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Limitless

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They met in high school. Did they know of their importance in each other’s futures? Nope. Did they realize they had so much in common when they saw each other for the first time? Not at all. He was to her just another strong person in Class 1A while she was to him just another insignificant pebble on the side of his road to becoming the No 1 hero.

So, what is it that draws them together? They didn’t pay each other any heed the first time they saw each other, for he was focused on defying his old man and she was there to atone for her sins. Similar goals, but different motivations. Two sides of the same coin. Both knew that the way forward was long and thorny, but both must keep moving forward for fear of the past catching up to them. Keep moving forward, carrying the scars of the past that haven’t healed. Keep moving forward, no matter how tattered their bodies become, no matter how much their bodies buckle and break, since the obstacles that they faced in front of them pale in comparison to the memories and horrors of past that chase them.

His name was Shoto Todoroki. The preeminent strongest of the class. The preeminent pretty boy of the class. The always calm and cool headed Todoroki.

Her name was Rukina Yagi. Has a good heart, but a bit socially awkward at times. You would have never guessed that that cute little blonde killed someone before. You would have never guessed those pretty blue eyes were holding back a monster that could emerge at any moment if she weren’t careful. You would have never guessed that those tiny, fragile looking hands were stained with blood.

Both had a past that always chased them. And because of that past, both had the dream of becoming heroes, desperately trying to save themselves in doing so.

Chapter Text

Rukina remembered that her mother was beautiful. Whenever she was young and would look through her Princess fairytales, she would imagine her mother as the Princess. Her mother, with her long blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and constant kind and gentle smile always reminded little Rukina of the illustrated Princess in her picture books. Whenever she’d tell this to her parents, her dad would laugh and say “You’re almost right, Rukina, but not quite. Mommy is the Queen,” and her mother would laugh and blush, “and you are my little Princess,” and he would pick her up and spin her around and Rukina would be the happiest girl in the world, laughing in her father’s arms. This family was the picture perfect family, the family always shown as the model in story books, the family that everyone would judge as too perfect to be true.

And it was. It was too perfect to be true.

And one day, her dad just left them. Left four year old Rukina without even a goodbye. Rukina will never forget that cold glance as her father closed the door, disappearing from her life. Rukina will never forget the sorrow behind her mother’s eyes, tears spilling out of those sad blue oceans.

***
Miss Rukina Yagi,

I am pleased to inform you that you have been admitted to the Hero Program at UA High School by Official Recommendations from several pro heros. The words and letters from your Tokiwadai* Middle School teachers and counselors were overwhelmingly positive. You also passed with flying colours on the Entrance Exam for the Recommended. You will find the details in the letter that you received to prepare you for your new High School path this April. I myself will also begin a new path at UA as a teacher in April. I look forward to meeting and working together with you. PLUS ULTRA!

The hologram of All Might disappeared as he finished his message. In the envelope she received, she found a few papers. One explained when school will start, which class she is in, and all the other details. Another paper contained the school map. The final paper asked for any requests for her hero costume. Rukina yawned at her desk, scratched her cheek with the eraser of her pencil, and simply wrote “Something elegant” on the blank piece of paper. She furrowed her eyebrows and pursed her lips, thinking hard about what else to add. What colour should it be? What colour would look good on her? Should it be long or short sleeved? Should she wear gloves? Shorts? A skirt? How long would the skirt be? Sunglasses would look cool… no nevermind… sunglasses indoors would make her seem like an arrogant idiot. After a few minutes of staring at the almost blank paper in silent concentration, she put her warm hand on the paper and started writing.

Scratch, scratch, scratch. Her pencil scraped on the paper, then stopped.

She held the paper to eye level, looking over the final product.

“Something elegant, please,” the paper read.

She sighed, not at all satisfied with the results, but sealed the paper in the mailing envelope anyway. She wasn’t creative enough and was too indecisive to come up with her own costume, so she decided to simply leave it to the designers and hope for the best.

The days rolled by, and soon enough, the morning came when she was adjusting her tie on her high school uniform. It was the date to begin her learning at UA. She pulled on her knee high black socks, did a quick final check in front of the mirror, pulled on her shoes, and was out the door of her apartment.

With one step in front of the other, she was beginning to walk down her path to become a hero.

With one step in front of the other, she was able to start atoning for the mistakes she made in the past.

As she walked her way to school, turning a corner, she didn’t expect for someone or something to run into her so suddenly. Faster than her mind could think, her reflexes set her quirk on reflection as the person/object crashed into her. As soon as contact was made, the stranger who bumped into her (poor girl) directly hit the ground with a thump, landing hard on her bottom. Rukina felt guilty immediately and at once offered her hand to help the brunette stranger up.

“Oh my goodness, I am so sorry! I saw something fast coming at me and I accidently used my quirk and- are you hurt at all? I really should be more mindful of my quirk. I’m so sorry,” Rukina rambled. The girl on the ground took her hand and offered her a bright smile. Rukina remarked that the girl’s pink round cheeks and bouncy brown hair made her look like a charming little doll. Then, she noticed the girl’s uniform. “Hey, you’re a student at UA too.”

The girl’s smile, bright and beautiful, widened even more. “Yes! Sorry I bumped into you, I was in a hurry to get to school early so I have time to make new friends, but I guess that’s not necessary now that I met you! My name is Ochako Uraraka, I’m enrolled in the hero course at UA in class 1A, let’s be friends!”

‘Goodness, how is this girl so cute?’ Rukina fondly thought to herself, feeling herself being won over by the overwhelming warmth and bubbliness of the being beside her. She smiled and introduced herself too, “My name is Rukina Yagi and I’m enrolled in class 1A at UA too. Glad we have something in common already.”

“Hmm, Rukina, I didn’t see you at the entrance exam.” Uraraka put her finger on her chin, thinking hard as the pair started walking down the street.

“Oh,” Rukina hesitated before quietly replying. “I got in by recommendations.”

Uraraka’s eyes lit up. “Wow! Recommendations! Then you must be super strong!”

Rukina felt her cheeks get warm and embarrassment took over. “No, I still have much to learn before I can become a hero.”

“That’s ok! We’re all here to learn at UA! Let’s get strong together!” She fist pumped the air to add emphasis

As they enthusiastically chatted (well, Uraraka enthusiastically chatted), they soon arrived on UA grounds and found their classroom. It seemed that the popular Uraraka already knew some people, as she was quick to say hi.

“Ah, it’s you! Curly-haired kid! I’m glad I found you You passed just like Present Mic said!” She then lifted her fist and waved it around, demonstrating her cute version of a punch. “That punch at the entrance exam was out of this world!”

The plain looking, curly haired boy shyly shook his head and hid his burning face in his hands, muttering away, as if drowning in embarrassment. Uraraka, rambling about being worried for him after the entrance exam, inched closer and closer to him from her overwhelming excitement. In response, his face looked more and more like a tomato, his green hair representing the tomato leaves on top. Or perhaps he looked more like a Christmas light.

“Oh, and guess what?!” Uraraka enthusiastically pulled Rukina toward her. “I made a new friend today! Her name is-.”

“If you’re going to be hunting for buddies, do it elsewhere.”

Rukina turned around, expecting to see the speaker at eye level, but was only met with thin air. When she looked down, she saw a man lying on the floor in a sleeping bag. His long hair, black and messy, covered most of his face, and the eyes that looked up at them were so tired looking, so lifeless, with dark bags under them as if he hadn’t slept in weeks. If she didn’t just hear him speak, she’d have wondered if he was dead. No way… was he their teacher?

“This is the department of heroics!” He sipped on a juice box before standing up and releasing himself out of his sleeping bag. “It took you lot 8 seconds to quiet down. Life is short, kids.” He lazily lifted one foot out of the sleeping bag, then the other. “I’m your homeroom teacher Shota Aizawa. Nice to meet you.”

Although he did not raise his voice, keeping his lazy tone, the class caught every word. It was either he had a talent for keeping the class quiet by his presence alone, or everyone was just too excited to begin their first day at UA. Probably the former, judging by the nervous atmosphere in the classroom.

Mr Aizawa spent some time rummaging in his sleeping bag, then pulled out a UA gym uniform. “Put these on right away, then move to the PE grounds.”

Everyone hurriedly grabbed a uniform, quickly made their way to the changing rooms, then rushed outdoors to meet their teacher. Everyone gathered around, still keeping silent due to the strict presence that he gives off, all unanimously thinking that they must not get on his bad side or else bad things will happen.

Mr Aizawa spoke. “I’m just going to cut to the chase. Like it or not, you’re going to have a quirk apprehension test this morning.”

“Quirk apprehension test?!” the class repeated after him, shocked enough to break out of the silence.

Uraraka raised her hand, concern clearly evident on her face. “I’m sorry, but what about the entrance ceremony? And the guidance counselor meeting? Are we going to miss those?”

Aizawa’s expression remained neutral and bored, as it had remained since he introduced himself. “Heroes don’t have time for those unnecessary things. You all understand the school’s reputation for freedom on campus, correct? Well, that freedom goes for us teachers too.

“Softball pitch, standing long jump, 50meter dash, endurance running, grip strength test, sustained sideways jumps, upper body exercises, seated toe touch,” he listed the activities one by one. “These are all activities you know from middle school, of course. Before anything else, you must know what you’re capable of. This is a rational metric that will form the basis of your hero foundation. This time, you have permission to use your quirks. Use your quirks in anyway you want, I don’t care.

“Oh and one more thing.” His lips pulled back to reveal an eerie smile. “The one student who comes in last place after all eight tests will be expelled.”

The curly haired guy, Uraraka’s friend, looked as if he was going to wet himself. Poor boy. Was his quirk not suited for these tests?

As her classmates performed the tests one by one or in pairs, Rukina hoped that her newly made friends would do well, and she also used this chance to assess the capabilities of her classmates. Mr Gotta-Go-Fast stood out almost immediately when he proved himself to be the fastest in the class with those turbo engines in his calves. For Uraraka, as her quirk can make objects lose their gravitational pull, just had to worry about air resistance stopping the ball when she tossed it, earning a shocking “infinity” that towered over everyone else’s distance score. Uraraka’s plain friend didn’t do too badly for ball toss either, but the fact that the friend had to injure himself worried Rukina. Others that especially stood out scored high results. Through the tests Rukina noticed that a girl, her black hair pulled back into a ponytail, (Yaoyorozu, was it?) did especially well for several tests. It was like she could create anything she wished, as she used a hand held tool to pry the grip machine open to register a 1.2 tons, a cannon to fire the ball a whopping 28km, and rode a motorcycle in the 50 meter dash. It was no surprise that she placed first for the quirk apprehension test. Then, there was the explosion guy who seemed to like to terrorize Uraraka’s friend. Rumors have it that his explosive temper and quirk helped him come in first place for the entrance exam. Another that stood out to her, the guy who placed 2nd after Yaoyorozu for the quirk apprehension test, used ice in quite creative ways, such as repeatedly stacking it behind himself for the 50 meter dash. On the tests where his quirk wasn’t suitable, he also did quite well, showing that his physical strength by itself was not to be underestimated. Rukina herself didn’t do too badly on the tests, placing 3rd after the guy with the ice quirk. Afterall, her quirk was well suited for a lot of things.

“Oh yeah, the whole ‘expulsion’ thing was a lie,” Aizawa casually stated after he broadcasted the results using his phone. He then smiled as if the thought of his students internally freaking out was entertaining to him.“It was a logical ruse to pull out your best performances. You’ll find your curriculum sheets in the back on the classroom, so hurry up.”

When the day finally ended, Rukina had just finished packing up her things and swung her bag across her shoulder before Uraraka grabbed her hand, giving just a quick explanation of “We gotta catch up with the others!” before leading (ahem, dragging) her outside to finding that plain friend and Mr Engine-Legs.

“Hey you two! You’re heading home, right? Wait for us!” Uraraka called at them as she and Rukina slowed to a walk.

“You’re the infinity girl!” Engine-Legs adjusted his glasses before shifting his gaze to Rukina. “And you, you placed in the top 3 for today’s quirk apprehension test.”

Uraraka looked at him and smiled. “My name is Ochako Uraraka and my friend is Rukina Yagi. Rukina got in on recommendations so she must be really strong!”

Rukina became flustered at the praise. “Uraraka, you didn’t need to say that!”

After hearing this, Engine-Legs started gesturing with his hands again. “As expected of a recommended student to place high on the test today!”

“No no it’s not all that, actually,” she tried to explain.

The curly-haired friend’s eyes were bright and curious. “Recommendations? You must be really skilled! Can you tell us about your quirk? What does it do? What’s it’s name? What can it-”

“Please stop, you’re all thinking too highly of me!” Rukina frantically said, trying to diffuse the situation as quickly as possible. She shifted her gaze, choosing to stare instead at the ground. Embarrassed and feeling awkward, she started rambling. “Sorry, you guys must think I’m a stuck up high class lady right now and you’d probably want to avoid me…”

“Actually, no.” The curly-haired friend immediately answered back. “That’s not what we think at all.”

“Huh? Rukina, why don’t you want people to know you got in on Recommendations?” Uraraka curiously asked. Rukina played with the hem of her skirt, hesitating.

“It’s because then they’ll judge me before they really know me,” Rukina admitted. “I heard that there is a stereotype that the Recommended are all pampered and spoiled kids who all grew up in super rich families. People are usually afraid of that and would try to avoid them as much as possible…”

She took a breath and let it out, raising her resolute gaze to meet the other three. “But in reality I’m here to learn and work hard just like everyone else.”

Uraraka was first to break the tense atmosphere. She rubbed Rukina on the back, and gently said, “Don’t worry about it. That’s not what we think of you at all.” Her eyes were large and genuine, full of kindness. She turned to the other two. “Right guys?”

Engine-Legs and curly-haired friend were quick to nod. “Right!”

“I’m glad that’s settled!” Uraraka’s bright and cute smile was back. She punched her fist into the air enthusiastically. “Let’s all be friends!”

She then turned her attention to the two in front of her. “If I’m not mistaken, you must be Tenya Iida.” She turned to look at the curly haired one. “And you must be Deku, right?”

Rukina turned to look at Uraraka in shock, surprised that she just called her friend “worthless”. As cute as Uraraka was, she really had no filter, did she?

‘Deku’ blushed, madly gesturing with his hands as he tried to explain, “Uh, um, my name is actually Izuku Midoriya. ‘Deku’ is just something that Kacchan calls me to make fun of me.”

“Oh I’m sorry.” Uraraka rubbed the back of her head, realizing her mistake. Her eyes then lit up as she excitedly pumped her fist into the air. “But, you know, I kinda like the name ‘Deku’! It gives me a sort of ‘never give up!’ vibe.”

Oh Uraraka, you are so pure. So innocent. Always seeing the bright side of things.

“Deku it is then!”

And as Rukina walked with her new classmates, happily chatting away, she felt a sort of bubbly, comforting feeling in her chest. When she left behind everyone at her old middle school in order to pursue her dream of being a hero, she had prepared for the path in front of her to be long and twisting, cold and thorny. Now, when she looked at the blushing Midoriya, the earnest Iida, and mostly the always cheerful and bubbly Uraraka, she felt her spirits lift. Rukina thought that perhaps the road towards being a hero for her wouldn’t be as dark as she predicted.

Yes, Rukina thought, smiling. She will finally be steering her life in the direction that she wanted.

***
“Rukina!” The woman coughed up blood, feeling the sharp claws of the little monster dig deeper into her profusely bleeding stomach. Bright red stained her usually shiny golden hair. The violent winds surrounding her whipped at her clothing. Ribbon like blades emitted from the creature’s back, also stabbing into the woman’s body. Even so, the woman did not release her gentle hug“Rukina, please! I know your consciousness is still in there!”

The tiny monster, the size of a child roughly around 5 or 6, screamed a deafening roar. The woman tightened her hold around the creature. “Rukina, my child, please, listen to my voice! It’s not too late for you to return back to human!”

Rukina woke up in cold sweat, sitting on her bed with her heartbeat accelerated, her blood pumping through her veins. She desperately tried to calm down, trying to steady her breathing. She felt a wet droplet land on her lap. ‘That was just a nightmare,’ she told herself, reaching up to wipe her tears.

‘It was just a nightmare,’ she repeated to herself. When she noticed that her hands were trembling, she clutched them into fists. She grit her teeth.

‘I promised myself, no matter what, I will never let something like that happen again.’

***
The next day, the normal morning lessons ended and then came the lesson to which Rukina was looking most forward. Finally, they would be able to take their first step down real hero training. Not to mention that the teacher for this lesson would be No 1 hero himself, All Might, who has almost become a legend himself! She has seen him on TV and the internet hundreds of times. She has heard dozens of rumors about him. How he single handedly saved a thousand people who would have otherwise died in a horrible accident when he first debuted. How he always remains humble when his fans talk to him or when he is interviewed. How he always fights crime with a giant smile on his face, never faltering, never wavering. Apparently, no one knows what his real name is. No one even knows what his quirk is! Rukina wanted to see for herself. Who exactly is this man called the No 1? Who exactly was this superpower that the No 2 can’t even hold a candle to? What is there to not be excited about about their first Foundational Hero Studies lesson?

Well, Rukina was nervous to see what became of her costume. Would it be a skin tight bodysuit like she’s seen on so many female heroes? What if the person who designed the suit was a pervert and left barely anything to the imagination? Her thoughts were interrupted as the legendary All Might himself... “Came through the door like a normal person” as he described it, but there was nothing normal about him. Even from this distance Rukina could sense that overwhelming power resided inside him, a mountain that reached the heavens, a skyscraping wall that towered over everyone else. She was sure that whatever he taught the class would be extremely valuable and beneficial. Her other classmates were also muttering excitedly. He began the class.

“Foundational Hero Studies!” He announced. “For this class, we’ll be building up your hero foundation through various trials! We’ll start with...” the class held its breath as the shelves containing their hero costumes opened “the trial of battle!”

Everyone excitedly took their costumes as All Might told them to meet at ground B when finished. Rukina nervously grabbed hers and followed the rest of the girls to the change room, feeling nervous about how her “something elegant, please” request would be interpreted. Then, as soon as she opened her costume box and put it on, she was more than surprised as her fears were quelled. It was indeed elegant. The chestplate was a deep gold colour, matching her shoulder plates, the gauntlets around her forearms, and the boots covering up to her knees. Comfortably hugging her waist was a purple corset like design, and flowing behind her was a graceful skirt beginning at her hips with light pink and fading down to a dark pink by the end of the cloth. Covering the opening in front of the skirt was a purple piece of cloth, resting gently on her thighs. Underneath the skirt, thankfully, were shorts, which means Rukina could move around without worrying about people seeing more than they were supposed to. ‘The design team really outdid themselves with this one,’ Rukina thought, ‘they even included a freaking tiara. It’s almost… too fancy.’

As she walked out of the change room toward Ground B, new fears began to replace the old ones. What if it was too fancy and ended up making her stand out like a sore thumb? What if her classmates thought it was too much and teased her about it? What if-

“Rukina, it looks great on you!” Uraraka’s familiar bubbly voice broke her train of thoughts.

Rukina turned around to face a Uraraka in a cute skin tight bodysuit that showed off her curves. “Uraraka, you look really good. The suit fits you well,” she said honestly, “While mine almost seems like...” Rukina ruffled the skirt, testing the fabric. She lets out nervous laughter “..too much.”

“That’s not true! You look beautiful!” Uraraka cheerfully said.

‘How? How was it that this girl could be so cute?’ Rukina thought as some of her internal worries died down. ‘Heh, it’s only day two and she’s always the one comforting me.’

Once everyone had gathered at the training site, All Might explained the exercise. “Because most acts of villainy are committed indoors, we’ll be conducting 2 on 2 team battles indoors-”

He was abruptly interrupted. It seemed like everyone’s excitement was at maximum level as they all asked questions.

“How do we determine who wins and who loses?” asked the intelligent Yaoyorozu.

“Is it ok if we just blow them away?” the ever explosive temper of Bakugo.

“Will anyone be expelled like Mr Aizawa threatened?” Uraraka was concerned.

“If we’re separating into different groups, what will be the best way to do so?” typical earnest Iida.

“Doesn’t this cape look killer on me?” Navel-Laser guy.

“Will there be many chances for male-female body contact?” an unusually short guy with purple “hair”.

“I can’t hear you if you all speak at once!!!” Came All Might’s version of ‘shut the hell up!’ Silence fell, and he continued giving instructions. “One team will be heroes and the other team will be the villains. For this training, we’ll have the villains guard a nuclear weapon they intend on deploying! The heroes must stop them and their scheme before its too late! If the heroes capture the villains or reach the target nuclear core within the time limit, the heroes win. If the villains capture the heroes or keep the core safe until the timer runs out, the villains win. The teams will be determined by lottery, and because we have 21 students in our class, there will have to be a group of 3 determined by lottery as well. Let’s start this!”

When it was her turn to draw, Rukina stuck her hand into the box and pulled out a slip of paper and read the name on it.

Shoto Todoroki

If she wasn’t mistaken, that was the person who’d come in 2nd place for yesterday’s quirk test. The guy with the strong ice quirk, right? Rukina looked around and spotted him. He was easy to identify since he had covered his entire left side with ice. Maybe to protect a vulnerable spot on his left side? She approached him.

“You’re Shoto Todoroki, right?” She asked, catching his attention. She showed him the slip of paper that she drew from the lottery. “I’m Rukina Yagi and we’re supposed to be team B. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you,” he repeated after her, but his tone was cold and unwelcoming. Rukina tried to continue the conversation.

“My quirk allows me to move stuff around if I’m touching it. I can also deflect attacks. Do you want to tell me about your quirk or something?”

“I freeze things,” he coldly replied. She waited for him to elaborate, but he remained silent as a few awkward seconds passed.

“So… Should we think of a general plan right now before the battles start? I think we should know how to work together.”

“I don’t need your help. I can handle the situation by myself.”

Rukina gulped and thought, ‘Geez, we’re off to a great start. This guy is even worse than me at being social.’

After everyone was paired up, All Might drew from the lottery to see which teams would be battling together. First up was hero team Midoriya and Uraraka vs villain team Iida and Bakugo as everyone else was left watching the battle on the TV screen.

‘Poor Midoriya,’ Rukina thought, staring at the TV screen as the battle went on. She paid close attention as her newly made friends prepared for battle. Also, it was a chance to further observe the others’ fighting styles and quirks.

The fight started as soon as Bakugo attacked team A. Rukina narrowed her eyes as she observed him. It almost looks like Bakugo is going out of his way to fight Midoriya. What is his ulterior motive? Is he trying to prove something? It didn’t help team A’s case that Midoriya tends to injure himself whenever he uses his quirk, as shown yesterday at the quirk apprehension test. In the end Midoriya ended up recklessly launching a punch strong enough to blow a hole through the building itself, creating a chance for Uraraka to use her quirk on the produced debris. In the time that Iida was distracted, she touched the nuclear core, ending the battle. The students all gathered around and discussed what each individual in that battle did well and what they did poorly, wrapping up the team A vs team D battle.

Finally, the time came for team B to fight against the 3 membered team I. Todoroki calmly enters the building, Rukina at his side.

“Yesterday, during the quirk apprehension test, I spent a bit of time observing everyone’s quirks and I have a general idea about how they use their quirks,” Rukina began sharing her thoughts with her teammate. “The girl’s invisible, as you can see, perfect for stealth. One of the guys has a tail that he uses to help him move around. The guy with multiple arms is very strong physically and it appears that he can grow things like eyes and ears out of those extra arms. His sensory capabilities may be enhanced due to that.” Rukina paused in case Todoroki had anything to add. When he remained silent, she continued. “Based on their quirks, I think Invisible Girl will try to ambush us while the two guys guard the core. We all heard Bakugo’s feedback about him being too reckless to attack head on, so I think they’ll try to play it defensively and by using stealth.”

“This will get dangerous, so go outside.”

Her lips tightened. “I’m not weak. No matter what attack it is, I can counter it with my quirk. You can’t get rid of me that easily.”

“Suit yourself,” he replies as he places his hand on the wall. Immediately, everything froze. Even the dust particles in the air seemed to stop in place as a great cold washed over. Ice glittered on the walls, the floor, the stairs, everywhere, covering everything over a giant, freezing blanket.

“See? I’m fine.” The ice around her boots shattered as soon as it touched her, leaving her in pristine condition. “Since we both got into UA by recommendations, I feel like we should put more effort into our teamwork.”

“You talk a lot,” he said as he began climbing the stairs.

Rukina furrowed her eyebrows, following him. This guy was starting to get on her nerves… If he wants to be a hero, he can’t keep up this lone wolf act forever, Rukina thought. They quickly found the nuclear core and found that both the tail guy and guy with multiple arms were stuck frozen to the ground.

“You should stay still. If you move, the skin will be ripped off of your feet and will make it difficult for you to fight.” Todoroki warned as he and Rukina walked past the members, the guy with multiple arms made a last ditch effort to extend his arms and aimed his fist at Todoroki. Rukina quickly stepped in. She simply held her hand out to intercept it, and as soon as the punch touched Rukina’s palm, the force of the punch changed to travel in the completely opposite direction, keeping the same momentum as before. It was like a car going at breakneck speed suddenly hits the brakes, shifts the gear to reverse, and drives backward at the same speed as before, all in a split second. The fist reflected right back toward Multiple-Arms, showing the futility of the situation for team I.

“Sorry,” Rukina apologized, her eyelids lowered. “I can’t let you land a hit on us that easily.”

Todoroki touches the nuclear core and team B is declared the winner. Steam starts coming out from where Todoroki’s left hand made contact with the nuclear core, confusing Rukina. She had thought he covered his left side with ice to protect a vulnerable spot, but it turns out he has another power other than ice?

“Hey, you never told me you had a heat power too,” she voiced her thoughts. When he still remained silent, she became irked as her patience ran thin. Sure, he might be strong, really strong, but he didn’t have to ignore her like this. She turned to face him to express her annoyance at the situation, but stopped as soon as she saw the look on his face, the look in his eyes. When she had first met him, those eyes showed coldness, indifference. But now, as he stood melting the ice he had created, Rukina noticed that he looked sad, with grief clouding his usually calm, pretty mismatched hues. Her words died down in her throat, as she recognizes that look. She knew that look, because she’s seen that look before, resembling her own so much.

This person… was the same as her.

Chapter Text

“Mommy!” The little four year old eagerly ran towards the park bench. Under the shade of the large oak tree, a woman sat, engrossed in her book. The child had something clasped in her hands.“Mommy! Mommy! Guess what!”

“What is it, sweetie?” The mother lifted her head from her book and smiled at her daughter, who excitedly held her clasped hands up to her mother.

“Tada!” the little girl proudly opened her hands, showing a single flower, white petals surrounding a golden center, resting on her tiny palm.

“Yes, sweetie, that’s a very pretty daisy you’ve got there.”

“Look at what I can do!” Immediately, the flower’s petals moved by themselves, opening and closing around the golden middle, resembling a multi-winged butterfly fluttering its wings. Then, without the child’s hand moving, the flower jumped by itself off of her palm and landed in the mother’s lap.

As the woman picked up the daisy, her eyes widened. Her warm smile widened even more, twice as bright as before. “Darling, you’ve developed your quirk! That’s fantastic!”

“But that’s not all! Watch this!” This time, the child held a quarter-sized pebble she found on the ground and placed it in her palm. Staring at it silently, she furrowed her brows in concentration, until the pebble slowly started spinning, gradually picking up speed until it was almost a blur in the middle of her hand.

Her mother clapped her hands. “Congratulations, Rukina! I’m so proud of you!

She stood up and wrapped her hand around Rukina’s, her fingers gently folding over the child’s smaller ones. “Let’s go home now so we can tell your father the good news!”

Rukina beamed, pride swelling her tiny chest with warmth. She tightened her hold on her mother’s welcoming hand as the two of them began their journey back home.

***
On her way to school, Rukina had to push and shove her way through the crowd at the UA entrance. A reporter tried to shove her microphone in Rukina’s face, but Rukina knew an interview would just make her late to class so she refused and continued pushing and shoving her way through.

Other than that, the morning after the two on two battle exercise was unusually normal, considering that this is the hero course at UA. When Aizawa announced that they were going to choose a class president, everyone almost jumped out of their seats at the opportunity. The class was chaos until Iida suggested that they do it by voting. By the end of the period, the shy but honest Midoriya stood at the front of the classroom, with four votes to his name.

Although he had voted for himself too, he never expected to get three other votes. This amount doubled that of the runner up Yaoyorozu, who also seemed quite disappointed at her classmates’ choice. No one’s reaction was as extreme as Bakugo’s though.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me…! Who the hell voted for Deku?!” It seemed like he was a bomb, ready to be lit and eager to erupt any moment, Rukina noted. It seemed like he was ready to unleash his rage at anyone who so much as spoke to him right now. Why on Earth was he so angry at Midoriya all the time? Bakugo’s angry red eyes swept around the classroom, trying to spy the culprit, before landing on Uraraka. As soon as they made eye contact, Uraraka blinked and looked away, a guilty expression written all over her face.

Bakugo narrowed his eyes. “Hey Roundface, was it-?”

“I did,” Rukina said as she stood up from her seat and answered him. When he heard her voice, he whipped his head to face her. As he glared at her, his eyes were narrowed in rage, glinting a dangerous red. He no longer was just a measly bomb about to explode. He was a volcano, ready to erupt at any moment and destroy everything within kilometres of the place.

“What?” he challenged, giving her a chance to take back her words. “What did you just say?”

“You heard me. I voted for Midoriya.” Rukina was not backing down. She may become shy and awkward when it comes to praise, but she is no stranger to arguing with others when the situation is getting out of control.

“Do you have a girl-boner for him or something?” Bakugo growled, voice low and threatening. Rukina sighed.

“I voted for him because I think he has what it takes to lead the class and be sensitive to everyone’s feelings at the same time.”

“Like hell he does!” Bakugo’s loud words were enough to draw the attention of several of their classmates. “That crappy-ass nerd is as shitty as they come! He has no right to lead-!”

“You may think that way, but last time I checked, Midoriya’s the one with four votes backing him up.”

Bakugo was absolutely shocked. ‘Who is this bitch stupid enough to vote for damn Deku?!’ he thought. ‘Who does she think she is, talking all that shit?!’

He angrily stomped towards her until he was close enough to be towering over her, glowering down his nose at her. Almost everyone’s attention was on the pair of them now.

“Wait, I shouldn’t have to listen to you. You got no votes, you worthless trash. I, at least, had enough brains to vote for myself,” he snarled at her. She had to look up at him to maintain eye contact, cool blue gazing into fiery red. She could feel everyone’s eyes on her, waiting for her response. The difference in height and especially the murderous shadow behind his menacing red eyes would have intimidated anyone with common sense, but her blue eyes remained fearless and calm as she retorted right back at him.

“Yeah, you got the one vote that came from yourself because you’re too self absorbed to think of the greater good. Honestly, if you were made class president, the whole school would be erupting into flames in less than a day with your temper always exploding.”

Bakugo blinked. The classroom was silent, except for a few stifled gasps. It was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Then-

“You BITCH!” he roared, finally snapped. “I’ll kill-”

He was interrupted as Kirishima put his hands on Bakugo’s shoulders, trying to calm him down and trying to keep Bakugo from going on a killing spree. “Woah woah easy there Bakugo, calm down. It’s lunch time, so you’re cranky because you’re hungry. Let’s go get some food!”

“Kirishima, you bastard! Let me go!”

Kaminari joined in, helping Kirishima. “Bakugo, don’t do anything you’ll regret! Especially to a pretty girl like her.”

“Kaminari, you fuckboy!”

“Bakugo, if you start killing people, you’ll get arrested!” Kirishima grunted. Holding on to Bakugo was like keeping several tons of lighted fireworks from going off. “If you get arrested, you’ll go to jail and you can’t become a hero! Let it go!”

Bakugo’s movements started dying down as he considered Kirishima’s words. They loosened their holds on Bakugo when they sensed that he was calming down.

“Fine,” he growled as he shoved both boys off of him and walked out of the classroom, not giving anyone a second look.

Kirishima, his friendliness directly contrasting with Bakugo’s temper, then turned to Rukina, an apologetic look in his eyes.

“Sorry about him,” he apologized. “He’s a good guy at heart, really. It’s just that he’s bad at managing his emotions, particularly anger,” Kirishima’s voice faded to a mumble for the last part.

“No, it’s fine,” Rukina sighed. She rubbed the back of her head. “I guess I went overboard too.”

As Kirishima went to chase after Bakugo, she turned back to her desk, packing up her stuff. Midoriya approached her, Iida and a worried Uraraka following him.

“You didn’t have to do that for me, Rukina,” Uraraka muttered, her warm brown eyes filled with concern.

“Kacchan can be scary when he’s angry,” Midoriya added.

“Don’t worry about it,” Rukina said as she zipped up her pencil case. “I didn’t do it for you. I did it for myself because I didn’t like the way he’s been going alpha male on everyone,” she said as she hung her school bag on her chair. Her eyes lowered… ‘I’m not as good of a person as you think I am,’ she thought to herself.

Uraraka offered a kind smile. “Well, I’m grateful either way.”

Together, they made their way out of the classroom and to the cafeteria, getting in line to wait for their food. After thinking for a bit, Rukina decided to ask Midoriya, “What’s he got against you anyway? I get that you’re childhood friends and stuff, but he looks like he’s always trying to pick on…” she drifted off, after seeing Midoriya’s uncomfortable expression.

“Uh, that’s...” he forced out, uneasily. Midoriya looked like he was quite distressed, Rukina noticed.

“Actually, you know what?” she changed the subject, sparing her friend. “I forgot to congratulate you on becoming class president.”

Midoriya immediately became flustered. “Th-thank you,” he stuttered out nervously, then glanced at the ground. “I was made class president, so suddenly and I’m not sure if I’m up to the task.”

“Sure you are!” Uraraka was always quick to reply positively, “I believe in you, Deku!”

“You’ll be alright,” Iida confirmed. “You’ve got the judgement and guts where it counts, Midoriya. I voted for you because I knew you’d have what it takes to carry us though. I did nothing more than follow my own judgement.”

Both Uraraka and Midoriya widened their eyes. “You’re so proper!” both said unanimously.

“You’re always going on about honour and stuff, but you’re from an upper-crust family, aren’t you?” Uraraka continued, her eyes sparkling, her small fists clenched in excitement.

“I don’t like it when it brings attention,” Iida adjusted his glasses. He cleared his throat. “If I must talk about such things, then yes, I’m from a family that’s been in heroics for generations.”

“Oh, so it’s like a hero torch that’s been passed down the Iida family line for generations, right?” Rukina asked.

“Yes, I’m currently the second son,” Iida continued. The edges of his mouth lifted, forming a small smile. “Do you know of ‘Turbo Hero Ingenium’?”

Midoriya’s eyes lit up immediately, going full on geek mode. “Of course! That’s the super popular Tokyo hero who has hired at least 65 sidekicks!”

“He’s my older brother,” Iida said with pride shining in his eyes as he enthusiastically went on about his brother. “He’s a beloved pro hero who prizes the rules and guides the people! And I aspire to be a hero like him one day!” The admiration for his brother seeped through as a full smile appeared on his usually serious face.

As Iida continued talking about his brother’s job, Uraraka and Midoriya gushed over Iida’s hero family. Meanwhile, something caught Rukina’s eye.

Or rather, a certain someone. A certain someone with a certain ice quirk and bi-coloured hair and heterochromatic eyes who was carrying his lunch tray to an empty table.

Now that she observed him carefully, she noticed that his eyes once again appeared devoid of emotion. That look might have fooled others, but she knew better. She knew that it was only a calm front to encase and distract himself from an ocean of hauntings. Rukina knew.

Because she was the same.

“Hey Yagi, what’re you looking at?” Midoriya’s question brought her out of her thoughts.

Rukina closed her eyes and turned her head to face her friends before opening them again. “Nothing in particular,” she calmly replied.

Midoriya tried again. “Hmm but it seemed like you were looking in that direction-”

What sounded like a fire alarm, loud and intrusive, rang across the cafeteria, setting all the students on edge.

‘Security level 3 has been breached. Students, please promptly evacuate,’ a disembodied female voice voice, urgent and crisp, announced on the speakers. The hundreds of students in the cafeteria promptly panicked and ran to the exit, abandoning their lunches.

“Level 3 security means someone’s infiltrated the school grounds! This hasn’t happened in three years!” someone yelled as they ran by.

Uraraka grabbed onto Rukina’s hand and ran with the crowd, Midoriya and Iida following close behind. As soon as they made it into the hallway, they received a grim reminder of the dire situation. The hall was flooded with an ocean of students, all trying to evacuate at the same time, all panicking and frightened, not knowing what to do. As soon as they entered that crowd, they too were swept away by the current. Despite Uraraka’s efforts, her hand slipped away from Rukina’s and Uraraka was carried away by another wave of fearful students. Midoriya fell behind and got lost, drowning in the crowd. Rukina tried to orient herself, but that was almost impossible with all this shoving and pushing. Trying to keep calm, she searched the crowd for her friends until she saw a familiar head of blue hair being shoved into the windows of the hallway. Oh, thank goodness Iida was tall enough that she could see him over the others. Sending a jab to her right and an elbow to her left, she shoved herself toward Iida.

“Iida!”

He turned in surprise at her voice. His glasses were gone, having fallen off from all the rough handling. “Rukina, I looked out the window and it’s just the press, but no one realizes and they’re too busy panicking!” Iida yelled, but his yells were almost drowned out by that of the crowd. His point was perfectly illustrated. “I have a plan but I need Uraraka.”

“You need to get to Uraraka so she can make you float, right?!” Rukina asked, voice raised so he could hear her.

“Yes, but the crowd’s in the way!”

“How much do you weigh?!”

“Huh?” Did Iida hear her correctly? What a bizarre question! “What did you just say?!”

“I can throw you to Uraraka by using my quirk! I can move something as long as I’m touching it and I’ll have better control if I know how much you weigh!” she shouted over the overbearing background yells.

“78 kg!”

‘Ok,’ Rukina thought as her brain’s cogs automatically started turning and calculating. ‘So to temporarily go against the gravity, there needs to be an equal and opposite force acting on the object. Let’s try…’

Rukina grabbed onto Iida’s arm, activating her quirk. ‘765 Newtons up,’ she thought and literally lifted him off the ground. ‘Ok, that seems about right.’ His body felt weightless, as the gravitational forces seemed to be nullified. She spotted Uraraka nearby, who was also being shoved by the crowd ‘Now, to get him to Uraraka… let’s add around 650 Newtons forward and up.’

“Sorry, but it might not be as smooth as you’d like it to be,” she warned Iida as she heaved. “Uraraka, Iida needs you to float him! Head’s up!!!”

As soon as Rukina let go of him, the weightless sort of feeling Iida temporarily experienced disappeared. He soared through the air, but it wasn’t long before gravity acted on him again and made him start losing altitude. Right before he was going to crash land on top of many unsuspecting students’ heads, Uraraka was able to slap his hand, activating her quirk too. Iida jumped into action, lifted the pants leg of his calves, and used his Engine to shoot himself to a spot above the exit, where everyone can see him.

“EVERYONE IT’S OK!” he roared over the hundreds of panicked voices. “IT’S OK! IT’S JUST THE PRESS! YOU’RE AT UA! LET’S CONDUCT OURSELVES IN A DIGNIFIED MANNER!”

Those words were like magic. Those beside the window looked out and confirmed. The yelling died down. Everyone calmed down after realizing it was just the press. All the pushing and shoving stopped.

Thanks to Iida, order returned once more.

Eventually, everything got sorted when the police arrived and shooed away the press. Class began shortly after.

