Chapter 36

Beta: L33t Horo

Cover: LousGndiner


"Gran-Torino! There's another one behind us!"

"Focus on the one in front of you! I'll take care of it!"

"Understood!"

Midoriya slid under what seemed to be an enlarged tentacle. Soon after, a smog of concrete dust filled his vision, but it was incredibly hard to miss the blackened silhouette, which allowed the young hero to pivot on his feet and knock the creature down.

However, he knew it wouldn't last long. These blood monsters didn't traditionally need solid footing. Knocking one down only bought a mere second before new arms and legs sprouted from the main body, almost as if it never tumbled in the first place.

But that one second allowed a second kick, aided by a blast of displaced wind, to send the bloody beast into the roaring flames.

Throughout the evacuated area, Midoriya had been rushing from street to street alongside his mentor, punting the black blood monsters into the still-burning fire that Endeavor left behind.

It was the only thing that seemed to permanently destroy them.

Midoriya barely understood the reasons behind it, but it was theoretically simple. They might have been born out of the Beast's blood quirk, the Black Blood Vanguard, but they weren't completely composed of blood. There was some sort of black tar that made them more viscous and solid, which made them more durable. However, for some reason, fire seemed to get rid of it.

With that revelation conveyed to the rest of the pro-heroes, Endeavor reacted quickly by creating literal hot spots. No matter where you went, there was an ever-present pyre of flames that other heroes could use to defeat the blood monsters. There would be a lot of property damage, but that was honestly the least of their concerns right now.

The original plan had, quite literally, gone to hell. Midoriya didn't think anyone could argue that.

What they could argue was– why in the world were there still black blood monsters prowling the streets!?

Even with the hot spots left behind and the fellow heroes like Shoto aiding with his own flames, they were still getting overwhelmed. For every blood monster they burned to cinders, two more seemed to take their place. That was one of three problems that Midoriya had currently identified.

The second…

"Gran-Torino!"

"I see it brat! Move it!"

Midoriya grit his teeth and vaulted high into the air to latch onto a window sill. In doing so, he managed to avoid a black blur crashing onto the pavement.

"These Nomu are getting on my nerves!" His mentor shouted as he landed atop the Nomu and unleash a rapid volley of blows on its cranium. "Stay down!"

The teen honestly withheld the urge to wince at was what looked to be a concussion. However, his memories from USJ were calling out to him. It warned him that the Nomu could get back up at any time, and to avoid that…

Once more, Midoriya withheld a wince as Gran-Torino punted the Nomu into the open pyre, hoping that it expired in its flames.

"They know that we can't take the bloody creatures down normally and that we need these fires," Gran-Torino growled. "Should've thought they'd send these things while we did."

These hot spots were the best place to fight the blood creatures, but at the same time, they created a target that the League of Villains seemed overtly eager to capitalize on. The Nomu, mindless creatures of no brain and pure brawn, hunted heroes near the fires and took them out as fast as they could.

"We got lucky," Gran-Torino continued. "This one was weakened. It must've escaped from some heroes and thought we were easy pickings."

Weakened… that sounded about right. Midoriya chanced a glance at the flames, noticing the numerous wounds that it was riddled with. Stabs, cuts, and broken limbs. Whoever it was fighting certainly didn't hold back.

However, the fact that there were wounds on it meant it didn't have regeneration. That ruled out the idea that all of these Nomu had regenerative capabilities.

"Did we… really need to do this?"

"If we let it roam for too long, it could've recovered and killed one of our own. You read the report from the forensic team, didn't you?"

Midoriya sullenly nodded. "Yes. They don't have thoughts anymore. I understand that… but–"

"Regardless if you think it's extreme, save those thoughts for when we have some free time!" he scolded. "This area might be cleaned, but we still have some of these things wandering around. Once we get through this… you can mope all you want."

"M-Mope? I'm not going to–"

"You will, kid," the mentor seemed to age much more than thought possible. "Trust me, you will."

At the ominous reply, Gran-Torino shot into the sky and called for him to follow. Midoriya obliged, but his mind was still distracted… perhaps it was best for him to be distracted, at least for now.

He honestly didn't want to focus on the life that had just ended, even if it wanted it to end.

To some people, they'd say that putting the Nomu down permanently was saving them.

Midoriya… Midoriya couldn't see it–

His eyes wandered above the streets, noticing a black blur flickering away as a miniature sun followed along.

–but this was no place to think about it.

There were still people that needed help.


Unlike up ahead, the outer rim of the ongoing battle of heroes against monsters lacked much of the fiery howl of flames that you'd see closer to the epicenter.

On the outskirts, police cars had been set up with rows of officers with their guns trained down the streets. If one looked at it from afar, they would be able to see the sea of people just behind it, trying to get a closer look regardless of the danger they'd put themselves in.

Foolishness.

Yoroi-Musha slowly walked down the rather barren streets. However, a lack of monsters was very much welcome for his olden soul.

The safe zone that they had set up had not been an easy endeavor. Until they figured out that fire was the main weakness of these quirk-made abominations, they had to periodically push back against a wave of blackened sludge.

It was a nightmare to even try to oversee, yet Yoroi-Musha was a diligent warrior.

He had left behind his young apprentice, one of two he had wished to nurture, but that was merely because she was more useful with the officers. With her boundless quirk, setting up a barricade and a safe zone for injured heroes and civilians was but a paltry task.

Although, with the escalating situation, he had imparted her the authority to slay those monsters should they get too close. Slay, as in permanently put down. They were mere monsters that could not be saved, so death was the only respite his blade could provide them.

Speaking of respite…

The street he was wandering around was barren. There were no gasps for help from wounded civilians, no rasping of brainless monsters, or the distinct sound of tar against the pavement.

Instead, what he heard was– absolutely nothing. Why was he in this street at all? The fighting was clearly at the epicenter where the Beast and Endeavor engaged each other.

Yoroi-Musha berated himself. Was his old age finally catching up to him? Should he consider retirement? No, not now. Perhaps after he had fully nurtured his new apprentice, he would consider it.

For now, the eighth-ranked hero made his way to a broken and battered street. Sludge was clearly visible, but so were heroes setting it ablaze with their support gear.

