V : Is this fate?

"Hey,hey!'" Arf cried out as the boy convulsed under her steel grip. "This is bad Fate! It's getting worse! Why is the seal failing already?" she snarled.

"The sealing system wasn't meant to be used while the lost logia was still active…" Fate murmured, the blond caught off-guard by the sudden relapse of the boy. "I'll have to replace the sealing spell before it deteriorates. If this continues the Jewel Seed will activate once more."

Arf grimaced at the news."If that thing goes on a rampage again we'll be unable to hide our home from those other brats and that psycho killer. We'll have to extract it from his body before that happens..."

"That's not an option." Fate shook her head. "It didn't detach itself from the boy after the first time. It must be locked in place for some reason. Even if we try to pull it out now it might activate before we can completely separate it… and he has suffered enough."

"Fate, I understand that you don't want to do any more harm… but we can't let things stay like this!" Arf pleaded. "Just get that thing out of him and seal it amongst the others already! Once we get the Jewel Seed, we can just drop the boy on the roof of a hospital. He'll be taken care off and out of our hands. It's too big a risk to keep him here!"

But Fate simply hefted her Bardiche once more, the black device brimming with power before it once more subjected the Jewel Seed into obedience.

The man dreamed of the past. Flames surrounded him as piles of ash, once human bodies, scattered along the cursed wind blowing through the ruined streets...

Death by suffocation. Death by mutilation. Death by exsanguination...

He paid no attention to the curses echoing inside his head or to the blisters on his hands. He continued to dig out one corpse after another. He had to keep looking, for someone must have survived this disaster...

...Death by dismemberment. Death by pulverisation. Death by flaying...

But here the memories of the past diverged from the nightmare he was reliving. For where there should have been a boy with red hair and golden eyes amongst the rubble, near death but still drawing air, nothing remained. And as the man dug more desperately, between running from the ruins of one house to another, he slowly realised that the boy he saved, the boy that saved him, was nowhere to be found.

Shirou wasn't there. He had lost the only person who he had been able to save.

Even after sacrificing everything he held dear... Kiritsugu had truly been unable to save anyone.

Kiritsugu woke up, the sight of the burning city replaced with the white plastered ceiling of what appeared to be a guest room. Looking down he found that his coat had been removed, folded neatly next to the pillow his head had been resting on.

"You're awake."

Only now did Kiritsugu notice Takamachi Shirou sitting against the wall.

"Where… no, when was I brought here?"

"Nanoha and Yuuno managed to carry you back to our home yesterday. It's already getting dark so you've been out for almost an entire day."

"I see. Then, after I was brought here…" Kiritsugu paused as he recalled the first part of Takamachi Shirou's answer. "You know about Yuuno?"

"We know everything now Kiritsugu." The man replied, letting the smile slip from his expression as his gaze turned cold. "I had Nanoha tell me everything. Everything Kiritsugu, from her first encounter with the mage to Yesterday's disaster. Right now those two are under my wife's attention but…"

"Shirou. You didn't mention my son…."

Takamachi Shirou had many reasons to be furious with Emiya Kiritsugu. The man had failed to keep up to his word, not only hiding the fact that the town was in such grave danger but also the fact that he had shown Nanoha a glimpse of the grim world both the assassin and the bodyguard had stepped out from. He wanted her life be normal, common and away from danger. And even though Kiritsugu wasn't really responsible for it he was a symbol of that world Takamachi Shirou wanted to shield his little girl from…

But even those feelings didn't make it easier to tell this man the truth. For Takamachi Shirou knew how much the younger Shirou meant to his father.

"...Miyuki and Kyouya are still looking, but we haven't found a trace so far. We still have hope that we'll find him of course but...…"

"I see. He's gone…"

Takamachi Shirou had never imagined that Kiritsugu could look so broken.

Emiya Shirou's world had become one filled with pain, headaches and nausea.

He had woken up in what appeared to be a luxurious, if somewhat under furnished apartment. His body complained with every breath he took and even the slightest movement caused pain to burn through his nerves…

But that pain was all too familiar to Shirou. After all, it was the pain he had felt back when he tried to turn his own body into a circuit. With that sudden realisation he realised that, even now, his circuits were still burning hot.

Which should have been impossible. His Od, his own life's energy, was dangerously low. Kiritsugu had clearly stated that if he kept his circuits running for a longer period like that he'd definitely die, seeing that Shirou was unable to use the mana of the environment. Even so it seemed that his circuits were blazing at full strength, heating up his body as he continued to channel power; power that definitely wasn't coming from himself.