“Alright, class president, start us off,” Yaoyorozu began, gesturing to Midoriya at front podium.

“Uh...” Midoriya stood in front of the classroom, nervous as can be as 20 pairs of eyes stared up at him expectantly. He gulped, and finalized his thoughts. “I need to say that I think Iida would be more suited for the job.” His nerves started to quiet down, enough for him to smile as he explained his reasoning. “You were able to unify people so cooly, and it’s my judgement that Iida becoming class president is the right choice.”

The rest of the class murmured in agreement, all having been there to see Iida calm down the situation at lunch.

“Whatever, as long as you guys decide a class president.” Aizawa couldn’t care less as he lazily lay in his sleeping bag.

Iida proudly got out of his seat. “If it’s the wish of the class president, then I will gladly take his place!” he enthusiastically said as the class welcomed him into his new role.

“Alright, now that that’s taken care of,” Aizawa said as everyone returned to their seats. He climbed out of his sleeping bag and took his place at the podium. “For the foundational skills of heroics we’ll study today, it was decided that you’ll be supervised by a three man team, consisting of me, All Might, and another person.” He cleared his throat. The shelves containing the costumes opened. “Be the hero everyone needs, whether if it’s a flood or disaster. It’s the trial of rescue. The training area is fairly far away, so we’ll get there by bus.”

They quickly got changed, excited about what today’s rescue lesson would cover. Even the bus trip to the area was full of excitement. Some of their classmates took the time to introduce themselves to the others. Kirishima, the friendly redhead that restrained Bakugo during lunch, could harden his skin. Asui (“Call me Tsu”) had many physical characteristics similar to a frog’s (“Ribbit”). Navel-laser guy, Aoyama, attempted to brag about his quirk but was quickly shot down by the pink-skinned Ashido, who pointed out Aoyama’s stomach aches. The highlight, though, was seeing the always-tough-boy-attitude Bakugo get teased. Electric-guy Kaminari went full savage when he called Bakugo’s personality “redolent as it is of a turd getting steamed in sewage”. Rukina faintly smiled, amused, as Uraraka laughed beside her.

When they got off the bus and entered the dome like structure in front of them, they were greeted by quite a scene that looked more like a theme park than a rescue zone. A figure in a space suit made his appearance and stepped in front of the class. He must be the “other person” that Aizawa said would be supervising this event. He began speaking, his voice welcoming.

“My name is Thirteen and this is a practical training area that I created to simulate all kinds of accidents and natural disasters. There are flood wrecks, landslides, fires, and many more areas here,” Thirteen explained. Midoriya and Uraraka perked up as soon as they saw the hero, immediately recognizing him and gushing over how he’s a gentlemanly hero who specializes in disaster relief.

“Unfortunately, All Might will not be joining us today, but we’ll still continue on,” Thirteen said as he began introducing the exercise to the class. “My quirk is called ‘Black Hole’. No matter what matter gets sucked into its vortex, it will turn into dust. It may be perfect for removing rubble and debris, but it’s also a quirk that could very much kill someone at the same time, just like all of your quirks,” he gestured to the class.

“Don’t forget that each of you possesses a quirk that can go awry. One wrong step is all it takes to be able to kill others accidently,” Thirteen explained. Rukina’s heart skipped a beat and she uncomfortably swallowed, but unnoticed by everyone else. Thirteen continued, “During Mr Aizawa’s quirk apprehension test, you learned the upper limits of your quirks. During All Might’s trial of battle, you learned the dangers of brandishing that power against another person.

“My lesson today will teach you how to wield your quirks for the sake of human life! Emphatically, your quirks do not exist to hurt other people!” Thirteen emphasized. “Please leave this exercise fully understood that your quirks existed to help people!”

Midoriya and Uraraka clenched their fists in excitement, fully ready to start the lesson.

“That is all! You have my gratitude for listening so patiently!” Thirteen concluded.

Suddenly, a sort of purple fog appeared in front of the water fountain. It quickly grew large enough to be the size of a door. The hairs on Rukina’s neck rose as people, menacing and sinister, traveled through the fog like portal.

‘These… are these pro heroes who will be helping us carry out the trial of rescue?’ Rukina hopefully thought, as if some part of her mind wanted to ignore the ill will she felt coming from the new arrivals. The tension in the atmosphere was powerful, like how you can feel the humidity before a tornado strikes.

Aizawa was first to react. “Stay together and don’t move!” he commanded. “Thirteen, protect the students! These are villains!”

The most bizarre looking one had multiple decoration-like hands gripping his body. He glanced around, as if looking for a specific person. How could he see with that hand covering his face. Whose hands those were, Rukina didn’t want to know.

“Where is he?” the villain with multiple hands spoke in a raspy voice. “We went through all this trouble… and rustled up so many of us to bring along. You can’t tell me All Might, the symbol of peace, isn’t here.” The multiple handed villain continued, as if casually talking about the weather, “I wonder if he’ll show up if we kill the kids.”

Aizawa got into battle stance, pulling his goggles on, readying his scarves for combat and restrainment.

The students of Class 1A began to grow uneasy as panic began to take place.

“Mr Thirteen, what about the intruder alarm sensors?!” the always intelligent Yaoyorozu questioned.

Rukina’s mind worked, thinking hard. ‘Today sure sure is unlucky. First the press show up on school grounds, causing a ruckus…’ Then it clicked for her.

“This morning, the press entered school grounds! The villains must have broken through at the same time and used the press to cover up their footsteps!” Rukina yelled.

“An isolated space away from the school building at the same time that a class is scheduled,” Rukina heard a familiar cool voice speak. “They must have some solid objective. This isn’t an ambush without some carefully planned scheme behind it,” Todoroki finished.

“Thirteen, do the evacuation procedure and try calling the school!” Aizawa ordered. “I’ll take them on and buy us some time!” He stared ahead at his opponents, unwavering. “ Don’t worry about me! I have more than a few tricks up my sleeves.”

And he took off, jumping headfirst into the group of villains. Rukina followed Thirteen as he lead Class 1A towards the entrance, ready to escape-.

“I’m afraid I cannot allow that.” The same dark fog appeared in front of the group. Slowly, it materialized roughly into the shape of a person, murderous intent clear in his yellow eyes. “We were informed that All Might would be here, but it appears that he is not. Has something changed?

“You will be scattered, and tortured.” The dark fog making up his body spread with the speed of wildfire, consuming everything in darkness. The black mist continued to talk, as if referencing pigs to the slaughter. “And slain.”
When the black mist wrapped around Rukina, it was as if all light were swallowed. She was left in absolute darkness, only hearing the panicked screams of her friends. “Uraraka!” she hurriedly called, “Midoriya! Iida!”

All of a sudden, light reappeared, temporarily blinding her unadjusted eyes. When she took in her surroundings, she realized she was free falling as gravity took its toll on her. Thankfully, she wasn’t very high off the ground, perhaps just the height of a story and a half. With a flick of her wrist, the air surrounding her body kicked into action. A gentle tornado like formation swirled around her, reducing her falling speed. She landed gracefully on her feet, the miniature tornado dissipating. Wondering where everyone else was, she quickly looked around, but all she could see were debris from buildings and fallen rocks. Collapsed terrain surrounded the architectural remains.

She must be in the landslide zone. Was she alone? Surely not.

“Well, look at what we have here.” She heard a male voice speak from behind her. She turned around and found herself faced with a horde of various people climbing over the rubble of the landslide zone, villainous glints in their bloodthirsty eyes. Some wielded swords and various other blades. Others were mutants and freely waved around the guns or ropes attached to their arms and the like.

“We got lucky,” the same voice from before continued, belonging to a particularly murderous looking male with the face of a lion. He looked her up and down, like a butcher admiring a piece of meat before he sliced it up, like a hunter admired his caught rabbit before slitting its throat. His yellow, cat-like eyes twinkled. He smiled, showing off his white teeth and fangs to match with his lion-like mane. “We get to play with such a sweet little thing.”

Rukina’s blue eyes stared back without fear. Although this was her first time dealing with several villains by herself, her nerves remained calm. After all, how different could this be, compared to the training she had to endure before enrolling into UA.

“Well, what are we waiting for?! Let’s rip her apart!” the Lion roared and began the assault. The horde of villains sprinted towards Rukina, all charging her at once with blades raised and claws out. Rukina made no move to get out of the way. Instead, she watched from her spot and carefully analyzed her opponent's’ movements, trying to anticipate any attack patterns or see who will strike first as the villains closed the distance between them.

The first villain to attack transformed her hand into a gun. She carefully aimed at Rukina’s cheek and fired. The villain excitedly watched in glee, expecting the overly calm look to be replaced with terror and agony on that doll like face once the bullets pierced her. The bullets sliced through the air, ready to blast a hole in Rukina’s mouth, only to stop in their tracks when they hit her. As soon as they made contact with her cheek, like light hitting a mirror, they were reflected right back towards the villain, causing her to scramble to dodge the projectiles. She rolled off to the side, surprised and shaken. As soon as she regained her footing, she saw a glimpse of blonde hair, a flash of pink skirt, and felt the force of a truck slamming into her as Rukina drove her fist into the villain’s stomach. The villain fell to the ground, knocked out cold.

The second villain struck. He mutated his fingers into metal cords able to bend to his will. Like snakes, with the speed of a cobra, they wrapped themselves around Rukina, like pythons would. Before he could tighten his grip, the cords around her fell loose, being sent away as if some sort of force pushed them off of her without her moving a muscle. In the moment that it took for him to get over his shock, it was too late for him. The last thing he saw before unconsciousness were those calm blue eyes, looking at him as if his attack didn’t even phase her. The last thing he felt before being knocked out cold on the ground was the strength of a dozen professional boxer punches put into the one striking his gut.

After seeing two of their comrades being defeated so quickly, the rest of the villains became uneasy.

“Squad Leader, what should we do?” one asked, clearly unsettled, “It’s like she has a force field or something.”

The Lion male clenched his fist. “You small fry fall back for now,” he commanded, “No matter what sort of force field it is, it will be no match for the strength of my claws and teeth!” He then smirked, his bright long fangs poking out of his mouth. “Watch me as I bite her to death.”

He pounced at her. The muscles on his arm tensed as his claws prepared to strike her, to rip her stomach to shreds. As soon as the sharp tips met her, like bugs hitting a window, they bounced off in the opposite direction. The Lion narrowed his eyes in concentration and swiftly moved to the side, just barely dodging the punch that Rukina threw at him. At this close distance, he tried to analyze her. Her arm itself, her whole body in fact, was toned yes, but not muscular. Certainly not muscular enough to knock out two of his men with a single punch to the gut each. What exactly was her quirk? Super strength?

Rukina followed, keeping her eyes on her target as he dodged to the side. ‘Alright,’ she thought, preparing for another punch. ‘Let’s try a force of four thousand Newtons forward again.’

She revved her arm back, and struck, aiming her fist for the Lion’s shoulder. But it seemed like this one was different, smarter and more experienced, compared to the others that she already defeated. Just before the punch hit him, the Lion ducked out of the way. Instead of landing on her target, Rukina’s fist hit the large block of rubble behind him, causing it to explode into smaller pieces.

‘That’s strange,’ the Lion thought as he observed her some more, ‘No way was that punch strong enough to crush such a big boulder. It doesn’t seem like super strength.’

A third punch came and the Lion dropped down just in time to feel her fist graze his mane-like hair.

“It seems that she’s only using her hands to attack. The others’ attacks must have been stopped because they also tried to hit her upper body. Whatever her quirk is, it might only be confined to her upper half,” the Lion thought, crouched on all fours on the ground, “So if I attack from below, she won’t be able to hit me.” His teeth clamped around her calf, expecting to sink into soft flesh. But, as all other attacks were, this one was futile too. As soon as his teeth touched the outside of her boot, his mouth was forced open by some sort of unknown force, even though Rukina didn’t move a muscle.

“What the hell?” At that moment, the Lion realized the futility of the whole situation. ‘Who is this kid?’ he thought, then corrected himself as Rukina spun around and struck her foot into his abdomen. ‘No. I’m wrong. It’s better to ask what is this monster?’

The force of the kick was enough to send him flying through the air. He crash landed on a pile of rubble and moved no more.

The other villains watching this exchange gasped, scared out of their witts.

“Just what are you?!”

“Squad Leader! Wake up! Are you ok?!”

“What the hell is your quirk? A force field and super strength?”

“Not quite,” Rukina replied, deciding to humour them a little, “It’s called controlling vectors.”

RUKINA YAGI. Quirk: Vector Control. By touch, she can manipulate vectors in terms of both direction and magnitude. When she’s defending, she usually reflects any oncoming vector traveling at her. What makes this possible is her massive calculating prowess. The drawbacks are… who knows?

Regathering her thoughts, she sighed as her gaze landed on the unconscious Lion. Another one down, but this was dragging on for too long. She wondered what her other classmates were doing. Were they alright? Were they fighting too? She’d better regroup with someone soon and figure out what to do from there, but first, she had to finish this fight with the villain group.

And apparently, the remaining members had other ideas as they all scattered, their tails tucked between their legs, quite literally for some of them. Rukina sighed, annoyed as she began pursuit. At least they could have saved her the trouble of chasing after them.

***
When Shoto Todoroki arrived at the landslide zone, he expected an ambush by the villains. He expected several villains to gang up on him and make it a one on many fight. What he didn’t expect, however, was that the villains who ambushed him were incredibly weak. When they showed themselves, with a gesture of his hand through the air, a surge of cold swept through. Todoroki froze them all to the ground as soon as they warped here, immobilizing them.

Honestly, they were so weak that they couldn’t even break free from this ice.

Another thing that he expected as he fought: reinforcements coming. What he didn’t expect was the “reinforcement” being a single villain. That villain ran towards him strangely, as if he didn’t notice that Todoroki was there. The villain was frantic, constantly looking over his shoulder, as if he were being chased by something. Todoroki sighed, icy breath fanning out as the warm air from his lungs cooled. He dug his foot into the ground and sent a stream of ice in the direction of the villain. Before the frost could reach the villain, a flash of blonde and pink dropped from above and knocked him out with a swift kick to the back. Well, at least now Todoroki knew what the villain was being chased by.

She straightened her back leisurely, satisfied that she managed to catch every one of the villains that tried to run from her. Rukina let out a frosty breath. Was it just her or did the air suddenly drop a few degrees? She looked around.

Ocean blue met mismatched grey and aqua.

‘Oh, it’s you!’ she thought.

‘Hmph, it’s you,’ he thought.

Chapter Text

Ocean blue met mismatched grey and aqua.

‘Oh, it’s you!’ she thought.

‘Hmph, it’s you,’ he thought.

Their gaze broke off as Rukina looked around, seeing dozens of villains encased in ice, unable to move.

To be honest, Rukina was a bit jealous of Shoto Todoroki. With just a single wave of his hand, he could freeze and immobilize dozens of enemies all at once while she had to deal with them one by one. Even if their quirk proficiencies may have been roughly the same, his effectiveness was on a whole other level than hers. While she knocked out her opponents, he kept his still conscious, making it possible for them to answer any question of his if he needed information.

‘He’s strong,’ Rukina admitted to herself, ‘Very strong.’

“Your quirk is better than mine at restraining people by the masses,” she said. As usual, she received no answer as he ignored her.

Instead, he turned to one of the restrained villains and crouched down to speak with him face to face. “At this rate, you guys will gradually succumb to death by necrosis,” he said, his tone even colder than the ice surrounding the landslide zone. “But since I’m aiming to become a hero, I want to avoid doing horrifying things like that as much as possible.” He narrowed his eyes. “What is the basis of your plan to kill All Might?”

Tears formed in the villain’s eyes, as if he were about to cry from fright.

“It’s ok,” Rukina said. “If you answer the question, we’ll let you go. But if you don’t,” her eyelids lowered. Her tone became darker, more sinister. “Bad things will happen.”

The villain’s eyes, dilating with terror, the same frightful eyes of a wild animal stuck in a cage, glanced at her, then at Todoroki, then at her, then- suddenly shifted to focus on the space between them. The villain’s eyes widened in shock and hope.

“Take this, you bitch!” A voice cried from behind them.

Rukina’s reflexes set her quirk on reflection just as the shiny blade of an axe made contact with the back of her head. The momentum and force vectors of the axe did a 180. The weapon, as if made of rubber, bounced right back, leaving the surprise attacker quite appalled.

‘Honestly,’ Rukina thought, ‘What kind of idiot announces their sneak attack?’

She grabbed the surprise attacker and shoved him at Todoroki. “Hey Todoroki, freeze this one too!” Before she even finished her sentence, frost crept along the ground and encased the attacker in an ice prison, allowing only his face some freedom.

“Time is ticking,” Todoroki reminded the first villain they questioned. The villain’s eyes widened, shocked that the surprise attack didn’t even phase the UA students.

“At this rate, your cells really will start to die, so start answering,” Rukina said. She knelt, sitting on her knees, her skirt fanning out behind her. Face to face with the villain frozen to the ground, she tried again. “What is your plan to kill All Might?”

“P-Please don’t hurt me!” the villain sobbed, probably pissing himself right now. “I don’t want to die! I still want to live!”

“Then answer our damn question!” Rukina’s patience was running thin. Time really was ticking, and not just for the villain. Mr Aizawa was probably still fighting at the central plaza against dozens of villains by himself, and Rukina could only hope that the rest of her friends were not injured yet, or worse. But before she could run to her friends’ aid and help them, she had to know what she’s up against. “Why do you think you can kill All Might?”

“W-We have a secret weapon!” The villain cried out, tears spilling down his cheeks.

“Really now? What is this weapon?”

“It’s called Nomu! His strength and speed are said to be equal to All Might’s! He was created for the sole purpose of immobilizing All Might! Then Kurogiri’s job is to create a portal to cut him in half! That’s all I know, I swear! That’s all Boss Shigaraki told us!”

“Is that so? Kurogiri is the one that creates the warp portals while Shigaraki is the one with the hand covering his face, right?” Rukina asked. The villain nodded frantically, his tears freezing to his cheeks. She turned to Todoroki. “I think he’s telling the truth.”

“I suppose the boss behind this didn’t deem it necessary to give more information to the small fry villains,” Todoroki added, wispy ice breath fanning out.

Rukina blinked, surprised that he actually replied to her this time. She turned back to the villain.

“Thank you for your information.” She raised her fist and struck the villain’s temple, knocking him out.

“Alright Todoroki, we’ll knock them all out first before you unfreeze them so they don’t die. Then we’ll go to the central plaza to back up the others. If they’re telling the truth, then Mr Aizawa’s probably fighting that Nomu thing right now.”

“Don’t order me around,” his cold voice responded.

***
This just was not Kirishima’s day. First, he had to squeeze his way through reporters crowding around UA’s entrance. Next, he had to hold on to Bakugo with all his strength to keep him from going on a killing spree. His lunchtime was rudely interrupted when the reporters from before broke through the school gates. During the evacuation procedure, he was run over as other students panicked, trampling him. Then, Class 1A was attacked and split up for the trail of rescue and he had to fight for his life. Thankfully, the villains that he fought were not very strong, so it didn’t take much to restrain them. Despite this unfortunate day, Kirishima faced his obstacles with a manly smile and tried to think positively. Now, he and Bakugo had finished with the horde of villains that came after them and were making their way to the central plaza to back up Aizawa. As he followed Bakugo, he glanced to the side a few times in case any villains may surprise them, but instead of villains, he caught sight of two familiar figures also making their way to Central Plaza. Although they were wearing their hero costumes instead of their school uniforms, Kirishima had no problem recognizing his classmates.

“Hey! Yagi! Todoroki! Over here!” he called.

“Kirishima and Bakugo!” Rukina replied as the two pairs merged into a group of four making its way to Central Plaza. She decided to update them on the situation. “The League of Villains have a weapon or something called Nomu. They say that Nomu is just as strong as All Might and the villains are confident that they can kill him.”

“Ha!” Bakugo laughed. “No matter what it is, I’ll just blow it all up!”

A huge explosion from ahead shook the ground beneath their feet. Debris and rubble were shot so high that they reached the ceiling.

“Guess someone beat you to it, Bakugo,” Rukina said.

They hurried their pace, a sense of urgency coming to mind. Central Plaza came into view, just ahead, the dust gradually clearing.

When the smoke finally dissipated, they saw just how dire the circumstance was. All Might himself was there, yes, but the normal sense of comfort that they should have felt in his presence was replaced with dread due to the situation. All Might was in a predicament. The large black creature, built with muscle, was currently digging his fingers into All Might’s ribs. Blood oozed out, staining his white shirt. Back when he attempted to throw the Nomu creature into the ground, All Might didn’t expect the warping villain to be able to teleport half of the creature’s body out of the way. Now, half of Nomu’s body came from a warp gate behind him, effectively holding him in place. He desperately tried to claw at Nomu’s fingers, but the creature’s grip was too strong to budge. If he didn’t do something soon about this predicament, his fate would take an unfortunate turn.

“All Might!” a familiar voice shouted. Rukina whipped her head to see Midoriya sprinting his way to Central Plaza, desperation clear in his green eyes. However, it was as if the warping villain was prepared for Midoriya. The Warper created another portal out of purple fog directly in front of the unsuspecting Midoriya, expecting him to run head first into the fog and be warped to another place. Or perhaps to be cut in half, like they planned for All Might.

Bakugo was the first to leap into action, propelling himself right into his attack. “Out of the way, Deku!” he shouted. Bakugo’s palm landed on the warping villain, setting off a large explosion as the purple fog in front of Midoriya dissipated, sparing him. The Warper crashed to the ground with Bakugo on top of him, now immobilized unless he wanted his brains blown out.

Todoroki was quick to follow, sending a trail of frost that encased half of Nomu’s body. Kirishima jumped into the air, aiming a punch at Shigaraki. Rukina leapt into action, commanding the vectors of the air molecules around her to work together and give her a boost. She arrived at All Might’s side in one leap, and wasted no time to give Nomu’s arm a solid punch, cracking it along with the ice. Now that Nomu’s grip was quite loosened, she immediately wrapped her hands around All Might’s large forearm.

“Sorry Mr All Might, but I’m going to throw you!” she warned as she heaved, sending him through the air. Like a cat, he landed on his feet in front of the newly arrived students. Propelled by the air currents, Rukina landed neatly beside him, facing the villains.

And just like that, the tide was turned…

A few small explosions went off under Bakugo’s hand, threatening Kurogiri trapped under him. “Don’t you move! The second you so much as twitch, I’ll load you with a nice explosion, right here and now!”

“That’s not very heroic,” Kirishima teased. Rukina stifled a laugh.

“Shut up!”

… so why doesn’t it feel like they’ve won already?

The multiple handed villain, Shigaraki, appeared to not be phased at all. “Nomu, go ahead and finish Explosion Boy over there,” he spoke calmly, as if Nomu currently wasn’t immobilized, half his body encased in ice. “We’re rescuing our Warp Gate.”

Nomu began to pull himself up. His frozen limbs cracked under the strain, breaking off. Even though his body was whittling away with the ice, he remained unphased, as if he were incapable of feeling pain, as if he were a mindless machine programmed to blindly obey orders.

All Might immediately reacted. “Stand back, all of you!”

In a few seconds, Nomu’s stumps, remainders of his limbs, started to sprout and grow, like trees made of flesh and bone. First the stark-white bone, then the fleshy muscle twisted and wrapped around the bone, then the ebony skin encased the muscle, completing the regeneration. Nomu stood, frighteningly good as new, completely recovered.

All Might grit his teeth in confusion, eyes narrowing in confusion as they focused on Nomu. “Wasn’t his quirk a Shock Absorption quirk?”

“I never said that was the full extent of his abilities. As you can see, he also has Super Regeneration,” Shigaraki said as he replied to All Might. His tone was almost eerily playful, like a child bragging about his new and expensive toy. “Nomu is a human sandbag artificially crafted to withstand you at your one hundred percent.”

Nomu righted himself on his feet again, then set his eyes on Bakugo. Rukina’s eyes widened, suddenly realizing the immediate danger that Bakugo was in. Before she could do anything, faster than the eye could see, Nomu leapt, and punched. Violent roaring winds whipped at them, the aftershock of Nomu’s punch on the atmosphere, just like those caused by All Might’s Detroit Smash. The amount of power this thing had was simply ridiculously scary. Bits of the ground broke off, raining into the air.

“Bakugo!” she screamed as her thoughts whirled, old wounds threatening to reopen... No, not this again... A cold shiver ran down her spine... Enough suffering has happened because of my incompetence already… She whipped her head around, desperately searching for Bakugo, desperately wishing to see him alright, desperately scared of the bloody mess that she might find instead... Please, no more.

“What? Kacchan is here?” she heard Midoriya say from beside her. She snapped her head to her side, eyes widening upon seeing Bakugo perfectly fine right beside her. Relief washed over her, until she turned to face in Nomu’s direction again. She looked, she saw, and she realized what happened. In that split second, before Nomu reached Bakugo, All Might was the one who pushed Bakugo out of the way without a second thought to his own safety. Nomu looked around in confusion, realizing he missed his target.

Pushed back one hundred meters, knocked through a wall, forearms bruised and battered, coughing up blood, All Might still stood on his two feet. Despite his wounds, he was still smiling, wordlessly reassuring them. Rukina felt admiration swell in her chest. No wonder Midoriya looked up to him so much. His strength, speed, judgement, his compassion… it was no surprise that the title of No 1 hero belonged to him, the skyscraper towering over all the others. Rukina’s thoughts ran. As long as All Might was on their side, they could take the villains. And it seemed that the others were thinking the same thing.

“It’s three on six,” Todoroki pointed out.

“And Kacchan exposed the shadow guy’s weakness,” Midoriya added.

“All Might, we’ll fight these villains alongside you and prove to you our worth,” Rukina reassured.

Just as she finished her sentence, Nomu set his eyes on Bakugo, locating him after a few moments of searching. Nomu straightened up and turned to face the students, that constant dopey yet unsettling smile on his face. With All Might still recovering from the previous blow in the distance, set on following through with his order to finish off Bakugo, Nomu kicked off from the ground towards his target so quickly that he was a blur.

Immediately, Rukina threw herself in front of Bakugo, shielding him, desperate to protect him as Nomu screeched, steadily and speedily approaching. Rukina grit her teeth, and raised her hand, fingers outstretched, against Nomu just as he drew his arm back to prepare for a punch.

As his fist collided with her palm, a violent raging sea of wind emitted from the point of impact. Her mind whirled, furiously hammering out calculations to nullify this colossal force. This force, this absolute brutality, was stronger than anything that Rukina had ever experienced before. Air currents whipped at her face, and she was reminded of the feeling of the wind on a rollercoaster, but a hundred times stronger. All the hair on the back of her neck stood up, from both fright and adrenaline. She was becoming light headed, barely able to breathe as the brutal wind around her almost knocked the breath out of her. Her tiny palm trembled against Nomu, and she saw that his huge fist shook along with hers. Sweat beaded on her forehead. It was all she could do to hold on.

With every bit of her concentration and mind power, trembling madly, she willed her body to work with her, willed her quirk to work with her against this fierce mass of pure strength that she was facing. With her battle cry, she focused her energy, and pushed. The violent air currents from the collision came to a stop and Nomu was sent crashing away from her, away from the students.

“Yagi,” Bakugo murmured from behind her, too shocked to remember to swear and yell.

“Woah, amazing, Yagi,” Kirishima said with awe in his voice. “You blew that guy away like it was nothing.”

“N-no, that’s not it. That Nomu… thing is strong.” Rukina gasped out. Only a few seconds had passed since Nomu leapt at them, though it felt like a thousand to Rukina. She panted. Beads of sweat rolled down her temple. Pain shot through the palm that deflected the attack, shaking and trembling. She gripped it with her other hand and brought it to her chest and hunched over it, cradling it against her body. “One punch from it...” she swallowed the lump in her throat, “One punch was enough to...”

… bring her to near her limit.

“Yagi?” Midoriya asked, concerned.

She inhaled to steady her breathing, calming her thoughts. She mustn’t scare them even more. She exhaled, straightening up. Her arms fell back to her sides, although her palm still pounded painfully.

“No, I’m fine,” she lied. Her eyes fell back on All Might, still badly bruised in the distance. Concern rose for him. “We should be more worried about All Might over there.” Their attention was drawn away from her (thankfully) and focused on All Might again.

“They’re outnumbered,” Midoriya pointed out.

“No you guys.” Rukina tried her hardest to keep her voice level. “We may be able to take on the other two, but the Nomu creature is too strong.”

“These guys are outrageous, but if we give All Might some support, then we’ll send them packing, no problem,” Kirishima confidently said, clanging his hardened fists together. Rukina furrowed her eyebrows. How could she make them understand without frightening them?

“No!” All Might stopped them. “Please escape! I’m thankful for your help earlier, but now I’ll be ok!” He gave them a thumbs up as he kept his gaze focused on the villains in front of him. “All you need to do is watch a Pro show you how it’s done!”

Shigaraki’s response was immediate, quickly giving out orders to his companions. “Nomu, Kurogiri, do your thing.” He turned to face the students. The light that fell on him illuminated all the lines of the hand gripping his face, deepening them. “I’ll deal with the kids.”

All Might readied himself, like a bull ready to charge, staring steadily at the villains. He exhaled, and it was as if steam was coming out of his nostrils.

Shigaraki broke off into a sprint towards Rukina’s group, eager to shed blood, eager to kill. “Let’s clear the game and return victorious!” he said with glee in his voice.

“He’s coming! Brace yourselves!” Kirishima warned, hardened skin at the ready. Bakugo raised his palm, preparing to set off his explosions. Midoriya tensed, eyeing the steadily approaching opponent.

But Shigaraki had not even reached them when he was blown away by a tremendous wind, raging and violent, sweeping across the grounds. Rukina’s hair and clothes whipped against her, and she was forced to crouch to avoid losing her footing in the tornado like force. Her eyes traced to the wind’s origin, and found All Might sending punch after punch, blow after blow at Nomu, who matched every attack with his own.

“A full frontal blow for blow?” Midoriya gasped from beside Rukina, arms in front of his face, trying to shield himself from the aftershock winds of the fight.

“It’s shock absorption, not total nullification! It must have a limit!” It was a wonder how All Might’s words could be heard above the raging hurricane.

“He was made to withstand my one hundred percent...?!” The floor around his feet became hot and cracked as he continued to push himself, racing his limit against time.

“... Then I’ll just go beyond that one hundred percent!”

Rukina watched with fright and awe, her jaw slacked. Even from this distance, Rukina could still feel the earth breaking, ground shattering strength and intensity behind every one of All Might’s punches. The ground was steaming. Every hit that All Might delivered was able to make her heart leap in throat, just like how the heartbeat follows the powerful beating of a drum. She was left holding her breath as All Might pummeled the Nomu creature with such vigor, speed, concentration that Nomu’s shock absorbent quirk could not keep up, completely overwhelmed. All she could do, like the other students watching this battle, was lift her arms up to shield her eyes from the dust and pieces of wreckage. All Rukina could do, as she was faced with the strength of All Might’s vigor, energy, spirit, was to keep from being blown away by the vicious winds like the pieces of rubble around her.

“Do you know of what I speak, villain?!” All Might roared as he put every last ounce of energy, every last fiber of his being into the last punch, sinking his fist into Nomu’s stomach.

“PLUS ULTRA!” All Might’s fist seemed to steam with energy. Nomu took the blast, the brunt of the hit, and was sent shooting into the air like a rocket. His body flailed around like a ragdoll as he crashed through the ceiling of the dome building and out of sight.

“Amazing,” Rukina whispered, eyes wide. She thanked the lucky stars that someone as strong as All Might was on their side and not against them.

“What is this? A comic book?” Kirishima asked, bewildered. “It’s like he pounded the shock absorption out of him, the ultimate meathead.”

“So that power was bullshit in the end...” Even Bakugo was amazed. “And he even beat him to a pulp so fast his regeneration couldn’t activate in time.”

And once again, she was reminded of her own incompetence. The gap between her and All Might was the same gap between an ant and a bear, between a bacterium and a shark, between a butterfly and an eagle. Their strengths were oceans apart, mountains apart, worlds apart. Once again, she was reminded of how much she had to work and train in order to become stronger to fill that seemingly endless abyss, the void between their strengths.

And once again, she was reminded of the path that lay ahead of her, the thorny road she must take in order to become the number one hero. To carry out her mother’s dream. To fulfil a promise she made to herself. And, above all else, to find her bastard of a father. To find the answers to her unanswered questions. To fight him with her own strength, sink her fists into him until he becomes a bloody mess, to tear him into shreds because no excuse he could possibly offer is good enough. To personally be the one to end his sorry excuse of a life for what he did to her, for what he did to her mother. All to calm the violent waters of revenge buried deep inside her.

“I really have gotten weaker. In my prime, it would have taken five good punches, tops. Now I threw more than three hundred of those suckers.” All Might admitted. He straightened up, steam still rising from the ground. A charge surged through Rukina’s body, like electricity, but warm and comforting. They were saved.

All Might turned to face the remaining two villains. Steam seemed to evaporate off of his body, probably sheer energy overflowing from his being. “Now then, villain, we both want to end this as soon as possible.”

Shigaraki grit his teeth, clenched his fist, enraged and mocked. “You used cheats,” he growled. “You’ve gotten weaker? You lie, we were totally overpowered! How dare you lay a hand on my Nomu...” It was like he was throwing a tantrum, like an arrogant little boy whose expensive and shiny toy broke on the way back from the store. “There is no way you’re weaker now.” His fingers rose to his neck, furiously scratching. “Did He… Did He lie to me?”

“What’s the matter? Where’d your bravado go? You said you’d ‘clear’ this or something, right?” Rukina heard All Might press on. Blue fire blazed from behind his eyes. His voice deepened, dangerous and threatening. “Try it if you can!”

“That’s All Might for you,” Todoroki said. “Looks like there’s no need for us to fight.”

“We really should be drawing back right now, otherwise we might end up being used as hostages,” Kirishima suggested.

“Well, what are you waiting for?!” All Might’s booming voice echoed. Shigaraki’s fingers wildly scratched his neck. If he continued, he’d probably be drawing blood soon.

“Shigaraki Tomura, please calm yourself,” Kurogiri spoke up to snap him out of it. “If you look more closely, you can clearly see the damage Nomu caused him. Shigaraki, if you and I combine our strengths, we still have a chance of killing him.”

“Yeah. You’re right.” Shigaraki’s hands stopped scratching at the raw skin of his neck. “Let’s defeat this final boss.”

“Let All Might handle the principal offenders,” Kirishima said as he, Bakugo, Todoroki, and Rukina began making their way towards the USJ entrance, but Midoriya still stayed rooted to his spot.

“Midoriya?” Rukina asked, looking over her shoulder. He didn’t reply.

Rukina put a hand on Midoriya’s shoulder, scared that he might run off and face the villains himself. “Midoriya,” she said, “We really should pull back right now.”

He gave no response, still staring with unease and worry written all over his face.

“Midoriya...” Rukina shook his shoulder a little bit, unaware of the thoughts racing in his mind.

In the distance, Kurogiri and Shigaraki launched themselves at All Might. At that moment, Midoriya threw her hand off his shoulder and flung himself towards the heat of the battle, faster than the eye could see.

“Get away from All Might!” he shouted as he approached them, but Shigaraki’s speed matched his, holding his palm up, activating his quirk, with Midoriya on the track to barrel right into it-

A bang rang out as a bullet dug its way into Shigaraki’s outstretched hand.

“So they’ve finally arrived!” All Might said with relief.

Rukina turned to look where All Might was facing. There, above the stairs, beneath the entrance of the dome building, stood the Pro Hero teachers of UA, each in their unique costumes, battle ready.

More shots rained down upon the villains. Kurogiri circled his black mist around Shigaraki, shielding him.

“We might have failed this time, but we’ll get you next time, All Might,” Shigaraki’s threat did not go unheard before he was warped away.

Everything was a blur after that. The police arrived and effectively sorted everything out. The press managed to film the students as they walked out of USJ before they were ushered away. Rukina was relieved to find that, besides Midoriya’s injuries from his own quirk, Uraraka and the rest of her classmates were unharmed. The pain in her own hand from before had subsided. The students were transported back to UA. In the change room, the air hung densely, everyone silently thinking about the day’s events. Rukina almost didn’t hear Uraraka say she was leaving early. Rukina didn’t blame Uraraka for wanting time to herself since Rukina too needed some time alone to think. Her thoughts of the ordeal swarmed her and she replayed the events in her mind.

The arrival of the Pro Heroes... All Might’s battle against Nomu… Nomu’s punch almost bringing her to her limit… Rukina grit her teeth and shook her head. She already knew she had her work cut out for her. She already dwelled on those thoughts enough. She moved on.

Meeting up with Kirishima and Bakugo… Being warped to the landslide zone… Finding Todoroki... Questioning the villains with Todoroki… Knocking out the villains with Todoroki… The look in Todoroki’s eyes as he melted the ice surrounding the knocked out villains… That look in his eyes as he used his left side, his heat side...

She blinked, snapping herself out of her imagination. She finished changing and packed her stuff, quickly out the door of the change room and into the hallway. The door to the male change room closed at the same time as the female one, catching her attention.

And once again, she found herself face to face with that certain boy with the certain ice quirk and certain, beautiful mismatched eyes. He took a glance at her, and turned to walk away, ignoring her.

“Hey, Todoroki! Wait,” she called out, walking quickly to catch up with him down the hallway. He turned a corner, and she followed. She gathered her thoughts. “I have a few questions for you.”

“I don’t have to answer anything.” It was as if he knew what she was going to ask.

“Is there a reason you cover up the left part of your body with ice every time you fight?”

When he remained silent, she pressed on.

“There are three times I’ve seen you fight,” Rukina began. “During the quirk apprehension test on our first day. When we were paired together for the trial of battle a few days ago. When we were put in the landslide zone today and fought the villains. All three of these times, I’ve seen your quirk.”

They turned another corner. Rukina continued, “Even though your quirk gives you both ice and fire, for all three of these times, I’ve only seen you use ice during combat. Is there a reason to that? Is there a reason why you never use fire?”

She quickened her pace, stepping in front of him, blocking his path. He stopped and faced her, his beautiful eyes glaring into her own. The hallway in which they currently stood was empty.

“It’s none of your business.” His usually cool mismatched eyes were burning in cold rage, silently telling her that she’s treading in dangerous waters and that bad things will happen if she presses anymore into this matter. And yet, through all that cold rage, dangerous intimidation, silent aggression threatening her to not dig any deeper, through all that flickered something. Beneath all that lay an emotion he restrained. Rukina could tell that he had been hiding it for years, and thus it would be quite difficult for an untrained eye to pick up…

“You’re in my way,” he harshly said as he pushed past her, leaving her behind as he turned another corner.

… but Rukina picked up on it right away.

To her, he looked sad. So sad and hurt and alone that he couldn’t stand it but didn’t want anyone else to know it.

Rukina knew those eyes.

She saw that look every time she was alone and in front of a mirror.

Those eyes… they were her eyes reflected back at her.

Chapter Text

School was closed the day after the USJ incident, giving the students a day off. But even when the students returned to school after a day of rest and took their seats in the classroom, a sense of terror and gloom still hung about the air like a stink that wouldn’t go away. No one knew how to bring up the class spirits.

Even so, Iida never wavered in his position as class president. The bell for first period rang and Iida stood at the front of the class, behind the raised podium, arms out and gesturing energetically as he barked out instructions to the class.

“All right! Listen, it’s time for the morning’s homeroom period!” Iida commanded. “Take your seats everyone!”

Unfortunately, it seems that he was a bit too eager to carry out his class president duties. He forgot to glance around the classroom and notice that everyone was already at their desks before issuing out the order.

