Chapter 42

Beta: L33t Horo

Cover: LousGndiner


Yu kept a steady breath as her ever-familiar mask sat firmly on her face.

She didn't have the rest of her costume on, mostly because she had put them in for some minor tweaking. Nezu had requested it of her, mostly because she knew that she wouldn't be seeing any action today. Why he would upgrade her suit, Yu only had a few guesses.

None of them were comforting.

Instead, Yu found herself wearing a glittering navy dress. It was flashily gaudy, but considering the dress code, it was all she had. Who knew that her old prom dress still fit? Well, it was tight around the chest area but–

"Welcome, Mount Lady!" An overly enthusiastic voice called. "How wonderful for someone of your caliber to grace my humble abode!"

Yu turned to greet him with a respectful bow. At the same time, she snuck a glance at his… uniqueness.

He was round. That wasn't even an exaggeration. The man had a quirk that made his body as round as a basketball, especially since his limbs were non-existent, with only floating hands and feet to keep him upright. How he managed to do so, remained a mystery, but from his get-up, he didn't look too off-putting.

If anything, the man's unique appearance was more of a benefit in his line of work. It made him look like the kind of cuddly cartoon character that couldn't hurt a fly. A floating ball with floating limbs.

And his line of work? Business tycoon, one that had his hands in many forms of social media.

"The pleasure is all mine, Mister Yukutama. I'm thankful to have been invited in the first place," Yu smiled as she made to shake his hand. He reciprocated the gesture, but it felt weird to just be holding a floating hand. "I'm sorry if I sound impatient, but is everyone…?"

"Ready? Of course!" He smiled. "But first, the banquet! We cannot speak on an empty stomach now can we?"

Yes, that was why she was here.

Well, one of the reasons.

Hell, even if she wasn't invited by Mister Yukutama, she knew that she would've ended up at this party one way or another, especially if she wanted to salvage her career. That was one of the reasons.

The past week had not been kind to her. Even with Nezu and the Hero Association's help, the nasty rumors just wouldn't subside. If anything, their intensity just kept piling on. The general populace wasn't very aware, but the hearsay had reached enough ears to become a true problem.

Amateur reporters and internet ne'er do-wells had made it their god-given mission to find out the truth, even risking U.A.'s barriers to do so.

That was a problem. If people started to risk their lives for the truth, then that inevitably leads them down the mental justification of it being the undeniable truth. I've risked my life for this information, they'd think. It must be the truth!

But in the end, it'd be nothing more than a mistake born out of the will to do good.

At this rate, the only way to get them to stop was to send them an official cease-and-desist. However, even the brains at the Hero Association knew that it would only backfire and lead to more intrusive attempts. Hence, another reason she was here…

After following Yukutama down the frankly extravagant hallway, a pair of doormen welcomed them into the venue. Elegant music and gentle words of chatter filled her ears. True, she was immediately distracted by the smell of illustrious food, but she was able to resist the temptations. Shirou could make a better lunch anyway.

… But first, she'd have to get him back.

And to do that, she'd have to convince every single one of the invited reporters that she, and by extension Shirou, wasn't a threat to be worried about. If anything, he would be a boon for hero society should he be left alone.

Keeping slanderous rumors under lock and key would never work. With that in mind, Yu went for the complete opposite approach. She'd let them know of his good character, of his good nature, and how even his teachers had nothing but praise for him– except for Aizawa. The more they learned about the `good` he's done then the less they'd care about anything else.

… especially if they learned about his cooking. Ah… if only the U.A. Cultural Festival was around the corner, that would've lent credence to her claims. Sadly, that's still a month or so away from happening.

Though, if she went too far, then they'd probably just say she was making things up about him to paint a picture. Unfortunately, this means she'll probably have to let them know about some of his weak points, like being a shitty liar– no wait, that's a good thing. Shit.

"Yu-chan?"

"`bami?" Yu blinked in surprise before smiling at the familiar face. "What're you doing here? How have you been?"

"Did you honestly expect me to not be in such a high-profile event?" Uwabami rolled her eyes as she swirled a glass of champagne. Wait, there was real champagne? Damn, roly-poly went all out didn't he? Or did it barely cost him any pocket change? "But let me guess, you're here because of those guys, right?"

"Got it in one," Yu nodded. She blinked when she was approached by a server, who simply handed her a similar champagne glass and filled it for her. A quick sniff showed that it wasn't alcoholic. This wasn't even champagne, it was cranberry juice!

I guess being drunk when she wanted to talk to people would be a bad thing… but seriously, cranberry?

"Then I'll give you a heads-up," Uwabami said. "The guy in the fedora runs a small magazine. It's basically where the slander comes from, especially because his main topics revolve around rumors and conspiracies. He's even got a few that say I can probably petrify someone with my gaze."

"Is that why he isn't looking at you? Is he that afraid?" Yu snickered lightly. "How do you know this anyway?"

"I make it my job to know! Don't forget that I'm a celebrity. Walkways and gossip… it's a part of my life as a celebrity, you know?" Uwabami smiled. "And no, he isn't afraid of me. He's just with his wife. She's got him on a tight leash," her friend laughed lightly. "Speaking of which, you'll probably also have to get on her good side too. It shouldn't be too hard. She used to be a part of the single mother's association, and still regularly meets with one of the heads. You were invited to that too weren't you?"

"I knew I recognized her from somewhere," Yu muttered. "It's been so long that I nearly forgot. Do you think I'll have to join it? I'm not entirely against the idea but…"

High society… this is far too much for a country girl like me.

