Pre A/N: Yeah, I procrastinated posting this chapter, and also procrastinated writing Chapter 40.
Beta: L33t Horo
Shirou opened his eyes.
The room was almost the same as his own. However, there was no mistaking the fact that it was slightly smaller. The cupboard was built into the wall instead of being regular furnishing. But the biggest difference was the window, with it being as tall as his room and nearly as wide.
It provided him a scenic view of the school campus in the distance.
… It also let him see the numerous professional heroes roaming the campus, particularly close to the dorms. It served as both protection and surveillance.
A more cynical mind would liken it to a caged bird, but Shirou knew it to be temporary. A stopgap measure to ensure no foolhardy individual would attack him… and a preventative measure if he was really a traitor to U.A.
Then again, being a traitor implied being loyal in the first place. He was simply a student at the school, not an employee or anything similar.
The break had long since passed. However, he had not been spending it with Yu, as much as she would have liked him to do so. There was just no getting around the current public's skepticism over the two of them, and meeting in secret would just cause alarm bells to sound, metaphorically speaking of course.
The day after Aizawa and Nezu had given them a choice, Shirou packed what little essentials he needed and made his way to the dorms. The ride there was through Nezu's personal vehicle. It had tinted glass so nobody noticed he was being transferred, for lack of a better word, to the dorms.
Again, he was fine with the decision. It was better to assuage their worries than inflate them.
That, of course, left him to do what he wished during the week he was at the dorm. Heights Alliance, if he recalled its name properly, was actually several ways better than the apartment that he and Yu shared. The kitchen was bigger, there was a courtyard for training, and several rooms.
It was clear that he wasn't supposed to be the sole tenant. Maybe the dorms were originally for scholarship students– or those that transferred in from abroad? Regardless, Shirou took the time to familiarize himself with the building…
… and perhaps reinforce the place with a bounded field specialized in preventing detection.
It was for his own protection, much like the one he placed in Yu's apartment. There was always the choice of making it seem like he never left, but from what he knew, it was clear that they'd notice.
Apparently, a professional hero that went by the name of Ragdoll, which he recently learned was a breed of cat, was monitoring him. It didn't take long for him to search more about her on the internet to learn that she had a monitoring quirk– literally named Search. Being able to monitor up to a hundred people at any time – including their weak points – sounded just as absurd as some of the lesser weapons in his Reality Marble. Even if he left the dorm, she'd notice as soon as he left the campus because she had tagged him, as it were.
As such, Shirou resigned himself to going out his days in the dorm. He had already made himself at home in the kitchen. He had also spent the following days exercising out in the courtyard. There was very little training he could do in regards to his magecraft outside of meditating, but he did that indoors. He didn't want to take as long as he did with Stain just to search for a perfect tool.
Just because Unlimited Blade Works had every weapon that both he and Archer had ever come across, didn't mean he was able to know every single weapon inside of it. Soul exploration was necessary to learn them all. He already found a few minor Noble Phantasms that he could pass off as a mere coincidence.
The days had gone by, and that left him to today, the first day back at school. He finished preparing his breakfast – nothing too complicated, just an omelet on rice – and made his way towards campus.
Unfortunately, he had woken up a little later than he was used to. Had he been in Yu's apartment, he'd be a few minutes late already. However, he was close by, so he would arrive around when the other students are arriving.
Shirou couldn't tell whether that was a good thing or not, especially when there were a couple of students shooting him a wary glance. Some had even backed away as he entered the building.
He had been monitoring how far the story was going, about him being Angra-Mainyu's sibling of all things, but didn't expect this much of an adverse reaction. It was almost like they were treating him and Angra-Mainyu to be one of the same. The very idea made him want to gag, but somehow it was less of an aggravating idea when compared to being related to Archer.
He was, technically, but he'd never admit it.
Shirou sighed and resolved to wake up earlier than he did today. If anything, it'd give his schoolmates some peace of mind.
After navigating the halls and ignoring the looks he got, Shirou finally arrived in front of his classroom. The door was already open, so when he stopped in front of it, he caught the glance of a few of his classmates.
Conversations died down one by one as they turned one by one to look at him.
Shirou sighed internally.
"Emiya-san!" Midoriya called as he got up from his seat to walk towards him. "How are you? We didn't hear back from you after the Hosu Incident. Were you busy?"
"... A little," he admitted, seeing no harm in the small talk. "Principal Nezu and Aizawa-sensei wanted me to keep a low profile."
"Ah! Right," Midoriya muttered. "Is it about the rumors? It's fine! I don't think anyone actually believes it," he turned back to their classmates. "… I think?"
"… That's not exactly true," he heard Mineta mutter. "I mean, it's kinda hard to ignore, you know?"
"Hey!" Kirishima started. "Are you actually saying that you think Emiya's some kind of villain!?"
"Come on, it's not that weird!" Mineta frowned. "When we were attacked at USJ, he was off fighting that Nomu thing by himself, remember? Do you actually think he could've beaten that thing by himself!?"
"He did," Todoroki frowned. "The police reported it being pierced through the heart with a red spear. I'm sure you all remember the Sports Festival."
"That's my point," Mineta pushed. "I thought we talked about this? How'd he beat that thing if he couldn't beat Bakugo! Isn't that thing made to counter All-Might?"