“We are in our seats!” Sero, the tape guy, pointed out. “You’re the only one who’s not.”

After that realization, Iida ruefully made his way to his seat. “Shoot,” he muttered, disappointed with himself.

“Don’t sweat it,” Uraraka reassured him. Rukina reached over Uraraka to pat him on the back.

“Tsu,” Ashido said as leaned back on her seat to face Asui, “who do you think is going to teach homeroom today?”

“Ribbit, Mr Aizawa is supposed to be recovering in the hospital due to his injuries, right?”

Just then, the door rattled open, and a very familiar voice, a very Aizawa voice spoke, “Morning.”

Everyone turned to look at the figure beneath the doorframe. Aizawa, although up on his feet, had his entire face covered with bandages, making him look like a carefully wrapped mummy. Even his eyes were covered by the bandages, and it was a wonder how he could see his students. His wrapped arms were in slings resting across his neck. One thing was for certain though: it was incredibly impressive of him to exit the hospital and teach in his current state.

“MR AIZAWA, YOU’RE BACK TOO SOON!” nearly the whole class unanimously screeched.

“That’s way too pro,” Kaminari gasped in shock.

Iida immediately raised his hand. “Mr Aizawa, you’re alright!”

“Can you really call that alright...?” Uraraka muttered.

Aizawa steadily made his way behind the podium. “Don’t concern yourselves over me.” He cleared his throat. “After all, the battle hasn’t really ended for you yet.”

The heavy atmosphere of gloom darkened even more.

“The battle?” Bakugo repeated.

“You don’t mean...” Midoriya began to get cold sweats.

“More villains?!” Mineta added on.

“UA’s Sports Festival is coming up!” Aizawa finished.

“I KEEP FORGETTING THIS IS AN ACTUAL SCHOOL!” again, almost everyone simultaneously screeched.

“Wait, won’t villains try to infiltrate that too? Would it be alright?”

Aizawa had his answer ready for them. “Actually, since we’re going on ahead with the festival, it shows that the school is confident that it can handle any possible future crisis. I hear police presence will be five times bigger than normal now, for example. What you should be thinking about is the huge opportunity this festival will give you guys. This isn’t some event that will be stopped by a few villains.

“Our sports festival is one of Japan’s biggest events!” Aizawa said, a hint of pride in his usual monotone voice. “In the past, there was a sports festival called the Olympics that united the whole nation under enthusiasm. Now, times have changed and what has taken the place of the Olympics in Japan is the UA Sports Festival!”

Yaoyorozu was quick to grab the point. “The country’s top heroes are all sure to be watching us!”

Aizawa continued, “Naturally, entering the squad of a famous hero will get you higher status and more experience. If you get noticed by a pro, that gives you a chance for a brighter future than if you don’t. You only get this chance once a year, so you can’t overlook it!”

The class burst into excited murmurs.

Rukina leaned over towards Uraraka. “Hey Uraraka...” she began, before catching sight of the look on Uraraka’s face. The usually cute and bubbly Uraraka had her eyebrows furrowed in concentration and determination. A dark aura, chilling and intimidating, surrounded her small body. Uraraka turned her head towards Rukina. When their eyes made contact, Rukina felt a shiver run down her spine.

“Rukina, I will do my best,” a deeper, a comically demonic-like voice spoke through Uraraka.

“Y-yeah. Good luck!” Rukina replied, slightly unnerved as Aizawa began homeroom.

***
When lunchtime came, the hype for the upcoming Sports Festival seemed to have built significantly. A bunch of the guys gathered in the back, eagerly talking about the festival and getting scouted by pros. Rukina could almost literally feel the heat from the aura of excitement and was glad that it replaced the aura of gloominess from the morning.

But a certain girl’s chilling and intimidating aura from this morning seemed to have intensified.

“Hey Uraraka, you alright?” Rukina was concerned.

“Let’s crush this Sports Festival,” Uraraka growled out.

“Woah, everyone’s so pumped,” Midoriya noted.

“You’ve enrolled in UA to become a hero, so getting fired up at this opportunity is only natural!” Iida gestured wildly with his hands, using a series of ridiculous hand motions as if he were doing hand gymnastics. Rukina made her way towards them.

“Iida, you have a habit of doing, um,” she paused to think of a nicer word, “odd hand motions, don’t you?”

“Huh? Why do you ask?” Iida asked, his hands flying around as he spoke.

Rukina deadpanned, then sighed. “Nevermind that, Uraraka seems a little weird right now and I’m a bit worried...”

Speak of the devil (almost literally this time), Uraraka’s demon voice came from behind them. “Deku, Iida,” she growled out, a dark and sinister shadow over her face, “Let’s crush the Sports Festival!”

“Woah Uraraka! Your face! Your face!” Midoriya yelled out, his tone full of surprise. Uraraka turned to the guys excitedly talking at the back of the class.

“Guys, I’m gonna do my best!” she screeched at Kirishima and Sero, punching the air with vigor.

“Yeah!” Kirishima responded excitedly, then added in a smaller voice, “You don’t seem like your usual self...”

“Hey Uraraka,” Rukina’s concern for her dear friend rose. “Let’s go get lunch.” She took Uraraka’s hand and subtly guided her demon-aura-surrounded-friend out of the classroom, Midoriya and Iida following.

As they made their way through the hallways, Uraraka’s demon aura seemed to lessen significantly.

“Sorry,” she apologized, realizing her previous actions, “I guess the nervousness for the festival just overflowed and… I realize this is a huge opportunity for pros to scout us and I really need to do well so I can become a hero.”

“Uraraka, I don’t think I’ve ever asked you, but why do you want to become a hero?” Midoriya asked.

Her usually pink cheeks reddened. Her hand raised to the back of her head and scratched absentmindedly, guiltily. A sort of embarrassed smile appeared on her face. “I want to make money.”

“You want to be a hero for money?!” Midoriya questioned, surprised.

“Yeah, I guess ultimately,” Uraraka admitted, putting her hands on her face in an attempt to hide her red, ashamed cheeks. “Sorry, I know it sounds lame, like I’m not being pure as a hero… and Iida’s here doing it for high-minded principles and stuff, so I’m so embarrassed!”

“Don’t be!” Iida said frantically, desperate to comfort her. Rukina wasn’t sure if Iida noticed or anything, but his arms were flying about as if he were doing super high speed yoga. “What on earth is there not to admire about applying yourself to aim for a comfortable life?”

“Yeah, but it is unexpect-” Midoriya tried to say, before Rukina sent him a glare to stop talking.

Uraraka continued to shuffle uncomfortably on her feet. Her eyes seemed to find interest in the floor. “My parents have a construction company, but there’s just no real work, and we’re flat broke! And my parents deserve better than this...” And then she said in a smaller, meeker voice, “I probably shouldn’t be telling anyone about things like this but...”

Rukina put her hand on Uraraka’s shoulder, causing her warm brown eyes to meet understanding blue ones.

“Uraraka, don’t worry about it,” Rukina assured her. “We’re not judging you or anything like that, we’re your friends. In fact, we really appreciate you opening up to us about these things.” She then turned to the guys, sending a threatening glare at them. “Right guys?”

“R-right!”

Uraraka visibly relaxed. “Thanks you guys.”

“Your parents have a construction place, right?” Iida asked. Uraraka nodded.

“With a quirk like yours, it’d be super beneficial if you get permission to use it in public,” Midoriya offered.

“I know right?! That’s what I told my dad!” Uraraka said with renewed energy, “And he just said that it was more important for me to achieve my own dreams instead. But...” Something seemed to flash behind those warm brown hues. Her brows unfurrowed, as her hand clenched in focus around her skirt. She exhaled, turning to face her three friends.

“I’m going to become a hero to earn money, without fail,” Uraraka vowed, determination filling her being with purpose. “I’m going to give my mom and dad the easy life they deserve!”

“Uraraka, that’s amazing of you,” Rukina said genuinely. “You aren’t doing it for yourself, but you’re doing it to help the people you love. I think that’s a very pure reason for wanting to become a hero.”

“Uraraka, bravo!” Iida agreed.

“OH THERE YOU ARE! MIDORIYA MY BOY!” They all jumped at the booming voice that came from behind them. All Might had just entered from around the corner of the hallway, holding a small lunch box wrapped in baby blue cloth.

Then, in an unexpected meek voice, the No 1 hero said “Want to eat together?”

“You sound like a teenage girl!” Uraraka snorted at All Might, overwhelmed at the cuteness as Midoriya followed him to his office. Rukina, Uraraka, and Iida made their way to the cafeteria and lined up for their lunch.

“I wonder… what’s going on with Deku?” Uraraka asked.

“I heard he jumped in the second All Might was getting attacked,” Iida replied, “It might have something to do with that.”

“He did,” Rukina confirmed, “After All Might beat the Nomu creature, we thought that it would be best for us to leave because we might just get in All Might’s way, but Midoriya didn’t move.” Rukina furrowed her eyebrows. Although All Might won against Nomu and could have easily taken down Shigaraki and Kurogiri, Midoriya still looked scared... “And as soon as another villain rushed at All Might, Midoriya jumped in faster than I could see.” Now that I think about it, Midoriya’s quirk is very similar to All Might’s… She paused before continuing, “Now that I think about it, I feel like Midoriya and All Might may have some sort of connection that he didn’t tell us about… ”

At that moment, Rukina felt like she was being watched, and by someone other than Uraraka and Iida, and her sentence trailed off. When she looked around, Rukina’s eyes locked onto a pretty pair. A certain pretty heterochromatic pair whose owner had been trying to avoid her ever since she questioned him about his quirk. As soon as her eyes caught his, Todoroki turned to face away from her, pretending he hadn’t been listening to her conversation.

“Hey Rukina? Are you ok?” Uraraka asked. “Were you just looking at-”

“I’m fine,” Rukina quickly said, quickly enough for Uraraka to raise her eyebrows. “Anyway, I feel like Midoriya and All Might share a connection that we don’t know about.”

“His super strength is a lot like All Might’s,” Iida agreed, “So he might have taken some interest in him.”

Rukina nodded. And Rukina was sure, although he had turned away when their eyes met, that Todoroki was actively listening to their conversation again.

***
The bell rang, signalling the end of the day for the tired students. Rukina swung her bag over her shoulder and joined Uraraka, Iida, and Midoriya as they made their way to the classroom door. But, as soon as Uraraka put her hand on the door and slid it open, the entire Class 1A was greeted by a horde of students all crowding, pushing and shoving, at the classroom entrance. For a moment, Rukina thought about the possibility of another school evacuation taking place, but that thought disappeared when she noticed that the crowd was pushing to try to see into the Class 1A room.

“W-woah,” Uraraka gasped out. “What the heck?!”

“They’re crowding the exit,” grape boy Mineta said, “What are they here for?”

“They’re scouting out the competition, stupid,” Bakugo answered in true Bakugo fashion. “They wanna see the gang who survived the villain ambush. They’re checking us out before the big battle, asshole.”

“Sorry,” Midoriya muttered an apology to a shaking Mineta, “That’s him in neutral mode.”

“It’s pointless to try, so why don’t you just fuck off, you goddamn extras?” Bakugo aggressively growled at the crowd.

“Bakugo, don’t be calling them extras right off the bat!” Iida screeched, his Class Rep mode on.

A new voice then broke through the crowd. “I came to see what the famous Class 1A is like, but I didn’t think you’d be this arrogant.” The owner of the voice successfully made his way to the front of the crowd. A guy, with messy purple hair that stuck up in many directions kind of like Midoriya’s hair, stood in front of Bakugo at the doorway, unafraid and unshaken. “Are all students in the hero course this way?” he asked. Midoriya and Iida furiously shook their head.

“Huh?” Bakugo challenged.

“I’m a bit delusional, so that’s it, huh?” the purple haired guy continued, “There are lots of kids who wind up in the general education department or other departments because they didn’t make it into the hero one. Did you know that?” His face remained calm, but his eyes sent off a challenging stare at Bakugo. “And based on the results from the Sports Festival, some people may be transferred into the hero course to replace others. And a general education kid like me is thinking...” His eyes left Bakugo and trailed around the Class A room, showing the students of Class 1A that he’s talking to all of them. “I can try pulling the rug out from under those heroics kids while they’re on their high horses. Consider it declaration of war.”

He swiftly turned on his heel and walked away, pushing his way through the crowd.

“Wow, the other classes really don’t like us,” Rukina commented as Iida, Uraraka, and Midoriya all gulped nervously.

Then, another loud and obnoxious voice broke out from the crowd. “Hey you! I’m from Class B!” The owner of this voice elbowed and shoved his way through. Now, a grey haired male with odd rings around his eyes stood in front of Bakugo. “I heard you fought villains or whatever so I came to hear it from myself!” His eyebrows furrowed in anger as his voice rose. “But I don’t wanna hear it from some snot nosed punk! Don’t embarrass us during the main event, you hear me?!”

Bakugo seemed unfazed, and simply started to push his way through the horde, completely ignoring the declarations of war.

“Wait a second Bakugo, what did you just do?” Kirishima frantically said, “Now everyone’s going to start hating on us!”

“It doesn’t matter,” Bakugo said with determination and inhospitable, eyes calm and cold, “None of that matters when you’re at the top.” And he disappeared from sight into the crowd.

“That’s so simple and full of manliness,” Kirishima appreciated, a manly tear at the corner of his eye.

“The top, huh?” confirmed Tokoyami, the guy that kinda looked like, well, uh, a bird. “There’s truth in that.”

“Don’t listen to that dumbass! All he did was make us some new enemies for no reason!” Kaminari pointed out.

Rukina glanced to her side, and found her friends standing stiffly, nervous grimaces on their faces.

“Come on, guys, snap out of it,” she said, trying to lift their spirits. “The Sports Festival is in two weeks, so we’d better be working hard and training so we’ll do well. We can all train together if you want,” she offered.

Uraraka’s worried expression relaxed. “Yes Rukina, that sounds good. We can begin tomorrow,” she said with a smile, her Uraraka-energy returning.

“Hey are we making training groups already?” the pink skinned Ashido asked. “Let me join you guys!”

“The more the merrier,” Uraraka said happily.

“Moi aussi,” said Aoyama.

“You’re the navel laser guy, right?” Rukina asked.

“Oui,” he said, and a sparkle seemed to appear out of thin air.

“Ok, so that’ll be six of us, right?” Rukina asked. “I’m sure we can ask to use a training area somewhere on school grounds. We can begin tomorrow.”

“Sorry guys,” Midoriya apologized, “I still need to work quite a bit on my quirk, and I need to do that by myself.”

“I’m afraid I will have to say no to this too,” Iida added. “My quirk is more suited for individual practice.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Uraraka said, pumping her fist into the air. “We’ll still all do our best and kill the Sports Festival!”

Her energy was infectious, and their small group mimicked her. Several fists met the air with a resounding, unified “Yeah!”

And the two weeks passed by in a flash. Everyday after school, Rukina, Uraraka, Ashido, and Aoyama would gather at the training ground that greatly resembled the landslide zone at USJ, with its crushed buildings and large pieces of rubble. In one of their typical training sessions, Uraraka would make pieces of rubble float. Provided with these floating targets, Rukina, Ashido, and Aoyama would attack. Ashido’s slime touched the targets, hissing would come from the rubble as the acid corroded it. Beams of bright blue light would fire through the air, courtesy of Aoyama, easily cutting the targets in half. Once, unfortunately, Aoyama was not careful and a piece of rubble fell from the sky and hit him on the head and a surprised “Oh” escaped from him. Rukina’s quirk was more versatile and she changed her tactics quite often. Sometimes, she would command the air vectors and make miniature tornados on her back, pushing herself off the ground so she could eliminate the targets using close combat. Other times, she would put her hand on other pieces of wreckage, which were all several times bigger than her body, and fling them at her targets. And every time Ashido or Uraraka would try to compliment her use of her quirk, she would blush and become quite awkward. Nonetheless, these training sessions with newly made friends made her happy, and came to an end too soon.

“The Sports Festival is tomorrow, isn’t it?” Ashido mentioned when their final training session ended.

“Yes it is,” Uraraka confirmed. “Good luck to everyone! I’m sure our training wouldn’t be for nothing.”

“Now it is time for me to go home and get my beauty rest,” Aoyama said as he made his way home, “Bonne chance.”

“I’m headed this way too, so see you tomorrow Yagi and Uraraka,” Ashido said, waving goodbye. “Good luck for tomorrow!”

“Good luck!” Rukina and Uraraka called after the two of them before they turned a corner and disappeared from sight.

“Alright Rukina,” Uraraka said, “I’m off to the subway station.” Then, Uraraka felt a buzz from her phone and her face immediately fell when she read the message. “Ugh, just my luck. My neighbour just texted me and told me there had just been a villain attack at the station and there are complications with the trains now.”

“Uraraka,” Rukina said, “Why don’t you spend the night at my apartment?”

“No, I couldn’t possibly inconvenience you like-”

“Don’t worry about it, I have sleeping bags and I’d love some company,” Rukina said, offering a smile. “It’s a ten minute walk from UA.” And before Uraraka could protest any further, Rukina took her hand and led her down the street until they stopped in front of a huge modern looking building. The building, extremely clean looking with most of it covered in glass, shocked Uraraka with its size and splendor. A small garden, filled with flowers of all colours and shapes, decorated the front of the entrance, with small man made waterfalls flanking them on either side. Everything about this apartment building screamed expensive and grand to Uraraka.

“Y-you live in this?” Uraraka gasped out.

“Yeah, let’s go in!” Rukina excitedly said, eager to show Uraraka the inside. She pulled her stunned friend along, through the beautiful garden, past the miniature man made waterfalls, and tapped her ID on the scanner beside the large glass doors. It beeped and the doors swung open for them, and Rukina continued to pull her stunned friend along.

The inside was just as, if not more, grand than the outside. For heaven's sake, the floor seemed to be made of marble! All Uraraka could manage was to be pulled along, stupefied and overwhelmed, as Rukina guided her along to the elevator, pushing the button to call the lift down.

“I live on the 15th floor,” Rukina said, trying to get her friend’s attention. They stepped into the elevator when the large doors swung open, then closing behind them.

“How expensive was your apartment unit?” Uraraka managed to get out.

“Oh, that, I’m not sure about the details, because my uncle bought it and fully furnished it for me.”

“Your uncle must be rich!”

“I guess...” Rukina rubbed the back of her head, kind of embarrassed. “I’m not really sure what he does, though… he always kind of dodged the question when I asked him.”

Uraraka gave her an anxious look. “Does he sell drug-”

“Don’t worry Uraraka, he’s not a drug dealer or anything sketchy like that. He has a very strong sense of morals.”

“Is he a hero, then?”

“No, I don’t think so,” Rukina sighed. “He never mentioned anything of the sort when we talked about heroes. Even if he did used to be a hero, I highly doubt he would be able to continue because he got into an accident five years ago that made him lose his entire stomach and heavily damaged his lungs. It was a miracle he was able to survive.”

Uraraka raised a hand to her mouth. “I’m so sorry.”

“It’s ok,” Rukina offered a smile. The elevator dinged, the doors slid open, and Rukina led Uraraka down the hall. “He’s still alive and kicking. But he doesn’t live with me because he’s overseas seeing a doctor about his condition. Well, at least that’s what he told me. And he told me he’ll be watching me on TV for the Sports Festival, so I’ll do my best for sure.”

“What about your parents?” Uraraka asked.

“My mother passed away when I was young,” Rukina said briskly. “My uncle was the one who took me in when I had nowhere else to go.”

“I’m so sorry, Rukina,” Uraraka said, eyebrows furrowed in guilt. “I didn’t mean to dig up any painful memories or anything.”

“Don’t worry about it. It was a long time ago, so it’s fine now.” Rukina pulled out her key, unlocking her apartment. The door swung open. She smiled. “Well, here we are. Come on in.”

“Woah your apartment’s gorgeous!” Uraraka’s eyes swept around the very western like space. This place was as different from a regular Japanese apartment as you could get! This place was airy and spacious, and an orange hue from the setting sun came through the large windows.

“Thanks,” Rukina said, grinning.

***
After they had dinner (they boiled some frozen dumplings from the freezer) and bathed, Rukina rolled out two sleeping bags onto her large king sized bed. Immediately, Uraraka’s eyes fell onto the figure illustrated on one of the bags.

“That’s Reggie the Teddy Bear, isn’t it?!” she asked.

Immediately Rukina’s cheeks burned red. “Yeah, it is,” she mumbled defensively, glaring at a spot on the floor. “This bag was from when I was a kid and I just never threw it out and… it’s not like I’m into this stuff or anything.”

But Uraraka could see straight through the facade. She gave a knowing smile. “It’s fine to like something like this. It shows me more of your cute girly side.”

“Please don’t tell anyone,” Rukina pleaded in a quiet voice.

“Don’t worry, I won’t.” Uraraka held back her giggles. “I think you just had a tsundere moment!” she teased.

“Uraraka, say another word about it and I’ll tickle you to death.”

Uraraka just giggled, but said no more.

Rukina flipped the light switch and the light through the curtains became the only thing illuminating the room. Gradually, their eyes adjusted to the darkness as they made their way to their sleeping bags and wiggled in. It didn’t take long for the silence to be broken.

“So Rukina, let’s gossip.” Uraraka said excitedly, her eyes shining brightly in the moonlight. “Wanna talk about boys?”

“Sure, if you want to.”

“Do you like anyone?”

“Nope.” Rukina’s answer was quick. Uraraka suspiciously raised her eyebrows.

“Sure...”

“Uraraka, I’m serious. I don’t like anyone,” Rukina said honestly.

“Ok then. What do you look for in a boyfriend?” Uraraka’s round cheeks were pulled into a grin and her tone was sing-songy.

Rukina hesitated, thinking hard before answering.

“Hmm… I actually don’t really know. I’ve never really thought about things like this. Maybe someone who’d value me as a person and who’d care about me,” Rukina replied. “What about you?”

Uraraka paused to think too.

“I think I’d want someone who’s hardworking and really sweet. Someone who’s able to motivate me and help me grow in strength and as a person,” Uraraka summarized.

“That’s oddly specific,” Rukina commented. “Are you sure you’re not just describing Midoriya?”

“M-Midoriya?! Why Deku?”

Rukina’s lips curved into a smirk. “I hope you weren’t trying to be sneaky about it because I certainly noticed how much you look in Midoriya’s direction. We should call you Stare-araka.”

“Wh-what?!” Uraraka’s face flushed. “W-well, you shouldn’t be the one talking because you stare at Todoroki all the time too, Miss Stare-kina!”

“That’s not fair Uraraka! You can’t steal my pun!” Rukina retorted. Then she added in a murmur, “By the way, I don’t stare.”

“Well, then I don’t stare at Deku either!”

The combination of her obvious denial and her pouting cheeks caused Rukina to snort with laughter. Uraraka gave a screech of frustration, leaping out of her sleeping bag and started raking her fingernails across Rukina’s sides. Immediately, Rukina’s teasing laughs turned into roaring laughs of desperation at being tickled. Whether Uraraka did it on purpose or accidently out of exasperation, Rukina felt all the gravitational forces leave her and they started floating through the apartment. In mid air, Rukina frantically twisted and turned, her limbs flailing uncontrollably, but Uraraka didn’t yield, digging her fingernails deeper into her victim’s ribs.

“Take it back!” Uraraka cried above Rukina’s wild laughter. “I don’t like-like Deku like that!”

“OK OK I TAKE IT BACK URARAKA PLEASE!” Rukina managed to choke out as they hovered closer to the ceiling. Uraraka, satisfied with her answer, stopped the tickle torture, and finally seemed to realize that they were floating.

“Release,” Uraraka muttered as she put her fingertips together.

“To be honest, I think you’ll be good for each other,” Rukina said seriously as they landed. “You guys already get along and really motivate each other and-”

“Rukina, please!” Uraraka’s face resembled a tomato. “Let’s talk about something else!”

“Alright, alright. Let’s talk about the other Class A guys.” Rukina decided to spare her, as they made their way back to their sleeping bags. “First of all, that pervert Mineta is just gross. I’m sure that all the girls know that.”

“Agreed. That grape boy has absolutely zero boyfriend potential because he’ll scare all the girls away with his personality.” Uraraka pulled the sleeping bag cover over herself. She then put her finger to her chin, thinking. “Hmm, let’s move on to another boy. How about Iida?”

“Iida is hardworking, a trait that you look for,” Rukina replied, “but I feel like he’ll be a bit too serious sometimes as a boyfriend.”

“But he’s certainly a very good Class Rep,” Uraraka kindly added.

“Yes, for sure,” Rukina nodded.

“What about Bakugo?” Uraraka asked. She then nervously laughed. “Bakugo is very...”

“Intense,” Rukina finished for her.

“Yeah, I feel like his fiery temper would get a bit in the way of romance.”

“He also works hard too and wants to become a hero like the rest of us,” Rukina said, “But yeah, his temper would scare the girl off.”

“I remember that time after the Class Rep election. Kirishima had to hold on to him to stop him from being violent with you,” Uraraka recalled.

“Meh.” Rukina rolled over in her sleeping bag to lie on her stomach. “Speaking of Kirishima, I think he’d be a good boyfriend. He’s nice and sensible.”

Uraraka raised her eyebrows. “Oh, so it’s Kirishima? Not Todoroki?”

“Uraraka! I told you I don’t like anyone!” Rukina said earnestly, trying to get the message across. “I just think he’ll be good for whoever dates him.”

“Whatever you say...” Uraraka teased, wiggling her eyebrows. Rukina sent a glare at her. “Then what do you think about Todoroki?”

“He’s quite cold. Even though he’s good looking-”

“AHA! So you do think he’s attractive!”

“Dammit Uraraka, I told you I don’t like him!” Rukina yelled, embarrassed, eyebrows furrowed. “He’s cold and he seems unapproachable but...” she paused before continuing, with Uraraka listening eagerly now, “... but I feel like there’s something beneath all that...”

“Like what?” Uraraka asked.

“I don’t know,” Rukina admitted, “but I want to find out.”

“Hmm, interesting. I wonder why he wants to be a hero.”

“We can only guess...” Rukina admitted, absentmindedly playing with a strand of her hair. A few moments of silence passed by before Uraraka broke it.

“Speaking of which, you never told us your reason for wanting to become a hero.”

Rukina sighed, closing her eyes and rolling on her back before answering. “I want to become a hero so I can find and put an end to a certain villain who ruined my family.”

“May I ask who this villain is?” Uraraka’s warm brown hues were filled were unease. The atmosphere seemed to change from fun and light to a darker tone.

A lump formed in Rukina’s throat. She swallowed. “My father.”

Uraraka’s expression flashed with alarm and worry. “Oh dear! What exactly do you plan to do when you find him?!”

“I can’t answer that.”

“Oh,” Uraraka’s voice was a mixture of surprise, concern, and hurt. Rukina felt bad right away.

“Nono Uraraka, it’s not that I don’t trust you, it’s that I feel like I’m not ready to give an answer to that question yet...” Because the answer may scare you away from me.

“It’s ok. I probably shouldn’t pry anymore into this matter.”

“Sorry Uraraka.”

“Don’t worry about it.” But however much she tried to hide it, there was still a tinge of hurt in her voice. Uraraka then rubbed her eyes, sleepiness from the day’s training taking its toll on her. She pulled the cover over her shoulders. “Sorry Rukina, but I’m a bit sleepy right now. I think we should call it quits for tonight. And the Sports Festival is tomorrow so we should get some rest. Good luck for tomorrow.”

“Alright,” Rukina could feel guilt start to fill her mind. “ Good luck to you too. Goodnight Uraraka.”

“Goodnight Rukina.”

She heard the sleeping bag ruffle as Uraraka settled in. Rukina lay on her back, staring at her ceiling light, and mentally scolded herself for how the conversation ended with her dear friend. Unease bubbled inside of her, guilt for making Uraraka uncomfortable. Rukina inwardly groaned. Why did she have to ruin this sleepover. Why did she have to ruin this conversation? It had started so well. It had started so light. Leave it to her to make it awkward.

Then came another question that started to pick at her mind. Should she have told Uraraka? That she will beat her bastard of a father to a bloody pulp? That she will be the one to tear him apart? That she will be the one to kill him to satisfy the hurricane of revenge trapped inside of her?

Silently, her hands formed into fists. Uraraka had trusted her enough to reveal that she wanted to be a hero to make money. But then again, the money would go to support her parents. Uraraka’s reason for wanting to become a hero was so much better, so much more pure than Rukina’s. Uraraka was such a pure and kind girl, a better friend than Rukina could ever had hoped for. So did she not deserve the truth?

Rukina gathered her courage, mentally preparing herself for Uraraka’s reaction. She could already imagine Uraraka’s gasp of horror. She could already see those usually warm and sweet brown eyes filled with fear. Fear directed towards her. “Uraraka, I plan to kill him.”

But none of those came. Not the gasp of fright. Not the panic filled eyes. Instead, Rukina heard soft snores come from Uraraka’s side of the bed.

“Uraraka?”

More soft snoring. Rukina felt like a balloon inside of her just deflated, a mixture of relief and disappointment. The spurt of courage and adrenaline that built up inside of her gradually disappeared, leaving her tired and drowsy. Rukina sighed, and thought it might be best to not tell Uraraka after all. Someone as pure and innocent as her didn’t need to be burdened by the truth and memories that haunted Rukina everyday, especially since the Sports Festival was the very next day and Uraraka already had enough to worry about.

Rukina rolled over, sighing to herself, and let the drowsiness take over, Uraraka’s soft snores lulling her to sleep.

Chapter Text

It was a busy night at the airport, with people hurrying here or there, catching a flight or meeting loved ones. A woman stood, clutching her daughter’s tiny hand as they both waited for the arrival of someone special. As soon as the woman saw the familiar blond hair and blue eyes in the crowd, she excitedly waved the man over.

“I see you’re still as short as ever,” he said to the young woman as soon as he joined them.

“I see you’re still looking homeless as ever,” she retorted back.

“You can’t talk to me that way,” the man said, advancing and glaring down at the young woman.

“I thought I just did,” the young woman said, fearlessly meeting the man’s intimidating blue eyes despite the height difference. “I’m surprised your plane got off the ground with your big fat head on it.”

“You’re dead,” he growled.

“That’s funny, you’d think a dead person would have stopped talking about now.”

Electricity seemed to cackle between them. The young woman’s daughter clutched onto her mother’s skirt in fear. The frightening aura of tension only seemed to intensify between the adults, until the man lifted his fist towards the young woman’s face. For a wild moment, the little daughter thought the man might hit her mother, then she saw his index finger sticking out as he poked the young woman’s forehead. Both adults burst into laughter, the edgy aura from before having been completely dissolved.

“It’s good to see you again, big brother,” the woman said between giggles, trying to calm down.

“You too, Misaki,” he said as he tried to stifle any oncoming chuckles. His eyes landed on the little girl clinging to her mother’s skirt. “I see you brought your little girl with you.” The young woman nodded.

“Alright Rukina dear, this is your uncle.” The young woman smiled down at her shy six-year-old daughter. The child clung onto her mother’s skirt, timidly peeking over at the man her mother was introducing. Now that she had a good look at him, the little girl noticed that he was quite tall, probably over a head taller than her mother. His chin length blond hair fell in a messy sort of way, leaving two strands hanging in front of his face. His face itself was a bit angular in structure, with cheekbones pronounced. If you paid attention, you could see the small bags under his eyes, but overall, he looked quite healthy. The man crouched down, meeting Rukina at eye level.

“Hello Rukina, my name is Toshinori. Toshinori Yagi.”

“Uncle Toshinori,” the child mumbled. Toshinori smiled. He put his hand on the child’s head and ruffled her hair a bit.

“That’s right, Rukina,” Toshinori said. “You look just like your mother did when she was your age.” He paused, then added, “And she was quite the crybaby, not to mention she wet the bed quite a lot.”

“Brother! You don’t need to tell her that!” Misaki Yagi blushed as her daughter looked up at her, eyes wide with the new information. Toshinori laughed.

“But now she’s all grown up, and with a little daughter by her side as well.” Toshinori pulled out a teddy bear as he shifted his attention back to the child. This seemed to have piqued the girl’s interest as she peeked out a bit more from behind her mother. The teddy bear sure was cute, dressed with blue overalls and with a red little hat covering one ear. Toshinori held the toy out to Rukina. The girl unclenched her hands from her mother’s skirt and shyly reached out. Toshinori released his hold when he was sure the bear was securely in the child’s arms. “This is Reggie the Teddy Bear. He’s yours if you like him.”

“He’s cute.” The corners of Rukina’s mouth were slightly lifted in a timid smile.

“Say thank you to your uncle, dear,” her mother reminded.

“Thank you,” the child mumbled through a happy smile. Toshinori ruffled her hair again.

The little girl took off her pink backpack, and carefully placed the toy bear inside, then meticulously zipped it half way closed so that the bear’s head and arms poked out.

“Rukina dear, why don’t you put Reggie the Bear completely inside your bag?” the mother asked.

“Because then he might suffocate if I zip the bag up around him. I’m leaving his head out so he can breathe.”

The young mother and her brother both smiled at the child’s musings. The six year old certainly had an active imagination!

“Come on, Brother, I’ll show you to your hotel,” the woman said. “It’s getting late, and you must be tired from your flight. I’ll show you around town tomorrow.”

“Thanks,” Toshinori said. “And your little girl probably needs to go to sleep soon too.”

“It’s ok! I don’t mind staying up past my bedtime!” the child piped up, making both adults laugh.

“Of course you don’t,” the mother mused, pinching the girl’s cheek. A burst of warmth filled her heart, and the girl couldn’t help but smile from her mother’s quirk. Her mother’s quirk sure was wonderful. She had the ability to make people happy. Sure, it may not be powerful like a super strength quirk or an explosive quirk, but little Rukina didn’t mind at all. Whenever Rukina fell off her bike and scraped her knee, her mother would be there to put a bandaid on the wound and make her smile. If the older neighbourhood kids ever picked on her, her mother would always be there to protect her and hold her and calm her down. That time when Rukina got stung by a bee, her mother’s touch, comforting and warm, was there to bring her tears to a stop. Although her mother was not physically strong like a fighter or muscular like the famous All Might on TV, her mother would always be Rukina’s own personal hero that Rukina admired and looked up to. As long as her mother was by her side, Rukina felt like she could do anything.

Unfortunately, unforeseeable for anyone, Rukina’s happiness with her mother would be brought to an end that very night.

After her uncle had checked into his hotel, Rukina and her mother said their goodnights and set off for their own house. Rukina didn’t mind the walk at all. The neon lights and bursts of colour of the city at night were certainly very pretty. And every so often, she checked her backpack to make sure that Reggie didn’t fall out. As they drew further from the downtown area of the city, the pretty colourful lights seemed to disappear and the street lamps grew further apart. Sleepiness seemed to catch up to little Rukina, and her eyelids started to droop more and more as her mother led her by the hand. Eventually, her eyes closed and she almost bumped into her mother, who had suddenly stopped.

“Mommy?”

“Rukina, I need you to run.”

“Huh? Why?” her hazy brain could not keep up and could not understand her mother’s words. Her eyes peeked open sleepily, and lazily scanned the area before falling on the figure in front of them.

In front of them stood a woman, tall and menacing and dressed in dark clothing. Her piercing black eyes screamed bloodlust and murder. The street lamp flickered. Instantly, the haziness was wiped from Rukina’s head as she perceived the danger.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment,” the woman in black growled out. “After all these years, I finally found you! You were hiding overseas all this time, weren’t you?!”

Rukina tightened her hold on her mother’s hand.

“Mommy, I’m scared.” But before little Rukina could even react, the woman dressed in black pounced on her mother, fingers tangling in and pulling on her long golden hair. The attacker shoved Misaki into a dark alley against the wall, then wrapped her long and sharp fingers around Misaki’s slender neck, throttling her against the concrete building.

“You slut, you’re the one who stole my husband away from me!” the attacker shrieked.

“H-husband…?” Misaki managed to choke out.

“Oh? Did he not tell you he was already married? He told you he loved you, didn’t he? He said he wanted a family with you, didn’t he?” She then shrieked a maniacal laugh. “Ha, don’t make me laugh! He was just using you, you whore! He never told you he was a villain either, right?!” The attacker then felt a light presence wrap itself around her leg. She coldly looked down her nose to see a head of blonde hair.

“Please miss,” the girl begged, eyes welling up with tears of fear, tightening her hold around the woman’s leg. “Please leave my mommy alone.”

The attacker sneered, shrieking her hysterical laughter again. “Oh? Is this the whore’s bastard child?” With a simple flick of the villain’s leg, the child was sent hurtling into a heap of garbage, the many trash bags burying her underneath. One of the bags ripped from the collision, showering Rukina with fish bones, empty cans, and broken sports equipment. The villain focused her attention back to the mother. “After I’m done with you, that little bastard girl will be next.”

“N-no, not Rukina,” her mother choked, glassy blue eyes filled with worry, “Please not Rukina.”

A sting of pain shot through the back of the villain’s head, and her hands released her victim. Misaki dropped to the ground, gulping for breath. The villain turned around, face to face with the little girl who was panting, shaking with fear. The little girl, who had heaved the garbage bags off of herself using her quirk a second ago. The little girl, who held the broken baseball bat that was responsible for the pain at the back of the villain’s head. The villain felt her temper snap, and unsheathed the sword strapped to her side. The little girl recognized the danger, giving a frightened whimper. The villain lashed out at the little girl, slashing the child’s shoulder to the bone. The strap of her pink backpack broke, and a toy bear fell out onto the ground. A bone crushing kick then sent Rukina flying backwards into the wall. Loose bricks from above tumbled onto her, pinning her small and injured body to the ground. Rukina gave a shrill yelp, full of pain and fright, as her tears spilled down her dirty cheeks. The villain advanced towards her, crushing the toy bear under her foot, blade dripping with blood and ready to sink into flesh. But the villain was stopped in her tracks when she felt something from behind hurl itself at her, clinging to her shoulders. The villain threw her attacker to the ground, and found the mother, panting from her burst of courage, and exhausted and weak. The woman in black kicked the mother, sinking her foot in the mother’s gut, and the mother coughed up blood.

“You slut, you whore,” the villain growled, fury and rage dripping off of every word, “My husband never loved you.” Another kick buried itself in the mother’s stomach, making her gasp. “If he did love you, why did he leave you? Why did he never come back for you?” Another kick. Another yelp. “Well, wake up you little whore! He is a villain! He is my husband! You and your bastard daughter were nothing, are nothing but playthings for him!” The villain buried her blade into her victim’s arm. A blood curling scream escaped from the mother’s lips, and that scream pierced Rukina and hurt her, tortured her more than any of her other injuries. Her mother was getting beaten to death, and her tiny body could not do anything trapped under the bricks. Repeatedly, the villain thrust her blade through the mother’s arms and legs, like a cat playing with a mouse before she eats it, a scream following every stab, and all the little girl could do was cry. Desperately struggling against the rubble pinning her down. Desperately trying to push the rubble off of herself using her quirk. Desperately struggling to use a quirk that would not listen to her. Desperately trying to use her quirk, despite having gone past her Vector Control limit.

At that moment, in her moment of desperation and fear and horror, Rukina felt something stir deep inside her, deep in the depths of her being. It was a new urge, an animalistic urge, a savage urge to fight. Rukina tried to push back this urge. This new urge, this powerful and violent urge building inside of her frightened Rukina, almost as much as the villain standing over her mother.

In this merciless world, without strength, you will die, a voice, sounding so much like her own voice, whispered to her and echoed inside her own head. Survival of the strongest. Kill or be killed.

This horrified her. “But I don’t want to kill,” she whimpered, tears streaming down her round face.