In his old age, he did not notice the shadow rapidly descending from above him.

However, his instincts were not dulled.

A mere pivot of his heel, shifting the grip of his favored blade, and a swift draw was all he had done.

The result was a fallen body and a rolling head with an exposed brain.

"… Is there no end to these monstrosities?" He pondered. "Does the League of Villains have more beasts than we anticipated or is there something foul afoot?"

As he eyed the fallen creature for but a moment, the Equipped Hero flickered his blade, swiftly cleansing it of the monstrous blood, and sheathed it. In doing so, he was free to snort dismissively at the destruction around him.

"… It should not take you this long to defeat one mere vagrant, Endeavor," he almost snarled.

If the second-ranked hero could not defeat him, then Yoroi-Musha wondered how much his aid could change the tide.


Fire engulfed his surroundings. The night sky was illuminated by the raging flames, yet it did nothing to blind onlookers to the spectacle unfolding before them.

A beast almost as black as the depths itself, standing tall and proud with an amused smile on its fang-less visage, surrounded by crumpled buildings… and a hero on his knees.

"What's wrong?" the beast taunted. "Afraid? Maybe you should call the number one if you– the number two– can't do anything!"

Endeavor could barely stifle the blazing haze that clouded his eyes, but his experience in his profession allowed him to maintain control.

The same couldn't be said about his current predicament.

He had just been patrolling when the battle had started. A viscous black tar had seemed to spread from all dark corners of the street. At the time, he knew it to be the work of a villain, thus he was prepared to face it alongside his progeny.

Yet he had underestimated what came next.

Beasts of black had flowed from the ooze, some fast and weak while others slow and powerful. Endeavor, of course, did not hesitate to incinerate them to ashes and wondered what those creatures even were.

And then the reports came in from all nearby districts.

In addition to these creatures, reports of Nomu had quickly followed suit, which had all but screamed the League of Villain's doing. It was an aggravating blunder to have all the heroes so suddenly caught off guard like this, but they had been expecting an attack from a bladed assailant, not creatures from nightmares.

The fact that the League of Villains appeared had rendered most of their plans useless. There was little doubt that damnable Hero-Killer Stain had fled the scene, or was safely resting along with his allies, which made capture all but impossible.

However, Endeavor knew that no matter the summon, the quirked summoner themselves had to be nearby. It was why he had taken to the rooftops as soon as possible. It was in bad taste to leave his progeny behind, but when the Flame Hero considered his opponents… Shoto was not ready.

For only the Beast could summon these monsters. Endeavor was more than willing to hunt it down!

And hunted he did. It didn't even take a second to spot them from the rooftops. Kurogiri had been there, so it meant they could retreat at any time, as well as their leader Shigaraki Tomura. But above all, the source of these monsters, the Beast and his Black Blood Vanguard.

However, contrary to the reports of a month prior, he did not wear a bone-white mask. Instead, a sleazy bandanna made itself at home on his head. He was also topless, but that was likely because he had not wished to stain his clothes, if the thousands of cuts on his body, oozing a seemingly endless stream of blackened tar, were any indication.

As soon as he spotted them, he struck.

If only the cur had gone down from that first blow, the pillar of flames that nearly matched half of his strongest attack, but that irksome worm managed to live. Badly burnt, yet still alive. He would have gone after him at that moment, but the damnable Kurogiri allowed them to retreat instantly.

If that was the end of the incident, he would've been much more satisfied.

But it wasn't. The monsters were still spawning, and so Endeavor started incinerating portions of nearby streets. He directed heroes to use them to weed out this… this bloody beast's ilk, all the while searching for the summoner once again from up above.

His first surprise attack had worked, but he knew that the Beast wouldn't be injured for much longer, nor would attacking them like that work again. So he had planned to bring down whatever building they were on and reduce it to rubble so that the vagrant's quirk wouldn't harm him on the rebound.

It wasn't supposed to go this way.

Endeavor frowned when he remembered the moment he did find them. Neither Kurogiri nor Shigaraki were not in sight, so he assumed that the Beast couldn't escape again this time… That was his blunder. A blunder that he had made. A blunder that a top hero had no business making!

His second pillar of flames came down onto the building's base. Just before the concrete melted and reduced the compound to molten rubble, Endeavor felt an intense… heat.

When he heard the building burn, so did he.

Endeavor held his horribly seared arm, noting the irony that a flame-quirk user was burnt. That detestable vagrant had done this to him, to him! And that beast looked no worse for wear. As if his roaring flames– capable of even burning his own body– had failed to leave any lasting damage.

It. Was. Humiliating.

And Endeavor knew that the Beast took great pleasure in his humiliation. Even as his body had been enveloped by that damnable reflection quirk, even as his mind subconsciously felt the urge to flee at the mere sight of it, his soul burned as it always did.

And it would never be doused by a paltry buffoon like this!

"You seriously thought we wouldn't be prepared for a second attack like that?" The Beast taunted once again, a mockingly carefree smile on his face. "Seriously, didn't that All-Might guy even mention this Noble Phantasm of mine? You'd think you'd be more prepared the next time!"

The jettison of flame he sent out was aimed at the building! He sought to topple it down and trap the vagrant under rock and debris, not the bastard himself!

He didn't expect the sycophant to jump towards his fire.

That was his blunder.

It made him look incompetent.

Endeavor growled as fire surged around his half-burnt arm, completely enveloping it in flame. He stood back up on his feet and hid any hint of pain, for he wouldn't give this mangy mutt the satisfaction of it. He wouldn't even let him–or anyone– see his wounds.

"Barking like a sick dog," Endeavor remarked. "We'll see how long that'll last!"

His heart and soul burned at the chance at retribution, but his rational mind honed from decades of experience told him that he had little chance at victory. Every attack he could perform would be redirected back to him, and any damage he could do wouldn't be permanent because of that damnable regenerative quirk!

An infinitely regenerating beast who they could not harm, lest they be harmed themselves.

If there was one thing he agreed with All-Might about, it was this. An honest fight against this beast would be a mistake.

… They should have brought more restraining quirks with them because right now, Endeavor had very few options for dealing any lasting damage.

