Chapter 34

Beta: L33t Horo

Cover: LousGndiner


"So," Yu muttered as she stared at the one hero with her in the room, or more specifically, the one judging her from across the table. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't leave and patrol with my intern?"

"Seeing as it is your curiosity that led you to remain, I see no reason to," Yoroi-Musha derisively replied. "I'll grant you this. You found a diamond-in-the-rough, and made the right decision to enroll him to U.A."

Given that Shirou didn't even want to be in U.A. in the first place, that was an understatement.

"However," he continued. "You are squandering his potential by not letting more qualified persons handle his education."

"What, like you?" Yu frowned. "You might be one of the best heroes in the country, but you aren't the best suited to teach him."

"And you are?"

Hell no she wasn't, but she sure as hell was going to try.

"No, I am not," Yu admitted. "But at least I'm not throwing a tantrum at not getting him. It was his choice, not yours."

"A choice blinded by familial bond," he snorted. "The way of the blade is a path he has already undertaken and one he has shown extreme potential in. Further instruction is necessary to excel, and your offer has become a detriment to that potential."

Yu tightened her jaw in irritation but maintained a somewhat polite mannerism. Somewhat, because she was shooting the old coot with a glare a mile wide. "And you're qualified to say that? You, who only took one intern throughout his entire career of heroism?"

Well, she only took one too, but she was early into her career while he had squandered ages doing nothing to aid in the next generation.

"The discipline of the blade. The mentality one must hold to wield a man-slaying weapon. The fragility of life should he make a single misstep. Those are what I am teaching mine own intern, and what I would've taught yours had he not been influenced by family," Yoroi-Musha explained. "With someone as reckless as you, who caused copious amounts of property damage whenever you perform your duties, restraint is the last thing he would be able to learn. He would continue to develop and rely on his lacking swordsmanship, and detriment his future as a hero."

"I think you need to get your eyes checked because Shirou's swordsmanship is not lacking. Far from it," Yu berated.

"For his age, true," he conceded. "However, should you prevent his potential from blossoming, he will forever see his current skills as adequate, never improving."

"Big claims for someone who barely knows who he wants to teach," Yu humphed. "For the record, Shirou is one of the most hardworking individuals I have ever come across. If there's something he can't do, then he'll learn how to do it, even if it means gritting his teeth and working with someone he dislikes."

Her kid worked with that damned cafe-owner for crying out loud, and Yu's own suspicion of him aside, Shirou sure as hell didn't look to enjoy their training sessions whatsoever. Yu knew he got a lot better from them, but that only proved her point.

"Then why has he chosen one who would not better his skills?" he asked.

Yu smirked as she decided to get up from her chair and leave. "Why would he want to intern under you if his skills are far above yours, number eight?"

She had to admit, seeing how red the eighth-ranked hero got before she left was very, very satisfying. Almost as satisfying as–

"Catch."

Yu blinked as she saw a bottle rapidly coming closer–

"Gah!"

"Oh. Sorry."

"You don't sound sorry, buster," Yu muttered as she picked up the tossed bottle and rubbed her slightly aching forehead. She looked at what was tossed and saw it was iced tea, her favorite brand too. Looks like he actually paid attention when they went grocery shopping.

"If someone wasn't spacing out, then this wouldn't have happened," Shirou sighed. "But I'll admit I should've noticed. Sorry, Yu."

A week had passed.

In that week, Shirou and Yu had been staying true to their plan and setting up the bounded fields. They encountered a few villains here and there, but Yu was able to apprehend them with ease.

There was one she couldn't handle alone without some intense property damage, mostly due to how much of a counter his quirk was, but Shirou handled him easily. Seriously, she needed to figure out how to deal with someone with extremely acidic spines growing out of them. Maybe she'd invest in better gloves? Always relying on Shirou's reinforcement wasn't a realistic solution.

In other news, Stain was keeping a low profile. The police force couldn't find a single hint of him. Their week-long window to track down Stain had faded, so all they could do now was wait until someone gets jumped, and deal with him there.

