol Neko-chan in all black attire; shirt, pants, apron. Yep, Copenhagen; which means I came here for a heavy drinking binge, as seen by the empty mug in my hand. Next to about a dozen others.
Damn, why'd I drink so many again?
Oh that's right, something about a murder of a student in Inaba, and Shirou walking back with two-
"Nope!" I slam my glass mug down. I was suddenly sober from that thought, and had no wish to be tonight. "Give me another!"
I called Dojima the following evening, ready to chew him out. This was the third missing person, and it's only a matter of time before she became a streetlight ornament. I was in my house this time; hand on my cell, foot tapping, and my gaze glued to the Inaba local news.
He finally answered at the fourth ring. "He's staying."
Well, color me surprised. The detective can predict when I-wait, what?! "Excuse me?"
"Shirou's staying here, at least for now."
Okay, what the hell?! He has no right to claim custody like that! I'm his legal guardian, damn it! What possible reason could he have to keep him down there?!
"I don't know when this case will be solved, and things are only getting worse with a missing student." Exactly my point! So why-?! "I'm most likely going to spend a lot of late nights finding this guy while Nanako's alone in the house."
"You told me once that I should consider my daughter's feelings with her mother gone and me always working. That was the only reason I even considered meeting half-way to this whole "long-lost-nephew' thing. I don't know about Shirou in all this, but Nanako's just starting to open up more now that there's more company at home. They need each other."
…I'd forgotten. In the whole spiraling worry of Shirou's wellbeing, I didn't consider how bad it would be for Nanako-chan. And even if I devote more time and attention to him and remind him that he's not alone, the same couldn't be said for Nanako-chan.
I feel ashamed for even wanting to break up the family that I'd started and help mend. But it doesn't help that there's still a murderer out there, who'd ruin that family connection anyway by killing Shirou.
Damned if you do, damned if you don't. And I damn well want to hit something right now. Instead, I breath out the leftover anger and guilt away in a long, exhausted sigh.
"…All right," I agree. "But if I hear or see the news going over a third murder victim, I'll come over myself and drag him back home if I have to."
"Fair enough," he replied back. He then adds with a bit of annoyance, "Though you're making it kind of hard to do my job."
"You're Detective Ryotaro Dojima," I said with a smile. "I'm sure you'll figure something out!"
I hung up, torn between being relieved and upset. That idiot was making a connection by channeling his helper attitude as usual, but the timing couldn't be worse. I guess the best thing to do would be to call Shirou and see how he was dealing with the whole thing. He was just a call away, like his uncle.
But why do I hesitate to dial the number?
Good news, the Amagi Inn girl who went missing for almost a week had finally returned; alive, no less. Though she didn't make another appearance like in that one-sided interview, the mother and father assured that she was safe and sound while recovering. They also kept the questioning short and returned to their business, so good for them.
But then there's the bad news: Shirou won't be coming back yet.
Well, not that I would have been happy for that girl's death in any case. I want to eat his delicious free food again, but I also want him to get along with his uncle and cousin.
It was then, sitting in his empty house once more that I decided to call him and see how he was. One ring goes by. Then two-
How I missed hearing him call me that. But I can't let him know my weakness though.
"Shirou, it's good to hear from you! Haven't had any problems yet, right? Are you studying hard? How's Junes? Did you buy me any souvenirs yet? What about their recipes?!"
That should throw him off a bit.
"Sl-slow down! I'm fine with studying, Junes is great, I'm working on the souvenirs, and I'm considering how they make their steak skewers…"
I absently lick my lips. Steak skewers? That sounds kinda-wait. He skipped one. "So I take it you are having problems?"
I didn't need to see Shirou to know he was looking panicked at his blunder. "Uh… no?"
"If you have something to say, you better say it now before I beat it out of you, one way or another."
I was angrily tapping my finger to the table. He seemed to clue in to my behavior, for he sighed and said, "Okay, I do. Though it's… kind of embarrassing to say."
I grinned and silently urge him to continue. He'll admit he's caught up in the murder case, I'll talk him out of it, and he'll be out of risk of endangering himself and Nanako-chan. Plain and simple. "Just say it, Shirou. I won't judge." Much.
"Well…" he sounded doubtful, but went ahead anyway. "What do you do if you found out someone is… attracted to you?"
"And that you found out about it in the most… humiliating way possible?"
"And you want to try and help them see someone else but can't because of a misunderstanding?"
Did Shirou just… is he seriously asking me… love advice?!
I hung up, unable to listen to his innocent questioning anymore. It took all I had in me to fight back the urge to run for Copenhagen. Remember Taiga, getting drunk off your ass won't help anyone. Getting drunk off your ass won't help anyone. Getting drunk off your ass won't help anyone.
…Oh who the hell am I kidding?! SHIROU'S A WOMANIZER! THE APOCALYPSE IS UPON US!
Wait. What if it's Sakura?! Maybe… maybe he's finally realized that she has feelings for him and was legitimately asking for reasonable advice regarding his underclassman sweetheart! This changes everything!
