(A/N) I haven't updated this since when!?
Anyway, since it's been so long and I haven't been able to cover this since the last update, I have a few important announcements:
1) I made a shiny new Discord server (for all my content) following the last update of His Body is Made of Swords (a week or so ago I think). It's probably a much better platform than fanfiction dot net's forum. You can get the direct link to the discord on my (equally-new-ish) Pa treon page, which you can find on my profile. Don't worry though, the link is a public post lol. No need to cough up any money.
To assuage any concerns, neither my Ko-Fi nor my Pa treon will have any actual impact on my writing. It's free, and it will continue to be free. I'm using them mostly as commission platforms for one-shots and illustrations.
Now with this said, my discord server probably will have an impact on my stories. I'll be having direct 1:1 convos with all of you there, so I'll definitely have a better grasp on the followings for each of my fics. It's also a fun place to be! We have fun there, I think. Feel free to mess around with the Astolfo holy grail bot and robot!Xolef once you get there.
2) This story has illustrated versions on Questionable Questing and Spacebattles. You can find it under the same name. The content is identical other than the original illustrations that I've made for key scenes in each chapter. I will not be putting out any further updates on AO3.
...Or actually maybe. Idk lol. They're not there rn tho.
That's about it! Hopefully the next update will be quicker as the story's first major arc builds momentum. Thanks to AzureFlame Dragon King for beta-reading this chapter!
When Shirou opened his eyes, the sting that he felt was all that was required for him to realize that he had overworked himself the previous night. If that wasn't enough, he woke up on his living room couch instead of in his bed.
His laptop was open on the ground next to him. He didn't remember turning it off, so it must have run out of battery.
Next to it was an opened folder. It contained the confidential police reports for the recent villain attack at the school and the related Tartarus breakout.
Lethargically, he reached for his cellphone to check the time.
Tiredness left him and he immediately shot to his feet.
"Ah. Arthur will be arriving soon."
Before he could get the chance to gather himself, someone knocked at the door.
He held back a groan. Now was no time for guests. Who visited someone at six in the morning anyway?
"Open the door, asshat!"
Shirou swung the door open and yawned.
What a pleasant way to start the day.
"Is there something wrong?" he asked.
She crossed her arms.
"You're doing it again," she said.
"Finding reasons to drop off the face of the earth! No one's heard from you in weeks."
"I saw you in person a few days ago, and I was in class yesterday, so that simply isn't true."
"You were ignoring my texts."
Couldn't this have waited until a more reasonable hour of the day?
"No, I didn't. I replied to them, even."
"'I'm busy' isn't a reply. This is how it always starts: you get caught up in something or other, then bam! See you next holiday season."
"That's quite the accusation to be throwing at someone you just saw less than seventy-two hours ago."
She slipped past him and entered the apartment before he could stop her.
"I'm right though. What are you up to, anyway?"
She didn't wait for him to respond. She immediately began shuffling through the folder that he had left out the night before.
"Hold on. That's–"
"Accounts from the UA-Villain stuff," she quickly surmised. "Explain."
He had to head out the door sooner rather than later, so he didn't really have the time to prolong the argument. Hopefully, she'd leave if he gave her what she wanted.
"I'm working with another hero to figure out how Black Knight escaped Tartarus," he started. "We're– hmf!"
Her palm came shooting up and covered his mouth.
"Pause! What do you mean, 'you're working with another hero'? I'm a hero! You blew me off for three days just to hit up some other guy?"
The redhead slapped the rabbit-eared woman's hand away from his face.
"What are you talking about? Since when have you ever worked with other heroes?
"That doesn't mean that–" she cut herself off and growled. She couldn't find the words to properly express herself. "You could have come to me."
The flow of the argument died. Both of their hands fell back to their sides.
"…Sorry," Shirou apologized, though it wasn't clear to either of them what it was that he was apologizing for. "They asked me to help them, not the other way around. Regardless, I wouldn't have thought that you'd have said yes."
Rumi narrowed her eyes.
"So who's this 'hero' anyway?"
She blinked owlishly.
"That's what I said."
"Like… the British one? From England?"
The woman's ears flattened out as she fell into thought. They perked back up a moment later.