Even though any amateur magus should be dead at this point, Shirou wasn't. Somehow that didn't make the boy feel any better.

Shirou willed his breath into a calm, regular pattern as he desperately fought the nausea in an attempt to clear his mind. Slowly he conjured the image of the gun's hammer, before slowly willing the representation of his switch back to normal. For a moment he felt the burden of his circuits diminish, his body relaxing as the stress placed on his body finally was lifted…

...moments later the boy screamed out in pain as circuits were instantly pushed open without any mercy, leaving him spasming on the ground. caught off guard Shirou found himself gasping for air, his breath reduced to short ragged wheezes while tears sprung from the corners of his eyes.

For a moment he had sensed the strangeness which was now embedded deep inside of him; an overflowing cup of heat that leaked power right into his circuits. The overflow forced his circuits open in an attempt to disperse the power leaking into his body as they converted the raw power into prana. Normally Shirou only managed to keep his circuits open for a short period of time, either until his body was out of Od or when he no longer could withstand the strain it placed on him. Together with Yuuno he had discovered that, even under training conditions, his limit was around twenty projections at most, or about an hour of sitting still while his circuits simply burned through his Od.

He had never left them running for longer than an hour, and certainly not while unconscious. His father had warned him about what happened to magic users who lost control of their circuits. Some of them had burned themselves out, killing themselves as their lifeforce was wasted away, or would find themselves incapable of controlling their magic at all, turning into a danger for everyone near the unfortunate magus…

…Shirou, having crawled back on his knees, carefully placed a hand on the bed he had been resting on, desperately emptying his mind as he softly uttered his trigger in an attempt to analyse the structure of the bed.

"...oh boy." Shirou whimpered as he slowly, very slowly, moved away from the bed, crawling over the floor as he started looking for a way out. Shirou still remembered what had happened to an object which had been flooded with prana beyond it's limits, his mouth painfully dry as he recalled the sight of a steel pipe crumbling into dust.

Eventually he made his way through the room towards one of the outer walls. Sweat dripped from his brow as he climbed to his feet, before moving alongside the wall as he made his way towards a door.

He needed to get out of the room to make his escape. Fate and her familiar seemed to be missing for now, making this a rare chance for him to find out where he had ended up, and how to escape. A smile finally appeared on his face as his hand, trembling uncontrollably as his limbs clearly struggled under the strain of moving with burning muscles, managed to get a grip on the door handle.

His short found confidence took a hit as the handle refused to move.

"It's locked?"

This was going to be a bit harder, especially with his legs barely holding him up. Shirou bit his lip in frustration and in an attempt to clear his mind, desperately trying to think of a way to get past the door.

If Fate had taken the effort to lock this door it meant that a way out of here existed beyond it. Once he got through he would have a better chance at escaping. Shirou refused to give up here, all because of a simple lock! For a moment he toyed with the idea of trying to analyse the lock with his magic and then make a false key, but Shirou doubted that he had the control to do something like that. Even more, with his circuits out of whack all he'd do was probably overloading the lock...

… destroying it in the process.

"Analysis... start."

Even as his body heated up uncomfortably, far worse than normally, he couldn't help but smile as the steel handle slowly began to turn into rubble...

... until the whole door suddenly exploded in his face.

Walking next to her master in her inconspicuous humanoid form, Arf couldn't help but glance at her owner as Fate carried a selection of cakes, recently appropriated from a local bakery. The girl had wanted to bring a gift for her mother, especially since she'd be bothering her with her request.

"I don't know Fate," Arf spoke as they walked down the street, accompanying her master as the latter carried a selection of cakes. "Can't we just... try again ourselves? I know it didn't work but bringing him with us to see her..."

"We only managed to find four Jewel Seeds, five if we count the one still stuck inside of Shirou." Fate replied, carefully cradling the gift she had selected for her mother. "Mother is a much greater mage them I am. She'll find a way to extract it so we can send him back."

"But she'll be angry!" Arf protested, looking rather uncomfortable as Fate mentioned her mother. "We'd be taking a stranger with us, directly ignoring her instructions on how to prevent anyone tracking us back at any cost! I...I just don't want you to get into any trouble."

