(A/N) I know what you're thinking. "Xolef, why bother making a poll if you're just gonna ignore it and do your own thing like an asshole?" Well, dear reader, I have a very good explanation.
You see, as some of you may know, I'm currently writing and publishing a webtoon. Somewhere amidst the fanfare, a friend of mine asked me to draw Rumi. which I did happily as a break from what I like to call "colouring hell". After drawing her, I vomited this onto my computer screen before I knew what happened. There's no point in keeping it to myself, so here it is.
If it's any consolation, yes, I have started writing the FGO story, and yes, the next chapter of Complete, the Man Returned (next on my update schedule) is almost finished. I might be acting irresponsibly, but I'm acting irresponsibly in a responsible fashion.
I'm sorry for the weakness in my soul, and please enjoy.
His first memory was of a fire.
A villain was the cause, he was told. Apparently, the villain in question wasn't caught, either.
Not that who did it really mattered to him. All that mattered was that it happened at all.
It was horrible. A scene out of one's darkest nightmares.
The bodies burned, and burned, and burned, but not a single hero came to help. Or maybe they had, only they couldn't be everywhere at once. All Might –the greatest hero– was indisposed chasing the culprit.
Then, he was saved.
A hero –for surely, that's what he was– dug him out from a pile of rubble. The man's smile was like a beacon of hope, assuring him that everything would be alright.
From then on, he strived to be like that man. To wear a smile that could tell people "Do not worry, because I am here!"
He was adopted shortly after by that very same man.
His hero wasn't really a "hero", he had discovered –he hadn't ever found out more than that– though that hardly mattered.
His father became sick, dying a few years later from an unknown disease. All that remained of his legacy were the ideals they now shared.
He was lucky, for his quirk was a strong one. His natural talents paired with the work he put in allowed him to attend the most prestigious school for aspiring heroes, UA academy, and thrive in the competitiveness of the environment.
Naturally, he graduated three years later. Causing much controversy, he opted out of signing on as a sidekick at any of the multitude of hero agencies that extended an olive branch. Instead, he began his career right away as an independent hero.
Most wouldn't understand his reasons, but in the end, the reasoning itself was quite straightforward. As a sidekick, he would only be able to act when directed by the agency.
If he wanted to save as many people as he could, being restricted in such a way wouldn't do.
And so, to the surprise of many, the beginning of his professional career was met with meteoric success. Saving everyone he could, it wasn't long before everyone knew his name.
The Wrought Iron Hero, Archer.
His story was a fine one, brimming with adventure, be it his escapades as a student or his action-packed encounters throughout his unorthodox career.
And yet, it will have to be a story for another day.
Our tale does not begin with a fire, a school, or even the early days of a pro hero. Instead, it begins ten years later with a man receiving an unexpected phone call.
Shirou hummed a pleasant tune to himself as he prepared the marinade for the chicken breasts he found on sale the day before. He had originally intended on something a little simpler after a long day at work, but cooking was a much-enjoyed pastime of his. It was nice to destress this way too, every now and then.
Dinner tonight would be delectable, no doubt. The chicken would go excellently with the eggplant parmigiana that would be coming out of the oven shortly.
Unfortunate that he didn't have anyone to share it with, but no matter. He would bring a Tupperware of it down to the landlady. Surely, she would appreciate the gesture.
His home phone rang.
He didn't reach for it right away, as he was stuck trying to figure out who it could be. Not many people had this number, and fewer would bother calling it. His usual over-the-phone discussions were conducted almost exclusively on his work phone, which was more or less a way for his staff to reach him when he wasn't at his agency.
After a moment longer, he answered.
"You have reached the Emiya residence. Who is speaking?"
"Emiya-kun. It's Nezu, from UA Academy. I trust you have been doing well?"
Shirou blinked. He didn't want to seem rude by not answering, but he had been caught off guard. He hadn't spoken to the principal since his days as a student.
"Of course," he finally replied. "And yourself?"
His question probably should have been "why are you calling", but etiquette won out.
"Quite, thank you. Now, I'm sure you're wondering why I'm reaching out to you so suddenly, so I won't keep you guessing any longer. Are you partial to the idea of becoming a teacher?"
"…Are you offering me a job?"
And what a strange way to do it.