"If you mention it, probably. Just don't bring it up and you should be fine. But you'll probably get another email or letter about joining."

but I'm glad to have a friend here to help me.

"I can live with that. Anyone else?"

"You see the gauche guy in the corner? He's the son of a news broadcast studio. Play your cards right and you might be able to get him to do whatever you want~" she smirked. "Though, if you don't want a simp, then try talking to–"

this is going to take a while, isn't it?

But, if it's for Shirou, it'll be worth it.

Who knows, she might even learn something?


The day had been… interesting.

After he had awoken for the day, he had encountered the somewhat sleep-deprived forms of the Shield family shuffling around like zombies. In a way, it reminded him of Rin when she got up for the morning. Naturally, Shirou made them both coffee to start their day.

From there, introductions proceeded to paint a rather troubling picture.

David Shield, as a quick internet search had proved, was an extremely famous man. His work was known internationally and greatly improved the efficiency of heroes around the world simply by using his equipment. He had even brought a few of his gadgets and showed them off. They ranged from a simple grappling hook to a suit that dynamically repaired itself. That last one, in particular, Shirou was interested in greatly.

His daughter had her respective renown, but not to the extent of her father. Melissa was a third-year at I-Island Academy, which had closed its doors in light of the recent uptick in Japan's villain activity. It was deemed too dangerous for their students to remain on the island should it be attacked. Hence why she was here in U.A., as a transferee to complete mentioned education.

Their stay in Heights Alliance was essentially a deal offered to them so long as David stayed as one of their guest instructors. He was being taken advantage of and the scientist knew it, but somehow Shirou doubted that he was bothered about it. On the contrary, he seemed quite enthusiastic about the deal.

It was after Shirou had revealed his name and reason for being at the dormitories that Aizawa chose to awaken. A cup of coffee later, Aizawa sincerely apologized to the family of two. They were quick to forgive him, but not without a bit of fanfare.

He had also confirmed that the Shields, due to their high profile, were staying at the dorms for their respective protection, much like Shirou. Though Shirou found that counterproductive when he realized that David Shield would be off-campus for a while for some sort of research, that was beside the point.

With all his questions essentially answered, Shirou elected to do what he had planned. Sweat poured down his form but a suitable piece of work-out attire hid his modesty. He had already finished with his stretches and routine exercise. Now he was swinging two heavy shinais, which he had Yaoyorozu create for him to copy in one of their earlier sessions, to work on his core muscles.

Reinforcement, a spell that he had found himself using frequently, improved his performance by multiplying his base status. If he used it on a sword, it would be twice as sharp as a rudimentary example. With that reasoning, what if the sword was already sharper than normal? How sharp would the reinforced sword be?

Hence his current endeavors. A common workout routine to ensure he would be stronger– a no-brainer there. Though, that was not all he was doing. While his body went through the motions, his mind was elsewhere.

A nameless drill-shaped lance that could generate whirlwinds.

A nameless scythe that could drain away magical energy.

A famous blade that held within three miracles.

And many more.

He had been… `complacent` when it came to the weapons in his arsenal. He had not expected to face someone infected with Angra-Mainyu's vile blood. As a result, he had struggled to search for a haphazard solution. He had all but insulted his former Servant by using that dagger. Shirou had no intention to repeat that mistake.

And so, he searched. He scrutinized the unlimited blades, searching for those that could permanently rid those afflicted with something as potent as Avenger's curses. Once he found them, he familiarized himself with them. The more familiar he was with them, the less time he'd spent looking for them. It was the main reason he had defaulted to so many familiar weapons such as Medusa's chains or Cu Chulainn's spear.

And once he was completely familiar with the necessary weapons… perhaps he could help even more people. People that were suffering from similar afflictions to what had once touched Stain, and more importantly, what is currently afflicting his classmate Kirishima.

Though, while he may be able to get rid of the mental or spiritual afflictions, there was little he could do if the Black Blood – the cause of the affliction – remained in circulation within the body.

Hopefully, Kirishima had gotten a scheduled appointment to do so, even if it seemed to not affect him as much–

"Excuse me!"

–Shirou paused in his workout, idly taking note of the setting sun, and turned to the closest bench where he saw a familiar blond.

Said blond wore an irritated frown.

"Sorry, did you need something?" Shirou tilted his head, arms still extended in the middle of a swing.

"No, but I was trying to start a conversation. I have been for a while now…" she frowned. "You've been there for… I think it was five hours? Aren't you tired?"

"I am, but just a bit" Shirou nodded as he continued his training. "But I know my limits. I can keep going for at least another hour."

"That's… are you sure you don't need a break?" she smiled warily. "How are you not exhausted?

"I was under the impression that this was normal?"

"For athletes maybe, but even for people like that, it sounds like they'd be winded at the very least," she muttered. "You make some of my hero course classmates look like they're slacking off."

Reinforcement did wonders for his performance, but it didn't do anything at all for his stamina. If he wanted to be able to work consistently throughout the day, once he got a hero license, then he needed to manually build up the stamina to do so.

If he had to work as hard as a professional athlete so that he could become a professional hero, then so be it, but something Melissa said had caught his attention…

"There's a hero course in I-Island Academy?" Shirou asked. "I had thought that they'd be much more… support-focused. It's on an island renowned for that kind of stuff, right?"

"It is support-focused, but that's the main draw for the hero course as well," she said. "We usually get hero course students that have quirks that can only be used with support gear. Quirks like technomancy or telekinesis practically need something to use them on… or else they'd probably get sued for property damage."