So they were talking about the rumors before he arrived? Shirou supposed that wasn't too far-fetched. In some respects, de was a prominent figure in their class. Rumors about him would surely be talked about regardless if he were here.
Shirou also noted that Bakugo wasn't here. If he was, he probably would have exploded at Mineta, perhaps even literally.
"It was also established that he was holding back," Midoriya defended. "I think that Kirishima and Todoroki can back me up on this, right?"
"He rained down swords until all the Black Blood Vanguard were reduced to tar," Todoroki supplemented. "He showed some capacity to do so in his Sports Festival fights, but not to this degree."
"I… was a bit too busy running," Kirishima admitted. "I heard the swords fall down, but I didn't get to catch a glimpse… as unmanly as that sounded."
"But he was also missing for most of the Hosu Incident," Todoroki seemingly switched gears. "I hadn't heard a lick about his whereabouts on communications. Either he ran away or he was hiding until the last stretch of the fight. Neither sound good."
"Wasn't there a headline that mentions Mount Lady bringing Shirou along to help her?" Sero Hanta added. Shirou had to mentally recall which one he was talking about. There were quite a few that fit the bill. They had wanted Yu to take the sole credit, but there was no hiding the few cut marks on Stain, most from Shirou's own blades. "Maybe he was too busy with that? Right, Emiya?"
"That's correct," Shirou confirmed.
Despite his verbal agreement, a few were still unconvinced.
"But Stain escaped," someone said as he entered the room, walking around Shirou. Iida rigidly made his way to his seat. "I won't disparage your efforts, Emiya-san, but it seemed to matter little in the long run."
And ultimately, it didn't. Shirou later learned that Stain had escaped while he was being transferred to Heights Alliance. At first, he was dumbfounded. He had thought that Stain wasn't a part of the League, that he hated the very idea of working with them. Unless his memory was playing tricks on him, but Stain didn't seem like the type to join them either.
The fact that Kurogiri and Angra-Mainyu worked together to free him from his prison transport… left him a little unsettled.
Why was Stain working with them now?
What had changed?
"Isn't that a bit unfair?" Kirishima frowned.
"No, he's right," Shirou found himself agreeing. "Stain is still running around– and perhaps working alongside the League of Villains. Fighting the Hero-Killer meant very little in the long run."
And that thought frustrated him.
"The fact that you brats are talking about this means you must have a death wish," The majority of students jolted as Aizawa stepped around Shirou. "Get seated, Emiya. There is much to discuss during this homeroom."
He did as he was told and took a seat behind Yaoyorozu. She greeted him with a smile. He could sense that it was a little apologetic, perhaps at not defending him earlier? Regardless, he offered his own and focused on Aizawa.
"I was planning to save this for later, but it seems we have a few hot-headed individuals taking matters into their own hands," Aizawa snorted. "Speaking of– Bakugo. Stop standing outside, take a seat."
Shirou blinked as his classmate entered the room, but he seemed to be sporting a massive frown. He met his glance but did little more than scoff. He honestly expected him to blow up in anger on his face and demand answers, but maybe it was because Aizawa was here?
"Moving on to the main topic of today's homeroom," Aizawa continued. "In response to Emiya's current public perception, U.A. has elected to provide him protection. This protection comes in the form of on-campus dorms, where he will reside until this asinine fiasco blows over. Yes, Kaminari?"
"So, uh, you don't believe the rumors?"
"Whether I believe it or not is irrelevant," Aizawa snorted. "As a teacher, I aid in my student's plight, ergo, it's my duty. We are proceeding with our own investigations, one that won't be tainted by public hysteria. If you have any qualms about it, then go and talk to the principal about it. He's the one spearheading the investigations."
At the nods he received in response, he narrowed his eyes.
"Let me repeat myself. Do not concern yourselves with this case. The only things a student that students like you are supposed to focus on are your academics. Speaking of which, I should remind you of the final exams coming up soon…"
As Aizawa went on to continue explaining, Shirou sighed to himself.
He didn't miss the glances that more than a few of his classmates gave him, so for the rest of the day, he was sure to be accosted for answers. It was a little annoying, but he wasn't one to complain.
After all, he expected this to happen.
"And how is he today?"
"He's pretty much just focusing on lectures. Wow, I don't remember any of those equations– Uh, I mean, no issues sir!"
"You can skip the formalities," Nezu laughed it away. "I should be formal to you, Miss Ragdoll. We selfishly grabbed your team for a month with little in the way of negotiations!"
"Eh, it's sort of like a vacation, so no biggie," Ragdoll smiled. She was eating a tuna sandwich but seemed to be nearly done with it. "He's also been behaved as of late… but I'm still keeping an eye on him."
"You really need to let that go," Mandalay sighed. "What happened months ago was a freak accident."
"I don't know," Pixiebob smiled. "She did deactivate her quirk when the kid went to take a bath. I'm pretty sure that counts as an intentional action."
"I didn't want to get pegged for pedophilia!" Ragdoll ranted. "But I'm fine this time! I managed to turn off the observation part of my quirk and maintain the tracking part! I can keep him tagged and look away whenever he's busy."
"I'm certain a healthy young man would be busy, especially when they're all alone in a dorm as big as that one," Pixiebob purred.