But he still had options.

He could still win.

Because this one was nothing like that bowman.

Like jet engines, Endeavor's legs burst into flames, allowing him to hover for a scant few seconds. Those few seconds seared the very street he stood on until it started melting. An eruption of fire later, Endeavor took to the skies.

He knew that the Beast was taunting him somehow, but the howling inferno cut it out. Endeavor sent a barrage of fire down onto him, which he knew the cur wouldn't bother dodging once again, especially if his widely spread arms meant anything.

But it was a mere smokescreen. A blindingly bright smokescreen.

The moment the flames would have hit him, they weakened and dissipated. He knew his ploy had worked as the Beast dumbly muttered something along the lines of disbelief. Endeavor tackled him from behind, bringing the arrogant fool to the melted streets below.

Endeavor made sure the Beast took the majority of the impact, but he could still feel the rebound, which meant throwing the Beast into a wall counted as Endeavor's attack. A strong and lenient quirk, frustrating, but it was nothing new.

The molten asphalt had set to solidify, so both of them were covered by the tar-like substance. It was sticky, perfect for restricting the Beast's movements–

"Nope."

Almost blindingly fast, the Beast curled in on himself– his shadowy form twisted. The arms and fingers bent unnaturally as his head rotated like a demented owl.

The very next second later, Endeavor was pelted way with a swipe of a blackened claw.

A jet of flame surge out from behind him and killed his momentum, but it didn't stop his body from impacting the building behind him.

His back was in pain, but he knew that he couldn't stop moving. Against a foe with superior strength, he could not stand idle. Even if some of his limbs failed to respond, Endeavor's flames could. He blasted himself away from harm and up into the air. A scant second later and the villain's wolf-like form crashed into the building.

It was then Endeavor noticed the Black Blood Vanguard still roaming the streets.

Impossible! All-Might said that he couldn't use the quirks at the same time! Unless… the quirk got stronger? In this short amount of time!?

Endeavor roared with his flames. A blind yet highly controlled salvo of fire flashed down towards the Beast. The fire that would have hit him dissipated, the road beneath him melted enough that it dragged the Beast ankle-deep.

But that wasn't enough.

Two relatively intact buildings were right beside them.

His management wasn't going to like it, but there was little choice. A whip of his arms and whips of blazing fire melted straight through the buildings' canopy at an angle. They slid down at the clean molten cut and towards the Beast, who was still trying to get himself hit.

Endeavor felt his shoulder and feet burn, which meant he had failed to disperse those distractions in time. His control was slipping, yet it was far from over.

He had to stall until the other heroes arrived, one with a better restraining quirk than his.

To keep the Beast distracted and unable to see the falling rubble, Endeavor howled. A veritable inferno erupted all around him and the Beast, preventing him from even a gander at the outside world.

Unfortunately, the villain saw it as an opportunity and made a beeline to the wall of flames.

Endeavor allowed it. In fact, he would help him get closer to it, by shrinking the firestorm himself! The radius of fire shrunk surprising the villain as they both burned in endless flames.

It was only then that the Beast noticed that the fire wasn't burning him, that Endeavor had weakened the output so that it was little more than mere smoke.

Sad smoke curled in on itself as rubble finally topples over the Beast. However, Endeavor sought to do more. If he was paying for the repairs for these buildings, then he might as well build a whole new one! He unleashed an explosive burst of flame at the supports, watching as the buildings completely toppled over the trapped Beast.

As Endeavor took in the destruction, he landed a few meters away.

This… this was all he could do.

He was certain that the villain would be able to escape, but distracting it was his main purpose. He reached his communicator and activated a homing beacon– which was very much fireproof and fully functional. It was originally meant for the Hero-Killer, but they couldn't say this wasn't the perfect time to use it.

"Endeavor," a voice called up from behind him. An old yet weary voice. "Has the whelp given you this much trouble?"

"The elderly have no place berating me," Endeavor dismissed. "When will help arrive? Kamui Woods should be nearby, correct?"

"He has chosen to aid with the evacuation efforts, but he should be here soon… especially after all that light show and the destruction that followed."

"He better hurry up," the second-ranked hero muttered. He nearly winced as he felt his boy attempt to cool itself from the wanton overuse of his quirk. "I doubt that I can restrain this vermin without another building or two, even with your aid."

"Such dismissal of my prowess," Yoroi-Musha snorted. "However, I will not disparage you further. The whelp is back on his feet."

"This whelp has a name, you know?" Endeavor heard the Beast shout. "It's Angra-Mainyu! I'm pretty sure as hell that I told that All-Might guy this, didn't I!?"

"And that matters, how?" Endeavor dismissed it. For once, he was happy to see the villain thoroughly irritated.

"A mere Beast like you deserves nothing more than to be put down," Yoroi-Musha said as he drew his blade, but reduced his voice to a mere whisper seconds later. "I shall buy you time to cool down. My transmitter is also active. They should be arriving… soon."

Endeavor grunted.

In the midst of his warnings, the villain had the audacity to laugh.

"A sword, really?" Angra Mainyu chuckled in disbelief. "Whatever, take a swing, and let's see you get bisected!"

"Then I shall oblige!"

Yoroi-Musha flickered his blade.

As expected, he did not dodge.

Yet there was no shower of blood. Yoroi-Musha's deathly sharpened blade was in full view, yet no visible harm had come of him.

Instead, the Beast wobbled a step back.

"What the–? Why am I–?"

"Tired? Certainly feeling that old age, aren't you?"

Endeavor snorted. Yoroi-Musha didn't bother explaining what had happened and continued his assault. In a fit of confusion, the Beast simply dodged the blows that his quirk didn't seem to work on, blows that didn't seem to harm him in the slightest.

And it was obvious why.

For Yoroi-Musha's Quirk was called Tiresome Duty. Any attack he dealt would do no physical harm. Instead, it tired out whoever was struck. The Armored Hero would keep fighting, withstanding his opponent's blows until they felt like they were fighting an armored behemoth when in reality they were just tired.

However, Yoroi-Musha himself would also get tired. He would experience the same exhaustion as his opponent once a certain time had passed. Such a quirk was useful for subjugating villains harmlessly, yet he needed a long time to recover every fight.