"That makes sense," Shirou nodded. Sometimes, it amused him to think about the actual logistics that came about from superpowered humans doing work.

"Speaking of Quirks…" Melissa trailed off as she scrutinized his form. "What's yours? You're in the hero course, aren't you? Shouldn't you be training it instead of your body? Or did you already train it for the day?"

Deciding to humor her, Shirou let the shinais in his grasp fade into magical energy. Then, he traced some nameless sword mid-air before launching it into the pavement behind him.

"… Eh?" she blinked. "So your Quirk is the transformation of initially immaterial energy to facilitate the creation of material matter?"

He blinked.

Uh…

"Um… Not exactly…?" Shirou took a second to process her assumption. Right, daughter of a scientist, of course. "It's not the creation of matter, but rather, a solid imitation. I can't create anything I need. The swords I create were things I've seen before, hence an imitation. But you're correct about me needing some energy to create them."

"A type of energy that seems to exist in a unique form…" She rubbed her chin. "… are you sure that you're just limited to things you've seen before? And if that's true, then why aren't you making something like a car?"

"I'm much more specialized in making weaponry and armor, doubly so if they're bladed in any form," Shirou shrugged. It was the truth, but for some reason, he felt that he could make a cotton candy machine, even when he hadn't tried it before. Maybe it was Archer's side of the memories? "But it isn't as straightforward as creating whatever I've seen before. I first need to know how it works. I have a classmate with a similar ability, but she needs to know its molecular structure first and needs to use her lipids to do so."

Hmm… did that mean that Yaoyorozu ate food that inherently has a lot of fat in it? How was she still so fit and healthy if she was eating things like that? Shirou internally withheld a grimace.

"At least that makes some sort of anatomical sense…" she seemed lost in thought. "Then again, Quirks generally don't follow biological laws anymore. Newer and newer generations of children seem to be developing less logical abilities– but then again that could just be confirmation bias… but what if…"

Shirou blinked as his… dorm-mate? Regardless, the girl seemed lost in thought.

"… though the top hero in America doesn't follow it either but she's of an older generation–" Melissa seemed to pause. "Sorry, I got side-tracked. I wanted to try to make some support gear for you, that was why I asked about your Quirk."

"Ah, I see," Shirou nodded slowly as he crossed his arms. "… Why?"

"Exams," she answered. "The practical exams for third-year students. In I.A. – I-Island Academy – we weren't having any exams because of the upcoming expo, which we were supposed to help with. However, since it's been canceled, I'll need to take examinations again. According to U.A.'s curriculum, I need to draft functional support gear for a fellow student… and I do mean a non-fictional student from this school. I tried making someone up and it was rejected."

Well, there goes one suggestion. "And why me?"

"Because I don't know any other students?" She smiled warily once more. "I can't exactly go and look for any random student this late into the day, now can I?"

"I suppose not," Shirou mumbled. "Isn't there some kind of exemption you can request? You did just transfer in today."

"I could but…" She looked away for just a second as she hugged her sides before sighing. "I sort of wanted to challenge myself? I'm sure Principal Nezu would understand if I did get an exemption, but I wouldn't be satisfied with myself if I did. If Papa were in my position, he probably wouldn't have quit too."

So self-satisfaction then? Well, Shirou couldn't disparage that.

"I don't think you'll find it easy to make any support gear for me, so you might be setting yourself up for failure there," Shirou honestly said. Quite frankly, he did not need any gear, because he could trace whatever he needed on the fly. The only gear he had were items he couldn't trace, like medical supplies. "But I think I can get you some other options."

She looked on in momentary confusion as Shirou took out his phone and dialed a number.

"… Hello?"

"Yaoyorozu," Shirou smiled. "Are you busy?"

"Not really, but I will be in a minute," she apologized. Though, from what Shirou could hear, she seemed exhausted.

"Then it should be fine. I only needed a favor. It'll be quick"

"A favor?"

"Yeah," Shirou looked back to Melissa. "A friend of mine needs some help. She's in the support course, and their practical exam involves drafting support gear for a real student. Do you think you can let her ask you?"

"I suppose so, but I doubt she'd be able to find any gear for me," she muttered. Ah, right. Yaoyorozu didn't need any gear when she could make her own. "But I can ask someone else! Please wait a moment."

Shirou heard mild scuffling in the background before someone new must've picked up the phone.

"Yo, Emiya! What's up?"

"… Jiro?" Shirou furrowed his brow. "Did you guys go outside?" Were they in the middle of a shopping trip?

"Nah, we're at Yaomomo's place," she then lowered her voice as she spoke hurriedly. "Seriously dude. It's insane over here. I thought the limo was cutting it, but she has a literal mansion dude! Like, there's a bathroom in every guest room! She has TEN guest rooms!"

Shirou blinked.

"Right…" he continued before he paused. "Anyway, do you think that you could do me a favor?"

"You have a friend and she needs a guinea pig. Yeah, I heard," Jiro smiled. "Yaomomo had you on loud-speaker the entire time. Everyone heard."

"Everyone?"

"Pretty much all of the girls in our class and half of the guys," Jiro answered. "Midoriya's here too. He's pretty much continued from where you left off yesterday. But there's a whole lot less weapon training and more… well, he has ideas, I'll give him that. Real interested in seeing how they go."

"Really?" Shirou blinked. "Are you guys making progress?"

"A whole load. I got the basics down of some kicks from Ojiro and I think Iida and Midoriya were finishing up a spar. We didn't want to rest when the exam's right around the corner."