"Yes. A certain position has made itself available, and you're the first one I thought of."
The first person he thought of? Him? Seriously?
Was the man alright in the head?
Though the principal surely couldn't see his face, Shirou frowned. Did he even want to be a teacher?
In short, not really.
There were merits to the idea, of course, notably the opportunity to guide the next generation. He wanted to save as many people as possible, but admittedly he was only one man.
If the heroes of tomorrow could reach the peak of their potential, then wouldn't that mean more lives would be preserved in the grand scheme of things?
His reason for wanting to decline was much more personal and selfish.
If he spent his time teaching, then it would mean that he would have less time to spend saving people himself.
"It's two positions, actually. The first is as a teacher of a course new to the curriculum as of this year, called Hero Ideologies. Naturally, there would be no-one better to lead this class than yourself."
Shirou blushed, despite his misgivings.
"The second is a little more delicate. Mr. Aizawa will be off on medical leave for the first few months of the new semester, and we'll need someone to take his homeroom until he returns."
He was much less sure of the second duty than the first. Shouldn't homeroom be assigned to someone more experienced?
Nezu must have sensed his discomfort.
"The matter won't be a permanent arrangement, I promise– just until Aizawa can resume his duties. Other than that, the Hero Ideologies course is only part-time, so I'm sure that it won't interfere with your own hero work on its own."
When the principal phrased it like that, it didn't sound too bad…
"Can I think about it?"
"Of course!" Nezu sounded ecstatic. "Why don't you stop by the school this Friday? I can show you around, and explain in further detail what the position would entail. You can make a more informed decision then."
Friday would work. He was only scheduled to be at the office until noon, then he was on call for the remainder of the day.
"I'll be there."
UA was just as large as he remembered it.
Despite its size, however, he couldn't really call it "too big". Every last bit of space on the other side of the world-renowned gates was dedicated to the development of the next generation.
It was a space they used well.
Still, there was something eerie about seeing such a large building practically empty. It made sense that it would be, though. The new semester wouldn't start for another month or so.
Shirou cocked his head over his shoulder in order to locate the droning voice.
A man stood in his shadow. A hero dressed in a peculiar costume consisting of a black, baggy jumpsuit and a ribbon-like scarf.
"Senpai," Shirou greeted with a nod.
"Stop calling me that. It's Aizawa."
The younger of the two men cocked his head. "Why? You're my senior. Even if we weren't ever students at the same time, we're both alumni of this academy."
"It makes me feel old."
"You're the more experienced teacher between the two of us, then."
"You haven't even accepted the position."
Shirou laughed. "That's fair. That said, is there something wrong?"
"I have dry eye."
The not-yet-teacher sweatdropped. "I meant more along the lines of your medical leave of absence."
Aizawa nodded. "Like I said, I have chronic dry eye. My physician recommended a series of operations that could fix it. It's not critical or anything, though. If the principal can find a replacement for me, I'll go ahead with it, but if not I guess I can manage as I am now."
Shirou scratched the back of his head bashfully. It was much harder to turn down the position knowing that the man's state of health depended on it…
"Anyway, Emiya, please follow me. I don't know if you remember where the principal's office is, but…"
Another laugh. "No, I can't say that I do. Lead the way."
"Archer-kun," Nezu greeted.
The man in question waved his hands. "You can call me by name, really."
The principal –a man resembling some sort of animal– shook his head. "Of course, but if you do decide to take the open position, you'll need to remember that both of your identities are you."
Shirou wanted to answer that it was a given, but…
"What do you mean?"
"I'll be blunt. UA respects Emiya Shirou greatly as an individual, but we didn't approach you for your abilities as an instructor."
He hadn't taught a day in his life, after all.
Nezu continued, "We approached you because of what "Archer" represents. Tell me, do you know why all of our instructors are pro heroes?"
He wanted to say, "Because heroes would be best to teach other heroes," but was that really true? He recalled his own experiences at this institution, and the first thing that came to mind was how unorthodox some of the teachers really were. As great as they were at their real job, it didn't always translate perfectly to the classroom.
The same was true in other professions. The world's greatest scientist wouldn't necessarily be the best at explaining his field, and the greatest coach didn't have to be the greatest athlete.
"I don't know."
Despite admitting he didn't have an answer to his question, the principal smiled. "By having a faculty comprised of pro heroes, the students are constantly surrounded by role models."