And that time grew with his age.

Not even Endeavor could delude himself into thinking the old coot could keep this up for much longer. He knew they only had a few minutes before Yoroi-Musha ended up being too tired to continue- too tired to withstand the Beast's endless assault.

But that would be long enough for Endeavor to recover.

… The fact he had to wait and rely on more suitable heroes appearing was just one more bit of humiliation added to the pile.


"Should we aid him?"

Kurogiri stood atop an intact building. The surrounding fire and resulting smoke did well to conceal his form, as it did his master's apprentice, Shigaraki Tomura.

"No, he's going to be fine. A mob that can only debuff him isn't worth worrying about. The old far will either die here or retire sooner than expected," Shigaraki mused. He had taken to lazily hang his legs off the edge, but he held a phone that attempted to zoom in on the ensuing battle. "Wait until the other heroes arrive. The stage isn't set yet."

"I see," Kurogiri merely nodded. If it meant staying away from their supposed 'ally', Kurogiri would gladly let him fend off two top-ranked heroes on his own. "But if we are staying our hand right now, why did we not keep the other Nomu in reserve? At this rate, it will take us weeks to raise a few more."

"We won't need them once this goes well," Shigaraki replied. "Even if it doesn't, the doctor's got even more in his own backyard to spare."

"… and our other query?"

"He hasn't made himself known yet," Shigaraki growled as he scratched his neck. "Either he fled or he's watching for an opportunity… which is weird. Stain should have seen Endeavor getting bodied. Why isn't he here? Doesn't he like this present we've prepared for him?"

"Perhaps he has yet to see it," Kurogiri mused. It was no secret to the criminal underworld that the Hero-Killer despised Endeavor to the point that he'd blow a gasket at seeing anyone admire him. "Shall I try to locate him once more?"

"And let my escape ticket leave me behind?" Shigaraki glared at him as if he had a brain tumor. "No, focus on the current objective. If the Hero-Killer is hiding, you won't be able to find him. Well, it's not that he needs to be here. A front-row seat is nice and all, but there's more than one way to experience a game. Are there any streamers around?"

"A few news choppers have been circling the area. They should be emboldened to approach relatively soon."

Shigaraki smiled.

Kurogiri found it to be disturbingly genuine.

"Perfect."


Dodge!

Within the first few seconds that Shirou noticed Stain struggling, that was the first thought that went through his mind.

The next few seconds when the road beneath them cracked, dislodging his Black Key, he knew that he made the right call.

Shirou ducked under a swipe of the Hero-Killer's dagger and aimed to restrain him once again. However, in a display of speed previously unseen in the villain, Shirou found himself blown back by a well-placed kick to his sternum.

A quick application of Reinforcement managed to prevent his ribs from caving in, but it did nothing to dull the rampant confusion he now felt as he skidded to a halt.

What happened? How did he escape the Black Key? No, more importantly, what's with this increase in power!?

Unfortunately, his ruminations ended once Stain bolted towards him once again. However, being a bit more prepared for his current speed and power, Shirou reinforced his body to respond in kind. Muscles coiling, circuits flowing, Shirou met his charge and stood his ground.

Stain's daggers assailed him from his side, but he parried them just in time. However, he didn't expect Stain to let go of his daggers and grab onto his swords– blade and all.

Shirou then remembered he had dulled the Noble Phantasms as to not permanently harm his quarry. He soon came to regret that decision when Stain tightened his grip, howled like a mad man, and threw the swords off to the side with Shirou in tow.

Spiraling like a children's toy, Shirou barely re-centered his balance and planted his feet onto the building's wall and cushioned his fall.

But it didn't stop Stain from kicking his still falling daggers towards him.

This was different. Deep down, he could tell that he wasn't fighting a person anymore.

He was ten times faster than before, ten times stronger than before, and ten times more insane.

It was like–

Shirou battered aside the daggers only for Stain to close the gap instantly, skin rapidly paling and a new single streak of white in his hair.

–he was fighting a Servant.

No longer having the leniency to hold back, Shirou retraced Kanshou and Bakuya so that they weren't degraded, and met Stain once again. Married Blades sang as they carved into what was once the Hero-Killer and flung him off to the side.

However, in complete disregard to the new injuries that he found himself with, Stain was not flung quietly. He had attempted to grapple Shirou in the midst of the throw. It didn't work, but Shirou felt a minor sting flare on his palms.

It was only when Stain landed that he noticed his palms had but a sliver of blood on them, but it wasn't his own.

In an attempt to stop Stain from ingesting his blood and paralyzing him once more, Shirou traced several nameless blades and launched them as fast as he could.

However, in contradiction to his expectations, Stain leaped onto the nearby building and stabbed into its walls to give himself footing. As the blades flew under him, he used it as a springboard and assailed him from up above.

Shirou kept his favored blades, tensed, and prepared to meet the assault.

It was then he noticed Stain ingest blood. Shirou preemptively pumped his circuits full of energy, prepared to dispel the paralysis once again, much like with what he had instinctively done with Shinso's brainwashing quirk.

However, when he felt no intrusive presence within him, he grew confused. That confusion only disappeared when Stain landed, tongue stuck out as if gasping for air, and retched out something familiar.

Blackened tar.

Angra-Mainyu's blood.

Even when it started to click for him, Shirou attempted to subdue the Hero-Killer in his moment of weakness, but instead, found Stain bending his body in an almost unnatural way. He slipped by the blades and grappled with Shirou, locking him in a hold that he had no choice but to try and overpower–

Searing pain.

His shoulder burned as something dug into it.

Shirou flickered his eyes to it, only just noticing how quickly Stain's head had flickered that direction, and watching as Stain bit down like an animal.

He had reinforced his entire body, yet he still managed to pierce his flesh?

With his teeth!?

Shirou tried to struggle, yet he felt the paralyzing effect of Stain's quirk as he did so. He flooded his circuits in an attempt to shake it off, but as Stain continually gnawed on his flesh, more and more blood was being ingested. It was like being trapped in a loop, where he'd dispel the quirk, only for it to be reapplied the instant it disappeared.