"It's okay Arf." Fate smiled, gently squeezing the hand of her loyal friend as they walked through the entrance of the apartment building. "Mother is strict because she wants to be careful, mostly because I keep making mistakes. She'll understand that Shirou isn't any threat to us. In the worst case, the boy will have to stay in the Garden for a little while to make sure that he's okay."

"That woman will probably lock him up in one of the basements." Arf muttered as she followed her master into the elevator and closed the door as Fate pressed the button for the top floor. As soon as the doors of the elevator opened Fate made her way towards her room, Arf absentmindedly following her master, which explained her surprise as she suddenly bumped into the smaller form of the girl.

"Arf..." Fate calmly spoke as she stared at the end of the hallway. "Do you remember setting up a trap on the door of our apartment?"

"...No" The taller woman slowly replied. "Then again, it might be a good idea though with our little guest. Any reason..."

Arf speech faltered, finally noticing the distinct lack of door at the entrance of their apartment. The former heavy wooden divider separating their apartment from the corridor had been replaced by a collection of rubble which surrounded the unconscious form of the redheaded boy.

"Oh..." Arf dryly noted. "That's why."

"He's still packing quite a fever" Arf noted as she placed the boy on the couch. The boy continued to twitch in her arms as if her very touch was enough to bring him discomfort. "He smells like ammonia…"

Arf paused as she noticed the boy's eyes open slightly, the boy casting a half-lidded look through the room.

"Are you awake?" Fate addressed the boy, grasping his head with her hands as he threatened to fall over. "Can you hear me?"

"Ah..." The boy seemingly found the clarity to speak, his eyes widening in recognition. "It's Fate... right?"

"That's right. Do you know where you are? Can you remember what happened?"

"I... I was walking towards... a door." the boy answered, his face scrunched in confusion as he looked at the door frame even as Fate held his head in a firm grip. "Wasn't there supposed to be a door over there?"

"There was." Arf snapped. "Now tell us what you tried to do which ended up blowing up our door!"

"Arf, please calm down." Fate shook her head. "He's probably too confused to…"

"Ah, I just wanted to get outside... I wanted to open the door." The boy sheepishly confessed, drawing Fate's attention back to the feverish boy. "The whole... exploding thing wasn't what I had in mind."

"Alright." Arf shook her head in disbelief. "Let's just tie him up next time we leave the apartment..."

"There's no need for that." Fate shook her head as she made up her mind. "We will all be leaving for the garden tonight."

"W-Wait just a minute." The familiar took a step back, reacting as if struck. "That's too fast! We haven't even asked her… and he's much more dangerous than we thought! Look at him, he blew up a door because he wanted to open a lock!"

"All that is the fault of the Jewel Seed sealed inside of him." Fate rebuffed her familiar's objections. "I doubt that I can keep on resealing the Jewel Seed inside of him for much longer. It's doing far too much harm to him already."


"I'll take responsibility for bringing him with us." Fate decided, removing her hands from Shirou's head leaving the boy to slump to his side due to the sudden lack of support. "She'll be able to understand."

"Agh! I get it!" Arf moaned as she slouched over towards the bed. "We'll take him. I'll carry him with me. Just... give me a few minutes of rest before I have to drag him all over the place..."


Fate turned around, finding the boy looking at Arf, sporting an expression of sheer panic as his eyes widened to their limits and his skin turned even paler than before. Spinning back towards her familiar Fate could only watch Arf as she threw herself towards the bed, crashing down right on top of the comfortable mattress…

...thus compressing the prana-bloated object with the additional force of her momentum, pushing it past it's critical point.

"[Barrier Set!]"

The sudden warning from her device was all that Fate Testarossa picked up before her bed suddenly imploded on itself, the soft blankets and mattress exploding under the surprised familiar.

"Arf... are you alright?" Fate called out after the dust had started to settle, revealing a very angry woman sitting on the ruins of the bed, gashes all over her body.

"... That's it, we're leaving right now." Arf replied as she slowly pulled herself out of the remains of the bed, wincing painfully with every move she made. "Your mother can handle him from now on, I don't care anymore. I'm done."

"...Sorry." the boy mumbled, trying to look apologetic but failing to focus on the woman who was glaring at him.

"Lets... lets go then." Fate spoke up, gently pulling the boy off the couch before Arf slung him over her shoulder, following her master out of the apartment.