Live or die, the voice continued, sinister and dark, its tone promising strength, promising power beyond her limits, beyond anything she has ever imagined if she would just give in to it. She struggled to shut the voice out.

The villain unsheathed her sword…

‘Mommy,’ she thought, ‘I have to save Mommy.’ The animalistic urge bubbled inside of her, as if begging to be used, begging to fight, begging to kill. Rukina struggled against the rubble pinning her down, but all that did was make the rubble crush her harder into the ground.

… gripped Rukina’s mother by the hair…

“MOMMY!” Rukina cried out as she desperately squirmed and thrashed under the rubble, trying to worm her way out. Mommy is going to die! Mommy is really going to die!

… and the villain thrust the blade through the woman’s body, as easily as a needle impaling cloth.

Rukina’s eyes widened in realization. Blood droplets danced through the air like rose petals before splattering against the concrete wall, painting it red. Her mother’s eyes dulled over as her eyelids drooped over those glassy lenses. The villain drew back her sword, satisfied at her work, and Misaki Yagi fell to the ground as a marionette whose strings had been cut. And at this moment, it was as if time slowed down and stopped, standing still as Rukina’s mind whirled. Kill or be killed. Live or die. And the villain stood triumphantly over the motionless body of her mother. At this moment, the little girl realized. She realized that this world has always been survival of the fittest, of the strongest, where only those with strength can survive while those without will perish, for this was the law of survival, of life itself that governs the world.

And the little girl realized that this law, and the world governed by which, are certainly, undoubtedly merciless.

A coldness, an icy numbness washed over Rukina’s body as her mind, her innards, her heart, everything was screaming. And at this moment, the urge, animalistic and monstrous, deep inside her broke free of its restraints, and consumed her, filling her body up to her finger tips and toes, healing any broken bones and injuries that she sustained previously, filling her small body with overflowing power.

Lightning erupted from the sky, illuminating the ugliness, making the concrete wall glare stark white and the blood deepen to black. A hurricane surrounded her as a darkness enveloped her body, giving her skin a deep purple shade. Her fingers and toes thickened and sharpened into claws. Two ribbon-like blades shot out from the small of her back, sharp and flexible and ready to cut. A single horn sprouted from her forehead. Her eyes glowed red, not a shade of her usual deep blue left.

Defiled wishes…

… pounding impulses…

… shattered dreams…

… and the little girl succumbed to the demon inside of her.

As the hurricane died down, Rukina had finished her transformation into the monster inside of her.

The little girl succumbed to the quirk, the power called Awakening.

The next few moments were very strange. It felt as though all thought, all worry had been wiped from her mind. Her arms and legs didn’t feel like her own as she lunged, snarling and screeching, at the villain. Her body didn’t feel like her own as the tail-like, ribbon-like blades stabbed into the woman in black, tearing her apart, shredding her apart faster than the eye could see. All the little girl felt was a sick and twisted pleasure as her broken heart and the monstrous urge attacked and killed in unison, in a sadistic and hellish harmony. Feelings of elation, of freedom clouded the little girl’s mind as her human consciousness became more and more overwhelmed by the monstrous impulse. All she saw through her eyes were just things to be destroyed, to be torn apart. Her whole body tingled as the power surged over her, taking complete and utter control. Even after the villain’s body became little more than a rag doll, the monster did not stop tearing and shredding and cutting into pieces, using her claws and teeth and ribbon-like blades, until the body had been reduced to dust.

Meanwhile, Misaki Yagi groggily opened her eyes, finding herself lying on the concrete ground and her shirt soaked with her own blood. She weakly raised a hand, shaking like a leaf in a gale, and pressed upon the wound on her stomach. Her eyes swept the scene, and widened upon realization and horror at what her daughter had transformed into. With the greatest effort it had ever cost her in her life, she peeled herself off the ground.

Using the last of her remaining strength, the mother flung her arms around the tiny creature in a tight hug. She screamed her daughter’s name, for her daughter’s consciousness must still be in there, must still be trapped inside the monstrous exterior. As soon as it felt the contact, the monster attacked, sinking its sharp claws into the mother’s already profusely bleeding stomach. The woman coughed up more blood. Bright red stained her usually shiny golden hair. The violent winds surrounding her whipped at her clothing. The two ribbon-like blades from the creature’s back struck, also stabbing into the woman’s body. Even so, the woman did not release her tight and warm hug. She lifted a hand, weak and shaking, and gently threaded her fingers through the creature’s hair, and gently turned the creature’s head until they were face to face.

“Rukina, please! I know your consciousness is still in there!”

At this moment, right after the mother called her, the creature tensed up as the mother’s voice stirred the bit of human consciousness left in that monster body. At this moment, the last sliver of Rukina’s human heart and spirit was roused, buried deep underneath the pounding monstrous impulses. The creature blinked, and this time, Rukina saw clearly through her eyes and realized. The fog surrounding her mind seemed to diminish a little as she gaped in fear and revulsion at what she had done, what she had become, and what she was doing to her mother.

“Mommy, I can’t control it, please get away from me!” she tried to scream, but only a single deafening screech made it through her mouth. Now, all the feelings of pleasure and elation filling her body from the overwhelming power turned into pain. It felt like a thousand knives were hacking at, gouging at her flesh all at the same time. Every cell in her body screamed in harsh resistance as the monstrous presence resumed its iron grip on her body, with her heart and spirit desperately fighting and struggling and barely hanging on.

The woman tightened her hold around the creature, pressing their foreheads together as deep blue stared into the monster’s full red eyes. And amidst all the pain, all the chaos, all the confusion and hurt condensed into her little body, Rukina felt a spark of warmth and comfort, guiding her and pulling her through the storm inside of her. Amidst all the agony and pandemonium, Rukina felt happiness… Mother’s quirk.

“Rukina, my child, please, listen to my voice! It’s not too late for you to return back to human!”

That second, as her mortally wounded mother used the last sliver of her strength to pull her daughter back to the human side, Rukina saw her claws dwindling back to her dull fingernails. Her fangs diminished to regular teeth. Her horn and ribbon-like tails withered away. The dark purple shadow coating her skin dissipated, leaving a little six year old girl panting from the effort of beating the monster impulse back, now imprisoned in the depths of her being.

And a second later, Rukina found herself standing over the beaten and broken, used and spent body of her mother. The child sank to her knees and cupped her mother’s cheek, but her mother gave no response, having gone quite still and completely limp.

“Mommy, wake up,” the child tried saying, rubbing her mother’s cheek, smooth and cold as marble.

“Please don't leave me,” she whimpered and she could hear the futility in her own voice. Her blue eyes filled with tears of reluctant realization, of anguish, and of her own helplessness. Her lower lip trembled. And her teeth grit against each other. And a sob burned its way through her throat as her tiny hand wormed into place against her mother’s, warm and quivering fingers squeezing the unmoving ones.

And those large blue eyes, so similar to Rukina’s own, stared back, unseeing and unfeeling, nothing but empty glassy blues simply reflecting the weeping daughter they could not see.

***
Rukina didn’t know how much time passed until help came. The girl didn’t know, couldn’t tell, since for her it felt like an eternity and one fleeting moment at the same time. Could have been seconds, or minutes, or hours. But what difference did it make? Help had come too late. Her mother was dead and cold on the ground as the little girl silently wept over the body. She kept absentmindedly squeezing the limp hand, as if that would somehow rub life back into the dead body lying on the concrete.

Nevertheless, help had come. Rukina heard movement at the entrance of the alleyway, but her head remained bowed and her eyes remained closed as the tears squeezed themselves out. Someone rushed to her side and a familiar voice tenderly spoke to her, “You’ve gone through a lot tonight. But it’s fine now. Everything’s going to be fine now. I am here.” The voice quivered a bit, but then resumed as steady as ever. “I’m sorry, Rukina. I only arrived in time to see your-” a slight pause, and then, “-transformation back into yourself.”

A large and warm hand landed gently on her shoulder, patting her and doing its best to comfort her. Her uncle’s voice continued talking, reassuring to her that it was all over, that nothing was going to hurt her anymore. Toshinori helped her stand up, helped her steady herself, and led her out of the alleyway onto the street.

“A few people heard the noise and called the police, but no one witnessed anything more than a villain pushing your mother into the alleyway. The police will be here shortly, but I think you’ve been through enough tonight.”

The girl absentmindedly, numbly nodded, but Toshinori sighed in relief that she was at least responding.

“Rukina, what do you think about living with me from now on? I’ll take you back to Japan with me. Does that sound good to you?” Toshinori turned to look at the little girl, and his heart broke when he saw her eyes. She looked at him with her eyes, those eyes that have seen too much, those large and glassy eyes that seemed to hold the sadness of the world in them, and yet, despite all that, something flickered behind those eyes.

The little girl nodded.

They continued walking, hand in hand. And a little while later, a whisper broke the silence.

“Uncle?” A whisper so small that Toshinori almost didn’t hear it.

“Yes?”

“I want to become a hero,” the girl said, quietly but clearly.

Toshinori blinked, a bit surprised at those unexpected words, but gave an understanding nod. “Alright. But I’ll warn you that the road ahead of you won’t be easy.”

“I can do it.” The unforeseen fierceness and determination with which she said those words momentarily stunned Toshinori, who almost tripped over his own foot. He immediately caught himself, standing still now, and looked at the little girl once again, who wiped her tears on her sleeve and met his gaze. This time, the something that flickered behind her deep blues before was stronger and burned brighter, like blue fire, hot and determined and unyielding. Toshinori recognized that look, because that blue fire was the same fire that burned behind his own eyes, and the same fire that burned behind the eyes of his stubborn little sister.

And right away, he agreed. He nodded.

“Alright. I’ll personally train you every day if I have to. We will work together to make your dream come true.”

And the two of them walked off, hand in hand into the night as a new chapter started for both of their lives.

Chapter Text

A month quickly passed since Misaki Yagi’s death. A month passed since Toshinori Yagi signed the proper documents to become little Rukina’s legal guardian. It took a month for Rukina to gather her things and move to Japan with her uncle, leaving behind the country in which she was born, in which her mother was buried. Now, there was no going back. In that month, the uncle decided for himself, promised himself that he will protect his niece, his little sister’s flesh and blood, in any way possible and to the utmost of his abilities. He was aware that meant he had to keep his hero identity secret from her, as any association with the No 1 hero would mean danger from villains. He was determined to raise her, not as the hero All Might, but as her uncle, as Toshinori Yagi. And he was aware that he might have to leave her one day when she becomes old enough to take care of herself, to minimize any possible connection with All Might, to maximize her safety.

Now, after that month passed, little Rukina stood in the large outdoor training area to which her uncle took her. She looked up at her uncle expectantly, anticipating instructions.

“Alright, Uncle, I’m ready to start,” she said.

“Before we start the real training, I need to know your upper limits.” Her uncle tossed her a softball. “That ball has a tracking device in it that can measure the distance it travelled. After you throw it and it hits the ground, the distance will be sent to my phone. Can you throw that ball as far as you can?”

The child obediently nodded. She exhaled, steadying herself and clearing her mind. She shifted the weight of the ball to her dominant hand, and chucked the ball using all the strength stored in her tiny arm. The ball sailed upwards, before landing back onto the earth.

His phone beeped. “7.631 metres,” a disembodied voice said.

“Rukina, I meant throw it using your quirk,” he sighed as he went to get the ball. “Here,” he said as he placed the ball into her tiny hands. “Can you throw it using your quirk this time?”

Her eyelids lowered and she shook her head. A shadow seemed to fall over her face, over her blue eyes, and the atmosphere around her became quite tense. She didn’t meet his gaze.

“Can I become a hero without using my quirk?” she asked, staring at a patch of ground by her feet.

“Why don’t you want to use your quirk?”

“Because.” She said that one word bitterly and full of regret. And from that one word, Toshinori understood. He understood the hatred she had of her own quirk. He understood the self hatred, the absolute loathing she had for her quirk because of her mother’s sacrifice. He knew that Rukina, deep down, blamed herself because her mother used the last of her strength to reverse the transformation that day.

“Because,” Rukina tried again, her fingers playing with the stitching in the softball. “My mother died because of my quirk.” And that confirmed his thoughts.

He sighed before speaking again, knowing his reply was not the answer that she wanted to hear.

“I’m sorry, but I need you to be able to master your quirk.” He saw her teeth grit and her hand clench tightly around the softball, saw that blue fire burning behind her bright eyes. And he knew that now was the time to let her know, to tell her of the secret behind her quirk, the power of which she herself isn’t aware. “Listen to me, Rukina. You need to be able to master your Vector Control quirk.

“You have a limit for your Vector Control quirk, a certain point where your quirk stops behaving the way you want it to. You can feel it, right?” These words coming from her uncle struck Rukina, and made her recall that fateful day in the alleyway, when she was pinned, desperately trying to heave against the rubble holding her down, desperately trying to use a quirk that would not listen to her.

“When you go past that limit too much, something happens,” her uncle continued, his voice taking on a darker, a grimmer tone, “Another power inside of you is called forth. A power deep inside you. Another quirk called Awakening.”

The girl’s eyebrows wrinkled in confusion, and her fingers stopped playing with the softball in her hands. “Wait, I have two quirks?”

“Kind of.”

“But that’s not possible. Everyone only has one quirk. This doesn’t make sense anymore.”

“You are aware of what your father’s quirk is, right?”

At the mention of her father, her body tensed and filled with fiery hatred. The bastard who used them. The bastard who left her mother and never came back. And because of that bastard, her mother was attacked by the female villain and died. “That villain has Vector Control. Same as mine.”

“That’s right.”

“So where did the other quirk come from?”

“Years ago, when she was still pregnant with you, your mother told me something.” And immediately, Toshinori saw her eyes darken and saw the regret and sadness behind those lenses. He felt guilt squeeze his heart, but he must keep going and tell her, because this information was the explanation behind her curious quirk. “She told me she ran into a suspicious person. A hooded man who approached her and put his hand on her large belly. He noted that she was pregnant and told her that it was a good thing. Your mother told me that she felt something being transferred from him to her belly but she couldn’t move because the man seemed to emit an overwhelming aura that pinned her to place. She said that was the most fear she had ever felt in her life.

“Then, thankfully, he removed his hand from her belly and started to leave. She felt the overwhelming aura lift. When she demanded to know what he just did, he said that he simply gave her unborn child a gift, since ‘the father is an old time friend’.” Toshinori’s fingers lifted up to demonstrate air quotes. After a short pause, he continued.

“Rukina, my dear, in this world, there are all sorts of different and unique quirks. There exists one person, a villain, who has a quirk that can steal other quirks and transfer quirks to others. I am almost certain that the suspicious man your mother met was that villain and that he transferred the Awakening quirk to you.”

“Why?” the little girl asked. “Wouldn’t he want to keep it for himself?”

“I am not sure either,” Toshinori admitted. “I can only guess that was because Awakening is, as shown recently, a very difficult quirk and robs the user of any conscious thought and turns them into a… into a…” Toshinori glanced at his niece, and he struggled to think of a nice word to describe it, but that was not needed because the little girl finished his sentence for him.

“A monster,” she truthfully stated. Toshinori cleared his throat.

“Yeah, that,” he hesitantly agreed, then continued. “My guess is that the villain was simply curious as to what would happen if that powerful quirk were to be introduced to an already powerful quirk like Vector Control. Although the Awakening quirk is powerful since its activation heals the user of any previous injuries and enhances the user’s capabilities or already existing quirk, it is completely impossible to control and the user would likely not be able to return back to their normal selves after using it. You were only able to return from that state because-”

“-Mommy sacrificed herself to save me. She used her quirk to pull me back,” she said, her eyes welling up with tears. But before Toshinori could offer her comfort, she immediately bit her tears back and said, “Don’t worry about me, Uncle. I’m not going to cry.”

He crouched down and put his hand on her shoulder in concern. “Rukina dear-”

“But doesn’t that mean I’m right?” she interrupted him, and Toshinori was briefly confused about what she meant before she continued. “That I shouldn’t use my quirk anymore?”

He shook his head. “My dear, that is precisely why we need you to master your quirk. You need to master your Vector Control quirk and increase your Vector Control limit so that Awakening will never happen again.”

“But my quirk is the monster inside of me. It was the monster-” she stopped mid sentence, absentmindedly ripping at the stitching on the softball in her hands, then spoke again, “No. I am the monster that killed my mother.”

“Rukina my dear,” he said as he squeezed her shoulder and his eyes stared seriously into her own. “Do not think for a second that Awakening is a part of you. It is not. It is something foreign, something alien that a villain forced upon you. You yourself were born with Vector Control. Vector Control is your quirk. Vector Control was the quirk that made your mother so happy when you first developed it, right?”

The little girl nodded in remembrance. The daisy’s petals moved, opening and closing around the yellow centre. Next, she picked up a rock, and it twirled like a spinning top in her hand. Her mother beamed, her smile brilliant and filled with warmth. This memory came to her, cruel yet beautiful like the world in which she lived.

Her uncle continued. “I am aware that the incident in the alleyway happened, and that your mother lost her life that day, but Rukina my dear, you are not a slave to the quirk called Awakening. You are in charge of your own fate, and you have the strength and potential to master your Vector Control quirk so that Awakening will never see the light of day again. Yes, quirks can be dangerous and hurt others, but they can also help and save others. Yes the past happened, but we must keep going forward.”

The little girl could see the blue fire burning behind her uncle’s eyes, and she could see her own tiny reflection, looking shaken but gaining strength and determination.

“You know, your mother wanted to become a hero when she was little, but she had to give up that dream because her Happiness quirk wasn’t suited for combat or rescue. You remind me so much of her, of not just how she looked, but of her spirit. And now you want to become a hero too.” Tears welled up in her eyes and emotion condensed into a pit in her throat.

“Her spirit lives on within you and I am confident that you can become a hero. And most importantly, more than anything else, you must learn to accept yourself for you. The only way for you to be a hero who everyone looks up to is for you to accept yourself for who you are first.”

And the tears overflowed, slipped down her cheeks, down off her chin and dropped into the ground but the blue fire behind her eyes was only fueled and burned brighter than ever before. And, for a moment, All Might was reminded of the way his little sister glared at him in their childhood when he told her she was too little to go on the monkey bars or sleep on the top bunk. A look that was full of conviction, of grit, and of persistence.

“I understand, Uncle,” she said, “I will become a hero.”

And she whipped the softball in her hands, which flew into the heavens and disappeared behind the clouds.

***
“Rukina, wake up. The toast is ready.”

“Ugh… five more minutes.” It felt like the dream she was having just didn’t end. Her body felt weightless, as if she were floating.

Wait a second… She blindly groped the area around herself, and when her hand only met empty air, she realized she was not on her bed and that she really was floating.

“Release,” she heard Uraraka mutter. Rukina tumbled back onto the bed, shaken from her dream and back into reality.

“Uraraka,” she whined, pulling the covers over herself again. “Let me sleep a bit more.”

“If you don’t get up right now, we’ll be late for the Sports Festival!”

Her eyes groggily opened, and she saw Uraraka staring at her, a worried look on her face. She was already looking neat and tidy in her UA gym uniform.

“I’m sorry, I tried to shake you awake earlier but you sleep like a rock!”

“Sorry Uraraka, the dream I was having...” Rukina sat up, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. “The dream went on forever.”

“Hurry! Class A is supposed to meet up in 15 minutes!”

It was like electricity shot through her. “What?! 15 minutes?!” She surveyed her situation. Her hair was ruffled from sleep, she was still in her pajamas, and her stomach rumbled from hunger. She tore the sleeping bag covers off of her. “Alright! 15 minutes may not be a lot of time but it’s enough!” she told herself. She ripped off her pajamas, and shoved herself into her UA gym uniform. She flew, almost literally, into the bathroom and brushed her teeth faster than she ever did in her life, ripped her brush through her hair, then flew into the kitchen, grabbed the cooked bread out of the toaster, shoved a piece in her mouth, and began chewing.

“Rukina, shouldn’t we take our toast with us and eat it on the way?” Uraraka asked, concerned. Rukina shook her head furiously.

“I refuse-” she shoved the slice of toast into her mouth, “-to be-” she chewed and swallowed, then took another bite, “-a cliche anime girl-” another bite, “-who runs with toast in her mouth!” she shoved the rest of the bread down her throat.

“Ok, I’m ready, let’s run, Uraraka!”

“Yeah! Let’s go!”

And they bolted out the door, sprinted out of the apartment, and down the streets towards UA.

A few minutes later, they burst, panting and gasping, into the Class 1A waiting room. Uraraka doubled over, catching her breath. Rukina brushed her disheveled bangs out of her face.

“Where have you guys been?” Midoriya asked. “The Sports Festival is about to start.”

“Sorry, overslept,” Rukina said while her heartbeat gradually returned to normal. She sighed and steadied her breathing and straightened up. “But we made it here in time, didn’t we?”

Before Midoriya could retort, the door of the room slammed open again.

“Everyone, are you ready?!” Iida’s voice bellowed out. “We will be entering soon!”

Rukina could taste the excitement and nervousness in the atmosphere. Midoriya took a deep breath to calm himself.

“Good luck, Midoriya,” Rukina said from beside him.

“Good luck to you too,” he replied, still quite nervous.

“Midoriya,” a familiar voice said. Rukina looked up and saw those mismatched eyes staring intently at Midoriya.

“Todoroki, what is it?” Midoriya asked.

“Looking at things objectively, I think I’m stronger than you,” he said coldly. The room that used to be filled with excited murmurs immediately quieted down, sensing a challenge declaration.

“Y-yeah, you’re right,” Midoriya said.

“Midoriya, don’t just agree with him! And Todoroki, why are you saying that now?” Rukina asked as she glared at him. As usual, he ignored her.

“All Might has his eye on you, right?” he asked Midoriya, as if Rukina didn’t even speak. “I’m not trying to pry about that, but I’m going to beat you.”

This sparked a few reactions from classmates. “Oh? Is the best in the class making a declaration of war?” Kaminari excitedly commented. Kirishima got out of his seat and put a hand on Todoroki’s shoulder, trying to calm him down.

“Hey, why are you picking a fight all of a sudden? Especially when we’re about to start soon.” Kirishima tried to talk some sense into him, but Todoroki simply shrugged his hand off his shoulder.

“We’re not here to play at being friends,” he said harshly, before turning on his heel and walking away.

“Todoroki, I don’t know what you’re thinking when you say that… You’re definitely stronger than me.” Midoriya’s voice made Todoroki stop. “In fact, I think the vast majority of people are probably no match for you, looking at it objectively...”

“Hey Midoriya, don’t talk so negatively about yourself,” Kirishima said kindly.

“Even so,” Midoriya continued, his voice unwavering this time, making Todoroki narrow his eyes. Midoriya’s hands clenched by his sides. “Everyone, and even students from other courses, are aiming for the top with all their might! So I can’t afford to fall behind!” And as he said this, Midoriya lifted his head, his green eyes meeting Todoroki’s intimidating ones, accepting his challenge.

Todoroki nodded. “Yeah,” he said.

Rukina narrowed her eyes at this. Oh? So he responds to Midoriya but not to me?

But right as she opened her mouth to comment on this, Iida announced, “All right Class 1A, we’re going now.”

Along with everyone else, she was ushered out of the door, with Midoriya and Uraraka by her side and Iida in front of her. Down the hall they went, and into the bright arena filled with pomp and circumstance. Excited clamour of the crowd, along with Present Mic’s magnified voice filled the stadium with noise. Fireworks went off, dyeing the sky in shades of purple, red, and pink.

“Class 1A!” Present Mic’s voice boomed across the field. “Here they are! The new stars who overcame the enemy attacks with their hearts of steel!”

Midoriya nervously looked around, eyes wide at the amount of people filling the stands. “Th-there are so many people.”

“Can we really do our best with so many people watching us?” Iida asked. “This must also be part of the training to become a hero.”

“Calm down guys,” Rukina gently said. “You’ll only end up holding yourself back when you’re nervous. I’m sure we’ll do fine. Right, Uraraka?”

“Right!” Uraraka agreed, smiling. “We’ll all do our best!”

Soon, all the first year UA classes have gathered in the middle of the arena, surrounded on all sides by the cheering crowd.

“Silence!” a female voice demanded. Rukina lifted her head and her gaze fell on the teacher standing on the makeshift stage in the centre of the arena. Rukina recognized her as one of the teachers who came as backup for the USJ incident, and knew that Midnight was her name. “Representing the students is Katsuki Bakugo from Class 1A!” she announced. Bakugo climbed the stairs, took his place in front of the microphone, and already Rukina had a bad feeling about his speech skills, even before he opened his mouth.

“You guys,” he said, voice magnified across the stadium, “I’m gonna place first.”

Right away, angry hollers and complaints came from the crowd of students. It took great strength of will for Rukina to not face palm.

“Dammit, I knew he was gonna say that!” Rukina heard Kirishima groan, and the outcry from the other students got louder.

“Don’t push your luck, Class A!”

“Class A is way too over confident!”

“You sludge bastard!”

Bakugo’s expression remained indifferent. He stuck his thumb out of his fist, and pointed it towards the floor, giving them all a thumbs-down. “I’m sure you’ll all make great stepping stones.” The jeers and objections followed him as he stepped off the stage and blended in with the crowd again. The clamour only stopped when Midnight started talking again.

“Alright! With that, we can move on directly to our first event! They’re called Preliminaries, but lots of kids end up choking on their tears here every year. This year’s first round will be…” The TV screen behind her flashed, then steadied to show two words. OBSTACLE RACE. “A race between all eleven classes! The course makes a 4 km ring around this stadium! As long as you stay on the course, it doesn’t matter what you do! Now take your places!”

The double doors blocking the entrance of the stadium peeled away as the students clustered in front of the hallway. Three green lights on top of the doorway arch lit up, representing the countdown before the race. The light on the left went out, and a beep sounded at the same time.

Rukina steadied her breathing. This was an opportunity for her to demonstrate her strength. This was an opportunity for her to show the country what she is made of.

The middle green light went out, accompanied by a second beep.

This was an opportunity for her to show her uncle how far she had come, how much she had grown from that little girl he took in that day.

The last green light went out, followed by a final beep. The crowds from the stands cheered in excitement and anticipation.

“START!” Midnight screamed. All the students immediately took off running into the narrow hallway. Right at the very start, some students raced ahead while others fell behind or were trampled, as not everyone could fit through this small and cramped space. Already, students were pushing and shoving each other, desperately trying to crawl and claw their way forward. Rukina lost sight of Uraraka, Iida, and Midoriya, but she kept pushing on, because she promised to do her best as well. The waves of students clashing into each other around her didn’t bother her at all, as she turned her quirk on reflection. Whenever someone came into contact with her, their momentum and direction completely reversed and they were sent back where they came from. Nobody could touch her. Nobody could shove her. Like a lone arrow piercing through the air, she easily and smoothly made her way through the crowd in front of her. She kept going, kept advancing forwards while the others got caught up behind her.

Suddenly, a very intense, a very familiar cold swept through the cramped hallway and she immediately knew who was the cause. The people in front of her stopped moving. Cries of panic pierced through the frozen air. The people bent down and started pulling at their legs, which had become stuck in ice. As soon as the ice touched her boots, it shattered, the crystal lattice having been deflected. She pushed through, out of the hallway, and caught sight of that familiar head of half red and half white in front of her.

“Todoroki!” she yelled. “I told you that trick won’t work on me!”

He glanced back over his shoulder and saw that she was hot on his heels. This was a problem for him, and more problems arose when he saw more of his classmates chasing after him, having dodged his attack.

“That was naive, Todoroki,” Yaoyorozu said as a high jump pole shot out of her palm and propelled her off the ground.

“I won’t let you get away that easily, you half and half bastard!” Bakugo yelled, his palms sending explosion after explosion, shooting himself into the air.

“I knew some of you in my class were gonna make it past,” Todoroki muttered to himself, “But more of you were able to dodge than I thought.”

“I’ve outwitted you, Todoroki!” Mineta said triumphantly as he ripped his purple balls from his head and used them as stepping stones. “Now, for my special attack-!”

He was quite rudely interrupted as a large metal arm collided with his small body, knocking the air out of him. Mineta rolled and tumbled off to the sidelines.

“Targets found,” a robotic voice said from above them. Rukina looked up and saw many metallic creatures towering over them, titanic and glinting an eerie shade of green. The students stopped in their tracks, hesitating, not sure what to do.

“The faux villains from the entrance exam?!” Midoriya screeched.

“Those are zero point villains from the entrance exam!” Kaminari confirmed, fear in his voice.

“So this is what they used in the general entrance exam?” Todoroki said, calmly and coolly. The zero point robot reached out a hand, trying to grab him. “If they went through all this trouble, I wish they could have prepared something better, since my stupid old man is watching.” Todoroki simply raised his hand, and neatly swept his arm through the air.

Quickly and elegantly, a great and hulking mass of ice shot forth from the ground with the utmost power and speed. The zero point robot stood no chance, as it was frozen solid in a single second. The red lights representing its eyes flickered feebly, then went out as if all function within it had completely shut down. Todoroki took this chance to continue through the mass of robots.

“Amazing,” a girl from the general course called out in awe.

“He got through! So we can too!” someone from behind shouted.

“I wouldn’t if I were you! They’ll fall!” Todoroki shouted back as he ran past the frozen giant, which teetered, then fell in a mess of broken parts and ice.

“I won’t be left behind!” Rukina called out to him as she began pursuit again. Right away, another zero point obstacle sprung into action as a gigantic steel arm accelerated at her.

“Rukina!” she heard Uraraka call out in worry from behind her, warning her of the danger, but she was not fazed. As soon as the steel fist a hundred times bigger than her head connected with her temple, the fist, the arm, and the robot attached to the arm were all shot sideways, away from her. Not only did she reflect the vector of the punch this time, she also multiplied the magnitude tenfold. The robot flew into another zero point one with so much force that they were both crushed together on impact. They were smashed and moulded together as if they were a single, multi-limbed, unfortunate looking mass of metal.

This action of course didn’t go unnoticed by the students behind her.

“Woah, she just took out two of them in a single move!”

“What just happened?! It punched her, and it got destroyed?!”

With a loud metallic wail, both of the colossal titans fell, as if in slow motion, broken green plates and bolts trailing behind them. Rukina advanced, in hot pursuit of Todoroki. She ran after him, heart pumping in her ears, adrenaline flowing through her blood. She sprinted across the field, up a flight of stairs, and was met with a great abyss. The footholds, the large flat-top rocks, were few and far in between. Tightropes connected all of them, leading a path to the other side of the great depth. Todoroki was fast and already halfway across. There was no time to lose. She lept, and with her kick off the ground, she created those miniature tornadoes that acted like wings on her back and pushed her into the air. She flew, the pleasant breeze whipping in her hair, and landed on the other side of the void a few seconds later. She began running again, but she was aware that the last few stunts took quite a bit of her strength. She gauged her limit, and estimated that she had roughly 70% left, leaving not much room for error or unwise spending if she wanted to do well in the next Sports Festival round.

She quickly gained ground on Todoroki, who had just arrived at the third and final obstacle barrier. Judging by the open field ahead of her and quite a few dark spots in the ground, it was a minefield. She growled in frustration, staring at Todoroki so close in front of her. If she were to carelessly step on the mines, yes she could cancel out the blow with her quirk, but the smoke from the explosion would make it difficult for her to breathe. She had no choice but to slow down and carefully choose her steps. A bit of time later, she started to hear the clamour from the other students as they arrived at the third obstacle barrier too.

Nevertheless, she steadily approached Todoroki as they both slowly made their way across the minefield.

“Hey Todoroki,” she said, now almost right behind him. “Why don’t you just make a path for yourself out of ice?”

He glanced across his shoulder at her and tutted. “You caught up.”

“Woah! You finally spoke to me after forever!”

He sent her a look of deep dislike. Before he could retort, explosions sounded off from behind them, and another person darted up to them in a flash of grey smoke. His red eyes were furious and his ash-blond hair was flying in the gale.

“HEY! YOU ISSUED YOUR WAR DECLARATION ON THE WRONG RIVAL!” Bakugo bellowed as he pushed his palm at Todoroki, firing off a large burst of light and smoke. Todoroki dodged to the side, missing it by a few centimetres. Bakugo whipped his other arm in front of him, aiming his next explosion at Todoroki, but Todoroki was quick and swatted it away, both contestants still steadily avoiding the mines beneath their feet. He reached at Bakugo with his right hand, gripped Bakugo’s arm, and a glitter of ice shot forth onto his target’s forearm. Bakugo quickly shattered it, and followed it up with another explosion.

“Don’t you guys forget about me!” Rukina screamed. She grabbed both of their arms, Bakugo in her left hand and Todoroki in her right, and flung them, like they were ragdolls, into the air behind her. She pushed forward, feeling the scorching hot glares of rage burning into the back of her skull. All of a sudden, a huge detonation from behind, with the force of a hundred boxes of TNT, shook the ground beneath their feet. A violent shock wave whipped at Rukina’s hair.

“What the hell?!” she cried out, shielding her eyes from the winds. All three leaders looked behind them, momentarily distracted from their fights with each other, and saw Midoriya in the air on top of a large piece of scrap metal, perhaps from a broken robot? Midoriya sailed through the massive pink smoke and closed in on them in a second, up and over them in the next, taking the lead. Bakugo was first to react, totally abandoning his fight with Todoroki and Rukina. He aimed his palms behind him and his orange explosions propelled him.

“DEKU!” he shouted with rage. “DON’T GET AHEAD OF ME!”

Todoroki stomped his foot on the ground, ice issuing obediently in front of him, forming a path for him. “This will give those in the back a path, but I don’t have time to worry about what’s behind me,” he murmured, breaking out in full sprint to catch up.

“Dammit,” Rukina muttered to herself, following Todoroki on his ice. Hey, if there’s a free path, she’ll take it. “I really don’t want to use more energy than necessary, but I might have to now.”

Ahead of her, she saw Midoriya sailing in the air, but soon, air resistance and gravity caught up with him and he started to lose momentum. Bakugo, Todoroki, and Rukina caught up to him, and all four leaders were neck to neck.

Then, Midoriya crazily whipped his piece of scrap metal down onto the ground beside them, launching himself through the air again. Immediately, Rukina’s vision was filled with pink smoke. She held her breath, not wanting to breathe it in. Not caring what the others were doing anymore, she abandoned her restraint and sense of thought, for she mustn't fall behind. She commanded the air to support her weight again as the dual tornadoes formed on her back, shooting herself through and out of the massive pink cloud, across the field, and into the narrow hallway leading to the finish. She landed roughly on her feet, stumbling in her haste, and began pursuit again. Now was not the time to be elegant. Now was the time to catch up!

The finish line was quickly approaching, a light at the end of this dark tunnel (literally) with the shadows of Midoriya, Todoroki, and Bakugo right in front of her. She grit her teeth, lunged, and threw herself forward into the blinding light, surpassing the person beside her, whoever he was, by a hair’s breadth.

“Right now, the first person back into the stadium is Izuku Midoriya! His name will be a name to know!” Present Mic’s booming voice swept across the stadium.

“Dammit,” Bakugo said from beside her, his angry expression facing the ground. Oh so it was Bakugo. “Again? Dammit! Goddamn it!”

Panting and trying to catch her breath, she jogged up to Midoriya. The wide and proud smile on his face made her grin too. “Hey Midoriya, you came in first, congratulations,” she said to him.

“You too,” he said, his voice tired but thrilled. “You got third place, which is still really good!”

“And now they’re steadily crossing the finish line, one after the other!” Present Mic’s voice echoed across the stands.

Uraraka and Iida caught up, huffing and puffing. “Deku and Rukina, you two were amazing!” Uraraka said between pants. “Congrats on first and third place!”

“To think I’d place so low with a quirk like mine...” Iida muttered to himself, his face downcast.

“Well, at least we all made it to the next round,” Rukina said, wanting to encourage the two.

“The race is over and we have our results!” Midnight’s voice rang out as all the students poured into the arena again. “The top 42 from the race can advance to the second trial! And now for the second half of the preliminaries! The second event this year will be…” She paused, drawing the audience’s attention to the TV behind her. The TV screen flashed once again, then steadied to show the next three words. HUMAN CAVALRY BATTLE. Midnight continued.

“Behold! You will form teams with 2-4 people and form a horseback configuration! Steal the headbands of your opponent teams and guard your own! Each individual will receive points based on their performance in the last trial! The person who placed 42nd will be worth five points, the person who placed 41st will be worth ten points, 40th will be worth fifteen points, and so on in five point intervals! The only exception is the one who placed first place, who will be worth ten million!”

Rukina glanced at Midoriya, who looked like he just swallowed a ten kilo weight and was about to pass out. He looked like he would prefer nothing but to disappear from sight and sweat formed on his brow. Everyone around him turned to look and stare at him, like starving wolves would stare at a single white rabbit.

“If I were you, I’d aim for the guy who placed first!” Midnight voiced what everyone was thinking right now. “This is the chance for the low to overtake the ones at the top!”

Oh, poor Midoriya.

Chapter Text

“The boy who placed first in the Obstacle Race is worth ten million points!” Midnight shouted.

Oh, poor Midoriya…

“The time limit is fifteen minutes!” Midnight continued, as if she didn’t just condemn Midoriya to an early and unfortunate death. “The value of each group’s headband is worth the total point accumulation of all members on that team! The one to wear the headband is the team’s rider! Until time is up, you’ll all be fighting and stealing as many of each other’s headbands as possible! In this cavalry game, even if you lose your headband, you’re still not out of the game! Remember, only the top four teams can advance to the finals! Now, you have fifteen minutes to make your teams!”

Right away, Rukina had a plan ready. This cavalry game would be perfect for her group of friends, she thought. The speedy Iida would be in the front, while Uraraka and Midoriya can be on the sides. Meanwhile, she would be the rider and wear the ten million points since her quirk’s reflection mode would make it impossible for other people to even touch her. Her quirk was too perfect for this. It was almost too easy.

Her classmates and other students seemed to recognize the value of her quirk as well. Before she could look for Uraraka or Midoriya or Iida, many eyes turned to stare at her. Many people swarmed around her, trying to persuade her to join them.

“You’re Yagi, right? Please let me join your team!” an overly enthusiastic male from the general ed course said.

“Yagi, please team up with me!” Mina Ashido begged.

“Ribbit, would you mind if I joined your team, Rukina?” Tsuyu Asui asked politely. “You can call me Tsu.”

“Yagi, please join with me- I mean join up with me!” Mineta said, a bit of drool hanging on his lip. Rukina sent him a look of disgust.

Then, she heard the voice she had been waiting to hear. “Hey Rukina, let’s do this together!” Uraraka chirped happily, with Midoriya beside her. Both gave her hopeful looks, as if they were thinking along the same strategy as her.

She eagerly responded. “Yes Uraraka, let’s-”

“Hey Yagi, be on a team with me!” a friendly voice from behind her said. She turned around and Kirishima gave her a toothy and harmless smile.

“Sorry Kirishima, I’m going to team up with Uraraka and Midoriya.”

“Oh, I guess I was too late,” he said, rubbing the back of his head, a bashful look on his face. Then, Rukina thought she saw something mischievous flicker into his expression. “I guess you’ll miss this chance to repay the debt you owe me,” he said in a deeper, accusing voice.

Rukina’s eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Debt? What debt? I don’t remember owing you anything.”

“Oh you know, when you made those two zero point robots fall, they fell on me. I almost died!” he exclaimed.

A surprised “Oh” escaped from her lips. Guilt started to seep through her body. She lowered her head in shame. How could she have been so careless like that? How could she put her classmates in danger like that? That is not what a true hero should do. “Sorry about that, Kirishima. I didn’t mean to.”

“I almost died!” he repeated for emphasis. “I only managed to survive because I got lucky! Now, will you join my team and make it up to me?”