"Ah!" she exclaimed. "Because of Black Knight, right? That makes sense, I guess."
The redhead nodded.
"Yeah. I'm meeting him at the airport now, actually. I'm running late."
If he thought that she would have gotten the message, then he would have been mistaken.
"I'm coming with you."
She walked back towards the door, and yet it would seem as though he wouldn't be rid of her any time soon.
"Let's go," she urged him. "I'm curious."
She did not elaborate further. The door was left open as she left since he was expected to follow.
Shirou stared at the now-empty entranceway with a defeated expression. As a final act of defiance, he decided to let her wait for a bit and went to change into a fresh pair of clothes.
A relatively new, mid-priced sedan rolled to a stop at an unusually-barren apron behind the airport terminal.
There was only a single aircraft in sight. It must have only arrived recently because the airstairs still hadn't dropped.
Rumi popped the door open and sprung to her feet.
"Really?" she questioned flatly. "A private jet?"
Shirou exited from the driver's side.
"It's more practical this way," he argued. "You've heard that foreign heroes from all over the place are coming for the UA sports festival, right?"
"Of course I have," she answered quickly. "That's why I would have thought that Arthur would come with the rest of them. Aren't they arriving today?"
"This evening, more specifically. Media coverage for that is going to be pretty crazy."
The woman blinked widely. "Ooooh, I get it. This is supposed to be all hush-hush then."
He narrowed his eyes.
"Why did you have to say it like that?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
A loud mechanical whine cut them off. Both turned their attention back to the airplane door which had just dropped to reveal the staircase on its backside.
A tall, blond-haired man descended from the aircraft at a steady pace. Both his royal blue pants and his dress shirt were made of a fine enough material to flutter in the mild wind despite neither piece being too baggy. The lack of baggage on his person was quickly explained as the flight crew followed after him with suitcases of various sizes.
It was only once he had gotten past the bottom step that he had recognized that someone else was there.
His eyes widened noticeably.
"Shirou!" exclaimed the foreigner. "I didn't expect to see you here. I was going to take a taxi to your address."
Japan's Number Two smiled.
"Of course I'd come. After everything we've been through together, how could I let you take a taxi?"
Arthur returned the smile. For a moment, both beamed unflinchingly at each other.
"What the hell are you two on about? Let's go."
They both snapped out of it. It was only then that the Englishman seemed to notice that there was someone else around.
"My apologies," he enunciated calmly. "And you are?"
Rumi's frown was frozen to her face. A moment later, it melted into a totally blank expression.
"Are you for real?" she asked.
Arthur didn't seem to know how to answer that question. He looked to Shirou for advice.
The redhead crossed his arms.
"This is Usagiyama Rumi."
The Rabbit Hero visibly relaxed once she noticed the lightbulb being lit at the back of the blonde's head.
"Oh! Shirou's told me much about you. A good friend of his, I hear. Thank you for taking care of him."
Rumi's eyebrows began twitching violently.
"Shirou! Who am I!?"
The question demanded an answer, but the poor man didn't know what answer she was looking for.
"…I just said, didn't I!"
"Useless!" she shrieked. The woman marched up to the Chief of Camelot.
"You! Listen up. I'm the Rabbit Hero, Miruko" –her thumb was jabbed into the center of her chest– "and I'm one of the best damn heroes this country has to offer. Don't you forget it."
"I see," was all that Arthur could muster in his surprise.
The woman huffed and started walking towards the terminal.
"You losers have fun. I have other stuff to do today."
Shirou raised his hand despite her having her back turned to him. "Wait! How are you–"
"I'll call a cab!"
She picked a random backdoor and walked through it, uncaring of the fact that she didn't really know where in the airport she'd end up.
The hand dropped.
If you had other stuff to do, then why did you even come in the first place!?
Neither man could find his words for a moment.
"That was…something," Arthur remarked.
"Ignore her. For someone who isn't afraid to speak her mind, it's still pretty hard to decipher what she's thinking sometimes."
"Perhaps it was my own fault." Arthur signalled for the flight crew –who had been standing to the side awkwardly until now– to hand him his bags. "I don't pay too much attention to affairs that are of no concern to Camelot. Maybe I should be a little more aware of things like this. Foreign heroes and the like."
