steelmyself: (excalibur.)
dead Emiya, do not eat ([personal profile] steelmyself) wrote2015-05-17 12:37 pm
Entry tags:

reference: background.

[ Most official sources you can find on Type-Moon character backgrounds can be pretty vague and confusingly translated. So I've compiled my take on Archer's background out of them here. ]

There's only one way to start this, and that's to come out and confess that the world Archer comes from is a standard urban-fantasy affair where lots of weird magic goes on in an otherwise ordinary-seeming world, hidden from the view of normal mortals. In its defense, the first works in the setting were written in the late '90s.

Anyway, let's move on and talk about a boy named Shirou, born in Fuyuki City in Japan in the late 1980s. For seven years, he grew up a normal and happy boy with loving parents and a pretty decent life. Of course, that's not the sort of character we're talking about here, so at that point, everyone around him died horribly in a huge fire. He stumbled through this hellscape on the brink of death, ignoring the pleas for help all around him, before finally resigning himself to die as well and starting to pass out. And right then someone showed up to save him.

When he woke up, he was in a hospital, and the guy who'd saved him introduced himself as Kiritsugu Emiya. Shirou was the only person who'd survived from the whole block of the city where the fire had occurred--Kiritsugu had gotten to him in time. Oh, and also, Kiritsugu was a magus. He did magic.

Well. That was all right. The important thing was that he'd saved Shirou--and now, with everything else Shirou had ever known burned away by the trauma of the fire, Kiritsugu Emiya was all he had and all he knew in life. He immediately agreed to be adopted by this man--and then he proceeded to spend the next two years convincing his new father to teach him magic so he could be like him. Finally, after much begging, Kiritsugu relented and started teaching Shirou magic. He wasn't much of a teacher, and Shirou wasn't much of a student--his only talent at first seemed to be projection magic, which he could use to create brief phantasmal copies of objects out of pure will. Kiritsugu tried to redirect that talent into the more reliable strengthening magic, which could be used to improve and reinforce existing objects, but Shirou wasn't very good at that. He kept trying, though, because he wanted to be like Kiritsugu, the one who had saved him.

And then, five years after he first saved and then adopted Shirou, Kiritsugu died and left Shirou alone in his house. In the end, Shirou promised to take on Kiritsugu's dream of being a superhero who saved everyone, and Kiritsugu died in peace.

Those had been the happiest years of Shirou's life--and things were going to go downhill from there.

For another five years, he lived as normal a life as a traumatized orphan trying to cope by becoming a magus could possibly live. He kept quietly trying to learn magic, and eventually he even made some friends who kept him company in the lonely Emiya house. But not a whole lot changed.

Then, ten years after the tragedy that cost him his previous life, Shirou was quite abruptly introduced to the rest of the magical world he'd been living on the fringes of. His usual luck led to him witnessing an inexplicable battle between human-shaped beings that were entirely too powerful to be human--and one of them decided to eliminate him as a witness by stabbing him through the heart. Somehow, someone saved him, and he woke up again and made a break for it--but the mysterious spear-wielding guy in the blue Tron suit followed him back to his home to finish him off.

And that was when something strange happened: a beautiful woman wielding a sword appeared to defend Shirou.

It turned out that he'd gotten caught in something called the Holy Grail War, a fight to the death among seven magi who became "Masters" of familiars called "Servants"--figures from history and legend summoned forth into new bodies, modeled after classes (from roleplaying games, of course, because that's definitely how to structure a fight to the death), in the modern world. In fact, it turned out that the previous and fourth iteration of this war was what had caused the fire that had destroyed his life ten years ago, and to prevent something like that happening again, he needed to step up and take part in the Holy Grail War to prevent someone terrible from winning and using the power of the Grail for evil.