"Not now, Pixiebob," Mandalay sighed. "Isn't he out of your strike range?"
"No, you're just desperate," even Ragdoll frowned at her. "What happened to that date with the Shinji guy?"
"Perhaps we should talk about our ward, rather than potential dates?" Tiger, who had been calmly listening to his teammates, nudged. "Also, in regards to the training camp…"
"Yes, we've been granted the go-ahead to continue with it," Nezu affirmed. "However, we'll have to include more than just Vlad and Aizawa to protect the kids. Yoroi-Musha has volunteered to be additional aid, alongside other heroes such as Uwabami. Endeavor himself wished to attend but acknowledged that he'd better handle villains in the city. The recent surge of them is concerning. As such, he has assigned one of his sidekicks to aid. I'm sure you're aware of Miss Burnin'?"
"Ah her!" Ragdoll smiled. "I like her. She's fun to be around."
"But Yoroi-Musha…" Tiger frowned. "Does it not feel odd? A high-ranking hero such as himself would join a mere training camp?"
"Perhaps it is to soothe the minds of the public, more specifically the parents of the hero course students," Nezu mused. "However, I believe that he has an alternative purpose for attending. He once sent an internship to your ward in question. Perhaps he is seeking to tutor young Emiya, as he had been unable to do so before?"
Though, the other heroes might have similar ideas. It was clear Endeavor wanted Burnin' to tutor his child and that Uwabami wanted to check on her protege. The fact Yoroi-Musha might seek to do the same wasn't out of the ordinary.
"Stubborn old coot," Pixiebob snorted. "It's no wonder he isn't married."
"Regardless, it is reassuring to have so many heroes aid in protecting the students," Nezu smiled. "Although, they could also help in tutoring them. I'm sure instruction from experienced heroes will do them well… especially if they keep getting caught up in troublesome scenarios going forward."
Troublesome scenarios such as this one.
It was far too quick, the speed at which the knowledge of the Beast and young Emiya's likeness being shared, that is. It was definitely being circulated on purpose. The fact they kept popping up on public forums and drawing discussion towards it instead of appearing naturally… Was there a bot pushing it out through a cycle of images?
Regardless, it was clear that the public would have a less than stellar view of young Emiya, and it might carry on towards his future career in heroism. Though, from what Aizawa said about his wish to be an underground hero instead of a regular one, it might matter very little.
Still, it was up to Nezu to discover why these photos were circulating and stop them. Nezu already had a multitude of likely suspects in mind, with the most prominent of them being the most linked. The League of Villains, and perhaps by extension… him.
Though, if he was indeed involved…
"Perhaps they will not be enough," Nezu mused. "Are you averse to having some of the U.A. faculty attend the training camp, at least on the outskirts so that they can react as soon as a problem occurs?"
"If we're including that many, we might as well go all out," Mandalay sighed. "What about some of the rookies? I heard that Kamui-Woods guy is back on his patrols."
"Ooh, what about Mount Lady?" Pixiebob suggested. "Wouldn't she be great here? A wide-open area where we can see if she uses her quirk. That's almost a sure sign that something's gone wrong!"
"Perhaps…" Nezu sighed. "Though, I worry what the public will think about that. We have no right to stop young Emiya from joining the training camp, the board understands this, but Mount Lady? With the rumors against her, they might hold off on the training camp entirely."
"Again, why are old people so stubborn?" the blonde growled as she rubbed her head. "Ah… Yoroi-Musha is coming too… I'm not looking forward to it! That old fart is going to ruin everything!"
"Bear with it," Mandalay rolled her eyes but narrowed them soon after. "But she's right about one thing. This is becoming more and more of a logistical nightmare the more we talk about it."
"If it'll be that troublesome…" Tiger mused. "Why not cancel it entirely?"
"As worried as I am, the upcoming training camp may prove to be more important than first meets the eye," he said. "I feel sorry for our students, but the training camp must proceed. I'm sure you understand why?"
At the nods the Wild Wild Pussycats gave him, he sighed.
To put it simply, the Hero Association had no way to track the League of Villains. Because of this, any sort of pursuit would be in vain. As such, there was only one alternative.
There was no way he'd put his students in harm's way… at least, not without sufficient protection. If he had to triple the pay for every hero in his school to attend that camp, then he would do so without question.
Especially if they wanted to catch the League of Villains.
They were running low on flour. The last few batches of cake sold faster than he had anticipated, which was frankly a good thing… if only his co-workers were able to keep up with the increase in demand.
Setsuno was adapting well. Despite his distaste for his own abilities, he had managed to convince him that using it would benefit their operations. When asked how a 'dirty thieving rat' could do that, he merely pointed out that Setsuno didn't need to enter the kitchen to grab what he had made.
Even for merely serving coffee, once he had finished brewing it and held it up for Setsuno to see, his co-worker would be able to use his Larceny quirk to steal it from his hands. It saved them a precious few seconds, but during rush hour, it was essential to meeting their customer's demands in a timely fashion.
Though, obtaining a license so that they could use their quirks during work hours was… admittedly very troublesome. Somehow, the legal processes were just as slow as he had remembered them being, even back during 2004. You'd think that after a few centuries of quirk development, they'd have gotten around that by now?
Archer sighed at the absurdity of it all.
A truly absurd world, one outside of storybooks.