"Careful not to over-exert yourselves. It'd be hard to pass the exam if you couldn't take the exam in the first place," Shirou sighed. Well, not that he had any room to complain, especially with how hard he was working himself at the moment. "And about the favor–?"

"Put her on," Jiro smiled, probably. "I kinda want some new duds, if you catch my drift?"

"It's just a gear draft," Shirou rolled his eyes and walked over to Melissa, who had been squirming in her spot throughout the conversation. "Here you go. Most of my classmates are there, so if you're not sure, you can ask to try someone else. I'm sure they won't mind. Though, you'll probably need to tell them that you aren't guaranteed to make them anything."

"I might if the idea I come up with is interesting enough," Melissa smiled as she was handed his phone. "Thank you for helping, Shirou!"

"First name–?" an exclaim came from his phone. "Oi oi! You sure she's just a friend?"

"She's from abroad! They use first names!" Shirou said loudly as he made his way back inside, as it was already too late to do any more exercise. Hopefully, that'd dispel any illusions or misunderstandings they'd have. "Just make sure to return my phone when you're done!"

Hopefully, Melissa would get along with his classmates. She probably would, as she seemed like the type to easily get along with others. That was a good thing, especially since they'd see much more of each other nowadays, whether they'd like it or not.

Just as Shirou was far enough into the dormitories that Melissa would be out of sight, he was interrupted.

"Thank you for doing that," the blond-haired scientist smiled as he sat on the sofa. "I was worried about my daughter's decision to still take the exam, but it seems she's made a good friend. Maybe even more, if the people she's talking to right now feel the same way."

Mr. Shield? Shirou thought he'd be out longer, but it seemed otherwise.

"I'm glad to be of service," Shirou accepted the thanks for what it was. Though… Shirou's nose twitched. "Speaking of friends. One of my friends recalled meeting a blond foreigner last night. That wouldn't happen to be you, would it?"

"What makes you say that?" David asked with a raised brow. "Is it that unusual to find a blond foreigner in UA?"

"On campus, yes. There aren't many foreigners in UA– and if there are even less who'd be here on the weekend," Shirou continued. "Not to mention, I believe Kirishima would be able to recognize someone he's seen before on campus. If he hasn't seen someone before, chances are, he or she would've just arrived."

"Isn't that just wild and abstract reasoning? Nothing more than assumption?"

"I suppose," Shirou shrugged. "Though, I have other reasons to be suspicious."

Like the lingering scent wafting off of him despite changing his clothes. It was a very familiar scent.

"Well, isn't this a pickle?" David muttered to himself slightly. "Don't suppose you'll let it go?"

"No. At least, not when it concerns the health of a friend," Shirou pressed. "And by the fact that you haven't shut the conversation down and simply left, I assume that you're at least willing to let me know?"

"To some degree," the Shield shrugged. "Well, it's not like I'm under any contractual obligation to deny it. The information we've gleaned from the tests will be publically available once preliminary testing is over anyway, so there's no sense in keeping it hidden. Nezu had a feeling you'd want to know anyway. Do you want to take a seat before we begin?"

Shirou simply obliged. Though, he poured himself some tea first.

"Right… where to begin? The Hosu Incident, I suppose? That's where all our samples came from anyway," David muttered. "Were you aware that the Beast's blood was hard to procure? Due to its nature in becoming autonomous constructs via his Quirk, the samples would either escape or attack, creating a need to burn them away to prevent further contamination. The incident at Hosu proved the method to be a very efficient method in eliminating them… even if it eliminated more samples we could've obtained. What can you do? Lives are more of a priority than research samples, as it should be."

David sighed.

"Getting rid of rogue samples was important because of the inherent effects it had on people. Not only has it proved to be autonomous, but people who have shown signs of being infected by it, either by ingesting or letting it get into their bloodstream– despite the fact its consistency is exactly like tar, have a heightened inclination towards negativity," he said. "In other words, they were more prone to violence, cowardice, and even suicidal tendencies in a few subjects. In the worst cases, they're driven insane til they were little more than beasts. Though a strange positive is that the subjects would have increased regeneration, it isn't something worth noting– not when all the negatives overwhelmingly surmount it. Are you following along?"

Shirou nodded. He wasn't surprised that some people behind the scenes were doing some experiments. If it gave them a better chance at beating Avenger, then so be it. However, Shirou couldn't shake the unease he had behind that thought.

… what if someone tried weaponizing it?

"So when I arrived here, suddenly told by Nezu that I had to visit their research department posthaste due to needing a second opinion, only to end up beholden to a teenager with the blood seemingly running through his veins without issue?" David snorted. "That was essentially a miracle. Perhaps it had something to do with the small dosage? Nevermind that. The point is that it should not be possible to be as functionally… positive, for lack of better words, as he was. It was only when young Kirishima used his Quirk that we were finally able to determine a working theory."

"Which is?"

"His body hardened to create a wall, in essence," he explained. "By utilizing that form he labeled `Red Riot Unbreakable`, Kirishima was able to solidify to the point that the blood and its negative effects couldn't penetrate that deeply. Psychologically, it was likely akin to breaking through a wall to build a wall against negative thoughts. A more poetic sort would say he was hardening his very soul. We'll need to perform a few more tests, but due to young Kirishima's insistence on joining the practical exams along with the rest of his peers… these tests will have to be postponed until after the practicals tomorrow. Your friend is… a little hard-headed, to say the least."

"On the nose with that," Shirou smiled slightly. "Did he also tell you when he was infected?"