Every single fiber of Kiritsugu's body voiced their displeasure as he once more went through his routine exercises, forcing his body to endure even as the strain of his previous encounter still limited his motions. The man no longer wished to waste time resting. The fast pace of the last few encounters reminded him that any attempt to find and rescue Shirou would become more difficult with every second the girl named Fate could decide to simply extract the Jewel Seed currently sealed within the boy by force.

The tidbits of information he had collected from Nanoha and Yuuno's recollection of the last encounter, along with what he had seen himself, had brought him to the unsettling conclusion that the artifact had done more then just hide inside Shirou's body. It had used him to create a bounded field, a feat of thaumaturgy meant to separate an area from the rest of the world. Due to the alien nature of the Jewel Seed the inside world had been twisted beyond recognition but...

...the sight of the burning city had been all too familiar to Kiritsugu, enough for him to falter as the countless curses voicing their hatred of him were suddenly bolstered by that nightmarish sight.

Aside from him, there had been one other who had seen that nightmarish visage two years ago. Most likely the Jewel Seed had used Shirou's traumatic experience to create a world where it could hide from the people hunting it, arming itself with the basic thaumaturgy the boy possessed at the same time.

It made sense… except for one glaring inconsistency in his theory.

The bounded world should have disappeared almost instantly when the Jewel Seed had been sealed. Instead just the chaotic elements, the fire and the buildings, had been the only ones to vanish, leaving an empty wasteland behind. Without the Jewel Seed to form and shape that world there could only be one other explanation for that unnatural landscape. Whatever the Jewel Seed had done in the short time it had inhabited Shirou's body, it had unlocked a power that no regular human was supposed to possess. It was a power that could easily cost him his life, either by his own actions or by those who would hunt him for that ability.

Even worse, the Jewel Seed had somehow done something just as impossible, if Shirou's regeneration was caused by the same object that had saved his life after the fire.

Avalon, the Ever Distant Utopia. It was supposed to be worthless now, it's power spent the moment the last traces of Saber's prana had been used to restore Shirou's health after the fire. Even so, once more Shirou had been revived from the brink of destruction, his body continuously repairing the damage that the Jewel Seed was causing.

Avalon couldn't... should not function properly for anyone but Saber. Anyone contracted to her would benefit somewhat, but was far from inmortal. Those without a contract would only have their injuries healed if the artifact was still charged with her power, which required her to be present with the artifact using all of it's reserves in the span of but a few minutes. Even Shirou hadn't been fully restored the first time he had cheated death, requiring weeks of hospitalisation to finish his path of recovery. Saber was gone from this world, yet the holy scabbard was clearly active once more.

Just what was it that was buried deep inside the Jewel Seeds if one could awaken that ancient phantasm once more?

Takamachi Momoko knew that her daughter was strong. Her little girl was not one to quit, instead gritting her teeth and weathering on. Nanoha never asked for anything, never wanting to be a burden or to be in someone's way. She was mature for her age.

… she had been forced to grow up too fast. By the time her father had returned from the hospital and the Takamachi family finally realised how much they had neglected their youngest member Takamachi Nanoha had become a mature little girl, obedient and far too manageable for a child her age.

Perhaps that was the reason why she and the younger Shirou hit off so well. The boy was the same, possessing discipline no child should possess, a drive and determination that clearly showed the scars inflicted on his personality. Boys of his age normally want to practice the sword because it was cool, or because their parents told them to do so. Emiya Shirou wielded the sword to fulfill a goal chased with a determination few living humans could match. Meanwhile Nanoha was clearly struggling with finding a purpose of her own.

But it seemed that Nanoha had found her purpose. Unfortunately said purpose had turned out to be a much greater burden to bear for the girl now sulking at the kitchen table.

Momoko wasn't a warrior of great skill nor was she a mage of great wisdom But she knew at least one thing she could do for her daughter.

"Here Nanoha, caramel milk."

A somewhat hesitant, but genuine smile appeared on Nanoha's face as she eyed the beverage in front of her. Using both her hands the girl brought the beverage to her lips, carefully taking a sip before letting out a sigh of relaxation.

"It's good."

"Now," Momoko smiled as sat down in front of her daughter, " Perhaps you want to talk about this? I'll listen to whatever you have to say."

"...Just four. And you even failed to secure the last one properly, scurrying home with this... failure or yours in tow. This is nothing less than horribly disappointing."

The boy couldn't tell if he was still awake, or if he was dreaming. He remembered the feeling of being carried, having been cradled in the arms of the red headed woman… or was it Fate who had swung his arm around her neck as a set of doors opened in front of him….