Knowing that this method wasn't going to work, Shirou traced a sword up above them and shot it downwards at the unsuspecting villain.

In a display of rare lucidity, Stain leaped away and clung onto the nearby building, using the dagger he had previously stabbed into the wall as leverage. Shirou's sword didn't pierce his body as he willed it away in time.

However, he didn't let the opportunity go to waste and launched volley after volley at the frenzied Hero-Killer, who leaped and weaved under the shower of swords, deflecting a majority but unable to stop the few nicking his body and cutting his bandages apart.

While Stain was busy dodging, Shirou took out a roll of bandage wraps from his emergency satchel and began wrapping his wound, moreover just to stem the bleeding.

He was running low on magical energy. That struggle against Stain's quirk had certainly made him use an obscene amount, but he still had more than enough to fight. However, that was the tricky part.

It didn't take much to put two and two together. Hell, the tainted scent coming off of him had worsened almost tenfold.

Stain had somehow ingested Angra-Mainyu's blood, likely in a disagreement or a battle, to use his quirk on him. The curses of All of the World's Evil's, even on a proxy body, were basically intertwined with the blood of his host body.

Stain had ingested Angra-Mainyu's taint, corrupted by its energies, and somehow became something close to a lower-end Servant. However, he had lost his rationality, likely because of said corrupted energies. As Stain dodged and weaved, twisting and turning his body in an almost demented fashion.

It wasn't the same Stain he had fought mere minutes ago. It wasn't the same Stain, who had held convictions and ideals directly opposed to his own. Instead, it was a debased and defiled version, one enhanced by madness itself.

Angra-Mainyu… his presence in this world had changed far too much.

… And perhaps his own as well.

However, even if Stain was going berserk by the manipulative taint, Shirou did not want to kill him. Think! Stain isn't going to be occupied by his sword barrage for much longer. There must be a weapon somewhere in his mind that can help save him–!

Stain launched like a loaded barrel, ignoring as one blade drove itself between his palm and lashed out a kick. Shirou had but a second to weave out of the way, but his ears were assaulted by the aftermath of an almost thunderous impact.

This… nobody deserved being like this–!

Will he have to kill again? Like he did with the Nomu?

Shirou let out a grunt of effort as he threw Kanshou and Bakuya at the still recovering Hero-Killer, but the villain easily weaved his way around them. Fortunately, from his earlier kick, his leg was still stuck heel-deep into the asphalt.

This gave Shirou some time, which he used graciously. He leaped away and traced a veritable cage of swords to surround the Hero-Killer. Black keys launched and stabbed into the ground, impaling his shadow an innumerable amount of times, all the while Shirou climbed the building– using reinforcement to enhance his movement and creating blades stabbed into the building as platforms.

He knew it wouldn't last long, as Stain had broken out of the sacramental rite's hold before, so it merely served to buy him even more time.

No, not that weapon. Shirou mentally discarded the blade's blueprints and scoured his soul once more.

–Chains that could bind the gods, but he did not have the capacity to trace it effectively enough to do so, only capable of making a pale imitation. Moreover, Stain was no god, even if the curses coursing through his body were. A lance that enforced someone to heel by removing their lower limbs. However, it only worked on spiritual beings, which Stain was not–

As Shirou landed on the roof, having created suitable distance from the maddened Hero-Killer, he took a glance down. It was just in time to see Stain shatter the road below him with a pure howl of effort and leap into the air in an attempt to reach him.

Shirou frowned.

As expected, his new Servant-like status prevented a mere sacramental rite from affecting him as much as it would a regular person, even if the existence of Angra-Mainyu's taint could be considered abhorrently 'evil'. However, he did not let his thoughts distract him as he attempted to strike Stain down mid-air with a final volley of blades.

In a display of skill, even in his maddened state, Stain kicked a few away with a mid-air spin and parried another with a hidden dagger. A blade neared his face, but as Shirou was about to will it away, Stain widened his mouth and bit onto the blade. His cheeks bled as the edge cut into it slightly, but he spat it away, revealing his elongated tongue once more.

How did– wasn't he afflicted by madness enhancement?

In his minor second of shock, Stain latched onto the building's edge and pulled himself up.

Damn it! He needed more time! There must be something, somewhere in his Reality Marble, that had the capacity to save him! Because if there wasn't–!

Stain threw a single dagger and Shirou battered it aside.

Shirou was strong enough to subdue the old Stain.

Shirou was strong enough to kill this Stain.

… but was Shirou strong enough to save this Stain?

"Shirou!"

A shadow loomed over them as a fist planted atop the building, smacking away the Hero-Killer like a mere fly. However, like a fly, he recovered and landed on a nearby rooftop without issue.

"What happened!?" Yu asked worriedly. "I thought you said you could handle him!"

"Something's wrong with Stain–! What happened to you?"

"I fought a Nomu on the way here," Yu admitted. "It was blind but strong as hell. It was also in the bounded field. How'd it get it?"

Shirou took a second to think up an answer but shook it away as he focused on the battle at hand.

"Forget it, focus on Stain," he advised. "He must have been influenced by Angra-Mainyu's blood. Something happened to him, but I don't have an exact idea what–"

"… False… Hero…" Shirou suddenly heard his frenzied opponent rasp. "Worthy, yet unworthy… Kill? No…? Heroism… True conviction… It is there."

Shirou widened his eyes.

"He sounds like himself," Yu muttered, but it was audible due to how large she was at the moment. "Anyways, we have to beat him up quick. It's not looking good out there. The Beast– our original target, is doing a lot of damage to the city. Endeavor is fighting him, but it isn't going well."

He was?

"Endeavor…? False Hero…!" Stain shouted, blackened tar spitting out of his mouth as he did so. "I must… kill… false heroes!"

He was there.

Stain's inner self, his true mind, was still inside this ball of frenzied convictions. It was trying to get out, enact its own will, instead of the madness that influenced it.

He was suffering.

To Emiya Shirou, it was a cry for help.

"He's ten times stronger and faster than before, but still as fragile, so be careful. Don't kill him," Shirou pleaded. "I can save him, but I need some time, Yu."