What a fitting world for that fool to live in.
Archer heard the doorbell ring. A customer had arrived so Archer put on a respectable smile to greet them.
It died shortly after.
"Welcome. Would you like some coffee? Or perhaps some herbal tea?"
"You know why I'm here, Farran."
Unfortunately, he did.
"You're lucky that it's a slow hour," Archer commented as he turned to leave. He didn't need to beckon for his visitor to follow, as he did so on his own. "So, to what do I owe the visit… Endeavor."
The number two professional hero – Archer frowned further – took off his fedora. The man had come to his humble abode wearing little more than a trenchcoat with his business attire under it. His hero costume was nowhere to be seen, but Archer already knew it was in his briefcase. Always be prepared, as they say.
"I believe that it is time that I am owed answers," Endeavor started. As usual, with dismissive gruffness. "I'm sure you are well aware of the event that occurred a week prior?"
Yes, that botched operation in which his younger self had participated. He was well aware. "And? What about it?"
"You intervened, did you not?" Endeavor narrowed his eyes. "My fire isn't so bright that it blinded me to the evidence. The scene was the same as that night."
Archer held back a scoff. "I wasn't aware that there was nothing left but rubble."
"Before that," he growled, knowing very well that he was being mocked. "Don't waste my time."
"If anyone's wasting time, it's you," Archer raised a brow. "After all, hasn't it been a week since then? Why have you not visited earlier, or called for that matter?"
"Even if I called, there was no guarantee that you wouldn't simply hang up… and I'm flattered that you think that I could recover from several shattered ribs in a week's time," Endeavor mocked back. Whether he was overexaggerating, Archer generally didn't care. "I've attended meetings out of obligation, but it's only recently that I've been cleared to leave the hospital."
"A private hospital room. The torture of boredom must've been agonizing–"
Archer sighed. Looks like he couldn't screw with him any longer. What a shame. "Look, I didn't intervene. As your daughter can surely attest to, I've been managing my cafe for the most part. The only times I've left were to restock."
"We both know that matters very little," Endeavor huffed with his arms crossed. It looked like he had wanted to combust right then and there, but at least he had the tact to notice the fire alarm directly above him. "I doubt your range has decreased during your vacation."
"True," Archer agreed. After all, the last time they had met, a forest was nearly blown to smithereens. "However, I still didn't do it. Your would-be culprit is elsewhere."
"And you are so sure of this, how?"
"Now that would be telling," Archer smirked. It probably didn't look too intimidating in his current outfit, but it definitely aggravated the man. That being said… "Unfortunately, it's not something I'm at liberty to say."
Endeavor abruptly narrowed his eyes. "So you do know something."
"What I do know is that you're out of your depth, just like before," Endeavor frustratedly growled at the reminder. "However, out of concern for my employee, I'll give you a warning. Just because you can produce flames doesn't mean you're safe playing with fire."
"And this fire being?"
"Something bestial in nature."
He winced at the reminder. Archer doubted that such an experience would be so easily forgotten, especially when it was broadcasted like a Saturday evening cartoon. "And you're more qualified to do so? A vagrant like you–?"
"A vagrant like me, who you owe more than you'd like to admit," the counter-guardian snorted. "I trust that even someone as blindingly confident as yourself hasn't forgotten that, yes?"
Endeavor frowned but did not comment. It was already clear what he was reminiscing of.
His daughter crying for help at the sight of a veritable mountain, being unable to defeat the immensely monstrous foe in front of him, and finally, the thunderous explosion destroying the forested hill that it stood on.
"... You do not need to remind me," Endeavor stated, even though he had already done so. "Fine, I'll heed your warning, but I still need to know. Who did it, if not you?"
"Again, not at liberty to say," He rolled his eyes. "... but you'll know."
Soon, most likely. How soon, Archer didn't know. However, instincts from lifetimes lived were more than often never wrong. He had learned to trust in his gut.
"Fine. I suppose that's all I should've expected from the likes of you," Endeavor dismissed as he turned to leave. However, he reflexively dodged as he caught on to something tossed to him. Good, it looks like he wasn't number-two for nothing. "What?"
"Todoroki forgot that. Her next shift is tomorrow," Archer said. "Give it back to her, will you? It's faster this way."
Endeavor frowned as looked at the item, a keychain of a pink rabbit, before stuffing it in his pocket. He left soon after without hassle.
What a troublesome family.
EMIYA snorted as he went back to the kitchen. He briefly recalled that their coffee bean stock was running low. Just as he reached to refill a machine, he stopped.
A single mote of light wafted from his person.
… Vacations don't last forever.
"Setsuno, perfect timing. I've already run inventory, so I need you to sort out the seats," he said. As expected, Setsuno smiled as he did so.
A satisfied smile. A content smile. A smile no longer marred by betrayal.
Compared to when he first found him, he was doing much better. Honestly, the lanky teen was almost like a puppy with how he constantly sought Archer's approval for things. He shouldn't have needed any in the first place, yet here they were.
A truly absurd world, one outside of storybooks.
Unfortunately, not everyone got a happy ending.
Shirou sighed as he made his way back to Alliance Heights.
Classes today were… something. The regular lessons were nothing of note, but during lunch period, he found himself eating in the classroom with his own prepared lunch. He was well aware that his presence caused others distress, so he minimized the chance of meeting others by remaining put.