Honestly, it was a sad idea to just wait until someone got hurt, but it was truly all they could do.

I wasn't that they didn't try finding him either. Every hovel and empty building they could find was covertly checked by undercover officers, and even live apartment complexes were checked. Hell, Shirou even took a single day to see if he could find him from high above the city, on one of the tallest skyscrapers in the district, yet his 'reinforced' eyes caught no hints of the Hero-Killer.

It was why Yu and Shirou were just sitting around atop a building, hoping more than ever to catch a glimpse of either of their targets.

It wasn't like they could do much more, with all the minor bounded fields set in place.

"So, you sure that those bounded fields can tell us where he is?" she asked.

"That's the third time this week you asked," Shirou stated.

"Yeah, but it's warranted!" Yu justified. "It's not like we can just test if these things work. They didn't even trip when you made the Beast's daggers."

"They're sword-breakers, but I suppose you're right," Shirou corrected as he sighed. "They were just an idle test. The copies I can make don't have enough of Angra-Mainyu's aura on them to trigger a reaction. They work, trust me Yu, but we don't want them to trigger on false flags."

"So only a copious amount of his presence should trigger the field," Yu muttered. "It'll be a huge waste of all the other bounded fields you set up if they trip nothing."

"True," Shirou commented. "Which was why the other bounded fields immediately lose effectiveness to strengthen the one activated one."

"Diverting energy to keep the guy there until we can arrive, I suppose," Yu nodded before a realization occurred. "It was that man's idea, wasn't it?"

"It was."

Yu sighed. That Farran. He wasn't willing– or if what Shirou thought was true, capable of helping them physically, but she'd commend him helping them over the phone. They had actually screwed up the first two bounded fields they set up, which made them have to redo them from scratch.

She said them, but it was really just Shirou. He really was that bad at magic– magecraft, outside his main skill set. Apparently, Shirou wanted to address that by training with Archer some more, and practice more than just his 'quirk' of making weapons. Again, he had to rethink that idea once they realized Archer might not have the magical energy to spare.

And they even asked if he was low on it.

"The more he denies over the phone, the more I think he really doesn't have any mana to spare," Yu idly noted. "You sure there's nothing we can do to supply him some?"

"If there was a ley-line, he could easily siphon some mana," Shirou noted. "However, actually finding a ley-line is another story. I don't know how to find one and Archer probably doesn't know either, especially since he settled down to open a cafe. If we wanted to find one, we'd have to search manually."

"That'll take way too much time," Yu muttered. "Not a realistic idea for us, but that bastard could probably travel if he wanted, but he'd need food and money to travel. Does he even need to eat? He's a spirit right?"

"Food gives a bit of mana, but not enough to supply him. My Servant had to subsist on food because I couldn't give her enough mana, but they generally don't need to eat," Shirou admitted. "But you make a point with money. He might need some to travel the country, especially if he doesn't have enough to use his basic Servant capabilities."

Shirou paused.

"Actually, he did say he just wanted to relax. He probably doesn't want to gain any more mana. He said this was basically a vacation."

"Working in a cafe is a vacation?" Yu said in minor disbelief. "I've seen how frustrating customers can be. How bad could his life had been to see that as a vacation?"

Her adoptive son frowned instantly.

"… Very bad, I'm assuming?" Yu muttered.

"Ask him yourself."

"I'll get around to it!" Yu claimed. "It's just, I'm not too keen on talking with the guy. That's it."

That wasn't just it. Yu would admit, she didn't like the guy. Everything about him just made her irrationally irritated, but not to the extent that she couldn't hold a simple phone call.

But deep down, she was wary. The way Shirou talked about Farran's past was like he was keeping a dark secret. Who 'Archer' really was something Shirou didn't want to be known, at least for now.

After he had spilled his heart out, she could give him that much. This time, she would truly wait.

"Should we try another location?" Yu asked. "I heard we're near where Endeavor has taken to patrolling, so I doubt we'd find any villains nearby."

Shirou nodded.

Searching from above was all they could do at the moment.

