Eye of the Sword – Her Song (part 1)

Author’s intro

The last chapter got quite a bit of feedback! Thank you all for the continued interest in this story and Kinoko Nasu – for the amazing universe he and Type-moon own but still let us play with.

Fonts used:

“Speech.”

Thoughts.

“Arias and other Mysteries.”

“Higher beings speaking, overpowered Mysteries.”

I have worked some more on English punctuation so it should be up to snuff now but some extra commas have probably creeped in so I apologize for that.

Enjoy, full notes at the end of the chapter.

P.S. I’m sorry for the large pause: exams, job change, etcetera but that is no excuse. From now on the updates will be on the 15th  of each month. I might publish an extra chapter once in a while but you will be getting regular updates unless I’m out of commission for most of the month which, I hope, won’t happen.

Chapter acknowledgements: while I would like to think that I would have fiddled with the appearance of Shirou’s Reality Marble anyway, ThirdFang’s awesome spin on it has probably been a factor. If you for some reason haven’t read ‘From Fake Dreams’ by him, please do.

Her Song

Tohsaka Rin was what any outsider would have to consider a model student and a model Magus. At school she was at the top of their year, idolized for both her academic prowess and looks. In private… suffice it to say that not dying under the tutelage of the fake priest was quite an accomplishment: the man knew the theory, sure, but he was no Tohsaka and a rudimentary Magus at best, what with the Church prohibiting the use of any Mysteries excluding Mystic Codes and the Exorcism Rite.

When she was about nine, the girl honestly tried to fight her own tendency toward arrogance. She felt that being stuck up distanced her from everyone but trying to be humble was getting even more difficult as Tohsaka realized just how much smarter she was than everyone else. In the end she gave up and crafted a polite, if a little distant, public personality affording but a peak at her true self to a pair of friends: Ayako Mitsuzuri and Kaede Makidera.

She was good, she knew it and she would do her absolute best to make sure her family’s name would stand proud among the Edelfelts, Einzberns and other leaders of their kind.

Which was why Rin had to wonder how exactly she got into the situation she found herself in as she watched Shirou bustle about the kitchen as Dietrich sat across from the female Magus and looked at her with something she identified as wary amusement.

Gladstone contacted the girl a few days after her incident with his adopted son and arranged a meeting, offering their house as a venue because, supposedly, it would be easier to hide everything from Kirei. He even threw in an oath that she wouldn’t be hurt and, because Rin was going through a particularly annoyingly useless bout of homework at the time courtesy of her useless teacher, she foolishly agreed.

Tohsaka had calmed down about five minutes before to recognize that she was in one room with two Magi she didn’t know inside of several Bounded Fields that did Root-knew-what. The experience could have been called humbling if it weren’t for the danger involved. She was distracted from her thoughts by the smell of something delicious which was immediately followed by a beaming Shirou carrying a large plate with a pile of potatoes and fish on top to the table.

“Salmon?” she raised an eyebrow.

Dietrich responded with a laugh and proceeded by helping himself to about a third of what Shirou brought. The man’s motions unnerved her: they were sharp, economical, if a bit erratic. As if he were a snake on meth.

Their chef started putting food on her plate even while she watched him incredulously.

“Don’t be shy, Tohsaka-san. And don’t worry, the food is perfectly safe. Shirou would never insult his work that way.”

The elder host honest-to-Root winked at her and punctuated his words by taking a large bite. What the hell was wrong with these people and their absent sense of propriety?

“Dietrich, what are you talking about?”

“Tohsaka-san is afraid of poison, it seems.”

Gladstone was on his third or fourth mouthful by that point and Shirou looked so offended that Tohsaka had to admit they probably wouldn’t poison her. Not like the annoying boy had much of a poker-face. She tried a bite and made an undignified yelp in surprise which she immediately attempted to cover with a cough. The damnable German Magus was on the verge of laughing now.

“This, this is good…”

“Isn’t it? I’m trying to make pen-bred salmon taste more like wild salmon. Pen-bred salmon has so much fat in it… So I put it on a grate above the potatoes and as it bakes, it drips fat onto the potatoes and – voila! Then I sprinkle a bit of lemon juice to offset the taste of remaining fat.”