"Yes... I'm sorry mother."

For some reason those four words cut through the whole dampening his thoughts.

"Listen Fate, You are my daughter. The sole daughter of Precia Testarossa. For you, nothing should be impossible, no matter what..."

Just listening into the conversation taking place took all of Shirou's strength, but even that was not enough for his focus to remain intact. As the pain of his body overwhelmed him once more, he felt himself slipping, his mind shutting down...

"..that's why, I want you to remember..."

The cries of pain that followed were barely registered, Shirou's consciousness faded away once more…

even so, the boy grit his teeth even as his mind drifted into darkness.

"...oh, you've managed to regain consciousness at this point? Quite a feat for someone in your condition."

Shirou immediately realised that something strange had happened to him while he had been gone. His thoughts were clear, his mind no longer clouded and twisted by pain. Gone was the ever present discomfort inside his chest and his circuits no longer burned through his flesh, relieved of the burden that had been placed on them. But it didn't take long for Shirou to realise that something was horribly wrong with him.

He couldn't feel anything. Below his neck there was no pain, no discomfort… nothing. He could still move his head, making it possible to see the ends of his limbs, hands and feet encased in purple bindings which kept him afloat. His body was right there…

"Don't bother." The woman spoke as she seemingly took notice of his discomfort while looking at the displays in front of her.

"W-what.." Shirou gasped, finding it hard to speak as his lungs struggled with every breath he took. The taste of blood filled his mouth with every gasp he took.

"Don't talk. Most of your lungs have already started to degenerate into a bloody pulp, so spare your breath. Unfortunately for you it seems that your lung tissue was exposed to the highest concentration of the Jewel Seed's output. The rest of your body is in horrible shape as well. I was forced to suppress most of your somatic nervous system just to keep you from thrashing around. It is rather uncomfortable."

The woman paused, one hand hovering in front of her mouth as she forced back a cough as the other hovered in front of the screen, frozen in action. Soon the woman dragged her attention back to reality as she conjured another screen out of nowhere. This time Shirou was able to see what it displayed, although he couldn't make heads or tails from the intricate pattern displayed…

...aside from the bolted XIX displayed in the center.

"Your visual and auditory senses still seem to be somewhat functional," Precia noted absentmindedly, "seeing that you're capable of recognising the Jewel Seed on this display. I had expected to find that mental pollution would have occurred but it seems your body is somewhat resilient against the damage inflicted on your body."

Shirou wanted to ask 'why'. He wanted to know what she was going to do, who she was and what the jewel seed displayed on the screen had to do with all this…

No, he knew what it meant. He had known ever since he had woken up in that apartment with the burning sensation inside his chest, especially after Fate had tried to remove it, only to fail...

What had happened to Fate?

"Until now, no Jewel Seed has been permitted to remain in contact with a living organism for this long a period. By now it seems to have evolved to the point that even a single twitch you make is getting amplified, causing magical damage as your body self-destructs. From what I've seen the first few cases showed that with lesser evolved organisms, the interface is far from precise. This... symbiosis of yours shows that the true abilities of the Jewel Seeds are far beyond just simple power generators. Unfortunately the side effects are rather severe. I'd say that if you had retained your senses your body would feel like it was on fire right now. Not a merciful death at all."

Not even Shirou could hold back the wave of cold fear as the woman so casually mentioned that he...

… he was dying? Just like that?

"It took me a five-layered sealing spell just to isolate the Jewel Seed from most of the impulses your body produces." the woman continued. "Unfortunately for you it seems that even taking a single breath is enough to trigger a small, but dangerous, response at this stage of assimilation. Separating the Jewel Seed without setting it off is indeed something beyond the scope of my technology and abilities..."

Shirou refused to listen, refused to accept her words. Dieing? He couldn't die. He wasn't allowed to die! He…

Something was off about all of this. Why was this woman even talking to him in the first place? She knew that he didn't understand half of what she was saying, that he couldn't even answer her. Even more, it was obvious from her tone and posture that she didn't even care about his health, yet had taken the time to inform him of his… upcoming death. Why was she...

"If you're wondering why I'm even talking to you at this point, "The woman suddenly turned to face him, "I just needed you to listen to my voice in order to finalise the calibration of the last layer of the seal. I can't have the remnants of random thoughts disrupting the containment while I extract the Jewel Seed..."