But while they were occupied, Yu couldn't help but think back to the eight's words.

Was she really capable of getting her adoptive son to learn anything?

These stray thoughts withered with the stray wind.


Fire.

The flicks of ember left his fingertips, and as soon as he wanted it to intensify, it did so to a frightening degree.

The fire in his arm was not Endeavor's, but it was his. That was something he had to be taught, a lesson that needed to be beaten into him by someone other than his relatives. If there was someone in his class he could truly call a friend, it would be Midoriya.

Shoto narrowed his eyes. Thinking about his classmates made him recall his other classmate, the one with who he still had grievances.

Emiya was a secretive mystery. In a sense, he supposed they were alike because of it. He surely had his reasons, just as he did. The only question was what they exactly were.

There was a primitive curiosity flickering within him, but Shoto had no desire in acting upon it.

However, that curiosity grew more day by day and had basically erupted after the sports festival. The past week was spent doing nothing but patrolling and noting how Endeavor used his quirk as guidance. However, they didn't forget the role the second-ranked hero had been given.

Become bait for the Hero-Killer. Given that he was interning with him, it was Shoto's role too. However, in his curiosity, he had to ask what Mount-Lady's role in the operation was, and in extension Emiya's role.

They weren't even supposed to deal with the Hero-Killer, but the Beast should he appear. If he didn't, then they'd help with the Hero-Killer.

With all the reasons the officers gave, Shoto couldn't deny the logistic behind it. However, what was strange was that the hero pair was rarely seen out in public. Sure, Mount-Lady was impossible to miss when she used her quirk, but Shoto rarely caught a glimpse of Emiya alongside her.

It was almost as if he was busy doing something else, but this was an internship. He was supposed to be working alongside his hero, not squander the opportunity.

Shoto frowned. Something was up, but he had no idea what.

It was also likely he'd never find out, seeing as Emiya had been capable of hiding his enhanced physical capabilities, and even hiding his quirk's true capabilities.

Yes, true capabilities. Shoto wasn't blind during the match against Bakugo. Those swords weren't normal, possibly magnetic with how they arced around the air. The general public had no idea, so only truly scrutinizing eyes noticed it like Bakugo.

If he wasn't restricted to regular weapons, then what other blades could he create? The fact that he didn't reveal it all in that match meant he was saving it against something or someone.

It was smart, but it probably cost him his match at the sports festival.

Not that Emiya wanted to win it. Even he could tell that, but he did make an impression…

Shoto's eyes wandered to the hulking mass of flames restraining a villain.

… especially on one person.

Endeavor had constantly asked Shoto what he thought of the boy, remarking how he could've been an opponent in the sports festival. However, Shoto knew that wasn't what he wanted to know. He wanted to know if Shoto would've struggled to win against him in a hypothetical match.

Shoto honestly replied that he would win.

In an arena setting, he would've sent him out of the ring as soon as possible so he wouldn't try anything, even create a thick wall of ice to stop his swords from getting to him.

The problem was Shoto was already sure that Endeavor realized that, so why did he bother asking?

As the police arrived and detained their recent capture, Shoto mentally marked that as the fifth one for the day. The only compliments he could give Endeavor was that he was efficient, almost ruthlessly so, and also had good control over his quirk because no villain they detained had suffered grievous burns.

"Shoto," Endeavor called. "Follow. We're moving to the next location."

He just nodded and followed along.

Their walk was relatively silent. A few people gawked at the number two, but none really approached them. Shoto supposed it was because of his reputation. Not that he complained. He knew how tiresome the media and some fans were. Especially if some of the off-handed complaints Midnight-sensei had were any indication.

… However, Shoto still thought back to Endeavor's inquiry about Emiya.

"Why–" Shoto found his mouth moving before his brain could stop it. "–are you so interested in Emiya?"

The professional hero stopped and stared at him. "… Why are you asking that now?"

"It was bothering me," he decided to answer truthfully. "Normally, you wouldn't take interest in Emiya, someone with a relatively weak quirk that relies on pure skill."