Rukina glanced between Uraraka and Kirishima, hesitating and unsure. A few moments of silence, then...

“Sorry Uraraka,” Rukina murmured through grit teeth.

“Rukina?” Uraraka’s timid voice asked from behind her.

“Sorry Uraraka,” Rukina repeated, louder this time. “But I’m joining Kirishima’s team because I owe him.”

“Yes!” Kirishima cheered, fist pumping the air.

“I’m really sorry Uraraka,” Rukina said again. But Uraraka’s expression was soft and understanding.

“Don’t worry about it, Rukina, let’s all do our best!” she said genuinely. She then turned to Midoriya. “Come on Deku!” And they both walked away in search of other teammates.

Rukina sighed. “Alright, Kirishima, let’s do this.”

“Yeah! I know exactly who else I want to join us!” he said energetically, his eyes sweeping the grounds and looking for the people he wanted.

Rukina glanced around the field as well. Briefly her gaze fell on Todoroki, catching sight of that head of half white and half red. Their eyes met for a second, before he glanced away, ignoring her again. She then inspected his team.

“Kirishima,” she got her teammate’s attention, “Todoroki already has a team. He’s got Iida, Yaoyorozu, and Kaminari.”

“Well, we’d better hurry up then,” he said, still smiling reassuringly. “Hey Bakugo!” he suddenly called at the ash-blond nearby. “Todoroki has a team already! Team up with us!”

“You are hair for brains, right?” Bakugo acknowledged him.

“It’s Kirishima! Remember my name dammit!” Kirishima said, stung. “But join up with us! We’ll be a super strong team together! We have Yagi with us too!” He pulled Rukina in front of him, showing Bakugo.

Bakugo took one glance at her. “I don’t like you.”

“Well I don’t like you either,” she snapped.

“Bitch.”

“Prick.”

“Guys, guys! Can we stop fighting among ourselves?!” Kirishima asked.

“No,” Rukina and Bakugo both stubbornly said at the same time. Kirishima groaned.

“Ok, but we’re in the middle of the Sports Festival! Can we at least save the fighting for another time?! Right now is the time to work together and win!”

The very last word that Kirishima said seemed to get Bakugo thinking. He quite liked winning.

“Alright, I’ll work together with you guys to win,” Bakugo decided. His lips pulled into a confident smirk. “You dumbasses better listen up because I have a plan.”

“Oh no, is it stupid?” Rukina asked.

“Bitch!”

“Prick!”

“Guys, seriously! Now is not the time! Can we all just work together for a few minutes?!” Kirishima asked, exasperated. His facial expression screamed what the hell is wrong with this team?! Both Rukina and Bakugo stopped their silent staring (more like glaring) contest. Kirishima continued. “I’ll be the front horse! We’ll definitely get Midoriya’s ten million together!”

“I’ll be our team’s rider and rip it off his head!” Bakugo’s lips curled back into a sinister smile.

“Wouldn’t it make more sense for me to be rider?” Rukina asked. “My quirk makes it impossible for people to touch me.”

“NO! I have to be the one to take it from Deku!” Bakugo shouted, unyielding.

Rukina bit back her retort with difficulty. She exhaled quietly through her nose. Just cooperate for now, she told herself, for Kirishima’s sake. “Alright, whatever you say. I’ll be a side horse then.”

“Hey guys!” Hanta Sero called at them. “It wouldn’t hurt to let me join your team, right?”

Bakugo looked at him as if he were simply an insect. “Who are you again?”

“Dammit Bakugo, I’m your classmate! Hanta Sero! I shoot tape out of my elbows!”

“Sure, the more the merrier!” Kirishima said cheerfully. They quickly assembled into position, with Kirishima at the front, Sero on the right, and Rukina on the left. Bakugo got into his position as Rider, resting his boot-clad feet on the horses’ linked hands.

Ugh, I hope his feet don’t smell… Rukina thought, wrinkling her nose. I’ll have to wash my hands after this.

Then, Midnight’s voice rang out once again. “All right, time’s up! The Human Cavalry Battle begins now!”

Screams and applause erupted from the audience as the teams advanced to the middle of the stadium, all eyes on that headband worth ten million points, pure chaos issuing forth. It seemed like Midoriya and Uraraka teamed up with bird-like Tokoyami and another girl from the support course. As soon as the Cavalry Battle began, Midoriya pushed a button and the jetpack strapped to his back pulled his team up and away from the advancing squads.

“We shouldn’t let our guard down,” Rukina said as she ran with her team. “Most people are all aiming for the ten million, but our headband is still worth quite a bit.”

Just as she finished her sentence, Bakugo launched his palms out behind him and fired himself into the air towards Midoriya, his tunnel vision dead set on the ten million point prize.

“Dammit Bakugo!” she yelled after him, “Stop being so reckless!” But his sole focus was Midoriya.

“Riding very high and mighty, aren’t you, Deku?!” he taunted Midoriya. He thrust his hand forward and a burst of light and smoke shot from his palm. But instead of hitting the target, the explosion was intercepted by a sort of dark bird-like creature issuing from Tokoyami’s stomach. Bakugo’s red eyes widened in surprise, and he started to lose altitude as gravity pulled him down.

“That damn Bakugo,” Rukina muttered to herself. She then turned her attention to Kirishima and Sero. “Alright guys, we’ll meet him in the air.” Her brain whirled at the speed of light, automatically and seamlessly completing the intense calculations behind the physics of her quirk. Right away, their feet lifted off the ground and they launched upwards towards Bakugo. Sero shot out his tape, attaching to Bakugo and reeling him in as Rukina held the team still in midair.

“Nice catch, Sero. Good job, Yagi,” Kirishima complimented.

Present Mic was shouting something, but listening to him wasn’t important right now. Right now, Rukina had to prevent her team from falling apart. They smoothly landed on the ground after Bakugo was safely stationed on top of them.

“Dammit Bakugo, you can’t just keep flying off on your own like that!” she angrily told him.

“How could I not?!” he yelled back, frustrated he didn’t obtain the ten million. “Deku was right in front of-”

Just then, a burst of golden light flared from Team Bakugo’s left. Other cavalry teams on that side tensed up, as if a great shock ran through them all.

“Kaminari’s electricity!” Kirishima shouted.

“Damn, one problem after another,” Rukina muttered to herself. “Kirishima, Sero, hold on to Bakugo for me!” She lifted her hand from the cavalry formation and swiped it through the air as the yellow electricity approached them, zapping and buzzing maliciously. As soon as the bolts hit her outstretched fingers, they ricocheted off, into the ground and away from her team.

“There, I deflected Kaminari’s attack,” Rukina said as she put her hand back into formation. “But if Kaminari’s here, then that means Todoroki is here too.”

This sparked Bakugo’s interest. “Let’s get that half and half bastard!” But right after he said that, Rukina felt Bakugo freeze up. She heard a ripping sound from above her, regrettably similar to the sound of ripping velcro. She glanced up to see another team in front of them, composed of Class 1B students. Their leader (Monoma, was it?) mockingly stared down his nose at Team Bakugo, their team headband hanging limply around his index finger.

“Just like taking candy from a baby, Class A,” Monoma taunted as he wrapped Team Bakugo’s headband around his neck.

Bakugo exploded in anger, veins appearing on his neck. “GIVE THAT BACK! I’LL KILL YOU!”

Monoma was not fazed at all. He looked at Bakugo like Bakugo was simply a spoiled child throwing a tantrum. “You’re quite famous, aren’t you? You’re the victim from that sludge incident!” Monoma paused, his eyes glinting evilly. “How does it feel to be attacked by villains once a year?”

If Bakugo’s reaction a second before counted as anger, then his reaction right now was unadulterated fury and rage. He looked like he wished for nothing but to dissect Monoma alive right here and now.

“Kirishima, change of plans,” his voice was quieter now, but its venomous and deadly tone sent a shiver down Rukina’s spine. She could hear the pure hatred and feel the white hot ferocity in that voice. One glance at Kirishima and Sero told her that they were scared, like they were holding a rabid animal right now. If Bakugo’s hatred were measured by flames, the entire world have instantly turned to ash right now.

“Before Deku, let’s kill all these guys first!” Bakugo seethed, his body shaking from all the rage condensed inside of it. Rukina wouldn’t have been surprised if steam shot out of his nose right now.

Welp, rest in pieces, Monoma.

“Get it together, Bakugo.” Kirishima tried to bring him back to his senses. “If you don’t calm down, we’ll never be able to take back those points!”

“Forward, Kirishima!” Bakugo bellowed, his lips pulled back into a crazy grin. “I’m totally calm!”

Rukina was about to reply to that, until she thought better and realized that now was not the time to upset Bakugo even further.

“We’re seriously counting on you,” Kirishima said as he pulled forward.

Bakugo lunged at Monoma, aiming to grab him by the face, and a blast of orange light and smoke issued from Bakugo’s hand. But it was as if Monoma expected this. He clearly wasn’t a novice at hand to hand combat. Like an expert bullfighter, he smoothly leaned to the side, a hand deflecting Bakugo’s arm as Bakugo dived past him. Bakugo’s jaw dropped in shock. He quickly regained his balance and turned around, but was met with an explosion in the face. His own explosion, in fact.

“What is this quirk? Energy absorption and release?” Rukina wondered.

“Such a nice quirk!” Monoma sounded as excited as a child in a candy store. He then swiped his hand across Kirishima’s forehead. Bakugo dived in a second time, aiming at Monoma’s face again, and light flashed out of his palm, immediately followed by a cloud of soot. When the smoke cleared, Rukina expected to see Monoma lying on the ground, defeated and knocked out, because that was a point blank hit! Instead, Monoma’s skin was buffed up and resembled crystal, strikingly similar to Kirishima’s Hardening quirk.

“Woah, such nice quirks!” Monoma repeated in the same thrilled voice as before. “But my quirk is far greater!” Then, it clicked in Rukina’s mind, and it seemed like it dawned on Bakugo too.

“Woah, my quirk! Why does he have my quirk?” Kirishima gasped out.

“This guy has a copy quirk,” Bakugo said grimly.

“Correct.” Monoma offered a taunting smile. “But I guess even idiots can get that right.”

Before Bakugo could lunge himself forward again, another team of Class B students closed in on them. Grey and sticky-looking goo issued from the bulky male’s mouth. The slime pooled on the ground, covering the grass and Kirishima’s foot.

“Monoma, let’s run!” the bulky male said. “With your score, you’ll be in the top four places for sure!” He turned on his heel and ran, with Team Monoma following behind him.

“Farewell,” Monoma smugly waved goodbye, taunting them one last time before making his escape.

Kirishima leaned forward, ready to give pursuit, but the foot covered in the slime wouldn’t budge. “It hardened! I can’t move!”

“It’s concrete, but nothing we can’t beat!” Rukina yelled. She pressed her toes against Kirishima’s cemented foot prison, and it shattered into pieces. “There, you’re free now!”

“Thanks Yagi!”

“We need to hurry! We’re still at zero points!” Sero frantically reminded. They broke off into a sprint, charging in hot pursuit of their target. Gradually, they gained ground on Team Monoma, and Rukina saw Bakugo swing his arms behind him, palms down.

“Wait Bakugo, don’t you fly-!” she began, but he had already done it, blasting through the air and steadily approaching their opponent.

“Tsuburaba, guard!” Monoma commanded. Team Monoma’s front horse puckered his lips as if he were to whistle, then swiftly blew out. A shield, clear as glass, solidified in place. Bakugo collided into it with a thud, but he remained unfazed. He held onto the clear surface, raised a fist, and launched it through the glass, shattering it on impact. The same fist took hold of two of the four headbands around Monoma’s neck, and savagely ripped them off.

“Yes!” Rukina shouted at their triumph, momentarily forgetting her irritation at Bakugo. Sero’s tape shot out, caught Bakugo by the back of his jacket, and reeled him back into formation like before.

“Nice going, Bakugo!” Rukina praised him, too pleased with their prize to scold him about his recklessness.

“But warn us before you jump off again!” Sero shouted.

“At least we’re placed high enough to advance to the finals now,” Kirishima said optimistically.

“IT’S NOT ENOUGH! WE’RE GOING TO GET AN INDISPUTABLE FIRST PLACE!” Bakugo bellowed, fury dripping off of his voice. He started pounding his fists onto Kirishima’s head, telling him wordlessly to hurry up. “WE’RE GETTING OUR POINTS BACK, AND THEN THE TEN MILLION!”

They raced on, all four pairs of eyes locked onto the back of their target. If looks could kill, Monoma would be dead four times over.

“Flat face!” Bakugo barked to his right, “Tape!”

“My name is Sero!” A white strand of Sero’s tape stretched out ahead of them and attached to the ground near their target.

“Yagi!” Bakugo called to his left, “Boost us!”

“Woah, so you actually know my name?” With the force of Bakugo’s explosions adding onto Rukina’s vectors, Team Bakugo accelerated forward with the speed of a bullet. In a single second, they closed in on their opponent, and Bakugo’s fingers wrapped around the remaining headbands circling Monoma’s neck, and yanked brutally with all his might. With a great rip, the bands became undone and lay safely in Bakugo’s fist.

Rukina made a mental note to never underestimate Bakugo’s unyielding and persistent spirit.

Circling the headbands around his own neck, Bakugo smirked triumphantly. “Next are Deku and the half half bastard!”

Rukina glanced at the large TV screen that broadcasted the remaining time and scores. She shouted, “Twelve seconds left! Todoroki has the ten million!” They didn’t have to look very hard to locate Todoroki, since several large ice walls segmented off a corner of the battle field. Team Bakugo pushed on towards that corner, racing against time.

Eight seconds left. They steadily approached the great ice walls. But even so, time was tight.

Six seconds left. They finally reached the great ice barricades. Rukina scanned the structure, calculating how much force she would need to break through it.

Five seconds. “Hurry up and smash it already, Yagi!” Bakugo screeched, an edge of panic among all the anger in his voice.

Four seconds. Her foot struck the base of the ice barrier. It shattered into a hundred crystal pieces, glinting in the sun. “Let’s go!” she cried out.

Two. They advanced, crystal crunching under their feet, ice dust showering them overhead. Bakugo lept off in a barrage of explosions, joining the deadlock between Midoriya and Todoroki.

One. “You half half bastard!” Bakugo sailed in the air, his hand outstretched towards Todoroki, reaching and groping fiercely for that ten million around Todoroki’s neck.

“TIME’S UP!” Present Mic roared above the deafening crowd. Bakugo's fingers closed around thin air and he took a nosedive, and crumpled face first into the ground. The audience erupted into screams and cheers, their excitement filling the arena. Bakugo slowly sat up, but remained squatting on the ground, sulking moodily.

Present Mic continued. “Our top four teams are: Team Todoroki in first place! Team Bakugo in second place!” At this, Bakugo punched the ground and yelled to himself. “Team Shinso in third place! And Team Midoriya in fourth place! The Sports Festival will continue after the hour long lunch break! See you then!”

Although Bakugo was absolutely pissed off, Kirishima remained smiling. “Good job team! We made it to the finals!”

Kirishima’s happiness was infectious. Rukina’s lips pulled into a grin too. “We made it,” she excitedly said. “See you guys after the lunch break.” She turned and darted off, seeking the nearest washroom so she could scrub her hands. She exchanged congratulations with Uraraka and Midoriya when she passed them and exited the arena. She entered a hallway, turned a corner, and caught sight of the women’s bathroom. A single thought ran through her mind. I really hope Bakugo didn’t step in anything nasty before the Cavalry Battle.

A few minutes later, after she was content with her hand hygiene, she exited the bathroom, turned a corner, and the sight of Bakugo in front of her momentarily startled her. He leaned against the wall, a serious expression on his face. She stopped in her tracks and wondered what he wanted.

He caught sight of her. Right as she opened her mouth to ask him what he was doing, he lifted his index finger vertically over his lips. His meaning was plain as day. Shhh.

She blinked, confused at why she had to be quiet right now, but Bakugo didn’t have to answer her. A different voice, a familiar voice belonging to a certain ice quirk user came from beyond the corner.

“I was overpowered,” Todoroki said. “So much that I broke my pledge and used my fire.”

Immediately, Rukina felt like she stumbled into something private, something she was not supposed to be listening to, but curiosity kept her from walking away. She silently moved to stand beside Bakugo, who was listening just as intently as she was.

“Iida, Kaminari, Yaoyorozu, Tokoyami, Uraraka, none of them felt it,” Todoroki continued. “Only I felt it at that moment, because I experienced All Might’s full power up close.”

“What does that mean?” Midoriya’s voice was timid and small, unsure, afraid he might say the wrong thing and upset Todoroki. Without witnessing their faces, Rukina could imagine Todoroki narrowing his eyes now, glaring at Midoriya.

“It means I felt something similar coming from you,” he growled out, his tone icy and intimidating. It was silent except for their voices. The hallway was completely empty except for the pair talking, and the pair eavesdropping. “Midoriya, are you All Might’s secret love child or something?”

She could hear a sigh of relief come from Midoriya, who probably expected something more serious like Todoroki’s war declaration this morning.

“Th-That’s not it!” His voice stopped being so quiet, but he still stuttered. “I mean, even if I was, I would deny it, but I can assure you that’s not it!” Rukina could imagine him violently shaking his head. “Anyways, why do you think that about me?”

“Since you said ‘that’s not it’, then you must have some relation to All Might that you can’t talk about, right?” Todoroki went on, ignoring Midoriya’s question.

She heard Midoriya gulp.

“Endeavor’s my old man. I’m sure you know he’s been stuck as the No 2 hero for forever,” Todoroki said. “If you have something from the No 1 hero, then I have even more reason to beat you.” He paused before speaking again. Even from around the corner, Rukina could sense that the atmosphere just dropped a few degrees, and not because of Todoroki’s quirk. “My old man has a strong desire to rise in the world.

“As a hero, he won a name for himself using crushing force. Because of that, the living legend All Might is a great eyesore to him. Since he couldn’t surpass All Might, he moved on to his next plan.”

“What are you talking about, Todoroki?” Midoriya asked, confused. “What are you trying to tell me?”

“Have you heard of quirk marriages? After superpowers appeared, people started choosing spouses based on strengthening your own quirk and passing it onto your children. Although old fashioned and completely unethical, people were forced into marriage.”

Rukina’s eyes widened at the realization: his father coldly used his mother for his own selfish purposes. She couldn’t stop the small gasp that escaped from her lips, causing Bakugo to clamp a hand over her mouth. Her heart filled with emotion and empathy for Todoroki, because she was the same. They both were the same. Both had a past that always chased them, that haunted them. And because of that past, both had the dream of becoming heroes, desperately trying to save themselves in doing so.

“My father is a man with both accomplishments and money. He won over my mother’s relatives and got ahold of my mother’s quirk,” Todoroki confirmed her thoughts. Rukina could now hear a new tone in his voice. A new tone that was full with regret and hatred. “He is trying to fulfill his own desire by raising me to be a hero to surpass All Might.

“Screw him. I won’t become a tool of scum like that,” Todoroki growled, harshly and with loathing. He paused, and his voice took on a softer tone. “In my memories, my mother was always crying. She said my left side was ugly, and poured boiling water on me.”

Rukina would have gasped if Bakugo wasn’t currently clamping her mouth shut. She thought about the burn scar on his face. Everyday, he must have been reminded of what happened. Every time he looked in a mirror, he must have recalled all of the suffering that he and his mother experienced at the hands of his father. Tears of empathy and compassion welled up in Rukina’s eyes, and she furiously tried to blink them away.

“Basically, I picked a fight with you to show him what I can do without using his damn quirk,” Todoroki explained. “I’ll reject him completely by winning first place without it.”

Silence. Todoroki was finished talking. A pause.

Todoroki must have been alone all this time. A father that used him like a tool. A mother that hated him for being born. Rukina felt her heart ache, old wounds from her own past resurfacing and resonating, harmonizing with his.

Then, footsteps started walking away and out of the hallway. And she was suddenly seized by an urge to call out to him, to let him know that he wasn’t alone. Not anymore.

Her body moved of its own accord, all sensible thought having gone out the window. She shoved Bakugo’s hand off her, turned a corner and caught sight of Todoroki’s back. She ran, one foot in front of the other, pushing past Midoriya.

“Todoroki!” she called out. He stopped in his tracks. The surprise from hearing her voice made him turn around, and he glared at her when he realized she had heard his private conversation with Midoriya.

“What the hell do you want?” He didn’t have time for this. He didn’t have time to waste on her. Talking about his father already put him in a foul mood, which only worsened when he caught sight of her.

“I’m sorry but I heard your conversation and I want to help you,” she blurted out. When she chased after him, her brain had shut down and let her body push herself forward. She wasn’t thinking. She hadn’t gathered her thoughts at all. All she knew was that she wanted desperately to reach out to him.

“I don’t need your help,” he viciously said, his voice colder than bitter ice. “You are annoying and nothing but a nuisance. Stay away from me.” He turned on his heel and walked away.

Her body leaned forward, starting to give chase again, but Midoriya’s hand on her shoulder stopped her.

“Todoroki,” he called out, determined. “My reason may be an insignificant motive compared to yours, but I can’t lose either. Not just for myself, but to pay back the people who’ve helped me along the way. So I repeat your war declaration back to you. I’ll win too!”

“Just you wait Todoroki!” Rukina called, cupping her hands around her mouth in an attempt to amplify the sound, her heart fluttering in her chest from persistence. “No matter what you say, I’m going to help you! Even if I have to knock some sense into you first! Take that as a promise from me!”

Chapter Text

Rukina and Midoriya arrived at the cafeteria after everyone else. Miraculously, they managed to find an empty table. They sat down with their food trays in front of them.

“So Yagi, you heard our conversation, right?” Midoriya asked after he swallowed a mouthful of rice. Rukina felt her face become a bit warm as she became a bit flustered.

“Sorry, I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop or anything… ok maybe I was, but I just came out of the washroom and heard you guys and it would have been really awkward if I just walked past you guys in the middle of your conversation, right?” Rukina tried explaining. She decided to leave out the part about Bakugo listening too.

“Yagi, there you are!” Kaminari said as he slipped into the empty seat beside her. “We were looking everywhere for you!”

“Huh? What is it?” she asked.

“UA brought over cheerleaders from America! You saw them, right?”

“Nope,” she replied.

“Well, this is a message directly from Mr Aizawa: All girls must join the American cheerleaders and do the cheerleading with them!”

She looked at him in suspicion, which only deepened when she saw Mineta standing behind Kaminari. “Really?”

“Really!” Kaminari answered right away, nodding his head. She was about to say that this sounded incredibly fishy to her, until Uraraka’s familiar voice piped up from behind her.

“Rukina, I found you!” she said breathlessly. “Everyone’s been looking for you. Hurry, Yaoyorozu’s making the cheerleading outfits right now using her Creation quirk!”

“Wait, what?” she asked in amazement, “We really need to do the cheerleading stuff?”

“Yes! Let’s go! Bye Deku!” Uraraka waved goodbye to Midoriya. She grabbed Rukina’s hand, leading the way to the locker rooms.

“That damn Mineta and Kaminari,” Rukina seethed 30 minutes later, dressed up in the orange cheerleading outfit. This damn outfit, with its skirt too short, with its shirt too small. Beside her stood the other Class 1A girls, who were dressed similarly. Rukina clutched the yellow pompoms to her stomach, trying to hide as much skin as possible.

“Mineta! Kaminari! You tricked us, didn’t you?!” Yaoyorozu yelled, her usually polite tone replaced with an annoyed one. She fell to the ground, incredibly disappointed with herself, her face downcast. “Why am I always getting caught up in Mineta’s schemes?”

The always kind Uraraka kneeled down and gently patted Yaoyorozu on the back.

Jiro, the earphone jack girl, angrily threw her pompoms to the ground. “Those guys are such idiots!”

“Well, there’s still time before the finals, so it’s fine! Let’s do it!” said Hagakure, the invisible girl. She waved her pompoms around, energetically yet haphazardly, almost punching Jiro in the face.

“Easy for you to say, Hagakure,” Rukina groaned. “You’re invisible, so no one can see you in this embarrassing outfit.”

“Toru actually likes this, huh?” Asui commented with her cute froggy voice.

“Alright everyone! Time for the recreation games!” Present Mic’s voice shot out across the stadium, magnified with his quirk. “Then after that, it’s the final event! Sixteen individuals made it through from the second event! We’re pitting them against each other in one-on-one combat!”

Midnight’s voice followed after Present Mic finished. “Alright, the matchups will be determined through lottery! After the matchups are determined, we’ll do the recreational games, then we’ll start the final battle! Whether or not the final sixteen want to participate in the recreational games is up to you. I’m sure you guys would prefer to take a break or preserve your strength.”

A hand raised in the crowd. “Um, excuse me, I’m withdrawing,” said Ojiro, the tail guy. A surprised gasp swept through the crowd. “Everyone earned their place in the final sixteen and I wouldn’t feel right to participate with you guys when I don’t even remember how I got here. I just can’t do it.”

A round Class B student spoke up too. “I don’t remember what happened either. I’m withdrawing too. For a person like me, who didn’t actually do anything, to participate in the final would defeat the purpose of the Sports Festival.”

“You guys are so manly...” Kirishima muttered, awestruck.

“Alright!” Midnight agreed. A few minutes later, Ojiro and the Class B students’ spots were given to Class B’s Tetsutetsu, the guy with the steel quirk, and Shiozaki, who had vines growing out of her scalp. A large TV screen flashed and listed the match ups. Rukina’s eyes scanned it from left to right, looking for the names of her friends. Midoriya would be fighting first against a person called Hitoshi Shinso. Wasn’t that the purple haired guy who declared war on the hero course students? The third match would have Iida against Mei Hatsume, the girl who was on Team Midoriya for the Cavalry Battle. Rukina then saw her own name, with Aoyama’s next to her (“Let’s both do our best, ma cherie,” he said). Finally, her eyes landed on Uraraka’s name, right beside Bakugo’s.

Rukina heard a small “Eek!” come from Uraraka beside her. Rukina half expected the girl to start trembling.

“Uraraka?” Rukina asked, worried. “Are you alright?”

“Now, as promised, the tournament will be put on hold and we’ll enjoy some recreational games!” Present Mic’s voice shouted from overhead.

“Uraraka?” Rukina tried again.

Uraraka held out her fist, giving a thumbs up that shook slightly. “I’m fine!” she said in a happy tone that was somewhat different from her usual cheerful tone. It sounded almost false.

“Uraraka, I can help you think of battle strategies if you want. I was on his team for the Cavalry Battle so I have a rough idea of what his fighting style is.”

“No. I need to do it by myself.” Uraraka said this with surprising firmness. “I entered the hero course to become stronger, not to get by with other people always going easy on me or bailing me out.” She then took Rukina’s hands, which still held the pompoms, and started to shake. “Now come on! Let’s have some fun before the battle!”

“Wait Uraraka, cheerleading is your idea of fun?”

“Come on! Do it with me! The yellow pompoms are cute!” Uraraka started pumping her fists in the air energetically, the pompoms flying around.

“Alright,” Rukina hesitantly joined in. Something in the back of her mind told her that Uraraka was desperately trying to destress herself right now.

The recreational games seemed to end in a split second. Almost too soon, Present Mic’s voice was booming again and announcing the start of the final tournament event. Rukina and Uraraka changed back into their UA gym uniforms and wished Midoriya good luck as they passed him. They quickly joined Iida up in the spectator stands. From up here, Rukina could see the entire stadium field. The battle stage formed a rectangle in the centre of the green field, and Midoriya stood on one end while Shinso stood on the other.

The match began. A few words were exchanged between the two contestants, before Midoriya charged at his opponent. All of a sudden Midoriya stopped in his tracks, oddly stiff and quiet. When Shinso ordered him to walk out of bounds, Midoriya obediently turned around, with his back to his opponent, and began to walk. This Shinso person must have a mind control quirk. Midoriya, one foot in front of the other, steadily approached the out of bound lines that enclosed the rectangle. Just then, Midoriya seemed to flick a finger down, and a violent swirl of air whirled suddenly around Midoriya’s feet. Next moment, Midoriya stood panting breathlessly and had evidently regained control of his body. He rushed at Shinso, and they exchanged a few punches and grabs, before Midoriya flipped Shinso out of bounds, ending the match.

“Midoriya Izuku advances to the next round!” Midnight shouted. The audience roared with applause.

Uraraka yelled out “Go Deku!” while Iida furiously clapped his hands. Rukina let out a gentle smile, and joined in with the applause.

Preparations for the next match started: Todoroki vs Sero. Rukina sighed. Assuming they both won their respective battles, it seemed like she wouldn’t be fighting Todoroki anytime soon…

As soon as the match started, white ribbons of tape shot out of Sero’s elbows, wrapped around Todoroki, and started to reel him towards the out of bound lines. Immediately, faster than she could see, she felt the air itself freeze. The entire audience fell silent in shock, completely awestruck at what just happened. Ice filled Sero’s half of the battle field, but it didn’t stop there. Ice completely filled one half of the arena, some even jutting out over the top into the heavens. Rukina was amazed. All this power with this overwhelming victory, and he only used his right side. The frozen tape around Todoroki shattered easily, and the match was concluded.

The silence of shock was broken when the audience chanted “Don’t mind!” in an attempt to comfort Sero, who was obviously immobilized in this titanic ice prison. Todoroki apologized to his opponent, and he lifted his left hand to melt the ice he had created.

And there it appeared again. That look that so resembled Rukina’s own. This only deepened Rukina’s resolve to help him, to save him from the demons haunting him, and to rescue him from his own hatred.

The next match proceeded without many notable moments. Of course, anyone after Todoroki paled in comparison. The third match was the longest by far. Rukina, Uraraka, and Midoriya all wished Iida good luck, but honestly, he didn’t need it. His opponent stepped out of bounds on her own accord after she used Iida to showcase her inventions for a full ten minutes.

Now, it was Rukina’s turn. Her friends gave her words of encouragement before she ascended the stairs and stepped onto the rectangular battle field, Aoyama facing her on the other end. Present Mic went on to introduce them to the audience, as he had done for the other final contestants.

“Even though he’s wearing a belt, he won’t transform! It’s Yuga Aoyama from the hero course! VERSUS. We saw her take down those two zero point robots and we see why she got in on Recommendations! Rukina Yagi from the hero course! Fourth match, START!”

Right off the bat, a beam of bright blue light shot out, aiming in Rukina’s direction. Just as it was about to hit her forehead, which might as well have been a mirror, the beam shot right back. It barely missed Aoyama, who flung himself out of the way. While Aoyama was distracted with his reflected attack, Rukina seized the chance. She kicked off from the ground, closed the distance between her and her opponent in a moment, and her fist made contact with his chin in a harsh uppercut. Aoyama sailed briefly in the air, then fell to the ground and lay there, spread eagle like a figure skater. Just like that, the match was decided in an instant.

“Aoyama is immobilized! Yagi advances to the next round!”

“Sorry Aoyama,” Rukina apologized, feeling a bit bad. “I didn’t want to punch you in your stomach and break your belt...”

His hand shakily lifted from the ground and he gave her a thumbs up. The medical robots wheeled him away shortly. Rukina went back up to the spectator stands and joined her friends.

The next two matches were over quickly. In the fifth match, Kaminari’s electrical attack was entirely blocked by Shiozaki’s vines, which then wrapped around him and immobilized him. Next, Tokoyami overwhelmed Yaoyorozu when his Dark Shadow struck quickly and shoved her out of bounds before she could counter.

When the seventh match started (Tetsutetsu vs Kirishima), Uraraka got up and walked out of the spectator stands, muttering something about going to the waiting room. Midoriya, Iida, and Rukina found her in waiting room number two.

“Hi,” Uraraka said in a brittle voice. Her eyebrows were scrunched together so tightly that they almost connected. “You guys did so well in your matches. I hope I do well too.”

“Uraraka! Your eyebrows are so wrinkled!” Iida yelled out in surprise.

“I’m just so nervous! I guess it went to my eyebrows,” she said as she lowered her head in worry, but at least her eyebrows went back to normal. “And I won’t lie. I’m super scared.” No kidding. She looked as if she had swallowed poison and was waiting for death to come.

“Hey, maybe Bakugo would go easy if he’s fighting a girl,” Iida suggested hopefully.

“Nope he won’t,” Midoriya shot down immediately. “Everyone is giving their best at this Sports Festival, and so is Kacchan. But I’ve come up with a strategy for your matchup based on your quirk!”

Evidently, they were expecting Uraraka to be relieved, but she simply shook her head. Iida and Midoriya blinked in surprise. “Thank you Deku, but it’s ok. I’ve already depended on you enough throughout the Cavalry Battle, and I really want to pull through this time by my own strength.”

“Alright Uraraka,” Rukina said. “We’ll be watching and cheering you on through your match.”

Uraraka’s smile trembled, but she stood up steadily and with purpose, and she was out the door.

A few minutes later, Uraraka stood in front of Bakugo while her three friends were seated in the spectator stands (why call it the spectator stands when you’re sitting? Rukina had no clue). During this match, Uraraka fought at her wit’s end. No matter how she lunged at Bakugo, his defense would be impenetrable and he would blast her away. No matter what she threw at him, he would blow it away like it was nothing. Even when she unleashed all the pieces of concrete that she had levitated in the air and rained it down upon him, he simply demolished the concrete rain with one great burst of smoke from his hand. In the end, Uraraka collapsed in exhaustion as a result from overusing her quirk. Midnight concluded the match and Bakugo advanced to the next round. The last they saw of Uraraka on the stadium was her being wheeled away by recovery robots.

Midoriya and Rukina found her in waiting room number two again, almost good as new. The expression she wore on her face was carefree and much like the usual Uraraka expression. On the table lay a brand new UA gym uniform jacket since hers was destroyed in her battle.

“Damn, guess I lost,” she said, smiling and rubbing her cheek.

“Uraraka, are you ok?” Rukina asked, gently resting her hand on Uraraka’s shoulder.

“Recovery Girl took care of me, but still left a few small bruises and cuts so my stamina wouldn’t be too drained,” she said, with a sort of cheeriness that sounded slightly strained.

“You know that’s not what I meant.”

Uraraka’s cheery expression fell slightly, but a small smile still remained. “I’m fine, I really am. You guys always look straight ahead, and always keep moving forward, and I want to do my best too.” Her body hunched over, and a small tremor shook through her.

“Uraraka...” Midoriya tried to say.

“Alright, I think the matches will start soon. You don’t want to miss those,” Uraraka said in a small voice, although the first round of matches was over and the contestants were currently on a break. But the meaning behind her words was very clear. I don’t want you to see me cry.

“Yeah, Midoriya, your match against Todoroki is right up next, so I think you should go and prepare now,” Rukina said, giving Midoriya a look. Midoriya got the hint that he was being sent away, and gave the both of them a small nod before closing the door behind him.

Rukina tried to begin in a firm voice, “Uraraka, I just want to let you know that you fought very well and-”

“Rukina, you don’t have to lie to make me feel better,” Uraraka interrupted, fiddling with the plastic wrap on her new gym jacket. “I was completely destroyed in that match.”

“Uraraka, don’t say that.”

“And I see you guys always looking ahead and always moving forward,” she continued, emotion coating her words. “And I want to catch up.” Her eyes filled with tears.

“Uraraka, you feel like we’re leaving you behind?” Rukina asked gently.

A whimper answered her question. Rukina sighed. She took the new gym jacket out of Uraraka’s hands.

“Uraraka, listen to me. You shouldn’t feel the need to catch up to us because you never fell behind in the first place.” Rukina hoped she was saying the right thing. She really hoped she was comforting her friend correctly because she had never really done this before. The plastic crinkled when Rukina took the jacket out of its wrapping. She rolled out the fabric. “Sure you lost your match, but the amount of courage and determination you showed today are unrivaled. I’m sure many pro heroes saw that, and value that as well,” she said as she draped the jacket around Uraraka’s shoulders.

“Thank you,” Uraraka said in a small voice.

“Ok, I’m going to check up on Midoriya now because his match is soon. Make sure you come back to our seats and sit with us when you’re ready.”

Rukina gave her one final pat on the back before stepping out of the room and giving Uraraka her privacy. The door closed softly, and Rukina quickly walked away because Uraraka probably wouldn’t want anyone to hear her quiet sobs and whimpers.

As soon as she turned a corner, she caught sight of Midoriya, and the man towering over him. Rukina recognized him immediately, with those flames covering his beard and shoulders. No 2 hero, Endeavor.

“Shoto’s match against you will no doubt be an excellent test, so do your best and don’t give him a disgraceful match,” Endeavor said to Midoriya.

“I am not All Might,” Midoriya did not back down. “And Todoroki isn’t you.”

“What is going on here?” Rukina asked, a challenging edge to her words. This man standing in front of her was Todoroki’s father. This man was the reason behind Todoroki’s suffering. She felt irritation simmer inside of her. His aqua eyes fell onto her, and his lips pulled up in a pleased and eerie smile.

“Oh, good, you saved me the trouble of looking for you,” he said, meeting her gaze. “I’ve seen what you’ve done so far today, and I know your quirk is powerful. You’re not bad looking either. What do you think about a future marriage with my Shoto?”

Her gaze hardened to a glare. “Well, that’s too bad for you because Todoroki is dead set on ignoring me,” she replied, full of sarcasm. Endeavor seemed not to catch on to her displeasure as he continued.

“Well, I’ll have a word with him. Nothing we can’t arrange,” he said smugly. “So how much money do you want? Who are your parents? I’d like to have a chat with them too.”

Rukina’s throat constricted with revulsion. “You disgust me,” she seethed out.

That wiped the pleased smirk off his face. “I’d watch my mouth if I were you,” he growled dangerously at her, but Rukina ignored him.

“You see people as nothing but tools for you to use, as stepping stones for you to climb. You completely disregard the feelings of others in your own selfishness,” she snapped back. His eyes narrowed and the flames coating his shoulders rose as Endeavor’s temper rose with them. The hallway felt hot like a sauna now.

“You are nothing but a pampered and spoiled little girl. Sometimes suffering is necessary for us to advance,” he scoffed at her. “Of course, I wouldn’t expect you to know. You know nothing of this world. You have seen nothing of this world.”

“I’ve seen more than you think. I’ve seen first hand the cruelty of which this world is capable.” A series of vivid images flashed through her mind. A dark alleyway. Blood. Those empty blue eyes staring back at her. Without conscious thought, her hands tightened into fists, shaking at her sides, but her voice remained steady and strong, persisting through the harsh memories that wouldn’t leave her. “Get your head out of your butt. You are nothing but a little man who is blind to the suffering that he has caused to others.”

For a moment, it looked like he would have liked nothing better than to burn the whole hallway to a crisp. Luckily for the hallway, and for poor Midoriya who had been listening tensely on the side, a new voice boomed out from behind her.

“I am here!” All Might yelled from behind her, in a wildly transparent attempt to ease the tension. He scanned the scene, assessing the situation.

“Mr All Might!” Midoriya gasped out, relieved.

“The tournaments will be starting shortly,” All Might said, trying to break the tense atmosphere. “Endeavor, your son will be fighting soon.”

It looked like it took all of Endeavor’s self restraint to not cave into his idea of roasting her. Fortunately, the flames on his shoulders returned to their normal size, and the hallway no longer felt like a desert.

“Consider the deal off,” he said to her. He sent Rukina one final look of contempt and stalked away.

When he was sure Endeavor had gone out of earshot, Midoriya was quick to start scolding her, with comedic tears streaming down his cheeks. “Yagi, that was dangerous! I thought we were both gonna be sent to early and fiery graves!”

“He’s the one who made Todoroki suffer, and it’s clear that he only sees others as tools for him to use,” Rukina hissed.