Suddenly several dozens of chains, similar to those Yuuno had used, burst from the floor as the tightly wrapped themselves around him, digging into Shirou's flesh as another set of binds wrapped around his throat. Unable to breathe the boy faintly struggled against the deadly choke...

"While it was interesting to observe a specimen of this world's unique magic culture, especially your abilities to disrupt spell patterns and your regeneration, I fear that your value as a research subject compared to the artifact you are now holding on is... incomparable. So... farewell, I guess."

Shirou didn't feel any pain as the woman pushed her staff against his chest, the thin purple blade of light that had suddenly formed out of thin air slicing through his flesh like a hot knife through butter.

The last thing he saw, before all went black, was the face of a woman who looked like she had simply pushed a button to shut down an obsolete experiment.

"Well... someone sure left their signature all over the place."

Standing at the entrance of the apartment, the broken door long since removed by the personnel of the apartment complex, the woman simply observed the traces of magecraft gone awry. When she had set up a few nets around downtown to trace her little trespasser she had not expected little result. Whatever means the trespassers used, they were almost undetectable to her surveillance spells, the bounded fields covering parts of Uminari far too weak to track them.

Fortunately it seemed that little Shirou's actions had undone all of the trespassers precautions. While the physical damage had been repaired even a second rate magus could easily tell that someone had wasted a large amount of prana, the traces in the structure surrounding the doorframe still palpable to her.

Reaching into the pockets of her coat the woman fished up her pack of cigarettes, lighting one as she brought it to her mouth…

"Well then. Time to make a call." She mumbled as she pulled the cigarette from her mouth, using the tip to mark the doorframe with a set of carefully drawn sigils before making her way towards the exit.

For several moments the strokes embedded onto the frame smoldered, before fading into oblivion.

He was going to die. No, he was dead already. That woman had told him, without showing any emotion, just dumping the fact on him without even caring if he could even comprehend it.

There had been no need for her to lie. Even without the hole in his chest his body would have been destroyed from within. Whatever the Jewel Seed had done to him before had left him nearly unable to think, his body poisoned while his magic circuits continued to burn.

All the woman had done was to give him a small reprieve of that pain and chaos, before finishing him off in a single blow. Even though her intentions were purely selfish, it had saved him from something much more painful...

Even so, he didn't want to die.

'I can't accept this. I can't just die here, without any meaning to my death...'

Emiya Shirou couldn't die. Not like this, not such a meaningless death, not after living without paying back the price he had paid before, the sacrifice of all those who burned on that day when he had left them behind.

'I was saved... I was saved, so I'm not allowed to die this easily'

Didn't he promise Yuuno that he'd help him with everything he had? Didn't he tell Nanoha that they were in this together?

Didn't he promise Fate that he'd help her, that he'd come to her aid if she asked?

'I have to live... I have to fulfill those promises. If I die, I can't do that.'

But there's a hole in Shirou's chest. And even without that hole his circuits are breaking down his body. There was no way that he could...

'I want to live.'

Emiya Shirou's whole existence echoed that single thought, crying out for help on the edge of life and death...

...and deep inside of him something answered.

Avalon, the sacred scabbard known as 'The Ever Distant Utopia'. A miracle crafted by the fairies of old, spiritual extensions of the world, and bound by completely different laws than those that dwell in the world of men. The artifact that they created is as fickle as the crafers that forged it, recognising but one true master, and only accepting her power. Thus the artifact, now dissolved to the point that it inhabits almost every living cell of the entity known as Emiya Shirou, has remained dormant for over a year, it's powers spent and only influencing the soul of it's current host, molding it into something more in tune with it's own nature.

Emiya Shirou cannot use Avalon, the boy was unable to call upon the protection of the realm shielded from even the five great magics. Only the human known as Arturia Pendragon can wield the artifact, ensuring that the king of legends does not bleed, nor age, and is protected against even the great magics of the world.

Jewel Seed XIX is neither a great magic, nor an object from this world. The Jewel Seed is something far older, forged inside the dimensional sea at depths that even those of Al-Hazard would call unreachable, before the whole empire vanished into that oblivion. And as time passed knowledge of the Jewel Seeds disappeared, and the lost logia themselves aged, growing unstable as time took it's toll.

A rampaging Jewel Seed is neither patient nor sapient. It does not seek a host, nor does it follow a specific programming to fulfill a goal. Had the Jewel Seed fused with Emiya Shirou, even with the magic circuits of the boy, things would never have become this complicated.