After all, the Endeavor agency only had people with strong quirks in it. Shoto just couldn't see why the rank-two hero would take an interest.

After a solid few seconds of staring down at each other, Endeavor turned away and continued to walk. With a sigh, Shoto decided to follow him. Looks like he wouldn't be getting his answer–

"His quirk reminded me of someone."

The Class 1-A student blinked.

"Who?" Shoto asked, seeing that Endeavor was actually in a chatty mood today.

"Someone that doesn't matter now," Endeavor answered as he concealed the identity. For what reason, Shoto had no idea. "Their quirks were too similar to disregard."

However…

"Having a similar quirk shouldn't warrant the interest you've been showing."

"It is warranted."

"Why?"

"Because that person's quirk could destroy half a city block."

What?

Shoto didn't realize he had stopped walking.

"Explain."

"If you want one, then ask Fuyumi later," Endeavor stated. "I'm sure she'd tell you all about it."

"She isn't here right now!" Shoto inadvertently lost his cool. "You're the one that knows right now, so can you just–"

"Right now," Endeavor suddenly emphasized. The fire surrounding his face intensified as a result. "You are in the middle of a patrol. I humored your first few questions, but as of now, your responsibilities task you with finding villains and preventing them from doing the general public any harm. You are NOT supposed to make idle chatter while on duty. Am I clear?"

His mouth snapped shut but Shoto couldn't help but frown deeply.

In silence, they continued their patrol.

"If you're still interested," Endeavor stated. "Then come to me later when we retire for the day. For now, focus."

Shoto didn't verbally reply, but the second-ranked hero could tell it was acceptance from his progeny. His questions would have to wait for later. He was patient enough for that.


"He turned a corner!" the voice of his chosen mentor shouted. "After him, kid! I'll go from above!"

"Understood!"

Midoriya darted down the street as fast as his legs were taking him. Even with One-for-All boosting his body, the target was quickly gaining distance. It was unknown what sort of quirk the villain had, but it must have been speed-related to be able to outrun the both of them.

Once he turned a corner, he noticed that it was a long straight road that followed. However, he couldn't even see where the villain had gone! It was almost as if he vanished!

And then Midoriya decided to look up.

There he was. The villain wearing an unassuming jacket paired with a toucan-like cap, and trailing behind him was Gran-Torino, who was quickly catching up.

In all seriousness, Midoriya could just let his mentor handle it because he was clearly able to do so by himself.

The moment the thought had even registered in his head, Midoriya leaped onto the closest building and used it to help boost him further than he could normally jump.

Gran-Torino noticed his approach. The old hero had sent him an appraising look before hefting his legs up for Midoriya's own to land on. Like a springboard, Gran-Torino launched Midoriya further. The villain didn't even have time to realize what was going on until the boy's arm latched onto his leg.

"Get off–!"

He didn't even have time to finish his words as Midoriya felt One-for-All channel through his limbs, or more specifically, his leg.

Using his previous momentum, the leg rocketed towards the villain's abdomen. The villain doubled over in pain, and as a result, dropped like a rock.

However, Midoriya knew that if the villain fell from this height, he would suffer grievous injuries. With this in mind, he wrapped his arms around the subdued villain and threw him into the arms of a waiting Gran-Torino.

He was glad to see his mentor caught the villain without any issue.

But the landing hurt more than Midoriya would like to admit.

"Kid, you really need a way to land," he reprimanded. "A landing strategy is always going to be useful."

"U-Understood, Gran-Torino!"

His mentor snorted before cuffing the villain before he could get up on his feet. "Don't try anything. You're lucky that you didn't do anything more than snatch a purse. Otherwise, you'd be in a whole lot more trouble."

"Screw off! That was an easy mark! I had it all planned out! There weren't supposed to be any heroes here!"

True. This was one of the calmer streets of Hosu, and as a result, few heroes ever patrolled here. Especially right now, when the day was fading to give way to the night.

Night usually meant villainous activity had a higher chance of occurring near the commercial areas. This place had no shops or stores to rob, all that was here was a few apartments, and it was a rich district that could afford better security.