The blonde closed his eyes.
"…Although, is someone who acts like that really a high-ranked hero?"
Shirou furrowed his brow. "What do you mean by that?"
Arthur noticed that what he said could have been taken the wrong way. He tried to reiterate. "I only meant that she has an awfully brash personality. I can't imagine she would've had an easy time swaying public opinion in her favour."
The Japanese hero could only laugh.
"It's the opposite, actually. Her personality fits her perfectly."
He popped the trunk of the car and helped his friend to load his suitcases.
"I'm afraid I don't understand," admitted the Camelot member after a moment.
Shirou's lips separated in order for him to elaborate, but they quickly closed and formed a tiny smile. He chose not to continue that train of thought at all.
"There was a time when neither of us saw eye to eye. In fact, I used to say the same thing: that she had no business trying to be a hero with that attitude of hers."
Arthur closed the trunk.
"That has changed, I take it."
"Mm. I admire her immensely. Looking back on it now, I would have never become a hero that I could have been proud of –a person that I could be proud of – if not for her."
"That's quite the turnaround, considering how you've been for as long as I've known you," noted the Englishman. "What changed, exactly?"
Shirou only offered his pre-existent smile. He got in the car.
"That's a conversation better left for another day. Do you want to stop by my place first, or should we go straight there?"
Arthur took the change of subject for what it was. He didn't seem to need clarification for where "there" was supposed to be.
"No point in wasting any time. Let's go."
Shirou lowered the driver-side window as they approached the security booth. A uniformed woman pressed a button on the other side of a bullet-proof screen.
"Hello, Archer," came her voice from a speaker. "You haven't made any visitation arrangements today, so I'm afraid that we can't let you–"
"No, it's fine," he said, cutting her off. "We're not here for that. We would like to visit the site down at B10."
It was then that Arthur lowered his head to be visible from the passenger side. The security guard stiffened.
"I see! A business visit, then," she exclaimed in a voice that may have been higher than what was intended. "My apologies. Police investigations won't resume until this afternoon, but I'll call the warden and let him know that you're coming."
The woman stopped pressing down on the intercom button and picked up a touch-tone telephone. As she did so, the boom gate blocking their path was raised.
Shirou rolled the window back up and lowered his foot onto the gas pedal. The pair of heroes got onto the five-kilometre bridge that connected the prison island to mainland Japan.
"You come here often?" asked Arthur. His eyes were glued to the window.
Shirou smiled sheepishly.
"Something like that."
The conversation died off at that point. Both were content to wait out the five-minute straightaway.
It was only once they had reached a pair of giant metal doors on the other side that Arthur had decided to speak again.
"There's no way that anyone could have escaped through the main entrance," he remarked. "Not to say I thought that was how du Lac got out, but the theory can be firmly crossed off the list, I'd say."
The doors opened. A large man dressed in a crisp black suit stood in the middle of their path. He was flanked on either side by men and women dressed in military uniform.
"Archer! Arthur! It's a pleasure," he shouted so as to be heard through the car. "Leave the vehicle here. I'll lead you down to Black Knight's cell."
The duo did as they were told and walked up to the warden. They were being led to the building proper on foot.
"I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't expecting you," admitted the warden while looking straight at Arthur, "but I would've thought that you'd come a little later."
The blonde nodded while keeping pace.
"I wanted to keep this as low-key as I could, so getting it over sooner rather than later felt like the best choice."
"I can see that," the warden shot back quickly. "Neither of you are in uniform."
The suit-clad man's words were clearly meant to remind them of the fact that Tartarus technically had every right to refuse them entry to a restricted area if they weren't wearing their identifying hero attire. Shirou had the decency to look embarrassed, but Arthur was unfazed.
"Indeed we are not," he answered plainly.
Not having received the reaction that he wanted, the warden simply turned his attention to his front.
"From here, we'll need to take ten different elevators in ten different sectors in order to reach basement level ten. Would you like me to walk you through our security measures as we pass them by?"
He sounded bitter, though no one could really blame him. He likely had a lot of pride as the chief of Tartarus, so the fact that there needed to be an investigation concerning a breakout in the first place definitely stung.