But it hadn't bonded with the organism known as Emiya Shirou. Instead it anchored itself to the countless fragments spread throughout his body, even though those existed outside the physical realm.

The Jewel Seed bound itself to those fragments of a miracle, and through those it bound itself to Emiya Shirou.

The artifact had obtained an indestructible frame, made from the scabbard of the last phantasm and the soul that it had reforged, a frame covered by the flesh of Emiya Shirou.

The Jewel Seed had become the Scabbard, or has the Scabbard become the Jewel Seed? Both answers were wrong, for they were still both there, fae magic and lost science, intertwined at a level beyond the material world. An impossibility which had become possible, a miracle that was never supposed to happen.

A rampaging Jewel Seed is neither patient nor sentient But Jewel Seed XIX had long since stopped rampaging. Instead it... they responded to the desperate plea of the soul that shared the vessel it inhabited.

'I want to live.'

And thus, as Precia Testarossa callously released the bindings holding what she believed was the corpse of Emiya Shirou, a grating wheeze echoed through the room as air was forced back into his lungs, the hole inside his chest filled with countless razor sharp knives.

She watched skin grow, slowly moving over the mesh that now filled the hole in his chest, while muscle fibers sprung from the blooded steel. Her eyes widened as she stared at the mesh of blades, slowly turning into flesh before her very eyes.

And on the face of Precia Testarossa a dreadful smile grew as she reached out toward the boy.

"Oh, they even replaced the bed with a bigger one!" Arf noted with a satisfied smirk as she landed on top of the newly replaced furniture. " It's a good thing too. You should get some sleep before we get back to work tomorrow." Arf's smile faded slightly as she watched her master, the blond conjuring her cape as Bardiche appeared in her hands.

"We'll be going on another search tonight." Fate decided. "We lost far too much time already."

"No, you need your rest. Tonight there's not going to be any patrolling. No matter what your Mother says, you need a good night sleep Fate."

"But we.."

"What's wrong with that woman anyway? First she scolds you for bringing him along, then she completely drops the issue. I hope he has been just as much a pain in her side as he's been in mine. Talking about that brat, where did he go?"

"Mother said she'd already finished treating him." Fate noted." I'm sure that she transported him back to the surface after that..."

"Great. Lets just hope that the other two have learned their lesson and stick to that brat's bedside while he recovers. With any luck that will keep them occupied while we finish the job." Arf sighed.

"... that would be nice." Fate agreed

'...Great. Lets just hope that the other two have learned their lesson and stick to that brat's bedside while he recovers. With any luck that will keep them occupied while we finish the job...'

'... that would be nice.'

Kiritsugu slowly pulled off his headset, connecting him to the receiver sitting on the side table of the hotelroom. Moments later Takamachi Shirou mimicked his action, the receiver continuing to relay the static of the listening devices even though nobody was paying attention at this point.

The fact that Kiritsugu's 'employer' had found the hotel room had been an unexpected windfall. As soon as he had received the address, Kiritsugu had wasted no time in gaining entrance, bugging the place before the residents would return. The assassin had considered planting a load of C2 as well, but in the end practicality had won out. It would be impossible to evacuate all of the other residents without alerting the girl and her familiar, which would give them enough time to escape should he try to enact such a drastic move. It would also destroy the only source of intel they could access.

"You were right." Takamachi Shirou chewed on his lip. "There is someone giving the girl instructions."

"Her mother." Kiritsugu calmly spoke, before his expression grew even grimmer. "If that woman is deliberately withholding information about Shirou to her field agents... she most likely has something to hide, even from her own daughter…"

"Ah," Shirou nodded. "I… don't like that, at all. But Kiritsugu, that doesn't mean that young Shirou is…"

"Lets not tell anyone else about this for now." The other man cut off the older Takamachi's attempt to reassure Kiritsugu. "It's better for her to think that Fate's still holding Shirou captured."

"That's a lie I'm not comfortable with. If Momoko asks, she won't believe it when I lie to her."

"Then.. lets hope we can capture Fate and get our hands on the true mastermind before she asks..."


"I'm sorry Shirou. Looks like I won't be able to save everyone this time..." Kiritsugu shook his head before walking out of the door, leaving the other male behind in the room.

Takamachi Shirou couldn't help but wonder if it had been him, or the younger boy, to whom Emiya had been apologising.