She could only shake her head as the boy lost himself in the intricacies of cooking. She lived alone so she had to master quite a few recipes, mostly Western but she was never that passionate about it.

Dietrich responded with a deep, if a bit sharp, laugh:

“That’s my Shirou in a nutshell: give the boy a problem and some tools and he’ll combine them in a way that solves it. So, you wanted to talk about something, Tohsaka-san?”

Rin got momentarily distracted by how good the salmon tasted. She could easily identify that there were no spices apart from salt, lemon juice and thyme. The trick obviously lay in the temperature at which it was cooked and in the time that heat was being applied. This spoke of repeated experiments which was an attitude she admired, even if the boy was a crappy Magus. Of that she had little doubt: why would they risk such insane treatments otherwise?

Shirou sat near Dietrich, carefully settling his aching body on the cushion and looked at Tohsaka curiously: the girl’s posture and manner of eating was practically screaming ‘proper lady’.

“I read up on grafting Mystic Crests, Gladstone-san.”

“And you understood the theory?”

Dietrich sounded mildly impressed.

“Please, it’s easy. I mean, I can’t graft one myself yet but the concept – piece of cake. A Magic Circuit is basically a chunk of your soul, so you sort of peel it off and transfer it into a seal on your body which can later be transferred to a relative. Easy.”

The German Magus snorted:

“Simple – maybe. Not easy at all. The process is basically manipulating a soul with Mysteries, something bordering on True Magic.”

“But here is something I don’t understand: the books say that even with blood relatives a Magus can reject the Crest and the probability of a non-relative surviving the process is dangerously close to zero with no way of knowing the result in advance. Why risk it? And why are you so set on not telling Kotomine Kirei about Shirou,” she waved a hand in the direction of the silent boy, “I mean, I know that you’ve introduced yourself, Gladstone-san, and my teacher, reservations aside, is one of the best healers in the country.”

For once, Dietrich’s erratic motions ceased as he started rubbing his chin pensively. Still, it was Shirou that answered:

“Some of that sort of went over my head. But tell me: do you trust your teacher, Tohsaka?”

“What, no honorifics, Shirou-kun?”

The boy gave her a deadpan stare.

“You are too direct for honorifics. You can call me Emiya.”

“Whatever you say, Shirou-kun.”

Oh, how she enjoyed watching him wince.

“I trust my teacher about as far as I can throw him.”

“Can you throw him?”

“No.”

They looked each other for about ten seconds until Dietrich burst out laughing:

“Oh, I mean, I talked to the guy for half an hour and he got on my nerves but alienating his own pupil at this age? That Kotomine is really something… Well, we don’t trust him either, Tohsaka-san. Let’s just say that Shirou’s previous adoptive father met the man before and there is a possibility Kirei would try to interfere with Shirou’s education if he knew. And him meddling is never good.”

Rin nodded urging him to continue.

“As for your first question… Shirou is special so there is little chance of the rejection killing him.”

“What, he doesn’t have a soul? Because that’s the only way I can think of to accomplish something like that.”

“What? No, no, nothing like that. I mean, how would that even work? Even Dead Apostles have souls. It will be easier to simply show you. It’s a Mystery, nothing that can hurt you.”

Well, she would be at their mercy if she gave them permission to practice Thaumaturgy in front of her. Wait, she already was. Impatiently, Rin gestured for Dietrich to continue.

To her surprise it wasn’t the older Mage who moved but Shirou. The boy reached out with his right hand and whispered:

“Trace, On.”

What sort of a Mantra is that? she thought.

Meanwhile, the younger Magus closed his eyes and mumbled something under his breath, before opening them wide. There was a sharp contained explosion of Mana and something appeared in his hand.

Tohsaka blinked:

“Projection?”

The boy nodded.

“And how does making an empty copy…”

As she eyed the golden-tinged 12-inch dagger that Shirou laid on the table she felt that something was off. Cursing the insanity those strange people were making her partake in, the girl leaned in and poked the blade with a finger:

“That’s a Mystic Code.”