It was fortunate that Gran-Torino wanted a local delicacy before they moved on, otherwise, they might've missed him… or maybe Gran-Torino realized how undefended this part of the city was and decided to defend it himself?

"Too bad for you," Gran-Torino said, but it looked as if he could care less. He probably could. "Try to be a good boy once you finish serving time, alright sonny?"

The villain didn't even reply as he slumped over unconscious.

"What in the world…?" Midoriya muttered.

"Idiot must've overused his quirk," Gran-Torino answered. "Kid, did you realize what it was yet?"

Slowly, Midoriya nodded. "It seemed to be a flight quirk, but one that only works when the user is heavily concentrating… no, maybe it was a minor gravity manipulation quirk only capable of lessening his own weight? Or maybe it was an air manipulation quirk that allowed him to remain suspended–"

"You already got it right from the first one, kid," Gran-Torino silenced him. "If it was levitation, he would've had more momentum carried over from when you jumped him, and if it was the latter, there would've been more of a current pushing him up. Stop overthinking sometimes, will you?"

"Yes, Gran-Torino!"

"That being said," his mentor continued. They were approached by an officer, one who had finally caught up to them in their chase and offered to take the villain. Once he had both his hands free, Gran-Torino whipped out his wooden cane, which must've clipped onto his back somehow, and began walking. "You've done good. All-Might has chosen his successor well."

"Is it really safe to blurt that out loud!?" Midoriya hastily whispered but was met with a hearty laugh.

"Nobody's here, and yes that officer left a while ago. Don't get your panties in a twist," Gran-Torino said. "Now, where was I? Ah, right. You've come far from the buffoon from the sports festival. No longer breaking your arms means you have some semblance of control now, yes?" At his nod, he continued. "That's good. I half-expected him to have neglected to teach you that. Toshinori might be a great hero, but he's a horrible teacher. Perhaps not as bad as I originally thought."

"Ah, no. My classmates helped me learn this."

"I take back the complements. Blast it all, Toshinori. That idiot was beaten in the head one too many times I tell you!" Gran-Torino seethed. However, he calmed down almost instantly, as if he expected Midoriya's answer. "Well, no matter how you've obtained that control, it is good to see that we didn't need to waste a week of your valuable internship to just train. How is it so far, the experience of chasing down villains?"

"It's…" exhilarating, frightening, stressful, fulfilling. "… an experience. Honestly, it isn't what I expected it to be. Is that wrong?"

"No, that's expected," his mentor replied. "I imagine that all the heroes that took you Class 1-A kids are expecting the same reaction. After all, your classes first interaction with villains is not what we'd call 'traditional.'"

Midoriya frowned. "You mean USJ?"

"Exactly," he confirmed. "That was most certainly a survival situation for you kids. Not to say that you won't encounter situations like it, but they aren't common here in the city. It is much easier to rely on others for assistance here."

"That's a relief," Midoriya honestly admitted. The more help he'd hypothetically get, the easier it would be to save more lives. "But, Gran-Torino? What did you exactly mean by 'traditional?'"

"Most interns end up encountering villains when they start interning, which is right now," he answered. "Not when they're just starting their hero course. In a way, it was both a curse and a blessing."

"Blessing?" Midoriya muttered.

He supposed that, in some twisted way, it was a blessing. It meant they had more combat experience over their peers, and as such, were less hesitant to make or take risky decisions. Hesitation meant getting harmed, or worse killed, back at the failed training exercise. It wasn't something most students got to learn until later in life.

But in Midoriya's mind, it was more a curse than a blessing.

"Don't get lost in the memories," his mentor advised, which snapped him out of the short funk Midoriya had found himself in. "Take it from an old man with too many memories to get lost in. It never helps."

"Yes sir…"

"But, I'm not senile enough to leave it at that," he added. "So, what's wrong? Thinking back to how weak you were back then?"

At Midoriya's wince, Gran-Torino sighed. "I knew it."