Shirou's eyes widened in understanding.
"And as such," continued Nezu, "what greater role model is there than the Wrought Iron Hero himself?"
The hero in question grinned. "I can think of one."
Nezu laughed uproariously., thought it came out as more of a squeal. "I'll give you that! Though 'second to none' is out of reach, 'second to one' isn't terrible either!"
Shirou recognized that voice.
Everyone recognized that voice.
Turning, he was met with the impossibly-bright pearly-whites of the number one hero, All Might.
"Young Emiya…" he started, but he trailed off. The giant of a man shook his head. "No, Emiya-san, for you are a boy no longer– little would bring me greater joy than the opportunity to teach the future symbols of peace alongside you!"
It didn't take long for the shorter man to catch on. "You're going to be teaching here too?"
The elder hero nodded. "I've seen first-hand what this upcoming year has to offer. I dare to say that you are quite possibly the luckiest hero in japan, to be given the opportunity to be their homeroom teacher– for however short an amount of time."
"Why don't you take the open spot, then?"
He didn't mean for it to sound like a challenge or a jibe. It was an honest curiosity on his part.
All Might's smile dimmed the slightest amount. "I wish I could, truly. Only, I cannot. I have certain… circumstances."
He didn't, really, but he was sure that the man had his reasons to keep things vague.
There was still a matter that needed to be addressed, right?
Turning once more to face Nezu, he spoke, "So what would I have to do, then? If I take the job, that is."
"Not much," admitted the principal. "Aizawa already settled everything for homeroom, so you just have to follow his course plans. As for Hero Ideologies, well… it's experimental, to say the least. You have free reign on what you wish to cover as long as you stay within the boundaries of the class outline and you follow the school's course policies."
"And those are?"
"Simple things, minimum summative and formative evaluations, and the like. I'll forward them to you along with a written copy of the class outline."
The wrought iron hero nodded.
It sounded like it could be fun, actually.
"I kindly accept your offer, then."
Shirou jumped, almost forgetting the man was there.
"Indeed." Nezu nodded to himself. "Don't worry, we'll make sure that you're caught up to speed as soon as possible. Beyond that, I know that such a big change can be time-consuming at first, but I promise you here and now that it won't take too much away from your professional career in the long-term."
The newly-minted teacher nodded appreciatively. It was nice that the principal was mindful of his own priorities and aspirations.
When Shirou went to bed that evening he found himself staring at his pillow when it hit him.
He's going to be a teacher.
He heard a buzz.
Looking at his night table, he saw a blinking light at the top of his work phone –a cell phone– indicating that he received a text message.
He didn't get many of those.
Picking it up, he found that it was from a number he recognized.
"Strange. What could she want?"
The message read, "Meet me at Shizen. 11 tomorrow."
He sighed, not bothering to reply. It wasn't as if she would take no for an answer.
Shizen café was a popular hang spot for teenagers– or at least it used to be about a decade ago when he came here with friends from school.
Somehow, saying it like that made him feel old.
A wave of nostalgia passed over him the moment he took a seat at the very same table they used to reserve. By some stroke of luck, it was unoccupied. Whether teens still came here or not, the place did not lack in business.
"Hello, sir. Can I take your order?"
He faced the waitress with a sheepish grin. "Sorry, I forgot to look through the menu. You have iced coffee, right?"
It's what he used to order back then. It was good, and he could never quite get it to taste this way at home.
"We do! Anything else?"
"No, that's fine."
"Right away, sir."
When she left, he had to suppress a sigh of relief. It was good that no one could recognize him in his disguise.
It wasn't anything special, nothing more than a pair of sunglasses and a newsboy hat. He usually dressed quite plainly compared to his hero costume anyway, so it wasn't too strange of a getup for him.
"No way... is that…?"
"Quick, go ask for an autograph."
Shirou took note of the whispers with great alarm. Had someone seen through it? Darn. And he was looking forward to a nice, quiet coffee break.
Someone took the open seat facing him, and he realized a few things at once.
First, his disguise was fine. No one saw through the hat and glasses.
Second, his disguise didn't really matter anymore.
Third, Usagiyama needed to work on her disguises.
"Everyone can tell who you are, you know," he chided.