“Yes.”

“You Projected a Mystic Code. And you are still conscious.”

For the first time in a very long time the genius Magus found herself completely lost for words. It took her half a minute to shake herself out of a stupor.

“Still, that doesn’t explain…”

“Shirou constantly projects healing Mystic Codes to offset the rejection. It’s rather brilliant, actually.”

“Brilliant? Brilliant?!”

Her voice was dangerously close to shrieking now.

“Are you kidding me? How does he even get the effects to be constant, huh? How does he get the Codes to work all the time?!”

“Well, I sort of Project them inside myself. Between organs.”

Dietrich sighed: improvisation clearly wasn’t one of Shirou’s strengths. Tohsaka stared at them both. Hard.

“Stop lying to me or I will go to Kirei.”

Clearly, the experience of being one-upped by a pre-teen girl wasn’t a pleasant one for Dietrich if his expression was anything to judge this by.

“Shirou, what did I tell you about thinking things through? How would you Project something inside yourself? Where would the tissue that was there even go?”

He sighed.

“Tohsaka-san, it’s kind of a secret so can you promise not to tell anyone?”

“I’m sure we can come to an arrangement.”

“Well, that was worth trying... Shirou has a powerful healing artefact implanted which provides slow but constant and quite thorough regeneration. Useless under most circumstances but it can actually heal the damage rejection does and it’s barely enough to overcome it combined with periodically using external healing items.”

Rin couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Where did the days when charging a gem with magical energy counted as something truly fascinating go?

“So, let me get this right. You are saying that he,” she jabbed a finger at Shirou, “is constantly experiencing grafting rejection but he has something jammed INSIDE HIS BODY THAT KEEPS HIM ALIVE AND IN CONSTANT AGONY?!”

Well, she did try to hold her reactions in check and that had to count for something, she thought.

“Please, stop screaming, Tohsaka. Yes, pretty much. Though it’s not on the level where I would go into shock from pain so it’s okay.”

“OKAY?! HOW IS THAT OKAY?! WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!”

“I think Tohsaka-san needs some time to herself, Shirou. Let’s go have that lesson we scheduled while she calms down.”

As Shirou left the room to go deeper into the room, he turned around:

“I hope the salmon was to your liking.”

Her response was reflexive and delivered in a perfectly polite level tone:

“It was very good, thank you.”

Shirou just shook his head and left.

And then she was alone, staring at her half-full plate, stupefied by the tale she had been told. Either Shirou was a much better liar than she gave him credit for or both him and Dietrich were certifiably insane. Shrugging, Rin ate the food before it got completely cold.

After she finished, Rin waited five minutes for somebody to return and escort her out, before remembering that Shirou and Dietrich went Root-knew-where to have a ‘lesson’. She could simply leave and the more sensible part of her was practically screaming to do just that but it was silenced by the bane of all humans, be they Magi or not. Curiosity.

Aside from being close to insane, the elder Magus and his pupil were a puzzle. Dietrich himself was something of a legend: when it came to crafting Mystic Codes his skill was rumored to be unsurpassed. Rin held no illusions: mystery-wise, Fuyuki city might as well have been some backwater village in the middle of frozen Siberia. The Matou and Tohsaka families had lost a lot of their influence and there were no other notable presences around there. That is until Dietrich Gladstone decided to make the city a place of permanent residence.

Shirou himself presented an even larger mystery. Tohsaka didn’t have much experience in interacting closely with other Magi, except for the fake priest whose status as a Magus was somewhat debatable… For this reason, she couldn’t be completely confident she knew what a ‘normal’ practitioner was supposed to be like but Shirou was weird beyond any reasonable expectations. He got good marks at school, practiced a normally useless branch of Magecraft with impossible results and treated crippling pain as if it was something that mattered only if it sent him into medical shock.

Tohsaka couldn’t really justify snooping around somebody else’s house with any kind of reasoning: it was too far from the image of being a proper lady which she held so dear. That was why Rin told herself she had to find the masters of the compound to say goodbye. Conscience sufficiently appeased, she set out investigating.