The same couldn't really be done for their next class.
All-Might had organized a training exercise in which groups of five students raced to 'save' him, all from similarly distanced starting areas. Of course, due to the odd number of students, one group had six students, of which he was a part. Apparently, All-Might had wanted to organize another collaboration session with their sister class, but timeslots didn't align enough for that to work out.
The first group had done well, with the stand-out performance being Midoriya. It definitely surprised most of their classmates, especially considering that he had been average mobility-wise barely a month ago. He beat out Sero – who was in his group alongside Ashido, Iida, and Ojiro – but had nearly lost his footing once or twice had he not reacted swiftly.
The next group consisted of Bakugo, Kirishima, Koda, Tokoyami, and Yaoyorozu. As expected, Bakugo won. However, he seemed to be incredibly aggravated. Following that was Aoyama, Asui, Sato, Shoji, and Hagakure. Asui had won, but it was a close second for second.
As for the final group, the one he had been in, had Jiro, Mineta, Uraraka, Todoroki, and Kaminari. Considering that he had already shown quite a few of his classmates how fast he could be, it made sense to meet those expectations, lest he would be accused of purposely hindering himself again.
He had completed the exercise with very little issue. Todoroki finished a close second, with Uraraka following soon after. He had prepared himself for one of Todoroki's usual looks of suspicion, yet he had received close to none. While odd, Shirou was honestly happy at the prospect that he'd gotten rid of whatever ill will he held against him.
Although, as he walked closer to his dorm and eyed the figure standing before him, that small happiness withered away. Of course, it wouldn't be that easy, a cynical part of him bemoaned.
"I see you followed me, Todoroki-san."
The heterochromatic teen simply remained silent as he narrowed his eyes.
"You don't seem surprised."
Oh no, he was. Though, Shirou supposed that some part of him definitely expected this to happen sooner or later. "I am, but let's just get to the point. Do you want something from me?"
"Nothing," he answered. "I just… have some questions that need answering. They aren't related to your situation if that matters to you at all. Whether or not you're related to a bastard doesn't matter, at least to me."
It didn't, but Shirou appreciated the gesture. Although, he wasn't sure if he was actually referring to Angra-Mainyu in the slightest. "Then ask away," he replied as he gestured to a couple of benches nearby. "We could sit if you want?"
Luckily, he agreed. The two of them standing on a road, even if on-campus with nobody around, was just overly dramatic. The bench was much more comfortable.
"Your quirk… it's much more dangerous than you make it look," Todoroki started. "Thirteen told us in our first lesson with her, as short as it was, that our quirks had the capacity to hurt people. I don't think that lesson actually sunk in, especially when that happened right after. My ice, I knew, at the back of my mind, that it could be used to hurt others, perhaps even worse. However, I never imagined using it like that. If there was a part of my Quirk that was dangerous, it would be my fire, not my ice.
"However, back at Hosu, I realized that my ice has just as much capacity to harm others as my fire– as much as his fire," Who exactly he was referring to, he didn't know, but chose to remain silent. "Children often learn not to play with fire, but when you can literally play with it with a flick of your wrist, it tends not to be a lesson that sinks in. I imagine it's the same for you and your swords? Is that why you hold yourself back each time, both during our lessons and during the Sports Festival?"
"That's part of the reason," Shirou admitted. Not once throughout the exercises and lessons at U.A. did he want to even harm his classmates. Although, when it came to certain individuals, it was close.
"Regardless, that part of you is respectable," Todoroki admitted. "I don't know how you keep such fine control over your quirk, but you must've worked hard on it."
Shirou winced. When you had an older variant of yourself that you could 'leech' skills and techniques from, it wasn't as hard as it seemed. Thankfully, that happened sparingly throughout his spars with Archer, because then Shirou would've started to worry about becoming him even more– which he wouldn't, but slight paranoia was acceptable, right?
"Although, I imagine that merely limiting the amount of weapons you create isn't the only way you're limiting yourself," Todoroki flickered his gaze. "The Black Blood Vanguard… as ashamed as I am to admit, I couldn't even count the number of blades. The speed at which they were launched– you definitely went easy on Ashido-san, didn't you?"
"Caught red-handed," Shirou sighed. He felt like he'd been doing that more lately.
"I'm sure there's even more ways you're holding back, but I'm sure we'll learn in time," Todoroki muttered before narrowing his eyes. "But completely unrelated, how fast can you launch those things?"
"That came out of the blue."
"Humor me, Emiya," he continued. "It'll make sense later."
Shirou contemplated it for a bit, but ultimately relented.
"They could be faster than Yaoyorozu's rubber bullets," Obviously, he was understating it. "And before you ask, yes I can technically control the path they take midair, but that's more by applying vectors and torque before they're launched. It's also less launching and more creating them with the aforementioned vectors."
"That's… a lot more complex than it seemed."
"Isn't it just as hard for your quirk?"
"No, it just… comes with a feeling, I suppose?" Todoroki shrugged slightly. "But, what about the dispersal? We've seen you simply will away blades whenever you want. Do you have a timer for that?"
"Ah, no. I just dispel it."
"So it's just timing?" Todoroki blinked. "Extremely accurate minute timing?"