"A little over a month ago, yes," David nodded. "Which makes it all the more remarkable that he was able to stay `positive` for that long. All the subjects we've had to look at were victims from Hosu, and even then, it only took a day or two for them to be showing side effects."

Guts. Manliness. Overwhelming optimism. Perhaps Kirishima's mentality did more than just serve as empty boasts? Though, that worry from earlier came crawling back.

"When you say subjects… people haven't been intentionally infected with the blood, have they?" Shirou narrowed his eyes.

"To my knowledge? Outside of the accidental infections and volunteers, none."

Shirou nodded before blinking.

"There were volunteers?"

"Fully consensual," David sighed. "I don't like it either, but not even ten-pages worth of legal documents we've given them to sign turned them away. The infections only really last for twenty-four hours before they undergo surgery to remove the blood. Speaking of which. Young Kirishima has already agreed to undergo it, but due to the recovery period taking more than a few days…"

"Kirishima postponed that too, did he?"

"On the nose," he smiled sadly. "His parents trust his decision, so we couldn't get them to overrule it, unfortunately."

"At least it'll only be a day-long delay at the most," considering the exam was tomorrow. "Is there more you've discovered about the blood? Perhaps a way to neutralize or deactivate it?"

"No," David sighed. "Outside of fire? Nothing seems to get rid of it. We'll keep trying other alternatives, but that's it so far. Anything else you want to ask?"

"I guess not," Shirou shrugged. "Good luck on the rest of your research on the matter, Mr. Shield."

"You can just call me David, you know?" he sighed. "Though, it's a shame you turned down my daughter's offer. You seem like a bright sort. A Sword and a Shield, eh?"

Shirou simply rolled his eyes and made his way upstairs. "Have a nice day, David."

It was only after Shirou made his way to his dorm that he could finally relax. His worries over Kirishima could finally be laid to rest… at least be on hold until after the examinations are over to see if there were any complications.

Shirou frowned.

He had no idea why but… why was he feeling something would end up going wrong tomorrow?


As the redheaded child left the living room, David let out a small sigh.

Shirou seemed like a good kid. However, it was for that reason that he withheld some information. He slipped up once, but luckily the young man didn't catch it. The negative effects of it would be released to the public if only to ensure the public avoids anywhere that the Beast has been sighted, but…

Why would the autonomous blood try to escape if there wasn't a place to escape towards?

Even on the off-chance that young Shirou was a spy, unwilling or unknowing, David knew he couldn't risk it. Not when so much was going to end up riding on the coming week.

With the blood always trying to make a fuss and escape, they'd be able to pinpoint the Beast's location if, and only if, they let it loose. That was unviable as it would endanger the surrounding public, but if it was contained in an existing medium?

It was unlike other samples, the ones collected in the Hosu Incident, that were confirmed to have been used as Black Blood Vanguard. Young Kirishima didn't know it, but the blood coursing through him was also inert. However, it would not remain inert for long. It must've had an activation condition of some sort.

By bringing young Kirishima closer to some existing subjects, and him voicing some discomfort the more subjects and samples surrounded him…

Young Kirishima was essentially a compass, whether he knew it or not.

It was only recently made known to him about the upcoming counter-ambush they planned for the Training Camp, but David just knew that young Kirishima would somehow be in the middle of it all. And from what he gleaned about young Shirou? He might not be the only one.

There was just one thing though… a pang of lingering guilt, he supposed.

Stooping to using kids, are we? David thought. If All-Might were stronger, if he were back in his prime, or if David could've gotten his device in time–

No, it was too late for that. I-Island's new rebuffed defenses, that plan was unviable. He didn't mind endangering people if it meant he could get the Quirk Amplification Device, as All-Might could always save everyone with it later on, and he'd pay for his crimes by going to jail, but at the very least it would end in All-Might being as strong as before.

He supposed that all he could do was hope for the best.

His fingers twitched and stretched.

… and work on contingencies.

What was it that Nezu wanted? Mobile buildings?


The day of the exams had arrived. Before he even went to school to take them, he had gotten a text from Yu wishing him luck. Somehow, he just knew that Yu must've overworked herself again.

But he did not let his worries distract him. It didn't take long before Shirou had finished up the written exam. It had taken place in their classroom with the neighboring class' teacher Vlad-King acting as Proctor, otherwise known as Sekijiro Kan. This was to prevent bias.

The exam was easy enough, at least for Shirou. However, as soon as everyone had finished, Vlad-King made them all get onto a familiar bus with their hero costumes, the same one that took them to USJ. Fortunately, they weren't heading there but instead arrived at the practical exam venue, otherwise known as the Central Plaza.

It was pretty much an open parking lot from the outside, but inside, there were probably more practical facilities… Now that he thought about it, Shirou sort of recognized the area from the Sports Festival, back when they ran around the campus. Did he run through here without realizing it?

"I see you've made it," Aizawa greeted them from the entrance. However, he wasn't alone. The rest of the teachers were beside him greeting them with a smile or a simple wave. "We will now begin the practical exam. I assume I don't need to remind you that failure is a possibility. I'd ask if you've gotten enough rest, but some of you seemed to have done so already."

The knowing look he had as he gazed at several of his students. More specifically, those who he knew slept after they finished their written exams.

With such a lackadaisical atmosphere… maybe his worries last night had been just that? Pointless worrying.

"Don't do anything stupid if you want to go to the training camp," he continued. "Or do, and be left behind. Less paperwork for me."

"Brutal," Jiro frowned. "Hey, Yaomomo. Why do you think there are this many teachers?"