"Compared to the rest of my classmates, I couldn't really do anything," the U.A. student admitted. "While I was wounded, Todoroki fought to protect us. While I was unconscious, Mineta was trying his hardest. While I couldn't do anything, Emiya was fighting a monster that my absolute best couldn't even touch. They did so much in that incident, but me? Nothing."

It was the greatest wake-up call that Midoriya had ever received.

He had been weak before, constantly clinging to an unreachable dream. Just when he was about to give it all up, his hero appeared and gave him the chance to reach that dream. Sure, there were hiccups here and there, but Midoriya had been certain that he'd be able to save more lives than he could before now that he had his idol's quirk.

Then USJ happened and ripped the rug out from under him. He couldn't do anything. A liability, Todoroki had called him. Useless, Kacchan was right at the time. The fact he couldn't even deny the statements made it worse. His inability loomed over him every waking moment, driving him to do more, to always be better than he was yesterday.

It was the main reason he had even accepted Emiya's help in the first place, despite the little his quirk had in common with All-Might's. The red-haired teen had done more, much more, than he had in that incident, so even if it was a small hint, Midoriya would've been fine with it. But his enigmatic classmate had managed to strike a break-through and basically upgraded Midoriya to what he was now.

Not that Midoriya would be content with remaining at his current level. He knew that there was always a bigger fish, Kacchan had never let him forget it, and he would endlessly train until he could contend with them.

"Eh, what's done is done," Gran-Torino snorted. "You kids always make a big fuss about past failures that you always forget to plan for the future."

"But–"

"The past happened, you can't do anything about it. The future, you sure as hell can do something about that," he continued. "If life was a river, constantly pushing you to the future, then what's the point wading around and trying to get back to the past? Use the youth in you and go with the flow. There's always another chance to get stronger, to be smarter, and to be better."

Despite the lingering doubt he had, Midoriya at least nodded. Gran-Torino might be old, but he was old after living a life of heroism. His advice was not one to neglect easily.

Seeing that his message was barely received, Gran-Torino snorted and decided to change the subject.

"So, you mentioned your classmates being better than you then?" he asked. "What about now? Do you think that you can at least contend against them? At least be able to help them when they need it? Go through them one at a time. You'll be generalizing and circle back to how weak you are."

Midoriya held back a frown and answered. "Yes, I think so. I can probably keep up with them now. Todoroki… doesn't feel like he needs any support, but I know that I can help him as I am now by protecting him if villains get within his range. Actually, that's probably true for most of my long and mid-ranged classmates."

"Most. So, who're you implying wouldn't need that kind of help?"

"Two people," Midoriya said. "The first is of course Kacchan because his explosions are versatile and he's a natural in a fight. There's no way he'd need my help."

In fact, he'd probably kill him for even trying to help. Good ol' Kacchan.

"The other?"

"Emiya," he answered, unaware of his mentor's slower steps. "He can attack at a long-range with his bow, mid-range with his flying swords, and handle close-range without any problem. In our class, he's probably the most well-rounded."

After all, not even Kacchan could land a solid blow from more than several hundred meters away.

That was still a mind-boggling skill. And Midoriya did mean skill. Emiya's quirk only gave him weapons. It was entirely his own skill that allowed him to use them to such proficiency. To a former quirkless like Midoriya, the skill Emiya had, which can contend with even monsters like that anti-All-Might monster, was almost awe-inspiring.

"Do you admire that kid?"

"Admire?" Midoriya raised a brow before he nodded. "I admire all my classmates, all for different reasons. But Emiya definitely deserves admiration for his skills."

"I see…" Gran-Torino mused. "You'd admire someone who has little regard for their own life?"

Midoriya paused.

"Pardon?"

"While I made Toshinori send you over to me, that doesn't mean I overlooked your classmates," he answered. "That Bakugo kid, who I now know you call Kacchan, is certainly a little spitfire. A punk like him needs to be taught discipline before he does something he regrets. That Todoroki brat didn't even give it his best in the sports festival, so that says something about how he handles his convictions. Then there's that Emiya boy you're talking about. While nothing seemed out of the ordinary in the sports festival, his actions prior say something else."