"That part is admittedly less complex," Shirou shrugged.
"But the training recordings show them disappear near the moment of contact?"
"I have good eyes," The little he gave should placate his curiosity… for now. And just in case, "Also, don't let any villains you end up fighting know. It's easier to deal with opponents when they don't know what to expect or underestimate you."
"That'd never happen with some of us. Your quirk gets weirder the more I try to understand it. Never mind, I assume you already know who my father is?" Todoroki sighed. "His reputation as the second-ranked hero in Japan, naturally that trickles down to me, his child at U.A. People have high expectations for me, both heroes and villains. I can't afford to hold back. Heroes want to see my best, and when they do, so will the villains. I have to get stronger, and if others around me can push me to do so, then the sooner I can become the hero I want to be...
"… That's why you rubbed me the wrong way. You have strength in spades, if what you did to those Nomu and Black Blood Vanguard were any indication. However, it is a very lethal strength. I knew that, but it's only recently that I've started to understand that."
"Understand…" Shirou muttered.
"Yes, understand," Todoroki reaffirmed. "On our path of becoming professional heroes, there is little leeway for mistakes. My ice could permanently harm or cause frostbite. My fire could end up burning or roasting someone alive. Your own quirk could maim, or perhaps sever limbs, if we aren't careful. One incident like that, and the public won't trust us ever again… or at least not until we make amends. Otherwise, we might end up losing our jobs."
"True," A job. Shirou frowned but nodded, having accepted that piece of reality. "Regardless, I don't think that'd stop me from trying to help people."
"I know that. A few of our classmates probably do too. Though, perhaps I know more so than others," Todoroki said. "It's not hard to tell that you're dedicated to trying to help people. Back at USJ– no, perhaps even further before that, like at the cafeteria."
"You still remember that?"
"It's a little hard to forget, even with all that's happened," he admitted. "Whilst everyone was twiddling their thumbs, waiting for a teacher to arrive to calm things down, you took action. You helped others, and probably lit the spark for others to chime in as well. Yet, when it came to activities like in training exercises or the Sports Festival, you barely cared. It's only when Bakugo pushed you that you even decided to use more of your strength.
"You aren't like me. It was arrogance, and maybe just a bit of stupidity, that led me to use only half of my quirk. You had neither, yet still held back. We already know how driven you are to become a hero, yet at the same time, you actively don't do your best in activities that would actively improve your chances to become a hero. Why? Why are you such a… contradiction?"
–That's why you never developed any real passions of your own! If that isn't hypocrisy, then what is?!–
"I suppose I am a bit of a hypocrite," Shirou muttered as Archer's words came back to bite him once more. "Sorry."
"Well, I doubt anyone in class put as much thought into it as I did," Todoroki sighed. The fact that he did meant that he spent quite a long time simply thinking about it. Did he want answers that badly? "Although, perhaps they are starting to, especially with the situation at hand. Again, I don't think you're some spy. I know what it's like to have a family member that people compare you to."
"He's not family," Shirou instantly shut down that line of thought.
"Then what is he?" Todoroki gave him a long hard stare before looking away with a sigh. "Never mind. That's not even why I wanted to talk to you today."
"No, the reason I came to you today was… something more important than a potential villainous family member," Todoroki turned to face him. "Emiya, what drives you? What would drive someone to help others to such a degree? I just… need to know."
"Is that all?" Shirou raised a brow. "Is the reason for trying to become a hero really that important?"
"It is to me," Todoroki stated. "Becoming a hero is clearly more than just a job to you, isn't it?"
"I guess so," Shirou admittedly slouched somewhat. "But, it's not exactly becoming a hero that made me come here."
"Then what is it?"
"An ally of justice," he answered honestly. "To you, it might as well be the same thing. But… I guess you don't really need to be a hero to be an ally of justice. It'd help for sure, but it's not a big priority. Simply helping others regardless of what I am, or what I will end up being, is more than enough for me."
"That's…" his classmate frowned. "Isn't that just vigilantism?"
"I guess it could," Shirou shrugged. "But if I helped some old lady pick up her groceries, is it vigilantism?" At Todoroki's shake of his head, he continued. "In my eyes, an ally of justice is someone who helps others, no matter who they are or what they are– even if I get nothing in return. If someone is suffering, crying out for help in front of me, then it's only right that I try to save them."
–regardless of what happens to me.
"That's what drives you?" Todoroki raised a confused brow before it furrowed. "Then… What about with the Nomu? Why didn't you try to save them too?"
Why didn't you try to save them?
"I couldn't," Shirou frowned. It honestly pained him to say those words, as if his heart had been ripped out of him. Because it was the honest truth. Those beings – experiments of some mad man – made from people of all ages both willing and unwilling… there was nothing in his Reality Marble that could save them. "What happened to them… there's only one way to save them from that pained existence."
And he had only realized that after USJ. Back then, he thought of them little more than monsters, something that a magus would have created to fight for them like the Dragon Tooth Warriors from Medea of Colchis. But no, the reality of that was much crueler.
Had he known… he would've put that Anti All-Might weapon out of its misery, for its own sake, instead of leaving its corpse for the police to find and study.
"… Sorry, it looks like that question was too much, but I can't fault you for it." Todoroki apologized. "Back then, when I said it wasn't a heroic thing to do… truly, I'm sorry. I said such thoughtless words when you were–"
"It's fine," he interrupted. "It just means I need to do better."