"No need," the foreign hero quickly denied. He had already tuned out of the conversation in order to better observe his surroundings.
Shirou gave the warden an apologetic look, though it didn't seem to lift the man's mood by much.
"And you're positive that the security cameras didn't catch anything?" Arthur asked for what felt like the dozenth time.
He circled Black Knight's old cell once more and went through his mental checklist. No windows, only one door, the one air vent was barely larger than a fist and it was covered by a metal net that was welded to the wall…
"Nothing!" repeated the warden in a voice that might have been a little louder than what he had intended. "The cameras cut out for less than five seconds. That's not even enough time to break the chains!"
The chains in question were shattered at the feet of a steel chair that wasn't in much better shape.
Shirou got on one knee to get a closer look at the shackles without touching them.
"If it weren't for this, you wouldn't think that there was a prisoner here, to begin with. There's only one way out of here, and I'm positive that Black Knight didn't take it."
The man in the suit closed his eyes and hummed.
"What is it that you're getting at?"
"There was a villain who had infiltrated UA Academy a while back," the redhead started. "This wasn't long before the big attack."
Everyone present was caught by surprise.
"Does anyone know about this?" Arthur asked.
"Of course. The school staff and the Chief of Police were informed. I was told to keep quiet at the time, but it doesn't matter all that much now."
"What was the villain doing at UA, anyway?"
It was a random officer who spoke.
"They deactivated UA's security systems." A commotion was bubbling up, so he quickly added, "Not that it did them any good. Since we found out about it, we were able to get everything up and running the same day. Most of the damage was done by broken gates."
Arthur crossed his arms.
"So why bring it up at all?"
"Because of the villain's quirk. When I found them, they vanished without a trace. It might have been something that would let the villains extract someone like Black Knight."
The warden huffed.
"And you didn't think to mention this to the authorities sooner? That's one mystery solved and done with. What was their quirk?"
"…That's the thing," Shirou said, his eyes strapped to the ruined chair. "I don't know."
The silence was damning.
"You don't know'," Arthur repeated. "With your quirk–"
"I couldn't copy it," Shirou admitted. "There's no doubt in my mind that the villain had some sort of emitter-type quality to their quirk, but I wasn't able to figure out what it was. Whether they were responsible for the breakout or not, I wouldn't be able to say."
"Hey-o! How's it going?"
Aizawa's lone uncovered eye slowly rolled to the side in order to catch sight of the individual who had just entered his hospital room.
He saw Yamada Hizashi and sighed.
"Hold on! What's with that reaction!" complained Present Mic lightheartedly. He placed a fruit basket down on the end of the recovering man's bed. "I'm just checking in, that's all. Your last operation is in a few days, right?"
The black-haired teacher-on-leave offered a grunt.
"The day after tomorrow. I still can't figure out why they needed me back at the hospital so soon before the next surgery for the life of me. I was perfectly content to spend my days leading up to it at home."
The tall blonde shrugged and smiled.
"It's better to be safe than sorry, right?"
"Ahem. Anyhow, you'll be back in time for the second semester, won't you? How do you feel about that?"
Aizawa mulled it over for a moment.
"It depends. How's Archer handling things? Will I be met with total anarchy upon return?"
To the recovering man's honest surprise, Hizashi shook his head.
"No, I'd say he's handling it pretty well. Only…"
"Well…" Hizashi tried to find his words. "He has somehow made Usagiyama Rumi a recurring theme in his Hero Ideologies lesson plan."
Aizawa raised one eyebrow that wasn't covered by a bandage. "Usagiyama. That's Miruko, right? I don't see what the problem is."
Present Mic quickly threw his hands in front of him. "No, no! I don't mean to say that there's a 'problem' or anything, but Miruko is… Miruko. She's liable to say things around impressionable kids that she really shouldn't be saying at all."
"I think it's a good thing."
The standing man blinked owlishly.
"I won't say that it isn't, but I'm surprised that you of all people think so."
Aizawa didn't elaborate immediately. He started fishing for the tv remote.