"I haven't a clue," Yaoyorozu furrowed her brow. "Perhaps it's related to the exam?"

"We're going to be fighting robots like in the entrance exam, right!?" Kaminari exclaimed.

"Fireworks! Curry! A test of courage!"

"None of the above!" Shirou blinked as the familiar face of the Principal crawled out of Aizawa's bandage wraps. "For various reasons, it'll be quite different than that!"

From there, Nezu proceeded to explain.

Because of the recent incidents these past few months, the board of education opted to push for more one-on-one combat-focused examinations. This is so that their students would be prepared if they were forced into conflict… again. For those exact reasons, Shirou agreed with the changes.

"With that in mind…" Nezu gave a small pirouette as he pivoted on his heels. "We will be having you all form teams of two and face off with a teacher!"

Against the teachers?

Shirou's eyes hesitantly wandered towards Aizawa. Would he be unlucky enough to fight him? If so, then he hoped to be paired with Yaoyorozu so she'd prepare him a few blades in advance. He wasn't going to be risking his secret out in the open here.

"In addition, those pairs have already been decided at my discretion through various factors," and speak of the devil. "This includes fighting styles, grades, interpersonal relationships, and so on. With that in mind… What is it, Iida?"

"With all due respect, is it truly two-on-one and not three-on-one?" Iida asked.

"It is," Aizawa snorted. "Though, I will keep in mind that you think you'll need more help."

"It's not that, Sensei," Iida frowned. "There are twenty-one of us. You can't divide that by two. There will be someone left out–"

"That has already been taken to account. You will know in due time. For now, these are the pairings," Aizawa interrupted. That was worrying… "Yaoyorozu and Todoroki, you'll be facing off with me."

Phew. He wasn't against Aizawa. He could relax now–

"Next. Midoriya and Bakugo."

Or not. Did he have to worry about his classmates killing each other?

"They will be up against–"

"Me!" Shirou blinked as All-Might, quite literally, fell from the heavens to grace them with his presence. "I will do it! Work together to defeat me, you two!"

Was this a ploy to try and get them to resolve their differences? Would that even work?

From the nasty glare in Bakugo's eyes… probably not.

From there, Shirou safely tuned out the gossip and focused on the pairings, if only to sate his curiosity.

Kirishima and Sato would face Cementoss. This matchup sounded troublesome, if only because both of them were close-combat specialists while their opponent… was the furthest thing. With his quirk, Cementoss would likely control the concrete jungle around them with little effort. Then there was also Kirishima's condition…

"Kirishima, are you sure you want to continue with the exam?" he whispered to his fellow redhead. He knew that he decided to take it, but… more pointless worrying, he supposed.

"If it's about that, then yeah," Kirishima whispered back. "It hasn't been a problem so far and Recovery-Girl is nearby if I need her. I'm sure if there is, then Cementoss-sensei is going to be strong enough to put me in the ground… literally. If he wanted, he could probably bury us in cement with ease."

"Please don't remind me," Sato lamented. "I don't even have a clue on how to close that gap."

"You could–"

"It's fine, Emiya!" Kirishima smiled. "This is an exam. I appreciate the help, but I can't let myself get carried by your advice. Besides. I already have a few ideas up my sleeve."

Guess he'd simply have to trust him, but he had a sneaking feeling he was leading up to something.

Next on the chopping block was Asui and Tokoyami versus Ectoplasm. It was clear that he'd be overwhelming his classmates through sheer numbers. Then it was Iida and Ojiro versus Power Loader, but Shirou didn't know much about the teacher as he was mostly with the support course.

The next line-up was Thirteen, who Shirou remembered back from USJ, was facing Uraraka and Aoyama. That was a much more interesting match. He had no idea how far Aoyama had taken his newfound skills, but hopefully, it'd be enough to turn the tides.

Ashido and Kaminari were up against Nezu and… Shirou had no idea how that was going to turn out. Though, the following match of Jiro and Koda versus Present-Mic was much more one-sided. He did not envy Jiro there. Her quirk might end up backfiring. This was then followed by the announcement of Snipe taking on both Hagakure and Shoji. Then there was Midnight versus Sero and Mineta…

"My name was left out…" Shirou inadvertently muttered.

"Correct," Aizawa narrowed his eyes. "No, instead of having a partner, it was decided that you are experienced enough to face a teacher on your own."

So that's what he was leading up to.

"Eh? Emiya's going solo!? Isn't that a bit unfair?" Ashido shouted. The slight silence she got in return was both comforting and saddening. "Wait, why are you guys clamming up now?"

"Well…" Midoriya started as he sent Shirou an odd look. "He's pretty much better than us when it comes to straight combat, don't you think?"

"I suppose it'd only be fair that they'd scale up the difficulty for him," Iida frowned. "But… is U.A. the type of institution to make exceptions like this?"

"They've already placed him in his own dorm house," Ojiro pointed out. "What's to say they won't do more?"

"I suppose," Iida grumbled, still not pleased about the idea.

"… Fine," Ashido ceded. "He beat me easily too in the sports festival… I guess it makes sense?"

"As appalling as it is to see the faith of our students in our school to be this low," Nezu noted. "This wasn't our decision. There are some things that even I, the Principal, cannot prevent. Especially if my hand is forced."

"That means…" Kirishima mused.

"… It came from above?" Shirou finished. "Someone wants to face me?"

But why?

"Who on earth has enough pull to make the educational board listen to them…?" Shoji muttered from behind Shirou. One of his six forearms turned into an ear and twitched to their left.

A few seconds later, Shirou heard it too.