He heard his guardian choke on her words, sending him a look that asked if he was insane.

"… Please."

"… You're going to be giving me a massage after this," Yu relented. "I have a feeling I'll need it."

Shirou closed his eyes–

"Thank you. Remember, don't hold back."

–and began searching.

I am the bone of my sword.


"Are these things actually endless!?" Tetsutetsu screamed his frustrations. His steel body battered aside a Black Blood Vanguard and watched as it splashed into a puddle.

"Keep running!" Shinso shouted as he weaved under an attack. Kendo helped him out by splattering it. "We should be close to the safe zone!"

"Should be," Kendo muttered. "Getting there is a whole other problem, though."

Red Riot– or as he called himself in private, Kirishima, grits his teeth as the group turned another corner and met face to face with an army of bloody monsters.

"Shit, we have to try the other street!" Kendo quickly barked out orders, and quite frankly, Kirishima was too tired to argue.

They lost sight of the Nomu that was chasing after them.

It might've heard something down that street… but it was barren and empty – which meant he should avoid it because he was clearly needed elsewhere – and that just made it all the more confusing. But what if there was someone there that it heard? A civilian– which was impossible because that street had already been evacuated. But he didn't remember that– which was because his memory had been shoddy lately.

Kirishima shook his head and punched his skull.

Damn it! Get your head in the game! Don't space out like an idiot!

Not again.

"On your six, Kirishima!" Kendo shouted.

"Got it!" He wasted no time and swung a hardened fist behind him– hate, death, envy, anger– only for him to pause in his actions and leap back to safety. The opening was capitalized when Kendo swatted it away.

"Keep moving!" Kendo shouted once again, but some of her frustration had leaked into her tone.

It only made Kirishima feel more like a waste.

Every time he tried, when something like that… that beast, appeared before him, he would shudder and flinch. He'd hesitate as if it was that day in USJ all over again.

And Kirishima knew that his classmates had noticed, especially Tokoyami when he took his quirk out. The guy was way too nice because his bird-headed classmate had started keeping his quirk hidden when Kirishima was around. Hell, even the other class noticed, if Tetsutetsu being irritated at him was anything at all. He wasn't blind.

He knew what wrong and what he should be doing to rectify it, but actually doing it was–

"Up ahead, there's another corner!" Shinso informed as he heaved.

Unlike the other three, who had trained their stamina, Shinso had yet to do the same. Instead, he had focused on stealth and quick take-downs. A weakness that he was sure to work hard to overcome later down the line. Maybe even one he was working on right now, especially if the newly acquired pipe was any indication.

Which is what I should be doing right now–!

They turned the corner, took a scant moment to be thankful for the lack of bloody monsters, and sprinted down the street. If he recalled correctly, there were only a few turns to take before they reached the safe zone. A mere two blocks until they were back to safety–

Until something flushed out from an unseen alleyway.

Tar, black as night, just as black as that monster.

Like an animated wave, the sludge encircled them until it flopped back onto the street.

… And then it took shape. Fangs, claws, tails, and pincers– whatever evoked the primal wariness deep inside him, the Black Blood Vanguard took that shape. They surrounded them in an instant, ready to gouge or skewer them as they please.

"Shit! They surrounded us!" Tetsutetsu growled. "How'd they move that fast!?"

"They weren't solid before getting here," Shinso noted. "… What if they're learning?"

"That'd frankly be horrifying," Kendo ended up sighing to herself as she readied her fists. "Looks like we'll have to fight our way out."

Fight?

These things?

"We really can't run?"

It was only at Tetsutetsu's enraged glare that Kirishima noticed those words had left his mouth.

Instead of berating him, giving even a single insult at his cowardice, Tetsutetsu just looked away and sighed.

Somehow, that hurt a bit more than words.

"If you see a way out of the encirclement, then please let us know," Shinso simply stated. "Kendo can probably handle the rear by herself. We'll have to help Tetsutetsu and clear a way forward."

Kirishima didn't notice when, but when one took a step closer, he took a step back. He looked to his leg, almost begging it to move onward, but in the face of these monsters– the things that that guy made, all his leg did was quiver.

"Come and get it!"

A blur of steel whisked past him and crashed into one of the Black Blood Vanguard, spattering the tar everywhere around him. However, Tetsutetsu didn't stop. He whirled his arm around to catch one by its neck and slammed it into the ground. One more reduced to mere tar.

Shinso followed suit. He raised his acquired pipe and knocked one of their heads clean off, which meant these things weren't very solid compared to the others. That was probably why they were so much faster–

A roar from behind came. Kirishima dared to look behind him– back at Kendo– and dreaded what he saw.

A Nomu, brain revealed to the elements, muscular and exposing its ripped abdomen. However, that was where the similarities ended. This Nomu had multiple arms, four pairs, but only one had any actual fingers on it.

The other six arms?

Chainsaws.

They were revved up, shearing the edge of its own flesh as it did so.

And it charged right at them.

"Kendo!"

He rushed towards her, but he found himself stopping once he saw a few more Blood Vanguard make their way towards him.

Move.

They were slowly approaching, but to Kirishima, they might as well be warheads.

Move.

The Chainsaw Nomu howled as it rapidly approached them, with Kendo battering aside a bunch of black tar before attempting to retreat, away from the bladed arms that could rend her enlarged hands to nothing but minced meat.

Why aren't you moving–?

He saw a towering behemoth, palm almost crushing a building's side to rubble, his voice both emotional yet emotionless. He asked for directions, but his actions were going to cause harm. It didn't seem like he cared.

People were going to get hurt, again– Was he actually any different a year ago?

MOVE–!

Didn't he want to change?

"MOVE, KIRISHIMA!"

At that point, Kirishima wasn't even sure who had shouted, but blood seeped down his palms as he darted through the bloody monsters, arms hardened and tearing through them.

The Chainsaw Nomu leaped, ready to land and render them into mincemeat, but all six shredding blades sparked into blinding light as they met his arms.

"NOT WHEN–"

His arms hardened.

"–THIS BODY–"

His body hardened.

"–CAN STILL MOVE!"

His soul hardened.