"Is it really that surprising? The principal hasn't said anything, right? I bet she's the sort of person who could get these kids' heads out of the clouds right away. I don't agree with a few of her philosophies, admittedly, but as long as Emiya is able to keep her on track, I think she sets a good… general example of what a hero should be. Kind of."
Hizashi grinned sheepishly.
Your confidence wavered a bit at the end there.
"I see where you're coming from!"
"Of course you do. Her quirk is being a bunny. You can't become one of the best heroes in the country with a quirk like that if you don't know what you're doing. Probably."
He turned on the television hanging from the wall in front of him. It had already been set to the news channel.
There was a field coverage currently taking place at Haneda Airport. The reporter stood in front of a large group of people being held back by a row of crowd-control stanchions.
"Hundreds have already gathered at Tokyo's premier international airport as we all wait for the arrival of the world's top heroes later today. In case you've missed it, they are coming to show support for –and maybe even get a closer look at– the promising new generation of Japanese heroes who have tested their mettle against an unexpected villain attack earlier this week. Speculation and debates continue to spark, however, as it has yet to be revealed which heroes have chosen to fly in. This is a momentous occasion for Japan as a whole, as it is the first time that so many international–"
The television was shut off a few seconds later.
"This, on the other hand," Aizawa drawled out, "I'm not too sure about. We'll have to trust the principal's judgement."
Present Mic pinched his mustache.
"We're relying on the media quite heavily here, I must admit."
Aizawa scoffed. "'Relying on the media'? They twisted the facts so much that it's basically a fabricated story at this point. This is what Nezu wanted, right?"
"…Yeah. The intention is to deter further villain activity while making it seem as though UA is fully capable of standing on its own two feet right now. It definitely needed to be presented in a colourful way if we wanted the public to buy it."
The bandaged man leaned back into his bed.
"It is what it is. We have a job to do after all. We can't take any more Japanese heroes out of the field to play 'security guard' than we already have."
They say in silence for a moment longer.
"…Class starts soon, doesn't it?"
Present Mic squeaked and ran to the door.
"Right! I'll see you later!"
"Ah… I'm so pissed…"
The poor taxi driver did his best to ignore the woman bitching and moaning with her face pressed against his backseat window.
What else was he supposed to do? No two ways about it: this was Miruko, right? Even though she was wearing normal clothes and not her hero costume, it wasn't like he could mistake her for anyone else.
Miruko was just plain scary on a normal day, and she looked worse off than usual. He didn't want any bit of that foul mood directed at him.
And so, the past half hour of his time was spent in relative silence from the moment she jumped into his cab at the airport up till now. All that was heard were the occasional ramblings of a madwoman.
"Hey. Stop the car."
He almost didn't hear the request. Panicking, he nearly slammed the breaks.
She gave him a dirty look through his rear-view mirror.
"Uhm… sorry, miss."
Miruko threw the door open and hopped out without missing a beat. She tossed a large bill onto her seat, overpaying him a good amount thusly. The woman slammed the door shut and took off to do who knows what.
The driver leaned forward and gripped his steering wheel like his life depended on it. He took a moment in his now-empty vehicle to take a few deep breaths.
"T-thank you for using JapanTaxi," he stuttered.
Izuku had long since gotten used to his morning jogs.
He dreaded them, once upon a time; his chest used to burn, and he couldn't hear his own thoughts over the heaviness of his own breathing.
It was different now. As his conditioning improved, everything else fell into place. The rhythmic thumping of his legs striking the ground was soothing, and the blood flow cleared his mind. Having long since become a routine for him, he was even comfortable with fitting in a quick run before he had to leave for school.
Now was one such occasion. He might have been cutting it close, but he knew exactly how much time he had on his hands. For instance, once he crossed that tree he would be exactly seven minutes away from home as long as he maintained–
His foot got caught on something and he fell flat on his face.
"Hey kid, you run like a chicken with two left feet. Has no one told you that before?"
He shakily rose to his feet. It was only once that he was completely vertical that he noticed who it was that was talking to him.
The Rabbit Hero Miruko was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. His attention was split between the impatient look on her face and her leg that was still outstretched in front of her.
Did she just trip me!?
"No?" was all that he could squeak out.
"I'm telling you now, then. We're gonna fix that form of yours."