Todoroki frowned deeply.

"I can think of one person…"

It was the sound of rumbling flames.

"Yes," All-Might said from between them. "Being a professional hero, while it is a role focused on saving lives, inadvertently births fame and fortune. With that fame and fortune… you can make a lot of people move the way you want them to. I am ashamed to admit that I did the same to get this job in the first place."

"But we got All-Might as a teacher so that's okay!" Kirishima shouted encouragement.

"Regardless," Endeavor grunted as he folded his arms. "With the recent uptick in villain activity, know that this is needed. The public need to be reassured that their top heroes care about the well-being of future heroes. My presence here will only reinforce it."

"Coming from you of all people, that doesn't mean much…" it was only because that Shirou was so close to Todoroki that he could hear his vehement whispers. When he noticed that Shirou could hear him, he frowned again, but this time it was an apologetic one. "Sorry, Emiya. I should've mentioned it, but… he's been showing interest in you for a few days now. Even I have no idea why."

"It's fine," Shirou nodded. He'd have to figure it out himself.

Why on earth would a professional hero want to know more about him? Especially one hailed as the second strongest of Japan? There has to be more to this that he just wasn't seeing.

"It is not just me," Endeavor continued. "Top heroes from all over the country have elected to aid in the exams of other prestigious schools. For example, that old fart, Yoroi-Musha, is in Shiketsu as we speak."

"Yes, surprisingly generous of you both," Aizawa rolled his eyes. "Certainly there weren't other reasons."

Shirou caught Aizawa's look. So there were other reasons.

… Maybe he was right to worry over this exam.

"But enough of that talk! The time limit is thirty minutes!" Nezu interrupted his employee as he swiftly rose a pair of handcuffs. "Students! Your goal is to handcuff your teacher or respective opponent. Alternatively, you could also have one of your teammates escape from the boundaries at the designated exit. Capture or escape! How exciting!"

"This time, your exam will be similar to a real battle," Thirteen reiterated. "Please think of us as villains and act accordingly."

"Assuming you come across an enemy, if you think you can win against them then all is well," Snipe continued. "However–"

"–in cases where your abilities are lacking, or the difference between you and your opponent are far too great…" Aizawa narrowed his eyes. "It would be smarter to run away and seek help."

Run away?

"But! With these choices, perhaps you'll only think of running?" All-Might smiled. "That's where these come in! A request to the support department provided us with these Ultra-Compressed Weights! It's old-fashioned, but with this, it'll eat away at our stamina and give you all a fighting chance– oh they're heavier than expected."

As his classmates mused, Shirou found himself taking a stray glance at his would-be opponent.

He was met with hardened and suspicious eyes, narrowed with flames simmering both around and beneath their gaze.

… Something told him that he wouldn't be enjoying this exam, not in the slightest.

"Alright," Aizawa called. "Each team will be led to their respective venues by their would-be opponent. Follow them and if you have any further questions, you need only ask. We're short on time today, so we won't be having the exam held in sequence. As soon as you arrive at the venue, be prepared to fight. That is all."

As the classmates ran off, Shirou found himself rooted in his spot. His… let's say `guest teacher` wasn't moving either.

"… Don't think of this as a bad thing," Aizawa, who had waited until everyone left, whispered to him. Likely because Endeavor was still there. Did this mean that Aizawa didn't trust him? "It's an opportunity. Having a top hero proctor in your practical exam would certainly put some relief on those lousy rumors. If Endeavor passes you, then there'll be no issues, almost akin to an endorsement… though, I think the public would react negatively if you fail– even more so if you miraculously defeat him. For your sake and the sake of those around you, focus on nothing but running away."

That was an understatement. With his reputation – and by extension, Yu's reputation – in the dumps, such an action could possibly reinforce the views of his detractors. How could the second-ranked hero ever lose in a fight against a student unless the previously mentioned student was some sort of genetically engineered spy? It was like seeing a common high schooler defeat a military-trained soldier. It just doesn't happen without some sort of extraordinary background.

That wasn't the sort of attention he wanted, rather that would only be a detriment if he wanted to continue his hunt for Angra-Mainyu.

Shirou didn't nod, but he felt that Aizawa understood. He agreed with everything he was saying. He just needed to run away… Shirou met with Endeavor's eyes once more.

Why did he think that would be a problem?


An abandoned district under a gigantic wire mesh dome.

Their assigned location looked like it was haphazardly slapped together. Facsimiles of buildings surrounded him, but it was clear that the only real exit was the entrance they had come through. Hence the need to walk further into the fake district. Cementoss' handiwork, no doubt.

"If I recall, your name was… Emiya Shirou?"

Shirou tensed as he nodded, noting that the suspicion from earlier had yet to fade.

"Reply with words, child," he berated, but it seemed to only be an afterthought. What followed was a stretch of silence. Though, while Shirou was alright with this, it seemed Endeavor wasn't. "It has come to my attention that you were adopted too. What happened to your relatives?"

Terrific conversation starter. Was he trying to learn more about the Beast based on the rumors?

"I wasn't aware that guest proctors made it their business to know about our home life," Shirou narrowed his eyes. This was way too out of the ordinary. What did he want with him?

"All heroes must be mindful of civilians. It is our duty," the excuse flew out of his mouth like ash from a volcano. It seemed like even Endeavor knew it wouldn't fly, but pressed on. "Have you attempted to find any of your… relatives? And no, I do not subscribe to the idea that you're related to the Beast. I believe those are foolish assumptions at best."