"You complete idiot, KIRISHIMA!" Kirishima screamed out from the depths of his soul, channeling his inner Bakugo, even as his hardened arms were slowly getting shredded away by the Nomu. "What's the damn point of trying to be a hero when you cower like an fucking idiot!?"

He cowered when he didn't try and help those girls all those years ago.

He cowered when he realized he almost died– would have died back at USJ.

He was nothing but a coward wearing a manly facade, hoping that one day, it would become his real face.

But he knew that if he retreated here– continued to retreat as he had been, then he'd regret it until his dying breath! Didn't Crimson Riot already tell this!?

"To live without regrets is what being a man is all about!"

He didn't know how– and frankly he didn't care how, but the Nomu's chainsaw's clattered as if meeting some kind of resistance, until finally–

They all shattered.

"Eat this RED GAUNTLET!"

Aiming at the dumbly tilted head of the Nomu, almost as if it was questioning what had happened to its weapons, Kirishima's hardened fist slammed right into it.

Kirishima felt nothing, not even the pain of his arms being shredded by chainsaws.

Nothing except for the sound of flesh being battered and of the Nomu crashing into the asphalt, a satisfying echo cried out as its head burrowed into the shattered road.

He didn't stop there as he turned to face the black tar monsters nearby. His arm lashed out and pierced straight through their bodies like putty. He threw his arm out to the side, flinging the tar into a building, splattering as it did so.

It was only when he turned back to Kendo and the others that he noticed that they stared in shock.

At first, he thought they were staring at the Nomu, but when he lifted his arms to his face, he realized it was him they were staring at. His entire body had a spiky– almost craggy exterior. Black lines were running through his arms, almost like veins, but they pulsed like something was… trying to seep out of his skin? Or was it trying to burrow deeper?

Regardless, it seemed to be harmless. More importantly, the cracks on his arms, likely from when the Nomu had shattered them initially with the chainsaws, were slowly fixing themselves. It was slow, almost excruciating so, but they were definitely closing.

Did my quirk… get stronger? Did it evolve?

However, his musings wouldn't last long as something caught his eye.

Kirishima ran ahead and battered a Black Blood Vanguard reforming from its puddle, foiling an attempt to skewer Shinso with its sharpened pincer.

"Ru-n!" He shouted to the point that he felt his throat go coarse. "Quickly!"

They didn't second guess the sudden shout, but that was only because the way had been cleared. They had a straight shot to the safe zone and not even the Nomu was going to get up in time.

Despite the pain that his arms were starting to feel again.

Even though he was running once again.

His soul had never felt this free.


"Buy me some time, he says. Don't hold back, he says," Yu muttered, watching as her opponent shivered at an unseen chill. "… Easier said than done."

While Shirou was busy doing whatever he was currently doing, Yu kept as calm as she could. The Hero-Killer showed no signs of moving, but she knew that wouldn't last for long.

Especially because he was eyeing her like a grilled steak. Then there was the fact he looked much more sickly than before. The guy was almost deathly pale, which was probably because of that 'taint' that Shirou mentioned.

Things were much less complicated before she knew everything about this magic business.

Whilst both Shirou and Stain stood atop the rooftops, Yu had enlarged herself to the point that the surrounding buildings only reached up to her midsection. This meant that her arms were completely free to take on the Hero-Killer, but it also meant that if he got too far away from the road, her reach would end up lacking as she couldn't reposition.

Troublesome, but not completely unworkable. She didn't last as long as she did as a pro without picking up some tricks along the way.

"Worthiness… test? Yes!"

Uh oh.

Yu would be lying if she said that she saw what was coming.

Almost as if the last few seconds were a lie, Stain appeared before her with his daggers in a death grip.

Fast–!

Without even giving her a chance to finish the thought, Stain attempted to skewer her right between the eyes. The moment she felt it on her head, she backed away and tried to swat him down.

Unfortunately, he was far too fast for her to even touch.

If Shirou hadn't reinforced her clothing beforehand, that dagger would have pierced through her mask. It wouldn't have dug deep, because she had grown so large that her skin was thick enough that a measly dagger would only leave a scratch, but it was still horrifying.

Had that dagger been a few inches to either side, she might have lost an eye.

As Yu contemplated getting visors to protect that glaringly large weak point, only enlarged by her quirk, she swept her arm across the rooftops in an attempt to catch Stain as he landed.

However, the Hero-Killer was clearly prepared for the attempt and somehow delayed his landing by spreading his arms and legs out, perhaps by creating more wind resistance?

Nice try, buddy.

Even if he slowed down so that he wouldn't be hit on landing, it meant he was slow enough for Yu to change the direction of her sweep, aiming slightly upward and slamming her palm against the airborne villain.

That wasn't all. Yu knew that she wouldn't get many chances at landing a solid blow, especially with his new absurd speed. With this in mind, she continued her swing with an open palm. The wind pressure was sure to keep the Hero-Killer in her grasp, so she took the opportunity to slam the ass onto a rooftop!

The impact was satisfying, pleasantly so.

However, she let her guard down.

As soon as the impact ended, she felt a second impact, but she only realized it came from Stain when her hand was blown back. The sheer force of it was staggering, almost as if she had tried catching a car barreling towards her at full speed–

Once again, Stain had attempted to get close.

"Not this time!"

As those words left her mouth, the world around her returned to normal as her own size reduced to a mere five-foot-two. She eyed the stunned and airborne Stain, mildly confused at her sudden disappearance. However, he wouldn't be for long as her size rapidly fluctuated back to her staggering sixty-seven-foot eight–!

"Titan Cliff!"

Like heroes of old, she cried out her attack. She had no reason to, but it was too deeply rooted in habit to stop. Her skull impacted the Hero-Killer, sending him higher into the sky at the sheer force of it.

"–and…!"

Yu, knowing that there was nobody nearby and that the surrounding battle against the League of Villains would easily let her be able to write off the property damage as 'nope, not me', jumped.

Her quirk, Gigantification, was an odd-ball of a quirk when it came to the realm of science.

By definition, living beings cannot become as large as Yu did without some sort of concessions. The human body– bones and all– cannot support this size, even if they were all increased in size. Just because they got bigger, didn't mean their tensile strength matched it. There was a reason a whale got crushed by its own weight on land.