Next time, he would.
"I suppose so," Todoroki cautiously affirmed. "But, to go that far… my apologies, but isn't it a bit unrealistic? I know that you want to save everyone, but I don't think that's possible."
"Yeah, you're right," he admitted. He'd be denying himself if he didn't. After all, what was the point of his and Archer's final battle if not to realize how futile that dream was… but, even so– "That doesn't mean I shouldn't try to reach for it. An ideal is unrealistic, but most are, and people strive for them because they're unrealistic. If no one reaches their hands out, then nobody will be saved. I just want to be one of those hands, and if not, the only hand."
Because only one person had reached out to him, back in that fiery pit of malice and destruction. Only one person had found and saved him. Had he not been there, he wouldn't have been saved.
One person made such a difference.
That was one of the many reasons Emiya Shirou thought it was beautiful.
"I don't think many people – or even some pro-heroes for that matter – think the same way," Todoroki muttered.
"That's fine," Shirou shrugged. "As long as they're saving people, it doesn't matter to me why they're being saved. They're being saved regardless."
"That lackadaisical way of looking at things is just as refreshing as it is frustrating," Todoroki sighed. "But, if anything, it is admirable. Thank you, Emiya. I just wanted to get that off my chest."
"If talking to you would've solved this sooner, I would have," Shirou chuckled to himself.
"I highly doubt I would've listened before today," Todoroki admitted. "That, and you don't make it easy for anyone to talk to you. You didn't seem available to talk to until now. Though, I think that's because you were trying to avoid everyone."
"… Was it that obvious?"
"It was," Todoroki nodded. "But, don't worry. It'll blow over… eventually"
"Do you really think that?" Shirou sighed. "Even Mineta was clearly bothered."
Considering that their usual little pervert refrained from doing anything perverted in front of him, even when presented with the perfect opportunity in the changing rooms, it was honestly worrisome. Even before then, during All-Might's class, Mineta had grimaced at the thought of being within the same group as him.
Then again, Mineta had always disliked him. Something about girls and being a goody-two-shoes. Though, it wasn't the first time he dealt with someone calling him that. Shinji – the one from his world – clearly came to mind, though Mineta was much more vocal about his aggravations… But it didn't seem like his usual dislike.
"Probably, but he might be more worried than the others. I trust you remember what exactly he went through during USJ?" Todoroki reminded him. Shirou did wince, as it was technically–no, definitely his fault that Mineta had to fight against Avenger, even if the wraith was merely toying with him. "And it's not like you're helping. I understand distancing yourself to ease their worries, but they'll want answers about your perceived relationship sooner or later."
"And you don't?"
"Where'd I give that impression?" He raised his brow. "True, I'm very curious about what you were doing back at Hosu, but I'm honestly waiting until you're comfortable to tell us."
"You seemed eager this morning."
"And now I'm less eager," Todoroki rolled his eyes. "What? Did you expect us to have a big fight and magically resolve all misgivings we have with each other?"
"When you put it like that," Shirou sighed. "I… appreciate it."
"Besides, it would be wrong of me, especially me, to probe into someone's familial situation," Todoroki muttered as he got up from the bench. "Watch yourself, Emiya. Somehow, I doubt this is the last we've seen of the League of Villains. The adults are doing their best, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be doing anything."
He had a point, Shirou admitted. Though, it wasn't like he wasn't doing anything. He had been training himself, deepening the connection he had to his Reality Marble in hopes that he'd be able to manifest it without Rin's magical energy to aid him. He did have more than when he was in his first world, but it was barely enough.
"I know," Shirou nodded. "I'll see you tomorrow, Todoroki-san."
"And to you too," he nodded. "Oh, and drop the honorifics."
After Todoroki left, Shirou sighed.
If only all problems could be solved with words. Then his current situation wouldn't be so… complex. And now, for their next potential problem.
"I know you're there. Come out."
At first, there was nothing. However, a scant few seconds later, the bushes ruffled as a mop of green hair sheepishly made itself known.
"F-Fancy meeting you here!" Midoriya warily greeted. "I wasn't eavesdropping! I was just…"
"I'm not mad," Shirou snorted. "But honestly, I thought you were Bakugo. This is much better."
"I... guess I can see it that way?"
"But you still followed me," Shirou switched gear. "Should I ask why? Rather, how did you end up hiding there in the first place?"
"It's… a long story…"
Midoriya sighed as he took a seat next to Emiya.
He felt ashamed of himself. He had eavesdropped on his classmate and ended up betraying his trust, even if the classmate in question didn't see it that way. What even drove him to do this in the first place?
One-for-All is a power inherited to defeat All-for-One, so to speak. You may one day have to fight this great evil.
Right… his talk with All-Might. Yeah… that. It had been just an hour after that discussion, but it wouldn't leave Midoriya's mind. An enemy that even All-Might couldn't completely defeat? One that still exists till this day? The sheer thought of it worried him to no end.
Yet… the fact he was told about it meant that All-Might had some faith in him– or rather, in his ability to handle such a threat. That warmed his heart, but Midoriya was unsure if he had any faith in himself to do so.