All Might cleared his throat, trying to change the subject. “Alright, now young man, your match against Young Todoroki is going to begin very soon, so you should go to the battlefield right now,” he said to Midoriya. He then turned to her. “Young Yagi, let’s go back to our seats and watch the match.”

Anger still bubbled inside her, but it gradually simmered down. Rukina sighed, unclenching her shaking fists. “Ok. Do your best Midoriya,” she said before she followed All Might down the hallway and up a flight of stairs.

“Young Yagi, be careful.” All Might broke the silence after a few moments, in a tone that was somewhat different from the tone she was used to. Rather than the usual energetic toughness, his voice now was softer and had a hint of concern. “You are strong. I understand that. I appreciate your spirit, but sometimes it’s wiser to not provoke a sleeping bear.”

“Thank you, Mr All Might,” she forced herself to reply politely, but All Might was nonetheless pleased with her answer. He nodded at her before they separated. All Might went to the teacher’s spectator stands, while Rukina made her way to the Class A ones. By the time she arrived and sat beside Uraraka (whose eyes were looking strangely puffy) and Iida, her anger had washed down considerably. Iida then spoke up.

“Yagi, after Midoriya’s match with Todoroki, we’ll be fighting.”

“That’s right,” she confirmed.

“Although we’re friends, let’s both do our best,” Iida continued. “Let’s hold nothing back.”

Rukina felt her mouth spread in a smile at Iida’s earnestness. “Yes. We’ll both do our best.”

Down below, with Midoriya at one end and Todoroki on the other, the match started as the deafening screams of the audience filled the air. It was evident that Midoriya was making this a match of endurance. He tried to keep his distance. Every time Todoroki sent an ice wave at him, Midoriya knocked it away with a flick of his finger. The absolute power behind every finger flick, though devastatingly powerful, came at a heavy price, since the fingers themselves broke after every attack. Midoriya fought tooth and nail, even going as far as using his already bruised fingers and arms and breaking them even more.

“It’s your own power, isn’t it?!” Midoriya shouted, loud and clear for the whole stadium to hear. Briefly, something flickered behind Todoroki’s eyes, and a flash of flame emitted from his left hand. But then he blinked, and his eyes returned to that cold and piercing look, and the little spark of flame vanished. In the blink of an eye, it was over. Midoriya, caught off guard by the flames, was knocked violently to the side by a great cold wall of ice and out of bounds.

“Deku!” Uraraka gasped out. She was now standing on her feet, hands gripping the metal railing in front of her, anxiously watching as the medical robots wheeled Midoriya away.

“Midoriya is out of bounds!” Midnight announced over the cheers of the audience. “Todoroki advances to the next round!”

Right away, Uraraka seized Rukina’s hand. “We have to see Deku!” she cried out as she dragged Rukina out of her seat and down the hallway, with Iida following them.

***
When Midoriya woke up, he found his arms in casts and in a great deal of pain. Recovery Girl was yelling something at All Might, whose sunken-in eyes and hollowed out cheeks appeared more grim than his usual non-One-for-All mode.

As soon as Midoriya blinked the dizziness away and sat up, the door to the clinic room slammed open. A chorus of “Midoriya!” and “Deku!” was cried out, and he caught sight of his friends standing in the doorway. All Might from beside him tensed up, as if electricity just ran its course through him.

“I’m fine,” Midoriya tried assuring them. “Really, Recovery Girl’s taking care of me. I’ll be fine.”

Iida and Uraraka immediately started grilling Midoriya, firing questions at him and scolding him for being so reckless. Meanwhile, Rukina stared ahead, unsure if what she was seeing was real or not.

“Uncle?” Rukina’s voice asked, soft and amazed, as if she couldn’t believe it.

All Might, facing Midoriya with his back to Rukina, looked absolutely horrified. This grabbed Uraraka and Iida’s attention, and they stopped interrogating Midoriya as the three of them watched the exchange happening, the reunion of uncle and niece.

“Uncle, is that really you?” Rukina asked again, more firmly. That familiar messy blond hair, that familiar skinny body structure. He had lost weight from the last time she saw him, but she was sure it was him! He turned around, facing her with those familiar blue eyes, which had darkened considerably over the years. His cheekbones were much more pronounced than she remembered, but it was her uncle all the same! An excited grin, bright as the dawn, broke out on her face. “You came here to watch me, didn’t you?”

“Rukina dear, it’s good to see you,” he finally spoke, his voice a perfect match with the one in her memories. He patted her on her head. “You’ve grown taller.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you’ve come back to Japan? You said you were overseas seeing a doctor,” said Rukina with a tinge of confusion.

Recovery Girl sensed that All Might was caught in a tight spot and quickly intervened. “Quiet, I say! Quiet! I’m preparing Midoriya for surgery!” she yelled as she pushed out all the unwanted visitors and shut the door behind them.

“Thanks, Recovery Girl,” All Might breathed out. “You bought me enough time to think of a cover up story to tell my niece.”

“You really are Yagi’s uncle?!” Midoriya screeched, wide eyed at the unexpected reveal. “Wait, does she know you’re All Might?!”

“Yes, she’s my niece,” All Might sighed. He certainly had quite a bit of explaining to do. “My sister passed away when Rukina was six. When I took her in, I knew I had to keep my hero identity secret from her. Any connection with All Might is sure to put her in danger. Young Midoriya, I’m going to have to ask you to not tell anyone, not even her.”

“I promise,” Midoriya nodded understandingly. There was a slight pause as Midoriya digested the information, then he said, “I feel like she’ll find out sometime, whether you want her to or not.”

“I’m aware,” All Might replied tiredly. It looked like his already boney and worn out face gained another ten years. “But I just hope that’s after she graduates from UA and becomes strong enough.”

“But Yagi is already crazy strong! Did you not see her take out those two zero point robots without breaking a sweat?!”

“I meant strong enough to protect herself,” All Might said grimly.

“How much stronger does she need to get?! What does she need to protect herself from?!”

“Now young man, you’re still injured! Don’t you go off yelling and shouting and stirring yourself up,” Recovery Girl angrily scolded, pushing Midoriya back down onto the mattress. “I’m starting the surgery soon, so you’d best be prepared and be quiet for now.”

“Sorry Young Midoriya,” All Might said. “Maybe another time.”

***
“Midoriya will be fine,” Iida reassured himself as they walked down the hall. “Recovery Girl’s taking care of him. He’ll be fine.”

“For sure,” Rukina said brightly, in a much lighter tone than what her friends were used to. “Recovery Girl is an extremely experienced medic. She’s seen it all. Midoriya’s injuries are nothing she can’t handle.” These words, along with her lively tone, visibly relaxed her friends. Uraraka’s scrunched eyebrows relaxed and Iida exhaled, relieved.

“For sure, Deku will be just fine,” Uraraka agreed, bobbing her head up and down. Then she excitedly asked, “So Rukina, that was your uncle, right?”

“Your uncle, Yagi?” Iida questioned.

“Yep,” she confirmed happily. A bounce seemed to follow every step she took. “I owe him everything. I’m here at UA now because of him. And Iida,” she turned to look at him, beaming, “Our battle is gonna start now, isn’t it? Best of luck! Don’t hold anything back because I won’t.”

“Yes, for sure. Best of luck!” Iida nodded.

In seemingly no time at all, Rukina once again stood on the battlefield on one end, but Iida faced her instead of Aoyama. Present Mic’s voice boomed overhead, announcing the two contestants and starting the match.

“Recipro Burst!” Iida bellowed as the engines on his legs whirled to life. He moved incredibly swiftly, becoming a blur that zoomed behind Rukina. Iida lifted his hands, intending to push her out of bounds. As his hands were about to fall on her shoulders, they felt like they hit some invisible force field, and were pushed right off. Rukina whipped around to face Iida and her hand shot out, attempting to grab him. Iida was barely able to dodge as his engines propelled him away, her fingers missing his arm by a centimetre.

“You’re fast,” she complimented him as he shot towards her again. “But what if I destroy your foothold?” She lifted her foot and stomped the ground. The whole rectangular battlefield shattered, as if by an earthquake that originated from underneath Rukina’s toes. Iida stumbled as the ground erupted beneath his feet and he was forced to slow down. In an instant, Rukina had closed in on him, her arm out and reaching for him. Her fingers made contact with his shoulder, and Iida was thrown into the air as easily as if he were a paper airplane. Briefly, he was reminded of the time when Rukina had thrown him that day the press had broken into UA. Iida landed roughly on his back and hit the out of bounds lines.

Midnight was quick to conclude, “Iida is out of bounds! Yagi advances to the next round!”

Rukina went over to her opponent, checking to make sure he wasn’t hurt. She held out a hand, offering to help him up. “Good match, Iida. You did well.”

“I guess I lost, huh,” he said good naturedly as he took her hand and she heaved him up. “You’re strong.”

Her ears went a bit red at the praise. “Nah, your Recipro Burst is incredible. You were like a blur.”

As they both began walking back to their seats, Rukina lifted her eyes to the spectator stands and met the heterochromatic pair that had been staring at her. She grinned up at him and met his hard gaze, ocean blue into mismatched grey and aqua, wordlessly sending him a message through that look.

That’s right, Todoroki, I’m gonna fight you next.

Chapter Text

Shoto Todoroki’s fourth birthday was filled with happiness. That day he crawled out of bed, excited about the cake and candles and presents, and he noticed his hands tingled in a good way. He brought them up, inspecting them, and felt a sort of new feeling, a sort of energy swirling around in them. He concentrated on them, allowing the new yet familiar energy to leak out, and immediately a sheet of white frost formed on his right hand while warm and orange flames flickered on his left. Immense excitement filled him, and he stumbled quite a bit as he ran to tell his parents. His mother, always kind and gentle, congratulated him and hugged him tightly. His father told him “Good job, Shoto! I’m sure you will surpass All Might!” and patted him on the head. His father, who was so difficult to please, actually acknowledged him and gave him a satisfied smile. However, something strange and foreign, something little Shoto didn’t recognize, briefly gleamed behind his father’s eyes. But little Shoto soon forgot about that look when his older siblings took out the cake and presents. The three of his siblings and both of his parents, all five of little Shoto’s family members sat around the table with him that day, eating cake and celebrating. Shoto Todoroki’s fourth birthday was filled with laughter and warmth.

Shoto Todoroki expected his fifth birthday to be just as filled with happiness as his fourth, but it was not so. A month before January 11th, his mother strangely started sporting bruises on her face and down her arms. When he asked her about it, a shadow would pass over her gentle and weary eyes, and she would simply tell him that she fell and to not worry about it. But even little Shoto could tell that she was lying. When she was sure no one was around, he would sometimes catch her crying to herself. In the early morning of his fifth birthday, before the birds even started chirping, he was pulled roughly out of his warm blankets and shaken awake by his father. His father simply told him, “I’m going to start training you today, Shoto! You will be the one to surpass All Might!” before dragging him off. In the training hall, he noticed that his mother was already there, looking quite anxious. His father abruptly stopped walking, and little Shoto almost bumped into him. Immediately, his father sank his large fist into the boy’s gut. A world of pain exploded inside his little body. The boy gagged, felt his stomach lurch, and he emptied the contents of yesterday’s dinner onto the floor. Tears of confusion and hurt flowed down his cheeks, mixing with his saliva. Why on earth would his father do this to him?

“Stand up,” his father growled coldly. “If you’re downed by something like this, forget about beating All Might. You won’t even be able to take the small fry villains.” Little Shoto started to tremble, fear sinking into every pore of his little body, terrified at what would come next.

“Please stop!” Little Shoto heard his mother yell, coming to his rescue. “He’s only five!”

“Shut up! He’s ALREADY five! Get out of my way!” His father raised his large fist again, and struck it into his mother’s face. Shoto’s eyes widened as his mother fell to the side, trembling and looking just as terrified as Shoto felt. Now, it all made sense to the boy, what exactly caused his mother’s injuries.

The absolute horror of this scene was burned into his eyes, burned into his retinas, burned into his memories. His mother shaking on the floor, a large red mark blossoming across her white cheek, as his father, his monster of a father, hulked over them and displayed his cruelty.

His childhood was taken from him by his father. But his mother remained kind and gentle, despite the abuse she endured daily. She remained the figure to whom he could cling, to whom he could cry, who would hold him and comfort him after his particularly dreadful “sessions” with his father.

“Shoto,” she said to him softly one day. “You still want to be a hero, right? You're not bound by his blood. Decide who you want to become, and be all you can be.”

And soon, his mother was also taken away from him. The horrors that she suffered were burned onto his face, branding him, a constant reminder of the suffering behind his quirk and his existence itself. And he was left to endure a life of cruelty by himself. Alone and in the bitter cold.

***
The one-on-one battles continued after Cementoss quickly fixed the stage. Tokoyami once again came out victorious when he struck with Dark Shadow and pushed Shiozaki out of bounds, ending the match instantly. The match between Kirishima and Bakugo lasted longer. At first, Bakugo’s explosions seemed to not affect Kirishima at all, but Bakugo gradually wore him down and knock him unconscious.

Just like that, it was time for the semi finals. Her friends wished her luck as she made her way down to the battlefield. Her heartbeats pounded in her ears as she ascended the stairs, knowing full well her opponent was doing the same on the other side. They both stepped onto the battlefield at the same time. An icy gaze, full of cold indifference met her eyes, and she stared back, silently accepting his challenge.

“You’ve been ignoring me for weeks, but you can’t ignore me anymore,” she said to him.

“I’m not going to go easy on you,” he replied.

“I’m hyped! I’m so hyped!” Present Mic hollered to the audience, slapping his commentator desk in excitement. “These two both got into the hero course on Recommendations! These two have both proven to be incredibly strong today! Now it’s time for Yagi VERSUS Todoroki! START!”

Todoroki wasted no time, jumping right into action. Towering pillars of ice shot forth from beneath Todoroki’s foot, which shattered into glass shards as they made contact with Rukina. Her mind worked, trying to anticipate his next move, but she knew that there was something more important about this battle. Something more important than the actual fighting, than who gets to advance to the next round, than who wins or who loses. For the first time, Todoroki was giving her his undivided attention, and Rukina knew she was being given an opportunity here.

The opportunity to reach him and save him.

Another frigid wave of ice shot at her. She tightened her fist, and hurled her punch into the ice, which burst into a hundred shining crystals.

“I thought you said you weren’t gonna go easy!” she shouted at him.

“Don't screw around with me!” he growled, his smoky breath fading quickly in the frigid air.

Another wall of ice shot at her and she struck it with a kick from her boot. The crystal lattice cracked and whittled away. Through the misty ice particles covering the air, a hand suddenly shot out and closed around her forearm. She gasped in surprise, and her eyes fell on Todoroki, who had used the ice wall as a cover, a distraction, while he approached her. Waves of frigidity shot through her body, originating from where Todoroki grabbed her forearm. Rukina gathered her thoughts, and wrenched her frozen arm from Todoroki’s grasp. In the same second, the ice around her forearm fell away. Her fingers wrapped around his wrist, her other hand grabbing him by his gym jacket, and flipped him over onto his back.

Right away, he leapt onto his feet and straightened himself, keeping his distance this time, his gaze as cold as the ice he had created while she met his gaze with equal ferocity.

“Midoriya said this to you before, and I'll say it again! It’s your own power!” she shouted at the top of her lungs. She tightened her fist, raising it and shaking it at him. She didn’t care what she was doing anymore. She didn’t care what she was saying anymore. All she wanted right now was for her words to reach him. “I am strong! Extremely strong! And stronger than you if you keep limiting yourself!”

Todoroki looked absolutely livid. She noted that his rage was different from Bakugo’s. While Bakugo wore his anger on his sleeve and expressed it freely and explosively, Todoroki’s anger felt like bitter ice, as cold as a long and lasting winter that had never seen the sun.

Next, Rukina felt an intense and great cold, a cold more bitter than anything she had ever experienced from him. It was as if hell itself had frozen over. It was as if the ground itself had erupted, frigidness seeping through the crevices of the earth, and releasing that great cold upon them all.

The audience gasped in unison. Rukina’s body involuntarily shivered before a colossal wall of ice was unleashed, the crystallization of his current fury. With unmatched and unprecedented speed and size, it enclosed around her. It imprisoned her, burying her from head to toe. She could not move. She could not breathe. She stood, suspended in ice, as still and rigid as a statue, unable to process what just happened. Like a painting, she stared blankly back at him. The thick layer of ice was a barrier between her eyes and his.

Todoroki breathed out, glad that he finally took care of the problem girl. The match was over. He fought without using the quirk from his damn old man. Who did that problem girl think she was, anyway? He had told her again and again that his life was none of her business. Even when he ignored her, she didn’t take the hint and kept bugging him. Nevertheless, he had won in the end. He had won without using fire, the same power of his father, of the sick and twisted man who violated his mother. The bastard who robbed his mother of her freedom, her happiness, her sanity. The bastard who took both his childhood innocence and his mother away from him.

Meanwhile, Rukina was petrified in the ice, like a fossil preserved in amber. It seemed like the air in her lungs had frozen solid, like the blood in her veins had frozen to a stop. It felt like every cell in her body was slowly dying of the cold as it approached her beating heart, steadily and cruelly. Now, Rukina was experiencing Todoroki’s cruelty, the cruelty that he had to endure, the cruelty that had frozen a barrier around his heart.

Cruelty. Rukina had experienced cruelty before. As her father cruelly closed the door behind him, leaving her and her mother forever. As the female villain cruelly played with her mother like a cat with a mouse before she killed her. As Rukina herself had Awakened into the monster that cruelly ripped the female villain to shreds. Cruelty had always been a part of this world, whether she acknowledged it or not. These cruel memories always haunted and tormented her. The more she tried to forget them, the more she remembered them again.

Yes... The world is cruel.

“Alright. I’ll personally train you every day if I have to. We will work together to make your dream come true.” And the two of them walked off, hand in hand into the night as a new chapter started for both of their lives.

But…

The flower’s petals moved by themselves, opening and closing around the golden middle, resembling a multi-winged butterfly fluttering its pure white wings. Her mother beamed, her smile brilliant and filled with warmth.

… But the world is also very warm and beautiful.

Although it felt like an eternity, a second after Todoroki exhaled and concluded for himself that he won, the ground trembled beneath his feet. A tremor shook the entire stadium, and several audience members tumbled out of their seats. The colossal ice prison seemed to shiver, then it cracked and burst into a thousand little pieces. Trembling and panting from the strain on her body, Rukina emerged.

“Todoroki!” she screamed. She seemed to glow, as the thousand crystal fractals surrounding her gleamed like a halo from the light of the sun. “The match isn’t over yet!”

Todoroki immediately raised his guard again. “What the hell is up with you?!” he shouted furiously. “Did my damn father bribe you or something?! I don’t need your help! I will never use that damn quirk!”

“Don't you want to win?! Don't you want to become a hero?!” she responded automatically, without conscious thought. “How can you become a hero that everyone admires if you can’t even accept yourself?!”

These words caught him off guard. He momentarily forgot about the fight as he stood there, staring at her with his mouth slightly open. His breathing became laboured as he absorbed her words, her voice that finally reached him, her voice which now echoed within the depths of his heart. A memory deep inside his mind, buried underneath layers of frost and ice and suffering, finally resurfaced after years of being forgotten.

“Shoto,” his mother’s gentle voice said. “You still want to be a hero, right? You're not bound by his blood. Decide who you want to become, and be all you can be.”

Then, at that moment, something sparked behind his eyes. The same something that flickered during his match with Midoriya, except a hundred times stronger. She felt the heat first, before great tongues of flame erupted from where Todoroki stood, painting the stadium in a brilliant and beautiful red light. The frozen fractals resting on her head melted from the heat, dampening her hair. Then, that too became dry as the temperature steadily increased to searing hot.

“Even though you want to win too…” His voice came from beyond the flames. “Why are you going out of your way to help me?”

She blinked at the question. He was right. She wanted to advance in this tournament. And the way to win is certainly not to help your opponent. Why was she working so hard to help him? What was pushing her? Why did she want to help him so much when she herself was a mess beyond repair...?

The columns of fire separated, and Todoroki emerged, with his entire left side engulfed by flames. “I want to become a hero too!”

… Because when they first met, the grief in his eyes reminded her so much of herself. And now, that look filled with grief was all but gone from his eyes, replaced with burning determination. She couldn’t help but grin happily.

“YES SHOTO! YOU’VE FINALLY ACCEPTED YOURSELF!” a voice roared from the stands, loud enough for the thousands of spectators to hear. Endeavor was beside himself with glee. “NOW YOU WILL SURPASS ME AND REALIZE MY AMBITION IN YOURSELF!”

Those words did not seem to reach Todoroki, who had his attention locked solely on her. “What are you smiling for?” he asked her as his brilliant flames surrounded him. “Even though you’re quite injured, and in this situation. You must be crazy.”

Her grin widened, but she still heavily panted. Breaking out of that colossal ice prison took a considerable amount of her strength. She gauged her limit, and knew that she barely had the energy to nullify any more of his attacks. She’d best stick to dodging now.

“Don’t blame me for what happens next,” Todoroki warned her.

“Let’s do it!” she called out with a smile on her face. “I’m not afraid!”

He pressed his foot into the ground, and ice erupted from beneath the sole of his foot again, perfectly counterbalanced with the scorching hot fire emitting from his arm. She kicked off the ground, sailing into the air as the frost and flames began to pursue her. The world spun around her as she twisted and twirled in midair like she were in a ballet, dancing elegantly, beautifully with the fire and ice surrounding her. Her eyes found an opening between the raging columns of elements, and she dived into it. She heard Cementoss shout something to Midnight, but she didn’t care. Completely caught up in the moment, all she cared about was giving Todoroki her all, about meeting his full strength with hers. As she rocketed into his direction, she poured every ounce of energy left in her body into her fist, and Todoroki seemed to think the same thing as blazing white hot flames surrounded his left hand. There was no stopping now. There was no turning back. Several walls of concrete erupted from the ground (courtesy of Cementoss), but they didn’t deter her or Todoroki at all. They both crashed through the cement walls as easily as if the cement were paper. In one moment, their hands met in the middle of the arena. In the next moment, the world exploded into a flashbang of colour and dust.

The ground shook with the force of an earthquake. Great winds burst from the point of impact. The audience members had to hang on to their seats to avoid getting blown away. Their screams were the perfect mixture of awe and fright. They all squinted their eyes, desperately trying to see through the dust cloud, desperately trying to see who won.

The dust cleared, and Shoto Todoroki stood on his feet, a few scratches here and there, the whole left side of his jacket destroyed, but otherwise unharmed. Meanwhile, his opponent lay motionless on the out of bounds line.

“Yagi is out of bounds! Todoroki advances to the final battle!” Midnight announced. “Now the tournament will temporarily be put on hold as we repair the stage… again.”

Todoroki stood quite still, his body frozen, his mind whirling at what just happened. As soon as he saw his opponent lying still on the ground, a wave of concern washed over him as he wondered if she was alright. That was then followed by confusion as he recalled that he was supposed to hate her since she was annoying. Nevertheless, relief washed over him as he saw the girl stir on the ground, then shakily get up. Her body trembled as she forced herself onto her feet, with evident difficulty. She brushed her disheveled hair out of her face, and she tottered her way towards him, slowly and steadily. He didn’t know why he stood in place and patiently waited for her to come to him. Maybe he was simply curious as to what she would do. When she finally stood in front of him, she lifted her head and offered him a weak, but warm and beautiful smile. Huh? Beautiful? Where did that word come from?

“Thank you,” she said, her voice so quiet and weak that only he could hear. “Thank you for showing me your fire.” Right as she finished that sentence, her eyelids drooped over her weary eyes, and she fainted. Before he could think, he had caught her before she could hit the ground. He gently picked her up and lay her down on the stretcher when the medical robots came, and his eyes followed her as she was wheeled away.

***
She woke up in the clinic with Recovery Girl and her uncle peering over her.

“You woke up,” her uncle commented. “I’m glad you’re alright.”

She blinked the sleep out of her eyes. “How long was I out?”

“Oh, just a few minutes. Your injuries weren’t as bad as they looked, so you healed well,” said Recovery Girl. She peeled back her sleeve and checked her watch. “They should have finished rebuilding the stage by now. You’re free to leave whenever you want.”

“Thank you, Ms Recovery Girl,” Rukina said gratefully. She slipped off the bed, and stood up, slipping on her boots along the way. She then turned to her uncle, and her eyebrows furrowed in guilt. She felt like she owed him an explanation. “Uncle, I really appreciate you coming all the way here to UA even though you’re injured. I’m sorry if my performance today did not meet your expectations. It’s just that Todoroki looked sad to me, and I wanted to help him.”

“Rukina my dear,” he gently said, his weary dark eyes gazing into her own. He lifted his hand and ruffled her hair. “You were absolutely amazing and did the right thing. I couldn’t be more proud of you.” He then leaned down to her height and whispered to her with a grin on his face, “Don’t ask me how I know this, but a lot of pros today saw how powerful you are and are already thinking of nominating you, even though the tournament isn’t over.”

Her brow unfurrowed and she gave him a mischievous look. “Have you been eavesdropping on people, Uncle?” she accused.

“Maybe,” he answered with a playful grin. He stood up and patted her on the head again. “Now, the tournament isn’t over for you yet. You still have another match for third place. Also, your friends must be worried sick about you. You should go to them now.”

“Thanks Uncle,” she said as she stepped out of the clinic. Right away, she caught sight of Uraraka, Midoriya, and Iida waiting in the hallway. They began fussing over her like they did with Midoriya, with Rukina telling them again and again that she’s fine and good as new.

After they made their way back to their seats, Rukina caught no sight of Todoroki and she wondered where he had gone. The match between Bakugo and Tokoyami started on the newly repaired battlefield. Tokoyami’s Dark Shadow was completely overwhelmed by the light that came from Bakugo’s explosions, and Bakugo was quickly declared the winner who would advance to the final round against Todoroki. But before that, Rukina would have to fight Tokoyami for third place.

Now, for the fourth time that day, Rukina faced an opponent on the battlefield.

“This is the second last battle of the UA Sports Festival! Both competitors are now gonna fight for third place, a spot on the podium! From the hero course, Fumikage Tokoyami! VERSUS also from the hero course, Rukina Yagi!” Present Mic screeched. “START!”

“Go, Dark Shadow!” Tokoyami shouted as the shadowy mass of darkness shot out of his stomach. Rukina narrowed her eyes. She had absolutely exhausted herself during her previous match with Todoroki, but she had rested and gained a bit of energy back now. Still, there was no room for error. She would have to rely primarily on her own body strength and wits. As Tokoyami fought his previous battles, she had been observing him and noticed that he was always one to attack straight away. He’s strong. Bakugo managed to beat him because of Dark Shadow’s weakness to light, but Rukina’s quirk did not provide that same advantage as Bakugo’s. Tokoyami’s opponents before Bakugo had fallen, completely overwhelmed by the quick and powerful attacks, but Rukina would not make the same mistakes as they did.

Dark Shadow rushed at her, aiming to push her out of bounds. She watched it approach, hands ready, eyes focused, anticipating the hit. Right as Dark Shadow was about to make contact with her, she sidestepped, just as Monoma did against Bakugo in the Cavalry Battle. Dark Shadow sailed past her. She wrapped her arms around the shadow, as if giving it a tight hug, and hauled it to the side with all her strength. Tokoyami blinked, temporarily stupefied at this unexpected exchange. His feet lifted from the ground as he was yanked, hooked by the link between him and Dark Shadow, and he hurled straight towards his opponent. Rukina clenched her teeth, and instantly drove her palm into Tokoyami’s stomach. The vectors acted upon Tokoyami’s body and he was thrown out of bounds in the blink of an eye.

“Tokoyami is out of bounds!” Midnight yelled over the excited clamour from the crowd. “Yagi finishes third place in this year’s Sports Festival!”

Rukina sighed a breath of relief that her strategy actually worked. She jogged over to her opponent, who had gotten up on his feet, and offered her hand to him. “Thank you for the match, Tokoyami,” she said.

He took her hand, and a friendly handshake followed. “I was completely overwhelmed.”

“No, I was barely able to dodge your Dark Shadow,” Rukina said as they made their way back to the spectator stands. “I got lucky.”

She glanced around the seats, but she caught no sight of Iida. Uraraka and Midoriya were quick to fill her in. She was shocked to hear that Iida’s older brother was attacked by a villain in Hosu City. Iida had been terribly worried, so he left early to see his brother at the hospital. Uraraka, Midoriya, and Rukina all hoped together that Ingenium would be alright, for Iida’s sake.

And so, it was time for the final match. The Finale for which everyone had been waiting. Even from this distance, Rukina could see that Bakugo’s expression contained the perfect mixture between wrathful fury and hysterical enthusiasm. Rukina then shifted her gaze to Todoroki. This was the first time she saw him after their match together, where his eyes burned with determination. Now, she noticed that fire of determination was gone. She frowned.

“It’s finally the last battle of the UA high school Sports Festival!” Present Mic boomed. “The top of the first years will be decided in this match! From the hero course, Shoto Todoroki! VERSUS also from the hero course, Katsuki Bakugo! Final match, START!”

Todoroki slammed his right hand onto the ground, and an enormous wall of ice shot forth, set to encase Bakugo. Although large, it was only half the size of the colossal ice prison he had used to trap Rukina. In a burst of smoke and shattered frost, Bakugo burrowed his way out of the ice like a mole. He launched himself at Todoroki, gripped him by the hair, and flung him to the side. Ice flowed out, smooth as water, and caught Todoroki before he could fall out of bounds. Todoroki counterattacked, and his left hand wrapped around Bakugo’s forearm. This was it, the perfect opportunity to attack with fire, but there was no flicker of red, no spark of flame, and Todoroki simply flung Bakugo away from himself. Bakugo also sensed this, and was furious as he stood onto his feet again.

“Bastard! Use your flames on me too!” Bakugo bellowed. “I want an indisputable first place! I can’t get that if you hold back on me!”

He launched himself at Todoroki again, ominous smoke issuing from his palms. Todoroki stood, and Rukina noticed his eyes were clouded. Confused. Unsure.

“Todoroki!” she heard Midoriya shout from beside her. “Don’t lose! Do your best!” She saw Todoroki blink, and a bit of the mist behind his eyes lifted. Midoriya certainly had an effect on Todoroki, but it was too meek, not powerful enough. Rukina then decided to join in too.

“Don’t you give up now, damn you!” she screamed, which certainly got his attention. She stood on her feet, her hands clutching the railing, and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Use your own power for yourself and fight without limit!”

Her words echoed in his ears, and rang inside his mind like during their battle before. In his storm of confusion, her voice guided him like a warm light in the heavy fog, a warm light that lit a fire inside of him. The frost that fell onto his body melted, and momentarily he felt like he could do anything. Those scorching tongues of flame from before made their appearance again, making the stadium glow a bright orange.

“Yes! That’s it!” Bakugo yelled, his voice full of exhilaration. Propelled by his explosions, he rotated in the air, smoke surrounding him in a protective cocoon. He shot himself like a harpoon at Todoroki, who raised his flame covered arm to counter.

Then, Todoroki stiffened. Images raced themselves in his mind, memories he could not forget. He remembered his mother, who was always crying. His mother, whose eyes displayed her tortured soul before she snapped. His mother, whose suffering was burned on his face, his scar a permanent reminder of the pain she endured.

Confusion. Grief. Doubt. Cruelty. The fog once again clouded his eyes, and smothered the tiny fire inside of him. The flames on his left arm disappeared, as the frozen barrier rose around him again, swallowing him, burying him.

The arena lit up in a huge explosion of smoke and ice particles. Unconscious and out of bounds, Todoroki lay on a bed of his broken ice. To say Bakugo was furious would be an understatement. He raced out of bounds as well, gripped Todoroki’s uniform jacket, and started shaking him. Midnight had to use her quirk to put Bakugo to sleep.

“Todoroki is out of bounds!” she said. “Bakugo wins the UA Sports Festival!”

Eyelids lowered, a slight frown on her face, Rukina watched as both contestants were wheeled away by the medical robots.

***
When Shoto Todoroki opened his eyes, he expected to be alone. He expected to see the walls of a clinic room, the white curtains surrounding the clinic bed. He knew what happened. He knew he lost.

When Shoto Todoroki opened his eyes, the expected scene of the clinic appeared in front of him. The white curtains swayed a bit in the breeze from the open window.

“You’re awake,” a gentle voice, the voice of a certain problem girl called out from beside him.

Well, that was unexpected. He instantly sat up and rapidly blinked his eyes to make sure he was actually awake.

“Did you get something in your eye? You look weird,” she said as she gave him a curious expression. “The teachers sent me to get you. We’ll be getting our medals soon. Can you walk?”

“Yeah,” he replied. He swung his legs off the bed, dragged on his boots, and stood up.

“Good. Now follow me,” she said as she exited the clinic room. He followed her as she led the way down the empty hallway, which was quiet except for their footsteps and the sound from the thoughts and questions swirling inside his mind.

“Why?” he asked after a few seconds.

“Why what?” she asked, though he had a feeling that she knew exactly what he meant.

“Why did you keep trying to approach me? Even after I ignored you for weeks. Why did you help me?” he asked the question that had been burning in his mind. The seconds ticked by, the footsteps resounded down the flight of stairs, and it was apparent that a silence had fallen. To be honest, he didn’t really expect her to answer. He half expected her to ignore him like he had been doing to her. Once again, she surprised him.

“The look in your eyes,” she said after that long pause.

“My eyes?”

“Because you looked so hurt and alone that you couldn’t stand it, but didn’t want anyone to know,” she responded, her gaze focused ahead, not meeting his. “Those eyes, that look reminded me of my own.”

Todoroki was stunned. Then, a strange feeling bubbled in his chest and squeezed around his heart. A feeling that he had not felt for years since his father had done his best to erase that feeling. Shoto Todoroki felt compassion for the girl beside him. “Yagi, I-”

“We’re here,” she announced. He looked around, and was surprised that they had already arrived. The podium was in the middle of this basement room, ready at any second to be raised onto the green field above. Strangely, Bakugo was strapped and tied down on the centre of the podium. He even had a muzzle on him. As soon he saw Todoroki, he started letting out muffled screams and shouts that Todoroki presumed to be quite colourful curses and swears.

“Alright Yagi and Todoroki, take your places,” Cementoss told the newly arrived pair. Rukina stepped onto the platform at Bakugo’s left, while Todoroki stepped onto the platform at Bakugo’s right. The podium raised like an elevator, and they ascended into the stadium above. At once, their eyes met with warm sunlight and the flashes of dozens of cameras. Fireworks bloomed like flowers across the blue sky in bursts of colour and sound.

All Might himself appeared and presented their medals to them. To each of them, he offered his fatherly advice as he hung the medals around their necks. Then, the paparazzi filled in, trying to get as many pictures as possible. Amidst all the noise, camera flashes, bursts of colour, Todoroki looked to his left. He looked, beyond Bakugo struggling to get at him, and his gaze fell onto that girl. That girl who had so stubbornly pestered him before, who had fought him with all her might, whose voice reached him and woke him up from his silent suffering. He felt his heartbeat accelerate, which was strange. He didn’t understand. Why was his heart beating so hard when he wasn’t currently exercising or fighting someone?

After a few seconds, she noticed his eyes on her, and she met his gaze with her own warm one as her cheeks pulled up. She smiled at him. A warm smile that once again lit a fire inside of him, and he felt his whole body fill with warmth.

***
The sun shined over the playground, soaking the grounds with warmth. Children were laughing, swaying on the swings, drifting down the slides, but one child was alone. The shade from the tree cast a shadow over his unusual head of half red and half white. This child cried alone, kneeling on the ground, tears sliding down his cheeks from his mismatched grey and aqua eyes.

“Hey, why are you crying?” he heard a light voice ask from above him. He looked up to see a little girl about his age. She was peering over him, blonde head tilted to the side, her ocean blue eyes curious. The sun shined down upon her, giving him the impression that she was glowing. She looked like an angel. She was beautiful. His eyes lay on her, and in that instant, he forgot what he was crying about.

“Are your friends not here?” she asked in the same light and sweet tone.

“My father doesn’t allow me to have friends,” he replied in a small voice.

“Well, that’s not nice of him. Everyone needs friends or else you’ll be lonely,” she said, eyebrows furrowed. Then, her blue eyes lit up, as if a lightbulb had been turned on inside her mind. “I know! You can be friends with me!”

Fear of his father made him hesitate. “N-No I don’t think I should...” he began, but his words died on his lips when she held her tiny hand out to him.

“Come on! I’ll take you to meet my friends too and we’ll all be friends!”

He took her outstretched hand, and she pulled him up. Her skin was soft, and his frigid palm surrendered to the warmth of her fingers.

“Come on!” she said as she started to lead him by the hand. “Izuku and Ochako and Tenya are in the sandbox and we’re gonna build the biggest sand castle ever!”

“I really shouldn’t,” he tried again. “Father says I’m supposed to concentrate on training. He wants me to learn how to use my quirk to make an ice barrier around myself now.”

He expected her to frown, but her smile only widened as her warm fingers pulled on his again. Her beautiful smile seemed infectious, and soon the little boy found a shy grin on himself. It only grew bigger as he heard her bright and sweet voice again.

“Then I’ll be the warmth that will break through your ice barrier until I reach you.”

Chapter Text

After the Sports Festival, all students were given two days of rest. Rukina slept for most of those two days due to the absolute exhaustion from her quirk, so it was no surprise that those two days went by in the blink of an eye. During the moments when she was awake, she couldn’t help but worry about Iida’s older brother. Unfortunately, Iida had not contacted her, Midoriya, or Uraraka. She received no news.

On her way to UA, several people recognized her from the Sports Festival and waved at her. Several people came up to her and excitedly said “Hi!” and congratulated her. Heck, a group of middle school boys asked for her autograph! A high school student and an elementary school student were especially thrilled to see her.

“Hey Big Sister, that’s Rukina Yagi, isn’t it?” As soon as the little girl caught sight of her, she pulled on her older sister’s sleeve and led her over to Rukina.

“Excuse me, you’re Rukina Yagi, right?” she asked, her voice bouncy and full of enthusiasm.

“Yeah,” Rukina replied. The girl squealed, and her eyes sparkled.

“You were amazing at the Sports Festival!” the little girl gushed, beside herself with excitement. “You took down those two huge robots by yourself, and you pulled your team through the Cavalry Battle, and you were super amazing in the battles!” she paused here to take a deep breath, then continued. “My heart was pumping super hard during your fight with the second place winner, To- Todo- um...”

“Todoroki,” her older sister whispered to her. “Geez, how can you forget?”

“Because his name’s long!” The little girl pouted. She then returned her attention to Rukina. “You were so beautiful when you fought! It was like you were dancing!”

“Thank you,” Rukina said, smiling. How can she not smile from this cuteness?

“You know,” the girl continued, “I ship you with Todoroki.”

“W-What?!” Rukina immediately choked on her own spit. She felt her cheeks flare up bright red. K, she took that back. The girl was not cute. Not cute at all.

“Yeah! The way he carried you after your match together! He did it so gently! So romantically!” the girl said, swooning. “It was like he was your prince and you were his princess!”

Rukina had no memory of that happening. Well, she had no memories from that time she had been unconscious. Did that really happen? Rukina was so shocked that words wouldn’t come to her. A great unpleasant heat crept up her body. Was it possible for a whole body to blush red? If the girl continued talking anymore, Rukina thought dryly, then it soon would be.

The girl opened her mouth to speak again, but her older sister put a hand on her shoulder.

“Hey, you shouldn’t be bothering Miss Rukina like this,” she said to her younger sibling, “You’re probably creeping her out with all that. You seem like a fanatic. It’s weird.”