"Um…" the student muttered. "Did you look into their pasts?"

"Yes," and then he turned and glared at his intern. "And if it was up to me, that Bakugo kid wouldn't even be accepted to a hero course, let alone admitted to U.A."

The wild panic in Midoriya's eyes must've been evident because Gran-Torino snorted in exasperation. "No idea why you'd want to defend someone like him."

"Kacchan might be a little– okay, extremely rough around the edges," Midoriya admitted. "But that doesn't mean he should be prevented a chance at redemption. He can become a good hero, capable of saving hundreds of lives one day."

"That, and if we deny him that chance at heroism, he may become a villain of our own making," Gran-Torino stated. "Is it corrupt of us to allow him to remain a prospective student? Probably, but I'm too old to really care. If you see some good in him, good for you. Not sure if anyone else could say the same."

He could see the good in him.

After all, nobody who admires All-Might as much as he does could be truly bad at heart.

"We got off track though," his mentor continued. "That Emiya kid has his own host of problems. Nothing like that Bakugo, but still worrisome. Did you know he was detained for vigilante activity, not once but twice?"

"I'm sure he had a reason for it," Midoriya argued.

"Yes, and that's commendable in its own way," he continued. "However, seeing as he came out of the second one wounded like a chewed boot, I'd expect to see some more caution out of him in the future."

Wounded? Emiya?

"Instead, the kid goes around like he never had a near-death experience," Gran-Torino disparaged. "That isn't normal, no matter how you spin it. Someone with so little regard for his own life isn't worth admiring."

"How is that any different from All-Might doing his best to safe everyone, regardless if he gets hurt or not?" He honestly asked. "Isn't it the same thing?"

"The difference between risking your life to save others and saving others at the cost of losing your own life. What do you think it is?"

Midoriya blinked. "Nothing?"

"Wrong," he denied. "The difference is that risking your life means that there's a chance you'll lose it, but you don't want to. Saving at the cost of your own life means you don't mind paying that price. Which side of this coin do you think that Emiya boy falls on?"

Life as… a cost?

Was that how Gran-Torino thought that Emiya worked? That his classmate saw his own life as one number and others as a greater number? That couldn't be right. Emiya was always confident when he went into battle. Against that Nomu, he looked as if he knew he would be fine, and that confidence couldn't be unfounded, right?

His mentor was wrong about him, right?

… Then again, how much did he truly know of Emiya?

"It is, ultimately, an unhealthy mindset," Gran-Torino finalized. "However, I will admit. In our society, it isn't something to be abhorred. Distasteful, probably. But outright despised? No. The Emiya kid isn't as bad as your Bakugo."

"Then why did you make it sound like he was just as bad?" he honestly asked.

"Did I make it sound like that?" the old hero genuinely asked. "My bad. However, take it from an old man who's seen friends come and go, who use their lives as a cost to save others. It might work, but the wounds they leave behind… bah. I'm too old to think of that. You don't have to understand. It's just a difference of opinion."

"No, I can understand where you're coming from," Midoriya admitted. "However, I'll believe that Emiya isn't like that. And if he is, that won't stop me from admiring him, just as I admire all my other classmates."

"Fair," he replied. "But does that include that midget? The one with the balls?"

Midoriya held in some laughter. "Yes, including Mineta."

"Gods why? He's an incorrigible little shit."

"I think it's admirable how he can stay true to himself, even after experiencing a life-changing event," he replied. "Also, if it weren't for Mineta… I would've been overwhelmed and probably even killed. No, I definitely wouldn't even be here today. So yes, I do admire him... to an extent."

He was still a huge pervert though.

"You truly only see the good in people, do you?"

"No," he denied. "I just choose to admire the good in them. If I do, then they might do more good. Is that wrong?"

Gran-Torino raised a brow before continuing his walk.

"… Toshinori really found something, didn't he?"

For the sake of his mentor, Midoriya chose not to comment. As a result, there was a silent lull in the conversation that neither felt was necessary to fill.