"It's a giant monster tree." Kyouya muttered as he and his sister unsheathed their weapons after following Nanoha into the park. Within moments the lake and the surrounding grounds were bathed in the otherworldly glow of Yuuno's barrier. Standing behind them was the youngest member of the Takamachi family, Nanoha's device aimed at the monster as she unleashed a barrage of attacks…

"It's got a barrier of it's own?" The girl cried out as her attack was brushed aside. "No fair!"

"Well then!" Kyouya replied. "Lets see how that barrier holds against…"

But before either he or Miyuki could even attempt to strike it the treant moved, it's arms raised towards the sky as a rain of lightning spears struck against the shield of the beast

It didn't take long for the Takamachi siblings to find the source of the magical attack, Fate Testarossa hovering above the battlefield as her familiar guarded the low grounds. For a brief moment both magical girls stared the other down before coming to a mutual conclusion.

"Kyouya! Miyuki! Cut the roots!" Nanoha yelled as she once more pointed her weapon towards the beast. At the same time Fate once more reached out, as magical energy gathered in front of her.

Both Kyouya and Miyuki simply vanished, before reappearing on the other side of the giant, leaving a trail of sliced roots and clipped branches in their wake. The core of the beast, suddenly cut loose from it's base

"Pierce it, lightning!"

"[Thunder smasher.]"



As the two attacks struck the beast, leaving it unable to counter both, it let out a final wail as it was reduced into ash, leaving Jewel Seed number VII behind as the artifact hovered in the air.

"[Sealing form, set up]" Bardiche broke the silence as it shifted forms, preparing to claim the Jewel Seed for his master.

"[Incoming fire]" Before Fate could even get the chance to collect the Jewel Seed Bardiche conjured up a barrier, barely shielding her from the surprise attack launched by Nanoha.

Fate's eyes widened in surprise as she turned her attention back towards Nanoha. From the corner of her eyes she suddenly noticed that the other two humans had also sprung into action, facing her familiar with their weapons drawn.

Fate was so caught up in the sudden stream of events that she only noticed that the ferret had made his way over to the Jewel Seed after he had finished enveloping the artifact in a series of barrier spells.

"...I wanted to talk to you at first…" Nanoha spoke, her voice almost too soft to hear. "I wanted to tell you that I'm not a spoiled girl, that I want to understand why you are doing this. But… right now, even more then having you listen to me, there is something I really want…"

"What are you talking about?" Fate raised her device once, unnerved by the look on her opponents face. Until now the girl had worn either a smile or a look of surprise, aside from the few glimpses of fear she had shown when cornered.

The look the girl was sporting right now was downright chilling.

" I'm going to defeat you here, and take Shirou back." The girl stated her ultimatum. "If you're not going to hand him over… I'll have to take him back by force."

"Take him back?" Fate repeated the statement as she tried to make sense of things. The girl, Takamachi Nanoha was convinced that she was holding her friend captive. But hadn't mother said that she'd finished with him already? Then why?

"Why are you saying that? I don't understand!"

"If you're going to be like that," Nanoha cried out as she leveled her staff towards her opponent, "then here I come!" Without any further warning the girl launched herself towards the blonde at full speed. Pure reflexes forced Fate to twist around, bringing Bardiche to bear in a desperate attempt to block the…


Before either girl could even land a hit the battle was over, both weapons were seized mid-flight.

"Combat here is far too dangerous." The boy holding both mages in lock continued. "I'm an enforcer of the Time-Space Administration bureau, Chrono Harlaown. Cease your actions immediately!"

Kiritsugu slowly lowered his rifle as he took the current events into account, having used the scope to keep track of the Takamachi siblings from the edge of the boundary. The view from his scope, accompanied by Yuuno's telepathic relay of the conversation held, had given him a live feed on all the happenings, from the battle against the treant to the appearance of the third mage.

The moment the boy had spoken the name of the organization, which Yuuno had first mentioned after he had just returned to town, Kiritsugu reluctantly returned the safety on his weapon.

He didn't want to make a bad impression on the newcomers just yet. Not before seeing just how lawful this Bureau really was, and how much of an asset they could turn out to be. Furthermore, with the sudden appearance of the TSAB the woman Fate had called her mother, possibly the mastermind behind the entire incident, would be forced to make a move...

"Well then, miss Testarossa," he murmured. "How will you react to this?"

AN: Backlog finished, back to writing!