It didn’t take long to realize that Dietrich’s annoying sense of humor wasn’t his only defining trait: the man was quite paranoid. Half the doors and walls deeper in the building were covered with layered Bounded Fields that she guessed didn’t promise sparkling rainbows and cute ponies to intruders.

Eventually she came upon a door with a large plaque saying ‘Shirou’s room. No entrance with water!’ Strangely enough, there were no mystical protections of any kind on or near it. She really had no excuse to enter but the temptation to see the weirdo’s living space was far too great. Knowing Dietrich and Shirou still weren’t done with their lesson, Tohsaka simply pushed the Japanese-style door aside.

Rin didn’t think she had ever been so disappointed in her life: the room in front of her was almost completely empty. There was a built-in closet to the right probably containing a futon for sleeping, clothes and other daily necessities, a cushion and a table with a laptop (what kind of Magus used electronics, anyway?), a photograph and some sort of project that involved a lot of different kinds of wood and what felt like a low amount of Mana.

Well, it could have been worse, she supposed. Not less boring but definitely worse.

Tohsaka walked up to the table. The photo was of an older scruffy looking middle-aged man and Shirou. The man, who must have been Kiritsugu Emiya, looked happy and Shirou was his usual quiet self although he did seem to have a sort of twinkle in his eye.

Absent-mindedly, she ran a hand over the wooden parts strewn all over the table. The aura around them tingled her fingers and the sheets of paper partially covered with the project seemed to hint it was supposed to be some sort of a Mana dampener. A case to conceal a Mystic Code from detection?

Anyway, nothing really interesting. Finally setting her mind on really finding Dietrich and excusing herself, Rin turned around. And froze.

When she walked in she didn’t look back and so didn’t see the wall that ended up right behind her. Which. Was. Covered. In. Blades.

Knives and swords, and spearheads, and unidentifiable to her eyes metal objects with sharp edges hung on supports, covering every inch. Straight, curved, light, heavy… More than one hundred square feet of sharp, gleaming, metal death. Just opposite the table two katanas in lacquered sheaths stood out but the rest just blended together into a sea of shining steel.

And then, as if things couldn’t get worse, she noticed the post-it notes. They were bright-pink and yellow and had things written on them in a careful, mechanical hand like ‘great for crushing bone’, ‘excellent for throat-slicing’, ‘good composition, poor balance’, ‘oil and clean on Friday’ and, on a large cleaver-like blade with a small chip on the edge ‘you should see the other guy’. On the floor under the exhibit an anatomical atlas lay, open on the page describing the human vascular system complete with notes on how to best make a man bleed out.

At this point all curiosity was finally forgotten and belated survival instinct kicked in. Tohsaka didn’t even remember how she came to be in front of her house, panting heavily and trying not to think on what she got herself into and what she might have avoided.

###

Shirou thought he heard the sound of somebody running by the room they used for classes but made no comment. He was in the middle of a lesson and this one was especially important as the material they were using came from his father.

While Kirtsugu had originally wanted nothing more than to keep his adopted son as far from his past as possible he eventually recognized that Shirou would need every edge available to him if he were to survive the Holy Grail War. He could only ask Dietrich to make sure the boy didn’t choose assassination for justice as a profession in the future and hope for the best.

So now they were going over the basics of surprise attacks and using collateral damage to gain an advantage. This was fairly new ground for his teacher as well as Gladstone preferred a more direct kind of confrontation.

With how important what they were doing was, Shirou found it deeply unnerving that his thoughts tended to stray to the arrogant, bossy and, frankly, quite annoying side of Tohsaka Rin he had come to know that day. He wondered whether most Magi were as self-absorbed.

Также в разделе:

Eye of the Sword – First Day, Second Night (part 2)
Eye of the Sword – First Day, Second Night (part 1)
Песочница драконов – четвертая глава (часть вторая)

Опубликовано: 29.03.2016

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(c) Александр Кирко, 2016