He had grown stronger since inheriting One-for-All, but he doubted that it was enough. For a threat that All-Might had yet to defeat… he had to be stronger.
"So this is about the final exams?" Emiya muttered. "You wanted my help?"
"Yes, that's right," Midoriya nodded. "The last time you helped me get a grip on my… my quirk, by identifying how to properly craft a mental trigger. That helped a lot, especially a week ago…" he winced. Right, maybe he shouldn't have brought it up. Switch the topic! "It really surprised the hero I was interning under."
But that same hero held his own suspicions of his wayward classmate. A healthy bit of caution, but Gran-Torino didn't know Emiya personally nor did he ever interact with him.
Midoriya was sure of one thing.
Emiya was a good person.
"So, with that in mind," Midoriya continued. "I wanted to see if it was possible to continue our sessions. Even if it's just sparring, I think I'll learn a lot just by doing so."
If he had to face a threat like this All-for-One, then he'd best prepare by doing his utmost best. And when it came to the best in the class… There was little doubt among their classmates that Emiya stood head and shoulders above everyone else, and that's not just in academics.
Midoriya could have all the speed and strength in the world, but he'd still be caught off guard by Emiya. The guy just seemed to know when and where he'd attack, without any sort of precognition quirk! Midoriya still hadn't completely figured out how he did it, but with enough time, he might.
Oh, shake that thought away. That wasn't the point of asking him for help.
"I see… Alright, but I'll have to run it by the principal first. I need his permission," Emiya nodded. Midoriya pondered for a moment, before realizing that his classmate was technically under house arrest. "If he agrees, we can have sessions after class. There's a courtyard at Heights Alliance we could use, so we don't have to waste time requesting a vacant gym."
"I'm sure the sports clubs will be thankful," Midoriya smiled before another idea struck him. "Ah, should I also invite Uraraka and everyone else?"
"You mean Iida and Yaoyorozu?" Emiya raised a brow. "If they want to, then probably–"
Midoriya raised a brow at his pause.
"Actually, I might have a better idea," he started. When prompted to explain, he just smiled. "Don't worry. We're still going to be having the sessions, but it won't just be a small group anymore."
What did he mean by…
"Ah! You mean– everyone!?"
At Midoriya's exclamation, Shirou nodded.
"But what about– I thought you wanted some space?" Midoriya asked, likely out of concern. "Isn't that why you avoided everyone?"
"Is that what it looked like…?" Emiya muttered. "I thought that it would be easier for everyone if I kept my distance, but I've recently learned that talking things through might be a better idea."
After all, he had managed to talk things out with Todoroki, someone who had a rather obvious dislike of him since the USJ fiasco. It continued on until today, where it seemingly ended. True, it came after Todoroki himself had come to his own realizations, but there was nothing to say that Shirou couldn't do the same.
"When you say everyone… even Kacchan?"
"You mean Bakugo?" Shirou raised a brow. "Yeah. Especially him."
"That… might not go so well," Midoriya admitted. It seemed even rose-tinted glasses didn't blind him. "I think he hates you, probably as much as me."
"So you do know he hates you?" Shirou was surprised. "I thought you had no idea."
"You and everyone else," Midoriya sighed. "But are you serious? I think that everyone, or at least a few of them, needs some time before they'd even consider joining us in our sessions."
"They'll have all the time they need," Shirou affirmed. "I want them to join if they want, but that's always their choice. This is mostly so that they know the option exists."
They can reach out anytime they want. Shirou will always be at campus, and will always be ready to help them train should they so desire.
Yes, this was his idea. Todoroki mentioned that they couldn't stand idle while the League of Villains – and in turn Angra-Mainyu – amassed power. Shirou knew he was able to at least handle it when the time came… but could his classmates? Could any in the hero course?
The uncertainty behind that answer honestly frightened him.
Then Midoriya came along and gave him an idea. A momentary stroke of genius, if you will, but one that might fall apart at the seams if not handled properly.
An organized training session with his classmates, and perhaps even their neighboring class, so that Shirou could get them strong enough to handle whatever Angra-Mainyu and his team threw their way.
… Honestly, it didn't seem like something he'd think of at all. This idea was out there. The only one who would've thought of something similar would be… Yu, he supposed. Maybe she influenced him more than he initially thought?
"Trust me," Shirou smiled. "It'll be fine."
Next Chapter: Late October (unless another 'bout of procrastination comes to me)
A/N: It's still Late September, KEKW
Apologies for the single chapter, even when I promised 2 for this month. I have no excuse, I just fkn put the 'pro' in 'procrastinate' innit. Not much else to say.
But, if you're an IT student learning some programming language, let me tell you this: Don't fkn make ur code and forget to comment what it does if it's not obvious at first glance. Mfker had a pythonic single-line nested for-loop with generic variable names (j, k, l, x, y, z). Howtf do I optimize this shit–
Oh yeah, don't worry about Yu. She's not gonna be in this mini-arc (because it's the final exam arc and wtf would Yu be doing here), but she will be doing her own thing in the background. I might write it in if I find the time (or remember to do so). Don't worry, this arc will be relatively short. Then it'll be right into the Training Camp Arc.
What else... Oh yeah, I got NP2 Summer Kama. That's it. MonkiFlip.
Also, no 'action' in this chapter due to skipping the class lesson. BabyRage.
Until next time,