Thus began a tremendous adventure involving his new Servant, the woman called Saber who turned out to actually be named Arturia Pendragon (don't ask, just accept that the people of early Britain couldn't tell that their famous knightly king was not actually a man). The events in it could take a very long time to describe, but I'll be generous and just say the following: Shirou and Saber won the Holy Grail War, and they managed to avoid getting some of the fellow Masters that Shirou had liked best killed, too. Rin Tohsaka, a teenage girl who had helped him and become his friend; Illyasviel von Einzbern, called Illya, a mysterious child who had first tried to kill him and then become like a little sister to him. Success, with a bonus! And for Shirou, these events only affirmed in his mind that his yearning to be a superhero just like Kiritsugu was a good urge that he should continue following, and they left him more determined than ever to follow the path of the magus to continue saving everyone around him.

There was a problem: through the life-changing two weeks of the Fifth Holy Grail War, Arturia Pendragon called Saber had proved to be a troubled soul haunted by her past failures. Despite the great staying power of the legend of King Arthur in the present day, the woman named Arturia could only see that in the end, she had failed her country and her people, and she lived out her entire mission to reach the Holy Grail without ever clearing her head of those clouds of doubt and regret. Though he'd pledged to save everyone, Shirou had not been able to save the person who had come into his life, saved him, and perfectly embodied all the ideals he strove to follow. And though when the war ended, she vanished from the present time to return to her lonely death after the Battle of Camlann, Shirou would never forget her or what she'd done for him.

But still, he did his best to continue living a life guided by those ideals. For a time, he did this at home in Fuyuki City, but some time after the Holy Grail War, his new friend Illya weakened and died despite all his attempts to save her. He wondered, then, for the first time, just what the point of his ideal was if he couldn't save one girl who was dear to him, but he could not back down now. With Illya dead and the rest of his makeshift family drifting away, he ventured out into the wider world to pursue his dream of saving everyone.

There, he singlemindedly refined what little talent he had in magic until it was actually useful for helping people. Mostly, he summoned a lot of swords and fought bad guys with them to save people. He liked swords. A lot. Once again, adventures were had, and people were saved. As he grew up from a stupid teenager being saved by King Arthur with (small) breasts into a serious-minded young man, he adopted his father's lifestyle as his father had adopted him and became a mysterious traveling magus who freelanced for whatever causes he thought were just. It didn't always work out, and a lot of the time he had to force himself not to think about the people he'd killed for the sake of saving the lives of others. He got a little numb from it, but so long as some people around him were being saved by his hands, he could keep going with a sure heart.

Good times, such as they were, could not last. Eventually, a much larger war than the rather contained one involving the Holy Grail broke out across the land, and Shirou did his best to take part to spare as many lives as possible. It all worked out as well as he could expect, until suddenly, before he knew it, he looked up and realized he was in a situation that his ideals couldn't salvage. A nuclear reactor had been damaged and was melting down, endangering everyone around it. No matter what he did, all the people around him would die. He couldn't stand for that--not him, who had vowed to take on his father's dream and become a superhero. Not him, who had been saved by Saber and tried to be worthy of that salvation. Not him, who was still on the inside as empty as he was the day he'd woken up from that fire. Not him, who needed these ideals to not fall apart.

On the brink of this disaster, he suddenly perceived an awareness in the world around him: a great spirit of humanity itself that would grant him the power he needed to avert unstoppable catastrophe and save the doomed human beings around him if only he swore to serve it faithfully after his death (once again, don't ask; it's not any weirder than King Arthur as a girl wearing a cute lion costume, right?). Without hesitation, he made the contract. After all, if he was doing this to save people, and this strange force wanted him to help it preserve humanity after his death...well, that couldn't be a bad exchange at all, could it?

So, briefly granted the power to reverse fate and become a great hero by this mysterious spirit of the world, he saved all the people around him. Not that many: a hundred or so. But they were everyone he could see in that moment, and that was all that mattered. It was enough. Yes, it was enough, even when the war ended, and this strange and mysterious hero became a nuisance to the new government, and one of the people he'd saved arranged for him to be put him on trial and sentenced to death. It was still enough even then, because even if it had all come to nothing in the end and his ideals had brought him no happiness, at least they were true, and he could die taking solace in the knowledge that afterwards, he would serve humanity in the spirit of those same ideals, defending all that was good for eternity. He wasn't happy. He'd failed to save Saber. He'd failed to save Illya. No one had thanked him or been happy when he'd saved others. But he still had his ideals, and he would accept that.