The girl immediately looked over her shoulder and glared at the high school student. “You’re calling me a fanatic?” she challenged. “You rewatched Todoroki’s battles over and over! I caught you pausing it just to stare at his face!” Immediately, the older sister’s face resembled a tomato. Her eyes widened in shock at the betrayal.

“No I wasn’t!” she denied, shaking her head rapidly from side to side. “Really! I wasn’t!”

“Oh really? Because I also found a printed out screenshot of him under your pillow!” the little girl said with no chill. The high school student was flabbergasted.

“I should get going or else I’ll be late to school,” Rukina excused herself. She turned on her heel and walked briskly away, palms covering her burning cheeks. Well, this morning certainly was weird. She’ll certainly have to do some questioning when she sees her friends.

As soon as she slipped into her seat in Class 1A, Rukina leaned to her right, and started questioning. Her other classmates were happily discussing the Sports Festival among themselves, so the chance of anyone else overhearing Rukina was small. “Hey Uraraka.”

“Yeah?” Uraraka flashed her usual Uraraka-smile at her. Rukina took a deep breath, preparing herself for the truth.

“Did anything, uh, weird happen at the Sports Festival?”

“Weird? What do you mean?” Uraraka asked.

“Uh, you know...” Rukina leaned in more and dropped her voice to a whisper. Her eyes gazed intently into Uraraka’s curious brown ones. Her cheeks burned. “Some elementary school kid told me Todoroki c-” she took another deep breath, trying to control the heat rushing to her cheeks. “C-Caught me after I passed out?”

She had hoped for Uraraka to shake her head no. She had wished for Uraraka to say, with confidence, a resounding no. So when Uraraka’s eyes lit up and she nodded excitedly, Rukina groaned and buried her flaming face in her arms on her desk.

“Morning,” came the voice of their teacher, who had recovered enough to remove his bandages. Right away, all the students sat straight into their seats. Aizawa took his place behind the podium in front of the room. “During the Sports Festival, many pro heroes took the chance to scout for possible nominations. I’ve compiled the totals for those with nominations.”

He pressed a button on a remote. With a beep, three long horizontal hologram bars appeared on the board, with three names beside them. First Todoroki, second Bakugo, and then Yagi. Next, several significantly smaller bars appeared beneath, each with the name of a lucky student beside them. Some bars were so small that they resembled simply a smudge on the board. It was noticeable that not all of the students received nominations.

“In other years, it’s been more spread out,” Aizawa continued. “But this year, all focus was on these three.”

“Man, the difference is huge!” Kaminari groaned, slumping into his chair as if all the life had gone out of him.

“Wait, first is Todoroki, and second is Bakugo?” Jiro asked.

“It’s opposite of their placement in the Sports Festival,” Kirishima pointed out.

“Some people are too scared to ask for a guy who had to be restrained on the podium,” Sero explained. This caught the ear of a certain explosion boy, who whipped around.

“What are the pros scared of?!” Bakugo yelled, half out of his seat.

“You’re amazing, Todoroki,” Yaoyorozu complimented.

“They’re probably all because of my dad,” he said, brushing off the compliment. Just hearing his voice made Rukina embarrassed. She still couldn’t get it through her head that Todoroki, the guy who had been ignoring her for weeks, freaking carried her.

“Rukina,” Uraraka said from beside her, breaking her out of her thoughts. “You did so well!”

“You too, Uraraka,” Rukina said. “See? I told you a lot of pros saw you fight bravely.”

Excited tears welled up in Uraraka’s eyes and she nodded before turning to Iida in front of her. “Iida, we got offers!” She grabbed onto his shoulders and began shaking him.

“Yes, yes,” Iida said, and Rukina noticed that he did not look up.

“Midoriya, you didn’t get any!” Mineta tugged on Midoriya’s sleeve. “They’re scared of you because of the crazy way you were fighting!”

“Yeah,” Midoriya agreed glumly.

“Those with nominations will pick an agency from their list,” Aizawa announced to the class. “Those who didn’t get nominations will still participate in this ‘workplace experience’. You’ll pick from a list containing forty hero agencies across the country. Now, our regular biology class will be put on hold as I’ll have you guys pick your hero names.”

A delighted murmur swept through the class.

“Of course placeholder names are fine too, but make sure you pick something appropriate...”

“... Or else there will be hell to pay!” The classroom door slid open and Midnight stepped into the room. “In many cases, the names you pick now will stay that way after becoming pros!”

“I’ll be having Ms Midnight evaluate your naming sense,” Aizawa explained. “The way your futures end up will approach the image projected by the names you choose. Choose wisely.”

Blank canvases were passed down the rows of desks, along with big fat markers. Rukina internally groaned when she got hers. She pursed her lips, thinking hard, but her mind remained empty. Her mind was always absolutely blank when it came to these things. She started to panic a bit when she heard the scratching of everyone else’s markers against their canvases. This was the situation with her costume all over again! Even fifteen minutes later, her canvas remained blank.

“Alright everyone, markers down!” Midnight called out. “Who wants to go first?”

Rukina quickly scribbled something down on her blank canvas. She sighed and raised her hand. Might as well get this over with as soon as possible. Midnight smiled and beckoned her to come up.

“Sorry guys,” Rukina said as she displayed her canvas for the whole class to see. “I’m just gonna stick with my name, Rukina.”

Midnight blinked. “Really? Just your name?”

“Yeah, I’m not really good at coming up with things like this,” Rukina answered. She could feel all the eyes of the classroom stare at her. They all probably expected something better from her, and were now disappointed with the result. She felt her cheeks get warm.

“Alright, that’s fine.” Thankfully, Midnight took pity on her and spared her. “By the way, after we all pick our hero names, we’ll be starting a new unit in biology, but I forgot to bring the new textbooks with me.” Midnight then turned to look at Rukina hopefully. “Yagi, would you be a dear and grab those textbooks from the storage room for me please?”

“Yes,” Rukina quickly and gratefully agreed. Anything to escape from the 20 pairs of eyes on her right now. Rukina slid open the door and started down the hall towards the storage room.

“They’re on the top shelf! You can’t miss them!” Midnight called after her.

As Rukina walked, she felt the air pleasantly cool her heated cheeks. Her cheeks seemed to warm up a lot today. Really, she could fight a group of villains by herself, no problem, but once she has to create something, her brain turns to jelly and she starts getting awkward! How embarrassing to mess up in front of the whole class, Rukina fumed.

She found the storage room with no problem. She had found the top shelf with no problem. A problem rose when she saw how tall exactly the shelf was. She wouldn’t even try to stand on her tippy toes. That would just waste time. She looked around the storage room, trying to find something to stand on. Her eyes landed on a wooden crate beside her. However, even when she stood on that crate, even when she stretched and stood on her tippy toes, her fingers were hopelessly out of reach of the textbooks.

“Damn,” she growled, stepping off. She searched around the room once again, combing through the boxes and crates, and triumphantly found the corner of a ladder sticking out behind a shelf. Wrenching the ladder out, she inspected it. The metal itself looked quite sturdy, but the bolts holding the steps together creaked unpleasantly. Well, what other choice did she have? She’d have to be quick and careful when using this ladder. She leaned it against the shelf with the textbooks on top, and carefully put her foot onto the bottom step, testing it with her weight. After she deemed it passable, she stepped onto the next step and climbed until her hands were within reach of the textbooks. Finally.

“There you are,” she heard Todoroki’s voice call out, snapping her out of her thoughts. At that moment, the ladder step supporting her weight decided to break and she tumbled towards the ground. Before she could use her quirk to soften her landing, she felt strong and firm arms circle behind her knees and wrap around her shoulders, safely catching her. She looked up and found those beautiful grey and aqua eyes staring into her ocean blue pair, with less than five centimetres between them. They were so close that she could count the number of his eyelashes. The little girl’s words this morning echoed in her mind: It was like he was your prince and you were his princess!

For the uptenth time that day, her cheeks exploded in colour. She turned her face away from him so quickly that she was close to getting whiplash. She wiggled a bit, trying to silently tell him to let go, but he didn’t seem to get the message. His grip on her only tightened. She could feel the warmth radiating from his body.

“Todoroki.” Her voice was not above a whisper. “Please put me down.”

“Why?” he asked, his voice right beside her ear. She could feel his cool breath crawl down her neck, leaving goosebumps in its trail. “You might fall again.”

Her eye started to twitch. “Seriously Todoroki, let me go.” This time, she stuck her elbow out and pushed her way out of his arms. “What are you doing here anyway?” she demanded after her feet landed on the ground, a faint blush on her cheeks.

His expression remained without emotion, as if their contact didn’t affect him at all. “I was sent to help you carry the textbooks. Midnight thought you were taking too long.” Once again, the height problem was brought to Rukina’s attention.

“Well, the textbooks are on the top shelf, and I can’t reach the top shelf. I found a ladder but it broke,” Rukina said. Then, an idea appeared in her mind. “Todoroki, can you reach the top shelf?”

His cool eyes inspected the shelf. “Nope,” he said instantly.

“I thought so,” Rukina said glumly. She picked up the broken ladder pieces, inspecting them. “Should I use my quirk to boost me up?”

“I wouldn’t risk it. It’ll be troublesome if someone catches us using our quirks without permission,” he said. Then, the next words out of his mouth came completely unexpectedly. “I’ll have to carry you.”

Rukina dropped the ladder pieces in shock and a loud clang resounded as they hit the floor. “Wh-What?” she asked. She hoped she heard him wrong.

“Actually, no. That wouldn’t be enough to reach either,” he thought out loud. Rukina was about to let out an exhale of relief before, “You’ll have to sit on my shoulders.”

Rukina’s poor cheeks bypassed pink and went straight to crimson. “You can’t be serious,” she said, with a pleading note in her voice.

“How else are we supposed to reach the textbooks? Everyone in class is waiting,” he reasoned with her. He had a point. A really good point, she thought wryly.

“Alright, we’ll do this quickly. But if you look up my skirt, then you die,” she stated, glaring at him, silently daring him to try anything funny. His expression remained impassive.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m not a pervert,” he said. He positioned himself facing the shelf, then kneeled down, signalling for her to get on. She gripped his shoulders and climbed on, resting her thighs on his shoulders, the hem of her skirt brushing against the back of his neck. Then, his hands rested on her thighs, holding her steady as he stood up and hoisted her into the air. Rukina was so embarrassed that she was internally screaming, but she reminded herself that it was for the greater good. Her hands shakily reached out and gripped the stack of textbooks, and almost promptly dropped them onto Todoroki’s head when she felt his hands tighten around her bare thighs.

“Todoroki!” she gasped out. “Don’t do that!”

“But you might fall,” he simply responded.

“I’ve got the textbooks. Please, just let me down now,” she pleaded with him, desperate to end her embarrassment. Todoroki crouched down again and she all but leapt off, close to shaking from the awkwardness. He stood up and took three quarters of the pile from her. When she tried to object, he just said to not worry about it, and that he could carry them, no problem.

“You looked quite embarrassed when you presented your hero name,” he said as they began their journey down the hallway.

“I guess it showed on my face, didn’t it?” Rukina asked.

“Yeah, but using just your name isn’t bad,” he stated, and Rukina could tell that he was trying to comfort her. She really appreciated what he was trying to do.

“Thanks Todoroki, but I’m honestly just really bad at these things,” she admitted, gaze lowered to the floor in front of her. She could feel a bit of shame bubble up within her. “Everyone else was probably expecting something super good from me, but I guess what I came up with simply disappointed them.”

“You know, I used my name too,” Todoroki said. “My hero name is Shoto.”

Rukina blinked, surprised that the always excellent Todoroki was just as bad at this as she was. “Wait, really?”

“Yeah, and Iida used his name too. Really, nobody’s disappointed or anything. You shouldn’t worry about it.” The words out of his mouth were like magic. It was like a calmness swept through Rukina’s entire body, soothing her and erasing her worries.

“Thanks Todoroki,” she said in a much brighter tone than before. And maybe she imagined it, but she thought she caught the corner of his mouth lift up in a tiny smile.

***
“Alright, before you all leave, remember to pick the hero agency for your workplace experience,” Aizawa said after the end of school bell rang. “Your workplace experience will be one week long. Write down your top three choices and turn in the papers tomorrow.”

Earlier in the day, most of the class only received a few papers or a single sheet, and now they were excitedly chatting among themselves about which one they chose. Meanwhile, Todoroki, Bakugo, and Rukina were handed stacks of pages. Although Rukina was grateful for these many offers, having to comb through all these papers did not excite her. Her eyes swept across the front page as she packed up her pencil case. Uwabami Hero Office… If Rukina wasn’t mistaken, Uwabami was the popular TV star hero who had snakes coming out of her head. Hosu City Normal Hero Office… Hosu? That sounded kind of familiar. Edgeshot Hero Office… Rukina smiled in recognition. She had worked briefly underneath him before starting high school. In fact, Edgeshot was one of the pro heros who recommended for her to go to UA. Rukina continued looking through the hero agencies. Her eyebrows raised in surprise when she caught sight of the next name. Endeavor Hero Office. Her previous encounter with the flame hero had been… unpleasant in a nutshell. She wondered why he would nominate her. Did he get hit on the head before he wrote his nominations?

“Did my old man nominate you too?” Todoroki asked, standing beside her with his bag already over his shoulder.

“Yeah.” She turned to face him. “How did you know?”

“He mentioned it once or twice at home,” Todoroki said. Rukina’s eyebrows raised.

“This doesn’t make sense. When I met him at the Sports Festival, I said some, uh, rude things to him, so I kind of don’t want to face him,” she admitted, and she caught the faintest smile spread Todoroki’s lips for a second.

“Well, he said he was impressed with how you fought in the one-on-one battles and wanted to work with you,” Todoroki explained. Then, a mischievous glint appeared in his eyes. “Out of curiosity, what exactly did you say?”

“Well, I said he disgusted me. I told him that he was nothing but a selfish little man who needed to get his head out of his butt,” Rukina said, smiling. Todoroki’s eyebrows raised and he gave a little cough that sounded suspiciously like a laugh.

“Well, that’s certainly one way to put it,” Todoroki said, his expression returning to the usual serious one. “He nominated me too, and although he’s a piece of crap, he’s still the No 2 hero. I need to experience for myself what exactly a pro hero is.”

“So you’re going to his hero agency?”

“Yeah,” Todoroki said, and his voice lowered so that only she could hear. He took a deep breath. “Look, Yagi, there’s something I need to tell you,” he said, gaining her full attention. His eyes stared intently into her own. “I’m sorry for how I treated you before and during the Sports Festival.”

Rukina blinked. “No, don’t worry about that,” she said genuinely, waving her hand as if sending the apology away. “Honestly, it doesn’t matter anymore.”

Todoroki nodded, and his demeanor changed as if a weight had been lifted from his chest. He continued, “I visited my mom after the Sports Festival.” Rukina blinked in surprise.

“Todoroki, that was very brave of you,” she murmured, in full understanding of how much courage it must have taken to face his mother, whose suffering he blamed on himself.

“She told me that she’d be saved if I pushed forward without anything holding me back,” he said, his tone unwavering. “So I’m going to choose Endeavor’s hero agency.”

Rukina nodded. “Well, I guess facing him wouldn’t be too bad if I had a classmate by my side,” she thought out loud. “I think I’ll choose his hero agency too.”

“Yeah, I’d like that,” Todoroki said in a softer than usual tone.

“Hey Rukina, let’s walk home together,” Uraraka called, suddenly appearing at her side. She paused when she saw Todoroki, then a shrewd smile appeared on her face. “Am I interrupting something?”

“No you aren’t,” Rukina shot Uraraka down. She swung her bag onto her shoulder. “Alright, see you tomorrow Todoroki,” she said as she waved goodbye and walked out the classroom and into the hallway with Uraraka.

“So, what were you guys talking about?” Uraraka asked, giving Rukina a falsely innocent look.

“Nothing interesting,” Rukina said firmly. “Just about hero agencies and stuff.”

“And stuff?” Uraraka questioned, wiggling her eyebrows.

“Dammit Uraraka, I told you so many times already, I don’t like him like that!” Rukina exclaimed, exasperated.

“Hmph, if you say so,” Uraraka said, a bit disappointed. “Well, speaking of hero agencies, I’m going to choose Battle Hero Gunhead’s office because I want to get stronger!”

“That’s really good, Uraraka,” Rukina said. “What about Iida and Midoriya?” She glanced around, but spotted no messy head of green or neat head of blue. “And where are they anyway? We usually all walk home together.”

“Mr All Might called Deku into his office because Deku received a nomination!” Uraraka said happily as they walked out of the school into the street. She then put a finger on her chin.“But I don’t know where Iida went. He went to submit his hero agency choice as soon as the bell rang and he didn’t come back.”

“That’s strange. Iida wasn’t acting like himself today.” Rukina was starting to grow suspicious. Iida didn’t even talk to her that day. “Do you know where Iida’s going for his workplace experience?”

“I kind of looked over his shoulder when he was writing,” Uraraka said, a bit embarrassed. “I saw he wrote only one choice, instead of his top three choices like Mr Aizawa said to. He wants to go to the Hosu City Hero Office.” There it was again. Hosu city. Where had Rukina heard that word before?

“Ok, I’m headed to the train station now,” Uraraka said as she waved goodbye. “See you tomorrow Rukina!”

“See you, Uraraka,” Rukina replied, but the word “Hosu” kept floating around in her mind. As soon as she got home, she plopped down in front of her computer and decided to do some research. A quick google search told her all the answers she needed. Pro Hero Ingenium Injured and Unable to Continue… Ingenium Cut down by Hero Killer Stain… Hero Killer Has Killed 17 Heroes and Injured 23... Hero Killer Last Spotted in Hosu City… A large weight seemed to drop down her throat and into her stomach as all the dots connected in her head. A small voice at the back of her mind was telling her that Iida was going to do something stupid, so she should be there to keep an eye on him.

Rukina thought about calling Uraraka and Midoriya to let them know, but thought better of it. This news would just make them worry unnecessarily when they’re at their own internships. Besides, Rukina herself was not absolutely certain that the usually calm and proper Iida would do something so reckless. She’d best keep this to herself in case she were wrong. Nevertheless, she should be there to watch over him. She grabbed her workplace experience choice paper and promptly wrote “Hosu City Normal Hero Office” onto it.

She picked up her phone and texted the group chat with the four of them, and told them that she chose Hosu city as her workplace experience. Midoriya and Uraraka both excitedly told her “That’s great!” and “Yay Rukina!”. Iida saw the message, but didn’t respond. This action raised another red flag in Rukina’s mind, since the always proper Iida usually replies to his messages right away.

And now… to tell Todoroki that she changed her mind. She held up her phone, and dialed his number (all her classmates exchanged phone numbers at the beginning of the school year) for the first time. She pressed the phone to her ear, biting her lip a bit.

“Hello?” Todoroki’s voice answered after the second ring.

“Hi Todoroki, this is Yagi,” she said, nervously preparing her next words. “Sorry, but I changed my mind. I’m not going to Endeavor for my workplace experience.”

“Oh,” she heard him say, and she caught a hint of disappointment in his tone. Guilt started to seep through her.

“Something came up and I’m going to Hosu City instead,” she tried to explain without letting out too much. “I’m really sorry.”

“It’s fine. Don’t worry about it,” he said, but the bit of disappointment was still there in his voice, no matter how much he tried to hide it. Then came a pause as they both didn’t know what to say next. Both seemed to wait for the other to say something. The pause continued for so long that Rukina wondered if he was still on the line.

“Uh,” Rukina began, breaking the silence.

“Yeah,” his voice came.

“Uh, bye.” She promptly hung up, threw herself onto her bed, and buried her face into her pillow, shaking her head at how awkward that conversation went.

Soon enough, the day came for Class 1A to begin their workplace experiences. Aizawa saw them off as they each took their trains to their destinations, carrying their hero costumes with them. Rukina and Iida sat beside each other on the train, but Iida remained quiet throughout the whole ride and stared out the window at the moving scenery. Whenever Rukina would try to make small talk or any other sort of conversation, Iida would simply give a one word answer and return to staring out the window. Rukina was reminded of when she tried to interact with Todoroki before the Sports Festival. Speaking of Todoroki, Rukina still felt horrible about having to cancel on him like that.

They arrived at their destination soon. Their supervisor, the Normal Hero Manual, was there to greet them and he took them up to his office. After they changed into their costumes, Manual happily showed them around Hosu city. Everything was peaceful around town, but Rukina couldn’t shake away the feeling that something horrible was going to happen soon.

***
Currently, Tomura Shigaraki was in a tight spot. He was pinned down by blades, and one was stuck painfully in his shoulder, while the Hero Killer Stain hulked over him. How did it end up like this? Shigaraki simply wanted to recruit Stain into the League of Villains so that they can kill All Might, but then Stain started to talk about all this ideology crap and started to get violent.

“In order to accomplish anything, you need a creed and a mind,” Stain growled from above him, digging the blade deeper into Shigaraki’s shoulder. “You lack both, and can’t accomplish anything. This is why you will die.”

“Ow, you’re too strong, dammit.” Shigaraki had enough of this. This Hero Killer was clearly too crazy to join them. “Kurogiri, send him back!”

“My body won’t move,” the misty warp portal said from beside him. “This must be the Hero Killer’s quirk.”

“The word ‘Hero’ has lost all meaning in this society overrun by fakes,” Stain continued casually, as if he were talking about the weather. “Even villains who are just aimlessly scattering around will become my targets.” Stain wiggled out the blade embedded in Shigaraki’s shoulder, lifted it to his mouth, and licked the blood coating it. Right away, it was as if Shigaraki’s whole body filled with lead that weighed him down. He couldn’t move at all.

“Hey, what did you just do?” Shigaraki asked, a hint of panic in his voice.

“This is why you will die,” Stain coldly repeated. He lifted his blade, which glistened eerily in the light from the ceiling.

“Stop,” a new voice said. All eyes in that room fell on the newcomer standing beneath the arch of the doorway. The man appeared to be in his late thirties or early forties. He was well dressed in a pristine black suit, and his hair was neatly slicked back, giving off the impression that he was a successful and professional businessman. However, one look into his eyes and it would become clear that he was no businessman. His irises were dark, resembling never ending black holes that would suck up all light in a single second.

Kurogiri gave a gasp of recognition. “Lieutenant!” he called out in relief. They were saved.

Stain glared at him suspiciously. “Who the hell are you?” he demanded, the bloody blade still glistening in his grip.

The Lieutenant simply ignored Stain. “Put your blade away. It’s not very nice to try to kill someone who wants to be partners with you,” he said coldly, a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

“Do you want me to kill you too? I’ll be more than happy to end anyone who gets in my way.” Stain stated calmly. “Let me just finish up this one first.” He tightened his grip on the bloody blade and sank it down, aiming for Shigaraki’s throat.

In the blink of an eye, Stain’s blade was knocked out of his hand and it landed with a clatter onto the floor. In the fraction of a second, Stain himself was thrown across the room. The back of his head collided harshly with the wall, and his vision exploded with stars. Stain quickly blinked away the dizziness, and found the Lieutenant helping Shigaraki sit up on the floor. Stain unsheathed his small dagger and hurled it at the Lieutenant. As soon as the blade made contact with the target’s forehead, it bounced back harmlessly, as if its force and momentum were completely reversed.

“What the hell?” Stain demanded.

“Didn’t I tell you to put away your blade? We just want to talk,” the Lieutenant calmly said, his intense dark eyes staring deeply into Stain’s. When Stain made no more move to fight, the Lieutenant continued. “It seems like you and Shigaraki got off on the wrong foot, so let’s try this again. We’re the League of Villains. If you’ll just hear us out, you’ll find out that we’re not that different from you.”

These words made Stain raise his eyebrows. “What exactly is your goal?”

“It’s All Might,” Shigaraki said, smiling from his spot on the floor. “We want to crush the society where that trash is set up so high and mighty.”

Crush the society. Those words pulled Stain’s mouth into a wicked grin. “I guess we do have something in common after all.”

The Lieutenant nodded. “I’m glad you’ll join us.”

“Yes, that order of business is settled,” Stain agreed. Then he turned to Kurogiri. “Now warp me back to Hosu. There’s still something left for me to do there.”

In a swirl of black mist, Stain had gone, teleported to a place far away.

“Thanks Lieutenant Calamity,” Kurogiri said gratefully. “We don’t know what would have happened without you.”

“It’s fine. Now, I came here because you had something to tell me?”

“Yes, we found someone interesting,” said Shigaraki as he got up, having regained control of his body. He plopped down on a chair as the Lieutenant did the same. “When we attacked UA a few weeks ago, there was a girl who was able to completely nullify one of Nomu’s punches and send him flying. At that point, she gained our interest. Then, we saw her on TV during the UA Sports Festival. As we watched her fight, we couldn’t help but notice that her quirk is awfully similar to yours.”

“Lieutenant Calamity, we believe we have found your daughter,” Kurogiri concluded.

“Interesting indeed,” the Lieutenant commented.

Chapter Text

Three days passed rapidly after they started their workplace experiences and Manual took them to patrol the streets. The first day passed peacefully, and quite a few people recognized Rukina and Iida from the Sports Festival and said “Hi!”. On the second day of patrols, after lunch they had received a call that a drug trade just got busted and the lead dealer was currently on the run. Rukina caught a glint in Iida’s eye when Manual’s phone rang, but then it disappeared when Manual told them it was a just a drug dealer.

“Rukina and Tenya, follow me! We’re going to chase after that dealer!” Manual ordered them, and they both responded with a prompt “Yes!”.

“Iida.” Rukina got his attention as they both followed Manual in hopes to catch the dealer. “You were hoping that was the Hero Killer, weren’t you?”

He didn’t reply. Although she couldn’t see his eyes through the helmet of his costume, she knew that he was glaring straight ahead as Manual led them through the streets. Ugh, Rukina internally groaned, this really was like trying to talk to Todoroki before.

“Iida, just remember that we’re your friends,” she said. “We care about you and don’t want you to do anything stupid.”

“Alright,” he replied, his answer surprising her a bit. But before either of them could say anything else, they heard the squeal of a tire as a car screeched onto the road in front of them, rapidly accelerating towards them.

“That’s the car!” Manual yelled. “Rukina, you can stop it using your quirk, right?”

“Yes!” she responded.

“Alright Rukina, you’ll stop the car while Tenya and I wait to catch the dealer if she tries to escape!” Manual ordered. He and Iida quickly stepped to the side while Rukina stood in the middle of the road.

She gathered her thoughts, gaze focused solely on the car, now approaching her at full speed ahead. She breathed out, revved her arm back, and crushed her fist straight through the front of the vehicle, stopping it right in its tracks. Steam from the ruined engine rose. Then, something slithered out of the open car window with disturbing agility. The dealer, whose appearance resembled that of a large and green garden snake, made a run for it, abandoning her car and drug stash in the trunk.

“Tenya! Don’t let her get away!” Rukina heard Manual yell through the steam. She heard Iida’s engines whirl to life as he sprung into action. As Rukina stepped out of the haze of steam, she caught Iida rugby tackling the dealer to the ground, holding her steady as Manual caught up and handcuffed her. Soon enough, the police arrived and took her away.

“Good job, Rukina and Tenya. You guys did really well,” Manual congratulated, a content smile on his face. And that was the highlight of the second day.

Not much happened during their patrol on the third day either. From morning until evening, Rukina and Iida continued to follow Manual as the three of them leisurely walked around the area. Right as the sun was about to set, Manual told them that their patrol shift was over and that they would be returning to the hero office now. Rukina slipped her phone out of the small pouch strapped to her thigh (the support team really did a spectacular job when they made her costume), and noticed that she had received two texts. One was from Midoriya. The other one was from Todoroki.

She opened Midoriya’s first. I’m passing by Hosu right now! How are things over there?

She tapped out a response that it was quite peaceful today and that nothing much happened and hit the send button. Now for Todoroki’s message. She hesitated before opening it. The awkwardness of their last conversation still plagued her mind and she hoped he wasn’t upset with her or anything. She held her breath a bit as her thumb pressed on his message and it opened.

Yagi, my old man decided to take me to Hosu and we’ll be staying here for a few days. When does your shift end?

Rukina exhaled in relief that he wasn’t still upset that she’d cancelled on him. She tapped back a reply. My shift just ended a minute ago. Why do you ask?

Manual’s office building came into view as the three of them continued down the streets, but it would still take around ten minutes before they arrive. A few seconds after she sent her reply, Todoroki’s came. Do you want to get coffee or something?

Rukina furrowed her eyebrows in confusion. How strange. Why would Todoroki want her to drink coffee now? If I drink coffee now, I won’t be able to sleep.

Once again, his reply came right away. Do you want to get tea, then? Together?

Oh, he meant together. Rukina felt a bit bad, thinking that he probably still feels guilty for giving her the silent treatment before and felt like he owed her or something. Maybe he wanted to make it up to her by being really nice now. Todoroki, if this is about what happened before the Sports Festival, don’t worry about it. But I’ll still be happy to join you. Before she hit send, she remembered that she was in Hosu in the first place to keep an eye on Iida. She shuddered to think of what Iida might do in her absence. She added another sentence to her reply. Can I bring Iida too?

A few seconds passed by, but Todoroki’s response did not come as quickly as his other ones. The last of the sun’s rays disappeared behind the horizon. The lavender sky from the sunset faded into the signature deep blue of nighttime. A few minutes later, Rukina’s phone finally lit up and displayed his one word reply. Sure

Rukina smiled. That’s great! See you soon! She happily sent the text. She slipped her phone back into the pouch strapped onto her thigh, and jogged lightly to catch up to Iida in front of her.

“Hey Iida,” she got his attention. “Want to go to-”

Before she got to finish her sentence, a building a block away exploded in a burst of smoke and with a deafening boom. Fire licked across the buildings nearby in great orange tongues of flame. The streets were rapidly filling up with noise and clamour as panicked civilians all ran. Manual received a call on his earpiece right away.

“A villain appeared?” he asked into his earpiece. “Alright, we’ll be right there!” A beep ended the call and Manual quickly barked out orders. “Rukina! Tenya! This is a villain attack! Let’s go!”

The three of them broke off into a run, weaving through the crowds of scared civilians. Rukina snuck a glance at Iida, whose helmet covered head was pointed towards the dimly lit side streets. Rukina could tell right away what he was thinking. “Hey Iida, don’t you even think of running off on your own,” she warned, but he didn’t seem to catch her words. He stopped in his tracks, and stared off into the dark side street, as if he were looking for something. Rukina stopped too, looking anxiously over her shoulder at Iida.

“Iida?” she tried again, but he stayed staring ahead.

Just then, a violent explosion from up ahead sent a minivan flying. It soared through the air towards a frightened little boy and his mother. The woman immediately wrapped her arms around the child, trying to shield her son with her own body as her life flashed before her eyes. Rukina’s reflexes pushed her legs into movement, and she threw herself front of the mother and son. The minivan crashed into her and it dented as if it just hit a human shaped metal pole. Rukina stepped out of the wreckage, unharmed.

“Are you ok? Can you walk?” she hastily asked the mother and son, and both nodded. “Then please evacuate right away!” With a final nod, the mother hurriedly stood up, grabbed her son’s hand, and the two of them ran down the street as the last few civilians emptied out of this block. When Rukina turned back around, Iida had disappeared. Her throat tightened instantly with panic. Rukina impatiently ran along the street, scanning the area, searching for the white armour of his costume. She called his name, and she could hear her own desperation, but she received no reply.

“Dammit, he really did run off!” she angrily muttered to herself, an edge of fear in her words.

“Rukina, there you are!” she heard Manual call from behind her. “What are you doing here? We need to keep moving!”

“It’s Iida, I can’t find him!” she frantically shouted back.

“Dammit, where did he run off to?! And at a time like this!” Manual said, frustration clear on his face. He then shook his head. “Rukina, we have to help the other heroes hold back the villains! They’re being crushed!”

Rukina briefly glanced over her shoulder at the alleyway again, bit her lip, and ran to follow after Manual. As she ran, she seized her phone from the pouch strapped to her thigh. After a couple of rings that seemed to last forever, she was greeted with Iida’s answering machine, and her unease surged. Thoughts hysterically raced themselves within her mind. What if Iida really did find the Hero Killer? What if he’s in battle right now? What if he… She shook her head, steadying herself. Worrying like this would solve nothing. She needed to act, and she needed help. Holding her phone up again, she rapidly punched in the numbers, and pressed the phone to her ear.

“Hello?” Midoriya’s voice answered after a few seconds.

“Midoriya! Iida ran off!” she all but screamed at him. “We got a sudden call that there was a villain attack and Iida ran off by himself! I can’t find him!”

“What? Why would Iida do such a thing?” Midoriya asked in disbelief. “He’s always so proper and always follows the rules.”

“He probably went to look for the Hero Killer!” she explained hastily. Up ahead, Rukina could see the telltale orange flames and smoke of the battlefield. She could already hear the crashes and screams from the fighting. “Look Midoriya, you’re in Hosu City right? I’m going to enter battle soon, so I’m leaving Iida to you!”

“I got it! Leave it to me!” he assured her, then hung up. Rukina held onto her phone, and called the other classmate currently in Hosu City.

“Hello?” He picked up almost right away.

“Todoroki!” she said with an edge of panic. “I apologize for this selfish request, but I need your help!”

“What is it?” he asked without hesitation. “Where are you? I’ll come right away.”

“No, it’s not about me, Iida ran off and I can’t find him! I think he’s looking for the Hero Killer!” she said urgently. “Please Todoroki, I need to help the other heroes right now and can’t look for him. I’m sorry to ask this of you, but can you please find him?”

“I’m on it,” he replied, his voice calm and cool.

“Thank you,” she said before hanging up. She placed her phone into her pouch again just as she and Manual arrived on the battlefield. Large pillars of flame crawled up the buildings lining the streets. Ominous columns of black smoke issued from the wreckage. Rukina could see multiple heroes fighting three large and strange creatures. Creatures who had their pink brains exposed to the open air.

“Nomu!” she gasped out in recognition. There was no mistaking it, with their muscular builds and dopey expressions.

“What?” Manual asked from beside her.

“These creatures are called Nomu! They may have more than one quirk!” she warned. “Be careful, they’re strong!”

As if he could smell the newly arrived pair, one of the Nomu lunged at them, aiming a punch at Manual. Like she did with Bakugo at USJ, Rukina threw herself in front of her supervisor, shielding him from the bizarre creature. She pulled back a fist, and struck, meeting Nomu’s punch with her own. Violent winds erupted from the point of impact, whipping at her hair and skirt. She seized the opportunity as the Nomu was temporarily stupefied, and wrapped both of her hands around his large fist. Shouting out a cry full of adrenaline, she heaved Nomu over her back, and threw him onto the ground so hard that a Nomu shaped crater formed. Bits and pieces of the concrete ground scattered through the air.

“Rukina! Are you alright?” Manual shouted from behind her.

“They’re not as strong as the one from USJ, but they’re still tough so be careful!” she said as the Nomu slowly picked himself up from the ground. “Don’t worry. I can take care of this one while you help the other heroes!”

“Rukina, I’m your supervisor, I can’t just-”

“Go!” she shrieked. “I can handle it!”

Before Manual could protest further, the Nomu facing them lunged once again, hands outstretched and reaching for his target. As soon as his large fingers wrapped around her throat, they were pried open by an unseen force, and Rukina’s fist sank into Nomu’s stomach, knocking him backwards off his feet. Nomu crashed harshly into the wreckage of a collapsed building. Any normal human would have been knocked out cold, but Nomu emerged from the ruins with only a few scratches here and there. Rukina growled in frustration. He must have enhanced durability as one of his quirks. If this keeps going on, Rukina thought impatiently, then this battle would keep going on forever and Iida might…

An unpleasant and intrusive feeling clawed at her insides, the same feeling she gets when she hears fingernails on a chalkboard. She scanned the area, hoping to find something, anything that could be useful to quickly defeat Nomu. Nomu finished digging his way out of the rubble, and suddenly, her eyes landed on the flight of stairs nearby that led to the waterfront below. A crazy idea popped into her mind. It may not be elegant, but it might just be enough to get the job done.

Nomu pounced at her again, large hands outstretched, ready to kill. Rukina let a breath out, her hands shaking a bit from anticipation, and clutched onto Nomu’s wrist as he swung a punch at her. Then, as if she were dancing an intense tango, she swished around to step behind Nomu while dragging his arm with her, and dug her knee into his back. The vectors acting upon Nomu’s body forced him into the air, but Rukina did not lose her grip on him. The both of them streaked through the sky, Rukina kneeling on Nomu’s back as if he were just a large and ugly skateboard. The two of them dived as Rukina carefully controlled their fall, and Nomu landed face first in front of the stairs leading to the waterfront. Just as he lifted his head in confusion, Rukina gripped the back of his head, shoved his face again into the ground, kneed him in the small of his back, and the two of them tipped over the threshold and started their plunge down the steps. The descent was not smooth or elegant at all. Against every single one of the rough concrete steps, Nomu’s face collided and smashed, scraped and banged while Rukina kept her grip on him, hanging on for dear life.

“It’s like I’m sledding down a hill,” she muttered humorously to herself, “Except the hill is super bumpy and my sled wants to kill me.”

With a loud thump, they hit the bottom of the steps. While Nomu was still dazed from collisions between his head and the stairs, Rukina resumed her grasp on his wrist, and whipped his body into the air, which fell into the shallow water with a splash, and lay completely still. Rukina sighed in relief, glad that she actually pulled off that plan.

“Now, time to search for Iida,” she told herself. Just as she was about to reach for her phone, the Nomu in the water dragged himself to his feet, and roared a deafening screech. Rukina hurriedly clamped her hands over her ears, gaping in disbelief at the sight before her.

“You’ve got to be kidding me!” she shouted angrily. “You just banged your head against at least two hundred steps!” Water rose smoothly, wrapping around Nomu, and Rukina could see that his bloody gashes and scrapes healed at disturbing speeds. Just my luck, she thought sarcastically, the Nomu that has a water quirk landed right in his element.

Massive clouds of steam emerged from the water surface that Nomu’s calves touched, instantly fogging the air surrounding Rukina until Nomu appeared to be nothing more than a blurred shadow, which then quickly disappeared from sight. Rukina frantically looked around, but all she could see was fog from the water vapour. She might as well have been blind. Closing her eyes and straining her ears, she desperately tried to figure out Nomu’s location. She could hear the distance clamour of the battle, the wind gently rustling the grass, the echo of a cricket cry. Her eyes snapped open when she heard the thudding of footsteps to her left and she found a dark shadow approaching her through the fog. Through a war cry, she screamed her frustration and impatience. Nomu’s ugly head was now in view through the mist. Her arm revved back, preparing to slam a punch into Nomu’s nose, but her hit never made contact. Her punch swung through empty air, as the brawny and powerful fist of a much taller man reached over her and sank into Nomu’s face. Nomu sailed through the air, and the mist promptly dissolved into nothingness.

Rukina spun around to thank her savior, but her words died in her throat when she realized who it was. The orange flames covering his shoulders flickered heatedly and his aqua eyes burned purposefully as they intently watched the Nomu.

“You didn’t accept my nomination,” Flame Hero Endeavor said to her. Rukina stayed still, too shocked to reply.

Nomu quickly stood on his feet again, and ribbons of water from the small lake swirled through the air, coating his whole body in a ball. Wiggling water appendages shot out of the sphere, giving Nomu the shape of a large and transparent octopus. Without a hint of hesitation, Endeavor held his hand face up in front of him, and an orb of condensed fire spun to life at his fingertips just as the water tentacles shot at him.