"And? Should I care?" shot back his rabbit-eared friend as she adjusted her seat. Judging by her attire composed solely of skinny jeans, a tank top, and a pair of high-heeled boots, he could conclude that no, Rumi was not wearing a disguise.
Well, there went his quiet, low-key afternoon. Even now, the subtle joys of anonymity were lost on her.
"So what is it?" he asked. She called him out here, after all.
"I heard a rumour. That you're retiring."
He blinked again.
"I'm sorry, what?"
"I heard that you're retiring to become a teacher," she reiterated.
"That simply isn't… well…" he trailed off. He was technically going to become a teacher. Where did she hear that from, anyway? Didn't it just happen yesterday?
She quirked a brow. "So you are?"
Why does everything have to be "yes" or "no" with you, woman?
Shirou shook his head. "I'm taking over a homeroom at UA until the full-time teacher can come back. It'll be a few months at most. After that, I'll be teaching a class part-time, but at no point do I plan on announcing my retirement."
Rumi tilted her head. "UA? What class?"
Her tone became less demanding and more curious.
She put a finger to her chin.
Her nose wrinkled.
Her brow scrunched.
"No, we didn't have that class."
"Ah," she eased up. "That explains it."
"Actually…" he took a moment to think. "I… have to figure out what I'm going to do in it for the most part. Would you mind if I used you as a guest lecturer sometime?"
The rabbit hero pointed at herself as if to ask, "Me?"
"I think you'd be a great example. There's a reason you're a top ten hero."
She scratched the back of her head with a tinge of pink on her cheek. "Think so? I never really thought about the whole 'inspiring others' thing."
"Here's your coffee sir– eeeek!"
His iced coffee nearly met a tragic end on the café floor when the waitress jumped from shock, but thankfully she gathered her wits.
"She'll have the same," he told the waitress in an attempt to snap her out of her daydream.
"Oi," Rumi growled. "Don't go ordering things for me."
"Sorry," he gave in easily.
Rumi took a glance at Shirou's beverage, then addressed the waitress, "I'll have what he's having."
While still a little starstruck, the irony of the exchange wasn't lost on the waitress. "…Yes, right away."
The tone of her voice demanded his full attention.
"You're not allowed to retire. Not until I beat you."
Today was the day.
Despite himself, Shirou was feeling a myriad of emotions he didn't normally feel. Namely anxiety, nervousness, and doubt.
Was this really a good idea? Was he really cut out for this? Would he do these kids justice? Would he fail them?
He felt the need to shake his head in order to get rid of some of those dangerous thoughts. It was too late to back out now, so his best would have to be enough.
He walked through UA's halls at a measured pace, thankful that the halls were empty due to the students already being in their classrooms.
Waiting for him.
He took a deep breath.
"Alright," he whispered softly.
The hero-turned-instructor opened the door that would lead him to his students–
"I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU, DEKU!"
"Hey, don't be a meanie!"
"So many cute girls!"
"Stop this ruckus! Be mindful of those around you!"
Shirou wasn't able to make it past the doorway before the feeling of dread returned. This would be difficult, wouldn't it?
He tried to get their attention. That's what he was supposed to do, right?
It was only after he spoke that his presence was noticed. Once he was noticed, however… well…
He was noticed.
A silence swallowed the room whole and the first years seemed to freeze in place. There wasn't a doubt in his mind that they knew exactly who he was.
Unlike his regular clothes, his hero costume made a statement. Crimson red cloth was draped over pitch-black body-armour, all which brought out the oddity of his greying red hair.
It was the angry-looking boy who spoke first.
Unfortunately, he was unable to finish his sentence.
Ah. The timid green-haired one finished it for him.
Having so many eyes focused on him outside of combat conditions had him feeling a little self-conscious. His hand came up to scratch the back of his head out of habit.
"It's nice to meet all of you. Your homeroom teacher is actually Aizawa-sensei, but he's in recovery from a medical operation right now. Until then, I'm his stand-in."
With only the slightest hesitation, he wrote his name on the chalkboard. He was supposed to do that, right?
"I'm Emiya Shirou, and I'll also be your teacher in the Hero Ideologies class… ah."
He froze, as if remembering something, then smiled.
"Some of you might also know me as Archer, Japan's number two hero. Let's learn well together."