Even if it sounded like concern, Shirou had been around the block long enough to tell that it wasn't. If he had to choose a word, Endeavor sounded… irritated. He was faking his concern.

But at least he didn't believe he was related to Angra-Mainyu. That was one good sign at least.

"No. They all died in a fire when I was young," he answered. "Even if they're alive, they'd be strangers for all I know."

"Is that so?" Endeavor snorted in dismissal. If he was dismissive, then why did he bother asking? Before Shirou could think further, the professional hero grunted. "Regardless of what you think of your relatives, it is only proper that I lead you to them."

Shirou blinked.

"Are you… implying that you'll burn me alive?" He did say his parents were dead from a fire, so leading Shirou to them would–

Endeavor narrowed his eyes.

"No."

So no nonsense then… great.

"A cafe owner has shown to have a Quirk similar to your own. He goes by the name of Farran."

Archer.

Shirou tensed up.

"And his name is familiar to you, it seems…" Endeavor narrowed his eyes further. Any suspicion he had faded and was replaced with vindication. It was to the point that Shirou could practically smell the asphalt burning underneath him. "You reacted. Not in surprise, but familiarity. The difference is like night and day to me, child."

Oh of course it had to be Archer. Shirou didn't do anything to warrant this guy's attention. Archer did. Endeavor didn't believe that Shirou was related to Angra-Mainyu. Why would he when he probably drew a connection between him and Archer?

But when was it? How long had Archer been under this man's scrutiny?

"… And why is it that you're so interested in our apparent relation?" Shirou shortened his footsteps so that the distance between them would slowly begin to widen. "Can I ask that personal matters be left out of the exam?"

"You may," Endeavor's flame beard flickered. "Whether it will be granted… remains to be seen."

So he had no intention of letting it go…

Great.

"Whatever Arch– Farran did, can I apologize in his stead?"

"No," he denied. "That aggravating man has nothing to apologize for. Instead… Archer. That's what you were about to call him, wasn't it?"

Shirou mentally cursed his slip. Seriously, what was going on here!? Archer!? What the hell did you do to piss this guy off? What have you been doing when you got to this world!?

"It is clear that you know more than you let on. How that rat and the others fail to see this is beyond me," his eyes furrowed as his flames intensified in furious indignation. Shirou could feel the heat reach him even from far away. "Your familiarity with that man is undeniably confirmed. The fact that you likely know about his secrets means I no longer need to care about playing this game of niceties. Where did you and that man come from? How was it that a Quirk of such destructive capabilities was kept hidden for this long? And above all… how on earth were your existences hidden up until now?"

Smoldering irritation gave way to roaring resolve.

"These are questions that will be answered today. If that man cannot– will not answer me, then I suppose you will have to do," amid sweltering heat, Endeavor's ire did not fade. "Struggle all you want. I will have my answers–"

Klaxon blared.

A robotic voice screamed for them to begin.

A blistering flame rushed past him, the sound of jet fire leaving a trail of molten asphalt behind it.

He's going for the exit!?

It was then that Shirou realized what he was planning. Before he could make a move to stop him, Endeavor had already boiled the supports of the surrounding buildings, reducing their structural strength until they toppled like dominos.

When the concrete collapsed, smelted shut by a smoldering heat, the exit – and his surroundings – followed suit.

"–even if I have to fail some orphan child!"

Shit.

What was left of it all was the smell of smoldering embers, the blackened smoke of melted asphalt reaching up into the quickly darkening sky, the sound of swiftly crumbling skyscrapers, and a wall of sweltering flames around them.

The only thing such a scenery lacked was the damning screams of those he had selfishly left behind.

I knew I had a bad feeling about this.


A/N: Relatively short chapter. I'm cutting things off here because I feel like I need to go into more detail with Shirou's side of the exam in the next chapter. And yes, I'm going with the manga route of `simultaneous battles` which the anime disregarded to fill runtime.

There are a few negatives to this route, like not being able to see the perspective of classmates on their peers' exams, but all exams I've been in strictly disallow you from seeing others' performances because it could impact your own. I'm going for this for that reason. That, and I can skip the fights that I know won't be changed and focus on the ones that will be. For example, Kirishima and Sato versus Cementoss. And as an example from canon that won't be changed, Bakugo and Midoriya vs All-Might, because not enough has changed for those two.

However, I will be putting up a poll regarding how to handle the upcoming chapters. There are two choices, either split it up into a Class 1-A chapter then a Shirou-focused chapter, or intermingle them and try and go for a `real-time` feel across a chapter or two. Said poll should be available in my profile as soon as this goes up. So, yeah, go ahead and do that if you want. If not, I'll just flip a coin or something.

Speaking of the exam arc – Yes, I'm going with the canonical match pairings because… I'm lazy?

Yeah, that's essentially it. Cry about it.

Also, Yu mentions Prom in the first scene, a purely American high school event, but I decided to use it because it's sorta obvious that MHA Japan has undergone a lot of americanization. Idk it just makes sense to me. Is that weird? I should've probably mentioned this in the narration, but I didn't know how to mention something that just seems obvious (from the POV of the narrator, Yu). Something about the scene just felt incomplete to me. I might go back and rework it alongside the next chapter's upload, but not too keen on the idea either. Decisions, decisions...

Eh, fuck it. I'll decide when I decide. Genshin has me by the balls right now because I just failed to get Yelan. (I knew I shouldn't have tried rolling for Ayaka, even if I did get her in the end.)

Until next time,

Kappa

A/N 2: Typos. Also, fixed a sentence that just... didn't continue. I must've fallen asleep while writing that part.