“Look out!” Rukina shrieked in panic. But Endeavor did not need that warning. As soon as the water appendages wrapped around him, they were blasted away into a million water droplets. Then, it seemed like the air itself exploded into flames, painting the scene in an intense orange hue. The orb of fire in Endeavor’s hand flew into the sky and expanded into a ring of flames so large that all the moisture in the air evaporated. Endeavor lifted his hand at Nomu, and the circle of fire whirled at Nomu like a furious Catherine wheel. In a display of spinning sparks and flame, the wheel looped around Nomu and tightened around him like a lasso. As the water from his transparent octopus fell to the ground with an almighty splash, Nomu fell too, completely restrained by the rope of fire, unable to move.

“It’s over,” Rukina gasped out in amazement. Conflicted feelings rose within her. This was the man who abused Todoroki’s mother until she snapped, the man who put Todoroki through hell, and yet, his work as a hero was nothing short of excellent. While she struggled with the Nomu, Endeavor ended it almost instantly. Against her wishes, reluctant respect for this man as a hero swirled inside of her.

“His quirk depended on moisture. So naturally, enough fire and heat overpowered him.” Endeavor said to her. He then turned his attention towards the clamour of the battle above. “Are the other heroes also fighting these creatures?”

“Yes,” she answered breathlessly, still awestruck at his combat ability.

“I see. You’d best fall back for now. I’ll take care of things here.”

This snapped her out of her momentary daze. “I can’t do that. I need to find my friend,” she said as she turned on her heel and ran up the steps again. She heard Endeavor call after her, but he made no move to stop her. She snatched her phone, and hurriedly checked her messages to find that Midoriya sent her his location pin a few minutes ago. 4-2-10 Ekou Street.

No other messages followed, which could not mean anything good. Rukina felt ice flood her veins, and a shiver swept through her. If he only sent his location pin without any explanation, Rukina thought, then it must mean he is currently in battle. Feeling cold panic coat her insides, Rukina kicked off from the ground and let the air currents carry her through the sky. A bead of sweat rolled down her temple as one thought repeated itself over and over in her mind. Please don’t let them be dead… Please don’t let them be dead... It’ll be my fault if they’re dead. As she sailed across the night, she easily spotted a small alleyway that was lit up in bright orange flames. She drew in a sharp breath. Those flames must be Todoroki’s.

She dived, racing against time, and zoomed into the small alleyway and took a second to assess the situation. There, she spotted her friends struggling against a lone man donning a crimson scarf. She instantly recognized that warped and twisted face from the news. This man was the Hero Killer.

A pro hero lay still on the ground and Rukina could only hope that he wasn’t dead. Midoriya sat on the side, bleeding badly from a wound on his leg. Iida was pinned to the ground, a blade jammed into his arm. Todoroki was fighting, unleashing fire from his left hand as if it were a flamethrower. However, Stain was almost inhumanly fast, dodging every one of Todoroki’s attacks.

The moment Todoroki’s fire attack stopped, Stain rushed at Iida in his madness to kill. Then, just as his sword was about to pierce his opponent, Rukina’s knee slammed into Stain’s face and Stain was sent flying backwards.

“Yagi!” Todoroki and Iida yelled together in surprise.

“I’m glad you’re not dead,” she replied to them, keeping an eye on Stain. “I’m here to help you guys. We’ll fight all together.”

“The Hero Killer’s quirk allows him to immobilize people by licking their blood,” Todoroki quickly explained to her. She nodded in response. “He already got Midoriya and the pro hero behind us.”

“I think I broke my engine radiator,” Iida said as Todoroki shot another jet of fire at Stain. Then, an idea lit up his expression. “Todoroki, can you regulate temperature?”

“I’m not used to my left yet,” he responded. “Why?”

“Freeze my legs without plugging up the exhaust!” Iida explained. Todoroki nodded in understanding, temporarily taking his eyes off Stain, who took this chance and charged at them through an opening in the fire. Rukina stepped forward and Stain’s sword harmlessly bounced right back as it hit her shoulder.

“I’ll distract him! You guys, do what you need to do!” she commanded, before she dashed at her opponent and they entered into their deadly duel. While he darted backwards and forwards, she whipped and twisted around to match his movements. While his blades simply bounced off of her skin as if she were made of titanium, her punches never found their target as he was an expert at dodging. He couldn’t land a hit on her, and she couldn’t land a hit on him. He drew out a small dagger and hurled it at her and, an instant from embedding itself into her skull, it shot straight back and clattered to the ground.

“What the hell? My attacks just keep bouncing right back,” Stain growled out, frustrated beyond belief. “Your quirk is the same as that man’s.”

Rukina’s concentration wavered as a new and sickening feeling stirred inside of her and she stopped her attacks. “What man?” she asked, temporarily disorientated. Feelings of disgust mixed with unease clawed at her. It couldn’t be, she thought, it couldn’t be him. There was no chance in hell that she would ever forget him.

She would never forget the betrayal she felt when he never came back. She would never forget that cold glance he gave with his dark, dark eyes as he closed the door behind himself, leaving her behind, abandoning her.

During her second of hesitation, Stain lunged at her again, sensing weakness, but was blocked by a column of white ice, and then chased away by a stream of orange flame.

“Yagi! Get back!” Todoroki shouted from behind her, snapping her out of her trance.

“Right!” She shook her head to clear her mind of all intrusive thoughts. Now was not the time to be stupid or jump to silly conclusions. She returned to Todoroki’s side just as Iida shot into the air faster than the eye could see, sinking his shin into Stain’s ribcage. At the same time, Midoriya regained control of his body again and leapt up as well, a blur of green in the night, slamming his fist into the target’s face. In the next second, brilliant orange flames lit up the area once again, encircling the Hero Killer. Then, with bright blue fire propelling his engines, Iida hurled his heel into Stain’s gut just as Rukina landed a dropkick straight into Stain’s skull. The Hero Killer fell onto a hill of Todoroki’s ice, and stayed completely still.

“He’s probably knocked out after all that, right?” Midoriya asked cautiously.

“Let’s restrain him and get out of here,” Todoroki suggested. “Is there anything to tie him up with?”

“Just in case, let’s take all the weapons off him,” Midoriya said.

“Good idea,” Todoroki agreed. He rested his left hand onto the ice and it melted quickly, lowering Stain to the ground. Todoroki gingerly nudged him with his foot, and Stain remained still as a log. Todoroki and Midoriya set to work, patting him down and removing all his weapons. The pro hero who was lying on the ground (Midoriya called him Mr Native) also seemed to regain control of his body and he started helping too.

As Iida shakily dragged himself onto his feet, he noticed Rukina steadily approach him, raging blue eyes staring fiercely into his own.

“Yagi, I-” Iida tried to apologize, but he never got to finish his sentence. Rukina drove her fist straight into Iida’s cheek. Todoroki and Midoriya paused from their current task and turned around to watch the ordeal. Iida gaped at her as she stood in front of him, huffing from anger. The burst of pain on his cheek darkened into a red mark.

“Be glad I didn’t use my quirk for that one,” she angrily hissed out, clutching her bruised fist as well.

“Yagi!” Midoriya called to her, “Calm down. We just got out of a fight, we don’t need another-”

“I won’t calm down until I’m done giving Iida a piece of my mind!” she snapped at Midoriya, ignoring the stares she got from Todoroki and Native. Scowling deeply at Iida, she raised her index finger and jabbed it furiously into his chestplate. “You! I chose Hosu for my workplace experience so I could keep an eye on you! I even specifically told you to not do anything stupid, like chase after the Hero Killer! I told you that we’re your friends and we care about you! Did those words mean nothing to you?!”

“Yagi-” Iida tried, but was promptly cut off as she shouted over him and sharply jabbed a finger into his chestplate again.

“I understand your anger! I understand that you want revenge on the criminal who injured your brother! But to throw yourself face first at a stronger enemy is just reckless!” she yelled shrilly, beside herself. “You could have died! You could have been killed! Do you know how worried I got when you ran off?! Does that mean nothing to you?!”

She stood there in front of him, shaking and panting from the rage and fury that she just unleashed. Having finished saying what was on her mind, she closed her eyes in an effort to cool down, let out a deep breath, and opened them again to meet Iida’s. His expression was wracked with guilt and shame. He really did regret his actions. Rukina’s gaze softened a bit, and her voice was gentle when she spoke a few moments later.

“Sorry about your, uh, face,” she said. “It hurts, doesn’t it.”

“No, I deserve it,” Iida admitted genuinely. “I apologize for my actions. I truly am sorry.”

“Just don’t do something reckless like that again,” she muttered before she went to help the others tie up the unconscious Stain.

“That should do it,” Todoroki said as he pulled the final knot tight around Stain’s wrists. Native pulled the injured Midoriya onto his back, giving him a piggy back ride.

“Where’d you get this rope?” Rukina asked Todoroki, curious.

“I found it in a garbage heap nearby,” he answered, giving the rope one final tug.

“Here, I’ll pull him.” Rukina held out her hand expectantly, but Todoroki didn’t place the rope into her waiting hand.

“No, I’m fine, I can do it,” he insisted.

“Todoroki,” Iida said from behind them, “I’ll pull him-” Before he could finish his sentence, two voices shot him down at the same time.

“Your arms are all messed up,” Todoroki reasoned.

“Don’t you even think about pushing yourself anymore tonight,” Rukina snappily ordered, “Todoroki, you too.” She then snatched the rope out of Todoroki’s hands and led the way out of the alley, dragging Stain behind her.

“Sorry everyone,” Native apologized in self-disappointment from behind her, “Even though I’m a pro, I was just in the way.”

“No, I don’t think you could have done anything one-on-one with the Hero Killer’s quirk,” Midoriya said from his place on Native’s back. “He’s too strong.”

“Even when we fought him all together, we still barely won,” Todoroki added on. “He got flustered when Yagi arrived, and he forgot about Midoriya’s recovery time.”

“We’re lucky that no one died tonight,” Rukina added grimly.

“Now let’s hurry and get him to the police-” Native tried to advise, but was cut off when multiple footsteps thudded down the streets. Half a dozen heroes sprinted from around a corner, and immediately started fretting over the students’ injuries and tried to get a grasp of the situation.

“We were sent here by Endeavor to help!”

“Those injuries look serious!”

“I’ll call an ambulance right away!”

“Wait, is that the Hero Killer?”

“Call the police too!”

“Can you walk?” one of them asked Midoriya.

“If you prop me up, I can...” Midoriya answered, clearly exhausted.

“And you?” the hero asked Todoroki and Rukina.

“I’m not hurt at all,” Rukina replied.

“I only received minor injuries,” Todoroki said, “But Iida is bleeding badly.”

“You guys,” Iida spoke up from behind them. Rukina, Todoroki, and Midoriya turned around to find Iida bowing deeply. “You were injured because of me,” he stated, his tone wavering and expressing the immense guilt and shame that he felt. Rukina felt her irritation at him from before slowly disappear. “I am truly sorry.” And he absolutely looked it too. “I couldn’t see anything through my anger.”

“I’m sorry too,” Midoriya apologized as well. “Even though you were feeling so cornered, I didn’t notice at all, even though we’re friends.” Following those words, the tears of remorse that welled in Iida’s eyes spilled out.

“Well, just make sure you don’t do anything reckless again,” Rukina softly repeated her words from before, crossing her arms across her chest.

“Pull yourself together,” Todoroki said, trying to help Iida in his own way. “You’re the class rep, right?”

“Yeah,” Iida agreed, mopping his eyes with his sleeve. He gave a final sniff. When he looked up again, he offered them a smile through his wet eyes. “Yeah,” he muttered again.

These few minutes of peace were destroyed by a resounding screech that left Rukina’s ears ringing. Faster than anyone could react, a large and winged creature swooped out of the sky, grabbing Midoriya and taking off with him. Something wet and warm splattered onto Rukina’s arm and she briefly glanced down to see it was blood. Blood from the creature?

“The Nomu must have escaped here after being beaten!” the female hero called out. Rukina felt something wet and slimy drag across her arm, licking the blood off. Instantly, the airborne Nomu became paralyzed and fell, just as a blur zoomed forward from behind her. Wait, wasn’t Stain tied up? When did he get free?

“This society overgrown with fake heroes,” Stain muttered as he launched himself at the Nomu, “And the criminals who wave their power around idly all become my targets!” He sank his blade into Nomu’s brain, and they all plunged to the ground. Stain slowly stood up to his full and intimidating height, facing the group of heroes and students. Although he only licked the Nomu’s blood, all of them were rooted to place by his dangerous stare full of a thirst for blood, a lust for death.

“The fake must all be purged!” Stain growled, kicking Nomu’s body out of the way. One step after another, he started to close the distance between him and them. Rukina tried to move, but it was as if she were held in place by his overwhelming murderous aura. “I need to make things right!” Rukina struggled to breathe. Beads of cold sweat rolled down her temple.

Stain continued to advance shakily, as if drunk on his own fury and hatred. “Someone must be dyed in blood… I need to take back what it means to be a hero!” It was as if the whole world had been coloured a crimson red by his grotesque semblance. “Come! Try and get me, you fakes!” It felt like her lungs had been shredded… No, it felt like her lungs had been gouged out, as she futilely tried to draw breath. It was as if she were drowning and suffocating from the heavy and blood filled air. “The only one who is allowed to kill me is All Might!”

Then, the small knife slipped from his grasp and clanged onto the floor. Stain stood, frozen, his eyes rolled back. He moved no more.

“He’s… unconscious,” Endeavor’s voice muttered from the side. Rukina had not noticed his arrival at all.

At once, all feeling returned to her, and it felt like she had just been submerged in ice water. Rukina gasped, shaking as she fell to her knees along with Todoroki and Iida, joining Midoriya on the ground. Subconsciously, without actively willing it, the four young students had managed to scoot together, all huddling together, trembling together on the ground, rattled beyond belief by the events of the night.

Chapter Text

“Thinking about it now, we did something amazing,” Midoriya said thoughtfully to his three classmates the next morning.

Last night, shortly after Stain lost consciousness, the ambulance and police arrived. The students had been transported to the Hosu General Hospital, where doctors treated their wounds. Midoriya, who had injured his leg by his own quirk, had his leg wrapped up in bandages, just like Todoroki’s arm. Iida’s injuries were the worst out of all of them, and both of his arms were put in casts. Rukina, who had sworn to the hospital last night that she was perfectly fine, still had a doctor fuss over her and wrap her bruised hand before she was allowed to leave. Midoriya, Iida, and Todoroki had to stay the night. Now, the rays of the morning sun shined through the window. The long night had passed. Bringing a large box of cookies, Rukina dropped by the hospital first thing in the morning.

“I went to the bakery and bought these,” she announced when she arrived, setting the box of sweets onto a table. “Were any of you able to sleep?”

“No,” they all replied from their beds, dressed in hospital pajamas.

“Same. All I could think about was how we were still alive,” she said grimly, plopping down in a chair by the foot of Iida’s bed. Her hands absentmindedly started playing with the hem of her summer dress. “Especially after Stain killed that Nomu, his own teammate, with no remorse. His aura alone was enough to keep us in place. It felt like I was staring Death in the eyes.”

“It’s a miracle that we’re still alive,” Midoriya agreed. “With my leg like this, he could have killed us if he wanted to.”

“You’re amazing to have been able to face him after all the murderous intent directed at you,” Todoroki told Iida.

“No,” Iida brushed off the praise, looking down at his arms. “I’m not...” The sound of the door sliding open interrupted Iida before he could finish what he was saying.

“Oh, are you wounded kids awake?” a short elderly hero asked. Gran Torino, the hero supervising Midoriya, as well as Manual stepped in through the door. “You kids have a visitor.”

A very tall and lanky man with the face of a dog stepped into the room. He easily towered over all of them.

“This is Hosu’s chief of Police, Kenji Tsuragamae,” Gran Torino introduced. Iida and Todoroki slipped off their beds while Rukina stood up from her chair, all respectfully standing. Poor Midoriya had to stay in bed due to his broken leg.

“Woof, you must be the UA students who brought down the Hero Killer, right?” The Police Chief asked. It was hard to read his facial expressions.

“Yes,” they all unanimously answered.

“We arrested the Hero Killer,” the Police Chief said. “He had fairly serious injuries, with burns and broken bones, and is receiving treatment under strict guard, woof.” The ‘woof’ kind of took some of the edge off his words, but the words remained serious nonetheless. “You are UA students, so you must already know that after the appearance of quirks, the police had to establish strict rules so that quirks would not be used as weapons. Even against the Hero Killer, for uncertified individuals to cause injury with their quirks without permission from their guardians or supervisors is a clear violation of that rule.” Rukina saw Iida and Midoriya tense up at the clear meaning of punishment behind those words. Meanwhile, Todoroki looked furious.

“The four of you, as well as the pro heroes Endeavor, Manual, and Gran Torino must receive strict punishment,” the Police Chief concluded.

“If we didn’t fight, people would have died,” Todoroki said, volume rising with every word, ignoring the whispers from Iida and Midoriya telling him to stop. He looked absolutely outraged at the injustice happening. “Isn’t it a hero’s job to save people?!”

The Police Chief simply closed his eyes patiently. “You’re telling us to disobey the rules? That is why you are not a fully fledged hero yet. Goodness, what are you being taught by UA and by Endeavor.” These words only seemed to rub salt into Todoroki’s wounds.

“You dog!” Todoroki snapped, angrily tramping towards the Police Chief.

“Todoroki,” Midoriya called out, scared of what might happen.

“Stop it, he’s absolutely right,” Iida said.

“Todoroki, stop, it’s pointless to argue,” Rukina reasoned, putting a hand around his upper arm and pulling him back. His taut muscles relaxed a bit in her grip. From this, she noticed that the length of her hand could barely wrap around half of Todoroki’s sturdy bicep. The inappropriate thought (considering the current situation) that he was impressively toned flitted through her mind. She mentally kicked herself for thinking that.

The Police Chief continued, “That was the official opinion of the police, that you would be punished if this were all made public.” Then a twinkle appeared in his large brown eyes. “But if we don’t make it public, and we say that Endeavor was the hero who brought down the Hero Killer, then we don’t have to punish you. But this would also mean that no one would know about your achievements.” This caused the students to blink in pleasant disbelief. So they wouldn’t be punished?

“Personally, I don’t want to be the one to find fault with promising young ones because of one big mistake,” the Police Chief said with a bark like laugh.

“Either way,” Manual sighed, “we will need to take responsibility for our negligence as supervisors.”

This prompted Iida to step forward and bow deeply in front of Manual. Rukina followed Iida’s proper example. “We’re truly sorry, sir,” they both genuinely apologized, their eyes pointed at the ground in humility.

“All right. You caused others a lot of trouble. If you understand, then don’t do it again,” Manual said gently, accepting their apology as he lightly poked both of them on the head. To Rukina, Manual felt more like a big brother than a supervisor.

Midoriya and Todoroki respectfully followed suit, bending lightly at the waist, offering an “I’m sorry” and a “Please take care of it”.

“Because of the unfairness of adults, you will not be able to receive the praise that you would have gotten,” the Police Chief said, voice kind and apologetic. “But at least, as someone who also protects the peace, I can say thank you.” He sincerely bowed too, offering them his respect before he, Manual, and Gran Torino left.

“Whew,” Rukina sighed in relief once the door closed behind them. “We really dodged a bullet there.”

“Yeah, I really thought we were gonna get expelled from UA or something,” Midoriya agreed.

“It’s great that he’s willing to give us this special pardon,” Iida said appreciatively.

“Well, he could have said that in the first place instead of worrying us,” Todoroki added, but Rukina could tell from his tone that he was grateful, nonetheless.

“Help yourself, these were freshly baked,” Rukina said as she opened the box of cookies laying on the table. She then slid open the door and waved a small goodbye. “I forgot to get drinks and I need to call Uraraka, so I’ll be back shortly.”

“Tell her to not worry about us,” Iida called after her.

“Ha, but knowing Uraraka, she’s gonna worry anyway,” Rukina said fondly, closing the door behind her.

She walked down the hall and into the visitor lounge, selecting Uraraka’s number on her phone. After Uraraka picked up, she spent a good fifteen minutes fussing over all of them, repeatedly asking whether they were ok or not, and Rukina would say, over and over, that they were fine and to not worry.

“I see,” Uraraka said hesitantly, “Well, I’m just glad you guys are ok. I got really nervous when I just got Deku’s address. By the way, how is Deku? Did he hurt himself using his quirk again?” And apparently, she had forgotten that she had asked that question twenty times already.

“Well, yes, but everything’s fine now, so don’t worry about it anymore,” Rukina assured her. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Midoriya walk into the visitor lounge. A clunking sound followed every other step as his crutch hit the floor. “Actually Uraraka, Midoriya is here right now, so I’ll just give him the phone so you can talk to him yourself.”

“N-No, Deku probably needs his rest and I can’t-”

“Don’t worry about it!” Rukina said as she handed her cellphone to Midoriya, who took it with confusion.

“Here,” she told him, smiling. “Uraraka wants to talk to you.” She then slipped out of the lounge, giving the two lovebirds (hehe) their privacy. She made her way to the vending machine, slipped in the coins, and out popped the drinks. By the time she returned to the lounge carrying the four cans of ice tea in her bag, Midoriya had a faint blush on his face, holding the phone in trembling hands. Rukina didn’t know if it was her imagination or not, but she thought she could see jets of steam gush out of his ears.

“So what did you guys talk about?” Rukina chimed.

“Oh, sh-she just said th-that she’s g-glad we’re a-alright,” Midoriya said, his words a stuttering mess as he handed her back her phone. “She s-said she w-was worried and- What?” Midoriya stopped mid-sentence when he caught sight of Rukina’s knowing smirk. “What are you smiling about?”

“Nothing,” Rukina chirped, but her sing-songy tone gave it away. Midoriya turned a bright, blazing crimson, and frantically started waving his hands around as if in a frenzy.

“No no no that’s not it!” he desperately denied.

“Whatever you say,” Rukina said casually, smirking. She then set off down the hallway towards Iida and Todoroki’s room, and Midoriya stumbled up and followed behind her, whispering and stuttering “Th-that’s not it” and “Uraraka’s j-just a friend”.

“We’ve returned,” she announced as she opened the door, “I brought ice tea and...”

“Yagi, Midoriya,” Todoroki said with a graveness to his words, “Iida just finished getting examined.”

Rukina blinked and the smile from before fell from her face. “Iida?” she asked softly, tentatively. Iida kept his gaze glued to the floor.

“My left hand might have long term damage,” Iida said calmly.

“Long term… damage?” Midoriya repeated, hoping he didn’t hear correctly.

“Both of my arms were pretty beat up, but the damage on my left arm was especially severe. I’ll have trouble moving my hand and fingers and experience numbness,” Iida continued. He looked up to meet the three worried expressions, and his smile was calm and read ‘It can’t be helped’. “There’s a possibility it can be healed with nerve transplant surgery.”

“Th-that’s good, right?” Rukina blurted out nervously. “It can be healed. That’s great!” But Iida simply shook his head.

“When I found the Hero Killer, I stopped being able to think. I should have contacted Manual first, but I forgot myself in my anger, and I put myself above the safety of Native,” Iida admitted truthfully. “So, until I become a true hero, I want to leave my left arm as it is.”

Rukina wasn’t sure what to say or do in this situation. Iida’s tone was final and accepting of his fate. How should she try to comfort him? Would it be considered rude to try to comfort him right now, when he’s already accepted it?

“Iida, I feel the same way,” Midoriya said from beside her, breaking the silence. He lifted his clenched fist, which was lined with scars from the Sports Festival, and held it up as if in a fist bump. He tapped it gently onto Iida’s cast covered arm. “Let’s become stronger, together.”

Rukina lifted up her own fist, and followed Midoriya’s example. The bandages covering her bruised hand tapped lightly onto Iida’s.

“Let’s move forward and grow from both our strength and weakness,” she added. The three of them nodded, and it was as if a mutual connection had been made, a vow to keep pushing forward.

Meanwhile, Todoroki looked from Midoriya’s scarred hand, to Iida’s wrapped arms, to Rukina’s bandaged fist, and started sweating bullets once he connected the dots. “I feel kind of bad...” he muttered, drawing their attention.

“Huh? About what?” Midoriya asked.

“I feel like if I get involved, then other people mess up their hands,” Todoroki said, raising his hand to eye level and examining it. “Is it a curse?”

“Pfft,” Midoriya and Iida both immediately gagged and burst into laughter at Todoroki’s ridiculous statement. “Todoroki, I didn’t know you could make jokes!”

“No, I’m not joking. It’s like I’m the Hand Crusher or something,” he said seriously, summoning forth another fit of laughs from the other two. Midoriya and Iida both had tears in their eyes by now. Rukina felt her cheeks pull up as she stepped lightly towards Todoroki.

“Don’t be stupid, Mr Hand Crusher,” Rukina said humorously as she poked him on the forehead. He blinked away from his thoughts, and his eyes looked up into her beautiful smile, and he didn’t understand why his heart felt like leaping out of his throat all of a sudden.

***
Soon enough, Rukina was saying goodbye and thank you to Manual for supervising her before she returned to UA. As she stepped into the classroom, she was glomped by Uraraka, who wailed that she was so worried. She saw all her classmates again, who enthusiastically exchanged stories about their own internships. The days rolled by, filled with the cloudless sunshine and fresh summer air, and soon it was the final week of June. This meant one thing to the students of UA: final exams were nine days away. Aizawa reminded Class 1A of this right after the lunch bell rang.

“I haven’t studied at all!” Kaminari roared, grabbing fistfulls of his blond hair while Ashido laughed nervously beside him. “With the Sports Festival and workplace experience, I didn’t study at all!”

“It’ll be tough since there’s also a practical exam too,” Mineta taunted smugly. “If you fail either one, you won’t get to go to the training camp.” Kaminari and Ashido sent him looks of betrayal and disgust.

“You two, I can assist you with the class lectures,” Yaoyorozu kindly offered.

“Yaomomo!” Kaminari and Ashido sang out in delight. “We’re saved!”

“Ashido and Kaminari, let’s do our best!” Midoriya cheered them on. “We all want to go to the training camp together, right?”

“Yes!” Iida agreed, his hand sailing around wildly in the crazy hand gesture. “As class rep, I also have high hopes that you’ll all be moved into action!”

“It’s pretty hard to fail if you just pay attention in class,” Todoroki said coolly.

“Todoroki, don’t be mean,” Rukina said lightheartedly as she packed up her pencil case.

“Rukina, please help me,” Uraraka begged from beside her, grabbing onto her shirt sleeve. “You got perfect scores on the midterms just like Yaoyorozu. Please teach me.”

“For sure,” Rukina said brightly. How could she say no to those puppy eyes?

“Uraraka, I’ll help you study as well,” Iida said. Uraraka’s eyes shone even brighter. “As class rep and as your friend, I’ll help you pass for sure.”

“We won’t let you down, Uraraka,” Rukina said firmly.

“Hey, do you want to study all together?” Midoriya suggested. Uraraka furiously nodded.

“Mind if I join you?” Todoroki asked.

“Not at all! The more the merrier!” Midoriya agreed excitedly.

***
On a Sunday morning in the library, Rukina sat at a large table, textbooks of every subject in a neat stack beside her. She waited for her friends, who were supposed to arrive in the next five minutes. She straightened the textbook pile for the uptenth time, excited to be able to help. Absentmindedly, she quietly tapped her pencil on her notebook, until her phone buzzed. She picked up her phone, and saw a message from Midoriya and one from Iida.

She tapped on Midoriya’s text. Sorry, but I can’t come today. I got food poisoning, so I have to stay home today. I’m really sorry :(

She quickly tapped out a reply, reassuring Midoriya that it’s alright and to get better soon. She opened Iida’s text next. My brother just informed me that he’s leaving the hospital today and I’m going to help him out. I apologize for the abrupt cancellation.

She was glad that Iida’s brother had recovered enough to leave the hospital and messaged him so. And now, the two left are Uraraka and-

“Are the others not here yet?” Todoroki asked from behind her. He slid his bag from his shoulder and set it on the table.

“Well, there’s good news and bad news,” she answered him as he sat in the chair beside her. “The bad news is that Midoriya got food poisoning and needs to stay home. The good news is that Iida’s brother recovered enough to leave the hospital, so Iida’s helping him today.”

“So basically, it’s us and Uraraka,” he summarized. She nodded, then her phone buzzed again.

Text from Uraraka: I’m really sorry Rukina, but I’m worried about Deku, so I’m checking up on him. I won’t be able to come. Fortunately, Rukina had been working with Uraraka one-on-one during Friday night and the whole Saturday, so Uraraka was mostly caught up.

Her lips pulled into a knowing smirk at Uraraka’s cute ‘concern’ for Midoriya. This prompted Todoroki to ask her, “What is it?”

“Nothing,” she quickly replied. She set her phone down, clearing her throat and attempting to straighten her face. “It seems like Uraraka can’t join us either. It’s just us now, so it can’t be helped.” She opened her blank notebook. “So, what subject do you want to go over first? Is there a particular subject that’s giving you a hard time?” she asked.

“I’m fine with anything,” Todoroki replied. To be honest, he didn’t really need any help with the lecture material. He just joined due to… uh… personal reasons. And he couldn’t help it but a tiny part of him felt glad that the others couldn’t make it.

“Alright,” Rukina said, grabbing the first textbook off the pile. “Let’s get math out of the way first.” She cracked it open to the first chapter review, and pointed at a problem. “Let’s-”

“Hey, is that Yagi and Todoroki?” a friendly voice quietly called out from behind them. Rukina turned around in her seat and caught a familiar head of spiky red hair.

“Kirishima!” she excitedly whispered (they were still in a library, after all) as he sank in a chair opposite of Todoroki. “I didn’t know you would be studying here too. You can join us if you want. Are you alone?”

“Nah, I’m going to study with Bakugo and we’re-”

“Huh Kirishima?! Why is half half bastard here?!” Bakugo’s voice yelled out, earning several glares from adults and children alike.

“Bakugo, shh, we’re in a library,” Rukina scolded quietly before Todoroki could retort. Trying to keep the peace, Kirishima offered hurried apologies to the surrounding people. Bakugo angrily stalked over and pulled out a chair beside Kirishima, still giving Todoroki a dirty look.

“Just seeing his face puts me in a bad mood,” Bakugo said. At this, Todoroki also narrowed his eyes, glaring back.

“Come on, we all want to go to the training camp,” Rukina tried to reason, trying to prevent a possible fight from breaking out.

“Bakugo, I’m seriously counting on you,” Kirishima said desperately. “If I don’t pass the final exams, I won’t be able to go to the training camp.”

“Huh? Are you giving up already, you idiot?!” challenged Bakugo, who seemed determined to be in a bad mood.

“I’m not an idiot. But I am… more of an idiot than you so that’s why you’ve got to teach me,” Kirishima said truthfully. Both Todoroki and Rukina silently watched this exchange with raised eyebrows.

“Well, I’m just gonna explain it once, so you’d better learn it!” Bakugo said. “Hurry up and show me the first problem!”

Kirishima fumbled around for a bit in his bag, then pulled out his math textbook. “Here, I don’t understand this one.” He pointed at the question. “Solve for X.”

“That’s an easy problem,” Bakugo said. He barely gave it a thought and casually wrote down the answer, his pencil sliding smoothly across his worksheet. Kirishima’s eyes became comical dots in his confusion. He forced a bitter smile onto his face.

“Bakugo, I don’t want the answer… Well, I do, but I want you to teach me the method on how to get the answer,” Kirishima said.

“I didn’t give you the answer,” Bakugo argued, “I followed the given calculations. Are you an idiot?”

“If you do it like that, I won’t understand,” Kirishima sighed, grabbing a fistful of his red hair in frustration.

“Here Kirishima,” Rukina said, standing up, deciding to help the poor guy. She leaned over the table and pointed at the question in the textbook. “What you do is expand the expression on the left side of the equation, and then you...” she began explaining, moving her finger across the page, pointing at the numbers. She walked him through the question as he diligently wrote in his notebook, following her every word. “...Then you factor, which gives you X.”

“Woah, Yagi, I got the right answer,” Kirishima muttered after he checked the answer sheet, amazed. “Thanks!”

“Hey you idiot! I can teach too!” Bakugo yelled, causing another few glares to be shot at him. Kirishima quickly apologized to the bystanders, flustered by the dirty looks from the people around them.

“Yagi, I need help with this question,” Todoroki lied, trying to get her attention. He pointed at one of the complex end questions in the back of the book.

“Half half dumbass, give it here,” Bakugo growled, snatching the textbook from Todoroki’s hand. Bakugo read the problem, then his pencil started moving furiously against his worksheet and his fingers tapped heatedly on his calculator.

“The answer is 5607.4 metres,” Bakugo triumphantly announced a minute later, happy that he solved a problem that half half bastard couldn’t.

“Actually it’s 5735.4 metres,” Rukina corrected casually after a glance at the question. “You forgot to square X here,” she said as she pointed at the error on his worksheet page.

“Oh, so you know everything, huh?!” Bakugo snapped at her. He then gestured towards another complex question at the end of the textbook. “Tell me the answer to this now!”

“3648.6,” she answered instantly after scanning the question. Bakugo blinked, then glared at her after he checked the answer sheet.

“What the hell?” he questioned. “Did you do this problem before and memorize the answer or something?”

“Nope. First time seeing it.”

“Hmph, must have been luck,” Bakugo justified, then pointed to another complex question. “Then what’s the answer to this?” Rukina looked over it as her mind worked at the speed of light to seamlessly complete the intense calculations.

“19980.2,” she answered after a second.

“How?!” Bakugo demanded in disbelief after confirming with the answer sheet.

“Yagi, are you a supercomputer?” Kirishima asked, awestruck.

“Well, my quirk actually relies on heavy calculations. If I don’t get it right, then my quirk doesn’t really work,” Rukina explained. She shrugged. “I guess I learned to be quick.”

“Hey, I recognize you guys,” a new and light voice said. They all turned towards the voice and found a little girl approaching them. She had her hair tied up in cute pigtails and her red chubby cheeks reminded Rukina a bit of a cockatiel’s.

“I recognize you,” the little girl repeated in the same bright voice, facing Rukina and Todoroki. “You’re Miss Rukina Yagi, right? And you’re Mr Shoto Todoroki. I recognize you both from the UA Sports festival.”

She then focused her attention on Bakugo. “I recognize you too,” she said simply. “You’re from the sludge villain incident a year ago, right?”

“WHAT?!” Bakugo shouted, the sound piercing through the peace in the library. Everyone in close proximity shot him a scandalized look. Kirishima flushed at the negative attention and started apologizing frantically.

All of a sudden, a little boy with a picture book in his arms approached them as well, joining the little girl. He pointed his fingers at Bakugo.

“You’re the person who won the UA festival and got tied up, right?” he asked, his eyes sparkling innocently.

“Huh?” Bakugo narrowed his eyes.

“Why did they tie you up? Is it because you couldn’t calm down and be quiet? They should tie you up at the library too then, don’t you think?”

Rukina’s jaw fell in shock. Todoroki stared wide-eyed at the kid. Kirishima spun around, staring at Bakugo like he was a bomb about to explode at any second. All three of them held their breaths, anticipating the disaster that was to come. And sure enough…

“SHUT IT YOU SHITTY KID!”

Kirishima grabbed onto Bakugo, trying to stop him as soon as possible before the library goes up in a huge explosion. Bakugo’s roar echoed throughout the building. Meanwhile, the little boy and girl started to shake, startled and frightened from the shout. Their eyes trembled, and their faces distorted, and they burst into tears as well. Adding to the pandemonium, the storm-like cries started reverberating in the library.

“SO SORRY, WE’RE REALLY SORRY!” Kirishima desperately apologized. He used the ruckus to escape this whole fiasco, dragging Bakugo along with him. Rukina and Todoroki hastily shoved their things into their bags and ran as well, booking it out of the library, chased by the death glares burning into their backs. Even when they burst through the library’s heavy double doors, they didn’t stop sprinting until they were at least five blocks away from the disaster site.

“Bakugo, he was just a little kid!” Rukina panted, out of breath, resting her heavy textbook filled bag on the ground by her feet.

“Well, he deserved it, talking all that shit!” Bakugo argued, fuming.

“The people around us looked like they were ready to murder us,” Kirishima groaned.

“They’ll probably kick us out if we go back,” Todoroki pointed out.

“Well, where do we go now?” Kirishima asked, before catching sight of the family restaurant beside them. “Hey, that could work!”

“No way am I sitting at the same table with half half bastard,” Bakugo growled.

“Didn’t we sit at the same table at the library?” Rukina questioned with a hint of exasperation.

“Do you want me to get angrier?!” he yelled back.

“Alright, we’ll split up,” Kirishima said to Bakugo. “You and I will be at a table, while Yagi and Todoroki will be at another.”

“I’m fine with that,” Todoroki said, in a slightly lighter tone than usual.

***
“Sorry,” Rukina apologized five minutes later. The waiter returned with their drinks and set them on the table. Feelings of guilt gushed inside of her.

“About what?” Todoroki asked, sitting across from her at the table.

“You came to the library on your day off to study, and then we didn’t end up getting much done, and the exams are a week away.” She sighed dejectedly, twirling the ice around her drink with her straw. “You should have joined Yaoyorozu’s study group instead of wasting your time with me.”

“I don’t think it was a waste of time.”

“Todoroki, you’re a pretty good liar, but I’m not fooled,” she said, eyes cast downward in disappointment.

“I’m not lying,” Todoroki said honestly, but she didn’t seem to believe him. She ran her hand gloomily through her hair, and Todoroki was caught by an urge to make her feel better. He wanted to see her smile again, but how? He glanced around the restaurant, searching for an idea, until he caught sight of the sweets menu. Girls liked chocolate, right? He also recalled that chocolate contains the neurotransmitter phenylethylamine, a chemical that causes you to feel happy. He called the waiter over.

“Can I have two slices of chocolate cake?” he said to the waiter, who nodded. “Thanks.”

“Todoroki, what are you doing?” she asked suspiciously as the waiter disappeared off to the kitchen with their order.

“Don’t worry about it,” he replied, then another idea came to him. “We can still study here, right?”

“You still want to study with me?” she asked, surprised, but he was sure that she perked up a bit.

“Yeah.” He grabbed the first textbook he felt in his bag (physics) and flipped through it, pretending to look for a certain page. He pointed at a random problem, and furrowed his eyebrows, offering her his best confused-looking face. “Can you show me how to do this question?”

“Sure,” she said, and Todoroki was pleased to see her eyes shining again as she pulled out her workbook. Before she put her pencil to the paper, she paused.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, concerned.

“I think it’ll be easier for us if we sit beside each other,” she said before getting up and carrying her stuff over to his side. “This way, you can watch as I write down the equations.”

She sat down and started to explain the question, and his breath caught in his throat when the outside of their clothed thighs touched. Pleasant electricity seemed to ripple through his body from the contact. He watched her as she showed him how to do the problem, but instead of focusing on the numbers and words, he noticed how her golden hair shined in the light, how her blue eyes gleamed, how her full lips moved as she spoke. Sometime later, the waiter arrived with the chocolate cakes, which sat on the end of the table, untouched as both students were caught up in other matters.

“Did you get all that?” she asked, snapping him out of his trance.

“Uh.” Todoroki mentally scolded himself for zoning out. Had it not been for his ice quirk, his face would probably have gone warm right now, but he froze the heat down as soon as he felt it come up.

“That’s ok, I can go over it again,” she said patiently and happily. She pointed to the first number with the tip of her pencil. “This is the initial velocity of the object, and this number here...” she pointed to the next one “...is the momentum of the object...” and she launched into another deep explanation. This time, Todoroki tried to focus, but once again, he found himself admiring how cute her nose was and how nice she smelled and how warm the smile upon her face made him feel.

And the chocolate cake slices sat on the end of the table, forgotten and no longer needed.