And so he died. And then, outside of the normal flow of time in the service of the unconscious spirit that defended humanity's survival, he opened his eyes again. And he killed, and he killed, and he killed.

You know what threatens humanity's survival the most? Human beings.

In the wake of his own death, having pledged himself to the world to defend humanity's existence, Shirou Emiya had no choice in exactly how he did that defending. All he could do was follow his orders to eliminate the threat to humanity's existence. No matter what decent people those threats were. No matter how they sobbed. No matter that no one ever smiled and thanked him as he put them to the sword.

His entire sense of self had been built on the shifting sand of his father's ideals to begin with, and now he saw those torn down around him with every moment he continued to exist. Every time he was summoned into being, he had to throw away every ideal he had once believed in, just so that he could follow the ideals he had once believed in (and if you think that paradox is bad, wait till you see the time-travel crap that's coming). And all of it, he did alone, at the mercy of larger forces beyond his comprehension, on a layer of existence where even time had no meaning. All he knew was that he was now spending eternity confronting that everything he had believed in--everything he had needed to believe in--was false.

Of course he broke. Of course he fell apart. Of course his earnest, youthful hope and idealism tarnished to bitterness and jaded resentment of the very concept of heroism. Of course everything that had been Shirou Emiya eroded into nothing in the face of all of this. And of course he wanted it all to end. But he had already died, and now he was an immortal spirit. So what could he do?

Well...there was one loophole. He was now a type of being known as a "counter guardian," and they were a subclass of a kind of being known as a "heroic spirit" or "legendary soul." And those were the spirits who were summoned as Servants in the Holy Grail War. And since he was now outside of the normal timeline of human history, he had a chance of being summoned into the very Holy Grail War where he once met Saber, who he had failed to save, and reaffirmed his resolve to be a superhero.

And if that happened, he could find the young and hopeful Shirou Emiya, stick about a million swords into him, and end it all right there. It would be great.

Of course, it wouldn't actually work, and he knew it. Since he was outside of the regular course of history now, it didn't matter what happened within it: he would still exist. The cosmological workings of this world were grandfather-paradox-proof, thank you very much. But he didn't care. It was his last and most desperate hope. The thought of personally destroying himself kept him going when everything decent inside of him felt as if it had worn away. For all that he told himself that this was just a plan to escape his suffering, he knew deep down it was more than that: regardless of what happened to him now, he wanted to erase his existence from the world, because it was the only way he could think of to make it all better.

So there came a time when he opened his eyes again, and he wasn't surrounded by a disaster that he had to kill to clean up after. Instead, he was in a mansion in the middle of Fuyuki City in Japan, and the only disaster was that he'd wrecked a nice room because his new Master had botched his summoning. Thanks to that botched summoning, his memory was kind of cloudy, and he wasn't entirely sure why he was there. But when, the next morning, the magus introduced herself as Rin Tohsaka, his memories slowly started to trickle back to him, and he fell into place at her side as her Servant in the Fifth Holy Grail War. His recollection of what exactly he'd planned to do was kind of hazy, but he had an increasingly good idea of the gist of it even if he couldn't recall his name anymore (that was okay; he had a feeling he hadn't even wanted to be called by that name by now). His class was Archer (yes, even though he used swords--sometimes he fired them out of a bow, all right). That would be a better name. And he'd accomplish his goal, he was sure, even if the admiration and devotion he was developing for the fierce, spirited magus Rin Tohsaka might get in the way of it.

And then he was the one getting into the battle with the mysterious spear-wielding guy in the blue Tron suit, who proceeded to run off again to chase down and kill a witness. And then Rin saved that witness, again. And then that witness went home again, and nearly died again, and summoned a beautiful woman wielding a sword again, but for the first time, because things would be different now that someone had shown up to alter the timeline and confuse things...

Rin raced to the scene with her Servant in tow--

--and that was when Archer saw Saber again, for the first time in an eternity, and all his memories clicked back into place, and he knew exactly who he was and what he was doing here.