That was fine. The rest of the night was bound to have something to preoccupy them anyway–

BOOOM!

An explosion, a tower of blazing fire, and deranged laughter echoing in the wind.

Familiar laughter.

"Looks like Endeavor found him," Gran-Torino sneered. "Couldn't he have made less of a mess? He probably melted the entire street with that stunt. Come on, if we hurry, we can get that Hero-Killer treated for third-degree burns."

"No… that didn't sound like the Hero-Killer," Midoriya muttered.

"And you know how the Hero-Killer sounds like?"

"No," he admitted. "But… I do know what this sounds like."

After all, it was clear as the day he had first heard it.

Back at USJ.


"One of the bounded fields activated."

"Looks like it worked," Yu commented. "Where?"

Shirou stilled as he felt the connection to all the other bounded fields snap. This was expected and within what Archer told him would happen. The magical energy was being rerouted and focusing on one single location to trap their target, long enough for them to arrive and to prevent anyone from entering.

Once all of them snapped, only one was left.

"South," Shirou declared before he realized something. "… It's where you first detained him, where we first fought him in Hosu."

"Feeling nostalgic, was he?" Yu muttered. "You hurry on ahead. You're faster than me, and there are a bit too many buildings for me to use my quirk safely… at least until I get there."

Shirou simply nodded and rushed above the rooftops. The wind assailed him, but he was able to completely ignore it. Uncaring of how it would appear, he went faster. Reinforcing not only his limbs but every facet of it. The bones, the muscles, and even the skin of his body had been boosted.

As it stood now, he was probably as strong– if not stronger, than when he had fought the golden king on that fateful day.

And he'd need it if he was fighting against Angra-Mainyu, the Avenger-class Servant.

His pupils dilated as they worked to their extreme, focusing far into the darkened alleyways to catch a glimpse of two figures. One slumped down with another poised to deal the finishing blow.

A black bow was formed alongside a steel arrow.

The next millisecond, it shot with the force of a bullet.

He had no idea how he reacted, but the attacker leaped away from his arrow in a split second. His arrow buried itself into the concrete with a satisfying thwack.

Shirou himself barely halted his momentum as he skidded along the floor. He paused as he let his bow fade, as it would get in the way during the upcoming melee, to make way for Kanshou and Bakuya, the ever-faithful and useful married blades.

And then Shirou widened his eyes.

"You dare get in the way?" he who Shirou thought was his target said. "I'll admit, I wasn't expecting someone to appear in a remote location such as this, yet you did. Were you hunting me?"

Shirou frowned.

"I wasn't looking for you," Shirou admitted. "However, now that I know it's you, I can't let you leave. You'll hurt others if you do."

"Typical empty words of a misled fool," His opponent sighed. "Fine. Let's test your worth."

And under one smoke encrusted sky…

A torrent of fire made itself known several miles away from them, illuminating both Shirou's and Stain's determined eyes.

… A Hero and a Hero-Killer finally meet.


Next Chapter: Late April


A/N: So, apologies for the rather short chapter. However, I was sort of low on time so I cut out one particularly useless scene.

As you can tell, we're diving right into the Stain arc with some action. I will preface your expectations by saying there won't be any Shirou vs Stain in the next chapter because I want to save that for its own chapter directly after. Chapter 35 will mostly be about the interns, resolving Kirishima's issues, and creating as much damage to the city as possible. But don't worry, this won't be a copy-paste of the arc, as there will be somewhat large changes (depending on who you ask) going forward. The biggest change, which you can see right now, is Iida not encountering Stain. How will this resolve? Find on the next episode of Dragon–

Jokes aside, leave a review if you noticed grammar errors, grievances, or plot point errors. I missed one a long time ago and it's kind of too late to change (mostly because it's deeply entrenched in most of the chapters by now) so any you see now would be greatly appreciated. And if you want to know what that error is, it's Shirou calling Angra-Mainyu by his class Avenger, because he really shouldn't have known that was his class affiliation.

Until next time,

Kappa

A/N 2: Fixed some grammatical errors that I found while reading through the chapter on my phone.