There was also the issue of body heat. A larger mass generated much more heat, which was why animals in colder climates tended to be much larger and furrier than those in tropical climates. By all known laws, she should be burning up in a fever.

But what did this mean for her own quirk? How was she able to become this large and not suffer such drawbacks? Relatively simple. The second issue was solved because of her suit, which absorbed excess body heat when enlarged.

But the first issue?

When she jumped, she went higher than the buildings entirely. Her toes teetered the rooftops as her arm was raised high, almost as if she was back in her middle school days in the volleyball club.

Her quirk just made her lighter.

"… Mountain Spike!"

She didn't miss, it would've been an insult to her career as a hero if she did, but she did not see Stain when her palm went down. However, she did feel the satisfying impact of something hitting her palm as it went down.

A second later, she saw the Hero-Killer spiral down and crash through a rooftop, creating a spiraling plume of smoke from the hole.

It was when that happened that Yu finally realized something.

Ah, shit. Did I kill him?

She was proven thankfully wrong when something shot out of the smoke. Yu frowned once she saw Stain's battered form flying through the air. His arms were flailing as his shoulders were no doubt disjointed, but by some freak maneuver of spinning midair, his arms realigned themselves and reached towards her.

First off, that was creepy. Second, there's no way in hell he was going to get his grubby hands on her!

Mid-fall, Yu returned to her normal height again, causing Stain to miss her feet as they retracted further away from him. At getting duped a second time, Stain must've felt an intense amount of frustration, even in his frankly monstrous state.

In a split second, Yu considered if Stain would survive her next attack.

The next split second, Yu decided 'fuck it' and went for it.

Gigantification activated again, rapidly increasing her size as she fell, but her legs were stuck out beneath her towards the airborne Hero-Killer–

"Ravine Culverine!"

–and crashed into him like a comet, barreling him towards the road below, shattering the road even more than it had already been, and trapping him between the road and her feet.

Yu flinched as she felt Stain attempt to free himself, pushing or maybe even kicking her feet away. However, with her size and weight, only superhuman strength like All-Might's would be able to move her–

She blinked as she noticed she was getting taller.

"You've got to be kidding me!?"

Seriously, she had absolutely battered the guy into submission! Any other guy would've been on a one-way trip to the hospital– hell, the morgue was more apt! His bones should've absolutely shattered and his heart should've gone into shock or something!

Was this the power of a Servant?

It was minuscule by her perspective, but Stain had pushed her high enough to free himself. He used that freedom instantly to try to hack and slash her legs. Once again, the reinforcement on her clothing prevented any visible wounds for him to take advantage of, but Yu wasn't going to risk any more attempts and attempted to kick him away.

She missed, because of course she fucking did, and Stain more or less must've realized her bodysuit wasn't a viable place to play hack and slash, so he scaled up her leg, using her body parts as mere stepping stones.

He was aiming for her face, where there was no reinforced clothing to protect her.

Yu tried the old reliable tactic of returning to normal size, but it backfired.

As she shrunk, Stain grabbed onto her ankle and found himself flying towards her regular form at a breakneck pace. It was at times like these that she wished her quirk could be flexible and allow her to be any size between her normal and maximum height.

If she continued to shrink, he'd be upon her in a split second.

If that happened, she'd probably die.

… Was it the end?

No.

"Don't underestimate me–!"

Hell. No!

Yu halted her shrinkage and swapped it over to Gigantification. In doing so, she threw her legs forward. From afar, it must've looked like she tried doing a backflip mid-air… which was exactly what she was doing!

The backflip worked in tandem with her Gigantification, the force of growing large mid-flip sent Stain into the air once again.

Unfortunately, this also meant Yu landed on the road head-first.

It hurt like a bitch but she was in no place to complain. Yu attempted to change size again– shrinking back to normal so she'd have an easier time getting back up– but flinched as she felt her muscles spasm in protest.

Her quirk had been overworked.

Damn it. Of course, it would've been too easy to hope otherwise. She was rapidly shrinking and growing in a span of literally half a minute. She knew that she'd need at least ten more seconds before her quirk could calm the fuck down. Wait, was it really just half a minute? There's no way she just bought a measly thirty seconds!

She could literally only watch as the Hero-Killer rotated like a ball mid-air to hasten his fall.

"You… were worthy!" he declared as he stopped spinning, daggers held at either side.

It probably would've sounded more like a compliment had the guy not said it like his dog died.

Yu tried moving her arms, using them to catch the rapidly falling villain, but it wasn't fast enough. He'd fall and probably deal the finishing blow. There was the off chance he wouldn't kill her because she was worthy– but how willing was she to hinge her life on the judgment of a villain?

She growled and tried to push herself harder, move her limbs faster to intercept the falling Hero-Killer.

But unlike before,

"–WORTHY!"

She couldn't.

And then a flash of light came from atop the rooftops.


Shirou opened his eyes.

His palm stuck outward.

"Trace On."


Next Chapter: Late June


A/N: Late into the month means that the chapter is still on time, right?

Well, it might be the only chapter on time. I won't go into detail about my other stories, but they'll have to be delayed due to IRL responsibilities. I basically have something due by the end of the month and I had to focus on that, leaving the chapter(s) I've written (except for this story) unfinished. This will also be a short A/N because I just wanted to let you guys know that. I didn't want to resort to this, but that's how the cookie crumbles sometimes.

TLDR; Bladed Horizon's chapter (and BDA's chapter by extension) might be delayed until next month, but I'll try to make Bladed Horizon's chapter double the original length to make up for it.

Also, I completely made up Yoroi-Musha's quirk to fit his role in the fic. Unfortunately, due to Horikoshi essentially benching the character canonically, there's little chance to learn his actual quirk. However, if it is revealed, I'll be sure to try to rewrite this chapter to fit it in, but only if it is revealed.

Also Lady Nagant? Whoa, Momma. Horikoshi doesn't miss with these designs, does he?

Until next time,

Kappa

A/N 2: Fixed an error where I wrote Kamui Woods as Kaminari Woods (courtesy of SebatadeS)