I quickly redialed the number, excited and grinning from ear to ear, despite him not seeing it. "Fuji-nee, you're back! What happened?"
"Phone died," I lied easily. "Got it back up with a quick charge. So, mind telling more about this lucky girl?"
"W-well, she's very energetic, for starters. A bit violent, but also very protective."
I nodded. Sounded like a bit of a handful, but nothing Shirou couldn't handle. The girl couldn't be Sakura-chan, though, if she was violent. Maybe he saw a side she normally kept to herself? If so, she probably took it after me. "Yes, yes, go on."
"She's also very strong and athletic. With a healthy metabolism to boot; meaning, she eats a lot, but she works out to keep her figure fit, I'd imagine."
Strong and athletic? That'd suit more of Ayako-chan's description than Sakura-chan's, and even then they're both archers. But it's definitely not Sakura as I usually out-paced her in eating. So it wasn't her after all…
"Sorry," I said and smiled again. I should be happy for him, and at least determine who this crush girl really is. "How did you know she likes you again?"
"I, uh…" he fumbled. He really was nervous about this. "I walked in and heard the alleged confession. Among other things I shouldn't have."
Ah. That's always a hazard to go through. I would hate for someone to get the wrong idea of me sleeping over at Shirou's place every night. I lost count I had to stress it otherwise to more than a few students curious of our arrangement, especially Ayako-chan's brother. "And what's this about a misunderstanding?"
"I was hoping to help someone else get to know her better but there's still the fact that she likes me."
Huh. Well, I got to admit Shirou's in a real pickle concerning this mystery girl and whether or not he wants to let her down gently. It was almost cute in a way. Still, she sounds vaguely familiar. The description, the rumors… if I didn't know any better, this crush girl sounds just like-
The smile on my face froze. Painfully.
"What do you think I shou-?"
I hung up again. Screw the power of mental persuasion. I REFUSE TO BE WOMANIZED!
"Taiga-chan, I really think you should-"
Meals with Sakura-chan became a rare occurrence now. I was devastated at first, but it turns out Sakura-chan took Shirou's move harder than I thought. I convinced her to at least come over every Sunday and spend the entire day in the house with whatever she needed; we could study in separate rooms and she'd cook for both of us all three meals. It's a good thing because it'll spare Neko-chan and myself from another night at the bar, for both our sakes.
Tonight was a simple teriyaki chicken dish with fried rice; not as extravagant, but we both had no real reason to stay longer than necessary. I'd never admit it to Shirou of course, but Sakura-chan really is the better cook of the two, even with the most simplest and bare of ingredients. She just had the unfortunate trade-off of not being around as often as Shirou in the household; prior to this year, anyway.
Sakura-chan would never say why she would suddenly go straight to her estate, or what her sudden disappearance would be other than "family matters". Sakura-chan loved her brother more than he deserved, but she never liked talking about her family so Shirou and I never pushed. We just stayed stagnant at our little table for years, enjoying wonderful food and pretending nothing was wrong.
Pretending that Shirou didn't miss Kiritsugu. Pretending that Sakura-chan didn't have an unhappy life outside of the estate. Pretending that I just wanted to have responsibilities without really acting on them.
"I miss Senpai," Sakura spoke softly. She was lightly eating through her rice with her head hanging down.
"Yeah," I agreed, going through my third helping. Things just weren't the same without him to tease around. Dinner wasn't lively anymore with just the two of us. Perhaps this was another reason I always ate here.
"You never should have made him leave."
I looked up, surprised to see cute little Sakura-chan glaring at me. It was only a stern frown, but this was still a first from her. I was almost inclined to agree with her, though. But Sakura-chan was ignorant about the murder cases and there was no sense in getting her more worried. As far as she knew, nothing was going on in Inaba.
I simply shrugged. "I see this as doing it more for Nanako-chan at this point. She's lost her mother, and her father's too busy to take care of her all the time. Shirou would make a great nanny for her!"
I could already see it; the two of them sitting by a small table in princess dresses and large stuffed animals sitting around them, drinking tea that he'd no doubt make for the occasion. Shirou's lack of backbone led him to be everyone's favorite fake janitor, but there would be nothing wrong with allowing himself to go along with a little cousin's play time. In fact, it would sound kind of cute… and hilarious. I honestly had to laugh at the image.
But I realized that Sakura-chan wasn't laughing with me. Her glare broke down to a sadder frown, and she ducked her head down as if trying to hide from under her bangs.
She really was against Shirou's trip from the start, huh?
Well, as much as we both hated it, the decision was final and he won't be back until spring. There was nothing to worry about either; there hasn't been another murder yet from what I've kept up in the Inaba news. Shirou would be fine, and this whole murder crime spree will be a distant memory by the end of the year.
A/N: A new chapter that is more like filler but of a unique and important kind. For those wondering what is happening with Taiga and the others while Shirou's in Inaba, count this as a glimpse. I have other side stories planned further down the line, and not all of them will be Fuyuki centric. That's all I can really say at the moment.
-Vegeta the 3rd